Untitled Doctor Who Fan Fiction (2012)
Untitled Doctor Who Fan Fiction
by Adam Richard
She was dying the day they met. Full of bluff and bluster, claiming to be a famed virologist. Even before he dismissed the lie as nothing more than that, even as she admitted she was actually a journalist, pretending to be her famous aunt, she was crumbling to dust. As he got up to make the coffee she refused to prepare, he was lying to her about being a teacher, forty years later. He looked into her eyes, her eyes that were still so alive, even though the face that framed them had succumbed to decay. He is goading her into action as she becomes stuck in a tube, centuries beyond civilization, high above the earth. She was so desperately independent, even the mere implication of fallibility from someone she perceived as male could push her on to remarkable feats. Watching her pick up the stuffed owl, he knows she is breathing her last breath. As she stands alone and forlorn with her battered suitcase and her worn tennis racquet, she is battling the might of a psychic spider and drunkenly wondering how she can possibly be speaking Italian. When a lifespan can be counted in millennia, the life of a human female passes like the blink of an eye. Try not to blink. It’s impossible. If you hold your eyes open too long, they fill with tears, and close anyway. She was long dead before she even told him her name.
“Sarah Jane Smith,” she said, her hand held forward, waiting to be grasped, “I’m a journalist. How do you do.” He lurked behind her, distractedly biting the head off a confection shaped like an infant. This latest body had come with a blood sugar imbalance.
“Miss Smith.” The reply was altogether too brusque. The man took her hand between two fingers, like a wet lettuce leaf.
“This is the Doctor,” she said, and he leaned in to grasp not only the man’s soft hands, but his surprised elbow.
“Mister Preece!” The Doctor’s face was far too close to this human’s, but it was an effective way of eliciting the truth. The Kalathians believe that it is much harder to lie directly into the mouth of another person. No doubt he had terrible jelly baby breath.
Preece attempted a smile that came off more like a sneer, contempt barely masked by a veneer of courtesy.
"Yes," he said, "of course."
* * *
The Doctor made grandiose but derogatory references to Beethoven and Disraeli, who it's quite possible he may have met, but Sarah Jane very much doubted it. When she'd first met him, she would have been utterly convinced that Wolfgang and Benjamin, as he insisted on calling them, were enlisted in his retinue. Since that business with the spiders, since he'd changed, she wasn't sure anymore. Now he talked to shoes and bananas, sniffed telephones and computers. She'd once seen him have a stand up argument with the TARDIS. The TARDIS had lurched violently at one point, effectively ending the argument, so maybe there was some method in his madness.
He seemed so uncomfortable now on Earth. He regarded this business with Preece and his agriculture machine as little more than a distraction. Preece had developed a device that could increase the size of fresh produce to the power of ten. The Doctor assured her it was an impossible machine, and that the molecule chains in the vegetables would have been pushed past breaking point. The three foot ear of corn on Preece's desk, according to the Doctor, should have imploded into a yellow pulp well before now.
Preece was explaining the theory to the Doctor, who patently wasn't listening. He interrupted while Preece espoused the virtues of what he was calling The Maxinator.
"Can you do the same thing to my Jelly Baby?" The Doctor enquired. "I do so like the idea of ten pound Jelly Baby."
"Yes, Doctor, of course!" Preece developed a smirk of smug self-satisfaction.
The Doctor shot Sarah Jane an unmistakable glance; he was in distraction mode. As Preece led him away to make his ungainly sweet, Sarah Jane snuck out of his peripheral vision and through the first door she could find marked Staff Only.
* * *
The old Doctor wouldn’t have done this. He would have left the distraction up to Sarah Jane, while he disappeared into parts unknown, throwing wooden shoes and spanners into the works and eventually causing everything to explode. No matter how benign his intentions, sadly all things with the Doctor eventually ended in conflagration and carnage. Sarah Jane had a lighter touch. She rattled all the filing cabinets she could find, until she found one that was locked. She waited until the area was devoid of white coated lab assistants and began jamming a nail file into the lock.
No doubt the Doctor would have used his sonic screwdriver. Well, the old Doctor. The Doctor that was no longer. She still adored him, wanted to see all the things he had to show her, but she couldn’t help but feel their relationship changed when he did. He used to be paternal, thoughtful, caring, now he was reckless, abandoned, impulsive. He still had flashes of anger and frustration, but where he once was authoritative and comfortable with authority, now he eschewed it altogether. She’d been travelling with this man for months, and she knew that he held the same mind, the same consciousness as the one she had known as The Doctor, but he was no longer that man. She wanted to mourn her friend but he wasn’t dead. He was still here, all teeth and curls. Something in his eyes, something in the way he cared for her, like a combination of parent and cheeky school chum, something about all of that still reminded her of the man she once called Doctor. This new man was taking some getting used to, and maybe that’s why she was missing her Doctor so much now.
Before she had time to ruminate too long on the Doctor who was and the Doctor that is, the filing cabinet popped open and she found exactly what she was looking for.
* * *
Sarah Jane entered the room just as the Doctor spat out a lump of purple goo. Behind him, lying on a bench, was the source of the spit; a purple jelly baby the size of a Volkswagon.
“Horrible!” he exclaimed! “It tastes like a sock dipped in seaweed.”
Preece was utterly affronted. He didn’t get time to utter a word, however, as Sarah Jane interjected.
“Doctor, have you changed the settings on Mister Preece’s prized Maxinator?”
“Oh, Sarah Jane! You clever girl!” The Doctor looked delighted, mischievous sparkles dancing in his eyes. He leaned on Preece, folding much of his substantial height down to make eye contact with the chagrined man. “I may have bumped a couple of your dials. The ones that were injecting the flavour. I am terribly sorry.”
“Injecting the-- I don’t know what you mean...” Preece flustered.
Sarah Jane held the documents she found in the air.
“Of course you do Mister Preece,” she said, “You aren’t actually making anything bigger. You’re extracting the flavour from the items you place in the machine, and what comes out the other end is manufactured. Based, mostly, it seems,” she flipped through the pages, “on the protein of a soy bean, which has been moulded into the shape of the source material, then coloured and flavoured artificially.”
“This isn’t a giant Jelly Baby, Mister Preece,” the Doctor wailed, “it’s a big purple tofu baby. Now, I ask you, who wants to eat a tofu baby?”
Sarah handed the papers to the Doctor. He flipped through them absently as he watched her age and die. She was calling out to him in the snow after the Krynoid had exploded, running from the school as K9 exploded, bolting into the TARDIS as the priory exploded. Everything burns, in the end. Is she with him as he falls from the tower? He doesn’t understand how these creatures can be so unaware of time passing through them. Keeping his consciousness focused on their linear existence exhausted him, but explaining to any of them exactly how he perceived the universe would have been even more difficult, so he struggled on regardless. As he pushed the rest of time out of his mind, and concentrated on this one moment, following the ebb and flow of causality as these humans experienced it, he felt giddy. It caused him pain. It was not like closing your eyes or covering your ears, it was like being underwater too long and not knowing where the surface was. That was always when he lost his temper, when he felt as if he were drowning in their limited, linear existence.
“This technology is beyond your time, Mister Preece. This kind of food synthesis will not be available to your species until well into the twenty-first century. Where did you get it?” The Doctor spat as he imposed himself on Preece’s personal space. The once haughty executive stumbled over his words, flustered.
“I, um... you see...”
“I recognize this design, Mister Preece, and you have laid down with dangerous bedfellows indeed.” He threw the paper on the floor and strode out of the room.
“Sarah Jane!” he called out as he left, as his consciousness slipped from the room, from the hour, from the little pocket of time the humans slowly made their way through, like ants through honey. She was picking up the papers he dropped, she was helping him sabotage a Cybership far above the planet, a ship that had planned to enslave the humans with giant tofu fruit replicas. She didn’t understand how they hoped to achieve it, and as he explained their plan to introduce a mind-controlling substance along with the synthesised flavour, she was attending his fake funeral, and he was attending her real one, and she was standing in the snow in her bikini, and she was stumbling sightlessly around a castle and fleeing a Sontaran in that blinding yellow jacket and chastising Harry for calling her an old girl and with that jacket folded over her wrist she is standing alone outside as he leaves her and he blinks. She is gone. There shall never be another like her. She blazed like a star, and though he tried not to blink, tried not see the whole of her existence in a moment, she was too bright, and he had to close his eyes against the light. He blinks and she is gone.