Characters: Jack, Ianto, Owen, Gwen, Tosh, OCs.
Summary: The Rift often picks the damnedest places to drop aliens on the unsuspecting people of Cardiff, but this one beats them all.
Word Count: 1863
Written For: mirrored_illusions’s prompt ‘Any, any, this is a popcorn-worthy event,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
The church was in chaos by the time Torchwood arrived on the scene, the congregation valiantly defending themselves as best they could, throwing hymnals, hassocks, and prayer books at the creature that had invaded the evening service. Even the older members were joining in, whacking away at anything they could reach with their walking sticks.
Owen stopped just inside the doors and shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket, grinning widely as he took in the spectacle. “This,” he stated with relish, “is a popcorn-worthy event. It’s like a scene out of one of those cheesy Fifties B-movies! The only thing missing is a few zombies.”
“Keep it up and I’m sure that could be arranged, Owen,” Jack ground out as he pushed past the medic into the interior of the church. “Either lend a hand or stay out of the way!”
“What d’you want me to do?” Owen reluctantly moved to one side so the rest of the team could get in.
“You and Tosh start getting everybody out. Once they’re outside, Retcon them. Tell them it was hallucinogens in the incense; that usually works in these cases. Ianto, Gwen; with me.” Jack didn’t hang around to see if his orders were being carried out; he simply strode into the fray, fighting his way through the mob of parishioners as he made for the altar at the far end of the church. The Minister and the church choir were trapped there, using music stands as weapons.
“Shouldn’t we be shooting at the alien?” Gwen hissed at Jack as they wended their way over, under, and around thrashing blue tentacles.
“We’re in a church, Gwen,” Ianto replied for Jack. “A church packed with innocent bystanders. Opening fire in here would do more harm than good. First step is to evacuate the humans, then we can deal with what’s left.” As he moved among the combatants, Ianto was calmly directing people back towards the entrance. He raised his voice over the frightened clamour. “If you’d all just make your way to the doors in an orderly fashion, please. No need to panic. We can handle things from here, thank you.”
Gwen followed Ianto’s example, politely declining the walking stick an elderly gentleman offered her as protection, and gradually the church began to clear, except for whatever it was that was writhing among the pews.
Jack had reached the front of the church by now, and was trying to calm the wild-eyed Minister. “Nothing to worry about here, just hallucinogens in your incense, that’s all. None of this is real; it’s just somebody’s idea of a practical joke. I’ll take that before you hurt someone with it.” He relieved the terrified man of the flimsy bit of bent metal he’d been swinging at the ‘hellspawn’, patting the man consolingly on the shoulder. “Why don’t you let my colleague take you outside? You’ll feel much better after you get some fresh air.” He beckoned to Gwen, who hurried forward, dodging tentacles, to take charge of the Minister.
“Who are you?” he asked, before he would allow himself to be led away.
“Captain Jack Harkness, at your service.” Jack graced the Minister with his widest, cheesiest grin. “Pleasure to meet you. Off you go now.”
“But the choir… they’re just children, I have to protect them!”
“They’ll be following right behind you, I promise.” Jack turned away, calling out to the members of the choir, “Come on kids; follow the Minister. Service is over for tonight.”
Most of the young choristers were only too happy to cluster around their Minister and be guided out by Gwen, who was at her most motherly. Naturally, there were bound to be a few with other ideas.
“This is WAY cool!” one freckle-faced, bespectacled boy yelled, grinning around a missing front tooth. “It knocked my loose tooth out!” He showed it to Ianto. “D’you think I’ll get extra for that from the tooth fairy?”
“Probably not,” Ianto replied with a sympathetic smile.
The boy shrugged. “Pity. Still worth a try though.”
“Is it an alien?” a small girl with pigtails asked, tugging at Jack’s coat. “You’re Torchwood, right? My mam says you chase aliens. My granddad told her so.”
Jack looked down at half a dozen or so eager young faces and winked. “That’s right. Now why don’t you head on out of here and let us do our job?”
“But we wanna help!” the girl protested. “I’m gonna join Torchwood when I grow up!”
“Alright, then you can help by making sure everybody else gets out safely then. Check between all the pews on your way, okay? Make sure nobody got left behind. It’s very important.”
The little girl nodded eagerly. “We can do that. Come on,” she urged her friends, and they spread out, moving down the church, checking everywhere, actually finding several people along the way hiding under pews.
“Is that wise?” Gwen asked worriedly as she returned from taking her group of civilians outside. “They could get hurt!”
“They won’t,” Jack assured her. “Our visitor here is perfectly harmless, just scared and confused.” He ducked a flailing tentacle, then grabbed it and burbled something.
There was an answering burble and the tentacles gradually stopped their wild thrashing, settling for gentle writhing. Releasing the long, blue limb he was holding, Jack gave it a pat, burbling in a sympathetic tone before turning to Gwen.
“Call Rhys, see if he can bring a lorry; we’ll need to transport our friend here, I think she’ll be better off once we get her in the bay.”
“You’re going to set it loose in the sea?” Gwen asked, aghast.
“Well, we don’t have a big enough tank in the Hub, and conditions in the bay should be similar to those on her home planet. It’s really the best place for her since we can’t send her back where she came from.” Turning away, Jack burbled at length, directing whatever he was saying at the densest tangle of tentacles.
A large, blue body rose slowly from where it had been hunkered down between the front row of pews and the steps leading up to the altar ever since the congregation had started throwing things at it. Wide, saucer-sized yellow eyes blinked at the three Torchwood members and the huge alien squid burbled softly. Jack burbled a reply, then translated for his team.
“She’s happy to remain on earth; her people are mostly solitary creatures anyway. She’s a scientist with a special interest in marine biology and thinks it will be fascinating to study the ecology of an alien ocean.” He grinned at Ianto. “She’ll need a name, since even I can’t pronounce hers properly; she says my accent is appalling. Any suggestions?”
Ianto cocked his head to one side, considering the question. “How about Gloria?” he said after a moment. “You know, since the Rift dropped her off in a church…”
Jack had a word with the giant blue squid, who burbled approval. “She likes it, and I believe she’s rather taken with you too.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” Ianto replied, accepting the tentacle Gloria held out to him and shaking it solemnly. Gloria burbled with delight at his excellent manners.
“Gwen? The lorry?” Jack reminded the Welshwoman, who was gawping at the scene with wide eyes. “Gloria can survive out of water for several hours at a time, but it’s not particularly comfortable for her.”
“What? Oh, right. Sorry.” Gwen pulled out her phone and called her husband. “Rhys? We need a lorry out at St Paul’s Church in Grangetown.” She glanced at the squid. “A big one, the biggest you can get.” She listened for a moment before replying. “To transport a giant squid. No, I’m not joking! The Rift dropped a bloody giant alien squid right in the middle of evening service. Caused complete chaos. Jack wants to put it in the bay, says it’ll be right at home there.” Another pause to listen, then, “Okay, just as soon as you can, please.” She hung up and turned to Jack. “Rhys says he’ll be about twenty minutes.”
“Fine, that should give you time to help Owen and Tosh get the Retconned parishioners home while Ianto and I sort things out in here and help Gloria into the foyer. I think she’ll fit in there alright if she coils her tentacles up. It’s the best place for her to wait until Rhys gets here.” He was interrupted by someone tugging at his coat, and looking down, he saw it was the pigtailed girl from earlier.
“Everybody’s out,” she said. “We checked everywhere, even under all the pews.”
Crouching down, Jack smiled at the girl. “Excellent work, thank you. What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Penny Lewis. I’m Jack, and these are my friends Ianto and Gwen.”
“Hello.” Penny peered past Jack’s shoulder at Gloria’s tentacles. “Is the alien okay? People were throwing things and hitting it.”
“She’s a bit bruised, but she’ll be fine. Penny, say hello to Gloria.”
Gloria burbled something and held out a tentacle, which Penny took.
“She’s pleased to meet you,” Jack translated. “How old are you, Penny?”
“Nine and three quarters. I’m just small for my age.”
“Nothing wrong with that; you’ll grow if you eat your vegetables. Now, you need to go outside with the others, you don’t want your parents getting worried.”
“Okay. Do I have to take the pill the doctor man gave me?” She opened her hand to show the small low-dose Retcon pill resting on her palm.
“Yes, you do.”
“But then I’ll forget! Mam says that’s what the pills do, and I don’t want to forget all this. I don’t want to forget meeting an alien.”
“I know, but it’s best if you do, for now. You won’t remember us, but I’ll remember you, and when you’re old enough to join Torchwood, I’ll find you.”
“I promise. You’re going to make a very good Torchwood agent when you grow up.”
“Yes!” Penny punched the air, then quickly swallowed her pill. “I have to go now. See you when I grow up! Bye, Gloria!” she called back over her shoulder as she walked quickly down the aisle and out of the church.
“Well, that’s that.” Jack straightened up, dusting off his trousers.
“Are you really going to employ her when she grows up?” Gwen asked.
“If she’s still interested, yes. She wasn’t scared of Gloria, she’s smart, and she’s quick to follow orders. If she wasn’t so young I’d hire her right now; we could do with a couple more field agents. Okay, times a-wasting. Gwen, go help outside; close the outer doors behind you. Ianto, start tidying up in here, would you?”
Ianto nodded and set to work, picking up the scattered hymnals and prayer books.
Jack ran a hand lightly along a broad tentacle. “Okay, Gloria, let’s get you into the foyer and ready for transportation,” he burbled, and began to help the giant squid negotiate her way over the rows of pews, one tentacle at a time, smiling to himself. All in all, it had been a very successful evening’s work.
Sequel: Bay Release