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Myfanwy 2

June 2018

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Ghosts of the Collider - Chapter Five

Ghosts of the Collider - Chapter Five
Author: Milady Dragon
Series: Dragon-Verse
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Jack/Ianto, Toshiko/Kathy
Warnings: Language, Violence
Spoilers: Both series up to S2, E4, "Meat" and the radio play, "Lost Souls"
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, I would have treated it better.
Author's note:  This is the Dragon-Verse version of the radio play, "Lost Souls".  I decided to use the real-world dating for the activation of the LHC instead of what the radio play inferred, and that put this right in the middle of Series Two.  It actually makes a really good segue into "Adam", which you'll see later. 


SummaryAfter a call from Martha Jones at CERN, Jack sends Ianto, Toshiko, and Patrick in to investigate.  Can they discover the secret of the Collider before it's too late?




10 September 2008

Ianto followed Martha down the hall, toward a set of swinging double doors that looked almost out of place among the single office doors and the heavy-duty laboratory hatches that were all along the corridor.

He hadn’t felt this comfortable in years. The sense of the Earth surrounding him, the strength of stone and the coolness of soil permeated even the reinforced concrete and steel of the CERN installation. Yes, his hoard room at the Hub was also underground, but not as far as this, plus he always had the rain-slick feeling of the Rift on his scales. The atmosphere in this complex was clean, and new, and it felt almost like the dragon was coming home.

He wished he could revel in it, to change into his true form and let himself become one with the deep, living hum of the planet, but they didn’t have the time. The mission had to come first; they had to locate Martha’s friend Julia, and try to figure out just what was behind the disappearances and the strange illness that seemed to strike down random innocents.

He would have time later to enjoy his surroundings…or, even better, perhaps he and Jack could visit Ddraig Llyn at some point. Ianto could sleep in his cave and let himself commune with the Earth and the Great Dragons for a little while.

But for now, he accompanied Martha through the double doors leading into the infirmary, almost running into an older man as he was coming out.

The man had thinning, greying brown hair, and his posture was slightly stooped. Still, he had a strong face and dark eyes, and he would have been considered handsome to most any human. He wore a lab coat and carried a clipboard, which is clutched to his chest in surprise.

“Oh,” the man exclaimed, “hello, Martha. I was wondering where you’d gotten to.”

Martha smiled, although to the dragon it looked forced. “I’ve been roped into showing guests around, that’s all.” She turned toward Ianto. “Ambassador Jones, this is Dr Oliver Harrington, head of UNIT’s medical team…and my direct superior.”

Oh, so this was the man who had dismissed Martha’s concerns out of hand, and had generally made her unpopular with the UNIT contingent. He wasn’t even using her title, which she’d earned in many more ways than just going to University.

Of course, Ianto shouldn’t know that. So, he held out his hand to the man, putting polite interest into his voice. “Nice to meet you,” he lied through his teeth. He glanced around. “Looks like you’ve some very impressive equipment.” The interior of the infirmary was pristine, the surfaces gleaming and the medical devices running with a reassuring, background hum.

Doctor Harrington smiled. “Well, we’re not exactly in an ordinary situation. Cut off from the outside world in an underground base…”

I know the feeling, Ianto did not say aloud.

“Oh, it’s quite an honour being here,” Dr Harrington went on, as if he thought his words were somehow condemning his position. “There’s not many who can brag that they get to work alongside the world’s brightest minds.”

Somehow, Ianto wondered if the man wasn’t protesting too much. There was something about him…something that the dragon couldn’t quite put his finger on. It wasn’t quite anything dark, but more like a weight hanging over him, and it confused Ianto a little. There was sadness as well, as if Dr Harrington was in mourning, and that was something he could certainly understand.

It didn’t make Ianto want to cut him any slack, though. The ephemeral had hurt and denigrated one of his friends, and the dragon really didn’t want him to get away with that. However, there really wasn’t anything he could do, and as Martha had said earlier; she could take care of herself.

“Doctor Harrington,” he said, “when they turn on the LHC could there be side effects? Could the health of the people working be affected?” He knew the answer to the question, because Toshiko had explained, but he wanted to see the UNIT doctor’s reaction. If there was some sort of cover-up going on, then Harrington could have some knowledge of it, being the UNIT Medical Officer, unless the doctor was just an idiot dismissing Martha’s concerns out of hand. And the latest victim had been found in the tunnel, so in Ianto’s mind there could very well be a connection with the Large Hadron Collider itself.

Harrington blinked, and then shook his head. “Oh no, not at all! We’ve checked and double-checked everything, so no. We’re not expecting any trouble at all today.” He chuckled lightly. “Today, you’re more likely to injure yourself slipping on a dropped canapé.”

Ianto returned the laugh with one of his own. “Well, that’s certainly reassuring.” He couldn’t make up his mind whether Harrington had been surprised by the question, or was actually hiding something. He just couldn’t get a handle on the man. Unlike Professor Johnson, who’d been an open book to him; her excitement in the science had overwhelmed even Toshiko’s.

There was an uncomfortable silence between the three of them, and then Harrington cleared his throat. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’m representing UNIT’s medical team so I really should be getting along to the ceremony. I’m sure Dr Jones will take good care of you.” He favoured Martha with a somewhat patronising smile, then bustled past, the doors behind them closing with an audible swoosh.

“Well, that was pleasant,” Ianto said, his voice heavy with sarcasm.

“It could have been worse,” Martha answered.

He supposed it could have been. “His eyes are sad,” he commented.

“His wife died last year. Now all he does is work…and brush off any sort of problem that he doesn’t feel he can deal with.” Martha sighed. “Come on. Let’s take a look at Mr Foiret.”

Martha led the way, turning toward another hallway lined with curtained cubicles. Most of them, the curtains had been pulled back, and the revealed beds reminded Ianto of every other hospital A&E he’d been in, the equipment within them turned off and waiting for their next guest.

One though, at the far end of the row, had the curtain drawn, and Martha strode up to it and pulled it aside, revealing the motionless man lying on the uncomfortable, narrow bed.

Leon Foiret was a relatively nondescript person, with black hair and the pale complexion of someone who didn’t see the sun all that often. He was lanky, and Ianto wondered if he was the sort of person who couldn’t stand still for long periods of time.

Now, however, Foiret was completely unmoving, the noises of the machines monitoring his condition bleeping and whirring around him.

“He’s in a deep coma,” Martha said, her voice hushed. “He won’t respond to any sort of stimuli. Well,” she shrugged, “nothing we’ve been able to do anyway.”

Ianto leaned closer to the nonresponsive form. “I don’t see any visible wounds,” he murmured, pulling the blanket back to get a closer look. There was an odd smell coming from Foiret; it was almost like ozone, only old and stale. “Let’s try the scanner.”

He found a place to set the laptop case down on, unzipping it and pulling out the Bekaran deep tissue scanner. Owen had taken him through how to work it, but Ianto wasn’t certain if the results would be sent to the Hub like they should be; there was simply too much earth and concrete between them and Torchwood’s mainframe. So there wouldn’t be any chance of getting any sort of opinion from Owen, but then this was something they’d expected, and Martha definitely knew what she was doing.

Ianto thumbed the scanner on. Instantly the screen lit up, and he ran the device over their victim.

Martha leaned over his shoulder. “That is brilliant. I’ve never seen an x-ray like that.”

“Owen’s been working on adapting it, with Toshiko’s help. It’s been really useful.”

“I can’t believe Tosh found that on eBay.”

“You’d be surprised at the alien tech that shows up…what is this telling me?”

Martha frowned. “These readings don’t make any sense.”

Before Ianto could ask her to elaborate, Leon Foiret began to glow.

It was just his skin, the golden illumination completely foreign to a human body. “What the hell is that?”

“No idea…” Martha leaned even closer. “I can see right through his skin…”

Ianto swallowed heavily. He wasn’t squeamish usually, but now… “This is truly disgusting.”

Martha hummed absently in agreement. The glow seemed to settle, and the fluttering of Foiret’s internal organs through his now-transparent skin was almost hypnotic. Ianto found himself unable to look away, even as he was aiming the scanner back toward their victim.

Suddenly, the body began to react, Foiret gasping for breath, lungs heaving under the glowing flesh. Ianto reared back, and pulled the scanner away.

Martha, though, only leaned closer. “Leon! Leon, can you hear me?”

Foiret’s mouth opened as he panted for breath, his chest heaving. His head moved slightly, to one side and then the other, and Ianto could actually see the dark irises of the man’s eyes as they moved under twitching lids. He wondered if Foiret could see through them as Ianto could.

And from those parted lips, an eerie voice whispered, “Your life is our life.”

Ianto found himself glancing at Martha, who must have had the same idea because she was looking right back at him. He was willing to bet their expressions of confusion and surprise was exactly the same.

“What does that mean?” Martha demanded.

Ianto shrugged. He had no clue, but it certainly sounded ominous.

Foiret began gasping harder, and that sign of distress had Martha moving. “We’re gonna help you, Leon. Just hold on.”

“Don’t,” Foiret gasped, in what had to have been his normal tone, “taken for…don’t listen…”

Martha returned to the bed with a syringe in her hand. “Shh…I’m gonna give you something for the pain.” She inserted the needle into a port in the man’s IV before Ianto could stop her.

Foiret settled in seconds, his body going lax. The machines that had been alarming before fell back into their regular rhythms. Martha sighed. “He’s stable again.”

Ianto stifled his own sigh. For those brief moments Foiret had been conscious, and he internally cursed the lost opportunity to question him. However, he certainly couldn’t blame Martha for wanting to take care of a patient in pain. She was a doctor, and he respected her for her compassion and her knowledge and he would never condemn her for anything she did to help others.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she murmured.

“Let’s try the scanner again,” Ianto suggested, bringing in the device back up from where his arm had fallen to his side. “This has to be what happened to the other people who became sick.”

“I’d put good money on that,” Martha agreed. “And I can see why someone would want those people to disappear. I doubt poor Leon will be here much longer when whoever is behind all this finds out he’s glowing like some sort of bizarre night light.”

Ianto had to agree with her. “He was in the collider tunnel when this happened. Let’s see what Toshiko and Patrick dig up, but it seems logical that they would have been in the same area at least.”

He raised the scanner over Foiret’s body once more. The screen began displaying results from the various scans it was running; not that Ianto understood a lot of what it was showing them. Martha kept her eyes pinned on the readout, and he hoped it was telling her something.

“What the hell?” Patrick’s voice had Ianto raising his eyes from the Bekaran scanner’s screen.

Both he and Toshiko were standing there, looking at the glowing body with equal parts of amazement, shock, and horror.

“I have to agree with Patrick,” Toshiko said softly, her eyes wide.

Ianto kept scanning for Martha’s benefit, but he addressed his teammates. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out. Did you two find anything?”

Toshiko tore her eyes away from Foiret’s glowing body. “Yeah. Everyone who fell sick and then disappeared were all working inside the collider tunnel at the time they were infected.”

“They go into the tunnel just fine,” Patrick added. “And then they come out sick. But it looks to me like they actually light up like Christmas trees.”

Cool hands grabbed Ianto’s, stopping the movement of the scanner. Ianto regarded Martha, who was practically glaring at the scanner screen as if it had just cursed at her or something equally vile. “Look at his liver composition…”

The dragon did as she asked, but didn’t see what she did. “What is it?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it…it’s like it’s losing its density…” She held Ianto’s hands as she tracked the scanner back up Foiret’s torso. “All his organs are fading. It’s like he’s made of tissue paper or something. He’s disintegrating…”

Ianto wanted to shiver, but restrained himself in order to keep the scanner steady. He couldn’t even imagine it: the body slowly coming apart like soaked paper, losing its cohesion as its owner was unconscious of what was happening. Or did Foiret know what was going on? Could he feel it, the unravelling of his body, piece by agonising piece?

‘I don’t believe it,” Martha gasped.

“What?” Ianto demanded, disturbed by her tone. Something was very wrong for Martha to have sounded like that.

His friend leaned back, her eyes darting from Ianto, to Toshiko, and then to Patrick, shock evident in her expression. "The human body is made up of atoms, right?”

Ianto nodded, as did their two teammates.

“And every atom is made up of protons and neutrons floating in a cloud of electrons.” She shook her head as if to deny what she was about to say. “That’s why he’s falling apart…his neutrons are missing.”

“But you can’t just lose your neutrons,” Toshiko argued. “They’re a very basic part of you.”

“That’s what’s happening though…unless your fancy scanner isn’t working.”

“Let me see.” Toshiko moved closer, holding out her hand for the device.

Ianto obliged, passing it to her over the glowing body of Leon Foiret. She began fiddling with it, which gave Ianto a chance to process just what Martha had said.

It had to be something to do with the LHC. That was the only explanation, since every victim had been in the tunnel when they’d been affected. But how? Was it something to do with the machine itself? Or was there a piece of information they were missing?

Toshiko frowned. “The scanner’s just fine; it’s working properly.”

“Then,” Ianto said, “somehow the victims of whatever they found in the tunnel is slowly pulling them apart.”

“It has to be the machine,” Martha declared. “Something’s gone wrong with it.”

“Maybe,” Patrick spoke up. “Or maybe not.”

Every eye in the room was suddenly focused on him. Apparently all that attention wasn’t bothering him in the least, because he simply shrugged. “When Tosh and I were pulling files, we found out there was an injection test back in May. It was only a few seconds, but the machine was active.”

“Which makes sense,” Martha said, “because that’s when the illnesses started.”

“But there wasn’t anything before that,” Patrick went on. “If it was the Collider, then why weren’t people sick before then?”

“Maybe it was a combination of things,” Martha mused. “And nothing happened until the system was switched on.”

“I suppose that’s possible,” Toshiko said, the words sounding as if they were being dragged out of her. Ianto knew she really didn’t like admitting it was a machine fault without proof.

Ianto was silent, trying to put together what they’d discovered. The test in May had to have set off circumstances that had led to whatever was happening to these poor people. But what that was… “What’s your theory, Patrick?”

“Well,” the American answered, “it could be that the energy flux through the LHC messed something up. But those parts had have gone through testing, right? Before they were put together?”

“Yes, there would have been significant testing before the Collider was completed,” Toshiko said, nibbling on her thumbnail as she considered everything. “The engineers wouldn’t have wanted to risk anything blowing up on them once the components were assembled.”

“Could this test thing…I don’t know…have opened up some sort of Rift like we have in Cardiff? I know Tosh pretty much said no black holes, but…”

“You mean something could have come through during the test?” Now Toshiko looked excited. Ianto could practically see her thoughts racing. “Well, yes…the test could have punched a microscopic hole through space-time…I’d have to check the records of the test to make sure, and I doubt anyone would let me if there was something strange going on…”

Ianto suddenly straightened in sudden understanding. He leaned over Foiret’s motionless body, taking a deep sniff. There it was…that old ozone smell, like a storm that had raged a long time ago, and the scent of it was simply left behind as a memory of the event.

“That is gross,” Patrick muttered.

The dragon ignored him, concentrating on what his nose was telling him. He very much doubted the others could smell what he was; the human scent sense simply wasn’t as strong. It wasn’t the same as the Rift, and yet…it wasn’t normal. “He smells,” was what Ianto finally said, taking a step away from the unconscious man.

Toshiko looked like she was stifling a laugh. “Now, that’s not a nice thing to say about someone!”

Ianto snorted. “I mean…he smells strange.”

Patrick got close and took a deep whiff. “I don’t smell anything.”

“Well, last time I checked you weren’t a dragon,” Toshiko pointed out, smirking. “Ianto’s nose is a lot more sensitive than yours. It’s why Owen doesn’t wear cologne in the Hub anymore…it made Ianto sneeze.”

“I think we’re going to need to investigate this more before we decide what’s really going on,” Ianto concluded. “Our victim doesn’t smell right, but then it could be something in the machine that contributed to it.”

“Does that mean we’re going into the tunnel, boss?” Patrick asked.

“It does.”

“We’re still no closer to finding the people who’s vanished,” Martha pointed out, frustrated.

“Someone had to have gotten those people away under base security’s nose,” Patrick replied. “It’s twelve people…you can’t just cover that up unless you’re high up.”

“Someone in charge,” Toshiko nodded.

“Someone who knows the base inside and out,” Martha agreed.

Toshiko smiled. “I know what I’d do: I’d find somewhere on the base where I could hide them all. This place is huge. You could hide anything here and no one would find it.”

“I think Tosh has a point,” Patrick said. “Who has the map of this place?”

“I do.” Ianto reached around and grabbed the folder, from where he’d put it inside the laptop case. He handed it to Patrick, who rifled through the papers until he came up with the map of the entire facility. The American laid it out on the empty bed next to where Foiret had been placed, smoothing it out with one hand.

“That might not do us much good,” Toshiko pointed out. “I doubt they’d mark “glowing sick people” on a publicly available map.”

Patrick grimaced. “Yeah, it wouldn’t be that easy.”

“Look, I can pull up the satellite images of this place easy enough,” the technician pointed out. “All I’ll need to do is go back to that office with the computer. Then we can compare this map with the image. That might give us a clue.”

“Let’s do that then,” Ianto said. “If you find something, then Martha can go and check it out. Tosh, I think maybe you should have a talk with Professor Johnson about what’s going on; see if you can have the test postponed until we can figure things out.”

“While you and Patrick get to explore the tunnel,” Martha finished.

“While Patrick and I check out the tunnel,” Ianto agreed.

“Sounds like fun,” Patrick snarked. “I’m glad I wore my best suit for it.”



Chapter Six


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Comments

Loved the update! Ianto wanting to commune with the earth, and smelling the subtle scent of Ozone on the patient is priceless.
Thanks! Glad you liked the smelling part, I kinda giggled when I wrote it, to be honest. :)
Great update! Always love Ianto doing his dragon thing, and how his human friends react to it. *giggles*
Thanks! It's always fun to bring Ianto's dragon-ness out. Kinda reminding everyone that he's not human. *laughs*
"He smells" LOL! I think that Ianto sneezing at Owen would make an amusing scene to say the very least. :) From the way that Ianto is craving some communal time, I think that he needs a vacation. :)
Thanks! Owen certainly wasn't happy about it, he liked that cologne. *laughs*

Whoa! It's been years since I listened to the original so I don't remember all of it clearly, but I do remember enough to get really nervous now (and to guess what you meant about the "Adam" segue) ... Please don't make me wait too long for the next chapter!

Also, I didn't manage to comment earlier because someone made me do the "five positive days" meme :-D

Edited at 2014-09-16 09:36 pm (UTC)
Yep, things are gonna start happening now. I'll try not to make you wait but I have some things coming up that's gonna cut into my writing time this weekend. Good news though.

Oh, I wonder who that was.... *looks innocent*