Chapter 16 Relatively speaking
Myfanwy was sweeping over the Roald Dahl Plass; flying over the city in a great arc. She had noticed over the last couple of days that something was wrong. It wasn’t just her youngling that had disappeared; but all the younglings in the city were mysteriously gone. There were no younglings playing in the streets or in the parks. The schools were half empty now that only the fledglings remained. She thought that the city itself felt empty and silent without the laughter and the happy noises of the younglings. She batted her wings and headed straight to the west toward the woods. But the place was not as quiet as she had assumed. When she reached the area near the Lansdowne Hospital she could see a plethora of activity. Great big tents had been erected and there were people everywhere. She was just about to turn and fly away, when she spotted a youngling. She circled to get closer.
The youngling was ill. She could tell that immediately. Humans didn’t normally have spots. She watched as the youngling was brought inside the building complex. Maybe her youngling was in there? She considered it for a moment. It would be dangerous. She had to stay away from buildings and from humans. They didn’t react too well when she got too close to them. Once, a human had thrown something big and heavy at her, injuring her ribs. No, she didn’t want to get too close. But… maybe she could keep an eye out for her youngling if she sat in a nearby tree… with that in mind she flew closer.
The Hub was buzzing with activity. Owen and Martha were down in the autopsy bay poring over various samples and gazing at the screens of the medical computer and some of the more alien devices. Every now and again Owen would consult a strange handheld device. When questioned about it, he had explained that the device was a special gift from an alien they had met a while back. A certain rainbow coloured alien by the name of Kali-ra. She had gifted the device to him along with four accompanying medical scanners. Each scanner could be set to monitor a patient and send the information back to the main unit; which was the one he had. Three of the scanners were now to be found at Rhiannon’s house monitoring each of the children.
Toshiko would have loved to get her hands on the scanners, so she could take them apart and find out how they worked. But they needed them in good working order right now and besides, she had way too much to do anyway. Right now she was pulling up a geographical display of the spread of the disease. She shuddered. All of Cardiff was affected. Some of the surrounding areas were also becoming infected. They had had great difficulty in determining how, seeing as it was different waterworks stations pumping out water to different areas of the city.
They had of course placed a ban on drinking the water, which was modified to only ban young children. Adults and children that had entered puberty could still drink the water. They had conducted tests that showed that the virus survived both boiling and freezing, so they had no choice but bring in fresh, uninfected water in big tank trucks. But that was only for the areas not yet afflicted. In the infected areas the whole water issue was a moot one. The children were already ill and took their liquids from an IV.
She looked over at Gwen. The woman was the liaison to the police and the Home Guard regarding the water supply and the investigation into how it got infected in the first place. Toshiko had helped with going trough the CCTV footage. It had been very bizarre to say the least. A cloaked figure had appeared, held out a beautiful bottle of some kind and then… she shook her head to herself at the thought. Then the contents of the bottle had flown out of the bottle on its own accord and dumped itself in the water reservoir. The same thing had occurred at the other waterworks; one after the other. The figure had vanished without a trace and quite suddenly. One moment they were there and the next they were gone. Jack had commented that there was no sight of a transmat beam or some other technical device involved. She rather thought it looked the same as when Orion teleported from one place to the other.
Jack stood in the stairwell on the fourth floor of the University Hospital of Wales. He had been standing there for a few minutes looking out at the floor every now and again. He was trying to avoid being seen by the hospital staff as well as his daughter, Alice. He could see her further down the hallway, sitting on the bed alongside one wall. The bed he knew would hold his grandson, Steven.
He sighed. He really wished that their relationship was better so that he actually could see both of them. Alice had thrown him out of her house the last time he had been to see them a year ago. She just couldn’t handle his immortality. His inability to remain dead had been the cause of their final fall out. He had died rather horribly and gone to her for comfort. Ianto had been too occupied with the crisis at hand at the time.
Alice had been uncomfortable around him at the best of times, but seeing him displaying evidence of having been hurt and knowing he had achieved the impossible yet again had freaked her out. She had seen Steven coming home from school and told Jack in no uncertain terms that he had to leave and stay away from them. Until now he had done so. More or less, that is. He still kept an eye out for them; made sure they were okay. He just made sure she never discovered it.
When he saw her get up and disappear down the hall, he hurriedly squeezed through the door and walked briskly to Steven’s bed. He gazed down at the young boy. He looked so much like his grandmother. The blond hair; the eyes. Jack smiled and ran his hand through the child’s hair. He brought out the little blue-grey teddy bear from under his coat and put it next to Steven.
“I love you, squirt. You get well and take care of your mum for me, okay?” he said gently. With a quick glance down the hall he leaned down and kissed the boy’s forehead and rushed off to the stairs once again. Alice thought she saw the coat tails of a very familiar greatcoat as she returned with a cup of coffee. But the mysterious figure was gone and she turned her attention to her son once again. She immediately noticed the bear. Picking it up, she couldn’t help but smile a little. She knew he wouldn’t stay away.
Meanwhile at Lansdowne Hospital Myfanwy was perched high up among the branches of a tree. She had found a big sturdy one that was just able to carry her weight. She had looked and looked for her youngling, but being an animal, albeit an intelligent one, she lost focus on her task and fell asleep. She was in for a rude awakening though.
“I heard that it was a terrorist group.” A loud voice said below.
“Are you daft? Why would a terrorist group come to Cardiff?” another voice asked.
“Well, how should I know!” the first voice answered indignantly. “I’m just saying what I heard.”
Myfanwy was startled out of her dream by the sound of the fledglings below her. She balanced precariously; no longer used to sleeping on slim tree branches. For a moment she thought the danger had passed. But then the fledglings were attracted by the ruffling sound she made and looked up. When they saw her they all let out a loud scream. Startled by the sound Myfanwy lost her balance and tumbled out of the tree only to crash amidst the fledglings. ‘Will they ever stop screaming?’ she thought annoyed, as she righted her self.
‘Oh oh.’ The sound had attracted the attention of the humans in black uniforms and red caps. They were carrying big black sticks. ‘Oh no.’ Her heart began pounding. Before she could make her escape, they had surrounded her pointing their big black sticks at her and looked mean. She was close to panic; there was not enough room for her to fly away. She couldn’t fly straight up due to the tree branches and the humans were blocking her. She panicked and made a rush for it. The humans yelled and the black sticks made a loud sound and something bit her.
At least that’s what she thought. She screamed in pain and fear. The noise came again and something bit her again. She fell to the ground; her heart pounding as the world turned black.
The UNIT Colonel grumbled as he was called away from the command post. A young soldier, new to corps, had called him out to see a strange creature they had captured. He had claimed that it was a dinosaur. ‘Please.’ He thought derogatorily. ‘If this is a joke… if some of the other, more experienced, soldiers are toying with the young man I will have them scrubbing toilets with their toothbrushes for a year.’ He stomped after the soldier over to a clump of trees.
The soldiers were forming a circle around the creature on the ground; their guns still pointed at it. They made way for him as he approached. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped.
“Good Lord!” He had been warned about the abnormalities of Cardiff, but seeing one of them in front of him… “How extraordinary.” The lieutenant was standing at attention beside him. He waved his hand to indicate the man could report. He almost jumped to it.
“Sir. This creature was found attacking a group of teenagers. The men shot it in order to subdue it. It is still alive and the injuries to it are minimal. It seems to have passed out more due to stress then due to being shot.” The Colonel nodded. Animals were funny that way some times. “Sir, the animal is wearing a tag around one ankle.” The Colonel looked at the man sharply and stared at the animal’s feet. Sure enough. There was a metal band around the right ankle, similar to those found on birds. Only this one was obviously much larger. He raised his eyebrow.
“Well, what does it say?” he asked the lieutenant. The man looked at him strangely, before replying.
“I think you should see that for yourself, sir.” He clamped his jaw and straightened his back. The Colonel stared at the man, before humouring him. He straightened his jacket and sucked in his stomach. Then he stepped closer and read the inscription on the tag:
There was a familiar T-shaped logo followed by Myfanwy. If found, please call this number followed by a telephone number. He cursed.
An hour later the black Torchwood SUV pulled up in front of the Colonel’s headquarters. Out climbed Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper. The Captain was dressed in his normal attire of greatcoat and blue shirt. The young female soldier serving as administrative staff couldn’t help but admire his good looks. She barely spared a glance at the elegant young woman getting out of the SUV with the Captain.
“You know, of all the members of Torchwood I have had to bail out of jail, I never would have guessed I’d need to do so for this one.” He joked with a smile and an American accent to his colleague. She laughed and answered with a clear Welsh accent:
“You never had to bail me out though.” He laughed.
“Not yet, no.” He turned to look at the young soldier and his facial expression became very flirtatious. “Well hello.” He whistled appreciatively. “I think UNIT definitely knows how to pick ‘em.” He wagged his eyebrows at her and she felt her blush spreading. He turned to look expectantly at his colleague. When she didn’t say or do anything, he sighed in disappointment. ‘Ianto would have made a comment about sexual harassment and rolled his eyes’ he thought. To the young soldier, he said with a winning smile:
“Captain Jack Harkness. This is Gwen Cooper. We’re here to collect our pet.” The soldier blushed even more furiously. The man was sex on legs.
“Ms. Ngambo, sir. If you’ll follow me…” she turned and led them briskly to the Colonel’s desk.
The Colonel had of course seen them arrive and had unobtrusively been keeping an eye on them. He rose as they approached. They greeted each other.
“I must say, it is a most remarkable creature. However did it come here?” the Colonel asked as he led the way over to the site where the animal still lay.
“She is that and I can’t tell you. Its classified.” The Captain answered him with a small smile. The Colonel laughed.
“Oh come now, Captain. I do have a high security rating. Surely high enough to know about this.” The Captain just smiled and kept on walking.
“I bet it came through that rift of yours.” The two Torchwood operatives looked at him and then shared a look with each other. “Oh yes, I know about the rift. I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with that stuff on a daily basis though. I’ll tell you that. Well here we are.” He said and held his arm out, indicating they could proceed. The soldiers guarding the animal stepped away to allow them some room. Gwen gasped and rushed to kneel down beside Myfanwy.
“She’s hurt! Why did you shoot her?” she glared at the men and at the Colonel. Jack was amazed. This display of concern was coming from a woman who had been perfectly willing to shoot the animal herself not that long ago.
“It was attacking my men.” The Colonel answered.
“She was probably scared! Don’t you know how to deal with frightened animals?” Gwen was livid. This whole situation was just bad enough without Myfanwy getting hurt. Orion would never forgive them if they lost her. She gasped inwardly at the thought. ‘Oh no, it’s happened. I’ve gone soft.’
As Gwen was dealing with the Colonel – by dealing, he meant scolding the man and all the nearby soldiers like they were little irresponsible children – Jack checked on Myfanwy. She would need to be stable in order for them to be able to transport her back to the Hub. Her breathing was good. Her heartbeat seemed fine. The bullet wounds had stopped bleeding. They didn’t seem too bad. He didn’t think they had hit anything vital. If they were lucky they would just be flesh wounds. She would need to have the bullets removed and get patched up, but it wouldn’t be something Owen couldn’t manage.
Standing back up he put a hand on Gwen’s shoulder to make her stop her yelling. The woman didn’t respond.
“Gwen!” he said loudly. She didn’t hear him or she ignored him. He tried again, louder. This time she stopped. He looked at the Colonel in front of him. He was a man in his prime and a rather fine looking specimen. Jack pushed the thought away. They had hurt a member of his team and his family.
“Colonel, you had better be thankful that Cardiff needs your help at the moment, or I would not hesitate to have you thrown out of the country before you can say Torchwood.” The Colonel spluttered at the preposterous arrogance of the man. “You are not so familiar with the peculiarities of Cardiff that you can just proceed to gun down the first unusual creature you see. It could just as easily have been an alien ambassador. Your actions could have started an interplanetary war.” Seeing the man go pale as the Captain’s words sunk in, he decided to continue: “Myfanwy,” he indicated the animal “will need to go back with us. We will need the help of your men to get her there.”
“Of course,” the Colonel said stammering a little. “You shall have all the help you need,”
“Right then!” Jack yelled, clapping his hands together. “Do you have a tarp?”
Some time later the UNIT soldiers used the tarp as a stretcher and hauled Myfanwy off the invisible lift and into an out-of-the-way corner of the Hub. Owen rushed over and began her treatment immediately. As Jack had suspected she had only suffered from flesh wounds, though one of them had been rather deep. She had passed out from stress and fear. The beautiful lady was after all not used to such rough handling.
As they were finishing off the debriefing Jack got a call on his mobile. It was from Ianto.
“Jack, get here now!” and the line went dead.
Ianto was standing in front of Orion’s bed; shielding him from the stranger that had suddenly appeared in his nephew’s bedroom. The stranger was a stately looking woman in her fifties. She wore golden-green tights and a sort of green tunic with a belt at the waist. The tunic was long and ornately decorated. What impressed him the most, though, was the way she carried herself. There was an almost regal air about her. The woman didn’t seem threatening; in fact she hadn’t made a move. She just stood there looking around the room and at him and Orion behind him. He thought for a moment that she seemed relieved about something.
Ianto grabbed his mobile and called Jack. The woman just observed him; but he got the distinct impression she would defend herself if she needed to. He heard the line connecting.
“Jack, get here now!” He hung up. He glanced briefly at Orion and then looked back at the woman. She was looking intensely at Orion; frowning slightly. He became even more worried. What was it with alien females and his son? She had to be alien, even though she looked human. Humans didn’t go around appearing out of thin air in other peoples homes. The only person who could do something like that was Orion. He drew in a sharp breath.
The woman appeared to have noticed and swiftly turned her gaze on him. Still frowning she asked:
“The boy; what is his illness?” her voice was unusual, but pleasant. It sounded slightly hoarse, though he suspected that it was a natural sound and not one induced by excessive use. He was taken aback. Of all the things she could have said, this had not been what he had expected. He opened his mouth but no words came. The woman grew irritated with him. “What is wrong with the child?!”
“Wha… who?.. wh…” he stammered.
“Oh for Miduna’s sake!” she burst out and made to move toward Orion. Ianto snapped out of his stupor and blocked her. Her eyes flashed angrily at him for a moment, before she backed down and sighed heavily.
“My name is Rea Caralneska. That,” she pointed at Orion “is my grandson. One of the seven children of my daughter, Sybille Caralneska.” She looked at him; waiting for him to respond. He forgot to breathe. The world seemed to slow to a halt and all he could do was stare at her. This was too much. He had had precious little sleep lately. He’d barely been able to eat. His nerves were stretched taut with all the worrying and now this. He felt the blood rush away and his face became cold.
“My dear, are you alright?” she asked with concern as she saw him go pale. “You’re not going to…” she rushed forward and caught him as he fainted.
“Ianto, I’ve made you some sandwi… what the hell?!” Rhiannon stood in the doorway with a tray of sandwiches and a glass of milk.
Jack burst through the door and thundered up the stairs toward Orion’s temporary room, before Gwen could even get out of the car. He ran down the hallway and almost overshot the door. Grabbing the door frame he managed to screech to a halt. The sight before him was not what he had expected. He had been on his way after Ianto's strange call when he had gotten a frantic call from Johnny, stating that a strange woman had attacked Ianto and was in the room with Ianto and Orion now; doing God knows what to them. He had naturally floored the gas pedal; making Gwen scream like a human siren.
Oh, there was a strange woman in the room with Ianto and Orion. But she wasn’t doing anything to them. On the contrary. She was sitting on a chair eating a sandwich. Ianto was sitting in a chair opposite her. He was looking a bit pale and leaning a bit heavily against the back rest, but appeared unharmed none the less. Rhiannon was sitting on the bed tending to Orion, who also seemed unharmed. Jack clasped the doorframe, as he tried to get his breathing under control and to slow down his pounding heart. He could hear Gwen coming up the stairs behind him.
“What in the blazes is going on!” he half shouted, when he had breath to do so.
“Jack!” Ianto lit up and moved to get up. Rhiannon quickly grabbed his sleeve.
“Sit!” she growled. Amazingly enough Ianto obeyed her without so much as an eye roll. He did however turn and looked happily at Jack, who rushed over to him and hugged him. Whatever the hell was going on it seemed as if the danger had passed. He knew Rhiannon would not behave so calmly if there was the slightest threat to anyone she cared about. Besides it had been a long and trying day and he had not seen Ianto since early that morning. Even with every thing going on the Rift was still active and the weevils still liked to roam where they shouldn’t.
He didn’t know how long he held his fiancée in his arms, but it wasn’t long enough. Ianto sighed as they pulled away from each other. He kept his hand on the young man’s back and they both drew comfort from the touch.
“Jack, I’d like you to meet Rea Caralneska.. Sybille Caralneska’s mother and Orion’s grandmother.” Jack glanced very briefly at Ianto and then stared at the woman. Yes, he could see the resemblance.
“Ma’am…” he couldn’t think of a thing to say. Too many thoughts were speeding through his mind at that moment. She smiled benignly at him.
“Captain Harkness,” she began. “Oh, your mate has spoken of you.” She sent Ianto a winning smile. “I am afraid I must apologize for all the anxiety I have caused. That was certainly not my intention. I was merely too focused on my grandson to pay much heed to niceties.” She looked a bit embarrassed. “My people do not normally Jump into people’s homes without permission. It’s considered rude.” She smiled crookedly.
“Jump?” Ianto asked. She looked at him and then at some point over his shoulder, thinking.
“I believe you would call it teleporting or transmatting or some such.” Ianto nodded.
“Forgive me, but… why are you here? How?” Rhiannon had had enough with the hospitable niceties. She had agreed to wait until Jack’s arrival but now she wanted some answers. The regal woman regarded her with kindness. Nodding she agreed.
“Very well, I shall tell you. But first shall we not include the young lady and your mate?” she indicated Gwen and Johnny, both standing in the doorway. The others turned and Jack waved them into the room. Johnny chose to remain standing by the door, leaning against the wall. He wanted easy access to Mica and David in the other room. Gwen came over and sat cross legged on the floor. Rea looked at each of them. Finally her eyes rested on Orion and she began her tale.
“I was meditating in the chapel, when I was contacted by a presence. It was a young and frightened mind calling out instinctively for help.” They all looked at Orion. Rhiannon, still sitting on the bed, took his hand and held it comfortingly. Ianto looked like he wanted to do the same. “I knew it was a child of my line… a member of my family… because we… Saluvian families… all share a bond with each other. Some bonds are forged through contact; others through blood. Or DNA to be more precise. Somehow Orion was able to tap into that and send a sort of distress signal to me. Though how one so young would be able to…” she broke off. Seeing Ianto’s expression she added gently: “I am convinced the child also has sent out a distress signal to you.” She looked at Ianto, Jack and Rhiannon. Jack raised an eyebrow and Rhiannon looked sceptical. It sounded too much like rubbish to her. But then again. The kid was able to change into a dragon, turn her son’s clothing pink and randomly teleport away. Ianto was looking thoughtful. Slowly he nodded; his brows furrowing.
“Yes… I think he has.” He said so softly the others had to struggle to hear him. Jack looked at him with curiosity. He had always suspected the young man had a greater than normal empathy for a human of his time period. Rhiannon looked surprised, worried and sceptical all at once. ‘If this was some sort of a hoax…’ The woman, Rea was quietly watching him. “I have… felt it, I think. Like a feeling that wasn’t my own.” He looked down at the floor. Jack clutched him tighter to let him know he was there for him.
“What kind of feeling?” Gwen asked, slightly confused.
“Like being lost.” Ianto answered sadly. Jack was just about to point out that that feeling could be his own, as a parent to a very ill child. But Rea spoke first.
“I think you are correct.” She nodded sagely. “There is a strong bond between a parent and a child. It is very likely for you to reach one another this way.” Jack was feeling a bit left out by that. If that was true, then why hadn’t he heard Orion? He had as much of a connection to Orion as Ianto had and he was the one with the training in telepathy. He said as much. To his surprise Rea chuckled at him.
“You have not been able to hear him, because you have been too busy.” She held up a hand to stop his protests. “There is nothing wrong with that, my dear. The world does go on and still needs tending to, regardless of our own personal dramas.” The room was silent for a few moments as they all sat lost in their own thoughts.
“But how did you come here?” Gwen asked. Rea smiled beautifully.
“I Jumped… eh, teleported.”
“But. Didn’t you come from… Saluvia?” The woman laughed outright at that.
“Goodness, no. There is no such thing as Saluvia any more. It was destroyed many millennia ago. I came from my home on Hallow IV and the sacred city of Travesty. I am a Mistress of the fourth house, you know.” The pride was unmistakable, whatever that last sentence had meant. “My daughter was an apprentice of that house.” She said to Ianto and Jack. She noticed their look of utter incomprehension and shook her head. “Oh never mind.” Her huff made Jack smile a bit. She noticed and smiled softly back at him.
“Anyway, I came here as soon as I was able to. I wanted to see if there was anything I could do. But now I’ve seen that the cause is an illness and not…” she cut off abruptly. The others in the room noticed and all looked at her. “Well, you might as well know sooner or later. My former son-in-law, my daughter’s murderer, has escaped confinement and has gone on a killing spree.” The room was dead-silent. The looks of shock evident on all their faces. Tears began to trickle down Rea’s face and her hair changed colour to a mousy gray. Rhiannon gasped when she saw. If anything could convince her of the woman’s familial relations with Orion it would be evidence of shape shifting and/or colour changing.
“He is really quite mad.” She sniffled and suddenly a handkerchief appeared in her hand out of thin air and she used it to dab at her eyes and nose. “He wants to eradicate all Sybille’s children.” Ianto paled again and Jack put his arm around him. He didn’t feel too stable himself though. Rhiannon had her hand in front of her open mouth looking like she would scream if she had been able to utter a sound. Gwen and Johnny were both hiding their reactions. Johnny could feel himself trembling inside, but he had to remain calm. ‘What kind of a person would want to murder innocent children?’
Rea was crying in earnest now. Rhiannon couldn’t bare it any longer, and went over to her and put her arm around her. Rea sniffled and blew her nose, though her tears still fell freely.
“Sybille had seven children. Only two of them were with her husband. That’s why he killed her. And why he has killed… killed… three of them.” By now they were all crying or fighting to avoid it. “The two that he is the father of, as well as the third child are all in protective custody. We were too late to save the rest.” She forced herself to continue, or she would never be able to. “When Orion called out to me, I thought… thought that he too was under attack.” She blew her nose again.
“Maybe he is.” Jack said. “The water supply was deliberately contaminated by an unknown virus.”
Hmm, it’s January, there are no leaves on the trees, people are milling all over the place and yet no one spots a large dinosaur up among the branches? Let’s just chuck that one down as creative license shall we? ;-)