Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 10 – Black Market Blues
Characters: Ianto, OFC, OMCs, Jack
Word Count: 3225
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead
Summary: While Ianto and the TARDIS continue their search for Jack, the grieving Captain is on a quest of his own.
Written For: Challenge #103: Contraband at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Thanks to dia_luciam for the Black Market idea! Also, apologies for the long wait; life’s been getting in the way and I’ve been struggling with writing a difficult chapter.
Since further discussion failed to turn up any better plan of action, Ianto settled for doing as his TARDIS suggested. They backtracked along the freighter’s route, searching for any indication that either a teleport or a time travel device had been used in the vicinity of any of Captain Lukek’s scheduled stops. On the plus side, they detected nothing to indicate time travel, assuming they were even checking in the right places, so maybe Jack hadn’t been able to completely repair his Vortex Manipulator. Even though they couldn’t be one hundred percent certain, Ianto chose to take it as a positive sign.
Teleportation was a different matter; it seemed many ships made use of teleportation technology, for a variety of different reasons. Some were legitimate but most had more to do with smuggling contraband items on- or off-world. It was an effective way of circumventing customs at the spaceports. Ianto and his TARDIS had no choice but to follow up every instance of teleportation involving living beings that they could, just in case Jack had found a way to disguise his biological signature. That meant going back in time to track each teleport beam to its destination, which was both time-consuming and tricky, but it was to no avail. After days of searching, by TARDIS time, Ianto knew far more about transporting livestock of various species than he’d ever wanted to. He’d also, thanks to the TARDIS, made an unintentional purchase.
They had tracked a shipment of something living to a run-down warehouse on the outskirts of a rather seedy mining settlement, situated on one of this particular solar system’s small moons. The warehouse had turned out to be the current base of operations for the local version of what on earth might be termed the black market. Ramshackle wooden stalls were crowded together in the near-derelict building, selling all the things that the people who worked in the mines found hard to get by legal means. Most of the wares on sale were probably stolen, the sellers having the rough, tough, shifty appearance of smugglers, opportunists and petty thieves. They were the kind of people, Ianto suspected, who would take what they could from wherever they could find it and sell it on for whatever price they could get.
Swapping his smart suit for some rather less conspicuous overalls, Ianto dirtied up his face and hands, pulled a battered hat low over his eyes and pocketed the currency the TARDIS provided, before venturing out into the market. It hadn’t been difficult to locate what had been teleported to the surface. A scruffy-looking, pig-snouted alien was busily setting up his stall in an unoccupied corner. Amid baskets of semi-fresh produce, assorted slightly rusty tools, damaged electronic devices and a surprisingly varied selection of what could’ve been either spices or recreational drugs, the tall cage of tiny, jewel-bright birds stood out like a beacon. Ianto stifled a sigh of disappointment; yet another dead-end. He really needed to stop getting his hopes up every time.
“Go and look over his wares,” the TARDIS instructed him.
“Because I wish to take a closer look through your eyes. Don’t appear too interested in anything; insult the quality of everything you look at. Buyers at these places should never appear too eager to spend their credits. They probably have little to spare. Everything on sale here is most likely a luxury to the miners.”
Ianto shrugged and did as she asked, poking at the unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, muttering about them being bruised and less than fresh, picking up a couple of the tools and frowning at them, grumbling about the condition, asking if one of the electronic devices worked or not… It didn’t, but the seller assured him it could easily be repaired if he could acquire one small missing component.
“And if I can’t, it would just be wasted credits,” Ianto replied. “Not worth the risk.” He looked at the cage filled with birds. “Who d’you think would want them on a place like this?” he asked incredulously.
“Salvaged ‘em off a wreck,” the seller replied, snuffling. “Thought they could be used down the mines, early warning fer bad air, like. Heard people on other worlds do that, take birds down the mines. Bird falls off perch, air’s bad, people get out. Saves lives.”
“Have to spare food and water for them though,” Ianto argued.
“Don’t eat much, could throw in some seed for ‘em. Ya could sell ‘em off to others, make some credits back on the deal.”
Ianto continued haggling with the seller for a few more minutes, saying what the TARDIS told him to say, and before he completely knew what was happening, he was handing over half the original asking price and taking possession of a cage full of birds, a bag of seed and a set of small tools in a worn leather pouch.
“Why did you tell me to do that?” he silently asked his TARDIS, an exasperated tone colouring his thoughts, as he walked away from the stall loaded down with his purchases. “What am I going to do with a flock of birds?”
“I find them pleasing,” the TARDIS replied. “They are bright and colourful, and the sound they make is pleasant.”
“Meep meep meep,” the birds cheerfully replied, hopping from perch to perch in their cramped cage. It wasn’t big enough for them to fly in.
“You wanted me to buy them because they’re pretty and sound nice?” Ianto was incredulous.
“They are also living creatures who do not deserve to be condemned to a short life in the mines.”
Ianto looked around at the miners haggling with the black market stallholders. They looked shabby and tired, their shoulders bowed as though from carrying a heavy burden. “Neither do these people,” he replied glumly.
“That is true, but none of these people must stay here permanently. Able-bodied citizens work in the mines for two years. In return, their children’s education will be paid for by the company that owns the mine. There is never a shortage of those willing to work the mines so that their offspring do not start adult life in debt. The colony needs the metals and minerals mined here in order to grow. It is hard work, sometimes dangerous, but the medical facilities are the best available and fatalities are rare. Encountering pockets of bad air is always the greatest risk. They are not always detected soon enough for all to escape.”
Ianto looked at the tiny birds in their cage. “Would these birds have helped save lives?”
“No. They would not survive underground long enough to help anyone. They need light and clean air, but most of all they need to be together as a flock. One alone would quickly fade away. The miners would have wasted their hard-earned credits.”
“So what are we going to do with them?”
“The garden room is growing well, I should like them released in there. They will have all they need to thrive and I shall derive great pleasure from their presence.”
Ianto opened the door of the TARDIS, at present disguised as an old tool shed in a corner of the warehouse, stepped inside and pushed the door closed behind him, setting his burden down on the floor to rest his arm. The ornate, domed metal cage was heavy and awkward to carry, and now his shoulder ached.
“I’ll put them in the garden after I have a coffee,” he told the TARDIS tiredly as he trudged over to the coffee station and began to make a much-needed drink. “That was the last teleport trail in the last solar system Lukek stopped at and we haven’t found any sign of Jack. Looks like we’ve hit a dead end; this search has just been a waste of time. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re missing something important.”
“It does appear that we do not yet have sufficient information to accurately predict your Captain’s destination.”
“Where he’s heading wouldn’t matter if we could just work out where he is right now.” Ianto sank into his favourite chair, set his coffee mug on one of the inset coasters and put his head in his hands. “I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall.” Sensing the TARDIS’s consternation at the statement, he chuckled tiredly. “It’s a figure of speech. I just mean that I feel like what we’re doing is completely pointless because it’s not going to help us find Jack. Maybe the best course of action would be to visit spaceports and show his picture to everyone in the hope that someone might have seen him. It’s got as much chance of being effective as what we’ve been doing.”
“Then that is what we will do. You have not rested in days, Ianto. You should eat and get some sleep. When you awaken we can begin with the spaceports in this solar system and work our way outwards from here. If we fail to learn of any sightings, we can move on to Captain Lukek’s next port of call and begin again.”
“Sounds good. Right, now we know what we’re doing I’m going to bed.” Ianto drained his coffee cup and headed for the kitchenette just off the console room to rinse it.
“I believe you are forgetting something, Ianto.”
“Huh?” Ianto stuck his head back into the console room
“Oh, right, sorry. I’d better go let them out in the garden.” Picking up the heavy cage once more, Ianto set off down the corridor that led to the TARDIS’s newly ‘grown’ gardens.
“The things I do for you,” he chuckled. “You’re as bad as Jack at tricking me into doing things. I think some of his personality must have rubbed off on you during the years you spent growing on his desk.”
“I shall take that as a compliment,” the TARDIS replied primly, but Ianto could sense her amusement.
“Take it however you want,” he replied, smirking. “When we do find Jack, I have a feeling the two of you will get along very well indeed. I’m doomed!”
With the TARDIS’s laughter ringing in his head, Ianto continued on his way.
Black Market venues were more or less the same across the universe, Jack mused dully as he made his way through the crowds of shifty-looking people that thronged the seedy back alley. Tattered wooden stalls lined the narrow passageways in the most run-down section of Mormin’s spaceport, cluttered with every conceivable kind of contraband: illegal drugs nestled next to stolen goods, outlawed weapons weighed down one stall, while four or five ‘slaves’ huddled in a pen a few metres away. Jack paused briefly, considering the possibility of trying to rescue them, but shook his head and moved on. All he’d be doing would be condemning them to an early death; they’d be better off without his ‘help’. All he ever did was get good people killed. Head bowed, he moved on through the crowds.
Captain Lukek had docked the freighter at Mormin-port early that morning, on layover for a couple of days while looking for cargo. Most of the places the ship had visited since Jack boarded, they’d had a new load of cargo waiting to replace what they were delivering, but there were always a few places where nothing had been arranged in advance and Lukek would meet with various merchants to see what they needed to transport that would fit into his schedule. Macassian’s were a nomadic race, living aboard their ships. Each ship was crewed by an extended family, members joining and leaving as unions were formed and those younglings who had recently come of age set out to seek their fortune, and possibly a mate, with another family.
Lukek himself had joined the crew of the Fiori Winnik as a lowly cargo loader many years before. He’d met Rukin, a trainee engineer, on his first day aboard and they’d been married barely two ship years later. He’d lost her much too soon in a tragic accident that had taken the lives of three other crewmembers as well, but had chosen to remain with the ship, unwilling to walk away from all his memories of their life together. He’d never regretted his decision. As time passed, he’d worked his way up the ranks and eventually met the much younger Miklo, youngest daughter of Captain Vislo. When Lukek was promoted to first mate, they’d been married, and Miklo had become Mikek, Lukek’s second wife. Jack had learned all of this when he’d first met Lukek, after rescuing Mikek from her crashed scoutship and keeping her out of Torchwood’s clutches.
Since that time, Lukek and Mikek had been blessed with four fine children, all now serving aboard other ships, one of which was also in port. There would be a family get-together later and Jack had been invited as the guest of honour, but he wasn’t sure if he’d attend. He didn’t want to offend Lukek and his family, they’d taken him in and provided a much-needed refuge, but at the same time, he wasn’t good company these days and didn’t want to put a damper on the festivities. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, so had taken the opportunity the extended stay provided to do a little shopping.
First he’d drifted through the port market, where everything legal could be bought and sold, picking up small gifts for his hosts, then he’d made his way through the back-ways to the bad side of town. If he stood any chance of finding tools and components to fix his broken Vortex Manipulator, it would be here.
Jazzek, the Chief Engineer, had loaned him a selection of tools and he’d been able to partially fix the teleport function, but the circuit that saved coordinates was irreparably damaged, meaning that he couldn’t guarantee he’d end up where he intended to go. The time travel circuitry also needed replacing; it had burned out the last time it had been used. Vortex Manipulators simply weren’t designed for transporting three people from the end of time, across billions of years and millions of light years. Not even with the benefit of Time Lord enhancements. His hope was that he might find similar technology that could be adapted to serve until hopefully he got lucky and came across a broken VM that could be cannibalised for spare parts. With all of time ahead of him, he had no doubt he’d find one eventually, it just wasn’t likely to be anytime soon.
That was another good reason for avoiding the Doctor; he wouldn’t approve of Jack trying to fix his VM. After all, he was the one who kept deliberately breaking it to prevent Jack travelling around, like an overzealous father confiscating his son’s car keys so he’d have to stay in one place. Jack laughed bitterly, making a few heads turn as vendors and customers alike eyed him warily. Jack didn’t blame them; he had a feeling he didn’t look entirely sane these days with his haunted gaze and bad habit of muttering to himself. It was one of the reasons he avoided mirrors and reflective surfaces; he didn’t want to come face to face with himself. It was a safe bet he wouldn’t like what he saw.
Jack knew he hadn’t been taking good care of himself; he’d lost weight and looked as pale and scruffy as most of the denizens of these back alleys. He’d not been eating enough and had been drinking far more than was healthy. Not that he had to worry about his health; it wasn’t as if he could do himself any permanent damage. Still, a little voice in the back of his mind kept whispering that Ianto would be so disappointed in him for letting himself get into this state. He’d tried to silence the voice with alcohol so many times, and even though it never worked, he couldn’t bring himself to stop, not quite yet.
Passing a stall selling recreational drugs, Jack paused and perused the selection of mood-enhancers. Maybe they would provide a way around his dilemma over tonight’s celebration. Pop a couple of pills and be mellow enough to get through the evening without spoiling it for anyone else. A few minutes later, he was making his way though the crowds again, this time with a small vial containing half a dozen doses of Diamond Daze, an illegal but relatively mild euphoric, nestled in the inside pocket of his short jacket. His greatcoat was packed away safely in a stasis pod in his cabin, along with his other valuables from earth. Some things were too important to wear in a place like this, where anyone might get murdered and stripped just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wasn’t prepared to risk it; the coat had been one of the last things Ianto had given him, and as such was more precious to him than he could put into words.
Scouring the other stalls eventually netted him four circuit chips that could possibly be modified for temporary use in his VM, as well as a set of small tools in a metal case, and a miniature soldering iron designed for repairing circuits. Raw materials were readily available aboard the Winnik, so not really needing anything else, he started back towards the main port and his transport, determined to get cleaned up and attend the festivities. He owed Lukek that much at least.
As he made his way back through the crowded alleyways, he spared one last brief glance for the small group of aliens being sold into slavery, once again feeling a vague sense of guilt at doing nothing to help them. The Doctor would never have abandoned them to their fate. Then again, the Doctor wasn’t here; he never seemed to be where he was needed these days. But if Jack couldn’t even help himself, then how could he be expected to help anyone else? With a half shrug, he moved on, stopping only to buy decent clothing suitable for the party. It wouldn’t do to show up looking like he’d slept in his clothes, even if it was the truth. He might be falling apart inside, but he still had a few shreds of dignity, not to mention manners, remaining.
They’d been drilled into him by Ianto, so perhaps that was why they’d stuck with him even when he couldn’t seem to bring himself to care about much of anything else. With his last breath, Ianto had asked to be remembered; Jack suspected he couldn’t have forgotten the young Welshman even if he’d tried. Without either of them realising it, Ianto Jones had become so much a part of Jack that at some level, he would always be with him. Jack had yet to decide whether that was a blessing or a torment; possibly it was both. Either way, he couldn’t regret it; he’d rather suffer an eternity of torment than let go of a single memory of the time they’d had together, even if it drove him insane. Ianto was just that special. With his head full of memories of the man he’d loved and lost too soon, Jack made his way back to the ship.