Characters: Team Torchwood and others.
Summary: Cardiff is beset by an unusual invasion; Torchwood’s services are in demand.
Word Count: 1452
Written For: Challenge 123: Demand at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Torchwood Three was in demand more than it had ever been before, and it was oddly disconcerting. Normally the Cardiff police and local residents did nothing but complain about the way Torchwood rode roughshod over everyone and everything, but now they found themselves being accosted several times a day by people begging them to do something, anything, about the invasion that was currently gripping the city. They were doing their best to keep up with the demand for their assistance, but they were only ten people against hundreds, and no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t be everywhere at once. Still, they had a job to do and they were going to do it, no matter how long it took. After all, this was why Torchwood existed; to protect Cardiff and its inhabitants from whatever the Rift inflicted on them.
It had all started a few days earlier when something had fallen through the Rift. By the time Andy and Mickey had arrived at the coordinates Tosh had supplied, all that had been left was an uprooted plant, already shrivelled and dying. They’d quickly secured it in a containment unit and brought it back to the Hub for examination, but unbeknownst to them the damage had already been done. The plant must have shed its seeds before they’d got to it, a desperate attempt at securing survival by propagation, and now its offspring were popping up everywhere.
The young plants took three or four days to grow and become mature enough to flower; Owen estimated it would take perhaps another four or five for the flowers to be pollinated and for the seeds to develop enough for dispersal, but the plants had started growing over a period of days, depending on when they’d encountered conditions favourable for germination. So far the team had managed to prevent any more seeds being released, which meant they were still only dealing with the offspring of the original plant rather than several generations. That was the good news.
The bad news was that once the flowers of each plant opened, anyone who breathed their pollen spent approximately an hour and a half acting like they were either drunk or stoned out of their minds, then fell into a sleep so deep it was more like a coma. So far, nobody who’d been affected had shown any signs of waking up again.
The local hospital was already dealing with thirty-seven cases, so Owen and Martha were working around the clock trying to develop an antidote, and the police had issued warnings for people to stay inside their homes as much as possible, with doors and windows closed, keep their pets indoors, and for everyone to cover their mouths and noses if they had to go outside for any reason. All sightings of the plants were to be reported to the police or to Torchwood via a special helpline. Rhys was manning the phones, using his skill with logistics to direct the remaining eight members of Torchwood to the widely scattered sightings where, protected by breathing units, they were containing and destroying each plant they found.
The plants were easy to identify. They grew to two feet in height before their fat yellowish green buds, veined in a darker green, unfurled into eight-petalled flowers, each six-inches across and a dazzling bright blue with a deep red centre. Their pollen was loose and powdery, easily carried away from the plants by even the slightest breeze, leading Owen to believe that wind was their usual means of pollination. Certainly insects seemed to avoid them, perhaps somehow instinctually aware that the plants didn’t belong on earth, so at least it was unlikely the local bee population would suffer any ill effects, and local honey should still be safe to eat.
After examining specimens of the plant, and running tests on the people affected, Owen had been able to determine that the pollen had to be breathed in within a few minutes of it being wafted away from the flowers. It quickly became inactive and harmless if it didn’t either find it’s way onto another flower of its own kind, or into someone’s lungs. Unfortunately, each plant produced five or six flowers that could pollinate each other, and if any of the plants started shedding seeds there was no way of knowing how far or fast the problem might spread. So far there had only been occasional light breezes blowing since the arrival of the original plant, but that could change at any moment, carrying the soft fluff the seeds were attached to for miles. If that happened, it could result in national or even global catastrophe.
Some of the sightings the team were called out to were false alarms, although even then the people who called them in demanded that the suspect plants were removed. Jack had tried at first to explain that delphiniums and coneflowers and several other species of cultivated plant were perfectly fine, but after the first day it became quicker, easier, and much less stressful for all concerned to just be directed to a plant and dutifully take it away, whether it was an alien one or a blameless earth native.
The team weren’t just going to reported sightings however, they were also working outward in a grid pattern from where the original plant had arrived, scanning for anything suspicious, checking every garden, every piece of wasteland, every park, allotment, planter or hanging basket they came across. Every police officer who could be spared was helping with the hunt, and there were even bands of civilian volunteers doing their bit, patrolling their neighbourhoods and pulling up anything they came across that had yellowish green foliage, even if it wasn’t displaying the distinctive flowers. Better safe than sorry.
Power naps and caffeine were the order of the day; the members of team Torchwood were eating on the go and getting an hour or three of sleep at night, but it was midsummer, with long days and short nights. When the sun came up, the flowers opened, and they didn’t close again until sunset, so there was little chance for anyone to take a break during daylight. Two days in and they were being run ragged.
The number of affected people had tailed off after the third day, with five new cases reported on day four, and only two on day five. Cardiff wasn’t out of the woods yet, but it looked like Torchwood and their helpers, both official and unofficial, were gradually winning the battle. Day five was also when Owen and Martha at last made a breakthrough with a possible cure, and they rushed to the hospital to test it on the first victims. When their two initial guinea pigs woke up, they were confused, weak, disoriented, and displaying hangover-like symptoms, but tests run on them confirmed that they should make a full recovery.
Back at the Hub, Torchwood’s two medics started work on producing enough of the remedy to meet present demands, with some left over to treat any new cases that might occur over the next week or so, since the occasional plant was still being discovered, growing in cracked paving, or hedgerows, or enclosed courtyards, or tucked away behind someone’s garage. By now, people were doing daily checks around their own properties, and those of their neighbours. There was a sense of community throughout the city that few people had ever experienced before, with everyone willingly working together to eradicate the threat.
Armed with the fresh batch of the antidote, the two medics split up, Martha returning to the hospital to dose the rest of the human victims, and Owen visiting the city’s veterinary practices to administer the cure to several affected dogs, cats, and a rabbit or two. All patients were soon responding to treatment and waking up, even if none of them were feeling their best. The important thing was that they were on the mend.
In the aftermath of the incident, while Cardiff’s citizens were still being advised to keep watch for any more of the plants, the mayor publicly thanked Torchwood for their tireless efforts on behalf of the city and its residents, saying that thanks to them, a potential disaster had been averted. For the first time ever, instead of yelling and cursing, people were waving and shouting ‘Thank you!’ whenever they saw the familiar black SUV coasting past.
The whole team knew their popularity was unlikely to last long, sooner or later people would forget about recent events and go back to finding Torchwood an unwelcome annoyance, but for now they intended to make the most of their popularity; it was nice to be appreciated for once.