Episode 1 - A Madman in a Box
How does the story begin? It begins with blackness. One moment, a vacant office building over the holidays and a desk manned by a lone soul, working the holiday. The aforementioned blackness came next.
Waking up was an education. An education, for one, in how much a head can hurt but have capacity for more pain. An education, as well, in how quickly danger can make the most groggy person jump to attention.
I awoke in the midst of screams and shouts. Metal clanged and a dreadfully familiar sound was repeating itself around me. I came to in what looked to be a storage room of sorts. A storage rom that stank, a pungent odor that made me want to gag. Moving actually triggered the light to turn on.
A scream of shock formed at my throat, held down only by the sheer strength of my horror.
The odor was from bodies.
The bodies were arranged haphazardly, simply tossed in for, one suspects, incineration. They were clothed in dirty rags and many had scars and burns. Most importantly, it was easy to see not all were... human. Not with their pigmentation.
I looked down at one set of vacant eyes in particular, on a head that had little pyramidal shapes where ears should be. And two very familiar tendrils - or tentacles? - attached to the back of the head and skull.
The first thought is that it's a dream. But it's only the first thought. The senses are too powerful for it to be a dream. No, I was not dreaming. Something bizarre had happened.
I had no more time to think about it. The necessities of the moment intervened.
The door opened and a man appeared there. His uniform was dark gray, with red and blue markings on the breast, and my mind immediately connected the dots: Imperial uniform. His blaster was coming up as he gawked at me in surprise.
Thankfully he was barely five and a half feet tall and maybe weighed a hundred and fifty pounds. Outmassing the poor Imp by about three to one was an advantage in close quarters that even the untrained can exploit. I slammed into him and kept going, eventually smashing him against the far wall. He cried out and went limp. His blaster pistol dropped from his hand. I scooped it up. Not that it'd be worth much as I'd never used a firearm before. But there is security in holding a deadly weapon when you've got gunfire and screaming going on in the distance.
I took a good look at him now. While his uniform was clearly Imperial, the red insignia was not that of the movie-era Galactic Empire but of the TOR-era Sith Empire. Which really did me nothing; both were bad picks to be stuck in.
A flood of what I would normally call humanity rushed down the hall toward me. I say normally because aside from the different skin tones, I saw enough fur to know it included Wookiees. On second glance were some Houk too.
My choices at that point were to get trampled or to try to run as quickly as I could. So I did something I was soon to get a lot of practice at: I ran. I ran and ran until I found a junction. Lettering above it told me both ways led to personnel quarters. I turned right while most of the others turned left.
The fact that I could read Aurabesh off the top of my head and on the run should have been my first freaking clue as to what the future had in store.
Unfortunately, running is not part of my usual routine, and I have the bulky obese body of a 21st Century American to prove it. Going up and down three stories every day is about the limit of my usual physical exertion. Adrenaline and sheer terror helped a bit but soon enough my heart was beating so hard it made me sick and I couldn't even feel the air entering my lungs given how hard they were heaving.
I didn't get trampled, at least.
Other figures rushed passed me. I made out people dressed like the abbatoir I'd been in when I first arrived in this damn place, of various races and with devices attached to the backs of their necks. The monotony of their ragged clothing only temporarily faded at two figures who were in what I would generously call dancer's outfits. Generously because there was precious little on their bodies that wasn't uncovered. I got only a glimpse of green and white skin before they were passed me.
I, meanwhile, came to a stop. The green-skinned figure turned back. "They're almost here!", she yelled at me.
"Can't... run... can't... go on!" Or rather that was what I tried to say. Looking back I was wheezing so hard I wouldn't be surprised if it sounded like an asthmatic Wookiee.
As for telling them to go on, well...
There comes a point when your mind just kicks in with a hard dose of reality. Now that I was trying to catch my breath I did the calculation. I was too fat to run. I had a pistol and I was betting they had, at the very least, blaster rifles, if not battle droids and even Sith. There was no way I could escape and no way I could win a fight. So I had to pick my doom. I decided that I would probably not like the result of getting captured. So I picked the other alternative.
Sounds brave doesn't it? All heroic, all noble, with Mel Gibson's voice shouting "FREEEEDOM!" or the old Patrick Henry adage "Liberty or Death" and all.
The truth was I was pretty damned terrified. I didn't want to die. I really didn't want to die in this place, never to find out how the hell I wound up here. It was just that, among all options, dying was the best. Dying while shooting at Imperials was icing on the crap cake.
I'd barely begun to regain my breath when the first Imperials entered sight. I squeezed off a shot that went way over their heads and did nothing but reveal my position. Blaster bolts sizzled by me, their heat hot enough to scald even from a near miss. I was still wheezing from my run earlier and could barely aim my next shot. This one went right between two troopers as a small squad of them advanced.
A blaster bolt struck me in the side. Pain went through me and sent me down, unable to move. This was it then? A couple piddly shots? I knew I sucked at this but I'd hoped to buy a little more time.
A thought came to my head. How would those people who ran on remember me? The overweight Human in the brown uniform that looked nothing like they'd seen before? Would they speak about it? Would they ever talk about my staying behind, buying a few precious seconds? If any escaped here and got back to some nice world in the Republic would there be stories about me? Maybe a historical oddity to be debated over?
The first trooper came up toward me with blaster rifle leveled. I couldn't see his face through his helmet but I imagined it was confusion at my dress. It would only buy me another moment of agonizing pain in the blaster wound that was slowly killing me.
And then his blaster flew out of his hand.
I looked over to see the two who had called out to me. The light-skinned girl was staying back, but the green-skinned one - clearly a Mirialan given the black triangle tattoos on her cheeks - had her hands extended. The rifle flew into her hands and she fired one shot after the other until the four troopers who'd come after me were dead, too surprised to return fire. She walked up to me as I felt my breathing slow. "Alright tubby, we've got a place to hide."
I let both of them pull me to my feet. I suspect the Mirialan girl was using whatever Force power she had to help support my weight. Others ran up ahead of us, including a Wookiee who was quick to lift me up.
I started to black out. When I came to we were in an Imperial officer's quarters. "...starting to regain control, we have to find a way off this station before..."
I looked up. One of the older beings, a Twi'lek, was talking. I'd been set down on the bed. "Woh, don't move too much," a Twi'lek woman said. "I still don't know if you're going to make it."
"Probably not," I muttered. The pain was still inside of me and my breathing was becoming shallow. The damage to my body was far too severe. "Where am I?"
"In deep bantha poodoo," the Mirialan said, smirking. "You're lucky we came back for you. We'd have rolled you along but..."
"Ha ha, very... ungh..."
The pain changed. Somehow I knew that the growing sensation of pins and needles spreading through my body was not the kind of thing you got from a bolt of excited plasma to the side of your torso. Something else was wrong. Very wrong. Was I having some kind of heart attack?
"Get... get away...", I mumbled to them as I stumbled to my feet, energy welling up inside me as the sensation grew stronger. What was going on? What was happening to me? I looked down to see golden light forming around my hand.
Before another thought could be had, I threw my head back and felt the sensation fill every fiber of my being, golden light filling my vision. It was... I can't describe it. I can only say that I felt a sense of invigoration.
When the light ended I staggered back to the bed. My head was spinning and I was, for the moment, incredibly disorientated. It was only when this feeling faded, after what felt like hours and had to be a few minutes at least, that I realized what had happened; my pants, both normal and underpants, were literally in a pile around my ankles. I looked down and was surprised to not see the gut I was used to. Instead I had a waist that was probably no more than thirty-six inches... explaining the wardrobe malfunction. "Okay, this is just embarrassing," I said.
Everyone stared at me, and for good reason. In place of my nice, normal American accent was a proper English one, with my voice a little deeper, just a little, and not quite as... okay, I'm not sure how to describe my normal voice save that I have never liked hearing it. Racking my mind for well known English accents I was familiar with I couldn't say for sure which one was closest to what I had now.
I looked at their expressions. Of course. This accent was, to them, an Imperial accent. "Why do you sound like an Imperial now?", the brunette girl with the Mirialan asked, ironically with the same accent I now had.
"I don't sound like an Imperial, they sound like me," I remarked defensively. "Can someone find me new pants? And... is that a medical scanner?" I looked at the Twi'lek woman, noticing her cyan complexion was marred by scarring. "I have a suspicion. Please scan me."
As someone rifled through an Imperial officer's drawer for the pants I requested - thankfully my uniform shirt now provided modesty - the woman did as I asked. She stared at the readings. I could already guess why. "Let me guess." I drew in a breath. "Two hearts."
"Well, yes," the woman answered.
Yeah, like losing twenty inches of waist and developing an accent that makes me sound like I should be teaching at Oxford hadn't already clued me in on what happened.
"What are you?", the Mirialan asked, her tone cautious.
"Well, not Human anymore," I mumbled. No indeed, I was something else entirely now.
I'd been turned into a Time Lord.
Another Human from the group huddled in these spacious quarters pulled a pair of pants out of a closet and some red fabric I realized was the local equivalent of underpants. The Twi'lek behind him was carrying a plain gray jacket. "Thank you," I mumbled to them. The pants pulled on easily enough and the jacket was a bit large, but not overly much. I slipped it on over the white undershirt that I had been wearing. I took a long look at my guard uniform and put it away. A quick peek at a mirror on the wall confirmed I was about the same height as before but with the lost weight. My cheekbones weren't as prominent and my face was now an oval more than it was round, the distance between my chin and forehead slightly more than that between my cheeks and the width of my jaw. I was cleanshaven now too, with short dark hair, with my old light complexion still present.
It occured to me that if I put on a black duster and walked around with a wooden stick I could be mistaken, at a distance, for Harry Dresden. Not exactly the figure I wanted to be comparable to given all the crap he endures.
And then a thought came to me. I picked up the old pair of pants and checked the pockets. The rear pocket where my wallet should have been yielded another item in brown leather. I opened it and saw a plain piece of white paper. I put it in the pocket of my new garb and reached into the other pocket to pull out two other very important tools.
"What is that?", the Mirialan asked, suspicion evident in her voice.
"This?" I brought the light gray object up. I suppose it could have passed for a very small lightsaber hilt. I pressed a button that I knew was a test function key and saw the purple tip light up with a whirring sound. "Sonic screwdriver. And it's purple. I like purple. It's my favorite color. They should make purple lightsabers."
"They do," the Mirialan hissed. I didn't know her name yet and really should have asked by that point. "The Sith use them."
"Oh, they won't always. One day there's going to be a very powerful Jedi Master feared for his purple lightsaber. Not the brightest, but certainly one of the best." I held up the other object to put it around my neck. "And this key is very important as well. Now then, I believe we are in the middle of an escape attempt, correct? We probably should get going, I'm thinking... the nearest shuttle bay." I smiled at them. I wasn't entirely smiling on the inside. I may have survived dying, but I was still in a lot of danger. I could be shot again and then killed before I could regenerate. Even if I did survive such, capture certainly meant the Sith finding out what I'd become. I wasn't particularly interested in a future involving Sith alchemists and scientists given their idea of ethics involved the idea that cold-blooded torture was an acceptable past time and that empathy was for pussies.
As I did so, I was realizing that another effect of regeneration had kicked in: I was being enormously chatty in a social situation when my usual instinct was to stay quiet unless something relevant to my interests came up. I mused what other aspects of my personality had changed. I was certainly feeling less passive at the moment, for one thing.
"What makes you thinK we trust you?", the Twi'lek nurse asked, breaking through my thoughts.
"Are you seriously that upset over the accent? I..."
The door opened suddenly. Two armed Imperials entered, blaster rifles raised. "Surrender now or we open fire!", one demanded, their voice modulated through the helmet.
I used to have a mind like a steamroller; slow but sure, moving from one point to the next, but I could never do things like win those annoying games in school where teachers held up math problem cards and you only advanced if you spoke the right answer faster than the other guy. I sometimes did well thanks to rote memorization, but never as well as my math grades should have allowed.
Now? My mind, in a second, already knew exactly what I had to do.
"Oi, nice lads," I said to them, holding up the wallet-like object from my pocket. "Very good form. But that's not necessary here, as you see."
They looked at the blank paper I was showing them. Of course, to them it wasn't blank. It was a holoprojection of my head with appropriate rank. "Moff, sir, are you okay?", one asked. "We weren't informed you were here."
"Of course. My poor dears here came to me to make sure I knew of their loyalty. We're all due to leave for Vaiken Station soon enough." I smiled. "I believe you have other renegades to be chasing down. Come on lads, the Emperor wouldn't want you dallying about with me, right?"
"Of course not, Moff," the other said. His voice was young. "We'll be going sir, sorry for interrupting."
"Oh, no bother. You're doing your duty to the Empire, my lad. I trust you'll have those rebels in the cages soon enough. Off with you."
When I finally got them out and looked back, I was staring into the barrel of a blaster rifle. The Mirialan girl had a very angry look on her. I brought the item up again. The girl stared at it and made a face. "You are not Master Din," she replied.
"Not at all," I agreed. "Psychic paper. It lets me pass as whatever I have to." A grin crossed my face. "As for escape... the fact that I have these things and that the paper works means I have a means of escape handy. What is your name, by the way?"
"Janias," she answered. "This is Camilla."
The brunette in the "dancer" outfit nodded. "And who are you?", she asked.
"Time for that later... and I think it's rather unfair that I got sass over the accent but Cami over here gets a free pass." I motioned to the door. "Alright everyone, off we go. Just stay behind me and we'll get out of here. Yes yes, come on, allons-y my friends, allons-y! And hold out that rifle, Janias, I need to do something with it..." I pulled out my sonic and activated the scan feature, running it over the surface of the blaster.
"You'd better not be disabling it," Janias remarked.
"Not at all, not at all," I assured her. "Just... being prepared. They say chance favors the prepared mind."
"That sounds almost like a Jedi saying I know."
"Yes, very wise saying, yes?" I had gotten it from one of the villains of Under Siege 2, actually. I wasn't surprised to hear her talk about knowing Jedi sayings given what I'd seen from her so far. If we got out of this, I had questions for dear lovely Janias. "Anyway, we had better get going."
I took the lead, following the signs and my own senses towards the shuttle bay. "Do you have a ship big enough for all of us? One we can escape their fighters in?", Camilla asked.
"I've got something better," I promised. At least, I was sure I did.
We entered the receiving area for the shuttle bay and the various hangers. I reached the far door and opened it to find a blaster rifle at my face. I brought the psychic paper back up. The soldier began to inspect it.
"I will see this."
The voice was deep and not entirely organic, being spoken through a respirator unit. The guards parted and allowed a large figure to approach me.
I cursed my luck. It wasn't just a Sith Lord, but perhaps the scariest one in this era: Darth Malgus. The man took an RPG to the face and then a grenade, after which he got blasted with Force energy sufficient to make a rock formation explode. He didn't just survive that, but survived it intact enough to lead the massacring of the Jedi on Coruscant during the sack of that city-world.
You don't mess with a man who considers getting his face exploded by an RPG to be an inconvenience.
Which, of course, was exactly what I intended to do. Because among other things, it seemed I was also now confident to the point of near-arrogance.
"Mental trickery," he said dismissively, batting away my psychic paper. I lost my grip on it and it went flying to the metal ground nearby. "Sufficient to fool those without the Force, perhaps. But not me."
"They're surrounding us," Janias muttered in my ear. I could hear their footsteps. More troops had arrived from different points. We were caught in a trap.
"You may want to put the rifle down," I whispered back.
My hand closed around the sonic screwdriver in my pocket. It should have had enough time... but I wanted to be sure. If I could buy a second or two, especially to keep Malgus from using the Force to stop me.
"Who are you?", he asked.
In retrospect, my thought on this is "God damn you, Malgus. God damn you for giving me that."
At the time, my thought was "He actually gave me the perfect setup line! He gift-wrapped it!"
I smiled at him and let out a laugh. I'd decided on how to answer. I'd decided, honestly, far too quickly, but I was buoyed by newfound confidence and an assertive streak in my new personality, now mixed with my habitual enjoyment of the dramatic.
"Who am I?", I said, repeating the question.
"Do not toy with me!" He brought his right hand up. I suspected if he didn't like the next thing I said I'd have a crushed trachea.
My hand came out of my pocket.
"I'm the Doctor," I answered.
Oh the arrogance.
At the time I was grinning like a Cheshire cat, like I'd just said the most awesome thing ever. I could see the bewilderment in his face and I could sense the same from the Imperial troops. The question on their minds was obvious. "Doctor who?"
All in all, it bought me an extra two seconds. Which, as it turned out, was enough.
I said one more word. "Run."
I brought up my right hand, the tip of the screwdriver pointing upward. My thumb pressed down on the activation button of my sonic screwdriver. The purple light came to life with the familiar whir of active sonics.
It was drowned out by the hisses and pops coming from Malgus and his men as their weapons and active electronics exploded with sparks. Janias shrieked as the blaster rifle she'd guarded jealously did the same, forcing her to drop it. Her reaction was quick enough to avoid burns to her bare hands.
Malgus' lightsaber had erupted in sparks as well, some of them backfiring and striking his arm and shoulder to cause serious injury there. But he had another piece of technology; his respirator, now sparking just as badly. He clawed it off his face.
By this point I'd turned back to the others. "I meant you!", I shouted at the escapees. "Run!" I turned to retrieve my psychic paper just to see it fly into Janias' hand. I was definitely curious about that one...
The confusion, and the fact that Malgus was now too busy clawing for air to focus on us, allowed us to force our way past Malgus and his men and to the next blast door. I turned and, the moment everyone was through, used my sonic to close it and then seal it.
"How are you doing that?!", Camilla demanded.
"The sonic screwdriver is handy for just about everything," I answered. "Rather like a Swiss Army Knife."
"What's a Swiss?", was her confused reply.
I would have explained further if we weren't so rushed for time.
No one challenged us on the way to the shuttle bay. Once there I sealed the door we came through. But we didn't have long. My priority now was making sure we were in the right place amongst the half dozen or so shuttles.
"If we have enough pilots we can take them all, at least some will escape," a Duros said. I understood him perfectly despite his vocal cords being literally incapable of English aka Basic.
"We're all getting out together," I answered. There was no time to try my key on every craft. This was punctuated when I heard a clang on the sealed door. I could almost feel the malevolent energies of Malgus' rage.
I brought my hand up and snapped my fingers.
In my old body, I couldn't snap my fingers at all. Even at best I barely heard it. But here and now? The snap seemed like a thundercrack in that shuttle bay.
And in the periphery of my vision, doors opened. I turned and faced a cargo pod sitting at the side of the shuttle bay. "And here we go."
"That's just a cargo pod," Janias said. " We can't hide now!"
"It's not a cargo pod, it just looks like one," I replied. "Trust in the Force and not the eyes, right? Isn't that what they teach you Jedi?"
"But it isn't..." Janias was still protesting as I walked up to the doors and inside. "...a ship..." Her voice trailed off as she stepped in behind me, Camilla at her side. The two slave girls' jaws dropped.
FTL drives that make going across the galaxy look like a cross-country drive, massive city-worlds, the Force... it seemed even this galaxy still offered room for some surprise to its denizens.
"What is this place?", Janias asked.
"Welcome to my TARDIS. She can travel anywhere in space or time," I replied, heading up to the central control station. The interior was sufficiently lit but not overly so; it resembled a combination of the Eleventh Doctor''s second control room, with sophisticated looking panels and controls, and the Ninth and Tenth Doctors' with the paneling and lighting, although the primary color was blue. "I suppose not everything can be purple," I mused aloud.
"It's bigger on the inside...", Camilla murmured, her voice tight with surprise. "It's bigger on the inside!", she repeated, her voice louder.
Janias got over being impressed quickly. She moved in and allowed the rush of escapees to enter. They had come to see what Camilla was shouting about. And once they saw the inside, I imagine their trust extended a bit further. I wasn't paying attention as they spread across the control room and toward the immediate side rooms. "Does it fly fast?", Janias asked. "The Imperial fighters will be on us the moment we launch."
"Fly fast? My dear, she re-defines 'fast'. She leaves fast in her dust," I answered, smiling. "Is everyone in?"
There were nods and mumbled affirmations. In the distance we could all hear the groan of metal. Malgus was breaking in.
"Alright, let's not waste time." I snapped my fingers again. The TARDIS doors closed.
By all practical matters I knew the TARDIS controls were meant to be almost non-sensical. They were like Okuda surfaces in Star Trek; the buttons were there to be pressed, it didn't matter how. But somehow I knew how to pilot the TARDIS. What levers to pull, what switches to trip, how fast and how long to rotate the knobs. I surveyed destinations. Coruscant was still rebuilding, the majority of these people would probably end up enthralled to the Migrant Merchants' Guild or in some other trouble. Alderaan... no, civil war there. Corellia was a safe choice for now but I knew it wouldn't be for much longer. Naboo was too close to the Imperial border. There had to be a planet I could...
The control room rocked under my feet. I stumbled against the control center and checked my monitor. Malgus was slamming my TARDIS with the Force repeatedly, determined to break in. "Okay, just go somewhere," I grumbled to myself. I smiled; I had just the place in mind. "Janias, Camilla, get our big friends ready, we're taking on more passengers!", I shouted. I quickly manipulated the controls to set a nearby destination and pulled the switch lever - which looked like something you'd expect for a big fuse box or, well, an electric chair - to start her up.
The glass pillar in the center began moving. A solid VWORP VWORP VWORP came from the pillar, like a vacuum cleaner being turned on and off with the sound being played in slow motion. Within seconds the shaking stopped. I rushed to the door, nearly running into a couple of the others on the way, and threw it open. We were in the slave holds on the station now, the failed escapees corraled in makeshift forcefield cells and looking rather hopeless and dejected even if they saw me. There were a few guards present as well who were raising their blaster rifles. I lifted the sonic screwdriver and triggered it, this time pointing it at them and setting it to a cone-shaped field of effect. The blaster rifles exploded in sparks. The troopers were going for their pistols but the Wookiees and Houk on my side got to them first. The resulting melee battle was short and violent. And it was not in the troopers' favor.
This gave me an opening. I ran up to the central controls. There was a pass code on the forcefield locks so I resorted, of course, to the screwdriver. The little purple light at the end lit up, the whirring filled the room, and after a few moments that were necessary to crack the security I was able to input the shutdown code. The forcefields went down. "All aboard!", I shouted. "Don't worry, she's bigger on the inside!"
I had to smile. As dejected, as lost, as they'd looked earlier... having freedom returned made them act. A few were initially reluctant to get up until prodded by the others, not that I could blame them. I saw the children being hurried along by their parents, or at least guardians. My heart swelled with delight.
Of course, I couldn't stop there. I had to make sure we had time to get them all in.
First I raced around the perimeter of the room, closing blast doors and sealing them. All of the running was getting me winded, although not as badly as before. That done my next trick was to hack into their security systems and disable the blast doors further in the station. It was going to take them hours to get through.
The door at the far end rumbled. Okay, maybe not hours when they had a pissed off Sith Lord present.
I looked back to see the final group getting in. "Come on, Doctor!", Janias shouted at me.
I nodded. At the time I felt, well, like it was the height of coolness that she called me "Doctor". My ego swelled. My freaking ego. I did not need that fed any more at that point, but fed it was. I can look back now and laugh at the absurdity of it all.
It was a harbinger of things to come, of course. Yes, I now use the word harbinger for that moment even if harbinger is usually a sign of something bad coming. Or the name of an excessively talkative metal cephalopod. More on that one later.
I ran faster than I'd yet ran and made it to the TARDIS just as one set of blast dors curved inward, an invisible force having forced them to split. Malgus was on the other side and just oozing rage.
Now you may ask if I stopped to taunt him. If I made some snippy, Doctor-like comment at him. Even my sense of the dramatic can't overcome my survival instinct though. I slammed the TARDIS doors closed, secured their lock, and returned to the control station. We had to get out and fast.
I knew just where to go. I grabbed the relevant knobs and levers and wheels and did what I had to. Then it was time to pull the lever again. The VWORP VWORP VWORP filled the control room.
"Alrighty, we are at our destination," I declared. "You'll find a lot of helpful people here, they're sure to find you a new home." I threw open the TARDIS doors and stepped out onto the gra...
...the stone floor. I looked up and saw a circular table with several individuals sitting around it. Most were in vests or robes of brown or other earthy colors. One woman with her hair pulled into tails on the sides of her head looked at me with surprised teal eyes. Her compatriots were similarly bewildered by our sudden appearance. There was a scowl on the face of the red-haired teenager beside a Togruta female.
I immediately recognized the woman with teal eyes. Grand Master Satele Shan.
I'd just crashed an open session of the freaking Jedi Council.
"Uh, pardon me," I said, hands in front of me. "I seem to have parked in the wrong spot here. Just give me a moment and I'll have my ship somewhere less intrusive."
Yeah, uh, speaking with an "Imperial" accent was probably not the wisest thing I'd done, as at least two lightsabers activated. "Who are you and what are you doing here?", Master Satele demanded.
"Well, I happened to have some passengers in need of assistance," I explained. I moved to let them see inside the TARDIS doors, where a couple of the Wookiees were stepping out with a Twi'lek between them. "I believed it safest to submit them to your care."
"I sense no deception," an older Jedi said. The Human male had a gentle, if rugged, voice; I recognized him as Orgus Din. "Let's hear him out."
"It's got to be a Sith trick," the red-haired girl insisted. I recognized her now as Kira Carsen. The fiery young Padawan was a bit younger than I'd expected, but this was clearly before the decade anniversary of the Treaty of Coruscant.
"I agree with Master Orgus," Tol Braga, the fearsome-looking Kel Dor, chimed in. "Speak, stranger."
"Thank you, Masters," was my response, with a bit of a deferential bow of the head. A part of me bristled, but I shut that bit up. Diplomacy was the rule here.
Now, I couldn't exactly tell them the entire truth. That they were fictional in my home... universe? Reality? I guess cosmos is the best choice there. I also couldn't tell them what I knew of the future, of the fates that Tol Braga and Orgus Din and Syo Bakarn would face. I even had to be cooperative knowing full well that the Empire would eventually learn of what happened here because I couldn't warn them of the dangers ahead. I wasn't going to interfere with history, especially if it could mess up the fixed points in time that were coming.
But I gave them the gist. I was from another galaxy. An unknown power yanked me here. I was a different species that appeared like Humans did but was not Human. I had them verify my second heart to show I wasn't trying an outrageous lie. I may have fudged a bit on being Human before, but after giving it some thought I figured it best not to let slip the entire idea of changing species. As much as it was my impulse to be truthful... there are limits to a being's tolerance for the outrageous. Not only would it make me look insane, it would - if believed - lead to very uncomfortable questions.
When it was all said and done, I think they were convinced, or at least convinced enough to let me go on my way. The slaves I'd rescued were being given quarters until the Jedi could arrange their transit off world.
Finally, the mystery of Janias was revealed.
"Master Ordal Lai died on Druckenwell," Janias said, speaking to the Jedi Council. She and Camilla had replaced their skimpy "dancer" outfits with respectable vests and pants provided by the Jedi. "We lost the ship to the Imperial garrison. I was trapped and had nowhere to go. Eventually slave hunters caught me in the wilderness and took me for a Mirialan taken from a conquered world. I was enslaved and sold into the Imperial markets." Her voice was strained. Given her visible age and the time span being mentioned it occurred to me that she'd spent half a decade in this state. I remembered what she was wearing and her attitude and the probabilities of her life these past few years...
Just because the movies are made to be kid friendly doesn't mean the wider galaxy has to be the same. I shall leave it at that.
"How did they miss the fact you were Jedi?", Master Jaric Kaedan asked.
"I hid my talents with the Force, Master. I did my best to avoid being tested. I don't know how much longer it would have worked but I was determined to not be found."
"A good choice," Satele agreed. "The Force has led you back to us now, Janias. When you recover we will find another Jedi to finish your training."
Looks focused on Janias, who barely budged in her seat. "When I was young I wanted to be a Jedi," Janias admitted. "But I've changed. I've had things happen to me... done to me... and I have new priorities now."
I noticed Camilla take Janias' hand and give it a gentle squeeze. I wasn't the only one who saw that and it made her reasoning quite clear.
It was just my luck too. I was now occupying a body that wouldn't make the opposite sex wrinkle their collective noses in disgust and the first ladies I really interact with turn out to be a lesbian couple. Somewhere my friends, everyone who ever made a joke about my stories having too many girl-on-girl romances, are laughing.
"That is your choice," Master Braga conceded. The look on Kaedan's face was the harshest, but I suspect many of those on the Council were displeased to see a partially-trained Padawan throw away her future in the Jedi for love. I had no issue with it, but then again I've always been critical of the "Love leads to EEEEVILLLL" attitude of the Jedi.
"May the Force be with you then, Janias." Satele nodded to her. She turned to face me. "And what of you... Doctor?"
"The Doctor, yes," I answered. It was laziness I suppose; they were calling me that now so why stop it? It swelled my ego too, which had the unfortunate side effect of stimulating my arrogance. "Oh, I'll be off. I would like to return to my home if I can find it."
"And you will not reveal the routes to get to Tython?", Kaedan asked bluntly.
"I don't know them, Master Kaedan. The TARDIS doesn't fly like your space vessels, I don't use hyperspace." I'd almost put that as "I make no use", but at the last moment my newly-found wordiness lost out to my desire to not sound, well, like a man talking floridly to prove he can.
Kaedan clearly didn't like my answer but he was a minority at the moment. "If you need provisions we would be happy to provide them," Master Satele informed him. "You've done a good deed."
"You'll need those provisions for the people here, Master Satele. I'll be fine." I smiled at her. "I'll be going now. Best of luck to you all."
"May the Force be with you," was the response I got.
I strode into the TARDIS and went up to the controls. My current plan was to just move it to somewhere secluded as I examined things and got my bearings. Home had to be out there somewhere, after all.
Granted, I expected the TARDIS may be less than cooperative. What were the odds it'd do the same thing to me as the real Doctor's TARDIS did to him?
Especially given the sheer variety of possible destinations. I could already tell this TARDIS wasn't limited to just one cosmos. It hadn't been left in this galaxy without being capable of leaving. The possibilities of where I could travel were almost mind-boggling.
I was reaching for a control when I heard the door open. I turned to see it close again. Janias and Camilla were standing on the inside now. "I'm sorry, I suppose I was a bit quick and forgot to say goodbye to you," I remarked.
"We want to come with you, Doctor," Janias said.
For a moment I was silent. Companions were the last thing I was expecting. "You have lives here," I reminded them.
"There's a war coming," Janias replied. "We all know it. There's nowhere Cami and I can go to be safe from the Sith Empire."
"It's not going to be safe with me either," I pointed out to them. "There's a lot of danger out there."
"It can't be worse than what we'd get if the Sith captured us," Camilla retorted. "They'll find us on the record as escaped slaves."
I knew that she was right about that. The war would begin soon and no world would be safe from the Sith. Even Corellia would nearly fall. And I wasn't sure how long or horrible the war would get.
What harm would it do? Janias had Force abilities that could help me. Camilla looked fairly smart. And it'd give me company, something to keep me from going mad as I searched for a way back home. Although that presumed I was sane in the first place.
"You young ladies need to understand something." I walked up to them and looked them in the eye. Well, eyes. "I got ripped from my home, my life, everything I loved. It wasn't perfect and it could be boring or depressing or frustrating but it was still my life and I've lost it. I've been changed into something I wasn't before. My very mind and personality have been altered. And I realize I am being somewhat wordy so I shall try to sum this up simply by saying I am probably very mad right now."
"As in crazy, not angry," I clarified. "The question is this. Do you really want to trust your lives to a madman in a box?"
Janias and Camilla looked at each other. They clasped hands. "We would, Doctor," Janias answered. "After everything we've been through, we'd rather be here than anywhere else."
I was silent for several moments. I could see they were determined. It'd probably be better for them if I tricked them off the TARDIS, but I wouldn't betray trust like that. If this was their decision...
I suppose it made it easier that I really didn't want to be alone right now.
Besides, it wasn't like they were going to conceive a child here on the TARDIS that would later be brainwashed to kill me, right? No harm in letting them have a room and taking them with me to see some sights. I could investigate, maybe see if there was a place they would be happier than this point in time for their galaxy.
"Alright then. I do apologize ahead of time if I sometimes call you Vastra and Jenny. Green alien woman with human woman, the joke practically tells itself."
They looked at me like I was, well, mad. Hey, I did warn them.
I jumped back up the stairs to the controls. I wanted to check the dressing room to find an appropriate suit but for the moment the TARDIS was still, y'know, partially blocking the hallway to the Jedi Council Chamber. It would have been the height of rudeness to leave it there.
The girls got settled in while I shifted us to a quiet place in the Jedi Temple's courtyard. Night was soon to come to this part of Tython but I barely noted as I was instead checking the dressing room for a suit. Something had thoughtfully provided suits that looked much like the known Doctor outfits. I resolved to throw the Sixth Doctor's clown costume into the nearest star at earliest convenience.
In the end I picked none. I wanted something unique to myself. I ignored the purple coat if only because I knew it'd make me look like a Batman villain. A navy blue suit jacket looked better. For the button down I wore under it I picked a lighter blue. No ties. I hate ties. For pants I eventually found a nice pair that matched my jacket. Dark green running shoes topped that off; thankfully regenerating had turned my insane size 22 feet into a more reasonable 15.
I emerged from the dressing room and found Janias and Camilla waiting for me. They were still in the clothes the Jedi had provided while my TARDIS was, well, not stocked in the latest in ladies' wear. A visit to a clothier was probably in order. Janias asked, "So where are we going?"
"Oh, anywhere," I answered. I played with the TARDIS controls and found all the settings I needed. "All sorts of sights to see out there. I'm still thinking of where to... wait." I snapped my fingers lightly. "I'm forgetting something. I know I'm forgetting something."
"What?", Camilla asked.
I stood there musing for a moment. "Oh yes!" I smiled at them. "I'm the Doctor. I can't go traveling around space and time and the whole of reality in some bland Imperial cargo pod, that'd be... it'd be... I wouldn't be the Doctor if I did that." I reached over and played with the chameleon circuit. It took a couple of moments to get what I wanted. "Let's check." I rushed to the door and left the TARDIS, the girls behind me.
"What did you make it into?", Janias asked. "Why is it... blue?"
"This isn't just blue!", I protested. "It's TARDIS Blue." I pressed my right hand on the door that remained closed. "It even feels like real wood!"
Camilla was looking up at the lettering. "What's a Police Call Box?"
"What you're looking at, my dear, is the appearance of an authentic police box of the City of London, circa 1963 Common Era, run by the St. Johns Ambulatory Service," I responded proudly. "It's the only proper appearance for my TARDIS if I'm the Doctor."
"But why would you need a box for that? Didn't they have holos?", Camilla inquired.
"Not at that time, no. No cell phones, no holos, if you wanted to contact someone remotely you had to have a radio or a phone." I smiled at her. "Don't worry, I'll show you how things worked, we'll visit Earth sometime. Well, probably quite a few Earths. So, come along."
I re-entered the TARDIS with them behind. Janias thoughtfully closed the door. I went to the controls. "Well, ladies, it's time to leave this galaxy behind for a while. So many places to see, people to meet!"
"You said we can go anywhere." Camilla walked up and put a hand on the control panel. She didn't press any controls, she just rested her hand on it. "How does that work?"
"The TARDIS can go anywhere in space and time, like I said. Do you know what that means?" I looked up from where I was turning one of the knobs. "Every Planet. Every Star. Every Cosmos. And at any point in time! The Multiverse is our oyster, my dear Companions! We could travel for life times and not see it all!"
As I said that, the thought occurred to me. If I never got home, if I remained a Time Lord, I'd live for centuries. And when my body got too old or was too badly wounded I'd regenerate again and have yet more time. I could almost hear the chords of "Who Wants to Life Forever?" in my head.
Then again, I had nearly died. It sucked. Immortality had its perks.
"So where to first?", I asked. "We can go to the crystal cities of Minbar. Or the rolling hills of Bajor's Kendra Province. Maybe the snowy peaks of Andoria. The City-Ship of Atlantis in the Pegasus Galaxy! The Firefalls of Gal Gath'ong..." I stopped. "Okay, we'd have to be careful there, the Romulans can be tetchy about outsiders. Wait, how about Centauri Prime during the reign of Emperor Vir? The Centauri throw marvelous parties. Although I admit I am partial to the spires of Thessia..."
"Just pick," Janias insisted. "Close your eyes and pick if you want. Let the Force guide us."
Given the normal behavior of TARDISes, Janias' suggestion didn't seem much different from normal. On the other hand, flying the TARDIS blind wasn't something that sounded quite safe. "I think I know just the thing," I finally said, smiling. "Everyone ready?"
I thought of what to say at that moment. I felt an urge to just shout something, something inspiring or fun or simply adventurous, the equivalent of "Allons-y!" and "Geronimo!" It had to be something good. No, not "Let's Get Dangerous", that would be silly. "Let's go!" was simple but was just the English for Ten's line. I needed something good. "Let's roll"... sounded too much like Optimus Prime's "Roll out!" I needed something with... style. Something... British-sounding?
And then I think I got it.
I smiled at them as I gripped the lever. "Tally ho!" I pulled the lever and we were off.
Looking back, this all seemed so innocent at first. Here we were heading out into everything that was, starting our adventure in space and time (Yeah, sorry, couldn't help myself). Adopting the name of the Doctor, well... going by my real name wouldn't work as well, I thought. There was a mystique about a name like "the Doctor" that couldn't be avoided and could be useful. I'd adopted the moniker on a bit of spur of the moment bravado and kept it because Janias and Camilla used it and it felt easier to not change that.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, what my arrogant presumption could cause. But I would learn. I wouldn't enjoy it, but I'd learn.
Oh boy would I learn.
Because something I should have realized was that names are more than just something you call someone or something else. Names have power. Especially a name like the Doctor's.
Ultimately, as much as this is the story of my travels through time and space... it is also the story of how close to disaster I came. It is the story of the fool who forgot the power of a Name.
A story I now share with you.