Summary: Fifty years in her past, Kate Stewart meets Rachel Jensen for tea and problem solving.
"Rachel? You wanted to know if anything happened with the anomaly in the grounds. Well, something just did."
Rachel sighed, then flushed the toilet and opened the cubicle door. "Allison, it could have waited five minutes."
Stood by the door that led to the corridor, Allison looked unrepentant. "I know, but you'll really want to see what came through it."
Rachel purposely took her time washing her hands, despite wanting to shake Allison for being so cryptic.
"It's a woman and she's asking for you."
Gilmore had put the woman in one of the meeting rooms and was standing guard outside of it. Rachel stopped beside him and peered in through the small window in the door. The woman looked to be in her forties, with shoulder length blonde hair. The way she was sitting at the table, and the blouse and blazer she was wearing, made her look like an official who'd turned up for a meeting.
"Who is she?" Rachel asked Gilmore.
"Wouldn't give her name." He looked apologetic. "Stepped out of that swirly thing-"
"Anomaly," she corrected, but he ignored it.
"-just like she was stepping off a train. Looked round, not at all bothered by my men or your equipment, and asked to speak to you. By name. I brought her here. Not letting her out of my sight."
She didn't blame him. If Allison and Gilmore hadn't both told her where this woman had come from, Rachel wouldn't believe it herself. "Then let's find out what she wants."
When Rachel opened the door the woman stood up, but stayed where she was, waiting for Rachel to come to her. Gilmore shut the door and stationed himself beside it, inside the room. The woman spared him a glance, then focussed on Rachel.
"Professor Jensen, it's good to meet you." She smiled.
"I wish I could say the same." Nevertheless, she shook the offered hand. "Your name might be a good start," she added, at the other woman's silence.
Rachel sat, but raised her eyebrows.
Kate gave her a small smile as she sat back down. "I can't tell you my surname. I don't want to change history." She lowered her voice to add, "I'm from the future."
That was new. Aside from the Doctor they hadn't come across any time travellers. Or even people claiming to be time travellers. Rachel didn't believe a word of it. "When in the future?"
"2014. Fifty years exactly, give or take a few weeks."
Rachel refrained from asking if they had flying cars and jet packs in 2014. "And you have a time machine, I suppose."
Kate shook her head. "I came through the time anomaly."
"Time anomaly?" Either this woman knew a lot more than she did or she was talking a lot of nonsense. Whatever that thing in the grounds was, time anomaly wouldn't have been Rachel's first guess.
Kate nodded. "A wormhole. Or a tear in time perhaps. A rip in reality."
Now she sounded like the Doctor, which wasn't an improvement, on the whole.
"There was an experiment," Kate continued, looking a little guilty. "An accident with an alien artefact. The anomaly has to be closed from both ends and the only way to get a message to you was to come through."
"Or you could have sent a note," Rachel pointed out.
Kate shook her head. "Wouldn't work. We tried. I know I can trust you," she continued, leaning forward. "The Intrusion Counter-Measures Group later forms into the group I work for."
"But that doesn't prove I can trust you." Rachel leaned back and folded her arms.
"The time anomaly only works one way. I can't get back. I wouldn't have come if it hadn't been important." Kate sat up straight and looked grave. "If we don't close it it could end up swallowing the whole of England."
Rachel left Kate under guard and went to consult with Allison. Gilmore's description of the anomaly wasn't far off - it did look like an orange swirl. It spun, making you seasick if you looked into it for too long. It had mysteriously appeared that morning in the grounds of Maybury Hall. After one of Gilmore's men nearly fell into it they'd had to fence it off, but at least here they didn't have to worry about keeping the public away from it.
"It has grown," Allison confirmed, after checking the readings. "At a rate of an inch an hour by my calculations. And I threw a stone into it. It didn't come back."
"So we still don't know if she's telling the truth," Rachel replied. For all she knew whoever was at the other end had kept the stone. She would have done, if one had come through it.
"But we can't afford to disbelieve her if it's the only way to close it. Did she say if she knew how?" Allison asked.
Rachel shook her head, but knew Allison was right. "She said it could only be done at both ends."
"Whatever 'it' is."
Rachel nodded and glanced over at the oscilloscope read-out. "Allison, have you seen this?" She pointed to a spike. "What was that?"
Allison checked it against her notes. "That was the stone."
"But it was travelling at nearly the speed of light!"
Allison peered over her shoulder to confirm that for herself. "Even I can't throw that hard."
Rachel would have laughed, if things hadn't been so serious. "Then something inside the anomaly accelerated it. Try something else."
Allison poked around in the long grass by the perimeter fence until she found a twig, which she threw in. There was another spike on the oscilloscope, this one taller.
"Then how did Kate get here?" Allison asked the same question Rachel had been wondering herself. "You can't tell me a human can survive that acceleration."
"I think it's time to speak to our guest again."
This time, Rachel brought two cups of tea and tried to make the interview more of a conversation. After a short argument with Gilmore, he'd agreed to stay outside this time. Whichever of those things had done the trick, Kate seemed more keen to talk, once Rachel had described their findings. "What can you tell me about this time anomaly?"
Kate put her cup down and sat up a little straighter. "We threw things into it. One was by accident, the rest were by design. But they seemed to be massively accelerated; the smaller the mass the more the acceleration."
"We didn't see anything come through our side." They'd had people monitoring it from the moment it appeared.
Kate frowned. "I thought that might be the case. They travelled too fast to survive the trip."
Rachel leaned forward, her arms on the table. "But you did."
Kate studied her drink for a moment. "We calculated I was the right mass to come through."
"Hell of a risk to take."
She nodded. "But I knew I'd survive." She hesitated for a moment, then reached into her blazer pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, which she passed to Rachel.
Rachel unfolded it to find it was a picture of an old newspaper. It was from the advertisements column, with tomorrow's date.
I need you, Doctor. ICMG. KL-S
Rachel frowned at it. There couldn't be too many people whose surname had the initials L-S. But that was a mystery for another day. "Doctor? Doctor who?"
Kate smiled. "An old friend of my father's. I just need to wait for him to pick me up. In his time machine."
"The Doctor..." Rachel wondered, thinking of the man they'd met during the Shoreditch Incident, and then again during the Starfire Incident.
"But I didn't come all this way just to chat," Kate said, taking the paper back and finishing her tea. "I want to help." She looked sincere as she met Rachel's eyes.
Rachel was still unsure, but Allison was right. They had more to lose by distrusting her. And she could trust Gilmore to be on guard if Kate tried anything. "All right," she said grudgingly.
"I was wrong about the size increase," Allison said, when they joined her outside. "It's related to what we throw into it. The smaller the mass the faster it grows."
Kate nodded. "A person slows it down just enough to close it. At the moment, it's only closed at one end."
"But if someone was to go through it now, when the other end doesn't lead anywhere..." Allison trailed off, as she considered the implications of that.
Kate nodded. "They'd be trapped inside it."
"If it's the only way I can find a volunteer," Gilmore offered.
"Don't be silly, Ian. All we need to do is to recreate a person."
It took half the afternoon, but eventually they had a mannequin with anything to hand tied onto it, all carefully measured to match Kate's mass exactly. It clanked from the cups and spoons added for the last few pounds, as they moved it out to the anomaly.
Gilmore followed them. "Are you sure this will work?"
He should know better to ask questions like that. "No, I'm not," Rachel replied. "But if you have any better ideas..."
Gilmore gave her a look.
"How fast should we send it through?" Allison asked, looking over at Kate.
"I just walked through normally," she replied.
With an arm each, Rachel and Allison took a step forward and let the mannequin fall into the anomaly. For a moment there was no difference, but then the trace on the oscilloscope dropped, slowly at first and then faster.
"It's getting smaller," Allison said.
And it was. Already the anomaly was half the size. As they watched it shrunk until, with a final pop, it winked out of existence.
Kate gave a sigh of relief matched by Rachel's. "I need to put an advert in the paper." Kate said.
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