Toshiko sat down at her workstation and sighed deeply. She stared at the four monitors in front of her, all displaying Torchwood screensavers embellished with a jaunty Father Christmas on his sleigh who zipped across the screen every few seconds dropping presents that collected at the bottom edge of the monitor. She reached into her bag and pulled out a pair of unusual desk ornaments, a Father Christmas and Snowman made from toilet roll tubes, red felt, cotton wool and copious amounts of non-toxic glue. Etsuko had proudly given them to her last night, fruits of her labour at nursery school. They were a charming addition to the many decorative hints around the Hub that this was the festive season.
But Toshiko could see the message wasn’t getting through to all her colleagues.
Shona Stewart looked like she would live up to Ebenezer Scrooge’s promise to the next person who said ‘Merry Christmas’ to her – boil them with their own pudding. Her workstation had no Christmas decorations at all and she had disabled the Sleigh programme. She was chilly towards everyone in the hub and positively snappy with Darius. Toshiko suspected that had nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with the late stage of her pregnancy. She refused to take maternity leave but despised being tied to a desk. She regarded Darius as responsible for her condition and was taking it out on him at every opportunity.
Darius was rolling with the punches. His love for her and his concern for the baby was making him into the most unlikely abused spouse in history just now. Everyone knew he was a creature with untapped strength and power. He could have subjugated Shona if he had chosen. Instead he put up with the sniping without complaint. But he was the saddest looking vampire Toshiko had ever seen.
Not, she reminded herself, that she had seen that many.
Munroe was doing his best to keep up the Christmas spirit. The miniature animals that usually graced his desk were living in a scaled down pine forest of little Christmas trees and had been joined by models of all of the reindeers in the traditional pantheon. He was singing Christmas songs sotto voce as he worked.
Dougal looked as if he might like to join in the carols, but something was holding him back. His current desktop wallpaper was a picture of himself and Sandy wearing reindeer antlers at a party last Christmas, but it wasn’t helping him get into the spirit of the season at the moment.
Toshiko looked from the hand made decorations to the two mood pebbles nestled on the desk under her bonsai torchwood tree – hung with silver stars for the season. The pebbles were deep brown and distinctly bigger than usual. They were feeding on the charged emotions around the Hub. Even Munroe’s forced cheerfulness was a feast to them.
“Munroe, please stop,” she said as he finished Jingle Bells and started on Sleigh Ride instead. “It’s not helping. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas around here at all.”
“Marcia upstairs in the tourist office said it’s the weather doing it,” Dougal pointed out in the silence that lengthened after Munroe stopped singing. “She might have a point. It’s been raining solidly for over a week. Grey heavy skies. Every day it doesn’t seem like it gets light properly before it’s dark again. Even down here in our windowless world it can get to us.”
“There’s a word for it,” Toshiko said, again looking at the mood pebbles. “Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD. Appropriate acronym, really.”
“Just because there’s a fucking word for it doesn’t mean anything,” Shona snapped. “The reason everyone is miserable is all the people telling them to be happy, just because of an arbitrary date in the calendar. I’m sick of hearing about Christmas.”
“You don’t like Christmas, Shona?” Dougal asked her.
“Nothing against it,” she replied. “I suppose it’s ok for people with kids. But I don’t need it.”
“Next year, you’ll be a parent,” Munroe pointed out with characteristic gentleness in his voice. “You’ll enjoy your first Christmas with your own wee bairn.”
Shona glanced darkly at Munroe, but he was such a disarming man even she couldn’t say anything cutting to him in response. Toshiko couldn’t help thinking he was wrong, though. She couldn’t see Shona’s first Christmas as a mother being a Kodak moment. Not unless the birth really did engender the maternal feelings that had been lacking up until now in her pregnancy.
Toshiko thought that was a pity. She hadn’t planned for motherhood, either, but that first Christmas with Etsuko was a joy, and this was Genkei’s first Christmas as well as his first birthday. She had that to look forward to if she could just throw off this peculiar melancholy.
“I think the fact that we have three homicidal robots dressed as Santa on ice in the cryogenic vault is a factor,” Owen Harper pointed out as he strolled around the Hub and stood with his hands on Toshiko’s shoulders looking at the data on the central screen that scrolled slowly at right angles to the ever-present gift-dropping Sleigh. “They were this close to causing a Christmas massacre in Glasgow when we had the tip off from Cardiff.”
“I’m certainly glad the children didn’t see them,” Toshiko admitted as she recalled the sinister brass band that was drawing a crowd in George’s Square before Dougal and Owen had moved in with a portable ice machine and disabled them. They’d spent the best part of yesterday afternoon Retconning witnesses and there were still a couple of tramps going around muttering that Santa is an alien despite their efforts. Toshiko just recalled the faces of the creatures when they were brought in. They were intended to be jolly with painted on smiles and rosy cheeks, but the jolliness just highlighted the menace.
Maybe Owen had put his finger on the problem. It was hard to get into the spirit of Christmas when you knew what lurked behind the tinsel.
“You can’t even trust Christmas trees according to some of the reports in the U.N.I.T files,” Dougal added. “And you wouldn’t get me spending Christmas in London for any money. The weirdest things go on there.”
“I think we all need to count our blessings,” Darius said. “We are all alive and healthy. We have friends and family of a sort. There is no need for this sadness. Rejoice in the season of Our Lord...”
Most of the Torchwood team were at best sceptical about religion. The fact that a two hundred and fifty year old vampire who was automatically excommunicated from the church on the violent and unholy death of his mortal body was the one who reminded them of the real meaning of Christmas was an incongruity they had long since given up wondering about.
Darius’s desk had a very old, very finely crafted porcelain nativity set on it. Or at least part of it. By tradition, he explained, the stable only contained the animals yet. The Holy Virgin was still travelling with her spouse to Bethlehem. The figures were not added to the scene until Christmas Eve. Even then, the baby Jesus in his manger wasn’t placed there until midnight, and the angels and shepherds an hour later.
The magi didn’t arrive until January 6th, by which time the shepherds were back in their fields tending their sheep and everyone else had forgotten all about Christmas and was trying to live up to their New Year Resolutions.
Toshiko thought that was a charming tradition but knew she would never have the patience for it. Advent calendars with chocolate pieces for the kids were the closest she got.
“I think Darius has a point,” Munroe said as the silence lengthened again. “I think we are all finding the commercial Christmas unsatisfying and we need to find the true meaning of the season.”
“I think Marcia is right about the rain,” Toshiko remarked, though she was willing to accept that analysis, too. “It would be nice to come up from the Hub into a lovely crisp white Christmas instead of all that dreariness.”
“I think everyone needs to get on with some work,” Owen said. “Let’s see some solid graft for a couple of hours, and maybe I’ll open a festive bottle of brandy before we head home – for those not pregnant, Undead or designated drivers, at least.”
His attempt at humour lifted the atmosphere a little bit. He kissed Toshiko on the cheek and retreated to his medical room where Darius joined him for a routine alien autopsy that was far from festive. Everyone else carried on with their appointed tasks. They were no different from any other worker in the city in that respect. There were a lot of people finishing tasks, clearing their workload by close of business today, ready to forget about it all for the next few days.
By rights, Torchwood shouldn’t be one of them. Aliens didn’t give a shit about Christmas. But Owen had decided anything short of an actual invasion of little green men could bloody well wait.
“Toshiko!” Dougal called out with a hint of excitement in his voice less than half an hour after they had settled into those appointed tasks. “Check the weather anomaly programme. You might be getting the White Christmas you wanted in approximately an hour and fifteen minutes.”
“What?” Toshiko saved the programme she was working on and switched the large central screen to the weather programme Dougal had been monitoring. He had grumbled a little because there WERE no weather anomalies. The whole of the British Isles was in a rain-producing atmospheric depression and had been all week, but Toshiko had asked him to gather data for her.
It wasn’t raining everywhere in the British Isles, now. In fact, it had started snowing in Stafford about four o’clock in the morning. When she turned one of the side monitors to a regular internet weather page it listed the roads closed by the sudden and unexpected blizzard. It also indicated that the said blizzard had been moving steadily north since about seven a.m.. Stafford was thawing out but by nine but commuters in Lancashire, especially around Preston and Lancaster were struggling to work through a whiteout. An hour and a half later and Carlisle was under three feet of snow while Lancashire was dealing with the aftermath of the sudden freeze.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it was following the motorway,” Dougal said. “Look at the towns affected. Stafford, up through Newcastle Under Lyme, St. Helens, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Kendal, Penrith, skirting the hills of the Lake District, Carlisle... All on the M6 corridor.”
“Which becomes the A74M and then the M74 not far beyond Carlisle,” Munroe said helpfully. Toshiko wasn’t listening. She was getting distances between the places mentioned and times when the snow hit those towns and cities and doing a calculation.
“It’s coming up the motorway at about fifty-five miles an hour,” she said.
“That would be about the time it takes a vehicle to drive those distances with speed restrictions due to weather,” Shona noted. Everyone looked at her and she scowled. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been on desk duty. I got stuck with logistics for three months, doing route plans for military convoys. Just call me Lieutenant Bloody Satnav. I could tell you how long it takes to get from just about anywhere to anywhere fucking else with my eyes shut.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Toshiko replied. “But... seriously... a weather system is coming up the motorway from the Midlands at the speed of a snow-bound commercial driver?”
“The rain is coming back and melting the snow within half an hour of it coming to these places,” Dougal observed. “It’s like something that attracts snow is passing through and the normal weather snaps back as soon as it’s gone.”
“It’s a snow god,” Darius remarked with a toothy grin. “I read a book once with an unfortunate character who was a rain god – the rain clouds worshipped him and rained everywhere he went. Every holiday he took was a washout, even in southern Spain when it had been scorching the day before he arrived. It rained everywhere and anywhere he was, because the clouds adored him and wanted to show him their love. He kept a diary of his miserable weather and told a newspaper all about it. And he became a celebrity, earned a fortune, travelling all over the world to drought stricken places with the rain clouds following him everywhere.”
The Torchwood team looked at each other and laughed, as Darius obviously intended them to do. It was a silly piece of fiction with a clever resolution. But as the laughter subsided it struck a chord with them.
“What did the rain god do for a living?” Toshiko asked.
“He was a lorry driver,” Darius replied. “Which was why he was so miserable about it. Always driving in the rain, never seeing the sun.”
“Fifty five miles an hour,” Dougal mused. “Using the motorway corridor up the country. I think you’re right, Darius. It’s a snow god in a lorry.”
It was absurd, but the idea made a peculiar kind of sense. If you were willing to abandon everything you thought you understood about weather and about the natural world generally.
Torchwood people tended to take nothing for granted. They could believe in a lorry driving snow god being worshipped by the weather clouds.
At least for thirty seconds before Munroe reminded them how silly it sounded.
All the same, Toshiko kept a close eye on the weather programme. The snow kept moving northwards, following the motorway that connected Glasgow with the west coast of England. If Darius’s theory was silly, then she wasn’t sure what else explained it. She watched as the snow reached the outskirts of Glasgow. The speed of the approaching snow storm slowed dramatically when it reached Carmyle.
At Carmyle the M74 ended and the A74 carried on into the city centre. A vehicle coming off the motorway would be slowed right down there.
“It’s still coming right at us,” Toshiko commented. “But about the speed of the lunchtime traffic. I know it’s silly, but it’s happening. This weather is following, or keeping up with, some kind of vehicle that has travelled up the country since this morning.”
She stood up from her workstation and headed for the lift. She wanted to see it for herself.
When she came in this morning after dropping Etsuko at her nursery school, the sky had been grey, dark and miserable and the rain was pouring down relentlessly. The lights inside the tourist office had felt warm and welcoming. The lights in all the shops, the traffic lights changing, had been a contrast to the dreariness.
Now, the sky was still grey, but a brighter kind of grey, and snow was falling from it. At first it didn’t stick. The pavement, the tarmac on the road, the roofs of the buildings were all too wet. But very quickly that began to change. Individual flakes were showing white against the grey, then there was a sprinkling of snow on the pavement that pedestrians left dark footprints in. Ten minutes later, their feet were crunching on a good inch or more of snow and the pavement no longer showed where they walked. Ten minutes more and cars were leaving tyre tracks in the snow.
“It looks pretty,” Marcia said as she came to the door and watched with Toshiko. “Makes a change from all that rain. Oh, I hope it stays for a bit. A white Christmas would be lovely.”
“It might not seem too romantic when we all have to get home tonight,” Toshiko pointed out, but lightheartedly. She liked it, too. It was ridiculous, really. It was only snow. But it really did change the way the city looked and it made her feel more positive...
Yes, more CHRISTMASSY, even.
That mood stayed with her for another half hour as she and Marcia watched the snow together. But then it started to alarm her, instead. It was getting deeper by the minute, and the falling snow was getting faster and thicker. She realised she couldn’t see the roof of the building across the road any more. She couldn’t see the building. The lights inside the shop were barely visible through the blizzard. The traffic lights at the junction turning from green to amber and red were nearly impossible to see. The sound of brakes squealing as car drivers mistook the signals was muffled by the snow in the air and on the ground.
“Etsuko!” she exclaimed. “The nursery... it’ll be snowed in. I’ve got to go get her.”
She almost ran out into the street as she was, without a coat or scarf, before realising how foolish that was. Instead she ran back down to the Hub and started wrapping up against the cold. Munroe asked her what she was doing and she explained.
“If it’s coming down that bad, then taking the wee bairn out of her good warm classroom into it would do no good, would it?” he reasoned. “She’s fine where she is for now. Wait till the proper time to pick her up. The snow will have eased off by then and they’ll have got the emergency gritters out onto the roads. There’s no need to panic right now.”
Toshiko looked at him at first as if he was talking nonsense. How could he not realise how worried she was for her child. But Munroe was a father and a grandfather. He knew all about that kind of worry. And he was making sense, of course. She hung her scarf and hat up and took off her coat.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to ease,” she said as she slid back into her chair and looked at the weather monitor. “It looks as if it’s centred right over us here and it’s not going to stop. We could be snowed in.”
“We’re in the middle of a city,” Dougal reminded her. “Not a log cabin on an American prairie. The heat of all the buildings, all the people, cars, buses, lorries, makes it impossible to be completely snowbound.”
But Toshiko was looking at live weather reports on the computer. Drifts of up to three feet were reported within the city centre. Central railway station was at a standstill because there was too much snow on the lines beyond the canopy of the station itself. The city centre was being hemmed in by the snow. She was starting to worry about Etsuko again. She was less than a quarter of a mile away, but if the snow got any deeper, how would she get to her?
Then the internal phone rang. It was Marcia upstairs in the tourist office.
“Miss Sato,” she said. “There are two people here... they’re asking for Torchwood. They seem to know...”
“Ok,” Toshiko replied. “Dougal will be up to check them out.”
Dougal was used to being the official face of Torchwood. Whenever anyone turned up at the front office looking for them he would assess them. A lot of them were taken into a side office and given a complementary cup of coffee before being put into a taxi and sent home. How much they remembered about being interviewed by him depended on their resistance to Retcon. Occasionally people who really had something to say were brought down to the Hub itself. Some might wind up in the interrogation room, others they were a little kinder too.
The two people he brought downstairs this time were a strange looking pair. One was a tall, gangly man dressed in jeans and a bomber jacket over a t-shirt. He was wearing a cap that Toshiko recognised straight away. It had the logo of Harwoods Haulage of Cardiff.
The other man, if it was a man, was barely half an inch taller than her, thin, with his body wrapped up in a long coat and his face covered in a woollen scarf and a matching woollen hat pulled so low that a pair of bright blue eyes were all that could be seen of his features.
“I’m going to give them coffee,” Dougal said, steering them both towards the rest area. “They’ve got quite a story to tell, both of them. It’s a wild one... but I believe them.”
Toshiko came and sat with them as Dougal poured the coffee. The lorry driver slipped off his jacket in the warm room and put his cap on the table. The other man seemed reluctant to uncover at all. When Toshiko coaxed him into taking off the scarf and hat she understood why.
“I’m Ken Evans,” the driver said. “I drive the long distance routes for Harwoods, up and down the country, sometimes over to Europe. I had a pick up last night in London for Glasgow and drove as far as Stafford before resting up in an overnight lay-by. About three o’clock I was woken by a terrific bang and a red flash of light. I thought a lorry had set alight and went to try to help. I found some twisted up wreckage and this guy staggering about. Obviously I couldn’t take him to hospital or anything. I let him get warm in my cab, gave him some food and some hot tea. He speaks a bit of English. He said his space ship had crashed.”
Toshiko looked at the distinctly alien face. He was pale blue with a shiny texture to his skin. He was bald and he had no eyebrows or eyelashes over those very piercingly blue eyes. His lips were blue, too, and his hands when he put them around the coffee cup were blue. The fingers were very long and bony.
She reached out and touched his hands and noted that they were cold. She was reminded of touching Darius’s hands. They were always cold, too. But she knew this wasn’t a vampire.
Despite plenty of experience that told her otherwise, she felt as if the short blue alien was no threat to the Human race in general or to herself in particular.
“You brought him with you in your lorry?” she asked Ken.
“Seemed the best idea,” he answered. “I know about Torchwood because I’ve done some pickups for your lot down in Cardiff. I had an idea there was an office in Glasgow, so I phoned Rhys Williams, the transport manager, and he told me where to find you. He said to say hello and all that.”
“Yeah, we know Rhys,” Toshiko confirmed. “You told him you had an alien hitchhiker.”
“Didn’t surprise him in the least. He said there’s all sorts of things going on like that. But... anyway... Jack here...”
“Jack?” Toshiko was surprised. “That’s his name?”
“No, I called him that because he’s so perishing cold. Jack Frost... you know...”
“And that’s the main reason I brought him to you lot. Apart from he’s a lost alien with a mashed up ship that’s going nowhere. Because I think I gave him the right name. He’s a sort of weather magnet. It started snowing in Stafford. I almost didn’t get away from there. It was so deep. And everywhere, all the way up here... the weather everywhere else... pissing down as usual. But where we are... snow...”
“And you really think it’s him?” Toshiko asked. “He’s making it happen?”
“He told me,” Ken replied. “Ask him.”
Toshiko turned to ‘Jack’ and reached out again to hold his hand. He shrank away, but she persisted. He was FAR colder than their resident Vampire. Darius’s hands warmed up if a warm-blooded Human held them for a little while. But Toshiko was starting to feel frostbitten after holding ‘Jack’s’ hands for a few minutes. She let them go.
She didn’t mean it in the sense of cold-blooded animals like reptiles that were found in various parts of Earth. He seemed to be the literal opposite of warm-blooded. Where humans generated heat in their bodies, he seemed to generate cold.
“What kind of world do you come from?” Toshiko asked him. But his grasp of English wasn’t good enough for him to explain that.
“All right,” Toshiko said. “I know how to help with the language problem. Stay right there.”
‘Jack’ smiled a sad sort of smile with his blue lips. Ken said something reassuring to him. The lorry driver seemed to have developed a rapport with him on their journey. Toshiko thought that was a good thing. He looked lonely. It was good that he trusted somebody.
“Tosh, what’s going on?” Owen demanded as she found her portable alien language translation device and calibrated it at her desk. “There are all sorts of sensors going off the scale inside the Hub. That.. ought to be in a containment cell where we can monitor it.”
“It’s not a ‘that’ it’s a ‘he’ and he’s scared, Owen. He came to us for help, not to be ‘monitored’. Anyway, what sort of sensors? Is he radioactive?”
“No. He’s...” Owen sighed. “Tosh, the snow storm outside is now centred on this building. And you should know that the minute he stepped in here the ambient temperature started dropping. The heating system has gone into overdrive to keep the Hub warm. It’s fighting him...”
“You mean he really IS the snow god!”
“More like a snow magnet. He could be a danger to us all. I really think...”
“Well I think I need to talk to him,” Toshiko replied. “You can watch if you like. But I’m going to do it over there by the coffee machine, where we can all get hot drinks whenever we want.”
When she returned to the rest area, however, Dougal reported a problem with the coffee machine. The water in the reservoir had frozen. The heater was still trying to boil it and filter it through into the pot, but when it did, it froze.
“Is it you?” Toshiko asked ‘Jack’. She turned on the language interpreter and aimed it at the puzzled alien. “No, don’t try to speak English. Say something in your own language and let the machine pick it up. Tell me what happened to your ship.”
‘Jack’ started to speak in his own language, which sounded to Toshiko like a hailstorm might sound if it had a voice. It made her shiver involuntarily, but she still felt that ‘Jack’ wasn’t a threat to anyone, at least not a deliberate threat.
His story was plausible, and rather familiar to Torchwood. It seemed to happen a lot. His one man – one alien – research pod was damaged in the asteroid belt. He had drifted out of control until the craft was caught up in the Earth’s atmosphere. He managed to engage some kind of ejector seat moments before the crash, but it had still been a terrifying, disorientating experience for him.
“We ought to have hazard signs on the asteroid belt, for all those poor bloody aliens who get caught up in it,” Dougal commented. “At least the first Human he met was kind to him. You gave him the woollies to keep him warm, Ken?”
“Not exactly to keep HIM warm,” Ken replied. “To keep ME warm. If I’d picked him up in June when we were sweltering in a heatwave, it would have been glorious. He’s like a living air cooling system. But in December... I had to keep the cold in so that I didn’t freeze in my seat.”
“He radiates cold,” Owen observed. “I wonder... We sweat to transfer excess heat from our bodies. Perhaps a sort of reverse happens with his species...”
“Leave him alone, Owen,” Toshiko insisted. “You’re not going to test him to find out what makes him tick. There’s no way being able to radiate cold is something you can use for the good of the Human race... not even for keeping lorry drivers cool in summer.”
“Is it still snowing outside?” Dougal asked. Munroe confirmed that the snow was still coming down on the very specific area around the Hub.
“Do you have any control over that, Jack, love?” Toshiko asked. “Only we’re a little bit worried about the building getting buried under the drifts. I’ve got to pick my daughter up from the nursery in a couple of hours and it would be tricky if we have to tunnel out, first.”
‘Jack’ blinked several times and breathed out deeply. His breath froze in the air, which was distinctly cooler around him. Nobody was entirely sure what he had done, though, until Munroe reported that it was now snowing steadily over a thirty mile radius, but was easing off around the city centre itself.
“So you can control it,” Toshiko said. “Can you turn it off altogether?”
In a mixture of his own language and English he explained that the ability to control the weather around him could be controlled on his own world, where the climate was influenced by very different factors than those on Earth, but he didn’t think he could do it while he was here. Wherever he was, it was going to snow, either a very intense localised storm such as those that had followed him up through the country and settled over the Hub or a wider but less powerful snow fall.
“What are you going to do with him?” Ken asked. “I mean... he’s not a dangerous alien, is he? He’s not like those cybermen things a few years ago or...”
“He’s not dangerous,” Toshiko concluded. “Not deliberately. But he can’t keep making it snow all the time. A white Christmas is one thing. But sooner or later, he could change the climate of the whole planet.”
‘Jack’ spoke again, this time entirely in his own language. He was giving co-ordinates and radio wavelengths. For a moment Toshiko didn’t understand what to do with the information. Then she realised he was telling her that he needed to send a message through a radio transmitter to a space co-ordinate - a Mayday call to his own people so they would come and get him.
“Ok, we can do that,” she said. “I can contact the SETI listening satellite and re-task it to send a message instead of listening for one. That distance, though, it’ll take about three weeks for the transmission to reach the destination. And I don’t know how long it’ll be after that before your people can get here. You could be stuck on Earth well into the New Year. I don’t think you can stay here. It can’t snow constantly on Glasgow for a month.”
“Send him to Cairngorm for a winter holiday,” Munroe suggested. “The ski resort. I heard on the radio yesterday that all the rain was affecting them. There’s no snow on the pistes.”
Everyone looked at each other for a long, silent moment, wondering if it really could be that simple. They remembered Darius’s odd little story about the rain god who made a living going to drought areas. Could ‘Jack Frost’ actually perform a similar service for a while?
“I’ve still got to make the delivery I was bringing up here in the first place,” Ken said. “But after that, I’ve got no plans. I’m not married, always travelling long distances. I was going to book into a hotel for Christmas. Might as well be in the highlands of Scotland as anywhere else. I can look after him for a while. He can’t exactly make reservations for himself, looking like he does.”
“You’d be willing to spend Christmas in the Cairngorms with an alien snow magnet?” Owen asked.
“Yeah, why not. I’ve got kind of used to the little guy. I’ll make sure he’s ok. If Rhys’ll give me a couple of extra weeks off I’ll stick around until his friends get here.”
“Ok,” Owen decided. “Go and do your delivery and leave your lorry at the depot in Laidlaw Street. Dougal, you get onto rent-a-car and get them a range rover or something rugged that’ll handle the mountain roads. Munroe... Tesco online, order a whole load of festive food, a turkey, ham, plenty of luxury stuff, a couple of bottles of booze, a nice hamper they can take up with them. I’ll book a self-catering cabin rather than a hotel. ‘Jack’ will be less conspicuous that way. Toshiko you do the ET phone home bit for him.”
After that it was amazingly straightforward. Ken went to do his delivery while Torchwood Glasgow organised his Christmas in the Cairngorms with ‘Jack’. By two o’clock the team waved them off in the hire car. The range rover’s tyres left a fresh set of tracks in the snow in the Torchwood car park, but the main roads out of the city were relatively clear. The emergency gritters had got to work. They would be at their destination by supper time, even with the snow front following them all the way. It felt like a job well done.
“I wonder if the snow will lie until Christmas Day,” Toshiko said. “A White Christmas.”
“Bloody snow,” Owen replied. “Who needs it? Perishing cold stuff, piling up all over the place. I think it’s time to open that seasonal bottle of brandy. Our Christmas starts now.”