Word Count: 3476
Summary: Torchwood One needs rebuilt, and there's no one better to train the newbies anymore...
Prompt: Jantolution Challenge #7, Prompts - A day in the life..., Roswell, Wikipedia, Linkin Park
A/N: Reference to/speech nicked from "The IT Crowd" series 2, episode 2, part 2, according to the clip on Youtube... (The section in question starts at about 4 minutes in... :) )
They’d arrived in Cardiff the night before, and stayed in the cheapest hotel around (with much complaint, but since it was all arranged by Torchwood, and going on Torchwood’s bill, there wasn’t anything they could do about it). Most of them had managed to get a decent night’s sleep, but they’d had to get up ridiculously early to make it to the Millennium Centre for six in the morning, so it didn’t count for much.
It was cold and breezy there, and the ten of them huddled together, stamping their feet occasionally and muttering amongst themselves as they looked around and waited to be met by Torchwood Three’s lot. None of them had been told exactly what to expect, and two of the men had been telling outrageous stories of Torchwood employees who’d been sent on such training days and either never come back, or come back with scars and bizarre phobias (they’d both agreed about someone running screaming from the room whenever anyone asked for a paperclip). The others were, understandably, getting a little nervous.
Eventually, three of them happened to be looking the right way when a man in a long coat appeared out of thin air, striding towards them. Within seconds they were lined up and standing to attention, just as they’d been told to, though they maintained speculative whispers as to the man’s origin until he was in hearing range.
The man didn’t even speak to them when he reached them, just stopped, folded his arms, and gave them all a once over, then turned away with a curt nod of his head to indicate they should follow him, and headed towards the Bay.
They trooped after him obediently, and exchanged confused looks when he led them down a flight of steps to the Tourist Information Office, opening the door without hesitation and going straight in. A little more warily, the group followed him in, to find him leaning against the counter with his arms folded again.
“Shut the door behind you,” he told them, and a few of them blinked in silent surprise at his American accent.
“Secrecy,” he said seriously when they’d done as he’d asked, “is vital to Torchwood’s survival.”
The ten nodded their agreement – they’d all been told when they were recruited that Torchwood was classified to the highest level, and they couldn’t even tell their families exactly what their new jobs entailed.
“Misdirection can be your greatest weapon,” the man told them, and leaned back, reaching over the desk to push a button hidden from view. Three of the group jumped as a secret door swung open right beside them, and then, when their guide gestured for them to go in, they nervously started down the corridor. On reaching the lift (which opened as they approached) they paused and glanced back at their guide, who turned to another door, saying, “Five of you with me,” and then started down the stairs.
They split up with a little argument, five of them taking the lift and five of them hurrying after the swish of their guide’s coat.
At the bottom of the stairs, they met up again with the group from the lift, and gathered together nervously when the man paused and looked at them speculatively.
“When you’re working for Torchwood,” he said after a few moments, “you also have to be prepared to deal with any situation that you find yourself in.”
He pointed at one of them suddenly, saying, “You. Open the door.”
Startled, the woman in question looked desperately at her fellow trainees, but they edged away from her. With a sigh, she started towards the door to try and find some sort of keypad, but it rolled open at her approach.
“And sometimes the solution is easier than you think,” the man told them, winking at the woman and swaggering on into the heart of his underground lair.
“Torchwood One,” he continued as they trailed after him, jaws dropping at the sight of the fountain on the inside of the building, and the sudden screech as some bizarre winged creature went soaring overhead, “preferred to try hiding things in plain sight, as you all know from your visit to Canary Wharf. We at Torchwood Three tend to be a little more old-fashioned. I’ll let you decide for yourselves which method you think works better.”
“This way, please,” another man said, from the group’s right. They tore themselves away from their various points of fascination (including the three people working at computers) and made their way across a walkway that bridged a small pool of water by the fountain, as their original guide went over to talk to the others. Following the suited man up a flight of stairs, the group found themselves being ushered into a room with a long table and enough chairs for them all – and a file at each place.
Waving them to their seats, the man told them, “You’ll need to take a look at the files. The Captain will be asking for your opinion on the case in a few minutes. In the meantime, can I offer anyone a drink?”
They told him what they wanted, and he left them to read the files. The moment he was gone, the two men who’d been telling the stories about other trainees earlier on made a bet with each other that he’d give someone the wrong drink, since he hadn’t taken note of their orders.
“It’s no wonder this place has got such a bad reputation,” one of them grumbled.
The other eight kept their thoughts to themselves, and dutifully looked through the case file they’d all been given. There were statements, reports, photographs and test results, all dealing with a series of attacks in the Splott area. Five people had been admitted to hospital with bite wounds, and since all of the attacks had taken place at night, not one had been able to give an accurate description of the creature responsible.
After ten minutes or so, the man in the suit came back with a tray bristling with mugs. Without saying a word, he went around the table putting drinks in front of people, and then left again. Contrary to the betters’ opinion, each drink was precisely what had been asked for, and handed to exactly the right person as well.
The two betters had a minute to discuss whether the man in the suit was psychic or not, and then the man in the long coat arrived (minus coat, now, hands in his pockets).
“Captain Jack Harkness,” he said by way of introduction at last. “Welcome to Torchwood Three.”
One of the betters stood up and thrust his hand out to the Captain, saying, “Michael Anderson. I used to work in –”
“I know,” the Captain told him, with a blank look, ignoring his hand. “I read your file.”
There was a pause, and then Anderson sat back down, while most of the others tried to hide their smiles. Harkness stared at him for a moment more, then abruptly turned his attention away and gave the rest of them a megawatt grin, saying, “Okay. I want your thoughts on the case you just read. Say we just got these reports in. What would your plan of action be?”
He pointed at the man at the far end of the table, and told him, “You start.”
Each of the ten in turn outlined their suggestions for investigating the case they’d been given, generally suggesting the same sort of plan (usually involving a team of at least eight people, heavy duty nets, enough tranquillisers to take down a herd of elephants, and top of the range machine guns), and adding to what the others before them had said. Harkness leant against a small cupboard in the corner during the whole thing, nodding occasionally, or contesting a point and making them explain themselves further. Until one of the women, looking through the file again, closed it and threw it on the table, saying calmly, “My plan of action? Find the dog and put it down.”
There was a pause as the others stared at her, then Harkness laughed, saying, “Scepticism. I like it.”
She folded her arms, staring him down, and said, “You’ve read my file. You know I’m a vet.”
“You were a vet,” he corrected. “You’re Torchwood now. And while I like a bit of disbelief every now and again, in this case you’d be wrong. The creature responsible for the attacks was a Daraksian – with a K-S, not an X, you can look it up in the London Archive when you get back, if you want – and it was very pissed off to be here.”
“You dealt with this case?” one of the others asked curiously. “So were we close with our plans?”
“Nowhere near,” Harkness told them cheerfully. “We didn’t even know it was out there when we found it. It was just three of us, two angry Weevils taking up the cage space in the back of our SUV, and one unusual alien with a grudge and a lot of teeth.”
“What did you do?” they asked, intrigued, and he shrugged.
“Tosh – she’s our technical genius – took the SUV back here, and Ianto and I dealt with the Daraksian. One thing you’ll either learn very quickly or not at all in Torchwood is that nothing ever goes as planned, and if you’re not prepared to move with the situation you’ll stop moving completely. If you get my drift.”
There was a united gulp around the table, and Harkness grinned at them again, then looked at his watch and said, “Okay. Quickfire questions. You,” and he pointed at one of them at random, “name a band.”
The man he’d chosen floundered for a second, then said weakly, “Linkin Park?” and tried not to cringe when Harkness raised an eyebrow.
“So,” he said, “I tell you to research Linkin Park for a case. What’s your first move?”
Anderson muttered something to the other better, and they both hid grins. Harkness looked at them, and said, “Care to share that?”
“I said look them up on Wikipedia,” Anderson told him unrepentantly, and the Captain rolled his eyes a little, saying, “You’ll get on well with Owen. Okay, what do you do if our American counterparts turn up demanding one of our newest and most dangerous artefacts?”
“Tell them we’ll trade it for everything from Roswell,” Anderson said promptly, and Harkness sighed.
He looked at his watch again, then said with false cheer, “That’s session one over with. Wait here and you’ll be collected for your second session when our doctor’s ready for you.”
With that he left the room again, and the ten of them exchanged nervous glances. They were only on their own for a few moments, and then the Welshman in the suit came back to take away their empty mugs.
“Doctor Harper’s waiting for you in the autopsy room,” he told them as he tidied up. “Please follow me.”
He left the room, carrying the tray with all their mugs on, and led them back down the steps, across the walkway, up a few more steps to a small area with a couch (and two workstations, from one of which a Japanese woman turned to look at them, smiling briefly as they filed into the autopsy room and lined up along the stairs) and then left them to it. The doctor, in his white coat, glanced up at them and then pressed a button to start projecting a Powerpoint onto the wall next to him.
“Anyone who recognises those readings gets brownie points,” he told them, then sighed and looked at his watch as if he had somewhere better to be.
“I’m meant to be telling you about ‘standard procedure for the containment and examination of alien lifeforms’, according to our timetable. Load of bollocks, if you ask me. Everything we deal with is alien, to start with, so there’s no such thing as standard procedure. Basic safety precautions – and we’re talking how to not get your head blown off on your first day, here – are either overkill or way off the mark, half the time. I’d recommend making someone else go first whenever you’re out on a mission.”
The ten stared at him, then exchanged nervous looks. When the doctor started talking again, they all watched him in rapt attention, too worried by the idea that this was the best advice the resident doctor could give them to really take in what he was now talking about. The woman nearest the exit glanced back out at the Japanese woman, hearing her ask someone, “I’m next, aren’t I?”
The Welshman and Captain Harkness were standing beside her desk, looking at a clipboard.
“Owen said he’d need at least half an hour, so you’ve got some time to get ready.”
“If any of those bombs go off, I’m gonna be very upset,” Harkness told her, teasingly, and she shook her head, saying, “It’s alright, I can defuse them in a few seconds if necessary.”
“Joke,” Harkness said, grinning, and she looked up at him, clearly frowning.
“Are you even taking this seriously, Jack?” she asked. “Think what it must be like for the trainees.”
Harkness shrugged, saying, “They’ve gotta learn that working for Torchwood’s completely unpredictable. If everything goes perfectly according to schedule today, they’re gonna think it’s always this easy.”
“There’s some twisted logic in there somewhere,” the Welshman commented dryly, still looking through the papers on his clipboard.
“Don’t you love my twisted logic, Ianto?” Harkness crooned, wrapping his arms around the other man’s waist, while the Japanese woman shook her head in exasperation and got up, telling them, “I’m going to check on my bombs. Jack, could you please try to think about the training programme for a little while?”
“I have thought about it,” Harkness protested as she got up and walked away. He turned his protests to the Welshman instead, continuing, “I mean, I’m taking another one of the sessions, aren’t I? And I went and fetched them and did the whole plan of action thing. It’s not like I’m just playing around.”
“Really,” the Welshman said, with a heavy dose of sarcasm, not looking up from the clipboard and still with the Captain’s arms around him. “And what would you call this, then?”
The Captain smiled, and said softly (making the woman watching lean a little further out of the doorway to the autopsy room, to hear better), “This isn’t playing around, Ianto. This is me taking the opportunity to hold you. Is that a problem?”
“I… Jack,” the Welshman stammered, the back of his neck going an interesting shade of red as Harkness laughed quietly and said, “How about if I kiss you?”
He was about to match the action to his words when there was a yell of, “Don’t touch that!” and then an almighty bang from the autopsy room. The woman watching them whirled around to find two of her fellow trainees picking themselves up from the floor, desperately hanging onto the stair rail as they dizzily tried to find their feet again, while the doctor was clutching his head with one hand, using the other to try and haul himself upright by holding onto the gurney, and yelling, “Bloody newbies! Can’t you do anything you’re told?”
Harkness pushed past the woman in the doorway and made his way down the steps, grabbing the doctor’s arm and yanking him to his feet easily. He prised Harper’s hand away from his head to take a look at the source of the blood oozing between his fingers, then called back to the Welshman, “Ianto, could you take Owen to hospital, please?”
“Is he going to bleed all over the seats?” the Welshman called back, sounding bored.
“Only a little,” Harkness told him, slinging one of the doctor’s arms over his shoulders and helping him up the steps, while Harper grumbled, “I don’t need hospital, for fuck’s sake. I can deal with it.”
They reached the top of the steps and Harkness let go of the doctor, walking away and saying, “Never mind, Ianto, Owen’s sure he’s alright,” and not even looking back when the doctor fell over. The Welshman sighed and came to pick him up, then took another look at the sheepish trainees.
“Jack,” he said wearily, holding out his clipboard for the Captain to take, “get this lot to their next session. And if I come back and find you’ve disrupted the schedule any further, I’ll be very annoyed.”
To the surprise of the trainees, Harkness meekly took the clipboard from him, without a word of protest, then watched him haul the complaining doctor over to the rolling cog door, smiling slightly. At last he turned back to the group, giving them a sceptical look and saying, “I’m not going to ask which of you was stupid enough to poke the Leerat. We’ll have the CCTV to send back to Torchwood One.”
There was some embarrassed shuffling of feet from those at the back of the group, still lining the stairs, and then Harkness smiled at them, and said, “Right. Well, this gives me absolutely no confidence that any of you are going to pass the next set of tests, but we do have to stick to schedule, as you know, so follow me.”
They were led downstairs to a firing range, where the Japanese woman had set up three tables, with an array of alien devices laid out on them.
“Your task for this session,” the woman told them, “is simply to identify these artefacts.”
“Without blowing the place up,” Harkness added, and then left them to it on that cheerful note.
The trainees managed to survive the test (though, rather predictably, Anderson had to be saved from the bomb he accidentally triggered, thinking it was a harmless music device) and proceeded to calm down in the next session, where they were given a lecture by one ex-PC Cooper (who insisted they call her Gwen) on how to work with the police and avoid alienating them. The irony of her topic appeared lost on her, though a few of the trainees cracked smiles at her choice of words.
After a short lunch break, they were led back to the firing range for a lesson in working out how to use whatever weaponry they happened upon as quickly as possible, taught by Captain Harkness, who scared more than a few of them with the breadth of his knowledge and the evident pleasure he took in demonstrating the different weapons.
The Japanese woman took another session afterwards, in a similar vein to her first but using Doctor Harper’s notes as well as her own knowledge to outline some key points in the identification of alien organisms, and precautionary procedure in the event of them being sapient.
From there they went through another session with Cooper (what not to do on joining Torchwood) and then were just settling down in the Boardroom for another of the Captain’s unique lectures (entitled “Mortality Awareness”, they discovered, though none of them could work out why this seemed so amusing to Cooper and Doctor Sato) when the Welshman returned. He slipped into the room just as Harkness started his talk.
“Death,” he said dramatically, with a long pause as he stared at the trainees. “Death is coming. Death is here.”
The woman who’d eavesdropped on them previously was at the back of the group again, and heard the Welshman’s sharp intake of breath, then the Japanese woman whispering, “What is it? He volunteered to cover for Owen on this one.”
“Death is outside,” Harkness continued, then cupped one hand round his ear. “Who’s that knocking at the door? Yes. It’s death…”
Judging by the tone of the swift flood of Welsh from behind her, the woman guessed that there were a few choice swearwords being put to use.
“He’s not exactly the most qualified for this talk, is he?” the man muttered irritably, and Cooper muttered back, “Either that or he’s over qualified.”
“Death came to Yvonne Hartman, as it will come for us all. Who will be next? You? Maybe you…”
“Where’s he getting all this from?” Sato asked. “It’s… not quite what Owen had in his notes.”
“My fault,” the Welshman sighed. “We watched the IT crowd last night.”
The rest of the sessions were sadly cut short, as Torchwood Three officially received three new cases to deal with. The trainees were at last loaded onto a train to get back to London, and were, on the whole, either terrified or inspired.
Anderson made a run for it the first chance he got.
The rest of them went on to try and rebuild Torchwood One, a little more prepared for the unexpected.