Jack was restless. Garrett was uncomfortably aware of it, trying to sleep beside him.
“What’s the matter?” he asked when Jack came back to the bed for the fifth time in an hour and sat with his pillows behind his back instead of trying to sleep. “Bad prawns in the pizza last night?”
“Ashley isn’t home yet,” Jack answered.
Garrett looked at the clock. It was a little after two a.m. He recalled several parties he went to as a student that were just getting started at two o’clock and didn’t start to wind down until daylight.
But Ashley wasn’t an undergraduate. He was still at Sixth Form College doing his A Levels. The party he was at was an official function run by his school and it ought to have finished by midnight at the latest.
He sat up next to Jack.
“There might be an ordinary explanation. He might have gone on to a friend’s house….”
“He didn’t call.”
“He’s seventeen and drop dead gorgeous for his age. He might have pulled. Do you expect him to do something as uncool as phoning home? Did you phone your parents when you were seventeen? I’m pretty sure I didn’t.”
Garrett had forgotten that Jack had been orphaned long before that age. It was a tactless thing for him to say. He was relieved when Jack passed over it.
“When I was seventeen… most of the bad things I did haven’t been invented yet,” Jack conceded. “But there are still plenty of things in the twenty-first century that a kid his age could get into trouble with.”
“I remember thinking that I would be much cooler about this kind of thing than my parents were?” Garrett asked him. “Now, here we both are, waiting up in the dead of night, thinking of all the worst case scenarios.”
“We’re parents. Parents of a teenager.”
“Two teenagers. It won’t be much longer before Gray starts giving us this kind of worry, too.”
“It’s only a few years ago that I was the one staying out all night, drinking, shagging….” Jack pointed out. “I’m not used to seeing it from this point of view.”
“Me, neither,” Garrett added. “My girls are still into My Little Pony. But we’re there, whether we like it or not.”
“He is so inexperienced compared to the other kids,” Jack said. “Anything could have happened to him. He could….”
“If it was anything involving either the police or a hospital we’d know about it,” Garrett pointed out logically. “Anyone who entered his name and address into any sort of official database would red flag my office as well as yours.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Jack conceded. “Even so….”
Even so, Jack couldn’t relax. Neither could Garrett. They were an unconventional family, as their neighbours had quickly been forced to accept, but they had all of the conventional concerns of parenthood.
“Give it another hour,” Garrett said. “If we don’t hear anything, then we start calling people.”
By the time another hour had slowly passed, Jack was positively fretting. Finally they heard the sounds they had hoped to hear - a taxi engine ticking over outside, the gate opening and closing, then the front door.
“You stay there,” Garrett ordered. “You’re too wound up. I’ll talk to him.”
He pulled on a pair of trousers and a t-shirt and was standing at the top of the stairs as Ashley stumbled up them.
“Did you have a good night?” he asked.
Ashley mumbled something incoherent in reply.
“You sound absolutely smashed,” Garrett told him. “Go on, get to bed and sleep it off. Tell us all about it in the morning. LATE morning, if you like.”
Ashley managed another incoherent answer as he shuffled past him and reached for his bedroom door knob. He had a little trouble finding it first time, but Garrett let him figure it out for himself. He listened at the half closed door for the sounds of shoes, coat and outer clothes being thrown off, then the creak of bedsprings before going back to his own bed.
“Ok, I think the no-alcohol rule has been shattered,” he said to Jack. “But you can’t tell me you didn’t half expect that. His first hangover in the morning - it’s a rite of passage for a youngster.”
Jack sighed with relief. That was the least of the dangers he had been agonising over.
“My dad gave me hell that morning,” Garrett said as he adjusted his pillows and prepared to sleep. “Do the kid a favour and be a bit cooler about it. After all, it’s nothing you haven’t done plenty of times.”
Jack promised he would be cool. Garrett kissed him goodnight and turned off the bedside lamp. They were both asleep in a few minutes.
The next thing they knew was the sound of coffee cups being placed by the bed. Jack stretched and smiled at Gray, still in his pyjamas, as he tiptoed away.
“Ashley could do with a cup,” he called out. “Strong, black, I should think.”
Gray was only just thirteen, but he laughed knowingly and went to make another cup of coffee. Jack and Garrett lazily sipped their freshly brewed drinks as they listened to his footsteps coming back up the stairs and going into Ashley’s room.
Then Gray ran back to them, calling out urgently.
“I can’t wake him up,” he said. “Ashley. I think he’s really sick.”
Jack scrambled out of bed and ran to his son’s room. The curtains were pulled across, only a sliver of daylight coming through. Ashley’s dark head lay on the pillow, ominously still. Jack reached out and shook him. He stirred, but he didn’t wake. He shook him more vigorously, then threw back the covers and lifted him up. His body was limp and unresponsive, as if he was in a deep coma.
“Garrett, call Martha, tell him we’re coming into the Hub,” he said to his lover who was hovering anxiously at the door. “Gray, go and get dressed. You’ll have to come with us.”
Jack threw clothes on himself haphazardly, not at all like his usual careful way. He had only one thought - getting Ashley to the best medical doctor he knew. If he had been driving, he would have been breaking every traffic law in the book. As it was, Garrett was exceeding the speed limit for a built up area, but he did so in a calm and controlled way, knowing that a collision would do nobody any good.
Martha was waiting in the Hub. She took charge coolly and professionally. Garrett made Jack come and sit down in the rest area. Gray went to the ‘play corner’ where Ianto and Alun were, as usual, spending educational time with Sam the Weevil. He picked up the hardback tale of the Marmalade Cat and helped Sam with the longer words. It was a way of taking his mind off his anxiety.
Garrett watched his adopted son and then turned back to Jack. Neither of them were so easily distracted. Their minds were both racing with dreadful possibilities. Jack kept talking about the various recreational drugs that could cause this kind of illness in a teenage boy.
“Ashley is a smart kid,” Garrett reminded him. “He would never take anything like that.”
“He might not have known,” Jack pointed out. “Somebody could have spiked his drink. It happens. I’ve done it myself, often enough. And I don’t mean slipping Retcon to a witness. In the fifty-first century there was this stuff called Tufi… short for Totally Up For It. It was… not exactly a date rape drug. Those who took it were wide awake and knew what they were doing… but it took away all inhibitions and made them say yes to any sexual act you could imagine… and probably some you couldn’t imagine. I always had a couple of pills when I went out on the pull - one for my date and one for me.”
“There might have been a time when I would have been shocked by that idea,” Garrett told him. “And other times when I might have suggested you find the recipe for a hot night in. But… right now… it just doesn’t feel right even thinking about it. I care for Ashley as much as you do, Jack. I care about both our kids. But we ought to try to stay positive. We know he can’t die.”
“You know the sort of things bad ecstasy can do,” Jack pointed out. “What if he ended up brain damaged… an immortal vegetable. We wouldn’t even be able to turn off life support and let him go.”
“Good God, Jack, when did you get to be such an alarmist?” Martha Jones asked. Both men looked around to see her standing nearby.
“He’s still sick, but he’s coming out of it,” Martha told him. “Come and sit with him. He needs a bit of reassurance.”
She probably only meant Jack but there was no holding Garrett back. Both followed her down to the medical room.
“I thought you said he was coming out of it?” Jack protested when he saw his son. He was lying on a hospital bed with the side rails up to stop him falling if he moved. But he wasn’t moving. His eyelids stirred lethargically and he struggled to open them at the sound of his father’s voice. The effort was almost too much.
“He’s got considerably more brain activity than he did ten minutes ago,” Martha assured him. “To be honest, it’s puzzling me. Apart from an acute lack of iron there was nothing medically wrong with him. There was nothing in his blood that accounts for his condition - certainly no alcohol or recreational drugs. I guess that’s what you were worried about? That’s why you brought him here, not to A&E. The RAF would take a dim view of an applicant with a drug history.”
“There is that,” Jack admitted. “But mostly I knew that you were better than any doctor in A&E. I trust you.”
“You flatterer!” Martha smiled at him, despite herself. “Seriously, I am not sure I deserve the compliment. I’m still pretty much at a loss about what caused this. Maybe when he’s properly awake he can tell us something. But medical science has drawn a blank.”
Ashley was slowly starting to wake. He managed to open his eyes more fully and he squeezed Jack’s hand to acknowledge that he was there. It was still another hour, though, before he managed to speak.
“Dad?” he questioned. “Where am I? How did I get here?”
“You’re at Torchwood,” Jack answered. “I brought you here. What happened, son?”
“Nothing happened,” he replied. “At least, I can’t remember anything.”
“Round here, when somebody can’t remember anything, it means something DID happen,” Jack pointed out. “Try to think. What’s the last thing you DO remember?”
“The party… dancing with a girl… Simone.”
“I knew a Simone once,” Jack said. “She came from a planet where the people can change gender at will. He also went by the name of Simon. He was cute either way. And fantastic in bed.”
Garrett gave him a sharp look. So did Martha. Ashley just looked puzzled. It wasn’t anything to do with his father’s complicated back catalogue of lovers, though. He was struggling to recall what had happened in the missing part of last night.
“That’s all I remember,” he admitted. “Dad, I swear, I wasn’t drinking. And I didn’t take anything I shouldn’t. I promise.”
“I believe you, Ashley,” Jack assured him. “It’s ok. I’ll find out what happened. You just take it easy, son.”
He was still weak. That much conversation exhausted him. Jack left Garrett sitting with him. He would have stayed if he thought it would have helped, but he knew he could be more use elsewhere.
Martha would have gladly sat with Ashley, monitoring every moment of his strangely slow recovery, but she, too, knew that there were other lines of inquiry she could follow. She asked Alun to keep an eye on her patient while she drove up to St. Helen’s hospital. She was known there. She had no trouble being admitted to the neurological department.
The consultant, Doctor Jones, no relation, knew her. He came at once when he got her message. He looked relieved.
“Doctor Jones,” he said. “If there is anything you can tell me… I’m at a loss.”
Martha looked at the long row of beds with curtains drawn around them. She noticed the tearful woman who emerged from between one set of curtains, asking the same questions of the nursing staff that Jack had asked her, and receiving the same answers.
Nobody knew why her daughter, who had no alcohol or drugs in her blood stream, had been unable to wake up this morning.
“ALL of these?” Martha asked.
“All of these, and more. We had to find beds where we could. I’ve got teenagers in the gynaecological ward, the geriatric department, in the private wards. After triage I arranged for six of them to be sent to Swansea. And one of them is in the morgue.”
“The morgue! One of the kids died?”
“She was unresponsive in the ambulance, despite all efforts by the paramedics. The duty doctor in A&E declared her dead after further efforts proved futile.”
Doctor Jones tried to keep his voice steady and to use professional sounding language, but there was a look in his eyes. Sending teenage girls to the morgue upset him.
Martha was doing her best to be professional, too. She was resisting the urge to phone Alun at once and tell him not to leave Ashley’s side for one moment.
Of course, Ashley had one advantage over these other kids. He COULDN’T actually die.
She reminded herself of that. She had, after all, with her own two eyes, seen his body mend after being ripped from inside by the biological bomb planted by Saul Galen.
But she was never completely certain. It was all right with Jack. She knew his future was written in stone. But she often wondered if Ashley was as indestructible as him. Could there be a limit to his immortality, and how often could they test the theory?
She pulled her mind back to a hospital ward full of sick teenagers.
“There are a couple of adults, too,” Doctor Jones added.
“All of them teachers,” Martha guessed. “They were chaperones at the party the kids were at - all from the same college.”
“It’s not unknown for a group of people involved in the same activity to be ill at once. Food poisoning at a dinner, carbon monoxide in a wrongly ventilated room - Legionnaires’ Disease, of course, is named from the group of French army veterans who all presented the same symptoms after a reunion dinner. But this is none of those things.”
“May I be permitted to look at the dead girl?” Martha asked. She could have pulled rank with her U.N.I.T. credentials or the Torchwood insistence that it was above everyone else, but she preferred to be courteous to her fellow doctors. Asking permission was better than barging in.
Jack Harkness could remember when the building known as The Temple of Peace was built in the centre of Cardiff. It was a gift to the people of Wales as a memorial to those who had died in the Great War. There was a National Book of Remembrance to 35,000 of them in the crypt underneath the building.
The main Temple Hall was generally used as a venue for concerts, conferences, wedding receptions and various social occasions. It had even been used a couple of times as a location for dramas made by BBC Wales and S4C.
Last night it had been the venue for a pre-exams party for the students about to take their A. levels at Coleg Glan Hafren. Jack walked across the wooden floor, his feet echoing in the quiet. He could easily imagine what it was like last night with what passed for music these days playing, disco lights – did they still call them disco lights – the kids talking and laughing, having a good time, the buffet and the non-alcoholic drinks by the stage. It was Ashley’s first such occasion.
And it shouldn’t have ended the way it did. Who had ruined the party for him, Jack wondered. And how?
Why did he think the answer was here? The Hall was empty now. It had been cleaned this morning. Every trace of crisps and sausage rolls dropped on the floor, every sticky pool of cola, had been cleaned up. Any trace of anything less innocent, pills, powders, alcohol in the fruit punch, was cleared away. There was nothing to see, nothing to investigate.
His mobile phone rang. He answered it. Martha told him all she had found out, including the autopsy on the dead girl that had been as inconclusive as her examination of Ashley.
“She was a really thin girl,” Martha pointed out. “Probably one of those forever on a crash diet trying to emulate the supermodels. Perhaps that made her more vulnerable than the others. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to die.”
“Martha, what are you saying? That her death was an accident?”
“Yes, I think so. But that doesn’t make whatever it is any less dangerous. If it’s some new recreational drug that breaks down so fast it leaves no trace….”
“Jack, what’s that buzzing noise at your end?” she asked.
Jack was surprised. He hadn’t been aware of a noise. Now that she mentioned it, he realised that there was a very low and constant sound all around him. It had been setting his teeth on edge but he was so wound up already before he arrived at the Temple of Peace that he didn’t even realise.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “A cleaning machine elsewhere in the building, perhaps. It’s bloody annoying.”
“Well, look, I’m going to head back to the Hub and see how Ashley’s getting on. I’ll see you there.”
He said goodbye to Martha and shoved the phone back into his pocket. As he did, he was aware of somebody else in the room. It was the caretaker who had let him into the building. The man was about as small as it was possible to be without being classed as a dwarf. He was also unfortunate enough to be bald and round-faced so that he looked like an over-sized baby. Jack tried not to tower over him with his full six-foot-one matinee idol figure, but it wasn’t easy.
“Did you find any carbon monoxide traces?” the man asked. “Have you done your check? Don’t you need a machine to test for that sort of stuff?”
“Right here,” Jack answered, hitching up his sleeve and opening the leather cover on his wristlet. “Yep, everything’s done with microchips, now.”
He looked at the reading and noted that the small man was using a shimmer cloak to disguise the fact that he was actually a fish-descended native of a planet that was, actually, by coincidence, in the Pisces quadrant. He was one of the harmless aliens who made up a very small minority in the modern, multi-cultural Cardiff. He was nothing to do with anything sinister.
“There’s no carbon-monoxide,” he replied. “But there are other tests I need to do.”
He looked down at the floor, completely by chance. Nothing had made him think of it, no sudden burst of inspiration.
“This is new, isn’t it?” he asked. “This floor - didn’t it used to be a darker wood?”
“It’s brand new,” the fish-descended caretaker answered. “Just finished last week. The manager was moaning the other day about the timing. He didn’t like the idea of a bunch of teenagers scuffing it up at their college party before the Lord Mayor’s Ball next weekend.”
“Bollocks to the Lord Mayor’s Ball,” Jack replied. “Besides, it doesn’t look scuffed to me. It’s pristine.” He kicked the floor with the heel of his Timberlands, much to the Caretaker’s shock. “Is it really wood, or some kind of veneer effect?”
“Buggered if I know,” the caretaker answered. “It polishes up well. I gave it a nice buffering just an hour ago.”
“Yes,” Jack had a sudden vision of the small man pushing a huge commercial buffering machine around that struck him as amusing. He tried not to smirk. “You’ve got a helper with the cleaning, though? I can hear somebody else using the buffer.”
It was a throwaway bit of conversation, the sort of thing Jack tried to do now and again to make himself seem ‘normal’, the sort of thing that just bored him to death if he had to listen into anyone else doing it.
“That’s not the buffer. I don’t know what that noise is. Funny thing, it’s only in this room. I only started hearing it when I came in here. Maybe it’s vibrations from outside.”
“No,” Jack said. “I don’t think so.” He touched his wristlet again. His own DNA and the fish-based one of the caretaker were the only lifesigns showing in the building. But the monitor was only calibrated for carbon based lifesigns. If there was anything else it wouldn’t pick it up.
He pressed the tiny keypad with surprising dexterity considering how large his fingers were in comparison, widening the definition of a lifesign to just about anything.
He was startled by the results. According to the new readout there was a massive lifesign all around him.
No, not around – under.
There was something alive under the floor.
“Get off this floor,” he yelled out, making the caretaker jump two feet above it in fright. “Come on, move.”
He felt the vibration under his feet increase. It was like running on sand that was liquefying during an earthquake. The little caretaker was struggling to keep his feet. Jack grabbed him by the waist and carried him under his arm until they reached the corridor outside the Hall.
“Sorry about that,” he said, putting the man down on his feet again. “But I don’t leave anyone behind if I can help it.”
From the relative safety of the tiled floor in the corridor they both looked back into the Temple Hall, the caretaker peering under Jack’s arm. The ‘wooden’ floor was undulating like something alive – a snake writhing along the jungle floor or a manta ray on the seabed. Both analogies occurred to Jack.
“What is it?” the caretaker asked.
“I have absolutely no bloody idea,” Jack answered. “And if I’ve no idea, that’s saying something. I thought I’d seen everything.”
He watched for a few more minutes and the undulations gradually subsided. The floor began to look like a floor again.
“How do I get underneath this room?” Jack asked. “I want a look at that thing’s ass.”
The caretaker obviously remembered for a brief moment that Jack had claimed to be checking for carbon monoxide then he decided that he was as good a person as any to deal with a floor that turned on people. “You’d better come this way, sir.”
Martha drove back to the Hub feeling slightly depressed and impotent. It saddened her knowing that there was nothing she or any other doctor could do for these people all affected by an inexplicable illness. Even the superior technology at Torchwood had failed to throw up any explanations this time.
She stepped into Hub Central in time to hear Ashley screaming and Garrett and Alun trying to calm him. She took the steps down to the medical room two at a time to reach them.
“It’s all right,” Garrett assured her. “He fell asleep again and had a bit of a nightmare.”
“No.” Ashley grasped Garrett’s shoulder and pulled himself up in the bed. “No, it wasn’t a nightmare. I remembered. Last night at the party…. It was the floor. It was alive. The floor did it.”
“He’s rambling,” Alun insisted. “How could….”
“Hush, sweetheart,” Martha said, putting a cool hand on his clammy forehead. “Calm down and tell us what happened. What have you remembered? Garrett, I know you’re worried, but back off a little just now. Alun, get him a glass of water. Ashley, it’s all right. We believe you. Take a couple of deep breaths and tell us slowly what happened.”
Martha’s bedside manner did the trick. He calmed and relaxed enough to describe what had happened near the end of the party. The music had been loud, the lights flashing. Everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves. Ashley had been particularly happy to be a part of a group of friends his own age, including a girl who he had danced close up to in the slow dances.
Then he became aware that the floor was vibrating much more than it should. He looked down and saw that it was moving under his feet. He had tried to call out a warning, thinking that it was going to collapse, but nobody heard him.
Then the dancing slowed. The music slewed to a stop. Everyone was moving as if in slow motion. He felt more tired than he had ever been in his life and so hot he longed to get out into the fresh air. He remembered moving through the crowd as if he was swimming against a strong tide, trying to reach the door.
Then there was nothing until he woke the next morning. He couldn’t remember leaving the Hall. He couldn’t remember getting into the taxi and going home, or anything at all after that.
“We know you got home safe, so don’t worry about that. Alun, I think you’d better get down to the Hall and give Jack some back up. This sounds too big for him to handle on his own.”
Jack was just thinking the very same thing himself as he climbed a ladder into the maintenance crawl space between the ceiling of the crypt where the Book of Remembrance was kept and the floor of the Temple Hall. What exactly was he getting into here? His vortex manipulator had been bleeping so loudly since he came down here that he had to turn the sound down while that buzzing noise that sounded like a buffing machine was getting louder. Now it was starting to remind him of a hive of bees at very close quarters.
It was neither. He stared at the thing that was clinging to the underside of the floor. It was like a huge grey skin with flesh and muscle beneath. The skin had the texture of something like the manta ray he had pictured earlier and was radiating a heat that he could feel in the air even before he got fully into the crawl space. The data on his vortex manipulator told him that it was a calcium based life form. That was why he had had to change the parameters of the lifesigns detector to recognise its presence.
“What the fuck are you, and how the hell did you get here?” Jack asked out loud. “And where from?”
To his surprise, he heard an answer, not in words, but in images of a star chart, a planet in a solar system a long way from Earth that appeared directly in his head. This close to the creature it was clearly capable of telepathic thought. He saw a strange misty light that he recognised as the Rift. The creature had come through it like so many others.
As for why it was here, he hadn’t actually got around to that question, but he got the answer anyway, and he didn’t like it one little bit.
“I don’t think so, buddy,” he answered. “I’m Torchwood and it’s my job to take out things like you.”
Exactly how he should do that, he didn’t know. He had his gun in a holster under his coat, but even if he knew where its vital organs were the flesh was too thick. The bullets would never cause enough damage, even at this close range.
He started to crawl back towards the hatch, but it was harder to do than he expected. The creature was affecting him as it had affected the teenagers and their teachers last night. His arms and legs felt like lead and he could barely move his head to see where he was going as his feet searched for the ladder rungs.
He slipped and fell. The caretaker dodged out of the way. There was no way he could do anything to break his fall. He rolled on his side with his left arm broken and managed to answer his ringing mobile phone.
It was Alun telling him that he was coming to join him.
“Archive 3154,” he said in a tired, struggling voice. “Bring Ianto to help. Tell Martha… adrenaline… that’s what it took away… from the kids. Put Garrett…. on the phone.”
There was a pause while Alun passed the phone over. Jack struggled to keep his eyes open and stay conscious long enough to talk to his lover.
“I need you to find out….” He said to him. “Who did the… floor in… this place. Then have the whole firm… arrested and questioned. Find out… who put… a f… fuc…king… alien… down as… underlay.”
He dropped the phone. As he slipped into unconsciousness he felt the caretaker tugging at him, turning him into the recovery position. He tried to tell him it was all right. He hoped he wouldn’t try giving him mouth to mouth.
He didn’t like fish that much.
He woke to Martha Jones giving him compression only CPR. She knew better than to try the kiss of life on him again. He was aware of a portable drip in his arm replacing the adrenaline that the creature had drained from him.
“That’s why it didn’t affect me at first,” he said, as if he had woken to resume an earlier conversation. “I was calm when I was looking around up there… professional. I really didn’t start getting worked up about it all until I heard about the kid who died. Then the adrenaline was flowing and the creature detected me, started to drain me. Last night, all the kids… dancing, snogging, fighting among themselves - it feasted on them. Maybe at first it took them slowly, gradually. Then it got greedy….”
“Something like that,” Martha agreed. She stopped the drip and let him sit up. “I put Ashley on an adrenaline drip before I left, and told Doctor Jones at St. Helens to do the same for his patients. We won’t lose any more.” She looked up at the ceiling. Ianto and Alun were on step-ladders, very carefully removing sections of the ceiling. She could see the creature now, its flesh pulsating. It turned her stomach.
“It’s so big.”
“It was probably smaller before last night. Or thinner, anyway. That’s enough, boys. Let’s cook the bastard, now.”
Jack stood up and grabbed one of the weapons from Archive 3154 that he had asked for. Martha shuddered at the sight.
“Dalek ray guns,” she said.
“Yes,” he answered. “Captured by the military in London in 1963. I got hold of three of them. Don’t ask how. I knew they’d come in useful one of these days.”
Ianto and Alun took up the same weapons nervously then climbed the step-ladders again. Jack did the same. On his command they opened fire. The Dalek ray acted very much like a microwave oven, cooking flesh and organs from the inside. Three of them at once were turned upon the creature. Where it struck they saw the flesh illuminated from within like an x-ray picture momentarily. They felt its pain in their own heads but they fired again and again. The Dalek weapons used a micro-dark-matter chamber to create unlimited power. They could keep going until every inch of the flesh was seared through.
It fought back. Ianto slid part way down the step-ladder, the weapon falling from his hands when it became just too heavy to hold. Martha ran to him with a large syringe and pumped adrenaline into his veins. He breathed in deeply and grasped the weapon again before climbing back up to the fight.
Alun managed to keep going the longest. Jack twice succumbed and had to be given a boost of adrenaline. Of course, he had already faced it once. He wasn’t fully fit to begin with. But he never gave up. Martha couldn’t think of any circumstance where he would. He kept on firing at the creature.
It got easier. The flesh creature was dying inch by inch as its flesh was cooked from within. Whatever internal organs it had were destroyed. Jack ordered Ianto and Alun down while he climbed right up into the crawl space and gave it one last burst of Dalek death. Then he raced to get away as he heard a peculiar ripping sound and knew that the dead flesh was collapsing. He had died in any number of ugly ways, but crushed beneath a carpet of flesh wasn’t one he wished to experience.
“We did it,” he proclaimed. They looked up from the crypt floor to see the dead tissue bulging through the gaps made in the ceiling. It was exuding a smell in death that put Jack in mind of the day he met the Lady Mayor of Cardiff who turned out to be a disguised Raxacoricofallapatorian in a Human skin suit. He’d have taken bets that the solar system this creature came from was somewhere near that ridiculously named world.
The little caretaker came down the stairs from above to report that the new floor in the Temple Hall had collapsed and the manager was livid.
“He should sue for shoddy workmanship,” Jack answered before answering his mobile phone which Ashley and Gray had recently programmed to play the theme from James Bond to let him know it was Garrett calling him. “What have you got?” he asked.
“A really disgusting alien thing that started to unzip itself from the Human skin of the flooring company boss while my people were arresting him. We’ve got it in custody, but it was a hell of a struggle. Any ideas how to stop it trying to electrocute and poison MI5 agents? And can anything be done about the… gas.”
Jack figured he’d won that bet with himself. No doubt the reasons why a Raxacoricofallapatorian was hiding adrenaline eating monsters under floors would come out later during interrogation.
“A couple of water pistols full of vinegar makes them behave,” Jack answered. “The ‘gas’ is just something your people will have to put up with. See if you can find out where else that company has laid down floors in recent weeks. I hope they haven’t been in the Senned or something really serious like our favourite restaurant.”
He closed the call and turned to his colleagues.
“Ok, let’s roll that ugly thing up and call Rhys to see if he has a lorry to spare. We’re going to have to get it out of here and back to the hub without traumatising any civilians.”