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By Nicholas Withers

[1st place in the Short Story Competition]

‘I wish Bernard was here.’ - Remembrance of the Daleks

Quatermass's view from his window seat was blocked largely by the legs that dangled down, swinging as the train sped forward. He shared the cabin with ten others, many of whom were standing. This was not the England that Bernard remembered, or belonged to.

As a ragtag semblance of a human pushed his way into their already cramped cabin Quatermass lifted his eyes to catch a glimpse of the vagrant's bag before the sight was blocked by the swaying bodies. The bag had borne the emblem of BBCtv, another part of the past gone and forgotten. The emblem brought back memories to Bernard, memories of his dealings with the press during the Caroon Incident and Hob's Lane. Memories too of the Nightshade series, the BBC's science fiction programme based loosely on his own exploits. They had taken most of the strange episodes of his life and dramatized them. But not all, for a few things he did not tell. Closer things.

Turning back to the window Quatermass caught a fleeting glance of dirty blue, and quickly jerked his head around to try and confirm what he thought he had just seen. Straining his weary eyes he could see the clear image of a blue police box quickly fading to nothing. Turning back straight ahead, he shut his eyes and recalled.

He had been working for hours on the plans for the nuclear propulsion rocket. The Caroon Incident was still fresh In the memory and Quatermass knew that If this project failed as well then the funding would stop, and so would the British Rocket Group. So deep was he in thought that he scarcely heard the groaning-wheezing sound coming from behind him as a blue police box materialised. In fact, so deep was his concentration that it was not until a shadow fell across the plans that he turned and jumped to discover a tall curly-haired man standing next to him. This stranger mirrored the effect, jumping back in feigned surprise. In the next few seconds of silence Quatermass took in the image before him. The newcomer was at least six feet tall and dressed in a large coat with a long, long multi-coloured scarf wrapped haphazardly around his neck. On top of the thick mass of curls was a wide-rimmed deep-brown hat.

‘Hello, I'm the Doctor and I was wondering, can I have your autograph?’ asked the figure, wrestling through pockets, attempting to find some item. At last his search was rewarded and he held out a pen and an opened autograph book.

Quatermass, still in shock, reached out to take the book and pen. Nervously he scrawled his signature. Looking at the page, he had noticed two other autographs, Albert Einstein and a Stephen Hawking. The latter was a name whose owner he would not discover for another thirty years or so.

‘Thank you,’ said the Doctor, taking back the book and pen and placing them in the deep pockets of his coat. The Doctor then shook Bernard's hand and turned towards the blue police box. Just as he reached the door, he turned back and spoke again. ‘Try increasing the coolant level - it might make your ride last longer, and a lot more comfortable.’ And with those words he disappeared into the police box, and then the box itself disappeared.

And so the sight of a police box always brought with it memories of the stranger who not only travelled via a police box, but also helped to launch the Quatermass II rocket off the planning board. But most significant of all, the stranger had asked for his autograph, something that had finally lifted Quatermass out of his past failure.

The Doctor sat cross-legged, staring at the massive sarsen. The megalith before him was in memorial to what a certain man had achieved. A man who relied on science even when the world crumbled around him. But also a man who cared enough for the world and its occupants to die for them: Professor Bernard Quatermass. A voice came from behind the Doctor. ‘What should I do with this lily, Doctor?’

The Doctor stood up, silently took the lily from Ace and placed it against the stone. Turning, with his head low, he left.

This item appeared in TSV 34 (July 1993).

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