One minute Jack was standing with his mother, staring at the alien on the screen in front of him, and the next he was in darkness. "Mum?" he called out, feeling out in front of him. "Doctor? Are you here? I'm afraid."
Hands reached his and grabbed at his arms, but they were not his mother's. They pulled him harshly to one side, and he felt hot breath against his scalp. A hand clamped against his mouth as he tried to scream. He swung his head back, and heard something snap. There was a pained snarl behind him and he felt pinpricks against his scalp.
There was a soft growl as a bright light flickered on. Jack's eyes adjusted quickly to see the Commander he'd seen on screen a few minutes before. Above him loomed another Shestich with its sharp teeth against his scalp. "Don't. Not yet," the Commander ordered. "The Doctor seemed very attached to this Half-Breed. We might need to use him if something goes wrong. Throw him in with tonight's dinner."
The other Shestich grumbled, pulling his teeth away from Jack's head. "It broke my nose," he hissed. "Can I return the favor?"
"No marks," the Commander said after a pause. "This makes me nervous—we will have to hurry things along. Tell them to start the countdown."
"It's not entirely ready, Sir—"
"Start it! Now! I've heard stories of the Doctor—we do not want to be here long enough for him to reach us."
"Yes, Sir," he nodded quickly. The Commander left, and the other Shestich glared at Jack.
The white claw smacked painfully into Jack's cheek, sending him to the ground. Jack gasped, grabbing his jaw. He had not really felt pain before, except for his headaches, and he didn't like it. It grabbed him from behind again and hauled him up, yanking him roughly out into a long hallway. It slapped tight handcuffs around his wrist and they dug into his skin.
"Mum?" he called again, still half-expecting Rose to pop out of one of the rooms in front of them. It didn't matter that she wasn't here yet—she would be. His mother would always find him, no matter where he was now.
The Doctor ran into the TARDIS, Rose following closely behind him with tears in her eyes. "Where is he?"
"We are going to find him," the Doctor promised, pulling a grate from the floor and grabbing at the tubing Rose had used before.
"Just tell me," she sobbed. "Where is he? What will they do to him?"
He stood and grabbed her shoulders softly. "They won't hurt him, not now. I am getting us onto that ship, it could take me a bit of time, but I swear we'll get there."
"What will they do to him?" she asked hollowly.
"He… he's so intelligent. They would try to eat him. It doesn't matter though, Rose, because it's not going to happen."
"I'm here," Captain Jack called from the doorway. "Anything I can help with, I'll be right here."
"Thank you," the Doctor nodded, striping open the tubing. He walked up to the TARDIS console, pressing his forehead against the cold metal. "Can you hear me? You can translate any language, wherever your passengers are. That means you form some kind of connection to them. Jack said he could hear you. If you can talk to him, please find him. Tell him we're coming. Tell him not to be scared."
The Doctor didn't hear the reply, but she did answer. Oh, yes, my thief. I will do all I can, but it will not help, in the end…
The Shestich pushed Jack into a small, grey cell. There were benches against the walls, and a small confusing electronic square against the fall wall. The light above him flickered and buzzed; without the use of his hands he quickly lost his footing and fell to the floor. Bars slid down between him and the rest of the ship and locked tightly.
Soft hands pulled him from the floor, and for just a moment he thought his mother had found him. When he looked up it was a woman he didn't recognize. She helped him into a sitting position, wiping a small trickle of blood off of his lip. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"My face hurts," he winced as she examined it. "Are you Toshiko?"
She let go of his face, moving away a bit. "How do you know my name?"
"Jack Harkness is looking for you. He asked my father for help. If my father's looking for you, then you're going to be found, he's good at what he does. This is my job, too, to help everyone. We'll get you back to Earth."
"That won't do any good," she said, shaking a bit. "Earth is no safer than this ship."
"They're planning something," she said, dropping to a whisper. "I think it's happening soon."
"I don't know the mechanics of it, but they keep saying that the time is coming. The Earth is in danger, nowhere is safe. I'm sorry, there's nothing your father can do."
"You haven't met him," Jack smiled a bit. "If the Earth is in danger, he'll save it. And if I'm in danger, my mother will save me."
They will try… The TARDIS's familiar voice whispered in his head. They will work so hard to reach you, but Sweet Child, they will not get here in time. There are great things in your future, so close, so close. When the time comes you must be willing, save your home, save them all.
Jack frowned. The TARDIS would not lie to him. His parents would not be here in time, whatever that meant. He thought of Gallifrey, that beautiful place he'd seen in his mind, and the fact that he would never get to see it. It had been his father's home, but now he could never go back. Would that happen to the Earth? Would his Mum lose her home, and complete their trio of homeless wanderers?
The small square on the far wall beeped loudly. Jack struggled to his feet and peered at the square. "What is this?"
"I think it's a connection to the security system, it keeps the doors locked. I was able to send a message through it, but I don't have the access codes to open the doors. Oh here, let me get those for you," she said, pulling a pin from her hair and working the handcuffs off of his wrists.
"You, a little human from Earth, you sent a message that far with a cellphone and a tiny little computer? You are good," he grinned at her.
"Aliens," she shivered a bit, "I'm still having a bit of trouble believing this is not all some horrible dream."
"Alien, I've heard that word before. What exactly does that mean?" he asked.
She stared at him as though he'd grown another head. "It means someone who's not from Earth."
"Oh, I'm part alien!" he said happily, wiggling his fingers. "The Doctor's not from Earth, he's just put a lot of work into it. Mum is, though."
Toshiko sighed, rubbing her forehead. "You seem nice enough, whatever you are."
"Jack Tyler," he grinned, shaking her hand.
"Where are you from then, Jack?" she asked. "Where's home for you?"
He got very quiet, looking at his fingernails a moment. He didn't answer her.
The Doctor was deep under the TARDIS floorboards, digging through the wires and engine pieces.
"Doctor," Captain Jack asked, "are you looking for something?"
"We can't break through the cloaking technology automatically, but if I set it up manually and send us straight at the ship, we should be able to get in."
There was a whining sound and they both paused. Rose hopped up from the pilot's bench on the other side of the room. "It's Jack!" she pulled the screen around the console, showing them a picture of him the TARDIS had pulled up.
"She's giving us a message," the Doctor smiled, patting the floor around him. "He's alive, and he's safe for now."
"How long?" Rose asked for the twelfth time in ten minutes.
"I'm going as fast as I can," he promised.
"Please hurry," she said softly, not looking at the Doctor. "I just hope he's somewhere comfortable. Please don't be scared, Jack."
There was a rolling growl outside of their cell. Jack and Toshiko looked up to see a grinning Shestich outside the bars, looking at Jack with narrow eyes.
"Well, don't you smell interesting?" it said snidely.
"I'm not really sure," Jack said sniffing his own hand. "No, not really." He dropped his voice down to a whisper and leaned towards Toshiko. "I have a question."
"Um…Okay," she nodded.
"I'm not entirely sure how this whole saving-the-day thing works yet, so bear with me. The Earth is in danger, right?"
"And that is a bad thing, right?"
"So, if there's something I can do to stop it, I have to try as hard as I can to do that, right?"
"Does that mean it's okay to violent if I need to? I know you shouldn't be as a rule but…"
"Yes, you can be violent if it helps. Why are you asking permission?"
"The Doctor's not going to be happy about this," Jack said hesitantly. He popped to his feet and ran to the door, waving at the guard with a friendly smile. "Hello, there, my name is Jack Tyler."
It glared at him condescendingly. "So?"
"So, I've decided something. I was born on Earth, my Mum was born on Earth, my Gran lives on Earth, and my father's planet was destroyed a long time ago. Therefore, weighing it all out, I'm an Earthling. Earth is my home. As an Earthling, I would like you to all go away and leave my planet alone."
It laughed at him. "What?"
"Oh, sorry, please go away and leave my planet alone. My father says everyone gets a chance. I'm giving you a chance."
"Who are you to give me a chance?" it spat.
Jack's smile disappeared, and his eyes darkened slightly. "I'm Jack Alonso Tyler, son of the Doctor of Gallifrey, and the Bad Wolf of Earth. I am a half Time Lord, half Human, born in the TARDIS. Earth is my home and I will do whatever it takes to protect it, that's what my family does, we help people. But only nice people. And you're not nice."
Jack's hand shot out from the bar, grabbed the Shestich's head, and pulled it roughly against the hard bars. The alien collapsed, falling silently to a heap in front of the cell. Jack reached through the bars and felt at the being's clothes, pulling a small card with barcodes on it out of its pocket.
"So sorry," he said, patting the thing on the cheek, "but I did give you a chance. Was that too hard Toshiko?"
She was staring at him, mouth slightly agape. "Um, no, that was a good thing. A very good thing."
Jack hopped over to the little electronic square, scanning the barcode over it. The bars to their cell slid up, and he took Toshiko's hand. "Allons-y! Let's go save the Earth."
He pulled her out of the cell and they crept silently down the hallway, making as little noise as possible.
"Doctor, the screen is saying something!" Rose called.
The Doctor handed Jack what he was working on and jumped out of the floor, rushing to her. A countdown of some kind had popped up on the screen, the seconds ticking by far too quickly.
"No, no, no!" the Doctor yelled, kicking the side of the console in anger. "Ah, one impossible thing at a time, please!"
"What is it?"
"The TARDIS is trying to help, she's copying one of the Shestich transmissions. They've started their countdown to their plan, we have barely ten minutes to stop them, we still don't know exactly what they're doing, they still have Toshiko, they still have Jack, and now I've hurt my foot," he growled, rubbing the side of his face.
The timer ticked away. 10:13, 10:12, 10:11…
"In here," Toshiko whispered, slipping into a dark room.
Jack followed her, and she fumbled around for a light switch. She stumbled forward, and she found a small pedestal with a round globe at the top. She pressed down on it slightly, and the lights came blaring on. The chamber was wide, as long as four airplane hangars, There were tiles all over the vast floor, each one shimmering a bit in the light.
"Where are we?" Jack asked.
"Oh, I think I've heard them talking about this place—the arrival room. If we want to stop them we should start in here."
"What's an arrival room?" Jack asked.
The globe on the pedestal lit up. Information: Arrival Room number 245. One of many destinations into which the cattle will be transferred.
Toshiko shuddered. "I'm guessing cattle doesn't mean cows."
Information: Cattle specification: 5,927,657,267 Human Beings of Planet Earth. Time until mass teleportation: 5 minutes.
"All of them," Toshiko said softly. "They're going to transfer every human on Earth onto this machine."
Jack pulled a button off of his sleeve and tossed it onto one of the shimmering tiles. There was a shock of electricity, and the button shot off the floor, smoking. "They're electrified," he said. "They're going to teleport and kill every human on Earth and keep them on this ship. A food silo." He turned to the globe. "Can we stop it? Can we stop the countdown?"
Information: Countdown cannot be ended at this time. Sorry for the inconvenience. 4:27 until mass teleportation.
"No!" Jack said, smacking against the globe. "We have to do something."
Toshiko went to the door, but immediately shrank away from it. "There's something out there. I think there's three of them in the hallway. We're trapped."
"No!" Jack whispered harshly, covering his face. This was it, the Earth was over. He sank to the floor, covering his face. Gran was on Earth. Unless she was in the TARDIS, his mother could be there, too. "Please, Doctor," he whispered, "where are you? We need your help."
The TARDIS's words echoed in his ears. They will be too late.
"Maybe your father is on the way, if he's as good as you say he is," Toshiko whispered, pressing a comforting hand on his back.
"No, he's not. He's trying, I'm sure he's trying, but he'll never make it in time," he sobbed a bit. "The Earth is going to be destroyed and it's my fault."
"Your fault?" Toshiko asked, looking at him in confusion. "How is it your fault?"
"I was born," he said sadly. "I distracted him. Without me, the Doctor would have seen a pattern months ago, and he would have stopped the Shestich before they were even in orbit. That's why it's my job to fix this. That's why I want to help. This planet is doomed because of me, and I'm too dumb to fix it!"
"You certainly don't seem dumb to me," she said, "maybe just a bit inexperienced. How old are you, fifteen, sixteen?"
"About a day," he said quietly. "I've only been in the universe a day and I've already destroyed a planet. That woman at the Shadow Proclamation was right about me. Mum and the Doctor should have known better than to let me live. I'm dangerous."
Toshiko blinked, sure she had heard his age wrong. "Well, you don't look dangerous. Except maybe to that guard you knocked out."
"We're all dangerous, that's what she said. Half-Breeds, or at least Half-Time Lords, we are all ticking time bombs because we're too intelligent—" he stopped, looking up suddenly. "But I'm not. I'm protected by a wall in my mind."
"A wall?" Toshiko asked, raising an eyebrow.
"My father lived, and his whole planet died," Jack said, looking at her, "but I think, really, shouldn't it be the other way around? Should you let one person live if it destroys an entire planet in the process?"
"What are you talking about?" she asked, brushing back his hair softly.
"I can do it. I can save the Earth," he took her hand, squeezing it gently. "It was nice to meet you, Toshiko."
He closed his eyes, and with a bit of effort he could see it. There was the wall. It was massive and strained, bowing it bit outwards, trying to fight against the inborn intelligence it hid from him. He took a deep breath, bracing himself. Jack shattered the wall into pieces.
He gasped, grabbing at his forehead in pain, trying not to scream and give away their position. Thoughts raced through his mind, thoughts that were not his own, thoughts from millennia of Time Lord civilization. He saw all of it, time and space, things that must be, things which must not be.
It was magnificent.
It was horrible.
He gasped, his eyes alight with new knowledge, a grin spreading across his pained face. "Not a good day too be a bad guy."