Legend tells of a tiny little side street, in a small town somewhere in Britain, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years. It’s full of those old fashioned shops that sell home-made jam and ‘traditional’ crafts to gullible tourists and townies who think it’s quaint and countrified and therefore proper. But there is one shop that stands apart from the others, one that is never open for business and yet it is never closed either.
It was the plaything for the daughter of a ridiculously rich businessman who indulged his child’s every whim. But, this girl didn’t want a pony or a sleepover, or any of the normal things little girls want – she wanted her very own shop. So daddy bought her one.
But Emily, for that was the girl’s name, didn’t bake cakes or cookies to sell. She didn’t make lemonade, or sweets, or pot pourri and she didn’t knit cute dolls or sew. She found things. She would wander the streets and pick up any lost property she discovered, anything that was a little moth-eaten or threadbare and neglected. Then she would take it to her shop, repair it, and place it in the window for the rightful owner to come and claim it.
Legend says that it was not little Emily that did the mending. Legend says that there was a magic in that shop.
But that was many years ago and Emily had passed away and, quite bizarrely, left the entire contents of her shop to the Torchwood Institute with the instruction that they continue her good work and take very good care of the residents.
And so a bemused Jack, Ianto and Gwen found themselves in a tiny, dusty room surrounded by bric-a-brac wondering what they had got themselves into.
“So where are these residents?” Gwen asked, looking around the room.
“According to the will, they’re here,” Ianto said and pointed to a bay window, the sill of which had obviously been used as the shop display. On it were arranged a cloth frog, a rag doll, a wooden bookend in the shape of a woodpecker, a musical toy organ, and a large, pink striped, saggy old cloth cat. Ianto leant over and picked up the cat. “His name is Bagpuss, apparently.”
“Oh dear, he doesn’t look like much, does he?”
“Maybe not, but I’m getting definite readings from here,” Jack said looking at his vortex manipulator. “Let’s get this stuff packed up and back to the Hub where we can get a proper look at it all.”
“So, they’re aliens?” Ianto asked sceptically, examining the rag doll for signs of life. Gwen cautiously prodded the frog with her finger.
“More like alien tech. They contain the memory emgrams of different lifeforms. Probably downloaded to prolong their lifespans and somehow they ended up in a kid’s toys,” Jack explained.
“Didn’t the file say her father was a scientist? Maybe they were an experiment?” Gwen said and brought up the file on the monitor to confirm what she’d said. “I think he wanted them to keep Emily company. There’s a command protocol to be recited and they are activated. It seems their primary function was to mend things.”
“Well, let’s give it a go!” Jack said and took off his wrist strap, laying it in front of the toys.
“Jack! The Doctor told you…”
“What the Doctor doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Jack replied with a grin. “Besides, I’ll only use it in emergencies. Scout’s honour.”
Ianto picked up a piece of paper that had come with the will and began to read.
“Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, old fat furry catpuss, wake up and look at this thing that I bring. Wake up, be bright, be golden and light, oh Bagpuss hear what I sing,” he intoned, the tips of his ears getting slightly red with embarrassment.
The three of them watched with anticipation for a moment, but nothing happened.
“Well that was disappointing…” Gwen began but she was cut off as the toy cat came to life and yawned as though he’d merely been asleep. The frog woke up and played his banjo, the rag doll stretched in her rocking chair, the woodpecker hopped down from his bookend and on the organ all the little carved mice came to life and danced down to the floor, singing in tiny high-pitched voices as they made their way to Jack’s VM.
“We will fix it,
We will mend it,
We will stick it with glue, glue, glue.
We will stickle it,
Every little bit of it,
We will make it like new, new, new”
Bagpuss blinked twice and stared wide-eyed at his surroundings and the three humans who were looking down on them all.
“Oh! Oh, I say. Who are you? You’re not Emily,” he said.
“Indeed!” declared the woodpecker. “And this is not the shop,” he added before making a noise that sounded a lot like one of the Three Stooges.
“I’m very sorry, but Emily has died. We’re your new owners now,” Gwen explained sympathetically.
“Well, I am Bagpuss, that is Proffessor Yaffle, Gabriel the Toad, Madeline the rag doll and of course the mice,” Bagpuss introduced everyone, and the toys all made a little bow as they were announced, all except the mice who danced up to Gwen and chorused,
“Delighted to meet you!”
Gwen stifled a laugh, but Jack grew sombre. He looked at Ianto and indicated his office and the two of them left Gwen with the toys.
“Is she safe with them?” Ianto asked.
“I don’t think they’d harm anyone, especially not someone they perceived as their owner. But I am worried by the level of sentience they’re showing. I assumed they were automatons, programmed to repeat functions but with added personality. Clearly they are self-aware,” Jack answered, all the time keeping an eye on the toys.
“So, what do we do with them? Stick them in a cell next to Janet?”
“They seem harmless; I don’t think we need to go that far. Maybe we could find them a corner of the basement? Somewhere with lots of damaged artefacts to tinker with?” Jack suggested. Ianto smiled, cottoning on to his meaning.
“Somewhere like sub-level seven?” he offered. Jack smiled back.
And so, the toys took up residence at Torchwood where they happily lived, mending all the broken alien tech and occasionally helping find lost shoes or pens. They all lived happily ever after, except for the unfortunate incident when Professor Yaffle tried to blow up Cardiff, but that’s another tale for another time.