ACT 3: Sächliche Romanz
Sie gingen ins kleinste Café am Ort
und rührten in ihren Tassen.
Am Abend saßen sie immer noch dort.
Sie saßen allein, und sie sprachen kein Wort
und konnten es einfach nicht fassen.
--Erich Kästner, "Sächliche Romanz"
The CV they came up with over the course of the weekend was several hundred pages long, and at times veered more into the domain of true-crime thriller than professional prose, and some of the dates had to be cross-indexed, but at least it all fit into one e-mail message. Early Monday morning they sent in the whole thing with an application that listed Pete, Rose and Jackie as references and a cover letter that the Doctor, despite her protestations, wouldn't let Rose see. All day she tried to finish her formal report on the Edinburgh incident while squirming in her seat, and fought the urge to ask Tosh to tap into the security system so she could spy on Mr. Winslow.
(She gave no specific orders to the Doctor with regards to Torchwood's security system, and her phone was suspiciously silent considering he'd been practically vibrating over breakfast; still, Rose thought it better to maintain some plausible deniability there.)
Jake and Grace and Tosh came in and out, and Jake at least was trying to act like nothing upsetting had happened in Edinburgh, which Rose interpreted as a kind of non-apology. They had more satellite data on the radiation signature, but Tosh admitted that they couldn't track every single signal as closely as they'd done the ones at the fundraiser or they'd crash even Torchwood's impressive mainframe. The fingerprints turned out to be a bust-when they were done sorting out Rose's and Tosh's and Grace's and the Doctor's, there was nothing left but a few partials too smudged to match anything. So they still didn't know who exactly had the package, and they had no idea who the intended recipient was, and she was pretty sure they couldn't just arrest everyone who was in the room at the time, no matter what Jake suggested.
Rose was just thinking about whether she ought to be heading home when her office phone rang at her. Mr. Winslow never did warm up to instant messengers. "Prentice," she answered, trying not to sound too eager.
"Ms. Prentice, could I see you in my office for a bit?" Winslow asked, as blandly as ever.
Rose kept a measured stride down the halls and forced her face to be calm and professional and innocent of all charges, even though her stomach was full of butterflies. She wondered if this was what parents felt like when sending their kids off to school for the first time. Of course there were perfectly good reasons for the Doctor not to get hired on, ones that had nothing to do with his qualifications or her wisdom in helping him, but she could already see herself doing damage control for him, reassuring him, finding some kind of friendly little lie to tell to make rejection hurt less...not that she'd ever lied to the Doctor before, but he'd already lied to her, and at least she'd be doing it for the right reasons...
She found Mr. Winslow staring at a stack of pages the size of a phone book and realized he'd printed out the entire CV. He looked up at her with bleary eyes and asked, "Ms. Prentice, is this some kind of a joke?"
"No, sir," she said, folding her hands behind her back so he couldn't tell if they were sweaty. "I believe that's a job application."
"This is..." He flipped over a few random pages. "Why exactly is Dr. Noble applying for a job with Torchwood?"
"He feels he's not being challenged enough by his work for Mr. Tyler," she said, which was technically true. "He's looking for a more hands-on way of utilizing his skills."
"Skills," Winslow said weakly. "His skills. Do you know he claims to have invented the duck-billed platypus?"
"He's told me that before, yes," she admitted.
"And been present at the formation of the Earth?" Winslow echoed. "As well as the destruction of Pompeii? And been knighted by Queen Victoria? But not in that order?
Rose fought down a smile. "You do remember he's got the memories and abilities of a nine-hundred-year-old-Time Lord, sir," she said.
He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes like they pained him. "So you're saying I'm supposed to believe everything he claims."
"I'm saying we haven't got much choice whether to believe him or not," Rose demurred. "Seeing as he's a time traveler from a parallel universe, it's not like we can get independent confirmation."
"Do you believe him?" Winslow asked.
"Well," she said, and thought about his plans while she was in Edinburgh, but then squashed the feeling. "I'm not totally sure I believe the bit about the platypus, but everything else I would stake my life on."
Winslow sighed and paged randomly through the CV some more. "Skills," he muttered. "What are we supposed to do with these sorts of skills?"
"He's very flexible," Rose couldn't help but put in.
"Oh, indeed," Winslow grumbled. "He could be Director of the Institute if we happened to have that opening. Which we don't. And if we are to believe this ridiculous novel of his, he's got several centuries more experience than anyone on the staff. So where are we supposed to put him?"
Rose hadn't considered that being over-qualified might be the problem, and bit her lip. "Sir," she said. "If you don't mind me suggesting-there is an opening on my team."
Winslow looked up at her with a raised eyebrow. "You're referring to the vacancy left by Mr. Smith?"
"Yes, sir," Rose said. "The Doctor and I have worked closely together in the past, remember, and he is sort of already working our case..."
He leaned back in his chair and looked at her. "You suggest that we should reward what you admit to be his reckless interference in your work with an offer of employment?"
Rose stood up a little straighter. "I'm saying we need him," she shot back. "And it's better to have him working with us than at loggerheads."
Winslow sighed again and made a face, but eventually arranged all the pages of the Doctor's CV back in their precipitous stack. "All right," he said. "I suppose it's worth the attempt. Let him know that I'll call him tomorrow morning with a formal offer--"
Before he could finish his sentence, his phone rang. He frowned and made a little just-a-minute gesture at Rose, then hit his speakerphone button. Before he could answer, however, the Doctor's voice came over the line, utterly gleeful. "Thank you, Mr. Winslow, I'm certain you won't be disappointed," he said. "When can I start? How's tomorrow? Is tomorrow good for you?"
"Dr. Noble?" Winslow asked warily.
"Yeah, that's me," he said. "Sorry about compromising your internal security, but I just couldn't stand the anticipation. Can I wear suits to work? Is okay to wear suits? Rose only wears suits when she thinks you're going to yell at her."
Rose covered her smile at Winslow's dumbfounded expression, and silently mouthed at him, on our side. Winslow cleared his throat. "Certainly, Dr. Noble," he said. "You may report at eight o'clock tomorrow morning and I'll arrange for you to get our new-employee orientation."
"Brilliant!" he crowed. "What about the suit?"
"You can wear the suit, Doctor," Rose said, just because it looked like Winslow was about to cry. "We'll see you tomorrow, sir," she told him.
"Yeah, tomorrow!" the Doctor said. Then: "Wait, do I have to call you 'sir' too?"
The celebrated with a night out at a fancy Indian restaurant, and the Doctor was practically bouncing on his cushion. "This is going to be brilliant," he kept saying. "You and me, together again, just like the old days!"
"With Grace and Tosh and Jake," she added.
"Eh, they're like the old days, too," he said with a little wave.
Rose winked at him across the table. "You know, this makes me your supervisor now. Technically I'm fraternizing with a subordinate."
"An underaged subordinate," he added. "Poor little me, I'm just one month old, and innocent of the ways of the world. I don't have to call you mum at work, do I?"
The very idea made Rose flinch. "Er. No. But you do have to be nice to Mr. Winslow."
The Doctor quirked an eyebrow at her. "Can I call him 'Winny-the-Pooh' behind his back like Jake does, though?"
Rose almost snorted her lhassie through her nose. "I think it might be the only way for the two of you to make friends."
"Yeah, I don't quite understand what he has against me." The Doctor busied himself with picking poppyseeds off his nan. "I mean, it's not like I made Mickey stay behind or anything."
"Let's not talk about Mickey tonight," Rose said, rather than correct him. "There's more positive things to talk about, yeah?"
"Oh, yeah." He gave her that look again. "For instance, the merits of fraternization with a subordinate."
"That sounds good," she said with a grin.
As worried as she'd been about it, now that the Doctor was finally hired Rose was beginning to think maybe it had been a good idea after all. He was more like himself again, bright and chattery and looking at her with love and wonder in his eyes; she wondered how she hadn't seen before just how much being unemployed had weighed on him. This was the man she'd fallen in love with, back from wherever he'd gone, and as they settled into bed that night she dared to hope that things were finally going to change for the better.
He was up before her in the morning, fussing over his tie and his cufflinks, and she couldn't convince him to eat anything until she pointed out that showing up to work under the influence of just three cups of coffee probably wouldn't be a good first impression. "Are you nervous?" she asked while he picked at his toast.
"Of course not, don't be absurd," he said. "Why would I be nervous? I'm far too old and dignified to be nervous."
"It's the first day," she said, "and you're only one month."
He sniffed at her. "I've always believed I'm as old as I feel, first of all, and secondly, I'm the Doctor. I'm brilliant. I'm the Destroyer of Worlds. I am not afraid of Torchwood." He left half his breakfast on the plate and started fixing another cup of coffee.
"I didn't say you were afraid," Rose said. "You just seem worried."
"I've got nothing to be worried about," he said ferociously, and guzzled his coffee black.
At the front desk, Rose had to sign him in, and she left him in Brynn's tender mercies while she went to deliver the good news to her team. Her last look at him was Brynn leading him by the wrist towards Human Resources, while he dragged his feet and stared at just about everything around him. Not nervous at all, right. She preemptively put her phone on silent.
She put off the big announcement until after she'd worked through a few emails and other niggling administrativa, and had her own cup of coffee (only number two on the day; the Doctor had managed four and a half) and rearranged some of the items on her cork board. Then she realized she was being nervous and braced herself. She brought up the internal instant messenger.
prenticere: Team meeting in five, everyone, my office
simmondsjw: what, got a confession?
prenticere: just come down here, Jake
hollowaygr: Be a minute, need more coffee
satot: I have some news from T2, be there in a sec.
simmondsjw: why not jus ttell us now?
hollowaygr: Real matuer, jake.
simmondsjw: as always
simmondsjw: thought you were getting cofee?
hollowaygr: brb to smack you
Rose smiled at them and made certain to clean off all her guest chairs and the corner of the desk where Jake would probably try to sit. Tosh was the first one in, but as she wasn't smiling one of her pleased, secret smiles Rose figured the news couldn't be too good. "No spoilers?" she asked.
Tosh mimed zipping her lips. "They'll be here in a minute."
Grace wandered in with her coffee, and a concentrated barrage of phone and IM assault eventually got Jake to show up, too. "So what's the fire?" he grumbled, sitting on the corner of the desk. "Unless you've found something really good..."
"The Edinburgh office has been doing materials analysis on the circuits," Tosh said, as if she couldn't keep the news inside any longer. "They're not Cybus standards-they found contaminants that don't match anything recovered during the war."
"What's that mean?" Jake asked.
Tosh shrurgged. "Well, maybe nothing. But it could also indicate that the Horatii or their suppliers aren't using the same fabrication process, or they're starting from different raw inputs. If we can figure out what the differences are, we can narrow down our options some more."
"Well, that's something," Grace said, before Jake could be rude about it. "How long's it gonna take to figure out those differences?"
"A while," Tosh admitted. "I've had the remaining samples sent down from Edinburgh; they should arrive this afternoon and I can start analysis."
"But that is not why our fearless leader called us down here, is it?" Jack asked. "Tell me you've got something we can act on now."
"Not exactly," Rose said. "I wanted to say Mr. Winslow's finally hired us another team member."
"Hired?" Grace pounced on that word. "From outside the Institute?"
"And did it take him long enough?" Jake asked. "Who is it, anyway? He or she?"
Rose braced herself. "It's Dr. Noble, actually."
She wasn't sure what she was expecting, but what she got was: Jake slid off the corner of the desk and stared at her for a moment before walking out of the room. Tosh's eyes got impossibly wide, and her hand flew to her mouth. Grace's brows furrowed, and she leaned forward. "Are you sure about that?"
"Yes," Rose said, glaring after Jake. "It's not as if someone's died. Mr. Winslow hired him yesterday."
"Well, that's...that's good," Tosh said, and her smile didn't even seem fake. "I've seen how well he knows the technology, he'll be a lot of help on the materials analysis."
"I'm not questioning his abilities," Grace said. "I'm just wondering if it's a good idea to work this closely with your boyfriend."
"It'll be fine," Rose said. "We've done it before."
"And were you his boss at the time?" she asked pointedly.
Jake came back in, looking a little red in the face. "It's fine," he declared. "It's great. I will love him like a brother. Just don't make me talk to him."
"I know plenty of brothers who don't talk to each other," Grace said.
Rose folded her arms over her chest and looked Jake in the eye. "I'm only going to say this once, Jake," she said. "Mickey chose to leave. The Doctor didn't make him go. You're putting the blame in the wrong place."
"That's easy for you to say, innit?" he snapped.
"What are you implying?" Rose demanded.
"Nothing at all," he said, and shoved his hands in his pocket. "Just, nothing. Forget I said anything. Friends?"
"Only if you try acting like one," she said icily, and he made a face and walked out again.
Grace stood up very quickly. "I'll just go talk to him, see if I can create some head-ass separation. Be just a minute."
Which left Rose alone with Tosh, who smiled weakly. "Guess that didn't go over very well, did it?" she said.
Rose sighed. "Actually, I was expecting much worse."
They met back in the lobby at the end of the day, the Doctor loaded down with packets and handbooks from New Employee Orientation and Rose not having seen Jake for the rest of the day. "So how'd it go?" she asked.
"Tediously," he declared. "I haven't had to sign my name so many times in one day since the time I was mistaken for Jim Morrison. And I kept forgetting what name to sign."
"Well, all the boring stuff's out of the way now," she said, taking his free hand in hers. "Tomorrow starts the fun part."
"Yes indeed," he said with a grin, and didn't even notice when a pamphlet about telepathy slipped out of his stack and fluttered away down the street. "So what do we get to do, eh? Wild car chases? Uncover as sewer workers? Totally unauthorized use of personal data in public databases?"
"Tosh needs your help analyzing those circuits," she said. "She's trying to figure out what's different about the manufacturing process compared to the one the Cybermen use."
The Doctor's grin faltered. "Toshiko, you mean?"
"Yeah, she lets people call her Tosh." Rose glanced at him carefully. "She's pretty eager to work with you, you know. We really were short-handed."
"Oh, yeah, I get that," he said quickly, and added, "What about you?"
"I'm still digging up dirt on our suspects with Jake and Grace," she said. "Well, the four suspects and every other donor to the AE or the Horatii, in hopes of coming up with something incriminating. We still don't know what they mean to do with the circuits or why they're bringing them into Britain."
"Sounds like fun," he said, but added, "Bet materials analysis is more fun, though."
She shrugged. "I've got the security clearance to look at some things not even Jake gets to see. Bank records and stuff. Plus, I can always beg Dad for permission to access things without muddling through the usual paperwork."
He made an exaggerated shocked face. "Rose, that's horribly illegal and unethical and I think I love you a little more for it."
She swatted him on the shoulder. "Anyway, it gets us nothing without your bit. If you and Tosh can sort out what they need and we can figure out what we have, we put the two together and voila-there's our target."
"Detective work," he said, and shook his head. "It's so much easier when you can just sit everyone down in the drawing room and get their stories."
"Very Agatha Christie," Rose said.
"Yeah," he said wistfully. "She was a lovely woman."
A week later Rose had one of those meetings with Pete, taking the high-speed train to London for lunch at the flat. "It's not a shot in the dark," she protested with rolling a ball at Tony and letting him roll it back. "Well, I mean, it sort of is, but that's all we've got left right now."
"You're telling me you've combed through every single asset under All Earth's umbrella in Great Britain?" he asked.
"Well, of course not," she said. "But we don't have time for that. Now that they know they're under surveillance, they're going to be taking more precautions."
Pete snorted over the sandwiches he was fixing. "As I've heard, it wasn't so much surveillance as random assault."
"He was trying to help," Rose said stiffly. Tony knocked the ball under a chair and started crawling after it. "He's been loads of help since he signed on with Torchwood."
"Really?" Pete asked. "I'll be honest, that surprises me somewhat." Rose glared at him. "Don't give me that, I'm just saying...he's a bit erratic, isn't he?"
"You think he's erratic and yet you agreed to be a reference on his CV," Rose said.
"I think he's had a recent change of species and that's enough to unsettle anyone," Pete said stiffly. He carried the tray of sandwiches to the table. "Though of course, you'd know better than me."
That was actually kind of debateable; over the past week Rose had been buried so deep in financial and legal documents that she hadn't seen the Doctor at all from the time they got to work to the time they left. He was happier in the evenings, though, and instead of interrogating her about work (We get enough of that at work, now, wouldn't you say? was his stance on the matter) he told stories about his old life and experimented with the contents of an Italian cookbook of unknown providence. At least he didn't incorporate toothpaste into the mix. It made Rose sure she'd done the right thing, even if Jake was still being touchy and quiet around her, because they were both happy now and the work was getting done-or it would be, if they could just get Pete to sign off on the authorization.
"So about the Swiss bank accounts," Rose said after they'd eaten. She'd even volunteered to scrub jam off Tony's face (because jam sandwiches were currently all he would eat, apparently) while Pete did the dishes.
He sighed. "Fine. You win. I will authorize Torchwood to seize the records if your formal request checks out. We've not gone mad with power yet, you know."
"That's all I ask," she said airly, and gave Tony a raspberry on the cheek to make him squeal. "You heard from Mum this week?"
"Eh, just a bit," he said. "You know how the phones in China are. At least she's not in the flood zone, thank God for that."
"I'll keep trying to call her, then," Rose said. As she carried Tony back to the nursery, she spotted Pete's tuxedo laying out on the bed. "Oi, where's the party?"
"What?" he called from the kitchen.
"I can't hear you, Rose!"
"Party!" she screamed.
Tony added, "Patty!"
Rose put him in his crib and then went back to the kitchen. "I asked, where's the party at?" she said. "You've got your tux all laid out and everything."
"Oh, that." He shut the water off and dried his hands. "Some charity fundraiser or another. I honestly have no idea, but apparently it's the easiest way to make nice with some Brazillian who owns half the world's sugar cane or some such nonsense."
"And why do you have to make nice with Brazilians in the first place?" Rose said. "Everybody knows they're all scavengers and war profiteers."
"Yes, but they're rich war profiteers and we're the ones who let them profit," Pete said wearily. "Somebody had to run the global economy while the Cybermen were converting half the developed world, after all."
"So they get to be filthy rich while all over Europe there's unemployed teenagers rioting in the streets," Rose grumbled. "You know, it's almost enough to make me agree with..."
"Agree with who?" Pete asked, but Rose was already diving for her purse. "Something wrong?"
"I've just realized where we haven't been looking," Rose said, fumbling with her phone and dialing the second stored number. "Hello, Jake?"
"Oi, Rose, are we on speaking terms again? I hadn't noticed."
"All right, first of all, fuck you," Rose said, which made Pete flinch and point irritably towards the nursery. "Second, have you been looking at AE's overseas donors?"
"Well, yeah, the ones they've got," he said. "Not a lot of people worried about British politics outside of Britain."
"I'm not talking about All Earth GB," Rose said. "I'm talking about the parent organization, the multinational. They can pour money into a national party without it showing up as a donation on anyone's balance sheets, right?"
"Rose, d'you have any idea how much time it'll take to find a list of everyone on the planet who's donated to AE?"
"Focus on big donors," she said. "Particularly Brazil. They've got AE in their ruling coalition, haven't they?"
"I begin to see a method in your madness," Jake said, and hung up on her, which was okay.
"If you're going to arrest whoever's throwing the charity ball," Pete said as soon as she put her phone away, "please give me advanced warning. I don't want to put on the tux for nothing."
"It'll be fine," she said. "I've got to go. I still want the Swiss account access!"
"Of course," he said. "You know, I do wonder what I'll talk about with Tony when he's older, considering what our conversations are like."
Rose grinned on her way out the door. "I think if we're really, really lucky, he'll become an accountant."
By the following morning, they had their man. Or rather, their multinational corporate entity, which was used as a shell by a Brazilian investment bank that bought out three Cybus factories in North America. They'd transferred "undisclosed assests" to another shell firm, one almost certainly under the control of the Horatii-two of the three "board of directors" were public members of the organization and the third was an AE booster.
"It's almost too good to be true," Rose said, just staring at the slim file of documents for the transaction.
"It's like Christmas," Grace said. "Now all I need is for my father to show up drunk and tell me about his sexual needs."
"It's useless unless we've got the physical evidence," Jake pointed out. "The army was supposed to swoop in and clean up all the conversion sites-for all we know, the Horatii got the copper wires from the walls to sell as scrap."
Rose shook her head. "It wouldn't be such a secret if it was scrap. The factories are being redeveloped, not demolished. And even the army makes mistakes, right?"
Grace stood up and popped her back. "I can get on the phone with the military authorities, try to get the documentation from when those sites were secured. There's got to be an original Cybus inventory somewhere to compare it to."
"I need to check in with Tosh anyway," Rose said. "We can ask her about anything that turns out to be missing."
"I'm going to take a nap," Jake announced, and leaned over the table to rest his head on his folded arms. "Just so you know. Don't wait on me or anything."
"Figure out where those undisclosed assests are now," Rose told him. "If they're in Britain, we grab them now."
Tosh's office and the Doctor's were both at the far end of the corridor, around a funny little bend that meant neither of them had any windows. Tosh claimed she didn't mind, though. (The Doctor had never expressed an opinion, but Rose was not stupid enough to put him in Mickey's old office-it sent all the wrong messages, especially to Jake.) Rose knocked once and then poked her head inside, to find Tosh nestled in the middle of a ring of computers and monitors, face-down on a keyboard, fast asleep. "Hey" she called, shutting the door. "Wake up, Sleeping Beauty."
Tosh took a deep breath and then started awake. The impressions of keys were stuck to the side of her face. "Oh! Oh, sorry, Rose, I don't know what happened."
"You all right?" she asked. Tosh could get lost in her work, she knew, but she didn't usually fall asleep with it.
"Fine, fine." Tosh tried to tuck some loose strands of hair back and then, with a little huff, yanked out her clip and started winding it up again. "Just been busy, is all. The materials analysis."
"How's that going?" Rose asked. "Because we might have a lead on some old Cyberman equipment that slipped through the army's fingers."
"That's great," Tosh said. "I, um, that is, we...well..."
Rose's stomach tightened unpleasantly. "You've made some progress, right?"
"Depends on how you define progress," Tosh said. "I mean, I've eliminated some possibilities and established a couple of scenarios, but there's only so much I can do, and when the computers are all running..."
"What about the Doctor?" Rose asked, interrupting. "What's he been doing?"
Tosh bit her lip and looked away. "I haven't actually seen much of John this past week."
"Haven't seen him?" Rose echoed, a funny feeling tightening in her stomach. "You're on the same case! The same project! What's he been doing if he's not helping you?"
As if to answer her, something in the next room over exploded.
It was powerful enough to send books and binders tumbling off Tosh's shelves, and while she dove to protect any delicate hardware in the line of fire, Rose bolted into the hallway. She was just in time catch the Doctor staggering out of his own office, followed by a small cloud of foul-smelling black smoke; he looked like a cartoon character, with a soot-covered face and hair blown back. He coughed on her, which she supposed was as close as he could get to saying hello.
Grace, Jack and Ianto came running from the opposite direction, and Rose dragged the Doctor clear of the door. "Somebody call for clean-up and containment," she said. "Doctor, what the hell were you doing in there?"
He coughed one last time, as Jake rushed past with a fire extinguisher. "Just a little project on the side," he croaked.
"Is there anything in there that's hazardous?" Rose asked. "Explosive? Combustible? Psychic?"
He shook his head. "Just a few things from the archives..."
Rose tightened her grip on his arms. "How did you get clearance to be in the archives?"
"Well," he said with an absurd little grin, "there's this nice fellow in security named Franky or Freddy or something who agreed to let me have a look around--"
He started coughing again, and Grace stepped in, saying, "He needs first aid," which may have been the only thing that prevented Rose from slapping him. Instead she tucked her hands under her armpits and alternated between looking into the office, where Jake was smothering everything in sight with pale yellow powder from the fire extinguisher, and at the Doctor, as Grace dabbed at some small oozing cuts on his face with a wad of cotton wool from her first-aid kit. Tosh came out with an arm full of binders, looked around for a moment, and then retreated back into her office without saying a word.
The containment team arrived within minutes, fully hooded up and waving around sensors for everything from radiation to airborne microflora. One of them tried to ask Rose what had happened, but she just pointed at the Doctor. "I was working on some bibs and bobs from the archives," he rasped, still looking a little dazed. "Nothing special, but obviously the piping I was using as a primary resonator coil wasn't strong enough to withstand the pressure of the sonic waveplex..."
"Can you provide us with reference numbers for the items you used?" one of the containment officers asked.
"Um...maybe?" The Doctor squinted. "You'll have to talk to Freddy."
"What were you making, anyway?" Grace asked, as she shone her penlight up his nose. "No airway injury, by the way, you're lucky."
"Always been a lucky person," he said. "As for what I was building, I...no, you wouldn't remember the sonic screwdriver."
"The what?" Rose blurted, and that was apparently the straw that broke the camel's back; she pushed past a containment officer trying to scan her for microflora and stood over the Doctor. "You're telling me you were trying to re-build the sonic screwdriver?"
"Yes, I was," he said, and he finally seemed able to fully focus his attention. "So we can disable the synthorganic circuits."
"We don't need to disable the circuits," Rose said. "We need to stop them from being put into anything that needs disabling. And if we 're going to do that, you need to be helping Tosh, like I asked, instead of stealing objects from the archives without authorization and then blowing yourself up with them!"
"It was an accident," he snarled. "I knew exactly what I was doing."
"And I didn't," Rose said. "I am team leader, Doctor, that means I'm in charge here. If you're not going to do what I ask you to do, I don't know why you even took this job!"
The Doctor surged to his feet, not entirely steady, but still towering over Rose, though it didn't cow her. "Are we done here?" he asked, looking at Grace and the containment team, and when nobody moved to actively stop him he stomped down the hallway to Mickey's empty office and slammed the door.
Rose folded her arms tightly, so no one could see how her hands were balled into fists, and turned the other direction. If her eyes got a little watery, she could always blame it on the lingering smoke.
The head containment officer cleared his throat. "So we're basically done here," he said. "Just have to sort out the blast site. You're, uh, free to go."
"Thank you," Rose managed to say, and then made her own hasty retreat-to her office, the one next door, as if the one thin wall was any shield. She shut the door against Grace's raised eyebrow and the containment team's watching and whatever it was that Jake was going to say, because he was Jake and he had to say something. She shut it, locked it, and then retreated to her desk chair, where she took deep breaths until she felt she could stop shaking.
Six o'clock came and crept away from her. She had avoided leaving her office as far as she could, but six o'clock meant going home, and another Later. She wasn't sure she was up to facing this one. She did have to file accident reports, since containment was called in, but she tried to make it sound like the whole stupid thing had been her idea from the start because she couldn't quite bear to get Mr. Winslow involved in her love life.
Maybe Grace had a point about hiring boyfriends after all.
When he'd steeled herself to at least share a civil bus home-or perhaps a taxi, though their last taxi ride had been after his arrest-she emerged from her office and looked into Mickey's. It was already empty but for a faint smell of smoke that lingered. Down the hall, though, the containment tape was partially torn off the Doctor's own door. Apparently he'd been allowed to re-occupy the blast zone. Rose imagined herself walked down to the door, knocking on it, going into another dark, foul-smelling room where the Doctor had almost died (or maybe not almost died, but he'd been hurt, he'd bled, and it was so easy to imagine that things had been worse)...she imagined standing before him and saying...what? I'm sorry? Did the words even matter if she wasn't?
Ianto came around a corner with a bucket of cleaning supplies in one hand and a pair of yellow rubber gloves in the other. "Evening, ma'am," he said.
"How's Freddy?" she asked, watching him select an air freshener and give the empty office a spritz.
Ianto kept up an amazing poker face. "I'm afraid I don't know what you mean, ma'am."
"Your security guard," Rose said. "The one you've been going with for ages. He's not in any trouble, is it?"
That got him to blush a little, just the ears and the back of his neck. "He...it'll be fine, I think." A pause. "Thank you for asking, ma'am."
"Honestly, Ianto, you can call me 'Rose,'" she sighed.
"Of course, ma'am."
She sighed. "Ianto, can I ask your opinion?"
"Of course, ma'am."
"Can you not call me 'ma'am' while I do it?"
He frowned slightly at her. "All right...Ms. Prentice."
"You're hopeless," she said. "Ianto, in your opinion, is there anything that excuses someone from ignoring their boss's orders?"
He thought for a moment. "Are you speaking in general or about a specific scenario?"
He shrugged. "I suppose if the consequences of following the order would be worse than the consequences of ignoring it, then yes, it would be ethnically acceptable."
"Very pragmatic of you," Rose said. She looked at the door again. "So why do I feel like I owe him an apology?"
He coughed. "I'm afraid I can't say, ma'am."
"What did I tell you?"
"My apologies, Ms. Prentice."
Rose stared at the door some more, wondering what the Doctor was doing in there. Was he still angry at her? Did he regret staying in this world, by her side? It wasn't as if the other Doctor had really given him a choice in the matter. Was he silently cursing her or just drawing up plans for a new sonic screwdriver?
Ianto cleared his throat. "I was in there earlier today to collect the recycling," he said. "Dr. Noble was building something out of toothpicks."
Rose blinked. "Toothpicks?"
"Where did he get toothpicks?" Ianto actually opened his mouth to answer. "No, never mind. I don't think I want to know. What's he building?"
"I can't actually say," he said. "It reminded me of a cross between a DNA molecule and a Moebius strip." And, after a beat, "He was also speaking to Tosh over speakerphone while he did it."
So he was doing his job. Finally. Rose sighed. "All right. Thanks, Ianto. If Dr. Noble asks where I am..." She thought about leaving some bitchy little stinger, and then decided it wasn't fair to either the Doctor or Ianto. "Just remind him to come home eventually, all right?"
"Yes, ma'am. Good night."
The incident (or Incident, in Rose's mind) of the exploding screwdriver changed things. Or maybe just made some of the changes a little more noticeable. Their evenings went quiet, and there were no more attempts at exotic alien cuisine. If anything, the Doctor found excuses to linger in the office later and later, go in earlier and earlier. They didn't take the same bus anymore, or the same lunch break. Tosh did all the reporting. Ianto reported that he was showing signs of real artistic genius with the toothpicks.
The fact that she had to get intelligence on her own boyfriend from the tea boy was not lost on Rose, but she didn't know what else to do. She could not take back the words said, and the more she thought about it, she didn't want to; she had been right, dammit. But it was cold comfort when she heard the Doctor moving about in the dark of lounge in the small hours of the morning, waiting to see if he would come to bed or confine himself to the couch, allegedly because he didn't want to wake her. She couldn't apologize, he couldn't let it go, and so they settled into careful, non-overlapping orbits.
Nearly another week passed like that before Tosh and Jake called Rose down to the conference room. She found the table covered in a sprawl of marked-up maps and glossy photographs and running computers, and the two of them practically bouncing with glee, which in Jake normally boded nothing but trouble. Neither of them looked very well-rested, and Tosh was clutching what smelled like one of Ianto's "special" coffees with the double espresso shot, but if they had anything worth reporting they'd instantly become the most beautiful people Rose had ever seen; the revelations about the Brazilian bankers had lead to a dead end. Sure, there were discrepancies between Cybus' own inventories and what the military had reclaimed at the end of the war, but tracking down the missing equipment only lead to another haystack of financial and legal documents and at this point Rose's eyes were about to cross.
"For the love of God, tell me you've got something useful," she asked after taking in the scene for a moment.
"We know where they're taking the synthorganic circuits," Jake announced. "That useful?"
Rose looked at the maps. "Explain. Now."
"I was throwing around some ideas with John," Tosh said, and it took Rose a minute to remember she was talking about the Doctor, "and I realized that the problem with tracking the circuits from space wasn't our computing power, it was the sheer number of signals, and the more I could eliminate the more I could refine. And now that we know it's circuits and not photomorphic cells, I was finally able to do a proper differential analysis of signal strength--"
Jake cut her off. "So blah blah blah, instead of looking for lorries we started looking for warehouses-strong clusters of signals that weren't moving. And once Tosh refined them enough, we were able to get GPS, which gave us an address, which gives us our factory."
"A factory?" Rose asked, and followed Jake's pointing finger to a spread of photographs. They were aerial shots of an industrial compound, all flat-roofed warehouses and pipes on scaffolds. There was nothing for miles around it save a single, narrow access road, and the whole thing was surrounded by a high security fence; the shadows of coiled razor wire along the top were visible in one of the photos. "Why this place?"
"If I'm right," Tosh said, "this has one of the largest concentrations of circuits in the country. Possibly the largest, period."
"It's owned by the Darrow Group, which comes out to a puppet for the Horatii," Jake said. "It made refrigerator parts before the war, got converted for weapons manufacture, and then dumped onto the market during de-nationalization. One of your Brazilians snapped it up and sold it for a song, and since then Darrow's fitted it up with brand-new equipment for machining their own parts, printing circuit boards, you name it-all without actually registering a business license."
"So what are they doing there?" Rose asked.
"We contacted the same firms that were moving the circuits and asked them about deliveries to this address," Tosh said. "Even assuming that half of them were faked invoices, based on what's going in and out, we suspect that they're building a bomb."
"Bomb-s," Jake stressed. "Because how much ammonia-based fertilizer do you really need to make just one? They're bringing it in by the truckload. Unless they're growing marijuana in the cellar, and frankly I don't think that fits real well with their public image, you know?"
Rose ignored this. "How do we get inside? Access their internal CCTV?"
Tosh shook her head. "They're completely off the grid-computers non-networked, power generated on-sight, they've even got a well."
"We could plant a relay on-sight, though," Jake suggested. "Even if the computers aren't hooked up to the network, they've got the parts, right? If we just get a man inside, maybe with one of those hauling companies, we can force a signal--"
"Wrong," the Doctor declared as he kicked the conference room door open. He had lost his jacket somewhere since that morning and the knot of his tie had plunged halfway to his navel, but the plume of his fringe was sticking up higher than ever, as if in protest. "Very wrong, sorry, try again next time."
Jake glared, and Tosh took a little step to one side as if getting out of any potential line of fire. Rose took a big step for the exact opposite reason. "I'm sorry, you have a different opinion?" she asked.
"I have the right opinion," the Doctor said. He tugged at one rolled-up sleeve for a moment before folding his arms and matching Jake's glare with one his own. "Look, what's the purpose of using a synthorganic circuit in the first place? What's the one thing it can do that a microchip a fraction of its size can't do? It can think, at least sort of-wire up enough of them together and you get something that starts to reason like a human, or at least like an animal, but make decisions with the speed and accuracy of a computer. That's what made the Cybermen so deadly and that's what you're up against-something that can get suspicious and then act on those suspicions. You're not getting in there by subterfuge."
"That's assuming they've integrated the circuits into their security system," Jake shot back. "We don't know that."
"We don't know they haven't, either," the Doctor shot back. "And won't you look foolish when you try to sneak inside and get a load of drone weapons in your face, eh?"
"Drone weapons?" Rose asked before Jake could respond. "What do you mean, drone weapons?"
"That's what the circuits are for," the Doctor said with a slowness that bordered on patronizing. "That's the only thing they could be for. Why go to the trouble and the risk unless it was the only thing that could get you what you want-a drone weapon, a truly 'smart' bomb in every sense of the word, that can carry out a mission semi-independently and adapt its tactics on the fly? The Horatii could turn one of those things loose and legitimately claim they had no idea what it was doing or how to stop it if they're caught-and if they're not, well, such sophisticated technology had to come from somewhere, right?"
It took Tosh less time than Rose to realize what he was hinting at. "You think they're going to fake an alien attack?" she gasped.
"Best way to prove that a threat exists is to manufacture it," he said, with a little, humorless smirk.
"Now that's getting paranoid," Jake snorted.
The Doctor looked down his nose at him. "Do you really want to take the risk that it's not?"
Neither of them seemed likely to look away, but to Rose it was all beginning to make a certain kind of sense. After all, why go to such trouble to build a weapon they weren't planning to use? Why take the risk of sitting on such an illegal arsenal? Could they take that risk? "The Doctor is right," she said, which caused Jake to make a face and the Doctor to smirk in a superior way. "If there's even a chance that they're building drone weapons with these circuits, we need to act quickly. Jake, go through your information on the factory and tell me how we're going to seize it."
"Seize it?" he echoed.
"Seize it?" the Doctor said, more incredulously, at nearly the same time.
"You heard me," she said. "If we can't risk subterfuge we'll go straight for overwhelming force. If you're right about what's inside that factory, then it should be more than enough to gut the Horatii's operation."
"And if we're wrong, we're tipping our hand even worse than Edinburgh," Jake pointed out.
"Then get it right," Rose said. "Get Grace involved to start surveillance on the site and do all your homework--" The door slammed, and she realized that the Doctor had stormed out. She sighed. "If you think he's wrong, then prove it," she told Jake. "Otherwise I've got to assume the worst here."
"Yes, ma'am," Jake said sourly, and even tossed off a little salute before he started gathering his things.
"You did good work here," Rose added, and that got her a tight smile from Tosh but no response from Jake. Brilliant bit of management, that.
She left them to straighten up the conference room and headed down the hallway, towards the Doctor's office. John Noble, the new faceplate on the door said. He'd finally initiated a conversation-well, in his own way-so that finally gave her an opening. She knocked on the door, and when he didn't answer she tested the handle and found it unlocked. Better late than never, she thought.
The office was a cluttered mess, in a way that reminded her of the TARDIS-too many things jammed together in too little space. There were still black marks on the desk and ceiling from the explosion, and one wall was already lined with file cabinets, and arrayed across their tops and spilling out of the drawers were figures made of toothpicks, delicate and profoundly alien. There were also quite a few random maps, and a calendar showing a different puppy for every month, and a coat rack holding a gray woolen greatcoat she hadn't even known he'd purchased. It was only the second week of September, not nearly cold enough for it, though of course he'd never seemed much bothered by that before...and the coat had a new-bought stiffness to it anyway, it didn't even smell like him yet--
"Looking for something?" the Doctor asked over her should, and Rose jumped, guilty and embarrassed to be caught sniffing his coat like some kid of stalker. He had a cup of coffee, which explained where he'd been.
Rose stood up straighter. "I was looking for you, actually."
"So you're talking to me again?" he asked as he shut the door.
"You're the one who's been avoiding me," she pointed out.
"I have no comment on the matter," he said, and lifted another toothpick sculpture off his desk; it was a lumpy arch with angular bits hanging off the sides, but when he propped it up on its two ends, it balanced. He put on a pair of painfully familiar glasses, took out a small brush and a bottle of glue, and started adding some kind of substructure.
Rose decided it was worth it to start the conversation over again. "What is it?" she asked. "All of them, I mean. With the toothpicks."
"Molecules," he said absently. "Once that haven't been invented yet. I figure I can store these in an attic somewhere and confuse people for generations to come."
"That's not very nice," she said.
"I don't believe I ever claimed to be a nice man," he said.
And there it was. Rose folded her arms over her chest. "Is that why you're such an ass to Jake, then?" she asked.
"When have I ever been an ass to Jake?"
"Try five minutes ago!" she said. "I don't know why he's still copping an attitude with you and I certainly don't understand why you feel the need to reciprocate it."
He set aside the glue and took off his glasses. "You know, I've got a question for you, too," he said instead of answering her. "Why are you so eager to send in the army to this place in Leeds they've found?"
"What do you mean, why?" she asked. "'A truly smart bomb that can act independently and adapt on the fly?' Does that ring a bell to you?"
"They haven't deployed them yet," he pointed out.
"They aren't building them as a science fair project!" Rose shot back. "I know you used to work with the UN, Doctor. I know you know that force is sometimes the only option."
He was silent for a while, then looked down at his hands. "You're right," he said, which surprised her. "I just...never mind."
She wasn't used to him giving up this easily and it bothered her. "So if I'm right, why throw such a fuss about it?" she asked.
"I just...you...and the others...I mean all the others...but I thought..." he waved a hand. "Never mind. It's stupid. Just...you and...never mind."
Rose tried desperately to parse this. "Me and who? Me and Jake?" A thought rose in her like a bubble. "Are you jealous? Of me and Jake working together?"
He snorted. "Please. Everyone knows he's bent as a hinge, and from what I hear, Pierre would brain you with an omelet pan."
"Good," Rose said, and told herself she wasn't disappointed, not even a little bit. "Because we're a team, here, and you need to cooperate with all of us, even Jake." She watched him nod, still staring into a corner. "Even me," she added.
He looked up. "I do so cooperate with you!" he said. "I mean, I do now! I'm working on it!"
"I'm your supervisor, Doctor," she said; it sounded bizarre even to her. "I have to give you instructions and you have to follow them and if you don't I...I don't have a choice about things." Lame, Rose, she thought to herself. She took a deep breath. "If you don't think you can...agree, with me, like that, then maybe we should see about transferring you to another team."
"No!" he blurted. "No, Rose, I-look, so I've been a bit of a twit lately--"
"A bit?" she asked.
"A very large bit," he said firmly. "I'm just...adjusting. But this is the only place in the world I want to be right now. With you."
She fought not to let the words go to her head. "So that means you'll play nicely with Jake from now on?"
"In my defense if he doesn't play nicely with me I don't--" Rose just looked at him, forcing herself to be impassive, until he visible wilted. She'd never seen that before. "Right. Sorry. Yes, from now on I will do my best not to poke that particular beehive, even when it would be really, really funny."
"Can't you take anything seriously?" she asked, knowing it would likely be the best she could get from him."
"Some things," he said. He looked back at his sculpture. "Want to know what this one is for? I'll give you a hint, it's either a cure of cancer or a revolutionary industrial lubricant."
She smiled. "Sorry. Things to do."
"Right, right, life of a world defender." He put his glasses back on. "I'm, erm, probably going to be late again tonight, just so you know."
"Okay," Rose said, even though it wasn't, and shut the door behind her when she left.
When Jake's proposal ended up in her electronic inbox a few days later, Rose dropped everything to read it. Then she got the internal instant messenger.
prenticere: fifty people?
simmondsjw: if we're doing this properly
simmondsjw: it's a big area to cover.
prenticere: Winslow's never going to approve so many Torchwood employees in one place.
simmondsjw: who said anything abou winny the pooh? Get ol gemini to take care of it.
prenticere: Why does everybody think I have this terribly corrupt influence over him?
simmondsjw: I never said corrupt. but you do get things done. it's actually pretty cool.
prenticere: I tell him when Torchwood is requesting something.
prenticere: and I don't bother to submit anything I know he won't approve
simmondsjw: so tell him we're out saving the world from smart fertilizer and let him decide.
prenticere: You just like seeing the UN combined force in their uniforms. Admit it.
simmondsjw: pierre and I have a very active fantasy life.
simmondsjw: and he looks good in a blue beret
simmondsjw: i will say no more.
She logged off and started the paperwork for requesting UN assistance for the operation; it was one of the worst parts of the job, being tedious, complicated and something only she could do. At least she had Jake's plan laid out in front of her, though, so there was no making things up as she went along this time. More like editing on the fly.
She was in the middle of a set of tick boxes (The nature of the threat is: Please check all that apply. Extraterrestrial Extratemporal Extrauniversal Organic Sentient Humanoid...) when her phone signaled her a text message. A moment later, her email pinged. And within thirty seconds of the two, she had the Doctor knocking on her door, which shattered her concentration so completely that she had no choice but to answer him. "Hello," she said, trying not to look angry with him.
He held up a manila folder like a shield. "I've got a proposal for you!"
She took the folder and opened it. There was a slim report inside, titled Non-Leathal Ways Of Disabling Conventional and Synthorganic Technology by John Noble Aged 48 (days). "What is this?" she asked.
"So I've been thinking about, you know, massive use of force and things," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets as he leaned against her door. "And since it's a bit late for conscientious objection and all, I thought, 'What can I do to avoid mayhem?' It's not a question that I frequently ask myself--"
"Doctor," she said warningly, as she flipped through the report. She stopped at a set of diagrams, which appeared to have been drawn by hand, though with painstaking care. She just didn't know what they were for.
"So I came up with this resonance wave," he said. "The math's all in there, if you, uh, like math, but in short it's a sonic way to deactivate both synthorganic technology and conventional electrical systems by remote."
"And you need to build this to generate it?" she asked, pointing at the diagrams.
He nodded. "If I had my screwdriver it'd take five minutes to program, but, um, I don't. So this is the best thing I could come up with that didn't involve another raid on your archives for spare parts of dubious quality."
"Thank you for that bit," she asked. "How long would it take you to build it?"
"Oh, just a few...weeks, possibly," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Possibly less."
She shut the folder and put it on her desk, in the basket marked Important (mostly for his benefit). "Okay. I'll finish reading it in a bit and we'll keep it in mind as an option."
"Option?" he asked, looking slightly offended. "What do you mean, option?"
"Jake and Tosh have already come up with a plan," she said, and even brought it up on her screen. "They were planning on using glitter guns left over from the war to generate an electromagnetic pulse that would do basically the same thing."
"Glitter guns?" he asked. "Are they seriously called that?"
She shrugged. "They've got a long name, but Jake says they vent a bunch of metallic dust when they fire, so...glitter guns. Apparently they worked pretty well against the Cybermen."
He pulled out his glasses again and read a few lines. "An EMP won't disable snythorganic technology, though."
"We don't know for certain they're using synthorganics in the infrastructure," Rose pointed out. "They've brought in enough spare parts to do up everything twice over in conventional electronics, including a failsafe designed specifically to protect against EMPs."
He nodded. "Right. Got it. Still think mine's better."
She resisted the urge to argue with him. "So work on it," she said. "Because the glitter guns are already on the ground, assuming we can get the loan from the UN combined force, and we may need to move fast to be certain we catch then by surprise."
"Right, right, just like in Edinburgh," he said.
"Because of Edinburgh, too," Rose reminded him. He made a face. "I'll be sure to include your ideas when I talk to Mr. Winslow."
"Okay," he said stiffly. "Erm, thanks. See you tonight."
"I...might be working late tonight," she said, and he made a different face, a wounded one. "Paperwork," she added with a useless flap of her hands.
'Right," he said. "Then...whenever, I guess."
This isn't all on your terms, she wanted to say. You can't pick and choose when to see me. Try coming home more often and you might catch me there. Instead she said, "I'll pick up something for dinner, okay? Pizza sound good?"
"Sounds fine." He took his glasses off again. "I'm just gonna...get to work, you know, on the resonator."
"Okay," she said, and wondered why, after he left, she still had to resist the urge to scream at him.
As usual, she called Pete to ask about Tony, and had he heard from Mum recently, and by the way there's a request from Torchwood somewhere somewhere in your department, have a look.
Unusually, two days later, the request was denied.
"I'm not required by law to rubber-stamp everything Torchwood does, you know," he said when she asked him about it.
"I've never asked you to," she said, barely keeping her voice down. "I just want to know why you turned this one down. Give me one reason. Anything."
Instead he said, "You know, I'm in Cardiff tomorrow-I wasn't going to say anything because it's an in and out sort of thing, but there's time for lunch, if you want it."
"What d'you mean you're in Cardiff?" she asked. "What about Tony?"
"He's with the Janislowskis for the day," Pete said. "I really think we should have lunch, Rose."
The words finally registered with her, and she took a deep breath. "All right. Where at?"
"Somewhere close to you-don't want to pull you away from your work too long." He paused. "It'll be good to talk to you."
Which meant he needed to talk to her but didn't want to say it, for some reason. She named the first place that came to mind where the UN Secretary for Homeworld Security could eat without causing a riot, and walked home from Roald Dahl Plass through a miserably damp Sunday afternoon.
The Doctor was doing something with her computer when she got home, and looked like he didn't have a care in the world, though she'd seen the curtains twitching as she approached the building. "Where've you been, then?" he asked.
Getting away from you and your silence, Rose thought, but she didn't have energy to say it, so she just said, "Taking a walk," and went to have a nap before dinner.
The next morning, the Doctor was up and gone before she was, but there was an illegible note stuck to the front door. She spent most of the morning reviewing the intel Grace had collected so she didn't have to tell Jake that their request was denied-she wasn't going to truly believe it until Pete said it to her face.
She did, however, stop into the Doctor's office before she went to lunch. He had given up on the toothpicks, it seemed, and was soldering something at his desk. "Is that safe?" she asked.
"Perfectly," he said. "I mean, sure, it's against regulations, but it's not like I'm going to drop anything." He then dropped a piece of wire, but luckily it stayed on the desk instead of tumbling to his lap.
Rose winced, but carried on. "Anyway, I just wanted you to know I won't be available for lunch."
"Oh, me neither, then, so that works out," he said.
"I've got something of a date, actually," she said.
"With Pete, yeah," he murmured.
Rose blinked, feeling a bit stupid. "How did you know about it?"
"Didn't you see the note on the door?" he asked, sounding genuinely confused.
"I couldn't read the note on the door."
"Oh," he said. "Er, well, you mum called at about four o'clock this morning-she got mixed up with the time zones or something-and I didn't want to wake you, so I left you the note. But she mentioned about you and Pete, yeah."
"Thanks," she muttered. "I'll be back around one."
The restaurant turned out to be fairly nice, so it was good that Rose had worn a suit and not her jeans to work. Pete was waiting for her in the lobby, and they were seated together in a corner booth, which was about as private as they could get.
"So what's the problem?" she asked as soon as the waiter was gone.
"Hello, Dad," Pete said quietly. "It's good to see you, too. How was your flight? What are you doing in Cardiff, anyway?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "This isn't a normal lunch and you know it. Why was my request denied?"
He picked up his menu and started perusing it. "Because I knew it would be the only way I'd get your attention at the moment."
"Get my attention?" Rose repeated, because for a minute she wasn't sure she was following the conversation. "You interfered with my case just to get my attention?"
"That's right," he said, "because you're in it so deep now that nothing less will work. Well, possibly if I claimed Tony was in the hospital or your mother was kidnapped by armed insurgents, but I do value honesty."
"You make me sound like some kind of obsessive workaholic," Rose said. "And this case is important, you know."
"I read your request," Pete said. "I don't doubt the case is important, and I'll go back and approve you the personnel when I get back to London, but in the meantime I promised Edward that we'd have a talk. And considering how our last lunch date ended, I wanted security you wouldn't run out before I'd had my say."
"Mr. Winslow asked you to talk to me?" she said incredulously.
"He's concerned about you," Pete said.
"Then he can bloody well tell me to my face," Rose snapped.
"He's also concerned about saying or doing anything on the record," Pete said, and they had to pause while a waiter came over to take their orders. Rose hadn't even cracked the menu, so she pointed at something random with "salad" in the name and asked for a refill on her Coke.
When the waiter had gone, Rose asked, "So what's so important that it needs to be off the record?"
"Jake's filed a formal complaint about your Doctor," Pete said, and Rose tried not to show that this was complete news to her. "He doesn't mention you directly, but that fact by itself looks bad, Rose. Ms. Sato's also registered a complaint, but it's less direct, and considering it arrived within an hour of Jake's it's pretty clear he bullied her into it."
"What exactly are they complaining about?" Rose asked.
Pete shrugged. "That he's rude, unprofessional, insubordinate, reckless...I'm surprised you haven't been copied in on them yet, but it's possible Edward's holding out before he submits them to your HR department."
"Maybe I have been," Rose admitted, toying with her napkin. "I've been in meetings all day."
Pete nodded. "I know those sorts of days, don't think I'm criticizing. You might also like to know that Dr. Noble went straight to Edward with a plan for using some kind of resonator against the current threat to the human race."
"He did what?" Rose hissed, and then cringed, because she'd just prove she didn't know about it in advance. "Okay, so this looks bad, doesn't it?"
"Rather," Pete said. "Especially when you take into account how Dr. Noble reacted when Edward reminded him of the proper procedure for theses things."
"He came to me," Rose said. "On Friday morning, he asked be about it, and I said we'd consider it. He hadn't already yelled at Mr. Winslow, had he?"
"No, that was Friday after lunch," Pete said. "But you're right, he did yell."
Of course he yelled. He was the Doctor, and yelling was one of the ways he got people to agree with him. "I know the Doctor is...brash," she said, opting for the diplomatic approach. "I probably know better than most people, actually. But I also know he's not so bad once you get used to him-and once he gets used to working on a team. He's just used to being alone."
"He's not been alone for six weeks," Pete said.
"But he was alone before that for centuries," Rose pointed out. "You know how brilliant he is, Dad-and the resonator idea is brilliant, it's just not practical right now unless he figures out how to build them faster. And he probably will."
The waiter came with their food, and it turned out Rose had ordered a Caesar salad with chicken. Not her favorite, but she was also in the mood to make everyone put up with her garlic breath for a while. The waiter probably thought they were spies for the way they clammed up whenever he came round. Once he was gone, Pete said, "I didn't actually ask you here to talk about the Doctor, Rose."
"Then what are we talking about?" Rose said. "Because it sounds like the Doctor is the root of the problem."
"He is," Pete said. "Because what Edward and I are currently wondering is whether you're too close to him to deal with him objectively."
Rose almost choked on her first bite of chicken. "Objective? You don't think I'm objective?"
"Either Jake is sorely exaggerating his account of what the Doctor's been up to since he joined your team, or you're letting him get away with a metaphorical murder," Pete said. "And while I know as well as anyone the Jake can carry on a bit when it suits him, any complaint about you and John Noble looks worse when people know you're living together."
"So who else is he going to work with?" Rose asked. "If the Doctor can't get along with Winslow or Jake, where are they going to put him? He wants to work with me, he told me so-reassigning him in the same as losing him entirely."
"He could be a sort of consultant," Pete suggested.
Rose rolled her eyes again. "Yeah, because that's worked out so well for you, hasn't it? He joined Torchwood because you weren't giving him anything to do and he went stir-crazy."
"Then maybe I need to give him something to do," Pete said mildly. "Bring him to London a few days every week. He'll be free to do more or less as he likes, with his own assistants to liase with the rest of my department, and a free hand for any personal projects he might want to undertake-provided nothing explodes, after all--"
"No," Rose said, more because of the idea of the Doctor living in London, even-part time, than any rational reason. Pete raised an eyebrow at her vehemence and she frantically back-pedaled. "I mean, for one thing, I'm not the one you need to talk about this with. But I didn't bring the Doctor onto my team just to have him, Dad, we need a fifth man to handle this case."
"Even if he's handling it badly?" Pete asked.
"It's not going to matter if we get our man," she said. "Or men, actually. People. And we're not going to get them without the Doctor, and we're definitely not going to get them until you authorize us to use UN troops, which is the actual point of this conversation, yeah?"
He watched her for a while; she shoveled away some salad, even though she wasn't particularly hungry. "So I take it you want to table this until the case is closed?" he said.
"Yes," she said firmly. "I do. After that, we can...I'll talk to him. But we can't let these people slip through our fingers, and I know the Doctor can help us with that. After...we'll talk. Later."
"I hope you're right, Rose," Pete said. "And I hope you're doing what's in everyone's best interest."
"I am," she said firmly. Because the Doctor needed Torchwood, right now, and she needed the Doctor. Even if it seemed lately like they were living in separate apartments anyway. She was certain that once the Horatii were taken care of, she could fix things-maybe take that vacation, and maybe they did need to have that talk, but whatever it was they'd sort it out. They always had before.
Pete paid for them both, and offered to walk Rose back to the office They didn't talk much until they got into the lobby, and on the outside of the security gates, Pete paused. "I know you're busy, but I hope you think hard about this," he said.
"Don't you think I have been?" Rose asked.
"I don't think you've accepted what the problem really is," he said.
Rose crossed her arms over her chest. "And what's that, eh?"
"That the man we know as John Noble-while he very well might be a good man-is not the same man you feel in love with," he said. "He's not the Doctor, and you ought to remember that."
"He is the Doctor," Rose replied. "He's the same in every way that really counts. Perhaps you ought to remember that-especially since he saved this universe and mine, more than once." She spun around to go--
--and her eyes immediately fell on the Doctor, standing on the far side of the security gate. Brynn was in front of him, babbling away as one of the guards searched her purse, and maybe she expected him to reply, but he was clearly watching Rose and Pete, and looked vaguely like he'd been punched in the stomach. Rose, knowing exactly how long it usually took to search Brynn's purse (which was large enough to fit a medium-sized corgi, assuming it had its tail docked) rushed through the next gate over, leaving Pete standing in the lobby by himself.
"Hey," she said, while her own purse was searched. "What are you doing down here?"
"Lunch," he said blankly, after a bit of a pause. "I, er, Ianto won't order me take-out anymore, he says I leave soy sauce in the recycling bin."
He was looking at her blankly, totally unreadable, and Rose cleared her throat as she took her purse back. "I just, er, got back from lunch," she said lamely. When she glanced back, Pete had gone.
"Yeah," he said. "Good?"
"The food was good," she said.
Brynn finally got through the gate, and the Doctor fumbled for his employee ID. "Well, I'll just...I need lunch," he stammered. "I, er, I'll see you tonight, then."
"Tonight, sure," Rose said, and watched him leave the building, head down, shoulders hunched.
He didn't come home that night. Rose cooked, for once, and only burned part of it, but after a few hours of fidgeting around the flat she put it all in fridge anyway. She surfed the television and compulsively checked her email, and finally, pulled out her phone and texted.
Where are you? Everything ok?
She waited for his answer, for another string of annoying, inane comments, anything. Nothing. She tried calling him, but he wasn't answering his mobile or his office phone, and so she sat up waiting until her eyes were too heavy to hold open, and when she woke up obscenely early there was no sign that he'd been home.
She tried his phone again, and again, as she dressed and headed into work. In the building, she immediately asked Brynn, "Have you seen the Doctor at all yet today?"
"Which one?" she asked.
"Doctor Noble," Rose said. "Have you seen him?"
She shook her head. "He was still at work when I left last night, poor dear. Didn't he make it home?"
Rose ignored this and headed up to her floor, thinking that Ianto, surely, would know where the Doctor was. Actually, the Doctor was at Ianto's desk, stirring his coffee with one hand while stared fixedly at the bamboo plant. "Doctor," Rose said, suddenly unsure whether to be relieved or infuriated.
He started, and spilled some coffee on the bamboo. "Rose! What are you doing here?" he said.
"I work here," she snapped. "What about you?"
"Isn't it...I....oh." He looked at his watch and then shook his head. "Sorry, I...long night. Not a lot of sleep. Sorry."
"Why did you sleep here?" Rose said. "You know that's not allowed."
He shook his head. "No, no, me and Freddy have this thing...only I got locked in, sort of, and anyway I wanted to work on the resonator some more...I think I've nearly cracked it..."
Rose looked at him, bleary and wrinkled in yesterday's clothes, and realized the argument wasn't worth the energy. "You could've answered your phone," she said. "I was worried about you."
"Sorry," he mumbled, and then Ianto came back and had a few incisively polite words to say regarding coffee and bamboo, and Rose headed to her own office, wondering why Pete couldn't have just kept his mouth shut.
Two days later, Grace burst into Rose's office with a single sheet of paper. "We're in trouble," she said.
"How much and what kind?" Rose asked listlessly, because she hadn't slept well or seen the Doctor for days and Grace did this sort of thing at least once a month.
"Two-thirds of my contacts went silent overnight," she said, and Rose sat up so quickly she almost knocked over her coffee cup. "That includes the observer in Leeds and the phone in Humphrey's office. The Horatii know they're being watched."
"I'll inform Mr. Winslow and call Mr. Tyler," Rose said. "Go tell the others to get packed. We're leaving for Leeds immediately."
She called Pete on her way to see Winslow, and the Doctor found her on her way back"We're going? Now? I mean, we're really going?" he asked, catching her arm to slow her down.
"Yeah, we are," she said. "Want me to run home and pack for you?"
"But what about the resonators?" he asked, ignoring her question. "I really, I just, it's only going to take another day, tops, I swear--"
"Doctor," Rose snapped, "we haven't the time. They could already be clearing the facility. We'll go in with the glitter guns, according to Jake's plan."
He stood up very straight and looked down at her for a moment without speaking, and she couldn't decide if he looked angry or just disappointed. "Fine," he finally declared, "I'll just, yeah. When do we leave?"
"When will you be packed?" she asked.
He glanced at his office and grimaced. "Can you, er, can you actually run home and help me with that...?"
This time, they flew, and Torchwood's airship got them to Leeds within an hour. Two officers from the UN combined forces met them at the airfield. "Ms. Prentice, ma'am," the taller one said with a crisp salute. "My name is Lieutenant Druitt, and this is Lieutenant Watson. Lieutenant Magnus is securing our center of operations. Shall we take you there?"
"Please," she said. "These are Mr. Simmonds, Ms. Sato, Dr. Holloway and Dr. Noble, and there's no need for the 'ma'am.' We'd like to get started as soon as possible."
The center of operations turned out to be a few cramped back rooms in a police station; while disgruntled coppers watched the soldiers warily, Watson, Druitt and Magnus laid out the maps they'd prepared of the area. "The road was blocked off late this morning, allegedly for construction, but we've had people on foot scouting the area," Druitt explained. "There's no sign of activity within in the factory grounds, so we're not expecting organized resistance from inside. Level terrain, except for this ridge here, without much vegetation for cover, but tomorrow is a new moon, which ought to help."
Rose just turned the whole show over to Jake, who seized the largest map and started issuing orders. "That ridge is where we'll put the glitter guns," he said. "Who's the artillery officer?" Magnus raised her hand. "Right. How fast can you recharge them after the initial blast?"
"Thirty minutes," she said.
"Can you make it faster? It looked like they've installed power failsafes, and the manufacturer says they'll kick in after ten," he said.
She shook her head. "We've got the Mark 4s, sir, they're a bit touchy. If the vents aren't cleaned after every volley there's a danger of misfiring. But they've got a larger coverage zone than the Mark 3s, so we could give you a staggered volley."
Jake appeared to consider it. "Can you promise two guns will completely disable the factory?"
"I can promise they will get 90% coverage of the target zone."
"That's not good enough," he said. "Give me three at a time and see if you can shave a few minutes off your drill, okay?" He looked at the other two officers. "This is our timeline: the moment the lights go out, we need demo teams to blow the fences in these locations." He grabbed a pen and marked them on the map. "Five teams need to move in: one and two will head straight to the computer centers here and here, try to break into the system and prevent the failsafes from kicking in, while three goes to the main office, four to the factory floor and five to this building here, which where we think they've got the macguffins. Shoot only in self-defense, because we need people alive to question." He looked up at the three officers, then back at his team. "Tosh here is with team number one, main office also. Noble will be with team two, security center. Ms. Prentice will be with three, I'll be with five, and Dr. Holloway will stay with Magnus's unit to run the communications board."
"We won't be able to use hyperwaves because of the glitter guns," Rose added. "We'll be on conventional radios, which will have limited reception inside the complex, so listen closely and don't hesitate to ask for clarification of an order."
"Question," Watson asked. "Any hazardous materials inside the complex?"
"Potentially, they've got explosive materials, which we think are limited to these two warehouses," Jake said, pointing. "This building here is the generator, but the glitter guns should neutralize it-just don't put any holes in it."
"What do we do with prisoners?" Druitt asked.
"Parking lot," Jake said. "We'll need the sixth team running the perimeter, but the nice thing is that the fence will keep people in as well as out, so it won't take much manpower to plug the gaps."
"I've got a sniper team assigned to my unit as well, in case of runners," Magnus said.
"What are they firing?" Rose asked. "Because we can't be certain who's in there and I don't want any unnecessary deaths."
"We've got a case of sleeper rounds," Magnus said with a little frown. "Those aren't very accurate, though."
"The factory's in the arse end of nowhere, Lieutenant," Jake said. "Runners aren't going to get very far."
They spent the afternoon haggling about approaches to the factory, or at least, Jake and Rose did; Grace went off with a staff sergeant to familiarize herself with the communications van, Tosh disappeared to collect more satellite data, and the Doctor just...disappeared, taking his suitcase and a small satchel with him. The three lieutenants were very good at their jobs, asking all the right questions and making helpful suggestions, but they had a military pragmatism that meant they were always on the verge of asking why don't you just drop a bomb on it? "We need evidence," Rose said about four times. "That means living witnesses, but also documents, computers, anything on the factory floor and anything-anything at all-that looks synthorganic."
"If you ever saw it fall out of a tin man, we want it contained," Jake said. "Which means no touching. That bit's not rocket science, I don't think."
"We're not asking anyone to compromise their safety," Rose added, because that was how they always tried to argue. "But preserving the crime scene should be balanced against clearing the battlefield, okay?" No wonder, she thought, that Grace couldn't work with these people. She wondered how Pete managed sometimes.
There was a knock at the door, and a PC stuck his head inside. "Ms. Prentice? Chief Stratham would like to have a word with you."
Rose sighed. "Yeah, be right with him." She looked at the others. "Go over the back-up plans once more, would you? Including evacuation routes."
"We better not need any bloody evacuation routes," Jake muttered.
"That's what they said about the Titanic," Rose reminded him.
The chief of police for Leeds was named Stratham, and he was tall and thin and sharp like a knife. "Ms. Prentice, thank you for seeing me," he said. "I can see you're busy."
"It's not a problem, Chief Stratham," she said. "I haven't yet thanked you for the use of your resources here."
"Anything for Torchwood, of course," he said. "I spoke to a Dr. Holloway over he phone earlier today, but she told me you'd want the information as well, is that correct?"
"Right, right." Rose fumbled through her purse for a notepad. "There's a man in the city we've been monitoring, serving as a contact for our target today. Mike O'Connell. Have you found him?"
Stratham shook his head. "I sent people round to his flat and his office, and both were empty. It looks like he fled town early this morning-no signs of foul play, though. Last sighting of him was last night, he said he had gotten an urgent phone call from a relative."
"Interesting," Rose said. If they were perhaps insanely lucky, the Horatii hadn't realized the factory was the real target, and wouldn't take any measures beyond removing O'Connell from the city. "Have you searched the premises yet?"
Stratham shook his head. "Only a cursory look. We were waiting for advice from Torchwood on what exactly we're looking for."
"All right," Rose said. "I'll send someone over to you to--"
A thud and a shouted curse from the room behind her made them both jump. Rose murmured a quick "Sorry!" to Stratham before going to look, just in case Jake had given in to the urge to punch a solider in the teeth. Instead she found him massaging his knuckles by himself in the corner, while Magnus had a hushed conversation with a younger soldier. "Problem?" Rose asked.
Magnus looked flustered. "Ma'am. Apparently two of the glitter guns were damaged in transit. My people are working on them now."
"How damaged?" Rose asked. "Can they be repaired tonight?"
"Not likely," Magnus admitted. "One's cracked a coolant tube and the other has some kind of hardware fault. But replacement units can be brought up from London in--"
She looked to the soldier, who squeaked slightly when he said, "Twelve hours, ma'am."
"You can't get them from any closer than London?" Jake asked.
"The six we had were the only ones available from Edinburgh, sir," Magnus said. "The only other armory with equivalent units is in Dublin, and we'd have to commission an airship for them."
Jake muttered a few choice words about airships, and Rose couldn't decide if she was pleased to have the extra day to prepare or terrified at the lost time. "If we have to wait, we'll wait." she concluded reluctantly, because the whole plan rested on those guns. "Establish a perimeter of observation. Anybody or anything leaves that factory, I want to know. Search any lorries that try to make deliveries to the address. We'll maintain satellite observation."
They saluted and headed out the doors. "Figures," Jake murmured after the officers were out of earshot. "As soon as we get the military involved, they start cocking things up."
"Weren't you technically like a major-general of something by the end of the war?" Rose asked.
"Lieutenant colonel," Jake said. "And that doesn't count because one, they were handing out rank pins like condoms by the end of everything and two, I didn't keep it." He sighed. "I'm gonna go tell the girls to cool it. You want to find John?"
"Yeah, just let me notify everybody watching first."
She actually had to talk to Winslow, Pete, and Chief Stratham again, and then the mayor of Leeds, who wanted to know why the UN were running around his city at all. By the time she had a free minute to call the Doctor, she was bone tired, and sort of hated herself for thinking that it might be nicer to just leave him wherever he'd gone until they actually needed him.
While she was staring despondently at the phone, it rang. The Doctor calling. "Hello?"
"So what would you say," the Doctor asked, "if I told you I'd booked us all rooms at a nice little pension here, with a complementary breakfast, and I bought sandwiches?"
"I would say it's almost too good to be true," Rose said, and didn't care if that came out wrong or not.
"You make sure to put this on my quarterly performance review," he said. "I'll call the ladies if you call Jake away from all the shiny things that go 'boom.'"
"Will do," Rose said.
It was only later, in the pension (which was nice, and affordable, if a bit frowsty in a maiden-great-aunt-with-four-cats way) that Rose thought to ask, "Doctor, how did you know we'd need to spend the night?"
"Hmm?" He looked up from his sandwich with raised eyebrows and a full mouth. "Ha ah ga a a?"
"How did you know the operation was delayed?" she asked. "You weren't in the room and I didn't call you."
"I didn't know," he said. "Not until Jake and Grace got here. I just thought, you know, we've got a couple hours until the main event, and we'll all be dead tired when we finish the running-chasing-shooting people part of the night's festivities, somebody ought to find us a place to sleep that is not a Leeds PC's desk."
"Oh," Rose said. "Good thinking."
"I have my moments," he said.
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, my brain is fried. It's probably a good thing we're not doing the raid tonight or I'd shoot myself in the foot."
He looked at her oddly. "You carry a gun on this sort of thing?"
"Well, yeah," Rose said, and her feeling of awkwardness doubled when she remembered who she was talking to. "Torchwood requires all employees to qualify in a firearms course, didn't they tell you that?"
"I knew that," he said. "I just...didn't think, I guess."
He looked unhappy, and Rose groaned inwardly as she sat up straighter. "Are we going to have this conversation again, and if so, are you planning to use complete sentences this time?" she asked.
"What? No," he said. "I mean yes. I mean it's not even a conversation."
"Then why are you looking so pissy?" she demanded.
"I don't like thinking that I've turned you all into soldiers, all right?" he blurted.
It took her a moment to get it, but Davros' words came back to her and if she'd been well-rested and not about to raid a domestic terrorist organization, she might've been sympathetic and reassuring. Instead, she rolled her eyes at him. "You didn't turn me into anything, Doctor. I chose this."
"I put you in a position to make that choice," he said.
"Oh, get over yourself," Rose said, and she meant it to be playful but it came out wrong, always wrong, and the Doctor didn't respond as he finished his sandwich and then left the room.
It would be a while before Rose realized he'd booked five rooms, not four, from the very beginning.
They got up early and checked and re-checked all their plans. Tosh and the Doctor personally went over the glitter guns, though Rose sort of suspected the Doctor just wanted to see how they worked; he'd skipped the free breakfast on the pretense of going for a jog, and went back to the pension as soon as the work was done, saying something vague about studying up.
They re-re-checked their plans and talked to some of the soldiers, getting to know their team assignments. Jake was with Watson, but Rose, Tosh and the Doctor were technically leading their own teams, and she had to reassure the soldiers that Torchwood made a policy of deferring to military authority except when it threatened mission objectives. (She'd have to make sure to remind the Doctor that bit, though, just in case.) They even practiced their call signs, as if "Lancer Insert Number Here" was going to be hard to remember. They treated all the police in the station to lunch as a way to make up for taking over their work spaces.
They re-re-checked the plans, and then Grace proposed going to see a film to kill the time, but Tosh wanted to keep monitoring everything by satellite and Jake wanted to go over Mike O'Connell's flat with the Leeds police and the Doctor was still back at the pension. Rose ended up sitting in the back of the police station, drinking sparkling water instead of coffee and studying the maps until her eyes crossed. They had aerial photos of the factory grounds, they had old blueprints and photographs from its previous incarnations, but so much of the plan was really just guesswork, just estimations of what they were going to find on the inside, and she wanted to be ready for anything and everything.
In late afternoon, she ordered everybody to take a nap. That included shouting through the Doctor's door, though she wasn't sure if he was already asleep or not. Jake suggested a beer to help everyone sleep, but Rose wasn't going to let alcohol or caffeine addle her brains, not when stress was doing an adequate job. She drew her curtains, changed into pajamas, and didn't really get any rest.
In the evening, they finally started getting ready. The sky was stained red with the sunset as they walked to the police station. "'Red sky at night is a sailor's delight,'" Grace said. "Think it's a good sign?"
"I don't believe in signs," Jake said. "They only show you what you want to see."
"Or what you're afraid to see," Tosh said. "My mother certainly finds enough reasons to warn me I'm going to die childless and alone."
"I don't think there's any harm in wishful thinking, though," Rose said. "What do you think, Doctor?"
"Hmm?" He looked up from the small satchel he was carrying over one elbow and had been fiddling with. "What was the question?"
"Signs and omens," Jake said. "Do you believe in them?"
"Depends on what they are," he said. "Specific mirrors shouldn't be broken, it's always wise to mind your ladders, and I'll never trust a black cat in a wimple, but usually...nothing specific really comes to mind."
"You're stepping all over pavement cracks, you know," Rose said, before remembering that he was angry with her. Another fight, another Later. She thought about saying something before they began the raid, but she didn't want to risk making things worse before they got better. They both had to concentrate for this.
The Doctor disappeared almost as soon as they got to the police station, while Rose got corralled by the three lieutenants. "We need to be moving into position soon," Druitt said. "Any last-minute orders?"
"Tosh is pulling down the most recent satellite images right now," she said. "We'll see if there needs to be any last-minute changes. Nothing in or out since we left?"
"Perimeter team says everything's quiet inside," Watson said. "People moving around the grounds, but they look like employees, probably taking a meal break."
"Remember, we're not here to kill anyone unless it's necessary," Rose said. "Those workers might not even know what they're building."
"Or maybe they do," Druitt said, and pointed at a rack of weapons. "I didn't notice you brought any protection with you, so feel free to sign out whatever you need."
Jake looked Rose, and she thought for a minute and then shrugged. "Everybody gets kevlar," she said. "Even Grace, just in case. Up to you all whether you want to carry a weapon or not."
"Brought my own, actually," Jake said. "But I'll let the others know."
Rose saw Grace off, as the artillery unit was setting up early behind the cover of the ridge. Predictably, she wasn't armed, and looked pissed about the kevlar. "I've got satellite straight to Torchwood, Homeworld Security and local emergency services if things go south," she assured Rose. "And my first aid kit, in case they go really south."
"God, I hope it doesn't come to that," Rose said, because she knew how big Grace's first aid kit was. "Druitt says there's medics down there if we need triage."
"Do no harm and refuse no need," Grace said. "I take those oaths very seriously. And there's a nice little corporal named Foss ready to take over for me if I'm needed."
Then Rose had to review the jeep assignments with Druitt, so nobody got left behind in the city and everyone could find their own unit. And then she had to discuss the potential application of flash grenades with Watson, mostly to say no, you twit, they'll damage the crime scene but in less rude ways. And she had to reassure the police chief that their back-up plans were adequate and no, they probably wouldn't need riot police and water cannons for anything. And then, only then, did she have time to go look for the Doctor-not because it was Later, but because, she was pretty sure, they had a new problem.
She signed out two sidearms and holsters from the young soldier in the supply van, and put on one of them with the extra magazines stored in the inner pocket of her jacket. She found the Doctor in what was probably some kind of locker room, with long benched and rows of lockers along one wall. He was fiddling with that satchel again. "Hey," she said.
He looked up, startled, and quickly closed the satchel. "Hi," he said shortly. "Are we leaving now?"
"In a minute. Tosh is still printing the last pictures." Rose took a step inside and braced herself. "There's something I wanted to talk to you about before we go."
She watched his eyes take her in, and watched them settle on the gun at her hip and the extra holster in her hand. "No," he said. "No way."
"They're for your own protection," she said.
"Protection?" he asked, and thumped the heavy kevlar vest on the bench next to him. "This is protection, Rose. That's destruction looking for somewhere to happen."
"The people inside that factory aren't going to care about your principles," Rose said. "They're going to see you as a target if you're not armed."
"I thought that was why I got a half-dozen strapping young men with assault rifles to help me out?" he asked.
"Please," Rose said, and had enough mental space to marvel that the man who wiped out the Daleks with one button was so upset about a few nine-millimeter bullets. "Everyone else is carrying one."
"Oh, come on," he grumbled. "Toshiko's scared of the word 'gun.'"
"Actually, she's won a couple of awards in target shooting," Rose said. "Handgun and rifle. Because she knows that there are times when it's a necessary evil."
"That's a very nice phrase, necessary evil," he said. "It covers up all sorts of things very neatly."
Rose nearly stamped her foot in frustration. "Please, Doctor," she said again, and decided to risk the last card in her deck. "For me. So I know you're as safe as you can be."
For a minute she was terrified, at a base level, that it wasn't going to work. But the Doctor's eyes softened incrementally, and his shoulders slightly slumped. "Fine," he said, and took the holster from her hands. "But I'm not using it. I was under the impression our objective wasn't to kill anybody."
"That is the objective, but nobody's told them that," Rose said, relief mixing with disgust that it came to this, that he would force it to this, that she'd actually done it. "So if you have to..."
"Yeah, only if I have to." He fumbled to fasten the belt over his trousers; even on the last notch it threatened to slip down his hips. "Hmm. Doesn't seem to like me, can I get a refund?"
Rose huffed and knelt down to secure the leg strap, which would support the gun's weight. "After this I'm taking you round to Dad's house again and making you eat for a week," she said, but it didn't sound as playful as she wanted it to. Her hands smoothed over his thigh, up the tickly wool and then down the inseam to flatten a crease, and from above he made an irritated noise; she tightened the strap, this time to the last notch but one, just short of making the fabric around it pucker. "That all right?"
"Yeah," he said, in a distracted way; she glanced up and realized he was looking at his satchel. "Yeah, that's good..."
There was a gasping yelp in the hallway.
Rose leaped to her feet as the Doctor went for the bloody satchel; she found Tosh in the hallway, scarlet in the face and pop-eyed. "Everything all right?" Rose asked.
"I'm so sorry," Tosh stammered, clutching a manila folder to her chest. "I didn't mean to interrupt anything, I can just go--"
"Interrupt what?" Rose asked. "Come on, are those the new photos?"
Tosh blinked at her. "You mean...you weren't..."
The Doctor pushed past them on his way out of the room. "Assembling in fifteen!" Rose called at his back, and got a distracted little wave in response. She fought down a scowl, because that was just petty, and looked back to Tosh. "I was fixing his holster," she said. "He...doesn't like guns."
"Oh," Tosh said, then gave a wheezing giggle. "Oh, Rose, I'm so sorry, I just...jumping to conclusions, I suppose. Thank god. Um. Pictures?"
Rose took the folder, but her hands froze in place when she realized just what conclusions Tosh had jumped to. She wanted to add some pithy reassurance-Not at work, saving it for later, bad luck before this kind of mission-but it all seemed suddenly ashy in her mouth. Because when was the last time they'd slept in the same bed-the same building? It was so far off the mark it was in another time zone.
And no doubt Tosh could see that written all over Rose's face.
So she buried it-the feelings, in some corner of her mind, and the face, in the folder. There didn't seem to be anything unexpected in or around the site, certainly nothing that would impact their plan. "Looks good," she said. "Show these to Druitt. I'll be along as soon as I'm geared up."
They rode in stark military jeeps most of the way to the factory, veering off-road at the road block and bouncing over the tall,dry grass and hidden hummocks fast enough for the cool air to become a chilly breeze. Rose clung to the edge of her seat as Staff Sergeant Singh made a wide circle around the factory, approaching it from around the other side. The three jeeps of their party rolled to a stop when the GPS told them to, with the lights of the factory grounds just over the horizon.
Rose checked on Tosh while the troops prepared their weapons. "Ready for this?"
"As I ever am," she said, and while her voice might've been a bit shaky her hands were steady as she checked the magazine and the safety on her sidearm. She was always good with machines. If the Doctor thought Tosh was a coward, he really didn't know her at all.
They walked in single file towards the soft glow of the factory grounds, and then bent double, and then crawled on their stomachs the last few yards, until they were close enough to see a few people moving around within the fences-not security guards, their posture wasn't purposeful enough for that, just employees of some kind taking a walk.
"This is your final radio check," Grace's voice said in Rose's ear. "All teams, report."
"Lancer One is in position."
"Lancer Two is in position."
"Lancer Three is in position," Singh said.
"Lancer Four is in position."
"Lancer Five is in position."
"Demo One is in position."
"Eagle One and Two are in position and locked." That was Magnus, meaning the glitter guns were ready to fire.
Singh looked at Rose, and Rose watched the small figures against the fences, willing them to leave. They didn't. I'm so sorry, she thought to them. "All units, this is Prentice. Shut down at the end of this message. Eagle One, give us a ten-count and then proceed."
She shut off her radio, to protect the delicate electronics from the electromagnetic pulse, and kept her eyes on the factory as she counted to ten. There was a dim flash from the ridge, which was on the other side of the factory complex; she thought she could even make out the cloud of sparkling dust that accompanied the discharge. There was no explosion, no sound at all; the orange-tinted flood lights around the factory grounds simply shut off, leaving them in a profound darkness. She thought she could head confused cries from those people inside the fences, though perhaps she was imagining that.
She switched her radio back just in time to hear Druitt barking "--into position! Move, move, move!" In the darkness she could barely see the figures of the demo teams sprinting up to the gates, but then they called out "Fire in the hole!" and Rose barely had time to cover her eyes before the charges went off with a deafening bang.
Phosphorous flares gave them just enough light to see by as they all struggled to their feet and raced forward. It was hard work, keeping up with the soldiers while wearing the heavy vest, but Rose managed not to fall behind as they scrambled through the twisted gap in the fence and into the factory grounds. And she'd spend enough time staring at maps and schematics that she could head to the main administrative building by dead reckoning, ignoring both the wash of noise on her radio and the shouting as the factory workers-whoever they were-came up against this surprise assault.
It was an ugly little building, not big, and only two floors. Pre-war blueprints suggested there was a large server for the whole factory in the cellar, and Rose caught a glimpse of Tosh following her team down a flight of stairs, but she was focusing on clearing the upper floors first. She picked a soldier, one she didn't know by name, and shadowed him down the dark first-floor hallway and into a large room, one marked as an office on the old blueprints.
The door was locked. "Open up, UNCF!" the soldier bellowed, but gave whoever might be inside no chance to unlock before forcing the door with two powerful kicks. Rose swept at his side, torch and weapon at the ready, to find an office strewn with loose paper and pieces of CDs, with a small fire smoldering in the recycling bin, as if someone had run away and hadn't had time to start a proper blaze. A computer monitor lay on the ground with a nice dusty shoeprint on it, but the cord that should've connected it to a hard drive was missing.
"Lancer Three, all teams report," Singh said. "Where did we lose these people?"
"They had no time to slip out any back exits," Rose said, and looked out into the hall, where the solider were already moving on to their next targets.
"Should we be looking for a panic room?" somebody asked.
"We weren't briefed on any panic rooms," Singh growled.
"That's because there aren't suppose to be any," Rose said.
"Lancer Three, this is Lancer One," somebody said. "We've got a bolt hole in the cellar."
All thoughts of procedure fled Rose's mind as she raced for the stairs, taking them two at a time. She stumbled at the bottom and narrowly avoided turning her ankle, but then she was around the corner and found Tosh trying to set up her own laptop in the midst of a desk as wrecked as the first one upstairs. Two soldiers were standing by a door, a plain door with no distinguishing features, except for how it was set into what the blueprints said was a foundation wall. Beyond it, though, was a cinder block tunnel that was most definitely not on any blueprints they'd been able to dig up. Who'd built this tunnel? How had they managed to keep it covered up for so long? And most importantly, what the fuck were they supposed to do now?
"Ma'am," said the sergeant in command of Lancer One. "We caught two men leaving through this tunnel. I sent me in pursuit while the rest of them finish sweeping this level."
"To hell with to this level," Rose said, and switched her radio channel. "Grace, I need all available people in the cellar of the admin building. The Horatii have a bolt hole and they've fled with evidence."
"Copy that," Grace said. "Be careful down there, Rose."
"Keep trying to break into the computers," Rose told Tosh. "And if you find anything about this--"
"Yeah, yeah, got it," Tosh said. "This is some dense encryption and if I'm not excruciatingly careful about what I'm doing I'll trip something prematurely. I'll let you know when I'm in."
Rose nodded, and raced into the bolt hole.
The tunnel was lit by small white LED lights, probably battery-powered, which were spaced out a little to widely and placed a little too high in the walls to be really efficient; the shadows they cast were stark and deep. The proper lights were hanging from the ceiling, where bundles of cables snaked along, parallel to a rusty pipe. The first tunnel ended in a T-junction, and the lights seemed marginally brighter to the right, so Rose went the same direction...only to come to a four-way intersection a moment later.
She tabbed her radio. "Lancer One, I'm in the tunnels with you, what's your position?"
"...cer One, come ag...n't copy," a voice replied. Somewhere in the distance, Rose heard gunshots, echoing oddly.
"Lancer One, this is Prentice, what's your location?" she asked. Static coughed in her ear. She switched channels. "Grace, do you copy me?"
Shit. Of course. They were surrounded by earth on all sides; it was going to interfere with the radio signals. She switched back to Lancer One's channel. "Lancer One, are you copying anything? Which way did you go?"
More static, then: "Wen...side. Com...outh. Can...fu...here."
"Say again, I didn't copy."
"Went to...side. Compass...ing south. Can't find...we came."
"Look, fall back," Rose said. "Do you copy that? Fall back to the tunnel mouth."
"...find the d...outh!"
Dammit! Rose chose a direction randomly, and another, following the earlier sound of gunshots. The tunnel walls switched from cinder blocks to lumpy concrete arches, but otherwise there was no way to tell which way she'd come or gone. "Lancer One, do you copy me? This is Prentice, do you copy?"
Nothing but static again. Oh, what was the point?
Running footsteps from straight ahead made her raise her gun, but she came face-to-face with Druitt, looking furious. "Prentice? That you?" he barked.
"Yeah," she said. "How'd you get down here?"
"Found another bolt hole in the factory manager's office," he said. "You came all the way from the admin building?"
"This entire facility could be built on Swiss cheese," she said, stomach sinking. "How many of your people came down with you?"
"Most of them," Druitt said. "Left just enough up top to mind the prisoners."
Rose looked back the way she'd came, where none of Lancer One or Three seemed to have followed her. She made one more go at the radios. "Lancer units, this is Prentice. If you can hear me at all, please respond."
"..ear you somewhat," somebody said-not the same one as before. "Really da...ere, ma'am, and the radios aren't wor..."
"I know that," she said. "Look, you're going to have to relay these orders like Chinese whispers: everyone fall back, out of the tunnels. Cancel pursuit and repeat these orders, do you understand me?"
"Rog...at. Cancel pursuit and fa...unnls. Repeat these orders."
"We'll regroup in the parking lot," Rose said, thinking of how far off plan they'd already gone. She looked at Druitt, who was trying the same trick with his own radio. "Did you copy all of that?"
"...arking lot. Co..."
"Fuck it," Druitt said. "It's no use, I can't pick anyone up..."
"So we split up," Rose said. "Try to cover more ground. Take three minutes and then fall back to the surface."
"Do we have three minutes left?" he asked.
Rose checked her watch. "The second volley of glitter guns should go in two minutes. That gives Tosh and the Doctor twelve to get control of the computers."
"It'll have to do," he murmured, and sketched a little salute at her before taking off down the tunnel to Rose's left. That left her to turn to her right, and kept testing her radio. They hadn't prepared for anything like this, so there was no fluorescent paint or anything to make a path with, and the more turns she herself made the more worried Rose got that she wasn't going to find her way out again, either. Who builds a warren of subterranean tunnels full of mysterious wires and cables without hanging signs?
Then she spotted an arched tunnel that met onto one with straight sides, and her flashlight showed her a cinder block wall at the end. Had she made one big loop back to the admin building? She hoped so. She sprinted forward under the flickering lights, reaching for her radio to have another go at contacting Grace--
She paused and looked down another curved tunnel to her left. There it went again; for a just a split second, two of the LED lights flickered. Which could mean that their batteries were running down, since by now the failsafes should've normally kicked in and restored main power. (Eight minutes of blackout remaining, if the glitter guns had fired when she thought they would.) Or it could mean something else. She raised her torch and her gun again, and slowly made her way towards the two flickering light. There was another intersection there, and a dim stain of light on the wall, and faint noises of someone breathing that echoed far more than they had any right to. Rose gave herself a count of three and then turned down the hallway, weapon ready--
To find the Doctor crouched on the floor. He had pulled a bunch of cables down from the ceiling, and had his satchel open at his feet as he fiddled with some wires; inside the satchel, Rose saw something metallic and covered in small blinking lights that looked an awful lot like a certain hand-drawn diagram in the Important box on her desk.
The light in his eyes made him cringe back, and he held up one hand and made unintelligible noises at her. "What the hell are you doing?" she blurted, lowering her torch.
He looked up, and spat out the screwdriver in his mouth to give a forced grin. "Just a second, I have everything under control."
There was a time when that would've comforted her enormously; now she shoved her gun in its holster and strode down the narrow tunnel at him. "You are supposed to be in the security office, disabling the system--"
"Already cut off its access to the backups," he said, and threaded a long cord into a hole in the resonator. It had obviously been knocked together in his office out of her sight, all exposed wiring and electrical tape, and appeared to have a casing made from a toaster and a cheese grater. "This will short out the synthorganic components and neutralize the whole thing, just as soon as I get it wired into the public address system."
"We fried that with the EMP," Rose reminded him, and the next thing she should've said was I am ordering you to get back upstairs or at least to put away that ridiculous contraption, but it suddenly seemed that everything had gone so spectacularly wrong that there was no point in it, in anything but the usual hanging on to the Doctor's coattails and trying to survive the ride. It was easier, perhaps, because her radio wasn't even coughing up static now. For these few seconds it really was just the two of them again.
"And I," the Doctor said, "have constructed an elaborate work-around just to show old Winslow how we do these things in style." He pulled a wire from a box on the wall and touched it to a wire from the bundle, and there was a momentary spark--
And suddenly all the lights in the corridor snapped on.
"No," the Doctor whispered, eye widening.
There were no whooping sirens, no slow countdowns, no blinking lights; just a low thrumming that Rose could feel in her bones. The Doctor prodded the resonator and started franticly tugging at the dangling wires. "Doctor?" Rose asked, shoving her torch in a pocket.
"No, no, no," the Doctor said, but he was addressing the resonator that now rattled on the shivering floor. "You're not supposed to do this! It wasn't supposed to trip anything!"
"Doctor!" she snapped, and he still didn't look up. She snatched his hand in hers to get his attention. "Run."
He looked up at her, and his face was a mask of too many emotions to count. But he stumbled to his feet, kicking the resonator aside. And they ran.
She lead the way to the cinder block tunnel, which didn't empty into the admin building, but another one entirely-the security station, she realized, because that's where the Doctor must've come from. They took the stairs two at a time as she bellowed into her radio "Get away from the building! Everyone, get out, now! There's a booby trap under the facility!" She tried every channel, but they were all coming up as static, and they'd gone over this, right, they'd reminded everyone where to fall back in the worst case scenario? Hadn't they?
Outside the station the sodium lamps were working again, showing people running about chaotically, soldiers trying to corral people with boiler suits and East Asian features, pushing them through the gaps in the fences. The Doctor nearly outstripped her across the parking lot, but he stopped, he actually stopped and waited for her to catch up while she screamed "Run! Run!" with all the breath she could muster. They squeezed through the fence and kept running, as hard and as fast as they could, and Rose had one moment to see the grass in front of her turn to gold and their shadows surge out ahead of them; then she hit the ground, the Doctor pressing her down and curling and arm around her head, while the shockwave of the explosion rattled her teeth.
It took several minutes before he rolled off her and allowed her to sit up. Rose sat up and looked back at the remains of the factory; the power plant and one of the warehouses were gone, simply gone, and most of the other buildings were aflame. Burning debris littered the grass around them, little smoky spots that made the countryside look like a pastoral bit of Hell. She didn't see anyone moving around them.
"All teams, report," Rose said shakily into her radio. Silence, but no static. "This is Prentice with Noble. All teams--"
"I'm here," Tosh said suddenly, shaky but clear. "We got out, we're okay."
"Lancer Two is all clear," came Druitt's voice.
Singh, breathing hard: "Lancer Three is clear."
An anonymous soldier: "Lancer Four is clear."
A long beat of dead air.
"Lancer Five," Jake said, and then coughed into the microphone, and Rose fisted her hands in the dead grass. "Lancer Five is fucked. We need immediate medical evacuation, north side of the complex."
"Roger that, Jake," Grace said, while Rose's heart was breaking. "Ambulances on the way and I'm coming down. How many casualties?"
"Three for the ambulance," Jake said bitterly. "The rest we're going to have to dig out with shovels."
Rose tore the radio from her ear and threw it at far as she could. The burning buildings were so bright they would've blotted out the stars, even without the rafts of oily smoke going up, and she could see all too clearly how the Doctor watched the flames. His mouth was parted, his brows knit together over wide eyes, and a piece of grass was caught in his fringe. She wondered, suddenly, if this was how he looked when he watched his planet burn.
"Come on," she said, looking away, because somehow looking at him and talking to him at the same time were just too much to handle at the moment. "We need to get back to the others."
He stood, stiffly, every movement nine hundred years old. "Yeah. Okay."
Rose walked towards the ridge, and didn't look back to see if he was following.
They ended up back at the police station in the middle of the night, drinking strong coffee and looking at the maps instead of each other. Well, Rose did, along with Tosh and the Doctor; Grace had ridden to the hospital with Jake and the other casualties.
Casualties. There weren't supposed to be any casualties.
"I got locked out," Tosh blurted after a moment. She was still wearing her sidearm, but her grip on her mug looked fragile. "I was maybe a minute away from getting into the system and it locked me out when the shaking started."
"Poison pill," Rose said. "I didn't think they were crazy enough to booby-trap their own facility to explode." Though of course, according to Druitt, the factory floor had been empty on first pass; no circuits, no bombs, no bomb-making materials to be seen. Just two hundred illegal immigrants from Japan and Korea who lived on site and had no idea what was going on.
Some of them had been casualties, too.
The Doctor very carefully set his mug on the table, in the middle of a map, and then just as carefully slide to the floor, arms folding up behind his knees. "It's my fault," he said quickly. "I thought...I needed to bring up the PA system and I thought I had the matching backups isolated. I thought if I could just plug in the resonator it wouldn't matter if we had the glitter guns or not. I thought I had it under control." His chin tipped down to his chest. "I thought I had it under control."
"It was a brilliant system," Tosh said quietly. "Parallel processing. It had to have involved synthorganics."
"Well, we're never going to know for certain now," Rose said heavily. She slugged back her coffee, which had been gritty when she poured it and was now cold to boot. There were grass stains on her knees and elbows. Maybe Lena knew a way to get those out. Rose didn't.
A loud, hoarse shout from the hallway was the only warning they had before Jake barged into the room. He looked bad-raw blisters on his face, and bandages on his hands that wound up his arms and vanished into the sleeves of his filthy t-shirt. He still smelled of smoke and blood and he stopped to stand over the Doctor, snarling like an animal. "You."
The Doctor bounced to his feet, glaring at Jake. "Go on, say it," he said, practically snarling. "Whatever you're thinking, say it right to my face."
"Watson's dead," Jake announced; Grace appeared behind him, wearing hospital scrubs under her jacket. "So are three soldiers and fuck knows how many of those illegals. Some of them died in the ambulances. Some of them might die in the fucking hospitals. Some them might not be able to walk again, or got their fucking faces burnt off, and you want to know why?"
"Say it," the Doctor said, eyes wide and bloodshot.
"Because of your fucking ego!" Jake shouted. He made like he was going to leap forward, but Grace stopped him, seizing his shoulders with a hissed Jake! "Your fucking prima-donna nancing about, showing off for your fucking girlfriend instead of following a simple fucking plan!"
"I thought I had it in hand," the Doctor said, now red in the face.
Jake snorted. "Oh, yeah, always thinking, aren't you, Doctor? Such a smart one! You ever think about the fucking consequences? You think about how many people were depending on you to do one simple fucking thing? Or did you think the whole thing was already such a fucking mess you couldn't make it worse? Jesus fucking Christ--"
"Jake," Rose said, before he could go any further, though she didn't have the first idea what to say next.
Jake shook off Grace and turned his back on the Doctor, walking a step or two and clutching one arm to his chest like it was hurt worse worse than the other. "I'll say this, Mickey might not've had any fancy degree, but he had more brains in his head than this bastard, and I'd trade back in a fucking heartbeat."
He looked to Rose; they both did, Jake with a narrow scowl and the Doctor with clenched teeth and wounded eyes. Rose knew that she could step in here, take the blame, since she was the field commander. She could emphasize how much had gone wrong that was out of their control, how little they might've accomplished anyway since they hadn't accounted for the tunnels or the booby-trap. She could point out that Mickey had nothing to do with anything.
What she said was, "We're all too tired and too stressed to get anything more done tonight. Jake, get back to the hospital before you pass out--"
"You know what happened here, Rose," he snarled.
"We are not talking about this now," she said. "You are not talking about this until you get eight hours' sleep and a shot of morphine. Is that clear?"
Jake nodded, once, tightly, and let Grace steer him to the door with a frowning backwards glance at Rose. Tosh started to gather up her things into her bag. Rose stood aside and let them go, staring at her shoes. It was just her and the Doctor now, and she couldn't say anything more or worse than Jake had said, she just couldn't even if she had to; he had to know, though, she had to say something, and then she could take off her damn supervisor's hat and say the things he'd rather hear instead. And then he'd transfer out of her team like Pete had said and maybe they could try to be normal with each other again. She just had to find the words--
A shoulder bumped hers. She looked up with a snap just as the Doctor cleared the doorway. He walked with his shoulders hunched, like he'd been hit in the stomach, but he was walking as fast as his long legs could carry him, walking away from her.
She ended up crashing for a few hours at the pension, sleeping too heavily to dream. When she woke up in the morning she found the housekeeper cleaning out the Doctor's empty room. Fine. Maybe it was better this way. They could wait to have one hell of a Later.
The local fire department had come and gone, leaving the factory site a black and sodden mess. Druitt already had a unit on the scene, searching for bodies, and he gave Rose an underwhelmed look when she, Grace and Tosh arrived on the scene. "I've restricted the entire east side of the complex," he announced. "The heat's destabilized the tunnels and there's already been a cave-in."
"How many did you lose?" Rose asked, to get it out of the way now.
"Four," he said. "One died overnight in the hospital. Three others won't be able to return to service. We've confirmed twelve dead workers and who knows how many missing at this point."
"Tosh can help you, if you need another translator," Rose said. "Grace and I are going to inspect the admin building for anything that survived the fire."
"Where's the other fellow?" Druitt asked. "Noble?"
"He's returned to Cardiff," Rose said smoothly. After all, it wasn't like he had many other places to go.
The admin building was a loss, though; anything they might've once been able to recover from traces of documents and debris was gone, burned to ash or melted into the carpet or drenched and impossible to peel apart. "We've got document recovery people in Edinburgh," Grace said, looking dubiously at a stack of papers that had started to fuse together. "Maybe they can come up with something useful?"
"Maybe," Rose said. "Not sure it's worth the effort."
"Well, we won't know if we don't try," Grace said. Then she paused. "Did John really go back to Cardiff?"
"I can't deal with the Doctor right now," Rose said brusquely.
"He's your subordinate," Grace said. "You don't get a choice. Look, Jake wasn't in his right mind last night--"
"He was thinking clearer than I was," Rose said. "He has been all along. The Doctor screwed up here, Grace, and I let him, and now I have to figure out what to do about that, just...not now, okay? Give me a little time."
"Okay," Grace said quietly. She looked out one shattered window. "You know, if we got a ground radar unit, we could map the tunnels and figure out where the go. And where the hell they came from."
"Too late to catch the suspects, though," Rose said. "The trail will be stone cold by the time we trace the tunnel exit."
"It's worth trying," Grace said. "See what Mr. Winslow thinks."
Rose's phone started to ring, and when the screen said Winslow calling she snorted. "Speak of the devil." She took a step towards the window, crunching shards of glass, to improve her reception. "Prentice here."
"Good morning, Ms. Prentice," Winslow said with a deadly blandness. "Did you sleep well?"
"Not particularly, sir," Rose said, wincing.
"I can't imagine why," he said. "Unless it has something to do with the four-story-tall fireball visible outside Leeds last night, which is currently a lead story on the BBC and follows only the new climate legislation on CNN World News, France 24 and Channel One World."
"I wasn't aware the news had already spread so widely, sir," Rose said.
"Obviously not." There was a rustle of paper audible over the phone. "Nor, I presume, would you know anything about Dr. Noble's letter of resignation from Torchwood, which I am currently looking at."
For a moment, Rose's mouth went dry, and she shut her eyes. "Sir," she stammered, "as you've already guessed, the operation has failed. Mr. Simmonds is currently hospitalized in Leeds with burns on twenty percent of his body, but is expected to make a full recovery. Dr. Holloway, Ms. Sato and I are overseeing the closure of operations. Dr. Noble...has taken responsibility for the incident upon himself, and returned to Cardiff with my permission."
"I see," Winslow said. "How long will it take you to wrap up what you're doing there?"
"Two days," Rose answered, hardly thinking about it. "Follow-up can be delegated to Torchwood Two in cooperation with local police. The UNCF detachment needs to be processed back to their base, but Mr. Simmonds can be moved in..." She glanced at Grace, who mouths a day at her. "Can be moved by tomorrow, with Dr. Holloway's permission.'
"All right," Winslow said. "I expect you back in Cardiff bright and early on Monday morning to explain this. You personally, Ms. Prentice."
"Of course, sir," Rose said. "I'll be there."
She left Grace to pick through the ruins and returned to the city to tell Stratham about his new responsibilities-not to mention the two hundred odd illegal immigrants he would get to cope with when the interrogations were done. He gifted her with everything from Mike O'Connell's flat and office, a mess of documents she passed along to Grace because she didn't have the concentration to deal with it herself. Same with the disk of statements from workers that Druitt handed over when she arrived to sign off on the four KIA statements.
There was no Torchwood airship this time for transportation: she took the train, just like any other traveler, and had to settle for one departing late afternoon with a ridiculously long layover in Manchester. She had only one change of clothes that didn't smell like smoke and death, so she curled up in her seat and tried to think about how she was going to explain all this to Mr. Winslow.
The flat was dark when she got home. That barely registered as she walked up from the street, but when she walked inside to find it dark and faintly chilly something prickled in the back of her neck. "Doctor?" she called, setting her bags down by the door. She reached for the light switch and found a note stuck to it; it was the Doctor's handwriting, but meticulously clear, as if he he wanted to make certain she could read this one with perfect clarity.
You know how sometimes you get that great idea about something in the shower and then you're hopping around in a towel with shampoo in your eyes trying to write it down, or else you wait to get out and you've forgotten it all and you curse yourself?
I do my best thinking between one place and the next. I'm anywhere but here. I'll be back when I've got the answer.
She read it twice before it really started to sink in; heart sinking, she fumbled for her phone and hit the Doctor's number. A tinny electronic voice told her that his phone was switched off.
Rose dropped onto the nearest chair and took deep breaths, but there was nothing and no one to stop her crying.