I’d been concerned, not only about when I had travelled to precisely, but how exactly I was going to get back to anywhere useful. Aside from the trapdoor out in the sands that I was unlikely to be allowed near again, I knew of precisely one other cellar entrance – the one into which I had pursued Rose earlier on, and wound up in swampocalyptic Christmas.
Maybe, I was thinking vaguely, I could go back down into that space and see if it had changed. I couldn’t test with my torch anymore because I’d dropped it along with my lunchbox-case-thing, but I might be able to find some alternative form of illumination. Or, I could hope for the best and look for another trapdoor somewhere in the nearby area …
These thoughts were all well and good, and they lasted precisely as much time as it took me to stroll back into the prison yard and up to the administration office where I planned on getting my bearings.
Colonel McOldentimes was inside, sitting at the desk on the chair he’d carried out to pipe-smoke on, either in the past or in the future. Certainly he looked at me with no sign of recognition, but that might have just been because he’d forgotten me. That seemed to be stretching the bounds of convenient forgettability a bit too far, however, so I tentatively decided that I’d arrived sometime in Colonel McOldentimes’s past.
None of that mattered, though, because time was massively and irredeemably fucked.
“Yes?” he said around the stem of his … something. “Can I help you?”
“What’s that thing?” I demanded, pointing at the gleaming thing sticking out from under his moustache. It looked like a sonic screwdriver, except I’ve never seen a sonic screwdriver let off smoke. No – it wasn’t smoke, it was some sort of steam or vapour, like you get in nightclubs. It puffed thick and white, and then vanished in quick wisps without a trace, and with no discernible smell.
Colonel McOldentimes frowned, took the thing out of his mouth, and turned it back and forth.
“What?” he said. “You mean my e-cig?”