Characters: Ianto, Jack, Gwen, Owen, Tosh
Summary: Ianto’s day got off to a bad start. He’s trying to cope with the situation, but this is really a job for the whole team.
Word Count: 1651
Written For: My own prompt ‘Any, any, Chickens,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Jack tapped his bluetooth earpiece. “Ianto? Why are there chickens running around the Hub?”
“I don’t know.” Ianto sounded a little testy.
“Well, where did they come from?”
“I don’t know, Jack!”
This time Ianto didn’t even let him finish. “Jack, listen to me. I. Don’t. Know! They were here when I got in this morning and… Argh!”
“Ianto? Ianto? Are you okay? Speak to me!”
“Bloody thing pecked me!”
“A chicken, Jack!”
“I thought you were in the archives.” Jack sounded puzzled. “Why do you have a chicken down there?”
“I DON’T KNOW!”
“There’s no need to shout.” Jack pouted even though Ianto couldn’t see him.
“Sorry, it’s just, there are chickens everywhere; I’ve spent the last hour rounding up as many as I can and shoving them in the cells, but there are hundreds of them, I don’t seem to have made much of a dent. I’m tired, hot, thirsty, hungry, and fed up with getting pecked!”
“Don’t you have protective gauntlets to wear?” Jack started down the stairs to the archives.
“Yes, and I’m wearing them. Unfortunately they don’t protect my ankles. I was trying to make my way up and get a pair of wellies, but I’m knee deep in chickens.”
Jack made a u-turn and headed back upstairs. “I’ll bring you some.”
“Thank you, that would be appreciated. Oh, and Jack?”
“Can you bring something to put the eggs in? I’ve run out of boxes.”
“Consider it done.”
Jack left wellies, gauntlets, burlap sacks for chicken catching, and a stack of extra boxes just inside the cog door, with a note telling the rest of the team to fetch coffee and pastries, and join him and Ianto in the archives. Then, pulling on his own boots and gloves, he made his way downstairs to help Ianto with the chicken problem.
It was far worse downstairs than in the main Hub; clearly, the chickens up there were just the ones that had found their way up the stairs. The majority were still milling around in the lower corridors and the open sections of the archives. Jack found Ianto, a chicken tucked under each arm, making the trek down to the cells for the umpteenth time. His clothes were splattered with chicken poo and feathers, and he looked thoroughly disgruntled.
“Stuff them in here.” Jack dumped his load of boxes, narrowly missing several chickens, and opened one of the sacks he was carrying. “This way we can carry more at a time.”
“You’re a genius! Thanks, Jack!” Ianto did as Jack suggested, then scooped up a couple more chickens, stuffing them in too.
“Worked on a chicken farm for a while after the first war,” Jack explained. “This was how we transported them from one pen to another. They get a bit ruffled, but once they’re in the sacks it’s dark and they stop struggling.”
When they both had two sacks, each containing five chickens, they took them down to the cells and emptied them, then went back for more.
“What I want to know is where they’re all coming from,” Ianto said, shoving another chicken into a sack.
“Must have something to do with the thingy that came through the Rift last night.”
“Thingy?” Ianto raised an eyebrow. “That its scientific name?”
Jack grinned. “Yep! A thingy that does stuff. I didn’t know what it was, or what it did, so I brought it down here and left it on your desk for you to look at when you arrived.” He looked sheepish. “Sorry. If I’d known it would do this…” He trailed off, gesturing at the chickens.
“Not your fault, you couldn’t have known,” Ianto sighed, hefting his chicken-filled sacks for another trip to the cells. “Even for Torchwood, a device that creates hundreds of chickens is a bit unusual.”
“It could end world hunger!”
“Assuming the chickens and their eggs are genuine and safe to eat.”
“Well, there is that. Owen can analyse them when he gets in, while Tosh works out how to turn the chicken machine off. I left a note upstairs, we should have some help soon.” Jack paused just long enough to check his watch. “It’s nearly eight-thirty.”
A few minutes later, as if summoned by Jack’s words, the weary chicken wranglers heard footsteps approaching.
“Jack? Did you know there are chickens wandering around… Oh!”
“Yes, Gwen, we know. Why do you think I left protective gear and equipment upstairs for you? Are the others here?”
“Owen’s chasing chickens upstairs, Tosh went to fetch breakfast. We drew straws, well, pencils really.”
“I wish Owen would stop breaking them,” Ianto grumbled. “I’m forever having to order more.”
“At least it was for a good cause this time, not just because he was bored.”
“I suppose.” Ianto wiped his forehead with his shirtsleeve. “Well, grab a sack and start catching chickens.”
“I’ve never done this before.” Gwen managed to snag a chicken on her third try. “How many are there?”
“No idea, we’ve shoved a couple of hundred in the cells already. Oh, and watch out for eggs, they turn up in the damndest places!”
They all took a break when Tosh arrived with coffee and pastries. Owen had managed to round up most of the chickens in the main Hub, locking them in the interrogation room, and had come downstairs to join the rest of the team, so they all stood leaning against a wall while they ate, chickens clustered around their feet, pecking up any crumbs they dropped.
“Thanks for this, Tosh.” Ianto drained a second cup of coffee, welcome even though it wasn’t his own brew. He’d badly needed the caffeine boost. “Catching chickens is exhausting work.”
“I should see if I can find the device responsible and turn it off before we’re buried in them.” Tosh placed her empty cup on the shelves beside her. “You left it on Ianto’s desk?” she asked Jack.
He nodded. “Beside his desk calendar, the Disney one he got for Christmas.”
“Disney?” Owen smirked.
“It was from my niece, Mica. She chose it herself.” Ianto blushed faintly, then something clicked. “January is ‘Chicken Run’!”
“Huh?” Now Jack was confused.
“It’s a Disney animated film about chickens,” Gwen explained. She turned back to Ianto. “You really think that might have something to do with all these?” Her gesture encompassed the clucking birds that surrounded them.
“They don’t look like animated chickens.” Tosh sounded dubious.
“Too much of a coincidence to be unrelated though,” Jack decided. “Ianto? Are you okay?”
Ianto had gone a bit pale. “Just counting my blessings we’re not on February.”
“That’s ‘The Lion King’.”
“Oh.” Everyone looked at each other apprehensively. “That would’ve been very bad.”
“Whatever that thing is, we need to turn it off fast,” Owen decided. “Chickens I can deal with, if I have to, but I don’t want to be tackling lions!”
“I’ll get right on it.” Tosh hurried away towards Ianto’s office area, as fast as she could manage through the tide of chickens. The first thing she did when she reached the machine was put Ianto’s calendar in his desk drawer.
Half an hour later, with Jack, Ianto, Gwen and Owen working together, they’d manage to gather up all the chickens they could find, though Ianto suspected a few might still turn up considering how many hiding places there were in the archives. At least the machine didn’t seem to be producing any more now its inspiration had been taken away. Owen took the last couple of chickens he’d captured, along with a few eggs, up to the autopsy bay for a thorough examination, finally declaring them real and free from disease.
“What are we going to do with them?” Gwen asked.
“The eggs can go to the Salvation Army kitchen,” Ianto said. “Should be enough for a few breakfasts for people who really need a good meal. The chickens… By my reckoning, we have around nine hundred, that machine must have been popping out two every minute since Jack put it on my desk.”
“That’s a lot of chicken dinners.”
“Owen!” Gwen glared at Torchwood’s medic.
“What? It’s not like you don’t eat chicken.”
“That’s different. They’re not wandering around clucking when I buy them.”
“There’s a place not far outside Cardiff that farms chickens.” Tosh was staring at her computer screen. “Free range, not one of those horrible battery farms. Maybe we could take them there.”
“I’ll contact them, say these chickens were rescued, see if they’ll accept them.” Ianto took down the contact details and went up to Jack’s office to phone the farm.
Jack looked at the chickens Owen had been examining. “Maybe we could keep a few. Fresh eggs would be nice.”
“It wouldn’t be fair to the chickens,” Tosh objected. “It’s our choice to be cooped up underground, but they don’t belong in a concrete bunker, they should be out in the fresh air.”
“I suppose you’re right. We can keep just enough eggs to make omelettes for lunch though, can’t we?”
“I don’t see why not.” Tosh smiled. “That would make a nice change from pizza.”
Ianto came back down to join them. “The farm’s interested, but they want to check the birds’ health first, so I’m taking a dozen over there for inspection.”
Jack nodded. “Okay. Tosh, see about getting the eggs over to the Salvation Army. Gwen, call Rhys and ask if he can get us a truck. Oh, and we’ll need some sort of cages to put the chickens in for transport.”
“Owen, help Tosh with the eggs.”
Everyone headed off to their assigned tasks and just like that, Torchwood was back to business as usual, even if they did keep finding occasional chickens and eggs in odd places for the next couple of weeks.
You get used to things like that when you work for Torchwood.