Chapter One

In Which Rose Tyler Is Awakened Rather Early, and Forced to Flee London

Night lay like snow over the streets of London. Far from any waking citizens, in an alley in the outskirts, all was quiet and still. A discarded newspaper lay on the street. A stray cat peered out from behind a pair of rubbish bins. The streetlight flickered to life for a moment, and then winked out again.

A strange noise broke the silence, made the cat cower against the wall: a warping sound, like a distorted siren, muted and unknown. A gale rushed through the alley. The newspaper tumbled about and blew away. A point of light appeared near the eye of the unexpected storm, growing brighter and brighter, glowing like some oddly-shaped star.

The sound faded away, the gale died down, and the light went dark. The cat looked out from behind the rubbish bins, curious and afraid. The alley was as it had been a moment ago.

Except that now, where once there had been nothing, was an old-fashioned, blue police call box.


In an apartment, closer to the heart of London but not far from the alley, in a bedroom, on a table, amidst a ring of keys and a torch, a cell phone began vibrating. It rattled against the table loudly.

Rose Tyler opened her eyes and looked sleepily at her clock. "It's not two in the morning," she mumbled. "Who's calling me...?"

She fumbled on the table for her phone and held it up, straining against a haze of sleep to read the writing. What she saw woke her up at once. "Doctor?" she asked, holding the phone to her ear.

"Rose," came the reply. "I'm waiting nearby, but not at the usual place. I need to talk to you. Hurry."

"What's going on? Why are you calling me at two in the morning? Where--" Rose blinked and held the phone away to stare at it as she heard the dial tone. He'd hung up on her.

It didn't matter. She jumped out of bed. She was dressed in two minutes. She grabbed the torch and the keys. Her hand found the backpack she kept ready under her bed, and she slung it over her shoulder. She shoved the phone in her pocket and slipped out of her room.

Her mum was on the couch, asleep. The television was still on, humming in the darkness. Rose walked quietly across the room and undid the locks on the door. It moaned as she pulled it open.

"Rose?" Jackie Tyler's voice was sleepy. Rose turned on the threshold. "What time is it?"

"Er—not quite two," said Rose apologetically.

"What're you doing up so early?"

"Couldn't sleep," Rose said. "I'm going for a walk." Both of these things were true. She couldn't sleep because of her phone, and she was going to walk.

"A walk? At two in the morning? In the dark?"

"Mum!" Rose rocked forward on her toes. "I've got my torch, it's not like I'll just be wandering about blindly! I'm just going to take a walk."

"Mm," said Jackie disapprovingly. "Well, it can't be more dangerous than those adventures, with that Doctor...in his box...thing..."

She mumbled something about eight-foot-tall aliens and the United Nations, and she was asleep again.

Rose smiled slightly as she closed the door silently behind her and walked down a flight of stairs. Then, she broke into a sprint.

When she reached the end of the street, she pulled out her cell phone and opened the contacts. Before she could even select a number, the phone shook in her hand, and the word TARDIS flashed on the screen. "Doctor?"

"I forgot to tell you where I am," he said. Speaking quickly and quietly, he gave her the directions.

"I'll be here soon," promised Rose. The phone clicked, and she shoved it back into her pocket as she ran, her torch beam illuminating the ground before her.

She reached the alley and slowed. "Doctor?" she called softly. Bright green-gold flashed at her and she jumped, but it was only a cat watching her from the shadows. "Doctor, where are you?"

There was a creak from behind her, and she jumped as a hand grabbed the collar of her jacket and pulled her back. She twisted and landed hard on a smooth metal floor. "Hello, Rose," said the Doctor from above her. "Sorry about that, but I couldn't have you walking down the alley calling my name out for the whole world to hear."

"What's going on?" asked Rose. "Aliens? Is it an invasion of some far away planet, or an attack, or something? Are we in danger?"

"Yes, it's aliens, no, it's not an invasion, yes, we're in danger." The Doctor nodded and smiled at her.

Rose blinked. "You're smiling like that," she said. "That means something's wrong."

Her cell phone hummed and vibrated against her leg. She pulled it out and glanced at the number. "Mum?"

"Rose! Where are you? What's going on? What's happened to you?"

"Mum! Calm down, I'm alright! I'm only taking a walk. No one's abducted me!"

"Well, what am I to think, when I wake up and come to check on you, to find you're gone? What am I supposed to think, when you've vanished from your bed at this ungodly hour and there's—I don't know—plastic things and great slimy green things and robots and who-knows-what wandering about?"

"Mum, calm down! I couldn't sleep!"

"Couldn't sleep? Couldn't sleep? And you, who's never had a night you didn't sleep!"

"You would have sleepless nights, too, if you'd seen half the things I've seen," Rose said with a sigh.

"Why didn't you wake me up? Why didn't you tell me where you were going?"

Rose rolled her eyes and glanced at the Doctor. He was looking at her with that smile frozen on his face, his fingers tapping on the dashboard of the TARDIS. "Mum, you woke up. I told you I was taking a walk."

"Where are you, anyways? Why are you taking a walk? It's dangerous, wandering about in the dark!"

"Mum! I'm not wandering about!" She saw the Doctor motioning to her with one hand. Hang the phone up. She shook her head and mouthed, wait one second!

"Where are you then?" Jackie persisted. "No shops are open at two in the morning! Where've you gone, with your phone and your keys and your passport?" There was an edge to Jackie's voice on the last word.

Rose flinched. "Mum, I'm busy!"

"I know where you are! You're with your Doctor, in that—that big blue box-ship-thing—that TARDIS."

"Ye-es, Mum, I'm in the TARDIS," said Rose. "The Doctor wants me to hang up the phone."

"I don't like you going out there, Rose, you know I don't. All those aliens—all that danger..."

"Mum!" Rose held up a hand to keep the Doctor back as he stepped towards her. "We're busy!"

"Busy doing what, that's what I want to know! Running off to save some far-off planet? Fighting robots or—or statues, or—what are you doing?"

"I don't know, the Doctor hasn't told me--"

"What's so important you can't say goodbye to me?"

"I just told you, I don't know—just a moment! You know how she is!--Mum, you know he protects me! You know if I'm going to travel—which I am—there's no one who could keep me safer! You know that you'd rather have me out there with him than home, in danger, fighting aliens, without him!"

"Without him, there would be no aliens!" cried Jackie.

"Mum, we're leaving! I have to go, now! Get your hands off my phone, I'm finishing up—and there would still be aliens, Mum, we just wouldn't know that they were there! Anyways, I've done it, it's too late. I have time energy, so I'm a target now. You're rather I was with him than alone, against that! You know he--"

She didn't finish, because the Doctor had managed to get her phone out of her hand. "Hello, Jackie," he said brightly, "I'd love to chat, but right now Rose is in danger, I'm in danger, and this phone call is being traced. Rose will call you in ten seconds. Goodbye!"

And with that, he hung up the phone.

Rose glared at him. "What was that for? I was nearly done—what do you mean, that phone call was being traced? Was someone listening?"

"No, tracing. Radio signals, Rose, how do you think cell phones work?"

"But Mum wasn't using a cell phone!"

"No, she was using a landline, which is worse because the wires can be followed more easily. Let's go." He began running around the TARDIS, pulling levers, pushing buttons, checking monitors.

Rose frowned. "How can I help?"

"You can't," said the Doctor cheerfully. "You don't know how to fly it."

She rolled her eyes. "If you told me what to do, I could do it. I'm not stupid!"

"No," he said.

"Stop treating you like a baby!"

"I'm not treating you like a baby. Babies don't get to travel through time in a spaceship."

"That's not what I meant," muttered Rose, but she was smiling. "Where're we going?"

"Can't tell you that," said the Doctor.

"Why are we leaving in such a hurry? Is there danger? Are we being followed?"

"Yes."

"Yes to what?" When he didn't answer, Rose gave up. She looked around and spotted a thermos lying on the control panel. "What's in here?"

"Tea," said the Doctor.

"Tea?" Rose frowned. "Why do you have tea in the TARDIS?"

"Just in case of emergencies," he said.

"Emergencies? Like what? Is being hungry really an emergency?"

"No."

"So what kind of emergencies require tea?"

"Just in case. You ought to know that tea is just what the Doctor ordered."

She smiled. "Except that you don't get tea in a thermos at restaurants."

"I didn't order it from a restaurant," he said.

"Where did you get it?"

"Your mother, actually."

Rose laughed. "You've been keeping a thermos full of Mum's tea in here?"

He nodded. "That's right."

She shook her head, grinning. "What kind is it?"

"I don't know. She didn't tell me."

Trust the Doctor to know so much about the universe, but not what kind of tea he had in his thermos. "Is it warm?"

"Of course it's not warm, it's been in the TARDIS for ages."

"Ages?" Rose shook her head again. "Hasn't it gone off?"

"It's tea. Though I should probably ask Jackie for some more when we get back."

Rose rolled her eyes, still grinning.