The number 22 to Putney Common was beginning to pull away as Dodo pelted up to it; she'd seen the bus from her window and decided that this was it, today was the day to go somewhere, to do something again. She'd never been to Putney Common. The fresh scent of autumn that assailed her as she stepped outside confirmed her resolution, and it was this bus, to that destination, that she'd had her heart set on. She wasn't planning to miss it.
Reaching the bus at the last minute Dodo grabbed the rail, pulled herself up — and realised that something was horribly wrong. The bus wasn’t full of seats and passengers but instead was jam-packed with a jumble of strange things, some antiques, some plain old junk. Wide-eyed, Dodo pushed past them to the driver’s cabin where a woman was sitting, staring at her. Suddenly, and rather worryingly, Dodo registered that the air was filled with a very familiar wheezing, groaning sound.
"Oh no," said Dodo and the driver at the same time, "not again!"
"Who are you and what," demanded the driver in tones of offended dignity, "are you doing on my bus?"
"I'm Dorothea Chaplet," snapped Dodo, "and I didn't know it was a TARDIS! Honestly, if you Time Lords will go around disguising them as, as things, you can hardly act all offended when people think they’re the things what you disguised them as!" Not quite grammatical, Dodo thought, but she’d made her point.
"I, Miss Chaplet, am a Time Lady," retorted the driver. "Iris Wildthyme, as it happens, and what do you mean, ‘you Time Lords’? Oh no, you've met him, haven't you?" she added, as her thoughts caught up with her voice.
"If by ‘him’ you mean the Doctor," replied Dodo sniffily, "yes, I have, and,” she went on, bluffing desperately, “he'll be hopping mad when he finds out you've kidnapped me. Take me back. At once!"
"Oh, I'm not scared of him," scoffed Iris, "and besides, I can't. We're in flight now, no stopping ‘til we get to Hangofera!"
"In flight?" asked Dodo weakly, all the fight going out of her. She grabbed the side of the bus for balance.
Dodo's obvious distress seemed to drain away Iris's anger. "You'd better sit down, lovey, you've gone all pale." She gestured towards a soft armchair, nestled in the junk. "I'll put a brew on." She eased herself out of the driver's cabin, hopped down and bustled off into the back of the bus.
Dodo cast a worried glance at the unattended steering wheel.
"Don't fret, Dorothea,” ("It's Dodo," Dodo corrected her automatically) “my old bus will get us where we're going in one piece," called Iris airily, making no effort to hide her crossed fingers. "Now, where did I put the mugs?"
Dodo curled up in the armchair and watched Iris make the tea (liberally flavoured with whisky, she couldn't help but notice).
"Now, dearie," said Iris, handing Dodo a chipped blue mug, "why don't you tell Aunty Iris what happened to make you so jumpy?"
Dodo sniffed. "I was hypnotised by an artificial intelligence as part of its plan to wipe out humanity," she blurted out, rather resentfully. When you said it out loud like that, she reflected, it seemed rather a ridiculous thing to have spent two months recovering from.
Iris clucked sympathetically. "There, there," she said.
Inexplicably, it made Dodo feel a little better.
Just at that moment, the bus gave a terrible lurch, sloshing tea all over the place. Iris leapt to her feet and hurried over to the driver's cabin, Dodo hot on her heels.
"It's all right," Iris called cheerily, "we haven't crashed, just landed!"
"Oh good," muttered Dodo.
Iris re-emerged from the cabin brandishing a ridiculously overstuffed handbag.
"What on earth have you got in there?" asked Dodo, before she could stop herself.
"Things," said Iris mysteriously. She wagged a finger at Dodo. "Always make sure you've always got plenty of things in your handbag, my girl. You never know what you're going to need. Admittedly," she went on, regarding the bag suspiciously, "the trouble a simple handbag has got me into in the past, you wouldn't believe..." She trailed off, lost in memories for a moment, then shook her head. "Enough of that! Now then, quick whizz around Hangofera, see what gives, then back to London with you in time for tea and maybe some lovely cake, how's that sound?" She beamed at Dodo.
Dodo felt the phrase "thanks, but I'll just stay in the bus if you don't mind" die on her lips in the face of Iris's infectious grin. "Fab," she said.
"Marvellous," said Iris, and opening the doors she hopped down the steps and off the bus. Dodo followed somewhat apprehensively, and found herself standing on rolling green grassland. In the distance she could hear strange birds calling. Despite herself, she began to smile, and tipped her head back to bask in the warmth of twin suns.
"Ooo look!" said Iris, excitedly, "there's a beach!" Dodo looked: in the distance, the grassland gave way to a wide strip of yellow sand, dotted with what were probably people, and beyond that sparkling sea. Shrugging off her coat, Dodo hurried to catch up with Iris, who was already heading for the shore.
"I wonder if I brought me bucket and spade?" Iris was saying as Dodo caught up with her. She had stopped walking and was fishing around in her capacious handbag. "Ere, make yourself useful, hold these." Unceremoniously, she dumped a picnic rug into Dodo's arms, following it up with a handful of hairbrushes, some string, seven plastic dinosaurs of assorted sizes, more string, a battered paperback copy of something called "Down Among the Dead Men" by Bernice Summerfield ("always meant to give her that back, not my thing at all"), a hot pink laser gun that Dodo did her best to handle carefully, three mismatched knitting needles and...
"Aha!" cried Iris, brandishing a red plastic bucket with a yellow handle, and a matching spade. "Knew I had them somewhere. Come on, Dodo, I'll buy you an ice-cream."
By a heroic effort, Dodo and Iris made it safely back into the bus before the rebel army caught up with them.
"I... don't... understand..." puffed Dodo. "We deposed the tyrant! I'd've thought they'd be pleased!"
"Thing with revolutionary movements," replied Iris, equally out of breath, "never grateful. Unless you're the Doctor," she added, a little bitterly, under her breath. She staggered into the driver's cabin as Dodo collapsed into her armchair.
"Well," said Iris, beginning to fiddle with the controls, "London, 1966, is it? September?"
"Actually," said Dodo, hesitantly, "I've always wondered what Ancient Greece was really like..."
Iris looked at her sharply, but her eyes were sparkling with amusement and her tone was as light as ever. "Ooo, it's lovely!" she said. "All tunics and wine and olives and figs and things." She started flipping switches manically.
"I-" said Dodo, suddenly aware that demanding a strange Time Lady take her to Ancient Greece was probably a bit rude. "I mean, only if you want to. Um."
"Be nice to have some company aboard the old bus again," said Iris offhandedly, and cleared her throat. "All aboard the number 22 to Putney Common! See the wonders of time and space, only ten shillings!"
Dodo giggled delightedly.
"Hang on to something!" cried Iris, and spun the steering wheel.