Chapter 2: Girl Talk
Chapter 3: Ladies Who Lunch
Chapter 4: Back to the Beginning
Chapter 5: Retail Therapy
Chapter 6: Synchronicity
Chapter 7: Remember When
Chapter 8: Think of the Children
Chapter 9: Domestic Disputes
Chapter 10: A Slight Miscalculation
Chapter 11: Serendipity
Her experiences at Torchwood's London branch had only made Sarah more curious about Jack Harkness and the organisation. She had ignored the smaller, hand-picked Cardiff branch, on the assumption that it would be more difficult to infiltrate than the Canary Wharf site. Unfortunately, she hadn't got far in her research before the whole thing had blown up in her face. She knew there was also a Glasgow branch, but her main interest at the moment was Jack Harkness, especially since she had agreed to help Jo with her search for the Doctor's other companions.
Although she had been curious about him long before she had discovered that he had travelled with the Doctor. The man had apparently been head of the Cardiff location since 1961, but hadn't aged a day. While Sarah knew people tended to disbelieve her quoted age of fifty-two (she had lost track a long time ago of how many years she had travelled with the Doctor, but she knew she was older than that), Jack's preservation was even more extreme.
Later, she had found a CCTV feed and had seen Jack exiting the TARDIS with the Doctor's Ninth incarnation and Rose Tyler. Aside from confirming that it had been the Tenth Doctor that she had seen at the school (and why had he counted from when he left her off in Aberdeen, when they had seen each other since then?), the discovery that Jack had travelled with the Doctor had intrigued her further.
She'd been too distracted when she'd seen the Doctor the month before and when she'd talked to him during his now weekly calls to ask him about the other man. Getting him to talk sense was difficult at the best of times, she could tell he was still brooding about Rose and generally his calls were his way of hovering virtually. When he'd heard that she had bought Josh's gatehouse, he promised to help her move into the new place, which Sarah interpreted to mean that she wasn't going to be allowed to lift a finger.
Once she reached Cardiff, she'd be meeting Jack for lunch. She wished she'd been able to ask Josh to come along as backup, but Nat was keeping him on a short leash these days, and she and Nat still weren't getting along. It would also have required her to admit that this wasn't just a "weekend in Cardiff, just because" and after the disaster that her last investigation had become, Sarah wasn't advertising what she really was after.
She'd arranged the meeting through UNIT, counting on the fiasco to get Torchwood to take the bait - the offer of a "positive" look at their organisation from someone who had a history of keeping secrets (UNIT's). It wasn't a stretch that someone with her reputation (good and bad) would have become curious following the Dalek/Cybermen invasion. And it had worked...she was able to arrange an interview with Jack Harkness, without any trouble.
The man turned out to be a charming flirt. Sarah smiled inwardly when she realised this - she'd never had any problem dealing with men...and women...like him. So she smiled at his team and admired the pterodactyl and wondered out loud why working for a place like this had never occurred to her.
Sarah noticed the hand in the jar and resisted the urge to wave it around saying 'Eldrad must live' in suitably eerie tones. No-one here would get the joke. She knew it must be the Doctor's, and she worried a bit about Torchwood getting their hands (no pun intended) on Time Lord DNA, until her obvious interest in it caught Jack's attention. If he was that protective of the hand, it implied that he was still looking out for the Doctor's interests. She found that very reassuring.
She mentioned her former connections to UNIT and reassured him that she could be convinced to keep her silence, if she understood why it was necessary. To her surprise, he'd been incredibly open with her about Torchwood Three, to the point where her instincts started tingling. No one would be that open with a stranger unless they had an ace up their sleeve.
Afterwards, he invited her out for a drink and she flirted as though she normally received such attentions from men young enough to be her son. She wasn't surprised when she noticed him slip something in her lemonade to make her forget, no doubt. She drank it down without comment, and shortly thereafter excused herself, using her pregnancy as an excuse to make an early night of it.
When she got back to her hotel room, she made a show of typing up her notes on her laptop, while doodling on her notebook as if she were thinking about what to say. By the time she was finished she had a neat none-too-explicit article and a page of notes in Gallifreyan, just in case the drug worked.
It didn't. And she wasn't surprised to discover that her file had vanished but her memories remained intact. This wasn't the first time she had retained memories of things she was supposed to forget. Not that it mattered. She had never intended to betray Torchwood's secrets, but she had acquired some of the information she had been seeking and some of the access codes that would enable her to find more.
She destroyed the page of Gallifreyan notes. It was a complicated language, but even if Jack didn't understand it, he would recognise the script from the labels on the TARDIS console.
The traces of tampering in her computer enabled her to find an entrance into Torchwood. "Idiots!" she couldn't help muttering, even though they wouldn't have expected her to remember enough to go looking or have the technological know how to exploit it. And she had upgraded her computer with a few anachronistic add-ons that she'd acquired or built over the years.
Sarah quickly located the information she was looking for and downloaded it onto the data sphere she had found in her leather jacket using a USB adaptor that K-9 had helped her design. If they could read that, (or even recognise it as a data storage unit) she would be very surprised.
She unplugged her computer after carefully erasing the traces of her presence from Torchwood's computers, then left her hotel room, intending to stay the rest of the weekend as she had planned and make a show out of looking for but not finding any information about Torchwood, before heading back to London. As usual, things didn't work out quite as smoothly as she had planned.
As Sarah wandered through Roald Dahl Plass, drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying the bright summer day, she noticed that she was being followed. A quick glance reassured her that it wasn't one of the Torchwood staff. She set herself to losing him. She didn't feel like dealing with the police this time.
As she walked round the fountain, her mobile rang.
"It's Josh. Where are you?"
"I mean specifically."
"Roald Dahl Plass. What's going on, Josh? Crimson cultists?" Sarah took a quick turn down a side street, splitting her attention between the mobile and her tail.
"Yeah. Somehow they found out you were going to be in Cardiff. I'll be there in half an hour. You're in no shape to be fighting them yourself."
"And so my life as Sydney Bristow continues." Sarah sighed. "Call me when you get here. I'm on the move trying to lose a tail."
"Gotcha. Try to stay alive until I get there."
"I always do." Sarah closed her mobile, debated, and then headed for the car park. Perhaps she'd take a nice drive in the country instead.
She managed to lose the cultist in the car park, and before long she was driving idly up the M4 when something caught her eye. She'd called Josh and let him know that she would meet him at a restaurant outside of Cardiff and she convinced herself that she had imagined whatever-it-was, because if she wasn't there when he arrived he'd worry. That worked until she exited the motorway and noticed the black 4x4 right behind her, neatly marked in several places 'Torchwood'. It was at this point that Sarah decided that she was not having a good day.
Sarah resisted the urge to wave as they sped past her, or to follow. Meeting Josh was her first priority and theoretically they were trained professionals. She pulled into the car park of the restaurant, and parked in the first available space. She didn't see Josh's car, so she sat down on a bench outside the restaurant to wait.
Less than five minutes later, Josh drove in and parked beside her car. Sarah was walking over to meet him when she noticed the black 4x4 in the corner of the car park and heard Jack shouting orders. Before she realised what she was doing, she tackled Josh and threw him to the ground. "Stay down." Moments later the restaurant exploded.
"Sarah, what's going on?"
"I don't know, but there's a Torchwood vehicle in the corner of the car park, which given what I've learnt about them, implies that things are about to go from bad to worse." Sarah tried to gather her thoughts. Fight or flight. Head for the Torchwood group and try to fight, knowing that she'd be slower and more awkward than normal or make a run for it in either her car or Josh's.
Josh was cursing. Sarah followed his gaze to discover that he had a flat tyre. A quick glance at her own car revealed the same problem. Debris from the explosion, she guessed. "Josh, do you have a gun? Any weapons?"
He already had one in his hand. "There's another in the car. So, Torchwood are bad guys." He opened the door cautiously, and pulled it out of the bag on the back seat.
Sarah took it from him, ignoring his startled look as she handled it easily. "No, in this case I'd suspect they're the good guys. These may not be useful, but they're better than nothing. Now stay low, keep quiet, and follow my lead. And don't look at me like that. I told you I'd used guns before."
Josh refrained from commenting.
They moved slowly across the car park, using the cars as cover. Sarah angled towards the trees off to the side, where she'd have a better view of what was going on and listening to Jack's shouted commands. The Torchwood team wouldn't be happy to see them, but they didn't really have a choice. The other group would have weapons and neither she nor Josh would be totally useless in the situation.
As they reached the end of the car park, Sarah noticed Jack's team aiming for the same grove of trees. She caught Josh as he moved to signal them. "We don't know what we're dealing with here. Let's wait until we're closer."
It didn't take long. Five minutes later, they were right beside Jack's team kneeling in the foliage. Sarah couldn't resist giving Jack a cheeky grin. "This has been a really bad day. Tell me this is a false alarm." No pretence. There was no time for that.
Jack frowned at her. "About as far from a false alarm as we can get. Half a dozen Daleks. We got three of them in the explosion, but there are three more. You should just get into your car and drive away."
"Flat tyres. All of the cars except yours, and I didn't think you'd appreciate me hotwiring it," Sarah said crisply. "You're stuck with us, I'm afraid. The good news is that I've faced Daleks before." She started fishing through her pockets for her mobile, before realising she had left it in the car. She hoped they were right about the numbers. This didn't even come close to being the worst day of her life, but it was definitely bad. She handed the gun back to Josh without looking, her eyes were already scanning the hills. "I don't suppose you've got an extra weapon, Jack?"