Characters: Owen, Dizzy, Tosh, Nosy, Ianto, Jack, Gwen, Mickey, Andy.
Summary: Dizzy the Fluffet is a very energetic youngster, but today it seems to be even livelier than usual.
Word Count: 1770
Written For: Challenge 152: Speed at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
“Oi! Speed demon!” Owen yelled as something swept past him at high speed, narrowly avoiding knocking him off his feet. “Watch where you’re goin’ will yer? This isn’t a Grand Prix circuit and you’re not Lewis Hamilton!”
“HUMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,” came the apologetic reply, getting fainter with distance as the culprit vanished down one of the Hub’s many corridors. This one, Owen knew, looped around the end of the main Hub to emerge on the far side; the team and Nosy had once chased an escaped alien along it, enabling Ianto to capture the creature as it came out the other end. Now, the passageway had apparently been adopted by Dizzy as its own personal speedway, which was fine until the Flufflet got to the part where it had to slither at speed straight across Torchwood’s main work area; then things got a bit hazardous for anyone who happened to be in the vicinity.
At a little over nine months of age, Dizzy had gone from sleeping most of the time to being a ball of seemingly inexhaustible energy. Owen watched the Flufflet whiz past a second time and reflected that maybe ‘ball’ was the wrong word for something that resembled a two metre long animated purple and black draught excluder. As soon as it was safely past him, Owen sprinted for his desk, sliding into his seat with a sigh of relief. He was used to the dangers of working for Torchwood, putting his life on the line at least once a week, but until recently he’d always considered the Hub to be a place of relative safety.
“Can’t you keep your offspring under control?” he asked Nosy, who was busy doing a spot of light dusting, flicking its feather duster here and there around the team’s workstations.
The Fluff gave a noncommittal hum and carried on with its self-imposed task, but Owen noticed it was keeping well out of Dizzy’s path.
“Dizzy is as much our responsibility as it is Nosy’s,” Tosh reminded her boyfriend; Nosy had picked them to be its first Flufflet’s human family, just as Jack and Ianto were Nosy’s family. “We shouldn’t be relying on Nosy to teach Dizzy everything it needs to know; it has to learn from us too.”
“I know all that, but by the time I see Dizzy coming it’s already gone. How am I supposed to teach it anything if it doesn’t stay in one place long enough to listen? Not like I can chase after it.”
“Oh, I don’t know, the exercise might do you good.” Tosh grinned teasingly. “We all need to stay in good shape, working for Torchwood.”
“I’ll have you know I’m in great shape!” Owen threw Tosh an indignant glare. He gestured at himself. “This is all muscle, no flab. Humans just aren’t designed to reach the supersonic speeds Fluffs can.”
“Dizzy’s not that fast, Owen.”
“Oh no? I’d like to see you keep up with it on a circuit of the Hub.”
“Owen Harper, are you challenging me to a race?”
“No one’s having any races around the Hub,” Ianto said firmly, setting mugs of coffee on Tosh and Owen’s desks. “It’s too dangerous with all the cables and equipment lying around; someone could trip on something and get hurt.”
“Try tellin’ that to Dizzy,” Owen grumbled. “Almost sent me flying a few minutes ago.”
“Maybe if you spent some time every day playing with your Fluff it wouldn’t have so much energy to burn off. Nosy enjoys playing fetch and I’m sure Dizzy does too.”
“Yeah, well I’ve been a bit busy this mornin’ what with the autopsy of that thing you and Jack found last night. Thought you might want to know what killed it.”
“Did you find out?”
“Not yet; still waitin’ on some test results. Figured I’d better type up my findings so far before you go gettin’ on my case about it. I should know more after lunch.”
“Fine.” Ianto headed back towards the kitchen area with his empty tray, pausing briefly with one foot raised as Dizzy slithered past in front of him, right where he was about to step.
“How does he do that?” Owen hissed at Tosh. “He wasn’t even lookin’ in that direction, it’s like he has some kind of sixth sense!”
“Well he is quite a few notches higher on the empathic scale than the average twenty-first century human,” Jack said at Owen’s shoulder, making the medic almost jump out of his skin. He hadn’t heard Torchwood’s leader approach.
“Jesus, what is it with you lot today?” Owen yelped. “Sneaking up on me like that! You tryin’ to give me a heart attack? First I nearly get mown down by Dizzy doing its Roadrunner impression, then Teaboy creeps up behind me, and now you! Is it ‘Be mean to Owen’ day or something?”
“I wasn’t sneaking!” Jack pouted. “It’s hardly my fault that you’re not paying attention to your surroundings; I thought I’d trained you better than that. Just because we’re in the Hub doesn’t mean there’s no chance of danger.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Owen had heard it all before and wasn’t in the mood for another lecture.
“Anyway,” Jack said, getting back to the reason he’d left his office in the first place, “I was wondering if you’d figured out cause of death on that alien yet.”
“If I had I would’ve told you. Like I said to Ianto, there are several possibilities, I’m just waitin’ on some test results that should give me a more definite answer. When I know, you’ll know.”
“Good; I want to know immediately if it was some kind of infection, or if those warty spots are a natural part of its anatomy.” Jack sipped his coffee, watching Dizzy make another circuit. “Dizzy’s still going, I see; what on earth are you feeding it? Even Nosy doesn’t have that much stamina.”
“Mostly fruit and vegetables,” Owen said. “Same as Nosy. An occasional cookie or other treat, but we’ve been stickin’ to a healthier diet. It’s lost all that puppy fat it built up. Not that you can tell, the speed it’s going.”
“And I thought Nosy needed a lot of exercise. You two should bring Dizzy over to our place later if it doesn’t wear itself out before the end of the day. Nosy’s jungle gym is specially designed to give Fluffs a good workout; an hour or so in there should use up any excess energy.”
“Might take you up on that if we get outta here at a reasonable time tonight. Right now Dizzy could give the Energiser bunny a run for its money.”
“It’s not Dizzy’s fault that it’s so lively; it’s like any young creature, it just wants to play. If we could take it for walks there wouldn’t be any problem, but…” Tosh trailed off with a sigh. There was a reason the Fluffs had to be kept a secret from the rest of humanity; some people would want to capture and experiment on them, others might want to steal them for ransom, not that they’d find it easy to do so. As the only two creatures of their kind on earth, they were not only rare but also extremely valuable, even priceless.
“Couldn’t Nosy play with Dizzy?” Gwen asked from her desk the other side of Owen’s.
“It did earlier, until Dizzy tired it out. Don’t forget, Nosy works as hard as any of us around here, and it’s not as young as Dizzy,” Ianto said, wandering over, coffee mug in hand, to rejoin his friends.
Truth was, nobody knew exactly how old Nosy was, just that it seemed to be fully mature. Not even Owen could hazard a guess as to how long it might take a Fluff to grow to full size; could be five years or five hundred, maybe even longer than that. The Doctor had give them some information on Nosy’s species when he’d visited a year or so after Nosy had joined the team, but while he knew their history he knew next to nothing about their biology. Even the race who’d taken over guardianship of the last few hundred Fluffs in existence knew less about them than Owen had learned since Nosy’s arrival almost six years ago.
The cog door alarms blared as Andy and Mickey trooped back in from a retrieval; they’d gone on foot since the coordinates had only been a few streets away and walking was a lot faster than negotiating the one-way system. Mickey had a small containment unit tucked under one arm.
“Anything interesting?” Jack called across to him.
“Nah, just an Artiguan measuring device; I know ‘cause the Doctor used to have one just like it on the TARDIS. Could be useful if Tosh can get it to work; think it’s broken.”
“I’ll take a look at it when I’ve finished these upgrades,” Tosh promised. Mickey was good with tech too, but Tosh was better at repairing small devices.
“Great, I’ll just leave it here for you.” Mickey set the box on Tosh’s desk and mooched towards his own workstation, rummaging among the clutter piled on and around it; there were tools, spare parts, projects he was working on… His area tended to be the messiest part of the Hub and Ianto had given up trying to persuade him to clean it up. It looked like he was muttering to himself.
“Lose something?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, did someone move my can of Red Bull? I swear I left it right here and it was still half full, but it’s gone.”
You could have heard a pin drop; five people and one Fluff turned to watch Dizzy zoom across the Hub and down the corridor for the umpteenth time.
“No,” said Ianto slowly, “but I think I know who drank what was left.”
“Half a can of Red Bull on top of its mornin’ coffee…” Owen shook his head, sounding almost awed.
“At least now we know why Dizzy’s got so much excess energy today,” Ianto said with a sigh. “New rule; no leaving open drinks containers lying around where a certain curious Flufflet can get at them. If Dizzy keeps going much longer it’ll wear all the fur off its underside.”
“What should we do?” Tosh asked, worried now.
Ianto shrugged. “Nothing much we can do except wait until it runs out of steam; I don’t think stopping it’s an option.”
Dizzy swept by again, little more than a purple and black blur.
Jack drained the rest of his coffee. “I have a feeling we’re gonna be waiting quite a while.”