The Lost Doctor
Electric Light – A Torchwood Episode
“What’s this?” Gwen asked.
Jack Harkness, leader of Torchwood 3, looked back down the stairs of the Orpheus theatre they were in at his teammate. He was a few steps ahead of her on the stairs and held his service revolver in his hand.
Gwen held her sidearm with both hands and was nodding her head to a picture that was on the wall.
“Uh, we are kind of in the middle of something,” Jack whispered, motioning back up the stairs. “Later.”
“Right,” Gwen said, and the two continued their ascent.
“Ok, Jack,” Gwen said, coming into his office. She was holding the picture from the theatre in her hands.
The picture was actually a clipping from a newspaper. In it Harkness had his left arm around another man who was holding a large glass bottle. The caption read: Young Americans capture a ghost at the Orpheus Theatre.
A smile came onto Jack’s face as he took the frame from Gwen.
“I thought that place looked familiar.”
“So what happened? Tell me!” Gwen demanded, sitting down across from him.
“It was shortly after I joined up with Torchwood. We were chasing a gremlin.”
“Well that is what Tom called it,” Jack said, tapping the picture at the man with the glass jar.
“Was he in Torchwood? I don’t remember him from the archives.”
“No, he was an electrician from New York. He was here helping with electric lines in London. He was trying to figure out why the streetlights weren’t working correctly. Said they must have gremlins… So when we actually found a creature, that s what we called it.”
“Oh a monster?”
“Yea. Creature, alien, is probably more accurate. We think it came through the rift in Cardiff…”
Jack looked back at the picture getting a nostalgic look on his face.
“Well, tell me about your gremlin!” Gwen said, leaning forward on the desk, her head now resting in her hands.
Jack smiled and put down the picture frame before being his story.
It was the fall of 1899, and Jack Harkness had been at Torchwood only for a few short weeks. Streetlights had started being changed from gas to electricity starting with Godalming in Surrey, England in 1881. Pearl street in London was the first street in the city with electric lights, and now they had covered most of the city itself.
Jack has been sent out by his lead, Alice Guppy, to investigate a number of electrocutions that had been occurring along a newly installed section of lights. A few checks of the victims found no connection other than location. So Jack set out a few nights and walked the area, hoping to find some other clue.
That night Jack came across a disheveled looking man on a ladder working on one of the streetlights. He had a toolbox at the bottom and was talking to himself as Jack approached.
“Now why in the world would you wire this backwards…”
“Find something?” Jack asked up the ladder.
The man gave a startled scream and dropped his screwdriver. Nearly losing his balance, he flailed his arms before grabbing the lamp.
“Jack! You scared me,” the man said, catching his breath.
“Do I know you?” Jack said, stepping closer to get a better look at the man. There was a sound of hope in his voice.
“Uh.. ” the man looked momentarily flustered. Rather than answering, he climbed down the ladder.
“No, no,” he started. “I call everyone Jack, Jack. Is that your name?”
“Yeah,” Jack said.
“Heh, that is funny. I don’t think I actually know a Jack.” He extended his hand. “Name’s Tom. Tom Baker.”
“American?” Jack asked.
“New York,” Tom said. “Here to help with setting up some of these lights.”
“That is a long way to come for some lights,” Jack commented.
“Yeah, well, I did a couple years with the Edison lab, then with Tesla’s in New York. Heard they may need help out here with the new lights going up everywhere and thought I’d go check it out. Resume was good enough, even if my accent wasn’t.”
The two laughed at that.
“There has been a couple of electrocutions with these streetlights,” Jack asked. “Any idea what could have caused them?”
“That’s why I am out here tonight,” Tom said. “Other than some spotty wiring jobs, they all look fine. Even the ones that were the problems only needed the bulb replaced. Those things ain’t cheep you know.”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “Well thanks, Tom.”
“No problem, Jack. Heh. Jack.” Tom laughed at himself, as he started packing up his tools.
Harkness walked on as the electrician packed up and too set out into the night.
In the Tardis, the Doctor dropped the tool box in the door. The spacecraft was hidden in the basement of an abandoned building several miles away. He knew that coming here, London, now would be dangerous for the timeline, but the trail of the Keeper had led him here.
“Damnit, Jack,” the Doctor said. “You weren’t supposed to find me.”
He turned and sat on the floor, resting his elbows on his knees. He sat in silence for some time.
“I’m sorry old friend, I can’t let you know who I am.”
The next evening a few minutes after the streetlights first turned on an older banker was on his way home down the very same street. This night had been an early one for him, and he smiled at his pocket watch as he walked. He would be home early for the first time in years.
There was a sound from the fourth light as he walked past it. It wasn’t a normal sound for a machine, but rather sounded as if something inside was struggling against something.
The banker paused and looked up as the light bulb inside began to pulsate.
There was a scream from inside. It was horrible and unintelligible. The banker started to back up but it was too late. Pure high amperage electricity shot from the bulb and engulfed the man.
His body fell lifeless to the street.
The electricity sparked around him before taking shape. The creature walked about for a few moments before leaping back into the streetlight.
The police had arrived before Jack could get there. They had the area blocked off a bit, but the smell of burnt flesh was carried down the street by the wind. Banker, Jack had heard, who worked a few blocks over. Seems some of the Bobbies had knew him. Nice chap, he heard a few times. Nice chap.
One of the detectives had brought over a box of sorts and was standing on it to get a better look at the streetlight that had been the culprit.
“Stop!” a voice said from the crowd. Jack saw a man push his way through the group. Tom, Jack thought, that electrician from New York.
Jack took a few steps closer through the crowd to watch.
“‘Ay!” Tom yelled again, getting all the police attention. “Get away from that.”
“Look, Yank, this is official business,” one of the Bobbies said, stopping Tom at the edge of the scene.
“You better believe it is. ‘Ay Jack!” Tom called out to the detective. The officer turned and looked at him.
“You know anything about electricity? Or are you trying to be fried like this poor guy?”
The police all looked at each other.
“And who are you?”
“Tom,” the Doctor lied, “Tom Baker. I work for the power company. Keep your fingers out of my streetlight. That bulb is blown which means you have bare wires in there. They ain’t gonna be nice just because you are a cop.”
The detective stopped poking in the light, gave it one last look and climbed down. The Bobby let the Doctor pass and he went to the detective, trying not to look too much at the parts of the banker that were not covered up.
“Just trying to help keep you safe,” the Tom said. “Let me take a look up there. The last few were fine, except for a blown bulb, but still might be something.”
“Ok,” the detective said, but gave Tom Baker a look. “But I’ll be watching you.”
Tom climbed on the same box the detective had been on. Just as the other lights had been, this one was undamaged except for the blow bulb. Tucked in his arm was a small sensor that he triggered ever so briefly.
“Nuthin’,” the Doctor said, still attempting a more New York than normal accent. His recently unfashionable American one was mostly enough for this crowd. But it was not the British he was putting the show on for.
He climbed back down and looked at the detective.
“Just like the others, all the wires are good, but the bulb is blown. Don’t make no sense, don’t make no sense at all.”
“Thanks,” the detective started.
“Now look, You keep your boys away from these things. There is enough juice in these things to fry two of you holding hands.”
“Uh…” the detective said. “Right, thanks, Mr Baker.”
“No problem. I’ll talk to the company about getting this light fixed before tomorrow night, so you don’t worry about that.”
The detective nodded and the Tom set back into the crowd. It was only a few steps before he heard his name, something he was dreading.
Tom turned and looked as Jack Harkness ran up to his side.
“Did you see anything?” Jack asked.
“You ain’t with them?” Tom asked. Naturally the Doctor already knew the answer, but for now, he was not himself.
“Not exactly,” Jack said. He motioned that he and Tom should start walking, so they did, heading down the street from the crime scene.
“I work for a different organization that monitors, uh, strange things that happen in this area.”
“Strange things… Like random electrocutions?” Tom asked.
“Something like that.” Jack said. “Look, you know a lot about how these lines are laid out. I could use your help.”
“Not sure how much I can help,” Tom said.
“If someone is doing this on purpose, you could help me trace it back to them.”
“Heh, I don’t think that someone is behind this, Jack. Jack.” Tom paused, half laughing. “I swear that ain’t gonna get old.”
“Right. What do you mean?”
“Well, Jack, you are talking about directing current through cable to one location at a specific time high enough to electrocute a man, but precise enough to not hurt the other streetlights. I’m not sure Nikola Tesla himself could do that.”
“Oh, that is a good point,” Jack said.
“I think you have a gremlin,” Tom said.
“He said that?” Gwen said, laughing.
“He did,” Jack said, smiling.
“I stopped, my mouth nearly falling open. He said it so causally it was as if…”
“As if he’d seen one before.”
Jack just nodded.
“Well had he?”
“He said he hadn’t, that it was a story that he had been told on one of his jobs…”
“Gremlin?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, was a story that Edison used to tell us. Once the lines got too long you’d have daemons taking refuge in them. Little ones though, he called them gremlins. Would make the system do things that it wasn’t supposed to do. Never did believe him though.”
Tom stopped. Jack took a few steps before he noticed and turned around. Tom was looking back at the streetlights behind them.
“Now, I ain’t got a better explanation.”
Back at the Tardis, the Doctor pulled out the small device hidden in his sleeve. With Jack out there, and Torchwood especially, any technology during his period would be dangerous. The Tardis itself was a huge target, hence why it was stuffed in the basement of an abandoned building clear across town.
He dropped the sensor into a panel on the Tardis watching one of the screens as it analyzed the data. He had been right, it was a gremlin.
The sensor had detected all the usual aspects of a high voltage discharge along with one thing extra. Something had been in there too. The Doctor tweeked the dials on the panel a few times, but only the most basic information came out.
It was alive. It was mostly electricity. It was not from this planet or this time.
The Doctor had been following the temporal wave, trying to find this ‘Keeper’. This creature was just lost in time. Still it was a clue, part of the ripple.
“I’ll find the water drop, Sami.”
The Doctor replaced the bulb on Canterbury street with one of his own. The the normal eye it would look the same, but the Doctor had other plans. This bulb would hopefully prove irresistible to a creature of electricity.
Once inside the bulb, the connection to the power lines would fuse, trapping the creatures inside of the glass case. Then the Doctor would collect the bulb and be on his way before anyone from Torchwood got involved.
More involved than they were, that is.
Jack made his report to Alice after returning from the Banker.
“An electrician from New York,” Alice said. “And that didn’t seem odd to you?”
“I deal with oddities,” Jack replied. “American’s aren’t high up on my list.”
“Still, check him out. Otherwise keep up your investigation.”
Jack wandered the stretch of streetlights looking for both signs of the cause of his problems and a certain New Yorker that kept showing up.
Admittedly there was something odd about Tom, but Jack couldn’t put his finger on it. He offhandedly thought maybe he was another Time Agent, but no, it didn’t fit right.
The bulb on the light in front of him began to twitch. Jack looked up coming out of his thought.
It went nearly out before coming to full brightness, then began to fade out again. It began to pulsate faster now, then got impossibly bright. In that moment, Jack heard a loud pitched scream.
The light returned to normal. Jack gave it a final look before starting to move on.
The electricity that came from the bulb this time was brighter than it had been before, the beam striking Jack nearly square in the back. The current engulfed him, sending sparks out through his hands.
And just as suddenly as it started, the electricity stopped. The bulb on the light post returned to its normal glow.
Jack’s body remained stuff as he fell to the ground, face down.
Tom ran out from the place he was hiding. In a frenzy he rolled Harkness over.
“Jack!” he said, checking the man for vital signs. There were none. “Jack!”
He’s ok, the Doctor thought, he’s ok. I don’t remember why, but I know he’s ok.
Jack shot upwards, inhaling deeply, his hands clawed at the part of his chest. He fell back to the street, catching his breath.
Harkness looked up the man leaning over him.
“You’re ok!” Tom said.
Jack looked down at his chest where there was now a black burn mark.
“Yeah, I uh… long story,” Jack said.
Right, the Doctor thought, that.
Tom helped Jack to his feet. Jack swayed and Tom caught him.
“Let’s go sit down somewhere…”
The two set down the street to a pub. Jack ordered two pints of bitter and then looked over his shoulder.
“Oh, and whatever he wants,” Jack said motioning to Tom as he started to down his first beer in a single drink.
“Uh, tea for now…,” Tom said, sitting. “You ok?”
“No,” Jack said. Then reflected. “Yeah, I am, just not… Nothing.”
“Well, not every day you get struck by that much voltage,” Tom said, sipping on the tea. “Just thought that would work…”
Jack was about halfway through the second pint, in the process of ordering a third with his hands and stopped.
“What? What would work?”
Tom nearly spit out his tea.
Jack turned and faced him. The man paused before turning to face Jack.
“No,” Jack said. “Not the made up story you are about to tell me.”
“Alright,” Tom said. “I modified one of the light bulbs with a capacitor inside of it. It was supposed to trap the creature inside. Seemed to save your hide though.”
Jack rubbed the spot.
Jack froze, his eyes glowing a bright blue light. Electricity sparked from his hands to the copper top of the bar. Tom pulled his hands away quickly as the energy snaked down the bar.
Jack screamed and fell from his stool onto the floor.
The light faded away.
“Oh no,” Tom said.
Jack opened his eyes. At first the world was blurry. But the room slowly came into focus. There were two people in the room with him.
“Alice?” Jack asked, looking up to his superior.
“Well, looks like you are awake.”
She stood back from Jack. She wore long rubber gloves that went nearly to her shoulders and held a wooden broom handle.
“Stay there,” Alice said. “You are a bit dangerous to the touch at the moment.”
“Did I hurt anyone?”
“No,” Tom said from the other side of the room. “But you came close. Best I can figure is somehow it is inside of you. And well, since you aren’t dying…”
“It can’t get out.”
Tom nodded. Jack lay back on the bed and took a deep breath. Before he could speak, his eyes went blue again. Electricity shot out and he screamed. Alice stepped forward, holding him down with the end of the broom.
After a few moments, he fell back to the bed, motionless.
“But I have an idea,” Tom said.
Tom turned and went back into the next room. There were wires, metal parts, tools and a larger bell jar spread out over the table.
“I think we need to talk,” Alice Guppy said from behind Tom as he worked.
“Not now,” Tom said, running wires into the large bell jar.
“Any why not, Doctor?” Alice said.
“Not a Doctor, I’m an electrician,” Tom said, not turning around. He had no doubt, however, about a gun being pointed at him.
“Oh, I think you know what I am talking about, Doctor,” Alice said. “I think you do.”
“And I,” the Doctor said, turning to face her, “think you have no idea what game you are in. If Jack finds out who I am…”
“What? He has been looking for you for quite some time. He’d be happy to see you. Even if you are locked up in a cell,” Alice said.
The Doctor walked towards her, unconcerned with the firearm she held. He closed the gap between them until the barrel pressed against his chest.
“You better understand something, girl. Jack Harkness saves this world of yours more times than the rest of your Torchwood combined. His fate is fixed, and without him the future is only darkness.”
Alice stared into the Doctor’s eyes for a moment. It was all he needed.
“You will never tell Jack about me. You will never call me the Doctor again.”
Alice blinked a few times and slowly lowered the pistol.
The Doctor turned back to his bulb and started working again.
“Then why are you here, now, when it would be so dangerous for you to be discovered?”
“The Keeper,” The Doctor said.
“The Keeper? What’s that?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know and I am supposed to believe you? Just some mythical boogeyman then?”
“Alice, I know that frumpy queen Victoria put me on the list of enemies of Earth, but I am no such thing. The Keeper is changing time. He, it, whatever is altering the very fabric of existence to such a degree that paradox monsters have been let loose. And despite that he is only changing more.”
“And why tell me this?”
“Whatever the Keeper is doing, you, and Torchwood, need to be ready.”
“But you have no idea for what, or when, right? Could you be any more vague?”
“I could try,” The Doctor said, holding up the jar. “All done. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to save Jack, trap a creature made of electricity and get on my way.”
Alice paused and then nodded.
“But if you ever…” She started.
“Yeah, yeah, you know how many times I’ve heard that one?”
The two went back into the room where Jack had been sleeping, or dead, depending on when you checked him, but it was empty. There was a web of burn marks from the bed to the door in the wood of the walls.
“And now we have a problem,” Tom said.
The two ran down the stairs and out onto the street. There were more black burn marks on the street, but no sign of a blue glowing Jack Harkness.
“The creature must have woken up, taken over,” Tom said. “It will be looking for someway to get out of him.”
“Like what, Mr. Baker?” Alice said.
“A large draw of electricity, I’d assume. It does seem to be drawn to lights.
“Like a chandelier?” Alice asked. She had the smile of someone with a plan.
“Yes,” Tom said. “Just like that.”
The theatre had been closed off to the public, though in normal Torchwood procedures, they did not tell anyone why. Signs posted outside simply said that opening had been delayed due to electrical problems.
With a few stops, Tom managed to short circuit the streetlights for a few blocks, making the chandelier in the theatre the brightest light in the area.
Inside the two waited, Alice with her broom stick and Tom with his bell jar. The chandelier had been lowered to a reachable level. Tom had run wires off of it and off of a metal plate on the floor beneath it
“This isn’t going to work,” Alice said.
“He’ll come,” Tom replied.
“How do you know?”
Tom simply pointed.
Harkness stood at the door of the theatre, the blue glow from his eyes had spread around his entire body.
Harkness, or rather the creature inside, was focused on the chandelier above. Slowly it moved forward, reaching his hands upwards.
“Here we go,” Tom said. Alice nodded.
The Harkness electricity monster moved forward towards the low hanging chandelier. Blue electricity sparked off the seats and walls.
“Now!” Tom yelled.
Alice swung her broom stick low, catching Jack behind his let knee sending him tumbling backwards on his back and onto the big metal plate. Sparks flew in all directions, one catching Alice. She screamed and jumped backwards away from Jack.
Tom ran to him grabbing the wire from the chandelier and wrapping it around one of the leads on the bell jar.
“Sorry about this, Jack,” Tom said before slamming the jar downwards, piercing the skin in Jack’s forearm with the other lead.
Jack screamed. The creature screamed. The lights flickered, and a few blew out as light and electricity shot out everywhere.
And then it was over.
Tom pulled the wire free, pulling the lead from Jack’s arm.
“Ow!” Jack said, sitting up.
Tom was fixated on the bell jar.
“Well?” Alice said
“Got it,” Tom said, his face widening into a smile. “Right there.”
Jack climbed to his feet to look. A blue light danced about the inside of the jar, sometimes striking the sides. Jack threw his arm around Tom.
“Good job,” he said with a hint of surprise in his voice.
“Smile!” a voice said. The two looked up in time to be blinded by a flashbulb.
As the afterimage faded away, Tom and Jack saw four new people standing in front of them: the photographer, a reporter, and the two older owners of the theatre.
“They tell us you just caught a ghost,” the reporter asked. “Is that true?”
“So Tom went back to America, and I stayed here…”
“I’m kinda glad you did,” Gwen said. She leaned down and kissed Jack on the lips.
“Jack,” Tosh called from the next room. Her voice separated the two. “Owen just checked in, he found the convoy.”
“Tell him we are on our way. Those supplies are going to the Keeper, and we need to stop them.”
“That’s what we are here for,” Ianto said from the other room. “I’ll get the car.”