By contrast the dark black coach that sat opposite was the picture of elegance. No one paid it any attention as they moved through the driving rain, some for fear that no good could come of such a vehicle in this part of town, some for the deference to the money which must have paid for it. But despite its unlikely situation and the evidently bored horse at its head, the pedestrians didn’t avoid it. One or two even used it as a temporary reprieve from the weather.
Inside there was silence save for the thrum of rain against the polished wooden sides. Three pairs of eyes watched the house intently. One was briefly illuminated by a struck flint, a young man in a driver’s uniform lighting his third nervous cigarette.
A feminine cough of disapproval went ignored as a light in the upstairs window matched the burning embers. The faces moved curiously closer to the window, straining to peer through the sheet rain at the movements within. Opera glasses passed around the carriage until the silence was broken by the woman’s voice.
“That settles the matter. We go in.”
“I’m not surprised he wouldn’t let you keep it” Max was saying as he tried yet another door. Since the Doctor had tried to rebuild the layout of his TARDIS the room’s seemed even less inclined than usual to stay put. He wondered if the ship was trying to force him to spend quality time with Lily by making them utterly lost.
“But the cat had nowhere to go, after the bombings...” Lily sighed.
“Can you imagine a tiny little thing like that in here? I’ve got enough trouble finding us the boot cupboard as it is” he closed the door on another clothes strewn bedroom trying not to think about how intimate the mess had seemed.
“What does he want with this smelly old trunk of his anyway? It can’t be spare parts this far from the console room.”
“We might be closer than you think I get the feeling we’re going in circles” he pulled a door that opened into a ballroom sized space with mirrored walls. In the middle of it all stood a pair of ladies stiletto heeled, thigh high boots and a large trunk. “Bingo!”
“Nice boots” Lily grinned “bet Ichigo would love them.”
“I thought she was on a male kick at the moment” Max replied distractedly.
“I don’t think that matters much too her” Lily told him, picking up the boots and placing them on the trunk. Max arched an eyebrow at her and she smiled sweetly at him. It was hard for him to believe that she had been a little girl less than a year ago of his own time. Now here she was in a yellow mini-dress, for all the world as though she was about to spend the night clubbing. It was only her eyes that made you wonder what definition of clubbing she’d use.
There was a sudden lurch and Max grabbed for the girl to stop her falling, only succeeding in bringing them both crashing to the floor. When he struggled up Lily was clutching at her temples and crying in pain. He pulled her too him, smoothing her hair impotently as a salve for whatever hurt she had suffered.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He told her. She thumped his chest.
“You didn’t, can’t you hear the howling?”
Max frowned but had to admit that he could not. “Come on, the sooner we get this back to the console room the sooner I can get the Doctor to check you over.”
The console room still looked cramped even after all the work the Doctor had put into it. The library seemed almost like a big photograph at one end of the room thanks to a faulty dimensional interface.
And the door to the kitchen kept changing shape. Today it was a heavy mediaeval arch shape, complete with ivy, if no actual doors.
Xan was patiently holding the old television against the battered armchair next to the console. Trails of wire splurged from the back and pooled around the Doctors knees as he sat in his shirt sleeves dismantling an old laptop.
Both screens seemed to be live and every now and then sparks would fly across the chestnut curls.
“Is this going to take much longer Doctor?” she sighed. She looked a little drawn, as though she’d been underground a long time.
“Well that old thing’s not giving me a clear enough image of the signal we’ve intercepted.” He thrust his smile in the direction of the TV and crossed two wires at the same time. A flash of electricity and he jumped up, wrenching the laptop screen from the base and plonking it unceremoniously onto the console. “Have to find a bracket for that”
Screen in place he started pulling and twisting controls in earnest. Xan sighed and was about to ask him what she should do with the old TV when the inner doors banged open and Max yelled for some help.
Xan ran over to where he was dragging the Doctor’s trunk with Lily draped over it and a pair of boots draped over her. “What happened?”
“We took a tumble after his left turn” he nodded at the time lord’s back as he hunched over the new screen. “She thought she heard howling, then she collapsed on the way back”
“Turbulence? We got thrown around anyway”
“We’ve been working on the monitor Max, there hasn’t been anything here.”
“I’ve got a fix on that signal!” The Doctor called out and danced frenetically around the console. A sound welled up from the depths of the room. A sonorous chanting like evensong even down to the Latin phrasing.
Lily screamed, rolled from the trunk and ran into the library. Max went after her, yelling at the Doctor to turn the sound off.
“I can’t, I’m not making it!” he skidded around the console and grabbed for the hammer by the chair. Xan joined him at the dais although her eyes were on the library.
The three observers were out of the carriage. Despite the press of the rain they made swift progress across the street. The light in the upstairs window began to fade and build in a repetitive cycle. As they drew closer they could make out a sound alongside the light. At first a sonorous chanting but that was steadily overwhelmed by a roaring of unearthly magnitude. The coachman dropped his cigarette in the mud and took out a cavalry carbine. The woman waved him into silence as the sound stopped with a thud. The team looked to each other then moved in with a nod from her.
The console room lights dimmed and settled to a creaking standstill. Xan and the Doctor made for the library. When they found Max he was stood staring at the floor. Lily lay across an aisle, a thick black marker in her hand. She had turned the floor into a vast canvas depicting a see through entity towering over a forest, bellowing rage at the night sky. Transfixed at its feet stood thousands of terrified humanoids.
“Don’t ask,” Max told them “I haven’t been able to move her, I don’t think we will till she’s finished” he turned to them with concern writ large over his features. “Any idea what that is?”
“The forest spirit is the malevolent Mighty Bah of Kazumi” Xantist replied “Although I have not taught her any Siabaran legends. And I do not recognise the beings in the crowd.”
“Marshmen” The Doctor supplied. He stroked his lower lip in thought “another part of her heritage”
“I spose it’s redundant to point out the arts in her fave manga style?” asked a giggly voice from the top of the bookcase. Ichigo Muffin dropped effortlessly to her feet and lay a calming hand on her friend as she finished the nearest row.
“Bit of something for everyone,” Max pondered aloud. “Did we land?”