Since before Torchwood Glasgow re-opened for business, the former theatre/concert hall turned bingo hall, then night club and concert venue again two doors down past the laundrette and the Dunkin’ Donuts outlet had been shut down. The Council had responded to complaints about noise, street violence, drug abuse and various other problems and issued an enforcement order. The building was boarded up and abandoned. Since it was a rather fine example of 1930s Art Deco and Grade II listed, it went into limbo with nobody sure what to do with it.
Now, it had opened up again as a night club called Adrenaline. Somebody had invested a lot of money in refurbishing the building, inside and, as far as Grade II listing allowed, outside. Glossy advertisements promised live bands every Friday night and leaflets offering free entry before ten o’clock and half-price drinks until midnight were turning up everywhere.
Owen knew he was getting old when he found himself grumbling about the noise nuisance their new neighbour was likely to prove.
“What noise nuisance?” Toshiko asked. “We work in a sub-basement thirty feet below street level.”
“It’ll attract all the wrong sort of people,” Owen continued, ignoring the fact that his wife was right. “Druggies, drunks, losers.”
In his hedonistic bachelor years, there wasn’t a bar in Cardiff Owen hadn’t been chucked out of at some time. Toshiko confirmed the problem for him.
“You ARE getting old. You’ll be wearing cardigans and smoking a pipe, next. Unless you’d like to get Marcie from the tourist office to babysit and we try it out tonight. Maybe you still have a bit of wild boy left in you?”
“No,” he insisted. “I’m all wilded out. All I want to do tonight is take a long, hot bath, chill out with a take away meal and a beer on the sofa and go to bed before midnight. I AM getting old. There’s no two ways about it.”
But he wasn’t sure he regretted that very much. Hedonism was all very well for a bitter young man who raged against the world. But he wasn’t so bitter now. Life had dealt him a second hand of cards that was a lot sweeter than the first. He had embraced domesticity, Toshiko, the children. He was happy.
He still grumbled about the idea of a night club right on the doorstep of their secret base for investigating alien activity on Earth. But he was the sort of man who enjoyed grumbling about something. It was part of his contentment.
Darius and Shona were parents, too, but their domesticity was far less blissful and far less complete. They arranged a baby-sitter for Gabrielle, not Marcie from the tourist information shop above the Hub, but one of the Human servants of Lady Moira, the aristocratic leader of the Glasgow vampire community. Any time soon they expected their hybrid child’s fangs to develop and an ordinary babysitter wasn’t trained to deal with that.
Darius always looked like he was ready to go clubbing in his classic black. His slender frame suited the tight trousers with a cotton shirt open at the neck and a silver reverse crucifix on a chain against the V of revealed pale flesh.
Shona wore a dress, something that might have startled her colleagues if most of them hadn’t gone home for the night when she got ready down in Darius’s lair. Munroe was on the graveyard shift alone and he smiled politely at Shona and told her she looked nice.
She looked like a female version of Darius. The dress was red and black and came to mid-thigh to meet those kind of black tights with patterns cut into them that had become fashionable in recent years. Her lips and nails were carmine red and her eye make-up dark. She had long hair extensions loose around her face giving her a more feminine look than usual, but by no means a demure or innocent one.
Munroe tried to imagine Shona as either demure or innocent, but his imagination couldn’t stretch that far.
“We’ll be back before dawn,” Darius promised with a toothy grin before taking Shona’s arm and heading out through the night exit via the car park.
They had very rarely ‘dated’ in the ordinary sense. Shona and Darius had always been about sex and lust, grabbed when the opportunity presented itself. This was unusual enough in that sense.
“Maybe having a club nearby will be handy,” Darius commented. “Easy to get back underground before sunrise.”
“Play your cards right and we might make this a regular thing,” Shona answered. They stepped inside the club, trying not to worry about the fact that Darius cast no reflection in the big glass doors that separated the relatively quiet foyer from the club itself where, even early in the evening, there was a large crowd. Half price drinks was a big incentive to get in befor eleven.
Even half price drinks at club prices were expensive, of course. The iced water Darius ordered for himself and the vodka and tonic for Shona didn’t give him much change from the note he handed over. He shoved it into his pocket and went back to the table where Shona was giving the brush off to a couple of hopefuls. Darius gave them a glare that would have shrivelled the spines of lesser men than Glasgow clubbers and took his seat at her side.
The recorded music being played in this early hour wasn’t anything special, but both of them were impressed by the live band that started up at a little after eleven o’clock. They did a pretty good line in heavy rock that appealed to them both. They got up and danced, had a couple more drinks, danced some more.
By the time they left the club at about three-thirty, with two hours of night left on this warm, late summer evening, Shona had drunk quite a lot of vodka and tonic and was having trouble walking. Darius had drunk nothing but over-priced iced water but he was high on the music and dancing. He weaved almost as much as she did as they made their way through the crowds vying for taxis, heading for late night kebab shops or being sick in the side alleys.
They had walked past one group of clubbers when a fight broke out among them. Darius looked back, but it was nothing to do with him - just the usual thing, the reason why the police had extra duties on a Friday night – Saturday morning. Let them sort it out.
When they turned the corner into the lane that ran behind Jamaica Street, the sie entrance to the Hub car park, his vampire senses prickled him. He looked around in the gloom and spotted the figure hunched in a corner and the flash of metal as the inevitable attack came.
Even quite a bit drunk, Shona was equal to an ordinary mugger. She got in several punches as Darius disarmed their attacker. But both of them quickly realised he was far from an ordinary mugger. They saw the maddened red eyes and heard the animal snarl from the mouth pulled back to bare the teeth. They were the pure white teeth of somebody who brushed at least twice a day, so the effect was not particularly dramatic, but it was obvious that there was something not quite right about this man.
“Let’s get him into the Hub,” Darius said when he and Shona had subdued him between them. “I think he could do with cooling down in our vault.”
As he spoke, he was aware of emergency sirens closing in on the street. The police had called for back-up. Had the fight outside the club turned uglier?
After depositing the would-be mugger in the vault and leaving Shona in the rest area with some black coffee and a hangover cure that originated on another planet and was not yet authorised by the British Pharmaceutical Council, Darius went back outside again. He had a hunch he felt he wanted to follow.
He was right. Two doors away from the Hub was a scene of chaos. Three ambulances were there to deal with the police victims of the madness that had overtaken at least a dozen of the clubbers. Cuts, bruises, and bites had been inflicted on them. One officer had blood streaming from a gash on the side of his head and was receiving on the spot treatment.
Meanwhile, reinforcements had subdued the fighters and both male and female suspects were being bundled into the back of a convoy of police vans. Darius got as close as he dared and noted the red eyes and bared teeth and the seething rage that had far from died away even if they were more compliant after being treated to police tasers.
“Please step away, sir,” an officer said to him. “There’s nothing here you want to get involved with.”
“Quite right,” Darius answered. He stepped away and melted into the shadows – metaphorically in this case, though he could literally do it, too. He went back to the Hub and found that Shona had fallen asleep on the rest room sofa. He put a blanket over her and turned down the lights then went to his workstation.
He found the internal CCTV programme and brought up the images from the vault. The mugger was awake again and screaming with rage, throwing himself against the walls of the cell. They were made of titanium, but covered with an alien version of something like memory foam, which gave under such punishment, cushioning the head and body of the prisoner, while being virtually impossible to damage. It meant that every cell was a ‘padded’ cell and dangerous customers couldn’t hurt themselves or others.
“What’s up with him?” Munroe asked standing behind Darius and looking at the screen with him.
“Good question. I’m getting a lot of funny readings from the internal sensors. Look at him when I swap to infra-red screening.”
Darius pressed a button and the prisoner appeared as a burning red image within the cooler cell space. Munroe understood what he meant. Usually a Human body had lots of cooler areas – the hands and feet, for example, as well as hot zones around their organs. But this man was almost all red.
Darius switched to a different sensor and levels of various hormones including adrenaline, cortisol and testosterone were displayed. The ability to do that without taking blood samples from the subject was discovered so long ago by Torchwood technicians that they hardly bothered to think about how amazing it actually was.
“He’s nearly off the scale,” Munroe acknowledged. “As if every hormone that promotes anger and irrational urges has been enhanced and those that balance them suppressed.”
“The band wasn’t THAT bad,” Darius noted. Then he related what he had seen on the street.
“We’d better monitor chummy there and report our findings to Doctor Harper when he gets in.”
“Yes,” Darius agreed. “Might I suggest blood, saliva and tissue samples made ready for him?”
“You can suggest,” Munroe answered with a slight smile. “But unless you want to administer them yourself, forget it.”
“I will do that,” Darius said. “If necessary I can get both the blood and tissue by more unusual means.”
He bared his long incisors as he smiled. Munroe’s smile retreated, even though he knew that Darius was joking… probably.
“Let’s try not to resort to that,” he suggested. Darius collected the proper sample kit from the medical room and headed down to the vault. Munroe watched him enter the cell on the CCTV. The prisoner snarled and ran at him, eyes mad with rage, still. Darius moved faster than the eye, or, indeed, the CCTV camera, could see and avoided the attack. He used a leg sweep to bring the prisoner down and rolled him over before looking him in the maddened eyes and hypnotising him into submission. Munroe was surprised. He had never seen Darius do that before, though it was one of the traditional skills of a vampire, even noted by Bram Stoker.
He took the samples from the prisoner while he was under his mesmeric influence and quietly left the cell. Munroe watched the man stand up slowly and take himself to the bench with a foam mattress and pillow where he stretched himself and went to sleep, much calmer now than he had been since being brought in.
“That was a good trick,” he commented when Darius returned to the Hub. “Our man has settled right down now. His hormone levels are dropping off. He should be near normal by the time he wakes up.”
“A spot of Retcon in his tea and send him home, then,” Darius commented. “No harm done. I wonder how the police are getting on with the bunch they have in their cells?”
He found out when Owen Harper got into the Hub, an hour later than expected. He had been called at home by the police who asked him to come and look at the crop of ‘disorderly conducts’ arrested on Jamaica Street.
“I’m having a couple of them brought over,” he said. “Along with their effects. Something is turning ordinary pissed clubbers – basically Human beings - into primordial savages.”
Darius told him about their own ‘primordial savage’ and showed him the data from the cell.
“Bloody good work.” Owen said. “Let Shona another half hour’s kip, then she can go out with Dougal and check out that club. These effects are directly linked to that place.”
“At least there won’t be any claims for travel expenses,” Munroe commented. He stretched himself and yawned and declared himself off duty now that the day team was in. He would be popping into Lady Heather’s for a little R&R and then home to sleep.
Meanwhile, Owen took over custody of the two prisoners who were brought to the Hub by the police. They were both firmly confined in strait-jackets, but they were literally foaming at the mouth and Owen dodged one attempt to bite him.
“We’ve got three men up the hospital being treated for bites,” the officer who transferred them to Torchwood custody said. “They’re going to need stitches – as well as tetanus shots and tests for HIV, hepatitis and God alone knows what other diseases. Bloody rabies if these two are anything to go by.”
“What are you doing with the rest of them?” Owen asked. “I understand you have at least fifteen people displaying these symptoms.”
“Buggered if I know,” the officer replied. “We’re going to have to keep them for now, I suppose. It might have to be the psychiatric unit at Glasgow Royal - if they have the beds at such short notice.”
Owen wondered if he ought to make the Torchwood vaults available, but baulked at the thought of providing palliative care for that many raving nutters. Two was enough to find out if this actually was within Torchwood’s remit or if they had all been swallowing drain cleaner instead of ecstasy tablets.
That possibility occurred to him as he sedated the two men with something strong, alien, and not approved by any medical governing body and began taking the same samples Darius had taken from the first prisoner. He left them in neighbouring cells and went to begin analysing the samples, but first he asked Toshiko to look through the belongings of the man Darius and Shona had brought in.
“Any pills on those two would have been confiscated by the police,” he explained. “But our man might have had something on him.”
“Makes sense,” Toshiko agreed. “Which is more than anything else does. Perfectly normal people have been known to go clubbing and come out acting like mental cases, but this is beyond binge drinking and pill-popping.”
Shona was clear-headed now. The stuff Owen called a hangover cure really did the business. If it wasn’t made from a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland of a green, blobby slime creature that they kept in a terrarium within one of the cells it would put Alka Seltzer and Rennie out of business.
She remembered perfectly well heading into the club last night. She remembered the first three or four drinks equally lucidly. After that, things got fuzzy. But she did know one thing for sure. The only things she had eaten or drunk came from across the bar.
“I’d never be so stupid as to take pills sold at a place like this,” she said as Dougal hammered at the service door. “Anyone who does deserves what they get.”
“Some of the things that go into recreational pills can kill,” Dougal pointed out. “That’s a harsh punishment for stupidity.”
“Good enough,” Shona answered him. She had a zero tolerance towards stupidity.
Dougal knocked again and the door was opened by a caretaker with a vacuum cleaner hose held in what might have been a defensive way. He lowered it as Dougal produced their Torchwood ID and demanded entry to the premises.
“The boss isn’t in, yet,” the caretaker said. “Not till ten o’clock when he does the books.”
“When he gets in, we have questions for him,” Shona said. “Meanwhile we’d like to see everything.”
They started with the main dance floor. With ordinary, harsh lights on and the detritus of seven hours of hard drinking and dancing still to be cleared away it didn’t look as exciting as it had done the night before.
“Let’s look for anything non-prescription left behind,” Dougal said after using a portable device to measure the air in the club and establishing that there was nothing in it other than a lingering odour of numerous different deodorants, aftershaves and perfumes and the sweat that none of those things completely disguised. “Of course, any kind of gas would have dissipated by now. Besides, only a relatively small number of people were affected. You weren’t, and nor were most of the ordinary punters.”
“Pointless doing that test,” Shona remarked, but she knew they had to cover all bases. It would be the same if she was still in the military. A search of an area for explosives would cover every possibility, even the unlikely ones.
The search among the left over drinks and general rubbish in the club turned up a whole assortment of what Dougal had termed ‘non-prescription.’ They came in a rainbow of colours from white to bright pink, through green and purple, and were any size from a soluble aspirin to throat lozenge. All had a crumbly texture typical of hand-pressed pills. The two Torchwood agents bagged every specimen ready to take back for analysis.
“Are we getting old?” Dougal asked as they drew out the search long enough to catch the manager when he came in. “I’m sure when I was young I came to places like this to dance and make out with a drink or two to boost my confidence. I didn’t need pills that made me forget I was part of the Human species.”
“I don’t think we’re old,” Shona answered. “I think it has always been like this. But it used to be bags of powder sold in the alleyway outside. Now it’s pills passed around like Smarties inside. I’ve always avoided drugs because it’s a stupid thing to mess with anyway, and because it’s a court martial offence under the Queens Regs.”
“Yeah, me too,” Dougal admitted. “Plus it was hard enough meeting men who want to go home with other men at the end of the night when I had my wits about me. If I was stoned, I’d have probably picked the wrong one and got my head kicked in.”
“Serves you right for being a shirt-lifter on the prowl,” Shona answered, but it was her way of being friendly rather than a homophobic taunt. He was used to that from her, just as Darius was used to being called a filthy bloodsucker.
Owen was making some interesting discoveries at the Hub. The first was that the rage affecting the prisoners wasn’t permanent. The one Darius and Shona had brought in was already waking up and demanding a phone call, believing that he was in police custody. Toshiko brought him breakfast and a cup of tea and told him that he would be released once the paperwork was done. The tea had a twelve hour dose of Retcon, so he wouldn’t remember anything after he was dropped at his home later.
The other two were starting to settle down. Owen compared the hormones released into the air within their cells. He also took new blood samples and confirmed that their bodies were stabilising after several hours of very strange biological processes.
“It’s as if their body chemistry was temporarily altered,” he said to Darius, who was the only one around to listen to him. “The blood taken while they were at the peak of the rage contains twice as many red blood cells as normal. There are also increases in the anger hormones. But the effects don’t last. After a while they dissipate and the subject becomes normal – or as normal as any hard drinking Glaswegian clubber gets.”
“There are no traces of drugs in the blood,” Darius commented, looking at the chemical breakdown of all three subjects. “There were pills being handed around in the club. I saw it going on.”
“Yeah, the stupid cunts don’t even try to hide it,” Owen remarked. “People go out for the night EXPECTING to swallow something that might be ninety-per cent Domestos.”
Owen wasn’t being hypocritical. His hedonistic days had involved a lot of alcohol, a lot of loud music and as much casual sex as he could get, but the latter had involved protection and he had never touched drugs. He was too aware of the very immediate effects such things could have on the Human body. He had no intention of dying with his stomach full of lesions caused by some pill pedalled by a shady character with no background in pharmacology.
But he knew that otherwise sensible people did things as stupid as that, and he, too, was surprised not to find a cocktail of illegal substances in the blood samples.
“Buggered if I know,” he growled. “But once their hormone levels are back to normal these two go back to the police. They were arrested for affray. Whether they were responsible for themselves or not is for a magistrate to decide. The one you brought in can just sod off and count himself lucky.”
“Is it worth interviewing them to see if they DO remember anything?” Darius suggested. “Toshiko could use her truth detector on them, to see if it works with suppressed memories.”
“Go for it,” Owen conceded. As Darius went to do that, Shona and Dougal returned with their haul of illicit pills and news that the manager of the club was not Human.
He calls himself Campbell McLeod,” Dougal explained. “Which is either the product of a marriage between two great Highland clans or the worst choice of alien pseudonym since Ford Prefect.”
“You have to look very closely,” Shona added. “But he’s wearing contact lenses to disguise the fact that his irises are bright green. There’s a greenish tint to his skin, too, as if it’s a very thin layer over a second skin.”
“Could be a migrant,” Owen confirmed. “Living quietly on Earth. There are plenty of them. Must have done all right for himself to be able to open up a place like that. Did he have anything at all to say about it?”
“Only that he was astonished at the amount of drugs being passed around, and he intends to do something about it in future.”
“Like what?” Owen replied sceptically. “If he chucks out every pill swallower he’ll have an empty club. That’s his problem, though. Let’s have a crack at these pills.”
The prisoner Toshiko had brought breakfast to was already asleep. They interviewed the first of the two handed over by the police. He was called Andrew McKirdey and he was a very worried man.
“Am I going to be charged?” he asked. “I don’t even remember what I did. I know that’s no excuse, and I’ll put my hand up to whatever it was. I’ll pay the fine or whatever. But just don’t tell my boss. I can’t lose my job for one stupid night out.”
“You’ll admit to what you can’t remember doing just to save your job?” Toshiko queried.
“What if we were investigating a really savage murder?” Darius added. “Do you want to ‘put your hands’ up to that?”
“What?” McKirdey’s face turned pale. “No… I’m sure I didn’t do anything like that. I couldn’t. I’m not that sort of person. I’m in insurance.”
On the desk in front of her the light stayed green. He was telling the truth about being in insurance as well as being innocent of murder.
Darius looked deeply into Mr McKirdey’s eyes and he became very quiet and still.
“Tell me what happened when you came out of the club last night,” he said to the hypnotised man.
He didn’t answer, at least not in words. Instead he snarled like a wild animal and his hands, held like claws, scratched at the air. Toshiko adjusted the gravity around the prisoner’s seat so that he couldn’t stand up or lunge forwards. It was better than handcuffs and chains for restraining dangerous characters.
But he wasn’t really dangerous. He was just remembering his state of mind last night. He had forgotten he was Human and was thinking like a wild animal with animal urges to bite and fight.
And the light was green. This was what really happened.
“Go back,” Darius said. “Tell me what happened in the club.”
“Dancing, drinking, couldn’t pull. None of the birds were interested in me. Felt like a reject. A man slipped some pills into my hand. He said they’d make the evening fly. I took them with my beer. They didn’t make me high, though. I just felt…. Really… really… weird. I was dreaming… about lions… lions feeding on a zebra. I could still hear the music, the noise of the club, but all I could see was lions. I was a lion. I wanted to feed…..”
Still the light stayed green. It was the truth.
“Lions?” Darius queried.
“Sounds like something from David Attenborough. But why was he seeing them in the club?”
“A vampire can put his mind into an animal. I rarely do it these days, but when I was young, I enjoyed not being me for a time, inhabiting the mind of a cat or a dog, or a bird. Once, I slept a night in the zoo, in a disused pen. I shared my mind with the great cats. It was not a good thing to do. Their instincts are too strong. Their hunger for meat overwhelmed me. I found myself breaking into the place where they kept the raw meat for the animals and gnawing on pieces of carcass. The blood was refreshing, but the flesh and gristle made me sick. Vampires are only able to digest blood.”
“These guys aren't vampires, though, and they were gnawing down on policemen. There must be something more.”
“Yes,” Darius admitted. “Yes, there must be.”
“These pills,” Owen commented, waving his hand over a line of petri dishes into which he and Dougal had sorted the collection of non-prescription drugs. “The little white ones are proprietary brand aspirin with the lettering scraped off. Some stupid twats have paid for something they can get for nineteen pence at Superdrug. The yellow ones are mostly baking powder and food colouring. More twats wasting their money. The purple ones with a chevron stamped on them actually ARE the infamous 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine – popularly known as ecstasy. The twats who bought THOSE actually got what they thought they were paying for.”
“So at least somebody is offering value for money,” Dougal remarked dryly.
“Oh, yes. Those ones absolutely do what they say on the tin,” Owen agreed. “Trading Standards would be perfectly happy with those.”
He turned to a green pill that he had broken apart completely to see what it was made of.
“This one is fascinating. The pill itself contains nothing harmful, no active ingredients whatsoever. Even the baking powder would give the user nothing more than hiccups. This does nothing and would show nothing in any toxicology report.”
“So… another placebo?”
“Yeah, except for what’s in the middle.” Owen poked about in the mush of green material with tweezers and picked out a very tiny object. Dougal thought it looked like the sort of fine plastic beads used in stuffing soft toys or possibly a sweet from the top of an iced cake.
“It’s a kind of plastic,” he said. “Though not one manufactured on this planet. Look at it under a microscope.”
Dougal looked. The plastic bead was not merely a solid piece. Under the microscope he could see actual working parts inside the thin walls of the sphere.
“It’s nano technology, like the things that make me immortal.”
“Yes,” Owen confirmed. “Except I don’t think that’s what this one does. I think it sends out electrical signals once ingested, signals that stimulate those rage hormones, causing the extreme behaviour we’ve seen in the subjects. It isn’t as microscopic as your nanogenes, and it doesn’t replicate in the bloodstream. I think it probably doesn’t even last long – a few hours before the stomach acids eat through the outer skin and bugger it up. After that, it either dissolves or gets passed out of the body when the subject goes for a shit.”
“Why?” Dougal asked. “What’s the point?”
“Buggered if I know,” Owen answered. “Some kind of social experiment into what tossers people turn into when they’ve had a few… God knows.”
“Could it be some sort of alien thing?” Dougal asked. “An experiment to turn humans into slavering animals so that they can be controlled.”
“Humans can be controlled by daytime television. There has to be more to it than that.”
“This is almost certainly alien tech?” Dougal queried. “Nobody on planet Earth does this stuff?”
“Not that I know of.”
“The manager of the club is alien….”
It was a coincidence too many.
“All right, maybe he isn’t just a migrant entrepreneur. Go and bring him in. Knock him out. I don’t want him knowing our address.”
Toshiko was a really nice woman. She was kind to children and small animals. But there was a strangely malevolent streak in her when it came to rebuilding alien tech. She had actually developed several weapons. True, they were non-lethal ones, designed to disable troublesome customers, but they were definitely weapons.
One of them was a kind of stun gun that could be set to several levels. The lowest just stopped a suspect in their tracks and left them with a nagging headache. The highest rendered them unconscious. There was also a setting that revived them again, though it didn’t get rid of the headaches.
The only trouble was it couldn’t yet be aimed directly at the suspect. It stunned everyone in the vicinity, including the operators unless they wore special in-ear suppressants. They were annoyingly uncomfortable and made it difficult to hear conversations, so this was one of the few times, so far, that the device had been used. Dougal and Shona, both feeling as if their ears were full of damp cotton wool entered Club Adrenaline again and found the manager. They heard his protest about their intrusion dully through the suppressants before they operated the stunner. Then it was just a matter of lifting him between them and taking him via the rear fire exit from the club up to the car park entrance of Torchwood.
They revived him once he was installed in the interrogation room and then removed the suppressants. Owen came into the room and placed a small white pill and a glass of water in front of him. Toshiko sat down quietly with her truth detector turned up fully.
“That’s a really strong and fast acting headache tablet,” Owen said. “You’ll need a clear head to answer our questions.”
“What questions?” Campbell McLeod asked in a woozy voice.
“Seriously, take the pill,” Owen encouraged him. “Take my word for it, there’s nothing harmful in it. Unlike the ones we want to talk to you about.”
McLeod took the pill. The effects were instantaneous. The headache went away and he felt wide awake and energised. But he was held down by the extra gravity around his chair and was going nowhere.
“THESE pills,” Owen continued putting three of the green ones on the table just out of reach of the prisoner. “We know what they are and what they do. We just want to know why.”
McLeod didn’t answer. Shona quietly passed ear suppressants to each of the team who were present, then turned the stunner to the second level – the one that hurt for several seconds.
“We can do that for a long time,” she said. “We’re Torchwood. We’re not covered by the Human Rights Convention, and besides, you’re not Human. It really would be better if you talked while we’re still at level two. You don’t want level five. That’s the one that doesn’t actually knock you unconscious but hurts so much you wish it had.”
Her finger hovered near the gauge. McLeod looked at her for a long moment, then started co-operating fully. The lights on Toshiko’s truth detector turned green and stayed that way.
"The Gellez Arena needs more livestock,” McLeod replied. “I’m their collector.”
“Run that by me again,” Owen said.
“The Gellez Arena is… like…. In your Human history… gladiators… they fought wild animals… people watched for sport.”
He paused. Nobody filled the silence with any comment. He continued.
“I collect the wild animals. Sometimes… I have to create the wild animals, first. I observed that humans become uncivilised when they take alcohol or drugs during their recreation. Swallowing the hormone manipulator makes them more animal-like. But it didn’t work properly. Not enough of them took my pills. There was too much competition from dealers in the club....”
“Yes, we heard your opinion of the drug scene already.”
“Besides, the effects were not permanent. The Human stomach processes material too fast. They ought to have been reduced to base killer instincts – instead – a pathetic fracas in the street, controlled by simple taser guns.”
“Well, excuse us Human beings for being such a failure to you,” Shona commented. “Next time, choose a species with less efficient stomachs.”
“There won’t BE a next time,” McLeod admitted. “The Gellez will not accept such abject failure. I will be thrown into the arena myself… unless I can beg asylum here on Earth.”
“Why the hell would we do that for somebody who was trying to kidnap Human beings and throw them into an alien gladiator ring?” Owen asked. “You can fuck off back where you came from and think twice about coming to this planet again.”
“I can’t,” McLeod admitted miserably. “The only place I can go is Gellez. That’s where the wormhole goes. There’s nowhere else. I haven’t got a ship. It’s too far from Gellez by ordinary transport. Only through the wormhole.”
“Wormhole?” Toshiko looked at him in astonishment. “You have wormhole technology in Glasgow? You’re connected to your rotten world through it?”
That kind of technology was beyond anything she could begin to deal with. She had just about mastered Rift energy. Wormholes were another level entirely. But that wasn’t what bothered her right now. She was concerned that such a thing was operational only two doors down from Torchwood and they hadn’t been able to detect it.
“I want to see it,” Toshiko said.
“I want it shut down,” Owen decided. “Whether you go through it first or not depends on my mood at the time. Suppressants, everyone.”
The last was for his team, and they reacted immediately. Shona turned the stunner up to blackout mode and McLeod collapsed unconscious.
“He’s had more than his fair share of that,” Toshiko pointed out as Dougal manhandled him up from the chair. “We might be causing him long term damage.”
“I fucking care!” Owen responded. “He’s a bloody alien who was trying to turn humans into livestock. They might have been twats, but they were Human twats. That puts them higher up the evolutionary scale to the Gellez any day. Besides, how else do we get him back to the club without him knowing that our HQ shares the same postcode?”
That much was true. Toshiko accepted the necessity. She insisted on Owen giving McLeod a thorough check up before they brought him back around in his club two doors away, though. He pointed out, quite logically, that he had no idea what was normal for an alien with light green blood and scales beneath his Human skin, but even without his wife’s injunction he also admitted, if only to himself, that it WAS his duty to ensure the prisoner’s health while in Torchwood custody.
“All right, chummy,” he said to McLeod when they revived him. “Show me your wormhole and how to close it, and we’ll decide whether to let you stay on planet Earth or not.”
“It’s on the main floor,” he answered. “I’ll show you.”
The dance floor was much cleaner now that the caretaker had finished, though still rather dull under ordinary lights. That is until McLeod pressed a sequence of buttons under the DJ’s deck and something more than an ordinary light show started up under the floor. Toshiko and Owen both recognised the signs of some kind of inter-dimensional gateway. They had enough experience with the Cardiff Rift. The others were new to this kind of thing. Everyone stepped back. They didn’t need telling how dangerous it was.
“So, you planned to turn half the crowd into raging man eating animals and the rest into … what… Christians to throw to the lions?” Owen asked accusingly. “And then turn this on and send them all to your nasty little world. How do we close it for good?”
“Activate the self-destruct,” McLeod answered. “It’s the big red button on the deck. It will implode the wormhole. You would want to get out of here pretty quick, though. There will be a backfeed.”
Owen climbed up to the deck. He looked at the collection of perfectly safe controls for music and lights, and the more sinister ones below. Perhaps a little of the hedonist was still in him, because he turned on the lights and music first. Heavy trance beats filled their ears and their eyes were dazzled by a computer-co-ordinated light show that matched the rhythm.
Then he pressed the self-destruct. There was a roaring sound from another dimension that almost drowned out the music, and the dance floor boiled with heat that was created in the heart of a distant star. That was as much as Owen and his team saw. They started to run for the emergency exits.
Owen was the last out. He turned and saw McLeod step into the maeolstrom just as it reverberated back into this world as sudden, violent explosion.
“Stupid bastard!” he yelled. “I was going to give you asylum, anyway.” The ceiling caught fire. Owen turned and dashed out through the heavy metal fire door and slammed it shut behind him.
A few hours later when the fire department had damped down, he used his influence to get into the club and see the damage. The fire investigator was doing his own survey and pronounced himself surprised.
“The fire burned very hotly for a very short while then burnt itself out,” he said. “This room is gutted, but the rest of the building is still intact. It looks like a really sophisticated attempt to do an insurance scam without actually burning the whole place down.”
“This is a listed building, worth more whole,” Owen pointed out. “Any sign of the owner?”
“There are some organic remains,” the investigator said. “But it would take a forensic genius to work out if they were the owner. There’s not enough left. If it turns out he just popped out for lunch moments before this happened I’m going to want to talk to him first, and then the police.”
McCleod was dead. Owen was certain of that. The building was intact, but it wasn’t going to be operating as a night club in the immediate future – which was good news on all counts as far as he was concerned. All he had to do to wrap this up now was have the would-be livestock cautioned and sent home by the police. Then he could go home and enjoy the rest of Saturday like a normal person.