As far as Samantha Briggs was concerned, her future career at Kanga Travel was balanced on a knife-edge. If she continued walking at her current brisk pace, and if she could get across Pembroke Place without having to wait for the traffic, and if Anson Street wasn't too busy... then she might just get to work on time. If any of those didn't apply, the threat of dismissal for persistent poor timekeeping would be brought down on her with all the force of a steam hammer.
She rounded the corner into Great Newton Street and—
"Oof!" Samantha staggered back. "Can't you look where you're going, you clumsy great divvy..."
Her voice died away as she saw who had bumped into her. It was Jamie, looking just as he had when they'd met the previous year. Like her, he had the harried appearance of someone who needed to be in a given place by a given time, and wasn't sure if he'd make it.
"Sam!" he exclaimed. "Sorry, but we've got to be—"
"We?" Samantha repeated.
Jamie glanced behind him. Hurrying up were the Doctor, and a tall, handsome, muscular green man wearing only a loincloth.
"They're with you?" she asked.
"Well," Samantha went on. "Why haven't you introduced us, you dozy whopper?"
"Oh. Aye. Maxadron, this is Samantha Briggs. She's a good friend. Sam, this is Maxadron. He's an alien."
"Never would've guessed," Samantha said.
"She is one of your females?" Maxadron said. In Samantha's opinion, he was looking at her a little nervously.
"Yes, that's right," the Doctor said. "There's no need to be frightened of her."
"She does not expect me to take her away in my spaceship?"
Samantha took a step forward and put her hands on her hips. "No, wack, 'she' doesn't," she said. "Why? You met a lot of girls who do?"
"I'm afraid so," the Doctor said. "At least five so far this morning. I think it's down to watching too many of the wrong kind of films."
"Well, I can sorta see why," Samantha conceded. "He's not my type, but... yeah. A lot of girls 'ud go for that. So how come you're here?"
"My spaceship is damaged," Maxadron said. "I require about fourteen of your Earth hours to repair it. But the military of your planet know I am here. They are hunting me. Had it not been for the Doctor and Jamie I would already have been captured."
All thought of getting to her job on time fled instantly from Samantha's mind. "I'll give you a hand," she said. "I know just the place where we can hide."
The warehouse certainly matched the criteria of being out-of-the-way, and deserted. The door had been locked, but the Doctor had produced a slim silver tool from his pocket and aimed it at the lock. Samantha had heard the clank of something behind the door hitting the ground, and then the door itself had swung open.
"Now, I suggest we lie low here until nightfall," the Doctor said. "Then we ought to be able to get you back to your ship."
"That's if no-one saw us," Jamie said dubiously. "Wi' yon big green fellow wandering around, someone must've seen him. They'll tell the Redcoats and they'll come looking for him."
"Yes, Jamie." The Doctor thoughtfully tapped the sonic screwdriver on his knee. "What we need is some kind of diversion."
They sat in thought for a few minutes, until Samantha said, suddenly, "I know!"
"Back in a minute." Samantha was already making for the door. "There was a call box out there. Just need to phone a friend."
It was about a quarter of an hour later that the door burst open, and Samantha hurried in. With her was a young brunette in a leather jacket and jeans. A notebook protruded from her jacket pocket, and her face bore an eager expression.
"OK," Samantha said. "This is Valerie. Val, this is Jamie, and this is the Doctor. Val works at the Echo."
"Ah," the Doctor said. "So she would be able to suppress any information about Maxadron that came her way?"
Valerie shook her head. "Sorry, can't manage that. I'm not the editor or anything, just the girl they send to flower shows. But Sam and I came up with this idea. It might just help."
"What idea?" Jamie asked.
"It's like this. You don't want people saying they've seen a big green bloke wandering the streets with not much on. Right?"
"That's right, yes," the Doctor said.
Valerie leaned forward. "Suppose there was an actual reason why you'd have a lot of green blokes going around. No-one'd notice if there was one more."
"So here's what we do," Samantha said. "We get a load of blokes to show up at the beach or the Botanic Gardens or something, get them to take their kit off, and paint them green. It'll all be in the paper the next day, and that's what everyone'll think happened."
"Ah, but how do you get them to do that?" Jamie asked.
"Say it's for charity, maybe?" Valerie suggested.
Samantha nodded. "That'd do. D'you remember Clarrie Osborne when we were in 5C? She's at the National Youth Assistance these days. Let's see if we can get her to make it official. And then we just need to get the blokes in." A grin spread across her face, and she wheeled on Jamie. "Starting with you."
"What?" Jamie protested.
"Come on, Jamie. We'll never get blokes to sign up if we can't prove we've got one already."
"I'll get you both signed up with the paper," Valerie added. "So if anyone looks into it, it'll all check out."
Jamie tried to back away, but found himself up against the wall. "But I canna take my clothes off on some beach! People'll see everything!"
"That's the point," Samantha said, her grin broadening.
"Everyone'll have their clothes off," Valerie added, trying to strike a more reasonable note. "It's got to be like that if we're gonna get a good spread in the paper."
"You can't actually put pictures of people's — you know, bits — in the paper, can you?" Samantha asked.
Valerie considered the matter. "We'll have 'em standing behind bollards and things. So you don't see anything you shouldn't in the photos, but everyone'll know they're starkers."
"Doctor?" Jamie pleaded.
The Doctor shook his head. "I'm afraid it's the only way, Jamie." He solemnly shook his head at Valerie and Samantha. "Please be gentle with Jamie, and let's have no hanky-panky."
"Norra bit of it," Valerie said. She caught hold of Jamie's hand. "Come on, let's get this show on the road."
"Glad it's over now?" Samantha asked. She was walking hand in hand with Jamie back to where — at least according to him — the TARDIS was parked. On the other hand, maybe he was luring her to a den of iniquity where, at his mercy, she'd be forced to surrender to his darkest lusts. A girl could always hope.
"It wasn't right, standing around without my kilt," Jamie said. He hadn't worn his kilt to the shoot, for fear of getting paint on it. A pair of football shorts were now preserving his modesty, and he was wearing his usual boots, but apart from those the only thing he had on was green paint. That was the whole plan, of course — enough young men dressed like that wandering the streets of Liverpool, and the police or soldiers chasing Maxadron wouldn't know what to do.
"Could've been worse," Samantha said. "You could've had me watching you. And half the other girls in Liverpool."
"Except you were. I ken well enough what you were doing with yon telescope, Sam."
"How did you..." Samantha realised she'd already given the game away. "Did you see the light on the lens or something?"
"No. It was your friend Valerie — the one who works for yon paper. She told me you were all keeking at us through telescopes the whole time."
Samantha scowled. "I'll get her for that. Wretched judy! She's only in it to make trouble."
"I thought you said she was called Val, not Judy."
"When I say 'judy' I just mean a girl," Samantha explained patiently. "Unless she actually is called Judy. Anyway, I only had one look."
"Aye, Val said that."
"That's more like it."
"She said," Jamie added, with a half-smile, "that it was because you only had one sixpence left."
"Next time I see her I'll give her such a..." Samantha shrugged. "Yeah, it's true. And all the other girls wanted a go. Whoever gets the money out of those telescopes, they'll think they hit the jackpot today."
"Sam!" Jamie suddenly froze, and pulled her close to him.
"Oi! You're getting green paint on my dress! Be careful, you clumsy beaut—" Samantha was cut off, as she realised what Jamie had already spotted. Armed men were blocking the street ahead; a quick glance over her shoulder told her that there were more approaching from behind. "What do we do now?"
"There's too many of them to fight," Jamie said, sizing up the situation with an experienced look. "And there's nowhere to run. You've not got a pack of cards on you, have you?"
"Pack of cards?" Samantha repeated. "No. Why?"
"When this happens and I'm with the Doctor, he gets out his cards and plays wi' them till the soldiers come and arrest us."
Samantha folded her arms. "Give me strength."
In lieu of playing Patience, they leaned against a wall until the advancing troops had formed a tight circle around them. Rather than an officer, the soldiers seemed to be answering to a civilian in a dark grey suit; he now stepped forward.
"You two are coming with us," he said.
"Oh yeah?" Samantha said. "Where's your warrant? Not like we've done anything."
"We don't need warrants, young lady. As of now, you two are the property of the Torchwood Institute."
"Never heard of them," Jamie said.
"I have," Samantha said. "Sort of. Dunno what they do, mind."
The man drew himself up. "We protect the Empire against threats. And we use any and all resources to that end." He nodded at Jamie. "If it's alien, it's ours."
Torchwood, it seemed, were defending the Empire — at least, the part of it centred on Liverpool — from a base in what had recently been a secondary modern school. Samantha and Jamie were currently handcuffed together and tied to a metal coat rack in what was nothing more nor less than a changing room.
"I shall consult my superiors about what we do with you two," the man said.
Samantha shook her head. "You're daft. I keep telling you, this is a photo shoot! For charity! He's just painted green! It'll wash off!"
"We will consider all evidence," the man said. "A thorough medical examination will be made of the alien."
He turned and left.
"No wonder we lost the Empire if it was you lot looking after it," Samantha shouted after him.
The door slammed. A key could be heard turning in the lock.
"We'd better get out of here," Jamie said. "I'm not having yon Torchwood fellow stick knives in me to see if I'm an alien or not."
"He wouldn't do that." Samantha thought about it. "Yeah, he probably would. OK, first job's to get us untied, isn't it? How do we do that?"
"Maybe if we tried wearing the ropes away?"
"Or maybe..." Samantha took hold of the upright to which they'd been tied. "Hang on, this feels loose. Bend your legs." She did likewise. "Now, when I count to three, we lift. One. Two. Three!"
The two, both grasping the upright with both hands, straightened their legs. The upright rose a few inches, until it was clear of its mounting.
"To your right!" Jamie grunted.
Samantha leaned in that direction. There was a crack of snapping metal, and they were both lying on the ground. They were still tied together, back to back, but they now had the run of the room.
"Try and get up," Jamie suggested.
Clambering upright, in their current situation, was more easily said than done. But after several attempts, they managed to stagger to their feet. The metal pole between them dropped to the floor with a clang.
"Hang on," Samantha said. "Look, that's got to be a shower room over there."
"So if we stick you under it, the paint'll wash off and they'll see it's just paint, won't they? And no need to stick probes up your jacksie."
Moving crabwise, the two made their way into the shower room. Samantha bent over the taps.
"Hang on," Jamie said sharply.
Samantha looked up. "What?"
"If you turn yon shower on, you'll get wet, too."
"Yeah, I know." Samantha bent over the taps. "Can't be helped."
She gripped the tap with her teeth, and twisted it. Hot water gushed out, and they both gave tongue to yelps of shock.
"Oh, that's hot." Samantha hastily moved to the neighbouring tap, which she hoped would dispense cold water. The spray from the shower, painfully hot, was already soaking into her hair and dress. "That's hotter than Satan's armpits."
"Can you do — ow! —" something about it?" Jamie begged.
"Hang on." Samantha managed to get the other tap to turn, and was rewarded with a further, colder, drenching. "That better?"
"I think so."
Samantha looked down, to see the green pigment swirling around their feet. "It's working—" she began.
Maybe it was the weight of her waterlogged clothes. Maybe it was her dripping hair falling into her eyes. But whatever the reason, Samantha lost her balance. The ropes holding them must have slipped, because as she fell she didn't pull Jamie down with her. Instead, she ended up wrapped awkwardly round his leg, her face on a level with his sodden shorts.
"Sam!" Jamie called down. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, it's just a bit of a tangle..." Samantha began.
The door clicked open. There was a pause, and a sharp indrawing of breath.
"So, Thompson, this is your so-called alien," a man's voice said. This wasn't the same man as before; he sounded older, more authoritative, and presumably more short-tempered. "A couple of kids from a photoshoot."
"Who're you calling kids?" Samantha demanded, trying to twist her head round in the direction of the voice.
"You." The man snapped his fingers. "Miss Rollason, untie them."
A woman dressed as a nurse hurried across and released the ropes. Samantha pulled herself to her feet, gratefully flexing her wrists.
"You'd better show them out," the man said. He was more or less as Samantha had pictured him: a middle-aged, irascible bureaucrat. The man who'd arrested them was cringing nervously at his elbow. "And as for you, Thompson, this calls for a serious review of your record..."
"This way, please," Miss Rollason said.
"Do we get a towel or anything?" Samantha asked, looking down at the trail of wet footprints she was leaving.
Miss Rollason shook her head. "Sadly not. By the way, sorry we walked in on you when you were having an intimate moment."
"We weren't!" Jamie protested. "Sam just slipped a bit."
"Oh. My mistake. But it happens so often in Torchwood — I was beginning to think there must be something in the water."
"Thanks. A. Bunch," Samantha said. She tried to wring at least some of the water out of her hair. "That's really helpful."
"We canna go straight back to the TARDIS," Jamie said, once they were safely clear of Torchwood HQ and Miss Rollason had left them. "Not while you're leaving those footprints. Those Torchwood fellows might track us."
"I can't see them tracking a clown at a funeral," Samantha said. "But OK, let's go to the beach for a bit and I can try and dry off." She squeezed his arm. "Maybe we could have some ice cream or fish and chips. Make it a proper date."
"I'd like that," Jamie said. "But no hanky-panky, mind. Remember what the Doctor said."
"OK, no hanky-panky," Samantha said, firmly suppressing the thought of what might have happened if they'd been left together under the shower for five minutes more. Under her breath, she added "Just you wait."
After her exhausting day, Samantha woke rather late the next morning, finding herself in an unfamiliar bed. For a moment she looked at the roundelled walls with blank incomprehension, until memory cleared; she and Jamie had arrived back at the TARDIS rather late after their day out. He'd offered to walk her home, but she'd flatly refused to take another step. After that... she remembered hearing that Maxadron had returned safely to his ship, and taken off while the police and army were still chasing down reports of green-painted men in every part of the city. She remembered kissing Jamie goodnight, trying to suppress her yawns as she did so, and the Doctor showing her to a spare bedroom.
By the time Samantha had sorted out her hair and chosen a suitably alluring minidress from the wardrobe in her temporary bedroom, she had the feeling she was well behind time. Her wristwatch said it was a quarter past ten — though, she was beginning to realise, that might mean nothing at all in the TARDIS. She set out anyway for the kitchen, almost bumping into the Doctor on the threshold of the room.
"Oh, Sam, there you are," the Doctor said. "Jamie's been wondering if you were all right. I made sure he didn't eat all the breakfast, so there should still be some left for you."
Samantha stuck her head round the kitchen doorway. Jamie was nowhere to be seen.
"Where is he now?" she asked.
"Looking for you, I think. If I see him I'll let him know you're up and about."
Samantha gulped down a hasty breakfast — some sort of cereal she couldn't identify, with luminous orange berries in it. She briefly wondered if they'd keep on glowing inside her. Then, she set out to make her own exploration of the TARDIS. The first room she looked into appeared to be a workshop, littered with dismantled technology that she couldn't hope to identify. The second was a library, with bookshelves stretching away in every direction. The third was a bathroom, far bigger than the little one beside her bedroom, and—
The door slammed behind her. She wheeled around, and looked into Jamie's smiling face. In one hand he was holding a large bucket; the other held a brush, its bristles coated with viscous green liquid.
"Jamie!" Samantha began. "You gave me a — what's all that for?"
Jamie's smile broadened. "Oh, nothing. It's just your turn."
"My turn?" Samantha looked at the brush, and illumination began to dawn. "You mean, 'cos you got painted green yesterday, now you wanna do it to me?" As Jamie had yesterday, she made a hasty attempt to back away, but found the washbasin behind her had other ideas.
"Or I could just throw it over you." Jamie hefted the bucket.
"You wouldn't dare... no!" Samantha hastily added, as Jamie gave the bucket an experimental swing. "Not the dress! OK, you win." She began to unbutton her minidress. "I surrender. Just two things."
"One, you do a proper job. No missing out bits. No matter how much I scream, 'cos I bet it'll tickle like anything. Got that?"
"Got it. What's number two?"
Samantha hung the minidress on a chair; her bra quickly followed it. "We go in the shower together afterwards. Properly, this time." She kicked off her boots. "With actual hanky-panky."
"Of course." Jamie dabbed an experimental blob of green paint onto the tip of her nose, causing her to giggle. "Why d'ye think it was here I was waiting for you?"