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n the often erratic time and space machine called Tardis, the interior of which confounded all but the most refined logic by being many times larger than the exterior, the white-haired old traveller called Dr Who and his granddaughter Susan stood by the craft’s six-sided control panel, getting their breath back,

‘That was very close, Grandfather,’ Susan gasped. She was a slender young girl with short, dark hair and elfin features.

‘I can’t disagree with that, child,’ the Doctor replied, with feeling.

‘We nearly lost the Ship for good.’

‘Quite so, quite so.’ Dr Who stroked his chin thoughtfully. ‘A fascinating world, though. Quite fascinating.’

Susan flashed him a quirky, engaging grin. ‘I loved the copper-coloured sky.’

Dr Who smiled fondly at her. They were two of a kind. The quest for knowledge and new experiences was always uppermost and the related dangers were invariably risen above. Their escape from the planet Quinnis, in the Fourth Universe, had nonetheless been especially tight. Very tight indeed.

Perhaps they would both benefit from a period of rest. He could make a few repairs to the Tardis at the same time. He smiled as he suddenly recalled the occasion when Susan had made up the unusual name of their remarkable craft from the initial letters of Time and Relative Dimensions in Space.

They had spoken of having a little relaxation quite a few times before, of course, but the idea had only rarely come to fruition.

‘We do have a tendency to run into trouble,’ he admitted.

Perhaps that was inevitable, thought Susan, for two wanderers through the fourth and fifth dimensions.

Scenes from their recent destinations flitted across her mind. Tudor England; Grandfather throwing a parson’s nose at King Henry VIII to induce the enormous and terrifying monarch to commit them to the Tower of London, where they had left the Ship; their unusually tranquil stay at Jabalhabad, India in 1843; the colourful and eventful reminiscences of Siger Holmes, British Army officer and father-to-be of the famous Sherlock; a Zeppelin raid at Burton-upon-Trent in 1916; Hilda Hogg, a young cook, sheltering them in her employers’ kitchen; the green planet called Esto; the earsplitting screeches from two telepathic plants when she stood between them and unintentionally cut off their communication.    

The high-pitched grinding sound that accompanied materialisation filled the room, then died away as the round glass column in the centre of the control panel ceased to rise and fall. They had arrived at another destination already.

Dr Who turned on the scanner-screen, but it displayed only flickering, horizontal white lines on a black background.

Susan sighed. ‘That’s something else out of order.’

‘How very tiresome,’ grumbled the Doctor.

‘The air is breathable.’ Susan looked up from the controls. ‘Shall we risk a look outside?’

Dr Who responded by turning a black switch. The great doors swung open and they stepped cautiously into the new environment.

The Tardis possessed the ability to change its outside appearance to blend with new surroundings. It had now assumed the shape of a blue police telephone box, rather old and battered, and stood in a dilapidated yard that was positively choked with a wide range of junk.

‘A rag and bone yard,’ the Doctor told Susan.

Susan laughed. ‘A what?’

‘A scrapyard. A repository for discarded items,’ elucidated Dr Who.

‘Items to be destroyed?’

‘The idea is to resell them.’

Susan regarded the merchandise on offer doubtfully.

‘One can live in hope, if only to die in despair,’ chuckled the Doctor.

‘I expect this ‘Police Public Call Box’ the Ship has become must be a typical piece of surplus equipment to be found in a place like this, then, Grandfather.’         

Dr Who was actually by no means convinced that this was so. He was somewhat disturbed by the disguise his camouflage circuit had selected. If the craft had materialised on a street corner it would have been understandable. He hoped this odd choice wasn’t an indication that the circuit was on the verge of malfunctioning completely. It would be decidedly inconvenient if the Tardis became stuck as a police box. He hastily brushed the thought aside. Then it occurred to him that this totter’s yard might possibly be in London, where, if he recalled alright, such call boxes were to be found for some years. Perhaps the circuit had misidentified the landing site only by a matter of yards? That would be some comfort, at least.

They wandered around the covered yard, fascinated by the sheer multiplicity of objects.

‘What’s that big brown pottery thing?’ Susan queried, pointing.

‘That, Larn my dear…’

The Doctor broke off, having caught Susan’s eye. Her original name still occasionally slipped out of his mouth instead of the one she had chosen for herself.


artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
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