TTR/LWT: The Expert
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Ah." Izzy rose to her feet. "Miss Foster. Welcome to Look Who's Talking."

"Good morning," Miss Foster replied. "These are the children?"

"That's right." Izzy surveyed the gambolling toddlers. Two baby Doctors,
one baby Master, a smattering of deceptively adorable baby companions. About
typical for this time of year. "I'll introduce you to them."

She clapped her hands, sharply. The children looked up.

"Please listen carefully, children," Izzy said brightly. "This is Miss
Foster. She's going to be looking after you this morning. Now don't-- Yes,
Victoria?"

"Will you be coming back, Miss?" Little Victoria asked, her lip trembling.

"Yes, of course I will. And Miss Foster will tell me if you've been good
or bad, so I want you all to show her how well you can behave. Goodbye for
now."

"Goodbye, Miss," the toddlers chorused.



Miss Foster glanced over the children, who were watching her with wary
expressions. Izzy had, in fact, left a list of the toddlers, giving pictures,
any medical or dietary information, and Izzy's confidential notes. Izzy's
annotation on the entry for Steven Taylor, for example, read "Make sure he
doesn't lose his toy panda." Rose Tyler: "Artistically inclined. If she
hasn't got paper, will draw on walls, floors, or anything else." Zoe Heriot:
"Whatever you do, don't let her get her hands on the glitter."

"Hello, children," she said. "It's nice to meet you. Now, why don't you
play quietly for a bit while I sort some things out?"

The children gave her another collection of penetrating looks, and then,
their sense of novelty apparently exhausted, began to turn back to the games
and activities they'd been engaging in before she arrived.

Miss Foster nodded to herself. As she'd suspected, managing a handful of
humanoid toddlers was simplicity itself compared to the Adipose. She sat
down, pulled out a PDA, and began composing a glowing description of her
performance this day for her CV.

In what seemed like no time at all, someone pulled at her skirt. She
looked up sharply, and then turned to her list, trying to identify the
toddlers standing in front of her. The tow-headed little girl had to be
Josephine Grant (Izzy's comment: "Exactly as daft as she looks"), while the
boys were Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart ("One of the more sensible ones, though
that isn't saying a lot") and Roger Magister ("Don't believe a word he
says").

"What's going on?" she asked.

"We've catched the Master," Jo said proudly, indicating Roger. "So now we've
got to tie him up. But we haven't got any string."

Miss Foster narrowed her eyes. "Are you telling me that Izzy lets you tie
each other up with string?"

"Oh yes, all the time."

"It doesn't hurt him," Alistair added. "And he always manages to escape in
the end."

"That's as may be," Miss Foster said. "But I'm not letting you get up to
mischief with string. You'll just have to make-believe he's tied up."

"Awwww..."

"Oh, stop complaining. And stop bothering me."

The trio sulked off.



Miss Foster hadn't managed to press more than half-a-dozen keys on her
PDA before the next outbreak of shouting. This time the source of the
disturbance was a little dark-haired boy in a yellow tunic; two girls,
surrounded by a number of plastic carpentry tools, were holding him down.

"What's all this?" she asked.

"They were going to put a hole in my head," Adric complained.

"Only a little one," Baby Martha said, in a conciliatory tone. "Just to
see if we can."

"If we welieved the pwessure on his bwain, perhaps he wouldn't complain so
much," Baby Nyssa added. She carefully put down the toy drill she was
holding, and favoured Miss Foster with a bright smile. "It's all for his
own good, weally."



"What's going on?" Baby Liz asked.

Jo, who'd been sitting with her arms folded, looked up. Her expression of
simulated displeasure vanished at the prospect of being the bearer of fresh
gossip.

"Miss Foster won't let us have any string to tie up the Master," she
explained. "She said he could just pretend to be tied up. That isn't fair.
Izzy always lets us have string."

"No she doesn't."

"Well, sometimes."

"Once. And that was prob'ly a mistake."

"Anyway, Miss Foster should have gived it to us. So we're sulking."

Liz looked around. "Is that just you and Alistair?"

"And the Master... Wait, where is he?"

"Haha, I've escaped!" The Master, having slipped his entirely imaginary
bonds, clambered onto a chair, and made a daring leap onto the back of a
cuddly dog on wheels that was being pushed across the floor by Baby Lucy.
"With one bound, I am free!"

"Oh no! Doctor! He's getting away!" Jo shouted.

"Never fear, I shall give chase!" The little Third Doctor climbed onto a
plastic tricycle. "The Master won't escape me again..." He kicked at the
pedals, unable to get the trike moving. "Jo, can you push, please?"

The two toddler-powered vehicles wove their unsteady way across the room,
ploughing through the middle of an elaborate dolls' tea party being
orchestrated by Victoria and Dodo. Plastic plates and plasticine food went
flying.

"You horrid boys!" Dodo shouted after them. "You've ruined everything!"

"I don't care," the Master gloated. "I'm the Master! I like ruining things!
Faster, Rover, faster! They're catching up!"

"I can't go any faster," Lucy complained. "Why am I always the one pushing?"

"Now, what's going on here?" Miss Foster's voice asked. Striding quickly up
behind the fleeing toddler archvillain, she secured him under one arm,
turned, and scooped up the Doctor with the other.

"He escaped," the Doctor said. "So I was chasing him, of course. Put me
down! Of all the pettifrogging, obstructious, bureaumatic..."

"Quiet. You've both been very naughty. Look how you've upset poor" -- Miss
Foster paused to consult her list of toddlers -- "Dorothea and Victoria."

"Victoria cries at anything," the Master grumbled.

Miss Foster took a deep breath. "You two. In the corner. Now."



It was about five minutes later that that adorable child Peri Brown decided
to see if Miss Foster could be induced to hand out sweeties. In her somewhat
limited experience, you could get almost anything out of a grownup if you
put on a suitably doe-eyed expression and looked cute enough.

Accordingly, she toddled over to where Miss Foster was sitting, engaged in
a conversation on her mobile telephone. She reached out to tug at the woman's
skirt, when a few overheard words made her stop and gasp.

"Oh, yes," Miss Foster was saying. "These mammal children aren't any problem
at all. Completely trusting. They'll take the capsules from me without any
trouble. We'll just need to be sure they don't choke on them..."

Peri fled, managing by a supreme effort of self-control not to scream or
burst into tears. She continued running until she tripped over something,
and tumbled headlong, landing on a beanbag.

"Hey!" Baby Jo crawled into view, rubbing her leg. "You trod on me! You
should look where you're going!" She looked more closely. "Is somefing wrong?"

"It's the new grown-up. She wants to give us all nasty pills to make us
choke."

Jo leaned forward, her eyes huge. "Are you sure?"

"I *heard* her," Peri replied, in the manner of a detective producing a
smoking gun.

"Then we need to get rid of her. We need to make a clever plan."

"Really?"

"What if I pretend to be sick? I scream and shout and she comes to look
and... and then..."

"And then what?"

Jo put a finger in her mouth. "Don't know."

"We should ask the Doctor. He'll know."

"Miss Foster put him in the Naughty Corner."

"Let's ask the other Doctor, then." She pointed at where the baby Tenth
Doctor, clad only in a nappy, was thoughtfully licking his sonic screwdriver.

"Are you sure?" Jo looked worried. "Rose isn't here and Donna isn't here
and Marfa's busy playing doctors and nurses. He might have one of his funny
turns."

"Got it!" Peri tried to snap her fingers, but didn't have the manual
dexterity. "You shout and scream like you said before. Then while she's
not looking I go in the corner and tell the Doctor and the Master what's
happening."

"OK." Jo clambered onto the beanbag, rose precariously to her feet, did a
dramatic leap to the floor, clutched her leg, and fell to the ground.

"Ow! Ow! I've hurted my ankle!" she shouted. "Help! Ow!"

Miss Foster hurried over. "What's going on here?" she demanded.

"Jo's hurted herself," Peri said. She thought for a moment, in case there
was any more information she could give. "I didn't do it."

"Waaaaaah!" Jo screamed, going red in the face with the effort of acting.
Her performance wouldn't have fooled Izzy for a moment, but Miss Foster didn't
have Izzy's experience.

"Let me see," she said, bending over Jo.



Confident that Miss Foster's attention was fully engaged, Peri crept across
to the corner where the little Third Doctor and the Master were standing,
facing the wall and muttering accusations to each other about whose fault it
had been.

"Doctor!" she began. "We're all in terrible trouble. It's the new grown-up."

"Peri?" The Doctor shot her a quick glance. "What's happening?"

"She's gonna give us all poison capsules and make us choke. I heard her
plotting on the telephone."

"Well, now." The little Doctor rubbed his neck. "It would appear that Miss
Foster is a greater menace than we thought."

"She's a meanie," the Master agreed. "So let's team up and beat her."

"That," the Doctor said, "sounds like a plan. Of course, we're still
stuck in this corner."

The Master smirked. "That won't be a problem, as long as there's still two
of us in the corner and one's got dark hair. Peri, come here."

"But I don't look like you," Peri protested. "And I'm wearing a dress."

"Doesn't matter. She won't see your face, 'cos you'll be looking at the
wall. If she talks to you, pretend to be me."

/This is never gonna work,/ Peri thought, taking her place alongside the
Doctor. But what she said was "Got it."



"There," Miss Foster said. "Does it still hurt?"

Jo rubbed her knee, remembered that it was supposed to be her ankle that
she'd hurt, and hurriedly shifted her hand.

"Little bit," she said. She risked a glance sideways, to see that Peri had
apparently completed her business with the Doctor; once more, there were only
two toddlers in the corner. "Not much."

"Well then, be more careful in future." Miss Foster realised her hair had
fallen in her eyes, and pushed it back. She decided to revise her earlier
estimate: a dozen of these children were just as much of a handful as a
couple of thousand baby Adipose. For one thing, it was almost unheard-of
for an Adipose to hurt its ankle.

She returned to her chair, and her PDA. In no time at all, someone was
trying to attract her attention again.

"Miss," little Martha said. Miss Foster appeared not to notice, so she
took a good handful of skirt and tugged. "Miss!"

The PDA snapped shut, and Miss Foster glared down at Martha and Nyssa.

"Well?" she demanded, her voice sounding distinctly chilly.

"Lucy's eated the green crayon. And the orange one."

"It's all right," Nyssa added cheerfully. "She sicked them up again."

"She did what?"

Nyssa beamed. "It went everywhere. Come and look."

Miss Foster rose to her feet. A glance was sufficient to confirm the
essential facts of the girls' story.

"Come with me," she said, reasoning that at least she could keep these two
under observation. "We're going to the kitchen to get a mop."



Once more, Miss Foster was reassessing her opinions of human -- and Time
Lord -- children. Surrounded by a miasma of pine-scented disinfectant, sitting
beside a large patch of newly damp and shiny floor, she was debriefing Baby
Lucy.

"Why did you eat those crayons?" she asked. "Surely you've been told not
to?"

"I didn't want to do it!" the child protested. "He made me!"

Miss Foster narrowed her eyes. "Who did?"

"The Master!"

"The Master? Oh, you mean little Roger." She narrowed her eyes. "But he
can't have anything to do with this because he's in the corner. You haven't
been telling me the truth, Lucy. That's very naughty."

"He did!" Lucy protested. "He did! He--"

She stopped talking, groaned, and put a hand to her stomach. Perhaps if
Miss Foster had had more experience with humanoid children, she'd have taken
evasive action. As it was, she didn't, and her expensive jacket ended up right
in the firing line as another bout of sickness overtook Lucy. Seemingly frozen
in shock, she stared at the little girl on her knee; Lucy, for her part,
wiped her mouth on Miss Foster's sleeve and picked up exactly where she'd
left off.

"He did," she said firmly.

Miss Foster set the child down on the floor, and pulled her ruined jacket
off.

"He's in the corner," she repeated. "Look."

She suited her actions to her words, and came to the sudden realisation
that while there were still two toddlers in the corner, either one of them was
a shapeshifter or there was dirty work at the crossroads. She hung the jacket
on a chair, trying to touch it as little as possible, and hurried across to
make further investigations.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded, spinning Peri round to face her.

"I'm the Master," Peri said.

Miss Foster gritted her teeth. "Don't waste my time."

"But I am!" Peri opened her eyes as wide as they could go, and tried to
fix Miss Foster with a hypnotic stare. "I am the Master, and you will obey
me!"

Miss Foster picked the child up. It took a lot of effort not to try and
shake some sense into the girl, or tear her limb from limb, but she'd always
prided herself on her rigid self-control.

"I don't know what you're doing in this corner," she said. "And I don't much
care. Where is Roger?"

"Don't know."

"I'm warning you--"

She broke off, at the sound of a colossal crash from the kitchen.



When Miss Foster had fetched the mop, bucket and disinfectant from the
kitchen to deal with the consequences of Lucy's unconventional diet, she'd
been in a hurry. So much of a hurry, in fact, that she'd pulled the door to
but hadn't let it latch. While she'd been occupied cleaning the floor, another
of the children had noticed this, and decided to explore.

The little Tenth Doctor, his toy screwdriver abandoned, had wandered into
the kitchen. His attention was immediately drawn to the table against one
wall. Given his height, it hadn't been possible to get a good view of what
was on it from ground level, but he'd solved that problem with a pair of
kitchen steps.

On the table, taking up a sizeable proportion of its surface, had been a
large cake, made even larger by layers of multicoloured icing, sugar strands,
glacÚ cherries, and the inevitable ball bearings. If Peri had seen it, she
would probably have jumped straight to the conclusion that these last were
the poisonous capsules with which Miss Foster planned to choke the toddlers.
She would have been wrong. Miss Foster's only aim, when she ordered this cake,
had been to give as many of the children as possible a taste for unhealthy,
fat-rich food. She could always find a use for fat cells.

The Doctor had climbed cautiously down the steps, and walked over to the
table. Of course, he'd known that what he was about to do was strictly
forbidden. It was one of those things that was very definitely against the
rules. Any rules. But he was the Time Lord Victorious, and rules didn't apply
to him.

He had grasped the tablecloth in both hands, and pulled.

Miss Foster arrived in the kitchen at something just short of a panicked
run. But she needn't have hurried: the damage was already done. The table
was entirely bare, its contents strewn over the floor in a welter of cups,
paper plates, plastic spoons, lumps of cake, and fragments of icing. Moreover,
at the centre of the debris, the tablecloth was thrashing about; either a
poltergeist at work, or there was somebody inside it.

She pounced on the cloth and unwrapped it, revealing the toddler responsible
for this state of affairs, covered with the remains of the cake. He looked up
at her, seemed to consider his strategy for a moment, and then burst into
tears.

"Right," she said, struggling to keep her voice under control. "That is
*it*. I am not putting up with any more of this."

Picking up the wailing Tenth Doctor, she hurried across to the corner, where
the little Third Doctor stood in splendid isolation.

"You two are staying there," she said. "And I'm going to make quite sure
of it."

She delved in her handbag, and produced a set of manacles. Moving rapidly,
she chained the two little Doctors together, then secured them to the
radiator.

"There," she said, rose to her feet, and surveyed the room. "And if the rest
of you dare try anything funny I'll--"

For a moment, she thought she could hear something, perhaps a fly or a
wasp buzzing. But she dismissed the thought as imagination.

"Well, you'll be sorry," she concluded.

Dodo put her hand up.

"Yes, Dorothea, what is it?"

"Miss, something's happening to our dollies! Make it stop!"

A few steps brought Miss Foster to the painstakingly reconstructed dolls'
tea party. The head of each doll was slowly rotating in an anticlockwise
direction. As she watched, one came away from its torso and bounced to the
floor, prompting a wail of "Cynthia!" from Victoria.

Then the realisation hit Miss Foster, and she felt like having a good
scream or sobbing fit herself. When that horrible little girl had been sick
on her jacket, and she'd taken it off... she'd left her sonic pen in the
pocket. And now one of the children must have discovered it. How could she
have been so unpardonably careless?

Again, she heard the buzzing. This time, a beanbag exploded in a shower of
tiny polystyrene balls. The air was filled with drifting white fragments, and
the children ran this way and that, doubtless pretending that it was winter
or that they were in Antarctica. In a momentary gap in the throng, Miss Foster
caught a brief glimpse of the Master -- who else? -- with her pen in his hand,
aiming it at the light switch. She dived for him, missed, and ended up under
a low table. Cursing under her breath, she tried to get up, and banged her
head.

"What's going on in here?" Izzy's voice demanded.

Dead silence fell. All round the playgroup, little boys and girls
stopped what they were doing and looked at the doorway, where a
none-too-pleased Izzy was surveying the scene. She took her time, noting the
dismantled dolls, the Master with his pen, and the half-naked baby Tenth
Doctor, covered in cake and chained to his earlier self.

"I'm very disappointed in all of you," she said. "And that goes for Miss
Foster, too. Where is she?"

Every toddler in the room pointed at Miss Foster, who was still trying to
extricate herself from under the table.

"Really," Izzy said. "I'd have expected better from you."

Miss Foster managed -- just -- not to reply coherently. If she had, the
children would have learned some interesting new words. Instead, what came
out was an infuriated screech.

"Alistair, go and get the dustpan and brush," Izzy continued, taking not the
slightest notice. "We can't leave the room looking like this. And Lucy,
whatever's happened to you?..."

With a start, Miss Foster realised that one of the children was standing
in front of her. She looked up, and found Baby Jo looking down at her with
a trace of sympathy.

"Next time we ask for string I think you should give it to us," she said,
and absent-mindedly patted Miss Foster on the head. "But I'm sure you'll do
better next time."

[
"Doctor Who" characters belong to the BBC.
Look Who's Talking was created by Imran Inayat.
]

--
John Elliott

Thinks: This is what a nice clean life leads to. Hmm, why did I ever lead one?
-- Bluebottle, in the Goon Show