Izzy boggled. 'A *what*?!'
'A day care centre outside continuity.' Frobisher repeated.
Izzy sat and blinked. 'Okay, you've _got_ to explain that one...'
Frobisher tapped one flipper against his beak. 'Far as I can tell, it's where the babies go...'
Izzy stared at him. 'Babies? What, you mean like... the babies of characters?'
Frobisher shook his head. 'Uh-uh. Baby _versions_ of the characters...'
Izzy tried to imagine this, and failed.
'...like the baby you, for example.'
'The baby Izzy.' It's hard for a penguin to smile; something about the beak. Frobisher managed it, though. 'Did you have a Darth Vader doll when you were a baby?'
'I- That- Come- That's mad!' Izzy spluttered.
'Oh look, the Doctor's photo album...' Frobisher observed. 'Let's see... baby Jamie on the bagpipes, baby Victoria drowning Jamie out by screaming, baby Adric running from Psycho Nyssa, baby Mel running from Alden, baby Ssard protecting the eggs in the fridge... Ah. Here we are... baby Izzy.'
He turned the photo album around and pushed it towards Izzy
Small. Small, even for a toddler. Large blue eyes, small mouth and nose, little 'X-Men' t-shirt, bangs of ginger hair falling over her face, with blonde streaks.
And she was sucking on a Darth Vader doll.
'Kawaii, isn't it?' Frobisher observed.
'Yeah... yeah....' Izzy murmured. 'I dunno...' She trailed off.
'Izzy? Izzy?' Frobisher waved a flipper in front of her face, and when that didn't seem to work, slapped her gently on the cheek.
Izzy blinked. 'Wha- Sorry. Sorry. Miles away...' She looked at the photo album again. Absently, she traced the outline of the hologram. 'So... where is it?'
Frobisher pointed with his flipper. 'Follow the burnt rubber. You can't miss it.' He grinned. 'Remember to bring back directions, 'kay?'
'Yeah...' Izzy said, still sounding far-distant.
'And Izzy...' Frobisher's voice had suddenly become more serious. 'Be careful around her, okay?'
Izzy forced a grin. 'No problem. Just wanted a look round. 'Sides, I always wanted to be in anime... Be nice to see what it's like...'
Frobisher nodded. 'Take care, all right?'
And shortly afterwards, she was gone.
Frobisher sighed. There are some things you develop an instinct for, when you're a private eye, he mused. And one of them is knowing when to stand back.
Izzy knocked on the door. 'Hey. Anybody home?'
Eventually, the door opened. The man who opened it... well, it wasn't the shock of grey hair that snagged her attention, or the wide-brimmed hat he was wearing. Or, for that matter, the black suit he was wearing, which made him look like the Bad Guy from far too many westerns. Well, actually, it _was_ the suit.
That, and the off-set eye. Izzy couldn't take her eyes off it. Just when she thought it'd finally focused... it moved again, shifted. And whenever she turned to see what he was looking at... she couldn't see anything.
'Ah. Hello.' His voice was comfortable, relaxed. The sort of voice you could have long, rambling conversations with.
It scared her shitless.
'Um. Hi. I'm Izzy S. Umm... I was wondering, would you mind if I took a look around?'
He nodded. 'Certainly. I'm the Supervisor, by the way,' (and she heard the capital letter dropping in) 'Allow me to show you around.'
Izzy nodded. 'Make sure the kids are safe, sort of thing? Yeah, that's okay...'
The Supervisor shook his head. 'No.'
Eventually, Izzy decided on 'Huh?'
'The toddlers can get... a little rambunctious at times...' the Supervisor explained. 'After... recent events... the Management decided it would be safer, all round, if visitors were accompanied.'
'Who are the- Izzy began. 'Oow!'
The Supervisor looked down. 'Ah. Davros.'
'Davros?!' Izzy echoed. 'But he's-'
'Nyeh nyeh! *I'm* cool, _you_ suck... I'm the superior mind!'
Izzy crouched down, a fearsome grin on her face. 'And _I_ know where they keep the cookies.'
The baby Davros looked at her. 'Tell me! Tellmetellmetellmetellmetellme!!!'
'Uh-uh...' Izzy said. '_You_ weren't very nice. And only nice boys get the cookies.'
'Waaaaahh!!! I'm telling Yarvelling on you!!!' With that, the baby Davros rolled off in a snit.
The Supervisor's look was equal amounts admiration and astonishment. 'Impressive.'
Izzy shrugged. 'This? This is nothing. After arguing with a guy who's only got one teabag left in an infinite time machine... _this_ is nothing. And that was *nothing* compared to the fanboy flamewars...'
Izzy was the first to notice the unstoppable terror.
She quickly stepped in front of the Supervisor, and, with an 'oof!' lifted the rapidly advancing baby Eighth Doctor up.off the floor. 'Now... what's the problem?'
'The jelly snake.'
'The... Oh pants.'
Izzy handed the baby Doctor over to the Supervisor. 'Here. Hold him for a moment.' She strode over to the minature-morphant Master, and tapped her foot. 'And where are _you_ going?'
The minature snake looked up at her. 'He stole my dolly!'
'Okay...' Izzy murmured. '_This_ explains a lot...'
She marched over to the Eighth Doctor. 'Right. Got his dolly?'
'Not until he tells me where he hid the sonic screwdriver.' the toddler pouted.
Izzy looked skyward. 'Mad. Just... mad.'
'Hi. What's that?'
'This?' the serious-looking little toddler said. 'It's "Beyond the Third Zone: An Analysis of Fandom Politics".'
Izzy blinked. 'Okay... why are you reading that?'
'My brother suggested it. Said it might help me to understand _them_.' The little boy gestured over to four toddlers whom baby Nyssa was yelling at. From what Izzy could hear, it sounded like 'Go away!!!'
She looked again. And started giggling. 'Oh *mad*! The baby WANKERs!'
She hunched down again. 'Who's your brother?'
The little toddler pointed over to the baby Eighth Doctor. And the baby First. And the Second. And the Seventh.
Izzy looked back at him. 'Wait till he hears _this_ origin,' she smiled. 'You must be baby Braxiatel, right?'
The toddler shook his head. 'Irv.'
'Irving.' the toddler explained.
Izzy paused. 'Is that really your name? Or did you make it up?'
'Yes.' the boy said.
'Ooookkkaaayyyyy....' Izzy said. 'So... Irv... how about you tell me a little more 'bout your brother?'
'Well...' Irv began.
She'd whipped up a quick silica sandwich for a baby Kastrian, outscreamed baby Nyssa after she tried to convince Izzy that no, she wasn't forcing horda down Adric's nappy, managed to track down baby Compassion after she tried to dematerialise out of the creche, and fended off the baby Iris from the baby Fifth Doctor.
Eventually, she plumped down in a chair, and let all the air out of her lungs in one deep breath. She closed her eyes and sat back.
Then she heard someone sit down in the chair next to her. She opened one eye. 'Oh.'
'As I said at the beginning...' the Supervisor said. 'Impressive. You're perfect for the job.'
'Huhg?' Izzy managed to cough out.
'Day care assistance.' the Supevisor said. His eyes narrowed. 'That _was_ why you came...wasn't it?'
Izzy shook her head. 'Uurrgghh....Nuh-uh.' she got out. 'Jus' wan'ed look 'round. Really.'
'Oh.' the Supervisor said. There was silence.
Then Izzy felt someone crawling up her leg. She bent over and hauled the little girl up. 'Hey. What's interesting 'bout my leg, hey?'
The baby stared at her. Then she burst into tears.
'Come on... Come on, it's okay, you know. It's going to be okay. There we go. There we go. There... Now...'
'Story!' the baby blurted. 'Want someone acting story!'
Izzy paused. 'You sure about this?'
'Yes.' the girl told her, in all seriousness.
'Okay. Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...'
By the time she'd reached Vader's arrival, the girl had fallen asleep.
The Supervisor looked at her again. 'You know, the job offer is open. If you want it, that is.'
Izzy pretended to think about it. 'Taking care of a horde of psycho toddlers? Changing Dalek nappies? Finding the best way to calm a baby Sevateem warrior?' She grinned. 'I'll take it. Couldn't be worse than my day job... On one condition, though.'
'Yes?' the Supervisor asked.
Gently stroking the girl's back, Izzy said 'Who is she?'
Izzy slammed the book shut. 'Hi, Frob.' She waved off his next question. 'Yeah, managed to find it okay...'
Frobisher waddled into the opposite seat. 'Good. That's good. Everything go okay?'
Izzy smiled. 'Yeah. Yeah, you might say that. The Supervisor said I was good with the toddlers, and there was this assistant's job, and did I want it?'
'And?' Frobisher prompted
'You're looking at the new assistant helper for Look Who's Talking.' Izzy's smile threatened to break her face.
Frobisher's eyes raised in surprise. 'Really? Congratulations. So when are you going to tell _him_?'
Izzy grinned. 'Oh, soon. Say.... right about the time he needs money for some teabags?'
'Speaking of which...' Frobisher said.
Izzy shook her head. 'Naah. Next round's on me, 'kay?'
Froobisher nodded. 'Chocolate pilchard milshake, please.'
Izzy winced, but set off for the bar.
Frobisher looked after her, making sure she wasn't looking back, then opened the photo album.
He gently traced the damp spots on the pages - tear marks, his intuition said, they're tear marks - flicking through the pages until -
_A world of chocolate eclairs and singing doughnuts. A world where your parents are king and queen. A world where you *know* who they were. Please... tell me... don't tell me..._
It had been scrawled under the first baby Izzy photo. The final sentence had nearly torn through the paper.
Frobisher closed the book. She'd made a choice.
He closed his eyes.
'So mote it be.'
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat