Truly Strange Things
“We're going to take a bit of a break now. Be back in a bit.” Rupert had completed his song, and was helping two of the ladies that had sung off the stage. He made his way towards the table where Rudolf sat. “Rupert Giles, Gwen Cooper, and this lovely lady is Amanda Dale. Thanks for playing along.” Giles dropped an absentminded kiss on Amanda's hand, which was held in his, but his broad smile was reserved for Francine. “I made arrangements with that group, of course. But I do appreciate the help.”
“Oh, no trouble, no trouble at all.” Francine's Welsh accent grated on Rudolf. “I played in the riff-raff at university, love the show.”
“Oh. You're Welsh.” Rupert's smile widened genuinely. “Lovely.”
“Yes. Porthcawl.” Francine looked down at her hands nervously. “But London, now. Chelsea.”
“Gwen here is from Cardiff. Thank you again. I'll let the bartender know your next drink is on me.” Giles gave some signal to the seemingly empty bar. A few moments of polite chit-chat later, Giles nodded his head and led the two ladies on to the back where the Torchwood table.
Rudolf heard a shrill beeping from his watch. He turned it off. “Ten minutes. They're late.”
“Ten minutes?” Ben, the cameraman, looked over at him. “What do you mean?”
“You mean you didn't turn it off? Dobby brought the drinks around right after Rupert started singing.” Ben pointed at the drink in front of Grayson. “Mine's right. What about yours?”
Rudolf stared in befuddlement at the tea-cozy covered pot and cup and saucer before him.
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“Rose, wait.” The Doctor had stopped in the street, a few feet from the sidewalk curb, and stood there, seemingly transfixed by the empty air, one hand indicating that she should stay back.
“What?” Rose glanced over at the Doctor with annoyance. “I'm hungry! And lunch on Rabelius Prime Five was eight, nine hours ago? Hot food, in there.” Rose pointed at the bar.
The Doctor appeared to ignore her, removing the sonic from his pocket. “Aww, this is brilliant!” He waved the sonic in the air at the invisible not-a-barrier giving Rose pause. “Some sort of neuro-psyonic field. Very clever.” The Doctor waved Rose back a few feet.
“What, is it dangerous?” Rose stepped behind the Doctor, looking over his head at the readings.
“Dangerous? Nah... Well, maybe. But not to us.” The Doctor straightened from his examinations, making an adjustment to the sonic screwdriver and then squatting once again to continue the measurements. “It keeps out people with ill-intent. Say I want to go into the bar and start a brawl. Well, I might decide I left my wallet at home or that I need to buy a doorknob.”
“Why would you need to buy a doorknob?”
“Exactly!” The doctor picked up a bit of sand off the ground and blew it into the air, watching the sand swirl about. “Ooh, what have we here?” Another set of adjustments, a few mutters to himself, and the Doctor sat back on his heels, pointing at the empty air. “See, that's why I love you humans. And the layering. So exceptionally clever. Some of this technology won't exist for another thousand years.” The sonic slid back into his pocket. “Not in general use anyway, and this one is awe inspiring. Don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it.”
“If the technology won't exist for a thousand years, what is it doing here?” Rose pointed out.
“No idea. Absolutely no idea.” The Doctor stood up. “See, there's the do-no-harm distraction neuro-psyonic field. Those don't come into general use by humans for another eight hundred years or so – and they are quite common in bars like these, and on pleasure planets and such. Remember Testrane Beach?”
“Where I couldn't even smack you when you got fresh in public?” Rose gave the Doctor a knowing smile.
“Precisely! Same sort of thing. I believe this one is a bit smarter. Then there's the perception damper. If an alien goes in there – the humans won't notice it.”
“So you are telling me this bar is run by an alien?” Rose sounded a bit skeptical.
“Don't know – perhaps. Or perhaps it's just an alien-friendly bar with mostly human clientele. The big reveal is still a decade or so off, if my guess is right.” The Doctor shrugged. “But clearly someone here is in the know.” He poked at the invisible barrier. “Right.” He licked his finger and poked again, one ear close to the barrier. “And not all that smart.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there's an alien detector of some sort as well. Should set off an alarm if an alien tries to get in.”
“Okay. So you just set off the alarm for the shouldn't-be-here for a thousand years in the future alien technology at the normal looking bar somewhere in not-Chicago not-twenty-second century. Doctor, I'm hungry.” Rose stood over the Doctor, looking annoyed.
“I didn't set off the alarm.”
“So it's a silent alarm.”
“You have to close the circuit to set off the alarm. I don't close the circuit.” He held up the sonic with a grin as if it was proof of his statement.
“Well, you don't look alien. You look human.”
“No. Humans look like Time Lords.” The Doctor fiddled with the sonic screwdriver again. “Now, what are we doing? Reset the resonance frequency. Try this one. Ohh, aren't you subtle? But, let's see what you do with this.” The Doctor slid the sonic screwdriver across the empty air. “Besides, this field doesn't use appearance to determine whether or not you are alien. Plenty of aliens look human – or Time Lord. Good basic template, pops up all over the universe. It uses something else.”
“So the alien technology alien detector has an error.”
“Or doesn't detect Time Lords. But that's not the truly strange thing.” The Doctor pocketed the screwdriver, holding out the crook of one elbow to Rose, who took it.
“What's the truly strange thing, Doctor mine?”
“It's not alien technology. It's human.”