Objects in Space
"Doctor, you remember I failed history at high school? Three times? What do you think you're accomplishing by dragging me all the way here?"
The Doctor pouts at her. "But Rose! This is the greatest collection of historical documents and treaties in this part of the universe! You could at least pretend to be interested."
"Sorry, never really the gallery type. Can't we just visit the actual history? Like you know what half of this is anyway!"
"Is that a challenge?" She steps up to him, hands on hips. He faces her head-on.
"You bet it is."
"...Alright then." Grinning, she looks around for the most boring, dusty looking thing she can find. "That. That big piece of paper over there. What's that then?"
"Hmm?" It takes him a second to locate the thing she means. "That..." And he breaks out into giggles.
She blinks in confusion, while they get angry glares from the museum staff. "What? What is it?"
"Sorry, it's just–" It takes him moment to get under control. "That, Rose, is one of the most important documents for racial equality in the whole of, well, ever. It was crafted by a widely respected diplomat and statesman, uniting a fractured people with a history of discord, as well as being enormously influential on the legal codes of the surrounding planets. 'Cause if they could be united as one planet, the – well, they were Elders and Savages when I visited, but I'm pretty sure those are non-PC terms – then anyone could."
She's a bit flabbergasted. "Well – they don't teach you that where I'm from! Least if they did, I wasn't paying attention." Slowly, something sinks in and a smile spreads across her face. "Wait – this great diplomat guy or whatever – he wouldn't happen to be you, would he?"
He grins again and winks. "No. Not quite."
"Uh, Amy – no wish to alarm you, you know me, never the type to panic at the first sign of trouble, but – there appears to be a knife sticking out of your hip."
"Huh?" Amy looks down to the offending implement. "Ah, well that's at a stupid angle. Sorry Doctor; it's just a ceremonial thing. You see what I'm wearing?"
He blinks, and suddenly notices her costume with a distinctly Scottish flavour. "Oh... right," she says. "To be fair, I don't think that's a particularly authentic replica of the traditional dress of Scotland; you could find something better in the Tardis wardrobe I'm sure. Plus I'm not really used to companions carrying knives around, not really since Leela; though Ace just blew things up wish I suppose is just as bad..."
"I found this in the Tardis wardrobe. And Leela, wasn't she the one in the leather bikini?"
"...Leotard." The Doctor shuffles uncomfortably from side to side. "I thought we agreed not to talk about that."
"Anyway if I try being authentic I'll probably just have to take off my underwear, which could be awkward. So yeah, I'm just gonna go with the colonialised generalisation. Creag an tuire!"
The Doctor goes still. "Wait. What was that?"
Amy blinks. "Wait, what? Oh that, it's uh, the motto of our clan or... something. I don't think I pronounced it right. I'm actually a pretty rubbish Scot, all things considered."
"...Amy, may I have a look at your knife?"
Confused, Amy hands it over. "Doctor? What's going on?" The Doctor runs his fingers over the carvings, examines it carefully. Oh... "Doctor, what's wrong?"
After a moment he snaps out of it. "Oh nothing, oh nothing; just you know me, always fascinated by historical ornaments! I suppose that's your family's knife as well? Brilliant, jolly good; well we best be on our way, it's a big universe and there are far more places to see than just Scotland."
"Hey, what's that?"
The Doctor looks over to the blue crystal Martha is pointing at. "Why, look at you!" He picks it up. "I must say, it's been awhile old friend."
"Uh, Doctor... you're talking to a crystal." The Doctor gives her a harsh stare for that. "Wait, it's not secretly some form of sentient life that happens to look like a crystal, is it? Um. Hello there, alien... quartz. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you!"
"Don't worry Martha, it's not sentient. I just have a lot of memories with this crystal. I mean, I journeyed halfway across the universe with a broken – well more broken than usual – Tardis to find it. Then I gave it to a friend as a wedding present. Then it sort of got me killed by giant spiders. Maybe that's why I left it behind, come to think of it."
...Not asking, thinks Martha. "Right well. It looks pretty expensive; if I got it as a gift I'd probably think twice before sending it back."
"...Perhaps I could send it back to her," says the Doctor, distracted. "But I'd have to find an address first. She's always... Sometimes I regret how things turned out there, you know? I mean, she said he was like a younger me. Of all my... companions, she was one of the ones who..."
The Doctor trails off. Martha's face falls.
Great, not another one.
"I know." The man is grinning at her like a maniac, and she can't help but return it.
"Seriously though, wow. I mean, I guess you have all of time and space to choose from, but I never imagined..." She turns around, examines his attire. "Wait, seriously? You have all these clothes from all of the universe and that's the best you can manage?"
"Oi, I'm a Time Lord, not Britain's Next Top Model!" he says. "Besides, least I'm not an affront to the eyes. Anymore. Seriously, there are some dark days in my past we're not gonna talk about."
"I see." Chuckling, she grabs one of the most ostentatious things she can find – a blinding white feather boa. "What do you think, Doc?" she asks in her most sultry voice.
His face falls (she was only kidding!). "Rose, put that back."
She frowns. "Wait, why? What's wrong?"
He grabs it off her. She's a bit taken aback. "This used to be high fashion on... certain planets," he says. "Glamourous young women would wear this."
"Come along Ponds! The greatest scientific endeavours known to man don't wait for us three loons!"
"How many loons again?" Amy mutters, edging along the cobbled path (she did not make a good choice in footwear today). "And I thought the whole point of time travel was that you don't have to worry about being late to things!"
"Wait, I thought the point of time travel was that you could visit places and eras far beyond the scope of your normal lifespan?" Rory asks. It takes Amy a moment to come up with a response.
"...Three hundred years or so late is still late."
"Hurry up you two! We'll miss all the good breakthroughs!" They finally make it to the indoors part of the spaceship (how the hell does a spaceship have an indoors?) and the Doctor, of course, knows the exact code to make it open properly. There's a woman waiting on the other side. "Anna!" The Doctor leans forward to kiss her on both cheeks, which she doesn't seem surprised by. Rory and Amy look at each other. Wait, is that normal here? Is it like France?
"Doctor," says Anna, shaking his hand. "Nice to see you. Glad you came when you did, actually; there's a fascinating discovery the cohort thinks you might like to look at."
"Ooh, really!" The Doctor jumps like a giddy two year old. "See Ponds; what did I tell you?"
"Um, Doctor... mind introducing us to your friend?" Rory asks.
The woman looks affronted. "I beg your pardon?"
"Oh no no no no no Anna it's okay, it's okay. Cultural difference; back where they're from, introducing yourself is considered the norm! A little backward, I know–"
"A little what?" Amy almost surges forward, but Rory catches her.
"–I really ought to have warned them. You two! Why didn't you tell me to warn you?" There's no real answer to that. The Doctor 'hmphs' self-righteously. "Anyway. What's this discovery?"
"Uh... I'm not really too aware of the details; you'd have to speak to our head scientist to get an in-depth description–"
"How long would it take to get to the head scientist's office?"
"About five minutes?"
The Doctor pouts. "Aww, c'mon Anna; you know how I hate being in suspense. Can't you give me a sneak preview at least?"
Anna sighs. "Very well. An unusual fossil has been found... remains dating to late in the age of the dinosaurs, or possibly slightly after. There's evidence of an energy burst so big the bones of any life form known to science would have been destroyed, and yet, there they are."
The Doctor blinks. "Is that it?" Rory asks.
"No," says Anna, seemingly unfazed by the rudeness (if that's even rude here, god knows). "The remains are... humanoid."
"Well, partially," says Anna. "That's what so strange! From what we can best interpret, this part creature was mostly humanoid, must have had a humanoid appearance, but was part... arachnid."
Silence. Amy and Rory stare at one another, perplexed. "Doctor?" Amy asks. "Do you know what it is?"
The Doctor is silent for a long moment. "None of our business, that's what it is," he says. "I can't believe this! A poor young organism, in the wrong place at the wrong time? It's been dead for millenia, and you're digging it's bones up now?! No! Dead is dead, and frankly–"
"Doctor this could change everything we know about evolution!"
"I don't care! There is a place for science and this is not it, not interfering with this poor boy's remains, and if you had any kind of gratitude you'd leave the dead in peace!"
"–Doctor!" Rory snaps. "They're just inspecting a fossil! What exactly is so wrong about that?"
The Doctor turns around, slowly. "...Nothing," he says. He glares coolly at Anna. "Come along, Ponds. Let's go see the head scientist."
He starts to leave, and Amy goes after him. Rory stays behind, staring at Anna in confusion.
"Come along, Rory."
"Excuse me sir, are you in need of refreshment?"
"Hmm?" The Doctor looks at the young woman woman speaking to him. "Oh no, no, nothing... Just me, over here, looking at... trees."
"You've been staring at this one tree for over an hour."
"...Well, it's a very nice tree! You ever hear that expression 'bout missing the forest for the trees? ...Guess you wouldn't 'round this galaxy, no..."
"It's very commonly used, why wouldn't I?" she asks. The Doctor looks at her, taken aback. "...In any case, if you have no need of refreshment, I may as well leave you alone. I have things to do."
The young woman starts to step away, back in the direction of the garden's head office, and the Doctor hesitates. "Wait, no, no!" he calls out. "I mean... if you have work to do, I shouldn't... Sorry." She turns around, and he flashes a brilliant grin at her. "I'm just not used to traveling alone." After what happens to your friends; leave the poor girl alone,snaps a voice in the back of his mind. "Mind sticking around awhile, letting me chat?"
She sighs and returns to his side. "Very well, sir," she says. "Did you want to know more about this tree?"
He mulls it over. "...Nah, not really. Yeah. Actually, yeah, kinda," he says. "See the thing is, I kinda wanna know about this whole garden. See, it's not particularly well-known, not intergalactically famous or anything, I just kinda stumbled upon it – I don't mean to offend you, mind, I'm just saying – but the plants here... well, wow. I mean, wow. Such a range! If you're not famous, you certainly deserve to be."
"Thank you, sir," says the young woman.
"You're welcome! But seriously, though; look at that." He points up at the tree he's been staring at. "You know what that is?"
She frowns. "I believe it is called a... maiper," she says. "Sir."
He chuckles. "That, good madam, is a maple tree. That tree isn't just from Earth, it's from... Canada. What's a Canadian tree doing that far from Canada?"
The Doctor frowns. "So how'd this garden come to be, anyway? Who invented it? Commemorating a great military victory or some such?"
"...Partially. The liberation of the slaves from this solar system, sir, particularly on Thoros Beta," she says. His jaw drops. "Legend has it... these gardens were set up by the wife of a great warrior king. A woman who spoke to plants, and could bend them to her will. She was meant to be a woman full of fire and bile, but who acted with great kindness underneath."
The Doctor is struck dumb. "Really." He says. And he knows, he remembers; Thoros Beta...
The woman looks down. "That is, according to legend," she says. "No-one knows for sure. Most believe she never existed... Or if she did, she was simply an early casualty of the war who somehow got a legend attributed to her. It was so long ago no-one really knows."
The Doctor blinks. "Oh, I see." He turns back to the tree. Of course. You don't know what happened to her, and if you ever want to find out you have to have the guts to go back and check.But her can't, not after everything; he abandoned her and if she even saw him again...
"Well, I guess that's all I wanted to know," he says. "Um, you probably have work to do, right? Sorry, sorry for taking up so much of your time. Go... do work stuff."
"Very good sir." And she moves on.
"Doctor, what the hell is going on?!"
"I don't know!" The violent rocking of the Tardis throws him off the console, while his companions hold it firmer.
"Hold on!" The Doctor throws himself back at the console, grasping a few switches. "Geronimo!" he shouts as he flicks them.
The Tardis goes still.
After a few moments, a chute in the wall opens, and out slides a pile of letters and assorted objects.
Amy looks from the pile, to the Doctor, to the pile, to the Doctor again. "Doctor," she says. "What just happened?"
The Doctor shuffles uncomfortably from side to side, rubs the back of his neck. "Mail arrived," he mutters.
Amy arches an eyebrow. "And the shaking?"
"...The chute was full." And he slides away before Pond can pounce.
"Are you serious? That'show the Tardis alerts you the mail box is full? What kind of system is that?!"
"It's not meant to do that; he just mixed up the wires for the mail box and the stabilisers one night and hasn't figured out how to correct it," says River Song, leaning over the console. The Doctor glares at her.
"Oh – shut up you!" The Doctor hmphs before grabbing something from. "Ooh look, a message! Well actually, a bottle. A message in a bottle."
"How do you get a message in a bottle in space?" asks Rory, to which Amy just shrugs.
"I always did like a message in a bottle; it's the communication of a message, with the added fun of a bottle!" The Doctor grins and starts poking inside the bottle with his fingers. "Now, how to get it out..."
River, Rory and Amy watch amused as the struggles, cutting himself on the glass at least once. "Ow!" he pouts. Eventually he gets the letter out. "Aha! Gotcha!"
It's been awhile since you heard from me, huh? Well at least, it has been for me. Knowing our luck, you're getting this letter before you ever met me and are very confused! But nevermind, we can live with a bit of a muddled up timeline, can't we? Anyway I promised I'd send you a letter and send it I did. Wanted you to know how I was getting on. Fairly well, it turns out; Glitz is somewhat under control and has not yet traded me for the Amulet of Kritensait or something. We make pretty good partners, truth be told. But I still miss you, Doc! You and your days like crazy paving. I may never know what order any of it happened in, but well, I'm not to forget it.
So there, a letter from an old friend. Keep your diet healthy, and do what you do best! Save the world, because someone's always going to need you to do it.
"Sweetie? What is that?" River Song asks, lips forming a curious pout.
The Doctor smiles. "Oh, nothing. Letter from an old friend."
He looks around to his companions, and grins. "Anyway, let's go; things to do, places to see! Universe won't wait for an old man like me!"