5.

The sparks and lurching subsided. There was a pause.

"Y' shoulda known better than to be standin'," Jamie observed.

Victoria slowly sat up. "We're still moving."

He got to his feet, reaching down a hand to help her up, but even as he did so the console settled into quiet. "Look," he said. "The middle part, it's stopped movin'. That means we're out of that Vortex now, right?"

"Yes!" the Scholar pronounced. They both whirled, backing against the console.

Their unwelcome guest stood in the doorway where he'd caught himself when the motion had hit, the weapon in his hand only vaguely pointing their direction. His clothing was damp and askew, his hair dripping a line of water down the side of his face. "The allotted time was nearly up; I doubt your foolish attempts at tampering made any difference." His voice was assured but his eyes flickered with doubt.

Watching the weapon waving about, Jamie carefully lifted his hands, hedging."Weell, we don' really know, but the Doctor said...."

"You spoke to him? I might have known you would, did he tell you do to that? He never stops meddling…"

"Him? Now just a minute…" Jamie protested. Victoria quickly put a hand to his shoulder, giving a little shake of her head. She turned towards the Scholar with downcast eyes.

"We really are sorry," she said such a meek and sincere voice that Jamie looked over at her with surprise. Her lashes fluttered slightly. "We only wanted to be sure he was all right."

"What did he tell you?" the Scholar said gruffly. He swiped at the drips on his cheek and sternly gestured at the box. "Did he tell you to do that?"

"He's that hard a taskmaster," Jamie lied in a crestfallen manner. "We were jus…"

"We were afraid," Victoria said at the same time. "And the Doctor can be so unreasonable sometimes… " She looked up at him beseechingly. "Oh dear, you do understand, don't you?"

The Scholar pursed his lips, bobbing his head in agreement. "No doubt, no doubt… but I told you to…"

"We didn't really want to change anythin'," Jamie continued quickly. "Just to let you have your way because… because…"

"You'd shown him up," Victoria put in as Jamie faltered. "We, Jamie and I, we thought you were far too clever for him, and …"

"And if we let you have your way maybe Victoria and me wouldn't be hurt," Jamie finished.

The Scholar frowned uncertainly at this disconnected explanation then gestured at the console. "There! What does that readout say, the one by your hand, girl?"

She looked down at it. "It…it says Cambridge, sir."

The Scholar looked immensely satisfied. "Hah. I thought as much. You, boy! Open the door!"

Jamie obediently lowered his hands long enough to reach over and hit the door controls, which swung open to show an unremarkable muddy road dotted with rocks and barren winter trees. A few buildings could just be made out in the distance and a cold wind brought the scent of wet earth, sheep and woodsmoke.

They stepped back as the Scholar suddenly pushed right past them to the doorway. He simply stood a moment, then pulled up his sleeve and glanced at the tracking bracelet on his wrist. Stepping outside, he studied it again.

"At last. At last!" he cried, picking up the hem of his robes as he ran a few yards down the roadway then stopped to look at his wrist one more time. Jamie and Victoria watched, astonished, as he then ran, puffing along with his arm extended. He went along a rough hedge, then rustled and snapped off into a nearby copse of woods where the shape of buildings could vaguely be seen on the far side.

Jamie and Victoria looked at one another, then promptly collided as they both jumped to smack the door controls again. The doors of the TARDIS obediently swung shut.

"He's gone!" Victoria said, turning and embracing Jamie out of sheer relief. "He didn't check the year; it's the same year as before!"

"I thought you'd jus' make one up. I can't believe it. Not even a fare-ye-well!" Jamie said, hugging her back and giving her a little spin.

"But if it's the same year, why does it look different?" she wondered.

"Aye, that's not the alley, but I don't even care why." He reached down to draw his dirk. "Come on, quick, let's free the Doctor!"

--

The Doctor was watching for them, his anxious face turning to a beaming smile as they tumbled through the doorway.

"We're there!" Jamie said, as he crossed to his friend, knife ready to cut. "Just like you said!"

"And we've closed the doors," Victoria added. "Though I really think we ought to lock them if we can."

"He's left then?" the Doctor asked, holding up his wrists for Jamie to clip through the tightly-wound bonds. "Thank heavens for that. The miserable peacock, I was afraid he'd decide to just make himself at home here. Neither of you hurt?"

"No," said Jamie as he knelt down and began clipping through the filaments about the Doctor's ankles with the tip of his blade. "Though Victoria may have given him indigestion."

"I did not!"

The Doctor shook out his arms gratefully stripping away the cut ends. "Thank you, Jamie. Ah! It was a near thing when she gave that little jump, you know."

His companions stopped, staring in horror. Neither of them had even considered how the lurching of the TARDIS might have been affecting him. He looked at their expressions and laughed.

"Well, I managed anyway. No, no," he held up a hand as they both simultaneously began to apologize. "I think we're doing quite well, all things considered. Yes. Yes, we are. Let's go lock that door, shall we? Double-lock it, I should think." He paused, looking down at the bits of filament dangling from the conduits. "And gracious me, I've a bit of repair work to do before we can go anywhere, haven't I?"

--

"One thing I don't understand," Victoria pondered as they watched the Doctor disconnecting the remains of the box. "I thought it was supposed to go back to where we were, in the same year, in that same alley. We're out in some fields somewhere."

"Oh, well…. " he said, pulling the last of the wires out. "It was supposed to be the same time and place, but I'm afraid, er, the TARDIS sometimes has slight navigational difficulties."

"Y' don't say?" Jamie grinned, leaning back against the wall. He stuffed the last of turnovers into his mouth, talking around it. "I was surprised it was in the right year at all."

The Doctor gave him a sidelong look. "To be perfectly honest we weren't quite in the same time, it's still 1677 but early January instead of early December. We're nearly a year earlier."

"But it still said Cambridge," Victoria noted.

"Because we were in Cambridge. We were just… about two miles outside it."

Jamie snorted.

"Close enough," smiled Victoria. "Right, Jamie?"

"Oh, all right," Jamie relented. "She did a fine enough job of it. But, Doctor…he would've been there already! If we let him go out gallivantin' about a year earlier, why weren't there two o' him comin' at us in the alley?"

"Is the other one out looking for his TARDIS then too?" Victoria wondered. "Oh, that makes my head hurt just thinking about it."

"No, I don't think so," the Doctor said. "For one thing, he has that tracking bracelet. It has the rather annoying tendency to point in any number of false directions."

"So everything he sees will seem like a TARDIS?" Jamie smiled.

"No, not everything, but quite a number of innocuous objects. I never took the time to try to find out what it was homing in on, or if it was completely random. Still, it also does react to the presence of a time-vehicle. Presumably he persevered and will eventually stumble across it but in the meantime all of his meddling should even out."

"Why? What makes you think he'll find his TARDIS?" Victoria wondered.

"Because it was missing! Someone had to have taken it, someone who could get inside, someone who knew how to use it. Most likely himself."

"He took it?"

"He stole his own TARDIS? I don't envy him trying to iron that one out." Jamie grinned, shaking his head.

The Doctor smiled to himself. "A bit of a loop but not quite a paradoxical one. And I suspect he never did quite fix his directional unit as it sounded to me like he hadn't really planned on being here in the first place. Who knows how many tries it will take him to find his way back. No, I think the odds are rather in Mr. Newton's favor that his life and studies will continue as they should have."

"Besides, don't we already know he failed in it?" Victoria asked.

"What do y' mean by that?"

"I think I know what she means," the Doctor said, taking her hand and patting it. "We know he failed because it didn't happen. Isaac Newton was pulled away from his studies into alchemy, but then he returned to his proper sphere of scientific studies a short time later. He never published any papers on microtechnology."

"History bears it out," Victoria nodded. "And we were already a part of it."

"Now, that kind o' talk makes my head hurt," said Jamie. "I'll just settle for believin' you."

"Victoria is essentially right. We still all have our part to play," the Doctor agreed, turning to the console. "Now! Let's see… where were we going before all of that? And yes," he said turning to Jamie even as the Scot drew breath. "It does make a difference how I steer her!"

"If y' say so," Jamie smiled.

--

FIN