What Happened Next
Click image for sources used
Click here for list of characters and general info.
Tosh could scarcely believe it. Owen's first action upon encountering the immense, twisting insides of the Doctor's impossible time machine was to march straight into the middle of them and get lost.
The Doctor and House found this extremely amusing and were apparently bonding over it. They were following Owen's progress like demented voyeurs using a smallish screen on the wall.
"Oh god, he's found the Orgasmatron," said the Doctor.
"What, like from Sleeper? You're kidding," said Wilson, who had been standing off to the side and generally not participating in the Owen-watching.
"You have something like that?" said House with interest.
"Well, no, not really. It doesn't actually do anything, but it's got ORGASMATRON written in big letters across the top, so whenever people find it they inevitably spend several hours trying to work it and I end up having to explain myself, it's all very embarrassing."
"Aren't we meant to be searching for Chula?" asked Tosh impatiently.
Sarah Jane walked back into the console room. "Well, I can't find him," she said. "I'm afraid to go too deep, I know I'll get lost if I do."
"It doesn't matter," said House. "He's totally useless anyway."
"Oh for heaven's sake," said Tosh. "I'll find him. How hard can it be?" With that, she strode through the door and into the interior of the TARDIS. House watched interestedly as the scanner showed Owen kicking the Orgasmatron in frustration.
"Really, it's just a prop," said the Doctor. "I should put up a sign or something. This is the third time this has happened in the last four hundred years."
"That's actually not very often," said Wilson.
"What? Oh, I suppose not. Still, can't hurt." The Doctor switched the scanner around a bit until he found Tosh. House started complaining.
"Oh come on, she's not going to be half as interesting!"
"Are we going to look for these aliens or not?" said Wilson. Everyone ignored him.
On the screen, Tosh walked confidently down the white TARDIS corridors. If she came to a fork, she simply placed her hand on the wall and asked the TARDIS where she should go. After a moment she'd nod and choose a direction.
"Amazing," said the Doctor. "I think she likes her." He sounded affronted.
"She?" said House.
"The TARDIS likes the brainy girl," said the Doctor. House was about to point out the stupidity of this statement, but he was distracted by Tosh finding Owen, who looked quite embarrassed to see her. They watched in reasonable silence as she led him back and turned when she reentered the console room.
"Can we go now?" Tosh asked.
"Did you know you have a pool?" asked Owen in wonder. "How the hell does it all fit inside a police box?"
"I'm afraid that question has a very long answer," said the Doctor.
"That means he doesn't know," said Sarah Jane.
"Can we go?" said Tosh.
"Yes, yes, alright, no need to get tetchy," said the Doctor, and he moved over to the console.
"Er, where, exactly, are we going?" said Wilson.
"To the planet Chula, with luck," said the Doctor cheerily.
"With luck," repeated House dryly.
"Yup!" said the Doctor, then he pulled a lever and things happened. The middle column went crazy and the room started shaking. This lasted several seconds, and then it stopped. "Well, let's see where we are!" the Doctor said. Then he pulled another lever and the doors slid open.
"Do you even have any sort of guess as to where Chula is, or are you being completely random?" Sarah Jane asked him, but he didn't answer. He was too busy strolling out the doors. The others sighed and followed.
The room they entered wasn't too different from the one they'd left. It was much more spacious and there was no central column, but everything was white in the same way everything in the TARDIS was.
A man who definitely had two heads and three arms stared at them. They stared back.
"WOOOOOAH!" the stranger said, waving all three arms wildly as he staggered backwards. "Ford! Ford! You will not believe what just happened!"
"Try me," said a dry voice, whose source made itself known when another man walked through a side door into the room. He stared blankly at the TARDIS, and at the group standing just outside of it. Then he took out a small electronic book, opened it, and spoke to it. "Police Pub--" was as far as he got. The multi-limbed man was going psycho, dancing around the room wildly.
"Hey Trill! Some weirdos flew a big blue box right into the middle of our spaceship and landed it on top of the Earthman! WHOOO!"
House took offense at this. "Excuse me, we're the weirdos?" he said.
"Don't mind him, that's just Zaphod," said a girl, who had walked in behind Ford. "He can be a little, ah, unmanageable." She looked the box up and down. "Well, it's definitely improbable," she announced. "Hi, I'm Trillian. Nice to meet you."
The Doctor brightened up. "Improbable? Don't tell me... you have an Improbability Drive? Oh, those are so cool! Such an impressive bit of engineering, you know, quite brilliant, although, of course, famously unreliable, and they have a habit of doing things you'd rather they didn't..."
"Oh my god, will somebody please move this thing?" said yet another voice. This one was muffled and came from behind the TARDIS.
"Oh dear!" said Wilson. He and Tosh went behind the TARDIS to see if they could free whoever it was.
"That is so cool!" said Owen, staring at Zaphod. "A real alien! Do most of them have two heads?"
"Oh, he didn't always have two heads," said Ford conversationally. The book was still open in his hands.
"How did he get two then?" said Owen. "I've always thought it would be cool to have two heads."
"Long story," said Ford.
"Get me out of here!" came the muffled voice. Sarah Jane went back to help as well.
"Where the hell are we?" said House.
"Is that a copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide?" said the Doctor, looking interestedly at the book Ford was holding. Ford instantly brightened up.
"Oh yes," he said. "I'm a writer for it, you know!"
"You don't say," said the Doctor. "I wrote one or two entries myself, a long time ago. I know I still have a copy around somewhere."
"Did you really? Which entries?" Ford was in his element.
"Oh, let's see, I wrote the one about the Ice Warriors, the Great Vampire, and Gallifrey--although I expect that one's been deleted by now; the Time Lords would never allow something like that. I wrote a few more, but not all of them made it in. I was very sad to see the entry on Jelly Babies rejected. Would you like one?" He held out a small paper bag. Ford looked delighted.
"Absolutely!" He took one.
House was not so delighted. "Will you two stop chumming it up and tell me where the hell we are?" he demanded.
"No need to be so angry," said Zaphod. "Chill out!"
"We're on the Heart of Gold," said Trillian proudly.
"Are we indeed? I've always wanted to see it!" said the Doctor.
"Finally!" There was a loud scraping as the TARDIS was inched slightly out and a man in a bathrobe squeezed out from behind it. "That was extremely unpleasant," the man said. "Ford, what is going on?"
"Oh, Arthur," said Ford, as though he'd forgotten the man was there. "This is--er, sorry, what was your name again?"
"I'm the Doctor," said the Doctor, "and this is Dr. House, Dr. Wilson, Dr. Owen, Toshiko Sato, and Sarah Jane Smith." He pointed to each of them in turn. Sarah Jane waved.
"Just the Doctor?" said Arthur. "How come they all have names?"
"Hey Earthman, lighten up!" said Zaphod. "I want to know what this thing is!" He was examining the TARDIS with psychotic delight.
"This," said the Doctor proudly, "is my TARDIS."
"Your tar-what?" said Zaphod.
"TARDIS," said Sarah Jane helpfully.
"Look, this is all very fascinating, but could someone please tell me what's going on?" said Wilson.
"What is all this racket?" said yet another new voice, although this one sounded both robotic and extremely depressed. It made everyone else depressed just hearing it.
Trillian sighed. "Hello Marvin," she said. Indeed, a robot showed up a moment later.
"Can I assume these aren't Chula?" asked Tosh.
"Oh, Chula," said the robot. "I hate Chula. They make me feel so depressed."
"Everything makes you feel depressed, Marv," said Trillian.
"I like your outfit. Very spacy," said House, eyeing Trillian's skintight, glittery suit.
The Doctor glanced over. "Reminds me of someone I used to know," he mused.
"So they aren't Chula," Tosh confirmed.
"Excuse me, I hope you don't mind me asking, but how the hell did all you fit inside that?" said Arthur, the man in the bathrobe, who'd been spending the last several minutes examining it.
"It's bigger on the inside," said Sarah Jane proudly.
"That sounds like a dirty pick-up line," said Zaphod.
"I thought so too!" said Owen, who was clearly trying to suck up to Zaphod in order to get the secret of obtaining multiple heads and limbs out of him.
"I would love to see more of your ship," the Doctor gushed to Ford.
"It's his ship, not mine," said Ford, pointing to Zaphod. "Arthur and I are just hitching a lift."
"You wouldn't happen to have any tea in there, would you?" Arthur was still eyeing the TARDIS.
"Er," said Wilson.
Donna was having a hard time concentrating. She knew she should be focusing on the Doctor’s memories from the Time War in which he had to track other vessels moving through the time vortex. It was her only chance of locating him now, but she kept getting distracted by the need to preserve all the Doctor’s encounters with Jack Harkness.
“Sonic screwdrivers and bananas,” she muttered. “Honestly, that’s the best conversation he can come up with? Rose definitely had the brains in that match-up. Dancing, hah. Oops.”
She had failed to reroute the data stream from the huon modulators into the temporal booster controls, causing the TARDIS to exit the vortex. It materialized in the middle of an African plain, and from the monitors, it looked like the middle of the dry season as clouds of dust and sand drifted across the screen. For some inexplicable reason, the chameleon circuit decided the best course of action when confronted with a bunch of hungry ape people was to turn into a big, black rectangular box. This was a stupid disguise because it obviously panicked the poor hominids. Upon seeing her, they began picking up bones and beating the brains out of each other. Donna considered intervening but decided the best course of action was to remove the offending presence as quickly as possible.
Returning to the vortex, she activated the auto-pilot, which was something the Doctor’s Type-40 had definitely been lacking. A twist of the deep range sub-etheric assimilation dial told the system to lock on to the trail of any TARDIS of a certain age. It wasn’t that there might be other TARDISes around--two surviving the war were already two more than expected--but it would do no good to barge in on the Doctor before he knew who the hell she was and why she was chasing after him in a stolen TARDIS. Thankfully, her remaining memories allowed her to make an accurate guess of how many years the Doctor’s TARDIS had.
That done, she sat down to pursue more pressing matters. “Ooh, Jack in chains,” she said. This image required extra attention.
Albert trembled as he nodded, though Susan suspected he was angry rather than frightened. Unexpected occurrences did not sit well with Albert. In this case, however, she had to admit she agreed with him. She decided to try being sensible one more time: “Are you sure they weren’t small peacocks?”
“I know what I saw,” Albert snapped. “They were ducks, they had color and they ate some of the skeleton fish. A few choked, but obviously they can’t die here, so they’re still flailing next to the pond. I figure the cats will take care of them once the master gets back.”
They passed through the front entrance and angled straight for the pond. There were, indeed, three mallards thrashing on the ground and five more floating on the pond, the motion of their feet sending out ripples where none should be. Even the brown of the females stood out as a brilliant dash of color amidst the black and white of Death’s Domain. Susan bent down and turned the choking ducks upside down, shaking them until the bones dislodged from their throats. The fish were still intact and bounced back into the pond, whereupon they swam into the depths to avoid a repeat experience.
The ducks quacked as they waddled away, and Albert gave her a disapproving look. “It would be better if we were rid of them.”
“Killing them doesn’t exactly help us here, does it?”
The two of them stared at the spectacle of non-feline living creatures wandering around the garden until they heard a boy’s voice declare, “This is a bit depressing, isn’t it? I like the wheat, though.”
Death approached, followed by a young man in what looked to be yellow and red pajamas. A shock of brown hair that looked almost as unruly as Susan’s covered part of his face, but he brushed it aside as he came closer. Albert snorted dismissively, but Susan wasn’t so quick to judge the new arrival. His shoulders were a little hunched, uncertainty and nervousness making him looker younger than he was, but his eyes were steady as they surveyed the surroundings, and when his gaze fell upon her, it did not waver in the slightest. This was someone who was not fazed by the strangeness of Death’s world.
WHY ARE YOU NOT IN THE HOUSE? Death asked.
Susan and Albert parted to reveal the scene behind them, but Susan suspected Death had already seen the ducks, as he’d materialized on a slope. Death nodded and headed back for the house without a word. His companion shrugged, and the three of them followed.
As they entered, the boy exclaimed, “It’s bigger on the inside!” Susan noticed he, quite unreasonably, relaxed upon making the observation and made a mental note of it.
ALBERT, WOULD YOU BRING US SOME TEA?
Once they were settled in the kitchen, Death made the proper introductions. SUSAN, MEET ADRIC. ADRIC, THIS IS MY GRANDDAUGHTER, SUSAN.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Adric mumbled, extending his hand. Susan shook it. “You’re not very eager to leave, are you?”
Susan smiled. “No, I am not. I would feel better if I knew your credentials, though.”
“I’m a math genius, and I’ve traveled space and time with the Doctor.”
“Who is the Doctor?”
“It’s complicated, but I’ll tell you the whole story if you like. It’ll help you get a sense of what to expect out there.”
THAT WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL YOU BEGIN TRAVELING, Death said. WHEN DID THE DUCKS APPEAR, SUSAN?
“Albert came to me as soon as he found them, and we headed over to investigate when you arrived. What does it mean?”
IT MEANS THE FABRIC OF REALITY IS WEAKENING. FAITH IS GETTING STRONGER.
“If faith is getting stronger, shouldn’t your control over your domain get stronger as well?”
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FAITH, AND DIFFERENT PEOPLE WHO HOLD THEM. BECAUSE MY DOMAIN IS A PARASITE UNIVERSE OF DISCWORLD’S, THE TWO WORLDS ARE MELDING TOGETHER.
“The reality of the Disc will begin intruding here?”
IT ALWAYS HAS, THOUGH TO A LESSER EXTENT.
“But you will still exist. Your powers will remain intact.”
FOR SO LONG AS THE DISC DOES, CORRECT.
“Is the Disc in danger?”
THE WAXING FAITH HAS NO PLACE FOR THE DISC. INTERNAL BARRIERS ARE THE FIRST TO FALL WHEN A WORLD BEGINS CONTRACTING.
“Then what will you do?”
THE GODS WILL BE FEELING THE SAME EFFECTS. THERE WILL BE A MEETING, AND THEY WILL TRY TO STRENGTH BELIEF IN DISCWORLD. IT IS OUR ONLY PROTECTION, AND I WILL DO MY PART AS WELL.
“This isn’t going to be like that Hogfather incident, is it?” Alfred asked as he laid out the place settings. “Because I call dibs on the sherry if it is.”
OUR ROLE WILL BE A BIT MORE... MORBID, THIS TIME.
“I hate to interrupt,” Adric said, “but how are we traveling if you don’t have a spacecraft?”
Death proffered his tray and dice. Susan scoffed. “That’s ridiculous.”
IT IS THE ONLY MEANS I HAVE TO OFFER.
“Then we’ll go to the wizards. Maybe they will have something better. Or even the Auditors could assemble something.”
BUT YOU DO NOT KNOW WHERE TO GO.
“A blind guess is better than leaving our fate to chance.”
FATE IS NOT CHANCE.
“I’m not here to debate semantics.”
THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT.
Susan stared at him. This wasn’t the first time they’d argued over philosophy, but the idea that everything in life was fated was ridiculous. Sure, there were the hourglasses, but that was more like a guideline. You had so much time in the world, but that time was yours. You did with it what you could.
THERE IS A WAY TO TEST MY HYPOTHESIS.
ADRIC WAS THE ONE WHO ASKED ABOUT TRANSPORTATION, YET YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE SENSIBLE ONE. THAT MEANS YOU ALREADY HAVE PLANS, AND THEY DO NOT INVOLVE LEAVING THE DISC.
“Clever of you.”
Death put the time die into his pocket, leaving the one that controlled spatial travel. THERE IS AN INFINITELY SMALL CHANCE OF YOU ENDING UP WHERE YOU DESIRE.
“That’s not encouraging,” Adric said.
Susan shook her head. “I have an advantage. I am related to Death. He doesn’t need the die to return home, and neither do I. If we end up somewhere incorrect, I can bring us back in an instant.”
“What if it’s somewhere dangerous?”
THE DIE CARRIES ALONG A BUBBLE OF ATMOSPHERE. THERE WILL BE A GRACE PERIOD BEFORE YOU ARE SUBJECTED TO DANGER.
“Shall we?” Susan asked Adric.
He shrugged. “If it works, will there be food where we go?”
She liked his thought process. “Yes.”
“Then we might as well try.”
They stood, and he picked up the tray while Susan took the die. Without fanfare, she dropped it, and the universe blinked.
The first sensation she felt was the brush of a cherry blossom against her cheek, and she smiled. “Looks like it worked.”
Adric stared. “Where are we?”
A very old man who had been lounging under a nearby tree chewing on cherries got up and approached them. “Welcome to the Ramtops. My name is Lu-Tze. We have been expecting you.”
“So Chula,” the Doctor said. “Chula, Chula, Chula. Kind of like Tora, Tora, Tora. Did I ever tell you the Chula are fairly war-like? Well, not fairly, more like, have Daleks as role models but are still cuddly.”
“No.” Cuddy said, tapping her fingers on the console and shooting Jack an evil look. “I thought you said they were an advanced race that got along with other species. No one ever mentioned that they like to-- what are Daleks?”
There was an awkward silence until Ianto wandered in with a tray. “Coffee, anyone?”
“Yes, please!” the Doctor grabbed a mug, nearly spilling it when the tray dropped away as Jack reached out. Ianto swiveled smoothly and handed Jack’s intended mug to Cameron. All three doctors gaped at the sudden burst of action, but the Doctor returned to the console and said, “So I’ve been putting a lot of thought into where we should go--”
“What are Daleks?” Cuddy repeated.
“--go, uh, go to and I think that it would be fantastic if Jack explained where he once got a Chula warship and ambulance from.”
“That was a lifetime ago,” Jack said. “Well, for you anyway. Me, more like two thousand give or take several hundred.”
“Jack. Don’t start.”
“I’m not flirting with anyone!”
“That’s not what I meant!”
“That’s usually what you mean.”
“You’re dodging the question. Why are you dodging the question? The only reason to dodge the question is if you have something to hide.”
“You’re both dodging my question,” Cuddy said. They ignored her.
“I’m going to need some coffee to get through this story,” Jack said, glancing at Ianto from the corner of his eye. It turned out there was one mug left, so he had not forgotten that he still had a professional relationship to maintain. Ianto handed the coffee over without batting an eye or offering an apology.
“Hold on,” the Doctor protested. “I don’t remember him signing an application.”
“Application?” Jack asked, pausing as he lifted the mug to his lips.
“Ianto started a TARDIS coffee club,” the Doctor said.
“Yeah,” Chase replied, waving a little piece of paper. “I get stamps for every coffee, and each card holds ten.”
“For what purpose?” Jack said, lowering the mug. “You can’t trade it in for a free coffee. Everything’s free.”
“I just like the stamps. The Doctor has an entire room full of different ones!”
“So anyone not part of the club doesn’t get coffee? Hey, I remember Ianto threatening to do this about half a year ago.”
“It wasn’t a threat, sir,” Ianto replied. “It was a joke.”
Chase crossed his arms. “Those stamps better not be a joke.”
Jack shrugged. “I’ll fill out a form later.” He drank a mouthful and tasted something resembling a cross between grease and lighter fluid, which were memories he didn’t care to revisit at the moment. He spat it all back out, choking, and the black liquid splashed across the TARDIS console, sending the Doctor into a frenzy of cleaning. “What the hell is this?”
“Coffee,” Ianto said. “From the Doctor’s supplies.”
“This is not coffee!”
“Of course it is. It just doesn’t come from the same stock reserved for members of the club.”
“Give me a form now!”
“He’s out,” Cameron said. “I took the last one. Sorry.”
“You’re telling me there isn’t a single printer on board the TARDIS?”
The Doctor glared at him as he pushed him aside and climbed beneath the grating to mop up the floor below.
“But you have everything but the kitchen sink aboard!”
“No,” the Doctor said, wringing his rag out into a bucket, “I have everything including the kitchen sink but not a printer. Never found a use for one, and the ink was always low, even when I changed it. Thousand--uh, I mean, nine hundred--year old Time Lord, and I still don’t understand the physics behind that phenomenon.”
“Can’t I be an honorary member?” Jack asked Ianto.
“No, sir. It would violate the charter and undermine trust.”
“A prospective initiate?”
“That would involve helping me clean the Doctor’s storage rooms. All seven hundred twelve of them, though those are only the ones I’ve found, and I’m not sure some of them aren’t redundant.”
“Hold on, hold on!” the Doctor clambered back up and grabbed Ianto’s sleeve to prevent him from exiting, as he’d been edging toward the door leading to the sleeping quarters during the entire conversation. “You are not cleaning my storage. There’s some dangerous equipment in there.”
“No there isn’t.” Ianto smiled. “Unless you’re talking about the contents of seven alpha four.”
“Ah. So you found that room, did you?”
“That strikes me more as... kinky than dangerous.”
“I’m on board,” Jack cut in. He leaned against the console in a pose that was, in his opinion, thoroughly dashing. “Initiate it is!”
“A human wouldn’t be able to grasp its true nature,” the Doctor said quickly. “Well, don’t let me keep you. I’m sure you’re very, very busy. And stay out of that room! As for you, Jack, no more distractions! Tell your story.”
“Well, it was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...”
“No it wasn’t.”
“‘Solar system far, far away’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
“It’s outer space. Everything’s far, far away,” Cuddy said, giving him an exasperated look he thought she reserved only for House. With that thought, his mental barrier slipped a little, and House managed to get through, You are me, in a way. Isn’t that disturbing? Hmm, maybe I’ll pretend I got the orgasmatron working.
As tantalizing a thread of inquiry that last thought represented, Jack slammed House out of his mind, though he couldn’t resist saying, “Orgasmatron?”
The Doctor choked, covering the console with a second spray of coffee. Jack wondered if that was what seven alpha four was all about. He hoped he could get to the room before Ianto did, though he wouldn’t put it past him to have planned for the eventuality and moved the contents to another hiding spot upon discovering them.
“The story!” the Doctor and Cuddy snapped at the same time.
“I won it in an eating contest!”
Ianto’s head appeared in the doorway, and it was clear he’d been lurking just out of sight. “What? I’ve seen Tosh eat more than you.”
“A hundred years of Earth food gets old, all right?” Jack said. “I’m sorry if it isn’t something exciting like an intergalactic con job or a robbery.”
“Or payment for sex,” Cuddy said. When she noticed Chase and Cameron’s jaws drop, she reddened. “Did I say that out loud? Well, I’m sorry, but he is very good at it. Stop staring at me. Daleks!”
Jack noticed Ianto’s eyes narrow as he remembered Cuddy had also been involved in the shenanigans in the factory, and he yelled, “Initiate! I’m an initiate, remember that!” To be honest, he did regret participating, and it wasn’t just because Ianto seemed hell-bent on making him miserable. But if Ianto was going to be immature, then there was no point in Jack admitting it was a mistake, and he did believe he had done Wilson and House a service, which now that they were part of their mission, meant that he had increased the efficiency of their search. Assuming the two men weren’t shagging like bunnies.
Ianto nodded. “Of course I remember, sir. I’ll just go and make dinner, shall I?”
“I think it’s only impressive if we know what they had to eat,” Cameron said.
Jack knew telling the truth would be a mistake, but he also knew the Doctor would never let him hear the end of it if he didn’t. “It was a curry-eating contest,” he said, and he could see the light bulb go off over Ianto’s head as the man slipped off to “prepare” the evening’s food. “You’re not a servant, you know!” he yelled after him. “You don’t have to make everything. There should be a rota!” Ianto did not deign to respond. “Damn it!”
“Wait,” the Doctor said, “so where did the loser get the ships from?”
“Himself,” Jack said. “He was a Chula.”
“You managed to eat more curry than a Chula. Are we talking about the spicy kind?”
“You could use the stuff to etch steel.”
“Is that impressive?” Cameron asked. “The out-eating, I mean. ‘Cause I have a friend who can’t even make it through a poppadom.”
“Chula practically invented curry,” the Doctor said. “They made the early adopters look like laggards. Of course, the real credit goes to humans, but Chula probably own the patent at the Shadow Proclamation.”
“I fail to see why this story took so much effort to pry from you, Captain,” Cuddy said.
“Well, just imagine the state of his intestines after such an ordeal,” the Doctor said. Jack scowled. “But that’s a dead end. Any Chula betting away starships is likely a drifter or an aristocrat.”
“Nouveau riche,” Jack said.
“Which for the Chula means an aristocratic drifter with nothing better to do.”
“If I thought the story would help us any, I would’ve told it sooner.” Jack tried his best to look wounded but knew it wasn’t much. “But if the Chula adopted curry, then that means Earth was one of the planets they settled on.”
“That is correct!”
“Then we know one time and place they’ll definitely be.”
“Can’t do that,” the Doctor said. “The Chula are advanced. Way advanced. I didn’t want to say it in front of the other me, but they went into hiding as a pre-emptive attempt to avoid becoming a casualty of the Time War, and as far as I know, they succeeded. But knowing that battles would not be subject to any temporal restrictions, they had to protect their past as well as their present and future. As a result, they time-locked their entire history. There has been only one precedent for breaching a time lock and that was accidental. Also, the technology is anchored into the space-time continuum, meaning any breach could have dire consequences for the stability of the entire universe.”
“That sucks,” Chase said. “But I think I smell dinner.”
Cameron rolled her eyes but somehow wheeled her way to the door faster than Chase could run. The others followed, and the Doctor patted Jack on the back. “I don’t smell curry,” he said.
Jack was surprised to discover hamburgers, and there weren’t place settings, which meant that unless Ianto meant to poison everybody, he was safe.
“Don’t look so surprised, sir,” Ianto said as he brought over a plate of pickles. “I know it’s not the usual fare, but I thought a change of pace would be nice, and hopefully it’ll help our American friends settle in after their first day aboard.”
“They’ve already had a day.”
“Don’t be pushy, Jack,” the Doctor said. “Not everyone’s from the 51st century.” He slapped the bottom of the ketchup bottle but nothing came out.
“And you’re clearly not from the 21st. Here, let me help you with that.”
“Nuh uh!” He swung the bottle out of reach. “Time Lord, Jack. I can handle a bottle of mashed tomatoes.” The bottle decided now was a good time to give in and emptied half its contents onto Cuddy’s skirt.
“Doctor!” she screamed.
“Oops, sorry! Terribly sorry!” The Doctor snapped the cap back onto the bottle and threw it onto the table, whereupon it promptly slid across the surface and nailed Cameron in the nose. “Let me help you with that!” He grabbed a napkin and pressed down. Then he realized he had a hand between Cuddy’s legs and yelped, falling backward and knocking his chair over onto Jack’s foot.
Pain shot up his leg, and he cradled the foot, hopping up and down. He hated getting injured. It hurt almost as much as getting killed but lasted much longer, as no magical healing occurred afterward.
“Three lefts and a right is the laundry,” Ianto said, pointing Cuddy down a hall.
“Doesn’t that bring me back here?” she said.
“Not in the TARDIS, it doesn’t.”
Meanwhile, Chase had wrapped a towel around some ice cubes, and Cameron cradled the compress against her face. “I feel settled in already,” she said.
“Sorry!” the Doctor repeated, righting his chair. “Just a little-- whoa!” As he tried to sit down, his foot landed in a pool of ketchup, sending him flying into the next room over. “I’m all right!” he said after a resounding crash. “Not regenerating!”
Chase took a bite of his burger. “This is quite good.”
“Thank you,” Ianto replied. “So how are you enjoying your first day?”
“Is it normal to spend so long in the time vortex?” Cameron asked.
“No,” Jack said as he wiped the floor clean. “The Doctor’s stalling.”
“I believe the more accurate term is limping,” the Doctor said as he staggered back into the room. “And remind me never to buy any more furniture from IKEA. I always lose the little screws, and then everything falls apart on top of you when you least expect it.”
“That why you had to make your screwdriver sonic?” Jack asked. “‘Cause it would explain so much.”
“So we could’ve spent our time debating where to go in some tropical paradise and we didn’t?” Chase said. “I hate to say this, but standing around and talking while that little column keeps going up and down is really distracting.”
“I rather like the décor in the console room, though,” Ianto said. “It’s very soothing.”
“Thank you,” the Doctor said. “And yes, I’m sorry about that, but I didn’t want anyone to think I was distracting us from our mission, and I’m telling you, any time we go to a resort-type, someone always insists on going sunbathing, and no one ever listens when they’re sunbathing. You might think they are, but you’re only fooling yourself.”
Cuddy re-entered wearing jeans just as the Doctor made a second attempt at the ketchup. She took the bottle. “Let me, please.”
“So where are we going?” Jack said. “I mean, I was hoping you’d have some idea as to where the Chula went. Don’t the Time Lords monitor everything?”
“We were a bit busy, Jack.”
“But you’re the Doctor! You always have an idea.”
“I’m trying to think!”
“So we’re going to sit around waiting for a flash of brilliance?” Cameron said. “It’s not like God’s going to show up and point us in the right direction.”
“Be nice, wouldn’t it?” the Doctor replied, grinning.
A gong-like bell rang, and Jack saw the Doctor stiffen.
“I didn’t know the TARDIS was a clock too,” Cuddy said.
“It isn’t.” The Doctor got to his feet as the bell clanged a second time. “That’s the cloister bell. Something’s--”
The TARDIS rocked with the force of an earthquake, knocking them all to the floor as the table overturned and everything not nailed or glued to a part of the room decided to defy gravity. Jack grabbed Ianto and pulled him out of the way just as the refrigerator slid past where he’d been. The lights went out to the sound of a sickening crunch, like bones breaking, and then everything went still again.
“What just happened?” Jack asked. He could feel Ianto trembling, but the man broke off to check on the others.
“Something impossible!” the Doctor replied, shining his screwdriver at the roof.
“Quick, apologize to God!” Chase hissed at Cameron.
Cuddy shook Jack off. “I’m fine.”
“Everyone’s fine,” Ianto reported from Chase and Cameron’s side.
The Doctor dashed into the control room, and the rest of them followed. The central console glowed green, but the rest of the lights remained off. A few sparks flew from below the grating, but they looked to be from non-critical components.
“No, no, no, no, no!” the Doctor said. “It can’t be. We were knocked out of the time vortex!”
“Is that possible?”
“Yes, but nothing with the capability to attack a TARDIS travels the time vortex anymore.”
“See? You pissed off God!” Chase said.
“Maybe He’s showing us the way,” Cameron snapped back.
“This was not a benevolent action,” the Doctor said. “It looks like we struck something. The TARDIS can recover, but it’ll take time. However, that amount of energy released into the time vortex will have caused a paradox.”
“So what’s outside?” asked Ianto.
“We’re not going outside. That’s final.”
Chase frowned. “What’s outside, Doctor?”
“You can’t find out.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Cuddy said. “Are you always this secretive?”
“Only when he needs to be,” Jack said. “You better listen.”
The Doctor sighed. “It’s... it’s spoilers, all right? We’re on Earth. Dusseldorf, Germany, if the sensors haven’t been damaged.”
“Well, that’s fine. We’ll just avoid newspapers, unless one of us is going to Germany.”
“No, it’s not that. I’d be fine with us going to Earth, but this is your future. Your near future and... my... my very recent past.”
“I fail to see the point.” Cuddy headed for the door.
“No, stay away!” the Doctor chased after her, but it was too late. Cuddy flung open the doors and gasped. The Doctor ran into the wall to avoid crashing into her and falling out of the TARDIS. “There are things you aren’t supposed to know,” he gasped. “Do you understand, now?”
Cameron wheeled herself over. “I don’t see anything. It’s just night time.”
“Stop!” the Doctor held a hand up, but it was too late. Cameron looked up, and her jaw dropped.
Even at a distance, Jack could see Cuddy shivering. Neither he or Ianto made a move, knowing that when the Doctor meant business, they should listen. “This is horrible,” Cuddy said. “You were going to keep us in the dark about this.”
“I fixed it. Me and others, we fixed it.” But there was pain in the Doctor’s voice of a sort Jack hadn’t heard since the Doctor recounted how he lost Rose. “It’s only for a short time, and it’ll be all right.”
“How is that all right? How can this possibly be all right?”
Chase had been shifting on his feet the whole time, as though debating whether to go and see. Finally, he stepped forward. “Oh my god. There are planets in the sky!”
Jack and Ianto exchanged glances. Then Jack heard a voice he had hoped never to hear again anywhere near Earth, and something must have shown on his face, because Ianto was by his side immediately.
“It’s all right, sir. It’s all right.”
But it wasn’t. Cold dread gripped him, and he clung to Ianto’s arm as cries of “Exterminate” drifted through the open door. Realizing there was no point in hiding any longer and deciding that if Daleks invaded Earth in the near future, Ianto should be as well informed as possible, Jack moved toward the door. The sun and moon were nowhere to be seen, but innumerable planets drifted in their place. Clouds of flame and laser beams illuminated the darkness as Daleks blasted apart the emergency response Bundeswehr fighters.
“I’m so sorry,” the Doctor said, looking at Cuddy. “I had hoped you would never have to know what a Dalek was.”
Several gargoyle heads exploded as the TARDIS shuddered and lurched, sending Donna sprawling across an almost nude statue. “I really need to redecorate,” she said, the tip of a fig leaf poking her in the face. “Or just clean. Putting everything in garbage bags will do this place wonders aaaaaah!”
Another tremor sent her flying in the other direction, and the statue fell over, shattering into pieces. “This is bonkers!” she groaned, grabbing the console with a death grip so the TARDIS wouldn’t buck her off. She shifted a few levers and read the print-out on the two screens that weren’t displaying static. “You idiot! Stupid, idiot computer.” There was a whine, and she patted a round green thing as though it were her pet. “Aww, I don’t mean you. Just the auto-pilot program.”
It was disheartening to think she had come this close to finding the Doctor, and rather than letting her know, the computer had decided to plow right into him. They’d be lucky if the energy from the collision didn’t rip a hole through one or two dimensions, and she thought the Time Lords would’ve been smart enough to build in protections against this sort of thing. “I guess high and mighty Time Lords don’t tailgate.”
The TARDIS made one final, valiant effort to recover and failed. The central column ground to a stop and the lights went out. Donna banged on the console, remembering the Doctor always tried that as a last resort. There was no response, so she felt her way through the darkness until she reached the door. If she was stuck, she might as well meet the neighbors. The last readings before the power failed suggested she hadn’t damaged the universe, so hopefully she wasn’t in the middle of a paradox or something.
She pulled the lever for the door, but it seemed to be having trouble. She went over to push on it and after a moment it gave way. She stepped out and was nearly blinded by reflecting light.
Oh god, it's even worse than I'd feared, she thought.
The sound a materializing TARDIS makes is the sound the universe would make if it were to collect and organize itself long enough to do so. In the entirety of time and space it is a wholly unique sound, and to the lucky few who have heard it before, it is recognizable in an instant.
Nearly everyone on the starship Heart of Gold jumped (except for Marvin, who didn't have the necessary knee joints) when the sound echoed ominously through the huge, white hull of the ship for the second time in under twenty minutes.
"Impossible!" said the Doctor. "The odds of randomly encountering two active TARDISes in the same place is... at least..."
"600916802234 to one against," intoned Marvin.
"Improbable, then, not impossible," said Trillian.
"Well, yes," the Doctor conceded. Everyone but the Doctor was instinctively looking around for another big, blue, police box.
"Are you sure yours isn't just malfunctioning?" said House suspiciously. The Doctor spluttered something.
"Hey!" exclaimed Zaphod. "Tril, did you pick up a new couch and not tell me? Because this is amazing!" He bounced up and down on a white couch that looked just like all the others.
"Uh oh," said the Doctor.
"Most other TARDISes use a sort of cloaking device to hide their presence," Sarah Jane started to explain.
"Yes, very helpful, except it means you have to remember exactly where you parked it, and I like mine just fine the way it is thanks very much," said the Doctor quickly.
"What's going on?" said Zaphod wildly. Everyone looked at him in confusion and then alarm as the couch cushion he was sitting on was thrown off, sending him sprawling on the floor. He quickly picked himself up and brushed himself off.
A red-headed woman crawled out of the space where the cushion had been.
"That's pretty improbable," Trillian remarked.
"Not so much," the Doctor said, sighing.
The new woman looked around, spotted the Doctor's TARDIS, and said, "Alright, where's the flippin' Doctor? I need to speak with him RIGHT NOW." This was punctuated with a stamp of her foot. House pointed quickly. She looked and appraised the tall, bescarfed man.
"You're the Doctor?" she said.
"Yes, hello, and you are?" he said brightly.
".... Alright, I suppose. Stranger things have happened," she said, ignoring his question. "I need a different Doctor. Tall, skinny, glasses sometimes. Chatty in a really irritating way. Know him?"
"I don't know if he's you in the past or future, see, and I need to speak with him urgently."
"I think he's the one with Jack," said Tosh.
"Jack? Handsome fellow, really flirty? I'm Donna by the way," said the redhead.
"You know him?" asked Tosh, surprised.
"Sure. Only met him briefly, mind you, and we were in a bit of a situation; not much room for chit chat, you know. You know where the Doctor is? My Doctor, I mean," said Donna.
"No," said House. "And please shut up."
Donna stomped over to him. "Excuse me? And who are you to tell me something like that? Mind your manners!" She slapped him across the face. Owen laughed.
"Look," said the Doctor. "I can't take you to see him, I don't know where he is. But we will be meeting up with him eventually if you want to come with us." She thought it over for a moment.
"Fine," she said. "We're leaving now, then. No time to waste. How many of you are traveling with the Doctor?" Owen, Tosh, Sarah Jane, and Wilson raised their hands. House rolled his eyes and raised his cane. "Wow, do you usually travel with enough people for an orgy?" she asked the Doctor.
He grinned at her. "Only under special circumstances," he said.
"Fine. The rest of you, do not touch that couch," she said. "It's mine and I'll need to pick it up later. Bye!"
"Wait," said Owen. "I don't want to leave yet!"
"Too damn bad! We're leaving! Hustle!"
Dimitri DeLovely slumped casually in an ornate wooden chair, one leg slung over the side and his chin resting delicately on his other fist. From its place atop a dais at the end of the hall, the chair overlooked the entire room. He frowned contemplatively at the tapestries on the wall. A smallish man in a neat but informal black outfit squirmed but maintained his slightly bowed position.
Neither man spoke for several long seconds.
Finally, Dimitri turned his gaze back to the little man. "Is that all?" he said. The man, who went by the name of Gordon Rothgard, started.
"N-no, my lord. I have information that Commander Vimes of the City Watch is personally leading this case."
Dimitri waved a hand dismissively. "Is that all?" he said in a bored tone. "I remember the Watch. They were a sad bunch of lazy, corrupt incompetents. They'll be no trouble." Rothgard gaped at him.
"With all due respect my lord, the last time you were in the city was nearly thirty years ago. Have you not heard the rumors? This Vimes character has shaped the Watch into an impressive force. They say he cannot be bribed, that he's straight as an arrow. They say he single-handedly stopped a war and that he fought a dragon! They say the Watch is huge under him. They say there's a werewolf, an Igor, and even a vampire in the Watch."
Dimitri stared impassively through drifts of shiny black hair. "A vampire?" He grinned, showing off elongated canines. "Interesting." Pause. "It doesn't matter though. He's not important. It is Vetinari I'm interested in. How much does he suspect?"
"With all due respect, my lord, I wish you would please consider my advice on this. Commander Vimes could prove a danger to us." Rothgard was trembling visibly under the weight of Dimitri's stare.
"Fine," said Dimitri after a pause. "Gather a group to investigate him, bring me back any information you can find out, and have a spy infiltrate this Watch, of course." His voice then took on an underlying tone of satisfaction. "Now tell me about Vetinari," he purred.
"It's difficult, my lord. Our spy made it into the Palace, but getting anywhere near Lord Vetinari is proving next to impossible. He stays in his office all day, my lord! We don't even know when he sleeps! It's nearly impossible to tell if he suspects anything, though rumors are that he has a person everywhere, that he always knows what's going on in his city before anyone else."
"It's a good thing we're not in the city then, hmm?" Dimitri's grin was slightly feral now.
"Er, yes, my lord...."
"You speak as though he never leaves the Palace, but he must. He's the Lord of the city, he must attend public functions and the like."
"Oh, he does, my lord. He never takes any bodyguards with him either, it is most peculiar."
"I suspect it's because he thinks bodyguards would be quite useless anyway," mused Dimitri. "I've heard he graduated from the Assassin's Guild school."
"That's what everyone says, my lord," said Rothgard earnestly. "But I cannot find any record of it. No one can prove it. In fact, it seems like no public records even exist of Vetinari before he became Patrician."
"He must have gone to great lengths to make that so," said Dimitri. He looked like a wild cat intent on its prey.
"Indeed, my lord," Rothgard agreed.
"I do not like this consistent lack of helpful information," growled Dimitri. "Place another spy in the Palace. Make it one of the, ah, special ones if you have to. Get what I want and get it fast."
"Y-yes, my lord," squeaked Rothgard.
"One more thing," Dimitri said as Rothgard turned to go. Rothgard froze. "Where is Dante? I have not seen him all day."
"I expect he'll be back soon, my lord."
"Good. You are dismissed." Rothgard walked out of the room as fast as possible and Dimitri stared vacantly at the far door.
So there was another nuisance he had to watch out for, hmm? Commander Vimes. Ah well. He'd been planning for this for decades, and nothing could stop him now. Vetinari was his biggest worry, anyway. He'd heard things about Vetinari.
He smiled grimly.
It didn't matter. None of it mattered. His Plan was perfect, it accounted for every contingency, he had recruited the best minions, and most importantly, he had planned everything himself. Only his brother had been in on the planning--no one else under him knew everything, and that was key.
If everyone was kept a little in the dark, no unlikely betrayers could bring down the Plan.
Nothing could possibly happen.
Ankh-Morpork would be razed to the ground.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about the Discworld: "Probability says that it can't exist. Therefore, it almost certainly does."
To Chapter 15: Divine Heroin Muffin
Back to Arc 2: The Search for Chula
Summary: Owen finds an orgasmatron aboard Four's TARDIS, Ten can't figure out the properties of ketchup, Cuddy becomes sex-obsessed, Susan has to deal with ducks infesting Death's Domain. Oh, and Daleks.