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Wayward Son, Chapter 13: On the Other Side

There was something very surreal to the Doctor about walking the hallways of the alternate universe Torchwood.  With a few exceptions, Torchwood One in Pete’s World was laid out quite similarly to the Torchwood One in the old universe.  That is, when the old Torchwood One existed, it had been similar.  It had been closed down after the Battle of Canary Wharf while the Torchwood One of Pete’s World thrived.

Starting their tour at the lowest level of the facility, Pete took the Doctor and Jake first to the primary data center at the heart of Torchwood, on the third level below ground.  They had to pass through four security checkpoints along the way, the fourth in which the Doctor managed to set off an alarm when he passed through a portal.

“Uhm, Doctor?” queried Pete.  “Got something electronic in your pocket, by any chance?”

An innocent look of puzzlement on his face, the Doctor gingerly reached into his pocket and pulled out a sonic screwdriver.  “It’s just a sonic screwdriver,” he pouted, obviously hoping it wouldn’t be taken from him.

“Ah, and it incorporates alien tech, no doubt,” noted Pete with a crooked smile.  “Let’s leave that here for the moment, please.  We don’t allow anything within the area that could interfere with the sophisticated electronics in the data center.  That’s why they took your mobile, which I noticed you gave up voluntarily without a fuss.”

Hugging the device to his chest, the Doctor cradled it as if he were protecting his first born.  “This goes wherever I go,” he said stubbornly.  “No lack of mobiles on this planet, now is there?  My screwdriver is only one of two like it in this universe, and I can’t risk it going missing.”

“You have a point, but I can promise you that you’ll get it back, untouched and unharmed, as soon as we leave the data center, Doctor,” Pete tried to reassure him.

Eyes narrowed, the Doctor almost made a retort about how he couldn’t trust Torchwood with anything incorporating alien technology.  He thought better of it and reluctantly handed the screwdriver over to Pete, who smiled appreciably before giving it to the waiting security personnel.

“No one is to touch this, scan it, tamper with it, or remove it from the area or they’ll answer to me,” Pete pointedly told the guards.  “Understood?”

“Aye, sir,” the three guards answered solemnly. 

“Satisfied?” he asked the Doctor.

“No,” he answered truthfully.  “But I trust you, Pete.”  He gave Pete a look that clearly stated he was uncomfortable with the situation, but was relying on Pete to keep his word that the sonic screwdriver was safe.

Pete gave him a nod and led them into an area leading to multiple doors with card reader security pads.  Passing his Torchwood ID badge over one of the readers and keying in an eight-digit security PIN, Pete let them into one of the doors.  The Doctor couldn’t stop the hitch in his breath when he stepped through the door.

Rows upon rows of server racks extended beyond the curvature of the room into a dizzying landscape of blinking lights, wiring and cable.  A blast of cold air blew down each row, keeping the contents of the racks at optimal temperature.  The ceiling was a network of steel wire racks holding bundles of networking cable hanging like huge umbilical cords attached to each server rack below.  Banks of cabinets composed several of the rows, with the name CRAY© clearly visible vertically down the cabinet ends.

Whistling, the Doctor was clearly floored by what he saw.  It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen large data centers before, and certainly far less primitive ones, but he’d never anticipated a twenty-first Century Torchwood to have a set-up quite like this.

“This is the primary data center of three within Torchwood,” said Pete.  “The other two are in Torchwood Three in Cardiff and Torchwood Two in Glasgow.  Synchronization between all three data centers give us full redundancy and resiliency.  We could lose two data centers and still operate at peak efficiency.”

“Impressive,” he said quietly to Pete, who smiled proudly.  “Now I know why you took my sonic screwdriver away.  Although… I could easily increase the efficiency of the processors and RAM by…”

“And that’s why I took your sonic away,” interrupted Pete with a laugh.

Jake chucked, as well.  “Always tinkerin’, eh?  What else can ya do with your thingie?”

Hesitating a bit, the Doctor was apparently weighing out several inappropriate snappy answers when Pete started to guffaw.

“Don’t think he’s had much opportunity to use it yet, Jake.  Give him a little time.  I’m sure he’ll think of something!”  Deciding that now would be a good time to show the Doctor a few of the laboratories, Pete waved the men on to the next stop. 

The sonic screwdriver was retrieved and verified as unmolested before being safely ensconced back into a visibly relieved Doctor’s pocket.  They took a lift to the first level below ground where many of the Torchwood laboratories were located.  Pete couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer.

“So, Doctor,” he asked casually, “did you, by chance, nick the sonic screwdriver from the other Doctor?  Doesn’t seem like it’s something he’d just leave lying around.  And you really didn’t have much on you when you arrived.”

“Oi, Pete, I’m wounded!” exclaimed the Doctor.  “Of course, I didn’t nick anything from the other.  The TARDIS made two sonic screwdrivers just for me before I left.  Should always have a spare, you know.  Oh, and some parts for the new TARDIS.”  Looking a tiny bit guilty, he added, “…and perhaps a few other tchotchkes that, you know, he probably wouldn’t miss.  Portable Artron energy meter, timey-wimey detector, a couple of really cool yo-yo’s, wind-up mouse… stuff like that.”

“Where’d you hide that much stuff?” Pete asked with an incredulous expression on his face.

“Trans-dimensional pockets in the suit trousers I was wearing!” he grinned.  “Oh, and in the coat, too.  Should probably empty those out… but I’ll need a bigger closet.  Does Jackie really need that many shoes?”

Rolling his eyes, Pete opened the door to one of the research laboratories.  “Have I ever got someone for you to meet,” he sighed.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” chuckled Jake.

“No,” Pete admitted as he scanned the floor.  Several open laboratory rooms with equipment ran along the walls of a large open area with pods of consoles, not unlike a NASA control room.  His eye landed on a small owlish man with wire-rimmed round glasses who sat at an end console with five monitors, some of which were perched rather precariously.  He appeared to be early 40-ish in age and was wearing a white lab coat.  “Ah, there he is,” Pete muttered as he escorted the pair over.

“Hello, Dr. Taylor,” Pete said to the man, who barely looked up until he heard Pete’s voice.  The man leapt to his feet, almost knocking one of the monitors over onto the floor.  He rescued the monitor in time, only to knock his paper cup of tea over his desk full of papers.

“Oh, Mr. Tyler!  I’m so very sorry, I didn’t notice you coming in!” he yelped, a Welsh lilt apparent in his voice.

“Relax, Malcolm.  I’d like you to meet Dr. John Smith, a prospective Torchwood employee,” Pete said in introduction.  “Dr. Smith, this is Dr. Malcolm Taylor.  He’s with us on TDY assignment from UNIT.  Dr. Taylor is currently leading our Rift Energy Assessment project, analyzing data we’re getting in from Torchwood Three in Cardiff.”  He nodded to Jake.  “I believe you know Mr. Simmonds.”

Dr. Taylor nodded to Jake and shoved his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose.  “A pleasure to meet you, Dr. Smith,” the nerdy little man said meekly, his professorial looks reminding the Doctor of Mr. Peabody from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Whipping out a pair of horn-rimmed reading spectacles from his coat pocket, the Doctor squinted at several of Malcolm Taylor’s monitors, muttering softly to himself.  “Quite an interesting set-up you have here, Dr. Taylor,” he stated, not noticing Malcolm’s growing alarm.

“It’s ok,” Pete reassured Malcolm, placing a hand on his shoulder.  “Dr. Smith is a notable scientist with extensive experience in xeno-technology.  He’s completely trustworthy, or I would never have brought him here with me.  You may speak freely of your project with him.”

Jake gave a polite cough as Malcolm’s expression of alarm changed rapidly to one of excitement.  Pete caught on quickly.  “Uhm, perhaps over lunch, Malcolm?” he added.

“Lunch?” Malcolm asked, astonished.  No one ever asked him to lunch.  The crumbs in his keyboards and coffee stains on his desktop were ample evidence of his usual pattern of eating at his console.  His face broke into a wide smile.  “Oh, that would be grand!” he gushed.  “In the cafeteria?”

“Noon,” Pete confirmed.  “Dr. Smith should be suffering from sensory overload by then and ready for a break.”  He frowned as he scanned the other consoles.  “Where’s Hal?” he asked.

“Oh, Dr. Forbin went upstairs to the office for a meeting,” Malcolm told him.  “Should be back in about thirty minutes.”

“Dr. Hal Forbin is our chief astrophysicist and astrocartographer,” Pete said, turning to the Doctor.  “I’ll introduce you later.  Shall we go upstairs to some of the offices?”

They took their leave of Malcolm and got back on the lift to continue their tour.

“Pete, I couldn’t help but notice we skipped level B2.  Anything interesting there?” the Doctor asked.

“Storage and archives,” Pete said as he stared at the lift doors.  “You’ll get to see plenty of that if you decide to join us.  It’s a restricted area and requires the highest security access levels.”  His tone implied that he wasn’t willing to reveal the contents of Level B2 without a firm commitment from the Doctor.  Jake just smiled knowingly as the Doctor hummed.  Pete was an astute businessman and knew how to set the hook, he thought. 

It was obvious from the look in his eye that the Doctor was itching to use his sonic to access and explore the area.  “Don’t even think about it, Doctor,” Pete warned him without a trace of humor in his voice.  “I will take the bloody screwdriver away and you won’t be getting it back if you ever use it to bypass any of our security systems, understood?”

Guiltily, the Doctor feigned his most innocent wide-eyed look.  “Wouldn’t dream of it, Pete!” “Besides,” he said as he looked down at his feet, “you’re going to give me keycard access to that floor anyway, right?”

“If you behave,” he said as they stepped off the lift to the fifth floor.

The fifth above-ground floor consisted almost entirely of offices.  There were keycard readers next to each of the doors for security, but the front of each office was encased in a type of Plexiglas.  Quite a few of the personnel within the offices were occupied with meetings of some sort, either face-to-face, teleconference, or web-conference.  Occasionally, someone would wave to Pete as they passed by.  Even more people would rush out to clasp Jake by the hand or give him a tight hug.

“This is the floor for the Field Operations leaders,” Pete explained to the Doctor as Jake got side-tracked for the fifth time.  “More than a few of them have worked with Jake in the past.  He’s quite well thought of, as you can see.”

“So if divisions are separated by floor, on which floor are the researchers’ offices?” asked the Doctor.

“Next two floors,” Pete answered, pointing up.

They passed several darkened offices where no one sat, some clearly unoccupied and some locked and lights dimmed where the occupant wasn’t in that morning.  One in particular caught the Doctor’s eye because a rather familiar object sat on the corner of its desk:  On the right side of the desk sat a replica of an Atraxi ship about six inches in circumference.

“Blimey, where did they get that?” blurted the Doctor as he plastered himself to the Plexiglas trying to get a better look.  Pete was completely quiet, so he backed up to take a look at the name plaque next to the keypad.

Rose M. Tyler, Mobile Response Senior Leader

Special Investigations Unit (SIU)

He froze in place, staring at the nameplate as if he couldn’t decipher the wording on it, mouth moving as if to say something.  “That… that… that’s an Atraxi police cruiser,” he finally stammered out.

“Wandered through the Rift about a year ago,” Jake said.  “Ya know about ‘em?”

“Met ‘em once,” muttered the Doctor.  “Rather curt group, they are.  You know they could incinerate the entire planet with one ship, right?”

“They told us,” said Pete rather dryly.

“So what happened?  Was there just the one?”

“Just the one,” nodded Pete.  “Rose faced them down and convinced them to go back without much incident.  Apparently, they were looking for someone named ‘Prisoner Zero’ and took a wrong turn.”

The Doctor smiled gently, obvious pride shining in his eyes.  “Rose Tyler, Defender of the Earth.  Only she would go out and face down a flying giant eyeball threatening to burn your planet to a cinder.”

“Aye,” laughed Jake.  “Holdin’ a bad-arse Preacher gun.”

“Awwww, Jakie!  You had to go and ruin a fantastic mental image, hadn’t you?” frowned the Doctor.  “Where is she, by the way?” he asked as he turned to Pete.

“Sent her to Torchwood Three to bring back some detritus that fell through the Rift.  She’ll be a couple of days.”

“Ah,” he responded, a mixture of disappointment and relief evident in his voice.

“Shall we go upstairs, gentlemen?” Pete asked gently.  He had a ridiculous notion flit through his head that the Doctor might well camp outside Rose’s office until her return if he didn’t urge him on.

They took the stairway to the sixth floor, since it was quicker.  As Pete used his keycard to unlock the door, a young woman, about in her mid-30’s, burst through clutching a laptop in her arm and a pen lodged behind her right ear.

“Oh, so sorry about that, Pete!” she exclaimed, checking to make sure she hadn’t injured him while opening the door.

“Not a problem at all,” Pete said graciously.  “Actually, I was looking for you a little earlier.”  Turning to indicate the Doctor behind him, “I’d like to introduce you to a prospective employee, Dr. John Smith.  Dr. Smith, this is Dr. Hal Forbin, our Chief Astrophysicist and Astrocartographer.”

With his jaw dropping open, the Doctor just stared at Hal for a second before responding lamely, “You’re Hal?  Hal Forbin?  You’re a woman?”

“Yeah, last I checked” she said a little self-consciously, tucking a lock of honey-blond shoulder-length hair behind her other ear.  “It’s Halley Forbin, actually.  But everyone just calls me ‘Hal’ for short.”

“Oooooh.  Like the comet?” he laughed.  A trio of blank stares made him realize he’d forgotten he wasn’t in his universe.

“Halley’s comet?  Every 76 years?  No?”

“Halley had a comet named after him?” Hal asked, a bit confused.  She had a definite North American accent.  Most probably Mid-Western, the Doctor noted.  He thought he detected a tiny bit of a Chicago accent, so possibly Northern Illinois.  She was also quite petite, around five foot, two inches, if he were to hazard a guess.  She was dressed simply in dark jeans and a striped oxford, and he could tell she had a lean, boyish figure beneath a lab coat about one size too large.

“Oh, silly me,” the Doctor blurted with a barking laugh to cover his faux pas.  “I meant Edmond Halley, the scientist.  Guess I’d make a right lousy astrophysicist, eh?”

Pete nudged the Doctor with an elbow, turning slightly and mouthing the word ‘rude’ so that Hal couldn’t see him.

The Doctor jumped.  “Oh, I’m sorry!  I’m being rude,” he blurted again as he held out his hand.

Switching her laptop over to her left arm, she reached out to shake the proffered hand.  Almost immediately as they touched, she jumped and recoiled as if bitten.  Eyes wide, she stared at their hands for a second.

“I’m sorry… must have been a bit of static,” she said apologetically before stuffing her hand into her lab coat.

Staring back and forth between his hand and Hal Forbin, the Doctor noted that her dark sapphire blue eyes, so dark that they would probably be almost black in low light, had dilated momentarily after touching him.  He had felt the briefest of psychic connections to the researcher when they clasped hands, but almost immediately the mental doors had slammed shut.

Hhhhm.  That was no static shock, he mused.  Fairly powerful psychic ability for a human.  But where did she learn how to shield herself so completely and reflexively?  That’s a strictly learned response…

Hal, whose face had suddenly become unreadable and impassive, glanced at her watch.  “Oh dear, I must go.  I promised Malcolm I’d go over some energy signatures he is concerned about and see if I can locate where they originated.”

“Malcolm is joining us for lunch in the cafeteria,” Pete mentioned casually.  “Why don’t you join us, Hal?”

“Thanks, Pete, but I have a tonne of work to do, and I brought lunch with me to eat at my desk.”

“What have I told you about that, Hal,” Pete admonished.  “You eat almost all of your lunches at your desk.  Take a break,” he said, a stern tone indicated he expected her to show up.  “You can tell Dr. Smith about some of your current projects and keep Malcolm from hyperventilating.  He doesn’t leave his desk much, either.”

Raising an eyebrow in amusement, Hal nodded.  “True, he doesn’t,” she agreed.  “I guess neither of us has a life outside research.”  She turned back to the Doctor for a moment before walking down the stairs.  “It was a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Smith.”

“Likewise,” said the Doctor with one of his most charming smiles.  “And you can just call me ‘the Doctor’ instead.  Dr. Smith was what everyone called my father.”

Hal gave him another raised right eyebrow at that before disappearing down the staircase.

Hmmmm, put a couple of pointed ears on her, and you’d have a Vulcan, thought the Doctor as he watched her leave.  Please tell me she’s not a vegan!

His thoughts were interrupted by Pete’s soft swearing as he discovered they were trapped in the stairway.  “Bloody hell, we waited too long to go through the door and now my bloody badge doesn’t work.”  He stabbed the button on the keypad to call up Security, sighing.  “Let that be a lesson to you.  You have 20 seconds to clear the door, or it locks back and the system assumes you’re inside and won’t let you badge back into the same area.”

A few minutes later, they were on the sixth floor and perusing the office space there.  There seemed to be far less occupied offices compared to the floor below.  Pete pointed to a bank of four office spaces that had only one occupant.

“That’s Hal’s office,” he nodded to the one occupied office.  Its door was closed, but two offices to the left and one to the right were darkened and empty of anything except basic furnishings.  “If you decide to stay with us, you can have one of the three open offices near Hal.”

The Doctor wandered into the office to the left of Hal’s and walked around with his hands in his pockets.  He looked askance at the two opaque walls, and peered out of the large bay window to the back of the room.  He could see zeppelins in the sky over Canary Wharf and the city, and a decent view of the Thames.  Not a bad view at all, he thought.  If one had to have doors and windows, that is.  He appreciated the generous amount of bookshelves along one of the walls and below the window.  The desktop surface was ample enough to spread out maps, schematics or other large print-outs, so he couldn’t complain about that.

“What do you think, Doctor?” asked Pete.

“Could I have a larger white board?” he pointed out on the right wall where a five-by-five foot white board currently resided.  “I’d be lucky to write one formula on that thing.”

“Done,” said Pete.

“And how about a slightly longer sofa?” he said, nodding to the one along the glass wall.  “That one’s ok for someone five foot nothing, but I can hardly fit on that.”

Pete rolled his eyes.  “It’s for meetings, not kips.  But yeah, you can have a longer sofa.  Anything else?  Anything that’ll actually fit into the office, I might add?”

He frowned in concentration for a bit.  “Ooooh, a banana tree!” he chortled.

“What?  A what?”

“No, no, no, no, no, no, Pete.  Not a banana tree,” he said, holding his hands high in the air to indicate a live tree.  “I meant one of those wire thingies with a hook for you to hang your banana bunches as they ripen.”

Jake had disappeared into one of the other empty offices to stifle his laughter at the idea of a large banana plant growing in one of the Torchwood offices.  He was obviously not succeeding, as several people came down the corridor to find out what was so hilarious.

Pete sighed.  “Well, Hal,” he said quietly with a shake of his head.  “There goes the neighborhood.”

The Doctor (Ten II) gets a tour of the Torchwood One facilities. He meets a strange lady astrophysicist and astrocartographer who gives him quite a shock.

Title: Wayward Son - Chapter 13: On the Other Side

Characters: Jackie Tyler; Ten II; Pete Tyler; Tony Tyler; Original Character
Genre: Alternate Universe; Angst; Character Study; Het; Romance
Author's Description: Set mostly in the AU of Pete's World; TenII hits a big snag in his efforts to forge a new life with Rose and finds himself facing an unexpected identify crisis.
Length: WIP
Rating: Teen for slight swearing