As Torchwood agents soon learned, it wasn’t only junk that fell through the Cardiff Rift. Sometimes they got useful pieces of tech, or antiques they could sell once the Rift radiation dissipated. Once in a while, what they got lumbered with was less of a thing and more of a living creature, although to be fair, some of those were best described as things.
This one had a definite air of thingness about it; it was all blobby lumpiness and flailing tentacles, and a less than friendly disposition. That might have been the result of being torn forcibly away from everything that was familiar, dragged through a rift in space and time, and dumped unceremoniously on an alien planet among complete strangers, or it could simply be the creature’s normal personality, there was no way of knowing unless they could find a way to communicate with it, but whatever the case might be something needed to be done about their visitor, fast.
It had shown up at mid-morning in the St David’s shopping centre, abruptly appearing in a flash of golden light. According to witnesses, of which there were well over a hundred, the monster had promptly picked up the four nearest people in its tentacles and waved them about a bit before tossing them violently aside, resulting in a concussion, a broken arm, several cracked ribs, a bad nosebleed, two missing front teeth, and the sudden and unexpected relief of an ongoing back problem. Even the worst situations occasionally resulted in something positive; if the alien turned out to be merely scared and confused rather than hostile, maybe it could find gainful employment as a chiropractor. Everyone deserved a chance to find their place in society.
For the moment, however, Torchwood’s job was to capture and contain something that was behaving in a very aggressive manner. Looking at it from a safe distance, Ianto had a feeling that was going to be a lot more difficult than it sounded, but he’d never been the kind of man to give up at the first hurdle. He was sure with a bit of careful thought he could come up with a workable plan.
The first problem was one of size; the monster was a good eight feet tall even without taking into account the fifteen-foot long tentacles. He’d done his best to count them, but with all the flailing the best he could manage was a rough estimate of somewhere between sixteen and twenty-four. The alien’s body, if it could be called that, was a lumpy mass the colour of raw beef, which kept changing shape, rather like a sack full of footballs. The only parts of their new guest it might be possible to get a grip on were the tentacles, and they never stopped moving, lashing out at anything that approached, so that didn’t seem like a very sensible idea. They were clearly very strong as well as flexible, and anyone attempting to get hold of them was likely to get grabbed by the creature before they could do any grabbing of their own.
The police had cleared the upper floor of the shopping centre, so the only people up there now were the members of the Torchwood team, minus Owen, Gwen, and Andy, who were on the floor below administering Retcon to the shocked shoppers. Some things were best forgotten about. D.I. Swanson was at the top of the nearest escalator, both making sure that nobody tried to sneak past the uniformed PCs standing guard below, and watching Torchwood do their stuff. Not that they were doing much at present besides standing and staring at the alien.
“What is it?”
Jack was standing closest to Kathy and he threw one of his thousand-watt smiles back over his shoulder at her. “No idea, I’ve never seen anything like it, and there’s nothing even remotely similar in our database! Exciting, isn’t it?”
“Not the word I would’ve chosen. What are you going to do about it?”
“Still working on that. First we need to restrain it somehow, preferably without hurting it.”
“Without… It just injured four innocent people!” Kathy reminded him.
“Three people,” Jack corrected her. “The fourth one’s feeling better than he has in years, or that’s what he told Owen.”
“Fine, three people.” Kathy folded her arms. “That’s still an act of violence.”
“What d’you suggest, that we arrest it for disturbing the peace? Charge it with physical assault and one count of practising physiotherapy without a licence? We don’t know what this creature is; it doesn’t speak our language any more than we can speak whatever its native language might be, if it even has one. For all we know, it could simply be scared and trying to defend itself against what it sees as our threatening behaviour. Harming it has to be the last resort; we’re not in the business of killing innocent creatures for the crime of being abducted against their will.”
Kathy sighed; although she hated to admit it, Harkness had a valid point. How would she react if she was suddenly snatched from her familiar surroundings and dumped on another planet? “You’re right, I’m sorry, it’s just when I look at it--”
Jack cut in, finishing her sentence for her. “You see a monster rather than a victim, but the fact is that not all aliens are monsters. Many are highly intelligent, civilised, peaceful people. That’s one of the reasons we have to keep our work secret; humans aren’t ready to know about the existence of extraterrestrial beings yet. What you need to remember is that we look as outlandish to it as it does to us. To it, we’re the aliens.”
“Do you think this one’s intelligent?”
“Hard to say at this point; it might be, or it could just be a wild animal. Hopefully we’ll be able to work that out once we get it back to the Hub. Speaking of which…” He turned his attention back to his team. “Any ideas yet, kids?”
“The nets are out,” Mickey said, watching the alien. “The tentacles would just slide through, a bit like trying to pick up cooked spaghetti in a colander. Might trap some, but not all.”
“Weevil restraints won’t work either,” Tosh added. “The tentacles narrow to a point; even if we could get close enough with every set of restraints we’ve got, and managed to get them clamped on, they’d just slip off again.”
Ianto looked around at the shops then held one hand out to Jack. “Give me your credit card.”
A mystified expression on his face, Jack did as he was told; he’d learned not to argue when Ianto got that particular look on his face. “What d’you have in mind?”
“We don’t have the equipment we need so we’ll have to buy it, and I’m not about to use my own money; I’ll never get reimbursed. Better get Owen up here, see what he thinks about the possibility of sedating our friend, just in case my idea doesn’t work. In the meantime, I’ve got a bit of shopping to do. Won’t be long.” Turning smartly on his heel Ianto headed into a nearby department store.
Jack tapped his Bluetooth. “Owen, leave the rest of the Retconning to Gwen and Andy, they can handle it. You’re needed up here.”
“On my way.” The medic’s voice came through the comm. unit so clearly it sounded almost as if he was standing right beside Jack.
Owen rode the escalator up after Kathy gave the nod to the PCs below to let him through.
“What’s up?” he asked as he arrived at the top, glancing briefly at the flailing alien with the air of someone who’d seen it all before and wasn’t especially impressed.
Jack got right to the point. “What are the chances of sedating our guest?”
“Should be simple enough, just shoot it with the tranq gun, but whether or not that would knock it out or kill it is anyone’s guess. Stick a needle in the body and the whole thing might explode, or it might have a bad reaction to the sedative; I don’t have a clue about this thing’s biology. I’d rather not risk it if there’s any alternative, at least not until I’ve had a chance to study samples of its blood, assuming it has any, and tissue.”
“Alright, we’ll hold that idea in reserve for now, only try it if we have to.”
“And it the meantime what do we do, just stand around twiddling our thumbs?”
“Ianto’s working on something. No idea what right now, but he knows everything so I’m betting it’ll be ingenious.”
Ten minutes later, Ianto returned, laden with shopping bags.
“Got any grub in there?” Owen asked hopefully. It was getting close to lunchtime.
“Sorry, Owen; essentials only.” Setting the bags down, Ianto started emptying them. Some beanbags, several large reels of coloured ribbon, and a couple of flat package that Jack thought might be sets of sheets, dark red. Quickly Ianto unspooled several yards of ribbon from each reel and tied a beanbag to the end of each one. Then he handed a reel to each person, keeping one for himself and roping Kathy in to help.
Jack accepted his reel with a puzzled frown. “What exactly are we supposed to do with these?”
“Not sure yet if it’ll work what with all the flailing, but we need to restrain the spaghetti creature without doing too much damage to it so we’re going to play maypoles.”
“Maypoles?” Owen snorted. “What’re you on about?”
“Just copy what I do. Owen, Tosh, and Kathy, circle left. Jack, Mickey, and I will go right.” With that, Ianto lobbed his beanbag at the creature, which snatched it out of the air and pulled it close. Ianto immediately took off running, circling the creature to the right and letting his reel of ribbon unspool as he went.
“I get it!” Tosh tossed her beanbag and as soon as the monster caught it, set off to the left.
Grinning, Jack joined in, then Owen, Mickey, and finally Kathy, running in circles, ducking under each other’s ribbons, around and around until all the alien’s waving tentacles were safely restrained and it looked like some kind of bizarre multicoloured cocoon, wriggling and shimmying where it stood.
The six maypole dancers stopped, catching their breath, while Ianto made a few adjustments to the ribbon wrapping and securely tied off all the loose ends. He returned to the others, smiling in satisfaction.
“Phase one complete; this won’t hold forever though so we’d better get a move on. Jack, Mickey, go and borrow a couple of stepladders from the hardware store over there. And Owen, see if you can get us four broom handles. Tosh, give me a hand with these?”
The flat packages turned out to be duvet covers, king sized. As soon as the borrowed stepladders were set up, Ianto and Jack climbed them and slipped the first of the covers over the cocooned creature, pulling it down as far as it would go. Then, with everyone assisting so the creature wouldn’t be injured, they laid the bundle down across the broom handles Owen had laid out on the floor. Sliding the other duvet cover over the alien’s lower half was a bit more complicated, but with careful manoeuvring they managed, making sure it was the opposite way around so the two could be snapped together in the middle.
Ianto straightened up and dusted off the knees of his trousers. “There, one monster, safely restrained and packaged for transport. We’ll take it down to the car park in the lift. I think it should fit in the back of Mickey’s van.”
“I still don’t get what the broom handles are for,” Owen said.
“To make carrying it easier of course.” Ianto plucked one last reel of ribbon from his shopping bags and used it to strap the wriggly bundle of alien to the broom handles, back and forth between them until there would be no chance of it sliding off.
“Ingenious,” Kathy said admiringly.
“I try,” Ianto replied with typical modesty. “It’s amazing what can be done with everyday items if you’re willing to think outside the box. Right, one person each end of each handle; let’s get our friend here back to the Hub. Owen can take a few samples when we get there and then we can put this fellow in a cell, remove the duvet covers, and leave it to untangle itself. Should keep it occupied for a while.”
Jack nodded. “Well done, everybody; another successful capture, and with a bit of luck we might be able to send this one back where it came from.”
Picking up their captive, they set off towards the nearest bank of lifts, leaving D.I. Swanson to get back to her work.
Jack smiled proudly at his team; all things considered, this had been an excellent morning’s work.