Beta: the lovely crazycatt71 and the lighting-fast ally_p_x! Thank you so much!
Word Count: 1935
Warnings: spoilers for Cyberwoman, and a shamelessly stolen idea from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Contains: your obligatory post-Cyberwoman story.
Rating: PG-13 just to be safe
Summary: Lisa was not the only secret Ianto hid in Torchwood 3's basement.
A/N: this particularly nasty plot bunny was is a lovechild of a line in Outlook: Weekly View by xtricks (not going to tell which line was because this would be a spoiler...) and in Vampire: The Masquerade's Introduction (about being really Victorian how the character's neighbours dismissed things that were before their eyes). It gnawed on my brain until it got written.
Disclaimer: Beebs owns Torchwood, Gainax owns Evangelion, I'm not doing this for profit, all the situations depicted here are fictional, yadda, yadda.
Jack fiddled with a biro and tapped it absently against the form he was filling (currently avoiding, actually). Barely one week in suspension and he missed Ianto already. Not only for the suits and the coffee, but his actual work.
"I've got the program you asked for, Jack. With a few bonus features."
"Great, Tosh! Tell me about those extras."
"Well, besides monitoring the power consumption and checking for any anomaly, it also monitors every other utility in the building, doing the same checks and cross-referencing it with the blueprints and P&IDs we have uploaded and used to install the sensors."
Jack smiled. What was the point in having alien technology if they couldn't use it for good? As long as nothing leaves the base... again.
Tosh got going on her explanation, showing Jack the interface and how he could route notifications to his mobile (or better, his Vortex Manipulator, he thought... hm... better not). She almost finished when it beeped.
"Slight increase in water flow, pointing to Archives level 9, wing C. Can't get more accurate than that, though. Didn't have enough sensors." She looked slightly apologetic and Jack cupped her shoulder. "We probably have a leak, we've always had a lot of those. I think we should get Ianto to-"
"It'll wait three weeks more, then, Tosh." Jack cut her abruptly. Faulty pipes or not, Ianto still needed to be punished for what he did. Tosh just sighed and went back to her desk.
"I'm not going down there." Gwen flinched on the order to retrieve a file from the Archives. Jack fixed her with a stare. "I can't. Specially there. It was where that... thing..."
"Where Teaboy hid his Cyber-girlfriend that almost took your brain off, you mean?"
"Yes, Owen. Thank you for the incredibly tactful explanation."
"Fine, I'll go. Give me the address again, please?" Tosh cut in, if just to get away from the crossfire.
"Archives 91C, tag 22.214.171.1248, don't have any idea of where it is."
"Cyber-girlfriend was at 92C, just across the corridor."
"Thanks, Owen. Did not need to be reminded."
Before there was time for the silence that followed Tosh's departure get too awkward, the monitoring program sent an alert to Jack. Praying for not another 'plumber-alert' and entertaining thoughts of either disabling the water flow alerts or getting an overhaul for the piping, he went to check.
The alert was very weird this time. 'Change of flow from organic residue processor'. How the hell did flow change from their glorified (and very useful for avoiding incinerating and therefore drawing unnecessary attention) waste treatment station? And to 9-C. Again.
91C was in use. 93C was empty, as well as 95, 97 and 99. 92C was empty and still smelling strongly of every industrial-strength cleaning product ever manufactured by man. 94C was locked.
Jack went back up to get a set of lock picks when he heard the claxons that signalled the opening of the rolling door.
"You really shouldn't be here." One and a half weeks through his suspension and Ianto looked like hell. He was gaunt and tired, dark circles around his eyes and emaciated skin stretched tight over his cheekbones. He wasn't like that when Jack went to visit him 3 days ago. "What happened to you?"
"I just need my medication, Jack. I've left my spare doses here at the Hub. I'll take them and I'll be out of here."
"You don't take any medication."
"I... I really..." He started the phrase but stopped when Jack narrowed his eyes at Ianto, as everything fell in place with an almost audible 'click'.
"What did you hide in 94C, Ianto?" He asked accusingly. "It's locked and 9-C has been acting up recently."
Ianto cast his eyes down and fidgeted. He opened his mouth and closed it multiple times, trying to look for the right words.
"I recall that we agreed last week that you wouldn't keep any other secrets and that you would reach out for help. I expect you to do that, you know?"
"I know. It's... complicated. And... I don't know how to... explain it."
"Usually, we start from the beginning."
Ianto looked pensive for a minute and then gestured for Jack to follow him, still keeping his head down.
"I think I should start from the end. Have you ever wondered why I've never spoken about Canary Wharf? Why I don't have any nightmares about that?" Jack answered with silence, trying to figure out where Ianto's speech was going. "Because I don't remember Canary Wharf. Nothing of it."
Ianto looked up briefly, testing the waters. Jack just looked intrigued.
"I don't remember because I died shortly after rescuing Lisa from the conversion unit."
"Now, back to the beginning. Ever heard of Project Backup, sir? If you did, things should make sense now."
They arrived in front of Archive 94-C and Ianto fished out a set of keys from his pocket.
"But how? Project Backup was decommissioned when the Ghost Shifts started."
"No, sir, it wasn't." Ianto fumbled with the lock for a bit. "Losing improvement funding is different from getting decommissioned. Backup was never decommissioned, it was receiving just enough funds to keep it running. And since it was held on the lower levels, it remained intact. Lucky me."
When the door opened, anything that Jack might have seen in his (admittedly long) life could have never prepared him for the sight.
There was a multitude of tubes and wires snaking around a big vat in the centre of the room. There were also two smaller vats linked to it and some kind of control unit. Shoved to the side was some sort of fume hood for chemical work, meticulously clean. The bigger vat also had multiple glass windows that showed an amber-coloured liquid and... god. Getting closer confirmed what he suspected. There were bodies inside. Ianto-shaped bodies.
"And that's the test unit for Project Backup. I was the researcher unlucky enough to get their name drawn up from the ballot when we needed someone to test it."
Ianto went to a cabinet beside the control unit. He opened the first drawer and took some things from it: a small rectangular tray, a rectangular paper packet, one of those squeezable flasks Owen uses for the Med bay and a pint-sized flask made of thick glass. He put the tray inside the fume hood, put the glass guard down and turned it on. It whirred to life and UV light bathed the inside of the fume hood. He pulled out an antique silver stopwatch and pressed the button. Before Jack could utter a single word, he started to talk again.
"I know what you're going to say. Yes, it was one of those 'Torchwood One messing with what they didn't understand'. I'm not exactly human anymore, as far as I know."
"What do you mean by not exactly human?"
"Backup was reverse-engineered from alien cloning technology, as well as some judicious use of neural relay technology that appears to be of human origin. When we started the cloning experiments, it did not work with fully human cells. Then, they mixed my cells with the residual alien cells we found in the tech. It worked."
Ianto took the plastic flask and inserted the tip into a valve on the side of one of the smaller vats and let the clear liquid (alcohol, Jack thought) through it for a few seconds. Then, he flicked it and let amber liquid run into the thick glass flask he was holding. He closed the valve carefully after it was full and closed the cap.
"Now you have 'Backup' bodies."
"Exactly. Needing a graft organ donor will never be a problem for me. But don't go and think I'm expendable, Captain. When I die, I need someone to activate one of the clones and transplant my neural data into it. The neural data that's stored in the control unit."
"That's why you don't remember Canary Wharf. Your data was obtained before that. And still..."
"I couldn't abandon her to her own luck, Jack. I just couldn't."
Ianto walked over to the fume hood and turned the UV light off. He opened the glass guard and set to work. With a disposable tissue wet with alcohol, he cleaned the glass flask and put it inside the hood. He sat down and drenched his hands with the alcohol.
"There are still some problems, though. The hybrid body, I came to discover after I moved here, doesn't repair itself was well as the human body."
He paused as he oh-so-carefully opened the rectangular packet and put sterile gloves on. Jack suppressed the urge to chuckle as he fumbled with the latex once he had put the first glove on, a (somehow) cute frown of concentration on his face.
"Every month or so, if I don't get hurt, I need a shot of this."
He raised the thick glass flask slightly and set it down again before turning the burner on. He deftly opened a few medicine flasks with rubber tops and quickly scorched the rims clear, setting them in a neat row in front of him.
"And the other problem..."
Ianto took a large needleless syringe from the tray and tore the surgical paper apart to free it. He repeated the open-and-scorch procedure on the flask and used the syringe to drain it. Jack curiously watched as he took some kind of filtration unit from the tray and coupled it to the syringe.
"I wasn't able to make the neural data collector work again. I'm forever stuck in the same settings."
When he finished filling the flasks, he closed them down and sealed them with a metal contraption that Jack could swear he saw in a torture chamber somewhere. He filtered the remaining liquid into another flask and filled a syringe, carefully getting rid of the bubbles, capped the needle and flicked the safety back.
Jack couldn't help but smile when Ianto fastidiously cleaned everything. He hated to admit it, but he missed the young man. He glanced speculatively at the control unit. He was lost in thought when he noticed that Ianto was heading out, tray in hands.
After certifying himself that everything was up to his standards and that Jack was out of the room, Ianto locked the doors and started making his way back to the Hub.
"Now you know what I was hiding, sir. And..." he went back to stammering. "... I just don't want anyone seeing me any differently. Or being used as cannon fodder just because I can be replaced."
Ianto stopped dead on his tracks and whirled around, looking confused.
"Everytime you come back you lose whatever passed between your last data acquisition and the time the clone was activated. You are not the same person."
Jack knew what it was like. Waking up disoriented. Not knowing what happened and missing a large chunk of memories. Being cannon fodder, expendable. He smiled. Now he has someone who understands.
Post-fic A/N: the fume hood Ianto uses is actually called a "laminar air flow fume hood". I tried to keep the technical talk down to the bare minimum, but the procedure Ianto follows to prepare his "medicine" is accurate (it is not the traditional one usually done when you have full access to proper facilities). Oh, yes, one more thing. Some models of syringe have a plastic safety to cover the needle beyond the cover that keeps the needle clean.
ConCrit is always appreciated!