The girl had a decision to make. She had two options; one she wished she could ignore, and another she was afraid to execute.
She was running out of time. She could hear her pursuers moving around outside, much too close, trying to find a way through the stone wall she stood against.
All too soon, several shouts of "Here! Over here!" sounded and she took a deep, quivering breath. She was out of time. She had to decide, now.
She put each of her four palms against the circles on her teleport and was gone.
Rose Tyler had a job. Rose Tyler had a flat. Rose Tyler had a bloke.
As far as the term ever applied to her anymore, Rose Tyler was happy.
She finished the rest of her tea and grabbed her coat, ready to head off to work. She'd found employment at Torchwood by now, not long after the Doctor had left her for the second - and apparently final - time. She'd snagged a job as an extraterrestrial investigator, looking into strange occurrences all over the globe and deeming them emergencies or accidents or whatever else they might be. She'd learned much more about alien life over that time, and she'd done a lot of good, too. Still, she couldn't help but think that she could be doing a whole lot more good on the TARDIS.
Just before she left, Rose peeked into the living room and waited for John to let up on his project with the toaster. He was tinkering, as ever, and it took him a few seconds to notice her and stop what he was doing. He leapt to his feet when she'd finally caught his attention and picked his own coat off the floor, instantly ready to be off. He had a job as well, and it made it awfully convenient that he worked in the same branch of Torchwood as Rose did.
"It's a holographic communicator," he said with a wide smile. "Wait! I'll show you." And then he was back on the floor, fiddling with a new button he'd added to the toaster's front. Suddenly a silvery-blue light came shooting out of one of the slots, blinding John and causing him to fall back in surprise.
"It's not quite finished," he explained quickly. "I need more paper clips. And I'm not terribly certain what to use it for - the rest of the planet doesn't have a hologram system yet, after all. But that's - what was that?"
There had just been a loud crack, like a gunshot, which was quickly followed by several small popping sounds. Both John and Rose rushed to the door. "It sounded like it was just out there, just outside the door," Rose said, voicing their shared thoughts, the beginnings of a frown creasing her brow.
John was shaking his head, his eyes wide. "That - no, it couldn't be. No. No, no, no, never."
"It sounded like a teleportation packet!"
Suddenly, there was a thunderous hammering at their door. Whoever was on the other side was either very desperate or very, very rude. John rushed to yank the door open and Rose followed his lead, her face tense with anticipation.
The handle turned, the door flew open, and a body fell through the open doorway.
"Oh my god," Rose gasped.
It was a body like none she'd ever seen before. The creature appeared to be a girl, very small, with pale peach skin and slight features. She almost looked like a pixie, a fragile creature of fiction, not to be abandoned in the harshness of reality. But the oddest things about her were the extra pair of arms that lay splayed out behind her, and the fact that she had two pairs of eyes, both sets now softly closed in either sleep or death.
"That's a keltane, she's a keltane, but what's she doing here, I wonder?" John was already out the door, babbling on about all sorts of alien nonsense and tugging on the girl's legs. "I suppose we'd better get her inside, though, here, come on."
"I wonder if anyone saw her," Rose said as she lifted one pair of shoulders and carried the girl inside. She set her on the couch and then ran to close the door. The alien was as light as a feather, the bones beneath Rose's fingers razor sharp beneath the skin. Much too prominent for true vitae, no matter what species she was. "We'd better call Torchwood though, tell them we won't be coming 'round this morning." Rose went off to find the phone as John went back to his toaster project, though he checked up on the strange girl before he did. She was alive, and her vitals were perfectly fine. Just shocked, then. "She's all right!" he called after Rose, "just unconscious! She'll be around in a minute."
And he went back to his toaster.
Amy mixed the flour, sugar and butter in a large metal bowl, making faces as the mixture became harder and harder to stir. The fork soon took on the appearance of a small beehive and Amy paused to rest her stirring arm, glancing at the Doctor, who was tinkering quietly at the kitchen table. He had some sort of highly technical device laid out in front of him, several pieces scattered in a circle around it, and a pair of magnifying lenses balanced on his nose. They made his eyes look odd and Amy had teased him about them when he'd put them on.
"Mind helpin' me with the oven?" she asked, a little louder than was really necessary in such a small room. Even so, the Doctor didn't glance up until the device in his hands began to glow and smoke started to spiral its way out between his long fingers. He dropped it with a shout of surprise and paused to stare pitifully at the glowing metallic contraption as if it had willfully betrayed him, then realized that Amy had been talking to him and looked askance at his companion. Remembering with a start, he nodded quickly. "Oh, yes, of course." Reaching into his coat pocket, the Doctor fished the sonic out of its depths and pointed it absently at the oven, where the dials spun into position as if they were alive.
Amy rolled her eyes dramatically. "I sort of wanted you to come and show me how its done," she said with a hint of deliberation. "I might have to use this on my own someday. It's not like I've got much experience to go on." she paused, then added, "I might burn the TARDIS down without you 'round here to help."
He nodded again and, as the silence grew, added a noncommittal "Yes, of course." But he had already returned to his project, and Amy knew better than to imagine that he'd actually give her a proper response.
She slid one of several trays of cookies into the oven and shut the door, then paused, wondering where she could find a timer. The Doctor looked up and watched absently as she began ruffling through every drawer in the kitchen.
"What are you looking for, exactly?" he offered when she'd gone through each and every cubbyhole and cabinet she could possibly find to look through. She gave him an irritated glare and put a hand on her hip.
"What did I do?" he asked, eyes wide in exaggerated indignation.
"I need a timer, what d'yeh think I'm lookin' for!"
"Oh, I don't have one of those." He said it as if a timer was an abomination of nature and should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to exist. Amy stared at him, disbelieving, and threw up her hands in exasperation. "Well, how will I know when the cookies're done cooking? I haven't exactly got a timer in my pocket." For anyone else this might be a questionable statement, but her skintight denim skirt left no room for storing anything. The pockets might as well have been sewn shut for all she could have used them.
Amy came over to the kitchen table and settled into her chair, making sure the legs scraped loudly against the floor. "I'll have to sit here for six whole hours, just so three batches of cookies won't get burnt up!"
There was a short pause as the Doctor finished tightening a thin band of wire around the circumference of his disassembled device, and then he looked up again. "Oh, you won't be needing a timer. I'm a Time Lord." He grinned at Amy's mild confusion and continued. "I'm quite good at keeping track of things like that. Baking cookies, that is. You won't even have to remind me. I just know when things happen...or are going to happen...or have happened and need un-happening with my very particular brand of help. It's just a little bit annoying, actually. And timers are for people who think bowties shouldn't be worn in public."
She made a face at him, even though she wasn't really all that mad, and he went back to his tinkering. "And you didn't think to tell me this before I looked through the entire kitchen?
"Well, you didn't ask. I don't like to engage your temper unless it's absolutely necessary."
Amy rolled her eyes. "Well, a little help wouldn't hurt, thanks."
The Doctor didn't respond. He was tinkering again.
Rose went into the bedroom closet and took out a tall pile of blankets, which she carried into the other room. John dropped his book as if it were on fire - which, ironically, was titled Crucial Elements of Earth's Formation - and took a few himself, stacking them in a precarious pile on the carpet.
"I'm gonna lift her again, get some blankets under her," Rose told him, picking up the girl's shoulders as before and lifting slightly. John nodded. "Alright then. Wait - I'll lay the blankets out first, so it'll be easier to lift her the second time. Hold on, just a tic..." he spread out one or two polyester coverlets on the floor and then took hold of the keltane's ankles. "There we are. Ready?"
Rose took the girl's shoulders and they gently dropped her onto the soft canvas of the sheets. Then they took the coverlet corners and replaced her on the secondhand couch, this time with more padding, the blankets hiding the cuts in the cushions and several fair-sized tea stains.
"I've got an old set of pyjamas too, a t-shirt and sweats, so y'might want to wait in the bedroom." Rose bit her lip, unsure whether he'd take the hint, play dumb, or miss her point completely.
He rolled his eyes. "Rose, I probably know more about her anatomy than you do."
"From books or experience?"
John sighed. "Fine. But don't wake her up jabbering on when you get to her ribs."
Rose frowned and opened her mouth to ask another question, but John had already disappeared. So she looked back at the keltane and began to wonder just how, exactly, she was supposed to take the teleportation packet off.
Kazrie twitched as something pulled at her vest in an experimental sort of way. The ebony-ivory collage behind her eyes flickered as a shape, not unlike a hand, flashed across her muted sense of sight. All movement ceased for a quiet second, and then a less gentle touch began to tug at the snaps along the vest's sides. Kazrie let her daylight eyes peek at the unwelcome intrusion, the lids creasing ever so slightly to allow the light to pass the lashes.
The woman in Kazrie's line of sight was not a keltane; the two hands she was using to remove the vest gave that away easily enough. I made it. That knowledge in itself was good enough for the barely-conscious girl to close her eyes and go searching for an extra hour of sleep.
But an arc of white-hot electricity, bright as infinity and twice the temperature of the sun, caused the girl to jerk away from the couch, her eyelids snapping up and an agonizing scream pearling up her throat as her spine bent backwards. The human jumped back, a tiny spark showing her lot of the bargain as the electric current raced down the curve of Kazrie's spine and exited through her heel. Kazrie gasped and fell back onto the cushions, panting desperately as she tried to find her heartbeat through the ringing in her ears.
"John!" Rose yelped in shock. "John, she - I...I dunno what happened, there was just this lightnin' and I think she got electrocuted!" John was already there. He'd heard the scream, just as everybody else on the block must have done, and he quickly went searching for a pulse.
It was there, just barely, but it was enough and it allowed John to feel he'd done his bit and could turn away from her limp body. "What happened?" he asked Rose. His eyes were intense, but in the set of his mouth Rose could tell that he had no complaints to rail against her.
"I...was just tryin' to get the packet, or-whatever, off, and then it made this big cracklin' noise and I got shocked and she got hit by...lightning, I dunno know what it was, but it was bloody huge! ...And then, well, that's where you come in, so..." John was still staring at her intently, but he wasn't paying attention to her words anymore. Rose could tell. So she just shut her mouth and kept it shut until he'd said his bit.
"I know what that light was." Rose gave him a sarcastic look, yes, I know that, but he'd looked away from her by then and his eyes were wide with some important realization. "I don't know how it can be possible but if it is then she's very, very lucky I wasn't the one here when it happened. Or rather, I wasn't the one to cause it to happen." He looked back at Rose, and the words that poured from his mouth next made her unsure whether she wanted to shout, or cry, or perhaps do a little bit of both. "That shock was residual energy from the TARDIS...which means we're going to have a very familiar visitor in a minute or two.
The doorbell rang.
"However," John ventured, "I really don't think that's him.
Amy barely had time to register what was going on. She just did what she usually would in a situation of this sort, which was to chase after the Doctor as he went dashing off towards the control room-or, at least, Amy assumed that was where he was dashing off to. She really didn't know at this particular point in time.
But as usual, she was right. By the time she arrived, brushing her hair away from her mouth and tugging at her skintight skirt, he was already leaping circles round the console like some sort of strange two-legged deer. He's an extraterrestrial bovine, she thought to herself. He's a cow from space. Somewhere along that train of thought, a loud giggle escaped before she could completely strangle it, and the Doctor glanced at her warily.
"You're alright, Pond?" he asked, using his you're-a-hostile-alien-looking-to-destroy-Earth-and-I-can-see-that-I've-got-to-handle-this-very-carefully expression. Amy giggled at that even more, again not quite able to keep quiet. "Yeah, I'm...fine...ha...it's nothin'." He raised one eyebrow at her wayward chuckle, but chose not to question her further and dodged back around the console to type something into the scanner.
The Doctor eventually looked back around at her, his hair flopping. "Yeah?" he asked shortly. He was busy.
Amy rolled her eyes. "Where're we going, Doctor? You can't just go charging off like that without explaining yourself."
An enormous grin tipped onto his face at her question. "We're going to Earth, actually. London. Pretty exciting."
Amy stared at him. "London?" she paused, considering. "But...that's...but I've been to London! And I know you've been too, so don't go tellin' me you - wait, when?"
He did an indignant sort of shake with his head and pulled a lever. "Twenty-first century."
"Because." His goofy grin was back, just like that. "Because I can."
The floor made a preemptive jerk below her feet, the raw engine power beneath the console kicking its way up her spine, and as much as she'd have liked to ask about a translation for his explanation Amy decided that she'd better find something to hang on to instead.
John grinned at the short girl in the doorway, her long hair dyed in shades of black and pink. She had spray-on jeans and makeup painted artfully around her eyes, so artfully that if they hadn't been open John was sure she could have been dead.
"Hello," he said, still smiling.
"Mum wants to know what you're about." She didn't smile back.
John's welcoming grin faded a bit. "Yes, well...I - "
The whoosh of engines sounded. Mr. Smith glanced behind him apprehensively, unsure what to do in this situation. There were only two rooms in their flat in which the TARDIS could actually fit, and both were visible from the front door.
"John, he's here!" Rose's voice barely made itself heard above the grinding of the engines. John turned to look as the denser edges of the box came into view, and made one of those snap decisions that were so good for saving the day.
"What's - " the girl started, her frown wicked with all the makeup.
"Goodbye!" John said, and shut the door squarely in her face.
Amy didn't think she had ever had such a bumpy ride in the TARDIS. In addition to being flung back and forth, she was also turned upside-down and jerked over so roughly that her stomach had become glued to the floor. She'd never had much trouble with motion sickness before, but this time she'd almost lost her breakfast all over the gleaming glass floor. When it was over, she stood up shakily and tugged her clothing back into place.
"Why'd it do that?" she asked indignantly, glaring at the Doctor as he stood and jumped down the console steps in one fluid motion.
"We jumped to a parallel world," he replied, dashing towards the door. "And, technically, we aren't supposed to do that."
Amy ran to catch up as he practically flung himself out the doors, and skidded to a stop when she found herself in someone's living room. As a matter of fact, the someones to which the living room belonged were sitting on the couch, staring at the Doctor in varying degrees of amazement. Or so Amy assumed.
And then she noticed the body on the couch. It was covered in blankets, but it was too pale to be human and its face had funny lines across the sides. With a start, she realized that the creature - whatever it was - had two pairs of eyes.
Rose heard the front door snap shut, and someone's indignant shout on the other side. John came back in to the living room and flashed a grin at her. "That's that, then." And he settled himself against the wall on the other side of the couch.
In that moment, Rose finally admitted to herself that she had no idea what was coming next. The thought frightened her more than she believed it should.
She got to her feet just as the TARDIS became completely solid and the door swung sharply inwards. A strange man leapt out, an eager expression on his odd young face as he took his bearings. A girl came out behind him, a pretty little thing with fiery hair and a skirt that would make a minister blush.
Rose frowned. Wait...what?
The man caught sight of her and grinned in ecstasy, reflexively, as if he couldn't help it and had no intention of trying to. He just stared at her for a long second, giving her a once-over with his deep-set eyes as if he couldn't quite believe that he was actually seeing her. And then he stepped right up to her and said three words that she still swears to this day made time stop dead.
"Hello again, Rose."