Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Crossed Lines

It's been a long time coming, but here – finally – is the Winter Special. It's had a plot overhaul – gone is Christmas, as it was originally intended as a Christmas story – and there's an extra Doctor in it now: three for the price of two! I hope you enjoy it, and come back next Wednesday for the start of series 3a.

It's going to be a bumpy ride....
Crossed Lines
    "Aha! I knew it!" The Doctor raced around the console, ready to point an accusatory finger at Charley.
    She looked at him nervously, though trying to maintain an air of decorum. "Know what?"
    The Doctor made as if to waggle the digit demonstratively at the girl, but found he wasn't sure exactly what he was doing. "Yes, well let's not dwell on it. What is important is this!"
    Charley breathed in shallowly, inwardly praising this Doctor's seeming inability to get to the point. He did have a habit of 'going round the houses', particularly where his vocabulary was concerned. Why use one word when six will do the job more effectively, she thought, looking him over. The dress sense reminded her of her Doctor; the elegant blue coat an obvious precursor to his green velvet number. Whatever that multi-coloured monstrosity hanging on the hat-stand was, she could only guess at. Presumably something he'd worn as a bet or a fancy dress outfit. He'd never wear it if he didn't have to, surely...
    "Charlotte!" The Doctor's voice broke her out of her reverie. He looked exasperated. "Honestly Charlotte, however do you expect to benefit from travelling with me if you can't pay attention for more than a few seconds at a time?!" He gesticulated towards the console. "Look – what do you see?"
    She managed to stop herself from saying exactly what it was. All that time travelling with the Doctor in her past but his future. She bit her tongue, feigning ignorance. "A light. A flashing light." She could see he was wearying, so threw out something. "An alarm perhaps?"
    The Doctor's eyebrows raised. "Very good Miss Pollard. An alarm it is, and a very specific one at that!" Charley said nothing, so the Doctor continued regardless. "A temporal alarm, alerting us to a disturbance in the fabric of time itself!" He nodded, seemingly pleased with himself.
    Charley realised just in time that she should at least act as if this were a new phenomena despite the fact that it was exactly this type of activity that had enabled her continued existence. "Oh, that is fascinating! Surely we should try to find out what's causing it!" She paused, noticing the Doctor looking down thoughtfully at the console. "Shouldn't we?"
    He continued staring at the part of the console where the alarm had originated from. "Indeed. Yes, we should and we will." He was back to waving a finger again, this time at the blinking light. "You know this all seems very familiar. Very strange. Almost like déjà vu." He shook his head. "No, just getting old. You don't live as long as I have without thinking you've done something or been somewhere before." He allowed his guard to slip slightly, giving Charley a slight smile. "Though in my case, I usually have! Shall we go?"
    She smiled back, feeling comfortable for the first time in quite a while. "Yes."
    With that, he flicked a switch, and the TARDIS changed course once more.


    "Ah, there it is!" The Doctor was rummaging through a large box, surrounded by the paraphernalia of centuries of adventuring. "You know I never thought I'd see this again. Funny isn't it, the things you miss when you can't find them."
    He looked around him, his toothy grin fading as he realised his companion was nowhere to be seen. Just as he was about to shout, she entered the room once more.
    "Doctor, many of your words are strange, yet I have an understanding of what you mean by them." She walked over to him, curious as to the object he was holding.
    The grin was back, and he held up the object for her to see. "Leela, it's terribly important that I return this. Have you ever seen anything like it before?"
    Leela took the object in her hands, turning it over in an attempt to discern what it might be or do. It was small and not quite spherical, time having weathered its form and appearance.
    "It looks like a ball, but out of shape and made of metal." She weighed it in her hands, looking it over, feeling every inch of it as she would survey quarry in a hunt. "Is it some kind of toy? A child's plaything?"
    The Doctor looked at the object, then back at his companion, and back at the object once more. "A toy?" He whispered it, almost as if in reverence to the article in question. "This Leela is a very small but very sophisticated piece of temporal engineering. And I'm not supposed to have it. Well, not yet anyway."
    Leela gave him a quizzical look. "You do not make sense very often Doctor, and now more than ever I have no idea what you say!"
    The Doctor put as hand to his face, cupping his chin with his fingers in a 'v' formation and rubbing it as if in thought. He sat down on one of the boxes and gestured for Leela to do the same. "I've been around a long time, and on occasion certain things happen to me that I have no knowledge of." He fished in a pocket and pulled out a piece of string. "This here represents linear time. You start here", he pointed to one end, "and end here," indicating the other. "Now, if this were to happen," he balled the string up in his fist so that it was no longer the straight length it had previously been.
    Leela looked at the tangled mess in the Doctor's hand. "Then you would no longer have time in order. All parts would be touching."
    The Doctor smiled. "Very good! Exactly right! The trouble is there's more than one of me, so sometimes we end up at the same point." He paused. "Unfortunately."
    Leela could hear a feint beeping and stood up to examine the wooden console in the centre of the room. "Doctor, there is some kind of signal on the controls. Is there danger?"
    The Doctor got to his feet, picking up his scarf from the floor. "Of a kind." The time rotor slowed as the ship began to land. The Doctor jammed his hat atop his head, and took a deep breath, pocketing the item. "When those doors open you're going to face something rather unpleasant. Are you ready?"
    Leela stood proud and tall. "I am a warrior of the Sevateem, we are always prepared Doctor."
    "Good, because out there, you'll need to be." He moved to the console and pressed the door controls. "Here goes nothing!" he muttered, and waited to see exactly what would be revealed before them.

    "This story? There is a point to it I assume? I hope you're not running circles around me Miss Song." The Doctor sat back in his armchair, his paisley scarf draped over the back of it, hat sitting on a small table next to it.
    "As if I could do that to you Doctor. I'd be more concerned with how I know so much about your past." She paused looking at his face, then smiled wryly. "Interesting isn't it? Now, pay attention, it's about to get very interesting...."


    "And...there we are!" With a flourish the Doctor entered one last co-ordinate to ensure a pitch-perfect landing. The time rotor rose and fell, the noise poetry to the Doctor's ears. He looked to Charley, the feigned excitement on her face passing for genuine enthusiasm in the Doctor's eyes.
    "So where are we headed Doctor?" She couldn't help but be a little concerned as to their destination.
    "Aha, now that Miss Pollard is a surprise!" With a sudden 'ping', the central column ceased its oscillation, a smile crossing the Doctor's face as he turned to his companion once more. "Outside these doors, Charlotte, lies a world of unimaginable and indefatigable beauty!"
    She crossed over to the console, eager to open the doors for herself. "May I?" she ventured.
    "Be my guest," the Doctor said. He's unusually agreeable, Charley thought.
    The doors opened with a gentle sound, though there was little indication of where they had landed. "Shouldn't we, er, check the scanner...or something?" She didn't want to appear too knowledgeable, having done so well – at least by her own reckoning – at keeping her true identity hidden from the Doctor.
    The Doctor nodded thoughtfully. "An excellent suggestion Charlotte, however I know exactly where we have landed and it isn't at all good. Perhaps close the doors and we'll try again, eh?"
    Charley snorted. "Oh come on Doctor, it can't be that bad. I'm going out." She strode towards the doors while the Doctor tried desperately to close them. Yet, no matter how much he attempted to do so, the control had no effect. As he watched, time seemed to slow, Charley edging ever closer to the open door, the Doctor moving to intercept her.
    The Doctor froze unwillingly, but firm in his place, as Charley stepped towards the light from the open entranceway. He watched in horror as she stepped through the doors, out into his worst nightmare...

    "Enjoying it so far?" River looked to the Doctor, who almost seemed to have nodded off beneath his panama hat.
    "Thrilled," came the nonchalant reply before he sat bolt upright in his chair and stared directly at River. "One things strikes me as a little odd about all this. One trifling little detail that I don't seem to have any understanding of. And I understand everything."
    River gave him a quizzical look, not asking, not needing to.
    The Doctor stared at her. "Just how do you know all this?"
    She ignored the question, and settled back to continue. What she didn't see was the sly smile on the Doctor's face as he too sat back in his chair.


    Leela eyed the doors warily. "Should we take weapons? If there are hostiles then we need to defend ourselves."
    The Doctor held up a hand. "No, no, no. It's not all about killing. We offer the hand of friendship, and if that doesn't work....oh hello!" A broad grin crossed his face as he acknowledged the presence of another figure in the doorway.
    She looked young, perhaps twenty, blond hair framing her face. "Hello? Who's there?"
    Leela looked to the Doctor. "An intruder! We should bind her, find out what she knows!"
    The Doctor waved dismissively in his companion's direction, watching as the other woman entered the room cautiously.
    "This isn't...you aren't....?" She looked directly at the Doctor now and he nodded in reply. "But how?"
    Leela looked disparagingly at the newcomer. "She is clearly an idiot Doctor. Why can she not speak in sentences?"
    A voice cut through the words, but not one the savage recognised – though it knew her. "Come now, Leela of the Sevateem, show some courtesy!" She looked directly at the second 'intruder', at his flowing blue coat. He wasn't the same, though her hunter's instincts told her that her senses were correct.
    "Doctor?" she ventured.
    He nodded, but he wasn't looking at her, rather at the two other figures in the room. Charley was flitting her gaze between the two Doctors, while Leela's Doctor was staring at his older self with interest. He couldn't help but grin. He remembered meeting himself in the past – or was it the future? – but he didn't ever remember finding an incarnation as agreeable as this one.
    "So, here we are! Any idea how we've come to such a cataclysmic event?" Charley's Doctor asked the other, whilst nodded appreciatively at the opulence of his surroundings. "You know I really must start using this console room again. It has certain piquancy, don't you think Charlotte?"
    Charley was snapped out of her reverie by the sudden mention of her name. "Oh...er...yes, it does rather doesn't it?" She smiled at Leela, whose body language relaxed a little.
    The two Doctors surveyed each other, each tentatively proffering a hand to the other. They shook. "Well, no extraneous time energy, that's good! Isn't that good Leela?" Leela's Doctor raised his eyebrows in her direction, watching her confused face before he broke into a broad grin once more.
    "Yes, old Blinovitch certainly didn't account for Time Lords in his equations – at least those in the confined environment of a TARDIS!" Charley's Doctor was finding this incarnation more pleasant than the last he'd come across: the one who'd worked for UNIT, when they'd ended up fighting the...He snapped out of it, realising that he needed to understand what was happening. "So, any idea as to why this has come to pass? Why are we here together?"
    The other Doctor was rummaging in his pockets for the item he'd found earlier. "I found this and remembered it needed to be taken back. Can't quite recall where it came from though."
    The Doctor stared at what his earlier incarnation held up, then backed away slowly. "I seem to recall that it was given to you...to me...sometime ago by...oh blast, I can't think of her name!" He gestured with his hands. "So tall, blond hair, says she knows us."
    "Ah, yes, her. Yes...." Leela's Doctor seemed lost in thought, Leela fake-coughing to bring him back to attention. "Anyway, I remember something about having to return it to Manalex Beta, before the revolution. Can't think for the life of me what it...Ah!" He stopped, realising exactly what he held in his hand, his other self nodding simultaneously.
    Charley had been standing silently, watching all this curiously. "So, what IS it Doctor? Doctors?"
    "Yes, I'd quite like to know too Doctors! Why have we stopped here? Is it dangerous?" Leela looked from one to the other.
    "This Leela is a temporal prison. Unfortunately it also has a time release on it...." Charley's Doctor began.
    "...and it's going to open in...5 minutes. Relatively speaking. Give or take," continued his younger self.
    "It seems to have drawn our TARDISes together, but I think that's probably a side effect of whatever is contained within. Charlotte, we need to leave now. We can take it and flush it into a nice unoccupied space in the vortex where it'll do no harm to anyone." The Doctor beckoned to his companion and began to make her way over to him.
    Suddenly a great jolt caused the ships to move, all four bodies tossed in every direction. Leela was thrown into Charley's Doctor, and the two of them held on tightly to each other in an attempt to not be flung around the room once more. Another sudden jolt, and the pair of them headed straight for the doors and through to the other TARDIS. Charley rushed to follow but Leela's Doctor grabbed her as the doors began to close.
    "Doctor!" she wailed as they were sealed into the other Doctor's ship. She turned to the man who held her. "Why did you do that? I don't belong here!"
    "If I hadn't you could have been crushed, or thrown into the vortex! Is that what you would have preferred?" There was an edge to the Doctor's voice, which softened as he spoke again. "I'm sorry – Charlotte isn't it? But don't worry, you'll be perfectly safe with me!" He grinned, and she couldn't help but give a little smile in response.
    "Hello? Charlotte?" The voice came from the scanner screen set high on the wall, again rather more elegant than the one she was used to. It was her Doctor, seemingly safe back in his TARDIS. "Charlotte, listen to me. I need to dispose of this and then I will come back for you. You'll be perfectly safe with me. Just...don't get into any mischief. And whatever you do...." The scanner screen closed, the ship in flight once more before the Doctor could finish speaking.
    The other Doctor was busying himself at the controls. "You see, perfectly safe here!" he said without looking up. "Now tell me, how did you fancy a quick adventure and back before I know we're gone?"
    They smiled at each other. I've got to make the best of it, thought Charley, and this could be a lot of fun!


    "Oh very good! So companions have swapped places, and my timeline is even more complicated than it was! Bravo Doctor Song!" The Doctor mock-clapped at his story-teller. "I am assuming that it was you gave me the temporal prison in the first place?"
    "Of course Doctor, but the story isn't over yet..."


    The Doctor hurried around the TARDIS, manically hitting switches and adjusting dials. "Welcome onboard my TARDIS Leela!"
    Leela looked around. "It is very white. What happened to the other control room?"
    "Oh, it's still around somewhere," said the Doctor in between breaths as he darted furiously around the console. He checked a reading and looked up at Leela, his face a picture of concern. "Leela, without argument, please leave the console room. We're not going to make it to where we need to be so I'm going to have to let the temporal prison unlock here. I should be able to withstand the time energy, but if I can't..."
    Leela stood firm. "I am not a coward Doctor and you are wise, but if there is great danger I must face it with you."
    The Doctor shook his head in exasperation. "No Leela, this is not the time to stand firm. As much as I appreciate the gesture..."
    He stopped, the lock slowly undoing, the prison opening before him. He threw it to the ground, himself on top of it, the only thing he could do to attempt to contain the effect of it from reaching Leela.
    Leela looked down at him as he smothered the object, watching as his body convulsed in pain. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. She turned the Doctor over. Of the object there was no sign.
    The Time Lord opened his mouth to speak, and Leela could see the effort was almost too much for him. "The TARDIS...way off course...but you're safe...everyone's safe Leela..." He lay still on the floor of the console room, Leela trying desperately to revive him.
    "Come on Doctor! You are the strongest and bravest man I know. You cannot die!"
    Just then Leela had to shield her eyes as a blinding light enveloped the Doctor's body, and the little that Leela could see through the illumination was the Doctor's features appearing to shift and change to those of another man. As the light faded she looked at the figure on the floor; she knew it had to be the Doctor, but he looked so different. He was smaller, his hair dark though he didn't seem any younger or older.
    The Doctor's eyes opened. "Leela? What happened? Did I get the temporal prison into the vortex? Are we safe?"
    Leela hugged him. "Doctor! You saved us all! Yet...you seem so different. What has happened to you? Your face, your voice, they are not as they were."
    The Doctor's hands immediately moved to his face, making favourable noises as he performed an inspection of himself. He reached into the pockets of his coat, which was now hanging off his smaller frame. Pulling out a mirror he studied his new self intently. "It could have been worse Leela, much worse! Everything present and correct, except..."
    Leela looked inquisitively at this new man in front of her. "Yes Doctor?"
    The new Doctor smiled. "I need a new set of clothes. C'mon Leela, to the wardrobe room!"
    They linked arms and headed into the depths of the ship.
    "I think I'm going to like this new Doctor", said Leela as they walked.
    "Yes Leela," added the Doctor, "so am I, so am I."


    "Wait! That's not how the story was supposed to end!" River looked to the Doctor with incredulity in her eyes.
    "Well," the Doctor stood up, "in fact it's exactly how it was supposed to happen. At least in this timeline." He held up the weapon he'd threatened her with previously. "Isn't that right Leela?"
    From the shadows approached a young dark-haired woman dressed in the leather attire of a huntress. "Indeed Doctor." She looked to River. "The Doctor is wise, wiser than any man I've known."
    River stood up, backing away from the Doctor. "I don't understand! What have you done?" She eyed the weapon. "And now you're going to kill me? That's not the Doctor I know."
    The Doctor smiled. "This? A simple matter teleportation device. The individual I used it on earlier didn't know that though. Hopefully he'll be back in his own dimension by now, no doubt plotting against me. He'll be back though. They always are." He looked to River and smiled. She still didn't seem to have any understanding of what had happened. "Now where, Doctor Song, did you get the temporal prison from in the first place?"
    River looked confused, and not for the first time since talking to him. "I...I...no, wait! There was a note, in the TARDIS, explaining what I should do." She paused, realising what had happened. "You put it there didn't you? And you left the thought projector running to show me exactly what would happen."
    The Doctor steepled his fingers. "Precisely. I can't be seen to interfere myself, and I knew of your desire to help, so I left some things lying around for you. Or I will do. All very confusing this temporal tampering. History changing all around me, my memories constantly rewriting themselves." He looked to Leela. "It needs to end. We need to put history back on its right course. But first..."
    "We need to find Charlotte. The Doctor's convinced that something's happened to her, in his past." Leela directed the words at River.
    River looked at the pair of them. "Well can I help? What can I do?"
    The Doctor rushed over to his TARDIS, which was hidden in the darkness of the room, ushering Leela ahead of him. "Take the other TARDIS."
    River shrugged. "And what? And what, Doctor?" She watched as both he and Leela entered the other ship.
    "Keep tracking my bio-signatures and do what I do best – improvise! I'm sure we'll meet again Doctor Song!" The voice stopped just at the noise of the TARDIS began, the ship's engines grinding as it disappeared out of existence in this part of time and space.
    River looked around the room, picking up the matter transmitter as she walked back to her own version of the Doctor's ship. "I have a feeling I may need this," she said weighing it in her hands.
    She entered the TARDIS, closing the door, and the ship began the soundless take off that she'd perfected over time.
    Between her and the Doctor they had to correct the mistakes already made.
    The universe depended on it.




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