Chapter 25: Tango Through Time


 Any recognisable dialog from DotD isn’t mine. Some banter was too good not to use, and was probably the only part of the fiftieth I really loved… so it stayed and was modified to fit Eight and Nine, and/or was embellished upon. I really hate referring to them by numbers but there’s only so much I can do when I’m playing with four of them. I avoided it when I could.

I also want to note that I love each of the Doctors, and when I have them insult each other, it isn’t my personal feelings toward them. It is, however, an expression of my love. What can I say? I have three brothers. “I love you,” comes out as, “you dumb ass,” most of the time along with a dead-arm.


 

 

He went from a room lit with electric light and filled to bursting with alien devices to a dank, depressing dungeon cell. Straw littered the mouldy, stone floor in fetid piles; the scent of living decay and decomposing plant matter assaulting his olfactory senses. Meagre light filtered in only from a small opening in the stones nearly a metre and a half above his head, and a heavy wooden door blocked all hope of escape from the deplorable room. He could hear the fat corpse rats scuttling under the mounds of hay that served as both furniture for the prisoners, and superhighway for the rodents which fed upon the scant rations of food and the convicted themselves.

And still, this was not the worst part of what he found awaiting him inside the cell.

No, the worst part of coming to this place was whom he found waiting, trussed up and glowering at the two interlopers who had unwittingly intruded upon his captivity. In all his wild-haired, pin-striped, patterned tie, and trainer-clad glory, sat himself. Another himself. The himself just before the current himself. The himself who had laid the path of manic madness in grief and loss which he’d traversed for the last couple of centuries.

He was, to say the least, nonplussed.

“Oh, I should’ve guessed it’d be you responsible for that,” jeered the imprisoned Doctor to the man he’d once been, ignoring the man he’d become, and nodded his head toward the time fissure. “Only you would do something that dangerous and stupid.”

He opened his mouth to loose his very witty and biting retort, but the Doctor in leather beat him to the punch with a growl.

“Oi!” he barked, “who the hell’re you an’ how do you know me?”

The captive Doctor bared all his teeth in an expression not quite a grin and not exactly a sneer. “I’m you, you great leathery twat.”

The younger rolled his eyes and turned away to examine the room, ignoring the continuing diatribe as the man he would become steamed.

“And where the hell is Rose? She’d better not be coming anywhere near this place! Do you have any idea what that could do to the time lines, you damned, foolish wan—”

“That’s quite enough of that, thanks. Had enough of that word of late,” the oldest shouted over the pinstriped Doctor’s insult, stopping the leather-wearing him from causing physical injury. “And we didn’t cause that madness! You must’ve somehow! How and why exactly did you end up trussed up like a pig? I don’t seem to remember this, but that’s hardly surprising.”

“You don’t remember this? Oh, wonderful! Just great. Three of us then! Bloody brilliant! What did I ever do to deserve this? Just my luck, our first body will show up and whack us all with that damned cane until we play nice!”

All of them shuddered.

“And it isn’t like I tried to get arrested!” the Doctor in pinstripes whinged. “I didn’t do anything! Haven’t even had the chance, I just showed up and it was enough.”

“Really?” the Doctor in tweed smirked. “So, knowing Elizabeth wanted to arrest you on your last visit slipped your mind, did it?”

“Oh, well, you would bring that up,” Pinstripes rolled his eyes.

“An’ we’re the idiots? Take a good look at where you’re sittin’, pretty boy! Knew you were a wanted man with tha’ stupid face an’ still came back, fantastic,” the youngest of them chuckled and leaned one shoulder against a stone wall with his arms folded across his chest in a broody snit.

“What was it for this time?” the eldest asked curiously as he mimicked Nine’s disapproving posture on another wall. “Throw another nose, did you?”

“Do you think you’re funny?” the middle Doctor barked. “Is that why you’re wearing a bow-tie and braces? I’ll let you in on a little secret, we made a better clown in our sixth body. He was funnier too.”

“You are tetchy, aren’t you!” the oldest chuckled. “And that just isn’t true. We weren’t funny at all back then.”

“That was my point, actually, I was being iron—oh forget it. You’re useless.”

“Wasn’t I supposed to be charming in this body? Rude, but charming is what I remember, but you aren’t! Rude, yes, but hardly charming. When are you? Have you lost D—”

“Oh, shut up and untie my hands already,” the other retorted sourly, turning his head away from both of the gleefully voyeuristic versions of himself.

The ninth looked away from himself and pretended to find the ceiling very amusing. He decided he quite liked having the Rose card up his sleeve as, apparently, both future versions of himself harboured a bit of jealousy. He was glad that she wasn’t there to see his future faces, however, since Rose tended to like them pretty. He also didn’t fancy explaining regeneration, though it looked like he’d never have the need if these two prats were without her. Another bonus. He didn’t focus on the fact that it also meant he’d one day be very much without his pink and yellow bit of sunshine.

When neither of his counterparts moved to help immediately, the Doctor in trainers and a suit let loose a string of Gallifreyan curses and began to struggle anew with the bonds, wishing he could just free one appendage to get a good swing in. He succeeded only in falling onto his side in the odoriferous straw.

The bow-tied Doctor rolled his eyes after a few moments of watching with a smirk and fished in his jacket pocket for his sonic.

“Of all the bloody people in all the universe to come through it had to be you, didn’t it,” he huffed from his prone position and spit out a bit of the straw that had found its way into his mouth. “Couldn’t’ve been, I dunno, even a Dimean or a Narcolyxii, let alone someone I actually might like, no. Had to be bloody you.”

“I’m not exactly thrilled to find you on this end either, you know. Stop wiggling,” he commanded as he bent to free his younger— well, his other younger self from the bindings around his wrists. “You’re like a hyperactive string bean. And if you think for a second that I can be bothered to help with your feet – you’ve lost one of your trainers, by the way, it’s just there—”

“Oh, just go find a way out and leave me to it,” he grumbled, “not like I want you anywhere near me anyway. Prat. Do I really turn into you? You look like a Time Tot. What the hell was I thinking when I regenerated?”

“You really don’t want to know.”

“No, I don’t. Just… don’t talk to me.”

“Fine by me. Daft Ears—”

“Oi!”

“—has been better company, and that’s saying something.”

As the pinstriped Doctor got to his feet, the time fissure shimmered and undulated fluidly. It expanded in a bright golden flare of luminance, forcing them all to look away from it.

“Oh, not again…” the tenth muttered.

When the glare subsided, a man in a battered, green velveteen coat and war-torn clothing stood alone, looking curiously at each of the men in the cell.

“You!” the ninth spat viciously, before turning his back and clenching his fists.

“How can you be here? More to the point, why the hell are you here and when are you leaving?” the tenth growled.

“You caused that, didn’t you?” the eleventh accused.

The newly arrived Doctor raised an eyebrow and regarded the other men, who hadn’t turned away, but still looked upon him with disgust and anger. “Well,” he began in a flat tone, “interesting but hardly informative. Excuse me chaps, I’m looking for the Doctor. I’d ask where I am, but it appears we’re in a prison cell—”

“Full marks for the toff…” Leather and Ears growled.

“—and did anyone lose a fez?” He held the hat up which was quickly snatched by the youngest looking man who immediately donned it and scowled at the hand which had been touching it.

“Yes, well…” the youngest gave a polite little cough. “Lovely to meet you as well, I’m sure, but I do rather have places to be, so… I’m looking for a man who calls himself the Doctor?”

“You’ve certainly come to the right place,” sighed the Doctor in tweed, pinching the bridge of his nose. This was getting ridiculous. At this rate, his first body really would be showing up to make them behave.

“Yes, are you companions of his? Is he coming to liberate you, or is he in another cell himself?”

“Companions?”

“Ah. Perhaps not companions. I do prefer some intelligence in my assistants. Have you heard of a man called the Doctor in any case? Perhaps you might simply point me in his direction and I’ll be—”

The two oldest looked at each other and rolled their eyes. They both held up their sonic screwdrivers.

“No…” the soldier breathed incredulously.

“Pfft,” huffed Ears, still not facing the man he was.

“Really?”

“Ye-p,” smirked Pinstripes.

“Even that one?” the youngest asked pointing rudely at his oldest incarnation, and eyeing the ridiculous red hat perched on the mousy flop of hair. This man was older than he? He glanced at the apparition who had accompanied him and raised an eyebrow. She gave a noncommittal jerk of the head and examined her incorporeal fingernails.

“Yes!” shouted Bow-tie, batting with his sonic at the finger which was dangerously close to poking his chin.

The Doctor in the suit and tie eyed his future device and smirked. “Larger sonic, eh? Compensating?”

“For what?” demanded the older man. He didn’t need to compensate for anything! He was much wiser and much cooler than he’d ever been! Rassilon, these— was he really like this? Well, yes, he supposed he was.

The younger man’s smirk widened into a pig-in-a-wallow grin. “Regeneration. It’s a lottery.”

“Oh, he’s cool,” he hissed back, pocketing his tool quickly and rolling his eyes. “Isn’t he cool? ‘I’m the Doctor and I’m all cool! Oops! I’m wearing sand shoes.’”

“They’re not sand shoes!”

“Really. They really, really are.”

“Oh, because your nutty professor clobber is sooooo much better. Very convincing! Missing the coke-bottle specs though, mate.”

“Am I having a mid-life crisis?” the youngest asked, what seemed to the older men, the room at large.

The Doctor in leather glared at him and moved to another wall as far as he could distance himself to lean and brood. His worst nightmare was standing a few feet from him, and it took every ounce of his will not to throttle him, or scream at him, or start tearing the Tower of London apart, stone by stone, history be damned.

“Oi!” cried the older two in unison. Their own pain and rage might not be as fresh as when they wore the leather coat and wool jumpers, but it was no easier to stand in the same room as the man they considered a traitor to the name of which they endeavoured to be worthy. His insults made it no easier to endure his presence, and even if they couldn’t agree on much, they could all agree that they wanted to fix the fissure and be gone as quickly as possible.

“Not the display I was expecting, I must tell you, my dear,” the hated Doctor continued obliviously.

The Doctor in the fez looked to the version of himself who was closest in years to the man calling thin air, “my dear,” with a silent, bemused inquiry. He only shrugged and gave a noncommittal shake of the head in reply. He didn’t remember losing it, but his memories of the last few months of the war were foggy at best, coming in only violent flashes of agony and destruction most of the time.

“If this is what you wanted to show me, we can just go back now.” The war-ravaged man looked at the ragged, golden woman with an unimpressed expression. “They’re in a prison, together may I point out, doing nothing exactly, and they’re…”

“Who’re you talkin’ to, you nancy?” Leather growled. He refused to look directly at the man whose hands had spilled the blood of billions, but he couldn’t stop himself from speaking.

“I never promised you anything but a look,” she purred as she moved away from him to look closely at the youngest-looking of his regenerations. “It’s not as if you’ve done anything but insult each other yet. Don’t you have questions? Don’t you want to know?”

“No, I don’t. Not if this is to what I have to look forward,” he told her, oblivious to the wide-eyed confusion surrounding him.

“Gone a bit around the bend, hasn’t he?” Sandshoes shot to Bow-tie who nodded sagely but preferred to let the matter go.

“Not surprising, is it?” He tugged at the unruly locks flopping into his face and sighed. What had brought them all together? Why was that one with them – muttering at nothing and, by his very presence, bringing up things he just didn’t want to think about any longer? What was the point of any of it? “Four of us in one cell… This’ll cause some nasty anomalies if we don’t get out soon.” He strode to the cell door and brandished his sonic screwdriver at it. He had to get away from them. He’d go mad stuck there much longer.

“What are you doing?” drawled Sandshoes as he sauntered over and leaned against the stone wall next to the door.

“Getting us out!” he snapped back. His tolerance for his younger selves had nearly evaporated into nothing. He was getting desperate.

“Won’t work. The thing is all wood and there’s a wooden plank locking it on the other side.”

“Well, what do you want me to tell you? Shall we call in a carpenter? Have your mobile on you and a friend with a reference? Or shall we call the guards and request a better-quality door? We’ll kick it down! I don’t know!”

“Right, because that won’t have guards with swords and axes on us in seconds at all, will it?” The younger Doctor shook his head and sighed dramatically. “We really ought to invent a setting that does wood.”

“Wonderful advice, thanks. Might I remind you, you’re the one who got stuck in here in the first place? Why don’t you and Ears go resonate some concrete?”

“It’s stone not con—”

“Doctor?” came a voice through the time fissure.

Every man practically jumped out of his skin.

“Doctor, they said you’d gone through this… this thing. Can you hear me?” Torin’s disembodied voice floated out to them.

“Oi!” cried the eldest Doctor, rushing to the breach, his face going from mocking to serious and wary in milliseconds. He couldn’t see anything on the other side, but the worry in the young man’s voice gave plenty away. “What are you doing? Why aren’t you back in the TARDIS? What is going on?”

Nine and Ten turned their gazes on each other before turning to Eight.

“Tha’ll be a companion, you idiot. Mid-life crisis… Like you’re any better’n them with your hair an’ prettiness…” Leather pulled his arms in even tighter as he glared daggers at the ceiling. “Coulda lived the rest of my lives without layin’ eyes on you…”

“Yeah… bit of a glitch. There’s a load of—er—hostile things between us and the TARDIS and… well, we came looking for you, but you disappeared!”

“Where is—”

“He’s here! We’re both here. Osgood’s here and so is Kate Stewart and—er—what was her name again? Right, Colonel Chaudhry, only we’re stuck in the Archive ’cos there’s mole-men, and Chaudhry’s saying mad things about warheads and blowing up London—”

Ten approached the fissure and stood next to himself as the panicked young man spoke rapidly from the other side. His expression darkened with every word.  Both younger incarnations soon followed, though Nine maintained a careful distance from the youngest, keeping all the others between them.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down. Reverse it. What is going on?”


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“Osgood, who are these men, why are they here, and what on Earth is that thing?” Kate interrogated as all four of the people trapped outside the Archive spilled inside in a haste driven by terror.

“Hello,” Torin answered with a small wave and a manic grin. “I’m Torin, and this is Li, and that’s, oh… er, what was your name?” he asked the guard.

“Atkins,” he replied weakly.

“That’s—”

“I know who Atkins is!” she shrieked. “I want to know what you’re doing down here!”

“Well, we came with the Doctor! Is he here?”

“No, he isn’t,” replied Chaudhry. “Atkins, man the entrance. Stewart, back to the breach. These boys are mine.”

“Ma’am,” Atkins nodded.

“Yes, ma’am. Osgood, come with me.” The two scientists made their way to the shimmering fissure in time and Kate began handing instruments to the girl.

“You’re trespassing on classified government grounds, are you aware of that?” Chaudhry began with steel in every utterance.

Both young men looked uncomfortable.

“You’re companions? I was under the impression the Doctor was without any at the moment.”

“Your intelligence isn’t all that great then, is it?” Torin grinned again before letting it fall when she glared.

“We carefully catalogue and interview all of the Doctor’s companions. Rose Tyler is the current companion of one of the Doctors who was here, but you two—”

“It’s new,” Lios interjected. “Really new.”

“You don’t say,” Chaudhry glared. “Did you see the thing outside?”

“Yes,” Torin nodded. “I’m thinking not friendly, but not particularly high in intelligence or advanced—”

“That isn’t congruent with the readings we’ve taken,” she cut him off. “They’re in military formation surrounding the Archive and have evaded detection for some time. That implies strategy and a clear goal. All of which, I hardly need add, point to a disturbing level of intelligence.”

“Right, but then why haven’t they gotten in and gotten what they want?” Torin challenged. “And who are you?”

Lios elbowed him in the ribs, but the woman didn’t seem to be fazed by Torin’s demanding behaviour.

“Colonel Emily Chaudhry, Head of the British Division of Unit. And as to why? Why don’t you tell me? How did you get here? Your very presence is suspect, and I’m warning you now, whatever you have planned, we are prepared to deal with it. This is the most thoroughly defended room in the world. Don’t think for a second you stand a chance at theft or manufacturing a hostage situation. So, I repeat, how did you get here and what are your intentions?”

“Right,” Torin frowned. “Well, we walked, didn’t we? With Osgood – not her fault! I mean, we told her we were new interns and we had falsified identification—er—from the Doctor—”

“Please, spare me. Outside is a corridor full of specially trained soldiers—”

“There isn’t.”

The Colonel was silent a moment. “What did you just say?”

“The corridor’s empty,” Torin shrugged. “Struck us as odd too, until the mole-man tried to have us for tea. I’m sure you had it full of people, but they’re gone. And you don’t really think we’re with the mole-men, do you? It was trying to kill us!”

“Empty.”

“Ye-p.”

“…Mole men?”

“Ye-p”

“Can you prove that you’re companions beyond a shadow of a doubt?”

Torin hesitantly reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. “Good enough?”

Chaudhry eyed it for a moment before holding out her hand. Torin reluctantly placed it in her palm and she inspected it closely, wheels turning behind shrewd blue eyes, before returning it, and nodding.

“You don’t think they’re very intelligent.” She wasn’t asking.

Torin shook his head. “Not only that, but they’re limited in sensory acuity. They rely on their hearing – which is rather acute, I’m talking hypersonic frequencies acute – but they can’t see, maybe at all, and they couldn’t smell us when we hid.”

“That means…”

“They’re pawns, yeah,” the young man agreed. “Something else wants whatever they’re after.”

“And the UNIT officers—”

“They must’ve taken them. I told you, we just walked down. Once we stepped out of the lift there wasn’t even anyone to ask us for the time. It’s dead quiet out there. It—er—the mole thing heard us while we were investigating and that’s why we were trying to get in. We just wanted to find the Doctor.”

“The Doctor isn’t here any longer.”

“What?” both young men cried.

“What are you talking about?” Torin demanded. “He was here! He wouldn’t’ve just left us—”

“The Doctor did accompany Miss Stewart and myself into this vault, yes, but that,” she indicated the rippling anomaly the two other women in the room were nervously studying, “materialised shortly after entry and he went through it – whatever it is. He hasn’t returned, and we don’t know what’s causing it or how dangerous it is.”

Both young men shifted on the balls of their feet uncomfortably. How they hadn’t picked up on the disturbance it made in time when, while they looked at it, it made their stomachs clench was a mystery, and one which Torin figured was due to the stress of nearly being ripped to shreds by dagger-like claws and stone gashing teeth.

Nearly as pressing was the dilemma on how much they should say in general. They obviously were the best-suited beings in the room to address the strange, fluctuating time disturbance, but did they want this woman to know that? Should they tell this Colonel what they were when she had only just accepted they posed little threat? And did she really catalogue companions like cattle or keep tabs on their teen-aged mother like she claimed? Could they actually let that go without making a tell-tale fuss? It rankled like an unspoken threat. Did the Doctor know about it? How much trust exactly did the Doctor put into this government organisation when he’d obviously wanted to keep them a secret? And why had he just blithely walked through it and left them to deal with the mess here? He could be anywhere – literally anywhere – and any when. Did Chaudhry even know it was a time anomaly? What choice did they have in how much they spilled, and what was the fallout likely to be?

“He just… walked through it?” Lios asked softly, looking at his brother with a question on his brow.

Torin gave a minute nod of the head. They were on their own, and they had to do as much damage control as possible.

“Yes,” she heaved a sigh. “He said it was,” she grimaced, “’time bending to its master.’ I’d like to say I have faith in that, but with the incursion outside and the breach inside, I’m sure you understand how precarious my position has become.”

Torin narrowed his eyes at the Head of UNIT. She was fishing. Well, he supposed one didn’t get to that spot without fairly damned good instincts and he’d shown her his sonic screwdriver. How little could— should he say? Talking about their mum was out, but they couldn’t avoid the inevitable. The Colonel had to know they could handle more than just some punters off the street, but first he had to know how far she was willing to go on her own.

“You said the room was well defended though, yeah?” he asked.

She stared at him for a moment longer before nodding curtly and speaking. “We have a nuclear warhead programmed to detonate upon my command should the contents of this Archive be compromised.”

“But that— you would destroy all of London!” Lios protested before Torin could pick his jaw up. “What about all the people?”

“Acceptable losses – I’m sorry, your name was Lee?”

“Acceptable losses? Acceptable? 8.3 million people are acceptable losses?” he cried. It was Torin’s turn to elbow him in the ribs.

“Yes. The risk of hostiles attaining anything in here is far greater!”

Lios opened his mouth to shout again, but Torin grabbed his arm and glared.

Mum, Lios silently raged. Mum is at Gran’s right now! Don’t you get it? If they detonate— Torin, it’s not just London! What happens to the timeline? What happens to—

I know, alright! I know! he retorted. But they can’t! Not that! We just have to sort this without letting them act like stupid apes and blowing everything up!

How, Torin? How are we supposed to do that exactly? Lios practically pleaded. How are we going to do anything when they think we’re just a couple of stupid companions and we don’t even know what’s trying to get in here?

I don’t know! I just know we have to, so we will!

Right, loads better, thanks.

Shut up.

“You can’t blow up London,” Torin reasoned.

Chaudhry smiled wryly. “I don’t intend to if I can help it, Mister – what was your name?”

“Woolfe. Just call me Torin, please.”

“Torin Woolfe. And Lee…?”

“Noble-Smith,” Torin supplied again. “First name’s fine for him too. Please, I just need to talk to the Doctor, can I—er… If I get near that thing, are you going to shoot me?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Colonel said dourly.

A banging sound resounded throughout the room. The creatures had finally torn down the heavy wooden door and were feeling out the vault entrance.

Torin blanched. Not good, but at least – he desperately prayed – they couldn’t get through. Wouldn’t they’ve have done ages ago if they could?

And why now? Why? Why? None of it made sense!

He made a choice. The Head of UNIT needed a bit of control where she could have it and he needed her to understand her place, and he could do it all in one fell swoop without alienating anyone.

“D’you have a mobile?” he asked the Colonel suddenly.

“Of course, but electronic devices are rendered useless the moment they enter the room. It’s all a precaution.”

“So, the Prime Minister and everyone else is clueless about— about all this? The rest of UNIT is clueless?”

“Effectively. I’m authorised to make all the decisions in the event of incursion or disaster.”

“Right, Li, get her phone and put it to pieces if you can.”

His brother withdrew his own sonic to a shrewd look from Chaudhry as Torin ran over to Osgood. She startled as he started digging through her pockets looking for her mobile.

“What’re you— Torin, what—” she spluttered.

“Sorry, sorry! I need your… Ha!” He held up her mobile triumphantly. “Sorry, I’m gonna— you’re gonna need a new one.” He tore off the back plate and dug the battery out as he ran back to where his brother had done the same to Chaudhry’s. He began extricating the tiny motherboard on each phone, soldering new connections, and amplifying existing circuits.

“Where again did you come from?” Chaudhry asked casually as he worked.

“Didn’t say. The future though, and obviously, I’m not an average companion,” he hedged. “Right…” he put the Colonel’s phone back together and tried to dial. Nothing. He growled before tearing the back plate off again.

“How ‘not average?'” the Colonel pushed.

“Please,” Torin snorted, it was calculated, but he hoped she didn’t know that, “you worked it out ages ago, didn’t you? The Doctor didn’t just leave you with nothing, you know. Do you really think he’d have done that? Now, shut up and let me…”

“The satellite signals get scrambled, it isn’t the phone,” she informed him patiently.

“No… I’m not trying for a… there!” He put it back together and dialled the first number in her contact list. It rang, and he grinned. He tossed it back to her. “Satellites are useless. You’ll give them up as a bad job soon enough. Now, do what you have to do to secure the building. Get civilians out. Do… the military thing, only make sure people are safe. Evacuate London if you have to. Sure, it’s Guy Fawkes Night, but let’s not have a bigger bang than fireworks, eh?”

Chaudhry stared at her mobile for a moment like it had grown legs and started tap dancing, then at the grinning young man. “I don’t make a habit of trusting strangers without good cause. It’s saved my life and many others many times. Why should I start now, just answer me that.”

Torin’s smile melted into a something sombre and steadfast. “Because we’re just as dead as everyone if I give you a single reason not to.”

He wasn’t taking away her authority, and he wasn’t budging on his own.

It was the only answer that Colonel Emily Chaudhry could have believed, and her face went from sceptical, to determined in moments. She began dialling experimentally. Her eyes widened comically as it rang and the Prime Minister’s secretary in Downing Street picked up. “Yes, this is Colonel Chaudhry, I need Prime Minister Jones immediately…”

Torin spun away and ran back to the anomaly, where Osgood and Kate were staring at him like he’d grown several new appendages in various shades of green.

He leaned down next to the younger woman and waggled his eyebrows. “Impressed? I am rather impressive, you know,” he preened.

She blushed and went back to her work.

“So, what’ve you learned then?” he asked her, ignoring the older woman.

Still, it was Kate who answered. “Nothing useful. It has dimension. We can see it, so physically it must, but it isn’t measurable. You walk to the other side and it’s just gone. It only exists when you’re looking at it head on, and from there it looks enormous! Only where’s the rest of it? Where’s its depth? It isn’t expanding or dissolving, it seems to be without matter, or if it has any it’s akin to dark matter or dark energy, and it makes no physical manifestations other than what you see. No shifts in air pressure, no gravitational pull, it emits nothing. No radiation, no real measurable light. It casts no shadows, nothing. It’s nothing…”

“Well, your so called ‘dark matter and energy–’” Torin rolled his eyes, “which, by the way, are ridiculous names for forces responsible for eighty-five percent of all the gravity in the universe. They aren’t dark, you’re just not equipped with the senses you’d need to experience them – have measurable presence and pull so I wouldn’t say that counts as nothing exactly, does it? Just because you don’t know how to measure it, doesn’t mean no one can. You’re saying you don’t know what it is. Spare me the useless analogies. Dark matter, honestly.”

Lios jabbed him in the ribs with a knuckle.

“Oh, that was rude, wasn’t it? Sorry.”

“Who are you?” Kate asked in a tone somewhere between awe and annoyance. “What are you? We’ve been trying to solve the mystery of dark matter for nearly eighty years and you act like it’s child’s play.”

“Me?” Torin chuckled. “I’m just a bloke. A smart bloke though. Miss Stewart, right? I honestly didn’t mean to insult you. You’re brilliant, I’m sure, have to be to be a top scientist here, yeah? But you’re way off. And I mean you’re way off about this. You’re looking at this all wrong. You said the Doctor told you it’s a timey thing, right?”

Kate nodded.

“Well, what do you know about time?” the young man prompted, then proceeded to answer his own question. “Time energy emits plenty of radiation, just not the kind you can measure with that rubbish Geiger counter. It’s harmless, don’t worry. Artron. Same as the TARDIS, yeah? Time travellers are bathed in it constantly with no ill effects, so don’t get all human-y and panicked. And we know it exists in a dimension not measurable by the tools built for your standard three, that’s why you’re getting no results. Time isn’t physically measurable, is it? So, what useful thing have you done? Have you tried chucking in something small? You know, just as an experiment?”

“The Doctor threw a hat through,” Osgood chimed when her superior didn’t respond, “and both the Doctors went through it, but we haven’t wanted to risk potentially enlarging it by touching or—”

“Did it get bigger after they went in?”

“Not to my eye,” Kate replied finally, “but I wasn’t measuring. It could have been infinitesimal, but we can’t risk even that setting off a larger reaction.”

“Right.” He picked up the useless Geiger counter and hurled it at the tear.

Kate and Osgood made strangled noises as it passed straight through and hit the wall behind.

“Well, that solves that one.”

“Are you mad?” Kate demanded. She scrubbed her hands down her face and stood up. She started to pace as she kept her eyes glued to the tear, praying nothing would happen. “What if—”

“A bit mad, yeah, I suppose, but it did nothing, so let’s not worry too much about the ‘what if’s,’ alright?” Humans and their insistence on being frightened by the unknown. How would they ever learn without taking some risks? They didn’t have time to be faffing about with idiocy. Couldn’t they hear the metal being scratched at by insistent claws? He needed their focus elsewhere and he needed them to let him get on with locating the Doctor.

He moved closer to it and felt his brother move in close behind as a safety net, ready to grab him in half a moment should Torin need.

“Don’t!” Kate cried.

Torin ignored her and tentatively reached a hand out and tried to touch, only to feel nothing as the anomaly bent and compensated in swirling drifts around his appendage.

Kate was positively spitting nails. “Young man! I watched two—”

“Right, yes, thanks. I’m at least twice your age Miss Stewart, so spare me, alright? I’m not doing anything I can’t handle. Can you trust that? If not, just shut up and get out of it.”

Osgood eyed them uncomfortably and puffed on her inhaler.

Kate took a deep breath and nodded. She didn’t like it, but the mysterious companion who had popped up out of nowhere had not only as good as admitted he was like the Doctor, but had given several demonstrations inside of five minutes. She had to let some things go if they were to move forward and at least he had a direction.

One way at a time, do you think? Or Doctor-specific? Lios asked him silently.

You go, and we’ll see.

The brothers returned their focus to the fissure and switched places. Lios performed the same actions his brother had earlier to the same results. Which was nothing much. Only time bending around the proffered limb.

Doctor only then. Brilliant. Torin asked as he moved in front of his brother once more, Well, s’pose it’s the old Alpha standby then?

What, shout at it?

Right in one.

Lios rolled his eyes and accorded him a glance that said, ‘get on with it.’

“Doctor?” he yelled into the swirling mass of radiation and nothing.

They waited a few moments on bated breath with no response before Lios poked his brother once more into action. Torin swatted blindly behind him in retaliation.

“Doctor, they said you’d gone through this,” what was he going to call it? Time-blob? Sparkly-Artron-cloud? Rip-thingy? He knew what it felt like, but if it had a name, he’d never learnt it, though the Doctor wasn’t likely to care, and who knew if he could even hear him on the other side?

“Oi!” Lios hissed. “Focus!”

“Right… er…” he shrugged and blurted, “This thing.” Oh, very eloquent. “Can you hear me?” He swatted again at the hand Lios was using to clutch his arm like a vise-grip. “Ow! Watch it, you plonker. I’m not falling in! Can’t! You don’t have to give me a dead-arm.”

“Sorry. Think it’s pointless?”

“Dunno, I—”

“Oi!” came the Doctor’s disembodied voice through the breach. Far from sounding chuffed that they could communicate, he sounded downright livid to be hearing Torin at all.

Torin’s ears reddened and he smoothed his curls down over them. He didn’t really want the Doctor annoyed at them. He wasn’t really up for rowing with his elders the way his sister so often did, and he didn’t currently need a bollocking like he was fifty and taking apart the cooker again.

“What are you doing? Why aren’t you back in the TARDIS? What is going on?”

Perfect. Angry Doctor, angry scientists, angry military, angry moles. What more could he add to the list? Daleks? Zygons? Shadow Proclamation? Squirrels? He shuddered. He really didn’t like squirrels.

“Yeah,” he hesitated. What was he going to say? Come back because the humans are nutters and they’ll kill my mum before I’m born if the mole-people don’t go away? Oh, and we nearly got shredded by one looking for you? Sorry, we didn’t go back to the ship, but the alien-busters had us cornered in a laboratory? None of it was going to improve the old man’s mood. “Bit of a glitch.” Understatement of the millennia. “There’s a load of—er—” potentially deadly things, big claws, big guns, scanners, idiots, humans, “—hostile things between us and the TARDIS and…” Why did he feel like he was going to be grounded by his mum? “We came looking for you, but you disappeared!”

The Doctor’s voice sounded marginally less angry than concerned when he next spoke. “Where is—”

“He’s here! We’re both here.” Well, at least he wasn’t jumping back through and boxing his ears the way his mum would’ve. The relief made him want to babble. “Osgood’s here, and so is Kate Stewart and—er—what was her name again?” And at least he was keeping the Doctor abreast of the situation, so he could choose his words. “Right! Colonel Chaudhry!” Now the important bits. “Only, we’re stuck in the Archive ‘cos there’s mole-men, and Chaudhry’s saying mad things about warheads and blowing up London—”

A new, and yet incredibly, achingly familiar voice interrupted his tirade. “Whoa, whoa, slow down. Reverse it. What is going on?”

“Oi, who is that?” Torin demanded. “That sounded like—”

Lios kicked him hard and almost sent him to the ground in a pile of lanky, dishevelled limbs.

Their Doctor’s voice floated to them once more sounding tired and resigned, “Me, another me. Just answer him— me.”

“Right…” Hearing his father’s voice unexpectedly still had him reeling, and instead of answering properly, he blurted, “Which you? What are you lot doing and where are you exactly?”

“Is that important right now? Warheads, London, focus!” his Doctor chided shrilly.

“Oh—er… The soldiers outside disappeared. Should’ve been loads only the corridor was empty when we came down. It’s got Colonel Chaudhry, who’s in charge I guess— well, not guess, she told me she was— into a bit of a panic and now she’s on the mobile I fixed with Harriet Jones. Mobiles don’t work in here, so it took a bit of jiggery-pokery— did I say we’re in the Black Archive? And the things are trying to get in here now too – only they don’t seem very smart, so they can’t be in charge… I’m cocking this up. Let me start over. We got chased by one of the things and I’m betting it was the mole-things that took them—”

“Wha’?” interrupted another voice with a Northern accent.

“Never mind!”

“Who is this idiot? Can’t keep a thought straight. Companion? ‘S tha’ who you were lookin’ for?” retorted the Northern again.

“Oi, Ears! Fingers on lips!” came their father’s voice.

“Blimey, just how many of you are there?” Torin called, wishing he could actually see through the undulating portal.

“Too many,” replied a softer and completely unfamiliar one with a posh lilt.

“Brilliant!” Once again, his brother gave him a kick. “Oi, you don’t stop doing that, I’ll have you!” he growled and turned to glare at his abusive sibling.

“Wha’?”

“Not you! Never mind!” He drew in a deep breath and said the next as fast as he could to avoid interruption by one of the many Doctors or kicks from Lios. “Mole creatures! They’re the ones mucking with the stones outside the Black Archive. They took all the soldiers who were guarding outside, it was empty when we came down. We looked about, and one came up behind us and chased us into the vault, only they can’t see or smell, yeah? So, there’s gotta be something or someone else behind them. The Colonel is saying she has to do whatever it takes to keep them from getting into the Archive and that includes blowing up London with a nuke! And may I add that would be really, really bad as someone still lives here?”

“‘Safe as houses,’ eh?” their Doctor’s voice sounded as annoyed as he’d ever heard it.

“What? No, not safe as houses! No one here is safe as—”

“I wasn’t talking to you!”

“Oh. Then say!”

“Have you tried coming though?”

“I touched it and so did Li. Does nothing for us. Have you tried coming back?”

No answer came their way.

“Doctor?”

“Just tried, it isn’t—”

“Only just? Doctor!”

“Look, is this the time to have a go at me? It’s a timey-wimey—thing! Not like I’ve ever encountered one like it!”

“Timey-wimey?” came the posh voice, dripping with incredulous disdain.

“No idea where he picks this stuff up,” their father’s voice snarked.

“Right, because you never—”

“Are you capable of speaking without flapping your hands about?”

“Yes. No. Look, what do you care? You wax melancholic about Puccini and write terrible poetry! Now shut up! Boys, I need you two to come and get us out! If we fix the fissure there, I’m almost certain it’ll fix the fissure here and obviously, we’re needed there more than here. Not quite pleasant here either. Dick Van Dyke, you’ve your TARDIS, right? Fine, we’ll go back in that!”

“Where are you?”

A long moment passed before their Doctor answered again. “In a dungeon in the Tower…”

Torin couldn’t help his snort of laughter, which unfortunately also set Lios off into a muffled fit of his own.

“Oi! Not like I got arrested! That was Sandshoes!”

“They aren’t sand shoes!” cried their father’s voice indignantly.

“Yes, they are,” came the softer, unrecognisable one again.

“All of you, shut up!” Lios called, trying to re-establish something of direction in the strange conversation. “Doctor, what do we need to do?”

“Who was tha’? He wasn’t the same as the las’ one.”

“Does it matter?”

“Well, he is right in it may be helpful to know who exactly it is that we are so very dependent upon, though your taste in assistants, I must tell you, seems as questionable as your fashion.”

“Don’ agree with me! Don’ talk to me! Don’t talk, full stop! Like you’ve any room to, you bleedin’ dandy wan—”

“Pretty sure I’ve said I really didn’t want to hear that word again. Behave. All of you—me—us.”

“Blimey, that’s weird. ‘S like a psychologist’s dream, innit? Physically manifested Dissociative Identity Disorder? Or is it schizophrenia?” Torin laughed and nudged his brother who rolled his eyes.

“Oi!” came a chorus of three, accompanied by an offended, “I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, shut up. Where’s Emily?”


Chapter 26: In Discord and Rhyme


Chapter 24: The Black Archive


TPOLnew4-2

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One comment on “Chapter 25: Tango Through Time

  1. Pingback: I do believe I will finish this story! | WolvesHaveReturned

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