Munroe MacDonald’s 1970s Volvo Amazon reached the car park at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh a good twenty minutes before the brand new Ford Escape. The reason had nothing to do with engine capacity, or even being caught in the traffic heading to the international rugby match. Munroe, along with Dougal Drummond and his partner, Sandy McCoy, watched sympathetically as Toshiko climbed out of the passenger seat of the mint green SUV. Owen backed the car into one of the few remaining parking spaces while she took deep breaths. The Welsh rugby union shirt she was wearing was two sizes too big for her in the shoulders, but tight fitting over the ‘bump’ at the front.
By the time the rest of the team joined her the deep breaths of air had helped a little. She looked as if she was ready to enjoy the evening.
Owen took hold of her arm. Behind them, Shona Stewart was bickering with Darius about something. As they drew closer, Munroe gathered that she was complaining about the length the journey had taken.
“Fifty-six minutes, maximum,” she was saying. “From departure to arrival. Even allowing for heavy traffic in the city centre. If we didn’t have to keep stopping because somebody was feeling sick!”
“I’m sorry,” Toshiko responded. “I can’t help it. I…”
“If you’re not fit for the job, you shouldn’t be doing it,” Shona replied testily.
“We’re not on duty,” Darius pointed out. “We’re here to enjoy ourselves. It’s meant to be an informal social evening… a chance for us to get to know each other outside of work…”
Shona shrugged as if getting to know her colleagues outside of work was the last thing she wanted to do. And it was probably true, Munroe reflected. Lieutenant Stewart was the least sociable member of the team. She seemed to resent everyone else for one reason or another. Darius, of course, repulsed her because he was a vampire. As a career soldier she had nothing in common with Toshiko, who was looking forward to being a mother again in a few short months. She had been reprimanded several times by Owen for her attitude towards Dougal and his partner. Munroe noted that he, himself, was about the only one she had no specific problem with.
She was the only one not wearing a rugby shirt. Owen was supporting the Welsh, of course. The others, even Darius, who was not even remotely Scottish, were sporting the home strip. Shona was in her usual slacks and t-shirt in military khaki.
“This way,” Munroe said. “The entrance to the hospitality suites is separate to the main turnstiles.”
“Doesn’t quite seem right watching from an executive box,” Dougal commented. “Should be rubbing shoulders with the regular fans.”
“I agree,” Owen said. “But just this once, seeing as it was a gift from Jack Harkness, we might as well make the most of it.”
“Shame they couldn’t all come up and join us,” Toshiko said. “I miss theml.”
“Well, I suppose there has to be a Torchwood office open somewhere,” Shona remarked. “Since we’re shut down tonight.”
“We’re not on a Rift here in Glasgow,” Owen pointed out. “We don’t need to be on alert 24/7. We can have a few hours off.”
“Don’t worry,” Darius told her. “We’ll be back by midnight. And then you and I have the night shift at the Hub all to ourselves.”
Shona gave him an extra special scowl. Owen wondered if putting the two of them on duty together was a good idea after all. But he was buggered if he was going to change the rota just because the Lieutenant was prejudiced about vampires.
As he handed over their group ticket at the hospitality reception, he idly wondered if there was a word for people who had an irrational hatred of vampires, like arachnophobia, homophobia. Vamphobia? Whatever it was, she had it. And it was getting to be a pain in the arse. He didn’t like having to choose between two colleagues. Darius was a good bloke, even if he was a vampire. He liked having him around. He was the only one who was any use assisting him in the mortuary, for a start. But Darius had an obvious problem with not being able to go out in daylight. He needed Shona because she wouldn’t turn to dust when the sun rose.
But if they didn’t sort things out between them he’d have to knock their heads together.
And if either of them thought he couldn’t do that, then they would soon learn not to take short, wiry men for granted.
Jack’s treat for the Torchwood Two team bonding evening extended to a buffet supper laid out in the executive box, including champagne for those who weren’t pregnant, a vampire or a designated driver. Toshiko sipped a cold bottle of mineral water and nibbled a mini chicken kiev standing at the sliding door leading out to their balcony seats for the match. The floodlit stadium was almost full. There was an atmosphere of excitement and friendly national rivalry.
“Being here, surrounded by so much humanity is fascinating to me,” Darius said as he stood next to her. “I can feel the lifeforce, you know. At first, it is one huge gestalt force. But if I concentrate, I can feel them as individuals. I could focus on one of them and know what they’re feeling…”
“You mean you can read their minds?” Toshiko asked. “I did that once, and it wasn’t a good thing.”
“No, not their thoughts. But their emotions… whether they’re excited or scared, happy, sad. Most of the people here are excited, of course. They came here with one purpose – to see this game. That’s why they feel so much of a singularity. Everyone feeling the same emotion at once. If Scotland gets a try, the euphoria will almost overwhelm me.”
“It must make a change for you to be let out among Human beings,” Shona remarked caustically before passing the two of them and sitting at the far end of the balcony.
“Sorry,” Toshiko said to him.
He shook his head with a sad smile.
“She’s right in a way. I don’t get out much. And to be in a place like this… among so many humans… I am not the only one, in fact. I can sense the presence of at least a dozen of my own kind here.”
“Dangerous ones?” Owen came to Toshiko’s side and heard that part of the conversation.
“No,” he replied. “At least I don’t think so. Mostly they will be young vampires, turned in recent decades, who still cling to hopes of being Human again. Attending an event like this, sitting amongst Humans anonymously… remembering ordinary Human joys like watching their team play… it’s a comfort.”
“If you spot any of the other sort…”
“I will deal with them, quietly and unobtrusively, as ever,” Darius promised. “But I think the worst thing that can happen here is a thorough trouncing for the home side.”
Owen laughed and took hold of Toshiko’s hand. He was careful with her as she descended the steps and settled into a seat near the exit. She was averaging twenty minutes these days between needing the toilet, so aisle seats were a must. Shona sat in the row behind her, as far from Darius as possible. Munroe sat next to her while Dougal and Sandy sat between Owen and their vampire colleague. Owen held Toshiko’s arm again as they all stood for the national anthems and then they settled down to enjoy the match.
Twenty minutes later, Toshiko quietly got up from her seat and went to the toilet. That meant a short walk along the promenade behind the executive boxes. It was quiet. Only two stewards, either end of the long echoing corridor weren’t watching the match. She had the ladies toilets to herself and took her time about it. She was enjoying the game, but sitting down for too long made the baby restless. She stood for a while, looking at her extended profile in the mirror and breathing deeply. She smiled happily. Being pregnant was hard work, but it would be worth it.
“Wonder if you’ll support Scotland or Wales?” she whispered, touching the bump gently. “Or neither. You’ll be Japanese, too. I’ll teach you about that part of your heritage, my akachan.”
She sighed blissfully and stepped out of the toilet.
And stared as a group of ghostly figures passed her by.
“What!” Ghosts was the right word for them. They were insubstantial. She could see right through them to the sign pointing the way to the emergency exits. There were ten of them. She counted them carefully. Male and female. They were dressed in long white robes.
Toshiko looked at their faces and then down to their feet, or where their feet should be. They had none.
She looked away. At either end of the corridor the two stewards had seen them, too. They were approaching slowly. One of them had his radio in his hand as if he was contemplating calling for back up. Toshiko saw him hesitate and then put it away again as if he had thought about what his colleagues might say if he reported ghosts in the upper promenade.
The ghosts stopped and seemed to be looking around at the architecture. Toshiko took a step forward. They didn’t seem to be interested in her especially.
“Are you yurei?” she asked. “Can you speak to me?”
They didn’t respond. She thought they knew she was there. One of them nudged the other and pointed as if she was an object of curiosity. Then they moved on quickly, actually moving aside to avoid bumping into her – or going straight through her. She wondered what that would be like and decided that it might not be something she wanted her baby to experience.
The steward coming up from the south end of the promenade wasn’t pregnant but he was curious. As the crowd of what Toshiko had mentally named ‘yurei’ approached him he tried to block them. The first of the group moved aside, but he again deliberately blocked their path and as many as four of the ghosts passed straight through him.
“Toshiko!” She turned at the sound of Darius’s voice. He ran to her and even though his flesh was cold and he had no heartbeat his concerned embrace was welcome. “I felt the fear… the security guards were both shitting themselves. And you… you weren’t scared exactly. But…”
They both looked around. The other guard was trying to bring his colleague around. The yurei carried on walking along the corridor a few more paces and then faded away. Darius bent and touched the unconscious man on the forehead and he came around suddenly.
“Nothing to worry about,” he said calmly. “You slipped. Looks like somebody spilt some milk shake. Knocked you out cold. I think your friend here should take you to the rest room. Somebody else can cover your shift.”
He helped the man to his feet. His colleague blinked twice and then did exactly what Darius had suggested.
“You hypnotised him,” Toshiko said as she watched them go. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Only at night,” he answered. “It’s one of the things Bram Stoker got right about us. After sundown I do have certain powers. I don’t hypnotise very often. But those two were so petrified they would be useless as witnesses and we didn’t bring any Retcon with us.”
“Good point,” Toshiko agreed. “We’d better tell Owen. This is weird. Torchwood weird.” She sighed. “It WOULD have been nice to have one night off, at least.”
Toshiko sat at the conference table in the executive box and sipped from another bottle of chilled mineral water while Darius brought the rest of the team in from outside. They listened as she described what had happened in every detail. Shona glared at Darius when she explained what he had done to the two witnesses.
“What other ‘special powers’ do you have that we don’t know about?” she demanded. “Do you turn into a bat and fly around the city?”
“No,” he replied. “I don’t fly… I can…”
“Never mind,” Owen said, cutting off what was likely to become another sniping contest between the two of them. “The point is… what were they? Tosh… what was it you called them?”
“Yurei,” she answered him. “But… that wasn’t any kind of scientific classification. It’s a Japanese word for a ghost. The reason I thought of them… Yurei don’t have feet. They glide in the air. And these didn’t. Their bodies sort of… faded away near the end of their legs.”
“So… are they ghosts?” Munroe asked. “Is that what it was? This stadium has been around for a good few years. It was used by the army during the war. Could there be a presence here?”
“No,” Darius insisted. “I know what ghosts feel like. I can feel the vestiges of humanity in them… hanging onto shreds of what they used to be. They weren’t ghosts. Or yurei, either.”
“What about…” Dougal began. “Ghosts… remember… the ghosts that turned out to be cybermen…”
Everyone around the table exchanged frozen glances. Shona Stewart’s face actually paled as if the thought disturbed her. Then Toshiko shook her head.
“No, they weren’t like those. They looked Human. They looked just like any of us. Except they were transparent, had no feet and were just…”
Her powers of description failed her.
“Even if we had equipment with us, would we find any trace of anything?” Owen asked. He looked at Darius. He shook his head.
“I felt nothing. It was as if there was nobody else there, only Toshiko and the two guards.”
“Then we might as well carry on watching the match. Tomorrow, we’ll make an excuse to come and carry out extensive tests and try to find out what it was all about.”
It seemed casual, even cavalier. But even Lieutenant Stewart couldn’t come up with any better suggestion. They came back to their seats to find that Wales had scored a try and conversion and were now eight points up on Scotland. By half time the home side had narrowed the gap to five points with a drop goal. The Torchwood team enjoyed their buffet and drinks in the executive box and talked about the game. Toshiko started to relax a little. Her experience with the ‘yurei’ felt less worrying and a little less real. If she was any other kind of woman she might even have started to think she imagined the whole thing.
Then there was an uproar from the crowd outside. The match hadn’t restarted yet, so Dougal went to see what was getting them excited and reported that there were ghosts on the pitch.
Everyone ran outside to have a look. All except Toshiko who wasn’t up to running and took it slowly and carefully, and Darius, who simply vanished.
By the time she made it outside, Darius was standing on the pitch in front of a dozen insubstantial people who floated along the touchline as if they were on a ghostly guided tour of the stadium. He stepped towards them and his body passed through theirs. He turned and watched as they continued along the touchline for nearly half the length of the pitch before fading away.
Moments later he stepped out of the executive box onto the balcony.
“You CAN fly!” Shona exclaimed accusingly.
“No,” he answered. “At night, when my powers are strongest, I can move faster than light for a very brief time. I moved from here to the pitch and back without being observed.”
“Did you learn anything from it?” Owen asked him.
“Yes,” he replied. “They’re not ghosts. I would have felt them strongly as they passed through me. I am… Undead, too. The difference is they are all soul and no corporeal body. I am a corporeal body and no…” He stopped. It wasn’t exactly true that he had no soul. He was pretty sure he did. But like his heart and lungs and several other organs, it didn’t function properly. “Anyway, not ghosts. I felt something. A residual energy, maybe. But only fleeting.”
“This residual energy…”
“I don’t know. Nothing I recognise. We still don’t have anything to go on except they’re NOT ghosts.”
“There… is something.” Everyone turned and looked at Sandy. He wasn’t an official member of the Torchwood team. But he was Dougal’s partner and filled something of the same role as Gwen’s Rhys did down in Cardiff, as the interested outsider.
“I can lip read,” he continued when he had their attention. “I learnt to do it years ago when I worked in a special needs centre. Anyway… I couldn’t catch the whole thing from this distance. But the one in the front… I swear he was giving the others a guided tour… telling them about the history of Murrayfield.”
“Ghosts on a package holiday!” Owen laughed. “Well, this weird shit can’t get any weirder.” He looked around. The teams were coming back onto the pitch. The second half of the game was going ahead. Well, why wouldn’t it, after all? The ‘ghosts’ were gone and Scotland were still five points behind.
By the end of the game, Scotland were still five points behind, thwarted despite their efforts by the stronger Welsh team. Owen and Toshiko cheered their adopted nation and commiserated with their colleagues who had rooted for the other side They were all in good spirits, though, as they made their way out of the stadium. In the car park there were a lot of people talking about the ghosts rather than the result. Owen listened to them and then shook his head.
“Not a thing we can do unless we catch them at it with some kind of monitoring equipment set up. So we’d need to identify a place where they might turn up next and be ready for them.”
“Unless, of course, it’s a one off and they don’t turn up anywhere else,” Munroe suggested hopefully.
“In which case it’ll become a page and a half in some bargain bin book of Ghostly Mysteries,” Owen replied. “Right now, it’s been a long night. See you guys bright and early in the office tomorrow. Lieutenant, are you fit for the nightshift? You didn’t overindulge on the champagne?”
“As if I would do any such thing when I am on duty?” she responded. “I had one glass.”
“I had three,” Owen admitted. “Darius, you can drive, sunshine!”
Shona began to protest. But Darius was a perfectly competent driver. He had, after all, been born before the invention of the internal combustion engine. He was the most experienced driver of them all – at night, at least. Shona sat in the passenger seat of the Ford Escape and deliberately looked out of the side window. Owen sat in the back with Toshiko lying across his lap with her eyes closed. She managed to get through the journey home to Glasgow without the pit stops that had so annoyed the Lieutenant earlier. Darius dropped them at their apartment and carried on back to the Hub.
“Would you like coffee?” he asked the Lieutenant as she settled at her desk and began to look at the local and national news channels where the ‘ghosts’ at Murrayfield were being reported as an amusing aside to the match.
“I’ll make it myself,” she answered snappily.
“I don’t contaminate food,” Darius told her. “I wash my hands just like anyone else.”
“I’ll make my own coffee,” she repeated. “Everyone else treats you as if you’re perfectly normal. They forget what you are. But you’re not normal. And I don’t intend to forget it for a minute. As if I could. Not when…”
She pointed at the computer screen in front of her. Darius looked. It was a Sky News report featuring the ‘ghosts’. Their whole visit to the touchline had been caught on camera. Darius noted that Sandy was right. There was an obvious leader who seemed to be talking to the group. It really did look like a tour guide taking a party around the stadium.
And he also noticed that he, himself, didn’t appear in the film, even though he had been standing there. That didn’t surprise him. He was a Vampire. For reasons even he couldn’t explain, he cast no reflection in mirrors or pools of standing water, and he could not be photographed by any kind of camera.
“Still doesn’t stop me making coffee,” he added.
“Look, just…move away from me. I don’t want a fucking vampire breathing down my neck.”
“I… don’t breathe,” Darius reminded her, though he stepped away from her anyway. He didn’t want her noticing that he had no reflection in the computer screen. He sat down at his own desk. That wasn’t quite far enough away for the Lieutenant.
“Stop looking at my neck. If you try snacking down on me, I’ll make you wish you really were dead… properly dead.”
“Why are you so hostile towards me? I’ve never done anything to offend you.”
“You’re a vampire. And I don’t care what Doctor Harper says. I don’t trust you. You drink Human blood. How do I know what you do to get that blood. You could be a killer…”
“I have never killed a Human being,” Darius said. “When I drink blood… it is from volunteers… given freely… and then only enough for my immediate need. I would never kill. The thought repulses me.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“If you don’t want to believe me, you don’t have to. But it’s true. I have never killed a Human. I vowed I would not over two hundred years ago. The one who made me… he was a killer. A cruel, sadistic one. He kept me in chains, in the dark. He went out and murdered, gorged himself, and then forced me to drink his own blood…”
“Forced?” Shona was sceptical. “You didn’t have to… I mean… you have to bite down don’t you? Couldn’t you have… not done it?”
“He starved me until I was so desperate I couldn’t help myself. You see… Now, I am experienced… mature. I can go without feeding for weeks if I have to. But then, newly turned, I was a mass of instincts, of bloodlust, trying to hold onto the last vestiges of the Human being I once was. He starved me until the sight of his jugular was too much to resist. And when I had fed on him… I realised eventually, he drank opium before he made me feed on him. When I drank his blood, the drug got into my system and made me weak, docile. Then he would use me sexually. I was his plaything that way. It was how I fell into his clutches in the first place. I let myself be picked up by him, not knowing what he was. He killed me while we were having sex, and then brought me back from the dead as his pet vampire. Every time… starvation, force feeding, drugged stupor, sex… Then it would begin all over again… and I couldn’t break the cycle. I was either too doped or too weak from hunger to fight him.”
“So… how did you escape?” Shona still looked at him in disgust, but she seemed interested.
“I didn’t for fifty years. Then… another vampire found me… one who knew my master, and disliked what he was doing to me. He fed me with his own clean blood… he came to me when my master was out on his murder sprees and fed me regularly. I gained strength and I wasn’t drugged. So when my master came to me, expecting a desperate, starving wretch, I had the strength to fight… to kill him. And I did.”
“I thought…” Shona frowned. “Isn’t there this thing… if you kill a vampire his victims are released?”
“That’s just fiction,” Darius answered. “Besides, if I had become Human… I’d have been an old man. At least I had the vigour of youth. I had a chance to live the life he had denied me. Some of it, at least. And I had the chance to kill those murdering vampires like the one who created me. Those are the only lives I’ve taken. The undead lives of killer vampires. I have never… never taken Human life. You’re a soldier. You’re more guilty of that than I am.”
“I’ve never killed a Human being, either,” Shona admitted. “I’m a soldier… but I’m a woman. They don’t let us on the front line. The only time… Do you remember the Cybermen at Canary Wharf… I was part of the mop up team. What we found… they weren’t Human any more. I tell myself that… I have to… the pitiful remnants… half alive… partially converted. Our orders were to euthanize them. I remember one… his eyes opened as I put the gun to his head. He… thanked me.”
Darius gasped. She wasn’t crying. If he even dared to suggest she was she would probably break his limbs. But there was a glassiness about her eyes.
“Shona…” he began, then struggled for something else to say.
“Shut up,” she answered. “Just shut up. Don’t say anything. I shouldn’t have told you that. Canary Wharf is a classified operation.”
“I’m employed by Torchwood. I have the same code clearance as you. I know about what happened at Canary Wharf. It must have been rough for those who were on the ground.”
“I did my duty,” she said. “A soldier’s duty.”
She sighed deeply and pushed down the emotions that had betrayed her. Then she turned and Darius was surprised when she suddenly pushed him back on his chair. She kissed him forcefully. The warmth of her lips surprised him, too. She was so cold towards him most of the time he almost expected her to be literally so. His lips were always cold, of course. His whole body was unless a Human pressed against him and their body heat transferred to him. After a brief hiatus to remove clothing, he felt her warm flesh against his. She was straddling him, the one in control, her body weight on top of him, controlling the unexpected sexual intercourse, controlling him.
He was a little surprised, therefore, when she put her hand around the back of his head and pressed his face against her shoulder.
“Turn me into a vampire and I’ll turn you to dust,” she said. “But… I’m volunteering… just this once.”
Darius sighed happily and extended his fangs. He hadn’t had a warm, flesh and blood lover for a long time. He hadn’t drunk living blood since the last time he saw Jack Harkness, who was always ready and willing to let him feed from his own unique blood bank. Feeding and making love at the same time was a sublime experience.
When it was over, she slid off him and grabbed her clothes. She went to the bathroom and returned fully dressed and with a small sticking plaster covering the place where his fangs had penetrated her neck.
“We don’t talk about any of this,” she said. “As far as anyone else is concerned, I hate you because you’re a queer blood sucker and you hate me because I’m a hard nosed homophobic bitch. That hasn’t changed.”
“Ok,” Darius answered. There was nothing else he could say.
“And wipe your mouth. You’ve dribbled.”
She sat at her desk, deliberately turning away from him. Darius turned around and concentrated on the computer monitor in front of him. He had no doubt that she meant what she said. In the morning, she would be hard and cruel to him as she always was. She would never give the slightest sign in front of the others that she saw him as anything but an abomination.
But he recognised the signs. She was fascinated by him. And now she had tried it, she would want it again. Not just the sex, but the rush Humans get when a vampire drinks their blood.
She would come to him again, the next time they pulled the night shift together, or some afternoon down in the archive, perhaps. She would use him for that double fix of physical satisfaction, while pretending to hate his very existence.
He could refuse, of course. He wasn’t that weak creature that had lived in chains for half a century, used and abused so vilely. He didn’t need to be her plaything.
But he knew he wouldn’t. There might not be any love in their lovemaking, but it had been pleasurable, and her blood was delicious. He could still taste it in his mouth and in a few minutes when the haemoglobin was rushing through his own veins, he would feel energised.
It was something for him to look forward to.
The night shift was quiet. Even the usual UFO hotspots were cold. A dozen times during the early hours the computer automatically monitoring the police switchboard flagged up reports of ‘ghosts’ but they were all clearly the result of overwrought imaginations and possibly hangovers.
Just after seven o’clock, with Darius sleeping on the sofa, Shona put on a pair of training shoes and went out for a run. The rest of the team were due in soon, anyway, and there was nothing else for her to do.
Her morning jog took her from the Torchwood office near the railway station down to Clyde Street and the clean, bright, landscaped paths along the banks of the river. It was peaceful there this early in the morning. She saw another jogger on the opposite bank and a couple of down and outs eating the remains of somebody’s late night take away kebab and that was all.
She stepped onto the South Portland street suspension footbridge intending to go across it and then double back to Jamaica Street Bridge and from there to the office.
And was confronted by a party of ghosts coming the other way.
“What the hell do you lot want?” she demanded, standing her ground. “Get the fuck out of my city. Leave us alone.”
The ghosts didn’t respond. The one at the front turned and pointed towards the Caledonian Railway Bridge. The others all followed his lead and looked that way. Shona glanced in that direction and noticed that an old steam train had pulled out of Central Station and was on the bridge. It was heading to London on the west coast line, attracting the attention of trainspotters all the way down. In the crisp early morning light it was an impressive sight - if steam locomotives were what turned you on, anyway.
But why would a bunch of ghosts in robes that didn’t go all the way to the ground be interested in it? Shona had only let the train take her attention for a few seconds before turning back to the important matter – the ghosts. She studied them carefully, making a mental note of every detail. They were, she observed, male and female, of different apparent ages from mid twenties to fifties. They didn’t look in any way monstrous or frightening, apart from being transparent.
The train passed over the bridge and disappeared from view. Its old fashioned horn echoed across the river as a farewell to Glasgow. The ghosts stepped forward off the footbridge. Some of them walked around Shona, but at least five of them walked right through her as if she wasn’t there. As the last of them stepped off the footbridge she turned around and saw them slowly disappear into thin air.
She ran back to the Torchwood Hub at full sprint, through the car park entrance that brought her directly into the corridor behind the tourist information office. One of the lift doors was starting to close. She yelled ‘hold it’ and dashed inside.
“Are you all right, Lieutenant?” Munroe asked as he and Dougal moved up to allow her breathing space.
“I’m fine,” she replied. “I need… need a…”
The lift stopped and she stepped out into the underground Hub. She noted that Owen was there, talking in an irritated tone to somebody on the telephone. She didn’t pay any attention to his conversation at first. She was too busy operating the code lock that gave her access to the special equipment room. She grabbed what she needed from the shelf and thrust it into Dougal’s hand.
“Scan me,” she demanded with the air of a dominatrix who wanted some kind of sexual act performed on her. Dougal looked at the hand held object. It looked like a bar code scanner designed by really creative and aesthetic aliens, and the principle was the same. Before Shona could repeat her demand he held it up at her chest height and pressed the button. Her slender figure was bathed in a soft blue light for several seconds before it beeped loudly. Dougal looked at the results on the LED display.
He looked around. Owen had stepped closer. He was still on the telephone. He was obviously talking to his old boss at Torchwood Cardiff. He was expressing his irritation at the fact that Captain Harkness had seen fit to send one of his agents up to Scotland to assist with the ‘ghost’ problem.
“We’re perfectly capable of handling this,” he said. “For fuck’s sake, am I in charge here or not? Do I have to refer to you on every little detail? I don’t think that was the agreement when we came up here. And you didn’t have to send Ianto trotting up here on the train just because this particular problem made the late news bulletins.”
Dougal signalled to him. Owen put his hand over the phone receiver as he looked at the scanner readings, then he swore loudly.
“Ok, it’s not something and nothing,” he said to Jack on the other end of the line. “I’ve got an agent contaminated with 1000 units of ion-hydronic energy – whatever the fuck that is - from contact with these ‘ghosts’. But I still don’t see what use Ianto would be…. Fine. I’ll make sure the coffee is fresh when he gets here. But next time… just try trusting us to sort things out. We’re not the Torchwood B-Team, you know.”
He ended the call and dropped the phone into his pocket. He turned and looked at Shona.
“This was from a close encounter? A recent one?”
She nodded and made a concise but detailed verbal report.
“They were looking at the train going over the bridge?” Owen queried. “Like trainspotters?”
“More like tourists,” Shona answered. “And then they just carried on walking.”
“Hmm.” Owen took the scanner from Dougal’s unresisting hands and turned to where Darius was still asleep on the sofa. He ran the scan over him and noted the result.
“Whatever the fuck ion-hydronic energy is, it seems to dissipate after a few hours. Darius only has very faint traces after his encounter with the ghosts last night. It doesn’t look like anything that would have any dangerous long term effects, either. But…” He glanced at the LED display and then turned back to Shona. “Lieutenant, come into my office for a few minutes, will you.”
His ‘office’ was the mortuary-medical room. Shona followed him. He closed the door and then went to the pharmacy cupboard. He put a small white pill into a plastic dispensing cup and placed it on the desk in front of the Lieutenant.
“What is that?” she asked suspiciously.
“Levonorgestrel,” Owen answered. “Colloquially known as the morning after pill. Unless you have other arrangements.”
Owen deliberately didn’t look at her. He took no satisfaction from the deep blush that coloured her face before she got her emotions under control.
“What makes you think I need it?” she asked. The pill remained on the table. Her hands were at her side as she stood in something like the ‘at ease’ stance even though she was in no way ‘at ease’.
“As well as ion-hydronic energy, the scanner also detected a recent build up and release of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin is released during orgasm in male and female mammals. Vasopressin is released in the ‘aftermath’, the cool down period immediately after sex.”
Lieutenant Stewart said nothing. But her eyes flickered just slightly.
“The door is closed. This is a private medical consultation. Doctor-patient confidentiality is something I take seriously.” That settled any questions on that front. “As your boss, Lieutenant, it is absolutely none of my business unless it starts to interfere with your work. As your friend… and I hope I can call you that, Shona, I should warn you… from personal experience, that the chances are it definitely will interfere with work sooner or later and it is a painful process for everyone involved.”
“You know who I was…” Her eyes turned towards the scanner. “He… had the same hormones…”
“Something we didn’t know about vampires before. They release the same sex hormones as the living. I can’t call it research, since it wasn’t a controlled experiment. Still as your friend, Shona, I would also add that treating him like shit in front of others and using him for sex in private is… well… shitty. But I can’t tell you how to behave. That’s for you to decide.”
That seemed to be all he had to say. Shona looked down at the pill in the little cup and almost casually picked it up.
“He’s a vampire,” she said. “Is it… can I… is it possible?”
Again, Owen took no personal satisfaction in seeing her disconcerted and his professional opinion was not much comfort to her.
“I doubt there is any scientific research on that subject,” he said. “As I indicated before, it is entirely your choice.”
Shona nodded and then walked to the water dispenser in the corner of the room. She swallowed the pill with water, then stepped out of the room. Owen waited a few minutes before following her. He noted that Darius was still asleep on the sofa and she had gone straight to her desk. Munroe and Dougal were presenting the appearance of two men who were getting on with their assigned work. Everything looked perfectly normal.
Then he had a message from the girls in the tourist office. Their visitor was here. He gave them permission to let him in and a minute later Ianto Jones stepped into the Glasgow Hub carrying a very large metal equipment case.
“Hi,” he said brightly. “Nice office. Bit roomier than ours. Not so damp. How is Toshiko?”
“She’s ok,” Owen answered. “She didn’t sleep well last night. I let her stay in bed.”
“Won’t be long now till she’s on maternity leave anyway,” Ianto reminded him.
“Yes. Meanwhile… what have you got there that Jack doesn’t think we have up here.”
“You don’t have this up here,” Ianto assured him as he opened the case and brought out something that resembled the ghostbusting kit from the 1980s film as well as a set of what, for want of a better description, seemed to be electronic traffic cones. “This is from Torchwood One – Canary Wharf. It was left behind by… somebody who understood about how the ‘ghosts’ worked. It’s a ‘ghost’ trap.
“You mean the Cybermen?” Owen shuddered. He had only ever had one personal encounter with them – and that was Ianto’s half converted girlfriend, Lisa, in the basement of Torchwood Cardiff, but he had read the reports.
“Yes, but Jack thinks it can be converted to focus on your ghosts. If you have any sort of energy readings, we can use them to draw the ghosts out into the open and question them.”
“I don’t want to question them,” Owen pointed out. “I want them to piss off.”
“It’s worth a try,” Ianto suggested.
Owen conceded that point and told him to calibrate the machine to pick up ion-hydronic energy. Ianto did so and then gave a soft whistle.
“I’m picking up readings here, in the Torchwood Hub,” he said.
“That’s Shona and Darius,” Owen told him dismissively. “We already established that they’ve picked up traces.”
“No… more than that,” Ianto answered. “Strong readings coming from upstairs. Quick… grab the cones…”
He slipped the ‘ghostbusting’ pack on his back and held the long nozzle section in his hands. Owen and Dougal brought the cones between them and followed him back to the lift. Up in the quiet, peaceful tourist office, the two girls behind the counter, who thought they were operating an MI5 front, were surprised to see the people from the underground office setting out four strange looking traffic cones on the floor before aiming what looked like a fire hose at the centre of the square they formed. They were even more startled when a group of ‘ghosts’ started to materialise in the square. Slowly, as Ianto kept the ‘hose’ on them they became less insubstantial and far more corporeal. Their faces and hands began to show up in flesh colours and they did, in fact, have legs and feet encased in sandals.
As they become more solid, their voices began to be heard.
“This is the outer office of the old Torchwood Hub,” the one in charge said. “You have all, I am sure, read books about what Torchwood did in the twenty and twenty-first centuries before the British government began to take the extra-terrestrial threat seriously. These brave individuals…”
“Have you under arrest,” Owen said as Shona and Munroe stepped into the square and calmly plasi-cuffed the now very solid ghosts. “We’ve got some questions to ask you.”
The interrogation room was not built to accommodate so many suspects at once. Owen had them seated around the boardroom table where he conceded that they might have the cuffs taken off. Shona and Dougal both stood to attention at the head of the table, making it clear that they could both deal immediate pain to anyone who wanted to try anything. Darius stood at the other end glowering menacingly, though that might have been more to do with the fact that he had been woken from his nap than the fact that he was a vampire. Munroe and Ianto, the least scary members of Torchwood flanked him. Both adopted stern expressions. The not so very ghostly ghosts looked warily at their captors and none tried to do anything foolish like attempting to escape.
“All right,” Owen said as he sat at the head of the table with his two army officers either side. “I’m waiting for somebody to explain what this is all about? You’re obviously NOT ghosts so…”
The one who had been in charge until Owen made it clear that he wasn't cleared his throat and reached slowly into his robe, keeping an eye on Shona and Dougal as he did. He brought out a leaflet and handed it to Owen. His eyes narrowed as he read it.
“Carmichael McCallum’s Temporal Tours?” He read the title out loud in a scathing tone. “Who’s Carmichael McCallum when he’s at home, then?”
“That would be me,” the man who had given him the leaflet admitted. Owen’s scathing tone was matched by an equally scathing look as he continued to read aloud for the benefit of his colleagues.
“Using the latest 55th century technology you can actually take a time trip back to the old days. See Glasgow and Edinburgh as they were in the golden days of the Twenty-First century. Spot your own ancestors walking down Sauchiehall Street or visit Murrayfield when they still played rugby there…”
“You’re a bunch of bloody tourists!” Ianto looked at them as if they were the lowest form of life on planet Earth.
“Temporal tourists?” Owen added. “You mean you’re some sort of time travellers?”
“No, not really,” McCallum explained. “You see, the technology… it wasn’t meant to bring us here bodily. It all went a bit wrong. We were meant to stay in our own century, and simply project ourselves into the past. We were meant to be completely invisible to our ancestors… to you.”
“I hope you lot haven’t been up to Loch Ness messing around with the wee beastie,” Munroe said accusingly.
“No, only Glasgow and Edinburgh so far,” McCallum answered. “I planned to expand once we were better known. Only… I know… we revealed ourselves several times. The rugby match… and the bridge… the temporal pedal jammed. We began to manifest ourselves in this time… but it was accidental. Please accept my apologies.”
“Give me one good reason why I should,” Owen replied. “Have you any idea of the trouble you’ve caused? You were SEEN, on television. You’ve sent the conspiracy nutters into internet meltdown. I’ve had to reassure the Prime Minister that we’re not being invaded again, and you upset my wife.”
“I… am sorry,” McCallum repeated. “But please, don’t… you can’t keep us here. We don’t belong in this time. You can’t…”
“I can do what I like,” Owen told him. “You don’t belong here, so nobody is going to ask questions if I lock you all in the vaults and throw away the key.”
McCallum tried to protest, but his clients outdid him. Two of the women started to cry. One of the men rounded on the worried tourist operator and told him what his lawyer was going to do to him when they got home.
“If we get home,” McCallum said glumly.
“Relax,” Owen told him. “I don’t want you cluttering up the place. Ianto will take you upstairs and reverse the polarity on the temporal accelerator that brought you here. You can all piss off back where you came from. But when you get there, you shut down this operation. We have enough to worry about here without wondering if invisible tourists are watching us every time we pop to the loo. And the poor bloody general public don’t need these sort of scares either. We’ll be setting up ion-hydronic sensors in all the major tourist spots of Scotland to make sure you don’t come back.”
And that was that. Ianto led the group of accidental time travellers upstairs where the tourist office was temporarily closed for business. A few minutes later he came back and reported a successful exorcism of the ghost problem.
“They’re back in the 55th century,” he said. “Or… fried by the ion energy, possibly.”
“I don’t give a flying fuck either way,” Owen said. “As long as they’re out of our way.” Nobody was entirely sure if he really meant that. In any case, he considered that the end of the matter. He promised Ianto a cup of coffee and a chat about old times before turning to give his team their assignments for the rest of the day. He noted that Lieutenant Stewart and Darius were missing.
“Well, they should have been off duty twenty minutes ago, anyway,” he noted. “I didn’t notice Shona leave, though.”
“She didn’t,” Munroe answered. “According to the personnel count, she’s still in the Hub… with Darius in his quarters.”
“Really?” Dougal smiled widely as he put two and two together. “I didn’t see that one coming. I thought he was gay, in any case. And she hates vampires.”
“He’s heteroflexible and she’s learnt to be more tolerant,” he said. “It’ll make for a quieter office environment, anyway. I’ll make sure she has a supply of elastoplast.”