Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 8 – Making Choices
Characters: Ianto, OFC, mentions Jack
Word Count: 3089
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead
Summary: Up until now, Ianto has known exactly what needed doing, but now, as he embarks on his search for Jack, he has to start making more difficult choices.
Written For: Challenge #100: Choices at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Apologies for extremely shaky pseudo-science.
Ianto sank into one of the console room’s comfortable chairs, once again cradling a steaming mug of coffee in his hands. The aroma was usually enough to soothe him, but it didn’t seem to be working this time. For the first time since he’d resurrected, he was at a loss as to what to do next.
When he’d found himself not only alive again but also in possession of a box that could travel in time and space, he’d had very definite ideas of the things he needed to take care of: Find clothes, explore his new environment, deal with the aftermath of the 456, let his friends and family know he was alive, visit his grave… As far as was possible, he’d accomplished all that, but there was still one item remaining on his mental list: Find Jack.
How he was going to accomplish that was no clearer now than it had been when he’d first found himself aboard his TARDIS. In theory, it should be easy; Jack was unique, surely locating a fixed point couldn’t be that hard? But the universe was vast and there was so much in it, and his TARDIS didn’t know exactly what she was looking for. How could he describe something to her that he’d never felt and had no words for? Even giving her access to his memories of Jack wouldn’t help. To Ianto’s senses, Jack had always been just like any other human except for the enticing scent of his 51st century pheromones. Telling the TARDIS that the man they were looking for smelled really good was unlikely to be helpful.
He sat up straight suddenly, as something occurred to him. Back before the explosion that had hurled her into the Rift, when she’d been just a small piece of coral nurtured beneath a heat lamp, the TARDIS had spent a great deal of time in Jack’s presence, sitting on the desk in his office. Maybe she could remember enough to give her an idea of what to search for!
He tried asking her about that time, but it didn’t help; she’d been hardly more than an embryo then and what memories she had were vague and formless. He might as well have been asking his sister what she remembered of their father from before she’d been born. Scratch that idea then.
So what were his other options? The logical thing to do would be to go to a place he knew Jack would be and wait for him there. In his dreams, or visions, or whatever they’d been he’d seen Jack leave earth, teleported up to a vessel somewhere in orbit. The ship must have done the teleporting, because the Doctor had disabled the teleport and time travel capabilities of Jack’s Vortex Manipulator. And anyway, it had only been returned to him just before he left. He wouldn’t have had the time or the tools to fix it. Ianto knew he and his TARDIS couldn’t land on earth themselves because of the time/space bubble caused by the two explosions on top of the Rift, but if they got into position soon enough, could they teleport Jack up themselves? Or alternatively, intercept the teleportation stream before Jack reached the freighter? Those ideas were quickly shot down; the TARDIS didn’t have a teleport. If you were able to materialise in any place and at any time, why would you need teleportation technology? Ianto sighed and massaged his temples; he was starting to get a headache.
After a great deal of discussion, Ianto and his TARDIS decided that their best option was to get into a geostationary orbit above what Ianto’s vision indicated to be Jack’s departure point from earth, and wait. With luck, maybe they could locate the freighter that would carry Jack away from earth and land somewhere inside it. That way, they’d be there waiting for Jack when he was teleported aboard.
Erring on the side of caution, they took up position while it was still only mid-afternoon in Cardiff. Floating four hundred thousand kilometres above earth wasn’t ideal, but that was as close as the space/time bubble would allow them, so it would have to do. From what Ianto could remember, if what he’d seen in his dream was correct, Jack wouldn’t be leaving until late evening, but they wanted to be ready and waiting by the time the freighter arrived.
With several hours to wait, Ianto made his way down to the residential level, took a sonic shower and headed for the kitchen to get something to eat. The cupboards and refrigeration units contained such a wide variety of foods that he was spoiled for choice; it took him half an hour just to decide what he fancied. Thanks to the state of the art kitchen equipment, cooking his pie and chips didn’t take long at all and he was soon sitting at the table enjoying his meal.
“You are very quiet,” the TARDIS murmured in the back of his mind.
“I’m sorry, I’m just thinking. I don’t even know what I’ll say to Jack when I see him. What do you say to someone who’s mourning you? Hi, sorry you thought I was dead? And what if this doesn’t work? What if it takes a long time to find him and he’s moved on to someone else by then? I don’t think I could bear that.”
“It is not wise to think too far ahead; you are anticipating problems where there may be none.”
Ianto sighed and ate his last chip. “You’re right, I know, it’s just hard not to worry.” He rinsed his dishes, put them in the dishwasher, switched it on and leant back against the counter top. “I don’t want to get my hopes up too high in case this doesn’t work,” he said quietly.
“You believe we will fail?”
“I have to believe we’ll find Jack eventually, but you’ve got to admit our current plan of action is a bit shaky. We’re working from some kind of vision I had, which might well have been just a dream with no basis in fact whatsoever. The freighter we’re waiting for might not even exist.”
“Do you think it was just a dream?”
Ianto thought about it for a while, arms folded across his chest, frowning as he tried to remember every detail.
“No. It didn’t feel like a dream, it was more like being there, watching a scene play out right in front of me. It felt real.”
“Then perhaps you should trust your instincts.”
“That still doesn’t guarantee success.”
“Few things are guaranteed. Whether we are successful or not, we still must try; that is the only way to find out for sure whether or not it will work.”
“Good point.” Ianto pushed away from the counter and made his way back up to the console room. With nothing else that really needed doing, he had no choice but to wait; it was astonishingly boring. Here he was, in a TARDIS, in space, and he was bored. Apparently, even being in the most extraordinary craft in the universe couldn’t make waiting anything more than tedious. Ah well, he supposed he couldn’t expect wall-to-wall excitement all the time. Might as well use the time constructively by taking a nap.
Ianto was half dozing, stretched out on one of the console room sofas, his jacket folded neatly over the back of the nearest chair, when his TARDIS spoke.
“If you are correct about the freighter, it should arrive shortly.”
Opening one eye, he raised an eyebrow. “How can you be sure?”
“One person arrived on the hilltop twenty minutes ago. There are two more people just beginning the ascent.”
“You can really see people from this far away?”
“My perception is excellent.”
“I’ll say. So, no sign of the freighter yet?”
“There is not.”
“Would’ve thought it would be here by now. What’s the range of a teleport?”
Swinging his legs off the couch, Ianto rose to his feet, snagging his jacket off the chair as he passed and slipping it on as he made his way to the console.
“I am unsure, but I suspect accuracy would deteriorate with distance. I would estimate approximately five hundred thousand kilometres as the maximum range for guaranteed safety. Beyond that distance, the subject’s molecules would stand an increasingly greater chance of being scattered.”
Ianto winced. “Not a pleasant thought.”
“The subject would have no awareness of their fate.”
“And yet somehow I don’t find that at all comforting. Just the idea of Jack’s molecules being scattered… Would he still be able to come back from that kind of death?”
“I would not care to speculate, there is insufficient data. Ianto, I sense a disturbance in the vortex, approaching rapidly.”
“Is it the freighter?”
“That would be a logical assumption. It will need to emerge before it is able to teleport your captain.”
“Can you tell where it’ll come out?”
“Not with any degree of accuracy at this point. From outside the vortex, it is difficult to lock on to a moving object within. However, it is slowing so I believe it will emerge shortly.”
The TARDIS was right; a couple of minutes later Ianto watched on the viewscreens as, in a brief burst of golden light, a large, blocky spaceship broke through into regular space.
“I believe so. It is a Macassian freighter, and it is receiving a signal from the planet.”
“There’s a problem, isn’t there?”
“I am sorry, Ianto. We cannot board, it has emerged closer to the earth than I am able to approach.”
Ianto sighed heavily. “That figures. It would have been too easy otherwise; I think fate wants to make me work for this reunion.” They were out of choices; Ianto could see only one course of action available to them if he didn’t want to completely lose track of Jack. “Okay, if we can’t board, is there any way to lock onto its energy signature or whatever and follow it through the vortex to its destination?”
“I believe I may be able to track the ship by following its ion trail.”
“That sounds promising.”
“I must warn you that most ships travel through the vortex at a much slower pace than I am able to achieve. Transit to their destination is likely to take several days.”
“Well, there’s not much we can do about that, unless… Could you maybe slow down time in here again, like you did while we were collecting the 456 data?”
“I will try, but it will be more difficult within the vortex, especially as we will be travelling at considerable speed.”
“Well, just do what you can and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter. As long as we can follow the freighter, a few days won’t make all that much difference. Can you tell if Jack’s aboard yet?”
“Yes, teleportation was successful. Only two people remain on the hilltop and they appear to be departing. The ship is powering up, Ianto. Please release my parking brake and hold on to the railing, the transition may not be as smooth as usual. We will be following in the freighter’s wake.”
Doing as requested, Ianto took a tight grip on the railing that surrounded the console platform, gritting his teeth in anticipation of a rough ride ahead. It proved almost anticlimactic. Entering the Vortex a split second after the freighter, and almost on top of it as it passed close to their position, was pretty rough. Ianto thought it was comparable to making the crossing to Flat Holm Island during a storm, which thankfully he and Jack had been forced to do only twice. The TARDIS was buffeted violently, as if being hit by gale force winds or huge waves, but it lasted only a matter of minutes as they entered the vortex equivalent of the freighter’s slipstream, keeping well back for reasons of safety as well as to avoid the freighter crew realising they were being followed. The last thing they wanted was to have it start trying to evade them, thinking they were space pirates or something. All they wanted was to follow it to its destination and get to Jack as soon as possible after he disembarked.
As soon as they steadied, Ianto carefully peeled his fingers off the railing, releasing his white-knuckle grip. He’d help on so tight he almost expected to find he’d left dents in the shiny brass.
“Well, that was an… experience.”
“I apologise. Are you alright?”
“Fine, thanks. Once you get used to Jack’s driving, you find very little can faze you,” he explained with a wry smile. “SUVs are really not designed to be driven at over eighty miles an hour over unpaved tracks. The way he used to drive, it’s a miracle he only ever broke the axle once, ironically by hitting a pothole on a paved road.”
“Your captain sounds like a colourful character.”
Ianto chuckled. “That’s one way to describe him.”
“I believe I shall like him.”
“I hope so. He’ll certainly like you, no doubt about that. If we ever catch up with him, that is.”
It turned out that following a ship through the vortex wasn’t as easy as it sounded. They lost it several times over the next few days and had to keep backtracking to pick up the ion trail again. It was only after the third time that it occurred to Ianto what might be happening.
“It’s a freighter, so it’s probably carrying cargo, right?”
“That would be a logical assumption, yes.”
“So when we lose it, maybe that’s because it’s dropped out of the vortex to make a delivery.”
There was silence for a minute, before the TARDIS responded, sounding rather sheepish.
“I had not considered that, but it seems likely. I am sorry.”
“Not your fault, I should have thought of it myself. Besides, you’ve never tried to follow something through the vortex before; you’re having to figure things out as you go. I don’t expect you have ‘how to’ instructions for every eventuality right there at your… um, I was going to say fingertips, but…”
“I do not have fingertips, or fingers for that matter, but I understand your meaning. You are right, I have much still to learn, and the best way to learn is through experience.”
“Okay, good, we’re both learning. Now, is there any way to anticipate when it’s going to leave the vortex so that we can follow next time?”
“It would be much simpler if we knew its flight plan.”
“Well, that’s out unless we can hack their navigation computer. I wish Tosh was here; she’d probably be able to figure out a way.”
“Perhaps it will not be necessary. I have analysed the freighter’s ion trail; each time there were minute changes shortly before I lost track of it. I have increased the sensitivity of my sensors so that I can detect such changes more easily, I will be ready the next time.”
“Have I ever mentioned that you’re brilliant?”
“I do not believe so.”
“A shocking oversight on my part; I should have done so. Praise where it is due.”
“It is unnecessary, but I admit it gives me pleasure that you think so.”
“Quite right too. One should always accept compliments with modesty and pleasure.”
“I will keep that in mind. Thank you, Ianto.” There was silence for a few minutes and then the TARDIS spoke again in that corner of Ianto’s mind reserved solely for her. “It might be well to hold on to something, I may be required to make an abrupt change of direction shortly.”
Before Ianto could even acknowledge her instructions, the TARDIS suddenly seemed to shoot off sideways and Ianto found himself on the floor as if a rug had been pulled out from under him.
“A little more warning next time would be nice. I have good reflexes, but not that good; it takes a few seconds for my body to react to the messages sent by my brain.”
“I apologise, it was necessary to move fast in order to exit the vortex close to the freighter’s exit point. Are you damaged?”
“Only my dignity. I should be used to that by now.” Ianto scrambled to his feet, dusted himself off, which was completely unnecessary considering how spotless the TARDIS was, and made his way to the console. The viewscreens showed a small solar system, a sun and four planets. The freighter was visible as a small, greyish blob, roughly rectangular in shape and already a considerable distance ahead of them.
“The two outer planets are similar in size to earth, and habitable. The freighter is approaching the nearest of the two. There appears to be a space station in orbit about it. I believe the freighter will dock there to offload its cargo.”
“That gives us a few options. We can land on the space station and I can try to talk to the captain of the freighter, or we could land aboard the freighter itself while I try to locate Jack, or we could try to make radio contact with the freighter’s crew, ask them to let Jack know that we’re here. Which d’you think would be best?”
“I do not have a preference, all three courses of action would seem to have an equal chance of being effective. Perhaps this choice should be yours.”
Ianto thought things through as the freighter made its way towards the space station, finally coming to a decision as they watched it dock.
“Okay, I think we should go with option one; land on the space station and talk to the captain. That way, he might be willing to act as an intermediary, I can give him a message to give to Jack.”
“What message would you send?”
“That’s easy, I’d invite him to board the TARDIS; it’s an offer he wouldn’t be able to refuse. The earth was in danger, yet the Doctor never came; Jack will want to know why.”
“Very well, I will take on the appearance of a police box. Your captain will be most surprised when he steps on board.”
“That’s the general idea. I’m hoping it’ll be a lot easier to explain to him what happened after the House of the Dead blew up if he can see the evidence for himself.”
Moments later, the familiar sound of the TARDIS materialising filled the console room. Sounding rather pleased with herself, the TARDIS announced, “We have arrived.”