Clyde looked up from his attempt to make sense of the pub’s strange arcade game. A tiny jellyfish-like creature was sitting on the end of the bar, looking at him with huge black eyes.
“You like this drink?” It pushed a glass towards him with one long, flexible tentacle. “Decided myself not needing fluid.”
Clyde glanced around, but the Doctor still wasn’t back yet. “No thanks.”
“Insists,” the creature gurgled. “You is two-leg person, yes?”
“Is water. Safe for you.”
“...I’ll pass. But thanks.”
“Is only drink safe for two-leg person. All other not safe. Toxic, danger. You drink.”
Clyde looked the creature in its eyes to try to get his message across clearly. “No, thank you. I don’t want any.”
“Is good water. Taste nice.” The burbling voice was oddly soothing, Clyde thought, as the creature’s very round, very black and very moist eyes remained fixed on his. “You drink, be refresh.”
Clyde shrugged, feeling happy with the world at large. What harm could a little water do?
“Yeah, okay. Thanks.” He reached for the glass, unfazed by the wet tentacle marks on it, and raised it to his lips.
“Oi!” The drink was plucked from his hand faster than he could blink, and a hand on his shoulder shook him out of the hypnotic state. “What did I say? Don’t drink the water.”
Clyde shook his head to clear it, and looked up to the owner of the hand. The Doctor was frowning at the jellyfish-like alien, who was hurriedly squelching away along the bar.
“Is sorry! Is only fun-play!”
“Pick on someone your own species!” the Doctor called after it. He clapped Clyde on the shoulder and set the glass of water down as far along the bar as he could reach. “Come on, back to the TARDIS.” The Doctor strode off, and had already begun a lecture by the time Clyde caught up with him outside the pub.
“What you need to remember about travelling around the universe is that a lot of people will con you out of anything they can, faster than you can say ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’. Mostly it’s just pickpockets, but around this sector you get quite a lot of Scyphozonians trying to hypnotise you into drinking water laced with neurotoxins so that they can paralyse you and siphon off some of your blood to sell on the black market.”
“And that’s what that thing was?”
“Yes. And that’s why I told you not to drink the water. Bonus points for not wandering off, though.”
Clyde smiled to himself, a slight swagger in his step as he and the Doctor walked through the gigantic shopping-centre-in-space. As the Doctor rambled on about something or other to do with illegal alien contraband, Clyde stared in fascination at a few of the shops they were passing. A sign in the window of ‘Fildu Alternative Electronics’ proclaimed “Liddum’s Omni Utilikits, half price until magnetic storms end!” and a place called ‘Dvibb’s Superior Cosmetics’ offered “Free samples with every electrolytic splicing!”
It wasn’t too different from a shopping centre on Earth, Clyde mused. Except for the being in space, and the size, of course. It was so massively vast that it even had what looked like its own spaceship showroom. It was called ‘Psiril Transport’, and Clyde, being quite a fan of shiny cars, drifted through the crowds in the direction of the turbo engines.
“Hey, cool spaceship!” he exclaimed, stopping next to a particularly ostentatious, macho sort of ship. The alien standing nearby - a slender, seven foot tall lizardy guy in a robe - glided over, looked him up and down, then nodded in agreement.
“Indeed, sir. This is the Magellan Danube 4000; our best-selling model among male, pituitary gland-possessing, bi-gendered humanoids. It is fuelled solely on what I believe you would call testosterone.”
Clyde gave a low whistle. “Awesome. Fairly green, then?” He grinned, then bit his lip on seeing the odd expression on the lizard guy’s moss-coloured face. “I mean, ‘green’ as in energy-conscious, causing less pollution and all that.”
“I see, sir. Would this be the type of ship you are in the market for?”
Clyde laughed in surprise. “Me?”
“Certainly, sir. I could offer you a very competitive price.”
As Clyde tried to figure out if the lizard guy was joking or not, he heard a by-now familiar shout.
“Oi! There you are!” The Doctor was dodging through the crowds, trying to reach the showroom and being thwarted at almost every step by swarms of shoppers.
Something pincer-like gripped Clyde’s arm very suddenly and painfully. “Hey!” he shouted, turning to see his assailant, but fell briefly silent at the sight of the robot that stood over him. In a few moments, he recovered enough to ask it defensively, “What do you want?”
"Unidentified species. You must accompany me to Security."
“Hang on!” Clyde yelled, as the robot began to drag him away.
“Hey, that’s my companion you’re arresting!”
“Interrupt command sequence, arrest motion.”
The security robot halted immediately, and the Doctor, who had finally made it through the shoppers, was brought up short in surprise. He darted in close to its face and peered at it, whipping out his glasses for a better look. Clyde twisted in the robot’s grip to stare at the lizard guy, who had an expression on his face that very much resembled a smirk.
“How did you do that?”
“It’s very simple,” he replied, strolling over from the Magellan Danube 4000. “The security robots are programmed to respond to the voice-prints of all the managers.”
“You’re a manager, then, I take it?” said the Doctor, still peering at the robot’s digital eye display as it blinked on and off.
“Indeed, sir. I am Psiril, of ‘Psiril Transport’.” He bowed slightly, then turned to address Clyde. “The motion arrest will not last, however. My commands have only interrupted its internal processing for a few moments. You will have to reason with it if you do not wish to be arrested for being an unidentified species in a public area.”
Clyde stared at him. “That’s a crime?”
“It’s not encouraged.”
The Doctor sighed, and folded his arms as the security robot jerked back to life.
"Temporary managerial override acknowledged. Explain, or being of unidentified species will be detained for questioning."
“I’m human!” Clyde protested.
"You are not recognised as human. Stature falls below minimum known height for human species."
“Oh, for Rassilon’s sake!” the Doctor snapped. “He’s supposed to be short, he’s a child! A teenager! A juvenile?”
"Being is incompletely developed?"
“Well, you are. And you’ve lost your ‘not wandering off’ points, by the way.”
"Skin pigmentation falls outside known parameters for human species."
The Doctor sighed with exasperation. “There’s a wide variety of skin tone within the human species. How many humans have you actually seen before?”
"Previously-encountered beings identifying as human: six."
“Six?! There’s your problem - you need a wider sample! There are billions upon billions of humans the universe over, with many different degrees of skin pigmentation! It just so happens that this sector is extremely sparsely populated by humans, so you’ve never met enough to get an accurate representation.” The Doctor sighed impatiently. “Now, please release my companion.”
"Explanation is acceptable." The security robot finally let go of Clyde’s arm, and he stepped away from it gladly, massaging feeling back into his elbow. "Identify species."
“What?!” the Doctor boggled as the robot turned towards him and seized hold of his arm. “Why do you need to know mine?”
"Your species is unidentified. You appear human, but you possess a binary cardiovascular system - this is not typical of the human species."
“Well, no - I’m a Time Lord.”
"'Time Lord' is not an accepted species. Produce your identity papers for inspection, or you will be detained for questioning."
The Doctor paused, then said slowly, “Ah.” Just as slowly, he nodded thoughtfully and put his free hand in his pocket. “Clyde,” he said from the corner of his mouth, “here’s a quick lesson for you. In this kind of situation, the best thing to do is…” He pulled out his sonic screwdriver, aimed it at the security robot’s chest panel, tugged his arm free and yelled, “Run!”
He dashed away, trainers squeaking on the polished floor. Clyde hesitated for a split second, before giving Psiril an apologetic roll of the eyes and a quick wave, and taking off after the Doctor.
“Huh. That’s odd,” said the Doctor, once they were safely back inside the TARDIS. He prodded at the console for a bit, then watched the time rotor rise and fall. “Why are we headed for Ealing, 2009? I haven’t set any coordinates yet.”
“Ealing, 2009?” Clyde repeated in surprise. “What happened to ‘all of time and space to explore’?”
The Doctor tapped repeatedly at a large blue button, then pulled a viewing screen around and began fiddling with that.
“You’re not dropping me back home already, are you?”
“I don’t think I have a choice…” the Doctor muttered, still peering at the screen. “I have a message here, relayed through a ‘Mr Smith’... Ah, it’s from Sarah Jane.” He straightened up and rubbed at the back of his neck guiltily. “She says your mum is looking for you.”
Clyde slumped into the seat by the console. “Ugh. Luke sucks at lying.”
Bending back down to the screen, the Doctor added, “Apparently it’s time for your dinner.”
Clyde groaned and let his head fall into his hands. Mothers could be so embarrassing.