(Please note; to put things in perspective, this story takes place during the final seasons of The Next Generation, shortly after the episode Violations. The Doctor Who timeline places us right between the episodes Closing Time and The Wedding of River Song, when the Doctor is still delaying his fateful encounter on the beach.)
"Captain's Log, Stardate 45442.7,
We have brought the Ullians to Kaldra IV as scheduled, where the local authorities will detain Jev until such a time as he can be extradited to his world. Though the past several days have been trying, it is a considerable relief that our actions will have prevented such incidents from occurring again.
Counselor Troi appears to have recovered from her ordeal, and has returned to active duty. Starfleet has ordered us to Alcheron V, to assist in the establishment of shielding and medical supplies to protect the inhabitants from escalating activity within their sun's corona. Unfortunately, the shielding will not be able to protect a majority of the planet's biome, but it will secure the colonists until such time that Starfleet can assemble an evacuation fleet. Still, given the planet's numerous unique species of flora and fauna, the loss is all but incal-"
"Captain Picard, please report to the bridge."
"Computer, pause recording." Climbing to his feet, Captain Jean Luc Picard tugged at his uniform jacket before stepping out from his Ready Room; the bridge crew were in a flurry of activity, but they didn't seem to be acting too urgently, nor did they seem concerned. The only exception, ironically, seemed to be Data; though the second officer always had excellent posture, his back seemed if anything stiffer than ever. "Report, Mister Data."
"Sensors are detecting an extremely high burst of chroniton particles, half a lightyear from our present position."
"Chroniton? A temporal disturbance?"
"That is a possibility, sir." Data replied. "Romulan cloaking devices have also been known to produce chroniton particles, though not typically in this concentration."
They were quite some distance from Romulan territory, but the possibility was nonetheless a sobering one; few Federation ships patrolled these outer reaches, and if there was a ship out there, or even a fleet, they could get far without notice. On the other hand, if it was a temporal disturbance of some kind... well, the Enterprise had encountered more than a few, and they had yet to be positive experiences.
"Data," Picard murmured, resting a hand on the back of the Ops chair; "Our schedule, how stringent is it?"
The android paused for a half second before replying; "If we were to investigate, we could spend two hours at the target coordinates and still reach the colony on schedule. Any longer and we would have to increase speed to compensate."
Picard sighed for a moment, then nodded briskly, striding back to his chair and taking a seat; "Helm, lay in a course for the coordinates provided by Mister Data."
"Aye, sir, course laid in."
It had been an interesting day so far.
"No, no, no, c'mon Sexy," the Doctor was currently imploring, frantically working the control console as the TARDIS bucked, whirred and groaned; "You can do this, it's just a teensy weensy little jumbo-sized spatial singularity sucking up a supernova into an abyss of temporal stasis, c'mon, you've handled worse in your sleep, you and I against the universe, we can do this together with inspirational theme music and-"
A sudden, vicious shake sent the Doctor flying, the breath blasted from his lungs as his stomach folded around the metal railing.
"Right!" Hauling himself upright, the Doctor lunged back at the console. "Plan Positive Reinforcement, not working. Plan Kinetic Impact-" he gave the side of the console a sharp kick, and yelped with pain. "OW. Not working either! All right! I can figure this out, just cross the wires, carry the infinity, reevaluate my life choices, invest in religion... no, wait! I absolutely, certainly have no idea how to get out of this! C'mon, the Silence want me dead, they're going to be right cross if I miss that appointment!"
He gave the console another kick, and the TARDIS gave a long, low groan in response, as if every molecule of its structure was groaning all at once... one last, titanic shake sent the Doctor tumbling head over heels, leaving him folded up in a mess of limbs against one of the railings. And then, suddenly, the turbulence stopped, the Control Room settling into the far more comforting trembles of regular travel.
Still sprawled on the floor, the Doctor gave a low, bruised chuckle.
"That's right! Take that, unbeatable quantum oblivion." Rolling over, the Doctor hauled himself to his feet, chuckling as he brushed the arms of his jacket... but the chuckle died when he saw a single purple light shining on the console.
"Well, that's... not good. That light's never been on before. What is that light?" Tongue flicking across his lips, he gave a lever an experimental flip, nearly stumbling to one side as the control room gave a hard shake, the steady grinding of the Time Rotor beginning to fade; "That's really not good. Ooo." The monitor had begun to flicked and blink with numerous symbols. "Flashing white neon triangles. And subsequent green strobing twos. That's very very not welcome, really, really... no idea what it means."
It was around then that the grind of the Time Rotor faded away all together, the cloister bell announcing their arrival. And then, a split second later, the lights flickered out, every single one, plunging the control room into pitch darkness. The deep hum of the TARDIS died away, not even the faintest sound filling the air..
The massive chamber became as still, and silent, as a tomb.
Abruptly left with no light to see by, and no idea where he'd left his screwdriver, the Doctor really just had one thing to say.
"Ohhhh... that's bad..."
"Captain, we are approaching the target coordinates," Data announced; "Sensors are detecting an object off the port bow."
"Take us out of warp," Picard instructed, "And bring us to five hundred thousand kilometers... Mister Worf, raise shields."
The hum of the Enterprise's warp drive faded to the lower thrum of the impulse engines as they inched towards the strange object, keeping a safe distance just in case it proved... well... unfriendly.
"I am scanning the object, sir," Data announced, fingers dancing over the console. "Beginning comparative analysis."
Picard nodded shifted in his seat a little, glancing towards Riker; "I just hope we gain some answers before-"
"I have identified the object."
Picard's mouth hung open mid-word for a long moment. "...that was even faster than usual, Commander."
"I cannot take credit, sir," Data confessed, blinking down at the readings. "The object appears to have English script on its surface that greatly narrowed the search. In addition, its dimensions and design closely mirror that of a structure commonly used in the mid-twentieth century by law enforcement of Britain, Earth. The most common term is 'Police Box."
The bridge was silent for a long moment.
"Data," Picard murmured; "This isn't an attempt to develop a sense of humor, is it?"
"No, sir," Data replied; "I am putting the object on screen now."
A split second later, there it was. Big. Blue. It even had the words 'Police Box' written across it, and though they normally looked like they were supposed to light up, the letters were currently dark... the entire object was. Once more, that confused, stunned silence settled on the bridge, as everyone tried to come up with some logical explanation to... well, explain that.
"We're over five hundred light years from Earth," Riker murmured. "Even if that thing was able to break free of Sol's gravity, there's no way it could drift out this far... or even be brought with anything short of warp velocity, not in just four centuries."
"Mister Data," Picard asked, "is it... possible... that the object may have been transported by some form of spatial disturbance? An errant bit of jetsam, as it were?"
Data paused for a moment before replying; "It is a possibility, sir. It would explain the unusual chronoton readings we detected at this location."
Picard and Riker both relaxed a little; things seemed to be making a bit more sense.
"This wouldn't be the first time we've seen temporal disturbances," Riker pointed out, drawing in a slow breath. "It could be that somewhere back in the twentieth century, a police box just went... missing... for no particular reason. Maybe something snatched it up, and deposited it out here... natural occurance, even?"
"Yes, but what? And why?" Picard mused. "What could have done that so cleanly, with no surrounding debris or other matter brought along? Why just one police b-"
Both officers turned to Ops, where Data was sitting, if anything, even straighter than usual; a sure sign he'd found something of particular interest.
"I have managed to compensate for the interference," Data explained, frowning- for him- as he studied the readings. "And I am detecting what I believe may be a life form."
"A life form?" Riker echoed. "Inside a wooden box in the middle of space?"
"Yes, sir. I am detecting no power emenations from the object, but... I believe there is a living person aboard. The readings are strong, with no evidence that the life form is in danger."
Picard hesitated for a moment, moving back to his chair before turning back to the viewscreen. "Could we beam the occupant aboard?"
"I would not recommend it, sir," Data replied, the sort-of frown deepening. "The spatial distortions make it extremely difficult to establish an accurate sensor lock. Attempting to beam someone from within, or even transport something aboard, would be extremely hazardous."
There was another long pause as they considered the mystery; Picard wasn't inclined to try and bring the object aboard just yet, not without at least a little more information to go on. But without even the transporters available, and no accurate sensor readings, they were rapidly running out of useful options.
"I wonder..." Picard frowned a little; "Mister Worf, open hailing frequencies."
There was a decidedly noticeable pause before Worf rumbled; "Aye, Sir. Hailing frequencies open."
Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring.
"Hrmm? The phone still works! OW!" There was some muffled Gallifreyan curses as the Doctor hopped on one foot across the control platform after rather thoroughly smashing his toes on his toolbox, sending the contents scattering in all directions. "Be right there! Don't... hang up..."
"We're hailing a wooden box," Riker pointed out softly, "A wooden box without any power readings."
"Something must be keeping the occupant alive, Number One," Picard replied, shaking his head. "It can't hurt to tr-"
Suddenly, the channel... clicked, and a slightly breathless voice came on. A slightly breathless, very British voice.
"...um..." Clearing his throat, Picard climbed to his feet; tugging at his uniform shirt as he spoke; "This is Captain Jean Luc Picard, of the Federation Starship Enterprise. To whom am I speaking?"
"Oh! Pleased to meet you. Not familiar with that ship. I'm the Doctor."
"The Doctor?" Riker and Picard exchanged glances before the captain asked the next obvious question; "Doctor wh-"
"Just 'the Doctor." The voice faded a bit, becoming a mutter. "Every single time, they ask that..."
The silence that followed was gaping; Picard was an accomplished diplomat, with a sharp mind and skilled tongue. But even he was more than a little flabbergasted with the sudden appearance of an old, blue Police Box in the middle of interstellar space, apparently capable of housing a single British individual despite the fact that it was made of wood.
"Scans of your... box..."
"It's not a box," the voice interjected, sounding more than a little offended. "I mean, all right, it looks like a box, is shaped like a box, has things in it like a box would, but it is not a box. This is a TARDIS. My TARDIS. My box-shaped, but not box TARDIS."
"...thank you. That clears up a great deal." Picard cleared his throat a second time before continuing. "We have detected no power readings from your... TARDIS. Do you require assistance? We could bring you aboard our ship until you make whatever... repairs... you require."
"Well, your readings are essentially correct, no more power. No more life support, but there's enough oxygen left in here to last me nine or ten years... I'm sure I could figure something out by then..." The musing voice became cheerful again. "But that'd be unbearably boring, so I gladly accept your offer for assistance, Captain! I'd come aboard myself, but... well... as you can see, I'm not currently blessed with a tremendous amount of mobility. Or light. I don't suppose you have room on board your vessel for my TARDIS?"
"Well," Picard replied dryly, "I think we can find space for it. We'll tractor your... we'll tractor it into our shuttlebay. We'll have you aboard shortly."
"Greatly obliged, Captain! See you shortly!"
"...indeed. Picard out."
A silent gesture towards tactical was greeted with a nod, and Worf began the methodical task of tractoring the strange not-box into the main shuttlebay. As they waited, Picard shifted a bit closer to Riker, lowering his voice as his arms folded across his chest.
"Thoughts, Number One?"
"...interesting day?" Riker offered ruefully.
"So it would seem," Picard agreed, sighing softly as he considered their options. They had a mission to complete, but he was reluctant to leave the area without a more thorough search, just in case it bore any other oddities... ideally something that could shed light on what was happening. "Begin a full sensor sweep of the area, see if anything else is drifting out here. If we can't find anything within the vicinity, resume course for Alcheron V."
"Mister Data, Mister Worf, Counselor, with me," Picard announced, and the trio fell into step behind him as he moved to the turbolift. "Time to greet our new guest. Commander, you have the bridge."
"As sensors suggested, I am detecting a lifeform within the structure," Data said, eyes flitting along the tricorder's display. "However, the readings are extremely erratic... I am unable to offer any information as to the interior, only that its outer shell does appear to be... wood."
They had assembled in the shuttlebay only a few moments ago, with a pair of security guards posted just inside the doors... Worf was the only other one armed, however, and despite his request, Picard had told him to keep it holstered. Nobody had tried to directly touch the strange blue box yet, but as the seconds ticked past, they couldn't help but wonder when-
The door suddenly flew open with great enthusiasm; within, there was only darkness, the shadows too thick to offer any idea as to the interior. A half second later, its occupant stepped out, adjusting his bowtie, straightening his suspenders, and tugging at the hem of his coat in a gesture that caused Troi and Worf's eyes to flicker, briefly, to Picard.
"Right, hullo!" Slipping out of the box, the man tugged the doors shut and paused to straighten his suit jacket again, tugging at the sleeves and then scurrying over to greet the welcoming party. "Sorry about the wait, hard time finding the door in the dark, musta skinned my knees five times 'fore I found where I left my screwdriver; jacket pocket, as it turns out, really have to keep track of these things. So, I take it you're the Captain, then?" He finished, smiling brightly, his attention squarely on Picard.
Picard, who had opened his mouth to speak when the newcomer had emerged, had only gaped at the seemingly normal human in outdated clothing, and his speech hadn't exactly been restored by the man's rambling monologue. Still, when the man finally stopped talking, Picard found enough inner equilibrium to reply.
"I am Captain Picard," he replied cautiously, half-turning to gesture to the others. "May I introduce my Chief of Security, Lieutenant Worf, my second officer, Lieutenant Commander Data, and ship's Counselor Deanna Troi."
The man's attention had wandered from the captain; not towards the other three occupants, as he hardly afforded them a glance, but instead to the shuttlebay itself, his brow furrowing with obvious interest.
"Pleasure, right pleasure, wonderful architecture, very roomy in here, can't quite put my finger on the design style..." Handshakes were administered, first to Picard, then to Troi... when he reached Data, however, he paused, frowning a little as he squinted at the android.
"Huh. Odd. Curious eyes." Lifting the android's clasped hand mid-shake, he gave it an experimental sniff, then brightened; "Hmmm, various tripolymer composites, molybdenum-cobalt alloys..." Releasing the hand, he licked his own palm, smacking his lips before adding. "Ahhh, bioplast sheeting! Brilliant! Artificial lifeform, love those, always so nice to have a conversation with someone who understands half of what I'm saying most of the time. Pleasure to meet you, very much so, all of you, I'm the Doctor, as you probably heard."
"And, y-" He had moved on to the last person in line, but as he clasped Worf's hand and craned his head up to consider the scowling security chief, he paused. He didn't seem to be perturbed by the somewhat unfriendly expression... but the face itself did cause him concern. "...what're you?".
Worf stiffened a little at the question, obviously uncertain whether or not he was being insulted. But the genuine confusion in the man's eyes, to say nothing for the fact that his commanding officer was in the room, kept him from reacting... unfavorably, instead muttering; "I am a Klingon."
The Doctor nodded along agreeably, then blinked. "A what?"
Worf's lip curled a little as he all but growled. "A Kling-on."
"A Kling-ooon." He didn't just look confused now; he looked downright disturbed, eyes narrowing. "Right. Never... heard of them. That's odd."
"Now that the proper introductions have been made," Picard said slowly, "perhaps you could enlighten us as to just what you were doing out here-"
"Right, yes," the man muttered, "Very important to know who I am, where I'm from, but... Kling-oooonnnn..."
Suddenly, in a flurry of movement, the stranger yanked out a metallic wand and, before anyone could react, aimed it square at the imposing Security Chief. Just as Worf lifted his phaser, though, the device's green crystal tip glowed, buzzed... and, seemingly, nothing happened. It was that absence of effect that kept the security team from opening fire, but the man didn't seem in any way bothered by it, simply snapping his wrist; the wand lengthened slightly, revealing a tiny display that he studied solemnly, expression grim.
"Never seen this biological design before," the stranger mused, and then aimed the wand in Picard's direction. Once more, it buzzed that peculiar sound, but as Worf reached out to seize the Doctor's wrist, Picard motioned for him to stand down, correctly guessing what this odd fellow's intentions were.
Once more, the Doctor's wrist flicked back once the scan was finished, and his eyes feverishly studied the miniature display.
"Well, you're human, at least... artificial heart, incredible, you must be a killer at poker... and you..." A third time, the device buzzed, this time in Troi's direction... the readings only seemed to further trouble him. "...are not. Human, I mean. Not entirely. I've never seen... what are you?"
Troi was all but buffeted with waves of worry, frantic confusion, almost fear from this strange man, rising higher with every moment, and so she kept her voice as calm and gentle as she could. "I am half Betazoid."
"Betazoid." He whirled around to glance at the TARDIS, then whirled back to the increasingly uncomfortable group. "Never heard of it. All right. A room with a human and two races I've never heard of. This is a first. Ever." His brain suddenly switched tracks. "What year is it?"
"If you mean by standard Terran calendar, the year is twenty-three sixty-eight," Troi replied, but rather than settle the strange man, it only seem to fluster him all the more.
"...noooo, no no no... that can't be right..." The Doctor's eyes flickered back and forth as he took a half-step back, looking increasingly like a caged animal with every passing moment. "This couldn't possibly be 2368, I know 2368 like the back of my hand, had lunch with some very prominent people in 2368, and this is most certainly not... unless..."
When the Doctor trailed off, glancing back towards the blue box, Picard tried to urge him along; "Unless...?"
"...Oh no. This is even worse than I thought."
The entire group stiffened a little at that, but Picard took a careful step closer, both hands lifted as if the strange man were brandishing a weapon instead of a... whatever the hell that was.
"You're obviously upset about something," Picard said slowly, carefully, "but if you could just explain..."
The Doctor suddenly laughed; it was a brief, almost high-pitched, decidedly agitated giggle, his hands flicking outwards in a helpless shrug. Once again, the entire group tensed as the strange madman with his strange, blue box glanced all around the shuttlebay, his teeth clenched, breaths passing in a few sharp gasps before he replied.
"Well... I'm not, technically, supposed to be here."