Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 5 – Contrasts
Characters: Ianto, OFC, VIP guest
Word Count: 2608
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead
Summary: Sweet and sour, good and bad, bright and dark, happy and sad; the first day of Ianto’s new life is proving to be full of contrasts.
Written For: Challenge #97: Sweet & Sour at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
All good things must come to an end. As much fun as it was harmonizing sweetly with his TARDIS and the universe, Ianto knew he couldn’t sit there forever. He was just delaying the inevitable. He wasn’t keen on confrontations, but the British government couldn’t be allowed to get away with what they’d tried to do; her Majesty needed to be informed, because it was a safe bet that she’d been… ‘shielded’ from what was happening.
Ianto thought hard. First step, fill Her Royal Highness in on events so she could decide on a course of action, then help her deal with the guilty parties. Half on UNIT seemed to have been complicit. Oh, and he should probably tell his sister he wasn’t as dead as everyone had thought. He pulled a sour face as if he’d just bitten into a lemon; that wasn’t going to be fun. Still, it had to be done.
With a heavy sigh, he got to his feet, closed the TARDIS door and made his way to the central console.
“You are not happy; what is troubling you?”
“Responsibilities. There are things I would really rather not have to do, but I don’t think I have a choice; some rather pressing matters need to be taken care of. I know that I could travel the universe for a few hundred years before dealing with them, but they’d always be in the back of my mind, waiting. Best get them out of the way first.” Climbing the nearest set of steps, Ianto rested his hand on the console. It was warm beneath his fingers and he stroked it absently. “Well, no sense dilly dallying. Would you be so kind as to set course for London, earth, let’s see, guess we’d better err on the side of safety; say 20th September 2009. Just outside Buckingham Palace please. I need to visit the Queen.”
“I regret I am unable to carry out your request, Ianto.” The TARDIS sounded dejected, as if she were ashamed at failing him.
“Why?” he asked, genuinely puzzled. “I couldn’t have been anywhere near there on that date; I was dead. Would that still count as crossing my own timeline?”
“Crossing timelines does not appear to be the problem; however the two explosions that occurred right on top of the Rift seem to have created a time/space bubble I am unable to penetrate. I can go to the time you request, and orbit the planet at a distance of four hundred thousand kilometres…”
“That’s beyond the moon!”
“It is. Alternatively, I can touch down on the planet’s surface at any point up to forty seven years before the first explosion, the one that sent me through the Rift, or from approximately one hundred and thirteen years after the second explosion.”
“The one that sent me through the Rift before closing it behind me.”
“Oh.” Ianto sat down on the grating. He felt a bit ashamed to find he was relieved he couldn’t do what he’d been planning. Then a thought struck him. “Rhi and the kids are never going to know I’m alive, are they? I’ll never see or speak to them again.” His heart ached at the thought.
“I am sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.” He smiled sadly. “Maybe it’s better this way; they can grieve and move on.” Another thought crossed his mind. “I guess this means there’s no way of intercepting Jack before he leaves earth either. He probably left soon after the Rift closed; no reason to stay.” Ianto shoved one hand through his hair, making it stick up. “Well, that’s bollixed up my plans!” He sat silently for a few minutes, thinking hard. “Okay, never mind. We can’t land on earth, but we can orbit. Let’s do that. I always wanted to see the earth from space. We can take some snapshots of home if nothing else, maybe check that the 456 really were destroyed while we’re at it. Better to be safe than sorry.”
“That we can do,” the TARDIS replied, sounding happier.
“Do I need to do anything?”
“It is not really necessary, I can set the coordinates myself, but if you would be so kind as to disengage the parking brake…” A light started flashing on the console alongside a lever that really did look like a car handbrake. Ianto grinned and did as he was asked.
“I bet you could do that by yourself too if you wanted to.”
“I can internally disconnect the brake, but it is more satisfying to have it operated manually. I will teach you some of the other controls as we travel. We should arrive at our destination in one hour, seventeen minutes and forty three seconds.”
“I do admire good timekeeping.”
“I know,” the voice in his head responded pertly, making him laugh out loud. Apparently his TARDIS had a cheeky side to her personality. He was going to enjoy getting to know her better.
Jack had told Ianto about his travels with the Doctor, how it was always a bumpy ride and you had to hold on tight. This wasn’t at all like Jack’s descriptions. He was aware of tilting to one side or the other at intervals, as if they were changing direction in flight, but had no difficulty maintaining his balance. As they travelled through the vortex, he walked around the console learning the functions of the various buttons, levers, dials, switches and other weird contrivances. It was fortunate he had such a good memory, otherwise he would have quickly become confused; there was a lot to learn. Then again, it seemed he would have plenty of time to learn anything he wanted to. There were some distinct advantages to being probably immortal to balance out the downside of outliving everyone. Well, everyone except Jack. Almost everything had a bright side if you looked for it hard enough.
Exactly one hour, seventeen minutes and forty three seconds later, the TARDIS settled into orbit four hundred thousand kilometres from earth. Ianto pulled up the view on one of the console screens. There was the earth, a vividly blue, green and white ball floating in the blackness of space, and there was the moon, orbiting a little closer to earth than they were. Calling the sight beautiful really was an understatement. After watching the earth slowly rotating below them for a while and taking plenty of pictures so he would never forget where he came from, Ianto started to form a new plan of action.
“Are we able to assume a geostationary orbit over London?”
“We are.” A brief pause and Ianto watched on the viewscreen as the TARDIS adjusted their position in relation to the earth. “Geostationary orbit achieved.”
“Thank you. Now, can you pick up broadcasts from the surface, radio waves, video footage, stuff like that?”
“There are a great many signals emanating from the earth at all times.”
“That figures. Can you isolate specific signals?”
“Okay, what I’m looking for is anything to do with either the 456 or children chanting in unison, and anything that mentions Torchwood. We’ll need to travel back in time to when the 456 first arrived and record their transmissions to earth as well as everything that fits my search parameters, then return to this point in time. After that we’re going to send the recordings to the Queen. They’ll provide Her Majesty with all the evidence she needs to deal with those responsible for almost handing earth’s children over to a bunch of alien drug addicts. What d’you think?’”
The TARDIS considered for a moment.
“Yes, I believe that will work.”
Ianto had expected that they’d have to stay in position recording the transmissions for the full five days, but the TARDIS had other ideas, simply slowing down time inside her walls so that while five days passed for the earth and its environs, only five hours passed for them. The TARDIS converted the incoming audio signals into text, displaying each in a separate window on a bank of touch screens on the console. Ianto spent his time sorting through them, discarding anything irrelevant and putting the rest into order along with all relevant video footage. They even intercepted the feed from the special contact lenses Lois was wearing and tapped into the CCTV system inside Thames House. Ianto turned away when he and Jack confronted the 456 though, unable to face watching his own death. Why had he let Jack talk him into such an idiotic act? They’d both been exhausted at the time, tired of running and hiding, desperate to make a stand. If they’d been thinking clearly they wouldn’t have been so careless; they both knew better. He sighed wearily.
“What’s done is done, there’s no going back. Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t want to change it anyway. Everything that happened that day led to me being where I am now, and I think I’m right where I’m meant to be.”
The events of the day after he died broke his heart. Johnson and that Dekker person had to pay for backing Jack into a corner the way they had, leaving only one soul-destroying course of action open to him. Small wonder Jack had been so broken; sacrificing any child would have been bad enough, but his own grandson… Ianto had never felt so helpless. Wiping fruitlessly at the tears that ran down his cheeks, he tipped his head back to look up at the vaulted ceiling.
“Is there nothing we can do? He’s just a child!”
“No, there is not. I am sorry, Ianto.”
“At least tell me it worked, that he didn’t die for nothing.”
“It worked. See?”
The screen in front of him filled with a view of the ugly, blocky vessel that was the 456’s mother ship. Ianto watched as the psychic emanations of every child on earth, funnelled through the mind of one young boy, caused the ship to ripple and tear itself apart, the fragments disintegrating to nothingness.
“Do me a favour; don’t absorb any of that debris. I don’t like to think of that being used in any part of you. It’s… contaminated.”
“I agree. There is something unhealthy about it. We are shielded.”
“Good to know.”
With all the transmissions and video footage collated, Ianto composed his own message to the Queen, using his official Torchwood identification number and pass-code, then the TARDIS streamed the data to Her Majesty’s own personal computer network, set up several years ago by Toshiko. Ianto had used the network many times to send reports through to the woman who held ultimate authority over Torchwood.
Two hours later, a video link was requested and accepted.
“Mr Jones, I am pleased to see you. I was given to understand that you had perished in the unrest of the past few days.”
“Ah, well yes Ma’am, it seems I did, but something happened to reverse my death. Sort of. I’m honestly not at all sure I understand it myself. I apologise for not visiting in person, my movements are somewhat restricted; I’m unable to return to earth.”
“It saddens me to hear that, I very much enjoyed your briefings, I could have used your assistance to deal with this unpleasantness you have brought to my attention.”
“I’m sorry. I’d be there if I could, Ma’am.”
“I know. Are you well?”
“Very well, thank you Ma’am. This will probably be the last time I’m able to contact you though.”
“It seems there is good and bad in all things today.” The Queen smiled sadly. “Is Captain Harkness with you?”
“No, Ma’am. I don’t know where he is though I believe he’s still somewhere on earth at present. I doubt he’ll stay for long. The events of the last few days have affected him deeply.”
“Then who will police the Rift in his absence?”
“There won’t be any need in a few more months. In the meantime, I’d suggest a small team of trusted personnel might be put in place, just to keep an eye on things. Martha Jones of UNIT would be a good choice to lead whomever you select. Perhaps Mickey Smith, one of the Doctor’s former companions, and Andy Davidson of the Cardiff constabulary might assist her.”
“I will take your recommendations into account. Now, it seems I have rather a lot of work to do, Mr Jones. Stay safe, and God be with you; and if by chance you pass this way again, it would please me greatly to receive word from you.”
“I’ll try, Your Majesty. God be with you too. And if I might make another suggestion, perhaps Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart could be of assistance to you.”
“I believe you may be correct. I will contact him shortly.” Dropping her proper manners for a moment, Queen Elizabeth leant towards the screen. “Take care of yourself, Ianto. It has been a pleasure knowing you. I believe I am going to miss both you and that scoundrel of a Captain. You have both brought a great deal of colour into my life. Give Jack my kindest regards when you find him, as I feel sure you will. Fare well, young man, and don’t forget us.”
“I could never forget. Thank you, Elizabeth, for everything. And good luck, I think you’ll need it. Goodbye.”
With that, the TARDIS cut the connection and the view-screen faded to darkness. Ianto wasn’t particularly surprised to find that there were tears on his face again and a lump in his throat. Saying farewell to a great lady who had become somewhat of a friend in recent years was a bittersweet moment in a day that was proving to be full of contrasting emotions, from dizzying joys to heartbreaking sorrows. She was one of the many people on the planet of his birth he was going to miss a great deal. He wiped the tears away with his handkerchief.
“Well, that’s that then, nothing more we can do here.” He looked thoughtfully at the image of earth on one of the view-screens and sighed. “You know what I could do with right now? Comfort food. Chinese takeaway would be good.” He thought for a minute then snapped his fingers. “Bayswater, London, summer of 1960 should do, don’t want to get chilly. The Lotus House Chinese Restaurant opened there in ’58, if memory serves. We’ll pop there, I’ll pick up dinner, then decide where to head next.” He patted his pockets. “Oh, I don’t have any money…”
“One moment.” Something on the TARDIS console started whirring and a moment later, a hatch opened. “British pre-decimal currency, I believe.”
Ianto checked it; one five pound, two one pound and two ten bob notes, three half crowns, several shillings, and an assortment of small change, all dated before 1960.
“Thank you. We have arrived. I believe a Police Public Call Box is a suitable camouflage in this time period.”
“Like mother, like daughter,” Ianto chuckled. “Excellent choice. Will you be alright on your own for an hour or two?”
“Certainly. We are linked, we can easily contact each other if it becomes necessary.”
“Good point, I keep forgetting that you’re in my head. I’d better be careful not to talk to you aloud once I step outside; might get some funny looks.” He straightened his tie, smoothed his hair and pocketed the money. “Right, dinner. I fancy something with lots of sweet and sour sauce, I think.”
Opening the door, Ianto stepped out into the London of 1960 and set off to find the restaurant that had become Britain’s first Chinese takeaway.