Round Seven: Ianto Jones, Cardiff, Wales
Pepper stared blearily at the shot-glass. The crimson liquid quivered with the rotation of the conference room as it turned slowly at the top of the tower. She looked at the blurry faces around her table, and they looked back at her expectantly. She sighed and raised her glass, wondering how things had gotten so far out of control. She had only stopped at table nineteen for a few minutes, to say hello to the UK delegates and to avoid the man from table eight who wanted to tell her his joke about power couplings, again.
"The worst thing you've ever had to clean up." She didn't really understand the rules of this game, and she suspected that they were changing as they played.
The red-headed woman with no ID badge laughed. "Oh, you're on." She raised her glass. "Vomit. In my hair."
Ianto Jones raised his glass. "Vomit. On the keyboard."
Pepper suppressed a grin. She had this one in the bag, though she didn't know what that gained her, exactly. "Vomit. On the ceiling. Of a jet."
Ianto smiled slyly. "It was pterodactyl vomit."
Donna Noble and Pepper Potts looked at each other, then downed their drinks with a single swallow.
Round Eleven: Donna Noble, Chiswick, England
The covers band was playing a wobbly upbeat version of Midnight at the Oasis. The table trembled in time to the bass as Ianto filled the glasses again. "All right. Embarrassing workplace secrets."
Pepper held her glass steady with some effort. "I kind of want to sleep with my boss."
"I did sleep with my boss," Ianto pushed his glass from side to side with one finger. "Things got a lot less complicated after that."
Donna put her hand over the top of her glass, extending one finger so it pointed at Ianto. "My boss? Slept with his boss. I don't know what happened, but sometimes he gets this look on his face; like it was the end of the world, or he saw the face of God or something. It scares me."
"I know what happened," said Ianto. "She wins this one." He threw back his drink without another word.
"How did you two meet, again?" Pepper took a slug from her glass, and winced.
Donna pulled the bowl of mints closer and popped one in her mouth. "My boss is his boss's Doctor."
"I don't know," Pepper peered into the bottom of her glass. "That seems kind of unethical."
Ianto guided his empty glass back to the table with precarious focus. "You have no idea."
Round Thirteen: Virginia "Pepper" Potts, New York, USA.
It was Donna's turn to pour. She narrowed her eyes as she guided the narrow neck of the bottle across the row of shot-glasses. "What is this convention for, anyway?"
Ianto tapped the laminated badge clipped to his lapel. "AAAIE."
"AAAIE?" Donna realized she was pouring into an ashtray, and redirected the flow into the last shot-glass."I'm sorry, couldn't they have found an acronym that was just a tiny bit more sinister?"
"Association for Administrative Assistants to Industrialists and Engineers." Pepper let the words roll off her tongue. "Actually, it sounds a lot better at this end of the night."
"Well, It sounds like a bunch of Igors getting together to bitch about their respective Doctor Frankensteins. " Donna's voice trailed off at the end of her sentence, and they all looked at each other a little uncomfortably for a moment. "Not us! We're investigating, that makes us blame-free. Anyway, who came up with a stupid name like that?"
Ianto shook his head. "Investigating? My brief was more along the lines of 'Keep your eyes open, and learn how to take dictation the old fashioned way.'"
"My boss suggested it, actually. I think it's his idea of a joke." Pepper interrupted before Ianto started demonstrating old-fashioned dictation. "He says you can learn a lot about an organisation from the convention committees." She traced her finger around the rim of the glass. "Slogans really aren't his forte. He's better with the nuts and bolts."
Donna and Ianto conceded the round to her with a click of their glasses.
Round Fifteen: ...let's just call it a draw, shall we?
Either the conference centre was closer to the airport than their promotional material had promised, or someone was testing a rocket launcher close by. As the rotating tower shuddered intermittently, Pepper wondered if it were a benefit or a flaw that her career allowed to casually consider such options.
"Whose turn is it?" Donna was slumped sideways like a pile of laundry, her hair spilling over Ianto's shoulder.
"I think it's mine." Ianto's voice was muffled by his hands; he cradled his head in his hands as the man from table eight brushed past them, rattling long strings of numbers into his phone.
Pepper ducked her head against Ianto's to hide from the man. "We could just stop." She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the rotation of the convention room much more than she should.
"We can't stop now, the hangover is too close." Ianto pushed himself and the other two upright, then picked up the bottle. "Giant robots attack…" he waved his hands to encourage them as he filled the glasses for another round.
"Giant robots attack," said Donna. "My boss says 'Let's make friends with them, see what they really want.' It turns out that all they want is to destroy mankind, and he gets really miffed."
"Giant robots attack," Ianto's accent was getting thicker as the night wore on. "My boss puts his hand in their robot trousers, and gently brings them to a complete halt." He peered blearily at the other two. "It's a joke. You know, the hand-brake. Parking brake. Whatever the word is."
The rumbling outside of the rotating tower was getting louder and lower, and the room was filled with the sound of glasses clinking against each other. Pepper clenched her jaw; her teeth ached with the vibration of the glass walls. There was something familiar about the sensation. She shook her head to try and recall what it signified.
Donna leaned backwards on her chair with her head on the side. "What are they all looking at?" A group of attendees were clustering around the north wall, pointing and pressing against the glass.
Ianto clambered awkwardly onto the table to peer over the heads of the spectators."Giant robots. Giant robots are climbing the tower." His expression was wry. "And that's the last bloody time I'm taking a bet of Jack's."
The low drone was getting louder. Unoccupied chairs began to move unaided across the parquetry. In a minute, thought Pepper, in a minute, something is going to happen. She opened her eyes wide with recollection. "Everyone! Get away from the glass, get in the middle of the room!"
Donna and Ianto looked at her for a moment then rallied, pulling conventioneers away from the wall of glass, tipping tables over for shelter. As they crouched behind the makeshift barrier, Donna pressed her mouth closer to Pepper's ear to shout over the ascending roar of an approaching engine. "What the hell is making that noise?"
She had barely gotten the sentence out when the north wall collapsed in a sparkling ruin, followed by a sudden flare of light and a lingering vapour trail. The sonic boom came many seconds afterwards, a clap of sound that washed away any other noise. The lights went out, and a veil of arc light sparkled across the metal bodies scaling the tower. One by one the giant robots fell away, landing far below with dull thuds. A weak cheer went up around the room.
Donna pushed her hair out of her face. "What the bleeding hell was that?"
Pepper stood beside her, watching the vapour trail dissipate. "That would be my boss."
Ianto lifted a table off a group of attendees. "Well, he's taken out the electrical systems." He helped a woman to her feet, and pointed her towards the centre of the room. "We'd better get this place evacuated."
The double doors at the end of the convention room swung open. "Was that an EMP? Sharp thinking – a little heavy handed, maybe, but it did the job. Hullo, Donna!" A narrow-faced man in a pinstriped suit waved to Donna, then bobbed down to peer under a table. "Oh ho! I see what you have there." The man from table eight was cowering there, clutching a hand-held control box with an oversized antenna.
Donna gestured with a casual wave as pinstriped man snatched up the controller and waved a glowing stick over it. "My boss. Sonic screwdriver, you know."
From beyond the double doors, a spotlight burst into life, flooding the ruined conference room with bright light. A dish of a man stood in the open doorway, perfectly outlined by the light."Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention, please. The attack is over, and the dangers neutralised. If you'd like to make your way via the emergency stairs and congregate together in the downstairs bar, Torchwood will be ready to take your details." With perfect air hostess gestures, he began to usher the attendees towards the staircase. Over the top of their heads, he pointed at Ianto. "Don't think I've forgotten that bet, either."
"Well," Donna slumped into one of the chairs that Pepper was busily putting upright. "They seem to have everything in well in hand. I declare that we all take the rest of the night off."
"If we're going to do that, we need to get moving quickly." Ianto leaned on the back of her chair. "Nothing like standing still for attracting unwanted attention from one's boss."
"I'll just check my messages," Pepper flipped open her phone before the other two could protest. The display was completely dead.
Donna closed the phone and pressed it into Pepper's hand. "If he wanted you to check in, he'd have given you an EMP-proof phone." She looped her arm through Pepper's. "Let's find a room with no giant robots and let them come to us."
"I make really good coffee," said Ianto, hopefully.
"Oh, all right." Pepper threw the phone out of the broken window. "You're both on."