Review 2010: The Opinion Engine: 17/31: Shanghai (suggested by Alison Gow).

bamboo accumulation

Fiction “Shanghai!”

The Doctor enthusiastically burst out through the TARDIS doorway, arms raised in celebration. “Bright lights, big city!” he shouted, “Population spilling out onto the streets, the smell of commerce, buildings punching into the sky …”

Then he stopped and bothered to look around, “Bamboo huts, mud, mist, the smell of fish … oh …”

Amy stumbled out behind him wearing a now completely inappropriate sailor uniform. “Wrong year then?” She said.

“Yes. Sorry.” The Doctor gestured towards the blue Police Box which had landed incongruously on a getty, looking heavy enough to break through the bamboo but strangely not. “She’s … well … we’re in Shanghai, it’s just …” He glared at his watch. “Hmm … turn of the millennium … about 1080 AD. Early in the morning I think.”

“Only a millennium out.” By now, Amy was standing parallel to the Time Lord. Pushing her long ginger hair back behind her ears, she peering out across a sea which seemed to stretch out into infinity. “Well, you did promise me a harbour view.”

The Doctor grinned. “What d’ya think?”

Amy opened her mouth to answer, but before she could, a scream broke through the fog.

* * * *

The Doctor’s acute hearing followed the noise to one of the huts on the harbour and inside he and Amy found a woman standing on a stool, the palms of her hands pressed against her elderly skin. She glanced about furtively then screamed again as a small rodent scurried past the three of them, cheekily taking a scenic route underneath the woman before disappearing through a vertical crack in the wall.

“It’s good to know some stereotypes are valid no matter where you are in time.” Amy enjoyed the image far more than she knew she should. Then she noticed the Doctor stooped by the crack blaring his sonic screwdriver into the darkness. “It’s not that crack is it?”

“Hmm. Oh no. No." He replied popping the screwdriver back in his pocket. "For a change."

The Doctor then turned and held out his hand, gesturing for the woman to step down. At first she was as nervous of him as the rat but something in his eyes suggested safety so she took his fingers and put foot on the ground for the first time in hours.

“Terrorised by a rat. The rat peril. Well, there’s a first time for everything.” The Doctor was licking his lips like a cheese concessioner within tastebud distance of a new flavour.

The woman, who Amy assumed had no idea what the Doctor was saying simply grinned at him, her mouth showing more darkness than teeth. She gestured for the Doctor and his companion to sit down and the Doctor chose the stool that had previously been her safe haven. Amy knelt on the ground nearby, constantly on the lookout for the return of the rodent.

* * * *

Within minutes the three sat drinking saki silently. The woman, who by now was quite calm was staring at the Doctor’s clothing, particular whatever it was he had around his neck.

“Bow ties are cool.” He grinned conspiratorially.

“Yes, right…” Amy coughed changing the subject, “So you have a rat problem?”

“Oh yes, hate the thing, always in and out, can’t sleep most nights” and suddenly words were spilling out of the woman’s mouth. In a cockney accent.

Amy’s eyes popped. “Wow, you’re a loud one.”

The Doctor grinned. “How long has it been going on?”

”Three weeks. Frightened out of my wits I am…”

“So Chinese is …” Amy considered this new quirk of the TARDIS's translation circuit.

“Yes. Have you got any traps?”

“Traps?”

“You know boxes to catch it in? We could scoop it up, take it out of your hair.” The Doctor unconsciously glanced at the woman’s hair. It was snowy white. With a bob.

Linda nodded her head enthusiastically. The Doctor’s eyes followed the bob up and down before focusing on the woman again. He smiled.

* * * *

Minutes later the Doctor was back from a trip to the TARDIS carrying a bundle of humane, bamboo mouse traps.

“So we’ve fought Patient Zero, Daleks, lizard creatures and now rats are our thing?”

”All creatures great and small, Pond.” The Doctor said pointedly. “You could wait in the TARDIS if you’re too frightened.”

“No. Oh -- give it here.” She snatched one of the traps from him and began setting it, pulling the small wooden door up ready to imprison the rat should it blunder in. The Doctor handed her a chunk of Mars Bar as bait. “So Linda?”

The Doctor, who was also busying himself with the traps, looked at Amy then the hitherto unnamed woman.

“We’ve bonded,” Amy smiled. “Do you live hear alone?”

“Oh no, my husband, Jabe, is out fishing. He’s a fisherman.”

“Out long?” The Doctor asked with a slight hint of concern.

”A few weeks. Should be back soon.”

“I think we’ll be finished by then.” Amy noticed the Doctor sounded more relieved than he should and considered briefly if he was keeping something important from her. Again.

Before long all the traps were set. They sat and waited. More saki.

* * * *

And waited. And waited. The Doctor sat fiddling with his sonic screwdriver. Amy was beginning to fall asleep.

“Maybe there are too many of us in ‘ere. Scared him off.” Linda said abruptly.

Then, as if on cue, the three were startled by the sound of a trap shutting. They turned in unison.

The Doctor’s ear knew which trap it was straight away and skipped over to it. He reached down and triumphantly held the tiny prison at eye level, the rat stuffed inside.

“Well, then what have you got to say for yourself?”

The rat’s eyes seemed to widen briefly then boil with anger.

“You can’t stop us!” It squeeked. “Our fleet is massed on the edge of the solar system. Once I’ve reported back on this miserable little mud ball, we’ll take it by force! There’ll be no stopping us!”

“I think I’ll be having words with them.” The Doctor was sterner than you might imagine would be with a rodent. He was clearly very concerned.

Amy’s eyes were fixed on this furry ball of hatred. “Sentient, um, rats?”

“Sentient rats! Ratapharian’s to be exact. I recognised it as soon as we stepped through the door. Not big enough for a sewer rat, too big for a mouse. Ratafarians.” He mock shivered.

“Just get him out of here, whatever he is.” Linda said dryly.

* * * *

Back in the console room of the TARDIS, having stored the Ratapharian's cage safely on a shelf, the Doctor was busying himself with the take-off procedure. The rest of the alien rodent's race were about to get a piece of his mind.

Amy was taking one final look at Shanghai through the viewscreen. By now the mist had lifted and they could see the rump of the bay, mostly huts similar to the one they'd just liberated.

“I think it’s a decent enough place for a holiday, Doctor. But I couldn’t live here. Too quiet.”

“You live in Leadworth.” The Doctor said, pulling a lever with a clunk.

“That’s different. There are people.”

“There over ten thousand people living here. The place was just gained town status.”

“But still China. All those dynasties. Which one is this?”

“Um, Ming? No. Song, Song dynasty.”

“Song dynasty? Not?”

“No. Nooo. At least I don’t think so …”

And with that the TARDIS made a grinding, wheezing sound as it disappeared back into the time vortex.

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