Chapter 3: Fruit Salad, with a Dash of Nanogenes
Summary: Jack and Ianto are confronted with a whole new range of challenges as they try to run the newly restored Torchwood in a way that the Doctor would be proud of.
Rating: T/borderline M
Warnings: References to past torture and abuse, ongoing symptoms of PTSD.
Seeing the Hub for the first time was truly an awesome experience for Toshiko. As the invisible lift carried them down, she couldn’t help but ogle all of the various pieces of tech that she could see. When she was shown her new computer, she nearly wept.
“First priority,” Jack told her. “Get our security systems up to scratch. I know UNIT have wormed their way into our mainframe, and have been keeping tabs on us. I want them out. I want the only way they can find out what we’re doing to be by picking up the phone and asking. I don’t want anyone to be about to break through our security, except the Doctor.”
Tosh looked up at Jack uncertainly.
“I may need to hack into UNIT’s system to make sure they can’t get back in.”
Impulsively, Jack leaned down and kissed her forehead.
“My brilliant Toshiko, you do whatever you have to. I trust you not to do anything that you shouldn’t.” He then flashed both her and Ianto a wicked grin. “At least, not without letting me in on it first.”
“Jack!” Ianto chided him lightly, and Jack shrugged.
“I’m not suggesting anything crippling. Maybe just a little virus… You know, to keep them on their toes.”
“Ignore him, Tosh,” Ianto told her. “He’s still re-learning the concept of cooperation.”
Tosh took in Jack’s pout, and patted his hand.
“Maybe next time, if you’re good.”
Jack laughed aloud and bounded away back to his office, leaving Tosh and Ianto alone together.
“He loves you already, Toshiko Sato,” Ianto told her warmly. “And so do I.”
She blushed fiercely.
“You’ve only just met me.”
Ianto laid his hand lightly over hers.
“You make him laugh, Tosh. You put a smile on his face. You have no idea how special that makes you.”
She returned his smile with a shy one of her own.
“I just hope I don’t disappoint you. Either of you.”
Two weeks later, Tosh was still adjusting to her new freedom. Jack and Ianto had given her so much latitude that if she had been so inclined, she could have set up a new identity and fled. With the technology available to her, they would never have found her. Their trust in her was so absolute, though, that she never even considered it.
She smiled faintly to herself as she waited for their lunches – fresh baguettes for all of them, and a tub of fruit salad for Jack. A week ago, she had picked up a tub for herself on a whim, and Jack had ended up devouring most of it with an enthusiasm that was almost frightening.
Every day afterwards, Jack had begged for fruit salad with his lunch, much to Tosh’s amusement. Only that morning had Ianto finally explained, and told her the story behind Jack’s love of fresh fruit. It had nearly reduced her to tears all over again. The food that she’d been given whilst loved up in the UNIT facility had at least been somewhat palatable, and she and the other prisoners had been allowed to eat whilst sitting at a table in a designated (if heavily guarded) room. She couldn’t comprehend being expected to eat slop out of a bowl like a dog.
The more she learnt of Jack’s dehumanising treatment, the more she respected him for his strength in recovering.
Someone came to stand beside her, and bumped her roughly in the process. She looked at the offending individual with a disapproving frown, only to gasp in fright. General Fischer himself stood there, smiling down at her unpleasantly. He was dressed in civilian clothes, probably to avoid attracting attention.
“Miss Sato,” he greeted her in a pleasant tone that made her want to cringe. She had only met the man once before, but that one time was more than enough to know that he was anything but pleasant.
“What do you want?” she demanded, trying to inject some semblance of authority into her voice. “You can’t take me back to that place...”
“Oh, I don’t intend to try, my dear. No, the truth is that you’re much more valuable to me now right where you are.”
Fright quickly began to make way for suspicion.
“What do you want?” she asked again, tensely. He motioned to the counter, where the young woman at the register was trying to get her attention.
“Collect your order, and then we’ll talk. And believe me when I tell you that it’s in your best interests to hear me out.”
Tosh collected the food, and meekly followed Fischer to a corner table.
“I don’t know how much you know about Harkness...”
“I know enough,” Tosh retorted. “He hasn’t kept anything from me.”
Fischer regarded her amusedly.
“Then you should be aware that he’s a freak who should be locked up.
Anger flared through Tosh, and she pushed her fear away to defend her new boss.
“Don’t call him that! He’s a good man...”
“He is a freak,” Fischer repeated caustically, “and he never should have been given control of Torchwood. He should have been handed over to UNIT so that we could contain him, and perhaps eventually learn from him.”
“Experiment on him, you mean,” Tosh snapped. Again, Fischer looked amused.
“If you want to be crude, then yes.”
Tosh stood up abruptly. She’d heard enough.
“I don’t have to listen to you. I’m going.”
“How is your brother, Miss Sato?”
Tosh froze, staring at him in growing dread.
“What about him?”
“Were you aware he’s just obtained an internship with UNIT in Japan? General Takoma is a close friend of mine, you know. He’s the UNIT Chief of Japan. One word from me, and he might just arrange for little Keijii to get a rapid promotion from intern to lab rat. Did you know the experimental facility in Osaka has quite a high mortality rate? Something tells me that your little brother wouldn’t last long at all.”
“You bastard,” Tosh whispered. “What do you want from me?”
Fischer set a small vial on the table that was filled with a clear liquid. As Tosh peered at it, it seemed to her that it was almost glowing.
“I want you to add this to Harkness’s food. Don’t worry, it won’t be fatal... Well, at least, not permanently. It’s just a little project that my personal department has been working on. We want to test its effect of humans, but my superiors won’t agree to human trials yet. Harkness is the perfect candidate for a little off-the-records test.”
“But how will you even know what it does?” Tosh wondered. She was ashamed to confess that she was curious, despite the circumstances.
“Nanobots,” Fischer told her, sounding perversely like a proud parent. “UNIT salvaged them from an incident in London during World War II, apparently. Ingenious little things. They’ll transmit all the data directly back to us. All you have to do is put it in his food, and little Keijii will be fine.”
Tosh glared at him.
“You mean, until the next time you want me to betray Jack.”
Fischer smiled unpleasantly.
“You are going to be my own personal little Torchwood spy, Toshiko Sato. You wanted to play at espionage? Well, now you can do it for UNIT. And if you be a good little girl, and do everything you’re told, then your brother will stay safe, and you’ll have a cosy job waiting for you at UNIT when Harkness and Jones eventually figure it out. You refuse, and I will make your life a living hell. Do you understand me?”
When she said nothing, Fischer smirked and lifted the lid on the fruit salad. He poured the contents of the vial in and carefully replaced the lid.
“Now, be a good girl and take your boss his lunch.”
All noise in the cafe ceased momentarily at the sharp sound of flesh striking flesh as Fischer slapped Toshiko across the face.
“Language, Miss Sato. You don’t ever speak to me like that. Now, go. And remember, your brother’s life depends on you.”
She went with tears in her eyes and fury in her heart.
Long before she reached the tourist office that was the front for the Torchwood base, Tosh knew she could not betray her boss. Despite Fischer’s threats towards her brother, she couldn’t do it. Fischer claimed to hold Keijii’s fate in his hands, but she trusted Jack to be able to save him.
She hurried into the Hub, and had no problem spotting Jack. It seemed he had been waiting for her – or, more likely, waiting for his fruit salad. He bounded towards her with a big grin, and eager eyes and hands.
“Jack, no!” Tosh burst out anxiously. “You can’t eat this!”
He halted in front of her, and for an insane moment, she thought he was actually going to cry.
“Why not? Do we have to wait for Ianto? But I’m hungry, Tosh!”
He started to reach for the fruit salad again, only to have his hands slapped away.
“Jack, I said no!” Tosh told him sternly. “Now, where’s Ianto?”
“Right here,” Ianto spoke up as he emerged from the lower levels. She guessed he’d been downstairs either working in the archives, or perhaps seeing to the welfare of their one resident weevil. It was impossible to tell with Ianto, given that he always managed to look immaculate, regardless of what he’d been doing. “What’s going on?”
“Tosh won’t give me my fruit salad, Ianto,” Jack complained. Ianto rolled his eyes.
“Honestly, Jack, you’re not ten. Stop pouting. Toshiko, what’s wrong?”
“I ran into General Fischer from UNIT,” she told them, and was gratified to note that she had their sudden and undivided attention. “He put what I think is some sort of poison into the fruit salad, and told me that I had to give it to Jack or...”
“Or what?” Ianto pressed. Toshiko blinked back tears.
“He threatened to have my brother Keijii killed.”
Silence enveloped them, and for several long seconds, Ianto and Jack simply stared at each other.
“That scheming son of a bitch,” Ianto said finally in a cold, angry voice. Jack turned his attention to Tosh.
“You could have just let me eat it. I wouldn’t have known.”
“But I would have,” she answered. “You gave me a second chance, Jack. I won’t betray you.”
She abruptly found herself wrapped up in a fierce hug.
“Thankyou, my beautiful Toshiko. I won’t you let down now, I promise.”
“Jack, what are you going to do?” Ianto asked. Jack pointed to his office.
“I want you to get on the phone to the Brigadier. Tell him that he needs to get Keijii Sato transferred out of Japan immediately. Tell him that I’ll explain later. As if General Anderson would be willing to take him in for the time being. And Tosh? Did Fischer tell you anything about the poison?”
“Not really,” Tosh admitted. “He didn’t even say it was a poison, actually. I just assumed it was. But he did say there were nanobots in it.”
“That’s what he called them. He said they were salvaged after an incident in World War II, in London.”
Jack paled just fractionally.
“That stupid son of a bitch. He can’t possibly have any idea what it is that he’s messing with.”
“I don’t understand,” Tosh confessed. “Fischer said that all they were for was to send data back to UNIT.”
“For starters, they’re called nanogenes, not nanobots,” Jack explained. “Secondly, they do much more than just transmit. Even if UNIT think they’ve figured out how to program them, the little guys in here could still literally do anything. We need to find out as much as we can about what Fischer wanted you to give me.”
Panic flooded Tosh’s face as she misinterpreted Jack’s intentions, and she snatched the tainted tub of fruit salad off the desk.
“No! Jack, don’t you dare! You are not eating any of this!”
Jack stared at her, wide-eyed, before smiling gently.
“You really are brilliant, my beautiful Toshiko. Don’t worry, I have no intention of using myself as a guinea pig, I promise.”
It was obvious from the look on her face that she didn’t believe him, not to mention the tight hold she kept on the fruit salad.
“Then how are you going to find out?”
“I’m going to call a friend of mine.”
It wasn’t until Jack had walked away that it finally occurred to Toshiko that he was talking about the Doctor, and once it did, she honestly didn’t know whether to be excited or afraid.
“I’m going to call the Doctor.”
Ianto looked up from where he sat at Jack’s desk, mild surprise on his face that soon faded into understanding. It hadn’t escaped his attention, either, that Jack had not openly asked for his approval, but had simply stated what he was going to do.
“I think that’s probably a very wise thing to do,” Ianto said finally. “The fact that Fischer is going to these lengths is a big concern. We need the support. You’re making the right decision.”
Jack walked over and Ianto automatically vacated the Captain’s chair to allow him to sit down.
“Toshiko thought I was going to actually eat it, even after I knew it had been poisoned. She really thought I was going to do that… Ianto, do I really come over as being like that?”
Ianto sat carefully on the edge of the desk.
“Like what? Suicidal?”
“No, you don’t. I do wonder, though, what you might have been like if you hadn’t ended up as Torchwood’s prisoner. I wonder what sort of a man you would have turned out to be if you’d been left to your own devices.”
A bitter look flickered across Jack’s face.
“Free to wander around for over a hundred years, not knowing what had happened to me, why I couldn’t die, and thousands of years trapped outside of my own time? It’s crossed my mind, too.”
“You haven’t completely forgiven him for abandoning you, have you?” Ianto asked softly. Jack’s hand snaked slowly across the desk, towards the toy dog, only to pull back at the last moment. His hands itched to hold the toy, and cuddle it to his chest, but that was not something that the leader of a secret organisation should be seen doing. He drew his hand back and instead settled for playing with a paperclip. It was a poor substitute.
“I’ve forgiven him,” Jack answered finally. He carefully avoided meeting Ianto’s gaze, not wanting to see the sympathy that he knew would be in the younger man’s eyes. “I forgave both of them.”
“The Doctor… and Rose?”
Jack shook his head, quick to answer Ianto’s audible confusion.
“No. The Doctor and the TARDIS. Rose wasn’t at fault… Not like that. She didn’t abandon me, and I think that if she’d known for sure that I was still alive, she would have made the Doctor go back for me.”
“She told me she wanted to give him one hell of a slap when he admitted he’d left you behind on purpose,” Ianto mused. “But apparently Jackie beat her to it.”
“She told me that, too. I don’t know if she thought it might make me feel any better about it.” He sighed a little. “I’ve forgiven them for leaving me behind, and not coming back, but I won’t ever be able to forget.”
Ianto reached across and laid his hand over Jack’s, stroking his thumb soothingly over Jack’s skin.
“No one ever forgets being left behind, but I’m glad you were able to forgive them. That’s important. Now, I spoke to the Brigadier,” the young man went on, and Jack quickly became the picture of seriousness once more, quietly grateful for the change of subject. “He said Keijii Sato will be safely out of Japan within the hour, and that General Anderson will have no problems giving him refuge. As for other family, there’s only her grandfather and a couple of uncles. She’s not especially close to them, though. Keijii was his best leverage.”
“She chose us,” Jack murmured, watching Toshiko discreetly where she sat at her desk on the other side of the Hub. “She didn’t know if we could or would guarantee her brother’s safety, but she trusted us anyway.”
“You were willing to take a chance on her,” Ianto reminded him. “She’s just returning the favour.”
Within a couple of hours, Jack was enthusiastically introducing Toshiko to the Doctor, who greeted her with equal head-spinning enthusiasm. Rose was not with him, and when Jack inquired as to her whereabouts, all the Doctor would say was that she had gone shopping with a new friend, and that he had promised to meet them in a couple of hours’ time. Then, when Jack and Ianto explained the situation, he favoured Tosh with a look of utter respect.
“You’re a brave woman, Toshiko Sato, and believe me when I say that you’ve trusted the right people.”
Tosh smiled warmly at Jack and Ianto.
The Doctor rubbed his hands together, looking positively gleeful for a moment.
“Right, then. How do we deal with the soon-to-be demoted General Fischer?”
“I have an idea, actually,” Jack spoke up. “As long as you can watch and listen from the TARDIS...?”
The Doctor snorted loudly.
“Child’s play, Captain. Now, let’s hear this idea of yours.”
General Fischer was lounging comfortably in the back of his car when his mobile phone rang. Frowning at both the interruption and the unidentified caller, Fischer reluctantly answered.
“You’ve got balls, Fischer. I’ll give you that.”
For a brief instant, Fischer nearly panicked. Then, his arrogance took over once more and he smirked into his phone.
“Harkness. I take it from this phone call that little Toshiko chose not to do as I asked. Makes me wonder just what you’ve done for her... or to her to convince her to choose your life over her brother’s.”
He expected a rise from Jack at the thinly veiled suggestion, and was more than a little perturbed that it didn’t happen.
“So you did threaten Keijii.”
“Not in any way that you or she could prove. And as I’m sure you’re recording this conversation, I’d strongly advise against using it. Keijii could still have an unfortunate accident.”
“Keijii Sato,” Jack said tersely, “is sitting in a private jet right at this moment, en route to the United States. General Anderson has agreed to take him. You can’t touch him, Fischer.”
“You interfering bastard, Harkness.”
“Language, General. You never know who might be listening in. Now, you’re going to agree to meet with me, and we are going to sit down and discuss this like gentlemen.”
“Only one of us is a gentleman, Harkness.”
“I know that, but I am at least trying to be polite here. Now, where are you?”
Fischer scowled. He had a sneaking suspicion that the Torchwood Captain already knew exactly where he was.
“Still in Cardiff,” he admitted sourly.
“Good. Be at the Dragon’s Head Inn in one hour.”
“Where the hell is that?”
“You have GPS in that fancy car of yours, don’t you?”
“Well, yes, but...”
“Then tell your driver to use it. Be there, and don’t be late.”
to be continued....