7. How the Doctor Tried to Avoid a Karaoke Night
This story is for Romanadvoratrelundar whose request was: The 4th Doctor, U.N.I.T., karaoke night
Sergeant Benton was peering inside the lab from the door. Although it had been deserted for months, nothing had been moved. It was just as the Doctor left it. A new scientific advisor had been appointed but the Brigadier had insisted upon him working in a different facility.
“We already have a scientific advisor,” he had argued, but couldn’t vouch for the Doctor’s whereabouts.
The truth was that he didn’t know if the Doctor would even come back one day. Sentimental reasons had dictated his desperate attempt to stop the recruitment process and Benton had witnessed it with some concern. This was a side of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart he didn’t know. The Brigadier managed to win a small battle and obtained that the Doctor’s lab wouldn’t be used by the new scientific advisor who was assigned to a different section. Lethbridge-Stewart had been quite satisfied by the outcome and Benton guessed that he didn’t plan on using the advisor’s services anytime soon.
Time had passed and the Doctor hadn’t showed up. The Brigadier had stopped talking about him but Benton had kept the habit of passing by the lab every day, remembering the old times with Jo and Sarah Jane. He was still in touch with them, especially Sarah Jane who had unexpectedly come back one day. They had met a few times and she had shared a few stories with him. It had been difficult for her at first, because she missed the Doctor a lot.
“He dumped me,” she told him once.
Time passed and she eventually admitted that she more or less deserved it. Then she too stopped talking about the Doctor to focus on her career.
Then Benton started worrying that the lab might disappear to be converted into offices. New personal had joined U.N.I.T and the building was slowly getting packed. One day, they would realise that an empty lab was a waste of space and they would turn it into something else. The sergeant never stopped thinking about the Doctor. He convinced himself that as long as he would keep hoping for the alien scientist’s return, there might be a chance he would do so. When he heard the familiar noise of a T.A.R.D.I.S materialising, he almost jumped up and down out of joy. This time, he entered the lab, switched the lights on and waited until the blue police box appeared.
The door creaked open and a familiar face came out of it.
“Yes, I think that I got it right.”
The Doctor opened the door and stepped out, freezing as soon as he saw Benton.
“Oh no,” he said with great annoyance. “Don’t tell me you have been ordered to wait for my return because Earth is about to be invaded again.”
The sergeant’s first reaction was to be in shock:
“What? Again? I need to warn Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at once!”
He was about to run away when he realised that he had forgotten to ask an important question:
“Who is going to invade Earth, Doctor?”
The Time Lord’s face expressed a mixture of amusement and mild impatience.
“No one is going to invade Earth, Sergeant. At least not that I know of. It was a manner of speech, a way to ask why you were here when the T.A.R.D.I.S materialised!”
Benton smiled and walked back towards the Doctor:
“Oh I see… Well Doctor, as a matter of fact, my presence here was merely a coincidence,” he lied.
He was about to add something else, but caught sight of a ravishing young lady coming out of the T.A.R.D.I.S. His first thought was for Sarah Jane and he wondered if the Doctor had “dumped” her for this new companion, whoever she was.
“Good day to you, Miss,” he greeted her and couldn’t help but bow.
The girl laughed lightly and addressed the Doctor:
“That’s what I call good manners! It’s nice to see that some people still have some!”
“This is Romana,” introduced the scientist before he started to look around his lab, as if he was looking for something.
“Delighted. I’m Sergeant Benton, from U.N.I.T. May I ask where you are from? I’m sorry, it’s just that I can’t quite make your accent…”
“Gallifrey, like the Doctor,” she replied.
She seemed quite interested in the lab herself and also seemed very keen on checking the various tools.
“Gallifrey?” Replied Benton who was now dying to know how the scientific advisor had managed to find a suitable companion out of his own people.
The Doctor probably followed his thoughts because he replied hurriedly:
“Romana has been imposed on me to assist with a delicate matter. Since she has proven quite efficient, she has been allowed to stay with us.”
The Sergeant deliberately ignored Romana’s angry stare at the Time Lord.
“I’m travelling with K-9, a most reliable companion. Right K-9?”
Benton almost jumped out of surprise when he heard the metallic voice. A robotic dog had come out of the blue box.
“Indeed, K-9 is unique. Well, not exactly since this is Mark II, so obviously there were more of his kind made, but still, as I said, he is reliable, easy going and…”
“Yes, Doctor, I think that you have made your point,” interrupted Romana rather coldly.
She then turned towards Benton and smiled:
“Would you be so kind and show me around while the Doctor finds his tools?”
“I probably should warn Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of your arrival first, but then, well, why not…”
Benton felt that he was blushing. The Time Lady stared at him and he could read amusement in her eyes which made things worse. He wished he could simply vanish, but he was stuck with the two Time Lords. He went straight for the phone, trying to regain his composure as he dialled Lethbridge-Stewart’s extension.
“Sergent Benton, Sir. I would like to report that the Doctor and his companion have materialised in the lab.”
“Yes, Sir, with the T.A.R.D.I.S. Permission to show the companion around, Sir?”
He was almost relieved when the Brigadier denied his request. He was growing increasingly uncomfortable around the Time Lords. He hung up and faced Romana, smiling apologetically.
“I’m sorry, Miss, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart would like to make your acquaintance. He is on his way now.”
“Brilliant!” The Doctor clapped in his hands and both Romana and Benton startled. “I look forward to see my old friend.”
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart entered the lab a few minutes later, while the Doctor was giving a proper tour to Romana. She had been impressed by the equipment gathered in the room.
“It seems that this U.N.I.T organisation holds you high in its esteem,” she noted.
“Indeed. The Doctor is a valuable asset. One that we must secure, so to say,” said the Brigadier who had listened to that last part.
After formal introductions had been made, the soldier pointed at the T.A.R.D.I.S:
“This old box of yours seems to have suffered a bit since the last time I saw it. Where have you been?”
“Oh, you know, here and there…” Replied the Doctor.
“And why are you back?”
The question was so blunt that Benton cringed. The Time Lord didn’t seem to take offense, quite on the contrary.
“My dear old chap! I’ve missed you!” Was the reply.
But the Brigadier didn’t seem moved. Worse, he didn’t seem to believe the scientist.
“And what else?”
Romana was obviously enjoying the discussion. The Sergeant could tell that she was a very clever lady – she was a Time Lady after all – and he wondered if she knew the Doctor as well as the Brigadier did. She seemed to, obviously, as she suddenly decided to take part in the conversation.
“He is here because he has lost his cat.”
“I beg your pardon?” Asked Lethbridge-Stewart, whose face expressed surprise.
The Doctor shot an angry glance at Romana who simply ignored him.
Benton had to refrain from laughing. Now the whole discussion had turned into some sort of a comical show.
“Alright, alright,” the Doctor gave up.
He sat in one of the lab’s chairs, wrapping himself in his coat and explained that Eccleston – his dear cat – had left the T.A.R.D.I.S unknown to him on their last visit on Earth and that he didn’t realise it until it was too late.
“Hadn’t you let the door open… We wouldn’t be here in the first place,” grumbled the Time Lord to Romana.
The Brigadier snorted, thus increasing the scientist’s bad mood.
“Bottom line is, I need to track Eccleston down and the only place I know with the right equipment is this lab.”
“Oh, so you want to use government property for your private use?” Suavely said Lethbridge-Stewart.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow:
“Well, it’s what I usually do, don’t I?”
From the look on his face, it was obvious that the Brigadier hadn’t anticipated such an honest statement.
“Alright, I give up. Do as you please, since that too is what you usually do. But know this; it won’t be long before you don’t have a lab anymore.”
This triggered a reaction from the Doctor. He seemed upset.
“What? Am I to be dismissed?”
Lethbridge-Stewart quietly explained that the organisation was growing, both in personal and importance. Its extension meant a reuse of every available space. The Doctor looked hurt and the Brigadier made no effort to comfort him. He kept insisting that the scientist had chosen a way of life that was no longer compatible with U.N.I.T.
“I wish that you could let me be the only judge of that,” complained the Time Lord.
“Still, you can’t deny that you haven’t been very reliable lately. In fact, nobody knows you amongst our latest recruits. I’ve been trying to contact you a few times through the emergency channel but you don’t even check it anymore.”
“Alright, you got a point,” sighed the Doctor. “I’ve busy indeed and maybe I got carried away and forgot about U.N.I.T… So tell me, what should I do so that you forgive me?”
Lethbridge-Stewat rolled his eyes. The scientist made it sound as if a small tap on the hand would do the trick, which was absolutely not the point here. He was about to give up on the whole conversation when he noticed that Benton was trying to attract his attention. The soldier looked like as if he had something in the back of his mind.
“Everyone will be attending the Karaoke night. It’s mandatory. And since the Doctor is here… well, he has to attend too, right? After all he is still listed as a member of the personal, unless of course he doesn’t want to be part of U.N.I.T anymore.”
“Oh yes, indeed, I’m afraid that you’re right…” The Brigadier said, scratching his chin.
“What is this all about?” Asked the scientist who could sense that he was soon going to be into trouble.
“As Sergeant Benton just explained, U.N.I.T has its annual karaoke night. It will be a great opportunity for you to meet everyone. And everyone will be able to meet the famous Doctor. You certainly are aware that you are kind of a legend here.”
The Time Lord never resisted to flattery. Despite the fact that he knew he was tricked into a social event, he couldn’t say no. Not directly at least.
“I still have to find Eccleston. He really means a lot to me,” he argued.
“I can look for him,” offered Romana. “You go that karaoke night, whatever that is, and I’ll look for your cat in the meantime.”
“Eccleston hates you,” grumbled the Doctor. “You will never find him. Leave that to me.”
He paused and his eyes started to shine as he thought about something:
“Oh, but indeed, that’s brilliant. As long as I’m represented, it should be fine, right? I suggest that Romana attends this event, she is very good with people, she will get along very well with everyone and she will discover some of Earth’s customs! What do you say?”
Lethbridge-Stewart and Benton stared at the Time Lady who wasn’t sure whether she had been tricked or if it was indeed a good idea as she wouldn’t need to search for the grey cat or hear the Doctor whine about the loss of his cat.
She was very attractive and she would probably mingle more easily than the Doctor.
“I suppose that this can work too,” carefully said the Brigadier.
The scientist jumped on his feet.
“Now that this is settled, I should be going!”
He grabbed a few tools and left the lab rather hurryingly.
“That was fast,” noted Benton.
The Time Lady shrugged.
“So tell me, what kind of event if a karaoke night and what should I wear?”
Despite what the brigadier had said, some people did recognise the Doctor. The mechanic who had looked after Bessie during the scientist’s absence was pleased to see him.
“The old girl is waiting for you. I take her for a ride now and then to keep her in working condition,” he said with pride.
“Thank you! I knew that I was leaving in good hands.”
The Time Lord was eager to leave the U.N.I.T headquarters. He suspected that Romana would try to stop him once she learned what a karaoke night was…
Bessie was indeed in perfect condition and soon the Doctor was on his way to the T.A.R.D.I.S’ last location, in an obscure junkyard not unlike the one on Totter’s lane. The scientist checked the grey sky. It would soon be dark and he didn’t fancy looking for his cat with a flashlight. There was still a square mark in the dust, where the T.A.R.D.I.S had materialised and the Time Lord parked on it. He then took the tools and devices he had “borrowed” in the lab and easily managed to build a scanner that would help him track down Eccleston. At least, that’s what he hoped. He had been tempted to use K-9 tracking abilities, but the dog seemed to be in league with Romana against him and Eccleston. Since he didn’t want to attract attention on himself, the Time Lord decided to skip the “calling his cat’s name out loud” part and to use his new device indeed. He boosted the signal with his screwdriver and tried to scan the area. Almost instantly he found a trace that he followed, happy that his plan was working so well. It was easier than he had thought. He was already making plans to sneak in the T.A.R.D.I.S as discreetly as possible to avoid the social event when he came about his first disappointment. A stray cat stared him with fear in the eyes before running away.
“Well, at least the scanner is working…” Whispered the Doctor before picking up a new trail.
That one too proved to be unsuccessful as well as the following ones. It was starting to get dark and the scientist finally resolved to call his cat.
“Eccleston! Where are you? Come back!”
He felt a bit silly, calling like this in the middle of a junkyard. It didn’t take long for someone to hear him and to come around to see what this was all about. A middle aged woman looked at him suspiciously. She was wearing an apron, her grey hair was tucked under a scarf and she was carrying a bucket. She was obviously a cleaning lady.
“Why are you shouting like that?” She asked.
Her voice was husky and the Doctor soon understood why when she lit a cigarette after throwing the content of her bucket – dirty water – directly on the ground.
“Want one?” She offered.
The scientist shook his head:
“No thank you, I don’t smoke.”
“Good for you. Why were you shouting?”
The Doctor tried not to cough when she blew the smoke in his face.
“I’m looking for my cat. His name is Eccleston.”
“Alright. What does your cat look like?”
“He is a chartreux,” replied the Doctor with some pride.
The woman’s face lit.
“So, you’re the bastard who dumped that beautiful cat! And now you regret and you hope to take him back. Well, Sir, it’s a no go! We saved him, we keep him.”
The Time Lord was rarely speechless. But this time, he simply didn’t know what to say. He was in shock. There was so much anger in the woman’s voice that he was taken aback. But then he realised that it was just an act. She was bluffing. She wanted to keep the cat for herself and hoped to impress him. He had to fight back if he wanted his dear Eccleston back.
“So you’re the one who stole my cat!” He said rather menacingly, taking a step towards her.
“Keep away from me!”
“Give me my cat back!”
He saw a brief flicker of fear in the woman’s eyes and he decided to take advantage of it. He locked his eyes on hers and came closer.
The cleaning lady slowly retreated, without looking where she was going. The Doctor was confident that she was already starting to feel the effects of his hypnotism attempt. They reached the backyard of a bar and the Time Lord realised that she had probably led him to her working place. He was already thinking about the moment when he would be reunited with Eccleston when he caught a movement in the corner of his eye. Next thing he knew, a savage blow sent him crashing through one of the bar’s window.
“Ouch, that hurt,” he complained when he landed on the wooden floor.
The woman had kicked him with her broomstick.
Laying flat on his back, the Doctor barely registered that the loud music in the bar had stopped. He was staring as the cleaning lady stepped in through the broken window. He was amazed to see how much she looked like a witch with her angry face and her menacing broom. She pointed it at him and started shouting in that ugly voice of hers:
“Call the police! That man attacked me in the backyard! First he abandons his cat and then he attacks me to get it back!”
She paused then she frowned. The Time Lord had the distinctive impression that a crowd had gather behind him and that the woman had hoped for those people to back her up with no success apparently. The scientist rolled on the floor and managed to get up with grace. He was now facing the so called crowd and he burst into laugh.
“Of all places, you had to choose this one!”
He was addressing to a severe man wearing a dark moustache and a military uniform.
“Care to explain yourself, Doctor?” The Brigadier said.
Romana and Benton were standing next to him. The Time Lady was wearing a fancy evening dress and she didn’t seem too happy to see her companion.
“I was simply trying to convince this lady that I didn’t abandon my cat, but that I lost him and that I wanted him back,” quietly explained the scientist whose eyes were already looking all around the place until they rested on the bar.
“Haha! There you are!”
He went straight for the grey cat that was sitting on the wooden surface. He picked it up gently and the pet cuddled itself in the alien’s arms.
“As you can see, the cat seems to recognise the Doctor,” noted Lethbridge-Stewart. “I think that the matter is now closed.”
The cleaning lady looked down and nodded before leaving, using the service door this time.
“As for you, Doctor, since you interrupted our karaoke night, I suggest that you are the next one to perform on stage,” decided the Brigadier, enjoying the expression of shock on the Time Lord’s face.
I was trying not to laugh as I pictured the whole scene.
“What did you sing?” I asked.
The Doctor shrugged:
“I fail to remember. The important thing is that I found Eccleston. Only I didn’t keep him. That night, I had another talk with the cleaning lady who was the bar owner’s wife. She was very upset because she was very fond of my cat. Since I knew that things would be difficult with K-9, Romana and Eccleston, I decided to entrust him with her. I missed him dearly. Especially after Romana and K-9 left me. Maybe that’s why I started collecting those cat brooches… Or maybe it is because something happened during my regeneration.”
He went silent and I sighed. He had this annoying habit of teasing me, forcing me to ask for more of his stories. I was about to make an acid comment when I realised that his teasing hadn’t been intentional. He and his cat were staring at each other. I got a feeling that they were communicating telepathically so I left them to their conversation to make more tea.