Pairings: Jack/Ianto, John/Nick, Gwen/Rhys
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Gwen, Rhys, John Hart and a cast of (probably!) thousands.
Spoilers: Set after Exit Wounds. Sequel to 'Will My Arms Be Strong Enough?'
Rating: Adult - it's going to get very dark in some places.
Warnings: Slash, language, angst, dark themes.
Summary: Can Orion convince Nick to join him?
Disclaimer: I'm a student. I don't own Torchwood.
The Master List (as it stands) is here: anduria-trianys.livejournal.com/27610.ht
Nick couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“You want me to go on a mission with you?” he exclaimed, reaching out and grabbing onto a railing attached to the wall so that he could support himself. “I mean…you want me to go on a diplomatic mission with you now?!”
“Well, not at this precise moment,” answered Orion, folding his arms nonchalantly and leaning against the opposite wall. “You’ll have time to get upstairs, clean up, pack your things and change into your dress uniform, but then, yes, we really do have to go.”
“But I can’t just leave now!” spluttered Nick. “Look around here; there’s an attack going on outside, we’ve got casualties and…” he swallowed hard, “bodies…coming out of our ears.”
One of the two humans – or humanoid aliens, it was impossible to tell – who had accompanied Orion, blinked. “How can you have people coming out –”
“It’s a figure of speech – an expression,” said Nick impatiently. He knew that the person he was talking to was probably very important, but he was also tired and battle-worn, so manners weren’t high on his list of priorities at the moment. “But that’s really beside the point. Orion, I appreciate your faith in my apparent capabilities – although I don’t recall you having actually seen me do anything – but the timing couldn’t be worse. There’s just no way for me to walk away from here, not when there are people who are going to need me.”
A loud crash drew their attention towards the back of the ward where one of the windows had smashed, sending shards of glass flying through the room. The blinds rippled loudly as a gust of freezing wind shot through the space, ripping through Nick’s skin and causing the patients to cry out in shock and outrage as the temperature dropped. One of the medical staff muttered something under her breath that sounded like a curse as she and two others hastened to block the window with something.
“Here!” shouted Nick, rushing over and, reaching into a smaller storage cupboard leaning against the wall, grabbed several sheets of what looked like clear Perspex several nails and a hammer. Although it looked like Perspex, however, it certainly wasn’t the same stuff that he was used to back home; for one thing, it didn’t shatter upon contact with the hammer, but instead seemed to become softer so that Nick could insert the nails quite easily before hammering them in.
Clearly, that one design technology lesson I went to in school is going to be useful, he thought to himself with a rather amused smile – though he had no idea how he managed not to curse out loud when he accidentally hit his finger with the hammer, triggering, much to his surprise, a shock not dissimilar to when he’d accidentally touched an electric fence on a farm when he’d been a child. Right, I won’t be touching anything that looks like an electric fence around here, then!
“Is there any more of this stuff?” he shouted to the man who was watching him with his mouth hanging open, raising his voice above the pandemonium surrounding him.
“Yes, there should be boxes of it,” said the man. “But there are rules; it is only to be used –”
“Let me guess – it’s only to be used in an emergency?” Nick snorted as the other man nodded; he really couldn’t believe that there was so much red tape at this place. “Well, I think this does definitely qualify as an emergency. Now get over there, grab the stuff and start sorting these windows out before any more of this glass shatters!”
“You’d better do what he says.” Shani had come over and was picking his way through the broken glass. “This man has saved countless lives on the battlefield already today; he knows what he’s doing.”
Nick barely had time to feel surprised that Shani had defended him so readily – or that the others were now following his lead and securing the windows – before he realised that Orion was watching him curiously. “Something you want to say?” he asked, climbing up a ladder and reinforcing one of the top windows with Perspex.
Orion raised an eyebrow at him. “It was you.”
“What was me?” asked Nick, banging in a fourth nail and testing how secure it was.
“We had word that one of the medical officers had judged that the casualties suffered in the battle with the Cryosentinels of Time were too severe and that he took the decision to withdraw the troops so that there would be no more unnecessary deaths.”
“Yes, that was me.” Nick didn’t spare Orion and the couple with him anything more than a fleeting glance as he spoke. “And before any of you ask, no I’m not going to apologise for doing what I did. We were being decimated out there; just two of those Sentinels eliminated over two hundred of our soldiers in one go.” He jumped off the ladder, and wiped away any slime that had spread from his clothes onto the metal. “My only regret is that I didn’t make the call sooner so that fewer people would be lying in the morgue now.”
Orion stepped forwards and gripped his shoulder. “You must never second guess yourself,” he insisted. “When you make a decision, you must stick by it, no matter what happens. To change your mind because you fear someone doubts your action is a sign of weakness and weakness is one of the most deadly vices to befall a man or a woman.” He stood back and folded his arms. “You must always portray an image of strength, even if you don’t feel it inside. To do otherwise could be fatal for you, especially on a battlefield.”
The words echoed through Nick’s head and made him squirm uncomfortably as he realised that Orion was right. He couldn’t afford to be half-hearted, especially not when he was faced with a situation like that which had happened today, otherwise he could be killed. He felt a shiver run down his spine as he suddenly realised that his friends back home might think that he was already dead…closely followed by a rush of pain through his chest as he remembered the message he had found on John’s wrist strap. He almost couldn’t believe that his lover was really gone; the man had always been so full of life and energy that the thought of his death had never really occurred to Nick. Logically, he knew just how ridiculous that was – everything and everyone would die eventually, even Jack – but he couldn’t help feeling that way either.
With a sigh, he turned to glance back out of the window, expecting to see the battle still raging outside and yet more death and destruction – surely, not even the best reinforcements could stand up to the violence of the Cryosentinels of Time. However, what he actually saw turned out to be very different.
There was destruction and death, of that there was no doubt, but even so it wasn’t the same scene that Nick had left behind when he had pulled the troops back. Instead, it seemed like the Sentinels were being rapidly executed, although he couldn’t see what was doing it, because they were hidden by an enormous cloud of red dust which left strange dark marks in the ground behind it. Behind them, however, he could see a large army of black-clad aliens walking in stride like some sort of regimented police.
Orion came over and gave him a twisted smile. “That’s exactly what they are, Seren,” he said, nodding. “The Judoon are, essentially, intergalactic police. They might give you some fond memories of your own police officers; they’re certainly brutal enough and stupid enough.” He laughed rather scornfully. “They have no authority on your planet Earth, so when an alien fugitive decided to hide out in one of your hospitals, those…” he paused for the right explanation, “what’s that animal called…the one with the horn?”
“Rhinoceros?” asked Nick, starting as one of the Judoon took its helmet off. “Because that’s what it looks like from where I’m standing.” Well, it would do if it wasn’t standing up, of course.
“That’s the one.” Orion nodded again. “So, they decide to transport the hospital –”
“To the moon, yes, I remember that story,” interrupted Nick. The public and the news had apparently put the occurrence down to mass hallucinations, but Nick had long suspected that alien involvement was closer to the truth. After the battle of Canary Wharf, he’d learned to take publicised stories about anything too weird with a pinch of salt.
“A Judoon platoon upon the moon,” he muttered to himself.
“Yes.” Orion blinked at him. “Where did you hear that phrase?”
“I don’t know,” said Nick. “It just…popped into my head.” He shook himself and glanced back out of the window. “What’s that red dust?”
“Ah!” Orion clapped his hands. “That would be our reinforcements.” He pointed out of the window. “These are the Cryomancers of the Crimson Sun – they’re a little late, but at least they actually did arrive. If you look very closely, you can just see that there is ghost-like figure amongst the dust that resembles the mythical creature you might know as a unicorn. They are a peaceful race, but carry so many diseases that anything within their path is instantly destroyed…rather unpleasantly too,” he added, wincing as five Sentinels were crushed in a storm of red dust. “They’ve come from a long way away; from a place which we know as the Crimson Sun – hence where their name comes from – but it is a place that you might know as the Red Planet.”
Nick’s jaw dropped. “You have to be joking!”
“Seren,” Orion answered. “I never joke – well, not about something like this. These Cryomancers do indeed come from Mars, though they weren’t actually discovered until about five hundred years ago.”
“And why didn’t you just contact them as soon as you heard that the Sentinels were coming?” asked Nick. “I find it rather hard to believe that you could be stupid enough to wait until now.”
“Of course we didn’t wait!” Orion looked impatient now. “But you can’t honestly expect anyone – or anything – to travel across five galaxies in a few seconds, can you?!” He rolled his eyes before one of his companions nudged him. “Oh, yes, of course – well, you’d better go and get yourself ready; we have to make our way shortly.”
“And I’ve already told you, I can’t just leave now,” said Nick firmly. “There are people here who need me; who need treatment and help.”
“Don’t worry.” A gravelly voice spoke from behind them and Nick turned to see Ymir, the aged head of the medical department. “We can handle things here, right everyone?” The rest of the staff nodded and one of them, a girl Nick didn’t know, even gave him a reassuring smile. “Every Time Agent has at least basic medical aid knowledge. You know that. We can manage without one doctor for the time being. In fact, what’s that phrase you people use? Too many cooks spoil the broth?” He cackled softly. “Well, in this case…too many doctors spoil the medicine! Now go on – get out of here!” His dark eyes flashed dangerously. “That’s an order.”
Nick inhaled sharply. “Very well,” he said, trying hard not to show that he was a little hurt by the older man’s harsh words. “I’ll go and get ready.”
“Meet us in the main hall!” Orion shouted after him. “I’ll take you down to the transport later.”
“You look good,” said Shani as he closed the door behind him. “Very…official, if you ask me.”
Nick turned slightly, examining himself in the mirror. “I feel like a soldier,” he muttered, dusting down the front of his jacket with one hand and twirling the accompanying black beret in his other hand, the silver insignia pin showing his rank as a medical officer shimmering as he did so. “Well, I guess I’d better make the best out of this mess,” he said as he picked up the small bag he’d hastily packed. He extended a hand towards his friend. “So…I guess…goodbye?”
“Please,” Shani laughed. “It’s only a diplomatic mission; what could possibly go wrong?”
“Well, now that you’ve said that, anything could go wrong!” answered Nick, but he was also laughing. “I’m being a bit ridiculous, aren’t I?”
“You are.” Shani laughed again. “Just…” he frowned for a moment. “Oh – break a leg out there! Not literally, obviously…”
“I know!” Nick was laughing properly now, the sound echoing around the walls as he shut the bedroom door behind him.
“This is Time Agency transport?!” spluttered Nick, staring blankly at the old wooden train waiting forlornly in the dank and smelly tunnel. “How do you hop to different planets or galaxies?”
“We have teleportation pads,” explained Orion. “Think of them like your train stations, except that you never leave the train, until you get to where you want to go.”
“So…it’s a train.” Nick had seen a lot of strange things in his time, but the thought of an intergalactic organisation like the Time Agency using rickety old trains for transport had to be one of the most bizarre. It’s certainly different to what I was expecting…
“Well, what were you expecting, flashy silver spaceships?!” asked Orion in a tight voice.
“Yes!” Nick blurted out without thinking.
Orion shook his head. “We did have them once,” he admitted, prizing the train doors open and guiding Nick into a carriage that looked like the interior of a carpet store. “But we had to stop using them when we had to go…underground…when we had to pretend to the outside world that we’d been shut down.” He laughed again. “Which, as you can see, we haven’t.”
Nick wondered how on earth the Agency managed to go about their business when they were supposed to be shut down, but decided not to ask; he wasn’t sure he’d understand the answer. Instead, he just sat down at one of the tables, resisting the urge to make a comment about magic carpets. “So, where are we actually going?”
Orion laughed softly. “I’ll give you the long version when we get closer, but the short version is basically that we’re trying to stop what could turn into an interdimensional incident.”
Nick blinked. “Right,” he said. “Well, I’ll make sure I don’t end up accidentally triggering any portals into Hell – we don’t want to unleash anyone like Jack the Ripper on the universe.”
Orion rolled his eyes. “Jack the Ripper was very overrated,” he said. “I met the man once on a mission to the 1880s. He was a very interesting character…and a fabulous lover.”
Nick paled. “Please tell me you’re not serious.”
“Oh, I’m serious.” Orion kicked some controls. “And believe me, if we don’t stop this incident, Jack the Ripper will be like a feather falling to the ground compared to what could be unleashed.” He sat down. “The Neokin race, with whom we are going to liaise, is known for being rather bad-tempered when provoked, so we have to be prepared to act as mediators. So, don’t go doing anything stupid.” He looked at Nick. “Put another way – make sure you stay out of trouble.”
Next Time: A horrifying event makes its presence known, but is it true? And, trapped three thousand years out of his time, can Nick do anything about it?