The wind was slow to die down in the Hub. Papers, still in the process of being put back into a semblance of order after the Rift opening a few days before, flew from their carefully constructed piles and mixed together once more on the floor. One of the few remaining pages on the Rift Manipulator itself went into the pool at the base of the water tower, but that wouldn't be noticed for hours yet. For the most part, everything else had been anchored before the strange roaring wind began, either on one of the four desks stationed around the large room, in the recessed office a dark-haired woman had only recently vacated, or pinioned under a fallen piece of the structure which had yet to be repaired.
The noise faded much more quickly. If one were to ask the woman staring at the empty room before, her three companions behind her, she would have described it as a grinding wheeze - and perhaps compared it to a backfiring car on its last legs. That was the noise that had pulled her from her boss's office, that and he was never so quiet. The last time he had been that quiet was only a few hours ago, and that was something none of them wanted to happen again. All their nerves were rubbed raw, and strange noises in a place they had once considered the safest in Cardiff did little to soothe them. No one had asked her about the noise yet though.
"I thought we tidied up in here," Owen stated, glancing around in confusion. It was something echoed in the expressions Ianto and Toshiko wore as well, and though she was doing all she could to keep the same look from overcoming her face as well, Gwen Cooper was certain she was failing spectacularly. "What's the matter?"
And suddenly finding the right words to say were a lot more difficult than she thought they'd be, especially since she herself had no idea just what had gone on only a few scarce seconds before. Jack had been here, complaining about how long the coffees were taking. She heard his heavy boots descending the stairs. The noise had stopped for a second, she heard him take a few steps, then... nothing. Nothing but that noise, then the wind, and then no Jack. The lift was still in place, and he couldn't have gone out the main door, not and the others somehow miss him. Even Owen wasn't that unobservant, she thought dryly.
"He was just here." Even she was glancing around the mess that remained of the Hub, as if it would give her the answer they all were seeking. And in a way, it did. Something else was missing, something besides their leader. The hand in the bubbling jar, the one that was so important to Jack, was also gone from its post, the first time it had vanished since Carys took it all those months ago. And that cinched it. Jack was gone. That strange hand was gone. The current leader of Torchwood and what was probably a piece of an alien, for all that it looked so human, were missing, and that could only mean someone took them, someone who wanted Torchwood's information - and maybe something about that hand. But the hand wasn't what was important now. "Something's taken him. Jack's gone."
Gwen was taking this all too calmly, Toshiko Sato thought to herself, setting down her coffee on an empty piece of desk where a stack of papers had stood only a few minutes ago. If this were any other job in the world, she'd be sitting the Welshwoman down and have Owen check her over. It had been a rough few days, and she wasn't too sure how long it had been since Gwen had had any sleep. Lack of sleep could do strange things to a person, after all, cause hallucinations and the like, to say nothing of the stress they'd all been under lately.
But this wasn't any other job; this was Torchwood. And even if all of this sounded like a stress-induced hallucination to her, well, she was hardly an expert, and it couldn't be discounted. Not immediately anyway.
It was so quiet in the Hub. It immediately reminded her of those three days Jack had been dead. Gwen had never left the morgue, not that she'd ever seen anyway; Ianto had straightened Jack's office over and over again, crying into the man's greatcoat, as if the routine would wake him up once more; and Owen thrown himself into putting the Hub back into its original state of repair, trying to ease his mistakes by fixing what he could. And she had repaired the equipment, only half her mind on her work; the other half was on the larger than life man who lead Torchwood, and snippets of conversations they had shared, on a bench outside the Millennium Centre after Mary and in his office after 1941. The office had been a tomb, silent except the sounds of cleaning, muted though they had been, and the occasional ring of Gwen's mobile till its battery ran out. Every time anyone had checked the number, it had been Rhys.
It was that quiet again now, and she realised with a start that they were all waiting on Jack to just appear out of nowhere, to bounce back from whatever had him, as he had done when Owen shot him, as he had eventually done after Abaddon. They could all pretend they weren't waiting on him fall from the sky or even jump out from behind a desk and yell "Surprise". In a way, she wouldn't put it past Jack. One just never knew what to expect with him; sometimes she thought he might have even jumped out his own mother's birthday cake. It wouldn't surprise her, but lately little surprised her.
"Are you sure someone's taken him?" Owen was asking Gwen, circling past both her and Ianto to look at the other woman more closely. Good. If there were any signs of shock, the doctor would notice and get seen about. He was definitely cataloguing her responsiveness, as far as Tosh could tell, but again, she was hardly the expert here. He was, though. "Maybe he just left."
"How? The lift is still down, and he couldn't have gone out the main way without you seeing him." She frowned hard, as in deep thought on something she could not quite place. "And there was that noise. Such a strange noise, not like anything I've ever heard before."
"What did it sound like, Gwen?" she found herself asking, moving up to cluster close to the two of them. And she could tell herself it wasn't so they wouldn't vanish as well.
Well, Torchwood staff members did have a habit of disappearing. There was all of Torchwood Four still missing to this day, and no-one had ever found all the bodies from Torchwood One. Why Jack, though? Of all of them, why did it have to be Jack? They needed him. If someone was going to take one of them, why couldn't it be her instead?
Gwen's eyes closed, as she clearly tried to remember exactly how it sounded. "Something like a grinding... or a wheezing. Maybe both." She opened her eyes, glancing around at the mess on the floor. Behind them, Tosh could faintly seeing Ianto doing something at Owen's desk, just out of the corner of her eye. "The wind started at the same time. And it was all right when Jack vanished. It's all connected, somehow."
"A grinding or a wheezing?" Owen repeated. He was doing his best to keep a professional expression on his face, at least while he was still checking Gwen over, but disbelief was written in his eyes and all over his tone. "What? Someone drove a backfiring Volvo in the Hub through an entrance no-one knows about, kidnapped Jack, and left before any of us could notice?" It was strangely nice to know even the past week's events couldn't dull Owen's acetic tongue. Some things, at least, didn't change.
"I didn't say that!" Gwen hissed in return. The Welshwoman's eyes were flashing, but she was keeping her voice down. They all were, even Owen. It was just like, too much like, when Jack had been dead. "And I don't see you coming up with any kind of a real theory!" Abruptly, Toshiko was reminded of that wild punch Gwen had unexpectedly thrown at Jack and stepped to the side, so that she was closer to the woman than Owen. Just in case violence ensued, she told herself, she didn't want to be on the accidental receiving end of Gwen's temper. "So why don't you just-"
Whatever insult she was going to level on Owen was lost as a sound Toshiko could best describe only as a grinding wheeze, much as Gwen herself had, filled the still air of the Hub. The reaction was instantaneous: Owen cursed and reached for a gun that wasn't there, Gwen jumped and pulled a gun Toshiko hadn't known she had on her, and she froze.
Just as abruptly as the strange sound began, it ceased, leaving the room once more in a strained silence.
"Was that what you heard?" Ianto's voice spoke up, and as one, they turned to where he stood, still beside Owen's desk. A file was open on the desktop, and from here, all she could see was a random assortment of letters and the words 'Torchwood One'. "Gwen?"
She breathed a silent sigh of relief as the gun disappeared once more to wherever it had come from as Gwen and Owen both rushed over to the desk. "That was it!" she exclaimed. "What is it?"
Only Toshiko caught the darkening in the Welshman's eyes. Whatever it was, Ianto didn't like it. This wouldn't be good.
"That was recorded at Torchwood One, hours before it went under," he finally said, his voice dull. "Someone managed to load it on the Torchwood Archive mainframe before everything went-" He trailed off, as if searching for the appropriate phrase.
"Tits up?" Owen offered.
Ianto shrugged. "Exactly. It's the sound of the TARDIS, when it... arrived in Torchwood One."
Perhaps this sinking feeling was what people meant when they said their hearts sank. "The TARDIS? Like the Doctor's TARDIS?" she repeated in shock.
"The Doctor took Jack?" came from Gwen.
A loud bang made her jump, made them all start, and turn their attention to Owen. One of his fists had just come down on the edge of the desk hard, hard enough for her to wonder if they'd need to cast it later. "Why not?" he growled. "The Doctor was there when Torchwood One was destroyed. We may be his next targets."
01 July 2007
Oh, Owen, you are a silly, silly one. The Doctor isn't gunning for Torchwood. Granted, it may feel like that to you right now, but that's just you. However, looking at it from Torchwood's point of view, I can see how they'd think that.
For another thing, I'm hoping there will be a post a day on this, or at least every other or so day. I can't compete in NaNoWriMo due to work (working in a university means that November is one of the busiest months of the year), so I'm doing my 50,000 words this month. Almost 2000 down, a little over 48,000 still to go.
See everyone at the end of Chapter One! Ciao!