Poisonous the doctor had said. He’d stared at the gauge on the console and declared the atmosphere of the planet utterly out of bounds. Not that he was able to ascertain precisely why or which planet we were on.
I wryly suggested that it may be a good idea to check the fault locator first, just in case. After all it would not have been the first time the old man had been led astray by his instruments. He harrumphed waving the silk handkerchief that he had clasp in his fist as if swatting the suggestion like a fly.
‘There's... is nothing wrong with the ship, Chesterton! Nothing at all.’
‘Oh grandfather,’ Susan chided him, her elfin face alive with curiosity, ‘Mr Chesterton was only teasing, weren’t you Ian?’ she looked up at me imploringly across the hexagonal control table. I allowed myself a grin as I replied.
‘Was I?’ Barbara Wright, my colleague and our other fellow traveller inside The Doctor’s amazing vessel, rebuked me with a good natured slap on the arm.
‘Perhaps I was.’ I finished diplomatically. ‘How are we supposed to understand where we are if we can’t go outside? That views not much of it, could be Shoreditch in November.’ I turned my attention back to the television screen suspended in Perspex on the other side of the room. A thick blanket of fog loomed across strange angular shapes that might be distant buildings or even ancient Roman mosaics. Travel through the cosmos was hard enough on a man’s senses but when the Ship journeyed through time as well, it was impossible to take anything for granted.
‘It would need to be a Sunday, nothing’s moving out there.’ Barbara pointed out.
‘My, my, you are so parochial.’ The Doctor chuckled at us. To him, I suppose, we must have seemed like children. 1963 wasn’t bad when you were living in it, and for Barbara and I it was home, but to the Doctor? He and Susan came from goodness knew how far ahead in both time and space. He always acted as though he’d forgotten more than we’d ever have the ability to learn. But in the last few weeks these two simpletons had proved their worth. Against my better nature at times it must be said.
‘Why does it need to be your Earth at all? I cannot even guarantee that it is your universe young man!’
‘I’m sorry, Doctor. I was rather under the impression that you were still trying to get us home.’ I retorted, managing to stem the temptation towards desperation. Barbara decided to intervene, having heard this sort of conversation many times in the past already.
‘What sort of poison is it, can you tell?’
‘What difference would that make hmm? It is still poisonous.’ It was Barbara’s turn to scowl at him now. Susan started to offer to fetch something from the food machine when something caught her eye.
‘Grandfather look!’ she called, pointing up at the misty black and white screen. Something was moving out there. It was bulky, shuffling along under the pressure its weight. It was humanoid in the vaguest of terms but the thing that was most obvious was that it had seen the ship!