Ianto shook his head and rolled his eyes. “I tried to tell you something like this would happen, but would you listen? Of course not. ‘I can handle it, Ianto,’ you said. ‘Nothing I haven’t done before, Ianto. Stop worrying, Ianto, it’s a simple device, a child could use it.’ What I don’t understand is why I bother listening to you. You’d think by now I’d know better.”
“Look, I’ll fix it, okay? I know it looks bad but trust me; it’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing!”
“I’ve heard that before. In fact that’s exactly what you said just before you turned the SUV bright orange.”
“So I got the settings slightly off. It’s still an improvement. At least it’s the right size now, and visible.”
“Oh yes, it’s visible alright, you can see it from miles away!”
“Shhhh, I need to concentrate, the controls are very sensitive; they’re not really designed for clumsy human fingers. The appendages of the creatures who make these gadgets are more like tentacles.”
As usual, the problem had started with a Rift retrieval. Jack had been driving to the coordinates Tosh had relayed to the SUV’s satnav, but like always, he was going too fast and instead of stopping near the new arrival he ran right over it. Fortunately, what had come through was tech rather than a living creature, and luckily for them, it was what Jack classed as a nifty gadget rather than a weapon or something equally dangerous.
Less fortunately, running over it and squashing it into the soft, muddy turf of the field it had landed in caused it to activate, shrinking the SUV by fifty per cent. Getting out had been a bit awkward, but with some effort and a lot of squirming, they’d managed, only to find that from the outside, their vehicle was now invisible. Jack had almost knocked himself out on the door when he bent to retrieve the Rift’s latest gift from where it lay underneath the invisible car.
Still, once he recovered and picked up the knobbly object, he’d cheerfully told Ianto not to worry, he knew exactly what the device was, and how to work it. With the tip of his finger, he’d started manipulating the little raised nodules that studded the small ovoid, explaining that it was used mainly for interior decorating, manipulating the physical characteristics of inanimate objects such as size, colour, and texture.
“And turning things invisible?” Ianto had asked.
“Of course! Think about it; any bit of wall can be a window!”
So, now they had a visible, normal sized, luminous orange SUV.
“I’ll have it fixed before you know it,” Jack insisted.
“I hope so, because we’re not driving home until you do.”
“It’s just a case of applying the right amount of pressure to the correct nodule, and manipulating it in the right direction. There, black again.”
“So it is. However, I don’t think the fur will be very practical.”
“Damn! I was sure I’d got it that time!” Jack twiddled the nodule one way, and the SUV’s covering of short fur lengthened dramatically until it resembled a shaggy dog. “Oops, wrong way.”
Reverse twiddling made the fur shrink and vanish, and Ianto quite liked the polished hardwood surface that replaced it, but again felt he should point out the impracticality. It would scratch so easily.
An hour or so later, their vehicle had been variously spotted, striped, chrome all over, had legs instead of wheels, been upholstered in leather on the outside, complete with studs, developed a hand-knitted texture with fancy cabling, turned square with drawers instead of doors, and been briefly shaped like a banana. Jack, an expression of fierce concentration on his face, delicately wiggled one last nodule, and there it was; black, shiny, normal-sized, four wheels…
“Stop right there!” Ianto commanded.
For once, Jack did as he was told. “See?” He beamed at his partner. “Didn’t I tell you I’d fix it?”
“You did, you just neglected to tell me how long it would take you. I’ll take that now.” Ianto carefully extracted the device from Jack’s hands, making sure to hold it gingerly by the edges and not touch any nodules. Placing it in a containment box, he secured the lid and activated its internal stasis field, a new innovation courtesy of Tosh. “You’ve wiggled your last nodule. Let’s just go home while everything still looks the way it’s supposed to. As soon as we get back to the Hub, this thing is going straight in the secure archives.”
Jack pouted. “But think of what we could do with it around the Hub!”
Ianto shuddered. “I am. I have no desire to see the water tower covered in fur and the catwalks turned into knitted lace!” Jack may have had a certain amount of knowledge when it came to alien technology, but he couldn’t be trusted not to mess around with things, especially if they had buttons to push and bits to wiggle. “I’m sure I can find you something safer to fiddle with.” Ianto knew he shouldn’t have said that the moment the words were out of his mouth.
Jack leered. “Well, if you’re offering, there’s nothing I’d rather fiddle with than you!”
“Jack,” Ianto groaned, rolling his eyes and shaking his head again, but at least this time he was smiling.