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Wayward Son, Chapter 14: Can I Tell You

After meeting a few more personnel on several floors, Pete decided to give the Doctor and Jake a break from the Torchwood tour at 11:00 am. Jake was temporarily released until noon, when he was to meet Pete, Malcolm, Hal and the Doctor for lunch in the Torchwood cafeteria. Taking the Doctor back to his office on the 25th floor, Pete fell into his comfy leather chair. Waving the Doctor into a seat, he opened a drawer in his desk and produced two whiskey glasses into which he splashed a generous helping of scotch.

“So, what do you think so far?” he inquired as he handed the Doctor one of the glasses.

“You drink in your office?” he asked with a slight frown, peering back at the door as if expecting someone to burst in at any second.

“Wouldn’t set foot in this place if I didn’t have scotch hidden somewhere,” said Pete matter-of-factly.

“And it’s not even noon, Pete,” groused the Doctor who, nevertheless, sipped his scotch as if it were.

“It’s noon somewhere,” Pete said with a sly grin.

“Awww, and here I was, thinking you didn’t get the concept of ‘timey-wimey,’” the Doctor ribbed him.

“And here I was,” Pete said only slightly more seriously, “beginning to think that Time Lords were a bunch of puritanical pontificators.”

Clearing his throat, the Doctor lost his smile. “They were a bunch of puritanical pontificators in many respects,” he said softly. “Has there been any indication of Time Lords in this universe, Pete?”

“Just anecdotal. Folklore, really, and subject to misinterpretation. Any technologically advanced alien culture might seem like Time Lords to the unsophisticated. We’re hoping you can help us divide the wheat from the chaff.”

“I could do that,” he said, rolling his glass between the palms of his hands. “But what assurance do I have that I wouldn’t be the one being studied… or dissected?”

“Well, first of all, you have my word that nothing official could ever happen to you at Torchwood as long as I’m leading it. You will have my full protection and I’ll spread the word that you’re my god-son, if necessary. Second, I would consider dissemination of information on your true nature to be on a need-to-know basis only. Finally… can you imagine what would happen to me if I came back home without you one day?”

The Doctor’s smile ghosted back at the last, but he was still obviously troubled. “Pete, what about those who don’t fall under your or Jackie’s protection? Are there any non-humans, perhaps, employed by Torchwood?”

“What do you mean,” Pete asked, concerned now.

“What do you know of Halley Forbin?” asked the Doctor cagily.

“Well,” Pete said as he thought, “she’s quite brilliant, possibly our most brilliant scientist. Could easily give you a run for your money in that department. Three PhD’s from top schools in the States, all with top honours; one from the University of Illinois, one from Caltech and another from Arizona State University. Quite the loner, though. She’s been a dedicated, hard-working, top-flight employee for the past five years. All of her credentials and background checks pass muster, if that’s what you mean. Don’t tell me you suspect she’s not human. Her genetics test didn’t indicate anything particularly odd, except she has a lot of rather rare mutations and a few no-calls.”

“No-calls?” he asked, curious.

“Errors in sequencing that show up as unidentifiable. Could well be the sequencer’s fault or how the sample was handled,” explained Pete.

“I suspect she is an extremely potent telepath. One of the strongest I’ve ever encountered.”

Pete shook his head. “We have other telepaths in Torchwood’s employ, but they’re all human. We hire them specifically because of their psi ratings.”

“Not like this one,” the Time Lord insisted. “And she is not merely a strong telepath, but she has incredibly sophisticated mental shielding capabilities that no one from the twenty-first century should possess without instruction from a member of an extra-terrestrial telepathic race. I could teach a human with psychic capabilities the techniques, but I’ve never seen one who developed the skills on their own.”

“So, what you’re telling me, Doctor, is that out of all the interesting and other-worldly things you could do at Torchwood Tower,” Pete said with a smile, “you want to come here to study Hal Forbin and find out if she’s an alien?”

“Uh, no?!?” the Doctor said, horrified. “Did I say that?”

“Just wonderin’ what Jackie’ll do when she hears that!”

“You wouldn’t! Don’t you dare… don’t you dare say any such thing, Pete!” the Doctor gasped, eyes wide. “You know she wants me to start dating other women, right?”

Pete chuckled evilly. “Oh, I do think I have the perfect blackmail now.” Reaching to a table behind him, he brought out a thick folder marked with the name of John N. Smith on the label.

He placed a document from the top of the folder in front of the Doctor. “This is a document detailing your sign-on bonus. Once you’ve finished the contract, sign it and I’ll have it deposited into your bank account.”

“Pete?” asked the Doctor meekly. “There are an awful lot of zeds on the end of that number. I don’t know much about money, but isn’t that about a year’s salary?”

“Roughly,” he nodded. “Torchwood pays well. Once you sign it and the contract, you’ll immediately begin a six-week provisional employment period. Even if you terminate anytime during the six weeks, the bonus is yours to keep. There are also documents related to your background story that you need to memorize. Most of what is there is familiar to you, including your degrees from the University of Edinburgh and cover story of how you are my god-son who came to live with us. The rest of the paperwork you’ll need when you visit Security for your new badge. I’ll take care of the paperwork for HR, you only need to sign it.”

“HR… Human Resources?” he gulped.

“Yeah. Were I to actually suspect any alien infiltrators, I would start looking there,” Pete joked. “Be glad I’m taking care of them on your behalf. You can leave the paperwork here until after we finish lunch. Jake should return any minute. And Doctor?”

He looked up, having paled a bit at the unspeakable thought of moving one step closer to a house with windows, doors, carpet and a mortgage. “Yes?” he choked.

“No harassing Hal, understood? She’s one of my best employees, and she is fiercely protective of her privacy. She seldom socializes with other employees, and she only attends Torchwood social functions if they’re mandatory. I have no idea what she does in her free time, and I’m not interested in finding out. If you can get her to open up and talk to you, fine. But no prying for dirt.”

“So, what if I very cleverly and stealthily scan her with my sonic screwdriver?”

“We have a fully-equipped infirmary. I’m sure the medics will be quite adept at removing it from whatever orifice she stuffs it into,” quipped Pete.

“Is she really that tetchy that she would have a go at me? I usually have no problem getting people to talk to me when I turn on the charm.”

“You mean, when they can get a word in edgewise,” Pete retorted.

“So what if I eventually tell her where I really came from, Pete? If she’s hiding because she’s afraid of being discovered as having extra-terrestrial origin, maybe that would get her to trust in me.”

“I would advise against that, Doctor. However, she has the second highest security clearance in the Institute, and her propensity to be tight-lipped makes her a lower risk, so I won’t forbid it. You would do better to leverage her strengths in getting your own projects completed and get to know her that way. She’s much more intelligent than you think.”

“Speaking of projects, Pete… I’d like to talk to you about utilizing Torchwood resources to grow the new TARDIS coral. Someplace absolutely secure.”

“I have just the place. I’ll show it to you after lunch,” Pete promised as Jake knocked on the door.

“Time for lunch,” insisted Jake. “I could eat a horse.”

“Never understood what the French see in horse meat,” grumbled the Doctor. “They’re so much better ridden than eaten.”

“I really don’t want to know,” Pete said with a shake of his head. He put the folder neatly into a drawer before they left to meet the others in the cafeteria.

The Torchwood cafeteria was a large open area on the lower level with a high ceiling. Natural light from the surrounding windows streamed through scattered potted plants and trees in the centre atrium, which extended to the second floor of the building.

“Look, Boss,” Jake pointed to the atrium with an evil grin. “Perfect place to put a banana tree for the Doctor.”

“Oh, could we?” wheedled the Doctor to Pete.

“No,” Pete emphatically spat out. “No fruit trees of any kind. They’re messy.”

There were a plethora of round and oblong tables of various capacities, from one of which they could see Malcolm sitting and waving to them. Returning with their trays of food, they sat at a round table for six, Pete flanking the Doctor on his left followed by Jake and Malcolm.

Much to Pete’s surprise, it was Malcolm who started chattering non-stop after the usual niceties. It was obvious that he’d been simmering for hours, waiting to regale them with his theories about the Rift and the origin of some of the energy signatures he’d analysed. An animated exchange broke out between Malcolm and the Doctor regarding energy nomenclature that left Jake and Pete shrugging their shoulders in etymological defeat. All four men turned when they noted that the huge room’s noise level had suddenly hushed somewhat.

Stepping into the open area from the lift banks, Hal Forbin appeared rather lost and uncomfortable. Her eyes scanned the tables and chairs only briefly before locking onto Pete’s face. She walked across the room towards the group carrying a small thermal lunch bag by the shoulder strap, her slender figure making her appear even smaller and thinner without the oversized lab coat. Quite a few heads turned to stare curiously as she passed, not unnoticed by Hal, who chose to ignore their rude behaviour.

“Hello,” she greeted them with a faint smile. She sat next to the Doctor and started removing items from the lunch bag.

“Hello, again,” chirped the Doctor. A chorus of greetings from the others followed as she acknowledged them all with a nod. The noise level in the cafeteria ramped up to normal level now that she was sitting.

He couldn’t help but to take a closer look now that she was sitting next to him. He noticed that Hal’s honey-blonde hair was extremely fine, feathered in the front, and tended to fly away at a moment’s notice. She was constantly tucking the sides around her ears to keep it in place. Her heart-shaped face and flawless milk-with-honey complexion was completely devoid of make-up. She had a natural and delicate beauty that required none. He instantly thought of Rose, and wondered if she realized how beautiful she would look without make-up.

Pete gave her a warm smile. “Thanks for joining us, Hal. I know this isn’t your style, but I’d really like for you to get to know the Doctor here. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be working with you on some of his projects, and I think he might be helpful for some of your projects, as well.”

Warily, Hal continued to focus on her lunch items and said, “Oh. So you’ve decided to stay?” From her tone, the Doctor couldn’t tell if she thought that was a good thing or bad. Hal looked up, blinked and frowned, because the Doctor was now wearing a pair of cheap 3D glasses. Pete and Jake snorted sophomorically as he whipped the glasses off and deposited them in his inner coat pocket.

“Uhm… yeah, I think so,” he offered. He gave Pete a hard look to let him know that he knew he was being corralled by the canny Head of Torchwood. He turned back to the petite researcher. “I would certainly welcome any assistance you could give me with identifying and locating artefacts from time-sensitive races in this universe,” he said congenially.

Hal looked up sharply and pinned him with a direct and bold stare. “In this universe,” she said slowly in emphasis. “You say that as if you have evidence of races from other universes,” she said with not a little suspicion.

“Eeeh, uhm…,” he sputtered while ruffling the back of his hair before waving vaguely in Malcolm’s general direction. “Malcolm here was telling me that he’s discovered energy signatures from the Rift that don’t appear to have an origin in our universe. I would assume there might be time-sensitive races throughout the multiverse, but I’ll stick closer to home for the time being. ”

Rassilon, gotta watch my gob around this one, he thought. She’s as quick as a prosecution solicitor.

“Why just time-sensitive?” she drilled. Her face had become unreadable again, her full lips hardened into almost a pursed appearance and exposing her underlying tension.

“He doesn’t know anything about your current projects, Hal,” Pete interjected. “It just so happens that the Doctor has a special interest in time-sensitive alien races and can identify some of their artefacts based on his long-term research. He could potentially bring some light to many of the artefacts you’re studying.”

Hal gave out an almost imperceptible dubious hum as she turned back to her food. A sandwich in a zippered plastic bag, wide-mouth thermos of tomato soup, cored apple slices and bottled water comprised her simple meal.

“Hmmm, smoked turkey on rye with mayo,” observed the Doctor. “And is that arugula I smell, too?” At least she’s not a complete Vulcan, he was happy to see. Not vegetarian. Far too many vegans running around these days.

Hal stopped in the middle of unwrapping her sandwich. “How could you tell that? I hadn’t opened the bag yet,” she said.

“Highly developed senses,” the Doctor indicated with a tap to his nose. “I could smell the content through the plastic. I can even tell the soup is homemade, as well. No trace of a tin smell to it.”

“I hate prepared foods,” she sniffed, looking pointedly at the Doctor’s burger and chips growing cold on his plate. “That stuff will kill you.”

He laughed, pulling the lettuce from his burger and tossing it aside. “Sorry, but I am particularly sensitive to bitter tastes. You couldn’t pay me to eat arugula. Asparagus is right out.”

“So,” said Hal, a bit amused, “you have the taste buds of a toddler.”

Pete decided to interrupt, seeing the Doctor was starting to pout in insult. “You have no idea,” he told Hal conspiratorially. “We have a terrible time getting him to eat his vegetables.” Hal blinked in mild surprise at Pete’s comment, but stayed silent. Malcolm and Jake continued to quietly eat, entertained by the verbal sparring between Hal and the Doctor.

Sniffing in derision, the Doctor pulled himself into a stiff dignified posture. “I’ll have you know I can analyse and identify thousands of chemical compounds with this tongue of mine,” he said proudly, plastering said tongue to the back of his top teeth. Pete slapped his forehead as Jake sniggered behind his hand. “I can tell you what you’ve ingested in the last twenty-four hours, as a matter of fact,” he expounded.

“Uh, Doctor…,” began Pete. Before Pete could say another word, the Doctor grasped Hal’s unoccupied hand, shoved the sleeve of her shirt up and took a long swipe of her wrist and inner forearm with the flat of his tongue. Squeaking from shock, she immediately snatched her hand back and shot the Doctor a look of astonishment and outrage.

“Plaaah!” he exclaimed, scrunching up his face in repulsion. Grabbing up a paper napkin, he wiped his tongue on it while continuing to make sounds of disgust. Hal was doing much the same with her napkin, scrubbing at her forearm as if noxious chemicals had been spilled on her. Eyes hardened as steel, she fixed the Doctor with a glare.

“Did you just lick me?” she hissed, eyes narrowed. “I know you didn’t just lick me,” she continued, seeking an explanation for the violation of her body.

Malcolm was sitting stunned, silent and round-eyed, while Pete and Jake were almost under the table, incapacitated with laughter.

“Did you eat... pears recently?” the Doctor spat out with pieces of shredded napkin.

“I had a pear for breakfast,” she answered, not mollified in the slightest.

“And… and… something else. Broccoli, perhaps?”

That seemed to take the wind out of Hal’s sail. Curiosity got the better of her as her expression turned more neutral. “Well, rabe, actually. It’s a member of the brassica family, similar to swedes and broccoli. I had it for dinner last night. You could taste that?”

“It’s awfully bitter,” whinged the Doctor.

“Yes,” she answered thoughtfully. “It is a bit bitter, at that. It’s one of the things I like most about it. Broccoli can be so boring at times.”

“And I also taste soap. Pears soap, at that! I can detect the thyme, rosemary, limonene and glycerine in it. I can’t believe they still make that stuff, and why did they keep that abhorrent name for it? Regardless of how they actually pronounce it, it was horrible in the 1700’s and it’s still awful today!”

Realizing that the Doctor had apparently gotten the worst of his analytical methodology, Hal gave him a weak smile. “I have sensitive skin,” she said mildly. “That will teach you to keep your tongue to yourself.”

Taking a swig of Pete’s apple juice and swishing it to take the bad taste from his mouth, the Doctor winced. “If you routinely eat pears, rabe and whatnot, and continue to wash in that abominable soap, you can count on that!” he whined.

Coughing as he tried to compose himself, Pete pushed the cup of apple juice in front of the Doctor. “It’s obvious we need to get you into our new-hire orientation classes, Doctor,” he said gently. “Can’t have you licking employees at will. It could be considered an assault, at the very least. Or worse.”

“Well, it would be interesting to see how well he holds up against Buzzcutt,” smirked Hal.

“Buzzcutt?” asked the Doctor?

“Yeah, Doc. That’s her nickname for Lieutenant Butler. He conducts the new-hire defence training courses,” Jake explained. “Kinda interestin’ bloke, really. Use’ta be with the U.S. Marines, an’ he mops the floor up with ya.”

“Oooh, like Coach Bradley Buzzcut from Beavis and Butthead,” chuckled the Doctor. “Does he wear a crew cut, too?”

Hal almost choked on the mouthful of sandwich she was swallowing as Malcolm quickly leaned over to slap her on the back. She took a swallow of water and cleared her throat before turning to the Doctor and locking eyes with him.

For the first time since arriving in Pete’s World, the Doctor felt the tentative touch of a psychic probe brush his mind. He tightened his mental shields instinctively, caught by surprise. The probe withdrew immediately, and he forced himself to drop his shields a bit to invite the touch again, but it didn’t return.

It’s got to be her, he mused in wonder. Who else would have that degree of control and could tell I had blocked it? Reaching out gently to Hal’s mind, he encountered a shocking surprise. Not only had she withdrawn, but her mental shields were a glassy-smooth impenetrable barrier with not even the slightest flaw that he could detect. He could only marvel at the beautiful perfection of her control, which he had to grudgingly admit were more advanced than his own. Being more of a touch-telepath, the Doctor wished he hadn’t wasted his one opportunity to make physical contact.

As if aware that the Doctor was now trying to probe her mind and had been unsuccessful, she serenely turned back to her sandwich as if nothing had happened. Blithely unaware of an exchange between the two, Pete tried to reassure the Doctor about his upcoming self-defence course.

“Oh, he’s not that bad,” Pete said with a soft raspberry.

“I’m not worried,” puffed the Doctor with his usual show of bravado. “I could teach him some Venusian Aikido moves that will amaze him. He’ll thank me for it later.”

“Venusian, Doctor?” asked Malcolm. Pete stared down at his salad while Jake looked up to the ceiling.

Realizing his mistake, the Doctor quickly tried to cover his tracks. “Uhm, weeeellll,” he drawled, “that’s what I call the style because it seems like you need five arms and five legs to master it. Naturally, I had no problem mastering it, but…”

“And Venusians, you’re assuming, have five arms and five legs?” Hal was giving him another direct stare. The Eyebrow of Death, as he was beginning to think of it, was raised again.

Pressing his tongue firmly against his upper teeth again, the Doctor desperately tried to think of a comeback when Pete raced to his rescue.

“Doctor, why don’t we use what little time we have left for lunch to find out what Hal is studying right now? It may be pertinent to your proposed projects.”

“Right. Molto bene,” muttered the Doctor as he rubbed his sweating palms together. Much to Pete’s relief, the remainder of the fifteen minutes went fairly uneventful. Hal discussed at a very unnecessarily high level how she was mapping star charts based on evidence from the archives and Malcolm’s analyses of energy emitted from extra-terrestrial sources. Malcolm expounded at length over his studies until everyone’s eyes glazed over. Except for the Doctor, of course, who proclaimed Malcolm his new best friend. Jake detailed how he was helping to integrate the Preachers into the Torchwood organization now that John Lumic and his Cybus Industries were no longer a threat.

“What was that?” Hal asked in the middle of Jake’s briefing.

“What was what?” Pete asked.

“That sound… it was a whirring, buzzing sound. A high-pitched electronic sound.”

Pete looked down just in time to see the Doctor glance at his extended sonic screwdriver beneath the table before collapsing it and secreting the device back into his pocket. Pete sighed. “Must be the white noise filter on the fritz again,” he lied. “I really need to get them to replace that sound loop. It’s supposed to hide noise, not add to it.”

The Doctor remained fairly reticent for the rest of the lunch period, asking only very simple questions for clarification and giving each the odd compliment on their innovation and intelligence. They adjourned as Pete thanked them all for taking the time to meet the Doctor, and promising to get them together again in the near future. He smiled as he and the Doctor walked back to his office. He felt reasonably assured that the Doctor would join on, now that he’d met two employees whose brilliance he obviously admired.

With only the faintest hint of reluctance, the Doctor read and signed his contract and other documentation upon return to Pete’s office. By late afternoon he was sporting a new Torchwood ID badge with his picture, thumbprint and encoded medical information (of which a clear NO ASPIRIN notation had been added and left encrypted for all infirmary personnel to access) embedded on the RFID chip. He seemed pleased about wearing a long lab coat; it reminding him of his old brown trench coat gifted to him by Janis Joplin.

On his second full day at Torchwood, bruised and aching from his first class with ‘Buzzcut Butler,’ he decided to take a trip to the men’s room… one floor below his office, which was being set up for him with new computer equipment, a larger white board and sofa. Strolling down the corridor with hands in pockets, he noticed light emitting from Rose’s office. He strolled past, whistling as he went, as if he didn’t know it was Rose’s office. He saw her, in his peripheral vision, look up from her desk as he passed, so he walked backwards back into view.

“Hallo, Rose,” he said casually as he leaned against her doorframe, but didn’t cross the threshold. “Didn’t know you were in.”

“Hallo,” she said quietly. She didn’t seem terribly surprised to see him and motioned for him to come in and sit on her sofa in front of the desk. He sat and nodded to the model of the Atraxi cruiser on her desk.

“I hear you have accomplished quite a feat of daring-do about a year ago. Handling the Atraxi successfully isn’t something for the weak of heart or inexperienced,” he complimented her.

“Not as daring as lickin’ the Glacier Queen in the cafeteria in front of God an’ everybody,” she replied evenly. Her face was impassive, but her eyes glittered coldly in delivery.

Oops. Now I’ve done it.

Scratching the back of his head as he stared at the ceiling, the floor, the walls, anywhere but at Rose, he knew he was treading on thin ice. “Weeeelll,” he drawled, “you know me. Jus’ showboatin’, really. Had to prove I possess better than average senses, and whatnot.”

“So, did ya tell her that you’re half-Time Lord,” she asked as she leaned back against her desk and crossed her arms.

“Uh… no?” he responded sheepishly. “And Glacier Queen, Rose? Where did that come from?” he just had to ask.

She launched herself off the desk and walked slowly back behind it, as if putting a barrier between them. “You just had to pick the one woman in all of Torchwood that nobody can get close to, didn’t you?”

“P...p… pick her, Rose?” he sputtered. “Pick her for what?”

“I dunno. Guess you could always use her for an ironin’ board or somethin’,” Rose said innocently.

The Doctor felt the blood drain from his face, then flush almost immediately afterwards as he picked up on Rose’s slightly veiled insult. He grimaced in confusion and anxiety, not quite sure how to handle this situation. “But… but… it was Pete who introduced her and invited her to lunch. I didn’t pick her for anything. I’m truly gobsmacked and confused by your reaction, Rose. What are you tryin’ to say?”

“Oh, nothing,” she said ambivalently. “So, where’s your office?” she tossed out obliquely, switching gears on him before he could recover.

“Upstairs,” he answered faintly. He was trying to think of a graceful exit from Rose’s office before he, or Rose, said too much more.

“So what brings you down here with us lowly Field folks?” she asked.

He pointed weakly down the corridor. “Men’s room? The one upstairs was rather fully occupied, so I thought I’d come down here.” He looked at her directly finally before adding, “And I was hoping you’d be here so I could say hello. You were at Torchwood Three my first day and a half here.”

“Hhhmmm,” she hummed. “Sent to pick up an’ go through debris that didn’t amount to anythin’. Wild goose chase, if ya asked me.”

Seeing a perfect opportunity for an escape, the Doctor took it. “Well, Rose… if you ever encounter anything you’d like me to take a look at, jus’ let me know,” he said with a big forced grin. “And now, I think I’ll run so I can get back to my desk. They’re installing my new computers!” he chortled.

“Of course,” Rose said professionally, holding out her hand for a shake. “Welcome to Torchwood, Doctor,” she said with a trained smile.

“Thank you, Rose!” he said before galloping from her office as if it were on fire. It took him twenty minutes in the men’s room before he could compose himself well enough to leave without trembling. That Rose seemed to think he had deliberately licked Hal’s wrist as a show of sexual interest had rattled him to the core. Sensing that Rose would not be especially receptive to any of his explanations, he had decided against revealing his suspicions about the researcher. He hadn’t even discussed some of his findings with Pete and, sadly, at present he trusted Pete more. He chose to take the stairs on the opposite side of the floor, rather than cross Rose’s office again.

On the next day, he knocked on Hal’s open door at lunch time. As usual, she was eating at her desk and typing furiously, multitasking between three keyboards and monitors crowding her desk surface. He noticed that her typing was at a phenomenal and impressive speed, well exceeding the 100 words per minute he’d inherited from Donna. Hal looked up as he knocked, and then casually covered a sketchpad of drawings on her desk. A charred, weathered artefact sat next to the sketchpad, which the Doctor couldn’t quite see from the door.

“Hello, Doctor. How can I help you?” she said pleasantly.

“Hallo, Hal. I was wondering if you might allow me access to some of your files,” he said with a smile.

“Which ones?”

“Oh, a few cartography files on the Kasterborous system,” he said as he drew nearer. “I discovered they were encrypted and coded to your logon ID.”

Hal stiffened, all traces of pleasantry fleeing her face. “Why the Kasterborous system, Doctor?” she asked just a little suspiciously.

“Well, I have a special interest in that area of space. I suspect it may be the very epicentre of something cataclysmic that may have impacted quite a few surrounding extra-terrestrial races.” His eyes drifted to the artefact on her desk, and he gasped.

Now that he was closer, he could see that the charred triangle of tile on her desk included etchings of small interlocking circles and lines; enough for him to recognize it immediately as Gallifreyan in origin. Eyes wide, he reached for it to take a closer look, but not before Hal grabbed it and placed it into a drawer in her desk.

“Where did you get that?” he demanded.

“I checked it out from the Archives. You may check it out after I’m finished,” she said flatly.

“But I can help you with that!” the Doctor gestured wildly at the drawer. “I know what that is and where it came from. Or, I mean, I know what it is in general, not specifically, but I can probably tell you even more if we collaborate on it.”

Hal’s eyes burrowed into the Doctor’s, her face inscrutable. Her pupils enlarged a bit as a hint of her underlying emotional state. Once again, the Doctor felt a silent nudge against his mental shields, but this time he was prepared for it. The presence withdrew again, but he didn’t drop his defences offering more.

“Oh, that’s not gonna work,” he told her with a shake of his head. “I’ve had a long time to perfect my mental shields.”

“Who are you?” Hal finally whispered.

“I could ask the same of you,” he countered. “You’re mysterious, brilliant, a bit antisocial, although I’m not holding that against you or anything.”

“No law against that, is there?” Hal asked with a withering look.

“You don’t taste exactly like your average human,” he continued, pacing the floor like a lecturing professor. “There’s something else there that I can’t quite put a finger on, but you’re possibly a hybrid.”

“What proof do you have there? My DNA was screened when hired.”

The Doctor leaned forward and put his hands on her desk as he met her cold gaze. “You have strong telepathic capabilities far beyond any human I know, empathy level, really. Enlargement of the pupils always gives you lot away when you utilize your powers. Your mental shielding is too refined for twenty-first century humans. You could only have learned such skills from an advanced telepathic race or someone from the distant future. You are most likely not from this universe or this time period. You still have Void stuff clinging to you years after you crossed.”

“You are correct. And neither are you, Doctor, from this universe or time,” Hal said in a monotone matter-of-fact voice as she leaned back into her chair. Her demeanour now reminded the Doctor very much of a cat, playing with a mouse. She had the eyes of a predator, a killer; one who could implacably take a life, if necessary. One that was about to have her cover blown and who felt cornered in an organization that historically persecuted aliens.

“Really? How’d you guess?” he said with a wide, manic grin. He knew he was in mortal danger. He had to stall so that he could think his way out of it.

She leaned forward. “You talk about the multiverse as if it’s common knowledge, and mentioned this universe as if distinguishing it from others,” she began. “You mentioned Venusian Aikido, but tried to cover it up. You lick people to analyse their biochemistry. You scanned me sonically at lunch. You immediately recognized an obscure reference to the animated television show, Beavis and Butthead.”

“Ah, let me guess,” he interrupted. “No Beavis and Butthead in this universe?”

“No,” Hal laughed chillingly. “The only reason I know that is because my sister was quite fond of that show and made me watch it with her, so I looked it up out of nostalgia sometime after being trapped here.”

Trapped! I wonder how she came to be trapped here for over five years?

“See… brilliant. You’re just brilliant. You’re stone-cold brilliant, but so am I! Can I tell you something, Hal? We’re apparently from the same, or at least a very similar, universe. I’m trapped here, too, although I have no desire to leave at the moment. We can help each other. No one need know that you’re not completely human or native to this universe. Let me help you. I know for a fact what race created that artefact you’ve shoved into your desk, and I can translate it if there’s enough writing on it. Trust me.”

Hal held his gaze as if trying to decide what her next step would be. “If I’ve learned anything in my life,” she said after a few beats, “it’s to trust no one. How do I know you won’t tell Pete, whom you obviously live with, or inadvertently give away my position with a slip of the tongue? You certainly didn’t instil a lot of confidence in your confidentiality on Tuesday. I’d just as soon not get locked up or dissected by Torchwood, thank you very much.”

“Hal, please,” he begged. “Pete isn’t like that, for one. He knows exactly what I am and where I came from. I’m half-Time Lord, from the Kasterborous constellation and the planet Gallifrey. Actually, I’m a biological meta-crisis of someone who was born on Gallifrey… it’s… it’s kind of a long story. But it was my people who created that tile in your desk, and they travelled through Time and Space. They even travelled between universes, but I’m not sure how just yet. Hal, I need to find out what happened to them in this universe. I need to know if any of them survived in some form, if Gallifrey still exists here, or if it’s possible to somehow bring them back. It could be the key to getting you back to your universe, if that’s possible.”

Hal stood up and walked to the window, looking out with a look of profound sadness on her face.

“No, it’s just too risky,” she whispered. “I’ve worked too many years, and too hard, to see it all go up in smoke. I’ve done… terrible things… in my life. Even more terrible things to get this far. This research isn’t just for a stupid thesis or accolade. It’s the only way I can ever hope to get home.”

She turned her head back to lock onto the Doctor’s face. “Why did you have to blow my cover? I shouldn’t even let you walk out of this office now.”

Her words chilled the Doctor, yet he couldn’t ignore the plight of someone trapped away from family in another universe. Was she actually capable of murdering him just to silence him, or was that pure desperation talking? She was telepathic. Perhaps her people, like Time Lords, were bonded to their families or other members of their race. That, he knew, could almost drive one mad from separation. Could he get her to trust him? Could he trust her?

“Listen, in five years I can have a working Time Machine. It’s called a TARDIS, or Time And Relative Dimension In Space. We could actually go to any point in this universe, and any time period,” he pressed on. “If we can find a way through, a stable wormhole perhaps, we may be able to cross the Void in it. It’ll take lots of research, and possibly help from my counterpart in the other universe. But I know you’ll have a better chance if we work together!”

Hal turned her face back to the window, silent and contemplative. “Five years?” she asked in a low voice.

“Five years,” the Doctor confirmed with a nod.

“Give your thoughts to me,” Hal intoned, her eyes growing into black pools as the pupils dilated. He felt their pull, almost like the pull of black hole’s gravity well.

The Doctor gulped. “Uhm, Time Lord with a Time Lord consciousness, me. I’m not sure you can handle it. Much bigger on the inside. It doesn’t all fit in a human brain.”

“I think we’ve both established that neither of us is completely human. I assure you, I can handle it. It’s you who may not be able to handle what you see in my mind.”

The Doctor gasped and reeled as Hal, without so much as touching him, slipped her consciousness effortlessly past his mental shields as if they were mere water vapour.

“No!” he choked in terror. He clutched his head and collapsed to the floor, completely unable to resist the violation of his mind.


Ten II delves into the mystery surrounding Hal, only to bite off a bit more than he can chew.

Sorry for the evil cliffie. ;-)

Title: Wayward Son - Chapter 14:  Can I Tell You

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