May 29, 2011

Enchanted Garden Chapter Twenty

The Doctor heaved himself up from the floor of the control room and poked at the unresponsive screen. “Where are we?” he muttered, more to himself than to the TARDIS, but of course there was no reply. Grabbing one of the safety rails, he hauled himself up the steep slope of the floor to the exterior doors of the TARDIS and opened the door. Snow fell into the ship, and the Doctor could see that the warm air escaping from the TARDIS was turning to steam instantly, even as it was being replaced by cold air that oozed over the slanted threshold and filled the control room with the extreme temperature. The falling snow dusted the Doctor’s dark hair and he shivered.

He was about to shut the door again, when he saw something moving out in the snow. A red and black blur, coming closer, and struggling through the drifts of snow, as though it was a very small person, someone with very short legs who was having a very difficult time making their way through the drifts as they came toward the TARDIS.

The Doctor stood near the door, waiting patiently as the figure came closer. He hesitated to abandon someone in this cold and inhospitable environment, especially someone who was not dressed for it, and especially someone who could tell him where he had landed. They had been almost to Belly Button, Arizona, when something had struck the TARDIS, hard, and thrown the ship terribly off course. And now he would have to right the ship and fix whatever was wrong with it now, and also discover exactly where and when he was, before he could make another attempt at taking the children home to Belly Button, Arizona.

The figure in the snow came ever closer, and eventually resolved itself into a woman wearing nothing more than a pair of black slacks and a long sleeved red tunic, and nothing at all to protect her from the snow storm that was growing ever more furious by the minute.

The woman reached the doors of the TARDIS, and the Doctor reached out a hand to assist her. “You will need to be very careful, my ship is tipped partway over at the moment, and the floor isn’t straight just now,” he warned her as she took his hand.

The woman clambered into the TARDIS and held on to the railing while the Doctor secured the door against more snow entering the TARDIS, and making certain that no more of their heat could escape. He had had quite enough of icicles and snow storms in the control room, thank you very much.

The Doctor let go of the railing and slid back to the control console, where he fiddled with his sonic screwdriver for a few minutes, before managing to get the power restored. He made a few more small adjustments, and then he was easily able to right the TARDIS, bringing the floors back into alignment with the internal gravity propulsion units.

“Who made this landing?” the young looking woman asked, tucking her long blond hair behind her ears and pushing the ends behind her shoulders, then hopping up to sit on the hand rail and lean against the wall next to the door.

“The TARDIS was hit by something, midflight,” the Doctor replied irritably, “and went spinning off to who knows where.”

“Well, I know where,” she said in an irritatingly smug tone that sounded just a little bit familiar.

“Where are we then?” the Doctor asked distractedly.

“Antarctica,” she answered calmly, her eyes twinkling with her amusement. The Doctor wasn’t at all pleased that she seemed to be enjoying herself while he was trying to determine what had happened to his precious ship now. If it was something those pirate wenches had done, he would go back and skin them all alive. Well, not really, he amended hastily, but they would definitely feel the sharp edge of his tongue if he ever saw them again.

The woman hopped off the railing and came toward the control console, looking all around the interior of the ship with great interest, her eyes wide.

The Doctor followed her gaze, waiting half in anticipation, half in exasperation, for that revelatory moment that all people seemed to have when they first realized the apparent impossibility of the interior dimensions of the machine.

She flipped her hair behind her shoulder again, and patted the console, then frowned.

“Did you just redecorate in here,” she asked, “or is this an entirely new TARDIS all together?”

The Doctor frowned and stared at the woman. Something about her teased at an old memory, and he distractedly tried to place it, failing extravagantly. It was almost like she was wearing a perception filter, or something else that damped down his ability to truly look at her and recall when he might have seen her before. She was certainly acting as though she had been in his TARDIS before, though, and even as though she knew exactly who he was.

That last bit made him uncomfortable, having someone know him when he had no idea who they were. It had been happening to him a lot lately, as though he had been doing too much hopping back and forth in time, and was meeting people out of their proper order in his life.

"Well?" she demanded. "This place looks like a Dalek junkyard. What did you do to it?"

"I...well...I…um," the doctor stammered, then abruptly changed the subject.

"Did you say we were in Antarctica?" he asked, nudging the screen and surreptitiously moving a few controls on the console in front of him.

"I did, and you’re changing the subject, as usual," the woman said in complete and utter exasperation. "Come on, Doctor, I can see you’ve regenerated at least once since I last saw you, but it’s still you, I can plainly see that too. Have you gotten so old that you’re losing half of your memories? You should recognize me rather easily, since I haven’t regenerated."

The Doctor blinked and rubbed his eyes, then walked toward the woman again, and circled around her, peering closely at her, and trying very hard to place her in his memory. Maybe he was getting too old, if he couldn’t remember ever having met this young lady. He turned away from her and focused his attention on the TARDIS controls again.

"If you’re just going to stand there baiting me, fine," he said, "then just stand there and rot. I haven’t got time for playing silly games of who said what and what our names are and when we met last. I’ve got work to do, figuring out what happened to keep the TARDIS from landing in Belly Button, Arizona and why we ended up in Antarctica. You wouldn’t happen to know the date, would you?"

The woman smiled cryptically.

"Yes, I do happen to know the date, it’s Saturday, October Thirty First, Two Thousand and Eight, in local reckoning."

The doctor punched the date and their location into the TARDIS's computer, and did a little more fiddling, then kicked the base of the console.

“Did that help?” she asked.

“Yes,” the Doctor answered.

“Did it hurt?” she asked, with amusement in her eyes and voice.

“Yes,” the Doctor answered, leaning against his seat and pulling his foot up to where he could rub the pain from the toe.

"Whatever is the matter, Doctor?" the woman asked in a sweetly cloying tone of voice.

"According to this thing," the Doctor grumped, "there is absolutely nothing wrong with the TARDIS at all."

The woman insinuated herself between the Doctor and the console, and hesitantly at first, and then with growing confidence, began manipulating the controls and peering at both the screen and other various dials.

At length, she looked up at the Doctor, who was rather grumpily leaning against one of the safety rails. "Well, you’re right," she said. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with the TARDIS.