Beth was in the Hub kitchenette when Jack Harkness stumbled noisily through the heavy round metal door. She gave a shocked yelp when she saw him and ran to help. She sat him down in the rest area and brought coffee first, then ran to fetch a clean shirt for him. The one he was wearing must have been his usual pale blue when he put it on, but now it was stained dark red with blood and was ripped to shreds. It would be fit only for the bin.
She tried not to look as he changed his shirt, but she couldn’t help noticing that there were no wounds on his chest.
“You… died?” she asked. It was something she still hadn’t quite got used to about her boss. She heard the stories from the others, but being in close proximity to one of his deaths felt strange.
“I’m ok,” he assured her as he fastened the buttons and slipped his braces over his shoulders. “I had a run in with a Weevil down on Stuart Street. It was really wild. And I didn’t have the pacifying spray on me. I wasn’t Weevil hunting, after all. I was just walking in to work… a bit earlier than usual, what with the boys going out to that UFO crash site. But just a routine walk. I didn’t expect it. I might have to hunt it down later, get it off the streets.”
He was rambling to himself rather than talking to Beth, trying to get his own thoughts in order after a cold resurrection in the gutter. Yes, his priority was getting that creature off the streets. It was too near a major residential area. And Gray’s school was only a few hundred yards away from where he had been attacked. Weevil’s were usually off the streets by daylight, but even so the thought of one of them gone rogue near the children made his blood run cold.
“Funny thing was, I think it was scared rather than angry. It attacked me because it was spooked by something. Though what would spook a Weevil? The only thing I know of is Ray. And he’s safe and sound in the vault tonight.”
“Ray had a bad night, too,” Beth said. “He’s been very restless in his cell. Pacing and roaring one minute, then cringing in the corner the next.”
“Cringing? That’s an odd description of Ray in his wolfman mode. I didn’t think he did cringing.”
“He did last night. And… well, I don’t tend to pay much attention to the Weevils. You know they give me the creeps. I usually just look at them on the scanner to make sure they’re all there. But I think they were the same. Do you think… could something be affecting them all?”
“Very likely,” Jack answered. He looked at his watch. “Moon’s set and it’s daylight outside, now. Ray should be ready for his breakfast. Put some more coffee on, honey. I’ll take his clothes down to him.”
Beth didn’t say anything, but her expression was one of gratitude. She usually went down to the vault to let Ray out after one of his wolfman nights, but she felt uneasy this morning. She was glad Jack had volunteered to go instead.
Jack still had mixed feelings about Ray. He still thought of him as a bit of a long streak of nothing who didn’t deserve Beth’s affections. But at the same time the guy had co-operated fully with Torchwood and turned up every full moon for his incarceration. It couldn’t be pleasant for him. There was nothing anyone could do to make the cell more cheerful when he walked into it voluntarily to wait his painful and difficult transformation. Jack sympathised with him and admired his efforts to prevent his affliction causing harm to others.
When he went into the vault, he did so dressed in a disposable paper overall. It ripped apart when he turned, of course. Shreds of it were left on the floor. Ray was sitting in the corner, naked and shivering slightly. It wasn’t especially cold in the vaults, but he might well feel it in his skin after having fur all night.
“How are you doing?” Jack asked in as cheerful a voice as he could muster. “Beth has the coffee on upstairs.” He opened the cell door carefully and handed Ray the pile of clothing at arms reach. He watched without prurience as the naked man covered himself decently.
“I’m ok,” Ray said in answer to Jack’s question. Then he shook his head. “No, I’m not really. At least… now I’m awake and… Human… and I’ve got clothes on, I’m ok. But… I had an odd night. I feel as if… I WAS here all night, wasn’t I? I couldn’t have got out and hurt anyone?”
“Yes, you were,” Jack confirmed. “There are some serious alarm systems on your cell. We’d have known. You didn’t go anywhere.”
“I feel as if I did. I have these dull memories of anger, fear, of death…. As if I’d been hunting.”
He shook his head solemnly and looked at Jack as if hoping he had some explanation for his discomfort.
But he did have a certain level of compassion that allowed him to see Ray as somebody needing a friendly word right now.
“Come and have some breakfast. Spend a bit of time in Beth’s company. That should cheer you up.”
Ray nodded and stepped out of his night time prison. Jack walked at his side up through the dark and unfriendly corridors of the vault and into the rather more welcoming part of the Hub where Beth was always ready to smile at him and offer him all the Human comforts he missed when there was a full moon.
It wasn’t quite daylight when Alun parked his Audi Quatro in a lay-by beside a country road so indistinguishable from every other country road nearby that even the satnav listed it as ‘Mountain Road’. He buttoned his coat thoroughly before he stepped out of the warm car. So did Ianto. They took already prepared backpacks from the boot and shouldered them manfully. That done they paused to look at each other through the haze of their frozen breath and then at the public footpath that snaked up an ice-covered slope and disappeared into a stand of pine trees.
“Come on,” he said. “We’re walking from here.” He looked at the LCD screen of the tracking device he pulled from his pocket. It was picking up distinct traces of an energy source that had no business being in the Welsh countryside. “About a quarter mile. Somewhere near those trees.”
“Lovely,” Ianto responded. He grinned at his lover and mounted the stile, dropping down into the field. His feet crunched in the frozen grass but at least it wasn’t muddy. Alun came to his side and they matched each other’s step as they trudged uphill. They didn’t talk much. The dawn broke slowly as they walked and illuminated a grey-white, frost-covered Welsh valley that they might have appreciated more fully if it wasn’t for that disturbing energy signal.
They were right. The crashed spaceship was on the edge of the copse of larch trees. Four trees had been felled and a trench some fifteen feet wide had been gouged into the ground by the impact.
They weren’t the only people who had been there. The local police had been alerted by residents on the outskirts of Bedwas, the former mining town to the south of the location. The police in their turn had contacted the military authorities, believing this to be a crashed RAF plane from St Athans. They had confirmed it was nothing to do with them and then decided it was work for Torchwood. Alun had expressed the view that U.N.I.T. couldn’t be bothered coming out to the middle of nowhere in the dark and shoved it down to them. Ianto agreed and added that Jack would give somebody hell for that later. He didn’t like U.N.I.T. considering Torchwood as their reserve force. But at least it meant they were the only real experts at the site.
Police incident ribbon had been stretched around the devastated area, but it had obviously been too cold, dark and inaccessible to attract a crowd. Alun ripped it away and stuffed it in his pocket. It was plastic, non-biodegradable and could be harmful to sheep if it blew away into a grazing pasture.
You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.
“Not a lot left,” Ianto pointed out as he bent to confirm that there was no harmful radiation in the fragments of twisted metal strewn about. “It broke to pieces. Any sign of the pilot?”
“He broke to pieces, too,” Alun confirmed as he examined something that was registering as organic matter, but was too badly mangled to be identified without examination at cellular level. “Wait a minute…”
He took a long, flat piece of the broken space ship and used it to dig in the trough of Earth. Presently he found what he was looking for. It was the alien equivalent of a flight recorder. And it was active. It was the source of the energy reading.
“Ok, we’re going to have to stop that,” Ianto said. “It’s probably broadcasting a Mayday to the rest of the fleet and Jack isn’t going to like it if we get an alien rescue party landing in the countryside.”
“No problem,” Alun replied. He shrugged off his backpack and pulled out another useful device from the Torchwood archive. He aimed it at the flight recorder and pressed a button. Ianto confirmed that the localised EMP field had killed the signal. He bent to pick the box up out of the ground. It would bear further examination later.
“Ughh!” He dropped the flight recorder in disgust as something white and slimy crawled around it, inches away from his fingers. He felt a bit stupid afterwards. The thing was no more than about eight inches long and an inch wide, but the sight of it spooked him.
“Selenochlamys ysbryda,” Ianto noted as he toed his boot against the slowly moving slug-like creature. “The ghost worm. It was formally classified as a new species a couple of years ago. First spotted in a Cardiff garden and later in Caerphilly. It’s unusual for a slug, as it’s carnivorous and devours Earth worms by sucking them in like spaghetti and munching them with sharp teeth. This is a rather big specimen. Eight inches… ten if the flexible body is fully extended. They were catalogued as being an average of two and a half inches.”
As he spoke, he reached into his own backpack and found a specimen jar. He used another piece of alien space ship debris to deposit the slug in it before sealing the lid. Alun said nothing, but his eyes clearly asked the question.
“Because it’s a LOT bigger than average and that might be something to do with these energy readings. And if it isn’t, and it proves the species naturally grows much bigger than previously thought, then I should show it to the people at Cardiff University who first identified it. Could be interesting to them.”
“Just so long as you don’t want to keep it as a pet,” Alun replied. “Not that I’m squeamish. But… ok, I am… just a bit. That’s the creepiest looking thing I’ve seen since that thing before Christmas… the Namhon. When it turned its stomach inside out in order to eat the pizza Jack brought in, I thought I was going to throw up.”
“Who needs alien species when we have weird and wonderful things in the soil of South Wales,” Ianto pointed out with national pride in his tone. “Ok, we’re going to have to bag up the organic remains and we’ll take the flight recorder now it’s been de-activated and de-slugged. And a couple of smaller samples of the metal the fuselage was made of. But the rest can just lie here. It’ll all be lost in the undergrowth by the end of spring.”
They worked quickly. It was still cold even though it was now, technically, morning. They thought longingly of coffee in a flask in the car and wondered if, after packing up the remains of an alien into a fold out body bag they really wanted to eat the bacon sandwiches they had brought with them for breakfast on the move.
“We’ve got company,” Alun said as they reached the lay-by. There was another car parked next to the Audi. A Range Rover. The owner of the car was wearing an RSPCA uniform and was crossing the road from the field opposite. He was carrying something that rather disturbingly resembled the body bag they hastily concealed in the back of their car. The stranger looked at the two of them and equally hastily opened the boot of the Range Rover.
“Excuse me…” Ianto stepped towards him. “I’m…” He reached into his pocket and took out his Torchwood identification. “I don’t know if you’ve heard of us. But… I wondered if… the reason why you’re out here at this hour… might be connected to our work.”
Alun was surprised. It hadn’t occurred to him to consider the RSPCA officer’s work as remotely connected to theirs. Ianto was really going out on a limb.
“Torchwood?” The officer looked at his ID, then at Ianto’s open, friendly and encouraging face. “Yes… I’ve heard of you lot. You… deal with unusual things. I’m… not sure if this is your sort of unusual but…”
He turned and unzipped the bag he had put into the Range Rover boot. Alun drew near in time to see the contents and decide that it almost certainly was Torchwood’s kind of unusual.
Ray had cornflakes and as much buttered toast and coffee as he could swallow for breakfast. He never felt like eating meat after a night in the vault. Even after his meal, though, he seemed subdued. He found it hard to respond to Beth’s attempts at conversation and her bright smile for him looked increasingly forced.
“Did you have any plans for today?” Jack asked him. “Do you have a shift at the After Dark Club?”
“No,” he answered. “It’s my day off. I was just going to… you know… hang around at home. Read the papers, watch TV.”
“You might as well do that here where we can keep an eye on you. When Martha gets in, she can give you a once over. Don’t worry. It might not be anything desperate. Even werewolves get flu, surely?”
Ray managed a weak smile of gratitude. It made him look even more pathetic than he did, unfortunately. In his werewolf condition his backbone was flexible. Jack had more than once thought that his Human form had no backbone at all. He usually chided himself for being uncharitable afterwards, and he knew Beth hated it when he was mean to Ray. But Jack had clear ideas about what a ‘real’ man was. And Ray didn’t measure up.
He turned from the rest area and saw Gwen arriving for work. He was surprised to see that she had her dog, Abby, on a lead. Abby looked surprisingly subdued. Usually the Labrador was an exuberant animal with enough lick to bathe a full grown man. Today it was almost cowering. Gwen spoke to her encouragingly. Jack bent to stroke her, and was surprised when her ears flattened and she backed away from him.
“She’s been like that all night,” Gwen said. “I don’t think she’s the only one, either. I’ve been hearing dogs barking and howling since about four o’clock. And she looked so miserable this morning, I didn’t want to leave her.”
Jack looked at the dog’s mournful face. She looked as sad as Ray did this morning. Though he wasn’t ready to make a connection between the two.
“It’s ok,” he said. “Let her sit next to your desk. You can take her for a stroll around the Bay later. You’re working on those missing person profiles aren’t you? People who might have gone into the Rift.”
“Yes,” Gwen answered. “Thanks, Jack. You’re the best boss anyone could ask for.”
“I know,” he replied with a grin. “But I always thought it was my sexual charm that you all went for. Not my kindness to animals.”
Gwen grinned back and brought Abby to her workstation. The dog settled down on the floor beside her while she got on with the routine work of a Torchwood agent. Beth had gone back to her own work in the front office. Ray was making himself look unobtrusive in the corner of the rest area with yesterday’s papers and the TV turned down low. Jack turned and went to his own office where the phone rang only moments after he sat down.
It was Alun.
“We’ve located the crash site,” he said. “But there’s something else up here that we think needs our attention. We’ll be another couple of hours.”
“No problem. As long as the something else isn’t a warm log fire in a cosy country pub. If it is, give me the address. I’ll bring Garrett for a weekend away.”
Alun responded to the banter good naturedly before cutting the call.
“This… isn’t natural,” Ianto confirmed as the two of them looked at the remains of what had once been a full grown sheep.
“It looks….” Alun added. “As if something swallowed it nearly whole… something that stripped the meat from the bones and then expelled the bits it couldn’t manage… It’s…half-digested.”
Ianto had carefully taken a sample in a sealed jar of the yellow slime that was probably going to turn out to be some kind of stomach acid. The carcass was covered in the stuff.
“That’s not all,” he added. He pointed the energy detection device at the carcass. It beeped as it registered the presence of extra-terrestrial radiation.
“Tom,” he said, addressing RSPCA Inspector Tom Lucas by his first name in a friendly and disarming way. “I think this IS our purview more than yours. We’d probably better take that corpse back to our office. We’ve got a lab where it can be fully analysed.”
Lucas was uncertain. There was a lab at his office, too. He had fully intended to find out what had killed the sheep. Because it definitely wasn’t a stray dog or a fox, or anything else that he was accustomed to seeing. But it sounded as if Torchwood might have better answers.
“It’s not the only one,” he told them. “I found three up along that ridge.” He pointed to the top of the bluff that rose up from the relatively flat field by the roadside. “I was planning to move further up the valley and look at the next farm along. If I was to guess, I’d think there was a pattern to this. Whatever killed this sheep has been moving in a straight line across country.”
“I think we’d better come with you,” Ianto said. “If I’m right, we’ll pick up traces of the energy on this device, which will save a lot of aimless wandering around.” He looked at the two cars. The Audi could go offroad if the terrain wasn’t too rough. But it would not get up the side of one of these Welsh mountains where the farmers let their sheep graze in all but the worst of the winter snows. The Range Rover was more suitable.
Lucas agreed, if only because it was a cold grey morning and this was a far from pleasant duty and having somebody else with him was reassuring.
They drove a little further up the unimaginatively named Mountain Road as Ianto watched the readout on the alien device.
“So… do you have some idea what’s happened here?” Lucas asked tentatively. “What’s killing these animals?”
“An alien ship crash-landed back there last night,” Ianto told him in a matter of fact way. “We’ve got a mangled body of what we presumed was the pilot in our car. But it’s possible something got away alive… and it’s feeding on local livestock.”
“An alien….” Lucas turned the word over on his tongue. “Let me see that ID again.” Ianto and Alun both complied. Lucas stopped the car before examining the biometric passes carefully. “I wouldn’t know what a genuine Torchwood ID looks like. For all I know you’re a couple of nutters with something you made up with Photoshop…”
Alun and Ianto didn’t say anything. He had a point.
“But… nothing I’ve ever come across can do that to a full grown sheep. Dogs, foxes, they rip out the throat and pull the carcass to pieces. They don’t…. swallow them whole. The only thing I can think of that does that is… I don’t know, a giant anaconda, maybe. But this is south Wales in winter. There’s no way…”
“So logically we must be telling the truth and there’s an alien on the loose.”
“I’ve got a shotgun in a locked case in the boot,” Lucas said. “Just so you know, I’m bringing it with me when we stop again.”
Ianto reached into his coat pocket and showed his automatic handgun briefly.
“Feel free. The road diverges in another hundred yards. I think we need to take the left turn. I’m picking up faint traces.”
The left turn was into a B-road with no name but a long string of numbers identifying it on the Satnav. Ianto noticed that a line of pylons carrying overhead power lines flanked it on the left as they moved roughly north-west. He recalled that there was a pylon the other side of the copse where they found the crashed ship.
The mutilated animals were in a north-west line roughly the same as the power lines. He wondered if that was significant.
“Turn off here,” he said as they reached a farm gate on the right hand side of the road. Alun jumped out of the back seat and opened the gate. Lucas drove straight in. When Alun rejoined them in the Range Rover he drove straight uphill through two hedgerow-bound fields before they found a flock of sheep. On the edge of the grazing area there was a dead one.
It was half-digested.
“It’s got traces of energy,” Ianto confirmed.
They bagged it up and brought it with them. Lucas made a note of the identifying markings on the other sheep. The farmers would all expect their insurance companies to pay up for the lost animals. He would have to write a report at some point to say how the sheep had been killed.
“Do you think… if I put these down as large dog attacks…” he said as they brought the dead sheep back to the Range Rover and then drove back down to the road. “No insurance company will pay up for aliens feeding on livestock.”
“Probably best if you do that,” Ianto agreed. “Hang on. Pull over. There’s something…”
He looked up from his tracking device to the field on the right side of the road. There was a man standing there, and a dark bulk on the ground that looked all too ominous after everything they had seen so far.
When they got closer they saw that the man was dressed for rural life in tweed trousers and a thermal jacket. He was barely holding back tears. The dark bulk was a tarpaulin. A piebald leg and a hoof wasn’t quite covered by it. Lucas showed his RSPCA identification as Ianto and Alun gently drew back the cover and looked at half a Welsh pony. It was the head half. The sightless eyes and the tongue protruding from the mouth was a sad thing to behold. The ragged edge where the poor creature had been severed in two was gruesome. Ianto quickly confirmed traces of alien energy and kept his own counsel about what he thought had happened.
“It’s my youngest girl’s pony,” the farmer said. “She loves it. She’s going to be heartbroken.”
“Sir….” Lucas put his hand on the man’s shoulder sympathetically. He glanced at his two companions who nodded empathically. “I suggest you get the remains buried before your little girl sees it. Tell her what you think best… I’m sorry for her grief. We all are. If it’s any consolation at all, I’m willing to put this down as an attack by a large dog. Any insurance claim can be settled.”
The farmer nodded. He said he’d call his older sons to help him with the burial. There really was nothing else to say or do. Lucas walked back to the Range Rover and filled out another report on the roadside.
“It was bitten in half,” Ianto said. “I think we ought to check along the way for the half digested remains of the other half and get rid of it before anyone else sees it - especially that man’s daughter.”
They found the grisly remains in a field on the other side of the road. As they were bagging it up to remove from the scene Alun heard something surprising.
“That… sounds like an elephant,” he said. “But…”
“It might well be,” Lucas told him. “There’s a small private zoo half a mile from here – in that direction.” He pointed to the north-west, along the line of electricity pylons. “Belongs to Natty Jackson.” Alun and Ianto exchanged puzzled glances. “You’re not into celebrity cooks?” Lucas asked. “He used to do a TV show in London. Decided to retire and buy a zoo, of all things. This spring will be his second year in business. I’ve inspected the premises a couple of times. He’s made some very good improvements. It’s better than it was under the previous owners…”
“A zoo…” Ianto mused. “And it’s along the path we’ve been following… north-west in line with the power cables. I think we’d better check it out.”
Martha couldn’t find anything much wrong with Ray apart from a mineral deficiency that she thought was probably a consequence of his shape-shifting on full moon nights. She gave him some shots and prescribed iron, folic acid and multi-vitamins. But he still seemed uncommonly down.
“You really were in your cell all night,” she confirmed. “There’s nothing for you to worry about. You didn’t harm anyone. Not even yourself.”
“It’s as if there’s something on the edge of my memory… like a dream I can’t recall. I keep thinking, if I knew what it was… I’d feel better.”
“We can probably help with that,” Martha told him. “We’ve got a mind probe that can read things in the subconscious. It’s… not very pleasant. But if you really think it would help…”
Ray looked at her and bit his lip thoughtfully.
“Define… not very pleasant,” he told her. “In a little more detail.”
The zoo probably looked bright and exciting in spring and summer. In February, with the cafe and souvenir shop shuttered, the flower beds bare and canvas wraps over the rides in the children’s play area, it was a little grey.
It still smelt like a zoo, Ianto noted. There was a faint aroma of fresh straw, old dung and warm-blooded animals.
A man approached them. Despite never watching his cookery programme, Ianto vaguely recognised him from television. But Natty Jackson didn’t act like a celebrity. He acted like a man who was extremely disturbed and upset. He greeted Tom Lucas with a tone something between relief and despair and when he introduced Ianto and Alun he seemed too distracted to acknowledge them.
“You’ve had animals attacked?” Ianto said in a matter of fact tone.
“Not just… attacked…” Jackson began. “Worse than that. I’d…. better show you.”
He seemed a man walking in his sleep as he brought them to the bison enclosure near the far end of the zoo. The herd of heavy set, sinewy beasts were huddled in one corner of the field. They were making a distressed noise something like a cross between a moo and a roar. There was a tarpaulin covered mound on the grass that they approached with ominous dread.
“Same as the pony,” Ianto confirmed.
“I’ve got two dead llamas, too,” Jackson told them. “But… that’s not all. You need to… come to… come and see this…”
The surviving llamas had been penned up in their stable. On their paddock were two more sad looking tarpaulins. But they left them there for now. Jackson brought them instead to the Elephant House.
“Oh my….!” Alun exclaimed loudly as they stepped into the large shed where the two African elephants were kept. The beasts had been secured in one section of their accommodation, but they were both making distressed noises, still.
And none of the humans could blame them. They all looked at the partially digested remains of half a bison that lay near the entrance from the outdoor habitat. It was covered in bile like all the other remains they had found.
But that wasn’t all. Ianto swallowed hard as he stepped towards something long, slimy and white that lay, immobile, in the middle of the straw-covered floor. It was at least three yards long and as thick as a man’s waist. But it clearly had no skeletal structure. It was more like...
“A giant Selenochlamys ysbryda,” Ianto said. “It is… just like the one we found….”
“At the crash site…” Alun finished his sentence. “The energy resonated through the ground… mutated one of the ghost worms… and it grew… exponentially…”
“It’s a theory,” Ianto agreed. “It attacked sheep, the pony… llama, bison… then it bit off more than it could chew… when it found an elephant.”
“Bit off…” Alun groaned. “That’s a terrible euphemism, Ianto. Please don’t use it again until we’re a long way from here. But… the elephants stamped on it?”
“An African can weigh as much as 15400 pounds,” Ianto pointed out. “Those two must be near enough that. Not much could survive that kind of weight bearing down on it.”
They looked again at the mutated creature. It was very definitely dead. The gruesome trail of animal attacks ended right there.
“We’re going to need a considerably bigger evidence bag than Lucas carries,” Alun said. “I’ll walk back and pick up the Audi. Lucas… I think you’d better make Mr Jackson a report saying he lost his bison and llamas to a pack of stray dogs. We’ll get the evidence that it was anything else out of your way in half an hour or so.”
All in a day’s work for Torchwood.
Beth and Gwen both hovered anxiously as Martha and Jack got ready to use the mind probe on Ray. None of them had seen that particular equipment used without it causing extreme distress to the subject. And Ray was already distressed before it began. Beth had tears in her eyes as the process got underway and he screamed viscerally at the deep, neurological pain caused by the probe boring down into the sub consciousness.
It was a good ten minutes before he stopped screaming. By that time, Gwen had fled the scene altogether. She sat in the far corner of the rest area, her feet hunched up on the sofa. Abby was with her, whining softly as she laid her head on her mistress’s lap. Both wanted to shut out the sounds from the medical room below, but they just couldn’t quite do so.
Beth stayed. At first she had gripped Ray’s hand and spoke soothingly to him, trying to comfort him as much as she could. But Jack wouldn’t even let her talk to him once the probe was fully connected to his subconscious. He made her stand well back.
“We don’t know what this might reveal,” he said. “It might even partially trigger his metamorphosis.” He nodded to Martha who rested her hand on a dart gun with tranquilizers fully loaded.
And it seemed as if he was right. Ray was incapable of speech, now. He began by growling deep in his throat and pulling against the restraints, but the deeper the probe went, the more animal-like he became, with roaring cries echoing around the room while his face twisted angrily.
“He’s still human,” Martha pointed out. “His DNA isn’t altering. But he’s remembering being in werewolf form.”
“Which means?” Beth asked.
“I don’t know,” Martha had to admit. “We won’t really know until the probe is finished and we get him back again.”
Jack ended the process after another ten minutes. Slowly, Ray’s features relaxed. He stopped growling and his body became still. Beth came forward and pressed a cool cup of water to his lips. He drank slowly before opening his eyes and looking at her gratefully.
“Thank you,” he whispered. Then he turned his head and looked at Jack. He reached out and grasped his hand. “I know what it is now. There’s something out there. Something more than a Weevil… something more like me… but not… not like me… And I can feel it, still.” His nostrils flared. “I can smell it. Jack… it’s evil. You have to kill it.”
“Steady on,” Jack answered him. “Evil… well, I’ve had a bit more experience than you on that account. Evil is a subjective term. Most people would say that you…”
“No,” Ray insisted. “This is…. Oh, my God… it’s… I can smell it on you. You were close to it. You… were breathing the same air…”
“Ray!” Beth murmured. “Please… this is scary. You’re talking like… some crazy thing. Not like you. Even on a bad morning, you’re not like this.”
“I’m sorry,” Ray told her. “I’m scared, too. I’ve never felt like this. It’s the machine that did it. But… Jack, if you don’t act on what I’ve told you… people will die. And their blood will be on your hands… not mine.”
“All right, calm down,” Jack told him. “But this is all very vague. You can smell something… what do you want me to do about it?”
“Bring a gun… come with me. I can show you.”
“All right. Get your coat on,” Jack decided.
He went to the armoury and made sure there were spare rounds for his Webley service revolver in his pocket, as well as clips for the automatic he selected in addition to the revolver. There was something about the tone of Ray’s voice that worried him enough to carry more than one gun. For preference, in a place like Cardiff, in the early twenty-first century, he would rather not carry a weapon at all. But if there was something more dangerous than Weevils, something that gave Ray’s werewolf psyche the creeps, then he wanted to be protected.
They went out through the tourist office entrance. Beth stayed below. She didn’t want to see them leave on such a mission.
It was still quiet on Mermaid Quay, at least. Jack was startled to realise it was still only eight o’clock in the morning as they came up from the boardwalk onto the Quay itself where all the shops and tourist amenities were still closed. They walked quickly, but not so quickly as to appear to be running as they moved along the passageway beside the closed up ‘Eddie’s Diner’ and came out onto Bute Street. There was traffic building up there. People coming into work in the shops and offices in the Bay area, and the school run.
Ray stopped on the corner and sniffed the cold air. Then he turned towards Stuart street.
The school run! In another half hour, Garrett would be on his way along this very road with Gray, dropping him off at the school that was only a few hundred yards away now.
“This was where I was attacked by a Weevil earlier,” Jack commented.
“You were attacked?” Ray looked at him curiously. “You didn’t say anything.”
“I don’t usually discuss Torchwood business with you,” Jack replied. “Besides, Weevils are routine… well… usually they are. This one was a bit crazier than usual… But…”
“The animals know,” Ray said. “Weevils… dogs… listen…”
Jack listened. Above the hum of engines there were dogs barking. At least half a dozen of them. Of course, Gwen had said she had heard it, too. And Abby had been agitated.
“All right. The animals know something. So do you. But know what, exactly?”
“It’s close,” he said. “This way.”
Ray darted across the road. Fortunately the traffic was all at a standstill at a red light, because he was oblivious to it. Jack, despite being immortal, looked both ways before crossing and then following him across the Stuart Street car park where he stopped and sniffed again before running in a north-westerly diagonal towards Adelaide Street.
“No!” Jack exclaimed as he realised just where Ray was heading. “Oh, no. It’s not at the school!”
He caught up to Ray around the corner, right by the school entrance. The gate was open, of course. Staff would already be there and pupils would be arriving in ever increasing numbers very soon. If there was something dangerous here…
“In there,” Ray said, pointing to the Victorian red brick structure next to the school gate. It was part of a collection of buildings called Royal Stuart Warehouses that Jack could actually remember facing the Glamorganshire Canal. Now the route of the closed and filled in canal was a linear green space with trees and a children’s playground. The warehouses were converted into offices.
Except for this block at the back which was still disused. The windows were grilled over and the double door with flaking red paint was always firmly locked.
Or it usually was. Jack waved to Ray to get behind him as he approached the arched porch and pushed at the door. It gave way beneath his touch and he saw that the lock had been broken in with some force. He reached in his pocket and found a small torch that he held underneath his gun as he stepped inside.
The first thing he saw was the remains of a dead Weevil. By remains he meant a jawbone with the unmistakeable Weevil teeth, one clawed hand and some mangled and bloody ribs. It occurred to him that it was probably the one that had attacked him not so long ago.
It also occurred to him that he might have been the remains lying on this floor, instead of the Weevil.
Or a child heading to school on foot, or a parent coming out of the school gates after dropping their youngster off.
“Jack, be careful.” Ray whispered his warning, but his voice seemed loud, even so. And it was enough to disturb the creature hunkered in the dark. Jack caught a glimpse of something that looked a lot like an eight or nine foot version of Ray in his werewolf state before it roared and pounced on him. He barely had time to fire his revolver once before he was brought to the ground by the creature. He felt its claws ripping at his chest, tearing at his flesh, gouging through his ribcage to pull out his heart. His finger pulled at the trigger again and again and he felt the shudder as the rounds went into the creature’s body. Just before he died, he thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye - a slender, lanky human springing forward from the doorway.
When he came back to life again his ripped shirt was covered in blood. He could taste blood in his mouth and smell it in his nostrils.
Not just his own, Human blood. But something else, besides.
He pulled himself into a sitting position. His eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light and he could see the dark bulk of something huge with matted fur covered in its own blood. Further away, Ray knelt on the floor, his hands still clutching Jack’s automatic pistol. He was shaking so much it was a wonder the magazine hadn’t dropped out.
“You’d better give me that, now,” he said, reaching towards him and taking the gun. He checked the magazine and noted that it was empty. “You shot the creature?”
“I had to. It was the only way. I… have never killed anything before… not when I’m me… it was…”
“You did the right thing. I could feel it… when it was on top of me… close up… I could feel what you were feeling… what all the animals in the city were feeling… it’s only instinct was to kill. If you hadn’t got it, you’d be dead, too. And then it would have been rampaging through the school…”
He paused and looked around at the half open door. Then he looked at his watch. He had been ‘dead’ for about fifteen minutes. He reached for his mobile phone and dialled the first number on his speed dial settings.
“Garrett,” he said. “Where are you?”
“In a traffic jam on Stuart Street,” he answered. “I wouldn’t have answered if we weren’t stationary. What’s up? Can it wait ten minutes until I drop Gray off at school?”
“Yes, it can,” Jack answered. “Garrett, when you get to the school, tell the headmistress to bring the kids into the assembly hall. Don’t have them standing in the playground. Stay there with them. Give them a chat about not talking to strangers or something… just make sure all the kids are in the assembly hall, where they can’t see the entrance gate. I’ll explain why, later.”
Garrett was puzzled but he said he would do what he said. Jack thanked him and then made another call. He told Gwen to call Rhys and have him bring a van to the school entrance with a large body bag and a spare shirt for him.
The clean up operation was accomplished without traumatising any children. The body of the murderous creature was transferred back to the Hub. Martha regarded it carefully when it was laid out on her mortuary table.
“At a guess, I’d say it was some poor soul that started out like Ray… but this one was trapped in the wolfman form and just went completely feral. But don’t quote me. I’ll need to do a full autopsy and DNA testing.”
“You don’t mean that Ray could end up that way, eventually?” Jack asked.
“Christ, I hope not,” Martha answered. “I’m still hoping we’ll hit on a cure eventually. Don’t let’s even think about that other possibility. Especially not around him – or Beth. Have you seen this, by the way?” She pulled a cover off the other table. “The boys brought this in. It’s not alien. It’s 100% Welsh, artificially mutated to that size by extra-terrestrial energy. Both these creatures were unique, and before mid-morning coffee break they’ve both wound up on the slab. You and I know somebody who would be upset about that. He always values uniqueness.”
“Yes,” Jack agreed. “But sometimes we have no choice. And even he knows that.”