Ianto tugged his jacket down and stood still for a moment, trying to catch the sound again. There was nothing. He stayed quiet and unmoving for several minutes without any noises disturbing the hub's usual hum of running machinery. Then he heard it again, this time somewhere in the direction of the small kitchenette. For a moment, he had the dreadful image of mice getting into his good coffee stash. The horror! And not to mention, the team would be ready to commit murder, bring about the end of the world if that were to happen. There was no reason for him to give them any opportunities to do the latter. They managed just fine on their own.
Taking a deep breath, he began moving cautiously towards his precious caffeine hoard. He wasn't afraid of mice. Not one little bit. Rats, however, where a whole different kettle of vermin. If there were rats in the kitchen? Well, he wasn't sure what he would do, but it wouldn't be pretty. Which was exactly when he heard someone, or something, giggle. Something small. This reminded him of a movie he'd seen as a child that had given him nightmares. Something about not feeding them after midnight? Ianto glanced down at his watch and swore.
There was enough edible stuff in the kitchenette for anything to feed itself and Ianto could just envision the cracker crumbs everywhere. This galvanized him into action and he quickly, but quietly, made his way toward the kitchenette. Stopping at the edge of the area, he listened, trying to catch any kind of hint as to where the intruder was hiding and anything that might reveal exactly what he was chasing after.
Something streaked past his foot, and he got a glimpse of brown and white mottled fur, big eyes and even bigger teeth, before the lights went off. Plunged into darkness, Ianto froze, waiting with a pounding heart for the back-up generator to kick in. One… two… three… four… fuck! Nothing! That meant the containment cells were now unsecured. Hell, the whole base was unsecured, and him without his hockey stick.
Ianto took a deep breath and slung his jacket over the back of the chair he knew was to his left. Right, there were procedures for this sort of shite. Maybe not specifically for rodents of an unusual size, but if the containment cells were breached.... He'd have to keep a cool head. Turning about, he carefully made his way back to his desk. He had a stash of weevil spray there as well as a torch and his gun. He wasn't going to go without that one, not if he had alien chinchillas bouncing around the place as well as three weevils. At least he'd just fed them, so they wouldn't be coming after him because they were hungry. No, they'd just want to rip him apart for the heck of it. That of course made him feel so much better.
Gun in one hand, spray in the other and the torch clenched between his teeth, Ianto cautiously crept down to the lower level. He needed to see if anything was still working. He needed to try to put the base into lock down. His progress was hindered only slightly by the pressing need to stay close to chairs, on the off chance he might need to jump up on one and scream like a girl. Another giggle from behind almost made him bite down so hard on the torch as to swallow three Energizer batteries. Only imagining the comments Jack would make later about the energizer bunny prevented that particular disaster.
So, now Ianto found himself in a bit of a spot. Did he turn around and deal with the insane giggling or did he go ahead and lock down the hub before he'd have to deal with three weevils as well as alien vermin? Well, prioritize he could do. Prioritizing took logic and Ianto wielded logic like a shield with sarcasm as his sword. He could handle this. The high pitched giggling behind him seemed to want to challenge that point, but Ianto sniffed and ignored it, heading toward the control panel that would allow him to send the hub into lockdown. Thankfully he'd tidied up after the others had left, so there'd be no tripping over trash.
He reached the panel, which thankfully had an independent power source and was still blinking away merrily to itself. Ianto transferred the weevil spray into the same hand as his gun, and coaxed the torch out of him mouth, absently wiping the saliva off on his Armani. As he began to key in the lock down sequence, a helium-high voice spoke from behind him. "I wouldn't do that if I were you." It sounded exactly like Yzma from the Emperor's New Groove, after she'd been turned into a cat. This made Ianto snort, but he doggedly continued with the sequence.
"I really do have to do this," Ianto answered, trying to keep an eye on the panel as well as one over his shoulder. Which, of course, he couldn't. He just had this itch between his shoulder blades, because there was definitely someone or something behind him. "Trust me, you want me to do this," he continued as he keyed in the next sequence. "Unless you have plans that involve being weevil fodder, which I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to be." Ianto tapped in another quick sequence and some of the light returned to the hub, bathing it in an eerie, low lighting.
"Weevils do not scare us," another squeaky voice challenged from above and off to the right. Ianto's fingers sped up on the keys and he raced for the final sequence that would trap him in here with the cartoon nightmares but keep the world save from an unknown alien threat. "We eat Weevils for breakfast. Bwahahahaha!" Somehow, the evil scientist laugh didn't sound so scary coming from someone whose voice reminded Ianto of Saturday afternoons sitting in front of his Nan's TV, watching cartoons with a glass of milk and a plate of digestive biscuits.
Ianto reminded himself that he might want to ask Jack do make a shorter sequence for hub lock-down, because if he ever were in such a situation again, he'd damned well want to be able to punch in the code within a heartbeat or two. Just two more eight digit sequences and the obnoxious 'do you want to initiate hub lock-down' question. He really should talk to Tosh about skipping the alien windows version they were running. It was far too Bill Gates inspired. In an evil kind of way.
"Yes, yes I'm sure I want to initiate lockdown, for Christ's sake!" he roared at the screen, stabbing the enter key viciously. The screen blinked off and then on again, sullenly. "Stupid piece of shite," Ianto muttered under his breath in case the computer should somehow hear and go into a huff. The moment the green light came on, he whirled round, brandishing all the weapons at his disposal. Those being his (fuck fuck fuck!) unloadedgun, half a can of weevil spray, a torch, and a stopwatch. The giant sabre-toothed guinea pig looked less than impressed.
"What?!" Ianto asked with a bit of an edge to his voice. "I didn't have time to get the hockey stick," he said acidly. "If I had, I'd be beating you about the head with it, you little critter. As it is, I think the weevil spray will work - it does on Owen, so it should work on universal vermin alike." Brandishing the spray, Ianto took a threatening step forward.
"Maybe it will, earthling," trilled the rodent. And what alien worth its salt said earthling anyway? They'd be demanding that he take them to his leader next. Seech! "But you cannot take us all at once." And now that his eyes were accustomed to the emergency lighting, Ianto could see that piggly wiggly was right. There were more than he had thought. Losts more. Dozens more. If only he had gone for the hockey stick! He could have punted them up towards Myfanwy's cave. She appreciated the occasional midnight snack.
Myfanwy... now there was an idea still. Ianto pursed his lips and took a quick calculation as to where the alien piggies were. They were all on the same level as himself. There didn't seem to be any on the walk ways. Now, if he could just get up a little higher... and get Myfanwy's attention... "So, what exactly is it you want?" Ianto asked, trying to buy himself enough time to come up with a plan that wouldn't end with him having bite marks he'd hate to have to explain to Jack.
"What we want," the capybara sized beast in front of him grinned, which reminded Ianto that he had a dentist appointment first thing in the morning, "is your women, your water and all the cucumbers we can carry."
Ianto blinked and stared at the critter. "You want..." Ianto cleared his throat, trying hard not to laugh at the insanity. Only Torchwood, and only bloody well when he was on his own. The others wouldn't believe it. "What the hell do you want our women for?" he asked incredulously. "Hold that thought," he quickly added. "I'm not entirely sure I want the gory details. You can keep you freaky interspecies mating habits to yourselves."
God he hoped that the CCTV had kicked back in with the backup generators. This was going on YouTube and to hell with National Security. The rodents were looking confused and chattering and squee'ing at each other so Ianto took the momentary distraction to back up the stairs. "We want the women to prepare the water and cucumber for us," the leader said indignantly. "We are to advanced a species to breed with monkey descendants!"
Ianto leaned nonchalantly against the railing of the stairs. "Not that I'd mind," he said as he straightened his stance again, taking another step up. "I'm just worried if we don't have women, the human race will die out. Personally, I switched to the other team a while back." Ianto watched with amusement as the rodents chattered away again, obviously completely confused by his choice of words. Well, that was to his advantage, as he managed another two steps up, getting him as far as the walkway. Now, to get Myfanwy's attention. If nothing else, he hoped he could rely on the piggies' curiosity to make them ask for clarification. He was sure he could freak them out which in itself was as good a reason as any.
Right about then, his Bluetooth earpiece squawked and Jack's dulcet tones caressed his sensitive ear. "Ianto, you bastard, what's going on? We brought chicken pakora but the doors are locked!" Ianto sighed with relief. Even the worse for an evening on the piss, Jack was still his hero. Jack would save him, and feed him as well it sounded like.
Touching the earpiece, he almost laughed with joy. "I put the base on lock-down. We have been invaded by about a dozen…"
"Two dozen!" The lead alien whispered from the corner of his mouth.
Ianto sighed, "Two dozen alien talking rodents who want our women to make them snacks."
"Fuck off!" That was Owen.
"I don't even make Rhys snacks and I'm getting married to him!" Gwen, bless her.
"Are they good looking rodents?" Damn, Tosh really was getting desperate wasn't she?
Ianto turned his attention to the rodents again. "I'm sorry guys, but if you know what's good for you, I suggest you get the hell out of here and we'll call this mistake."
"Never!" the rodent squeaked. "We want the women and the cucumbers."
"That's almost like out of a bad porn movie," Ianto muttered to himself. "Let's see," he said conversationally. "Out there's a wanker, a woman who'll make you talk about your feelings, a lovely geeky lady and a guy with an inventive mind for sexual shenanigans. They're not going to like you invading our super secret base and why the hell do you figure anyone who's four times your size will agree to wait on you, hand... well, paw and ...tail?"
Ianto's attention was split between the furry guys and the mumbling and muttering coming from his earpiece. He was sure it was his imagination, but the rodents were getting bigger. They had started out the size of rabbits but now they all looked a lot like pigmy hippos. He took another step up the stairs and tried to hear what Jack was saying.
"Listen very carefully, Ianto. You have to go up to my office and close the lid on the large wooden box on my desk."
"Jack!" Ianto growled, "I'm about to be savaged by family pets on steroids. The last thing I need to be worrying about right now is the state of your desk!"
Owen's voice interrupted. "Okay, long story short, the box is a reality manipulator, prolonged exposure to it makes you act like your stoned so you're seeing pink elephants, mate. Now open the fucking door, I'm dying for a piss!"
Ianto scrunched his eyes shut. "Excuse me," he said politely to the head rodent who looked a little put out, but it'd just bloody well have to deal with that. "Who the hell left a thing like that open?" Ianto growled at his team. "And Owen? Piss in your trousers, it's not like you haven't done that before."
"That was an accident," Owen howled in his ear.
Ianto allowed himself a smirk. "So," he said slowly. "How does this ... reality manipulator work? And who named it that? I thought we had an agreement it was my turn."
As he spoke, Ianto began keying in the sequence that would unlock everything, keeping a wary eye on the aliens, who were now the size of actual hippos, and who were all turning a nice shade of rose pink.
"To answer your questions, Owen left the lid off the box," Jack explained patiently, as though he were talking to a five-year-old child. "We don't know how it works, and it was Gwen's turn to name the alien artefact."
"Lies!!!" Gwen yelped. "I wanted to call it the pubic cube, but you vetoed me!"
"Okay, okay," Jack capitulated. "I named it. Are you going to open the door?"
"Depends," Ianto said as he stared at the rodents and decided to try a little something.
"On what?" Jack's voice dropped a little and Ianto felt heat rushing through his body.
"Well," he said deceptively calm as he squinted at the rodents, imagining them growing trunks and big, flappy ears. "Either you let me name the next two alien artefacts we find or..."
"Or what?" Gwen asked curiously. "And you can't," she continued. "You somehow always manage to be the one naming the things."
"That's because I know which of Jack's buttons to push," Ianto said with a small snort. "And the either you let me, Jack, or you can spend an entire day in a collar, being my servant and you won't get anything but instant coffee for a week."
"You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Jones," Jack said, completely serious. "If I say yes to the naming, can we still do the collar thing though without the instant coffee?"
Ianto grinned at the retching noises he could hear. Owen never did take well to details.
"You have yourself a deal," Ianto agreed, pressing the door unlock mechanism. There was only one pink elephant left by the time the team strolled in carrying the food, but when it became clear that no-one was going to be feeding him cucumbers, he sloped off in the direction of the perception filter lift, and spent several entertaining moments trying to fit himself onto the tiny slab.
By the time Ianto had secured a napkin to his shirtfront, Tosh had closed the box and everything had returned for what passed for normal in the hub.
"I'll get you for the wanker comment," Owen threatened him as he tried to stuff half his pakora into his mouth.
Ianto smirked. "If you try anything, I'll stop wiping down the autopsy table after Jack and I have used it."
Owen turned decidedly greenish which only made Ianto smile wider. He'd never dream of using the autopsy table for sex, but Owen didn't know that, and judging from Jack's attempt at hiding a snort, nor would Jack tell him.
"I'm too smart to threaten Ianto," Gwen said, grinning as she snatched up another pakora. "He's our resident coffee god and I'm not going to tip the scales on that one."
Tosh laughed and nodded. "Although I think I got off easy," she said with a wink.
Ianto turned his head and grinned when he met Jack's eyes. He foresaw more inventive sex games in the near future.
"So, about those rodents you saw?" Tosh interrupted Ianto's thoughts.
"Hmmm?" Ianto tore his gaze from Jack's giving her his attention.
"They went away when we closed the box, right?"
Ianto shook his head. "I imagined them as pink elephants instead," he said, raising an eyebrow at Owen, who merely snorted. "But they're gone, yes, even the one that tried to get away via the lift."
The team glanced towards the ceiling as one. Something was making an enormous racket overhead, rattling the bricks and causing dust motes to flitter down towards them.
It sounded suspiciously like something big running across the Roald Dahl Plass.