WARNING: major character death!
Jack Harkness lounged at the back of the lecture room while the man he observed tried not to tear out his silken pale hair. Lt. Ed Straker scowled at the blackboard, which was actually a deep green, and erased about a page of arcane mathematical hieroglyphs to start his calculations over again from the point where they kept going wrong, as far as he could tell. The younger man cussed lightly under his breath, knowing he was being watched yet stubbornly plodding on toward failure again.
“If you laugh, Capt. Harkness,” Ed muttered, slapping at the chalk dust whitened sleeve of his uniform coat.
“Ed, really, would I laugh?” Unfortunately, Jack’s voice always sounded on the edge of laughter when he was around Ed, there wasn’t much he could do about it. “Aren’t you going to be late?”
“Hmm, what?” The pale eyes traversed to the clock and back without really taking in the time until he looked back at the line of calculations he was working on and noticed the 8. His head swiveled then and he took in the time. 8:30. “Damn!” He tossed the nub of chalk onto the metal rail at the bottom of the board and headed for the door. “Megan!” he practically yelped.
Well, considering the sultry red head with the mind of an Einstein, Jack could understand the yelp. If he wasn’t so fascinated by the practically tow headed young Air Force Lt., he would probably be pursuing the woman himself. It was rather amazing that on the entire campus, there was one stunningly lovely young woman who was not just a walking wet dream for most of the male population, but had a mind of appalling power and capability in the field of astrophysics. Megan Groeg was a semester away from her Masters and was already headed for the Doctoral program.
Lt. Straker, tall, slender, almost pretty in his own right, when not doggedly working his way through a Gordian knot of interstellar proportions on the board. Straker’s thesis was actually in the same area as Megan’s.
“Stop by your room and change your coat.”
Where was that boy’s mind now? Jack gave the younger man one of his enchanting grins and repeated himself. “Chalk dust is not an aphrodisiac,” he added dryly, enjoying the rising tide of color in Ed’s face as he caught Jack’s comment.
“Don’t you ever think of anything else?” Ed snapped, but not too sharply.
“Where Megan is concerned? Please, I’m only human.” The dark eyes twinkled. “The theory of relativity read in that delightfully alto voice could cause one to completely forget oneself in the sheer joy of listening to her.”
“Indeed?” The alto in question startled him as she joined the two men from the walkway crossing theirs. “Mind you, I though the Air Force had blue uniforms,” she added with a laugh. Her leaf green eyes sparkled with mischief.
Ed stuttered for a moment and went silent. Jack shook his head. “They are. Unfortunately he was tangling with that problem Snitzberger set.”
“Snitz … oh, not that one again?” She rattled off the opening salvo of the equation. “That one?”
Both men regarded her warily. “Yes,” Ed answered.
“You can’t solve in three dimensions,” she told them.
“It’s non-Euclidean and post-Einsteinian … it takes five dimensions to solve it and is completely incomprehensible even if you do solve it. Pretty much have to postulate the actual existence of N-space, or some sort of hyper-spatial thing, and frankly I think it bends the space between my brain neurons to even contemplate it. So, where are you taking me to dinner?”
Having seen Ed into a fresh jacket, Jack left the two of them to head out for a late dinner and some non-astrophysics conversation. He wandered back to the classroom and took another look at the calculations, erasing a couple of places where the younger man had taken a wrong turn. Oh, yes. That was not a good thing to finish with at all. If the answer was infinity plus pi divided by … Urk. Megan was right, that was a hyper-spatial bypass that divided and then meshed dimensions. Not the sort of thing Earth needed at all.
With a sly grin, Jack erased all of Ed’s work, substituted a different variable and then worked it out to where Ed had left it. The thing was solvable, but it wasn’t dangerous any more. He stood back and surveyed his work with satisfaction.
“Well, well. Captain Jack Harkness,” a sibilant slither of a voice caught him off guard. “I think I’m glad it’s you instead of that fair haired Air Force Lt.” The roar of the large caliber gun took Jack by surprise as the bullet slammed through him. Darkness enfolded the man.
Jack came back with a gasp, slamming upright and spitting mud and leaves everywhere. After a moment he surveyed his surroundings and decided he’d been dumped in a small wooded area, next to a stream. The last of the leaves and twigs expelled from his mouth, he got to his feet, and tried to get his bearings. It was dark. That probably meant it wasn’t too much later than when he was shot. He stuck a finger through the hole in his coat. Damn. This was his favorite leather coat, too.
Scowling, he tramped what he hoped was northward as he tried to unravel exactly what had happened. The voice did not belong to the professor who had set the equation. Still, it was actually … somewhat … familiar. Oh, hell. The Jossd’. He wondered where the current incarnation of the Doctor was. Earth was being menaced … again. He almost choked with laughter at that. For a middlin’ backwater world, Earth came in for far more than it’s share of alien invasions. He found the edge of the woods and struck out toward what he hoped was a road.
Ed saw Megan back to her dorm room. They’d had a nice evening. He held out his hand to say good night and was surprised when she took his hand and pulled him in closer to plant a warm kiss on his lips. “Third date,” she breathed in his ear. “See you later.” She vanished into her room, the latch clicking home. That didn’t stop the foolish grin spreading across his face as he walked back to his own dorm.
“She likes me,” he told his reflection as he reached for his toothbrush a bit later. “She likes me!”
The small Spider roadster stopped on the road beside Jack as he tramped toward the university. “Lost?”
He climbed into the passenger seat and grabbed the door as the car took off, pulled a neat turn and headed back the way he’d come. “Isn’t the university the other way?”
“My boss would like a word with you.”
Megan’s boss turned out to be a very military looking man of middle years dressed in civilian clothes. “Captain Miles,” Jack acknowledged the man. “What’s your lot doing at MIT?” The suspicion in his voice was impossible to disguise, although the usual half smile curved his mouth.
“Meg is finishing up her degree and headed for the final one. She needs the grounding in Earth sciences. Your Lt. Straker is also of interest to us, although he will continue unaware of our involvement in his preparation.”
“Preparation?” Jack was steely now.
Captain Miles blinked at the seemingly younger man. His eyes went completely black for a moment before clearing to their usual pale gray. “Straker is … important. He must not be … side tracked.” Miles seemed to struggle with his words, then looked sympathetically at Jack. “He cannot be yours, Captain. Not even for a short time. His course is too important to his world. I am sorry …” his voice trailed off.
Miles shook his head. “No.” He looked into Jack’s eyes. “Not who, what,” came his final cryptic words. “It’s been nice seeing you again.”
Dismissed. Meg met his scowl with a smile and led him back to the car. “Sorry. But it is for the best, you know.”
“Whose best?” Jack practically growled. Oh, he’d behave. He’d let Straker have his fling with Megan and watch as Ed had his heart broken because she’d stay at the university when he left to take up his duties. He’d track Straker from a distance, never being more than a friend, maybe a mentor and he’d hate every minute of it until the boy was old, gray and dead. Some days he hated being the hero.
Red roses. Keith Ford stared at the florid bouquet of two dozen roses in a sturdy stone vase. There was no card, nothing to identify the sender. He set his own tribute next to the spare stone marker. Edward Straker had passed away in his sleep, at home in his adopted England; an unsung hero. Keith smiled, well, maybe not completely unsung.