Title: Once Upon A Beach In Wales
Characters: Jack, Ianto.
Summary: Torchwood’s latest Rift retrieval takes Jack and Ianto to an idyllic setting.
Word Count: 1881
Written For: Challenge 5: Pitch at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Rift retrievals were seldom straightforward, so in retrospect, maybe they should have been suspicious when this one seemed to be so easy. Whatever the Rift had brought them, it had come to earth about ten miles out along the coast and the beautiful spring weather had made the drive to collect it a pleasure.
Jack had turned off the coast road along a rutted, rarely used track and parked the SUV in a convenient open spot at the edge of an expanse of sand dunes through which a faint path wound its way, probably made by hikers or wild animals. They’d used Ianto’s scanner to home in on their target, which registered as being approximately a mile further along the coast, probably on the beach. Despite the fine weather, they were far enough from the city that even from the top of the nearest dune, there wasn’t another person in sight for as far as they could see in any direction. The only sounds were of the surf and the seabirds. It made their task feel less like work and more like a pleasant stroll.
Leaving their shoes and socks in the SUV, they’d set off across the sand dunes and down onto the beach itself, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and the peacefulness after all the hustle and bustle of the city, both thinking that they really should find the time for little jaunts like this more often. There seemed no reason to rush and so they didn’t, taking their time and walking at a leisurely pace, following the direction the scanner indicated.
Despite the object’s small size, they had quickly located it because of the way the sunlight reflected off its burnished silver surface, making it easy to spot even from a distance. Making their way across the loose sand and shingle, they crouched down beside it for a closer look, careful not to touch. It was a perfect sphere, a little larger than a cricket ball, made of polished silvery metal with a duller band round the middle about a centimetre wide that looked as if it probably encircled the entire thing.
“What does your scanner say?” Jack asked, tilting his head to the side, trying to see as far under the object as he could. It was resting on top of the sand so it must have touched down very gently.
Ianto ran his scanner over and around the silver ball then checked the readings. “Not a lot. Composition is an unidentified metal alloy, but the scanner can’t seem to penetrate the surface so I can’t say whether it’s solid, hollow, or what. It’s giving of a low level electromagnetic field, otherwise it appears to be inert.”
“Right, I suppose we should take it back to the Hub for Tosh to examine.” Jack reached behind himself for the containment unit he’d brought with him and set it beside the object. Opening the lid, he removed a set of insulated tongs and used them to carefully lift the sphere, settling in gently into the anti-static packaging that was standard in all such units. The packaging cupped their find, holding it securely so that it wouldn’t get bounced around during transport. Snapping the lid into place, Jack hoisted the box under one arm and stood. “Too bad that we found it so fast. Now we’ve got no excuse to stay out here in the sunshine.”
“We can always come back next time the weather and the Rift allow,” Ianto suggested.
“Good idea. This is a nice spot, I don’t think I’ve ever been out here before.”
“The rift usually drops things closer to the city than this. There’s miles of coast around the country that few people ever visit simply because it’s off the beaten track.”
Slowly they started back along the beach, reluctant to abandon their peaceful idyll but knowing they had to get on with their job.
They’d got about halfway back to where they’d left the SUV when Jack stuck a finger in his ear, wiggling it around and frowning. Ianto noticed.
“Fine. It’s just… Do you hear something? Sort of a low-pitched humming sound?” Jack halted, puzzled.
Ianto stopped walking too and listened. “Yeah. You must have sharp hearing to pick that up. What is it?”
“I don’t know.” They stood still, looking around themselves. The sound was gradually growing louder and higher in pitch, but there was nothing in sight that could be making it.
Then something disturbing occurred to Ianto. “Uh, Jack… I think it might be coming from the containment box.” He took a couple of hurried steps away from his lover.
“Oh shit!” Setting the box carefully on the sand, Jack snapped the lid off. The innocuous little ball was now glowing with a pulsing light and the duller stripe around it they now could see had regular markings around it, some alight and some dark. Even as they watched, another one went out and the hum stepped up in both volume and pitch again. “This is not good.”
“Grenade or bomb?” Ianto moved closer again, against all instinct, and crouched down.
“I’m not sure it matters. Either way, those little markings are almost certainly numbers and when the last one turns dark there’s probably going to be a big bang. After that… who knows? It’ll depend on the type of explosive.”
Ianto ran his scanner over the ball again. “I’m not picking up any radiation, but whether that’s because there isn’t any or because it’s too heavily shielded for the scanner to penetrate, I have no idea.”
Another number winked out. The countdown was already over halfway. Jack pointed in the direction of the SUV with one hand and reached for the probable bomb with the other. “Run as fast as you can!”
“I can’t leave you!”
“If it kills me I’ll come back. You won’t. Now GO!”
The hum got louder; another notch on the countdown blinked and went out.
Ianto took off running, stumbling and floundering in the loose sand, angling towards the damp ground near the edge of the water where he’d be able to go faster. There were rocks not much further along, just past the track they’d followed through the dunes. If he could reach them they’d provide some protection.
As soon as Ianto was safely on his way, Jack turned and flung the ball as hard as he could in the opposite direction, hoping that the impact when it landed wouldn’t set it off. He didn’t wait around to find out, taking off after Ianto as fast as he could manage on the shifting surface. In his head he tried to keep counting down at the same speed as the bomb.
Ahead of Jack, Ianto made it to the rocks, winded, legs shaky and aching from trying to keep his footing on ground that kept slipping away beneath him. He scrambled over and risked a look back. Jack was about thirty metres away, toes digging in with every stride, trying to propel himself forward faster. He almost made it, just a few strides away when…
The shockwave knocked him right off his feet, bowling him along the damp sand to fetch up at the base of the rocks. Ianto ducked down and covered his head with his arms, so he didn’t see the way the sand was tossed high into the air like rocks and lava fountaining out of an erupting volcano, leaving a crater a good three metres across, but he did feel some of it pattering down over and around him.
As soon as he was sure nothing else would fall on him, Ianto rose to his feet, shaking off the worst of the loose sand, and checked his scanner. It registered the kind of reading you’d expect from most regular explosives, but there was still no trace of anything other than normal background radiation. Breathing a sigh of relief, he scrambled back over the rocks to check on Jack.
“Ow!” Jack shifted carefully and sat up. “Now I know how a bowling ball feels.”
“Are you alright?” Ianto started to carefully dust away the couple of inches of sand that had fallen over Jack.
“I’ll live. I think. How about you?”
“I’m good. According to this,” he waved his scanner, “we’ve not been exposed to any kind of radiation, toxin, or potentially harmful alien microbes. Looks like it was just a straightforward explosive device.”
“That’s good news, but I just wish I knew what triggered it to start its countdown.”
“We’re lucky it happened out here instead of back at the Hub.” Ianto helped Jack to his feet and they spent a few precious minutes brushing each other down, checking for injuries in the process. Jack had some drying blood in his hair, probably from slamming into the rocks, but there was no sign of a wound; it must already have healed.
Reassured that they were both in one piece, they set off along the beach once more, Ianto keeping his eye on his scanner just in case, and cautiously approached the new crater. Standing a bit back from the lip, Ianto looked around, estimating the distance between the crater and where they’d been before they started running.
“You must have a really strong throwing arm to lob the bomb this far!”
“I was very motivated.” Jack smiled wryly. “Plus I played a bit of baseball back in the war with a bunch of American volunteers. I was a pretty fair pitcher.”
Ianto rolled his eyes and smirked. “Of course you were.”
“You don’t believe me?” Jack pouted.
“Let’s just say you’ve been known to stretch the truth. So what do we do now? That’s a fairly sizeable hole.”
The sand at the bottom of the crater had fused in the heat generated by the blast, turning it glassy.
“Strictly speaking, explosives aren’t our responsibility. I think we should call UNIT to take care of the clean up. They’ll have to sift through this sand to find all the bomb fragments, should keep ‘em busy for a while. Come on, let’s go back to the car and phone them from there.”
Ianto followed Jack as he set off along the same stretch of beach yet again. They were certainly getting a good workout. “It’s a shame.”
“We found this lovely, peaceful, secluded beach and now it’s been spoiled by an alien bomb.”
“It’ll be fine; it’s mostly sand after all. Give it a few weeks after UNIT fills in the crater for wind and weather to do their job and you won’t even be able to see where the hole was. That’s the great thing about sand; it can cover anything up given enough time.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Look on the bright side; after we call in UNIT, we’ll have to wait around until they get here, just to make sure no one comes along and falls in the hole.”
Ianto considered that. “True, public safety is important. Well, looks like we get to spend the afternoon at the beach after all.”
“It’s true what they say; every cloud has a silver lining! I’m sure we can find some way to entertain ourselves while we’re waiting.”
Ianto smiled. He was absolutely positive they could.