Characters: Ianto, Jack, Team, OCs.
Summary: It’s no wonder the people of Cardiff are so willing to accept Torchwood’s cover stories. They make more sense than the truth.
Word Count: 1323
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Team, It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
There’s an oft quoted saying that truth is stranger than fiction, and nowhere on earth was that more apt than for Torchwood. Anyone who came to work there soon realised that even if they did tell anyone the truth about what they did for a living, nobody was ever going to believe them. Some things were simply too bizarre for the average human to wrap their heads around; they’d most likely just laugh and say, “Good joke, pull the other one.”
As Mark Twain once said, ‘It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense,’ and as a very well-regarded author of fiction, he ought to know. That put Torchwood at a disadvantage right from the start, since the organisation didn’t make a lot of sense in the first place. They were a group of five people working for a supposedly secret organisation, and yet ninety percent of the local population knew about them, even if they didn’t know exactly what it was Torchwood did.
The general consensus was that they were some sort of special ops unit, and in a way they were, they just weren’t affiliated with any law enforcement agency, and the majority of their duties had nothing to do with crime, criminals, or even humans. They dealt with aliens, and that didn’t mean people from another country who’d come to Britain illegally. It meant people, and sometimes animals, from other planets, because contrary to popular belief, earth was not the only inhabited planet in the universe.
Torchwood also dealt with alien technology and artefacts, keeping such things out of the hands of people who might misuse them, because discovering various technological advances too soon could cause untold damage to the timelines. While the future wasn’t entirely set in stone, randomly changing it was seldom a good idea.
So, Torchwood was the least secret of secret organisations in existence, and the truth about their purpose was kept from people for the good of everyone. Humanity as a whole wasn’t ready to know about the existence of aliens; such knowledge would probably have caused widespread panic and put both humans and aliens in more danger from each other than they already were. Unfortunately, keeping people and aliens from ever running into each other was impossible thanks to some monumentally bad planning on the part of a few humans sometime in the past who’d decided this part of the Welsh coast was the perfect place for their settlement.
What was now the city of Cardiff had been built right smack on top of a Rift through time and space, which could be seen as a rather egregious oversight on the part of the city’s planners, although they could perhaps be excused to some extent, since they didn’t know. Few people were even aware of the Rift’s existence, and Torchwood naturally preferred to keep it that way. The Rift was unstable at the best of times, and if scientists started poking about at it, attempting to control or exploit it, there was a very good chance it might blow up in their faces.
But all of that was only the first level of strangeness.
Aliens were alien by their very nature; they didn’t think the same way humans did, nor should they be expected to. Even the ones bent on invasion often didn’t make sense from a human perspective. For instance, there was the invasion force that showed up specifically to liberate cruelly oppressed earthworms. Never mind that the worms themselves didn’t feel particularly oppressed and weren’t being enslaved in any way, the aliens did their best to liberate them anyway, although without noticeable success.
Then there was an invasion force that really meant business, threatening the people of Cardiff with the deadliest thing they could come up with, something they were sure would strike terror into the hearts of all earthlings… salt water. Admittedly some gardens suffered, not all plants had a tolerance for salt, but the aliens suffered a lot more, thanks to a blustery wind blowing much of the saline from their water cannons back at them. And that was before some of them got chased into the sea. As invasions went, it was a complete failure. Clearly the would-be invaders hadn’t done their research.
A third group seemed to be under the impression that cats were in charge, which while not strictly true from a human’s point of view was nevertheless an understandable mistake. They spent several fruitless hours issuing their demands to a portly tabby tomcat down near the fish market. It didn’t help their cause that they resembled slightly oversized bipedal rats, and they eventually gave up and fled in disarray after the cat became annoyed at having its nap repeatedly disturbed, and ate their leader.
No supposedly ‘intelligent’ human would ever believe such outlandish tales, of course, which in some ways simplified Torchwood’s job a little. It was far easier to persuade people that they didn’t just see a giant toothbrush wearing a kilt strolling through the city centre and taking pot-shots at lampposts when they’d much rather believe they were merely hallucinating due to a gas leak. Cardiff had more gas leaks than any other city in the world, and the water supply got contaminated with hallucinogens more often too. Not actually, but it made for a handy excuse that most people seemed happy to believe. For those who proved harder to convince, there was always Retcon.
Today’s ‘gas leak’ was of a slightly different nature, and people were being advised to remain inside as much as possible, with doors and windows closed. The Torchwood team themselves had been forced to don gasmasks as they endeavoured to catch the latest alien creature to find itself unexpectedly transported to Cardiff.
Soon after arrival, it had gorged itself on the local baked potato stand’s entire stock of baked beans, with unfortunate if predictable results. The stench was enough to peel paint, and plants wilted as the creature passed by while people generally passed out. Ianto had already gone through several cans of air freshener, squirting it about as he went in an effort to lessen the repulsive stench. It wasn’t really making much of a difference, but he was loath to give up because it was still better than doing nothing. What they really needed was a good hard rain to help clear the air.
Exactly what they were supposed to do with the creature once they eventually caught it, he didn’t know, but if Jack had the nerve to suggest taking it back to the Hub, Ianto thought he might just have to stage a mutiny, because putting a gassy alien in a confined space, underground, would constitute a definite health hazard. He was sure Owen would back him up on that. The fumes would just continue to build up to the point where a stray spark might well cause a catastrophic explosion. That was a bridge to be crossed when they came to it though. First they had to locate the alien, which should be simple: just follow the smell. As with all things Torchwood, however, that was proving easier said than done.
“How was I supposed to know it could fly?” Jack complained. “I don’t even know what it is! I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“Technically, I’m not sure you can really call that flying as such,” Owen pointed out. I didn’t see any wings, but with all the gas inside it…”
The team stared upwards as the alien drifted along on the breeze like some bizarre hairy balloon.
“I really hope it doesn’t explode,” Ianto said with a sigh, thinking about the mess that would cause. If it did, clean-up would be an absolute nightmare, as bad as that time with the rain of gherkins. “Suppose we’d better try to follow it; can’t have it getting away now.”
Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up!