The TARDIS shook back and forth as it flew through space, The Doctor and Lilith frantically messing around with the controls. They were following a small space craft as it hurtled away from them.
“What's the emergency?” Rose asked.
“It's mauve,” the Doctor answered,
“The universally recognized color for danger.” Lilith explained.
Rose frowned, gripping onto the edge of the console. “What happened to red?”
“That’s just humans. By everyone else's standards, red's camp,” the Doctor said. “Oh, the misunderstandings. All those red alerts, all that dancing. It's got a very basic flight computer. I've hacked in, slaved the TARDIS. Where it goes, we go.”
“And that's safe, is it?” Rose questioned.
“Totally,” the Doctor assured her.
The console sparked with a bang. “Reasonably. He should have said reasonably there.” Lilith amended. On the monitor, the mauve object slipped into the time vortex. Lilith cursed. “No, no, no, no! It's jumping time tracks, getting away from us.”
“What exactly is this thing?”
“No idea,” the Doctor said.
“Then why are we chasing it?”
“It's mauve and dangerous, and about thirty seconds from the center of London.”
“Hold on!” Lilith shouted as the TARDIS gave another violent shake as it materialized. Upon investigation, they had landed in a back alley between two terraces.
“Do you know how long you can knock around space without happening to bump into Earth?” the Doctor asked, exiting the ship.
“Five days?” Rose guessed. “Or is that just when we're out of milk?”
The Doctor made a face. “Of all the species in all the Universe and it has to come out of a cow.” He looked around. “Must have come down somewhere quite close. Within a mile, anyway.”
“And it can't have been more than a few weeks ago.” Lilith added. “Maybe a month.”
Rose furrowed her eyebrows. “A month? We were right behind it.”
“It was jumping time tracks all over the place,” the Doctor said, defensively. “We're bound to be a little bit out. Do you want to drive?”
“How much is a little?”
“Is that exactly a bit?”
“What's the plan, then? Are you going to do a scan for alien tech or something?”
The Doctor stopped walking and looked at her. “Rose, it hit the middle of London with a very loud bang. I'm going to ask.” He showed Rose his psychic paper ID for the occasion.
“Doctor John Smith, Ministry of Asteroids?” she read.
“It's psychic paper. It tells you—”
“Whatever you want it to tell me,” Rose finished for him, “I remember.” They came to a door marked Deliveries Only. “Not very Spock, is it, just asking?”
The Doctor ignored her comment and turned to Lilith. “Door, music, people. What do you think?”
“I think you should do a scan for alien tech.” Rose suggested. “Give me some Spock, for once. Would it kill you?”
“Yes,” Lilith said. The Doctor rolled his eyes and opened the door with the sonic screwdriver, and looked at Rose's Union Flag top.
“Are you sure about that t-shirt?” he asked.
Rose looked down at the shirt. “Too early to say. I'm taking it out for a spin.”
The door unlocked and the Doctor stood. “Come on if you're coming. It won't take a minute.” He went inside and Lilith followed. They followed a waiter through a bead curtain to where a saxophonist and jazz band is accompanying a woman singing. She was wearing 1940’s clothes, Lilith noted.
When the singer finished her song, the Doctor took the woman's place at the microphone. “Excuse me. Excuse me. Could I have everybody's attention just for a mo? Be very quick.” he said. “Hello! Might seem like a stupid question, but has anything fallen from the sky recently?”
There was silence, then laughter.
The Doctor frowned. “Sorry, have I said something funny? It's just, there's this thing that I need to find. Would've fallen from the sky a couple of days ago.”An air raid siren sounded. Everyone starts to leave. “Would've landed quite near here. With a very loud—”
‘Um, Uncle?’ Lilith pointed to a poster on the wall—Hitler will send no warning!
‘We’ve managed to land during World War Two.’
The Doctor retreated back into the alleyway. “Rose?” he looked around and sighed as Lilith joined him. “You know, one day, just one day, maybe, we’re going to meet someone who gets the whole ‘don't wander off’ thing. Nine hundred years of phone box travel, it's the only thing left to surprise me.”
The TARDIS police telephone rang. Both Lilith and the Doctor turned to stare at the time ship in almost awe. The Doctor walked over to it and he opened the small door.“How can you be ringing? What's that about, ringing? What am I supposed to do with a ringing phone?”
“Really?” Lilith said flatly.
“Don't answer it,” someone said. A girl had come into the alleyway. “It's not for you.”
“And how do you know that?” the Doctor asked.
“'Cos I do. And I'm tellin’ ya, don't answer it.”
“Well, if you know so much, tell me this. How can it be ringing? It's not even a real phone. It's not connected, it's not—”
But the girl was gone.
“She’s as good at the disappearing act as you.” Lilith muttered. “Say something ominous, then poof. Gone.”
The Doctor answered the phone. “Hello? This is the Doctor speaking. How may I help you?”
“Mummy?” came the voice on the other end of the line. “Mummy?”
The Doctor frowned. “Who is this? Who's speaking?”
“Are you my mummy?”
“Who is this?” he repeated.
“Mummy?”was the answer.
“How did you ring here?” the Doctor demanded. “This isn't a real phone. It's not wired up to anything.”
“Mummy?” The voice cut off, leaving the dial tone.
The Doctor knocked on the TARDIS door. “Rose? Rose, are you in there?”
There was a clattering noise and the Doctor and Lilith looked at each other. “Run?” the latter suggested.
They ran out of the alley.
A group of children were gathered around an abandoned dinner table, eating the food that the family left when they went into the bomb shelter.
“It's got to be black market,” one boy was saying. “You couldn't get all this on coupons.”
The girl from the alleyway chided him. “Ernie, how many times? We are guests in this house. We will not make comments of that kind. Washing up.”
The children laughed.
“Oh, Nancy.” Ernie protested.
“Haven't seen you at one of these before.” Nancy said to another young boy.
“He told me about it,” the boy said.
“Sleeping rough?” she asked.
Nancy nodded. “All right, then. One slice each, and I want to see everyone chewing properly.”
A plate of slices of meat was handed around the table.
“Thank you, miss,” another boy grinned.
Ernie took the plate. “Thanks, miss.”
“Thank you, miss,” the young boy took his turn and passed the plate to the next person at the table.
“Thanks, miss!” Lilith chirped.
The children all paniced when they saw the Doctor leaning against the doorway.
“It's all right.” Nancy assured them. “Everybody stay where you are! Back in your seats, they shouldn't be here either.”
“So, guys, what's the story?” Lilith asked.
“What do you mean?” Ernie demanded.
She looked at each of them in turn. “You're homeless, right? Living rough?”
“Why do you want to know that?” one of the boys questioned. “Are you a copper? Is he?”
“Of course I'm not a cop, do I look like one? He’s not either. What would the police do with you guys anyway? Arrest you for starving?” The kids all laughed. “It’s 1941, isn’t it? You shouldn't even be in London. You should've been evacuated to the country by now.”
“I was evacuated. Sent me to a farm,” another boy said.
“So why'd you come back?” the Doctor asked.
“There was a man there,” the boy shrugged.
“Yeah, same with Ernie. Two homes ago.”
“Shut up,” Ernie said, “it's better on the streets anyway. It's better food.”
“Yeah. Nancy always gets the best food for us.”
Lilith turned to the girl in question. “So, that's what you do, is it, Nancy?”
“As soon as the sirens go off, you find a big family meal still warm on the table. With everyone down in the air raid shelter, it’s a feeding frenzy for the homeless kids of London Town. Puddings for all, as they say, as long as the bombs don't get you.”
“Something wrong with that?” Nancy asked defensively
The Time Lady chuckled. “Wrong with it? It's genius. I'm not sure if it's Marxism in action or a West End musical.”
“Why'd you follow me? What do you want?”
“We want to know how a phone that isn't a phone gets a phone call,” the Doctor said. “You seem to be the one to ask.”
“I did you a favor.” Nancy told him. “I told you not to answer it, that's all I'm telling you.”
“Great, thanks,” the Doctor said sarcastically. “And I want to find a blonde in a Union Jack. I mean a specific one. I didn't just wake up this morning with a craving.”
The kids laughed again and Lilith rolled her eyes.
“No blondes, no flags. Anything else before you leave?”
“Yeah, actually,” Lilith said, giving her the Doctor a ‘shut up’ look, “we’ve been looking for something. It would've fallen from the sky about a month ago, but not a bomb. Not the usual kind, it wouldn't have exploded, probably would have just buried itself in the ground somewhere.”
She noticed that Nancy looked particularly uncomfortable. A knock on the door made everyone jump.
“Mummy?” called the voice of a child. “Are you in there, mummy?”
‘That’s the child that was on the phone,’ the Doctor told Lilith telepathically. Lilith glanced out of the window. There stood a young boy in the gas mask.
“Who was the last one in?” Nancy demanded.
“Him.” Ernie said, pointing at the Doctor.
“No, they came round the back. Who came in the front?”
“Me,” said one of the boys.
“Did you close the door?”
“Did you close the door?” she repeated.
“Mummy? Mummy? Mummy!”
Nancy ran into the hallway and bolted the front door. Lilith frowned. “What are you doing? You can’t just leave him out there. It's never easy being the only child left out in the cold."
“I suppose you'd know.” the young girl snipped.
“I do actually.”
“It's not exactly a child.” Nancy said.
“Mummy?” the not-exactly-child asked from the other side of the door.
Nancy went back into the dining room. “Right, everybody out. Across the back garden and under the fence. Now! Go! Move!”
The children grabbed their coats and fled. “Come on, baby, we've got to go, all right? It's just like a game. Just like chasing. Take your coat, go on. Go!” she said to the last child, a girl who couldn’t have been older than four.
“Mummy? Mummy? Please let me in, mummy.” A little hand poked through the mail slot in the door. Lilith jumped back. “Please let me in, mummy.”
“Are you all right?” the Doctor asked him.
“Please let me in!” the boy begged.
Nancy threw something at the door that broke, and the hand withdrew. “You mustn't let him touch ya!”
“What happens if he touches me?” the Doctor questioned.
“He'll make you like him.”
“And what's he like?”
Nancy shook her head. “I've got to go.”
“Nancy,” Lilith said gently, “what's he like?”
“He's empty,” she answered. The phone rang. “It's him. He can make phones ring. He can. Just like with that police box you saw.”
The Doctor picked up the phone.
“Are you my mummy?” the boy asked on the other end of the line.
Nancy snatched the phone away from him and put it back on the hook. The radio in the dining room turned on. “Mummy? Please let me in, mummy.” Then a clockwork monkey started up. “Mummy, mummy, mummy.”
“You stay if you want to.” Nancy said and disappeared out the back door.
The boy put his hand through the mail slot again. Lilith noticed a scar on the back of it. “Mummy? Let me in please, mummy. Please let me in.”
“Your mummy isn't here,” the Doctor said. The radio turned off.
The silhouette of the boy cocked its head. “Are you my mummy?”
“No mummies here. Nobody here but us chickens.”
“I’m scared,” the boy said.
“Why are those other kids scared of you?” Lilith asked.
“Please let me in, mummy. I'm scared of the bombs.”
“Okay,” the Doctor said slowly. “I'm opening the door now.”
Lilith backed away. “That might not be such a good idea.” The boy pulled back his hand and the Doctor unbolted the door. When he opened it, the boy was gone and the street was deserted. “Well, that’s not creepy at all.”