Living on a Rift through space and time invited weirdness of all descriptions. Even though most of Cardiff’s inhabitants, and the holidaymakers who visited the Welsh capital each year, didn’t know the Rift existed, that didn’t prevent random people from getting caught up in its fallout, either through being subjected to the often bizarre effects of alien technology or by encountering living, breathing alien creatures. Fortunately, most of those who were affected never really remembered the experience afterwards, thanks to Torchwood’s nifty little memory-erasing drug.
They were the lucky ones; the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ couldn’t have been more apt. Who would want to remember being attacked by living candyfloss, abducted by alien slavers, or having a giant squid materialise in the middle of a church service? Having such events erased from their memories allowed most people to sleep well at night, painstakingly manipulated into believing whatever outlandish explanation Torchwood handed them.
Sometimes, Detective Inspector Kathy Swanson wished she hadn’t opted to retain her memory when Captain Harkness had given her the choice. Knowing the unvarnished truth about the city she did her best to protect just gave her a lot more things to worry about, lying sleepless late at night. Take today, for instance…
Kathy had awoken to the perfect spring morning: cloudless blue skies, bright sunshine, the air fresh and pleasantly warm without being too hot. Wales was a very rainy place, it was what made the rolling hills and valleys so green, but contrary to popular belief, it didn’t rain all the time. So it was that Kathy, perhaps foolishly, decided to walk to work that morning and enjoy the lovely weather, leaving her umbrella in her car, where she always kept it for convenience.
Naturally, three-quarters of the way to Cardiff Central police station, and out of that perfectly cloudless clear blue sky, it started to rain.
The first Kathy knew about it was when one hit her on the head, and seconds later she was making a dash for the nearest shelter, covering her head as the pickles pelted down, and hoping against hope that they wouldn’t leave stains.
In the scant shelter provided by a recessed doorway, she pulled out her phone and called Torchwood, not bothering with a greeting.
“Harkness, you’d better get over here right away; I’m on North Road and it’s raining pickled gherkins!”
“Gherkins? You’re sure they’re gherkins?”
It was refreshing to startle Torchwood’s often-infuriating leader, but sadly Kathy wasn’t in a position to make the most of it.
“Well, I haven’t tried one but they certainly look like gherkins.”
“I’ll take your word for it. Be there in ten minutes.”
As he hung up, Kathy could hear Jack Harkness shouting at his team to gear up. How they were going to deal with this crisis she couldn’t imagine, but there was some small comfort to be found in knowing it was his problem now, and not hers.
Eight minute later, the team arrived in a screech of brakes, Torchwood’s black SUV rocking to a halt at the kerb as gherkins pattered off its roof; no doubt Harkness had broken the speed limit as usual. Ianto Jones stepped out of the passenger seat, umbrella up to protect his immaculate three-piece suit, and picked his way elegantly through the pickles towards Kathy, as if he were out on a Sunday stroll.
“Thought you might be needing this,” he said calmly, handing her a spare umbrella.
“Thanks.” Kathy smiled up at him gratefully. It was quite remarkable how young Mister Jones always seemed to be prepared for any situation, no mater how outlandish.
“Well this is different.” From under his own umbrella Harkness deftly caught a pickle as it ricocheted off Ianto’s, and bit into it, chewing thoughtfully. “Definitely gherkins,” he confirmed.
“Maybe the Rift’s pregnant and having cravings,” Ianto joked.
“That would be all we need; a bunch of baby Rifts. As if the main one wasn’t a big enough pain in the arse.” Eschewing umbrellas as girly, Owen Harper was out in the gherkin storm, shoulders hunched, and wincing every time a pickle hit him. “We don’t get paid enough for this!”
“Tosh, I need the location of the epicentre,” Harkness called to his tech expert, still inside the SUV.
“Already working on it,” she replied calmly, tapping away at her onboard computers. “Got it; the Castle Green.”
“Good work.” Harkness turned to Kathy. “DI Swanson, would you care to accompany us, find out what’s causing the lovely weather we’re experiencing?” He gallantly offered he his arm.
“I don’t think there’s room for me.” Kathy eyed the SUV; it seated five, not six.
“No problem; Owen can ride in the back.”
“What? Why me?”
“You’re the smallest.”
“Tosh is smaller.”
“Tosh is busy, and you’re covered in pickle juice. Ianto wouldn’t be happy if you got it all over the upholstery.” There was a note of finality in Jack’s voice.
Curiosity overcame common sense and Kathy allowed herself to be escorted to the SUV where she slid into the backseat beside ex-PC Cooper, who was sitting in the middle. Jack and Ianto got in the front, after shutting Harper in the rear compartment.
“I feel like the family dog,” Harper griped.
“Yeah, you don’t look like one; dogs are better looking,” Cooper teased.
“Screw you, Cooper!”
“In your dreams!”
“Nightmares, more like.”
Kathy was glad it was a short drive because the pair bickered the entire time. It was a relief when they pulled up in the castle grounds and she could get out. How the rest of the team put up with their two colleagues’ constant sniping she’d never understand.
“We’ve learned to tune them out,” Ianto told her, as if reading her mind. “It’s a survival thing; they wouldn’t survive if we couldn’t ignore them.”
“Oi!” Owen protested, then, “Ow!” as a falling gherkin struck him on the nose.
Tosh giggled. “Serves you right. You know, if you weren’t too macho to use an umbrella I might let you share mine.” Without waiting for a response she set off towards the green, picking her way through the gherkins littering the ground, kicking them delicately out of her way. Harkness, Kathy noted, just trampled right over them, uncaring while Owen trailed disconsolately behind Kathy and the rest of the team, muttering an occasional “Ow” but still resolutely refusing to share anyone’s umbrella.
“So what do you think’s causing this?” Kathy asked, falling into step alongside Harkness, no easy task given the length of his strides.
“Some kind of alien tech would be my guess. Not to worry though; whatever it is, Tosh will sort it out. She’s a genius with technology of any description.”
“How will you explain it raining pickles?”
This time it was Ianto who answered, delicately licking one finger and holding it up to check the direction of the wind. “Freak tornado hitting a pickling factory on the continent,” he said, smiling. “Picked up a whole batch of pickles and swept them all the way to Cardiff before running out of energy.”
“And I suppose people will just believe that?”
Ianto shrugged. “They always do. The hard part’s going to be collecting the pickles and disposing of them,” he added with a sigh. “Can’t just leave them to rot; imagine the smell!”
Jack nodded. “This would be a good time for the Rift to deliver a Hoix. They’ll eat anything.”
“We should be so lucky.” Ianto watched the pickles fall for a moment. “On the bright side, we can probably count on the council’s assistance; rotten pickles everywhere would deter the tourists.”
“That’s true; I’ll have a word with the mayor.”
Listening to them Kathy could only marvel at the way the team took even this bizarre rainfall in their stride.