Comfort & Monsters
San Piedro Island, USA, January 1956
Jack Harkness looked out over the surface of the mist-clad water. All seemed calm and peaceful. Over the years one learns not to trust appearances, though. Something was lurking beneath. Something not from this Earth – and it had brought Jack to this place. He had not come by spacecraft or timeship. His journey was made on a good old-fashioned aero plane. He was still jetlagged from his trip from the UK, but resting was a luxury he could not afford right now – not before he had assessed the threat this creature posed.
He knelt down and dipped the small test tube into the dark water. Jack breathed in, the cold night air filling his lungs. Even the air bore something it should not. Jack picked up on a faint scent that drew his attention. It was a bit like sulfur, but not quite.
It was then that the water lit up. A fluorescent glow made its way up from the depths below, giving the water a yellow-green shine. The spectacle itself was quite beautiful and Jack could not help but admire it. Seconds later the light was gone – but something else had already started to float to the surface. Dozens – no hundreds of dead fish broke through the water, their lifeless bodies floating motionlessly on their sides, decorating the empty spaces between fishing boats.
Behind Jack something moved. He flung around with almost superhuman speed, hiding behind one of the barrels on the shore. Quiet footsteps made their way to the waterfront. A figure came to a standstill only a few feet away from him. The stranger wore a hat and a long coat. His breath made little puffy clouds every time it touched the air. More footsteps followed. The second figure was older and more heavy-set and was wearing some sort of uniform. He came to a stand next to the younger man.
"I swear, Ishmael, there were lights here before. I'm not going mad. It's not the first time I've seen them, either."
"I believe you."
"Look, I don't know how to tell this to people. I mean, lights and dead fish? I don't know what they'd think…" the uniformed man said. "Maybe your paper could run a story…"
"So they think the journalist is mad, not the sheriff?" "Ishmael asked, some bitterness resounding in his voice.
The sheriff was already starting to apologise, but Ishmael cut him off.
"It's all right, Art, I know you didn't mean anything bad. Sure is strange, though. I'll see what I can make of it."
Ishmael pulled something out of his pocket. Jack could make out it was a notebook. There was something awkward about his movements though. He used the same hand to take out a pencil, and put the notebook on a barrel to write. Jack observed this strange ritual with interest.
"Got a flashlight?" Ishmael asked to Art.
The sheriff nodded and soon a light illuminated the shore, allowing Ishmael to see what he was writing. It also allowed Jack to see the reason for Ishmael's strange behaviour. The journalist was missing his left arm.
Probably a veteran, Jack thought. The time was certainly right for it. And it was not just that either – Jack could make out weariness in the man; along with an unspoken deep-seeded hurt. Something had broken Ishmael and he was trying to pick up the pieces.
A journalist could be an ally or an enemy. Jack was rather hoping it would be the former, though. Not only could he use a man in search of the truth, but Jack had to admit he found Ishmael to be quite attractive. And they might have a thing or two in common.
Art turned the flashlight off again and Ishmael returned the little notebook to his pocket. The two figures disappeared into the night.
Jack waited until the footsteps died out completely. He still had some things to do. All seemed quiet again now, but Jack didn't trust it for one single bit. He immersed a little vial into the water, filling it. Hopefully an analysis would give him more answers.
In the distance, a splash could be heard. Jack looked up in time to see the ripples, but whatever caused them had disappeared again.
Then another splash, on the right, but again the perpetrator was gone before Jack's eyes turned to look at the spot.
Then something broke through the surface right in front of him. It was nothing more than black shadow, a small part of what must have been a larger creature. It was gone in less than two seconds, coming up only to grab one of the dead fish, dragging it back to the depths.
Part of Jack wanted to jump right in. He wanted to feel the adrenalin again. Instead, he controlled his urges. After all, he couldn't do much good if he got eaten before he even started.
This time he'd be reasonable. He closed the vial, tucking it safely into his coat. He'd just have to hope he could do the best possible with primitive technology. And possibly do a background check on some of the islanders. Yes, he might just do that. Starting with a certain journalist called Ishmael.