Words: Just over 1000
Warnings/Ratings: Only for mild insanity...
Spoilers: Nope. There's a reference to something from Going Postal, but should more or less make sense without having read it.
Unbetaed in case the madness is catching. And apologies - somehow, this one ended up with a plot...
Summary: Sometimes, you just need a place where no-one would think to look for you.
Part 1: Myfanwy & Fish
It wasn’t Tosh’s normal kind of bar. It wasn’t the kind of place that she was entirely comfortable in – too many dark corners and unidentifiable shapes in the shadows. But there were some days when, well, you just needed a place where no one would think to look for you.
The barman had her G&T waiting for as she walked in and she gave him a grateful smile before taking a hasty gulp. Perfect. Rubbing her eyes, she glanced round. The patrons were mostly the usual suspects, although she didn't recognise the man on the stool next to hers. He sat slumped on his seat, staring morosely at a large, orange cocktail on the bar in front of him. He looked as miserable as she felt.
The jukebox music changed and Tosh winced as a particularly thumping track burst through the quietness. The unknown young man seemed unaffected, except that he reached forwards and pulled his drink towards him. After another moment, the noise receded to a bearable level and Tosh turned to him with a slight smile.
"Not exactly your kind of music either?"
"Not really," he said. "And I'm not entirely convinced that this my kind of drink."
"What is that?" she asked, leaning over to get a better look.
"Um, I think…hang on." He took a long pull through the purple straw. "Vodka, Peach Schnapps, orange, grapefruit and cranberry juice, which I believe is known as Sex on the Beach. I say, are you alright?"
"Fine," Tosh coughed, setting down her drink and picking up a napkin. "That's…an interesting choice." She took a better look at her companion. He had the earnest, concentrated look that she remembered from her computer science lectures at college. You found it on the students who sat right at the front of the class, pencil poised, just waiting for the wonderful moment when they could correct a mistake in the lecturer's maths. She looked from the thin, bespectacled face to the cocktail and back again. He smiled weakly.
"It tastes quite nice," he assured her, "and it comes with fruit. Would you like some?"
"No!" Tosh said, a little too quickly. "Thank you. I'm fine." She banished the mental image with another mouthful of her own drink. "You look like you could use something to cheer you up."
"Yes." He turned back to the cocktail, prodding a piece of lime with the end of his straw. "Sometimes I think the people at work just aren't interested in what I'm doing."
"Tell me about it." Tosh took her next drink – a large glass of red wine – with a nod of thanks to the barman.
"Well," the man said, apparently taking this as an invitation, "first of all the Dean wanted to use the HEM Building for his lunch because it's hard to get through all nine courses in term-time. The students are far too distracting."
Tosh gave a bitter laugh. "He should try working while Owen's playing Doom Four: Edge of Hades with the sound up."
"I thought they were only up to Three."
"We got the early release. Owen's giving them feedback on the look of the new aliens. Apparently."
"Oh." The man swirled the fruit with his straw and sighed again. "After that, the Archchancellor interrupted a very important Invisible Writings lecture because he's getting into trouble with the Librarian. Apparently, when his snooker balls travel through baize space, they also pass through L-space, which is playing havoc with the card catalogue. I told him that there's not much we can do about dimensional phasing, but he just told us to try harder. Then he dropped his chalk into the middle of Hex and killed four ants trying to get it out again."
Tosh smiled sympathetically. "At least you didn't have to deal with a trade delegation from the Jarnod sector. We spent all day talking, arguing, debating until I thought someone's head was going to explode and with the Jarnod, that's not just a figure of speech. They gave us some kind of complicated computer program that Jack swears will be useful for something, if we can just figure out what."
"What did they get in return?"
"An MP3 player."
"Isn't that a little..."
"Low-tech?" Tosh shrugged. "They hadn't seen one before."
"Did you put any music on it?"
Tosh nodded. "Jack let us choose an album each, so they ended up with The Prodigy, Catatonia, ABBA, Fifty Welsh Clog Dancing Songs and The Best of Burt Bacharach."
Her companion tilted his head. "Clog dancing?"
Tosh nodded. "Ianto swears it's traditional. And after all that, I couldn't even get the most basic of their files to work. There's something wrong with the algorithms, I think. The numbers just didn't make any sense." She sighed. "Jack said the results looked like they'd been produced by a Weevil with a calculator."
"Gosh." Finishing his drink, he pushed the glass away and accepted, with obvious relief, a large lemonade. "And to think I was just worried about all the ants getting out of Hex."
This time, the word resonated somewhere at the back of her mind and Tosh's mouth fell open. Turning very slowly she asked, "What did you just say?"
"I said that I was worried about the ants getting out."
"Yes. He's– It's our thinking machine."
"Hex. That's it!" Pulling her handbag open, Tosh fished around for a pen, pulling a napkin towards her at the same time. "Hex. Six. Base six maths!" She began scribbling; the numbers that had meant nothing to her all day suddenly began to make sense. "They're using a senary system, that's why the numbers didn't compute. I'm going to have to write a whole new program!" Folding up the napkin, she thrust it into her bag and pulled out her purse. "These are on me, to say thank you." She dropped the money onto the bar and began pulling on her coat.
"Thanks," the man said, opening and closing his mouth few times. "Um, I mean, you're welcome."
"It's been great." Tosh did up the last button and gave him a bright, distracted smile. "See you again."
"Great," he repeated weakly. "Um, goodbye then. I'll be here Friday…"
But Tosh was already halfway to the door, her mind working through all the possibilities. Shivering a little at the sudden drop in temperature, she stepped out into the Cardiff night and began to head back to the Hub. She couldn't wait to see the look on Jack's face. A Weevil with a calculator? She'd show him.