Patricia awoke to find herself in an unfamiliar bed. There was a gentle hum in the room.
She fumbled around for her glasses and lay on her side, surveying her surroundings. The walls had softly glowing white roundels on them. There was a machine with flashing lights on it which could dispense any food or drink you wanted. All the other furniture was, rather incongruously, heavy Victorian furniture made of ebony.
Of course – the ship! That’s where she was. The Doctor’s ship! Apparently the Doctor’s granddaughter – who had left a long, long time ago – had called the ship the TARDIS, an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space.
The TARDIS was unusual in many ways. It travelled through time and space to start with. Then there was that whole bigger-on-the-inside-than-on-the-out thing.
And, of course, the amazing, amazing food machine! Patricia got out of bed and headed towards it. The room’s lighting came on instantly as soon as her intentions became clear. Patricia was very fond of food, as anyone who saw her might guess.
No sooner had Patricia operated the machine and obtained six packets of deliciously different capsules, there was a knock at the door and a burp.
“Can I come in?” laughed Poppy, amused at her own burp.
Patricia coupled great politeness with painful shyness and so could not bring herself to tell her unwanted guest that she just wanted to eat all by herself and that Poppy’s endless burps were making her feel sick.
“You’ve lucked out, aintcha? Getting the food machine in your room.”
Patricia just giggled nervously.
“Whatcha got, ay?” asked Poppy. “Ooh, chicken – I love that! You’ve got four of them! What’s the other two? Jam tart and custard? That sounds brilliant – I might go for the same! So how d’you work this thing?”
Patricia giggled nervously again and showed her equally fat friend how the food machine worked.
Poppy burped and laughed hysterically about it. She then got herself the food capsules she wanted and sat there eating, burping, laughing, burping and eating some more.
Patricia tried to ignore her companion as she ate too.
“I couldn’t sleep,” said Poppy. “I mean, all this, it’s just like… it’s unbelievable, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” smiled Patricia.
Actually to her, this was fairly routine. For no reason she’d ever been able to discern, she’d spent quite a bit of the last three years travelling from one parallel universe to another. Travelling across time and space just put the cherry on the cake. She’d learnt a lot on her travels and so was able to handle a lot of the machinery of the Doctor’s ship very easily. Her shipmates had quickly realised that and so she’d been recognised as an asset to the team straight away, even if it was difficult getting two words out of her.
The Doctor was fast asleep in her bedroom. Like Patricia and Poppy, she was somewhat overweight. Unlike the two girls, however, she was no spring chicken. In fact she was 1,002 years old. She was a Gallifreyan and therefore had the ability to regenerate rather dying. Each Gallifreyan could regenerate 12 times before their 13th and final body died or got worn out or had its lungs filled by fake tan by a Trannant-hOppr from the planet Trannant-hOppx or got exterminated by a Dalek or whatever. She had already regenerated 11 times and so was now on her 12th body. It was her first female body and so she was having to get used to various new things.
In this 12th incarnation the Doctor had long black hair, a big tummy and always wore green garments of one variety or another. These tended to be adorned with badges of one sort or another.
The Doctor had been recuperating after her latest regeneration on the island of Sharp Holme. Three jokers had decided to get the four most irritating people on the island all to turn up to a non-existent party at the same time as each other so that they could hide round the corner and giggle as they all met. None of the TARDIS’ current occupants were aware of the full story but they all knew that four women on the island had summoned them all there under false pretences. The area of the island that the women had chosen had been a rooftop on an unusually tall building. That had also – by coincidence – been where the Doctor had stored her ship, which looked from the outside like a small police box. The Doctor had decided that the joke should be on the three mischievous women and so she had gathered the other people said to be the most irritating people on Sharp Holme into her ship with her and taken off, laughing at the scanner screen as the three jokers looked on open-mouthed.
However, after her latest regeneration, the Doctor had realised that some of her memory cells had gone. She didn’t want to admit it but she wasn’t sure she could get her three new companions home again. None of this stopped her sleeping, though.
What did stop her sleeping was a crashing sound outside her room. She went out to see what it was. Had the Rani somehow gained entry to her ship? Or was Helen A even now plotting her revenge because of what the Doctor had done on… where was it?... Ah yes, Terra Alpha.
No, it was nothing like that. It was one of her companions, Manda, smashing drunkenly into something on her way towards Patricia’s bedroom.
Manda Josso was in a class of her own. She was blonde and in her 50s but seemed so much younger. Her fine physique could still attract many a young man. This was an attribute she put to good use, partly to take revenge on her cheat of a husband but also because she liked young men. Very, very much. She had very expensive taste in clothes, make-up and, most importantly, booze. Inside her tailor-made handbag (a silk and satin affair covered in sequins that jokingly and expensively mimicked the pattern and logo of a Sainsbury’s Basic chocolate bar), she always carried a bottle. Even before meeting the Doctor, her bag always seemed to have a full bottle and some glasses and no-one knew how. Now she could use the food machine and just simply top up.
She’d now got as drunk as she could as her way of trying to cope with the ship, the Doctor and everything and now she felt it was time for her elegant blue dress to be replaced by some nightwear and for her to try to get some sleep. What better way of getting to sleep was there but a little nightcap or three? A raspberry, mint and pink Champagne cocktail would be the ticket, she decided. And she knew that the machine in Patricia’s room would be just the job.
Patricia soon found her room filled with her three new shipmates. She shrugged and decided that continuing to eat would be the best way of keeping on top of the situation. The Doctor told them that they’d be making planet fall in about four hours and that it might be an idea to get some sleep before then.
Manda and Poppy wanted to know what the name of the planet was.
Patricia already knew but was too polite to say. She had worked out how to obtain pretty much any information from the Index File. She already knew that the Doctor was going to say Varos.