Wendy Watson tossed and turned in her bed that resided in the illegal sublet that she rented with another photogenic, young artist. It was about 4:30 pm, Perth, Australia time. Sleep did not come easy to her this night. It may have been the meatless, Vegan meatloaf from Lacey's dinner, but the recent fight she had with Tyler was the more likely candidate. These types of things didn't usually bother Wendy, but this was the first real fight in the otherwise perfect relationship. As she tried to force sleep, the details of it kept playing through her head. Tyler was still the newest big cheese in Fat Boy Industries, Minservant's right hand man. Wendy's supported his new career as best she could, she convinced herself as she tossed one more time, her black hair matted to the pillow, but the fact that Mr. Neville wanted to take Tyler to Luftballoon, Germany for a new 5 year Fat Boy start-up was more than Wendy Watson was willing to allow. She made that opinion known earlier that night in the kitchen/art studio. Tyler did what any good boyfriend does and agreed with her, but insisted it wasn't best for his health to turn down the offer either. After a half hour of fuming battle the war was delayed on account of a stalemate, which led to the sleepless night Wendy was having. After reviewing in her head what she said about 10 more times the drowsiness of sleep overtook her worry and finally Dub-Dub found some peace that night.
It didn't last long, only a few hours into a vivid dream came the unmistakable ring of the Middlewatch and the subtle light of morning peeking through the sublet window blinds. Groaning, Wendy extended a slender arm from under the sheet and pulled the watch from its roost on the end table. The Middleman's square jaw appeared on the watch face with the push of a button.
"Up'n'at'em Dubby. Duty calls." His stately voice was quick with the order. Wendy's reply was not so quick, but more of a barely comprehensible groan.
"Can't 'duty' just leave a voicemail?" she sighed as she sunk her head as deep as she could into her pillow.
"Be at HQ in 20. The world needs saving." He lectured over the speaker. Once the boss hung up, Wendy issued another distasteful groan to the fluffy pillow. Her slim build labored out of bed as if it were a half ton truck.
"When doesn't the world need saving? Answer me that one boss." She muttered to herself as she pulled on a pair of semi clean blue jeans. Black socks tiptoeing down the stairs were able to avoid alerting the still slumbering Lacey and Noser across the hall. The Mini-Middlemobile was waiting outside for its drowsy driver.
The Middle HQ was a buzz of techno sounds and blinky lights. By the time Wendy buttoned up the last button on her olive green vest, her boss and Ida were already deep in discussion next to the HAYDAR. They both saw Wendy Watson walk in with a yawn spreading across her face.
"Don't breathe too deeply," Ida warned the Middleman cynically, "might get her second hand high."
"Shouldn't you be in the middle of some calibrations, C-3PO?" Wendy shot right back to the indifferent android. The Middleman seemed oblivious as usual to the ladies' banter as he entered the conversation with his polite tone.
"Ah. Good morning Dubby. I hope you are well rested. We've got an investigation." Wendy walked up next to him, staring at the silver answer ball.
"What's today's mystery?" Wendy asked, a little bit of childish excitement tainting her voice. The Middleman turned to face his apprentice.
"Not sure yet. HAYDAR's reporting a particle anomaly at a farm outside of town."
"Just an anomaly of particles? Isn't O2STK usually interested in more pressing issues, like when some evil scientist tries to sell his solar powered death ray to the highest bidder?" Wendy wasn't thrilled with the low-key assignment.
"Sorry I can't send you to your death today, sweet cakes. Really, I am." Ida teased while being ignored.
"Dubby, even the subtlest of scientific improbabilities should be investigated. What starts as a small atomic level hiccup today could become a 4th dimensional black hole tomorrow." The Middleman straightened up the black tie hiding under the drab green Eisenhower jacket.
"Today's Middleman life lesson everyone." Wendy was disappointed in her tone of voice. Her sour disposition was noticed by the boss, who furrowed his brow both in concern and disapproval,
"Yes, it's very important. Diligence is the Middleman's best preventative weapon." Wendy rolled her eyes a little as she listened to his lecture.
"Alright," she waved her arms up, "let's go look at some particles." Wendy huffed and started off towards the Middle-Garage. The Middleman looked at Ida with a confused scowl. The cranky schoolmarm offered no sage words in return, just a shoulder shrug. Soon the regular din of machines was all that filled the Middle HQ after the sound of the Middleman's combat boots thudded out of earshot. By the time the Middleman had reached the door of the '68 Ford Fairlane 500 that served as the Middlemobile Wendy was seated on the passenger side, running her fingers through the waves of shoulder length black hair. He sat down behind the steering wheel, but didn't set the engine a roar, he instead just looked at his brooding partner.
"What's bothering you Dubby? You are more than welcome to confide in me, Middleman-to-Middleman trainee." He tried to consul her.
"It's nothing. Let's just go check out this distorted farm or whatever." Wendy tried to act focused on the job.
"Dubby," The Middleman smiled sheepishly, "Keeping deep personal issues bottled up effects your duties, not to mention the possible long term psychological effects."
"Isn't that what your heroes Grace Kelly or John Wayne would do? Just leave their feelings buried under all their machoism to get the job done?" she tried to dodge talking about the troubles that recently kept her up all night.
"Sure, I respect the rugged individualism and honesty they represent, but those were characters they played in movies…." The Middleman trailed off, hoping Wendy would pick up with whatever was on her chest. His hope went unanswered. The key turned in the ignition with a defeated huff from its driver.
The Middlemobile pulled into Old Man McGucket Farms around 1100 hours GMT. Dust wafted up from the tires on the dirt drive. The two Middleman started out of the black muscle car, BTRS scanners looking for the disturbance's origin.
"Are you sure you do not wish to discuss what is bothering you?" The Middleman asked sheepishly once again after an hour and a half car ride where the only voice heard was Hank Williams on the radio. Staring at her device's blinky lights, Wendy sighed realizing the boss was right and it may do her good to tell someone. She finally spilt the beans in a defeated tone,
"Tyler and I had our first fight yesterday…"
"Oh." Middleman's hushed reply as he looked up from his scanner.
"Yeah, the 'glorious' Minservant Neville wants to drag Tyler all the way to Germany for 5 years."
"Well, peaches'n'cream Dubby, that sounds like something to celebrate. Mr. Neville seems to trust Tyler with greater responsibilities." The Middleman tried to spin her troubles positively.
"And I am really happy for him. He's been doing so well and I've supported him the best I can. Do you know, I've never even asked him what he actually does as Fat Boy's second in command?" Wendy asked that last question with high pitched assuredness. "But I don't want to have to play long distance with him for 5 years. Those never work you know."
"And what does Mr. Ford think about all this?" her boss replied as if he was her arbitrator. Wendy rolled her eyes a bit as she went on,
"Well, he realizes that saying 'no' to Minservant doesn't accomplish much, but he doesn't seem too defiant about the relocation. He knows I can't go with him, cause of, well…" she waved her hand towards her boss.
"Yes, a Middleman abroad could prove useful, but you are nowhere near ready to operate on your own." Middleman pondered the possibilities.
"What am I going to do then?" Wendy honestly asked. A look of deep thought expressed itself on the Middleman's face as he split his attention between his trainee's personal dilemma and the task at hand.
"I'm not sure I have an answer for you Dubby?" the BTRS scanner started to whiz wildly, "I do, however, have an answer to our current conundrum." He waved the scanner around the area, a small tool shed near the hog barn, and deciphered the readings, "This is definitely our particle anomaly." He examined the readout further, "Hmm, the air around here is highly concentrated with Galifreyian particles." He took a minute to connect the dots, "Colonel Sander's Chicken," he exclaimed under his breath, "You know what that means? We have a time traveler on our hand." A quick glance showed the shed full of nothing but settled dirt and old tools.
"Hey!" came a shout from across the farm. The two investigators looked up from their 'crime scene' to see an old farmer marching across the grass while buttoning up a pair of blue overalls, "What are y'all doing here?" he asked in a not so pleasant manner. The Middlemen faced him with calm demeanor as they threw up a pair of fake badges.
"Dr. Tennant, this is my apprentice Dr. Capaldi. We're with the Department of Agriculture." The Middleman rattled it off like clockwork.
"We're conducting random soil samples of local farms. What is your percentage of ground to fertilizer?" Wendy asked to shift some of the conversation's momentum towards the farmer. He stopped his charge and scratched his salt'n'pepper beard hesitantly and spoke in a confused tone,
"Oh, ain't you supposed to warn us when yer doing this?"
"That's why we call them 'random'." Wendy shot back with sass. The famer pouted his lip and squinted eyes long wrinkled by years of hard labor.
"Well, how long you folks gonna be?"
"We were actually just leaving sir." The Middleman spoke up as he subtly ushered Wendy Watson onward, "We'll run the tests and send you a soil report within the week." The farmer didn't say much, just stared at the duo with a look of befuddlement.
Rubber was tearing up the road as the black Ford made the long trek back to Middle HQ. "Time travelers are a real pain in my neck, Dubby. The whole notion of time travel is as complicated as a beehive full of hornets. The Middlemen have had few encounters with those versed in the art of manipulating time. I've dealt with my share back in '99, '01, '06, and '11." The boss informed his protégé. Wendy responded with a curious look,
"Sounds like you've dealt with several of them on a pretty regular basis?"
"That was all the same delinquent." He looked towards Wendy with a teacher's look, "You do understand the basics of time travel, right?" She looked back at him with an unamused expression. "It's okay to ask questions Dubby." His words tried to fight her facial cue, unsuccessfully.
"You are so helpful it hurts sometimes." She sneered humorously. The Middleman simply smiled awkwardly.
"When we get back to HQ we'll run some tests, see if any more particles have been agitated in history recently." That statement did get Wendy's attention.
"The HAYDAR can scan all of time?" she asked with that childish wonderment again.
"That silver ball can do that and other functions that we don't always use on a daily operating basis." Her wonderment for that magic answer machine only increased. "Hopefully it can give us an idea of where our no-good Johnny Timehopper is." The thrill of a new case and the Patsy Cline humming out of the radio under the Middleman's call to Ida made Wendy forget her dilemma with Tyler, at least for the moment.