In Year of Our Lord 1879, while journeying through the Scottish moors, Alexandria Victoria - Queen regnant of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and first Empress of India - encountered a vicious beast known as a ‘werewolf’ at the estate of Sir Robert MacLeish. The creature attempted to, and almost succeeded in, passing its own consciousness to the monarch in order to establish itself as ruler of the Empire. The beast was stopped, however, by the heroism and sacrifice of Sir Robert as well as the help of a mysterious stranger known only as ‘the Doctor’.
After being named Sir Doctor of TARDIS for his heroism, Victoria banished the Doctor from the Empire for all eternity. To enforce this exile, as well as to protect the Empire’s borders from other similar phantasmagoria, she also established an institute whose sole purpose was to defend the Empire from extra-terrestrial and para-normal threat. She named this institute in honour of Sir Robert, who died in her defence. She took the name of his Scottish home - the Torchwood Estate - for this new institute. Thus the Torchwood Institute was born.
But Torchwood became far more dangerous than Victoria ever dreamed they could be. In their paranoia and zeal, the Institute became radically aggressive. Shortly before her death, foreseeing a time when Torchwood could ultimately become a greater danger than the enemies they swore to combat, Victoria selected from the few agents she knew she could trust a special taskforce. This taskforce, calling itself Her Majesty’s Protectorate, were assigned to secure and defend a number of Victoria’s own private alien acquisitions, and given specific orders to keep them out of the hands of the Institute itself. They were sent off to the New World, taking the Queen’s property with them. Her Majesty died twenty-nine days later of a brain aneurysm. The year was 1901.
Her Majesty’s Protectorate remained a secret, all-but-inoperative branch of the Institute for one-hundred and seven years. But the Dalek invasion of Earth in Year of Our Lord 2008 forever changed the existence of the branch. Unable to sit idly by and allow the peoples of Canada and the United States of America to suffer at the hands of the invaders, Her Majesty’s Protector Peter Burns, leader of the branch, activated it. Together with Her Majesty’s Protectors Brianna Davison, Claudia Knight, Alain Davies, and Alexander Combs, he authorised the use of Her Majesty’s private acquisitions to combat the alien threat.
Only Davies and Combs survived. After the Daleks were destroyed and the Earth restored, the two journeyed across the continent, searching for a sufficient base of operations from which to maintain an active branch of the Torchwood Institute in North America. They finally came to Queensbridge, British Columbia, where they discovered a wound in the fabric of space, the Universe almost literally ‘bleeding’ through it - a wound whose origins are to this day unknown. Here, they recruited a new team of agents to monitor the Wound, protect the citizens of Queensbridge from the dangers it posed, and await a time where they would be again called upon to defend the human race on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. The year is now 2011; and Torchwood Five stands at the ready.
The Brainstem Murders
~ Prologue ~
An unseasonable chill had settled over the streets of Queensbridge, yet Hubert Cornett walked them naked from the waist up, sweat glistening across his narrow chest and wiry arms. His breathing was laboured as he walked deliberately up the long road, the distant rumbling of traffic muted slightly in the oppressive darkness. The shops and restaurants arrayed along the street had closed hours ago, and would not re-open for hours again. But that was irrelevant to him - it wasn’t shopping or food that had brought him to the streets of Queensbridge tonight.
The sidewalk was dark with drying rain, and the puddles gathered every few metres sloshed sickeningly as Cornett shuffled across the street. His glassy eyes stared blankly forward, his jaw slack and his shoulders drooped. He stumbled slightly as he reached the curb, but he hardly seemed to notice. About ten metres to his left was an alley, set between a dry cleaner’s and a coffee bar, hardly more than a few metres wide. The pale orange light of the street lamp at its mouth did little to illuminate the area, and its gentle humming was not enough to cover a gentle scuffling from within. Cornett shuffled quickly to the edge of the alley, stopping at the threshold and staring unseeingly into the dark.
The sounds were coming from a bundle of what looked like sodden, somewhat mouldy rags - a pile about the size of a man. They stirred slightly, and Cornett’s eyes burned with intensity momentarily before returning to their blank, glazed look. His uneven gait brought him into the alley proper, his breathing become increasingly laboured as he went.
A chilly breeze rippled the air as Cornett stopped, his gaze fixed on the stirring lump of cloth. But there was no pity in his eyes - there seemed to be nothing within them at all as he stumbled clumsily forwards. The pile gave a violent start as Cornett approached, and a very dirty man poked his grubby head out from beneath his rumpled old blanket, drunkenly trying to discern the direction from which he could definitely hear footsteps coming.
“H--Hullo?” he hiccupped, slurring each syllable together so that it was nearly impossible to make out what he was saying. “Who’reyou?”
The stench of old booze and stale tobacco seemed to have no effect on Cornett as he came to a stop only a metre away from the homeless man, curled up in a vain attempt to keep warm. The man tried to speak again, his words tumbling out in nonsensical shapes and fragments of thought.
Cornett took another heavy step forward, his chest puffed out and his breath coming in ragged bursts. His now bloodshot eyes bulged out, and his mouth fell open, revealing grimy, yellowish-brown teeth. His wiry muscles tensed and his spine folded forward, forcing him into an odd bow. His mouth fell open unnaturally wide, and his ragged breathing had turned into a terrifying screech - a screech that turned to a blood-curdling cry of terror that mingled with that of the homeless man now cowering on the damp gravel ground.