2. Chaos in the Laboratory
This story is for SpacePrincess whose request was: The Second and Third Doctor are forced to work together when the TARDIS is stolen.
It started with a general breakdown. Those who didn’t believe in coincidence claimed that if was a plot orchestrated by the military. Their assumption was however incorrect as the military forces were experiencing the same problem. They were blind, deaf and mute. All surveillance systems were down along with communications. All electronic devices were impacted and no one could explain what was happening. The only certitude was that almost nothing was working anymore. The country was on the brink of disaster and the state of emergency was declared.
When the news reached Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, his bad mood increased and he openly cursed all “those incompetent bureaucrats who don’t know what they are doing”. Those present in the room didn’t dare contradict him. He was the leader after all, which meant that he probably knew what he was saying. Lethbridge-Stewart was a man of action. He wanted answers and he wanted them now. There was only one man he trusted to explain what was happening: his scientific advisor.
The Brigadier considered himself an expert when it came to the rather unconventional scientist working with U.N.I.T. He was rarely surprised by his odd behaviour or actions, and that was his pride. To him, it also meant that he knew the Doctor well enough to anticipate said behaviour or actions. When he went down to the laboratory, he expected the Time Lord to be working on the mystery they were all facing. He wasn’t yet prepared to what he found. The laboratory was a mess of tools and devices, as usual, but this time, it seemed that the scientific advisor had decided to add parts of his (broken) time machine to the collection. Lethbridge-Stewart paused at the door and looked as the scientist hurriedly plugged cables, switched buttons, and checked the results of his apparent random actions on two monitors. He was working fast and with high focus. At first sight, he looked like a Dandy from a decadent aristocracy with his velvet suit and ruffled shirt. Some wrongly identified him as a poet because of the mop of silver hair that gave him a distinctive look. For the Brigadier however, he was the Doctor, an alien exiled on Earth by his own people and an incredible scientist who had helped U.N.I.T many times in the past. The soldier was confident that this time would be no exception. If someone could discover what was happening, it was his scientific advisor.
“Doctor?” He asked to get the man’s attention.
“Shh, not now. Busy.”
“I can see that. But I need answers.”
“Don’t have them now. Come back later.”
And with that, the Time Lord waved his hand dismissively. Lethbridge-Stewart smiled but didn’t leave. He too could be quite stubborn. He walked in the laboratory and stopped next to the Time Lord.
“Is that your TARDIS console?”
Cables ran from the blue box to the object on which buttons, lights and levers of unknown use were displayed.
“How do you manage to keep everything working?”
“Not the same technology as yours.”
It was amazing how the Doctor managed to answer while concentrating on a monitor at the same time.
“Ha ha!” He shouted.
Lethbridge-Stewart waited patiently for the explanation that would follow. It was custom that whenever the Time Lord had a breakthrough he would love an audience to extol his knowledge.
“I may not have found the source of your problem yet, but I can already tell you that it’s due to a massive time-space distortion that has been converted into a disruptive energy beam. If I manage to reverse the polarity of the flux, I might be able to cancel its effects. Everything should be back to normal afterwards.”
“Right. Sounds good,” said the Brigadier who – as usual – hadn’t understood a word, except the part relating to the fact that things would be back to normal.
“In fact, it’s so easy that I can do it right now. It shouldn’t take long to work the settings,” the Time Lord announced happily.
The Doctor fumbled with his control and turned towards Lethbridge-Stewart who had taken a few steps back to give some room to the scientist.
“Ready?” Asked the Time Lord.
“I’m rather impatient to put all this behind. It’s been a proper bureaucratic nightmare,” complained the soldier.
The Time Lord had already lost interest in the Brigadier’s problems with his chain of command. He pulled a lever and jerked.
Lethbridge-Stewart didn’t need to be a scientist to see that something was wrong. Very wrong. A blue serpentine light had appeared as soon as the Doctor had touched the controls. The soldier guessed that it was some sort of energy flux or current. As a matter of fact, the scientist seemed caught in it. He was shaking and shivering like a man experiencing an electric shock. The Brigadier had no idea how the equipment worked but he knew that he had to do something. Time was of the essence. He did the only logical thing he could think about. Running to the power generator at the entrance of the laboratory, he switched it off.
The blue light vanished in an instant. The Doctor staggered back and collapsed. The Brigadier caught him on time and eased him gently on the floor. Eyes open, the Time Lord’s face expressed a mixture of shock and surprise. He was still slightly shivering.
“Doctor? Can you hear me?”
Lethbridge-Stewart checked his pulse. It was racing. The soldier looked around and saw the phone. Then he remembered that all communications had been cut.
“Blast!” He cursed out loud.
He had to leave the laboratory to get help but the Time Lord’s current condition prevented him from doing so.
“Doctor?” He called again.
The Time Lord seemed miles away. He was whispering incoherent words and the Brigadier started to fear that his brain had sustained damage from the shock. At least he wasn’t in a coma – yet. Still, he needed medical attention and quickly. Lethbridge-Stewart got up and ran in the corridor. He started shouting, hoping to attract his men’s attention. When he looked back inside the laboratory, his eyes widen in surprise. The Doctor’s body was splitting. The Brigadier rubbed his eyes, but it was no illusion. Another silhouette was clearly superimposed on the scientific advisor. The soldier went back in the laboratory and realised that the TARDIS was affected too. There was a second time machine trying to materialise more or less at the same spot as the one already there. Looking down at the Doctor, the soldier saw two bodies resting on the ground. He couldn’t help but smile when he recognised the newcomer.
“Doctor,” he called on a friendly tone.
Both Time Lords opened their eyes, sat upright and noticed their other self.
“You again,” they said in a perfect chorus.
“Here we go again…” Sighed Lethbridge-Stewart as he affected annoyance.
But deep inside, he was quite happy. Things would improve from now on, providing that the two Doctors would be able to work together this time…
They stood up, still facing each other.
“How did I arrive here?” Wondered the short raggedy Doctor with black hair.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t summon you,” said his other self.
“That doesn’t really surprise me. I guess that you’re not even curious to know how I ended up here… again!”
“Gentlemen,” intervened the Brigadier who had the strong feeling that he was about to become their mediator. “What if you tried to find an explanation to all this together.”
“My dear friend! I’m so happy so see you!”
The raggedy Doctor jumped towards the soldier and shook his hand vigorously.
“I’m happy to see you too, Doctor. Too bad it is not under happier circumstances.
“Oh? How so?”
“We are experiencing some sort of unknown crisis.”
“I see, maybe it would be best if my other self brought me up to speed.”
Both Doctors faced one another and closed their eyes. Lethbridge-Stewart looked in amazement as the Time Lords created a telepathic link.
It took them only seconds to share their knowledge. When it was done, they both turned towards the Brigadier:
“We need your help. We must know exactly what happened when I pulled the lever.”
The soldier knew that he better be as accurate as possible. He told them everything, from the blue light to the splitting of the Doctor and the TARDIS.
“Wait, what? The TARDIS?” Interrupted the current science advisor.
“Yes, it was as if there were two TARDIS fighting for the same space.”
The two Doctors rushed inside the time machine and almost got stuck in the doorframe as they tried to enter at the same time.
Lethbridge-Stewart rolled his eyes. This was leading to some major headache. He waited until they came out of the TARDIS. Both wore the same worried expression on their face. Because the Brigadier hadn’t heard any dispute or shouting between them, he started to worry too.
“Is it that bad?” He asked.
He wasn’t sure whether he referred to the general breakdown, the two Doctors or the TARDIS thing.
“I’ve been played all along,” confessed sternly the Doctor with the silver hair.
His gloomy mood wasn’t a good sign.
“You couldn’t know,” his counterpart tried to comfort him.
That too wasn’t a good sign.
“Would someone care to explain?” Ordered Lethbridge-Stewart.
“Whoever organised the breakdown was clever. It was a trap. It was meant to catch my attention. The disruption of all electronic devices led me to investigate and try to find a solution to the problem. That too had been anticipated. Remember when I told you that a distortion in time and space had been converted into an energy beam? Its purpose was to get something from me.”
“And what would that be?” Carefully asked the Brigadier.
“A working TARDIS,” concluded the raggedy Doctor. “My TARDIS.”
“What? You mean that…”
“Yes, someone deliberately forced me to materialise on this timeline with no regards to the potential consequences on Earth or on myself for that matter.”
“All your systems should be working properly from now on,” sighed the science advisor.
And indeed the phone started ringing. The soldier picked up and listened to the report one of his men gave him. When he hung up, he informed the two Doctors that they had been right. All surveillance and communication systems were back online along with all electronic devices.
“It’s as if nothing ever happened,” he said. “The state of emergency has been cancelled.”
“That’s already good news,” smiled the raggedy Doctor.
“Now let’s focus on your TARDIS, shall we?” Suggested the other Time Lord.
“If there is anything I can do to help…” Offered the Brigadier.
The Doctors exchanged a glance.
“As a matter of fact, there might be something you could do… How many men can you spare?”
Lethbridge-Stewart saw the same twinkle shine in the Doctors’ eyes, a fact that amused him. He suddenly felt sorry for the poor bastard who had stolen the TARDIS.
“What’s the plan?”
“If we can trace the source of the energy beam, there is a fair chance that we might find the TARDIS in time.”
The Brigadier frowned.
“Wait, I don’t follow. You said earlier that it was the working TARDIS that had been stolen. What if the thief manages to operate it.”
“Oh I doubt it. You see, first he needs to gain access to it. As you know it can prove quite challenging,” explained the raggedy Doctor. “And then of course, there is Eccleston.”
Lethbridge-Stewart saw the change on his scientific advisor’s face. His eyes mellowed and even the wrinkles seemed to soften.
“My cat,” he said.
There was tenderness in his voice and the soldier realised that he had never seen this aspect of the Doctor before.
“I didn’t know that you had a cat,” he noted.
“That’s because this face never saw him.”
This time, there was sadness in his voice and the Brigadier felt sorry for the Time Lord. He didn’t dare ask the reason why the science advisor hadn’t seen his cat. It felt inappropriate, especially since the raggedy Doctor had put a comforting hand on his counterpart’s shoulder. This was not the time for asking personal questions.
“When we find my TARDIS, you will see him again.”
A hopeful smile blossomed on the scientific advisor’s lips.
“Then let’s not waste any more time. We need to locate the source of the energy beam.”
They started to work on the console while Lethbridge-Stewart organised the search team. He was confident that the two Time Lords would succeed in their efforts to find the missing TARDIS. One question remained unanswered. He wondered what the raggedy Doctor had meant when he had said that even if the thief managed to enter the time machine, there would be Eccleston. How could a cat prevent anyone from using the TARDIS and leave Earth?
“I’ve got an idea,” suddenly said the raggedy Doctor. “Using your TARDIS, we might be able to call back mine!”
“But that would only increase the paradox…”
“Not if we act quickly. As soon as it materialises, all you need to do is…”
“…reverse the polarity flux. I get it.”
Still the scientific advisor didn’t seem very excited about the idea. His other self noticed it and came to the same conclusion as the Brigadier.
“You wish to see Eccleston… I’m sorry, I should have thought about it. It might still be possible. Let’s give it a try, shall we?”
They worked in silence while Lethbridge-Stewart watched as their movements were perfectly synchronised. For an untrained eye, it would have been rather unsettling, but the soldier knew better. Despite their physical differences they were one and the same person and the way they acted was proof enough.
“I would advise you to keep back,” said the raggedy Doctor. “We are about to try and sort this out.”
The Brigadier walked away and stood under the door frame. He was starting to feel nervous about the whole thing but forced himself to keep calm. The Doctors shared a last glance and operated the lever that had provoked the blue light together. At first, nothing happened. Then a muffled sound could be heard. Lethbridge-Stewart looked at the TARDIS. It seemed that another one was trying to materialise at the same spot, just like before.
“It’s working!” He shouted despite himself.
The Doctors turned towards the time machines, apparently satisfied by the result of their experiment.
The raggedy Doctor approached the TARDIS. Instantly his frame started to blur.
“Quickly, we don’t have much time!” He urged to his counterpart, who joined him.
The Brigadier should never forget what he saw next. A Chartreux cat was sitting on the threshold of the time machine. The scientific advisor came closer and kneeled in front of him. When he started to sing, Lethbridge-Stewart felt his heart melt.
“Klokleda partha mennin klatch,
Haroon, haroon, haroon,
Klokleda shunna teerenatch,
Haroon, haroon, haroon.”
Did the cat recognise the Doctor? The soldier should never know. But Eccleston started to purr. As the TARDIS became increasingly unstable, the raggedy Doctor quickly walked through the entrance, picking up his cat in the process. Before he closed the door, he waved at Letbridge-Stewart.
“Goodbye Brigadier! I hope to see you soon!”
The soldier didn’t have time to reply. The time machine vanished. The scientific advisor got up and went back to his console. He started to tidy it as if nothing had happened.
“We shall not need your help after all,” he said matter of factly.
And with that, he waved his hand dismissively. The Brigadier smiled and left the laboratory, leaving the Doctor to his experiments. He couldn’t help but think that he had learned a great deal about him and that one the mystery around him would disappear for good…
The Doctor was singing softly. Eyes half closed, Eccleston was purring in delight.
“Tell me,” I said, unable to conceal my curiosity. “What could your cat have done to prevent the theft from the TARDIS?”
The Time Lord stopped singing and looked at me.
“Oh that’s easy. As I mentioned earlier, Eccleston is very clever. It is common knowledge that Chartreux cats can be taught some tricks. I taught him how to operate the safety measures on the TARDIS. That way, should I be disabled, he would still be able to protect my ship and maybe myself…”
The way he spoke was quite moving and I decided that it was time for me to take a break and make some tea, therefore allowing the Doctor and Eccleston to spend some quality time together. When I returned, the cat was curled against the Time Lord who smiled at me. I was ready for his next story.