Cardiff, Present Day
On a busy street Gwen Cooper stands at an ATM. She overhears a concerned parent standing some feet away, whose young boy is stood frozen on the pavement. Across the road a young girl is doing the same, much to the chagrin of her impatient father.
Unbeknownst to Gwen, these are not the only children acting in such a way. Across the city other little boys and girls are frozen, some still in their homes, others on their way to school. The adults who notice this are immediately concerned, then suddenly their offspring resume their normal routine, unaware of what has happened.
Back on the busy streets, Gwen walks off toward the Torchwood Hub in Cardiff Bay. Finding the base empty she turns to her computer and begins searching the Internet for reports of paranormal activity involving children.
Meanwhile, at a local hospital, Dr. Rupesh Patanjali struggles valiantly to save a patient from cardiac arrest. When the treatment fails he is forced to give up, and turns to the two men who accompanied the body - Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones.
Claiming they are neighbours of the deceased man, they ask to see him before he is taken away for autopsy. When Dr. Patanjali leaves them in privacy, the pair leaps to work - Jack opening up the chest of the cadaver with a laser saw whilst Ianto remarks that the doctor appeared to assume that he and his colleague were a couple, which - Jack points out - they are.
Reaching into the body with tongs, Jack removes a large alien organism from within. Suddenly Dr. Patanjali returns and is shocked by what he sees. Ianto stows the anomaly away in a box whilst Jack closes up the man's chest with the saw - leaving no trace of interference. He thanks Rupesh and promptly leaves with Ianto.
Out in the car park the two investigators climb into their SUV. Rupesh is close behind; having realised that they are from Torchwood (much of the city now knows of the once-secret organisation) he pleads for their help, claiming that several bodies have gone missing from the hospital mortuary - all of them of ethnic origin. Jack considers the case but decides against pursuing it and promptly drives away.
In London, new-recruit Lois Habiba makes her way to the Home Office for her first day of secretarial work. Just before she arrives in her office her boss, civil servant John Frobisher, enters to discover Colonel Oduya of UNIT has arrived for an unscheduled meeting. The two enter Frobisher's office as Lois arrives and apologises to her superior, Bridget Spears, for her lateness.
Frobisher listens as Oduya begins to tell him of why he has arrived. An incident has occurred that has been brought to UNIT's attention; an incident involving children.
Jack and Ianto arrive back at the Torchwood Hub, where Gwen reports of seventeen traffic accidents having occurred that morning within the space of a minute, all involving children who were stood in the road.
Colonel Oduya relays the same information to Mr Frobisher, claiming that reports from all over the country suggest that the entire infant population of Britain froze at the same time. More reports have been received from other countries - more traffic accidents and calls to the emergency services by worried parents. Across the world identical accounts are surfacing: at 8:40 GMT, every child on the planet stopped.
Oduya claims it is not known if this is due to extraterrestrial influence, but UNIT is on yellow alert for the time being. Frobisher is visibly taken aback but manages to cover up the macabre nature of the conversation when Lois enters with tea. After introducing herself she promptly leaves, having noted that the Colonel is not wearing a British Army uniform.
In the office Oduya comments that Frobisher himself has two daughters, and suggests that he not use them to raise concern by removing them from school. He insists that UNIT will deal with the matter, but first they must handle the only other people capable of picking up on the case of the children - Torchwood.
Jack receives word from UNIT that tests have been run on several children in Washington DC, but nothing unusual was found in their bodies to suggest alien intervention. His inquiry is put on hold when Ianto enters his office to tell him that Dr. Patanjali is back.
Sure enough Rupesh is seen on the CCTV feeds monitoring the bay. Having been pointed toward the area he is now wandering around for any sign of Jack and Ianto. Gwen realises that this is exactly how Jack brought her into the team - baffling her until she felt complied to track him gown. She chides her co-workers for luring the young man in such a way and then elects to meet Rupesh and get to know him. Once she is gone Ianto again comments on how people address he and Jack as a couple.
Gwen and Rupesh sit down at a nearby café and discuss the case of the missing bodies. There appears to be no connection between them other than their ethnic background. Talk then turns to Torchwood, and Rupesh seems keen on joining the team. He recalls how his fascination with alien life was begun by a suicide case; a woman who witnessed the coming of alien life to Earth and realised how insignificant she was in relation to the rest of the universe.
Suddenly Gwen notices something across the bay - another child has stopped still in the middle of the pavement. She hurries over with Rupesh as the girl's mother begs her child to move. Gwen calls Jack and Ianto up from the bay, warning that whatever occurred that morning is happening again.
Indeed, across the country every child has stopped. In the playgrounds of schools every last child is fixed to the spot.and then they start screaming. A high pitched howl emits from each youngster, filling the air with an ethereal whining.
Jack and Ianto arrive above ground in time to witness the din, when suddenly it stops. There are a few moments of silence and then the children speak in unison:
"We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We are. We are. We are. We are. We are coming. We are coming. We are coming. We are coming. We are coming."
At the Home Office, John Frobisher springs into action, telling Bridget to find him a child.
Elsewhere, at a care home in England, members of staff hurry outside to find one of their patients, a middle-aged man, stood on the lawn transfixed to the spot, just as the children are across the country. He also bares the ominous repeating message: "we are coming".
After a few more seconds all of the children cease chanting and snap out of their trance - once again unaware of what has happened. The man from the care home also stops and falls onto his knees - proclaiming instead that 'they' have found him.
Jack, Ianto and Gwen hurry back to the Hub. Rupesh tries to follow but is called back to his hospital and reluctantly departs.
The Home Office is inundated with calls. Frobisher returns and seals himself in his office, refusing to take calls. Bridget, shouldering most of the correspondence, asks Lois to set up an automated e-mail response for any press who email them, and hands over her login details for the government Intranet.
Amidst the panic in the building an elderly man enters and asks to see Frobisher. Bridget recognises him and immediately informs her boss that Mr Dekker wishes to see him. Frobisher is clearly unsettled by this and grants him audience. Dekker enters and states simply:
"456. I warned you."
Lois receives a call from Jack Harkness, who insists that Torchwood may be able to help. She refuses to put him through to Frobisher but takes his details and in return gives him her name. Once he is off the line she logs onto the database with Bridget's details and searches for 'Captain Jack Harkness'. Pausing only to see Frobisher and Dekker leave the office, she finds and reads an article on Torchwood, and is shocked to find mention of 'extraterrestrial threat'.
Dekker and Frobisher travel to Thames House, where they arrive at Dekker's tiny office. He shows Frobisher an antiquated transmitter / receiver, which he claims picked up a signal at 8:40 that morning and then again at 10:30. The wavelength it was transmitted on was 456. He plays back a recording of the children screaming, but this time a strange groaning is heard alongside the noise. Dekker identifies it as compressed information, and sets out to translate it. Frobisher vows to warn to Prime Minister of this but Dekker claims he and all other elected officials are immaterial - the 456 transcends them all. Frobisher coldly asks Dekker if he has any children, and he replies he has not, which is to his advantage given the current situation.
At Torchwood, Jack has deduced that the screaming was a broadcast. Gwen plays back video footage from all over the world of prepubescent children repeating the message, and notes that they all speak in English. Jack claims that aliens wishing to make would have picked it as the dominant language of the planet but Ianto points out this is incorrect - making the decision all the more sinister. Gwen then comes across footage of the man from the care home - actually a psychiatric ward - and, realising the anomaly may be important - Jack sends her to meet the patient in question.
On her way Gwen receives a call from her husband Rhys, who is house hunting. He describes the property and casually mentions that there would be room for a nursery. She hushes him and they begin to discuss the recent occurrences involving the Earth's children. Rhys notes that the two times of contact - 8:40 and 10:30 - are timed around the British school day; the first is during the commute to school and the second is at break time. Whoever it is controlling the children, they are speaking to Great Britain.
Jack and Ianto sit in Cardiff Bay. Jack claims that they need a child to use as a test subject so that they can deduce which frequency the message is coming on and thereby identify who is making contact. Ianto points out the difficulty in finding a child and Jack departs.
Elsewhere, Frobisher travels to Downing Street to consult the Prime Minister. He recommends that, given the worldwide nature of the threat, certain 'historical events' be wiped from any record so as not to draw attention to Great Britain. With no guarantee that the 456 (the name given to the otherwise anonymous aliens) will keep quiet; all that can be done is lie low and cover themselves. He proposes issuing a 'blank document' but the Prime Minister refuses to be drawn in on the matter, seemingly out of fear. He warns Frobisher that he must never be seen to be involved until necessary, and orders him to take matters into his own hands.
Back in Cardiff, Jack arrives at the house of Alice Carter. She claims to have been expecting him given the mornings events, and is forced to let him in when her son Steven - a victim of the alien contact - greets the man he recognises as his uncle.
Ianto, meanwhile, drives the SUV onto a somewhat rough estate away from the city centre. It is here he finds the house of his sister, Rhiannon. Once inside he asks after her two children and suggests he take one of them, Mica, out to the cinema in return for missing her birthday. Rhiannon warms to the idea but refuses to let her out that afternoon, still worried by what has happened. Defeated, Ianto makes to leave, but Rhiannon insists they must talk.
At Alice's house, Jack feigns ignorance of the recent goings-on, but Alice is not convinced. As they converse about family life it becomes clear that Jack is not Alice's sister, he is her father. Alice has asked him to keep away from her and her son because - since Jack is immortal and cannot age - the fact she looks older than him is both confusing for Steven and harrowing for her. Jack then tries subtly to suggest he take the boy out for the day, but Alice can see through him and bitterly vows that he will never be allowed to experiment on her child. Jack leaves and immediately phones Rupesh at the hospital - asking if they have a paediatric department on site.
Ianto listens as Rhiannon explains that her neighbour has seen him and Jack sat together in a restaurant. She asks him bluntly if he is gay but he maintains silence on the matter. She claims that he never tells her about his life, not since their father died. He tries to tell her that the nature of his job makes it difficult to talk, but eventually he relents and admits he is sleeping with another man. However, he claims that he does not find himself attracted to all men, just Jack. At that point Rhiannon's husband Johnny arrives and reports that Ianto's car is being stolen. The three adults hurry outside but it is too late, the SUV is in the hands of joy-riders.
Having arrived at the psychiatric hospital, Gwen is introduced to Timothy White - the man in the video. Gwen notes that the name must be a fake; Timothy White's was once a well-known shopping chain. Timothy's nurse insists any other name is unknown. She explains that White has been in and out of care all of his life, having first been found living on the streets at the age of 11. She notes that he once has a Scottish accent, which has now gone, another shred of his identity lost.
Gwen arranges a meeting with Timothy and questions him on the voice he was recorded channelling. A somewhat unsettled man, Timothy shifts in his seat and says nothing; that is until Gwen begins talking about aliens. When she insists she is not from the authorities, he asks to see her hand. She offers it and he immediately grabs it and smells it. This seems to inform him that she is telling the truth, and he becomes more willing to talk, but only when they are not being watched on CCTV. Gwen produces a pen-like device from her pocket and uses it to jam the camera signal, much to Timothy's amusement.
She then asks him what his real name. He does not give it, instead recalls a time from childhood when he and a group of young friends from a care home were driven away in a bus, supposedly to a new home, but instead were confronted by aliens who appeared to them on a road as a bright light. All of his friends were abducted but he was left behind. Now though, he claims, the aliens are coming back - he can smell it in the air. Gwen insists she can help discover what happened to the children, but first she need's his name. At last he tells her: Clement (Clem) McDonald.
He also tells her that he came from The Holly Tree, but before she can press him for what or where this is, Gwen is shocked when Clem announces that she is three weeks pregnant - he can smell it in the air. Gwen denies this but remains in a state of shock. She then leaves and phones Ianto (now back at the Hub) with all the data she has gathered.
Unbeknownst to Gwen and Ianto there call is being intercepted by a government unit, who pick up the name Clem McDonald.
Back at the Home Office, Frobisher presents Bridget with a list of names related to the 456 data file and a document containing instructions as to what to do with them. Inside is simply a blank page. Clearly disturbed by this, Bridget leaves the office and begins to typing the names into her computer. She completes her task and hurriedly leaves. Having watched her, Lois logs back on to Bridget's account and checks what she has done. The blank page document is an order to kill. The last of the four names listed is Captain Jack Harkness.
Jack returns to the hospital and meets Rupesh, who claims another strange death has occurred - this time a Chinese man. Jack agrees to check the body and whilst doing so in the mortuary, Rupesh quickly takes out a gun and shoots him through the chest. Jack falls down dead. Seconds later, at Rupesh's command, a squadron of soldiers enter, led by a woman named Johnson. As they place Jack's body on a slab, Johnson is contacted by the team intercepting Torchwood's calls. They explain about Clement McDonald - a name not active on their system since 1965 - and she orders that he be contained.
he then approaches Jack's body and watches it whilst Rupesh bemoans the change of his plan to infiltrate Torchwood and study them from within. Johnson silences him by forcing him to plead guilty to killing the Chinese man to gain Jack's attention, and then watches as Jack suddenly returns to life, gasping for air. She promptly shoots him again; convinced the stories of his immortality are true. She then calls to her men to have him "prepared".
Rupesh asks how Jack is able to revive in such a way and Johnson tells him that the government believes it to be something to do with the Torchwood Hub - making the base a target. She then presides over an operation to open Jack's chest with the same laser saw he used in the hospital earlier.
As night falls, armed soldiers descend on the psychiatric ward where Clem is being kept. Sensing this, he runs from the building and into the trees.
At the hospital, the operation on Jack is completed. His chest is sealed up again and the soldiers begin to retreat. Rupesh asks what he will do when Jack awakens; claiming he cannot be seen or Jack may take revenge. Johnson tells him he will not be allowed to disappear. Realising what this means Rupesh runs, but Johnson pursues and guns him down. His body is laid next to Jack's and the rest of the squad clear the area, just as Jack returns to consciousness.
Gwen arrives back at the Hub where Ianto has discovered that Clem's Holly Tree was an orphanage that closed in 1965. However, Gwen is too preoccupied to listen and instead heads straight to the medical lab, where she places her hand on a scanning device that takes a register of her entire body.
Jack also arrives back at the Hub, but is unaware that Johnson's men are watching him. She orders them to wait five minutes for him to reach the belly of the Hub and then to put their plan into action.
Gwen's scan confirms what Clem said - she is indeed three weeks pregnant. Jack, meanwhile, returns to tell Ianto what happened at the hospital, theorising that they may be being targeted by someone. Upon hearing that his lover was killed during the incident, Ianto gives him a hug.
Jack then runs to the lab to speak with Gwen, and sees the results of her scan. Gwen, her hand still on the scanner, looks from Jack to the screen in disbelief. Jack notes that she has inadvertently told him before Rhys, which will not go down well. Ianto drops in to tell Jack that he lost the car and fortunately for him they are distracted from discussing this by Gwen's sudden fear about her job and the rest of the team now tat she has a baby to care for. Jack moves to reassure her and places his hand on hers. The scanner dually takes a reading and immediately alarms begin to sound. The screen shows the terrible reality of Johnson's plan - she has placed a bomb in Jack's stomach.
With two minutes until the device detonates, Jack orders Ianto and Gwen to leave. Gwen initially resists but reluctantly relents when Jack reminds her she is pregnant. She heads for the main door as the Hub is drenched in red warning lights.
In London, Frobisher returns home to his wife only to discover that the 456 have taken control of the Earth's children once again. His two daughters, Holly and Lilly, stand in their living room repeating the message that resonates in every child, including Alice's boy Steven and Rhiannon's David and Mica:
"We are coming."
The Torchwood Hub is immediately placed on lockdown and Jack urges Ianto to leave. However, he is determined to stay and moves to override the security mechanism. Jack wrestles him away from the controls and towards the lift up to the Bay. Jack claims that he can survive anything, then kisses Ianto passionately goodbye and activates the lift, promising he will return.
"We are coming."
Alice urges Steven to stop chanting and Frobisher screams in terror at his possessed children, desperate for the torment to stop.
As Ianto nears the surface, Jack watches him go and then readies himself. Gwen reaches the Bay and runs for cover. The ground explodes in a ball of flame, throwing her to the floor and showering her with rubble from the blast.
"We are coming.back."