Border Princes

Roots: Superman 3 (Mr. Dine's method of diamond production. His ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound is also probably inspired by Superman and there is a reference to the Fortress of Solitude). There are references to Magner, Budweiser, Gene Kelly, Sham 69, Planet of the Apes, Ron Moody, Hello! magazine, Rover, "If You Don't Know Me by Know", Mae West, Lynx, Raging Bull, Marlboro, Sainsbury's, Rubik's cubes, Exchange & Mart magazine, George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Powerpuff Girls, Shane Warne, Western Mail, News 24, How Clean is Your House?, Air-Fix, Kwik-Save, Rolf Harris, Ren and Stimpy, Kleenex, Wilbur Smith, Wuthering Heights, "Who Are You?", "Coming up for Air", Boulder, Genesis, Rush, Jerry Goldsmith, Star Wars, EastEnders, Brancuzzi, Epstein, Giacometti, Ultravox, Tango, Zanussi, Jerry Lewis, Happy Shopper, Poundland, Roald Dahl, Kodak, William Blake, Hyundai, Subaru, Top Man, Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover, Watchtower, Mr. Sheen, Volvo, Mondeo, Julius Caesar, Ben and Jerry's, Honda, Thunderbirds, Star Trek, Baden-Powell, Maxim Vengerov, PlayStation, Tootise, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Mad Max, Mad Max II, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Gore-Tex, Tupperware, Tippex, Star Trek: Enterprise, Spongebob Squarepants, Minis, Audis, and Harry Ramden's. James is a fan of Torn Curtain.

Dialogue Triumphs: "As far as we're aware, there are only amateurs in this line of work".

Continuity: The Lord of the Border provided an early-warning alarm to his allies in this reality, which has been in the Institute's keeping since Victoria founded Torchwood. It is intended to warn his friends in this reality if his son is at risk. It pre-dates that foundation and has been handed down for eight or nine generations by families and antiquarians in the Cardiff area. It was entrusted to Torchwood for safe-keeping in 1899 by local landowner Colonel Cosley. The word that his people use to describe the Rift translates as "the Stumble" or "the Misstep", but they usually refer to it simply as "the Border". Their world brushes up against the Rift just as Cardiff does and is apparently in another dimension. The Border Princes monitor, police and patrol the Rift just as Torchwood does, but on a much bigger scale. The Border Princes are very long-lived and hand the duty down father to son. As part of their training, the heirs are sent to other worlds and other places to immerse themselves in the other places that share the border. They are given a form that perfectly matches the locals and are given the ability to blend in seamlessly: whilst in the local form, they don't know what they are.

Torchwood member James Mayer is one such Prince, which is why he and everyone else in Torchwood think he's been a member of the team for some time, as the process of blending in affects their memories. His body is that of a human in perfect physical condition. The Prince in question (referred to as the Principle) has dormant protocols inside him that are supposed to gradually cut in and prepare him for extraction when the time is right: in James' case they malfunction, so although he has greater than normal human strength and reflexes, he remains completely unaware of who or what he really is right up until the end. When Mr. Dine extracts him and takes him back home, his dead human body remains behind.

Mr. Dine is a humanoid with thorny grey skin, who can disguise himself as a human and can make people forget that they have encountered him. He is strong enough to turn graphite into diamond by physical compression and can punch hard enough to split granite or fracture steel. He wears a battledress system, which may or may not actually be part of his skin. When a van runs into him, he remains unharmed, but leaves a massive dent in the front of the vehicle. The alert protocols that activate when the Principle is in danger massively increase his metabolic rate, allowing him to move so fast that humans cannot see him. Dine is possibly wholly or partially artificial in nature.

The Amok resembles a perfect geometric solid cast out of copper, with the same look, colour and patina of a two pence piece. It has more than four dimensions, meaning that humans cannot describe it adequately, or stand looking at it. It is an alien word game designed by a species far more advanced than humans and that exists in more dimensions than humans, which has a damaging (and ultimately fatal) effect on any humans it comes into contact with, causing madness, nausea, and severe headaches. It is quasi-sentient and has persuasion/manipulation protocols that result in aggressive contract with those who come into contact with it, effectively controlling their minds and making them desire to play. It is powerful enough to dismantle the firewalls and force fields that Tosh places around it in the Hub, and powerful to enough to cause damage to Mr. Dine. Dine destroys it by crushing it to powder.

The Droon are small migratory alien organisms that take up residence in human sinus passages (or anywhere else warm and moist), and remain there in a contented, fugue-like state, doing no harm than causing mild, cold-like symptoms, unless they hatch. In most cases, they depart without hatching, or simply die and are ejected in nasal mucous. They resemble wriggling, pale-blue blobs the size of cockroaches; the blobs contain sharper, blacker [possibly insectoid] creatures within, that have barbed, needle-like limbs the length and thickness of pencils once they start to unfold - these legs inflate as they fill with ichor. Torchwood secretly monitors Droon-infected Cardiff residents: sudden elevations in alpha-waves are a reliable indicator of impending hatching. Hatching Droon are vulnerable to infrasonic bursts, which Torchwood use to clear them out of their hosts. The most Jack has ever removed from one nose is six.

The Melkene were a particularly advanced race, adept at manufacturing artificials (robots). Approximately five hundred years earlier, they fought a war with a rival species, which they were losing. They manufactured the Serial G robots, which lacked logic inhibitors and algorithmic compassion restraints and had ungoverned sentience, a ruthless streak, and no compunction whatsoever about committing atrocities, in order to win the war. The Serial Gs slaughtered the Melkene's opponents, but their means of winning caused an outcry in the galactic community, which prompted the remorseful Melkene to recall the Serial Gs: the Melkene were extinct within six weeks. Because the Serial Gs are sentient, they were judged responsible for their actions and impeached on about sixty-thousand counts of war crime and genocide: they scattered and went to ground, one of them ending up in Cardiff in 2007. The Serial G robots are roughly nine-feet tall, and have narrow, sculptured cylindrical torsos, necks and heads with yellow sparks where their eyes should be, retractable limbs, and hands consisting of clusters of oily steel hooks. They have no real features on their ovoid heads, just a burnished relief of lines and crests that vaguely suggest a human skull. They have in-built phasic weapons. The Serial G's chassis is made from cold-cast vitalium/terybdonum composite alloy. Its CPU and tiny reactor are located inside its chest. Mr. Dine destroys it by ripping out its CPU, causing its reactor to explode.

The beige lump that Dean Simms uses to persuade people to give him money is a sentient gland.

The Chapel of St Mary-in-the-Dust was demolished in 1840, but reappears every thirty-five or thirty-nine years: it isn't due back until 2011, but it reappears in 2007, apparently due to the entity inside it: when Jack and Toshiko enter the Chapel they are taken back into the past, where they confront the entity and only narrowly escape. The Chapel is trapped inside a temporal eddy that returns it to reality on a fairly regular basis: the extra-dimensional entity within it probably edited it out of space and time in the first place and is possibly responsible for its return appearances. The presence feeds on energy. The Torchwood archives have notes on the Chapel, which Jack has been keen to investigate for some time.

Jack likes standing on tall buildings because being up high allows him to think and clear his head. He likes Ren and Stimpy. He dislikes having his photograph taken. He knows about the Melkene and the Serial Gs.

Gwen suffered from car sickness as a child. Her parents used to take her on day trips to Carmarthen in their old Vauxhall Royale. She has never had a migraine. She has an affair with James, and they become so close that she moves in with him, planning to permanently end her relationship with Rhys: she goes back to Rhys after James's true nature is revealed and he is extracted. Gwen drives a Saab. She claims to have seen a ghost once. She owns an MP3 player. She buys a coffee and a baguette at Cardiff station.

Owen has a Bekaran deep-tissue scanner, which he uses in the medical suite in the hub. He drinks Scotch and sleeps with a woman named Lindy or Linda (he forgets which).

Toshiko carries a compact digital recorder in her coat pocket. She suffers nasty bruising to her throat when one of the Amok-possessed humans attacks her.

The Torchwood SUV has a weapons locker and a containment box. Catalogue item nine-eight-one in the Torchwood Armoury is a weapon sufficiently dangerous that Jack has kept it secret from the rest of the team: he believes that it is powerful enough to destroy the Serial G.

James is a fan of [fictional] cult series Andy Pinkus, Rhamphorphynchus and Eternity Base.

Links: The first three Torchwood novels take place between Ghost Machine and Cyberwoman. The Weevils first appeared in Everything Changes. Owen got locked in the cells in Day One. Queen Victoria founded Torchwood in Tooth and Claw.

Location: Cardiff and Manchester, October 2007 [Pirates of the Caribbean 3 has been released].

Unrecorded Adventures: Torchwood has dealt with the Droon eleven times since Jack took over. Tosh spent a week in one of the Hub's care rooms after Operation Goldenrod.

The Bottom Line: Doctor Who comic strip and short story veteran Dan Abnett makes his full-length novel debut and the result is astonishingly good. The members of the Torchwood team are far better characterised (and thus more likeable) than they have been thus far on screen, and the overall plot allows lots of smaller subplots that give a real feeling of what day to day life for the team is like. The Lords of the Border, and James, are sufficiently interesting as to justify a sequel, should one ever be forthcoming.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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