The Rift could drop literally anything on Cardiff, from any planet and any time period, past, present or future. It meant a lot of the items that got dumped on Torchwood’s doorstep were a complete mystery, their origin and purpose not only unknown, but un-guessable.
By the same token, some things couldn’t have been more familiar, being of earth origin and from the recent past. They got it all: Odd socks, cutlery, chairs, ping-pong balls, children’s toys, the occasional cabbage, and on one memorable occasion, a bathtub half full of hot water. Whoever lost that must have been pretty confused. They hadn’t had an Aston Martin yet, but Ianto lived in hope.
Torchwood was lucky enough to have an additional resource for identifying some of the strange objects that fell through the Rift, namely their leader, Captain Jack Harkness. As he was not only from the future but also from another planet, some of the things that were a mystery to the rest of the team had a certain familiarity to him.
“That’s not junk!” Jack objected when Owen proclaimed their latest find to be worthless rubbish. “That’s a flange protector from the engine of a Mingarran Scub. Great little one-man scout ships, Scubs.”
“Well, that’s me told.” Owen turned the object one way up and then the other, frowning at it. “Still looks like junk to me.”
“It’s not.” Jack snatched the object from Owen’s hands. “That’s going in the archives, we might need it some day.”
“Right, if one of those Scubs falls through the Rift without its flange protector, we’re set.” Ianto rolled his eyes.
“It could happen!” Jack insisted. “Spare parts are always useful.”
He had a point; sometimes they were needed to repair spaceships that arrived on earth rather more precipitously than was intended. The Rift had a bad habit of disrupting sensitive systems in spacecraft that got too close when it was active.
Not that Jack always got it right when he declared he knew exactly what a particular object was, which was why Ianto made sure that anything his boss and lover claimed was a sex toy was thoroughly investigated and proved safe before he’d even consider testing it out. He’d had too many uncomfortable experiences already to take any more unnecessary risks.
Then there were the weapons. If in doubt, store anything that could be dangerous either in the armoury, or in the secure archives. It was a good rule of thumb, even if it did lead to some odd mistakes, like the lethal gun that turned out to be a toaster, and the ‘grenade’ that hatched a couple of weeks later, revealing a rather charming pink alien turtle. Anyone can make a mistake, and Ianto supposed it was better, not to mention a whole lot safer, than attempting to hatch a grenade.
As much as he liked trying to identify the strange and mysterious items that lurked in the archives, waiting for somebody to figure out exactly what they were, Ianto had to admit that there was something to be said for having something completely recognisable and comfortably familiar fall through the Rift. Curling up in his chair in the archives, he opened the book at the first page. It wasn’t an Aston Martin, but that was okay; how often did you get to read a pristine original first edition James Bond novel? If he played his cards right, maybe Jack would let him keep it.