Yet another collaboration with the lovely goldy_dollar. My apologies to the world of modern science in general for the use of technobabble rooted in Daleks in Manhattan. We are an English major and a law student, what can I say.
Two laughing seven-year-olds dashed through the kitchen and Tony tore after them, shouting something that sounded like, “You aliens can try and take over the Earth, but I’m gonna stop you!” Rose dodged out of their way, oblivious to the screams and peals of laughter around her as she dialled the Doctor’s mobile, only to hear nothing but ringing on the other side.
Cursing under her breath, she flipped her phone shut and then glared at it for good measure.
“Rose, watch your tongue, there are children about,” said Jackie, setting an armful of empty pizza boxes down on the counter.
“He never answers his bloody mobile,” she said, folding her arms and leaning back against the kitchen counter with a scowl. She shook her head and looked at her mother. “How can it possibly take an hour and a half to pick up a cake?”
“I don’t know,” said Jackie, “but he’d better get back soon, or I’m gonna smack him. There’s only so long you can get a bunch of seven-year-olds to play musical chairs before you owe them cake.” Grabbing a handful of napkins from the counter, she headed back outside to the party.
“Maybe he’s talking to someone,” Pete suggested from his seat at the table, shrugging.
“For an hour?" she asked incredulously, and then sighed. She supposed that wasn't entirely out of the realm of possibility.
The Doctor had never been particularly punctual, but an hour and a half on a trip that should’ve taken twenty minutes at most was stretching it. Besides that, he adored Tony and feared her mother; she'd thought those two things were more than enough to counteract his tendency towards distraction. She looked at the phone, worrying her lip. Where was he?
“I should’ve gone with him,” she muttered, sighing again. “I knew he’d get distracted, I–“
“If it was anything interesting, he’d call you,” said Pete, resolute. “You think he’d miss the opportunity to do something utterly reckless with you?”
He was teasing, Rose knew, but instead of fighting back she shrugged, looking at the kitchen floor.
Pete sighed. “Rose, he’s fine. He can take care of himself.”
“Yeah,” she agreed reluctantly. She peered out the window, down the garden where Tony and his friends were now playing, her mouth still stuck in a frown. Her dad was right, of course; the Doctor knew what he was doing. In all likelihood he’d run into some stranger on the street who needed help with something he’d deemed too trivial to bother Rose with. He’d return any minute with the name of some new friend he’d made and absolutely no idea why she and her mum were so irritated. Tony and his friends would hardly notice the delay, presents would be opened, and the rest of the day would go off without a hitch.
With a frustrated sigh, Rose rubbed at her eyes. She and the Doctor did things every day that were far more dangerous than going to buy a bloody cake, and most of the time she felt nothing but excitement and adrenaline. So why was she nauseous with worry now?
“Go on then,” said Pete, gentler this time. “Take your mum’s car and go drag him back here. Keep your mobile on you, I’ll call if he shows up while you're gone. No harm in checking, is there?”
Rose smiled, relieved. “It’s probably nothing,” she said. All the same, she grabbed her mum’s keys off the counter and then leaned down to kiss Pete on the cheek. “Thanks, Dad.”
Ten minutes later, she was standing in an empty car park, trying to dial on her mobile with shaking fingers. It was three rings before anyone answered, and she took a few short, shallow breaths before she spoke.
“Dad? The baker said the Doctor left with the cake almost two hours ago and he hasn’t seen him since,” Rose took a breath and licked her lips. “Something’s gone wrong–I know it.”
The Doctor woke up with a splitting headache and a man in a suit crouched in front of him. The room swam and then slowly came into focus as the Doctor's eyes adjusted to the light, and the man in the suit smiled.
"Hello," the man said, and the Doctor could hear a Swedish accent in his English. His smile turned to a frown of friendly concern. "Are you feeling all right?"
It took the Doctor perhaps a second longer than normal to parse the sentence; then he shot up into a sitting position. "Who are you?" he demanded. He looked left and right around the room, searching for a hint of familiarity. "Where am I?" He leapt to his feet but his head spun, and he reluctantly sank back onto the sofa, pinching the bridge of his nose.
The man in the suit stood up straight, still frowning. He was tall and blond and there was the confident air about him of someone who was used to having a lot of power. "Your head!" he exclaimed, as though he'd forgotten something. "So sorry, hang on..."
He turned around and walked towards a table behind him, and the Doctor took the opportunity to look for the door. It was on the other side of the room--which seemed to be a lounge--and he could just see someone's elbow through the doorway. The Doctor frowned. A guard, perhaps?
Where was he?
"Here you are," said the man, holding out two red pills and a plastic cup full of water. He smiled. "That should help with the headache."
The Doctor looked at the pills and then looked at the man. "Mysterious pills from a stranger who just happens to be hanging around when I regain consciousness?" The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "I'll take my chances with the headache, if you don't mind."
The man's smile thinned only slightly, and he nodded. "Yes, of course. Very prudent of you." He tucked the pills into his pocket and set the cup back down on the table. "Once again, terribly sorry. My colleagues weren't trying to hurt you, they're just a little... overenthusiastic." He smiled knowingly, as though he expected that over the years the Doctor had worked with many people who sometimes knocked people unconscious when they got excited. "My name is Anders, by the way. I represent AIF. I was hoping we could have a chat." He extended his hand, but the Doctor didn't take it.
"AIF?" the Doctor repeated. "Never heard of it."
"Avdelningen för intergalaktiskt försva," said Anders, "the Swedish Department of--"
"--Intergalactic Defence," finished the Doctor. "Got it."
"They did say you have quite the knack for languages, Dr Smith."
"Yeah," said the Doctor. "Tell me, Anders, does AIF always kidnap someone when they want to have a chat? Have you ever tried, oh, I don't know, using the phone?"
Anders' tight smile never wavered, though he lowered his hand. "Much of the work we do here at AIF is of a sensitive nature, Dr Smith. It would be... unwise to discuss such matters over the phone." He stepped back, gesturing towards the door with one arm. "Shall I give you the grand tour, or do you still need a few minutes?"
Though his head was still pounding, the room seemed to have settled in one spot, and the Doctor stood easily.
"Wonderful," said Anders, beckoning the Doctor towards the door. "The sooner we get to talking the sooner you can be on your way."
"Right," said the Doctor stiffly, though he doubted it.
They were just outside the doorway when the Doctor froze, patting his empty pockets.
"Ah, yes," said Anders, noticing the Doctor's distress, "my apologies, I'm afraid we did have to empty your pockets. It's a standard security measure."
Slowly, the Doctor let his hands fall to his sides. "You lot knock me unconscious while I'm buying a cake and you're worried about what I might have in my pockets?"
Anders gave no indication of having noticed the Doctor's tone. "Sorry for the inconvenience. Your possessions will be returned to you when you leave." With that, he turned and started down the hallway with the Doctor in tow.
The guard who had been standing outside the door followed them. He was a stocky man, shorter than either the Doctor or Anders, and he was carrying a gun.
The Doctor watched the man warily over his shoulder, quickening his pace to fall in step alongside Anders. "Is the armed guard completely necessary?"
Anders didn't spare the man a second glance. "Standard security procedure," he said, shrugging. "He's only here for our protection."
The Doctor snorted. "You want to make a place safe, I think the best way to start is to get rid of the guns."
Anders smiled again, and this time he seemed genuinely entertained. "There are many things in AIF's facilities which could be very dangerous in the wrong hands, Dr Smith. People like Torbjörn here help us stop that from happening."
The Doctor looked skeptically at Torbjörn. "I'll bet." Straightening his shoulders, the Doctor looked sidelong at Anders. "I haven't seen any windows anywhere. Are we underground?"
"We prefer to keep our location a secret," said Anders. "For--"
"Security?" The Doctor snorted. "Yeah, figured you might say that." He scratched his chin. "So, AIF... what do you lot do, exactly?"
"Fantastic question," said Anders, opening a locked door with a swipe of a security pass. "We're rather like the Torchwood your father-in-law runs, actually." He held the door open and the Doctor stepped through. "We protect Sweden and the rest of Earth and its people from alien threats. A worthy goal, wouldn't you agree?"
"Certainly," said the Doctor, nodding absently. "But I'm not sure what it has to do with me. I don't work for Torchwood."
"No. But you've made quite a name for yourself, Dr Smith." Anders smiled again just as the door slid open. "You have a beautiful wife."
A shiver ran down the Doctor's spine and he swallowed. He was very certain he didn't like the idea that Anders was even aware of Rose's existence. Where was she, anyway? She hadn't been with him when he'd gone to get the cake. Was she still safe?
"And they say you're a genius," Anders went on. "And that--lovely though your wife may be--is what really interests me."
The Doctor said nothing. Anders led them to a second set of doors in the new hallway and pressed his hand to a scanner. The Doctor looked up and down the hallway, taking stock of the security features that marked each set of doors. Most of them featured the same palm scanner Anders was currently fiddling with, but one, just three doors down, looked as though it was made of solid steel.
He smiled quickly and stepped through the door. The Doctor hesitated but followed reluctantly, Torbjörn at his heels.
"This, as you can see," said Anders, gesturing behind him as the Doctor stepped through the door, "is our lab."
The Doctor entered the lab at the same time a second guard stepped forward, holding a gun to match Torbjörn's. Not bothering to hide his expression of distaste, the Doctor stepped around the guard, inspecting the room. As labs went, it was very impressive. It was vast and well-stocked with technology to rival Torchwood's. Anders had not been lying about AIF housing items that could potentially be very dangerous--but the Doctor was not at all convinced that they were any safer in Anders' hands.
"Most of this is alien technology," the Doctor observed, eyeing the equipment suspiciously.
"Yes." Anders folded his hands behind his back and walked further on into the lab. "The unfortunate reality is that if we limited ourselves to technology developed on Earth, we'd have no chance against the enemy."
"'The enemy'?" the Doctor repeated, eyes widening. "What, the rest of the universe?"
"We don't look for fights, Dr Smith. We have no issue with aliens, provided they leave Earth alone."
The Doctor shook his head. "Not every species that comes to Earth is looking for conflict."
Anders paused, regarding the Doctor over his shoulder, his expression suddenly cold. Then he doubled back to the door, beckoning the Doctor again. "This is merely our defense technologies lab. If you'll follow me, I'll take you to the biology lab. There's someone I'd like you to meet."
The biology lab was even larger than the other one. The Doctor peered curiously at a shelf when Anders spoke again.
"Dr Smith, I'd like you to meet Dr Inga Lindkvist."
The Doctor turned away from the shelf to find a petite woman in a lab coat watching him skeptically. There was no smile on her face, and the Doctor couldn't decide if he found that more or less unnerving than Anders' eerie constant grin. The Doctor nodded in abrupt greeting, and she did the same.
"Inga is our lead scientific advisor," Anders went on, gesturing at the two as though he expected them to shake hands. Neither Inga nor the Doctor moved and Anders frowned slightly before continuing, "She's done some fantastic work for us in the past."
Anders turned to smile at Inga, but her eyes were fixed on the Doctor. She had a sharp, clever gaze, but there was something strange about the way she was watching him, like she was suspicious of and irritated by him all at once. It made the Doctor uncomfortable--or at least it might have, had it been possible for him to be any more uncomfortable than he already was.
The Doctor stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels, looking around the lab. "I must say, it's quite impressive equipment. Where do you get your funding?"
"We have our donors."
"And the specimens?" asked the Doctor, looking from Anders to Inga. "Lab this size, you must have rodents somewhere."
Inga and Anders exchanged glances. Then Anders turned back to the Doctor.
"You must be a busy man, Dr Smith," he said. "Perhaps we should cut to the chase. We need your help." He smiled apologetically. "I'm afraid Inga will have to explain the rest; it's all a bit beyond me."
Inga nodded abruptly, and then turned on her heel and walked briskly down the corridor of the lab, her coat swishing behind her. "We've been running tests with a DNA scan, getting chromosomal readings for a variety of species." She weaved between desks and stopped when she reached a shelf full of binders and folders. She plucked one from the shelf and flipped it open, turning on her heel and thrusting it towards the Doctor. "We believe we've isolated an indicator in the fundamental DNA type that represents planet of origin."
She folded her arms across her chest when she finished, her brow quirked as though she was daring him to challenge her conclusion. Instead the Doctor looked down at the data in his hands, frowning.
It wasn't wrong. In fact it was rather brilliant, and by the standards of the old universe it was well ahead of its time, though the Doctor had come to accept that technological advancements in this universe were accelerated. It was the sheer amount of data that surprised him--species after species, with planet after planet represented in a column of highlighted numbers. Wherever they found their money, AIF seemed to have no trouble finding alien DNA to test.
He opened his mouth to say something along those lines, but Inga pulled the binder out of his hands and spoke before he could. "We've also managed to manufacture viruses based on this indicator." She pulled a second binder from the shelf and opened it. "We have successfully created viruses which wipe out species from planets 583, 329, 942, 276 and 154. In all cases these viruses targeted species from the designated planet only. All other species exposed to the virus were unharmed."
The Doctor stared at the binder in her hands, light-headed for reasons that went well beyond being knocked unconscious. "The perfect weapon."
"Almost," said Inga. "All of these viruses take a long time to manufacture, and in order to create them we must have previously completed the DNA scan. For the species we've already cataloged, it's viable, but for new species--it could take weeks. Months." She closed the second binder, sliding it neatly back into place. "We believe there should be a way to reverse engineer it--create a virus which targets every species except those from a specific planet of origin."
"All but Earth," the Doctor breathed, suddenly nauseous.
"Obviously." Once again, she crossed her arms. "Unfortunately we've not yet created a successful prototype. But we're convinced it's possible."
For a moment the Doctor was silent, staring in Inga's direction without seeing her. The trepidation and the fear he'd been feeling earlier were rapidly losing ground, giving way to an intense wave of fury. "And that's what you want me to do." He lifted his eyes to meet hers. "Biological warfare. You want me to help you create a virus that will wipe out anything that isn't native to this planet." He turned to face Anders and the guards and laughed, low and threatening. "That's not happening."
Anders took a step forward, an understanding frown on his face. "We're not looking to wage intergalactic war, Dr Smith. We're simply trying to protect Earth and its citizens."
"By killing everything?" the Doctor shouted, rounding on Anders. "Are you insane?"
Anders held his ground and kept his expression calm, though Torbjörn and the other guard stepped forward. "I assure you it would only be used when necessary, and with your help it would be completely harmless to the people of Ear--"
"For how long?" the Doctor demanded. "Until it mutates?" He gestured over Anders' shoulders to the two guards. "Even if you were just asking for tactical advice I'd have to decline because what you're talking about is systematic genocide and I'll have no part in that."
Though the Doctor had drawn himself up to his full height, Anders didn't move. "I think you might want to reconsider, Dr Smith."
The Doctor's lip curled in a sneer. "Threats aren't going to work on me."
The corner of Anders' mouth twitched in a near smile. "Are you sure you aren't willing to cooperate? Things will be much easier if you do."
The Doctor smirked. "Oh, you know me. Love the hard road. It builds character."
For a moment Anders regarded him with a silent calm. Then he nodded, every trace of a smile finally gone from his lips. "If you insist." He raised one hand and beckoned the guards forward with a flick of two fingers. "I do apologize."
The Doctor stood still as Torbjörn pulled his arms behind his back and snapped cuffs onto his wrists, his chin held high defiantly. "I hope you realize bringing me into this was a big mistake, because once I get out of here I'm going to stop you."
"We'll see about that," said Anders. "For now, I believe you wanted to see where we keep our specimens."
The muzzle of one gun pressed hard against the Doctor's back while the second guard grabbed the Doctor firmly under his arm. Anders stepped aside, his gaze drifting back to Inga.
"I suspect you'll have another planet to add to your catalogue very soon," he told her.
Twenty-four hours. It had been twenty-four hours since the Doctor had disappeared.
Rose Tyler sat hunched over the table in Torchwood's biggest briefing room, sipping bitter coffee out of a paper cup. Her eyes were heavy and sticky with exhaustion and stress, but she suspected it would be a long time before she allowed herself a hot shower and real rest. Not until she knew what had happened to the Doctor.
Jackie had been the one to break up Tony's birthday party while Pete rushed into the office, babbling about getting in touch with local authorities and tracking down the CCTV feed. Rose almost hadn't known what to do at first. She'd gone back to their flat and dialled the Doctor's mobile, listening to it ring and ring. Surely if something happened, he would head back home first thing. But he never appeared and when Pete called to say Torchwood had their hands on the CCTV feed, Rose knew from the sound of his voice that it was bad.
At the head of the table, Pete dimmed the lights and switched on the front projector. "The CCTV footage is scrambled in places, like it's been tampered with, but we've pieced together what we can," Pete said. "This is what we know -" Rose leaned forward as he pulled up a picture of the Doctor in a car park with a cake box stuffed under his arm. Pete flicked to the next picture and behind the Doctor, five bulky men were closing in on him from behind. "We suspect the attack was planned and coordinated ahead of time."
The faces of the men were indistinct and Rose's voice was shaking when she asked, "Who did this?"
Pete clicked to the next slide. In it, the five bulky men had caught up to the Doctor and were overpowering him. One of the men pressed a white cloth against the Doctor's mouth - chloroform, Rose reckoned - while the others closed in on his sides. Pete snapped to another picture, this time to a truck speeding off in the distance, license plates caked over with dirt.
"Who did this?" Rose repeated.
"We can't say for sure," Pete said, "but the coordination, the technology needed to scramble this many CCTV feeds, the almost complete lack of witnesses... it all suggests AIF."
Pete clicked to the next photo. It looked like the back entrance of some sort of military base. it was mostly hidden behind an overhang of trees, but a military vehicle was parked outside and two armed men were visibly standing guard in front of it. "AIF, the Swedish Department of Intergalactic Defence--a highly secret, very well-funded branch of the Swedish military, working out of Gothenburg. Their sole purpose is to protect Sweden from extra-terrestrial threats."
"So they fight aliens?"
"In a manner of speaking," Pete said. "But they're not like Torchwood, Rose. Their mission is to protect Earth from all alien life. They've been rumoured to kill indiscriminately. Any alien lifeforms who surrender are taken as hostages and experimented on or tortured for information. All in the name of national security."
"Not at all like us, then," Rose whispered, beginning to worry her bottom lip. A bad feeling gathered in her stomach. "And you think that this group... this AIF, they kidnapped the Doctor?"
Pete nodded. "Yes."
Rose took a sip of coffee, the cup shaking in her hand. "What do they want with him?"
Pete cleared his throat and then shut down the projector, wincing as bright light filled the room again. Instead of replying, he sent Rose a long, apologetic look before taking a seat at the conference table. "I've sent word to our Ambassador, demanding that the government look into the blatant abduction of a British citizen, but I'm afraid it will be an uphill battle. The government refuses to officially acknowledge the existence of AIF."
"Do you think..." Rose began, swallowing hard, "have they killed him?"
"I don't know," said Pete, after a pause. He rubbed at his temples and then raised his head, trying for a reassuring smile. "I don't think they would have bothered to kidnap him if all they wanted was to kill him."
"Oh," Rose said, not pointing out that this wasn't reassuring in the least. She took a deep breath. "We'll have to get a team together," she murmured, "close in quickly - before they expect us. How much information do we have on them in Torchwood's database? Do you know their location? Can we pick up any more CCTV footage on the truck?"
Pete hesitated. "Rose, we can't just... go into another country and break into a military base."
Rose's mouth opened in surprise. "Of course we can. It's the Doctor."
"There are certain diplomatic channels that have to be explored -"
"I don't give a damn about diplomatic channels."
Pete stared at her for a moment before trying again, "We don't even have any proof that AIF is responsible-"
"They kidnapped the Doctor in broad daylight, right under our noses. My husband," Rose spat. She pushed herself to her feet. "I'm not letting them get away with this."
"Rose, you can't just just... walk into a military base in another country!" Pete said, also jumping to his feet. "We don't even know who we're dealing with. I won't have you dragging my team on a wild goose chase."
"How can you say that?" Rose demanded. "This isn't some wild goose chase - this is the Doctor! How many times has he saved us? Saved Mum and Tony? Saved the whole universe? And now you're just gonna abandon him 'cos it's the 'diplomatic' thing to do?"
"I'm not saying that," Pete said, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "I'm saying that we have to take this one step at a time. We contact MPs, get the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved, maybe leak the story to the media. Meanwhile we'll gather as much information as we can, maybe plan a response." He paused. "We'll get him back, Rose. I promise you."
Pete stared at her with wide and sincere eyes, but Rose knew it wouldn't be good enough. She debated with herself silently for several moments and then forced herself to nod. "All right," she finally said.
Pete's eyebrows shot up. "All right?"
"Yeah," Rose said. She grabbed her handbag off her chair and picked up her coffee cup. "You've got regulations you've got to follow. I respect that."
"Really?" said Pete, sounding both baffled and just the tiniest bit suspicious.
Rose forced a smile. "I'll see you later, yeah? I'm going to try and get some rest. Call me if there are any changes."
"I will," Pete said, but he still looked bemused.
Rose left the conference room and shut the door behind her. There she paused, nibbling on her bottom lip as she considered her next move. First, she would have to hack into Torchwood's online file system and recover all their information on AIF. It wouldn't be too hard--she already had one of Torchwood's highest security clearances, and even if she couldn't access what she needed, she knew she could use her dad's account. And she would need weapons. She would need lots of weapons.
Pete and Torchwood had their way of doing things - she and the Doctor had theirs.
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