Characters: Jack, Suzie, Owen, Tosh, and introducing I.A.N.T.O.
Spoilers: Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. AU, set pre-Torchwood Season One.
Summary: Jack is thrilled to finally get his hands of a very impressive piece of tech developed by Torchwood One.
Word Count: 3486
Content Notes: None necessary.
Written For: Challenge 72 – Energy at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Jack rubbed his hands together gleefully as he stood in the underground garage, watching the large wooden crate being unloaded from the nondescript lorry and set onto a trolley to be wheeled into the Hub, along with a smaller box. Finally, after months of petitioning Torchwood One, he’d managed to get his hands on one of the androids they’d been developing for the past decade. It was about time too; if any branch of the Institute needed one it was Torchwood Three. With such a small team it was rare that any of their number could be spared for carrying out the mundane day-to-day tasks such as cleaning and filing. This would be just what they needed.
He happily signed the bottom of the form he was handed, then waved the deliverymen off, not bothering to so much as throw a bit of cheeky innuendo their way, even though they were both attractive enough to merit some serious flirting. As soon as they were gone and the garage entrance was secured, Jack hauled the new unit into the Hub proper, and parked it by the sofa.
“What’s this then?” asked Suzie. “New toy?”
“Hardly a toy! This is worth a tidy sum; we’re lucky I managed to talk Yvonne into letting us have one, and it’s only on a trial basis. She probably wouldn’t have signed off on my request this time if she wasn’t so distracted by those Ghost shifts of hers.”
“Yeah, fine, so it’s not a toy, but what is it?” Owen demanded, coming over to join them.
“Basically, it’s a realistic android, programmed to carry out certain tasks. We just tell it what to do, and it does it. Torchwood One has several models designed for different purposes; this one’s the…” Jack picked up the paperwork that had come with the crate and opened it. “Let’s see… Interactive Automated Non-Specific Tradesman and Office model; IANTO for short. Says here it can carry out office tasks such as filing and book-keeping, as well as general support duties; cleaning, shopping, maintaining and repairing systems… It’s even programmed as a handyman, with plumbing, carpentry, and basic electrical engineering skills. Just what we need; it’ll get this place straight and keep us better organised.” Jack looked around at the mess. “This will be a true test of its abilities.”
“You can say that again,” Owen agreed. “This place is a tip.”
“I don’t see you volunteering to take a turn tidying up,” Suzie grumbled.
Owen held up his hands. “These are the hands of a surgeon, not a janitor. Besides, we’ve got the robot to do all that now. So, you gonna open the box?” This last was directed at Jack, who was still reading the handbook.
“What? Oh, yeah, sure.”
Surprisingly, the lid wasn’t even nailed down; it just lifted off. Inside was another box, a bit like a coffin but without a lid, and inside that was what looked very much like a young man, smartly dressed in a three-piece suit, shirt, tie, and very shiny shoes.
“It looks so real!” Tosh gasped. “I’d love to get a look at its internal systems.”
“Hey! No dismantling the office boy!” Jack glared at his tech expert. “If we tamper with it in any way, Hartman will know and they’ll take it away again; says so in Yvonne’s letter. All the units are continually monitored by WiFi, so it’s hands off, and that applies to all of you!” His face softened at Tosh’s disappointment. “They did send along blueprints and full technical specifications for you though.” He handed her a package and she perked up, clutching it to her like a child with a new toy as she scurried back to her workstation, eager to study everything.
“I think it’s creepy,” Suzie said, pulling a face. “Do we have to keep it up here? It’s like a cadaver on display. Reminds me of those old photos you used to see of dead people in their coffins.”
“Best place to keep its box is probably the archives. That’s where it’ll be working most of the time and there are plenty of power points down there. The box is also its recharging station. Says here it needs to be allowed to recharge for a minimum of six hours every night, with two or three short recharging sessions during the day to keep its energy levels topped up. It’s in sleep mode at the moment, so we have to plug it in and let it charge before using it. Want to give me a hand getting it downstairs?” He grinned, looking back and forth between Suzie and Owen.
“Count me out.” Owen waved his hands again. “Surgeon’s hands, remember?”
“Fine; I’ll help,” Suzie said with a sigh. “Anything to get it out of sight while it looks like this. Come on.” She grabbed hold of the trolley’s handles and Jack joined her, helping manoeuvre it across the rough concrete and into the lift down to the lower levels.
It took very little time to select a suitable spot and plug everything in. The readouts on the unit came to life, little lights flickering red at first but quickly settling into a steady green glow as another panel showed it was charging. Jack watched for a bit, but as nothing was happening he left it and went upstairs; he’d come back in a little while and see if it was ready for use. In the meantime, he decided to return to his office and write up a list of the android’s future duties.
Back in the main Hub, he remembered the other box that had been delivered and opened it. It was carefully packed with more suits, shirts, ties, underwear, socks, and shoes. Of course, clothes would get dirty even on an android, especially one programmed to carry out a lot of messy jobs. He decided to take the IANTO unit’s accessories downstairs with him when he went back in an hour or two to see if it was fully charged.
It was actually closer to five hours before Jack got back down to the archives, due to a Weevil alert that kept the team busy chasing the toothy alien around the docks until it had given up and retreated into the sewers. Still, when he did return, the indicators registered a full charge, although the IANTO was as unmoving as it had been earlier. Jack checked the handbook, and after a few minutes, located the ‘On’ switch on the control panel and flicked it. Almost immediately, the IANTO’s eyes opened and it sat up.
“Good morning, Sir,” it said in pleasing Welsh tones. “I am your IANTO unit. Please instruct me in my duties.”
“Actually, it’s evening.”
“My apologies, Sir. In that case I should have wished you a good evening. How should I address you?”
“I’m Captain Jack Harkness, but Jack is fine, or Sir if you prefer. I kinda like the Sir.”
“Very well, Sir.” IANTO inclined his head with a polite smile. Now he was operational, Jack found it impossible to think of the android as ‘it’.
“How are your energy levels?”
“I am at optimum power. May I begin my duties?”
“By all means.”
IANTO rose to his feet and stepped from his box. “What would you like me to do first, Sir?”
“Come with me; we’ll start with upstairs.”
“As you wish.”
Upstairs, Jack introduced IANTO to the rest of the team, explaining that he should carry out their orders as long as they didn’t conflict with either his own, or the android’s programming. Then he set him to work cleaning up. By the time IANTO returned to his charging unit for the night, the main Hub looked better than it had in years.
Over the next few days, Jack expanded IANTO’s duties to include filing, sorting the archives, and caring for the Hub’s alien residents. He also, during a lull, took IANTO out into Cardiff, instructing him on which buses to take to get to the shops and the dry cleaners. Jack watched as IANTO efficiently selected everything on the shopping list he’d written up for the android earlier, putting it in the supermarket trolley. Everything went fine until it came to the coffee.
“If I may make a suggestion, Sir,” IANTO said diffidently, “I have thoroughly cleaned the coffee machine you have in the kitchen area and am fully capable of using it. I am sure I could brew something far more palatable for you than instant. All that would be required is a decent quality of coffee beans.”
Jack wasn’t fond of instant coffee, but kept a supply in the Hub anyway, because there wasn’t always time to make a run to one of the nearby coffee shops when they needed a caffeine fix. The thought of decent coffee on tap, so to speak, was more than tempting, and yet…
“There’s nothing in the hand…” he paused, realising people might overhear, and corrected himself, “in your résumé to indicate you have coffee-making skills.”
IANTO inclined his head. “I have a number of skills that were not considered important enough to make the list, Sir. Coffee-making is one of them.”
“Very well then, which beans would you suggest?”
“That would depend on your price range. Some are very expensive, but that does not always equate to good quality.”
After a few minutes’ discussion, Jack allowed IANTO to select several kinds of beans and they made their way to the checkout. The cashier flirted with IANTO throughout the entire transaction, proving, if proof were needed, that the android was indistinguishable from a human to anyone who didn’t know he was mechanical, drawing his energy from a wall socket rather than from food.
Back at the Hub, after putting all their purchases away, IANTO excused himself, citing the need to recharge after the shopping trip. “Such exertion depletes my energy faster than working around the Hub,” he explained.
Jack nodded and let him go, but IANTO was back in an hour, making coffee in the kitchen, the aroma setting Jack’s mouth watering, and when he got to sample it he groaned with pleasure. If anything, it tasted even better than it smelled. “This is amazing!”
“Thank you, Sir. I try my best.”
Within two weeks, the Hub was running like clockwork and Jack could barely remember how things had been before they had IANTO. After three weeks, he found himself forgetting that the efficient young man who made such delectable coffee was actually a very lifelike robot. IANTO did the shopping, took clothes, including his own, to the dry cleaner’s, fetched lunch every day, cleaned the Hub, fed the residents, did Jack’s laundry and ironing, fixed anything that broke, and the rest of the time worked on reorganising the archives. Late in the evenings, he often brought anything he couldn’t identify to Jack, and they’d speculate on what it was, sometimes solving the mystery and sometimes not. Jack found himself looking forward to those chats. It seemed IANTO was also programmed with the entire Torchwood One archive and alien databases, giving Jack access to information he’d previously been denied except on rare occasions.
IANTO had been with Torchwood Three for almost six weeks when Torchwood One fell to the Cybermen and Daleks. He’d been down in the archives, unaware of what was going on, while the team upstairs huddled, shocked and horrified, around Tosh’s computers, watching the TV news footage of the Canary Wharf tower in flames. Coming upstairs to make coffee at the usual time, IANTO made his way over to the others.
“Sir? Is everything alright?” Stepping closer, he looked past everyone to the monitors and the colour drained from his face. “Oh God! Did anyone get out? Please tell me some of them made it out! There are over eight-hundred people on the payroll!”
Jack tore his gaze away from the carnage on the screen to look at his normally imperturbable assistant. Blue eyes were wide with horror and white fingers were clenched around the back of a chair. Jack had a feeling that was the only thing keeping IANTO on his feet, which was silly because androids didn’t faint, even if this one looked like he was about to. He hadn’t been aware that such realistic emotions could be programmed into a robot manufactured in this century.
“I tried to tell her, a lot of us did, but she wouldn’t listen to anyone, and now… Jack, did anyone get out?”
“A few. Reports say just over twenty survivors so far.” Moving away from Tosh’s workstation, Jack took IANTO by the arm and steered him over to the sofa. “I didn’t know you were programmed for emotions. IANTO, is your WiFi connection still working? Are you able to pick up anything from the Tower?”
IANTO stared at him blankly. “WiFi? What are you talking about?” IANTO’s voice was rough, strained, not at all like his usual smooth tones; he appeared genuinely upset. “People are dying, Jack! Innocent people, my colleagues and friends! I should be there with them, but I knew something bad was coming and I was too much of a coward to stick around.” He laughed bitterly. “Didn’t have anything to stay for anyway, not after Lisa dumped me for Stefan in linguistics. Why would she stick with a lowly junior researcher when she could trade up for someone with better prospects and a Porsche?” A choked sob broke from his lips. “Lisa! God, she’s probably dead by now, and I should be too, just like everyone else!” He was starting to sound more than a little hysterical.
Jack gripped IANTO by the wrists and froze as he felt the erratic pulse throbbing beneath his fingers. Why would anyone design an android to be that realistic?
Then it hit him; they wouldn’t. A suspicion began to grow in him. Grasping IANTO by the arm, Jack pulled him to his feet and steered him up to his office, closing the door behind them and pushing him down into a chair before perching on the edge of his desk. The rest of the team didn’t appear to have noticed their departure, too horrified by the events unfolding before their eyes on Tosh’s computer screens.
“I think you have some explaining to do; you’re not an android at all, are you? You’re human!”
IANTO looked up at him, eyes brimming with tears, and nodded. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what else to do! I had to get away from that place, but Yvonne Hartman would never have let me go. I was practically a prisoner!”
“What do you mean? I want to know everything, right from the beginning. Who’s Lisa?”
“Lisa Hallett; she used to be my girlfriend, worked in research and development. She thought I was just a junior researcher, but she was wrong; I was part of Hartman’s android project. They already had a bunch of the basic model in operation, ones that look a lot like store mannequins, but Hartman wanted more realism, something that could pass for human. She picked me to be the model for the next generation because of my efficiency and near photographic memory.”
“You were the ideal subject.”
“So how many are there?”
“The new model?” At Jack’s nod, the young man continued. “Four. She had them made to look exactly like me, imprinted my thought-processes on their brains. She wanted to use them as spies, get them into positions in government and big corporations.”
That was typical of Yvonne Hartman; she was always looking for a way to grab more power. “Sneaky.”
“I was against it, but it wasn’t like I had any say. But when she decided to test the new model’s capabilities by sending one here to gather information on you, I saw a way to get out without her realising. I switched places. I reprogrammed the one who was being sent here to take my place at Torchwood Tower. The new ones have an internal power source; they don’t need to rely on an outside energy supply, but I switched the transport container with one belonging to an obsolete model, so it would look like I had to keep recharging. Then I cobbled together a user’s manual and included internal specs from the old version for Tosh, hoping that would keep her from looking at me too closely. It worked.” He looked miserably at Jack, tears running down his face. “I didn’t plan on staying, I was just going to work here for a week or two, then ‘break down’ and sneak away when I was recalled for repairs. Figured that would give me a head start and a chance of disappearing before Hartman sent security looking for me. But this place was so different from Torchwood One, and I liked working here, so I kept putting off leaving, and now…”
“Now Torchwood One is destroyed thanks to Hartman’s arrogance, so there’s no chance of you being recalled.”
The young fake android drooped. “What’re you going to do to me?”
“You said Hartman planned to send the android version of you here to spy on us?”
“How would she have got the information it gathered?”
“The plan was to leave the android here for six months as a trial period, then take it back to London and download its memory.”
“So basically you foiled her little plot by trading places with the spy.”
“I suppose.” IANTO wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. Jack dug in his pocket and offered the young man his handkerchief, which was thankfully clean, though not for long. “Thanks.” IANTO wiped his eyes and blew his nose.
“Keep it. So, I can’t keep calling you IANTO, what’s your real name?”
A wry chuckle escaped. “That is my real name; Ianto Jones. I had a devil of a job trying to come up with an acronym that would work so you’d all call me by my name. The ‘I’ and ‘A’ were easy enough, but the rest of it…”
Jack let out a snort. “You’re a very sneaky man, Ianto Jones!”
Ianto sobered. “I escaped by trickery, but everyone else in the Tower… They never had a chance, did they?”
“No,” Jack agreed. “I’m sorry.”
“Well then, that’s that.” Ianto’s eyes suddenly widened. “Everyone will think I’m dead!”
“The Tower’s gone, along with all the paperwork. Shouldn’t be too difficult for Tosh to hack the servers and fake documentation of your transfer to Torchwood Three. If she does it right, she might even be able to get you six weeks back pay; that should help you get set up with a flat in Cardiff. Living in the archives and sleeping in a box can’t be very comfortable. How did you manage to survive?”
“I fixed the plumbing in a small bathroom off the archives, used my own money to buy extra food on my shopping trips and smuggled it down there, and made a flask of coffee every time I made drinks for the rest of you. It was a bit of a juggling act, but it worked out well enough. Most of the time you lot barely noticed your android going about its work anyway.”
“Well, that’s all going to change now. If you still want to work here, that is.”
“You’d keep me on?” Ianto sounded astonished.
“This place is running better than it ever has; I’d be a fool not to. Besides, you’ve spoiled me; I doubt I could survive a single day without your amazing coffee.”
Ianto shrugged. “It’s not that great, far from the best I can do; supermarket beans aren’t too bad, but you wait until you try some of my other blends.”
“Oh yeah! That’s something to look forward to!” Jack grinned enthusiastically, but then the smile fell away. “That’ll have to wait though. I’ll be taking the team to London shortly, see what can be salvaged from One, do what we can to help the survivors. You don’t have to come with us if you’d prefer not to, but…”
“No, I will. I owe it to those who didn’t find a way out. They weren’t all bad, you know. Hartman and her cronies were all about power and greed, but the rest… Most were just regular people trying to do their jobs; office workers, junior technicians, catering staff. I had friends there, I need to know what happened to them, and I know my way around the archives. I can help.”
“Okay, good, I can use all the help I can get. Well, I guess this is where I say welcome to the team, Ianto Jones.”
Despite the horrific carnage happening in London, Ianto felt a surge of relief. It wasn’t the way he’d planned it, but finally he was getting the new start he’d wanted, and he wasn’t going to mess it up.