With a strange screeching sound which rose and fell rhythmically, an object appeared out of thin air. Not something you'd expect to see opposite a church on a summer morning in Edgware, North London, but something which was happening nonetheless.
If anyone had been around to wonder what it was, it might have helped them to know it was a Type 40 Mark II Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, which was a Ship which could travel both through time and through space. But nobody was around as it was only 5 a.m. and everyone was still tucked up in bed.
The Ship was also capable of disguising its exterior, thanks to something called the chameleon circuit. On this particular occasion it was disguised as a post with a London Undergorund roundel at the top with the word "Edgware" written on it and an arrow pointing towards the actual station itself. As usual it had chosen something totally plausible for the surroundings it was in.
Its owner, like the Ship itself, was a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, although he looked more like a rather chubby monk.
"Well done, old girl," he smiled as he emerged from the door in the post and patted his Ship, pleased with her appearance, "you've done it again!"
Following him out were his latest two travelling companions. One of them, Tasha, was a 15-year-old prefect from a private girls' school in 1955. She wore glasses, had a straw hat and a dark green uniform.
Stumbling along behind them was Janice, a 50-year-old from 1992, who sold curtains.
Both the Monk's companions were bossy types and each argued the case for herself being the leader of the two (year of birth versus apparent age) and the ensuing argument that that therefor put her in a position of authority.
"Oh, hang it all - we're in London again!" said Tasha sulkily. "Why can't we ever go somewhere nice?"
"Oy - that's my town you're talkin' about!" said Janice.
The Monk smiled affably and tried to broker calm between his companions as he often did. He sugested they take a look around and, when it was time for breakfast, they could meet back at the church and go to look for a nice little cafe or something.
Their latest adventure had netted them all a considerable amount of money and the Monk was determined they were all going to enjoy themselves. He'd decided that London would be the best place for that: they could visit cinemas for Tasha, nightclubs for Janice and every imaginable type of restaurant and cafe for all of them. Well, for him, mostly, but it'd be a treat for all of them. You could never go wrong with London restaurants.
It didn't take long befor Tasha got bored and started playing around with the gadgets she'd found in the Monk's Experiment Chest when looking for his sonic screwdriver during the Case of the Disappearing Dalek as she'd called it. The Monk had counselled caution with the various devices: after all they didn't want to draw the attention of their enemies again. They were supposed to be keeping a low profile ever since they had had a whole string of near-misses with the Time Lords.
Even though the Time Lords were the Monk's own people they tended to be very different from him. They were, on the whole, an unsmiling lot who believed in "the Web of Time" and that everything MUST remain as it was... even if "as it was" was often either boring or plain nasty. There were some colourful characters amongst them but they tended to be renegades, like the Monk himself. However the other renegades were even more unpleasant to the Monk and his friends than the dreary main body of Time Lords back at the Capitol on Gallifrey. In descending order there was the Rani, a woman who didn't seem to have a conscience; the Doctor, a man who prided himself on his independence from the Time Lords but seemed to do whatever they said and was always trying to shop the Monk for his little improvements to the Time Line; and the horrible Master, the antithesis of the Monk. Like the Monk the Master liked a good joke. Unlike the Monk, however, he seemed to be interested in making the universe a worse place, not a better one.
Tasha agreed to be very careful and to try not to do anything which might attract any unwelcome attention.
The Monk had to accept that. He sometimes felt that it was his companions, and not he, who were in charge.
Tasha wandered away from her two friends and found a flyover. There was a burger box dumped on the stairs. She wondered who had put it there? She imagined a group of two, no three uncouth school boys laughing and jeering and eating in the street - disgraceful - and one of them threw it onto the side. This had happened... at eleven o' clock last night. Yes.
She switched on the Revealer and shone the little red dot onto the burger box and looked into the screen. She saw three boys - yes, she'd got that right - and they had hoods over their heads. They were smoking - appalling - but not laughing or jeering. They were swearing a lot, though. Only one was eating. He finished his food and chucked the box on the stairs. It was ten o' clock the previous evening. Tasha smiled. She was getting good at this.
She strolled back to the churchyard and sat on a bench waiting for the others to finish doing whatever it was they were doing. She got bored after half an hour and decided to read the gravestones. One caught her eye: it belonged to someone called Mary Hopchurch, who had only been 24 when she died in 1900. Tasha started to imagine Mary Hopchurch. What had she looked like? Why had she died so young? She shone the Revealer onto the gravestone. he image she received was of a 1900 stonemason chipping away at the stone. The Revealer hadn't understood what she'd meant. She shone the Revealer at the ground, wondering if it would penetrate. On the screen it showed a 1900 carpenter's workshop. A man was hammering a coffin together.
No, that wasn't it. She paused... no, I shouldn't, she thought and sat back on the bench.
During the next fifteen minutes, during which her friends were still nowhere to be seen, Tasha couldn't stop thinking about Mary Hopchurch. Why had she died so young? She switched on the Personifier and shone the little blue dot at Mary Hopchurch's name on the gravestone. She looked through the little screen. There was Mary: a young pretty woman with big scared eyes and wearing a long, black dress. She had her hair done up in pigtails behind her. Tasha felt a very powerful, strange emotion as she looked at her. She really wanted, needed to meet this beautiful woman and see if she could help her out of whatever problem she was having. She glanced around: still no Monk and no Janice. Good. She'd just pop back for a quick chat. That's all she wanted. A five-minute chat and all would be well again.
Tasha switched on the one tool the Monk really didn't like her messing about with - the Temporary Time Machine...
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Cup of tea, Doctor?" asked Barbara.
"Oh, you know me. I never say no to a cup of tea," said the Doctor, his feet up on his old companion's sofa.
Barbara Wright had once been a travelling comanion of the Doctor's but that had been a long, long time ago. Since she had left him she had returned to Earth, carried on with her teaching job, married, had children and grandchildren and had retired. Her husband, Ian, was out at the moment. He, too, had travelled with the Doctor.
Barbara boiled the kettle and repressed a smile as she looked at the young man in a suit with his trainer-clad feet up on her furniture, tossing peanuts into the air and catching them in his mouth.
She imagined her old friend as he had been when she had travelled with him, staring disapprovingly down at his future self and saying,"Where are your manners, young man, hmm?".
In those days the Doctor had been an elderly man with rather Edwardian dress-sense and a short temper. Nine incarnations later he seemed more eccentric than ever but, in his rather bizarre way, charming with it. And very good-looking!
"How long is it since I last saw you, Barbara?" asked the Doctor.
"Well, you had curly blond hair and a rather colourful coat, if I remember correctly."
"Oh, yes - the midlives-crisis coat. Well, we're all entitled to go a bit nuts sometimes, aren't we, ay?"
"Yes, Doctor," said Barbara.
"Talking of nuts..." hinted Barbara's guest.
"Oh, yes, of course, Doctor," said the Doctor's host, fetching him more peanuts.
"And the 09:17 hours from Bushey will be coming past... NOW!" said the Doctor, leaping to his feet.
Surely enough a tube rattled past Barbara's house instantly.
"Oh, yes - right on time!" exclaimed the Doctor happily.
"Are you all right, Doctor?" asked Barbara.
"Oh, yes," said the Doctor. "But something's missing."
"What's missing, Doctor?"
"The cup of tea you promised me!" he grinned.
Barbara made tea for them both and they sat down.
"It's a funny thing, tea," said the Doctor. "People talk about a 'nice cup of tea' or a 'good cup of tea' but it's just tea, really, isn't it? I mean it doesn't taste of anything. But it gets the mind working."
"Yes, Doctor," said Barbara, who always enjoyed her old friend popping back to see her but was just beginning to feel a bit tired. She wondered when he was planning on going home.
"So why isn't yours working at the moment?" he asked with a smile.
"I beg your pardon?"
"No offence but how is it humans don't notice major changes when they're right under their noses?"
"What changes?" she sighed.
"The Northern Line carrying on to Bushey instead of terminating at Edgware? No? No bells ringing? Ding a ling a ling? Nothing? Oh well, thanks for the tea."
The Doctor made for the door.
"What's happening, Doctor?"
"Someone's playing around with time, Barbara Wright, and they don't want to be doing that when I'm around."
"Anything I can do to help?" asked Barbara, hoping there wasn't.
"Oh, yes - drink more tea!"