"It's been a while, hasn't it?" The Doctor said softly, stroking the TARDIS console with the palm of his hand as it hummed gently. "I guess I sometimes forget you need a rest old girl." He smiled, ruffling his wild brown hair. "Good excuse for me to take a break too, I suppose." He continued, grabbing his long coat from the TARDIS handrail, his attention still on the central column of the machine. "Not that I need one, you understand," he said, shrugging the coat over his shoulders. "But I have some good memories of this place." He stopped for a moment, tilting his head to one side thoughtfully. "Well," he started again, stretching the word through his mouth as he spoke, "Good memories, bad memories, same thing I suppose. For me anyway." He looked from side to side around the TARDIS, noting the empty room, the silence broken only by the humming of the TARDIS console. "Talking to myself again. Must stop doing that. First sign of madness." The Doctor ruffled his hair again.
"No, can't be the first, I have plenty of other signs of that." He stopped, buttoning his coat up over his blue suit as he walked towards the TARDIS door. "Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Cardiff!"
The blue door of the TARDIS opened with a creak, revealing the bright Cardiff summer day. The Doctor smiled at its familiarity, the light bursting down on Roald Dahl Plass, the water tower, the flying cars, people hurriedly getting on with their business. The Doctor continued to look around, a grin on his face, until it very suddenly fell in to a puzzled expression.
"Hold on? Flying cars?"
He looked up again, this time taking more notice of the silver vehicles soaring through the sky, seemingly narrowly missing each other as they headed across the city. He followed one through the sky with his gaze, wondering when it was he had landed, when something else took his attention. The car he was following was flying past a huge advertising billboard in the sky, just like the ones he had seen on thousands of planets, through so many time periods. The board depicted a smiling family, mother, father, son, daughter, all laughing together. And beneath them, in large letters, emblazoned across the Cardiff skyline was one question. A question that bore fear in to the Doctor's hearts.
"Do you want to live forever?"
The Eternal Fallacy
"What do you mean, a blue box?" The man said, his tone slightly surprised as the information was relayed through his headpiece. Quickly, his hands ran over the set of keys in front of him, taping keys until the monitor in front of him flashed to life. On it was an image of Roald Dahl Plass. The figure squinted at the screen intently, focusing on the image, specifically the spot just in front of the Millennium Theatre. After a few moments he saw it, an odd, old looking blue box standing on the spot that didn't exist.
"Yes, I see it." He eventually replied. "How should I know? Just get it moved!" He fell silent for a moment as the voice on the other end replied. "No, it can't be a coincidence. No one knows that spot exists! That's the point of it! Now get that thing moved and keep surveillance on the entrance, look out for whoever might be going back for their box!"
"Live forever?" The Doctor repeated, pulling his glasses from his coat pocket. He wasn't quite sure why, he wasn't concentrating on anything up close, like when he usually used them, but they did help him to think. "Not just longer? But forever?"
"I know!" Came a female voice from beside him. "Isn't it wonderful?"
"Is it?" The Doctor replied, looking over his glasses and turning to the right to see a young brunette woman, quite a bit shorter than him, but then again, many people were. "I mean, living a bit longer, yeah, I can see that, but forever? Who would want that? And, more importantly, how can they offer this?"
The girl looked up at him, her face blank, apparently overwhelmed by his short rant. Suddenly, the Doctor's expression changed to a large grin.
"I'm sorry!" He exclaimed, placing his glasses in his pocket. "I'm the Doctor. And you are?"
"Susan." The girl replied.
There it was. That short sharp jolt of, well, of something, shooting through his hearts. It was very rare that he felt that nowadays, but every now and again he would experience something to trigger it off again.
"Nice to meet you Susan." The Doctor replied, his voice a little more somber than he had intended. "So, can you tell me about that billboard? Oh, and more importantly, silly question maybe, but what year is this?"
Susan looked at the Doctor, an even more confused expression on her face.
"It's 2211. Look, I'm sorry Doctor," She smiled, a sweet, soft smile that made the Doctor want to smile himself. "I really have to be going. I'm on my way to the hospital, to visit my Grandfather."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." He said, with all sincerity, looking at her with those big brown eyes. "What's wrong with him? If you don't mind me asking."
"No," She smiled. "He's part way through the treatment."
"Treatment?" The Doctor asked quietly, before realizing where her gaze had moved to. "Let me guess, your Grandfather is going to live forever?"
As the Doctor quickly walked away from the Plass, Susan by his side patiently answering his questions, the crowd parted as a large truck hovered above the ground, stopping suddenly and descending until it was resting on the cobbled street. Quickly, the rear doors opened, and a smaller vehicle emerged from within, a forklift truck, rolling forward on its traditional style tires from the back of the truck.
"What is it we have come to get again?" Asked a man, climbing from the passenger side of the truck. He dusted down his silver uniform, mostly plain, apart from two black stripes across each arm, as he walked around the truck to meet his partner, who was dressed in an identical uniform.
"That box, remember!" The second man impatiently, pointing behind him. "Just concentrate on that spot, just tell yourself it's there. The blue box is there."
"But not for long apparently." The first man added chuckling. "Right, ok, I've got it. It keeps darting out of my line of sight, but I think I have it." He added, climbing in to the driving seat of the forklift. "Let's get this thing out of here."
"So," The Doctor said cheerily, but with a hidden hint of worry in his voice, "Why is it your Grandfather is under going this 'treatment'." Susan looked up at him, a look of sadness in those eyes that had been so happy, so full of hope since the two had met.
"He's just getting old." She said, looking down at the floor. "He is such a great man, so loving caring, has never hurt a single living thing in his life. He deserves it. No matter what it costs."
"Of course." The Doctor said quietly. "A cost. Feeding on the human fear of life ending, of loosing those close to you. Let me guess, this 'treatment' isn't cheap?"
"No." Susan replied, shaking her head. "But he's worth it. Have you never felt like that Doctor? Have you never had someone who you would give anything to save, to keep them alive for even one more day?"
The Doctor stopped walking suddenly, thoughts of the past creeping in to his head. Holding Jenny in his arms as she slowly lost her fight. The look the Master gave him as he chose not to regenerate, out of spite.
"Yes, Susan. I have." He started walking again, following Susans' lead. It still didn't make any sense. There was no way that there was any technology in this time period that could offer anything like an eternal life, especially not in Cardiff of all places. There was, and probably only ever would be, one man would could live forever in Cardiff. Speaking of which, where was Jack? Surely with something like this going on Torchwood would have gotten involved. If they were still here of course. Knowing Jack he might have met a young woman, or man, or both, and galloped off across the Universe somewhere. Not that the Doctor could blame him, it's how he lived his life after all.
"So how is your Grandfather doing?" The Doctor said, the cheerful tone back in his voice. "Does this treatment take much time?"
"They say it's instantaneous." Susan replied, "But they are keeping him in for observation, the formula is still in the early stages."
"He's doing ok though?" The Doctor asked inquisitively, "No side effects?"
"Well," the young woman replied, looking to the Doctor, "He says these really …odd things sometimes."
"The Doctor titled his head a little. "Odd things?"
"Yeah. He drifts in and out of these odd trance like states. Comes up with these odd little phrases. There's one he says the most though, that's the oddest one."
Susan turned away from him again.
The Doctor stopped walking, taking hold of Susan's hand and facing her, looking her in the eyes. "Susan, what does he say?"
"It's nothing, just hysteria bought on by the formula."
The Doctor looked down at her warm, caring eyes.
"Susan. What does your Grandfather say?"
"He says he is waiting for the right kind of Doctor."
"Blue box?" The man said loudly, standing up from his desk. His old face showed signs of worry as he news was relayed to him through his earpiece. "Are you sure?" He paused momentarily for the reply. "Then why wasn't I told sooner?" He growled, pulling at the bottom of his black jacket and unconsciously playing with the red trim. "Do you not know what this means? He's here!"
The man pulled his chair from his desk as he walked from it, across the silver floor towards the grand wooden door of the office. Along the walls were several photographs, each containing pictures of groups of around four to five people. As his contact spoke, he concentrated on one picture particularly. Five people, standing together smiling. A Japanese woman, next to her another woman, her black hair falling just over her shoulder. On the other side stood too men, one with a pale, skinny face, the other very well dressed in a suit. In between the two sets of people stood a main in a long blue coat, his confident smile beaming from the picture.
"Who do you think I mean?" He continued, anger rising in his voice. "The Doctor is here!"
Pressing a button on his earpiece to end the conversation, the man hurried from the room. Sensors throughout acknowledged him leaving and turned off the lights. Moments later the computer screen dimmed, setting itself to standby mode. As it did the screensaver appeared.
A black screen, emblazoned in the middle with a set of red hexagons, arranged together to resemble a large "T".
"So, if you're a doctor," Susan asked as the pair continued their walk through Cardiff, "How come you don't know about the treatment? I thought it was huge news?"
"Well," The Doctor said, tilting his head from side to side as he decided which excuse to use this time. "I've been out of town for a while." He spoke up as a car flew overhead, its engine noises almost drowning him out. "Quite a while, come to mention it."
"What brings you here then?" Susan asked, the smile back on her face now.
"Just a fuel stop." The Doctor grinned. "And thought I might visit an old friend whilst I was here."
"Oh." Susan said, her gaze darting to the ground. "And here's me dragging you along to see Grandfather. Sorry, I should let you go and see your friend."
The Doctor leant in front of Susan, to catch her gaze again, before flailing his hands out in front of him.
"Look! No dragging going on here! I want to come and meet your Grandfather. Professional interest and all that. And he sounds like a great man." The Doctor knew he was lying a little bit. However nice Susan's grandfather was, he had to admit that the prospect of an unknown company offering eternal life was higher up on his list of priorities.
"What about your friend?"
"Oh, he'll be here when I'm done." The Doctor replied chirpily. "That's Jack, always here!" There it was again, another little white lie. Jack wouldn't really have just let something like this go on, would he?
"Ok then." Susan replied, smiling again. "I'm sure Grandfather will be pleased to see a new face after all these weeks. He doesn't really like his own doctors."
"Bad bedside manner eh?" The Doctor grinned. "Well, I've never had any complaints."
"I'm sure you haven't." Susan replied cheekily, cocking an eyebrow at the Time Lord.
"I didn't…not like," The Doctor stumbled over his words. "Anyway, where's this hospital?"
Susan chuckled slightly, before pointing across the street at a large building.
"Should have known." The Doctor thought to himself. "Very clinical."
A few people were entering the hospital, the doors sliding open to allow them to enter. The Doctor stopped suddenly as he caught a glimpse of the logo through the doors.
A black square, with a large red letter made up of hexagons. Below, a single line of text identifying the company who owned the hospital.
"No," The Doctor said, shaking his head as the doors slid closed. "No, no, no."
"What is it?" Susan asked, turning around to face the Doctor. "What's the matter."
People barged around him as the Doctor stood still, taking in what he had seen. High above at the top of the building stood the same billboard he had seen from the Plass. Although this building was new, it seemed some things never changed. The streets were still packed, people were rude, and there was still an organization dealing with alien artifacts hidden in Cardiff. Although it seemed they were not so hidden anymore.
"Doctor, what is it?"
Still staring intently, he stressfully threw his hand through his hair and down his face.
Inside, the hospital bore a large similarity to Torchwood London, even despite the time gap. The over bearing nice attitude that seemed to emanate throughout the sprawling corridors and rooms of the hospital, even the décor bought back memories. Those plain white walls.
He pressed himself tightly against the wall where the hole in to the Void had been moments before. The portal to nothingness that Rose had been hurtling towards. But she was ok. Pete had caught her. He'd seen it, She was ok. Locked in a parallel universe, but she was ok. She had to be.
"Doctor." He was bought back by Susan's soft voice as she guided him towards her Grandfathers room. "What was wrong out there? What's wrong with Torchwood?"
"Oh, that." The Doctor hesitated, once again formulating his next sentence in his head. He seemed to do that often. Much to often. Part of him wanted to tell Susan everything, about how Torchwood couldn't be trusted, about how this had to be some scam, probably involving alien technology and ending the world or universe in some way or another. He stopped himself though. She wasn't anything to do with this. She was a young girl desperate to help her Grandfather live a little longer. She had said forever, but did she really acknowledge what that meant? Did she realize that eventually, she would be gone, her children, even her grandchildren would be gone and her grandfather would still be here watching them all wither and die whilst he remained? Of course not. And why should she? She hadn't gotten herself or her grandfather involved in this out of selfish reasons. Well, the Doctor thought quickly, maybe a little, but only because she was afraid. Susan didn't want to blow up the planet or take over the universe.
He didn't think so, anyway. How could she? She had such a nice smile. Mind you, could be a Slitheen.
No, not a Slitheen, too skinny for a Slitheen.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows high as he realized that he had been silent for much to long.
"An old friend of mine started Torchwood, that's all." The Doctor lied again. "Small company, only the three of them. Well, that's what he said. Never did know with Jack. Anyway, was a bit of a shock, didn't know they were involved in this sort of thing. What would my old mate Jack know about living forever?" Now, the Doctor thought to himself, that was a biggee. Well, if he was going to lie, why no treat himself a little bit. Afterall, there wasn't much of his life that was a lie. Crazy enough to be maybe, but it was normally true.
"Just in here." Susan said, her face the brightest the Doctor had seen all afternoon. He'd been right, he thought. No world domination plans here. Made a change.
No, that wasn't fair. He had met plenty of good people on his travels. Rose, Martha, Donna, Jack. Hmm, Jack. He would have to judge that one later, after a bit of snooping. One of his favorite things, snooping. Right after jiggery pockery.
The Doctor waited as Susan entered a code on the keypad next to the door, and it slid open. Following her in, the Doctor couldn't help but smile. Sitting up in a bed situated in the middle of the huge room was quite possibly the jolliest looking man the Doctor had ever seen, particularly for someone in a hospital. Maybe he had been to the little shop. Thinking of which, was there even one? The Doctor didn't imagine Torchwood had much time for shops. Well, maybe Jack's Torchwood would, but the Doctor wasn't quite sure he wanted to know what they would be selling.
As he acknowledged his visitors, an even wider smile spread across the old mans face.
"Susan!" He beamed, raising his arms, indicating he expected a hug from his granddaughter. The Doctor smiled as she happily obliged, more than aware that his presence hadn't been noticed yet. As he stood silently, his hands in his pockets, the Doctor realized why people had chosen to accept the offer of eternal life, why they had wanted to believe in it so much.
As he hugged Susan tightly, he caught her Grandfather's eye.
"And who do we have here then?" She said loudly, releasing the girl from his arms. "New boyfriend?" He chuckled, as Susan blushed slightly.
"No Granddad," She said sheepishly, avoiding the Doctor's glance. "This is..Grandad?" She stopped as the smile seemed to be wiped from his face in an instant, leaving just a vacant look. Even in his eyes, it was as if there was nothing there.
"Susan," The Doctor said softly, walking towards the bed. "Is this what you meant by the trances?" She replied only with a nod, looking up slightly as the Doctor put his arm round her shoulder.
"Better not let him wake up and see us like this." Susan smiled weakly. "He really will think my luck is in!" Realizing what she had said, Susan looked away quickly, stepping away from the Doctor.
"Uh, yeah." The Doctor said awkwardly, removing his long coat and placing it over the back of a sterile looking white chair.
"Susan." Came the weak voice of her Grandfather, still sitting motionless in his bed, as the young girl leant towards him. "I need the doctor."
"Ok Granddad, I'll get him. Just hold on." She turned to the Doctor. "Can you wait with him for me?"
"Of course." He smiled as she left the room and headed down the corridor.
"Doctor." The old man whispered, no hint of emotion in his voice. "I need the doctor."
"Susan's just gone to get her." The Doctor replied, pulling the chair closer to the bed. "Won't be long now."
"No, I need the doctor."
"She's coming, trust me, the doctor is coming."
"No. I need the Doctor. The right kind of Doctor."
The Doctor lent back slightly, staring intently at the old man.
"What do you mean, the right kind of doctor? What's wrong, what's happening?"
It came not as a whisper like before, but as a shout, a sharp cry for help. The Doctor was used to people calling his name, but they usually knew him. Was he just being self indulgent again, or was this old man really asking for his help rather than that of a medical doctor? There was something else though, something he recognized on that shout. Something that wasn't present when the man was speaking before. What was it? An American accent perhaps?
"I'm here, I'm here." He replied. "I'll try and help, I just need to know what's wrong. How do you know me?"
"If you don't mind," Came a voice from the doorway, "I'll be the one to see to my patient."
The Doctor looked behind him to see Susan standing with a female doctor, her blonde hair running to part way down her back.
"Now, if you don't mind." The doctor said, rather indignantly, "I need privacy with my patient, so I am going to have to ask you to leave. Family only."
The Doctor looked at Susan who gave him a look that he assumed was meant to be 'sorry' and 'thanks' all in one.
"Of course." He said politely, gathering up his coat and heading towards the door. "Nice meeting you Susan. See you soon, I'm sure." He winked, before secretly kicking himself. Shouldn't have done that, he thought. Don't want to encourage her. Not any more, anyway.
Although he didn't trust this doctor, being thrown out gave him an excuse to snoop. He loved to snoop after all.
As the Doctor went to close the door behind him, he heard one last cry and was certain that there was something in that shout that he recognized, that he had heard many times before.