Doctor Who: Departure Time
Featuring The First Doctor
By Shaun Collins
The fog was thick, a proper London fog that made the city feel so rife with possibilities. The stranger stood in the doorway of an abandoned building, watching a police constable walking through the thick soup with his torch waving to and fro. The constable stopped to check a gate on a junkyard, a tall, imposing doorway painted with I.M. Foreman in white letters on its dark surface. The gate didn’t budge, and the policeman moved off into the night.
The stranger turned his attention away from the policeman and toward Foreman’s junkyard. It was a rather unassuming place, run down, the paint on its dark privacy fence cracked and peeling. Piles of junk occasionally towered over the fence, with only the top most bits and bobs recognizable. Here a bicycle wheel, there a clock face.
But in the stranger’s experience, it was the unassuming places that were the most interesting, and held the most secrets.
He hesitated a moment longer in the shadows, scanning up and down Totter’s Lane. He swore he’d heard something a moment ago. Maybe he was just paranoid. But no, you didn’t get to his station (or his advanced age) without learning a thing or two about your senses, and his were telling him to hold back.
The lane was shrouded in fog, swirling along the sidewalk and gutters. He heard her before he saw her—or rather, he heard her radio. The girl was young, maybe sixteen, walking along Totter’s Lane with a transistor radio for company. It was quietly playing some awful racket—The Common Men, if his memory served correctly, though for the life of him he couldn’t remember the lead singer’s name—they’d be about right for this time period. Probably just been ousted of their spot on the chart by The Beatles. But the girl didn’t seem to mind their company, humming along with them absentmindedly as she walked.
She didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere, which in and of itself was strange, as Totter’s Lane was not exactly the best or safest of neighborhoods. There weren’t any residences nearby either, so just what was she doing out here? She stopped suddenly, her vacant, dreamy expression dropped and she became acutely aware. She turned, looking all around her, and then her eyes fell on the stranger. Her gaze actually seemed to bore straight through him, and he fought the impulse to move further back into the shadows. The sudden movement might throw off the perception filter he wore, and he was suddenly convinced that something was very much afoot on Totter’s Lane, and this young girl was a part of it. He’d thought her a normal teenager, out for a walk, but now, starring at him—or at least, starring at the spot he happened to be standing in—she seemed… unearthly.
The dark haired girl stood a moment longer, then blinked and seemed to fade back to a normal teenager. She looked down at the transistor radio—now hawking equipment from Magpie Electric—as if she’d forgotten she had it. She switched it off, and stepped lightly up on the curb in front of the junkyard.
The stranger admired her movements. Not at all an awkward teenager, but light and lithe on her feet like a cat. He started admiring her form when she ducked inside the gate and was gone.
He blinked his eyes, purposefully, and hard. The gate was locked. He’d checked it earlier tonight before setting up his surveillance, and the constable had checked it just a moment ago. But the girl had managed to nip in and do it quickly.
He started to move from his position in the shadow, when a couple walked into view just down the street. The man was tall, dark haired and wore a dark trench coat over his suit. The woman was slightly shorter, with her hair teased up into the big style popular nowadays. They seemed intently interested in the junkyard, and appeared to be keeping the girl under surveillance, nervously looking behind them to see if they had been noticed.
The stranger frowned. They could be spies, he supposed. The Russians had been making noises lately if the intercepted communication chatter from MI6 was to be believed, but if they were spies, they were two of the worst he’d ever seen. They looked like school teachers of all things. Quickly and nearly noiselessly, they ducked into the lot.
The girl must have left the gate unlocked.
The stranger was about to seize the moment of opportunity and move after them, when a small pressure pushed into the small of his back. It felt very much like the barrel of a gun. “Are you always in the habit of spying on young girls?” A voice asked from behind him.
The stranger froze. There was absolutely no way he could be seen by a normal person. The alcove alone should have disguised him well enough, add in the shadows and the fog not to mention the perception filter and he was practically invisible.
He raised his hands and turned slowly, to find a old man dressed in a black suit and traveling cloak complete with hat doffed on his head full of white hair. This was the man who not only saw him, but snuck up behind him? The stranger admonished himself. He must have been deeper in contemplation than he thought. He was relieved to see the old man carried a cane, which he didn’t seem to need, because at the moment this was what had been pressed into the stranger’s back, and not a gun.
“I’m not spying on anyone.” The stranger replied, offering up his best smile. Rule one: always lie.
“Oh, I beg your pardon, but that’s certainly what it looked like to me. What are you doing here, hmm?”
“Just locking up.”
“Locking up? This shop has been abandoned. No one’s been here for months.”
“I’m the owner. Been thinking about doing some renovations and trying to rent the space out to a business.” The stranger said quickly. The old man was sharp, maybe a little too sharp. The stranger eyed him closely. There was something familiar about the old man, despite his certainly that he’d never met the man before.
They starred off for a moment longer, and suddenly the old man broke into an embarrassed smile. He lowered the cane. “Dear oh dear, my my my” he said, wiping his brow with a handkerchief he produced from some pocket or another. “How embarrassing. Do accept my apology young man, I had no idea. Simply no idea.”
The stranger put his hands down. “No problem.”
“I’m afraid I may be a bit over protective of my granddaughter.” The old man said, still apologizing.
The stranger had a perplexed look for a second. “Oh, the young girl in question.”
“Yes, she’s quite precious to me.”
“Well no harm done. Good to know that there are concerned citizens in the neighborhood keeping an eye on things. Makes me feel that much better about getting a business in here.”
“You’re sure there’s no hard feelings then, my boy?”
The stranger gave him his best and brightest smile. “None at all.”
The old man loitered for a moment longer, then strode off across the street. The stranger went the other way, slowly strolling through the fog until he got to his designated second viewpoint. He ducked around the corner and watched the old man, who stopped suddenly in the middle of the street and looked back, trying to spot where the stranger went. Satisfied he was gone, the old man turned and began walking to the junkyard at a much quicker pace. He shuffled slightly when he walked but moved. He was muttering to himself, “hmm” and “now, now, now” seeming to be two of his favorites.
The stranger watched closely. Once again, he questioned the directive that had brought him here to investigate. There was something strange going on on Totter’s Lane, but he’d seen no evidence of extraterrestrial activity. Certainly no technology they could use. And yet, his own intuition insisted something was up.
The old man ducked into the junkyard, the same junkyard the girl and the couple had gone. Were they squatting there? Or was there maybe a small flat just inside the fence. It would be impossible to tell without a closer look.
He moved back onto the street, and walked back down the block. As he neared the junkyard, he heard raised voices coming from the other side of the towering gate with I.M. Foreman written on it.
Who had spoken he couldn’t determine, but they seemed agitated. He paused again. Was this just a quarrel that he had no business in? Would he be jeopardizing his mission by intervening?
The momentary hesitation would haunt him for years to come. From the other side of the fence game a strange, groaning and wheezing, as if a great beast had come to life in the junkyard and was struggling to breath. To anyone but a select few, the noise would have been foreign and completely unknown. The stranger was one of the select few who recognized it for what it was, the sound of the TARDIS dematerializing.
He ran forward, all concerns forgotten. “Doctor?!?” he shouted at the top of his lungs.
He burst through the door just in time to see the Police Box fade from view, disappearing into the vortex.
Captain Jack Harkness walked over to the spot where the TARDIS had stood. He knelt and ran his fingers over the cobblestones. Eventually, he moved to the rickety wooden staircase that was attached to the outside of the neighboring building and sat, rubbing his face in his hands. Torchwood had it right, there was an alien presence here. And he’d scoffed, with his knowledge of the future, but come like the obedient lap dog just to be on the safe side. And he’d missed him. The Doctor.
The old man was the Doctor. Not his Doctor, but certainly one of him. He wondered which.
Ah well. Captain Jack rose and dusted his hands off, heading back for the entrance. He’d been stranded on Earth for a long time, but he’d catch up with the Doctor again someday. <>