You mustn’t interfere with the past. Don’t do anything that affects anything! Unless it turns out that you were supposed to do it; in which case, for the love of God, don’t not do it!
- Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, on the inherent risks of time travel
Frowning, Rose approached the monitor. “That’s not right,” she muttered. “It couldn’t possibly have taken them two years to get it up and running.” She reached the desk and twisted the monitor toward her to get a better look.
“I’m telling you, they are.” Jack leaned over and tapped the screen. “Look right here–that’s the master work schedule. Estimated completion date is in September, with projected full ROI in February of next year.”
“But how can that be? I’m positive about the dates, Doctor–they definitely don’t start the experimentation until 2007. Is there a glitch in their plans that would cause the delay?”
“Yeah,” answered the Doctor with a little half-smile on his face. “Us.”
“Oh.” Rose thought about it. “So does that mean we only damage the engine? They’ll be able to repair it?”
The Doctor shook his head. “Trust me–after seeing the sort of thing that this lot gets up to, I’m not leaving that engine intact. Jack, check the file and see if they’ve got an alternative to the power source lined up.”
Jack shifted the monitor back and started searching. “Ahh. Yeah, they do.” He leaned in closer as he read aloud from the file. “‘Suspected alien vessel fell into the Pacific Ocean five months ago; infrared scanners showed high probability of particle accelerator technology; craft retrieval schedule estimates eighteen months to acquire and properly retrofit the device. Because of length of projected delays, this option deemed subpar.’”
“But,” said Rose, staring at the monitor, “so they get another engine–isn’t that just as dangerous? Why would we bother destroying this one?”
The Doctor leaned over and commandeered the mouse and keyboard from Jack. A few clicks later, he’d located the detailed schematics. He was silent for a moment as he scanned it. “There.” He indicated the infrared data. “You see?”
Jack frowned at it for a moment, and then his face cleared. “Oh. Yeah, that does make a difference.”
“What is it?” asked Rose. “What’s the difference?”
“That,” said Jack, pointing a finger at a cloudy red blob with a slightly brighter oval on one side. “That’s the engine, and they’re right–it’s a particle accelerator drive. But you see the way these heat signatures are dispersed? That means the engine is core-framed with duel exothermic heat sinks, and that’s not something you’re going to see on a Paxtril cruiser. My guess is this is probably a Sevralian ship.”
“And that’s good?” she asked, glancing back and forth between the two of them.
“Sevralian technology is much higher quality–better engine shielding, for one thing,” explained the Doctor. “And a hell of a lot more fail-safes. If Torchwood makes a mistake while they’re poking at it, they might level the building, but they won’t take out this part of the hemisphere.”
Rose took a deep breath. “So basically I’ve been worried all day for nothing.”
“Yeah,” said the Doctor.
“Pretty much,” agreed Jack.
“OK,” said Rose, nodding slowly, “my mistake.” She looked at both of them, sitting there waiting for her reaction. “Well then, what are we waiting for? Let’s go blow the thing up.”
The Doctor’s face split into a manic grin, so achingly familiar that Rose had to turn away, blinking her eyes. He pushed off the wall, moving with the bubbling energy that he only got when the difficult questions had been resolved, when doing was the only thing left, and God help anybody who stood in his way.
Oh, she had missed it so much.
Jack hopped up from the computer chair. “What do we need to do first, Doc?”
The Doctor was already striding across the room. “I need to drain the charge out of the ionic fuel first. That way, the ignition system won’t cause a catastrophic chain reaction. It’ll take a bit longer than what I’d originally planned to do, but after seeing this place,” he waved a hand at Torchwood at large, “I think it’s for the best that we get rid of the engine entirely. While I’m doing that, you’d both better start moving all the people in here–that way, they’ll be well clear of the blast radius.”
“How long will it take to finish what you need to do?” asked Rose, following the Doctor down the hallway, trotting to keep up. “What time is it now?”
Hurrying along beside her, Jack checked his watch. “It’s 6:34.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll make it.” The Doctor rounded the corner toward the engine room. “Well. Might be a little tight. But I’m sure we can get out in time.”
Striding through the doors, the Doctor made a beeline right for the engine and immediately got to work. Together, Jack and Rose started hauling the limp forms of the Torchwood staff back to the Lever Room.
On their second trip, Jack had one of the guards slung over his shoulder, and Rose was pushing one of the scientists along on an office chair. As they passed the door that the Doctor had sealed shut, the handle rattled. A moment later, there was the dull thump-thump of a fist banging on the door.
“Jack,” said Rose, freezing. “Is it the sweep?”
Jack’s face was grim. “Maybe not the sweep, but somebody’s figured out that we’ve got this place locked down. Doctor,” he called, “we’ve got problems.”
“I heard,” the Doctor called back, still working on the engine.
“C’mon,” said Rose anxiously, “let’s finish getting these people moved, at least.”
She and Jack quickly hauled their cargo to the Lever Room and gently settled the guard and the scientist on the floor next to the other unconscious people. As they made the final trip with the last guard slung between them, they heard thumping on other sealed door.
“Are you armed, Jack?” Rose asked quietly. “If not, we’ve got those guns from the guards. I know the Doctor won’t like it, but I don’t see how we’re going to get out of here without a fight.”
Jack nodded. “Agreed. And yeah, I’ve got a weapon. Let’s go check on the Doctor and find out how much time he’s going to need.”
They lay the guard down with the others and ran back down the hall to the engine room. The Doctor had several parts of the engine spread out around him. A bunch of wires stretched across the floor from the machinery to the wall where they were wrapped around one of the exposed steel I-beams that was supporting the ceiling. Rose and Jack carefully stepped over the bits and pieces.
The Doctor was kneeling, reaching with one arm almost up to the shoulder inside the particle engine. “Hang on,” he said, grimacing. “I’ve almost got this.”
“We’ve got to do something quick,” said Jack. “They’ve figured out that the doors are locked, and I bet they’ve tried to raise the guards on the comm. Next step will be to cut through the doors.”
“If they get through before you can finish, we’ll have to try to hold them off,” said Rose, eyeing the engine room doorway and the windows that looked out into the hall. “It’ll be tricky though–the windows are reinforced, but once they get through them, we’re out of luck. And either way, I’m not sure how we’ll get back to the TARDIS.”
“Oh, I’ve got a plan for that,” said the Doctor, still peering intently into the inner workings of the particle engine. “Jack, do you think you could get me patched into the comm? Get me access to their central communication line, I mean.”
“Maybe,” said Jack thoughtfully. “Where are the earpieces?”
“Over here,” supplied Rose, fishing one out from the pile. She handed it to Jack. “What are you going to do?” she asked the Doctor as Jack took the earpiece over to the comm relay and got to work.
“Gonna kill two with one stone.” He was silent for a moment, directing the sonic at a particularly fussy connection. “This engine,” he began after he had finished the tricky bits, “will explode with about as much force as a grenade once I’m finished with it. Which would be enough to mess up the room but not enough to bring down the roof. But, if the energy of the explosion is focused correctly,” he paused again, pulling out a small component and reattaching its wiring, “it should be able to punch a hole through cement.”
“So we’re going out through the wall?”
“That’s the idea.”
Rose chewed her lip. “And if it isn’t focused correctly?”
He looked up at her, aggrieved. “It will be.” Just then, one of the connections sparked, and he gasped and stuck one of his fingers in his mouth.
“Oi, have a care with the explosives,” said Rose, her hand automatically going to his shoulder. “You alright?”
The Doctor gave a quick glance at her fingers spread over his leather jacket and grinned. “Yeah. All according to plan. We’ll go through the wall, down the hall, and straight to the TARDIS. If Jack can get me on the comm, that is. We’ll need to give them a heads up, make sure everyone is clear of the blast zone.”
He clicked the component back into place and looked up. “Jack. How’re we doing?”
“Almost there,” Jack answered. “You should have access to the command communications line–you’ll be able to override the other channels. Basically,” he added as he brought the earpiece back over to the Doctor, “you’ll be heard by everybody in the building.”
“Perfect.” The Doctor finished whatever alterations he was making to the particle engine and stood up, dusting his hands off. He took the earpiece from Jack and slid it into place.
“Hello, Torchwood,” he said cheerfully. “I’m up here with your particle engine, and I was wondering, would you mind if we chat for a mo’?”
He stood there, waiting patiently for the chatter on the line to die down, and then Rose and Jack heard the unmistakable sound of someone asking, “Who is this?”
Rose shook her head vehemently at him.
The Doctor rolled his eyes at her, but answered, “Your aunt Mildred, who d’you think? Anyhow, I was just happening by and noticed that you happen to be in possession of a dangerous bit of alien technology.”
The voice on the other end began to squawk, and the Doctor rolled his eyes again. “Oh, I believe me, I know all about the risks of playing around with this. A mite better than you do, I think. Now, I’m guessing that you probably don’t want to kill half your species, so I thought I’d do you a little favor and dismantle it. It’s going to be a bit of a mess, though–you’re going to want to evacuate all personnel from the west side of this floor. Well, west and north both would be best. Immediately.” He paused for a moment. “Did you get that?”
There was a moment of silence, and then the voice started chattering angrily. The Doctor pulled the earpiece off and switched it to mute.
“They’re not too happy, but do you think they’ll listen about getting the people out?” he asked Jack.
Jack nodded. “Probably. They’re really big on personnel safety. Doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying to get in here, though.” He glanced back at the sealed door in the hallway as the muffled sound of whirring machinery started up. “For instance, I think they’re trying to cut through that door.”
“Right.” The Doctor pulled out the sonic and started scanning the engine. “We’re almost ready–just need a few more minutes for the last of the charge to disperse. Jack, you go get anything you can to block that door. Rose, drag any furniture you can find, tables and desks and such, and pile ‘em up in the corner over there. The room’s big enough that we should be ok, but we’re still going to want something to hide behind when the explosion goes off.”
As the Doctor turned his attention back to putting the final touches on the engine, Jack ran off in the direction of the Lever Room, and Rose started shoving papers, lamps, and whatnot off the top of the two desks in the room. She dragged them, two filing cabinets, a bookshelf, and an office chair into the corner of the room and constructed a make-shift bomb shelter, enough to protect them from some of the debris at least.
Out in the hallway, she saw Jack return, pushing and pulling an office chair in either hand, both of them piled up with cement blocks from the Lever Room. He started stacking them in front of the hallway door, working fast as sparks started to fly out of the sealed lock. Rose ran over to give him a hand.
“Here,” said Jack, quickly dumping the rest of the blocks on the floor. “Get these ones into position. I’ll go grab another load.”
Arms aching, Rose hauled the cement blocks into position. A minute later, Jack returned with more, and together, they built up enough of a barricade to at least slow down their pursuers.
“Probably good enough,” panted Jack, stretching out his fingers painfully. “What do you say we use the rest of these to protect us from the explosion?” When Rose nodded, he pushed an office chair into the engine room.
Rose followed him in and shut the door, flipping the bolt to lock it. “They’re almost through that door handle,” she reported.
Jack was stacking the rest of the cement blocks in front of the desks. “We ready to go yet, Doc?”
“Yep.” The Doctor popped the earpiece back on. “Alright, hello there, back again. So…where do we stand on your people getting evacuated?” There was some very noisy and emphatic squawking, but the Doctor just smirked. He gestured for Rose and Jack to get behind the shelter, and then flipped a couple of connections on the engine.
“You know,” he said conversationally, “it’d be a better strategy to beg another ten minutes or so, claim you need more time to get your people to safety. Telling me you don’t negotiate with terrorists is just a tip-off. But good to know everybody’s out.” He ran the sonic over the wall just to be sure and nodded at the results.
Outside in the hallway, there was a clang as the door handle fell to the floor, and there were the rattling sounds of the Torchwood security personnel shoving the door against the barricade.
“Well, time to go. Nice chat and all. Be seeing you.” The Doctor pulled off the earpiece and tossed it to the floor as he hurried to join Rose and Jack behind the shelter. Just before he ducked down to squeeze under one of the desks with them, he pointed the sonic at the engine and activated it. “Cover your ears,” he advised and knelt down beside them.
Thousand one…thousand two…
Boom! The floor shook as the engine and wall exploded with tremendous force. Even behind the wall of concrete blocks, Rose felt it like a punch to the gut as the shockwave knocked the air from her lungs. She dropped her hands to the floor and worked to suck in a breath, and to her side, she could hear Jack doing likewise. In the aftermath of the explosion, the desk shelter shuddered as the bits of rubble and engine rained down.
As the debris cleared, the Doctor reached down to take Rose’s hand. “Time to go,” he said, tugging her out from under the desk. Jack followed along behind.
The room was a mess–bits of engine and cement everywhere. Coughing, Rose tried to wave the dust away from her face. “I thought you said you could focus it on the wall,” she said and then shook her head, trying to clear the ringing in her ears.
“I did,” protested the Doctor, pulling her toward the newly made hole. “Where’d you think this nice, new egress came from?” He paused with some satisfaction by the smoldering mass of twisted metal that used to be a particle accelerator engine from a Paxtril C-class short range cruiser. “That’s not going to be of much use to anybody,” he said, nudging it with his foot.
“Let’s get moving,” said Jack, glancing back at the door, “while we still have the chance.”
“And hope that they haven’t found the TARDIS yet,” added Rose, as she started climbing through the hole in the wall.
They scrambled over the fallen debris and broken bits of furniture and made their way down the corridor leading to the room with the TARDIS. The route back to the ship ended up being somewhat time-consuming as they had to duck into a spare room to avoid a squad of soldiers sent to investigate the aftermath of the explosion. Fortunately, though, the TARDIS had remained undiscovered, and they were able to reach it without further trouble.
Once they were all through the doors, Rose breathed a sigh of relief.
“Everybody onboard?” The Doctor clapped his hands together and then flipped the lever to start the dematerialization sequence. “And we’re off!”
Jack and Rose grabbed the railings as the TARDIS made the quick jump across London.
They landed at 7:26 in an alleyway just across the street from Henrik’s. As the TARDIS stabilized, the Doctor turned to Rose.
“You said there was an explosion. How big?”
“I dunno. Big.” She drummed her fingers, trying to remember. “Top couple floors of the building, I s’pose.”
The Doctor glanced at Jack. “We’re a bit short on time. I’m going to need your help.”
“No problem,” said Jack with a nod. “Do you have what we’ll need?”
“I think so.” The Doctor hurried out of the console room with Jack on his heels.
Rose trailed along behind. “I don’t understand,” she said, following them to one of the storage cupboards. “What do you need us to do?”
The Doctor and Jack were both rooting around through the piles of junk heaped on the shelves or stuffed in bins. “You two are going to set up the explosives,” the Doctor answered, pulling out a piece of random equipment and dropping it unceremoniously to the floor, “while I go distract the Autons, make sure everyone else is out of the building, and rescue the younger-you.”
“Oh, here we go,” said Jack, enthusiasm coloring his voice. He pulled out a large string of what looked like alien Christmas lights–big white bulbs strung on a long, green wire. “HPE–that’s Hypertridex plastacide explosives,” he added for Rose’s sake. “Nice and stable; good blast radius. Should do the job.”
The Doctor ran his hands over the line, checking out the connections. “Perfect. You’ve used HPE before?” he asked Jack. When the other man confirmed, the Doctor nodded. “Alright then. Let’s go.”
“Wait,” objected Rose as the two men started to push past her. “That’s not right.”
“What’s not?” asked Jack.
“That’s not the bomb you used,” she said. “You waved it around at me. It was little and square…” She started to look around the cupboard for it, scrunching up her forehead in an effort to remember what it looked like.
“Rose, I don’t think it matters,” objected the Doctor. “A tiny difference won’t do any harm, and we’ve got to get moving. We’re running out of time.”
“But you held it up,” she insisted, lifting up the lid of one of the bins. “You told me you were going to blow up the relay and maybe yourself along with it and that I should run for my life. It had a little clock on it and…there!” She spotted it sitting on a shelf behind a big loop of black cable, and she scrambled over a pile of discarded electronics to reach it. “This is it,” she said, gingerly lifting the little box up for them to see. “Shouldn’t we use it instead?”
The Doctor and Jack both stared at the device in her hands and then glanced at each other.
“What?” Rose demanded. They were clearly trying not to laugh.
“Rose, it’s just…” said Jack, fighting a grin.
“That’s an Mbruvian alarm clock,” said the Doctor bluntly, and they both started snickering.
Rose looked back and forth between the two of them. “But it’s…it’s all…” She stared at the device in her hands. “Now wait just a second.” She scowled at the pair of them. “This isn’t an alarm clock. It’s all…wired up and taped together.”
“Ah, the Mbruvia,” said Jack nostalgically. “They have no sense of design. But they’re great at parties.” He hoisted the coil of HPE over his shoulder and started for the door, still chuckling.
“But why on Earth did you tell me you were going to blow up the relay with an alarm clock?” Rose asked the Doctor, still confused.
The Doctor plucked the device out of her hands. “Because,” he said with a ridiculous grin, “you just told me to.” He trotted after Jack.
“But…but that doesn’t make any sense. Doctor,” she called, slightly frustrated.
“Wibbley-wobbly,” he called back.
“Timey-wimey, right,” she muttered, following them both. “Bloody hell.” But she still cracked a little smile. An alarm clock. Honestly.
She stepped out of the TARDIS doors and found herself on a sidewalk one block over from Henrik’s. The Doctor and Jack were already crossing the street, and Rose ran to catch up.
“OK,” said the Doctor as he led them to the alleyway alongside the store, “here’s the plan. You two head up to the roof and rig up the explosives while I go rescue Rose the Younger. You know how to set the detonation remote?” he asked Jack, who gave a quick nod. “Good.”
The Doctor reached up and pulled down the fire escape ladder. “Once you’re done, get back down into the alleyway. You should be out of sight here–” and he glanced at Rose for conformation. She nodded. “–and I’ll meet you here once I’m sure there’s no one else in the building. Don’t detonate the explosives until I get here, no matter what, and don’t set a foot out of this alleyway. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” said Jack, snapping to a salute.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. “Alright then, up you go.”
Jack began climbing the ladder. Rose waited until he reached the first landing before putting her foot onto the first rung.
The Doctor lingered a moment, watching them. “Rose.”
She glanced down him as she started to climb. “Shouldn’t you be getting to the basement, Doctor?”
He nodded and then placed a hand lightly on her ankle. “Take care with the explosives, Rose,” he said softly.
She paused and looked down into his eyes, shining blue even in the dim light. “I will.” She smiled, something small and delicate just between the two of them, and he smiled back in turn before letting her go.
Once she made it to the roof, Rose found Jack already spreading out the HSE line next to a large metal box, which she assumed was the alien device. “Here,” he said, handing her one end, “help me wrap it around the relay. Don’t worry,” he added when she hesitated. “HSE is very stable. You can’t set it off by moving it around.”
Taking him at his word, Rose dragged the wires around the relay. Jack laid another line down going in the opposite direction. They continued, placing more and more line around the relay until they reached the end of the coil. Then Jack knelt down and started fusing the connections together.
Rose stood back and watched him work. “Jack,” she said after a moment, “if you do see him–before I get back, I mean–you can’t tell him. Every jump, every change alters the timelines, and we just don’t know how stable the surviving one will be.”
Jack paused, a connector in each hand. “I know,” he said softly. “That,” he added as he snapped a connector into place, “is why I’m going to ask him to block the memory of today.”
“I…I wouldn’t have asked you to…”
“I know.” He smiled ruefully. “I’m not looking forward to it myself. But if there’s that much at stake, we can’t risk the potential contamination. Not for the sake of the memory of a little reunion adventure.” He scooted over and inspected a little panel of blinking lights on the HPE line. Then he pulled the activation switch out of his pocket.
Rose watched him sync the detonator with the switch. “I meant it when I said that I’d make him come find you, Jack.”
Jack was silent for a moment, watching as the little lights blink in unison. The device beeped once, and, straightening up, he pocketed it. “I know, Rose,” he said at last. Standing up, he smiled. “All done. Shall we go back down?
Rose nodded. “Yeah. He’s got to be almost done by now.”
Together, they clambered down the fire escape. As Rose’s feet hit the pavement of the alleyway, the Doctor came hurrying around from the back of the building.
“Did it go OK?” Rose asked nervously. “Did you get me out?”
He nodded. “Yep, you’re off to have your lovely beans on toast.” Then he grinned. “Students? Really?” he teased as Jack passed him the detonation switch.
Rose rolled her eyes. “Yeah, ‘cause shop window dummies suddenly come to life makes a lot more sense.”
The Doctor chuckled. “S’pose not. ‘Sides, I’m one to talk–I almost forgot to ask you your name.”
He checked the settings on the detonator and then moved to look out of the entrance to the alleyway. Rose and Jack followed him, keeping to the shadows. After a moment, Rose spotted her younger self run across the street, still clutching the plastic arm.
The Doctor winced. “Oh, probably shouldn’t have let you take that home with you.”
Rose laughed silently, remembering the fate of her mother’s favorite coffee table. “Nah, all according to plan. You’ve got to have a reason to stop by in the morning, after all.” She glanced at the detonator. “That thing ready?”
“Yep. Here,” said the Doctor, unlocking a door to the next building over. “Let’s just pop in here. We’re low enough to be out of the blast radius, and the wall will protect us from debris and such.” Once they were all safely inside, he closed the door. “Alright, here goes,” he said, waggling his eyebrows. “Explosion Number Two.”
With a quick flip of a switch, he detonated the HPE. There was a tremendous bang and a rumbling sound as the building shuddered. After a moment, the sounds of falling concrete and debris died away, and the muffled sounds of sirens and car alarms started up.
“Well,” said Jack cheerfully, “that’s all taken care of. You two want to go get some dinner?”