Ianto knew the two of them had been in some pretty desperate situations during their years with Torchwood, but in his opinion, this one had all of them beat. He was aware that in some respects he and Jack were better off than the average person; they didn’t need to worry so much about dying because neither of them would stay dead permanently. Sooner or later, possibly hundreds of years later, their ship would be discovered, hauled in as salvage, and then they’d revive; it wouldn’t be pleasant, but it would happen. Nevertheless, dying of whatever eventually did them in, whether that was suffocation, thirst, or starvation, wasn’t an appealing prospect, and if the failed to fix their current situation they were likely to have a long time to contemplate their approaching fate before it actually happened.
The Happy Wanderer was well equipped, and well stocked with all the necessities of life. As long as the recycling systems remained operational they had enough water and air to keep them going for several months, and enough food to last the two of them for over a year, if what they were carrying as cargo was taken into account. What they didn’t have was unlimited power to keep the ship’s various systems running. As soon as possible after the accident happened they’d shut down as much as they could to conserve what power they had; all the non-essential systems, most of the lighting, navigation, and all the helm controls, and they’d restricted gravity to just the holds, the machine shop, and their quarters. Having the cargo start floating around would have been a bad idea, but as soon as they’d got it all secured they’d been able to cut their power consumption even further and focus on repairing the ship.
The chances of getting clipped by space debris were slim, but still something no spacefarer ignored. It was a risk spaceship captains understood and accepted, although one most of them thought more likely to happen to somebody else. This time, Jack and Ianto had been the unlucky ones, made even more unfortunate by the fact that they’d been hit in such a way that their propulsion drives had suffered considerable damage. Without the drives running they were dead in the water and reliant on a backup generator for which they only had a limited supply of power cubes.
Each cube would last two, maybe three days, depending on how much power they were using. If they didn’t need to use the machine shop to repair or replace the drive’s damaged and destroyed components they might have got a full week’s worth of power from each cube, but just sitting in space and hoping someone would come across them by chance would have been foolish. Space was too big to gamble on being rescued, even with the distress beacon sending out its signal in all directions, and anyway, trying to repair the Wanderer at least gave them something constructive to do, rather than just sitting around waiting to die.
Even if they did manage to get the Wanderer moving, travelling through the vortex wouldn’t be an option. They’d have to limp along at sub-light speeds, and it could take them months to reach somewhere they could dock to complete repairs, but they’d still be better off than they were right now. An operational drive system wouldn’t just mean they could get moving again; they’d also be able to restore power to all onboard systems, since everything ran off the ship’s engines when they were working.
All these thoughts flitted through Ianto’s mind, one after another as he donned his space suit and breathing unit, and slipped out the airlock to take his turn out in the vacuum, reinstalling repaired components and removing more of the damaged ones. He’d overhauled the drive engines so many times while in space dock or at a planetside spaceport that he knew them almost as well as Jack did. They were a sorry mess; with a lot of luck, between them he and Jack should be able to make temporary repairs but there were damaged parts they wouldn’t be able to fix and which they didn’t have spares of, or the right materials to construct proper replacements. Even if they managed to get the engines going, which was by no means certain, they’d have to keep stopping to make further repairs every time a replacement part gave out, which would probably happen a lot.
The only plus point Ianto could see in the whole situation was that they were carrying their own cargo this time out, which meant they wouldn’t incur any penalties for late delivery. When they’d dropped off their last cargo at a rather out-of-the-way system there’d been no official outgoing loads available, so they’d purchased a wide variety of items they were fairly sure they’d be able to offload for a profit at some of the busier space stations, because travelling with empty holds was a waste.
“How does it look?” Jack asked when Ianto came back inside several hours later, dumping a load of tools and damaged engine parts onto a bench and pulling off his helmet.
“Not good. All but two of the main capacitors are burned out, and we only have four spares.”
Jack winced; that was bad news. “We’ll be running on approximately two thirds power.”
“Still better than none, and I’m not sure the engines could handle full power anyway. If we blow out the remaining main capacitors, we’re sunk. The subsidiaries aren’t constructed to carry that kind of load.”
“We might have to try connecting them in tandem, spread the load out a bit.”
Ianto looked dubious but after giving it some thought eventually nodded. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. If we can add some buffering to prevent bounce-back it might work. We don’t want to short out all the subsidiary capacitors as well.”
“You look about done in; you should get some rest before we try anything else.”
“So should you. Food then rest,” Ianto said firmly. “The engines aren’t going anywhere.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
Both men were beyond exhausted; they’d been working up to twenty hours at a stretch for the last ten days, grabbing at best four hours of sleep a ‘night’. Since there wasn’t much in the way of natural light in space, day and night on board a spaceship were purely arbitrary.
Stripping out of the rest of his spacesuit, Ianto stowed it in its locker, plugged it in to recharge, and floated in zero gravity after Jack along the corridors to their quarters, where he took a brief sonic shower to freshen up before joining his lover in the kitchen for a bite to eat. After clearing away the dishes, they tumbled into bed together, almost immediately falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Ianto felt as if he’d only just closed his eyes when he was awakened by a strange noise from somewhere outside their quarters. He jerked awake, groggy and confused, and sat up, shaking Jack.
“Whu?” Jack asked muzzily. “Time t’ get up already?”
“I heard something.”
That was enough to bring Jack fully awake. They were alone, on a silent spaceship adrift in a vacuum. About the only reason for there to be any noise would be if something else was going seriously wrong, although in that case there should be alarms sounding… The moment that thought crossed his mind, alarms started to blare out and Jack muttered curses under his breath as he scrambled off the bed, pulling on coveralls. Ianto followed suit, but paused in the act of zipping his up, realising it wasn’t a fire alarm sounding, or anything warning of imminent system failure.
“That’s the intruder alarm.”
Jack stopped halfway to the door and returned, grabbing a stunner and tossing one to Ianto. If another ship had responded to their distress signal, they would have tried to make contact by radio before boarding. That they hadn’t meant the intruders might be pirates out to kill them and steal their cargo, along with anything else they could sell for profit. It seemed their already desperate situation had just taken a turn for the worse. Even in space, when it rained it poured.
Slipping silently out of their quarters, they crept through the faintly lit corridors, which for some unknown reason now had gravity even though neither of them had turned it back on. Maybe the pirates had in order to make things easier for themselves. Still, it wouldn’t do them much good; Jack and Ianto knew every inch of their ship intimately, which was more than any intruders could boast. The Wanderer had been customised so completely over the last fifteen years that very little of it still adhered to factory specifications.
Hearing footsteps approaching, Jack and Ianto glanced at each other and split up, going in different directions in order to corner the intruders in a corridor from which there were only two exits, each of them covered by an armed immortal. Whoever these people were, they wouldn’t get away.
Silently counting to ten, Jack swung around the corner, weapon raised, shouting, “Stop right there! Drop your weapons and raise your… Doctor?”
The dimly seen figure standing a few metres away raised his eyebrows. “Jack? Is that you? Whatever are you doing here?”
“Uh, this is my cargo ship.”
“Is it? It’s not a very good one. It doesn’t seem to be working.”
“Hey!” an indignant voice exclaimed from behind the Doctor and his bemused companion. “I’ll have you know the Wanderer is an excellent ship, it’s just that a small asteroid hit us and took out the propulsion drives. Could’ve happened to anyone!”
The Doctor turned. “Well I never, Ianto Jones, this is a surprise! Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
“Not anymore,” Ianto said firmly.
The Doctor turned back to Jack, frowning. “Jack, what did you do?”
“Don’t start with me, Doctor. You weren’t there when earth needed you. One way or another I lost everything that mattered to me; I couldn’t bring my grandson back, I couldn’t do anything to help my daughter, and she’ll never forgive me, not that I deserve forgiveness, but I wasn’t about to lose Ianto as well. It took me years to find a way to get him back, but I don’t regret it and I’m not gonna apologise for it.”
“And you made him immortal too?”
“That part wasn’t intentional, it just happened, but don’t you dare try to undo it!” Jack snapped as the Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and started running it over Ianto.
“I couldn’t even if I wanted to, which I don’t,” the Doctor assured him. “I was just curious about how you did it.”
“I have no idea. What did you use to restore his life?”
“Doctor, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in a bit of a difficult situation right now. Can all these questions about me wait until later? The only question I want an answer to right now is whether or not you can help us fix our ship.” As usual, Ianto got straight to the point.
“Ianto’s right, Doctor; fixing the Wanderer has to take priority over catching up on who’s been doing what.”
“Right, of course, sorry. What seems to be the problem?”
“Wrecked propulsion drives; both the sub-light engines and the vortex drive are out. We’ve managed to make some of the parts we need in the machine shop, but we’re short four main capacitors and several other major parts. We might be able to get the sub-light engines running at about sixty-eight percent capacity, but even then it’ll take us a long time to get anywhere we can make complete repairs.”
“Oh, that’s no problem! I can give one of you a lift to the nearest supplier and get a repair ship and an engineering crew out to you with a whole new set of propulsion drives. Once they get here they can have everything fitted in a couple of days and you’ll be on your way, good as new.”
Jack smiled. “We’d appreciate that, but… Doctor, what made you come here right at this particular moment?”
“I didn’t,” the Doctor replied, sounding a bit bemused. “I mean, we were supposed to be going to Corriantus for the coronation of Queen Hexibar, but instead we wound up here. Can’t imagine why; I’m sure I set the destination correctly.”
“Looks like we should probably be thanking the TARDIS for the timely rescue,” Ianto said, smiling.
“She always did like us,” Jack agreed. “She must have sensed we were in trouble and come to our assistance.”
Desperate situation well on the way to being remedied, Jack and Ianto could finally relax. It just went to prove that who you knew out here in space was easily as important as what you knew. Having a living spaceship as a friend, especially one that could travel through both time and space, was a true blessing.