He had just returned home from a trip to Earth in the 1940s where he’d had the perfect con planned. Passing off a Chula ambulance ship as a war ship, planting it in a particular part of London he knew was going to be blown up by a German bomb, selling it to a couple of Time Agents he discovered travelling in a passing retro-look time travel vehicle and then disappearing with their money before they had a chance to work out what had happened. It was going to be the perfect self-cleaning con.
But as with all perfect plans, something was bound to go astray. And astray it went. The ship wasn’t empty; his supposed victims weren’t Time Agents and he never got any money from them. In fact, he barely escaped with his life. The only good thing to come out of the whole mess was his new army coat and a brand new alias to go with the coat. He would now be known as Captain Jack Harkness.
Jack hadn’t been back on the Boeshane Peninsula for very long when, as it so often did, trouble came his way again. A highly unusual energy reading was being emitted, the source of which was unknown. He managed to find some contacts at the Time Agency who were still speaking to him and they told him their readings showed a time vortex in a parallel universe was causing the unnatural readings. Beyond that, they really didn’t have a clue what was happening.
Unable to resist a challenge, Jack tried finding the source of the energy for himself; he didn’t have anything better to be doing with his time after all. He used his Vortex Manipulator to scan for the readings and that’s when the trouble found him. A massive power surge locked onto the signal from his wrist strap and the last thing he heard before everything went dark was a massive explosion.
When he regained consciousness he found he was sitting against a wall in a building he had never seen before. The building was silent, no machinery humming, no people speaking, just a deadly silence. He looked curiously at the piles of dust on the floor in front of him and then stood up. He had to brace himself against the wall as he nearly collapsed; his legs weren’t as steady as he thought. He slowly walked down the corridor looking for some clue as to where he was but other than piles of the dust everywhere he couldn’t find much.
Eventually he found what looked to be a control room. Flicking a few random switches he quickly discovered there was no power left anywhere. He opened up his wrist strap to take a reading and gasped in shock when he saw where he was. He was apparently on a space station orbiting the Earth but not only that, he had also travelled to the year 200,100. The readings also confirmed there were no other life forms on the station. Jack knew he should get out of there as soon as he could – with no power there would be no life support and the oxygen would run out pretty quickly – and he quickly realised he would have to use his wrist strap to get himself out of there.
The wrist straps the Time Agency supplied to their agents had the capacity for time travel over short distances. Travelling approximately 195,000 years in time though was too much, it overloaded Jack’s Vortex Manipulator and part way through the journey the manipulator simply lost control. When Jack materialised he immediately saw he wasn’t back in his own time. He was at least on the Earth, but in 1869. Unfortunately too, the time travel function had burned out so his wrist strap would be useless for getting him back to the right time. Knowing he had no other choice he resigned himself to the fact that, for now at least, he would have to remain in this time and would somehow have to earn a living to survive.
He spent the next few years wandering around, trying to stay out of trouble whilst all the time trying to find anything he could use to fix his wrist strap. He ended up in America for a while, managing to keep a low profile until one day in 1892 he got into a bar fight on Ellis Island. A man there thought Jack was getting just a bit too friendly with his wife and shot him through the heart. The man dumped Jack’s body in an empty field and left him there. But then Jack woke up. Thinking that was a bit strange, Jack returned to his lodgings to collect the few belongings he had and then moved on. A few months later he fell off a cliff – or was that pushed off by the mob that was chasing him – and he woke up to find he had survived death once again. Then he fell off a horse and then he was shot by a stray javelin. By this time he had started to get the message – he was not going to stay dead.
He decided to leave America and eventually ended up in Cardiff where, after a number of deaths, he woke up in an alleyway to find Emily Holroyd and Alice Guppy staring down at him. After rendering him unconscious they took him back to Torchwood and started their “tests”.
For weeks they used every way imaginable to kill Jack, all in the name of Torchwood. Eventually though they gave up, admitting to themselves they hadn’t found out anything useful, and started to think of other ways Jack could be used to benefit them. Their idea was to put Jack to work for them, he could do all the dangerous work for them since it didn’t matter if he died or not. Jack agreed to do one job for them, hoping this would be enough to get them off his back. When he brought the recalcitrant Blowfish in for them he was horrified to see Guppy cold-bloodedly execute it with no warning. That was enough for him and he promptly told them he would not work for them any more. They gave him the night to think about it and he quickly disappeared into the nearest bar to try and drown out all thoughts of Torchwood.
As he was sitting there a young girl brandishing a pack of tarot cards walked up to him. “Can I read your cards?”
“No, thank you,” Jack replied.
The girl pushed some cups and bottles off the table, throwing one over her shoulder, to make space and sat down regardless.
“No, really,” Jack said, a little bit more firmly this time.
She ignored him once again and started to set the cards out. “A man will come, one who will give you the answers you need.” She continued laying the cards out.
“He’s coming. The one you’re looking for. And you will only find him through Torchwood.” She laid out the next three cards before continuing. “But the century will turn twice before you find each other.”
“Oooh! Are you for real?”
She just looked at him and Jack stopped laughing. Somehow he knew she was telling the truth. He picked up a card with a picture that looked suspiciously like him.
“You mean I have to wait a hundred years to find him? Hnnh! What’ll I do in the meantime?”
What he did was stay with Torchwood. He signed the contract agreeing he was an alien and that he belonged to Torchwood. He signed himself up to be at the personal use of whoever was in charge, knowing it meant he would never be able to leave. Not that it really mattered, if he had to stay with Torchwood to find out what had happened he really didn’t have much of an alternative. For over a hundred years he stayed and served Torchwood exactly as they asked. Some of the directors, people like Emily Holroyd, took the contract literally making him serve them in anyway they asked. Other directors, like Alex Hopkins, almost became friends and gave him a little more freedom, even allowing him to stay away from the Hub at times or have relationships outside of Torchwood.
The tarot card girl also appeared from time to time, always in the same clothing, never looking a day older, just to reassure him he was doing the right thing. She would never give him any information about herself, or tell him exactly who it was he was waiting for. She was just a presence who was around often enough that he didn’t feel entirely on his own.
The day Alex Hopkins killed himself after killing the rest of the Torchwood team Jack was devastated, but being left control of Torchwood he had hoped things would improve for him. Torchwood One however chose to ignore the CCTV footage of Alex gifting Torchwood Three to Jack and seconded Suzie Costello from UNIT to act as caretaker of Torchwood Three until a new permanent director was found. She was given custody of Jack, but not told of his immortality or the finer details of his contract. This gave him more freedom than he’d ever had while at Torchwood but a timely visit from the tarot card girl made sure he didn’t also take the opportunity to walk out.
She told him she had to go to London, and visit the Torchwood offices there. Torchwood London were interfering with things they shouldn’t be touching and she had to protect someone there. She needed Jack to stick around, in case she needed help with this unknown person she had to save. After Canary Wharf, and the subsequent fall of Torchwood London, Jack never heard from her again. Going through the list of the deaths from Canary Wharf a while later, he saw a picture of one of the unidentified bodies found in the building – it was the tarot card girl.
After the fallout from Canary Wharf died away, it was announced one of the survivors, a man called Ianto Jones, would be coming to Cardiff to take up the vacant director’s role. After experiencing the near friendship with Alex, and then the relative freedom under Suzie, Jack was apprehensive about what this would mean for him. As a survivor of an alien attack, how would Ianto treat Jack, a confirmed alien and property of Torchwood? If he had ever wanted to run from Torchwood now was the time.
One night he was out hunting a Weevil through a park when his time to disappear ran out. Standing in front of him was the new director Ianto Jones. Jack hadn’t bothered reading through Ianto’s file yet and hadn’t known what he would look like. Looking at Ianto standing there in the moonlight with his tight jeans and studded belt Jack felt a shock run through him. Was he the one he had been waiting for? He smiled at Ianto, wanting to know who he was. Then Ianto said his name and the smile fell off Jack’s face. He was the new director, the one who could remove all of Jack’s freedom, just like that. It couldn’t possibly be him, could it?
Jack went back to the Hub that night and pulled up all the information he could find on Ianto Jones and read it over and over. To his disappointment there was nothing there to suggest Ianto was anything other than what he appeared to be. Looking at the photos on file and looking at Ianto’s dark hair and blue eyes, something which Jack had always been a bit partial to, he reluctantly began to think his reaction was simply a more baser reaction to the sudden appearance of a good looking man. He closed the files down in frustration, there was nothing useful there. Ianto was just another Torchwood One drone, that was all.
The next morning when Ianto turned up outside the Tourist Office Jack just didn’t want to know. It was enough he had to work for him from Monday, couldn’t he have one last morning in peace? Jack got away from Ianto as soon as he possibly could without appearing too rude and left Ianto behind. He’d be the faithful alien employee tomorrow.