Author's Notes:
The following takes place in and around the Apple Store on Regent Street in London, which does in fact exist. The characters (and a few architectural details), however, were invented for the purposes of this story, and any resemblance to actual employees is completely coincidental, blah blah, etc.

(Although if the Doctor really does drop by now and then, I should be shopping at that store instead....)

i: abandoning your post

Not long after joining the largest Apple Store in London, Kate Stowe heard from her American counterparts about Black Friday. It was the busiest shopping day of the year, they said: the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving shopping blitz that finally brought retailers into the black for the year.

Or, in other words, it was the day when the store got crammed to the rafters with frantic shoppers, and the staff all went out of their everloving minds trying to keep up.

England didn't have a Black Friday, exactly, but whatever this Saturday was -- the Saturday before Christmas, everyone's last real chance to pick things up before the holiday -- it might as well have been black. In fact, as far as Kate was concerned, it was black, blue, red, and a particularly ugly shade of puce, that last one belonging to her knee that she'd just bruised on one corner of the Genius Bar. And of course she'd done that while talking over her headset, meaning pretty much every co-worker with functioning ears and a brain between (she wondered about Dave sometimes) heard her when she swore. Great way to start an all-day shift.

Kate took a glance out the second-floor windows at the Regent Street crowd below, and tried to guess from the size of it just how much more interesting her day was liable to get. The line at the Bar, after all, was hardly getting any shorter.

"Seriously," she muttered to Ian as she retreated to her spot, "couldn't people figure out how to reset their iPods by themselves on today of all days?"

The headset crackled, and she heard Hasan's amused censure from downstairs: "Might want to depress that talk button, Stowe."

She did, swore again, and listened to Ian chuckle as he moved back to his spot, ready for the next person on the sign-up list. She set a polite smile on her face and prepared to do the same.

What she wasn't prepared for was the tall, smiling gentleman on the opposite side of the counter.

You got all types up here, of course: the geeks-in-training, the novices, the bewildered, the badly-informed, and the too-informed, on occasion, who'd pick you to bits. But mostly, at the Genius Bar, you didn't actually get the geniuses: they fixed their own problems and didn't darken your doors. This guy was a little hard to peg. He had wild, tousled brown hair, a sweeping coat that looked a little battered at the edges, and several layers underneath, although more out of a sense of eccentric fashion than defense against the cold. His smile was bright, if possibly over-enthusiastic. And his eyes somehow managed to shine brilliantly while remaining too dark to interpret. Kate, taken aback, blinked down at the list of names from the Concierge. "Um... you're the Doctor?"

There was that grin again. "That's me."

Between the flirty undertones and the way he leaned a little across the counter, Kate could guess where this was going -- yet another guy who thought he could pick up girls at this kind of bar, too. Maybe Natalie'd been right when she suggested getting a shirt two sizes too big and losing the pigtails. Kate sighed and begin again, resolving not to let him get under her skin. "So what brings you here today? You said you had iPod trouble?"

Indeed he did. Her questions were curtailed by the appearance of a sad snarl of broken electronics from one of his inner pockets. It took a while to even identify it as a first-gen shuffle. Kate was powerfully reminded of the disclaimers below the early promo photograph that stood it against a pack of gum for size comparison: Do not eat iPod shuffle. It looked rather as if something had tried.

"Oh," she said, for lack of anything else to contribute.

He poked forlornly at the cracked casing as he spoke. "Had a bit of trouble with this one. I was in Switzerland -- was aiming for Swaziland, but directions are sometimes a little imprecise in my... er... vehicle... anyway, there was this rampage...."

"A rampage... in Switzerland."

He scrunched his nose as he nodded. "Funny how a neutral country can attract all sorts of interesting refuge-seekers. And I don't just mean from around here. Trouble is, you wouldn't much want some of them sticking around. Do you have any idea how firmly a Trilusian fruitbat can grip onto things? You wouldn't think so from their size, but you wouldn't believe the size of the fruits on Trilusia, after all, big as a car by your standards, they'd have to have a heck of a grip -- at any rate, it flew right through an open door and seized onto my ship's equipment. Most of that I fixed. I'm very clever." He frowned. "But even the sonic screwdriver wasn't up to this task, I'm afraid."

A full five seconds of total silence passed as Kate stared at him. Finally he looked sheepish and volunteered, "I didn't get AppleCare on it." Another pause. "Er, sorry."

Geeks, novices, the bewildered, the badly-informed, the too-informed, and the BATSHIT CRAZY, Kate amended her inner list, and saw an amused gleam flash through his eyes, almost as if he'd heard that. Her voice came out a little pale. "AppleCare... wouldn't have covered that anyway."

Left on its own on the countertop, the iPod tipped onto one side with a sad little clunk. Kate directed her conclusion mostly to it. "You'd be better off getting a new one, really."

"I saw you don't have this model anymore," he sighed. "Showed up in the wrong year, I suppose."

That was another one of those statements that hung in the air, unanswerable. Kate cast a look across the way at Ian, who unfortunately was up to his elbows in a memory install, and when she mouthed help at him, he only shrugged.

"I can refer you to one of the Specialists downstairs," she told the so-called Doctor, trying her best to modulate her smile back to Cheerful, Helpful, And Not At All Freaked Out. "They can show you the new shuffles and the nanos, help you find something better...."

"Actually, Kate -- it is Kate, is it? Your tag, there? -- would you mind showing me yourself?"

"I'm sorry. I'm assigned up here. The Genii work the Bar, the Specialists work the sales...."

"Oh, that's brilliant." He smiled again. "You really do pluralize it as Genii?"

"Er... occasionally."

"Knew there was a reason I liked this place," he said, and rather unceremoniously rounded the counter to face her. "Come on. You can take a minute. One genius to another?"

That smile of his suddenly read as reckless and inviting, and before Kate knew what she was doing, she was going along.

Trilusian... fruitbats? a little voice in her head kept protesting, but over the sound of his rapid-fire ramble, it really didn't stand much of a chance.


ii: leaving early without authorization

Kate stood just past five feet tall, which meant she could easily disappear into crowds. She was pretty well convinced that her companion at this moment couldn't disappear into anything if he tried, and naturally, he wasn't even making a token effort, which meant she was shrinking down as far as she possibly could.

"Now look at that," he said, pointing one long arm across the display at the new shuffles. "Amazing, how your entire approach to technology is to make it smaller and smaller. There is a practical limit to that, you know. At some point you're going to lose everything you've ever made. Saw that happen once on Margrabo -- planetary economies can crash awfully quickly if you misplace your entire banking system.... oh, you've got it in green."

"Yes," Kate said with difficulty. The Doctor had plucked one of the shuffles off its display dock, and was studying the headphone jack as if he could see straight through it to the music within. In the face of all this, she stuck to what she knew. "Now, these shuffles are essentially equivalent to what you'd been using. They don't plug directly in, but there's a dock for that, and they're compact, they're clippable...."

He pointed one row down. "How about those?"

"They're the new nanos. They support video now, too."

He swept over to that table, studying the available options. It figured, Kate thought, that instead of the features she was rattling off, he was still fixating on color.

"Silver, blue... very classy... well, never mind the red, that's just flashy, should've gone with mauve... you've got yellow! That's cheerful." Then he saw the next one down the line and beamed. "Ah, there we go. Orange! I like orange. Nothing rhymes with it. It is exactly and entirely its own thing."

He plucked it up off the stand and waggled it at her. She managed a smile. "Yeah. Thumbs up to orange."

"Maybe I'll call it Satsuma."

"Er. Right. How about I check to see if we have one of those for you...."

She swiveled away before he could stop her, finding herself face to face with Dave. Oh, of course it would have to be Dave. Kate very carefully kept herself composed as he asked, "Kate? Aren't you supposed to be upst--"

"Extenuating circumstances. Listen, Dave, I just need to sell this guy an orange nano--"

"Which guy?"

"The one who...." Kate trailed off, studying the Doctor over one shoulder. He'd hopped onto one of the MacBook Pros on display, and pulled open a document that at first looked ordinary, then flipped into an entirely foreign language, not to mention a color scheme anathema to every discussion of tasteful palettes they'd just been discussing. "Just help me out here, please."

Without breaking his stare, Dave reached to the display behind him and plucked up a nano. It was silver. "Orange, please," Kate said with a sigh.

"Yes," said the Doctor, who'd reappeared behind Kate; she jumped nearly high enough to be level with him. "And if we could hurry, that would be fantastic."

I'm sure it would, Kate thought, as she grabbed an orange nano and thrust it under Dave's handheld scanner. It beeped. "Could you please ring this up for him?" she said with exaggerated politeness.

Dave only raised the EZ Pay and said, a little hesitantly, "You... got a card for that?"

Kate finally began to wonder if there was something beyond ordinary craziness going on when she saw what the Doctor pulled from another pocket. It definitely wasn't a credit card. It looked a bit like an oversized business-card holder, but all she saw inside was two blank pieces of paper. The Doctor handed it to Dave with smiling assurance, and -- trust Dave to be vacant about it -- he ran the paper right through his scanner. It accepted it as payment without a single beep of protest.

Kate's mouth opened wordlessly. When she saw the Doctor watching her -- and more to the point, saw him wink -- she snapped it shut again. Dave didn't even seem to notice. He just handed back the paper, tapped a couple things on the screen and robotically said, "You want your receipt printed up here or e-mailed to you?"

"Really, you can just--" Something caught the Doctor's attention. He turned toward the doors, still full of shoppers flowing in and out of the store. An odd look of concern crossed his face. "I'll just take it and go."

The drone went on. "You'll need it in case of returns--"

The Doctor leaned over, pulled the box out of Dave's hand and said, "Won't be needing a return, thanks. Come on, Kate."

He'd pulled her halfway across the floor, having taken her hand without hardly asking, before she caught her breath enough to demand, "What are you doing?"

He pulled her close enough that she bumped right up against him. The proximity suddenly made her blush (oh, Natalie would have a field day once she heard about this guy), but the Doctor looked entirely unbothered by it; he was motioning toward the front of the store instead. "Notice anything strange about the people coming in right now?"

"Last-minute Christmas shoppers," Kate replied in disbelief. "They're always insane."

"Look again," he said quietly. Despite herself, she did.

She'd thought during her first glance that it was a long, steady flow of people. What she hadn't seen at first was that the word "flow" could almost be taken literally. She blinked hard, struggling to see them between the crush of ordinary shoppers, but the new influx did look different -- moving too smoothly, too quickly, their feet not quite touching the floor....

"What the hell?" she whispered.

"You got a back door?" the Doctor asked. When she turned to stare once more, he held up the iPod box again. "I need to get this out to my ship."

Ship. There was that word again. Behind her, Dave was still vaguely flailing, and she heard a sudden crackle over her headset. She expected it would be her boss, but Hasan's voice was entirely absent. What she heard instead was a sudden blast of high-pitched voices, all speaking at once. Kate gasped and ripped the earpiece off.

The Doctor leaned down, whispering in her other ear, "The Trilusian refugees had to have something to run from."

As the crowd around her began to look more and more ghostlike, Kate put it together. All those stories she'd been hearing, the inexplicable things on the news... Kate still couldn't help but gape at the Doctor, but that deep-seated urge she'd always had to fix a problem once she saw it -- the same urge that got her a job at the Genius Bar, in fact -- finally kicked in. She nudged the Doctor's elbow and made her decision.

"This way," she said.

To her disbelief, he actually grinned again as he followed.


iii. damaging company property

She got him outside through the freight entrance, which of course meant a detour through the stock room. He snagged a USB cable on the way, to Kate's astonishment. "Planning to pay us for that any time soon?" she asked.

"Of course!" he said, sounding injured.

"Like you paid for the last thing?"

He had the grace to look sheepish, or at least as sheepish as one could manage while ducking out into an alleyway and scoping it out with rather more skill than would be immediately guessed. "All right, I'll return it."

"Can't without a receipt," she said archly. The Doctor shot her a look.

"Saving the world first, store policies later," he said, and gestured her onward.

In a nook where she was least expecting it, she saw something unusual: an old blue phone box, the likes of which she hadn't seen since digitizing her family's collection of old photos from around the city. She had no idea what it was doing here. The Doctor looked, however, as if he was both glad to see it and relieved that it stood unmolested. "What we need's in here," he said. "Come on."

When he opened the door and Kate saw the lights within, her jaw dropped so low she was amazed it didn't detach entirely.

The Doctor rushed inside ahead of her, seemingly content to let her have her moment of shock at the threshold. He was already ripping open packages, pulling out cords and looking for ways to hook everything up. Kate, meanwhile, was trying to comprehend everything before her. Outside: a little blue box she could span the width of by stretching out her arms. Inside, well....

She stared into the vastness of the space, at the bizarre console with all its dials, levers and bizarrely-pulsing lights, and then backed up a few steps, trying to get all of it -- both the box and the impossible room within -- into her vision at once. Then she stepped to the sides. She rapped on the walls; they seemed solid enough. She definitely could walk around it; the outer boundary wasn't an optical illusion. By the time she got back around to the door, she gaped at the Doctor and demanded, "What the hell is this?"

His eyebrows lifted, but he said with enthusiasm, "It's my TARDIS. The ship I mentioned. It only looks like a police box." He grinned. "It's a disguise."

"But..." She stepped in, feeling dizzy, and let her hands stretch out again. She certainly wasn't bumping into any walls. "It can't be just a disguise, because this is... way bigger than the space it's in and you're still not disrupting anything around you, so... just much volume are you cramming into the space of an elevator?"

"This is hardly an elevator."

"Doctor." She stopped short, amazed and completely unsure where to begin, except for asking, "What is going on?"

"Short version." He rounded the console and stopped in front of her. "Those beings you saw coming into the store are aliens."


"Yes. And they're not only aliens, they're ghosts. Survivors -- of a sort -- of a terrible civil war. They can only sustain themselves now by absorbing electrical charges, so they've drifted from planet to planet by taking over people's ships, infesting computer networks, taking down power systems. When they get close to draining one society's resources, they'll hitch a ride off-planet and look for the next. Your store, Kate Stowe, has just become Earth's patient zero, so to speak."

She took that in, very slowly. "And you know all this because--"

"I said I'm a genius."

Kate looked at the Doctor, whose hands were full of gadgets and wires, and said only, "Right."

"You're taking all this very calmly, Miss Stowe."

"Not really."

"Well, as long as you can keep acting calm, we might do very well indeed. Here, take these." He handed her the iPod and one end of the USB cable, the other side of which he plugged in somewhere in the depths of the TARDIS console. She was surprised it had anywhere to go, considering the objects on either side looked more like a wooden handle and a percolator. "First thing we've got to do is reformat Satsuma here."

"What's... the plan, exactly?" She peered over his shoulder, not quite able to see what he was doing. In answer, the Doctor swiveled a monitor towards her.

"We're making a containment device," he said. "Watch."

All at once, both the monitor and the iPod screen were filled with circular, spinning characters Kate couldn't even begin to read. The one in the center turned slowly, filling itself portion by portion, like it was some sort of status bar. Soon enough, the meter filled up, and the Doctor disconnected the USB cord from the console.

"Hang onto that cable," the Doctor said. "We'll need it. We're going back into the store."

"In there with the ghosts?" Kate thought about it, suddenly worried. "Is everyone else all right? You didn't say if--"

"They won't harm humans, not unless they're desperate." Kate didn't like the sound of that, but the Doctor plowed ahead before she could press him on it. "We just need to get to the ghosts before they propogate outside the store. Otherwise we'll never get them under control. We'll have to hook that" -- he pointed at Satsuma -- "to the computers before they've drained everything and moved on."

Kate had several other questions in mind, but she didn't have time to ask. The Doctor was already hurrying her out the door. She only had the time to look back down at the iPod's screen, which was blipping abstract designs in entirely unorthodox fashion, and then to protest, "But this won't even sync up with our computers anymore!"

"Ah, well... you're the Mac Genius," he said over his shoulder, in such a tone that she couldn't tell if he was teasing or dead serious. She was afraid it might actually be the latter. "I think you can figure something out."


Inside the store, frustration reigned. Not only were the computers all going on the fritz simultaneously, but the power was fluctuating madly. Lights continually flickered, dipped into brownout and only slowly returned. Kate hurried into the back office, where Hasan was on the phone with what must have been the power company, complaining, "I've just been outside. No one else in the vicinity is losing power. So what's wrong with the line into our building?"

"Good," the Doctor murmured, gesturing Kate away from her boss before they could be noticed. "That means the ghosts haven't yet spread."

"That won't help much if we can't get the computers to stay up," Kate muttered, ducking into the service department's workroom and opening one of the laptops. "Who exactly is 'they,' anyway? You've said what they are, but... do they have names?"

"They're the Cantrisel," the Doctor said. "Once, they were one of the most powerful, technologically-advanced races of their galaxy. Now...."

"They eat everyone else's technology," Kate said. The Doctor nodded. Kate grimaced and plugged in the iPod. "Yeah, great. Unrecognizable. Um...." She pinched the bridge of her nose, thought hard, and, as the lights flickered again, pulled up both Disk Utility and Terminal. "What exactly do you need this thing to do?"

The screen suddenly contorted, splashing up a mess of characters that looked like the document -- one forced through mutations as she'd watched, she now realized -- that the Doctor had viewed earlier. Kate's hands flew off the keyboard. "They're corrupting the system," the Doctor said, running one hand back through his hair in frustration. Then he grabbed something out of his pocket that Kate didn't recognize. "I'll see if I can get them off this machine...."

He pointed his device, blue-lighted at its tip, at the laptop. Kate blinked hard as the screen resolved itself. "What the--"

"Never mind," the Doctor said, his voice urgent as he lowered the thing (was that what he'd called his screwdriver?). "You've got control for now. I'll see what I can do about protecting the network -- where's the modem?"

Kate pointed into the corner of the room. "There, bottom shelf."

"Good. There's one file on the iPod -- just get the computer to find it and open it. And hurry."

From the way the lights were flashing, Kate didn't have to be told that twice. She set to work as the Doctor dove under the desk and busied himself with the cables, and she was worrying over the bizarre statistics on her screen when something on the desk behind her made a worrying popping noise.

She swiveled her chair around just as the iMac hooked up for diagnostics chose to explode.

With a shriek, Kate dove off her chair, just barely missing the blast of shrapnel. "Kate!" the Doctor yelled. "Keep your head down!"

She twisted around anyway to see what was behind her. The wreckage of the computer had loosed not just a cloud of smoke and sparks, but a wispy, ghostlike form that she could see now was anything but human. She yelled as it dove for the headset controller still clipped to her belt.

Shit, she thought frantically. If it can blow up a computer--

The Doctor leapt to his feet, the sonic screwdriver in his hands again. This time Kate could hear it as it frantically buzzed, and the Cantriseli ghost shuddered away from her, snaking into the corner and then crawling up the rack. Those computers, all waiting for service, were unplugged. Nothing for it to feed from....

"I'll keep it off you," the Doctor shouted. "Hurry!"

Kate grabbed her laptop and the iPod before the ghost could get any ideas, and typed in a mad flurry. The Doctor, his screwdriver extended like some demented sort of sword, stood guard over her. "Come on," Kate whispered, and then clenched a fist in satisfaction. She'd just found the file. Its name was in completely garbled characters, and it looked like it was only a couple of bytes, which seemed unlikely, but what the hell -- she copied it over to the laptop, crossing her fingers.

Then the Doctor shouted in alarm. "Kate, look out!"

The ghost swooped over his head and dove straight for hers.

The moment when it struck was otherworldy and and strange. It felt like being enveloped in fog, absorbed by drowning in it. Kate shuddered and fell, the computer tipping off her lap and hitting the floor dangerously hard. She could barely see what was happening -- the screen filling with those bizarre, cryptic symbols, and the iPod, still attached to it, displaying a new status meter in action. The lights around her flashed again, but her senses felt too muted to care, her thoughts slow. The ghost had her. And only one small corner of her mind was left to realize what was happening: Electrical charges, she thought. It can feed off my nervous system if it has to....

"Let her go," the Doctor demanded, and sent off one more shock.

Kate gasped when it hit her, jarred from head to foot when the ghost inside her screamed.

She could feel, for the space of that second, the same things the ghost did. She could remember all the places it had been, the desperation, the way its race had lost more and more of itself except for this desperate hunger... and then she saw a brief, painful flash of a sky with three huge suns hanging in conjunction, turned all colors at once as they sank below the planet's horizon.

Then the lights in the room went out.

Kate, feeling as though she was trapped halfway awake, half in a dream, and struggling through the weight of both just to lift her hand, forced herself to grip the surge protector beside her. All she could hope was that the ghost had seen something of her mind, just like she'd seen something of... his. She hoped there was enough self left for him to understand. Don't make us go through the same kind of loss, she thought. Please.

There was a pale echo in her head. Please....

Get your friends, she thought. Into the network.

The ghost shuddered one last time, and then left her.

Full consciousness hit Kate like a bucket of water to the face. She gasped, sitting up so suddenly it almost made her woozy, and the Doctor quickly knelt down to support her. "Kate," he said urgently. "Kate, are you--"

She had no idea, but when the lights came back on with such a surge that it popped the light bulb over their heads, she guessed that her ghost just might have listened. Into the power lines and back into the computers, and then... just maybe....

The modem in the corner come back to life, its lights all blinking green. And the computer beside her, still running, flashed a message incomprehensible to Kate. Nevertheless, it made the Doctor exclaim, "It's downloading!"

Kate figured she might still have been loopy from that ghost in her head, or possibly she'd gone outright insane, but either way, she could practically see the stream of ghosts streaking through the air and into the computer. The Doctor shouted in triumph.

And when the firecracker whirl of data finished spinning across the laptop screen, he yanked out the USB cable and held Satsuma aloft. "Gotcha!" he yelled.

Kate, slowly coming back to herself, smiled. For a second, it was just the two of them sharing the victory in companionable silence.

Then Kate realized Hasan was standing in the doorway, looking down at them in bewildered amazement. "What is going on in here?" he said.

There was a long, long pause before Kate gave her genius answer: "Er." And then: "Whoops?"

The Doctor beside her lowered the iPod and let out a rueful laugh, while the laptop, apparently wanting no part of the conversation to come, quietly burned itself out.

Kate kind of knew how it felt.


Some time later, the Doctor found Kate sitting alone in the alley.

She'd had no real explanation for anything, back in the store -- how could you sum all that up to your boss? Aliens? Radically violated warranties? Ghosts in the wires? She mentally threw her hands up and didn't even try. So unsurprisingly, it had not gone well. Hasan told her to go home for the day. "In fact," he'd said, "how about you take the rest of the week off, and..."

Considering it was already Saturday, Kate figured she knew what he was getting at. "I'm fired, aren't I?"

Hasan, looking regretful, nodded. She wasn't sure if the regret was actually about firing her, or if it was about the fact that she wouldn't be there to help fix the computers. The ghosts had apparently done a good job of scrambling everything out there on the floor. Kate privately wished Ian good luck with it, and ducked outside before her boss could change his mind.

So now she was outside, sitting on a pile of boxes, getting drizzled on and not feeling terribly concerned about it. She felt weirdly unconcerned about everything, actually. The only thing still bothering her was the first thing she said aloud when the Doctor approached: "I saw something back there, you know."

He stopped a few feet away from her, looking pensive. "Saw what?"

"Suns. When the ghost had me, that is. Three suns going down." She braced her hands on the boxes for support, leaning forward a little. "Was that..."

"Their home planet," he said quietly. "Cantris Porsal."

She thought over that for a while. Then she let out a long, long breath and said, "And that iPod of yours?"

He held it up. The screen was blank and gray, but she could almost feel the energy still locked inside it. "They're all in here," he said.

A small laugh threatened to break free. "Good thing 16 gigs of memory was enough."

"Good thing you sold me the top-of-the-line model," the Doctor added, giving her a smile. Kate returned it, then sat in silence while the Doctor came to join her.

"So," he said at last. "What are you going to do?"

"Now that I've been fired, you mean?"

He rubbed the back of his neck. "Er, yes. Sorry about that...."

She waved him off. "Never mind. Saving the world, right? A little higher than store priorities."

Her voice was wry, but the Doctor laughed with her. "Right."

"I don't know, though," she said. "I guess I'll have to look for another job. God knows what I'm going to get this time of year...."

"There's something else you could do, maybe," the Doctor said. Kate turned to look at him. He sounded... almost a little hesitant, which was odd. As if he was winding himself up for something. She thought back to her first reaction when she'd seen him at the Genius Bar: yet another guy thinking he could pick her up. She'd been so wrong, but still....

"Angling for a date?" she said lightly.

The Doctor smiled, but corrected her firmly. "A trip. With me."

"In... that?"

She'd gestured across the alley, where the TARDIS waited in camouflaging shadow. The Doctor nodded. "Exactly."

"Where to?"

He hefted the iPod in one hand, as if it weighed far more than its advertised 37 grams. "Well... first of all, this needs to be safely archived. I know of just the place. Somewhere the ghosts can remain if they must, without hurting anyone."

"And then?"

He raised an eyebrow at her. "Could be anywhere. Anywhen. It travels in both time and space, you know. We only have to choose."

An odd thrill passed up Kate's spine. Anywhere. Any time. A planet with three suns, or none at all, with aliens of any kind or just the strangers next door.... "You're serious," she said, starting to get her mind around the scope of things. He nodded. Kate tried really hard to breathe.

"Are you sure you're all right?" the Doctor said as he watched her, sounding concerned.

Kate laughed a little. "Of course not. But.. I mean..." She looked up at him. "The universe just feels a whole lot bigger all of a sudden."

He smiled as he took her hand. "That's the fun part," he said.

After that, there was really only one thing she could say.


And when she went back years later to rewatch the famous 1984 ad, squinting very, very hard at a couple familiar faces in distant rows, she recognized the man who once called her a genius, and couldn't help but smile.