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Metal Tears for the Tin Man (10/27)

"All right, Ross says the signal's gone, but we have a fix on the location," Ianto reported as the black SUV careened through the blackness of the park, Jake's expert handling skidding it to a stop as close to the signal's location as they could get. "Everyone have Doc's bug spray?" At the affirmative nods all around, Ianto continued. "Strike force pattern – Harkness, that means you stay near Tom and try not to get eaten by our bug."

"Yes, Mom," Jack replied dryly as he rolled his eyes. This caused both Tom and Jake to smother their chuckles to avoid being glared at by their team lead.

Jack acknowledged that the care and concern Jones gave to his team kept them alive in situations that would have gotten most people killed, but Jack wasn't most people, and he was getting tired of having to reiterate the point over and over. '''However, he'd placed Jones in charge, so he'd follow the man's orders to the letter. "No getting eaten by bugs - got it. Any other instructions before we go?"

"Stay out of Jake's way if he targets it," Ianto sighed, wondering if bringing Harkness along had been such a good idea after all. What was done was done, however, and he just had to make sure all of them returned alive and well, hopefully with their target bagged.

The quartet started into the woods, moving as silently as possible, zeroing in on the coordinates that Ross had supplied but knowing the target most likely had moved. Jake was in the lead with Ianto ranging off to the left and Tom and Jack to the right.

"Nothing so far," Jake murmured into his com patch. "Damn bugs, I wish someone would just – " His voice broke off as a large dark form rose from behind a bush catching him by the right arm. He grabbed for his pistol with his left, getting a shot off even as the form swung him around, slamming him headfirst into a tree, the low, hollow noise audible to the others who were converging on his position.

Ianto cursed violently under his breath as they lost contact with Jake, and sprinted toward him, moments later, he skidded to a halt next to his friend's body, seeing that Tom was already crouched over him with Harkness standing guard.

"He's alive," Tom reported tersely as he dug in his pack for equipment and spoke to Ross, having him dispatch an ambulance to their location.

Ianto nodded sharply, fixing his gaze on Harkness. "Stay here; Tom can't work on Jake and guard them," he ordered before taking off, following the faint scuffed path in the leaves that Jake's attacker had left.

"Jones! Son of a bitch!" Jack cursed. "He doesn't have anyone watching his own back. Does he do this often?" he asked the team medic, already knowing the answer to the question. "Tells me not to get eaten then takes off by himself. Fucking son of a bitch!"

Doing something that he was always extremely loath to do, Jack quickly undid his wrist strap and after hitting a few buttons, laid it on the ground next to Tom. Jack touched Jake's shoulder lightly as he straightened up, murmuring. "Hang in there, gorgeous, Tom will have you patched up in no time. Your boss may not be so lucky though."

Turning to Tom, Jack gave a quick explanation. "It tracks life signs too. It's showing us in a cluster, Jones by himself and something else just ahead of him on the path. It will pick up any life signs in the area and alert you to their approach. Jones needs back up."

"Agreed. Now go, let me work on my patient," Tom growled tersely, picking up the strap and placing it where he could see it and work on Jake at the same time. "Just don't get yourself killed. Bad enough we have to break in one new boss; don't want to have to break in another one if you die."


The night was silent around Ianto as he raced through the woods, a fact in and of itself that would have told him something was seriously wrong around him. He saw a flicker of movement ahead of him and plastered himself behind a tree as a spear of dark fire whipped through the air where he had just been. "Who the fuck is this guy?" he growled to himself even as he whirled at a slight noise, his drawn gun ending up in Harkness' face.

"I told you to stay with Tom, you fuckwit!" he growled nearly silently.

Eyebrow going up at the expletive, Jack mouthed more than spoke his reply. "You needed someone to cover your back, and Milligan didn't need me getting in the way. Don't worry, I didn't leave him vulnerable," Jack quickly assured Jones, holding up his arm and letting Jones see his wrist, now bare of it's always present wrist strap. "Handy little thing, tracks life signs and acts as an early warning system if programmed to, which I've done. He'll be able to work on Jake without having to watch his back. Now what've we got?"

"Humanoid with an unknown energy weapon," Ianto reported tersely even as he risked a peek around the tree.

"Nothing in the way of attempted communication?" Jack murmured, wishing futilely for one of the Doctor's handy dandy little translator devices or some other alien toy. "And no visual either? Well, we're going to have to rectify that. Okay, on the count of five I'll draw fire, and you see if you can get a look and a shot off - try get it before it gets me if you can; I really don't want to damage this coat. Ready? And five," Jack said, darting out into the open.

Okay, so he didn't exactly play fair, but he already knew Jones would protest and try to stop him. This way he not only prevented an argument but gave Jones the chance to get the shot. The tree just to the left of him suddenly exploded into match sticks. "Shit! Judoon blaster, not good!" he muttered as he dove for cover.

"God damn it, Harkness!" Ianto shouted as he spun out from behind the tree, opening fire at the shadowed form that was the source of the energy blasts. The moment that he started to fire, the other shots stopped, and the figure vanished again, causing him to curse viciously.

"Did you get him?" Jack asked, picking himself up off the dirt and extricating himself from the bushes he'd landed in, all the while sweeping the vicinity for signs of movement. "At least say you got a look at him. I doubt it's a Judoon - they're intergalactic cops and wouldn't fire on civilians unless certain of their guilt."

"Don't think so, no sign of it." Ianto jogged back toward the other man, glowering at him as he neared. "And what the fuck was that about?"

"I thought it would be kind of obvious," Jack replied, dusting his coat off. "We didn't know where it was; you couldn't get a clear shot; and we needed more information, not that we got the last - other than the fact that it's using a Judoon weapon - or something very similar. Do you have Judoon here, I wonder?"

"No clue, things were quiet for the most part until Rose jaunted off to save your universe; Doc says what the Daleks did tore something open in our Rift, made Earth here more visible to the rest of the universe, so things have been busier over the past couple of years."

"Makes sense. Those damned things have a way of screwing up everyone's life no matter if you kick their collective ass or not," Jack sighed. "As for the Judoon - we really don't want them here, trust me on this. They see everything in black and white. My universe's Martha Jones ended up the Doctor's companion because of them - they transported her hospital from the Earth to the Moon just to catch a criminal they were after and weren't going to put the hospital back when they were done - collateral damage was perfectly acceptable."

"So the question is, how the hell did this person get a hold of that weapon?" Ianto's lips pursed together in a thin line as he scanned the darkness around them before looking back over his shoulder as the faint sound of sirens grew louder. "He can wait; we need to get Jake to the hospital."

"I wonder if Doc has something we can use to see the echoes of what happened tonight," Jack mused even as he hit his communications patch. "Milligan, how's Jake doing?"

"Concussed, possible head and neck trauma, awake but disoriented," Tom replied tersely. "I'm worried about possible fractures, and it's a bitch trying to keep him still. How soon can you be back here?"

Jack shot Jones a glance and then broke into a fast jog, knowing that the younger man would be right next to him. "On our way now. Hit his com patch for me, will ya?"

There was a short pause, and then Tom replied. "Done, he can hear you now."

"Hear who?" came Jake's voice, sounding thin and slurred.

"Hey, gorgeous," Jack murmured, knowing that Jenkins and Milligan could hear through the patches while Jones had the benefit hearing it in stereo thanks to being right next to Jack as they beat a trail through the park.

"Hey, Jack, or should I call you sex machine?" Jake snickered.

"Jack works just fine. I need you to do something for me, okay? Lie still and don't give poor Milligan a heart attack every time you twitch. I wouldn't want to have to explain to Dr. Jones why her fiancé had keeled over."

"Point," Jake admitted. "She can be downright scary when she wants to be."

"And she knows her way around medical instruments too – not a good combination. Jones and I are on our way back, so just hang tight, and try to be good."

"Will I get a reward if I do?"

"Whatever you want," Jack promised. "Within reason, that is."

"Mmmmm, forty-eight hours leave; you, me and a bottle of that scotch you like. We can do body shots."

"I think that can be arranged," Jack laughed quietly. "But you gotta earn it. So stay still."

"Yes sir, Captain Boss sir!"

"Tom," Ianto said, cutting into the banter, "do you see anything other than the four of us on that life signs reader Harkness left?"

"All clear," the doctor reported. "Whatever it was, it's gone now."

"And running around loose," Ianto muttered to himself as they reached the area where Jake lay, Tom crouched beside him, holding a blood-stained compress against the side of his head.

"Anything for some time off," he sighed, squatting down beside the other pair and shaking his head, though he was frowning as he took in the unevenness of Jake's pupils.

Jack crouched down next to Jake and touched his shoulder, taking the younger man's hand when it automatically came up and kissing his fingers lightly. "Good thing you've got one of the hardest heads I've ever seen, including mine," he teased Jake lightly, even as his eyes worriedly shot to Tom's grim expression and then up to Jones before returning to Jake.

"Think I'm going to offer to help Doc get that head armor up and running as soon as possible though; I'd rather not have anyone else die under my command if it's all the same to you."

"Not dead, just slightly loopy," Jake replied, patting Jack's hand with his fingers. "Now who's playing mother hen?"

"You're always loopy, Simmonds, so how can we tell the difference?" Tom commented as he gave Jack back his wrist strap. "Handy thing, that life signs scanner. You think you can convince Doc to incorporate something similar into our armor?"

"It's already been put on my new to-do list, right under the head gear," Jack replied, his mouth a set line.

The ambulance pulled up moments later, and the paramedics loaded Jake into the back as Jack came to stand by Jones, watching.

"Give me the keys to the SUV," he ordered quietly. "Go with your teammate, your friend. I'll head back to the Hub and get started on things, relieve Ross so he can meet you at the hospital if he wants."

Ianto started to argue but then simply nodded tightly. "We'll let you know when we get updates," he said, glancing over at Jack as he spoke. "Be careful getting out of here; who knows where that thing went."

"Just take care of Jake, okay? I'll be fine," Jack replied gruffly, staring out into the night. "Tell the paramedics to get Dr. Harper on standby. He's… he was my team medic. You can trust him to do a good job." Jack didn't bother to wait for an answer. Without so much as a backward glance he headed to the safety of the SUV and the almost alien sterility of this Hub.

Ianto looked after him, his brows etched together in a frown before he turned and headed for the front of the ambulance, crowding in as Tom rode in back with Jake and the paramedic. The ambulance tore through the night, arriving at St. Helen's Hospital. Ianto stood back out of the way as they wheeled the stretcher bearing Jake inside, Tom and the crew going along with it while he watched.

"Right then, what do we have here?" came the calm and slightly sarcastic question from a man dressed in hospital scrubs. "And why is it that whenever I work a night shift, I get someone from bloody Torchwood?" Dr. Owen Harper asked of no one in particular.

"Let's see, patient, male, Simmonds, Jake. Age: twenty-eight, severe blunt force trauma to the head. Got smacked into a tree, I see. Treating physician a Dr. Milligan, Torchwood. Right then, how many finge…" Owen's monologue was cut short as he looked down into the most gorgeous pair of green eyes he'd ever seen. "How many fingers, darling?"

"Urmmm… three?" Jake guessed, unable to focus on either the fingers or the man who held them up.

"That's normal for him," Tom commented before rattling off Jake's vitals and what he'd observed since Jake had been injured. "Laceration to the right temple, looks as if it's going to need stitches," he concluded, furrows creasing his forehead as he watched the lean, sharp-featured man studying Jake.

"I'll take good care of him," Owen promised, waving a couple of orderlies over. "You won't even have a scar when I'm done," he promised the disoriented man on the stretcher. "But with head trauma you can never be too careful. I'll want him to stay for a full battery of tests and for observation. Waiting room's through there; don't worry, I'm the best A&E doctor in Cardiff; he'll be fine."

"No lack of ego in that one, eh," Tom murmured as soon as Dr. Harper was out of earshot. "Just because he was Jack's medic in his universe doesn't mean he's that good here. So why, exactly, are we trusting him with our Jake again?"

"Because, we have two unknown aliens out there that have to be stopped," Ianto said, his voice hardening in the cool tone of command as he watched Harper walk off alongside Jake's stretcher.

"Right, I'll stay here to answer any questions and monitor Jake's progress if you want to get back to the Hub?" Tom offered. "Might give me a chance to see if the morgue's received any more John Does dead under suspicious circumstances that our search and monitoring programs haven't red flagged."

"Jake's in good hands; we all need to be out working on this," Ianto said firmly. "They know where to get in touch with us if they need to, and right now we need to have as many hands in the field as possible."

"Ianto…" Tom began, but the set look of his team lead's jaw was all the warning he needed that this was not up for debate. "Right. Just let me leave my personal cell number so they can get in touch with me ASAP instead of having to go through dispatch and then being routed to our patches. If it's something serious, time may be of the essence. Are we catching a cab or hoofing it back to HQ?"

Ianto cursed under his breath, having forgotten that Harkness had taken the SUV back to the Hub. "Fuckwit," he muttered to himself before rubbing his temples. "Right, no transpo. Go do what you need to with the staff, and I'll watch for Ross; won't be long before he's here."

"Right just… go easy on Harkness when we get back, okay? He looked… off kilter," Tom murmured before heading off to give the duty nurse his information.

"Not his fault, was it?" Ianto muttered to himself as he walked toward the exit, watching for the black SUV and listening to Ross' updates as he drew closer.

"So how's Jake doing?" Ross asked through the window before the car was even in park when he pulled up a few moments later. "Oh and Harkness has been busy; we're getting some special equipment of Doc's flown up by military chopper, should be here in an hour or so. Didn't say what it was, just that it would help us get an idea of our new bad guy."

"Head as hard as cinder blocks," Tom grinned as he climbed into the back seat, letting Ianto ride shotgun. "And already turning on the charm to flirt with his attending. Poor bastard doesn't stand a chance. He's got a concussion, lacerations that will require stitching, and is being kept for observation. But he'll live."

"Thank fuck for that. Harkness was a little bit… intimidating… when he came storming in earlier," Ross admitted. "Couldn't get out of there fast enough to get you lot. Remind me not to piss him off, okay? I think I'll take being Doc's lab rat to being on Harkness's shit list."


"It's called a Quantum Transducer. It came through the Rift from who knows where. It was in the vaults at Torchwood waiting to be catalogued. Luckily I gave a good enough description of it that Doc recognized it immediately," Jack informed the three men on the opposite side of the desk, who were staring at the alien tech as if it would spring to life at any moment.

"It uses nanotechnology to convert the quantum traces of emotional events into a form that allows humans to mentally experience them. When it's activated, it can show the person holding it an emotional event from the past," he continued, leaving out its other traits completely. The future wasn't set, and all this thing could do was show them possible events. That was why Jack intended to use it to recreate the past only. "The added bonus is that the Transducer will also show let me see the thoughts of the people in the event – namely our not so little alien friend. I should be able to get a good look at him as well as get an idea of what his intentions are – provided he speaks a dialect I'm familiar with."

"And it's safe?" Ianto asked, reaching out to pick up and examine what looked like a game system controller.

"It's not dangerous in the conventional sense of the word, no," Jack answered, taking it back from Jones as soon as he could. "But it's not something I recommend you play with. It has a side effect or two that, if you're not prepared for it, can be more of a hindrance than a help. However, I've dealt with this thing before and know how to work it. I just need someone to watch my back when I go back to the park because I'll probably be in a trance-like state – easy target for killer butterflies and other things."

"In other words, no, it isn't particularly safe."

"But if it gives us intel..." Ross began before shrugging and falling silent. Wasn't his call and it was obvious that Harkness had already made up his mind. Ross couldn't fault the man for his decision, though. It was made sense - recreate the event and maybe catch a break at stopping whatever it was that was roaming Cardiff's streets.

"It'll do that," Jack replied grimly. "I want to know what was hunting us tonight, and I want it stopped before anyone else gets hurt!"

"All right, so it's back to the park then," Ianto stated, glancing at his watch. "I'll go with Harkness; the sun'll be up soon, and we know the butterflies don't move during the day, so that cuts down on the issues. Ross, let us know if the Rift spikes; Tom, do the same with Jake's condition."

"Then let's get this show on the road." Pocketing the transducer, Jack stood and shrugged into his coat. Fishing into his pocket, he pulled out a set of keys. "Yours, I believe," he half smiled, tossing them to Jones, who caught them easily as they walked toward the garage and climbed into the SUV.

"He'll be fine," Ianto said as they drove through the streets of Cardiff, the just rising sun slowly lightening the buildings around them. "Jake's got a hard head, and that bloke Harper seems to know his stuff."

Jack stared out the window of the SUV at the pre-dawn Cardiff streets that were so eerily the same to him. "He does. I looked him up when I got here a week ago. Said I was interviewing him for a medical journal," he finally answered. "I just wanted to see what kind of a man he was here, and he's a damned good doctor. I wouldn't have told you to ask for him otherwise. I wouldn't trust anyone under me to an incompetent doctor, let alone someone I consider a friend as well as a colleague.

"As for Jake, I can't think otherwise than that he'll be all right," Jack paused and then continued bleakly. "I know I'll have to watch all of you die eventually, even Doc, but not yet. Not for a long time, I hope."

"There's always someone left behind," Ianto murmured before giving a rough laugh. "But those who stay behind are the ones who remember, and that keeps the ones who are gone alive as well."

Jack's laugh was bitter and tinged with great sorrow. "But sooner or later memories fade. I've forgotten more of my friends and lovers than you could possibly imagine. But there's one I won't. Even when the Earth is nothing more than cosmic dust and humans are nothing more than fairy tales told to children on distant worlds, I'll remember."

It was obvious who Jack was talking about, and Ianto nodded, remaining silent as he drove, the brightening sunlight at odds with Harkness' mood.

The park came mercifully into view, giving Jack something else to think about, namely finding out what had attacked them in the park. "Like I said back at the Hub, it will look like I've gone into a trance. I won't be able to hear you since I'll be stuck in the memory, so if you need to, tackle me."

"Gotcha," Ianto agreed, looking as if he was willing to take Jack looking distracted as provocation. "How long does it take to get started?" That was asked as he parked and they got out of the SUV.

"It depends on how disciplined the mind is that's using it and the strength of the emotions in the memory," Jack admitted. "I was… upset with Jake's injury. I don't know what you were feeling or what our hostile was, but I'm hoping based on the strength of my emotions, at least, we'll have enough to pull me in fast."

Ianto frowned at this additional information. "Wait a minute; I thought it only let you feel what the alien was feeling?"

"And how is it supposed to pinpoint one specific emotion when it doesn't know who to pinpoint?" Jack asked reasonably. "No, it reads all the emotions in the immediate vicinity. It usually shows the viewer, which would be me, the perspective of the strongest emotion in the area."

About to snap back, Ianto realized that he was reacting this way because he was still angry with himself over Jake getting injured, and he forced himself to take a calming breath. "All right, that makes sense. Is the viewing real time or sped up? Just so I know how long to let you go."

Jack thought back to the few times he'd witnessed the device being used by Owen and Gwen. "A combination of the two, I believe," he said finally as they walked towards the spot where they'd encountered the alien. "Not long enough for the real memory but not like a data burst either."

"So if you aren't out of it in five, I'll wake you," Ianto stated as they reached the spot, forcing himself to look at the pale spot on the tree where Jake's collision with it had scraped away the bark.

"I'm not really sure if you can wake me up," Jack admitted slowly, staring resolutely forward as he strode a few steps past the tree of Jake's encounter with the entity. "Gwen and Owen came out of it on their own as did the civilians we traced the tech to. After Ed committed suicide because of his vision, I had both halves locked up with a do not use order attached to it, so the device's potential was never explored.

"Right then. Don't let me get eaten by bugs, will ya?" That said, Jack took off his wrist strap and tossed it to Jones. "Life signs detector is already activated – it operates like sonar. We're the blue dots, you because you're holding it and me because it's calibrated to my DNA. Anything moving towards us is red. Got it?"

"Blue good, red, blast it, I think I can handle that," Ianto said dryly.

"Red doesn't necessarily mean hostile alien, Jones," Jack chuckled. "It simply means another life form. You may want to check before you shoot the park horticulturalist."

"Go watch your peep show, Harkness; I have it under control."

"Not exactly my idea of a peep show," Jack commented. "Now if I were getting to watch something a little more titillating, that would be a different story." Rocking his neck back and forth to release some tension and hearing the bones crack, Jack pulled the alien device from his greatcoat pocket, hit the buttons and let himself get sucked back into the memory of Jake getting injured and Jones and he being fired upon by the hostile.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
Another great chapter!!! Thanks!
Dec. 4th, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! Glad you're enjoying it. And now that I have a weekend to breathe I can get more edited so we can post more!

Dec. 4th, 2009 11:01 am (UTC)
Poor Jake but AU Owen seems interested.

Great chapter and the dance has slowed a bit but the tension is still building.

Take care.
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
Bwahahaha - this is what you call the calm before the storm - just you wait!!!

~Angyl at work~
Dec. 4th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
You have a new fan! Just read all through up to here and I love it so much. Huge Jake fan <333

Love this so much, can't wait to
Dec. 4th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
ROFL! Welcome aboard and glad you're enjoying it so far. Isn't Jake just the cutest thing ever? (don't tell him that, though!)
~Angyl at work
Dec. 4th, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
I think he may have some idea, *smirks*.
Dec. 5th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
This update made my day. Once again, I can't wait to read what happens next.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )