Characters: Owen, Jack, Ianto, Tosh, Gwen.
Summary: When the power in the Hub goes out unexpectedly, it’s all hands on deck to find the cause and fix it.
Word Count: 2628
Written For: Prompt: Flower Power Cut.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
A/N: This started out as a drabble several years ago, but it quickly became obvious I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the prompt in a mere 100 or even 200 words. Some ideas just take on a life of their own…
It had been little more than a frail, yellowish seedling when it had been found on a routine retrieval mission that morning. Owen had potted it up carefully as soon as he got it back to the Hub, determined to give it a chance at life, putting it in pride of place in the hothouse under one of the growing lamps before carrying on with the usual daily routines. There was rarely a shortage of work to be done, and as the team numbered a mere five members, everyone had to pitch in wherever they could.
That day they were being kept busy, what with more Rift alerts, a rogue Weevil, and all the reports that needed to be written, so nobody gave another thought to the tiny new plant, which was unfortunate, because if anyone had thought to check on it, some serious problems might have been avoided.
The conditions in the hothouse must have suited the little plant perfectly, because from being a weedy, rather sickly looking thing, it quickly began to flourish. No one was aware of how fast it was growing however, and even if they had been, they might not have been too concerned, at least not to start with.
By mid afternoon, the new addition to Owen’s collection of alien plants had been all but forgotten in favour of more pressing matters. The team were all so deeply involved in various important tasks that when the entire Hub was abruptly plunged into darkness, they were mystified.
“Oi!” shouted Owen from down in the autopsy bay, where he’d been examining tissue samples from the latest dead alien. “Who turned out the lights?”
“Wasn’t me,” came Gwen’s voice, then with a tinge of doubt, “At least, I don’t think it was.”
“We have our own generators!” Jack’s indignant voice drifted from over near his office. “Plus backups, all enhanced with alien tech. We can’t be having a power cut!”
“Right,” said Ianto. “I’ll just tell that to the lights and other systems then, shall I? Maybe they’ll stop playing silly buggers and come back on.”
“There’s no call for sarcasm, Ianto.” Even though Jack couldn’t be seen, it sounded very much like he was pouting. “Does anyone know what’s happened?”
“The power’s gone out.”
“Thank you for stating the obvious, Owen.” Jack didn’t sound amused.
“I meant does anyone know WHY the power’s gone out?”
“Not yet,” Ianto’s voice seemed to come from a different part of the Hub this time. There were rummaging noises, and then a small spot of light appeared over near what passed for the Hub’s kitchen. “But fear not; my trusty torch and I will endeavour to find out. I’ll go down and check the generators.” The little spot of light bobbed away towards the stairs leading to the lower levels.
“You’re going down there on your own?” Jack asked.
“Of course. It’s not like I’m going to get lost or anything. I’ve been down there lots of times.”
“Not in the dark during a power cut,” Jack protested.
“I’m not in the dark; I’ve got my torch. The rest of you might want to get yours out and take a look around up here while I check the generators.” Ianto paused. “You do all have torches, don’t you?”
“Course we do,” Owen replied. “Mine’s in the SUV.”
“Mine needs new batteries,” Gwen admitted. “I keep forgetting.”
A light came on at Tosh’s workstation. “I’ve got mine!”
“Nice to see someone other than me keeps their equipment in working order and close to hand,” Ianto said wryly. “Can you sort the others out, Tosh? There should be several spare torches and extra batteries in the supply cupboard.”
“No problem; we’ll be fine. Just go and check whatever you need to,” Tosh assured her friend.
“Thank you. Hopefully this won’t take too long.”
“I still don’t like the idea of you going off alone,” Jack said. “What if we’ve got intruders? The power might have been shut off deliberately, you could be walking into a trap!”
“I’m armed, but if you’re that concerned for my safety, I suppose you could come with me.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. Stay right where you are while I get my torch.” A split second later there was a loud thud, followed by Jack’s voice muttering, “Ow! Stupid place to put a wall.”
Unseen by anyone, Ianto rolled his eyes.
By the time Jack had dug his torch out of his desk, everyone else had one as well, plus spare batteries, since there was no way of knowing how long the power would be out or what they’d have to do to fix it. Ianto, with Jack in tow, headed off downstairs to check the generators, picking up his toolkit on the way, just in case it was needed. The other three spread out across the main Hub, looking for anything that might be responsible for their loss of power. They had a large area to cover, so it was going to take a while to check everything, and without power the comm. system was down, meaning that Ianto and Jack would be out of communication with the rest of the team while they were down in the lower levels. Needless to say, everyone was keeping their fingers crossed that the Hub wasn’t being infiltrated by hostile aliens. That sort of thing could ruin their whole day.
Nothing seemed amiss in the main Hub, as far as anyone could tell, aside from the fact that none of their systems had power, so Tosh, Owen, and Gwen ventured further, Tosh checking the boardroom and everything off the corridor leading to it, Gwen taking the underground garage, and Owen, who knew the area and its inhabitants best, going up to the hothouse. What he found there was unexpected, and he simply stared for a moment, casting the beam of his torch around, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. Finally he stepped back out onto the walkway and called to the others.
“Um, guys? I think I might have found the… er… root of the problem!” Owen’s voice reached the girls where they were conducting their own rather fruitless searches, and they hurried back to the main Hub by the light of their torches.
“What did you find?” Gwen shouted, rather louder than necessary, hurrying up the stairs to the hothouse.
“No need to bellow!” Owen grouched, waiting until Tosh joined them before leading the way through the glass doors into the spacious area beyond, where all the alien plant life that came through the Rift was housed. “You’re not goin’ to believe this; not sure I do.” He played his torch over the scene once more and both girls gasped.
There was foliage everywhere, far more than there should have been, long tendrils twining around the rows of benches, the other plants, and anything else they could get purchase on. Following one, they saw it disappeared into an electrical outlet, and when they checked, they found every other outlet in the room not occupied by a plug had tendrils inserted into it. There were even tiny filaments extending into the growing lamps and other bits of electrical equipment in the room. Even as they watched, new tendrils branched off from the existing ones, producing luxuriant leaves as they went.
“What on earth…?” Tosh took a step back to avoid a tendril that was creeping towards her.
“Or off earth,” Owen said. “I think it’s that plant we found this morning.”
“Oh, but it can’t be! That was so tiny, and it was barely alive!” Gwen objected.
“’Was’ being the operative word.” Owen aimed his torch at where he’d placed the new plant. The pot it had been in was now split and the roots, thick as a finger, dug into the earth in the surrounding troughs and pots, as well as extending off the bench, down to the floor, and through the gratings there. “All I can think is that it must be feeding on electrical energy to fuel its growth. Gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘power plant’.”
“Leaving us with no power. I’d better go and tell Ianto and Jack; if they get the generators going again, it’ll only make the plant grow faster,” Tosh said, backing towards the door.
Owen nodded. “While you do that, Gwen and I’ll work on the plant,” he called after Tosh as she exited the room.
“Doing what?” Gwen wanted to know, watching a tendril slither along the nearest bench like an impossibly long, green worm.
“To start with, we should pull the tendrils out of the electrical sockets, stop it from drawing whatever power might be left. Not sure it’ll do much good, but it can’t make things much worse.”
“I just can’t believe it!” Gwen shook her head, bewildered. “It was barely alive this morning, and now look at it! I didn’t think anything could grow so fast!”
“Get the conditions exactly right and plants can surprise you.” Owen tossed Gwen a pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves. “Better put these on, just in case there’s any residual electrical current running through it. Wouldn’t do any of us any good to get electrocuted.”
Down in the depths of the Hub, Tosh found Jack and Ianto working on the main generator.
Jack gave her a cheery grin. “Ianto says something must have tried to draw more power than the generator could produce, overloading it and causing it to short out. Should have it fixed in a few more minutes though, and then we’ll have power again.”
“Don’t,” Tosh said quickly. “It’ll only make things worse.”
Ianto immediately stopped work and got to his feet, giving Tosh a questioning look. “You found the source of the power drain?”
She nodded. “The plant that came through the Rift this morning. It’s feeding on electricity, and if you get the power back on it’s just going to grow even faster than it already is. Which would be very bad.”
“Good thing you warned us in time. Right, first we deal with the plant, then we fix the generator.” Jack stood up from where he’d been holding his torch to illuminate the inner working of the generator for Ianto, quickly dusted off his trousers, and led the way back towards the stairs, a man on a mission.
Back up in the hothouse, Gwen and Owen were still wrestling tendrils when the others joined them. For every one they extracted from a socket, another one replaced it.
“How’re you doing?” Jack asked as he burst through the doors.
“Not well,” Owen replied. “Even if we manage to get all of the tendrils out of all of the sockets and keep them out, which right now I’d say is damn near impossible, we still need to find a way to kill the bloody thing!”
Jack folded his arms over his chest and glared intimidatingly at the plant, to no obvious effect. “Any ideas on that score?”
“Not so far, no.”
“It was barely alive when you brought it back here though,” Tosh mused. “I honestly didn’t think it would live.”
“It doesn’t have that problem now.” Owen wrenched another knobbly tendril out of a socket. “Even the lack of light isn’t slowing it down.”
“Exactly,” Tosh agreed. “So what changed between when you found it and now?”
“It got its tendrils on our electricity.”
Owen nodded. “What the boss just said.”
“No. It had to grow a lot before it could reach the sockets and fuel itself from them. It’s using our electrical power now, but that didn’t start its growth spurt. There must be something about where it was found that didn’t suit it.”
Stamping on the end of a tendril worming its way towards the nearest socket, Owen flashed Tosh an approving grin. “You’re right. If we can work out what that something is, then we might have a weapon against this thing.”
“Can’t be sunlight, because the growing lights mimic that and I can see from here that you put it directly beneath one,” Ianto said. “Where did you find it?”
“That bit of beach at the edge of Hamadryad Park, near the wetlands centre,” Gwen said.
Jack snapped his fingers. “Salt! The air down there’s always full of salt spray, but in here all our air, coming in and going out, passes through scrubbers to remove any contaminants.”
Ianto was already on his way out of the hothouse with one of the plant misting sprays. “Be right back.”
The others waited, using the time to resume the battle over the power sockets until Ianto returned five minutes later, holding up the spray. “Right, who wants to do the honours?”
“My idea!” Jack held out his hand and as Ianto passed him the plastic bottle, he turned towards the plant with a savage smile on his face. “Take that!” He squirted the nearest tendril a couple of times, and then a cluster of leaves. A few more squirts and even by the light of their torches they could see the bit of the plant that had been sprayed had stopped growing and the leaves were developing a sickly yellowish hue. “It works!”
“Looks that way. Owen, give me a hand?” Owen joined Ianto gathering the other plant misters and hurrying down to the kitchen, where they filled them from the bucket of sea water Ianto had fetched from Mermaid Quay. “Get everyone spraying while I fetch more water,” Ianto said, handing the last of the filled sprays to Owen. Taking two buckets this time, he headed for the lift again.
It took nearly two hours of continuous spraying before the last tendril shrivelled and was disentangled from the other plants, dropped into a bucket, and hauled down to the incinerator. After that, Ianto, Jack and Tosh, with the other two holding torches for them, set about dismantling every piece of electrical equipment and power socket in the hothouse, making sure they were undamaged and free of plant material. They were very thorough, even using one of Tosh’s scanners to check the plant hadn’t released any spores before putting everything back together again. Nobody wanted a repeat of the problem.
Once that had been accomplished, Ianto was finally able to return to the generators, complete his repairs, and fire them up again. Everyone held their breath and crossed their fingers for luck when the power came back on.
Owen scoured the hothouse, scanner in one hand and a saltwater spray in the other, just in case, but there was no sign of any unnaturally speedy plant growth or creeping tendrils. It looked like they’d won the battle.
“New rule,” Jack announced once they were all gathered together on and around the sofa, drinking their seriously overdue cups of coffee. “In future, all plant specimens are to be quarantined and carefully monitored for a week before being allowed into the hothouse. Any objections?”
“Nah, I can live with that. Who’d have thought a tiny plant like that could cause so much trouble?”
“The problem was, it didn’t stay tiny,” Ianto pointed out, and the others nodded in agreement.
“Ianto and I can start work tomorrow on building a plant quarantine chamber with an independent power source,” Tosh said.
Ianto smiled. “I think I have just the thing down in the archives, an escape pod from a Lumarii cruiser. It’s a bit banged up, but I think with a few modifications in should be ideal. Now, who wants pizza?”
That got an enthusiastic response from everyone; they were all hungry. It had ended up being a very long, hard day, but once again the Torchwood team had triumphed over impossible odds. They deserved to celebrate.