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Time Enough by K Nakanishi

 
This novel takes place after the Torchwood episode "Adrift"

Blurb

In the past year, the team has died, resurrected, fought, loved, lost, and managed to survive the wedding from hell – but through all of this, they always carried on together and they always did what was best for humanity, for Earth, and for each other.

This time, the bad guys are going to win.

CHAPTER 1

Gwen, the team’s heart and conscience, had been demanding that all Torchwood files be opened and all access be given to the Torchwood members. Torchwood kept its secrets from the world to keep the secrets safe and to ensure the Earth grew in peace and blissful ignorance of its own vulnerability. But this discussion was the culmination of weeks of emotional argument that it was an invitation for disaster for Torchwood to keep secrets from its own. Her experience at the Flat Holm facility had pushed her over the edge and she had looked back to realize that she knew little more about Torchwood now than she had when she had first walked into the Hub two years ago.

Owen, the master of secrets and cynicism, argued that Torchwood’s secrets were necessary. That sometimes plausible deniability was not just a good thing in their business but necessary to keep them sane. You can’t tell a patient every awful detail about a medical condition if you know it will destroy the patients desire to live. He argued that there was some information that was too horrible to share and that it should remain safe in the darkness and even forgotten in the Torchwood vaults forever if possible.

Ianto, who noticed every nuance of the argument, kept his eye on the team’s leader, Captain Jack Harkness. Jack had been quiet for this entire clash and, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be listening to the discussion going on in front of him. But Ianto knew that Jack was off somewhere else and that Jack’s attention had been nowhere near this room for the last hour or so. Ianto wondered where Jack went when he tuned the world out like that. It bothered him how much more often Jack was taking these mental vacations these days and how often he saw Jack doing it when important or very personal business was going on.

In spite of the increasing volume in the room Jack somehow heard a whisper from downstairs that snapped him back into the real world immediately. Tosh had shouted out something from her computer down below but Jack had heard only two words. Those two words had raised the hair on the back of his neck and caused his pulse to jump. Had he heard that right?

“Toshiko!” he shouted through Owen and Gwen’s argument. “Tosh! What did you just say?” He started walking toward the briefing rooms door as though he were alone in the room. Ianto’s head cocked as he watched Jack’s body language. Something Tosh had said had caught Jack’s interest in a way that put Jack on edge. Slowly, Owen nad Gwen realized that Jack was no longer a part of the discussion and that their argument was already forgotten.

“I said” she repeated slowly, “that the National Museum’s archeology department has had an entire Egyptian exhibit, complete with a sealed sarcophagus, appear in their museum overnight. They have no idea where it came from or how it was set up overnight in a guarded building. I checked the CCTV and saw nothing unusual in the halls or areas around the museum, but my sensors do show some odd indications of rift activity at the site at the approximate time this would have occurred.”

Jack scowled for a moment and everyone else in the room stared at each other in confusion. “No, no. The other part,” he finally yelled.

“They brought in some portable equipment and x-rayed the sarcophagus for suspicious materials,” Tosh continued with infinite patience. “Initial phone calls indicate that there is a second sarcophagus inside the first and that the inside appears to be lined with complex electronics. They said that the inside sarcophagus contains an intact mummy and that it seems to have two hearts.”

Without a word Jack grabbed his coat, ran down the stairs, and dashed for the garage. Stunned silence crashed in on the conference room.  Then everyone grabbed their own coats and sprinted to catch up. Jack was on to something and it looked to be a good adventure.


On the drive to the museum Jack was ominously closed mouthed about the mummy and the implications of the two hearts. The odd physiology obviously meant something to him but Toshiko could find nothing in her covert searches through their alien databases. In the expectant silence of the drive, elaborate scenarios passed through everyone’s mind, and everyone did their best to prepare for the worst.

When they arrived, Jack was out of the SUV before it stopped moving. The others scrambled to follow. As soon as they crossed the threshold of the museum, the Curator and Director appeared from the woodwork and Jack smiled his most charming smile. He quickly managed to convince the museum Director to permit them access to the sarcophagus so they could perform some preliminary examinations. The curator was excited and wanted to show off their astounding accidental windfall to anyone who was interested. The fact that government officials had responded so quickly to the announcement of their discovery had him seeing dollar signs for the museum and honors and titles for himself.

“We came in this morning and one of our docents found that one of the empty rooms on the upper floor was now completely filled. A whole, sealed sarcophagus and about forty other items just appeared as a fully constructed exhibit in a room we were preparing for a travelling Chinese jade display. Even more astonishing than the contents of the exhibit is that all of the pieces that appeared even have prepared plates, plates exactly like ours, with full descriptions of all of the items in the exhibit itself. This is all more wonderful than the story of the Shoemaker and the Elves!” The man rushed to keep up with Jack who was heading deeper into the museum as though he knew where he was going. “The description plate that was on the sarcophagus display says she was found in a room off the lower corridor in a small anteroom that actually extended beneath the burial chamber of Menkaure in the third pyramid of Giza.”

“She?” Jack blurted out startled. “How can you tell?”

“Well, the plate said so for one thing. Quite extraordinary because the painting on the exterior indicates that this sarcophagus was intended for a man,” the man was breathless either from excitement or trying to keep up with Jack’s rapid pace but he continued without pause and with near childlike glee in his explanation. “But our x-ray examination confirmed everything on the plate. It is a female humanoid though it is readily apparent that this woman’s mummification procedure was totally abnormal because the embalmers seem to have loaded her up with extra organs and organs from other creatures. Something we haven’t ever seen before in Egyptian mummification procedures. It almost looks like she is intact and unembalmed, but of course,” the man sniggered and a short snort escaped his lips, ”she would have had to have been embalmed to have more than one heart and extra organs.”

The man was getting no reaction from Jack or his team so he pressed on with his excited monologue. “Yes, between the plate on the sarcophagus and descriptive plates for the rest of the exhibit, it seems that this sarcophagus was in a new tomb that no one could ever have expected to find in that orientation. The especially peculiar thing is that, to my knowledge, and after several quick searches on the internet by some of our interns, we have no evidence that anyone has ever investigated below the Menkaure tombs. No such excavation has ever occurred or at least publicly authorized I suppose.” The man abruptly changed from reflective to excited again. “The exhibit summary says this tomb had to have been created well before the Menkaure died but was sealed well after his own death and entombment.” The man was nearly hyperventilating as he was racing to keep up with Jack’s long strides and in his rush to explain what they believed they had found. “Well you can imagine our excitement to find an untouched nearly hermetically sealed sarcophagus that has not been either looted or decayed because of the environment.” They all slammed through some double doors into the staff only section of the museum and Jack took a hard left. Gwen wondered how Jack knew where he was going but figured that if he had been living in and around England for nearly two centuries he must have come here at least once.

Their host continued to describe their find and did not seem to have noticed that Jack wasn’t asking for directions or information. “I have never heard of anyone finding a sarcophagus in such perfect condition so to have one just appear in our museum was an absolute thrill! But that was nothing compared to what we found this morning when we finally got to x-ray it. Two hearts, no doubt about it and nearly perfectly preserved if our initial analysis is to be believed. Fortunately the body had not been damaged so we were able to discern so much from just the x-rays! The physiology is quite different though the body appears quite humanoid.” The group burst into a pristine room with the monstrous sarcophagus as the only décor in the room. Jack had a wild look in his eyes as he looked greedily at the ancient construct. “Our x-rays detected complex electronics inset throughout the inner sarcophagus and the geigers are sensing small levels of radioactive residue. It is irrefutable evidence of alien visitation during the dawn of the early Egyptian period. We don’t know where the sarcophagus came from but it certainly creates a whole new pantheon of questions that we-“

“Thank you we will call you if we need your help,” Jack interrupted abruptly and gently ushered the man out of the room with with a firm hold on the poor man's shoulder but with no explanation. He locked the door behind the stunned Curator and turned his attention to the sarcophagus. Owen and Toshiko were already at the wall light examining the x-rays the Curator had spoken about and Gwen was running a wand over the sarcophagus itself to detect residual rift radiation over the container. Jack was superficially proud of his team for jumping into the investigation without any hesitation but in his heart, he wished that he was able to investigate this particular alien discovery alone. If his hunch was right, the implications were staggering on a universal scale. But could this really be what he suspected or was it just another trick of the rift. He would know soon.

“Definitely two hearts. Expanded lung capacity too,” Owen was reciting as he squinted at the different sets of x-rays that had been left on the nearby desk. “The little man was right too, it looks like a female,” Jack’s head jerked up involuntarily. “She was adult but not elderly.” Owen paused as he traced two of the x-rays with his fingers. “Completely intact. No mummification indicators of any kind. All organs intact and she seems to have a few extras too.” He whistled a low whistle, “and little to no apparent decay.” He squinted at the x-rays again and moved closer to the display. “They all appear to have fluid somehow.” His voice drifted off as he strained to examine some of the details more closely. “Makes you wonder actually,” he said slowly as he traced some other detail with his finger.

“Wonder what?” Tosh asked quietly.

Owen’s eyes darted about the x-rays as he continued to examine details that caught his attention. “With the exception of the obvious differences in the organs and a few more subtle characteristics, this body is basically humanoid.” One corner of his mouth twitched up as he continued. “If this body had been embalmed using the process that was used in that region at that time, there would be no external indications that this was not a human.” His face took on a look of genuine amusement as he looked at Tosh. “What if we had lots of aliens like this hanging all over ancient Egypt? Since all bodies were embalmed before burial, there could have been beings running around with two hearts all over the place and only the morticians would have known.” A smile spread across his face again. “What if an alien race developed the embalming process just to hide their presence on Earth?”

Jack smiled. “Tosh, what do you see?”

“There is an inner chamber that is lined with electronics as advanced as anything I have ever seen,” Toshiko began with excitement creeping into her voice. “I can’t even guess what they are supposed to do from these x-rays. I will need to get into the sarcophagus itself to see what they look like. Unfortunately, they were x-raying for the cadaver and not to look at the inner or outer box. These x-rays have only peripheral views of the equipment.” Her disappointment was evident in her voice. “But there is definitely a technologically advanced compartment surrounding the body. Technology that didn’t belong either in ancient Egypt or even on Earth today.”

“Gwen?”

“Definitely came through the rift” she said from behind the sarcophagus “and definitely alien in origin. Externally, it looks like very well preserved wood but it isn’t wood. It seems to be something sturdier that just superficially resembles wood. This external material would probably last another few thousand years and not show any sign of aging. I can’t even chip it,” she said as she tried to dig her nail into the edge of the sarcophagus.

“Gwen,” Jack said with mock shock. “You would damage a priceless treasure like this?” he said as he walked around the sarcophagus and moved to examine the sides in a couple of spots. “How could we possibly damage a historical artifact like this with a clear conscience?” He stooped to look more closely at an area close to the head and then swung his head over to look at the opposite side. He put his hands gently on the ears of the molded image on the sarcophagus and grinned at his team with the characteristic smirk that they knew meant trouble. “I mean, how could we disturb the slumber of this ancient being and deprive the world of yet another piece of painted wood to collect dust in a museum?”

He jammed his hands into the sides of the sarcophagus’ head hard and pulled backwards toward his chest with a hard jerk. There was a hiss and a foul gas billowed from the sides of the tomb. The humans in the room all ran toward the exit coughing and gagging on the fumes that seeped out of the openings but Jack didn’t flinch. He watched in eager anticipation as the lid rose a few millimeters on a hinge and the gasses continued to billow out.

Eventually, the gasses stopped hissing out and a bleak fog was left in the room itself. Jack’s head tilted to the side and he walked to the open side of the sarcophagus. Owen, Gwen, and Toshiko, all peered in through the small window in the door. They started to shout and yell for him to stop but it did no good. Jack was on a quest and nothing would stop his pursuit of answers now that his guesses so far were proving true.

He squeezed his fingers into the small space between the top and bottom edges of the opening and tried to lift the lid off of the structure. It didn’t budge. He began to run his fingers along the opening and eventually he found what he was looking for, a latch. The yelling in the hallway had dimmed to a buzzing in his ears. He had to know, he had to find out. Had his hunch been right? Any consideration of the fact that he was breaking all of the rules of first contact and could potentially be releasing something dangerous into Earth’s environment had not even occurred to him in his zeal to find out if he was right. He had to know now. If this was what he thought it was, the implications could reach across time and space.

He shifted the latch and lifted the lid. The dim light and fog filled air interfered with his vision for a moment, and then everything came into crystal clarity for him. She was in a cryo chamber enclosed within the sarcophagus itself. She was humanoid. She was beautiful. And she was, if the detailed bio readings on the side of the chamber were to be trusted, still very much alive.


The museum officials were in near hysterics when Jack and the team wheeled the now reassembled and closed sarcophagus out to their SUV. Two actually passed out when the team walked back into the museum and confiscated all of the boxes that contained all of the scientist’s samples and documentation on the exhibit. But as was always the case with Torchwood, no one on the museum staff had any idea who to appeal to about keeping this wondrous historical gift for their own glory and research. More than one scientist broke down in tears as they watched the black SUV drive away with their magical treasure. It would be decades before some of them would stop speculating about what they’d had in their hands that day and there had been more than one fanciful hypothesis developed, but never published for lack of evidence.


After further investigation over the next few days, the Torchwood team determined that within the chamber itself, the woman was being maintained in this stasis mode by some form of chemical that either had been or was being injected into her spinal cord. So far as the team could determine, the fluid circulated through a series of filters, pumps, and cartridges that looked as though they should be providing measures of other chemicals that would then flow back into the woman through the syringe-type device inserted into her spine. In theory, whatever chemicals that had been in the cartridges should have run out centuries earlier, but Tosh speculated that the system had somehow adjusted the flow early on in her confinement either due to a convenient failure in the system or, as Tosh theorized, a system complex enough to have self adjusted when the sarcophagus had been buried with no possible escape for the being inside. They could clearly see the needle’s extension into her spinal column on the x-rays but without knowing the chemical composition or what the needle and chemical were intended to do for her, they could not come up with any reasonable scenarios on how to reawaken the woman without killing her. Jack had hoped that opening the external sarcophagus and removing the top would have kicked off internal systems but this move had not triggered anything so interesting. Tosh agreed that the system seemed to have been set up to revive the occupant when the outer box was penetrated, but the fact that this had not occurred implied failures in the system. This was a bad thing when dealing with a life support system that had effectively preserved this life form for several thousand years.

Jack paced the Hub like a caged lion and looked over every shoulder at once while the team worked. Repeated inquiries from the team about what they might be dealing with did not yield any insight from Jack and Owen grumbled non-stop about being left to fish in the dark when Jack obviously had some kind of idea about this being.

For his part, Jack knew the files and knew how the team, especially Ianto, was trained to respond to anything to do with a Time Lord so he held his tongue. He had mentioned his acquaintance with The Doctor to them obliquely before but had not really spoken of real intentions or characteristics. Why should he? He didn’t expect any of them would ever encounter the last Time Lord and if they did they would find out about him in their own way. All that the Torchwood team knew for sure about “The Doctor” was that Queen Victoria had originally formed Torchwood to protect humanity from aliens in 1879 with special attentions paid to “The Doctor” who she defined as an enemy of the Crown. Knowing Torchwoods history, Jack had formed this team himself and had avoided all mention of the The Doctor as much as was possible. But even though he had assured them that The Doctor was not public enemy number one, Ianto was old school Torchwood and all of the team’s peripheral training still made them distrust the mention of The Doctor and suspicious of anything that was related to him. It just seemed safer not to mention that possibility unless it came to be. Besides, he kept telling himself, he could be completely wrong and mentioning it would only complicate matters.

They spent many long days putting their heads together and running test after test on the sarcophagus before Toshiko and Owen finally agreed on a plan that they were willing to present to Jack. Even so, they both had their doubts and disagreed on several critical aspects of the plan. The odds were actually so bad that Toshiko was convinced that the body was going to decay to dust the minute the open air touched it.

“We don’t know what that syringe is pumping into her.” Owen argued. “We could open this up and the exposure could shut down her nervous system. We aren’t even sure she’s alive to be honest” he admitted reluctantly. “Her body functions are so suppressed that her heart actually beats only about once a minute.”

“Hearts,” Jack corrected distractedly.

“Whatever,” Owen threw back with complete indifference. “The point is that without being able to analyze the woman, the gasses inside that case, or the fluids that are being pumped into her spinal fluid and circulatory system anything we do will probably kill her.”

“Tosh?”

“I have had a small amount of luck with the electronics but there are still a lot of things I can’t translate or fathom the purpose of yet. I have tried talking to it but it doesn’t acknowledge anything I send at it.” She sighed, “I could spend a year studying this sarcophagus and probably only just figure out what some of it does. The only thing I can say for certain is that it is most definitely alien, and not futuristic. It was never intended for humans or humanoids based upon just the physical construction of the inner chamber. I am guessing it came out of an alien ship and was used to imprison her at least 4500 years ago. It looks like a lot of the bells and whistles that would have been designed for a non-humanoid have been intentionally deactivated. So far as I can tell, most of what is in there would not keep any of us humans alive although she seems to have adapted somehow,” her voice trailed off.

“When can we pull her out of there?” Jack asked without looking at any of them.

Toshiko and Owen looked at each other and shrugged. “We could study the technology and the physiology of this for years and never get a better answer for you Jack,” Owen answered matter of factly.

Toshiko went on. “We need to penetrate the seal to tell you anything about either the woman, the chemicals, or the equipment. The problem is that the only thing we are certain of and agree about completely is that breaking the seal is going to activate everything in that box immediately. There won’t be any time to analyze anything before every piece of equipment in there does whatever it is programmed to do.”

“So we open it now,” Jack said without hesitation as he stood and finally looked around at the group. “I’ll take the chamber into one of the sealed rooms downstairs and we’ll open it up. Let’s see if this lady has anything to tell us.” He walked purposefully out of the room ignoring the stunned looks from everyone in the room. After he left, they all glanced at each other and saw their own doubt about this plan reflected in the other’s faces. Then they all turned toward the door to catch up with Jack. Something about this woman was goading their leader and they couldn’t wait to find out what it was all about.


After a brief, and somewhat frantic, preparation, they rolled the huge device down into the lower levels into one of their secure, bio-hazard holding areas. Jack and the sarcophagus were sealed into the room and the others set up their equipment to monitor what happened next. Besides the medical and scanning equipment that lined the walls of the room, Jack was equipped only with a gun with two bullets, in case she wasn’t a nice alien, and a gas mask so he could remain conscious through the entire procedure. It just wouldn’t do for Jack to die multiple times while trying to execute any physiological or technological repairs or tests that Owen or Tosh directed from the next room.

The sarcophagus was webbed with wires and covered with an impressive array of alien sensory equipment and a few human ones to boot. The hope was that Owen and Tosh would be able to see all activity from their monitors in order to advise Jack on what to do. Gwen and Ianto watched through a glass port over the room to provide commentary and see how Jack fared in this fools errand.

While the others prepared, Jack stood over the woman and laid his hands on the clear plexi that revealed the swirling gasses inside. Through this opaque fog he could faintly see the woman’s face. She looked old. If she had been human she would have been in her late fifties or early sixties. For all of that though, her face seemed serious and serene. He had been staring at her for weeks now and could not help but think again about how frail she looked. Could even a Time Lord survive 4500 years in stasis? Was she a Time Lord? Had he found a companion for his friend The Doctor that could really help him bring back Gallifrey? The thought of helping The Doctor find a new purpose in life made Jack’s head spin. The man seemed to live a life of enforced loneliness that Jack had come to empathize with in the past century. Add to that the fact that Gallifrey and the Time Lords were legendary among most of the known universe. For the Time Agents though, the stripling organization that he had once been a member of, the Time Lords had been the beginning, the inspiration. Time travel was what Time Lords did and then his people had developed the ability to follow in their footsteps to help police the time lanes when Gallifrey had ceased to be. It had been a tremendous thrill to walk in the shoes of such gods. And he was about to resurrect one of those proverbial gods. It was a heady thought. Jack caressed the plexi with an odd intensity. Was she a Time Lord? Could this be the beginning of the Time Lords return?

“We’re as ready as we’ll ever be Jack,” Gwen’s voice came over the speaker. “Are you ready?”

“You have no idea,” he said softly. “I am starting now.”

He ran his finger along the line that Toshiko had assured him was the seam of the opening. It felt like a fold in cloth it was so well sealed. Eventually he felt the small bump that was the unlocking mechanism. He closed his eyes and whispered a small prayer. He pressed in on the nub and waited for something to happen. Nothing happened.

“Tosh?” he asked.

“One moment,” she responded distractedly.

“He only pushed one,” Ianto’s voice floated into the room from far away. “Weren’t there two?”

“There are two releases?” Jack was not amused.

“Yes Jack. About one quarter meter to the left of where your hand is already pressing.”

Jacks hand slid down the seam again and he found it. He pressed it without hesitation.

There was a hiss and a cloud of odd gasses spread through the room from the chamber. Jack rushed to slip his fingers into the hairline space that had appeared between the top and bottom of the sarcophagus. His goal now was to remove the syringe. This was not what Owen’s plan had been but Jack hoped he knew more about this woman than Owen had been able to guess. He prayed he was right because if he was wrong, what he planned would probably kill this woman outright.

He opened the lid and hesitated for a moment. 4500 years of neglect had taken its toll on this woman’s body. Her limbs were atrophied and her pallor was shocking. If his plan did not work, he took solace in the fact that this woman probably would not want to live imprisoned in this frail body for any extended period of time anyway. That was what he told himself anyway as he tenderly rolled her on her side and yanked the metal tendril out of the woman’s neck.

“Jack, what are you doing?” Owen’s panicked voice howled over the speaker.

“Don’t worry Owen, I know what I am doing,” was all that Jack said and then he ignored the rest of Owen’s tirade.

Jack lifted the frail, paper light body out of the prison she had endured for so long and laid her onto a cot that had been pushed back into one of the room’s corners. He tenderly wrapped her in a blanket as her body began to shiver and shake. He shifted around to look at her face and saw that what he had originally thought was shivering was convulsions. She was dying and she was dying in a violent and painful manner. He prayed again that he was right about this. He put his arms around the woman and tried to keep her from hurting herself and to give her the reassurance of another living presence. He felt warm tears burn his eyes and his throat close tight as he began to doubt his choice and what he was inflicting on this innocent woman.

Abruptly, he began to feel warmth through the blanket that seemed to be emanating from the woman herself. A golden glow began to shimmer around her face and neck. The glow intensified until Jack couldn’t watch any more. He squinted and turned his face away. Not certain of what was going to come next, he held the woman close to his body to protect her from anything that might harm her.

When he felt the glow and warmth subsiding, he turned to look at the woman. What he saw was a completely different face. She was younger, much healthier, and she was awake. Her big brown eyes darted around the room and then came to rest on Jack for a long time. She looked confused and suspicious but didn’t say a word. Then her eyes rolled up into her head and she passed out. Jack hugged her body, which now felt strong and solid in his arms. He held her body close and felt hysterical laughter building in his chest. She was alive. She was healthy. She was a Time Lord. Oh wow!

CHAPTER 2

Owen was not quite certain what to make of his new patient. From all external appearances, the woman looked entirely human. But his preliminary exams had determined there were fundamental differences even beyond her two hearts and expanded lungs. Some of the test results on her blood work was just odd and he was having a devlish time trying to get it to make sense. As the days progressed, Owen grew more and more frustrated trying to figure out the most basic foundations of how this woman’s body was supposed to work and why she was not regaining consciousness.

Tosh on the other hand was having a wonderful time disassembling the sarcophagus and the stasis chamber. She was oohing and ahing uncontrollably on the other side of the Hub with each new discovery which only served to annoy and irritate Owen and kept him grumpier than usual.

Just to make his life harder, it seemed there was a passive field around her body that stymied most of his more complex equipment from detecting any useful information about her. Data came back either garbled or made no medical sense. He was left to use the more primitive, Earth standard tools and protocols for diagnosis which annoyed him to no end. After days of poking and prodding the woman all he could tell Jack was that her pathologies all came back abnormal and her physiology was significantly different. He could have told Jack this from her x-rays before they had even opened the sarcophagus. He reported that he was documenting the differences but could do little else unless Jack could tell him more about what the woman was. Jack easily side-stepped Owen’s request for more information and told him to put the woman’s medical file somewhere that was accessible only to the current Cardiff team. He told him not to name it anything that would tie it to their patient directly. Owen thought this instruction a bit strange and it made him even more curious about Jack’s interest in this woman. After much reflection during his medical examinations, he had noted that Jack had not been acting quite himself since hearing that there was a humanoid with two hearts in the Museum. He really needed to compare notes with Tosh and see what they could figure out about this woman without Jack’s help. Something odd was going on and he did not like being left out of the joke. He resolved to ask Tosh out for pizza and they could compare notes to see if they could come up with anything on their own.

For her part, Tosh had only a little more luck with her task of determining the origin of the sarcophagus and stasis chamber but her inability to crack the codes on the sarcophagus certainly was not for a lack of enthusiasm. She had discovered some wonderful new technologies and had some wonderful ideas for medical equipment that she needed to talk through with Owen. But she had to admit, that after days of study, she did not know any more about the chamber itself, its origins, or the woman who had been in the chamber than she had before they had opened it.

Jack shook his head. It was the kids playing in the university library again. They might think it was cool to be in such an impressive place of learning and might actually be able to read the words in the books, but their inexperience in the greater cosmos community was bringing them up short. These four poor humans lived with alien technology and exposure every day and they still only had limited experience and grasp of other races. They still had trouble thinking outside the human definitions of what anything was for. He needed to work on that. He resolved to start exercises to broaden their thinking when it came to alien tech and medicine.

In the meantime, they left the woman wrapped in blankets in the medical area and went about their business. Jack hovered over her for days but finally had to get out of the room and back to work. Who knew when, or even if, she was going to wake up? They just had to wait and see how things turned out.


Gwen and Ianto were on duty when the woman finally woke up. They did not know how long she had been awake but at some point Gwen looked up from her console and saw the woman was standing at the glass and staring down at her. Gwen actually jumped out of her chair when she saw the woman it had been so unexpected. Then the woman’s eyes shifted to the right and Gwen heard Ianto coming up the stairs behind her.

“Gwen, I was wondering if you have seen the files…”

Ianto’s voice trailed off as he looked where Gwen was gaping and then he gaped too. The woman was just standing there calmly watching them.

“Call Jack,” Gwen whispered to Ianto when she was finally able to control her body again. She stood up quickly and rushed toward the medical room. The woman’s eyes seemed to scan the Hub and the Pteranadon flying overhead with no change of expression. Then she turned back into the room to face the door where Gwen would enter.

Gwen literally crashed into the room. She hit the door a little too hard and it, in turn, hit a small mobile table of medical instruments that Owen had left out. She saw all of the utensils, normally laid out on the mobile table in painfully neat rows, flying away from her in slow motion. Her heart sank and leapt in the same moment. What a terrible first impression for the “Time Lord” and what a lovely crashing sound all of the utensils were making as they slid across the pristine tile floor. She started to giggle with the nervous surge of too much caffeine, too little sleep, and the adrenaline caused by both the thrill of fear of the unknown and her own uncontrolled sprint up the staircase.

She looked up to see the woman still standing by the window, watching her with mild amusement. Gwen apparently did not pose enough of a threat to cause this woman much concern. Gwen smiled ruefully, took a deep breath, straightened up, then bowed slightly as she said. “Hello. My name is Gwen. Welcome to Earth.”

The woman’s eyebrows came together and her head cocked slightly to the side. Apparently this was not what she had been expecting.

“I am still on Earth?” she asked slowly. Her voice was low and her accent seemed a mix of American, maybe Indian, and some flavors that were unlike anything Gwen had ever heard before.

“Yes. Oh! And the year is 2008,” Gwen added quickly thinking that she needed to help this woman with time references as well. 4500 years after all was a lot to try to make up for.

The woman’s head tilted the other direction and she asked slowly, “2008 by what calendar?”

Gwen physically took a step back and rethought her statement. “I think it is called the Roman calendar.” The woman’s head did not move and her eyebrows remained touching. “It measures approximately from the time Christ was born, I think.” The completion of her sentence didn’t sound convincing even to her, but the woman nodded briefly and seemed to think for a moment. Then her eyes crinkled in disbelief.

“That would mean I have been in stasis for over 4000 Earth years!” she said in a low disbelieving whisper.

“We estimate closer to 4500,” Gwen said with certainty and then felt doubt creep in upon her as the woman’s eyes turned to her again.

The woman lost herself in thought and wandered to the only chair in the room. She sat down gracefully and stared at a point on the far wall of the Hub while she seemed to come to terms with this new information.

Gwen, not knowing what else to do, turned around and reassembled Owen’s medical tools on the mobile table as best she could. Once that was complete, she backed up to the counter and leaned against it waiting for the woman to speak or move again. Apparently this was a lot to take in even for someone who was familiar with time travel.  Gwen took some small consolation in this.

The door slammed open and the medical instruments sparkled as they flew across the room again. This drew the woman’s attention to the instruments on the floor and she turned an amused smile to Gwen. Gwen started breathing again. Jack had flown into the room and turned wild eyes on the woman sitting calmly in the chair. Her smile disappeared as she turned her attentions to Jack. She slowly stood and her composure became distinctly defensive. Something about Jack had gotten her hackles up and she was no longer relaxed. She stared at him apprehensively and her eyes scanned him top to bottom. Jack for his part, tried to reassemble some veneer of composure and eventually approached the woman with his most charming smile and hand outstretched. “Captain Jack Harkness, welcome to-“

Her demeanor turned completely hostile as soon as he started moving toward her and she struck a fighting pose. “Stop right there and don’t come any closer to me. What are you?” she demanded.

He stopped short and looked confused. Then he seemed to realize what she was talking about. “Oh! That,” he said casually as though she had asked how he had gotten mustard on his shirt. “I had a small accident and a human infused with TARDIS energy brought me back to life. Old story. Not very interesting.”

“A human did this?” she asked incredulously as she looked him up and down again.

“Well, she was a really special human actually,” he said as he tried on his most charming smile again. “And it was a very unusual circumstance.”

She scanned him top to bottom again with near revulsion. “I have no doubt,” she finally said. “But I will need to be leaving. Could you please direct me to my things and I will leave. I am sure my presence has been a burden for you.”

“Well,” Jack said slowly as he tried to figure out how to say what he had to say. “We can’t really let you go just yet,” he finally said directly. “There is some information we need to provide to you before you leave and there are a few details we need to gather from you in order to figure out how all of this happened.”

“How all of what happened?” she asked suspiciously.

“Well, that is part of why we need to hear your side of the story first,” he said as his most disarming smile reappeared on his face. “How about we get you some clothes first, then we’ll call Owen in to take a quick look at you to make sure you are all right-“

“I am fine,” she said in a manner that left no room for debate.

“Okay then,” he said without missing a beat. “Then we will get you some clothes, some food, get the rest of our team here, and we can all meet in the conference room and start exchanging stories.” He smiled at her again and waited for her response.

Her distrust of him, either for the TARDIS energy or for her distrust of Jack in general, remained clearly etched on her face. Then she looked at Ianto at the door and Gwen still leaning against the counter. Her eyes lingered longest on Gwen who finally smiled ruefully. Her eyes went back to Jack and she nodded curtly. “I will meet with your team. But I guarantee, if you do not answer my questions, you will not get any easy answers to yours.”

“Agreed,” Jack said quickly. He clapped his hands and turned to leave. “Ianto, can you find some clothes for our guest?” he asked as he passed Ianto in the door. Ianto nodded and looked back at the small woman. She was shorter than Gwen and built completely differently from Tosh. He didn’t have anything he could salvage in the trunks. He would have to hit the stores quickly to find her something. Thank goodness she was humanoid he thought as he nodded quickly to the woman and left the room.

This left Gwen alone again with the woman who, when Gwen looked back at her, had returned her attention fully to Gwen. The woman’s expression had softened a bit and was back to its more friendly and curious appearance. Gwen smiled politely and started moving toward the door. “I will see if I can find you something to eat,” she said quietly but the woman stopped her with a question before she could make it out the door.

“Where are we?” the woman asked gently, waving her hand toward the Hub through the glass. “We are underground and this all appears some kind of self contained bunker. A lot of your technology does not look like anything I have seen on Earth before and much of it very obviously just doesn’t belong here. Some of it is even temporally out of place which is something I am required to look into though I have no authority on this world in this time. Basically what you have here looks like an odd collection of a lot of disparate technologies cobbled together. Where am I, who are you, and am I safe in your hands?”

Gwen’s smile faltered. To be honest, she really didn’t know if this woman was safe right now. Jack was the one that seemed to know all about her even to the point of blatantly risking her life when he had removed her from the sarcophagus. Gwen didn’t think that he meant this woman harm, but could she be sure? Because Jack had not spoken to the team about his suspicions, she didn’t even know if this woman was actually friend or foe. She could be some new menace that Jack just hadn’t wanted to scare them about yet.

The corner of the woman’s mouth twitched in mild amusement as she watched Gwen’s indecision. “It seems I will have to wait for this meeting to find out my fate,” she said sardonically. “Thank you for your honesty.” And with that, the woman returned to stand at the glass overlooking the Hub and she seemed to be drinking in everything she could. Gwen felt like she had been dismissed and so left the room in a hurry. This was definitely going to be an interesting meeting.


They all arrived at separately and took their seats around the table. Jack paced the long end of the conference room like a caged animal and was chewing on his bottom lip. Gwen arrived and watched Jack from the door for a few moments. “Jack. Who is she? Is she dangerous or is she an ally? We need to know this before she gets here so we can ask the right questions. Is this woman someone that we can talk to about what we do or are we going to have to shoot her?”

“You don’t need to ask her anything. Leave the talking to me,” he said in a low tone without slowing down in his pacing or looking up.

“No sir,” Owen said quickly as he brushed past Gwen. “I have a few questions about her physiology that I need answered if I am going to get any sleep ever again.” As he sat down, he folded his hands on the table in finality, “and I get the feeling this might be my only chance to ask her. Especially if Gwen is talking about shooting her.”

“I was not saying we should shoot her,” Gwen retorted angrily.

“I appreciate that Gwen,” came the woman’s smooth, low voice as she slid into the conference room with Ianto. Ianto had found her a long skirt, a peasant blouse, and some nice sandals. Gwen briefly thought that perhaps she should ask Ianto to go shopping for her as well. It was a cute outfit that that accented her small waist and solid frame nicely. Her shoulder length auburn hair was combed out and her tan skin and trim figure made Tosh pout. But after a quick once over, everyone’s attention was immediately drawn to her eyes. Not only were they an unusual color, brown flecked with almost luminous green and gold, but they were quick and seemed to absorb everything. Everyone in the room felt they as though their innermost thoughts were being watched and judged when captured by those luminous eyes. Gwen was impressed.

Jack had stopped short in his pacing and was staring at the woman with a stunned, almost hurt puppy dog expression on his face. Her appearance in street clothes had apparently caught him off guard. Gwen would have liked to have asked what he was thinking, but now that the woman was here, it was not the time.

Ianto, ever the gentleman, gestured the woman to the chair at the other end of the table across from Jack and pulled it out for her. She nodded her thanks and flashed a short smile at him that made him smile back in spite of himself. Then she settled in to the chair, crossed her hands in front of her on the table and waited for what was to happen next.

Jack remained frozen in place staring at her, but seemed to snap out of his reverie when he realized everyone was looking at him and waiting for him to start the discussion. He sat down in his chair and mirrored the woman’s pose from his place at the head of the table. The two humanoids scowled at each other and did not notice Tosh sliding into her seat much less the rest of the humans in the room.

Gwen had a brief flash of insight as the uncomfortable silence stretched out. Which end was now the head of the table? Both ends now had a strong presence and they both demanded your attention just by their bearing. How do you define the “head of the table?” She felt her attention being drawn to the woman’s side of the table and let her eyes wander in that direction. She found this all very interesting and was distinctly enjoying Jack’s discomfort.

“Welcome,” Jack said finally. “I am sure you have a lot of questions and we do as well. I believe if we tell you what we know, and then ask you how you got into that sarcophagus, we will have a good start to this conversation. Does that satisfy your need for confidence?”

She continued to watch him for a moment as though judging his sincerity. Again, her eyes flowed to Gwen. For some reason, she seemed to want to read Gwen’s response to what Jack had said. Gwen raised her chin and refused to look away. Whatever she saw, the woman seemed to be satisfied. Her eyes moved back to Jack and she nodded.

Jack provided a very short and superficial summary of Torchwood and that their mission was to deal with non-terran threats and acquire the means to protect humanity. He told her the overarching purpose of the Cardiff arm of Torchwood with their responsibilities regarding the Rift that crossed the Earth dumping items out of time and space into their back yard but did not provide any detail.  Gwen had the distinct feeling the woman knew more than they did about the rift in any case.  Jack then told her about their detection of rift activity in the museum and the reports that had eventually drawn them there.  Finally, he introduced the people sitting around the table.

During his summary, only her eyes moved. She watched Jack closely and with suspicion but her eyes were not so judgmental when they fell on anyone else in the room. While she seemed to completely distrust Jack, she just seemed curious about the rest of them. Gwen found this reversal of interest quite interesting. Typically, Jack won hearts and minds and the rest of them were just “the team” that followed him. In this instance, the team was the focus of the alien’s attention and Jack was only an object of interest.

When Jack finally finished with her waking up in the examination room, the woman’s eyes again slid to Gwen’s face. Gwen smiled what she hoped was a reassuring smile. The woman smiled thoughtfully, took a deep breath, and started to tell her story.

“My name is Aria. I am a-“ she paused for a moment as though looking for the right words. “I am a security enforcement official among my people. I monitor the travelling Time Lords to enforce our laws and ensure everyone behaves properly and respects the time lines and the planets they visit.”

“I was taking some time off from my current mission and visiting Earth in what you now call ancient Egypt. I had heard the rumors about aliens visiting during that time and wanted to see for myself if any aliens really had been mucking about there. I arrived during the reign of Menkaure and spent about a week watching the construction of the pyramids. It was an exceptional undertaking but cost the culture a great deal in human life and resources that would have been better spent elsewhere. Because of the heat and the excessive poverty and suffering, I ended up spending a great deal of time in my TARDIS trying to calculate where the fugitive of my primary case might have gone next and where I would need to travel to intercept him. After a particularly fruitless analysis period, I detected some local energy signatures that should not have been there. I traced them back to a location about two kilometers from my TARDIS’ location. I scanned a bit further and determined that the radiative energy density was incorrect for that time and location. It implied either an energy source using a propagator from a very differently composed planetary system or something brought through from another dimension. This was just too interesting a puzzle to let go so I gathered some measurement equipment, disguised my TARDIS, and headed out toward the emission.”

“Well, to make a long story short, it turned out that I was not the only alien on the planet at the time. The pharaoh Menkaure and his family court were all alien. They had crashed here on Earth about a decade before I detected his presence and apparently had decided to stay on as pharaoh when he became comfortable with the culture and people. I joined the court to observe him and collect data. I suspect now that he or his companions may have detected me immediately by smell, but they didn’t bother with me at first for some reason. He had plenty of guards and would have put the entire nation of Egypt between himself and me to ensure his survival if I had become a threat. My initial problem had been identifying whether or not he was the only alien in the area. There was a tremendous amount of jamming in and around his palace so I always considered the results of my analysis as suspect. I was able to determine that it was this jamming that had prevented me from detecting him immediately when I arrived. I had identified at least three additional non-Earthers when Menkaure was assassinated. Although I had nothing to do with it, I was immediately arrested and thrown into prison. The aliens wanted to know who I was and why I was there. Apparently, even though I had been under observation from the moment I had arrived, they were convinced I had orchestrated the murder of the head of their house. I told Shepseskaf, Menkaure’s heir, that I was a traveler that had crashed and was looking for allies and friends to travel with me. They didn’t like this answer so they threw me back in prison for awhile. Eventually, they threw me into a suspension chamber and said that whenever they decided to return to their homeworld, they would take me back with them for analysis and dissection because my smell was so wrong. That was all I saw until you woke me up here.” She paused and they could see she was thinking through her next statement. “I would guess that the non-Earthers sealed the stasis chamber off to the side of the main chamber to hide it until they were ready to leave for their own world. If something happened to them before that though,-”

“Menkaure was buried in the main chamber after you were entombed,” Ianto added helpfully. “The servants would have sealed his chambers without knowing about your chamber. Soon after that, there was a small uprising that philosophically and physically split the pharaoh’s family line. I would presume that after that, they forgot about you. It is also entirely possible that the aliens all wiped each other out in the process.”

Though the rest of the team looked at him with wariness, the woman nodded at him in agreement and continued. “If that is the case, they would have seen no problem with the humans sealing all of the chambers. If they had ever wanted to get back in their tech would have made it easy and quick. I do suspect though that it wasn’t Menkaure in the sarcophagus that was buried in his tomb. I am guessing that it was exumed and examined by your own scientists and these aliens would never be mistaken for human without their imagers on. I also don’t think any of the humans at that time would have been too pleased about seeing even the royal family pull a sarcophagus sized object out of the tombs during their vigil if they had permitted the real Menkaure to have been buried in the main chamber. It seems I was just unfortunate enough to have been stored in that fake burial chamber and then forgotten.”

She had explained this story patiently to everyone in the room. But at this point, she turned her eyes directly to Jack and her tone became much more direct. “So do you mind telling me how I ended up here, what you really are, and why I can’t feel my TARDIS anywhere near here?”

“You can actually feel it? How far away can you be from it and detect it?” Jack asked with genuine curiosity.

“Give me a common measure for reference?” she asked the room in general. Ianto casually produced a ruler from somewhere out of the air and placed it gently on the table in front of her. “This is a meter. There are a thousand meters in a kilometer.” Owen couldn’t resist the urge to look behind Ianto to try to figure out where the ruler had been pulled from.

Aria looked at the ruler and her eyes travelled back and forth across its surface for a long time. “Probably around 2000 kilometers or so.” Her eyes rose to meet Jack’s. “It gets dimmer as the distance increases and beyond about 1500 kilometers it takes a great deal of concentration.” Her eyes rose again to meet Jack’s in a dagger-like stare. “Now are you going to dodge my questions for the rest of the night or are you going to answer a few?”

“Of course,” Jack answered with his most charming smile. “As near as we can tell, you have been sealed in that chamber for about 4500 Earth years. We-“

The woman’s face had slackened when told the amount of time she had lost and she was now staring at the table. Although Gwen had told her this information earlier, apparently she had not really digested the reality.

“Are you all right,” Gwen asked genuinely concerned. It didn’t matter what race you were, to find out you had outlived not only your family but very likely your civilization was hard to take.

“No,” she responded coldly. She looked back up at Jack. “Tell me the rest. I can see you have more bad news for me.”

“Well, yes. Unfortunately, it looks as though your sarcophagus has not only survived the ravages of 4500 years, it also fell through the dimensional rift that our organization is responsible for monitoring. We have no way of picking out a way back through the rift to your dimension to get you back there.” He paused significantly. “As a result, I don’t see any way to recover your TARDIS. I suspect it is probably either still buried under the sand in that dimension’s Egypt, in someone’s home as an ancient treasure, or in a museum of antiquities somewhere. Regardless, I am willing to bet that it is still on the other side of the Rift. We can show you the materials that came through the Rift in the Egyptian museum exhibit where we found you but that material is just one level down so if you aren’t sensing the TARDIS nearby, I doubt it is in that collection. Even so, I suspect you probably camouflaged it as something innocuous so we could get lucky. If it has remained on the other side of the rift though, it is unlikely that it would have a parallel here in our universe unless your counterpart here took the exact same actions as you did and was captured and entombed in the same manner.” Jack bit his upper lip as the woman sank into thought. “I have another question that I have to ask before we go any further.”

The woman didn’t react for a long time and then finally looked up at Jack a bit resigned.

“Are you really a Time Lord? Are you from Gallifrey?”

A small smile twitched at one corner of her mouth. She nodded slowly. “That's right.  You did say you were created with TARDIS energy didn’t you? That’s what you are bleeding off isn’t it? How were you created?”

“You tell me your story and then I’ll tell you mine,” he said with a conspiratorial smile as he leaned toward the woman at the other end of the table.

Owen guffawed. He and the others had been entirely forgotten in this discussion and he was not appreciating the situation. The women and Ianto on the other hand were fascinated with the exchange. It was the most they had learned about Jack in awhile.

The woman leaned forward toward Jack with a nearly identical expression of conspiracy on her face. “I just did tell you my story Captain Harkness and I would have thought our discussion about my TARDIS would have been proof enough, but to be polite, yes, I am a Time Lord.” She sat back in her seat with a knowing smirk that continued to mirror Jack’s own. “So tell me what happened to you? Your temporal signature looks all wrong and you feel even more wrong.”

“That is a terrible thing to say to someone,” he said with mock pain on his face. “I may not tell you after all.”

“Fine, how do I leave this strange place. I have things to take care of,” she said abruptly standing up.

Everyone else in the room jumped up and looked between her and Jack for an idea of what to do next.

“No ma’am,” Jack said sadly as he stood more slowly. “I am afraid you have to stay in the Hub until we can determine without any doubt that you are no threat to our planet.”

“I’m a Time Lord. Of course I am no threat.”

“Sorry luv,” Jack said with near genuine regret. “I have met two Time Lords in my time. I have watched one risk his life several times to save others and I lived through a year of torture and watched the near destruction of the Earth at the hands of the other. You will forgive me if I don’t take the credentials of a Time Lord as a good omen just on your say-so.”

The two stood staring at each other for a long time. It was an interesting battle of wills: Jack with his characteristic smirk and the woman with only a calm, calculating stare.

“Fine,” she said finally. “Can I get quarters here or do I have to sleep on the floor?”

“No, we represent a fine, welcoming civilization on this world. Ianto, arrange quarters for Miss Aria,” he looked at the woman sidelong. She simply stared back.

“Are you going to answer my question about why you are emanating TARDIS energy like a lantern or do I have to go through another verbal joust to get another dodge?”

Jack’s smirk disappeared and he seemed to fall into deep thought for a moment. Just as fast, the smile was back. “How about I tell you the story of my adventures with your countryman over dinner?”

She continued to stare at him coldly then looked at Ianto. “Could you please lead me to my quarters?” she asked firmly. Ianto glanced at Jack who nodded. Disappointment was etched clearly across his face as she followed the tall man out of the room. There was a collective exhalation from the other three inhabitants as the door closed after them.

“What’s a Time Lord?”

“What’s a TARDIS?”

“What is the energy she is talking about?”

“Who are the other Time Lords that you met?”

“What do you mean the end of the Earth?”

These questions and more rained down on Jack but he didn’t hear any of them. He was staring after the woman who had left an answer behind that he thought was too tantalizing. A Time Lord without her TARDIS. How was he going to handle this?

He sat down and began to think his way through this mess. As the others realized that none of their questions were making it into his consciousness they eventually wandered out of the room to get back to work. Gwen was the last to go but she had watched Jack for a long time. She had never seen him quite so preoccupied. This promised to be an interesting adventure, but as she slowly meandered down the hall, she did wonder why the alien they now had living among them had to be so attractive. It seemed that this was always the case though. Either the aliens were ghastly and nasty or they were beautiful and fascinating. She glanced back toward the glass windows of the conference room to see that Jack had not moved. He remained submerged in his thoughts for a very long time.

 CHAPTER 3

Aria spent the next few days being poked and prodded by Owen, interrogated by Tosh, and charmed by Ianto. Gwen stood by as a calm ear and Jack stayed away from her as much as he could. He knew his presence discomforted her and he wanted her as happy about being stuck in this universe as possible for as long as possible. What he never would admit was that he also wanted to avoid any questions about himself or The Doctor. He didn’t know why he had been so vague about The Doctor when talking to Aria, he just had a feeling that it was a topic he should avoid until The Doctor actually arrived in person. He called Martha anywhere from two to eight times a day leaving odd and desperate messages and hoping she would call him back. He hoped that she would know of some way to contact The Doctor to give him the good news.

As it turned out, even with everyone else intentionally trying to get information out of her, Gwen was the only one that was able to get Aria to open up to any degree. When she had heard that Aria was basically a police officer from another planet, she knew that there was no point in interrogating the woman any further. In her own police training, she had been taught to only give name, rank, and serial number if she ever found herself in uncomfortable or dangerous situations. In her short time with Torchwood, she had found that this was a practice that many races seemed to teach anyone who travelled the planets. Aria was currently being held against her will in an uncertain situation. How else was she supposed to react? Gwen did not approach Aria with an agenda so she did not seem to be a threat. After a few days, Aria herself told Gwen that she was welcome to ask anything she wanted because she appreciated Gwen’s candor. She also told Gwen that she would not tell Tosh or Owen anything because they had already bungled their own interrogations and she was irritated by that kind of fouled up investigative work. She also told Gwen, with an appreciative smile, that she enjoyed Ianto’s attentions and would let him continue to try to charm her as long as he liked. Gwen didn’t have the heart to tell anyone else all of this though and let them all continue with their personal quests for information.

Gwen was able to find out that Aria was just over nine hundred Earth years old. She was a security official, something equivalent to a special police force constable, assigned to track down her people’s most dangerous criminals. She was currently on assignment, but would not provide any other information about that. She had no family, no real friends, her training ran a very broad and shallow vein with dabblings in any discipline she could find research on. She was curious about everything and described herself as being more on the quiet side. Although she admitted she was typically not a passive observer to the planets she visited, she preferred to observe. For her part though, Gwen noticed that Aria was not a wall flower. She jumped into several ongoing Torchwood investigations and provided some valuable insight on a couple of those cases. Playing a hunch, Gwen decided to take advantage of having another law enforcement officer that understood Torchwood cases and took Aria out of the Hub to see about tracking down some suspicious disappearances in a small neighborhood. From things Aria had said, Gwen got the impression that she was getting a bit stir crazy and wanted to get back to work. Gwen felt that fresh air and a simple Earth criminal case would be just the thing to get Aria’s brain back in gear and make her feel less like a prisoner.

In fact, Aria and Gwen both enjoyed their day. Gwen had taken her to a favorite pub for breakfast while they talked about the case and brainstormed some theories. Then the two of them had gone into some of the less wholesome neighborhoods to build a profile and check out some leads. At one point, a small group of boys had tried to hustle them. Aria had abruptly punched the leader in the face and continued walking and talking to Gwen without acknowledging that anything untoward had happened. The boys stared after the two departing women, uncertain of what do to next. She actually seemed surprised when Gwen mentioned it later.

“Ah,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand, “kids are kids all over the universe. A bit of retaliatory discipline and the knowledge that their victims aren’t worried and they leave to find more vulnerable prey.”

In the end, they were not able to track down the criminal but they did collect a great deal of information that Gwen handed over to her constable friend, Andy Davidson. Andy had tried to chat up Aria a bit, but she had deflected his attempts easily and the women moved on toward the center of the city. They did come across a weevil in an odd alley and Aria managed to subdue it with very little scuffle. The two women kept it contained until Ianto showed up with the SUV to cart it back to the Hub. He whispered to Gwen that Jack was on a rampage, but she just smiled at him and handed him the keys to the weevil’s arm-cuffs. Gwen then took Aria back to her flat and the two of them chatted all night to Rhys’ annoyance.

Gwen was amazed at how good some old fashioned girl talk felt. It had been ages since she had been able to really relax with anyone outside of work and she got the impression that Aria was coming to the same realization as well. They chatted randomly about their work, their social lives, and their life experiences. For Gwen, it was an eye opening experience. Jack was really the only alien she’d had any extensive contact with and he never divulged any information about his past or himself. Aria on the other hand enjoyed describing the places she had been, the beings she had met, and the tastes, sounds, aromas, and cultures of the planets she had visited. Although she felt much smaller in the universe when she finally set Aria to sleep on the couch, Gwen also felt much more at home in the universe knowing that not every civilization existed only for war and destruction. She snuggled up to Rhys and fell asleep just before his alarm went off. But she didn’t hear another sound for hours.


“Jack,” Tosh called loudly across the room. “I just intercepted a 999 report of monsters attacking a couple of pedestrians on the South side of Roath Park. Apparently they are trying to drag some people into the pond. The caller said a lot of people are helping fight back but there isn’t much more coherent information beyond that.”

“Gwen and Owen with me,” Jack yelled as he grabbed a weapon from the table by the garage and ran toward the SUV. He was surprised to see Aria climb in next to him, but he did not say anything. She had buckled a holster around her shoulder and slid into the seatbelt by the time the others arrived. There was a quick exchange of concerned looks between Gwen and Owen, but no one said anything. They quickly adjusted their seating arrangements and the SUV tore out of the garage and into a foggy fall afternoon.

When they arrived at the park, it wasn’t hard to tell where the trouble was. There was a large crowd screaming and throwing things. As they got closer, they also saw that there was a group of people that was more hands on with the problem. Two people were wrapped tight in the tentacles of two strange looking quadrupeds. The monsters, gazebo shaped jellyfish was how Gwen described them to Tosh over the radio as they ran up to the creatures, were apparently trying their hardest to get back to the water with their prey. Preventing them from doing this was a small but determined group of people who were tugging and pulling on the creatures tentacles while a second group was doing their best to stay in the monster’s way and block the creatures from entering the water. Between the two groups, they were managing to confuse the animal’s departure and give the victim’s a chance to escape. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like the people tugging on the tentacles were having much luck freeing the people and the runners on the shore would not be able to keep this up forever.

Jack stopped just outside the gaggle of people and yelled for everyone to move as he drew his weapon to aim at the beasts. Aria on the other hand ran straight into the mess. She slammed into the closest of the aliens and managed to move it a few steps back. She then shouted at the people pulling on the tentacles to step away. Because she sounded like she knew what she was doing or because of the impressive holster on her shoulder, the people stepped back. The creature swung the person encased in the tentacle high over the people’s head as though to throw the person into the water. Aria pulled out the weapon and stood between the creature and the water. She took aim at the creature but did not fire.

The creature bellowed at her but she did not flinch. It screamed and waved its tentacles but she made no move. It appeared to be a stalemate. But she was so focused on intimidating the first creature that she had lost track of the other creature.

The second creature still had humans draped all over it and positioned between it and the water. When it realized the dilemma its partner was facing it began to move toward Aria instead. Jack, took aim and fired at it. A tentacle jerked and a brown ooze began to dribble from it. Both creatures screamed at the same time and Aria screamed “NO!”

Then the two women that had been held in the creatures tentacles started to scream in pain. Apparently, they had not been harmed before this but were now being squeezed to death. Aria gave Jack a look that should have turned him to ash on the spot and she began firing at the closest creature. Now she was shooting to kill. Her shots were centered on and around the creature’s eyes and it began to shriek and flail toward her blindly. Gwen ran to the creature’s other side and added her firepower to Aria’s. The second creature, sensing its mate’s agony began flailing wildly at the humans surrounding it apparently now trying to harm them instead of avoiding them. This caused everyone to scatter and Jack and Owen started shooting into this creature with abandon.

Aria’s weapon finally emptied and she ran around the creature toward the screaming woman still clutched in its limb. She stretched her arm with the heel of her palm reaching toward the creature’s tentacle and Jack peripherally saw a blur pass from Aria’s arm toward the limb holding the woman. The creature screamed again as an explosion blew off the tentacle that held the writhing woman. Aria turned toward the second creature and repeated the motion with her other arm. The captives were free and the creatures were dying. Owen and Aria dragged the two women away from the mess toward paramedics while Gwen and Jack ensured the creatures were finished.

Jack contacted Ianto for cleanup and retcon and started to walk toward the constables to order them to cordon off the area until the Torchwood cleanup could arrive. Aria made a beeline for him and was approaching him with murder in her eyes. He smiled and asked “have you got webs in those things too?” he said gesturing toward her hands.

Aria did not react to his words but continued toward him with an angry stride. She slammed her hand into his chest hard enough to knock him to the ground when she got close enough to reach him. “What was that?” she demanded coldly.

“What was what?” he asked in a mocking tone. “You decided to dance with the things and I decided it was time to end the game. No apologies.” He stood quickly and brushed himself off.

“You killed two innocent creatures,” she growled. “They were frightened and confused and wouldn’t have harmed those women so long as they were kept out of the water. They probably had the intelligence of domesticated Earth cows and you felt the need to hurt them and then kill them.” She slammed her hand into his chest again and forced him back a step. “Just what kind of protector are you? You only protect bipeds maybe? Do you have an issue with non-humanoids? What kind of space rangers did you work for? I thought you were supposed to be well travelled in time and space and understand alien life,” she mocked. “You don’t know the first thing about life in this universe,” she growled “and you are a danger to all life.”

“I did what had to be done,” Jack was now angry and tried to use his height to make her take a step back. She didn’t move and all he did was bring himself well within range for whatever she decided to dish out next.

“You did what was easy and didn’t require thought or reason,” she shot back in a low growl. “I am lucky I am humanoid or you probably would have dissected me before I could have regenerated.”

She turned on her heel and walked away from him toward the city. He took a step to follow her but stopped. He had to take care of this situation first. He could worry about her loose on the city after that. “Tosh, keep an eye on her.”

“Yes Jack,” he heard in his ear. He growled. In Tosh’s two words he could hear that Tosh agreed with that blasted woman. The Doctor had better arrive soon to take her away from here or he was going to beat her over the head with a stick himself.


It was two days before she came back to the Hub. Even though Tosh had almost immediately lost contact with her, Jack had not been too worried. Aria was, after all, an alien with no home and no contacts here. More than that though, she had nine hundred years of experience at adapting to strange worlds and primitive environments so twenty first century Earth would be no challenge for her. He was fairly certain that Torchwood was her only way of getting home. Torchwood was the only organization with the technology she needed.  His team was the only active presence at the rift that had the understanding necessary to get home. Torchwood was the only organization on Earth that he knew of that would not dissect her just because she was an illegal alien from really, really far away. Based upon this, he gambled that she would eventually come back.

As soon as she stepped out of the stairwell, he did intercept her. He took a deep breath and blurted out a tough confession. “You were right,” he conceded immediately. “I watched the video of what happened and you were right. They were confused and harmless and I shot them. I saw the two women trapped and responded on instinct. There was no need for me to react that way and I am sorry.”

She looked at him blankly for a long moment. Then, she walked around him and headed directly toward the lower levels where her quarters were.

He stood frozen in place for a long time. He could not have said what kind of reaction he had expected, but that had not really been it. Perhaps he had been among humans too long? It made him expect everyone to react like a human. He took a deep breath, pursed his lips, and went to look for a cup of coffee to officially start the day.

CHAPTER 4

“There!” Jack shouted as the video scanned across a dark street.

“Where?” Owen challenged squinting at the screen.

“Tosh, back up to the left of the screen about five seconds,” Jack said quickly.

Tosh manipulated the scene back to where Jack was pointing and started the video again. This time, the video ran at a fraction of the speed so that the images were broken into individual pictures that the human eye could recognize as distinct.

“There!” Jack said and he pointed to the shadow of a curb. As the display continued to slide from image to image, the rest of the group saw a shadow move and a small glint off of metal. Then nothing.

“That wasn’t anything,” Owen laughed. “It is a beer can in the gutter.”

“No,” Tosh said thoughtfully. “I think he’s right. Let me enhance that section a bit more.” She manipulated the image and other parts of the picture washed out, dimmed, or emerged into radical contrast. When she was done, she took the video back to their original starting point and suddenly, the moving shadow was clearly visible as a small, spiderlike, mechanical device. It emerged from behind the curb and crawled straight down into the gutter drain. Tosh took the video back and enlarged the image of the creature. Everyone looked closely at the image. A voice from behind them all interrupted their individual thoughts about the image.

“It’s Imovarian.”

“What?” said Jack in disbelief. “You made that up.”

She looked at him with annoyance and then shrugged. “Whatever you say,” she said quietly and turned back to her own computer screen. She had completed reading the encyclopedia and had started working her way through wikipedia.

Gwen gave Jack a scalding look and went to sit next to Aria. “What is it?”

“I can’t speak for this universe, but in mine, that looks like an Imovarian. They are fundamentally a mercenary race. Typically, they are only for hire, but every now and then you get one that goes off on their own to investigate individual projects. I would be willing to bet that this one is an independent out to either investigate or torment a less capable race to see what you are capable of or it is after something specific. What has been taken in that area of town?”

The team all looked at each other but intentionally avoided Jack’s gaze. Tosh answered for them, “They took some small electronic parts. Primarily satellite dishes, circuit boards, and computer memory with other bits and pieces of electronics mixed in.”

“What kind of dishes, communications, video, commanding?”

“They were duplex antennas used for satellite communications,” Tosh said quickly.

“What frequencies and what kind of bandwidths are we talking about?”

“Ku and C bands primarily and anywhere from 1K to 5K in bandwidth.”

“They are going to start playing with your satellite systems,” Aria said in a matter of fact tone. “I would have to do some more research on the thefts and the current on-orbit systems to determine exactly which satellites or to what purpose but they are going to try to manipulate some satellite systems. Based on my research, those bandwidths are typically used by your larger nations for satellite control and public communications.”

The team looked at her with all mouths agape. She scanned their faces but when no further questions came, she shrugged and returned to the screen she was working on. Jack smiled in amusement and shook his head. “All right. We know what it is and what it is trying to do now. We also can guess that it is either holed up in the sewers or is using them as a means for moving from place to place.” He clapped his hands together and rubbed them vigorously. “Lets get to work people, we have an alien robot to find and now we have some more information to work with.”

Everyone scurried off to their respective work areas and Aria continued reading. Jack stood behind her for a long time unsure of what to say. “You are welcome,” she said before he could speak. “Just don’t shoot it before you figure out what it is after.” Properly chastised, Jack just pursed his lips and walked away.

Owen, working at a nearby computer, shook his head with a distinct lack of masculine sympathy. He figured Jack was trying to suss a way to get in the woman’s pants, but Owen could see that she had some kind of unnatural revulsion to Jack. Although he didn’t get along with Aria so well, he was thrilled to see the historically incomparable Captain Jack floundering with a woman of any race.

In fact, Jack knew why Aria was not able to tolerate his presence. He was an anomaly that should not exist.  He was a humanoid from the future, dumped in the past, and unable to die. The Doctor had described him as an unnatural fixed point in time that was like an alarm beacon to a Time Lord. He found that all he wanted was for her to look at him and accept him. He didn’t, at least at this moment, have any designs on the woman beyond just her acceptance of him as something that actually should continue living in the universe and not something that should be destroyed like a rabid dog.

Later that afternoon, he summoned up the courage to approach her again. This time, he hoped he would be able to give her good news. “I don’t know if Gwen or the others have talked to you yet, but right now, without a TARDIS and without a means of leaving this planet, there aren’t many alternatives for you.”

“So am I to consider myself a prisoner here?” she asked coldly.

“NO!” he blurted too quickly. Then he calmed a bit. “No, of course not. I’m doing this badly I’m afraid.” He took a deep breath and tried starting again. “Our team is unique in the world. We track down life forms that are either lost or a threat and we do our best to protect and defend this young world.” He smiled ruefully at Aria’s back as he considered their situation right now, “or sometimes we even defend aliens from the threats Earth might offer.” He sobered and looked squarely at Aria’s back and took another deep breath. “What I am saying is that we would appreciate your help while you are here on Earth. As you can see, we need someone who is an expert at alien forms and technologies. I have been an adequate resource until now because of my limited experience in space and my extended time on this planet, but I don’t have much experience with things beyond Earth in this time frame like you do. I also think that, as a member of this team, you would have access to a better and more likely mix of technologies to help you build anything you need to either cross time, space, or find a way back through the Rift to your own dimension.” He pursed his lips as he waited for her to move. She didn’t. “Well, I just thought I would offer anyway. We could certainly use your help for as long as you might be interested in offering it.”

He abruptly turned to walk away and the rushing sound in his ears almost drowned out her answer. “Thank you,” she said quietly. “I would like to join this group so long as you do not ask anything of me that conflicts with my other oaths. I believe you are right and that this might be the only way for me to find a way back to my own dimension.” He felt an uncomfortable burning on his back and turned to look at her. Her eyes were amused but locked on his relentlessly. “Thank you Jack,” she said with a genuine smile. He tilted his head in acknowledgement and turned to walk back to his office.

He walked slowly and was lost in thought. It was the first time she had looked him in the eye without malice, and he found it had given him a chill straight up his spine and a thrill in his stomach that was not receding. He went to his office to try not to think about it for awhile.

He failed utterly.


It was during one of their casual dinners in town that Aria put Jack back on the spot with no warning at all. “So how do any of you know about Gallifrey?” she said in a manner that didn’t really leave room to dodge. “No offense, but this planet isn’t a space faring society and you are on the edge of this galaxy where you wouldn’t get many visitors.” She turned her glare onto Jack and he coughed and then tried a disarming smile. Aria’s expression didn’t change one iota. “How do you know about Gallifrey and the Time Lords at all? You said you had met two with diametrically opposed philosophies. How did you meet them and why did they care about you?”

Everyone now turned to look at Jack. He looked around the room but saw no one there was going to provide him with an opportunity to redirect the conversation. “I travelled with a Time Lord for a while. We stopped a couple of invasions, prevented the end of the world, the usual stuff.”

Her expression changed to something like a parent that didn’t like what she was hearing. “You travelled with the Time Lord? And you affected the time stream? You actively interfered?”

“Ah well, see we didn’t have a choice. At the end of the world The Master, another Time Lord, was trying to destroy the world and modify the timeline himself. It took us over a year, but we managed to stop him. The Doctor and Martha, we-“

At the first mention of The Doctor, Aria’s expression immediately changed to anger. She slowly stood and backed toward the solid wall. Everything about her now was on guard. “You were a companion of The Doctor?” she said coldly.

Not certain what he had said wrong, Jack continued slowly. “Yes. We managed to save a couple of worlds while I was travelling with him. Why?”

The waitress that had been approaching their table with a large smile did an impressive about face and headed to the table furthest from these strange folk in the corner that now looked like they were going to start a brawl.

“You consider him a friend?” Aria demanded.

“All right,” he said finally. “I have obviously said something you don’t like but haven’t the foggiest idea what you find so wrong. What has set you off and what is your interest in The Doctor?”

She stared at him coldly for a long time. She was making a decision but wasn’t happy with her alternatives. It was obvious that she was upset by something that Jack had just said and was now suspicious of the entire room. Something fundamental had changed here but only she knew why. She saw this in their eyes and so she made her choice.

She took a slow, deep breath. “You say you travelled with The Doctor and he helped people?” Aria asked Jack slowly and clearly while she watched him intently. Gwen immediately caught her emphasis on the word “help” but Jack did not seem to have noticed. “Are you certain that was his intent?”

“Yes I am certain he was trying to save those people,” Jack insisted defensively. “We all were.”

“’We’ meaning you and Martha?” Aria asked slowly.

“Yes, and Rose. Each of them travelled with The Doctor for awhile.” Jack looked at her askance, a bit disturbed by the intensity of her stare. “Why are you asking these questions?”

“These two women were both from Earth? What was their relationship with The Doctor?”

“They were his travelling companions. Completely platonic though as far as I know,” Jack added quickly. “Though I happen to know both of them would have changed that in a heartbeat.” His smirk got a cold reception so he shrugged back into a more serious mode. “Why are you so suspicious about The Doctor? What do you need this information for?”

“How long did you travel with him?” Aria asked without acknowledging Jack’s questions or confusion. Gwen instinctively saw and heard a police interrogation occurring here just from Aria’s new tone. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she tried to dispel that image but it would not go away.

“Long enough,” Jack said curtly as he shifted in his chair now to lean toward Aria. “I have answered your questions, now you need to answer at least one of mine. What is your concern with The Doctor and what does it matter that I or anyone else travelled with him?”

She stared at him for a long time. Her stare was enough to make even Jack, in his defiance, sit back in his chair. She was obviously debating something important and no one moved or breathed as they waited for her to resolve whatever inner conflict that was occurring. Finally, and with apparent physical pain, she seemed to resign herself to this awkward situation and took another deep breath to steady herself. She slowly returned to the table and sat down in her seat. Her eyes never swayed from Jack’s though. She took one last slow, deep breath before starting an explanation.

“As you know, I am a law officer from Gallifrey. There aren’t many of us. We enforce the non-interference decrees primarily, but every now and then a Time Lord exceeds their boundaries or goes insane and we have to hunt them down to either capture or eliminate them.” Her glare had not wavered from Jack even to blink. “The Doctor is the most notorious rogue Time Lord our race has seen in generations. His interference and scientific experimentation has resulted in the destruction of hundreds of populated worlds.” Her glare hardened and her voice lost all emotion. “I am the officer assigned to detain or destroy the Time Lord known as The Doctor and I have been chasing him for several centuries.” Her head tilted a bit but her glare did not waver. “So you see Captain Jack Harkness, the fact that you traveled with this felon and assisted him in his endeavors now puts me in a difficult situation.”

Jack smirked and actually started laughing as he finally overcame his shock. He broke eye contact with Aria and leaned his chair back on two legs. “And I thought you were going to tell us something serious.” He intertwined his hands on the table and leaned toward Aria to emphasize his next words. “You are in another universe now my dear lady. The Time Lord that I know as The Doctor is one of the finest men I have ever known. He has saved countless worlds and he typically puts himself at risk to do it. Your Doctor may be a threat to civilization, but our Doctor is one of its most effective protectors.” He sat back and laid his hands on his stomach. “There is no way you can convince me that our Doctor is a threat to anyone but himself.” He smirked and then seemed to add reluctantly, “and maybe anyone travelling with him.”

She continued to stare at him for a long time and then finally said abruptly “I have to go.” With that, she turned on her heel and walked out of the restaurant. She was down the stairs in an instant and down the street as Jack grabbed his jacket and hit the door to follow her. Back in the dining room, everyone tried to decode what they had just heard. A little of it had made sense, but most of it had been a jumble.

“Damn aliens,” Owen said finally and began stabbing at his spaghetti with a focused intensity. “It’s so much easier when we can just shoot them.”


Jack finally caught up with Aria at the edge of one of the walkways. She was looking out over the Cardiff Bay and was completely lost in thought. Her breathing was heavy but it wasn’t from her run, she was agitated and obviously didn’t know how to deal with the energy that her unsettled thoughts were conjuring.

Jack stayed just out of reach and watched the waters of the Bay beside her for a long time. The sun had begun to sink low in the sky before she finally calmed enough to speak with him.

“You have no idea what you have done to me here Harkness,” she accused.

“What do you mean? You’re a Time Lord. So you travelled to a different universe this trip, you should be used to things changing like this.”

“Not like this,” she said quietly. “I have been hunting The Doctor for nearly seven human generations. I have asked to change assignments so many times but they always denied me the request because no one else understood The Doctor as well as I did. No one understood his capacity for pure evil like I did. No one wanted him stopped as much as I did. I have been able to interrupt his plans many times,” she shifted uncomfortably and stared down into the water below her. “But all too often, I would arrive after the destruction was complete and all I could do was search through the bodies and destruction for clues to what he was up to and where he was going next. I swore on so many dead worlds that I would stop him somehow. Someday.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “But I didn’t. I got caught on a lark and I got tossed out of my dimension and, as far as I know, he is still terrorizing my universe.” She looked up at Jack again. “And now, when I was beginning to take some comfort in the thought that I could finally put down this burden and live a life where I could concentrate on helping people and not have to constantly put myself into the mind of a globocidal psychotic-” She paused and closed her eyes. Tears fell onto her cheeks. “Now you tell me that there is a Doctor here too. And that he is a ‘great guy’,” she said with a sarcastic flourish. “You will have to forgive me if I don’t just overflow with happiness and enthusiasm at any of this news.” She turned back to watch the water. After another long silence she finally spoke again. “So I am guessing that it was The Doctor that infused you with the TARDIS energy?”

He shifted his feet and took a deep breath. “Yes. Well, sort of. It was his TARDIS, but it was a human that did the imparting of energy.”

She looked at him in confusion.

“It’s a long story,” Jack said dismissively. But she was having none of this.

“I have never heard of anything like this happening to any being, not even a Time Lord. Tell me what happened.”

He glanced at her in a sidelong manner. “Only if you come have a drink with me,” he said slyly.

She graced him with a small smile. “Gwen and Ianto both advised me not to go anywhere alone with you. They said to run if you invited me with a smile.” Jack pretended to be shocked. “I assured them that I was more than capable of taking care of myself and that I was not really swayed much by backward beings.”

“Spoken like a true Time Lord,” he said while rolling his eyes.

“Funny that,” she responded. “So what do humans ‘drink’ after dinner?”

Jack shifted a bit uncomfortably. He knew that now was the time to tell her about Gallifrey. To tell her that not only was The Doctor a good man but that he was the only one… the only other Time Lord left alive in this universe. That though she might have come to hate this man during her decades long hunt, The Doctor was the only family she had here, the only touchstone to anything even close to her home. He swallowed hard and turned to look out over the water in a mirror of the woman beside him. He needed to wait. Now probably wasn’t the right time to tell her. He would tell her later. He nodded at his own decision and gestured for Aria to lead the way back toward the city.


He took her to a small family coffee shop with high booths that didn’t permit sound to carry. They enjoyed a pleasant chat and talked about their histories. Both avoided asking any sensitive questions or questions that might be construed as invasive. Jack did tell her about The Master and the fact that he seemed to have been the one in this universe to terrorize any and all life forms in his path. He was thrilled to be able to tell Aria, in detail, of his part in helping destroy The Master once and for all… with The Doctor and Martha’s help of course. Aria was obviously still mulling over the implications of a universe that still had a Gallifreyan slaughtering worlds but a different one than the one she had hunted for so long. For his part, Jack was fascinated with just watching this strange woman talk. As this private time together continued though, he started to become worried. He had the insane urge to touch her hand and say stupid things just to hear her laugh. It was a thrilling feeling, but he knew it was totally irrational. He needed to remain in control and he didn’t need to start flirting with this alien woman, this Time Lord, who was centuries older than he was not just in age but in real universal experience. He felt shivers and butterflies in different parts of his body as his mind ran away with him at various times during the evening as the two shared stories about their long lives and travels. He was loving all of these new sensations and the tingles of anticipation that they each left in their wake. This kind of quiet, thrill with another being was new for him and he wanted it to last as long as possible.

When the owners of the coffee shop finally kicked them out so they could go home, the two aliens walked in silence along the bay back toward the Hub. Jack turned his next words over and over in his mind. It was information he had promised but it wasn’t something he really wanted to talk about. He finally took a deep breath and stopped walking.

He watched Aria, lost in thought, take a few more steps beyond him and then stop and look back at him in confusion.

“It was a human that changed me. Her name was Rose,” he said finally.

The woman did not move or change expression. She was not going to give him any excuse to avoid telling this story.

“She was a companion of The Doctor. A very special young woman from the 21st century. She travelled with him. They found me in England during the blitz.” Jack wandered over to the railing by the walkway and watched the streetlights dance in the waters. He remembered in flashes how it had all happened. “Through a series of mistakes, my ship was destroyed so I left with them, and had a few adventures. At some point, we ended up on a satellite in the future that was overrun by Daleks.” The woman’s eyes squinted a bit to watch him more carefully now. He could see she wanted to ask more questions, but she refrained in order to let him continue. He smiled inwardly because he knew she would be sure to interrogate him later. “Well, while The Doctor was trying to save the humans from the Daleks and destroy the Daleks so they couldn’t escape, something happened to Rose. I never did get the full story, but she ended up infused with the energy from the time vortex of the TARDIS. After that, she came across me on the station. The Daleks had apparently killed me while we had been defending the station.” He smiled at this. It was a strange story and he had not really told it before so he wasn’t sure how best to tell it to someone else. This was a story he tried not to think about too much because there were so many things he didn’t understand about it and couldn’t reconcile with himself. So this revelation was a somewhat reluctant trip down memory lane. “She revived me. But apparently, because she didn’t understand the energy she was wielding, she repaired me too well. I cannot die. I have been living on Earth now for over 140 years. My body is always repairing itself and has brought me back from death many-“ he paused uncomfortably as a shiver ran down his spine. “Too many times.” He shrugged and looked back at the woman with a slight smile. “And that is how I ended up a radiant, stationary point in time in your eyes. To them,” he gestured marginally with his head toward the Hub where the rest of the team worked. “To them, I appear completely human but to Time Lords,” he smiled ruefully. “To you I glow like a firefly.”

“Do they know?” she asked.

“Oh the team knows I can’t be killed. They have actually watched me die several times.” He smiled with genuine amusement. “I have been in and out of the morgue way too often here. And now that I think about it, this team has actually killed me themselves on at least two occasions. They don’t know much else though. I don’t think it would help and most of it would be too hard to explain.”

The two stood quietly watching the relatively smooth waters below for a long time. Aria watched Jack remembering the incidents that had brought him to this point and thinking about the team working down below in the Hub. She simply could not get over the temporal anomaly that she saw when she looked at him. It was an abnormality that defied her understanding of time and space itself. What she saw was the equivalent of the energy of the sun emanating from the pencil in her pocket. It was irrationally illogical and defied all of the laws that she had been brought up to believe. But there he stood, a totally aberrant anomaly. Was it good or bad? Was he to be lauded or feared? She did not know and was not the right one to decide. The two of them enjoyed each other’s silent company for awhile longer, watching the sun crack the sky as it arose over the city. They then turned to continue their walk back to the Hub.

CHAPTER 5

It was the very next day that Jack regretted not telling Aria everything.

The team was doing some well overdue maintenance on their equipment and Aria was fiddling with the insides of Tosh’s monitoring servers. She had just completed an upgrade to Tosh’s bridge, the set of workstations that she used to interface with the servers, and Tosh was thrilled at the improvements. She couldn’t wait to see what Aria would be able to do with the mainframe which was much more powerful than the smaller, isolated computers and which stored and crunched the massive amounts of data that Tosh then had to mold into some kind of order every day.

From underneath the workstation, Tosh could barely hear Aria’s voice. She and Aria had been chatting about the system and what Tosh needed it to do. Aria was apparently brainstorming down there somewhere and had crawled under the bowels of the raised computer flooring with a few alien devices and gadgets that she had scavenged from the Torchwood storerooms. In the course of their casual chatter came the inevitable question:

“So do you think you will be able to stay with us until you find a way back offworld?” Tosh asked casually.

“I guess I will have to impose on your space until another Time Lord passes through this way. Jack said that the rift here in Cardiff is sometimes used as a type of refueling station for TARDIS temporal exchange though I haven’t been able to break down the energy signature sufficiently with the equipment you have here in the Hub.” There was an almost imperceptible pause while she seemed to consider this statement and Tosh imagined she was figuring out how she might be able to accomplish this. Then she abruptly continued her original thought. “I am guessing I will have to build a sensor so that I can detect their arrival and geolocate them in time to contact them. Hmmm… I will also need a communications device that works on the TARDIS frequency. Those can be tricky though.” She grunted as she seemed to move something heavy. “Different models had different equipment.” Her hand extended out of the small access hole and grabbed a small soldering tool. It then disappeared just as quickly. “But I should be able to find a ride home within the next generation or so.” She poked her head out from under the console and started fiddling with a device that she had brought out from under the floor. It looked alarmingly similar to a beating heart. Tosh involuntarily took a step back as Aria lowered a magnifying glass over her eye and peered into the device’s innards and then shined a ray of some kind into it. “Of course, with the kind of energy that this rift radiates, the Time Lords might stop here more frequently though I have no way of knowing.” She put down the small light tool and picked up another tool that looked like a dentist’s probe. “It will be interesting to see if Gallifrey has evolved in this universe in the same manner as home. Based upon what I have seen here on Earth, there should be some fascinating differences and I can’t wait to see them.”

Sensing something had changed in the room, she looked around to see every eye staring at her in either horror or pity. In the long silence she looked them each in the eye and finally settled on Jack who seemed the most horrorstricken. “What did I miss?” she asked with trepidation.

“Ah, now,” Jack stumbled over the words and even someone who had never met him could have seen he was rapidly formulating a response that was not quite the entire truth. “You see it could be ages before another Time Lord arrives in these parts. Is it really that bad to be trapped here helping us fight dangerous aliens? Protecting the Earth? Protecting this dimension? I mean your knowledge of –“

“What are you babbling about?” she asked in annoyance. She swung around to Ianto. “What is he not telling me?”

“Why ask me?” he asked in a high pitch that he couldn’t control.

“Because you said you know everything and I believed you.” She turned her head to look at him askance. “Are you going to prove yourself wrong so soon?”

He blanched. “Well yes, of course I know. But that doesn’t mean I can tell you.”

“That is the weakest response I have ever heard,” she said coldly. She then looked at Gwen. “Gwen, what are they not telling me?”

“Why are you assuming I am lying about something here?” Jack asked with a hurt squeal to his voice.

“Because you are talking,” Aria answered quickly. “Gwen, what is the story?”

“Gallifrey is gone,” Owen said quietly.

Four pairs of eyes burned Owen with scalding glares. One pair of eyes turned on him in confusion.

“What do you mean gone?” Aria asked confused. “A planet isn’t ever just gone. And how would you know about Gallifrey anyway? Earth won’t be invited to the galactic alliance for a few more thousand years.” She turned on Jack. “What exactly have you told them about my world?”

Jack’s eyes opened in surprise at the attack that was now turned on him. He had to play back her last words in his mind in order to figure out the question. Then he didn’t want to know the question. “Ah, yes. I suppose I did tell them about Gallifrey.” She sighed with annoyance. “But not quite in the manner you think. Really!” He stood up and walked over to Aria. He extended his hands to her and helped her out from under the floor. Her annoyance was rapidly turning to suspicion. He stood her in front of him and gently put his hands on her shoulders. “Okay. Here goes.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. There wasn’t any nice way to say this. He had to just jam the knife in her heart, tear open her chest, and rip out this poor woman’s heart. He looked into those luminous, brown eyes. She was going to kill him. “Gallifrey, the entire planet, was destroyed in a time war with the Daleks. As far as I know, there is only one Gallifreyan left in this universe. He-”

Her expression had abruptly changed from confusion to a blank slate. She threw off his hands, turned out of his grip, and walked out of the Torchwood facility without a word.

“Oh what a surprise!” Owen said sarcastically. “There she goes again.” He walked over to his computer and logged in. "Do me a favor and no one tell me when she comes back. I have had enough of this.”

Gwen and Ianto both gave Jack scalding glares before both leaving the room in different directions. For his part, Jack could only stare at the floor in despair. He had made a mess and he knew it. Every time he seemed to make progress earning her trust, he mucked it up. He hated to admit it, but Owen was right, this was too much. He needed to come clean with Aria and tell her everything he knew or suspected. Otherwise, she really didn’t have any reason to come back to Torchwood, ever. He wandered to Tosh’s station to see if she might be able to locate Aria for him. He didn’t know why but he instinctively needed to see her. He needed to make certain she was all right.

First though, he spent an exceptionally long time convincing Tosh that she should help him find Aria so that he could apologize. Tosh it seemed was now quite as adamant as Gwen that if Jack could not even trust his own people with Torchwood secrets, then Jack did not deserve any information either. Apparently she believed that Aria was as much a member of Torchwood as he was, an alien defending the Earth and all of that, and that he had better start trusting all of them if he wanted them to trust him. For her, the tongue lashing was particularly venemous and out of character. But Jack could not fault a single thing she said.


Jack sat down beside Aria on the pier. She had been sitting in this same spot all day. So far as they could tell, she had not moved once since arriving.

“How did you find me?” she finally asked.

“We followed you with the CCTV city cameras,” he answered matter of factly. “It was easy. We have been watching you since you left to make sure you are all right.”

“Tell me Jack,” she said sarcastically. “You forgot to tell me about The Doctor. You forgot to tell me about Gallifrey. Is there anything else about my life in this universe that I should know about and that I should probably NOT hear in casual conversation from a twenty first century human as a side comment or slip of the tongue?”

“No,” he said quietly. “Those were the only things I really wanted to tell you but I just felt that the time wasn’t right. I had actually hoped that The Doctor could be the one to tell you about Gallifrey because he knows the details about how it all happened. All I know is that it was destroyed during some kind of time war and that the Daleks had something to do with it. The fact that you were hunting The Doctor in your universe was just an unlucky coincidence I think.” He saw the fury in her eyes and closed his mouth abruptly with an audible click. “All right, that was a bad choice of words as well,” he amended quickly. “But that was all of it. Everything else has been the straight truth. And please don’t blame the others,” he added quickly. “I gave them strict orders not to tell you because they know even less about Gallifrey and Time Lords than I do.” He paused for a moment and struggled with all of the things he wanted to say next. “For what it is worth,” he said with a smile, “every one of them thought I was mad not to tell you everything on day one. Even Owen argued that you should know.”

She took a deep breath and seemed to relax a bit but still didn’t say anything. Jack sat beside her trying not to attract too much of her notice and to leave her to her thoughts. Nothing he could say now felt right so he just tried to be there for moral support. He just didn’t want her to send him away, he wanted to sit beside her and just be with her. The two of them watched the sun set and then rise again. Neither moved. Then Aria abruptly jumped to her feet and put her hand out to Jack to help him up.

“Where are we going?” he asked as he struggled to get his numb legs moving and underneath him.

She pulled him up beside her and she answered in a flat tone. “Back to the Hub. It seems I have nowhere else to go.” She looked him in the eye and he felt his insides sink to see her so empty. “I could pick a direction and start walking to learn about this world, but it just isn’t quite the same when you don’t have a way home… or even a home to go to.” Her eyes scanned to the right as though she was looking at the skyline but Jack knew she wasn’t seeing anything in front of her right now. “I think I will help Tosh try to break through the rift. Perhaps, if I can get a handle on this Rift, I can find a way back to my own world.” She turned and started to walk away. Jack felt the warmth of her hand disappear from his and his heart sank. He walked after her and the two of them returned to work in the Hub.


Over the next few weeks, Aria created a niche for herself in the Torchwood routine. Her knowledge of aliens, her inexperience with human thinking, her extensive scientific knowledge, and her unconventional problem solving methods made her an invaluable member of the team in no time. She even became friends with Rhys as she and Gwen spent more and more time together in their brief off hours. Her easy manner made her a comfortable companion for everyone in the group.

Everyone except Jack.

Over time, it became apparent that it was Jack that was having trouble working with Aria and not the other way around as everyone had expected. Unknown to the rest of the team, he had started having vividly intense dreams about Aria that deeply disturbed him. He had found himself desperate to spend time with her and talk to her no matter where he was or what was going on. He felt settled when he was with her in a casual environment so he invited the team out to dinner on many occasions just to have an excuse to chat with her about the universe and her day. At first, he didn’t really realize he was doing it but once he did, he puzzled over it for days. He chatted with Ianto about Aria and how she was doing, how she was fitting in, and what a nice person she was, but he didn’t feel comfortable talking with anyone, even Ianto, about his growing need to be with her.

Ianto saw it all though and he despaired. He had always felt like an inexperienced child with Jack in their odd relationship and this just emphasized their differences more than ever. As much as they talked or spent time together, Jack had a lifetime, actually many lifetimes, worth of experiences both on Earth and on other planets that Ianto would never be able to understand. He also knew that there were things about Jack that were hidden and completely inaccessible to Ianto because he was a 21st century human and would never be able to identify with or truly understand them. On the other hand, here was a woman, an exceptionally attractive woman Ianto had to admit, who Jack could talk with about the universe as a whole and who would be around for Jack to talk to in 100 years or even 500 years. She was someone who Jack could be with long after Ianto had turned to dust. It galled him that she was such a great person. In fact, if he had not been involved with Jack, he would have asked Aria out to dinner soon after she had arrived. She was someone he felt comfortable talking with and enjoyed spending casual time with. Once you forgot she was over nine hundred years old and from another dimension, she was very pleasant company, had many interesting stories to tell, and quite a wonderful listener. It was confusing and heartbreaking and, most days, a part of him just wished she would go away.

But Ianto took solace in the fact that it seemed that Jack and Aria were both resistant to the idea of hooking up for their own reasons and so he hoped that neither of them would ever warm to the idea and that life would continue on as it did.

But this was Torchwood, and nothing ever continued on a straight course for long.


At night when everyone else had left to go home, Jack and Aria began working on the forensic pathology of bodies that had begun appearing in and around Cardiff. Owen and Tosh’s systems had both flagged six fatalities as possibly related and so the autopsies and investigations had begun. With the information the team had been able to collect and analyze so far on those six victims, they had been able to track down four more victims that no one in the conventional medical profession had had any luck at determining a reasonable cause of death.

Aria had become particularly interested in these cases precisely because of their ambiguity. She loved mysteries and her professional training made her a keen investigator. Jack enjoyed watching her work through theories and explore possibilities. This one had stumped the team and Jack and Aria had decided to spend some extra time on the case coming at it from other perspectives. Their plan was to come at the problem with only alien solutions and alien agendas as possible causes. Since neither of them really needed much sleep, the unit downtimes were the perfect opportunity to build on anything the others were able to collect or theorize conventionally.

Aria started work on the immunohistochemistry of the cadavers and Jack began to plow through the social, professional, and medical histories of the victims while comparing the dates and times of deaths to advents of rift energy and known alien methodologies. He noticed as he was plowing through the database, that the alien library had expanded significantly since he had last worked with it. He wondered if this was a result of Ianto catching up on paperwork or Aria buffing up their database in her spare time. He smiled. Either way, it was good to know that his team was well on top of things even when he wasn’t.

Their conversation was always easy and flowing whether it be about the case, about other worlds and races, or just quick verbal sparring at which both were expert. Jack was practically giddy he was enjoying this time so much and he found himself looking forward to it all day long. As time progressed, they continued to work the expanding case at night while other cases took up their attention during the day. Somehow, during the course of the intense work, the two of them became good friends.

One night, after a particularly difficult capture that day, Jack could not contain himself. He couldn’t even remember what they had been talking about when he abruptly danced Aria around and impulsively kissed her on the lips.

Both of them froze immediately.

For Jack, it was an epiphany. His whole body was on fire and he suddenly had to have her. His blood pounded behind his eyes as he looked into her face for her reaction. On the other hand, he was terrified that he had just committed a faux pas that would cost him a hard won friendship.

Aria, for her part, was in mild shock, but she had no idea how to react. On the one hand, she had enjoyed the kiss. It had given her a thrill she had not expected and she actually found herself wanting another kiss to see if it would feel just as nice. On the other hand, she had not considered Jack in any category other than friendship to that point so she needed a moment to think this through.

Jack, misunderstanding her silence and continued eye contact started to lean forward toward her for another kiss. Aria’s face became suspicious and she took a step back out of Jack’s reach. His arms dropped to his sides as though he had been slapped.

“We need some air,” she said finally and she turned and walked toward the stairs. She didn’t stop at the street exit though, she continued to the top of the building. She never looked back to see if Jack was following but he did. The tingling in his limbs wouldn’t permit him to be away from her just now.

From the roof, they could see nearly the entire bay. It was late evening on a weekend so the lights and nightlife were in full swing around them. A breeze was blowing off of the bay with the clean smell of the water. The fresh breeze was unusual for this time of year Jack half noted but his eyes never wavered from the back of Aria’s head. Aria wandered to the edge of the roof and looked out over the water toward the darkness beyond. Jack had the feeling that she wasn’t seeing anything in front of her. He could practically hear her mind whirring through what had just happened.

He watched her standing at the edge of the roof, so close to the edge and yet completely oblivious to her danger. She was so beautiful in so many ways. So alive. How had he not seen this before? How had he not realized that he was in love?

“How old are you now Jack?”

“A couple of hundred years now,” he shrugged. “Most of that time here on Earth.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Why?”

“It is so hard,” she said quietly. He could hear sadness seeping into her voice and he barely resisted the urge to hold her as she continued. “To watch all of these precious lives around you come and go so quickly.” She watched the life of the city around her and Jack let her collect her thoughts. “When you are young and realize you truly are immortal, you revel in the uniqueness and infinite future you face. After awhile, you wallow in despair and sadness as you watch more and more loved ones age and die in your arms. You watch them decay before your eyes and the lives that were so vibrant and essential to yours wither in the blink of an eye. Then you become angry and bitter. You spend years avoiding all contact with anything that even remotely feels like humanity.” Jack slowly started to approach her from behind. He needed to hold her now. He needed to feel her permanence in his arms. She continued ruminating quietly. “Then you resign yourself to the briefness of their lives and decide that it is just best not to ever become attached, to live your life on your own terms and to hell with everything else.” She turned abruptly and was eye to eye with Jack. “You don’t get attached do you Jack. Your flings are brief explosions of emotion and excitement and then you abruptly move on before your feelings become involved.” He stood frozen in place. “You do not let yourself become attached to anyone or anything in this moment because it is all doomed to decay in too short at time. This Torchwood, their lives are even shorter in this profession than most. You don’t ever have to see them age, they die young and vibrant and you don’t have to ever watch them fade away.”

He felt his throat close. She was right of course. All of it. He preferred brief meaningless flirtations and flings and resisted feeling love because no matter how successful the relationship was, it would end in pain. His recent recognition of his intense feelings for Gwen had been just one more encounter with that brief, biting pain. It was an aspect of his immortality that he didn’t believe he would ever become accustomed to. But Aria was like him. She was as permanent as he was and irresistible. Could she be someone he could hold and stay with? He felt a tear slowly creeping down his cheek. He slowly raised his hand to touch her face.

“I am not your solution to life and death and love Jack Harkness,” she said coldly. His hand froze just inches from her face and they stared into each other’s eyes. Her eyes were sad and his pleading.

“What comes next?” he asked gently. “What do I have to look forward to?”

She became thoughtful as she drifted into memory. “The Time Lords that had lived too long, that had seen so much pass by that they could no longer identify with the world around them, they simply fell into themselves. They shut down all external senses and lived entirely within their own minds for awhile. Of course on Gallifrey, there were other long lives, so when they came out of their stupor there were familiar faces they could cling to for awhile. After they reached that point though, they all were little more than walking dead. They were never really conscious of the world around them after that time, but they did seem aware of minutiae. I have seen Earth children with autism that reminded me of some of the eldest Gallifreyans. The pain of constant loss finally unhinges them and they want no part of the universe. They focus on things that they can control and that will stay with them. They tended to ignore things that were new or fleeting. They don’t want to feel or recognize that anything that wanders through life differently than they do. Unfortunately, this meant that they rarely stepped off planet once they degenerated to that phase. Eventually, they would just choose not regenerate and they would pass on. These elders were the real reason for the stagnation that was occurring on my Gallifrey. The growing number of aimless elders was a catastrophic problem that no one wanted to acknowledge or resolve. To bring those elders back into the world would mean making them care and feel again and that just seemed too cruel to our leaders for some reason. In this universe though,” her sadness deepened and this time, Jack could not resist. His hand cupped the side of her head, “there is no Gallifrey. Even those elders are gone. Here I truly am alone.” Infinite sadness seemed to spread across her face as her eyes rose again to meet his and her voice was abruptly resolute. “Here I must remain alone.”

He slowly enfolded her in his arms and held her tightly. She did not move to reciprocate and her voice did not change. “My whole planet is gone.”

“No,” he whispered gently. “There is one Time Lord left.” He found he felt physical pain telling her this. “I know him. He is a good man. He feels the loneliness too, but he goes on. He spends his time alternately saving the universe and then saving one person at a time. He’s a good man.” She remained stiff in his arms but he couldn’t bring himself to let her go. “He is something special,” Jack said sincerely. There was a long pause and Jack felt the weight of Aria’s words lay across his mind. Was that all he had to look forward to? To finally succumb to the pain of losing everyone around him generation after generation until he became numb to everything? Wasn’t that madness? But his zeal for life would overcome that. He was determined. He would beat the odds. And there were other immortals in the universe. Perhaps if he could just find a few more like Aria and The Doctor as touchstones for his sanity then everything would be fine. He had to hope so. “And he is a great kisser,” he finally added with a smile in his voice after the somber silence had dragged out too long for his comfort. He felt Aria’s head shift and though he couldn’t see, he felt she was smiling.

They stood there like that until the lights and sounds around them started to wind down and the chill in the air evaporated from around them. Finally she closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder.

“So am I really such a gigolo?” he asked with a smirk.

“A very charming one I must admit,” she answered with a similar smirk. She stepped back and looked him in the eye but she didn’t step completely out of his arms. “I am not your solution Jack. I cannot get involved with you no matter how alone you are or what you think about our being alike. I just feel that this is not the destiny for either of us and we Time Lords have a ninth sense about that type of thing.”

“I know,” he said quietly though he didn’t understand at all. It just felt good to be this close to her and to feel her in his arms. “How about we just be friends for the rest of eternity and then I will always have someone to call when I am feeling lonely?” She smiled and nodded slowly. He pulled her back in for a hug. He tried not to concentrate on how good she felt in his arms but his heart made a mad leap at that moment that would change Jack’s life forever.

CHAPTER 6

From that evening on, Jack was a mess. Always a slave to his instincts and emotions, the others watched him either follow Aria around like a devoted, drooling puppy or he would mope in dark halls and corners inconsolable in his own misery.

Aria and the team were all convinced he was just suffering from a fleeting infatuation that would blow over soon and then things would become comfortable again. It was just Jack after all. He was an emotional rollercoaster at the best of times. It would pass.

Except Ianto.

Ianto knew Jack’s emotional quirks better than anyone else in the world and he could see that Jack was not just infatuated with the woman, Ianto saw that Jack’s heart and soul were on his sleeve every time she walked by. He too began to isolate himself and to sulk in dark places. He tried to console Jack as best he could, but he knew it was no use. Jack was unhappy beyond his poor ability to comfort and so both of them just sunk deeper into their own funk and the others gave them their space.

After a few weeks of this continuous moping, Jack entered the lab to work with Aria on their continuing nocturnal analysis of the cadavers. More and more of these victims were appearing all over the countryside. Jack was in a noticeably lighter mood as he walked up to Aria and placed his hand gently on hers. “Can we take a walk?” he asked quietly.

His tone was so quiet and so unlike him that Aria was forced to look into his eyes. She had to admit to herself that she loved his eyes and so avoided looking at them as much as possible. The sadness in his voice extended into those normally luminous eyes and she could see that he needed a friend tonight. For some reason, he thought she was someone he could talk to. There was no one around for her to ask for help so she nodded, locked the computer she had been working on, and followed him to the surface streets.

The two of them went for a long silent walk along the bay. Jack continued to gently hold her hand and she enjoyed his closeness and the comfort of his presence. She did enjoy his company and had become used to his impulsive and vibrant energy. But this quiet, introspective Jack was something she had never seen before and it concerned her.

They walked quietly for over an hour before he finally stopped and looked down at the sidewalk in front of them. He seemed to be searching for a thought, a whisper, something he had forgotten or something that he was afraid of. After a long time, he turned toward her and took both of her hands in his. He looked down at their hands and tried not to focus too much on how soft and small her hands were in his.

“Aria,” he finally whispered. “I know the legends of the Time Lords. I know the legends say that your race mate for life, that they link somehow for life.” He faltered and stopped for a long time. Aria resisted the urge to back up and did not move. This was obviously an unusual moment for Jack and she did not want to interrupt his thoughts. He deserved the opportunity to express what had been building up over the past weeks.

“I realize that even among Time Lords, you are more restrained and solitary than most. I know that you protect yourself and that the last thing you want is for an alien to stalk you and beg you for your attention. There is nothing that turns any independent female from any world away faster than a man dependant on their attentions.” A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, but it was only a brief glimmer of amusement at his own predicament. “I suppose an obsessed stalker would scare anyone,” he said voicing his thought.

“I don’t know what to do Aria,” he whispered hoarsely as he began to gently caress her hands enclosed in his. His words were becoming choppy and uncertain and he rushed into them as though he would lose his nerve and run away any minute. “I am always in control when it comes to relationships. I decide who I will be with and I make it happen. But I can’t do that with you. You aren’t temporary and you aren’t just a school-boy infatuation.” He finally turned his eyes up to hers and she gasped as she fell into their watery depths. She could feel his pain and it took her breath away. “Please Aria, please choose me. I know I am not the most restrained man you will ever meet and I don’t have the reputation of being either discrete or monogamous. But I have completely lost myself somehow. I can’t explain it and I don’t completely understand it… all I know is that I have to be with you. I-“ he choked on the words as his throat closed around the emotions he was trying to put into words. “Please,” he whispered hoarsely as he closed his eyes and lowered his head. “Please choose me Aria. I will do anything you ask. I can’t live without you. I can’t think or-” he couldn’t continue and tears sparkled in those star blue eyes.

Aria could not hide her distress. She could feel his sincerity through every fiber of her being. Somehow, and she thought it was because of the TARDIS energy he emanated, she could feel his presence and his emotional state much more clearly than she would have expected. She felt his inner turmoil and his physical pain. She also felt the depth and the tumultuous emotions that were tearing through his soul. How could she not have seen this happening? How could she have let this happen? She somehow felt how much he truly loved her and that this was not an idle or short lived obsession, she felt his spirit reaching out to her and rending a part of him in the process.

She also abruptly realized, that a part of her own spirit was reaching back to Jack and that she couldn’t breathe for the surge of emotions suddenly welling up inside of her. But this couldn’t be. She couldn’t love this man. She just couldn’t! What was happening here?

She saw his tears finally break loose and roll slowly down his face. She suspected he was feeling her inner turmoil as clearly as she was feeling his but she was unable to subdue this sudden surge of emotions that was threatening to make her hearts burst. She fought to control her breathing and disconnected thoughts.

Through this new odd connection, Jack felt her uncertainty and her fervent desire not to feel anything for him. This was not what he had hoped to inspire in her when he confessed his feelings for her. He knew she felt something for him, but she would not accept it and she would fight with every ounce of her being to restore her emotional control. Dared he try to tip the balance?

He gently shifted and put his hands on her upper arms. Once he had steadied her, he put his hand under her chin and tilted her face up to his. He looked squarely into her eyes. He saw and felt every ounce of her inner battle. He also knew that his heart would break if this went wrong but he couldn’t stand to live any longer with the torment of not trying.

He gently leaned toward her. She instinctively started to back away from him but he held her steady. He continued toward her slowly and leaned down for the gentlest of kisses. It was barely a breath’s touch but an emotional current of energy engulfed them and they both shuddered.

Aria suddenly had her breath back but she still could not seem to get enough air. She pulled backward out of Jack’s grasp. It caused physical pain for them both when she broke the contact of his hands on her arms. She felt his heart reaching out for her and her own responded in kind. She looked up into his eyes and saw the distress she was causing, but a small, very loud voice in the back of her mind kept repeating that this was wrong, that he was not the one. He was not the man for her. She would not be his. He just could not be the one.

As she took several more slow steps backward she heard his distressed plea again “please.” She took one more step backward and Jack crumpled to his knees, completely spent. She hesitated for half of a heartbeat and then turned away and began to run as fast as she could.

She didn’t know where she was going. She couldn’t see what was in front of her. All she knew was that she had to get away. She had to put physical space between herself and Jack immediately, because if she didn’t, she would lose herself in him and then there would be no way to escape.

Behind her, Jack covered his face in his hands and cried.


To Jack’s surprise, Aria was back in the Hub the next morning. Even more startling was that she acted as though nothing had happened. He felt, or at least imagined he felt, some degree of turmoil in her emotional balance that had not been there before but he tried to respect her choice and struggled to stay focused on the job and on their case. It was difficult though. The turmoil in his stomach made him want to throw up every time he heard her voice or saw her push her hair behind her ears. Perhaps she just wanted to make sure the others didn’t know that the aliens among them were having issues? Perhaps she had just gotten over their encounter and dismissed it. Whatever the case, he needed to respect her decision and do his best to emulate her behavior. As a result, he spent much of the day in his office just watching her through the glass and occasionally hitting things really, really hard.

CHAPTER 7

It was mid-afternoon when they had a breakthrough in their Imovarian case. They had continued to follow reports of their small mechanical alien from the day they had identified it. Based upon the sightings so far, it didn’t seem interested in hurting anyone but it was definitely out of place. Witnesses that had seen the small mechanical device had said it looked like someone’s home made remote controlled car had gone out of control. It seemed to be looking for something but had not found whatever it was looking for. Whenever someone approached it though, it ran away and effectively disappeared.

Tosh had found a video of it on the CCTV after a frightened mother had reported a strange mechanical monster attacking her child. As it turned out, it looked to the Torchwood team like the small mechanical alien had been trying to communicate with the toddler. Unfortunately, it had chosen an 18 month old and had gotten a popsicle thrown at it for its attempt. There had been no trauma to the child that they could see except that its new toy had run away after totally disintegrating the offending popsicle.

That afternoon, after putting the poor mainframe through days of tweaks and modifications, Tosh and Aria were finally able to detect some non-terran emanations that seemed to center in and around St Davids Centre.

“Why would it stay there?” Owen wondered out loud when Tosh and Aria had reported out their findings to the rest of the group.

“Lots of noise and traffic?” Tosh offered.

“Lots of resources too,” Aria suggested. “If it was trying to construct something or to survey for information, that kind of population center would be a good place to find tools and parts or any number of resources to use for other purposes. In a district that large, it might even be able to do it without anyone missing the items it was taking or noticing its presence.”

“Or maybe it just likes being near the people,” Gwen offered distractedly. The resulting silence made her look around. “I mean, there are nearly always people around. Maybe it just feels lonely?”

“All right,” Jack said loudly. “Given we have a resourceful, tech stealing, lonely, cavorting alien in the midst of the St Davids shopping district, let’s all go in and see what we can find. Ianto, see if anyone or any area is reporting a surge in thefts lately. Focus in on the tech shops or tech thefts from other shops. Tosh, watch the cameras and see if you can see any pattern in this thing’s behavior. Aria, Gwen, Owen, you are all with me to wander the streets and shops.” Jack clapped his hands together and smiled with almost manic glee. “I always love shopping!”

Aria could not conceal her confusion as she stood to follow Gwen out of the briefing room. She would have to ask Gwen about Jack’s strange shopping statement the next time they went out for tea. She had still not spent enough time among humans to understand all of their jargon yet… and this race did have some strange ones.


“I see it!” Aria yelled as she sprinted after the fast moving little target scuttling down the roadway. She could not tell if it had seen her yet, but it didn’t seem to have any trouble navigating the traffic. Aria on the other hand was nearly hit by three cars before she leapt to the curb on the other side of the road. She didn’t miss a beat though and took off after the little alien down an arcade. “Tosh, can you see it?” she yelled as she slammed into one person and spun around another. “Tosh!”

“I have you both on CCTV,” Tosh finally answered. “You have a lot of very angry people behind you Aria,” Tosh observed in quiet amazement.

“Never mind them, do you know where it is going? Are we anywhere- AH!” she had leapt over a small barrier and fallen face first into a short display of dolls and wicker baskets. She struggled to untangle herself while fending off the owner of the display at the same time. “Do you know where it is going?” Aria sprinted off again just barely seeing the little mechanical critter disappear around a corner to head out of the arcade.

“No,” Tosh reported reluctantly. “The energy signatures I have been able to collect seem to center in St Davids but it doesn’t seem to center or amass anywhere in particular that would indicate that the Imovarian spends more time in one place over another. It is as though it just wanders around that area looking for something.”

Aria slid around the corner that she had seen the little mechanical swing around and she scanned the area with a sinking feeling in her forehead. It was a food arcade and it was huge. Her chances of spotting the little bugger in the middle of all of this was slim to none.

“By any chance does the rift slice through here anywhere?” Aria asked as she began a fast walk around the food court in the hopes of seeing something out of the ordinary.

“Yes, as a matter of fact it does though we haven’t seen much activity in that area. It runs right through the middle of the food court that you are in now. Why?”

“I have a theory,” Aria said quickly as she abruptly turned toward the middle of the food court and began scanning the floors and ceiling. “What if this thing fell through the rift in this location and was trying to find its way back?” As she quickly scanned the shifting throngs of people, she saw that squarely in the center of the circular food court was a circle of safety cones around a short Cardiff sewer maintenance tent. She broke into a run toward it. “What if it didn’t know quite what it was looking for but knew that it’s way home was somewhere around here?”

Jack slid around a corner at the edge of the food court just in time to see Aria go from a full run toward the short tent at the center of the food court, into a slide tackle that any football player would be proud of. Her momentum carried her under the tent feet first and, he supposed, into whatever was underneath.

He too ran toward the tent and, not quite so gracefully in his great coat, slid under the edge of the tent. He saw only a large, rough hole in the tile and concrete that had once probably been a nice neat man hole. It provided gaping access to the sewers and utility tunnels under the arcade. Aria had hit paydirt. He was unable to see clearly into the depths of the hole with his pen light under the dark tent. Taking a deep breath, he leapt into the hole and hoped for the best.

“Tosh, do you still see Aria?” he asked on the way down.

“No, I lost you both as soon as you went under the tent,” she said in a frustrated tone.

He landed with a loud “OOF!” when he hit the floor. He stood in the darkness and tried to get his bearings. He had three man sized tunnels to choose from and only one of them would lead him to Aria. “Bring up the schematics for the sewers under this arcade. See if you have the entire St Davids Centre sewer system mapped out. I get the feeling this is where our little friend has been hanging out. Actually, the fact that you can’t see anything down here pretty much confirms it.”

“Jack I am following the sound of our little friend,” Aria’s voice cut in. “I don’t suppose you hear me running? I ran down the tunnel in the direction of the main water flow if that helps. My intercom is locked open if that is something that Tosh can make use of.”

“I noticed that,” Tosh piped in. “I think I nearly have a fix on you.”

Jack surveyed his surroundings and took a guess at the tunnel that Aria had taken. He wished he had ditched his coat above, but that couldn’t be helped now. If Aria and the mechanical had continued at the speeds they had been running above ground, he was far, far behind her and would have to work hard to catch up.

“Whoah!” Aria gasped over the intercom.

“What!” everyone yelled back at her simultaneously.

“Aria! Are you all right?” Gwen yelled quickly. “Tosh is taking Owen and me to another access hole connected to the sewer system you are in. Hopefully we can head the thing off or trap it between us.”

“No,” Aria whispered. “I’m all right. But I think I found where this little bugger has been holed up. He has made quite a nest for himself.” There was a long silence and Jack started running faster. “It’s beautiful,” she breathed heavily into the intercom.

Jack tried to concentrate on his running but he couldn’t help hearing again and again Aria’s breathy “beautiful” in his mind. His heart rate sped up in spite of his efforts to concentrate on steady running.

“Ah, there you are,” she said in a friendly tone. “Lost and far from home I see,” she said with a smile that they could hear over the link. Apparently she was now talking to the small mechanical. Jack forced his tiring legs to go faster.

Aria surveyed her surroundings and found what she was looking for. She took her eyes off the small mechanical alien for a moment to work her way to a box that she could sit on. “You are definitely a quick little bugger,” she said as she slowly sat down. She crossed her legs and laid her hands palms up and empty on her legs. It was as close as she could come to being non-threatening in this confined space. “Well,” she said finally. “What shall we talk about? I could tell you about my world and you could tell me about yours but that probably wouldn’t help either of our situations much.” She closely examined the small creature that was flexing up and down on six spider like legs. It was right next to what looked like a handle of some kind but she tried to focus on the creature instead of figuring out what it might have set up in the way of booby traps.

The Imovarian was small, about the size of a small dog, and looked almost like something a child would create from a beginner construction set. She could not see much of it in the dim light, but she did see multiple joints in its six long legs, concave eye sockets, and what almost looked like beetle wings over its body. The wing-like protrusions were multi-hinged as well and seemed to flitter sinuously with the creature’s agitation like wringing hands. With this opportunity for close examination, she quickly saw there was more to this creature than just mechanical parts and exterior. The casing around the main body looked like metal but flexed in a regular rhythm just like a human rib cage expanded and contracted to facilitate breathing. There was something about the creature’s eyes too that made you not want to look away. Even though they appeared completely mechanical, the creature’s eyes expressed sentience and conveyed a sense of desperation that she could not ignore. Those multi-faceted eyes seemed to change color as she watched and they spun in concentric circles of color. This was a lost, hurt, and trapped creature. She had always had a soft spot for stray and orphaned beings. She smiled ruefully as she recognized that she felt even more sympathy for this lone creature now that she was a lost stray herself. She had to move very slowly and present her case carefully or else this small being would never trust her and she would not be able to help it.

“Do you understand the language of this planet?” she asked slowly. She waited expectantly while the creature continued to flex up and down in its nervousness. She took a deep breath and smiled ruefully. “Well, I suppose that would have been too much to hope for really,” she said quietly. “My name is Aria. I don’t come from this world either. I really don’t want to hurt you, I just want to help. You never know, we might be able to get you back through the rift and back to your home?” she said with forced optimism. “We can be quite resourceful when we need to be… most days anyway.”

The creature’s agitated flexing motion and wing wringing was beginning to slow down. Perhaps she was getting through to it? She continued.

“If you could just tell us how you got here, we might be able to find a way to push you back. I have been working with Tosh’s report about synchronizing the rift generator to a creature’s own biorhythms. She has put down some brilliant theories about splitting open the rift with pinpoint accuracy back to a creature’s world based solely on the living biorhythms.” She paused to give the creature a moment to digest this in case it really did understand her. “This would mean we could send you home.”

The creature had stopped its agitated bouncing and was now practically leaning toward Aria as though her words had become its last hope. With no warning, Jack exploded into the small area with his gun drawn and gasping for breath. Several things then happened all at once.

Jack fell, face first, into the small cavern and crashed unceremoniously into the lovely glasslike sculpture that had been the centerpiece of the small enclosure. The creature, startled and frightened by Jack’s aggressive appearance, yanked down the handle next to it and it scampered down a side tunnel that was just barely big enough for it to fit into and which might have been big enough for Jack's foot. A crashing, creaking sound began to echo through the small cavern that Aria had been sitting in. Aria started screaming at Jack about his Neanderthal ancestry and idiotic macho rampages that put him just one step below a calculating ape. Jack started screaming back about dangerous little aliens. Aria then started screaming about his inability to assess situations before shooting at them.

The others listened in complete confusion having no idea what the devil was going on but unwilling to interrupt this unusual argument. Jack and Aria both abruptly went silent when another louder creaking sound boomed through the room and carried over the communications system. The rest of the team heard them both grunting and yelling and the sounds of banging and explosions. They heard Jack yell “MOVE!” and Aria yell “THERE!” Then the ceiling crashed down on them both and Tosh’s link to them terminated mid rant.

CHAPTER 8

The others arrived on the street above in time to see a massive sinkhole appear in the middle of the intersection. Cars screeched to a halt all around them and they rushed toward the edge of the gaping maw. Pipes and cables extended out of separated conduits all around the walls of the hole. Owen started edging down one side while Gwen began to jog around the edge looking carefully into the debris and trying to peer through the haze of dust and muck. After two circuits of the hole, she had not seen anything helpful and Owen’s leg was now wedged between two large chunks of debris that had shifted unexpectedly on him.

“Tosh, have you got anything on either of them?” Gwen shouted as she tried to figure out how to get to Owen without putting them both into the hospital.

“Nothing. No audio, no signals from their equipment. Nothing.”

“Call in the emergency crews and tell them there are officers down. They can help us dig them out. They have to be under this mess somewhere.”

“Already done and Ianto is on his way to your position.”

“Thanks Tosh! I’ll call you when I have anything.”


Owen and Gwen were quickly joined by emergency crews and they put every person available to the slow careful work of excavating the tunnels in the directions that Tosh told them were possibilities. One by one they found crushed tunnels and many dead rodents but no signs of humanoid bodies or collections of materials that would indicate a nest of any sort.

After the fourth caved in tunnel was revealed from end to end, Gwen stood to relieve her back of some of the tension and scanned the hole they were all standing in. Now that she was looking at the entire cave in and not just scanning specific locations for bodies, she realized that more than anything, this hole looked like a crater. And craters were formed by large objects landing in the center of an area and the damage spreading outward with diminishing effect. She began to crawl her way over to the center of the bowl. It wasn’t easy. The diameter of the hole was easily the length and breadth of a rugby pitch. It was massive. She reached what seemed to be the center and again scanned the damage done by turning slowly in place. Amazing. It was as though the ground had just fallen out from under the road. Nothing beyond the edge of the hole was damaged.

She paused. She had heard a crackle of static on her earpiece.

“Tosh, did you hear that?” she asked cautiously.

“Hear what?” Tosh answered back distractedly.

“Nothing,” she said cautiously. “Nevermind.”

Then she heard it again. It was faint but definitely there. It was like a radio station just coming into range as you topped a hill. “Jack?” she shouted hopefully. There was a pause in the static and then a rush of more static. But the longer she listened to the static, the more it sounded like a male voice in the static.

She looked around her feet and figured there was no better place to try. She started moving rocks and tossing them away from the center of the hole.

From where he was digging, Owen noticed that Gwen was working intently in the center of the sinkhole. He watched her in confusion for a moment and then realized what she was doing. It made sense. He turned and started working his way toward her. Others turned to see where he was going and then at what Gwen was doing. Almost as a unit, they all turned and headed toward her as well. It made sense. Why hadn’t they thought of it earlier? What all of the rescue teams tried not to think though was that if the two officers had been in the epicenter of this explosion, it was unlikely they would find them in one piece. They never flagged in their efforts though. Most of them had seen miracles of one form or other in their line of work. Why not today?

The intensive effort continued for about another half an hour before Gwen shouted “Stop! Stop! Everyone be quiet for a moment!” She stood slightly stooped with her head cocked while she listened again. There it was, the staticy voice, but this time a little clearer. “Jack!” She called out. “Jack! Can you hear me?” She paused but the static didn’t change. Was he singing? It didn’t sound like words somehow. She signaled to the others to start digging again and she and Owen threw themselves back into the effort of moving the rocks.

After an uncountable amount of time (Tosh swore it was only another 35 minutes) one of the fire marshals stopped working and tilted his head. “Everyone stop for a minute,” he said loudly. It was faint but he could definitely hear it through the ground below him. “It’s the Impossible Dream,” he said with a smile. “I hear someone singing the Impossible Dream,” he shouted. He turned his face toward the ground and shouted at the top of his lungs “Hello! Helloooo down there! Can you hear me?”

Everyone held their breaths and listened. Then they heard it too. Near maniacal laughter began to spread through the group as they heard the refrain that the man had heard moments ago. It came from the ground below them like a whisper, but it was a happy, musically inspired whisper.

The tired workers all got back to work with renewed energy. All of them were thrilled that they would be finding at least one living officer and not what they had all resigned themselves to finding, two bodies crushed beyond recognition.

Eventually, they broke through to a small hollow off of the main tunnels that had somehow withstood the collapse of the roadway and tunnels above. The two people that pushed out the last of the rocks that had trapped them underground looked like they had been exhumed. They were covered in dust and muck, and both took in the clean air in deep and desperate gasps, but they were moving and they looked reasonably undamaged. Cheers went up all around the sinkhole as the two smiled and waved at their audience.

The emergency crews insisted on carrying the two of them out of the tunnels but they both waved off medical attention and rushed to the Torchwood SUV in spite of stern and disapproving looks from the crews that had worked so hard to pull them out. They did not intend to seem ungrateful, but Aria’s two hearts and Jack’s lack of even a scratch could only cause uncomfortable questions in the long run. They thanked the rescue teams effusively and with genuine gratitude and then jumped into the SUV with Gwen and Owen. While they headed back toward the Hub as fast as they could, Ianto hung back at the sinkhole. In typical fashion, he would bear the brunt of the rescuers disapproval and address any artifacts that might be found in the digging that would follow.

While trapped under the rocks, Jack and Aria had exchanged notes on what they had seen in the aliens little cubby. They had come up with a hypothesis about the Imovarian and wanted to test out their theory to determine if they had sussed what the little robot was planning.

CHAPTER 9

Jack and Aria had actually been trapped in what amounted to a horizontal tunnel that seemed to have been reinforced to support the intersection of multiple pipeways that lay above it. They had thrown themselves into this short tunnel in the hopes that the reinforced brickwork and the metal pipes above them would absorb the crushing weight falling on top of them. It had held, barely. Jack had intentionally landed on top of Aria and was partially impaled by a couple of rebar and his left leg had been crushed by a large cornerstone. With some tight maneuvering and a lot of screaming, they managed to free him from those torture devices and squirmed into a more comfortable position in this confined space, lying chest to chest and nose to nose. One thing this intimate time did do for them was that it forced them to talk. Actually, Jack did most of the talking initially. As was her character, Aria stood back (figuratively in that small space) and she watched and listened.

He initially tried to talk just about The Doctor. Aria continued to wonder why Jack insisted on “selling” this man to her as though just his words would convince her that he was a certain kind of person. Although she had been coming to terms with the concept that in this universe, The Doctor might not be a homicidal mad scientist but she had always been a “see it to believe it” person. As such, she reserved judgment on anyone or anything until she could meet, see, and touch them herself. She never took anyone’s word for anything unless she had no other choice. When it came right down to it though, she was beginning to dislike this universe’s Doctor for no better reason than that Jack just wouldn’t stop talking about him.

Could Jack believe that they would want to procreate a new race of Time Lords? Well she didn’t know about “The Doctor” but she had seen the death of enough civilizations to have faith in nature’s selection of which races should continue and which should not. Besides she had spent too many years hunting her universes’ homicidal Doctor to want more than an introduction to this universes’ Doctor… if that.

With a bit of prodding, she finally got him to stop talking about The Doctor and guided him to other subjects. Eventually, Jack began to talk about Torchwood and his team. Here she began to see more of the real Jack. She saw his pride in the team. She saw his admiration for these few humans who selflessly defended their world against previously unimaginable dangers with absolutely no chance of credit, recognition, or sleeping peacefully without nightmares.

He confessed that he wondered why any of them came to work each morning when any day they could die or, even worse, watch their friends die. She could tell that he had a special affection for these humans by how he spoke about each of them. Ianto and Gwen were special though and she found both his spoken and unspoken reasons interesting. When he spoke about Owen and Tosh, he spoke about their exceptional ability and intellect. He talked about their professionalism and gave a bit of their histories prior to Torchwood but not much about their lives since joining. When he spoke about Ianto and Gwen, he tried to focus on their skills but kept drifting to descriptions of their hearts and spirits. He talked about Ianto’s lost love and Gwen’s insight and wedding. Aria saw clearly that Gwen especially was special to him, though he awkwardly dodged any direct questions about her.

Humanity as a whole fascinated him too. This race cared and not only did they care about their own, but for the most part, this race could be counted upon to care for any helpless creature regardless of their origin. He claimed to have seen humans sacrifice for total strangers and even risk themselves to save races trying to slaughter them. They were a unique and unaccountable anomaly in the universe and he loved them all. Their immature and noble spirits were something he admired and seemed to envy.

They wandering through a variety of other subjects over the next hour and had somehow started talking about music at which point Jack had started singing some of his favorite human music. Aria could not help but laugh at his enthusiasm which only spurred him on to greater and louder solos that he called arias to Aria’s own delight.

She hated to admit it, but he had a wonderful voice and she really enjoyed listening to him. After awhile, she realized she was really enjoying this captivity and Jack’s singing permitted her some time to reflect on this realization. Her contemplation remained a low level thought though as she leaned back and enjoyed her private performance. It was well into this recital, with many asides and friendly debates about the meanings, that Aria heard another noise.

She hit Jack mid-note. He sputtered and stopped in mock fury. Then he heard it too.

He sang louder.

Aria groaned in mock pain.

Eventually, they began to feel their tunnel shifting a bit from the movement of the rubble above them and only a short while after that, they began to see light peeking through the debris next to their heads. Jack abruptly stopped singing and looked directly into Aria’s eyes. “Before they pull us out and you are able to avoid me again, I am sorry I have been such an ass. Ever since you arrived, I have been trying to come across as someone else, some kind of Captain Kirk, and it was the wrong thing to do. I felt a need to prove myself to you and lately, I have felt the need to make you feel a connection to The Doctor to try to make up for my really bad attempt to seduce you. I’m sorry for my mistakes, they have been totally my own. I swear to you that Torchwood will help you and I swear to you that this team does not, and never will, indiscriminately kill aliens.” He paused and seemed to consider for a moment. “We usually just end up killing the ones that threaten to destroy or rule the earth.” He scowled at this. “What I mean is-“

Aria could tell that this man was rarely lost for words and she appreciated his genuine attempt at sincerity. It made him appear younger, more boyish with his mused hair and dirty nose. She enjoyed the company of this more honest Jack and hoped he meant it when he said he would stop pretending to be some kind of action hero although she would have to remember to ask Gwen what a Captain Kirk was. He seemed lost in thought again for awhile. “I know I shouldn’t have kissed you. I don’t understand what I am feeling and shouldn’t have put you in that situation. It was unfair and I- Well I,-“ She smiled up at him and nodded her thanks. “Yeah, that pretty much covers it,” he finished awkwardly.

Aria smiled crookedly. “Let’s give this rubble a push and see if we can get out of here.”

Jack looked up at her in surprise and concern. When he saw the smile in her eyes though, his face lit up in a brilliant boyish grin. Apparently, all was now forgiven… again.

They gave one great heave and then scrambled out after the rocks into the early evening light.

CHAPTER 10

It took some overtime and a great deal of patience but eventually, Tosh and Aria were able to locate where the little Imovarian had set up his new home. He was still in the sewers but now spent most of its time completely submerged. The sewer pipes that extended below water level were few, but these isolated hiding places were easily accessible to a small, mechanical device that did not require air to survive. Aria did idly wonder about the effects of the brine and wastes on the little creature, but she was quickly silenced. After much brainstorming, it was decided that someone would have to go down and try to communicate with this little being. Aria volunteered right away saying that the creature already knew her so she was the obvious choice.

The others stared at her in disbelief. Aria had just short-circuited what had become a bit of a Torchwood tradition. They had all braced themselves to go through the usual drill and duke it out for awhile and, in the end, they would force Jack to order someone into the pipes. They all waited breathlessly for Jack to respond to Aria’s offer. He finally nodded his head and the exhalation of breaths was audible. Aria smiled.

“Tosh, can you provide the schematics that I will need to navigate this and Ianto, do you have any submersion equipment so that I can go from air to water fairly easily over the course of a few hours? From what little I can see, it looks like high and low tide cause regular flooding in some of those corridors. For some reason they built the tunnels with rises and falls. Maybe they intended it to be a means of flushing out the sewers but it will make it treacherous for air breathers to go down there.” Ianto and Tosh nodded and everyone left the conference room to start working on this new project.

Jack sat motionless in his chair for a long time studying his clenched hands on the table. After a long delay, he finally stood and followed the team out. He had to stop this now. He had to isolate these feelings and just do his job. It had been so easy in the past. Why was this woman different? Why was he having so much trouble concentrating? He walked out into the Hub and watched his team preparing Aria for her mission. He watched her interact with the others in her smooth and easy manner. She was going into a known dangerous situation and didn’t blink an eye. He shook his head and walked down to the team. He needed to be a part of these preparations and he needed to get his mind straight now. Lives depended on it. Aria’s life depended on it.


It had been slick and nasty, but Aria had navigated the treacherously slimy waste pipes down to the little Imovarian’s new lair. Fortunately, the creature was not there when she arrived which gave her some time to look around. It was a much better equipped version of the site up topside complete with the frail, glasslike sculpture in the center of the room. Aria made sure she scanned the entire underwater room with the recorder in her helmet so that the team could examine it later. Her objective today was to remove the alien, tomorrow though, she knew the team would want to figure out what every item was to be used for and then would have to come down here and clean out any sign that the little being had been there.

She made some quick adjustments to the room, then turned off her headlight and sat down in the corner of the room to wait. There was an ambient glow from the sculpture in the center and she spent the following idle time wondering what it was and what it was for. She couldn’t wait to get at it back in the hub to break it up and see how it worked. She had originally thought it to be just a piece of art, but it seemed to be much more than that now that she had the opportunity to look at it a little more closely. It was something she had never seen before and she was dying to get her hands on it. She forced herself to sit quietly though so that the suit’s sensors could detect any movement or sound around her. Then she waited.

About twenty minutes after she arrived, she detected a slight scuttling and scratching. It turned out to be the little being returning and it was dragging some equipment behind it.

It immediately sensed her and turned toward her in a threatening manner. She saw that it immediately scuttled to a small handle similar to the one that it had used to bring down the roof last time. She took an involuntary breath at the thought of being trapped down here like she had been in the city. It was unlikely that she would be lucky enough to escape that kind of snare here underwater.

She was sitting in the same position she had assumed when she had talked to the being in the sewers. It was a completely vulnerable position for a biped and she hoped it would recognize this before slamming the lever. Apparently, the fact that she did not move caught the alien’s attention and it paused. Then it seemed to recognize her and it again seemed to think about pulling the lever.

“My name is Aria,” she said slowly. Tosh had rigged the submersion unit with speakers that would transmit into the water and that would transmit on a wide range of other frequencies. She hoped that they would randomly hit something that the little being would both hear and understand. “I am also not from this world and I fell here from a different dimension in the same manner I believe you did.” The being did not move and Aria took that as a good sign. She tried not to think about the fact that it might be just because the little alien didn’t know what she was saying. “I realize you have no reason to trust me but we think we have developed a means of getting you back to your own world.” She might have imagined it but it seemed like the little being was leaning toward her again. “Would you be willing to come with me to try?”

The little creature’s wing-like protrusions flicked in an increasingly agitated manner. It seemed to be seriously considering Aria’s offer. She sat patiently and waited for it to make some movement to indicate whether or not it had understood. She shifted slightly to point the right side of her headpiece just ahead of the small creature. Ianto and Tosh had fit her headpiece with a mini rocket launcher and she wanted to make sure she hit the creature squarely if it started running toward her with those sharp pincers.

The creature finally seemed to slow down a bit and it’s bobbing and flicking eased off and finally stopped. It looked toward Aria hopefully and walked toward her slowly. She extended her hand to it with her palm up and it crawled onto her hand. She noted that the creature was much heavier than it appeared and that the tips of its legs each had sharp tips though they did not pierce her skin. She lifted it toward her face and the two beings looked each other in the eye for a moment. She knew she was making herself incredibly vulnerable to attack right now, but she knew it was the best way to earn the small creatures trust.

It worked. The small creature relaxed in her hand and retracted its claws. It looked like a metal loaf of bread in her hand now. She slowly stood and she began the long walk back to the surface.


Aria watched the little entity in the sensory box. It was shivering in fright. She understood how it felt. She had felt that way when she had first awakened in the Hub. It was a cold alien place that radiated anything but comfort and aid. Over time though, she had come to trust this odd group and felt that if anyone could help this small being, it was this team. She resisted the urge to approach the being and reassure it. She knew her own other dimensional radiance would confuse the machines as they tried to pinpoint the universe this creature had come from. Still, she felt responsible for this small being and wished she could reassure it somehow. She returned her attention to the raw data that the equipment was collecting and injected suggestions to manipulate the assessment every few minutes .

The team worked tirelessly to build the structure that Aria and Tosh designed. With some last minute accessories added by Jack to include a one way filter that would prevent objects from coming through the rift in their direction and an alarm that would ring every time something went through, they finally declared the project ready for its first test.

Tosh had built a small remote controlled craft that was equipped with a camera and microphone that would relay images back through the tear in the rift to her computer. Aria complemented her for her use of Vosdar technology and they switched the machine on.

The Hub immediately fell into darkness… along with half of Cardiff.

Their second test was designed to use much less power and only tore open a hole large enough for the small, remote controled aircraft to glide through. The imagery was downloaded and they closed the rift. They only took out three quarters of the city this time but the Hub had stayed up through the entire exercise. They congratulated themselves on a job well done as they rushed to get the Cardiff power grid back up again.

The video confirmed that they were looking at another Earth. They also confirmed that there was an Imovarian in the corner of one of the videos that the small aircraft had collected. The little alien was so excited that they thought he was going to shake apart.

For the final test, they were going to have Jack hold the little creature and hand the little creature through the tear in the rift. The theory was, that as long as Jack didn’t travel completely through the rift and stayed grounded in this dimension, he should have no problem. That was the theory anyway.

The third activation ran much the same as the second. The rip occurred, Jack stuck his hand through and then brought it back again unscathed. He picked up the small Imovarian, gave it a pat on the head, and then reached through with both arms and his head to place the small creature gently on the ground on the other side. Ianto and Gwen held on to his waist and legs to ensure he didn’t topple through.

Jack popped back through the rift and signaled for Tosh and Aria to shut it down. The scintillation in the air above the floor dissipated and Jack climbed down the jury-rigged structure they had placed in the center of the Hub. When he got to the floor, everyone saw his discomfort and concern. They all waited impatiently for him to explain his distress.

“Tosh, we need to check the satellite systems that this creature might have made contact with. We need to check every communications system on the planet to make certain they haven’t been tampered with.” His eyes arose to meet theirs. “In his dimension, it looks like the Imovarians had conquered Earth and occupied the planet. I saw what was left of Cardiff off to the side and it was swarming with his little friends.” His eyebrows raised and he looked meaningfully at the group around him. “We need to make sure he didn’t try to contact his planet in this dimension and set up the same scenario here.”

Everyone moved quickly to their respective stations to begin searching for anything that looked like it might have been used to contact another planet. All of them began to wonder if the little creature’s journey to their dimension really had been an accident or if the creature’s appearance had more menacing implications.

CHAPTER 11

It was nearly seven o’clock in the morning and Jack and Aria were continuing their work on the growing number of cadavers that were appearing all over the countryside. They had twenty three bodies in the morgue that were confirmed victims of the yet unidentified killer and Owen and Gwen were going to spend the day travelling to several locations well outside of town to determine if eight more bodies were victims of this strange affliction. As usual, while they worked, Aria and Jack chatted about world shattering innovations in thought mixed liberally with nonsensical dribble. It was the comfortable conversation of good friends and now that they had come to a working agreement on their relationship the two of them genuinely enjoyed their “alien time” as Gwen had started calling their nightly examinations of the unusual deaths.

“One planet Jack. One people. They are an interesting race, but I have never felt any desire to become one of them.” She placed another sample onto the electron microscope and adjusted the settings. “How do you stand it? You have travelled through time and to the stars. How can you stand to live on this one world for generations? How can you become so close to these people when they live such short lives?” She turned toward him with genuine pain in her expression. “You have to watch them grow old and die in a heartbeat? How do you stand it?”

“I don’t,” he said softly. “I find myself growing more and more reckless every year. I try so hard not to care but they are such an exciting people. They are so very optimistic about their own potential and see only possibilities when they look at the universe around them. As a race, they are unstoppable. There is just so much hope here and so much potential.”

“And so much pain,” she interrupted. “These people can be brutes. They are cruel and heartless to each other and to their children. They walk past each other on the street and never see any of the beauty around them.”

“Yes, there is that,” he admitted grudgingly, “but it isn’t every one. Most of them do care. And you know full well that if people like us don’t help the child races, then how will they ever grow up into the bigger universe?”

He had asked it so innocently that Aria didn’t even have the urge to laugh at the odd statement. It was an argument she herself had used many times when arguing with her own planet’s elders, though she had never been brave enough to state it so directly as Jack had just phrased it. She smiled in spite of herself and nodded her head. “You have me there,” she conceded. She examined him more closely out of the corner of her eye. “I promised Ianto I would help him with some equipment topside when he came in this morning. I would like to continue this discussion over breakfast later if you could find a nice place.” She turned to leave and he heard a light “let me know,” tossed over her shoulder.

Jack punched the air as soon as she was out of earshot and jumped for pure joy. He had to spend more time with her. Every day was a struggle to keep his emotions under control and not to either kiss her or molest her. He consoled himself each morning with a steady prescription of cold showers and the knowledge that she felt comfortable with him and enjoyed his company. He didn’t know what might push her over the edge into some form of deeper emotional attachment, but he wanted to be near her as often as the opportunity arose regardless so he could assuage some of this ache for her. All he knew was that he had to be with her and if this was all she could give him then he would drink it all in and enjoy it. He ran to the computer in his office to find out what local places might serve a nice breakfast.


Aria paused before entering Ianto’s work area on the street level. This was unfamiliar territory for her and she was not quite certain how to approach it. She had always been terrible at subtlety and this was a situation that demanded it. But perhaps her typical blunt directness was the most honest way to do this. She took a deep breath and stepped into the office.

Ianto was working at his computer and looked up at her entrance. Apparently he expected trouble whenever anyone walked into his front office with a purpose so she quickly smiled to put him more at ease. He smiled back and stood up. “Would you like something?” he asked kindly.

“No thank you,” she said gently. She took another deep breath. “Ianto, I need to ask you something very personal and I would appreciate it if you could provide me with your honest answer and not the tactful answer.”

Ianto’s eyebrows slowly slid up his forehead and she smiled again at the discomfort she had caused even before talking about the subject on her mind.

“Please, sit back down,” she said as she pulled up another chair and they sat down together. Ianto watched her with an intense curiosity and Aria clasped her hands to keep them from flying around too much. “I was wondering if I could ask you what your relationship is with Jack?”

Ianto’s smile faded quickly and Aria was afraid she had lost her only real friend in Torchwood from the sad look on his face. His eyes darted to the floor and then to the Hub door. He was trying to recover his composure. His eyes eventually returned to hers. “Why do you ask?”

“To be completely honest, I am not certain,” she said slowly. “While we were trapped under the road, Jack and I had some time together to iron out a lot of things and to actually talk about subjects that I would normally never discuss. I have really wanted to dislike Jack. He is exactly the kind of time traveler that always made me furious as a security officer. He is also the kind of man that I warned countless friends to stay away from because his type are the antithesis of real relationships. But I have to admit that, in spite of myself, I feel something for him and I would like to find out what that feeling really is. That said though, I don’t want to blunder into something that already exists.” Her face took on a pained expression as she continued. “I am not accustomed to any of this. I don’t see my own race very often and rarely stay anywhere long enough even to make friends. To use the Earth terminology, I don’t date and have never had a relationship of any kind. I am in completely unknown territory here.” Her eyes wandered to the side and her face took on a wistful expression. Ianto found himself wanting to hold her hand but resisted the urge. “There is so much about Captain Jack Harkness that is wrong,” she said with a small smile that Ianto couldn’t help but mirror. “But I feel drawn to him in a way I have never experienced before. I would like to see what it leads to,” her eyes refocused now on Ianto’s. “But your friendship is too precious to me to blunder about with something I have no experience with and for a reason that probably isn’t going to prove to be significant anyway.”

Now Ianto did take her hand in both of his. He looked directly into her eyes and said “I don’t know what there is to walk into really. Jack and I are together, but I do know he is drawn to you.” He paused and took a deep breath. “I think I am just someone he spends time with on his way to somewhere else.”

Aria flinched at the implications of this and took a deep breath. “Well, that sounds pretty substantial to me. That was what I wanted to know.” She squeezed his hands and put her hand out to touch his face. “Thank you Ianto.”


In the days that followed, everyone watched the unusually ebullient Jack sink into a dark depression. The funny thing was that everyone except Jack and Aria could see what was happening. For some reason Aria had decided to suspend her work with Jack and to work alone in the computer lab most nights. For his part, Jack was trying every method he instinctively knew to attract Aria’s attention and to spend any kind of time with her that she would allow. Aria for her part had become cold and all business with him. She continued to have warm, friendly moments with the others, but when they compared notes, no one could remember her giving Jack any indication that she thought of him as more than just another piece of equipment in the Hub over the last week. It was tragic to watch. After a few days of this, Ianto pulled Aria aside to one of the darker storage hallways for a sincere heart to heart. He turned her eyes to his and put his hands on both of her shoulders. “Remember what I said about not knowing what there was between Jack and me?” he started slowly. “Well, it has become pretty apparent that what he wants with you is much more powerful than anything else any of us can offer.”

Aria smiled affectionately and was going to object but he stopped her with a firm shake of his head. Her mouth clicked shut and she looked at him like a rebuked child.

“He needs you. You are like him while I was just someone to keep him occupied until you got here. Please go talk to him. He is absolutely miserable.” He straightened a bit and leaned his back against the far wall. “At least this way both of you will really know if this attraction between you two is real or if it is just sympathy pangs for things not human.”

“But you-“ she started to say but stopped at his glare. She looked up at him for a long time. She was examining him carefully and probing his earnestness. She slowly reached up and encircled Ianto with a long, warm hug. Ianto started breathing again and cradled her head against his chest. After standing together for a long time, she heard his heartbeat calm and his breathing slow to normal. She knew this was terribly hard for him but was too inexperienced with people to know how to thank him for what he was trying to do.

They both jumped when they heard a clipboard slam down on a crate behind them. They both looked around to see Jack in the door staring at them with a cold, hard glare. Although Ianto looked like a puppy that was waiting for the newspaper to fall, Aria smiled with amusement. Jack’s jaw flexed almost the breaking point and then he abruptly turned and stormed out.

“Oh dear,” Ianto said in a distressed tone.

Aria put her hand on his chest and smiled up at him. “Don’t worry. I think we just put him through the roof with that one.” Her smile broadened. “Serves him right don’t you think?”

Ianto looked at her in confusion for a moment and then a slow smile spread across his face too. “Yes. I think I feel a bit better anyway. Thanks.”

“My pleasure.” She reached up and embraced him again. With a last long look into Ianto’s eyes, she turned and traced Jack’s footsteps up to his office. She entered the office without knocking and closed the door behind her. The group heard Jack’s voice explode and rant for a few minutes then there was an abrupt silence. After that, no one saw or heard either of them for a long time. When the two were next seen, they parted without a word and all seemed peaceful and well as if nothing had happened.

“Damn aliens,” Owen grumbled again and he turned back to his latest autopsy.


Aria bent forward to look into the microscope. Gwen watched her closely. For some reason she still had trouble accepting that this woman was not only an alien but a nearly immortal one by human standards. For some reason, she had had little problem, beyond the obvious overcoming of preconceived notions, accepting Jack as an alien. He had lived on earth for nearly a century, so although his mannerisms and viewpoints sometimes seemed far from the accepted norm, he knew how to couch them in public so that they did not make people stare. His manic energy also made him stand out from the standard Earthling but that could also be explained as just too many espressos. This woman though, somehow she just felt different to Gwen. She exuded calm control and a kind of sad, loneliness most of the time. Her insatiable thirst for knowledge made her unapproachable at times and unavoidable at others. When the team went out on a mission though, she switched into high gear and even Jack had trouble keeping up with her questions and solutions. Their team had been closing cases in record time with her help. Her knowledge of the aliens they were chasing and her unconventional solutions had made short work of some nasty buggers of late. But there was always that underlying sadness that Gwen felt drawn to. She wanted to help, but somehow she knew she could do nothing but offer support. How do you comfort someone whose entire world was gone? Where only one other living soul existed from your world and the chances of running into him were so slim that she had started playing the lottery because she believed the odds favorable. How do you relate to a woman that is over 900 years old?

In recent weeks, Aria did seem to brighten when she was alone with Jack, but she guarded her personal feelings from the others to the point where even Jack seemed like an open book. Even in the close quarters that she now lived and worked and sometimes even played with the others in casual time, her thoughts and feelings were her own and completely impenetrable. Gwen had caught Jack and Aria in private moments and she seemed warm and affectionate in those peeks into her world. Gwen took some solace that Jack seemed to be able to help Aria feel more comfortable and at home, but she still had the feeling that those moments were more of an escape for Aria than real healing moments.

Gwen had spent a few evenings with Aria showing her Cardiff and introducing her to “human girl rituals.” So far, Aria hadn’t been very good at any of them but had enjoyed the opportunity to try them. She also did appreciate that Gwen was trying to help her fit in and the two of them discovered that their professional passion for police work could keep them gabbing for hours.

So Gwen tried just to be an available sympathetic ear in case Aria ever needed a friend. She also made the most of being able to observe a real alien that wasn’t trying to either shoot or eat her. She had to admit that it was a nice change.

CHAPTER 12

In her “idle” time, Aria did had begun her own investigations and searches for anomalies in and around the rift. In the course of these investigations, Aria had pulled up some isolated reports of strange attacks going on just inside the barriers of the bay at the deepest points. Nothing appeared earth shattering, they were just reports of rods being pulled out of people’s hands suddenly, fish counts dropping all around the bay, and buoys disappearing. Aria had pulled together the disparate reports and had started tracking them. It was the disappearance of a dog from a yacht that made her sit up a bit straighter. The dog had liked swimming off the back of the boat. One day it had jumped into the water and then had just disappeared. No sounds at the disappearance and no remains were found .

Aria became intreagued and dug deeper into other documentation for that part of the bay. Fortunately, swimming was not permitted there or she was beginning to believe there would have been other disappearances and a greater alarm. After she began to dig through the maritime reports, maintenance reports, and news articles of strange occurrences she drew Gwen into her investigation. She needed a local investigator to determine if she was being overly paranoid. When she spread out the reports in sequence on the table, Gwen immediately saw the pattern that Aria had squeezed out of these seemingly unrelated events and urged Aria to take it all to Jack.

They spread out their collected data in front of Jack to present their case. There were reports of marine life counts dropping alarmingly, reports of large inexplicable dents in equipment, reports of odd sightings of submarines reported off the docks, and other reports of missing wildlife like ducks and swans. Aria and Gwen explained that they believed there was some kind of large predator out in the bay and that they wanted to check it out. Jack waved them off to Ianto and told them to check it out in the sub.

Sub? They had a sub? Gwen and Ianto both laughed at Aria’s pleased surprise at this news. Ianto happily took Gwen and Aria down to a lower tunnel that Aria had not investigated and they saw a dark, torpedo shaped mini-sub that would hold three people comfortably. It was nestled in a huge grotto off the main chamber of the Hub that echoed with their footsteps. Gwen had to take a couple of deep breaths before she entered this metallic beast. She and Tosh had had some bad experiences with this machine and an alien space ship under the bay already and she did not really like travelling in it. She had to admit though, that although it might be a bit cramped, it would be perfect for Ianto to drive the two women out into the bay to see if they could find anything that would fit their theory that another underwater creature had fallen through the rift.

Not knowing what they would be encountering but knowing that some of the reports had given the dimensions of a large cement truck, they armed the little sub with a couple of weapons that they thought might be helpful. In the course of preparing the sub, the three of them were all laughter and jokes until they actually sealed themselves in and set out into the water. At the moment they entered the water, an uncomfortable silence settled over the trio. Suddenly Jack’s presence was a palpable presence over all of them and, though none of them had mentioned his name, it was stifling.

It was Ianto that finally broke the silence.

“So how are you enjoying being married Gwen?” he asked innocently.

“Oh, I am loving it,” Gwen said happily with a blush and a smile. “Rhys is a lot more fun now than he was before.”

“More fun?” Ianto asked with a smirk, “what do you mean by that?”

“Oh, you know, he doesn’t believe I am going to run off with the first man I meet on the street now. The fact that he knows about Torchwood makes things so much easier altogether at home too. When I disappear for days now, so long as you call him once in awhile and tell him I am not dead yet and that everything is all right, he only panics a little. Before I would come back from long missions and have to lie non-stop about where I had been.” Gwen became wistful. “I don’t know of any other man that would put up with my work and my life like he has. And for some reason he still wants to be with me.”

Ianto and Aria found themselves both smiling in spite of themselves.

“What about you Ianto?” Gwen asked quietly. “Are you seeing anyone?”

All smiles disappeared in the small area and the temperature dropped in the small compartment. Ianto focused on the controls for a long time before answering. “No,” he said slowly. “I haven’t really gone out much lately.”

Aria watched him sadly. She stood and wrapped her arms around Ianto from behind. “I’m sorry,” she whispered in his ear as she tightened her hug around him.

Ianto laid his head back on her shoulder and took a deep breath. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said quietly.

“Yes it is,” she said with a strong rebuke in her tone. “You may have said the words I wanted to hear, but you told me what you knew Jack wanted and not what you wanted. I was so thrilled to hear you give your permission that I went running to him and broke your heart. What I did was wrong and I knew it was but that didn’t stop me from hurting you and I am sorry.” She lowered her face to his shoulder now and murmured, “but I just don’t know how to fix things now. Now I am just as much in love with him as you two are.”

Behind them, Gwen’s head jerked forward and she stared at the two people consoling each other. Was she really so transparent in her feelings? Could everyone tell what she felt for Jack? But she immediately stifled her rising dread. She was with the two people on Earth that understood what she felt for Jack Harkness and why she was drawn to him. But what she found most interesting was that all of them seemed uneasy about their attraction to the man. They all felt drawn toward Jack in the same way, he was an inescapable force of nature for all of them, and they all loved him in their own ways. Yet each of them resisted his allure and seemed to feel some degree of shame for their surrender to him.

“Do you ever wonder why we are all so attracted to him?” she mused out loud in a bold surge of emotion.

“You mean other than that he is cute?” Ianto said with a wistful smile.

“And he knows how to wield that wicked charming smile” Aria said with her own devilish grin.

“And that cute tush!” Gwen giggled. All of them laughed.

Then Aria paused and seemed to think about her next words. “Jack told me how each of you joined Torchwood,” she said slowly. “I also read about Lisa and what happened to her here at the Hub.” She intentionally did not look at Ianto while she said this. She had a point to make and if she saw the pain she had just caused, she would not have been able to proceed. “So given that none of us wanted anything to do with a romantic entanglement when we arrived and that Jack is an enigma that we have little to no information about… we don’t even know his name really,” she added as an afterthought though she continued to stare at the console next to Ianto and not at either of the people next to her. “So given that, why do we three fetching, smart, and independent people all feel incomplete without him?” Her voice had trailed off to nearly a whisper when she finished but the others knew exactly what she had said and felt the same question burning in their own minds. It was something that had been too personal to talk about in the Hub or anywhere above ground. For some reason, the intimacy of this small bubble of air seemed the right place to say it. It was the perfect opportunity to talk from the heart about a taboo subject and try to find some answers.

A shadow fell across the front window of the submersible and completely blocked out all light for a moment. It brought them all back to their reason for being here and they all turned back to their stations and began scanning. All of them gasped and then began to shout out their incredible readings to each other. They were tracking something very big, approximately 10 meters long and about 30 metric tons. Its movements were effortless and fluid in the water. Whatever it was, it was circling them warily but smoothly. The tail was vertical which implied it was not a mammal like a whale or large dolphin, but rather a true fish of some kind. Visual recognition software identified several shark species that the shape was similar to but which did not really have much more than a 60% match. Aria looked closely at the optical image of the creature as it circled them yet again and recalled an artist’s representation of a creature from approximately ten million years earlier in Earth’s past that this creature seemed to match. It had been called a megalodon and if this thing was anything like the ones described in the text, it was a true monster of the deep and definitely not something that could have been hidden in Cardiff bay for any period of time. Ianto confirmed that thought almost immediately with unmistakable rift energy readings emanating from the creature.

“My friends, this is all well and good,” Aria said quickly as Ianto and Gwen continued to rattle off numbers and facts. “But I suggest we think of a way to either subdue this beasty or get out of the water. I would think that this little sub would look a bit like a small whale or a large seal from that creature’s perspective wouldn’t it? That being the case, I am not really comfortable with how it is circling us right now.”

Gwen and Ianto looked at each other and both turned pale as they too realized just how vulnerable they were right now. This nifty little craft was small enough that it would appear a nice meal for such a monster if they weren’t careful. Though sturdy, the craft had definitely not been designed for combat and in a battle against a creature of this size, it would buckle like an aluminium can. Both turned quickly back to their consoles as Aria again leaned over Ianto’s shoulder to look up through the front windows.

Whatever it was, it was graceful and fast and Aria began mentally calculating trajectories for offensive and defensive countermeasures. Sure enough, it eventually seemed to tire of circling and abruptly changed direction to charge directly toward the small craft. Aria yelled for Ianto to execute her programming and he slammed the craft into autonav. The little craft shot downward toward and off to the right of the massive creature charging straight at them.

Cardiff bay is not very deep and as Ianto watched the depth gauge, he wondered if Aria had correctly programmed the autopilot to the correct depth. He felt the ground coming up very fast but the small craft showed no signs of turning or slowing. Ianto glanced up at the glass and then tried to jump back away from it. The large creature was paralleling them and looking them over. Ianto got a good look at the creature’s mouth and eyes. Then he got to watch the rest of the large body shoot effortlessly past them.

He struggled to start breathing again.

“Well that was fun,” Aria whispered next to his ear. She gave him a quick hug and then threw herself back into her chair. Her fingers flew across the console like a pianist and Ianto watched his displays shifting and alternately lighting up and going dark in a rapid dance. After a few seconds that seemed like days, she finally started talking.

“Ianto, how tough is this little craft?”

“How tough?”

“How deep is it capable of diving?”

“About 5500 fathoms according to our tests,” he said more slowly wondering what she was programming into the computer system at light speed.

“How about impacts?” she asked without her fingers slowing a jot.

“It wasn’t designed for impacts,” Ianto said even more slowly. “It was designed for open water.” He wasn’t sure if she had heard his last words.

“Do you think that thing will fit into the Torchwood bay where this sub was stored?”

Gwen and Ianto both stared at her in total horror as her question sank into their consciousness. Instinct was demanding they get as far away from this monster as possible and Aria was talking about bringing it home. They were both afraid to ask the obvious question but it was Gwen that finally found her voice.

“And what the bloody hell do you think we are going to do with this thing if we get it there? Actually, forget that! How do you plan on getting it there? If it involves us drowning or getting eaten I’ve got a few things to say to that.”

Aria had continued to play her fingers across the console inserting instructions into its small brain. When Gwen finished yelling at her, she turned and Ianto and Gwen were both taken aback by how much her smile looked like Jack’s daredevil smile at that moment. She had a plan and it was probably going to put them right in the line of fire.

“Ah well,” Ianto sighed. “We probably wouldn’t have made it back to the bay anyway. What’s the plan Aria?”

The little sub was jerking and diving all over and screaming in the general direction of the Torchwood facility. They all knew this wouldn’t last though because the poor little craft really was screaming. The metal was expanding and contracting as the ship rose and fell in the water and the alarms were wailing and one or two seams were beginning to leak. “I am afraid,” Aria said pointing toward the front, “that I am not going to have time to explain. You are just going to have to trust me my friends and buckle up tight!”

The small sub lurched as the megalodon, Aria was relatively certain that was what they were dealing with, slammed into it from the side. They heard parts of the craft torn off and heard things tumble across the skin of the craft and probably disappear toward the floor of the bay. “I’ll need to inventory,” Ianto thought idly as he struggled to fasten the last of the harness buckles around himself.

He looked up from his buckling in time to see a huge mouth full of very pointy teeth heading straight at him. He yelled and instinctively tried to clamber through the back of his chair. A distant part of his brain heard Aria slam her hand down on the console. They all felt their heads ring as a radar ping rang out into the water and made their bones and teeth rattle. Apparently, the shark felt the sound too and seemed to shake itself to reorient. It swam by only slapping their craft with a side fin as it swept by. It rolled them over and over in the water but Aria managed to regain control of the small craft and readjusted their heading. Gwen finally let go of her head when the small sub resumed its screaming journey back to Torchwood.

“Can’t we just electrocute it like they do in the movies?” Gwen shouted.

Aria smiled in amusement. “I am always amazed at how entertainment can become accepted as science lore in so many cultures.” While her fingers continued to talk to the computer, she spoke calmly to Gwen. “One of the things I always wondered about when watching your entertainment electrocute something in the water was how they directed the energy and how they controlled the energy. In a case like this,” she slammed another activation button and Gwen heard the stun beam firing off the back side of the craft. There was a muted roar in response, but Gwen presumed that was her imagination taking over now. Aria held the button for a few seconds and then, apparently satisfied, returned her attention to the navigation algorithms in front of her. Aria continued her soliloquy, “not only would the electrical current disperse through the water and diffuse within the volume of the water, there would be some degree of electrolysis of the water which would convert the hydrogen,” the sub took a gut wrenching dive and then swung to the left. Both Ianto and Gwen grabbed for anything that was reasonably stable and held on for dear life. Aria had not paused in her sermon “and the oxygen to begin to separate into their gaseous states. That is an oversimplification but you understand what I mean. Basically,” she again slammed the execute button in front of her and the sub dived again. Ianto and Gwen both screamed this time as they watched the mouth, teeth, and tonsils come at them at an alarming speed. The small sub jerked to a halt abruptly and alarms sounded all through the small craft. A metal tearing sound began and a tooth appeared above Aria’s head through the skin of the craft and the craft jerked back and forth erratically for awhile. With water spraying down on her, she calmly shifted to the side and gently stroked the enter button on her keyboard. Ianto and Gwen felt the craft shudder and then all the power fizzled with an audible pop and everything became deathly still. “I see no way that such a solution would work,” she finished her sentence with almost a painful calm.

“What happened?” Ianto asked quietly.

“I lured it in where I wouldn’t have to worry about energy dispersion and then hit it with all of the stun and energy beams on the ship. I threw in some of the electrical systems too,” Aria said with a smile and a shrug at Gwen. “Thanks for the idea by the way,” she said brightly. “I honestly didn’t think it would work.”

Gwen could only gape.

“I positioned the megalodon so that we still have our engines unfettered. How about if we find out if we can still drive this thing to the Hub before it wakes up?”

“Wakes up?” Ianto asked with a shiver.

“Yes, I don’t think this craft has enough energy to kill this big a creature. Earth sharks are designed to be survivors and are quite compartmentalized in their construction. It should shake off the stunning effects fairly quickly actually,” she patted the tooth that was protruding through the ceiling above her head.

Ianto and Gwen both threw themselves into the navigation and steering of the small craft with its strange hood ornament back toward the Hub’s underground bay. Aria tried to think of what to say to Jack when they got back. Watching Ianto and Gwen during their short exchange had convinced her that she needed to set some things straight with Jack once and for all. She just hoped she would not lose her nerve in the process. She reached over and flipped the switch to the communication system. “Submersible to Hub, this is Aria. Please respond.”

“Tosh here. Did you find anything?”

There was a short moment of silence. All three inhabitants of the sub glanced toward the throat and tonsils of the great shark that was now being pushed toward the Hub. It was the only thing they could see through the front window of the submersible. Gwen abruptly snorted in her efforts not to laugh then all three broke into nearly hysterical laughter. Aria cleared her throat and answered calmly. “We believe we have. We are bringing it back to the Hub. We will need you to open the outer bay doors as wide as you can.”

The three of them smiled at each other as they waited for Tosh to relay this message to whoever was out of earshot. They heard a mumbling back that sounded like Jack. “What are you bringing in?” she asked carefully.

“I think this is something you will have to see to believe,” Aria said carefully. “Oh, and tell Jack to bring a hot blue spanner to get us out of here. Oh! and tell him that I am sorry I broke the submersible. Aria out.” She paused a moment to hear the reaction on the other side of the radio before she turned it off. Again, there was an explosion of laughter inside the sub and they continued toward the Hub to deliver their catch and get cut out of the submersible… hopefully, before their captive woke up.


Aria found she didn’t have much time to corner Jack alone after they returned to the Hub. The megalodon had started waking up just as Jack had finished cutting them out of the sub and they barely got Ianto out before the creature realized it was not where it wanted to be. As it turned out, the megalodon just scarcely had room to turn in their small sub bay and when it finally did wake up completely, it was very angry about the sudden change in its accommodations. Fortunately, because of the small space, it was unable to get much momentum going to ram into anything, but its sheer size and strength were going to test the load bearing walls that held up the Cardiff streets above the Hub. Aria would not permit Jack to kill the creature outright, but they all agreed that they couldn’t just let it go or give it to the nearest aquarium either. As much as the world paleontologists and evolutionary biologists would have loved to have gotten hold of this creature for simple study, they couldn’t think of a convincing, water-tight cover story for the creature’s appearance in modern day Wales.

In the end, it was Rhys that provided the solution. Given the fact that it was slowly destroying the foundation above the Hub, Aria conceded and they stunned it, cut it up, and Rhys sent complementary shark steaks to all of his clientele. At the end of the day, it had been a successful resolution all around to a particularly sticky problem.

Later, after a particularly passionate reunion in Jack’s quarters, Aria raised herself up on her elbow and looked seriously down at Jack. “I need you to do something for me Jack,” she started out seriously.

“Didn’t I just do that?” he asked with a wink.

“Please be serious, this has to do with Gwen and Ianto. Ianto more so I think,” she said thoughtfully. “Since you and I have started this relationship you have been particularly cold to Ianto. I don’t know if you think this is something I want or if it is your own defense mechanism, but you are hurting a gentle man that cares for you very deeply.”

Jack closed his eyes and she realized that he was very aware of what he had been doing to Ianto. “What can I do?” he asked quietly. “I want to be with you and I know that you believe in monogamy. I also know that Ianto wants something that I just can’t give. I am in love with you Aria, heart and soul. I am yours. I have played this out in my mind over and over and I just can’t give both you and Ianto what you want. What we have is mutually exclusive and I don’t ever want to compromise it.”

“I am not saying you have to sleep with him,” Aria said in an exasperated tone. Jack thought of relationships in just one dimension and she once again asked herself how she could have fallen in love with such a man. “Just don’t treat him like someone you just hired off of the street. I want you to go have lunch with him today and just ask him how he is doing.” Jack’s eyes opened and she could see the tears in his eyes. “You two were friends before you became lovers. I think that when I arrived you were his only friend Jack.” Jack’s hand caressed the side of her head and he gently pushed back her hair from the side of her face. “Promise me?” she pleaded.

“Yes my love,” he said gently. “For you I will do anything.”

She took his hand from the side of her head and gently kissed it. Then she threw herself backward and lay on her back. “You are toying with me again but just so long as you start treating Ianto and Gwen like your friends again, I will be happy.”

Now it was Jack’s turn to roll up beside her and look down on her. “So since it is the time for true confessions and rebukes, can you tell me why you are still so uncomfortable with me?”

“I am not-“ she began.

“Yes, you are. I can feel everything that you give but there is still doubt. You still don’t completely trust me for some reason. How can I prove to you that I love you and that I want nothing more than to wake up beside you every morning for the rest of our very long, long lives?”

She touched his face in much the same way he had cupped hers just a moment before. She traced his strong jaw and high cheek. She did enjoy just looking at him some times. “You are unpredictable. You are impetuous and follow your instincts rather than your intellect. You think nothing of murdering one lifeform to save another. You also have a history of relationships that is longer and more convoluted than I am old. Some days I do not understand any of your motives or decisions. You are a temporal anomaly that sticks out like a glacier on the sun. Yes, you make me nervous Jack Harkness.” She smiled in amusement. “I don’t even know your real name, homeworld, or origin time,” she said with a broad smile.

He had become sad during her explanation. This kind of brutal honesty wasn’t what he had expected to hear. “Do I really come across as that primal in your eyes?” he asked with just a hint of anger in his tone.

“No, no,” she said quickly. “Well, no more than anyone else I have ever met,” she said quickly. “You are just not who I ever expected to fall in love with. You swept me off of my feet and I find myself thinking about being with you for all eternity and, for some incomprehensible reason, I find myself smiling at the thought.”

Jack beamed at her when she said this. “So you will be able to overlook my little aura problem for the rest of our lives then?” he teased.

“You do feel wrong Jack. You should not exist. In fact you just ooze “wrongness”.” She smiled at his elaborate scowl. “I can’t explain it. You emanate the TARDIS energy in a way that was never intended.” She sighed heavily and lay back on the mat. “But you are also just too damn persistent and charming.” She looked at him from the corner of her eye “and you know it dammit.”

His smile was radiant as he kissed her forehead and then leaned onto her with his chest resting on hers. “Ah, but what can you do with charisma like mine but share it with everyone so they can enjoy it too,” he mumbled into her neck.

“Oh, now that’s cute. Maybe I’ll just have to see if the Jack in my universe is as compelling. “

He jerked back from her as if she had suddenly electrocuted him. “That’s cold. I can out charm any man in two universes… except maybe myself.” He rolled onto his back and scowled at this statement. It was so disconcerting on so many levels that he didn’t know what to say next.

“I don’t think that it would be a problem really,” Aria said thoughtfully. “Didn’t you say you were a bit of an out of control scoundrel and a vagabond before you met The Doctor and Rose?” Jack nodded and turned his head to watch her follow her train of thought to its end. “Well, in my universe, The Doctor I was hunting would not have picked up Rose, who would not have found you in London, so you would not have travelled to the future where you would die and be resurrected so, BANG, no life changing event. The Jack Harkness in my universe would have remained very mortal and very scoundrel. No competition.”

He became thoughtful then, and looked down at his finger tracing a random pattern on her stomach. For some reason, he could not meet her eyes for this question.

“Tosh says you have been doing some extensive studies of the rift and the energy it radiates. She said that since we sent that little Imovarian back that you have had no luck pinning down the energy that you radiate, but that you may be able to redirect the energy in a manner that will tear the rift in a more controlled manner to your dimension. She said you two had a wonderful theoretical discussion about expanding your work on opening the rift in targeted and controlled bursts by using displaced energy signatures as homing signals for the tears. She is quite excited about the variances in her theories that your dimension work is inspiring.” He saw her chest rise and fall in a heavy sigh. “You are trying to go back aren’t you?” he asked quietly.

There was a long silence and neither of them moved. Finally, Aria spoke softly.

“I think I have to go back Jack. I think I have to try.”

Jack shifted quickly to face her with his next words written all over his face. Aria smiled gently and took his hand to stop him before he could speak.

“My Gallifrey was involved in its own time war of sorts when I was on ancient Earth. I don’t know what came of all of that but I need to go back and warn them about what has happened here. I need to tell them that if the war is still going on, that it needs to stop immediately and that we need to find another way of living our lives.” Her eyes shifted away from his slightly and her face took on a thoughtful demeanor. “I think if we continue the way we have been, that there is no way we will be able to avoid what this universe’s Gallifrey has done to itself. Even with what little you have been able to tell me about this Gallifrey, I think that total annihilation is inevitable for my people as well. I have to try to warn them.”

“Could I come too?” he asked with a cheerful flourish that he didn’t feel. Could he leave all of this, all that he had built here? No. He was the lynchpin here in Torchwood. But he couldn’t leave her. He knew this deep in his soul. This woman was now his one link to the real world. She was the only real thing in his world. This knowledge surprised him more than his question had surprised her. It would pain him to leave Torchwood, but to leave her would be to give up his life’s breath.

“I don’t see why not,” she said softly. “I don’t see it being an issue in the near term though. My research has turned up little useful information and though we seem to have hit on the right dimension with the little guy my case has a completely different set of challenges and problems.” She again touched his face and looked deeply into his eyes to try to see what lay behind them. “I don’t think you will have to worry about me leaving any time soon my Love. Even if I find my universe’s frequency, for lack of a better word, it will take an extensive amount of work to calibrate to it correctly. For some reason, my universe is a little more out of synch with this one than others.” She thoughtfully traced her finger down the side of his neck and across his collar bone. “I think that you don’t need to worry about me leaving without you though,” she whispered in amazement. “I need you Captain Jack Harkness. I think that I came here to find you and that whatever happens, whatever comes next, we will face it together.” Her eyes tracked back to his. “Deal?”

He smiled one of his more disarming smiles. “Deal,” he said with a bit of relief. “Now,” he said with an officious air. “I think we need to do more research on the compatibilities of our races. I still think that we may be descended from the same roots even if you think that there is no way your race would descend to our levels. Shall we test this theory?”

She didn’t like games like this, but recognized he was trying to lighten the mood. “You are an idiot,” she said solemnly.

“Perhaps,” he said with a bit of a giggle and he rolled on top of her. “But I’m your idiot and that makes all of the difference.”

She smiled broadly. “You have a point there.” She pulled him down to kiss him and their conversation changed from verbal to physical.

CHAPTER 13

Gwen’s curiosity had finally overcome her common sense. On a quiet day when she was in the Hub alone she snuck into Jack’s quarters to look around. What was it about Aria that was so mesmerizing? How did she turn everyone’s head, inspire them to greater things, and yet remain aloof. In some very important ways, she was even more of a mystery than Jack. Perhaps she could find something personal that would explain not only her relationship with Jack, but who she really was and whether or not she could find a permanent place in Torchwood.

She had only intended to wander the room without touching anything, but before she could make even a single circuit of the room she heard voices coming toward her. She quickly hid herself in a dark corner by crouching down behind a fling cabinet.

She blanched when she realized it was Jack and Aria and she put her hands over her face. Could this be any more humiliating?

She heard the two giggling and then muffled moans between long silences. Yes of course, this was how this situation could become more humiliating.

She heard the two teasing each other about the day’s activities, Aria calling him a pompous ass and he calling her a frigid old woman. Fortunately though, there was little talking.

Gwen reflected on how she had come to this position. In spite of a growing friendship between them, Gwen felt she still knew nothing about Aria. She was able to spend an entire day with Gwen without ever revealing anything personal. She could not have explained why, but for some reason, this bothered Gwen. She mistrusted herself around Aria. She wanted to trust Aria, but it bothered her that she could provide no concrete reason why. It unsettled her. And with all of the bad interactions the team had had with aliens, it made her want to dig up more about Aria in spite of her better judgment.

As she tried to focus on her current situation without listening to what was happening on the other side of the filing cabinet, Gwen realized she felt no shyness about stepping into someone’s home or bedroom and riffling their things but she felt mortified listening to these two people who trusted her in this most intimate moment. She was very aware that this part of their relationship was something they intentionally kept away from their co-workers. She and the others, when Ianto wasn’t around, had speculated on just how intimate these two really did get because they never flirted on duty and never touched or smiled at each other like lovers do when they are in close contact. Since the fireworks over Ianto had ended, Aria and Jack treated each other in the same genial manner as they did the others with no skip in their voices or behavior.

Gwen now knew just how intimate these two really were but she wouldn’t be able to tell the others. This kind of spying was taboo even among a group like the Torchwood staff who were naturally overly curious people. She was too embarrassed to admit she had been this foolish even to herself.

She felt the change in the movement on the other side of the cabinet and knew the two were now solidly in bed, probably quite naked, and completely involved in each other. She tried not to listen but there wasn’t much in her limited line of sight to divert her. She tried focusing on the titles of the books in the case on the other side of the aisle when she gradually realized the room was becoming less dim and that it was becoming easier to read the titles. Knowing there was a table still between her and the bed, she shifted so one eye could see around the cabinet from under the table. What she saw made her gasp. There was a golden, misty glow around the bed that completely enveloped the two writhing bodies. The glow formed a golden haze around the two lovers that swirled and shifted around them as they moved. It seemed to be emanating from both of them and it suffused them both, but neither of the bodies on the bed took note of it. It was beautiful. It hypnotized Gwen for a moment before she remembered that she was not supposed to be here and she slowly drew back behind her cabinet. What she had seen made her mind reel though. These two were not human. Could this be something alien that was typical for them? But they were not the same race either. Why would it emanate from both of them? Were they possessed by some other influence? Her innate curiosity getting the better of her common sense again, she could not help looking around the edge of the cabinet as the two reached the peak of their intimacy. It would be her last chance to study the phenomenon and it would be interesting to see if it changed when they climaxed. The swirling golden haze seemed to visibly compress around the two bodies and finally seeped back into both of them as they both relaxed and snuggled in close to each other.

The two lay panting against each other as though nothing unusual had happened. They murmured quiet somethings to each other and Gwen struggled not to eavesdrop. But her mind had started to whirl. Were the two possessed? Or was Aria not what she claimed to be and had simply taken hold of Jack somehow? Dealing with aliens had made Gwen paranoid on so many new levels that she shuddered.

She had been so intent on her mind’s wanderings that she had not noticed that the room had become quieter than it should have been. In her peripheral vision, she finally noticed something had changed and turned her head. Then she jumped back into the shelves behind her with a loud gasp.

Jack’s bare feet where standing right next to her. As she fell back into the books she looked up to see that he had not bothered to cover himself before coming over to check out her corner. He was glistening and flushed and very, very naked. “The mice are getting better looking down here,” he murmured with a broad smile.

Gwen felt herself instantly blush hot enough to boil water and she looked at her hands. “I’m sorry. I was- I was- I- I’m sorry!” she shouted and she dashed out of the room being careful not to touch Jack as she scooted past him.

Jack shifted to let her pass and Gwen half noticed Aria watching thoughtfully from the bed. In hindsight she recalled that Aria had looked a bit concerned but there had been no time to think about why.

Jack laughed his belly deep laugh and closed the door behind the rapidly disappearing Gwen. “She got an eyeful of more than she bargained for,” he said happily as he closed the door behind her.

“She’s still in love with you, you know,” Aria said quietly in a somewhat rebuking tone to Jack. “And you are still in love with her.” She crossed her arms as though scolding a naughty child. “You shouldn’t have done that Jack. You should have just left her alone in the corner to mull in her own emotions and conclusions.”

“I know,” he said more kindly as he slid into bed beside Aria again. “But I guess I wanted to give her a chance-

“To join in no doubt,” Aria said with a mischievous smile.

“Oooh,” he said as though that thought had not occurred to him. “That would have been nice. Should I go catch her?”

“No thank you. You may choose to lay with half the city, but I am only interested in one person here,” she said mockingly.

“No,” he began again more soberly. “I thought I would give her a chance to come clean. I have noticed it makes unnaturally curious people like her feel less guilt if they know they haven’t been as successful at their sneakiness as they thought.”

“That’s odd sort of logic,” Aria said confused.

“It is human,” he said with visible fondness. “And they are so much fun to figure out.”

“Yes, I can see why The Doctor of this universe stays so close to them and protects them. Like you said once, they have a tremendous potential if they can just survive their own natures.” She reflected to herself for a long time. “But what are you going to do?” His eyebrow raised in confusion as she made this abrupt subject change. “You are going to live for generations at least. Do you plan on staying planetside or will you venture back into the universe with them when they become spacebound?”

“To be honest, I have trained myself to just think in terms of “now” in order to stay sane. I don’t worry about tomorrow and I try my best to forget what is past. There is just too much of the past to keep in any kind of perspective anymore and my poor mortal brain was never designed to retain this much experience. And then, when you combine too much past and a complete inability to assimilate it all, and then try to plan for a minimally remembered future,” he guffawed and took a deep, quick breath. “Well, let’s just say that I have learned that I know a lot less about life and the universe than I thought I did so I am quite happy to just live in today and let the universe take me wherever it wants to.” He intertwined his fingers with hers and studied their hands. “And right now, I want to focus every thought on you.” His eyes turned up to hers. “Somehow this feels like a reprieve that can turn to dust at any moment. I keep dreaming that you are going to find your TARDIS and just not be here some morning when I wake up.” He brought her hand gently to his lips and his eyes pleaded with her desperately. “Please don’t ever leave me. I know I joke and play but you are my whole life now. Everything has finally come into flawless focus for me and I didn’t even realize I had been out of whack. I really would be completely lost without you.”

Her brows came together in concern and dismay. “Jack, you are my whole world right now as well, and not just because I don’t have my TARDIS. Even if I did have it here with me, either you would have to come with me or I would come home here to you every night. I could not bear to leave you now.” She kissed him gently on the forehead and he closed his eyes to enjoy her long hair brushing against his face. “My people bond for life and your impression is branded on my soul for all eternity.” She sat back and smiled. “Actually, you are more a part of me than anyone else in the universe ever could be. The TARDIS energy that you emit is astounding. You have become as much a part of me as my own TARDIS was.” Her smile broadened. “So somehow my wondrous anomaly, you touch my soul, but you have also indelibly made your mark on my body. Quite a feat I must say.”

“Well,” he said haughtily as he put his arms around Aria and laid her down on the bed. “I am just the best lover in this universe and no doubt about it.”

She laughed lightly. “And your humility about it all is astounding.”

“Oh yeah, that too,” he said greedily as he kissed her again. And there was no more talking for a long time.

CHAPTER 14

Tosh reported an emergency call as the teams were returning from two separate incidents across town a few days later. It was a report of some strange ghost like creatures chasing and attacking a couple on a rugby pitch outside of town. Both teams raced to the scene where the attack was taking place. It was close and the report had said apparently the incident had only just started. Although they didn’t know what they were going to find when they got there, they had to presume the worst and see what they could do. Jack and Gwen arrived on the scene first and they stood at the edge of the pitch trying to figure out what the problem was before jumping in.

They saw two young adults flailing at the air and screaming in terror.  Every now and then one would try to run away from the other and then seemed to be herded back to the center of the oval clearing in the dark park. Neither Jack nor Gwen could see what the couple was flailing at but they definitely were seeing something that terrified them both. While they stood watching, Aria ran past Jack and Gwen heading directly toward the hapless couple at a full run. She apparently had some idea of what was going on so the others followed at a slower pace to see where they could help.

She ran right up to the woman, grabbed her arm, and pushed her away from the man. She threw the hapless woman around so hard that she toppled off balance and hit the ground in a heap. Although from where Jack was standing this did not help the situation much, it did seem to kick up the woman’s adrenaline and awareness so that she stood and ran as fast as she could away from Aria and the flailing man.  This time she escaped and disappeared into the darkness. 

“Lights!” Aria shouted as she now grabbed the man’s arm and began running him toward the trees at a ninety degree angle to where she had sent the woman. “Jack! Gwen! Shine your lights here on us!” she shouted again as she turned the man toward her teammates now. The man was still flailing but had started a low wail that was growing into a howl of pain.

Jack and Gwen grabbed at their pockets to pull out their torches and eventually were able to shine them at the running couple. In the dim light of the torches they saw shadowy forms moving above the man and Aria. It wasn’t anything even as clear as smoke, more like oil in water or ripples in the air. Even with the help of the lights they could only see that there were shapes there when the figures were in motion.

The forms seemed to be flying around the couple, just above their heads and they occasionally dived and seemed to jab at their heads and chests. Each time they jabbed at the man, he wailed and wept. Each time they jabbed at Aria, both she and the shadows seemed to flinch a bit.

Aria abruptly stopped, threw the man down to the ground, and stood over him. She pulled a device from her pocket and started pushing buttons on it. “Stay down and don’t move!” she shouted at him as she finished dialing the device and then held it up above her head. She watched the shadows dance around her for a heartbeat or two and then, when one of them dived at her again, she swung around to put the device she was holding inside of the shadow. The shadow immediately dissipated and reappeared about a meter behind where it had been. The other shadow, apparently not convinced that the device was a danger to it, dived at her next. She swung around and repeated her movement. Again, the shadow dissipated immediately when her raised hand extended inside of it and reappeared about a meter away from where it had been. The two shadows began to float around her head as though trying to decide what to do next. Then abruptly, they both turned and departed into the woods.

Aria, Jack, and Gwen all scanned the trees but there was too little light from their torches to see anything. They could only presume that the shadows had completely left the area and had decided to hunt prey that could not fight back.

Aria bit her lip and turned to walk toward the woods in the direction that one of the shadows had disappeared. She was caught up short by the man whimpering at her feet and clinging to her leg. She looked down at him as though she had never seen him before. She looked up at the woods around her with a worried glance and then bent over the man to offer some comforting words. She also asked him some basic information about who he was and what he had been doing in the woods but he was oblivious to anything but the fact that this woman seemed to be able to scare those ghost things that had tried to possess him so he was not about to let her step away from him.

Jack and Gwen approached the pair slowly so they would not frighten the man any more than he already was. They also were scanning the woods in the hopes of seeing the creatures if they were still lurking. They were not.

“Don’t worry Sir. So long as you stay in the lighted parts of the street you should be fine. They seem to prefer not being seen. Find your girl and go straight home. Make certain she is all right.” Aria peeled the man’s arms off of her leg and she and Jack helped him to his feet. She continued to talk in a smooth, reassuring tone. “If either of you are hurt, go immediately to the medical center but don’t tell them how this happened. Just tell the medics that you got caught in the weather and don’t feel well. Can you do that?” she asked with concern as she turned the man’s eyes toward hers. Her calm and concerned gaze seemed to settle the man down enough for him to nod and then head off toward the road at a sprint. Gwen took note that he was not running in the direction his girl had run and she bet that this relationship was doomed as she turned back toward Jack and Aria.

“So how did you manage that?” he asked Aria with a bit of a challenge in his voice.

“With this,” she said simply and threw a small black instrument toward him.

He caught it and turned it over in his hand. “It’s a tazer,” was all he said.

“Yes, it is,” Aria replied as though she were thrilled with a child’s correct answer to a query.

“You attacked two soul-sucking creatures with an off the shelf piece of electronics and expected to do what?” he asked angrily.

“I expected it to do a damn sight more than it did do. We have to find those things again or they are going to feed on other victims tonight,” she said and looked at Gwen. “Do you know if Tosh has any other leads?” she asked quickly. “Are there any more torches in the SUV? We could sure use them if that is the only way we are going to get a look at these things.”

“Hold it,” Jack said sternly as the two women started to walk off. “I still don’t have an answer to my question. Why did you think this little thing would have an effect? You never mentioned anything about electrical activity in our discussions about the case. And even though it did obviously have some kind of effect on those critters, what kind of effect were you expecting?”

Exasperated, Aria returned to Jack and answered quickly. “I theorized that these creatures were feeding off of the energy of the victims as well as their spirit. I wanted to test it. By introducing an artificial source of energy in the middle of the creatures I had hoped to dissipate them or at least short them out. Unfortunately, it looks like shorting them out doesn’t do any kind of permanent damage. It does appear to create some degree of discomfort, but little more. Perhaps if I could increase the charge and –“

Gwen gasped. She saw the shadows at the edge of her vision coming in fast. She threw up the light from her torch in time to see the two shadows diving from different directions into the clearing and they entered Jack and Aria without hesitation. The two froze in place. Jack’s breathing increased and he began to shake and convulse. Aria on the other hand stood stock still. Gwen saw Aria’s jaw twitch and her eyes closed and squinted in pain as her hands balled into tight fists. Jack had fallen on the ground and was writhing and growling but Aria was practically grinding her teeth together as her fight went on a bit more quietly.

Gwen ran toward the two of them and she grabbed Aria by the shoulders and swung her around screaming her name. Aria did not see or hear her. She was immersed in an inner battle and was oblivious to anything outside of her battle. Gwen started to turn to Jack and then she heard Aria whisper “run.”

“What?” she gasped hoping that Aria was coming out of the trance-like state.

“Run,” Aria said a little louder. “RUN!” she said finally as her breathing began to increase and sweat beaded on her face. Gwen turned and ran toward the SUV calling to Tosh and Ianto to come fast with as many lights as they could bring and to grab-

Gwen stopped where she was and turned. The tazer had worked before. Would it work again?

She ran back toward the two figures and searched the dark ground for the tazer that she had last seen in Jack’s hand. She finally found it, held it to Jack’s side, and pressed the button. Jack yelped in pain, jerked a bit, and then lay very still while panting in short gasps. Gwen thought she saw movement out of the corner of her eye but couldn’t confirm that the shadow had really left Jack. Gwen stood and touched the tazer to Aria. She watched Aria closely to see if there was any visible change or reaction to the tazer discharging into her side.  This time the only reaction she saw was that Aria shivered and a ripple seemed to spread around her. Then a vise like grip surrounded Gwen’s wrist and pulled the tazer away from Aria’s side. Gwen blanched and backed away. She had forgotten that she was holding the activated tazer against Aria and discharging the entire battery into her. Aria's cheek twitched a couple of times and she took a deep breath and swallowed.

“Ow,” she said quietly and she abruptly sat down on the grass.

Jack was laying spread eagle on the grass and trying to catch his breath. Both of them looked pale in the darkness but were obviously not inhabited by the shadows any more.

“We need to get back to the Hub,” Aria finally said. “I need to get into Tosh’s computers. I may have an idea.”

“Oh thank goodness!” Jack gasped. “I don’t want to have to do that again.”

“Don’t speak too soon,” she said coldly. “We might have to.”

“Damn,” he cursed under his breath. “Why did I know you were going to say that?”

Gwen grabbed Jack’s outstretched hand and helped him up into a sitting position. Aria was sitting where she had fallen and was staring at some point in the grass. She was calculating and neither Jack or Gwen was about to interrupt her thoughts. “We have to send them back through the rift,” she said quietly under her breath. “And the only place I can think of where we have enough control over the environment to try doing that is in the Hub itself using Tosh’s ripper.” She looked up at the two people staring at her. “And the only way to get those things into the Hub is to lure them there with live bait somehow because I can’t think of any practical way to actually capture them out here.”

“This sounds like the beginning of a terrible plan,” Jack said sarcastically.

Aria smiled at him with just the touch of a smirk, “serves you right for asking a stupid question,” she said slyly. “Let’s get back. We have a lot of work to do before we can even try to make this work and they are still hungry.”

Jack and Gwen both involuntarily glanced into the air above them and then started moving slowly toward the SUV. Both Jack and Aria were stiff, but uninjured. Gwen wondered what it must be like to not have to worry about serious injury. What would it be like to be immortal?

As though hearing her thoughts, Aria said “I am not immortal and I am not invulnerable so don’t start treating me like I can endure anything. I can be injured and killed just like you can and I can only regenerate so many times. My race is longer lived than humans but we still die.” Aria walked faster to avoid any real questions.  "So far as I know, Jack is the only creature in the universe that has been able to foil that natural law."  She said it with a bit of venom but Gwen saw her surreptitiously wink at Jack as they both leapt over the low fence without hesitation. 

Gwen looked at Jack who just shrugged. “I have this kind of effect on Time Lords. They get a bit sensitive.” Jack saw Aria’s back stiffen but they all walked as fast as they could toward the SUV so that they could get to work.

CHAPTER 15

“May I speak with you Jack?”

Her tone caught both Ianto and Jack’s ear and they stopped what they were doing and turned to look at her. As usual, she was fairly unreadable, but Ianto had an odd feeling that Aria was especially troubled by something. The fact that she was interrupting a conversation instead of demonstrating her typical patience and waiting for an opportunity to present itself indicated immediately that something serious was up.

“I have to be going anyway,” Ianto said quickly and smiled at Aria as he passed her in the door. Aria smiled her thanks back and closed the door behind him. She glanced around the office and took a deep breath.  Her eyes rested on the glass windows behind Jack's desk and her lips tightened a bit.  She knew that the two of them could be observed through those windows, but she wasn’t really worried about that anymore. She needed to have this conversation now and it was too hard to get Jack somewhere where they could talk alone and uninterrupted and where he would actually sit still and listen. She finally let out the breath she had been holding and walked toward Jack’s desk. She smiled and waved him back into his chair when he started to stand and then sat down in the chair opposite him.

“What’s wrong?” he asked gently.

“There is nothing wrong Jack,” she said in a quiet, neutral tone. “But there is something I need to tell you and I am not sure how you will take it.”

He examined her rueful looking smile and the slight flush in her cheeks and began to panic inside. What would make her this happily reflective? Had she found a way home? He couldn’t lose her. She couldn’t leave. What was going on? “All right,” he said slowly with a forced calm. “I’m all ears.”

She smiled. “What an interesting image.” He smiled back and she again took a deep breath. “I have to give you some background before I can ask you a question. Although it may seem a bit disconnected, I ask that you please bear with me until I finish the story.” Her eyes bore into his, “please?”

“All right,” he answered slowly wondering again what this was about.

“As you know, I am from Gallifrey. Because of my people’s longevity, we became, over an extended period of time, quite lazy and stagnant in my universe. Because I went back to my world only occasionally, it became quite obvious to me that we were dying as a race. After awhile the elders didn’t create or imagine anymore, they only consumed and complained. They lost all interest in the younger races and spent time worrying about their own interests. As they aged, they sometimes even lost interest in preserving themselves. I believe that in only one or two more of our generations, we would begin to die out and would have had no chance to recover as a race. Although this was not generally discussed amongst ourselves, and it was actually a taboo topic to discuss in public, I believe some of the people felt what was happening and had basically come to accept it as our fate. The others just chose not to see and continued to live in Gallifrey’s glory days.” Too agitated to sit still, she stood up and began to slowly pace. She did not seem to be able to look Jack in the eye and this raised the degree of his panic and internal speculation. Was she sick? Was she leaving? What could it be? He tried to keep breathing and worked hard to concentrate on her words.

“Nature felt this atrophy as well because births became rarer and rarer amongst my people. Soon, any Gallifreyan birth was considered cause for global celebration. I am only about nine hundred Earth years old and I believe I know of only four or five births during my lifetime. Each child born in our society is precious to the community and is cherished and loved and protected above all else.” She paused in her pacing and seemed to be struggling with her next words. She walked to the wall overlooking the floor below and saw all eyes below jerk back to busy hands. She smiled and relaxed a bit. Jack was ready to explode but bit into his bottom lip until he tasted blood to keep from blurting out anything stupid. There was no use trying to rush her, she would get to the end of her story when she got there.

“Do you have any children Jack?” she asked quietly.

He physically jerked in his chair at this unexpected question. “No,” he responded defensively, instinctively. “Well,” he smiled as his casual demeanor automatically took over. “Well none around here that I know of,” he said slyly. Something in his brain began to try to shift gears on him but he refused to acknowledge it. He needed to focus on Aria. He mentally swatted the spurious thought and tried to focus on Aria.

“Have you ever thought about children?” She smiled reflectively as she watched the team hard at work below. “Gwen wants children but agonizes about how it will change her life and that she will have to give up her independence if she has any. Toshiko is uncertain if she wants to be responsible for bringing children into this world but you can hear in her voice that she would love a child in her life. Owen is indifferent,” she said with a small grin. “I actually think he is deathly afraid of the concept.”

Jack was more confused than ever and just couldn’t remain silent. “Aria, what is wrong? What is this all about? Please tell me.”

“I never thought about having children,” she continued as if connecting random thoughts. “It just wasn’t something I had ever thought about because it wasn’t going to happen. My travels rarely take me to Gallifrey and I don’t really get along with my own kind.” She smiled ruefully. “I am considered a menace to society because of my radical ideas about actually interfacing with the beings I encounter and helping them where I can. I was always accused of getting along better with other sentients than with my own kind.” Her voice got quiet. “I just never thought about it really.”

That annoying thought kept brushing at Jack’s thoughts and banging on his psyche for attention. He mentally swatted it away again and ignored it. “Aria, what’s wrong?” he demanded.

“We created a child Jack.”

She said it so quietly that he almost missed it. She turned toward him quickly and she watched his every thought as it happened. Child? What child? Did she say create a child? Did one of the experiments go wrong? How could that have happened? No. That couldn’t be it. The others would know if something in their rift experiments had done something so…

The look in her eyes finally made him stop his mental raving. The annoying thought finally exploded in his mind and literally blinded him for a moment. A child. They had made a child. His mind cleared for a moment and he looked in her eyes. The corners of her mouth twitched up as she saw the dawn of realization take over. A child. His mind emptied completely and his jaw dropped. A child? They had made a child.

In a single motion he rushed to her, swept her into his arms, and kissed her.


Over the next few weeks, Jack’s heart was so full of life and love he was certain he would actually explode and that he would miss this whole new adventure. The rest of the team started avoiding him because he was just too happy. No one could stand being near anyone that happy and content with the world. Aria could only smile knowingly as she watched him float through the days. She too was happy through every fiber of her being but she was not quite so eager to share it with everyone around her like Jack was. She contented herself with enjoying the sensations of the new life growing inside of her and of sharing all of it with the man she had come to love more than life itself. The rest of the team was left to wonder what was going on in blissful ignorance.  Jack and Aria had decided that, because they were not really sure how this pairing of their races would turn out, they wanted to wait until they were sure the child had a healthy chance of growing to term before making any announcements. Gestation was expected to be somewhere around thirteen to fifteen months based upon their own limited knowledge of their own race’s development. Aria was monitoring the baby’s physical growth and emotional state very closely at all times though she knew at some point, she would have to depend upon Owen to deliver the child. She didn’t want to address that any sooner than she had to because she really wasn’t thrilled at this idea. As a result of this self imposed silence though, their euphoria was more of an annoyance to the others than anything else.

“Do you love him?” Gwen asked Aria one day in an offhand manner.

Aria’s head tilted as she continued to type equations and data into the computer. She smiled in an amused manner. “Yes, I am in love,” she said as though she was genuinely surprised by the question. “Why do you ask?”

“Doesn’t it bother you working this close to him every minute of every day but not really being with him while the rest of us are here?”

She turned to Gwen and smiled knowingly. “Do you mean like you and your man Rhys?” This time it was Gwen’s turn to blush. “No, but not for the reason you might think.” She turned and leaned against the table to chat with Gwen face to face. “How old are you?”

Gwen looked askance at the woman. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Humor me,” she said with a slow smile. “How old are you?”

“I’m 27.”

“And how long does your race typically live?”

“I don’t know, about 80 to 90 years or so,” Gwen answered almost shyly.

“Well, I am,” she paused and seemed to be doing some computations in her head “somewhere just over 900 Earth years old,” she finally estimated. “When you have lived this long and you anticipate having at least that long with a partner, you realize there is time enough for everything. You can focus your full attention on whatever is at hand. There is time for him, time for me, time for study, everything. Now with a shorter life, my theory is that there is an instinctive need to jam the same amount of living and loving into a much shorter time period hence the urge to do and absorb and partake of everything at once. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that long life robs you of a lot of the spark that a short life demands. My people definitely fell into that trap. In their eyes, everything could be done tomorrow.” Her eyes wandered and she became melancholy. “It was heartbreaking to go home and see how things were decaying around them. But then I would come to a planet like Earth, and everything changes from minute to minute and people are always in a hurry to complete the next challenge or make the most of the newest discovery. This planet and several other favorites keep me in perspective whenever I began to feel that either everything in life could wait or that there was no point in completing anything.”

“Does the short life give more meaning to things then?” Gwen asked carefully.

Aria looked at Gwen with a strange gleam in her eyes. “I think it does. If I have lifetimes to learn to play an instrument, I am bound to be good just through sheer repetition if nothing else. But to become a master at some musical instruments, as some humans are able to do, in less than a lifetime is astonishing to me and something well worth notice by anyone.” Aria placed her hand gently on Gwen’s. “Thank you for reminding me of that lesson. That is a critically important one that I need to be reminded of every now and then.” She smiled her thoughtful smile at Gwen again and then turned back to the computer terminal. “Now let’s get back to this anomaly or we are going to have to admit no progress this afternoon and I refuse to admit that.”

Gwen watched Aria work for awhile and then returned to her own analysis. In a way, she was absolutely green with envy over the happiness that Jack and Aria had found. A small part of her still wished that she had been the one to lay with Jack every night and to make him so happy that he practically floated.

But then when she was in a more rational mood, she realized that it had been her choice to lay with Rhys every night and not with Jack and that Jack deserved this kind of happiness no matter who caused it. In those moments of clarity, she loved Aria as much as she hated her the other moments. She may not have wanted to admit it, but Aria had been exactly what Jack had needed when he needed her most. She was someone who believed in him and loved him unconditionally and that was all that mattered for anyone when everything was said and done.

She decided to change the subject and reach back to the Torchwood pastime of trying to fill in more of Jack’s past. “So have you ever travelled to his world? Are you familiar with it?”

“Well,” Aria began slowly as she continued to manipulate the data she was working with, “I have never actually been there but I know about his world. I know it in my universe anyway. It is a world that is probably about 5,000 years ahead of where you are now technologically. They are a lively and enterprising race and have a thirst for knowledge and adventure much like humans.”

“Unfortunately, in the century that I think your Captain Jack is from, there was a terrible war. It was a war that both sides regretted as soon as it was started but neither side knew how to end it. Unfortunately, when they realized they were all in over their heads, both governments tried to very abruptly stop the conflict. What they didn’t seem to realize is that once you start a war, you are committed to see it through to some kind of conclusion. You have to resolve, either by destruction or concession, not only all of the issues that got you into the war in the first place, but everything that surfaces during the war itself before a war can really end. In any case, their leaders ordered an end to the war with no agreement for cessation and the momentum of the conflict nearly destroyed both races. The war that bloomed out of their artificially manufactured peace was not under anyone’s control and it escalated to cause genocidal losses on all sides.” She stared off into the distance sadly. “After the planet finally managed to establish some kind of control over the war, another race, a non-humanoid race, came in to clean up what was left. They used both civilizations as captive stock for their slave trade and neither race had any resources or will left to protect themselves. Both civilizations eventually died off and their worlds were forgotten with remnants of their people scattered to the corners of the universe.”

Her gaze seemed to wander even further away and a terrible sadness seemed to weigh down on her entire body. “It is one of the great agonies of being a Time Lord. You get to experience and observe the birth and blossoming of new sentience and new civilizations. I have met people like you in all eras, cultures, and races. I get to experience in a flash a thousand generations of progress and discovery. But I also see the decay and death of civilizations.” Her sadness became more profound and reflective. “But I always thought the Time Lords would continue. I saw civilizations die every day but I never imagined a time or universe without Gallifrey.” Her head tilted to one side as she seemed to consider further. “No Gallifrey and no TARDIS.” She looked up at Gwen with a resigned smile. “Sorry, I guess I scattered a bit there. I sure hope you can put up with another displaced alien in this madhouse for an extended period because I don’t think I could pretend to be human all of the time. I would go mad.” She smiled ruefully. “I am glad that you lot don’t mind my being as alien as I want to on my own time. It makes things a lot easier for me.”

Gwen smiled and put her arm around the small woman’s shoulders. “No worries Aria. It is nice to finally find a nice alien around here for a change.”

“Well,” she said apologetically. “I don’t know if I qualify as a ‘nice’ alien, but I can guarantee I won’t try to eat you if that is a concern.”

“That is always the concern around here,” Gwen laughed. They both got back to work.  Gwen mulled over what Aria had told her about Jack’s world as the day wore on. It did explain some things about Jack but Aria’s information also raised a whole new set of questions. Gwen knew that Jack had been in a war as a child but had it been the first or second conflict that Aria had described? Had Jack’s world in this universe gone through the same awful experiences as the one in Aria’s? She finally filed away what Aria had told her in her mental files of the puzzle that was Captain Jack Harkness and got back to work. They still had so much to do.

CHAPTER 16

Aria and Tosh were inseparable over the next week on the rift ripper as they were starting to call the odd collection of parts expanding to fill the Hub. Everyone on the team came in to work each morning wondering what equipment had been cannibalized to contribute to this grand project overnight. Only Tosh thrilled to the work involved in the construction of the project. Everyone else just put in new orders with Ianto for replacement hard drives for their computers or electro cardiographs or whatever equipment that needed to be replaced after being stripped down when they weren’t looking. They also found that odd pieces of alien technology that had been set aside here or there was also being cannibalized and installed in this grand piece project. This was technology that they had acquired but that they did not yet understand so they all knew they were sacrificing valuable knowledge to this effort because once Aria was done with that alien tech they would never be able to reconstruct what had been lost. It galled Owen the most because some of his favorite new gadgets had been sacrificed to this effort. He soon gave up grumbling though. Jack could not hear anything bad about Aria and the others were either so enamored of her or her project that it was no use even talking. He took to skulking around the Hub and trying to snag back the medical tech to hide in various chambers in the lower levels so that he could still play with or examine them later.

Tosh on the other hand was blossoming on this project. It had been her brainchild and Aria was making it happen in a manner that Tosh embraced in great gulps. She only understood about one eighth of what Aria explained, but those bits were all new and exciting. She spent long hours talking about the theory of their work and Aria enjoyed Tosh’s enthusiasm and quick mind. For a short life, Tosh had great potential with her insatiable thirst for knowledge and an ability to grasp concepts that were well beyond the current Earth technologies or technical philosophies. Aria came to greatly respect her for that and wished she still had her TARDIS to show Tosh planets where her great potential could truly be exploited to its limits.

Within days, there was a massive construct that had grown to extend up the center of the Hub. It was like an old time television vacuum tube on its back suspended in the air between two tuning forks. It was the ugliest contraption they had ever seen but Aria was certain she could make it work.

Jack was nervous about the construct but was mostly successful in hiding his apprehension. There was no one else to test this beast once they got it working. If Aria and Tosh created a true rift ripper that could be precisely tuned to a particular being, Aria was the first logical test subject. He doubted she would leave, but like all lovers, there was that annoying wrinkle of doubt that rubbed against the back of your mind until you couldn’t help but look at it.

All during the time it took to construct the ripper, the siphon creatures continued to strike. The team had been able to determine that there were no more than the two of the nasties that they had seen, but they were consuming two people about every three days. It was becoming harder and harder to cover up and explain the deaths because the victims had all been people that were “movers and shakers.”  People that typically travelled in a large group of friends and so they were always missed immediately.

It didn’t help their efforts to prevent a panic when the victims didn’t always die right away either. Owen had grumbled about the fact that some of the people were left as drooling vegetables that would eventually die from the atrophy of their mind and bodies. He wondered why they all didn’t just die right away. Unlike Aria’s night time project with Tosh though, her day time hours supporting Owen’s investigation were not bearing fruit. They tested every physiological measurement they could for every victim and then did full cross references with all of the other victims in excruciating detail. They even took full interviews with victim’s friends, families, grade school teachers, and hated neighbors. They spoke with anyone that had ever seen or talked to the victims and collected that information into a massive database. Nothing was coming up as a pattern though and none of it was helping Owen assist either the drooling zombies in the lower chambers or the victims lying in his morgue. It was galling and frustrating beyond belief.


One evening, Aria was working with Owen on the newest cadaver. It was close quarters but she managed to ignore his cute remarks and flirting manner. She was interested only in the cadaver and trying to figure out how this man had died. Finally she stood up and took a deep breath.

“No external marks. No internal injuries. No unusual toxins. No energy readings that are untoward for his lifestyle. No rift readings. No habitation. No mutations. No sign of natural death.” She tapped her fingers on the table and looked at the man as though expecting him to answer. “So why are you dead Mr. Clive?” Her eyes scanned the body as though hoping to catch something new. Owen walked up behind her and casually put his arm around her waist. She didn’t give any indication that she was aware of his presence and continued to stare at the man. He took that as encouragement and squeezed her waist a bit.

“Please don’t touch me again,” she said in the same tone she had used while examining the cadaver. She still did not move though.

“Ah no worries luv. It’s a sign of familiarity here on Earth. No cause for alarm.”

She turned to look at him with cold anger in her expression. “I don’t want to be familiar with you in any way Human. And do not presume that just because I am not human that I will tolerate behavior that is unacceptable to your own race.”

Not knowing the danger he was in Owen continued. “Oh, you just don’t know me yet. I bet I can turn your head.”

“How old are you?” she asked abruptly.

“Twenty seven” he answered automatically.

“Well I am nine hundred and thirty two of your years. Consider your conversations with a local six month old and that is how our conversations have impressed me so far.” Owen finally pulled his arm from around Aria. “You are a fair doctor for your age and race, but please do not presume to think you understand or could ever interest me. I travel through time and space to apprehend the most dangerous criminals in the universe. I have done this for centuries. Whatever do you think you can do that I would possibly be interested in and what could you and I possibly have to talk about over tea Owen Harper of Earth?”

Properly cowed, Owen backed up to his terminal and got back to work. The edge of Aria’s mouth twitched. It was always fun to put smug, idiots in their place. She would have to tell Tosh to look especially nice tomorrow. Though she was fully convinced that Tosh could find someone that would treat her better, Aria was not one to judge who others were attracted to because she, and she couldn’t help but look toward Jack’s office at this thought, had done such an awful job of controlling her own emotional choices. She smiled ruefully, took another deep breath, and started to work on Mr Clive again. Why would a man just suddenly stop living for no discernable reason? Did he just choose to stop living? What keeps humans alive when all else is failing? What did these creatyres consume in these humans? Why weren't the deaths occuring in a more localized manner?  Why were the creatures ranging all over the countryside and city choosing one or two simultaneous victims and not feeding in groups or in areas of guaranteed feeding?  Why were only humans dying in this manner? Why didn't these predators strike at the dog that Mr Clive had been walking? Why weren’t there a slew of animal deaths in the areas that these human deaths were occurring? What was unique about humans that the animals lacked in this world? What had Jack said about The Doctor that constantly brought him back to this particular world? What had it been? Ah yes, the human spirit.

Her head jerked up as she caught the whiff of a just barely reachable thought.

Was the human spirit something that could be detected? Who had they determined had died of these causes? A firefighter. Two policeman. A professional skateboarder. A surgeon. A charity worker. A priest. She turned to the computer and pulled up the files on all of the victims. She scanned the list and resorted by careers. All held professions that required dedication to the point of self sacrifice... The human thrill and the human heart, the greatest attributes any race could aspire to and this race seemed to have it in surplus. Could it be the spirit that was being consumed? Those who worked tirelessly for others? Those who thrilled at life and reached for greatness?

Without a word she rolled the body over to the MRI again. She had a theory now and ignored Owen’s protests and inquiries. She wanted to keep this thin thread of thought going until it reached a conclusion with no interruption or digression. It would take too long to explain and she might lose this inspiration along the way. She waved him off again and removed the protective covering to the insides of the MRI. What she wanted to examine had not ever been measured or scanned on Earth before, perhaps had never been quantified anywhere, and she would have to do some major modifications this primitive piece of equipment to test her theory. She mumbled inaudibly to herself as she began tearing out parts from the massive MRI machine. Owen just shrugged his shoulders and left her to her inspiration. He needed coffee anyway and this batty old woman was making him itch.


“It was his spirit, his soul, his ki, his anima, his-

“We get it,” Jack interrupted.

“No, you don’t,” she quickly disagreed. “Not only is there no physical manifestation of this but the existence of this as a measurable thing is purely hypothetical.”

“But you were able to measure this?” Jack asked skeptically now.

“I measured a source of energy that resides in the body,” she answered. “I tested it against the rest of the Torchwood team and against the victims in the basement.”

“We’ll all be glowing in the dark for weeks” Owen muttered sarcastically. He blanched when he saw Aria’s cold scowl flash in his direction.

“There is a subtle energy that emanates from all living things but humans have a special abundance of it. Call it what you like, if you consider the lives of these particular victims, they are humans that exemplify what is called the human spirit. They are risk-takers and emotional philanthropists. I imagine this personality type probably has a surplus of this energy that we measured. The walking zombies downstairs and some rats I caught downstairs have little to no trace whatsoever of it. I believe those spirit things are consuming that type of energy in humans. They just… they siphon it out of the humans they touch and consume their will to live. They have been picking humans that have an overabundance of that energy. If you check the emotional profiles of all of the victims so far there is not a lazy one in the lot. They are all driven, they all have lofty ambitions, and they are willing to sacrifice to get there. They are all heroes and visionaries in their own ways and in their own chosen professions.”

The room was reduced to the shuffling of papers as the team flipped through the list of the victims. Every one had been successful at difficult professions and most of those professions required some degree of sacrifice to help others. It was probably the closest thing to something in common that all of the victims could boast.

“And you rigged the MRI to scan for souls?” Jack asked in disbelief.

“Well,” she backpedaled a bit. “It scans for something that can’t be measured conventionally and no Owen, I am not going to tell you or Tosh how I did it.”

“Wow,” Ianto breathed. “We are measuring souls and the human spirit now.” His eyes rose to Aria’s. “Well done.”

She smiled at him. “Thank you Sir.”

“So what do we do with this?” Jack asked in confusion.

“Well, there really isn’t much we can do,” Aria answered with less enthusiasm. “All it does is help us understand what the creatures are after. But every human has this energy regardless of who they are or their motivations in life. These victims just all happen to have an abundance of this particular kind of energy that the siphons are after.”

“So we now know why these people were attacked,” Gwen said in a no-nonsense tone. “Now we need to find a way to stop them.”

“Yeah,” Jack said with a casual wave of his hand. “Just like that.”

“We now know what attracts them,” Aria said with conviction. “We know that the tazer affects them both in their ethereal form and when they have inhabited a human. We know they consume about twice a week. We know they are visible in light but so hard to see in the dark that they are pretty much invisible. We also know they are trying to find a way back to their own world in order to bring their people through to this buffet of a planet.” Aria took a deep breath and looked down at the table. “And I think I know a way to determine the frequency of their dimension though it won’t be easy.” She looked up at Jack and her eyes drilled into his. “I don’t want to talk about this yet though until I have a chance to run at least two more tests.”

He scowled at her in concern. Something about the way she had said that concerned him deeply. He had the distinct impression that she was going to tell him something bad and he wanted to hear it now, not later after more tests. But he was not about to undercut her like that in front of the group so he only nodded his head. He followed her with his eyes as she filed out of the room with the others. He would corner her later and make her tell him her plan… then he realized what he was thinking and resigned himself to the fact that she wouldn’t tell him anything until she was ready. Damn these strong willed women. There were definitely drawbacks to their having minds of their own. He would wait. She would tell him when she had something to tell him. He could wait.

CHAPTER 17

It was a massive undertaking and it cost lives for every day they delayed. Most difficult was the fact that they would not have the opportunity to do an extensive or focused survey of the siphon’s energy readings that required the expansion of the equipment and the additional effort. They would not be able to capture and hold the siphons like they had the small Imovarian. They would get one shot at opening the rift to the right dimension based upon readings that they would have to take indirectly from the siphons (though Aria had not explained this part of her plan yet). Aria explained they would also have to create a larger tear in the rift to ensure they got both siphons through the rift. She insisted that Jack had to enhance the guards he had developed to prevent two way passage through the rift since they would get only one chance at this. If any other siphons slipped into their dimension or if these two didn’t travel through completely, they would know the danger that this contraption posed and never come near it again. These changes, among others, required much more advanced tech and enough energy to run half the continent.

It took Aria and Tosh another whole week of non-stop construction to get the Ripper constructed and tuned. Aria didn’t sleep the entire week and Tosh barely saw anything but the system designs in front of her. Every night, someone would find Tosh asleep on her keyboard and would gently carry her to a cot in one of the lower rooms. They could see the toll this was taking on her and did their best to make things easy on her but both Tosh and Aria were driven by the growing death toll that kept Owen running from local morgues, to hospitals, to their own autopsy room, and morgue. The fact that the deaths were keeping Owen so busy that he couldn’t help with the construction kept everyone more than motivated to finish this project as quickly as possible.

Ianto and Jack’s schedule paralleled Tosh and Aria’s as they constructed the beast from the blueprints that the girls provided. Too often though, Ianto and Jack found themselves staring at a part or instruction with absolutely no comprehension of what the construction guidelines really called for. This typically meant one of two things, either their minds had numbed due to lack of sleep and hydration, or Aria had lapsed into scientific jargon for tools that had never been seen on Earth before. In the latter case, Aria would look at them sheepishly, take the plans, and disappear into the lab to construct the item on her own from whatever she could find laying around the Hub and the men were left to start on the next indecipherable schematic.

Meanwhile, Gwen was running additional power lines to the city grid to give them the additional power that this monstrosity was going to need when they switched it on. Aria had also given her plans to construct a one shot power source and capacitor that would keep them from blowing every power station in the UK. Tosh speculated that they would only take out about half of the Welsh grid and maybe a third of everything else out between Cardiff and London, but Aria flinched skeptically whenever Tosh gave her reasoning for those estimates. With the additional lines, they were doing their best to spread their access to a variety of power sources so they wouldn’t blow out every primary line in the first flip of the switch. They were trying to get so much done in such a short time that they had even brought in Rhys to help them with the Ripper construction and laying the new power lines. He was thrilled to actually help Gwen save the world for a change instead of just hearing about it after the fact. He was especially excited when they started tapping military power sources and Gwen just shook her head in amusement. She had begun to think of such actions as every day and appreciated Rhys’ reality check. Everyone tried to show their appreciation for his help in as many ways as time and exhaustion permitted them but he too saw the bodies Owen brought through the Hub to take to the morgue and was as motivated as any of the others.

In the hours when the humans passed out and the two aliens could actually talk without being heard, Jack and Aria began to work on her plan to get the siphons into the Hub and into the machine. This was an infuriating exercise though because they always came back to the same solution and it broke their hearts. They needed bait to draw the siphons to the Hub and to physically carry the siphons through the tear in the rift. The problem was that the only bait they could think of was people, and the only people that could physically carry the siphons through the rift were the two of them.

Resigning themselves to this after a few nights of desperate brainstorming attempts to find another option, they began to argue relentlessly about which of them should do it. It was clear that neither was going to permit the other to do this and their stubborn resistance quickly made these discussions angry. Aria argued that Jack wouldn’t die just one death but billions over time, presuming he continued to regenerate like he had been. Jack argued that while he would only be sacrificing himself, she would be sacrificing two lives. He argued that to murder their innocent, unborn child would be unconscionable and that he would rather die with them than live with that murder on his conscience.

After days of alternately arguing, throwing things, and not speaking with each other, Aria relented and threw herself into Jack’s arms. They retreated into his quarters and lay together during the hours that the others slept. From that moment on, the two were never out of sight of each other. The others in the Hub sensed that something momentous was looming but were too tired to speculate. The entire group ploughed on to finish the equipment as fast as they could so that they could stop the murders. It was the only thing they had enough energy left to think about. Ending this slaughter was the only way any of them would be able to ever sleep again.

Jack continued to try to contact Martha Jones through all of this, but she never answered her phone or returned his calls. He suspected that might mean something bad for Martha but he tried not to think about it and just kept telling himself that she was out of service on some backward planet with The Doctor somewhere. Somewhere where her super-phone didn’t get a signal. He could have used her help. And if she were able to bring The Doctor with her then all the better. For some reason, Jack felt certain that if The Doctor were here, he would be able to figure out a way of getting rid of the siphons quickly with no one getting hurt.

But The Doctor wasn’t here. And in their plan someone was going to die.


Finally, they completed the construction of the rift ripper and everyone collapsed into chairs in the conference room. Ianto wordlessly pointed Owen to the coffee-maker when he asked and Tosh gently thumped her head onto the table trying to wake herself up. Jack flew into the room and Aria came in more slowly behind him. Both sat at either end of the conference table in what had come to be their traditional seats. Gwen found herself carefully studying both of them. She felt Jack’s agitation and Aria’s sadness seeping from them as almost physical manifestations. She slid her hand into Rhys’ under the table and braced for what she now expected to be a bad, bad meeting.

“All right,” Jack said as he clapped his hands together loudly. Tosh jumped upright in her chair and looked around quickly, uncertain of where she was. “Everyone did some great work these past two weeks and we have built something impossible. Now we have to do the impossible again. We have to get those siphons to this location and convince them that they need to travel through the rift and back to their own world.” Blank looks met his as he glanced around the room. He avoided looking at Aria because he could feel her sadness boring into his chest. “Aria, tell them what you told me.”

All eyes shifted slowly to Aria. She sat quietly staring at Jack for a long time and then took a deep breath.

“When that thing possessed me, I got flashes of memories from it. A lot of it didn’t make sense as is typical when you mix minds with aliens, but the feelings that I recalled from this exchange were very clear.” Her eyes rose to meet those of the people around her. “These beings miss their people and their families. They want to find a way to bring the rest of their people through the rift so they can all enjoy the bounty that they have found on your world and in this universe. Apparently their world is nearly stripped of all resources so their race is on the verge of extinction. These two were exploring an unpopulated area of their world when they happened to fall through the rift into yours.” She looked into each of their eyes in turn before she went on. “They intend to find a way to open the rift again and have been searching for victims that can help them do this. Apparently, when they siphon energy from a being, they absorb some of their knowledge in the same manner that I gained knowledge about their world.” She again looked around the room and met everyone’s eyes but Jack’s. These were good people and she had come to respect each of them for their willingness to sacrifice and to save. These were people she would trust with her life. These were people she was going to have to betray soon and the lying would have to start now. “Our plan is for me to go back to the park where we found them before and let them try to siphon from me again. If we can’t find them there, we will wait for sightings or reports and I will travel to that location and let one or both of them inhabit me again. I will let them know about the Hub and what we have built here. While I am inhabited, Jack will determine the correct frequency to set the machine to while they are reading those thoughts from my mind.” Her eyes went back to Jack’s and locked onto his. “When they get here, Jack will lure them into his body and carry them through the rift back into their own world.”

Jaws had dropped around the table at various points in Aria’s explanation and now all eyes turned back to Jack. He smiled his most charming smile. “It is an ugly plan but it is the best one possible with the least amount of things that can go wrong.”

“Things that can go wrong?” Rhys stuttered. “You are talking about both of you being dead at the end of this great and glorious plan!”

“No,” Jack said slowly. “Just me. Aria is going to pull information from their minds while they inhabit her so that she can set the machine to their dimension. I am going to be standing by taking readings and will tazer her and get rid of those things as soon as I get a fix. Then we will lead them back here. While we are doing that, you are going to be completing the final power and networking connections here. We will lead them back here as indirectly as possible to try to give you more time while still making sure they don’t hurt anyone else. Aria will feed them a false image of how the final connections will be made so that they will be distracted with Tosh, Owen, and Rhys on the upper levels while Gwen and Ianto are making the real final adjustments down below. So when we get back here, you three will ensure they think that what you are working on up there is what they need to open the rift. You three will be on the primary level at Tosh’s equipment which we have disconnected from everything except a standalone server. While you are keeping them busy up there, Aria will help Gwen with the final adjustments to the ripper from the secondary console below and Ianto will ensure we haven’t missed any connections to the equipment on the main framework once Gwen makes the initial connections and starts feeding in power. When all that is done Gwen and Aria will give the signal, I will lure them to me up on that platform and with luck, they will both come up to me at the same time. Once I am certain I have them both, Gwen and Aria will throw the switch, the rift will open, I will carry them through though, you will close the rift behind me. Then you will make certain that that particular setting on the machine is never used again.” He again clapped his hands together loudly and looked enthusiastically around the table. “So that’s it. Any questions?’ None? Okay, let’s get moving!”

No one moved.

Aria finally looked somberly around the table and then back to Jack. “I will wait for you in the SUV. You will want to say good bye now.” She slowly stood and walked out of the room. She gently closed the door behind her with a small click.

“Is this how you nut cases always work?” Rhys finally asked. “It’s no wonder Gwen is always getting shot.”

Owen turned to Rhys in disbelief. “Now wait a minute mate-“ he began but Tosh kicked him in the leg… really hard.

All attention turned back to Jack. He smiled warmly at Rhys. “Yes, I am afraid we wing it like this most of the time. And most of the time,” he said with a tilt of his head, “it works out.” His smile tried to spread to his eyes but it didn’t quite work. “You really aren’t catching us at our best with this one though.”

“You can say that again,” Owen grumbled as he lowered his head to look down at his hands.

Jack circled the table to stand behind Tosh. He put his hand on her shoulder and she sobbed. He took her hand and guided her to her feet. He encircled her in a warm embrace and whispered in her ear so that only she could hear. “You are one of the most beautiful women I have known in my nearly two hundred years of life and carousing. Your genius makes you glow like the sun at that brilliant, explosive moment that it hits the horizon. Don’t you dare change yourself to get a guy that doesn’t appreciate that about you. Find a man that will see that radiance and worship you for it.” He kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her close to him. He slowly stood back and he put his hands on her arms. He kissed her forehead and then turned to Owen.

Owen still sat looking at his hands on the table. Jack kicked his chair and Owen stood slowly and then turned to face him. “I still haven’t paid you back for shooting me,” Jack joked.

Owen’s lips tightened into a fine line. “I still haven’t paid you back for bringing me back to life,” he said in the same jabbing tone. Jack smiled broadly and, eventually, so did Owen. The two men embraced awkwardly and then Owen pulled away and rushed to leave the room.

Jack paused in thought for a moment before turning to Ianto. Ianto was apparently studying a crack in the table but everyone left in the room could sense his inner storm. Jack touched his arm and Ianto was immediately in Jack’s arms. Tears flowed down his face and a small gasp escaped his chest when Jack put his own arms around Ianto. They held each other for a long time. Jack grasped the sides of Ianto’s head and gave him a warm, very passionate kiss. Rhys stood up as quietly as he could and signaled with his head to Gwen that they should leave. He wanted to leave these two alone to say their goodbyes. She was half way to her feet when Ianto abruptly broke away from Jack and ran from the room.

Jack looked like he would run after Ianto for a moment and then dropped his arms limply to his sides. He had other places to be tonight no matter what other people or places called to him. He slowly turned and seemed surprised to notice that Gwen and Rhys were still in the room.

His smile turned up in a small grin as he came around the table to Rhys. He put out his hand to Rhys and waited for the big man to take his hand. Rhys reached out and roughly pulled Jack in for a bone crushing hug. Jack smiled affectionately and with mild amusement. “You take good care of our girl Rhys or I’ll come back to haunt you.” Rhys brusquely grabbed Jack’s arms and pushed away from him. He and Jack locked eyes for a long moment and then Rhys nodded his head. “It was good knowing you Jack,” he said hoarsely. He gently touched Gwen’s hand, and then left the room.

Gwen and Jack looked at each other for a long time. It was the first time they had really been alone since… since when? Since her wedding? No that had been the shape shifter. Gwen could not remember when she and Jack had last been really alone together. And she now knew they would never be alone again… ever. She rushed toward him and kissed him hard. He wrapped her in his arms and kissed her with all of the passion he had saved up for her during the year he had been imprisoned. It was a moment of bliss for them both, but it had a bitter aftertaste as they eventually came up for breath and reentered the real world. “I really did come back for you Gwen,” he whispered. “You-“ he choked on the pain growing in his throat. “You are-“ He shook his head, at a complete loss for words that would convey what he felt for her. “I love you Gwen Cooper,” he said hoarsely. “I love you with all of my heart and I will love you so long as I live.”

Gwen uttered a gasp of pain. “You are going to live for a long time on that other side aren’t you?” It came out as almost a challenge. “You will be on a planet of starving siphons and-“ now she was the one that couldn’t talk. The thought of what he was going to was too much to bear but she knew that there was no other way. She took a deep breath and nodded her head. She touched the side of his face to memorize every bit of it. She didn’t want to ever forget this look in his eyes, the way his hair fell, the tilt of his mouth. She wanted the time to memorize every part of him. But then he took a deep breath and nodded his head decisively.

“It’s time to go,” he whispered as he too cupped the side of her face in his hand. She closed her eyes and lay her head in his hand. Why had she played games with him? Why hadn’t she just taken him when she’d had the chance? Why – why so many things that she would never get answers to now.

She looked up at him again and leaned in for a last kiss. It was soft and tender and she knew she would never forget the feel of it. “I love you Jack,” she said softly when they parted. She looked up in his eyes and saw the thrill her words had created. They both smiled and then became sad. So much so late. What a pity.

Jack smiled and took her hand. He walked her to the doors and down to the garage. The team was there. He put Gwen’s hand into Rhys’ and hopped into the SUV beside a very distant and somber Aria. As he closed the door he yelled back “we will be back in a couple of hours with the baddies. You need to be ready. We’ll radio when we are on our way in.” He slammed the door and the SUV tore off into the night.

CHAPTER 18

When they got to the park, Aria and Jack walked hand in hand out onto field. Both of them were trying to stretch out these last moments because they knew that once Aria began trying to pull the siphons in, there would not be any moments free to think twice about any of this. They would truly be committed to this awful course of action and that if they hesitated for any reason or stopped to think twice, more people would die and that they would have lost their chance to rid the planet of these creatures.

Finally, they stopped and turned toward each other. They held each other’s hands but could not look up at the other. The time had come and the die had been cast. Aria finally forced herself to look up at Jack and could not help but smile as she examined him. His features were so boyish and playful, even in this intensely heartbreaking moment. She could feel his love and she could feel her intense connection to him like a lifeline. She had never thought that anyone could touch her like this, and this unlikely man had made her feel so much in such a short time… She would have loved to have lived a few more years with this man. Would have loved to have lived a lifetime with him. She would have loved to have made dozens of babies with him and watch them each grow into men and women with his eyes, chin, and smirk. She felt her breath leave her lungs in a spasm. She would not have those things now. But she had this moment and she wanted to remember it well.

She moved toward him and took his face in her hands. She turned his head to face her and she moved in to kiss him. They melted into each other in a kiss that would have to last them that immortal lifetime that they would not share now. Aria felt the life inside of her shift and her heart broke. She pulled back from Jack and knew he had felt it too.

There was nothing left to say. Anything else would be too much.

Aria turned and tried to control her breathing. She closed her eyes and released the energy within her. She was a Time Lord. She carried the energy of the time vortex within her. She carried the life of the TARDIS within her and could see and move within that fourth dimension. She was a force of nature that few beings in the universe would ever comprehend.

Jack watched her begin to glow from within and then he watched the energy begin to flow around her like a gentle eddy of golden light. He backed away from her and tore his eyes from the vision of his true love glowing with inner light. It was an image he would carry in his heart and which would give him the strength to walk through that tear in the rift and to endure every death on the other side. He glanced quickly at the baseline readings of Aria on his hand held sensor and then forced himself to watch the skies for the entities that had caused so much sorrow in the Welsh countryside. He didn’t have long to wait.

They flew in at an alarming speed and dove into Aria like starving arrows. She flinched and her breathing became erratic. The golden glow that flowed around her began to stutter and falter. He again resisted the urge to run to her and kept his distance and made sure the unit in his hand was recording the information they needed to configure the ripper to the siphon’s universe. He also had to give her enough time to communicate the Hub location and the ripper’s function to the siphons as well as their jots of disinformation to distract and trick the siphons into travelling to the Hub. If he jumped the gun and interrupted either of those processes, they would have to do all of this again and Jack was determined to keep Aria from being exposed to these creatures for any longer than necessary.

Finally one of the siphons jerked free of her and flew in the general direction of the Hub. That meant that she had communicated that information to them. Now he had to wait for her and his hand held sensor to get the information she needed from them so that she would be able to open the rift. Sweat poured down her face in rivers and the radiant energy had been completely dispelled. He felt sweat pouring down his own back and face but refused to flinch. He had to watch for any sign that she was done. He could not even afford to blink in case he missed it.

When he was beginning to think he couldn’t stand it anymore he saw her eyes shift toward him with an infinitesimal nod of her head. He jammed the tazer into her side and she screamed.

It wasn’t just a yell of pain either, her scream ran shivers up his spine. The second entity flew out of her and followed the general direction of the first. He caught her as she fell and cradled her in his arms. She was only barely conscious. His tears fell onto her face and her eyes opened. She found his and she gave him a faint smile. “Got it,” she whispered. “Let’s get back.”

He laughed in spite of himself and swept her into his arms. She snuggled into him and thrilled at the feel of his warmth and the beat of his heart. She concentrated on his breathing and her forehead against his neck. It was a final moment of peace before… before everything was about to end.


Jack warned the others that the siphons were on their way and that the two of them were on their way back. Aria lay still as death in the passenger seat and he held her hand to reassure himself that she was still alive. He spoke to her non-stop on their drive back to keep her connected with this world and with him. He told her things he had never spoken of to anyone. He told her about his family and about his lost brother. He told her about his time in the Time Agency and about some of his more harrowing adventures. Throughout it all, he told her over and over that he loved her and that things would be all right. He didn’t have any idea what he was saying but he was talking with Aria and that made everything all right.

When they tore into the garage, they both instinctively knew that the siphons were already there and that there was no time to waste. Aria seemed to draw on some reserve strength and the two of them ran into the Hub.

It was chaos.

The siphons were occupied above with Rhys, Owen, and Tosh just as Aria had told them to. The three were firing tazer shots at the beings and occasionally at each other and keeping the creatures at bay while Tosh occasionally ran meaningless diagnostics on the computer to simulate activity. Gwen and Ianto were struggling with some equipment on the lower level. Jack ran to help them with the final connections and Aria ran to the table lined with keyboards and dials and began entering data as fast as her fingers would permit.

The final power connections and Aria’s data entries all finished at about the same time. The team knew that with these final connections, alarms all over Wales were now ringing to indicate that grids had been interrupted and that power lines were being tapped. As with the rest of the plan, they had one shot at this. There was no time for second thoughts or going back.

Gwen rushed over to Aria while the men ran to the far wall for one more connection and to flip the switches that would begin to build power for the ripper. She shot a few tazer shots at the beings to confuse them and keep them away from the others. Aria turned away from the console after giving the settings a last glance. “Gwen, I need you to help me. You are the only one I trust to help me with this and you have to trust me. I know you aren’t going to like this and no matter what Jack says later, this is my choice. It is the only choice. Do you understand?” Gwen continued to fire the tazer shots and nodded distractedly. “You are going to help me rip the rift and then I will jump through not Jack.” Gwen’s head jerked involuntarily toward Aria as these new instructions hit her brain. “Yes Gwen, I am going to be the one carrying those things through so I will need you to hit this switch when I signal you.” Gwen didn’t see or hear anything that Aria was showing her. She stared at Aria in shock. Then she realized in some calm portion of her mind that even though Aria had proposed the plan and agreed to all the modifications Jack had insisted on, she had never meant for Jack to be the one to carry it out. She had intended to be the one who would walk through that tear in the rift from the very beginning.

Gwen’s head began to swing back and forth in a slow panic but Aria took Gwen’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. Aria’s composure helped Gwen focus on the problem at hand. “Gwen, what would happen if Jack went through that rift with those things?” Gwen’s eyes involuntarily wandered to Jack where he was alternately working on the power console and shooting upward to keep the siphons in check. Her heart ached. “Yes,” Aria finished for her. “He would not ever truly die. He would live through a thousand deaths a day with no reprieves in between. A planet’s worth of siphons would cue up to feed on him day and night. I suspect it would take him centuries to die if he ever did and I refuse to consign him to that kind of eternity.” Aria touched Gwen’s face and turned it back to face her. “I cannot let that happen. I am not immortal. I can just choose not to regenerate and it will all be over in one quick blink. And don’t,” Aria interrupted Gwen’s next thought as though she had read her mind “think that you or any of your team can do this because the minute those siphons touched you, you would be on the floor and unable to move.” She smiled wanly. “It has to be me. None of you would live long enough to enter the rift.” Gwen continued to stare in horror as the details of what Aria was planning continued to play out in her mind. She shook her head in denial and Aria grabbed her shoulders and spoke to her in a stern and inarguable tone. “Gwen, stay with me here. This is the only way to get rid of these two siphons and to keep them from tearing the rift open to let the rest of their people through into this world. If you have any other plan, I am more than ready to hear it. I really don’t want to die Gwen but I find this is an easy decision if I can save your world and Jack.”

Gwen’s shaking head began to slow but it did not stop. She said nothing though. This had been Aria’s plan from the beginning and she had known that Jack would never go along with it. Gwen began to shake her head again in a near panic. She couldn’t be responsible for this. She didn’t want to be the one to make this decision. She would never be able to face Jack!

Aria’s cool gaze continued to bore into Gwen’s heart. Aria was fully aware, perhaps more so than anyone else in the room, what these siphons were and what they could do to this world. She also had worked through how to ensure they would never be able to do this again. Unfortunately, it required a sacrifice. Gwen stared into Aria’s eyes and tears blurred her vision. This alien was offering her life, her nearly immortal life, for Earth’s survival. Gwen began to mutely nod her agreement but still could not manage to say anything.

“Fine,” Aria said decisively. “I will attract the siphons, jump through and then not regenerate on the other side. Easy. You will need to crack the rift when I have control of both of the siphons and then I need you to seal it behind me after I jump through.” Gwen’s shaking head froze now and the tears that had been collecting began to leak from her eyes. Aria smiled ruefully. “This is just as well,” she said quietly. “I don’t belong in this universe anyway and I think I was breaking poor Ianto’s heart.” Gwen gasped and Aria smiled broadly.

“Take care of him for me? Please promise me?” Aria begged Gwen before she left. “Please watch over him? I think you are the only one that can truly touch his heart.” Aria looked away for a moment and could not meet Gwen’s eye. “He is not going to take this well. In fact, I can guarantee he is going to take this exceptionally badly, but this is how it has to be. I can’t explain why, but he will be angrier and more desperate than he will ever have been before. Please tell him I love him and that I am sorry.” Aria’s face dropped and she looked infinitely sad. “He won’t ever understand my decision, but I need him to know I love him… and that his love was a gift I never expected.”

Gwen grasped Aria tightly and hugged her close. The other woman hugged her back and then quickly pushed Gwen away. “We have to do this now. Watch for my signal and please don’t let me down. I don’t know how long I will be able to control them so please act quickly.”

That said, Aria stood quickly and ran toward the lower level of the Hub. In the time that the two women had been talking, Jack had been knocked off of the upper level ramp and was laying unconscious in the drainage channel. Ianto was chasing one of the siphons with an electro-rifle and Tosh and Owen were working on alternately getting control of the computers again and fighting off the second siphon with the hand held tazers. Looking at the Hub dais though, it looked like the siphons were tapping the computer more efficiently than Tosh could block them. It wouldn’t take them long now to figure out they had been tricked. Then they would work all that much harder to take one of the humans so they could find out how the ripper really worked.

Aria ran down the stairs while Gwen struggled to stay calm and flip the final switches that ran power to the ripper. Tosh’s progress would be totally confounded now and it appeared that her efforts to keep the siphons away from the essential equipment was working like a charm. Gwen would make the final connections from her position and then, when Aria was ready, she would throw the switch.

When Aria reached the lowest level, she walked deliberately toward Jack as he was rising from the floor to finish his preparations to go into the rift. He had just taken off his jacket to start climbing the scaffolding when he heard her approaching. He turned and a small smile spread across his lips. He obviously thought she was coming to say a final goodbye. Something in the way she was bearing down on him and the grim look on her face made him instinctively pause.

Then the gun was pointed at him and firing. She continued toward him and caught him as he fell. She had shot him twice in the heart. It was a quick kill, but would give her the few seconds she needed to say goodbye and beg forgiveness.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered into his ear as his head fell onto her shoulder. She braced him up as she held him close and began lowering him to the floor. She talked to him the entire time to tell him everything she needed to tell him. His head was shaking and he was whispering “no” to her over and over again. “I’m sorry my love,” she said again quickly. “But you knew in your soul that it had to be me. Not only are we talking only one death versus thousands, I could not live knowing you were dying every day. I am being selfish and I expect you to hate me for this but I will be with you forever my love. Forever.”

She had now lowered him to the floor and she cradled him against her. His breathing was slowing and becoming labored. She held him close to her chest like a child and kissed him over and over. She kissed him passionately and tenderly. She could see the look of betrayal in his eyes. “I love you Jack Harkness or whatever your real name is. I have never loved anyone before and I guess I will never love again. For an immortal, that is all I can give.” She kissed him again and then lowered his head to her lap. She gently stroked his hair and her tears washed across his face and blended with the tears falling from his eyes and she felt the life within her shift as though knowing that this was their family’s final moment together… her family. “Don’t leave me,” he whispered as his last breath left his body. She cradled him as he died. She bowed her head and struggled to control her own heart and keep it from breaking.

She put his jacket under his head as she gently lowered it to the floor. Then she deliberately stood and signaled to Gwen. She turned off her emotions and focused on the plan at hand. Gwen nodded and started to work setting the machine to the settings that Aria had showed her.

Aria roughly wiped her face and turned to run toward the scaffolding. She climbed like a monkey and made quick progress up the awkward scaffolding. “Ianto!” she shouted as she continued climbing. “Protect Gwen and Jack. They need you.” She was happy to see him nod and start to make some slow progress over to where Jack was starting to regain consciousness. Ianto would protect them. The man was nothing if not painfully efficient and protective of his companions.

She continued climbing and saw that she would probably have some trouble at the top. There were no hand holds and she would have to hang out over the floor for a few moments completely exposed. She worked her way up and then stretched her arm out and reached around on the platform. She couldn’t see anything on the flat portion of the platform and couldn’t tell if there was anything to grab on to. As she inched her way around the structure she fussed at herself about how poorly designed this portion of the structure was. She smiled in spite of her situation at this thought and continued working her way around the edge. She finally found a spot on the framework that had an extra reinforcement bar. She awkwardly stretched her legs up and leveraged herself onto the platform. It had not been graceful, but she was up. This had taken a lot of time though and she looked around the room to see what was going on around her.

She glanced down at Gwen and gave her the thumbs up and Gwen reluctantly returned it. She ran to the flip the final connections that would provide power and network to the ripper. Aria was mirroring her actions by making power and data connections on top of the scaffolding along with some final critical adjustments based upon her time with the siphon in the park. These were the final connections that they had left undone in order to confuse the siphons. This was going to be tricky, but she was certain she could manage it. She tried hard not to think about what the results of this would be because in the time it had taken Aria to climb the scaffolding, she had still not been able to think of any other way to do this. For some reason, she had thought that in the final moments, inspiration would take hold and she would be able to get rid of the siphons and somehow stay on this side. No inspiration was coming though so the two women worked quickly and tried not to think about why they were working. It was the only way they were going to be able to finish this.

Aria shouted down again, “All set here.”

Gwen shouted back, “all ready here. Engaging power.”

She tapped out the final codes and felt her hackles rising as the opposing charges began to tickle the rift and everything around them.

“NO!” Jack screamed as he fully regained consciousness. Gwen glanced toward him and could see the look of horror and betrayal on his face. He was still too weak to stand but he was making a valiant effort. Ianto was trying hard to keep him down as well. Gwen saw tears streaming down Ianto’s face and she knew she looked much the same: determined, but with a part of themselves dying with Aria. Gwen felt her face go hot and then looked quickly back to her console. She had to do this. Aria was committed and Gwen was the only one who could help. If she faltered now, Aria might die anyway and the two siphons would still be loose in this world. And if the worst happened, the Earth would be overrun with these things. Aria was right. It had to be now. It had to happen this way. There was no other way. She watched her gauges and then typed in the next set of codes.

Aria stood defiantly on the top of the platform and spread her arms out. She took a deep breath and began to concentrate on the time vortex energy that lived within her. The vortex energy that was the core of who she was. The vortex energy that was the heart of every Time Lord. She thought about Jack, about the life they would have – could have had together. Children everywhere. A fulfilling life in Torchwood where they could both continue to protect the innocent as she had sworn to do when she had entered the Security Services Corps. Children everywhere. She almost lost her composure at this thought but forced herself to continue. She had to succeed. She had to eliminate this threat so this world, this wonderfully childlike world, could continue to grow and mature. She would save this world. A vibrant, golden mist began to emanate from her and began to swirl around her. Gwen watched in fascination as the hazy light that she had seen in Jack’s room again swirled around Aria. Although Gwen didn’t see it, Owen, Tosh, and Rhys, who had all been struggling to fight off the two siphons, saw the siphons suddenly freeze in midair. The two monsters then turned toward Aria and sped toward her like bullets shot from a gun. They reached her in seconds. She opened her eyes in time to see siphons swinging toward her as they drank in her resolve and her thirst for life.

Aria flinched when the first one entered her and then her face became pained when the second entered. Gwen instinctively started toward Aria and then remembered her responsibility, her promise. As Gwen turned back toward the computers to tear open the rift, she heard Jack scream again. This time his voice was higher and filled with panic. She chanced a glance over her shoulder and saw that he was trying to climb up the rigging. Owen was behind him now trying to pull him back down but Ianto had started climbing the scaffolding as well. She had to work quickly or one of these men would find a way to fall through the rift with Aria and while Aria would succeed in taking the siphons out of this universe, anyone who went with her would be an empty sacrifice. She had to work faster.

Gwen watched the energy readings spike and slammed her hand decisively down onto the button that would seal Aria’s fate. She swung around to look up to the top of the scaffolding and saw Aria standing, just barely, and working her way toward the edge. Her head tilted briefly in Gwen’s direction and she saw a small smile on Aria’s face that she knew was meant to reassure her. It didn’t. Her stomach lurched at Jack’s agonized screams and the thought of what she was helping Aria do.

As Aria’s eyes were sliding back toward the rift, she looked into Jack’s eyes. He was making a determined effort to charge up the scaffolding. He was gasping for breath. They watched each other for only a heartbeat but it felt like minutes to them. So much was communicated in that look but, in the end, it was only a look. In a single motion, Aria turned back toward the rift and jumped into it.

The entire Hub rang with the echoes of Jack’s screams. Gwen slammed her hand down on the power button again and the room went entirely dark. Three quarters of Wales went dark. The siphons were gone.  The rift was sealed and it would never open onto that world again.

Jack’s screams could be heard in the streets above the Hub.


As soon as Aria disappeared, Gwen spun the dials as Aria had instructed her to do before Jack could get to the console. The micrometer adjustments and timing necessary to open the rift to the siphon's world would never be repeated. Human senses were incapable of making the combination of adjustments necessary to attune the ripper to the proper rift location.

Jack roared with fury when he realized she had done this and he started screaming for her to reset it back the way it was. Gwen was in tears beneath the vehemence of his attack and she retreated beyond the machine knowing that she had kept her promise and helped Aria carry out her plan. She also knew that no matter what happened next, Jack would never forgive her for the part she had played in this. Though Aria had insisted that Gwen was the only one Jack trusted, Aria’s final actions had ensured that Jack would never trust her again. She put her face in her hands and cried.

It took Ianto, Owen, and Rhys all of their strength to keep Jack from hurting himself or anyone else in the room. They finally locked him in a cell in the lower levels and took turns watching him. He was like an animal. He didn’t speak. He only screamed and cried and snarled at whoever was outside the glass. It was awful.

Finally though, days later, he seemed to have calmed enough for them to let him out. When they opened the door, he didn’t look at them or say a word. He went straight to his office and shut the door behind him. The team all looked at each other helplessly and then continued their round the clock shifts to watch for when he emerged from his new cell. This time there were no bloodcurdling howls, but the silence was almost more unnerving in that they now had absolutely no idea what Jack was up to.

CHAPTER 19

Gwen finally forced her way into Jack’s office. It had been days since he had been seen as far as any of them could tell. They had been rotating shifts so that someone could be there when he finally emerged, but he hadn’t and they were worried. Gwen had volunteered to go and the others knew that she was the logical choice.

The room was dark and almost hazy. It reeked of alcohol and filth and it looked like Jack had lost control a bit and thrown every object in the room at least once. Broken pieces of his office lay scattered everywhere and she saw holes in the walls where something had been repeatedly banged against it.

She scanned the room and finally found him in the gloom sitting slumped at his desk with a bottle of something in one hand and a large knife in the other. From the dried blood on the blade and handle of the evil looking knife as well as the scatter on the floor and around the desk, it was evident that he had been unsuccessful at ending his own misery. Her heart ached to reach out to him but she knew that was not what he needed. She sat down in a chair opposite him and looked him over silently.

His eyes were red and swollen. His hair disheveled and matted with blood and who knew what else. His normally neat and orderly clothing was haphazard and, in some places, slashed to ribbons. His hands were covered in dried blood and skin as though he had been hitting cinder block for days without end. They sat like that for a long time while Gwen just watched him and he didn’t acknowledge anything in the world. Finally, she felt that she should speak.

“She did it so you wouldn’t,” Gwen finally said and her voice felt unnaturally loud in the eerie room. “She knew that if you had gone through you would have survived every death and they would have feasted on you for eternity.” She paused to see if this would have any effect but there had been no flicker of motion or thought that she could see. “She can only die a few times and she said that was better,” she finished quietly. Aria had not said this, but Gwen had known that this was what the woman had been thinking. Although she missed Aria terribly and acknowledged that the woman had been the last woman of her race, she consoled herself with the thought that Aria had been the only one that could have done what needed to be done. Without her sacrifice, the Earth, and possibly even other planets, would have been stripped bare.

“No,” he said finally, still without acknowledging that she was even there. His voice was hoarse and quiet from disuse. “She would only have died once.” Tears flowed freely down his face though he did not move. After a long time he finally was able to croak “Gallifreyans cannot regenerate when they- when-“ a sob audibly escaped as he gasped for breath “when they are pregnant. The regeneration process is too dangerous to-“ He choked and could not continue. A moan escaped from somewhere deep in his chest and he could not continue.

Gwen gasped as realization struck and he flinched as though he had not known she was there. His head jerked up to see all the color drain from her face. He swallowed hard and the tears increased. “The baby though might have been mature enough to regenerate several times to try to save itself. It would have died in torment and never known why.” His eyes turned back to stare at a spot on the floor that she knew he couldn’t see. “They are both long dead by now though so there is no point in really harping on it is there.”

Gwen covered her face with her hands and began to cry but Jack didn’t see. He felt it would be a long time before he would see or care about anything in the world again. All he could hear right now was Aria’s voice. All he could see right now was her face in the dim light as they lay together. All he could feel below his hands was the movement of his unborn child squirming in Aria’s belly. “She said it was a boy and that he liked my singing.” He laughed as the tears began to stream down his face again. “Somehow, she was able to communicate with him and could tell when he was happy. He was so happy.”

He threw the bottle angrily across the room and the satisfying shattering sound seemed to calm him for a moment. “I can’t even escape the memory of her much less this life,” he sniggered nastily. “My body keeps me perfectly healthy and perfectly sober no matter what I put in it! I can’t get drunk, I can’t dope up with drugs, I can’t kill myself,” he droned on. “I have no choice but to remember them. This damn curse won’t let me escape them no matter what I do.” He sobbed and tears again began to trail down his face.

For what must have been hours, they sat there crying across from each other. He had slumped back into his stupor and she could only sit there in horror. She had never imagined. What had she done?

EPILOGUE

About five months after Aria’s death, Jack was back at work. He was not quite as bouncy in his step as he had been but he was working hard and focusing on the rift cases. The team watched him closely to make sure he stayed as busy as possible. The less time he had alone and to think the better he was.

One day a man arrived at the door of the tourist agency while Tosh was spelling Ianto for a bit. The man was tall and thin and exuded a confidence and warmth that she appreciated immediately though which she did not quite trust at first. When she asked the man his name and how she could help the man said he was there to see Jack and to tell Jack that his Doctor was making a house call.

In their line of work, nothing was too unusual so Tosh complied. Jack was up in the reception area before she could complete her announcement.

“I was right. You are different,” the man said immediately with a huge grin when he saw Jack appear at the top of the stairs. “How did you do it? You've changed. They don’t look so… wrong anymore.”

Jack took a quick, deep breath and walked forward to put his hands on the young Doctor’s shoulders. “We need to talk but we need to talk in private. Come down to my office.”

“I really need to be going,” the Doctor began. “The TARDIS is-“

“You REALLY need to hear what has happened here,” Jack repeated with urgency. The Doctor looked into Jack’s eyes and his head tilted in curiosity and confusion. “All right,” he agreed jovially. “This promises to be good.”

“Not as good at you think,” Jack said as he ushered the man down the stairwell to the core. Tosh watched the two men depart down the stairs and wondered who that man could have been. Once again, Jack’s mysterious past had reared its head and no new information had been forthcoming. Why did she even try? Maybe the guys downstairs would get some new insights and they could compare notes later. She took some comfort in that and went back to work.


“You are sure she was from Gallifrey?”

“Yes. Her physiology was identical to yours.”

“I don’t know why I hadn’t really thought of that… That Gallifrey in other universes would still be the same as they had always been.”

“She had spoken about a war but didn’t elaborate. She did describe it as ‘a time war of sorts,’ but it didn’t sound like the time war your people experienced. It felt more conventional from her references.” Jack paused and changed subjects abruptly. “She was a law enforcement officer for the Time Lords and was chasing her universe’s ‘Doctor’ to recover him and take him to trial.”

The Doctor turned back to Jack with a bemused look on his face. “Really! I wonder what I did?”

“Apparently, your counterpart is pretty much the equivalent of what the Master was here. I asked her for details once, but she wouldn’t tell me. She took her responsibilities as an officer quite seriously even though she knew she would never get back to her universe or her TARDIS.”

“Do you have a picture of her? You said her name was Aria? I don’t think I remember any Aria’s from my planet.”

Jack turned his computer around to show the Doctor a picture of a lovely young woman with a wistful smile. Jack had taken the picture after a lovely dinner and evening walk. Her hair was slightly windblown and her cheeks were pink from the cold but her eyes gleamed in this picture and she was full of love for the man she was looking at. Jack treasured this image and looked at it often.

The Doctor bent over the computer and studied the image. Jack saw his breathing speed up and then eventually slow down. He didn’t interrupt the man’s examination because it was the first chance he’d had to talk to someone about Aria without having to worry about what he said. She had entrusted so many secrets to him, and he was now with the only person in this universe that he could not only share them with but with the only other person who would understand those secrets.

“She was lovely. I wish I could have met her,” the Doctor finally said quietly and a bit hoarsely. “What was she like?”

Jack physically backed up a step and looked away. The Doctor deserved to know but Jack’s wounds were still so raw. Now that the Doctor had asked the one question he had been hoping for, he didn’t think he could talk about her through the lump in his throat.

“She was life and happiness and wisdom,” Jack said quickly while looking at her picture. “She was a good woman. She was stronger than I was and loved jumping into any danger or challenge feet first.” Tears blurred Aria’s image and Jack struggled to continue. “She criticized me much more than you ever have about how I treat non-humans. She was about your age, she estimated somewhere in her mid 900's using our time measurements.” He smiled. “She said she didn’t want to figure her age out exactly because it would mean admitting how old she was.” Jack closed his eyes and could not continue.

The men stayed in these positions for a long time while they both collected their own scattered thoughts about this woman that shouldn’t have existed.

“You two were involved?” the Doctor finally asked.

Jack didn’t answer for a long time. He was struggling to control his emotions and gather the strength to continue. There was so much he needed to tell the Doctor about Aria but he was having much more trouble with this than he had anticipated.

“Yes,” he finally croaked. “She was-“

He couldn’t take it anymore. He sat down on the floor where he was and wept. The Doctor slowly moved to his side and sat on the floor next to him. His own emotions were somber and full of remorse. For a few months, he had not been the last Time Lord in this universe. There had been another of his kind within easy reach and in safe hands. She had fallen through the rift. Could it happen again? Could he fall through in the other direction? Should he? There had been another Time Lord. Another Time Lord.

“We were together,” Jack was finally able to blurt out. “She was everything. We were going to have a child.”

The Doctor flinched as if someone had struck him and he stared at Jack in horror.

“She was pregnant and you let her enter the rift?” he shouted at Jack.

Jack lost all composure and tearfully explained what had happened. It took a long time to explain because he had to stop so often when he couldn’t breathe. As Jack worked his way through the explanation, the Doctor relaxed and sagged. He understood more than Jack what had been lost when Aria jumped through the rift. The fact that Jack’s energy field looked so different now than it had before meant that Aria had been expending her own inner energy to give Jack’s odd energy emanations balance and make his energy signature more Gallifreyan than it had been. The energy that Jack emitted now was much calmer, much more in synch with the universe around him than it had been before. She could not give him back his mortality, but she could meld her energy with his and give him balance. This type of energy exchange would have been extremely personal and would have required total commitment and giving on Aria’s part. It would have been an act of great love. For his part, Jack’s feelings for her were all too evident. All of the cocky swagger was gone and all he saw was a man that had lost his soul. Although he wanted to hate Jack right now with all of his hearts and soul, The Doctor could not remain angry. He may have lost the chance to meet another of his race, to know he was no longer truly alone, but Jack had lost much more of himself when Aria had stepped through the rift and the Doctor only hoped that Jack would find himself again for Aria’s sake. Gone was the flirtatiousness and the arrogant strut. All that was left was the sad shell of a man. The Doctor felt certain that it would be disrespectful on his part if he let Jack destroy himself in misery when Aria had sacrificed so much to save this world and this man in particular.

“It was her decision,” The Doctor finally said to Jack. They had been sitting there for hours but neither wanted to leave just yet. “She obviously loved you and this planet enough to sacrifice-“ The Doctor stumbled, “sacrifice her child like that.” He had the horrific thought that the child might have been mature enough to regenerate as its mother died. “She must have been an amazing woman,” he whispered hoarsely. It was an understatement but it was all he could think of right now. It would take him time to come to grips with what he had missed here. What he had lost here.

For about two days the men sat on that floor. Although they did talk about Aria and Gallifrey and all that had happened, they spent most of the time in isolated silence as each contemplated either what had just been said or what had been lost. Eventually though, both knew it was time to part again. Although both men still bore the gaping wounds from this loss, the sharing of the knowledge and the pain was a balm for them both. They embraced at the door of Jack’s office and held each other close for a long time. Then they parted roughly, opened the door, and both went their separate ways. The Doctor headed up the stairs and out of the core and Jack went down to the holding pens. Owen watched in confusion as the two men walked through the room without a word or acknoledgement. They would never know what had happened in that room and they would never know any more about Aria. He shrugged and got back to work. There were people to save and monsters to catch.

Completed 1 January 2009

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Site created 1 January 2009