The Time Lord instructor, as was his custom, patted the student on the back and smiled to reassure him. With this student, however, reassurance hardly seemed necessary. The instructor shook his head. Yes, he was brilliant, this one. It had been generations since any Gallifreyan had shown such potential. But his brilliance was matched by his ego and lack of patience. A dangerous combination. He would have to be watched and guided carefully.
"Now," said the instructor, "tell me about the Untempered Schism."
The student rolled his eyes. "It's a gap in reality. Through it you see the time vortex, and all of space and time. At eight years old, students are brought to the academy. Looking into the Untempered Schism is part of the initiation. Now, let's have a look!"
"Not so quickly, young one. This is not something to be taken lightly," said the instructor.
"Well I want to see it. 'Cause one day I'm going to go to every galaxy, every planet, visit every time period."
The desire to see all of space and time had led the student to the TARDIS maintenance yard earlier that day. He wasn't allowed, naturally, but he was stealthy and clever. He'd stood in the shadows as a technician emerged from one of the vehicles. "Well, this one has certainly seen better days," the technician said. He dumped some parts he'd removed from the TARDIS onto a cart.
A second technician walked up to him. "It's an old Type 40, isn't it? Well you never know. It might still prove useful one day. We'll repair what we can and let it hibernate for now. But first, I need your help with this one over here."
At that, the two technicians walked away and entered another TARDIS. The student walked up to the cart to examine the parts. Spotting a piece of coral, his eyes widened. They said you could grow an entire TARDIS from one of these. He glanced about. He was still alone. Wasting no more time, he pocketed the coral and left the way he came.
Now, fingering the coral in his pocket, the student looked up at the instructor and realized he had missed something. "Sorry, sir," the student said. "Can you repeat that?"
"You are easily distracted," the instructor said. "This is one of the areas for improvement that we will work on. In the meantime, I asked you what happens to those who look into the Untempered Schism."
"That depends on who's doing the looking," said the student. "As for me, it's just going to whet my appetite."
The instructor sighed. So sure of himself, this one. Well, there was a simple way to cure that. "We'll see," the instructor said. "Now it's time. Prepare yourself and step forward."
The student stepped up to the Untempered Schism, hands on his hips. Then he disappeared.
The instructor blinked. "Well," he said, "that was unexpected."
"Alright, Doctor," said Amy after the TARDIS landed. "You said it would be a surprise. Where are we?"
"Eh?" questioned the Doctor. "Oh yes." He danced about the console, pushing buttons and turning dials. Then he brushed the hair away from his face and with a smile said, "Cardiff."
Amy and Rory looked at each other. "Cardiff." Rory repeated. "Seriously? Cardiff?"
"What's wrong with Cardiff?" the Doctor asked, still adjusting mechanisms on the console. "Did you know there's a space-time rift in Cardiff? All sorts of things from all of space and time drift through the rift and wash up in Cardiff. It's also a prime location for the TARDIS to replenish her energy supplies. Which is what she's going to do right… now!" And with a flourish, the Doctor pulled a lever on the console. In response, the TARDIS shuddered and the central column started to rise and fall.
"Wait a minute. That wasn't supposed to happen. What are you up to then?" the Doctor said, patting the console.
"Are you talking to me?" asked the boy.
"No," said the Doctor. "It was a rhetorical question."
"Um, Doctor," said Amy.
"Just a minute," said the Doctor, looking at a display on the screen. "I need to investigate this."
"Really, Doctor," said Rory, looking at the boy. "You should turn around and see this."
"Oh, all right," said the Doctor. "What is… it."
"Is this part of the test then?" asked the boy.
The Doctor said nothing, his face worked up into a frowning question.
"Right then," said the boy, walking up to the console. "This is an obsolete TARDIS, isn't it? A Type 40? I saw one this morning in the maintenance yard. Of course, I wasn't supposed to be there, but never mind. I'm clever and I got in. Now, as for these two, let's see. Classic bipedal body structure. Two sexes, I'm guessing they're a male and female. External mammary glands. But this is interesting," he said, walking up to Amy.
"Pink skin on the face and arms, but black on the legs." He put his hands on Amy's knee and ran his fingers up and down.
"Rory," said Amy.
"Ah, I see," said the boy. "Some sort of leg covering. I wonder, does it go all the way up to…"
"RORY!" Amy shouted.
Rory picked up the boy and moved him away. "Would you mind very much not feeling up my wife's legs? Thank you," said Rory.
"Oi!" sad the boy. "Get your hands off me. I don't know where they've been."
He backed away from Rory and looked up at him.
"Humans, no doubt," he said. "From Earth. As for the time period, not long separated from your ape ancestors. A couple of hundred thousand years or so. Am I right?"
"Doctor," said Amy. "Where did this monster come from?"
"What? Watch your manners you… ape woman." said the boy, putting his hands on his hips. "Don't you know you're talking to a Time Lord? Well, a Time Lord in training, but still. Show some respect for your betters."
"Time Lord?" Rory said. "Doctor, what's he talking about?"
The Doctor, having collapsed into a chair, was rubbing his chin. Eyes fixed on the boy, he whispered, "What are you doing here?"
"What do you mean?" asked the boy, turning to the Doctor. "This is part of the test. Isn't it?"
Rising, the Doctor said, "Don't you realize that by being here we've broken the first law of time?"
The boy turned pale and backed away from the Doctor. "We? You mean you're…?"
"Yes," said the Doctor. "I'm you, over 900 years later. Your 10th regeneration. You shouldn't be here."
"But I didn't do it," said the boy. "One minute I was standing in front of the Untempered Schism, the next I was here."
"The Untempered Schism," the Doctor repeated.
"Wait. If you're me, why do they call you 'Doctor'?" asked the boy.
"Because that's my name," said the Doctor. "Our name."
"Rubbish," said the boy. "That's not my name, it's…"
But before the boy could continue, the Doctor put a hand over his mouth. "Just stop. The name you're known by isn't to be spoken. It's not safe. Trust me. There'll come a time when you choose a new name. You'll call yourself the Doctor, and that's the name you'll be known by from then on."
"Alright then," said the boy, pushing the Doctor's hand away. "Doctor it is. Still," he said, looking at the Doctor more closely, "You're telling me that I'm going to end up with a chin like that? What a depressing thought."
"Oi!" Said the Doctor. "Don't dis the chin."
"And you're wearing a bow tie?"
"What's wrong with bow ties? Bow ties are cool," said the Doctor, straightening his. "No, never mind all that, the important question is, what are we going to do with you?"
The boy sighed. "A big chin and a fossilized brain that wears a bow tie. This is a TARDIS, isn't it? Just take me back to Gallifrey."
"I can't," said the Doctor, turning away from the boy. "I just can't. Don't ask why. Just trust me."
The boy shrugged. "Well, we'll figure it out. We're clever. At least I am. You might have passed your best before date. Meanwhile, I've never been off Gallifrey. Let's go outside and explore. It's just too bad my first planet has to be Earth."
"You know, Doctor," said Amy. "I know you said he's you, a young you, but I'd still like to take him over my knee and…"
"Oh, go climb a tree," said the boy. "Why do you keep these annoying ape creatures in your TARDIS? Are they your pets? Poor choice if they are."
"Pets. Great," said Rory. "Is that how you think of us?"
"What? No, of course not. Right," said the Doctor, clasping his hands together. "Ground rules. As for you," he said, addressing the boy. "These are my friends. They have names: Amy and Rory. Be polite to them and they'll be polite to you. And you'll treat all of us with a bit more respect from now on. And as for the Ponds," the Doctor said, twirling about, "absolutely no spanking."
"That's a shame," Amy muttered. Rory smiled and took her hand.
"And now," continued the Doctor, "let's go out for a bit. After all, what could go wrong in Cardiff?"
To be continued