Chapter 1: A Blustery Day
"Well, I'm glad that's over for now," Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart said, pulling on his coat. "How an unimaginative plodder like that ever became an Admiral's assistant I shall never know"
"He had all of the forms and rubber stamps you said you needed," his scientific advisor noted mildly as he followed him out of the cramped little office. "Isn't that what you came for?"
"I admire Admiral Blankenship's efficiency, but that doesn't mean I have to admire his staff,” the Brigadier grumbled. “Of course, you had no difficulty with him. Those shipyards were smaller than I expected, but those plans you drew up seemed to go over well enough - though I'm the one whose budget is taking the hit."
"You said you wanted it to be unobtrusive."
"Yes. Yes, I did,” he nodded to the tired looking woman behind a paneled receptionist counter as they went past. “If we hadn't difficulties with classified military designs being leaked from Belfast…well, then I'd have had at least a good half of this afternoon off, if you must know."
"But if the Silurians did, in fact, leave an outpost anywhere…" The Doctor began as they made their way up the green tiled steps from the lower level.
"I know, I know," the Brigadier interrupted impatiently. "It has to be dealt with immediately. And yes, I know you saw that map when you were down there with those sea devils, but that doesn't mean it was up to date. You yourself have said they've been about for thousands of years."
"The coastline would have been significantly different in that event," the Doctor pointed out to the Brigadier's back as that individual pushed his way through the heavy door into the car park. The wind slammed the door back against the metal railing.
"Oh good Lord," the Brigadier sighed as he grabbed at the edges of his coat to quickly button them closed. The March-bare young trees that edged the car park clattered their twigs in the wind as bits of stray debris skittered over the pavement. There was a distant clanging sound as a gust snatched the top from a dustbin and sent it rolling along the sidewalk.
The Doctor forced the door shut again, coming up beside him, his own heavy cloak swirling around his shoulders. "Further north than expected," he said and squinted into the cold wind, not seeming very bothered by it.
"Why, this storm, of course. It was on the radio this morning."
"I didn't listen this morning, I was trying to find the papers for that…oh nevermind." His car was one of the only ones in the lot, other people apparently having had the good sense to either avoid the storm or to avoid thickheaded ministry men. He was inclined to believe the latter. They both climbed in and he started the engine, grateful he had insisted on taking his own vehicle; just the idea of being in a blow like this in the Doctor's ridiculous little lemon rattletrap… never mind his driving…
He directed them back towards the ferry ramps. "That jackanapes might have at least mentioned this. He probably lives right across the way or something. No consideration…" he grumbled. "My only comfort is he obviously doesn't rate a window."
"A window?" the Doctor asked, apparently only half-listening as he watched the town roll by.
"The more important the man, the more window glass he's allotted."
"Everyone wants the good view."
"Alternatively, it could be seen as a measure of trust. The Medosians always kept their criminals under glass so they can see what they're up to."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"It's a bit like being on a glass slide, under a microscope, Brigadier. An old-fashioned ones I mean, not neutronic. Without the flattening. Or possibly more akin to your own old Earth tradition of using bells on a leper."
"I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about," he said in resignation to what promised to be a very long car ride indeed. "Carry on."
The ferry ticket kiosk was lit and plainly occupied by what they could see of the interior, but as they waited there was no sign of the occupant being willing to come out and talk. He rubbed away a patch of condensation on the window and made some incomprehensible hand gestures at them, which did them no good whatsoever.
The Brigadier rolled down the window, gesturing firmly for him to come out and the man reluctantly emerged from his kiosk, yanking his hat down and hugging his coat closed against the icy wind.
"Th' ferry isn't running, sir. They've tied up on t' other side until this blows over! Besides, the radio says the roads down that way and over are flooding, some of them."
"No ferry? What about that other one?" the Brigadier called over the rising wind, gesturing to the west.
The man was already turning away to the shelter of his kiosk again. "What?"
Alistair leaned further out the window, squinting against the rain and cupped a hand to his mouth to be heard. "The other one! Isn't there a ferry out of Cowes?"
"Wouldn't expect it's running either, sir!" the man shouted back, turning to face him but still slowly retreating for shelter. "And Wootten's got construction on that bridge of theirs, bound to be trouble getting in with it like this!"
Reaching his doorway the ticket man gave a dismissive wave. "Look, why don't you and the missus just go find yourselves a nice place to stay the night?" he shouted, then with a polite nod he firmly shut the door.
The Brigadier sat back on the seat, dashing rain from his face, or at least making the motions to camouflage another reaction.
"What did he say?" asked the Doctor.
"Ahem…hm…hm… that we'll…miss it, even if the bridge isn't out," he managed and coughed.
"Aren't there any other ferries off this island?"
"Well," he was slowly regaining his composure, "The map we had indicated there was one from Yarmouth, can't remember the name of it, but that would be clear at the opposite end of the island anyway. If the road over that way is washed out, we'd have to take the long way 'round."
"It isn't that large of a landmass," the Doctor noted. "I did tell Jo I would help with that club of hers this evening."
"A club? Whatever does she need you for?"
"Judging some type of contest, I believe. I don't really remember the particulars - I admit I was a bit preoccupied at the time - but I did say I'd be there."
"And I had an engagement as well. Lord knows I'm not about to go back to that blowhard in the Ministry. Suppose we could give it a try; where did that map go?" He patted his pockets.
"I wasn't aware you had one."
"Here it is." Alistair fished out a rumpled piece of coloured paper and unfolded it, smoothing it out over the steering wheel. "Doesn't look like it would be too difficult. There's a road that follows around the perimeter."
"How many miles?"
"I've no idea. There's not much detail," he said, slightly apologetic. "It's printed on an advertiser from a chip shop." The wind howled outside the car as a stronger gust sent it rocking slightly. He handed the paper to the Doctor and released the brake. "As you said, though, it's a small island and we've plenty of petrol. Off we go."