Far Off Floating Cities

In the end, Jack managed to get off Station Five, not by ordinary means, but successfully nonetheless. Actually, he couldn't really remember a time he'd managed to do anything in an ordinary fashion, so if his escape had been ordinary he wasn't sure he would have trusted it. But he had managed to piece together a working transmat beam and sent himself someplace....

Well, it was clean and shiny and metal, and he could smell the ocean. The hallways and doorways seemed built for people roughly his size; so unless they tried to kill him in the next 12 seconds, Jack Harkness figured he was good as neotritranium. Even if they did try to kill him, that would at least be familiar and something he could deal with.

Pasting a wide smile on his face, Jack started walking down the hallway, looking for whatever he could find.

At first he found a lot of long corridors. There were doors and panels, but none of them responded to him. He'd tried touching them, speaking to them, and thinking as loudly as he could. He'd tried every language he knew, including the full-body gestures of Mizaclian. Jack had always loved visiting Mizacl, in part because the natives didn't wear clothes so they could more easily pick up the nuances of conversation.

But nothing made any of the doors or panels work, and finally Jack just continued walking down the hallway. He rounded a corner and kept going until suddenly, without warning, one of the doors actually slid open.

"Finally!" Jack stepped inside, looking around quickly even as his hand strayed towards his blaster. All he could see was a working lab--electronics, of a rather interesting mix of primitive and advanced. There was one occupant in the room, slumped over a table, snoring. Jack was pleased the man looked humanoid; it meant communication would probably be a hell of a lot easier. It didn't reduce the chance the natives would try to kill him, but on the other hand, chances were good for getting an edible meal.

Jack walked towards the sleeping scientist, glancing at what the guy had been working on. Some kind of propulsion unit, Jack thought, or maybe it was a personal groomer. The portable computer sitting on the table looked like Earth-era, 21st century, and the keyboard was in the Roman alphabet. The more modern technology was more difficult to place, but enough was familiar that Jack felt certain he could get by without any trouble. He cleared his throat and waited.

The sleeping scientist didn't stir.

Jack cleared his throat again and said, "Pardon me?"

After a second the man gave a snort, then his head shot up, and he looked around frantically and shouted in mid-early-tech-era English, "I'll have it in two seconds! Tell them not to fire!" Jack watched as he blinked, looked around in confusion, then relaxed.

He looked at Jack and frowned. Jack gave the man his best friendly and harmless smile. The man frowned harder and said, "Huh." Jack waited for him to say something else, but the man shook his head and looked at his wrist. A watch, Jack recognised, which really didn't help narrow his hypothesis about when and where he was. The language was from a span of nearly three centuries, but the clothing and equipment spanned almost a thousand years of possibilities.

The man stood up and stretched, rubbing his face in a gesture Jack knew instantly. He had no idea how long the man had been working, but this was a man in need of sleep or stimulants. He was also used to seeing faces he didn't recognise, Jack realised, given the lack of alarm he'd shown at Jack's appearance.

Well then, Jack figured, he was probably safe from being immediately vapourised. He held out his hand. "I'm Captain Jack Harkness." He smiled again, going for as much of the 'harmless stranger' as he could.

The man looked at him, startled for a second, then he narrowed his eyes. "Fuck, I need sleep," he muttered. His accent seemed a softer version of that which would place him from the United Federation of Colonies.

"Sorry to wake you," Jack said. "I was hoping you could help me."

The man gave him a sharp look, which left Jack wondering if he'd completely messed up the dialect. He was about to try again in 20th century British, because at least that he'd had more recent practise with. But the scientist pushed himself away from the table and stood up--then walked right past Jack and out of the lab.

Jack hurried to follow. The man didn't speak to him again as they headed down the hallway opposite the direction Jack had arrived. The corridor didn't look significantly different from any other he had already seen, though when they turned a corner, Jack noticed that this one was definitely different. Nothing obvious, just a sense that it was more often used. There were other people here somewhere, perhaps behind the doors they were passing. That was good; Jack didn't really fancy spending his time with a grumpy scientist who barely even acknowledged his existence. But after his experience with doors not opening for him, Jack thought he was better off sticking with the one actual person he had already found.

It was better than being killed, Jack told himself hastily. But it was likely to get a little boring.

He continued to follow the man as he strode briskly down the corridors. Jack could hear him start to talk to himself, muttering about what was probably the work he'd been doing.

Jack recognised several phrases and finally pegged the man as a physicist of some sort. Possibly an antiquarian, given the old tech he was working on in what was clearly a much more advanced location. City, base, or space station, Jack couldn't decide. There was no feel of antigravity generators as in most large spaceships, but the floors hummed very faintly with something. The smell of ocean was real, however, or else a very good fake, which meant they were either planetside or the people were from an ocean planet and had brought along the smells of home to wherever it was they were.

Jack could have got the answers from his companion, if the man would deign to talk to him. He tried again. "So what do you people do around here for fun?"

He saw the scientist's shoulders tense and his step falter; without any reply, he continued walking--perhaps a bit more quickly than before.

Jack frowned at this reaction and hurried forward a few steps to walk beside the man.

"Perhaps I should ask what you were working on? Unless it's classified, in which case we can talk about where am I and can I possibly get a ship out of here?"

The man suddenly stopped and whirled towards him. His mouth opened, angrily, but before he spoke, he snapped his jaw shut and turned away, resuming his quick stride.

Very odd, Jack thought. It struck him that perhaps the scientist had a vow of silence. Not permitted to talk to others, at least, as he'd previously been speaking to himself. Jack didn't know if he would be making things worse or not by continuing to talk to him, so he dug out a pad and tip-pen and scribbled a note in English, using the same Roman alphabet he'd seen on the laptop.

My name is Jack Harkness. Can you tell me the name of this lovely place? he wrote, then showed the pad to the man.

He stopped long enough to read it, which Jack found encouraging. Then he scowled. "I know your name," he snapped. "And I'm not deaf. I--" He snapped his mouth shut again, though this time he looked a little more worried than angry. He turned and stormed away, practically running.

With nothing else to go on, Jack simply followed. The scientist went through a door, and Jack stepped into the room just after him and found a much larger lab with several other scientists all working at various stations. None of them looked up until the man Jack had been following barked, "Radek! I need you to take over! Not that I'm admitting to anything, but I think perhaps--for no reason at all--maybe it's time to take a little break and perhaps go see Carson or maybe Dr. Heightmeyer...."

A shorter man with glasses popped his head up, already nodding--then he stopped and stared at Jack.

Jack smiled.

The other man, possibly this Radek, blinked, and looked at the man Jack had been following and rather calmly asked, "Rodney, why is Jack Harkness here?"

Rodney spun towards Jack, face going white. "Oh god, you can see him too?"

It wasn't the usual sort of reaction Jack got, but it was one he could work with. He opened his mouth to assert that he was, as far as he knew, normally visible to the unaided eye, when Radek walked over and joined them.

The scientists both stared rather open-mouthed at Jack, who began to wonder just where he'd ended up that he was famous. The fact that Radek's accent placed him with a different origin than Rodney only narrowed things down to sometime before the 26th century. There were three or four places where Jack's face and name were well-known and easily recognised, but it was only known by law enforcement agencies and one of those was located in a provincial village in Africa in a time well before the industrial era. It was possible, of course, he'd been to this place before--either in his own personal future or, more disturbingly, during those missing two years he couldn't remember. It was even possible that these scientists were connected with law enforcement. They were wearing uniforms, even under their lab coats, which made Jack take a half-step backwards towards the door.

"I thought I was hallucinating," Rodney said, sounding only vaguely confused.

Radek nodded. "We could very well be. Dr. Mallory was working on an atomic sifter earlier, and we did hypothesize that it could induce--"

"I'm not actually a hallucination," Jack said, helpfully.

The way everyone in the room just looked at him thoughtfully made him think that they didn't really believe him.

***

Jack gave Dr. Elizabeth Weir his best diplomatic smile. He'd already tried the flirtatious one, and she'd given him such a flat, unimpressed look that he'd decided that wherever he was, the local matriarchs were not to be trifled with. He'd verified that by flirting carefully with the second matriarch in command, and while Teyla Emmagen had been clearly flattered, she had similarly shot him down, politely but firmly.

He'd tried flirting with the guy he'd first met, but Rodney--Dr. Rodney McKay, as he'd finally introduced himself--had just looked bewildered. Jack wasn't sure if it was the flirting or the fact he was talking to someone who wasn't supposed to exist, so he'd moved on. Dr. Radek Zelenka had at least responded promisingly, smiling and showing off dimples that made Jack want to ask the guy if there was someplace private they could go. But before Jack could say anything, the one they'd called Ronon had started growling at Jack like he owned them all, and Jack had backed off quickly.

He didn't know if 'Ronon' was a name or a title that meant 'bodyguard of everyone's virtue', but after that, every time Jack had tried to smile at someone, Ronon's eyes narrowed a little more.

Jack restrained himself to polite, virtuous, and totally, completely, utterly harmless, and carefully didn't mention the blasters in his pockets because he could see five knives on Ronon already, which meant there had to be a dozen more he couldn't see.

"So let me get this straight," Dr. Weir said again. "You... arrived here after being stranded on a space station in orbit around Earth?"

"Yes, in the 2002nd century," Dr. McKay interrupted her. "Jack was left behind because they thought he was dead even though Rose saved him when she destroyed the Daleks."

Jack blinked. Well. That explained why he wasn't dead.

"We all saw the episode," Rodney continued. "I can show you, though really you need to start with episode one for the best impact. The story arc covers... well, you sort of need to see at least a few of the previous doctors--"

"I'm just glad we can get regular transmissions now," Radek said. "Was very hard waiting six months for new episodes brought by the Daedalus."

"But you get to see them all one after another that way," put in Colonel John Sheppard, who had previously not said anything after being introduced to Jack. Jack still didn't know where Sheppard fit into the command structure, though he'd been the only one introduced with a military rank. He hadn't seem surprised or annoyed by Jack's arrival, and the casual air of amusement wasn't helping Jack figure out if Sheppard was more likely to shoot him as help him get off the floating city he'd found himself on.

"Did I mention how I'm not imaginary?" Jack put in, cautiously.

"Yes, yes," Dr. McKay said, waving a hand. "Except you are, so arguing about it with you--"

"Actually, Rodney," Radek interrupted, "the quantum theory of alternate universes says that in fact anything could exist, so Captain Harkness may really be real."

The two scientists stared at each other for a moment, then Jack saw twin expressions of sheer glee appear on their faces.

"The Doctor," Rodney said. "He--"

Radek nodded quickly. "Yes, yes! He is--"

At which point they both stopped and whirled, as did everyone in the room including Jack, because the sound coming from the corner of the conference room was one Jack hadn't thought he would ever hear again.

When the TARDIS solidified, Jack just gaped as the door opened and Rose peeked out. She saw Jack and burst into a smile, then she was running towards him, and Jack was holding her, and everyone was still staring at the TARDIS, waiting.

"I should warn you--" Rose began.

"The tenth Doctor?" Dr. McKay was saying, or asking, maybe, because Dr. Zelenka was nodding and saying something about a guy named David Tennant.

A man stepped out of the TARDIS, looked around, and said cheerfully, "Sorry, we seem to have mislaid something. You don't mind if we take him with us, right? Thought not." He grinned, and that was when Jack realised who he was.

Regeneration, Rose explained, and she apologised for them leaving, and really Jack wasn't so much listening any more as he was trying not to swing her around the room and dash aboard the TARDIS right now.

It took them a while to leave, however, because every scientist in the city showed up with paper and pen, or tee-shirt and marker, or, in one case, a laptop and soldering tool. The Doctor scrawled his name, or title, or whatever--Jack still didn't have a clue which it was--nearly two hundred times.

Then he smiled graciously, shook several hands again, and nudged Rose and Jack towards the TARDIS. Jack was only too happy to go.

He tightly clutched the stack of discs and DVD player Radek had given him, looking forward to a very, very long night.

The End