Chapter 1

Professor Chronotis

On a bright if not particularly warm October day a young man wearing jeans and a pale-coloured jacket cycled up to the gates of St Cedd's, one of the colleges of England's Cambridge University. Slowing to a halt, he dismounted and parked his bicycle in the racks before walking into First Court. He pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, and checked the room number scrawled on it. Looking around purposefully, he walked on into Second Court, where he approached a passer-by.

‘Excuse me. Do you know where P-14 is?’ he inquired.

‘Yes - it's over there,’ answered the passer-by, indicating the second floor of the old, ivy-covered building in the far corner of the courtyard.

The young man thanked the passer-by and hurried off.

An elderly man opened the front door of his rooms and entered a large wood-panelled study, containing a collection of well-worn antique furniture. Sturdy bookshelves lined the walls, crammed to capacity with untidy rows of dusty, leather-bound volumes of varying sizes and colours. A table was also stacked high with books and papers.

Pushing a pile of papers aside, the old man set his leather brief case down on the table and removed a slim brown paper package from it. He tipped up his case and emptied a clutter of files crammed with papers on to the table. Several slipped off onto the floor, and he let them stay there.

The old man removed his coat, hat and scarf. Beneath these garments he wore a grey tweed suit that had evidently seen better decades. Apart from a few grey wisps, his hair and thick beard were white and his face and hands were deeply lined with the passage of time. Small, half- frame glasses rested on the end of his beaky nose.

His attention was suddenly drawn to an unusual object. He peered over his half-frames at the battered blue police box that incongruously occupied one corner of the room. He grunted slightly and, clearly not at all put out by its presence, then turned his attention to the brown paper package in his hands. After a moment's consideration, he placed the parcel carefully on the table and wandered off to the adjoining kitchen.

As he was about to leave the room, there was a knock at the front door. ‘Come in!’ the old man called, and continued into his kitchen.

The door opened and the young man entered, momentarily glancing up at the number on the door to reassure him that this was indeed room P-14. He looked into the room just in time to glimpse the old man's back as he retreated into the kitchen.

‘Excuse the muddle,’ the old man called to him. ‘Creative disarray, you know.’

The young man looked around the study clearly bemused. ‘Professor Chronotis?’ he ventured, after some hesitation.

‘Tea?’ came the reply from the kitchen.

‘Oh. Yes, thanks.’

The old man, Professor Chronotis, shuffled back into the study. ‘Just put the kettle on,’ he explained kindly, rubbing his hands together.

‘Er, Professor Chronotis,’ the young man continued uneasily, ‘I don't know if you remember me. We met at a faculty party a few weeks ago. It's Chris Parsons.’

‘Oh yes, yes,’ the Professor nodded, and shook the young student's hand. ‘Enjoy those faculty do's, do you?’

Chris Parsons shrugged noncommittally. ‘Well, you know...’

‘Lots of boring old dons talking away at each other, never listen to a word anybody else says.’

‘Well, yes,’ Chris agreed. ‘You said that...’

‘Talk, talk, talk,’ Chronotis continued. ‘Never listen.’

‘No, well... I hope I'm not taking up your valuable...’

‘Time?’ the Professor ventured. ‘No, no. When you get to my age, you'll find that time doesn't matter too much. Not that I expect you will get to my age,’ he added, and stooped to lift a handful of books from a nearby table.

‘Oh really?’ Chris humoured him.

Chronotis looked up from studying the book titles. ‘Yes. I remember saying to the last Master of College but one, young Professor Frencham... or was it the last but two? May have been three.’

‘Three,’ echoed Chris, slightly surprised.

The Professor continued unperturbed by his listener's scepticism. ‘Yes. Nice young chap. Died rather tragically at the age of ninety. Run over by a coach and pair.’

‘What was it you said to him?’ Chris persisted.

‘Oh, I don't know. Long time ago you know.’

‘Yes,’ replied Chris doubtfully, and decided it was high time he steered the conversation back towards the reason for his visit. ‘Er, Professor, when we met, you were kind enough to say that if I dropped round, you would lend me some of your books on carbon dating.’

‘Oh yes. Happy to.’ The kettle whistled from the kitchen and the Professor dumped his handful of books back on the table. ‘Ah, there's the kettle.’ He shuffled off into the kitchen. ‘You'll find the books you want at the far end of the bookshelf. Third shelf down.’

Chris called out his thanks, and made for the bookshelves. He paused momentarily, taking in for the first time the police box standing in the corner of the room. He stared at it in complete bewilderment for a moment, and then recalled his real purpose. Chris counted three shelves down the bookshelves and pulled out a book from the end of the row. He flicked through the pages briefly and noticed that it was written in an entirely unrecognisable text. He was about to return it to the shelf when it occurred to him that it was far too light for its size and thickness.

The Professor's voice drifted through from the kitchen. ‘Or is it the second shelf down? Second, I think. Anyway, take what you want.’

Chris looked up one shelf, and immediately spied the titles he sought. Nodding with satisfaction, he pulled out two volumes.

‘Milk?’ called the Professor from the kitchen.

‘Oh,’ said Chris, suddenly remembering the offer of tea. ‘Yes please.’

‘One lump or two?’

‘Two, please.’


‘What?’ said Chris, startled.

The Professor came back in, carrying a laden tea tray, and chuckling to himself at his little joke. ‘Ah, here we are,’ he said, putting the tray down on a table.

Chris had a sudden vision of being trapped with the Professor all afternoon listening to him ramble on. He glanced at his watch. ‘Oh, actually Professor, I've just realised I'm going to be really late for a seminar. I'm terribly sorry. Look, I'll bring these back to you next week, is that all right?’ he inquired, holding up the books.

The Professor waved the question aside. ‘Yes of course. Well, goodbye then.’

‘Goodbye.’ Chris started towards the door.

Chronotis retrieved up his brown paper package from the table, and pulled out a secondhand copy of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, a book he'd bought in the town that morning.

‘Er, actually Professor,’ said Chris, pausing by the door, ‘can I ask you, where did you get that?’ He pointed at the police box.

The Professor gave the large blue box careful consideration over his half frame spectacles. ‘That? I don't know. I think someone must have left it there whilst I was out.’

He seemed to be perfectly happy with this explanation, so Chris resisted the temptation to pursue the matter further. ‘Yes, well... I'll bring these back as soon as I can.’

The Professor shrugged as the door closed behind Chris. The Professor sat down in his favourite armchair, poured himself a cup of tea, and began to read his book.

“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us...”

‘Wordsworth! Rutherford, Christopher Smart, Andrew Marvell, Judge Jefferies, Owen Chadwick...’

‘Who?’ inquired Romana, looking up from her book.

‘Owen Chadwick,’ the Doctor repeated, as if this should be explanation enough in itself. ‘Oh yes, some of the greatest labourers in Earth's history have served here.’ He punctuated his assertion with a sweeping gesture that took in the elegant old university buildings, and dangerously rocked the punt in which they were travelling. Romana gripped the sides of the shallow boat, nervously eyeing the murky waters of the Cam.

The Doctor seemed unconcerned. He gazed along the banks of the river with fond memories of previous visits. They were punting along a section of the River Cam known as the Backs, so-called because the river ran between the rear sections of many of the colleges that comprised Cambridge University. On either side, green lawns sloped up to the backs of elegant old university buildings, partly covered in ivy. A profusion of willow trees lined the riverbank in large clumps.

‘Newton, of course,’ said Romana, adding to the Doctor's list of names.

‘Oh yes, definitely Newton,’ the Doctor agreed, recalling how he had once climbed a tree to drop an apple on old Isaac's head. He smiled at the memory, and thrust the pole into the riverbed, causing the punt to shoot forward again.

‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,’ Romana recited.

‘That's right!’

‘So Newton invented punting?’

‘Oh yes, there's no limit to Isaac's genius!’ The Doctor plunged the pole again and they shot under a bridge and out the other side.

‘Isn't it wonderful how something so primitive can be so...’ Romana considered the right word.

‘Graceful?’ ventured the Doctor.

‘No, simple.’ She replied. ‘You just push in one direction, and the boat moves in the other.’

‘Yes.’ The Doctor felt a little miffed that his companion had successfully reduced the graceful and delicate art of punting to a mere example of Newton's Third Law. He concentrated instead on steering the punt, and began to hum in tune to the music playing on the ancient gramophone nestled in the bottom of the boat.

Romana trailed her hand in the water. ‘Oh I do love the spring. All the leaves, the colours...’ she eulogised, in an apparent attempt to restore the Doctor's faith in her ability to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of things.

‘It's October,’ the Doctor informed her.

Romana looked perplexed. ‘I thought you said we were coming here for May Week?’

‘I did. May Week's in June!’

‘I'm confused,’ Romana confessed.

‘So was the TARDIS.’

Romana tried again. ‘Oh, I do love the autumn. All the leaves, the colours...’

‘Yes, well at least with something as simple as a punt, nothing can go wrong.’ He pushed down on the pole and heaved it up again. ‘No coordinates, no dimensional stabilisers - nothing. Just the water, a punt, a strong pair of hands...’ He thrust the pole into the river bed again, ‘... and a pole.’

At that moment, the Doctor discovered that the pole had become firmly lodged in the mud, and was forced to let go in order to avoid falling in. He swung his arms about in a desperate attempt to regain his balance.

‘The pole!’ exclaimed Romana, watching helplessly as they continued to drift. The pole remained stuck in the middle of the river behind them.

The Doctor successfully avoided toppling overboard, and dug around in the bottom of the punt as they passed under another bridge. He triumphantly extricated from under the gramophone an oar provided for just such emergencies.

The Doctor flashed Romana a toothy grin. ‘I think it's about time we see if the Professor's back in his room,’ he observed, and kneeling on the boat's prow, he started to paddle.

A short distance down river from the Doctor and Romana's punt, a man stood in the middle of a bridge, looking down at the water. He was somewhat flamboyantly dressed in a wide-brimmed white hat and a flowing silver cape over a white tunic and trousers. Held in a firm grasp at his side was a large, multi-coloured carpetbag. He watched impassively as the Doctor paddled the punt under the bridge.

‘... For every action there's an opposite and equally difficult reaction...’ The Doctor was saying to Romana.

Romana looked up suddenly as the punt emerged from under the bridge. She craned her neck to see onto the bridge, but from her perspective it appeared to be deserted. She frowned. ‘Did you just hear voices?’ she asked.

The Doctor looked up his paddling. ‘What?’

As the punt moved further down river, the man moved to the other side of the bridge. He tilted back his wide-brimmed hat to reveal eyes burning with a fierce intellect. He had a fine scar marking one side of his face.

It was the man from the Think Tank space station.

Chris Parsons had the use of a university physics laboratory on the other side of the Cambridge township. It had been allocated to him by his college for the purposes of his post graduate research into the nature and detection of Sigma particles. The laboratory was full of benches and equipment, including bunsen burners, a carbon dating machine, a spectrographic analyser and an X-ray machine. Much of the laboratory's equipment had been acquired from various parts of the college, and showed the effects of much previous use. Chris's research grant did not stretch to the purchase of new equipment.

Chris entered the lab and dropped his bag on to a bench before going to check on a couple of on-going experiments set up in a corner. Then he returned to the bag and pulled out the books he'd borrowed from the Professor. He quickly flipped through the first two and then noticed the third. Clicking his tongue in annoyance, he realised that he had also brought with him the first book he'd discovered on the Professor's shelves. He'd forgotten to put it back on the shelves and had mistakenly borrowed it with the two books on carbon dating.

He was about to put the book back in his bag when he was suddenly reminded how when he had first held it, the book seemed extraordinarily light. He was perplexed to find that it was now quite heavy. Furthermore, although the deep red coloured hardback cover appeared to be made of cloth and card, it had a hard, almost metallic feel about it. He looked for a title, but the only marks on the cover were some faded gold embossed letters on the spine in an alphabet he didn't recognise. He compared these to the writing on the pages of the book, and decided that they belonged to be of the same unknown hieroglyphic alphabet. Chris ran his fingers across one of the pages. It felt like paper, yet at the same time incredibly tough like plastic, so he was surprised when smelling it a moment later, that it retained the unmistakable odour of old paper.

Chris pored over the mysterious book, his projects forgotten.

The Doctor strode up to the front entrance of St Cedd's College with long purposeful strides. ‘Here we are,’ he declared, pointing with the blade of the punt oar he was carrying. ‘St Cedd's College, Cambridge. Founded in the year something or other, by someone whose name I forget in honour of someone for the moment escapes me completely.’

‘St Cedd?’ ventured Romana, as they passed through an archway.

The Doctor stopped in his tracks and beamed at her. ‘Do you know, I think you're very probably right? You should have been a historian.’

Romana sighed. ‘I am a historian,’ she told him, but the Doctor had already moved off again. ‘I should be a nursemaid,’ she muttered to under her breath and hurried after him. She caught up to the Doctor as he approached a porter's office, where a little man in a dark suit, bowler hat and heavy rimmed spectacles, was pinning notices to a board outside his office.

‘Good afternoon, Wilkin,’ said the Doctor, coming up beside him.

‘Good afternoon, Doctor,’ replied the Porter without hesitation.

The Doctor smiled widely. ‘Wilkin! You remembered me!’

‘Why, yes of course, sir,’ said Wilkin politely, as if there were no reason for any doubt in the matter. ‘Took an honorary degree in 1960.’

‘Yes, but how kind of you to remember me.’

‘That's my job, sir.’

‘And you do it splendidly,’ said the Doctor graciously. ‘Now...’

‘Professor Chronotis, sir?’ Wilkin prompted, anticipating the Doctor's request. ‘He returned to his room a few minutes ago.’

‘Oh good, good,’ replied the Doctor, and then hesitated. ‘How did you know I wanted to see Professor Chronotis?’

‘That's who you asked to see when you were here in 1964, 1960, and 1955, sir,’ Wilkin explained.

‘Did I really?’ asked the Doctor. ‘I was also here in 1958,’ he added.

The Porter looked baffled. ‘Were you sir?’ he inquired doubtfully.

‘Yes, but in a different body,’ the Doctor informed him.

‘Just as you say, sir.’

‘Come along, Doctor,’ said Romana firmly.

‘Nice to meet you again, Wilkin,’ the Doctor told the Porter, passing him the punt oar. ‘Bye, bye.’

Wilkin watched for a moment as the Doctor and Romana walked off, and then carried the oar into his office.

“... The Time Traveller vanished three years ago. And, as everybody knows now, he has never returned.”

Professor Chronotis finished his book and stared into the bottom of his empty teacup. Deciding it was time for some more tea, he picked up the tray and carried it into the kitchen. Just as he was leaving the room, there was a knock at the door.

‘Come in!’ he called from the kitchen. The Doctor entered the study, followed by Romana.

‘He'll ask us if we want tea,’ the Doctor confided to Romana quietly.

As if on cue, the call came from the kitchen. ‘Tea?’

The Doctor grinned, and made himself comfortable in an armchair. ‘Yes please - two cups!’

‘Milk?’ asked the voice from the kitchen.

‘Yes please,’ said the Doctor as Romana took a seat, smiling with him.

‘One lump or two?’

‘Two please, and two sugars,’ said the Doctor and Romana in unison.

Chronotis burst into the room, carrying the tea tray. ‘Ah! Doctor, how splendid to see you!’ he exclaimed delightedly.

‘You too, Professor,’ the Doctor beamed, rising to shake hands with his old friend. ‘This is Romana,’ he continued.

‘Oh delighted, delighted,’ the Professor told her. ‘I've heard so much about you.’

Romana's face betrayed her surprise. ‘Have you really?’

‘Well, not yet,’ added the Professor, as they all sat down again, ‘but I'm sure I will have done. When Time Lords get to my age, they tend to get their tenses muddled up. Now would you have liked some biscuits too?’

‘Well, I wouldn't have said no,’ replied the Doctor.


‘Oh, sometimes...’

The man from Think Tank strode along a busy Cambridge street with a purposeful air about him. Despite his strange outfit, none of the Cambridge residents paid him any attention. Clutching his carpetbag, he made his way towards St Cedd's College.

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Author's Notes for this chapter