Characters: Suzie, Jack, Tosh, Owen
Word Count: 2125
Spoilers: Everything Changes, They Keep Killing Suzie. Set pre-series.
Summary: The latest object to come through the Rift is not only difficult to retrieve, but its purpose is not at all obvious.
Written For: Challenge # 145: Metal at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
When Tosh pulled up the information on her screens, everyone groaned. Whatever was responsible for the latest Rift alert had been dropped somewhere out in Cardiff bay.
“Bloody charming,” Owen groused. “Now what’re we supposed to do?”
“Looks like we’re going fishing! Gear up, kids; whatever that was, we don’t want it laying at the bottom of the bay any longer than absolutely necessary.”
That was the truth. They had no idea yet exactly what the object was, or whether it might be dangerous. Worse, there was a big storm on its way and the strong water currents it was liable to stir up could easily sweep the mysterious object away from where it was deposited, leaving them little chance of ever locating it. Less than fifteen minutes later, Jack was firing up Torchwood’s boat and steering towards the coordinates Tosh had plotted.
“What do we know, Tosh?”
“Not a lot I’m afraid. I’d estimate its size as a bit smaller than a loaf of bread. Inorganic, made of metal. That’s about it. I’ll probably be able to tell you more once we have it onboard, it’s hard to pick much up while it’s submerged, the water’s distorting my readings.” Tosh sounded apologetic.
“It’s fine, Tosh; at least that gives us a vague idea of what we’re fishing for.”
The method the Torchwood team used to retrieve the object was more akin to dredging than fishing, and they hauled up a fair amount of random junk before they found what they were looking for. By the time they got the mystery item safely aboard, the wind was rising and the sea was getting choppy so they didn’t waste time examining their find, just dropped it, caked in mud and tangled in other detritus, into a containment box, snapped the lid shut and made for shore. They only just made it back the storm hit.
After mooring their boat in her slip, the scrap metal they’d dredged up during their search, including an old bicycle, part of a wrought iron bedstead, and several hubcaps, was tossed onto the jetty. There it was given a quick hose down to wash off the worst of the gunk, before being dumped in Torchwood’s underground garage, awaiting transportation to the local junkyard for recycling when Jack or Suzie found the time.
Jack upended the containment box, tipping its contents into an old stone trough that stood at one side of what was now the garage. At one time it had been used for watering the horses, which along with a variety of traps and carts, had once been Torchwood’s primary transportation. These days, it mainly served as a convenient place to rinse off boots and anything else that got excessively filthy during the course of their work. Whatever this was, it definitely qualified as excessively filthy, and Jack rinsed the empty box under the tap before setting it aside and turning his attention to its erstwhile contents. He scraped away the worst of the weeds and sludge, dumping handfuls into a bucket, and washed away the remaining muck as the rest of the team crowded around to see what they’d got.
“All that work and it’s just an old glove from a suit of armour!” Owen sounded disgusted.
“I don’t think so,” Suzie disagreed, leaning in closer to study it. “It’s not like any armour I’ve ever seen.”
“Oh, because you’re such an expert,” Owen sneered.
“Yes, actually, I am.” Suzie sounded smug. “It’s one of my interests; I did my thesis on the evolution of warfare so I’ve studied the different forms of armour throughout history quite extensively. This doesn’t match anything that’s been discovered on earth.”
“Suzie’s right,” Tosh said, running a scanner over the glove. “It’s alien, and I’m not sure it’s armour. It’s packed with micro circuitry unlike anything I’ve ever seen before; it’s so intricate and alien that I can’t even begin to guess at its purpose.”
“Is it safe to touch?” Suzie was fascinated.
“As far as I can tell; my scans aren’t picking up radiation or anything else that could be harmful to us.”
The wet metal was icy cold beneath her fingers as Suzie lifted the glove and tipped out some of the sludge that had got inside it. She needed to rinse it out under the tap several times before it was finally clean. “Any chance that being in the water might have caused damage to its inner workings?” Suzie glanced briefly at Tosh.
“I can’t be certain until I get a look inside with one of the bigger imaging scanners, but it seems unlikely, I’m not seeing any obvious gaps or holes where water could seep through. My guess is that it’s completely sealed to keep out everything from moisture to dust particles. Anything that complex would really have to be; the smallest mold spoor could be enough to do irreparable harm.”
“So we won’t be able to get inside it?”
“Probably not. If we want to study its internal structure we’ll have to make do with detailed scans. But we should wait until it’s thoroughly dry before we do anything else with it.”
“I’ll stand it on my desk to drain,” Suzie decided, already having claimed the new artefact. “Best to let it air dry, we don’t know what effect heating it up might have.”
Tosh nodded. “I’ll run some more detailed scans once it’s dry, I’d like some magnified views of the circuits, they’re so tiny and intricate they’re hard to make out in actual size.”
“Well, at least the ladies are happy. Okay then, fun’s over, people, I’m sure you all have work to do.” Jack shooed his team towards the entrance into the Hub.
“Yeah, I’ve got that alien from last night to autopsy; way more interesting than an old metal glove.” Owen pushed ahead of the girls without so much as an ‘excuse me’ and Suzie rolled her eyes at his complete lack of manners. Tosh didn’t seem to notice, still going over the readings she’d taken on her hand-held scanner. With her head down staring at the screen, she might have bumped into the doorframe if Jack hadn’t gently steered her through the opening.
The detailed scans Tosh took the following day, when it was judged that the glove was as dry as it could get, were even more fascinating than her initial ones. She, Jack, and Suzie stood looking at them on the big screen, marvelling at the delicate workmanship but completely baffled as to what it was designed to do.
“I want to try in on,” Suzie announced when they’d finished studying the last set of scans. “Whatever it is, it’s clearly designed to be worn by a species with hands very much like our own. It even has four fingers and an opposable thumb. Maybe it’s future earth technology.”
“Maybe. Take it down to the firing range, just in case it turns out to be a weapon, some kind of blaster. Everything down there is quadruple reinforced with the best materials and alien technology Torchwood has been able to come up with over the years. And wear protective goggles.”
“You fuss like an old mother hen sometimes, Jack.” Suzie looked amused. “I would’ve done all that anyway. How many alien weapons have I researched and tested since I joined Torchwood?”
“Point taken. I know you will without my saying, but I just wanted to make sure you’ll take every precaution. We can’t even make an educated guess yet about what that thing is, other than a very fancy glove. It could be meant as a kind of punishment for all we know, to harm or even torture the wearer.”
“Doesn’t seem likely.” Suzie turned the glove over in her hands. “It’s a bit fiddly to be used against whoever puts it on, although it could still be a torture device to be used by the wearer against prisoners, perhaps for interrogation purposes.”
“All I’m saying is don’t take risks, and document everything. Tosh, make sure we get good, clear images on the CCTV, just in case anything goes wrong.”
“I’ll check the cameras in the firing range and set some of them up for close-up views.”
“Good, get on that right away please.”
Tosh bustled away to her workstation and started pulling up the CCTV systems on her monitors.
Down on the firing range half an hour later, Suzie slipped her right hand into the metal gauntlet, surprised at the way it immediately seemed to warm around her hand. Her fingers tingled, but not unpleasantly, as if she had tremendous power right at her fingertips. Considering how little they knew about the glove, it was quite possible that she did.
There was another sensation too, a kind of itch at the back of her brain. She’d come across devices before that were activated and controlled mentally and it seemed likely that this was another one that made a connection with the mind of its user. She spoke her observations into the small recorder she held in her left hand; it was a lot easier than continually removing the glove in order to make notes and she knew she could rely on Tosh to transcribe everything later.
Aiming the glove towards the targets down the far end of the firing range, she tried pointing with each finger in turn, simultaneously trying to will it to do something, but to no avail.
“Preliminary findings suggest that it’s probably not a weapon. It might be necessary to test whether or not it has any effect on organic tissue. I’ll also need to try it on some of the lab animals. Sorry, Tosh, but it might be the only way to find out what it does. Dammit!”
Suzie batted at the fly that had somehow found its way to the lower levels and was buzzing distractingly around her head. She hoped Owen hadn’t been using the firing range again to research the decomposition of alien body parts. Maybe this fly was left over from the last time. It landed on one of the tables, and slipping her tape recorder into her pocket, Suzie picked up her clipboard and brought it down quickly. The fly must have been torpid from the cool air because it reacted too late to avoid being swatted.
Bending over the body, Suzie looked at it carefully to make sure she’d succeeded in killing the annoying little insect. It was squashed and definitely looked dead. She smiled in satisfaction; another one bites the dust.
Afterwards, she could never fully explain why she did it, but without thinking, she reached towards the dead fly with her right hand, prodding it with the forefinger of the metal glove. The tingling in her hand increased and she felt slightly light-headed, the itch in her mind intensifying. The fly twitched, stirred, and took off, flitting into the air only to drop like a stone back onto the table top barely a couple of seconds later. Startled, Suzie lost her balance and sat down heavily on the floor.
It had been dead, there’d been no mistake about that, she was sure. It had been dead and then for the space of two or three seconds, it had been alive again. She looked at the glove. How had it done that? A transfer of a minute amount of her life energy to the dead fly perhaps? There was no way of knowing, not at this stage.
Pushing herself back to her feet again one-handed, she leant over the table and once more, poked the fly with one metal finger. Nothing happened. Maybe it was a one-shot deal, or maybe she’d only thought the fly was dead… No. There were traces of ooze from the fly on both the surface of the table and, when she checked, the back of her clipboard. There was no doubt in her mind; she’d killed the fly and then brought it back to life with the glove.
A glove that could restore life; the potential was staggering. Could the effects be extended? With practice, would it be possible to bring something back to life for longer? Would it work on people?
Pulling the glove off, Suzie headed for the stairs; she needed to talk to Jack. This might well be the biggest, most exciting breakthrough in human history and she just had to persuade her boss to let her make it her own special project. It would turn everything they knew about life on its head if she could prove that death didn’t have to be permanent, so she needed to start testing its abilities as soon as possible.
Suzie Costello had big plans; she was going to save the world.