England, Earth, 1919 CE
The anomaly opened up into a small indoor space and promptly disappeared behind them, leaving them stranded. Helen and River both looked at the space where the anomaly had been floating for a moment, then exchanged glances, then grinned. It was a challenge, then, and a challenge was what they loved.
They squinted around at their surroundings as their eyes adjusted to the dim light. River reached out and ran a hand along the wall as Helen crept forward slowly, her knife held out in front of her. "It's stone," River said quietly, her voice echoing in the small space. "We're in some sort of medieval building. Maybe a castle."
"This way." Helen had found the entranceway of the small corridor in which they stood; River followed her and they emerged into a cobblestoned street in the middle of the night, lit only by the light of a sliver moon. "Any idea where we are?" Helen asked softly, watching her companion look around with a frown on her face. A moment later, River nodded and spoke.
"This is the Tower of London."
Helen raised an eyebrow. "What year is it?"
"Early twentieth century, I believe," River replied, craning her neck to look at the top of the building that towered over them. "After the First World War, but not by much."
"Well then," Helen said. "We should do our best not to get caught and exec – where are you going?"
River had begun walking unhurriedly away from her, glancing all around as though she were nothing more than another tourist admiring the architecture. At Helen's question, River turned and grinned. "Why, my dear," she replied whimsically, "I'm going to break into the Royal Armoury."
It wasn't often that somebody took Helen by surprise, but River Song was having this effect on her more and more. She didn't appreciate it. Hurrying after River before she got them both arrested and executed on Tower Hill, Helen said quietly, "I have a knife, and it's not like we're going to come face-to-face with a pack of dinosaurs in twentieth-century London. If anything goes wrong, you can always just run."
"Bless you," River said fondly, "you sound just like my husband." She made an abrupt turn into another small corridor embedded in a wall and froze.
"Who's there?" barked a voice. Helen flattened herself against the wall, cursing River's carelessness.
"Oh, hello, love," River said sweetly. "Don't mind me. I'm just having a bit of a look around."
"You shouldn't be here." Listening carefully, Helen identified the voice as young, male, and new to his job. They were lucky. If the guard had been more experienced or prone to a shoot-first, ask-questions-later attitude, at least one if not both of them would now be dead. She had no doubt that the man carried a gun.
"I know, I know." River's voice dripped remorse. "I was taking a walk – the city is so lovely at night, wouldn't you agree? – and I just saw the beautiful towers and I thought, I wonder if they look as pretty close up? So, naturally, I had to come and take a peek."
"I'm going to have to arrest you," the man said.
"I'm sure you are, dear," River replied. "Would you just give me a moment to straighten up before you do? I wouldn't want to meet the captain of the guard looking anything less than my best." Helen's curiosity won out against her cautiousness and she peered around the corner to watch River pull a tube of lipstick from her pocket and carefully apply it to her lips. Helen stared at her, wondering if she was insane.
"There, now. Come closer and you can handcuff me right up." She held out her wrists to the man, who replaced his pistol into its holster and pulled out a pair of cuffs. As he stepped forward, River did the same and pressed her lips to his. "That's for being so gentle and kind."
Helen was seriously considering taking her chances alone when the man suddenly turned away from River and whipped out his pistol, pointing it into thin air. "Who's there?" he shouted. "I heard that. Show yourself!"
River took her chance to slip away, and Helen followed.
"Hallucinogenic lipstick," River explained as they crept up a flight of stairs.
Helen was impressed. "When do they invent that?"
"Oh, don't ask me. I think it's not human, and I know it's not legal." She gave her trademark smirk and slowed as they approached a door. Moving silently, River extracted a piece of paper from her pocket, kissed the bottom corner, and marched casually through the door.
"Relax, boys, just a routine inspection," Helen heard her say. "Joan Grey, Assistant to the Clerk of the Deliveries of the Ordnance. We've heard some reports of suspicious activity among the armoury guards. You wouldn't happen to know anything about certain dice games among the watch late at night?"
"N-no ma'am," Helen heard one of the guards stammer. "We're always on our best – best behaviour, with none o' this dicin' and this drinkin' that you're speakin' of –"
"Drinking, hmm?" River purred. "I don't recall saying anything of drinking. Is there something you wanted to tell me, sir?"
"Now you've done it," one of the other guards said under his breath.
River sighed theatrically. "Well, my dears. How about this: you show me where you keep your drinks and your dice, and I'll let you off with only a warning?"
"Right over here, ma'am," the first guard said quickly. The sound of footsteps gradually receded and Helen slipped into the room after them. Four men and River were crouched over a hole in the floorboards. All around them were glass cases that held a dozen different kinds of weapons, ranging from wooden spears to burnished metal pistols. Helen drew a thin piece of steel from her pocket and slid it into the lock of the nearest glass case, standing in shadow as much as she could. River and the guards were talking animatedly now; a small pop proclaimed the uncorking of one of the bottles.
The glass swung open soundlessly and Helen, glancing over her shoulder every few moments, liberated two pistols and the bullets she hoped went with them. Closing the case but not bothering to lock it, she crossed the room silently and did the same to a case on the opposite wall, this time taking two knives. When that was done she exited the room and waited in shadow, a pair of knives and two guns in her hands.
River said something amusing and the guards howled with laughter, clinking their glasses together and downing drink after drink. Helen began tapping her foot soundlessly on the wooden floor of the armoury. She could be patient, but this was bordering on ridiculous. Evidently River didn't trust her to get the job done quickly. Once again, she began to consider leaving River and striking out on her own.
"Well," River announced at last, "I really must be going, my good men. Thanks ever so for your hospitality. I will have to take the bottles, though," she added as a rueful afterthought. "Ah, well. It's been fun! I won't report you to the authorities, just this once. We'll keep it our little secret, hm?" After another few moments River walked through the door, juggling two bottles of wine in each hand. "Oh, you're a good girl," she said fondly when she saw what Helen was carrying. "Here: I'll take one of those and one of those, and we can stash these in your bag for later... well, one of them, at least." When both women had taken a pistol and a knife and Helen's pack was weighed down by a bottle of wine, they trotted down the stairs and out into the night in search of another adventure.