“Jack, wait!” Ianto balks just outside Thames House. Up to this moment, he’s been perfectly willing to follow wherever Jack might lead, but for some reason he doesn’t understand, he can’t make himself go any further; not now, or not yet.
He’s been here before, he’s sure of it, standing right on this very spot, looking up at the building where the 456’s envoy is housed in the purpose-built reinforced glass tank they’ve seen through the contact lenses in Lois’s eyes. There’s something indefinable about the scene that he recognises somewhere deep inside himself, or could he be remembering a dream, something conjured by his mind during the restless hours of the previous night in the dank old warehouse that’s Torchwood’s temporary base of operations? Either way, the sense of déjà vu is overpowering, stopping him in his tracks.
“Ianto, come on!” Jack urges impatiently, reaching out as if to tug at his arm to impel him forwards, but Ianto takes a step back, out of reach.
“No, we can’t. If we go in there like this, without a plan, a lot of people are going to die.” He doesn’t know how he knows that, but he knows it as the truth, as sure as he’s standing here.
“If we don’t, ten percent of the earth’s children are gonna become drugs for alien junkies,” Jack snaps. “You want that on your conscience?
Ianto knows that’s the truth as well, knows the 456 have to be stopped, but still, if they’re going to do this, they should make sure they do it right. They’ll only get one chance at this and they’re not going to endear themselves to the government, the very people who’ve been trying for the past few days to take them out of the picture, if they wind up with innocent blood on their hands. He stands his ground.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t go in there, but I think we should check our facts first. What do we know about these creatures?”
“What d’you mean?” Jack frowns at him.
“You’ve dealt with them before, right? They wanted children in exchange for the cure to a new strain of flu, you said.”
“So how did they have a cure ready and waiting for an epidemic that hadn’t even started yet?”
“I…” Jack shakes his head, suddenly looking thoughtful. “That’s a good question. Either they were from the future, or--”
“Or they were responsible for releasing the mutant flu strain themselves; a biological incentive so we’d give them what they wanted. If they can muck around with viruses, what might they already have up their sleeve waiting to be used to persuade us to give in to their demands this time?”
“Their representative’s shut away in an airtight tank. It can’t tolerate our atmosphere any more than we can tolerate the stuff it breathes,” Jack argues.
“So it’s told us, but why should we believe it? We may have built its little home away from home, but it was built to their plans and specifications. Who knows what little surprises might have been built into it without anyone even being aware of them? Maybe some way for the 456 to release a biological agent if we refuse to comply with their demands?”
Jack freezes. He looks uncertain and Ianto knows he’s getting through to him now.
“How many people d’you think work in Thames House? How many innocent office staff are in there right now and what will happen if we go in there and make the 456 mad? Virus, toxic gas, poison…” Ianto trails off; Jack’s beginning to understand what he’s getting at.
“The ventilation system… They’d all be killed, and if it spread further, out onto the streets… Gods, Ianto, we could start an epidemic, kill everybody!”
“We could, in which case we might want to take a few precautions instead of just blundering in there waving our guns about.”
Jack nods. “Evacuate the entire building, close all windows, and turn off the ventilation system for starters. I’ll have to go in alone.”
“No, you’re not going in there without me; you’ll need backup.”
“But you could be killed!” Jack grabs Ianto by the shoulders, shakes him. “What’s the point of saving everyone else if I lose you? I won’t take that risk!”
“You’re still not thinking straight,” Ianto tells him. “We know for a fact there’s at least one Hazmat suit in there somewhere, so I’ll wear that. It shouldn’t be too hard to find, I doubt it’s hidden.” In fact he has the strangest feeling he knows exactly where to look.
Turns out he’s right.
They go inside, get the evacuation underway, check room after room, closing doors, and vents, and windows, slowly working their way up to the top floor. Someone from maintenance has already been despatched to shut down the air circulation system; if worse comes to worst, anything the 456 might use as a weapon should be contained within the building, maybe even restricted to just one floor.
The Hazmat suit is right where Ianto expects it to be, in the small office just across the hall from the large conference room where the 456’s tank has been constructed. Ianto dons it, checks it’s secure, and follows Jack into the room, and it’s déjà vu all over again, although perhaps this time it’s because Ianto has already seen it all through Lois’s eyes.
Jack gives the 456 his ultimatum, because he and Ianto haven’t come up with a better idea; it’s not like shooting at bulletproof glass is going to have any effect, beyond potentially killing them both with ricochets. But while Jack is talking and the 456 is spitting and thrashing, Ianto is opening the tank’s airlock. He hates that his actions will probably cause Jack’s death; the atmosphere the 456 breathes is highly toxic to humans, but then earth’s atmosphere isn’t going to do the alien any good either. Besides, there’s a child in there who deserves to be liberated from the being that has it enslaved. ‘It’, because on the video feed it was impossible to tell whether the child they were looking at was a boy or a girl.
Jack holds his breath as the room is flooded with the noxious, stinking gas, covers his mouth and nose with the sleeve of his coat, and moves over to the door. Ianto doesn’t go inside the tank, not yet, but he makes sure the 456 is getting plenty of fresh air. It thrashes even harder, and dies before Jack does, issuing threats to the last. Ianto pulls his lover out into the hallway, then the stairwell, leaves him to revive, and goes back for the child; a girl, he sees now. He doubts she’ll live, but at least she’ll die free, among people who care about her.
Ianto knows it isn’t quite over yet, there’s still the rest of the 456 to deal with, on their ship somewhere out in space, but somehow he’s sure they can be defeated. Earth’s going to win this one.