Authors: the9thdoctor and leofuller
Spoilers: None really, set early in S2.
Summary: Nobody has seen or heard from Torchwood Four for more than twenty years, until a message arrives in Cardiff…
(We also thought that this was going to be short. We were wrong.)
Patrick made four mugs of coffee and took them, two in each hand, into Siobhan’s office for the 10 o’clock meeting, as he did every Wednesday if the wormhole was behaving and there was no planet-threatening alien activity going on.
“Good morning, Siobhan, Kate.”
“Morning, Patrick. Good night last night?” Siobhan looked up at her assistant as he dumped the coffees on her desk.
“Not bad. Met a couple of girls.” Patrick gave Kate a dirty wink, which she ignored as usual.
“Is Andy in yet?” Siobhan asked.
Kate nodded. “I don’t think he went home last night. Do you want me to remind him that it’s Wednesday?”
“If you could... I think he's downstairs, so, you know, walk loudly or something. Don't want to surprise him.”
Kate stood up and wandered out of the office, glad to be provided with an excuse to not have to drink Patrick's coffee. If she took her time, it would be stone cold when she came back with Andy.
Finding Andy was, as usual, remarkably easy - Andy was lying on a ratty sofa in an out of the way corner, reading 'The Lord of The Rings' out loud to Meredith and a small group of pot plants.
Kate shook her head, and knocked loudly on the doorframe.
“Huh? What?” Andy shot bolt upright, tipping the empty mug that had been resting on his generous stomach to the floor and frightening Meredith who ran under the sofa.
“It's Wednesday...” Kate gently reminded him. “I bought crumpets...”
“Wednesday?” Andy looked confused.
“Yes. We’re about to start the 10 o’clock meeting. Come on.”
Andy hauled himself to his feet and ambled after the team’s doctor as she returned to Siobhan’s office.
“Right.” With her team finally assembled, Siobhan passed out some typed pages. “As you know, the Wormhole is due to shift in May, and we’re expecting it to reconnect somewhere in the north of England. Andy, I need you to have a look at these figures and try to pinpoint the location more exactly, please. Patrick’s dealing with the packing down at this end, so that when we know where we’re going to be next we can get the new base set up and ready to go. It’s going to be an odd couple of months, as we’re withdrawing from Belfast, so I need you to pull together so we can get ourselves established at the next contact point.”
There were mixed reactions from the team. They’d known the relocation was coming, after all Torchwood Four had been in Belfast for eight years now and that was about the maximum cycle on the wormhole. Andy wasn’t too bothered, Torchwood was his life and it didn’t really matter where they were, as everything he needed could be easily transported. Patrick was grumbling about the amount of work he had to do, but he was also looking forward to finding a new city and some new night life, lessening his chances of bumping into girls he’d already slept with.
Kate was particularly worried. “Siobhan, can I have a word?”
Siobhan glanced up from shuffling some paperwork. “Is now alright, or would you like a moment in private?”
Kate tried to ignore Patrick's dirty sniggering. “Ummm... In private please?”
“Sure. Right, the rest of you, off to work. Get going.” Patrick and Andy slouched off out of the office, Patrick pulling the door closed behind him with a leer.
“So, what's the problem?” asked Siobhan pleasantly, “everything okay?”
“Well... Uh, it's about this move. You know I've been seeing William for a while now...”
Kate took a deep breath, and Siobhan knew where this was heading. “It's just that he's asked me to move in with him, and he's not going to be pleased. He's right in the middle of an important case, and he's not going to be able to move. I mean, Newcastle is awfully far away, and we don't know how long we'll have to stay there...” Kate sighed.
Siobhan smile sympathetically. “I understand, it’s difficult when you’ve got a life outside Torchwood.” Kate tried hard not to let her face show that she very much doubted Siobhan had ever had a life outside Torchwood.
“Are you thinking of leaving Torchwood?”
Kate shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t want to, and you’d have to take away my memories, but I don’t want to leave William.”
Siobhan nodded. “Come with us when we move, for the first couple of months. Help us get set up, we need people who understand the Wormhole on the team for the transition. Then, if you still want to leave, we’ll recruit another medic locally, and send you home. What do you think?”
Kate smiled. “Yeah, I think that could work.”
Siobhan smiled. “Fantastic. Now, off with you, lots to do before we go.”
“Ow! Bollocks!” Owen gripped his hand under his armpit, “Fuck...”
Ianto sighed heavily. “What have I told you? Honestly Owen...” The Welshman bent to pick up the pieces of shattered coffee mug from the floor. “Seven years at University, and nobody ever told you that fresh coffee was hot?”
Owen grumbled loudly about sarcastic archivists and stuck his hand underneath the cold tap.
“Putting on a show, Ianto?” called Jack from the doorway. “Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but what has Owen done to deserve the honour?”
Ianto straightened up and threw the shards of pottery in the rubbish bin. “I don't know what you're looking so smug about sir, it was your mug.”
“And it's not an honour...” called Owen. “I have better things to do than ogle the tea-boy.”
“Well,” replied Jack pleasantly, “Why don't you go and do some of them, and leave me to ogle in peace?”
Owen shook his head. “Don't worry, I'm going...”
Still muttering under his breath, Owen was walking back across the hub towards the autopsy bay when there was a spark from the rift manipulator and something popped into existence in mid air. It was fairly small, about three feet away from Owen and still moving rapidly.
“What the hell was that?” Patrick came running out of the Archives. “Was that another bomb?”
The building had shaken violently, and things were scattered all over the office. Kate appeared in the doorway to the medical bay. “Everybody okay? Anybody hurt?”
Andy looked around and blinked slowly. “No, I don't think so...” he mumbled.
Siobhan ran out of her office. “Shit!” she yelled.
Everyone else turned to stare at her. She wasn't usually one for swearing. “Andy! Check the Wormhole, quick!”
Andy turned in his chair, back to his computer, tapping away at a few keys. “That's weird...” he muttered.
“What's weird?” demanded Patrick, “Don't say it's gone screwy, I've got a date tonight!”
“No, it's not... It's more like... Well. It's sort of gone.”
“The wormhole has 'sort of gone'?” broke in Kate. “What do you mean 'sort of'? Has it shifted ahead of schedule?”
“No... It's... Ah.” Andy tapped away some more, and ran a hand through his hair. “It's more like, WE'VE shifted. Maybe.”
“Explain, please.” said Patrick, leaning over Andy's shoulder.
Andy pointed at his monitor. “Look. There's the Wormhole. Still in Belfast, yeah?”
“And here's us. Still in Belfast.”
Kate raised an eyebrow, Siobhan caught the look on her face. “Andy...” she warned. “You're not making much sense.”
Andy sighed. “It's hard to explain. You know we were right on top of the Wormhole... I think we might have been swallowed by it. None of these readings are making sense. We're not right on top of it any more – more like it's right on top of us...”
“How is that possible?” Patrick asked.
“I don’t know.” Andy shook his head. “I really don’t know.”
Kate made a little noise, like a sob in the back of her throat, and ran to the door. She tugged at the handle.
“It’s stuck!” she shouted. “Help me!” Patrick followed her and added his weight to the door with no success.
“It won’t budge.”
“I think you should leave the door.” Siobhan said quietly, standing by the window. “I don’t think we want to go out there. Look.” she lifted the curtain. The others crowded round her, peering out into the inky blackness. A bright swirl of colour weaved across in front of them, a supersonic version of the Northern Lights. Andy swallowed loudly.
Kate sunk down the wall and slumped on the floor.
Patrick was the first to speak. “So, I'm guessing my date's off then.” he said. He sounded like he might be on the edge of hysteria.
Siobhan couldn't think of anything to say. If they were stuck in the wormhole, then there wasn't really much she could say without sounding patronising or depressing. Eventually she shook herself, UNIT training taking over.
“Right. Andy. You need to monitor those figures, let me know if you find anything. Patrick, go and see how much space we have to work with. I don't think I need to tell you to keep all the windows closed, and if a door doesn't want to open then don't force it. Kate... Can you make a list of our supplies?”
Kate blinked up at her. “Uh, yes. Of course...”
The team reconvened in two hours. Patrick had been through the building, and confirmed that none of the doors to the outside would open, but they had full use of all four floors. There were rooms on the top floor where the team used to get a few hours sleep during long missions, and Patrick had made up the beds.
“Just in case.” He added, seeing how pale and drawn Kate was looking. “I’m sure we’ll be out of here in no time.”
Kate had checked the food and medical supplies, and confirmed that she was fully stocked in the medical bay, and that they had enough food for at least a week, since Patrick had done his usual bulk shop earlier that week.
“Andy? What’s the situation?”
“We’re definitely in the Wormhole. The good news is that we’re still right at the edge, and we don’t seem to be moving any further in. I reckon that as soon as the Wormhole finishes the transition, we will be able to get out again. We might be in England, but we’ll get out.”
“The transition wasn’t supposed to start until May, though, and it never takes a building with it.” Kate’s voice shook.
“I’m sure Andy’s hypothesis is right.” Siobhan reassured her team. “And in the mean time, this is a fantastic opportunity to monitor the Wormhole from the inside.”
“There’s an angle we hadn’t considered.” Andy shut the door to Siobhan’s office behind him. Siobhan looked up from the print-outs she was reading.
“We have no idea if time in the Wormhole passes at the same rate as time outside. Just because transition is instant from our perspective, it doesn’t mean it’s instant from in here. We could be here for a long time.” They stared at one another in horror, until there was a knock on the door.
Patrick pushed his way in with two cups of instant coffee.
“It’s black, I’m afraid. We’re out of milk.”
When Owen opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Ianto bending over him, with a look of amused concern on his face. Owen scowled.
“Ok...” he groaned, sitting up, ignoring Ianto's hand. “Who threw what at me and why?”
Ianto coughed, and looked over at Jack who was leaning on a pillar. “Permission to answer that question frankly, sir?” he asked. Jack grinned and shook his head.
“Best not, eh?”
Owen peered around. “Seriously though, that bloody hurt. What was it?”
Ianto peered into the rift pool. “That.” he said, pointing at a small bottle bobbing in the water.
“But where did it come from?” asked Owen, joining him at the edge of the walkway and rubbing the back of his head.
“At a guess? The Rift.” said Jack, folding his arms.
“Yeah. Thanks for that, Captain Mysterious.” replied Owen sarcastically. “Can you give me an explanation that actually, you know, explains something?”
“That WAS the explanation.” said Ianto, rolling his eyes.
Owen shook his head. “I got brained by a bottle that emerges from nowhere, and that's the best he can come up with? Is it alien?”
“Only if aliens drink lemonade.” muttered Ianto, prodding the bottle with a handy stick. The Schweppes label was obvious as he manoeuvred it towards them.
“That looks like an old one.” Gwen remarked, coming over to see what was going on. “I remember those labels from when I was a kid.”
“It’s in pretty good condition for an old bottle.” Ianto picked it out of the water. “There’s something in it.”
“What, lemonade?” Owen groused.
“No. There’s a piece of paper in it. Message in a bottle.”
“Aliens are throwing out messages in bottles now?” asked Gwen, “What is it? A treasure map?”
“Do you think it's safe?” Ianto looked over at Jack, who shrugged.
“Not for Owen, apparently.”
“Ha bloody ha.”
“Should I open it?” asked Ianto, ignoring the doctor.
“Why not?” Jack took a few steps closer to the Welshman, “Someone goes to these lengths to get our attention, we should at least find out why...”
Ianto pulled the cork out of the bottle and thumped the end of the bottle, tipping the note into his palm. He glanced over at Owen, who tried not to look overly interested, and unrolled it.
Ianto cleared his throat. “Dear Owen...” he read, “Duck!”
“Oh, you think you're SO funny, don't you tea-boy?” Owen muttered as Jack and Gwen burst into fits of laughter. “Give it here...”
Ianto held the note out. Owen snatched it out of his hand and looked down at it, his forehead creasing in confusion as he reached the end. “This doesn't make any sense...”
19… okay, nobody’s entirely sure.
“So we could be here for years? For the rest of our lives?” Kate’s voice was getting higher.
“I’m sure it won’t come to that.” Siobhan did her best to sound reassuring. “People will be looking for us.”
“But…” Patrick stared at the rest of the team in horror. “I’m stuck here with you? Just you?”
Everybody else stared back.
Patrick slumped down in his chair and covered his face with his hands. He muttered something, the only audible words of which were “social life” and “women”.
“Well, we have to suffer too.” Kate said, softly enough that Patrick didn’t notice. “We have to drink your coffee.”
Siobhan crossed her arms and tried to look confident and in-charge. “We need a plan. First, Andy, you need to keep a close eye on those numbers. We're going to need to know EXACTLY what's going on. Anything you can find out will be a great help. Patrick, we'll have to start rationing what supplies we have, if you can deal with that for me...”
“What about me?” asked Kate, sipping her coffee and making a face.
“We'll have a look through the archives, see if anything like this has happened before, work out a few ideas on how to get out of this.” replied Siobhan, sighing. “I think we're going to have a rough time...”
That's it for part one. Comments?
Then onwards to Chapter 2