"The universe is a curious place full of unlikely things. I know because I am one of them."
In a vast field of stars some seem displaced, askew from where they should be, as if a force is disrupting them, like a boat making little ripples as it slowly passes through water. As it comes closer there is the faint outline of the large object causing this effect. If it wasn't moving at all it would be invisible, but as it comes closer it's apparent that it's some kind of vessel, which somehow reflects everything it passes in front of.
As the picture zooms out further it become obvious that this is the view from a screen and that a grey haired older man is watching it intently. Farther away from the initial image and it is revealed that he is not alone. A woman of Indian origins in her twenties is watching with him, trying to see what he is pointing out. They are beside a console of unusual controls in a room that is both full of high and low technology, of Victorian decor and otherworldly elements.
"Doctor," she says referring to the older man, "I'm still not seeing it. I mean I know I'm seeing something, but I'm not quite sure what it is."
"Well, that is because you see, you observe, but you have no idea what could cause such an anomaly. Is it natural, is it supernatural, or is it man made? Well since I don't believe in ghosts, at least not the dearly departed dead kind, and since there is more in the universe than what narrow–minded man has come up with, I know exactly what I am looking at. I just never expected to see it."
"Now that's left me even more confused than when we started. Is that your idea of a simple explanation?"
"Don't rush me. I'm getting there. Let me enjoy the sense of mystery (or maybe it's just confusion) on your face for a moment. This is a myth I've been chasing the rumors of for some time, until I was convinced it wasn't real myself."
"Well you can't expect to keep me in suspense for much longer, because you've now admitted you know exactly what it is and are just playing silly buggers by not telling me."
"Spoil sport! It is – as you would have undoubtedly have fathomed eventually – an interstellar market selling it's wares. A very advanced and unusual one at that."
"You do love knowing more than someone else a little too much."
"But not as much as being able to explain in great detail what other people do not know."
"So, how is that a market? When I think of markets I think of stalls set up on Sunday mornings to sell over–ripe fruit, badly sewn clothes and dubious gadgets that break after a week."
"That's the type! Well not exactly the same type. Think of this as more like the Grand Bazaar of ancient Cairo, or the Souks of Marrakech, with haggling vendors selling their spoils from far flung traders. Yet this isn't a place to offload dodgy goods from the back of a lorry. This is the repository of the best curiosities of the galaxy, and their wares are as near to magic as technology can reproduce."
"Shopping? You're taking me shopping? That's really sweet of you, as it's the last thing many men want to do with a woman, but I'm not any woman, and didn't travel millions of miles with you to pick up a few plastic baubles. A giant almost invisible space craft just for that?"
"Well. That was not the reaction I was hoping for, but I'll just have to wait until we actually arrive for you to fully appreciate what we've encountered. Trust me, you'll like it."
"I'm still working out how far to trust you, but this time I'll take your word for it. Let's take a look then. Let me see if you can impress me."
His eyebrow raises in reaction. A challenge has been given that the Doctor intends to prove himself equal to. He turns a dial and pulls a lever, which is followed by unearthly whooshing sound and the feeling of a landing that jolts him and his companion for a moment until they gain their footing.
A blue Public Call Box fades into existence and immediately looks very out of place in a dark unused corner of an indoor market. It's stalls are modeled after the outdoor variety with their colorful awnings and the even more colorful characters that sit beneath them, behind tables filled with unusual objects.
The Doctor and his companion emerge and immediately walk over to a few of the tables, display stands and booths. But the young woman still doesn't seem very impressed.
"It looks like my local farmer's market. The least you could have offered me were beings with a few extra eyes or arms or at least green skin."
"Preeti, this isn't a circus. These are aliens, or at least you are alien to them, and me even more so. They aren't here to perform for us. We could have gone to a planet where we would have been eaten if you preferred."
"Sorry. I didn't mean to sound ungrateful or prejudiced. This is definitely a change from staying home reading on a rainy day."
"Well I'm glad I could offer such a distraction, even if it's only a bit better than that. But come to think of it I'm a little surprised myself that everyone we've seen so far are so humanoid. I do love finding a new species I haven't seen before too."
At this thought the Doctor asks an older woman sitting under a canopy, "Excuse me, but please forgive me a silly question, do you all look like this?"
"Look like what? What's wrong with the way I look?"
"I'm sorry I just wondered if you all looked alike."
"No. I'm Alberta. I look like this and he looks like that," she says pointing to a man on a nearby stall, "I'm spectacularly beautiful and he is passably handsome, but then I would say that as he is my husband, and he claims that is one of the reasons I married him. Well it certainly wasn't for his money."
"What I meant was …"
"You were wondering why you didn't see a more exotic collection of creatures from far flung planets."
"Yes, Indeed I was."
"Well that is a curiosity. It's not that they aren't welcome. I like to think we are very welcoming and we have room for new stalls and new friends here, and some do sign on, but they never seem to stay for long. But in case your wondering, it's not because we eat them. So you don't have to worry about us hunting you for food. I think all of us here are vegetarians."
With the Doctor left a little flustered, Preeti steps in to try and salvage some semblance of a polite conversation.
"I must apologize for my friend. Especially as he doesn't seem to be the type to say sorry often. I think we got off on the wrong foot. It looks like I need to teach my alien companion some more cultural sensitivity."
"It's okay dear. We get all kinds here."
The Doctor clearly isn't used to finding himself at a loss, but seeking to regain his dignity tells the older man and woman, as if they are a small audience, that, "I'm one kind you wouldn't have seen often and I'm happy to make your acquaintance, I am the Doctor, and this is my companion, Preeti."
"Well you are most welcome here, and your much younger friend is indeed pretty. Although how you got here I have no idea, we aren't due to touch down and set up shop on any planet for a few days yet, so we may be a little unprepared for customers at the moment, but I think you'll still find us good hosts to strangers, even ones as strange as you, and that there will be enough open to keep you interested."
At this the Doctor smiles politely and walks off muttering something like, "she called me her companion, me the less culturally sensitive one?" Preeti stays behind.
"Don't mind him. I think he is in a mood. Of course I may be the reason for that, but he shouldn't be so thin skinned."
"So people on his planet have exceptionally thin skin?"
"It seems so. More susceptible to having their feelings hurt when you take their uniqueness for granted."
"No worries deary. Maybe something here will take your fancy and interest you after all."
"I suppose something might."
"What about this lovely necklace?" It is made up of a dozen dark–green triangles which look like precious gems. The lady hands it to her and Preeti holds it carefully.
"It's lovely. What is it made of?"
"The infected teeth of teenage blorb."
"Um. I don't think the color matches my complexion," she says as she grimacingly hands it back.
"We have all sorts of useful items. A knitting kit for ear hair that your old friend might make use of, or a toe fungus culturing kit. Make tasty mushrooms in the comfort of your shoes."
"Maybe I'm a little boring but do you happen to have any books, so at least I can pass the time reading while I'm waiting for old grumpy gramps to return."
"I have a little selection here. One of which is sure to interest you. How about, 'Alpha Centuri on 10 Credits a Day'? Or 'Surviving The Beauty Of Toxic Waste Planets'?"
"That last one sounds interesting, at least if there are pictures of the planets."
"I'm afraid not. I would have thought the author could have bothered to take some photos while he was there."
"Which reminds me that I forgot my phone which is the only camera I have. No–one will ever believe this."
"Well, then this might be a nice souvenir, it's a picture book of 'The Most Grotesque Life–forms In The Galaxy'"
She takes and opens it and drops it back on the table immediately.
"That's a little too real for me, and I'm guessing that one, 'Hitchhiking the Galaxy Naked' won't be any better."
"Ah, those were the days, weren't they my love." The old lady says picking up the book and winks at her husband.
"Maybe you could keep that gross one back for me. The man with all the money – well hopefully some money – has gone off in a huff, but I think my brother would like it. He loves to shock people in whatever weird way he can."
"A good choice."
She continues to browse, but hears a humming and looks around to see, instead of an insect, a little pulsating light buzzing. It is darting around her, but she swats it away and it quickly zooms off to a corner where it disappears from sight.
"What kind of fly was that?"
"Oh, that thing? None of us knows where it came from or what its doing here. It shows up occasionally, especially when we have new visitors, and the rest of the time is rarely seen."
"What is rarely seen?" Interjects the Doctor who has arrived back at the market stall.
Preeti replies, with some exasperation, "You it seems. I had no idea where you went. You just missed me being attacked by a large flying beast, or at least a small annoying one made of light."
"How fascinating. That's not something you see everyday on earth is it? In fact it's not something I can remember ever seeing myself. Where did it go?"
"I don't know. It just sort of disappeared when I whacked it away."
"You scared it off? I'm sure you were more dangerous to it than it was to you. Poor little thing."
"Poor little Preeti! You went and left me on my own. I'm in a strange place with strange people." Remembering the stall owner she adds, "No offense intended," to which they respond "None taken."
"Yes, sorry about that, I just assumed you'd tag along with me."
"Well I had some things to see here, and speaking of things, I need some money to buy something."
"Ah, well, let's see if they take credit."
He took a black card holder out of his pocket and flashed it at the vendor.
"Not that type we don't," she replies.
"Hmmm. It's always worked for me before. Well what about this fine exotic object?" He reveals a yo–yo from his pocket and proceeds to extend it and reel it back in.
"A yo–yo? I suppose that'll do."
The Doctor hands it over and it is exchanged for the book Preeti had put aside, and they move on to another set of stalls.