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UPDATED: New Doctor Who Novella "Harmony" by TBITT

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Author Topic: UPDATED: New Doctor Who Novella "Harmony" by TBITT  (Read 545 times)
thebunnyinthetardis
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« on: March 26, 2012, 04:37:20 pm »

Hey everyone!  Had a slight glitch and couldn't get back in to correct a mistake in the URL  I am terribly sorry.   Embarrassed  With the help of another Whovian and The Doc, I found my Tardis key.

Here is the correct link to my DW novella, Harmony.

<http://hoophic.gomes.com.es/harmony>

My apologies to anyone who tried to follow the other link and ended up in the Void.  Shocked

One note: the pdf for Part Three is going to be updated as I decided to make some revisions.  My web designer is on Easter break right now, though, so it will be a couple of days before the revised chapters are up.

I've got some new stories to share with you and I've asked some friends along to share their work as well.  I think you'll enjoy it.  And I hope you enjoy Harmony as well.  It... isn't what you might think it is at first glance.  Wink




Excerpt:

He could no longer move on--or back--or anywhere else in time except for here. Here. Now. With yesterday past and tomorrow yet to come and all of it proceeding in the dreadful, ordinary, dull, way that the people around him found comfortable and acceptable and… normal. On the Slow Path, hours dragged like a rake in the sands of time and where once he had made grand patterns, spiralling and tilting to the music of the spheres, the lines in the sand were now arrow straight, preserved until the inevitable tide washed them away forever...


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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2012, 05:09:34 pm »

The link is taking me to a blank page. Just thought I would mention because you said you updated it, but it's not working. For me, at least.
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thebunnyinthetardis
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2012, 05:14:06 am »

Most puzzling...     Huh?  unless it was on the off chance that you tried to access the page while it was down for a new, revised Third Part to go up  It is in now, all pdf's are working and I was just on the page:

http://hoophic.gomes.co.es/harmony

Give it another go?  Embarrassed

If it continues to be an issue, you can find it on Live Journal--just be sure to look for bunnyinnatardis vs thebunnyinthetardis.  LJ didn't offer me enough characters.  Cry
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thebunnyinthetardis
Easily Exterminated
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Favourite Doctor: David Tennant & Pat Troughton
Favourite Companion: Donna, Jamie & Zoe
Posts: 59


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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2012, 05:17:53 am »

As requested, I'm going to start serializing Harmony.  Thank you to those who have shown an interest.  Bear with me.  This is going to take a bit of time in this format (is it possible to preview more than a few lines at a time?), but I'm happy to do it for this site.  Also please note that the site's profanity blocker has misinterpreted some words that aren't profane but contain letter combinations which, by themselves, would be.  I don't know how to get around that.   The work contains a bit of mild "language," a few images and emotional content that may be somewhat disturbing to very young readers, but is in no way graphic or objectionable for most audiences. Smiley




Harmony
(inspired by the BBCtv series Doctor Who)
by
thebunnyinthetardis


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The author would like to thank Ali Reis of Casperium Graphics (http://casperium.deviantart.com) for the use of her lovely "Medusa Nebula." Additional thanks to The Boys in the Gallifrey Basement, most especially Al and Nic, for biscuits and tea and the encouragement to finish what I had started and for painstakingly creating the host site and putting up with me during its assembly. Lastly, thank you to "Uncle Rusty," without whose Tale I might not have taken up my pen to write again. "Harmony" is for you.



The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.-- H.G. Wells, "The Discovery of the Future," 1901


Chapter One



   Starlight filled his eyes, the radiance of a billion, billion suns performing their intricate, cosmic dance just for him.  He floated free, turning gently, straying further and further into the shimmering reaches of Space and Time, engulfed at last in the splendour of the Medusa Cascade…

   Someone spoke his name.

   He blinked. The vast expanse of space was gone, replaced by the rotating blur of ceiling fan blades churning a gentle breeze against his skin.  Moonlight played at the open window, the towering walnut tree outside casting long shadows across the far wall of the bedroom.

   His bedroom.  The room he and Rose had shared when this was their home.  How long ago that now seemed.

   The storm had dissipated, leaving behind the tangy scent of autumn.  Gutter tea, he’d heard it called.  He rather liked that. Human beings.  They still amazed him.  Who else in all the galaxy could put a poetic spin on rotting foliage?  He had enjoyed more than his share of that aroma, having walked miles in a downpour. It was that or call for help and calling for help still wasn‘t in his nature.

   He’d misplaced the Jeep.  Again. And he‘d disengaged the GPS. Again.  Special Op’s at Torchwood’s main branch in London claimed it was a security measure, but he couldn‘t abide being tracked that way, like a tagged animal in the wild.  The mutant Time Lord, stalking aliens across what he still fondly referred to as Pete’s World.   Or simply off on a lark. Granted, the missing GPS complicated things when it was time to close up shop.  The Jeep didn’t beckon like the Tardis, his Time Ship, and apparently a reliable Chameleon Circuit was standard issue because it blended into its surroundings so well that he never seemed to be able to locate it when he needed it.  Surely it would turn up. It always did.  Almost always.  But Pete Tyler--boss, benefactor, and father-in-law all rolled into one--had seemed decidedly unamused to see him walking through the side gate earlier instead of driving.  He was quick to produce the key from his pocket as a sort of peace offering, but Pete only planted his face in both hands and strode away, muttering some of the more colourful expletives in the English language.

   Compared to saving the Earth from the threat of the Yugglorrh Transperion, another lost Jeep was of little consequence, but he admitted it was having a negative impact on insurance premiums.  Not good.  Especially now with the economy being in the dustbin.  Besides, they still hadn’t forgiven him for that unfortunate incident with the zeppelin.

   At least this time he hadn’t phoned from the Embassy in Czechoslovenia, requesting transport (and diplomatic immunity), though, as he was wont to do, he had wandered off yesterday with scarcely enough money for chips, let alone cab fare from Scotland.  Yesterday?  No, no, no.  That wasn’t right at all.  It was longer than that.  A week, then.  Three at most.  The seasons had yet to change and no matter how distracted he became he had never missed Christmas.

   Could it be helped that he was as drawn to Trouble as Trouble was to him?  Raising a ruckus, Jackie Tyler called it.  Pete was less delicate than his wife on that matter, but dutifully did any damage control necessitated by his latest exploits.  Not that it was intentional.  Well, not usually.  Well… all right, he admitted to himself, sometimes it was quite deliberate but not without provocation.   Mostly.  Still, it had been a long hike from Aberdeenshire, even after hitching a lift here and there.  Maybe he talked too much.  The last lorry driver hadn’t even waited for the next lay-by.

   Blimey, he was tired.  Still.  He had arrived at the Taylors’ home bone weary.  Weary enough, even, to bypass a proper sit down (aside from pinching a few slices of Sunday roast and four ginger snaps) and go straight to sleep. But not too weary to dream.  And in his dreams he was always coming home. The first home he had had in, oh, too many years to count.  All walls and floors and carpets. Where else could he go, really?  Not Pete Tyler’s posh penthouse flat at Torchwood Towers where his celebrity status had long since evaporated but he was nonetheless at the mercy of those wanting too much of his time.  Time he no longer had in unlimited--or almost unlimited--quantities.  Nor did he feel he could go to the big old house in Scotland where he had spent the better part of his years on this world.  Rose was there, patiently awaiting his eventual return.  He had made it nearly to the doorstep this time.  He just couldn’t find it in himself to stay.

Still trying to outdistance your nightmares, old son? Old habits and all that.

He could no longer move on--or back--or anywhere else in time except for here.  Here.  Now.   With yesterday past and tomorrow yet to come and all of it proceeding in the dreadful, ordinary, dull, way that the people around him found comfortable and acceptable and… normal.  On the Slow Path, hours dragged like a rake in the sands of time and where once he had made grand patterns, spiralling and tilting to the music of the spheres, the lines in the sand were now arrow straight, preserved until the inevitable tide washed them away forever.

He sat up in bed, scrubbing his face with his hands  His beard needed trimming and, judging by the tangled waves he had to work his fingers through, so did his hair.

   Shadows advanced and retreated with the rapidly moving clouds, flashes of moonlight illuminating the large, dusty telescope crouching in a far corner of the room.  A well intentioned gift from one of the Tylers’ connections in the new Euro government shortly after his arrival, he had inadvertently insulted the giver by assuming the costly item was a toy intended for Jackie and Pete’s wee boy, Tony, and not for him, the mysterious Spaceman.  That mistake nearly sparked an international incident.  His very first.  At least on this world.  Thankfully, Rose had been at his side to rein him in and dispense more diplomacy than he was capable of mustering without escalating things further.  How was he to know that the ambassador from New Germany lacked a sense of humour? He had later tinkered with the device in a vain attempt to increase its functionality, scattering pieces like a brilliant, restless child until Pete suggested that nothing short of a full scale observatory was going to satisfy him and even that was doubtful.  As of late he had simply stopped looking at the stars.  There weren’t enough in the English night sky and they were too far away.

   The blanket he had wrapped himself in fell to the wet floor as he swing his feet over the edge of the bed.  His sodden clothing still lay in the heap he‘d dropped it, but a cup of tea had been placed on the bedside table, a pile of sticky sugar cubes sitting beside the saucer. He stuck a finger into the cup and put it in his mouth. Cold. Tea leaves floated on the surface like micro lily pads in a dark pond.  He wondered who had brought it in and when.  Seeing as he had been unable to find any pyjamas whoever it was may have gotten an eyeful.  He glanced behind him, but, no, Rose was not there. Of course not.

   In the midst of her exasperated scolding earlier Rose’s mum, Jackie, had said something about flocks of sheep gone missing around Cairngorm and how the young Duke of Edinburgh, quite the student of paranormal activity himself, had rung up Torchwood, adamant about it being a bona fide Rift.  That and the weather was worse than normal. It only made sense they would dispatch Rose to investigate the anomaly, seeing as she was just miles away from Balmoral Castle.  He knew he should have answered his mobile when he saw her Torchwood exchange.  But honestly, thunder-storms and sheep swallowing holes in Space and Time?  How the mighty had fallen.  Jackie admonished him further for not ringing them up even once while he was gone this time (he had memorized most of that tirade) and suggested that if he persisted in being a rover, dragging in without so much as a by your leave, he cold flop in the orangery with what she called his “coral monstrosity.”

   Since his last modifications to the dimensional stabilizer the Tardis was indeed growing at an alarming rate and he admitted the Time Ship had entered an awkward stage of development, but there was no need to insult a growing trans-dimensional entity.  Jackie would have torn into him even deeper had it not been for her older son, Tony.  Something in his tired face had registered on the boy.  He had seen it mirrored in the lad’s eyes and was grateful for the interference as Tony steered his mum away, sparing them all from her tirade.  Or his own foolish response.  That left wee Rusty Tyler standing midway down the stately manor’s entrance hall, watching him with eyes so much like Rose’s that it made him hurt inside just to look at the boy.  He stood, dripping in silence at the bottom of the grand staircase, until the housekeeper’s annoyed tut-tuts broke into his reverie and he’d dragged himself off in search of a towel.

   The Tylers were awake now. His senses had been retooled to something more akin to normal human senses, but they were often abnormally keen. Jackie and Pete were quarrelling in groggy voices over whose turn it was to put little Rusty back in his cot.  Ah.  That explained the cold, leafy tea--though how the lad had managed to enter the room without him knowing, he could only guess.  He was relatively sure human children possessed unique super powers governing stealth.

         A narrow band of light shown beneath the door, followed by a giggle and the patter of small feet down the hall.  By the heavy footfalls and weary groan, he knew it was Pete’s turn to chase the boy down and, with Tony’s help (and the lure of  bickies), coax Rusty back to bed.  Not long after came the murmurs of a now-familiar bedtime story and promises of taking the ponies out for a picnic in the nature preserve.  Pete, he reflected, had become the very dad Rose had dreamed of, here in this world of second chances.  He smiled.  Good on you, mate.  Good on you.

   A noise below his side window caught his attention.  Snapping brittle twigs betrayed some unseen night visitor.  He rose stiffly to investigate but it was too dark to see anything.  A badger, perhaps.  Or weasels.  He had seen a pair of the slinking devils not a month past, darting along the hedgerow, beating a fast retreat from Jackie‘s yapping little Westie, Petunia.  They reminded him a little of the tafelshrews back on Gallifrey--so did the little dog for that matter-- and he wondered if they tasted as bad.  Probably not half as bad as the trufflemorphs From Zelioridon.  Oh, now that was a planet to behold. Beautiful rainforests under half a dozen moons circling a now ancient star. He’d intended to take his good mate, Donna Noble, there on holiday until it became clear that Donna’s idea of a break did not include invigorating hikes through dense jungles filled with eight foot long millipedes--milli-milli-bazzili-pedes--, dark purple winged sloth bats that would eat bananas right from your hand, and the most intoxicating blooming carnivorous plants that smelled like mocha latte. For some reason no one he had ever taken there had been all that enamoured of the place.  Maybe that was because they always seemed to run out of bananas before they found the sloth bats.  Or was it the millipedes?

   He should have taken Donna to Felspoon to see the swaying mountains. Now he’d never get the chance. For all she was a part of him--that very strange, human part of him--Donna Noble was no longer part of his world.  Nor was she part of his adopted world.  This not-Earth-gingerbread-house he had been placed in and left to do what exactly?   Grow old?

   Someone spoke his name.

   Why don’t you hear me?

   He breathed deeply and closed his weary eyes, focusing on the steady drip, drip, drip of water in the down pipes. The Time Lord’s legacy to himself.  Echoes back across Space and Time.  He always heard them.  Dreamt them.  But his name?  It wasn’t even his name.  Not really.  Not anymore.  Not since he had had been splintered off the man he used to be.  It wasn’t his life. But it was still his past and he had a very good memory. Fat lot of good it did him.

   Felspoon, Zelioridon, Kastopheria, Spiridon.  They might as well be notations in John Smith’s Journal of Impossible Things.  Visions from another life.  Only this time he had not consciously altered his genetic code to disguise himself among humans.  This time every cell had been overwritten without his consent. But that didn’t change his memories.  Didn’t erase the dreams of another lifetime.  Not his lifetime.  His single, short human lifetime.  All right, perhaps a very long lifetime by human standards given the genetic ****tail that had spit him into existence.  Instantaneous biological meta crisis indeed.  As if.  All the intellect of the Time Lord he had been with none of the perks.

         Yes, the chunk of Tardis coral he had been given possessed the heart of a Time Ship, but it was as much a complex space-time event as he was and they were both out of their element in this universe.  As he aged and died a little more each day, the ship aged and lived.  It would fly again.  Oh, yes.  But the question remained whether it could be properly primed after his first aborted attempt to operate it had ended so disastrously, destroying the only briode nebuliser he had, to date, been able to assemble from scratch.  Not for the first time he considered that his altered Time Lord genes were insufficient to imprint.  Without Rassilon‘s Imprimteur the fledgling Tardis would never withstand the stresses of entering the Time Vortex.  It would be disintegrated, he and Rose with it.  Assuming Rose would go with him this time.  Without a Tardis he was stranded.  Exiled.  Again. Without even the likes of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart to wage words with. Even the fastest airship this world currently offered couldn’t travel fast enough to get him far enough.

   Someone spoke his name.

   No longer a hushed whisper but spoken with an urgency that made his single heart beat hard against his chest, growing in intensity.

   Help me.



***



   Someone had left the kettle on.

   “Amy…” Rory Williams muttered, not wanting to move.  “Amy, the kettle…”

   “murrmph…”

   “Amy, the kettle,” he tried again, forcibly keeping his eyes shut to keep from waking up completely. But it was no use.  She was even more deeply asleep than usual.  Or ignoring him. He couldn’t always tell.

   With a yawn, Rory rolled over to get out of bed and startled fully awake.  They were not in their bedroom.  They were… not in England at all.  He glanced around.  He was drifting on what appeared to be a cloud.  In the Tardis.  In space.  Probably.

   “Amy!”

   She bolted awake then, nearly falling through the cradle of mist onto the floor.

   “Whoa!  What the--“

   “Oh great.  Now he doesn’t just show up for special occasions and on holidays with enticements of adventure through Space and Time, he sneaks in in the middle of the night and kidnaps us from our bed.  I‘m too old for this.”

   “Is that the kettle?”

   Amy was clamouring to get up now, a perilous proposition from a bed with no distinct edges.  Rory wasn’t sure if this sleeping arrangement was a result of the Doctor’s sense of humour or the Tardis herself.  The Doctor had promised to order up the king-sized, canopied bed Amy had pointed out in an exclusive home furnishings catalogue, but that was ages ago when the Time Lord last departed from their home to pop off to Cwmbran to stock up on Jammie Dodgers.  Apparently they were introducing a new flavour.

   The kettle whistled on, the sound echoing down the long corridor.

   Rory rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked for something to wear.  He settled for a pair of denims and a shirt he‘d left behind.  They hadn’t been laundered, and he hadn’t worn that size in over two years, but he had learned the hard way not to wander the Tardis in his pyjamas or dressing gown or less.  They never knew what head of state--or planet--the Doctor might be entertaining in the middle of what they thought was the night.  The Doctor kept curious hours, but he and Amy needed to sleep--much to the Time Lord’s chagrin.  Not that the man was above waking them if he got too bored.  Or lonely.  He didn’t admit the lonely part, but Amy maintained that was what it was and over time Rory had come to agree.  For all he had friends and companions scattered through the galaxies, the Doctor remained the loneliest man Rory knew.

   Tugging on the cowboy boots he had gotten on what he thought was still their first trip to America--honestly, it was all rather jumbled now--Rory stumbled out the door. Amy shuffled along behind him in her nightie and the oversized bunny slippers the Doctor had given her some Christmas past.  No doubt the Doctor was already in the Tardis control room, headphones or some other nonsense obscuring the screeee of the kettle.  The sound was defiantly coming from there and not one of the kitchens.

   “Nice trick, Doctor,” Amy complained, pushing strands of ginger hair away from her face as she yawned.  “Ha ha, very funny, now put us back!”

   But the Doctor was not there.

   Hastily, Rory wrapped his shirt sleeve around his hand and wrestled the sputtering kettle from the hob before that entire section of the Time Ship’s flight control panel was doused in scalding water.  At times he could not help but think the ship’s instrument panels had been designed by monkeys for all they made sense.

   “Ow ow ow ow ow!”

   Even through heavy cotton flannel the kettle was, well, boiling hot.

   “Good one, Doctor,” Amy told the empty room, pausing to kiss the tips of her husband’s fingers and switch off the cooker top.  “Leave the kettle and go for a walk.  Typical.”

   After a moment of impatient waiting, Rory poured the steaming water into the teapot, managing not to burn his fingers again.  Amy leaned in close beside him to inhale the scent.  Whatever the Doctor had in the infuser smelled gorgeous.  Cinnamon and nutmeg and another scent he could not identify. It reminded him of Christmas and Christmas reminded him of the English countryside which, in turn, reminded him that he wanted to be home.  In bed.  With his wife.

   A large green cup sat next to a plate of Toffee Dodgers as if the Doctor had planned to return for a midnight snack.  Or a 3am snack.  Who really knew out here in space.  And that was another thing, Rory thought.  Why were there no windows on the flight deck?  Just row upon row of rounded portal-looking-things with equipment and lights and bizarre wiring behind them.

   Amy popped one of the biscuits into her mouth then picked up the mug.  She showed it to Rory and he shrugged at the Greek symbols.  Theta Sigma.  Right.  Whatever.  He toggled a few switches, wondering where they were.  When they were.  He found no answers.

   The Tardis was running ever so quietly, the Time Rotor rising and falling gracefully amid the turning gears in the towering central column.  Nary a warning alarm sounded; nary a warning light blinked. Why wasn’t that state of affairs more reassuring?

         After a moment Rory realized he could hear something else.  A faint mechanical ticking.  But from where?  Wandering the Tardis was not something he relished in the middle of, oh, whatever time it was.  The Doctor so rarely abandoned his post.  Not during flight.  Too many knobs to turn, gears to wiggle, gizmos to adjust. Even it was just to show-off.  The Time Lord barely sat still long enough to eat, or, Rory mused, drink the tea he’d obviously put the kettle on for.  While Amy poured out a cup, Rory dragged himself up the stairs, around the upper deck and back again.  He repeated his search below, ducking loops of connective cable, but the ticking could only be heard at the main level.  Thinking it a stroke of genius, he checked the pocket of the green jacket hanging over a jump seat, but it was not the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.  He thought better of reaching in any deeper than that.
   
         Amy shook back her long red hair then stood with hands on her hips, watching the Time Rotor rise and fall.  The rhythmic pulse was almost hypnotic.  The pace had quickened.

   “Rory, a little help here.”

   “With what?”

   “Talk to her.”

   “Talk to who?” he asked, wondering what he had missed while briefly pondering the contents of the Doctor‘s jacket pockets.

   “To the Tardis.”

   “Me?  What makes you think she‘ll talk to me?”

   “She liked you, remember?”

   “Oh.  That,” he said, recalling how the Tardis had once communicated telepathically with him, directing them to a secondary control room during their terrifying flight with the sentient asteroid creature, House.  “All right.  But, what should I say?”

   “How should I know.”

   Not very helpful, that.  But Amy was tired and when Amy was tired, Amy was cross.  And when Amy was cross it was best to simply do what she said.

   “Hello,” Rory said awkwardly, directing his words toward the pulsing lights that twisted around the Time Rotor.  He smiled, then wondered if the Tardis could see him at all.  “It’s me.  The Pretty One.  We’re looking for the Doctor.”

   Amy raised her eyebrows at him.

   “Please,” he added swiftly.

   As if on cue a door behind them slid open.  A door he was quite sure he’d never noticed before.

   “Okay.  That’s new.”

   “Oh, Doctor,” Amy said, hazel eyes flashing.  “Still keeping secrets are we?”



   tick, tick tick

   The sound drew them on until Rory thought they would be forced to abandon the steaming cup of tea they had been passing back and forth between them.  As it was, half of the snacks were now missing.

   They had traversed the butterfly garden, checked the water slide, and passed a rather sizable badger wandering down a hall when, round the next bend, they came up short before a door.  Not an automatic Star Trek kind of proper spaceship door, but a wooden blue door that resembled the outer door of a police box but with an elaborate brass handle and an old fashioned key hole.  That was the Tardis though.  An amalgamation of old and new, of curious lost-in-time artefacts and alien gadgetry, some of which he suspected  even the Doctor was unsure about. Ancient and new and the bluest of blue.  The Tardis.  And the Doctor himself.

   The door stood slightly ajar, the mysterious sound coming from within, ticking away like some great clock keeping track of all of Time and Space.

   Or not.

   The door creaked open at a nudge and Rory saw instantly what was making the noise.  A rickety vintage reel to reel movie projector stood in the middle of a cluttered, darkened room and there, on a makeshift screen fashioned of what was apparently easels and a parachute, wandered Charlie Chaplin’s familiar Tramp.

   Rory placed the biscuits and tea on a bureau beside the door, pushing aside an assortment of film canisters and splicing tape to do so.  As his eyes adjusted to the light from the old black and white film he could see that the room was larger by far than he’d first realized, made smaller by the sheer quantity of stuff that crowded the space like some misfit museum or an antique emporium gone very wrong.  Clocks of every variety kept time.  Or dozens of different times by the look of the ones nearest them.  Antique mantel clocks; a towering grandfather clock; a tail wagging Kit Kat clock, boggling eyes popping back and forth.  Hourglasses poured sand silently. Water dripped from a gravity defying cylinder. A beam of light erupted from the tip of a miniature pyramid.  Gently swinging glowing globes orbited one another in a far corner and every flat surface of furniture displayed things he had imagined could only be coughed up out of Amy’s great grandmother’s attic in Scotland.

   “Whoa…” Amy breathed at last.

   Rory had to agree.  Whoa, indeed.  Or, was that woe?

    Remnants of civilisations he could only guess at mingled with the familiar. A misshapen glass orb that might once have been a delicate carafe.  A pristine American newspaper dated 27 February 1967.  Was that a crude oil lamp affixed to a battered miner’s hat?  And there, in the far corner, was that the panel of a lifeboat emblazoned R.M.S. Titanic?

   Rory ran his fingers lightly over the splintered remains of the lifeboat.  Beyond, just visible through a partially closed second door and the dim light, crouched a set of bunk beds, rough hewed like something he had seen on the telly about American ski  lodges.  The bottom bunk was a tangle of mismatched socks and what appeared to be the parts of a motorbike.  The top bunk appeared empty, an indigo quilt sewn with gold intertwining circular designs trailing off of it.  He averted his eyes from so private a domain, his gaze passing over dozens of interesting--and less intimate--objects.  In the centre of the room, in front of the projector and beside a claw-footed table, crouched a Louis XV chair that looked like it belonged in a BBC historical drama series.  In the chair, long legs stretched out in front of him, sat the Doctor.

   Before Rory could stop her, Amy stepped closer.  The Doctor’s head was bowed, a cascade of unruly brown hair spilling over closed eyes.  Amy‘s fingers flew to her lips and she motioned shhhh.  He was asleep.  In the midst of all the jumble and flickering light, with Charlie Chaplin scampering away from a flaming Zeppelin, the Doctor was asleep.  An open book lay propped on the Time Lord’s left knee, barely held in place by the two fingers resting against the open pages.  As Rory watched, afraid that their mere presence would be enough to wake him, the Doctor’s hand dropped aside and the book slipped free, rustling to the floor.  Rory held his breath.  They were done for.  The Doctor was going to wake up, discover their intrusion, and, and… and he really didn’t know what would happen after that but couldn’t imagine that it would be anything good.  Then again, the Doctor might just thank them for the tea, ask them if they liked their cool, new cloud bed, and then tell them they were going on a perilous journey that involved poisonous frogs and a wombat.  When none of those things happened, Amy bent to retrieve the book.  She handed it to Rory.  H.G. Wells. The Time Machine.  Of course.  The vintage edition was well thumbed and dog eared, as if it had been read a thousand times.  The last dozen or so pages, though, were still crisp.

   While they had stood frozen in silence the reel to reel had run out, the tape end slapping round and round until Rory switched the machine off.  Only the faint glow of the floating orbs in the corner and the blinking red LED lights on a 1970’s era digital clock radio provided any illumination.

   “Amy,” he whispered, “come on.  Leave him be.”

   “But he looks so sweet,” she whispered back, no longer cross and obviously entranced.  “Like my old granddad on a Sunday afternoon back in Scotland.  Look.  Even his little bowtie is undone…”

   “Amy, don’t…”

   But it was too late.  Amy couldn’t help herself and had reached out to touch the Doctor’s shoulder fondly.  At once, the Time Lord was in motion, lunging forward, tripping over his own feet, then reeling backwards, flipping the chair on top of himself.

   “What are you doing here?  You can’t be here!” the Doctor cried, scrambling up and stumbling past them into the brightly lit hallway.

   “Doctor, I‘m sorry!”

   “No, no, no, no, no!”

   “Doctor, I‘m--”

   “Amy, I don‘t think he‘s talking to us.”

   Indeed, the Doctor wasn‘t looking at them at all,  Instead, the poor man was turning in drunken circles, eyes wild, hands pressed to either side of a frantically wagging head.

   “I can‘t!  I can‘t help you.  I‘m sorry, I‘m so sorry… please stop.  Please…”

   For a moment the Doctor seemed to look at them, surprise registering on the long, narrow face.  As quickly it was gone, as was the Time Lord, running down the passageway, Amy and Rory in pursuit.




end chapter one

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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2012, 07:16:18 pm »

Chapter Two


Someone spoke his name.

Help me. Won’t you help me? Don’t you hear me?

He swallowed hard. This was getting entirely too strange. Half of UNIT and much of Torchwood already thought him to be bonkers. Pete Tyler’s pet alien. Just stand back everyone, prepare to be amazed and get ready to run. No one dared try to keep him on leash. Better to exploit his madness. That’s what he’d always done. He worked best under pressure. In fact, the worse things got, the more he liked it. He had always been one to dance in a thunderstorm--or fly a kite. But storms carried an unfathomable energy as of late. He did not understand it, despite the uneasy feeling that he should. That he would, if only he still possessed the heightened sensitivity of a true Time Lord and not this increasingly muddied up part-human cognition. Something was wrong. He could not identify it, but seemed also unable to escape it. Bad dreams. Nightmares bleeding over from a life that had long since flown away in the Tardis. As if he didn’t already struggle to get the sleep his half alien physiology now required.

One heart. It still made him queasy.

He caught sight of his reflection as he dressed. His now familiar aspect appeared the same, but the mirror only told half of the story. If it were true that what mattered was inside a man…he didn’t want to think about it. This body, this vessel into which so many lifetimes had been poured, no longer kept pace with his feverish intentions. A second heart no longer beat to the rhythm of Time itself. Miss more than a few days’ sleep and he was exhausted. More than that and they were secretly delivering his unconscious body to old Doc Sullivan who would, in turn, be ringing up UNIT’s extraterrestrial specialist, Dr. Martha Jones. But sleeping meant dreaming, and dreaming meant remembering, and remembering often meant nightmares. At times his whole existence disgusted him. It just figured that he’d inherited both a whopping load of human self loathing and millennia of Time Lord guilt along with all his favourite recipes for bananas. Thanks a heap for that, mates!

The Tyler household was once again quiet and he slipped from the bedroom, making his way down two flights of stairs to the kitchen. He lifted the biscuit tin down from the only shelf they had found so far that Rusty couldn’t get to. He twisted off the lid and inhaled. The Tyler’s new chef baked the most gorgeous ginger snaps.

Half Three. He wondered what Rose was doing right now. Wondered if she was out on the moors tracking aliens, verifying Rifts, or snuggled warm in bed, missing him as much as he was missing her. Was it still raining there? More importantly, did she feel this new rising storm, as if something were racing toward them on the winds of Time and Space? She had before, a long time ago. She had shared his dreams. Dreams dark enough to wake her from her slumber, reaching for him, beseeching him for answers he could not provide. No matter how terrible her dreams had been, his were worse. All he could do was hold her close, waiting for the foreboding to fade with the dawn. Not that it did.

I’m so sorry.

He shook his head to clear it, exhaling deeply.

Rose had taken it in stride, like so much else, chalking it up to being a parting gift, courtesy of the Time Vortex. One did not look into the Heart of the Tardis and come away unchanged. He had only to look into the mirror to remind himself of that.

What an effort it had been the following night to act like nothing was wrong though. Rose advised him to ignore what remained of his Time Lord senses just this once, embrace his Inner Englishman, and soldier on. So he had donned a dinner jacket for the Tyler’s posh New Year’s Eve gala and had even made a go at styling his hair into a semblance of order. Surely he could feign dignity for a few hours, and if not, was reasonably sure he could concoct a rapid escape with the aid of one small boy, a few bangers, and a West Highland Terrier.

He remembered the night well. How Rose had laughed at his grooming efforts, took away the styling mousse, and ruffled his hair into unruly spikes that she said were cute. Who was he to argue? Then she set about straightening his festive red bowtie, assuring him that their dreams were only that. Dreams. Echoes back through microscopic fissures that the overuse of the temporal cannon and dimension hoppers had caused. She shared his dreams because they shared a bond. How else could she have found him after years of searching across parallel worlds? A satisfying if not entirely plausible explanation. What followed was a litany of “don’ts” to keep in mind once her parents’ boring, pampered guests arrived so they might avoid awkward situations like the brief declarations of war against The Peaceable Kingdom the year before. Torchwood Disney had been shut down for months, right in the middle of their first entanglement with the off-world Transperion menace. He‘d rolled his eyes but promised to behave.  So long as no one did anything stupid. All bets were off after that.

Another ginger snap. Another memory.

Rose always took great pleasure in presenting him as Jon Noble. Doctor Jon Noble. It was all he could do not to burst out laughing each time she said it. Doc-tor Jon Noble. That night had been no different, but after the third over-dressed, over-titled, overbearing Head of State’s Significant Other examined him with a vintage eyepiece (all the rage that season) and made polite but disparaging remakes about his foot attire, he and Rose could no longer contain themselves and skived off like truant school children, bursting through the patio doors, unable to stifle their giggling.

“And what’s wrong with my shoes? Did I spill cranberry sauce on them?”

“I shoulda told her you were Sir Doctor of Tardis,” Rose said, slipping her hand into his. “A knighthood’s a knighthood, after all. They don’t have to know it was Queen Victoria who did it.“

“And then promptly banished me, Dame Rose. Besides, titles have become rather passé here, what with a British President. Britain‘s Golden Age. A bit lacklustre, without the Queen at Buckingham Palace though, isn‘t it? Still,” he sniffed, “could be worse. The country could still belong to Canada, eh?”

“You’ve picked up on the alternate history better than I have.”

“Well, that’s what I do, Rose Tyler. Pick up history. Put it back the way it should be--”

“Interfere when it suits you--”

“You can’t blame any of this on me. This world’s evolved along a unique time line. No doubt Queen Victoria’s not-so-mysterious death in 1879 had something to do with it,” he told her, scratching absently at the back of his neck. “Shame we weren’t here, but we were a little busy that day, you wee timorous beastie.”

Naked timorous beastie,” she reminded him with raised eyebrows.

He wrinkled his nose, feeling a bit of heat on his face. He looked back over his shoulder at the noisy throng of guests, despairing that they would have to go back in.

“We should move to Scotland,” Rose said suddenly. “Buy a house, yeah?”

“In Scotland?” he asked, adopting the accent as he spoke. It always made her smile when he did that. He might just make it permanent. “Where would you--aww, you mean the Torchwood estate? That dreary old place? It’s practically falling in on top of itself and probably still smells like werewolf. But, yeah, why not.” Anything for you, Rose.

As they held hands in the moonlight the clouds rolled in again and it began to rain. Rose pressed closer. He remembered how warm her body felt next to his, how their breath hung in the cold night air. Far off, voices carried on the night wind, a sad song for the darkest time of the year. He would have gone on standing there, listening, if she hadn’t pulled him inside.

He grazed his way through party trays of nibbles as he was all but paraded past every realm of Society, all the while eyeing the tall windows and scanning the rooms full of guests, expecting at any moment for legions of marching Cybermen to crash the party. Or Daleks to levitate up the dumbwaiter. The band played A Long, Long Time Ago, but it was another melody he heard, far and away. Beautiful and sad like Ood Song. Around him glasses clinked and inane voices gabbled on about all manner of pish posh. Gold and diamonds gleamed and sparkled under the grand old house’s chandeliers. The rich were the rich no matter what Universe you were in. Tony, Rose’s young brother, ran through the house, powered by the excitement of the late hour and too many sweets. He always envied the boy that freedom. When he did it people looked at him funny. Rose looped her arm around his to steer him away from the bustling crowd--and the nibbles-- commenting on how well connected her father remained with the current government and UNIT and what that meant to the continued funding for research and development at this world’s version of Torchwood, but his thoughts were elsewhere.

Growing ever more distracted as the night wore on, he eventually left British President Harriet Jones, (then in her second term of office), in mid-sentence, catching Rose‘s eye as he mounted the stairs two at a time. They had yet to even dance a single dance and she looked stunning in her elegant Christian Dior cocktail dress that matched the star sapphire ring on her left hand. The ring he had given her in keeping with one of the many quaint human customs he had observed over the years. Her long blonde hair--oh, it had been ages now since she’d worn it that way--was swept up off her neck, twisted and adorned with the gold clasp he had designed after something he remembered from his home planet, Gallifrey. All for his precious girl. He so loved being with her at Christmastime and felt a pang of regret leaving her standing there, obviously concerned about him but also disappointed. More and more, it seemed, that was what he was doing. Disappointing her. She had made him better before. Why did he still hurt so much? Was that what it meant to be part human?

He wanted to ask her if she could hear what he heard, that far and away hymn that was growing ever closer, riding the Time Winds. But he feared her answer. Why ruin her night entirely, subjecting her to his miserable company? He made his worst mistakes at moments like that. Worse than eating marmalade from a jar with his fingers. He thought he was doing her a favour, but by the expression on Jackie Tyler‘s face as she led her daughter back toward the festivities his gesture was not meeting with appreciation. He might have been a green, odoriferous, googly-eyed Raxacoricofallapatorian for all she looked at him with disdain.

Oh, that night. That terrible, terrible night.

As the clock ticked away the final hours of the year, rain turned to snow, cloaking the English countryside under a chill mantle. The haunting melody played on, a distant, irrefutable death knell. He paced the bedroom, tossing jacket and tie aside, loosening his collar. Listening. Listening. The song grew in intensity until it was all he could hear. Sorrow all he could feel. His already diminished composure shattered and he fled the house to take refuge in the vaulted orangery Pete Tyler had agreed to give him use of to conceal his workshop--and where he had hidden the rapidly growing Tardis. Had it been possible, he would have entered the fledging Time Ship itself that night, but it was too soon. Too soon and too dangerous. Even for a Time Lord.

The terraced flagstones leading up the hillside to the greenhouse might have been a snow-capped mountain for all the effort it took to ascend. Inside at last, he bolted shut the door before falling to his knees amid flowering bougainvillea and fuchsia, head pressed between his hands, waiting for a death that wasn‘t even his own.

As if they didn’t already think he was barmy.

When he failed to answer Rose‘s repeated entreaties, Pete broke the door down with a fire axe, the blow shattering several panels of glass in the ceiling. Cold air rushed in, but not before Jackie Tyler, who breezed in like a tropical storm, fists on her hips, demanding an explanation and calling him a lunatic. And other things. He wouldn’t have argued the point even if he could have.

Even now, years later, he could feel that terrible pain and recall what a struggle it had been just to focus on them. Pete still in his dinner jacket, Jackie and Rose in their designer gowns, and Tony, dressed in his jim-jams at such a late hour, pushing in behind them, his dark eyes shimmering pools. Everyone was talking at once (humans really were a gabby species), but Jackie loudest and fastest of all, like a replay of his torturous last Regeneration a forgotten number of Christmases before when she asked him what he needed in a rapid fire succession of words, never stopping long enough to listen to his answer.

“Oh, not this again,” she said at long last, bending down to look at him more closely. “He hasn‘t changed, has he?”

“What do you mean, Mum? Of course he hasn‘t changed,” Rose told her, rushing to his side. Her fingers felt wonderfully cool on his hot skin. “He can’t Regenerate. Not anymore.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Jackie told her daughter, bending to touch his forehead with a finely manicured hand. “Have a look at him. He’s just the same as before. Burning a fever. And look at his eyes. What do you need this time sweetheart? Wait, don’t tell me. I remember. Tea. Pete, put the kettle on. Tony, get mummy a blanket, there‘s a good boy.”

English mums. Ever so practical in a crises. Even when they were cross.

Rose sat beside him on the floor, wrapping him in Tony’s Secret Squirrel blanket, holding him against her now crumpled gown. For the first time in days he felt like he was reconnecting to reality. At least this reality. By the look on Pete’s face it was clear the man thought more was required but soon enough a hot cuppa was pressed between his fingers and Rose dropped two sugar cubes in. Just the way you like it. He inhaled deeply, unable to focus on anything besides the steam, the warmth, the scent of Rose’s hair, until, quite suddenly, he asked for an apple. Tony was quick to fetch one from the house. For some reason it tasted like rubbish.

“It‘s him, isn‘t it?” Rose asked him softly, searching his eyes for answers he feared he did not have.  “He’s gone, isn‘t he? He’s… changed again?”

“I expect so.”

Not for the first time he had to turn away from the tears coursing down Rose Tyler’s face, resigning himself to the fact that no matter how much she wanted to love him, she would always, always, love the Doctor.

When synapses were again firing he went for one of his now infamous drives where he drove very fast for a very long time. Often until all the petrol was spent. Rose tracked him down not far from Balmoral Castle in Scotland where he had made arrangements to buy the now decrepit Torchwood Estate for her with little more than charm and, he was told, good looks. He told her Merry Christmas! She told him to put on his coat before he caught his death in the cold.

Why was it that even when he did the right thing, it was the wrong thing?

He peered into the empty biscuit tin sadly.

Someone spoke his name.

He wondered if Pete would mind if he borrowed the other Jeep.



***



“Rory, what’s wrong with him? He’s all clammy.”

“He probably has a fever.”

“Yes, but why does he has a fever?” Amy Pond asked, fixing her husband with an exasperated gaze.  “He never gets sick. Is it some sort of Space Flu? Maybe he went back to that awful jungle planet he just had to drag us to to see those sloth bat thingies? I told him not to eat those green bananas.”

Rory looked down to where Amy stood in the space below the Tardis control console. She had changed her clothes, trading bunny slippers and a nightie for jeans and a plaid shirt. Above her, the crystalline Time Rotor continued to rise and fall with graceful precision. Lights on the control panels flickered. Instruments spun and weird, looping Gallifreyan script flickered in waves over the monitors. Music now trickled from unseen speakers in the ceiling. The Proclaimers’ A Long, Long Time Ago. It seemed to be stuck in a loop.

.Show me things I don't want to see
(Wanna see, wanna see, wanne see)
Remind me of who I thought I was gonna be
(Ganna be, gonna be, gonna be)
Take me places I used to go
(Used to go, used to go)
A long long time ago.

The last time they had travelled with the Doctor it had been Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and Wreckless Eric. Tomorrow it would probably be Dirty Blues. As long as it wasn’t more Judoon love ballads. For all intents and purposes all seemed well in the Tardis. Except for the Doctor himself who, Rory had to admit, was anything but well.

That and it seemed to him like they were going faster than normal through the Space Time Vortex.
 
He clattered back down the steps, stethoscope in hand. He debated telling Amy that hiding in the den of looping cables and shimmering wires beneath the main flight deck wasn’t really all that unusual, but the Doctor wasn’t swinging lazily in the repair harness, whispering sweet nothings to the Tardis itself. Herself. To the contrary, he was huddled like a frightened child in a thunderstorm not far from the storage closet under the stairs that they had pulled him out of kicking and screaming earlier. He had been uncharacteristically quiet and still since Amy had slapped him hard across the face in a desperate attempt to snap him out of whatever delirium had wound him into a writhing mass of flailing limbs. Stunned, the Doctor ceased his convulsions, his soulful grey-green eyes wide at the sight of the blood dripping from Rory’s nose and down the front of his plaid shirt. His square jaw worked side to side, the words “I’m sorry” barely whispering from his lips. Then he was as pale as he had been before the tirade, scrambling as far away from his companions as the low edges of the compartment would allow. If Amy hadn’t blocked his escape, he’d have been back down his rabbit hole.

Rory extended the stethoscope toward his wife, but she grabbed his arm instead and pulled him closer.

“You’re the nurse. Do some nursing.”

“Yes, and he’s an Eleven Hundred year old alien with two hearts and I think I may have a deviated septum.” Rory touched his nose carefully. “He’s a lot stronger than he looks.”

Oooh, poor baby,” Amy crooned at him. She kissed his nose as gently as she had kissed his burnt fingers, then bent down near the Doctor. “Doctor it’s me, yeah? So, Rory’s back. Try not to hit him again okay? Be a good Alien and we‘ll get you a whole case of Jammie Dodgers.”

The Doctor made no reply, only pulled further into the shadows. He wouldn’t look at them, but he whispered something. They leaned in close. He whispered again.

“What did he say?” Rory asked. “Did he ask for River?”

“No. I don’t think… no. It was something else. Doctor? Say again. What? I think he’s delirious. Or maybe that‘s Gallifreyan.”

“She’s probably already with him, you know. In another time line. Even if we can contact her, what’s she going to do? Slap him harder than you already did?”

Oy!” Amy snapped at him. “I was improvising. It worked didn’t it?”

“Yes, well if you’d left him alone before maybe he’d still be sleeping.”

“Oh, so it’s my fault?”

“Well… no... yes.. Maybe.” Rory looked back at the Doctor, then at his wife. Such a life they lead. If defied logic.

“We need help,” Amy told him, squeezing his hand. “He needs help. Go on, Pretty. Talk to the Tardis again. I don’t think he came and got us. Not this time. She did. She brought him to us. Remember what he told us? That she said she always took him where he needed to go even if it wasn’t where he wanted to go? Well now‘s the time to find out if that‘s true.”

Rory wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve, wishing once more that they were back home. Travelling with the Doctor rarely ended well. This time hadn’t even started out well.



end chapter two
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« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2012, 04:57:20 am »

Chapter Three



Rain drenched grass soaked the cuffs of his trousers. He was barefoot in the garden, sonic screwdriver in his hand, wondering where that old biddy of a housekeeper had put his shoes. Last time he’d come in muddy and soaked, she’d thrown them out here and turned the garden hose on them. Aha. He picked up a sodden trainer and tipped it over. A cloudy stream trickled between his fingers. He emptied the other one, then set them to dry, wondering when the sun would be coming up.

Behind him, the stately brick manor house loomed silent and large in the fog, the centuries old country estate Pete Tyler had restored in the aftermath of the John Lumic Cybermen affair. He closed the door securely. It wouldn’t do to have wee Rusty Tyler trailing after him in the dark, following him like he was some sort of sonic Pied Piper.

A boom echoed dully, like a far off thunderclap. He whirled, startled by the sound but unsure why. The night sky, dark and clouded, blazed to light for just a moment, shimmering lights crackling in the mist, roiling in an unearthly display of colour above the tree line at the far end the pasture. Almost too late he saw the yawning maw open in the haze and spotted a projectile hurtling toward him. He watched, bewildered, as the object skimmed a line of cedars, tore into the greenhouse on the hill, exiting one side after apparently making contact with the Tardis within. It careened wildly, knocking the roof off the brand new, freshly painted garden shed before coming to rest on the lawn just feet away from him. He blinked.

What?”

A cannon ball. He stepped forward, squinting at the deadly sphere, then back into the sky from which it had come. A rush of adrenaline made him forget, momentarily, why he was even standing in the garden at 4am, barefoot. Aside from deflecting the Yugglorrh Transperion’s latest feeble attack on the planet, this was the most excitement he had had in months and the realization came as something of a depressing shock. Cannonballs hardly compared to Cybermen, Carrionites or even Agatha Christie. Then again, cannonballs hurling out of mysterious lights in the sky were better than nothing and a lot better than disappearing sheep. A proper right mystery this was. Why, maybe even enough for Agatha Christie to have penned a book about it. The Case of the Careening Cannonball.
 
Against the dark ground the compact ball of iron was darker still. And quite harmless now that it was no longer in flight. He picked it up, rolling it over and over in his hands, then held it close to his nose. It smelled of sulphur and burned grease. A well-lubed cannon had launched this little beauty. He touched a forefinger to his tongue then wished he hadn’t. Iron, silicon, and, if he wasn’t mistaken, a dash of Nathaniel Nye’s proprietary gunpowder blend. He rolled the unpleasant flavours around in his mouth before spitting them out. Blasted human physiology again. A curious flavour lingered. Strange. Trace amounts of non terrestrial iron ore. No. It couldn’t be. Zeiton 7? But that was ludicrous. The only Zeiton 7 mines he knew of were on Varos and even when he considered that the planet shared the Mutter Spiral with Earth it was far beyond his reach in the constellation of Cetes. With a fully functioning Tardis he could reach it. Without it, the Tardis might never even achieve proper functionality. His attempts to substitute several rare earth elements for Zeiton 7 had produced mixed results, not to mention noxious fumes. To date only Gadolinium-153 and Dysprosium had proved marginally palatable to the finicky Time Ship.

He trained his sonic screwdriver on the cannon ball to confirm his suspicions, but it provided little information beyond what he already knew before it whistled, sparked, then sputtered out. It hadn’t been resonating frequencies correctly since he dropped it in the peat bog.

Lights flicked on in the house as those within seemed to have realized something was amiss on the lawn. Tony was jumping up and down at his bedroom window, calling for his dad to come quickly. A moment later it was Pete’s voice he heard, “…not the shed again.” As if on cue, the precariously leaning structure disintegrated into a pile of lumber, potting soil, and garden implements. It was probably a good time to make his exit. It was that or try to explain why what appeared to be a 17th Century cannonball was sitting in the Tyler’s award-winning, manicured garden.

Someone spoke his name.

He stood quickly, sweeping the night with his gaze.

You aren’t listening. Why aren’t you listening?

With more questions than answers, and no time to retrieve his soggy trainers before he was discovered at the heart of chaos, he pocketed his malfunctioning screwdriver, fished a torch from the wreckage of the garden shed, and ran.




As he plucked a mud encrusted acorn from between his toes, he had to admit that stopping for his wet shoes might have been worth both the discomfort and the momentary inconvenience of the interrogation that he knew would be waiting for him upon his return. Rose would be laughing at him by now, pelting him with slimy acorns and anything else she could scoop up from the forest floor. He‘d have reciprocated, putting wet leaves down the back of her jumper. Mysterious voices and rain aside, it was entirely too much fun. Lights in the sky, cannonball smashing her father’s new garden shed to smithereens, him mincing along muttering vulgarities he‘d learned while playing truant with the Shobogans in Low Town during his years at the Academy on Gallifrey. Oh, he‘d missed this kind of adventure. Missed being with her, running like mad through the unknown for sheer pleasure rather than out of a sense of duty to whoever paid his expenses. No one to answer to and no paperwork to fill out later. He did so detest paperwork. It was enough to make him forget just how tired he still was. Jackie would have rung up her daughter for a second time tonight, no matter the late hour, beckoning her back if the fate of the planet (or at least Scotland’s sheep) wasn‘t at stake. Which it obviously wasn’t because, well, they’d have told him. And expected him to do something about it.

This time he would have to face her. No more excuses. Much longer and, well, much longer and he might never go back. That was the danger of always running away. The day came when you took one step too far and the way back might be lost forever. He had imposed this little exile on himself. Time. He needed time. And answers to those age old questions about The Meaning of Life. Questions he had long made a profession of ignoring. How he expected to find those answers now while running pell mell all over Britain he wasn’t sure. He hadn’t meant to be gone so long. Hadn’t meant to drop his mobile in a sink hole while triangulating a signal back to an orbiting alien warship and overloading their guidance systems. He needed her more than ever. The reality of that hit him like a blow to the chest. Oh, he needed her. Needed her in the worst way. Needed to know she didn’t blame him for the empty cradle in the nursery. Needed… her. He trusted she knew that, but supposed saying it now and again might help matters.

With any luck she’d have boarded the zeppelin moored at Balmoral and would soon be here, notice he’d left his trainers behind and bring them. With matching socks.
 
He trudged onward. Judging by the trajectory of the cannonball--and the tang of temporal energy in the night air-- he was heading in the right direction. Unless of course it had bounced, though that was some bounce if it had originated in the English Civil War. A real temporal Rift? Right here, under Pete Tyler’s nose. Worse, under his nose. Had he really become so thick? Thick and dull and stupid? And old.

Since any place that he was was considered a high risk zone, the area surrounding the Tyler’s sprawling estate used to be monitored closely for everything from Zygons to space portals. Before the budget cuts multiple teams of temporal engineers had trekked these forests and hills, sweeping acre after acre with the finest equipment available and consistently turned up nothing, nada, zilch, zero, zed. Neither here nor in the city where at one time had existed a Rift between worlds high above Canary Warf. A Rift that allowed a Void Ship entrance to Torchwood Towers. The other Torchwood, he reminded himself. From Rose’s world. The parallel world she and Jackie had come from.

The longer he had lived in this skin, separated from the universe in which he had originated, the less he trusted his biologically-altered Time Lord senses; but his intriguing new human intuition had always told him something was out here. Or would be. Or had been. Funny thing, Time. Perhaps that’s what drew him back. That and the awakening
Tardis. And rightly so.

A dim light shown in the forest on the far side of the motorway. He’d come to the edge of the Tyler’s land. Beyond was protected woodland where, on Other Earth, lay city sprawl. There was little traffic this time of night and he hastened across cold tarmac and down the far embankment, pushing aside branches, sweeping the ground with his torch, all the while stepping gingerly on walnuts and jagged rocks. The air was ripe with temporally-charged particles here and his sonic screwdriver indicated further traces of Zeiton-7. If he could pinpoint the source and secure a pure enough ore sample he would have no trouble aligning the trans-power system in his Tardis. His spine tingled with anticipation. If only he had a pair of handy dandy 3-D glasses he was sure the whole of the woods would be awash with Void Stuff. This was it. The real thing. Finally!

As the last twig snapped beneath his bare feet and the last leaves brushed his arms he stepped into a small clearing and stopped. The torch slipped from his fingers and went out. There in the mist, like the glowing lamp post that marked the north west boundary of Narnia, stood a blue police box.

“You are kidding me,” he breathed softly.

He ran the rest of the way, fingers tracing a smooth line down the wooden door. It was solid and smooth, warm to the touch. Impossible! But he had learned long ago, in another life, to believe in impossible things, and was more than willing to take this leap of faith. Whatever had transpired to bring the Tardis across from one universe to another, it was important.

He pressed his cheek against the door, closing his eyes. Not even the cold rain could spoil this moment.

“Hello, Old Girl.”

He had no key.

He realized quite suddenly that he had no key. Rose did. The key he had entrusted to her on the eve of World War III. It hung amid the stars and moons above the cot he had built, and Rose had stained blue, and together they had placed in a warm, snug little nursery room on the south side of that rambling old house in Scotland.

He shook the memories away, focusing once more on the closed door. A simple knock would have to suffice. Unless… He looked down at his right hand, thumb and middle finger rubbing together. It couldn’t work. Not for him. Not the Halfling. Could it? Determined, he stepped back slightly and raised his hand.

The door opened before he even had time to snap his fingers, golden light spilling out of the gloriously Regenerated interior of the Tardis herself. It was all he could do not to push past the young man standing in the doorway to survey the interior, all copper and brass and gleaming with beauty that was breathtaking, even for him.

“Aw, this is brilliant!” he cried, craning his neck to see the vaulted ceiling and the towering chamber that held the delicate Time Rotor. “Very, well, Maritime. Quite the Edwardian nautical theme you have going on here. Love the malachite finish. Mind you, I liked the coral, too. Had that warm home grown organic feel that… oh. Sorry. Getting ahead of myself aren‘t I? Happens. But, blimey! This is brilliant!”

“Uhm. Thank you?” the brown-haired stranger said awkwardly, green eyes wide with surprise.

A familiar stethoscope hung around the man’s neck, partly obscuring a blood-splattered plaid shirt. One look at the poor fellow’s nose explained the blood. Hefollowed the man’s glance left, then right (expecting someone else?) then met the questioning gaze once again.

“I’m sorry. Do I know you?”

That was his cue and he beamed his cheeriest smile.

“Hello! I’m the…”

Doc-tor!” a woman’s voice bellowed from inside the Tardis, the name followed quickly by: “Rory! Is that River? Rory, get back down here! Ror-y!”

“Sorry, I have to--”

“I should say so if the misses is using that tone with you, mate. Rory, is it?”

He breezed in, making straight for the flight controls. His hands passed lovingly over the vintage sextant and compass before he gazed up at the central column once more.

“Blimey,” he said again. “She really outdid herself this time…”

His words of admiration were cut short when the woman’s voice called out again, more urgently. He looked side to side then down at the shadowy figure below him. The grated floor panels he remembered had been replaced with a transparent deck through which he could glimpse the intricate undercarriage.

“This way,” Rory told him, motioning for him to follow, but he was already two steps ahead, clattering down the steps to the lower deck, Rory trailing behind him, asking him who he was exactly.

“That’s always the question,” he said, turning in circles, taking in the wonders of the cave like space below the flight deck. “Oh, this is great. Really, really great. Really, really, really great. I haven’t seen it like this in years!”

He absently connected loose electrical couplings, igniting a shower of sparks.

“It always does that,” Rory offered.

“Oh, I know.”

“You know? How can you know? Who are you? And where are your shoes?”

A tall, young woman in skin-tight jeans and a red plaid shirt emerged from the shadows under the steps. Ginger hair spilled all about her pretty face. Her accent was Scottish and she looked cross. She was glaring at Rory.

“I thought the Tardis was taking us to River.”

“River?” he asked, surprised. “Professor River Song?”

Rory and the young woman exchanged a glance.

“You know about Tardises and you know about River?”

“I know a lot more about Tardises than I know about River. At least this one. I know all about her, don‘t I Old Girl? We go back a long way. The Tardis I mean. Not… River, uhm…”

She was looking down at his bare feet. He wiggled his muddy toes and rocked back and forth. “I was in a hurry. And they were wet...”

“Right,” she said crisply.

“Amy,” Rory said suddenly, ending the awkward pause that had fallen between them. “Where’s the Doctor?”

Now he really grinned, but she’d already turned away, pointing under the stairs.

“That’s why I was yelling, Stupid Face. He’s gone and locked himself in the cupboard again.”




No amount of physical force made any difference. The door had been locked from within. And probably soniced. At least that’s what he would have done, if he didn’t want anyone else to get in. Or didn’t want something to get out.

“Let me have a go,” he told them, hunkering down by the door. He drew his screwdriver from his back pocket and fiddled with the switch. It hummed to life then sputtered. He whacked it against his palm. Twice. When that didn’t work he flipped it end for end and began to back the screws out of the door hinges manually. Less elegant, but still effective under the circumstances.

“Is that sonic?” Rory asked, exchanging glances with Amy. They’d been doing that for several minutes. He supposed explanations were in order, but not until they’d gotten this door opened. He couldn’t wait to see his face when he saw himself.

“Yup,” he answered the question, leaning hard against the tight screws, passing each in turn to Rory.

“It’s totally rubbish!” Amy accused. “You have a rubbish sonic. Who are you?”

The last of the over-sized screws twisted out, saving him from the immediate question. With a grunt, he moved the heavy door aside and peered in. Amy was on her hands and knees beside him, shining a torch into the cramped storeroom. They crawled past 900 years of souvenirs crammed into beat up trunks, odds and ends spilling out like vintage movie props in a forgotten back lot. It looked worse than a teenager’s bedroom. The Doctor had wedged into an impossibly small space between an open suitcase full of shoes and a biplane propeller, knees drawn up, face buried in hands like one of the Weeping Angels of old. The Time Lord’s shirtsleeves were rolled to the elbow and one of the buckles on a pair of black braces had come unclasped. A red bowtie had slipped its central knot, and hung unevenly against the collar of a handsome hounds tooth patterned shirt. An unruly mop of brown hair spilled over long fingers.

“Oh now, what‘s happened to you?” he said, surprised by the sight in spite of himself and keenly sensing the other man’s pain. This was a well read page out of his own life. “How long has he been like this?”

“A day. Maybe longer. He’s been strange since he picked us up this time,” Amy told him.

“Stranger than normal,” Rory corrected.

“May I?” He gestured at the stethoscope still hanging around Rory‘s neck.

“Yeah, sure. But…“

He held one finger to his lips to silence them, moving the stethoscope around on the Doctor’s chest with some difficulty given their cramped quarters.

“Hearts sound fine. Pulse a little rapid. Let’s get him out of here, shall we?” he glanced around and sniffed. “Reminds me of being in a ventilation shaft. In a shoe factory.”

A pair of black and white Converse trainers in the open suitcase caught his eye. He fished them out, looked them over, took a cursory whiff, then tied the laces together and slung them around his neck. He preferred the red, but any port in a storm. Besides, his feet were getting cold.

“Wait,” Amy said suddenly, laying a hand on his arm and meeting his gaze. This close to her he could see her freckles in the wavering torch light. And, he supposed, she could see his. “You knew the Doctor had two hearts. Are you some sort of alien doctor or something?”

“I… have been,” he told her, giving her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “Lucky for you I still make house calls.”




Slowly, but firmly, they half dragged the Doctor from the darkness of the storage locker into the softly lit compartment below the main deck. Once there, they wrapped a blanket around the Time Lord’s narrow shoulders. He doubted it was necessary, but the gesture seemed to make Amy feel better. A good thing seeing as what was next to come probably wasn’t going to reassure her at all.
 
“Right then,” he said, taking a deep breath as he drew the Doctor’s hands away from such unfamiliar features. He brushed back a shock of hair to examine deeply set green eyes. The Doctor looked at him, recognition slowly registering on the Time Lord’s narrow, young face.

 “Hello, look at you. And River thought I was pretty. Still not ginger, are we?” he gave a sidelong glance at Amy. “I don’t know that even the Tardis would be big enough for more than one.”

A twitch of the Doctor’s upper lip might have betrayed a smile.

“Oh, you are in there, aren’t you? Good. Locked yourself in a cupboard? Haven’t done that in--ooh--long time. At least not on purpose. So what were you hiding from? And,” he said thoughtfully, “what could possibly be strong enough to have taken your measure?”

The Doctor swallowed deeply. They both knew what was coming.

“If you can‘t trust yourself,” he said simply as he placed his fingertips gently on both sides of the youthful-looking face. He closed his eyes, concentrating, hoping he still had the capacity to do what needed to be done. He never knew where being human ended  and being a Time Lord began.

“Wait… Rory, what’s he doing--?”

He whistled softly. “Oh, there are Cowboys in here, aren’t there? Shh-shh-shhh… don’t pull away. You came a long way for help. Let me help you if I can.”

Well, he reasoned later. He had asked for it. Wave after shattering wave of emotion crashed over him, showering him in memories. The Winds of Time rushed past, filling him with the thrill of adventure. He danced among the stars, witnessing the birth and the death of entire galaxies. Then fear, panic as he was ensnared in a Dalek time corridor that threatened to empty out into The Nothing. Fleets of Time Ships amassed across the horizon of space, obliterated in an instant by eye searing bolts of energy. Regret. So much regret. Space and Time collided, exploded, cracks rippling back through the Time Vortex, erupting into too many realities to count. Time lines that once presented themselves as fixed points splintered, shock waves branching in every direction. The known universe collapsed, taking everything and everyone with it. Loneliness replaced it. Loneliness like he had felt first in his dreams, then as he lay awake, unable to reconcile dream to reality. Which reality? His? Or his?

A rush of sorrow assailed him then, an intense longing, searching for recognition. Blue-white light ebbed toward him, over him, tumbling him into darkness, sweeping him back, back, back, until he could scarcely breath. Like waves upon the shores of time he felt himself grow stretched and thin until the inevitable pull of the sea swallowed him back then swept him forward on a crimson tide of blazing energy. He swam for his life, surrounded by feelings of such insatiable hunger he could barely fathom it all. So very hungry for life, for freedom. A voice called his name. Cried his name back and forth  across all of Space and Time. I hear you. I hear you. We hear you. His voice united with the voice already giving answer. He wondered how far back in time a plea that powerful might ricochet. What could possibly call that loudly? Who could possibly need him that much? He squeezed his eyes closed, fighting the nausea, struggling to maintain contact until at last the gnawing hunger released them both and the Doctor collapsed against him with an anguished gasp, dark head resting in the crook of his arm. One eye, one bloodshot green eye snapped open.

You,” came the barely audible whisper.

Oh yes,” he replied, grinning down at the Time Lord.

“You have… a beard.”

Oh, yes.” he replied again, running his free hand over his whiskers.

“It’s totally rubbish…”

“Says the man with the fringe!”

“.. and you cannot… cannot… be here,” the Doctor’s words slipped away even as the green eyes, heavy with sleep, began to close. “It‘s imposs--imposs…”

“Impossible? Now that‘s where you‘re wrong, Time Boy. It’s you that can’t be here. But we’ll get to that later. Right now you need to rest. Trust me,” he grinned. “I’m the Doctor.”
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thebunnyinthetardis
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« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2012, 08:55:31 pm »

Chapter Four


“What did you mean?” Amy asked after they’d lugged the now unconscious Doctor up the stairs to deposit rather unceremoniously across the jump seats. “What did you mean, you’re the Doctor?”

“I am the Doctor,” he said simply.

“You’re the Doctor?”

“That’s me. Hello!”

“But you can’t be,” she said, tucking the blue blanket around their softly snoring patient. “I mean there can’t be two of you. Can there? That would mean he’s crossing his own time line again, yeah?”

“Again?” That was worrisome to say the least.

“It’s becoming something of an addiction.” Rory told him, examining both a blackened eye and a swollen nose in a mirror on the main console. “He promised he was going to give it up after the trouble it got the universe into last time.”

“Oh, I’m reckless and I have a bad haircut? Another. Bad. Haircut. Uhm. But in this case no. He isn’t interacting with his own past because I’m not his past. Well, not exactly. Well, not anymore. Come to think of it, never. Long story. Had to have been there,” he said, gravitating back toward the navigational displays to examine the new controls more closely. The Tardis had never looked so magnificent. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on her. She was positively sexy.

Amy stepped in front of him, her arms crossed over her chest. He blinked. Spirited, this one. And not the least bit afraid of him. At least not yet. He liked that.

“Explain.”

“Let him explain.” He jerked a thumb toward the Time Lord draped across the battered seats.

“I mean, when he wakes up. Later. Let him explain later.”

Amy and Rory both laughed at his words and he looked back and forth between them.

“Oh? Oh. No, I suppose he won’t, well he? I wouldn’t if I were him. Well, what then? You expect me to explain?”

“You seem to be the man with all the answers, Doctor,” Amy replied, leaning just a bit too close to be polite.

“All right then,” he told her, leaning back against the console, “but you might want to call for a pizza because I may be awhile. And I’m starved. Anyone else fancy a deep dish coriander chilli chicken? No? Could I at least have a cuppa? Whatever that is on the hob, it smells gorgeous.”

Doctor,” Amy prompted.

“Right. Sorry. Where to start? With the Daleks shooting me--him--during their invasion I suppose.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “Again with the Daleks.”

“What? They’re right nasty little blighters. You’d think Earth was a prime bit of intergalactic real estate the number of times they’ve been there. Or will be there. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice them. Crafty little pepper pots. No? Not ringing any bells? No? Medusa Cascade? Earth whizzing through space? Planets in the sky? What part of the twentieth century are you from? Are you from the twentieth century? Twenty first? Twenty…”

Amy cleared her throat noisily.

“Ehm. Right. Sure. My --his-- residual regenerative energy had been diverted into this,” he wiggled the fingers of his right hand, “ever-so-handy biological receptacle. Captain Jack’s Doctor Detector. Grisly, huh? But, it’s a good thing he found it, eh? Even with that slight weakness in the dorsal tubercle which, I suppose, I ought to be grateful for because if it hadn’t been weak it might never have been cut off and in that case I wouldn’t be standing here telling you my tale, now would I? Mind you, I also wouldn’t have a year of my life that was erased from the time line but I still remember. Do you have any idea what it’s like to wake up to dog kibble every morning? Oh, and Rory? Ice,” he said, tapping his own nose in demonstration. “I’d hurry if I were you.

“Aaaaanyway, stop me if you’ve already heard this part won’t you? Donna--good ole Donna Noble!--He‘s told you about Donna, right? No? No. You are kidding me. He hasn’t told you about Donna? Swell guy. What? She was brilliant! She touched the case my severed hand was in and wham!”

Amy and Rory both jumped back as he punctuated the word with a high hick to right field.

“Instantaneous biological meta crisis! There I was, and here I am. Born in battle, full of blood, anger and revenge. But I got better. Mostly. All right, jury’s still out. Time Lord with one heart, one life, but every bit him up until the point I because, well, me.”

Now they were staring at him. He wondered if he’d forgotten something and began silently ticking points off on his fingers. Nope. That was everything.

“Can I have that cuppa now?” he asked meekly, turning to see if the tea was still hot.

Your severed hand?” Rory looked incredulous. Apparently the need for ice had been forgotten.

“Yep. It grew back,” he told them as he lifted the teapot lid and inhaled the rich aroma, disappointed that there was no cup available. “Gotta love that Regeneration energy. Well, strictly speaking his hand was severed and grew back. Battling the Sycorax Christmas morning… spaceship over London? A third of the people on the planet under blood control?” He waited for any kind of acknowledgement that they knew what he was talking about. He scratched his check. “Dear me. Tough crowd.”

“You’re right. We should have waited for the Doctor to explain,” Rory said at last. “No. Never mind. It still wouldn’t have made any sense.”

“Wait. So you have one heart?” Amy reached tentatively toward him and placed her hand on his chest. He could feel his heart beating steadily beneath her fingers. Her eyes grew wide. They were very pretty eyes, he thought.

“You’re partly human,” she observed.

“Disgusting, isn‘t it?” The truth of the matter still made him shudder.

Oy!” Amy snapped at him.

Oy!” he snapped back, then grinned. Fantastic! No wonder the Doctor had scooped up this one. He’d have done the same in a heartbeat. Two hearts beat. Rory didn‘t seem too bad either. Two for one and attached to each other. That simplified things.

“All right,” Amy said slowly, following him around the console as he checked the nooks and crannies beneath for a tea cup. “Say I‘m following you so far. Following what you‘re saying, I mean, not following you. “

“You are following me.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Do I?”

She pursed her lips at him. He grinned and went back to searching.

“No, but it sounds enough like him to believe it even if I don’t completely understand it. But how did you get here? And why has he never told us about you? I mean, you‘re like clone-brothers or something. He always says he‘s alone. The Last of the Time Lords.”

“Oh, I don‘t think he expected to ever see me again.” He had almost said us. Rose and me. That explanation he really did intend to leave to the Doctor. Come to think of it, he was owed that much himself.

“Why,” Rory asked slowly, trailing after them. “Where are we?”

“Earth,” he said, sadly coming to the conclusion that there were no tea cups on hand. Why brew a pot of tea and not have tea cups?

“Earth is good,” Rory began.

“Serves the local population well enough, I suppose. But it’s not the one you left. At least I expect not. Mind you, if you don‘t remember anything about the Daleks or the Sycorax maybe he picked you up someplace I don‘t know about. Seems like he’d have noticed if he’d slid sideways through a crack in Time and Space, but fish fingers and custard can do that to a bloke,” he said, bringing himself up short. Fish fingers and… what?

“Wait, how do you know that?” Amy asked him.

He shrugged. “He was thinking about fish fingers and custard, now I’m thinking about fish fingers and cu-- seriously? At the same time? Tell me he doesn’t... Uhm. Where was I? Oh yes. I... stayed behind, in this parallel world. Retro-closure of the Rift at Darlig Ulv Stranden in Norway meant no one in and no one out, and trust me, we checked. Torchwood and UNIT both monitor all the hotspots. Well, they used to. Budget cuts and all that. Frankly, he was right. Your being here is impossible.”

“Take it up with the Tardis,” Amy told him.

“The Tardis?” But he was not nearly surprised. He had long known that the ship had a mind of her own. He looked up into the glimmering assembly of globes that made up the Time Rotor, sensing again what he‘d sensed inside the Doctor‘s troubled mind. Searching. Longing. Hunger. He was missing something. Something right in front of him.

He looked down at the face he would never see in the mirror. Such a young face for an old man. And this one ever so much older than he was. Amy moved closer as if, just then, she wasn‘t entirely sure she trusted this stranger in their midst. In their Tardis. Quite right, too. It was powerfully clear she did not like seeing the Doctor this way and from their brief contact he knew it had happened more than once. It seemed fate continued to place him in pivotal moments in Time. Amy’s reaction was more basic than that, though. She simply didn’t want to see her friend hurt. Her friend. Her best friend. He touched her arm gently and looked deeply into her brown eyes. He knew what it was like, to have a friend like that.

“He’ll be fine. Really. Five minutes and a cuppa and he’ll be right as rain. Well,” he drawled, seeing that she was not about to take him at his word, “maybe ten minutes and a banana. Even so, something messed with the neuro-pathways. Some sophisticated, telepathic, neuro-disrupting, trans-dimensional, timey-wimey stuff.”

He swung the Doctor’s handsome moleskin jacket off the back of one of the jump seats, rifling the pockets for clues. Lint, more lint, crumbs, something sticky that smelled like jam. And a wrinkled orange. He tossed it up then snatched it out of the air.

“Where have you been?”

“We were at home,” Rory told him.

Amy concurred. “We haven’t seen him in awhile. A long while, really.”

“--right.” He sniffed loudly. “Psychic pollen doesn‘t work that way. You’d all be having hallucinations and, I can assure you, I’m not an hallucination. No evidence that the Trickster‘s been at work. Encounter any brain devouring parasites in your travels? No? They can hibernate for years, then they get restless and bored and start poking around. Get right into your ears while you‘re sleeping, cosy up in there where it‘s warm and dark, disrupt auditory processing before attaching to your--. Oh. Sorry. Too much information?”
 
Both Amy and Rory looked more than a little alarmed, hands straying involuntarily to their ears. They made the cutest bookends, he thought, clad in jeans and red plaid shirts. And cowboy boots. Proper, American cowboy boots, no doubt from a proper America. Not like this world, where the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave was sandwiched between the United States of Mexico and Imperial Canada.

“Wait a minute,” Rory said, “we haven’t been in the Tardis in ages, but wouldn’t any brain devouring parasites that were roaming around in here have infected us too?”

“Depends,” he replied, deftly peeling the orange and handing the rind to Rory. He balanced it on the hand rail when he was finished, then went back to searching pockets.

A chess piece, bus tokens, a dry cleaning claim ticket from 1952, a wooden yo-yo, a Rubix Cube with only the blue face done, a hefty metre-long torch, a stick of chalk, a recipe for curried fish heads, a rubber ball, and a half eaten package of Coco Dodgers which he helped himself to seeing as he was still feeling rather famished. In an inner pocket he found a familiar leather wallet and flipped it open as he munched, wondering if there were more biscuits to be found. The psychic paper was covered in gibberish. Gallifreyan gibberish involving complex mathematical calculations that defied even his logic. The symbols changed as he watched, as if the equation was still in the process of being worked out. He set it aside to study the curious, new sonic screwdriver, wondering if it had a red setting. Or dampers.

“On what”

“Psychic interface? Oh! Get out of here! No way!” He tested applications on the device with great pleasure. An automatic garage door opener. “Oh, that’s dead clever, that is. Never know when you’ll need to--Oh. What? Did I miss the question?”

“Depends on what?” Rory prompted, hands waving, orange peel dropping around them. “Infected brains? Parasites?”

“Oh. Right. Sorry.” Amy, in particular, seemed to be amused by him and was no longer hovering over her Doctor like a mother hen. He smiled at her, enjoying the slow smile that edged over her lips and wrinkled her nose. “Depends on what it was hungry for.”

“Are you saying we aren’t complicated or, I don’t know, tasty enough?”

“Not at all. You lot can be plenty complicated. No opinion on tasty, mind you.” He flipped the screwdriver end for end, aimed it, snapped it open. Closed it. Seeing that they were watching his every move he slid it and the psychic paper into an inside pocket, patted it gently, and placed the green jacket back where he’d found it. The other pockets would have to wait.

“Oh, you are so the Doctor,” Amy mused.

“Yes, I am,” he said with a little toss of his head. How fabulous not to have to explain himself. Or wear a badge.

“Wait. What are we supposed to call you? We can’t call you both Doctor. That was way too confusing the last time. What is it with you and no proper name?”

He blinked. “Wait. What? Last time--what--?”

“I mean, is it all like, I don’t know, titles? The Doc-tor,” she pronounced each syllable with a sassy little tilt of her head. “The Cor-sair--”

“Oh, he was a great bloke, uhm, usually. A bloke, I mean.”

. “--the Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker?”

“Him not so much…”

But Amy had moved on as quickly as he often did and was ignoring his interjections. Which, he mused, was just as well because he didn‘t really want to explain why the Candlestick Maker called himself that. She looked grave.

“You’re sure he’ll be all right? I mean, did it--whatever it was--, I don’t know, suck out anything important. Okay, so that didn’t come out right at all.”

“His memories are all there, if that‘s what you mean. Unfortunately. Could do with forgetting some of that,” he sighed. “No, it’s all in there. No doubt with a little bit of my special blend of neurosis as well. It was like…like an overloaded circuit that he cut off to avoid lethal feedback, but it was on a continuous loop giving him quite a headache, which I now appear to have as well. Closed the gateway but couldn‘t escape the loop. Too much in a hurry I suppose.”

“Sort of like you and your shoes?”

He’d completely forgotten. He untied the laces, balancing on one foot at a time to tug the trainers on. A moment later he yanked the left one off and turned it over. An enamel cat pin dropped into his hand and he blinked in surprise, rubbing the ginger tabby’s face with his thumb. Curious. He thought he had put all of those safely away long ago. Well, he mused, casting a glance toward the Doctor, maybe he had. He affixed the brooch to Amy’s collar, tugged on his other shoe, then jogged up the nearest steps to the upper deck to test the fit. From that vantage point he could take in the whole of the primary control room. Molto Bene!

Oy, Running Bear,” Amy addressed him on his third investigative lap and just before he had finally given into the temptation to wander down one of the corridors. “Sleeping Beauty is waking up.”

He checked his watch. Tapped it to make sure it was still running. “Right on time.”

Sure enough, the Doctor was stirring. The Time Lord rolled up into a sitting position with a groan, hands fluttering at the hovering crowd.

“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m just going to need something for a headache. Two headaches.”

“You aren’t fine. But you will be. Eat.” He put chunks of the rather desiccated orange into the Time Lord’s hands. “More. Come on. Vitamin C, powerful antioxidant. Good for the hearts.”

The Doctor’s face twisted with evident disgust. “I’d rather have a banana--”

“--yes, we have no bananas and I‘m fresh out of celery. Eat the orange and be thankful it isn‘t a pear.”

After a moment of thoughtful chewing the Doctor looked at Rory: “There’s something splattered on your shirt. You really ought to speak to your laundress.”

“Yeah, thanks for that. Next time you‘re having convulsions I‘ll pretend I‘m not a nurse.”

“Doctor?”

“Yes, Amelia?”

“If you haven’t noticed we have a visitor.”

“Yes, Amelia. I know. I‘m just being rude.”

The Doctor swallowed the last bit of orange, before attempting to stand. Rory stabilised from one direction, Amy from the other, until the Time Lord was done rocking side to side and back again. What followed was a methodical neatening of hopelessly dishevelled attire, starting with the rolling down and buttoning of sleeves, the adjustment of braces, the retying of a red bowtie with quite a flourish, and lastly, the donning of the green moleskin jacket.
It never got any easier, meeting himself.

“Hello,” the Doctor said at last, squirming slightly, fidgeting with the new sonic screwdriver 

“Hello.”

“How have you been?”

“Oh, you know. Drink a pint. Watch the telly. Crash a zeppelin and come home for afternoon tea. Sun rises, sets. Time passes. In order.”

Riiight. Sounds terrible--terribly exciting.”

“What did you expect would happen?” Not that he really wanted to know the answer.

“That you’d live happily ever after?” the Doctor replied weakly with a shrug before poking Amy playfully in the arm. “That’s one of my favourite lines, you know. ‘And they lived happily ever after to the end of their days.’ Which is really rather depressing if you think about it, isn’t it? Oh, never mind that. I didn’t really expect anything. I just thought--”


“You thought?” he snapped back, with a short, mirthless laugh. “You thought? You didn’t think at all. You just did what you always do. What I always do. You moved on. My legacy to myself. Move on. Don‘t look back. Never look back! Did it ever occur to you that you had no right to leave me here?”

The Doctor looked him square in the eye. “Not for a moment.”

“Oh, that’s just wizard!” he hissed.

He hadn’t intended to have this conversation in public, let alone in front of virtual strangers. Hadn’t thought he’d ever actually say the words he had rehearsed silently so many times over the years. But it was too late. Somehow he always seemed to bring out the worst in himself.

“Did you really think that with over 900 years of memories in my head I’d just settle down and live a single lifetime in this--this--gingerbread house? With Torchwood picking my brain, and UNIT saluting me, and everyone expecting I could defend the Earth from ancient vampiric evil and grumpy Yeti with black market space junk I find on EBay, an augmented iPad XTP and a sonic screwdriver I cobbled together from more space junk and have to keep hidden in my sock drawer so Tony Tyler doesn‘t short out the electrical grid and shut down the whole south of England again?!”

“You had Yeti?” the Doctor asked, eyes wide.

“I--what?” he asked, surprised at the response.

“Yeti? Really? I haven‘t seen Yeti in years! Amy! Rory! Yeti!”

Oy! Distracted much Time Boy?”

“Oh dear. You’re still angry.”

“No I’m not! Well, maybe. Well… sometimes,” he admitted weakly.

He drew a long, calming breath, considering the merit of a hasty exodus before he said anything else stupid. Forget international incidents. Arguing with the Doctor--with himself-- was an incident of intergalactic magnitude. And when they were finished yelling at one another he would not be the one flying away. Again.

Amy and Rory stared at both of them. Amy with her long, lovely fingers pressed to her lips, as if she was holding back her words and Rory with his mouth slightly open as if he, too, wanted to say something but didn’t dare. The Doctor was studying the bits of orange peel strewn across the floor now, that outrageous mop of brown hair flung forward over half-lidded eyes.

“Thanks for pulling me out of the cupboard and… the rest,” the Time Lord said in soft, measured tones. “I see you found your shoes.”

“Yep.”

“And pinned the cat on Amy.”

“Yep.”

Silence.

“You,” the Doctor waggled a finger at him and took a step closer, bobbing up and down, back and forth, examining him, “look different. Hair. Beard. Greyer. Wrinkles/? Are those wrinkles around your eyes? Look at that. I have wrinkles!”

“No, you daft plum. I have wrinkles. You regenerated.”

The Doctor straightened a crumpled bow tie.

“Yes I did. But you already knew that. I could tell when we were in the cupboard with half our lives scattered around us and our minds doing the Vortex Limbo. You weren’t at all surprised to see I had changed. How exactly is that possible?”

He shrugged. It wasn’t something he could explain. Not entirely. Not with words. “You tell me. Bad dreams. It must have been difficult.”

“It’s always difficult. But we live.”

Amy snorted. Rory whistled.

“That’ll do, Ponds.”

“We both knew.” Rose and I. There, he’d said it. Or, thought it, and was sure the message had been received. But the Doctor was playing mental hopscotch.

“Wait. Bad dreams. You had bad dreams about me? No, don’t answer that. Wait. No. Interesting,” the Time Lord said, scratching a cheek. “Very interesting. Sorry about the suit, by the way.”

Awww, not the blue one…”

“No, the brown one. I kept the tie. It’s around here somewhere holding open a door I think. A little singed mind you. The Tardis was exploding, after all. And crashing. Did I mention you left me crashing?”

“I didn‘t leave you anywhere. You left me, remember?”

Amy cleared her throat loudly.

“Boys! Play nice. Listen to the two of you! Like yelling at your reflection in a fun house mirror. Boys, boys, boys. Got myself three now. One more and we can go on the road with a Beatles tribute band.”

“I’m playing drums,” all three men chimed in, and might have argued the point had Amy not interrupted.

“What I want to know, is why you changed your face. Didn’t you like the last one well enough? Because, I’m telling you, Doctor, that is not half bad right there.”

He felt himself blush as she raked him up and down with her gaze. He looked apologetically at Rory.

The Doctor sniffed. “It isn’t like I have time to look through a catalogue. I’m usually dying at the moment.”

“Usually?” Rory asked, clearly confused.

The sound of the proverbial pin dropping filled the silence. He and the Doctor looked at each other, sharing that unforgettable moment on Gallifrey when the Time Lords, in all their smug arrogance, had done their worst, leaving him bereft of his beloved young Companions, exiling him and forcing a Regeneration on him all at the same time.

“It’s complicated,” they said in unison.

He had parted company with many a travelling companion in his long years.  Watched them walk away. Watched them die But the cruelty of that moment, when the Time Lords had, in their haughty wisdom, returned sweet Zoe and braveheart Jamie to their respective timelines, still haunted him when he allowed the memories entrance. It used to be easier, he mused. Easier to let those memories sleep. But the Time Lords had not wanted him to forget. Why else exact such a sentence for what they deemed meddling? He would remember every moment, every tale told, every note played. They would remember nothing. In his dreams they would run. Together. In their dreams? Who could tell.

He blinked when the Doctor snapped fingers not two inches from his face.

“Hello again.”

He cleared his throat, embarrassed at having been caught out thus, lost in memories he should have come to peace with hundreds of years ago. Damn human frailties reinterpreting his emotions at every turn.

“So, why are we here?” the Doctor asked slowly, eyeing him closely, as if the answer were written on his face. “Not just because I was having a neural implosion. Though I suppose that‘s reason enough and perhaps I should be thankful you did show up or else I‘d still be locked in a dark cupboard with cases of things and other things, and all those shoes…”

“Don’t ask me.” He tapped the phone. “It isn’t like I rang you up. According to Amy the Tardis brought you.”

“Did she? Did she really? Thanks Dear,” the Doctor told the ship with great “affection, then spun around to Amy and Rory. “Wait. When did you two come on board? I was in the year 8792 having victory tea with Big Al and Brother Nic after the defeat of the Big White Wahooey and his Jack Boot Marching Band. Well, I say tea, but it was more like an herbal slurry with leaves in it and it made me rather sleepy and have cravings for rare Charlie Chaplin films. You weren’t there. I’d have noticed. Why are you here? And why are we here and…”

That obvious thing. That thing staring him right in the face suddenly became crystal clear. To both of them. There he went again with a head so full of stuff he couldn’t see the obvious. He smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand just as the Doctor leapt to the console.

“Where is she getting her power?” they both said, hands spinning dials, nearly bowling one another over to assess the power readings. “That’s impossible!”

Oy. Are you two going to be doing that all day?”

“Doing what?” they asked Amy, then looked at each other.

“But it’s a fair question—“ the Doctor began.

“--as is where is the Tardis--“ he added.

“--getting her power. I know, I know. But look at her. She’s running at full capacity which means--“

“--she’s drawn power from somewhere nearby,” he finished.

“Or somewhen. Which could be very not good at all.”

“But,” he said slowly, the other thing suddenly dawning on him, “might explain the cannonball.”

The Doctor’s head poked around the Time Rotor column in interest. “The what? A cannonball? What sort of cannonball?”

“Frankly,“ Rory’s words were directed at Amy, but were loud enough for all of  them to hear, “them finishing each other’s sentences is going to be far more annoying than them talking at the same time don’t you think?“

“Rory. Do stop interrupting our guest,” the Doctor said. “It‘s terribly rude.”

“Just before you got here--well, just before I found that you were here--how long have you been here anyway?--what appeared to be a Civil War cannonball containing traces of Zeiton 7 landed in Pete Tyler’s garden.”

Ooooh!” The Doctor said, hands rubbing together with evident anticipation. “That‘s a neat trick, assuming it was fired in the 17th Century. Well, let‘s have it.”

He turned out his empty pockets.

“Sorry. Wrong kind of pockets.”



end chapter 4
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2012, 06:36:24 am »

Chapter Five
(part one--because it is quite long)



Light rimmed the eastern horizon by the time they left the Tardis. Dawn. Blue-black storm clouds hung low above the mist, the November air cool and crisp, the earth beneath their feet slick from the rain. He led them back through the forest and across the motorway, thankful for the early hour. Three blokes and a tall, gorgeous, red haired woman trudging out the wood at daybreak? It wouldn’t do to arouse that kind of suspicion. Not that the local authorities didn’t already expect the unexpected where he was concerned. Just not that sort.

The Doctor placed the Tardis just a moment out of sync, hiding her in the unlikely event that someone were to wander past in their absence. She had landed there for a reason, even if they were not yet privy to it. Relocating, even the relatively short distance to the Tyler home, might jeopardize a return to their universe if she relied on a power source they were as yet unable to detect more than residual traces of. If a return was even possible. He had held his tongue in that regard, allowing the Doctor to placate worried companions with techno-babble laced assurances. He’d have done no less. They would address the prospect of a homecoming later. .For the moment the ship would remain hidden. And rightly so. Pete and Jackie Tyler both knew the sound of those engines, and the sight of that big blue box. They would not, however, recognize the Doctor’s new aspect. He wondered if Rose would be so easily fooled and what her reaction would be to this new face on an old friend.

They climbed the hill into the nature preserve that lay to the east of the Tyler estate, skirting one of several idyllic lakes where wintering Tundra Swans-- Cygnus columbianus and Cygnus columbianus bewickii--and rarer Icelandic Whooper Swans-- Cygnus Cygnus-- glided silently across the face of the water. He had begun watching them during the summer when the first pair arrived, using it as an excuse not to return immediately to Scotland after his miscalculations had resulted in his Tardis crash landing in south-eastern England, destroying Pete’s new garden shed. Not that Rose had been fooled. He wouldn’t insult her that way. They both knew the truth but, as was often the case, she was the only one able to put it into words…and he wasn’t listening.

A small herd of Roe Deer scattered into the mist as they hopped a pasture fence and made their way across country. Before long a string of Pete Tyler’s prized Fell Ponies fell in behind them, long tails skirting what was left of the summer grass. Amy was enchanted by the ponies, the wildlife, the rolling hills, even the clean morning mist, taking pictures by the dozens with her camera phone, but it seemed to him that she belonged on the other side of the lens.

Seeing where they were, not far from the copse of trees separating pastureland from the orchard, he motioned for them to stop. He pressed a finger to his lips, smiling to dispel any worry. The Doctor, in particular, looked concerned, turning every which way as if some great evil was sure to emerge from the shadows. He would have laughed if it weren’t for the fact that he still got those same feelings himself--that whisper of foreboding scurrying up his spine. In a moment he saw what he was looking for and drew Amy closer, pointing at the secretive Pine Marten atop a fallen limb, its mouth wide with a yawn. Amy managed one picture before the creature darted into a hollow tree.

As they walked on he explained that more of the English countryside around London had been preserved on this world, the quaint old homes and rolling pastures a contrast to the city sprawl the inhabitants of Amy and Rory’s world were accustomed to. Central London itself they would recognise, if only for the major landmarks. The Tower was still there, as were Westminster Abbey and St. Paul‘s Cathedral, and the Houses of Parliament, where the President and her cabinet conducted state affairs, still crouched above the Thames. He had certainly frequented there enough over the years, had even grown fond of Harriet Jones again, though it had been odd seeing her that first time, knowing that she had died in another universe opening the sub-wave network to find him. He glanced at Doctor. Well, almost him. She had proved herself that day and here, in this world? She’d shone like a star even in adversity. Her unprecedented third term in office had been fraught with difficulty. The Golden Age of The People’s Republic of Britain had already begun to lose its lustre before the last election. Not her fault, he supposed. It was the cyclical nature of economics and politics, professions he had long ago determined to eschew.

“This is amazing,” Amy said, trudging along the path ahead of them beside Rory. “To be so close to the city and have it still be so beautiful. But wet. You might have mentioned needing Wellies.”

Apologizing for November English weather seemed pointless. He was glad of the coat the Doctor had snagged from the wardrobe before embarking on their hike. It swept along behind him like a familiar shadow.

“I don’t know if our timelines are in sync but in any case the history here isn’t quite what you were taught in school…”

“By the looks of you, I’d hazard they are not,” the Doctor commented. “Is Harriet Jones still President?”

“Not for much longer. None of my doing this time. She fancies me.”

“Rightly so. Still. I imagine you kept an eye on her.”

“Both. But she did well here. Brilliant career.” That, at least, was the way it always should have been.

“And then there’s the zeppelins,” Rory said suddenly.

“The what?” Amy laughed.

“The zeppelins,” Rory repeated, pointing up when she laughed again. “No. Seriously. Really big zeppelins.”

Sure enough, just as a sliver of sunshine shone through rolling clouds, a silver airship bearing Pete Tyler’s Vitex advert drifted fully into view. The ponies scattered as a holographic billboard rippled to life, Pete smiling down at them and giving a cheery thumbs up. Trust me on this flashed beneath the image. Peter Tyler might have been a key figure in the establishment of the People’s Republic and an influential director of Torchwood, but to the man about town Rose’s dad was still the friendly face of Vitex health drinks. Vitex, at least, had remained stable, even during the economic downturn.

“Now, that’s really amazing,” Amy said, snapping pictures as the zeppelin passed overhead.
 
He barely looked at the great airship, having grown so accustomed to their presence. On a world where the Hindenburg had never crashed and the tides of the Second World War had turned in Britain‘s favour sooner, zeppelins had become as commonplace as aeroplanes had been on the Other Earth. After a few minutes the zeppelin turned along its established course, and seeing as the rudder was not as interesting as the ship itself, Amy and Rory set out again. The Doctor remained, standing next to him quietly.

“How long have you been here?”

“I’d think that would be obvious,” he said, pointing at his hair.

“That long,” the Time Lord repeated slowly. “Which explains the greyness and the--”

“Wrinkles. Yeah. It’s called aging. I do that now.”

“So I noticed. And you look remarkably good for a man who is--uhm--aging. What would they call that? Being middle-aged? Oh, that was a rubbish thing to say wasn‘t it?”

“I’m sure you’ll do worse before the day’s through. I always do. Welcome back to Pete‘s World, Doctor,” he sighed, looking up as it began once more to rain.

“I’m sorry I left you here,” the Doctor said at last, softly so only he could hear.

“No you’re not.”

“No, I’m not.” the Doctor agreed.

They both knew it was true.




The blues and twos were their first indication that something was amiss at the Tyler residence. Handfuls of black ore and what looked like musket shot, scattered like marbles across the close-cropped lawn, was the next. Smoke and steam wafted from gaping holes in the roof of the 17th Century manor house and the acrid scent of sulphur permeated the humid air. The fire brigade and three DPG units were lumbering onto the tarmac by the time they reached the house, blue beacons switching off as the vehicles pulled away. He groaned inwardly. The presence of the Diplomatic Protection Group  was never a good sign. They were a tenacious bunch to say the least. Not his favourite, nor he theirs.

Jackie Tyler, clutching the front of her pale pink mac, her blonde hair twisted into one of those up-dos he still couldn’t quite fathom, was closing the front door as they rounded the building. He could see the boys, Tony and Rusty, already in the family Jeep with what appeared to be a great deal of luggage. Tony lowered the window and waved enthusiastically.

“Well it‘s about time you showed up!” Jackie told him, gripping her pink umbrella tightly as she hunched against the cold rain. “What were you thinking swaning off in the middle of the night and not telling us about the meteor shower you plum?! Rocks the size of cricket balls hit the house. The roof is a mess and the gas line was leaking!”

“It was totally wicked!” Tony exclaimed, hanging out the window now. The boy was the spitting image of Pete Tyler--albeit with more hair. A brush had yet to touch that tousled reddish mop this morning. “I thought we were under attack from aliens! Maybe even the Fendahleen! Who are your friends? Don’t you have a brolly? Mum said you‘d probably run off to the pub but I told her that‘s not where you go when you--”

“--Tony, you’re going to fall out the window!” Jackie chastised her son as she loaded the last suitcase into the boot. “And you! What kinds of ghost stories have you been tellin’? They had all the table salt in the house in their bedrooms!

“Honestly, Jon Noble, I don’t know what’s got into you! Rose is right. You’re not right in the head these days. Not that you ever were totally right in the head, but really, this is too much. Pete got called to an emergency session in Paris just after you skived off, Mrs. Browne had the night off, the boys and I were alone, and next thing I know the boiler explodes in the cellar! They don’t know how. I guess meteors went through a window, or the kitchen floor. I don’t know. I’m not going back in to look. I thought we were under attack. I suppose we should be thankful for all the rain. We‘re lucky the whole place didn‘t go up in flames or fall down around us. As for your old room, I hope there wasn’t anything in there you wanted --”

She kept talking but his attention was drawn to the bemused expression on the Doctor‘s face.

“You must be Tony,” the Time Lord incognito told Rose’s brother. “I know your sister.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do. She’s… amazing.”

“That’s what Jon says. All the time. Then the snogging starts!” the boy said, eyes rolling dramatically. “Mum tells them to ‘get a room’.”

The Doctor let out a bark of laughter and gave him a sideways glance. He could only shrug. He wasn’t about to make excuses. Or maybe this was the appropriate time to try out the one that went I’m only Human. Jackie was still talking--something about bad weather in Scotland-- but his attention was still on the Doctor who was now intent on the Tyler‘s younger son. The Time Lord leaned in though the open window, waggling fingers at the freckle-faced, red-headed boy in the back seat.

“Hello, who’s this?”

“My brother, Rusty,” Tony told him. “He doesn’t say much.”

“Doesn’t he? Rusty,” the Doctor said, rolling the name around as if it were a tasty treat. “Brilliant. Hello, Rusty Tyler.”


Rusty beamed. He groaned. Jackie was never going to get out of the drive at this rate, which meant they were never going to get around to examining the cannon ball or...

“Do you like magic tricks, Rusty Tyler?”

He yanked the Doctor back into place by the collar and scowled, but that old Time Lord charm had gone to work and both boys were clambering out the open window. He caught Rusty in one arm before the child fell and nabbed Tony by the seat of his trousers, turning him deftly back around to point into the Jeep again. Not that the boy stayed there for long. Boys were like that. Rather like keeping frogs in a box.

“Aw, Jon! Leggo! Can’t I stay with--hey! Is that a brolly in your pocket? How’d you get a big ole brolly in your… mrmph. ” The words were muffled as he dumped the boy back through the window of the Jeep.

Shhhhh,” he told Rusty, seeing that the younger Tyler boy had also gotten a glimpse of the umbrella handle. Rusty shushed him back conspiratorially, a chubby little finger pressed comically against chubby little lips.

Muuuum,” Tony begged again, “can’t I stay here with Jon and his friends?”

“Don‘t be daft. The house is a mess. Jon’ll be going over to Torchwood Towers or, knowing him, will be sleeping in the ruddy greenhouse. You know something tore through there, too, don‘t you? Don’t worry, I rang up Pete and it’s all squared. No one saw your… Hold on. Where did you get that coat?”

At last she paused to take a breath and looked the four of them over.

“Don’t any of you have umbrellas? It’s been pouring all morning! Tony! Get back in the Jeep. Jon, quit muckin‘ about with the kids!”

He put Rusty into her arms. He winked at the boy and Rusty grinned, winking both big, brown eyes back at him.

“Sorry Jackie. Really. I--didn’t realize it was going to get so bad,” he said, ushering Tony back into the Jeep a final time, mussing the boy’s hair playfully. “Tony’s right. I went to meet some friends of mine. Experts on… stuff. This is, uhm, John Smith from the-uh-Ministry of -uh-Meteorology.”

“Yes, quite right,” the Doctor said, flashing credentials at her via the psychic paper. Too late, the Time Lord seemed to realize it still held the gibberish that had appeared earlier and it was swept back into a pocket. “Happy to be of service Mrs. Tyler. And these are my colleagues, Rory and Amy Pond. Expert meteor cleanup crew. We… work best in the rain. Better to… see things… that are…wet.”

“Lame,” he whispered under his breath.

“You didn’t give me much to work with,” the Doctor whispered back, smiling all the while. “And you failed to mention there was a problem with the psychic paper.”

Is it a problem?”

“I have no idea.”

Not that Jackie was listening. She was too busy strapping Rusty back into the Jeep. He considered wishing her luck with that. He had yet to see a child seat that could contain the younger Tyler boy.

“Yeah all right, well just get on with it and don‘t mind the builders and the cleaning service when they get here,” she told them, sliding into the front seat of the Jeep. “They say it could be weeks before everything in the house if fixed. Maybe longer. Kitchen’s a mess. I reckon you plan to live on take away.”

“I’ll be fine, Jackie.”

“Oh, and don’t forget to feed the dog this time. And not just peanut butter and bananas.”

“Yes Jackie.”

“I’d bring her but I‘m taking the boys to stay with granddad Prentice for a few days while I fly over to meet Pete in Paris. Haven‘t been to Paris in over a month, you know. Oh, here,” she said, taking a bright pink, rhinestone encrusted mobile from her purse.

“Take my other phone. Go on, take it. And you‘d better ring up Rose straight away and hope she finds the other Jeep once the weather clears up north or you can forget about replacing the zeppelin you wrecked. Pete said you must have disabled the GPS again because Torchwood can‘t get a lock on it. Rose said she saw you standing outside the house in the rain but by the time she got to the door you were gone. What did you do? Hitch hike 400 miles home? Honestly, Jon, after all you’ve been through, I just don’t understand you. You’re as mad as he ever was.”

Beside him, the Doctor was juggling a variety of objects taken from impossibly deep pockets, much to little Rusty’s delight. Jackie’s words caused a miss and a yo-yo clattered to the ground and split in half, the two sides rolling in opposite directions. Rusty liked that even more.

“Sorry. What?”

“Oh, not you,” Jackie told the Doctor with a dismissive wave. “A friend of my daughter’s. We never knew where he was off to either. Your mate Jon here is just as bad. Oh, look. I‘m going to be late for my flight. Have to leave before the next line of storms roll in. Don‘t forget little Petunia. Food and walkies!”

He stared at the garish phone in his hand then shoved it into a pocket as Jackie and the boys drove away. The Doctor lifted a questioning eyebrow:

“Rose’s grandfather is alive and you crashed a zeppelin.”

“Yep.”

“You crashed a zeppelin? Wait. You had your own zeppelin and you crashed it?”

“And lost a Jeep, apparently,” Amy chimed in.

“Not on the same day,” he said in defence. “More importantly--”

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed, scooping up the two halves of the broken yo-yo.

“I meant the psychic paper.”

“So did I,” the Time Lord retorted, sweeping the wallet back out to examine the calculations.

He wondered if all the turning sideways and upside down was in any way assisting in the deciphering of the code. It hadn’t worked for him earlier.

“What ‘s all of this about, then? Coordinates? And across at least four dimensions. For what?”

“Guys,” Rory interrupted, picking up a chunk of the black ore. “I could be wrong, but this doesn’t look like what I think a meteor should look like.”

“That’s because--”.

“--it isn’t.”



chapter five continues in next post...
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2012, 06:57:16 am »

Chapter Five
(continued from previous post)



As if one were not enough, two sonic screwdrivers confirmed their suspicions.

The black rock-like substance that Rory had picked up--remnants of which lay scattered all about the property--was not, strictly speaking, meteoric. It was, however, awash with considerable amounts of Void Stuff. They agreed on that at least, even without the aid of 3-D glasses. They also agreed that faint traces of Zeiton 7 were everywhere. He ran in one direction while the Doctor ran the opposite way, both scanning the debris scattered over the lawn. Every so often they circled back, having to take a care not to collide. He felt more than a little like a Keystone Kop and from their expressions, that’s precisely what Rory and Amy thought, sitting side by side on the garden swing beneath the patio awning, arms crossed, watching the pair of them.

“So… Thing One and Thing Two. It isn’t meteorites?” Amy asked.

“No, and neither are they cannonballs. But that,” he pointed to the black sphere still laying in the garden not four metres from the back door, “is.”

“And,” the Doctor told them, after waving a sonic screwdriver over it like a magic wand and checking the readings twice, “it seems to be made, at least partially, from the same stuff. Stuff that doesn‘t belong here. Not only because this is, in fact, a 17th Century cannonball, but because the ore it is made from didn‘t originate on this planet.”

“And I suppose you--uhm- both of you that is--have been to this other planet,” Rory commented, “and did something totally brilliant. Or did you misjudge and end up where you shouldn’t have been again?”

“Yes. And something brilliant as well.”

“Excellent response, Doctor,” he said.

“Why thank you, Doctor.”

“Kill me now,” Amy said, head lolling backwards.

“Now, what about our little friend here, hmm?”

Before he could prevent it from happening, the Doctor drew a finger over the cannonball’s smooth surface and took a taste.

Aah-aah-aah-- that’s disgusting!”

“What did he expect a cannonball to taste like?” Rory asked Amy. She only shook her head.

“Traces of copper and Zeiton 7?” he asked.

“Not the purest sample I’ve tasted but, yes. Also a dash of gunpowder for flavour and, hello? What’s that?” the Doctor said suddenly, dropping the cannonball and heading off in the opposite direction. “What a magnificent orangery you have there. And what a magnificent hole in your magnificent orangery.”

He was hardly accustomed to being the one playing catch up, but the Doctor was off like a shot, hopping the garden fence with ease, running up the hill to where the greenhouse stood. Though it post-dated the last addition to the manor house by half a century or more, the majestic stone and glass structure remained an architectural marvel and a point of pride for the Tylers. At least for Pete. Jackie said the old place always gave her the creeps. As did the cellar under the house. In his haste to determine the origins of the cannonball last night he hadn’t stopped to inspect the building or its contents. Now, he could clearly see the splintering hole in one of the arching windows some ten feet above his head where the cannonball had apparently exited the building. That meant there was another hole where it had made entrance. The long and short of it was he had the unenviable task of repairing it. Probably alone.

“There‘s something in there besides orange trees. I can hear it… no. I can feel it!” the Doctor said, pressing an ear against the door and rattling the doorknob. “Ooh, and a locked door. A locked door just begging to be opened. A locked door just begging to be opened and--”

“Save the sonic, Time Boy.”

He produced the key from his back pocket and slid it smoothly into the lock. For just a moment he paused, enjoying the build up of suspense. He knew himself well enough to know that very few things would surprise, well, him. He hoped this was one of them.

As the door opened, he was relieved to discover that the solar-powered sun lamps he had augmented for optimal growing conditions during the winter months were still operational. That meant the ice box and cook stove in his workshop that drew power from the solar cells were also still running. And that meant hot dogs and spaghetti rings for Tea. Or perhaps for breakfast since he was still peckish. He never had gotten that cuppa on the Tardis earlier. Despite the damaged windows it was warm inside, and the scent! Intoxicating! He shrugged out of his coat and tossed it over the back of a teak garden bench, leading Amy, Rory and the Doctor past rows of ornamental and fruit-bearing trees. He paused to pluck ripened kumquats, distributing them to his companions. His companions. He had companions. The notion made him smile.

“My God, that’s a Siva and Neville Tourer.”

Rory drifted away from their group to lift the car cover off the partially restored roadster parked just inside the double carriage doors on the north side of the orangery.

More than mere recognition shone on the man‘s face. This was sheer pleasure. Maybe even love. He nodded his consent and before he could say “bob‘s your uncle,” Rory had peeled off the cover and was lovingly caressing the bonnet. He had discovered the derelict Edwardian kit-car in a scrap yard in Dorchester two months back and, feeling nostalgic, had arranged for it to be towed here. This time he might paint it blue.

“Does it have minimum inertia hyperdrive?” the Doctor asked him.

“It will have,” he grinned.

Amy seemed only peripherally interested in the car. She followed more slowly, her fingers trailing along the pink and purple blooms of climbing bougainvillea and brilliant fuchsia A break in the clouds sent a shaft of sunshine in just as they reached the far end of the structure. He didn’t have to wait long for their reaction to what waited there.

“What’s that, some sort of statement in modern art?”

“No, Amy, no,” the Doctor said with a broad smile. The man was practically dancing across the floor. “That’s a Tardis. A baby Tardis!”

“That? What? But it isn’t, you know, a big blue box. Or even a little blue box.”

“I’ve explained that to you before. The police box is a carefully analyzed, clever disguise. To blend in.”

“Blend in where? The same place you’d blend in with your bowtie?”

“Bow ties are cool,” the Doctor said, straightening it deliberately “Our Amelia seems to think I couldn’t be more conspicuous.”

“You evidently haven’t mentioned,” he cleared his throat, not sure he should bring up past Regenerations, “that coat we had.”

“That was an amazing coat!”

He laughed. “I think I saw it down in the cupboard you were tucked up in if you fancy--”

“No!”

“It looks like a Nautilus.”

They all turned to look at Rory.

“What? It does. Do you think the only thing I know about is cars? And Romans? Really? It looks like a giant Nautilus shell. Which would explain it, you know, why the Tardis seems to go on forever.”

He was rather intrigued by the statement about the Romans, but before he could ask the Doctor draped an arm over Rory’s shoulders and steered the man back toward the car.

“Rory, Rory, Rory. You never cease to amaze me.”

“I’m right, aren’t I? It’s like a giant growing shell.”

“It’s almost completely nothing like a giant growing shell, but if you want to believe that I won’t stop you,” the Doctor said, abandoning Rory to go back to touching the smooth surface of the Tardis. “Look at you, you lovely little thing. Daddy’s taking really good care of you.”

They looked at each other then and he concentrated for a moment on the younger-older green eyes in a younger-older face glinting mischievously under a pronounced brow. Seeing the expression of genuine amazement, he wondered, not for the first time, if the Doctor had ever really expected that chunk of Tardis to grow in this strange parallel universe. Would it ever find a compatible power source to draw upon or was it all for show, that day on the beach in Norway? Grow your own, indeed. As if conjuring a complex space-time event could be done on mere whim. It was as unlikely as, well, as he was. But he had held that piece of coral in his hand the whole way back to England in a Vitex Corporation zeppelin. Held that in one hand, and Rose’s hand in the other, as if to let either one go would mean letting go of life itself. After that he had carried it in his pocket for months before finally deciding to give it a go. What would it hurt? Either he would prove himself a fool or a liar. And since when were those two things mutually exclusive?

“Ground control to Major Jon—“

He forced himself to heed the Doctor’s words. One again the Time Lord had caught him up in a moment of distraction and was looking into his eyes, as if to uncover some secret hidden there.

“You do distract easily don’t you? So?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Are you going to invite us in, or not?”

He hesitated. A scant few had even seen the Tardis, let alone stepped foot inside. She had yet to achieve dimensional stability. He had ventured beyond the central control room only a few times since the Architectural Configuration System seemed to have gone haywire. Once, last spring, he was gone so long Rose was certain he’d gotten lost. Of course he had, but he wasn’t keen to admit it. He had taken to sleeping in the control room rather than risking waking up levels above or below where he had started out. Or between levels. Always a nuisance. Add to that the sheer strangeness of a native state Tardis and the experience was unlike any other.

“You may find it rather unsettling,” he cautioned the Ponds, pressing his hand against the plasmic-shell surface to release the hatch. He glanced side long at the Doctor, enjoying the expression of boyish anticipation. “You, on the other hand, are going to love it.

“Lights, Little Girl.”

If the old Tardis was ravishing in her steam punk, Maritime glory, this young Tardis was her beautiful native sister. Coral-like buttresses not unlike those he remembered from a previous desk top theme twisted from floor to ceiling, but here they gleamed with the lustre of pearl and jade. Pulsating lights glimmered from beneath roundels that adorned the walls in apparently asymmetrical patterns. Spiral staircases with the appearance of speckled cowries and shimmering abalone defied the laws of gravity, winding left, right and centre to an upper deck that ran around the interior of the vaulted room. Long corridors resembling the interiors of living coral corkscrewed off at illogical angles, some of which looked impossible for anyone dependent on gravity—or feet-- to actually traverse. The alcove in which he’d spent many a night sleeping was shaped into the wall of the lower deck to their right. Little more than a writing desk and a ship bunk, really, the bed unmade, a curtain of pale light hinting at the containment field that afforded that secure space a modicum of privacy and peace. The closest thing to a Zero Room the Time Ship had to offer. He’d spent a long time there after the crash. A very long time. The hexagonal main control console directly ahead sprouted mushroom-like from a floor of green shell, the central column encased in a fibrous lattice that climbed to the ceiling, becoming one with the arching colonnades. Within the confines of the lattice, blue light twisted like a living thing.

“Oh, you are a beau-ty!”

“Steady on, Soldier. Oy, you two,” he said, tossing the ball of yarn he now kept beside the door to Rory. “Mind you don’t wander too far. I fell asleep in here one night and it took me two days to find my way out.”

Rory gave him a mock salute then hurried down the corridor Amy had already ducked into.

“What‘s down there?” the Doctor asked him.

“I have no idea.”

Ha-haa!” the Doctor laughed and he couldn’t help but grin himself.

A moment later the Time Lord was everywhere at once, hands rubbing together like a pianist preparing for a symphony. Whipping out the sonic screwdriver like a baton, the Doctor passed it rapidly over native and electronic circuitry alike, moving first around the console, then along the bottle green crystalline floor, up one of the massive buttresses, and down rows of golden, pulsing roundels. Apparently satisfied, the device was returned to a coat pocket and the pressing of buttons, big, red, and otherwise, commenced. Well, he mused, the admonition Do not touch never had held much meaning for him.

While the Doctor tinkered with flight controls and giggled about isomorphic interface nodes, he performed his own diagnostic review. Aside from some indeterminate fluctuations in the trans-power system, everything seemed to be stable, if still in the state of evident hibernation it had lapsed into after their arrival in the Tyler garden a few months previously. Stable and quiet… but still growing.

Donna, the Doctor-Donna, had been exactly right about how to accelerate the growth of the chunk of Tardis coral. By shatterflying the plasmic shell and modifying a dimensional stabiliser he had assembled from a crashed Transperion ship to a foldback harmonic of 36.3--well 36.3392 to be precise--the Tardis had burst into life. In the space of two weeks the meta-structure had torn through three consecutive garden sheds and after the minor explosion in the orangery, where he had moved her in secret with the help of a forklift and the closed-lipped old gardener, Norman, he was no longer able his keep his little secret.

A mighty battle of words had ensued then, with an incredulous Pete Tyler insisting that for security reasons alone the Time Ship should be housed at one of the Torchwood facilities. He’d have waged a war to the death to keep her from falling into the wrong hands but finally acquiesced on the condition that she was transported to Scotland with him and Rose. And there she might have remained to complete her initial life cycle in a barn populated with shaggy Highland cows, four Clydesdale horses and Rose’s llama, had it not been for his one desperate attempt to time jump. Just one, very small, very necessary time jump. And he had failed. It was a wonder either of them had survived that ill fated journey that had ended with them crashing here, and he knew, deep in his all-too-human heart--that he owed his life to this, a sentient ship. Rose had begged him not to even attempt it. She, of all people, understood the dangers, but the lure was too great. The sakes too high. His grief too powerful. He had deduced the probabilities and accepted the risks and he would have done anything to preserve that precious life they had created…

“Care to share your thoughts with the class?”

Hmm--what? Oh, sorry. Sorry. It‘s easy to get distracted in here. You should see the Cloister Room. Molto Bene!”

The Doctor was looking hard at him, hard and knowingly, but any suspicions were kept behind a carefully rehearsed façade. Thankfully, the psychic link they had shared earlier was no longer in place. At least for his part.

“You haven’t taken her into space?”

“I wouldn‘t exactly call where we went space, no,” he admitted, busying himself on the far side of the console to avoid accusing eyes.

“But you’re going to need to get her off planet soon. Keeping her here during this stage of development is dangerous. Think of the potential for time spillage!”

“Do you think I don’t know that? Pete’s got good connections, but not that good. Not anymore. Not without raising too many questions about the payload. The only intact Transperion ship we know of fell into the hands of the Earth Prime nutters in Findanavia,” he said, deciding that it would serve no purpose to admit to his having piloted the ship there. Albeit unintentionally. With Harriet Jones. No, that was best left for another day.

“We‘ve got a little side project getting ready to launch from Torchwood West in America, but it isn’t like on Gallifrey. Even if I got her up there, where am I going to dock her? I don’t have access to even a fraction of the technology I really need--and I’ve never grown a Tardis before. No ship looms. No docking bays. No Eye of Harmony. I didn’t know what I’ll end up with,” he said, running his fingers along the latticed central column. She grew more magnificent with every passing year. “I’ll tell you one thing they lied to us about at the Academy though.”

The Doctor lifted an eyebrow in question.

“A Tardis is far more than a complicated code series of block transfer equations. In fact, block mathematics are a whole lot of Time Lord rubbish.”

“If only they’d let us present that paper.”

He nodded his agreement, his attention drawn by the reappearance of the Ponds. Amy looked pale and her ginger locks were mussed. She was clutching the ball of yarn tightly with both hands. At least half of it was wrapped around her body and more than a few loops entwined her husband.

“You might have warned us about Audrey II,” Rory complained.

“Yeah. It’s a jungle in there. Literally. I think I saw monkeys.”

“Lemurs,” he told them. “They‘re lemurs.”

“Why do you have…?”

Ye-ow!” the Doctor cried, jumping back from the controls, right hand waving as if it were on fire. “She bit me.”

“She what?”

“More importantly, look at this,” the Doctor mumbled around an injured index finger. “Drive system, life support, guidance all coming on line…”

What?” he asked, rushing around the console to examine the displays. He hadn’t gotten readings like those since the crash earlier in the year. He scowled. “What did you do?”

“Nothing. I mean, I just touched the thing. You know. That thing,” the Time Lord pointed at the Primary Initiator, “and systems check came up just like you’d expect it to. Aside from the biting part. Why do you look so surprised? You must have had fully operational systems before.”

“I did.” His emphasis was on the past tense. Most of the main systems had been unresponsive in the wake of their catastrophe.

“I guess she just needed a little energy snack,” the Doctor told him, counting fingers as if to establish they were, in fact, all still present and accounted for. “Needn’t be so greedy. No wonder you look so… tired. She probably used your life energy to start her life cycle and continues to feed off of you every time you step through the door. Must be exhausting. Say, how was navigation before? I don‘t like that at all.”

“Eh,” he said, tossing his head. He pulled absently at one ear. Navigation had definitely been a concern. To say he had had any real control over their aborted flight would have been stretching the truth even more than usual.

“Ok. Need work on navigation. Power fluctuations in the trans-power system means something isn’t aligned, which is why you‘ll be wanting that Zeiton 7. Not much going on with defence that I can see, but I’m sure I saw an extra tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator in storage 2 that we can wire in. Oh, this is going to be fun!”

“Well I’m glad someone is having fun,” Amy muttered behind them.

“I’m having fun,” Rory offered. “It’s brilliant. But does it fly?”

“It… did. Once.” He scanned the current interior configuration, pleased to see expanded living quarters and an increase in crystal growth in Power Room 3, then turned back to the Doctor to show off some of his more innovative modifications. “I integrated the inherent biological plasma screens with holo projectors that turned up at a crash site at the South Pole and we recovered a Trachoid Time Crystal nursery in the jungle near Kota Kinabalu which I introduced successfully to the power room but I’m having trouble converting the--”

“--yes, I see. Well, of course. You’ll need--”

“Precisely. And it still needs a proper artron energy capacitor to modulate the phasic output from the core. I started adapting the systems to standard Type 40 configurations and some of the later model specifications but it isn’t like rebuilding her back at UNIT when I--we--still had all the original, well, most of --well, some of the original parts. Then there‘s the small matter of a briode nebuliser--”

The Doctor visibly paled. “You didn‘t try to go into--”

“Not exactly. Well, no. Well, almost. Let’s just say I burned the first one out in about 3 minutes flat and did heavy damage to her Symbiotic Relationship Circuits. I don’t think she’s quite gotten over that.” For that matter, neither had he.

“Sorry. What? Stupid humans here,” Rory was saying.

Oy! Speak for yourself,” Amy told him, still winding the ball of blue wool. “But, yeah. What’s a bio nebula whazzit?”

“A briode nebuliser,” the Doctor corrected her. “Every Tardis is primed with the biological imprint from the symbiotic nuclei of a Time Lord’s cells. Without it, travel through the Time Vortex is… unadvisable to say the least. At least that‘s what it says in the textbooks. Not many people are crazy enough to try it.”

“So, what? It’s like some sort of genetic link between a Time Lord and a Tardis?” Rory asked.

“Something like that.”

“But, you’re half human,” Amy pointed out.

He exchanged glances with the Doctor. “I’m part human.”

“Yes. Well. No one’s perfect,” the Doctor told him, adjusting the switches on the chrono-synchronization feed until the holographic screen appeared. “Ooh. Pretty! But, first things first. Assemble a proper nebuliser or possibly override the dematerialization circuit.”
 
The interior lights visibly dimmed.

“Or not. Interesting. Very interesting. Nebuliser. Right. We can do that. Probably. Likely. We’ll look in the storerooms in the Tardis. See what we can find for you, eh dear?”

The lights dimmed further…

Oy. Fringe. My Tardis. Mine.”

…then brightened again.

“Yes, I see. And nebuliser or no nebuliser she‘s very attuned to her designated driver, isn’t she? Well, well. Just remember whose biological imprint woke you up, you sassy thing. At the very least you need to take me on a test drive.”

He considered this for a moment. Fair enough. Besides, though it pained him to admit it, he might require the Doctor’s assistance if he were ever to finish with the necessary modifications before something disastrous occurred.

“What do you say, Little Girl? Take this lot for a spin around the galaxy shall we?”

The lights brightened significantly.

“Okay,” Amy said slowly. “That’s just a little spooky.”

She had finally come to the end of the ball of yarn and tossed it triumphantly into the air before performing a slam-dunk into the gardening basket beside the door. She walked up the steps lightly, linking one arm around his and another around the Doctor‘s.

“So. Boys. Where is everything, then? I mean it’s a little overgrown in here, but this is the control room, yeah? But in the Tardis--the other Tardis--there are rooms and buttons and lights and I don’t know, a swimming pool…”

“And no giant man eating plants,” Rory added.

“Not that you know of,” the Doctor said, wiggling free of Amay and going to the right.

“All here. Or will be. Might even be a little shop down one of those corridors,” he said, going to the left.

“Oh, I do like a little shop,” the Doctor chimed in, not looking up.

“Don’t I know it,” he replied, not looking up either.

Amy was still waiting for an explanation and seemed rather put out that they had both abandoned her.

“It’s… young. Really young. Still adapting. There’s no real interface other than the raw, organic circuitry. Back to basics here,” he said, patting the casing around the Time Rotor affectionately. “Very basic.”

“A little too basic,” the Doctor said with a visible shiver.

“It’s very pretty,” Rory offered, running a hand along one of the buttresses.

“And pretty deadly with all these isomorphic controls and telepathic links still in place,” the Doctor commented. “Dodgy stuff. Even for… us.”

“What, this isn’t how they’re issued to Time Lords after you get your pilot‘s certificate?”

Both he and the Doctor laughed.

“Like this? No. Never. Not in thousands of years. Millions. A long time anyway. It’s…,” he swallowed deeply, searching for the right words. “Let’s just say it’s hard on the pilot. A Tardis is a very sophisticated living ship. Which is why later models, like the Type 40’s, need a crew of 6.”

“Or one very clever old man,” the Doctor pointed out smugly.

“Yes, well, there is that.”

“You do realize what this means, though,” the Doctor told him excitedly. “You’ll be able to leave this planet. Maybe not this Universe--not sure we’re going to get back ourselves honestly-- oh. Did I just say that out loud? Shame on me. Amy. Rory. Forget you heard that.”

“You’re kidding, right? Tell me you’re kidding…”

Just kidding,” the Doctor sang the words. “But think of it. The Doctor in the Tardis with Rose Tyler, as it should be. Saving the… ”

“Yeah,” he interrupted, rubbing the back of his neck absently. It seemed as good a time as any to broach that subject. “About Rose--”

His confession was short lived. Shattering glass outside the Tardis put an abrupt end to any further conversation. At times, he mused, the universe seemed to have its own agenda. No matter which one he was in. Or when.

Another cannon ball lay mere feet from the roadster and more broken glass littered the greenhouse floor. At this rate he’d need to employ a professional glazier. Outside, musket balls and more bits of iron ore lay scattered amid the perennials.

“Doctor-s!” Amy protested as they shouldered their way past one another to get out of the greenhouse. “You’re going to get your heads crushed! Or didn’t you notice the sky is falling?”

“Under ordinary circumstances I’d agree with you, Amelia--”

“But this is not ordinary circumstances. I‘m reading more traces of Zeiton 7.”

“As am I, but something more. Temporal energy. Boatloads of temporal energy, but the fluctuations are off the chart and coming,” the Doctor said, spinning in circles, sonic screwdriver extended like a dousing rod, “from… that way. No, that way. No, wait. That way.”

“Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat…” he said, enjoying Rory‘s involuntary laughter at the joke. Amy was still, sensibly, concerned about cannonballs landing on their heads.

“Did you not hear the part about fluctuations?” the Doctor asked.

“Sure you don’t want to have another go?” he jibed. “No, wait. There aren’t many directions left are there?

“I’m not the one with the rubbish sonic,” the Doctor told him, petulantly.

“Uhm, Doctors,” Rory interrupted, “I think we may have a more pressing problem.”

Indeed, a more pressing problem was on fast approach. Furthermore, it was on horseback.

“No way,” he breathed. Wherever, make that whenever the cannon balls had come from, so to had this hapless cavalier.

As the small bay horse crested the hill they could clearly see a dishevelled-looking man in a buff coat, baggy red breeches and bucket boots. One hand clutched at a magnificently feathered cap perched crookedly on a head of blazing red hair, the other hauled on the reins. The frothing horse snorted and kicked as it came over the laurel hedge, nearly spilling its rider amid the last of the Kaffir lilies, Morning Glories, and Jackie’s favourite rose bushes.
The horse shook itself violently as the rider drew rein before the greenhouse, pausing a moment to gape at what must have appeared to be the strangest of ensembles gathered there. A young man, clearly, with eyes like chips of a summer sky, swivelled in the saddle to gaze across the lawn toward the old house that might well have been a familiar landmark, now rendered strangely out of place. And Time. More slowly, that gaze turned back to the greenhouse and to the four of them. This close it was hard to miss the sword and pistols in the saddle holsters.

As if the full weight of the situation had dawned upon them both, the horse began to back away.

Whoa there, whoa… “ he said gently, reaching for the bridle to steady the wild-eyed gelding. It was a stocky creature, not unlike the native ponies in Pete Tyler’s stables. Battle sound though it might be it was, nonetheless, not accustomed to time travel.

The Kids are All Right ring tone erupting from Jackie’s mobile in his pocket spoiled any chances of a proper introduction. The horse tore away from him, taking its rider back in the direction from which they had come whether the man had wanted to depart or no. The feathered hat landed at the Doctor’s feet.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Amy said, reaching for it, but the Doctor already had it in hand. She grimaced, then turned toward him. “Aren’t you going to answer that?”

“No,” he said, silencing the mobile before shoving it into his back pocket. “Com’on!”

It was his turn to lead. Vaulting over the garden wall, he led them back along much the same path they had taken earlier. The ponies in the meadow had formed a herd behind the fleeing horse and rider, not breaking off until they had galloped clear to the far end of the pasture where their leader jumped a low stone wall and continued on into the nature preserve that stretched east to the main road. They heard the blaring of horns and the squeal of tires on tarmac long before they got to the scene. He wasn’t sure who was panicking more, the horse, the rider, or the coach driver whose vehicle was now blocking two lanes of traffic. The mayhem gave them a chance to catch up to the frightened horse before it bolted into the forest, heading toward the rematerialized Tardis. What? What?

He skidded to a halt just as horse and rider plunged into a swirl of mist and light for places unknown, shielding his eyes from the waves of energy spilling from the newly opened portal.

The Doctor circled the distortion field, sonic screwdriver in hand, sputtering disbelief.

“That’s impossible! That was not here earlier! I‘d have known!”

“Well, it’s here, now, Time Boy.” He pounded his own sonic against his palm until it lit up and he checked the readings for himself. “Yep. It’s here. And this is definitely where the Zeiton 7 came from, too. Look. If we could bring back even a fraction of what we got on Varos to combine with the elements I’m already using it would solve any remaining problems with the trans-power system!“

“Nice plan, but it’s massively unstable,” the Doctor warned, gesturing at the gathering clouds above them. “Atmospheric abnormalities on top of the temporal flux. I don’t like it. Not one bit. It could close again in minutes or days or hours.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” he yelled back over his shoulder, not waiting to see if the Doctor was following or not. “Allons-y!”

Behind him he could hear Amy and Rory yelling Doc-tor as he leapt forward into shimmering adventure.



end chapter five and end of Part One of Harmony
Part Two begins with Chapter six... will post soon
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thebunnyinthetardis
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2012, 06:25:31 am »

Chapter Six


It was all Rory Williams could do to prevent his wife from diving through the Rift after them. She struggled wildly, screaming at him to let her go, but he held firm. He had been close enough to hear what the Doctor said. Massively unstable. He wasn’t going to take a warning like that lightly. He was not going to risk losing Amy again. Not for the Doctor. Not even for two Doctors.

“Rory, let me go!”

“No! Amy, no! Did you hear what he said? It’s unstable. It could close at any time--“

“All the more reason for us to follow them,” she told him, twisting in his grasp.

“If it closes, we’ll be trapped on the other side.”

“If it closes and we’re not with the Doctor you’ll wish you were on the other side!”

A moment later, it was a moot point. The portal expanded with a rush of eyebrow-singing energy then closed in on itself and winked out. Amy let out a gasp of disbelief, then pounded him soundly on the chest. And kept pounding. He took the abuse, repeating to himself that the Rift had been unstable, unsafe, unstable, unsafe… but there was nothing he could do to deter her anger.

“Now what are we going to do?” Amy demanded, her face flushed from the exertion of running, followed by her effort of fighting with him. She jabbed a finger over his shoulder, forcing him to look. “The Tardis is out of phase again, both Doctors are gone, and I have a photo shoot in the morning!”

Rory grimaced. He had forgotten that minor detail...

“Well, you know,” he said weakly, offering up his sweetest smile. The one that usually worked but was not, apparently, working just then. “Time travel and all that. You know him. He’ll get us back in time. Even if it takes awhile.”

“Oh yeah?” she said, pounding him on the solar plexus one more time before she turned abruptly, flipping her long hair in his face, hugging herself against the rain that had begun to fall again. “What if it takes him 40 years? I don’t think aging that much overnight is in my contract!”

He coughed hard, thinking better of trying to say anything else clever to make her feel better. She glared at him one final time before stalking away.

“Where are you going?”

“To take the dog out!”

All in all, he thought, she was taking being marooned on an alternate Earth remarkably well.

“Pick up the phone,” she yelled, just before he lost sight on her in the woods.

“The--?”

Jackie Tyler’s pink, bejewelled mobile lay in the dirt where it had fallen when the Doctors had jumped through the rift. Rory picked it up.

“It says ‘Rose’ in missed calls. Should we call back?”



***



The world transformed with a sickening shimmer and he emerged on the far side, tumbling arse over elbow onto a road. A very dirty, very hard road. He had barely time to lift himself up, let along draw a single breath before the Doctor slammed into his back, knocking him flat on the ground once more. To think traversing wormholes looked so easy on the telly. When was the last time he had seen Daniel Jackson crash into Jack O’Neill? The horse and rider they had followed from Pete’s World were a few metres away, visibly shaken, but recovering enough to move off with all due speed. With no time to loose, he retrieved the Doctor’s stylish new hat from where it had fallen in the mud, plopped it on the Time Lord’s head, and they began their pursuit.

After what seemed like miles at a dead run he could feel himself tiring. Instead of running side by side like the wind, the Doctor was now outdistancing him, apparently unaware of his encroaching fatigue. He pushed on as long as he could, finally shambling to a halt, hands on his knees, head bent, gasping for breath. The Doctor ran back to him, hopping about manically. The waterlogged ostrich feathers on the hat hung in ridiculous spikes.

“Com’on, com’on! We’re gaining on him--”

He groaned. They had lost sight of the horse and rider miles back, made at least one wrong turn which had taken them nearly to London, before trusted instinct and the pattern of hoof prints on the damp road guided them back. Rain showers had since obliterated the hoof prints, the entire road churned into flowing mud. The Doctor’s claim of a horse detection application on the new sonic screwdriver was absurd. No doubt the hapless pair were leaving a trail of void stuff in their wake. Were it not for the mud he suspected even his more-human-than-not olfactory sense would have smelled it.

“--just… need… a minute,” he stammered, sucking air into his lungs. He clutched at his chest. “Inferior vascular system, remember?”

The Doctor blinked at this revelation, as if it had already been forgotten.

Riiight. Sorry. Catch your breath.”

Ignoring the sludge, he sat in the middle of what passed for a road, legs drawn up to his chest. He wrapped his bare arms around his muddy jeans, resting his head against his knees. The Doctor splashed back and forth across the road, a curious, bandy-legged gait made all the more comical by dirt smudged trousers. The Time Lord’s handsome moleskin jacket was mud-splattered and wet and the man’s hair hung in crazy tendrils from beneath the sagging hat. Not that he imagined he looked any better. In his haste, he had left his long coat behind. It would have afforded him somewhat more protection from the elements than a T-shirt and he could only guess at what useful items remained in the pocket—aside from the brolly.  He reached down to touch the road lightly. Vibration. A moment later he was on his stomach, ignoring the mire, ear pressed to the muddy ground. He looked up at the Doctor.

“Fancy a climb?”

The Time Lord snapped shut the sonic screwdriver and whirled around.

“Why?”

“Someone’s coming,” he said. “Correction. A whole lot of someones.”




From their vantage point high in an ancient, sprawling yew, and with the aid of a pair of high-tech binocs and the vintage spyglass the Doctor had produced from trans-dimensional coat pockets, they could just make out what appeared to be two separate military regiments moving up and down the narrow road that divided a rambling town of  half timber structures, most of which crouched on the far side of a rapidly flowing tributary.

Several hundred buildings stretched away from the stone bridge, shops and homes alike. Modest, but well established, he thought. Perhaps grown up in support of the nearby abbey which, if he calculated correctly, was no longer functioning in that capacity. But that’s all it was. Calculations. It bothered him, not being able to verify the period instinctually, relying instead on a good, long memory—and logical clues. He’d been here before. Or near here. And near now. He sensed that, clearly, but… but that was all. As the Doctor recalled previous adventures in the vicinity, he listened to the pulse in his ears, focusing on his heart beat. One heart, whose only function was to pump blood. It did nothing to keep Time. It did nothing to key him into the universe at large. And having no concrete sense of where and when in Time he was made him feel ill.

“You look… time sick,” the Doctor said suddenly. “Are you all right?”

No. No he was far from all right. But when had that ever stopped him?

“I’m always all right.”

He returned his attention to the town. Whenever it had grown up in the past, it remained a trade hub of some note to have spawned the statelier three storey houses to the east, enclosed gardens adorning those not on the Thames. At least he assumed it was the Thames. To the fore, on the south side of the river not far from the bridge, a church spire rose against the bleak, autumn sky. 15th Century by the looks of it, with a rag-stone tower capped with crenulations. He wondered if it had bells. He rather fancied the sound of church bells. When the atmosphere was right at the Tyler’s manor house he could hear them from the old church by the river. By the… river. No. It couldn’t be. Could it? He shifted his gaze. Closer still, a ribbon of houses dotted the road, the most prominent  being nearest them. A Lord’s house no doubt, and one that had its own share of Redcoats busying themselves to make it more defensible.

It was difficult to tell from the milling sea of buff, red and purple coats and dull metal helmets just which side of the conflict they represented, but he would have wagered they were Parliamentarian troops preparing to defend this sprawling village from the Royalists in support of Charles I. As of yet no flags had been raised, as if whoever it was did not want to advertise, but the flurry of activity suggested something was afoot.

Fortifications were being erected around the manor house nearest their roost, earthworks heaped up against what looked like little more than pig fence. Thorny hedgerows would serve them better. On the bridge and further along the road to the east, barricades were being assembled from fence posts and wagons. The inhabitants of this village were digging in for something. Hundreds of musket and sword toting men moved amid the buildings and civilian population, and he had seen at least two small cannon being dragged into defensive positions within town. All focus was on the road leading to the west. Somewhere, in this military tangle, lay a precious store of Zeiton 7. Two sonic screwdrivers confirmed it. But where? Perhaps acting on impulse had not been the wisest choice.

The Doctor lowered binoculars and turned to him.

“Jon. Can I call you Jon?”

“I wish you wouldn’t,” he said, scanning the bridge with the spyglass. It was a remarkably sturdy structure, supported by three arches. Quite a change from the first time he had been in the region, hunting with Saxon King Edmund.

“Sorry? Jackie called you Jon.”

“Jackie calls me all sorts of things.” He wondered where this line of questioning was leading and tried not to sound too cross. “It’s an alias. That’s all. To fit in long term, since I didn’t have much choice about that. But it’s as much me as ‘John Smith’ ever was. Well, less than when I really was John Smith.” Having eschewed that mortal life, relinquished that happy future to embrace his Time Lord nature, he’d found it difficult to think of himself as John Smith anymore.

“But, it’s so much more than an alias,” the Doctor told him earnestly.  “Really. Jon Noble. Brilliant name.”

“It was Rose’s idea.”

“Like I said. Brilliant.”

He supposed it was. And as apropos a pseudonym as he had ever had. Jackie had suggested Don Noble, after Donna, thinking herself so clever. He’d rejected it in a heartbeat. Not that he rejected Donna or that part of herself that she had unwittingly given him during the meta-crisis that resulted in his creation. Donna. His Donna. A backlash of Time Lord consciousness had transformed her into the Doctor-Donna, just as the Ood had foretold. His last best mate. They were going to travel the stars forever, he and Donna. Well, as long as she could keep up with him and knowing Donna, that would have been a very, very long time.

“You did marry her?” the Doctor asked suddenly, gripping a branch to keep from falling to the ploughed field below.

“What?” He lowered the spyglass and glanced sideways, now quite sure he wanted no part of this line of questioning. They had more important things to do than to  talk about his personal life. Though, truth told, he was surprised it had taken this long.

“Rose. You were going to tell me something back in the greenhouse.”

He raised the glass again and concentrated on the structures on the far side of the bridge. A pub stood near the church. That was handy he supposed.

The Doctor was being ever so patient, waiting for him to answer.

He sighed at last and, without looking at his companion, said, “Now wouldn’t that have been a happy ending.”

“What can I say? Love a happy ending, me. And fairy tales. She broke down the walls between worlds to find… you.”

Now he turned, taking in the Doctor‘s new features all over again, his long, oval face and that square chin! Blimey! Not to mention the cascade of hair twisting over a bright green eye. Indie rock Time Lord. All they needed was an electric keyboard.

“No. Let’s at least get that part straight. She wanted to find you, well, you from before.”

“That would be you,” the Doctor pointed out smugly, raising the binoculars once again.

He turned away. What was the point in arguing? He couldn’t even begin to explain what it felt like to be unable to lay claim to his own identity. To not even own his own name. To walk through life having to make it all up as he went along. To be exiled. How was that for irony? Perhaps he didn’t need to explain it at all.

“I doubt she’d go for this,” the Doctor told him, sticking out a prodigious chin before crinkling up the rest of a very youthful face. “She wasn’t keen on my changing the first time. Thought I was a Slitheen in a man suit. As if a Slitheen could squeeze into  your skinny, uhm, skinniness. Blimey. I forgot just how skinny I was. Don’t you eat? I remember eating all the time. Must have been all the running. And you can still run!”

“Professional hazard.”

“It is that. But, Rose… “ the words trailed off.

Don’t,” he said at last. “Just don’t say anything.”

Green eyes darted everywhere except straight ahead into the face that had once belonged to him as well. Then a smile edged nervous, see-sawing lips. A very small, very wistful smile.

“You know what happens when we change. It’s the same, but it isn’t the same. New man, same as the old, but not. And Rose… I don’t expect her to… Not that way. It’s… complicated.”

“You’re telling me.”

“Not the half of it.”

He curbed the desire to ask the obvious question, surmised it had something to do with River Song, the woman who knew his name. The woman from a future he would never know. Where had they met, anyway? And how was it she knew his name? What had she told him all those years ago? Spoilers.

He lowered himself down to another branch that he might survey the surrounding area further. He gazed down the long road, a remnant of ancient Rome, no doubt, then back at the bridge and coursing river that ran beneath it. He tucked the spyglass under one arm and breathed on his fingers. The autumn air grew colder as the day grew longer. He was in need of a coat. Perhaps a hat. Albeit one less waterlogged then the sad affair sitting atop the Doctor’s head. He looked back at the bustling town again. A Parliamentary flag had finally been raised.

“Assuming this is the London Road, and that is the River Brent, and that lot,” he gestured with the spyglass, “are Parliamentarians, I‘d say we‘re in for a Civil War battle. And if they’re building barricades that quickly today…”

“They’ll be expecting Prince Rupert’s Horse tomorrow.”

“That’s bad.”

“Very, very not good,” the Doctor agreed. “Unless of course history plays out differently here on Pete’s World—assuming we didn’t also travel sideways into another universe as well as backwards--or these guys are just out for some historical cosplay.”

“You know, Tegan never did forgive us for that,” he said, the image of his companion, Tegan Jovanka, dressed as the May Queen coming to mind.

“I fear Tegan never forgave us for a lot of things.”

That brought him up short, stirring up memories that he had no wish to grapple with just then. Too many people had died. Too many were to die after.

“And we have yet to mend our ways,” he said softly. “But, no. The English Civil War happened on Pete’s World. Only here--if we are here and not there--Essex didn’t reach London before Charles did. Things… changed after that.”

“And you know I love a history lesson, and I was really hoping to lay hands on that Zeiton 7 for you, but right now I‘m thinking--“

“We should leave.”

“Yes. Yes we should.”

And they would have, were it not for the group of angry Roundheads gathered directly under the tree.


*


Given the choice to climb down of their own accord or be shot down, they choose the former and descended to the ground, hands raised in the air. Not a man in the ranks stood above either of their shoulders, but the pikes made them look taller.

“Speak the truth. Are ye for King or Parliament?” asked the leader.

“King.”

“Parliament.”

They looked at one another in shock, hastily reversing their answers.

“Parliament.”

“King.”

“Yes. Definitely. King/Parliament,” they chimed together.

“Damn Cymru dogs,” one of the soldiers muttered.

That’s when it hit him and he turned suddenly toward the Doctor. “How’s your spoken English?”

“My what?” the Doctor asked him with a nervous laugh. “I speak English perfectly, why?”

“No translation circuit here and you‘ve been speaking Gallifreyan,” he said.

“I most certainly have not,” the Doctor told him, this time the nervousness spreading over the Time Lord‘s entire face.

“You have, too. So have I. I didn‘t even know I still remembered how. But I have been---since we got here!”

“Quit your nattering, you two!” one of the Roundheads barked.

“I told you they’re Cymru dogs. Shifting their speech and allegiances as the wind changes,” said the first man.

”You know,” he said, still directing most of the conversation toward the Doctor, “he has a point. The Welsh were notorious for that. Bad day at Edgehill wasn’t it? Of course they‘ll come ‘round again. Uhm, tomorrow, if memory serves…”

One of the soldiers pressed a pistol into his ribcage. He swallowed hard.

“This really isn‘t the time to debate the subject, though. Too right. Sorry.”

“Oh, hello,” the Doctor said suddenly, nodding toward the young man they‘d encountered earlier outside the orangery. The man they had pursued back in Time. The poor fellow stood at the rear of the assembly, obviously trying to master invisibility. “It is you, isn’t it? Good to see a friendly face. Well, a familiar face at least. We weren‘t properly introduced earlier. I’m called the Doctor. And this is…”

“Jon Noble,” he muttered, hating to say it but having little choice.

“Yes, right. Doctor Jon Noble. May I just say what a marvellous hat you have. I’ve quite enjoyed wearing it, but of course here it is for you. To wear. Again.” The Doctor leaned toward him. “I mentioned it was marvellous, right?”

“That you did. Twice. I don‘t think he wants it back.”

“Mott!” the soldier in charged barked. “You know these men?”

The younger man drew back sharply, clearly ill at ease but not wanting to elaborate. And rightly so. The poor dear had been transported to another world. A world as alien and terrifying to someone of this age as any advanced and hostile civilisation might appear to someone from the world they‘d come from.

“Mott?” he asked, making the connection to Donna‘s grandfather. Wilfred Mott.  Good ole Wilf! The red hair, the sad eyes, that deer-in-the-headlights expression. “Are you from Chiswick then? Oh, you are, aren’t you? Nooo. You are kidding me. That’s some strong genetic transference, there.”

The Doctor was equally bemused.

“Mott!” the group’s leader barked at the young soldier again.

“By all that’s holy, I don’t know them. Only seen them on the West Road on my way to Braynforde. They—they had a big blue wardrobe in the forest with a torch on top of it.”

“A wardrobe!” scoffed the man who had previously made disparaging remarks about the Welsh. Snaggle-toothed did the bloke justice. The large, hairy wart on a pock-marked cheek didn‘t help. The sort of man you wanted to avoid in any century. “In league with that devil, Rupert, I‘d wager.”

“Don’t be absurd,” the Doctor retorted, tossing back an impressive fringe before donning Mott’s hat again. “Do I look like a poodle?”

“Well, if you really want to know,” be began, wishing he had a mirror just then.

“At least I have on a jacket and tie.”

True and true again.

“Are you here from Colnbrook, then?” asked one man eagerly. Several of the others joined in, pressing them for news, asking if they were envoys of the King.

“Something like that,” he replied, thinking quickly for an angle to play.

Any chance of constitutional compromise had broken down early in 1642. If it was now fall of the same year, the peace negotiations that Parliament had entered into with Charles I had gone awry, no matter which timeline they were to follow. If they had  fallen back through time on Pete’s World, as they suspected, the consequences for Brentford were even more dire than on the world Rose and her mum had come from.

“As you can imagine, it’s imperative that be on our way to London.”

The Doctor caught on to his ruse and offered up the psychic paper with what he hoped now contained convincing credentials and not more Gallifreyan nonsense. They really did need to assess those calculations. In any case the Doctor didn’t show the leather wallet for long.

“There, you see? Doctors Smythe and Noble, due in London this very day.”

“You’ll nae get there before nightfall,” replied one of the men.

Indeed. The hour was well past what it had been on the other side of the portal. Hazard of time travel.

A swift riding courier drew their attention.

“It’s Essex,” the newcomer told them quickly, breathing hard. “He’s moving toward Acton to regroup with Hampden. They’re calling for more men. London’s fallen to the Royalists and Prince Rupert Horse moves in from the west.”

The officer in charge drew a sharp breath.

“Take these two men to Sir Wynn’s house and put a guard on them. Lord Brooke can attend to them upon his return. If they’re the King’s men they may be all that stands in the way of Braynforde burning to the ground. And if not, then may God have mercy on their miserable souls.”





There were worse places to be detained than Sir Richard Wynn’s curing house, he supposed, though the insidious meat hooks from which hung slabs of bacon and ham  hocks were far from comforting. Nor were the eels. He rather hated eels. Especially since that incident with the Nemonites during World War II. Barrels of salt stood along one wall of the small building and a low fire filled the room with choking smoke. Really, it could have been worse. At least they hadn’t been put with the bees. Then again, it was November. The bees would be docile. Pigs then. It was better than being put with the pigs. But only just.

“A little early to have killed the fatted calf, isn’t it?” the Doctor asked, poking a sizable ham with an index finger.

“Imagine feeding that lot. There’ll be scarcely a chicken left in all of Brentford before long. A lot of local fish in here--aside from the eels. Someone‘s been to Billingsgate,” he said, wrinkling his nose. He swept the room with his sonic screwdriver. “Though, I’d wager--if I were a bettin’ man--that we’ll find something more interesting hidden in those salt tubs.”

The Doctor wrestled the lid off of one, then quickly slammed it down again. “Just not that one.”

“What’s this then?” he asked, pushing the lid off another and lifting out a bronze shield boss covered in Celtic knot work. “Oh, that’s a pretty thing, isn’t it?”

“It is indeed,” the Time Lord agreed, and they both bent over the open cask to see what else could be found.

“Quite the spot for antiquities, Brentford. All sorts of bits and bobs dredged out of the Brent and the Thames, including the rather famous…” he pulled out a small bronze fitting and held it up triumphantly, “Brentford Horn Cap. Or, should I say, pair of Horn Caps.”

He tossed the second horn cap to the Doctor who gave it a fair appraisal.

“Very interesting. Historically, there’s only one, kept in the British Museum. Love the British Museum. Spent a fortnight in the vault sorting things they don’t even have names for yet.”

He fiddled with his sonic screwdriver, scanning each of the ornate chariot pieces in turn. The one in the Doctor’s left hand resonated as he adjusted the frequency, the excited Zeiton 7 particles in the copper-alloy producing a faint, unearthly glow as the temperature was elevated.

“What sort of devilry is this?”

Equally startled, they looked up through the billowing smoke to see a well-dressed gentleman standing at the open door. If the bloke they’d managed not to cross swords with earlier looked grumpy, this fellow looked genuinely cantankerous. Bad combination, superstitious and a bad-temper. This was an age when they burned suspected witches and then determined the fate of their souls if they were found innocent. Not to mention charging their family for the wood with which to burn them.

“It isn’t what you think,” he said quickly, switching the sonic screwdriver off. “Wait. What do you think?”

“Sorcery. Alchemy. You’re transforming lead to gold!”

“Am I? Oh, dear. I suppose that is what it looks like.”

The Doctor shook a finger at him. “That was the conclusion someone else had, that other time when we did that other thing at Camboglanna. As you may recall it did not turn out particularly well.”

“That was an accident,” he pointed out and might have argued the point further where it not for the six armed men crowding into an already crowded smoke house.

“Who are you? Who sent you here?”

“Didn’t you get the memo? We’re the Doctors. A better question would be who are you? Not Lord Brooke. And you’re not Denzil Holles. Met him in a pub once…”

“You’ll show respect for Captain Bennet,” one of the men barked at them.

“Bennet? William Bennet? Oh my,” he said, recalling the list of the dead after the swiftly approaching battle. “I am sorry.”

“Yes, yes. I was told you were Doctors,” Bennet told them, affording them little courtesy. “And Doctors we’ll need if Rupert’s Horse reaches Braynforde before we have reinforcements. But not your kind.”

“I’m sorry?” the Doctor asked, laughing nervously. “And what kind might that be?”

“The kind we hang from trees,” Bennet growled, turning to leave. “Cattorill, Willoughby, remove the unholy instruments and burn them. Then put our Doctors someplace more secure until Holles or Brooke return. I have more pressing things to attend to. Is Lilburne still here…?”

Two of the soldiers advanced on them and he backed away amid the eels, lowering the sonic screwdriver so as to make it appear less threatening.

“You really don’t want to do that because, because--”

“--because of the wonderful things it does,” the Doctor added. They were backed nearly into the rear wall now.

“Yes. Right. Wonderful. Helpful things. Good, wonderful, helpful and not-threatening things.”

The soldiers hesitated, obviously uneasy about the orders they had been given. Couldn’t fault them. Suspected sorcery was a chancy business. He noticed that the other four were in no hurry to advance on them either, and instead crowded around the door, discussing the need for a chaplain.

“What wonders do you speak of?” asked one.

“What wonders. This fine gentleman wants to know what wonders your, ehm, tool, can perform…“

“Wasn’t turning lead to gold impressive enough?” he asked.

“Evidently not,” the Doctor said.

“All right. All right. It is also used very effectively for bluffing.”

The Doctor looked at him quizzically. “Bluffing?”

“Yes. Bluffing. You remember bluffing? We’re both very, very good at bluffing…”

A moment later they were shoulder to shoulder, brandishing their sonic screwdrivers like comic book ray guns. A short burst of energy heated the belt buckle of the first Roundhead‘s trousers until it was at a sufficiently high temperature to be noticed. In a flash, the poor man was more concerned about catching on fire than keeping a watchful eye on two bizarre prisoners. The man’s obvious distress caused two others to look away and when subsequent blasts popped the metal bands on salt barrels, splattering meat and grease alike, the rest of the men scattered, calling for reinforcements. Smoke billowed from the curing house, masking their escape.

“The horn cap!” he cried, turning back.

“It isn’t worth it!” the Doctor shouted at him.

“It is to me!” He ducked back into the choking pork-scented miasma, feeling his way through slippery eels and sausages to the crates.

He scooped up one brass fitting, then the other one, uncertain which one he needed. A faulty sonic screwdriver did nothing to sort out his dilemma. Behind him, the Doctor urged him to make haste. Run was the word used. Twice, in fact. The quickest solution was to take both of the bronze-age relics and he did so, pocketing the artefacts as he dodged back out, blinking smoke from his eyes.

For a third time, and with considerable gusto, the Doctor shouted “Run!”
 
If only he’d known in which direction. As luck would have it, he went the wrong way.


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thebunnyinthetardis
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« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2012, 06:43:46 am »

Chapter Seven



He awoke on cold, hard ground, his arms fastened securely behind his back, his legs clamped in irons. Joy. It had been ages since he’d been held in a dungeon--even if it was little more than a dank cellar. The result was the same. And the smell! Nothing quite compared to parfum pestilentiel de prison mingled with burning lard. To make matters worse it was wet. The steady beat of rain outside meant the trickling stream already coursing through the centre of the room would be increasing. Were it to keep up he’d have need of a skiff. And a paddle. As he blinked the grit from his eyes he was just able to discern the shadow of another inmate.

“Yes. It’s me.”

He had never been quite so relieved to talk to himself. Even if doing so in the fetid darkness while chained to the floor was more than a little disconcerting. It was all rather familiar, now that he thought about it. All that was missing was Jamie McCrimmon. Ah, Jamie. Good man, Jamie.

“You’ve been unconscious a long time. They hit us both pretty hard--and hit you more.”

“Why?” he asked, making his first attempt to sit up.

“You were fighting back.”

“And you weren’t?” He spit the dirt from his mouth as he attempted for a second time to rise and having scarcely more luck than he had had at the first go. At least this time he didn’t pitch forward into the slime.

“There were seventeen of them and only two of us.”

“Only seventeen?” he asked.

“I thought instead of being knocked out or dragged off straight away to be drowned in the Thames, that I’d try to convince our lovely hosts that we are not in league with Satan, were not engaging in the transmutation of lead to gold, are not Prince Rupert’s spies, familiars, or even his tailors. That last was not difficult to sell seeing how you’re dressed. And to think I used to wear suits. Have you examined yourself in a mirror lately? And when was the last time you had a cut and trim?

“While I was at it I also attempted to express to them the futility of the war and why deposing the king wasn‘t going to work in the long run as, unknown to most of them, Parliament was also abusing power and had their own issues regarding fiscal responsibility, corruption, and in any case it was pig-headed foolishness to pit brother against brother over religious ideals.”

“You said all that?”

“I don’t remember,” the Doctor said, chains and shackles clinking as the Time Lord shifted in the darkness. “I was talking fast and might have been a bit difficult to understand seeing as they were dragging me by my hair.”

“Were they swayed?” he asked.

“Not so much,” the Doctor replied, sounding rather sad. “And now I have a terrible headache. Almost as bad as when I met you.”

“Thanks for that, mate.”

“Don’t mention it. I am afraid I may have misquoted their scriptures. It has been rather a while since I read it. Only just chewed through the sock they stuck in my mouth,” the Doctor told him with a loud smacking of lips. “My tongue tastes like a wet sheep.”

He struggled for a third time to sit up. The Doctor scooted toward him, offering what little assistance might be got when both parties are inconvenienced with shackles. Their solitary source of light emanated from a crudely-fashioned stoneware lamp high on a ledge. Judging by the odour and the smoke, efficient fuel was not being wasted on prisoners. As his eyes adjusted he slowly focused on the Doctor’s face and one blackened eye. He cringed.

“Believe you me, you look worse. I’ll have you know I asked for a room with a view, but you see where that‘s got us.” After a pause the Time Lord added: “I was concerned. I… couldn‘t hear your hearts beating.”

“Heart.”

“Sorry?”

“Heart. Singular. One. One heart. One, human heart.”

“Ah…yes. That would explain it,” the Doctor sighed.

“Well, then. Aside from the eye thing there, and your mouth tasting like a wet sheep, are you all right?” he asked, genuinely concerned.

“I’m always all right,” the Doctor responded with practiced ease.

“You‘re lying,” he shot back.

“Yes. It was a stupid question. Have any more?”

“I don’t suppose there’s anything to eat?” he asked.

The Doctor began to laugh. “Peckish at a time like this?”

He shrugged helplessly. One did work up an appetite running for miles in the rain, climbing yew trees, and fighting off seventeen Roundheads. No spaghetti rings and hot dogs for Tea after all.

“Well, it depends on your definition of food,” the Doctor told him, nodding toward two bowls on the floor, the contents of which matched the contents of what passed for a toilet, and no doubt left over from the last unhappy inhabitants. “If recollection serves… no. Not even for you.”

“Right… so…,” he rattled chains like the Ghost of Christmas Past, “manacles, shackles, chains and a really dark, smelly dungeon. Well, just a cellar, really. Lord Wynn’s cellar I imagine, and with Lord Wynn not in residence we‘ll have little chance of appealing to any kind of real authority. Have we thought of a brilliant plan yet?”

“Several,” the Doctor told him smugly, then sighed. “Unfortunately I haven’t got a case of lemons, a box of shortbread or a llama.”

“The best plans always seem to go to waste,” he said, twisting about to test his restraints. They were more than adequate, but… “Hello, what‘s this? It feels like I still have the horn caps in my pocket and my sonic screwdriver,” he said, surprised by the discovery.

The Doctor twisted around to look. “Indeed you do. And mine is in my coat pocket if I‘m not mistaken. After our little show down they were afraid to touch them. Something to be said of bluffing after all.”

“Wait. I’ve been lying in the dirt and,” he wrinkled his nose, “other things, on my face, and you just sat there with a sock in your mouth? You could have sprung us free by now!”

“Where’s the fun in that? Oh, fine. Have it your way, but it‘s going to be a hell of a game of Twister.”

He knew he should have studied longer with Harry Houdini.

Their captors had obviously planned for their eventual attempt to escape, and while they had not been chained to either end of the room, they had been chained in such a manner so as to impede their efforts to assist one another without considerable contortion. As they twisted about, grinding ever more dirt into their clothing, thunder rolled overhead, shaking the house to the foundation. He felt the dissipated charge of unearthly energy.

“There’s something intensely unsettling about these storms,” the Doctor said.

He had to agree. Given its inherent instability, the open Rift might be exacerbating the storms, but if that were the case, the influx of temporal energy from this time might also provide the Tardis an unprecedented feast of artron energy. If the internal power regulator was functioning properly. A big if. And a vital necessity. If he failed to get enough thrust the next time he piloted her, they might not be so lucky with their landing. And it wasn’t the only problem still facing the Time Ship. The Doctor had been right. Dimensional instability meant an ever-increasing danger of time spillage, an event which he had begun to suspect was already effecting the present day. If they failed to remedy the situation he would have more to worry about than dying in 1642 and never seeing Rose Tyler again.

“We did, you know,” he said suddenly, thoughts of Rose and how much he wanted to be home flooding his mind. “We got married. Rose and I. You asked before.”

“So I gathered. You’re not wearing it now, but it’s obvious you had a ring.  That‘s a nasty scar on your left hand by the way.”

“Discharge from a faulty capacitor, just about the time the briode nebuliser failed and about six minutes before I crashed in Pete Tyler‘s garden,” he said, angling his body so that the Doctor might retrieve the sonic screwdriver from his back pocket. The chariot fittings in his front pocket dug deeply into his groin and he let go a painful yelp before shifting the other way.

“Oh! I almost had it!”

He groaned and leaned again. “It was rubbish,” he said through a grimace. “Not the ring. Well, it was rubbish after it melted, but, the wedding. Well, not the wedding. Well, I was rubbish.”

“We’re always rubbish at weddings.” The Doctor sounded remorseful. ”Did you dance?”

“I… after a fashion,” he said, worming his way closer. Perhaps it would be easier for him to fish the screwdriver from the Doctor’s coat pocket. “They made me dance with Jackie!”

“They didn’t! Regeneration would be easier.”

That was a fact.

“I wondered if you’d do it.”

“I’m sorry?” he asked.

“Get married. I wondered if you’d get married. If that’s what she wanted.”

“You never considered what I wanted,” he pointed out.

“I assumed you’d want what I wanted.”

“Which was?”

“It’s a little fuzzy now.”

“There you have it. I honestly didn’t have an opinion one way or the other, but after awhile, well, why not? I wasn’t going anywhere, was I? When Jacks got wind that we were going to run off to America, though, it just sort of happened. It’s not like I was going take Rose to New Vegas City to be married by an Elvis impersonator. But, oh no. I wasn’t going to cheat Jackie out of her only daughter’s wedding. So we had one. A big, posh English country garden wedding with those crinkly paper bows, and balloons, and confetti and sky lanterns, and little napkins with our names printed on them. I mean, seriously? Our names on napkins. Why, I ask you? And cake. Lots of cake. Lots of really good cake, actually.”

“Last time I got married we didn’t even have Jammie Dodgers…”

“You what?” He could not see the Doctor’s expression to know whether or not that statement was facetious.

“Oh, never mind. This is your story. And I’m sure it’s better than mine. Tell me about Rose. She… she must have been lovely.”

Something in the Doctor’s tone gave him pause, but he chose to go on. “Too right. She carried roses. Blue roses. And wore a blue dress.”

“I’m noticing a theme here. Were the balloons and the bows blue, too?”

“Oh, belt up. It’s what she wanted. We did it her way. Mostly. There were... some concessions. She wanted it to be Gallifreyan, too. But, you know. That would have been...”

“Difficult?” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Yeah,” he agreed. Some things were best left in the past. “But it all turned out right in the end. I even took her to Barcelona. Finally, Barcelona. Can you believe it? Not the planet, but Barcelona nonetheless. Seemed like I owed her that much. It was that or Port Adventura but the last time we’d been there she got sick on the loop-de-loop. And we were happy. Really, really happy…” the words trailed off. “Everything I ever dreamed. It was like Christmas. Every day. With snow.”

“And snowmen?” was the Doctor’s earnest question.

“Oh yeah. Armies of snowmen,” he grinned, remembering those days. Days he had never dreamed would actually be his to live. Life on Pete‘s World hadn‘t been all bad. Some days had even been… fantastic. “It was the best. Until… it stopped snowing.”

Words slipped away from him then. He did not want to admit it to the Doctor anymore than he wanted to admit to himself, but there it was. It stopped snowing. It just. Stopped. Snowing. The Doctor was evidently too occupied with their weak plan of escape to notice the change in his tone.

“Can you reach now and get--”

“--almost have it--”

Ow!”

“Sorry,” he said. “Lean to the left. No, your left.”

“Sorry. Ow!”

His fingers slipped past the sonic screwdriver and he tried again, almost, almost. Then he stopped moving. He had to tell the truth. Why did those moments of personal revelation always seem to coincide with his life being in peril?

“I haven’t seen Rose in months.”

“Ye what?”

“I took the Tardis and left Scotland. Not quite as dramatic as when we left Gallifrey behind, but there you have it.”

“You left Rose in Scotland?” the Doctor asked, incredulous.”Scotland?”

Oy!  It's not like I painted her blue and made her eat deep-fried porridge! It's part of the modern world, Scotland. They've got cars and indoor plumbing and everything.

“That’s where our house is, you muppet. Well, not so much a house as an estate. Well, Torchwood, actually. The house I mean. It was her idea, not long after you left us here. Move to Scotland she said. I’d forgotten how much it rains. But she loved it. There are more stars there than in London. When it isn’t raining. You walk on the moors late at night and you almost forget you still can’t touch them.”

That‘s where he imagined she would be. That was if she had saved the planet from the sheep-stealing-alien-threat she had been dispatched to investigate. He was glad he wasn’t going to be asked to fill out that paperwork.

“Well that explains your accent.” A sonic screwdriver clattered to the ground. He wasn’t sure which one. “But you left her? After the wedding and the balloons and the dress and the--the--the--napkins? You left her?”

“Whoa, Sunshine! It wasn’t like that!” Trust himself to suspect the worst of himself.

But the Doctor was not going to let him explain. Why should he? It struck him, quite suddenly, that the Time Lord harboured some guilt regarding the matter and it provided him some perverse pleasure to realize that even now, after so many years—ever so many more for the Doctor, if he understood correctly how old the Doctor was--it still hurt. And so it should, after all the hurt he’d endured himself. Not that they hurt for the same reasons. Not anymore.

“I punched a hole back into a parallel world to bring her and her mum back safely to Pete--not to mention putting 27 planets back in their rightful places, and saving the Earth by towing it back from the Medusa Cascade and then,” the Doctor sputtered, not even pausing for breath, “I leave her with me, well, you, which I thought was what she wanted to ‘grow old along with me’ and you left her? You told her. You told her what I couldn‘t. You told her that you loved her!”

Oy! I helped with saving those planets, if you remember,” he yelled back.
 
“And it was 26 planets and one moon, to be precise. And I do love her. You‘re the one who couldn‘t say it!”

“I didn’t think it needed to be said.”

“Yeah? Well put that one on your list of epic fails, Time Boy.”

“You left!”

“I… “

“You left Rose? How could you leave Rose?”

“I… she… we had… It‘s complicated.”

“What did you do to her?” the Doctor demanded, low, level, and threatening.

“Do?” he gasped, not only at the accusation but at the sharp tug on the chain attached to his manacled wrists. He tripped over his words, trying to make sense of it all, but how could he? How would it ever make any sense? His entire existence made no sense.

“I didn’t do anything,” he said in his most measured tone. “I couldn’t do anything. That was the problem. I couldn’t do anything. It didn’t matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn’t. But it wasn’t my fault!”

“What then? It was hers?”

“No,” he stated firmly, fervently. “No. It was not hers.”

“So, what? You’re saying it was mine?”

“Well, you made me Time Boy!” he snarled.

“Believe me, it was not intentional! But here we are. And you know what? I gave you everything. I gave you Rose. And stop calling me Time Boy!”

“She wasn’t yours to give away--and neither was I!” he shouted back, feeling a degree of anger he hadn’t felt in oh so very long. Anger… and despair. How frequently were they bedfellows. “You had to have known it wouldn‘t work. You left me here, for her. To have the life you wouldn’t give yourself. I get that. I trusted you. Hated you, but trusted you. I have one heart. I’m part human, but I‘m also Gallifreyan. A pathetic, halfling mutant. The Time Lord That Isn’t. I wasn’t sure what else that meant.”

“What else what meant? What do you mean what else?”

They both struggled to get free then, their total lack of cooperation making it impossible for either one of them to achieve their goal. The sonic screwdriver was drawn from his back pocket at last, only to clatter to the ground. He felt a hot sting on his hand when one of the devices was accidentally activated. He suppressed the urge to cry out but only just.

“What the hell kind of setting is that? Give it here before you burn a hole in my--”

Another blast and the manacles were hot, the chain between then hotter still. He twisted his hands, attempting to break free, instead pressing the fingers of his right hand against the scorched metal. He pitched sideways in pain, knocking the sonic screwdriver out of the Doctor‘s hand. They both scrambled to retrieve the fallen devices in the dim light, pushing and shoving one another until the chains that bound them were tangled about their legs and they were left sitting back to back, completely spent.

“I couldn’t look at it anymore,” he whispered at last, thoughts of home raw in his mind. Thoughts of the nursery he and Rose had never finished decorating. “I stayed as long as I could. For her. To make sure she was all right. But then I just… had… to leave.”

“Couldn’t look at what?”

He stared into the gloom, tears streaming silently down his face. It had been so long since he had allowed himself the luxury to cry. So long since he had given himself permission to grieve at all. He kicked out savagely, driving the heel of another ruined trainer into the wet ground, resenting having been brought to tears this way. Here. Now. With him.

“An empty cradle, all right? He died. My son died. Our son.”

The Doctor’s back stiffened against his.

“Your son? You lost your…? Rose had--your baby?”

“Yes, my baby. What did you think I meant?” he rasped, battling raw emotion. “Small person. Slippery when wet. You remember those?”

“I—yes, yes...” The words trailed off in a sad whisper. “I remember.”

How stupid to think otherwise. He took a long, ragged breath then let himself collapse. A strong back held him up as he wept.

Never had he expected to be a father again. He had abandoned any thought of that long before the end of Gallifrey drew nigh. Even here, with Rose, it was out of the question. Not with this insane biological profile. The man that shouldn’t exist. Never been another like me he thought bitterly. For a reason! Though he looked like the same man on the outside, under the microscope he might as well have been Frankenstein’s Monster. Part human. Part Time Lord. And his son. Their son. Their dear, small boy… Not enough of either. What began as a miracle ended in a nightmare. And he without the time or resources to devise a viable genetic solution. Cleverest mind on this world, but not clever enough to save his own child. Not even a time machine helped in the end. He would have smashed his way through the Time Lock to Gallifrey itself had he come up with a way.

Such a fool he had been in the aftermath. He’d never broken so many things in his life. Not intentionally. Never punched so many holes in so many walls. He would never have guessed just how intense human anger could be, being so accustomed to his own, dark fury. Combined… they were terrifying. Words betrayed him, first refusing to come and then, when they did, it was every wrong thing. Stupid alien brain in a human head saying stupid things about destiny and genetics and biological imperatives to the grieving mother of his child. Rose. His precious, precious Rose. Strong to the last, stepping from the ashes to focus on the future. She never blamed him. Not once. But he did. And he would not let her forgive him for not saving their child.

“I couldn’t save him,” he said, voice hoarse, eyes stinging. “Of all the people in the world, I couldn’t save that one. She said I needed time to sort myself out. Imagine!  Me, sort myself out. As if I’d know where to start.

“She made me better before. You said so yourself—that day in Norway, when you left us there together. She made me better, but not this time. Imagine what that felt like, for both of us. You gave us a fairy tale. We should have known the Trickster would be first in line after you left.”

“Time can be rewrit--”

“Don’t. Just… don’t.”

“But--”

“I said don’t.”

After a long pause the Doctor spoke again, gently. “I‘m sorry. I am so, so sorry.”

This time they both knew it was true.
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thebunnyinthetardis
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« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2012, 05:24:59 am »

Chapter Eight


They sat in murky silence a long time, all thought of escape gone. The wick in the earthenware lamp on the ledge guttered out ere long, leaving them in smoky darkness. Still they sat, each lost in his own thoughts. They might have been the same thoughts. He had not the words to ask.

A flurry of activity upstairs interrupted their miserable reverie and he raised his head slowly to listen. The Doctor shifted behind him, no doubt doing the same. A series of shots followed soon after, suggesting morning had arrived, but they had no way of verifying the time. All he knew for sure was that he was exhausted and aching and gnawingly hungry. The rumble of thunder once more shook the house. Belatedly he realised it was not thunder at all, but heavy artillery. Cannon fire. The day was upon them, and with it Rupert’s Horse.

In a flash of green and blue light from both sonic screwdrivers, he was free of the crippling shackles and staggering to his feet. For a moment he wasn’t sure he remembered how to walk.

“Time to get outta Dodge,” he said.

“And not a moment too soon,” the Doctor agreed, training a beam of green light onto the remaining shackles. For some reason they were being more resistant to release.

“You’re doing it wrong--”

“If you don’t mind, you’re in my light!”

“What light? Here, let me--” he swiped the sonic screwdriver from the Doctor’s hand.

“Do I look like I need help?

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Stop there if you value your lives.”

He spun round at the sound of a quavering voice. Red-headed young Mott stood in the doorway, an ornate bronze lamp in the shape of a peacock in one hand, a pistol in the other. The reluctant time traveller looked none the more pleased to be in the cellar than they did.

“Really,” he said, “that’s the wrong thing to ask us. And what are you doing down here anyway? They send you to mind the prisoners while the cavalry charges into Brentford? Blimey. We’re more popular than I realized. What’s your name anyway?”

“Don’t talk to me. The chaplain warned me you’d try to bewitch me.”

“Did he, now?” He slid the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver into his back pocket then raised his hands, turning them back and forth that young master Mott might see that he was unarmed. “There. Is that better? I don’t want to hurt you. We don’t want to hurt you. Don’t want to hurt anyone. Really. We just want to get back home, preferably with all our limbs attached. Bet you want to go home too. Back to Chiswick, yeah? Yeah. You want to go home. What soldier doesn’t.”

Mott kept the pistol raised, but slowly nodded in agreement.

“But you know what’s happening here, right? This is the lull before the storm.  Foggy outside is it? Before long 1,000 Musketeers are going to sweep through Brentford--”

Braynforde,” the Doctor corrected for the time period.

“Braynforde, right, and on toward Turnham Green. There’s no going home to Chiswick right now, my friend, and men firing from behind hedges are not going to be enough to hold back what‘s coming.”

“The bridge will hold and if not--”

“Barricades in town? Snipers in the side streets? Lord Brooke’s men armed to the teeth? Or what’s left of them since you lost half of them to reinforce Essex yesterday--which, by the way, was not supposed to happen. By nightfall all of Br-aynford will be burning. And this house will be the first to fall.

Awww,” he smacked his head with his hand. “I’ve gone and said too much, haven’t I?”

“Not inspiring much hope in the troops, no,” the Doctor observed.

“Listen, it only stands to reason. The King engaged Essex before he could get to London. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way, but that’s neither here nor there. It wasn’t my fault when it happened the other way ‘round and I don’t see how it’s my fault this time, either, but who knows? Not me.

“Trained Bands will be in an uproar, yeah, but the King has the city and Rupert’s Horse and the remaining regiments are closing in. All that stands between London and them is the River Brent and the village of Braynforde and I‘m sorry, I‘m truly, truly sorry, but tomorrow‘s market day really will need to be cancelled.” He turned to the Doctor. “Did I say too much again?”

The Doctor waved a hand dismissively. “History is rewriting what’s already been rewritten. Go on. You‘re on a roll.”

“You aren’t helping.”

“There isn’t a large enough mop in the universe.”

He scowled at the sarcasm then turned back to Mott and tried another approach.

“You’ve been places you didn’t expect to go, eh? Noticed you weren‘t letting on about that yesterday in front of the boys. What would they think of that, eh?”

Now Mott had something to say. “They’d never believe me if I told them. It wasn’t real. It can’t be. It was a nightmare.”

“Well,” he drawled, “to you, yeah. Just as terrifying as it would be for, oh, I don‘t know. Job. Like the sound of that name. Jo-o-ob,” he drew the name out long and low. “Good man, that Job. I rather liked him. Anyway, let‘s say Job sets foot in London today. What could he possibly think because that place would be truly terrifying. He wouldn’t belong there, stepping out of his time and everything he knows. But it’s just a place. Where you were, where we were, where we should be. Just a place.”

“By God’s teeth it was like hell.”

“Trust me, there’s worse places. Not that I’ve been to hell, though, Krop Tor would be right up there.”

“I don’t think that’s helping,” the Doctor pointed out.

“Oh. Right. So, what’s your name? Go on, tell me it’s Wilfred. That’d just be brilliant. So what is it?”

“It’s George.”

“Oh. Well. George. Good. Really. Good name. Helped him with a dragon once. But you! You, George Mott, you travelled to another time and another world. Think of the stories you can tell your sons, one of which you could name Wilfred. Assuming you have sons. Or a wife. Do you have a wife? I have a wife. And I‘d very much like to see her again.”

As he spoke, he edged nearer and nearer the younger man, keeping eye contact until his hand closed gently on George’s pistol and he tipped it lightly out of the soldier’s hand.

“There. Better.”

Though frightened, young George Mott was not to be won over so easily. A second pistol swung into view and while there was no time to prime it, it served admirably as a club. He took the first blow in stride, still trying to talk his assailant down, but there was nothing for it. Mott was not going to be convinced quickly and he was experiencing a rare moment where he was lost for words. It might have had something to do with the growling in his stomach being louder than the cannon fire outside. In a spontaneous motion he blocked the next strike, knocked the pistol from Mott’s hand and rammed the heel of his hand into the younger man’s jaw.

“Don’t hurt him!” the Doctor cried as the pistol clattered to the ground. By the way the Time Lord scrambled out of the way one would have thought it was a viper posed to strike. “He might be Donna’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddad!”

“Wrong universe!”

“You still shouldn’t hurt him.”

“What about him not hurting me?”

“Try giving back his hat.”

“I didn’t have his hat! You did!”

Undeterred, Mott set the lamp aside and reached for a knife. What was it about humans and poky bits of metal? This was not going to end well. He whipped out the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, searching in the dim light for inspiration. A decorative wooden case on a rough-hewed oak table against the far wall drew his attention, and he fumbled with the unfamiliar device until the Doctor made a series of suggestions. The last one unlocked the crate. He heard the telltale click, but the box remained closed.

The Doctor glanced up. “Wood?”

“Wood.”

“Been meaning to work on that,” the Doctor apologized.

“Me, too. Time to improvise.”

Finding himself up against a damp, stone wall, he reached into his pocket for one of the horn caps and lobbed it across the room, rimming it off the case. He knew he was going to hate himself for it, but he grabbed the second one and threw it full force.

The latch on the case popped wide open on impact, spilling heavy boxwood balls to the ground. The distraction gave him the strategic advantage and he wrestled the knife from his assailant’s hand without getting stabbed even once. He could have followed it with a fist into the soldier’s face and laid the man out flat were it not for the Doctor spouting rhetoric that had once fallen from his own lips. Rarely had the old maxim, he who hesitates is lost, been truer. George Mott grabbed one of the wooden mallets still resting within the box and swung. The blow sent him reeling, sonic screwdriver flying out of his hand and splashing into one of the pans of whatever hadn’t passed the edible test earlier. He dropped to his hands and knees, swaying, his vision narrowing into a slash of white light. He gritted his teeth against the pain, swearing that when he got home he was going to sleep. A long, long time. Real sleep. No dreams. No regrets. And he was going to leave the Doctor here.

“There’s something in your hair.”

He touched the side of his head and winced. “That would be blood!”

Why Mott ran off down the hall without finishing him off he couldn‘t comprehend, choosing instead to be thankful for small favours.

“The prisoners are escaping!”

So much for small favours.

What? That’s a bit premature,” he groaned, crawling to where the Doctor sat on the grubby floor, still tangled in chains.

For a terrible moment, as blood dripped between them from the blow Mott had inflicted on him, he glared at the Time Lord. Then he grabbed his sonic screwdriver and attempted to resonate the rusty screws. When the instrument once more backfired, he hurled it across the room with an angry cry and staggered to his feet, searching frantically for the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver in a bowl of slimy gruel.

“Go,” the Doctor told him.

“What?”

“Just go. Go on, while you can--”

“They’ll shoot you!” he pointed out.

“Better that than both of us. I’ll Regenerate. You won’t. Probably.” A crooked grin appeared on the Doctor’s face. “Maybe I‘ll even be ginger this time.”

“Don’t you dare!” he growled. “And you won’t Regenerate if they shoot you in the head. Or if you do Regenerate they’ll shoot you again. And unless my count‘s off, you‘re running out of Regenerations.”

They both grimaced at the thought. He tossed aside the first bowl and grabbed the other, sloshing globs of an unknown, reeking substance as he pulled out the Doctor’s dripping sonic, flipping it triumphantly in the air.

Hah! Now, shut up, hold still, and let me--”

But the heavy sounds of thudding boots and pistol fire heard above them spelled disaster. Sir Richard’s Wynn’s house had, at last, been overrun by the Royalists. From there they would move on to Brentford proper, overcome the barricades, outnumber Lord Brooke’s Parliamentarian forces and later loot and burn the city. It wouldn’t be long before the first of who knew how many soldiers burst down the cellar steps in search of escaping enemies. They might be lucky and be among the captured that Charles I later pardoned. Then again, they might not. Given their luck thus far this trip, he did not want to leave anything to chance. He shoved the sonic screwdriver into the Doctor’s hands and collected one of the pistols he had taken off of George Mott.

“What are you doing now?!” the Doctor cried.

Shhhh! Spanner!” He put a grimy finger to his lips. “Hopefully nothing if you can free yourself fast enough. Gnaw through it if you have to, but pipe down and let‘s be about it, shall we?”

“You are not shooting anyone!”

“Only if they try to stop us,” he said levelly. He retrieved the fallen lamp and moved into the hall, searching for the steps, wondering how many pell-mell mallets would be required to fortify the cellar door.

Horses trampled past the house and he could hear musket fire and, in the distance, the rumble of field guns. They were in the middle of a ruddy war. To think he had fancied a bit of an adventure. Oh, this little expedition just couldn’t get any better. Soaked and muddied to the skin, smoked, beaten, imprisoned, and left without the very thing they’d made the trip for. The horn caps, if he was not mistaken, were now in George Mott’s powder bag. The man might be legitimately afraid of them, but was no fool. To make matters worse the Doctor was lecturing him. Him!

“Are you insane? Put that gun down! You are not shooting anyone at all.”

More sonicing, less talking—com’on, com’on Doctor,” he poked his head back into the prison chamber. “My God, am I always this annoying?”

“As far back as I can remember,” the Doctor said, hands now seemingly tangled in the length of chain attaching ankle shackles to the floor. “But there’ll be no shooting. Not now. Not ever. I forbid it.”

He strode back into the room then, lowering the weapon slightly. “You forbid it? Forbid? You pompous, self righteous, arrogant git! Are you quite free?”

Shhhh!” the Doctor whispered. “Spanner!”

They limped down dark corridors in search of an escape tunnel that did not lead up into the house itself. From the rattling and banging above it sounded as if the cellar door had been barred from within. Not his doing. That meant George Mott had taken an alternate route to freedom, and he was bound and determined to find it. The Doctor trailed behind him, fiddling with the settings on the sonic screwdriver he’d dashed into the wall previously. Mingled light, sapphire and emerald, illuminated their path. He raised his head, listening to the increase in musket fire. History books in both universes would later call the Battle of Brentford a skirmish, but he was reasonably sure that was not what the men who fought that day would have called it. Given the political--and religious—climate, he knew they would fare no better with the king’s men than they had with Cromwell’s if they were labelled as heretics. He wondered bleakly what would become of George Mott.

The Doctor handed him back his screwdriver and he shoved it into his back pocket without looking at it. A handkerchief followed.

“For--you know--” the Doctor indicated his bleeding head.

“Right. Thanks.”

They edged around a corner, moving as rapidly as possible down a long, roughly hewn shaft that led away from the house and cellar. The air was cleaner here, moving steadily through some unknown exit.

“Are you planning on taking that?”

“What, this?” He tossed the pistol toward the Doctor, who set it down on the ground nervously.

“You really are a great big outer space dunce. That one wasn’t even loaded.”




Brentford burned. Thatched roofs blazed, glass shattered, men drowned in the Thames, and he wrestled with the sombre reality that he could do nothing. They could do nothing. Nothing. The cleverest men in the room had failed to win the confidence of one, young man named George Mott, certainly had not made any points with the Parliamentarian soldiers, and lost the only source of Zeiton 7 they‘d discovered during their short stay in the 17th Century. Worst journey ever. Oh, and Brentford was burning. But he already knew that.

History was repeating. As were his thoughts. Both hurt.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine had had the perfect cover, he mused. Morning mist had all but blotted out the sun, but the Prince had not anticipated the resistance his forces would meet on the approach to Brentford and had been forced to withdraw until the Welsh infantry arrived. Ironic they would plunder Lord Wynn‘s house first. But plunder they did. Nothing was sacred. No one was spared. Men and horses ran everywhere now. Men with pikes. Men with swords. Men with scrawny chickens tucked up under their arms. Rows of men charging over the bridge with muskets. If any one of the Roundheads they had tangled with yesterday had recognized them during their flight, they were in no humour to detain them now.

The Doctor was clearly horrified. And angry. Such emotion looked strange on an otherwise jovial face. Part human though he was, he still knew the fury of a Time Lord. Still knew the fury of this Time Lord.

“They called us The Oncoming Storm,” the Doctor said softly. “And here we are, sitting in a tree while Brentford burns, and people die, and we‘re doing nothing. We can‘t just walk away from this.”

“We have to.” he said, handing the spyglass back to the Doctor and preparing to climb down from the tree. “And we have to do it now.”

What could they possibly do? Brentford fell. In both worlds. The only way to have prevented any of this was to have prevented Rupert from attacking, and they had been rather indisposed. Besides, the outrage this night would bring would be a powerful catalyst for the Parliamentarian cause. It might not be a fixed point in time, but it was what it was. No matter how difficult it was to walk away, he knew they needed to, and yet, what was the point of being a Lord of Time if…

“Would you really have shot someone to get us out of there?”

He hesitated a moment, troubled by the question. Troubled further that he hesitated at all.

“What? No. Of course not. Maybe. I don’t know. I wasn’t going to let them shoot you.”

The Doctor fell silent, as if absorbing this bit of unsettling information. Surely it couldn’t be that much of a surprise. What was that line? Desperate times call for desperate measures? He had done worse. Far, far worse.

“I had to leave you behind, you know.”

“Yes. I know,” he said wearily, lowering himself gingerly from the tree. His legs buckled for a moment and he struggled to stand. The November night drew close and he regretted not having borrowed a coat off one of the fallen.

“Really, I--”

“I know.” He could admit it was true. He might have done the same. It didn’t mean he had to like it.

“You were dangerous,” the Doctor told him, jumping down from the tree.

“At that moment maybe the most dangerous man in the galaxy. Maybe you still are. God knows I’m dangerous all by myself but you--you committed genocide ten minutes after you were born.”

“More like 900 years after I’d been born! You’re one to talk about genocide!  You were the Destroyer of Worlds before I was, Sunshine. This,” he jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the blazing sky, “this is nothing compared to what we saw. What we did.”

“That was different--”

“In whose dreams? You’d bung a Dalek with a rock if that’s all you had! Know how I know that? Because I’d do the same thing! Honestly, what did you expect from me? I burst into existence in a burning Tardis sinking in the belly of the Dalek Crucible, Davros is about to explode the Reality Bomb and cancel out all of creation, and I‘d just realized I was part human. I was having a really bad day!”

“There’s always another way. Always.”

“Not always. And you know it.”

They trudged on in silence, passing into the shadows. And rain. He hugged himself, shivering against the cold. His clothes were filthy, the jeans mud-caked and his t-shirt plastered against his skin. His trainers squelched in the mud. Why was it that he was always coming home in the rain like some unwanted, stray mongrel?

“You know what the worst part was?” he asked, side stepping the remnants of a broken plough jammed deeply into the field through which they walked. “The worst part was realizing you’d have forgiven the Master just so you wouldn’t be alone. But not yourself. Not me. At times… I envied him dying.”

The Doctor said nothing. And it was a strangely unsettling nothing.

“Forget it. Forget it. And stop lying to yourself. I’ll tell you why you really left me,” he said through chattering teeth, feeling marginally magnanimous at the moment. “You had to take Donna home.”

Now the Doctor responded, raising soulful green eyes slowly, face creased with pain. “You knew?”

He laughed. A painful, mirthless laugh. Of course he knew. Poor Donna could not have survived having a Time Lord consciousness poured into her mind anymore than Rose could have survived after looking into the heart of the Tardis. He wasn’t sure at first that he was going to survive himself, but had just enough Time Lord DNA to tip the scales in his favour. He had yet to decide if that was a blessing or a curse.

“She was my best mate, Donna,” he said.

“Yes she was. The best. And the best part of you if you don‘t mind my saying.”

“She’d agree with you on that, Time Boy,” he said, a smile edging his lips.  “Sorry. Time Boy. Got a nice ring to it, though, don‘t it? Time. Boy. Just tell me she made it home. She made it home… didn’t she?”

Hmm? Oh, yes. Yes. Of course. Back home in Chiswick. Doesn’t remember a thing, making due. Married. A mum herself by now. They’re all fine,” the Doctor told him, looking up briefly. “All of them. I made sure this time. Before I... left.”

The tone of those words betrayed some additional dark memory. He chose not to ask. He had had enough of dark memories for one day.

He looked back over his shoulder once more at Brentford, burning in the night. They had made their escape, but how many others had not? How many more would die during this bitter, bitter civil war? Brother pitted against brother.

“This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be,” the Doctor said, bitterly. “It isn’t the way I work--we work--it’s all wrong. All of it. We didn‘t make a difference here at all. We didn‘t do anything and just like that it‘s all over? We just go home?”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “It’s far from being all over.”

“Oh, shut up, me,” the Doctor told him. “Remind me again why I followed you here?”

“You couldn’t resist a big shiny, swirly-whirly space portal anymore than I could?”

The Doctor only glowered at him, stuffed hands into pockets, shoulders hunched against the cold rain.

“It would have been better with a llama.”


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« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2012, 05:37:31 am »

Chapter Nine


The end of every good adventure began when it was time to sit down, put up his feet, and congratulate himself on a job well done. It was not time, nor was it the end, (and as far as he could tell, nothing good had come from their travels) but he was sitting down nonetheless. It was preferable to melting like a damned chocolate teapot and being dragged back to his feet, a dance move they had been perfecting for at least half an hour. The Doctor ran circles around him now, bright circles like gold thread stitching lovely Gallifreyan arithmetic into the November air. Loud arithmetic. He covered his ears and put his forehead on his knees. The grey sky was also far too loud. As were the trees. And the ground? The ground‘s only kindness would be an unmarked grave in 1642. If he was lucky.

The Doctor dashed past him again, pointing the sonic screwdriver six ways to Sunday, scanning the road, the air, the trees, the back end of a snarling badger, muttering and criss-crossing the road, waving the instrument high and low. His own screwdriver was bollixed up again. He whacked it hard against the palm of his hand. Blue light flickered then faded. He sighed.

“I’ll have a proper look at that when we get back. Better yet, I‘ll give you a new one. My parting gift. I‘d say party gift, but this has been anything but a party.”

“I don‘t want a new one,” he growled, thumping the device hard against the bottom of his shoe. He did, but not that way.

“No, I didn‘t think so,” the Doctor said thoughtfully, spinning around. When the Time Lord scratched a cheek, skin-coloured smudges appeared where the grim flaked away. “What?”

“You look like hell.”

“I’m cultivating a new image. Do you like it?”

“No.”

“Neither do I.” The Doctor whipped out the sonic screwdriver again, sweeping the air once more. “It should be right here! There are still faint energy traces from where we came through, but the Rift is gone. Well, not so much gone as moved. Well, not so much moved as shifted… a lot, which is terribly inconvenient. And--”

“There’s more?”

The Doctor scanned again, examined the results, then extended the sonic screwdriver so he could see for himself. There was no mistaking. The energy signature was fading.

“Oh, that is not good,” he said, a surge of adrenalin giving him the strength to regain his feet.

“Very, very not good,” the Doctor agreed.

“You are Welsh, aren‘t you? Or Scottish. Anyway, you are, Thin Man.”

They both turned slowly at the sound of a familiar voice, and found themselves staring down the barrels of George Mott’s pistols. The soldier sat astride the bay gelding in the shadow of the forest, training wheellocks on the pair of them like a cowboy with six shooters. A rather incongruous pose for one dressed like a Puritan.

“Oh, not again. I suppose it was my fault this time. Head’s not working like it should. Never realised Gallifreyan was my default setting. Explains why Rose can’t understand me when I talk in my sleep. You might have said something,” he told the Doctor.

“I was rather enjoying it.”

“Shut up, the pair of you!”

“Oh, you are persistent, I’ll give you that, George Mott,” he began crossly, arms swinging. He wondered how they were going to get out of this one, almost too tired to care. “But, George--can I call you George? Well, it would be silly to call you anything else wouldn’t it? George. Dear George. Dear, dear George… you really don’t want to do that. Really, you don’t.”

“Tell me why I shouldn’t shoot you both where you stand!”

He licked his lips and looked sidelong at the Doctor, searching the Time Lord’s face for a good excuse and getting nothing besides a weak shrug. Evidently they were both fresh out of those. A poor excuse might have to suffice.

“You don’t belong here,” George Mott told them.

Perhaps a poor excuse wasn’t going to be necessary after all.

“No, we really don‘t,” he said slowly, pocketing his sonic screwdriver and showing his palms in what he hoped was a non-threatening manner. It hadn‘t worked so well in the dungeon, but maybe now, in the mist and morning light--both of which were still screaming at him--it would be more effective. On the planet Fustanec such a gesture would have been considered unspeakably rude, but then the Fustani were suspicious of anyone with hands.

“Persistent and smart. Didn’t I say he was smart? Well, I would have. And, I’m really very sorry about that bruise on your face and no hard feelings about using my head for pell mell, but you are too right. We don’t belong here anymore than you belonged there. Remember how that felt? How you just wanted to get home? That’s all we want. To go home. Preferably alive.”

“To your wives and families?”

Yes,” they both answered, exchanging glances.

“But… but there are no marriages in hell. No families. Not an ounce of God’s love. And that place you hail from, surely it is hell?”

“Hell really is a whole lot worse,” he said, forcing his aching body to move forward, step by squelching step, until he was standing near the horse. It eyed him suspiciously then pushed roughly at his shoulder, nearly toppling him. Great equine lips nibbled at his hair

“Then you are not the devil’s minions?”

“I‘m a lot of things, George Mott, but I am no one‘s minion,” he said, blowing softly at the horse’s muzzle. The bay flicked its ears then puffed back.

“Then who are you? I warn you, speak the truth this time, and I will stand down. And once you are gone I shall never speak of you or your mysteries again.”

He exchanged looks with the Doctor and they both shrugged. Nothing for it. Time to spill the proverbial beans. Mott would believe them and release them, not believe them and shoot them, or believe them and shoot them anyway.

“Fair enough,” the Time Lord said, striding confidently forward, “though you may find us a little harder than that to forget. Most people do.

“We’re travellers. Just that. Travellers from a very long ways off. Travellers who want only to get home to those we…love. You said yourself there are no marriages in hell. I don’t suppose there would be love, either, would there? And I‘m no expert on demons--well, maybe I am, but that‘s neither here nor there-- and you may have the power of a righteous man going for you, but I ask you. Have you ever seen one bleed?”

“Excellent point, Doctor.”

“Why, thank you, Doctor. And you are again, I’m afraid,” the Doctor told him, handing him a clean handkerchief.

Slowly, George Mott lowered both weapons. Exhaustion shone in eyes that reminded him so much of Wilfred Mott. And Donna. He suspected the man had been separated from his regiment, on the run all night, just as they had been.

“What about those things you stole? They say you were practicing alchemy.”

“What? With those libble-ittle baubles you pocketed?” he said, stumbling over his words, wincing as he dabbed at his aching skull. A wonder it wasn’t fractured. Perhaps it was. That would explain why the colour brown smelled so bad just then.

Thunder rolled overhead. Before long it would be tipping down rain. Again. Always with the rain. Mott was watching him closely, awaiting his answer. Oh dear. That meant he was going to have to construct a coherent thought in order to reply.

“Oh, well. That would have made the trip worthwhile. The beatings notwithstanding. Or the dirt. Or,” he examined the handkerchief, “the blood.”

He hesitated to admit the truth, then decided it was one of those rare occasions were honesty probably really was the best policy. Besides, if he were correctly interpreting the Doctor’s impatient watch tapping, they were running out of time. Always. Still.

“We neeb ‘em--that is neebed--neeb--needed what they are made from--for… a… uhm… something important that I can’t seem to recall at the moment, but it goes drrrr drrrr drrrr. A little help here?” he pleaded with his companion. The Time Lord and the Out-of-Time Lord, he mused to himself. That was rather funny. Beside him, the Doctor looked appalled. He wasn’t sure if that was because of the blood, his inability to speak, or the blood.

“We need them for a… machine,” the Doctor told Mott hurriedly. “So it will work properly. A highly sophisticated… clockwork. Magnificent feat of engineering. Christiaan Huygens would be green with envy. Or will be after he invents the pendulum clock. The pieces you took aren’t magic, just made from a very rare… metal that fell to Earth a long time ago. You have to admit, they weren’t doing anyone much good packed in salt with bacon grease dripping on them.”

“You’ll want this then,” Mott said, tossing a bright, brass fitting through the air.

He made to catch it, dropped it, then nearly collapsed retrieving it. The Doctor gripped his elbow and pulled him upright. He turned the horn cap over in his hand, wondering which one it was.

“I meant to throw them both in the Brent, back where they were found with a host of unholy relics. To be rid of the cursed things, but… you left me with strange dreams last night. About that place. About how you needed to return there. Perhaps that will serve to repair your machine?”

Doubtful in that quantity, but he smiled and lied. “It might, just. Thank you.”

“Oh, but that’s brilliant!” the Doctor told them. “Don’t you see? The Brentford Horn Cap won’t be found for two hundred--oh. My turn. Mouth, say hello to foot.”

“Two hundred what? Two hundred years?” Mott asked, eyes grown wide again with distrust. “How can you know that?”

“We’re well travelled. Pick up the scuttlebutt.”

“Scuttle…?” Mott shook his head. “That place I saw… I know that house. It isn‘t far from here. I was told to carry a message there … but a storm of wind and light arose and… and everything changed. I feared I had put my mortal soul into jeopardy by stepping through that portal.”

“Nah,” he said, patting the horse again on the neck. They were fast friends now, he and that horse. Fast, fine friends. “You just wandered through the wrong door’s all. Easy as slipping on a bana--bana--ba--”

Banana peel,” the Doctor finished the sentence for him.

“That too. Or would be if you knew what a banana was, which I have a feeling you don’t, personally, but you will. Soon. They‘re delicious, by the way, and don‘t be so wary of potatoes. They‘re really fine. Should see what the Americans do with them. Molto Bene!”

“Your friend needs a Doctor--”

“Believe me,” the Doctor told him, “I know.”

“Had yourself a wee peek at merry Olde England, George Mott,” he said, grinning up at the young man. The pain in his head was fading. Or getting worse. One or the other. “Same as now, except, er, merrier.”

“Sorry to interrupt,” the Doctor told them, taking him firmly by the arm and steering him back toward the road, “really. It’s all quite lovely. But, as the White Rabbit said, ‘we’re late, we’re late.’ And we‘re about to be joined by a rather large contingent of  men carrying tall, spiky bits of metal. Not conducive to our escape.”

He turned to the Doctor, concerned. “I don’t remember the Rabbit saying that.”

“I know nothing of this Rabbit, but if we’re to be set upon, that’ll be the Cavaliers that set fire to Braynforde. Rupert and his devil dog among them,” Mott told them, dismounting swiftly and checking multiple pistols. “They say that dog is a demon on four legs; a spy for his unholy master.”

“Oh, I do like the sound of that,” the Doctor said, then quickly added, “by which I mean that’s a fascinating theory that I’d like to put to the test; but not today.”

“Take my horse. He’s strength to carry you both and you’ll need to ride fast if your path back to your England is through the Shimmer. My dreams led me back to find it. To make sure I wasn’t mad,” Mott explained somewhat sheepishly. “You’ll know the place by a lightning-struck walnut tree. What you seek lies just beyond, in the gully. It is greatly diminished from when I first saw it.”

“Oh, George,” he said, pumping the man’s hand vigorously in thanks. He took the offered reins. “You’d best have a care. Curiosity like that could get you into trouble.”

“It already has. Away with you, Doctors,” Mott told them, ducking back into the cover of the forest.

Ignoring the Doctor’s protests, he dragged his sorry self into the saddle and hauled his companion up behind him. The horse danced sideways, crow-kicking as the Time Lord slid sideways before settling with an agonizing groan behind the cantle. A moment later they were galloping away from the swiftly approaching cavalry, the horse’s hooves pounding against the muddy road as they hastened on to make their escape. The Doctor continued to protest about which of them should be behind the reins, but he only grinned and pressed their mount for speed. Staying on the horse was easier than staying on his feet.

True to his word, Mott had tied an orange sash around a magnificently ancient, storm-splintered walnut tree on the north side of the road. Below, in a wide, shallow gully, the Shimmer, as George had labelled it, rippled the air into a spiralling vortex of iridescence. He reined the horse toward the muddy slope. It tensed beneath him, tossing its head, withers rippling as the waves of energy assailed them. The poor creature had twice passed through Time and was not inclined to make a third foray. Not for these strangers. He leaned low on the gelding’s neck, whispering encouragement to the frightened animal.

Behind them, warning shouts proceeded the crack of black powder as the soldiers in the front line opened fire. The gelding lurched forward in response to the sound, sliding partway down the incline. The Doctor was unhorsed unceremoniously, landing with a heavy thump, rolling ahead of them down the muddy embankment. He fought to hang on or else go arse over elbow himself.

“Run!“ he shouted as they reached the bottom of the ditch, using the horse and himself as living shields in front of the flicking time tunnel. “It’s collapsing!”

“I can see that!” the Doctor yelled, attempting to dodge as the animal sidestepped. The Time Lord went down again. “Watch out, then!”

More shots whizzed by them and he could see half a dozen soldiers busily reloading along the rim of the valley they’d descended into. Foot soldiers lowered their pikes and were on the advance, the eroded hillside churning under their boots.

“I said run!” He grabbed the Doctor by the arm as he dug his heels into the horse’s side and reined the protesting animal toward the Rift.

They might all have just made it if a ball from the third round of shots hadn’t grazed his left shoulder. He twisted in pain, the reins slipping from his hands. The horse, already sunk to its hocks in the mud, panicked again, knocking the Doctor down for a third and final time as it struggled for firmer footing. The Time Lord vanished in a splash of energy. One down, one to go. He prepared for an undignified dismount.

A second ball grazed his thigh and, for a moment, all he could think about was how inaccurate their weapons were. Even at close range. Then he felt the horse collapse under him and he went over the gelding’s frothy shoulder, slamming painfully into the ground.

When he again raised his head, the horse was gone, as was the gleaming promise of escape. In its place stood a dozen angry, mud-spattered Royalists, pikes and pistols all trained on him. The red coats hurt his eyes almost as much as the keen of metal in his twisted senses. He had been in worse predicaments and survived, but just then he couldn’t fathom how. When it began to rain again he lowered his head against his bare arm, closed his eyes, and waited for the killing shot. Or thrust. At least at this distance he trusted he would not have to wait long.

Rose, I’m so sorry...

Someone called a halt. A man’s voice, heavily accented. Soft footfalls brought him around to consciousness again. Something nudged at his head. A warm tongue licked his ear. He opened his eyes to find a large black dog standing over him. The poodle’s dark eyes were glimmering pools.

You’re a long way from home, Time Lord

“I’m not a Time Lord,” he told the dog as he tried to raise himself up, thought better of it, and collapsed again on the cold, wet ground. “Not anymore.”

You will be was the last thing he heard before slipping into unconsciousness.



end of part Two
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« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2012, 07:01:14 pm »

Chapter Ten



“Well, look what the poodle dragged in.”

He opened his eyes slowly. Every inch of his body ached, most especially where he had been shot. Shot. What a novelty. He steadied himself as the upholstered bench beneath him lurched and tipped. They were riding in a finely appointed coach. After their incarceration in the smoke house and the dreary, pongy cellar it was encouraging to see they had moved up in the world.

The Doctor sat across from him, leaning forward, elbows on knees, hands clasped. Clean hands. Clean, shaven face. Clean, combed hair. Well, clean at any rate. The Time Lord’s mud-caked moleskin jacket had been replaced with a dapper Harris Tweed, the red bowtie swapped for blue. He looked every bit the eccentric history professor. Between them, on the carriage floor, sat a very large, very black poodle, its luxurious coat trimmed so as to give it the appearance of an ebony lion.

A horse drew alongside the carriage, a hell-spitting stallion that put poor George Mott’s plough-cum-war horse to shame. No doubt it had the temper to match its wide eyes and flaring nostrils. A well-dressed young man with long flowing black hair and the most magnificent hat he had seen yet looked in with keen interest.

“Your brother is fortunate Boi took a liking to him or else he’d have been executed as a Roundhead conspirator before you arrived with your credentials, Doctor.”

“Timing is everything. Thank you for providing us with transport and give my regards to your mother. And thank you,” the Doctor told the dog, opening up the coach door to allow the poodle to leap down to the ground. It loped off after its master. Try as he might, he could not remember what had happened. Except…

“That dog… talked to me.”

“Yes. Rather well versed in Time Lord history for a poodle, too. I couldn’t confirm it without arousing suspicion, but I suspect the prince’s pooch is a relative of the Whifferdill. Which explains a lot, really. The Parliamentarians got it half right. I gave ole Boi a little heads up about the Battle at Marston Moor. It seemed only fair. Kept guard over you and wouldn’t let anyone near you until I arrived. Not even Rupert.”

He struggled to stifle a fit of coughing as the coach hit another rough patch of road. Correction. Rougher patch. The Doctor poured a thimble’s worth of amber liquid from a decanter into a small glass and held it out.

“How long have I been here?” he wheezed, sniffing the fluid suspiciously, then downing it in one gulp. A rush of warmth rose from his chest into his head and for a moment everything was crystal clear. Including his injuries. “You were gone--”

“I was gone. But here I am. Surprise! I was gone long enough for the bleeding to have stopped, but I see it has begun again—in various places. Lucky for you I know a nurse,” the Doctor told him, holding out a clean handkerchief.

“Check Jackie’s phone,” he said, pressing the hanky against his head and seriously debating another drink. He could do with some numbness just now. “Doctors Sullivan and Jones are both on speed dial.”

“Are they?” the Doctor smiled.

“Go on, you want to ask.”

“Tell me then. More?”

He shook his head, handing back the glass. “I’ll regret it. You?”

“I already regretted it.”

He gathered a blanket about himself and settled back. “They’re brilliant. Both of them. Twirled Martha off the floor first time I met her. Forgot where I was. Who she was. Or wasn’t. But she’s the same. And Harry… well, Harry looks at me sometimes like he remembers everything that he can’t possibly remember and it’s all I can do to pretend that I’ve only known him on this world. That world. Whichever.”

“Then we’d best get back and see if we can save it for them. The Rift is growing even more unstable. Rifts, actually. All over the country. And they’re shifting. I came out on the other side in an art gallery on Eel Pie Island. In the Ladies, no less. Rather awkward, really.”

He looked around the inside of the coach, tugging the blanket closer. He almost felt warm. “Nice wheels. Who do they think we are now?”

“Yes, well, don’t get too comfortable. You… need to stay awake.” The Doctor handed him the psychic paper. “Here we are. Doctors John and James Lambert, recently arrived from Gallavally with a special dispensation from Charles himself.”

“Wait,” he said, the handkerchief dropping from his fingers as he gripped the wallet with both hands. “The equations are gone.”

“Oh good. You noticed. It took a while for four dimensional calculations to be expressed two dimensionally. The last bit appeared while I was attempting to reassemble the hand dryer in the loo,” the Doctor told him, squirming at the memory. “We need to get back. And we need to get your Tardis off world before the planet is destroyed. Well, part of it anyway. She‘s been quite insistent. Haven‘t you been listening?”

Someone spoke his name.

He swallowed deeply, his vision narrowing. The Doctor was talking, but he could no longer make out the words.

Don’t you hear me? Why can’t you hear me? Where are you?

“Stay awake now—“

“Wh-what?”

The coach slowed, each grinding bump a reminder of what had turned out to be less than a fun time. He would have to register his complaints with the Brentford Tourism board. If he lived.

“This will be our stop. Can you walk?”

“If I can stand, I can walk… maybe… but--“

“I’ll explain later.”

“You’ll explain now.”

“No, I won’t. There’s no time. And I don’t say that very often.” The Doctor pushed open the door so they could exit and bid the driver to move on.

It took an inordinate amount of concentration to keep from collapsing there in the dirt. More to shuffle his feet forward. He squinted up at the three storey brick building looming in the mist. Time had wrought changes, but there was no mistaking the dwelling. It was Pete Tyler’s manor house. Or would be in several hundred years. The Doctor led him around back… led by half-dragging, half propping, half… wait. That was too many halves. He forced himself to focus. The Doctor had told him to stay awake. Why did he need to stay awake? Why--

“Why are we here?”

“I’m assuming that is not a philosophical question. Short cut. Not a pretty one, but it will have to do,” the Doctor told him, heaving open the cellar door while he concentrated on not falling head long down the cellar steps.

“Down there… what?”

“Lady Spencer? Yoo-hoo! It’s the Doctor. Ah, good. No one’s here. Walk, don’t fall… thank you… I did say walk, didn’t I? “

“I’m trying to remember how,” he moaned as they descended into cool darkness.

“Yes, well, you’re doing fine! Well, you’re upright, that’ll have to do. Stroke of luck locating this really. I found it on the other side while I was looking for something else. Wild chance, really. I like it when that happens. Come along then, don’t dawdle. This one is going to be rough…”

They passed into a corridor of ice and shadow. He felt twisted, as if every atom in his body was separating and the pattern for reassembly had been lost. Passing between worlds, between Time and Space itself had once been so simple. When there were still rules governing such things. When there was logic and order… not that he had ever felt obliged to entertain such notions. Well… not in a long time. When had the passages gone from being like drifting through fog banks to tearing through razor blades? They should have emerged on other side by now, no matter where or when that was. Streaming needles of scarlet coursed past him, through him, intermingled with equally blinding ribbons of cobalt blue. The Rift was collapsing. Physical context had lost all meaning, yet was he aware of the Doctor’s presence, aware that the sheer power of the Time Lord‘s will was manipulating the event. From somewhere deep within himself, corresponding energies emerged, coalescing into a single thought. Together they burned like a beacon outside of Time, their distress call broadcast in narrow ranges only a Time Ship might detect.

Come home. Come home.

The forward rush into real time was a sickening jolt. He drew a lungful of stale, damp air and began to cough again. They were still alive, standing knee deep in swirling water in the cellar of Pete Tyler’s house. The boiler had sustained significant damage and the old galvanized water tank was riddled with holes. While he concentrated on not being sick, the Doctor reached over and twisted the stop valve closed. Water continued to drip. After this, Jackie would have no trouble convincing Pete to install a tankless water heating system.

“Oh dear. I really shouldn’t have sent the plumber home earlier,” the Doctor muttered, sloshing back to where he was still standing, eddies of warm and cold water swirling around his legs. “Hello? Did I lose part of you back there? How was that for a spot of Vortex Walking!”

He realized he was still clutching the psychic paper, staring at the names.

Jamie,” he said suddenly, dropping to his knees in the wet sludge. Musket balls dotted the floor like dark pearls in a muddy soup. “We called him Jamie.”

The Doctor caught him before he slipped entirely into sorrow’s cool embrace. “My son’s name…was Jamie.”

“Yes. I know.”


***


The first sense to return was his hearing. And the first thing he heard returned all his other senses in a hurry. From deep within the ship, the sound of the Cloister Bell reverberated like a mournful Tibetan gong. That, and the Tardis engines were phasing. More like groaning in agony. He sat up. Mistake. It was all he could do not to be sick right there in the alcove where they had placed him, safe and secure behind shielding that provided the most healing environment he was aware of on his ship. Not that there was anything left in his stomach. 17th Century Brentford could not be noted for cuisine. At least not this trip. He clutched at his throbbing head, squeezing water from aching eyes, waiting for the interior of the Tardis to stop spinning. Even so, visions of flickering roundels and light scattering off every burnished surface brought him to the edge of consciousness. After a few more tolls the head-splitting ringing ceased, but the ship still sounded like it was in pain. He could sympathize. When he managed to open his eyes again, he found Rory Williams beside him, offering a tall drink of something cold.  Being so parched, he wrapped quivering fingers around the glass and drank without hesitation.

Aaagh! What is that?” He wiped his tongue frantically with his fingers. “That‘s disgusting!”

“Celery juice. The Doctor said it might help.”

“Maybe if you give me the rest of the Bloody Mary to go with the celery! Oh, never mind. I don’t even fancy them. What I need is-is-is…” he ran his hand over his expertly bandaged shoulder, struggling to remember why he had required medical attention in the first place. “Was I shot?”

“Well, yes. Twice. And you really should rest--”

“What? And miss out on all the fun?” he asked, staggering to his feet to look over the scene in front of him. When the Tardis began once more to spin, he sank back down heavily on the bunk. This time Rory pressed a tall glass of water into his hands. Good, but a ginger beer from the cooler in his workshop would have been better.

The floor was a sea of co-axial, tri-axial and fibre-optic cable, multi-coloured tie-wraps and gaffer tape. Several enormous power leads had been wired into an elaborate lash up with the main feeds beneath the central console, the lot of it run down the stairs, out the hatch, and through the open door of the blue Police Call Box now sitting nearby. Once more the bell tolled a mournful warning, setting every nerve in his body on fire. There was nothing more exhilarating. Or more terrifying. After what seemed an eternity, the noise stopped again and he realized that the pounding he could still hear was rain… that and the Doctor, working feverishly at an open panel below the central column which housed the Time Rotor. A great heap of seemingly random stuff scavenged from the house, his workshop, and the other Tardis lay within the Time Lord‘s reach.

Amy entered the ship then, one of Tony Tyler’s football equipment bags slung over one shoulder, her arms loaded down with clothing he recognized as having come from the bureau in his bedroom. It was only then he realized that he wasn’t wearing any. He gathered the duvet about himself. Her eyes danced as she placed the stack of clothes beside him but she said nothing. To do so obviously required a great deal of self control.

“So,” she told him, shaking the water from her rain-drenched sleeves, “the Doctor told me to get the blue pin-striped suit from the back of the Tardis wardrobe. As if you need to be wearing a suit right now. Are we going to church? I don’t think so. I got what I could from the house.”

She lowered the bulging equipment bag to the floor with a terrific metallic clunk that reminded him of young Rusty Tyler banging a wooden spoon on the tea kettle. That could only mean… the Doctor was improvising.

He mumbled his thanks, not so much out of embarrassment as a mouth that tasted like antibiotics and… narcotics. They’d knocked him out. No wonder Amy’s dripping ginger tresses were haloed in angelic light and she had three, four, three, yes three eyes.

When Amy dragged her gear bag full of cookware off to where the Doctor was working, he attempted to dress himself. Torture by clothing. This was new. Simply stepping into the blue jeans with an injured leg was an experience he was unlikely to forget. Rory assisted with his shirt, but the effort of donning either the Christmas jumper Amy had retrieved from under the bed, or the shoes with all those... laces... was too much to even consider. Ignoring Rory’s protestations, he padded barefoot up the steps and across the cool, crystalline deck, gingerly stepping over a partially dismantled strimmer. He ran a gentle hand along the length of one of the shell-like buttresses.

“Poor little girl, what are they doing to you?”

“Your poor little girl needs a talking to,” the Doctor told him, scooting out from under the console, a pair of tweezers in one hand and half of a hand-held game system in the other. Oh. Tony was not going to be happy.

“She’s been trying to dematerialize on her own without any coordinates. I’ve connected her directly to the Tardis to try and stabilise her, but she‘s threatening to drain our power, which will be very inconvenient if I‘m to return Rory and Amy to their world. I‘ll have you know they said they were more concerned about you than getting back to their Earth, which seems foolishly sentimental on their part seeing as they hardly know you.”

He lost his response in too many words for his diminished capacity. Instead, he lowered himself to the floor to survey the work being done. Belatedly, he realized he might not be able to get back up. The Doctor scarcely looked at him, intent on wiring the video game console into a bit of 32 gauge wire. He wasn‘t sure he even wanted to ask.

“There. Done. And maybe now that daddy is home she’ll behave herself.”

“You came back for me,” he said, watching the Doctor snap what remained of the digital game. in place with evident satisfaction before grabbing what looked like a dismantled mobile phone.

“Yes I did. I thought that would have been apparent in the coach.”

He ignored the Time Lord’s sarcasm. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Probably not. But I was out voted. Besides, I knew where I’d left you. I thought it would save time. But never mind that, we have more important things to talk about.”

“Right,” he said, rubbing a cheek thoughtfully. “Dematerialization? I suppose--“

“Rose phoned. We patched it through to the big screen in the Tardis so I could show off.”

“Oh? Oh…” he hoped he didn’t sound as startled as he felt, realizing that the Doctor had spoken to her. Had seen her. Had--

“I told her you were fine.”

“Did she believe you?”

“Not for a minute. Do I really have a face that can’t be trusted?” the Time Lord asked, looking up at him briefly. “Never mind. Don’t answer that. Before we lost the connection she said that at last count there were 162 documented Rifts just in Britain. The good thing is that’s keeping UNIT and Torchwood busy and they aren’t here to bother us. Just in case, I‘ve extended the Tardis shielding over the entire greenhouse. I thought about materialising around the entire structure, but containing such dimensional instability is likely to give the Old Girl indigestion.”

“And the bad thing?” he asked, sure he didn’t want to know given what the good news had been.

“It’s our fault. You really should drink the celery juice,” the Doctor told him, reaching for a set of pruning shears and a plastic spork. “You‘re going to need it.”
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thebunnyinthetardis
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« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2012, 07:23:25 pm »

Chapter Eleven


Rory wiped his brow with the back of his hand. There. Finished. He set the bipolar Lepton actuator aside and surveyed his work. He had to hand it to himself. His aptitude as a Tardis engineer was surprising. He ran his hand over the Feynman electron depletion matrix. For some reason working on these ships reminded him more of medical school than being in Car Club. Elsewhere in the Tardis, however, his voice carried over the open communication system, the Doctor--the Other Doctor-- was not faring as well. According to both Doctors, the dimensional stabilizer circuits were shorting out. That and about an arms length of other complaints. All he knew for sure was that the Tardis was making unhappy noises again and another pane of glass in the greenhouse came crashing down outside.

No, no, no. no. no!” A fit of coughing followed.

Rory shook his head sadly. No one was taking his medical advice today. Wasn’t that always the case? Who listened to the nurse when there was a Doctor in the room, let alone two Doctors? Of course if they’d been proper medical doctors they would have agreed with him that I.V. antibiotics and fluids were preferable to celery juice cocktails, a hand of bananas and a large bottle of chilled ginger beer. There were no less than two specialists on speed dial on Jackie Tyler’s phone and he had talked to both of them. Unfortunately, one was in America and the other could not get to where they were because of the flood warnings. He made an adjustment with the quarter-turn anti-clockwise Leptonic isolation ratchet, passed his masterpiece to Amy, who in turn passed it into an open ganglier access port to, well, their Doctor. Something large crashed and splintered somewhere. They heard a faint moan over the open com system.

“You try,” Rory told his wife. “They aren’t listening to me. Use your feminine wiles.”

“What, on him?” Amy whispered, pointing down into the shaft. “That would be your daughter’s job, now. Oh, all right. Doctor,” she said sweetly. Most effective, Rory thought.

“Yes, Amelia?”

She winked at Rory, then continued, even more sweetly. “Do you think it might be time to feed and rest the troops? He sounds--”

Another mighty crash interrupted them followed by lung-splitting coughing, then a low hum, like the sound one got off the rim of a piece of good crystal.

“--tired. Rory said he‘d do with a good kip.”

“We’re all tired, Amy. Must I remind you the fate of the planet is at stake? Penny.”

Rory pushed aside the tool box and reached for the pressure cooker Amy had pilfered from the house earlier. He selected a coin and handed it to his wife who placed it into the Doctor’s open palm.

“Yeah, you’ve mentioned about the planet, but he’s really tired. More than we are. You don’t count. Where is he, anyway?”

“Power Room 3, I think,” Rory told her.

“I thought he was in the Cloister Room,” the Doctor said, voice muffled inside the conduit.

“I thought we were in Power Room 3.” Amy sounded confused.

“I thought we were below Power Room 8,” Rory confessed.

“Don’t we know?” Amy asked them both. “And Power Room 8? How many Power Rooms are there? Doctor? Doctor! How many power rooms are there?”

Hmm? What? Fifteen in our ship, but I don’t remember what they’re all for. And we’re above Power Room 6--where you do not want to go. You won’t like the looks of it,” the Doctor warned them.

A penny flipped out of the tunnel and landed, head’s up, on the floor beside Amy.

“That one won‘t work. I need one dated after 1920 but before your Second World War and I need my favourite tweaker. It‘s long and red and rather rusty. I got it off a submarine in the-- Amy?” The Doctor’s head poked out of the shaft. His hair was a mess. More of a mess. “Really, he’ll be fine. I work well under pressure. More pennies, please.”

“You start making mistakes,” she said crisply, dumping half of the coins over the Time Lord’s head and slapping the preferred tool into an open palm before she walked away.

Ow! Job hazard,” the Doctor muttered, sliding back into the cramped corridor then out again to look up at Rory. “She likes him.”

“Yes,” Rory answered slowly. “Be careful what you say next. I do have a spanner in my hand.”

“Why?” the Doctor asked, brow furrowed. “Why does she like him? She hardly knows him.”

“Why wouldn’t she like him? She likes you, doesn’t she?”

Another unknown piece of equipment or tool hit the floor, somewhere, the resounding clang followed by another round of coughing. Rory could hear Amy talking over the com link now, trying to coax the other Doctor, Jon Noble, into taking a rest. Perhaps she’d have more luck with the earlier Time Lord Model.

“Even he’s not immune to it,” Rory observed, handing the Doctor another penny and a cotton bud.

“Eh, what? Immune to what? Oh, look at that. Pete‘s got a Cromwell,” the Doctor said, tossing the coin out to Rory.

“The need to impress you,” Rory said, tossing the 17th Century coin back into the cookware.  “As if your expectations are all that matter, and your expectations are impossible. He’ll do anything not to disappoint you.”

“I guess that’s just who I am, Rory.”

“You really don’t get it, do you?” Rory looked down into the shaft. Not finding the Doctor there, he rolled over to find the Time Lord wedged in a gravity defying position in the space above. “He isn’t you. You aren’t the same. Maybe you were before, well, I guess you were. You‘d have to be wouldn‘t you? But you aren’t now. Haven’t you realized that yet? You haven’t, have you? Neither of you seems to.”

“Rory,” the Doctor said, using that patronizing tone that always signalled the Time Lord was about to state the obvious. At least what the Doctor thought was obvious. “We are the same person. Same memories. Same… heritage. Just because he’s part human--and what is that sound?”

“What sound? You mean the coughing? That would be your--other--self.”

“Coughing? Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Rory said, making no attempt to mask his sarcasm. “Double pneumonia maybe?”

“Pneumonia? No,” the Doctor laughed in apparent disbelief. “You think just because he’s part human that--”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Rory interrupted, tired of the Doctor‘s constant deflection of the obvious. “Well, all right, it does because I suppose if he was still fully a Time Lord he wouldn‘t be so tired, or sick--and might have liked your celery cocktail--but that isn‘t really the point.”

“What is the point? Hand me that penny? Ow! I did say hand, didn‘t I?”

Rory scrubbed at his hair in frustration. Had the entire Time Lord race been this thick? Or was it just the Doctor? Both of him. All of him.

“You’re starting to get tired but he’s been tired almost since we met him yet he’ll do anything to keep pace with you because that’s what you both expect. I saw what you looked like when you came back from the Civil War. You were a mess, but he looked like he’d been through a meat grinder.”

“Yes, well, we were pummelled, chained in a dungeon, I fell off a horse, he got shot, and we barely squeaked through a closing fissure in Time. We’re allowed to look messy. He‘ll just take a little longer to recover is all,” the Doctor said, scooping up handfuls of spilled coinage before sliding out of the tube and closing the rounded casing.

They heard another crash. Then a whimper. Then Amy‘s panicked inquiry about the possibility of missing digits.

“Maybe a lot longer,” the Doctor amended.

“You still don’t get it, do you? It’s more than his half human physiology. He’s actually become someone you aren’t. And you’ve become someone he isn’t. At least not entirely. It isn’t just that you Regenerated and became, that,” Rory waved his hands at the Doctor who looked himself up and down incredulously before straightening his bow tie. “He’s become something else, too. Someone else. Someone that doesn‘t even have a proper name.”

“Yes he does,” the Doctor said softly, dropping a handful of rare coins, one by one, into Rory‘s outstretched hands. “He’s called The Doctor.”

“You might want to tell him that.”


*


Convincing Amy that he was fine had been the hardest part. He doubted she believed him, but eventually she agreed to leave him, even offered to make him a cup of tea with honey to curb the insidious coughing. A cup of tea, would, indeed, be lovely. Darjeeling perhaps? Or some of that lavender tea that Donna used to make. Anything besides celery.

Having done all he could do with their meagre Ancillary Power stores, he swept up everything he’d broken over the past hour. It amounted to rather a lot. Bits of crystal sang as it brushed across the polished, ebony floor. Not knowing where to put the debris, he swept it to one side of the room and sank down to rest. The Doctor would be along any time, loping down the long corridors with energy to spare, wondering what was keeping him. They’d have noticed he’d switched off the com link. He wondered bleakly if they had realized it had been open on his end, too. Fitful coughing shook him until his eyes welled with tears. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, staring for a moment at the blood. Not good. Not that he was going to tell anyone. They’d know soon enough.

He returned to the main control room to recalibrate the Tropospheric Nullification Probe. Failing to find it—or even quite remember what it looked like--he took a moment to survey the repairs and further augmentation the Doctor had made to the native Tardis circuitry. Impressive. Ingenious. Well, he always had been clever. Having a surplus of functional alien technology at his disposal helped.

He gently toggled switches, analyzing data. The Tardis no longer drew a steady stream of energy from the Rifts he now realised it had been opening slowly over time--or holding open as the search for viable sources of energy grew more crucial. Instinct was winning over. A ship at this stage of development should not be planet bound. On Gallifrey it would be held in the complex environs of the Looms in the Tardis shipyard off-world. Unstable Rifts only prompted ingrained programming to be linked to an endless supply of energy as the final stages of Trans-dimensional intensification took place. He had been forced to modify the power systems in the other Tardis—other Tardis! how incredibly odd that sounded!--in the wake of the Time War, but this one held the genetic imperative of the original. The search for the Eye of Harmony would prove fruitless, but that wouldn’t keep the ship from trying. No matter the peril. And it was not ready to traverse the Vortex. Not yet. Not without a stable energy transference system--or a compatible pilot. If it managed to dematerialize prematurely there was no telling where or when it might end up and a good chance wherever that was was going to be on the receiving end of a very large explosion. And were it fail to dematerialize? England would be wiped from the face of the planet. If there still was a planet.

He worked his way around the console, stepping over the Doctor, tools, and a portion of the Tyler’s high-efficiency automatic dish washer Tripping over, in all honesty. On his third shambling circuit he noticed that the Time Lord had cleared him a path and a briode nebuliser not unlike the one he had originally assembled had been installed and awaited priming. The raw state of the Tardis possessed telepathic circuits and isomorphic controls which a Time Lord could manipulate, but what about him? It hadn’t gone particularly well last time. Fail that, he noted that an override had been engineered and installed neatly next to the, next to the, the… Chronosynchronization Feed. He shook his head to clear it.

Not good. Not good at all.

“I’ve programmed it to accept a dual prime that should cross match the required nuclei,” the Doctor told him, adding a milk pan to the growing pile of stainless steel skillets and saucepans on the floor.

The Time Lord looked silly sitting there, cross-legged, bow tie askew, hair a tousled mess. He reached down and plucked a coin from behind the Doctor’s ear and held it out, turning it over his fingers like a magician.

“You missed one,” he wheezed, trying not to resume the coughing that had been plaguing since he’d woken up. Whenever that was.

“Look at that,” the Doctor said with a smile, “another Cromwell. Maybe I’ll keep it as a souvenir. But trust me. She’ll fly for us. Either of us. If there isn’t too much turbulence, and the Artron Energy Capacitor remains fully functional to feed the Main Space Time Element and… stop that!”

The Time Lord thumped the floor with a saucepan. “Stop trying to connect to the Prime Eye of Harmony you daft thing! Oh, she is being stubborn about that. She keeps rewriting my command codes. How rude.”

More cookware clanked and clattered as Jackie Tyler’s brand new toaster was lifted from the pile and examined closely.

“It does eggs and toast? That’s brilliant! Amy!” the Doctor yelled just as she crossed the threshold back into the control room, a streaming cup of tea in hand. At last! A hot cuppa! The Doctor thrust the toaster toward her. “Take it over to the Tardis and make it work. Tea? Oh, thank you!”

“It isn’t for you,” she said pointedly.

He wrapped his fingers around the cup and he sank to the floor, inhaling deeply, feeling his chest loosen somewhat. Lavender. Honey. Something else... whisky? Damn, that woman was smart.

“Oh. I see how I rate.” The Doctor sounded rather hurt.

Amy took the proffered toaster. “What? Not only do you have me raiding the kitchen so you can play pots and pans like a three year old, now you want me to cook you breakfast? Shall I put on the maid‘s uniform too?”

“Amy Pond, what you and Rory do on your own time is your business. I merely thought--thank you!

“And I still need a CRT!” the Doctor added cheerily as Amy stalked away, the toaster tucked under one arm.

“CRT? Right then,” he took a deep breath, managing to stand after the third attempt. Hot tea splashed on his fingers. “There’s an old Mac in the cupboard in Pete’s study, I‘ll--”

“No. I don’t want that. Apples are rubbish,” the Doctor laughed helplessly. “Apples are rubb… ish. Right. Sorry. Had to have been there. Rubbish for this of course. That’s what I meant. I need something larger. Something primitive. More primitive.”

“In that case you’ll want Mrs. Browne’s old telly. But you’ll need a squad of Judoon to lug it out of her sitting room. I suppose if I got a garden trolley--”

“Rory!” the Doctor roared like a drill sergeant. “Go fetch the telly from the housekeeper’s sitting room. Just don‘t go poking about. I made that mistake earlier. There are things even 1100 year old eyes shouldn’t see. Amy, go with him.”

“Yes, oh great and powerful Time Lord. Right after I fix the eggs and toast, and I suppose you‘ll be wanting bacon too? Bacon, then. For my boys!”

He watched as she followed her husband into the orangery, Jackie’s Westie, Petunia, scampering after them, a blur of fluffy whiteness. Amy scooped the small dog up and he felt vaguely guilty for not having attended her as he had been bid. They had shared a banana earlier. Surely that counted for something.

“Sorted,” the Doctor told him before going back to rummage through the cookware. A steamer and a fondue pot went onto the pile. The final item was the pressure cooker full of what had been the contents of Pete Tyler‘s rare coin collection. The Doctor dumped pennies and shillings across the floor, bent forward into the pot, and took a deep whiff.

“Aha! Aluminium!”

“What can I--”

Not. A. Thing. Sit down. Rory!”

“Sit down?” he asked, confused. Not that it wasn’t tempting. Lay down, even. Sleep, even better.

“Yes, sit down. Before you spill your tea. On my head. Again. Is there whisky in that? Rory!”

Rory appeared back at the open door, hair and shirt soaked. If he listened carefully he could hear the raging storm outside. Jackie’s award winning gardens were ruined. Norman, the grounds keeper, was going to be very cross when he returned from visiting his niece in America.

“There is only one of me, Doctor.”

“For now. Remember what I showed you earlier under the--yes, down there. I want those cables passed through here first and connected to the--. Yes, yes, yes. good man. Use that thing to punch out the bottom of the... Right. Good. Good,” the Doctor said, toggling controls. ”Oh look! It’s working. Well, not yet, but it will be…”

As he watched the Time Lord scramble around the hexagonal control panel, he felt himself sliding slowly down a pillar until he could slide no further. Was the room tilting or was it him? He gripped the tea cup tightly. Not one of Jackie Tyler’s patterns. From the Tardis then. A souvenir from some long-forgotten Royal Tea. At least he had forgotten.

“There. Isn’t that better? Drink your tea.” The Doctor inhaled deeply. “Smells like our favourite kind.”

“What are you playing at?” he asked, trying to take another sip but unable to steady his hands. The cup kept missing his lips. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

“I’m not being nice to you,” the Doctor told him flippantly. “Well, maybe I am. It was pointed out to me that I’ve been rather cross and unfair and other things. I’ll sully my reputation at this rate. Further sully. Not how I want the universe to remember me. Well, my universe. This universe probably doesn’t even know I exist, which has a certain appeal. But since I have you here, I’d like to point out that that my life did not end with yours, no matter how much you thought it would.”

He looked at the Doctor blankly. Perhaps if he had more whisky?

“Oh, never mind,” the Doctor muttered, flapping a hand carelessly. “You wouldn’t remember that. It hasn’t happened to you. Do yourself a favour and don‘t let it.”

“I take it I did something stupid. Or will have.”

“No. I did something stupid. Then I did it again.”

“That sounds like me.” And as he said it, the cup slipped from his grasp and shattered between them.

He startled as the Doctor reached out and took hold of his jaw with a cool, dry hand, and looked deeply into his eyes. He stared back, wondering what the Time Lord was looking at. Or for. Did stars still spin in his eyes, the way they did in the Doctor’s? A moment passed before the Doctor gently patted his cheek.

“You’ll be all right.”

He didn’t feel all right. But he didn’t imagine stating the obvious was necessary. Nor did he seem to have the words. All he could do was stare at the face he would never see in the mirror and wonder what had precipitated the change.

“You have a concussion. Among other things. Oh, this does complicate matters. I need you to stay focused on what we’re doing if we’re to have any chance of finishing it before the Thames overflows its banks and your friend, Harriet Jones, calls back, and I need to know what’s keeping this little ship of yours from dematerializing at this point because it isn‘t anything I‘ve done even though I’ve been pretending that it was because, well, I am the cleverest man in the room. At least until your brain is working again which it is clearly is not and are you even looking at me because your eyes look stranger than normal.”

He blinked hard. “Wh-what?”

“The ship. She ought to be half way to the end of the Universe by now.”

“Really?”

“Oh dear. This is worse than I thought. Come on, come on. Snap out of it. The human part of your brain can go to sleep. I need the rest of it. I need you to focus. I need you to remember who you are. Could it be component K-7?” the Doctor asked suddenly.

That made him sat up straighter. He shook his head. “No.”

“I think it might.”

“No.” He shook his head again, more emphatically. “No it isn’t that.”

“You could at least humour me and take a peek,” the Doctor said, bounding away from him and moving about the room with enviable amounts of energy. “That wouldn’t be so taxing. Go on. Have a look.”

“It isn’t component K-7!” he said, struggling to stand and stepping on the broken bits of china. He gripped one of the buttresses to keep from toppling back to the smooth, glass-like floor. The Doctor offered no assistance.

“I think it is. I think it’s component K-7.”

“It isn’t either. I should know. She’s my ship.”

“Yeah? Well, she’s rubbish--”

“For the love of God, you two,” Rory told them, climbing back out of the hatch the Doctor had indicated several minutes before. “What now? I’ll check it myself.”

“No, Rory,” the Doctor said levelly, pointing toward the door. “Go on to the house and fetch that telly. Jon will check it.”

“Don’t call me that--” he said, rubbing his forehead against clenched fists. Dazzling lights flashed behind his closed eyes. Stars burst and spiraled.

“Why? I have to call you something. You certainly aren’t the man I left here.”

“Neither are you!”

“I’m not the one that’s run out of K-7. Where is it? Do you even know where it is?”

“Doctor, leave him alone!” Rory stepped forward to intervene. “Were you listening at all earlier? He’s in no shape for any of this and you know it.”

“Go on up to the house Rory.”

“No,” came the faltering reply, then with more moxie, “No! Not until I take care of my patient. You entrusted his care to me, remember? You had more important things to do, remember? Then you’ll listen to what I say for once. Now, leave off and tell me what’s K-7?”

The damn fluid link,” they both hissed, pointing in opposite directions.

The Doctor gaped. “You put it back over there?”

“It was easier to get to,” he retorted, feeling his head clearing. The room came brightly into focus. “And besides, that isn’t the problem!”

“Faulty filament?” the Doctor piped innocently, sliding down the nearest handrail to saunter off down a corridor.

“Watch it, Time Boy. Now you’re just being irritating.”


*


For a moment he couldn‘t remember why there were three octaves of piano wire dangling above him. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed, willing the pain away, willing himself to stay awake. He could not afford to start making mistakes. More mistakes. The Doctor’s ruse had brought him to his senses earlier, but it was only a matter of time before they would have to ring up Doc Sullivan and hope he had a boat because Greater London was under a flood advisory.

The scent of fried bacon and eggs permeated the air. He inhaled deeply.

mmm G62 L6.”

“Have a good kip?”Amy Pond’s pretty face swam into view.

“Sorry. Was I--?”

Shhh. Our little secret, yeah? Rory keeps telling the Lord and Master you need to rest, but it’s all Mr. Grumpy Face, work, work, work. The fate of the planet is at stake.”

“Well, when it’s the fate of the planet I can’t be nodding off,” he said with a short laugh. He gestured toward the plate of food. “Is that for me?”

“If you want. It might be cold. You ate two other plates full. You don’t remember, do you? Rory said you might have a concussion.”

“So I heard.” He stuffed a piece of bacon into his mouth.

At least he wasn’t coughing up a lung anymore. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and focused once more on the resonance harp he had been trying to assemble. The tool the Doctor had given him to use was still in his hand. A pair of spectacles had been left beside him. He put them on.

He remembered now. Amy had joined them in the Dynamorphic Power Room, marvelling at the beauty of the Trachoid Time Crystals. It was all so fragile still, delicate emerald pillars rising to the ceiling, fusing into an interconnected canopy like some living crystalline jungle. It would be decades, centuries, before they attained the grandeur of the sea green columns that filled Power Room 3 on the Tardis.

“You’ve done this all by yourself? Until now, I mean.”

He nodded, concentrating on the tonal quality of each string. The Trachoid Crystal contrabiluations needed to be in synchronic resonance with the referential difference index. It was a good thing he had an ear for music. He had, after all, written a symphony, hadn’t he? Well, he'd begun to write one. He wasn't sure if it had ever been finished. Or performed.

“It’s beautiful. The ship. All of it.”

“Even Audrey II?”

She laughed. “All right, not that. Don’t know where she’s got off to, to tell the truth. Or the lemurs. But everything else. The colours, the textures, the ceiling in the Cloister Room. It looks like a Van Gogh.”

“Van Gogh? Oh, I’ll bet he’s brilliant! Mad as a hatter, but what he did with sunflowers…”

“He hated sunflowers,” Amy told him.

“Did he? Did he really? He took you there?” He tightened a string, plucked it. Half a step flat. He tightened it a bit more.

“There, and to ancient Rome, and to Apalapucia, and to the future on Spaceship UK, riding on the back of the last Star Whale,” she said, eyes alight with memories.

“But you‘re leaving out all the good stuff,” the Doctor interjected, hanging upside down above them in a repair harness between spires of green crystal. “Cybermats and Weeping Angels and sexy fish vampires.”

“And the Silents?” she commented.

“Oh, forget about them. Haha. See what I did there? Forget about them? Oh, fine, then, don’t laugh, Amy Pond. See where I don’t take you next time I pop by for a visit. It’s not all about Christmas dinner, you know.

“Tell him how I was stranded on Earth--the other Earth, at least I think it was the other Earth. It‘s all getting rather confusing. I had a flat mate called Craig. Good man, Craig.”

“I think you just told him.”

“Yes, well, it was amazing and I played football.”

“Yet somehow you still found time to shatter the time line and implode the universe. I was in your head,” he reminded the Doctor as he adjusted the next string. Sharp. Still sharp…

“That was part of stuff…”

…flat… aaaand there. Done. He moved on to the next string, and the next, and the next. Too long. The process of tuning was going to take too long. They were running out of time. The Doctor had not mentioned it in the last five minutes, but he knew it was true. Rose had managed to ring them up again, but they had barely spoken two words before interference broke up the call. They used the Tardis phone then, only to get a busy signal. Two words. Two unmistakable words. Tony and Rusty. But the Doctor was already three steps ahead of him. The boys, and Granddad Prentice, were safe. He closed his eyes and ran his fingers lightly over the strings. It wasn’t music. Not yet. He needed to open his eyes again; he didn’t want to.

“Is he tuning up or tuning out?”

“Wha--?” The Doctor was so close he could see his reflection in the other man’s safety goggles.

“Go on, you,” Amy shooed the Time Lord away. “This was a private conversation.”

“I see. Well. I won’t bother telling the Doctor that his star charts—which look bang on, by the way--should all be accessible now, but if he tries to adjust the Dysomorphic Generator before the resonance harp is aligned it may just cause an earthquake.“

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You just can’t stand not being the smartest boy in the class can you? But can you remember to turn off the kettle? No, I didn’t think so.”

“Hah. I’ll just take my spare briode nebuliser and go home.” The Doctor winched back up into the high reaches of the vault. A penny dropped from above, spinning wildly before settling heads up between them. Amy picked it up, turning it over and over between her fingers.

“He never talks about it, you know,” she said, gazing up to where the Doctor had disappeared into a conduit linking the Power Room to the chamber above it. “I’ve known him so long and he never talks about it. Your home planet.”

“Gallifrey.”

“Gallifrey. Sounds like an Irish village. Show me. Come on,” she said, standing up and extending her hand. “He said the star chart thingies are working. Come on, then. You know you want to.”

Too right.

They made their way back to the main control room by way of twisting corridors, smooth like the inside of molluscan sea shells, softly lit like early morning. He walked slowly, fingers trailing along walls the colour of cuttlefish bone, fascinated by the subtle changes in pigmentation and shifts in light polarization. Ever in flux, the Time Ship had nonetheless achieved a modicum of dimensional, as well as aesthetic, stability over the last hour or so. He dearly wished he could say the same for himself. He felt oddly disconnected. And broken. His part-human body had taken more abuse in two days than it had in all the years he had spent on Pete’s World and was taking far too long to recover. Not that he expected to ever completely heal. Not anymore.

Rory gave them an update on the weather and as much of a news brief as could be reported while stacking cookware, dismantled equipment, and various appliances into a garden trolley to be trundled out to the growing scrap heap in the greenhouse. None of it was good. The news, that was. The stack of miscellany contained all sorts of useful items. Not that Jackie would want most of the kitchen gadgets back after their abuse at the hands of not one, but two mad men.

According to the BBC, a state of emergency had been declared in The People‘s Republic of Britain, with reports of anomalous weather and unexplained phenomena being reported globally. A pack of presumably extinct English Wolves had been spotted near Nottingham, giant dragonflies were interfering with air travel in Imperial Canada, and a Woolly Mammoth had been spotted wandering through a rural town in the small Independent American State of Michigan.

He pressed his hand against one of the tablet computers they had wired into the display systems, gently rotating it until a virtual 3-Dimensional screen flicked into life above them. He pointed at the Milky Way Galaxy, then brushed his hand through the stars, scattering them into a new configuration.

“That way,” he said, pointing toward Sagittarius, “in the constellation of Kasterbouras. Gallifrey. The Shining World of the Seventh System. That’s where I came from. Well,” he amended with a sad smile, “where he came from. I guess I was born in the Medusa Cascade which is… there.”

“It’s beautiful,” Amy told him. He wondered if she had seen it for herself.

“That it is. I dream about it. Never quite get there,” he said, scattering the image with a wave of his hand. He removed his glasses and set them down. “Strange life, sharing part of it with him.”

He reached to switch off the program, knowing that he must return to the resonance harp they had devised at the cost of one grand piano. Pete Tyler was going to be ever so cross with him. But it had to be perfect. They were only going to get one chance to get his Tardis off planet and set things to right. He ran a hand over the bump on his head, wondering if it might be time for more oxycodone and another ginger beer.

His shoulder and thigh ached as well. He might even take that celery infusion. It couldn’t hurt. Just taste bad. Amy was still gazing at the stars.

“Maybe it’s still there.”

He took his hand away from the controls.

“Gallifrey? No. It’s gone now. All gone. There was a war. The last Time War. Well, last one so far. We can hope it will never be repeated. At least on that scale.”

“But, that was in our Universe. Who’s to say it didn’t happen here?”

“It doesn’t work like that. It was Time Locked in the war, across all of reality, burning. He was there. I was there.” And the memories of that never went away.

“But just say in this Universe, whatever happened in our Universe didn‘t happen here.” she insisted. “History isn’t the same, right? So what if it is still there? What if there are other Time Lords here?”

“I’d know,” he said softly, stirring the stars into half-forgotten constellations once seen from the Gallifreyan night sky above his mountain home. At least he thought he would know.

And were he ever to find a world parallel to his home world, would they accept him, or would he be Outcast because of his abhorrent physiology? For all their engineering and intellectual prowess, the Time Lords were an arrogant and petulant lot.

“Even if I didn’t know, your Doctor would. Besides, the Tardis would have found a link to the Eye of Harmony instead of poking holes in the fabric of Space and Time to siphon off energy it wasn’t finding here. No. There‘s no going home for me. For us. It‘s impossible.”

“You said it was impossible for us to be here,” Amy pointed out, still watching the display change with every flick of his wrist. “You both said it. But here we are.”

“Here we are,” he agreed. “With a Tardis about to tear a hole in the fabric of reality. Story of my life. I guess I should have read the manual all the way through. Or paid more attention at the Academy.”

“But a Tardis is telepathic, isn’t it? Why can’t you just, I don’t know, talk to her? The Doctor does--the other Doctor, I mean,” she said with a smile.

“Oh, I can talk to her all right… though I seem to have been rather deaf to what‘s she been trying to say to me. Too distracted by other things. Buuuut, what needs to be done to operate her in flight requires incredible, sustained concentration that’s more in tune with Time Lord physiology than what I‘ve been left with.”

He knew what to do. Knew how to do it. The question was how long could he maintain it. The Doctor had offered to pilot her but he had refused. The Time Lord might be needed to clean up whatever mess he left behind.

“Too bad you can’t wire yourself up like they do in those virtual video games…”

Her words gave him pause.

“That’s crazy isn’t it? You’d probably have to have it go right into your brain and that‘s impossible. Right? Even for you?” Her smile faded. “Wait, you are not seriously thinking…”

“Amy Pond, you’re a genius!” he cried, gripping her by the shoulders. “I could kiss you!”

Rory ran the trolley smack into one of the buttresses.

“But of course I won’t because you’re married. To Rory. And so am I. Not to Rory, though. Ehm. Blimey. Awkward,” he said, making a dash for the door, Petunia scrambling after him. “Don’t touch anything. And tell him not to touch anything. I’ll be right back!”
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« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2012, 05:36:53 am »

Chapter Twelve



Jackie Tyler’s assessment of the condition of his bedroom had not been in jest. The entire north-west corner of the historical manor house had sustained considerable damage. It would be encased in scaffolding for months. He entered the room cautiously, stepping lightly over the door which now lay flat on the floor, along with portions of the ceiling and much of what had been in the loft above--including a large wardrobe in which he had placed a number of items for safe keeping some years before. Well, he thought grimly, looking at the gaping hole in the plaster, it would save him the climb. Two flights of stairs had him nearly doubled over in pain as it was. Just getting to the house had been a chore, what with Lake Tyler floating away the patio furniture. He had carried Petunia so as to save her the swim. Jackie was going to be incensed about the ruined carpets on the ground floor.

The telescope he had kept out of guilt was no longer an issue as it lay broken to bits under the weight of the wardrobe. Along with just about everything else that had been on the bookcase in that corner of the room. Pages of notation on Trans-Space Thermodynamics--a project he’d begun one night while bored--and fragments of his laser screwdriver prototype littered the floor Amy’s search for clean, dry clothing earlier had apparently required the opening of every drawer in the room. He had left Scotland with nothing more than the clothes on his back last summer. Had arrived here with less after the fire in the Tardis. He made due.  As much as he loved a little shop and the exotic bazaars on a hundred planets, he wasn’t overly fond of 20th Century department stores. Unless it was the toy section.

Lowering himself painfully to his knees, he reached inside the open wardrobe, fingers scrabbling along the floor seam in back until he found the catch. He pulled out his sonic screwdriver, all shiny and fresh-looking. It switched on at the merest touch and a short burst was all it took to spring the latch, revealing the hidden compartment beneath. A blue jacket and trousers, the ones he had donned the day he was born, were folded neatly within. He lifted them out gently, passing his hand over the fabric. He drew a deep breath at the memory of charging his old enemy, Davros, with a weapon he had assembled within minutes of consciousness, only to be struck down just paces outside the Tardis. He had constructed that weapon in no time flat. Had every intention of using it. It might as well have been a hundred years ago now.

He tossed the suit over his shoulder and reached back in for what he actually wanted.  There. His hand closed around a Cybus Industry Earpod, a nasty little souvenir Pete Tyler had kept after the downfall of John Lumic. Following the Cybermen incident, Earpods had fallen out of favour, people once more turning to less invasive forms for accessing the WorldNet. Lucky for him, Pete had possessed the foresight to retain certain items of technology. Unknown to Pete, he had palmed it the very first day he had walked into Torchwood. He tossed the silver ear set up and down in his hand. It might just do and was more streamlined than adapting the Chameleon Arch. He didn’t have the best memories of using that particular device anyway.

“The Doctor said you‘re probably going to do something foolish and I‘m supposed to stop you.”

He startled at Amy’s appearance in the doorway, sliding the Earpod into his pocket as he clambered back to his feet. Petunia trailed after her, sniffing about the room before running off with one of his dirty socks.

“Sorry. We didn’t mean to creep in on you--and I’m sorry about the mess. Well, the clothes everywhere. Half the ceiling was already on the floor when I came in.”  She was soaked from the relentless downpour, her dripping jacket hanging limp around her.   ”I see the builders patched the leaking roof at least.”

He nodded, bending stiffly to pick up his discarded suit.

“Let me,” Amy told him, stooping to grab it. “It was in there, yeah?”

He nodded again as she offered to put it away in the wardrobe.

“I thought he was kidding about you and the suits,” she said, giving the rumpled clothing a good shake.

A twist of yellow spilled from one of the pockets and he inhaled the bright scent of lemon peel. Amy brushed it aside, refolding the coat and trousers neatly, smoothing the wrinkles beneath her fingers. An odd look crossed her face and she reached into a coat pocket, taking out a monochrome photograph of a llama. A sign above the building behind it read Shangri-La Tea Rooms. He had wondered where that had gone.

“Norman,” she read off the back, nonplussed, then slid it back where she had found it.  “Why am I not surprised.”

“Nothing surprises you,” he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He picked up a framed photograph of Rose and himself that had apparently fallen to the floor but had been picked up and placed on the bedside table. He traced the cracked glass with his fingers.  “You haven’t just travelled together. You’ve known him a long time, haven’t you?”

“I met him when I was a little girl. He… just took awhile getting back. I started to think he was a fairy tale.” She smiled as she spoke, but her bright eyes were older than her years.  Eyes that had seen too much.

“Oh,” he said softly. “Oh.”

It wouldn’t be the first time he had been accused of being a child’s imaginary friend. For the first time in years he thought of little Reinette Poisson, looking back at him through her bedroom fireplace in 18th Century Paris, as surprised to see him as he was to see her. Especially considering he was onboard an abandoned ship, deep in space. Ah. Beautiful Reniette, who grew up to be one the most remarkable women in the court of King Louis XV’s. A woman not only possessed of uncommon beauty, but an uncommon intellect as well. She had seen the lonely little boy inside of him. The lonely little boy that lingered still in the Doctor Amy clearly adored. She had waited for him. She had waited a long, long time.

“I’m sorry,” he began, but she cut him off.

“Don’t be. It’s fine. It’s good. He’s good.”

And he could see in her dark eyes that she meant it. No matter what else had happened in between times, no matter what had happened since, she meant it. He wondered how much her devotion had cost her. It came with a price, being the Doctor’s Companion. Some had paid more dearly than others.

Thunder rolled in the distance.

“Raining again. I mean, I know it is England and all, but--   At least it isn’t raining cannon balls, yeah?”

“It’s the Tardis,” he told her, putting aside the picture frame. He stepped over a fallen lamp to get to the broken window.  The longer it took to get off world the less likely it was that Amy would ever see her home again. And if they ripped the universe in two, he would never see Rose again. He was not going to let that happen. To either of them.

“He should have taken you home. By coming back for me he may have jeopardized your ever getting out of this universe. Mind you, if he hadn’t come back I’d probably be buried in an unmarked grave outside St. Lawerence’s in Brentford.”

“He always comes back,” Amy said absently as she put his suit away and closed the wardrobe doors. The broken hinge on one prevented them from closing properly. Something else to fix,

“Oh, now I know that isn’t true.  Don’t forget who you’re talking to. You have no idea how many times we’ve--”

“But you always try,” she told him, looking up at him, looking into his eyes.

He wished he could tell her that was true.  “And if he hadn’t come back?  What if he can’t get you home this time?”

She picked up the photograph and looked at it.  “That’s Scotland, yeah?  Glencoe?   Thought so.  So it’s a lot like home.   And Rory is here.  That’s all I really need.  All I ever really needed.  So. Yeah.  I… could live with it.” She lifted her gaze to his once more.  “Can you?”

He took the picture frame from her outstretched hand.  Rose

“We couldn’t just leave you back there.  Besides, he didn’t really have much of a say in the matter, did he? Not after I rang up Rose and she told the Doctor that if he didn’t go back for you she’d go herself. Should have heard them going on about vortex manipulators and the portals reactivating a dimension hopper. Then he turned off the speaker and chased us out of the Tardis. Whatever she said seemed to motivate him pretty quickly, though.”

“Did she? Did she really?”

Amy laughed a little. “What is it with the two of you? Why can’t you just accept that people actually care about you? Love you. Rose told me… is it true you burned up a star just to say goodbye?”

“I, I--” he stammered, surprised by her words. Rose never told anyone about that. “I... yeah.”

“And she crossed parallel worlds to find you again? Whoa. You two really are proper love birds, aren‘t you?” But her smile faded after a moment. The room was growing dim as sun set drew nigh. “That must have been terrible. Leaving her here. Leaving you when he‘s always going on about being the Last of the Time Lords. No wonder he’s so broken. No wonder you‘re both so broken. You’re like… two parts of the same melody but in different keys.

“Right. So,” she changed the subject quickly and he took a deep breath, realising that he’d stopped breathing somewhere in the last few minutes. “This clever Time-Lordy plan of yours. Is it as mad as he says it must be?”

“Oh, yes,” he replied, tossing the Earpod up and down in his hand.

“And I suppose he’ll try to talk you out of it?”

“Probably.”

“And you’re going to do it anyway and he’s going to help you because he’s already had the same brilliant plan himself. Are the two of you sure about this?”

“About as sure as we ever are,” he told her, following it up with the biggest grin he could manage.

Amy sighed. “I was afraid of that.”

He opened the top drawer of his bureau and took out a pair of  tortoise shell rimmed glasses.  He was going to need the real thing.



By the time they ascended the steps to the orangery, the falling sky had pinched all light from the day. He set to work immediately. By the sound of the Tardis engines, and given that the Tyler’s hilltop home now boasted an indoor swimming pool in the cellar, there wasn’t much time left.  Time.  How many times he would have traded the curse of a long life for a stroll on the Slow Path, then, given his hearts’ desire, realized it wasn’t what he wanted at all.  The Out-of-Time Lord, out of Time.  How was that for irony?  The ship sighed around him.  Whatever was holding her in place wasn’t going to hold much longer.   

Though he had structured the hexagonal console in much the same order as any Type 40 capsule he had ever been in, he was still digging deep to sort this jumble of resident and synthetic instrumentation.  Nothing approximating this had ever been preserved in the antiquities museum though he had briefly examined—all right, nicked and then lost-- scrolls in the restricted archives at the Academy that lent credence to what he now saw before him. To say it had been ages since his time-travelling ancestors had harnessed the raw power of a time ship with such native configuration was an understatement.

For thousands of generations before he had been born, Time Lord engineers had been rigorously modifying Time Ships to suit their own purposes.  He had accelerated the growth in this one--a mere peapod compared to the vastly complex Tardis from which it had been taken--and allowed it to develop more closely to its native form out of necessity, single-handedly adapting ship-wide systems with whatever corresponding technology he could come up with but without any kind of systematic timetable.   It wasn’t like cobbling together an unshielded space hopper or riding the Time Winds on the back of a cold-fusion-powered sentient metal bird for a one way, wild ride through space.  Though, he had to admit to himself, that had ben one of his more brilliant moments—even if it had taken almost three years on the cold prison planet of Volag-Noc to accomplish it.   This was a whole ship.  A whole living ship and one that appeared to be as feisty as its sister.   It seemed rather a shame she already looked so hodge podge when her systems were only just fully coming online.  That she had grown at all was a testimony to someone’s genius.  His, or his.

Or Donna’s.

Hear me.  Do you hear me?  Help me.

“I hear you, Little Girl,” he said softly, but the ship only shuddered and groaned.

The Doctor bounded into the control room not long after he had set to work. 

“Give it over. You aren’t going to finish in time. Wait. What are you doing?”

“Sorry!” he snapped, refusing to be deterred and refusing to make room for the Doctor to slide in next to him. He needed to create a neural relay to the telepathic circuits and was only too conscious of the time constraints. “It’s been awhile since I’ve done programming code in Old High Gallifreyan!”

“What are you even doing with neural interfacing and… that’s a Cybus Earpod!” The Doctor snatched it from his hand.

“Yes it is,” he said, snatching it back. He ripped handfuls of carefully assembled lash-up down, much to the Doctor‘s consternation.  “I need to tap into the telepathic interface system more directly. Think of it as a stylish option to adapting the Chameleon Arch, which I‘ve already thought through and dismissed so don‘t even suggest it.”

“All right, I won’t. But what do you mean, ‘more directly’? Wire yourself into the Artronic Mainframe? Are you insane? I mean it most certainly could work. Maybe. Probably. But more likely it could kill you! You won’t Regenerate!”

“Assuming this ship flies at all we may still have dimensional instability once she‘s in motion, and judging by these readings she simply isn’t processing all the data that‘s required.  Trust me, I know how that feels. Timing is going to be everything. If I don’t get every command right, dot every “i,” cross every “t,” then we are going to have ship-wide failure. If we‘re trapped in mid-dematerialization she‘ll bleed to death; if she materializes too soon who knows where or when we‘ll end up; and if we get thrown sideways through one those open Rifts it could rewrite history. Either way, I’ll be dead.

“Listen to me,” he pinned the Doctor with his fiercest gaze. “You saved my life and I thank you for that. Really. And for all your help, I-- couldn’t have done it without you, and I’ve been a fool not to see what was happening. An old fool. What’s new? But you have to leave. You have enough residual power. It‘s the Tardis. Your Tardis drew power from this one, which drew power from me at the start, and has been converting power from the Rifts which--oh, never mind. Why am I even explaining this to you?

“Take Amy and Rory back to their universe.  Take them home.  Go get Rose and her family--at least give them the option.  No, no options.  Take them.  If I can‘t save the planet, at least I can save them. Just get out of here. As soon as we dematerialise, the portals are going to start closing, but if this Tardis explodes you won’t have enough rooms to jettison to get the thrust required to punch though to the other side. You could end up anywhere. You could end up in the Howling.”

Green eyes rolled in response. “Oh, you do have a flair for the dramatic! There’s another option.  There’s always been another option but like usual you aren‘t listening. Pull the plug. Shut down as many systems as we can, wrap a stabilization field around her and we hand deliver her safely to another location in Space and Time.“

He looked at the Doctor over the rim of his glasses.  “Use a tow rope through the Time Vortex? Are you mad?”

“It can’t be any harder than towing a planet--” the Doctor shrugged.

“It can be a whole lot harder if she doesn’t want to go!” he cried, slipping out from under the console and getting to his feet.  “She isn‘t going to let us take her off-line without a fight.”

“If she was functioning properly, she’d understand that she‘s ripping holes in the universe. And if you were functioning properly you‘d have seen it, too.”

“Searching for Rassilon’s Star is an inherent part of her organic programming!”

“That you should have taken into consideration and compensated for a long time ago. I didn’t realize I was going to have to leave the manual. If I even still had the manual. We sorted that little issue out after--you know--when all that stuff happened. With the fire and the ships and, you know--” the Doctor said, hands waving, cheeks puffed up to make explosion noises any small boy would have envied.

He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.  “The Time War?”

“Yes, yes, yes. That. Dreadful business. I try not to think about it.”

“Try not to--? But you, we--”

“I especially try not to think about that!” the Doctor cried, arms flapping again. “The point is, the modifications can be made. Haven‘t we been working on the same project?”

“That took months and the final solution was a happy accident involving a wedge of Flosserkase and a bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc ‘79.”

“I made the necessary modifications while you were…resting,” the Doctor told him carefully, taking the glasses from his hands and putting them on.  Off. On again.  “I can override her systems from my Tardis and program her to--go somewhere. Sacrifice herself if necessary—how do you see out of these?”

“You won’t either!” He spread his arms protectively in front of the Time Rotor column, appalled at the mere notion of condemning the Tardis to certain death. Lights flashed on the main console and the ship shuddered so fiercely they were both nearly thrown to their knees.  The glasses fell to the floor between them.  “I can‘t send her out there alone. She‘s alive.”

“More than you realize,” the Doctor muttered, grabbing one of the buttresses for support.  “Fine. Have it your way. Which I suppose is my way. But, this had better work because I don’t want to have to come back here and explain your death to Rose. I don‘t have enough Regenerations left to survive her wrath!”

That was a fact.  He picked up the broken glasses.

“Let me talk you out of this,” the Doctor pleaded, then, seeing the determination on his face gave a yowl of exasperation. “Then... what? Race you to the end of the Universe?”

He bent back to his work, cursing his middle-aged human eyes.  “I’ll settle for the edge of the galaxy.”

“As if you’ve ever settled for anything. Don’t start now.”
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« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2012, 07:07:35 am »

Chapter Thirteen



Shimmering blue green light danced around the control room as the Time Rotor began to rise and fall, energies surging and splashing like it had before. Like it had when he had made a desperate bid to change what could never be changed. His heart beat hard against his chest and he tried very hard to ignore the beating inside his head.  The rest of his pain would have to wait.  Amy’s last cup of tea before their departure helped. 

He rechecked every reading and adjusted the Earpod. Twice. All systems functioning within acceptable parameters. Good. Excellent. Now, carefully, carefully. Silver lights moved rapidly through the circuitry as the Tardis prepared to dematerialize.

The Doctor‘s face appeared on his main screen.

12, 11. Are you sure about this?”

“Amy asked me the same thing,” he said without looking up from the controls.

7. What did you tell her?”

“I told her we were as sure as we ever are.”

4. Are you ready?”

“Ready!”

Geronimo! Allons-y!” they shouted as first one, then another Tardis, dematerialized…

… rematerialized.

And flew.

He snapped open the throttle, accelerating past Jupiter, skimming the rings of Saturn, tripping lightly along the far-flung reaches of the solar system, pushing on, on, on far beyond the Mutter System. The ship responded to his very thoughts and he felt… joy.

Computations scrolled down every display and he worked his way from one control panel to the next, until at last all was silent save the sound of the Time Rotor’s gentle hum. He swallowed deeply as he stepped back, prying his fingers from the Brentford artefact that now capped the zig-zag plotter. Then he grinned, punched the dematerialization circuit again, threw the little ship into reverse, and reappeared just this side of the Earth’s single moon, sailing into the sunlight. Proximity alarms rang but he only laughed at the warnings, flicking up a visual scanner to see the other Tardis come soaring out from around the moon behind him, joining him at a safe distance in orbit about this, his second home.

“Have yourself a proper little roadster there,” the Doctor smiled broadly, then looked serious, “but don‘t push your luck. Are you sure you don’t want to set her down on one of Neptune’s moons just to be safe? Ooooh, fine. All systems go for a slow burn and re-entry. I‘ve always wanted to say that.”

“Roger that, Houston,” he answered back with a grin, preparing to dematerialize again.

The ship shuddered, throwing him to the floor as overloaded circuits throughout the room began to sizzle. He pulled himself up to check the scanners. The Rifts on Earth were diminishing and closing, the weather stabilizing over the northern hemisphere, but he was losing geosynchronous orbit. In minutes he‘d be in freefall over—he checked.  Belgium.  Yes, well, that just figured, didn’t it?--the stabilisers were off line, and the Dematerialization Circuit was on the fizz.  He checked energy conversion readings, tapping the monitor impatiently. Just a little more umph and they would be back to smooth sailing.  Neptune was beginning to look attractive.   He looked at the scanner again. No, no, no, no, no! He was losing altitude rapidly. His finger hesitated over the override. One touch.  One touch and he could force her into the Vortex for a prolonged jump, buying them time as long as she didn’t explode. Or implode.  Or consume herself into a trans-dimensional bellyache resembling a black hole.  If necessary… the thought was horrifying, but if necessary he could hijack her into the Void to prevent any further cataclysm.  And he would go with her.

Uhm, Houston? We’ve had a problem.”

The com link hissed static in reply. He jiggled the telepathic circuit link leading to the Cloister Room in an attempt to open communications directly between the two ships. Nothing.

“And, apparently, we still do.”

A rumbling vibration deep within the meta-structure rose until the entire ship shook like the west coast of North American during last year‘s mega-quake. The integrated controls popped and hissed under his fingers as, one by one, the direct links to the ship’s organic circuitry began to fail. He scrambled from control panel to control panel, assessing and reassessing the damage. He made adjustments to the neural flow being accessed via the Earpod.  Then adjustment to the adjustments.  Nothing.  Some key component had failed. Again his gaze fell upon the fail safe switch that the Doctor had installed.  He gazed up at the latticed crystal column, watching the Time Rotor and spinning gears rotate around one another in the cerulean brilliance.

Once more he struggled to toggle unresponsive controls, but it was of no use. The native circuitry twinkled like fairy lights on an overloaded electrical circuit. Christmas was being cancelled.  Deep in the belly of the Tardis, the Cloister Bell began once more to toll the peril and he yowled in frustration, at once desperate and angry at his inability to do… anything.  A searing pitch almost above the threshold of his already heightened auditory senses assailed him then, the deafening keen raising in half step increments until he thought his ear drums might burst. He tore the Earpod from his ear and threw it to the floor, clamping his hands over his ears in a vain attempt to diminish the sound of the ship’s agony. Around him, dozens of organic roundels opened into the space of the control room like flowers, tendrils of living Tardis circuitry spilling onto the crystalline surface of the floor. Slowly, hesitantly, as the banshee din lowered in pitch, pink extrusions like a fusion of echinoderm and sentient vines converged on the controls, sweeping along essential connections. Fine, silvery filaments emerged from the glistening tendrils, tapping directly into sizzling cables, attempting to reestablish control over malfunctioning systems.

He stared in wonder, momentarily forgetting that his head felt like it had been struck, again, with a pell mell mallet.  It was like a Gallifreyan fairy tale he had heard growing up on the mountain, of the Timeless Ones that had once travelled, unhindered, along the outer edges of space itself, cocooned within their immense, unending shell-like mantles. Lost now, like so much else. Lost to the ravages of Time. And the great desire of men to harness the power of the universe for themselves. Long ago, the predecessors of the people who would christen themselves the Lords of Time, skillfully harnessed Tardis technology, mastering the use of the telepathic circuits, replacing the truly alien components with machinery of their own design. In all the wide universe, his ship might be the only one still possessing enough native instinct to assert herself this way.  That was something at least.

A dozen instruments became operational at once and he sprang to the console, stumbling over flesh-like creepers, careful to avoid direct contact with the threads of living silver. One of the 3-Dimensional scanners flickered to life, displaying their current trajectory, followed by lines of High Gallifreyan programming code interpreting data, projecting what he already knew to be a grisly outcome, and listing limited options and posited formulas to counteract the inevitable.  The information scrolled down four screens at such a rate that he could scarcely take it all in. One by one the monitors went dark until a final line of complex coordinates appeared on just one. An algorithm of despair.

“Com’on Little Girl, com’on--there must be something else,” he pleaded, pulling at his hair in frustration. He pounded his fists against his already aching skull, turning himself in dizzying circles. “Think, think, think! Something! I don‘t want to take you into the Void.”

Someone spoke his name.

Trust me.

He swung back around…

…and then felt it. A gentle caress on his right arm. A tendril of the ship, his ship, looped about his elbow, softly brushing toward his outstretched hand. Faster than he could draw breath, hair-like filaments sprouted along the length of the tentacle, penetrating deeply into his skin, attaching to his nerves and muscles like sea silk spun from Pinna nobilis. He gasped at the searing pain but held still, fascinated in spite of himself.

They had altered too many under-developed systems to accommodate their own needs. The Tardis, still so immature, could not repair them. Could not fully interpret them. But he could. Another tendril wound tenderly around his other arm, and his heart beat wildly against his chest. To his knowledge, no Gallifreyan had undertaken such a thing in eons--and he questioned whether his altered Time Lord DNA would even make it possible--but he was running out of options. And she had spoken his name. Why hadn’t he realized sooner?

The Doctor hailed him from the other ship, and he stepped closer to the monitor, playing with the dials, all the while aware of caressing fingers that were at once both exhilarating and terrifying.

“The good news is you saved the Earth. Bravo! President Jones has a medal for you. The bad news is your systems have almost all gone critical. She‘s going to explode and likely turn this arm of the galaxy into an intergalactic marble scramble in less than 8 minutes. No, six. Seven and half.”

“Possibly, but not here. Not now. I‘m overriding the dematerialization circuit. We‘re taking a trip.”

“You’re what? Don’t be absurd! You’ve lost too many vital systems. If she explodes there you’ll send cracks through Time and Space. Trust me on that. It is no fun at all. If you tear apart in the Vortex you might be thrown into the Void and that‘s one place I can‘t come looking for you. No matter how much Amy likes you. Or Rory threatens me. Or Rose… cries.”

“That was the risk,” he said, trying not to look at the silken hairs emerging from the filamentous extrusions entwining him. “We both knew it.”

“But it isn’t necessary,” the Doctor insisted, leaning forward until his entire face filled the screen. “I can adjust her course from here.”

“And do what? Pitch her into a black hole and hope for the best? Not happening, Time Boy. Besides, you can’t.”

He could see the deepening frown on the Doctor’s face as the Time Lord punched buttons in vain, flicking back a silly mop of hair in agitation.

“You disabled the emergency link to your flight controls! Fine. Just, just, just fine! Then we’ll do something else clever. Com‘on. There are two of us. We have more clever thoughts before breakfast than a hundred people combined have in their entire lives.

“Here’s one. We‘ll wrap her in a safety bubble and get her as far from here as possible before the fireworks begin. Or, we’ll wrap the Earth in a safety bubble and hope your Tardis bounces off of it without knocking any other planets in the system out of orbit! Hang on. Here’s a better one. It’s called Abandon Ship. I’ve almost got a lock on your bio signs--we’re pulling you out of there!”

“No!” he grit his teeth against the pain in his left arm as the silken hair crept, spider like, to access his central nervous system More ganglia brushed against the back of his neck and into his scalp. “I’m going to attempt a direct neural interface. There’s no other way. I won‘t let her die out here.”

The Doctor’s face lost all colour as the realization of what was actually happening fully dawned.

“You can‘t do that!That was a fairy tale.  A mad fairy tale!”

“You’re just jealous,” he said, attempting to smile, but suspecting he failed.

“No, I’m not! You don’t know what you’re doing!”

“No,” he agreed, his breath coming harder as his pulse continued to increase. “But she does.” He made eye contact with the Doctor. ”Tell Rose I’m sorry. Tell her... what you couldn’t say before.”

He closed down the visual relay and stepped back from the console, raising his arms one last time to watch the spreading byssi, silken thread spun from the very heart of the Time Ship.

Such… exquisite… pain… he gritted his teeth once more against the agony, finally closing his eyes, allowing the blending of his flesh with that of the Tardis. The fabric of his life began to unravel as living ice coursed though his body, fused with nerve and sinew, tearing through his cellular structure until… yes!  In one blinding moment he was one with the ship, his blood whispering the codes the Dematerialization Circuits required. Understanding grew. Stability was attained. And she swam, they swam, into the Time Corridor, racing her sister ship through the Vortex like dolphins in a sea of Time and Space. He opened his eyes briefly, basking in the rushing Time Storm that swirled blue-green through the interior of the ship, playing the resonance harp in the crystal chamber far better than any program might have done. Well done…. well done…  That voice!  Shimmering sapphire light twisted though the Time Rotor’s lattice enclosure like moonlight through an arbor of climbing rose vines.  He threw back his head and began to laugh, unlocking the memory of what was, what might have been, and what had to be. Then he wept at the unspeakable joy as full Harmony was achieved.
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« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2012, 07:17:17 am »

Chapter Fourteen



At first, the Doctor refused to talk to them.  Nor would the Time Lord accept any assistance with the controls as the ship was pressed for increased speed.  On they raced through the Vortex in pursuit of the other Tardis.  One that had apparently run amok and stolen its pilot.  When pressed, the Doctor told them, in no uncertain terms, to shut up and let him think.  A moment later those words were tempered with gushing techno-babble explanations about what could happen within the Vortex if the other Tardis was mortally wounded.  The words annihilation and The Howling figured prominently.  Neither sounded remotely promising to Rory.  Not a heartbeat later they were told to shut up again.  After which the Doctor told himself to shut up, following the words with a sound smack to his own face.  Mad, Rory thought.  Utterly mad.  Box or no box.  The Doctor was utterly mad.  Perhaps they all were.

“No…” the Doctor whispered, riveted by something the Time Lord alone could interpret as screens of looping Gallefreyan code flowed over every monitor.  For the briefest moment, a smile played about his lips, only to be tempered by an expression of near horror in grey-green eyes.
   
“Doctor!” Amy called over the din.  “What is it?  Is he all right?

   The Doctor looked at her, hard.  Rory knew that look.  Their world was about to go pear-shaped.  Again.

   “Amelia Pond, do you trust me?”

   “What?  Is this really the time for--”

   “Do. You. Trust. Me?”

   “Yes!” she shouted across the control panel, then repeated it more quietly.  “Yes.”

   “Aren’t you going to ask me?” Rory asked, gripping the flight console as the ship continued to pitch and rock.  “Or doesn’t my opinion matter?”

   “Why?” the Doctor asked, flipping switches and mashing buttons.  “Has the answer changed?  You’ve never completely trusted me.  Quite right, too.”

   “But--”

   “That’s it!” the Doctor cried.  “I’m bringing them onboard!”

   “Onboard?” Rory gasped, struggling to keep both feet in contact with the floor. “You’re bringing the other Tardis inside this one?  I thought you said it was dimensionally unstable?”

   “Not--any--more!”

   And with that the Doctor slapped the final controls and bounded down the stairs.  Typically, Amy was off like a flash, Jackie Tyler’s West Highland Terrier in pursuit. Rory stared after her.  The Doctor was off on a lark and Amy Pond was right behind him. Even now, after so long.  After so much. And in spite of a thousand mixed feelings, Rory loved her for it.

   They raced after the Doctor, following down endless white corridors that seemed to shift as they ran, as if the Tardis itself were creating the shortest possible route.  Lights guttered and a gust of air swept past them.  Leaves… leaves? scattered down the passageway as they pushed open towering doors to reveal a great cathedral of a room and … the other Tardis.

   The Doctor pressed a hand against the other ship’s door release. Nothing happened.  A second attempt met with the same result. The sonic screwdriver was employed next. Internal mechanisms tumbled like some great, complicated lock, but the door remained closed.  Another sonic blast revealed an access panel beneath the isomorphic touch pad containing an array of Gallifreyan symbols which the Doctor rapidly tapped in a series of codes, none of which worked.

   “Come on!” the Time Lord roared, pounding the lot, all semblance of calm ebbing away as Rory and Amy watched, unable to assist.

   Rarely had they seem him so angry.  So desperate.  Amy attempted to make a case against force, citing what they already knew to be the younger ship’s preferential nature, but the Doctor shook her away, kicking the unyielding door savagely.  Petunia cowered.

   At last, the Time Lord placed both palms against the shell-like plasmic surface, forehead bowed against the outer hull, entreating the ship in low, measured tones to permit them entry.  An eternal moment passed before the hatch slid away.  Steam and smoke and the smell of electrical fire accosted them.  The interior of the Time Ship was barely recognisable from the space in which they had laboured to transform into a functional command hub, wedding circuit boards and a hodge-podge of everyday items to pre-existing onboard systems.  The cool, blue light that had illumed the chamber earlier had dimmed, the air choked with fumes Rory could not identify but had no doubt were toxic. Grey-green light cast shadows on the jungle of organic and inorganic circuitry spilling from fractures in the ceiling.

   Amy gasped.

   A body hung above them, suspended in the tangle of living circuitry.

   Though visibly shaken, the Doctor climbed on top of the console, shimmying partway up the lattice, reaching, but unable to touch the man held in the Tardis’ strange embrace.

   “Please.  Please, you must release him.  His body can’t withstand this.  You know only a Time Lord can.  Please.  Please.”

   At once, the silken byssi begin to unfold and withdraw, lowering their part-human conduit slowly to the floor.  Even with crisis centre training, Rory was taken aback.  Jon Noble, the man they can come to think of as being as much the Doctor as the Doctor they knew, looked small and fragile, his body now broken and bloody.  Seizing on professional training, Rory rushed forward, unsure where to begin to assess the myriad injuries but determined to do something.  The man’s clothes were shreds of denim and cotton, exposed skin peppered with blisters where the ship’s living circuits had connected to flesh and nerve.  The Doctor knelt beside him, touching a shoulder first, then gently, with both hands, turned the burned, bruised face toward them.   The Time Lord sat back heavily, staring at the blood on his hands.

   After a moment, Rory stood slowly and turned to face Amy.

   “Do something,” she whispered, eyes brimming with tears.  “Just, do something.”

   “Oh, Amy,” Rory murmured against her hair, resting a check against her head, unwilling to admit that there was nothing to be done.  Nothing any of them could do.

   “But you can treat him, can‘t you?  Rory?  Doctor?  Can‘t you?  No… no…” she pushed away and knelt beside the Doctor, gently stroking the handsome, battered face of the man before them.  Petunia crept forward on her belly, trembling.

As they held their silent vigil, more of the pale, fleshy tendrils swept up and down along the injured man‘s body, passing gently over Amy’s outstretched hand to caress the fallen man’s hair before moving on to entwine the Doctor.

“Yes. Yes, I hear you.  Yes, it’s me,” the Doctor said, voice hushed, head bowed. “No one is supposed to do that.  Not even a Time Lord.  It was abolished long before even the Dark Times because of what happened… what could happen…” his words trailed off
.
“But you could save him.  You could save him the way River saved you.”

The Doctor slowly shook his head, seemingly preoccupied by the blood on his fingers. “I can‘t…”

   “Why?” Amy demanded, gripping his arm.  “Why can’t you?  You promised Rose that he would be all right!  You went back for him!  Won’t you even try?  River asked if you were worth it.  We told her that you were.  Isn’t he?”

   The Doctor turned toward her, slowly shaking his head. Rory could see pain mixed with confusion on the Time Lord‘s face.  “You like him.  Why?  Why do you like him so much?”

“Of course I like him,” she said, tears streaming down her face.  “I like you, don’t I?”

   Before the Doctor could reply, a thorny protuberance erupted from one of the otherwise smooth tendrils, drawing blood from the back of the Time Lord’s hand. 

Ow! What was that for?” The Doctor clambered to his feet, shaking his hand in evident pain.

Rory pulled Amy back quickly. The little dog ran for the safety of the Cloister Room.

A flicker of energy spread like living fire from the drop of blood, racing along the entire length of the offending ganglia, spreading throughout the tangle of living circuits. A golden shimmer danced across the ceiling like fairy lights on a winter night—stars falling from heaven itself . Dozens of the delicate silver filaments brushed against the dying man’s blistered cheeks, and the light began to travel his body, closing his wounds, erasing his bruises, drawing away all evidence of blood.  Rory shielded his eyes as the coursing energy grew in intensity, almost blinding them as the wounded man‘s body twisted and convulsed.  Beside them, the Doctor staggered against one of the buttresses, gasping, arms wrapped about himself as if in sympathetic agony.

   When he could see clearly again, Rory realized that the large, primary tendrils that had been lying like coiled snakes throughout the room had all but disappeared back into the hidden depths of roundels which closed up like the petals of flowers.  The Doctor laughed nervously, and they all let go pent breath, then stopped.  There was no change in the man lying before them.  He was still like unto death, his clothing in tatters, his eyes closed.  Rory stooped to check his pulse, nearly jumping out of his skin when Jon Noble, the Doctor, gasped, a cry parting his lips as his chest heaved, his body twisting a moment in anguish.  All at once, he sat up with a mighty shiver, his head bowed forward, dark hair cascading around his bearded face, dancing light scattering like golden water droplets.

   They stared as he gave himself a mighty shake, like a wet dog coming out of the rain.  He swallowed deeply, then gazed up at the light display along the ceiling.  Rory couldn’t help but follow his gaze.  They all did.  It was beautiful.  It was like...

   “Oh, hello.  Is it Christmas?”

   “Oh, I should say so,” the Doctor replied with an enormous laugh. Were those tears on his cheek?  “And Easter, and New Year‘s, and your birthday.  Better than your birthday.  Who counts at our age anyway?”


*


   The Doctor switched the monitor off and flopped down between Amy and Rory, propping his long legs up on the railing.  They were out of range of Pete’s World now, passing not only into the Vortex, but, if the Doctor’s calculations were right, back into their own Universe.   Home in time for Tea was the promise. Rory would believe it when he didn’t see any more zeppelins.

   Amy scrolled through the dozens of pictures on her camera phone.  She opened one labelled Jon Noble that showed their new friend standing in the warm light of Pete Tyler’s orangey, tall and cheeky and ever so much the Doctor. The fledgling Tardis loomed like a monolithic nautilus shell in the background.

   “Wait--what—“ Amy protested when the Doctor took the phone from her and walked away.  “Give it back.  You’ll erase everything.”

   “No I won’t.  I’m fixing it,” the Time Lord said, bending over the keypad, thumbs tapping away.  “There.  Better.”

   Rory leaned over when the mobile was returned to his wife.  The caption merely read: The Doctor.

   “Could he Regenerate?” Rory asked suddenly, forced to make room as the Doctor again wedged between them.   “The energy that restored him, it looked like some sort of Regenerative energy.”

   “It did look that way,” the Doctor agreed, but offered nothing more.  Oh.  It was going to be one of those conversations. Rory hoped the Tardis didn’t tarry in returning them home.

   “Well,” Amy pressed the point.  She slipped her arm around the Doctor’s arm and tugged playfully.  “Could he?”

   The Doctor shrugged in oblique answer.

   “Doctor.  Could he?”

   The Doctor smiled that small, sly smile that was so difficult to interpret.  At least for Rory.  He made a mental note to ask Amy later.

“Let’s hope he never finds out.”

   “Will we see him again?” Amy asked, leaning her head against the Doctor’s shoulder. “Will you see him ever again?”

   “No.  Impossible.  Maybe. But highly unlikely, exceedingly dangerous and--”

   “And you’d like that wouldn’t you?”

   The Doctor gave a dismissive puff of air and stood back up, too busy jiggling controls to answer properly.  “What would you say to some tea?”

   “Admit it,” Amy said, arms crossed over her chest.  She lifted an eyebrow at Rory and gave him her watch this face.  “You liked him.  You thought… he was pretty fantastic.”

   “Amelia Pond, do you take me to be so vain as to admire myself?”

   Rory and Amy looked at each other and answered in unison.  “Yes.”

   “Oh, shut up Ponds.”
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« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2012, 07:28:13 am »

Chapter Fifteen



Starlight filled his eyes, the radiance of a billion, billion suns performing their intricate, cosmic dance just for him.  He floated free, turning gently, straying further and further into the shimmering reaches of Space and Time, engulfed at last in the splendour of the Medusa Cascade…

Someone spoke his name.

He blinked. The vast expanse of space was gone, replaced by the rotating blur of blue-green light twisting between the latticed structure that housed the Time Rotor Column.  The Tardis hummed softly, filtering the music of the spheres into a melody he had thought he might never hear again.  He inhaled deeply.  Something smelled gorgeous. Tea.

“Back among the living are we?” a familiar voice asked gently.  “He was right.  Ten minutes and a cuppa and you’ll be right as rain. Just in case, he left some bananas and something nasty and green in a glass.  Oh.  And he said you owe him a teacup.”

“Rose…” he whispered, wishing she were more in focus.  Worrying that it was all a dream.  A wonderful, horrible dream. “Rose, I‘m so sor--”. 

She put her fingers to his lips and shook her head.  It was time to stop apologizing.  It was time to stop seeking forgiveness for something that had never been his fault.  She smiled down at him, cupping the side of his face in her hand.  He pressed his cheek against her warm fingers and closed his eyes.

“You smell like sheep,” he murmured.  “Wet sheep.  Wet sheep with Void Stuff on their wool.  Hold on a tick.  That’s my jumper!”
   
“Is it?” she said mildly.  “Hadn’t noticed.  You weren’t wearing it when I put it on.”

He sat up slowly, expecting every joint and muscle to scream out in alarm.  But… he didn’t hurt.  Not much.  Well, not that much.  As his eyes focused he took in his surroundings and exhaled a noisy breath.  The interior of the Tardis looked like a train had run through it.  Electrical wiring hung higgledy piggledy from the ceiling, bits and bobs of their hurried modifications littered the floor.  He looked around, expecting to see --but no.  No. Of course not.  Silly of him to even think it.

“He’s gone,” Rose told him.  She sounded a little sad.  “Said he hated to dash off, but he had a one-way ticket back and it was time to cash it in.”

“He said that?”

“Well, not in so many words.  Actually, in twice as many words.”

“You… didn’t go with him.”

She tipped her head sideways, long brown hair spilling around her face.  He stared at her.  She was more beautiful than the first time he saw her, running scared from animated shop dummies in the basement of a department store.

“Why would I go with him?  I have you, don‘t I?”

“I thought,” he let the words go, suddenly feeling exceedingly foolish.  Stupid human emotions.  He still didn‘t know what to do with them half the time.  “I thought you loved him.”

“I do.  I always will.  But I fell in love with someone else.”

When he gave her a blank stare she leaned forward and twirled her fingers into his hair.

“Well aren’t we thick,” she told him.  “You.  Remember that bit about ‘for better or for worse?’  There was nothing in there about ‘till the return of another Time Lord do we part.”

“Something happened,” he said, struggling to remember.  His skin was crawling and he shivered.  At least he wasn‘t naked again.  Not that being naked was so bad.  “I think I died. Then I woke up. But I didn‘t Regenerate.  I don‘t know what--”

She took his hand and pressed it against his chest that he might feel the steady rhythm himself.  He pulled his hand away.

“What?  What?  That’s--that’s--impossible!”

He felt with both hands to make sure.

“That was the general consensus,” Rose told him.  “I‘m told it was an amazing performance, by the way.  He said you should audition for Hamlet.”

“But the Tardis--”

“Uh-huh.”

“--and I was part of the—“

“Yeah, that’s what he said.”

“And it was glorious, and terrifying, and beautiful.  But I died, Rose Tyler, because not even a Time Lord is meant to sing that song anymore!”

She raised an eyebrow at him then took his hands in hers and tugged him out of bed.   

“Just had to go up there without me, didn’t you?  Come on Space Cowboy.  He left you a gift.”

He rose stiffly, but the pain in his shoulder and leg were gone.  His head… was filled with wonderful things, none of which hurt.  The solution as to how to express his theory regarding cross-temporal muon shift rushed into his mind.  Oh?  Oh!  That was brilliant!  Why hadn’t he thought of that before?  He couldn’t wait to explain it to Rose!  Combined with his notes on Trans-Space Thermodynamics it would be a mathematical tour de force. He paused at the Tardis door, suddenly worried that he would be required to present a paper.  In a lecture hall.  They might even expect him to wear a suit.  A slow grin spread over his face.  A tall, wooden hat stand had been placed beside the door, and on it hung his long coat.  The one he had left in the orangey.  Beside it hung a 17th Century feathered cap.  He lifted an eyebrow in question.

“No, not that,” Rose laughed at him, pulling him along.  “But he left those, too.  He said your interior decorating left something to be desired.  As did your wardrobe.”

“Did he now,” he said, poking his fingers through the holes in his shirt.  He glanced back over his shoulder at the Tardis interior.  He’d be ages picking up that mess.

They stepped outside into a light dusting of snow.  Belatedly he realized he was barefoot. Across the moors the moon was rising above their home.  He looked back at the shiny blue police box.

“You’re kidding me--he?--”

“No, no.  Not that.  That’s the way I found it.  Right beside the other one.  I guess it was trying to blend in.  He said you can adjust the Chameleon Circuit along with everything else.”

“If I want to,” he said, pouting slightly.

“He said you’d say that.”

“Right.  So.  Back in Scotland?  Have you talked to your mum? She’s going to be really cross about the piano and the carpets.  Oh—and the toaster.  And, uhm, I hope they’ve got a plumber in.

“So, what’s this amazing gift he left?  Find the Jeep did he?  Don’t tell me it’s another cannon ball or some other misdirected artefact from Earth‘s past.  Or shoes.  I could do with a pair of shoes right about now.  You didn‘t tell me it was snowing.”

“Honestly, Doctor, I don’t know how Amy and Rory put up with two of you.”

He clamped his mouth shut and drew a deep breath of the November air.  He felt his lungs expand and his hearts beat a steady rhythm against his chest.

“So, what is it?” he asked, looking around.  Rose’s hand felt warm in his grasp.

“He just said ‘look up.’”

“Look up?”

“Just that,” Rose told him, pointing. “Look up.”

So he did.

A slow smile spread across his face.

The stars had just gotten a whole lot closer.



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