When his phone rang in the middle of the night Ianto wasn’t particularly surprised. Torchwood’s working hours were as irregular as it was possible to get; you worked when you were needed even if it happened to be the early hours of the morning, or your day off, on the rare occasions you were lucky enough to get one of those, which Ianto seldom did since the Hub tended to fall apart without him.
Fumbling in the dark for his phone on the nightstand, he located it by feel alone and stuck it against his ear, not bothering with caller id; it was bound to be Jack.
“What is it?”
“Ianto!” Jack’s cheery voice blared from the phone, making Ianto wince. “Sorry to wake you from your beauty sleep but I’m gonna need all hands on deck for this one.” Despite everything, Jack did at least have the good grace to sound apologetic, which made Ianto feel slightly more kindly disposed towards his lover when, on checking the clock by his bed, he realised he’d been asleep for less than an hour. He’d arrived home very late after helping Jack deal with a rogue Weevil.
“Fine. I’m on my way.” He threw the covers back and got out of bed, the chill air of the bedroom making him shiver after being tucked up warm and cosy beneath his duvet. “What do I need to know?” he kicked off his pyjama pants and reached for the underwear he’d taken off earlier, the phone jammed between his head and shoulder to leave his hands free for dressing. It was awkward, but he’d done this so many times by now he could manage without too much difficulty, even if it did tend to give him a crick in his neck.
“We’ve got a live one through the Rift, showed up on Queen Street behind the St David’s Centre maybe five minutes ago. CCTV caught some footage of it before it took off towards the castle.” Jack was suddenly all business, so Ianto knew it had to be bad; his suspicions were confirmed moments later. “It’s a Bozog.”
Bozogs were killing machines, bigger than a grizzly bear and about five times stronger. They were all muscle, with a thick, shaggy pelt covering a leathery hide, bones strong as iron thanks to the heavier gravity of the planet they came from, and as for its teeth and claws… Given the opportunity a Bozog could probably tear apart and eat a T-Rex with no trouble at all. In short, it wasn’t something anyone would want to have roaming the streets and parks of Cardiff. Even the most cantankerous pack of Weevils in the city would run in the opposite direction as fast as they could rather than confront such a monster, and Weevils were scared of very little.
“Yeah,” Jack was saying, “I said the exact same thing. We’re on our way over to pick you up, ETA five minutes. Tosh has hacked into a satellite feed to keep track of our unwanted visitor, but we need to take it down fast, preferably before it kills anyone.”
“That much I already know.” Ianto shrugged into a shirt and started buttoning it. “I assume you remembered to grab the necessary equipment on your way out?”
“You assume right; Owen’s loading the guns as we speak.”
“Correction; I would be if you weren’t bouncing the bloody car around so much. I keep dropping the ammo!” Ianto heard Owen griping in the background.
“Just make sure he gets the bullets in the right way round.” Ianto wasn’t entirely joking; the last thing he wanted was to go up against a creature the size and temperament of the one they’d be facing with inadequate protection.
When it came to Bozogs, the team’s usual Torchwood specials didn’t pack enough of a punch, so they used modified versions loaded with armour-piercing shells, which were the only things that had any effect on the brutes. Even then, one bullet was never enough; five or six had a better chance of success but the best course of action was often to simply keep shooting until the creature stopped moving. They were one of the few alien species that had to be shot on sight as there was no way of safely capturing or containing them. As much as Jack and the rest of the team hated killing a creature that hadn’t asked to be swept up by the Rift and dumped on an alien world, there really wasn’t any other option, not if they didn’t want to end up with half the population of Cardiff ripped to shreds. Bozogs didn’t just kill to eat.
Hanging up and dropping the phone on his bed, Ianto quickly finished dressing in jeans, a warm sweater, coat, and boots before shoving the phone in his pocket with his gloves. If they had to split up to hunt, Tosh would be able to keep track of where each member of the team was using a special chip inside each person’s Torchwood-issue mobile that worked even when they were switched off.
Ianto was out the door and headed downstairs less than five minutes after his phone had woken him, and the SUV pulled up in front of his building just as he was closing the outer door. He sprinted down the path and piled into the front passenger seat. Jack was pulling away from the kerb before he could even get the door shut, but Ianto didn’t comment; time was of the essence, and they still needed to collect Gwen before heading for the castle.
As Ianto fastened his seatbelt, Owen leaned forward, tapping him on the shoulder and passing him a loaded gun along with a spare clip. Out of habit, Ianto ran a quick check on both, then slid them into his pocket, swaying against the door as Jack took the next corner at speed. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic on the road at a quarter past three in the morning.
Gwen was waiting on the corner of her street; Owen shoved the door open for her as the SUV slowed and she jumped in almost before Jack could come to a stop. Getting into or out of a car as fast as humanly possible was a skill the whole team had mastered by now.
Gunning the engine, Jack roared away again.
“Where is it now, Tosh?” he called over his shoulder, blasting past a Give Way sign without so much as slowing down.
The tech expert’s gaze hadn’t shifted from the screen in front of her since she’d booted up the SUV’s onboard computers. The images from the satellite’s infrared camera looked eerie and unnatural, showing a large blue-green blob moving steadily along the ground. Tosh was accustomed to the weird visuals, having accessed satellite images many times, so she answered without hesitation.
“Just approaching the Roman fort; we’re lucky it’s heading into the park, it’s less likely to encounter anyone at this time of night.”
“On the downside,” Ianto pointed out, “it’s moving away from the lights, and the moon’s on its last quarter, so we’ll be relying on our torches; that’s not ideal. Bozogs have excellent night vision so we’re going to be at a serious disadvantage.”
“Not so!” Jack declared. “I threw the night vision goggles we got from UNIT in the boot. They should level the playing field a bit.”
“And here I thought you were just a pretty face,” Ianto teased. He felt a bit better about this late-night excursion, knowing they’d be able to spot the Bozog well before it could sneak up on them, providing they were looking in the right direction, which was by no means certain.
“Thought we only got four sets of goggles,” Owen said. “Which of us has to go without? We drawing straws or something?”
“Tosh will be staying in the SUV, tracking the Bozog for the rest of us,” Jack said. “She can keep us advised of its position through our comm. links and let us know if any civilians decide to take a short cut home from the clubs.”
“Teamwork,” said Jack. “That’s the key. If we were all out there just wandering around trying to find our friend it would take us a lot longer. This way we’ll be steered in the right direction instead of going round in circles.”
“Less chance of the Bozog sneaking up on us as well,” Ianto agreed. For all their bulk, Bozogs could move surprisingly quietly when stalking their prey, and because earth’s gravity was lower than they we accustomed to, they were deceptively fast.
The SUV screeched to a halt in the car park that provided parking for visitors to both the castle and the Regimental Museum and Jack shut off the engine. The abrupt silence sounded almost deafening.
Ianto was first out, going immediately to the boot and digging out the infrared goggles, handing them out to the others. They already had their comm. earpieces in place and switched on, and as soon as they they’d donned the goggles and got them adjusted, they drew their guns.
“Tosh, update?” Jack asked over the comm.
“It’s skirting the castle. If it keeps going in that direction, it’ll eventually work its way around to the gateway near the tennis courts.”
“And if it gets through there it’ll be into Cooper’s Fields before we can get near it and then we’ll have the Devil’s own job catching up to it,” Ianto muttered.
“So we make sure it doesn’t get that far,” Jack said calmly.
“And how’re we supposed to do that? Those things are a helluva lot faster than we are,” Owen complained.
“Oh, I don’t think that’ll be a problem; we just have to get its attention and it’ll come to us.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that.”
“Look on the bright side, Owen…”
“There’s a bright side?”
“Of course.” Jack tapped his goggles. “It’s not like we won’t see it coming.”
“I’d call that less of a bright side and more of a slightly less dark side,” Ianto quipped. “Suppose we’d best get moving before we lose it or someone else finds our new playmate before we do.”
“Ianto’s right; it’s still moving relatively slowly, getting the lay of the land, and we want to get it while it’s still confused and disoriented from its trip through the Rift. Let’s go!”
Jack set off at a steady trot and the other three fell in behind him. In situations like this, much as Ianto disliked doing so, it was best to let their immortal Captain take the lead. If worse came to worst, the three of them could open fire on the Bozog while it was using Jack as a chew toy. Not a pleasant thought, but better Jack than any other member of the team; he’d at least recover from the experience, which was more than could be said for the rest of them.
The park looked strange through the infrared goggles; they turned what should have been familiar terrain into something more closely resembling the surface of an alien planet. Apart from the blaze of colour that was Jack ahead of them, everywhere looked eerily washed out, with occasional tiny splashes of blues and greens, reds, yellows, and oranges indicating the presence of living creatures, perhaps foraging mice or rats, their body heat giving them away. Without the goggles the local wildlife would have been invisible, the only evidence of their presence a few faint rustling sounds in the almost complete silence.
It was cold out, the air hanging still without a breath of breeze; there’d most likely be frost over everything by morning. The team jogged onwards, past the Roman Fort and the Regimental Museum, on Tosh’s suggestion making their way across the Castle Green. Their breath steamed in the chill air but by now their blood was pumping fast from activity and adrenaline, keeping them warm. It had been decided that their best course of action would be to head the Bozog off before it could reach the gateway in the castle’s surrounding wall. Tosh’s voice in their ears kept them on course.
“Aim left about five degrees, you want to keep close to the castle mound. You’re at about five hundred metres and closing. The Bozog’s paused around the other side of the mound, looks like it’s drinking from the moat.”
“I just hope it won’t double back when it sees us, otherwise we could be chasing it around the bloody castle half the night.”
Ianto snorted and spared a glance for Owen, who was running on his right. “It’s a Bozog, Owen, not some timid little lost alien. As soon as it sees or smells up, it’ll be coming right at us at high speed, not running the other way.”
“You just had to remind me, didn’t you?”
“Got to keep you on your toes.”
They followed the moat around, keeping as close to it as they could without risking falling in; none of them wanted to be taking an unexpected dip in the middle of the night, especially not at this time of year; it might be unseasonably warm for February during the day, but the temperature at night was still cold enough that getting soaked to the skin was not an appealing thought. Hypothermia was nothing to joke about.
“It’s on the move again, coming towards you. Three hundred metres and closing.”
The team were past the gateway by now, in the narrow strip between the castle moat and the outer wall, almost at the narrowest point. Jack signalled the team to halt; defensively this might not be the best position, but the idea was to keep the Bozog from getting past them while they emptied their guns into it. They spread out, forming a line, and readied their weapons. In the still air, Ianto could hear the quiet snick as each of his teammates took their safeties off. They were as ready as they could be.
“You should see it any minute now,” Tosh said calmly.
Seconds ticked past; four people raised their guns and aimed, and then there it was, a hulking form, mostly showing up in dim greens and blues due to its thick, insulating coat. It slunk around the curve of the castle mound, a good five feet tall at the shoulder and as massive as a bull, then it paused, sniffing the air. Ianto thought he could see a string of drool dripping from its mouth.
They all heard the low, menacing snarl that quickly rose in pitch to an unearthly howl. That was all the warning they had before the alien leapt towards them from a standing start, picking up speed like a sprinter off the blocks. It briefly crossed Ianto’s mind that nothing so huge should be able to move that fast, but then he steadied his gun in a double-handed grip and along with the rest of the team opened fire.
The Bozog was barely ten metres away from them when it finally faltered, howling again, pitching forwards as its front legs collapsed before flipping right over onto its back with a grunt. It laid there, legs kicking feebly as it tried to right itself, and the team approached cautiously, circling the monster. Once he was sure it wasn’t simply winded and about to leap up and attack again, Jack stepped close, putting one last bullet through the creature’s head. The Bozog kicked a couple more times then went still, and just like that it was over. It was oddly anticlimactic; all that was left now was the cleanup.
It was getting on for dawn by the time Rhys drove away with the grisly burden in the back of one of Harwoods’ vans. Gwen had called him to meet them in the car park by the museum. Jack had remained with the carcase while Ianto and Owen jogged back to the SUV to fetch Tosh and the antigravity grips. Using them, it was relatively easy for Jack, Owen, Gwen, and Tosh to carry the dead Bozog, which they’d wrapped in plastic sheeting to avoid leaving a trail of blood, back across the castle grounds to where it could be loaded into the van.
That left Ianto dealing with the mess that was left behind, using an alien solvent to get rid of blood traces, and accounting for all the spent bullet casings. It wouldn’t do to leave any of them lying around for members of the public to find.
The Bozog’s charge had ripped up the grass, leaving one hell of a mess, and Ianto was still stuffing divots into holes and stamping them down when Jack returned.
“Need another pair of feet?”
“Wouldn’t say no; I’m still only halfway.”
“I’ll start at the other end and work towards you. Have everything nice and tidy in half the time.”
“Tidy? No hope of that; it’s still going to be obvious something out of the ordinary happened here.”
“So we’ll float a story about a motorcycle gang, or off-road racers messing about; something like that.”
“You don’t sound very convinced.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, motorcycles don’t have sharp claws, Jack.”
“It only looks like claw marks to us because we know that’s what caused it,” Jack insisted.
“Well, when DI Swanson phones tomorrow asking what the hell happened out here, because you know she will, I’ll let you explain about the ‘motorcycles’.”
“Oh, thanks. Throw me to the wolves, why don’t you? You know she doesn’t like me.”
“You’ll survive; still better than facing down Bozogs.”
“True. I guess we should be glad we don’t get many of them.”
“They make rampaging Weevils seem like playful kittens by comparison.” Ianto stomped another divot down flat, grateful for the clarity of vision provided by the infrared goggles. It beat blundering around trying to clean up by torchlight.
“It’s all a matter of perspective,” Jack agreed.
“Let’s just get this done and go home. With any luck I might be able to go back to bed for an hour before getting up again for work.”
“I’ve told the others to come in at ten, but to keep their phones turned on just in case they’re needed before then. You should do the same.” Fifty metres apart, they were keeping their voices down and talking over their headsets, not that there was anyone around to overhear their conversation.
“Can’t; I have the residents to feed.”
“I can take care of that; wouldn’t be the first time.”
“In that case, I think I’ll take you up on your generous offer.”
They kept going, doing what they could to erase the mess the Bozog had caused. By now, the rest of the team would probably be back at the Hub, unloading the body. Ianto sighed.
“We had no choice,” Jack said quietly, somehow knowing what was going through Ianto’s mind.
“I know. Doesn’t make me any happier about it.”
“Me neither, but we do what we have to.”
Ianto straightened up, rubbing his back and groaning. “I know that too.”
“Sorry you answered your phone?”
“Yes.” Ianto shook his head. “No. It’s all part of the job; can’t just do the parts I enjoy and ignore the rest.”
“On the plus side, this time we got the Bozog before it could kill anyone.”
Spotting something as he squashed down a few more torn up chunks of grass, Jack pounced. “Ooh, I’ve found twenty pence!”
“Here. You can have it.” He held it out to Ianto; they were only a couple of metres apart by now.
“Your generosity knows no bounds.” Ianto stomped one last divot. “Are we done?”
Jack scanned the area. “What d’you think?”
Ianto gave the area a quick once-over. “Not great, but it’ll have to do.”
“Come on; I’ll drop you back home.”
Ianto nodded, falling into step with Jack; all he wanted was to fall into bed and get some badly needed sleep, but he knew that the next time his phone rang at some ungodly hour he’d still answer it, get up, and go out to save the world.
Someone had to do it.