(Part 3 of 3)
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Tosh slammed her wrists against the jagged edge of broken railing, severing the cords binding her hands together. She spun as Howell lunged for her and pushed him aside. To her right, Cameron and Owen stood back-to-back, wielding cables like lassos, while Foreman held the arm of a chair, ready to knock out anyone the other two caught.
Ianto rushed to her side. “Even the ones not disguised are still carrying biofeedback mechanisms around their necks,” he said, pointing at the nearest alien. “Last time, we overloaded them with an electromagnetic pulse.”
“There’s nothing to power such a blast!”
“On the contrary,” Ianto said, “they’ve brought in what we need.”
There were three laser cannons nearby, mounted on tripods and all still aimed at where Jack had been. The aliens in charge of aiming them were embroiled in the battle, and even as they watched, Cameron roped one in and pulled it close for Foreman to knock out. She jerked a little too hard on the cable, though, and sent the alien plunging over the edge. She dropped it before the twisting coils could burn her hands, but a cry from Owen revealed they’d been using opposite ends of the same cord. The loop he’d had around his arm tightened and sent him staggering off the platform, but Cameron grabbed him just in time, spinning him about so that the cable could continue its plunge taking any more people with it.
Ianto ran to the vacancy and gave her a thumbs up. “Jack’s wristband can interface with the power.” She hurried over and began programming.
As she worked, Howell charged them, but Ianto kicked at the next laser over, sending it tumbling across the ground toward him. The attorney general tripped but kept rolling toward them. “I’ve got it!” Tosh said and activated the device. A loud crack snapped through the air and sparks flew from the battery pack, but all around, aliens went down, and howls of pain filled the air, soon replaced with silence as the blast spread through the factory.
Owen, Foreman and Cameron ran over, cheering. Jack and Cuddy emerged from the stairway, dripping with sweat and out of breath as they climbed the last flight. “Well, looks like you got things sorted out,” Jack said.
“Why are you naked, sir?” Ianto asked, a touch of irritation in his voice. Tosh looked over and saw his brows furrowed.
“He fell into one of the vats earlier,” Tosh said quickly. “My fault.”
“Yeah, see if I give you a pay raise ever again,” Jack said, grinning a bit. “Well, actually, I will if you manage to get this working.” He flourished his hands and revealed the alien artifact, the original one they’d come from Cardiff to find. Tosh took it from him, cradling it as though it were a poisonous snake.
“What makes you think I can figure it out?” Tosh asked.
“You’re a genius.”
Tosh felt a brief spurt of pride at Jack's faith in her, but it was quickly overwhelmed by panic. She fought it down as she focused on what Ianto had told her about the other device. The device she’d found with Monty... No, don’t think of him! She stared it. Think of what you want it to do. Pointing the device at Foreman and Owen, she focused on their arms and thought, Reverse!
A silence that muffled everything, literally a deafening silence, and Foreman and Owen shut their eyes when they saw what she was attempting to do. Cracking open one eye, Owen lifted his left hand, and everyone waited on tenterhooks before he said, “It worked!”
Foreman opened his eyes and waved both hands around. “Yes! It worked!” he exclaimed, pulling Owen into a hug before freezing and backing away.
“Not to spoil the mood, but where are House and Wilson?” Cameron asked.
“Downstairs,” Cuddy replied. “And Chase?”
“Looking for an exit. He, uh, adopted one of the spider robots and named it Joey.”
Cuddy’s eyebrows shot up, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she just leaned against the railing and looked out across the ruins of the factory.
“Is that going to be a problem?” Tosh asked Jack.
“I hope not. All the electronics in the device indicate it has a long range.”
“I’ll try to be prepared for anything,” Cameron said, closing her eyes. Tosh pointed it at her and pictured both Cameron and Chase in her mind. Reverse!
Chase’s body shuddered, and he screamed. “What the hell! Why’s everything gone dark?” He had an Australian accent.
Cuddy sighed. “Open your eyes.”
He did so. “That’s silly; why were they closed? They weren’t closed earlier. I... wait!” His hands shot to his chest. “I’m not top-heavy anymore!”
“I hope you weren’t engaged in anything dangerous.”
“No, but I think I found a way out. Joey should be able to fill Cameron in.”
As Tosh pointed the device at Jack, Ianto asked, “What are we going to do about this, sir?” He waved a hand to indicate the entire factory. “If we damage the infrastructure any further, the gardens above will collapse, but if we leave anything at all intact, the government might try to salvage the technology.”
“The aliens might too,” said Owen.
“Oh believe me, we will,” Howell said. Tosh had enough time to spin around in surprise before Howell grabbed her, knocking the artifact out of her hand and stealing her gun. Placing it against her temple, he backed away from the others. Jack screamed as he dove for the artifact, and Tosh didn’t think she’d ever heard him so high-pitched before. It rolled off the platform before he could reach it, and he stared in horror as it dropped toward the factory floor, no platforms or other equipment in place to save it from total destruction.
Tosh decided she had more pressing concerns than Jack’s alien problem. “How are you alive?” she gasped, struggling against Howell’s grip even with his threat of the gun pressed to her head.
“You think I didn’t know about your little EMP trick in the hospital?” Globs of spittle poured down onto her as he spoke, his entire body quivering. “The others didn’t respond to the threat. We have so much bureaucracy sometimes. But I took initiative and shielded my own device, and you idiots should’ve noticed when my disguise didn’t fail even though I feigned death.”
The two of them stopped behind one of the lasers, and Tosh realized what he intended. “Don’t just listen to him! Do something!” she yelled. Howell pushed her head forward, slamming her forehead against the barrel of the device.
“Shut up!” he roared. “All of you back away or I shoot her.”
“I propose a trade!” Jack said, scrambling away from the railing. “Me for her. She’s just an employee, but I lead Torchwood. You want them to follow orders, you should take me as hostage instead.”
“Oh, and you’re just such a bleeding heart that you’ll give up your life for her? No, if there’s going to be any trade, I want Jones.”
Ianto glared. “What did I ever do to you? Well, besides the obvious.”
“Isn’t the obvious enough? Now all you, do as I say!”
As they retreated, Howell aimed the laser and flicked a few switches so that it began powering up. “No!” Tosh screamed, knocking the gun away by lowering her head and swinging her shoulder up. Howell tried to shoot her but missed. Jack threw himself backward, forcing everyone behind him to fall off the landing and down the stairs, putting them outside the laser’s radial range. He miscalculated, however, and Ianto fell against the railing instead of down the stairs. Before he could get up, Howell swiveled the laser over and fired.
A black blur flashed before her and the lights went wild as the barrel rotated, knocking Howell backward. The air filled with streaks of blue and purple before the laser shut off, but when her vision cleared, she saw the weapon had fired upward instead. A large piece of the ceiling collapsed amidst a shower of dirt, and the destruction cascaded outward as girders buckled under the increased strain.
Her gaze shifted downward to find what had knocked off Howell’s aim, and she saw Monty collapsed on the ground before her.
“Monty!” She kneeled down to examine him. His face was flushed and his clothes were wet with blood. “What happened? I thought--”
“Had to get to you,” he whispered. “Tell you I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to apologize for. Is this blood yours?”
“No. Mrs. Streed’s. Killed her.”
Hands closed around her neck, and Howell said, “Well done, Pike.” Tosh stiffened, but Monty shifted and pressed something smooth into her hand. She ran her fingers along it and found it to be a sharp pair of scissors. The blades dug into Howell’s arm, and he screamed, falling backward. Tosh threw herself to the floor and rolled within range of the gun Howell had dropped when he lost control of the laser. She aimed and fired three shots into his chest, followed by one to the neck, where she assumed he kept his biofeedback device. He crumpled to the ground, and Tosh rushed back to Monty.
“It’s all right,” she said, checking his breathing and the wound on his arm. “It’s over, and we can get you to the hospital within half an hour. Everything will be all right.”
Monty nodded and gave her a weak smile. “I was so afraid you were dead.”
“People, we have a problem,” Jack said, and Tosh saw he was running over from the transmat room.
“What is it?” Tosh asked.
“Well, when your boyfriend transmatted over here--not that I’m not grateful he saved all our lives--he used the last of the power reserves. It was a three-way switch, so House and Wilson are back in Drumthwacket, but the rest of us can’t escape that way anymore.”
The rumbling from the botanical gardens crashing down through the factory was almost deafening, and Tosh could see they would be swamped by mud and foliage within a minute. Further down, the growing fires had reached a stash of oil barrels, sending up massive blasts and plumes of black smoke.
“Tosh, watch out!” Ianto yelled.
She instinctively swung around to face Howell, but he still lay where he’d fallen. He was alive though, and his chest heaved as he chuckled deep, gurgling laughs. A red light flashed by his neck. “The self-destruct mechanism!” exclaimed Jack, leaping over Monty and kicking Howell heavily off the edge.
For three seconds, it seemed he’d eliminated the threat, but then a thundering blast shook the platform and the floor slanted down into a sharp forty-five degree angle. Tosh clung onto the railing before realizing Monty was too weak to react. He rolled toward the drop, clawing feebly at the floor, and Tosh didn’t stop to think before letting go and sliding after him. He went over the edge, but she grabbed his hand as he tumbled down, and she felt his fingers close around her wrist. She kept sliding until pressure around her ankle halted their descent. She looked over her shoulder to see Jack holding onto her. Ianto had Jack’s leg in one hand and a coil of cable in the other, and Chase, Cuddy and Owen were safe on the stable part of the platform, tugging at the rope with all their might.
“All right, pull!” Ianto said. Tosh felt herself dragged upward several centimeters, but the platform buckled further, and she nearly lost her grip as the floor dropped away. She fell with it, getting the breath knocked out of her as she slammed back against the platform. “Come on, faster!” Ianto managed to plant one foot onto solid ground and add his strength to the efforts of those above.
“No, stop!” Jack yelled. Tosh felt his grip slide, and her shoe slipped halfway off her foot. “I’m losing her. Ianto, loosen up a little and let me see if I can’t get a better hold.”
“I can’t, sir!” Ianto protested. “Your leg is too sweaty. If I let go any further, we’ll lose all three of you.”
“Tosh,” said Monty. “We’re too heavy.”
“Speak for yourself,” she retorted, forcing out a laugh. “I’m on a diet.”
Monty shook his head. “I am speaking for myself.”
She stared into his eyes, glistening with fever, then looked down to see the glowing red fate that awaited them. “No, you’re not thinking clearly.”
“There’s no choice.”
“No!” she screamed. The bones in her wrist felt like snapping, and she was still weak from her climb earlier. Half the strength keeping them together came from Monty, and she knew the choice to fall was his. She had to convince him. “I’ve already lost you once, Monty Pike, and I went to hell for it. Do you want to do that to me again?”
“Pull, Ianto! Do it now, damn you, before this fool of a man gets himself killed!” The sharpness in her voice shocked Ianto into responding without thinking, and her shoe went flying. It clanked twice against the platform and dropped past Monty. Jack howled and lunged for her, closing both hands around the tip of her foot. She heard something crack.
“You’re going to fall!” he roared.
Tosh ignored him, trying to focus on Monty through the blur of her tears. She must not cry or he would give up. She couldn’t cry, not if this was the last glimpse of him she would ever have. She shook her head, but the salty drops poured from her eyes anyway. A drop or two fell onto him, mixing with the sweat glistening on his forehead. But there was no choice, and she knew it. “I love you, Monty,” she cried, knowing it was the wrong thing to say to make him stay and also knowing it was the only right thing she could say.
“I love you,” he replied, and he let go.
The next few minutes passed in a blur. One moment she was watching him shrink into the distance, the molten sea so impossibly large in her field of sight that it seemed a mere backdrop, a moving painting he would never reach. She felt sure that if she kept watching him fall, he would never hit the surface, but then darkness descended upon her as Jack dragged her away. She blinked, pupils expanding to adjust to the new level of light, and it seemed the moment before never existed, so sharp was the contrast between them. Its only legacy was the pain in her chest, so sharp she felt sure that if she looked down, she would see cracks running across a breaking body.
“Let me go!” she heard herself screaming, and she realized distantly that she was fighting the very people that had saved her. Cuddy had lines of blood on her face from where she’d scratched her, and Owen lay on the ground, clutching his side. She must have kicked him, but she didn’t remember.
Drifts of dust reached them as the roof continued falling. They had maybe fifteen seconds left, and then she remembered Jack’s words. “Do you know how to get out of here?” she asked. Jack shook his head, and she laughed. So maybe she hadn’t abandoned Monty after all.
“Well, you might not, but I do!” One floor above them, a bulldozer rumbled into view, and a spider droid loped by its side. Cameron waved at them from the driver’s seat. “Come on! Room for all!”
Jack pulled her into his arms and lifted her off the ground. “Sorry, but you’re going to have to survive this one,” he whispered. She clung to him as he carried her up the stairs and into the bulldozer. Cameron slammed the engine into gear, and they charged up a ramp, clouds of flame and dirt racing them toward the surface. Columns of fire shot hundreds of meters into the sky, overwhelming the first rays of dawn as they burst through a service entrance onto a stretch of dark green lawn.
The others cheered. Cameron leapt out of her seat to hug Chase as she exclaimed, “We made it! We survived! But god, I hurt everywhere!” She slapped him.
Cuddy gave Ianto a high-five. He smiled sheepishly at Jack afterward, but then he looked at Tosh and his face fell. He began saying something, but she turned away, burying her face in Jack’s chest and letting the tears flow as her heart shattered in the line of duty yet again.
By the time they returned to the hospital several hours later to find Gwen sleeping, it was so late at night that it was early in the morning. They had picked up House and Wilson along the way, and House was in the middle of yet another explosive tirade against Jack about failing to rescue the device before Tosh could reverse its effects, having begun one the moment they came in sight in the mansion and pausing only to breathe and eat a bag of chips from a vending machine in the hospital cafeteria.
“You know what?” Cuddy said. “Shut up! If the mind-link is still working, then yell at Jack in his head. Stop annoying the rest of us.”
Ianto agreed but decided it more polite not to voice the fact. Cuddy seemed quite capable on her own and was not the oppressed administrator she’d been when he first met her. Whatever suppressed rage she’d carried around before had been unbottled by recent events, and Ianto didn’t think even House would cross her. Not until she calmed down, anyway.
“I’m not going into his mind,” House replied. “Every time I go into his mind, I find him picturing me or Wilson naked. Having sex with you was an awful idea, Harkness. Oh, whoops, you were hoping Jones wouldn’t find out about that, weren’t you? Silly me, not reading your mind closely enough.”
“What?” Ianto said. He made an effort to keep his voice quiet, but everyone stared at him as though he’d used a megaphone to declare that he ate babies. He was glad Tosh had gone off with Cameron and Chase to examine Joey, because his relationship problems were nothing compared to hers, yet that knowledge didn’t soothe him one bit. “Let me get this clear. While the rest of us were risking our lives fighting aliens and shutting down the factory, you were busy having an orgy with House and Wilson?”
“And Cuddy,” House added gleefully. “Come on, Wilson, let’s steal me a new cane from the little shop before Cuddy gets security working again.”
“I... it was, I mean, it was nothing,” Jack stammered, and Ianto was glad he at least had the grace to be nervous. “Look, it happened really fast and--”
“I bet it did," Ianto said smoothly. "Go put on some pants, sir. And if you’re not going to do anything helpful, get lost.”
“But the diagnosis. I mean, we need to know what’s wrong with Gwen.”
“You’re still linked with Dr. House, sir. You don’t have to be in the room.”
Jack scowled but followed Ianto’s instructions, ignoring the wink House sent his direction. “That’s the spirit,” House said. “Everyone cheats in the end; sex without morals is the way to go.”
“Your diagnosis,” Ianto said as they followed Tracy into Gwen’s room, “that’s all I’m asking for. No social commentary, please.”
Wilson squeezed through the door as it was about to shut and handed House a new cane before sneaking out again. The door shut with a soft click, and Tracy took a chair beside Gwen. Bilis slumped in a chair across the bed, snoring like a chainsaw. House surveyed the scene and harrumphed. “This is not the dramatic reveal I was hoping for.”
“Maybe you should’ve thought about that before you opened your mouth earlier.”
“Don’t encourage Dr. House to think about himself any more than he already does,” Tracy suggested.
“I’d have thought you’d be more grateful, Jones.”
Ianto leaned against the wall. “I appreciate what you did, Dr. House, but not your motivations.”
“You enjoy details, don’t you?”
“This isn’t about me. Diagnosis, House.”
“Actually, the show you’re looking for is called Diagnosis Murder.”
Now that they were finally back at the hospital and the ordeal with the aliens was over, exhaustion was setting in fast and it was being driven home to him that he hadn't slept in over thirty-six hours. It was hard to believe, with everything that had happened, that they'd only been in New Jersey for three days. Enough was enough. “Ball, please, Tracy.”
The nurse sat up, looking surprised, before digging into her pockets and tossing Ianto a stress ball. He held it up before his face and squeezed until there was a spluttering noise, and Ianto let a pancake-shaped mass drop to the floor. House took the hint.
“VHL,” he said.
“VHL?” Tracy repeated. “No way.”
“Yes way, Tracy.” Twirling his cane, he added, “It’s the real McCoy. Wow, I’ve been waiting to say that since I figured it out.”
“Explain, please,” Ianto said, stamping on the remains of the stress ball for emphasis.
House rolled his eyes. “Von Hippel-Lindau disease, caused by a mutation of a tumor suppressing gene on the third chromosome. Obviously, we’ll have to run a DNA test to confirm, but everything fits, from the angioma in her eye to the pheochromocytoma. The lack of the gene causes tumors, some benign and others malignant, to grow in the body, and onset of symptoms varies by age but this case is not particularly abnormal. The pheochromocytoma and other, smaller tumors, coupled with a high-stress lifestyle and excessive sodium intake from her frankly repulsive alien-hunter diet, led to the stroke, which caused her loss of vision and other brain damage, obscuring the underlying condition.”
“But it can’t be genetic,” Ianto protested.
“Two reasons. The first is that you requested DNA tests from Gwen’s parents. Is VHL not something you tested for?”
“It was. That was the main reason I didn’t reach this conclusion sooner; we dismissed all genetic causes based on her parents, and I didn’t want to take the time to run the test on Cooper when she was already on the verge of death. About twenty percent of VHL cases are caused not by inherited defects but by mutations in the sperm or egg or during early fetal development. Internal corruption, you see, an accident of nature. And as far as I know, that’s the only reason it can’t be genetic, which makes me curious what your second point is.”
“It can’t be because...” he took a deep breath. “It can’t be because if it’s genetic, there’s no cure. If that’s all there is to her illness, she won’t get better. Sometimes she recognizes people, sometimes she doesn’t. She can’t see color. She might have cancer...”
“And she’ll have to monitor her condition very carefully for the rest of her life.” House shrugged. “That’s life. So there, you have your diagnosis. The tests will be back in a few days and then we’ll know for sure.” He headed for the door but Ianto sidled over and blocked his exit. “Get out of the way.”
“No,” Ianto said. “That can’t be it.”
“And here I was hoping a clandestine alien-hunting organization might be a bit more reasonable to deal with, but no, you’re all a bunch of whiny family members too. Or maybe it’s how ordinary the whole condition is that bothers you? Can’t fight genes with guns, Jones, and there’s no funny alien devices to make the problem magically go away.”
House tried to shove him aside, but Ianto was rooted to the spot. He felt as though lightning had struck him, and he laughed before pulling House in for a hug. “What are you doing?” he protested, and his struggles caused him to sprawl onto the floor when Ianto let go. “That’s assault and battery, I’ll have you know!”
“You’re a genius, House,” Ianto said hoarsely. “A bloody genius.”
“Of course I am. But why do you think so?”
Ianto dashed off, and he heard Tracy say, “Hey, I thought you were supposed to make the dramatic exit, House.” He grinned as he heard House splutter something in return.
He flew past confused hospital staff, who glanced around as though expecting to see National Guardsmen in pursuit. “No running!” Brenda yelled as he soared past, but he didn’t care. He burst into Gwen’s original room and discovered several cases in the corner that had remained untouched through all the battles. The one that belonged to him had a small nametag affixed to the lock, and he threw it open and removed a device. An alien device, but one whose function he wasn’t worried about. He turned it on.
“What are you doing?” Jack asked, entering the room fully dressed, complete with the military coat he’d left in the hospital. He looked every inch the dashing captain, but Ianto refused to meet his eyes.
“How’d you find me?”
“You have half the hospital in a panic,” Cameron replied as Chase pushed her wheelchair into the room. “Cuddy’s going to demand your head.” Owen and Foreman piled in, followed by House and Wilson. A few nurses peered in from the hallway, as though expecting a party. It may not have been a party, but it’d be dramatic.
“She can have it,” Ianto replied, feeling a strange sense of giddiness, as though he would float into the sky if he didn’t remind himself to stay grounded. “You know the diagnosis?”
“Yeah, House had me send a blood sample to the lab,” Foreman replied.
Cuddy tapped his shoulder, and he leapt aside to let her pass. “What the hell is going on here?”
Finally, Toshiko appeared in the back, not bothering to make her presence known, but Ianto pushed through the others to take her hand. “You think you can help Gwen?” she asked.
“I know it,” Ianto said. “How are you doing?” It was a stupid question, he knew, but it was the simple gestures that counted, like when Tosh had brought him a cup of coffee after Lisa died. She squeezed his hand, acknowledging his intentions.
“I’m fine. As fine as I can be. If you can help Gwen, then at least something good came out of today. If there’s anything Torchwood has taught me, it’s to take the joys you can have and not wish for more.”
Ianto kissed her on the forehead and only realized afterward that he’d done what Jack usually did in these situations. He tried not to let his consternation show on his face. “Sometimes wishes come true, Tosh.” A light wind started up outside, and the faintest echo of a sound that could not be duplicated anywhere in the universe began. Tosh’s eyes widened as she realized what they were hearing. He grinned. “Are you ready to meet a legend?”
An ancient sound echoed through the still air, and Cuddy dashed to the window. “What’s that? Something’s materializing on the lawn!”
Jack gaped at Ianto. “Did you call him?”
“Yes, sir. That device you refused? He gave it to me instead.”
“What are you talking about?” House snapped. “Who are you talking about?”
“The Doctor,” Ianto and Jack replied at the same time.
“Doctor who?” Chase said.
Tosh peered out the window and flashed Chase the smallest of smiles. “Exactly,” she replied. Outside, a blue police box waited for them.
By the time they reached the lawn, a tall, skinny man in a brown suit and coat was running his hand through his hair and staring in consternation at the ruined hospital, as though perplexed to have caught the aftermath rather than the beginning of mass destruction. Ianto supposed that was a forgivable reaction for the Doctor.
“Ianto!” he exclaimed as he caught sight of him. “You called? Ah, Jack! And you’ve got a whole gang, how lovely. I suppose you must have, to cause so many explosions. Typical Torchwood... but unless I’m completely wrong, which could happen, I suppose, unlikely though, then we’re not in Cardiff. We’re, well, ‘across the pond,’ as you would say. Could say. And, oh dear... timelines. Yes, timelines, timelines, timelines... when did we last meet?”
“Cardiff,” Jack said. “You dropped me off, with Martha.”
“Let’s just say we’re not quite on the same page. Or worldpage, is that an appropriate term? Worldline, worldpage, same thing. Anyway, can’t say, would spoil things and definitely alter the future, which we don’t want, because any alternative to what happened is one we don’t want to contemplate.”
“Who is this moron?” House demanded.
Ianto let Jack make the requisite introductions and noticed he left out many details, such as the whole Time Lord bit.
“And you travel around in a little box?” Chase said.
“It’s bigger on the inside,” Ianto put in.
"That sounds like a pick-up line," said Chase suspiciously.
The Doctor was already halfway to the TARDIS door, but he skidded to a halt and said, “You just have to ruin the surprise, don’t you?” He flung the doors open.
“Tada!” Ianto said, half dramatically and half jokingly.
“He usually has a pretty female companion too,” Jack said.
“I resent that everyone thinks I behave like some human male showing off his muscle car.” Nevertheless, he shuffled aside and motioned for the non-Torchwood humans to enter and look around. “So now, I’d like to know what happened here and why you called me.”
“Chula!” Jack exclaimed. “Is that what you were thinking, Ianto? Of course, why didn’t I think of that?”
Ianto had not actually been thinking of anything in particular except that the Doctor would probably know of some alien technology that could heal humans, but he wasn’t about to admit that. “Er, yes?”
“Nanogenes!” Jack breathed.
“Going back to your old ways, are you?” the Doctor said.
Jack shook his head, but before he could explain, they heard a vworp-vworp, and the doctors piled out of the TARDIS faster than Ianto could say “Boo.” The Time Lord’s muscle car did not fade away, though, and they were all left scratching their heads as to what had happened when Ianto spotted a second police box thirty meters to their left. A young girl bounded through the doors and caught sight of them.
“Uh, Doctor?” she called into the TARDIS. “I think we have a problem.”
An unlikely-looking man stumbled out of the TARDIS, trailing a long multi-colored scarf behind him and looking alert. The group moved to meet the newcomers, and then the man, whom Ianto assumed was also the Doctor, looked them up and down and said, “Alright, which one of you summoned me, and how?"
“Oh,” the scarf-less Doctor replied. “Right, sorry about that. I recovered the device from the Brigadier a while back and gave it to someone else. There must have been cross-link interference with the chronometer, so it summoned both of us when activated. Everyone, meet me. The fourth me, I believe.”
“You?” Cuddy looked like she wanted to hit someone again.
“He regenerates, changes forms, when mortally wounded,” Jack said.
"That's fascinating," said Tosh. "How do you do that? You must change every atom in your body! The amount of energy that must take-- at least, oh, two hundred eleven point three eight eight terajoules every eight seconds, over a period of at least eight hours, and you'd have to be generating it almost entirely internally! There's no natural energy source that could produce that much, at least not on Earth." Both Doctors looked impressed.
"That's actually not too far off," the skinny one said.
“Quite frankly, I’m surprised he isn’t on his thousandth incarnation, the way he behaves,” Ianto added.
“Hey!” the Doctor--again, the one without a scarf--said. “Only on, er, number ten, I think, thank you very much.”
"You think?" said Owen.
"After a while you lose track. It's like birthdays."
“So you’re like a cat with even more extra lives,” Cameron cooed.
“Last I checked, cats don’t go poof in a burst of bright light and come back as a different color,” Jack said.
The fourth Doctor glanced about. “Am I needed for something urgent?”
“Someone needs healing, apparently,” Ten replied. “I’m going to guess it's that pretty Welsh girl, since she’s not here.” Jack nodded, so he continued. “Chula nanogenes, they want.”
“Chula?” Four sounded unnervingly skeptical.
“She’s suffered brain damage and also needs some rewriting of her genetic code,” Ianto explained.
“Ah, Chula it is, then. No other race can perform surgery so deft. Quite fascinating, you know.”
“But,” Ten cut in, “that’s going to be a problem.”
“How so?” Four asked.
“Uh, spoilers. But the planet Chula has been, ah, missing for a while. Since... certain events. I have no clue where it is, and that's not the only issue. The Chula have migratory tendencies. They liked to travel from planet to planet, setting up temporary homes, and generally getting along with the local peoples. Often they moved in on fairly primitive societies and ended up being worshipped as gods, and by the time they'd leave, they'd have adapted parts of that planet's cultures into their own. They moved their planet to go into hiding as a precaution against, uh, cataclysmic possibilities, and there's no guarantee they haven't simply gotten bored and gone on vacation, so to speak, now that the planet does not require defending. Naturally, we could search for it, and two would be, well, twice as good as one, but it would be a stab in the dark either way.”
"We have to save Gwen. I'm not losing anyone else," Tosh said quietly. The other members of the Torchwood team nodded their agreement.
"You'd really help us?" Jack asked Ten.
"You don't have to sound so surprised," Ten said. "Why wouldn't I?" Jack shrugged.
"I'm not so sure I'm enthusiastic about some giant scavenger hunt throughout the whole universe," Four mused, twirling a curl with his finger. "Sarah Jane and I were in the middle of something."
"We were?" said the girl he'd arrived with.
"Hush," he said, looking guilty.
"No reason why you shouldn't!" said Ten, clapping his hands together. "It'll be fun!"
"I don't see why we can't help them, Doctor," said Sarah Jane.
"Oh, all right." Four grinned maniacally. "If I get bored, though, I'm not promising I'll stick around." Sarah Jane elbowed him.
"Fair enough," said Jack.
"So, I guess no one's going to tell me unless I ask. What is a Chula?" said Owen.
"I was wondering myself," said Tosh.
"Oh, they're very interesting!" said Four enthusiastically. "They're quite advanced, you know. They're definitely one of the higher forms of life in the universe, nearly on par with the Time Lords, except they seem to have no interest in time travel or dimensional and spatial physics. No, instead they focus on other types of technology, and their specialty has always been nanotechnology. Despite being so advanced, they're actually pretty laid back as a culture. At a first glance--" He was cut off by House, who was looking slightly pissy and had been unusually quiet until then.
"I'm coming," he announced.
"Excuse me?" said Jack.
"Who are you then?" said Four. House ignored him.
"If I stay here, I'll be essentially jobless for a long time--" he gestured at the broken hospital "--and seriously, you guys are going to alien planets? I'm not going to stay here and listen to idiots whine about their sniffles. My life just got a hell of a lot more interesting, and I intend to keep it that way. Besides," he added to Jack, "you and I are still linked. We have to find a way to undo this. It's driving me mad."
Jack shrugged. "Oh, I don't care," he said. He turned to the fourth Doctor. "This is Doctor House. He's the one who diagnosed Gwen."
"I'm a genius," added House.
"Nice to meet you! What do you mean, linked?"
"Long story," Jack said. "Later."
"I'm coming too!" Chase interjected. "So is Joey!"
"Er," said Jack.
"I'm sure as hell not staying here," Cameron said, wheeling her chair around to the front of the group.
Jack looked about to protest, but Owen cut him off. "Great! The more the better, right, Captain? It means more people to search!" He smiled at Cameron, and she smiled back. Jack didn't bother reminding him that there were only two TARDISes anyway, and gave in instead. Everyone looked expectantly at Foreman. He noticed and started waving his hands in front of himself defensively, backing away slightly.
"Ooooh, no, no freaking way! I'm staying right here, thanks very much! If I go with all of you crazies, I'd just end up locked in some tiny, enclosed space with Owen again, I know it! Do you have any idea how often that happened? At least three! No thanks. I'll take care of Gwen and help get the hospital back on track."
"Your loss," said Cameron, shrugging.
"Dr. Cuddy? Dr. Wilson? You two can come also if you want," Jack offered.
"Oh no, I couldn't," said Cuddy right away. "I have to stay here! This is my hospital, and look at it!" She wanted desperately to come, Ianto could tell. He admired her for putting what she considered her duty first.
"Are you sure? You were brilliant today," Jack said. Ianto snorted softly. The two Doctors observed quietly, standing near their TARDISes. Sarah Jane was watching with quiet excitement, knowing a new adventure was on the horizon. Cuddy looked torn.
"You could put Foreman in charge. He's almost as much of a tightass as you," House suggested off-handedly. Foreman perked up instantly and turned big, hopeful eyes on Cuddy. Cuddy wrung her hands.
"But-- but-- Oh, to hell with it. Yes, I'll come."
Jack grinned. “It’s also a time machine,” he added. “So we could come back to whenever you need.”
House shook his head. “No. No! I’m not coming back until this hospital is rebuilt.”
“Well, we don’t always land quite on target,” the tenth Doctor said. “You know, it’s about right, give or take a few... years...” He paused, probably realizing this did not impress. “But we can always try again if we figure out the problem in time,” he said quickly.
Jack turned to the last undecided member of the group. "Dr. Wilson?" Wilson looked pained, clearly torn between not really wanting to come and wanting to make sure his friends would be okay.
His caring nature won out and he nodded, grimacing slightly.
"Great!" said Ten. "Let's go!"
"Now hold on," House said sharply. "You weirdos may be fresh as a daisy in the springtime, but I've been running around, being chased, shot at, and generally menaced for over twenty-four hours now, and I want a shower, a very large meal, and at least eight hours of sleep before I leave. Another bottle of Vicodin would be excellent too. I seem to have lost mine at some point." The last bit was directed at Cuddy, who rolled her eyes. Wilson, Cameron, Chase, and Owen vehemently agreed with him. Sarah Jane looked crestfallen.
"You mean I have to spend eight hours playing solitaire on the TARDIS computer?" she whined. "I hate doing that."
"No," said Cuddy. "You can assist the National Guard in fixing up my hospital if you want." Sarah Jane brightened up at that, which was probably not the intended response.
"Does Gwen have that much time left? Can we afford to rest?" Tosh asked, worrying her lower lip with her teeth.
"She's technically not in any immediate danger. She could stroke again, but as long as there are people watching her, she shouldn't die," said Cuddy.
"Are you sure?" Tosh said. Jack stepped in.
"Tosh, you need rest the most of any of us. Gwen will be fine, I promise." Tosh hesitated, then nodded. Jack straightened up. "Okay, you all have nine hours to eat, shower, sleep, and do whatever you need to do. We'll meet back here."
"Before you go running off," Ten spoke up, "We should work out who's going with who."
"I get the smart girl!" Four said quickly.
"Hey, no fair!" Ten whined at him. "I wanted her!"
"Too bad. I said it first." Four grinned. Ten pouted. Tosh raised an eyebrow. Jack sighed.
"Fine. I get the pretty hospital lady then," said Ten when it became clear that the pouting wasn't going to work.
"What are you two, high school football captains picking teams?" said House.
"Me?" said Cameron excitedly.
"No, her," said Ten, pointing at Cuddy.
"Fine," said Cuddy. "Since that's settled, I'm going to go take a shower and sleep. See you all in nine hours." She strode off.
"What about me?" Jack asked Ten, sounding hurt.
"Oh yeah, I want Jack too," Ten added brightly. Jack perked up.
"I'll go with him then," said Ianto, motioning towards the other Doctor, who looked satisfied with that. Four surveyed the rest of them.
"I'll also take the froggish one," he said, pointing at Owen.
"Hey!" said Owen.
"Excuse me, what am I? Chopped liver? No! I'm a genius! Everyone should want me!" said House.
"What about me and Joey?" said Chase.
"I'll take him," said Ten, pointing at Wilson. Wilson shrugged.
"I have Sarah Jane also, so you can have the one in the wheelchair and the Australian," said Four. "I guess I'll take the cranky one."
"Good," said House, looking satisfied.
"Are we settled then?" asked Jack, looking morosely at Ianto.
"I think so," said Ten.
House had limped over to Four and was whispering something in his ear. Four looked at him and said, "Really?" House nodded confidently. "All right then. I'll trade you the one with the sideburns for the wimpy-looking one." The last bit was said to Ten.
"Hmmm." Ten glanced back and forth between them, looking contemplative. After a moment, Ianto caught on to what was happening.
"Wait. What? No! You can't do that!" he said. The two Doctors ignored him.
"Who's the wimpy one?" said Wilson. No one said anything. "Wait, me? I'm the wimpy one? I don't--oh, fine. Whatever, I don't even care."
"It's a deal," said Ten.
Four grinned. "Great, that's settled then! Nap-nap time!"
"So it's me, Owen, Dr. House, and Dr. Wilson with this Doctor and, was it Sarah Jane?" said Tosh. Sarah Jane nodded happily. "And Jack, Ianto, Dr. Cuddy, Dr. Cameron, and Dr. Chase with Jack's Doctor?"
"Whose Doctor?" said Ten.
"Don't forget Joey!" said Chase.
"Hold on a minute! I'm not going with them!" said Ianto.
"Exactly. Let's go eat," said House. He turned and walked off. Wilson followed him.
"Hey, what did you tell the Doctor to make him trade for me?" he asked. House smirked at him.
"I told him you were an excellent knitter and you'd knit him some socks to go with that lovely scarf of his."
"House! I don't know how to knit!"
"I know," said House smugly. Foreman caught up with them as they entered the building to look for a phone.
"Didn't you last have your motorcycle at the governor's mansion? Are you just going to leave it there?" he asked House.
House paused and thought back. "Shit! Hot wire me a car, Foreman, we’re getting my bike back!"
Ianto was distracted when Jack put his hands on his shoulders. “Well, looks like we’re fated to be together.”
“Go away, sir.”
“Come on, Ianto. It wasn’t me who arranged the trade.”
Ianto ignored him and proceeded back to Gwen’s room. “You’re staying here?” he asked Tracy when he got there.
“Absolutely,” she replied. “Someone has to keep an eye on Bilis, though if you ask me, he seems awfully devoted.” She sighed. “I wish I had someone like that.”
“He stabbed Gwen’s boyfriend.”
Tracy grinned. “Exactly.”
“Right, I forgot. Cheating, slapping, ball squeezing...”
“You know you’re thinking the same thing.”
“Yeah, but Jack would just get back up again.”
“Trouble in paradise, Ianto?” the Doctor asked, leaning in the doorway. Ianto jumped a little at his sudden appearance. “You know, I had a bet going with Martha that you’d have Jack dancing to your tune within a month. I guess I owe her.” When Ianto didn’t say anything, the Doctor came over and said, “This her?”
“Gwen Cooper. What a difference two days can make.”
“History changes in a second.”
They watched her sleep, the rise and fall of her shallow breathing causing Ianto more anxiety than any moment in the factory. “You can do it, right?”
“I’m brilliant,” Ten said. “I can do anything if I set my mind to it.”
“Good. It’s about time we got a miracle.”
To Arc 2: The Search for Chula
Back to Chapter 13: Part 2
Summary: A finale chapter so epic it requires three posts. A battle in a factory under Washington DC, a sexual liaison involving House, Jack and Wilson, and a diagnosis for Gwen are just the highlights as Arc 1: Conspiracy Theories comes to a thrilling conclusion.