“And now for the weather. A big storm front is coming in, promising a severe thunderstorm this Christmas Eve.”
Jo turned the radio off with a sigh. She hadn’t expected snow at Christmas, but a rainstorm? Where was the holiday spirit in that? Well, it was up to her to make sure there was at least some Christmas spirit around the place.
She finished getting ready and left her flat, making plans on her way to work.
Work for Jo Grant (or Josephine Grant, as her passport insisted) was at the top secret UNIT headquarters, where an organization dealt with aliens and everything out of the ordinary that couldn’t be explained by modern science.
Jo was a young and beautiful woman. Sadly, this meant that often people didn’t see beyond her appearance and took her for some sort of secretary or tea girl. But Jo was resourceful and clever. She’d already dealt with several alien threats. To top it all off, she had to deal with an alien everyday – the Doctor, a Time Lord from a far-off planet who everyone took for an eccentric scientist.
The Doctor was her close friend, but she suspected he didn’t care much for an Earth holiday, so as soon as she arrived she went to talk to Sergeant Benton, hoping to find an ally there.
“I was thinking, with Christmas coming up,” she began, “we should do something to celebrate properly.”
Sergeant Benton smiled. “Of course, Miss Grant! We always do something every year.”
“Really?” she got all hopeful for a minute, but, remembering how Captain Yates’ birthday party went, suppressed her hopes for something good. “What do you usually do?”
“Well, there’s the decorations, of course, and the Christmas tree,” Sergeant Benton began, “but what we really look forward to is the Secret Santa gift exchange!”
“Secret Santa! Yes!” Jo exclaimed.
“We have our own version, Miss Grant,” Sergeant Benton warned her. “Usually people get the name of the person they need to get a gift for, but we all buy gifts and wrap them without names. Then we put them in a big pile under the Christmas tree and draw the names of the people who get to go next and pick which gift they want the most. They’re even allowed to steal gifts from other people.”
Jo’s eyes widened in surprise. “What? Steal gifts?”
Sergeant Benton did his best to explain the rules. “Say you go first and you pick something from the pile and then it’s my turn. I can pick from the pile, or I can pick the present you already picked. If I take yours you have to go and pick something else from the pile. What makes it more fun is that you can’t tell what’s inside each present, because it’s all wrapped up. You can shake it a little, but that’s it. But some presents look so good that we end up fighting over them.”
Jo gave his words some thought.
“To be honest,” Sergeant Benton confided in a whisper. “Most of the time we try to get the Brigadier to pick the present we brought ourselves.”
“Oh?” Jo didn’t know how to react to that. “Do you all get gifts meant for him?”
Sergeant Benton laughed. “Well, sort of. Mostly it’s things we think it would be really funny for him to have.”
She grinned conspiratorially at this. “I get it! I’ll have to come up with something too, then!”
“Great! Do you think you could talk the Doctor into participating?” Sergeant Benton asked. “It’s his first Christmas here and we’re not sure how he feels about Christmas what with being an alien and all…”
“Leave it to me!”
She walked off with a bounce in her step, trying to think of a good present.
It wasn’t hard to persuade the Doctor to join in (not when Jo mentioned the little competition going on between the other participants) and, so, on the morning of the 24th they all gathered together in front of a Christmas tree with a big pile of oddly-shaped presents to fight for.
Jo watched with a smile as everyone used their turn to steal from the Brigadier and crossed her fingers in her pocket every time he returned to the pile, hoping that he’d finally pick the present she’d wrapped so carefully. But he went on, ignoring it.
A question occurred to her then: what did the Doctor bring? But no amount of staring at his face would provide the answer to this question.
Finally it was the Doctor’s turn to pick a present. As luck would have it, he was also last. He walked over to the pile, which consisted solely of Jo’s present now, turned it over thoughtfully and then set it back down. Then he walked around in a circle before coming up to the Brigadier and stopping in front of him. He shook the present the Brigadier had chosen, listened to the sound it made until, finally, he gave a happy smile and claimed it for himself.
The Brigadier gave a resigned sigh and claimed the last present left.
Jo grinned and watched him unwrap it
But the Doctor opened his present first and made a loud exclamation of surprise. “I don’t believe it!”
Everyone turned to look. He was holding something strange in his hand. It looked like a small part of a bigger mechanism.
Forgetting all about her unopened present, Jo stepped closer for a better look. “What is that, Doctor?”
“It can’t be…” he muttered and turned it over in his hands. “Which one of you packed this one?” he asked, looking around the room.
There was some confusion while a few people admitted that they hadn’t actually packed their presents and they’d asked someone else to do it for them. A few people had already left and needed to be brought back to answer the Doctor’s question, but finally it became clear that no one knew where the present had come from and no one had any memory whatsoever of having packed it.
The Brigadier looked alarmed at this. “Presents don’t just appear out of nowhere! And, besides, if each of us brought something and this present got slipped in somehow, then there should be one left over!”
This sounded reasonable enough and finally someone confessed that they hadn’t brought anything and they’d hoped that it would go by unnoticed.
“But what is it, Doctor?” Jo asked. “I’ve never seen anything like that outside of your laboratory.”
“That’s because it’s a dematerialisation circuit, like the one that’s missing from my TARDIS,” the Doctor explained.
Everything became clear to Jo then. “Didn’t you say that the Time Lords disabled it? Maybe they decided to give you a fixed version? As a Christmas present?”
“We don’t celebrate Christmas on my planet,” the Doctor told her.
“Could be they decided to give you a fixed one anyway, Doctor,” Sergeant Benton suggested.
“Hmm…” but the Doctor remained unconvinced. He walked out of the room, his eyes on the circuit, and Jo already knew without asking where exactly he was headed.
She gave her present a sad look, then threw a look at the Brigadier, but the man was already following the Doctor out of the room, Jo’s half-open present still in his hand.
They both found the Doctor in his laboratory, the circuit on one of the tables as he hunted around for the right instruments.
“You’re not going to put it into the TARDIS?” Jo asked.
“I must admit I’m as surprised as Miss Grant about this,” the Brigadier said. “I expected to see you in a rush to get out of here now that it seems you’ve got your ticket to go.”
“I have no idea where this came from,” the Doctor pointed out. “There’s no telling what this little circuit would do if I just put it into my TARDIS.”
“My dear Doctor,” a new voice said, making Jo jump, “whatever happened to not looking a gift horse in the mouth?”
The Doctor straightened up and watched the Brigadier peel his face off to reveal it had been nothing more than a mask and that all the clothes had been a disguise to hide another Time Lord: the Master.
“Yes, of course!” the Doctor exclaimed. “Who else would do such a thing?” He flung the circuit at the Master, grabbed Jo and ducked behind the table with her.
Jo braced herself for an explosion, but when one didn’t follow she peered over the edge of the table.
The Master pocketed the circuit with a calm expression on his face. “If you have no use for this, Doctor, I can find plenty of people who –”
A siren broke the silence, followed by the sound of footsteps. Someone flung the laboratory door open and Sergeant Benton ran in with Captain Yates, both of them out of breath.
“Doctor! Brigadier! We just got word that something large was spotted out in space, coming straight for Earth!” Captain Yates exclaimed. “It looks like it might be an alien invasion!”
The Doctor and Jo turned to look at the Master, but he was back in his Brigadier disguise, with no hint that he’d ever pulled it off. In fact, if Jo hadn’t seen it with her own two eyes, she would’ve doubted her own memory.
“Of all the times for an alien invasion!” the Master exclaimed. “Captain! Sergeant! Get all the men ready! We will destroy the alien force before it even gets here!”
“But we don’t have any weapons that can fire at that range, sir!” Captain Yates pointed out. “Research and Development sent us a memo about that just last week, I thought –”
“There is no time for that,” the Master interrupted. “What do we have? Prepare any long-range transmission devices at our disposal.” He turned and gave both the Doctor and Jo a stern look. “Come, Doctor! I might have need of your help!”
Jo opened her mouth to protest that this wasn’t the Brigadier at all, that it the Master in a disguise and that, for all they knew, the aliens about to invade could be in league with him, when the Doctor cut in smoothly with, “Yes, of course, lead the way, Lethbridge-Stewart.”
“Lead the way, Captain,” the false Brigadier said and let both Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton leave first.
“Listen, Jo,” the Doctor whispered hurriedly into her ear, “we need to find out what he did with the Brigadier and I need to get that circuit back, so –”
“There’s really no need to worry about Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart,” the Master told them. “He’s at home with his family right now, or…” he glanced at the clock on the wall, “will be in about 30 seconds. Of course, he won’t know that for another ten minutes, or so, but by the time he gets back here that alien force will have taken over Earth and settled into a comfortable lifestyle with all of humanity as its willing slaves.”
“What does it matter to you?” Jo demanded. “Aren’t you trying to do that yourself?”
The Master’s eyes flashed. “My business this time is with the Doctor and I will tolerate no interruptions!” He turned on his heel and marched out in a way that reminded Jo of the Brigadier.
“You heard him, Jo!” the Doctor exclaimed and dashed after his enemy.
Jo followed, too lost for words to argue the matter further. She watched in amazement as the Master continued in his role as the Brigadier. Having no weapons to destroy the aliens with, he came up with a different solution and got the Doctor to put something together to scramble their communications equipment and mess with the navigation systems on their ships so that the end result was as devastating as using a destructive beam. She watched the Doctor argue against something so destructive until he was completely sure that it really was an alien invasion force bent on destruction. And she had an odd thought.
Despite the arguing, the Doctor and the Master worked well together. In no time at all they had the alien force completely disarmed. What could they do if they ended up working together all the time?
As soon as it became clear that they won, everyone celebrated this victory. Sergeant Benton slipped away to find some sort of alcohol. Captain Yates clapped a few of the men on the back.
The Master walked over to where the Doctor and Jo sat, watching him warily. “Perhaps, my dear Doctor, you see now that you and I belong on the same side?”
The Doctor gave him an indignant look and opened his mouth for what would, no doubt, turn out to be a sharp word, when the door opened and Sergeant Benton returned with a whole crate of beer, which he distributed among everyone present.
“To today’s victory, Doctor,” the Master said, raising his glass. “Now, we’ve exchanged presents and fought off an alien invasion. What else is left of the Christmas celebrations? Oh yes, of course,” He reached out and took one of the Doctor’s hands and pulled him close, “we can’t forget the dancing.”
“Don’t look so angry, Doctor, or would you rather dance with Miss Grant?”
Before the Doctor could say anything the Master turned him around and led him gently to Miss Grant. She took the Doctor’s hands without thinking and continued the dance.
“What’s he planning?” she whispered, leaning close.
“I’m not sure,” the Doctor admitted, frowning in thought.
She giggled again. “Maybe we should ask him.”
“Don’t be ridiculous –” the Doctor turned and noticed that the Master had gone. “Quick, Jo!”
They ran down the hall, but they were too late: by the time they reached the main entrance, the air was full of the sound they knew all too well and they watched helplessly as a car disappeared from view, revealing that it wasn’t a car at all, but the Master’s TARDIS.
The Doctor let out a long frustrated sigh. Overhead thunder crashed and it began to pour.
Jo turned away from where the Master’s TARDIS had been to look at the Doctor. “I don’t understand. What was the point of all that?”
“Well, I’m sure we’ll discover that he sabotaged something while he was pretending to be the Brigadier,” the Doctor mumbled.
“You know,” Jo said, a mischievous grin spreading over her face, “I can’t help thinking that he went to all that trouble just to dangle the dematerialisation circuit in front of you and then run off with it again. He knows how much you want it.”
The Doctor returned to his laboratory without another word.