Things never go according to plan. Especially when Time Lords are involved. Especially when those two Time Lords are involved. He would have to remember that.
The Time Lady never suspected his presence on board and he was perfectly happy. She was a strange one, always conducting experiments that had a tendency to have an unexpected outcome, when they didn’t cost the unfortunate guinea pig his life. Unlike the Doctor, she didn’t travel with companions. Not because she didn’t want to, she loved being admired, but since they were her favourite guinea pigs, their lifespan drastically reduced once they foot step on board her ship.
One day, he decided that he needed fresh air. They had settled on the planet Lakertya and Eccleston had discovered the extent of the Time Lady’s megalomania. She was as brilliant as she was mad and for the first time, the Chartreux cat missed the Doctor’s companionship. The thought of the dull celery wearing figure slightly eased the feeling, though. Eccleston decided that he missed the Doctor’s TARDIS most.
That’s when he heard the familiar noise.
The cat had been wandering about the planet, discovering that the Rani had set nasty traps around as well as she had enslaved the natives. He felt really bad for those gentle looking aliens but thought it best to hide his presence to them too. He had a feeling that he was the only cat on the planet and he didn’t want to attract attention. When he heard the asthmatic noise announcing the TARDIS’ materialisation, he realised that the old girl had been expected. The Rani and her ugly Tetraps servants came from the compound he had been unable to infiltrate so far and walked straight towards the origin of the noise.
He was faced with a choice. Should he take this opportunity to get inside the compound and discover what the Rani was up too, or should he follow them and get a chance to return to the Doctor’s TARDIS?
As soon as he was sure that no one would see him, Eccleston ran towards the compound. The heavy entrance door had been left ajar and he silently sneaked inside, making sure to remain in the shadows. There was something very disturbing inside the place. His empathic senses told him that it was a mix of sadness and fear. And indeed, the few natives he saw there all shared the same facial expression.
He sniffed the air, picking the scent of the Rani and decided to check what she was up to this time. The first zone he reached looked like a crude cryogenic chamber. When he realised that the capsules’ occupants were all famous geniuses from different times and spaces, Eccleston started to worry for the Doctor. All his instincts told him that this was a trap set by the Rani to add him to her collection.
Eccleston went on with his exploration and found the heart of the building, the Rani’s headquarters. He couldn’t help but admire her work. He jumped on the table displaying some of the controls and swiftly operated them, revealing a map and some strange coordinates. None of his findings made sense, so he went on with his investigation and looked around, checking every bit of technology present in the room.
A sudden concussion broke his concentration and he quickly found a hiding place. The Rani was coming back with her minions. Eccleston suddenly worried that the strange beast serving the Time Lady would pick up his scent.
“I’ll just have to keep my paws crossed,” he thought.
It was too late to run away, anyway…
The hairy beast entered the main control room and paused. He looked around as if to make sure that there was no one around before laying the man he had been carrying on the table. He then left, leaving the unconscious stranger and the chartreux cat alone…
What will be Eccleston’s next move? Wait to see what happened or rush towards the man on the table?
As soon as the beast left the room, Eccleston left his hiding place and cautiously approached the table, jumping on it silently. The man didn’t react. The cat carefully looked at the stranger. He was not the Doctor. In fact, he was dressed like one of those clowns children from Earth enjoy so much. His clothes were very colourful and a matching umbrella had been placed next to him. The cat walked up to his face and confirmed that he was still breathing. Eccleston noticed the cat pin on the vest and he decided to make a little experiment. Closing his eyes, he focused until his whiskers became so sensitive that he could feel the man’s heartbeats. They were echoing. It could only mean two hearts. Another Time Lord. But what were the odds?
The cat put his paws on the stranger’s shoulder and sniffed his face, his hair, then his clothes. The TARDIS’ scent was all over him. There was no doubt in the cat’s mind: it was the Doctor! He had regenerated from a celery lover into a clown…
“Are you sure you regenerate? You look like a degenerate, right now!” Purred Eccleston, with a laugh.
The Doctor started to stir and his feline companion helped him speed his waking process by licking his cheek. He suddenly stopped when he heard the well-known sound of the Rani’s steps. She was about to enter the room and the Time Lord was still unconscious.
“Wake up at once!” Groaned Eccleston. “You don’t realise in which danger you are!”
Or did he? After all, he knew the Rani quite well too…
It was too late now, even if he woke now, she would be there.
The cat looked around, wondering if he should hide to conceal his presence or if he should remain on the table and face the Rani…
At first, she didn’t see him. She walked to the table, checked the Doctor’s hearts and turned around to access another part of the room. Stairs led to what seemed to be a secret area that triggered Eccleston’s curiosity. She took two steps and then she stopped. The Doctor was slowly coming round. She walked down and spotted a Chartreux cat staring at her.
“What the…?” She started.
She then focused and Eccleston could feel that she was trying to make contact with him telepathically. He hesitated for a brief moment. It was tempting to reject her and let her believe that she lost her ability to communicate with his kind. But it might not be the smarter move for he needed some information.
That was the universal cat salute.
Meow. How did you come here?
She seemed a little worried. She was angry, of course, because his very presence potentially meant that her project was under the C.A.T.S. (for “Cats Agency in Time and Space”) scrutiny.
I came here the same way you did.
Technically, it was true, but she didn’t need to know the full details.
What do you want?
Eccleston simply put a paw on the Doctor’s chest. The Rani’s reaction was immediate:
“Certainly no!” She shouted, forgetting about telepathy. “I didn’t go through all that trouble to have you ruin my plans!”
The Doctor chose this very moment to wake up. He sat straight and noticed both the cat and the Rani.
For a brief moment, he seemed confused.
Should he hug Eccleston, his long lost cat, or deal with the Rani first?
“That was a nice nap. Now, down to business.”
The Doctor got up and went on: “I’m a bit worried about the temporal flicker in sector thirteen. There’s a bicentennial refit of the Tardis to book in. I must just pop over to Centauri Seven and then perhaps a quick holiday. Right, that all seems quite clear. Just three small points. Where am I? Who am I? And who are you?’
He looked at the woman and suddenly recognised her:
“The Rani! Stay back!”
He quickly grabbed his umbrella and stepped back only to fall down a short set of stairs.
“This is idiotic. You’ll injure yourself,” sighed the Rani.
Eccleston was still sitting on the table, witnessing the theatrical scene that was unfolding in front of his eyes. There was something quite familiar about the Doctor’s clumsiness and yet the cat felt a bit annoyed. It only seemed to get worse after each regeneration. The two Time Lords were still engaged in a heated discussion and the Chartreux yawned out of boredom. His interest rose again when the Doctor rushed to the table and activated the screen, displaying the planet and the asteroid Eccleston had seen before.
“You won’t recognise the planet. It’s Lakertya, and there’s no evidence that it’s ever been graced by your meddling presence,” said the Rani.
Now the cat was really interested. He considered his options: should he intervene and try to focus the discussion on the planet or leave the Time Lords to their discussion and hope to learn more in the process?
Eccleston didn’t learn as much as he hoped. Not at first that is. He had to wait until the Doctor made a move, got himself into trouble and was rendered unconscious to actually learn something of interest. The Rani needed her fellow Time Lord. She needed him so badly that she even impersonated his current companion, a red haired woman called “Mel”.
“You better keep your mouth shut,” she warned the Chartreux cat who was actually admiring her makeup skills.
Of course, he had no idea what this “Mel” looked like in the first place, but since the Doctor recognised his companion in the Rani, it had to mean something. The Doctor seemed quite happy to help her repair whatever piece of technology that needed to be fixed but insisted that they should get some tools in his TARDIS.
The cat immediately got up, eager to pay the old girl a visit.
“Not you,” said the Doctor pointing at him. “You’ll put hair everywhere!”
Eccleston’s first reaction was to hiss in anger.
“Is that your cat?” Asked the Rani Mel.
“No,” replied the Time Lord. “I’ve never seen him in my life.”
”Correction. In this life.”
Eccleston had to put things straight. He wasn’t going to let the Doctor forget him so easily.
The Time Lord seemed a little confused and the Rani Mel’s eyes flashed with anger.
“Let’s go,” she ordered.
What is Eccleston going to do? Will he follow them or wait for them to return?
As soon as the Doctor and the Rani left, the Chartreux cat followed them and didn’t even try to be discrete. The Doctor noticed him and waved him away a few times but Eccleston simply ignored him. The Time Lord also failed to prevent him from entering inside the TARDIS. In fact, the cat was the first one to enter, slipping through the humanoids’ legs.
“Get out!” Shouted the Doctor.
“Let him be!” Grumbled the Rani, who was eager to get back to business.
Eccleston was already exploring his old home, sniffing everywhere to determine how many companions had travelled with the Doctor. The TARDIS was gently humming, welcoming her feline friend. She seemed alright but he knew that she missed him. He could feel it. He told her that he intended on staying to keep an eye on the Doctor who had managed to get himself into trouble once again. Speaking of the Doctor, where was he gone?
Eccleston followed his trail to the wardrobe. The Time Lord seemed to be about to choose a new outfit. This might prove rather interesting, even entertaining…
Does Eccleston start a career as fashion advisor or does he simply Watch?
Since Eccleston knew the Doctor, the Time Lord had shown no improvement in the way he dressed. His disregard for elementary fashion was quite distressing for anyone caring a little about his/her appearance. Right now, the Chartreux cat was wondering if his alien companion had ever listened to any of his previous advises. He found himself missing the third and fifth incarnations of the Doctor, who showed some effort in their clothing. They had style in their own way.
The cat sighed and decided to take the matter into his own paws.
Let me help here.
The Rani turned towards him and shot him a dangerous glance while the Doctor seemed amused by the distraction. He welcomed Eccleston’s advices, making a point in doing the exact opposite to see his reaction and was quite disappointed to see that like most cats, the Chartreux was very patient. The Rani, on the other hand, wasn’t the patient type. She tried to interfere a few times but was ignored by both the Doctor and his cat.
Now we are getting somewhere!
The Time Lord seemed equally satisfied. He was wearing a question mark motif pullover and red braces under a cream linen jacket.
“Yes, yes, yes. Very elegant,” intervened the Rani.
“Ah, thank goodness in this regeneration I’ve regained my impeccable sense of haute couture.”
Eccleston started laughing, but suddenly hissed when the Rani picked him up rather unfriendly.
“It’s time for you to mind some other feline business. We have work to do.”
The Doctor seemed mildly worried and the Rani put gently the cat on the floor, patting him in the process, trying to hide the fact that Eccleston had managed to scratch her in a painful way.
“Get lost,” whispered the Rani.
The cat considered his options. The Doctor had managed to get in trouble (again) but Eccleston was confident that he would find a way to sort things out. He was tempted to help, of course, but on the other paw, he was eager to catch up with the TARDIS. Without the Time Lord around, he would have free access to the telepathic circuits… His mind set, Eccleston started purring and left the two Time Lords to their business. He could already hear the TARDIS hum her happiness to have her feline friend back…