He managed to get himself free, and stumbled into a room filled with tarps and metal, dark shapes groaning and crying within them. He checked inside the conversion chamber closest to him; the empty eyes of Samir Pancholi stared back at him.
“The Cybermen will remove fear,” he intoned. “The Cybermen will remove pain.”
He turned around quickly and ran to the next one. Belinda Mather was barely recognizable beneath the blood; she didn’t move and Ianto could find no pulse.
He moved onto the next chamber. It was Lisa Hallet- his Lisa, and, oh God, no…
“It hurts,” she sobbed. “It hurts. Please. No more.”
“Lisa,” he moaned. “Listen, it’s Ianto, I’m going to get you out of here; I’m going to help you. It’s going to be okay.”
Lisa let out a low keening noise of pain.
Ianto began to undo the fastenings, disconnecting the cables that trapped her inside the unit. All the while he made soothing noises, shushing sounds that did nothing to ease her cries.
Then he ducked. He wasn’t sure what tipped him off- a reflection in the metal caught out of the corner of his eye perhaps- but he ducked and metal-lined hands encircled the empty air where he had been.
“You must not interfere with the conversion process,” the thing that had once been Samir insisted, his voice flat and lifeless.
Ianto backpedalled, horrified.
“All non-cooperative life forms will be deleted.” It advanced.
He took a step too far, and tripped over a disembodied arm into a pool of blood.
“You will be deleted,” it concluded. Blue lightning traveled up the length of its body, and it convulsed before collapsing on top of a headless corpse, still sparking.
The room caught fire, the human debris littering the floor providing the fuel. The room was boxed in by bodies, Ianto belatedly realized. From the nearly intact ones of those first converted to the more recent addition, mere limbs and the odd internal organ or two that the Cybermen had deemed unnecessary. Thick black smoke rose from the flames.
Ianto stumbled over to her, lifting her out of the chamber. She was heavy, and he ended up half-dragging her down the corridor as he left.
“Somebody help!” Which way was the exit. “Somebody please!” The lifts wouldn’t be working. “Help, please!” They needed the stairs.
Lisa screamed. “Anybody!” He was screaming, too.
Jack was indulging in one of his favorite pastimes- watching Ianto.
He was wearing a dark suit today, with a pale blue tie and cream-colored shirt. He was making his rounds now, reliable as clockwork if not quite as regular. Not that he would be at all reliable if he stayed to a fixed schedule- hours at Torchwood were weird to begin with, and with their eclectic mix of workaholics, live-ins, and underachievers, hours are something they wave at absently as they pass by. Thankfully, Ianto takes all of their individual needs and complaints in stride. He was flexible that way.
He was flexible in a lot of ways. Especially if you paid some attention to that birthmark hidden just beneath the waistband of his boxers first.
Ianto brought him his coffee last, leaning over slightly so that his shadow fell across Jack’s face. He nodded appreciatively, before taking a sip.
“Experimenting?” he asked.
“Thought I’d try a different blend today,” Ianto confirmed with something like approval in his gaze.
Jack smiled, and took another drink. “What are the results so far?”
“The 1999 J section is in complete disarray, but I’ll muddle through somehow, sir,” Ianto replied serenely. Jack suppressed a wince. There was a very good reason for that particular mess, but he wasn’t going to bring it up unless Ianto managed to find something he’d missed.
And Ianto would bring it to him first, without involving any of the others, he could count on that. Ianto was the very soul of discretion; after all, he was standing next to his desk and calling him ‘sir’ like he hadn’t had Jack tied up and begging less than six hours ago.
“I was actually talking about the coffee. What with the time you spend down there, I’m surprised you haven’t completely finished with everything,” Jack answered.
Ianto looked out the window, staring at Tosh’s workstation. “I believe my achievements have gone unnoticed once again. Still, we persevere.”
Jack grinned. “Yes, we do.”
THE CYBERMEN WILL REMOVE FEAR.
Lisa felt her chest- part metal, part flesh and bone- rise of its own accord, and then contract, forcing carbon dioxide into the cool air around her. Tiny water crystals hung suspended in the air for a moment, and she watched them twist and turn in the gloom.
Funny, she hadn’t thought it was that cold down here. She was a bit hot, actually.
THE CYBERMEN WILL REMOVE PAIN.
When she next looked, the ice crystals had gone, and there was Ianto, checking her vitals, fiddling with the machinery, adjusting the odd snippets of their life that he had smuggled into her chamber. She’d had a stereo down here, earlier on. But they couldn’t risk it anymore. Jack didn’t sleep normally, and was always up wandering around. He’d come down into the vaults once, and Ianto had had to distract him. It wouldn’t do to make any noise that might catch his attention.
He didn’t say how he’d managed to distract the Captain. She’d known anyway.
THE CYBERMEN WILL REMOVE GUILT.
Ianto will do whatever it is he feels he has to. She knew that-she’s always known that. The problem wasn’t him doing what he needed to do; it’s doing what he wanted to do. She wasn’t sure what would be worse, the idea that he was suffering simply for her sake, or that he wasn’t. It wasn’t that she wanted to begrudge him anything that made him happy, but she wanted to be the one who did that.
She wanted to be the one that he went to for comfort, not the one he was running from.
THE CYBERMEN WILL REMOVE ANGER.
She didn’t often think about the future anymore. What future was there for her, even if Ianto did find her a cure? She would need months of physical therapy to recover properly, and then what? She wouldn’t be able to work for UNIT or Torchwood. She might not even be able to work in cybernetics; it was a field too small to not run into people she once knew.
And what would happen to the life she was planning on having with Ianto? Would he leave Torchwood when she was better? Or leave her? Or try and remain loyal to both out of some misguided sense of duty? Would she look into his eyes one day in the far future and see that he was no longer trying to hide his resentment?
THE CYBERMEN WILL REMOVE LOVE.
Lisa felt her chest expand again, drawing in the oxygen that her body needed to remain alive. There was no thought process involved, not even in the most primal of her neural centers. She couldn’t slow her breathing down, or speed it up. She couldn’t hold it in. She just kept on breathing, no matter what she wanted.