: A short chapter, today. But a vital one.
Jack just stared at the exams he'd been handed. His jaw literally dropping, as he read through the answers.
"They really are all secrets from Torchwood, then?" Gwen asked. She shifted, uncomfortably, in place. Glancing down, through the window of Jack's office, at the hunched over figure of Seo, who was facing a very upset-looking Buffy.
Jack slapped down the exam he was looking at onto his desk. "Let's just say," he said, "that if Seo's teachers suspected — for one minute — that anything she'd written here was real… we'd all be in very big trouble."
"But… why would she do it?" asked Gwen.
"Because she can?" Jack guessed. "Because she's trying to show off? Because she feels she has to prove something?" He leaned over his desk, his hands clasped together, his eyes staring down at nothing. "I don't even know how to handle something like this."
"I thought… retcon?" said Tosh.
Jack shook his head. "This goes way beyond retcon." He grabbed up a science exam, and handed it to Tosh. "That first page," he said. "It's not a Torchwood secret. It's diagramming, in mathematical terms, how to create a trigger-mechanism for an alien bomb."
Tosh's eyes went wide, as she looked at the equations.
"She hasn't just been writing our
secrets," said Jack. "She's been writing down dangerous secrets that nobody should ever know about. If one person who saw this exam took these equations seriously..." He shook his head. "I don't even want to think about that."
"So… what?" asked Owen. "Dump her in the freezers like all the other alien traitors?"
"Owen!" hissed Gwen.
"Look, darling," said Owen. "I'm just saying what we're all thinking, here."
"He might be right," Jack admitted. "Spilling secrets like this… it's a breach of every Torchwood rule and regulation in the handbook. There's no precedent for this."
"Why… the third question?" Ianto asked.
Everyone looked back at him. He was standing a ways off from the group, looking through a stack of Seo's English exams, a frown on his face. He noticed everyone else looking at him, and hesitated.
"I was just noticing," Ianto explained, gesturing at the exams, "the information that specifically relates to Torchwood. She always writes it into… the third question of every exam."
Everyone looked at everyone else. Then, in a suddenly frantic scramble, they began reaching for exams, homework assignments, anything they could find. Thumbing through them, furiously.
"Third question," said Gwen. "Henry VIII's third wife was actually a weevil in disguise, named Lucy."
"Third question, here, too," Owen put in. "The boiling point of water varies depending on whether or not there are powerful alien elements in the air, originating in the Orion system."
"I remember that one," said Tosh.
"It's the third question everywhere," Jack muttered. "Always the third question. Every single time." He stared at the papers in his hands, trying to think it all through.
"But what does that mean?" asked Gwen.
"Torchwood three," Jack muttered. He turned on his feet, his face angry, his eyes dark. "It means," he said, his voice low and threatening, "that she's doing this specifically to get our attention."
He stormed out of his office, pushing past everyone in the way, racing down the steps towards the central part of the hub — right where Seo and Buffy were waiting.
Seo looked up at him. Her eyes wide. Seeing his face furious, she huddled up a little tighter into herself.
Jack stood there, his arms crossed. "So?"
Seo didn't answer.
"I'm waiting, Seo," Jack said. "I can wait as long as it takes. But you're not getting out of here until I find out what you're up to."
Seo looked over to Buffy, with pleading eyes. But Buffy didn't look like she was in any mood to defend Seo's decisions.
Seo turned back to Jack. Her jaw trembling a little. "I… just… didn't know any of the answers," she said, in a small voice. "I'm stupid. I panicked. And I didn't want you to know I was stupid, so I wrote down something I remembered from Tosh's computer, and hoped you'd think I was really clever, and—"
"Nice try," Jack cut in. "How about the truth, now?"
Seo said nothing for a long moment.
"I… don't know," she admitted.
"No, you did
know," Buffy said. "That's why we're mad at you." She turned to Jack. "I've been quizzing her. She knows the correct answers to all of those math problems just fine. Whatever she's written down, she did it purposely."
"No!" Seo insisted. "I didn't. I told you. I'm not that bright. I didn't even know the things I wrote down were from Torchwood! I—"
"What's the equation Tosh worked out, last week, to restructure those proton accelerating nanoforms?" Jack asked.
"Two sine squared y over delta x minus z," said Seo.
Tosh, coming up from behind, frowned, a little. "Jack…"
"See?" said Jack, ignoring Tosh. "You do
know it. Now, come on. Truth."
"Jack!" Tosh said, a little louder.
Jack swung around, to face her.
"That's not the right answer," said Tosh.
Everyone in the Hub froze.
"What she said," Tosh explained. "It would have been right… if the nanoforms actually had been
proton accelerating. But we found out they weren't before we made the calculations, remember?"
Some of the hardness fell away from Jack's face. He looked between Tosh and Seo, noting the way that Seo had frozen against the far wall, her entire body tense, as if she'd just been caught out.
And an idea struck him all at once.
"Seo," Jack said. "What happened last time you came into Torchwood?"
Seo blinked. Then blinked again. Then tried to back further into the far wall. Opened her mouth, but no words came out.
"You don't know, do you?" asked Jack, in a softer voice.
Seo planted an irritated look on her face. "Of course I know!" she insisted. "I'm just as normal as everyone else! We… we… we fought aliens! Using a lot of guns!"
"And what about yesterday?" asked Jack. "What did you have for breakfast? What did you learn at school? What mischief did you and Alison get up to, at lunch?"
Seo opened her mouth to answer. But nothing came out.
Buffy stared at her. A little confused. "How would you not remember…?"
Jack stepped over to her. Leaned down, so he was at her eye level. "You honestly have no idea why you've been writing any of that down on those exams, do you?"
Seo hesitated. Then, reluctantly, shook her head.
Buffy stared at Jack, a little dumbstruck. "But that doesn't make sense!" she said. "I mean, she understands all those equations she wrote down. She knows what the correct answers are supposed to be! Why—"
"It's automatic," said Jack, getting up. "The effect of using a drug designed for humans on someone without a fully human brain." He crossed his arms, and muttered something about B 67 beneath his breath.
"Retcon?" asked Gwen. "But… I thought you said we couldn't retcon Seo for this."
Jack sighed. "We can't," he said. "But I think someone's already beaten us to the punch."