Cardiff was in a panic. The monster had appeared in the city centre just as the clubs were closing and late night revellers were pouring out onto the streets. A disturbing number of them were the worse for drink or drugs, so the first few reports were dismissed as bad trips or hallucinations brought on by too much alcohol, but it wasn’t long before the forces of law and order were forced to accept that the threat was all too real.
The creature was at least eight feet tall, shaggily furred, with a tail behind, and a snout protruding from the front of its hairy head. Its wide mouth was filled with sharp teeth, and each of its four limbs was tipped with curved claws that looked strong enough to tear through metal. More than anything, it resembled a gigantic wolf, and yet it walked upright on its hind legs, using its forelegs like arms, and its paws seemed able to grip like hands. It was enough to send the people who saw it running in the opposite direction, screaming about a werewolf.
As soon as reports of the creature were confirmed, DI Kathy Swanson picked up her phone and called Torchwood. The phone was answered on the fourth ring and a sleepy voice spoke.
“Captain Harkness? Kathy Swanson here.”
“Kathy, while it’s always a joy to hear your voice, do you have any idea what time it is?”
“I’m well aware that it’s getting on for three in the morning, and I’d far rather be home in bed than dealing with this latest crisis, but I have a responsibility to protect the people of this city and last I heard, so do you.”
Jack sighed heavily. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’ve ya got?”
“Witnesses are saying there’s a werewolf loose on St. Mary Street, and while I’m taking that with a grain of salt, whatever it is, it’s causing a near riot as people try to get away from it. The uniforms patrolling the area have seen it too, and from what they tell me, it sounds like something your lot would be better equipped to deal with than we are.”
“Has it attacked anyone?”
“There haven’t been any confirmed incidents so far, but there are a lot of panicking people running around and trampling over each other, so it’s impossible to be sure right now. I’m on my way out there to see for myself.”
“We’ll meet you there in fifteen.” Jack hung up the phone without so much as a goodbye, throwing the covers back and reaching for his discarded clothes from the night before. Ianto was already almost fully dressed.
“What is it?”
“According to Kathy, it could be a werewolf.”
“Don’t have any specifics yet.” Jack paused in pulling his trousers on to give Ianto a questioning look. “Why? Just how many kinds are there?”
“According to Torchwood One’s records, they’d catalogued eleven kinds of creature that could loosely be described as werewolves.”
“Huh. That many? Well, we’ll find out more when we get there. I should call the others in.”
“Already done; they’re on their way. Owen was none too happy at being woken up, he’d only just gone to bed, but I told him to take a hangover pill and be ready to go when we get there, or he’d find himself cleaning out the Weevil cells for the next month using his own toothbrush.”
Jack pulled a disgusted face. “Ew! Remind me not to annoy you.”
“Oh, I have other methods of keeping you in line,” Ianto teased, holding Jack’s coat for him to slip into. “I’ve found they’re very effective.” He snagged the keys to the SUV from the top of the bedside cabinet. “Come on; we’ll pick everyone up on our way.”
They arrived at the scene some twelve minutes later and Kathy waved them through the police cordon.
“Didn’t expect you to get here so fast,” she admitted.
“We’re old hands at night call-outs, we can practically dress in our sleep. I’d be happy to give you a private demonstration.” Jack winked at Kathy then turned serious. “Like you said, we have a responsibility to protect the people of Cardiff. We might not always follow the rules, but we know our job and we don’t risk innocent lives, human or otherwise, unless it’s unavoidable.” They both knew that saving everyone wasn’t always possible; sometimes the best that could be done was to keep casualties to a minimum.
Kathy nodded. “Good to know.”
“What’s been happening?”
“We’ve cleared as many civilians from the area as we can, but there are still people in the clubs and others who’re evading our efforts, either too drunk or drugged to realise they’re in danger, or too curious.”
“There’s always some,” Jack sighed. “Any injuries?”
“One kid got his arm slashed when he attacked the creature. His friends dragged him away. The wounds aren’t too deep, but I suspect that’s only because of the leather jacket he was wearing. That thing’s claws cut right through it; according to witnesses, the impact threw him halfway across the street. What are you going to do?”
“The idea is to try to capture it alive.”
“Is that wise?”
“You just said it’s only injured one person, and he attacked it first.”
“One person that we know of…”
“Still, we capture if we can; killing is the last resort. We don’t know yet exactly what we’re dealing with. Just because it appears threatening doesn’t necessarily mean it is. It could just be lost and confused. Remember what I told you about the Rift; whatever this creature is, it may well have been snatched from its home and dropped here without having any say in the matter. It probably doesn’t want to be here anymore than we want it here.”
“Alright, I guess you know what you’re doing. Just be careful; I’ve seen it and it’s one big, mean-looking mother!”
“Believe me when I say we’ve all faced far worse.”
“I don’t know whether that reassures me or scares the hell out of me.” Kathy smiled wryly. “I don’t envy you your job. Good luck, and don’t take any unnecessary risks.”
“I’ll do my best to restrain him from glory-seeking heroics,” Ianto quipped, “but he’s a bit of a show-off.”
“I’ve noticed that,” Kathy grinned. “Be careful, Mr. Jones.”
“Always.” Ianto turned to go but Kathy put out a hand to stop him.
“Can I ask you something?”
“It’s the middle of the night and yet you’re immaculately turned out in a three-piece suit and tie. Why?”
Ianto looked around at his colleagues and turned back to Kathy with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve seen who I work with; one of us has to keep standards up and at least give the illusion of professionalism.”
Kathy glanced over the rest of the team and chuckled. “I see your point.”
With a brief nod and a smile, Ianto walked over to join his colleagues, falling in beside Jack as they set off down the street towards the supposed werewolf’s last reported position.
The creature, when they found it, was every bit as impressive as they’d been let to believe, snarling and howling as it cast about, sniffing the air, but something about its behaviour struck the team as a bit odd. For one thing, even with people milling everywhere, if what they’d been told was accurate, it hadn’t given chase and the only time it had attacked someone was when it had been forced to defend itself. For another, it was just wandering aimlessly about, looking around itself as if it had no idea what to do or where to go.
Jack led the way towards it, stopping about ten metres away.
“Hey there. Sorry about this, but we can’t have you wandering around scaring people. You’re gonna have to come with us.”
The werewolf had stopped in its tracks and was just looking at them, head cocked to one side, ears half-raised and tail twitching slightly. It gave a querulous half-howl.
“Tosh, think you can try your translator programme on Wolfie here?”
“I’ll give it a go, but I’m not sure whether it can handle howls and growls.” Tosh fiddled with her PDA for a minute, locating the programme and setting it to run. She moved a couple of metres closer, with Jack flanking her as the other three fanned out to cover them. Angling the internal microphone towards the werewolf, she waited. Everyone was silent. “Uh, Jack, you need to get… Wolfie, to say something.”
“Right.” Jack looked at the hulking creature. “So, new to the area, are you? Guess you’re not much of a party animal.”
The werewolf whined and howled mournfully, and Tosh’s translator obligingly went to work. “Lost. Don’t hurt! Where’s mummy? Want my mummy.”
Off to the side, Owen snorted. “If this is Junior, I’d hate to see mummy!”
“Owen!” Gwen sounded appalled. “Don’t be so heartless! The poor thing is just a lost child!”
Ianto was studying his scanner. “Something’s not right here.”
“What do you mean?” Jack glanced towards his lover.
“The readings I’m getting are off, they don’t match what we’re seeing; I think we might be dealing with a shape-shifter.”
“Well duh!” said Owen. “It’s a werewolf.”
“That’s not what I meant. According to these readings, whatever this creature is, that’s not its natural shape.”
“So, not a werewolf then?” Jack asked.
“Not really, it just looks like one at the moment.”
Using her translator, Tosh was talking to the frightened being. “It’s okay, we’re not going to hurt you; we just want to help you find your way home. You don’t have anything to be afraid of now, you’ll be safe with us.” Her PDA gave out a series of soft growls and rumbles. The creature tilted its head one way and then the other, listening, and gradually it relaxed, sitting down in the middle of the street.
“Good work, Tosh.” Jack put a hand on her shoulder. “Now we just have to get it to go with us back to the Hub while we figure out how to send it home. I’m not sure it’s going to fit in the SUV.”
“That might not be a problem,” Tosh replied as their visitor started to shimmer and seemed to shrink in on itself, revealing its natural form.
It looked to be about the same size as Tosh, bipedal like its werewolf shape, and still furry, though now it was a creamy white, it’s fur crisply crinkled, almost curly. The tail was shorter, as was the snout, which had a pinkish nose at its tip, and when it opened its mouth small, blunt teeth were revealed; clearly it was a herbivore. It had big, dark brown eyes, and soft, floppy ears, and the savage claws of its werewolf form had vanished, replaced by thick but otherwise quite ordinary nails on both hands and feet. There was nothing even remotely threatening about it; it was no wonder it had made itself look so fearsome on finding itself in a strange and seemingly hostile environment.
“Well,” Ianto said from where he stood a few metres away, “that’s new. First time I’ve ever come across a sheep in wolf’s clothing.”
Owen groaned at the pun and Gwen giggled. Jack just smirked. “Wales is sheep country; it was only a matter of time before alien lambs started showing up. It’s the perfect vacation spot for them; home away from home.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “I’ll go fetch the SUV, shall I Sir?” he asked archly, and strode away down the street without waiting for an answer, Jack’s eyes following his every move.
Tosh held out her hand to the lamb-like creature. “Come along, Junior, let’s see about getting you home to your mum.” Trustingly, it took her hand and stood up.
“What if we can’t send it home?” Gwen asked.
Tosh shook her head. “That won’t happen.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“There was no Rift alert, which means there must be a spaceship not too far away. I can use the SUV’s onboard computers to locate it and then we can take Junior there.”
It worked out just as Tosh had said; half an hour later, they were in Bute Park, where a small shuttlecraft had landed so that a group of youngsters could stretch their legs and get some fresh air while the navigation systems of their cloaked spacecraft, somewhere in orbit around earth, were being repaired following a malfunction that had sent it off course.
Their lost lamb’s mother was ecstatic to see her child safe and well. She’d been left in sole charge of fifteen youngsters, only two of which were her own, and because they’d been romping so energetically in the nighttime park, she hadn’t at first realised that one was missing. Once they’d burned off their excess energy and she’d done a head count though, she’d become frantic, looking everywhere nearby but finding no trace of her adventurous daughter, who must have wandered off to explore despite being told to stay close to the ship. The mother knew she couldn’t leave the rest of her charges while she searched for the missing one, but she couldn’t take the remaining fourteen with her either. She’d been beginning to think that she’d have to take the children back up to the ship and return alone to continue her search when the big, black vehicle had pulled up nearby and her daughter had stepped out.
“Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” she told the child, hugging her tightly before turning back to the Torchwood team. “Thank you for returning my child. She knows she shouldn’t wander off like that in strange places, but it never stops her. She seems to think that the rules don’t apply to her, just because she’s one of the few who can change her shape at will. I fear that one day she will get herself into serious trouble and even her abilities won’t be enough to save her.”
“Always happy to help,” Jack replied. “Your daughter caused quite a commotion, but we’re dealing with it. No harm done.”
“I apologise for any problems we have caused you.”
Jack shook his head. “No need to apologise, but for future reference, this planet isn’t the safest place to explore alone.” He turned to the child. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson, young lady.”
The youngster nodded meekly.
As the shuttle took off a few minutes later, with children and minder all safely on board, the team returned to the SUV, looking forward to returning to their beds and hopefully getting a couple of hours’ sleep before work.
Jack climbed into the driver’s seat, Ianto beside him and the other three in the back. Before leaving the scene, with Kathy’s help, they’d spread rumours of a prankster testing out his Halloween costume early. Hopefully, that explanation would be enough to satisfy most people.
“Good work, everybody,” Jack smiled as he put the SUV in gear and drove across the grass towards the park exit.
“I wish we had more days like this,” Tosh murmured, relaxing back into her seat.
“You like bein’ dragged out of bed in the middle of the night?” Owen stared at Tosh incredulously.
“Of course not, but it’s nice to have a happy ending for once,” she replied with a smile.
“Yeah, I guess it is,” Owen agreed; then he chuckled. “You know you’ve been livin’ in Wales too long when you’d rather chase a lamb than a werewolf.”
“That has nothing to do with living in Wales,” Ianto pointed out. “It’s just common sense; lambs aren’t likely to rip your throat out.”
“He has a point,” Tosh said, her smile widening. “I’d sooner see werewolves in horror movies than in real life.”
“So, werewolf movie marathon at my place tomorrow night?” Ianto suggested.
“Why not? I’ll even bring beer,” Owen offered.
“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Ianto teased.
“We should invite Kathy,” Jack put in.
“Good idea. The more the merrier. It’s the least we can do to say thank you.”
“It’s agreed then. Eight o’clock at your place?”
“Barring unforeseen circumstances.”
Mission successfully completed, they headed for their respective homes, hoping the next day would be a lot less eventful.