A New Age Dawns
Chapter Twelve
by Apollymi 

Series: Torchwood
Pairing: General
Rating: 15
Word Count: 3903
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.

It shouldn't have surprised her to see Owen and Gwen leave together and come back together. They were thicker than thieves sometimes, back when they were sleeping together and again now that they weren't. They were acting like they were friends again, which was both a relief and a bit worrisome. She didn't relish the thought of them teaming up against her or Ianto or both of them. In a retaliatory war, she had the distinct feeling that those two would win: she had never een good at those sorts of things, and she just couldn't picture Ianto stooping to pranks and the like when they couldn't even get him to join them in a game of basketball from time to time. Yes, if there was ever a Torchwood prank war, she and Ianto were claiming Jack on their side. He'd probably be rather amazing at it, she could just bet. That would be the only way she and Ianto would win though. Otherwise, it wouldn't even begin to be a fair fight.

And all of this, as random and utterly out of context as it seemed, was better than thinking about that she was in the air. She had never been fond of flying, probably a good bit of the reason why she had never gotten to see the Himalayas nor more of the other sights of the world she wanted to see before now: sometimes even the thought of flying made her ill. Sometimes she could barely stand to look at planes, and Owen's girlfriend Diane's plane terrified her; she hadn't even been able to stand it land when they had gotten the tip that something that looked like a Fifties plane was picked up on radar. And now she had to make herself sit through a several hours' long flight.

When she'd initially gotten so excited about the prospect of going to the Himalayas, she had managed to forget it would mean flying. She'd managed to make herself forget it would mean hours trapped in a small box of thin metal, with almost nothing to protect them from the ground should they crash. Statistically, she knew she was more likely to die in a car crash than in a plane crash, but that didn't mean a lot to her. Thanks to Owen's girlfriend, now she had another worry to add to the 'crashing and dying' list: there was now also the concern that they could fly through the Rift and wind up in their future - or even worse, some time in the past. They could end up in the twenty-second century or conversely the eighteenth, either of which time zones this plane would very much be an anachronism. Or, to make matters worse, now that the Rift was more active - and they had managed to pick up a particularly dangerous alien through it - it was entirely possible that they might end up on another planet altogether.

One more thing she had apparently let herself forget till they were about to board the plane: she would be stuck in a very confined space with no way of escape for a long period time with Owen, Gwen, and Ianto. When it finally hit, she had immediately tried to volunteer to go back and mind the Hub till the others returned. Mister Saxon's assistant had politely but firmly reminded her that they were dealing with three aliens that two of them had a great deal of trouble taking down, that they would need the entire team - as much of it as was available with Jack missing - to take down the rest. So here she was, seated on one of the few seats on this small plane that didn't have a window near it, desperately gripping the armrests and trying not to jump at every slight fluctuation in the plane's otherwise almost smooth path through the skies, and trying to ignore the fact that her co-workers were insane.

At least Ianto was steady and slow in his insanity: he was making tea. That was good: she didn't think that she could take coffee right now. She was plenty enough jumpy as it was. Gwen was seated next to the window with her head leaning against it, staring out in nearly mute fascination yet looking entire too lost in thought to be paying any attention to the scenery outside. Owen had, improbably, fallen asleep just after take-off. How, she had just no idea. She could never manage to do something like that before; she couldn't manage to do something like that now. It was all she could do to keep from screaming in sheer terror and keep screaming till they reached Nepal. Simply breathing almost normally was enough of a task to keep her a bit busy for another half hour or so perhaps.

"Here." Ianto's voice cut through the panic for a moment as a cup of tea appeared before her. Bless the man for being a rock... a rock that made damn good tea. He had even the decency to make the tea how she liked it and not fill the cup; that was good, given how her hands were shaking when she managed to unclench them from the arm rests. She nodded her thanks, taking a quiet sip. "I didn't realise you don't fly well," he observed casually, sinking slowly into the seat next to hers.

"We haven't had to fly anywhere before as a group," she returned quietly. "It's just a bit of a phobia. I've never enjoyed it, no matter how nice the plane is."

He glanced around appreciatively. "Yes, Mister Saxon certainly spared no expense on our accounts, didn't he? A private plane to make up for how quickly we had to leave was a nice touch. Though I think we would have all preferred to wait to do anything till we found Jack..."

"That's for certain." She fidgeted slightly in her seat. It was all she could do not to full-out squirm uncomfortably. Talking about feelings hadn't been her forte even before the pendant and it was doubly not so now. "How are you holding up, Ianto?"

He looked almost as discomfited as she felt, to her relief and consternation. "I'm all right. Thank you for asking."

"I'm sure Jack is fine," she offered hesitantly. She really was rubbish at this. "And if he's not, he will be soon. You know Jack: he always bounces right back."

"Not always." His tone was a bit dark and sad. "Not even Jack bounces right back from everything." Abruptly she was reminded of him locking himself in his office after the list of the dead at Canary Wharf came in, and when Estelle died and the fairies took the child, and after meeting the other Captain Jack Harkness. No, not even Jack could bounce right back from everything.

The latter two times she'd seen Jack not bounce immediately had been intensely personal, though, not like Canary Wharf. Even if she still wondered sometimes when she was trying to fall asleep at night if Bilis Manger had deliberately thrown the other Captain Jack in front of their Jack to distract him, to keep him from noticing details that normally he'd have seen and she'd missed, so that Owen would have to open the Rift, so that the Rift would be weakened, so that he could tempt them with the fear of losing what they cared for most or regaining what they loved more than anything else in this world, so that Abaddon the Great Beast and Destroyer of Worlds could be released, it had been so very personal. In one night, only a few short hours, it seemed like Jack had fallen in love and had his heart completely broken by having to leave. And if Gwen's worst, darkest theory was correct and it was Jack who had met Estelle during World War Two, then he had to see a long-time love murdered senselessly. So what was so importantly about Canary Wharf? Who had Jack lost at Torchwood One?

"Still..." It wasn't good that her voice was so hesitant and nervous, was it? She trailed off, cleared her throat to try to alleviate the problem, and gave it another shot. "Still, we will get Jack back." She placed her free hand on his arm. "And if he's not all right, then we can just let Owen shoot whoever hurt him. That should cheer him right up."

"You make me sound like a gun-happy freak." Owen didn't even open his eyes when he spoke, though Gwen did turn away from the window, an amused grin on her face. "Do I sound American now or something?"

"Nope," Gwen fired back, "definitely not an American. A git, an idiot, and a freak - in your own words - but definitely not American."

"Oi!" He swiped in her general direction, but she dodged easily with plenty of room to spare. "Is it Pick on Owen Day or something?"

"I'm behind then." She nearly burst out laughing at Ianto's deadpan comment.

"In that case, it's just our patriotic duty to insult you," she joined in. "So no offence, Owen, but it's for the Queen. You understand."

Gwen was giggling and grinning. If Owen was amused, he was hiding it well, though. All she could read on his face was annoyance and a sense of putting up with more than he wanted to, but he wasn't cursing them out yet, so maybe that should be as good a clue as any that he wasn't as angry as he might be trying to seem. After a moment or so of letting them have their fun, though, he finally opened his eyes, sat up, and seriously asked, "Do either of you remember the alien Gwen and I brought in last night?"

She shook her head, and to her side, she could see Ianto doing the same. "I know what you were saying about it this morning and what Gwen said on the phone, but I don't remember seeing it. Did I see it?"

"Did either of us?" questioned the man beside her. "Because I don't remember it either."

"This kind of alien can make you think it's not there. It can make you forget all about it." And that might be the most horrific thing she'd heard in a while, and considering what they dealt with on a regular basis, that Owen saying this was the worst was fairly impressive. But then Gwen had to go and top it.

"We think it was also behind what happened this morning, where we started feeling like prey and predator animals. It did it again right before... before..."

"Before it tried to kill us and we ended up having to kill it instead," Owen finished, shooting her an indescribable look. There was annoyance still but also worry and concern and, maybe, guilt. Why would he look guilty? Maybe they'd had it out like real exes, yelling and screaming at each other under its influence. Though from what she could recall from this morning, what had pierced the haze surrounding her conscious mind, there hadn't been a lot of talking or even yelling. It had been all feelings and almost total incoherency. They weren't giving her time to think about it though. Owen was speaking again. "That's not all we have to look out for, though. The one we captured managed to kill two people that we found before we brought him in. We're fairly certain we captured a juvenile version, and these look more full-grown. It was about two and a half metres tall; these are going to be bigger."

"The good news is," Gwen stepped back in with some of the most wonderful things she'd heard in at least an hour, "they're extremely sensitive to electricity. You figured that out, Tosh, and you helped us keep him unconscious till we got him locked up downstairs, Ianto."

It was so strange to hear things she didn't remember doing only yesterday being discussed so frankly. "How odd," Ianto was saying, obviously feeling much the same way. "I don't remember a thing about it. That's quite a talent they have."

"Isn't it though?" Gwen sounded grim, and frankly she couldn't blame the other woman in the least. "The electricity only works for about half an hour, at least on the adolescent version, so bear that in mind."

"I think its scales are a bit more resilient than they look. They're not bullet-proof," Owen chimed back in. It was not quite a tag-team conversation, but it wasn't far off from it either. It can be hit, but only up close or, maybe, with high impact rounds. Chest and abdomen wounds will slow it down and even hurt, but headshots are the only thing we know that kill them."

"So, big, bad, telepathic, and hard to kill?" she summed up, feeling her stomach sink - and just from the plane ride this time.

"More empathic than telepathic," the other woman corrected her, "but otherwise pretty much on the nose. It gets in our head and controls what we feel, not what we think."

"The running theory is that it's a prey animal on... wherever it's from. It seems to trigger the aggression-fear response in things it perceives as a threat, apparently so whatever is after it will destroy one another or, if there's just one, think of... well, whatever is the biggest, baddest thing on its planet and make the predator paralysed till this thing can get away. Don't assume that's correct, though," Owen advised. "This is all conjecture, except for what we observed."

"Ability to make us forget," Gwen hopped back into the conversion to remind them, "and inducing the fear-aggression response." She winced slightly. "Oh yeah, and big claws, big teeth... just big all around."

Oh, Owen looked like he wanted to add something awful to that, probably something laden with innuendo that she wouldn't get right away, Ianto would disdainfully ignore whatever he said, and Gwen might end up hitting him. And if Jack were here... She shook her head slightly. But Jack wasn't here. They wouldn't be doing any searching for him while they were gone - they certainly wouldn't be in or even near what seemed to be the Doctor's location of choice: England, and of lately, specifically London, not to mention that, besides physical proximity, there probably wouldn't be time. If half of what Gwen and Owen were saying about the creatures were correct, then it would take everything they had to capture or destroy the things. Speaking of which...

"Does Mister Saxon want them captured and brought in alive or killed?" she had to ask. It could end up making a difference in how they proceeded from here on out. On some level it almost galled her to think that they might just have to kill these beings without giving them a chance. She'd never really thought it prior to a few months ago; Gwen had wrecked so much change on the way they had operated, especially compared to when Yvonne Hartman had been the Director of Torchwood, the sort of over-all leader that Jack now was. She was definitely not complaining: it was good to see humanity slowly leaking back into this organisation. But it would be... disappointing for them to be a slightly more human group and then have to go back to what they'd been before: 'if it's alien, it's ours'.

She had never been a huge fan of that policy. No-one at the Cardiff branch was. Of course, under Yvonne, being reassigned to Cardiff, at the time little more than a listening post for the Rift, was a punishment for disagreeing with one of her rules for those people with too much talent to be gotten rid of, so a good number of the people there were of like minds. She hadn't been assigned to Cardiff: apparently Jack had specifically requested her after she had been hired. Who knew? Maybe he saw something in her CV, but it wasn't like he had ever said anything about it and she had never asked. Owen had been a troublemaker (too damn smart and too aware of it, was how Yvonne had apparently put it to Jack, if she remembered the memo he'd had her feed to the pterodactyl correctly, but it had been in her first few weeks and she was still feeling overwhelmed) and had been reassigned, as had Suzie, though she didn't recall what it was for; Suzie had been there for a long time by the time Jack hired her. Ianto had been, as far as she knew, the only person who had survived Canary Wharf to stay on with Torchwood. And Gwen was the first person to be brought on since Canary Wharf, and frankly, she didn't think Yvonne would have hired her. If she had turned up Torchwood back then, on a good day she would have been retconned heavily enough that she might not remember several weeks instead of several hours and disposed of more permanently on a bad day, but she was fairly certain Yvonne would have never let her be hired.

But that was Yvonne and the old regime, not Jack and the newer way of doing things. She might not always agree with the newer way of doing things, but even on the days when things were at their worst (the fairies... the other Captain Jack... the cannibals... Abaddon...), somehow they always seemed to get results. Maybe not always results she could stand behind and maybe not always positive results or results that could be happily discussed over a drink or two, but there were always results, always a sign that they had accomplished something. In some sense, there was always a resolution, even if it was one she wanted to scream at God, the universe, and/or Jack about the unfairness of.

"From how the little chit put it," Gwen interrupted her thoughts, "I think they want the things dead and disposed of, to prevent an international incident and from letting people know about the presence of potentially hostile aliens on Earth."

Tosh nodded in sad reluctance. "It's a wonder it hasn't gotten out already. We would want a mass panic starting when we could do something to prevent it."

"Speak for yourself," Owen opinioned. "I just want to get them before they get me."

Gwen rolled her eyes. "From Nepal? Don't be utterly daft. I don't think it could go that far quietly, and the one we found in Cardiff wasn't all that fast." She winced, obviously thinking of something that she wasn't privy to yet. It looked like she was going to elaborate though. "Just remember those two blokes it got back home: one had headphones on and the other was on a mobile phone. Neither of them was bothering to pay enough attention to get out of its way."

And they were off with the sniping again. How typical. "What? You think just because we'll be paying attention we'll be all right?"

"Well, it won't hurt! That's what makes the difference with these things."

She almost hated to get involved with one of their arguments, but there was something she had to know about. "The one we captured and killed, it killed two people?" All of them were looking at her, and she fought the urge to squirm in her seat. One more set of eyes, and she might not have been able to resist the urge. "Do I need to set up cover stories for their deaths?"

Silence descended on the plane for a long moment, before Owen finally shook his head. "No, I wouldn't think so. Anyone who saw an alien kill two full-grown men without even stopping didn't remember it five minutes later. That's how quickly it can start working on you."

"Not even that long. It kicked in on you that once, while you were feeding the Weevils, in no more than three or four minutes," the other woman disagreed.

"That quickly?" she intoned softly, already trying to take that information into account with her projections for how they should proceed. So once they sighted one of them, they couldn't afford to let the creature out of their vision for more than a few minutes, if even that, or they could possibly forget what they were tracking. What could they do, then, if they lost it? They would have to set up a way to keep in constant visual of the aliens, on top of their usual audio relay, which may need to be reconfigured for the sub-freezing weather in the mountain areas. She would need to do a test on the stun guns to make certain they worked in the cold and if there was any significant loss of power. If there were, she would have to either purchase new gear for them or find a way to alter their current weaponry to stand up to the weather.

"Yeah, that quick," Owen answered her in the affirmative. "You see them, but very shortly thereafter, you forget about them. It only seems to work with visual line of sight; you remembered Gwen telling you about the alien we had over the phone, after all, but when she turned away from it to talk to you, she forgot about it. The aggression-fear stimulation, that's more long-distance. If you recall, we were in the conference room several levels above it when it first hit us with that little trick. It has a range: moving up to the tourist shop, several more floors up, did a lot to take care of the problem."

"For us," she stepped back into the conversation, "because we have had psychic training. We know, at least in theory, what to do in case of a psychic attack, not that did it a lot of good for the original assault. We got over it quicker, at least compared to Gwen," the other woman looked over at her in something very much like embarrassment, "who hasn't had it and got her head muddled."

"There's an upside to that." Even Owen looked confused as to what the good part of what had happened to all of them and had hit Gwen herself so strongly. At least she had the decency not to make them wait long for an answer. "Because my head got so muddled, as you put it, Tosh, the first time, it was harder for it to get back in my head a second time."

Obviously this was news to Owen, if the hard frown on his face was anything to go by. She, on the other hand, thought it was thoroughly fascinating. Until now she'd been thinking of this ability like a particularly trying computer virus: very difficult to get around and possibly that the affected system would have to be completely re-hardwired to deal with the issue, but this made the problem sound a bit more organic, something that should put it more up Owen's line of expertise. "So it's like some disease: if you're exposed badly enough the first time, you develop an immunity?"

Gwen shrugged, a grin on her face that she thought was most likely mirrored on her own. "I suppose."

"That's the best news I have all day," finally dryly came from Owen. "Now we just need to figure out how to use this to our advantage."

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