It was raining on the great southern plain of Gallifrey. After nearly two weeks of hot sun, the dry ground soaked up the moisture gratefully, but it spoiled the day for Rodan and her regular playmate, Breissal Arcalian. They had ridden the horses, of course, but outside of the envirodome that covered the paddock in bad weather even that was no fun. They had returned to the house wet and muddy and submitted to the washing and changing of clothes that was necessary.

Now they sat in the drawing room playing multi-dimensional chess and looking alternatively at the rivulets of water running down the window and the clock that showed it was still two hours until tea time.

They were bored.

Kristoph watched them from the drawing room door for a little while before coming to offer a solution.

“What you two need is an indoor diversion,” he said. “I think I know the very thing. You’ll need provisions, first. Rodan, tell your mama that you need a supply of chocolate for a trek, and then come to my study.”

“A trek in your study?” Rodan was puzzled, Breissal even more so, but the two youngsters found Marion in the white drawing room with Lady Lily and Aineytta. They obtained the chocolate that was bought on trips to Earth and kept in a special cupboard, then they headed to the study.

This was a very grown up room. The Lord High President often had meetings of importance to the whole people of Gallifrey in here. Breissal, especially, was a little daunted. Rodan, who had sat on the President’s knee while he had some of those meetings was simply curious about what her foster-father had in mind for them.

For that matter, where WAS he?

Kristoph surprised them both when he stepped out of a cupboard in the corner of the room. Rodan was the first to realise that it was his TARDIS in disguise as a piece of office furniture.

“A quest,” he said to the children. “I have set up the occasional room in the TARDIS as a set of interesting scenarios. In each one there are ten objects that don’t belong. You have to find them. There’s no time limit. It’s a test of your understanding of temporal and spatial congruence.”

He gave them both string bags to put the incongruous objects in and opened the TARDIS door.

“First door on the left,” he said. “See you at teatime.”

The two children stepped into the console room and skirted past the complex central control system, going straight through the door on the left that was slightly ajar, waiting for them. They grinned at each other as they stepped into a virtual world created by artron energy.

It was a tropical beach with golden sand stretching in a crescent around a rocky foreshore shaded by palm trees. Turquoise water lapped the sand while a hot, bright sun warmed and illuminated the scene. Breissal gave an astonished gasp as he noticed that he was wearing a bathing suit. So was Rodan.

“It’s the TARDIS. It creates the reality all around us, including our clothes. It means we can swim if we like.”

“Maybe we should have a look for some of those things that don’t belong, first,” Breissal suggested. “I know his Excellency said we should take our time, but we should be unworthy of our task if we prevaricate.”

Rodan laughed softly at the way Breissal called her foster-father ‘Excellency’. She never quite got used to thinking of him in such terms. She also thought words like ‘prevaricate’ were unnecessary at their age, but she agreed that completing the tasks before playing would be better.

She looked around at the beach then reached down and picked something up. “I think this might be the first object.”

“What is it?” Breissal asked, glancing at the packet with strange symbols on it that Rodan held out.

“It’s a packet of crisps,” she answered. “Cheese and onion. They come from Earth. I’ve eaten them sometimes.”

“Crisps?” Breissal queried.

“In some parts of Earth they’re called potato chips. But these are made in England.” She looked around at the tropical beach. “This is definitely not England, so this is the first of the items we have to collect.”

Breissal found the next object. It was warm from lying in the sand under the sun, but the gold chess piece certainly didn’t belong on a beach.

A basket of wax fruit and a bowler hat shouldn’t have been hanging from one of the palm trees on the edge of the beach. The huge, juicy, purple fruits did. Breissal climbed one of the trees and plucked two. They were sweet, cool and refreshing as they took a break from their treasure hunt.

“Six more items to find on the beach,” Rodan pointed out. “Then we can swim.”

“I’ve never swum in the sea before,” Breissal admitted. “Only in the baths in the Capitol.”

“It’s just the same, except deeper and more waves,” Rodan told him. “I think I see another of our quest items.”

She put aside her fruit snack and clambered across the rocks to where something incongruously red was nestled. She picked up a model of a fire engine and put it into her bag. Interestingly, the bag was no bigger or heavier now, even though it contained the rather bulky fruit basket. That was dimensional physics, of course, just like this room that was no bigger than her bedroom but contained a whole beach.

She looked around to see Breissal paddling on the edge of the cool, inviting water. He bent and picked something out of the shallows. On investigation it proved to be a hand mirror from a ladies dressing table set.

“It’s mother of pearl,” Rodan noted. “Oysters with pearls in them would be perfectly at home in the water, but they don’t make the mirrors themselves. That’s item number six. We’re doing all right.”

Items seven and eight proved just as easy. A little beachcombing turned up a bright yellow colander and a novelty egg timer that claimed to be a ‘Present from Rhyl.’ Breissal was puzzled by the word that had no translation into Gallifrey.

“It’s a place in Wales, a part of Earth,” Rodan explained. “We went there when I was very little. It’s pretty, but not as warm as this beach is.”

“His Excellency has hidden a lot of things from Earth for us to find,” Breissal pointed out. “Earth things are incongruous EVERYWHERE.”

“Not always,” Rodan argued. “For instance, look at THAT.” She pointed to some bright and colourful object on the sand just a few metres away from the incoming tide. They were a pair of plastic spades, one green, one blue, and a set of different sized buckets for creating magnificent sandcastles. “THOSE are from Earth, probably somewhere like Rhyl for that matter, but they belong on a beach. They’re a trick to try to fool us. They’re not part of the quest.”

“Sandcastles?” Breissal looked at Rodan and felt a strong image in his mind of what they were. He also saw the Lord High President of Gallifrey in some very un-presidential clothing making the castles.

“That was when we went to Llandudno,” Rodan laughed. “Another place in Wales. It was so hot and sunny and everyone was on the beach.”

Breissal picked up the green plastic spade and began to put sand into one of the buckets. His first effort at a sandcastle fell apart right away. Rodan explained that he had to compact the sand by hitting it with the spade. His next one was better. She got to work with him and very soon a passably defensive structure had been built. Rodan made a shallow moat before they stood back and watch the tide overflow it.

“That’s what sandcastles are for,” she said philosophically. “To be drowned by the sea. Let’s put our bags up on the rocks and swim for a bit. There won’t be any beach to look on for a while.”

The place where the castle had stood was soon overwhelmed by the clean, clear water and it was impossible to tell where it had been. The children paddled against the current until the water was up to their waists and then swum.

Breissal was not as good at swimming as Rodan. He had never had a seaside holiday, whether in Rhyl or Llandudno or beautifully sunny Nice, or one of a dozen or so exotic planets with fine beaches. Rodan kept pace with him and showed him how to breast the waves and resist being swept to the shore. He learnt quickly and by the time the tide started to recede from the beach again the two had swum far down the curved bay.

They emerged from the water and walked back to where they had left their treasure bags, collecting the last two items on the way – a bicycle pump and a Venturan dream-catcher.

“What now?” Breissal asked. “How do we get off the beach and on to the next quest?”

“I almost wish we didn’t have to,” Rodan answered. “It’s been nice here – especially when it’s raining outside. But I can see a doorway up there on the rocks, which definitely doesn’t belong here. I think that might be our way into another scene.”

They climbed up over the rocks, leaving wet, sandy footprints behind and stepped through the doorway. Immediately they noticed that they were dry, wearing clothes and shoes, and were in a torchlit tunnel within an ancient Egyptian tomb.

At least, Rodan recognised it as Egyptian. Breissal had never seen anything of the sort before.

“It’s thousands of years old,” Rodan explained. “So anything technological is out of place. That’s what we should be looking for, I think.”

“Like this?” Breissal reached out to a statue of the Sun God, Ra and took a digital watch from its wrist.

“Exactly like that.” They followed the tunnel in a slightly downward direction and emerged in a tomb room. A magnificently decorated gold sarcophagus was the centre piece. The canoptic jars containing the dried internal organs of the body within the sarcophagus were placed beside the tomb, along with gold and jewels of all kinds.

“But not a pocket calculator,” Rodan said, picking up such an object from on top of a chair made of lacquered wood and richly embroidered fabric.

“Or this?” Breissal looked around the room and found a camera.

“Three items, so far. Look around. There must be more.”

Breissal looked around. The room was crammed with treasures, but mostly crafted by pre-industrial people. He looked along a line of oil lamps encrusted with multi-coloured jewels and reached for a battery operated torch that stuck out like a sore thumb.

Rodan found a silver flute among a collection of musical instruments like a sistrum, which made a jangling noise when shook and a mizmar, a predecessor of the flute with a conical end as well as a highly decorated qanun, the stringed instrument that was a precursor of the zither. Rodan could imagine the slaves playing a qanun on an evening in the Pharoah’s palace. Several wind instruments made from water reeds or hollowed out lengths of wood also belonged here, but the metal flute, played from the side, with the holes carefully bored to produce exact notes, was from a much later time.

“That’s five,” she confirmed.

“Six, I think,” Breissal added, reaching for a mirror fixed to the wall. “This doesn’t look quite right.”

Rodan studied the mirror. She wasn’t exactly an expert on antiques, but the flower details around the frame looked more like Georgian England than Ancient Egypt. She felt sure Breissal was right.

“Four more to find here, then.”

It didn’t prove too difficult. An electronic toothbrush and a jelly mould in the shape of a bear made it a tally of eight. They were starting to wonder if there was anything else within the tomb when Breissal found a doll wearing a white space suit, a toy from the far future, among the more primitive carved wooden figures that represented the dead man’s servants in the next world.

“And this is the last of them,” Rodan said with a laugh. She held up a box that contained a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of the Great Sphinx.

“I make these all the time,” she told Breissal. “Mama buys them for me. I’ve done planet Earth, the Earth Moon, the Tower of London, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben….”

Breissal nodded, but he was more interested in the fact that a door had opened behind Rodan – a way out of the tomb. They had no special desire to play in such a place the way they had lingered on the beach.

The next scenario was a space station with glorious views of a multi-hued nebulae. Scattered around it they found a china tea set, a whistling kettle, a set of beautifully hand-crafted Russian dolls, a set of horse brasses, a snow globe with a view of Margate Pier inside, a toasting fork, a ship in a bottle, an ormolu clock, a souvenir mug from the Coronation of George VI, and a Rubik’s Cube.

Breissal looked at the last object curiously.

“It’s a Human game,” Rodan explained. “Papa gave me one to play with when I was four. It used to take me about ten minutes to complete it then. Now I can do it in less than one minute, so it is a bit boring.”

“I might try it later,” he said, wondering if he could get the multi-sided logic puzzle done in such quick time. “There’s a door over there. I think it leads back to the console room.”

It did. The two youngsters emerged from the TARDIS into Kristoph’s study. He looked up from his work and smiled warmly at them both.

“Did you have an interesting time?”

“Yes,” they both answered.

“We went swimming, and made sandcastles,” Rodan continued. “We collected everything you told us to collect.”

“Sir, may I keep this?” Breissal asked about the Rubik’s Cube.

“Of course, you may,” Kristoph assured him. “What about you, my little love? Do you want to keep a souvenir of your afternoon?”

Rodan was torn between the jigsaw puzzle and the Russian dolls. Kristoph allowed her to have them both. He himself held up the toasting fork.

“I am quite sure there are some packets of crumpets in the kitchen, fruits of your mama’s last trip to Liverpool. I think I shall demonstrate how this can be used in conjunction with a nice roaring fire to make a wet afternoon outside more joyful.”