For Jenny, for her birthday.
The library was quiet. Elizabeth leaned her head on her hands and looked around at the empty shelves.
"Is it always this boring?"
"Yes," said Jenna, without looking up. She had been working at the library longer than Elizabeth, and was used to the monotony that went with a night shift.
"I mean seriously," commented Elizabeth, "do they really need two of us to babysit an empty library till eleven at night? Nobody's even here."
"It's for safety," Jenna said, finally looking up from her game of solitaire. "Anyone could just walk in here. They want us in pairs."
"What could happen in a library? Somebody gets a paper cut?" Elizabeth complained. She moved away from the front desk to sit beside Jenna near the reserved books shelf.
Jenna shrugged, smiling.
"At least we can talk to each other while we're here."
"True," agreed Elizabeth.
"And they are paying us. I mean, this is what you signed up for when you got hired here, wasn't it?" Jenna said. "We should start closing up soon, anyways."
Elizabeth gave a noncommittal shrug, and picked up a book at random from a cart.
"The Natural Habitats of the African Swallow. Fascinating," she drawled. Despite the book's boring premise, Elizabeth perched on one of the desks behind the circulation desk and began to read it. Jenna went back to her solitaire game.
Silence reigned. The only sound was the buzzing of computers and the rustle of pages as Elizabeth skimmed through her book.
A strange metallic grinding sound cut through the still air.
Jenna glanced up from her computer screen.
"What was that?"
"Dorm kids?" suggested Elizabeth. "Aren't they always doing…"
"Really dumb things?" Jenna finished.
"Ah dorm life. Never doing that again."
"I wonder if we should check it out," Jenna said, getting up from her chair. "We don't want them to damage the library building or anything."
But before she could leave the circulation desk, the door to the library opened, and a strange man walked inside. He looked too old to be a student, and was dressed very strangely. His casual Converse shoes didn't match his suit, and his brown coat fell almost to his ankles. His hair defied gravity with its height and angles, and his smile was huge.
"Hello there!" he said cheerfully.
"We're just about to close up," Elizabeth said.
The man nodded absently.
"Which one of you two lovely librarians is Jenna Arrington?"
Jenna raised her hand, a little uncertainly.
"That would be me. Can I help you with something?"
The man strode up to the desk, and shoved a crinkled and stained stack of papers onto it.
"I want to talk to you about this."
Jenna picked it up and read the title.
"What is it?" Elizabeth asked, peeking over her friend's shoulder.
"It's my essay for Metaphysics class," Jenna said, confused. "But how did it get so stained? And how did you get hold of it?"
"I love it," the man said with a wide grin that seemed to light up the entire room. "It's brilliant. You've got a first rate mind, Jenna Arrington. But I have to tell you, you don't know anything about time travel," he waved the paper around wildly. "Everything in here is theoretical. Don't get me wrong, it's brilliant stuff, way ahead of its time, but it's all wrong."
"Where did you get it?" Jenna asked, taking the paper from him and examining the creased sheets. "I only handed it in yesterday, and this paper looks about a hundred years old."
The man rubbed the back of his neck, looking rather sheepish.
"Old archive I was looking through. Anyways. Just popped by to tell you how much I enjoyed reading it. And that the theory's all wrong."
Both girls stared at him. Clearly he was mad.
"Who are you?" Elizabeth said slowly.
"Sorry, did I not say before? I get carried away, you know. Hard to stop. This mouth, always running on its own. I'm the Doctor."
"Doctor who?" asked Jenna.
"Just the Doctor," said the Doctor.
"You're the definitive article, then?" Elizabeth said.
The Doctor grinned again.
"Oh yes. Say, while I'm here, Jenna and…"
"Elizabeth," she filled in. "Elizabeth Montgomery."
"Elizabeth," the Doctor agreed. "While I'm here, could you help me find something? I left it here before."
"We're closing up," Elizabeth said.
The Doctor's smile was disarming now.
"Please? It will only take a few minutes."
"Ok," Elizabeth said, powerless against this mysterious man's charms. "What are you looking for? Maybe it's in the catalogue."
The Doctor frowned.
"I don't think it's in the catalogue. I left it in the stacks a while ago for safe keeping but now I think it would be a good idea to go look for it."
Elizabeth nodded, and started to lead him towards the stairs to the basement. The Doctor obediently followed until he passed a computer. There were eight or ten laid out on desks for students to use for research. He paused in midstride, and pulled himself up short. Frowning, he reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out a pair of specs, which he jammed onto his nose, peering at the computers.
"What's wrong?" Jenna asked.
"I don't know," said the Doctor. "There's something off about these. Can't you hear the humming?"
Both girls strained their ears to hear a high pitched humming that the computer terminals were giving off.
"What is that?" asked Jenna.
"I don't know," said the Doctor, "but I'd stay away from them for the time being." Shoving his specs back into his pockets, he strode down the stairs to the basement stacks.
The two girls exchanged looks, and then both hurried after him.
The Doctor was already hunting the stacks by the time they got down the stairs.
"Has to be in here somewhere," he was muttering to himself. "I know I left it here."
"What do you mean, stay away from the computers?" Jenna asked. "There are computers everywhere in here."
But the Doctor wasn't listening. He was still searching through shelves of books.
"Liz, should we call security?" Jenna whispered.
"Yeah," she whispered back. "This guy is crackers."
Jenna nodded, and slipped upstairs.
"Ah aha!" exclaimed the Doctor, making both girls jump. He held up a small book bound in black leather. "I knew I left it here!"
"That doesn't look like a library book," Elizabeth said, noting the lack of code on the spine.
"Well it wouldn't, would it?" the Doctor said matter of factly. "It's mine."
Elizabeth propped her hands onto her hips. She'd had enough.
"Look, whoever you are. You'd better get out of here. Security will be here any moment, and we're supposed to be closed…"
"Oh, I won't be any trouble," the Doctor said mildly. "I just wanted my book, and now that I have it…" He strolled past Elizabeth, towards the stairs to the main floor.
"But that's not a library book!" Elizabeth insisted.
"I know," the Doctor replied. "It's mine. I left it here 50 years ago. Or maybe it was last week. Not sure. Time gets a little confused for me… Listen, I just needed to find this book before someone else did. It's got pretty important stuff written in it, and now…"
They were upstairs now, Elizabeth practically jogging to keep up with the Doctor's long stride.
"Something's wrong with my cell phone," Jenna said from the circulation desk. "It won't send a call."
The Doctor paused.
"Oh, that could be very bad."
The door to the library opened again with a crash.
Elizabeth and Jenna looked up, hoping it was security. Instead, it was a middle aged man with a bald head and an earring in one ear.
"We're closed!" Jenna said rather desperately.
"You have something of mine, Doctor," the man said.
The Doctor shook his head.
"You mean something of mine. You're too late." He waved the black book he still held. "I've got it right here."
The bald man laughed, a sound like metal being scraped over metal. He whipped something out of his pocket, and pointed it at the Doctor.
"Freeze," he said.
Elizabeth found herself not able to move. She couldn't even blink. She was completely glued to the spot. The Doctor was frozen as well. He didn't move a muscle as the bald man walked forward and plucked the black book from his hand.
"And you thought you could keep this from me," he chuckled. "Aren't you the noble Doctor, keeping knowledge from people? Well, from now on you'll know better. Or you would, if you were to live much longer."
The bald man walked up to a compute and typed three keys. The buzzing sound increased, and black letters appeared on the computer's screen, counting down from twenty.
"Goodbye, Time Lord," he said, and walked out of the library.
As soon as he had left the building, the freezing began to wear off. It was like ice melting and cracking. One part at a time, Jenna began to gain control over the parts of her body.
The Doctor was much quicker at unthawing. He hesitated for a split second, torn between going after the bald man, and stopping the countdown. He looked at the two girls, still half frozen to the spot, and then turned his attention back to the computer. He pulled a long, thin thing out of his pocket, and buzzed the computer with it. Its tip glowed blue.
"He's fried the internal matrices!" the Doctor groaned. "I can't stop the countdown!"
15 second left.
The last of Jenna came unfrozen.
"Elizabeth! You ok?"
"Yeah," said Elizabeth. "Doctor, stop the countdown."
The Doctor shook his head.
"I can't! He must have been planning this from the beginning. I'm locked out of the system. Even the sonic screwdriver can't get in."
"What do we do?" shrieked Elizabeth.
"That's our cue. RUN!" the Doctor shouted.
Elizabeth and Jenna pelted out of the library as fast as they could. The Doctor, with his longer legs, easily overtook them. They followed him as he raced away from the building.
The library exploded in dazzling show of sparks. The Doctor tackled both girls, and then fell to the ground, covering their heads with their arms. They were far enough away so that debris didn't reach them, but the heat was scorching.
"The library!" wailed Jenna.
"We are so getting fired for this," Elizabeth agreed.
The Doctor sat up, brushing ash from his brown pinstriped suit.
"We have to follow him."
"What happened?" Jenna demanded. "Why would anyone want to blow up my library?"
"Right questions, wrong time," said the Doctor, getting to his feet. He helped both girls up. "I'll explain sometime. I've got to go."
He took off.
Elizabeth glanced at Jenna, and then nodded.
"So we follow him?" she asked.
"So glad we share this psychic connection," she said.
Both girls too off after the Doctor. They followed him around the burning library, to where a blue box stood unassumingly among the trees.
The Doctor turned to them.
"Didn't I say I'd explain later?"
"How bout you explain now," Jenna said. "You come in there, tell me my paper is all wrong, and then blow up my job!"
"That seems to be a habit of mine," the Doctor muttered to himself.
"So this has happened before?" Elizabeth asked.
The Doctor sighed.
"This is my life. I was meant to be hiding that book from him, and now he's got it, and I've got to stop him. There's no telling what he could do with that book." He glanced at the two sweaty and soot-stained girls, his head cocked to one side. "I have an idea. Why don't you two come with me?"
"Come with you where?" Elizabeth asked.
"Come with me to catch him. In my blue box. It's a time machine, you know."
"Time travel isn't possible," Jenna said. "There are too many paradoxes."
"Ah, that's where your paper was wrong," the Doctor said. "It is possible, and I do it. Want to come?"
Jenna and Elizabeth exchanged looks.
"It's not like we have to go back to work," Elizabeth said.
"And I want to catch the guy who blew up my library."
"Ok, we'll do it," agreed Elizabeth.
"Excellent!" said the Doctor, grinning widely. "Now, if you'll just follow me into my blue box…"
"We won't all fit!" objected Jenna, looking the narrow box up and down.
The Doctor grinned, and pushed the door open.
"Come and see for yourself."
Jenna and Elizabeth stepped into the blue box, their eyes as large as saucers.
The Doctor strode ahead of them, up a ramp and towards a round console with a large blue cylinder climbing out of it to the ceiling. He began to push buttons and leavers.
"Close the door after you," he said.
"Woooooow," Elizabeth drew the word out.
"This isn't possible," Jenna said. "I mean, it's absolutely not possible. How can something be bigger on the inside than the outside? It's not physically possible."
"Ah, but is it metaphysically possible?" the Doctor asked.
"Well," Jenna said, looking thoughtful. "It's not a logical impossibility…"
The Doctor grinned wider.
Jenna caught his look, and frowned.
"You're already starting to get on my nerves. Stop poking fun at my amateur philosophy!"
"No, really," the Doctor said, trying to hide his grin and failing. "You're doing well. It's just that… well, you're a little confined by human ideas."
"Well, we're all human, aren't we?" Jenna shot back.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow.
"You aren't?" Jenna gaped.
"You heard him call me a Time Lord back there. That's not just a title, that's my species."
"You're… an alien?" Elizabeth gasped.
"How is that any stranger than time travel and dimensionally transcendental phone boxes?" the Doctor countered.
Elizabeth tipped her head sideways, her blond hair spilling over her shoulder. "True. Ok, so hold on a second. What happened back there?"
"Somebody blew up your library."
"Yes, thank you for that," Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes at the Doctor's sarcasm.
"He blew up the library to get rid of me. But I'm not that easy to get rid of," the Doctor said. "He wanted the book that I hid in your library 50 years ago. Or last week, if you're me. And now he's got it, and that means bad things for this little planet. The TARDIS is tracking him as we speak.
"Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. I call her TARDIS for short." He patted the console affectionately.
Jenna held up her hand.
"One thing at a time, please. This box, this… TARDIS, it's bigger on the inside. Can we all have a cup of tea and deal with this please?"
The Doctor winced.
"No time, sorry."
The TARDIS console gave a beep.
"Ah hah! The old girl has got a location. You're both coming with me?"
"This is too fantastic to leave," Elizabeth said.
Jenna nodded her agreement.
"Good," said the Doctor. He flipped a few more switches, and the TARDIS began to shake and rumble. "Jenna, Lizabeth, you'd better hang on to something!"