Chapter 1: The Start of Another Day
It was around 10 in the morning and Tricia Delaney was already feeling exhausted with today. There just seemed to be more 'newbies' in line than usual--the sort that couldn't figure out the cup sizes, what sort of flavor they wanted, a few that probably had never tried an espresso before.
As she rang up another order, she briefly thought of her old friend Rose, who had died a year ago at Canary Wharf. Why she would be at Canary Wharf, Tricia had no idea, although Rose had sort of dropped off and vanished long before that. Rose had always hated manning the cash register at Henrik's Department Store-always having to deal with annoying customers and standing still for too long. Rose preferred floor duty, rearranging the clothing piles and checking up on everything being neat and orderly.
Of course, Rose had not even been satisfied with that and when Henrik's blew up-well, Tricia had always suspected that Rose must have had a hand behind that, especially with the way she swanned off not long afterwards. Of course, it had taken awhile for her to arrange a date with Rose's old boyfriend, Mickey Smith, but now he was gone as well, probably gone after Rose.
"Excuse me, miss," said the next person in line, an old lady. "I would like a short cup of blended crème, vanilla, and here is a salad."
Trisha Delaney rang up the order and, as per instructions, recited, "Would you also like to purchase an exclusive CD of Johnny Chess: Silver Year Hits at just 9 pounds?"
There was an odd, slightly exasperated smile on the old woman's face as she replied, "No, miss, just the salad and the short cup will do."
With that, Barbara Wright Chesterton gathered up her purchase and stepped out of line, walking towards the back of the coffee shop. She glanced around, slightly nervous and feeling ridiculous, coming all the way to London to meet an anonymous face from the Internet.
About a year ago--six months and 18 days after Ian had died--her son John, otherwise known as 'Johnny Chess' to all of the fans of this 80s pop star, had suggested that she should try to be more adventurous. Get connected to more people outside of the village, namely by using Ian's old computer to go online.
For awhile, Barbara resisted the idea or only sat in the office chair for an hour at a time, staring at the blank screen and recalling how Ian had often occupied this same spot until he had gotten too sick to use the computer. Eventually, she managed to turn on the machine and logged on, but once online, she had no clue as to how to 'get connected' to others. She was probably too old compared to other users--with that thought, she suddenly recalled another old man, the traveler that she and Ian had found inside a police telephone box in a junkyard, and how he had always been ready to explore anywhere.
So Barbara, after refining several searches, stumbled upon an exclusive chat-room, tucked into a corner of the Internet and only utilized by a few users, and latched onto this group, typing up her own adventures and reading the experiences of others that had met the Doctor over the years. A few chats had dissolved into squabbles, when it came to describing the Doctor, but eventually it was conclusively settled amongst them that all of these were one and the same.
Some users dropped out of the community, saying that they were tired of just chatting and were intent on finding him, but Barbara had not really been too interested in them. Instead she was in constant contact with user Duchess66, and now the other woman had requested a meeting here, at this coffee shop in London.
After deliberating for awhile, and talking to John about her online activities, she finally decided that it may be safe enough to meet with this online friend, especially in the middle of a busy coffee shop like this one. Right now, Barbara was looking for the mark that had been settled upon to identify Duchess66 and she soon spotted it, the romantically idealized cover of Starry Highlands, a romance novel being read by a woman roughly 15 or 20 years younger than Barbara.
"Ah, pardon me," Barbara stepped forward toward the woman, who lowered her novel. "By any chance, are you…Duchess66?"
The woman nodded and smiled, holding out her hand as she said, "That's right, my name is Polly Jackson. You must be Yetaxa801, am I right?"
Barbara slowly sat down, staring at the other woman as she murmured, "Yes, Barbara, Barbara Wright Chesterton…the Polly Jackson? The one that used to write the music and arts column for the Times about…oh, so long ago?"
Polly laughed and replied, "Yes, quite awhile ago, I still contribute a few pieces now and then just to get my opinion out there, but tastes change and there were other matters. So, Barbara, wherever have you been?"
Barbara blinked for a moment, wondering what she meant, but then she slowly nodded and murmured, "Yes, where have I been…for the past few decades, Ian and I lived in one of the northern villages, but now he's gone. Before, we used to be colleagues at Coal Hill school. He taught science and I taught history, until…there was this strange girl, who knew too little and yet too much, and one night we followed her home, but it was a junkyard and in this junkyard, we found this old police box."
Polly smiled as she listened to Barbara talk. "After that, with Susan and her grandfather, the Doctor, we traveled so far…we met cavemen and Marco Polo and Romans and French revolutionaries. We fought against Daleks and Susan left us, and…eventually, Ian and I made it home. We had been gone from 1963 to 1965, but so much had happened to us, and it had seemed like so much longer--we did so much. Ian was actually knighted by Richard the Lion-Hearted, and Yetaxa? It's a bit of vanity in my old age, something that I can look back on with a smile, that the Aztecs once thought that I was the reincarnation of their high priestess."
Polly sighed and said, "Oh, that sounds marvelous, traveling with the Doctor does give one an adventure, I must say that--I hitched a ride with him about a year or so after you left and, yes, some of it was an absolute nightmare for me. Still, Ben was there for me and, looking back, we had some laughs and tears on the way...you have my condolences, I am sure that your Ian was a good man. Anyway, the reason why I requested that we should meet is because we know so little about any others that met the Doctor. Those of us still in the London area have been trying to make and keep contact with each other."
"So…how many are there, in this area of London, that have met the Doctor?"
"Well, counting Ben and myself, that makes about…10 people, a too limited community, especially when most of us are former members or associates of UNIT-oh, hold on, there's Ben. Ben! Over here!"
Barbara turned her head as the bell over the door rang and a hearty senior gentleman, dressed casually in slacks, stepped into the coffee shop and waved when he spotted his wife. He pulled out a pen from his pocket and clicked it-a second later he was gone and a mixer behind the counter was knocked over, splattering Trisha Delaney-and a second later, Ben was sitting at the table beside Polly.
Barbara blinked, Trisha screamed, and Polly hissed, "Ben, whatever in the world did you do? What is that gadget?"
Ben tucked the 'pen' back into his pocket and answered, "Well, from what I've heard, the people over at Torchwood have been talking about calling it a 'Quick-Second-Stopper', but personally I think it should be called the Avoider. Is this not just the most fantastic thing you've ever seen, duchess? Oh, is this that Yetaxa? Hello, I am Ben Jackson, retired Admiral, but one of the fringe benefits is that I still can keep touch with the latest developments! What did you think, did the Doctor ever have anything like this or what?"
Barbara cleared her throat and replied, "Well, that…that was very strange, I don't think the Doctor would have ever used a thing like that. No, even when he would get irrational, he was always patient when it came to time…he appreciated it. Personally, I don't think I would ever want to use such a device, I fear it's just too fast for me."
Polly nodded and exclaimed, "Good for you, Barbara, speaking up like that! Really, Ben, I don't like that thing either and from what you've told me about Torchwood, how they were involved in that frightful battle not too long ago, all of those Cybermen and Daleks…brought back some of my worst memories, it did."
Barbara shuddered as she recalled how she had almost had a heart attack, huddled in her bathroom with a Cyberman standing over her, while Ben muttered, "Sorry, I won't mess with the Avoider again. Well, Barbara, on behalf of everyone, welcome to our little companion community! Here, you want another cup?"
Barbara shook her head and said, "No, thank you, barely have taken a sip of this one. Well, Polly, I must say that I understand why you read such novels as that one you have, Starry Highlands…needing to find a real romance."
Ben cleared his throat as Polly laughed and said, "Oh, Barbara, let's go easy on Ben, he's already apologized. Anyway, this is a fairly moderate novel, you know, I've met the author and she…she really is a proper lady. In fact, you'll probably meet her soon enough. You might as well stick around for awhile as well and meet the rest of the gang. The best of the best, or what not, they're all good people and have plenty of memories to share about the Doctor--what a Time Lord."
Barbara queried, "What, the is Doctor is--what or who?"