death is just a dream: jack

This is a crossover between Dr Who/Torchwood and the Authority.

This probably isn't this universe's Authority, but that from whatever parallel that the main Who universe exists on. Essentially, it's an AU version of the Authority that operates covertly enough for Jack not to have heard of it. Coup d'etat certainly has not happened in this universe.

The Authority is an unorthodox superhero team created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch and are owned by Wildstorm/DC. Strangely enough, Bryan Hitch was concept artist on the new incarnation of Dr Who and designed Jack's spaceship in Empty Child, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the shift ships of Sliding Albion. Dr Who and Torchwood are owned by the BBC and the Daleks are copyright the estate of Terry Nation.

If you are unfamiliar with either canon, may I direct you to the Quick And Dirty Guide To The Authority and Torchwood.

The title is a misheard version of the Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir's "What It Takes". Special thanks to Malnpudl for the lyrics.

Beta by Tora Kowalski, the most awesome beta in any universe.

This was written pre-broadcast of Torchwood, so any divergence between this and the content of the series is totally down to Daleks meddling with the time stream. Honest.

DEATH IS JUST A DREAM

Somewhere between heaven and hell: Cardiff 2006

4

It's raining when Jack hits Surrey, that peculiar slanting rain that the English are so fond of, all of it making the green and pleasant land greener. He climbs out of the car; he thinks he has shaken off his new friends from Torchwood. They sure as hell didn't expect the little modifications that Jack had made to his Catterham 7 to do just quite that.

He should feel guilty. They're supposed to be his friends. Defending Hail Britania against the scum of the universe. He doesn't know why that phrase of Ianto's strikes him as funny, beyond the obvious, beyond that they are doing it from the worst stocked tourist office known to man.

It makes the one on Raxacoricofallapatorius look good, and that's even taking account the mucus on the floor from the Drashig visitors, the ones who ate the tour guide.

He finds him weeding his garden, in better shape than Jack expects and that's probably because of the wife, who must have gotten him out here pulling up weeds and swearing in the dignified manner that marks him as an officer and a gentleman. Doris. Jack knows. He read the files.

Jack shouldn't have done that, shouldn't be here at all, shouldn't be about to say what he's going to say.

"Good morning," he begins. With these types politeness is all, even if you're fighting alien hordes, "I heard you know Colonel Sparks."

It's a good opener. Leaves everything to Alastair here, in brogues that have seen better days and a windcheater that never did.

"You know her?" suspicion bristles behind the moustache. Jack was expecting that, expecting but hoping against it.

"Yes," Jack knows he will want more information than that, but Jack wants to keep as many of his cards as he can.

"When did you meet her, then?" He asks for a specific. He's good at this; Jack can see that now, see how once he held the fate of the world in his hands.

"London, the Blitz." Something about that command-tone makes Jack just roll over. He doesn't want to beat around the bush here, doesn't want to play games any more, he recognises something in the former officer, something he can trust.

"You know the Doctor?" a question that shouldn't have been as unexpected as it is.

"Yes, but I was travelling independently back then," and Jack smiles.

-1

Jack always knew he was going to bite it some way, and he supposes a firing squad was the most likely option. He thought he was going to have something great and noble to say, but he hasn't, and that's okay. A Time Agent should leave no mark. No shadow. And there's nobody left to record this, he's the last human standing.

His gun's out of juice. He considered throwing it at the tin-plated creeps, just to see whether the power cell would explode when they blast it; but he just drops it.

He knows he should have bought more time, but the waiting is killing him.

"Come on, then," he not quite shouts, "Do it."

He quits waiting.

0

Jack's chest hurts.

Jack remembers his chest hurting, he felt like his heart was exploding, which it was.

Jack's only remembering the way that his chest hurt.

Jack's chest is slumped against a bulkhead somewhere else as the monsters set out to remake the universe.

3

Jack's colleagues at Torchwood think he has a death wish. It makes Jack laugh; sometimes they don't know how close they are.

He has to know.

But the only person he can find to ask, when he raids the database behind Sato's back, should be a total no-no.

And the guy's UNIT, they aren't going to be putting the Torchwood Institute on their Christmas card lists any time soon. They were never on there, even before their rise to prominence under Jones and the whole cyber fiasco.

Anyway, how the hell is Jack going to interrupt the guy's retirement on the golf course? How could he bring himself to? He's left all this behind. He's just retired military with a short spell teaching at a boys' school in Devon.

Even if there are martinis in the club house involved; it's a total no-brainer.

Even if the thought of a boys' school makes Jack forget about thinking for a while.

It's still a no-brainer.

0

She offers him a cigarette.

She's still wearing that shirt with the union jack on. It's all she ever wears. Jack remembers thinking that he was seeing her hanging for sweet life onto the cable beneath a barrage balloon as the Jerries rained bloody hellfire down onto London.

Which is strange enough; Jack doesn't remember actually meeting her wearing it.

Rose has a nicer ass. There's no way he's telling Jenny Sparks that. He knows what she can do.

"I thought you were immortal," he says, hoping that she never told him otherwise and he just never remembers. The memory thing had got him in enough trouble as it was.

Not that he's going to get into more trouble, here, on the other side of death.

She's still offering him that cigarette. Here, sitting, maybe floating, in a field full of stars. Jack doesn't recognise the brand.

He still thinks his chest hurts. Maybe the cigarette isn't a bad idea. It's not as if he can get cancer or anything.

Not that he could get cancer before, 51st century boy and all. Humanity had conquered disease and famine and half the goddamn universe by then.

Cancer is impossible on a genetic level. In his body, slumped against a bulkhead and stuck in the moment when his chest exploded and every nerve was aflame.

He takes the cigarette and lets Jenny light it like the human pizo-lighter she is. Never stops being cool. Though how it works in space, that's another question; it's not as if they need oxygen… but it makes Jack wonder how much of this is real.

And if faced with his death, would Jack's dying dream really be of Jenny Sparks sitting in space and talking about how she was never immortal at all? Never immortal except for the never aging part.

Unless the universe is trying to teach him something about universal mortality; Jack can't see it happening

"…spirit of the twentieth century," she says, "so on New Year's Eve 1999, I just go and bite it."

Jack interrupts, "that isn't the start of the twenty-first century," he says. It's stupid. Jenny shouldn't die, shouldn't have died. It would be nice to think that somebody thought of him that way. Probably Rose.

"It's majority opinion that counts," Jenny's still hacked off, but it's faded to the background level that Jenny feels about everything. Jack remembers that he hates stupid people, except when their stupidity works for him and when he likes them, of course. And that makes him think of Lynda floating in space. Maybe she's here as well.

He looks round. Maybe she's somewhen else. It can't be as if Jenny's been sitting here for the last four centuries or so, waiting for him.

Jack doesn't say that, though. Instead he asks about his broken memories.

And Jenny's leaning over to whisper in his ear, smelling of bad English cigarettes and Tesla coils; when everything becomes light.

3.5

And anyway, there are times when Jack thinks that everybody he meets dies. And then, in quick succession, you know, not with the bit marked "life" in the middle.

5

Jack flies into the Sunshine State.

He's here on holiday.

He's here on a hunch.

And in the sunlit yard a little girl with strangely curly brown hair looks at him wearing his greatcoat. Jack doesn't feel the heat these days. Dead man walking that he is. Or maybe he got himself a course of gene therapy for a trip to the ice moons of Saggoth, and just forgot. Jack prefers the dead man walking theory.

He likes the coat, anyway. It makes him feel safe.

Not that safe is much of a concept when you live Jack's life.

Her slightly slanted eyes narrow and it's as if she's looking through Jack and into something else. Her face makes Jack think of Betty Crocker and not because five year olds really like cake, either. It's like she's looking into Jack's soul.

Or maybe not.

Because what she says when she opens her mouth is, "You know, that looks really dated."

Even Jack knows this is not regular five year old conversation, but maybe her daddy's into fashion or something; "No, it's a classic," he says, "It's got style."

Her brow winkles for a moment, and once you get past that Omen feeling, Jack decides it's cute, really cute. Kid's trying to put an answer together, Jack figures he can wait for that before he asks whether daddy's in. Jack knows he is, this is 2006 and you don't let the kids play in the front yard with nobody to watch over them even somewhere as idyllic and lonesome as this.

"No, it means that you're hiding in the past, future boy, but it's the past you really are scared of," and she says this like she's talking about how she likes strawberry ice-cream and puppies. Jack starts.

Then he notices the guy standing on the porch. Jack swears he never heard him coming, heard the door, saw nothing. And the guy sweeps his sun-kissed blond hair out of his eyes and smiles, "Hi, I'm Paul. Jenny, go play, I'll talk with our visitor."

A small part of Jack's brain points out that Paul clearly works out, has a smile that would steal a statue's virtue, and eyes that say that he means every word that comes out from between his perfect lips.

And Jack runs.

7

Jack's trying to get drunk in a bar when a guy with a tragic dye-job asks him about Florida.

Jack chokes on his martini.

6.5

He named his kid after his dead boss, not even Jack's that weird.

Jack still doesn't quite get what's so familiar about the little monster's eyes. And he wishes he did, but he know he doesn't want to.

Jack gets back to Cardiff and goes and exorcises a kindergarten teacher.

With a big gun.

And he resists the pull back to the house on the Keys.

Takes a day off and goes to London, tells Jones to write it off as stress, spins some bull about how it brings back bad memories of Jack's first day at school.

Jack had a tutor, up in the high castle overlooked by nothing but the purple dual moons of Tau Ceti 6.

-2

She's wearing her blonde hair up and laughs at his jokes. He's toned the content down a little, but from the sound of the laughter, he's pitched them just the right side of naughty. Meaning that if he were in America, he'd have a Senate Inquiry down on his head.

She's something in Air Force Intelligence.

And strangely, that something isn't a typist.

And she's a colonel. He didn't think you got them like that here and now. With curves and everything. One day, he's sure, he'll be able to make sense of this arcane society, but right now, it seems a mish-mash of rules that don't make much sense.

And Algy says she's one hell of a pilot.

She also, as it turns out, punches very hard.

Still, more fish in the sea, all of them full of British pluck and more than that, the knowledge that this may well be their last night on earth.

7.5

Jack's off balance and not just in his head.

The last of the martini swills over the bar.

The glass drops.

The glass…

No, it's in the stranger's hand.

He's holding it delicately between his thumb and his index finger. His pinky is out like he's taking tea at the Ritz.

Jack recognises something in the guy's eyes. He knows what it is this time, but Jack isn't a soldier any more, he hopes his eyes have stopped looking like that.

And then…

Jack remembers a name and a little more than that.

He saw Jenny in London with some guru guy.

He said he could change the world from the ground up.

Jack said that he had to be tripping. There are a hundred little tells for that, and this guy had most of them. If only Jack could see his eyes, then he could be sure, but they're closed off from the world behind those rose-tinted spectacles. It could just be some imbalance in his brain. Or he could be telling the truth.

Jenny said his name was Jeroen and that if Jack started anything, he would get it.

And then, she added, that was if Jack was lucky.

Something about her tone of voice made Jack not want to even ask what the freak was capable of.

The guy with the badly bleached hair and the minimalist black suit just says, "Jeroen's dead."

9

Jack's dreams aren't normally like this.

Jack dreams only of two things, the blitz and monsters he can't quite see. He's sure a shrink would have a field day with that, but then, he can't really ask. The shrink would just think the time travel and the daleks and… the shrink would think he's crazy even before he got there. What Jack can't really ask is whether he's right. Whether the monsters are really his lost memories.

"Not exactly," a strange accent-less voice behind him says, "the monsters are just a typical fear-dream. They're realer than most, because, you've fought monsters, haven't you?"

Jack turns. The bright world lurches sickeningly.

"And please don't call me a delusional hippy this time," Jeroen says.

Jack doesn't normally dream about dead men, besides Algy; and he sure as hell doesn't normally dream himself into some acid-head sixties psychedelic version of cloud cuckoo land.

The weird bastard is still wearing those pink shades of his, the ones that cover all round his eyes, like goggles. Exactly like goggles. Death does not improve your dress-sense. Jack knows that, he's dead and he still wears his greatcoat. And whatever the kid said…

"Jenny's right you know," another voice, "you're hiding in the past…"

Jenny?

They're outside the bar now, Jenny's drunk and Jack's drunk and when you get down to it, everything's fine. Drink doesn't make you forget anything, really, except how remembering hurts so much, how breathing hurts so much, how everything hurts so much.

And then there's that jerk again. Still with the trench-coat. Brewer, Drayman, Carter. Yeah, Carter, maybe he can cart them back to Jenny's place.

She's invited him back to hers. Jack doesn't think it's about sex. It's okay.

"Fuck. Jenny," the guy starts, "cradle-robbing again. What do you do? Suck the fucking life out of them? Consume their vital charge?"

Jack doesn't think you should talk to ladies like that. Jack doesn't think you should talk to anyone like that.

Jack thinks the asshole should learn some manners.

It might have something to do with the way Jack's currently staring at the pavement.

"Some knight in shining armour, Jenny. Can't even walk straight, let alone punch somebody… you see, I have a problem, and what I'm looking at right now is a solution. See, Jenny, we can make a deal, here. You help me with my problem and I won't hex your boy-toy here into oblivion."

Jack can see the boots moving past his eyes, they're shiny. He knows that they're up to something bad and he'll deal with it in a moment, once the pavement stops being so comfortable.

Jack's lying at the edge of a puddle.

The feet step into the puddle and everything goes bright and electric.

"I was waiting for you to do that, sunshine. Now why don't you do me a favour and stay down like that, while me and boy toy get going. And just so you know, he can't remember where his hotel is."

Jack looks up at Jenny and she winks.

Then Jack notices. There's electricity flowing from her fingers. Sharp and crackling. The air smells like ozone like teleportation beams.

No, not that Jenny.

"…but the past you're hiding in isn't your own," the boy continues, he's dressed like somebody out of the Arabian nights, "It's all bombs and blitzkrieg, like that coat."

Jeroen interrupts, "It's a nice coat. I'm just not sure I'm comfortable about the connotations. It's very military, isn't it?"

Jack's a lot more comfortable with this conversation, "It's very warm. In Cardiff, we call that a good thing."

The boy stares at Jeroen peevishly, "excuse me. I was talking. You're hiding in borrowed memories, because you're scared of your own. You've changed something in your head to lock them out…"

"Not me," Jack snarls, "the Agency."

"As you wish. But… it's breaking something, things aren't working right."

Jack tears his eyes from the boy to find that Jeroen has grown very large and he's pointing at Jack's head. The tip of his finger is the size of a watermelon, and there are heads growing out of the ground behind him.

Jack doesn't think this is a dream.

Jeroen could just finger-flick Jack's head off.

Jack sees the finger growing massively large, and his eyes stop focussing, and he just begins to feel it going through his head.

Everything is as the Agency said it would be, as Jack hefts his backpack outside the hospital. He looks up at the iron-work arch reading Albion Hospital and shudders. Jack doesn't know why. Then he checks his watch and finds his cue.

"You sure you're all right, ma'am?" he asks, giving her a beautiful smile that everyone here identifies as American before they even hear his voice.

She's crying. There are lines of make-up trailing down her face. Jack supposes she'd be quite pretty without them, in a plump wholesome way. She wears too much make-up anyway, he wonders whether he should say that, but it isn't part of the mission and he shouldn't leave a footprint, a shadow. Or at least, no more than the Agency tells him to. He resolves to tell her if she realises and gets more upset.

"It's just a bit much, really," she sniffs, her nose winkles up when she does that.

Jack gives a concerned smile, "I hear you Brits have a fine answer for all that. There's a teashop over there, fancy a cup? You don't have to tell me what's wrong if you don't want to, but I think it'll calm you down some."

They get inside before it starts to rain, and he watches the drops make rivers down the glass while he sips tea strong enough to blow his head off.

"They say it ain't my tubes or his, you know, ding-dong. They don't know why at all," Jack knows this shouldn't make sense, but then, he shouldn't already know what she's talking about, or the consequences of this conversation. Those consequences are Jack's mission objective.

"Why what?" he asks, and reaches across the table for her hand.

"I can't have no babies. I've always wanted one," she fights back the tears and talks for a while about how it would make all her dreams come true and make her Pete get a proper job, and they'd all be a proper family.

Jack puts a finger under her chin, "Look at me, it isn't the end of the world. I have a sister, runs an international adoption agency," the agency is the Agency, they need to get some kids somewhere safe, Jack thinks, "you know, it's a foreign aid thing, it's not like they charge or anything. I just think you should consider it. I've known you for ten minutes and I already think you'd make a great mom."

"I can feel something in there, I can feel blocks, but I don't have any idea how they did it," Jack should say something snarky about fifty-first century technology, but he's too busy realising that must be what the Agency was hiding.

"Uh? Guys? That definitely shook something loose," he starts.

The boy starts with, "I can see it, now. Are you really sure you want to know what's inside the box? People hide things away for a good reason."

"Yes, dammit, I want to know. I want to know what I spent two years doing. I want to know. I mean, Jenny Sparks knows! She was going to tell me, when woosh I was alive and kicking again." Jack might be a little heated, he doesn't even notice the way the 'ground' doesn't quite meet the horizon here, leaving a gap of eye-bleeding space.

"That doesn't mean anything," Jeroen sighs, "Jenny's unpredictable. Nine out of ten she'd tell you something stupid. We are talking about somebody who shot herself to get her own way, after all."

Jack wonders about that, but what he wants is his memory back, not to sit around here swapping Jenny-stories. It's not as if he's got terribly many to tell. "Since I saw her, I've been having little bits come through, but they're only the bits with her in. And I remember getting drunk with her in the nineteen-eighties and walking through Biba in a little union jack dress… but I can't remember anything about me."

"They're your experiences, they're all about you," Jeroen grumbles, "most people's are. Remember that, Habib."

Jack thinks he preferred the guy stoned, sober he's a lot less fun to be with, and clearly has a really depressing line in existential philosophy.

"Look," says Habib, his turban almost falling over his eyes, "do you want your memories back? And you won't get all vengeful on me if you don't like them?"

Jack thinks he looks terribly young and earnest, trying to do things right, "Yes, and yes, on my honour as an officer and a gentleman."

"I'd be more comfortable if you swore on something with a little more value."

"Shut up!" shouts the kid, clearly teacher isn't all that popular. He takes a deep breath and intones, "The shortest period of time is the one for an electron to think about moving. Everything before that is past and everything after that is the future. Quantum time. Memory is just time made flesh."

Jack thinks he's been doing it on the hoof, and sure it's interesting, but, "that's it?"

"Yes, I hope there's something good at the bottom of the box," the boy says.

"Hope," says the Dutchman, "It's always hope. And I think that makes you Pandora."

"And condensed milk," the kid says. The older guy stares.

"I suppose we ought to let you get back to your regular scheduled dreamtime," says Jeroen, bowing. For a moment, Jack sees him as not quite solid, like a shape filled with stars; somehow Jack knows this is how he really is now, dead and part of the fabric of the universe. Maybe the whole shaman of the global village description was correct all along. Maybe he should have listened to Jenny on that one, even if she didn't fry his ass after all.

"It's too pretty an arse for me to go and deprive the world of it, don't you think, Ange?"

The tall woman besides her throws back her hair and laughs. She's a New Yorker. "You think the world's supply of decent tushie would be irretrievably damaged, Jenny? And we'll have to start a captive breeding program or something," she leers, slightly, but she's less than serious.

"We don't want that. Look at the starting material we've got," Jenny nonchalantly points at the guru guy, "he, he forgets to eat so often he is totally without tushie; you can't breed anything from the dynamic duo except maybe new curtains; and Hawksmoor, bless him, has a decent bum…"

"…but the kids will be burning holes in things with laser-eyes. Got it. He's not too bad, I suppose…"

"So we let him live," says Jenny, as if she makes that kind of decision every day. Jack would still bet that she normally chooses the other option, just because she's a person like him with many a ghost to keep her awake at night.

"Maybe we should buy him a drink. For going where angels fear to tread and defying Jenny Sparks and getting away with it," Ange's smile says something more than alcohol. The weird guy is too busy talking to a street lamp to notice.

"Nah, that would be encouraging him. What he does is buy us all a drink by way of apology."

"And then we steal his cigarettes!" Jack thinks it's a nice smile, and it sounds like she smiles all the time. Jack doesn't meet very many people like that; he wishes he met more of them.

"Beats you stealing mine, you thieving cow," Jenny mutters.

The record skips.

Glenn Miller is In The Mood, and Algy's by the dansette and he must have moved the needle. Algy isn't much of one for dancing, he prefers to watch. And he's standing there watching Jack dance in the dark room, illuminated only by the bombs falling perhaps half a mile away.

The club is empty, except for Jack, Algy and the girl.

An incendiary goes off, and Jack gets a flash of a union jack shirt. He leans in close in the returning darkness to smell cigarettes and whisky. Arms tighten around him; only, she's softer and shorter than he expected. And when his hand tangles in her hair, he finds it crimped and grasping at his fingers.

There's the rising sound of a falling aircraft.

Jack can see as the room is bathed in the light of death.

And the girl in his arms changes again.

Jack decides that the martini was a sign.

He started off stalking a dead woman a century old and the best black ops operative in the world. He knows she must have made contact. Just can't turn up the records, if there ever were records. Good, Jack doesn't want Torchwood or something worse getting their hands on Jenny. He owes her that, he figures. Sure, UNIT know or at least the retired General knows. But Jack's slightly more comfortable about that, the General built the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce from the ground up and he was a friend of Jenny's… probably got at least a couple of ideas off Colonel Sparks. And he probably understands the idea of checks and balances, unlike, say, the Empress of India.

Jack knows the UN aren't much protection, but he hopes it's enough; it's got to be better than being known only to the Cabinet. Accountability.

Anyone who wants to manipulate UNIT has to either mess with the "data" that UNIT acquires or buy a hell of a lot of votes.

The martini is a sign.

He stalked a dead woman, and now it turns out that the dead woman is stalking him back.

Shouldn't be so surprising, really. Jack's a dead man, it just happens he's breathing and doing her stalking in person. Jenny's just sending trained killers to play barfly. And in places where Jack knows he can go unnoticed too. The way Jack dresses, a military-themed bar in Soho is like dressing like a needle and hiding in a haystack.

So he can't run. Not without losing Torchwood entirely, if he does that he might as well hand the keys of the TARDIS to the first bug-eyed monster he can find. Defies the point of rigging the transmat on the dying station the way he did. There was enough Time Lord technology on floor five hundred to get out before the oxygen ran out and the generators exploded. Admittedly, Jack rigged the generators and turned off the oxygen so that they'd have enough power to explode. There was nobody else there, nobody needing rescue, no reason to send a rescue party. Earth didn't have the resources to waste on one guy, so Jack didn't ask. A good Time Agent never leaves a shadow.

And Jack wasn't going to leave a device that could destroy all life on Earth around for some curious guy to pull the trigger on, or worse still, for a whole bunch of curious guys to develop into weapons tech, stepping over his dead body to do it.

That was after he ran up to find only dust and the fading drone of a TARDIS.

Jack hoped that the Doctor and Rose just didn't know.

It's better than the alternative. That they abandoned him.

And the martini's a sign that what Jack needs is a stiff drink or three.

Jack needs a stiff drink or three.

So he came back, to the eighties, to the decade that style forgot and followed his nose to the worst dive bar he could find. The sign says the Crown and Anchor, but it's not really a pub. Lacks any of the joie de vivre that a good glassing would bring. There are stockbrokers across the floor, and their sideways stares mark them as Circus, not stockbrokers at all.

Jack is a needle, and he's just found his haystack.

There's a dame by the bar with grubby blonde hair snaking down the back of her leather jacket. Jack ignores her and orders what may be a passably decent stout.

There's always somewhere free from the passage of time, from yuppification, from gentrification, from wine bars and shoulder pads. This is a bar for people who don't like change outside of their work. They spend their days and nights changing the world for their nameless lords and masters and they sure as hell don't need it to carry on here.

This guy in a grubby trench and bad hair comes and starts on the girl with the blond hair.

And, hell, Jack's still behaving like one of the good guys, "hey, she's not interested, she just wants a quiet drink alone. You know what alone means or do I have to spell it out to you?" He didn't realise that he'd drawn back his hand after he put down his glass.

She turns, and he sees something in her eyes that says the she could totally have handled it, but she appreciates a gentleman. She looks young and old all at once, and Jack knows what sort of things can do that to you.

"Yes," she says her tone acerbic, biting, "Bugger off Jack."

Jack starts. "Not you, him, Jack fucking Carter, master of the unknown. He can fuck off. Now, you, you can have another drink," she nods at the barman and he smiles and makes busy, "you look like the world has been giving you turd pancakes for lunch, dinner and tea."

She smiles and presses her chin against her union jack t-shirt and pulls out a cigarette. Then she lights up. With her finger. A spark of electricity.

It's not a trick.

The spies in the corner don't notice, it's old and comfortable and not a threat. The barman just smiles.

"Come on, tell your Auntie Jenny about it," she says, waving her cigarette and exhaling a line of smoke from her nose.

And he does.

And he can do that as well here as he can in a bar, and it's not as if he wants to get laid that much right now, anyway.

All he wants is to get out of the pain and confusion of his broken memories.

All he wants is to get out of playing shadow games with people he ought to trust.

All he wants is to get out, and there's no way he can jury-rig himself a one-way time-machine here. He just has to wait, and the Doctor will come. The Doctor likes the whole fin de siècle scene, he has an unhealthy attraction to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the files have borne out Jack's hunch.

Jack wishes he was back in the blitz.

10

Jack isn't surprised when a man walks out of the wall of his office in Cardiff. He has seen stranger things. He just wishes that he was somewhere he could get some decent eye upgrades done, because he swears he can almost see the atoms moving.

Basic molecular disruptors don't happen until 2150.

"You know who I am," Jack says, "you do me the same courtesy?"

He is surprised when the guy turns out to be another Yank, "Jack Hawksmoor."

Jack doesn't laugh, just takes the guy's outstretched hand and does a little shake and squeeze. It feels like sandpaper, and that isn't a metaphor for not moisturising. Jack looks at the palm out of the corner of his eye as he lets the other guy talk; it's not like skin at all, there's built-in grip.

Manipulation of human genetics to create "cosmetic" genome customisations isn't achieved until 2104; but Jack is becoming less sure of what he knows with every moment, or at least, less sure about everything the Time Agency ever taught him.

"You want to know who we are," this other Jack says, "we're Jenny's people, we don't answer to the secret masters of the world, only to ourselves and that's why we keep doing it. Saving the world. I came to make you an offer, nobody pulling your strings again. You accept and you'll save the world more often than you ever will in this roach motel in this pissant little city."

It's a beautiful sales pitch. Jack can believe that this guy would take Jenny's place and the whole offer is so very like Jenny. Jenny never took well to Authority, and there was a time when Jack thought that he didn't either. He already knows his answer, but he takes a moment, watching a blood the same colour as Hawksmoor's eyes trickle from his nose, before he pulls a handkerchief that's not vintage but close enough to feel right from his pocket.

"Sounds like Jenny's sort of thing," Jack says, remembering Jenny in a bar too drunk to fuck, swearing and ranting about how changing the world only turns live bodies into dead ones.

"It doesn't matter what you do, everything turns to shit," she says, sitting on the edge of the bed in her panties and a t-shirt that has seen better days, rather like the country, really. The transfer print hasn't quite cracked off, yet, and Jack can see the faint pointillist traces of the union jack. She's holding a bottle of whisky against her leg.

Jack's on the bed too, but he still has his shirt and pants on. He doesn't know what to say, so he just listens.

"I ran teams. I did things. I tried to make a finer world. And you know what? All I managed to do was get a whole bunch of idealistic kids killed, and some older ones as well. And they were the lucky ones. Sure, some of them got out alive, but for what? They had holes in their brains where the good stuff used to be, before it got filled up with blood, and death and things…"

She takes another swig.

Jack listens and he understands.

Jack doesn't say anything about that, there's something about the way Hawksmoor stands that says he already knows. Hell, there's Jenny and Jeroen and the world in the hands of a teenage magician taught by a dead heroin addict. Jack looks in the guy's eyes a moment and sees what he saw in the mirror in the Game Station restroom.

It's tempting. To see whether they really can pull it off.

"I need to be here," Jack says, "I keep telling myself it's just to make sure things don't go rotten again. You know that spaceship last Christmas? It was leaving when the PM ordered the old Torchwood to shoot it down."

The look on Hawksmoor's face tells Jack everything he needed to know. Hawksmoor didn't know and probably has a space ship of his own that he's going to keep out of British airspace in future. Smart guy.

"And then, there's this guy I need to meet up with, I thought it was because he had something I want. Now, I've got that, and it's really about what I need to do."

Hawksmoor's leaning against the wall like he's been beat over with a Mack truck, "Look, maybe we can help. Beats being here, they call this a city? I've seen bigger football stadiums."

Jack's getting almost fond of Cardiff, so he doesn't direct the guy up the road to the Millennium stadium. Jack doubts he would make it, and anyway, it would probably be bad taste. In Jack's brain, bad taste tastes like cheap English cigarettes on the edge of eternity.

"I don't think you can do what this guy can, Spiderman," Jack grins. He's still not sure what he wants to do, but he already knows he needs the Doctor or the TARDIS, same difference. "You okay? You look half dead."

"It's this freaking pint-sized city," Hawksmore fails to elucidate on the non-sequitur, just says "door" and falls backwards into something that looks suspiciously like the vortex in all its golden glory.

So, maybe they could have done it.

Just as well Jack turned them down, still isn't sure whether he really wants to commit Grand Theft Time-machine.

Jack isn't sure what to do.

Nobody resigns the Agency.

Jack knows that. He knows that they'll come looking for him soon.

After he stormed out like that, they'd have to. They don't know what he could do. Or rather they know what he could do. And that's why they have to look for him.

He can still hear his voice screaming, "I thought the kid was some refugee or something. You led me to believe that. To believe that it was all going to be for the best."

Scicluna looks at him, "You're an Agent; you do whatever is necessary. Whatever the Agency deems necessary. We are at war, and it shall be for the best. We have placed the weapon where it will produce the maximum damage to the Daleks. When it has fully developed, it will be brought into place…"

"Shut up! She's not an it! She's a human being. A fucking baby girl…"

"No. She is their destruction."

They didn't expect him to be able to get out of there, but Jack has more than a couple of tricks up his sleeve. Admittedly, he'd picked them up in case he got stranded somewhere, some armpit of a world.

A good Agent leaves no shadow, no footprint, no mark.

Sitting in a stolen Chula ship, Jack realises he knows what to do.

1

Damn.

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