Mike Pelham sighed loudly –he really wished he weren't on duty on Christmas eve. He understood the necessity, however: Although the trend appeared to have stopped, aliens had a knack of threatening London on Christmas. But understanding the necessity didn't prevent him to feel bored and, to be honest, rather depressed.
Claire Barry sat in the sofa, her phone on the ear. "Hi Maggie! Elizabeth told me you're alone tonight, do you fancy spending the evening with us?" She let her friend answer before going on: "Of course not! We'll be delighted, and I bought enough to feed an army. I have to warn you, though. You… might be a bit surprised by what you'll see, but it's all right, I promise it's perfectly safe." There was a pause, then she resumed talking: "Yes, yes, I'm coming to it. You know how the children brought home a stray animal nobody can identify?" she asked. She chuckled at her friend's remark: "That's him. Although you get used to it after a while. But the thing is, he's not an animal, he's an alien."
On a screen, the word 'alien' flickered a pale yellow. Mike didn't grant it his attention.
"Oh, trust me," Claire went on, "I'm not, though I wish I were. I shudder retrospectively when I think about how Julia and Doug learnt of it. They encountered this man, he calls himself the Doctor."
Mike's screen blinked again. Again, he ignored it.
"Well, under the hill where they found Terrence, there was actually an underground base." A pause again. "I swear! Believe me, you won't have any doubt left when you see his casing. Anyway, you remember the earthquake a few years ago, and all those planets in the sky, and those robots who attacked London?"
Mike pinched his nose as his computer disturbed him again with a low-level alert.
As Claire's friend said something, she nodded sympathetically: "I know, dear, I'm sorry. But what I wanted to say is they weren't robots; what we saw was just their armoured shells. There were organic beings inside, the same species as Terrence. They're called Daleks."
Mike jumped from his seat: The word 'DALEKS' spread out in capitals on an ominous red background and a strident alarm resounded.
Maggie Gladstone hadn't truly believed Claire until she saw the bronze and gold battle armour with her own eyes. She cringed when Terrence welcomed her in his ever unpleasant grating voice, as friendly as he tried to sound, but Julia and Douglas' enthusiasm was infectious and she soon relaxed.
Their aperitif and cheerful chatter was interrupted by a loud crash and the irruption of five heavily armed men wearing black suits, helmets and goggles.
"Unified Intelligence Task Force," the lead man announced; "move aside so we can neutralise the alien threat."
Maggie yelped in terror, Julia jumped in front of Terrence and spread out her arms to protect her friend, and Douglas shook his fist angrily.
"He's called Terrence and he's not a threat!" the teenage girl shouted.
"You're worse than the Doctor!" her brother added.
Slowly, Claire stood and glared at the intruders. "Did you thugs just break through my front door to threaten my children on Christmas eve?" she uttered frostily.
Mike's mouth fell open.
As explanations went on, Mike's disbelief and mistrust turned into a burning shame. He was still glancing suspiciously at Terrence, but witnessing the Dalek get out of his casing and let Julia cuddle him did wonders to convince the UNIT soldier of his innocuousness.
Finally, Claire invited the five men to share their Christmas meal, on the condition they'd repair the front door before leaving. As they all sat around the extended table, the two teenagers stroke up a Christmas carol, soon joined in by a couple of the youngest men.
Mike shook his head, not totally sure of how all this had happened. He was spending Christmas eve with colleagues at the house of people he'd never met in his life before, after breaking into it all guns blazing. Spending Christmas at strangers', with a Dalek. A Dalek, who somehow considered himself the adopted child of this human family.
Just when Mike thought things couldn't get any weirder, Terrence decided to imitate the teenagers and tried to sing.