Sundays were boring.
School was fine — it wasn’t much fun putting up with all the other girls talking about boys and pop stars and soaps, but they’d learned not to bother trying to talk to Holly. They said she was weird for liking The Temponauts and books with spaceships and monsters on the cover, and she thought they were weird (though not as weird as the boys, who mostly didn’t seem to like anything except beating each other up), so she mostly kept to herself, and sometimes the lessons were interesting.
And Saturdays were good, because Holly got to see her Granddad, and didn’t have to get up in the morning if she didn’t want to, and sometimes The Temponauts was on TV (she thought the new ones weren’t as good as the old ones, but she did like that there were more girls in the show now, and it was always good when one of the Nastons exploded).
But Sundays were boring. Holly’s mum had to go to work at the shop, and Holly was at home on her own all day.
Still, at least she didn’t have to have a babysitter any more. It used to be that Holly’s cousin Kayleigh would come round and look after her when her mum was at work, but all Kayleigh used to do was tell her to go outside and play in the fresh air, because it was good for her. Holly didn’t think much of the fresh air at all, and thought that if it was actually any good you’d see more grown-ups playing outside, and she’d eventually persuaded her mum that she’d actually be safer staying at home by herself than she would playing outside all day.
So on Sundays Holly would get out of bed in the early afternoon, pour herself some cereal, and read a book or watch a DVD until her mum came home.
This Sunday was different. This Sunday, Holly was going to finish building her Tempus.
It had taken her ages to scrounge together all the parts — the mirrors, the batteries, the thermometer, and the rest — and to put them together just like they described in the TV show, but when she’d done it she was amazed at just how much like the real Tempus it was. They must have actually made the one on the TV out of bits from around the house too — Holly had had her suspicions about that ever since she’d noticed that the Vejoran tachyon nullifier looked like a spray can balanced on a tripod made of forks, all painted silver.
But she’d finally found the last bit, the brass handle that Professor Chronos used to turn to take them to their next adventure, and she was going to play with her new Tempus. So after her cornflakes, she carefully washed and put away the bowl (she forgot the spoon. She was always forgetting the spoon) and ran upstairs, brass handle in hand, and into her room.
She was so excited that when she went up the stairs she almost thought she could hear the familiar “Eeeoow Eeeoow” sound of the Tempus landing, but of course that was just her imagination. She opened the door of her Tempus and climbed inside.
It was very cramped inside — the Tempus that Professor Chronos had told Billy how to build was a single-occupier one, not like the big one the Temponauts used on their own adventures — but Holly was a very small girl for her age, and she could move just fine inside it. This would be a great place, not just for playing at Temponauts, but for her to sit and read in the quiet without anyone disturbing her.
Holly put the handle in, and turned it slightly, but as soon as she did she felt all faint, as if the world had all gone wobbly. She fell down, falling out of the box with the handle still in her hand.
She lay on the ground for a second, wondering what had happened. She felt like she was going to be sick, and her eyes didn’t want to point in the same direction, but after a few breaths she felt herself feeling more normal, and stood up.
She was just about to get into the Tempus again and have another go, when she heard a noise.
Someone was coming up the stairs!
This was awful! Holly’s mum wasn’t going to be back home for another two hours, and no-one else had a key except her Granddad, and he never went anywhere on Sundays. It must be a burglar!
Holly quickly hid in her wardrobe, the door open just a crack so she could see what was happening. The steps got louder, and then the bedroom door opened, and the burglar stepped through.
No, not a burglar. A little girl.
No, not just any little girl. It was Holly!
Holly-in-the-wardrobe looked on amazed as Holly-in-the-bedroom opened the door of the Tempus, climbed inside, put the brass handle in the slot…and vanished!
Holly hadn’t just made a model of the Tempus — she’d actually managed to make a working time machine, just like the one on the programme! She’d sent herself back in time a few seconds!
This was possibly the best thing ever, and it would require some careful thought. But the first thing Holly needed to do was to try the machine again. She walked over to the Tempus, climbed inside, put the handle in the slot, screwed up her eyes as tight as she could, and gave the handle a firm yank.
When she opened her eyes again, she was still in the Tempus, but the Tempus was not in her bedroom. Instead, it was in some kind of a forest, and instead of being mid-afternoon it was the middle of the night.
Holly got out of the Tempus, making a careful note to herself of where it was, before she went off to investigate. She didn’t see the shadowy figure watching her from behind one of the trees…