"A Tale of a Second City"
by David Ronayne
He pushed his way through the queue rapidly growing by the counter and carefully carried the two trays to where the others were waiting. Despite Doris' protests he had been able to order using broken Russian and various esoteric hand signals, and was now carefully picking his way through the crowds that milled though the busy restaurant. The Doctor's new companion, what was it, Cwej, gleefully pounced on his meal, as Benton had done many years (was it really only a few weeks ago) before. Everything had changed, the world, his life, Benton (did he really buy a used car off that man), even the mad changes that affected the Doctor now seemed more frantic
and rushed. He was as he had last seen him, although the impish face and quiet Scottish voice seemed to have hardened and creased. He looked over as his old friend sat hunched over a thickshake, staring intently at the contents with a look of concern on his face. He had made a point not to ask him about Ace.
"I would have thought this place would have quietened down by now, it's been here long enough," he ventured, looking over the packed chairs and tables at the bustling throng outside. "Stalin, Mao, Ronald, people flock to each new thing. It'll be tri-VR next, either that or the panEuro league."
The little man looked up from his cup. "The more things change the more they stay the same Alistair."
"And despite our thankless efforts?"
"Of mice and men Brigadier," he paused briefly. "No offence intended."
"Sorry I can't agree with that." The old man lent forward in his chair, "You once told me one of the only constants in the universe was change. Ten years ago the idea of a plastic blow-up clown eyeing up the Kremlin would've been unthinkable. The wheel turns. Damn it Doctor, do you realise that I was at Kathy Jones' fifteenth birthday before we left on this trip!"
The Time Lord blinked back at him, surprised by his sudden outburst.
'There are wheels within wheels, basic patterns recur over and over again."
"But there has got to be more to it than that!" The old solider yelled surprising himself with his tone which caused many of the local Muscovites to tum. For a moment he was back in his old office staring down the latest lab requisition order. The black alien eyes stared back at him. He had never noticed how alien they had seemed before.
"There must be more to it than that, if not why do we bother? Why not just roll over and let the Autons and Cybermen take us. Things must get better, then we have something to work for." The Doctor stared back at him as his eyebrows creased. Briefly, just briefly, Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart saw a flash of recognition in the deep eyes, as his friend's used to look several lifetimes ago.
"I'm sorry Brigadier," he said rubbing his brow, "things have been a little hectic lately."
"Well, I turned 975 yesterday," the Time Lord said matter-of-factly.
"Happy Birthday Doctor."
"Thank you, Brigadier."
14 May 1996.
23 hours ago