The feather duster clattered on the floor, and the stranger turned to glance at him, then went back to looming over the aquarium. Then he looked again and saw the gun Ianto was holding on him, and jumped back in exaggerated surprise.
“Get away from them,” Ianto said, waggling the gun. “Keep your hands where I can see them.”
As the stranger backed away, a weird little smirk on his face, Ianto tapped his earpiece. “Jack, we have an intruder on level six.” Addressing the stranger, he said, “Who are you? How did you get in here?”
Jack’s voice, coming over the earpiece, sounded far less alarmed than Ianto thought it should have. “Black suit, floppy hair, trainers?”
Ianto glanced at the stranger’s feet. “Ye-es,” he said slowly.
“He’s a friend. It’s all right.”
Ianto lowered his gun a fraction. “He was bothering the Civilization.”
“The--Jam Jar People.”
Jack sighed. “He probably didn’t realize there were people in there. Look, I’ll be right down.”
Ianto lowered his gun another fraction. “Jack’s coming,” he said unnecessarily.
“I heard,” the stranger said. “Look, would you mind putting the gun away? I don’t like guns.”
“I do,” Ianto answered, even though he didn’t really. He let his gun hand fall to his side, but didn’t put the gun away.
“I’m sorry about your--” the stranger glanced over at the tank “--friends. I didn’t mean them any harm. And Jack’s right; I didn’t know what they were.” He smiled. “I still don’t, in fact.”
“They’re people. They live in there. They’re very small.” Ianto didn’t know why he was telling the stranger anything.
“I gathered that much.”
They stood and stared at each other for another minute, until Jack came in. “Doctor!” he said delightedly, giving the stranger a big hug. The stranger stood stiffly for a moment before returning the embrace. “What brings you here?”
“Just passing through,” the Doctor said airily. “Fueling up—thought I’d pop in. This must be Ianto. Ianto Jones! How perfectly marvelous.”
“Yep,” Jack said. “Doctor, Ianto, Ianto, Doctor.”
Mind reeling, Ianto said, “He’s--what—the Doctor Doctor?”
He wasn’t making much sense, but Jack apparently followed. “That’s him.”
Ianto knew that Torchwood’s official position on the Doctor had changed during Jack’s tenure, but there were limits. “And you just barge in and start wandering around?”
The Doctor looked slightly confused. “Well—yes. That is what I do. People usually don’t mind.”
“Well I mind,” Ianto muttered, finally holstering his gun and picking up his feather duster. Knowing he was being rude, he glared at the Doctor until he stepped away from the aquarium, then began dusting it vigorously.
“We don’t know where they came from,” Jack was saying. “They came to us as part of an estate—a local millionaire who’d built up quite a collection of Rift junk. Nothing alive, except for them. They were just in the one jar then, but they started running out of room, so Ianto rigged up some colonies for them.”
The Doctor craned his neck to look at the Civilization again. “Well! That’s extraordinary. How did they get into the other jars? Do you just scoop some out?”
Ianto glared at him. “Space ships. Obviously.” He brought the atmospheric readouts for the original jar and the colonies. The development of heavy industry in the first jar had brought about a small pollution problem, but they seemed to have brought it under control by relocating most of the manufacturing to the second colony. Maybe he ought to encourage that development by seeding the jar with raw materials?
“You ought to see one of the ships,” Jack said.
“Ooh, that would be lovely.”
Ianto pointedly ignored the hint. Normally at this point he would start skimming through the week’s worth of video he’d collected since the last time he’d visited the Civilization, but this time he just transferred it to a memory stick without peeking.
“Well!” The Doctor clapped his hands together, and even without knowing the man, Ianto could tell he was making one hell of an effort to sound cheerful. “Where’s our Doctor Jones, then? She’ll never forgive me if I leave before I’ve visited her.”
“She’s stepped out, but I’m sure she’ll be back soon,” Jack said. “Why don’t we go have a cup of tea while we wait for her?”
“Have fun,” Ianto said pointedly.
He puttered around in the Civilization’s room until he was sure Jack would have gotten tired of standing in the kitchenette looking adorably confused and waiting for him to come and make the tea, he took the memory stick and went upstairs.
Martha had gotten back, and she, Jack, and the Doctor were sitting around, cups of tea and biscuit wrappers everywhere. Martha was laughing uproariously, and the Doctor was in Tosh’s old chair, spinning it around. Ianto walked past them all and up to the tourist office, where he could review his files in peace.
“So then she said--” Martha paused to catch her breath “‘—he’s from Yorkshire, you wee daftie!’”
The Doctor paused in spinning Tosh’s chair to shake his head. “Even the Tardis’s translation circuits have trouble with broad Yorkshire,” he commiserated.
Jack glanced up and saw Ianto on the walkway. “Ianto! Are you going to join us?” He wasn’t sure what had come over Ianto earlier—he was usually so polite, at least to people who weren’t trying to kill them.
Ianto came down a few steps. “There’s been a—transmission,” he said stiffly.
“Transmission?” Martha glanced over at the Rift monitor. “From whom?”
“There’s still no response?”
Ludor shook his head. “Nothing yet.”
Pardi, his daughter and research assistant, joined him by the transmission device. As a young man, Ludor had discovered the private journals of his many-times-great grandfather, the great Christofel, who had developed the World’s first airship, hidden in the floorboards of the family home. There, in the journals he never expected anyone to read, he had disclosed that on the historic First Flight, he had seen a giant Being not of the World. Those had been primitive and superstitious times, and Christofel had thought that he had seen the face of God. “Give it more time,” Pardi suggested. “It took us months to decide what message to send. Perhaps they’ve received our transmission and are even now trying to decide what to send back.”
“Or perhaps there’s no one there to respond.” The means of transmitting sound through the modulation of electromagnetic waves had been developed few years after the first colony was established; it allowed the colonists to communicate with the homeworld with only a short time delay. Ludor had realized that there was another possible use for the technology: if the beings that Christofel had seen indeed existed, they might be able to communicate with them.
“They must exist,” Pardi argued. Pulling on the cotton gloves they always used when handling the fragile old document, she took Christofel’s journal down from the shelf and opened it to one well-worn page. “The drawing is so detailed—how could it have been a product of his imagination?”
They both looked at the drawing Christofel had made of his “God”. “He could have based it some real person,” Ludor answered. “The milkman, the butcher down the street.”
“He was a man of science,” Pardi said. Tracing her gloved finger along the neatly printed line below the sketch, she read, “‘ The face of God, as I saw it on my First Flight, the twelfth day of Elar, year 38 after the Long Dark.’ He wouldn’t have written that if he wasn’t drawing from memory, exactly what he saw.”
“Then perhaps he hallucinated.”
“You’re such a pessimist!” Pardi laughed and kissed his cheek. “Just keep waiting. You’ll see.”
“Here’s the transmission at normal speed. It’s radio, sound only.” Ianto played it: a long beep, lasting about a second and a half, followed by about thirty seconds of silence and then another, identical beep.
Ianto could only imagine what Owen would have said about it. Fascinating conversationalists, your Jam Jar people. But Owen was dead, and Jack, Martha, and even the Doctor were all taking this seriously. “Slowed down twenty-five times, here it is again.” This time there was as single beep followed by a spoken word, then two beeps and another word, three beeps and another word, and so on up to nine beeps. Then there was a brief silence, the length of one of the beeps, and a tenth word. Then the same voice spoke several words.
Ianto stopped the recording. “After that it just repeats, the same sounds.”
“The first bit, they’re telling us the numbers one through ten,” Martha realized.
“One through nine and then zero, I think you’ll find,” The Doctor corrected.
Ianto nodded. He agreed with the Doctor’s interpretation. “I made a phonetic transcription.” While playing the recording again, he put the transcription up on the screen. One was something like fa, two was tel, and so on. He paused the recording after zero (dul). “Now see who can figure out what this next bit is.”
Ianto was a little surprised when no one answered—with the transliteration right in front of them, he thought it was obvious. Tosh would have gotten it right away, probably faster than he did.
“Play it again,” Martha said when it was finished. He obliged. “That’s three..something…one, four, one again—it’s pi!”
“Pi to six digits,” Ianto agreed.
“So that tells us that they have radio and they have maths,” Martha said.
“It tells us a lot more than that. They’ve had radio for a few weeks now—very low power, the signal barely extends from one jar to the other. They must be using it for communication within the tank. I’ve collected hundreds of transmissions—all in their language, there’s no way to understand them.”
“They know—or suspect—that there are people out here, people who don’t speak their language,” Jack realized. “But maths is a universal language. This transmission was meant for us.”