Weather forecasters were calling it the hottest day in Wales since the Millennium. Granted, they were only seven years into the twenty-first century, but still, it was blisteringly hot. Some people were taking advantage of the heatwave, spending their lunch hour in Cardiff’s parks, sunbathing, while others were keeping indoors as much as possible, and dodging from one patch of shade to another if they had to go outside. With temperatures in the mid-nineties, Ianto didn’t blame them. Wales and her people weren’t designed for this kind of weather; they were used to clouds and rain, and the occasional warm and sunny day in the low eighties. All this heat was upsetting their equilibrium.
In deference to the weather, Ianto had abandoned his usual suit in favour of cut-off jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt, his ensemble completed by sunglasses and a thorough coating of high-factor sunscreen, which Jack had been only too happy to help him apply. Pale Welsh skin burned easily and neither of them wanted Ianto to wind up sore and itchy, looking like an overcooked lobster. The rest of the team had dressed for the weather too, Owen in cargo shorts and t-shirt, Tosh in a sleeveless white cotton blouse and calf-length floral skirt, and Gwen in a pale green sundress that contrasted nicely with her dark hair, worn today in a ponytail to keep it from sticking to the back of her neck. Even Jack had traded in his trademark World War II era outfit for tan chinos, although he still wore one of his ever-present white t-shirts. They couldn’t have looked less like the Torchwood team if they’d tried.
Sadly, the Rift didn’t stop for hot weather, and they were on their way to collect something that had been dropped on a beach a few miles up the coast. Jack had persuaded the whole team to tag along, even though they probably wouldn’t be needed, saying that at the very least they could have a paddle in the sea, and wouldn’t it be nice to get out of the close, stuffy, airless atmosphere of the Hub for an hour or so? They’d been reluctant, but with the SUV’s windows open, and Jack’s usual breakneck driving, there was a very welcome breeze blowing through the car’s interior, cooling them a little. Ianto had thoughtfully given each of them a large towel to sit on so they wouldn’t stick unpleasantly to the leather seats, and Jack had promised to pay for ice creams on the way back.
The beach in question was well off the beaten track, too far out of town for tourists to bother with, and reached by a steep set of rough-hewn steps down a low cliff, so when they got there it was deserted except for a few seabirds and a lone dog walker in the distance. Better yet, the headlands jutting out into the sea at both ends of the bay were funnelling a light breeze from off the water while the cliff itself provided a band of shade at this time of day.
“This is nice!” Tosh exclaimed, her skirt fluttering around her bare legs. She pulled off her sandals, leaving them at the bottom of the steps and walking out across the sand to begin their search, sunhat tilted to shade her eyes. The rest of the team followed suit, kicking off their shoes and spreading out. Ianto left a backpack containing sunscreen and spare towels in the shade, along with a cooler he’d stocked with bottles of water and fruit juice; keeping well hydrated in such sweltering conditions was vital.
On the drive out, they’d intended to find what they we looking for as fast as possible so they could head back to the Hub, but now they were actually here, none of them felt like rushing. They ambled across the hot sand to where little wavelets lapped the shore, paddling in the cool water as they made their way along the beach in the direction Tosh’s scanners indicated.
“What can you tell us, Tosh?” Jack asked his tech expert, using his better than average eyesight to search the beach ahead of them for anything that looked out of place.
“Whatever it is, it’s inorganic.”
“Not alive then,” said Gwen.
“Probably not, but not all sentient life forms are organic,” Jack told her.
“Anyway, it appears to be inert, an artefact rather than a device.”
“That’s good news.” Ianto smiled. “At least we don’t have to worry about it being a bomb or some other kind of weapon.”
“And no chance of gettin’ turned into something else by accident either.” Even Owen seemed uncharacteristically cheerful.
“Any idea of size?” Jack queried.
“At a rough estimate, bigger than my scanner, but smaller than Ianto’s cooler,” Tosh replied after studying the readings she was getting. “I can’t be more accurate than that at this distance.”
“Nothing too big then.” Jack sounded pleased.
They ambled onward, enjoying the feel of the cool breeze against their skin, taking the edge off the heat, and the even cooler water lapping around their ankles. A quarter of a mile down the beach, they left the sea and angled inland, spreading out once more, all of them searching their surroundings, competing to see who’d be first to spot their target.
“Found it!” Owen suddenly called, pointing at a lump in the sand ahead of him. The others converged on his position, and Tosh used her scanner to confirm that the object had indeed come through the Rift. It must have landed quite hard because it had ended up half buried, but thankfully, it didn’t seem to be damaged. Made of a bronze-coloured material that Tosh said was a kind of metallic rock, when they unearthed it properly they found it was about a foot tall, and eight inches across at its widest point. It appeared to be a statue of some description, although the subject was obviously not of earth origin. It was blobby, gnarled, and had five eyes and twice that many stubby tentacles spaced around what they could only assume was its neck. It stood on five more tentacles that bent at the bottom into sort of feet, and between two of it’s upper tentacles, it was clutching something shaped a bit like a dumbbell.
Ianto studied it and nodded, pointing to the plinth the strange being stood on; there were characters engraved on it. “Sports trophy,” he said confidently. “Either that or a statue of a famous sportsperson.”
Gwen giggled. “The alien version of Rugby, obviously.”
“Could be,” Jack agreed. “I’m not familiar with the species though.”
“It has tentacles and you don’t know what it is?” Ianto feigned shock. “How can that be?”
“I don’t know every tentacled species,” Jack said, pouting.
“Wonders will never cease.”
“Right, now we’ve found it I suppose it’s time to go home,” Owen said, looking disappointed.
“And you didn’t even want to come,” Gwen teased.
“So I changed my mind. It’s a free country.”
Jack shrugged. “There’s no rush.” He picked up the statue. “We can put this in Ianto’s backpack, have a cold drink, maybe paddle in the sea a bit more…” Like the rest of them he was in no hurry to leave the cool, fresh breeze to return to the Hub. “Might as well make the most of the hot weather since we’re already here.”
The others were quick to agree; if only all Rift retrievals could be this pleasant. Smiling and chatting, they strolled down to the sea’s edge again and paddled their way back towards the steps and the cooler, looking forward to a refreshing drink and a well-earned afternoon at the beach.