“You’re sure this is the right place?” Ianto asked, pulling the SUV to a halt outside the church hall.
“Positive,” said Tosh from the back seat. “Whatever kind of alien came through the Rift, it’s in there somewhere.”
“Good.” Jack shoved the passenger side door open and climbed out. “A nice, simple retrieval for once. It’s in an enclosed space so we won’t have to chase it all over Cardiff; just let ourselves in, get what we came for, and leave.” He strode across the small car park towards to main door, the rest of the team hurrying after him, but as they got closer…
“Jack, this might not be as easy as you think,” Ianto cautioned.
“What d’you mean?”
“The lights are on inside and there’s an awful lot of cars parked out here…” That was all he had time to say before Jack tried the outer door. It opened immediately, light, laughter, and music filtering out from inside.
The team paused, glancing uncertainly at each other, but then Jack shrugged. “Doesn’t change anything; there’s some kind of alien creature in there somewhere and we need to find it before anyone gets hurt. For all we know it could be something vicious or poisonous. Everybody in there could be in mortal danger!” Jack’s words sounded a bit melodramatic, but they were true nonetheless. Every member of the team had encountered enough alien life forms to know how dangerous some of them could be.
“Easy retrieval, huh?” Owen muttered. “A total nightmare, more like.”
“Don’t be such a pessimist, Owen. Let’s do this!” Jack led the way into the foyer. “Tosh?”
Tosh shook her head; they weren’t going to get away with whatever they were after being in here or the toilets, or even the storage closet. “Sorry, Jack; according to the readings I’m picking up, it’s in the main hall.”
“Of course it is,” Ianto muttered. “As if the Rift ever made anything easy for us. The people in there aren’t going to like us barging in.”
Jack chuckled. “Won’t be the first time we’ve shown up somewhere we’re not welcome.” That said, he threw open the inner doors and marched in, the rest of the team following in the usual formation, scanning the area even as the doors snicked closed behind them.
Silence fell over the hall as everybody turned to stare at them. The room was packed, people sitting at tables around the sides, others crowding the space in the middle being used as a dance floor, a band on the stage at the far end frozen in mid-song, the drummer a little slower to realise something was going on than the rest.
“’Ere, you can’t just barge in like that! This is a private party!” an indignant woman exclaimed.
“Yeah!” a beefy man agreed. “Get out before we call the cops!” He pulled a phone from his pocket.
Jack raised his voice to be heard over the sudden hubbub of complaints and threats. “Sorry to interrupt, folks, but we can’t leave just yet; we’re on official business. If you’d all please stay right where you are we’ll be out of your hair as quickly as we can.”
“You’re that Torchwood bloke, aren’t you?” someone on the dance floor shouted, triggering a round of catcalls and curses.
“Always nice to be made to feel welcome.” Jack flashed his devil-may-care grin.
Ianto rolled his eyes. “You’re not helping, Jack,” he hissed under his breath, before stepping forward. “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for any inconvenience caused and you will of course receive compensation for this intrusion. We simply ask that you stay exactly where you are and try not to worry. There has been a threat called in for this building, although the caller did not specify the nature of the threat. There’s no cause for alarm at this point, it’s most likely nothing more than a hoax, but it would be remiss of us if we didn’t take all such calls seriously. If you’d just stay calm while we run a thorough scan of the room, hopefully we can be out of your way in just a few minutes so you can continue with your party.”
“I knew something would go wrong!” a young woman in a long white dress snapped at the young man seated beside her. “Didn’t I tell you we should have the wedding in Bristol? But oh no, you had to drag all my relatives to Cardiff, where all the funny stuff happens!”
“Are we in danger?” an elderly woman piped up. “Is it a bomb? Shouldn’t we evacuate?”
“Not at this point,” Ianto said calmly. “Just try not to move around. This will go a lot faster of we don’t have people getting in our way.”
Tosh, Gwen, and Owen were already spreading out around the edge of the hall, while Jack continued to stand a few feet from the doorway, effectively blocking it and providing a focus for a lot of pissed off people. “Did anyone happen to see a bright flash of golden light perhaps twenty minutes ago?”
The wedding guests looked at each other. “I thought that was the photographer,” a girl, possibly one of the bridesmaids, said.
“I thought it was light reflecting off the disco ball,” a tipsy twenty-something man grinned.
“We don’t have a bloody disco ball,” his significant other snapped. “Look at you! You’re sloshed already, and you promised you’d lay off the booze tonight!”
“Give it a rest, Shirl! Ill drink if I bloody well want to; you’re not me mum.”
Sighing, Ianto turned his attention to his own scanner, moving out onto the dance floor and scanning each person in turn, apologising all the time and explaining it was for their safety as well as their peace of mind. He directed each person he scanned to go and stand against the wall beside the doors, in case evacuation became necessary.
“Why’s he just standing there? Why isn’t he helping?” a man with military bearing wanted to know, pointing at Jack.
“He’s the boss. We work, he watches. He’ll step in if we find anything,” Ianto assured him.
The minutes ticked past as the team scanned and searched, accompanied by annoyed and generally uncomplimentary mutters, until at last…
“Excuse me, miss.” A boy aged maybe ten, wearing a suit slightly too big for his skinny frame, tugged at Tosh’s sleeve.
She smiled down at him. “Yes? What is it?”
“I saw something weird. It was little and sort of greenish, and it went under there.” He pointed to the floor-length curtains covering one of the big windows towards the stage end of the hall.
“Thank you. I’ll check it out.” Tosh moved towards the curtains and sure enough, something started to register on her scanner.
“You’re not going to hurt it, are you?” The boy had followed her.
“Not if it doesn’t harm anyone. Can you keep a secret?”
Solemn brown eyes gazed at her and the boy nodded. “Yes. Cross my heart.”
“I think it’s just a very scared little creature that doesn’t belong here, and if we can, we’ll help it get home safely.”
“And if you can’t?”
“Then we’ll find a safe place for it to live.”
“I promise. Cross my heart.” Tosh smiled at the boy, echoing his words back at him. “Can you go and get my friend?”
“The one who was talking earlier, the one in the suit like yours. His name’s Ianto.”
“Okay. What’s your name?”
“It’s nice to meet you, William.”
“You too.” The boy flashed a shy smile and hurried away to tug at Ianto’s suit jacket.
Ianto looked down. “Yes?”
“Are you Ianto?” At Ianto’s nod, William whispered, “Toshiko asked me to fetch you.”
“Ah, right. Lead the way.” Ianto followed William back across the dance floor to where Tosh was waiting. “Got something?”
“Looks like it.” Tosh showed him the scanner readings. “William showed me where it was hiding.”
Studying the readings, Ianto smiled. “Let me guess; small, greenish, more legs than you can count?”
Tosh looked William’s way and the boy nodded. “How’d you know?”
Ianto winked. “I’ve seen one before. It’s called an Ynx; they’re perfectly harmless. William, is it?”
“Well then William, could you fetch me an empty pint glass and a paper plate from the buffet table?”
The boy dashed off and was back in a couple of minutes, accompanied by an aggrieved shout from Shirl’s other half. “Oi! Come back with me glass, you little brat!”
“Nicely done!” Ianto approved, taking the glass and plate. “Now, Tosh, move the curtain very slowly.”
She did as asked.
“There!” William whispered excitedly. The Ynx was clinging a couple of feet up the wall, still mostly hidden by the curtain, and in moments Ianto had it in the glass, covered with the paper plate. It looked a bit like a skinny lizard, and a bit like a large stick insect, only with twice as many legs.
“I’ll keep scanning,” Tosh said to Ianto. “You take our friend here out to the SUV.”
“Can I come too?” William asked.
Ianto nodded. “That would be very helpful, William; I’ll need someone to open the doors for me.”
“What’ve you got there?” one curious woman asked as they passed, craning her neck, trying to see.
“Stick insect,” Ianto replied. “Found it lurking behind a curtain.”
“Oh, ugh! Get it away from me!” The woman recoiled.
William giggled, pushing the door open so Ianto could go through. Once they were outside, he said, “Toshiko promised you wouldn’t hurt it.”
“We won’t, it’ll be safe with us. Sometimes strange creatures end up here by accident. They don’t belong here, so we do our best to look after them.” He set the Ynx in its glass on the roof of the SUV and dug the keys from his pocket, opening the boot and directing William to dig out a small containment box with air holes in the sides. William opened the hatch at the top and Ianto tipped the Ynx inside, closing the box and stowing it carefully. “There, all done. When we get it back to base our medical officer will check it’s healthy and then we’ll get it settled with food and water. It’ll be fine.”
They made their way back inside and Ianto had a quiet word with Jack.
“Okay, folks; false alarm, sorry to bother you. Congratulations to the happy couple; you can all carry on with your party now!”
The team filed back out again, to a chorus of, “It’s about time!” and “Good riddance!” The only person sorry to see them go was young William, who’d been bored until they arrived. The Ynx was the second alien he’d seen in his short life. No one had ever believed him about the giant furry snake that had played with him when he got lost out in the country that time. He wondered if maybe Torchwood might have found that too and looked after it. He could only hope so; it had been such a nice alien and he hated to think of anything bad happening to it. Maybe if he ever saw Toshiko or Ianto again he’d ask them.