Three days after ‘The Day’ when Torchwood Glasgow was getting back to business along with the rest of the city, Owen had as good an answer to his question as he was likely to get. And it came from a very unlikely source.
“Boss,” Dougal said to him as he was quietly finishing an analysis of alien DNA traces found in Dumfries before everything stopped for ‘The Day’. “There’s somebody upstairs in the tourist office. He says he wants to talk to Torchwood. Marcia is stalling him, but he’s quite insistent. Should I go and do a strong arm on him or...”
“We’d better find out what he has to say,” Owen replied. “If only to find out how he knows where we are.”
He took the turbo lift with Dougal and viewed the ‘customer’ through a spyhole in the concealed door, first. He was a skinny, oddly dressed character who didn’t look like he could be very much trouble physically.
They stepped out into the brightly lit, friendly Welsh tourist office where a satisfied customer was just leaving with a handful of brochures. Dougal flanked the stranger while Owen faced him.
“Hello, Doctor Harper,” the stranger in a tweed jacket and bow tie said in a bright, confident voice before Owen had a chance to introduce himself. “Jack Harkness asked me to drop in on you and tell you what I know about your ‘Visitors’. He thought it would set your mind at rest.”
“And you are...”
“I’m The Doctor. Of course, I looked different the last time we met – down in Cardiff. You looked after me when I was a little under the weather, Doctor Harper. A lot of water under the bridge since then, though. Hence the new face. But you don’t want to hear my travel stories....”
Owen and Dougal brought him down to the Hub. He commented on how much brighter it was than the Cardiff office as he was directed to the rest area and given coffee.
“So... Doctor...” Owen prompted. “About our ‘Visitors’?” They had acquired not only a capital letter but quotation marks even in spoken language lately.
“The ship belongs to a race called Argossalians,” The Doctor explained. “They’re harmless. They have visited Earth many times before, studying the flora and fauna, the social habits of the main indigenous species, that sort of thing. Pure research, nothing to worry about.”
“They visit all the time?” Owen was sceptical. “Don’t you think we’d have noticed a bloody big ship like that dropping by on a regular basis?”
“It wasn’t meant to be that big,” The Doctor explained. “The Argossalians use a rudimentary form of dimension circuitry that allows their ship to shrink down to the size of... a Frisbee or a hubcap, something too small to upset radar or satellite observation, and invisible to the naked eye from that high up in the sky. Something went wrong. Instead of shrinking, they expanded exponentially. I think it was an error in the mathematics. Anyway, it wasn’t until they were ready to leave that they realised their mistake.”
“You’re serious?” Owen’s voice had more than a hint of indignation. “One hundred and twenty people died from murder, suicide or accidents owing to the panic and chaos in this city. Thousands were injured. Everyone was frightened out of their wits. All because some alien put a decimal point in the wrong place?”
“I’m afraid so. They asked me to convey their apologies.”
“All right, apology accepted. But next time they visit, I want advanced notification and a full travel itinerary. I want to know exactly where they are and what they’re observing.”
“I’ll tell them,” The Doctor promised. “Really, they ARE very sorry. And so am I. If I’d been able to get here sooner, I might have sorted out the problem before anyone got hurt.”
“You do enough, Doctor. If Jack’s tall stories are to be believed. Listen, if you’ve nowhere to be just now, it’s lunchtime. I’ll order in, and you can tell us some of your own tall tales about Jack. You can be sure of an appreciative audience.”