CHAPTER 4 : THE SCIENTIST
Vesparians were ancient creatures. Their star was the first of its kind; large and nearly blue it had already started to fade. River remembered its corpse. Many years ago she'd perched at the doors of the Tardis, drifting idly through the scarlet nebula. This world was littered around it in a halo of dust and rock as a new star started to burn. It was one of the most beautiful sights she'd laid eyes on.
'The first time lords – sort of...' the Doctor had murmured against her ear. He seemed to have forgotten those words or else he never would have let her come here tonight. River paused, tilting her head thoughtfully. Maybe he didn't know yet.
All six of the Vesparian scientist's eyes blinked at her. They'd gone black, set deep in his wrinkled, grey skin. It was often said you could see the stars in Vesparian eyes but all River saw was panic.
"Don't run – not yet," River warned him, taking another casual sip of her wine. "They haven't spotted us and I'm afraid if we make a scene, this night will be over before it starts."
"Who are you?" he asked again, eyes flicking between her, the rows of tables and crowd. There were hundreds of aliens here tonight for the celebration of dusk.
"I told you," replied River, shuffling closer. "I've always wondered what it would be like to meet you."
"Am I – famous?" the scientist asked carefully.
River caught a flicker of vulnerability in his eyes. "No."
The scientist took the sphere in his large hands, holding it as though it were his child. "This is my life's work," he whispered. "I knew that something was wrong when you sent for me. What did you call it?"
"They were the words I've waited nearly a century to read."
"I'm sor-" she went to reach for him but the scientist withdrew.
"You're from the future."
River didn't bother lying.
"Time travel creates a paradox inside the universe," he warned. "It's only possible because our universe is imperfect. My calculations suggest that this leeway has a limit. Cracks will start to appear one day and time will fracture."
The sky tore apart in a shower of gold and silver. Everyone looked up in awe, watching the fireworks fade into the pink dusk. The moon was lifting its heavy form up over the curve of the horizon. You could almost feel the world and moon falling towards each other.
"This should be buried forever," he whispered sadly. "We were never meant to see things yet to pass – or visit those long gone."
"Nothing can be buried forever."
"What if it could be forgotten?" The scientist looked down sadly at his time machine. "And us?" He watched the moon lift up above the lake. The sky was a deep purple with shades of pink and yellow wherever smoke from the fireworks lingered.
River glanced nervously at the crowd, keeping an eye on her pursuers who were picking their way through the dinner tables. "Life begets death. In my time the universe is very old. Your star will become another star – and then another until there's nothing left but scarlet dust."
He focused all six eyes on the strange alien woman. "None of this happens if these people catch us, I presume?"
River took one of the scientist's hands. He had three – the other two were holding the golden sphere. "They want to own time. Now run!"
The Doctor turned again and sighed. The high heels were gone too.
"Are we just going to keep ignoring that ominous sound?" Rory pointed sharply at the offending door. He didn't like unidentified sounds – with good reason.
"Rory, open the door."
Rory paled. He didn't particularly want to do that either. "I'll just – open the door then," he approached it cautiously. The Doctor ushered him impatiently.
"Don't keep it waiting."
The poor Roman was nearly shaking as he unlocked the Tardis doors and tugged them open. A strange, pale grey creature fell into the Tardis. It was about the size of a Great Dane, nearly silver with vibrant, luminous blue pads on its fingertips. Rory yelped, slammed the door and leapt off to the side behind his wife.
"Now... that is interesting," The Doctor stalked down the steps toward the creature. "You're a very long way from home. Several billion years."
"Doctor...?" Amy fished out her husband and made him stand next to her – rather than behind.
The Doctor knelt down in front of the creature as it rolled over and stared up at the bright, Tardis lights. Six eyes blinked rapidly, bringing into focus the Time Lord's face.
"Vesparian..." The Doctor whispered, fascinated. "One of the oldest races – before time was time. What are you doing so far from home?"
The Vesparian scientist sat up and rested against the Tardis doors. He was covered in mud and looked as though he'd been running for days.
"I was led astray by a woman," he replied, holding his chest with one of his hands.
"These things happen – not to worry," the Doctor said sympathetically. "Let me guess, she was about yay high – loads of blond hair and a rather devastating navy gown?"
The Vesparian nodded. "How did you know that?"
The parents didn't look particularly happy. They couldn't work out whether River was a bad influence on the Doctor – or if it was the other way around.
"Let's just say we've met before – come on, let's get you into something dry."
Half an hour later, they were all sat down having a cup of tea in the Tardis lounge room. The scientist told him of the mysterious archaeologist who discovered his secret and dragged him to this planet.
"Did you get a look at the people who were chasing you? Shame..."
"Why can't I remember how I got here?"
"Bit of a odd planet," the Doctor confessed. "Messes with your memory – quite a lot. Given your look of total confusion I'm going to guess that you've been here a while."
"I was at a party."
"We'll make sure we drop you back. Sit over there please."
"In the corner?"
"I don't think so..." the Vesparian stood up and wandered back through the ship to the Tardis console. He paced around it, fascinated by every detail. The others followed with the Doctor bringing up the rear, looking nervous. "So this is how the universe is torn apart..." the scientist whispered, recognising the time machine. He could feel the time vortex trapped inside, whirring about in a web of chaos. Beautiful. "You must be the Doctor."
The Doctor straightened his bow tie and then offered his hand. "And you, the Father of Time."
"No one's ever called me that."
"They do now – I've decided. First creator of a time-thingy."
The Vesparian lofted all six folds of skin that sat over his eyes. "Are you sure this is your Time Device? You're not as – learned – as I had expected a time traveller to be."
Amy and Rory fought to hide their grins. "He stole it," Amy offered.
"Stop helping, Pond."
"This 'Professor Song'," the Vesparian continued, his tone more serious. "She said that they were coming – coming for my time machine. She also said that they hope to bend time to their will – pause it, change it – shatter it. My time device cannot do these things."
The Vesparian took another stop towards the Doctor.
"I think they're coming for your time machine," he whispered. "And that your Professor Song has been played. She's led them right to you."
The Vesparian suddenly turned to Rory and frowned. "Are you all right?" he asked, nodding at several black marks that the man appeared to have drawn on his arm.
"Just – keeping myself amused..." Rory lied, looking nervously at his wrist.