Owen answered his mobile phone as he buckled his seatbelt in the passenger side of the Ford Escape. The call was from Toshiko. She was crying.
“There’s another one just come through on the police computer,” she said. “A single mother in Maryhill. She slit her baby’s throat and then killed herself.”
“Oh, shit,” Owen swore. He heard Toshiko’s deep, ragged breaths and tried to keep his own voice steady.
“Owen, what’s happening to these people?” she continued. “What’s causing it?”
“That’s what I hope we’ll find out. That’s why I need you to compile the statistics. I know it’s hard. But try to be objective. Try to treat this just like any other assignment. Don’t let it get to you in this way.”
“I’m trying,” she answered. “But I keep on thinking… What if… I’ve got the kids with me at the Hub. I didn’t want to leave them with the child-minder.… I couldn’t trust… I wanted them where I could see them. But what if… What if it gets to me… I could…”
“Tosh, stop talking like that. Listen to me. There’s nothing in the world that could make you hurt those two kids. I know you. You don’t have it in you.”
“But… these other people… they didn’t have it in them, either.”
“I don’t know what caused this. It could be chemical, some kind of mass hypnosis. But whatever it was, you’re not affected. You aren’t a danger to the kids. So… give them a kiss from me and I’ll be back as soon as I can. I love you all.”
He thought she believed him. At least she calmed down a little bit. And he managed to convince her that he needed the statistical data. He needed her to be professional and calm.
He understood how she felt. The same thoughts had crossed his own mind. He was forcing himself to be calm and professional every time he entered a house of death. This was the sixth one this morning that he had gone to with Shona Stewart. Munroe Macdonald had attended as many again. The police were over-stretched just finding out how many victims there were. There had been talk of bringing in the military. Owen wasn’t sure if that would make things better or worse.
“Still no response from Drummond,” Shona commented as she tried again to contact their other colleague by phone. “Typical.”
“We’re going round to their place,” Owen told her. “This isn’t typical at all. Dougal is a good man. Something must be wrong.”
Shona shrugged her shoulders and started the car. He was the boss. She set the advanced Satnav to Dougal Drummond’s home in Partick. The traffic lights all automatically turned to green as they approached, assuring their fast progress across the city.
Owen hoped fervently that Dougal had simply slept in late and his phone battery was down, something stupid that would earn him a caustic comment or two from Shona Stewart, and a ticking off from him, but nothing worse.
He tried not to think of Dougal and Sandy as victims of the madness that had overtaken a thousand people in Glasgow, nearly ten thousand countrywide, turning them to suicide, or in too many cases, murder-suicide, taking their friends or family with them.
There was no pattern to it as far as he could see. Single men and women in their one room tenements had killed themselves. Parents had killed children. Children had turned on their parents. Men had turned on their wives, wives on their husbands. A postal worker on the early shift at the sorting office had taken a hatchet to his work colleagues. A prison warder had killed three inmates before hanging himself in the cell. Each tragic and horrific story that emerged as the emergency services spread their resources further just made the unanswered question all the harder to bear.
Down in Cardiff, Jack Harkness and his team were on the same mission, helping out the regular authorities, trying to find out what had turned ordinary members of the public into killers. But at least Jack knew where all of his team were. They had checked in as soon as they got wind of the problem. And as far as they knew, nobody in their immediate family was affected.
So far, Owen had been able to say the same. It made examining the bodies a little easier knowing none of it was personal to him. Only a little. As a doctor, preserving life was his raison d’être. This apparently motiveless waste of life repeated over and over again cut him deeply. He wasn’t emotionally detached when he went into another ominously silent house. He was just doing a very good impression of it.
And like every police officer and paramedic on the same ghastly duty he was asking that same unanswered question over and over.
Torchwood existed to answer questions like that, of course. But even they needed more than they had so far, and he was feeling increasingly impotent in the face of the enormity of this crisis.
He led the way up the stairs to the apartment shared by Dougal Drummond and Sandy McCoy. He knocked on the door, first. Then, when there was no answer, he stepped back and nodded to the Lieutenant. She broke the door in with one swift kick that suggested Dougal and Sandy needed a stronger door and better locks.
But home security vanished from the forefront of his mind as he stepped into the drawing room of the apartment and found Dougal and Sandy on the floor, holding each other and crying piteously. Owen immediately took in the fact that both men were covered in blood. So did Shona who glanced professionally around the room and then checked the rest of the apartment to ensure there was nobody else involved in what had taken place here.
“There’s blood in the kitchen,” she confirmed. “Whatever happened, it started there.”
“It’s ok,” Owen said gently as he knelt beside the two men. “Sandy, you can let him go, now. Let me see.”
Dougal was the one who had been wounded. The blood on Sandy’s clothes were a combination of what a crime scene investigator would call blood spatter from close association with the stabbing and transference from holding the victim afterwards
Sandy had stabbed Dougal and then hugged him as he was dying.
“Oh, thank fuck for that,” Owen blurted out before he realised it wasn’t the most sensitive thing to say. “I mean… if it had been the other way around… at least you’re… You’re both alive. You’re ok. It’s over.”
Dougal let him pull apart his blood-soaked shirt and confirm that there wasn’t even a scar to show where he had been viciously stabbed a dozen times with the kitchen knife that Shona had quietly picked up from the carpet and placed in an evidence bag.
“My… alien gizmos did their work,” he said. “But… Oh, my God! Sandy… he…”
Sandy was still in tears. He shuddered when Owen reached out and touched him on the shoulder.
“I don’t know why I did it. We were… just making breakfast. It was six o’clock. We were both tired, moaning about the alarm going off. But we were ok. Then… I suddenly had the knife in my hand. I stabbed him once…. He staggered through to here, but I followed him and kept on…”
“You remember doing it?” Owen asked him. “You actually remember. You didn’t black out or anything?”
“I remember doing it,” he replied. “I remember the sound as the knife went into his stomach, the feeling of resistance, of pushing harder… Oh God… I remember every moment of it.”
“Don’t think about it,” Dougal told his lover. “It’s over now. And… I forgive you. I really do.”
“No,” Owen told him. “I’m sorry, but he’s got to remember. We’re going to have to go over this again back at the Hub, with both of you. You’re our best chance of finding out what happened. Dougal, you’re the only victim who survived. Sandy, you’re the only one affected who didn’t kill themselves afterwards. I’m sorry, but you’re both going to have to be our test subjects.”
“What do you mean… only one?” Sandy asked.
“It’s not just us?” Dougal caught on a little faster. Owen cursed himself for breaking it to them in such a clumsy way. Of course, there was a media blackout in force, still. Even if there wasn’t, they had hardly been listening to the news channel.
There was a kind of music playing, very quietly. It had been present all the time, but it was only now that it registered in Owen’s mind that it was there. He looked around the room and saw the partly open door to the study where Sandy and Dougal both had pc’s set up with wireless internet.
“Shona, go and switch the computer off, would you. Dougal, Sandy, come with me to the bathroom and let’s get you changed. We’ll need your clothes for forensics, too.”
Since neither man was denying what had happened, or attempting to conceal anything, they probably didn’t. But they had to bring them down to the car and at the moment they looked like extras from a bad late night thriller. Apart from members of the public, he didn’t want to freak Toshiko out even further by letting her see them like this back at the Hub.
He kept a close eye on Sandy while the two men took it in turns to shower and dress in clean clothes. But he showed no further sign of wanting to murder his partner. In fact, once they were dressed they both looked relieved, as if they thought it was all over, now. They clutched hands as they walked down the stairs and out of the apartment block. Owen hesitated at the car. He wondered if he ought to separate them.
He didn’t seem to have much to worry about in that way. As soon as they got into the car, they started hugging and kissing each other. Shona gave a disapproving look and climbed into the driver’s seat. She studiously concentrated on the road ahead and ignored what was going on in the back. Owen watched them surreptitiously in the rear view mirror, in case kissing turned to strangling any moment.
Of course, he was assuming that the madness would affect Sandy again. If it happened again, who knows who it would take over. Maybe Shona would turn her gun on them. Maybe it would affect him and he’d lay into the Lieutenant with his scalpel.
That was the really scary thing. It could happen to anybody. When he had told Toshiko it couldn’t happen to her, he had been lying. They had no idea who would be next, or when.
Which was why he needed to question these two under controlled conditions as soon as possible and find out exactly what had happened to them.
They held the key to what had happened everywhere else.
“Owen,” Toshiko called out to him as they came into the Hub. “Munroe called. He’s gone to the hospital. He… found two kids… they were injured but not dead. He’s hoping they’ll pull through...”
“I hope they do,” Owen answered her. “Did he say anything else?”
“No,” she said. “He was crying. He’s got grandchildren, remember. This has been tough on him.”
“It’s tough on everyone,” Owen replied. He looked at Etsuko in her play pen, calmly pressing the buttons on an interactive playmat and producing synthesised animal noises that provided a counterpoint to the calming music Toshiko was playing on her computer as she worked. “We’re going to be in the interrogation room.”
Toshiko was surprised by that, but she turned to attend to Genkei who had woken up in his crib and put Torchwood duties aside for a few minutes.
The interrogation room was deliberately stark. Dougal and Sandy sat on two hard, straight backed chairs nervously. Being on the other side of the table was disturbing. They clutched hands, still, and looked at each other reassuringly as Owen set up the digital camera that would record all they said as well as their body language as they spoke. There were also sensors that recorded their heartbeats and breathing as the interrogation progressed. Every nuance that proved the veracity of their story could be measured electronically within this room.
They both repeated what he had heard so far. It was a little after six and they were making breakfast. Both had early shifts.
“I was teasing Sandy about his music,” Dougal said. That was a new detail. Owen paid attention.
“Which music?” he asked.
“Well, if you can call it music. That stuff coming from the computer. Sandy has it on all the time, nearly. He’s a complete addict. He puts it on first thing in the morning, and you can guarantee it’ll be playing when I get in the house in the evening. I always switch it off and make him listen to TSO instead.”
Sandy groaned theatrically and smiled at his lover.
“The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They’re sort of classical music mixed with heavy metal,” Dougal explained. “My idea of chill out music. Not a computer in London synthesising the sound of an old brass bowl being hit with a stick.”
“You have my complete and total sympathy, Dougal. Toshiko played the same bloody stuff all through her pregnancy. She claimed it was calming and that the baby liked it.”
They all laughed at that. Then Owen brought them back to the serious point.
“Even so, I don’t think the reason Sandy grabbed the bread knife was because you dismissed his taste in music?”
“No,” Sandy admitted. “I… don’t know why I did it. There was… no reason. I just felt… something inside me just flipped and I felt that I had to do it… I had to kill him. I couldn’t stop myself. I knew I was doing it. And I knew… I felt terrible… I was killing the man I love… but I knew it had to be done… that the world would be better once he was dead. Only it wasn’t. When it was over… I knew I had to die. I started to… I would have done it, too. Dougal stopped me. He came back to life just in time… he stopped me from killing myself and then… I don’t remember anything else after that except holding him and crying. We were just frozen there on the carpet until you came in.”
“I’m sorry,” Owen told him. “But… I have to ask… there was nothing… nothing you remember that triggered the feeling…”
“No, I’m sorry,” he answered. “I don’t remember anything like that. I just remember taking the knife and…”
There was no point making him go over it again. He asked Dougal what he remembered about the moment when their cosy domesticity turned to horror, but he knew even less. He confirmed that Sandy’s expression as he knifed him for the first time was one of intense concentration, but no hate or obvious mental conflict or torture. He confirmed that he had tried to stop him. He spread his hands out on the table in front of him. Of course there were no wounds now. The nanogenes had mended all the defensive cuts. But he had tried to stop his lover from stabbing him, at least until blood loss left him too weak to fight. After that, his brain shut down.
“The last thing I remember before I died, was Sandy crying and… those damned singing bowls. That was all I heard when I came back to life, too.”
“Fate worse than death!” Owen joked. The two men laughed, though in a strained way.
“Will this happen again?” Sandy asked. “Are we safe? I don’t… I don’t ever want to go through that again.”
“I don’t know,” Owen answered him honestly. “As far as we know, you’re the only one affected who survived. All the others had killed themselves. So we don’t know…”
“If I WILL do it again.” Sandy tried to break away from Dougal’s handhold, but he gripped him even more firmly. “Let me go, leannan. I’m dangerous. I could hurt you.”
“I don’t care,” Dougal answered. “I love you. I don’t care if you kill me a hundred times. I’ll always love you. I’m sticking beside you, no matter what.”
Dougal hugged his lover and kissed him tenderly. Sandy sobbed gratefully and let himself be enfolded in his arms. Owen felt like an intruder. He pushed his chair back and watched them silently for a long minute.
“The ball’s in your court, guys,” he said. “What do you want me to do?”
“The padded cell,” Sandy replied. “Let me go in there. You’ve got cameras, sound recorders, you can even monitor my brain activity while I’m in there… you can watch me… and if it starts to happen again…”
“Let me go in there with him,” Dougal added. “I meant what I said. If he kills me again… I’ll take it… I’ll die for him…. If it helps us understand what this is all about… I will…. I really will.”
“Dougal… you’re not serious? You’re not really volunteering to die… so that we can find out why?”
“Yes. I am. Do you have any other ideas?”
“None at all,” Owen admitted. “It just… doesn’t seem ethical. But if that’s what you want to do… keep it quiet, though will you. Remember we ARE going to be recording your every move. And we don’t want it to turn into a porn film.”
Dougal and Sandy laughed nervously.
There was a procedure, of course. Inmates of the padded cell had to change out of their clothes into a loose fitting cotton overall with no pockets and no places to conceal weapons. A strait-jacket was also part of the preparation, usually, but this time it would defeat the object.
“Good luck,” Owen told them as they sat down together on the soft, waterproof floor of the padded cell. He closed the door on them and locked it. He walked slowly back to the Hub where Toshiko already had the monitors set up. The two men were lying on the floor of the cell now, holding each other in a close embrace.
“They look…” she began as she looked at the image on the screen. “Sad… in a way. But they’re together.”
“Yes.” Owen kept his own counsel on the subject. He wasn’t sure this was a good idea. Even with Lieutenant Stewart on stand by outside the cell ready to anaesthetise Sandy at the first sign of murderous intent, it could end very badly.
“Boss!” Darius called to him from his workstation where he had been monitoring reports from the police and other emergency services about the crisis. “There’s a call from Cardiff. Jack says he’s got something to share with you. He thinks it might be a connection between the victims.”
Owen went to his own workstation and took the call. He listened to what Jack had to say carefully. When he was done, he called Munroe. There was something he had to ask him. While he did so, he accessed a file Jack had sent him and examined it carefully.
“Shit!” he yelled, dropping the telephone receiver back onto the cradle without even saying goodbye to Munroe. He turned and looked at Toshiko, working away at her own desk with four monitors and two keyboards. He crossed the floor in a few fast strides and grabbed the wire that powered the speakers. The music she had been listening to stopped.
“It’s in the music,” he said. “The fucking music.”
“What!” Toshiko was startled. “How could it be…”
“The music?” Darius stood from his desk and stepped closer to him. “Owen… what are you talking about? How can music kill people?”
“It’s not just any kind of music,” he answered. “It’s the Longplayer. The longest piece of music in the world….”
“It was started at midnight on the Millennium,” Toshiko added. “The very first second of the new year 2000. And it’s supposed to keep playing, without repetition until the last moment of 2999.”
“Really?” Darius raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps Jack and I will be around to hear that. We’ll make a date. But… how does it connect with this terrible tragedy?”
“I’m not quite sure, yet,” Owen answered. “But Jack found that a lot of the victims still had the Longplayer live stream on their computers. So did the last two houses Munroe went to. So did Sandy and Dougal.”
“But not all of them.”
“Some of them might have switched off their computers before they did what they did… or afterwards, before taking their own lives.”
“But I’ve been listening to the Longplayer,” Toshiko pointed out. “And I didn’t….”
“You weren’t listening to it at six o’clock this morning,” Owen replied. “Something happened then… Something unusual, that turned a faintly irritating piece of music into the trigger for mass suicide.”
“But it’s a live stream,” Toshiko added. “That’s the whole point. It is computer generated to produce unique sequences of notes without ever repeating. What was on the stream at six o’clock is long gone, now.”
“Except in Cardiff there was a man called Anwyl Hussey who was a complete and utter nerd who didn’t get out much. He had a twenty terabyte hard drive recording the Longplayer stream in thirty minute segments right from the first moment it went live. He was convinced that it WAS repeating itself and wanted to prove it by comparing segments.”
“He’s one of the people who killed himself?” Darius asked.
“Yes. Jack found him with his wrists slit, sitting at his computer. That’s when he realized he’d been hearing the same bloody music at every location he’d been to this morning. He checked with the police and got them to confirm the same music in at least some of the locations visited. That’s why all of them were in buildings. None of them were in cars or just out in the street. Every one of these tragedies occurred in a place where a computer could be playing the live stream.”
“Well, that’s an interesting theory,” Darius said. “But… how do we prove it? And why didn’t it affect everyone? I mean, Dougal was in the same room and he didn’t try to kill Sandy. There’s got to be something else.”
“You’re right,” Owen conceded. “We’re not completely there yet. But we might as well test one part of the theory.”
He returned to his workstation and carefully arranged for the recorded segment of the Longplayer music that Jack had emailed to him to be played back inside the padded cell.
“Keep watching,” he said to Toshiko and Darius. “I’m going down there.”
They kept watching. They saw Dougal and Sandy looking around in surprise as the music filled the cell. Then Toshiko exclaimed in horror and looked away as Sandy lunged towards Dougal and began throttling him. Dougal fought back hard, but not as hard as he surely could fight. He was a trained soldier, after all. He was skilled in unarmed combat. He ought to have been able to subdue Sandy easily. But that wasn’t an easy thing for him to do to the man he loved. Darius watched what Toshiko couldn’t bear to watch. He saw Dougal’s tears as he desperately held his lover’s arms and begged him to stop.
Then the door opened. Owen and Lieutenant Stewart rushed in. Shona restrained Sandy while Owen administered a sedative. It was fast acting. Within a few moments Sandy became docile and slumped in his arms. Owen looked up at the hidden camera and made a signal. Darius cut the transmission of the Longplayer music.
“That proves it,” Toshiko said in a dull tone. She sat down at her desk and watched her two children, one sleeping, the other playing happily. Both were unaware of the terrible things happening around them. “It could have been me. I could have killed my children. I could have…”
Darius tried to reassure her. But he knew she was right. If the trigger that made these people do what they did was hidden in the music that she regularly listened to, then it was simply a matter of luck that she hadn’t been listening at that time. And there wasn’t much reassurance in that.
Darius looked at the monitor again. Sandy was coming round from the fast acting and short duration sedative and hugging Dougal so hard accidental suffocation was likely. Owen spoke to them both and then helped him to stand. He was still groggy and stumbled as they came out of the cell. By the time they reached the Hub he was walking easier, but despair still haunted his face.
Darius made coffee. It was the only thing he could think of that could begin to help.
Toshiko kept her eyes on the computer screen in front of her. Everybody noticed there were tears in her eyes. But she wasn’t the only one. Owen looked glassy-eyed, too. Shona Stewart kept her usual untouched composure and Darius didn’t cry easily. But even they were touched by the desperateness of the moment.
“Oh, my God!” Toshiko exclaimed, making everyone jump. A silence had descended on the Hub that had been broken only by Etsuko’s playmat sound effects and her suddenly raised voice had jarred with them all.
“What?” Owen asked.
“I think I’ve found it,” she said. “I didn’t LISTEN to the music. But I looked at it as a wavelength. And I’ve found something. There’s another signal being carried on the stream. Something that shouldn’t be there. I think it’s the trigger.”
Owen came to her side. He stared at the image of a soundwave on the screen, but it meant nothing to him. Show him a life support machine monitoring a patient’s heart rate and blood pressure and he could give an instant prognosis, but this was out of his league.
“There,” Toshiko insisted, pointing to a section of the image. Then she typed rapidly at her keyboard and on screen most of the image disappeared leaving just a small segment of the soundwave. “This is the piece that shouldn’t be there. It didn’t come from the same source. Somebody hacked into the stream and inserted it.”
“Ok, assuming you’re right, that still doesn’t answer Darius’s question,” Owen pointed out. “Why didn’t it affect everyone who heard it? Why didn’t it affect Dougal.”
“Because this is only part of the trigger,” she replied. “Look at the edges of this sound. They’re cut off. I think… if I were to search through all the recordings that Anwyl Hussey made, I’d find the rest of the trigger. It might have been spread over several days, split into several pieces. Only people who had heard more than one of the segments were affected. Dougal didn’t listen to the Longplayer as often as Sandy did?”
“That’s right,” Sandy confirmed. “I listen to it nearly every day when he’s at work.”
“I’ll get Jack to send us the rest of the reordings,” Owen decided. “Find those triggers. I need to know how often they’ve appeared. In the meantime, we need to stop the music.”
The first part of that plan was easy enough. Jack sent the recordings of the Longplayer as quickly as high speed internet transfer could work. Toshiko set to work at once, analysing each segment at ten times the normal speed so that she could get through them quickly.
But switching off the Longplayer was less easy. Owen argued on the phone for nearly twenty minutes with the director of the project, who refused to believe his music could be in any way a danger to the public health.
“Where exactly does it come from?” Darius asked. “The Longplayer…. It exists in some physical form somewhere, doesn’t it?”
“On a computer based in the Lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf, London,” Toshiko said. “I saw it once. I was in London with Jack for a meeting with the Ministry of Defence. It’s the strangest thing. Just a computer sitting on a wooden shelf in a big, empty room, continuously producing the music.”
“Jack could be in London in forty minutes if he pulls some strings with U.N.I.T and gets a helicopter,” Darius said. “He can stop it by force if he has to.”
“Forty minutes will just be in time,” Toshiko said. “I’ve got a sequence. The trigger has been piggy-backed onto the stream every three hours. It will repeat in fifty minutes time, at a quarter past eleven.”
“Jack, get in the air,” Owen said. He was already on the phone to his former boss in Cardiff who had already started the string-pulling process. He stayed on the phone. The call was transferred to Jack’s in-ear communicator and he kept in touch as the U.N.I.T. helicopter picked him up on Roald Dahl Plas.
“He’s not going to make it,” Shona Stewart murmured under her breath. She watched another computer monitor where, with the sound turned down, the Longplayer stream was being received. “It’s impossible.”
“He’s got to,” Toshiko said. “He’s got to do it. More people will die if he doesn’t. More than this morning, perhaps. There will be more people listening in the daytime than there were first thing.”
“She’s right about that,” Darius pointed out.
“Jack will make it.”
“Have you thought,” Shona Stewart said as the minutes ticked by. “Even if he stops the Longplayer, it won’t stop whoever or whatever did this. We need to trace the origin of the trigger.”
“I’d need it to be streaming live to do that,” Toshiko replied. “But we can’t risk it. We can’t let millions of people across the country hear it.”
The minutes ticked by. Owen reported that Jack was in the helicopter flying over Berkshire, Reading, Bracknell Forest, heading towards Greater London.
“He won’t make it,” Shona Stewart said again. “Why don’t we jam the stream.”
“No,” Toshiko replied. “No… wait… I have an idea. Tell Jack… tell him….”
For a half a minute she gabbled so fast nobody understood her. Then she took a deep breath and repeated her idea. Owen gasped in astonishment. It was so simple. He wondered why none of them had thought of it before.
“He’s on the ground,” Owen reported. “U.N.I.T. are waiting. They’ve got a motor-cyclist. He’s only got to ride pillion for three minutes to reach the Lighthouse.”
“We’ve got ten minutes,” Darius confirmed. “But he has to get into the building and persuade the staff he means business.”
Everyone watched the frequency indicator on Shona’s computer monitor that showed the Longplayer music was still streaming. If Jack succeeded, it should stop any moment.
“Ok,” Owen said to Toshiko. “He did it. They stopped the stream. The Longplayer is still playing but nobody is hearing it right now. It’ll take them thirty seconds to transfer to another stream that only we have access to.”
“Got it,” Toshiko confirmed. “Isolating the trigger signal. Tracing the IP address….”
You could have heard a pin drop. Then Toshiko laughed softly.
“I don’t believe it,” she said. “The trigger signal… it comes from Dumfries. It’s practically in our backyard.”
“Our turn to pull U.N.I.T. strings and get us a helicopter,” Owen said. “Jack, you can let them resume their normal stream now. It’s safe for the next three hours. They can put up an apology on their website for the temporary break in the stream. With any luck the little bastard at the centre of this won’t even know we’re onto him.”
Shona Stewart was their connection with U.N.I.T. in Scotland, of course. And she insisted on coming on the mission. To Owen’s surprise, Dougal asked to be included.
“I want to look the bastard responsible for this misery in the eye,” he said. “I want to ask him, face to face, what he did it for. And then…” Dougal’s eyes flashed with anger. “Then I’m going to kick him in the fucking head until he hears Tibetan singing bowls for the rest of his miserable life.”
Owen thought about that for a few moments. Taking Dougal to meet the person responsible for the misery he and Sandy had suffered this morning was hardly the sensible thing to do.
Fuck sensible, he decided. His Hippocratic oath could be fulfilled by rendering first aid after Dougal had finished with the kicking.
It was a little over two hours later when the party arrived back at the Hub with their prisoner. Toshiko noticed the man looked as if he had resisted arrest very strenuously.
Owen was only slightly surprised to notice that she had the Longplayer stream running. Of course, it was safe now. The dangerous signal had been stopped at source.
“You won’t believe it,” he said. “The stupid bastard said he was experimenting with Human subconscious responses. He thought the triggers would tap into the positive emotions… and make people happy.”
“Happy!” Toshiko nearly exploded with outrage. “He…”
“Yeah. I know. Dougal made his feelings on that matter very clear. When his headache clears up, he’ll be handed over to U.N.I.T. They’ve got a special facility for prisoners the government don’t want to be bothered sending for trial. He’ll have plenty of time to work out where his theory went wrong.”
“It hardly seems enough punishment,” Toshiko said. “He’s responsible for so many needless deaths. And I suppose we… along with U.N.I.T. and MI5… are going to cover it all up. Put out stupid stories about e-coli or a new strain of swine flu or something.”
“It’s what we do,” Owen replied. “It’s the best we can do.” He reached out and touched her on the shoulder gently. “Still can’t stand that bloody music, you know. Don’t get the kids hooked on it.”