Saturday, 9 October 2010

A Meddler Incorrigible

Story 2 time! This week it's the turn of Mr George Potter (aka Gloryroad) and he's written a cracking little tale for old Sixie! So, please be upstanding for this splendid story, and make sure you leave your comments and/or votes back on gallifreybase, and let George know how much you liked it. I'm very pleased I've managed to ensnare him for series 4 too, but that's a way off yet!
So, here is:
A Meddler Incorrigible
By George Potter
  "Doctor! Hurry up! What are you doing in there?"
    Peri was dressed to the nines. The Doctor had said Mallworld was 'the ultimate shopping experience' and Peri, as a full blooded American girl, took that as a challenge. In the 80's, to a Cali girl, shopping wasn't simply an errand, or a pastime, or even an art form. It was absolute, utter, total aesthetic and reputational war. Your enemies were every other female in the mall, and you only went to buy new clothes wearing the best of your wardrobe. The goal was to be the hottest thing there, and she was a veteran of a thousand bloody campaigns.
    She smiled rather meanly. She doubted that any peruser on Mallworld had a wardrobe to match that of the TARDIS. She'd often spent days wandering the vast labyrinth that the Doctor sometimes referred to as the 'clothing cupboard.' She'd seen cities that were smaller, and buildings not as tall as some of the ladder be-decked stacks of garments. To explore it all would take a lifetime. Luckily, early on, she'd found a nice, football field sized corner of lovely things in her size and suited to her look.
    She entered the one sequence of TARDIS controls that she'd managed to master: a three switch and one button code that turned the view screen into a mirror. Still waiting for Mr. Slowpoke, she admired herself.
    The jump suit, in her day and age, would be considered close to indecent, even by the relaxed standards of California. It was made of some alien material that arranged itself intelligently in response to light, air-pressure, motion and – most interestingly – interest from passers-by. It seemed to flow along her shape sensually, change color almost subliminally, and adjusted itself to her every critical thought. Currently, it was a subdued blue with the faintest of purple highlights, showing a barely-legal amount of cleavage. She smiled, pretending shyness, and it darkened and covered her a bit more. Oh, this was going to be fun!
    "Ah, Embarian multi-formic smart-fabric," the Doctor said, stepping jauntily into the console room. "Outlawed on over a hundred planets. For inciting riots, I seem to recall." He smiled, lifting a brow. "Luckily for you, Mallworld has no dress code. And you'll have me to beat-back the slavering admirers."
    Peri laughed, glancing from the mirror. "Come on, Doc..." The words died on her tongue. She goggled at him.
    He frowned. "Please don't call me 'Doc', I've told you before..." He noticed her stunned expression. "What are you staring at?"
    Peri swallowed hard. She actually felt faint. "Your clothes."
    His face fell. "You don't like it?" He sounded slightly hurt.
    "You...look....great," she managed.
    And he did. He'd ditched the Technicolor nightmare ensemble and dressed almost formally. The deeply grey suit, with subdued black striping and gleaming white lapels, was like something Armani might design after reaching Enlightenment and being commissioned by God Himself. He'd trimmed his hair and now sported an ebony swagger stick. His only concession to his usual look was the cat badge, and even it was a tasteful variation: art deco inspired and sporting top-hat and monocle.
    The Doctor smiled. "Thank you. Thought a bit of a change was in order. I've been feeling a my usual look, for some strange reason."
    Peri, recovering, bit back a sarcastic reply. She certainly didn't want to discourage this new found dress sense.
    The Doctor sidled up to her and took her arm. They both looked up at the view mirror. "Sheer class!" the Doctor exclaimed. And Peri had to agree. They looked fantastic together. Her outfit had instantly adapted to his, suiting it perfectly. She smiled, delighting in the image.
    "Let's be off!" The Doctor said, keying open the doors. "You wanted a shopping expedition, and that's what you shall have, young Perpugillium. I've a pocket full of universal credits and a day to roam. We'll explore the deepest corners of Mallworld and end the day with a fine dinner. The Tip-Top Restaurant has a spectacular menu, I seem to recall."
    "Sounds perfect," Peri said, and regretted the unease that rose up within her. She tried to ignore it as they stepped from the TARDIS into the vast and busy halls of Mallworld, but it refused to go away.
    With The Doctor, 'perfect' almost always meant trouble.
    Mel was almost at the end of her rope, and that was saying something: Melanie Bush had an extremely long rope. Her own mother had tended to grow frustrated by her daughter's seemingly unfailing good nature and ability to forgive almost any slight.
    But even she had limits. And she'd reached one.
    "I don't care what that stupid piece of paper says, Mr. Calufrom. You aren't selling me to anyone!"
    Mr. Calufrom shrugged – or at least Mel thought he did. It was hard to tell, since he looked like the product of a drunken night involving a turtle, a lobster, and a particularly un-picky robot. "I think you'll find the clauses and codicils quite in line, m'dear. The Toast Hut has offered a nice settlement for your contract, and to be honest, you break more dishes than you clean."
    Mel sighed. "It's because of these gloves!" She raised the large, clumsy, and revolting blue hand protectors as evidence."
    "Not my problem that your tender Terran skin can't handle the aggressive surfactants needed to deal with Aturian dishes!"
    "If you'd just let me waitress..."
    Mr. Calufrom hooted, his amusement so great that he clicked claws rhythmically along with the piping laughter. "No one wants to see your hideous human form whilst trying to digest, m'dear, why..."
    Mel had had enough. Hideous, indeed! With a yell, she shoved the offending form of her employer onto its back. Mr. Calufrom gasped in surprise and fear, since being flipped onto the shell was an instinctual terror to his kind, giving predators access to the soft underbelly.
    "Right me, woman! Right me!"
    "Goodbye, Mr. Calufrom," Mel said, pleasantly. She stripped the gloves from her hands and tossed them into the bubbling sink. "Your partner will be along in a moment. He can right you. I'll be off now, and I definitely won't write!"
    As if the universe decided to punish her for that particularly terrible pun, the door opened and said partner stepped inside. Mr. Craymoon wasn't an Arturian. He was a Leonide, and began to growl deep in his throat as soon as he saw the scene in his kitchen.
    "Grab her, grab her!" Mr. Calufrom cried. "She's attempting to abscond on her contract!"
    Grinning, the lion-man crouched for a pounce. Mel emitted a small shriek and found herself running, smashing through the kitchen door and through the mostly empty dining room.
    Of course, running was the worst thing you could do when confronted with a Leonide -- it fired the hunting instincts into overdrive.
    With a roar, he gave chase.
    "A rest, I think..." The Doctor panted, nearly collapsing onto the bench provided for weary shoppers. As he sat, the fourteen heavy bags thumped down. Peri sat her two primly to the side and followed suit. She was having a wonderful day. The stores here were fantastic, and the attention of men seemed to swirl around her like the tides of a great sea. It was almost as nice as the intense jealousy she could feel absolutely radiating from every female and feminoid she passed. The armies of Mallworld were well and truly routed.
    "If I'd known you were going to buy this much, I'd have hired a go-cart," The Doctor said, mopping his brow.
    Peri shook her head. "Those things look like Varosian models," she judged. "Way too slow. Besides, I'm almost done. We can have dinner in a bit." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek, a thank you for being such a good sport. He tried to scowl at her but failed. He tweaked her nose. "As you like. This is your day."
    All at once, that odd unease rose up again, stronger than ever. Peri stared hard at her friend. There was something about the way he said that last, as if...
    "Doctor, what are you hiding from me?"
    The Doctor gave her his best look of shocked innocence. "Hiding? Hiding? Peri! How could you..."
    "Can it!" she said, cutting him off. "I'm certain now. I know you a little better than you think I do. You've brought us here for some reason. A reason that has nothing to do with giving me a day out. Admit it!" The jump suit, responding to her anger, grew thicker and more modest, as if preparing for a fight. Her eyes flashed.
    For a moment, the Doctor considered meeting her temper with his own, but didn't really have the heart for it. He sighed, slumped a little. "It's actually something quite important."
    Peri stamped. "I knew it! I knew it! I just knew this wasn't a day simply for me! I knew it was some meddlesome plan you hatched!"
    The Doctor shrugged, seemingly tired. "Well, really – can't it be both?"
    Peri growled and sat down hard, her back to him, arms crossed. She really hated it when he got all reasonable!
    "This is all quite complicated..." the Doctor began, and Peri could tell from the tone of his voice that it was going to be a long explanation, one she wasn't particularly in the mood for. She stared up the wide, crowded walkways, teeming with multitudes of exotic alien life, and pretended to be focused on a shoe store that catered for hoofed life-forms. He could just deal with the silent treatment, she vowed.
    "When we were at Tranquil Repose, I received...well, a sort of telepathic foreboding. A warning," he went on. "It's not unheard of. The cycled down brain states there, right at the verge of extinction, can act like a sort of antenna, an amplifier to a properly telepathic and time-sensitive mind."
    Peri rolled her eyes, but didn't make a sound. Technobabble! Is that the only way he knew to explain anything?
    "This went on well after we left there. It invaded my dreams, a complex and unmistakable pattern of warnings. It all pointed to one thing: my own people, the Time Lords, were planning to kidnap me from the vortex, for who knows what purpose."
    It was getting harder to feign disinterest, but Peri was determined to continue the cold shoulder. She searched the crowd for anything to distract her.
    "And your own life was in danger, I know that much. Who knows what or who was sending those warnings: some alternate, possible future self, some parallel almost-me....when you've meddled and messed with the time stream as much as I have over the centuries, anything is possible."
    Peri was about to give up and turn around – hearing herself mentioned had that effect on her – when something did catch her eye. Some sort of disturbance, far down the walkway, muddying the smooth flow of that river of beings.
    "Not sure exactly what the danger to yourself was, but I got the feeling that it was a fate worse than death!"
    Something was coming towards them. Peri could hear the indignant yells and shouts of people knocked over and jostled to the side, and – disturbingly – a deep, rumbling growl.
    "Something to do with a large and very loud man, and a tradition of having multiple children without the benefit of pain medication." The Doctor shook his head, dismissing the thoughts. "Disturbing stuff! Finally, I acted. I made certain....arrangements. Set certain safeguards. Since I was sure the Time Lords were playing with tricky might-have-beens and temporal sleight of hand, it was easy enough to defend against. I think I've managed to avoid them, and the warnings have indeed stopped." He sighed yet again. "But that's not all. There was someone else involved, and that's why we're here today."
    The disturbance approached and Peri grew alarmed. People were now leaping out of the way and the yells and outright screams were growing closer and louder. She stood up. The Doctor, fully into his confessional speech, paid no attention.
    "An innocent young woman was pulled into the trap, and I've tracked her here. We must return her home, Peri. It's my duty and responsibility. I have a clear image of her: slender, with distinctive red hair, curly. Fair skinned and freckled. I'll know her when I see her and we must remain vigilant!"
    From out of the crowd, running straight at them, came a slender woman with curly red hair. She was fair skinned and freckled – and obviously terrified.
    "Umm, Doctor," Peri said.
    "Let me finish, Peri," he replied. "It may take us days of wandering Mallworld! Weeks! Months! But we must find her!"
    Pursuing the fleeing woman was a lion man. A very angry lion man. Right behind him waddled a turtle-lobster-robot thingy. A very angry turtle-lobster-robot-thingy. The surging tide of being-kind parted to let them through, squawking at the rudeness.
    "Doctor!" Peri said.
    "Who knows what dangers, what terrors she might be facing! Look into your heart, Peri. We must find this poor soul and..."
    "Forget my heart, Doctor!" Peri yelled. "Look behind you!" And she ducked.
    The Doctor whirled. At the same moment, the red-haired woman attempted to leap over their bench, but judged it wrong. Instead, she leaped over Peri and into the arms of a stunned Time Lord. He caught her, stumbled, but maintained his balance.
    "Ooommf!" The Doctor said, gallantly.
    The woman was panting. "I'"
    "Oomph," The Doctor repeated, nodding.
    The negotiations were short and intense. Even the lax legalities of Mallworld didn't recognize a contract signed by a party who'd been abducted from her world via mysterious temporal chicanery. Even if they had, the Doctor was in fine form: he'd drawn himself up to full height and unleashed his full and fearsome vocabulary at maximum volume. No lion-man or turtle-lobster-robot stood a chance.
    Beyond even that, Messrs. Calufrom and Craymoon had annoyed more than a few of their fellow store owners with their destructive dash through the Mall. A duly-composed lynch party had arrived shortly to end the negotiations, and the trio had made their way back to the TARDIS.
    "It's wonderful!" Mel breathed, the awe apparent in her voice. She looked around the console room, eyes enormous.
    Peri and The Doctor shared a smile. "And it's the finest way to travel in the universe. I can have you back home in mere moments." He positioned himself at the controls and considered. "Pease Pottage, you said?"
    Mel's face fell a little. "If I must. But..." Her look around the TARDIS said everything that needed to be said. "The finest way to travel in the universe," she repeated quietly. "The universe!"
    The Doctor chuckled, and raised an eyebrow at Peri. "Well, Perpugilliam? What say you? It's your day, after all."
    Peri laughed, and slipped her arm around Mel. "I think it's our day. And it will be a nice change to have a girl around this place."
    Mel nearly jumped up and down. "I can stay? Really?"
    "Really!" Peri said. The Doctor just smiled.
    Mel did jump up and down. "Fantastic!" She stopped, looking a bit nonplussed. "I don't have anything though. No money, no clothes. I don't even know how I got to this place..."
    "No worries," Peri told her firmly. "I'll take you to the wardrobe first thing! Then we'll let you pick out a bedroom, get it all nice and decorated, and then to the kitchen for hot chocolate and cookies!"
    Mel and Peri, arm in arm, made their way out of the console room and towards the wardrobe. The Doctor noted that he could hear the giggling for a disturbingly long time. He sighed. This may not be the best idea he'd ever had. Ah, well. Mel's involvement in ways temporal did involve him, in a sense. And poor Peri needed a friend to help her deal with life onboard the TARDIS. Neither of them needed to know that he'd dabbled a bit for purely altruistic reasons.
    And, to be honest, he was beginning to enjoy manipulating things behind the scenes. It made such a long life a bit more exciting.
    By chance, he glanced up at the view-screen, still in mirror mode. He scowled. Whatever was he doing dressed in such dour and frumpy clothes? He shook his head. Must have been a passing madness, thankfully short. He reset the view-screen and punched in co-ordinates for a slow journey to the Eye Of Orion. He owed the girls – and himself – a real holiday, he figured.
    Then he set off towards his own room, more than ready to get out of these funeral clothes and into something that suited him. He whistled as he strolled, reflecting that the clothes – much like the meddling – might not make the man, but they certainly helped one deal with the world properly.
     And, since there was no one around to hear, he indulged in a bit of a giggle himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment