LAST EDITED ON Sep-06-20 AT 11:08 PM (EDT)
[ This wouldn't have fit into the narrative of Acts V–VI, and it also would have given away not one but two character reveals I wanted to be surprises, but it was too cute to throw away.
Oh, uh, and if the above didn't make it obvious, if you haven't read Acts V through... well, VII, really... yet, you should before you read this.
P.S. They left their luggage out front, that's why you didn't see it in the main story. You don't carry a suitcase into battle unless you're Yomiko Readman. :) --G. ]
Thursday, May 16, 1946
As in many of the ancient towns of Europe, Colmar's old town district was a jumbled maze of narrow lanes and alleys, with few streets of any real substance in the modern sense. Its lack of modernity had saved most of the structures in the area from destruction during the Neuroi occupation of Gallia, since the alien invaders, whatever their inscrutable goals, showed no particular interest in masonry buildings. They consumed the metallic structures they found everywhere they went, which meant that their presence ravaged newer communities, but in the old villes of Alsace, the returning residents had mostly found the streets and buildings intact, and had only to replace things like lampposts to restore their towns to functional usefulness.
As a result, unlike the larger cities like Paris, which had to be extensively rebuilt and tended to be rearranged into more modern layouts in the process, the street plan in Colmar Old Town remained as baffling as it had ever been. It still had twisty passages, short sightlines, and out-of-the-way corners that not even the residents of one street over were likely to know about in plenty. Which made it the perfect neighborhood to arrive in if one were, say, a time and space traveler looking for a nice, unobtrusive spot to park one of the most fantastically advanced and powerful vehicles ever constructed... particularly if said vehicle had a habit of disguising itself as a piece of Britannian street furniture from the 1960s.
The people who emerged from the old blue TARDIS looked like the setup for some kind of joke: "A geography teacher, a maid, and a ninja walk into a bar."
"Here we are then!" the Doctor declared cheerfully, gesturing around. "Colmar! Eighteen seventy! I told you I'd get you home eventu..."
The Doctor's voice trailed off, his smug grin melting into a look of disappointed dismay, as they emerged from the narrow lane where the TARDIS had materialized and into a main street. A main street along which were parked a number of automobiles.
"... Ah," said the Doctor.
"I see," said Sakuya Izayoi, her voice perfectly controlled. Without another word, she put down her suitcase, marched across the street to the newspaper offices of L'Alsace, tore one of the EXTRA pages off the hoarding to which it was pasted, and returned with it.
"Eighteen seventy, is it?" she said, holding the paper up in front of the Doctor's nose. He had to go slightly cross-eyed to read it at this range, but once he had, the date in the top corner was plainly evident: jeudi, 16 mai 1946. "That is what you said, 1870? 'This time for sure,' I believe."
"... At least it's not Cardiff?" the Doctor replied with a weak smile.
Sakuya's woodenly impassive expression gave way to a scowl of cold fury. Crumpling the paper, she threw it to the ground at the Doctor's feet, not dignifying his remark with any further reply.
Moving only his eyes, the Doctor glanced in dismay at the ninja, who had stood silently beside him the whole time (completely unconcerned about how the good people of 1946 Gallia would react to a ninja).
"Hattori, she's angry," the Doctor muttered out of the side of his mouth. "I've never seen this before, what do I do?"
Remaining silent, Hattori shrugged eloquently.
"Great, thanks," the Doctor said sarcastically, then turned his attention back to the furious maid. "On the cosmic scale it's really a very small discrepancy," he pointed out, but she did not seem to find that reassuring. Still fuming, she picked up her suitcase, turned on her heel, and began walking away.
"Wait, where are you going?" the Doctor blurted, hurrying after her. "Come back to the TARDIS, we can try again! I'm sure it's only a minor fault with the helmic regulator—"
Sakuya paused, then whirled to face him, so abruptly that he had to backpedal in an ungainly flailing of long limbs to avoid crashing into her.
"No, thank you," she said, now icily polite. "I wouldn't wish to put you to any further inconvenience, and to be perfectly frank, I believe I've had quite enough of your expert assistance in this matter, Doctor. Now if you will excuse me," she went on, about-facing once more, "I am very late for work."
And so saying, she left him behind, striding off up the street, around a corner, and out of sight.
"That could have gone better," the Doctor observed, crestfallen.
"..." Hattori replied.
Unsure what else to do, they returned to the TARDIS to find Hong Meiling standing by the console with a duffel bag at her feet, peering at the flight controls. When they entered, she turned to them with a wry smile and said,
"You missed again. We're in 1946."
"I noticed," the Doctor replied tartly.
Meiling's face took on a puzzled look. "Where's Sakuya? Didn't she come back with you?"
The Doctor shook his head. "She evidently decided 1946 was close enough. She was... a bit annoyed." He went to the console and started adjusting things, his manner becoming brisk. "But never mind! A short jump out of town and we can intercept her, I'm sure she'll have calmed down enough to—" The console reacted to one of his inputs with a loud buzzing sound, which pulled him up short; after a moment's consideration, his face slowly took on a look of understanding. "... oh."
"What?" Meiling wondered, leaning over his shoulder to look at the panel.
"I know why we landed in town now," said the Doctor, as if musing to himself. "We can't get any closer than this. In space..." He moved a lever and received the buzz again. "... or time. It's... it must be a fixed point. Something I can't interfere with."
"So... this is as close as you'd ever be able to bring her anyway?" Meiling wondered.
"Something like that."
"Then I guess this is my stop, too." Grinning, she swept the Doctor up in a bone-cracking bear hug, put him down, and said, "Thanks for everything, it's been a blast. Maybe I'll see you again some time. Hattori, it's all on you now."
The ninja silently gave her a thumbs-up, then bumped fists with her, and she picked up her duffel bag, slung it over her shoulder, and made for the door.
"I... what?" the Doctor said, bewildered, but she was already gone. Looking at Hattori, he said, "I thought she was staying?"
Hattori shrugged again. "..."
"Right. Ninja," muttered the Doctor to himself. Then, with a smiling shake of his head, he started setting the controls. "Well, I hope they find what they're after. What would you say to a visit to Milliways? Besides nothing. Since you never speak."
Hattori gave a thumbs-up.
"Right, then. Next stop, the end of the Universe," the Doctor said, and flipped the master switch.
"Late for Work" - a Thicker Than Water Interlude by Benjamin D. Hutchins
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