The Cardiff Experiment
Characters: 11th Doctor Ann Walken, K-9 Mark V, UNIT
Word count: 7624
Betas: sakuracorr, miriel, kesomon
Series: An Earthly Child
A/N: Spoilers for Doomsday
Summary: Losing a child can change a man.
Ann watched the Doctor's hands fly over the console, turning knobs and spinning dials. She sat crossed legged on the car seats humming to herself as the TARDIS' center column moved up and down almost reassuringly. There was a book open in her lap, but she wasn't interested in reading the theory of why the console had to be a hexagon.
The Doctor looked over his shoulder and grinned at her. "You and Rose are going to love this," he told her cheerfully.
Ann grinned widely back at him.
"Ann, will you wake up?" A very annoyed voice said in her right ear.
She groaned and pulled the blankets over her head. Susan shook her arm again. "Come on, we're going to be late for Biology class. Again!"
"Okay, okay." Ann grumbled something unflattering about their teacher and climbed out of bed. Susan was already dressed in her uniform.
"You missed breakfast." Susan crossed her arms over her chest. "And you missed dinner last night."
Ann made a face and started pulling on her school uniform. "Not hungry." She peered at herself in the mirror as she washed her face and brushed her teeth. She looked pale and withdrawn even to herself.
She could see Susan behind her in the mirror, watching. Ann closed her eyes. "I'm fine, Susan. Grandfather just needed a lot of help last night." She shrugged and opened her eyes.
Susan didn't look like she believed her. Ann didn't blame her.
Ann was in English class when she was given the note from her grandfather. Her first thought was to rip it up without reading it. Her second was to try to slip out of the school grounds, not that it ever helped. The third thought had a good deal to do with talking to Kevin and a good deal to do with explosives. Trouble with that thought was that he'd take her up on it.
She felt ill as she opened the note. He was pulling her out of classes again so she could continue her 'private studies'. At least she'd have time to get lunch first…if she could keep anything down.
The twins were already in the dining hall when she got there. She almost ducked back out, not wanting to deal with her friends' questions. Ann got her lunch and joined the twins at their table. She wasn't sure if it was sad or funny that at thirteen they still didn't try to look different from each other.
"Afternoon, Twin," Ann said with a smile.
They both gave her a serious look. "Ann," said the first twin. "We've been talking to Susan."
Ann groaned and put her head in her hands. "Look, I can handle this."
"It doesn't seem you're handling it well." The other twin shook his head. "He might be your grandfather but…."
"But we aren't having this conversation," Ann cut them off.
Kevin slid in next to her at the table. "Yes, we are. Ann, we know something is going on when they take you to the UNIT base all the time." He frowned at her. "We aren't stupid."
Ann pushed the pasta on her plate with her fork. "Kevin, last time we tried to go up against them on anything, what happened? All of our research was taken, Susan's father almost lost his job under accusation of a security breach, and Doctor Williams-" Ann broke off biting her lip.
"Was turned over to the people we aren't supposed to mention." Susan joined them at the table. "Ann, stop poking it and eat it."
Ann took a large fork full of pasta and shoved it in her mouth. She glared at Susan the whole time she chewed.
Susan snickered. "Can't you call what's her name?" she asked after she got her snickering under control.
Kevin rolled his eyes. "Susan, you can't call the dead."
"How do you know she's dead? Just because that fancy database the twins got into said so?" Susan shot back.
Ann rested her elbow on the table. "It doesn't work. I've tried. Besides, if he was coming back, I think he would have done it by now. It's been a while."
"He could be dead," one of the twins volunteered.
"Oh that's comforting," Kevin sighed. "And it doesn't help Ann."
"Who doesn't need help." Ann made herself take another bite of pasta. "They aren't hurting me."
Even the twins stared at her in disbelief.
"They aren't!" Ann protested and told herself that it wasn't a complete lie. "It's just hard keeping track of what I've told them so they don't realize I'm feeding them utter bull. And they keep giving me these run down experiments like I know how to fix them or something. It's just tiring."
Susan chewed on her lip but nodded. "If you're sure you're all right?"
Ann nodded quickly. "I'm fine. I am Susan. They're just trying to show up the local branch of men in black."
"Must we really treat them like a poor man's Lord Voldemort?" one of the twins sighed.
"It's not like they're saying 'they who must not be named'," the other said.
They other three children ignored them.
Kevin was quiet through the rest of lunch, and Ann had the uneasy feeling he wasn't convinced. When he walked with her to the front of the school, which would make him late to his advanced physics class, Ann knew for sure.
"Let me see your arm," Kevin demanded, holding out his hand.
Ann wrinkled her forehead. "My arm?" She held out her right arm.
Kevin scowled and grabbed her left wrist. Ann flinched visibly, which made him scowl deeper. He pushed up her sleeve revealing the bandage over the inside of her elbow and the bruising on her wrist. "Ann."
She chewed her lip and peered up at Kevin. He'd gotten taller than her since he hit fifteen. "Leave it alone, Kevin. He's under a lot of pressure. His whole team has been since the ghost shifts and everything."
"You're his granddaughter!" Kevin protested.
"I'm his experiment, Kevin. I have been since he enrolled me here after my mum died. We probably all are, every single student at this school. They just can't run the tests they want on the rest of you. You've got parents that would notice."
"Ann," Kevin lips were pressed into a firm line. "Give me the word and I'll blow the place to hell and back."
Ann rolled her eyes. "Don't be dramatic." A car pulled up in front of the school, and Ann sighed. "There's my ride. Now go to class before you get in trouble again."
She pretended she didn't notice him not moving from the front steps.
The Doctor opened the door to the TARDIS, then closed it and turned around. "This isn't Pluto," he said to no in particular. Then he looked at the tin dog. "K-9, this isn't Pluto."
"Where is this, master?" K-9 chirped. The Doctor was glad he'd had K-9's voice patterns in the TARDIS databanks. He just wouldn't be the same with a new voice.
"Earth. Cardiff to be exact." The Doctor frowned. "I didn't want to go to Cardiff." He flipped a few switches on the console, and his frown deepened. "This really isn't a nice time for a visit. Nothing interesting happening at all," he told the center column of the TARDIS.
He frowned over a few scanners. "K-9, did I ever tell about the last time I was in Cardiff?"
"Yes, master." K-9 almost sounded put upon.
The Doctor peered down at the dog. "You sure?"
"Affirmative, master," K-9 assured him.
The Doctor sulked for a moment. "Not sure why she brought us here. We haven't been this way in oh the last hundred years or so. Let's see when it is…" He twirled a dial. "2009. Now there's a boring year. You don't get dull years on Earth very often. I wonder…"
He went around to another section of the console and flicked a few more switches. "Huh, now there's a reading that shouldn't be there. He wouldn't have been so stupid as to…of course he would have. Humans. No matter how many times you tell them something, they still don't listen. Don't touch the pod. Don't touch that button. Whatever you do don't pick up the ring or the hand…and do they listen?"
"I do not have enough data to formulate an answer, master," K-9 said, whirling.
"I wasn't asking you, K-9," The Doctor told the tin dog.
K-9 seemed to process this. "There is no one else here, master."
The Doctor scowled and tried to remember why he built another K-9 unit. "No, they don't listen. I have no idea why I'm so fond of them sometimes."
He tapped his finger on one of the switches, and then he straightened. "K-9 you stay here. I'll be back in a tic."
"Master?" K-9 started moving after him.
"Stay boy," the Doctor ordered. "I just need to check on one of those non-listening humans. Shouldn't take long."
"Data shows that such a theory is statistically incorrect, master." K-9 wagged his tail in a hopeful manner.
The Doctor ignored him and shut the TARDIS door behind him.
Ann stared at the schematic in front of her and resisted the urge to doodle on it with her pen. She'd long since tuned out her grandfather and his assistants. She was missing the try-outs for Hamlet. Not that she ever had a chance of getting a part, but it would have been nice to at least try.
"Ann, are you even listening?" her grandfather asked.
"No," Ann told him honestly. "You haven't said anything that's made sense in the last hour."
He scowled at her, and she scowled right back. Ann was sure she'd respected her grandfather at one point. Just as she was certain he'd actually thought of her as his daughter's child at one time in the past. "I'm sure if you applied yourself a bit harder you'd be much more help than you are, Ann."
Ann pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes.
"Doctor Walken?" Joan Carter, one of his assistants, a woman in her thirties interrupted. "Perhaps we should let Ann time to rest. She is just a child after all."
Doctor Walken scowled at the woman, and Ann wondered if there'd be another new assistant the next day. "All right, I guess a break couldn't hurt anything." He looked at Ann. "I'm sure you have homework to do."
Ann didn't point out that she didn't have any of her books or the fact that some of her teachers had given up giving her class work since she was never there. "Grandfather?" Ann asked as sweetly as she could. "Could I have something to eat? I haven't had my dinner yet."
He smiled slightly and looked more like the man Ann had known before she'd gone missing, before the ghost shifts. "That can be taken care of easily enough." He looked over his shoulder. "Mark, see if you can't get Ann some dinner from the dinning hall. Joan, see if Dr. Summers has those numbers yet."
With the two assistants gone, he sat down next to Ann. "Ann, have you heard from your mother again?" His voice was soft.
Ann shrank back in her chair. Maybe asking for dinner wasn't the best of ideas. "Mum's dead. Grandfather, you know that."
"But you've heard her, near the fissure before it closed." Samuel Walken gripped his granddaughter's wrist tightly.
"I didn't hear anything. I didn't even see her during the ghost shifts," Ann denied. "She's been dead for years now, and the dead can't talk."
The hand tightened. "But you could speak backwards through time to her, couldn't you?"
Ann shook her head. "It doesn't work---I don't know."
Samuel let go of her wrist and took her by the shoulders. "Yes, you do."
"You're hurting me!" Ann told him, trying not to cry.
He abruptly let go of her, and she fell back against the seat. "You should finish your homework," he told her as he left the room.
Ann curled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around herself.
The next day Ann started to fall asleep in math class, only to catch herself has her chin slipped from her hand. She looked around hoping no one had seen her. Most of her classmates were older than her, and they'd made comments enough about having a 'kid' in the class. She shrank down in her seat and busied herself on her notes when she saw the teacher looking pointedly in her direction.
She tried to slip out without talking to the teacher at the end of class.
"Miss Walken, please stay. I'd like a word," Ms. Alexander told her, looking up from her a stack of test papers.
Ann wished she could sink through the floor and disappear. "Yes, Miss." She hugged her books to her chest and waited for her classmates to file out.
"Ann," Ms. Alexander sighed and took off her glasses. "Stop looking like I'm going to eat you. Sit down please." She gave Ann a smile.
Ann sat down at one of the desks and played with the frayed corner of her textbook. "I'm sorry about what happened in class. I promise it'll never happen again."
"I'm not upset about that, Ann. But I am worried about you. You've been missing classes and when you are here—your performance isn't what I've come to expect from you."
"I'm sorry." Ann looked down at her books.
"Ann, stop apologizing," Ms. Alexander ordered. "Is something going on you'd like to talk about? I know you've been spending a lot of time with your grandfather lately, and I just want you to know that if your classes are getting to be too much, you can talk to me. No one will fault you for taking on a less stressful schedule at your age."
Ann looked up and smiled. "Thank you, Ms. Alexander. Things will get better soon, I promise. Do I have any make up work to do?"
Ms. Alexander sighed and shook her head. "Just finish you homework, Ann." She walked over and patted Ann's hand. "And you should get a good night sleep. It'll do you well."
"Yes, Miss. Thank you Miss." Ann nodded gathering her books. "May I go now, Miss?"
"All right, go on," Ms. Alexander laughed. "Oh, if you see Mr. McShane, tell him to come see me about his last exam."
Ann nodded. "I'll tell Kevin you want to see him," she told her teacher as she hurried out of the room.
Doctor Samuel Walken looked like a schoolboy on the last day before Christmas Holiday. "Do we have a strong connection? I don't want to lose it the link like last time." He adjusted a few clamps on the headset.
"Yes, Doctor. We should be able to keep the link secure this time," one of technicians told him from the main control panel.
"Good, good. Begin perpetrations for the test. We'll transmit from frequencies zeugma and theta," he ordered and watched as men and women in white coats scrambled about doing final checks.
"Doctor Walken?" Joan asked. "Are you sure testing the rig yourself is safe?"
Mark nodded in agreement, looking up from his clipboard. "You should let one of us do the test. You remember what happened last time we tried a test."
Joan looked at him questioningly.
"You weren't here, Carter, when we ran the first test. Fried Dr. Nicks brain and put him in a coma," Mark told her with a frown. "Never woke up, poor devil."
Joan touched Dr. Walken's arm. "Sir, Dr. Hines is right. Let one of us do the test. Your mind is too important to lose."
Samuel waved them both off. "Nothing will go wrong. I was a fool the last time to let Nicks try himself. She didn't know him, of course she panicked."
A young woman walked over to Samuel. "Dr. Walken, sir? We're ready to begin anytime."
"The feedback loop engaged?" he asked, taking his place on the padded chair in the center of the room. He slid in fingers into the finger slots.
She nodded. "Yes, sir. We're also set up to record any time slippage on a dimensional scale."
Samuel beamed at her. "Good thinking, young lady. What's your name?"
"Liz Sheppard, sir," she told him with wide eyes.
"You'll do well with us if you keep thinking like that," Samuel complimented her.
Liz smiled widely. "Thank you, sir!" She hurried off back to her station.
"The headset," Samuel instructed Mark and Joan.
Carefully his two assistants strapped the headgear to Samuel's head. Joan made a few final adjustments, and then they both stepped away.
"On my mark." Samuel closed his eyes.
Silence fell over the room as Samuel gave the signal. Power flowed through the equipment. Samuel could hear the voices of the techs calling off readings, and his assistants' voices, but they were muted.
His mind filled with a hissing-static. Samuel tried but could not hear anything. In the distance, he heard the words 'change the frequency' and realized it was his own voice.
Then there was silence. Samuel opened his eyes and could see nothing but darkness, hear nothing but silence. Even the sounds from the room around him didn't pierce through.
Then a light sparked and sounds like that of a skidding train. Samuel cried out soundlessly.
The sound grew louder and louder, changing in pitch and tone. He tried to shut his eyes against the light, but it seemed to burn away his eyelids.
"Laura, please!" Samuel cried out. Even he wasn't positive if the sound was only made in his head or if he truly spoke the words.
The sound quieted and the light dimmed. It seemed to be waiting.
"It's your father Laura. Please, I want to help you," Samuel pleaded. "I've been trying for so long to find a way to reach you."
The light seemed bend and flux. There was another dreadful screech then a sound like a woman's voice. "Laura. What is a Laura?"
Samuel almost laughed. "You are Laura, a human. My daughter."
"Laura is a human female?" the voice whispered. "I am Laura?"
"Yes! You are Laura," Samuel told her.
The light trembled. "I must think. Leave, Samuel Walken."
"No, Laura. You must come back with me," Samuel insisted.
Samuel screamed as the light seared his eyes again. "I will follow when I have thought of this."
"Dr. Walken! Dr. Walken!" Hands were pulling the headset off Samuel's head.
He opened his eyes careful and found himself on his back staring up at Joan and Mark. "What happened?" he croaked out and wondered why his throat hurt so.
Joan looked at him worriedly. "You were screaming, sir."
"Like you were being burned alive, we pulled you out as soon as we could," Mark explained.
The young technician from earlier, Liz hovered near his feet. "The med team is on its way."
Samuel sat up and waved them off. "I'm fine, I'm fine. I just miscalculated the sensory feedback. But-" he smiled widely at the group of technicians and scientist. "I made contact."
A cheer erupted throughout the room. Samuel beamed at them all. He'd been proved right at last.
"Dr. Smith, you've picked a wonderful time to visit our facility," Dr. Jones told the younger, curly haired man walking beside him.
Dr. Smith adjusted his round wire-rim glasses. "I do hope with all the excitement, Doctor Walken will still have a chance to talk with me. I'd hate to have come all this way and go back to London with nothing to show for it." He smiled broadly.
Dr. Jones seemed a bit taken aback. "Of course he'll want to speak with you, Dr. Smith. In fact, I'm sure he'll want to show you the progress his made in the temporal dimensional resonance experiment."
"Oh, I'm looking forward in particular to see those experiments, Dr. Jones," Dr. Smith shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat.
"I know our faculties are nothing in comparison to those you must have in London, Dr. Smith," Dr. Jones said in a consolatory fashion.
Dr. Smith fixed him with a hard look. "Dr. Jones, do stop falling over yourself and show me to Dr. Walken's office."
Ann was surprised when her grandfather didn't send for her by lunchtime. When dinner came around and she still had heard nothing, Ann decided not to waste any of this free time. She planned to take her dinner in her room until Kevin grabbed her hand.
"Come on, Ann." Kevin dragged her towards the dinning hall. "You're going to have dinner with us not bury yourself in yours and Susan's room."
Ann let them pull her down the hallway. "Kevin, I have school work to do."
He rolled his eyes. "It's Friday night, movie night. You remember movies don't you?"
"Yes, Kevin. I do seem to recall them." Ann made a face at him.
"Well, you're seeing one tonight with us," Kevin informed her.
Susan snuck up and grabbed her other hand. "Even if we have to tie you up and drag you."
"Okay, I surrender. I'll come quietly," Ann laughed.
Kevin looked disappointed. "Does this mean we can't tie her up? I was looking forward to that."
Susan looked like she wanted to smack him. Ann just laughed.
"Dr. Smith, it's a pleasure to meet you," Dr. Walken said and held out his hand to the other man.
Dr. Smith smiled and shook his hand. "The pleasure is mine, Dr. Walken. I've heard much about your work."
"Please call me Samuel. Formalities often get in the way with work such as ours." Samuel smiled, leaning back in his chair.
"Call me John then," John told Samuel. He folded his hands on the desks. "I'm very anxious to see some of your experiments, Samuel."
"I'm sure you are, though I'm afraid I won't be able to show you the temporal dimensional resonance experiment right now," Samuel explained. "You understand how delicate these things can be. We've reached an intricate stage. I'd be happy to show you any of the others work we have going on."
John frowned slightly and sighed. "I was rather hoping to see the resonance experiment. I hear you achieved a bit of success yesterday."
"We did, we did. My theories are proving to be quite accurate. It's very gratifying. Have you read my work on communication on the temporal spectrum?" Samuel asked, placing his arms on the desk as he leaned forward.
"I have read some of it. It was quite a fascinating read. I do wonder how you're dealing with the temporal feedback?" John asked, adjusting his glasses.
Samuel almost looked giddy. "That's a very interesting question. We had a bit of trouble on that at first, but I believe we've dealt with it sufficiently. Would you like to see the data from the last test?"
John leaned forward. "I can think of nothing I'd like better, Samuel. Nothing at all."