Welcome to This Time Round, the pub outside continuity.
Now, given the continuities the 'Round exists outside, the nature of its patrons, and the deeply confusing way time works here, it might be expected that the 'Round has its fair share of secrets.
And this is true.
Some things fall though the gaps in continuity. Some things have been forgotten, abandoned in a dark corner and left for many years. Some things are hidden away by the will of the Doctors, or the Proprietor.
Some things are sealed away because, left unchecked, they threaten the 'Round, and everything that exists outside continuity. And no-one will speak of them.
And some things are just so ridiculous, that nobody, not even Professor Zaroff, Faction Paradox or Lawrence Miles, would believe them.
This is a story about one of those ridiculous secrets.
[For the purposes of style, imagine the characters in a 'classic anime' style: big eyes, small nose and mouth, expressive, slightly triangular/rounded faces]
[SCENE: INT, CRECHE. Yep, you heard correctly.]
[It's a _nice_ creche, though. Sleeping mats, television, large amounts of toys, disturbingly large number of Target novelisations...]
[However... there seems to be something disturbingly familiar about the toddlers crawling around. Like the two-foot Dalek trundling around. And the hatchling Silurian concentrating on a lump of plasticene to make it levitate. And...
... a toddler who looks amazingly like a one year old Mel fiddling with a Fisher Price My First Computer, muttering something about 'Internet access.'
But this isn't where newly created characters first go.
It's something much more disturbing...]
[CUT TO: INT. CRECHE'S ENTRANCE]
[We're seeing things from a toddler's eye perspective, so all we can see of the woman who just walked in are her legs, and the open doorway behind her. She bends down, and puts the toddler she's been carrying on the floor.
The toddler looks naggingly familiar: female, black hair, Pakistani, has small mobile phone shoved down the side of her nappy...]
WOMAN'S VOICE: Theeere we go, Anji. Are you going to be a brave girl for Mummy, while Mummy's at work? Are you?
Anji [dispiritedly, with a slight lisp. Hey, she's only a year old...]: Yeth, Mum...
WOMAN'S VOICE: And you're going to be a good girl, aren't you, Anj?
Anji [winces] : Yeth, Mum.
WOMAN'S VOICE: Now take a look around, make friends with the other children... and _please_ don't try buying shares for Daddy. You _know_ what happened last time... Mummy just has to talk to the man in charge.
Anji [smirking a bit] : Yeth, Mum.
[Anji crawls off, apparently intent on baby Mel and her computer. Meanwhile, we can overhear Anji's mum saying something about '...bought out the last creche she was in and tried to use it to buy Fox. We wouldn't have minded, but she nearly succeeded...']
[CUT TO: Anji's POV. She's finally approached Mel]
Anji: Ow. I _hate_ crawling around like this. When can I learn to walk, that's what I wanna know....
[Anji peers over her shoulder. Somehow, Mel has managed to access a Linux newsgroup using her computer]
Anji: Wow. Cool...
[Mel finally notices her]
Mel [babbling]: HelloMyname'sMelYoumustbenewaroundhereCanIshowyouaround?
Anji [blinks]: Huh?
Mel [gritting her teeth]: Hello. My name's Melanie. You must be new around here. Can I show you around?
Anji: Well... yeah. Why didn't you say that in the first place?
Mel: [looks blank]: I did...
[Anji's mum looks around and sees her daughter chatting away to another girl. She walks over, gives Anji a big kiss, and tells Anji she'll be back tonight. Anji waves her goodbye as she leaves]
Anji: Eeeuuwww.... I _hate_ those slurpy kisses.
[Mel looks baffled. What's wrong with slurpy kisses?]
Anji: Right, so what's _this_ particular Land Where Adults Condescend to Children called?
Mel [grins]: Ah. This might be a *little* different to the creches you're familiar with...
[Anji gives Mel a cynical look]
Mel [making big hand and leg gestures, so she can generally point to everything]: This is the creche outside continuity. We call it Look Who's Talking...
Anji [blinks]: The creche outside *what?!*
Mel: Outside continuity. It's where the baby versions of any fictional character can meet, talk, rule the world...
Anji [blinks even harder this time]: Rule the *WORLD?!?*
Mel [shrugs]: Well, we tried it last year for a weekend... then... well, we gave it back, 'cause they wouldn't take Barney off TV...
[Anji's jaw drops]
Mel [giving Anji a concerned look]: Maybe I should show you around...
[SCENE: INT. Elsewhere in the creche. A little blonde girl in a Greenpeace T-shirt is pounding seven hells out of a thin boy with straggly brown hair]
[Mel crawls over at top speed, closely followed by a gawping Anji]
[From over here, we can hear 'Did!' 'Did not!' 'Did!'... you get the picture]
[Together, Mel and Anji manage to haul the blonde girl off the boy. Barely.]
Mel [sighs]: Fitz, you didn't try looking down Sam's nappy again, did you?
[The boy (Fitz) manages to look embarrassed]
[The little girl (Sam) manages to look smug]
Fitz [looking embarrassed]: I was looking for the milk bottle...
Sam [harrumphs]: ... And he decided that the best place to look for it was down my nappy. Yeah, right. Like *I'm* gonna stick something _he_ touched down there...
Fitz [looks around hurriedly]: Oh. _There_ it is. Left it by the perigosto stick... [He gives the girls a somewhat sheepish smile, which utterly fails to convince them, and starts sucking the bottle]
Anji whispers to Mel, who seems to be the only halfway sane one of the lot]: Who _are_ these guys?
Mel: 'Kay. That [she points to Sam] is Samantha Jones, generally known as Sam. [Sam gives Anji a little wave] She's nice. A little driven, but good to know... [Sam raises an eyebrow. Mel, however, is being completely sincere] Just don't mention paradoxes around her. [Sam winces]
*That* [Mel points to Fitz, still desperately sucking on his bottle] is Fitz Kreiner. [Fitz is managing to ignore the girls completely]. He drinks too much, he has a tendency to look down the girls' nappies... and the Doctor *still* keeps him around...
Fitz [manages to get the bottle out of his mouth]: Thank you _so_ much, Miss Congeniality...
Mel: You're welcome... _Fitzie._ [Fitz winces] [Mel suddenly blinks, and turns to Anji] Oh, I'm so _sorry!_ I forgot to ask who _you_ were!
Anji [face wide in shock]: Er. Anji. Anji Kapoor.
Mel [turns to others]: Okay. Anji's new around here, so be nice to her, 'kay? Otherwise... [she pauses dramatically]
[Fitz shudders. Sam just looks resigned]
Mel:... Oh. You've heard that one. Umm. Where's the Doctor?
Fitz [stops sucking bottle again]: Still planning that breakin to This Time Round, last I saw.
Mel [jaw drops]: He _what?!_
Anji [looking more baffled than ever]: Errr. What's This Time Round?
Sam [lowers her voice]: It's where all the Grown-Ups are supposed to go... and we're not. So the Doc figures there's gotta be something they're keeping from us in there...
Anji: Like what?
Sam [shrugs]: We don't know. That's why we wanna look.
Anji: And who's the Doc?
[The other three toddlers look at each other]
Sam [points chubby finger]: Well, he's... _one_ of them is... over there.
[Anji toddles off]
Mel [scowling at Sam]: You _really_ should have warned her.
Sam: Would it have helped any of *us*?
Mel: [diverts conversation]: I'm impressed. Fitz actually managed to avoid the injokes...
Sam: Well, yes. That'd be because of what I told him after the *last* injoke he made.
Mel [looks baffled]: What'd you say?
[Fitz pulls the bottle out of his mouth and whispers in Mel's ear. Mel's face blanches]
Mel [sounding *very, very* shaken]: I think I'll go see how Anji's doing, if that's alright with you?
[Fitz grunts, and goes back to sucking his bottle. Sam gives him a poisonous look]
[As Mel crawls off in pursuit of Anji, we can hear the cries of 'Did!' 'Did not!' 'Did!' 'Did not!' start up again...]
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat