The author gratefully acknowledges

Peter Laryngitis

Ellen Kilometers

and Hilda Beechgartner

for their help in

preparing this manuscript.

Chapter 1

Mallory

--------------------------------------

Dear Granny and Grandpa Pike,

How are you? I hope you’re both well!  I’m having a great holiday, doing lots of sitting for my brothers and sisters! I made a new friend, too. He’s foreign, and very exotic! I’ll tell you more when I next see you.
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Love, Mallory

-------------------------------------

Whoooosh, whoooosh, whoooosh! The odd noise echoed across the park.

"Adam! Jordan! What are you doing!?" I yelled, looking around to find where the triplets had gotten to. I had left them to their own devices and they had run some way off to conduct a snowball fight (they are ten years old and don't need to be supervised all the time) while I looked after the younger kids, who were building a snowperson.

"What kind of trouble do you think they've got themselves into now?" said my friend Stacey, laughing and flipping her curly blonde hair over her shoulders. She was wearing it loose that snowy day, under a red woolly hat which matched her scarf and gloves. She looked quite grown up, like she belonged strutting down the sophisticated streets in New York City (which is where she is originally from) rather than here in this childrens’ playground in the small town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut.

But here she was, helping me to babysit my younger brothers and sisters! We are both very experienced sitters, and belong to a club called the Baby-sitters Club together (more about that later!), but even so, the triplets, Adam, Byron and Jordan, can be quite a handful!

I looked around, trying to figure out where the strange noise had come from. I could see all three triplets, though, not too far away, throwing handfuls of snow at each other.

Hmm. It was a mystery!

“Maybe we should think about heading back soon,” said Stacey, rubbing her mitten-clad hands together. It was really very cold. Besides, it was almost five o'clock, which meant that because it was a Wednesday it was almost time for our club meeting! Stacey and I were sitting for Claire (she's 5), Margo (7), Nicky (8), Vanessa (9), and the triplets (10) while my parents attended a Wintermas carol concert at the local retirement home. (Some of the residents there are Jewish, and Christmas carols should be for everyone, which is why they decided that Wintermas was a better name for the festival) But they were due back just after five, leaving Stacey and I plenty of time to make it to our meeting. Kristy, our president and friend, gets very angry if anyone is late and gives them a Look. Eek! I live in fear of getting that Look!

I nodded. “Adam! Jordan! Byron!” I called the boys back over. They came running, red faced and damp from the snow they'd been pelting each other with.

“No, silly-billy-goo-goo!” screamed Claire (she's going through a silly phase). “I want to play in the snow more!”

“You can play in the snow more tomorrow,” Stacey told her.

“But I want to play more NOW!”

I rolled my eyes at Stacey. Kids! Luckily, we both knew exactly what we needed to do. Stacey took Claire by the hand, and I took Vanessa and Margo's mittens in mine. The triplets were now chasing after Nicky, trying to put handfuls of snow down the back of his parka, so this time Stacey yelled for them. Sometimes they're more likely to listen to her than to me, since she isn't their sister.

I took one last look around for the source of that whooshing noise. Perhaps there might be a monster in the trees that would follows us home! When you're responsible for the lives of children, it pays to be safe.

But it was starting to get dark, and I didn't notice anything unusual. Although... was that a man standing by the gate? It didn't look like anybody I knew. I tried to exchange looks with Stacey, but she was walking ahead of me, and didn't notice me eyeballing the back of her head. The man seemed to be shaking something in his hand and muttering to himself, but I couldn't make out what he was saying.

“Hello!” called Stacey. She'd spotted him as well. Normally, we're not supposed to talk to strangers, and I would definitely never be that brave myself, but Stacey's from New York. Plus, she's a little boy crazy, and the man looked young and quite attractive. He was tall and skinny, with cute floppy hair hanging over his eyes. He was wearing a tweed jacket and a bow tie that would have made my friend Claudia very jealous. (She's artsy and very fashionable and Japanese-American. She likes to express herself through how she dresses, and frequently makes her own clothes. They're amazing! But more about that a bit later, too.)

The man looked up. “Hello!” he said. “Do you live here, then?” He raised his arm to point towards us.

“Auuugh!” cried Stacey, jumping back, as a light flashed and a strange noise sounded from whatever the man was holding. “Is that a gun!?”

“What, my screwdriver?” the man looked down at his instrument and back up at Stacey. “It looks nothing like a gun! I thought I was in Americaland. Don't you all carry guns here? Maybe I took a wrong turn...” He frowned, and shook his instrument.

I stepped forward. For once around a boy, Stacey didn't seem to know what to do. But if he was lost, then maybe I could help. I'm good at giving directions. “You're in Stoneybrook,” I informed him.

“Is that in America?”

“Yes...”

Now I was a bit confused. But then a light came on in my head, and I understood! “Oh, you must be visiting from Europe! Is that right? Are you a friend of the Papadakises? They're from Greece, and that's in Europe!” I was very proud of myself for figuring it out.

“Europe! Yes, right!” the man seemed relieved that I'd understood his problem, too. “Lovely place, Europe. Good mayonnaise. I never could get the hang of mayonnaise this side of the pond... You say this place is Stoneybrook?”

Stacey must have composed herself, because she answered quickly. “Yes! We live here! Do you maybe need someone to show you around?” She tilted her head and smiled at the man. She must have noticed his bow tie as well. (Being very fashion-conscious herself, Stacey likes well-dressed men.)

“Actually,” said the man, “that is exactly what I need. Have you by any chance been noticing anything strange happening around here?”

I thought about that. Nothing sprang to mind. Maybe the hat Claudia wore last week, with all those crushed drinks cans hanging off the brim, to signify the importance of recycling. (It had looked amazing on Claudia, but perhaps someone who didn't know her might have thought it was a bit odd) But if this man had only just arrived, then he couldn't have seen it yet...

It was really starting to get dark now. I glanced at my wristwatch. It was almost twenty past five! I clapped my hand to my forehead. “Oh my goodness!” I gasped. “Stacey, we have to run, or we'll be late for the meeting!”

Stacey glanced at me sharply, then turned back to the man. “Oh, we should probably go...” she told him. “There's somewhere important we have to be...” She seemed reluctant to leave.

“Important meeting?” said the man. “Well, that sounds promising! Is it like a town committee thing?”

“Sort of,” I replied. There wasn't time to explain just now. Stacey and I were in mortal danger of a Look. I grabbed Stacey's sleeve and started walking quickly. My brothers and sisters had returned to their snowy fun, but they knew the way home. They would be fine. Anyway, this was more important.

Stacey dragged a little, but she understood too. Halfway down the street, we heard footsteps running to catch up with us. The man appeared at my shoulder. “I think I might just tag along, if you don't mind.” I shook my head. Stacey giggled.

“Kristy'll have a fit!” she whispered to me. She turned to the man. “That's fine!” she told him. “But we have to hurry, or we'll be late.”

“Okey-dokey,” he said, opening his jacket as he walked to put the thing he had called his screwdriver into an inside pocket. He then looked back up at us. “By the way, I'm the Doctor.”

Here be the obligatory ambiguous picture of a pair of mittens holding a snowball. Every winter super special needs one.


Chapter 2  

Mary Anne
--------------------------------------

Dear Pop-pop,

     Merry Christmas! This has been a great year, especially because we got a new member of the BSC! He’s older, and he’s originally from Europe or something, I think. I’m still not clear on how he joined; it all happened so quickly. Can’t wait to see you at Easter!

Love,

Mary Anne

--------------------------------------

“Okay,” barked Kristy, “This meeting is about to come to order!”

“I’ll have a ham on rye,” said my boyfriend Logan, nuzzling me behind the ear.

        Maybe I should start at the beginning. My name is Mary Anne, and I’m a member of the Babysitters’ Club. The Babysitters’ Club was started by my best friend Kristy a long time ago when we were in the seventh grade. One afternoon, she was eating pizza and listening to her mother call several different numbers to find a sitter for Kristy’s little brother, David Michael (I’ll say more about Kristy’s family later). Kristy got the Great Idea that there should be one number a parent could call and reach several experienced babysitters. The club was born! We meet from five-thirty to six on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so that our clients can reach all of us at once. Our clients know to call us at those times. Otherwise, they just can’t have a sitter. Also, they can’t request any one babysitter specifically or Kristy throws a fit. We all have to share the jobs evenly. (My friend Kristy is VERY strict about club rules. People around here have learned to humor her.)

        Just then, Stacey, Mallory and a strange man came pounding up the stairs into the room.

        “We’re not late, are we?” said Stacey.

        As Kristy shook her head, the clock changed from 5:29 to 5:30.

        Stacey sighed and plopped down on Claudia’s bed (the club meets in Claudia’s room because she has her own phone line). Mallory took her usual place on the floor next to her best friend Jessi.

        Kristy pounded the arms of her director’s chair. “Order!” she said. “This meeting of the Babysitters’ Club will now come to order!”

        “You’re babysitters?” the strange man said in a British accent. He looked relieved. “From the decor I was afraid I walked into another meeting of the cult of the Flotsam-Jim. Wouldn’t want to do that again.”

        “Who are you?” Kristy asked.

        “I’m the Doctor.”

        “We met him in the park,” explained Mallory, raising her hand. “He  wanted to come to our meeting.”

        Kristy glared at the Doctor as if sizing him up. It’s not surprising that Kristy’s so suspicious of strangers, since she’s had so many changes in her life lately. You see, Kristy was my first best friend. We’ve known each other since grade school. Kristy used to live right next door to me with her little brother David Michael and her older brothers, Sam and Charlie. But then her mom got remarried (her father walked out on them when Kristy was little) to a man named Watson Brewer and moved the family across town. Watson turned out to be a Real Live millionaire! So now Kristy’s family lives in a mansion and everyone has their own bedroom. Watson has two children, Karen and Andrew, from a previous marriage, that live with Kristy at the mansion every other weekend and on some holidays, and Kristy loves them. Watson and Kristy’s mother also adopted an orphan from Vietnam and named her Emily Michelle. As if that wasn’t too many changes, then they invited Kristy’s grandma, Nannie, to stay with them and raise Emily Michelle. They sure are an exciting bunch!

        Kristy is the shortest girl in our class, and she can’t fill a bra-- but she sure has a big mouth! Besides her big mouth, she also has brown hair that she wears in a ponytail. She couldn’t care less about clothes or boys, and she always wears a turtleneck, jeans, and a baseball cap with a picture of a collie stitched on it. It’s kind of fitting that she always wears a baseball cap, since Kristy adores sports and has even started her own children’s softball team, Kristy’s Krushers!

        Kristy will always be my friend, but my new best friend’s name is Dawn Schafer, and she’s also my stepsister! Dawn was born in California, but when she was in seventh grade her parents divorced and her mother, Sharon, moved back to her hometown of Stoneybrook, with Dawn and her ten-year-old brother Jeff, which is when Dawn met me! Soon after we met, we discovered that our parents were high school sweethearts, so we decided to meddle with their relationships and set them up together. Pretty soon, they were married! (My mother died when I was little. It’s very tragic and I don’t talk about it much except to tell people that it happened at awkward times.) The four of us (Dawn, Dawn’s mother, me and my father who used to be strict and isn’t anymore, plus my kitten Tigger) moved into Dawn’s new house, an old (1790) farmhouse near Claudia’s house where the club meets. Recently, Dawn missed her old life in California and moved back to be with her father and brother for awhile. But she comes to live with us when her school is on breaks.

Dawn and I care about each other, but we sure are different. She’s from California so she loves the sun and warm weather. I actually like broody cloudy weather like this because it matches my mood. Dawn also hates normal food and only eats gross organic things like tofu and bean sprouts all the time. She’s a real individual and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, except for the times when she does-- oh, the stories I could tell you! But I’m more sensitive and shy. When Dawn’s in town she’s an Alternate Officer for the Babysitters’ Club, which means she has to do the job of anyone who can’t make it. I’m the club’s secretary. It’s my job to answer the phone and write down appointments. It’s very important stuff and I’m very good at it. I don’t mean to sound conceited. It’s just true. I also have a boyfriend, Logan, who looks just like Cam Geary and has a hot Southern accent, and is an associate member of the club (which means he doesn’t have to come to meetings) but Dawn doesn’t have  a boyfriend.

Of course, just because Dawn doesn’t even live around here anymore, doesn’t mean she’s excused from coming to BSC meetings when she’s in town! So she was at the meeting that day, eating an organic tofu candy cane and complaining, as usual. None of us wanted to tell Kristy what a stupid idea it was to have her there.

Besides Dawn, Kristy and me, the club also has a Vice-president, Claudia Kishi, and a treasurer, Stacey McGill. I’ve mentioned that we meet in Claudia’s room because she has her own phone line. Claudia is our club’s Vice President. She’s Japanese-American and very beautiful, with almond-shaped eyes and light brown skin. She’s also a brilliant artist but horrible at school work. It’s not that she’s dumb or anything-- she just would rather concentrate on her artwork, which is really good. She even likes to make her clothing artistic, mixing up patterns and colors that some people wouldn’t think would go together! Right now, for example, she was wearing a bright yellow men’s shirt with black horizontal stripes, one black legging and one yellow legging with pink polka-dots, and black and gold striped push-down socks. Her hair was pulled into a side ponytail with two gold chopsticks sticking out of it, and she wore earrings made of actual tea bags. On anyone but Claudia it would have looked over the top, but she really pulled it off. Claudia loves to read Nancy Drew mysteries and eat junk food, both of which are against her parents’ rules, so she has to hide them around her room. Right now, for example, she was trying to dislodge a melted Twix bar from between the pages of her Nancy Drew book that she’d hidden under her pillow.

Stacey is the club’s treasurer because she’s good at math. I sometimes wonder if she got her knack for Math from paying cab fare in New York, because that’s where she’s from! And you can tell she’s from New York because of how grown-up and sophisticated she is. She loves clothing and even has a perm! She also has diabetes, which is a scary disease that makes you go into a coma if you don’t avoid all sugar and inject yourself every day with insulin (yikes!). But she doesn’t let that get her down. She’s also not down about the fact that her parents are divorced. They divorced just last year. Stacey had to choose between staying in her father’s exciting New York apartment and coming back to Stoneybrook to live with her mother, and we’re all glad that she chose to come here!

The club also has two junior officers, who are eleven years old (the rest of us are thirteen). We let them take most of the daytime jobs since they can’t go out late at night. One of our junior officers,  Jessi Ramsey, is black, but we don’t mention this too much because we don’t want to embarrass her. Her family comes from a place where lots of black people live, but when they moved here there were almost no black people in Stoneybrook. Still, they managed to make friends and we treat them just like everybody else. Jessi is also a great ballet dancer. She has a younger sister named Becca, a baby brother named Squirt and a crabby old Aunt Cecilia. She also has a mom and dad. The other junior officer is Mallory Pike. Mallory is the oldest of eight brothers and sisters! She loves books and horses. She’s also kind of fugly looking. I mean, she’s got glasses and braces, and she desperately needs a haircut and a nose job. But she doesn’t let that get her down any more than Jessi’s blackness. The two of them are best friends.

There’s also Shannon, another associate member, but she doesn’t really have a personality.

So that’s our club! We’re quite a handful.

Anyway, the Doctor stared back at Kristy as if he wasn’t at all scared of her. “I guess you’re in charge here?” he asked.

        “Yes,” said Kristy a little angrily. “And if you want to come to meetings, you have to be a babysitter. Are you a babysitter?”

        “Of course I’m a babysitter!” the Doctor replied. “Love a good babysit. Here’s my Babysitter Certification Card!” he flashed his wallet at Kristy, who squinted at the piece of paper inside.

        “Hmmph,” Kristy said. “Okay, we’ll let you in for a trial run, Mr... Doctor. But don’t answer the phone. Parents get nervous when a male voice answers the phone.”
        “Very good. I’ll just have a ...look round then.”

        “No chitchat until we’ve discussed Club Business!” bellowed Kristy.

        The Doctor took out some kind of brass wand with a glowing green light at the end. I thought it was a flashlight. Something told me that the Doctor was a detective, and all detectives carry flashlights, after all.

“Now,” he said as he twirled around the room, pointing the flashlight at the various paintings Claud had up. He stopped on one of a Snickers bar and looked at the wand. “It seems like this is... your.... sixth.... Christmas in this year. Definitely strange. Time was flowing properly until you showed up.”

He turned to Stacey and pointed the flashlight at her. She tensed slightly and twirled her hair around her finger. Stacey is boy crazy and this English gentleman had appeared in Claudia’s room faster than we could say Yipee! She clearly had a crush.

The Doctor got a very strange expression on his face; then he turned the flashlight to Claudia. “Did you know,” he said, “That your metabolism has been altered to burn eight thousand calories a day?” He looked at the wand again and frowned. The wand made an even stranger noise. “And that’s not counting basal functions and physical activity! Interesting process... would have to lower the IQ by at least 70 per cent. Have you been having trouble at school lately, love?”

Claudia looked confused.

“I said,” Kristy began.

Just then, the phone rang.

Mary Anne answered in her most businesslike voice. “Hello! The Babysitters’ Club!” She listened for a few seconds. “Yes, Mrs. Thomas. You need two babysitters over at the Brewer house tomorrow at three o’clock? We’ll get right back to you.” She hung up, and looked at Kristy.

“I’ll sit,” said Kristy, “And this... Doctor... can come with me. Just so I can see how good a sitter you really are.”


Chapter 3

Kristy

--------------------------------------

Dear Dad,

You really suck.  It’s Christmas and we still haven’t heard from you.  I guess you weren’t so big on that whole family thing huh?  Oh wait, you started a new one out in Dawnifornia.  Either way, we have a new friend here.  He calls himself The Doctor.  I don’t really think he’s a Doctor though.  What was I talking about again?  Oh yeah, you suck.

Your daughter,

Kristy

--------------------------------------

“It’s 2:59, where is he?” I said as I sat on the couch, tapping my finger on the arm of the chair.  The kids were upstairs playing, and Hannie and Nancy hadn’t arrived yet so I didn’t need to watch them.

The day after the club meeting found me at home waiting for that strange man Mal and Stacey had brought over.  I don’t know why they had brought a stranger into Claudia’s room without asking me.  I am the president after all.  I’m also a good president, which may sound conceited but I’m just telling the truth.

        Today I was in my favorite pair of jeans and a dark green turtleneck.  I had my hair in a ponytail that I pulled out the back of my baseball cap and was in my lucky sneakers.  I may have looked like I was getting ready for a Krusher’s practice, but it’s just my usual outfit and I’m perfectly comfortable in it.  Though I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see one of my friends in their cute skirts or blousey tops today.  (I like it when they get dressed up.)

        The doorbell rang and I looked around the room.  Watson’s mansion was always so full of people but the adults are always so busy.  My mom was at an estate sale and Watson was in his office working.  Even Nannie was in her office to handle a new client from her catering agency.  Since they weren’t able to open the door, I went over and pulled it open.  When I did I was surprised!

        “Well hello!  Kristy wasn’t it?  Hope I’m on time,” said that odd man from before.  He was on our porch with Hannie and Nancy each holding one of his hands.  “Found these two out here waiting.  They seemed apprehensive about coming in, but a good babysitter always makes the kids feel at ease right?”

        I was a little confused, but nodded anyway, “Yeah, well, come in.  Karen is in the playroom with David Michael.”

        “Two names?  My, what a lucky fellow.  Wish I had two names,” the man said as he walked Hannie and Nancy into the house.

        I led everyone up the stairs and into the playroom where Karen was getting the dressing up clothes ready and David Michael was playing Legos with Carver Ensign.  Carver looked up from the Legos and had a strange look on his face, but I assumed he probably just needed to vomit.  (He looked like Margo Pike and she throws up a lot.)  Though there was certainly something strange going on.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt that something just wasn’t right.  I showed the Doctor around the room so he knew where the toys were, but couldn’t stop glancing back at Carver.  His eyes followed the Doctor’s movements, but he snapped back to attention with the Legos as Karen shrieked out a, “Hi-hi!”

        “Two names, two hellos, I feel like I’m back on Viscolari-2.  Everyone there has two of everything.  Not unusual really, but they have two mouths which can make understanding them a bit difficult, you know,” the Doctor said as Hannie and Nancy went to pick out dresses.

        Karen’s eyes perked up behind her glasses.  “They have two of everything!  I also have two of everything!  I am a Two-Two which is a name I got from a book my lovely teacher Ms. Coleman read to us!  I have two families and two houses and even two pairs of glasses!  I wear one to read and the other for everything else but I do not sleep in them or take a bath in them.”

        The Doctor was still smiling as he stood there listening to Karen.  He nodded along and turned to me, chuckling.  People do tend to take to Karen rather easily because she is a very outspoken and charismatic little girl.  She’s even skipped a grade in school.

        “My goodness, is she always like that?  She’s a font of information this one!” the Doctor said, leaning down to get closer to Karen.  “Now why don’t you tell me your name, oh great Two-Two?  I’m the Doctor!”

        Karen smiled and shrieked, “I am Karen!  It is nice to meet you Doctor!  What kind of doctor are you?  I hope you are not a dentist because I do not like the dentist.”

        “Oh no, no.  Not a dentist, just a Doctor.  Now, I’m going to be your babysitter today!” the Doctor said as he undid his jacket and reached into the pocket for that flashlight.

        “I thought Kristy was going to watch us.  But anyway, you will be a good babysitter just like you are a gigundoly great not-dentist!” Karen said as she went back to get her dressup clothes on.

        She pulled on a big, over-sized Laura Ashley dress with lots of pastel flowers on it, a big floppy garden hat, and a strand of costume pearls.  Hannie and Nancy were dressed similarly and were sitting at the play table with little plastic tea cups and saucers out.  The Doctor even went to the dressup box and started to rifle through it for something.  He made a big, flourishing motion as he pulled out another floppy hat from the box and popped it onto his head.

        “Mind if I wear a hat too?  I wear hats now, hats are cool,” he said adjusting the hat on his head.  It pushed his wavy hair down a bit more and all I could think of was, blech!        

Karen sat at the table and began to pour iced tea out of the plastic tea pot into each of the little cups.  The Doctor also sat at the table, his knees pushed up over the top as it and the chair were too small for him.  I went over to David Michael and Carver, but stayed within eyesight of him.  I had to evaluate his skills after all.

        David Michael was talking about what they would build next and would ask Carver for the next piece.  He was still acting strangely by giving David Michael one word answers or ignoring him completely.  Finally, I decided to step in as he sat there staring at a tower David Michael had made.

        “Carver, are you feeling okay?  If you aren’t well, we can get Charlie to drive you home.  He isn’t doing much today,” I told him.

        “No,” was all he replied with.

        “No, you’re not feeling okay or no you don’t want Charlie to take you home?” I asked.

        “Playing,” he replied.

        I sighed, knowing that children could be difficult.  Part of being a good babysitter is knowing how to handle a wide variety of children and I know a lot about them.  What I do not know a lot about is strange men from Europe and I don’t want to know about them.  I even started to think about playing baseball with my friends instead of watching the kids.  (They look very nice when they wear short tops and cutoff baseball pants after all.)

        Across the room I could hear Karen talking, which forced me to focus again.  “We are very lovely ladies.”

        “Yes, very lovely my dearest Karen,” said Hannie.

        “Lovely Ladies?  Isn’t that precious, it’s precious,” the Doctor said to Nancy, leaning in to talk to her.  “You all look the part.  Very British.”

        Karen looked at him as he interrupted, “Do you know any British people?  You seem to be from Europe which is where my gigundoly beautiful doll Hyacynthia is from.”

        “I do know many British people.  Many, many.  As for me, I’m definitely,” he paused and adjusted the hat before looking down at his flashlight that he had set on the table.  “Foreign.  A foreign body in this very room.  Hadn’t noticed when we walked in, but...”

        He trailed off as he stood up and looked around the room.  Ignoring the kids was one thing, but doing personal business while babysitting is an offense.  I had to assume it was personal business as he started to point his flashlight around the room.  I stood up and was about to tell him off, but he tossed his hat off and it landed on my head!

        “Auuugh!” I cried out.

        “Dalek technology,” he said quietly.

        “What are you doing Doctor?” asked Hannie from the table.

        The Doctor twirled in place, holding out the flashlight like he had done in Claudia’s room.  I was starting to get worried.  Who knew what that flashlight really was!  (Stacey had told me it wasn’t a gun, but I wasn’t so sure.)  He then stopped while facing David Michael, Carver, and me, looking up at us through his hair with his head still pointed down.  With a flick of his wrist, the flashlight folded back up into itself and he started to walk over slowly.  I jumped in front of the boys.

        “Dalek technology disguised as a little boy.  Clever!  Yes, very clever,” said the Doctor, staring at me.

        “Leave them alone!” I said to him.  I felt like I wanted to scream.

        I felt Carver squirm out from behind me, coming to stand in front of me.  He stared up at the Doctor and started to speak in a funny voice.  It was like a toy robot speaking through Carver!

        “We have located our device and the Doctor.  We will come collect what is ours and we will eliminate the doctor,” Carver said, sounding rather like a robot Karen.

        “What device, what do you mean?  What have you planted here in this town?” the Doctor asked with a stern look on his face.

        “It was not us who left the device.  it was stolen from us and used without our permission.  We will collect it and exterminate the Doctor and all who try to prevent us.

        There was a strange hum coming from from Carver and he began to shake.  The Doctor yelled for me to get David Michael away and dashed over to the play table.  He yanked it away from the girls and shoved it onto its side before ushering us all behind it.  The girls were shrieking and David Michael was crying, but the Doctor was peering over the table.  He pulled the flashlight out and pointed it at Carver, causing a weird buzzing sound to emit.

        I was going to peek out as well, but the Doctor suddenly whirled around and ducked down, pushing me down with him.  A loud explosion went off suddenly and chunks of metal went flying over the table and hit the wall.  A lot of smoke filled the room and we all slowly peeked around the table.

        All that  was left of Carver was a scorched area much like a bunch of fireworks had gone off.  There were metal pieces all over the playroom and one had broken the TV screen.  We heard footsteps and went to duck again, but it was only Watson.  He came into the room looking a little miffed.

        “I told you kids to keep it down when I’m trying to work!” he said before turning to leave.

        Something told me that this Christmas was going to be a strange one.

The Doctor faces off with Carver Ensign. To the right we see the hateful ponytail of Karen, and the ubiquitous baseball cap of Kristy, as well as the top of some other random child’s head. A Lovely Lady Hat hovers ominously (intentional- nothing in BSC illustrations should have shadows, they take place in a white vacuum) and the Doctor holds an oversized sonic screwdriver in a two-fingered lobster claw (unintentional- I’m not very good at hands). Carver has an overgrown bowl cut. In the style of SS1: Babysitters on Board, as few faces as possible are visible.


Chapter 4

Dawn

--------------------------------------

Dear Dad and Jeff,

Christmas in Stoneybrook is as adventure-filled as ever! There’s a new member in the Baby-sitters club, and he’s a boy! He seems quite well travelled, so we have a lot in common. I think we will become fast friends. Do you think he could come and visit us when I’m back in good old sunny Cali?

Love and sunshine,

Dawn

--------------------------------------

There was a strange man in my kitchen. Stacey and Mallory had picked him up at the park, and for some reason brought him to the club meeting. I wasn't sure why. He had a cute English accent, though, so probably Stacey had insisted.

        “What did you do for Christmas last year, then?” the man- the Doctor, as he had called himself- asked Mary Anne, as he sifted flour. (They were making cookies. How Mary Anne had convinced him to help was a mystery to me.)

        “I don't really remember!” said Mary Anne happily. She was in her element. She loves to bake and sew. She will make a good housewife someday.

        “I was in California last Christmas,” I volunteered. “I live there most of the time with my dad and my little brother, Jeff. We have a big house very close to the beach. I love the sun, and I love to sunbathe and surf, and my dad's special nickname for me is 'Sunshine'! I'm a real California girl!” I smiled and flicked my long, cornsilk hair. There was no reason for Mary Anne to get all the attention.

        The Doctor glanced at me... And turned right back to his mixing bowl! He was ignoring me! Just like Alan Gray does when he wants to get on my nerves! The cheek of it! Well, I was having none of it.

        “How about the Christmas before that?” he asked Mary Anne.

        “I'm not sure... Maybe we went to my grandma's?” Mary Anne seemed fully absorbed in her mixing.

        “My dad took my brother and me on a trip to Disney World!” I interjected.

        “Where does your grandma live, love?”

        He was still doing it! It was like he found Mary Anne so much more interesting than me! Well, I never! She had barely left Stoneybrook in her life. Well, she'd lived with her grandparents in Iowa when she was little... And there was the time we went on a cruise with the Pikes, and the trips to Sea City and the time we all went out to my dad's in Cali and... Well, she definitely wasn't a seasoned, bicoastal traveller, like me, anyway. Probably this Doctor had never been to California, and that's why he wasn't interested in my stories.

        The Doctor had now moved on to asking Mary Anne about school.

        “I'm in the eighth grade, now, and it's been really hard work, much harder than seventh was! The teachers give us sooooo much homework!” Mary Anne rolled her eyes.

        “I just bet they do,” the Doctor grimaced. “Never trust teachers, they usually turn out to be bats.. or robots... Dinner ladies, too, have to watch out for them, they're big trouble.”

        I frowned. What was he talking about?

        “Bats?”

        Again, the Doctor glanced round and went back to his mixing bowl without answering me. Mary Anne backed me up on this one, though.

        “What do you mean, bats?” she asked, frowning into her chocolate chips.

        “Trust me,” said the Doctor, raising his eyebrows at her (not at me!), and stealing a chocolate chip from the bag, “you do not want to know...”

        I sighed, exasperated.

        “Look!” I was losing my patience. “You show up here, at our meeting, at my house, and I don't even know who you are! You call yourself 'Doctor', but what are you a doctor of?” I raised my eyebrows in his direction. (He still had his back to me) “You have no right to be here without telling us anything about yourself. Have you even babysat before you did the job at Kristy's?”. He couldn't get away without answering that! “Well, I'll know anyway, once I read the club notebook!” I sniffed. If he'd done a bad job, then Kristy would have reported it for sure, and he would never babysit in Stoneybrook again!

        “Believe me,” I head the Doctor mutter. “I do more than my fair share of babysitting...”

        “What?” I had no idea what he meant.

        “Tell me about your school, Mary Anne,” said the Doctor, clearly ignoring me again. “Loads of homework, yeah, horrible! But how about the other stuff, do you have...” he paused to twirl around, licking cookie mix off his spoon as he did so, “dances!?”. He grinned, holding up the wooden spoon. “Parties? What do you do with your holidays, eh?”. He smiled encouragingly at my step-sister.

        Mary Anne considered this, dropping the cookie mix in big 'glumps' onto a baking sheet. “We have a Halloween dance every year, which is always amazing!”. She rolled her eyes in delight. “Last year, some crazy girl showed up at the dance, she was still in love with one of our teachers from way back when they were both in school. It was so scary! And the year before that, this awful girl at our school, Cokie, played loads of tricks on me, trying to convince me that I was cursed!” Mary Anne shuddered at this.

        Wait a minute... I thought... Was that really two years ago now...?

        “...And then there was that time Kristy and Claudia were getting all those scary phone calls, but it turned out to just be guys that were too shy to ask them to the dance!” Mary Anne giggled. “Halloween is always special!”

        “How long ago was that, then, the phone calls? Can you remember?”

        The Doctor was focusing all of his attention on Mary Anne, now, leaning back against the counter, his arms folded in front of him, looking serious. I tried to think back myself. That had been back when I was still living in Stoneybrook full-time with my mom... But Halloween had only been a few weeks ago... And I was sure the last Halloween I'd had had been in California... hadn't it? I shook my head. None of this made sense!

        “Doctor!” I finally shouted. “Why do you want to know? What is this all about?”

        For the first time, the Doctor looked at me properly.

        “You don't need to know.”

        He sounded serious.

        “You got away. You're not a part of it any more. You can leave... and be safe. In fact, you should do that. Leave. You should leave, now. What's going to happen will happen, but you don't need to be involved. Okay?”

        His eyes were gentle. Suddenly, I felt afraid. What was happening?

        “I won't leave my friends!” I cried. Mary Anne was my sister, after all, and she didn't seem to have a clue. Kristy and the rest of them? Well.. It was true, I didn't really care about them, but Mary Anne had been there for me when the others hadn't. She was a sap, and her constant crying got my nerves sometimes, but she was family, now. That counted for something. Suddenly, I felt short of breath.

        “What's going on, Doctor?” I whispered, my eyes wide.

        The man calling himself 'the Doctor' tilted his head down. Who was he? Where had he come from? I glanced at Mary Anne, who was humming happily as she put the cookie tray in the oven. She seemed unaware of the sudden tension in the kitchen of our renovated farmhouse.

        The Doctor looked back up at me, his arms still folded, his eyes looking... sad. He shook his head slowly.

        “Dawn... I'm sorry...”

        This was the first time he'd used my name. It sounded strange in his accent.

        Suddenly, there was an almighty pounding at the door, before Mallory and Jessi came rushing through into the kitchen, followed by my mom, Sharon.

        “Your friends are here to see you!” she trilled... Unnecessarily, seeing as Mal and Jessi were making their presence fully felt.

        “We thought you should-!”

        “We wanted to tell you-!”

        “The Doctor said he'd be here-!”

        Between the two of them yelling, I had no idea what they were trying to say.

        Eventually, both of the Junior Sitters ran out of breath.

        “Hi, Doctor!” gasped Mal, gazing at the man in the bow-tie adoringly. “I know you said you would be at the Schafer-Spier house, and when my parents got back from... Well, I just think you should come with us!”

        The Doctor glanced back at me. I thought I saw something like a warning in his eyes. Then, it was as though I had imagined it.

        “Danger and excitement! And the possibility of pudding!” he cried, pushing himself away from the counter, his eyes bright and his smile wide. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out that instrument he'd called his 'screwdriver'. “Let's have some fun!” he grinned.

        Before I knew it, he'd swept out of the room after Jessi and Mal.

        I couldn't forget the look I'd seen in his eyes, though. I swallowed.

        “Mom?” I cleared my throat. My mom looked round at me, smiling.

        “Hmm?” she had brought a pair of shoes out of the refrigerator, along with a tub of butter. My mom is really scatterbrained. She's always leaving things in the oddest places, and then forgetting about them! Sometimes, she...

        I shook my head. My thoughts felt... foggy. All of a sudden, I was all too aware of Mary Anne singing to herself as she wiped the same plate dry, over and over again.

        “I think... I think I want to go home early,” I sighed, and wrapped my arms around myself. Everything felt strange.


Chapter 5

Jessi

--------------------------------------

Dear Quint,

        Happy Quaanza! We’re having the most fun here in Stoneybrook... Mallory and I got to spend some one-on-one time with the new babysitter, a gentleman from Europe or something. He took us both out for Cokes at the Rosebud Cafe. But don’t worry,  he seemed more interested in what Mal had to say, if you can believe it. Can’t wait to see you in The Rite of Spring!

Love,

Jessi

--------------------------------------

                “Here we are!” said Mallory as we walked into the Rosebud Café.

                The Rosebud Café is the dibbliest place in all of Stoneybrook. (Dibble is a word my friends and I made up. It means ‘cool’.) The café has a real soda fountain and a marble-topped counter just like a diner out of an old movie.  My friends and I love to go there on dates. Right now it was all dressed up for Christmas, with a big tree in one corner covered in old-fashioned decorations, and little toy airplanes hanging from the ceiling.

                Mal and the doctor sat down at the counter in front of the soda fountain. I stood beside them with one leg propped up on top of the counter. (I’m a very accomplished dancer and it’s important to keep limber at all times.)

                “So… this is what you want me to see?” the Doctor looked around. “It’s... impressive.”

                “It’s meant to look just like the 1940s,” I explained.

                “Ah,” said The Doctor. “In that case it’s rubbish. Nothing like the 1940s. Love the 1940s. Once met a chap in the 1940s—well, turned out he was an Auton, not a chap, you know, but anyway…”

                As the Doctor chattered on, I switched my footing and propped my other leg on the counter. I wondered if all foreign people talked this much. The only foreign people I ever met were Mme Noelle and Claudia’s grandmother Mimi, and I didn’t remember them talking this much.

                “This place is SO dibble,” Mallory said. “Super chilly. But that’s not why we brought you here.”

                “It’s because of the cook,” I added. “There’s something strange about her face.”

                “Yeah,” Mal interrupted. “I saw her when I was riding my bike to the Arnolds’. She was outside the Café smoking… her face looked all flat and white—”

                “Not white like, you know, the skin color of most people in this town,” I added delicately.

                “Right, like, white, like she was wearing a mask. And she had no nose. And then when I looked again, it was normal.”

                “I see.” The Doctor glanced toward the kitchen doors. “How long has this cook been here?”

                “Not forever,” I said. I wondered where exactly the Doctor was from, and if they had any black people there. I hoped he wasn’t acting so strangely because I was black, but you can never tell. At least the members of the club never look down on me!

                “Not forever?” echoed the Doctor.

                “Most people have been here forever,” Mal said, shrugging.

                Just then the waiter came up to us. He stared disapprovingly at my foot on the counter (clearly he was being prejudiced against me because I was black). “What can I get for you folks?” he asked.

                “I want a Coke,” said Mal.

                “I just want a fruit salad,” I said. (It’s important to watch your weight when you dance.)

                “Do you have any fish fingers?” asked the Doctor.

                The waiter raised his eyebrows. “I’ll have to ask the cook,” he said.

                “Oh yes,” the Doctor replied. “Go and ask the cook. Tell you what—why don’t you ask her to come out here? Run along now.”

                The waiter went back to the kitchen.

                “So…” the Doctor said, turning to Mal. “Most people have been here forever, have they?”

                “Well, I’ve been here forever,” Mal said, ticking names off on her fingers as she spoke. “And Kristy, and Mary Anne… Stacey hasn’t, though. Not Jessi either.”

                “Stacey hasn’t been here forever, has she?” asked the Doctor in an interested tone.

                I felt left out. “I haven’t been here forever either,” I said. I hoped he wasn’t ignoring me because I was black.

                “Stacey moved here in the seventh grade,” Mal said. “Then she moved back to New York because her dad’s job transferred him.”

                “And I moved into town at that time,” I said. “I was the only black person at SMS. Mal and I joined the Babysitters’ Club, and then Stacey moved back.”

                The Doctor spun his chair around to face me. “And… when was this?” he asked.

                I thought about that for a minute. It was well before Christmas last year; I knew that. I had already started the sixth grade. Then Stacey came back. Then Aunt Cecilia came to live with us. Then it was summer, and now I was in the sixth grade… I felt a buzzing in the back of my head.

                “Recently,” I told the Doctor.

                “Recently?” he echoed. “But you can’t say how recently? Even though you were there?”

                My head started to hurt. I took my leg off the counter.

                Mal leaned in to the Doctor. “You ask a lot about times,” she said.

                “It’s rather important,” the Doctor replied confidentially. “Can’t you remember when your best friend moved to town?”

                “It was just after sixth grade began,” Mal replied after a pause.

                Just then the waiter came back. He had water for the Doctor and me, and a Coke for Mal. “Sorry,” he told the Doctor, staring pointedly at him, “We don’t have any fish fingers. But… the cook told me to tell you we have some custard. She said you’d understand.

She says she’ll be out with it herself in a minute.”

                “Ah.” The Doctor nodded. “Tell her that’s fine. I’ll wait.”

                I frowned. “Who eats fish with custard? And what’s a fish finger? Is that a foreign thing?”

                “Never mind,” said the Doctor. “Are you sure you can’t remember anything about the time?”

                “Why do you care so much about time?” Mal asked.

                “Time,” said the Doctor, reaching for his glass, “Is a special interest of mine.” He took a sip of the water, made a face, and spat it back into the glass. “That’s water,” he said to himself. “I hate water. Beastly stuff.”

                Mal brightened. “So if something was weird about the time, you might be able to help?”

                “Yes! Why?” asked the Doctor hopefully. “Do you know of anything funny about time?”

                “Maybe,” Mal said, blushing behind her enormous glasses. “It’s embarrassing. But... see, I can’t wait to turn thirteen. Everything will be so much better when I’m thirteen! I’ll be able to get contacts, and maybe my parents will finally agree to a nose job, and I’ll be able to stay up late babysitting and make so much more money so I can dress like Claudia or Stacey, and…”

                “Somebody say my name?” Stacey asked, appearing suddenly behind the Doctor. She was dressed in one of her super chilly outfits: a white jumpsuit with plastic seahorses sewn onto the sleeve and pant cuffs, over a bright pink top. Her perm looked even curlier than usual, and she’d put on a lot of blue eyeshadow.

                “Hello!” the Doctor said, barely looking away from Mal. “Stacey, was it? Your friends were just telling me about you. You’ve had a move recently, yes?”

                “Yes.” Stacey looked cautious. She must have been thinking what to say to such an exotic foreign gentleman. She’s very sophisticated like that. “Recently.”

                The Doctor turned back to Mal. “Go on,” he said.

                Mal looked even more embarrassed. She didn’t want to interrupt one of the older sitters, I could tell.  “Well, I keep this journal,” she said softly.

                “You know,” interrupted Stacey, “You and I have a lot in common, Doctor. I’m from New York, you’re from Europe. They’re both very sophisticated places. Also I’m diabetic.”

                “What does that have to do with anything?” I asked before I could stop myself.

                “It’s important!” Stacey said. “I have to carry insulin just like he carries that screwdriver-thingy. Also if I eat any sweets at all, I’ll die!”

                The Doctor glanced back at Stacey. “Are you aware,” he asked, “That that’s not at all how diabetes works?”

                “How would you know?”

                “I’m a doctor,” he replied, and turned back to Mal. “Go on. What about your journal?”

                “I…” Mal blushed again. “I started counting the days until I turn thirteen. I just put a tickmark on the page of my journal for each day; after seven hundred twenty-eight days—”

                “Seven hundred thirty days,” Stacey corrected.

                “…I’ll be thirteen! But… I know I only put one tickmark every day. I’m sure I did. I do it at the same time every night, when I’m reading under the covers with a flashlight. But every time I go back to count them…”

                Mal took out her journal and showed it to the Doctor. He, Stacey and I leaned in to look. Every page of the thick notebook was covered in tiny ink tickmarks. They started out black, and then the black started to fade and was replaced by blue pen. There were even tickmarks on the inside covers! There must have been thousands of marks.

                “That,” the Doctor said in a whisper, “Is brilliant. Now all I have to do is count them, and we’ll have some idea of when, exactly--”

                “Whoops!” cried Stacey, suddenly losing her balance. I hadn’t seen what made her fall; maybe it was another diabetic thing. She fell forward onto the counter and spilled Mal’s Coke all over the pages.

                Mal looked almost relieved; the Doctor looked ready to cry. Just then, we all heard a huge crash from the kitchen, followed by a deep voice shouting.

                “Bow tow crow fow!” it shouted.

                The Doctor jumped over the counter, holding out his screwdriver. “Everybody get down!”


Chapter 6

Stacey

--------------------------------------

Dear Dad,

It’s Christmas in Stoneybrook again.  It has been quite an exciting one too.  I mean, New York is great for Christmas and all but New York doesn’t have a Doctor.  He’s soooo dreamy and just showed up out of nowhere!  I feel like I’m in New York again!

Anyway, I’ve been doing well.  I haven’t had a single candy cane this year since I really can’t afford to.  Christmas at the hospital does not sound fun at all.  Speaking of food, hopefully I’ll see you before New Year’s and we can go to a great restaurant in New York!

Sophisticated love,

Stacey

--------------------------------------

I had been walking down the street after doing some window shopping and arrived at the Rosebud Café.  You see, being from New York I tend to have this certain flair for fashion and style.  I’m the best dresser out of all of my friends, besides Claudia that is.  I don’t mean to sound conceited, but it’s the truth.  Anyway, as I looked into the Rosebud I could see Mal and Jessi talking to that man.  I got a funny feeling from the man and when you’ve grown up on the streets of New York you tend not to trust people who give you funny feelings.  Yet here I was in the café and something bad was happening!

“Yikes!” shouted Mal as some kind of rhino came running out of the kitchen chasing a woman in an apron with hair that was just as frizzy as Mal’s.

“Bow tow crow fow!” shouted that strange rhino as it stomped with loud klomp klomp klomp sounds.

The woman tossed the apron off as she skidded around the counter and toward us.  She had a smile on her face which I found even curiouser.  How could someone who is being chased be so happy?  I pushed Mal and Jessi back against the counter as she ran by.  This was not a sophisticated way to act at all.

“Cybermen!  Not many, but you know how they are.  Just watch out for the pits, nasty things that they’ve dug.  Not like them, but you know, when you’re desperate!” the woman said as she went for the door.

She stopped suddenly and turned, waving to us all as the rhino got closer to her and said, “Oh and, hi sweetie.”

Then she grew terribly pale and melted with a sploosh.  The rhino skidded to a halt in front of the puddle before turning around to face us.  Mal, Jessi, and I shrieked as we saw her melt.  Nothing like this has ever happened in Stoneybrook!  She also did not introduce herself or state anything about herself as she spoke, which was very unsophisticated.  She had a European accent as well, so I would think she should have been far more sophisticated than she had acted!

“She just... melted.  I bet she had diabetes,” I said, nodding my head as I knew I was right.

“What?  No,” said the Doctor to me with a puzzled look.  “Did you see a real doctor about your diabetes?  Or does it work differently here in this portion of America like everything else...”

“I’ll have you know that-” I started to say, but the Doctor had walked away from us.

Jessi turned to Mal and said, “Sometimes I feel like that after I’ve been dancing all day and then have to deal with Aunt Cecelia.”

She and Mal gave each other a knowing Look and I just shook my head.  Sixth graders were so babyish.  I turned my attention back to the Doctor who was now talking to the rhino.  How a person talks to a rhino is beyond me, but it was starting to remind me of the mystery at the zoo!  While I thought about those few days I hadn’t realized that the Doctor had motioned us over so Mal and Jessi had left me.

They were now walking away towards the door with the Doctor, side stepping around the puddle of goo.  I decided to follow them as I couldn’t leave two junior members alone after all.  I wrinkled my nose at the goo as I left the café.  This was not a good day.  I shut the door behind me so I wouldn’t have to look at the goo and saw that the Doctor was still talking to the rhino.  It had some kind of weird stick poked into its torso and was saying something to the Doctor who was gesturing at it.

“I didn’t mean to park it there, it just happened to be the only place to park it.  It’s not like you can drive a lunar body around the block a bit to wait for something to turn up like you’re at the shops,” the Doctor said.

“Even so, it was a violation and we do not let violations go unpunished.  You will see to it that everything is carried out as stated on the card,” said the rhino as he handed the Doctor a bit of plastic.

“Are you serious?” he said, flapping the card at the rhino.  “I don’t have time for this!  I’m dealing with, well, dealing with time!”

Mal finally managed to squeak out, “Doctor, is something wrong?”

“Oh no, no.  Nothing to worry about.  Just this Judoon wasn’t after her as I had thought.  He wanted information as to where I was and then saw that it was her so he chased her in hopes of killing two birds with one stone,” the Doctor prattled on.  “And I will deal with this... this glorified parking ticket later.”

“Parking ticket?  This is a policeman?” asked Jessi.  “He doesn’t look like any policeman I’ve ever seen.”

“Policeman?  Oh, yes, right, I suppose so.  Apparently I parked a lunar body too far from the Earth or some nonsense,” the Doctor said, giving us a Look as the rhino tapped his foot.  The Doctor then made for the door to the café, “Now about those fish fingers and custard.”

“We don’t have time to eat!  There’s a meeting in 30 minutes and if we aren’t there early Kristy won’t be happy,” I said, tapping my watch.  Though I did have to admit that a Lunar Body sounded like a very sophisticated European car.

The Doctor pushed the door open anyway and walked in followed by Mal and Jessi.  I looked to the rhino policeman and shrugged.  This was not good at all for those junior members.  I was going to go in and give them a piece of my mind, but I figured I had to deal with Kristy who was a much bigger pain when she was mad than anyone else I was around at the moment.  As I was about to leave so that at least I wouldn’t be late, I heard a shriek from inside the café.

Aieeee!

I hurried inside with the policeman and gasped.  The Christmas tree that had been set up in the café was now wiggling around and shaking.  A few branches on the sides started to push out into what looked like arms while a few others started to shift to form a scary face!  It started to pick the ornaments off of itself and toss them at the Doctor and junior members while letting out some kind of crackly, raspy growl.

The Doctor pointed his screwdriver at the flying bulbs which glowed before shattering completely in midair.  Mal dove for the power socket to get the lights unplugged while Jessi pirouetted around the room to distract it.  Orbs and candy canes were flying everywhere- I was almost hit with a candy cane which would have certainly put me into a coma!  A coma is an illness where you just sleep a lot and can’t wake up.  It may sound nice, but boy is it terrible.

        Mal got the lights unplugged but that only freed the tree even more!  She grabbed onto the dangling strand of lights as the tree pulled her across the floor while Jessi gracefully jumped over her.  The Doctor quickly side stepped out of the way as the tree barreled toward him.  It rammed into the wall causing needles to shower off of it.  The creature was shaken, but it roared again and turned to face the Doctor.  It hopped its way toward him on its little stump, but the Doctor ducked under one of its outstretched arms and slid to safety.  This was certainly shaping up to be a memorable Christmas!

        “Oh my lord!” I said as the rhino barged in.

        “I will not have any misconduct on my watch!  This is a most unjust action that shall not go unpunished!” yelled the strange rhino.

        He pulled out what looked like a gun and I shrieked!  Guns are very dangerous and I should know since I grew up in New York and many bad people there have guns.  I ducked down and curled into a ball, hearing a loud pew!  I had shut my eyes tight and dared not look out until I heard Mal and Jessi talking about how scared they were until the rhino came in.

        “Not my preferred way to do things,” said the Doctor as I opened one eye.

        The rhino had shot the tree with that gun which caused it to go up in flames!  Jessi poured her fruit salad and Mal poured the Doctor’s water over the tree to get the flames to go out and I stood up slowly.  The Doctor was kneeling down by some of the shards from the ornaments, waving that screwdriver around.

        “These were cameras.  Well some were, some were just cheap Christmas ornaments,” he said as he stood up and looked at the wand.  “Dalek technology there as well.  Not very good Dalek technology, but Dalek nonetheless.”

        “Dalek?” said Mal, inching closer to the Doctor.

        “Yes, I’d tell you, but,” he said as he nodded to the clock on the wall of the café.  “It’s almost 5:30.”

        I gasped in horror, “Kristy’ll have our heads!”


Chapter 7

Claudia

--------------------------------------

Dear Uncle Russ,

I hope you had a goood Crismis this yere. We are haveing fun with the culb but Krusty does’nt like the newe member much. He is frum Euerope which is near England somewere I thinque.

Love,

Claudia

--------------------------------------

Kristy cleared her throat, and glanced grimly at the digital clock on my bedside table. It said 5:29. It had said 5:29 for some time now. Almost a full minute, probably! I popped a mini snickers bar into my mouth.

"Cock'ate?" I offered the packet around the room, my mouth full of candy. Nobody took one.  The mood in the room was tense. We were seconds away from 5:30, and three members were still missing! Mary Anne looked ready to cry. (Though that in itself wasn't so unusual.)

The numbers on the clock changed to 5:30. We all stared at the door. Still no Mal or Jessi. Still no Stacey.

"This meeting will now come to order!" Kristy announced gravely. "And it appears that we have a serious problem."

Mary Anne burst into noisy tears. "It's all fallen apart!" she sobbed.

I held out my bag of candy to her. Chocolate always helped me to feel better when I was upset. And when I wasn't, too. I firmly believe that chocolate (and all types of junk food!) are food for the soul. What other explanation could there be for the fact that despite my junk food addiction, I have never gained an ounce!? Mary Anne didn't notice through her bawling, though. I shrugged and took another for myself. Mmm!

Dawn rolled her eyes.

The phone rang. Mary Anne dried her eyes and answered. “Hello, Babysitters’ Club!” she said. “Mrs. Pike? You need a sitter for right now? Now you know the rules, Mrs. Pike. You can’t have a sitter until six. We’ll let you know in a moment.” She hung up.

Kristy turned her glare to Mary Anne.

“Mrs. Pike needs a sitter for... six o’clock,” said Mary Anne nervously. “She’s taking Mr. Pike to the Emergency Room. She didn’t have time to say why.”

Humph,” said Kristy.

I unwrapped some more chocolate.

The front door closed with a slam. I heard a set of feet pounding up the stairs and eventually, there was Stacey all red in the face and panting! She’s especially attractive when she’s out of breath.

“Sorry,” Stacey gasped. “I was on my way, but the Doctor... there was a rhino and then the tree... the two sitters... fruit salad... the balls are really cameras and the Doctor said...”

Stacey stopped when she saw Kristy’s Look. She sat down. “Can I have some wheat crackers?” she asked.

I went to find them where I’d hidden them inside a pair of dibbley argyle knee socks in the back of my closet. But Kristy gave me the Look, and I sat back down.

“Look,” Stacey panted, “I said I was sorry, but I need something to eat! It’s... it’s my diabetes!”

        “It’s always the same,” Kristy said almost sadly. “We gave you another chance, but you haven’t changed a bit.”

        (A while ago, Stacey left the club to hang out with her new, sophisticated friends from the cheerleading squad. Kristy’s been keeping her on a pretty short leash since then.)

        The phone rang just as my front door slammed again. Mary Anne answered it. “Hello... I told you, Mrs. Pike, not for twenty more minutes! We’ll be right there!”

        Just then the Doctor, Mal and Jessi came tumbling into the room all at once. The Junior Members collapsed and muttered “sorry” when they saw Kristy; the Doctor didn’t seem afraid.

        “Are we late, then?” he asked. “Sorry. But as I’m sure Stacey’s already told you, there was a bit of a to-do at the café...”

        “Right,” Kristy said, rolling her eyes. “A tree and a rhino.”

        “Rhino? What nonsense.” The Doctor thought for a moment. “Oh, you mean the Judoon. Yes, one of those, and the Christmas tree--”

        “I’ve heard enough,” said Kristy angrily. “This is now an emergency meeting of the Babysitters’ Club. Doctor, you and Mal are going to babysit the Pikes as soon as it’s over. In the meanwhile, we’re going to have to--”

        The doorbell rang downstairs.

        I peeked out the door. “Janine! Can you get that?”

        Janine is my sister. She’s a genius-- she’s taking college courses even though she’s only in high school! My parents pretend they don’t like her better than me, but I know they’re lying. I knew Janine was home because she had an Astrophysics exam tomorrow that she needed to study for. She’s always taking showoff classes like that.

Kristy pounded both arms of her director’s chair. She looked furious. “Everyone listen!” she fumed. “We’ve had a serious infraction today. How am I supposed to run this club if I don’t have the full cooperation-- Doctor, what are you doing!?”

        The Doctor was heading toward the door, staring intently at his screwdriver again. I liked the green light... it reminded me of a pair of earrings I’d made once, out of battery-powered bug zappers. My head hurt for a week after I wore them! A light the size of the one on his screwdriver would have been perfect, if only it wasn’t making that funny noise.

        “They’re here? But why would they ring?” The Doctor was saying to himself.

        “I didn’t tell anyone they could leave!” I never would have believed it, but Kristy looked on the verge of tears. As for Mary Anne, she was crying so hard she was in the middle of a puddle.

        “Does this place have a back door?” the Doctor asked.

        “I think so,” I said. I wondered why it was taking me so long to answer a question about my own house... but I’ve been so confused lately! It seems to get a little worse every day.

        “Right.” The Doctor nodded solemnly. “Good. Because I want all of you girls to go downstairs quietly, right now, and--”

        “No one’s leaving!” Kristy barked. “Sit down!”

        Janine knocked at my bedroom door and then came in without waiting. She was wearing one of her ridiculous outfits: a gray button-down sweater over a white button-down shirt, with a knee-length pleated green skirt. I would never have left the house in that outfit unless I’d tie-dyed the shirt or slashed a bunch of holes in the skirt, or hung fishing lures all over the sweater. Something so it wouldn’t look so odd.

        “Pardon my intrusion,” said Janine. “But there is an animate, verbal pepper pot of extremely grandiose size on the doorstep. It requested to converse with Stacey.”

        Kristy looked like she was going to explode!

        “I’m the leader of the club,” she fumed. “I should be the one it wants to talk to.”

        Stacey stood up, looking even more scared than when she’d walked in.

        “No!” Kristy jumped out of her chair so fast it fell over. “I’m going to talk to it. You have to stay here.” She swept past Janine and left the room.

        Stacey waited until she was gone, then she ran out too. I heard her a minute later, sneaking down the back stairs.

        “I’m in charge,” Kristy shouted to whatever-it-was in the doorway. “No one is going to talk to you but me.”

        The next voice we heard was weird. It was kind of like the sound of my voice the morning after I’d tried to dye my whole mouth purple to go with an outfit. (It’s a long story.)

        “You are not the one you call Sta-cey! I will speak only with the one you call sta-cey!” it shouted. “You will surrender the one you call sta-cey or you will be exterminated!”

        “You can’t scare me,” said Kristy. There was a loud thunk as if she’d kicked something metal. “This is my club and everyone does what I say. I’m in charge here! Me!”

        Bizoo! Bizoo! Bizoo! went a strange sound.

        The Doctor cringed.

        “detonate!” cried the voice. I felt the walls of my house began shaking. My artwork started to tumble off the walls!

        “I’m sorry,” the Doctor said, turning to us. “Just run!”

        


Chapter 8

Byron

--------------------------------------

Dear Grammy,

Merry Christmas! We like our new babysitter.
Love,
Byron

--------------------------------------

        None of us had seen the explosion, but we all felt it! It rattled the whole neighborhood! Adam, Jordan and I had been making a snow fort when it happened. (Mom made us play outside because she had to go somewhere in a hurry with my dad) I ran inside at first, because I thought it was my brother Nicky getting into trouble somehow, but then we realized it was outside... the Kishis’ whole house had exploded! We all ran down the block to watch the firemen put it out.

        There was quite a crowd out on the sidewalk. I ran to where the sitters were first. I hoped they hadn’t been hurt-- especially my sister Mallory! Who would have cleaned my room and baked desserts and cut the crusts off my sandwiches, if Mallory had been hurt? Luckily she was fine. They were all fine, even the strange new babysitter with the bowtie, except for Kristy and Stacey. No one seemed to know where they were.

        “Shouldn’t we go look for them?” Mary Anne was saying.

        The Doctor didn’t seem to hear her.  “Did everyone else get out? What about that depressingly normal person who answered the door?”
        “I am present and accounted for,” Janine said, hugging herself in her sweater. “And our parents are at their places of employment tonight. Does anyone require any medical assistance?”

        Claudia rolled her eyes at Janine. “Listen,” she said. “Doctor, you’ve got to go to the Pikes’ house now.”

        “But--”
        Claudia saw us for the first time. “Kids!” she said with a fake smile. “This is the Doctor! He’s going to be your new babysitter, okay?”

        “But--” the Doctor began again.

        “We’ll keep looking for Kristy and Stacey,” said Claudia. “As vice-president of the Babysitters’ Club, I’m ordering you and Mal to go babysit... okay?” she looked nervous.

        Mallory took my hand. “Come on, Doctor,” she said. “If you don’t, Kristy’ll probably kill you. Wherever she is.”

        “Er... yes,” said the Doctor. “Yes, go and look for her. But concentrate on Stacey. And if you see one of those... those sentient pepper pots again, will you do something for me? Run. Run for your life. All right?”

        Claudia pouted. “You just don’t want to see what good detectives we can be.”

        “Come on, silly-billy goo goo!” Claire cried, taking the Doctor’s other hand. “Come see our house!”

        The Doctor turned around to shout at Claudia one more time. “I mean it!” he said. “Run for your life!”

        “Let’s have some hot chocolate,” Mallory said. “I think I remember where Mom put the mugs.”

        “I broke all the mugs by accident,” said Nicky, “Except for the ones on the counter.”

        “I threw up on those,” said Margo, popping up at Nicky’s side.

        Mallory shrugged. “Just another typical day at the Pike house,” she said.

        “You do this every day?” the Doctor asked admiringly. “But... didn’t you say there were eight Pike children?”

        “Vanessa wouldn’t stop reciting her epic poem,” said Jordan, rolling his eyes. “So we locked her in the closet.”

        “Ah,” said the Doctor. “Well, you seem to have the situation under control, don’t you, Mallory? Because someone really ought to be looking for-- on second thought,” he said, looking up at our house and turning around without pausing, “I think you children might like to go to the park with me. Won’t that be nice?”

        “But I’m cold!” said Mallory. Then she saw it too.

        There was a robot in our front yard. At least, I thought it was a robot. It was made of metal and it was moving around. It had a plunger and an egg beater instead of arms, and one eye on the end of a long stalk. There were polka-dots running down the front of it. It was plowing down our snow fort, shouting “exterminate!”

        “Let’s go to the park, kids!” Mallory said, turning to follow the Doctor.

        “But--” I cried.

        “Just do what the Doctor says!” Mallory yelled. We all followed her.

        “What is that thing?” Mallory whispered to the Doctor.

        “It’s a Dalek,” the Doctor said. “Or something that wants me to think it’s a Dalek! Same thing that came to your meeting, I’m afraid. Run!”

        “Is it... an alien?” asked Mallory after a pause. “Is it dangerous?”

        “Of course! Now run!” the Doctor said.

        “What about Vanessa?”

        “I’ll go back for Vanessa.”

The Doctor skidded around the corner and through the gate to the park. “I don’t think it’s interested in Vanessa. I think it wants you, and the other members of your club. It wants you to tell them where Stacey is, and it won’t stop until it finds her.”

        “Why?”

        “I don’t know.”

The Doctor stopped in front of what looked like a big blue phone booth. I hadn’t seen it in the park before. He opened the door and went in. “Come on!”

        “There isn’t room!” I said.

        “Do what he says,” Mallory answered, pushing me. We all went into the phone booth. Inside was a large room, with a big messy piece of machinery rising up out of the middle.

        “It’s--” Mallory began.

        “Bigger on the inside, I know,” the Doctor interrupted. “Can you watch the children here while I go back for Vanessa?”

        “Shouldn’t I go with you?” Mallory asked.

        “What does this lever do?” asked Jordan, running up to the machine.

        “Don’t touch that! Don’t touch anything!” cried the Doctor, running to pull him away. “Mallory, you’ve got to stay here. Nothing can get into the TARDIS, I promise. Just stay here with your brothers and sister. And don’t touch anything!”

        Without waiting for an answer, the Doctor ran out.


Chapter 9

Mary Anne

--------------------------------------

Dear Dawn,

I wanted to send you a Christmas card to your house in California!  Hi Mr. Schafer!  Hi Jeff!  I feel so silly for doing this since you’re here in Stoneybrook after all, but I didn’t want your other house to go without a Christmas card.  I mean, being bicoastal means you should have a Bichristmas too!

See you later,

Mary Anne

--------------------------------------

        “Tigger!” I shouted.  “Tigger, where are you?”

        The neighborhood was a mess!  Claudia’s house had blown up somehow and Tigger had run off in all of the commotion.  Tigger is my kitten who I love very much.  He’s so soft and fun to cuddle.  Now he was missing and I didn’t know what to do!  A tear began to roll down my cheek, followed by another on the other side.  I’m really quite sensitive so situations like this aren’t fun for me.

        I stopped on the sidewalk and felt like just falling down and sobbing.  Though I wiped my cheek on the arm of my orange sweater and sighed.  At least I looked nice this evening.  I was in my orange sweater with a simple, collared white shirt under it, my plaid skirt, and a pair of tennis shoes with big, slouchy socks.  To think I was considering wearing one of my Laura Ashley dresses today.  My father used to be very strict about what I could wear, but he’s recently let me dress how I like.

        “Tig-” I started, but was cut off.

        “You there!  Girl in the... orange,” that familiar British voice said.

        Looking up, I saw the Doctor.  He was running toward me with his hair bouncing and was looking every which way.  Why wasn’t he looking at me?  I deserved to be looked at as well, but he didn’t seem to care at all that my cat was missing.

        “Doctor, are you looking for Tigger?” I asked.

        “Tigger?  No, not Tigger, her name is Vanessa.  One of those Pike children.  She’s locked in a closet,” he said as he grabbed my hand and dragged me with him into the Pike house.

        We looked around and were met with mostly silence.  There were still some people outside talking about the burned down house, but inside was quite nice.  It was almost eerie since the Pikes weren’t in the house.  Yet here we were, still two sitters at the Pikes!  As I looked around, the Doctor looked around the living room before stepping into the hall and tapping on the linen closet.  There was a squeak from inside so he promptly opened it.  I stayed behind just in case Tigger came out to greet me.

        “Locked in a box like a fox!  It is not kind and I will give them a piece of my mind!” Vanessa said as the Doctor squatted down to pick her up.

        “Look at you!  Rhyming, eh?  You know, there’s a whole planet that rhymes all the time.  Marvelous place,” the Doctor told Vanessa as he walked out with her, and I rolled my eyes.  “Now let’s get you back to your siblings.”

        We left the house, sneaking by the group that was growing bigger outside.  They were all streaming toward the Kishi’s house as the smoke billowed up into the sky.  It was almost like when Dawn’s house burned down, but I had a feeling the Kishis would get over this much faster than Dawn did.  I was busy watching people so I hadn’t noticed the Doctor had started to walk briskly away.  I had to jog to catch up!

        “Where are we even going?” I asked him.

        “Back to the TARDIS.  The Pikes are there.  It’s safe.  Very safe,” he said before stopping in his tracks.  “Unless they touched something.”

        I rolled my eyes again. “Telling those boys not to touch something means they’ll touch it for sure!”

        We reached the park and I saw a strange, blue box sitting there.  It hadn’t been there before, but the Doctor was making a beeline toward it.  He yanked the door open and hurried inside so I huffed and hurried after him.  Though when we got inside I was not prepared for what I saw.

        “Doctor, we didn’t mean to!  I told Jordan not to touch anything, but...” Mallory said.

        Well, at least I thought it was Mallory.  Before me was a gorgeous woman with long, slender legs, a very ample bosom, beautiful slender fingers, and a lovely neck.  She even had long, auburn hair that was wavy and went down to the middle of her back.  Her clothes were ill fitting- the sweater was too small so the bottom of her stomach showed and her bosoms were pushing it out, while her skirt was too short and barely covered her legs!

        “Geronimo,” the Doctor said in a soft voice.

        “Mal?” I asked, probably giving her a Look.

        The woman nodded and folded her hands in front of her chest, pushing her bosoms together. “Yes?”

        We all said Mal would one day be a beauty, but I never expected it to be today!  I then looked around at the others and saw they too were all older!  The triplets were all rather tall and surprisingly good looking.  They were still shoving each other, their clothes having ripped and ridden up in places.  Margo and Claire were a bit taller and looked more mature- surely BSC Junior Member material.

        “You touched a thingy, didn’t you!” the Doctor said accusingly as he set Vanessa down.

        She started to grow as well, getting taller than me by about an inch and started to look older too!  They may have all been pretty and looked good, but I wasn’t interested.  Finding Tigger was far more important than a bunch of people who had aged in minutes.  Besides, Mal was still only a junior member to me.

        The Doctor was at the weird, central area of the box we were in.  It was somehow bigger on the inside so there was room in the center for such a thing.  I just couldn’t understand all this so I began to cry.  I tried to wipe my tears away as they came, hoping no one could see me. Byron, or who I assumed was Byron, came over and offered me a scrap from his shirt.

        “Here, Mary Anne.  I think you need this,” he said softly.

        I thanked him just as the Doctor tapped a button and looked at his screen.  Then he turned to us all and wagged a finger at the two triplets who were still trying to wrestle each other.  This Doctor was about to scold them which we certainly do not do in the BSC!

        “You boys did something.  You boys pulled one of the thingies or pushed a button that fixed your own timestreams.  Which one?” the Doctor said as the boys stopped wrestling.

        “We pushed that big, green, glowy one!” said the one who had to be Adam.

        “The big, green...” the Doctor said, twirling and dashing for the big computer-thing again.

        Mallory walked over and tried to adjust her sweater, but it wasn’t doing much.  I looked away as she stood next to me.  I focused on the Doctor furiously working while looking into the screen above his head.  I heard Mal sigh, but I didn’t bother to look at her.

        “Mary Anne, I’m worried.  What’s going on?  I’m not sure if this is dibble or scary,” Mal said to me.

        “Me either,” I said simply.

        “Are you mad at me, Mary Anne?” she asked me.

        I just folded my arms across my chest and shook my head. “No.”

        “Well if you are, I’m sorry for whatever I did,” Mallory said, sighing.

        I finally glanced at her, but could only see that she certainly didn’t need that nose job anymore.  Then the Doctor stepped forward toward us all, looking hurried.  It was distracting me from the fact that I was still flat chested while Mallory could easily fill a bikini.

        “We need to go back to that house and find something,” he said to us.

        “Find what?” asked Margo, holding her stomach.  She was nervous.

        The Doctor turned to look at her, “A piece of something.  I have a hunch.  I believe that thing that blew up at Kristy’s house could be a part of the puzzle that is... this.”

        He motioned to the Pikes with an odd look.  This was going to be a long night.  We had already ruined a meeting so Kristy was probably not very happy.  She’d need to watch an I Love Lucy marathon before she felt better.

        “They wanted Stacey and all signals I’m picking up are from them.  But not them.  But then how do you have a them that is not them when we saw that it was them?” the Doctor said as he went to the doors.  “Kids, come with me.  Though, Mallory?”

        “Yes, Doctor?” she asked, quite disgustingly perky.

        “Stay here and find some... clothes.  Try a closet.  Any closet,” he said as he stepped out the door.  He popped his head back in. “But not the one in the terrarium.”

        With that he popped back out and the rest of us followed.  It looked like we were going to go back to Kristy’s and then I had no idea where to after that.  I still hadn’t found Tigger.


Chapter 10

Karen

--------------------------------------

Hello Ricky!

How are you? I hope you are having a gigundoly amazing time with your aunt and uncle in Florida and that I got the address right so that you get this letter in time for Christmas! Guess what? Exciting things have been happening at the Big House this season! I will tell you all about it when we are back at school. I cannot wait!

From Karen

--------------------------------------

I stamped my foot. I was frustrated. Nobody was doing anything right.

        “No, Claudia, you can not be Mrs Mysterious, too! I am Mrs Mysterious!” I cried.

        “But I love this cloak!” Claudia exclaimed, twirling round, so that the silky purple dressing gown fanned out around her. She was stealing all of my best dressing up things!

        “That is my cloak!”

        Claudia's big sister, Janine, tapped the pencil she was holding against the desk. “You could take turns wearing the, um, cloak?” she suggested.

        I spun round to her. “That is not how it works!” I sighed. I was ready to tear my hair out! She just did not get it! “The person wearing the cloak gets to be Mrs Mysterious, and that is me! There can not be two people being Mrs Mysterious, that would not make sense!”

        Janine shrugged. She was obviously not taking the game seriously enough.

        I should probably explain the problem. See, Let's All Come In is my very favouritest game in the world! Everybody dresses up, and pretends to be a different person checking into a hotel. I have an incredible imagination, everyone says so, so I am really, really good at inventing characters. My favourite character to play is Mrs Mysterious, a strange, witchy lady, who visits regularly with the Addams family. My daddy is really rich, so when I stay at his mansion with daddy and his wife Elizabeth (who I thought was a mean old stepmother at first, but turned out to be very nice!) and my big sister Kristy (though she is only my half sister really, we like to pretend to be real sisters!) and her brothers, I have a really great collection of dressing up clothes! It's perfect for playing Let's All Come In!

        But now Claudia was not only stealing the best clothes, but all my best character ideas as well. She was never my favourite babysitter. I like it best when Kristy sits for me. She was not at home today, though. I did not really need a babysitter, because there were lots of grown-ups in the house. (Daddy and Elizabeth were both home, and Claudia's parents were staying with us, because their house blew up. Nannie was out bowling.) My brother Andrew would not play with me tonight, because David Michael wanted to test out his science project on someone, and Andrew had volunteered. Charlie and Sam were out, and anyway they are too old to play. So was Janine, really, but she did not seem to have anything better to do.

        Janine is very, very clever, but she does not have many friends, and none who will play games as fun as Let's All Come In with her! She did not have many good ideas for characters, though, so I made her be the Bell Captain. I knew she would not make any spelling mistakes. Spelling things right is very important to me, which is why my softball shirt says “Kristy's Crushers”, with a C- for 'cat'- unlike everyone else on the team.

        This was also why I was angry with Claudia- not only was she refusing to play the game properly (she just wanted to put on all the dressing up clothes), but when she did sign in to the hotel as a character, she spelled everything wrong! Janine tried to fix it, but that just made a mess of the Guest Book. I could have screamed!

        I was about to explain the rules of the game to Claudia again, when the doorbell rang, followed immediately afterwards by an extremely loud pounding.

        “I'll get it!” I shouted. I love getting the door.

        Before I could reach it though (the mansion is very big, and it took me a long time to get from the playroom to the front door), someone had already come barging into the house! How rude!

        “Hello! Hello?!” I heard someone calling. It was the man with the funny accent, the one who called himself 'Doctor'. I liked him. He knew how to play dress-up!

        “Doctor!” I shouted, throwing myself at him as I rounded the corner of the hall. Maybe he could replace Claudia as a guest, and Claudia could be Bellhop! That would definitely improve the game!

        “Oooft! “ the Doctor grunted, as I hit him around the middle. If I cling to people, they are more likely to play with me. I have learned this.

        “You're Karen, aren't you?” the Doctor said, prising my arms from around his waist. “Where's everybody else, then?”

        “I am here!” I informed him. “We are playing 'Let's All Come In'. It is my favourite game.”

        “You mean 'Let Us All Come In'?” the Doctor asked, looking down at me keenly.

        I was confused. “No, the game is called 'Let's All Come In'. Do you want to see my daddy? Or Elizabeth? Kristy is not here right now.”

        “I know. I'm sorry.” The Doctor looked down at me earnestly. “Claudia, you say? I could do with speaking to her. I also need to see the room that I... babysat in... last time I was here.”

        I nodded. We had been in the playroom last time this strange man had babysat for us. “Come on! You can take Claudia's place in Let's All Come In!” I grabbed the Doctor's hand and led him towards the playroom.

        “As long as you are not Mrs Mysterious!” I said. “Claudia wants to be Mrs Mysterious, but that is my character. Maybe you could explain the rules to her? She will not listen to me.”

        “How could anyone not listen to you?” the Doctor glanced down at me. I could not tell whether he was making fun of me.

        “Oh! Doctor!” Claudia cried as I led the Doctor into the playroom. “Do you like my kimono?”

        The Doctor appraised Claudia. “Well, it isn't really a kimono, is it? It's just a sort of... dressing gown... with a house coat wrapped around it.” Claudia stared at him. “It's lovely! No! Really, absolutely lovely!” he stuttered, waving his arms towards Claudia. “On anyone else it would look ridiculous, but on you, it... it... well, frankly, it still looks ridiculous.. BUT... lovely. I mean, I've seen worse. Right. Well. Anyway. I was looking for the, uh, robot, thingy...”

        The Doctor turned towards me. “Do you remember? Last time I was here? There was a boy... who turned out to be... a... robot..” He coughed. “Well, something like that. He exploded. Do you remember?”

        Of course I remembered. It had only been a few days ago!

        “Yes, we swept up the pieces over there.” I pointed to the corner where the strange bits of wire and chunks of metal had been piled up.

        “Ah!” the Doctor said, swooping over to the corner. “Now I know what I'm looking for, I can analyse the compound and determine the point of origin, and, possibly, even the generation and spawn site of the entity!”

        The Doctor was using a lot of words that I did not understand now, even though I have a great vocabulary. This man the Doctor must have been very clever indeed! Cleverer than Kristy's brother Charlie, who is in high school! I noticed Janine squinting at him over her glasses from behind her Receptionist desk.

        “Do you mean to say...” She pushed her glasses up her nose, looking the Doctor in the eyes. “That the visitor to this house... and my house... was in fact an extraterrestrial biological entity?”

        The Doctor rounded on Janine. “Yes! Yes! Do you know? ..No, you can't possibly know... Do you know?”

        “Hey!” I shouted. “I thought you were going to play 'Let's All Come In' with me!”

        The Doctor was being a very bad babysitter. It was as though he was ignoring me!

        “Doctor!” I shouted.

        “Sorry, love,” he looked round towards me. “Claudia here will play with you. I need to do some work. To, you know, save the rest of your life.”

        He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Okay, okay... Something here, a time bubble, a time... a linear feedback shift register, looping over and over again, perhaps at some preset condition, perhaps the feedback loop is random? Perhaps I need to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow...”

        The Doctor trailed off.

        Claudia and I stared at him.

        “Wait.” Janine was speaking! “If that is indeed the case, then reversing the polarity of the neutron flow would be ineffective. You would need to break the feedback cycle itself. Have you any idea what the periodicity of the sequence may be?”

        The Doctor stared at Janine.

        I pouted. No one seemed like they would play with me. “Claaaaud!” I cried. “Can I have my robe back!?”

        “You're right,” the Doctor said, slowly. “The Pike children broke their own time loop while inside my TARDIS... Perhaps, if I could extend the field across the entire affected area... But I need to know what kind of tech is responsible before I can counteract the effect!”

        “Alright,” Janine nodded. “We need more data.”

        “More data is gooder data!” the Doctor cried, scooping a handful of the debris that used to be Carver into his pocket. “Also...” he winked at Janine mischievously (she blushed) “I have this.”

        I stared. He was holding up what looked like one of Stacey's insulin syringes. Janine gasped, her hands clenched at her neck.

        I sighed. Clearly no one was going to play with me. I slunk out of the room, to see what my little brother Andrew was up to...

Chapter 11

Claudia

--------------------------------------

Dere Ant Peeches,

I hoep yoo hev a gud crismis. Wee hed a gud crisamus heer. Are noo siter helpt Juhneen in the kichen wile I sat for the Brwr Kids. dgherthoifassdgdh. GEEEEhfiiudnbir. Sigthgyba fgu theawrg, ds thgewuxex. Aju!

Luv,

Caludia

--------------------------------------

        I put back the kimono... on second thought, it didn’t really match my outfit. (I was wearing the same outfit I’d been wearing hours ago when my house blew up: an oversized men’s shirt dyed pink, open over a lime green tank top, with lime green and pink polka-dot leggings and a pair of lime green overalls that were held up by a bungee cord belt. I had pink high-top sneakers with lime green shoelaces, and my hair was pulled into a side ponytail with a barrette shaped like a pink lime! This outfit was taking my mind off the destruction of my house and all my property, not to mention the fact that my friend was missing. It’s hard to think of anything when you’re surrounded by bright colors. (At least, it is for me.))

        Gurgle my stomach growled... it had been all of half an hour since my last snack. I was glad we’d ended up staying at the Brewer house instead of the Spier-Schafers’, because there was a chance of getting some decent food here! Mal had told me that rich people ate Oreos with Coke. That sounded just right... maybe with chocolate or caramel sauce over the cookies. Or both! And maybe some Fritos for dessert! Mmm! I grabbed my sketchbook in case I wanted to draw my snack before I ate it, but it felt like I wouldn’t have enough time. I was seriously hungry!

        As I came towards the kitchen, I could hear Janine and the Doctor speaking some strange language to each other.

        “Just as I thought,” the Doctor was saying. “This is nothing like ordinary Dalek tech.”

        “It looks as though the mechanism was inexpertly constructed from salvaged materials,” said Janine. “But it must have been constructed by someone familiar with the underlying technology. What does it mean, Doctor?”

        “Familiar with the underlying technology...” the Doctor said softly. “Familiar with the underlying technology...”

        I opened the door.

        There must have been a hundred pots and pans on the stove, each filled with a different colored liquid! And all the chairs were piled up in one corner with an electric oscillating fan perched on top. The fan was oscillating twice as fast as I’d ever seen a fan like that move, but the blades were spinning very slowly, and someone had duct taped a metal spatula to the end of each blade. The Doctor and Janine weren’t interested in the stove anymore, though. They were standing on top of the counter, holding up a tiny piece of machinery under the bright kitchen ceiling light. Janine was squinting at it through her magnifying glass with her glasses propped on her head. (Why she doesn’t just get contacts has always been a mystery to me! She’d look so much nicer with contacts.)

        The Doctor was tracing numbers in the air with one finger as if he were solving a math problem in his head. This didn’t make sense to me, but then math never did.

        “That’s IT!” the Doctor jumped up so quickly he almost hit his head on the ceiling. “But I’m going to need to analyze a piece of the creature itself. Janine, how fast can we get back to your old house?”
        “We could borrow Mr. Brewer’s conveyance if you liked,” Janine said.

        I shut the door. Clearly I wouldn’t be getting a snack from that kitchen! Besides, their talk was giving me a headache.

        The doorbell rang.

        “I’ll get it!” I shouted to nobody. Then I sprinted up the hall as fast as I could.

        Karen was already at the door when I got to the foyer. (‘Foyer’ is a word I learned in school the other day. It means “front room where the door is.” I failed a spelling test because I spelled it ‘folghguywxyz.” I still don’t get why that’s wrong.) I couldn’t tell who she was talking to at first-- there were no people at the door; only a big metal wastebasket with polka-dots down the side and a salad bowl for a head. It looked like a cool modern sculpture. I wanted to sketch it!

        “No,” said Karen. “This is not Stacey’s house! I do not know where Stacey lives but it is somewhere on Bradford Court! Stacey is not my favorite babysitter; that is Kristy! Kristy is only my half sister because I am a two-two and--”

        “this social interaction will cease!” said the wastebasket. At first I couldn’t believe that a wastebasket was talking, but then I realized it must be-- the little red lights on the sides of the salad bowl lit up whenever it did. I had a pair of earrings like that once. “i seek the one you call sta-cey! You will lead me to the one you call sta-cey! Obey! obey!”

        “How do you talk like that with no mouth?” Karen asked. “Do you talk out of your ears? Are those gigundoly small  blinky things supposed to be your ears?”

        The wastebasket pointed at her with an arm that looked like an eggbeater. “exterminate!” it shouted.

        Then the salad bowl part of it blew up. At least, that’s what I thought had happened! Then I realized it didn’t blow up, it was shot off. I figured that out when I saw someone standing outside Watson’s front door with an enormous gun.

        The woman holding the gun looked oddly familiar. She had wavy red hair teased into a ridiculous mop, much curlier than Stacey’s. She was wearing one of the most distant outfits I’d ever seen: an oversized blue sweatshirt with pink sequins all over it, over blue and pink paisley leggings and pink sneakers with an enormous pair of pushdown socks! They covered her sneakers and flopped onto the snowy sidewalk. She also had at least six pairs of clip-on earrings dangling from her ears. And like I said, she was holding a black gun almost as big as her whole torso.

        

She squinted at me. Maybe she needed to be wearing glasses. “Claudia?”

        “Mallory?” I asked. (It sounded like Mallory.) “I didn’t recognize you! Did you get your braces off?”

        The woman I thought might be Mallory ran her tongue over her perfectly straight white teeth. She jumped and cried out, happily, “Dibbley! Yes! I hadn’t noticed yet. Can I have something to eat?”

        “I was just going to get a snack,” I said. “But I think I lost my appetite.”

        This was turning out to be the strangest Christmas ever.


Chapter 12

Jessi

--------------------------------------

Dear Mme Noelle,

Merry Christmas!  Do they celebrate Christmas in France?  I think they do.

I hope all is well with you.  I know you’re going to be doing The Nutcracker again this year but I’m not in the right age group for it I’m afraid.  I would have done well in any role!  Maybe next year?  Think about it.  I’m in the middle of something VERY exciting anyway.  This man called the Doctor is whisking us all over the place and Mal can drive!  (Not very well though.)

Yours,

Jessi

--------------------------------------

        I jétéd onto the porch of the Brewer mansion since there was no excuse not to be practicing my ballet.  Dance students never pause in their training and at this moment of craziness I could still feel the music in me and I needed to dance.  Though I’m sure many people would stare at me because of my dancing and because this was a very rich neighborhood where I was still unsure if they had ever seen a black person before.

        The Pikes were all in a car that Mallory drove over.  We had found it on the street with the keys in it after the driver abandoned it in the chaos after the explosion.  I told her it wasn’t a nice thing to do and that in Washington, DC where I lived before, when people stole cars, they were often very bad people.  No amount of Looks would punish them and they would have to go to jail.  I couldn’t go to jail!  I had a recital soon!

        “Hello?” I called out to the empty foyer.

        A foyer is a type of room that rich people have.  It’s small and like a hallway where they can greet guests.  Though there was no one here to greet me despite the door being open.  First stealing and now sneaking into a house!  I was either a criminal or a detective; my vote was on detective.

        “Is anyone home?” asked a groggy Margo.

        Due to Mal’s crazy driving, Margo had vomited all over herself.  She may have gotten older, but she sure didn’t outgrow her problem.  Now the over-sized sweater and leggings that she had found in the Doctor’s closet were covered in puke and we had to find a way to clean her up.  Though as we walked out of the foyer we still couldn’t find anyone.  I could hear voices upstairs, but no one was downstairs so I decided that the adults must have gone out to an estate sale.

        I took Margo into the kitchen so we could clean her up, but when we got there all we could see were pots and pans everywhere as well as big hunks of metal strewn all over the table.  My mouth fell open in shock!  I was hoping that Kristy and Mal weren’t doing drugs.  (I spend a lot of time in New York and people there do lots of drugs.)  I’ve never done drugs because they’re bad and I’d never be able to babysit ever again if I did!

        “What happened in here?” asked Margo, looking around the mess room as pots bubbled and pans simmered.

        Thump, thump, thump.  The sound of footsteps came from the stairs and down the hall toward the kitchen.  Margo and I turned to see who it was and saw Mallory and Kristy come in.  Mallory had that weird gun slung over her shoulder.  I wasn’t fond of the gun because I saw them so often in New York on many bad people.  Though I knew I could trust Mallory even if she did mature before I did!

        “Oh, it’s just you.  Sorry, I was going to come back for you, but something went wrong,” Mallory said, twirling a curly lock around her finger.

        “Well now look at this mess!  I’m gonna be so grounded thanks to you guys,” Kristy groaned, throwing up her hands.  “Who’s gonna run the club if I get grounded?”

        Before I could answer, our vice president Claudia came into the room looking confused.  Though she often looks confused so it was difficult to see if anything was wrong.  She sat down at the table and picked up one of the pieces of metal.  She stared at it and then started to try to nibble on it.  Margo retched and almost threw up again so I rushed her to the sink.

        “Claudia, what are you doing?” I could hear Kristy ask.

        “I thought it was chocolate.  It looks like chocolate,” she replied as I held Margo’s hair.

        Mallory came over to rub Margo’s back to help soothe her.  Mal was a great babysitter and now I really wanted to become just like her when I grew up.  Maybe I could ask the Doctor to do whatever plastic surgery he did to the Pikes on me.  Though Aunt Cecilia would probably just get mad at me since she’s no fun.

        “Did you see which way they went?” Mallory asked.

        I wondered who she meant, but Claudia spoke up. “Down the street.  It looked like they were going to Eve’s house.”

        We all looked at each other rather puzzled.

        “Eve?” Kristy asked, giving Claudia a Look.

        “Huh?  I mean Dawn.  Wait, is that her name?” Claudia said as she started to play with her hair barrette.  “How did you get here, Mal?”

        Mal and I looked at each other now.  I decided to tell the story since Mal had already had the chance. “We found a car and since Mal is sixteen now, she can drive!  Well, we thought she could.  She did a lot of speeding and then ran the car into a mailbox down the street.”

        “That’s when Margo threw up,” Mal sighed.  “Then we came here to see the Doctor, but we ran into that... thing.”

        Margo finished throwing up into the sink and we helped to clean her up.  Then we heard someone else enter the kitchen and jumped when we heard her speak.

        “I am hungry!  I want a snack!” yelled Karen as she came up to the table.

        Kristy sighed and went to the refrigerator to look for one.  Karen sat at the table and started to poke at all the pieces of metal and  some of the spilled goo.  I decided to take Margo to go change her clothes since it was my job as babysitter.  As we walked by, Karen let out a shriek.

        “Who is that!  She looks like Margo Pike but she is old like Kristy!  I am sorry, but that means that she cannot be Margo!” Karen yelled.

        “It is Margo, Karen.  She just grew up due to some special circumstances,” I explained.

        “What are special circumstances?” Karen asked as I tried to get away.

        Kristy set a plate with some crackers on it down in front of Karen.  She started to eat them as she kicked her legs in her chair and stared at us.  Crunch, crunch she went as she ate them and we all tried to think up a way to explain it to her.  I felt Margo jerk under my arm which meant she had to puke again.  She was probably too nervous to answer Karen.

        “Look, Karen, we don’t have time to explain this to you.  We have a mystery to solve and we need to go find the Doctor and Janine,” Kristy told her as I hurried Margo to a bathroom.

        I let Margo handle herself as she took a shower.  Now she was too old for me to help bathe but I didn’t know if I could just leave her there on her own.  The duty of a babysitter was to care for a child at all times!  I decided that if she was this old, she didn’t need my help and I was better off helping everyone else with this mystery.

        “If they went to Dawn’s then it must be something to do with the secret passage!” Kristy said, pounding her fist into her open palm.

        “Maybe, but,” Mal started, but was interrupted.

        “I want to help solve the mystery!  Ms. Coleman read us a mystery story the other day and I know that I can do it!” Karen said as she finished her crackers.

        I realized that I was feeling kind of hungry as well.  I hadn’t really gotten a chance to eat at the diner.  There are a lot of girls who get eating disorders when they do ballet but I was not one of those girls.  I had met one once, but I eat sensibly and know that not to is wrong.  I also don’t want to be discriminated against even more!

        As everyone tried to convince Karen that she was too young to help us with our detective work, I opened the fridge.  Inside was the usual food, but on one of the shelves was a vial that looked very familiar.  I picked it up and examined it a bit, seeing that it had a prescription sticker on the side.  Though the sticker didn’t look quite right.  I had seen many of the labels on Aunt Cecilia’s medicines before and they were all very professional, but this one looked like it was done by hand!

        “What’s up, Jessi?” asked Mal behind me.

        I held up the vial. “This is Stacey’s insulin but it doesn’t look right.”

        Kristy took it from from me. “I’ll be the judge of that!”

        She looked at it, then shook it, then looked at it again.  (Kristy was a very peculiar girl after all.)  Then she started to peel the sticker off to get a better look at it.

        “She’s right!  It’s handwritten and it’s not really from Stoneybrook Pharmacy!” she said, showing it to Mal.

        

Mal took the sticker and then looked back in the fridge, seeing a slip of paper where the vial had been.  Her beautiful eyes quickly scanned over it and then she looked at Kristy.

        “I’m going to Stacey’s.  You all can come or you can go to Dawn’s, but we have to go now!” Mal said.

        We all looked at each other as we tried to decide.  This sure was one crazy Christmas!


Chapter 13

Stacey

--------------------------------------

Dear Laine,

Happy Christmas! How is New York without me? I suppose Bloomingdale’s probably feels empty! I can’t wait to be back. Just a heads up, there’s a bit of an emergency situation in Stoneybrook at the moment, so I might not be able to make it back in time for us to hit the end-of-season sales together as usual this year. Hopefully it won’t come to that! Save a fitting room for me!

Love, Stace

--------------------------------------

I frowned, and started counting again. “One, two...” I whispered to myself. I was sure I had had twelve vials of insulin yesterday. Now I could only count eleven. Everyone else had been acting stupid for a while now; I hoped it wasn't starting to affect me as well. Especially now that the Doctor was here... I didn't want to show myself up in front of him!

        I shrugged and shut the drawer containing my medicine. One misplaced vial: it probably wasn't important.

        I left my room and started downstairs to the kitchen, to make myself a snack of wheat toast.

        As I was assembling bread and hummus onto a plate together, there was a pounding at the door. I sighed. Because of my diabetes, I need to eat according to a strictly regulated schedule, and if this interruption took longer than twenty minutes, I could be in danger of my life! Sometimes people around me don't seem to appreciate how serious my condition really is.

        Before I could even make it to the hallway, however, the person causing the racket at my front door came bursting into the house. I drew my breath at the cheek of it! Even if it was just one of my friends (and they were the only people I could imagine being forward enough to do so), it was still an invasion of privacy. I would never have any of my friends burst unannounced into my apartment in New York City! The doorman would stop them before they even got into the building, for a start. If only my house in Stoneybrook could have a doorman...

        "Stacey! Stacey! I have to talk to you!" I heard.

        "I'm coming!" I called back. I didn't recognise the voice.

        The mass of curly red hair that came bouncing towards me, though, was unmistakable.         "Mal?" I frowned. She looked... different. Jessi came bounding in after Mallory.

        "Mal, I still don't understand!" she was saying. She sounded confused. Oh no, I thought. What had I missed?

        "What's happened to you?" I directed at Mallory. It was as though she'd gained a good four years in age overnight! She was missing her glasses, and- was I seeing correctly?- her braces were gone, too!

        And her clothes were just odd.

        “Never mind what's happened to me, it's you we're here to talk about!” Mallory said.

I looked at her dubiously. She kept reaching up to her face to try and push her glasses up, and, not finding them, settling for fingering the end of her nose. It made her look slightly less than perfectly sane.

        “Me? What have I done?” I asked. “Was I meant to be at a sitting job or something? Did someone reschedule and not tell me?” I love the Babysitters’ Club and being a member of it, and I understand that we all need to be completely responsible when parents trust us with their kids. I would never knowingly miss a sitting job.

        “It's much worse than that and you know it!” Mallory said, triumphantly.

        “Worse than missing a job?” gasped Jessi. She clearly had no idea what her best friend was talking about.

        Mallory rounded on her. “Yes! I told you! She's been lying to us all along!”

        I sighed. “Jessi, what's been going on? Maybe you can talk some sense. Mal's clearly lost it.” I knew I should take Mallory's rants more seriously (we've been involved in solving a lot of mysteries in the BSC, and in many cases, I'm sure one of us has sounded strange telling everyone else about what they had experienced!), but Mallory needed to calm down and speak more coherently before I would be able to understand what she was talking about. Besides, it seemed that I was the focus of this mystery! How strange to think that any of my friends would want to investigate anything that I might be doing!

        Jessi looked doubtful. “Well, Mal grew up...”

        “I see that,” I said. That was much more of a mystery than anything Mallory might think about me. “How?”

        “The Doctor's TARDIS restored us all to our proper ages!” Mallory cried, spinning round in apparent delight. I had to admit, from what I could make out under her bulky sweater, she would have had no trouble filling out my yellow bikini. Truth be told, I was a little jealous. If she were to sort out her hair and outfit, she could be a proper knock-out...

        I tore my mind back to the conversation. “The Doctor's what...?”

        “TARDIS! It's bigger on the inside!” Mallory exclaimed.

        I turned to Jessi, baffled. What was going on?

        “I think it's a sort of European car,” she shrugged.

        “Oh! Like a Lunar Body!” I nodded. The Doctor had a lot of very sophisticated modes of transport.

        “No!” cried Mallory. “It's not a car! It's a spaceship!”

        “Okay!” I held up my hand to stop her. “This is getting ridiculous. Have you been reading science fiction?” (Sometimes, when Mal and Jessi had read a lot of horse stories, they would get overexcited and pretend to be horses. Maybe this was more of the same. That, or something seriously strange was going on.)

        Mal went to push her non-existent glasses up her nose again. She took a deep breath, and appeared to take a few moments to calm herself.

        “Stacey,” she said, seriously. “I know about you. The Doctor left a note, and I know you've been lying to us.”

        “Lying?” I frowned. “Lying about what?” I honestly didn't know what Mal might be referring to.

        “About your diabetes!” Mallory burst out, finally seeming to get to the bottom of what had been bothering her.

        My mouth dropped open. I was glad none of my older, more mature friends were there to see me! I'm sure it must have looked as though my jaw was about the hit the floor! So un-dibble!

        “What..?” I managed to gasp out, “What are you talking about? How can you say that to me, after everything you know about how difficult it's been for me, dealing with my illness?”

        Mallory looked ready with a come-back, but stopped herself as my mom walked into the room. She'd been upstairs, probably reading fashion magazines in her bedroom. She's a buyer for Bellair's department store, and is, like me, very fashion-conscious. She needs to keep up with the current trends to know where to order clothes from for the shop, and what's hot in the big cities, like New York.

        "What's all this noise?" my mom asked, smiling at me.

        I sighed, partly glad for the interruption, and partly worried that she'd overheard Mallory's outburst. I didn't want to worry my mom. She's far too protective of me sometimes. I think she worries about leaving me on my own at home so much, while she works full-time.

        But she's learning that I'm far more responsible than she gives me credit for. I'm fine to manage on my own more than a small amount of time, and very mature for my age.

        "Sorry, mom. Jessi and, um, Mal's older cousin are just excited about the Papadakis family's friend, who's visiting from Europe.” I didn't think my mom needed to hear about Mallory's spontaneous ageing. That would raise more questions than I was willing to deal with, no matter how mature I am. Some things, it's just better not to get your parents involved in.

        Jessi seemed to understand this, and kept quiet, waving and smiling at my mother just like she normally would.

        Mal, however, threw up her arms. “I'm Mallory!” she cried.

        “Yes!” I said, quickly. “Mallory's cousin is also called 'Mallory'!” I grinned desperately at my mom. “Isn't that funny!”

        Jessi, much smarter and quicker on the uptake than I'd ever given her credit for before (remind me not to make that mistake again!) grabbed her best friend's elbow and tugged sharply, giving her a glare as though saying, Keep quiet!

        My mom smiled, luckily seeming none the wiser for all the confusion around her. “Well, it's lovely to meet you... Mallory!” She laughed. “I'm sorry, I can't stay and get to know you better, but I have an important meeting that I simply must dash off for!”

        My mom likes to keep busy with her work. Sometimes, I wish she would allow herself to slow down a little and relax, but, having lived in Manhattan, I suppose she just prefers it this way! We still spend more than enough time together, and are very close, all things considered.

        This time, though, I'll admit I was glad that she was going out. She didn't need to be involved in the conversation that I had found myself caught in. Talk about awkward!

        I kissed my mom on the cheek. “Have a great day!” I told her. “Love the purse!” I smiled, and gave an approving nod at the black, patent leather bag she was clutching to her. It perfectly matched her shoes. My impeccable fashion sense is something I have my mother to thank for!

        She gave one last nod to Jessi and Mal, before sweeping out of the door.

        I waited for a moment before drawing in a breath and turning back to my friends. I blinked, slowly, steeling myself for the exchange that was now going to continue.

        “Why did you lie about me!?” Mallory blurted out as soon as I met her eyes again.

        Jessi answered for me. “Because it would just be too much to explain!” she murmured. “I mean, even I don't understand what happened! How could we tell Stacey's mom? She would think we had all gone crazy!” Suddenly, Jessi was giggling. “I'm not sure that we haven't, to be honest! Look at you!”

        Mallory glanced down at herself, and grinned. “I know. I can still barely believe it myself!” she said, happily.

        Carefully, I took a half-step back. (I had some half-formed notion that I could maybe just run away from all this, while Mal and Jessi were distracted. Oh, if only...!)

        Mallory's head snapped up when she saw me move. “Stacey!” she said, suddenly all business again. “You have some explaining to do.”

        “About what?” I asked. I was feeling uneasy, but tried to project confidence. Whatever was going on, it could probably still be fixed. As long as I kept my cool...

        “Your medicine,” Mallory said, her face now stony, and her eyes squinting sharply at me. “It's not insulin. It's nothing but fish paste!”

        “It's what?” I gasped. This was clearly worse than I had first thought.

        “The Doctor and Janine tested it! They left a note!” Mallory was walking closer to me as she spoke, appearing to gain in confidence. Involuntarily, I took a step back. Sixteen-year-old Mallory was a shade taller than me, and the giant red puff that was her hair was intimidating. I swallowed.

        “If you've been lying to us about your insulin injections, what else have you been lying about?” Mallory continued. “The Doctor says there's something wrong in Stoneybrook, something that's keeping us all at the same age, repeating the same year of our lives over and over again! ...And he says it all started when you arrived!”

        I drew in a shuddering breath, and looked at Jessi, hoping for some support. She just looked back at me helplessly. I knew then that I couldn't count on any of my friends any more. They either had no idea what was going on, like Jessi... Or had turned against me, like Mallory, who was now standing right in front of me, almost as though she wanted to press her nose against mine as she accused me of things that she had no knowledge of.

        So, I thought, this is it.

        “Mal...” I started, “Let me explain.”

        Suddenly, Mallory's eyes seemed to fill with a fierce glow.

        “There's no explanation!” she screamed. “There is nothing that you can say to me that would make up for my having to be eleven years old for five years of my life!!

        Mallory's fists were clenched, her arms rigid by her sides. Her eyes were squeezed shut, angry tears leaking from their corners.

        There was nothing for it. My hands shot up, grabbing handfuls of red curls, and I threw my head forwards with all the force I could muster, cracking my forehead against Mallory's while her eyes were still shut tight in her fury. She screamed, and, as she buckled forwards from her waist in pain, I caught her shoulders and threw her body around, my right hand deftly finding the back of her neck. (No simple job, underneath that ridiculous mass of ringlets!)

        As I squeezed my fingers together just above the ridge of bone that I knew instinctively to look for, Mallory toppled forwards in a dead faint. I let go of her neck, and jumped out of the way as she sprawled, face down, on the hardwood flooring of my living room. I chanced a quick glance at Jessi (she had her hands clasped over her mouth, immobilised with shock- no danger there!), before spinning around and sprinting for the back door. From my garden, I could jump the fence into the yard next door, and from there straight into the road running perpendicular to mine. And then... I didn't know. But I knew I had to leave, and now.

        My time in Stoneybrook was coming to an end.


Chapter 14

Dawn

--------------------------------------

Dear Mom,

By the time you read this, I will be in California. I certainly will if you forget where you put the mail and leave it in the cat’s litter box again. It’s nothing personal, I was just having trouble thinking straight. Say goodbye to Mary Anne for me! I don’t care about anyone else.

Love,

Dawn

--------------------------------------

I leaned against the dirt wall of the secret passage. It was the only place in my house that felt safe, for some reason. I could almost think clearly there.

                Last year, my parents had gotten divorced. I remembered. It wasn’t surprising. My mom is a scatterbrain and my dad’s not. I don’t mean to say that the divorce was her fault. But that’s what happened. I know it was last year, because I was in the seventh grade and now I’m in eighth. We moved to Stoneybrook, Connecticut, and I met my best friends… I mean, I hate most of them, but we’re still friends. It’s not their fault they’ve never been anywhere civilized… Stacey pretends to be so sophisticated but she can’t imagine what it’s like in California. You can buy Tofu sticks right on the beach there, like decent people do.

                That was a year ago. Then Mary Anne and I found out about our parents being high school sweethearts. We set them up together. That was in the winter, when it was so cold I could barely stand it! I didn’t know if it would ever get to be summer again. Then, my brother moved back to California. It was Spring by then. I was helping with the beauty pageant. Mr. Spier and my mom got married… Mary Anne moved into my house… then, the next year…

                I felt a buzzing noise in my head. I’d felt it upstairs, too, but it was quieter down here. I thought I was going crazy! Maybe I’d eaten some meat by mistake yesterday. (My mother had made hot dogs and tofu pups for dinner, and maybe I’d gotten a hot dog by mistake.) Everyone in California knows that in addition to acne, obesity and leprosy, eating junk food can cause dementia. That must be what was happening! I hadn’t eaten any meat for two years, since around the time of my mom’s wedding—

                There was the buzzing again. My head ached. I held it against the cool dirt. Something was seriously wrong. If only I could get my mind together long enough to get to the airport, maybe I could—

                Buzz! Went my brain. What had I been thinking? Why was I holding a suitcase?

                Suddenly, the door to the secret passage swung open with a creak. The Doctor and Claudia’s sister Janine were standing there. (Janine looked really excited, for some reason.)

                “Dawn!” the Doctor said in his cheerful voice. It made my head ache more. I must have eaten more than one hot dog to be feeling this sick!  “Just who I wanted to see! Where are you going?”

                I looked down at the suitcase in my hand. “I… I don’t know,” I said. I must have sounded as stupid as Claudia! I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

                The Doctor came down the stairs to me, looking serious. “I was afraid of this,” he said. He started to shine his funny screwdriver around—the light made me even sicker. “It’s getting worse… the time vortex has been disrupted. The whole illusion of normalcy is collapsing… everyone’s feeling it. Things are going to get even stranger from now on.”

                “What could have initiated such a disruption?” Janine asked.

                “Me, of course! I’ve spoiled everything. I tend to do that. Sorry.”

                “You’re hurting my head,” I said. I leaned harder on the wall—something about it made me feel steadier. I could almost remember why I’d gone down here in the first place… almost.

                “Dawn!” the Doctor shone his flashlight on me. It hurt, but it made my head feel clearer.

                “I’m leaving!” I shouted.

                “That’s right,” the Doctor said, nodding. “You’re leaving. Try to remember. Where are you going?”

                “I’m going to California!” I said. “I borrowed my mom’s credit card… okay, I stole it. She won’t mind. Anyway, I bought a ticket and I’m going back to California. Things are getting too weird here!”

                The Doctor nodded. “Good girl. Well, not about the stealing… anyway, you came down here for a reason, yes? What was it?”

                I nodded, moving away from the wall a little. “It’s so hard to think… down here I can almost feel normal.”

                “Why?” the Doctor stepped past me, tapping his chin with the screwdriver. “Why, why? That’s the question… something funny about this place. Just about… there.” He shone the green light on a patch of the wall. Letters or numbers I didn’t recognize appeared in blue.

                The Doctor’s face lit up. “Eye of the storm, eh? Probably deliberate. And clever. So whoever’s doing this can come here and not be sucked into it all. Living here might get to her eventually; she’d start to believe the illusion. We’re close, very close.” The Doctor tapped a few of the numbers with his finger, as if they were a keypad. He tilted his head, waited, and then tapped several more.

                “Doctor?” said Janine. “What are you trying to accomplish?”

                The Doctor glanced up. “No idea,” he said. “Here’s what I need you to do. Take Dawn to the airport. Take the car and leave. Got it?”

                “What should I do upon my return?” Janine asked.

                “Don’t return,” said The Doctor, staring at the funny letters. “No one should return. This is serious. More serious than I thought. Just get out of here. Get out of state if you can!”

                “Am I in danger of amnesia like hers?” asked Janine. “If so, perhaps I should not attempt to operate a motorized vehicle.”

                “No, no, you’re fine… it’s trying to call her back.” The Doctor gestured to me with his head, still studying the numbers. “She’s not from Stoneybrook anymore, she got away. It’s trying to correct the time vortex by erasing her existence… she’ll be out of danger as soon as you get away.”

                “But Doctor,” I said, desperately trying to think. “You’re not from Stoneybrook either!”

                “That’s right,” said the Doctor solemnly, looking up at me again. “But I’m not human either. Now run for your life!”

                I was about to answer, when Janine grabbed me by the arm and pulled me upstairs into my bedroom.

                “Are you really going to help me run away?” I asked.

                “If that is what the Doctor suggests,” Janine said. “His manner indicated extreme urgency. We had better comply.”

                “You’re so weird,” I said, rolling my eyes. I really could have used that ride to the airport, but Janine was getting on my nerves. Everyone in this town was weird! Not like California, where we sit on the beach bleaching our hair and eating bean sprouts all day like civilized people. I looked down at my suitcase. “What am I doing here again? Don’t I have school?”

                “It is Christmas Break,” said Janine. “That is why you are in Stoneybrook. But you are from California. Don’t you remember?”

                “Of course I’m from California!” I said. “That’s my… thing. Everyone has a thing. I’m from California, Stacey’s diabetic, Claudia’s an artist… what were we talking about again?”

                “I am taking you to the airport,” said Janine firmly. “When does your aircraft depart?”

                “Ah… I don’t remember…”

                “You will reason more efficiently when we get there, if the Doctor is correct,” said Janine. “Our conveyance is in the driveway.”

                “I can’t even understand what you’re saying!” I cried, stomping my feet like a two-year-old. “Why can’t you just talk like a normal person? Do you think you sound smart when you do that? You sound like some kind of robot!”

                Janine looked like she didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have anything else to say either, so I just stood there.

                Just then the doorbell rang!

                


Chapter 15

Janine

--------------------------------------

Dear Yusuke (GundamLover54@aol),

It has come to my attention that I now cannot see you as the most brilliant man on Earth.  I have had the pleasure of meeting a man who is most intriguing.  He calls himself “The Doctor” and while I cannot be certain that he is actually a doctor, I can say that he is quite smart.  His IQ must be much higher than mine and I believe he might very well be an alien.

I know it pains you to read that as it does for me to write it, but it is the only way I can explain his strange knowledge.

Chat soon,

Janine (SailorMercurcy88)

--------------------------------------

        As I led Claudia’s friend Dawn toward the front entrance to her home, the bell upon the outside of the home rang.  We both looked at each other in utmost confusion and were not sure if we should open the door.  I called out as to the identity of our visitor, but was only met with the door suddenly bursting into many tiny, wooden particles.

        We jumped back, the suitcase swinging from Dawn’s hands and the forward momentum of it causing her to drop it.  As the dust from the debris blew up around us as a great fog cloud, we saw a squat shadow coming toward us.  It cleared its way through the fog, revealing that it was one of the mechanical extraterrestrials that had exploded my home.

        “WE ARE LOOKING FOR THE ONE CALLED STA-CEY.  GIVE HER TO US OR YOU WILL BE EXTERMINATED!”

        I was frightened, but I felt that in these types of tense scenarios it was best to stay quite stoic.  It has the effect of calming others around you and is thus quite effective in proceeding through such events.  The machine came closer to us and waved its plunger-like object as well as the one that was akin to a potato peeler at us.  I was about to throw a projectile at it, but I heard the sound of loafers coming from behind us.

        “Well, so you’ve returned have you?” the Doctor’s voice said.

        “GIVE US STA-CEY!  SHE HAS TAKEN WHAT DOES NOT BELONG TO HER!  WHERE IS STA-CEY?” the machine yelled.

        The Doctor stepped up next to us with his hands in his pockets.  His hair had begun to flop down before his eyes as the sweat caused it to sag with moisture.  We had been moving quite fast for quite some time and I had only now noticed the effects of our aerobic activities.  This was a most drastic situation indeed, but I knew that the Doctor would prevail.  Something told me that this would be the case though I did not have any concrete evidence to support the hypothesis.

        “We’re on the case,” he said, looking at us with quite a sly smile.  “We’re detectives.  You, on the other hand, are merely junk parts polished to look like real Daleks.  Even if we do tell you where Stacey is, you won’t get to her in time.”

        “SHE HAS STOLEN OUR TECHNOLOGY, SHE MUST BE EXTERMINATED.

        The Doctor shook his head and stepped forward again, but then swiveled and went into the kitchen.  He opened the refrigerator to get a food article from it, though I had no idea what could possess him to believe he was in need of nourishment at this moment.  When he shut the door I could see that he had some sort of white, gelatinous cube between his thumb and index finger.  As he returned, he held it out before him and proceeded to stand in front of both Dawn and I.

        “What’s going on?  Why is that thing back!” Dawn said rather loudly.

        “Your friend Stacey is not who she says she is.  Not unlike myself, she is an alien.  Though whereas I am a charming, lovely alien in a bow tie,” he paused there to turn and smile at us, “she is a greedy, petty alien.  She has taken on the form of a human in order to come here to Earth.”

        He then proceeded to wave the cube around in front of the machine-alien.  Now that I could see it in a clearer manner I noticed that it was nothing but a cube of tofu.  The Schafers are a vegetarian family so it only stood to reason they would have such food.  Though these aliens before us started to back away for some strange reason.

        “And this is a bomb.  A bomb that you lot cannot withstand because you’re shoddy copies sent here by mistake, by Stacey’s own race,” the Doctor said as the aliens focused on the tofu.

        “But, Doctor, if that is to be the case then how are these lifeforms able to survive here now?” I queried.

        He gave me a sidelong glance. “Because ‘Stacey’ wasn’t able to modify the device that she stole.  She was too weak when she arrived and then got too wrapped up in this life she created for herself,” he said as the aliens fidgeted- as much as they could anyway.

        “Babysitting, trips, school, boys,” he said, because Dawn huffed a bit.  “All of that distracted her.  She figured if she kept the device she had stolen confined to a small area that the Daleks wouldn’t notice.  They couldn’t sense that there was a timelock in only one, smallish Connecticut town.”

        I tapped my chin with my finger, seeing all the pieces of this puzzle fall into place.  Then I recalled Stacey’s affliction.  She was a diabetic which meant that she had to be human!  I could not imagine an alien could have diabetes.  Though Dawn spoke up before I could.

        “Stacey isn’t smart enough for that.  I mean, she ended up in the hospital because she ate chocolate for a week and had a super-huge diabetes attack,” Dawn said, rolling her eyes.

        “Aha!  The diabetes!  Yes, that isn’t at all diabetes.  Well, sort of.  Her alien body can’t process sugar from this planet.  She merely got lucky that diabetes is a disease here on Earth that she could use as a cover,” the Doctor said with a smug look.

        I nodded in agreement as it was a highly logical solution.  Though I knew we had to quickly vacate the premises.  These aliens were quite hostile and the Doctor was adamant that Dawn had to leave.  

        “But if you’re telling the truth, then why did Stacey come here at all?” Dawn asked in quite an annoyed fashion.

        “She was escaping her planet.  Quite an oppressive one at that.  Once she escaped she charted a course for any planet that was far enough away...  She took their timelock device knowing that she’d want to preserve herself to live years she had lost on her home planet,” the Doctor paused as he realized he was no longer holding the tofu up all the way.  “Right, yes, bomb.  Going to go off you know.  In about... five... ten... eleven... minutes.  Something like that.”

        “ENOUGH OF THIS TALK.  THAT IS NOT A BOMB.  THAT IS EARTH FOOD-STUFFS.  TELL US WHERE STA-CEY IS OR WE WILL EXTERMINATE ALL WHO RESIDE ON THIS PLANET.

        

The Doctor’s face changed.  He looked quite sullen now, knowing that it was not merely an idle threat.  He dropped the tofu and spread his arms out before us.  Then I began to wonder something of my own.  Perhaps my hypothesis was correct, but I had to find out.

        “Doctor, did these aliens destroy my residence in search of Stacey, figuring that if she was on the premises that they would destroy her with the house?” I asked softly.

        The Doctor nodded, though shushed me.  He looked squarely at the mechanical aliens. “Go left at the corner, then right at the intersection.  Keep going straight, then left.  A second intersection will be there, but keep going straight.  Are you listening?”

        “YES, WE ARE LISTENING.  NOW YOU ARE USELESS TO US AND WILL BE EXTERMINATED,” the alien hollered.

        It lifted what I could only assume was the gun with which it had obliterated the door.  The Doctor pushed Dawn and I into the kitchen and ran after us.  A loud sound of a laser shooting was echoing behind us along with the sound of the destruction of a wall.  We merely ran through the kitchen and into the hallway which lead toward the back door.  Never had I thought that I would be fleeing from aliens with another self-confessed alien with quite the British accent and mannerisms.  It was quite exciting though it was also very frightening.

        “Quickly, the back door!” the Doctor yelled out as he threw it open and shoved Dawn out.

        She yelped as she all but tumbled out, though I caught her before she fell.  I grabbed her hand and quickly bade the house goodbye with the Doctor right behind us.  He was running backward as he aimed the item he called a Sonic Screwdriver at the door.  Though as he turned back to run with us there was another explosion.

        “I’d  better get to Stacey’s before they do.  Let’s hope they take those bad directions first,” he said as we looked over our shoulders.

        


Chapter 16

Stacey

--------------------------------------

Dear Blargoff,

I cannot tell you how that man can make one feel so... human.  I’m sure he could have helped you as well.

Merry Christmas, too.  It’s an Earth holiday.  Something about gifts from an overweight religious person.  I don’t get it, but it’s pretty.

Yours,

Stacey

--------------------------------------

I hid in the wooded area around the corner from my house until I saw Jessi running past, probably on her way to get help. That, or maybe on her way to her ballet class.

I knew I needed to get away from here, but running out of my house like that had been a mistake. There were... things I needed.

I attempted to straighten out my hair. Crouching down in the bushes hadn't done wonders for my perm. If I wasn't careful, I'd emerge looking like Jane of the Jungle!

I peered up and down the street from behind the thicket of brambles. It looked like the coast was clear. Cautiously, I squeezed myself up against the fence dividing the wild area from the property next door, and edged along it, avoiding the prickly branches that tried to clutch at my outfit. I was was just wearing ordinary pale blue Levis, but my blouse was a lovely, pale pink, floaty one, with stylised floral patterns embroidered along the sleeves. I had left it unbuttoned at the top, just enough that if a cute guy who was a little taller than me glanced down, he would be able to see the top of my dark pink lacy bra! It was a bit naughty, and I wasn't half freezing out in the snow, but it was worth it! I looked stunning.

My perilous sidle along the fence complete, I stepped out onto the sidewalk. Brushing myself down (there were a few leaves caught on my clothing), I started back towards my house.

“Stacey? Is that you?”

I almost jumped out of my skin! But spinning around, I saw that it was only Charlotte Johanssen, standing a little way up the street. She is- was, I corrected myself- my favourite babysitting charge in Stoneybrook. We're very close. Sometimes, because we're both only children, lonely for siblings, we even pretend to be sisters.

“Hey, Char!” I smiled. “What are you doing out on your own?”

“I'm just walking over to Becca's house!” she replied. “Anyway, see you later!”

“See you,” I called after her, as she waved and ran off in the opposite direction.

I drew a deep breath as I approached my front door. Seeing Charlotte had been a bit of a blow. But I couldn't allow myself the luxury of dwelling on it. I had to compose myself and get on with what was necessary.

Inside my house, the first thing I did was drag Mallory's still unconscious form into the cupboard under the stairs and slide the lock across.

That accomplished, I ran up the stairs to my room. I needed my insulin with me when I left.

My insulin, and the key.

I'd kept it hidden, sellotaped to the bottom on my dressing table, ready for when I needed it. I knelt, and brushed my hand frantically around. Where was it?

“Looking for this?”

For the second time in scarcely ten minutes, I spun around, my heart pounding. It was that man, the Doctor! He was holding up a small silver rectangle, roughly the dimensions of a credit card, with holes punched in a seemingly random pattern across its surface, and a series of little green lights blinking along one edge.

“Give it me!” I cried, lunging for him.

He easily stepped out of the way.

“I don't think so,” he said, shaking his head.

“Give it to me, now!” I almost sobbed, leaping again.

“No.”

Suddenly, he was right up in front of me, one hand still holding my key up high, the other levelled straight at my face, that screwdriver of his near blinding me with its pulsing blue light.

I threw my arm up to shield my eyes... only... it was no longer the smooth-skinned pink arm of a human girl that I had got used to seeing when I looked down. The skin was a pebbly, mottled green and brown. The limb ended not with a delicate five-fingered hand, but a waving, suckered tentacle. Six more of these supported me as I drew back across the floor, away from that ghastly, buzzing light, and another waved out towards the Doctor, imploring him to stop.

Please...” I gasped. “No...”

He lowered his device.

“So that's what you really look like,” he murmured. “No wonder you wore all that make up.”

I'm sorry,” I whispered. “I needed to get away, I had no other choice!”

“No other choice!?” the Doctor cried, suddenly angry. “There's always a choice! You could have chosen not to violate the conditions of your contract, not to steal from one of the most powerful races ever to travel in time and space, and not disrupt and endanger the lives of hundreds of innocent people!”

I looked up, startled.

“Yes, I know where you're from,” the Doctor nodded. “The shoddy imitation Daleks were a dead give away. Yours was not the only colony to be drafted into their industrial corps, though it was,” he held up a finger, “the only one set to manufacturing the type of weapon you brought here, with the time lock as a side effect of its presence.”

Then you also must know how unbearable it was to live such a life.” I lowered two of my glowing yellow eyes. The third, I kept focussed on the Doctor. “I stand by my actions.”

“Trapping all these people in a never ending time loop? Do you even know how many of them might have been made to suffer through your actions?” the Doctor countered. “Just so you could, what, date earth boys?” he threw up his hands.

I wanted a life that I was denied!” I cried. One of my tentacles whipped against the wall. Pure tendon and muscle, it made the house tremble. I tried to calm myself. It wouldn't do to go destroying the neighbourhood. Probably that would annoy the Doctor even more.

I'm sorry,” I breathed. “But is that so wrong?”

The Doctor's face was set hard. “Always, if it costs the lives of others.” he said. “Your friends. If you even truly think of them as friends. You've been leeching off poor Claudia for years, cutting off the energy flow to her brain, just so you could remain young! Dawn's been driven to the brink of madness, living on top of your treasure trove! And Mallory and Jessi! Doomed, by your will, to be eleven for, if you had it your way, the rest of their lives! Can you remember?” he questioned, his brow crinkling. “Can you remember how awful it is to be eleven years old?”

I reflected on the people he had mentioned. Those human girls I'd called 'friends' for who knew how many years. Did I care about what happened to them? I searched inside myself for some semblance of guilt.

...And felt nothing.

But then... The image of Charlotte skipping away from me across the snow-covered road wavered in front of my eyes. She'd been as lonely as I was. In each other, we'd found companionship, friendship, and someone to trust. She was a kind, bright young girl. Was it really my right to deny her the rest of her life?

I squeezed all three of my eyes shut.

The weapon I stole would stop the Daleks,” I murmured. “They are, as you say, shoddy copies, built by my people with the hope that they would assist us in an uprising... But, reaching maturity, they were still compelled to follow their true master's wishes: To find and destroy me.”

I opened my eyes, and levelled them at the Doctor.

My own people mistakenly sent an army to follow me here.”

“Lucky for us we have the means to stop them,” he replied, simply.

No,” I shook my head. “You don't understand. The weapon would destroy the soldiers and their ship... But the aftershock, and the damage already caused by me, would wipe this whole town from existence.”

Then the Doctor did something surprising: he grinned, and winked at me.

“Not if I can help it.”


Chapter 17

Kristy

--------------------------------------

Dear Nannie,

I know it’s ridiculous to send Christmas cards to someone in your own house, but I wanted to anyway... for various reasons I might not be able to see you this Christmas. I hope it all turns out to be nothing, but I’m kind of tied up for the moment. So tell Karen and Andrew and Sam and David Michael I miss them, and tell Charlie to be ready with the Junk Bucket, if I ever come back, okay?

Love,

Kristy

--------------------------------------

        The first thing I knew was that my head hurt-- bad, worse than when Jackie Rodowski hit me with that baseball. I’ve been through a lot of baseball-related injuries because I play so much. I happen to be very talented at sports, almost as talented as I am at Having Ideas and Running Things. I don’t mean to sound conceited. It’s just the truth. My sort-of boyfriend Bart says I’m going to be famous someday. Right now, though, I was just surprised (and grateful) not to be dead.

        I opened my eyes. At first, all I could see were stars, but soon I saw a big black circle. I didn’t recognize what it was at first. Then I realized I was staring at the eyestalk of one of those strange robots, just inches from my face. It looked like the one I had kicked a minute ago (was it just a minute ago?) but it was black, while the one I’d kicked had been white.

        “She is conscious!” the thing shouted.

        I tried to cringe away because it was shouting so loudly. Then I realized I couldn’t. I was standing against a metal wall with my wrists and ankles handcuffed to it.  I didn’t know how the robot had handcuffed me, since he didn’t have hands. Maybe he did it with the suction-cup thing on his arm, if that part was his arm. I couldn’t think what else it could be. That really didn’t seem relevant right now. I felt like I just needed to get home. I had three more sitting jobs lined up before Christmas-- not to mention two meetings! I knew Claudia would make a mess of things somehow. She seemed to get dumber by the minute.

The thought of Claudia and maybe never seeing my attractive friends again made me sad, but I didn’t have the time to think about that. Two more robot things came into the room. (I seemed to be in some big metal room with a control panel at one end-- it looked like a space ship from a TV show. I could see another space-ship looking room through the door the robot things used, as well)

you will obey our orders!” shouted one of the new robots in a voice just like the other’s. “You will tell the inhabitants of Earth to fear us! Daleks will be the masters of Earth! Obey! Obey!”

        “What are you supposed to be?” I asked, cringing from the loud voice. “Some kind of giant trash can?” (I was scared, but not THAT scared. They were only alien robots after all. They’d probably never babysat for Jackie Rodowski before. How dangerous could they be?)

        “i will answer no questions from inferior beings!” shouted the space robot-- Dalek, I guessed.

        “You don’t have to get upset about it,” I said. “You sound really conceited.”

        “This social interaction will cease!” said the dalek.

        The other Dalek scooted over to the control panel on the wall. He touched part of it with his suction cup, and a TV screen turned on. I could see an aerial view of Stoneybrook through it. (“Aerial” is a word I learned in school the other day. It means “from the air.”)

        “We will override every television channel on your planet!” said the Dalek at the control panel. “You will appear on television and order your subjects to obey us or they will all be exterminated!”

        “My subjects?” I said. “I don’t have any subjects... except for the club members... and the kids, I guess. Who do you think I am?”

        “You are the empress of earth!” answered the Dalek closest to my ear. Those funny voices were beginning to get on my nerves. “You informed our scout dalek that you were the empress of earth before you were teleported to our base!”

        “Teleported?” I said. “The empress of Earth? What are you talking about?”

        Instead of answering, the Dalek at the control panel touched another button with his suction cup. Another screen popped up on the wall. This one showed a picture of an annoying-looking little girl in a turtleneck talking to the Dalek that had showed up at Claudia’s door.

        “I’m in charge here!” said the little girl in an irritating whiny voice. “Me!” Then it kicked the Dalek with a hollow thunking sound.

        Suddenly, it hit me. That little girl was me! Immediately I realized that she was actually very attractive looking, not like I’d thought before. Quite charismatic, too. Not sophisticated like Stacey, but still. And the turtleneck wasn’t really that dirty-- just a little dingy. Maybe I should wash them more than once a week... or maybe buy more than two turtlenecks. It never occurred to me before.

        I looked at the Daleks. “You think I’m the empress of earth?” I asked. “Look, you’ve got it all wrong.”

        “You are in charge here!”

        “I’m in charge of the Babysitters’ Club,” I said, “Because it was my idea. I’m always coming up with ideas. It’s my best trait. But I’m not an empress, I’m just a middle-schooler. You see--”

        The Dalek leveled his eggbeater-thing at me (the same thing he’d shot me with before). “If you are not the empress of earth,” he shouted in that annoying voice, “You are of no further use to us! You will be exterminated!”

        The other Daleks also leveled their eggbeater things at me. Getting shot had hurt the first time. I had a feeling it would be worse this time. (And I might stay dead permanently!)

        “Okay! You got me. I’m really the empress of earth.” I felt bad for lying, but it really wasn’t that much of a stretch. My stepfather is a real live millionaire, after all. “What do you want me to say?”

        “You will tell the humans that the daleks are the new masters of earth!” yelled the Dalek in the doorway. “You will order them to obey us! We will build a new weapon factory on this planet! The daleks will rule the universe! You will obey!”

        “Okay!” I said, wishing I could cover my ears. “I’ll do it, I guess. Just start the camera or whatever.”

        Just then a red light started flashing on the control panel; it made a whooping noise that was almost as annoying as the daleks’ voices.

        “we have located the Doctor and the refugee with our device!” cried the Dalek at the control panel. He touched another place on the panel. The screen that had been showing the aerial view of Stoneybrook suddenly showed a picture of a bedroom I recognized as Staceys. But Stacey wasn’t there! There was only an ugly octopus thing sitting in Stacey’s makeup chair. The Doctor was also there, talking to it. He had a metal thing in his hand.

        “It works like a standard key, yes?” the Doctor asked. “Twist it clockwise, and the spaceship will implode?”

        “Correct,” said the octopus in a voice I thought I recognized. “But as I told you, there’s more to it than that.”

        “Exterminate the doctor!” shouted all the Daleks at once. “All available forces disembark immediately! We will exterminate the doctor!”

        The three of them scooted out of the room, repeating themselves over and over again. I heard other Daleks shouting the same thing in the next room. It sounded like there were dozens of them.

        Pretty soon, the sounds had stopped. I had a feeling the spaceship was empty except for me.

        The octopus thing on the screen was speaking again. “You see, Doctor, I wasn’t only being selfish. Once I began my strange new life here, I realized I had no way of stopping it without destroying everyone. I had no choice but to allow it to go on for this long. Should I kill all these innocent people to save them from what I began?”

        The Doctor smiled. “But now that I’m here, the temporal loop can’t maintain itself anyway, can it? Besides... what if someone else... not a human, but another highly intelligent alien being, had been able to break into the programming on the external panel of the Dalek ship?”

        The octopus threw up all its tentacles excitedly. “Doctor? What have you done?”

        “I’ve programmed the ship to teleport before it self-destructs. There’s a lunar body orbiting earth right now, you see,” the Doctor said happily, “That I don’t really need anyway-- don’t ask how I got it, long story. Never trust a Raxacoricofallapatorian realtor, even if he seems honest, and you can tell him I said so. I’ve almost managed to rig the whole ship so that it’ll teleport itself and all of your shoddy Daleks there before it implodes!”

        “You have!” The octopus looked joyful for a moment. Then it cringed. “And what will become of me, then?”

        “You?” the Doctor looked critically at it. “I’ll give you a lift in my TARDIS to whatever planet you like... you don’t get the key back, though. Too dangerous. And you’ll go as yourself.”

        “Very well,” said the octopus. “I suppose you want something in return?”

        “And how,” said the Doctor. “Now, this is a counterfeit Dalek ship we’re dealing with, but it should have the same basic layout as the genuine ones, am I right? If so, there’s a button on the central control panel-- big purple one, we can’t miss it-- that needs to be pushed. That’s all it’ll take to finish reprogramming the trajectory; then it’ll be safe to use the key. I’m going to try to warn the locals to get out, just in case anything happens while we’re in there.”

        “We?”

        “Of course!” said the Doctor. “We’re the only ones who stand a chance of getting inside the ship and finding that panel.”

        “Doctor, that ship is massive! What if we can’t find it?” asked the octopus. “What if the Daleks stage an all-out attack on the town first? That many Daleks could take out the whole planet, even if they are defective.”

        “Then,” said the Doctor solemnly,  “It gets serious. One more thing... where’s Mallory?”

        I flexed my wrist inside the cuff, gratefully thinking of the escape artist classes I’d made the whole club take last Summer.

        I was starting to get a Great Idea.


Chapter 18

Karen

--------------------------------------

Dear Ms. Coleman,

Merry Christmas!  Did you know that this man called The Doctor is just like Santa?  He has brought us all many fun adventures since he has arrived.  I love them very much!  They are gigundoly fantastic!

I hope you get what you want for Christmas.  I know that I will because Daddy has a lot of money.  A lot of money means a lot of presents!

See you in January!

Karen

--------------------------------------

I wandered into the house because Mallory still had not come out.  I know it is not good to go places alone, but I knew the house we were at and I was getting bored in the car.  David Michael told me to be quiet in a very rude manner and Andrew had fallen asleep.  Those boys are so boring!  Emily Michelle was busy playing with her hands and I was worried that she probably thought they were forks because she is from Vietnam and does not know English very well.

“Hello!  Is anyone here?” I shouted as I stood in the middle of a hallway.  “It is Karen Brewer and I want someone to come and play!”

I heard a strange sound from one of the closets.  It was a sort of scratch, scratch, thump kind of sound!  (I was a little bit afraid but I could not tell people that because they would say that I was a baby.)  I heard the strange sound again as I slowly walked closer to the closet that it was coming from.  This was a mystery!  I love mysteries a lot.  I sometimes like to read mystery stories when I Love Lucy is not on TV.

Soon I was in front of the closet door and held my hand out to touch the knob.  My hand slowly grasped (that means to hold, we learned it in Ms. Coleman’s class!) the knob and tried to turn it.  When I tried to turn the knob the door burst open with a loud bang!  It even made me fall back onto my bottom!  When I looked up to see who had pushed me onto my bottom I saw a very strange woman.  She had crazy red hair all over the place and seemed to be very mature.  She looked like Ms. Frizzle!  (Ms. Coleman read us a Magic School Bus book once and it was gigundoly fun!)

“Oh, I am sorry,” said the strange woman.  She sounded very familiar and then I realized that it was Mallory Pike!  (I had forgotten that she had many birthdays all at once because of seeing the Doctor.)

“You must be very careful!  I fell onto my bottom because you pushed me!” I said to her to make sure that she knew what she had done to me.

She gave me a Look. “I said that I was sorry and I am.  But you should not be in here, Karen.  You must go back to the car with the boys and Emily Michelle.  I will be out to take you all home because it is not safe here.”

I was going to tell her that the car was boring so I did not have to be in it, but I heard another sound!  Thump, thump, thump!  It was someone coming down the hall but I could not see who it was because Mallory was in my way.  She quickly turned around and her hair bounced like a marshmallow.

“We must get out of here to warn the town!” said the Doctor.  (I knew it was the Doctor because he has a funny voice.)

“Yes, because Stacey is an alien!” Mallory said.

Suddenly she screamed as an octopus came out from behind the Doctor!  I screamed also, but much louder and much better.  It was like a scream from a scary movie!  The octopus had many tentacles and they were wiggly and wavy.  It was not very nice to look at.

“I am sorry, but that is a scary monster and I do not want to be around it,” I said to the grown ups.

“Look, Mallory, this is Stacey.  She had her reasons for pretending to be a human.  But she is willing to help save Stoneybrook, the world even, but we need your help.  She said you would be able to escape that closet and it looks like you have done just that, you clever girl,” said the Doctor.

The Doctor’s voice and way of talking made my head hurt.  It was very fast and full of many words.  He also used a lot of phrases I have never heard before!  The Doctor pushed Mallory around and toward the door with the octopus following along behind.

“I will not be able to fit in the car if we are all going!” I shrieked at them.

“Just come on, Karen.  We fill figure out how to get everyone into the car,” the Doctor said to me as I stood up from the floor.

Soon we were all outside and getting into the car.  I had to sit in the back with Emily Michelle on my lap and David Michael had Andrew on his.  Then the octopus that had turned into Stacey sat next to David Michael and we were all crammed into the backseat!  The Doctor sat in the front seat with Mallory, but the monster had my full attention!  I was so surprised that I almost screamed, but Emily Michelle turned and put her fingers into my mouth.

“Fingers!” she said to me.

“Mallory, you will need to drive and I will use the megaphone to shout out of the window,” said the Doctor.

Mallory nodded and started the car, driving off down the street with all of us.  I watched as the Doctor rolled down the window and pulled out a megaphone.  Then he turned a little switch and it made a loud, annoying sound that hurt my ears!  I wanted to play with the megaphone and tried to ask, but Emily Michelle started to bounce on my lap.  I tried to calm her down, but she was just so excited!

“Everyone, you must evacuate now!  Evacuate now!  Do not take any of your things!” I heard the Doctor shout.

“I hope this works,” the Stacey-octopus said.

“Mallory, is Byron also grown up now as well?” asked David Michael.

Mallory sighed and looked at us in the mirror, “Yes, David Michael.  I will show you once we are all safe again.”

“What do you mean once we are safe again?” I asked.  I did have my seat belt on after all.

“When the Doctor has been able to help everyone in Stoneybrook to evacuate and send the mean aliens home,” Mallory said.

She had been talking to the Doctor as I directed everyone into the car.  I could not hear what they were talking about as I was busy being in charge so I did not know that was what the Doctor was doing.  There were so many aliens today that I began to feel like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone!

“I want to help!  Give the megaphone!” I said.  I just love helping!

The Doctor stopped shouting and turned his head to me. “Karen, this is not a toy.”

“I want to help!” I said again.  People just never listen to me.

“I cannot let you help, Karen.  If I do not warn all of Stoneybrook about the aliens then everyone will be in trouble.  There is a spaceship that is going to explode and I cannot waste any time,” the Doctor said before trying to start shouting again.

That was when Emily Michelle grabbed at the Doctor’s floppy hair!  He yelped and turned around to look at us.  Emily Michelle was laughing and tried to grab the Doctor’s nose next.  He made many silly sounds as he tried to dodge Emily Michelle’s hands.

“Okay, I will let you play with it for only a little while!  Just do not let Emily Michelle pull my hair!” he said to me as he passed the megaphone to me.

I took it and smiled.  It was so gigundoly amazing to have it!  I felt like my step-sister Kristy.  She is in charge of the Baby-Sitters Club and she is often giving orders to many people.  I hope to be like her when I grow up.  I also did not know where she was.  It was not like her to disappear!

“My name is Karen Brewer!  I am in second grade because I am gigundoly smart and was able to skip first grade!  I am a Two-Two because I have two of everything!” I started to say.  Though the Doctor, Mallory, and Stacey yelled at me to stop.  I had to start over now.  “Everyone must evacuate!  You must get out before the aliens come and the town is blown up!  It will be worse than Hurricane Karen!”

Everyone groaned but I did not care.  Now that I had warned the town, I decided I should sing a song.  Songs always calm me down so I thought that the town would like to hear one as well.  I started to sing Mary Had a Little Lamb, but everyone yelled at me to stop again.  I sighed and had to give the Doctor the megaphone again.

“Everyone, please-” the Doctor started but then stopped suddenly.

We all looked up at the sky and saw falling stars!  “Oh, how gigundoly pretty!  Falling stars!”

“Those are not stars, Karen.  Those are trouble,” said the Doctor.

I do not like trouble.  I do not get in trouble very often but when I do I do not enjoy it one bit.  I decided that I did not like this trouble either so I stayed very quiet.  Mallory sped the car up which made us all get pushed into our seats!  This was very serious!


Chapter 19

Kristy

--------------------------------------

Dear Bart,

Sorry I haven’t seen you much these holidays. There’s been a lot going on with the club, and... well, other things, which you’ll be aware of by now anyway! I hope you’re having a great Christmas! I know it’s a bit cold out, but maybe we could meet up for some baseball practise after New Year anyway. And maybe this time you’ll be able to get past second base! Ha!

--Kristy

--------------------------------------

"Would you pass the gravy please, Kristy?" said Watson across the table.

        "Of course!" I replied, and nudged the silver boat towards him.

        "Gay-vee!" squealed Emily Michelle, and giggled.

        I smiled gently at her. Her English was coming along so well.

        I heard Sam spluttering a little further down the long, wooden, farmhouse table, and frowned down at him. Sunday dinner was the one time that my entire family strictly reserved for seeing each other and talking about everything we had done over the week. Everyone was there: mom and Watson, Sam, Charlie, and David Michael, and Karen and Andrew too, since it was Watson's weekend to have them. Nannie and Emily Michelle completed the family. And it was just a couple of days til Christmas! It was special, and not a time to be galumphing around.

        And all the things I had to talk about! The Babysitters Club had outdone themselves this time for sure!

        It had all started when Mal and Stacey had brought the Doctor to one of our meetings, not so very long ago, so technically, they'd started the ball rolling. But it was my Great Idea which, as usual, had saved the day!

        "So anyway," I continued, once Watson had finished pouring gravy over his roast beef (Dawn would have been appalled!). "Once I heard the Doctor's explanation, I knew what I had to do."

        "That sounds exciting, Kristy!" piped up David Michael. "Weren't you scared?"

        "Of course I was!" I told him. "But sometimes, you have to be able to put aside your fear and focus on the task at hand." I'd learned that from my many years of being a babysitter, often in dangerous situations. "Well. As I said, I just knew that that escape artist class that they held at the community centre last summer would prove indispensable!"

        "What does 'in-dis-pen-sible' mean?" asked Karen. She liked to learn new words.

        "It means 'very important'," I informed her.

        "Let your sister tell her story, Karen," my mom frowned at her. Karen scowled, and poked at her sprouts with the tip of her fork.

        "Of course, the locks we learned to pick in the class were very different from the ones that I had been put in on board the spaceship," I said. "But the principle was the same. Luckily, I had a hairpin tucked into my sleeve for just such an occasion!"

        "You had a hairpin?" snorted Sam.

        I glowered at him. "I've kept one on me at all times ever since I took that class. And don't you be a brat about it, Sam Thomas, if it hadn’t been for me, all of Stoneybrook would have been obliterated, and you wouldn't be here right now!"

        "Touché," Sam grimaced, and went back to his dinner.

        “What did you do then, Kristy?” asked Nannie. “Did you use a single pin technique? Or scrubbing and raking?”

        I looked at her, startled.

        “I took that class, too,” she smiled.

        “Single pin,” I said. “It's much more systematic. Especially since I wasn't familiar with the type of lock.”

        Nannie nodded, satisfied.

        “After I got free of the cuffs, of course, everything was straightforward,” I continued. “Most of the Daleks were down on the surface, looking for Stacey.”

        “I still don't understand about Stacey,” interrupted Charlie. “What did they want with her?”

        “Well, it turns out she was an alien from another planet. She'd run away. And stolen something when she left,” I explained.

        “An alien? Oh...” Charlie looked a bit queasy at that. Sam seemed a bit pale too, come to think of it. Ha! Boys: so easily frightened by anything out of the ordinary.

        “So what happened next? I want to hear more about the spaceship!” said David Michael.

        “Well, it was nothing, really,” I said modestly. “Like the Doctor said, there was a big purple button, right there in the middle of the controls. I knew I had to push it, and that would teleport the ship and all the daleks to a safe distance from the earth, and implode them into nothing.”

        “What did the other controls look like? And the rest of the spaceship?” Andrew wanted to know.

        I opened my mouth to answer, but Karen interrupted.

        “Bo-ring!” she groaned.

        “Karen!” admonished Watson.

        “Well...” I shrugged. “It was just metal, I guess. There were lots of buttons and levers and things. Some screens with funny writing. And the big purple button.”

        “Cool,” grinned David Michael. I guess all boys love hearing about electronics and robots and things. Me, I'd had enough of all that for a good long while! And you wouldn't catch me using an egg whisk or a toilet plunger in a million years!

        Not that I had ever done either of those things before.

        “But Kristy,” said my mom. “Weren't you worried that that the ship might have taken you with it?”

        I bit my lip. I had been, of course. To tell the truth, I'd been terrified. I didn't want to die. There were so many things I still had to do! Besides, what would have happened to the Club without me? I couldn't imagine Stoneybrook surviving for long without its premier babysitting service. If I had died, it would have been a mercy for Stoneybrook to be destroyed along with me!

        But my family didn't need to hear about that.

        “Absolutely not,” I said.

        “How come it didn't?” asked Charlie.

        My mom shot him a Look. “Why don't we just be grateful, and not question it?”

        “No, no, it's okay,” I reassured her. “The Doctor explained it. Just as the ship pulled all the Daleks back to it before teleporting away, it also sent all the things that didn't belong back to their proper places. I appeared right back here.”

        “You were very lucky,” said Watson.

        “And very brave!” smiled Nannie.

        “I know,” I said, happily.

        We had all been very lucky. The Daleks were gone, their spaceship was gone, and so was the weapon that the Stacey-alien had had hidden under the Schafer-Speir farmhouse. Stoneybrook was safe! All thanks to me!

        ...Well, the Doctor had helped a bit.

        And the time lock had been broken! I admit, it was incredibly confusing seeing Charlie with a beard, and Emily Michelle was almost the same age as Karen had been, though her language skills hadn't immediately jumped ahead to match her new physical age. The Doctor had assured me that those would develop much faster now that she wasn't staying two-and-a-half year in and year out. We would all catch up to our physical ages quickly, he said.

        And me? I was going shopping for my first bra tomorrow! Yes! I wasn't sure what was going to happen about school, but since it was still the Christmas holidays, I didn't need to worry about that for a while yet. Everything had worked out okay!

        Well... Except for Stacey. The Doctor said he would take her to a different planet where she could live in her normal form, as long as she promised not to cause any more mischief. But I was sure she would be alright, too.

        Christmas had been saved!


Chapter 20

Mallory

--------------------------------------

Dear Mom and Dad,

It seems silly to be writing this because the Doctor says when we get back, we’ll only be a few minutes later than when we left. Hmmm, that made no sense. See, I’m leaving, but you won’t notice because the TARDIS is some kind of sophisticated European time machine. Or something. Just try to have a good Christmas, ok? And if I don’t get back in time... well, I’ll be back later.

Love,
Mallory

--------------------------------------

        The whole family was gathered around the tree, singing carols, but I wasn’t with them. I’d wandered out into the snow, hugging myself in my new parka. (My mother bought it for me so of course it was ugly and looked like something a poor person would buy. Not like the dibbley clothes the Doctor had had!) I should have been home. It was Christmas eve, after all! But I wanted to think alone.

        It was so weird being the right age. I wondered if anyone else thought the same thing. Kristy kept acting like she was taking it in stride, but I saw her cringe when Dr. Johanssen said she was getting a little old to babysit. I don’t think Kristy ever wanted to do anything else. She may be the only one of us who didn’t like what the time lock did to her. I think she’ll get over it, though. She was talking about organizing a volunteer militia for SMS, staffed entirely by former BSC charges who are too old now, with boot camp on the weekends and everything!

        As for the rest of us-- well, as soon as the time lock was broken, Claudia went back to having a normal IQ (though she still isn’t very bright). But that reset her metabolism, too. She probably weighs four hundred pounds! And Jessi said she was going to have all the starring roles in Mme Noelle’s classes after this! She certainly was the most mature dancer in her class. Mary Anne barely changed at all, but she did cry when she realized that Tigger had turned into a geriatric old cat. (Geriatric is a word I learned in school. It means “old.”) Logan’s a totally chilly grown man now. And Shannon still doesn’t really have a personality, but she is older.

        The Doctor said Dawn wouldn’t have aged, since she got out of town before the time lock was broken. She’d start the eighth grade (for real this time) in California. I hope she writes a diary about the experience because it sounds totally distant. Janine never came back after she dropped Dawn off at the airport... the Kishis were still trying to figure out where she went.

        And me? Well, I don’t mean to sound conceited, but I heard Logan say that I was the hottest girl in the Babysitters’ Club! He said nobody grew up to be as attractive as I was. I can definitely fill a bra better than anyone (except Claudia, who now wears plus sizes).  I was also going to start the Eleventh Grade after Spring Break... my mom said I was too old to go to middle school anymore, it was just silly. It sounded super dibbley, being in high school after all this time! But... at the same time, it just didn’t feel right.

        I’d walked all the way to the park without noticing. I thought the Doctor had already left, but then I saw him about to walk into the TARDIS. I ran to catch up.

        “Doctor!” I said.

        The Doctor looked back and smiled at me. “Mallory, yes? Come to see me off?”

        “Are you really just going to... leave? After everything that happened?”

        The Doctor shrugged. “I don’t do clean-up. You’ll see. Everything will start to feel normal after a few ordinary, outside-the-time-lock weeks. You’ll get to have a real life! You can go to High School and graduate, get married. Have as many kids as your mum did, if you want to.”

        I frowned.

        “Or not,” The Doctor said. He stepped into the TARDIS.

        “No,” I said quickly, sticking my foot in the door. “You can’t just go away. I never got to be thirteen! I’d been waiting my whole life to be thirteen. Now I’m sixteen. I’m going to high school next week and I never got past the sixth grade. I was the geekiest girl at SMS... I’ll be starting Stoneybrook High School as a totally dibble girl with a bra and everything. But I don’t feel sixteen! I can’t get used to this! I need time!”

        “There’s no time now, Mallory. I can’t just put back the time lock. Things have to go on as they are now,” the Doctor said. Then he perked up, as if he’d gotten an idea. “Unless you’d like to come with me.”

        My jaw dropped. “Come with you?”

        The Doctor opened the door; yellow light poured out onto the snow. “It’s a time machine!” he said. “We can pop about the galaxy a few times, go to the past, see the future, anywhere you  like, and still get back before you’re missed. Don’t have to come back until you feel sixteen... doesn’t matter how long that takes. What do you say?”

        I still couldn’t think of anything to say. It sounded too good to be true. I’d always wanted to travel, but never gotten the chance since my family is so stale... except for the time we won a cruise to Disney World, of course. Or the time we went to Hawaii. Or on that road trip across the country, or all the other things I’d done with the BSC.

        “Do you like the beach?” The Doctor asked, bending to look into my eyes. “I can take you to a planet that’s nothing but beach! Sand as far as the eye can see.”

        “So it’s... a desert?” I asked.

        “No, it’s incredibly humid. Underwater actually.” The Doctor smiled. “So, Mallory... where would you like to go?”

        “I can go anywhere?”

        “Anywhere in time or space.”

        I thought for a minute... then I knew. I think I’d always known. “I want to go to Chincoteague,” I said finally.

        The Doctor blinked at me from under his floppy hair. “Chincoteague?”

        I took a last look around. I thought I’d be scared to leave Stoneybrook. But it wasn’t really like leaving, after all. I stepped past the Doctor into the TARDIS. “I want to go to Chincoteague in 1947, when the Misty book was being written.” I was speaking in a whisper. I don’t think I’d ever been so excited.

        “Well... well,” The Doctor said. “If that’s what you’d like, come on! Chincoteague here we come!” He pulled one of the levers in the middle of the TARDIS. The whole thing shook and made that same wooshing noise I’d heard in the part, right before I first met the Doctor.

        Then we were gone, on our way to a new adventure. I couldn’t wait to tell Jessi!

        This was the best Christmas ever!

***        

Look for BSC #132, Mallory and the Cyber-Horse

        “Here we are!” said the Doctor. “Chincoteague island, summer, 1947. I hope you brought your sunscreen because the beach is stunning this time of year. To say nothing of the horses. And the mosquitoes, but that’s another story.”

        “I’m almost ready,” I said. I couldn’t decide what to wear for my dibbley vacation at Chincoteague. I finally settled on this super chilly pair of stirrup pants and a striped bodysuit I’d found in the TARDIS’s closet the other day. I knew just where it was, too.

        I opened the closet door. Then I jumped back as a person in a very stale gray sweater and a pleated green skirt tumbled out.

        “Janine?” I cried. Janine is Claudia’s older sister. We hadn’t seen her since she dropped Dawn off at the airport right before the time lock on Stoneybrook was lifted. She looked at least thirty.

        “My apologies,” said Janine, straightening her glasses. “But I could not resist the opportunity to study an extraterrestrial conveyance this closely.”

        “Have you been in the TARDIS all this time?” I was shocked. Claudia was going to be so jealous!

        Janine stood up. “It seems we have reached our destination,” she said. “Shall we disembark?”

        “I don’t understand what you’re saying,” I said. “But come talk to the Doctor.”

        “Hello all,” said the Doctor (who was wearing a pair of dibble sunglasses). “Shall we be on our way?”

        “Janine stowed away,” I said.

        “I know,” The Doctor answered. “I’ve known she was here since we left. Was wondering when you were going to come out of that closet.”

        Janine blushed.

        “Well then,” said The Doctor, “Without further ado... Chincoteague!”

        The Doctor opened the door with a flourish.

        There were several men standing right in front of the doorway... at least, they looked like men, but they were covered in metal like the Tin Man. They had expressionless faces and funny looking handles on the tops of their heads.

        The Doctor slammed the door. “Must’ve taken a wrong turn,” he said.

0