“Jesus H Christ!” Owen muttered. “What the fuck is that thing?”
“Not sure I want to know,” Ianto replied, voice barely above a whisper.
The thing in question was so far unaware of their presence, being otherwise occupied gnawing on a wheel it had torn off a nearby truck. The truck itself was now listing at a precarious angle, but Ianto dismissed that as a problem for later. It was parked and driverless, and therefore not a priority. The creature was another matter entirely.
It was the size of a small carthorse, maybe five foot tall at the shoulder, and looked to be made entirely of solid, rippling muscle, particularly around the neck and shoulders. Its back sloped downwards towards its rear, the hind legs maybe a foot shorter than the forelegs, and the whole creature was covered in coarse, wiry, iron grey fur. It was the head that really drew their attention though. Massive and shaggily maned, it had deep-set, blazing red eyes, a short snout, and a wide mouth lined with two rows of dagger-like tearing teeth that were making short work of the truck tyre. A rumbling snarl echoed from deep in its chest, and drool hung in ropes from its jowls as it worried at its prize.
“What do we do?” Owen hissed. “We can’t be expected to deal with that by ourselves!”
“I’ll call for backup.” Ianto clicked his bluetooth earpiece. “Jack? We could use some help here, and the tranquillizer guns,” he murmured, not taking his eyes off the creature.
“What was that?” Jack’s voice sounded tinny in Ianto’s ear. “Speak up, Ianto, I can barely hear you.”
“I said we need help. Bring the heavy-duty tranquillizers,” Ianto repeated, a shade louder, his tone bordering on exasperation. Wasn’t Jack’s fifty-first century hearing supposed to be sharper than the twenty-first century equivalent?
“Oh fuck,” Owen whispered. “I think it heard you!”
The creature turned its head towards them, emitting a rumbling sound like a tank engine turning over. It dropped the wheel.
“We are so screwed. Jack, hurry!” Ianto grabbed Owen by the arm and tugged. “Back up slowly, no sudden movements.”
Inch by inch, or so it seemed to them, they crept backwards, their handguns forgotten in their fists, hoping to get to the corner and duck out of sight before making a break for the SUV, which they’d parked a couple of streets over. The creature watched them, ears raised, unmoving, and they began to believe that they just might make it. Then Owen’s foot caught a discarded beer bottle, sending it skittering away across the street and the monstrous beast leapt towards them.
“Run!” Ianto yelled, grabbing for Owen again but missing as the other man spun around. They took off, running as fast as they could, Ianto’s longer legs giving him a slight advantage. He pulled the SUV’s keys out of his pocket as he went, hoping he could jump in and go back for Owen if necessary.
“Aargh!” Owen yelled from behind, and Ianto skidded to a halt, turning so suddenly he staggered and almost fell. Owen was on the ground, the beast looming over him, mouth wide and drool dripping, all its attention on the fallen man. Belatedly remembering his gun, Ianto raised it, preparing to fire; from this range there was no way he could miss.
The monster didn’t attack as expected through; instead, it sort of bounced backwards a little way, crouching down on its forelegs, the tiny stump of its tail, barely noticed until now, twitching madly. It rumbled again.
Ianto blinked; Owen was laying as still as possible, not daring to move, so he tore his gaze away from his colleague’s predicament for a moment, taking a quick glance around, looking for something he’d noticed earlier. There it was, just a few paces further back, some old lumber piled in an alley. Cautiously, Ianto moved towards the stacked wood, pulling a long piece from the jumble. Drawing his arm back, he threw the wood as hard as he could down the deserted street, thankful that this was an industrial rather than a residential area. With any luck there wouldn’t be too many witnesses to Retcon.
As the chunk of wood flew past the creature and clattered to the ground some yards down the street, the beast twisted around with surprising agility and went bounding after it.
Ianto ran to Owen and helped him to his feet. “You okay?”
“Bit winded; think I tripped on something.”
“Your shoelace is undone.”
“That was probably it then. Terrific. Let’s get outta here.” Before they could take more than a couple of steps, the alien was back, dropping the chunk of lumber in front of them, panting, its tongue lolling. “I don’t bloody believe this. That thing wants to play?” Owen sounded incredulous.
“Looks that way.” Ianto half shrugged. “We probably should’ve learned by now that appearances can be deceptive.”
“Huh. Okay then; if it tries to bite me, shoot it. Good doggie.” Hesitantly, Owen reached out to touch the rough fur; the creature rumbled as he patted it, then sank to the ground with a groan, rolling onto its back, all four legs waving in the air. “Fuck that! No way am I rubbing its belly.”
“Wimp.” Ianto leaned over, rubbing the short, surprisingly soft belly fur and barely avoiding getting kicked in the head as the creature squirmed in ecstasy, legs flailing around. “Who’s a great big softy then?”
When Jack and the rest of the team arrived five minutes later, armed to the teeth and ready to do battle, they were met with the unexpected sight of Owen and Ianto rolling around on the ground, getting thoroughly licked by their new playmate.
“Looks like you didn’t need our help after all,” Jack said, grinning as he leaned against the door of Gwen’s car.
“She’s just a bit excitable,” Owen explained.
“How do you know it’s a girl?” Tosh wanted to know, eyeing the huge creature dubiously
“Bound to be,” Owen assured her. “Hasn’t tried to hump Teaboy yet.”
Ianto rolled his eyes but didn’t dignify the comment with a reply; it was best not to encourage Owen. “What I want to know is what we’re going to do with it now we’ve caught it. I very much doubt it’ll fit in the SUV. Probably wreck the suspension anyway.”
Jack smirked. “Maybe you could ride it back to the Hub. It seems to like you, and it looks big enough.”
“You’d better not be serious!” Ianto grumbled as a big, wet tongue swept up the back of his head, almost pitching him face down on the tarmac; he didn’t want to imagine what the drool might be doing to his suit. “I don’t get paid enough for this.”