21 Jun 2014

Number 17 (Part 3)

Guest starring Eddie Izzard as the previous Doctor.

Four years ago (in normal time)

High Peak Avenue looked more or less identical to what it did in the future. It was summer. The leaves were bright green on the trees and the birds were tweeting. There was a gentle breeze in the air and the sound of children playing in the distance mixed with the sound of someone mowing their lawn.

The Doctor locked up the TARDIS and exhaled deeply. He missed Ivy. He had said an emotional goodbye to her in China, and then she had disappeared. It was a waste of time going after her. The death of Leska had proven too much for her to handle. If the death of James had brought them together, it was the death of Leska that had broken them up.

And then the Doctor remembered why he was here. The strange reading he had picked up on the TARDIS systems. Something was falling to Earth, to this particular town and into the back garden of this particular house.

He couldn’t dither on his memories any longer. He needed to find the device.

It was then that he heard the whizzing sound from up above. He quickly looked into the blue sky as a streak of smoke whizzed down and landed behind the house he was standing in front of.

He smiled to himself. His gamble had paid off. He had set the coordinates to land just one minute before the device did. Not enough to “cheat” per say, but enough to spot where it had landed.

He opened the front gate as quietly as he could and snuck down the side of the house. He had no desire for explanations or introductions to the residents of the house. He just needed whatever was giving off the readings.

He made sure nobody was watching and then opened the gate that led to the garden.

He emerged into the sunny back garden and almost wished he hadn’t. Beside the kitchen door was a table with a few glasses of lemonade.

Huddled around a small mound in the Earth was an old lady who looked to be in her 70’s, a younger man and woman in their 40’s and two children - a girl, about the age of 13 and a boy who looked 15.

“What is it?” said the girl. “Let me see.”

“It’s obviously a meteorite,” said the boy, eagerly digging into the mound with his hands.

“Liam,” said the woman, “I don’t think you should be digging that thing up.”

“Your mother’s right,” said the man. “We need to call the police.”

“Leave him alone, Geoff,” said the older woman. “Let the lad have a bit of fun.”

The Doctor’s screwdriver was beeping in his pocket and the collection of people turned around in surprise.

“Who the bloody hell are you?” said the man called Geoff.

“My name is…Ethan Galloway.” He felt guilty for using it. It was the name of Leska’s father. He was going to say John Smith, but he doubted anyone would still continue to believe that name now. He’d used it far too many times.

“And what the bloody hell are you doing in my garden?” said Geoff, marching up to the Doctor.

“I’m investigating that meteorite that fell from the ground,” said the Doctor with a nervous smile.

“That was quick,” said the woman.

“And you are?”

“This is my husband, Geoff. My name’s Maria and this is my mother, Gladys.”

The Doctor nodded to the two children who will still eagerly digging into the ground.

“Our kids, Emily and Liam. Not that it’s any of your business,” said Geoff. “Do you have credentials?”

The Doctor quickly gave them a flash of the psychic paper and then skipped past Geoff, checking the readings on his sonic screwdriver.

“Just a minute-” said Geoff.

“I wouldn’t mind a glass of lemonade,” said the Doctor. “I haven’t had a glass since China.”

“Is it safe?” said Gladys, joining the Doctor by his side.

“I should think so,” said the Doctor.

“Got it!” said Liam as he pulled a metallic cylinder from the earth. A light was flashing on the top of it and halfway down, around its circumference, it looked like it could be pulled apart.

“Oh no,” said the Doctor, his voice grave. “Liam, put it down.”

“What? Why?” said Liam as the Doctor ushered everyone away from Liam. “What is it?”

“Put it down!” said the Doctor,

But it was too late. The device suddenly hissed and clicked open sending a gas spraying out and catching Liam in his face. He coughed and spluttered/

“LIAM!” yelled his mum as the boy dropped the canister to the floor.

“Get inside,” said the Doctor.

“What was that?” said Emily.

“Get inside,” said the Doctor again.

Geoff and Maria ushered Gladys and the two children inside as the Doctor crouched down over the now still and silent device.

He sighed and lowered his head. He hadn’t been expecting this.

Inside the Sleights were sat on the sofa (Geoff in the armchair) as Liam drank deeply from a glass of water. He kept clearing his throat and rubbing at his eyes. They had gone red and puffy.

The Doctor went into his pocket and handed him a green pill, telling him it’d clear up the immediate symptoms.

“Are you going to tell us what just happened out there?” said Geoff, his glasses threatening to slip down his pointed nose. “I’ll have someone’s head if you official people have made my son ill.”

The Doctor pulled up a dining table chair and sat down. “There’s no easy way to say this,” said the Doctor, “but your son has been infected.”

“Infected?” said Maria, her eyes wide in fear. “Infected with what?”

“A virus. That device that landed in your garden was a Velorian needle.”

“A what?”

The Doctor sighed again. There was no other way around this. He had to tell them everything.

He spent the next twenty minutes telling them as much as he could in the most simple terms. How he travelled the stars in his spaceship and encountered alien species. They had all found it absurd, except the kids, but eventually, once the Doctor had shown them the various alien devices in his pockets, they had started to accept the situation.

“Okay,” said Geoff. “If we believe you, what does that mean for Liam? What’s a Velorian needle?”

“The device was used by the Velorians in their last war with the Kikiraki’s. They’ve outlawed them now, but one of them must have missed their target and drifted on through space. It must have been drifting thousands of years.”

“When it landed in our garden.”

“Yep,” said the Doctor. He leaned back in the chair and shook his head. “It’s a chemical weapon.”

“What?” spluttered Maria.

“For the first 24 hours the victim coughs and splutters and has itchy eyes. And then after that their body starts to shut down. Eighty hours after exposure the victim dies. Horribly.”

“Oh my god,” said Maria, putting her hand to her mouth.

Liam gulped, Emily looked sad and Gladys put her arms around the both of them.

“You have the cure though, don’t you?” said Geoff.

The Doctor looked flummoxed.

“Don’t you?” said Geoff through gritted teeth.

“Mr Sleight,” said the Doctor as delicately as possible. “I’m afraid there is no cure.”

Maria suddenly exploded into a fit of wailing rage. She collapsed to her knees and her husband was at her side in an instant.

“LIAM! NOT MY LIAM!” she wailed.

“You have to do something,” said Gladys, tears in her eyes.

The Doctor was finding in hard to not get caught up in the emotion. He had just informed an entire family that their son was 80 hours away from dying. He had no words.

“PLEASE!” said Gladys.

“I’m sorry,” said the Doctor. “They never, ever found a cure.”

The Doctor pushed open the door to Liam’s bedroom and he was sat on his bed, turning a bracelet over and over in his hand.

The Doctor sat on the bed and smiled. “That looks nice.”

“It looks cheap,” said Liam with a smile. “I won it at the fair when we went to the seaside a few weeks ago. I was gonna give it to Melanie.”

“Melanie?” The Doctor then realised what he meant. “Ah, Melanie. Is she the one?”

“She was,” said Liam. He looked down at the gaudy pink and gold plastic bracelet. “It’s not much, but I wanted to show her how much I cared.”

“Then go and tell her.”

“I can’t now,” said Liam. He threw the bracelet across the room where it hit the wall and dropped into the overloaded bin.

“Of course you can,” said the Doctor.

He shook his head. “How can I tell her how I feel and then tell her that I’m going to die?”

The Doctor couldn’t answer that. Again, he had no words.

“It’s alright,” said Liam, sensing the Doctor’s discomfort with the situation. “I know it’s not your fault. You didn’t know what it was. I should have dropped it when you said.”

Maria was there by the door, leaning on the door frame, her eyes red. “There must be something you can do, Doctor. Please.”

“If I could,” said the Doctor, picking at the page of one of Liam’s superhero comics, “then I would.”

“But you’re from outer space. There must be-”

“I said before, Maria. They never found a cure. It’s one of the only incurable diseases out there. There’s nothing I can do. All I can do is give him the pills to ease the symptoms.”

She started crying again. “Why us?”

“I’ll stay with you, though. I’ll stay until you need me to go.”

Liam looked up at him. “Thank you, Doctor.”

“You’re a brave young man,” said the Doctor. “Very, very brave.”

A little while later the Doctor was sat on the curb next to his TARDIS. Maria was sat beside him, idly throwing little pebbles into the drain in the gutter.

“You should be inside with your son,” said the Doctor.

Maria closed her eyes. “You say you have a time machine…”


“Yes. You said you have one-”

“I mean no, you’re not using it to go back in time and stop all this from happening.”

“But why?”

“Good grief, Maria, if life could be solved by going back in time and stopping things from happening, don’t you think I’d do it all of the time?”

“But it’s just so unfair. Why have that ability and not use it?”

“Yes,” said the Doctor, staring into her dark eyes. “Yes, it is unfair. But that’s the way this universe works sometimes. And if I used that kind of power, where would I stop? Would I go back and stop World War Two? World War One? Where does it stop?”

“He’s just a child.”

“I know!” said the Doctor, angrily thumping the side of the TARDIS, making Maria jump. He rested his head on the warm, gently buzzing woodwork of his time machine. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said Maria coldly.

“I…lost somebody as well. I was in China and I lost my friend, Leska. She was so young. She had her whole life ahead of her. It ripped myself and my friend apart.”

“I’m sorry,” said Maria, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Every time I think about your son I wonder whether I should go back and save Leska. But I can’t do it.”

Maria nodded, folded her arms and went back inside the house. The Doctor stood there for a long, long time, his head resting against the TARDIS.

But somewhere in the back of his mind was an idea. A plan that might just work.

About twenty minutes later the Doctor returned to the house to find the Sleight’s sat in the living room in silence. None of them really knew what to say. Gladys was stroking Emily’s hair whilst Emily buried her face in her grandmother’s arms. Maria was sat with her arm around Liam and Geoff was idly picking at a loose thread on the sofa, his eyes red.

The Doctor surveyed them all, his hands behind his back, and then he cleared his throat.

They all looked up at him.

“I’ve been thinking things through,” he said, looking at each one of them, “and I may have a plan.”

All five of them suddenly shot up from their seats and chairs and the Doctor stepped back, his hands outstretched. “Woah, woah. Steady now,” he said with a nervous chuckle. “This may not work, and you may not want to go through with it.”

“If it saves our son,” said Geoff, “then it’s worth it.”

“You may think again,” said the Doctor.

A few minutes later he had cleared the coffee table, taken a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and had drawn a picture of the house complete with birds and the son in the corner of the paper. It reminded Maria of the pictures her kids would draw when they were at school.

“Here is your house,” said the Doctor, pointing at it.

“Yes,” said Gladys.

He drew a circle around the house, encompassing the garden and the road in front of it. “This is a bubble around your house.”

“Okay…” said Maria.

“It’s a time bubble,” said the Doctor.

Liam nodded. “Like a place where a moment of time is frozen.”

“Good lad!” said the Doctor with a smile. “Well my intention is to trap this house in a time bubble.”

The family frowned.

The Doctor scratched his head and then had a thought. “Have you ever seen Ground Hog day?”

“The film with Bill Murray?”

“That’s the one,” said the Doctor. “In the film, as you know, Bill’s character is trapped in the same day, living it over and over again.”

“Okay,” said Geoff, “and you want to do that with us?”

“Not on such a grand scale,” said the Doctor. “Mainly because I can’t. Creating a time bubble can be a very dangerous thing to do. I can only give you a few hours and it can only surround this house.”

Gladys scratched her head. “This is all a bit beyond me.”

The Doctor bit his tongue. It was always so frustrating explaining these things to non-time travellers. “I will set up a machine which will capture the next - say - 5 or 6 hours of this day. When those 6 hours are up, the time bubble will reset back 6 hours. Your whole family will then live the rest of your lives, never ageing or dying, trapped in this 6 hour bubble for ever.”

They all looked at each other, worried looks on their faces.

“What about the world outside the bubble?” said Geoff.

“That carries on as normal. To the outside world, time carries on and you just vanished without a trace, living your life in your own little pocket universe.”

“And Liam?” said Maria.

“The virus won’t kill Liam for another few days, so although he’ll have it, he’ll keep resetting every 6 hours. He won’t die. It’ll be like he doesn’t have it at all.”

Maria smiled.

“And I can make it all so you keep your memories.”

“Then do it,” said Emily.

“Are you sure about this?” said the Doctor. “You’ll never age. You’ll never be able to go anywhere.” He looked at Geoff and then Maria. “Emily will never age. She’ll never have a future education. You’ll spend eternity in these 6 hours.”

“Well maybe in those 6 hours there’ll be a cure found.”

The Doctor shook his head. “I’ve been to the end of the universe, Maria. How many times do I have to say it? There is no cure.”

The Sleight’s all looked at each other.

“I wish I could give you a bigger window. Even a day would be better, but anything bigger and the time bubble will disrupt the normal flow of time. Bubbles always rise to the surface.”

After a few minutes of hushed discussion the Sleight’s turned back to the Doctor. “We’ll do it,” said Maria.

“But Emily-”

“I don’t want to be without my brother,” said Emily, grabbing her brother’s hand.

The Doctor nodded. “Okay then. It won’t take me long to set it up. Maybe an hour.” He looked at the clock on the wall above the fireplace. “I’ll set the bubble to stretch from 6pm to midnight.”

“What about you? What about the house?”

“At midnight time will just take me with it. I won’t stay in the bubble. You won’t see me again. And as for the house…well, I’ll concoct some story about you emigrating. I’ll deal with the selling of it. Don’t worry about that.”

A few hours later and the Doctor was standing in the living room. He had made the arrangements with the estate agents. He had largely remained anonymous, using the name Ethan Galloway as his cover. He informed the estate agent, with the help of Geoff, that they family were moving to Austrailia the next morning, and to transfer the funds from the sale of the house to a bank account the Doctor had set up, promising Maria that he’d put the money to charity.

And then he had set to work on building the machine. It was a simple rig. It looked like a complicated looking oil drum with a pole that rose up into the air and was fixed to the ceiling. The device hummed with power as the family stood around it, all looking nervous.

“Now, are you sure about this? It’s not much of a life,” said the Doctor.

“Better than this family falling apart,” said Liam.

The Doctor nodded. “Back in the day I might not have been so…easily swayed. Thing’s have changed.” The Doctor had changed a lot. Sometimes he let his hearts guide him rather than his head, but he felt, after Leska’s death, that he at least needed to try and help somebody. He couldn’t have another death on his conscience

Geoff leant forward and shook the Doctor’s hand. “Thank you, Ethan.”

“Just call me the Doctor,” he said quickly.

Marian gave him a kiss on the cheek, whilst Gladys smiled sadly.

The family were all wearing bracelets. The Doctor had told them that they would keep them tethered to the time bubble. If they were to ever remove them then they’d be ripped from the bubble and likely not survive.

And so they sat for the next few hours. When the hand on the clock approached midnight the Doctor got up from his place on the sofa.

He looked at the digital readout that had been counting down the last six hours.

“Well,” said the Doctor. “This is it folks. Thank you.”

The family all linked hands,

The machine hit zero and it clunked into life, sending waves of energy shooting from the oil drum up the pole to the ceiling.

And then a huge wave of energy exploded from the device. The Doctor shielded his eyes as the time bubble began it’s final formation.

But something was wrong. The machine was coughing and spluttering. Something was loose inside. The family were flickering. If he didn’t stop it they’d all be ripped apart by the temporal energy.

The Doctor opened to drum and began fiddling with the complicated array of wires.

He didn’t have long. Mere seconds.

And then there was a flash of energy and the Doctor was thrown back against the wall, temporal waves coursing throughout his entire body. He watched as the family disappeared.

He had done it. They had survived. The house was empty.

But the temporal energy had caused more damage than he had first thought. He was becoming confused as he staggered to his feet. He didn’t quite understand what he was doing. The device had disappeared with the bubble and he fell against the door frame as he tried to exit the house.

And then he realised what was happening. He looked at his hand. It was glowing a yellowy-orange colour.

He made his way out of the house and back to the TARDIS. He stumbled against the door and looked back at number 17. Something felt wrong. He could hardly remember why he was here. The memories were being sapped away from him.

He clutched at his hearts as he unlocked the doors and fell inside. He managed to stumble up to the console and set the TARDIS in flight. As it entered the time vortex he fell against the console and then to the floor.

And he had forgotten who the Sleight family were. They were gone from time and from his memories.

A little while later, as the Doctor lay there dying, he felt his TARDIS collide with something in the time vortex.

And soon the Doctor changed into a completely new man…

Next time: The Doctor attempts to fix a mistake. Coming Saturday 28th June 2014.

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