The TARDIS materialized once again outside 13 Paternoster Row. According to the scanner, it was a foggy night with only the gas lamps serving as a usable light source. The Doctor preferred it that way. He did not want to attract unwanted attention while visiting his friends. But the scanner also showed a temporal anomaly in the area. It did not indicate whether there was any danger, so the Doctor decided he would deal with it later. He looked down at the gifts he had made and hoped Vastra, Jenny and Strax would appreciate them. After gathering up the packages he had so carefully wrapped, he stepped out of the TARDIS and made his way to the front door. He knocked and Strax answered.
‘Doctor!’ the Sontaran exclaimed. ‘What brings you here?’
‘The need to say thank you,’ the Doctor replied as he entered the foyer. He looked around. ‘Where are Vastra and Jenny?’
‘In here, Doctor,’ Vastra called from the sunroom. The Doctor followed her voice and found the two of them sitting in their wicker chairs. Jenny was embroidering and Vastra was reading the latest issue of the Strand magazine.
‘Keeping up with Sherlock Holmes, are we?’ the Doctor inquired.
‘Indeed,’ Vastra said. ‘I’d very much like to meet Mr. Conan Doyle and have a word with him as to the depiction of crime-solving in his stories. He should know that it is impossible to tell a person’s gait from their footprint.’
‘Well, that’s why crime-solving should be left to the professionals,’ the Doctor said. ‘I’ve brought you all some gifts that I think should you help you in that regard.’ He held them up.
‘Gifts?’ Vastra said, intrigued. ‘What’s the occasion?’
‘I want to thank you for all the times you’ve helped me. I think it’s long past time I did so. Come on. You can open them in the drawing room.’ He entered the drawing room and laid the gifts on a table. Vastra, Jenny and Strax joined him.
‘I must say, Doctor, we were all very concerned we might not see you again after last time,’ Jenny remarked. The Doctor thought back to his last encounter with them, how he had emerged from his own time stream carrying the unconscious Clara.
‘She’ll be all right,’ he had told them. After silently making their way back to his TARDIS, he had simply taken them home with no questions asked.
‘It was your grave we were standing in, wasn’t it?’ Jenny continued.
‘Yes but that’s all in my future,’ the Doctor replied. ‘Let’s just focus on the here and now, shall we? Time to open your presents. Strax, you first.’ Strax tore away the wrapping paper and found he was holding a long object with three lenses attached to it.
‘What is this device?’ he asked.
‘It’s a sonic lorgnette,’ the Doctor answered. ‘Since you’re a nurse, I figured you could use something like that. Each of the three lenses has a specific function. The blue one allows you to x-ray people, the yellow one is for diagnosing illnesses and the red is for thermal imaging. And there’s an on-off switch.’
‘I believe I am supposed to express something humanoids refer to as ‘gratitude’ but I cannot remember precisely how I am supposed to do so.’
‘The phrase is ‘thank you’, Strax,’ Vastra said firmly.
‘Ah yes, that’s it,’ Strax said. ‘I can remember that.’ A few moments of awkward silence passed during which it become apparent that no “thank you” was forthcoming so the Doctor continued.
‘Jenny, you’re next.’ Jenny opened her present, which turned out to be a sonic gauntlet. There were numerous wires and gadgets attached to it.
‘Thank you, Doctor,’ Jenny said. ‘But what are all these things for?’
‘Well, since you saved my life by picking a lock, I figured you’d appreciate something that would allow you to pick locks faster and more efficiently than before.’
‘How does it work?’
‘You slip it on your arm and you use all these bells and whistles to help you break through locks. There’s a frequency modulator, you can measure the conductivity of metals in a lock and most importantly there’s a mechanism that makes locks fall apart.’
‘I guess I can get rid of my old lock pick kit now that I’ve got this.’
‘Absolutely! Now it’s your turn, Vastra.’ Vastra’s present was a sonic hatpin.
‘Oh, thanks,’ she said. ‘What does it do, exactly?’
‘It’s a remote control for your carriage. I’ve encoded it with special software so that you can summon the carriage whenever you need it. Just yours, of course, not anyone else’s.’
‘I see. But how do I…’
‘You just take it out of your hat and your carriage automatically travels to wherever you are.’
‘Won’t it arouse suspicion since there won’t be any horses pulling it?’
‘People will probably just assume it’s a prototype for what will come to be known as the ‘horseless carriage’. The pin also expands into a sword, by the way, but that’s only to be used in an emergency. You understand?’
‘Of course, Doctor,’ Vastra replied. ‘I shouldn’t think I’d have occasion to use it that much. But it’s good to know I have an extra sword on hand. And the dinosaur feather is a nice touch.’
Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door. Strax left the room to answer it. ‘You’d better hide the presents,’ the Doctor said. ‘I don’t think the people of Victorian London are quite ready for sonic technology.’ Jenny nodded and took the sonic devices out of the drawing room. Strax returned, followed closely by a mustachioed man in a bowler hat.
‘Some nefarious business, Madame Vastra,’ Gregson replied. ‘Oh, I see you have company.’ He indicated the Doctor. ‘I could come back later.’
‘It’s quite all right. The Doctor is a friend. I’m sure he can be of assistance.’
‘Very well. Is your, er, companion at home, madam?’
‘Yes, she is,’ Jenny said, reentering the drawing room. ‘And the word you want is ‘wife’, not companion, inspector.’
‘Right,’ Gregson said begrudgingly. ‘Anyway, Scotland Yard have heard from a number of our contacts that a secret society have been holding meetings throughout London recently.’
‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?’ the Doctor asked. ‘I mean, that’s what secret societies do. They hold meetings in secret.’
‘Yes, Doctor,’ Gregson replied. ‘However, our contacts have reason to believe that this particular society are planning something, shall we say, sinister. One of its members was overheard saying that London, and indeed all of Britain, needs to be ‘improved’ and that 'drastic measures' must be taken in order to do so.’
‘I think that even you would agree there many things about this world that need improving, inspector,’ the Doctor said. ‘How do we know their intentions are hostile?’
‘We don’t but we can’t afford to take any chances.’ Gregson turned to Vastra. ‘Given your success in dealing with London’s criminal underworld, I felt it was best to come to you.’
‘Thank you, inspector,’ Vastra said. ‘But I’m afraid I will need more than what you have already given us.’
‘Here’s what we know: the secret society are meeting tonight at 22 Charing Cross Road. You must find out what it is they’re planning. We’ll take it from there.’
‘All right, then,’ Vastra said resignedly. ‘We shall do our best.’
‘Excellent,’ Gregson said. ‘I’ll be off. Good luck to you all.’ The inspector showed himself out.
‘Well,’ the Doctor said, ‘it looks as if you might get to use your new presents sooner than I expected.’
‘Perhaps,’ Vastra said. ‘But for all we know the members of this secret society may have good intentions.’
‘That’s why we need to investigate,’ Jenny interjected. ‘To find out if they mean any harm or not.’
‘And if they do, I shall destroy them for the glory of the Sontaran Empire!’ Strax exclaimed.
‘One thing at a time, Strax,’ the Doctor said disapprovingly. ‘Let’s determine who these people are first. Jenny, get the sonic devices.’ She did so and the Doctor helped slip the gauntlet onto her arm. Strax’s stubby hands struggled to hold onto the lorgnette.
‘So all I have to do is take the pin out of my hat and the carriage will come to me?’ Vastra asked.
‘That’s right,’ the Doctor replied.
‘Let’s not waste any time, then,’ Vastra said and she led them out into the street. She plucked the pin from her hat and, after a few moments, her carriage did indeed pull up in front of the house. After the four of them had climbed inside, Vastra turned to the Doctor. ‘Now you’ll have to show me how to navigate with this thing,’ she said, holding up the pin.
‘No problem,’ the Doctor said. He demonstrated how the device controlled the carriage and they were on their way to 22 Charing Cross Road.
Upon arriving at their destination, the Doctor, Vastra, Jenny and Strax emerged from the carriage and stood in front of an unremarkable building.
‘Looks like a storefront,’ the Doctor remarked. ‘You know what to do, Strax.’
‘Prepare the battering ram?’ Strax replied.
‘No!’ the Doctor snapped. ‘Use the lorgnette!’
‘Right,’ Strax said and he peered through the lorgnette’s red lens. ‘Yes. I’m detecting seven life forms within the building. They appear to be towards the back.’
‘Good work, Strax,’ the Doctor said. He then turned to Jenny. ‘Time to put the gauntlet to good use.’ Jenny nodded and approached the front door. She manipulated a dial on the gauntlet and within a matter of seconds, the lock on the door had fallen to the ground. Jenny smiled as she opened the door for the others.
‘Doctor,’ Vastra said, ‘I take it you have a plan?’
‘Not really,’ he replied. ‘These things almost never turn out the way I expect. So why bother having a plan?’ He led them down a darkened hallway towards a door with light peeking out from under it. They could hear voices coming from inside the room beyond. The Doctor took a deep breath and opened the door. The room was occupied by four men and three women. They were all sitting in chairs organized in a circle. Three of the men leapt up and ran towards the Doctor and his friends. The men attempted to shut them out of the room but Strax punched one of them in the stomach.
‘Sontar-ha!’ he said triumphantly.
The fourth man stood up. ‘Enough!’ he said in a haughty tone of voice. He looked to be the stereotypical Victorian gentleman, dressed immaculately and holding a pipe. ‘I say, what’s all this? Who are you? What do you want?’
‘Scotland Yard,’ the Doctor said and held up his psychic paper. ‘We’re investigating possible criminal activity. And who might you be?’
‘Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire, at your service,’ the man said, doffing his top hat. ‘I was just conducting a meeting of the Society for a Happier Britain when you burst in. I can assure you that no criminal activity is taking place here.’
‘Hang on a minute,’ said one of the other men. ‘Are you a Sontaran?’
‘I most certainly am!’ Strax said haughtily.
‘You’ve certainly got the strength of one!’ the man Strax had punched exclaimed while clutching his stomach.
‘And you’re a Silurian, aren’t you?’ said one of the women, approaching Vastra.
‘Yes and this is my wife,’ Vastra said, indicating Jenny.
‘And you all work for Scotland Yard?’ one of the other men asked.
‘Not exactly,’ Jenny said. ‘We consult with them but we prefer solving crimes on our own.’
‘A crime-fighting trio consisting of a lizard woman, her human wife and a potato-headed alien,’ said one of the society members. ‘Oh, the stories we could write about you!’
‘Shut up, Maurice!’ Sir Reginald shouted.
‘Wait just a second,’ the Doctor said. ‘It’s 1894. How can any of you know about Silurians and Sontarans? Unless…’ He grabbed Sir Reginald’s wrist.
‘Unhand me!’ Sir Reginald cried. The Doctor pulled back his sleeve to reveal a vortex manipulator.
‘Of course,’ he said knowingly. ‘You’re not from the 19th-century at all. None of you are. That explains the temporal anomaly I detected earlier. Seven time travellers living undercover in London.’
Sir Reginald sighed. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘Now that our cover has been blown, we may as we tell you our story.’
‘I’m eager to hear it,’ the Doctor said. ‘Seeing as how you used vortex manipulators to travel here, I assume you’re all from the 51st century?’
‘You assume correctly. We stole them from the Time Agency.’
‘That’s a Level 3 Felony according to the Shadow Proclamation.’
‘What are you, some kind of temporal policeman or something?’ one of the society members asked incredulously.
‘I’m actually a Time Lord known as the Doctor.’
‘Really?’ Sir Reginald asked, intrigued. ‘I thought the Time Lords were all supposed to be dead.’
‘So did I, until recently,’ the Doctor replied.
‘What?’ Vastra said.
‘Long story,’ the Doctor said. ‘I’ll explain later.’