Crouching behind bushes, Team Torchwood stared out across moonlit parklands at a hulking form some hundred metres or so distant.
“Okay, so the plan is, we get as close to it as we can before we open fire,” Jack told them. “Right now it’s probably confused, doesn’t know what happened, where it is, or how it got here.”
“It’s not the only one who’s confused,” Tosh muttered, shaking her scanner in frustrated annoyance, but to no noticeable effect. Something about the Rift’s latest delivery was interfering with her usually reliable devices and nothing she’d tried so far had succeeded in providing the team with any useful information on the uninvited guest.
“They emit an electromagnetic field,” Ianto murmured to her. “Something to do with body chemistry; the file on them is a bit vague, hasn’t been one of these dumped in Cardiff since the turn of the last century.”
Sighing, Tosh shut down the scanner; since it wasn’t giving her anything useful she’d be better served by keeping both hands free for her gun.
“In this kind of situation a smaller, less well-armoured creature would make for the nearest cover and hide while it got its bearings, but vermix have no known predators,” Jack continued. “They’re fearless, the animal equivalent of battle tanks; almost nothing can harm them. Think armadillo, but with three-inch thick rubbery hide covering internal armour plating that’s as much metal as bone, and shielded by a dense coat of coarse, poison-tipped spines. A vermix can shoot those at anything it considers threatening; they have a range of about twenty feet and they’re surprisingly accurate. Shouldn’t have to worry about those though, not as long as we keep just out of range.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You and Ianto are immortal; the rest of us aren’t so lucky,” Owen sniped. “Don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t fancy being turned into a pincushion or having that thing take a bite out of me.”
The vermix wasn’t just armoured like a tank, it was also as big as one, with a massive, heavy head on a short neck, and a mouth the approximate size and shape of the SUV’s bonnet. It could probably swallow a person whole.
“It’s all about proper camouflage,” Jack explained. “As long as it doesn’t see us we’ll be fine. Vermix don’t have very good eyesight, and they’re too heavy to move fast. We just need to get close enough to finish it off as quickly as possible. A few bullets though the brain or internal organs should do the trick.”
“Couldn’t we just capture it?” Gwen asked. “I mean, it’s not no blame for winding up here and it hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“How exactly do you suggest we go about that?” Jack shook his head. “Just because it hasn’t done anything yet doesn’t mean it won’t. Sooner or later it’ll get hungry, and then it’ll start hunting. Once that happens we’ll really be in trouble. No, the best course of action is to deal with it now, while it’s still disoriented from its trip through the Rift. Our main problem is that our bullets will just bounce off most of its body. The only vulnerable points are the eyes and ear-holes, the area just behind the jaw, and underneath, where the legs meet the body.”
“Which we can’t get at because the bloody thing’s lying down,” Owen complained.
“Be thankful it is, that makes the head more accessible. Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do…” Jack laid out his chosen plan of action.
Twenty minutes later the team, each of them now disguised as small bushes, were creeping painstakingly slowly towards the dormant vermix. They couldn’t just rush it; if it were startled it might well attack them and they’d lose their only chance, but it they moved slowly enough there was a good chance it wouldn’t notice, especially if it was napping. If it saw them at all it would hopefully just dismiss them as random bits of plant life and not worth being concerned about.
With Jack in the lead, they took it in turns to move. He’d cautiously sneak forward a few feet, then as soon as he paused someone else would move, and so on until they’d all advanced, at which point Jack would move again.
In this manner they arrived at last, spread out around the head of the vermix, and perhaps twenty-five feet away from it. They froze in place for several long minutes, waiting to be certain the vermix hadn’t taken notice of their slow approach, and then at a signal from Jack, they stood up, took aim, and fired, aiming for the few vulnerable spots accessible to them.
The result wasn’t at all what they’d been expecting.
There was a peculiar hissing sound as several streams of vapour escaped from the eyes and ear holes, evaporating in the cold night air. Sparks flew, something that sounded remarkably like servomotors whined, and with a wheezing sound the vermix began to deflate.
“What the fuck?” Owen’s jaw dropped as the side of the creature abruptly popped open forming a ramp, and three small beings emerged, their hands raised in the universal gesture of surrender.
“Please to not kill! Us means no harm! Us sciency peoples; study lifes, all kind. Hide selfs, use crafty disguise. Lifes not see. Act naturals.”
Their English might have left quite a lot to be desired, but they managed to get their meaning across well enough.
“Well this is unexpected,” Ianto said mildly, proving himself once again the master of understatement.
“You mean to say we’ve spent the last hour stalking and killing a camouflaged hide belonging to a bunch of alien naturalists?” Owen didn’t sound too happy, which was understandable. It was the middle of a bitterly cold winter’s night and like the rest of the team, he would have much preferred to be home in bed.
“Looks that way.” Jack shrugged, putting his gun away. “How was I to know?” He turned his attention to the aliens. “Sorry about the damage. Very realistic disguise though, we thought you were a real vermix; it wouldn’t be the first time one of those got dumped here.” He quickly explained to the alien scientists about the Rift and offered Torchwood’s assistance with repairs.
“Error understand. We fix, not take long. Then go back to planet, try gain. No worry.”
“All’s well that end’s well. At least we don’t have a gigantic carcase to get rid of,” Ianto pointed out.
Jack nodded. “There’s that. It would’ve taken chainsaws to dismember a real vermix, we’d have probably been here all night. We should consider ourselves lucky. And look on the bright side; if we ever do get a living vermix, we’ll know exactly what to do.”