Characters: Jack, Ianto, Owen, Gwen, Tosh
Summary: For once the Rift has brought the Torchwood Team something really worth having. They just need to be careful how they use it…
Word Count: 1110
Written For: My own prompt ‘Any, any, Moist owlet,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Jack returned from a routine Rift retrieval looking excited and carrying a strange object about the size of a large breadbin. As he plunked it down on Tosh’s workstation, he called out to his team, “Come and see what we got this time!”
Everyone gathered round him, eyeing the monstrosity. It was rectangular, taller than it was wide, and with what looked like a speaker grille set near the top, above a compartment with a sliding door. There were sort of vents running down both sides, but the rest of the thing was featureless except for an access panel in the back, presumably in case it needed repairing. It wasn’t a pretty object, being a dull, matt charcoal colour all over, and none of the team could see why Jack would be so excited about it.
“Okay,” Ianto said finally, somehow refraining from rolling his eyes as Jack practically bounced up and down, staring at the strange device as if it was the best thing since safety razors. “I’ll bite. What is it?”
“It’s a replicator!”
“Wonderful, thanks for the enlightenment. And what exactly does it replicate?”
“Anything you want, within reason. I mean, it’s only a small one and it can’t produce anything bigger than its replication chamber.” Jack slid the panel aside to reveal the interior of a clean, off-white compartment, approximately a foot square. “But you can ask it for pretty much anything that will fit in there.”
“Cool!” Owen grinned. “I’ll ‘ave a million quid then.”
“Not money, Owen. No one would create something that could produce money out of thin air. Not valuable metals or jewels, or any dangerous substances either.”
“Well what good is it if it can’t do stuff like that?” Owen looked disgruntled.
“You want a chocolate bar, or an ice-cream, it can make it. A new hairbrush? No problem. A box of staples? Just ask.”
“What does it make these things from?” Tosh was studying the machine curiously.
“It reconstitutes particles from the air, or from what you put in the hopper at the back.” Jack pulled the back panel out. “Drop your rubbish in the back, it’s dismantled and the molecules broken down, then they can be recombined into whatever you request. So easy a child can use it.”
Tosh sneezed and dug in her bag for a tissue, only to find she’d run out. She’d had a cold for nearly a week. “Can it make tissues?”
“Of course it can!” Jack leant toward the grille. “I need a box of soft tissues,” he said. There was a soft whirring sound, followed by a ping, and the compartment door slid back. Reaching in, Jack took out a box of tissues. “There you go, Tosh! You just need to be specific in your requests.”
Everyone wanted to try it then. Ianto piled some bits and pieces into the hopper to provide raw materials then Gwen tried.
“I need a bright pink toothbrush with medium bristles.”
A whirr, a ping, and there it was.
“Couldn’t you think of something more exciting than a toothbrush?” Owen snorted.
“It’s what I need. Rhys startled me this morning in the bathroom and I dropped mine down the loo. This will save me having to go to the shops.”
“Whatever.” Owen spoke into the grille. “I need a pint of lager in a glass.”
“Owen!” Tosh glared at him. “It’s not even lunchtime!”
He just shrugged. “So what? I want to see if it can do liquids.”
“Hey, that’s pretty good!” Owen exclaimed after downing half the glass. “Your turn, Teaboy.”
Ianto thought for a moment, then smiled. “I need a medium-sized orange.” Moments later, there it was. Smiling, Ianto started to peel it, dropping the bits of peel into the hopper at the back of the machine. “Waste not, want not.”
“Right,” said Jack, “now that everyone’s had a go, I’ll put it over on the coffee table. Don’t overuse it, and remember to fill the hopper from time to time. Fun’s over for now, I’m sure you all have work to do.”
Tosh nodded, going back to whatever she was doing on her computer. Owen drained his glass, dumped it on his desk for Ianto to deal with, and took himself off back to the autopsy bay where he was running tests on tissue samples. Gwen put her new toothbrush in her handbag and turned back to the report she was working on, soon becoming engrossed.
Ianto went over and sat down on the sofa to finish his orange. It was very juicy and by the time he’d popped the last segment in his mouth and dropped the remaining peel in the replicator’s hopper, he had very sticky fingers. He looked at his hands and sighed, muttering to himself, “Looks like I should clean up a bit before I do anything else. What I really need now is...”
He was startled when the nearby replicator suddenly whirred into life. Whatever it was doing took a bit longer this time and he paused on his way to the kitchen, waiting and watching curiously until it finally pinged and the door slid aside.
“What the heck?” He stared in disbelief at the object revealed.
“What’s up?” Jack asked, wandering over to find out what Ianto was looking at, and staring too. There on the table sat a small, decidedly soggy owl. “Ianto,” he said uncertainly, “why did you ask the replicator for a wet owl?”
“I didn’t! I wanted to wipe my sticky fingers, it just suddenly started up as I was on my way to the kitchen for a…” He trailed off, looking at the machine. “I was muttering to myself, it must have misheard what I said. I wanted a moist towelette, not a moist owlet!”
“And there’s a lesson for us all,” Jack said wryly. “Don’t say ‘I need’ anywhere near the replicator unless you actually want something, and be sure to enunciate your request clearly.”
Ianto huffed. “I think we should put it somewhere out of the way to prevent any further accidents,” he told Jack, turning and wandering away.
“Where are you going?”
“To wash my hands,” Ianto called back over his shoulder. “And then I’m going to make some phone calls, see if I can find a sanctuary willing to take that owl.”
On the table, the moist owlet fluffed up its feathers and fluttered its wings, spraying drops of water everywhere.
Jack picked up the replicator. Ianto was right; they shouldn’t leave it just lying around the Hub. A damp owl wasn’t that big a deal, but who knew what might accidentally get replicated next?