Wyn opened her eyes and looked up at the window where the morning sunlight was automatically shaded to prevent glare but still looked warm and pleasant. She stretched herself happily. Beside her, Jamie was still asleep. She kissed her lover’s cheek and got up out of the bed. K9 whirred quietly into ‘wake mode’ and greeted her with ‘good morning mistress’ as he hovered along beside her, knowing her routine by now.

She pressed the button on the automatic dispenser and a hot cup of coffee materialised in the slot. She sat on the window seat with K9 by her feet as she drank the coffee and looked out over 51st century London. Most of it great skyscrapers of steel and glass that looked like giant harmonicas. They were living on the 102nd floor of one in what was still called Canary Wharf. Below, the Thames flowed along that u-shaped loop so familiar to people who watched Eastenders in her day. But now it had a glass roof over it from Tower Bridge to the Thames Barrier.

There were still some historical sites. Trafalgar Square hadn’t changed much. Buckingham Palace was a luxury hotel and restaurant. The Houses of Parliament were a museum. The Tower of London was still open to the public, although there was a modern undercroft beneath the ancient dungeons that was the headquarters of the Time Agency. Of course, in HER day some of that was already there. It was the Headquarters of U.N.I.T., the military organisation her mum and The Doctor used to work for. But now it wasn’t a secret at all. The Time Agency were almost a tourist attraction in their own right, with their public gallery where they displayed artefacts and exhibitions of the most notorious cases of temporal crime that they had thwarted.

The fifty-first century! It was amazing to think that planet Earth survived that long. In her time the odds didn’t look so good. Between raging political issues and the environmental damage humans had inflicted, she found it hard to believe her own generation lived to tell the tale.

But they did. Humans made it. Earth was ok. It was a beautiful, shining place that billions called home, and billions more who lived on colony planets nostalgically called ‘homeworld’ and visited on their holidays, bringing their colony born children to revisit their roots.

And she had been a citizen of it for nearly three months now. The happiest three months she had known for a long time. Not because she was on Earth in the 51st century, but because she was on it with Jamie.

It won’t last, she told herself. It’s not supposed to last. Jamie’s people don’t do true love forever. They do true love for a few months and then move on.

She knew that, but she didn’t let it spoil the fact that here and now Jamie loved her and they were having a wonderful time. She had achieved something that she was sure even Time Lords couldn’t. She had learnt to live in the present, in the moment that was, to enjoy every minute of it and not be dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Jamie stirred in the bed. She was one of those people who woke up all at once, not a gradual one.

“Good morning, Mistress Jamie,” K9 intoned.

“Good morning, K9,” Jamie answered as she pulled on a silk kimono gown and slipped out of the bed. She, too, went to the food dispenser for coffee and then joined Wyn at the window, sitting behind her as Wyn leaned her head back against her shoulder. Once the coffee was drunk she embraced her lover around the waist and kissed her neck fondly.

“A beautiful morning,” Jamie commented as they enjoyed that simply intimacy.

“It’s always beautiful here,” Wyn noted. “The weather regulators make sure you have all the right seasons in the right order, and just as they’re ‘supposed’ to be. Warm July, hot August, warm, bright sunny September with apples and horse chestnuts ripening and walks in the woods with the leaves turning to red and gold.”

“It must have been strange living in Britain before we could do that,” Jamie observed. “The summers could be DREADFUL. Rain, wind, grey skies.”

“Some of them were good,” Wyn answered, not ready to dismiss the climate she came from entirely. “It was natural, of course. The idea of regulating the weather is a bit…. I’m not sure The Doctor would approve. He thinks things like that should be left well alone.”

“You set a lot of store by what The Doctor thinks, don’t you?”

“Yes. Why not. He is the smartest man in the universe, and I love him.”

“I ought to get jealous when you say that,” Jamie replied. shimmering and changing to male form. Wyn smiled at his reflection in the window as he continued to hold her close. “I’m pretty smart, too.”

“Not as smart as he is,” Wyn insisted. “Nobody could be. But as men go, you’re pretty wonderful.”

She looked at Jamie’s reflection in the window, a handsome man instead of a beautiful woman, masculine arms around her instead of the feminine ones. She adored Jamie in either form, because they were both Jamie. She didn’t mind that she hugged her this way every morning. Changing to male form was the equivalent of putting on a suit for work. The male Jamie worked, the female Jamie played. The female Jamie was her lover. The male Jamie was her loving friend.

Best of both worlds?

For as long as it lasted.


“They’re not so ‘advanced’ here,” Wyn commented. “They still think a man is better than a woman in the Time Agency.”

“No, not really. The Agency is an equal opportunities employer. It makes no distinction of gender, age, orientation or species. It’s just me. I like to keep business and pleasure apart. And my pleasures….”

“We obviously don’t have time for this morning since you’re in work mode!”

“I’m afraid not.” Jamie looked at his wristlet. “We’ve been having trouble for the last couple of weeks with random temporal anomalies,” he said. “Want to come along? It’s all contemporary work, so I’ll just be using the Skyke. No transmats or vortex manipulating.”

“I may also be of assistance,” K9 reminded them.

“Why not,” Jamie said. “Just don’t chase any cats. Not even robot ones.”

“I have never chased cats,” K9 answered. Jamie always teased him with things like that and he never got the joke.

“Don’t interface with any strange computers either,” Wyn told him with a laugh. She took the two coffee cups that had been sitting on the windowsill and put them in the recycling receptacle under the food dispenser. They were automatically turned to their component atoms and stored ready to be reconstituted as clean cups with the beverage of choice later.

It beat washing up, though Wyn was still dubious about an atomising device in the corner of the bedroom. Jamie had assured her several times that there were no known cases of injury or death from a domestic recycling machine but it still seemed a BIT odd.

Showering was still a normal activity and they both kept clothes in an ordinary wardrobe, although Jamie’s side of it DID include the Empathy Suit that changed according to his/her choice of gender and style. He wore an ordinary suit today. Wyn chose a pale blue skirt and blouse and a black cloak and beret which were fashionable this year and which she rather liked. She headed for the elevator with Jamie, K9 at their side, and they travelled the twenty remaining floors to the rooftop skyke park. At the door, Wyn stopped and inserted a credit disc into a dispenser and took what looked like two mint imperial sweets from the receptacle. She chewed them slowly as she walked with Jamie to her personal skyke.

“You know,” she said. “The fact that they provide a travel sickness pill dispenser says something about THIS method of transport, too. But I like it better than transmats ANY day.”

Skyke was a generic word for the most common form of transport in the 51st century, used the way Wyn used the word ‘car’. They looked like a jet plane and a car had mated and produced hybrid young. Jamie’s one had sporty looking delta wings and was a cool metallic dark green. It had a concealed siren and flashing lights in case he was in a hot pursuit but mostly he preferred to be ‘undercover’.

Once up into the speed lanes where London really DID look like the map from Eastenders they accelerated. It was only minutes before they reached the coast, following the Thames through the Home Counties. Purely for Wyn’s pleasure, they flew down the English Channel, between Dover and Calais, then hugged the French coast as they rounded Brittany and cut across the Bay of Biscay to the Iberian peninsula, past Portugal, through the Straits of Gibralta and into the Mediterranean. They kept close to the Spanish coast, finally descending into the skyke park in the Placa Reial in the heart of Barcelona.

The city, not the planet, Wyn reminded herself. She had once visited a planet by the same name which made The Doctor laugh at a joke he never seemed to want to share with her.

On the whole she thought the city looked nicer. The historic part of it was even more well preserved than London and if it wasn’t for the skyke lanes in the sky she might forget that she was in the fifty-first century.

Not having cars running around the streets, mind you, made it a much safer city, though it was still busy. People who had more than a short distance to walk used three wheeled scooters with gravity wheels. You stood on them, holding the handle to steer while the wheels turned using built in miniature gravity forces. A gravtrike built for two was a romantic way to see Barcelona, but they were on business so they rode individual ones. K9 hovered beside them, keeping up with the pace.

“Historical sites are often the scene of temporal anomalies,” Jamie pointed out at they parked their gravtrikes at the base of the steps up to the grand façade of the very well preserved Cathedral. “It’s a side effect of the preservation. We use Time Dams to prevent erosion and decay of the old materials. But now and again this sort of thing happens.”

They went up the steps towards what ought to have been a place of peace and tranquil contemplation. Instead there was uproar. The source of the noise was a small group of people under the grand gothic arched entrance that the local police were trying – unsuccessfully - to calm down. Two of them seemed to be priests in medieval style habits. That was Wyn’s best guess anyway. They put her in mind of Friar Tuck. They were speaking in a mixture of Latin and Spanish. There was a nun in the sort of really stiff wimple that looked as if it could fly on its own who looked utterly terrified and was on her knees, praying in French, her rosary beads clattering as her hands trembled, and a pair of almost laughably stereotypical American tourists, fat, middle aged wearing Hawaiian shirts nearly as loud as the man’s voice as he demanded to speak to the US consulate.

“There IS no US Consulate,” Jamie said to him as he held up his Time Agency credentials and called for quiet. “There IS no United States of America. This is the fifty-first century and we ALL live in peace under the Earth Federation of Free Nations – the EFFN. The presidency of the Federation rotates every six months and is currently held by the premier of the Faroe Islands. Now shut up. You’re scaring this young woman.”

Actually, the sight of K9 was scaring her more than anything. He backed off discreetly as Wyn knelt down and spoke to the nun in French. She had learnt to speak French and Welsh at school, but her fluency with languages was courtesy of her time as a crewmember of the TARDIS. She was able to understand the frightened nun and to reply to her.

“Yes, shut up,” Wyn added then turned to Jamie. “She’s convinced she has been abducted by the devil. She’s never going to calm down like this. Those two are only this side of hysterical as well.” She waved towards the two priests. “They think my skirt is too short and I must be a servant of Beelzebub.”

Wyn’s skirt was below knee level. She had never had enough confidence about her thighs for anything shorter. But it must have been alarming to somebody from the 12th century, as was just about everything else about this place. They looked up as skykes flew over the plaza and crossed themselves frantically. The nun didn’t even dare look up. She kept her tearful eyes cast down, convinced that these devilish objects would go away if she didn’t look at them.

“Ok,” Jamie said as the two Americans stopped talking, trying to get their heads around the idea that the USA didn’t rule the world in the fifty-first century. “Now let’s sort all this out.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small device no bigger than a stopwatch. He held it near the young nun and took a reading. “Ok, 1879. June 15th, 2.45pm. She’ll have a fainting spell and a feeling of euphoria when she wakes up, and put it down to the spirit of St. Eulalia moving within her. No harm to that. Stand back, Wyn, the scanner recognises that you’re not of this time, either, and you don’t want to go back to 1879 with her.”

Wyn stood and Jamie stepped towards the nun. She looked at him fearfully as he pressed the device against her forehead. Then she vanished. He turned and looked at the two priests. They raised wooden crucifixes and murmured loudly as he scanned them and concluded they were from 1197 and had slipped through the temporal anomaly at a quarter past twelve on the afternoon of March 13th of that year. But they wouldn’t let him come near them with the devilish device that had already made an innocent woman vanish. He reached in his other pocket for something that looked a little like a very small gun. He pointed it at the two priests and it let off a very localised and directional pulse that rendered the two men and the pair of noisy tourists unconscious before he stepped forward. He put the temporal repair device against the foreheads and sent them back to 1197. The tourists went back to the 18th of July, 2006 at 15.35.

“Can’t do much for them. They’ll just wake up with severe headaches and think they’ve been mugged.” He dropped the two small devices back in his pocket and pulled out a rather larger one, the size and shape of an orange. As the local police – known as the Mossos d'Esquadra - kept the fifty-first century tourists back he scanned all around the portico of the Cathedral. The device beeped loudly.

“Yep,” he said after a while. There’s a minor rip in the Time Dam. Five minutes work.” He turned the device around and scanned again except this time the air shimmered and there was a low whine like an electric toothbrush. As he worked, several very puzzled looking people in contemporary clothes appeared, obviously people who had fallen through the rip from THIS time and place. One of them complained about finding himself in the middle of a bunch of men in brown robes chanting in Latin. Another had nearly got run over by a horse drawn carriage when he stepped away from a half finished Cathedral façade. Two others were still coughing from their experience of the early twentieth century air polluted by the internal combustion engine.

“Of course,” Wyn noted. “They must have been swapped for the people who wound up there.”

“Sorted,” Jamie said five minutes later. “Rip repaired. Shouldn’t be any more trouble. We’ll be off.” He reached out for Wyn’s arm and they went down the steps together. A short gravtrike journey brought them back to the skyke and they took off vertically to the speed lane.

“Next stop, Palermo, same situation there, people dropping out of random time periods. Then Venice. Apparently there are eighteenth century gondoliers fighting with the contemporary ones. And then Rome. You’re getting the grand tour today.”

“And it’s not even eleven o’clock in the morning,” Wyn noted. “I’m glad those travel sick pills last for up to twenty four hours.”

By five o’clock in the evening as they left Marseilles after dealing with an anomaly there she was feeling in need of more than just travel sick pills. Not all of the time rips had been as harmless as the Barcelona one. They got one fifty first century citizen of Rome back beheaded and a World War II German soldier in Brussels had wounded several people before he could be disarmed. Jamie had heard similar stories from his colleagues who were engaged in the same work.

“You said these rips happen around monuments that have been preserved using Time Dams,” Wyn said thoughtfully as they headed back over the English Channel to home at the end of Jamie’s official working day.


“And how many of these rips do you get usually?”

“Peak times of the year we can be really busy,” Jamie answered. “Usually they’re smaller than these. We just get artefacts dropping through – anachronistic technology going back in time and suspiciously new antiques coming the other way. Some of the mundane work of the Agency is in checking that dealers don’t take advantage of the time slips to make a profit.”

“And how many would you deal with on a peak time day?”

“Six to ten. There were fifteen one day last summer.”

“You dealt with fifteen, or you and your workmates between you?”

“Between us. We always have half a dozen agents on standby for that sort of thing. It’s not glamorous work but we all take our turn.”

“So it strikes nobody as ODD that today you’ve had how many….” Wyn looked at the pull down computer screen above the passenger seat of the skyke. “One hundred and forty-three incidents?”

Jamie glanced at the screen and frowned.

“If it’s any consolation,” Wyn told him. “The Doctor can be a bit thick like that, too. Can’t see what’s staring him in the face.”

“It’s not,” Jamie answered. “I’m going to have to check in at HQ. You were with me all day today, so you’re a witness to what’s been going on. You’re coming with me.”

“They’ll let little me into the inner sanctum!” Wyn was just a little sarcastic. Until now Jamie had not brought her further than the public gallery of the Time Agency.

“This time, yes. Unless you would rather go home. I could drop you off.”

“And what would I do while you’re off facing peril and death without me?” Wyn asked. “We don’t do that on the TARDIS. We all stick together.”

“We’re not ON the TARDIS now, Wyn,” Jamie replied just a little irritably. “This is the Time Agency. We’re the professionals.”

“That’s NOT what The Doctor thinks. He’s a Time Lord. He was born to be one. It’s in his blood. You and the Time Agency are just amateurs.”

“I always thought Time Lords were myths. Fantastic, godlike beings who could hold time in their hands and use it to their will. If The Doctor is an example, then they’re a bit of a let down, really. I mean, a godlike being in plimsolls?”

“Yes. What’s wrong with that?”

“I can’t win, can I? The Doctor is always going to be the greatest man in your world.”

“Yes,” Wyn insisted. “Well, my dad is terrific, too. He’s spent his whole life making things better for people all over the Earth. But The Doctor has spent HIS life making things better for people all over the UNIVERSE and he does it without asking for any payment for his effort, not even a thank you most of the time. He risks his own life. He is often hurt terribly. He’s DIED nine times, for the sake of other people. Yes, he’s the greatest man in my life. And I love him, for all of that, and because when I was just a bratty teenager he saw something more in me and let me BE that something more. And… well, without him I couldn’t have met you. And you’re the most special woman in my life.”

“Maybe it would be better if I looked like a woman, then.” Jamie smiled and shimmered and the shirt filled out interestingly. She shook her hair back and carried on driving.

“I’m sorry,” Wyn told her. “I didn’t mean to upset you. And I don’t compare you to The Doctor, if that’s what you think. The way I love you is different. TOTALLY different.”

“I know. But he’s still kind of a hard act to follow. If I really was a man I don’t think I’d have stood a chance with you.”

“No, because I don’t FANCY men,” Wyn reminded her. “Why are we even having this conversation? I thought in the fifty-first century there were no labels and categories for people. I thought you’d all figured it all out.”

“I don’t think we ever got rid of jealousy,” Jamie answered. “And yes, I’m jealous of The Doctor because you think about him so much and think he can do everything. And I want to prove to you that I’m just as good as him.”

“You don’t have to. Just be you.”

That was the closest they had come to an argument Wyn noted as the skyke landed on the roof of the Tower of London and was immediately transmatted to the underground parking garage below.

“Sorry, should have warned you about that,” Jamie laughed softly as Wyn grabbed the door handle and jumped out of the skyke as soon as it stopped. She wasn’t physically sick, but she looked a worrying shade of grey-green for a few minutes.

K9 looked a little dazed, too. How it was possible to tell, neither of them could say, but he DID look as if the transmat had momentarily scrambled his electronic brain. His eye light dimmed and flickered and then went off altogether for ten seconds before he rebooted and declared himself functioning normally.

“Me too,” Wyn said. “But they need a LOT more dampening on that transmat beam. This skyke park is very full, by the way. Is it meant to be?”

“This time of night, not usually,” Jamie answered. “Come on.”

She grabbed Wyn’s hand and pulled her towards a turbo transporter – like a lift but not confined to up and down. Jamie gave it a voice command and it headed up and then left then up and right, towards the central command briefing room. The transporters WERE dampened for comfort and the sensation of movement and direction was no worse than in the TARDIS.

Central Command Briefing Room was already crowded. Jamie and Wyn slipped in and found it to be standing room only. A stern looking man in a smart black uniform and a sort of moustache Wyn associated with black and white Battle of Britain films stood in front of a large viewscreen where images of temporal incidents flashed rapidly past their eyes. Wyn concentrated on the images in a way she had learnt to do in the TARDIS where The Doctor very often looked at things at HIS speed rather than everyone else’s. The depth of the problem facing the Time Agency was clear.

“We’ve got a major temporal crisis on our hands,” said the Lieutenant as the film sequence ended. “Time is bleeding through everywhere and we’ve been putting sticking plasters on the wounds.”

Good metaphor, Wyn thought. Time bleeding through… sticking plasters. But does he have any other ideas?

“It’s happening all over the world. Not just the European sector. We’ve got reports from America, Australia, the Far East. There’s EVEN a report from Antarctica about people seeing an early twentieth century expeditionary team heading for the pole.”

“Antarctica is a tourist attraction?” Wyn asked Jamie.

“No, we use the Time Dams there to keep the ice cap stable,” she answered.

“Something to say, Agent Jass?” The Lieutenant turned and glared at her. “Or are you just getting cuddly with your girlfriend while the world falls apart?”

“No, sir.” Jamie looked the Lieutenant in the eye steadily. “We were just discussing the fact that the Time Dams seem to be the problem.”

“The Time Dams are NOT the problem,” replied the Lieutenant. “The deliberate sabotage of them is the problem.”

“Sabotage?” The word went around the room like wildfire. None of the agents had considered that possibility, but now that they had, they fixed on it as the most likely reason for the increase in the time rips all across the world.

But what if they were wrong? As Wyn listened to the Lieutenant outlining his plan of action, she quietly reached into Jamie’s jacket pocket and took out her mini-computer. When the fifty-first century scientists invented a mini-computer, they meant it. This was the size of a slab of post-it notes that had been almost used up. The keys were so small it used a stylus the size of a cocktail stick to press them. But otherwise it was a fully functioning computer with wireless networking taken for granted. And it told her something very interesting indeed.

As the Lieutenant paused for breath and the pictures on the big viewscreen changed, Wyn put her hand up. To her annoyance her hand was ignored as the Lieutenant fielded questions from his agents about the likely nature of the terrorists responsible for the sabotage.

“We have to bear in mind that these minor incidents are only a prelude to their main act of aggression,” he said. “They’re telling us that they can do this any time and we can’t stop them. They’re telling us that they have bigger acts of sabotage planned. But we’re on to them. We’ll get them before they do any REAL damage.”

“Who’s claimed responsibility?” one of the agents asked. And Wyn, who had come to the 51st century under the impression that Earth was a peaceful place that had sorted out its political differences was surprised by the answers.

“Nobody has yet,” the Lieutenant answered. “But The Sons of Pluto still want to force the peoples of the EFFN to accept Plutonian Fundamentalist religious doctrines. And the Isthians are demanding cessation from the FEC. They’re the most likely. The regular security services are checking their sources, but it falls into our jurisdiction since it involves temporal anomalies.”

In Wyn’s mind the Sons of Pluto conjured up visions of yappy and boisterous puppies that could both lick you and wag you to death. But the mini computer automatically brought up a stream of information about a very sinister lot with some ideas about how people should live that Wyn didn’t like the look of at all. She certainly didn’t think her hips were made for a prayer robe. And she wasn’t wearing a veil whenever men were present.

The Isthians on the other hand were a rather sweet looking pale yellow humanoid people who she thought had a reasonable point. If they wanted to leave the FEC – the Federation of Earth Colonies, then why shouldn’t they?

“Yes, but….” Wyn began. “I don’t think…” But nobody was taking notice of her.

“It doesn’t matter which group are responsible,” the Lieutenant said. “What matters is that they are stopped. You all have your assignments. Put on your twenty-four hour Wake patches and call your loved ones. We’re on overtime from now until this is sorted.” The agents all stood up, taking memory chips with their assignments on them. As the room cleared, Jamie was called back by the lieutenant. Wyn overheard some of the words and they sounded cross. Jamie’s expression when she came at last to join her at the door was best described as ‘tense’.

“Are you in trouble?” Wyn asked her as they headed for the skyke park.

“No,” Jamie assured her. “But I’m off duty.”

“Is this my fault?” Wyn looked worried. “Is it because I’m with you?”

“No, although I was ticked off for bringing my ‘latest conquest’ into the briefing room. No, I’m off this case because it MIGHT be non-terrestrial terrorists and I’m… non-terrestrial.”

“Oh.” Despite the gender changing Wyn tended to forget most of the time that Jamie wasn’t Human, just as she forgot that The Doctor wasn’t a lot of the time, except when he did extra-ordinary things that reminded her. But the idea that Jamie was pushed off this case BECAUSE she wasn’t from Earth was appalling.

“Did we swap racism for speciesism in this century?”

“It’s not the first time,” Jamie commented with a shake of her head. “The people I work with, the other agents, they’re great. But the Lieutenant – I’ll SWEAR he comes from the twentieth century and fell through a time rip. He’s not only speciesist, but a bloody male chauvinist pig, too. He puts all the female agents on rubbish assignments. That’s another reason why he dislikes me, of course. He’d love to drop me from the Agency, but I get results, and his superiors want to encourage inter species relationships. That’s how I was recruited in the first place. HE’s the only one with a problem.”

Jamie sat in the driver’s seat of her skyke and sighed miserably. “At least we have the night off,” she conceded. “Everyone else is working through the night.”

“I don’t think so,” Wyn told her. “Because I think your Lieutenant is wrong anyway.”

Jamie looked at her dubiously, but now she had a captive audience Wyn kept talking.

“Look, what if it’s NOT terrorists sabotaging the Time Dams for some political reason. Why would it be anyway? What would terrorists have to gain from this? Don’t get me wrong. I know terrorists do stupid things. I come from the twenty-first century. I’ve seen them do the most stupid things ever. But why would they do this? And if they have, why haven’t they claimed responsibility?”

“Maybe it’s not THOSE sort of terrorists. Could be somebody with a grudge against history – or one of those natural order people who thinks that we should let the monuments decay naturally and not use technology to preserve them beyond their years.”

“You know,” Wyn said. “I think I see their point. I mean, it seems like you’ve got these Time Dams all over the world. Surely it can’t be a good thing. You hold back anything for too long and the pressure bursts. I don’t reckon The Doctor would think it was a good idea, either.”

“Can we get through a half hour without The Doctor coming into the conversation?” Jamie responded.

“No, not when we’re discussing time. Time is his business. He knows more than your whole Agency put together. If he was here he’d tell you what to do straight away. He’d probably just stand up on the roof of the Tower of London and FEEL what was wrong and tell you how to fix it.”

“Well, he’s not here. Lieutenant Friel is in charge of the operation, and I’m off the case.”

“You’re off the case of terrorists attacking the Time Dams around ancient monuments,” Wyn reminded her. “But how about investigating natural causes? Look.” She interfaced the mini-computer with the screen inside the skyke and showed Jamie the data she had come up with while the Lieutenant was talking about terrorism. “Terrorists would select random targets, wouldn’t they. The last thing they want is a pattern that could be traced. Or they’d go for high profile targets, or maybe ancient monuments that we’re all sentimental about – Wembley Stadium or Blackpool tower, that sort of thing. But there wouldn’t be a PATTERN.”

Jamie looked at the screen. Wyn had called up a schematic that showed where all of the time rips had occurred across the planet. And there WAS a pattern. A radial pattern, like spokes coming off one central hub. The further away, the less frequent, but close to the centre, one city had been subjected to fifty of the rips.

The city was Paris and at the centre of the time rips….

“The Eiffel Tower!” Wyn laughed triumphantly as Jamie located the position. “That’s where this starts from.

“The Eiffel Tower?” Jamie gave a low whistle.


“I think you’re onto something. Buckle up. We’re out of here. You’d better slap one of these on, too.” She reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a small box containing what looked like Nicorette patches. Wyn looked at Jamie questioningly as she slapped one onto her upper arm.

“Twenty-four hour Wake,” she said. “It’s a serotonin blocker. Stops you feeling tired on late shifts. They’re standard kit in the Agency.”

Wyn looked dubious.

“It’s ok. It’s a natural product. No side effects. Except wanting to sleep for a day when it wears off.”

“That IS a side effect as far as I’m concerned,” Wyn told her. “No thanks, I’ll just pinch myself if I feel sleepy.”

“Suit yourself,” Jamie answered her. “By the way, you didn’t get sick when we passed through the transmat.”

“Too busy worrying about the effects of wake up drugs. Honestly, there are some things about the fifty-first century that are SO unnatural. The weather thing, the Time Dams, WAKE patches. I don’t think any of that is good for you.”

“I take it for granted,” Jamie said. “Lived here ten years now, working for the Agency. I haven’t even been home for at least five years.”

“What’s your planet like?” Wyn asked.

“My planet is great if you’re rich and live on the Overside,” she answered. “For the workers in the Underland, it’s not so great. And whatever they say about equality, it’s not that easy to get promoted. My eight siblings and my parent all work in a foundry. I was lucky. I got one of the scholarships and went to university, got accepted for the space corps. When my term of service was over I happened to be on Earth, so I looked for work there. The Agency was recruiting and they sponsored my visa. I’ve got citizenship now, anyway. So I suppose Earth IS my home. If only Lieutenant Friel would stop reminding me that I’m an alien.”

“You should come and visit the twenty-first century. Stay with me at the Nuthutch. I can’t guarantee the weather, but I can promise you’ll be warm at night.”

“That’s a tempting offer,” Jamie said with a smile. “I really MIGHT take you up on it some time.”

They were approaching the outskirts of Paris and Jamie slowed the skyke down to a little over thirty miles per hour, a mere crawl compared to what they had been doing, and dropped down to a level just above the rooftops of the city.

Unlike London, fifty-first century Paris did not have many skyscrapers. Its planners tried to keep the familiar skyline unobstructed. Its inhabitants lived, rather, in a sort of reverse of a skyscraper. Two or three stories of the buildings were above ground with rooftop gardens and solar panels on the walls and as many as fifty floors of apartments were below ground, accessed by turbo lifts. People seemed to like that lifestyle. Wyn wasn’t sure she would. A couple of mis-adventures in the mines and caverns around Llanfairfach had taught her to value life above ground. From what Jamie had described of the ‘Underland’ of her world she thought SHE preferred life in the open air, too.

“Mistresses,” said K9. “I am picking up multiple temporal energy readings.”

“So am I,” Wyn answered him, looking at the computer. “A dozen at least. All around the centre of Paris. The Louvre, the Arc d’Triomph, Notre Dame Cathedral… all the big monuments.”

“What about the tower?”

“You really don’t want to know about the tower. The readings are off the scale.”

“Readings are a moot point,” Jamie said as the Eiffel Tower came into view. She realised that she SHOULD have been able to see it for a while. It was, after all, lit up at night and could be seen prominently from almost all parts of Paris. But for the past ten minutes or so it had NOT been visible because it hadn’t been there. As they drove closer she and Wyn watched in astonishment as the tower unbuilt itself, the top levels disappearing first, then bit by bit the tower sections before it disappeared from view altogether for several minutes then built itself up again. It was like watching a video of the stages of construction, and it would have been fascinating if it were not obvious that something very terrible was going on.

“Earlier when I said ‘Eiffel Tower’,” Wyn began. “You sounded worried. How come?”

“Because the tower…. At the top of it… is where the Time Dams are controlled for the whole planet.” Jamie sounded REALLY worried now.

“You know what we’ve got to do, don’t you?” Wyn said.

“How?” Jamie asked. “How do we get into a building that isn’t THERE half the time?”

“During the half when it IS there,” Wyn answered. Get the skyke as close as you can to it and then we play it by ear.”

Jamie looked at Wyn and was about to ask which one of them was the professional here. But after all, she was OFF duty right now. They were neither of them in charge. If Wyn had an idea how to handle this situation then she was willing to put her trust in her.

She parked the skyke right at the foot of the tower and they stood there watching it. They were not alone. Many citizens of Paris had come to see what was happening to their beloved monument and the police were trying to hold them behind a cordon. There were already a few Time Agents on hand but they were doing nothing but standing around staring.

“We can’t get a reading,” complained one who Jamie had addressed as Dan. “At least not one that stays constant. It’s as if the tower is phasing in and out of time.”

“Has anyone tried to get inside?” Wyn asked.

“No. It would be suicide. If you were halfway up when it disappeared again….”

Wyn and Jamie both had the same unpleasant vision but at the same time both thought of something else. They looked at each other and then ran towards the stairs that led up one huge steel leg of the tower, K9 hovering behind them.

“It’s going back and forwards in time,” Wyn said, heartily glad of the concept of regular exercise The Doctor had introduced her to as a teenager. Without it she would never have stood the pace. “But if we’re already inside when it goes, then we won’t be left in thin air. We’ll be taken back in time WITH it.”

“That’s what I thought, too,” Jamie agreed. “But we have to move fast. Sooner or later we WILL get to the point in history when it WASN’T there.”

They reached the Mezzanine level above the four supporting legs in what Jamie’s wristlet told them was the forty-fifth century. – At least at first. Wyn had a brief glimpse of tourists watching a huge plasma screen with photographs of the construction of the tower in 1889 before they were gone and other people briefly appeared and disappeared as time span backwards. The images of a partially built tower, without the part of it they wanted to reach, was unnerving.

“We’re running back in time at approximately one hundred years a minute,” Jamie said. “We have twenty-six minutes to get to the top and try to find out what’s going on before we’re in BIG trouble.”

“We’re going to have to risk the lift,” Wyn said. “There are no stairs from here.”

“Yes,” Jamie answered her. They headed for the lift and got in. Although their journey upwards remained constant, other passengers were appearing and disappearing as time span backwards. And Wyn noticed something about that as they progressed upwards.

“They’re changing faster. I think the speed is increasing.”

“I think you’re right,” Jamie agreed. “Our margin has been cut. We have about five minutes.”

Or less.

“We’re not going to reach the top before the top isn’t there,” Wyn said.

“You’re right. Hang on. Literally hang on. Grab hold of me.” Jamie pulled back her sleeve and tapped quickly at her wristlet. Wyn gave a soft cry as the lift cage around them and the structure of the tower dissolved. She looked down as the tower rapidly receded from her, but she did not fall. She and Jamie and K9 were suspended in a stasis bubble generated by the wristlet.

“I can’t keep this up for long,” Jamie told her. “It’ll burn out the circuits.”

“We shouldn’t have to, should we?” Wyn answered. “The tower will be back won’t it?”

“It is returning now,” K9 observed. “Time is moving forward.”

“Stay still.” Jamie ordered them both. “We may have only seconds when there’s a lift in the right position.”

The tower built itself around them as they hung in stasis in the lift shaft. Wyn looked down and saw a lift coming up the shaft. As she and Jamie touched their feet down on it and K9’s hover pads connected Jamie switched off the stasis and they felt gravity claim them once more. They rode the top of the lift cage to the top of the tower, jumping off on the observation deck. For a mere moment somebody cried out in surprise but time was still marching on and they were not there long enough to be chastised for their unorthodox arrival.

“We’re too far back in time,” Jamie said. “The Time Dam machinery isn’t here yet.”

“Something is, though,” Wyn replied. “Listen. Can you hear? Something….”

“No,” Jamie answered. “I can’t hear anything. Except that sort of murmuring noise that’s been there all along.”

They were moving forward in time too fast to catch the conversations of the people who flitted in and out of view. There was a susurration of sound that was an amalgamation of their voices. But Wyn could hear something else.

“Please!” the voices said. “We’re dying. Please stop. Free us. Free us from your prison.”

“Who are you?” Wyn asked. “Where are you?”

“Please….” came the voices again. They were soft – watery was a word that seemed to describe them. Like somebody speaking underwater, if that was possible. They were frightened and pleading.

“Can you hear me?” she asked. “My name is Wyn. Who are you?”

“We are of the Zerite,” replied the voices together. “We are… in pain. Please stop. Stop the time dam. Free us from pain, free us from your prison.”

“It’s not MY prison,” Wyn answered. “But I’ll try. Tell me who you are. Is it you causing the time rips?”

“A few of us found weak spots and escaped. But most of us are trapped. More and more every day. We have no room to live. So many of us trapped. We are dying. Pressed into each other.”

An image came unbidden into Wyn’s mind. Or perhaps the Zerite had some power to reach into her thoughts and find something familiar that would help her to empathise with their plight. It was a Human tragedy that occurred a few years before she was born, but she had seen the pictures on TV - Human beings crushed to death as more and more of them were herded into a place with no exits that was already too small for them.

That was what was happening to the Zerites in the time dams. More and more of them were trapped and they were dying. A few managed to break through the rips. Another vision came to her of fish in a trawler’s net, a few escaping through holes but most hopelessly caught up together to die.

“I can hear them now, too,” Jamie said. “Oh, they are so hurt. But why can we hear them and no-one else can? The people who manage the times dams. Why didn’t they….”

“The TARDIS,” Wyn answered. “The time vortex filtered through the TARDIS’s psychic generators. I’ve travelled with The Doctor for ages, and you’ve been in it a little while. So we’re receptive to creatures who… LIVE in time. I don’t quite understand how that could be, but that’s what they’re telling us.”

“They’re getting louder,” Jamie said. “We must be close to where they are trapped.”

“We’re close to when the time dams were installed. That’s the source of the problem as far as they’re concerned. Where they become trapped. We have to turn off the dams to free them. When we get to the right time, we have to do it.”

“I will interface with the time dam machinery,” K9 said. “I can do so with maximum efficiency.”

“Do it,” Jamie instructed him. “As soon as you can.”

It was another few minutes before they reached the time when the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower had been closed to the public and made into the central processor for the time dams that preserved all the world’s monuments. K9 immediately interfaced his nose probe with the computer.

“Estimate it will take as much as eight minutes to complete the process,” he said.

“Do we have eight minutes?” Wyn asked as Jamie looked at her wristlet.

“Just,” she answered, “We’ll be running back in time again by then. And I’m not sure….”

“Please!” cried the Zerite again. Then the voice changed from fear to hope. “Yes. Yes. Thank you. The dam is opening. Some of us are free. It is open. We are free. Thank you. Thank you, for releasing us.”

“You’re welcome,” Wyn answered, though she felt the emptiness as they swam or ran, or whatever they did, and were gone.

K9 finally moved back from the computer and retracted his nose probe, announcing that the dam was now fully open and locked off.

“But time is running backwards still,” Wyn observed. She looked out of the windows and saw the Parisian sky flickering as the days ran by, days, nights, fine weather, rain, snow, too fast to determine a single day or year. Just like the voices of the people it was an amalgam sky, made up of nearly three thousands years of skies.

“It will go back to the beginning, when the tower was being built, and then swing back to our present,” Jamie said. “It has to complete the movement back and forward in time before it stops.”

“But that means there will be another moment when there IS no tower,” Wyn answered.

“Yes,” Jamie looked at her wristlet and her heart sank. “And… Wyn… K9… I’m sorry. We… there’s only about ten seconds of stasis power left.”

Wyn thought about what it had been like hanging there in mid air, over three hundred feet above the ground, the foundations of the tower a mere gaping hole below. It was horrible even when they were safe in stasis.

But this time….

This time they would start to fall after ten seconds. Even if the tower started to rebuild itself it would only meet their falling bodies. They would impact with the steel in painful and fatal ways. If they missed the tower and landed on the partly built platform above the legs, their brains would be shook out of their cracked skulls, bodies pulped, every bone broken. K9 would be pieces of mangled scrap metal among the organic material.

“Jamie!” Wyn called to her in a voice that felt small. “I.…” She wrapped her arms around her lover and held on tight.

“Yeah, I know,” Jamie answered. “I love you too. If we’re going to die. At least….”

“No, don’t say that,” Wyn told her. “That’s only for daft heroines in old films. There’s nothing great about dying together. All it means is they’ll never work out which bits belong to which body, nothing romantic about that. I’m…. I’m glad you’re here to hold onto. But not to die with. I don’t want to die.”

“Neither do I.”

“I am not satisfied with this terminal situation either, mistresses,” said K9 mournfully - if a robot dog could DO mournful.

“I wish The Doctor was here,” Wyn said as she felt the floor beneath her feet dissolve and she hung in the air for the ten seconds that Jamie’s stasis field could maintain.

“To HELL with The Doctor!” screamed Jamie as they fell. K9’s hover mode slowed him a little, but gravity had caught him as inexorably as it had his flesh and blood friends. It pulled Wyn and Jamie apart as they tried to cling to each other. Wyn screamed as she felt her fingers yanked away from Jamie’s hand. It flipped her over so that she could see just where she was falling. The foundations of the tower were a brown smudge below. She tried not to think of being a red smudge on top of it as the scream that came uncontrollably from her mouth mingled in her ears with the sound of the air rushing by.

Then there was no rushing air and her scream died away. She was no longer looking at a brown smudge on the grown far below. She was looking at a green mesh floor half a foot from her face.

“To HELL with The Doctor?” queried a familiar voice. “Well, if you’d rather take your chances I can always….” She heard Jamie reply hurriedly.

“Ok, then. Brace yourself, Wyn,” The Doctor’s voice continued. “When we switch off the anti-gravity field you’ll bump your nose on the floor.”

She managed to turn her head far enough to see K9 hovering directly over her. The Doctor pushed him away so that he would not land on her then caught hold of Jamie’s foot as she hovered like a balloon over the command chair. He pulled her down until he could hold her around the waist then called out to Stella to hit the lever. Stella did so and Wyn fell the last foot with an undignified ‘oof’ even though she had time to put out her hands and protect herself from the worst of it. K9 dropped like a stone and sat very disturbingly still. The Doctor took Jamie’s weight as she dropped and the two of them landed on the floor in what might be called a compromising position. Jamie shimmered from female to male and female again as she planted a kiss on The Doctor’s lips.

“Gerroff!” he protested. “Bloody time agents. You’re all sex maniacs.” But he was laughing as he helped her up and went to lift Wyn to her feet. “No bones broken?”

“None,” Wyn answered. “But I think K9’s damaged and can I have my girlfriend back now?”

“What were you doing falling through the air above the site of the future Eiffel Tower?” Stella asked as The Doctor transferred his attention to K9 and declared that he had burnt out his hover motor and his long life battery was dangerously low.

“Given that K9’s battery should last up to five hundred years without recharge I would be interested in the explanation, too. Here we were, visiting Paris, minding our own business, when I detected a time anomaly, and you two popped out of thin air.”

Wyn and Jamie between them told the story. The Doctor was very interested in the Zerites.

“I’ve heard of them. Creature that live in time but not in space. Like fish swimming in a sea of time. Happy, content, free. Until HUMANS come and put up their bloody dams and trap them like…” The Doctor thought of the two metaphors Wyn’s mind had conjured and chose the latter. “Caught in a net, crushed together.”

“It was OUR fault,” Jamie admitted. “We’ve been using the time dams for about five hundred years now. At first it was just the really ancient monuments like the pyramids, the grand canyon. Then it was the more recent monuments, like the Cathedral at Barcelona that we were at yesterday.”

“The whole planet preserved like a big museum,” The Doctor said disparagingly. “Like a room full of old things that you can’t let go of.”

“What do we do now?” Jamie asked. “If we keep the dams open the monuments will crumble. If we close them the Zerites suffer again.”

“You’re asking me?” The Doctor smiled wryly. “You, of the time Agency who know everything?”

“Not everything,” Jamie admitted. “We’re… the amateurs. You’re the one born to it. The EXPERT.”

“Just you keep on remembering that,” he answered with a soft laugh. “Ok, first things first.” He dematerialised the TARDIS and moved it forward in some three thousand years in time and a few yards of space. He rematerialised it in mid-air beside the fully intact and temporally stable Eiffel Tower.

“All back to normal now,” he said. “So let’s take you back to London to explain what you did.” Jamie groaned. She knew THAT wasn’t going to be any fun at all.”

It was as bad as she feared. Lieutenant Friel’s door was closed but Wyn and Stella waiting outside and every Time Agent at their desks heard him as he berated Jamie for acting without orders, for committing sabotage, treason and several other offences before telling her she was not only fired but would be arrested and facing a number of criminal charges.

“No, she won’t,” said the calmer but no less easy to hear voice of the Time Agency’s Chief Commander as she marched into the office accompanied by The Doctor. Wyn and Stella slipped in after them to listen in. “Sergeant Jass is to receive a commendation for her fast thinking which not only averted a crisis for humanity, but for a previously unknown species which was being harmed by our technology contrary to several intergalactic laws and treaties, including two drafted by this gentleman with me.” The Doctor grinned broadly and made a brief salute to Jamie. “Further more, I think a promotion might be in order. CAPTAIN Jass.”

“Thank you, Madam,” she answered. “But I didn’t do it all on my own. Wyn and The Doctor helped. And K9. And… what WILL happen about the time dams? If they’re going to be turned back on again and the Zerites tortured and hurt, then I definitely don’t want any promotion. I don’t want anything to do with it.”

“I’ve been talking to the commander about that,” The Doctor said. “The dams are not the problem in themselves, although I do think they’re a very dubious way of preserving history. The problem is using them non-stop. A water dam is released every so often. So can the time dams. They will be switched off for three or four hours every night. The monuments won’t be harmed and the Zerites will be free.

“I knew you’d know what to do,” Wyn told The Doctor.

“Wyn thinks you can do anything, Doctor,” Jamie observed.

“So I can,” he replied with no trace of false modesty. “Except touch my elbow with my nose. Used to be able to but the nose isn’t what it was…” Wyn and Stella waited as he rambled off on a tangent and returned to the point. “Anyway, for a time agent you didn’t do too badly. Apart from the slight problem at the end there. You saved the Zerites and did your own species proud.”

Jamie blushed and that turned to the chief commissioner.

“Madame,” she said. “I’d be proud to accept a captaincy. But not yet. I’ve got a six month sabbatical due to me. I’d like to take it starting now.”

“Start tomorrow after you hand in your report,” said the Commissioner.

“Fair enough,” she answered. “Doctor, do you mind waiting till I’m ready to leave… If you’ll have me that is. I’d like to spend some time working with a PROFESSIONAL and it would be great to have more time with Wyn.”

“Fine by me,” The Doctor assured her. “Only, now and then, can you change to your male version. Three women, one Time Lord. These aren’t fair odds.”