“It’s weird,” she said, carefully walking the grid on the triple-S. “But there’s someone else here. Is that supposed to happen?”
“Who is it?” asked the voice over her earpiece.
“It’s that guy, the Ninth Doctor. No, wait, not the ninth– the guy who came after him. The tenth one, he was really popular. What was his name? Benedict something. Or was it Christopher? Christopher Bandersnatch?”
“You’re thinking of Benedict Cumberbatch. Wrong classic British actor. David Tennant was the tenth Doctor. Unless you were in fact referring to Christopher Eccleston?”
“No, it’s David Tennant, you’re right. I forgot.”
Another voice cut over the intercom–this one younger, more incredulous. The Junior Inspector. “You’ve got Gandalf in there with you?”
“No, not him. This is the younger version. By about thirty years.” She paused in her procedure, completely put off by the intruder’s fish-eyed stare from between the trees of her vanished childhood playground. “He keeps staring at me. It doesn’t feel like part of the background.”
The Chief Inspector was back at the helm. “Is he doing anything else?”
“No, he’s just staring. Like a creepy creeper from Creepville.”
“The triple-S pulls elements from the subconscious. You watched the show as a child, didn’t you?”
“Sure. But I know what gets pulled out of my subconscious, and this isn’t it.” Which beggared the question: what was this?
“I’m not part of your subconscious,” the apparition said, as if to answer her question. “But you wrote an essay on your blog when you were thirteen. I pulled it from the universal cache. I thought you might appreciate a form you were familiar with.”
“Who are you?”
“My name,” he said, ” is Charlie. I picked it out myself.” He smiled then, a stretched parody of emotion. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Chief,” she slowly said to her earpiece, “I think I’ve found the bug in the system you were looking for.”