“Dammit, Jack! You’ve got company!” Gwen’s voice came through the communicator into his ear. He could barely hear it over the beating of his heart. It didn’t matter how many times he went into a situation like this, it was the adrenaline coursing through his veins that brought his senses into an acute state of vigilance. Acrid smoke was burning his lungs and stinging his eyes making the retrieval more difficult. It wasn't going to be as straight forward as they'd anticipated.
He had to get into the burning building, retrieve whatever it was giving off a decaying alien signal, and then get out again. Hopefully without dying, but it was him going in just in case it was not possible. They didn’t know what it was that was giving off the signal, but they’d picked it up at Torchwood and what had started as a standard retrieval had suddenly become something much more as it became apparent that a raging fire was razing through the old building and now an intruder on top?
What Jack did not need to be doing was dealing with someone else coming into the building. Why on Earth would someone else be going in?! Unless they were coming for the unknown artefact as well, or they were on a suicide mission, since it was on fire! Jack used his wrist computer to try to find the location of the signal. The signal was coming from above him and in the next room. He held a tissue across his nose and mouth and ran, daring the flames to scorch his coat.
Jack bolted up the stairs. They weren’t alight yet but it wasn’t going to be long, he could hear the blaze crackling as it consumed the old wooden structure. The thick black smoke made it hard to see, hard to breathe, but he pushed forward. It was at the top of the stairs that he met the other person who had come into the building as brought to his attention by Gwen. Gwen who was now calling him and asking him to report back.
“Who the Hell are you?!” Jack exclaimed. “You need to get yourself out of here! The building is on fire!”
“I had noticed,” the intruder responded, the flames seemed to brighten his intense gaze as he regarded the Captain. It made Jack’s blood burn hotter than the fire spreading around them, but there was no time.
“Get out of here! Are you mad?!”
“No madder than you apparently.”
Both Jack and the man instinctively ducked down as the fire brought down a section of the ceiling. It crashed into the room where the signal was coming from with an explosion of stinging sparks.
“Get out of here,” Jack insisted.
“I just need to grab something, then believe me I’m out of here! What I don’t need to be doing is rescuing some cocky kid with a death wish!”
“This not a playground! Get out!” Jack demanded. Instead of responding in the most sensible of manners the man who had come in after him ran into the middle of the room. He grabbed a small metal cylinder with some strange writing on it. Jack was about to tackle him down to the ground to get it off him, wondering what was going on and how he could know about it. He had to take it into Torchwood in order to determine what it was and whether it was safe or not.
“This what you’re after?” The man asked and tossed it to Jack. He barely caught it in the dark smoke. “Now, I think…” he looked up as the wooden beams in the ceiling above them were charred and smouldering. He shoulder barged Jack out the way as things started to come down, preventing them both from being buried and pinned down by the burning beam. The intense heat of the fire was reddening their faces under the dirtying soot. “…we better get out of here.”
The man grabbed Jack’s hand and started to pull him across to the other side where there was a second flight of stairs going down, but as he did the floor gave way and they both fell through. Burning wood dropped down all around them in a shower of sparks. Jack leapt up but the man who had found and retrieved the article didn’t. He seemed dazed and flames were licking at the tail of his jacket.
“Shit,” Jack patted out the flames, but then covered him as more burning debris rained down on them from the roof of the building. The young man may have been an idiot from running into the building, but he’d pushed him out the way. He may not have been permanently dead as a result, but he’d saved him from the inconvenience of dying and reviving in an inferno.
“Let’s get you out of here!” He lofted the man up onto his shoulder and ran out with him. When they were in the fresh air the coolness of the damp grey afternoon made Jack cough violently with the smoke that he’d inhaled. Gwen came running over when she saw Jack making her way out of the building with the man over his shoulder. He dropped him down as carefully as possible before falling to his knees coughing too violently to acknowledge Gwen.
“Drink,” Gwen insisted as she handed Jack an open bottle of water. It would not be long for Jack to heal himself, but she wasn’t so sure about the man he had carried out. He had an angry bruise developing on his forehead. When she reached into his neck his pulse was incredibly fast. Far too fast. “I think we need to call an ambulance for this guy,” Gwen advised Jack as the Captain began to breathe more easily. “Who is he? What was he doing in there?”
“I don’t know,” Jack admitted. “He saved me, though, and found the device. He knew what it was and where it was. There is more to him than…” Jack started but the man lying on the floor snapped awake suddenly. He looked shocked, but then he was up on his feet almost immediately, even as Gwen was trying to tend to him slightly.
“Take it easy, love.” Gwen went to take his hand. “You’re hurt.”
“Hmm, yes,” he acknowledged and touched his forehead. “Ow.” He winced. “Well, nothing a cup of tea won’t cure,” he offered and grinned wildly. He winked at Gwen before turning to Jack. “So, Captain Jack Harkness, what exactly are you planning to do with a Cardellian battle spear? Perhaps you should just hand it over?” he suggested and held his hand out for it. “Can’t have you running around with a Cardellian battle spear now, can we?”
“Right.” Jack smiled his understanding as he fished it out of his pocket and placed it into the man’s waiting hand. Gwen just looked at him agog. Why was he handing it over to him when they’d gone to retrieve it, and, if it was a battle spear? That didn’t sound very friendly. Perhaps they should be locking it in the vault and leaving it there where it was safe.
“Hello.” The man grinned at Jack, linking arms with him.
"So, what was it this time?"
"Nasty," Jack commented but then looked at him properly. “Nice bowtie.”
“Do you like it?”
“Bowties are cool.”