Every seat in the small lecture hall was occupied, the twenty or so young people listening intently to the man in the bespoke three-piece suit who perched comfortably on the edge of the desk at the front on the room. He smiled at them, exuding an air of calm authority that captured and held their attention.
“Today, the subject is confidence: how to find it in yourselves, how to inspire it in others, and how to use it. I’m sure you all consider yourselves confident people, ready to face anything; if you didn’t, you wouldn’t have made it through the recruitment process and your basic training. But exactly how confident are you really?”
Ianto Jones, second in command of the Torchwood Institute, scanned the latest recruits, making eye contact with each of them in turn; few could meet his gaze for more than a brief moment, looking away and shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
“Just as I thought.” He rose to his feet with a lithe grace and paced slowly back and forth in front of them, hands clasped behind his back.
“As Torchwood agents, self-confidence is vital. If you act as though you know what you’re doing then you will be listened to, and any orders you give will be followed. If, on the other hand, you dither about looking worried, no one is going to have any confidence in you, and in a bad situation, that’s when people are going to start panicking,” he explained.
A hand was raised and a young woman with ash blonde hair in a braid down her back asked tentatively, “But Sir, what if we really don’t have a clue about what’s going on?”
“Then you fake it until you do.” Jack breezed into the lecture hall, late as usual, his trademark coat rippling out behind him in the draft generated by the speed at which he was walking.
Ianto didn’t comment on his husband’s tardiness, knowing there’d be a good reason behind it; he simply nodded. “Captain Harkness is correct. The thing you need to understand about Torchwood is that most of the time we genuinely don’t know what the Hell’s going on. We only know what we’ve been told by whoever called us in, and even that intel isn’t guaranteed to be accurate. The first order of business when we arrive on scene is to figure things out. Are we dealing with an artefact, advanced technology, an alien creature, a plant, or a sentient being? Does it pose an imminent threat? Or are the humans present the ones who pose a threat? There are always a lot of variables to be taken into account, and often very little time available in which to do so.”
“But before you can even begin assessing the situation, you have to take charge,” Jack added. “Get in there and make it clear that you not only have every right to be there, but that you’re the one giving the orders and you expect them be obeyed. You can’t let anyone bully you, and if that means throwing your weight around, stepping on a few toes, then that’s what you do. Used to be, we’d clear the police out of an area by pissing them off. They might hate us for it, but they’d leave. We saved a lot of innocent lives that way.”
Ianto smiled nostalgically. “Of course, that was decades ago, back before Torchwood’s purpose became public knowledge, when everyone who knew of out existence believed we were a government Special Ops unit. Nowadays, the police are our allies, and members of the public are fully aware that we deal with anything of an extraterrestrial nature. It makes our job simpler in some respects, but more difficult in others, because now everyone’s on the lookout for anything that could be alien. The responsible people call us in if they see anything, while the less law abiding might try to make off with something and use it for their own purposes. The last thing we need is to have potentially lethal alien technology, or even weapons, fall into the wrong hands.”
“The same is true of actual aliens, both animals and intelligent beings,” Jack continued. “Some humans might try to exploit such stranded aliens; we’ve had that happen before. Torchwood’s motto used to be, ‘If it’s alien, it’s ours’, and while we don’t think precisely in those terms anymore, nevertheless anything of alien origin is still ultimately Torchwood’s responsibility. We deal with the hostile, protect the vulnerable, and make sure technology isn’t mishandled or misused. Items that fall through the Rift can be dangerous in unforeseen ways, but the general public can’t be expected to know the difference between what’s a threat and what’s harmless. That’s our job; we’re the experts.”
Ianto took over again. “When you, as Torchwood agents, arrive on scene, it’s up to you to assume authority over everybody else, human or alien. There will at times be people present who don’t take kindly to being bossed around, which is why an air of calm confidence is so important. The faster you put any potential troublemakers in their place, the better it will be for everyone. Most of the time that’s all it takes to keep any situation under control, but if you start to panic, everyone else will too.” He turned to Jack. “Have we covered everything?”
“Not quite; there’s one other point we should touch on.” Jack addressed the recruits. “Confidence is also of paramount importance when dealing with alien creatures; if you’re nervous, chances are they’ll sense it and react to it. Weevils, for instance, are less likely to attack if you show them you’re not afraid. Rogue males might still try to challenge you, but most of the Weevil population are used to Torchwood by now and will defer to our authority. Other alien species, the non-sentient kind, usually respond better to a calm, non-threatening approach. There are exceptions to that rule; some of the carnivorous species can be a bit tricky, but on the whole, they’re less aggressive if you don’t show fear.”
“Bozogs, and Curnoos are the main ones to look out for,” Ianto said. “They’re carnivores and only interested in hunting and eating anyone they meet. Thankfully, we don’t get many of either species through the Rift, but Bozogs can’t be reasoned with or captured; there’s a kill on sight order on them for a reason. Curnoos can go either way; capture is possible, but they’re fast, unpredictable, and tranquillisers don’t always work quickly enough on them. If there are a lot of people around, it’s best to shoot to kill, if that can be done without endangering innocent bystanders.”
Jack nodded agreement. “We’ll cover all that in more detail at a later date. Hoix can also be a bit difficult; they’re always hungry and they’ll eat anything organic, but like Weevils they’re also sentient to a degree and it’s generally preferable to capture them whenever possible. A Hoix will do practically anything for food; they’re not fussy.”
“Alright!” Ianto clapped his hands together. “That’s enough theory for the moment; let’s get on to the practical side of this class. Divide yourselves into two groups; each group will be given a scenario and we’ll see how you do at being calmly assertive as you take charge of an unknown situation.”
As the recruits stood up and started sorting themselves out, Jack leaned in and whispered in his husband’s ear, “Usual bet?”
“Of course; winner gets breakfast in bed every day for a week. I’ll toss the coin; you always cheat. Call it.”
Ianto checked. “Tails it is. You want the fake bomb or the device that makes anyone who touches it sprout antlers?”
“The device; that’s always good for a laugh.”
“You just want to make jokes about being horny.”
Jack grinned. “You know me so well.”
“After all this time, I should think so.” Ianto smirked at his husband. “May the best team win.”
Shaking hands, they each took charge of a group of recruits, leading them from the lecture hall to put them through their paces.