There was a brief moment of panic when the TARDIS disappeared, swiftly replaced by a hefty slice of self-confidence. The Doctor had been stuck on Earth before and he’d done just fine, and this time would be no different. In fact, it would be better. This time he knew exactly what he was doing.
“Doctor, you’ve already been warned several times about using this number.”
The voice on the other end of the phone was starting to sound distinctly annoyed. Which wasn’t fair, because he didn’t remember being told not to use the UNIT emergency number. Except for when Bessie broke down, and that time he and Jo got lost in Cornwall, and when he arrived in 1984 and couldn’t remember if he was still working for UNIT or not and, really, it had been pretty important that he find out since it could have caused a nasty temporal paradox.
“Yes, sorry,” the Doctor said. “It’s an emergency.”
“Just a moment please, sir,” said the annoyed voice.
There was a long silence and the Doctor distracted himself by reading the advertisements in the window. He frowned and plucked one particular card off the glass and put it in his pocket. He smiled briefly at the nice newsagent man who’d let him borrow his phone and resisted the urge to drum his fingers on the counter. Rassilon, had UNIT always been this...bureaucratic?
There was a new voice on the phone, a woman this time. “Good morning, Doctor, this is Sergeant Dawkins. Might I know the nature of the emergency?”
The Doctor looked at the ceiling and squinted. Something they’d take seriously but wouldn’t cause a nationwide panic; something credible and bulletproof, so they’d leave it to him; something - “Um...it’s a big one. A really big one. But not an apocalyptic big one.”
“I see,” said the sergeant. “And what is it you’d like UNIT to do about this?”
“I’ve forgotten Lethbridge-Stewart’s telephone number; I don’t suppose you have it handy?”
There was an irritated sigh. “This is the last time, Doctor. The very last time.”
“Excellent! I’ve a pen and paper right here.”
The phone rang three times before it was picked up. “Lethbridge-Stewart,” said a familiar voice, in familiar clipped tones, the same way he’d been saying it for the past five hundred years, as far as the Doctor was concerned.
“Alastair! How are you? Retirement going well, I hope? I’ve had a small, minor, very temporary accident. I need a favour.”
“Doctor, is that you?”
“What? Oh. Yes. Hello. New voice. I look different too, but then you know all about that. I wonder what you’d think. Probably that I look like one of your former pupils, but I don’t. Something about the eyes gives me away. Not that everyone notices, of course.”
“Well, it’s good to hear your voice, Doctor, whatever it sounds like. What can I do for you?”
“I need some money.”
There was a short pause. “Are you serious?”
“Yes. Sorry. I’ve never asked for it before, have I? I thought it might be okay to ask once.”
“As I recall you’ve shown nothing but contempt for the stuff before.”
“Is that a no?”
“Of course not. How much money?”
“I don’t know. Can’t the United Nations owe me some money for all that work at UNIT? What’s the going rate for saving the planet a lot?”
“You may not have been paid in money, Doctor, but you did insist on having your laboratory supplied with every absurd gadget mankind was capable of coming up with. Would you care to take a look at UNIT’s expenses while you were in residence?”
The Doctor felt the faintest twinge of guilt as he recalled just how brusque he’d been about some of his demands. “Point taken, Alastair. Um, how much do I need?”
There was a silence which sounded very much like the Brigadier was rolling his eyes. “How much do you need?” he repeated in a tone of voice that conveyed exactly how much respect the Brigadier had for the Doctor’s common sense.
“Yes, exactly. I mean, I don’t know. Some. A bit.”
“What do you need it for?” asked the Brigadier.
“Oh, somewhere to stay. Maybe some food. An umbrella. Tea leaves.”
“Any advanced and unreasonably priced scientific equipment?”
“I shouldn’t think so. Not at the moment anyway. I can always call you back if-”
“Where’s the nearest bank?”
“Just a moment,” said the Doctor and asked the newsagent, who told the Doctor, who told the Brigadier.
“I’ll have three thousand pounds waiting for you,” the Brigadier said.
“Is that a lot?”
“That’s a matter of perspective.”
“It sounds like a lot.”
“It’s more than enough to give you somewhere to stay for a while and some food. A lot more than enough.”
“Right. Good. Thank you.”
“If I can give you a name, bank account number and password, can you go into the bank and get the money without causing an incident?”
“Course I can, no problem.”
“It’s not serious is it, Doctor? I assume something’s gone wrong with your TARDIS again rather than the planet’s about to be swallowed by some giant space parasite?”
“It’s gone off without me, actually, the TARDIS. Not deliberately. But Amy’s inside and I’m not sure why she disappeared yet and much as I love your planet, it’s not like I’m ready for retirement yet. Not that there’s anything wrong with retirement, of course. I’m sure it’s very nice and comfortable when you’re ol...a certain age.” He deliberately stopped talking as his train of thought caught up with his mouth. “Anyway, I’m going to get them back and I just needed a place to stay while I do that. Quietly and sensibly and without any disturbances to the local population.”
“I see. Well, if you need me, I’m here. Good to hear from you, Doctor.”
“Goodbye, Brigadier, and my love to your wife.”
The Doctor put the phone down and stared at it for a moment before he turned to the newsagent and asked for directions to the bank.