That was the word.

Kim Gideon felt that she was slightly out-of-body. Off-centre. There was just too much going on for her senses to take in.

She was standing in a massive room. It must have been at least ten times the size of the Thamesford Library car park she had just left. A great cavernous space, the walls rising steeply to meet high above her. It was well lit with a slightly bluish hue, but she couldn't see any evidence of a light source. No spotlights, panels, nothing.

The centre of the room was dominated by a huge, chrome torus, floating a few feet above the floor. It's upper surface was segmented and covered with levers, buttons and switches. There was a gap in one side of the structure to allow access. In the centre of the torus stood the Doctor, talking to her.

Or rather at her. Some of the words filtered through her shock, but they had no meaning.

Time And Relative Dimension In Space...dimensionally transcendental...disguised as an old police box because I like it that way...go anywhere, anytime...

She filed them away for later consideration as her unblinking eyes scanned around her.

The walls were covered with raised geometric shapes. Circles, squares, triangles, hexagons. Kim could make out no discernible pattern. They seemed to be distributed at random. On three sides she noticed open archways with corridors leading off. The fourth wall was the one behind her, with the open door back to the car park.

Those other Doctors you met...all me...aspects of me...I'm number twelve....the Tardis will translate for you...

Dotted around the room were what she could only imagine to be ornamental shapes, rising from the floor. Gleaming chrome pipes that entwined to form abstract art.

She was suddenly aware that the background drone of the Doctor's voice had stopped.

He was leaning back on the central torus which did not budge from its hovering position.

He seemed to be waiting for something.

"What is it?" asked Kim, uncomfortable under his steady gaze.

"I'm just waiting for realisation to set in."

Words echoed in Kim's head, flooding up from her subconscious with a sudden rush.

Go anywhere...anytime...I'm the twelfth....Tardis...Time And Relative...

Kim gasped. Her vision swam. A single tear trickled down her cheek.

"There it is," said the Doctor, gently. "Don't fight it. Let it come."

Kim began to tremble. "Why me? Of all the people in the world, billions..."

"I saw the thread, Kim. You are the next. No doubt about it."

Kim was afraid. Afraid that this was a dream and she was going to wake up alone in the big old house with all its creaks and groans and fading hopes. From deep inside her the frightened child had its say. "But I can't... I'm too normal for all this. I'm ugly and fat."

The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "Who told you that?"

"Jimmy Knapp."

"A friend of yours?"

Kim shook her head. "A kid back at school. I have no friends"

The Doctor whistled low. "And you've carried that around on your shoulders all this time? Tell me, where exactly, is this Jimmy Knapp now? Do you know?"

"The last I heard he was sleeping rough in Hammersmith."

"And where, exactly, is Kim Gideon right now?" His voiced lowered, became intense. " I'll tell you. You're on the threshold. The threshold of something wonderful. I saw it. Your destiny. And as for friends, well, I've always said its the quality that counts, not the quantity. You've got a friend now."

When he spoke to her like that...

The Doctor reached over and pressed a control off to his left. Kim started as the door behind her folded in on itself, closing off the entrance seamlessly.

"Where do you want to go?"

"I'm scared."

"Don't be. Just choose. Anywhere. Anytime."

It sounded nonsense of course. The ravings of a nutjob. But she was standing inside proof positive. She believed his every word.

"I don't know...the moon and back?" She smiled at the ludicrous words.

"Look out, you'll be relaxing if you're not careful," said the Doctor with a grin. " Let's be a bit more ambitious. Somewhere we can breath the air and walk free." He crooked a finger and Kim joined him in the centre of the torus.

His hands worked a few buttons and a holographic star field sprang into existence, surrounding them like a canopy.

"Just the local group for now. Choose a star at random and we'll go take a look."

"Shouldn't you be taking that back first?" Kim pointed to the book resting on the surface of the console. The thing that had led to all this...

"Naw. The Skape can wait a bit longer. This is just a short detour. Go ahead. Choose."

Kim stabbed a random finger at a dull looking star just above her eye-line. In a blink the holographic canopy vanished. Around them the room began to throb with power, the lighting pulsed faintly.

"Course laid in. If it has any suitable planets I'm sure the Tardis will find us one."

The Doctor indicated a small but prominent lever amongst the myriad controls surrounding them both. "That one will send us on our way." He pointed to another control on the opposite side of the torus. "And that one will open the door back out into the car park. It's up to you."

She didn't want the choice. " said it was my destiny!"

"You can still write your own future, Kim. There are always various pathways. I know what I saw but... "

Kim looked him in the eyes as she slammed the lever over.

The floor of the room began to vibrate. Faintly at first, but rising to a crescendo came a sound the like of which Kim had never heard. The closest she could get was a mad chorus of clattering rotary lawn mowers. Her chest-bone vibrated with the bass roar of it. Kim noticed that the geometric shapes on the walls seemed to pump in conjunction with the rising din, moving in and out of the walls in time to its rhythm.

Kim found herself holding onto the Doctor's arm, braced against... who knows what?

The deafening noise faded to be replaced by a smooth hum.

The Doctor gently disentangled Kim's hand and scanned the controls. "Nice take off," he remarked. " You OK?"

"What is it with those shapes on the walls?"

" Spatio-temporal coordinates. A kind of navigation system I've been experimenting with. Promising results, so far."

Kim was fascinated. She walked over to one of the walls for a closer look. The shapes seemed to be changing as she looked at them. Morphing. A circle would become a square; a square became a circle; a triangle changed into a hexagon and then back again. All the symbols seemed to be doing it.

According to the Doctor this was some kind of Sat-Nav. But there must be literally billions upon billions of possible shape combinations. What kind of man could make sense of it all?

She turned back to look at the Doctor, still standing in the central torus, flicking a switch here, pushing a button there.

He looked normal enough. Baggy 'Choose Life!' T-shirt (funny – Kim was sure it had read 'I-HEART-NY' before), corduroy trousers and hiking boots. His duffle-coat, with its egg-timer badge, was hanging carelessly from one of the tubular shapes adjacent to the torus. He didn't look like he had a brain the size of a planet but there again, the police box outside didn't look like it could contain all this!

Questions flooded her mind but she shelved them for later, so that she could just live in the moment.

Around her the walls positively danced.


Under an indigo sky of overlapping moons and smoky stars, the Childseer squatted, staring down intently into the small pool of quicksilver between his feet. Around him his acolytes were motionless, hardly breathing.

At length the Childseer looked up from the quicksilver pool and met the eyes of those around him.

"She is coming," he said.

(End of Chapter One)