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Cardiff City Centre, 6.42 p.m.
Martha Jones checked the display of her phone and raised her eyebrows. She didn’t recognize the caller’s number, but she still smiled in relief. At least it wasn’t her sister ringing with some silly gossip. She shot an apologetic glance at her fiancé and stood up from the table. The pub was full of football fans, watching the game on the big screen, and she leaned close to his ear.
‘Sorry, Tom, I’d better take it – I think it might be work.’
She pushed through the crowded doorway and walked around the corner into St Mary Street, hitting the answer key as she went.
Tom Milligan nodded moodily and swallowed a mouthful of his beer. He was getting used to these frequent interruptions. Martha’s work was classified Top Secret, and she often had to head away at short notice. However, this was the first weekend for months that Tom hadn’t been on call at the hospital. He’d been hoping for a few beers while watching the football, a meal, a few more beers, and a late night for once. Now it seemed he’d be going home on his own again – as usual.
In the doorway of the amusement arcade next to the pub, Martha was in the middle of an excited phone conversation.
‘Yeah, but where are you?’
‘That’s the million dollar question, Martha,’ came the reply. ‘And even though I’ve been everywhere, and seen everything – and of course I’m naturally quite brilliant – I’m not entirely sure where I am. I was heading for Cardiff, but I’ve ended up … Well, I don’t know … I’m in a pub – but it’s weird. Something isn’t right. Just listen to that music, for starters―’
In the background, Martha could hear the distorted sounds of vintage heavy rock booming out from a powerful PA system.
‘It might be a parallel universe, one where punk never happened,’ she suggested with a grin. She heard the Doctor’s laughter echoing down the line.
‘Ooh, nightmare! Deep Purple reforming was bad enough – imagine a universe where they’d never split up! The problem is, I’m stuck here – the TARDIS isn’t going anywhere. I could be here all night.’
Martha’s tone changed to one of mock-sympathy.
‘Oh, poor you. Stuck in a pub until chucking-out time. It’s all right for some!’
She spotted Tom peering at her through the window, and gave him a cheerful wave.
‘I’ve got the weekend off too, you know,’ she protested. ‘I’m out with Tom, we’re supposed to be going to a pub quiz tonight.’
‘You hate pub quizzes!’ he exclaimed. ‘Even your mother says that! Anyway, how often do I ask you for help?’
‘Oh, let me think,’ she teased. She began counting them off on her fingers: ‘I helped you catch the Plasmavore the day we went to the Moon; I gave William Shakespeare the words of power to defeat the Carrionites; I looked after you for two months in 1913, when you were the most useless human ever; I saved the entire world from the Master―’
‘All right, all right,’ he conceded. ‘I owe you a couple of favours … But is there any chance you could pick me up?’
‘Oh, I’d love to, Doctor – trouble is, I’m halfway through my fourth pint.’
‘Quite right, don’t drink and drive, very sensible – hang on! You drink pints?’
‘Don’t sound so surprised! I did five years in med school – of course I drink pints,’ she retorted. ‘I could drink you under the table, mate!’
There was nothing she enjoyed more than winding up her time-travelling friend.
‘What about Torchwood, then?’ A note of desperation had entered his voice. ‘They’re just down the road, after all – maybe they could give me a tow or something.’
‘Okay, I’ll give Jack a ring. Just sit tight and we’ll see what we can do. Don’t go anywhere – and don’t get into any trouble.’
‘Who? Me?’ She laughed at his feigned innocence. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘See you later, Doctor.’
Martha grinned. She ended the call and immediately hit the speed-dial. Watching her through the window, Tom shrugged, finished his pint and made his way to the bar. It was going to be one of those weekends.
The South Wales Valleys, 6.53 p.m.
Pam Griffiths had regained consciousness and was gazing at her surroundings in sheer disbelief. She’d often woken up in strange places after a weekend on the razz with her friends, but nothing had ever come close to this.
It looked like a 1960s vision of a futuristic home, brought to life by someone with an extravagant imagination and a budget to match. The walls were made of bronze panels and punctuated with glass portholes; the artificial lighting was mellow and pleasant; the furniture was definitely not from IKEA – but at least the bed was comfortable. Pam lay for a few moments with her eyes closed, trying to reconstruct events after she’d left with the strange man. She vaguely remembered following him up the lane and kissing him in a doorway, and then – nothing.
‘Oh God,’ she muttered under her breath. ‘It’s New Year’s Eve all over again!’
Pam sat up and swung her feet onto the wire mesh floor, rubbing her aching forehead. Her mouth was dry, and she felt faintly nauseous. The door was only a few hesitant steps away. She emerged into a long corridor, decorated in the same outlandish style as the bedroom.
‘Hello?’ she called.
Her voice echoed down the corridor and died away. There was almost total silence, except for a rhythmic droning sound. It sounded like some sort of machinery throbbing deep beneath the floor – or the breathing of some huge creature. More doors led off the corridor. Pam opened the first one quietly, almost afraid to breathe.
The room was full of books, stacked on shelves from floor to ceiling, piled up on the floor, and crammed into boxes. She pulled some of the volumes out of one box, shaking her head in wonderment. There was no obvious sequence to the contents – battered pamphlets of poetry sat alongside expensive scientific textbooks, and the latest bestsellers were buried under novels by long-forgotten authors. The books smelt of bygone ages and faraway places, and Pam became more intrigued than ever.
She closed the door and opened the next one. This room was little more than a giant walk-in wardrobe, crammed with clothes and shoes representing a huge variety of styles and periods. Totally mystified, she made her way along the row of doors, peering through each one until she found a small bathroom. She ran some cold water into the basin and splashed it over her face, before filling a glass and swallowing it in one gulp.
‘Bloody ‘ell, I needed that!’ she gasped.
She refilled the glass and carried it outside, continuing to explore her bizarre surroundings. Eventually the corridor opened out into a large square space, lit in the same subdued fashion as the rest of the rooms, but with an enormous metal and glass structure in the middle. A central glass column reached to the ceiling, giving off a dull white glow, and around it was an array of electronic gadgetry arranged on six triangular panels. Heavy cables hung from the ceiling, and an open toolbox lay underneath one panel.
Pam gulped back the rest of the water and ran her fingers over the rows of switches and dials. To her amazement, a monitor lit up for a moment and died again. She gave an involuntary shudder. The whole place seemed to be responding to her presence in the room. For the first time in her adult life, she felt frightened of the unknown.
As she pondered the control panel, the door swung open and her mysterious new friend strode into the room, grinning from ear to ear. He unplugged a couple of wires from a wall socket, shoved a small plastic box into his pocket, and only then noticed Pam standing at the central console.
‘Right then, problem sorted, molto bene!’ he announced, clapping his hands in glee. ‘I should have a rescue party on the way within the hour. We might as well go back to the pub and wait for them. We’re missing a terrific band – they were playing ‘Comfortably Numb’ when I walked past. I love that song!’
Without waiting for an answer he grabbed Pam’s arm and led her outside, pulling the door shut behind them. She glanced backwards without thinking, and realised that they had just stepped out of the door behind her.
‘Hang on!’ She stopped in her tracks and pulled away from him. ‘Where I was just now – that was huge! And that’s a little blue box – made of wood!”
‘Are you quite sure?’
The Doctor raised his eyebrows and looked worried. He walked slowly around the TARDIS, pretending to scrutinise it carefully from all angles, and returned to her side. With a solemn expression he handed Pam a key.
‘Have another look.’
Pam unlocked the door and peered inside before slamming it shut again. Keeping one hand on the exterior, she walked right around the TARDIS, an incredulous smile spreading across her face as she went.
‘No way! How do you do that?’
The Doctor grinned, pocketed the key again, and became serious for a moment.
‘It’s a special case of the Casimir Effect in four spatial dimensions. Exotic Matter. Easy when you know how.’ He smiled again and set off along the lane at a trot. ‘Come on, it’s your shout.’
‘You’re bloody mad, you are,’ she gasped, jogging to keep up with him.
‘Yeah, probably,’ he agreed, ‘but it’s fun, isn’t it?’
Cardiff Bay, 6.46 p.m.
Deep below the leisure complex that had been built to replace Cardiff’s once-thriving docks, Ianto Jones put the crossword down and answered the phone to a familiar voice.
‘Hi, Ianto, it’s Martha – is Jack around?’
‘And a very good evening to you too, Dr Jones.’
Ianto’s laconic Welsh tones always made Martha chuckle.
‘Sorry to call on a Sunday, Ianto. I need some help.’
‘That’s why we’re here.’
He slid the phone across the table and mouthed the word, ‘Martha.’
Captain Jack Harkness switched the phone to speaker mode, leaned back, and beamed.
‘Martha Jones, the voice of a nightingale, and a body to die for. Again. How can the humble Torchwood help the mighty UNIT this week?’
‘It’s nice to hear your voice too, you old fraud!’ Martha retorted.
She and Jack had been exchanging friendly banter since they’d first met, a hundred trillion years in the future, and it showed no sign of letting up in the year 2009.
‘Relax, it’s not UNIT that needs you – it’s the Doctor.’
Jack’s eyes lit up at the mention of his old friend. The renegade Time Agent fancied anything with a pulse – or indeed, anything with DNA – and he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see the Doctor again. As Martha outlined the Doctor’s predicament, he winked at Ianto. He could sense an adventure coming on.
‘Well, let’s see what we can do.’
Jack typed a few commands into his computer terminal.
‘I’ll just do a quick scan for alien tech.
A satellite display of the Earth appeared on a large plasma screen on the far wall. He and Ianto watched as the viewpoint zoomed in, a little point of light indicating the position of the TARDIS. Jack pulled a face as the image resolved to street level. He walked over to the big screen, trying to identify the place where the TARDIS had landed.
‘What the hell’s he doing all the way up there?’
‘It’s a long story,’ Martha muttered. ‘Can we get up there and give him a hand?’
‘It’s double time on a Sunday, mind.’ Ianto’s sarcasm wasn’t lost on Martha, and she laughed. ‘And if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll sit here and mind the shop.’
‘Come on, Ianto,’ she urged. ‘A little run into the countryside will do you good.’
‘Last time I went to the countryside I nearly got killed,’ he grumbled. ‘Anyway, I’ve been to that place once. It’s not exactly the countryside. We played rugby there when I was in college. I ended up with three broken ribs, a fractured wrist and two black eyes.’
‘Musta been a hard game,’ Jack observed.
‘That was in the pub afterwards. They found out one of the boys was a Swansea fan.’ Ianto pulled a face and Jack laughed.
‘Okay, Martha, we’ll see what we can do for the old man. I’ll ring Gwen and call you back. We’ll pick you up on the way.’
‘Thanks, guys. See you later.’ The line went dead.
Jack pulled on his coat, rummaged in the pocket, and threw a bunch of keys to his colleague.
‘Ianto, you’re driving. I’ll meet you up top. Give me a minute, I just need to get my jump leads.’
He crossed the room, pulled open a heavy steel cabinet, and reached inside.
‘Secure archives, Jack?’ The surprise in Ianto’s voice was evident.
‘Yeah. I’ve got just the right piece of kit in here. It took us months to build it – I’ve been waiting to try it out. Now we’ll see if it works or not!’
Ianto was already halfway out of the door, and he looked back to see Jack pocketing his revolver.
‘See you in Hell – or Aberdare!’
‘Same difference,’ he replied with a worried frown.

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