Doris sighed with exasperation, the train information boards at Edinburgh's, Waveley Station were showing wide spread delays and cancellations. She headed towards the ticket office only to see massive queues of people all trying to find out what was happening.
Doris gave up and headed to the Balmoral hotel across the street. Ordering a coffee she sat in the hotel bar and watched the news report on the TV screen with growing concern.
A train accident on the Forth Bridge near Inchgavie had cause massive travel delays, the news report said. The details were sketchy to say the least, but it was thought that a train carrying chemicals had developed a leak. The prevailing winds had caused the gas from the chemicals to be carried towards the south bank of the estuary, affecting people at the Burryman parade in nearby South Queensferry. The gas had caused disorientation and mass hallucinations. Fire offices and soldiers, in HazMat suits, had successfully evacuated the residents. But it was thought that there had been some fatalities from traffic accidents.
Doris, scrabbled in her bag for her phone.
Why was it, whenever Alistair went off on one of these semi official jobs for UNIT some catastrophe or other happened! There had been that incident at Carbury, then Lanyon Moor, even that thing in America! Blast him and his duty! He was 73 and his only duty was to stay safe and well, and be with her!
One of these days Alistair’s luck was going to run out. She just hoped to goodness it hadn't run out today.
Doris’s hands were shaking, as she selected his mobile number from her phone's memory. Her throat went dry as she heard It ring twelve times. She was only just holding herself together when she heard his voice.
Relief flooded through her, quickly followed by anger!
“Alistair what the hell have you got involved in this time?” she demanded.
She heard silence on the other end of the line then “I’m sorry dear, I don't know what you ...”
“Don't try that on with me, I know when you..”
“Darling, this isn't a secure line!” he said urgently.
Doris took a deep breath, her anger died down and worry resurfaced “You're alright aren't you, you're not hurt or.. anything?”
“I'm fine, I've just been helping organise the military response to the incident, seeing as I was here on the ground so to speak!“
Doris wasn't fooled, there was a lot more to this then he could tell her over an unsecured mobile network.
“Darling, where are you?” he asked his voice soft and loving.
“The Balmoral Hotel!”
“Good!“ he said relief evident in his voice.
“Look book a room for a few nights and I’ll join you tomorrow evening! It’ll be impossible for you to get back here for a couple of days anyway! They are sealing the town off until they are sure everything is back to normal!”
“What about our belongings? They're still in our room at the Inn there!”
“I’ll bring the luggage with me when I come!”he hesitated for a moment. “You best slip out and buy yourself some nightwear and a change of clothes for tomorrow!”
She heard someone speaking to him.
“I’m sorry love, I’m needed on the other phone. I'll ring you tonight! Love you!”
“Love you too! Stay safe!” she whispered back.
He had sent a text at six o'clock telling her he would phone at 21:00.
Doris ordered a light meal in her room. She still felt rather upset and she had been glued to the news programs since returning with the clothes she needed. Sitting on the bed in a new nightdress, wrapped in a fluffy hotel dressing gown she watched the latest updates.
Casualties were mainly passengers from a train, that had been following the goods train across the bridge. Two civilians had fallen from the bridge as they had been evacuated from the train, and a Royal Naval team, who had been heading up to the Faslane base had also lost their lives. It was understood Commander Jane Wardie and her team of Naval engineers had died heroes, as they tried to stop the leak.
In South Queensferry there had been a couple of fatalities, including the local primary school teacher Fiona McCall. She had been helping organise the parade and had lost her life trying to save visitors from the gas.
Doris saw Alistair’s stamp all over this report. She suspected something out of the ordinary had happened and Alistair was orchestrating the cover up!
His phone call hadn't made her any the wiser to the events in South Queensferry, then again she hadn't expected it to. It had reassured her he was safe and well, although he did sound tired. They chatted about her day and she told him about the suite she had booked for three nights. She imagined she could see him wince at the cost. Deep down his Scottish heritage meant he was careful with money, even if Doris’s large fortune meant they never needed to worry about that.
At breakfast she read the newspaper reports and saw the photos of the nine victims. She studied every photo of the scene, snapped through telephoto lenses, to see if Alistair was visible, but he was obviously staying well out of sight.
Later that afternoon a knock on the suite door and a call of her name had her rushing to open it. And there he was smiling lovingly at her, but looking so tired. She fell into his arms, not noticing the porter who was bringing their bags in.
Alistair hugged her tight, only releasing her to tip the young man.
She knew better then to ask him what had happened. But he could read the question in her eyes..
He took a device out of his bag and plugged it into a power socket. He watched the lights flashing and when it started to indicate a steady green he nodded to himself. Now any listening devices or parabolic microphones wouldn't be able to pick up their conversation.
Long ago he had promised himself he wouldn't lose Doris to his duty. He had arranged for her to sign the official secrets act, then he had told her about his work. At first she had listened with incredulity, but she trusted him and knew he would never make up stories like these. Then she had met people involved in his work, including the Doctor and that had finally convinced her he had told her the literal truth about his past. Doris just wished these sort of things would remain in his past and not intrude in to their life now. After all he was supposed to be retired. But she listened as he told her about his adventures in South Queensferry.
He told her about the haunting he had been consulted on, about Commander Wardie and her team. Meeting the Doctor and finding the Cybermen. About Fiona and Sam. About the Forth Generation of Cybermen and the alliance he had set up between them and UNIT.
“Oh that poor young man!” Doris had murmured as she took Alistair’s hand and kissed it as he ended his story. “To lose someone you love so much, knowing you can never get them back!”
He nodded, “Yes, such a fine young officer too! He deserves better, but that's life!”
“And you're sure there's....”
He looked her straight in the eye and shook his head.
She swallowed back the question.
“You said the Doctor being there was incidental?”
He nodded, “He’d come to find me just to say hello and to catch up!”
“Has he changed since last time?”
Alistair nodded. “Oh yes, tall and thin, gaunt even. Plus he’s got a buzz cut of all things, stick him in a uniform and you’d think he was in the service!”
He’d said it lightly but Doris saw the worry in his face.
“So what's worrying you?” she asked gently.
“He came to tell me I had always been the right person, a constant in his lives, a good man and a good friend to him!”
Doris squeezed his hand, “I imagine you have Alistair, you are a good man, straight as an arrow. Selfless and caring!”
He smiled at her shyly.
“But he came to find me to tell me that! He’s also travelling alone, that's not like him!”
“Maybe he just want’s a rest from people!”
Alistair shook his head, “No Doris, something has happened, something serious. He’s got that look!”
Doris’s eyes narrowed as she looked at him quizzically.
“A soldiers look,” he muttered quietly, “that look you get when you've seen too much! Too much action, too much horror; too much senseless killing!”
Doris stroked his cheek.
“You don't get over that by being alone!” he told her. “You need people, you need someone special!” He put his hand out caressing her cheek and stroking her temple with his thumb.
Doris put her arms around him and they embrace for such a long time.
“Maybe he’ll find the person he needs, Alistair. And as he said he knows you’ll always be there for him when he needs you. After all he does have a time machine!”
Alistair held on to her tight and vowed once again that he was getting too old for all this running around chasing aliens!”