Just a routine Rift retrieval, Jack had said. They’d be there and back in twenty minutes at the most, he’d promised. There would still be plenty of time before they had to be at Rhi’s for Sunday dinner, no need to call in the rest of the team, they could handle it easily by themselves.
Right, sure, anything you say, Jack.
Ianto was kicking himself now for listening to his lover. Really you’d think he’d know better by now, and yet this was one lesson he never seemed to learn. The trouble was, Jack’s devil-may-care confidence always wound up rubbing off on him. They were Torchwood; they carried out Rift retrievals practically every day, and sometimes several times a day. This was just one more in a long line of retrieval missions, and the two of them were perfectly capable of dealing with whatever the Rift had seen fit to foist off on them this time. There was absolutely no reason they should have to drag anyone else in to help, right?
For one thing, Jack had failed to mention when he’d checked the Rift data on Tosh’s screens that the new arrival was organic, and most likely alive. Ianto had been expecting random junk, or some sort of alien device, but what they found when they reached the coordinates of the Rift spike was neither junk nor alien.
“So much for being able to handle this by ourselves,” Ianto said, staring in abject horror. “I want it on record that this is not in my job description. I know; I read the fine print, and nowhere does it mention anything about being required to risk life and limb trying to capture something like that!”
“Maybe I should call in the rest of the team after all,” Jack said, peering over Ianto’s shoulder. “Tell them to bring nets and the tranquilliser gun.”
“Are you completely out of your mind? We’re not equipped to deal with that monster! We need experienced help, someone who knows what they’re doing!”
“It came through the Rift; that makes it our responsibility,” Jack said firmly, although Ianto couldn’t fail to notice the way his lover was hiding behind him. “Besides, where are we going to find experienced help? How many alligator wrestlers have you got on speed dial?”
“Crocodile,” Ianto corrected automatically.
“It’s not an alligator, it’s a crocodile.”
“Huh. Are you sure?”
“Trust me on this, Jack; alligators have rounded snouts and that one’s snout is more pointed, therefore it’s a crocodile.”
“How d’you know that?”
“I know everything,” Ianto said, deadpan. “And I’ve seen a lot of nature documentaries.” David Attenborough had a lot to answer for.
Jack was silent for a few heartbeats, just watching the creature. “Crocodile wrestler doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but where would you find one anyway?”
“Oh, I thought I’d just call the Cardiff zoo; they’re bound to have a reptile expert on staff, and they’re better equipped for looking after it than we are. It’s not like we can put a lead on it and walk it back to the Hub, or let it swim around in the Rift pool.”
Jack had to admit Ianto had a point. “I suppose not. How big do you think it is?”
When it came to people, Ianto was remarkably good at estimating vital statistics, but this was somewhat different; he studied it carefully, working out how many Jacks he could lay end to end alongside it and coming up with approximately two and a half, perhaps a bit more. “I’d say probably fifteen, sixteen feet, somewhere around there.”
Ianto nodded slowly. “Yes it is. Very big.”
The crocodile shifted and Ianto backed up, trampling on Jack’s toes in the process.
“Ow! Watch where you’re going!”
“No thanks, I’d rather keep my eye on our friend there. It’s your fault anyway for standing right behind me.” With one hand Ianto was digging in his pocket for his phone; pulling it out, he took his eyes off the crocodile just long enough to select speed dial eight. He put the phone to his ear.
“Cardiff Zoo,” a cheerful voice said. “How may I help you?”
“Hello, I’d like to report a stray crocodile, and before you ask, no, this is not a joke or a hoax. This is Ianto Jones of the Welsh Tourist Board; I’m out at the Wetlands Nature Reserve and there’s a bloody great crocodile lying on the bank. I’m standing no more than thirty feet from it, and that’s a whole lot closer than I want to be.” He listened as the woman on the other end of the line spoke. “No, it is not a log. Logs don’t have gaping jaws full of sharp teeth; they don’t have eyes, and they certainly don’t walk.” He took several more steps back. “I suggest you send your reptile experts out here right away to catch it, before this thing starts snacking on the odd tourist.”
“If this is a hoax…”
“I already told you it’s not, and if you ignore my call then you will be held responsible if someone gets eaten. Now, are you going to send someone or not? You are? Good. I’ll stay and keep an eye on things until they get here. Tell them to bring nets and tranquilliser guns, and they’ll need a big truck.”
“They’re on their way?” Jack asked as Ianto hung up and put his phone away.
“They’d better be. If they’re not I’ll want to know why.”
“Good. I’ll go wait for them in the car park.” Jack wanted to be as far from all those teeth as possible; Weevils were one thing, he was used to dealing with them, but crocodiles were another matter entirely.
“You’re seriously going to leave me all alone with the crocodile?” Ianto asked incredulously. “You’re the immortal, not me.”
Jack hesitated. “You’re right, it’s not safe for you to be here all alone, I don’t want you getting chomped. We should both go.”
“No way, Jack. Someone has to watch the crocodile in case it goes walkabout; wouldn’t do for it to disappear. At least it doesn’t seem inclined to go swimming at the moment.”
“I hate it when you’re right.” Reluctantly Jack stood his ground. “How long do you think it’ll be before someone gets here?”
“I don’t know; twenty minutes, maybe a bit longer. They’ll have to load whatever gear they might need onto their truck and then drive out here.”
“Alright, I’ll stay here with you for a bit longer, but one if us will have to meet them at the car park and guide them back here when they arrive.”
They stood in silence for ten minutes, nervously watching the crocodile, which proved about as thrilling and dangerous as watching paint dry since the creature barely moved. Finally Ianto spoke again. “You’d better head for the car park.”
“What about you? Will you be okay on your own?”
“I’ll be fine; just get back with assistance as soon as you can.”
“I will, I promise.” Jack paused when he reached the path and looked back. “I have a feeling we’re going to be late for dinner.”
“So do I. Perhaps I’d better call Rhi and let her know.” As Jack started back towards the car park Ianto pulled his phone out again, selected Rhi’s number, and waited for his sister to answer.
“Ianto, where the bloody hell are you? The kids are starting to think you’re not coming. Again.”
“We’ll be there, Rhi, we’re just going to be a bit late. Unexpected emergency.”
“What kind of emergency? Work again, I suppose,” Rhiannon grumbled.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Probably not, but tell me anyway.”
“Jack and I decided to take a walk out at the wetlands reserve this morning and we found a crocodile. Jack’s gone back to the car park to wait for the zoo people to arrive and I’ve been left to keep an eye on the croc.”
“Crocodile? You’re right; I don’t believe you.”
“Hang on a second; I’ll send you a photo.” Ianto snapped off a quick shot of the croc and sent it. “You get that?”
“Just opening it… Bloody hell, it’s huge! How’d that wind up loose at the nature reserve?”
“You’d better not get too close to it. That thing could have your leg off before you could blink!”
“Trust me, Rhi, I’m keeping well away from it. Had a job convincing the zoo I wasn’t making a hoax call. I just hope they don’t take all day getting here. Jack and I will be over as soon as smiley here is on his way to his new home. I’ll see if I can snap a few pictures of the capture to show the kids.”
“Okay, I’ll delay dinner as long as I can. Hopefully it won’t be too overdone.”
“Thanks, Rhi, and I really am sorry about this. It’s just, a lot of families come out here for nature walks and I wouldn’t want anyone getting hurt or killed.”
“Of course not, you’re doing the right thing so don’t worry about it. See you in a bit.”
“We’re looking forward to it.” Ianto hung up and readied his phone’s camera to record the capture; the rest of the team weren’t going to believe this any more than Rhi had at first.
Jack arrived back with four men from the zoo a few minutes later.
“Alright,” said the one who seemed to be in charge as he left the path. “Suppose you show me where you saw this so-called croco… HOLY SHIT!”
“You were saying?” Ianto asked mildly, raising one eyebrow.
“I didn’t think it was possible, but that’s a croc alright, looks like a mature male. He’s got to be well over four metres in length, maybe closer to five. Might need an extra couple of pairs of hands to cart him back to the truck, if you two are game.”
Ianto smiled. “We’ll be happy to help, as long as you do all the capturing and restraining first. It’ll be something I can tell my niece and nephew over dinner.”
The four men cautiously moved in, tranquillised the crocodile and taped his mouth shut so he couldn’t snap at them if he woke up. All the while, Ianto kept his phone camera going, recording the capture; then when the croc was restrained he and Jack took a few selfies with it before stowing their phones in order to help with carrying the creature. The man in charge, Mike Prentiss, reckoned the crocodile probably weighed a good seven hundred kilograms, possibly a bit more. He was a heavy burden, but with six of them doing the lifting they managed to manoeuvre him up onto the path and back to the car park where the zoo’s truck was waiting and load him for transport.
Waving Prentiss and his men off with the new arrival, Ianto turned to Jack. “We’d better get a move on. Rhi said she’d delay dinner as much as she could but we don’t want to keep everyone waiting any longer than we have to.”
Jack agreed. “Maybe in a week or two, once the zoo’s got their new crocodile settled in, we could take the kids to see it.”
“That’s a good idea. We could make a sort of family outing out of it.” Ianto climbed into the driver’s seat, glad now that they’d used his car for the retrieval rather than driving out here in the SUV. It meant they wouldn’t have to waste time switching vehicles but could drive straight out to Newport.
He smiled as he put the car in gear and headed for the link road. Some weird things had come through the Rift over the years, but that had to be one of the weirdest! The zoo was welcome to him.