SLIDERS – a sequel to ORDINARY WORLD

PROLOGUE – Setting the Stage:

DECEMBER 2010

Sarah headed downstairs to make tea, knowing the smell would eventually rouse the Doctor from his sleep. As she got to the kitchen, Luke was already there, munching on a piece of toast. 'Morning, Mum,' he mumbled around bites.

'Morning Luke. How long have you been up?'

'Not long. Dad still asleep?' Sarah nodded silently as she poured herself some tea. Luke continued, 'He's been doing a lot of that lately. Sleeping more than normal, I mean. Last three months, based on my calculations, he's sleeping an average of ten hours a night. That's not normal for a Time Lord.'

Sarah frowned, Luke had just put his finger on the one thing that had been bothering her. 'I know. He's been in that body a long time, relatively speaking. Maybe it's just a factor of aging, just like with humans.' She tried to sound reassuring, not wanting to upset Luke, even though she knew more than she was letting on. 'Seen your sister this morning?'

Luke shook his head. 'No, was she supposed to be here?'

'She said she was coming in early for Christmas. I figured she'd be here already.'

'Well, Andy runs on her own time schedule. It's like she's in another world sometimes.'

Sarah laughed, 'Well that is her nature, certainly.'

~!~!~

Luke gave the Doctor a quick hug and kissed Sarah on the cheek before heading quickly out.

Sarah walked over to the doorway, making sure he was gone before she turned back to where the Doctor was now sitting in Luke's chair at the table. She walked over to sit across from him, allowing her hand to brush across his shoulder as she passed by. 'We're going to need to tell him at some point, Doctor.' She paused a moment. 'Andy should be home any time now for the Christmas holiday. We really should tell them both at the same time.'

The Doctor frowned, before reaching across the table to cover Sarah's hand with his. 'Nonsense, Sarah. We have plenty of time. No need to worry them before it's strictly necessary.'

Sarah turned her hand in order to squeeze his. 'Doctor, we know what's happening, how much time do we really have left?'

~!~!~

The Doctor turned and wrapped his arms around Sarah. 'It could be three to six months, but it could easily be another five years or more. I honestly have no idea.' He rested his chin on the top of her head. 'This is all new to me as well, Sarah. I've only grown old and regenerated due to old age once before, but even the circumstances then were different. I was travelling extensively and the wear out happened faster than even I expected at the time.'

Sarah looked up at him. 'If I knew that I had three to six months to live, would you want to know?'

He looked down at her, surprise radiating from his expression. 'Sarah, is there something you haven't told me?'

'No, I'm trying to make a point. If it were me, you would want to know, and you would insist we tell Andy and Luke. They know you're not human and Luke has noticed your increased sleep habits the last couple of months. The Bane made him extremely intelligent and he's putting the pieces together. Andy's always known something would happen, and I think she has an idea with that slight bit of telepathy she has. Did you see the way she watched you last time she was here? Do you want them to just figure it out, then be hurt and disappointed because we weren't honest with them, or should we sit them down together and explain what's going on, so they're not surprised?'

~!~!~!~

The Doctor led Sarah by the hand to sit on one of the nearby benches. 'Sarah, I've done some thinking, and I wanted to talk to you about it. In here, away from everyone and everything.'

Her stomach knotted again, but she simply nodded.

His fingers absently traced a pattern along the back of her hand as he simply stared down at them, still marvelling how perfectly they fit together after all these years. 'Sarah, when we discussed my taking the slow path with you, we knew there would be sacrifices, and we agreed to them.'

'That by you essentially stopping travelling, you cut your exposure to the vortex.'

The Doctor squeezed her hand reassuringly. 'Time Lords feed off the energy of the time vortex. By limiting my access to it, I've essentially cut the life span of this body exponentially through the years.'

'You said you couldn't promise how long we'd have,' Sarah's voice was barely above a whisper. 'We've had almost thirty years.'

'I think I've found a way around it.'

At that, Sarah's head snapped around to look at him. 'Are you serious?' His megawatt smile instantly calmed her. 'You are serious!'

'The reason I don't want to say anything to the children is that it might not be necessary. It might be, but I just can't be sure just yet.'

~!~!~!~

She made her way up to the attic, and even before she walked in, she could hear rattles and bangs that reminded her of construction noise. Walking in, she frowned as she saw Andy swinging a hammer around with more than a little enthusiasm, her long curly brown hair falling around her shoulders in waves. The Doctor was standing at the light table looking through a magnifying glass at a tiny piece of circuitry.

She watched them go back and forth, even though neither of them spoke. With a smirk, she cleared her throat. 'Having fun?'

They both turned to face her, and she couldn't get past the identical looks on their faces, two pairs of wide blue eyes staring at her like little kids who just got caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. A silly grin spread across the young woman's features. 'Hi Mum!'

'Andy,' Sarah smiled as she stepped down off the landing and embraced her daughter in a hug. 'How long have you been here?'

'Long enough to get drafted by Dad to help him out with his little project.'

The Doctor turned to Sarah. 'And as a matter of fact, this is not fun, it's necessary. Andy's helping me make sure that my calculations are accurate.'

Andy looked back and forth between her parents. 'I'm here to make sure that Dad is here for a long time to come.' Her eyes darkened and her voice got quiet. 'I'm not ready to say goodbye yet.' She knelt down and began to examine a piece of equipment in the floor.

Sarah walked up and looked into the Doctor's eyes before reaching out and gently squeezing his arm, then wrapped an arm around his waist. 'You told her?'

Andy looked up from her spot on the floor. 'He didn't have to.' She tapped her temple. 'It sort of trickled down. I'm actually on leave until this is straightened out.'

'Will this work?' Sarah asked.

The Doctor leaned over and kissed her temple. 'If we have anything to say about it, it will.'

Andy stood as she picked up a small piece of equipment, looked at it, and tossed it back on the floor before picking up a second piece and staring intently at it. 'Aha!' she said, a broad grin crossing her features. 'I can feel my hair curling!' At Sarah's amused expression, Andy continued. 'It means either it's going to rain, or I'm on to something.' She walked over towards the Doctor. 'Dad, look at this, would this work?'

The Doctor took the equipment from Andy and smiled. 'I do think it might, Andrea, I do think it might.' He squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.

'I'm surprised Luke isn't up here with you,' Sarah stated as she went back up on the landing to sit on the small sofa.

'He's here? He wasn't when we came up here,' Andy noted. She closed her eyes and concentrated, projecting a thought downstairs. Smiling, she opened her eyes. 'Less than 30 seconds, wanna bet?'

'Now Luke doesn't know,' the Doctor warned.

'That's all right, he doesn't need to for this. With what we're building, we'll be able to harness some of the rift power from Cardiff and get it to you like a nice little energy shot. Not quite as good as full on exposure to the time vortex, but it'll be the next best thing.'

As if on cue, Luke burst through the attic door. 'I didn't even know you were here yet.'

Andy looked at him. 'You didn't ask. And you didn't notice.' She pointed at her temple. 'If you want to truly work on channelling that extra brainpower the Bane gave you, you'll want to start keeping your mental radar up.'

Luke glared at her, but didn't say anything, at least verbally. Without a word, Andy turned and grabbed a piece of circuitry on the light table. Luke walked over and stood on the other side of the Doctor. The Doctor handed him the piece of equipment in his hand before clearing his throat and looking from Luke to Andy and back again. 'Stop arguing, you two, you'd think you were ten years old.' He turned back to Luke and showed him a tablet full of calculations. 'We're trying to harness that rift in Cardiff to pull on the Artron radiation and channel it into a viable means of generating energy, then be able to absorb that energy as needed.'

'Like an energy shot, almost?' Luke questioned.

The Doctor smiled broadly and put a hand on Luke's shoulder. ' Exactly.' He stepped back and let Luke and Andy stand next to each other and work at the light table. As he walked up to where Sarah was sitting, she stood up as they both heard Andy and Luke begin to go back and forth quietly, yet audibly about the project.

He wrapped his arm around Sarah's shoulder as they both stood there and watched Andy and Luke work. Sarah wrapped her arm around his waist, looked up at him and smiled. 'They're both brilliant,' she said softly.

The Doctor returned her smile. 'Yes, they are. I have no doubt that we'll get the energy figured out and then who knows what the future holds, but I look forward to finding out.' He turned and wrapped his other arm around her, pulling her close.

~!~!~!~