A New Age Dawns
Chapter Six
by Apollymi 

Series: Torchwood
Pairing: General
Rating: 15
Word Count: 3592
Note: The title comes from the Epica album Consign to Oblivion. Yes, I still suck at titles. This is the first of my fan novels for Torchwood. It is set to bridge the gap between Series 1 and Series 2. Whether or not it will be Series 2 compliant is left to be seen, but it does take into account information released in "The Sound of Drums" of Doctor Who.
Summary: Set immediately following End of Days but prior to the beginning of Series Two, Torchwood Three's leader is gone. What will happen in the meantime?
Disclaimer: Doctor Who and Torchwood belong to the BBC. I'm just borrowing.

Making herself stay on her feet and not shrink back from Gwen or Owen was actually a lot harder than it sounded - and millions of times harder than it should have been. Every instinct in her body was screaming at her to do just that after all. The only reason she was currently able to resist the fight or flight instinct - or, well, in her case, just flight - that was screaming in her was thanks to her Torchwood training. Jack had drilled standing her ground into her almost from her first day. She'd had to practice every day to begin with to be able to stand to be near the Weevils.

The feeling she'd gotten from the Weevils back then was nothing compared to what she was getting from her own team-mates now. If the Weevils were scary, well, then Owen and Gwen were bloody terrifying. All she wanted was to get away, to get far, far away. Maybe she could even hide somewhere and throw away the key. If there was anywhere the wolf, Gwen, or the big bad, Owen, could never find her again, that was.

She wasn't always one to want to run and hide, but right now, it was an impulse that was hard to resist. She wasn't sure if she wanted to thank Jack for training resisting it into her or curse him for it. Because running away really sounded good right now.

She shook her head, trying to clear it, with about as much success as Owen had seemed to have had. No, the pressure eased just a bit. She could manage to think. She shook herself again, hard enough that she almost stumbled, catching herself on the table. "What's happening here?" she gasped out as forcefully as she could without sounding challenging - and definitely without meeting either Gwen's or Owen's eyes. As much as she was for trying to break them all out of this, she wasn't going to go and issue a challenge right now. Not when whatever was doing this had clearly selected her as a prey animal. Calling this much attention to herself was a bit more than she wanted, the way Gwen was eyeing her like she wanted to eat her alive. She hadn't seen a look like that turned on her since the cannibals, and she didn't want to think of herself as the secret ingredient in her team-mates' dinner. "Seriously, what's going on here?"

Owen hunched over, rubbing his forehead. "Fight or flight." He tried shaking his head again and finally glanced up at her. Immediately, her eyes dropped to the floor; she had to fight to raise them again. "Something is triggering a fight or flight response in all of us."

"Like what?" She had to wonder if it took Ianto as much an effort to speak as it had taken her. If it did, of course, he didn't let it show. Then, he wouldn't, would he? Thinking back to the cannibals and the Cyberwoman, it had been a long time since he really let anything slip out around them. "What have we all been exposed to that could trigger something like this in us all?"

"Other than that damn coffee?" Owen growled out, shooting the cups on the table a dark glare. "No, nothing. Is there anything in the coffee we need to know about, Tea Boy?"

"Only if Starbucks is trying to take over the world." She could almost imagine she heard his voice shaking just slightly. It was like opening something as innocuous as a refrigerator and finding pieces of what could only be people. No, his voice was quavering, not a lot, just enough for her to hear if she really listened. "I ran out of Jack's brand last week and just bought something there."

She shook her head again. As long as she kept doing that every few minutes, she could resist the urge to take off running and hide somewhere, maybe the morgue. (Yes, that was it! If it came down to that, she could hide in the morgue. No-one would think to look for her there. Open some of the compartments, and eventually the smell might overwhelm a predator's senses. Confuse it with the smell of the dead, and it would never, ever be able to sniff her out. That could be the plan! She might even take Ianto with her, if he could hide well enough, but if he couldn't... Well...) She bit down on her lower lip hard, dragging her thoughts back to the present and some semblance of order. It just wasn't like her to be so scatter-brained. She just had to think.

Okay, this all started this morning. It was two days since Jack had been kidnapped. They'd spent the last two days trying to take their erstwhile leader down and... and... they'd something else, something she now couldn't remember. It couldn't be too important. So they'd been looking for Jack. They'd been hitting dead ends every direction they turned. Why was that again? Oh yes, because the Doctor had him. Why would the Doctor take him? Because the Doctor had it out for Torchwood, and Jack was Torchwood. Obviously the Doctor was hoping that, without Jack, Torchwood would be crippled. It wasn't entirely inaccurate; they certainly weren't functioning at anything like their normal levels.

Could this be the Doctor doing this to them? Weaken them without their leader (She had to fight off the word "alpha" instead of leader), confuse them, then take them out? Was this what had happened to Torchwood One? Could this be why Torchwood Four was missing? It was a dirty way of dealing with one's enemies. Or was this the alien version of a fair fight? The alien wasn't to blame if they couldn't shake this off? Even with the basic psychic training Jack had insisted they get before Torchwood One went down, they couldn't fight it off.

Torchwood One... It had been gone by the time Gwen was brought into the Torchwood fold. There hadn't been anyone to show her mental defence except Jack, and she had no idea if the opportunity for the training had ever presented itself. She'd frankly been surprised that they'd given Gwen a gun before taking the time to show her how to use it, so maybe it should be no surprise that they'd sent her out in the field, with the potential of coming up again possibly telepathic foes without knowing what to do against them.

Of course, the other three of them had had received the training and it was still running rampant through their minds. It took throwing herself off balance (with the hard shaking of her head) or causing herself slight pain (biting her lips) to get the frame of mind to think even this coherently, if this passed for coherent in any way. What were they talking about anyway? "It's not the coffee. We've been drinking it for a week, and this just started suddenly. It's some more immediate."

"The Doctor," Owen growled, snatching a photo off the floor that had gone over with him, the Doctor with the curly hair, and ripping it in half. Completely against all her better thoughts, she fell back half a step in the face of his anger before she managed to stop herself. "We start catching on to his plan, and he starts his real work on taking us down."

"Maybe he planted something when he took Jack?" questioned Ianto.

Abruptly she noticed that both he and Owen were still sitting on the floor, like there weren't two chairs right in front of them. Why were they still sitting on the floor? For that matter, why were she and Gwen still standing, when there were also two chairs near them? She certainly felt no urge to sit down, not in such close proximity to two such predators as Owen and Gwen.

Of course! She'd noticed it before, just like she'd noticed Ianto and Owen on the floor before, but like that, it never really sunk in till now. Whatever this was, it was turning them in predator and prey animals. Obviously it was hoping that in the ensuing adrenalin rush, while they were caught in this fight or flight mentality, they'd take themselves out of the picture and save it, whatever it was, the trouble. And it had divided them so neatly into categories with Gwen and Owen as predators and herself and Ianto as prey. It made sense: Gwen and Owen were more dynamic and a bit more aggressive, while she and Ianto were more passive, preferring to take a more "behind the scenes" approach. So the two predators were probably supposed to kill the two prey animals then destroy each other. Too bad whatever had them all in its grasp hadn't counted on the adrenalin making the two ex's going after each other with a vengeance first, thereby tipping them off to its plan.

"I have an idea," she voiced at last. When the two men's eyes turned to her, again she had to fight the urge to back out of the room. "I don't know what's causing it, not exactly, but I know how it's causing it, how it's making us think the way we are."

"Increased stimulation of the adrenal glands, adrenalin takes over," Owen explained, sinking into doctor mode. "After that, evolution and civilization flies right out the window, and we're back on the savanna waiting in prehistoric days for the next big, hungry thing with sharp teeth to try to eat us. We either get ready to fight it or run from it."

"Why isn't it shutting off?" Again, Ianto spoke. Gwen remained curiously silent, but she wasn't looking at the Welshwoman. She was the wolf. Not even a regular wolf either. No, every time the word "Gwen" flashed through her mind, she saw a wolf of such size and ferocity, she wanted to call it the "big, bad wolf" of children's fairy tale; it was more akin to the Dire Wolf of ancient times than anything she'd ever seen in a zoo. And that was Gwen. When she thought of Owen, her mind provided something in the dark that she couldn't see but she knew would equally love to make a meal of her.

"Whatever it is, if it's a program or a projection, it's not being closed down by whoever is running it. It's taken our two most aggressive members," she swallowed and made herself say their names, willing her terror down as well, "Owen and Gwen, and increased their responses to predator level, while they reduce us down to prey, Ianto. I think it wants us to kill each other off and save it the trouble."

"So what is it?" Gwen finally spoke up, her voice tight and a bit choked. She glanced over at the woman standing a few steps from her (And she was acutely aware of every millimetre of space between them, and she would remain acutely aware of it, in case she needed to run.) and tried to appraise her not as an animal of prey looking at something that might kill her, but as a concerned friend.

Gwen's eyes were squeezed tightly closed, as were her fists; she could see the other woman's knuckles starting to turn white with the pressure she was exerting. In fact, her entire body was fairly quivering with barely held in tension. No psychic training, she reminded herself. She had to keep that in mind. For a person who had had no training against this compulsion, she was holding up to a psychic violation rather well. Surprisingly well, as a matter of fact; she had to say she hadn't seen that coming. Then again, she hadn't seen any of this coming; none of them had. How could they? Unexpected things happened every day with this job, but psychic warfare was supposed to be near the bottom of the list these days.

Of course! Maybe that was why it didn't seem to be bothering Ianto as much as the rest of them: he'd come to them from Torchwood One. Yvonne had supposedly had a very strict regime of psychic training for all employees, from the administrative staff all the way up to scientists in charge of the various projects they'd always had running - all of which were lost now, and even if the projects hadn't been lost, the scientists definitely had been; none of them had survived. No, Tosh, she scolded herself, stay on topic. Don't let your mind wander. She couldn't afford to let her mind wander. Not here, not now. She could end up dead if she did.

"The Doctor?" Owen was sticking to his guns on that, as the expression went. "We start talking about him, and suddenly the whammy is on full force. Bit much to be a coincidence, don't you think?"

It was a valid theory, and the reasoning almost stood up, almost. Maybe like a chair with one leg shorter than the others and didn't balance, but it still almost balanced. Fair enough description, if she did say so herself, if a bit unimaginative. It couldn't be helped; most of her imagination was tied up on wondering if and how two of her team-mates might try to kill her and hoping that they wouldn't decide to eat her. She was also trying to figure out if she could convince them, if it came down to it, to eat Ianto first; the last cannibals had seemed to think there was more meat to his body, after all. If they ate Ianto first, maybe she could have time to get to the weapons cabinet or, better still, out of the Hub and completely shut it down. But that was just planning for the worst: she should try to place more faith in Gwen's and Owen's self-control. They were her team-mates after all.

Something kept teasing the back of her mind, though, something she needed to remember but kept slipping away just as she grabbed for it. Like something only seen out of the corner of one's eyes, it teased her mind. It wasn't like her to not be able to remember something, especially something as important as this felt.

"It is a stretch to think anything else," she carefully answered, "but we shouldn't rule other options out just yet."

"What? Do you have other ideas?" Owen snapped. Somehow it was becoming easier not to react.

"There are other aliens Torchwood is involved with besides just the Doctor. Just because we don't know if any of them are telepathic doesn't mean they aren't."

"It could also be the Rift." She glanced over at Gwen quickly, surprised not only that she had spoken again, but at her suggestion. The Rift had never quite figured into her calculations. "Abaddon was imprisoned under the Rift. Maybe there are other things within it and beyond it as well."

"So maybe this is them talking through?" Apparently they were all starting to get used to it. There was clearly less hostility in Owen's posture, and he sounded a lot less likely to take her head off. Ianto was slowly climbing to his feet and collecting the coffee, heading for dispose of it, no doubt; to dispose of it, she thought, since it would be better to be safe than sorry in this case. Just in case Starbucks was trying to take over the world, one mind at the time. Now that wouldn't surprise her in the least. "What else could still be under the Rift, though? Shouldn't anything else trapped there have jumped out with Abaddon?"

Toshiko slowly moved forward to settle back down in the chair Ianto had previously occupied, trying not to make herself watch Ianto right his own chair and settle back down in it. Gwen was still standing behind her, but somehow now she could breathe with the other woman at her back. Psychic training, she expected, since Gwen didn't seem to be completely back to normal, was helping them recover their normal working minds.

"All I can really do is speculate, but if I were something under the Rift, I wouldn't want to come out at the same time as Abaddon. If all life dies in his shadow, then it would be pointless to escape the Rift, only to die because a creature like Abaddon got between me and the sun. I'd wait and come through later, once Abaddon was destroyed but the scar of the Rift was still fresh." Tosh shrugged helpless. "Jack did tell Gwen that the Rift would become a lot more active."

"So more Weevils? Among other things," Owen pondered aloud. "And now things trying to converse through the Rift itself."

There it was again: that strange feeling of something she was supposed be remembering tickling the back of her senses. "It's not really words so much as senses. They're sending feelings at us, as best I can guess. And I would also guess that they're hostile with a ploy like this."

"Now that sounds like the Doctor."

But she barely heard Owen because Gwen spoke up at the same time, and though her voice was softer, somehow it carried more than his: "Or it's afraid."

She turned quickly in her chair to again face the other woman. "What? Afraid? Why would something that could do this be afraid of us?"

Slowly, cautiously, Gwen moved to sit at the table, drawing her chair a little further from Tosh's, a little closer to where Jack would sit if he were here. She must not be completely out of the control yet, Tosh guess from how she was acting. "If it's heard anything about Earth and what we do to aliens, it would be afraid to have accidentally come here." She paused, briefly glancing over at their faces, then elaborated. "All they'd need to know would be the Sycorax."

"The Sycorax invaded us. They almost killed a third of the Earth's population if you'll recall." The words could have been harsh, but somehow Owen was modulating his voice so they came out almost calm, just reminding. Good. There was no need to set the whole chain of events off again.

"But according to what I read last night in the U.N.I.T. files, they were retreating when we shot them down," she argued in return. No anger as well there either, just a sort of resigned weariness. "It would look to outsiders like Earth doesn't obey the rules of surrender: if you're an alien on Earth, you're doomed. If it's an alien and it's already through the Rift, it might be trying to keep itself alive. Wherever it comes from, it might be the prey animal, and we're the next big, hungry thing on the savanna waiting to eat it. So maybe, just maybe, it's scared and is trying to defend himself - itself."

"Sounds like a bit of soft-hearted rubbish to me." She shot Owen a surprised glance. The tone was still soft, but it couldn't temper to cruel words. "It just tried to make us all kill each other. It got inside our heads and fucked around. That was a very hostile action to take."

"Get them before they get me," Gwen countered. And now they were bickering without a hint of their previous animosity. How did they do it? But then, they were probably making an especial effort to keep their anger reined in. If they let even a bit more than was safe slip, then they could all end up back where they had been only a few minutes ago: almost literally at each other's throats. Between the two of them, she wasn't even sure who would win: Owen had a height and weight advantage, but he was injured and Gwen seem the type to fight dirty, what with her habit of surprise punches from out of nowhere. She was also exhausted though; Tosh could clearly see it in her eyes and the dark circles beneath them that she hadn't even bothered trying to hide. No, it was best it not come down to a fight: there was no telling how it would turn out.

"Why don't we work out what it is before we try to start deciding its motives and how to deal with it?" Tosh suggested calmly. "If it's hostile, then we'll take care of it. If it's not, then we'll try to find a way to accommodate it." How they were going to do that was quite beyond her. If it was sentient enough for this, they certainly couldn't just lock it up downstairs. Maybe if it was humanoid enough, they could try to help it integrate into society, with them monitoring it for good behaviour.

But of course... that all depended on the alien...

13 July 2007

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! Like I told my co-workers earlier (much earlier) in the day, this tends to be my lucky day. And here, look, see: lucky. Despite that flu bug dying down into just a nasty head cold, with earaches like you wouldn't believe, I managed to concentrate enough to get this out for you guys. I'm still a little behind on words, but we can't have everything, right?

With this chapter, I really wanted to try to recapture the feel of "Everything Changes", where so many things are out of the corner of one's eye. Ahh, the joys of trying to write Lovecraftian style horror in a science fiction universe... It might end up being my head exploding in the end.

And I do have to thank you guys yet again for all the lovely hits - and even more lovely reviews! You guys are just absolute darlings! And thank you for my first ice cream treat, and in advance for my second, which will probably be tomorrow. My beta and I did make this deal: ice cream for every 500 hits, and I'm in the 900 range now. I wonder if I can bribe her towards free dinners for every 10 or 20 reviews. That'd be nice.

And I think I need to go to bed. It's getting rather late, and I have a lot to catch up on. Night, everyone! See you again soon!


[ Prologue | 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | Epilogue ]