“Merthyr Mawr is an idyllic little settlement, as picturesque as they come, with an outstanding collection of Thatched Dwellings straight from the pages of a Thomas Hardy novel, beautifully positioned around an old Village Green…”

Martha closed the webpage she was reading, suppressing a giggle at the triteness of the description of their destination.

“I’ve been with Torchwood too long,” Ianto responded as he glanced at the satnav to make sure they were on the right backroad. “I hear the words ‘idyllic little settlement’ and I just know the people there are going to turn out to be cannibals who feast on wayward backpackers or something.”

Martha laughed again but a little more uncertainly.

“I’m not kidding. Been there, done that – very nearly on the supper menu.”

Martha recalled seeing a file in the archive, but she had never read the details.

“It was one of my first real field missions,” Ianto told her. “And very nearly my last. I’d have been rare steaks if Jack hadn’t come in like the whole US Cavalry in one. Just one occasion when I owe him my life. But show me an idyllic village these days and I’ll be looking for the nasty little secret behind it. And, after all, we’re not heading out here for a picnic. Something has happened there that comes under our remit – Torchwood Weird Shit as Owen Harper used to call it.”

He was driving slowly and carefully. What was called Merthrmawr Road on the map looked more like a very long garden path with a drystone wall on one side and hedgerows on the other. If anyone planned to leave the village on this road they would have to think again. There was no space for anything wider than a pushbike to pass the SUV.

“Oh my God, the village that time forgot!” Martha commented as they finally reached the ‘idyllic settlement’. The first house they passed had a tiled roof but it was faced with pale pink wash and had climbing roses around the front door. Every other building she could see had thatched roofs hanging over the top windows and she was positive that the post box they passed had ‘GR’ embossed on it.

They had passed the parish church and were almost out of the village on the other side when they found the house they were looking for. It was much less rustic than the rest of the area, being a substantial two story building with a dormer window between the two eaves of the tiled roof. It was set back behind an overgrown garden with mature trees and evergreen bushes with red and white berries adding a splash of colour. Ianto turned the SUV in through the open gate and parked in front of the garage built onto the side of the house.

A man who matched the garden in being mature and with iron grey hair and beard that were both a little overgrown came out of the house to greet them.

“Doctor Griffith?” Martha reached out a hand to shake.

“Doctor Jones, I believe?” the man replied, receiving her hand graciously. “And… Mr Jones?”

“No relation,” Ianto said as he shook hands.

“Thank you both for coming. Let me offer you refreshments after your drive and I’ll explain why I called Torchwood out here to the back of beyond.”

Torchwood weren’t, of course, in the Yellow Pages. Dr Griffith knew how to call them because he was a former member of the Cardiff team. He was one of Martha’s predecessors as Torchwood medic. He had filled the position in the mid-1980s before retiring to the rather less hectic role of country GP. That much they knew about him, plus a couple of anecdotes from Jack about the juicier alien autopsies he had performed. It was enough to bring Martha and Ianto out to ‘the back of beyond’ when he said he had found something in their purview.

The two Jones’s followed their host into the house. A tea tray had already been set out with biscuits and slices of cake. Doctor Griffith brought a fresh pot of tea covered by a knitted cosy and poured for his guests. Drinking tea and eating cake in a pleasant drawing room with comfortable furniture and landscape paintings on the walls was such a thoroughly normal occupation it seemed incredible that all three of them were connected to Torchwood, a byword for all that was abnormal.

“Jack Harkness sends his regards,” Martha said. “He’s away at the moment, spending a couple of weeks with his boyfriend’s family in Ireland, but he asked me to remember him to you.”

“Jack has a steady relationship going?” Doctor Griffith smiled wryly. “That’s a change from my time at the Hub.” He sighed softly. “Great days. Amazing days. But when I met Cari… my late wife… I started to value a quieter lifestyle. We raised four children in this house. All gone now. I rattle around the place by myself these days. But I’ve no regrets. I’ve had a good useful life and I make the most of my retirement.”

None of that was especially relevant to any Torchwood case. It was just small talk over tea. It didn’t seem relevant, either, when Dr Griffith mentioned that the pictures on the wall were all his own work, a retirement hobby of water-colour painting.

I was up on the Big Dipper this morning just before dawn. It was a fine clear night and I knew there would be a lovely sunrise over the Warren. I was taking some photographs in the early morning light to bring home and use for inspiration for a painting. I know that’s cheating a bit. I ought to have sat out there with my easel, but I don’t need chilblains and double pneumonia at my age. That’s also why I brought my car as far as the parking spot near Candleston Castle. It’s less than a mile. Time was I could have walked it without thinking. But, anyway, it was as I was coming out of the trees in my car that I hit him. I wasn’t even going very fast, but he ran right in front of me and I hit him pretty hard… though I didn’t think it was enough to kill him.”

“He?” Martha queried. “A man, you mean?”

“I thought it was a man at first – until I looked closer. That’s when I decided to bring him back here… and call Torchwood.”

Doctor Griffith put down his tea cup. He stood up. Martha and Ianto followed suit. He brought them through to a room that was still set out as a doctor’s surgery from the days when he ran his practice from his home. There was a body under a linen cover on an examination table. A bloodstain had soaked through the fabric.

Martha looked at her fellow physician who nodded his consent. She moved closer and pulled back the cover.

“Oh my GOD!” she exclaimed. Ianto took a look and stepped back involuntarily. It was a shocking sight.

There was damage from the accident, of course, far more than a Human would have sustained even if Doctor Griffith had been driving much faster than he said he was. The skull was smashed in several places.

But that was hardly surprising. The skull wasn’t a skull in the sense of the word that Martha had learnt in anatomy class. It was more like an exo-skeleton – the word chitin came into her mind and immediately associated itself with insects.

The greenish-grey chitinous exoskeleton covered the whole body. She pulled away the ripped overall he was wearing and confirmed as much. Yes, it was a human shape in almost all respects. She noted that the chitin covered the genital area. This creature appeared to be a sexless drone. The upper limbs ended in claws like a crab rather than a hand and the lower ones bent oddly like the double knees of a grasshopper.

She pulled one of the legs as if to straighten it and was disturbed to find that it broke off at the lower knee. Blood and gore spilt onto the linoleum floor. She apologised profusely for the error.

“The body is breaking down rapidly,” she said. “The sinews holding the leg together are liquefying already.”

“It’s alien, of course,” Doctor Griffith said. “Exactly the sort of thing Torchwood deal with.”

“Undoubtedly,” Martha answered. “Though I would have to get it back to the Hub to do a full autopsy and confirm that.”

Ianto wrinkled his nose at the thought of something already that messy going into the SUV. He was thinking of airtight plastic containers rather than a leaky body bag.

“You could do it here,” Doctor Griffith suggested. “I have all the basic equipment. I can assist. I have performed alien autopsies more times than you’ve had hot dinners, my dear lady.”

Martha was on the point of refusing his offer, but it occurred to her that the old Torchwood MD wanted to play his part. He was doubly retired from Torchwood and from his ordinary general practice and one last crack at a medical mystery would remind him that he was still alive and kicking.

“I’ll need some specialist equipment,” she pointed out.

“Alun and Gwen can bring it up from the city,” Ianto said. “We NEED the whole team on the spot, anyway. Where there’s one alien, chances are there’s another, or at the very least, his crashed space ship. We need to search the dunes.”

Martha conceded the point. She made the call, telling Gwen exactly what equipment she needed loading into the back of Alun’s Audi. Ianto made himself useful by washing up after their tea and putting on coffee for when the others arrived. Meanwhile, Martha and Doctor Griffith got on with the preliminary autopsy.

“Am I to understand that two others are coming up from Cardiff?” the Doctor asked as they carefully opened up the abdomen.

“Gwen and Alun, yes,” Martha confirmed.

“And that is ‘the rest of the team!’?”

The question beneath the question was obvious. In the 1980s, when Doctor Griffith was the Torchwood medic, there were at least twenty other people working at the Hub.

“Your old boss, Alex Hopkins, shot everyone on Millennium Eve,” Martha said. “Jack prefers a small team who trust each other implicitly and aren’t harbouring any secret plans to murder each other.”

“Even so… it seems… minimal… especially with Jack out of town.”

“We’re a GOOD team,” Martha assured him. “We really are.”

Ianto opened the door to the medical room and looked in.

“Gwen called. They’ll be here in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, it’s only a half mile to the dunes. I thought I’d go and have a quick look.”

“On your own?” Martha asked cautiously. “In the middle of nowhere.”

“It’s broad daylight now, and for the middle of nowhere the Warren is actually quite popular. Bird watchers and botanists are around all the time. There’s even an annual run up the Big Dipper that attracts hundreds of competitors and spectators. And if you come here on a day somebody isn’t filming something, you’re lucky. They made parts of Lawrence of Arabia a half mile from here, you know. And Harry Potter’s Shell House is down on the beach. The BBC have used the location for all sorts of things. I don’t think I’ll be lonely.”

“Make sure you keep your comms live, then,” Martha told him. “Alun and Gwen can meet you when they get here.”

“No problem,” Ianto replied. He closed the door and the two doctors heard his footsteps receding and the front door opening and closing before they continued their gory work.

“The internal organs of the stomach look Human,” Martha said into her data recorder. “The position of the heart, lungs, diaphragm, the liver and kidneys, the stomach and the digestive tract are all exactly like a Human. I’ve never seen that in an alien before. I didn’t expect it in one with such an unusual external structure. I have two possible theories. Either the creature was somehow morphing into Human form… or it used to be Human and is turning into the alien creature.”

Doctor Griffith looked at her and nodded. Any ordinary country GP would have been incredulous about either theory, but he had worked at Torchwood. He was ready to believe anything.

“When Gwen brings the portable equipment I’ll be able to run full DNA tests,” she added, both for her colleague and for the audio record of the autopsy. “Meanwhile I think it is important to remove and preserve all of the internal organs, and as much of the brain that remains undamaged by contact with the car. The body is decaying very quickly. The flesh and sinew in the limbs is liquefying right before our eyes. I will retain as much of the liquid as possible for further examination, and sections of the chitin from this exoskeleton, but I don’t think there will be much else left in an hour or so.”

Between herself and Doctor Griffith they had almost accomplished those tasks by the time the Audi Quatro parked on the driveway. Alun and Gwen let themselves into the house through the unlocked front door. Martha went to meet them in the hall and took charge of the portable analysing machines they brought.

“There’s coffee in the kitchen,” she said. “Then both of you need your walking shoes and overcoats on to join Ianto on the dunes.”

“No problem,” Alun confirmed.

“Just as long as he shuts up about the history of Merthyr Mawr Warren,” Gwen added. “He’s been chatting on the comms since we were at Bridgend. I now know that the Warren is part of the largest sand dune complex in Europe and the Big Dipper the largest single dune outside of the Sahara and that there is a lost village, Treganlaw, beneath the sand near the ruins of Candleston Castle. I actually could have lived happily without knowing any of those things.”

She said it good humouredly. Everyone loved Ianto and valued his endless fountain of local knowledge. Jack said he was better than Wikipedia for instant information.

And for all that, Gwen did find the information useful when she and Alun reached the car parking area where Merthyr Mawr Road fizzled out into a wilderness of straggly wintery trees rooted in sandy soil. They walked to where the trees and rough grass gave way altogether to the bare sand dunes and looked out over the vista that Doctor Griffith had wanted to paint.

“It really is something, isn’t it?” Gwen commented. “Can you believe, only a thirty minute drive from Cardiff city centre and we’re in a place that could pass for another planet.”

“That’s why it’s so popular as a film set,” Alun answered. “Easy access to another world. And yet it’s entirely possible that a real alien ship could be hidden among these dunes, especially at this time of year when only the really hardy all weather tourists brave the elements.”

He opened out what to the eyes of any casual observer might be just another metal detector for hunting the dunes for lost treasures. It certainly detected metal, but it also detected numerous other substances such as polycarbides, as well as organic matter. It could also generate three-dimensional models of the substances with measurements. It could certainly tell the difference between somebody’s lost car keys and a buried alien space ship.

“Where’s Ianto?” Gwen asked. “I thought he’d be waiting for us.”

“Good question,” Alun answered. “He’s been quiet since we left the house.”

“I thought he’d just run out of factoids about Merthyr Mawr Warren,” Gwen said. “But….” She looked around the deserted landscape. “Alun, what if he had an accident? He could be lying somewhere, unconscious, unable to contact us.”

“The last we heard, he was going to look around the castle ruins,” Alun pointed out. He wasn’t panicking, but he was concerned that Ianto hadn’t joined them and the possibility that he had fallen somewhere, tripped by a tree-root under the sand or knocked out by falling masonry from an ancient castle wall couldn’t be ignored.

Their comms crackled, but it wasn’t Ianto contacting them. Martha sounded surprisingly urgent. She had mastered a cool, professional exterior after seeing almost everything that could surprise or shock an MD for either U.N.I.T. or Torchwood.

This was something that fell outside of ‘almost everything’.

“Guys, the alien… isn’t alien. At least ninety per cent of its DNA is Human. And….” She had swallowed hard before continuing. “It isn’t an alien becoming Human. The tissue sample matched somebody on the missing person database….”

Martha paused again.

“The database this guy was on… isn’t just for ordinary missing people. He’s an army officer who was listed as AWOL six months ago after failing to return from weekend leave. Lance-Corporal Kenneth Bannen from Aberystwyth, stationed at St. Athans. He’s one of three NCO’s who went missing the same weekend.”

“Martha, is there any reason to think that they came up here?” Alun asked.

“Lots of reason,” Martha answered. “Their car was found in the car park where you left the Audi. There was a police search of the dunes and the beach areas. The military investigated, too, but no sign of any of them… until now.”

“Martha, Ianto isn’t answering his comms,” Gwen said. “Do you think he….”

“It’s less than an hour, let’s not panic,” Martha answered. “But make finding him the first priority. It’s more your thing than mine, Gwen, but I’m going to check databases for missing persons who might have disappeared while in this area. This could be part of a pattern.”

“Martha, what are you suggesting?” Gwen asked. “Somebody has been kidnapping people off the dunes and turning them into Human insects?”

Martha didn’t answer. Gwen spoke her name into the communicator. The other end of the transmission was live. She could hear the slight background buzz and another sound, a heavy breathing and a sliding noise. Then there was a sharp crack and the comm died.

“Alun,” Gwen said in a trembling voice. “I think something has happened to Martha and Doctor Griffith. I’ve got to get back there.”

“Not on your own. You don’t know what might be there.”

“You have to find Ianto,” she told him. “He’s your priority. I’ll… be all right. I’ve got my gun. I know how to use it if I have to.”

Alun was clearly torn. He was worried about Ianto even though there was nothing other than his silent comms to suggest he was in trouble, but letting Gwen go back to the house on her own when they had every reason to think Martha was down smacked of cowardice – something nobody could accuse him of.

“You find Ianto,” Gwen insisted. “You’re the last boy scout with your backpack full of survival equipment.”

“Take care of yourself, cariad,” Alun told her. He hugged her briefly then headed in the opposite direction with his multi-purpose detector and his backpack.

Gwen headed back to the car park. It was only a very short distance back to Doctor Griffith’s house but driving would be quicker than walking even with twenty mile per hour restrictions on the narrow country road.

Alun’s Audi was the only car there, of course. Ianto had walked from the house. Gwen glanced around the rough gravel oval with signs barring visitors from camping, using firearms, lighting fires and other dangerous pursuits.

Something stirred her policewoman senses. She looked around again, wondering what it was. Then she realised it wasn’t something she could see but something that she didn’t see that was wrong.

She got into the car and disregarded the twenty miles per hour speed limit until she reached Doctor Griffith’s house.

Alun climbed the dunes up to the ruins of Candleston Castle, partly obscured by ivy and trees that had grown up in the lee of the ancient walls. The detector was detecting Human lifesigns. The two words were important – Human and lifesign. It had to be Ianto.

And he was alive.

But where was he?

Alun followed the signal, climbing carefully over the low part of a wall, ignoring the ‘danger, keep out’ sign fixed to it. On the other side he nearly fell down an unexpected hole in the ground, partly obscured by brambles, dry sand slipping down the deep shaft that the torch from his pocket revealed.

“Ianto!” He called down, trying to clear the vegetation and stop any more sand falling in. He could see movement at least thirty feet down. A voice called back. He sounded further away than he really was. “Hang on, I’m coming down to you.”

There was a length of rope among the kit in his backpack. He tied it firmly around one of the hanging trees and let himself down carefully. He noted that there was some old, crumbling brickwork in the walls.

“Well done, Timmy,” he said as he reached the bottom of the shaft. “Here we are on the biggest sand dune complex in Europe and you found the hidden castle well all by yourself.”

“Timmy?” Ianto shielded his eyes from the glare of Alun’s torch and groaned as he moved his head. “What the heck….”

“Didn’t you ever read the Famous Five when you were a kid?”

“No. And I didn’t think it was your style, either. I got a hell of a knock on the head when I fell. Nothing else damaged except my communicator. I lost it somewhere. It must be broken. I don’t think this is the castle well, by the way. It’s nowhere near deep enough.”

“Maybe it’s partially blocked. There’s a passage over there, though. In the spirit of the Famous Five, I think we ought to find out if it has anything to do with the alien creepy stuff. I’d rather do that than try to get up that rope again, anyway.”

“I don’t feel like doing any climbing,” Ianto admitted. He stood groggily, using Alun to cling to. When he was fully upright he hugged him tightly and they shared a deep kiss. “You came to find me when I was lost,” he said. “That’s so sweet.”

“I was missing you,” Alun told him, claiming another kiss. Then he became serious. “Have you got your gun?”

“Yes,” he answered, showing off the leather holster under his jacket.

“Check the breach for sand,” Alun warned him, doing the same himself. “You brought a lot of it down with you. By the way, the alien at the doc’s house isn’t all alien. It used to be a Lance-Corporal Bannen, and two of his mates are missing. We’re looking for assimilate hybrids with weapons training, so let’s be really, really careful.”

“That thing used to be Human?” Ianto shuddered. “How….”

“I’m hoping we’ll find out at some point,” Alun answered. “I’m also guessing that the one the doc hit with his car got out this way, so we can get into the hidden space ship or the mad scientist’s secret underground lab or whatever science fiction scenario this is by retracing his footsteps.”

“All in a day’s work,” Ianto commented. He walked behind Alun. The tunnel wasn’t quite big enough for them to be side by side. The torchlight showed more old brick with gaps where sand and tree roots had pushed through but otherwise no danger of immediate roof fall. The Famous Five analogy seemed about right for the time being.

Except this wasn’t a smuggler’s cave and they weren’t looking for lost treasure. At the end of this strange subterranean passage they were probably going to encounter monsters who used to be Human.

Ianto was aware of the holstered gun pressed against his side. He knew he was going to have to use it.

“They used to be Human,” he said in a low voice.

“Yes, that’s what Martha thinks.”

“And we might have to kill them.”

“In the army I was trained to kill actual Humans if they posed a threat to me or my comrades or the safety and security of Great Britain, and I know you’ve had to use a gun plenty of times. I think we’re both long past worrying about the First Commandment.”

“‘Though shalt not kill’ is’ the sixth commandment,” Ianto told his lover. “‘Though shalt have no other God before me’ isn’t a lot of use to us right now. But it does feel a bit… wrong.”

“Seeing an insect man rip you in half would be wrong to me,” Alun answered. “Besides, we’d be doing the poor bastards a favour, ending it for them.”

Ianto sighed deeply, but he knew Alun was right. When it came to it, he would be ready with all qualms about what had to be done firmly quashed.

“How far have we been walking?” Ianto asked after a little while. “And in what direction?”

Alun consulted a pedometer and compass and confirmed that they had walked about three-quarters of a mile in a roughly easterly direction.

“Back towards the village?” Ianto suggested.

“Yes,” Alun confirmed. “Actually, I wasn’t expecting that. If anything, I thought this would go away from the built up area.”

“If it was a hidden space ship, yes,” Ianto pointed out. “But not if we’re heading for a mad scientist’s lab. Mad scientists have to live somewhere.”

“Yes, but not in idyllic villages like Merthyr Mawr,” Alun protested.

“Idyllic villages are EXACTLY where mad scientists live,” Ianto replied. “Don’t get me started on that one!”

The tunnel that may or may not have been built for some obscure reason when the castle was still intact, and therefore had to be at least five hundred years old, ended abruptly with a steel door that could only have been installed in the last decade or so when digital electronic locks came into existence.

Alun calmly reached into his backpack and pulled out the alien gadget that Torchwood had been using for years to open locked doors. Ianto laughed softly.

“If we were in a cartoon you would be Acme’s best customer,” Ianto told him as he unlocked the door.

“If we were in a cartoon we’d be a Japanese porn one,” Alun answered with a grin. Ianto laughed. Then both of them stopped smiling as they stepped through the doorway into what had to be part of the mad scientist’s lab that they had joked about. Alun reached for his gun and took the safety catch off. Ianto did the same.

This wasn’t the laboratory itself. It looked like a secure wing of a mental hospital with the patients restrained in their beds by leather straps.

But the patients were insect-Human hybrids in varying states of transformation. They had been quiet at first, but as Ianto and Alun walked through the room they became aware of the movement and trilled and chattered alarmingly.

“Look at those,” Alun whispered. He pointed to a long table stacked with dozens of what looked like giant pupae – the hardened shells within which caterpillars turned to butterflies. “Are they what I think they are?”

“I wish you were wrong,” Ianto answered. “But this… somebody has been breeding Human insects….”

“Not breeding… making… using people… to make these… horrors….”

“Heelllpppp….” They both turned to the sound of a near-Human voice. It was coming from one of the prisoners near the far end of the room, next to another metal door with an electronic lock. Ianto moved closer and looked at a near-Human body, covered in a chitinous exoskeleton, but still looking like a man in all other respects. He lowered his gun. This didn’t look like something that could harm him. It was more like a victim.

“Do you have a name?” Ianto asked. “Can you tell me your name?”

He tried, but his mouth was so distorted the words were unintelligible. But he did hear one thing clearly.

“Freeee meeee,” he pleaded.

Ianto reached for the straps over the victim’s chest, but Alun put a hand on his arm.

“That’s not what he means,” he said. “Look.”

He brought his gun close to the half-man’s chitin covered fingers. He tried to grasp it. Alun kept his finger on the trigger, but let him guide it towards his forehead. It was quite clear what he wanted.

“Oh, dear God,” Ianto murmured. “Alun, you can’t.”

“Yes, I can,” he answered. He pulled the trigger. The sound echoed around the underground room. Fragments of chitin skull flew as the head disintegrated. Alun drew back, his clothes covered in gore. Ianto stared at him in horror, stunned by what he had done.

Then both men spun around, their guns pointed at the locked door as it unlocked and pushed open slowly. They were ready for anything, or anyone, most likely the mad scientist they knew had to be behind all this.

Instead they found themselves face to face with Gwen Cooper, her own gun arm extended meaningfully.

“How did you two get here?” Gwen demanded.

“What are you doing here?” Alun responded. “You were supposed to go back to Doctor Griffith’s house.”

“This IS Doctor Griffith’s house,” Gwen answered. “I think you’d better come in here.”

Ianto and Alun both stepped through the doorway, into the mad scientist’s laboratory. It had all of the equipment they expected to see in such a place. All it lacked was a window, because it was underground like the tunnel and the room full of results of the mad experiments.

Beyond those details what they both noticed was Martha sitting up on an examination table and breathing through an oxygen mask and Doctor Griffith sitting on the floor, his hands and feet flexicuffed.

“She’s all right,” Gwen assured Ianto when he rushed to Martha’s side. “He gave her some sort of knock out stuff, but she’s ok now. He didn’t get a chance to start on his horrible experiments with her.”

“Doctor Griffith is the mad scientist?” Ianto voiced the shocking truth that had dawned on them both at the same time. But….”

“It’s him,” Martha managed to say weakly. She was still groggy from whatever he had injected into her when she wasn’t looking. “He did it. This is his cellar… under his house.”

“I knew something was wrong when I looked around the car park,” Gwen continued. “Martha said he knocked the insect guy down in his car. But even at a slow speed an RTC leaves traces. The gravel would be messed up with skid tracks. There would be blood, maybe broken headlight glass or whatever. There was no sign of anything happening there. I came back to the house and checked the doctor’s car. There was no trace of contact with anything. I think what happened was one of his victims escaped onto the dunes. He followed and smashed its head in and brought it back. I’m still not sure why he then called us out. He could have just destroyed the body and carried on kidnapping backpackers and using them for his disgusting experiments.”

“I needed soldiers,” Doctor Griffith responded. “Backpackers… bird-watchers… dumb civilians… are no use to me. If I’m going to build an army… an army capable of overwhelming this world full of filthy vertebrates… then I need subjects who already have a killer instinct…. So I called Torchwood. Only I didn’t know what sort of tinpot organisation it was these days. I expected trained professionals.”

“We ARE trained, and we are professionals,” Gwen said. “So just shut up. This is over.”

Gwen turned as the metal door slammed shut. Alun had gone back into the room where the victims were. They all heard his gun firing, single shots, one after the other. There was a pause when he ran out of bullets and then more shots after he reloaded the magazine. Finally the door opened again and he stepped through. He held his gun firmly by his side. His eyes were steely and he stepped towards Doctor Griffith silently. Gwen and Ianto both called out to him, but he ignored them.

“Give me one good reason not to,” he said.

“Alun, don’t,” Ianto told him. “We need to question him. We need to know WHY he did this – why somebody who used to be one of us….”

“Somebody who led a good, normal life, with a wife and children….” Gwen added.

“Why somebody like that went so completely, utterly bananas,” Ianto concluded. “We’re taking him in. We’ll question him. We’ll….”

Gwen stopped talking. She stared with new horror as Doctor Griffith started to gag and choke as if he was throwing up. His head bent forward and something revolting with a chitinous exoskeleton and more legs than anyone cared to count slithered out of his mouth. There were still long, ichor covered limbs stuck in the doctor’s mouth as it began moving across the floor towards Gwen. She moved her feet back quickly, fascinated and terrified at the same time.

Then there was another gunshot. The creature’s head and presumably its brain, if it was kept there, exploded into fragments of gore that spattered Gwen’s shoes. She looked at Alun, but it wasn’t him. Ianto put the safety catch back on his gun and holstered it again.

“Thanks,” she managed to say.

“Doctor Griffith is dead,” Martha said. She had slipped off the table and knelt to check his life signs. She closed his eyes gently and stood up. “An alien creature using him, using his memories, his medical knowledge, his special expertise from Torchwood….”

“Poor bastard,” Alun murmured as he made his own gun safe and put it back in the holster.

“He was a victim, too, not just a mad scientist,” Ianto observed. “I’m… kind of relieved. I hated the idea that one of us… one of the old Torchwood crew… had turned into a monster like that. Another like Alex Hopkins and Suzie….”

“We’ll get his body back to the Hub,” Martha decided, taking charge now that her head was starting to clear. “I’ll do an autopsy to see just how much of his body was infiltrated by that thing. Then we can make him decent and his family can have a funeral, closure, all of that. This place… we can dismantle the laboratory and....”

“I’m coming back with phosphorus incendiaries to torch that room in there,” Alun determined. “That’s the best thing for those guys… for whoever they used to be. If you want to get DNA from each victim and find out their names first, then do it quick. The sooner everything in there is destroyed, the better for everyone.”

“Yes,” Martha said with a resigned sigh. “Yes, we’ll do that.” She felt curiously depressed. She had thought she had a kind of connection with Doctor Griffith, the former Torchwood medic. The truth had been a horrible shock, but as Ianto had pointed out, a little bit of a relief, too. She didn’t have to worry about Torchwood and the ugly side of life it revealed turning her into a mad scientist, too.


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