The young couple was sat on a wooden park bench on a Thursday in spring. The kind of park bench that Alfred and Ethel would have had erected in memory of their long walks together around the lake. It was just an ordinary park bench in a normal city park. The sky was a clear blue with minimal cloud coverage (much like the sky Alfred would have painted in watercolour) and it was warm and pleasant. There were bees buzzing around the brightly coloured flowers in the park gardens, where Alfred once picked Ethel a beautiful rose on one of their many walks around the lake. They could hear bird song in the background (Ethel loved the sound of birdsong) and groups of student chattering along with young mums playing with their children. All in all, a very nice, almost romantic, type of day.
This couple, however, were not a couple in the romantic sense. Giles and Emma met at University through the Science Fiction society where they both shared a deep, mutual love for Doctor Who. In fact, at that point in time, they were arguing about which one of the two would make the best assistant. It wasn’t a new argument and, today, on the anniversary of the first date of transmission of the original Who, it was probably reaching greater heights than it ever had before. Emma was adamant that it was her, she was athletic, clever and was convinced she knew more than Giles would about potentially hostile alien species. Giles would have nothing of this latter argument particularly as he was studying biology and she was studying maths. Emma was at pains to point out that Giles’ heyfever (and it was ridiculous to think that anyone with such bad heyfever would study biology or spend any time in a park) would put a stop to any travel to planets containing plant life and that he got nauseous travelling on the bus to lectures let alone directly through space and time in a TARDIS. He was about to protest that his heyfever wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it used to be, in fact he had not sneezed once, and that the new travel sickness pills were working and that he would be fine now, when…
There was a flash of bright yellow light and Emma and Giles disappeared.
The feeling of sudden disappearance was hard to describe. It was like they had just been wrenched bodily from where they were sitting on the ordinary park bench, which is almost exactly what did happen, then pulled into a tunnel which was tight around their bodies, again not far from the truth, and finally spat out again at the other end, well, close. The whole thing could only have happened over a second or even less. They had been deposited somewhere very strange and definitely not in the Earth bound city park. It was almost pitch black but was not unpleasantly warm.
“Where are we?” gasped Giles as he held back the waves of sickness threatening to burst through. He was making small retching sounds and breathing heavily.
“I don’t know. I haven’t opened my eyes yet.” said Emma, “Can’t you see? And, oh blimey, if you’re going to heave please face the other way.”
“I can’t see, no. Can you?”
“Well, I’d know where we were if I could see, wouldn’t I?”
“Right. How will I know to face the other way, then?”
“Oh, just great.”
Giles decided he wanted to stand. It was easier to defend themselves that way, if the need ever arose. He groped around in the pitch black to get a handle on something, anything, to help him up.
“Ow! That was my hair!”
“Sorry, Emma. I just thought standing would be a better defense position.”
“Good idea, just attempt not to take your ally out of action before the invisible, malicious alien race attacks, eh?”
“Yes, sorry. Look, I can feel something solid. It’s a bit like, well, I think it’s a wall. I think we’re in a room.”
“Oh right, we’re in a room. Well done Sherlock. A pitch black room. Great. This is just fantastic. I don’t suppose it’s a TARDIS is it?”
“Well, er… LIGHTS!”
The echo of Giles’ shout bounced off the walls of the room and faded into nothing. Then silence again.
“Didn’t think so. Giles, help me up too.”
Giles flailed with his hands until he found Emma’s warm body and fumbled until they were holding hands. He laboriously helped her onto her feet until they were both stood with hands against the wall. Emma’s immediate thought was they need to find an escape route.
“Let’s see if there’s a door.” said Emma.
They moved along the edge of the room slowly, feeling their way along the smooth, cool walls.
“Lights?” said Emma “Is that the best you could do? That’s Star Trek!”
“Well,” said Giles “I’m under a lot of stress a the moment. It’s not everyday you get taken from a park bench and end up somewhere, somewhere, well, somewhere really weird. I didn’t even get chance to take my travel sickness pills. Although, I feel a bit better now, thank you for asking, even though you didn’t. ”
“Which is exactly why I would make the best assistant as I think I am currently demonstrating.”
“Look, I…” Giles gasped.
“What now?!” Emma exclaimed.
“I can feel something warm, something hideous, it’s like flesh, alien flesh. EUGH!!”
“What? Where? Show me!”
“There. Can’t you feel it. It’s like, it’s like a hand!”
“That is my hand!”
“Oh! Really? Felt distinctly alien to me.”
“I’m sorry, what was it you were studying again? Oh, that’s right, biology. Yes! That is my, human, hand. Did you find a door?”
There was no door. But there were four walls which comprised a small room and nothing else except the two stranded people. Again, with a whomp noise this time, there was a flash of bright yellow light back and forth across the floor. This happened periodically for, what felt like, a few minutes.
“ARGH!” screamed Giles, “I’m blind! ARGH!”
“Oh, honestly. We couldn’t see before. Please stop screaming like a girl every time that thing flashes. We need to work out where on Earth we are!”
After the initial shock had worn off, Giles was sounding more than a little scared now, “I don’t think we’re on Earth.”
But Emma stayed calm, “Well, maybe. OK, so what if we’re not on Earth. I know, what would The Doctor do?”
“He’d use his sonic screwdriver to put on some lights then find a hidden door or just blow the wall open, vanquish the evil alien race with, I dont know, a cherry and a sprig of mint then lead us all safely to the TARDIS and home again.”
At that moment, a booming, deep voice cut through the air, ” THANK YOU FOR USING XERON LIMITED. YOU HAVE CHOSEN OUR DELUX BEING COPIER XY1001. WE WILL NOW COPY THE DNA OF YOUR CHOSEN SUBJECTS USING THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY.” There was a short pause and then voice carried on, “Don’t worry. It will not be an unpleasant experience. So, there is really nothing to worry about. Just relax and listen to this soothing music. I quite like this one, I remember it from my youth. I mean, THE DNA WILL BE STORED AND USED TO CREATE THE PERFECT CLONES TO USE AS YOU WISH ON YOUR CHOSEN PLANET.”
The voice was replaced by some strange noises which sounded a little like a warped guitar solo, a group of opera singers (a diva of opera singers, if you will, oh you won’t, well, OK then) and a loud drum bass beat. They could only assume that this was the calming music the disembodied voice has mentioned.
“What?” said Giles. “We’re in a PHOTOCOPIER?!”
“Sherlock strikes again! Looks like we’ve been copied for use at will.” Emma replied. “Can you hear that noise, again? I mean the other noise not this, what is this music?”
There was another whoomp then the bar lights flashed once. This was followed by one single, clear beep. Then silence.
“That wasn’t so bad.” said Giles.
“But what are they going to do with our DNA now they’ve copied it? And why did they choose us two, of all people? And what is that music?!”
“Aliens. We’re aliens to them and so they chose us out of all alien life forms. It’s quite cool when you think of it that way, really.”
“Really? Giles, have you forgotten that our DNA will be copied and used elsewhere. Somewhere that we don’t know, won’t be able to visit and can’t control! Like the nice disembodied voice and it’s weird taste in music said.”
“Nope. But I like the idea now. A whole race of Giles and Emmas fighting the good fight.”
“Oh God. I can’t think of anything worse.”
The deep voice once again cut through the air, “See, that wasn’t that bad, was it? I mean, THE BEINGS’ DNA HAS NOW BEEN COPIED AND WILL BE STORED SAFELY AND SECURELY UNTIL THE TIME OF USE. I WILL DEPOSIT THE ORIGINALS IN THE DESIGNATED TIME AND SPACE PROVIDED. THANK YOU, ONCE AGAIN, FOR CHOOSING XERON LIMITED. It was nice to meet you both, although I have to admit I do think Emma would make the best Doctor’s assistant. Sorry Giles, you’re nice but Emma just has that bit more nous. I hope you enjoyed your stay. Oh and the music, it’s Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Have you not heard it? It’s a classic! Come back soon and I’ll introduce you to Bon Jovi…”
The voice trailed off. There was an even brighter flash of light this time and the room was left empty.
Giles and Emma had been instantly transported back the park bench they had previously been sat on. Very little time had actually elapsed. Giles was breathing heavily again but the same noises from the children, mothers and students could still be heard around the park. Nothing had changed and no one had noticed their disappearance. They both opened their eyes simultaneously and looked at each other. They were stunned and blinked at the sunlight. Neither could find the words to describe how they felt about their shared experience. Basically, it felt weird.
“Come back soon. It said.” said Emma. “What did it mean? How did it know our names? What! Just! Happened?! I have many, many questions. Did it say Queen? Bon Jovi? I was never really a fan of that kind of music. What do you think, Giles? Don’t just sit there struck dumb. Did that actually just happen or were we hallucinating or something? I mean, you saw it too right? The bright light. And heard that weird voice. The one that wanted us to go back soon. I didn’t take one of your travel sickness pills by accident did I? I’m sure it was paracetamol.”
“I have no idea. But I’m sure I saw what you saw and I quite liked the music, actually.” said Giles “I do have a question.”
“Like I said, I have so many questions.” replied Emma. “Go on.”
“Well, erm… will you go out with me?”
Emma looked at Giles, rolled her eyes and then giggled.
“It must have been one of your pills.” she said and kissed him on the cheek. Coincidently, in the very same spot Alfred and Ethel had their first kiss, all those years ago. And perhaps even more coincidentally at the very same time, and when I say the very same time, I actually mean some years in to the future on a planet far out into space. At this almost coincidental time, a couple that looked exactly like Giles and Emma kissed whilst sat in a normal park (for that planet) on a normal park bench (for that planet) being watched by a wealthy but lonely alien who was relaxing to a spot of rock music.