Notes: The characters aren't mine, and the story is! This is a pre-War Games piece featuring Two, Jamie, and Zoe… along with a previous one-time villain who will be showing up in the next chapter.
"Doctor! Doctor, can ye tell Zoe to stop going on about me wearing something other than a kilt?"
"I was just saying that there are several occasions where wearing a kilt just isn't practical—you'd be much better off wearing trousers!"
"If I handled running through the moors of the Highlands in a kilt, I think I'll be just fine!"
"You are so stubborn Jamie," Zoe muttered. "You may find it easier with trousers, you know. And what if we're being chased by aliens over rugged terrain? A kilt may impede your running speed."
"My running speed is fine," Jamie insisted. "The Doctor and I have been running from aliens long before we met ye, over all kinds of terrain, and I never once dragged us down. Right, Doctor?"
The Doctor, who had been silently watching the argument between the young Scot and the even younger girl, now ducked behind the console of the TARDIS, as though he could avoid the situation altogether by hiding.
"Doctor…!" two voices chorused, amused.
"I do wish you two would leave me out of your arguments," the Gallifreyan said, briefly peering out from behind the console. "No one has to be right all the time, you know. You both have very good points, but what seems to be the best option for one would, in fact, be ill-suited for another."
"There ye are, then," Jamie said, satisfied. "Ye leave me be!"
Zoe merely shrugged her shoulders and was about to say something else, but her words were preempted by a loud, booming crack issuing from outside. She yelped in surprise as Jamie pulled out his knife, aiming it at the doors.
"We're under attack!" he exclaimed.
"No, no, no," the Doctor assured him, now getting to his feet again. "Put that away, Jamie; it's quite alright. It's not uncommon for lightning storms to occur in the Time Vortex; there's a great deal of energy in this void, you know—naturally, the excess sometimes manifests itself in ways such as this."
"As electrical energy?" Zoe asked, intrigued.
"Oh, yes!" the Doctor said, eager to explain. "It's quite a simple phenomenon, really; all it takes is just—"
He was interrupted now, this time by the TARDIS suddenly lurching, and then emitting a screeching whirr.
"Steady on, Old Girl; surely it can't be as bad as all that…!" the Doctor said, placing a hand on the console.
The TARDIS whirred again, and Jamie suddenly let out a yelp.
"Doctor! The doors!"
"What's the matter with the—Oh, my word!"
Water was seeping in through the minute spaces under and between the doors; already, it was beginning to spread across the floor of the console room.
"I take it that isn't supposed to happen?!" Zoe exclaimed, seeing the look on the Doctor's face.
"I'm afraid not," he replied, wringing his hands, nervously. "Oh dear, oh dear…"
The TARDIS lurched again, throwing Jamie and Zoe off of their feet; the Doctor had an arm around each of them in an instant to break their falls as the central column on the console began to rise and fall. Soon, the more familiar vwoorp-vwoorp-vwoorp sound filled the room, signifying that they were coming in for a landing—and a rather violent one, by the feel of it.
"What have you done!?" Zoe cried, as the three of them were thrown across the console room again and into the far wall.
"It's out of my hands!" the Doctor exclaimed. "The TARDIS hates getting wet; she's getting us out of the Vortex—an emergency landing!"
The TARDIS shook once more, and then calmed down. The water had stopped seeping in through the doors, as well.
"Well, then," the Gallifreyan said, after looking around the console room in some trepidation. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
Zoe glanced at the Doctor in disbelief as Jamie responded with a dark look, rubbing his elbow on the spot where he had collided with the wall.
"Yes, well… at least it's over now," the Doctor said. "Right—let's see where we are, shall we?"
He crossed to the doors, but frowned as they refused to open.
"Has the water damaged the doors?" Zoe asked, worriedly.
"No, it couldn't have!" he exclaimed. "It would take much more than that to damage these doors—they've withstood the onslaught of armies! I can't understand…" He trailed off as the TARDIS whirred again, and he glanced at all the water on the floor. "Oh, I see…"
Jamie and Zoe stared in utter befuddlement as the Doctor now headed down the corridor. He returned to the console room within minutes, carrying mops and buckets.
"It shouldn't take too long if we all pitch in," the Doctor said, cheerfully.
"Ye must be joking," Jamie said.
"Jamie, I told you, the TARDIS doesn't like getting wet. Those doors aren't going to open until all this water is mopped up."
He handed them each a mop and a bucket before proceeding to begin the cleaning, whistling an old Gallifreyan tune as he worked.
"Sometimes I wonder who's really in charge here," Zoe sighed, as she began to mop up, as well.
Jamie let out a hollow laugh.
Finally, after the water had been cleaned up to the TARDIS's satisfaction, the doors were opened, admitting the Doctor and his companions to the world they had landed upon. The place was rocky and Earth-like, the sky covered by thick, dark thunderheads. Rumbles of thunder echoed all around them.
Jamie would have assumed they had landed on Earth had it not been for a formation of large, clear, triangular crystals towering over the landscape about a mile from where they had landed. Every few moments, a bolt of lightning would illuminate the crystals, which were the tallest structures around.
"Look!" he exclaimed, pointing to them.
"They look like giant prisms!" Zoe exclaimed.
"Yes…" the Doctor said, fishing out his 500-year-diary from his seemingly bottomless pockets and beginning to page through it. "Unless I'm mistaken, there's only one place in the galaxy with a large crystal structure like that… Aha, just as I thought! We've landed on Neo Serenity!" He indicated the bottom of the slopes, where the lights of a city were clearly visible. "It's inhabited, as well; we must be in the 23rd century—that was when the human colony began to flourish. They'd just completed their canal system, you see—to combat the effect of the rain shadow."
"Eh?" Jamie asked. "The rain casts a shadow?"
"No," the Doctor said, with a patient smile. "Rain shadow is when moisture in the air—moisture that would fall as rain or other forms of precipitation—falls on the mountains instead of beyond them. Because very little moisture makes it past the mountains, it leads to the formation of deserts."
"They built the city in a desert?" Zoe asked. "Why would they do that?"
"They had no other choice," the Doctor said. "The mountains here were unsuitable for building a city upon, and immediately past them is the coast. This was the only place they could build. They blasted away at the mountains, breaking them down and drilling into the sides as they built their canal system."
"So when it rains on the mountains, the canals take the water to the city," Zoe finished. "Why, that's brilliant!"
"It worked quite well!" the Doctor agreed. "There are such heavy rains in the mountains during the spring and summer months, the city is able to conserve the water they need in man-made reservoirs outside the city for the rest of the year. Judging by these stormclouds, we must be right in the thick of the rainy season."
Jamie was beginning to understand, but he still found the whole thing rather overwhelming.
"So, what's the point of those things, then?" he asked, indicating the towering, triangular crystals.
"When they were blasting down the mountaintops, these were found—originally in a cavern," the Doctor said, consulting the diary. "The people constructed their first hydroelectric plant at the base of these crystals. There's another one outside the city that keeps an eye on the reservoirs, though there are multiple turbines between here and there; in that way, the water produces the extra electrical power they need to maintain their cooling systems during the summer."
"Well, if they're going to have water flowing to the city in canals, they might as well harness whatever electricity they can from it," Zoe said to Jamie. "It's really a very brilliant strategy—one that's completely friendly for the environment."
Her sentence was punctuated by a crack of thunder.
"If they're that brilliant, why can't they harness that power?" Jamie asked, gesturing to the sky.
"I have no doubt that they'll find a way to accomplish that, as well," the Doctor said, glancing up at the storm.
Another flash of lightning lit up the cloudy sky, and Zoe began to feel a little nervous about standing outside.
"Doctor, are you sure we're safe out here?" she asked. "I think we should go back inside the TARDIS."
"Aye, we may as well leave," Jamie said. The novelty of the crystals had worn off, and he wasn't in the mood to discuss about rain shadow or hydroelectric power.
The Doctor sighed, realizing that he was outvoted.
"Very well, then; let's see if I can get the TARDIS to cooperate."
He frowned as Jamie failed in suppressing an all-too-audible snark.
"I'll have you know, Jamie, that a situation like this happens very rarely!"
"Really?" Zoe asked, a slight chuckle to her voice.
The Doctor knew they were both just teasing him now, but, still, pride dictated that he should respond.
"Yes, really! I am perfectly capable of piloting the TARDIS flawlessly, thank you very much!"
"Och, ye could've fooled me; ye never intended for us to land here."
"Yes, well… nobody's perfect… I could hardly have anticipated such a large amount of water in the Time Vortex…" The Doctor trailed off as a realization suddenly struck him. He stopped in his tracks and glanced down at the ground, taking note of the fact that he and the others were leaving footprints in the dusty ground. "Hold on just a moment. This ground is dry—too dry for the middle of the rainy season. Meanwhile, we ended up here because of water in the Vortex."
"Are you saying there's some sort of a connection?" Zoe asked.
A bolt of lightning now struck one of the tall crystals. For an instant, the crystal glowed from the electricity, and its clear interior was completely alight. Within the clear crystal was a most unearthly sight—a colorless, dark mass that still seemed to glow. Jamie and Zoe stared at it, puzzled, and the both of them turned to glance at the Doctor as a horrified gasp escaped his lips.
"What is it?" Jamie asked.
"Did you see that?!" the Gallifreyan asked, his eyes wide in shock. "Did you see that glow inside?"
"I see it, but I don't believe it!" Zoe said. "It's almost like a black light—dark, but glowing…"
"That is energy—pure time energy from the Vortex!" the Doctor exclaimed.
Another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, and, this time, the Doctor indicated a swirling object in the sky.
"Look at that—but don't look directly into it!"
"Is that the Vortex?" Jamie asked, his eyes widening.
"An opening to it, yes—I believe this is what caused the water to flood the Vortex—the water that should be raining here is, instead, being absorbed into the Vortex—and displacing time energy into these crystals as a result! The Vortex is being drained of time energy because of all of this!"
"Aye, that's too bad," Jamie said, folding his arms. "I guess it means ye'll ne'er pilot the TARDIS flawlessly again…"
"This is no time for jokes, Jamie!" the Doctor chided the Scot. "It's far more serious than that! Every second the rain doesn't fall here means that more water is entering the Vortex—and more time energy is being displaced into the crystals!"
Jamie and Zoe looked to him in confusion, and it became clear that they could not grasp the full scope of the situation.
"The TARDIS depends on the energy of the Vortex to travel through it," the Doctor explained. "And she detests water with a vengeance! Unless we find a way to stop this displacement of water and time energy, we're going to be stranded here!"