Anji looked at the thick, glutinous, and quite possibly deadly goop.
She was almost certain it was looking back at her.
Tentatively, she prodded it with a finger.
A bubble on its surface went 'gloop!' and burst. And-
'Food playing with you again?' Fitz said, as he was unceremoniously dumped in the high-chair opposite Anji's.
'Do you know what's _in_ this?' Anji demanded. 'It's thick, it's messy, it sticks to my clothes... and I'm sure it moved!'
Fitz shrugged as best he could. 'The Docs had Cammy analyse it once...'
'And?' Anji almost shrieked.
'Her bio-scanner blew up.'
Anji looked at her goop. As she watched, a tendril extended itself from the mass and waved at her.
'Interesting shade of grey...' Fitz observed. 'Ahhh. Here we go,' he added as a bottle of warm milk was placed in front of him.
'How come _you_ don't have to eat this?' Anji demanded.
Fitz's grin was almost obscenely innocent. 'Got a note from my mum.'
Anji pushed it to the edge of her trestle. 'I think I lost my appetite...'
'Stacy? Come on... It's not going to hurt. Much, anyway.'
The Eighth Doc blinked. Baby Stacy was accelerating across the playroom floor, hotly pursued by baby Compassion, who was waving a piece of cotton wool around.
He stuck his foot out. Compassion, intent on Stacy, went sprawling across it. 'Ooofffff...'
'Sorry. It seemed the best way to get your attention.' Doc apologised. 'So... what you doing?'
The toddler TARDIS gave him a venomous stare. 'I am _trying_ to get Stacy to play Doctors and Nurses. She seems reluctant, for some reason...'
'I'm not surprised.' Doc commented. '_Most_ toddlers aren't quite so... biologically explicit. Especially after the 'road accident' thing...'
'It's _their_ fault if they can't handle the full details, not mine.' Compassion stated.
'I know I'm going to regret this... What's the cotton wool for?'
'The cheek swab. Obviously.'
The Doc blinked. 'Cheek swab? That's not part of a routine examination...'
Compassion looked at him strangely. 'Yes it is. Let me show you...'
The Doc started backing away. 'Oh, look. Missing that game with Fenric. Must be going...'
The little girl in the black dress hauled herself up onto the abandoned lunch table. She looked around, and crawled over to Anji's abandoned bowl of goop. She gave it a little wave. 'Hi. Welcome to the world.'
The goop glooped back at her.
'Yeah, I know, I know, you weren't expecting me.... Don't worry, I'm not here to take you. Think of it as an introduction.'
'Yeah, it _is_ pretty unlikely, now you come to mention it...' the little girl said. 'Y'know... I don't get to see nurseries all that often. Yeah, I know,' she said in response to another gloop. 'that _does_ say something impressive about child mortality. Well, about everybody's mortality, really.'
'Why not? Looks like a fun place.' The little girl peered over the edge of the table at Compassion, now hot on Ssard's trail. '_Definitely_ fun. And then there's Del. Hmm...'
She took the little ankh necklace in her hand. 'Sister. I do not stand in my gallery, nor do I hold your sigil in my hand, but I call you. Del? Will you come?'
crazyblue sparks, anti-lightning, flashes of madness
'woW. tHaT wAs - whaT Was it AgaiN? mAYBE it waS tHe ChocOlate...' the little girl who'd just appeared said. Her eyes were mismatched, and her multicoloured hair kept changing. Length, thickness, colour, material.... it kept changing. Then again, so were her clothes. Bar the nappy, anyway.
'No, that was your sister calling.' the Alsatian puppy with her said.
'oH. Oh. oH, it'S gOOd tO seE yoU AgaIn.' the little girl said. 'How hAve I BeeN?'
'It's good to see you too, Del.You've been fine. Actually, pretty good.'
'Oh gooD. dOeS tHat meaN I geT a GolD staR? Or a neUtroN Star?' Del asked.
'The way things look around here-' both of them ducked as a firework shot overhead. '-Yeah.'
'wOn'T you IntrOdUce mE tO yoUr FrIend?' Del said.
Her sister looked at the bowl of goop, which was now empty. 'Oh. Well, he's around somewhere...'
Anji paused. 'Is it just me, or are we being followed?'
Sam stopped too. 'Now you come to mention it...'
Anji looked behind her. All that was in range was a ball of Plasticene. 'Invisible?'
'Maybe...' Sam said. 'Let's just keep moving....'
'Cammy give you the cheek swab too?' Anji said.
Sam *blinked*. 'How'd you know?!'
'She's been doing it to all of us. Claims she's playing 'Doctors and Nurses: Genetic Research'. I offered to fund it, but I don't think she liked the joke...'
'Unless she's making them,' Sam observed. 'Maybe she should try analysing the mush at dinnertime. Whatever it is, it is _not_ a vegetarian option...'
Anji grimaced. 'Mine _moved_...'
'Yours too?' Sam asked.
Their voices faded into the distance.
When it was safe, the ball unrolled itself back into a puddle of goop and moved after Anji, this time making sure to stay out of sight.
'Ow! No fair!' Adric protested.
NO, IT WASN'T, WAS IT? the two-foot skeleton agreed. ESPECIALLY SINCE THAT WATER PISTOL HAS A RANGE OF 10 METRES... DAMN. NOW THE POKEMON CARDS ARE WET...
'Umm... excuse me.' the little girl with black hair and a black dress said. 'Can I play?'
YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? Baby Death said.
Adric peered at her. 'Do I know you?'
'Well, we've met before...' the little girl said. 'And this _is_ supposed to be a nursery, you know.' she told the skeleton. 'Now... anyone got the Pokemon Fossil Cards? Just need one more...'
Nyssa lowered the water pistol, and _stared_ at the skeleton, the Alzarian, and the Endless now playing Pokemon.
'Who _is_ that girl?' she asked no-one in particular.
'tHat'S mY biG SiSter,' the little girl with multicoloured hair said.
'Or Death of the Endless, as she's usually known,' the Alsatian puppy supplied.
Nyssa looked askance at the little girl. 'Do I _know_ you?'
'Oh yEs. We'Ve kNoWn eaCh othEr FoR eVer sinCe neXt ThURsday.' the girl said.
'Well, ever since you went psycho,' the Alsatian said.
'i'M DeLiriUm. bUt you Can caLL Me mIchellE if YoU Like. Or SnuFFleUpaGus... i AlWaYs wanTed to Be OnE.' the little girl said, suiting word to deed by turning herself into a small, hairy mammoth..
'Call her Del. That usually suffices.' the puppy said. 'My name's Barnabas. I'm supposed to keep an eye on this girl, remind her which way is up, that triangles have three sides, the usual sort of thing... Del, you're usually bipedal, remember?'
'doeS That MeaN two FeeT? Or twO PedaLS?'
'Two feet,' Barnabas sighed. 'Oh, _now_ look. The Trakenite's fainted...'
She'd just turned her back for one minute, and that little mad scientist had nicked the cookies. _Again._
'Neener neener! Now, with these cookies, the Dalek race shall be rebuilt, stronger than before!' shrieked Davros. 'Well, all except _this_,' he added, stuffing one into his mouth. 'Or _this_...'
'We'll see about that,' Izzy muttered, pulling a rubber mallet from the air. 'And _I_ usually end up cleaning the crumbs....'
'Nyah nyah! At last! The cookies are- WAAAHGGGGHHH!!!!'
Izzy stopped and _stared_. He'd just been rolling across the carpet, when he'd skidded...
...straight into the closet.
She walked over to the little Kaled, now buried waist high in clothes. 'I'll take these, thank you...' she said, taking the cookie jar from him.
Then she went over to where he'd skidded.
The puddle of goop lying there extended a tendril. Cautiously, Izzy extended a finger.
The tendril wrapped itself around her finger and shook it.
'Umm... Hi.' a gobsmacked Izzy said. 'Where did _you_ come from?'
The goop extended a tendril in baby Anji's direction.
Izzy closed her eyes. 'I'm not going to ask. You want to go back to her?'
The goop shook her finger.
'Okay...' Izzy said. 'Just let me put these back...'
This is the console room of the only toddler TARDIS in existence. As such, it's modelled in the style best termed Lovecraft-Lite - walkway built out of Meccano, a central plinth which looks diaturbingly like Plasticene, with added sharp bits, and a central column made out of perspex.
Somehow, it manages to look even more terrifying than this sounds.
Near the console is a small table. On the table is a tray containing a number of cotton swabs. The baby Compassion walks over to the table, and looks up into the - her - scanner. This manifestation's only a hologram. She's projecting it because... well, because it helps her think. And it's comfortable. Of course, she'd never _admit_ that...
'All right. I want schematics on artifical creation of life, with particular reference to those methods available to toddlers...'
Before her databanks can provide the answer, her sensors pick up a high-amplitude sound of shifting frequency and uncertain period.
In other words, a scream.
She shifts her attention outwards, and-
Her eyes blink. 'Anji?'
'IT TOUCHED ME!!!' Anji screams.
'Aww... I think it likes you,' Fitz says. 'Coochy coochy coo... Who's a nice blob of goop then?' The blob of goop in Anji's hand extends a friendly tentacle towards Fitz.
'Can I look?' Compassion asks. Not waiting for an answer, she takes a look at the blob. 'Interesting. It seems that, under the right conditions, the goop we're given at dinner can attain life. And sentience.'
Anji gawps. 'This is my _dinner_?!'
'That's it,' Anji announces. 'From now on, I'm bringing a _packed_ lunch...'
Fitz raises a hand. 'Err...Anji, you can't digest solids yet...'
Anji pauses. 'Okay. In that case, I'm bringing a _liquid_ lunch. All you nitpickers happy now?'
'i HaD a LIquiD LuncH oNce. One Of tHosE niCe LocHs thEY hAve. OR waS thAt LiQuiD loCKs?' says the little girl currently crawling past.
Anji turns to Fitz. 'Who _was_ that?'
Fitz shrugs. 'Just someone.'
Anji nods. 'Oh...'
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat