Standard disclaimers, yadda yadda. Thankya to Erica for finding all of my lost words. I'm just a font of productivity. Better eke out as much as I can before the well dries up, y'know. So, yeah, peer pressure. Me.
The electrical current from the exposed cabling on the underside of the TARDIS control column jolted right up the Doctor's arm and he had to bite his lips together to not yelp. "Bad ship," he grumbled, still lying on his back. "No banana."
Twisting the wires and yet another rigging job, he finished it off with some good old-fashioned electrical tape, got everything started with the sonic screwdriver and exhaustedly got up to examine his handiwork.
Looking at the cables running from the top of the column down to the open access panel (that now wouldn't close, thanks to the excessive cabling), he realized it looked like hell. But he also had to keep the time rotor from sticking by beating it with a rubber mallet half the time, so garishness was in the eye of the beholder.
Whether this was functional ugliness like the rubber mallet or not remained to be seen.
Taking a break, he got up and stretched his neck, then wiped his hands off, leaning back on one of the metal railings to look everything over. He'd been working on this for weeks, planning it for even longer. The last three tests had gone horribly, ranging from broken hoses and fuses to electrocution but he was determined to make it work this time. He really did need to make up for how badly things had gone today. And yesterday. And the day before.
Three lovely days meant to be spent in mid-twentieth century up-state New York ended up being three lovely days spent in seventeenth century England. Replete with being accused of witchcraft. So, y'know. They had a full weekend.
Violet was still a little irritated with him—it wasn't so much that she'd been convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to burn (after being nearly drowned, of course—which had actually been the whole problem to begin with. She needed to have NOT held her breath for ten minutes, thereby convincing them that yes, yes she was in fact, a witch), but that they'd actually set the pyre on fire before he'd managed to rescue her. She hadn't spoken to him the entire night after they'd gotten back to the TARDIS.
Which was why he needed this little project to work so badly. He watched the numbers tick down on one of the monitors as the ship prepared to drop out of the vortex. No time like the present to test a theory.
It wasn't like he hadn't had his own problems, of course. But he'd been smart enough to just confess to the witchcraft early on, whereas Violet had somehow thought she could beat the local government at its own game. That kind of determination was adorable when she was staying up all night making complex space-time algorithms work. It was less adorable when the price of failure was getting set on fire.
But, ultimately, the miscalculation was his fault and by extension so was the part where she'd nearly been barbequed for her tenth birthday. The Double Digit birthday was not to be taken lightly, and because of this, it was exceptionally rude to almost get her killed when all they'd meant to do was go to a rock concert.
He was all about training the kid in the classics. Pergolesi, Puccini, Pink Floyd…Well, that and she'd lost her taste for pre-twentieth century music after Mozart smashed her hair around her head and called her a strange little child with questionable tastes. That tended to ruin the arts for a kid.
You'd think he'd have been more grateful, the Doctor mused. They HAD saved the bloke from having his head removed and his brain embalmed by over zealous antique harvester droids.
The TARDIS dropped into space fairly quietly and with a minimal of jostling, for which he was grateful. He had probably about even odds that it hadn't caused her to wake. If it did, she'd be in the control room in a flash, ready to dash out the door before she even knew where they were.
She didn't stir, however. He waited a full five minutes before flipping on the alternating power, then bouncing the appropriate signals through the void, past the crack in the universe, into another universe, off fourteen satellites, and…
When he heard it ringing, the Doctor grinned manically, giddily holding the ugly early 1990's model receiver to his ear. He almost jumped out of his skin with anticipation by the fourth ring, and by the fifth he was crushed with defeat.
Defeat turned to elation when someone actually picked up on the other end. "Hello?" he called out, while the other person was still fumbling with the receiver.
"Who the hell is this? Do you know what the hell time it is?"
The Doctor didn't, but he could guess. Jackie Tyler was even more pleasant after having her 'beauty' sleep broken. "I-is Rose there?" Oi. He sounded like a sixteen year old calling a girl for the first time.
"It's three in the morning, of COURSE Rose is here! Who the hell is this? Is it someone from the office? My husband's going to have your head…"
He could just hang up. It worked. It had really, truly and actually worked, now that he had a power source big enough (unreliable at that, but now he knew how to do it). They had a two way conversation going between dimensions. Sometimes it hurt to be as clever as he was. No really, it physically hurt.
There was more fumbling. "Rose!" The Doctor pulled the phone away from his ear. "It's some idiot from your office! Apparently the world's ending and they couldn't reach you on your mobile."
He'd have to work up to the mobile. It bounced off a few more satellites than the connection could handle, currently. He thought the house number was clever enough for one day.
Another receiver in the house picked up, and there was more rustling. "Yahmm?"
His heart caught in his throat, and he couldn't speak. Just hearing that much of her voice again, after so long… It killed him to hear how much she sounded like Violet, when he was forced to wake her up from a sound sleep.
"Hello?" She groaned. "Don't tell me they hung up…" He could hear her getting ready to plunk the phone back on the base.
"No, wait! Hi! It's me, I just…" He ran a hand through his hair, letting out a nervous breath. "Rose… I did it."
The silence caused a thousand thoughts to race through his head. What if she didn't recognize the sound of his voice? What if it was too distorted over the void, what if she was mad about being awakened…
All of that fell away when he heard her take a deep breath. It was as if he could hear her smiling. "Doctor?"
Sliding onto the floor, he rested his head against the control column in relief. "In the flesh, er…voice. Something. I'm sorry I woke you up. But I wanted to try this while Violet was still asleep. I didn't want her to be too disappointed if it didn't work."
It was as if they'd never been out of touch. Sure, the frequent text messages had helped, especially since they'd been able to boost the bandwidth about a year ago to transmit short audio attachments and pictures. But real, live, synchronous communication… Far more than he'd have dreamed of ten years ago.
Rose laughed, telling of all the complaining her mother was doing out in the hall—the phone had been ringing for the last two weeks at all hours of the night and day, with all of his failed experiments. Maybe one, two rings…but a few times it'd rung longer, but when they'd picked it up, no one had been there, but the line itself would be locked up for hours. Pete had the whole house rewired over the weekend, which might have contributed to his success. The house had been old and those lines had probably been close to a hundred years in age and use. A bit of fiber optic wouldn't go amiss.
He told her about why Violet was angry with him now, and that, truth be told, she had every right to be. It was quite possibly the worst way to spend a birthday. He didn't celebrate them, personally, but he had discovered over the past few years just how important they were to little girls who could count all the years of their lives on two hands' worth of digits.
"You'd better have gotten her a cake," Rose warned. "I've gotten approximately thirty-two emails about the type of cake she wanted…all within the last week."
Elbows resting on his knees, the Doctor relaxed a little more and laughed. "Ballerinas. She hasn't been nearly-killed by any lately, so they're still in her good graces. I know, I know. I completely had that under control—for about twenty minutes. Had a rough landing… bits of cake ALL over the wall of the control room. THEN she almost drowned AND was set on fire. I think by the time we got back in the ship, she'd had quite enough of me, and my idea of birthdays. She stalked right off to her room, wet AND smoldering. She's marching out of the control room, and she walks over to the wall, scrapes a handful of topping off, licks her fingers and declares that AT LEAST I got the right kind."
Rose fell into a fit of laughing on the other end. "Oh Lord. Mum'll love that. Of course, I'm not sure which one of you she'll be laughing at."
"Jackie COULD cut me some slack, I AM dealing with a miniature version of herself."
Rose asked what the likelihood of that would be, and even he had to admit, it was slim to none.
They pattered on for hours about everything and nothing. The mess under Violet's bed, Pete's latest patent, the latest ugly wiring on the entirely out-of-hand TARDIS control column, Rose finally giving in and buying a car…a little blue Japanese rice burner that smelled odd in the winter…It was almost like having her there…but it was also a very present reminder of just how far apart they were.
'Someone' was either bored or hungry, because about four hours later, Violet came wandering into the control room still in her pink and purple flannels, looking worse for the wear. He was lying on the grill, feet propped up on the console like it was a Friday night and he was chatting with his best girl.
"You look… ridiculous," Violet informed him with a yawn. Her stuffed sheep was still clutched under her arm, and he wasn't entirely sure she knew that she'd dragged it along with her.
The Doctor grinned, sitting up. "And here is the birthday girl now. You're never going to guess who I have--"
And she never would, either. The ship rocked, tossing Violet against the wall. The phone snapped out of his hand, and he scrambled after it as the ship jostled again, as if it had been hit. When he put the receiver to his ear, the line was dead.
One more throttling later and he had scrambled to his feet, looking at the monitors. Someday, he'd like to just come up one for the better on these things.
They'd just popped in and out of four places and times in a matter of thirty seconds, according to these readings. Nothing the TARDIS herself had done, however. Perhaps this was a byproduct of the energy he'd been funneling through the ship, trying to make the call? Maybe he'd let it go on too long. Who knew when he'd be able to try it again.
Sitting up, sheep still tucked under arm, Violet rubbed her eye and yawned. "What horrible place are we at now? Maybe we can a place that'll accuse me of heresy. Or better yet…collusion with the Ottomans. Maybe we're in a place where I can be possibly stretched on a rack! I know, why don't we go to Eastern Europe! Vlad the Impaler hasn't tried to run me through, yet!"
Ahh yes. Melodrama and righteous indignation. A lethal combination.
The Doctor shook his head, waving a hand at her while he tried to figure out their coordinates. A place would be easy enough, then he'd have to derive a time based on relative star position. It wasn't difficult, just too much cross-referencing. "Go put some clothes on, and I'll tell you where we're at. And if you're lucky, I won't hand you over to the local constabulary as a stow-away."
She frowned at him, as if trying to figure out whether he was telling the truth or not, but did as he asked.
It took a minute to work out, but here they were. The place was the Sarraras System. The year was somewhere around three thousand. And outside…
He walked around to another monitor, flipping the switch for the external display. The space colony was beautiful. It looked like a glass Christmas ornament the color of old Coke bottles. It had a rounded dome that met the base level of the city then made a delightfully sophisticated inward curve to a long point disguising the stabilizing thrusters. If a city could be a work of art, he'd certainly found it.
Double-checking a reading, he frowned. The Doctor had also just found the tiniest, faintest distress signal in a perpetual loop. No telling how long it had been broadcasting, or how the ship had picked it up.
A few minutes later, Violet was standing beside him, her hair buried under a bandanna and the bright pink sheep still tucked under her arm. He inspected her attire. "Aren't we just the little artist today."
Some burnt, frazzled strands stuck out of the teal and magenta rag. It was time for a hair cut. The jumper was black and so were the jeans, which only left pink socks sticking out of the rubber-soled Mary Janes she insisted on wearing everywhere.
Cheeks red and dry from the fire, she had the look of someone who did not want to be annoyed today. So did the grumpy pre-breakfast glare.
As long as she didn't come back to the TARDIS with half a dozen face piercings today, then he'd call it a win. If he could somehow rectify the birthday situation, that'd be the cherry on top.
He pointed to the monitor. "Amazing, isn't it? Made entirely out of living crystal. It's a self-sustaining greenhouse environment ideal for growing--"
Violet walked away from the monitor. "Let's just get this over with and get to the part where a plant tries to eat me."
Oh, she was NOT in a good mood today.
TO BE CONTINUED…