Title: Through Time And Space: Chapter 19.2 – Undoing The Past Part 2
Characters: Ianto, OCs.
Word Count: 3439
Spoilers: CoE, House of the Dead
Summary: Ianto and his TARDIS embark on a risky attempt to change the recent past and save lives. Will they succeed?
Written For: Challenge #123: Amnesty at fan_flashworks, using Challenge # 7: Do-Over.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
…and re-materialised in the cargo hold of the Megilly family’s freighter.
“We’re there… um… here already?” Ianto hadn’t expected to arrive so quickly.
“Yes, Ianto. By my reckoning, the brigands will commence their attack in ten earth minutes,” the TARDIS replied
“Oh. Right. It occurs to me that we don’t really have a plan; I thought we’d have time to work something out on the trip. Guess I forgot to factor in the whole time travel bit. Ah well, from what Jack’s told me, the Doctor never seems to have much of a plan; maybe improvisation is the key to success. A suitable weapon would have been nice though, a stun gun, a sonic screwdriver maybe. I don’t think using a handgun aboard a spaceship would be a very good idea.”
“I have taken the liberty of constructing some suitable equipment.” The TARDIS sounded smug. “There is a small sonic modulator, quite basic in design, but it will open locks and disable hand weapons among other things. The other device, I believe you would describe it as a taser, though it is not necessary for it to make contact with the person you wish to incapacitate. It is effective over a distance of two metres.”
Ianto approached the console and picked up the two devices. The taser was about the size of a cell phone and a similar shape, with a simple button trigger that could easily be worked with the thumb of either hand. The sonic modulator looked more like a slim torch; it had ten settings that could be selected by means of a sliding lever, and a two-way on/off switch. Both devices were designed so they could be operated one-handed. He was still studying them when the freighter’s alarms started to sound.
“The freighter is under attack,” the TARDIS informed him, rather unnecessarily.
“I gathered that. Looks like this is where things get interesting!” Ianto turned to Auber, who was dressed in lightweight body armour, provided by the TARDIS, and carrying a short staff with a sharp blade, similar to a traditional Tallan hunting spear. “Ready?”
Auber bared his teeth and wrinkled his nose. “Indeed. We have a battle to win!”
“Hopefully we can keep the actual battling to a minimum!”
Slipping out into the cargo hold, the two friends made their way to the access door, opening it by means of a very earth-like wheel mechanism, much like the one that opened the hatch to Jack’s quarters back at the Hub. Ianto swallowed hard and pushed the memory away; now was not the time for reminiscing.
Outside in the corridor, they could hear the distant sounds of people running, and the ship shook as the brigands fired on it again. The freighter was returning fire, Ianto knew, but soon it would be boarded. There were whole families on board, including children; the best course of action would be to get all non-combatants into the TARDIS where they would be safe, then the rest of the crew would be able to fight without distractions.
‘Which way is the bridge?’ As Captain, Garten’s brother was sure to be there.
‘Turn left and follow the corridor to its end. There is a short staircase down to the main corridor, turn left again and the main control room will be right ahead of you.’
Ianto set off at a run with Auber jogging along behind him. The Tallan’s legs might have been on the short side, but he could still move pretty fast when necessary, and easily kept up. They saw no one in the access corridor; the crew would be elsewhere, manning the weapons systems and getting their families into the lifepods, just in case. Checking on the cargo would be considered low priority. It was a different matter when they came down the stairs into the main corridor; there were people everywhere, running in both directions, visibly worried but not yet panicking.
It was too much to expect that they could pass unnoticed; among all the humans thronging the central corridor, Auber was hardly inconspicuous, being hairy all over and decidedly non-human. Nevertheless, despite the surprised looks they got from the crew, no one tried to stop them. Perhaps it was the way Ianto was dressed, in a smart suit and tie, his hands empty of weapons, or perhaps it was the air of calm authority he’d perfected during his years with Torchwood, but the mass of people seemed to part in front of him as he and Auber strode the short distance to the bridge, entering through the wide double doors.
In his head, Ianto heard the TARDIS informing him that the lifepod containing Garten and his family had launched. Moments later, the calm voice in the back of his mind reported that the pod had been hit, damaging its life support systems, but had successfully engaged its hyperdrive engine. Now was the time to begin re-writing events.
The brigands were preparing to board, their small shuttles already launched, getting into position to dock with the freighter’s airlocks as soon as the ship’s shields were knocked out. They were taking a huge risk considering the firefight going on around them, but Ianto supposed the risk was balanced against the need to board whatever vessel the were attacking as quickly as possible. There wasn’t going to be much time to organise an effective defence.
“Berrin Megilly!” Ianto’s voice cut through the hubbub, and silence fell as heads turned. Ianto strode towards the captain, a stocky, dark-haired man a few years older than Garten but bearing a strong resemblance to him. Berrin snatched an energy pistol from where it lay on the control console, within easy reach, pointing it at Ianto, who didn’t even glance at it. Getting killed would be inconvenient and waste valuable time, but it wouldn’t be fatal so he ruthlessly shoved the thought out of his mind. There were more important considerations right now than his own life and in a corner of his mind he briefly wondered when he’d acquired Jack’s gung-ho gene. ‘I’m becoming just like him, not caring about my own life!’
“Who are you? How did you get on board my ship?”
“Ianto Jones, at your service,” Ianto gave a curt bow. “I’m a friend of Garten’s, I caught your mayday signal, thought you could use a hand.” He nodded to the viewscreen where the pirate vessel could be seen powering up its weapons again. “They mean business and I don’t think your shields will take another hit.” Red lights were flashing on the console; the freighter’s shields were on the verge of collapse. “I can help with that if you’ll let me.” He produced the sonic modulator as if from nowhere. In truth, he’d had it tucked up his right sleeve, but the cheap theatrics were effective. Ianto was a little surprised that Berrin didn’t shoot him.
“How do I know you are not one of them?” Berrin gestured with his free hand at the ship visible on the screen.
“You don’t, and convincing you will take too long.” Ianto looked Berrin right in the eye, unflinching. “You can trust me or not, your choice, but you don’t have much time to decide; the next shot will likely take your shields out, and when that happens you’ll be boarded. I can buy you some time; enough maybe to get most of your people to safety on my ship while the rest of us prepare to mount a counterattack, but we’re cutting it a little close for comfort.”
Berrin hesitated for a split second longer then lowered his gun, stepping away from the shield controls. “I must be mad,” he muttered. “Know that if you’re lying, you and your companion will not be leaving here alive.”
Ianto didn’t respond to the threat, simply stepped up to the control console and followed the instructions the TARDIS was giving him; flicking several switches on the array in front of him, he knelt and opened the front panel, aiming the modulator at the shield circuitry inside and pressing the button. The little device lit up with a throbbing hum and the flickering lights on the console steadied, turning green.
“Okay, that should hold for two, maybe three more hits, but we need to move fast. Round up your families, my friend here will get them aboard my ship. I parked in your cargo hold; hope you don’t mind.”
“Your ship is inside my ship? How is that possible?”
“Long story, and there really isn’t time to explain, even if I could. To tell the truth, I don’t completely understand it myself. My ship is quite extraordinary, and right now, she’s the safest place for anyone who’s not going to be involved in defending your ship.”
Berrin nodded sharply. “Very well.” He turned to one of the crew, “Keep targeting the pirate ship’s propulsion systems and weapons arrays. If we can disable them before they break through our shields, we might stand a chance.”
The freighter shook as the other ship scored a direct hit, but the shields held.
“We need to hurry.” Ianto’s voice was strained; he wished he had a better plan, or any plan for that matter. How did the Doctor not give himself ulcers? Improvisation in the face of danger was terrifying, but he needed to stay calm. He could have a nervous breakdown later.
“Madrin, Shay, gather the children and seniors, go with this gentleman.” Berrin gestured towards Auber.
“Sir!” A red-haired woman and a man with greying hair jumped to follow his orders.
“I hope your ship will be big enough.” Berrin looked worried, “Between the crew and their families, there are two hundred and seventeen people on this ship. Nearly half are either children, the elderly, or those too frail to fight.”
“There’ll be more than enough room, don’t worry,” Ianto assured him. “You’ll need your people at every airlock, armed and ready to take on the brigands when they try to board. Make no mistake, they’re just waiting for the shields to fall, then we’re going to have a fight on our hands.”
“We will be ready.” Berrin turned away, calling out orders to crewmembers. Ianto remained where he was, standing in front of the main console, staring at the viewscreen and watching the pirate ship power up its weapons again. Another bone-shaking impact rocked them; the lights on the console flickered red, then back to green again. One more, two at the most, and they’d lose shields. Ianto prayed that Auber could get everyone who wouldn’t be fighting into the TARDIS before the freighter was boarded. They’d be safe there.
Time to move.
‘Where will the brigands break through first?’ Ianto asked the TARDIS as he strode from the bridge.
‘The forward portside airlock; it is the closest to the bridge.’
‘That makes sense; take the bridge and you control the ship’s systems. Point me in the right direction.’
Back down the main corridor Ianto jogged, past the staircase leading up to the cargo hold access corridor, dodging through the throngs of people heading in the opposite direction towards the safety of the TARDIS. Thirty metres along the main corridor, there was a passageway leading off to his right and Ianto swung into it, breaking into a run, flanked by members of the ship’s crew heading in the same direction, Berrin bringing up the rear. The passageway led into a corridor that ran along the port side of the ship, and turning right again, Ianto could see the airlock set into the bulkhead at the end. He slowed to a walk as Berrin caught up with him.
“Do you have a plan?”
“Nope! I’m making it up as I go along. Fun, isn’t it?” Inwardly, Ianto rolled his eyes; he must be channelling the Doctor. Either that or the adrenaline rush was doing weird things to his brain.
“Are you insane?” Berrin looked at him, aghast.
“It’s a distinct possibility.”
Ianto was surprised when Berrin laughed. “It would seem that I must be as well, for it takes a madman to follow a madman.”
“Then I guess we’re both in good company.” Ianto smiled wryly.
The freighter lurched again, sending the armed crewmen staggering into one another. Ianto rebounded off the bulkhead and landed in a heap on the floor, any dignity he might have had obliterated. Some things never changed.
‘How are the shields?’ he silently asked his TARDIS as he hauled himself upright again.
‘Weakening. They will not withstand another hit.’
“We’ll lose shields on the next hit,” he told Berrin and the other crewmen and women around them.
“How do you know these things?”
“I’m in contact with my ship via an implant.” Ianto tapped his ear; it was a lie but Berrin would find it more understandable than the truth. “She’s monitoring your systems and the activities of the brigands through your ship’s sensors. Three quarters of the non-combatants are aboard her, the rest are in the hold, with a few stragglers in the access corridor. They’ll all be safely inside soon, so that’s one less thing to worry about.”
‘The pirate ship’s weapons systems are powering up again.’
“Brace for impact!” Ianto shouted, the command being relayed to the people standing ready at the other airlocks via hand-held communication devices. This time when the ship shook, most of them stayed on their feet, but the lights flickered and dimmed as the ship’s systems switched over to auxiliary power. “Get ready, everybody; company’s coming!”
The crewmembers readied their weapons, spreading out as much as was possible in the confined space. Ianto set his taser on full power, hoping he wouldn’t accidentally hit any of the crew in the upcoming fight.
‘Ianto, the brigands are armed with shock-grenades; if they go off, everyone in range will be incapacitated. You will need to use your sonic modulator on setting seven to disable them.’
‘Oh joy. I really hope I don’t miss. What do these things look like?’
‘They are small sphere, perhaps three inches across.’
‘Explosive cricket balls, perfect! Can today get any better?’
‘I cannot tell at this point; time remains in flux. However, I suggest you select the modulator’s wide beam option, then you should not have any difficulty aiming, despite their relatively small size.’
‘And where might I find that?’ Digging his right hand into his jacket pocket, Ianto pulled out the modulator, his thumb sliding the lever to the correct setting.
‘Turn the emitter ninety degrees clockwise.’
As Ianto followed the TARDIS’s instructions, he called out to Berrin. “Captain, warn your people that the attackers are likely to be armed with shock-grenades and will probably deploy them as soon as the airlock doors open.”
“Relay that!” Berrin shouted to one of the crew. “Should we draw back?” he asked Ianto.
“Sonic disrupter.” Ianto waved the device. “If I get this right, we won’t have to worry about them, but this is the only one I have. The rest of your crew will need to hold back until after the grenades go off.”
In front of them on the panel beside the airlock, lights turned green and with a hiss, the pressure door began to open, two small spheres rolling through as soon as the gap was wide enough. Ianto hit the button on his sonic modulator, playing the invisible beam over them and mentally keeping his fingers crossed since he didn’t have a free hand. The grenades made a spluttering sound, a pop, and then the sides fell off. It was rather anticlimactic, but the relief was short-lived.
Distantly, Ianto heard the concussive blasts of other grenades detonating, but by then he had other things to think about.
The battle was mayhem; close quarters fighting against an unknown number of attackers in a confined space was far from ideal, and Ianto had the TARDIS in his head giving a running commentary on the situation at the four other airlocks too.
It was making his head spin. Auber was back in the connecting passageway, the last line of defence, ready to deal with any brigands who managed to break through. Ianto hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
Everything seemed to be happening at once. Weapons fired continuously and people from both sides were falling, Ianto could only hope that his side was suffering fewer casualties; it was impossible to tell.
How long the fighting continued, probably only the TARDIS knew, and Ianto wasn’t about to ask. It felt like eternity. At one point, he was hit in the chest by an energy pulse and fell, getting trampled underfoot even as he felt the wound healing. He spared a split second to mourn the damage to his suit, then tasered one of the brigands in the ankle and another in the knee as he scrambled back to his feet, kicking the weapon out of the next attacker’s hand and getting a flash of déjà vu as he shoved the taser against the man’s forehead and pulled the trigger, an expression of grim satisfaction on his face. All the exercising and training he’d done in the TARDIS’s gym was paying off; he was in better physical shape than he’d ever been, but even he was getting winded.
Somewhere out in the black, the pirate ship, which the freighter had been firing on almost continuously, exploded in a brief burst of flame quickly extinguished by the vacuum of space.
Ianto walked slowly among the freighter’s crew, helping out with emergency repairs wherever he could, aided by the TARDIS’s vast store of knowledge. As often as not, helping meant holding something in place while someone who knew what they were doing fixed it, but Ianto didn’t mind, at least it meant he could be of some use.
The battle was over, the brigands, those who had survived, were disarmed and restrained. They were a surly bunch of ruffians, lowlifes who’d been hired and equipped by Pax to stalk the shipping lanes, raiding any ships that were refusing to pay the exorbitant tolls Pax demanded for safe passage. It was safe to say they’d raided their last ship; they’d be turned over to Commander Bain when the freighter made it back to the space station. Ianto doubted they’d see the light of day for a very long time.
The freighter’s crew had suffered casualties, but fewer than Ianto had feared, given the level of fighting; four killed outright, nine in critical condition and a further twenty-eight with non-life threatening injuries. Ianto had the most seriously injured taken aboard the TARDIS where they could be treated in her automated infirmary. One of them was Madrin, the red-haired woman from earlier, looking small and frail now that she was unconscious. She was Berrin and Garten’s younger sister and Ianto felt a stab of guilt that she had been injured.
Berrin, it seemed, could read his thoughts, or perhaps just guessed what was going through his head from the expression on his face. “Madman you may be, but you bear no blame for any of this. We were battling for our home and for our very lives,” he said quietly sometime later as they stood together in the infirmary, checking on the injured. “We are fortunate not to have suffered far worse losses. Your ship assures me that the injured should recover; without your assistance, we might have lost everything, not least our lives. We owe you a debt of gratitude.”
Ianto shook his head. “You owe me nothing, Berrin. Those marauders had to be stopped, too many people have suffered at their hands; at least now they’ll face justice and hopefully pay for their crimes. Things will be different in this sector of space in future. Perhaps you’ll be able to extend your trading routes after all.”
“Perhaps. First, we must make our way to the space station you have spoken of. That will take time.”
In a reversal of previous events, it was the freighter’s hyperdrive engines that had been damaged rather than the pirate ship’s, ensuring that it wouldn’t arrive at the station until after Pax and his minions had been taken into custody. Ianto intended to take the slow road back with them. He couldn’t arrive back there before he’d left without risking a paradox, so he might as well stay aboard so that the injured could continue to be treated aboard the TARDIS.
In the aftermath of the battle, there were still a lot of repairs to be done and the whole ship was a mess. Maybe he could help with the cleanup. At least that was something he knew how to do.