Characters: Ianto, Jack.
Word Count: 2438
Summary: Ianto discovers something he definitely wasn’t expecting. Now he and Jack really have a problem.
Written For: spook_me 2018, using Torchwood, Monster From Space, and this pic.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. Think of the fun I could have with them…
A/N: Set in my Ghost of a Chance ‘verse.
Ianto was just about to straighten up from locking the access panel in place when he felt that odd vibration again.
“Hello, that vibration’s back, and stronger than before. Weird. Where the hell is it coming from?” He started to turn as he rose to his feet, and that was when he saw it, although to be honest at this point he could hardly have missed it.
Jack saw it too and let fly with several choice swearwords, finishing with a question Ianto had no answer to. “What the fuck is that?”
Although still some twenty metres away, it almost filled the access tube, a hulking, indistinct black form. Ianto couldn’t make out much detail in the dim illumination provided by the widely spaced maintenance and repair light panels, which had automatically come on when he’d entered through the airlock, but it was moving towards him. He could tell that by the way it was blotting out the light from each panel it passed.
Not even trying to come up with an answer to Jack’s question, Ianto asked one of his own. “How can anything be alive in here?” Aside from small amounts of various gasses produced as by-products when the propulsion engines were operating, there was no atmosphere within the access tubes or the engine bay. “Nothing can live in a vacuum! Where did it even come from?”
“Ianto, hadn’t you better come back inside the ship?”
That would no doubt be the most sensible thing to do, but Ianto hesitated. It seemed highly likely that this unknown intruder was responsible for their propulsion engines cutting out, and if that was the case then it needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, before it could cause any more damage than it already had. “Not yet,” he said firmly, unclipping the laser cutter from its place on his belt. It had a full charge; maybe he could use it to drive the creature out. It wasn’t very effective at long range though so he’d have to let the thing, whatever it was, get a fair bit closer.
“Ianto… If you’re not coming in, I’m coming out there.”
“No, Jack, don’t be an idiot! There’s not much room in here; we’d just get in each other’s way!”
Jack swore again, knowing Ianto was right. “Okay, but I’m coming into the airlock. If you get in trouble I can haul you out of there with your safety line.” It was better than doing nothing.
“Fine, but no further.”
The creature was still advancing slowly, not yet within range of the beam from Ianto’s helmet lamp, but he could make out some details now. It was vaguely insect-like, with short antennae sticking out near the top of a wrinkled, domed head. Two large, bulbous compound eyes bulged, one each side of the head, with a third, slit-pupiled eye set in the centre of its forehead, and two smaller eyes to each side of it. A peculiar vertical mouth, set directly beneath the central eye, contained two sharp fangs, one at the top and one at the bottom. He couldn’t see much beyond the creature’s head, there were too many shadows cast by the maintenance lights, but he could clearly see a pair of long, spindly, oddly jointed limbs, extending from somewhere behind the head, each ending in what he could only describe as a three-fingered hand, complete with claws, both at the tips of each finger and on the joints. Two short, stubby protrusions extending from the lower jaw were also tipped with what could either have been another claw, or a fang; it was impossible to be sure.
“Are you seeing this thing?” Ianto asked, the tension he was feeling audible in his voice.
“Yeah, and I kinda wish I wasn’t.”
Ianto knew what his lover meant; this thing, whatever it was, looked like it had stepped straight out of the realm of nightmares, and he found himself wishing it would just go back there. He’d seen plenty of weird aliens, more than a few of them not particularly attractive to human eyes, but he didn’t like knowing that he was sharing the universe with monsters such as this one. Just looking at it gave him the creeps. He wasn’t sure whether it had legs or was just pulling itself along in zero gravity by its… front limbs, arms, whatever. Either way, it was able to move pretty fast, judging by the way it abruptly surged towards him in a distinctly menacing manner; it didn’t look like it just wanted to say hello or ask for directions.
“Ianto! Don’t just stand there; do something!” Jack yelled.
Ianto jerked himself out of the disbelieving half trance he’d fallen into, raised the laser cutter, and fired at the creature’s… he supposed ‘face’ was the least inaccurate term.
It had no effect, the beam failing to leave even so much as a scorch mark on the leathery black skin. The monster kept on coming, baring its twin fangs in a silent snarl, reaching towards him with its clawed hands in a kind of dreamlike slow motion that was no doubt due to the lack of gravity.
Ducking down, Ianto fired the laser a second time, which had no more effect than the first. For a brief moment he considered trying to shoot its arms, but they were so thin and spindly it would be much too easy to miss, and cause damage to the ship’s systems instead. He couldn’t start a fire thanks to the absence of oxygen, but he could slice through panels and melt wiring, and that level of damage could take weeks to repair, rebuilding whole banks of monitoring equipment and power relays.
All that went through Ianto’s mind in a split second as he readjusted his aim, firing directly into the creature’s mouth instead. That made it falter, jerking back a little before lunging forwards again.
“Ianto!” Jack’s panicked voice came through his suit’s comm. unit clearly. “Get out of there!”
“Not while this thing is still alive!” Ianto snapped back. This was war! If the worst happened and he got killed somehow, he’d come back, but these spacesuits were pretty much indestructible, and now he had the beginnings of an idea. This time he aimed directly at the central eye.
The creature flailed, pulling back as its eye exploded, spraying viscous goo everywhere, splattering the interior of the access tube. Ianto pressed the advantage, moving towards it and taking out the smaller eyes one after another with four short bursts from the laser. The creature was definitely trying to retreat now; that was encouraging.
Ianto felt a presence behind him and knew it was Jack, come to join the battle despite having been told not to. It was just as well he had since the charge in Ianto’s laser cutter was almost depleted and if he stopped firing it would give the monster the chance to mount another attack, regaining lost ground.
Leaning to one side and aiming past Ianto’s right arm, Jack sent a burst from his own laser into one of the creature’s compound eyes. More globules of gunk floated around the interior of the tube and Ianto grimaced; that was going to take some cleaning up! It didn’t matter right now though because it looked like they were winning the battle.
The monster kept backing away while Jack and Ianto, pressed shoulder to shoulder in the narrow tube, continued to take pot shots at any parts of the creature they could, aiming primarily at the already ruined eyes. Once Jack was there, Ianto had been able to slap a fresh power cube into his laser cutter, and he had two more spares. Jack was still on his first but would need to re-load shortly.
Still forcing the invader backwards, they followed it out of the access tube into the bay containing the ship’s main engines, more grateful than ever for their gravity boots. Their safety lines continued to unspool behind them, but without the boots they would have been in freefall, which would have caused difficulties with aiming. As it was, they were still firmly anchored to solid ground while their foe was now adrift.
Snapping fresh power cubes into their lasers, the two immortals redoubled their efforts. They couldn’t let this thing escape, not now. What if it survived and came back? Maybe brought some friends along with it? One creature they could handle, maybe, but more than that, at a time when they were unable to manoeuvre their ship away from an attack? When they were helpless and needed to focus their efforts on repairing their disabled spacecraft? They’d be sitting ducks!
Neither man had much firepower remaining; they needed to end this quickly. Jack had brought with him Ianto’s toolkit and a spare safety line, and now he fastened a full tube of quick setting sealant gel to one end of the line before throwing it as hard as he could at the monster. He grinned savagely as it took the bait. How it was able to manoeuvre in freefall they couldn’t quite make out, but it twisted its thin, legless, segmented body and lunged for the tube, snapping at it, sinking both fangs into it and biting down hard. The gel oozed thickly from the punctured tube, welling up around the thing’s fangs.
Almost immediately it realised its mistake and started clawing at its mouth, and at the safety line, with its taloned hands, its body writhing at it tried to tear itself free, to no avail. The gel was designed to quickly plug small hull beaches had already set fast. Jack had clipped the other end of the safety line to a convenient bracket before throwing the tube; now he started to reel the line in, hand over hand, drawing the monster ever closer. As soon as it was within range, Ianto opened fire with his laser cutter on its one remaining eye; not a short burst this time, he simply pressed the trigger all the way in and held it down, searing right through the eye and deep into the monster’s head until it finally exploded from the heat.
It was over.
“If it’s not dead now then it should be,” Ianto muttered, clipping the laser cutter back onto his belt; it was lucky the final assault had worked because it was drained dry and he was all out of power cubes.
He viewed the grisly scene with a sense of gloom; the remains of the monstrous space insect floated weightlessly on the end of the safety line like some grotesque balloon, its forelimbs dangling limply. Bits of alien floated all over the engine bay; Ianto had thought clearing up the mess in the access tube would be bad enough, but this was going to be a bitch.
“It’s dead,” Jack said firmly. “Messy, but definitely dead.”
“Good.” Messy though it was, in these circumstances a dead monster was infinitely preferable to a living one. Ianto wasn’t normally a vindictive man, but even he had his limits. “What’re we going to do with the body though?”
“Good question. Can’t really leave it here, not with bits breaking off it. They could get stuck in the engines and cause even more damage and we’ve already got more than enough to deal with.” Standing there surveying the mess, Jack gave the matter some thought, weighing up options, then… “I suppose we could stuff what’s left of it in an empty cargo pod and jettison it.”
“Right, and just leave if floating around out there for someone else to run into.”
“Blow it up after we jettison it?”
Ianto gave a half shrug. “That idea has merit. As for the rest of it… I suppose we’ll just have to scoop the bits up as best we can.”
They spent the next couple of hours doing just that, a tedious and disgusting task made a little more enjoyable because it gave them the rare opportunity to use jet packs. They turned the whole thing into a macabre contest to see who could collect the most bits. Shoving the last scraps of the monster into the cargo pod, they sealed it tight and manoeuvred it back out past the force shields that protected the engine bay, where they tethered it to the outer hull to deal with later.
Finally they were able to investigate the engine problems that had started the whole escapade. It didn’t take long to find the cause, a mass of sticky strands, radiating out from a leathery ovoid with a rip down its side, were clogging up the works, affecting the engines’ efficiency and causing them to overheat. They would have shut down automatically before the temperature could reach critical levels and cause a catastrophic explosion.
“Well would you look at that!” Jack tugged on one of the strands and it twanged like elastic. “Strong stuff.”
“It’s a bit like spider web.”
“That was no spider.” That much had been obvious.
“No,” Ianto agreed. “More like… maybe the larval form of some kind of space bug.”
“Now that’s a charming thought.”
Even though Ianto couldn’t see Jack’s face he could easily imagine his lover’s disgusted expression. Not that he blamed Jack; he felt the same way, although he did wonder if they’d just killed something that was simply trying to survive in a very inhospitable place. It was unlikely they’d ever know.
While they remained out on the rim though, they would have to take extra precautions because somewhere, maybe back on the lifeless planet or on one of the asteroids they’d surveyed, something must have found its way into the engine compartment of their ship and laid a single, large egg. The burgeoning life inside it had grown, developed, and the creature that had eventually hatched had found its way into the engine access tube. Perhaps it had been looking for somewhere to undergo the next stage of its development into whatever it might eventually have become, but that was just speculation.
What was important was to make sure it never happened again. The damage to the engines and associated systems was going to take at least two weeks to repair, and they’d need to check there weren’t any more of these not so little surprises lurking in any hidden corners. One was more than enough.
But first, it was time to go back inside their ship, plug their spacesuit power packs in to recharge, take a shower, get something to eat, and catch a few hours’ sleep. They had a lot of work ahead of them.