15 year-old Jonah Bevan makes his way home after a school football practice. As he crosses the Cardiff Bay Barrage, his mobile rings and he reads a text message from his mum complaining that he’s nine minutes late. He looks up with a smile because he knows his mum can see him from the windows of their house. She waves to him and he sends her a message back telling her to chill. Just then, a strange wind blows up around Jonah and as it becomes stronger, the air itself seems to light up with fantastic energy. Jonah disappears and his mobile phone drops to the ground…
Gwen meets her old friend and colleague PC Andy on the Cardiff Bay Barrage and he tells her about the case surrounding Jonah’s disappearance seven months earlier. He shows Gwen the phone that was found on the bridge and says Jonah vanished just seconds after sending a text to his mum. The usual police procedure was followed so the area was searched, all his friends and family were interviewed and there were publicity appeals, but there have been no significant leads. Andy becomes angry with Gwen’s lack of reaction and wonders whether she considers this sort of case to be beneath her now, but in fact she’s been waiting for him to explain why he didn’t come to her wedding. Andy is momentarily stumped by the question and says he had to work when the rota was changed at the last minute. Gwen knows he’s lying as she’d already checked and discovered he had three days off. She’s hurt that he didn’t turn up and he tells her it’s because Rhys has a problem with him. She denies this and says it’s the other way round - ever since she’s known Andy he’s made sarky comments about Rhys. Andy comes clean and admits that he didn’t want to see her waste her life by pledging it to someone like Rhys. She teases him about still fancying her after three years, but he says he can’t just switch his feelings off. He turns the conversation back round to Jonah, but Gwen says teenagers go missing all the time and she wonders what’s so special about this one. Andy says it’s because he sat with Jonah’s mum all night and all the next day and every time he has to tell her there’s no news he sees a bit more of her die.
Gwen asks if there’s anything strange about the case, so Andy takes her back to the police car and shows her the CCTV footage taken on the night. It shows Jonah walking across the bridge, then stopping as a strange light flares on the screen, then he’s gone. The camera only records one frame every six seconds and Gwen argues that he could have done a lot in that time, but Andy is sure the picture shows Jonah looking up at something. He’s also convinced Gwen already knows what’s going on and when she seems confused, he shows her the rest of the footage. She’s amazed to see that 45 minutes after Jonah disappeared, the Torchwood SUV pulled into shot and Jack got out.
Gwen goes back to the Hub and asks Tosh to check for Rift activity that night, but there was nothing registering in that area. She even ran checks for three months either side and extended the radius for another mile, but there was still nothing. Then Gwen asks Jack himself why he was there and he makes a joke about a cute little coffee shack nearby that he sometimes frequents. She tells him about the Jonah Bevan case and asks if he was investigating it, but he says he can’t help and suggests it was just a coincidence. He offers to look into it for her, but she tells him not to bother.
At a local café Gwen tells Andy that Jack said it was a coincidence and when he accuses her of covering up for Torchwood, she assures him she’d say if anything was going on. He tells her she’s gone hard and reminds her that she used to care about people once, no matter who they were or what they did - but now she’s too busy to investigate one missing child and seems to dismiss it as just a fact of life. The old Gwen would at least have gone to talk to the mother, but not any more. He’s clearly disappointed with her and leaves.
His words have had an effect on Gwen and a little while later she visits Nikki Bevan and tells her she’s working with the police on Jonah’s disappearance. Nikki is delighted and admits that Andy told her she might call round and that she has a different area of expertise, but Gwen just claims to be offering a fresh eye. She notices the front room is littered with hundreds of video tapes and Nikki explains that she records every TV programme with a crowd - concerts, football matches, festivals - and then goes through them frame by frame, checking every face in the hope that she might spot her son among them. Sometimes she thinks she’s seen him, but the pictures are often so grainy she can spend hours examining them before realising she’s made a mistake. She thinks he’s got to be out there somewhere, but it’s the hope that’s killing her. She suspects Gwen must think she’s mad, but in fact Gwen thinks she’d make a great policewoman. Nikki shows her Jonah’s bedroom and admits that she sleeps here some nights as gets comfort from smelling him on the pillow. She begins to worry that she may have done something wrong - perhaps she was too nosy or perhaps she wasn’t interested enough and he felt unloved. All she has left are questions. Gwen asks about Jonah’s dad, but Nikki says she was only with him for about six weeks. When her son first went missing and the case was on the telly she thought his dad might get in touch, but she heard nothing. She says Andy tried to put her in touch with a local support group, but there weren’t any so she decided to set one up herself. She gives Gwen a leaflet promoting their first meeting and invites her to come along, saying she’s worried she’ll end up sitting there all on her own.
Gwen returns home and finds Rhys watching TV alone. It’s obviously very late and she apologises, but he tells her she was due home three hours ago. She explains that she was at work and time just got away from her, but this is now the fourth time she’s let him down and this time she was supposed to be cooking for them both. He wants to know when they’re going to have their ‘talk’ and she says she’s ready to discuss babies right now - but then she changes the subject and asks him if he thinks she’s a different person as a result of joining Torchwood. He wonders why she’s asking and she tells him it was something Andy said. She admits that Andy still fancies her, which makes Rhys laugh. Gwen jokes that she’s a very sexy lady and he’s a very lucky man, and when she starts unzipping her jacket, Rhys knows they’re not going to be talking about kids tonight. Gwen suggests they do some practicing instead…
The next morning Gwen brings Rhys breakfast in bed. The phone rings and Tosh tells Gwen she’s been doing more digging into the incident on the Barrage and she’s found something Gwen might want to look at. Gwen kisses Rhys and then rushes to join Tosh in the Hub. Tosh admits that what she found was barely a blip, which is why she’d ignored it before, but it seems more significant now. She shows Gwen an image of what standard Rift activity looks like on the sensors and points out a very small negative Rift spike that occurred at the time Jonah disappeared. They’ve always assumed that these readings were nothing more than residual Rift flares, like an aftershock, but she now thinks they’ve been misinterpreting them. They’ve always believed things can only come through the Rift one way, but what if they’re wrong and the Rift takes things away as well as leaving things behind? Gwen asks who else knows about this, but Tosh says she’s the only person she’s told. She admits that it could just be a coincidence or an anomaly and she can’t be sure unless she gets a chance to cross-reference her theory with other examples. Gwen asks her to keep this to themselves for the time being.
Gwen arrives at the nearby church hall where Nikki has arranged to hold the first meeting of ’Searchlight’, her support group for friends and relatives of missing people. Andy is there too, in civilian clothing, and he’s pleased to see that Gwen is still looking into the case. They go inside and find Nikki setting up. No one else has arrived yet and Nikki admits that she’s resigned herself to the fact that no one else is coming. Gwen and Andy assure her there‘ll be others, but privately they both suspect she‘s right. Then there’s a knock at the door and a young couple arrive, evidently the parents of another missing child. Then another man enters, followed by even more people. Before long the church hall starts to fill up with concerned friends and family, from all ages and all walks of life. Eventually the room becomes so crowded that Gwen and Andy have to give up their seats. As they watch from the sidelines, the truth slowly dawns on them. This is no longer just a case of a single missing person - there are literally 40 or 50 other people in the same situation as Nikki.
Later, Andy finds Gwen standing alone outside the church after it all got a bit too much for her. She agreed to help him find one lad, but what about all the other people in there? She knows she can’t possibly help them all so Andy advises her to focus just on Jonah. Gwen realises they’re not dealing with lots of separate individual cases and everyone in the church is part of the same investigation. If they can find a pattern connecting all these people, they might be able to find Jonah. She races off, telling Andy she’s going to do some cross-referencing.
Gwen returns to Tosh and says she has more data regarding her theory that the Rift has been taking people. She now has a list of all the missing people from Cardiff over the last ten years. She offers to input all their personal details and give Tosh the dates, times and locations where each person is believed to have gone missing so she can cross-reference them against their records of negative Rift spikes. Tosh asks whether Gwen wants to tell Jack what they’re doing, but she wants to wait until they’re sure. If they can prove Tosh’s theory is right then maybe they can find a way to stop it happening again.
Tosh and Gwen spend the next few hours checking records, sensor reports and CCTV footage. They plot the details on a large scale map and Gwen puts up missing people reports on the wall of the interrogation room so that whenever they match up one of the cases with a similar record of negative Rift spike, she can place a red marker on their case file. By the time Tosh comes down to join her, the entire room is completely full of positive cases where Rift activity has been confirmed. Now they can tell Jack.
In the board room, Gwen tells the others that Cardiff is suffering from an epidemic of missing persons which is totally out of kilter with any other comparable city. Ianto asks if she’s sure they’re not just normal cases as people do go missing for many reasons, but she explains about their research and reveals that the people they’ve identified are definitely victims of the Rift. Jack guesses they must have been scattered through space and time and he congratulates Gwen on her good work. Unfortunately he doesn’t know what she’s expecting them to do about it. She suggests they find a way to prevent it and Jack asks Tosh if it’s possible to predict when these spikes are going to happen, but she says they can’t and the spikes have gone in a matter of seconds. Gwen insists that they have a duty to help these victims and compares them to Weevil attacks, but Jack says they can catch Weevils and can fix people’s wounds, but they have no idea when the Rift spikes are going to happen, nor do they know where the missing people end up. Gwen suggests they concentrate on helping the friends and families who are left behind, but Jack says that’s nothing to do with them and he tells her to move on. Owen points out that these people need counselling and support, not Torchwood. Gwen wonders if that’s what everyone else thinks too and says they don’t have to be this hard. Jack simply stands up and orders her to close the case down, then he leaves with Ianto. Gwen yells at him that he’s just sweeping it all under the carpet, but Owen says he backs Jack on this and leaves too. Tosh tells Gwen they did their best, but she agrees there’s nothing further they can do. Ianto looks back at Gwen sitting alone in the boardroom and he looks uncomfortable.
Later, Gwen and Rhys go for a picnic in the park. Rhys is sharing anecdotes from his friends who’ve had babies and they seem to vary from those who think it’s the best thing that ever happened to them, to those who now feel like second class citizens in their own homes. Gwen snaps at him to stop wittering and he becomes angry because he’s been trying to talk to her for weeks. She argues that it only take two seconds to realise that with her job they can’t have a baby as Torchwood doesn’t do maternity leave. Rhys is stunned for a second then he tells her he hates her for being so selfish - it‘s like she’s caught up in her own little group and nothing else matters to her. She tries to argue, but he tells her to shut up. He reminds her that she saves the world so that people can carry on living their lives - getting married, buying flats and having babies. Real life is what she’s protecting and if she continues thinking her job is more important than that, then their relationship isn’t going to last very long. Gwen is silent for a moment, then she tries to explain what’s going on, but Rhys interrupts and says that when it’s just the two of them they should talk about their own lives and if she’s got a problem at work she should sort it out at work.
Gwen returns to the Hub and tries to talk to Jack, but when she walks into his office she catches him and Ianto naked and engaging in extra curricular activities. She apologises and walks out in embarrassment. Jack and Ianto hurriedly get dressed, then Jack cheekily invites her to join them, adding that they could have used her earlier when they were playing naked hide-and-seek. Ianto says Jack always cheats. Gwen tells Jack she wants to make Jonah Bevan’s case her own special project so it will remain her own responsibility and nothing to do with anyone else. Jack says no, and when she tries to argue that the others all have their own projects, he orders her to leave the matter alone. She refuses and there’s a tense stand-off between them, then Jack heads back into his office. Gwen insists that they’re not finished, but he tells her they are and he refuses to discuss the matter any further. Before he goes to join Jack, Ianto tells Gwen there’s a package waiting for her on her desk.
Gwen returns to her desk and opens the package to find a device inside. Her phone rings and it’s Andy, inviting her for a cup of tea. She joins him in the café and shows him the device, explaining that she thinks it will help them in the Jonah case. She tells him not to touch it as it’s high tech, but he tells her it’s just a Global Positioning System and is nothing more than a glorified map. When he switches it on, it goes straight to Flat Holm Island, a location in the middle of the Bristol Channel which he describes as scrubland. Gwen sends Andy to get another cup of tea while she discreetly calls Ianto back at the Hub. She tells him she knows he left her the package, but he denies it and hangs up before she can question him further. Andy returns with the tea and says first thing in the morning they should hire a boat. Fortunately he knows a couple of boat skippers who owe him a favour, so they’ll go out to Flat Holm, look around and see if they can sort everything out. Gwen wants to go on her own, but he says he won’t get her a boat unless he can go along too. Then he asks her if there are any vacancies in Torchwood and she says she’ll find out for him. Gwen returns home late again and finds Rhys has moved her pillow and her other belongings out of the bedroom.
The next morning, Gwen meets Andy and they visit the dock to hire a boat. Andy does a deal with one of the skippers for fifty quid and Gwen hands him her share of the money. Then she asks Andy to get a couple of teas for the journey and while he’s away, she promises the skipper £100 if he’ll take just her and leave Andy behind. When Andy sees what’s happening he charges to the end of the dock, but it’s too late. Gwen calls out to say she’s sorry, then he watches as the boat disappears into the distance.
The boat takes Gwen to Flat Holm Island and the skipper drops her off. She switches on the Global Positioning System and follows the signal as it takes her further into the island. There seems to be nothing here except for an old abandoned lighthouse, so she goes inside and climbs to the top so she can see out across the whole island. At first she thinks she must be wasting her time, but then she spots some movement down on the ground. Two people are assisting a third person who’s covered up by a blanket…and just a few feet behind them, Jack is following. The group is heading for a series of concrete structures, like bomb shelters, hidden deep in the scrubland. Gwen races back down to the ground and runs across to the shelters. She finds one with an open doorway and descends down the steps by torchlight.
At the bottom she finds a passageway and at the end is an active two-way communicator. She presses the buzzer and a woman asks who she is. Gwen says she’s from Torchwood and gives her access code, claiming she came here with Jack Harkness. The woman complains that Jack is supposed to warn them when they get visitors, but she lets Gwen in anyway. The woman, Helen, leads Gwen down a series of concrete corridors where several patients are being helped around by orderlies. The walls are lined with locked doors, each with a patients’ name chalked on a board. From time to time Gwen hears people screaming in pain. They stop at an open door and Gwen looks inside to see some patients silently watching TV. One of them, a young woman, turns round and Gwen sees her face is horribly scarred. The woman covers her face with her hair, then leaves the room. Helen can see from Gwen’s reaction that this is her first visit here and she says everyone finds it difficult at first. They stop at another door when Gwen hears a man inside crying. She looks through and sees a man holding his head and sobbing uncontrollably. Helen says they do their best to help.
As Gwen hurries after Helen, she starts to recognise some of the names on the blackboards - Caroline Hall, Saeed Taufeeq, Alice Devlin and the others are all the names she uncovered when she was researching into the missing people. She turns on Helen and asks what’s going on here, but before the woman can answer, Jack appears and says he’ll take over. Jack knows it was Ianto that alerted Gwen to this place but as he approaches Gwen, she tells him to keep back. She demands to know what he’s doing to the people here, but before he can answer she spots another room with Jonah’s name on it. She realises Jonah must have been here all along, but Jack assures her it’s not that simple. She demands that he open the door immediately and reluctantly he agrees. Gwen steps inside which Jack waits in the corridor.
The room is in a disgusting state and water runs down the discoloured walls. Around a corner, Gwen can see a man sitting alone. She cautiously approaches and sees that he’s in his 40s and is horribly scarred and disfigured. Gwen assumes she must be in the wrong room as Jonah is only 15 years old, but the man confirms his identity. She asks him what happened and he says he was walking home and he saw a light, then he woke up and discovered the land was on fire. There were flames for miles on end and he thought he was going to die, but a man pulled him out and took him aboard a rescue craft where he tried to work on the burns. He was the last person to leave the planet and he watched the whole Solar System burn. It was so beautiful. Gwen starts to cry and says she’s so sorry for what happened to him. Jonah says he trusts her to tell him the truth, then he asks her if he’s really home. She says he is and tells him his mother is still looking for him and that he’s only been gone for seven months. He says he tried so hard to come home, but he was lost for so long. He wants to see his mum and asks Gwen if she’ll bring him here.
Later, Gwen sits alone on the edge of a hill, looking out to sea. Jack joins her and explains that when he took over Torchwood there were two people just like Jonah, ravaged from falling through the Rift. They’d been kept in the vaults and neglected. He wanted them looked after so he set this place up and told the staff these were experiments that had gone wrong. Now there are 17 of them and the number has increased over the last year as if the Rift is trying to correct its mistakes. Gwen tells him he can’t keep these people hidden as they have families that deserve to know, but Jack says they’re sick in ways she could never imagine. They can’t be fixed, they can only be cared for. She reveals that Jonah has asked her to bring his mother here, but Jack refuses. They begin to argue and Gwen tells him that Nikki said not knowing was the worst part. He wonders how Gwen is going to explain that her son has aged 40 years in the last seven months and that he’s scarred and can’t look after himself. Gwen says they owe her the truth, but Jack says she’ll also have to tell her about the Rift and about Torchwood. When she asks Jack whether he’d want to know if he’d lost someone, he turns away so she can’t see his face. She begs him to let her try.
Later, Gwen visits Nikki, who can tell straight away that she’s not come here to make small talk. She prepares herself for the worst, but Gwen tells her she’s found Jonah alive. Nikki asks if he’s hurt and Gwen says they’re looking after him. Nikki asks if she can see him and Gwen says yes, but warns her there are things they need to talk about first.
Gwen calls Andy and begs him not to hang up even though she knows he must be angry. She tells him she found Jonah, but she can’t tell him the details. She says she’s with Nikki and she’s told her all about Torchwood and what they do, but she needs Andy to speak to her and assure her she’s not lying. Andy accuses her of stringing him along and asks her whether she’d ever recommend that he join Torchwood. She says she wouldn’t and he’s angry, but Gwen tells him they can still fix the problem with the missing people as long as he convinces Nikki that she can be trusted. Eventually he agrees.
Gwen hires the boat again and takes Nikki over to Flat Holm Island. Helen leads them to Jonah’s room and Nikki steels herself to go inside. Before they enter, Gwen reminds her she won’t recognise her son at first and that he’s aged and is injured, but Nikki says none of that matters and she just wants to see him. Gwen accompanies her inside and Jonah slowly turns to see his mother. Nikki immediately backs away in horror and warns him away even though he assures her he’s her son. She rejects Jonah and demands that Gwen let her out. Jonah starts telling his mum about some of the personal moments they shared together and although she screams at him to shut up, she eventually softens when Jonah breaks down in tears. She finally accepts that he really is her son. He tells her he was lost for years and says he’s sorry, then they hug each other. Helen comes into the room and tells Nikki she’ll have to leave Jonah now and assures her it‘s for her own benefit, but Nikki refuses and says she’s taking him home with her. Gwen tries to intervene, but while they’re all distracted, Jonah sits back down on the bed and starts to shake. Gwen spots it first and asks what’s the matter, but Jonah simply says it’s starting again. Helen explains that he’s started what they call the ‘down-swing’ and says they’ve only seen Jonah when he’s been in a good phase, but these periods are getting briefer every day. Jonah begs Helen to make it stop, but there’s nothing she can do and she again urges Nikki to leave while she can. Suddenly Jonah starts to scream as if in absolute agony, but the scream goes on and on and increases in intensity until Gwen, Nikki and Helen have to clasp their hands over their ears. They back out of the room in pain and in terror.
Gwen has never heard a sound like it before. It was a primal howl and she later learned that it lasts for 20 hours every day. Before the Rift returned him, Jonah had looked into the heart of a dark star and what he’d seen had driven him mad.
A week later, Gwen returns to Nikki’s home and says she’s arranged for her to visit Jonah again whenever she likes. However, Nikki is extremely frosty and asks Gwen to promise that she’ll never do this to anyone else. Gwen is confused and Nikki explains that before her trip to the island, she had the memory of her son as a happy boy laughing with his mates, playing football and scoffing his breakfast. But now all she can hear is that terrible noise. She admits that she wanted to know what’d happened to him, but she now realises she was wrong and it was better when she didn‘t know. Before Gwen came, at least she had hope. Gwen is mortified and she leaves without saying another word.
Back in the Hub, Gwen begins the slow process of removing all the research material she’d collected from the interrogation room wall. Jack watches silently as she places all the documents in a file and then locks them away in a cabinet. At the same time, Nikki starts going through the huge collection of video tapes that she’d made while she was looking for Jonah and piles them into a dustbin liner. Then she picks up Jonah’s diary and pulls the sheets from his bed then places them in a box. Finally, she removes all his belongings and clothes from the bedroom wardrobe. She smells his shirt for one last time and breaks down in tears…
At home, Gwen lights candles on the dining table. Rhys arrives and wonders if she’s trying to make an apology. She tells him that tonight they’re going to talk about whatever he wants - kids, the future, anything at all. He asks if she’s alright and she nods, but then she starts to cry and he rushes over to hug her. She tells him she’s sorry and they sit down together and comfort each other. He asks her to tell him everything from the beginning. She says it started with a woman named Nikki who had a son called Jonah that went missing seven months ago…