Ianto couldn’t help wishing he and Jack could do things like this more often; it was nice, peaceful, and oddly relaxing after the manic night they’d just had. Dawn was still a couple of hours off; the night sky hadn’t even begun to pale with the light of the rising sun yet, and the stars were still bright overhead, maybe even brighter than they had been a while ago before the moon dipped below the distant horizon.
A breeze off the sea ruffled Ianto’s hair and he breathed it in deeply; there was a clean crispness to the air, even though it didn’t feel cold, just pleasantly cool against his heated skin. It was just what he needed, drying the sweat from his earlier exertions. Never let it be said that he didn’t get enough exercise; it had been hard work chasing alien pixies across the fields until the annoying little creatures reached the edge of the cliffs and had nowhere left to run.
The chase had lasted for hours, the horde of eight-inch-tall menaces leading them on a merry dance from their arrival point in a potato field, through several miles of farmland and heath, before he and Jack had managed to corner them, but now all seventeen of them were safely contained. It was another example of Torchwood’s bad luck that the Rift had dumped a whole pack of the pests just a few miles outside Cardiff. For two pins, Ianto knew Jack would have called UNIT and let them deal with the problem, but he’d known it would be a lot faster and more efficient if they just did the job themselves.
Zorgavites, Jack had said the creatures were called, but they were also known more colloquially as Zees. A primitive species considered vermin, their home planet’s version of rats, they were fast breeding carnivores that ate any living creature they could get their bony little clawed hands on.
Ianto could only sympathise with the people who had to share a planet with them. The Zorgavites had a pack mentality, knifelike teeth, and piranha-like appetites, devouring their prey in a matter of minutes. He’d seen what was left of a fox they’d encountered on their rampage, little more than fur and a few gnawed bones. He just hoped none of the Zees had managed to evade capture when they were being rounded up. The last thing the farmers around here needed was a nest of the vicious little aliens preying on their livestock.
Still, with the task of catching their unwelcome guests finally over, he and Jack could at last relax, cool off, and catch their breath, which brought Ianto’s thoughts full circle. Here they were, in the early hours before dawn, sitting on top of a cliff overlooking the wide, dark expanse of the Bristol Channel, stars filling the sky overhead, and that welcome breeze cooling them down.
“This is nice,” Jack murmured beside him.
Ianto smiled. “Funny, I was just thinking exactly the same thing. There’s something about being out in the country at night, away from the city lights, with nothing to hear but the sounds of surf and wind…” He trailed off as shrill squealing interrupted his train of thought.
“And the squealing of hungry, cranky Zorgavites.” Jack grinned, his teeth flashing white in the dark.
Ianto briefly wondered if in the future teeth had been genetically enhanced to shine. It would explain Jack’s dazzling smile. He pushed that thought aside for future consideration; right now, there were other things to think about, like their captives.
“What’re we going to do with them? I don’t like the thought of having to feed razor-toothed alien sprites, and if they breed as fast as you said, we’d be overrun with them in a couple of months.”
“We’ll send them back home if we can.”
“I’m sure the planet they came from will be delighted to get their vermin back,” Ianto said wryly.
Jack smiled briefly, then turned serious again. “If we can’t return them to their planet, we’ll probably have no choice but to put them down.” He stretched and sighed. “I hate having to kill the creatures that fall though the Rift, it’s not their fault they get ripped away from their homes, but I think in this case I’d gladly make an exception.” As he’d crammed the last Zorgavite into one of the cages they’d brought with them, it had turned on him and chowed down on his wrist, gnawing his arm almost to the bone before Ianto could pull the creature off.
Being eaten alive had been agonisingly painful, but thankfully Jack had bled out quickly, and his arm had mostly regenerated by the time he’d revived. Still, that wasn’t an experience he cared to repeat, and his arm still felt a bit sore, what with all the nerves re-growing. He shuddered at the memory. “They’re little more than eating machines, no intelligence, just instinct; hunt, kill, eat.”
“Wouldn’t make good pets, that’s for sure. They’d give a whole new meaning to biting the hand that feeds them.” Ianto shuddered, glad he’d been wearing very sturdy, Zorgavite-proof gauntlets and boots, since he wouldn’t have regenerated the way Jack had. “I suppose we should start lugging the cages back to the SUV.” It wasn’t a pleasant thought; he wasn’t sure how many miles they’d covered during their hunt.
“There’s no rush; I called Owen, he’s bringing the second SUV as close to our coordinates as he can get, and I told him to bring the anti-gravity sled too; that’ll make moving the cages a lot easier.” When empty, the cages folded flat and could easily be carried in a backpack, but in use they were cubes measuring two feet square, made of a fine, unbreakable mesh. With the aliens inside them, they were rather unwieldy to lift, and no one in their right mind would want to get anywhere near the teeth of a horde of ravenous Zorgavites.
“I bet Owen was pleased at being woken up in the early hours.” Ianto smirked at the thought.
Jack chuckled. “Oh yeah. Called me a few choice names.”
“I can imagine. So, what do we do until Owen gets here?”
“Whatever you want. We’re all alone out here, so we could fool around…” Ianto didn’t need to look at Jack to know he was leering; he could practically hear it.
“With those Zorgavites nearby? I’ll pass; I’m not taking that kind of chance in case we didn’t get them all. I feel much safer with my clothes on, thank you very much.”
The expression on Jack’s face at the possibility of there still being Zorgavites on the loose was a picture. “Ah, you’re right, perhaps that wouldn’t be the best idea right now.” He threw a quick glance in the direction of the cages, turning his torch on to check their surroundings. The nocturnal Zorgavites shrank back from the light, hissing their annoyance.
“Besides, after running around in the dark for the past few hours, I’m too tired.”
“Okay, well in that case, why don’t you take a nap while I keep watch? I promise I’ll protect you from any wandering Zees.”
“My brave hero. Fine, you keep watch, but if I wake up with Zorgavites gnawing on me, you’ll be in big trouble.” Ianto stretched out on his back on the short grass, staring up at the stars. “Wake me when Owen gets here.” Closing his eyes, he soon drifted off into a light sleep.
Beside him in the darkness, Jack sat silent and watchful, alert to every sound, occasionally flicking his torch on to check that nothing was sneaking up on them. The sun would be up before long, and then they could search the area more thoroughly with the scanners. Since Zorgavites always hunted in packs, if they’d missed any the strays would be nearby, drawn in by the squeals of their pack-mates. For the time being, he’d just relax, drink in the night air, watch the stars, and dream of one day travelling among them again, with Ianto at his side.