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Jan. 2nd, 2009 | 04:06 pm
posted by: volitaire in project_argus
Title: Circumvention: A Torchwood/Contact crossover
Characters: Ianto, Jack, mentions of David Drumlin and others
Summary: This story is a retelling of the events at the Arecibo Observatory, days before David Drumlin cuts the funding for Kent and Ellie's SETI program.
Here, I used the BBC's scifi drama 'Torchwood' as the catalyst for Drumlin's decision, as Torchwood (made up of Suzie Costello- a conniving weapon's specialist, Owen Harper, a cynical and hotheaded medical officer, Toshiko Sato, a brilliant tech genius, and two others, which I will get to in a minute) is a secret organization stationed to monitor a rift in time and space running through Cardiff, Wales.
Whenever something- anything, be it a sentient alien being, an outer-dimensional craft, or technology from another time or place slips through the rift, Torchwood is there to capture it, analyze it, and usually, destroy it at their base (the Hub) for the safety of humanity.
In this fic, Captain Jack Harkness, the arrogant, time-travelling leader of the Torchwood Institute, converses with Drumlin and convinces him to allow Torchwood to back Arecibo's funding cuts, in fear of the contact Ellie and friends may make will be instigated before it is meant to.
However, Jack does not wish to do his own dirty work, and turns the responsibility to Ianto Jones, Torchwood's sarcastic and humble receptionist.
Ianto is reluctant, and for good reason- he's had his own troubles with aliens-- his girlfriend Lisa was badly injured by a hostile alien race shortly before this story takes place.
Dedicated tobabitzka, who turned me on to "Contact".
On this uneventful, drearily rainy morning in late July, Ianto found he had nothing better to do than sweep the floor of Jack’s office. Jack, who was having- from the sound of it- a very infuriating conversation with someone he desperately wanted to institute authority over, obviously did have better things to do, but as always- without even trying- curbed his own plans to afflict Ianto.
…Jack didn’t need to enter his office. Offices were for sitting and devising pension plans and sorting paperwork and leveraging the power of employees. That definition established, it was impossible for Jack to sit still, Torchwood‘s salary schedules were lacking considerably, Jack‘s desk appeared to be built out of manila folders and discarded faxes, and Jack certainly didn’t pay attention to any of them enough- especially Ianto- to make any claims on their character or work ethic. (Owen’s continued employment was proof of this.) But, Jack being Jack, loud and restless, felt it was necessary to bring his telephone conversation to the one place any normal boss would have began the call in the first place. The one place, probably in the entirety of the Hub, where Jack’s obnoxious blabbering could be contained to one small room. The one place Ianto thought he could loiter for a few peaceful minutes.
No such luck.
“Listen, Drumlin- can I call you David? I’m telling you Dave, you’re absolutely right. Absolutely. I’m right behind you on this one. All the way. Arecibo is just a hole in the pocket of the NSF, do you hear me? No- no, stop interrupting me, Dave, you’re not listening. I don’t want an insignificant little team of lost souls wasting the organization’s prestige any more than you do. No, of course not. No, I don’t care what they’re doing with their Foundation grants, but I was under the impression you didn’t either...”
Jack stomps into Ianto’s periphery, slamming the office door so carelessly the wind he creates whooshes several sheets of reports cascading over Ianto’s shoes. Ianto isn’t phased, and merely blends his dust pile into the newest editions to the mess. Jack plops down heavily into his desk chair and spins 180-degrees with every ferocious fist punch and head jerk his conversation induces. After an unnecessary double take, Jack notices he is not alone and cups a hand over the receiver.
“…Ianto, what’re you doing in here.” It is not a question.
Ianto waggles the broomstick. “Photocopying classified information, deleting files that look important, putting tacks on your seat. …Sir.”
“Well could you- NO! Drumlin, can you hold on, please- can you give me a moment of privacy, Ianto?”
“Yes. And could you use your inside voice, sir?”
Jack frowns. “…Was I being loud?”
Ianto nods and points out through the glass window behind Jack. Suzie is deliberately plugging her ears in Jack’s direction and Tosh is looking frazzled in the way someone whose train of thought has just been interrupted might look.
Jack winces apologetically but resumes his conversation at the same volume. “Drumlin, you still there? Good. Listen, I don’t want to but I might just have to go over your head. Not like I need your permission. But I’m just letting you know that Torchwood has the say-so to make allocations on this one, okay buddy? Believe it or not Arecibo needs their money flow stopped more urgently than you think. Hang on again Drum- Ianto, where’re you going?”
Ianto freezes mid-step and hopes Jack catches his knuckles whiten around the doorknob. “…You just asked me to leave, sir.”
The gears turn so loudly in Jack’s head Ianto wishes he had a tape recorder. “Huh. Well… stick around a minute.”
Ianto nods compliantly and flips Jack the bird.
“Drumlin- here’s my proposition. I’ll have one of my people-” Ianto is immediately hailed by the tone of Jack’s voice, “call up some of yours, and we’ll cut the cord on this so you don’t have to. Sound good? Your money’s in good hands now. Torchwood exists to keep science on the track it’s meant to travel. And that’s your track, Drumlin. The Drumlin track. Got it, buddy? Okay. Yeah. We’ll let you know. Buh-bye.” With a curt huff of air, Jack flips his phone shut and shoves it into his breast pocket. He stares thoughtfully at the wall for a few seconds, his brow crinkling, and without warning swivels to Ianto with a Cheshire grin.
“…And you thought the most eventful part of today would be sweeping my office.”
Ianto really hadn’t minded sweeping. The office didn‘t even need sweeping. Sweeping was merely one of Ianto’s favorite ways to appear unassuming while biting his tongue and performing the less dignifying parts of his job. …Not that dignity had any business with Ianto anymore.
Ianto tries to sigh discreetly. “What can I do for you Jack?”
“Well, there’re a lot of things you can do for me, Ianto. Are we talking on a professional plane?”
“You’ve always said that life is work and work is life, so I really dunno sir. Leave it to you to blur the lines!” Ianto’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes.
Jack nods, but his mind is obviously set in professionalism and whatever business he has in store for Ianto is cutting short his entendres. “Are you familiar with David Drumlin, Ianto?”
“Of the National Science Foundation. Yes, sir. I believe you‘ve had me file him under ‘Mostly Harmless.”
Jack doesn‘t laugh. “Familiar enough with his aims as of late?”
“I read in last week’s paper that he’s clinching the budget for a lot of research programs, many of which he’d spearheaded himself.”
“Yes, and quite right too. That’s mainly because he’s a dick that wants a raise. Aha. Get it?”
Ianto’s smile twitches.
“Anyway, are you familiar with Arecibo?”
“Arecibo…Arecibo…that’s…a space station, sir? No- no it‘s an observatory, the big one, down in…Mexico? Lisa and I used to-! I mean- I recall learning about it at University, sir.” Ianto lowers his eyes.
Jack clears his throat. “It’s in Puerto Rico, but close enough. It’s all that Latin flavor, right? Yeah. Okay, it’s an observatory, relatively small- a pimple on the ominous hairy butt of astronomy. It’s…quaint, as observatories go, but nonetheless it’s the Little Observatory That Could and that’s why we’ve gotta do some, ah, circumventing.”
“Arecibo is manned by a very talented team of people. Drumlin can pick ‘em, I’ll give him that. I’ve had the honor of meeting some of them- there was this one guy- Doctor Kent Clark? I had the privilege of meeting him at a banquet several years back. The man was completely blind- the first-”
“First blind physicist in the world. I’m familiar. He did work with NASA. I referenced him in a dissertation my second year. I studied physics. …If you…recall. Sir.”
Jack blinks and Ianto senses a hint of offense as he replies, “Yeah, I guess you did. Anyway, I don’t condemn any of those determined little brainiacs for trying, but my unerring cleverness is telling me that they are about to stumble upon something at least a decade or so in the making.”
“…Sir?” Ianto denounces himself for his sudden interest in what Jack has to say. He knows somewhere in this dialogue he will be given a task, and most tasks Ianto are given turn out to be altogether unsatisfactory. However, when Jack’s warning signals blare- as they seemed to be with this Arecibo business- they turn out to be worth listening to, and a good percentage of the time, correct. Which was maddening for Ianto, because he liked it when Jack appeared somewhat thick and out of sync.
“What do we do here, Ianto?”
“At Torchwood, sir?”
“Yes, Mister Jones. Sum it up for me.”
“I pretend to be helpful and accepting of tourists, Tosh pretends to operate on our level, Owen pretends to do work, Suzie pretends to tolerate you, and you pretend that this is business as usual although sometimes it isn’t.”
Jack blinks. “I wasn’t looking for something quite so literal, but yeah, now that you mention it, we do pretend a lot, and what we devise is essentially what we need the rest of the world to see. Or at least Cardiff.” Jack smirks. “We stop the rift, Ianto, before it can muck up our façade. But we can only do so much, and our sphere of influence definitely cannot stretch across to Puerto Rico.”
Ianto feels his eyes bug out. “…There’s a rift in the Caribbean?! A new one? Is that possible?”
Jack blinks. “No, Ianto.”
“Arecibo’s team is on the verge of making contact. Nothing on the scale of Canary Wharf-” Ianto grimaces without thinking. “but definite nonetheless. We exist to nip these things in the bud. Don’t want Clark and his team signaling Andromeda or God knows where. Most of the universe has very low tolerance for wrong numbers.”
“So we play the advance guard?”
“Wrong,” Jack snuffs, pulling his mobile from his pocket. “You will, my charming Welsh truffle. You’ve got a penchant for persuasion, and I hired you with some clause of ‘secretary‘, did I not?”
Ianto fears the day when he is desensitized to monikers such as ‘Welsh truffle’, but bites his tongue and nods. He’ll be out of here before that day arrives. Jack hands Ianto the phone.
“Here ya are, the number you’ll be looking for is in there, under ‘A’ for ‘Arecibo’ and ‘Acutely Uncooperative’. Metaphorically bat your lashes, and may I suggest a tactic for dealing with these people? That’s just it- deal with them. If you sound authoritative, they just might listen to you.”
“Er, might listen to me, sir?”
“It’s a tightrope act. Dangle a proposition or two as bait, make them feel acknowledged, don’t be too condescending, but remind them with your tone that they are a SETI program in an astronomical sea of empirical sciences. They are small, they are remote, and they are ridiculous. Because everyone knows aliens don’t exist. The nonsense they’re doing down there is towing the line for every other god-fearing researcher chasing satellites for the good of humanity.” Jack nods curtly.
“…So…they might listen to me, sir?”
“Most of them are nerds, Ianto. Scientists. You know how that goes. They had a dream and then someone gave them a telescope. They’re a little crazy, and a lot determined, and they’ll be looking forward to the quick-and-easy letdown. They’re used to, ‘Hm, what you’re doing is interesting and rather weird, possibly threatening, and altogether useless. What makes you think I’m going to fund the white noise you call work?”
Ianto thinks about this. “…I’d fund them, sir.”
Jack opens and closes his mouth, hangs his head, and pats Ianto on the shoulder. “Yes, yes, I’m sure you would. And this is why you’re working for us.”
Jack grabs his jacket off the rack in the corner and gives Ianto a corny thumbs-up. “Rift spit someone’s high-caliber plasma canon out two-hundred leagues under the Bay. I’ve gotta go convince half of Grangetown that Atlantis hasn’t materialized. I’ll be back later. But knock ‘em dead, alright Ianto? Well, not literally. But enough.”
“But wait! Jack! What exactly am I supposed to tell them?”
“Oh, I dunno. Use your creativity. David Drumlin, aka Torchwood is pulling their subsidiaries because their efforts are redundant and futile, thank you, sorry, good day. Lie to them. I’m sure you’re a decent liar, Ianto.”
With a wink that makes Ianto nauseous, Jack is gone, leaving Ianto with his mobile and a whole new mess to sweep up.
Though he doesn’t want to, Ianto will make the call. It’s not that Ianto doesn’t care. It’s that he wishes he didn’t. He would have liked to speak with these poor scientists, at least apologized before crushing their dreams, commended them before discontinuing their life’s work, and probably everything else that was valuable to them.
But Ianto would have liked a lot of things to happen.
Yes, Ianto was a decent liar. He wasn’t as heartless as Jack expected him to be, but he could be decent at that too.
There was more to this job than sweeping floors..