When Jack walked into the console room, he found Rose sitting on the jump seat, reading a leather-bound book with the word "Olparn" printed in large letters across its surface. The Doctor was standing near the console, hands stuffed into the pockets of his black leather jacket, admiring his ship.
"I met her, you know," Jack said to Rose as he came by.
Rose looked up from her book, her eyes wide. Even the Doctor's large ears seemed to perk up at the interruption, although he didn't turn around.
"Karen Hollburn?" she asked. "The Karen Hollburn from this book?"
"Of course," said Jack. "Tracking down a gorgeous woman at a nexus point in time and space—I'd say that's pretty much my specialty."
The Doctor cringed. If Jack noticed, he didn't seem to mind.
"So, what do you think?" Jack asked Rose.
"It's a weird book," Rose admitted. "I know it's supposed to be Karen Hollburn's autobiography, but it's like she's going through her own past and trying to make sense of it. I mean, every time she meets her younger self, she keeps asking if she's Karen Hollburn. But she knows the answer already, because she remembers this happening from when she was small. She's already lived through it." Rose met Jack's eyes, and he could see the hint of tears forming therein. "It just reminded me of that time when I tried to rescue my dad. You know, living through my own past. For a minute, I was sure she was talking about me."
"Everyone says that," Jack reassured her. "It's what makes the book so popular." He gave her a wink. "What about Karen Hollburn, huh? Sounds like a babe?"
Rose gave Jack a playful punch on the arm. Then she thought a moment. "She reminds me a lot of the Doctor," Rose confessed. "The whole no guns, no violence, peaceful solution thing."
"There's a reason for that," said the Doctor.
"You visited her?" Rose asked him.
The Doctor scoffed. "Unlike Jack over there, I don't generally flit around fixed points in time and space making a nuisance of myself."
"Oh, come off it, Doctor," said Jack, playfully. "I know you were there. Your Tardis was about three blocks away from the scene of the crime."
The Doctor stiffened at this. He was now visibly uncomfortable.
"Scene of what crime?" asked Rose.
"Karen Hollburn has a reputation for being hard to find in history," said Jack. "The only real documentation about her life that survives concerns the assassination attempt in 2008. And if you think the Tardis can give you a bumpy ride, you've never been to Las Vegas in 2008. The whole thing is sort of blocked off to time tourists."
"It's called a fixed point in time," said the Doctor. "And you shouldn't be playing around with them."
"So, when you met her, was she anything like she is in the book?" asked Rose.
"I didn't really get a chance to talk to her," Jack admitted. "She was busy talking to some skinny guy in a brown pinstripe suit. Now, if you thought Hollburn was attractive, you should have seen the skinny guy. I mean, wow."
"That's enough, Jack," snapped the Doctor.
Jack and Rose looked at each other, surprised. The Doctor whirled around, his face a cloud of anger and irritation. He pointed at Rose. "Rose, when I get old and stupid, do me a favor and punch me in the face ." He pointed at Jack. "And you, stay away from the man in the pinstripe suit. He knows what he's doing, and he doesn't need some stupid, overgrown ape telling him what to do."
"Someone's jealous," Jack sing-songed.
The Doctor threw his hands in the air. "Oh, well that's just great," he said. "Not content with leering at just one of me, are you? You want to go out and find the other twelve? Well, let me know when you're finished messing around with history, Captain, and we'll see if there's a human race left to put back together."
And with that, he stormed off.
Rose and Jack stared at one another.
"What was that about?" asked Rose.
"I think," said Jack, "that he hasn't been there yet."
Rose bookmarked her place in the book, and closed it in her lap. "So what happened? I mean, what really happened?"
Jack sat down on the jump seat, and told her.
There should be a woman with long blond hair. She should be swamped by people as soon as she steps out of her car. With the amount of attention she should be receiving, one might assume she'd be riding around in a limo or at least some sort of chauffeured transportation. But no, the woman would be driving around in a used Pontiac, whose engine makes an unhealthy coughing sound every few seconds.
Nor would this woman be dressed in fancy or revealing clothing. She should be wearing a well-worn white turtleneck with brown khakis. This is because she'd know that the crowd has not come out to see her outfit. Those hands would not be reaching out to her because she is a woman—they'd be reaching out for hope.
If one is to believe legend, every word that falls from this woman's lips should have that soothing, calming lilt. Every motion of her arms should give her followers courage, every step should give them determination. That is what she will be famous for—ending the violence with just a word, a gesture. That is why everyone remembers the name Karen Hollburn centuries from that time.
The real Karen Hollburn steps out of her brand-new SUV, her mousy hair uncombed and her smile a little too contrived. There isn't a crowd waiting for her—just a few passersby wandering beneath a flickering lamppost. She is wearing a black suit, and she has a look of determination in her eyes. For this is a woman with a dream. She will stop the anger, the violence. She will turn it into something good. Something worthwhile.
She is dropping by a local grocery store before heading off to work with the prisoners in jail, trying to draw out some spark of human decency inside of them. She likes working with the prisoners in this particular maximum security prison. About five years ago, something had happened here—the prisoners had all rallied together for some 'higher cause', although none of them will say exactly what. This is what gave her the idea in the first place—the idea that maybe, if she could figure out what caused this unity, she could implement it in the other prisons around the world. She could reform the criminal justice system, turning hardened criminals into pursuers of justice. She knows she can do it, if she just figures out what had helped these prisoners.
As she clicks her car closed, she thinks she hears something in the distance. The woman begins to walk forward, her heals clicking against the pavement as she advances.
A shot rings out through the night air, and someone cries the woman's name. Then a second shot. The crowd begins to scream. A gun clatters to the ground, and the man who held it turns and runs in the opposite direction as fast as his legs can carry him. Another man, a lanky man in a pinstripe suit, picks up the woman, and tries to stop the bleeding. He is coaxing her, telling her it will be all right, that he will save her. She stares into his deep brown eyes, and for a moment, she believes him. She believes that he will save her life.
But when the police arrive, Karen Hollburn is dead.
Nick Stokes knew that something was wrong before he arrived at the crime scene. It wasn't a gut feeling or some sort of CSI intuition. He couldn't taste the conspiracy in the air or feel it leaking into the pavement beneath his feet. He knew that something was wrong the moment he spotted the blue Police Box a few blocks away from the crime scene.
"Oh, this is bad," said Grissom. He was staring at the police box as well. "Victim or suspect, do you think?"
"Well, considering his track record, he could hardly be the vic," Nick replied.
Greg was looking from Nick to Grissom, thoroughly confused. "Is this some sort of exclusive inside thing, or can anyone play?" he asked.
Nick and Grissom ignored him. "You know," said Nick, "Catherine is on her way here, too. She might even be here already."
"Let's hope she isn't," said Grissom as they walked down the street, "or else he really will become the vic."
Nick saw the man in question the moment they turned the corner. He was seated on the side of the curb, just the same way they'd last seen him. Tall, lanky, with spiky brown hair and wearing a brown pin-stripe suit and a long tan trench coat. Nick had expected him to be bouncing around or at least giving off that air of 'I'm smarter than you,' but he was just staring down at the ground with a blank look on his face.
Nick went over to him. "Yeah, should have expected you'd come back the moment Lindsey turned eighteen," he said.
The Doctor looked up at Nick, and his eyes brightened. "Nick Stokes!" he cried, and engulfed Nick into a large hug. "I never did thank you for helping me take care of the Mara, by the way. Nasty business, that. Hope I'm not intruding on your territory…"
"Good to know we'll never have any hope of solving this crime now that you're here," Grissom said to the Doctor while ducking the police tape.
The Doctor gave a theatrical frown. "I think I resent that." He scratched his head. "How long has it been for you lot, anyways? A year? Two?"
"Try five," said Nick. He then noticed the form of Greg behind him, looking at the two of them curiously. Nick gestured to Greg. "This is Greg Sanders, by the way. He was doing DNA analysis last time you were here, but he's a full CSI now."
The Doctor got to his feet, and gave a large smile that Nick thought looked forced. "Greg Sanders, is it?" the Doctor asked, taking Greg's hand into a firm hand shake. "I'm the Doctor. Pleased to meet you."
"Yeah, that's great," Greg said, extricating his hand from the Doctor's grasp. "I'll let… Nick talk to you… I'm going to go over and help out with the crime scene."
With that, he scampered off.
"So, Doctor," Nick said. He was trying to play this cool, but he couldn't help but feel put off whenever he looked at the Doctor. This guy who had died without dying—more than once, according to Sara—and was now looking at him with brown eyes that told a story. It was a story of desperation, of sorrow, of horror, and of curiosity. Nick cleared his throat, and prepared to continue, but the Doctor cut him off.
"This isn't right, you know," said the Doctor. He was looking back at the police tape, his brow furrowed, his hands in his pockets.
"No," said Nick. "Murder never is."
The Doctor pointed to the crime scene, where Grissom and Greg were documenting evidence. "No, I mean, this. This assassination attempt. It's a well documented historical event. I've read about it in countless sources. It didn't happen like this." He shook his head, and flicked his eyes back towards Nick. "What year is this, anyways?"
"2008," said Nick.
The Doctor shrugged, his eyes returning to the crime scene. "Well," he said, "the year's right, at any rate." He sighed. "I'm assuming that really is the famous Karen Hollburn?"
"Famous?" asked Nick. "I've never…"
His words were cut off by a familiar approaching shout. Both Nick and the Doctor looked over to find Catherine Willows advancing towards them, an annoyed expression on her face.
"Oh, I should have known," said Catherine. "The moment she turns eighteen, and here you are. Right back to swoop her off her feet."
"Um," said the Doctor, looking from Nick to Catherine. "Yeah. Bit rubbish at all the human stuff. Is there supposed to be some sort of significance to that age?"
Nick half laughed. "I think he just failed our alien-test," he said.
The Doctor, meanwhile, was pacing up and down the street, running his fingers through his hair. "Eighteen, eighteen… able to drink? No, not since 1984. Joining the army? No, not for women until 2042. I know! Voting!" He looked at Catherine Willows in triumph.
Catherine rolled her eyes at Nick. "When he figures it out," she said, "go ahead and slap him for me, okay? I've got work to do."
The Doctor watched as Catherine ducked beneath the police tape and joined the rest of her team. He seemed to still be flipping over possibilities in his mind.
"So come on," said Nick. "Karen Hollburn. You knew her?"
"Only by reputation," said the Doctor. "That's why I'm here. Historical tourism, you see. She's instrumental in the formation of the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Biggest peacemaker until Darzil Carlisle." The Doctor scratched the back of his neck, cringing a little. "I really hoped that this time, it wasn't going to be me all along." He looked back at Nick, and his expression grew grim. "But you see, this was an assassination attempt. It was never supposed to succeed! Someone is tampering with history, and I really don't know why."
Nick heard a hubbub behind him, and figured that the team must have found something important. He was about to excuse himself and join the others, when Grissom came out and accosted the Doctor.
"Yeah, you," he said. "Catherine told me that someone sent a message to all the computers at the police station, and she thinks it has something to do with you."
Nick wasn't quite sure how Catherine had come to this conclusion, but then again, Lindsey had probably gone on long enough about the Doctor in the last five years that Catherine knew him better than any of them. The Doctor didn't look surprised. He just said, "What did it say?"
"It just said, 'Ka-Faraq-Gatri,'" Grissom told him, crossing his arms.
Nick noticed the Doctor's reaction as he heard the message. The Doctor suddenly looked pale, his lips drawn, his whole body a little more tense, and the single syllable, "ah," fell from his lips.
"I'm assuming that means something to you," said Grissom.
"Yes," said the Doctor. "It's me. My name—well, one of them. It's what the Daleks call me." He looked at Grissom, his eyes full of pain and anger. "It means she died because of me. Because I was here. It means that I'm the one who's changed history."
Grissom had warned Brass that this was not going to be a normal interview. Now, however, he was beginning to regret letting Brass into the room at all.
The interview had begun with the Doctor twisted around in his chair, looking back at the one-way glass. Or at least, it was supposed to be one-way.
"No Greg Sanders," the Doctor noted.
"We thought we should restrict it to people who are familiar with your… condition," Grissom said. He looked over at Brass. "And Jim Brass."
The Doctor snapped his head back and gave a wide, manic grin towards Brass. "Jim Brass?" he asked, extending a hand. "I'm the Doctor. Very good to meet you. Delighted, in fact. Always a fan of meeting new people, myself."
Brass had ignored the hand and instead begun the interrogation. "Where were you at six thirty?" he asked.
The Doctor shrugged. "Haven't been there," he said.
"Oh yeah?" said Brass, with the menacing tone he used on troublemakers. "Haven't been where?"
"To six-thirty," said the Doctor. His voice was the polar opposite of Brass'; it was calm, dilly-dallying, as if he had all the time in the world. It held the hint of a smile, and bled an air of comfort and trust. It put Grissom on his guard immediately.
"At least," added the Doctor. "I haven't been there yet. I mean, who knows? If you've seen me there, I suppose I must wind up getting there at some point in my future."
"So you just arrived out of nowhere at seven o'clock—"
"Stepped out of a police box, actually," said the Doctor. "I was trying for seven o'clock in the morning on July 27, 2027, but I guess I must have missed."
"Nick tells me," cut in Grissom, who could see that Brass' line of questioning was going nowhere, "that you knew the vic."
"Well," said the Doctor, raking a hand through his hair, "I wouldn't say knew, exactly. I mean, I'd heard about her. Who doesn't by the 26th century? Granted, people are a little bit weird in the 26th century—they have this fashion where people wear moldy food on their clothing. I mean, speaking as a man who wore a vegetable on his suit for an entire lifetime, I ask you, why would you want to wear some smelly, disgusting, moldy piece of…"
"So you popped out of your 'police box,'" said Brass, "at seven o'clock sharp, and just happened to bump into your good buddy Karen Hollburn right before she was shot?"
"Ah, not really good buddies," said the Doctor. "That's like saying you're good buddies with, oh, I don't know, William the Conqueror. I mean, sure, you've heard of him. In fact, pretty much all of British society is based on that conquest in some way. But it doesn't mean you'd be able to pick him out of a crowd."
"Do you know who murdered Karen Hollburn?" asked Grissom.
The Doctor scoffed. "2008 assassination attempt? Course I do! What do you take me for?"
Brass and Grissom both looked at him expectantly. The Doctor said nothing. It was as if he didn't realize that they expected him to continue.
"Are you going to tell us?" demanded Brass.
"No," said the Doctor, a little puzzled that they would be asking him.
"You know you aren't protecting anyone," said Brass. "And the blame falls on you. We can trace the DNA evidence from the gun, and the evidence never lies…"
Grissom cleared his throat to cut Brass off. If there was one thing he knew from past experience, it was that there'd be no chance of any biological evidence where the Doctor was involved. "And you're not telling us for a reason, I'd imagine," said Grissom.
"Spoilers!" sing-songed the Doctor.
"Spoilers?" asked Grissom.
The Doctor gave that manic grin again. "You know, like in a book," he said, pantomiming a book in the air. "You don't just skip to the end past all the good stuff. That'd be cheating. Time traveler, remember?"
"So let me get this straight," said Brass. "You know who killed Karen Hollburn?"
"Yes," said the Doctor.
"But you won't tell us, because you're a 'time traveler' from the future and that would be 'cheating'," said Brass. The angry sarcasm was apparent in his voice. Brass was very good at being intimidating, but the Doctor seemed unperturbed.
"Pretty much, yep," he said. He gave Grissom a wink.
Brass gave the Doctor his best threatening look. "I think you have a screw loose," he said.
The Doctor shrugged, pulled a long metal tube out of his jacket pocket, and pointed it at his head. Brass tried to leap for it, but Grissom didn't bother. He recognized the item from last time.
It made a high pitched whirring sound and lit up blue at the tip before Brass managed to wrestle it out of his hands. The Doctor looked amused. "It's just a screwdriver," he said. He gave his head a knock. "See? All sorted, now. No more loose screws."
Brass brandished the device at the Doctor. "What is this? Some sort of weapon?"
"Sonic screwdriver," said the Doctor, proudly. He turned back to the one-way glass, and pointed at it. "See, Nick? Catherine? This was what all the fuss was about last time. Just this little itty bitty thing." He turned back, the corner of his lips curled up in amusement. "I think Nick is a bit annoyed that I can see him." He looked back over his shoulder. "Yep, I can still see you," he said, waving. "Hello!" His face dropped into a pout. "Oh, now that's just rude and uncalled for." He turned back to Grissom. "Isn't that rude and uncalled for?"
Grissom looked towards the one way glass. "I think you guys might as well come in," said Grissom. He looked over at Brass. "Thanks for the help, but I think we'll take this alone."
Brass pulled Grissom aside as the others entered the interrogation room. "That man knows more than he's letting on," Brass whispered. "He has all sorts of information he's holding back from us. Just give me five minutes and I'll get it out of him."
Grissom sighed. "There's no use whispering," he said, glancing back over at the Doctor. The Doctor was just watching the two of them with a bemused expression on his face. Grissom looked back at Brass. "He can hear every word you're saying. And trust me, he'll see past any trick you try to pull. We figured that out last time."
Brass stomped out of the room. The Doctor leaned back in his chair, as Grissom took the seat in front of him. Beside Grissom, Catherine and Nick had already taken their seats. Grissom gave the screwdriver back to the Doctor, who accepted it gratefully.
"Not a prisoner, then?" asked the Doctor. His cheerful demeanor had gone, and he was now deadly serious.
"Should you be?" asked Grissom.
The Doctor put the screwdriver back into his pocket and looked down at the table. "That woman is dead," he said, "and somehow, it's my fault. I just haven't worked out how."
"What happened?" asked Catherine. "You know, from the moment you left your… time machine thingy."
"Like I told Grissom, wasn't actually aiming for 2008," the Doctor said. "Still trying to get Karen Hollburn, just… a bit later, you know? 2027. Good year…" he appeared to notice the pointed looks the others were giving him and raised his hands in the air. "Right, right, I know. On with the story." He scratched the back of his neck, and scrunched up his face. "Like I said, I got out of the Tardis and first thing I did was try to work out where and when I was. Then I saw Karen Hollburn, and that's when I knew there was something wrong." He scrunched up his nose. "I mean, it didn't even look like Karen Hollburn. At least not the way they talked about her by the 25th century. Blond, medium height. Never dressed too fancy. Just a turtle neck and a pair of old khaki pants. Drove around in a used car that always looked like it was on its last legs. But oh, she was a force to be reckoned with. Smart, charismatic. A bit of the old charm. Bit like me, really," he added with a wink. "But this woman, she was just… flat. Blah. Boring. I mean, I almost didn't recognize her."
"So you spoke to her?" asked Grissom.
"Not before she was shot, but I knew who she was," said the Doctor. "It was obvious just by looking at her. I mean, time flows differently around people like that. They sort of stand out. Hard thing to miss. Well, if you're a Time Lord."
"So you recognized her, but didn't talk to her," clarified Grissom. "Until she was shot."
"To be honest," said the Doctor, "I was still trying to work it all out when I heard the gun cocking. That's when I started to run. You see, in the stories I'd heard about the assassination, the assassin missed because Hollburn was swarmed with people and he—or she—couldn't get a clear shot. Wound up hitting an innocent civilian, which led to a big anti-gun campaign around the city. But, you know, no big crowds…" the Doctor shrugged. "I thought maybe I could push her out of the way, but I got there too late. I tried to stop the bleeding, but she was already too far gone." He let out a long sigh, and looked down at the table. "It's my fault she was hit, you know. I'm sure it's my fault. That's what the message meant. I just can't work out how."
"Did you have anything to do with the murder?" asked Nick.
"No," said the Doctor.
"Then why would it be your fault?"
"Because that's all I've been doing recently," the Doctor snapped. His expression was suddenly thunderous, his eyes dark and icy. "Going around, changing history. The Time Lord Victorious. And it always ends like this. With something or someone I care about being destroyed." He took in a sharp breath. "I started a war since you last saw me. Did you know that?"
The three CSIs across the table looked at one another, shaking their heads.
"I was just wandering around Washington DC," the Doctor continued, "when this CIA agent came up and nabbed me. Apparently your government has a file on me. And the CIA wanted to know what I'd been doing in Iraq."
Now Grissom could feel his eyes going wide. He really wasn't sure he wanted to hear this story.
The Doctor had no intentions of stopping, however. "I didn't even remember I'd been in Iraq, but they'd spotted my Tardis there. Wanted to know what I'd been doing, if I'd been blowing up any weapons factories or anything. I thought way back and I remembered that yeah, I had been there, in Iraq, back before I met Rose." He gave a chuckle that was completely drained of mirth. "It was right after the Time War, when I was tracking down those last few Daleks that got away. And I found them right there, in early 21st century Iraq. Took care of them—well, most of them. Anyways, I told the CIA agent that I was actually there to fight Daleks, but I guess the CIA had never heard of Daleks before. They asked me if these Daleks were dangerous, and I said…" the Doctor looked up at his audience, and gave a sad shrug. "I told the CIA that a Dalek is basically a weapon of mass destruction."
"Oh, you are kidding me," said Catherine. She looked like she wanted to smash something against the wall. "You mean it wasn't faulty intelligence or some personal grudge against Sadam Hussein? It was you?" She looked over at Nick.
"Conspiracy theorists, one," Nick said. "Rest of the world, zero."
"You've probably never even heard of David Winters, have you?" asked the Doctor. The blank looks confirmed the Doctor's suspicions. "Figures," said the Doctor. "With the war, Bush would have been re-elected. No more David Winters." He frowned. "Your president, Bush, he was never butchered by a bunch of round, spherical aliens calling themselves Toclophane, was he?"
The three CSIs shook their heads. Grissom was the one to give him a real answer. "We gave that tape recording you made in 2003 over to some friends of ours in the FBI," he told the Doctor. "So our government officials were all wary of Harold Saxon from the start."
The Doctor didn't seem happy to hear this. In fact, it just made him even more upset than he was before. "And there I go again!" he said. "Rewriting history. I can't even make a tape warning people to guard the Tardis without it leading to a major historical rewrite." He raked his hand through his hair again. "You told me I was a murderer, Grissom. But I'm so much worse." He looked up, and met Grissom's eyes with his own. Those dark, stormy eyes. "Do you know why, Gil Grissom?"
Grissom didn't say anything, but he was battling the urge to run away from those eyes.
"I don't just kill people, Gil Grissom," said the Doctor, "I unwrite their lives. I take them out of history. How many people will die because Karen Hollburn was murdered today? How many people will never have been born?" He slammed his fists down on the table as he got to his feet. "It's not fair!" he shouted. He began pacing the room, his hands in his pockets, looking down at his feet. "I'm all that's left. It's my right to flout whatever laws of time I see fit. I'm the Time Lord Victorious. Me! Just me!" He stopped pacing, and looked back at the three people watching him behind the interrogation table. "I need you to do something for me," he pleaded, and there was real desperation in his voice.
"What?" asked Grissom. Here it came, the moment he'd been expecting from the very beginning. The moment where the Doctor explained what he really wanted from all of this.
"I want you to arrest me," said the Doctor.
The three CSIs looked at each other. Grissom frowned. He hadn't been expecting that. "Why?" he asked.
The Doctor stormed over to the table and leaned down across it, until he was eye to eye with Grissom. Grissom flinched under that terrifying gaze, but was surprised to find that the Doctor's hands were trembling as they rested on the table.
"Because I need someone to stop me," he said, quietly, "from going back to the Tardis, plopping myself back a few hours into my own past, and stopping the murder myself."
"Well, why not?" demanded Catherine. "You said yourself that history was already messed up. You've got a time machine. Go ahead and put it right."
The Doctor turned his glare to Catherine, and she winced beneath it. Nick caught on immediately. "I'm assuming that would be a bad thing to do?" he guessed.
"Do you remember the Mara?" the Doctor asked. "How it managed to write itself and its home world out of history?"
Nick mouthed an 'oh', and looked back at Grissom, pointedly. "Very bad, then," he said.
"We can't just arrest you for something you didn't do," said Catherine.
"I'll write a confession," said the Doctor. "I'll tell you everything you want to hear. I'll be your fall guy. Does that work?"
Grissom was looking at the Doctor, examining him carefully. He thought that perhaps it would be foolish of them to let this opportunity slip by. After all, the Doctor deserved to be detained. He was a murderer. But the Doctor had saved Lindsey last time. "I have just one question to ask you," said Grissom. "You told Sara you killed ten billion people. If you were able to go back and do it differently, without it turning into a huge paradox, would you?"
"No," said the Doctor. "I wouldn't."
Grissom nodded, and got his walky-talky out of his pocket. He called the policemen into the room, and watched as they cuffed the Doctor and read him his Miranda Rights. The Doctor's eyes never left Grissom's, even as he was led away.
It was only Catherine's sudden cry of alarm that broke the spell between the Doctor and Grissom. Grissom looked around, and spotted Lindsey sprinting down the corridor.
"Wait!" screamed Lindsey. "Wait!"
The Doctor turned around too, and there was shock written on his face. He watched helplessly as Lindsey pounced on him, and drew him into a desperate and passionate French-kiss. It took quite a while to extract Lindsey from the Doctor, but with the right amount of persuasion and maneuvering from the policemen (along with threats from Catherine), Lindsey was finally disentangled from the man in the pin-striped suit.
The Doctor stared at her like there was something he missed. "What?" he said.
Lindsey looked at one of the policemen with a mischievous smile on her face. "Thanks," she said. "He'd never have let me do that if he weren't handcuffed." And with no further ado, Lindsey marched out of the police station.
Vicki found Barbara Wright in the Tardis library, sitting in an easy chair with a leather-bound book in her hands. Vicki didn't know much about the 20 th century high school history teacher, but she figured Barbara was probably absorbed in some book about the ancient Aztecs or the French Revolution.
"What are you reading?" she asked.
Barbara looked up, startled at the disruption from her book. Being suddenly removed from a book is not unlike having your head suddenly dunked into a bucket of ice cold water, and it took Barbara a moment to adjust to the world around her. She gave Vicki a friendly smile.
"Just a book the Doctor's obsessed with," she said, lifting up the cover.
Vicki's eyes grew wide with shock when she read the single word on the cover. Olparn. Barbara noticed the look.
"You've read it?" she asked.
"Of course!" Vicki exclaimed. "It's only the bestselling book in the whole of human history. I'm surprised you never read it before."
"I don't think it's been written yet," said Barbara. She flipped to the front, and read the copyright date on the inside cover. "Yes, not for another 75 years at least."
Vicki sat down on the chair opposite Barbara. "So, what do you think?"
"It's beautiful," said Barbara. "I love the way she writes it—as if she's spending the entire book searching for herself."
"It's a journey of self-discovery," Vicki said. "We all go through a similar rite of passage when we turn 13. We review our lives and try to understand who we really are inside."
Barbara nodded. "The thing is, the book rings so true. I've felt all of the things she's going through. That feeling of wanting to make a difference and not being sure how. Those feelings of loneliness and heartbreak. When I read those words, it's like I wasn't reading about Karen Hollburn anymore. I was reading about myself."
"That's what everyone says," said Vicki. "That's how I felt when I first read the Book of Olparn."
Barbara gave her another smile. "It's completely transformed the Doctor," she confessed. "He used to talk to Ian and myself as if we were… expendable. You know. Lesser beings. But now—it's almost like he looks up to us. Like maybe humans aren't as small and insignificant as he thought. It's like… he wants to become her. To change his life in order to match her ideals."
Vicki chewed on her bottom lip. "Karen Hollburn is unique," said Vicki. "A step above the rest of us. She's the light in the darkness, that last strand of hope in perilous situations. You can strive to be like her, you can work towards her ideals. But you can never hope to match them precisely. It's impossible."
"If there's one thing I've learned while travelling with the Doctor," said Barbara, "it's that anything is possible."
The Doctor didn't even think to check to make sure he had all his personal items in his pockets until he heard the sound of the sonic screwdriver at the lock of his cell. He looked up, and there was Lindsey, swinging the door to his cell open with a triumphant grin on her face.
"Well, come on," said Lindsey.
The Doctor didn't move.
Lindsey sighed, and dug into a pocket. She produced a small piece of paper and handed it to him. "Would it help if I said you'd cause a massive temporal paradox if you don't come with me?"
The Doctor eyed the paper warily. He snatched it out of her hands, took it, and inspected it. Failing all his other senses, he licked it to make sure the paper was authentic. He could taste the vortex imbedded in its fibers. So Lindsey was right. He had no choice after all.
The note read:
"The Doctor has been arrested. Love, Future Lindsey. PS. He is in handcuffs!" (And here, Lindsey had drawn a very suggestive winky face.)
The Doctor stuffed the note into a pocket. "You could have just given me a hug," he said.
"And miss out on all the fun?" said Lindsey, a wicked grin on her face. She lunged towards him and grabbed his arm, helping him to his feet. "Now come on, grumpy. Back to the Tardis." She nearly dragged him out towards the back exit of the police station.
The Doctor tried to resist. "Lindsey, I can't leave," he said. "The moment I exit this police station, I'm going to do something terrible. I can feel it."
Lindsey was having none of it, and yanked him through the door. The night air assaulted them as they emerged outside. The cold breeze stung at their arms and legs as Lindsey dragged the Doctor away from the station. The Doctor looked about, and frowned.
"Funny thing," he pointed out. "You'd expect a police station to have more… well, police officers hanging around. Not very police-y having no policemen standing by."
"Yeah, I took care of that," said Lindsey. "Called in a fake bomb scare. Figured that'd thin out the ranks." She relaxed her grip on his arm as she felt him begin to walk on his own. "So? Go on. Why were you in jail?"
The Doctor scratched the back of his neck. "Well," he said. "I've been having a bit of a problem, you see. With changing history."
"You mean like starting the war in Iraq?" Lindsey asked.
The Doctor gave her a guilty look. "How do you know that was me?"
"It was pretty obvious," said Lindsey, trying to coax the Doctor to move faster. "No one ever mentioned anything about WMDs until you dropped me back on Earth, and by then it had been all over the news for some time. What were they? Aliens?"
"Daleks," the Doctor told her.
"Course," said Lindsey, sarcastically. "Should have known." She had never heard the term before in her life, but knowing the Doctor, she'd come to expect that. "So that's the reason you stayed in jail. Because you felt guilty. But why were you thrown in there in the first place?"
"Karen Hollburn," the Doctor said. He sighed. "And that's bad. That's really, really, really bad. Because history has been changed and it's somehow all my fault, and here I am, going back in time where I won't be able to help myself from making things worse."
"Okay, okay," said Lindsey. She stopped in front of him, held his shoulders in her hands. "Breathe, all right? Just tell me what's going on. Who's Karen Hollburn? Why do you think this is your fault?"
The Doctor looked at Lindsey in surprise. He'd seen her only a month ago, a thirteen year old child with an attitude problem, who thought that the world revolved around her and who was obsessed with looking 'cool.' One month later, he was looking into the eyes of Lindsey Willows, the young woman, who was looking at him with a look in her eyes that demanded calm. No longer just following the trends, she was making sense of them, working them out, separating out threads of truth and turning her goals into reality. A month ago, the Doctor didn't dare supercharge her phone for fear the girl would start prank-calling ancient celebrities and disturbing the fabric of space-time. Now, he felt like he could trust her with the secrets of the future.
"The twenty first century started out with violence, blood, and death," the Doctor explained. "National tragedies. Natural disasters. Allegations of torture. Governments being torn down in revolution—sorry, haven't gotten to that part yet. But out of all that terror came this one woman, who single handedly changed the world. Karen Hollburn."
Lindsey noted the reverence with which the Doctor said the name. She knew the kinds of people who inspired that sort of awe in him. "Peacemaker?" she guessed.
"The most influential peacemaker until Darzil Carlisle," said the Doctor. "She started a movement to end the violence, largely unappreciated in her time. But it was carried on underground after her death, and by the mid 22nd century, the movement had spread throughout the world. By the 23rd century, it had turned into a religion, and by the early 25th century, it was the most popular religion on Earth. Hollburn single handedly managed to bring about the foundational stability the Earth needed to found the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire. She's not just a fixed point in time. She's one of the most important fixed points in time." He paused, his dark brown eyes fixed on Lindsey's. "And now she's dead."
Lindsey took his hand in hers, and gently urged him forward. She remembered him giving her these sorts of lectures five years ago, when she was only thirteen. Back then, she'd done nearly anything to get him to stop explaining things to her. But she had changed in those five years since she'd seen him last, and she could feel herself reviewing her mental notes.
This was hurting him far more than it should. She'd seen the look on his face, and recognized it. Guilt. She thought through their conversation, and began to put the pieces together.
"You think that shot should have missed," she said, "and that the only reason it didn't was because of something you're about to do now. With me."
"It had to have missed, Lindsey," the Doctor corrected. "This event is famous—it's a story that parents teach their children, to show them how violence can infect a society. Hollburn had just ended a long relationship with a man. The man was good at heart, but he wanted to look tough and cool, so he'd gone out and bought a gun. He and Hollburn had been fighting for some time now, but when he came home with the gun, she decided enough was enough and she left him. According to the litany, without Hollburn to pull him back from the darkness, he was swallowed up by the evils of society. A week later, he decided he was going to kill her." The Doctor looked back at Lindsey. "But he missed. Hit an innocent civilian. And as Hollburn held the dying man in her arms, she saw the 'cloud of violence and death' clearly for the first time. She knew that she was the only one who could stop it." He ran a hand through his hair. "At least, that's the story they tell in the 26th century."
"But that's not what happened?"
"No, it isn't," agreed the Doctor. "Not at all. And that's my problem. This is a fixed point on a fixed point. A fixed event in space-time on a fixed timeline. If someone were to go back and change that sort of an event…" he looked up at the sky, as if he were waiting for something.
"Disaster?" Lindsey guessed.
"It would make what the Mara did last time look like a minor incident," the Doctor said. "That's why this point was fixed, Lindsey—it's the way to stabilize a historical paradox. There's some paradox forming here, and I'm responsible for it. I'm going to do something terrible."
Lindsey frowned. She reviewed her mental notes again, going over everything the Doctor had told her. She had been busy working things out since the last time she had seen him, and she'd thought she was beginning to make sense of his world. But either she was completely off-track, or else… the Doctor was wrong. And was that even possible?
"I don't understand…" she began hesitantly. She gathered her courage, cleared her throat. She was not thirteen anymore. She was an adult now, and she had just as much right to challenge the Doctor as anyone. "I don't understand why Karen Hollburn's timeline is fixed."
The Doctor didn't even have to think twice. "Artificial fixed point," said the Doctor. "It stabilizes any paradox—even a nasty kind, like a predestination paradox. If Karen Hollburn is dead, someone still has to write that book. And there was one person who held Karen Hollburn while she died." The Doctor began pulling at his hair.
"Yeah, that's why this particular event in time is fixed," Lindsey said. "I understand that. I just don't see why Karen Hollburn's entire timeline is fixed."
The Doctor looked at her, curiously.
"I mean, I don't have your Time Lord superpowers, or anything," admitted Lindsey. "But I think I know how this fixed point in history business works. A fixed point in history is when something in history runs counter to historical trends. That's why Newton isn't fixed – because even if Newton was taken out of history, Liebnitz would still have invented calculus. Things would still have been pretty much the same. But Henry VIII was, because the only reason he founded the Anglican church was because he had a hissy fit. If someone else had taken his place, they wouldn't have founded the Anglican church, and the world today would be completely different."
Lindsey was afraid to look back at the Doctor. She figured she'd probably gone too far, questioning things that the Doctor felt were incontrovertible. But when she did venture to glance at him, she found he was beaming at her.
"You worked all this out on your own?" asked the Doctor, and she thought she could hear pride in his voice.
"Yeah," she said. She hesitated. "It's wrong, isn't it?"
"Oh, no," he told her. "You're exactly right. The fixed historical figures, as you call them—they're the ones you can't take out of history without the whole thing going barmy. That's a technical term, by the way. Barmy."
"Okay," said Lindsey, her mind racing. "So if that's all true, and everything you've told me about Karen Hollburn is true, then why is Karen Hollburn fixed?"
The Doctor opened his mouth to answer, and then he hesitated. He looked at her—really looked at her, examining her from head to toe, as if he were afraid he'd accidentally picked up the wrong girl. His face contorted in thought.
This was all the validation Lindsey felt she needed from him. "Every time there's a push towards violence, there's also a push for peace. The two trends go together. If Karen Hollburn wasn't around, surely someone else would have headed up this movement you were talking about. So—"
"Karen Hollburn isn't fixed," concluded the Doctor. He was walking faster now, and Lindsey knew she had gotten him thinking. He was off in his own mental realm, doing whatever it was he did in his mind. Without warning, he stopped. He swung around to face Lindsey, a huge grin on his face. "Oh, Lindsey Willows, you are brilliant!"
"Am I?" she asked tentatively. It was certainly what she had been working towards since she'd met him last time. To be the best. She remembered, that was one of the last things he told her before he dumped her back on Earth—he only travelled with the best. And since he'd only taken her with him for a week, she figured she probably wasn't up to his standards.
And now she was.
"Oh, yes," continued the Doctor. He was waving his arms around in wild, emphatic gestures as he spoke. "Karen Hollburn—that Karen Hollburn, the one who died in 2008—didn't start the movement. That's why she didn't look right. One of the other bystanders must have taken her name and started the movement themselves." He slapped himself on the forehead. "Stupid, stupid Doctor. Of course they didn't fix that point in history just because you showed up. Two shots, Lindsey! There were two shots. Time travel paradox. That's why they fixed it."
"That's why who fixed what?" Lindsey asked, but the Doctor was walking again, so quickly that Lindsey nearly lost sight of him as he turned a corner. Lindsey took a deep breath, and raced to catch up with him. "Doctor!"
"The Time Lords," answered the Doctor. "Well, not now, of course. Centuries ago. Lifetimes ago. That's what they did, you see. Fixed paradoxes, righted wrongs, worked out all the little kinks in time. I thought—well, I thought they'd done it because of me. Because I wrote the book. But you see, they didn't. I didn't. I had nothing to do with Karen Hollburn. I didn't change history. It was someone else, Lindsey—someone else travelled back in time and shot her. That's the paradox that the Time Lords were correcting."
Lindsey could follow none of this, but the Doctor wasn't giving her a chance to ask what he meant. He was racing forward even faster than he had been before, and Lindsey found that she'd broken into a run. All of a sudden, the Doctor stopped, and Lindsey nearly ran into his back. She could see the Tardis in the distance—that tall, blue box that she had waited five years to see again. She could feel herself tingling with the anticipation of getting to take another trip through time and space.
"Then why the message?" said the Doctor.
"Message?" asked Lindsey. "You mean, my message to myself to get you out of jail?"
"No, no," said the Doctor. "A different message—at the police station. No one told me what, just that the entire police department got it at exactly the same moment as the murder. It was my name—well, a nickname. One of those obnoxious titles that my enemies give me. But it was obviously meant to tell me something."
"Can we sort out my message first?" asked Lindsey. "Then we can try to figure out your message."
The Doctor shot her his usual manic grin, but it looked forced. "Quite right!" he said, marching over to the Tardis. "Better get going. Don't want the whole of reality to fall apart because you missed the opportunity to give me a snog."
"A what?" asked Lindsey, as the Doctor opened the door and ushered her inside.
The Tardis hadn't changed since Lindsey had last seen it. It was still the same huge, coral room glowing with faint teal and yellow light. The console still lay, just as impressively, in the center of the room, its column stretching up towards the domed ceiling. The Doctor bounded up towards the console, pressing buttons and pulling levers, as Lindsey sat herself down, admiring a sight she hadn't thought she'd ever see again.
"I never asked," she said. "That word. Tardis. What does it mean?" She thought it had to be something beautiful for him to name his ship that. Knowing him, it would be something like 'hope' or 'courage'.
"It's an acronym," he replied without looking up from what he was doing. "T-A-R-D-I-S. Time and Relative Dimensions in Space."
"An English acronym?" Lindsey asked. "Not… Time Lordian, or whatever language you guys speak?"
The Doctor ignored her. She caught a glimpse of his face as he ran around the console, and was surprised to find a mixture of pain and guilt running across it. She hadn't remembered seeing that look on his face in the past, not even when they had visited Tegan. It was such a very dark and lonely look that Lindsey decided she really shouldn't pursue the subject.
She changed her question slightly. "So, Tardis is T-A-R-D-I-S," she said. "Not T-A-R-D-I-S-S?"
"Nope, just the one S," said the Doctor. He paused, his hand hovering over a lever. He looked at her over his shoulder. "What would the other S stand for?"
"Ship," said Lindsey.
"Well, obviously, she's a ship," said the Doctor, resuming his work.
Lindsey began laughing. "How's it obvious, exactly?" she asked him. She began to mark off the points on her fingers. "One, it doesn't look like a space ship on the outside. It looks like a 1960's British Police Box. Two, it doesn't look like a space ship on the inside. No windows, no steering wheel, no way to figure out where you're actually going. Three, it doesn't actually fly, it just sort of disappears and reappears…"
"It can fly," the Doctor said. "Just… not particularly well."
Lindsey could see that there were probably not a lot of aerodynamic qualities to the police box shape. She shrugged it off. "So how's it obvious?"
"It just, sort of, is, really," he said.
She could see that the conversation was making him uncomfortable. He was beginning to gain back that dark expression she had seen earlier. She was also beginning to notice a pattern in the way he was working around the console. She was certain that she'd seen him pull that lever earlier, that he'd already pushed that button.
He was stalling, she realized.
She went over and put her hands over his, stopping his fingers from twisting another dial. She could feel him trembling. She looked up at him, and there was something unfamiliar in his eyes.
"You're scared," she said.
She hadn't thought that the Doctor could get scared. She'd seen him face down evil monsters and powerful megalomaniacs. She'd seen him come face to face with a troop of soldiers pointing fancy futuristic-looking rifles at his head. And in all that time, he had never once looked scared. But he was scared now.
The Doctor didn't say anything. He stepped away from the console, dragging his hands away from Lindsey, and just stood there, staring straight ahead. He was so still, she could barely even see him breathing. He was like a statue, illuminated by Tardis lights.
She remembered how distressed the Doctor had seemed when she'd helped him escape from the police station. She remembered how he told her that history was changing, and it was all his fault. And Lindsey knew that the only thing that could frighten the Doctor this much was himself.
"It was my granddaughter," he said. It came out so quietly that Lindsey barely heard him.
"Huh?" said Lindsey.
"Susan," said the Doctor. "She came up with it. The English name—the acronym. Tardis. That's why I call it that. In her honor. In her memory."
Lindsey stared at him. She wasn't really sure what to say. She was going into information overload. She was still trying to work out how she could alleviate his fears, and get him to actually dematerialize the Tardis. But another section of her brain was now shouting at her, "He had a granddaughter? He had kids? What happened? Why 'in her memory'? Why does he have that guilty look in his eyes again? What isn't he telling me?"
She pushed those thoughts aside, chiding herself on her priorities. First things first, get the Doctor to stop dilly-dallying around and convince him to actually move the Tardis. Otherwise, they were going to be here all day.
"It wasn't your fault," she told the Doctor, in her calmest voice. "The Iraq War, I mean. We should have realized, when the weapons inspectors didn't find anything. It was just us stupid humans, messing things up like we always do."
"Adelaide Brook was my fault," he said.
Lindsey waited for him to continue, but he clearly wasn't going to. She leaned back against the console. "Do you want to talk about it?"
The Doctor didn't answer, but it was obvious from the look on his face that the answer was an emphatic 'no'.
"This Karen Hollburn thing," said Lindsey, "this won't be your fault either. I promise."
This got a reaction out of him. He began dragging his right foot along the grating, as if he were writing something out on the floor. Good, Lindsey, she told herself. At least he's moving. Keep it up.
"I can't stop myself," the Doctor told her.
Lindsey gave him a reassuring smile. "Sure you can," she said. "I mean, I did, and I'm just some human being. All you have to do is sit yourself down and tell yourself, 'Listen, Lindsey, there is no way you're going to eat that chocolate bar, no matter how tempting it may be. You're going to hop into that stupid, broken-down heap of junk you call a Pontiac, and you're going to go to the gym and work out, because that's the only way you're going to lose any weight.'" She caught herself, realizing that the situations weren't really as similar as she had thought. She hesitated. "I mean, you know," she said, as if this statement made everything else make sense.
It took her a while to realize that the Doctor was returning her smile. He had put his hands in his pockets. All the tension had drained from his body, and he looked just the way he had back when she had known him five years ago. What had she said? She must have said something that was both intelligent and inspiring, because he was looking at her with something like a twinkle in his eye.
"Lindsey Willows," he said. "I've underestimated you." He took his hands out of his pockets and clapped them in the air in front of him. "Right!" he said, racing over to the console. Lindsey still wasn't sure exactly what she'd done to snap him out of his funk, but she could see the bounce back in his step, and it reassured her. He pulled the big lever he'd been avoiding before, and the whole Tardis shook. Lindsey clutched onto the console.
It was only about thirty seconds before the Tardis settled down again.
"Here we go!" said the Doctor, his normal energy returning. "Residence of Lindsey Willows, one hour before you come to rescue me." He bounded over to the doors, flinging them open. Lindsey was surprised to find that he had, in fact, arrived exactly where he had claimed. She followed him outside, into her own front yard. Her car was gone, which was expected. After all, one hour ago, she was still driving home from her friend's house.
She and the Doctor had broken into her house and left the note within five minutes. Lindsey attached it to the door of her room, right where she remembered finding it. Then she turned, and ran to meet the Doctor back at the Tardis.
"Where to now?" she asked, shutting the Tardis doors behind her.
"Now," said the Doctor, who was standing behind the console, looking important, "we save the Olparn movement!"
"Can we get my car, first?" asked Lindsey. "I parked it by the police station when I busted you out." She was about to sit down beside the console, but a thought flew into her mind. She jumped to her feet. "Hang on, did you say 'Olparn'?"
The Tardis juttered and spasmed into life, and Lindsey gripped onto the railing to stop herself from toppling over.
"Olparn," said the Doctor, as the Tardis landed. "Bastardization of the name Hollburn. Sort of like a game of broken telephone." He flashed her a manic grin. "Fun game. Good for a laugh. Breaks the ice at parties. At least, Ben Franklin told me so. Used to use the game to pick up women. He didn't call it broken telephone, of course…"
"Doctor," said Lindsey. He stopped rambling and looked at her expectantly. Taking her hint, she continued. "There already is an Olparn church in 2008."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Is there, now?" he asked. His smile widened, and he clapped his hands together. "Well then! I think we'd better go and check it out."
"Reading something interesting?" asked the Doctor, strolling into the gleaming white console room of his Tardis. His companion, Nyssa, was sitting in a corner, bent over a book. She didn't even notice that he'd entered the room. In fact, she seemed to be crying.
"Nyssa?" he asked again, a little more concerned.
Nyssa looked up at him, and blinked a few times, trying to separate the world of the book from the world around her. After a few seconds, her mind registered the Doctor's presence, and she frantically wiped the tears away from her eyes. "I'm sorry, Doctor," she said. "I didn't see you come in."
"What's wrong, Nyssa?" asked the Doctor. He sat beside her, gently removing the book from her hands. He glanced at the cover, and understood exactly what had happened. It was the Book of Olparn.
"Nothing, it's nothing," said Nyssa. "Just… memories. Of Trakken. Of my father." She took a long, deep breath, and composed herself. "Doctor, I'm sure I'm supposed to meet the author of that book. I could feel it as I was reading. She was talking about me, Doctor. That was my story."
"The book does that to everyone, Nyssa," the Doctor told her. "Every companion I've ever had has been convinced that they must meet Karen Hollburn at some point in the future, and none of them ever have. It's just the way the book is written. It speaks to everyone, at least a little bit."
"Have you met her, Doctor?" Nyssa asked.
The Doctor tried to stop his hands from shaking, but he wasn't doing a very good job of that. "Well, no," he said. "And I rather think I'm not going to. At least, not any time soon."
Nyssa noticed the shaking hands. She must have noticed the tinge of fear in his voice as well, because she knew exactly what he was thinking.
"You think she might turn into another Darzil Carlisle, don't you?" Nyssa asked.
The Doctor hesitated. "Well, there are one or two passages in the book…"
"You said that everyone who reads this book thinks it's about them," said Nyssa. "So why would the book be about you?"
"It's complicated," said the Doctor. "You see, before I read that book, I was a very different person. The Book of Olparn changed me, so to speak. Broadened my horizons, let me see the universe as it really was. So about a century ago, I thought, why not go back and meet the woman who changed the world? Why not go back and meet Karen Hollburn herself?"
"But you didn't?" Nyssa asked.
"No," said the Doctor. "Because I found that the Time Lords had already created a fixed point around Karen Hollburn. They'd set up a cordon of time around the whole of Las Vegas in 2008. Time Lords only do that to stabilize a paradox, Nyssa, and considering when the cordon was set up, I can guess why they did it."
Nyssa looked at him in dawning comprehension. "You don't think that you were just the influence behind Karen Hollburn," she realized. "You think that you actually wrote this book yourself."
The Doctor looked down at the book in his hands. "Yes, I'm afraid I do," he admitted. "It certainly would explain a lot."
"I don't think you wrote it, Doctor," Nyssa told him. "It doesn't sound like your voice."
"No, not this me," said the Doctor. "But there are twelve other versions of me wandering around in space and time."
Nyssa took the book back into her hands. "I know you didn't write the book, Doctor," she insisted. "Call it a gut instinct, but I have a feeling you're reading too much into this." She gave him a reassuring smile. "Besides, what if she isn't like Darzil Carlisle? What if she's just as clever and bright and peace-loving as she comes across in this book?"
The Doctor tried to feel reassured, but he couldn't quell his fears. He leapt up from the chair and bounded towards the console. "Time for a trip, I think. How does Stockbridge, England sound to you?"
Grissom hadn't been surprised to hear that the Doctor had broken out of jail. He was certain they were going to have to let him go at some point, anyways. There was only so far that a signed confession could take him, when none of the evidence backed up his story.
Grissom had known at the time that the Doctor hadn't done it. For one thing, the crime had been executed sloppily. The gun was left at the crime scene, clearly dropped from the gunman's hands. It had been a registered firearm, registered to a man named Jeffrey Tailor, who turned out to be Karen Hollburn's ex-boyfriend. When they arrived at Jeffrey Tailor's house, they found him completely drunk, and still angry as hell at the way that Karen had ditched him. Tailor's fingerprints were all over the gun, and there were traces of blood on the bottoms of Jeffrey's shoes. Shoes that matched the footprints found at the crime scene.
Jeffrey Tailor, of course, denied everything.
It was all spectacularly straight forward, everything falling into place. Except for one thing, one large, extra anomaly that meant that none of this was even remotely as simple as it looked.
First, there was the fake bomb threat that had taken most of the police officers away from the station. When they returned, they found the remaining policemen unconscious, and they found that the Doctor had escaped.
An hour later, Catherine crashed into Grissom's office, asking if he'd seen Lindsey. "Her car is still outside," said Catherine. "But I haven't seen her and she isn't answering her phone."
Lindsey's car remained where it was for three hours, and still, there was no sign of either Lindsey or the Doctor. Catherine was growing more and more hysterical by the minute, and nobody could really blame her. Finally, Grissom decided to send her home. For her own sanity, he'd said.
And then Catherine had called him.
"Someone broke into the house," said Catherine.
It took a certain amount of time to determine why Catherine was so sure that it was an intruder that had entered the house, and not just Lindsey coming home. Apparently, the burglar alarm had been tripped briefly, before the mechanism was destroyed. Other than that, there was no harm done to Catherine's house.
"No harm?" shouted Catherine. "Lindsey is missing!"
"But her car is here," said Grissom. "And the alarm was tripped at 6:45. That was an hour before we saw her at the station."
A half an hour later, three different fires began at once. They were in three different churches of three different denominations, and they were all obviously arson. Grissom was beginning to feel his team was being stretched a little too thin. He had to call in both the swing team and the day team to help out. When he first began investigating the arson cases, he had been certain the Hollburn case was all wrapped up. But then he found the name that someone had graffitied on the wall of the half-burned church he was examining—and, he found out later, on the wall of every church that had been attacked that night.
It was a little past midnight, and Grissom was pacing around the outside of the police station, trying to put everything together. This must have been what Sara felt like, back in San Francisco on New Year's Eve, 2000. A bunch of seemingly random cases all turning up at once, all revolving around the Doctor. The Doctor was clever, manipulative, and completely unpredictable. He wanted something, that much was clear to Grissom. The question was, what?
The obvious answer was that the Doctor had come back for Lindsey, but that didn't explain the arson or the incident with Karen Hollburn. Grissom turned the possibilities over in his mind, but he couldn't come up with any satisfactory explanation that would encompass everything that had happened that evening.
He thought he felt a sudden gust of wind, and heard a sound that he recognized from five years ago. A sort of wheezing, groaning sound. Sure enough, on the other side of the parking lot, Grissom could see a blue police box fading into existence. He was pretty sure he could guess the two people who were inside. He began walking towards it.
"How long has it been this time?" Grissom asked Lindsey Willows, as she and the Doctor piled out of the Tardis. He noticed that she was still wearing the same clothes as the last time he saw her, which he felt was a good sign. Less than a day, then.
Lindsey was either ignoring him, or hadn't heard him. She was examining the cell phone in her hand. She looked up at the Doctor as he shut the doors of his police box.
"Doctor," she said. "You told me you'd get me back here the moment we left." She waved the phone in his face. "It's midnight now! Mom must be worried sick."
"Well," said the Doctor, rubbing the back of his neck. "At least it wasn't a year."
Grissom was beside the police box by the time that Lindsey had called her mother to explain. He could hear Catherine's voice bleeding through the phone.
"So," said Grissom to the Doctor.
The Doctor turned around, his coat swirling behind him. He noticed Grissom, and began to look sheepish. He was bouncing from one foot to the other, his hands in his pocket, glancing occasionally over at Lindsey as if she could somehow get him out of this confrontation.
Lindsey, however, was still dealing with her mom.
"Gil Grissom!" The Doctor said. "Lovely to see you again. Sorry about the escape. Had some things to do, people to see, paradoxes to put straight. You know. Anyways, I'd love to stay and chat, but we really… should… be going…" The Doctor gave one last hopeful glance at Lindsey, but she was still on the phone.
"What do you want?" asked Grissom.
"Nothing, nothing," said the Doctor. He was now rolling on his feet between his heal and toe, and Grissom could tell that the one thing the Doctor really wanted was to get away from him.
"Are you going to explain about the churches?" asked Grissom.
That got the Doctor's attention. He stopped glancing over at Lindsey and gave Grissom his full attention, his feet now still. "Churches," he mused. "This wouldn't happen to be the Olparn church that Lindsey was just telling me about?"
"No," said Grissom. "These are the multiple arson cases that sprung up across Los Vegas tonight, while you and Lindsey were missing. The ones with 'Ka-Faraq-Gatri' graffitied on the walls. The only person I know who has the ability to be in three places at once is you. So I figure, you're the most likely suspect."
"Well, I'd hardly go to a building, burn it to the ground, then stand around in the flames to write a rather unflattering nickname of mine on the walls," the Doctor pointed out.
"Where were you and Lindsey at 10:00?" asked Grissom.
The Doctor groaned. "Oh, not this again," he said. "As I told you last time, I haven't been to 10:00 yet. I haven't been to 8:00, or 9:00, or 10:00, or 11:00, or any of those other times. The last time I was at was 6:45."
"Presumably to break Catherine's burglar alarm," said Grissom.
The Doctor looked sheepish again. "Sorry about that," he said. "It was a little annoying. I'll drop by and fix it for her later."
Grissom looked over to where Lindsey was still trying to placate her mother. "To be honest, I don't think that Catherine is that taken with you at the moment."
The Doctor nodded. "I never get along with people's mothers," he said.
"Maybe it's because you abduct their daughters," Grissom pointed out.
The Doctor looked offended. "I do not abduct people," he said, giving a little pout. He was starting to bounce around on his feet again. "And I certainly didn't abduct Lindsey. I dropped her off not a minute after I left. Safe and sound, no harm done."
"And then you left me for five years," said Lindsey, who had finished her conversation. She pointed at him. "And I had to threaten you with a temporal paradox to get you to take me with you again." A smile crept across her face. "Hey, does that mean that I was the one abducting you?" she asked.
"How's your mother?" Grissom asked her.
"Angry," said Lindsey. "She wanted me to account for all the time I'd been away, and I don't think she believed me when I said it had been less than an hour since I'd last seen her."
The Doctor turned to her. "Ready?"
"Ready as ever," Lindsey replied.
Grissom cleared his throat, and they both looked at him in confusion. "You can't just leave, you know," Grissom said to the Doctor. "You're our primary suspect for these arson cases."
"Oh, give it a rest," the Doctor said. "You're an intelligent man, Grissom. You know I didn't do it."
"No," said Grissom. "But I know this all has something to do with you."
The Doctor pulled a hand through his hair, and took a deep breath. "All right," he said. "I'll give you that." He gestured at Lindsey. "We're going off to try and find out what all this has to do with me. If you stop complaining at me and don't tell her mother, I'll come back and let you know what we find. Deal?"
Grissom hesitated. Lindsey was already pulling out the keys to her car, and opening the door. "Come on, Doctor!" she called. "Time's a wasting!"
The Doctor looked at Grissom one more time, before he ran off and jumped inside of Lindsey's car. Before Grissom had a chance to even run back into the police station and ask for help, the car had faded into the distance, and both Lindsey and the Doctor were gone.
The Doctor sat in the front seat, stroking the dashboard of Lindsey's car as if he were petting a cat. "Nice car," he said.
Lindsey laughed at him. "Are you kidding?" she asked. "This thing is on its last legs. Mom keeps saying she'll get me something more reliable, but so far it hasn't happened."
"I'd keep the car," said the Doctor. He winked at her.
"You're just attached to methods of transport that are old and blue," Lindsey said. She glanced over at him and grinned. "Admit it, Doctor. You're stroking that dashboard like it's the Tardis console."
The Doctor gave her a small grin. "They both have a lot of personality."
Lindsey hit the side of the steering wheel with her hand. For no discernable reason, this action made the left blinker turn on. Lindsey flicked it off. "Personality, you say."
The Doctor gave the dashboard a friendly pat. "She didn't mean it, old girl," he said to the car, as if he were talking to the Tardis.
It didn't take them long before Lindsey pulled over and parked on the side of the road. "They're over there," said Lindsey, pointing to a small, white painted building across the street.
The building was short, squat, without the flashing lights or gaudy excess you'd expect on a building surrounded by casinos. It was just white, with a black door and a few medium sized windows along the sides. Along the top was a sign that read, "The Olparn Church."
Seeing as it was midnight, Lindsey had expected any churches in the area to be closed. But this one was bustling with activity. All the lights were on, and she could see movement in the windows.
"People!" said the Doctor, as he climbed out of the car. "And here I was thinking that everyone would be asleep."
"What are we going to do?" she asked.
The Doctor put his hands in his pockets, and began to wander towards the church. "Well," he said. "I was planning on knocking on the door."
Lindsey raced after him, catching his arm. "Doctor," Lindsey said, a hint of nervousness leaking into her voice. "They're from the future, trying to murder a peacemaker from the past. I don't think they're going to just sit down and talk."
"Of course they will," said the Doctor, jumping onto the sidewalk. "Never underestimate the power of a nice chat and a cup of tea." He raced over to the door and gave a polite knock.
Lindsey recognized the sound that came from inside. It was the sound of shouting, followed by the cocking of guns.
"Doctor," said Lindsey, now in a whisper, "they have guns."
"Yes," said the Doctor, at his normal volume. "They do."
Lindsey gestured to the both of them. "We don't."
The Doctor flashed her a smile. "Of course we don't."
The door flew open, and the pair found themselves confronted by a large group of people all armed with guns. Lindsey had never before found herself face to face with this many loaded guns. A man at the front grunted at them to put up their hands, and Lindsey did so with trepidation.
The Doctor, on the other hand, acted as if this were the most natural thing in the world. "Hello," he said. "I'm the Doctor, and this is Lindsey. We were just passing by and we thought, 'Olparn Church, that's what we need! A bit of salvation to make us sleep easier at night.' Isn't that right, Lindsey?"
"Yes," said Lindsey, a little uneasily. "What he said."
"Hands up!" The man grunted again. "You cops?"
The Doctor raised his hands, but he still didn't seem bothered by anything that was going on. Lindsey wondered how many times he usually came face to face with a large number of loaded firearms.
"Nope," said the Doctor. "Like I said. Just wandering around, saw the church, liked the name. Olparn church. Olparn, Olparn… very nice. Good sound. Resonant. Hints of 26th century vernacular, don't you think, Lindsey?"
Lindsey didn't say anything this time.
She was sure the man was going to shoot them, when she heard a shout of alarm come from further inside the building. The voice came from inside the church, commanding the men to lower their guns and lead the pair inside.
The Doctor clearly recognized the voice. He tried to see through the crowd of people to get a better look at the man advancing towards them, but he didn't have to in order to identify who it was. "Joseph Trudge," said the Doctor.
"He has returned!" cried Trudge, pulling the Doctor inside. "The Doctor has returned to shower us with his favor!"
The Doctor was quickly engulfed by the armed men, and swallowed up as he was pulled inside the church. Lindsey pushed her way through, trying to follow him, but it took her a while to make it through the wall of men that surrounded the door.
By the time that Lindsey had caught up to the Doctor, she found him staring at a banner that was hung across the ceiling. His face no longer held any hint of his cheerful disposition. He was very still, scarcely even breathing.
"That," said the Doctor, very quietly, "is very, very disturbing."
On the banner was written the phrase:
"For Our Lord and Master, the Doctor."
The Doctor entered his laboratory at UNIT at a leisurely pace. The moment he saw Jo Grant, he sprinted towards her and plucked the book out of her hands.
"Oh, hello, Doctor," Jo said, giving him her normal cheerful smile.
"How far did you get?" the Doctor demanded.
Jo frowned. "Not very," she confessed. "I'd just gotten to the death of her father."
The Doctor let out a sigh of relief, and tucked the book into one of his pockets. "You know, you shouldn't read the books you find in the Tardis, Jo," he said.
"Why not?" Jo asked. Young and idealistic she might be, but intellect had certainly never been her strong suit.
"Because this book is from the future," snapped the Doctor. A look of shame crossed Jo's face, and the Doctor began to feel guilty. He tried to keep his temper in check. It wasn't her fault that the Time Lords had stranded him here. He really had to stop taking it out on her. "Look, Jo," he said, in a softer tone of voice, "I know you're curious, but there are certain books that change the world. And if you read them before they're actually written, you might change the course of history. In fact, you might ensure that the book was never even written in the first place."
"But if it wasn't written, how could I have read it?" Jo asked.
"That's exactly my point, Jo," said the Doctor. "It would be a paradox. And I'm already in enough trouble with the Time Lords as it is without a temporal paradox hanging over my head."
Jo thought about this a moment. "Doctor, are there cars on Gallifrey?"
The Doctor was taken aback by this line of questioning. He didn't quite see how Jo had managed to take a conversation about paradoxes and turn it into a discussion of transportation vehicles. "No, not really," he told her.
"Then why did you look so uncomfortable when I told you where I was in the book?" Jo asked, folding her arms across her chest. Not so dull after all, the Doctor thought. Joe huffed. "You've never had to be rescued from a sinking car, have you?"
"No, of course I haven't, don't be…" the Doctor stopped. He dug the book out of his pocket, and flipped to the passage in question. "You read that as a car, did you?"
"Well, of course it was a car," said Jo. She looked at his face, curiously. "Wasn't it?"
"Cars," said the Doctor, quietly, "don't tend to bleed when they are hit on the head with a rock."
Jo's face twisted in confusion. "It wasn't really bleeding, Doctor," she insisted. "It was a metaphor for the glass shattering. She saw the car as bleeding because everything in the society is bleeding. It's sort of… I don't know… symbolic."
The Doctor hesitated. He hadn't read this passage at all like that. He hadn't read the little girl as being stuck in a car that was slowly sinking into a lake. He had seen the scene as clearly in his mind as if it had happened only yesterday. Exactly the way he had remembered it back when he was only seven years old—not even old enough to look into the untempered schism. He could see it so vividly—the older boy holding his friend beneath the water. His friend struggling desperately, his limbs flailing, and then losing steam. He was dying, drowning, and the Doctor was helpless, he could do nothing. And before he knew what had happened, the Doctor had picked up a rock, and lunged towards the older boy…
And the blood had stained the water, just the same way it had in that scene in Hollburn's book.
"Doctor?" Jo said, a little uneasily.
"It's nothing," he said. "Not important." But it was important, because ever since the Master had reappeared on Earth, the Doctor hadn't been able to get that scene out of his head. He could not reconcile that drowning boy, his once friend, with this new monster who had emerged from the shadows of Time Lord society. His eyes skipped down to the bottom of the page, and he shuddered, involuntarily.
"I looked at the child I had pulled from the lake—the poor, shivering child who had nearly died that day, and I could not stop myself from asking, 'are you Karen Hollburn?'
"'I am you,' said the child. 'I am your past, and I am your future. I am everything you fear, and everything you desire. I am Karen Hollburn.'"
Lindsey elbowed the Doctor in his side, but he didn't move. He kept staring in horror at that banner, looking almost the same way he had back in the console room of his Tardis. Very still, scarcely breathing, his hands trembling. But there was no guilty look in his face this time. Just shock mixed with revulsion.
"Our Lord and Master has returned!" shouted Trudge.
The entire room got to their knees, and bowed.
Lindsey thought she heard the Doctor stop breathing at this. She stepped forward and took his hand, the way he always had when she was thirteen and frightened and trying not to show it. As soon as she took his hand in hers, she felt the tension in him release a little. He began to breathe again. Good, good.
"What…?" said the Doctor. "Why…?"
"We have been busy on this night," said Trudge from his place on the floor, "purifying the city for our Lord and Master."
Lindsey noticed how the Doctor cringed every time Trudge said the words "Lord and Master." But apparently, speech was still beyond the Doctor, as he struggled for something to say. It looked like he was trying to decide whether to be disgusted, outraged, or morally incensed.
Lindsey decided to speak up. "What do you mean, purifying the city?"
Trudge looked up at Lindsey's voice, and noticed her for the first time. "Who is this?" he demanded. "What is your name?"
"Lindsey," she said. "Lindsey Willows."
Trudge's eyes grew wide. "Willows!" he cried. "I know that name! That is the name of the woman who arrested me!" He turned to the other men. "It's a trap!" he shouted. "To arms!" The other men grabbed their guns, and aimed them at Lindsey.
Lindsey clutched the Doctor's hand more tightly, feeling once again like the thirteen year old girl who had been held prisoner by the Mara. But the Doctor was looking at Trudge with fire in his eyes.
"No," he said, in a low but powerful tone of voice.
The guards hesitated, and after a few moments, they all dropped their weapons. Trudge stumbled to his feet, trying to stutter out an explanation, but the Doctor had found his voice now, and he wasn't going to back down.
"How dare you," the Doctor said. He gestured at the room around them, and for the first time Lindsey noticed all the murals along the walls. They were all illustrating the Doctor in some sort of battle. There was one that clearly showed the Battle of Canary Warf, another which showed the Doctor walking away from an exploding building, and another that showed him shooting a man who looked remarkably like former British Prime Minister Harold Saxon.
"This," said the Doctor, his voice rising steadily, "all this death and destruction. The guns, the arson, the murder—all this in the name of a woman who worked her whole life for a world of peace! You dare to call yourself Olparnists?" He squeezed Lindsey's hand, as if he were making sure that she was still there. "You dare to compare yourselves with Karen Hollburn?"
"We killed Karen Hollburn!" Trudge said, and Lindsey could hear the pride in his voice. "We had a messenger from the future, who came to us and said that one day, she would be revered as a false prophet, and turn the world away from our Lord and Master…"
"Quit calling me that!" the Doctor snapped. He looked around at the masses of people kneeling on the floor in front of him. He gestured at them. "Get up," he shouted. He had clearly lost his patience with these people. They stumbled to their feet. "Look at yourselves," said the Doctor. "Proud of murder! Proud of death! Proud to be taking away the symbols that people turn to in the middle of their darkest hour. You should be ashamed."
He turned back to Trudge. "And as for you," he said, his voice dropping to a low growl. "I'm not God. I'm not someone you can turn into an excuse for your immoral activities. Do you understand?"
Trudge seemed shaken by this confrontation, and backed up a few steps. He then seemed to notice something behind them, and found his strength. "You are testing my faith," he said to the Doctor. "The messenger from the future told us who you were. He told us that we were right, that we had to spread the faith. Eliminate the false god, Karen Hollburn. That was the only way to ensure that you'd return to us."
"Yes," said a voice from behind them. "I did. Thank you, Trudge. You have done well."
Lindsey and the Doctor both turned around to face the voice behind them. It was a man dressed all in black, with a shaggy matt of dark brown hair strewn about his head, and a malicious smile painted on his face. He was only a little taller than Lindsey, a little on the pudgy side, and kept his hands clasped behind his back.
"You," said the Doctor.
"Hello again, Doctor," said the man. "Back to change history one more time?"
Lindsey looked at the Doctor's face for clues, but all she could see was darkness and anger. "Doctor," Lindsey whispered. "Who is he?"
The Doctor glanced over at Lindsey, and she started under his stare. He was looking at Lindsey as if she were the most important person in the whole world, as if she were the only thing that mattered. He pulled her closer to him, and kept hold of her hand.
"He's the one I told about the Daleks in Iraq," said the Doctor. "He claimed to work for the CIA."
"Psychic paper," said the man, flashing a leather wallet. "I'm surprised it worked on you, Doctor. You've hardly been living up to your reputation." He gave another malicious smile, glancing at the walls around them. "But I guess your reputation has undergone a bit of a change since I showed up."
"Who are you?" the Doctor demanded.
"My name is Herdon Lantfon," said the man. "Weapons dealer and Entrepreneur. I'm going to guess you haven't heard of me. But I've certainly heard of you." He studied the Doctor, carefully. "42nd century on the planet of Farnsalt. Do you remember? There was a nice, long civil war going on there, and I was cashing in big time. But then some tourists from Earth went and got themselves killed, and the Empire decided to send out Darzil Carlisle."
The Doctor started at the name. Lindsey could feel him pulling her closer to his side.
"Oh, now you remember," said Herdon. He began rifling around in his pocket, and Lindsey wondered if he was looking for a gun. He fished something out, but kept it hidden in his palm. Lindsey couldn't get a good look at it. The Doctor stepped in front of Lindsey, protectively. He was still holding her hand.
"How'd you find out?" asked the Doctor.
"That Darzil Carlisle was an idiot?" asked Herdon. "That it was actually you going around and ending all those wars? It wasn't all that hard to work out, Doctor. Carlisle could barely tell his right from his left."
"What do you want?" asked the Doctor.
"I would have thought that was obvious," said Herdon. "I wanted to get rid of Karen Hollburn without destroying the universe in a temporal paradox. So I went to the early 21st century, and guess what I found? A lovely little church dedicated to you, Doctor. Of course, Trudge there didn't actually know that much about you, so I filled him in on a few details. Then it was just a matter of substituting one church for another."
Trudge had already placed himself beside Herdon Lantfon, and was looking up at him expectantly. "You promised us an aspect of our Lord and Master to revere until the end of time."
"So I did," said Herdon. He raised up a small black box, barely bigger than his palm. The lid was perched open at the top. It was covered, on all sides, by a fancy circular carving that Lindsey thought looked vaguely familiar. She thought she'd seen a design like that somewhere in the Tardis. Herdon waved the box at the Doctor. "Do you recognize this, Doctor?"
Lindsey could hear the Doctor's breath catch in his throat. She tried to stand next to him, but he gently pulled her back behind him.
"Where did you find that?" asked the Doctor.
"Reminds you of home, Doctor?" asked Herdon. He shot the Doctor another malicious smile. "That's the thing about you, Doctor, that I've never been able to figure out. You wandered around the galaxy for a century, turning Darzil Carlisle into the greatest force for peace since Karen Hollburn, and then you go home and destroy your home planet. How can you live that lie, Doctor? How can you claim to be a supporter of universal peace and harmony after you destroyed the two most influential and powerful species in the universe?"
Lindsey balked. She dropped the Doctor's hand. "Doctor?" she asked.
The Doctor didn't answer her.
She stepped out from behind him and studied his face, that terrible icy coldness that had settled amongst his features. It was as if she didn't even know him anymore—he was like some sort of vision of darkness walking amongst them.
"I'm sorry, Lindsey," he said.
Lindsey felt herself backing away from him. That cold, hard man she thought she knew. She knew he had never gotten on well with his own people, but surely he hadn't gone and blown them all up for it.
"Why?" she asked. She knew he wasn't going to answer that, though. She could tell from the look on his face. "Why didn't you tell me?" she demanded.
"You were thirteen," the Doctor said. As if that explained everything.
Herdon just stood there laughing. "Oh, you didn't even bother to tell your lovely young companion, did you? You just pretended they were all still alive and well somewhere in the universe?" He turned to Lindsey, who was still backing away from the Doctor. "You're looking at the man who destroyed over a hundred billion lives. Would you call that accurate, Doctor? How many worlds did you sentence to endless death, over and over again inside that time lock?" He turned to the other men in the room. "Bow before your God! The Destroyer of Worlds!"
The men in the room fell back to their knees, and collapsed on the floor in front of the Doctor. Lindsey was still turning this all over in her mind. The idea that the Doctor—this man who loved peace, the man who hated guns and weapons, who went on adventures to save planets from death and oppression and injustice—that he had doomed that many people… it was just impossible.
"It's not true," said Lindsey.
The Doctor looked over at her, and she could see a sort of desperation in his eyes. He was trying to tell her to run, to get away. She knew that look too well. But she couldn't run. She couldn't leave him there, no matter what he'd done.
"What are you going to do to him?" she asked. "Are you going to kill him?"
"Of course not," said Herdon. "He's their God. I'm just going to give him to them."
"He's going to put me in that box," said the Doctor. "In temporal stasis."
"Where he'll stay forever, never aging, never growing hungry, never growing thirsty," said Herdon. "But conscious for every single second."
She didn't ask how the Doctor was supposed to fit into a tiny little box. She figured that one out on her own. Time Lord technology—bigger on the inside. But from the way that Herdon brandished it at the Doctor, she figured it was probably still not very comfortable. The Doctor gave her that same look of desperation, the look that told her to get out of there, no matter what happened to him. His eyes darted towards the open window behind her. Urging her onward with his eyes.
Lindsey met those eyes with her own. She had her own message to him, written across her face. She wasn't going to leave him here, alone, to be put into a box. She was confused, disoriented. She was still trying to work out who the Doctor really was and what he'd done. But that didn't mean she was going to leave him.
"I won't let them," she said. "They don't have any right."
"Lindsey, Lindsey, Lindsey," he said. He began to walk over to her, slowly and deliberately, once more looking at her as if she were the most precious thing in the entire world. He gave her a sad smile, and she thought she saw the darkness leave his face for just a moment. She wondered if this was some plan of his, trying to distract the others while they dived out of the window. But she couldn't think straight, because too much had been thrown at her in such a little period of time, and it was all swimming around in her head. Herdon was right behind the Doctor, the box open in his hands. If the Doctor noticed, he didn't let on. He put his hands on Lindsey's shoulders, and looked deep into her eyes.
She could trust those eyes, she thought. They were the eyes of kindness, of hope. Eyes that had seen the most terrible things and still wouldn't give up.
"Keep the car, Lindsey," he said, and pushed her out of the window.
When Lindsey recovered herself enough to look back, the Doctor was gone, and the box was closed.
"You've got to help me," Lindsey pleaded with Grissom. She was in the lab, trying desperately to get someone to listen to her. "They've got the Doctor trapped in this box thing. They think he's God or something. They tried to convince me that he'd destroyed his own home."
Lindsey felt her voice catch in her throat when she caught the sympathetic look that Grissom gave her after she said that. She recognized that look from five years ago. He had given her the same look just after the Doctor had left her, when she was talking about all the things that the Doctor had told her about his home and his people.
"No," she said. "No, it's not true."
"He told me," said Grissom. "Earlier this evening. He said if he could, he'd do it again."
Lindsey could barely move. Her mind was filled with denial, with the impossibility of the accusation. She glanced over at Nick Stokes, who gave her the same sympathetic look.
"I'm sorry," Grissom continued, "but this wasn't something he did in a moment of blind rage or some mistake he wants to undo. He killed ten billion people in cold blood. And he'd do it again."
"No, he wouldn't," said Lindsey. "I know the Doctor. He wouldn't just… destroy his home. He sees the best in everyone. Even if they were doing something terrible, he'd try to save them."
"I'm sorry," Grissom told her. "But I think it might be better if he stayed locked away."
Lindsey could feel tears coming into her eyes. She tried desperately to banish them away. "If you won't do it for him, then do it for Karen Hollburn," she pleaded. "Karen Hollburn was completely innocent, and this cult swooped in out of nowhere and murdered her."
Grissom looked uneasy when she said this, but Nick stepped in.
"We have the evidence," Nick said. "We found the murder weapon, we identified the fingerprints. Jeffrey Tailor had the motive and the means to kill her, and he was seeking her out. He was drunk, he had a gun, and all the eye witnesses saw him drop the gun and flee the scene. One or two even saw him pull the trigger."
Grissom still looked uneasy with this conclusion, and Lindsey snatched up the opportunity. "But not all of you think so, right? There's probably some extra piece of evidence that doesn't fit." She examined Grissom carefully, and she could see straight off that she was right. "Who is Jeffrey Tailor, anyways?"
"He was Karen Hollburn's ex-boyfriend," said Greg. "He bought a gun…"
"A little over a week ago," Lindsey said. "And it dissolved their relationship. She ditched him, he got drunk and stumbled off to find her, with a brand new gun in his hands. And in the middle of a crowd of onlookers, he shot her." Her eyes were still glued to Grissom, and she knew she found what was making him uneasy. "That's what's got you, isn't it? How could a man who had just bought his first gun, a man who never fired a shot before in his life, manage to actually hit a target while he was completely drunk?"
"There were two gunshots," said Grissom. "And only one entry wound."
"He missed," said Lindsey. She gritted her teeth. "Oh, Doctor, why didn't I listen to you? You were so sure that he missed!"
"The Doctor was just telling us a story he heard," said Nick. "Stories aren't real, especially if they were supposedly written a few centuries in the future. I mean, look at Karen Hollburn. She isn't blond and she definitely wasn't driving around in a used Pontiac…"
"Wait a minute," said Lindsey. Her mind was racing now. She remembered the way the Doctor had squeezed her hand, the way she'd managed to calm him down in the control room of the Tardis. She remembered how the Doctor had looked at her, with such reverence and expectation. And she remembered the last thing he said to her. Keep the car. She laughed. "Oh, Doctor, you knew the whole time!"
Greg looked at the other two, completely befuddled. Nick was clearly convinced that Lindsey had lost it. Grissom was just looking at her curiously.
"What did he know, Lindsey?" Grissom asked her.
"That description he gave of Karen Hollburn," said Lindsey. "The way she was supposed to look, I mean. I don't suppose it would be a blond woman, medium height, who liked to dress in a turtle neck and an old pair of jeans—no, wait, probably going to outgrow that in the future—so khaki pants? Someone who drives around in a used Pontiac. Someone who was stubborn enough to believe that she'd seen a future in which the world was united in peace and harmony?"
"Yes," said Nick. "That was exactly what he said."
"Oh," said Grissom. He was looking at Lindsey carefully, examining her red turtle neck and worn jeans. Her blond hair and medium stature. "Well," he said. "That's not what I was expecting."
"I still have no idea what you're talking about," said Greg.
"It's me!" cried Lindsey. "That woman you found dead—she was supposed to die. And I'm supposed to take her place. I'm the real Karen Hollburn. I'm the woman who singlehandedly builds the foundation of humanity's golden age!"
"Are you sure you're feeling all right?" asked Nick.
Lindsey could see he was reaching for his phone to call her mother, so she turned to the one ally she had left in the room—Gil Grissom—and started talking at a mile a minute. "You know that Jeffrey Tailor missed. You know there had to be a second gunman. And you know that this whole thing revolves around the Doctor. Just think it through, and you'll see it all makes sense. The Olparn Church. Think about the name. It's a bastardization of Hollburn, don't you see? Someone from the future set up that church. Someone from the future killed Karen Hollburn. I'm right—you know I'm right. Admit it."
"I admit," said Gil Grissom, "that it does make a sort of logical sense."
"And we do know that the Doctor really can travel through time," said Nick. "We worked that out from Lindsey."
"So you believe me?" asked Lindsey. She was surprised that they had even listened to her. She wasn't used to having people listen to what she said.
"Hold up," said Greg. "So if… all this crazy time travel stuff is true… then who killed Karen Hollburn?"
"Joseph Trudge," said Lindsey.
Grissom and Nick both started at that name. They looked at each other. "No way," said Nick. "He was scared witless of the Doctor last time. I talked to him in 2003. There was no way he'd try anything."
"He isn't particularly stealthy, either," Grissom told Lindsey. "If he was the one who killed Karen Hollburn, he wouldn't have been subtle about it."
"And he's not from the future," Nick added.
"Yeah, but he got help," said Lindsey. "From an arms dealer from the distant future. Herdon something-or-other. His planet was in a civil war, and the Doctor ended it. So Herdon decided to get revenge on the Doctor, or maybe he just wanted to make sure that the foundation for the Human Empire was based on war and bloodshed, or something. I'm not really sure exactly what his motives were. All I know is that he arranged the whole thing, and then he sealed the Doctor in some sort of temporal stasis box and we've got to get him out."
"Look, Lindsey, Grissom's right," said Nick. "The Doctor may seem all nice and cheerful and heroic, but we've encountered him before. He's cunning and manipulative. He's always two steps ahead of everyone else, and everything he does is for a reason. He killed ten billion people, and he'd do it again. We all heard him. If there's some way to contain him, it's probably for the best."
"If there's one person I trust above everyone else," said Lindsey, "it's the Doctor. If he destroyed his home, I'm sure he did it only for the best of reasons." She could feel the tears dragging at the corners of her eyes, and brushed them away with her sleeve.
"If it really is Joseph Trudge," said Grissom, "I'm going to bet that there's some extra evidence he left behind that we didn't find." He looked back at Lindsey. "I'm going to go ahead and guess that we might wind up with enough evidence for a warrant before the night is over."
Lindsey felt her heart leap. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"Go home, Lindsey," said Grissom. "Get some sleep. We'll take it from here."
They were the darkest days of his life.
That time just after he had woken up. That was how he liked to think of it, because that was what Karen Hollburn had written in her book. The middle section, the story of the man who awoke to find his home had transformed into a land of war and violence. It was one of the sections he had never paid much attention to.
Then, he woke up.
He had been falling, sinking, and he hadn't known it. Everything that had been 'the Doctor' was being slowly driven into hibernation inside his mind, replaced by the rage and anger and hatred that accompanied the most destructive war in the history of the universe. And then, one day, Rassilon had called him into the Citadel. "There will be no need for doctors in my new empire," Rassilon had told him. "You will serve as my Valeyard, Doctor, and rain down justice upon the disobedient."
It was like someone had slapped him hard across the face. That little part of him that was still the Doctor woke up, and realized what was happening. Where he was heading. And it terrified him.
Now he was living inside the worst chapters of Hollburn's book. He became that man from the Book of Olparn. He watched his world transformed by war, his friends and family changing into something unrecognizable. As in the book, the Doctor journeyed through the universe he used to know, trying desperately to find a spark of light within the darkness. Searching for some way to awaken that little bit of goodness and decency within his friends. He had become the man who faces down every horror and evil specter he comes across without fear, and yet is terrified of himself—of what he might become should the darkness consume him. And every day he fought, it was harder and harder to hold on to hope. To faith. Sometimes, he wasn't sure which side he was fighting—the Daleks, or the Time Lords.
This was one of those days. He looked at the woman who was once his friend, the woman he once wandered the universe with, fighting monsters and seeking out segments to the Key to Time. He barely recognized Romana anymore, she had changed so much. Poisoned by war, by grief, by loss. When had she become his enemy?
"You can't do it, Romana," he insisted.
"We have to," Romana told him, calmly. She met his eyes with her own, and what he found there was hard, stony. Devoid of any sense of pity, of empathy.
"There are people on that planet," said the Doctor.
"The Dalek prime is on that planet," Romana pointed out to him. She gave a little shrug. "Besides it isn't really my decision anymore. Take the matter up with Lord Rassilon if it bothers you so much."
"You still have some sway in the High Council," the Doctor pleaded. "You could convince them not to set off those temporal charges. You could convince them not to wipe the planet out of time. You could change their minds."
"And what if I think they're right, Doctor?" Romana asked him. "What if I think that destroying a Dalek colony is more important than saving the lives of a few insignificant creatures who won't survive the century?"
The Doctor wanted to pick her up and shake some sense into her. But he knew that would only provoke the guards outside her office. He took a deep breath. She was still in there somewhere, he reminded himself. The Romana he knew. She just had to wake up.
"You can't do it," the Doctor told her again, "because I will stop you."
She looked mildly amused by this. "No, you won't, Doctor," she said, "because it's already done."
The Doctor gave her the most angry, disapproving glare he could manage through the horror and despair that were flooding through him. He turned, and headed back into the Tardis.
There, propped on the console, was the Book of Olparn. The book that had given the humans the courage to go on during the Dalek Invasion of Earth. The book that had changed his life. The book that seemed to know his own future. He picked it up, skimming that middle passage again. He wanted some slice of solace. Some spark of hope or inspiration. Something he could grab onto.
What he found were words. Just words. Empty, useless, lifeless words.
He threw the book across the room. It flew through the air and slammed on the ground with a heavy, echoing thud. "They're never going to wake up, Karen Hollburn!" he shouted at it. "They're not asleep. They're dead. Dead, every last one of them. War has killed them, Rassilon has killed them, and they won't rest until they've killed everyone that's left!"
The Book of Olparn didn't answer him.
He stood there for a moment, trying to gain his composure. Trying to get rid of the echoes of screaming still in his head. Trying to forget about Romana, about Rassilon, about the entire war. But he could not. It was eating away at him, moment by moment, bit by bit. If the Time Lords, his own people, were willing to sacrifice a planet to destroy only a handful of Daleks, what would they do to destroy the Daleks forever?
The Doctor walked over and picked up the book. He looked at the cover as if it were a person, as if it knew everything. "What is going to happen to me?" he asked it. "What is going to happen to them?"
But the Book of Olparn didn't provide him any solace. He was beginning to see how Rassilon might end this war, and there was nothing the Book of Olparn could do to stop it. The Doctor put the book back onto his console.
"Don't fight for them," the Doctor told himself. "Not for Rassilon, not for Romana. Not for the Time Lords. Fight for the universe, Doctor. Fight for life."
Lindsey didn't go home. She spent a certain amount of time driving around the empty streets in the residential areas of Las Vegas. She couldn't just abandon the Doctor. She couldn't leave him alone, sentenced to live out his entire life in that box. She had to find him and let him out.
Before she was even aware of it, she found herself parking around the corner from the Olparn church. The fake Olparn church, she reminded herself. The Doctor was inside, somewhere. And she knew that however long it took her, she would find him and get him out of there.
She snuck around the side of the building. The window she had toppled out of earlier that evening was still open. She wondered why. Had it simply never occurred to them to close it? Was it a stroke of good luck? Or was this a trap specifically designed for her?
Herdon what's-his-name had told the Doctor he was certain that Karen Hollburn was dead. It didn't look like he had figured out Lindsey's significance, or at least, Lindsey didn't think so. She peaked up through the window and into the front room. The lights were still on, but there was no one around. She thanked her lucky stars, and crept inside.
It could still be a trap, she reminded herself. She snuck over to the door at the far end of the room, and opened it a crack. It opened into an empty hallway, not particularly wide, which sported white washed walls and a shabby gray carpet. She could hear two voices echoing down the hall, and she thought she recognized them. She listened a little longer—yes, she definitely knew those voices. It was Herdon and Trudge. She slid through the door, and made her way silently down the hallway so she could hear them better.
"And any time you wish to ask for his council, all you must do is press this button," Herdon explained. "In that way, you will be able to speak to him, and he to you."
"But my Lord and Master can hear anything I say," insisted Trudge. "You told me that he could look deep into my mind. You told me he was everywhere."
"Yes," Herdon conceded. Lindsey could hear his voice faltering. He had clearly been caught in a contradiction. Herdon cleared his throat, and continued with more confidence. "Yes, of course. But this aspect of him has been caught in the mortal realm. Therefore, this aspect of him will not be able to hear you until you press the button."
"Can you hear me, my Lord and Master?" Trudge called.
Lindsey could hear another voice, then, a voice that made her heart leap. It was the Doctor!
"Please, please, stop calling me that," said the Doctor.
"Yes, Lord," said Trudge.
"Really, it's just Doctor," insisted the Doctor. "Not Lord. Not Master. Not Builder or Creator or Davros or whatever else you want to call me. Just Doctor."
"He doesn't mean it," Herdon said. "He is testing your faith."
"No, no, I'm really not," said the Doctor. "Look, Trudge, I'm not God. I can't read your mind or do magic or whatever else Herdon has told you. I'm just a man you've trapped in a box. Okay?"
"I keep the faith," insisted Trudge.
"Oh, for—" said the Doctor, but whatever else he had to say was cut off, as Trudge presumably let go of the button.
"Don't you have work to do, Trudge?" asked Herdon.
"Yes," said Trudge. "I must complete my holy mission!"
Lindsey could hear the danger coming. She backed into an empty room off the hallway, and closed the door. She could hear Trudge and Herdon passing by as she held her breath. When she heard the door to the front room close, she finally allowed herself to breathe again. Then she crept back into the hallway, and went towards the door at the far end. The door the voices had come from.
She stepped into what looked like a chapel. Almost. Instead of prayer books, the congregation kept an arsenal of firearms by their seats, and the altar in front was blood red. Behind the altar was another painting of the Doctor, but he looked so demonic and evil that Lindsey shuddered. She ran up to the altar, and picked up the familiar small box that lay abandoned on its surface.
She picked the box up carefully. Could the Doctor feel his world moving as she moved the box around? She hoped he wasn't too uncomfortable inside. She looked on the side, and located a small control panel that had been revealed. That must be what they had been talking about. She wanted to talk to the Doctor, but thought better of it. Better get out, first.
She heard the steady chatter of voices advancing towards the chapel area. With a sudden rise of panic, she realized that she'd forgotten to close the door behind her when she entered. She looked around, and found a closed window on her far left. There wasn't much time, but if she could get over there, she and the Doctor would have a chance.
Lindsey hugged the box to her chest. "Sorry, Doctor," she whispered to it, as if he could hear her. "This is going to be a bit bumpy."
She turned around. And came face to face with Herdon Lantfond.
He was standing at the other end of the chapel, his arms crossed, looking amused. "Back so soon?" he asked.
Lindsey began to back away from him, creeping towards the window. She could hear the voices in the hallway getting closer and closer. She had to get out of here, but she was sure that Herdon wouldn't let her leave.
"I'm not giving him back," Lindsey warned.
"Oh, I should think not," said Herdon. He shrugged. "But it doesn't matter, anyways. There isn't a soul alive who can get him out of there."
Lindsey looked down at the box in her hands. There didn't seem to be a lid. It was as if it had been carved as a seamless cube of wood, with no way in and no way out. She looked back at Herdon in horror. "How do you open it?" she asked in a loud whisper. She was still creeping towards the window, unwilling to take her eyes off of him.
"You don't," he said. He glanced over his shoulder at the open door behind him, then looked back at her and gave another malicious smile. "They're almost here," he said.
"What do you want?" asked Lindsey. She had her back against the window, and was trying to open it one-handed.
"Oh, I've already gotten everything I wanted," Herdon replied, breezily. "The Doctor's out of the way, Karen Hollburn is dead, and the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire will be built on a foundation of war and destruction. In fact," he said, checking his watch, "I think it's about time I left. Don't you think?" He gave her a wink, tapped a button on his watch, and disappeared.
Lindsey didn't have a chance to digest what had just happened, because the two voices from the hall entered the chapel. The two men looked at her, and she at them, for a moment not daring to do anything. Then they shouted, and Lindsey turned and scrambled out the window.
She began to run. As fast as she could, she ran through the Las Vegas evening, clinging to the box as if it contained… well, as if it contained the Doctor, which it did. She could hear yelling behind her, along with the sound of gunshots. She winced as she felt something whiz by her ear. She leapt inside her car, dumping the box onto the seat beside her, and turned the key. "Please, please," she begged the car as the motor began to cough. "Work just this once. Just for me. Please!"
The car, reluctantly, obeyed.
She could hear a window smash behind her, and she ducked instinctively. Not that it made any difference—the shot hadn't come anywhere near her. For being a heavily armed religious cult, she realized, they weren't very good shots. Better for her, she thought, as she sped away.
She knew they'd be following her. Following her and maybe even shooting at her as she was driving. She glanced over at the box. The Doctor must be completely confused at this point, she decided. Or maybe he had already worked out what was happening. She'd worry about getting him out later. Right now, she needed to head back to the police station. She hoped she'd be able to find some help there.
Grissom, Nick, and Greg were about to go back to the crime scene to gather further evidence, when they saw an old Pontiac pull into the parking lot at a breakneck speed. Lindsey didn't even bother to park in one of the spaces, just stopped the car and leapt out. In the shadows of the street lamps, Grissom thought he could make out a small black box in her hands.
"Oh, she didn't," said Nick.
"I think she did," said Grissom, as he watched another car advancing towards the station.
Lindsey ran over to them, her eyes wide with fear. "I got the Doctor," she panted. "But they're after me. You've got to help me."
"You do realize that the moment you enter that building, you'll be charged with theft and breaking and entering?" asked Nick.
"I wasn't stealing!" Lindsey protested. "I was rescuing the Doctor."
The other car rolled down its windows, and Grissom could spot three guns pointing at them from inside the vehicle. He ushered Lindsey and his team inside as the guns began to fire, and locked the doors behind them.
"All right, Lindsey," said Grissom as Nick and Greg began trying to work out a solution to their current predicament. "I think it's about time you and I had a little discussion."
"Is something the matter, Ace?" the Doctor asked.
Ace was trying hard to hide the tears that were streaming down her face. She hated these moments, when she broke down in front of the Doctor. Just like she was some little kid.
"No," she lied. "Just bored is all."
The Doctor noticed the book in her hands. He pointed at it with his umbrella. "So, what do you think so far?" he asked.
"Too much talking, not enough explosions," said Ace in her usual brusque manner. It didn't seem so cool when her eyes were still red from crying.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "And it didn't seem… familiar at all?"
"Oh, no," Ace lied again. "Nothing familiar about it. Not one bit." She didn't mention the bits she was reading when he'd walked in on her—those bits about the alienation and loneliness. She didn't want him to know how weak she sometimes felt inside.
"Oh," said the Doctor. He sounded a bit disappointed.
Ace squinted at him. "Why?" she asked.
"I've been trying to deduce whether or not I meet Karen Hollburn at some point in my personal timeline," said the Doctor. "Certainly some time traveler must have done so, if the time cordon is any indication."
"Well, I don't think she met you," said Ace. "But I'm pretty sure she met That Bearded Git."
That Bearded Git was the nickname that Ace had given to the Doctor's best enemy, the Master. The Doctor looked surprised. "Really?" he asked.
Ace looked back down at the book, flipping through pages until she found the section she was looking for. "That whole middle section, about the jerk who wanders around a world where people are turning into wild animals, afraid of nothing so much as losing himself?" asked Ace. "Sounds like That Bearded Git to me."
"Oh dear," muttered the Doctor. "I hadn't considered that before."
"What?" asked Ace. She jumped up, dropping the book onto the floor. The Doctor made a dive to try and catch it, but he didn't make it in time. It landed on the floor with a thud. The Doctor picked it up, brushed it off, and held it alongside his umbrella.
"The possibility that the Master wrote this book as a sort of a trap," said the Doctor, "to lure me in." He brushed his fingers against the cover, thoughtfully. "I don't think he would, though. I couldn't see him going through all that trouble to get revenge." He drummed his fingers on the surface, and suddenly, Ace could see him turn very pale. "Although…" he added, very quietly.
"Professor?" asked Ace. She waved her hand in front of the Doctor's eyes. "Doctor? Hello?"
He blinked and noticed her. "Sorry, just thinking."
"Yeah, thanks, I got that," said Ace. "So, what? You think That Bearded Git is parading around in dresses and tights, calling himself Karen Hollburn and hoping you'll show up?"
"I think it's far more likely that he hypnotized her," the Doctor said. "And wrote the book himself." The Doctor frowned. "But that would be very disturbing indeed."
"Why?" asked Ace.
"Because this is the book that brought about world peace," said the Doctor. "And the only reason the Master would work to bring about world peace is if he was getting something sinister out of the situation."
"So we're going to go and stop him?" asked Ace.
The Doctor was already half way over to the console, when he stopped. He leaned on his umbrella, and looked back at Ace. "No," he said. "It isn't the Master."
Ace put her hands on her hips. "Oh yeah?"
"Yes," said the Doctor. He looked back down at the book in his hands, and smiled at it, as if it were telling him a secret.
"Are you going to give a reason, or are you just going to stand there insisting you're right?"
"I think I'll go with the second option," said the Doctor, and went to put the book away.
Lindsey went into Grissom's office, still clutching the Doctor's box to her chest protectively. She had her head hung as she walked, but not because she was ashamed. She was looking at the box, trying to work out how to open it. She knew she'd seen it open before, so it must be possible. But she couldn't even see any evidence of a lid that might open. It was as if the cube had been constructed without an opening. She tried fiddling with the controls at the side, but none of them worked. As Grissom sat her down at his desk, she managed to press a button that made a crackle of sound appear from the box.
"Look," said the Doctor's voice. He sounded annoyed. "If you are going to insist on worshipping me and making my life a living hell, could you at least try to follow some of my ideals? Peace and harmony? Tea and cookies? Anything?"
Grissom jumped at the sound of the voice. He turned around and peered at the box, clearly trying to work out how this was possible.
"Doctor?" asked Lindsey. She kept her finger pressed down on the button, and looked at Grissom. "Do you have some masking tape or something? Anything sticky and resilient?"
Grissom opened a drawer and tossed her a roll of masking tape. He was still speechless, his eyes glued to the box.
"Lindsey?" asked the Doctor. He sounded shocked. Lindsey could hear his clothes rustling inside the box, and she wondered if he was pacing. If she listened very hard, she thought she could make out the faint patter of footprints. "Lindsey, you've got to get out of here," said the Doctor. "Get out and don't come back. I'll see if I can talk these nut jobs around to my way of thinking, okay? Just make sure that you're safe."
"Hang on a sec," Lindsey said, picking up the masking tape off the desk. She took her finger off the button so she could peel off a strip of tape, which she then secured over the button on the side of the box. She could hear the crackle again, and peeled off a second strip.
"Lindsey!" the Doctor was shouting. "Lindsey! Can you hear me? Just run! Leave! Get out of here!"
"A bit late for that, Doctor," said Lindsey, securing the button with several more strips of masking tape. "You're at the police station now. I thought you would have noticed, what with all the shaking."
"Well," said the Doctor, but he didn't continue. Lindsey put the masking tape back on the table, and looked at the box expectantly.
"Communicator?" Grissom asked, indicating the box.
"Dimensional transcendentalism, actually," corrected the Doctor.
Grissom's face still looked blank. He looked over at Lindsey, who shrugged.
"It's like the Tardis," she said. "It's bigger on the inside than the outside." She paused, and looked back down at the box. "How much bigger, Doctor? Can you stand up?"
"Well, it's not the Tardis," he said. "But yes, I can stand up."
Lindsey began to play with the other controls again. "I'm trying to figure out how to get you out," she said. "But nothing's working."
"Stop, stop, stop!" shouted the Doctor in increasing volume.
Lindsey took her hands away from the controls as if she'd been bitten. She looked in horror at the box. She could hear the distress seeping through his voice.
Inside the box, the Doctor gasped for air. Lindsey cringed.
"What did I do?" she asked.
"Just… flip that middle switch to the upright position, press the second button, then flick the next set of switches so they point up, down, up."
Lindsey did as she was told. The Doctor let out a breath of relief.
"Thank you," he said.
"What happened?" Lindsey asked.
"Just… time manipulation… the Tardis took most of it, luckily, but it wasn't particularly pleasant," said the Doctor.
Grissom looked at the box in confusion – or at least, in more confusion than he had shown previously. "I believe your Tardis is still in the parking lot," he said.
"Telepathic connection," said the Doctor. "It's a bit complicated. Normally, I'd tell you I'll explain later, but unfortunately, it appears that I have nothing better to do than to explain."
"Doctor," Lindsey interrupted. She could feel herself gripping onto the edge of Grissom's desk. "How do I get you out?"
"Ah," said the Doctor. "That is a very good question."
Lindsey looked at Grissom. But if she was looking for some sign of hope or encouragement, she didn't find it. "And the answer?" she asked the Doctor.
"I suppose," said the Doctor, "the short answer is… you don't."
Lindsey could feel that familiar denial clanging around in her mind. That voice that kept telling her not to believe him, that there was something he'd overlooked, that she could work out a way to get him out of there on her own.
"And the long answer?" asked Lindsey.
The Doctor gave a sigh, and Lindsey thought that he must be running a hand through his hair at this moment, making it stand up at all sorts of odd angles on his head. "Well, you see," he said. "These stasis boxes were built during the war. They were sort of interrogation chambers, with a few other… things thrown in. Only a Time Lord can open the box—from the inside or the outside."
"So you can open the box yourself!" Lindsey cried. She paused. "Don't tell me you haven't tried that."
"Any Time Lord," the Doctor continued, "except me."
Lindsey frowned. "Is this something that Herdon did?" she asked. "If he fiddled with the way the box works, we can find a way to get it back to normal."
"Not Herdon, actually," said the Doctor.
Lindsey made a small "oh" with her mouth as the truth sunk in. "The Time Lords?" she asked. She tried to think back to what the Doctor had told her about his own people—way back when she was thirteen years old. "Is this because you were a renegade?"
"No, not really," the Doctor confessed. "It's because I abused the privilege."
Lindsey knew what that meant, especially when she was dealing with the Doctor. It meant either a prison break, or else it meant that he'd tried to destroy the factory that produced the boxes or something to that effect. She was about to ask him for further clarification on that point, when Nick stuck his head in through the door.
"We've got the position held," said Nick. "And we've got additional officers coming in from out of town. In bad news, it looks like they have backup on the way as well."
"No," said the Doctor. "No, no, no, no, no! Just—someone. Give me back to them. Please. It'll be a bloodbath."
Lindsey swept the box back into her arms protectively, trying to give both Grissom and Nick "don't you dare" looks but failing. She didn't think she did menacing very well.
"Lindsey," said Grissom, in the kind of exhausted sigh that indicated he was losing patience. Lindsey didn't back down.
"Do you really think they'll stop shooting if we give them back the box?" asked Nick. "Remember what happened last time."
"We're not giving them the Doctor," said Lindsey. She was slowly backing out of the chair and away from the two men.
"Lindsey, please," said the Doctor. "Those cultists believe that the only way to accomplish anything is through war and bloodshed. If I can just talk to them…"
"They won't let you talk to them, Doctor," Lindsey almost shouted. "You tried talking to them last time, and they sealed you in a box."
The Doctor clearly didn't have a good answer for this, so he just settled for, "give me back to them, Lindsey."
"Nick's right," said Grissom. "It wouldn't make a difference, anyways. Once they opened fire on a police station, they sealed their fate. They know they're facing three counts of arson, and one of attempted murder, and—if Lindsey's correct about Karen Hollburn—one count of murder in the first degree. They don't have anything to lose at this point."
"What do you know about this Olparn church?" Nick asked. "Are they likely to be suicidal?"
"They're not Olparnists!" the Doctor gritted through his teeth. "They've taken everything that's good and wonderful about that movement and twisted it around."
"I don't know," Lindsey answered Nick. "But they're not very good shots. Only one shot even got close when I was escaping with the Doctor."
"No!" the Doctor shouted. "No more guns, no more violence."
"Then what else can we do, Doctor?" Lindsey snapped back at him. "We're out of options. There's nothing left to do but fight."
There was a long moment of silence, and Lindsey thought she could hear the Doctor take a long, shuddering breath. "Of all people, Lindsey Willows, I never thought I'd hear you say that," said the Doctor.
There was a feeling of complete disappointment in his voice, as if he had been deflated. It made Lindsey's cheeks turn pink, and she stared at Grissom and Nick. She could feel tears welling up in her eyes. She had never felt less like Karen Hollburn. She was just a teenager, some kid who rode around in a broken down car and had spent her life trying to live up to the impossible standards of a time-travelling alien in the hopes he'd take her back. She didn't know what to do. What could she do?
She really wished she could hold the Doctor's hand.
There were sounds coming from outside the police station. Sounds like guns and shooting. The Doctor began shouting for someone to listen to him, and Lindsey decided she'd had enough. She didn't want to be a hero anymore. She just wanted to take the Doctor and get out of there. Before Nick and Grissom could react, Lindsey had barreled her way through them, and run out the door.
"Lindsey!" she heard Grissom and Nick calling after her, but she just ran faster.
"Lindsey?" called the Doctor, from her arms. "Lindsey, what are you doing?"
"Shut up," said Lindsey, through her tears. "I'm not some big shot like you. I'm not brave or smart or cool, and I don't have a time machine. I'm just a stupid kid."
Lindsey collapsed onto the bench outside the interrogation room. She was now openly sobbing, unable to help herself.
"You're not stupid, Lindsey," the Doctor told her. "And you're not a kid. You're brilliant and brave and wonderful. You're going to do great things."
"You told me you only took the best," Lindsey said, "and then you kicked me out. I've spent five years trying to become the best for you, and I failed."
"You didn't… I didn't mean…" the Doctor faltered. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Lindsey, I was trying to tell you that you were the best. I wanted to make sure you knew that you had a future ahead of you. I was always planning on taking you back. I didn't want you to get hurt."
Lindsey was barely paying attention to him. She was shaking with sobs, and just kept saying, "I'm sorry," over and over and over again.
"So am I," said the Doctor. He sighed. "I just… hate feeling like this. Trapped and useless."
"Is it really bad in there?" Lindsey asked.
"Oh, no," said the Doctor. "Five stars! Big swimming pool, nice comfy chairs, hot tub…"
"It's just a little room, isn't it?" asked Lindsey, trying to wipe away her tears. She was sniffling. "A little room with nothing in it. And you in there, all by yourself, with no way out."
"I'm okay, Lindsey," the Doctor told her. "I'm always okay."
Lindsey tried to believe him, because she wanted to believe him. But she could hear the gunshots dying down outside, and she knew that the gun battle must be over. If she focused very hard, she thought she could hear the echo of policemen reading off Miranda rights. But it was probably her imagination. She doubted she'd be able to hear them this far inside the building.
There were footsteps coming towards her, and she looked up to find herself face to face with Grissom. He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders, trying to give her some sort of comfort. Nick was already running off to the entrance to find out what happened.
"If it's any consolation," said Grissom, "they weren't aiming to kill. Just to impede their progress."
"I should have been able to stop it," said Lindsey. She looked down at the box in her lap. "I caused this whole thing, after all. I got him out."
"There was nothing you could do," said Grissom. "And for what it's worth… you were probably right. About the Doctor, I mean. Just wait for the search warrant next time, okay?"
Lindsey nodded, and Grissom left. She looked down at the box.
"Doctor?" she asked. "Are you still there?"
"I'm still here," said the Doctor.
"Did you hear that?" she asked.
She waited for him to continue, but he didn't. "And?"
The Doctor paused another few moments, and Lindsey wondered if he was going to answer.
"You're still alive," he said.
"The others might be alive, too," said Lindsey. "Maybe everyone survived."
"Yes," said the Doctor. "And then what? It's still 21st century America. You still have capital punishment. How is it any better for them, being put to death because they were manipulated? Misguided?" He gave a short, sharp breath. "I told you when this all started, Lindsey, that the moment I stepped out of the police station, I was going to do something I regret. That somehow, everything would wind up being my own fault. And I was right, see? It was my fault, in the end."
Lindsey shook her head, forgetting, for a moment, that he couldn't see her. She had begun crying again, this time for him. All alone, stuck in some dark room with no chance of escape. And she could hear that same sorrow in his voice, the same sorrow which she had seen inside of him when she first found out what had happened to his home.
She heard the Doctor laugh. "I'd offer you a handkerchief," he said. "But I don't think it would do much good."
"I'd settle for a hug," said Lindsey.
"Ah," the Doctor said. "Bit tricky. What with being inside a box and all."
"But I can still hug you," said Lindsey, and she gave the box a big hug.
Most of the members of the cult had managed to survive, although some with more severe injuries than others. Joseph Harold Trudge was the only one given the death penalty.
Herdon Lantfon disappeared from 2008, and Lindsey never saw him again. It was only later that Lindsey understood why he never made a second attempt on Karen Hollburn's life.
Amy Pond marched into the console room. She was soaked from head to foot, and there was mud in her shoes. Her feet squelched against the floor with every step.
The Doctor, on the other hand, nearly flew into the Tardis, looking as if he'd just been tumble dried. He was his usual cheerful and effervescent self, chattering away about something completely random as he ran up the steps to the Tardis console.
Amy crossed her arms indignantly.
It took the Doctor a few minutes to notice her standing by the doors, glaring at him. He gave her an innocent look. "What?" he asked.
"Back there, when we were running away from those toad things and I asked how you knew that Herdon Lantfond guy," said Amy, "you said you'd explain later."
The Doctor smiled. "So I did," he said, and got back to work at the console, clearly convinced that the conversation was over.
"So?" Amy demanded.
"So what?" asked the Doctor.
"It's later now," said Amy.
The Doctor paused. "Um, yes," he admitted. "Yes, it is." He glanced around, trying to find some better way to stall her, but found nothing at hand. He hated these sorts of explanations. He always hoped that his companions would just forget that he'd ever mentioned the subject after they'd run away from the danger. But Amy Pond was not the kind of person to forget a promise.
"Herdon Lantfond," mused the Doctor. "Herdon, Herdon, Herdon. Lantfond, Lantfond, Lantfond…" He looked up, a big smile on his face, and bounded down the steps towards Amy. "Yes, Herdon Lantfond. Not a nice man to have around, particularly when there's a war going on. Weapons dealer from the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire, and I am not just making that up. Had a run-in with him in 2008—just the usual evil villain sort of thing. 'You wrecked my world, you destroyed my weapons factory, you settled the civil war on my planet. Muahahaha.' That sort of thing." The Doctor frowned. "Actually, did manage to sort out a historical mystery for me. So maybe not such a bad chap after all."
"And he locked you in a box?" Amy asked. She had heard Herdon Lantfond taunt the Doctor relentlessly about this just before she'd knocked him out and tied him up.
"A bit," admitted the Doctor. "Sort of. Well, yes, all right, he did. But really, it was worth it. After all, I finally got to figure out who Karen Hollburn really was."
"Karen who?" asked Amy. "Who's Karen Hollburn?"
The Doctor tapped the side of his nose. "I'll explain later," he whispered.
Lindsey was afraid to leave the Doctor alone. She remembered what he was like in the Tardis—always moving around, bouncing on the balls of his feet, running around different planets and enjoying the feeling of the sun on his face, or the wind in his hair. She hated the idea of leaving him completely alone, without that one connection to the real world—the sound of a person's voice.
So she told him about her life. She told him where she liked to shop, what she liked to wear, what kinds of ice cream she liked to eat. She told him about her parents, their divorce, her tumultuous relationship with her dad, the constant bickering with her mom. She told him about the day her dad died, when she was shoved into a locked car and nearly drowned in a lake.
She heard the Doctor's breathing stop as she told him this last story.
"What is it?" she asked.
"There was no… blood in the water?" he asked.
"No," said Lindsey, perplexed. "Just a lot of broken glass. Why?"
"It was a car," whispered the Doctor, clearly to himself. He gave a brittle laugh. "All this time, I thought it was that boy, when it was just a car."
Lindsey made a mental note that this was clearly one of the things she was going to write about. "What boy?" asked Lindsey.
The Doctor said nothing for a moment. "Nobody," he insisted, quietly.
Lindsey could hear that twinge of guilt in his voice, the one he used so often when speaking of his home or his childhood. She tried to think of some tactful way to ask him, but realized she wasn't very good at subtlety or tact yet. "Did you nearly drown, too, when you were young?"
"No," said the Doctor, firmly. He hesitated, then added, "my friend did."
"Because some bully was holding him down?" asked Lindsey. She smiled, trying to picture Little Doctor toddling over to save the day, just the way he did now. "You saved his life, didn't you? You were all dashing and heroic even when you were young?"
The Doctor took in a sharp breath, and Lindsey felt her blood run cold. She had remembered what he had said about blood in the water. She thought she knew whose blood it was.
"You didn't," she breathed.
The Doctor didn't answer her.
"Was the bully okay?" asked Lindsey.
"No," said the Doctor. "He wasn't."
Lindsey stared at the box in horror. "And the other guy—your friend. Did he survive, at least?"
"Oh, yes," said the Doctor, but he didn't sound particularly pleased. "He always does. Or rather, he always did."
Lindsey thought she could hear a long narrative hiding behind those words. A story he was keeping from her, something long and terrible and painful. "Who was he, Doctor?" Lindsey asked. "Who was the little boy you saved when you were seven?"
The Doctor remained silent.
"If you're going to stay up late talking to your Doctor friend, you can't keep him," said Catherine, folding her arms. Lindsey had barely been sleeping since she had first taken the Doctor home, and Catherine was sick and tired of it.
"Mom, he's not a pet!" Lindsey complained. She really was upset about the comparison, even if she didn't sound it. The complaint came out rather half-hearted, considering how lethargy laced through every word.
"Okay, how about this?" asked Catherine. "If you don't start behaving like a normal human being, I'll lock him away in the closet."
Lindsey's eyes went wide. "You wouldn't!"
"I'm not going to watch you spend your life talking to some guy in a box," said Catherine. "He's not going to run away while you're asleep. He can't. If you go away for a while, he'll still be around when you get back."
It was the Doctor who finally managed to get her to go to sleep. The next time she began to talk to him, he refused to answer. At least she was still keeping him occupied, she thought, but before she knew what was happening, she had nodded off.
The door burst open, and Catherine came into the room. She was about to give Lindsey another 'talking to', but was silenced by a stern, "Shhhh!"
She looked over, and noticed that her daughter had slumped over her desk, completely passed out. Her head was right beside the Doctor's box. Catherine crept over, and eased her daughter into bed. Then she picked up the Doctor's box, and let herself out of the room.
"I suppose you had something to do with that?" asked Catherine. "What did you do? Read her Chekov?"
"Subliminal lullabies," the Doctor said. "If you sing them in a low enough range, the human ear can't quite hear, and it just puts them right to sleep."
Catherine nodded. She looked back at the door to her daughter's room, then at the small box in her hand. She began to feel a little bit bad about threatening to lock him in a closet. Even if he hadn't heard, he wasn't just some toy or pet that could be locked away. He was a real person, with real feelings. And he had actually been trying to get Lindsey to take care of herself.
"I haven't worked out how to convince her to go outside yet," the Doctor confessed. "I've never really been a brilliant hypnotist—especially with only one sense at my disposal. But I suppose that's my next challenge."
"You're bored stiff in there, aren't you?" Catherine asked.
"Well," said the Doctor. He hesitated. "Not really bored, as such…"
"I'm going to take that as a yes," said Catherine. She sighed, and checked her watch. "All right, Lindsey's asleep, and I have work. If you're very, very quiet, I'll take you with me. But the moment Grissom finds out, I'll be in big trouble. So mum's the word."
"Anything you say," he said. He had clearly meant it to sound solemn and serious, but Catherine could hear the excitement leaking through his voice. He really had been bored out of his mind.
Catherine picked up her CSI bag, resting the Doctor's box at the top, and left for work.
One hour later, Catherine stormed into Grissom's office, shoved a small cube down onto his desk, and told Grissom, "You deal with him."
Then she stalked off.
Grissom looked down at the box. It was the same box he remembered from a few nights before—the box where the Doctor was trapped.
"You know, you shouldn't really be here," said Grissom.
"Well, in my own defense, I'm not actually there at all, am I?" the Doctor pointed out. "I'm in here. In this little box. Waiting as the minutes tick by."
"I'm sure you've worked something out to keep yourself amused," said Grissom. He remembered the prison cell they had examined five years ago—all the mathematical symbols they had found scrawled across the walls. "You've probably derived Fermat's last theorem on the wall by now."
"I can't," said the Doctor. "I'm in temporal stasis. I'm essentially living the same moment over and over again. The box makes me feel as if I'm living my life in a linear fashion, but that's just psychic manipulation. Everything else is stuck just the way it is now."
Grissom frowned. "So if you were to write anything down…"
"It would just be gone the next second," confirmed the Doctor. "Poof! Abracadabra! All gone. Nothing left. Just nothing followed by nothing followed by… sorry, I'm being rude, aren't I?"
Grissom was beginning to have second thoughts about the Doctor's confinement. It was beginning to sound less like a cautious measure to ensure people's safety, and more like cruel and unusual punishment. Grissom looked at the transcript he had been examining before Catherine had entered the room.
"All right, then," he said. "Here's a puzzle for you. There was an armed robbery at a local convenience store at 3:00. We have one suspect caught on tape, but the surveillance equipment went down shortly thereafter. It was clearly a sabotage job, which means that the suspect must have a partner, but the suspect isn't talking and we can't get a clear fingerprint off the cameras. The surveillance room is locked, no windows and no evidence of forced entry. Then, about 30 minutes later, the cameras miraculously came back online. Once again, no fingerprints, no sign of forced entry. So how'd they manage to get in and out of a locked door and sabotage the cameras?"
"Date?" asked the Doctor.
"What's the date?" asked the Doctor.
Grissom gave it.
The Doctor started muttering to himself. Grissom wondered if the Doctor was pacing around the tiny cell, like the tigers he saw at the zoo as a kid, trapped in cages far too small for them.
"Aha!" cried the Doctor. "They didn't. Well, I should say, he didn't, you see. Because it wasn't a 'they', it was just a 'he.' Your gunman worked alone."
"Then how…?" Grissom began, but the Doctor was ahead of him.
"Sun particles!" the Doctor said. "A minor solar flare. There is one scheduled for around now, if I can remember my astronomical history correctly. Releases a burst of charged ions and neutrinos, which tend to muddle up communications and sometimes surveillance equipment. But you can be certain your armed gunman wasn't using an accomplice, at any rate. If he had been, why would the accomplice have sabotaged the equipment after the crime had been caught on tape?"
Grissom stared at the box, a bemused smile teasing at the corners of his lips. "You're very good at this, you know that?"
"Well," said the Doctor, "I do have a bit of an advantage."
"And that would be?"
"I'm brilliant!" the Doctor said, in that wild, enthusiastic voice that meant he was beaming.
One year later, the Doctor was still stuck in the box. Sophia, a friend of Grissom's who worked the day shift, kept asking Catherine to leave the Doctor for them after she left, so they could "borrow him for a bit." After a month, Catherine relented, much to Lindsey's consternation. Lindsey had been getting used to having the Doctor help her with her homework.
Not that it was really all that helpful.
"You know, for a vicious Viking warrior, King Canute really loved jelly babies," said the Doctor. "I had a bag left over, you see, in my pocket. I offered him one, and the next thing I knew, he was hooked. Ate 18 in one go. I had to zip off quick to the Tardis before he found out I didn't have any more."
"You know I can't write that, Doctor," said Lindsey.
"No?" asked the Doctor, innocently. "Why not?"
"Because my history teacher would fail me."
So Lindsey began swinging by the police station after school to try to take the Doctor back home. She was very stubborn and insistent, but the Doctor had his own ideas, especially when summer came.
"Act like I'm indispensable," he told Sophia. "Otherwise, Lindsey will insist on staying home and babysitting me all day, and I will not jeopardize her future."
It didn't take Lindsey long to catch on.
The Doctor, actually, rather enjoyed talking to Lindsey. He had told her a fairly large number of stories from his travels, he had managed to teach her some very basic temporal mathematics, and he had set her straight on one or two facts of historical importance. And every so often, he would let something slip, something he would have told Karen Hollburn (but Lindsey wasn't Karen Hollburn yet, he had to keep reminding himself of that)—about his being alone in the universe. About the destruction of Gallifrey. About those final days of the war.
Soon, Lindsey was off at college, and Catherine had begun to leave the Doctor in the lab. He certainly did seem in his element there, although at times he could still be evasive, obnoxious, or manipulative. But everyone seemed to be warming to him. Even Grissom, one day, confessed to Catherine that he might have been wrong about the Doctor.
The routine continued for about three months. It was only when Lindsey came back from college that things began to look up for the Doctor.
"I'm not certain I can read this book, Peri," Erimem told her. "Most of these words and concepts are completely foreign to me. I thought you said that I would be able to read any book I wanted once I had mastered the alphabet."
"It's not that hard," urged Peri. She was trying to sound cheerful and encouraging, but she seemed to only be agitating Erimem further.
"Why do I have to read this book?" she asked. "There are hundreds of thousands of books in the Tardis Library. Some of them are even autobiographies of historical figures I know."
"Yeah, but this historical figure is better than the ones you know," said Peri. "Because Karen Hollburn took her destiny into her own hands and changed the world."
"But were there not many others who shaped their own destinies?" Erimem pointed out. "Were there not many important persons who single-handedly change the world?"
"Well, yeah, but they were all guys," Peri said. Now she was beginning to sound desperate. Definitely not a great approach for a reading tutor to use. "This is a woman."
Erimem turned back to the book. She frowned. "Peri, I don't understand why Karen Hollburn is so unhappy to be dancing in front of men."
"She's not dancing," Peri explained. "She's stripping. See? She never went to college, so she's stuck in a horribly humiliating job, with all these men gawking and leering at her. Then one day her future self comes along and convinces her past self that they're better than all this…"
"I don't think I understood any of that," Erimem said.
Peri ignored her. It had been hard enough understanding it all herself, and she didn't want to admit that she wasn't sure she'd actually gotten the interpretation correct. "So younger Hollburn packs up her bags, and jumps into her car—"
"The Pon-ti-ac?" asked Erimem. She sounded every syllable of the word as if she were sounding it out all over again.
"Exactly," said Peri. "She hops into her Pontiac, and decides she's going to travel the world."
Erimem nodded, solemnly. She was clearly thinking about something very hard, and Peri hoped she had managed to follow most of her summary. If not, Peri wasn't really sure how to make it very much clearer without getting lost herself.
"Peri," said Erimem, "does it not seem strange to you that Karen Hollburn also travels around in an old, blue box?"
Peri was startled by the question. It had never occurred to her that her description of Karen Hollburn's Pontiac had been so similar to the Tardis. "Tardises travel through time," Peri said. "Pontiacs don't."
"And yet she visits herself in the past, and watches herself grow," Erimem pointed out. "She saves herself from drowning in the lake. She gives herself the encouragement she needs to stop dancing and travel the world. How is it that she does not travel through time?"
"Well…" said Peri, but she didn't really have an answer for that.
"Is this Karen Hollburn also a Time Lord?" asked Erimem.
"Certainly not," said the Doctor, walking into the room. "No, just an extraordinary human being and a talented novelist."
Erimem closed the book and handed it to the Doctor. "I am tired of this book, Peri," she said. "It is far too confusing."
The Doctor tucked it into his pocket, and gave Erimem a smile. "Well, then," he said. "Shall we find something easier?"
Martha Jones had had enough. She'd gotten out of a long and complicated relationship with Tom, she was having second thoughts about working for UNIT, she wasn't certain she approved of the methods employed by Torchwood, and she wasn't really sure what to do next.
She wished the Doctor was still around. She tried calling his mobile, but an automated message informed her that it was out of range. Which was odd, she thought, because she was fairly certain that there was nowhere in all of time and space that was out of range.
She needed a vacation. Somewhere nice—but no, she didn't want nice. She didn't want to go to Hawaii or Tokyo or Paris. She'd visited all those places during the Year that Never Was. They held bad memories for her. She wanted to go somewhere she could relax. Somewhere that hadn't been swarming with monsters the last time she'd visited.
That's how she chose Las Vegas. Because although the Doctor had continually pointed out aliens to her as they headed down the street, none of those aliens had attacked them, threatened to take over the world, or tried to eliminate mankind from the face of the Earth. Las Vegas. Go figure. The one time the Doctor doesn't find trouble, and it happens to be in a place known for sin and debauchery.
At first, the vacation had been a success, in so much as Martha had not yet run into any aliens (or if she had, she'd been too drunk to notice). That changed, however, when she began to take a long walk early one Sunday morning, taking in the town, so to speak.
And then she stopped in her tracks.
There, in the parking lot of a police station, was the Tardis.
Martha ran forwards and touched it. It was humming. Yep, definitely the Tardis. She got out her key, opened the door and stepped inside.
It was deathly quiet. The Tardis' hum wasn't as cheerful or inviting as usual. Martha ran up to the console and placed a hand upon its surface. A feeling of desperation, of loneliness, of pain and sorrow and despair flooded through her. She retracted her hand as if she'd been burnt. The Doctor was in trouble. She didn't know what he'd done this time, but the Tardis never felt like this when the Doctor was safe.
"What are you doing in there?" asked a voice from outside.
Martha spun around, and found a tall, older woman with long blond hair and blue eyes, wearing police attire and carrying a small wooden box in her hand. Something about the symbol that was traced on the box's surface looked familiar to Martha, but she couldn't quite recall where she'd seen it before.
"Where's the Doctor?" Martha demanded.
The woman looked a little guilty, and that was when Martha heard a familiar voice coming from right in front of her.
"I know that voice," said the Doctor. He sounded happy—no, he sounded ecstatic. He sounded like he'd just found out he won the lottery. "Martha Jones!"
Martha peered around the Tardis, looking for the source of the voice. She couldn't find the Doctor anywhere—she couldn't find anyone anywhere. There was no one around except for the woman at the door, who was looking guiltier and guiltier by the minute.
"I'm sorry about this," said the woman. "It really isn't my fault. We can't figure out a way to get him out." And the woman offered Martha the box.
That was when Martha figured out where the Doctor was.
She took the box in her hands, and felt along its edges, hoping to find the top. It was seamless. She peered down at the box. "You're in there, aren't you, Doctor?" she asked.
"Yeah, not the best plan, in retrospect," the Doctor told her. "Probably should have gone with Plan B. Or maybe C. Actually, probably should skip all the way down the alphabet to Z."
"And you haven't been shrunk or aged or anything?" asked Martha. She finally recognized where she'd seen that symbol before—she'd seen it in the Tardis. "It's bigger on the inside, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes!" said the Doctor.
Martha looked up at the woman in front of her. "And who are you?" Martha demanded.
"Catherine Willows, Crime Scene Investigator," said the woman. She stuck out her hand, and Martha gave a clumsy shake as she tried to keep the Doctor steady. "I've been helping to take care of him since he got stuck in there."
"How long has he been stuck?" asked Martha.
"Oh, no time at all," chirped the Doctor.
"Nearly a year," Catherine corrected.
Martha blanched. "Poor Doctor," she said. She carefully looked the cube over in her hand. "Don't see a lid," she remarked. She reached over to fiddle with the controls on the side, but Catherine managed to catch her hand before she messed with any of them.
"Better not," said Catherine.
"Ah, yes, should have mentioned," said the Doctor. "Although I'm guessing Catherine has already let you know, but you really shouldn't touch the buttons on the side. Just, wouldn't if I were you. Bit of time nastiness and what-not."
"So you've been trying to get him out of here for a year?" Martha asked.
"Well, it's mostly been my daughter, Lindsey," Catherine admitted.
"Lindsey… oh, yes, that reminds me!" said the Doctor. "Martha Jones, I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine. This woman is Catherine Willows—the mother of Karen Hollburn."
Martha Jones' eyes opened wide, and before Catherine knew what was happening, Martha had swooped her into an embrace. Then she drew back, babbling at a mile a minute. Catherine wondered if this was a talent that all of the Doctor's friends picked up after a certain amount of time. She knew that her daughter was already a natural.
"Your daughter is brilliant," said Martha. "I mean, absolutely brilliant. Sorry, will be brilliant. Tenses get all mixed up. I went through the worst year of my entire life, and I swear, if I hadn't had a copy of your daughter's book with me, I don't know if I would have made it." Martha turned to the Doctor's box, although the Doctor couldn't see. "I knew she wrote that section about me. I read it over and over again during the year that never was. I was so certain that she must have remembered, somehow, or maybe that I found her later and told her."
"She didn't, and you don't," said the Doctor. "Every one of my companions has read that book and thought it was about them, and not one of them has ever met Karen Hollburn. Sorry."
Martha thought about this a moment. "Doctor," said Martha. "You've been locked up in there for a year, and all you ever do is babble anyways. How much have you told this Lindsey person about your companions?"
The Doctor sounded uneasy. "Well…" he said. "Probably a little bit more than I should."
"I think we've just hit upon our explanation," said Martha.
Catherine crossed her arms. "As much as I'd love to continue this conversation," she said, "Lindsey is going to spit fire at me if the Doctor isn't home by morning." She hesitated, noticing the way that Martha was holding the Doctor's box. It was obvious that Martha was not intending to part without it. "You can come with," Catherine offered.
"Oh, you must meet Lindsey," said the Doctor. "She's absolutely brilliant, Martha. Just like you. And you know, she really does drive around in an old, blue Pontiac." The Doctor announced this last fact with pride, as if the blue Pontiac had been his idea in the first place.
Martha's eyes glittered. "Really?" she asked. "Just like in all those stories?"
Catherine turned and walked out of the Tardis doors. "All right, you two," she said. "Time to go, then."
Martha turned to follow Catherine out of the Tardis, closing the doors behind her. Martha put the Doctor into the car, then closed the door and looked back at Catherine. Now that the Doctor couldn't hear, she wanted to ask some real questions.
"He's been in there a year," said Martha. "How has he…?"
"Not well," Catherine told her. "This is the first time I've ever heard him sounding happy since he got stuck in there."
"Is it really that bad inside?" asked Martha.
"It's a temporal stasis box," said Catherine. "He says it's like living the same moment over and over again, except that his brain still processes it like it's linear time. And since we're already living in linear time, and the two seem to match, we can communicate. But it's hard, being that isolated from the real world. That's why we've been keeping him at the lab. He feels like he's helping, there, and it keeps him occupied." She looked back into the car, where the Doctor was waiting inside his box. "And that's the sugar-coated version he tells us," she added. "I think in reality, it's far worse."
Martha blanched. "And there's no way…"
"We tried," said Catherine. "Lindsey can tell you. We tried absolutely everything, and there's no difference. Apparently, only Time Lords can open the box. And there aren't any left."
"Except for him," Martha pointed out.
"Except for him," Catherine agreed. "But he can't open it either. He says he abused the privilege."
Martha looked down at the cube with sadness in her eyes. "Poor Doctor," she said. "He doesn't deserve this."
"I know," said Catherine, opening the car door and sliding inside.
It is always an unnerving feeling to be praised for something you haven't done yet. That was what Lindsey Willows was thinking as she made the acquaintance of Martha Jones.
Not that Martha Jones was saying outright that Lindsey was going to become Karen Hollburn. Lindsey guessed that the Doctor had probably told her not to. But Lindsey could see right through it. It wasn't that hard to do, once you figured out that you were destined to become an incredibly famous historical figure.
"I'm betting you want to know how he got in that box," Lindsey said, cutting Martha off. She was hoping beyond reason that Martha knew of some way to get him out of there, but after a year of trying, Lindsey had to admit that she was running out of options.
Martha looked back at the Doctor, and Lindsey recognized the look in her eyes. Martha was trying to picture the Doctor locked away in that tiny little prison—a man who had been unbounded by the laws of physics, forced to live a single moment, over and over again for the rest of time.
Lindsey explained everything that had happened. When she explained the bit about the cult, she saw Martha wince. In exactly the same way that the Doctor had, which was interesting.
"It wasn't him," the Doctor chimed in. "He really is dead. I saw his funeral pyre."
"Who?" asked Lindsey.
"No one," said Martha, quickly. "Just this other Time Lord he knew."
Lindsey turned on the Doctor. "You said there weren't any other Time Lords left," she said. "If there's another Time Lord around, that means we can open the box. We can get you out!"
"Trust me," said Martha, "there's no way the other one would open the box. He probably would have put the Doctor in there himself." She shuddered. "That cult really called the Doctor their Lord and Master? That's just… wrong. In so many ways."
"Martha…" warned the Doctor.
"I'm not saying anything," Martha insisted.
"About me being Karen Hollburn, you mean?" asked Lindsey. She put her hands on her hips, as Martha stared at her. She figured the Doctor was probably staring at her too, or trying to, through the walls of his wooden box. "What? If you didn't want me to work it out, you shouldn't have made such a big fuss about my car."
"Yes, sorry," said the Doctor. "My fault." He let out a long, slow breath. "Probably shouldn't have told you quite so much about myself, either, come to think about it. Or my companions."
"You know what this means, Doctor," Martha said. "It means I was right all along. That middle section was written about you."
Lindsey gave Martha a mischievous look. "I get to write a book about the Doctor?"
"Oh, no," said the Doctor. "No, no, no, no, no. You do not get to write a book about me, Lindsey Willows. You are going to write a marvelous, brilliant, fantastic book that everyone agrees has to be about them because it is so wonderful and… did I say brilliant? Yes, brilliant. But about you. Not about me."
"Oh, come on," said Martha. "The man who carries the weight of worlds…"
"Yes, thank you, Martha Jones," the Doctor cut in. "I think that's enough spoilers for today."
Martha looked over at Lindsey, and gave a small shrug. Lindsey was furiously making mental notes about her future book. She really didn't consider herself an author, so she figured any advanced help would be a welcome relief.
"So, this box," said Martha, trying to steer the subject away from Lindsey's future. "How do we open it?"
"We can't," said Lindsey, collapsing onto the couch and placing the Doctor on her coffee table. "We tried everything."
Martha sat beside Lindsey. "Did you try…?"
"Yes," Lindsey interrupted.
Martha frowned. "You didn't even hear what I was going to say yet."
"It doesn't matter," said Lindsey. "If you've thought it up, we've tried it. Not even Dalek laser fire could penetrate that thing, and yes, Doctor, that was a snipe directed at you."
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," the Doctor said, sheepishly.
"Okay," said Martha in an authoritative voice that made the other two snap to attention. "When I'm trying to work things out, I usually start by listing what I know. So, what do we know about this box?"
"It was made by Time Lords during the war," said Lindsey.
"Just one Time Lord, actually," said the Doctor. "His name was the Builder. I called him Bob."
"As I said, they were made by Time Lords during the war," Lindsey repeated. "But not designed to imprison Time Lords. That's why the knobs on the side cause him physical pain. They're just supposed to be some sort of psychic manipulation but they wreak havoc with his time sense. Oh, and we know that the box has a number of failsafe mechanisms to make sure that Time Lords don't get trapped inside."
"And none of them work?" asked Martha.
"None so far," admitted Lindsey.
"Okay, what are they?" asked Martha.
Both Martha and Lindsey looked over at the Doctor, who couldn't see them. They waited a moment, realized that the Doctor wasn't going to continue, and both called out at the same time, "Doctor?"
"Hm?" said the Doctor. "Oh, you mean me? Sorry. Yes. Failsafe mechanisms, is that what we were talking about?"
"He does that a lot, too," Lindsey said to Martha. "Losing track of time and being unable to follow the conversation. Is that what usually happens when he loses his time sense?"
Martha shrugged. "I've never seen him lose it before," she said.
"Yes and no," said the Doctor.
"What does that mean?" Martha asked.
"I'll explain later," the Doctor assured her. Which meant that he would never explain at all. The Doctor clapped his hands. "Right, then. Failsafes. First, any Time Lord can open the box—from the inside or the outside. Well, any Time Lord except for me. They built that in after an… incident. And yes, I did try it just in case. The lid wouldn't budge. So, strike one." He gave a self satisfied cough. "I've been trying to pick up some American slang while I'm here. Do you think it's working, Martha?"
"The second failsafe, Doctor?" Martha encouraged.
"Ah, yes!" said the Doctor. "Second, when a Time Lord is caught inside of one of these things, it sends out a telepathic distress signal. Alerts all Time Lords in the area, along with the High Council of Gallifrey."
"Neither of which exist anymore," said Martha.
"Strike two," said Lindsey.
"Thirdly," continued the Doctor, "or is it thricely? Thricely thirdly—and this is the one I didn't know about before I got stuck in here, by the way—it appears that the box does not sever the telepathic connection between a Time Lord and his Tardis."
"Hang on," said Martha. "That sounds useful."
"That's what I said," Lindsey told her. "But he has explained to me, at great length, that it is completely and utterly useless."
"It helps to stabilize the time fluctuations," the Doctor told Martha. "And it keeps me from going utterly insane, at least in the short run. That way, I can stay sane and relatively unharmed until help arrives. If it were ever going to arrive. Which it isn't."
"He can't use the telepathic link to summon the Tardis. He can't materialize inside the Tardis, or use the Tardis to open the lid. He can't even open the Tardis doors," Lindsey said. "That police box has been sitting in the parking lot outside the police station for nearly a year now, and I can't even get inside."
"But I can," said Martha. She fished her necklace out from beneath her shirt, and at the end, revealed a silver key.
Lindsey sat up on the sofa, suddenly animated. "We can get into the Tardis," Lindsey said. She looked at Martha, her whole face glowing. "We can get into the Tardis!" she cried. "Did you hear that, Doctor? We can finally get in! There has to be something that can help us in there." She suddenly had an idea. "Doctor, how big is that cell you're in?"
"Oh, huge," he said, automatically. "Five star accommodation."
Lindsey sighed. They were back to this again. "Okay, don't answer," said Lindsey. "Just tell me this. Is it big enough to fit your Tardis?"
The Doctor hesitated. "Yes…" the Doctor said, uneasily.
"So all we have to do is figure out how to fly it, and then we can just land and pick him up," said Lindsey. "Does the Tardis have a manual?"
"Well, not anymore," said the Doctor. "You see, I sort of threw it into a supernova."
"You know what," said Lindsey, "I'm not even going to ask."
Martha, in the mean time, had a very grim expression on her face. She was still staring at her hands, which were clasped around the key in her lap. "I know how to get the Tardis to the Doctor," she said, very quietly. She was hoping the Doctor wouldn't hear.
"No," said the Doctor. "Absolutely not."
"What?" asked Lindsey.
"There was this one time, when he and Rose and Jack were fighting Daleks on Satellite 5. The Doctor decided he was going to die, so he sent Rose home in the Tardis without him."
"Told her to keep the car and pushed her out the window, eh, Doctor?" said Lindsey, with a tinge of bitterness in her voice.
"Well, the spacio-temporal equivalent," said the Doctor.
"But Rose got the Tardis to work for her again?" Lindsey asked Martha. "I mean, without the Doctor?"
"No," said the Doctor. "Martha, I said no, and I meant no. I'm not going to have one of you two dying to try and save me, and I'm not terribly eager to die again myself, if I can help it."
"Rose looked into the heart of the Tardis," Martha told Lindsey.
"She absorbed the Time Vortex," corrected the Doctor. "And it nearly killed her. I had to take it out of her, so it would kill me instead. I regenerated and wound up fighting Sycorax on Christmas Day in striped pajamas."
"So, not an ideal escape situation," Lindsey summarized.
"I'll do it, if I have to," said Martha.
"No, Martha, I said—wait…" The Doctor paused a moment. "Aha!" he shouted. "I thought of something. Something brilliant. Something so brilliant and fantastic that nobody has to sacrifice themselves for anybody else."
"I'm in favor of the no dying thing, if that counts," Lindsey put in.
"Emergency protocol one kicks in automatically when I deactivate one particular button on the console," the Doctor explained. "It's called the LTD button. Red button, lower section of the console across from the doors. It locates me anywhere in space and time based on my telepathic link."
Martha and Lindsey both looked at each other, a growing smile on their faces. "That could work," said Martha.
"Forget could," said Lindsey. "That's what I call a plan."
Martha leant down to pick up the Doctor from the coffee table, but Lindsey stopped her. "We're going to be materializing inside that box," she said. "So we better not bring the box inside the Tardis."
Martha realized that Lindsey had a point. She put the box back down on the coffee table.
"See ya, Doctor," Lindsey shouted at him as she and Martha piled out the front door. "Don't wait up."
"There isn't a red button," insisted Martha.
Lindsey was scanning the buttons on the other side of the console. She wasn't having any luck either. She slammed her fist against the console. The Tardis gave an annoyed hum.
"Maybe he got the color wrong," Martha suggested.
"Knowing him, I'll bet it isn't even a button," said Lindsey. "It could be anything. It could even be that rubber ducky over there." Lindsey kept pouring over the console, trying to locate something that looked even remotely suspicious. "You think it's labeled?"
Martha gave her a pointed look. "No," she said. "I don't think it's labeled. Nothing in here is labeled." She went back to examining the buttons on her side of the console. "It might be labeled in Gallifreyian," she muttered. "Not that we could read it."
Lindsey's eyes shot open. "Hang on," she said. "He taught me some of the symbols when he taught me that trick in calculus. I remember them."
Martha grinned. "So what's L?"
"Oh, it wouldn't be an L," said Lindsey, looking over the buttons on the console more furiously. "It's an acronym, you know? LTD . Like Tardis, but I doubt that his granddaughter came up with that one. The button will probably say whatever 'Locate the Doctor' is in Gallifreyian."
"How did you work that one out?" asked Martha.
"Ahem," said Lindsey. She pointed to her chest. "Human brain. Brings about universal peace." She pointed at the console. "Time Lord brain," she continued. "sends us looking for something that isn't red, isn't a button, and is labeled in a language we can't read."
Martha conceded that Lindsey had a point. "So what are you looking for, if you don't know how to say 'Locate the Doctor' in Gallifreyian?" asked Martha.
"I know the Gallifreyian equivalent of Delta," said Lindsey. "I'm going to assume that's the 'D' in Doctor. Failing that, I know that he was also called Theta Sigma at some point. Don't ask—he was being annoying one day while I was trying to do trigonometry."
"You had the Doctor tutor you in maths?" Martha asked, laughing.
"I had the Doctor tutor my calculus teacher," said Lindsey. "I think he found the whole thing highly amusing." She thought a moment. "I didn't let him near my history teacher, though. I figured there was no way she'd ever believe a word of it."
"And your calculus teacher did?"
"It took her about an hour," Lindsey said. "Although most of that time was just the Doctor trying to convince her that there was a fifth dimension, and the entire problem was much easier if you extrapolated the intersection point into that dimension. At the end, she just turned to me and said, 'Not on the AP test.'"
Martha laughed. She didn't know what an AP test was, but she assumed it was some sort of qualifying exam. "And he taught you Gallifreyian symbols?"
"Well, he taught me Delta," said Lindsey. "I mean, he sort of had to. It was calculus, after all." She paused a moment. Her whole face lit up. "Gotcha!" she said, and flipped a small green switch.
The Tardis heaved beneath them, throwing the two women across the floor. "That's a feeling I never thought I'd experience ever again," Lindsey admitted.
"Me neither," said Martha.
They didn't even have time to get to their feet before another lurch knocked them back down again. The Tardis kept bucking and jerking beneath them, even more than usual, Lindsey thought. She tried to grab onto one of the coral support struts as she slid past it.
"I guess it's not that easy," shouted Martha over the groan of the Tardis, "breaking into a Time Lord prison."
"But it's got to be possible," Lindsey shouted back. "The telepathic connection with the Tardis was one of those failsafes that was incorporated into the design. And it was the only one the Doctor didn't know about. If you were worried about the Doctor attempting another prison break, I'm going to bet you wouldn't tell him, either."
Martha couldn't argue with that kind of logic.
After a few minutes of chaos and groaning sounds, the Tardis finally came to rest with a final, resounding thud. Lindsey and Martha picked themselves up off the floor, looking at one another as if to ask, 'what now?' But there was a figure in the way.
"Hello again," said the Doctor, leaning his tall, thin frame against the console. "Fancy a lift?"
Chapter 11: Epilogue
Lindsey Willows' life didn't quite work out the way she expected. She kept waiting to become Karen Hollburn—that marvelous, brilliant woman who changed the world single-handedly. The woman who would be worshipped in the future; the woman who would unite the world in peace and harmony. But that moment never came.
She tried to get people to stop fighting wars, or carrying guns around. She even tried to break up a bar brawl once, but no one ever listened to her. Peace was all very well and good in theory, they all agreed, but in practice you just couldn't do it. The world wasn't going to be united under peace and harmony, because it was impossible. Everyone knew it, even if they claimed they believed her.
And then the Pontiac broke, and she couldn't find another one.
She started driving around in a Honda Civic. A Honda Civic with a working horn and a speedometer that actually told you what speed you were going. A working car.
All right, so she wasn't turning into Karen Hollburn. She wasn't the kind of person to attract a crowd or make people believe she was right. She wasn't menacing enough to scare off the bad guys, she wasn't convincing enough to gather together the good guys. She was just plain old Lindsey Willows.
She still had to write that book.
It was gnawing at her, in the back of her mind. She was going to write an autobiography that was so profound that it would change the course of history. The problem was, Lindsey Willows wasn't changing the course of history. She wasn't even changing the footnotes of history. So what could she write that was so profound that it would become some sort of holy litany?
She sat down to write something, and then she froze.
"People are going to worship me," she realized, and it sunk in just what that meant. At some point in the future, people were going to pray to her, to try to live their lives in the same way she lived hers. It was a thought that depressed her. She, who had made such a mess of her life, who couldn't even fry an egg without burning it to cinders. How could her autobiography change the world, anyways? How could it do half the things it was supposed to?
Perhaps she should write the whole book about the Doctor. Maybe switch around a few pronouns to make it less obvious. She played with this idea for quite a while. After all, the Doctor really did meet people and make them better. He really did try and stop the violence. Besides which, he had made a big stink about how she was certainly not going to write him into her book, and she thought it would be kind of funny if she wound up writing the entire book about him.
Eventually, she dismissed the idea. You couldn't write a book about the Doctor without at least a mention of what he'd done to Gallifrey. She shuddered as she remembered the murals on the wall of the cult she'd visited when she was eighteen. She recalled the Doctor's face when Herdon mentioned Gallifrey—how hard and cold it had been, how alien. During that year in the box, the Doctor had told her how he took people and ruined them forever. How every time they decided to use him as a role model, they reappeared in his life with a full array of deadly weapons. No, the Doctor wasn't a God. But neither was she.
She thought about all the people she had met in her life. All the ways they had been brave, all the ways they had been stupid, how they had succeeded and how they had failed. There was no Karen Hollburn, no woman who lived her ideals so perfectly that she could single-handedly change the world.
At least, not yet.
She opened up a new document on her computer. She was about to write a fictional character into existence. A character who wasn't a single person—she was everyone. Everyone that Lindsey had ever met, everyone that the Doctor had ever met, everyone that Lindsey had ever heard about or read about or dreamed about.
She called this character Karen Hollburn.