Catherine looked at the impassive expression on the Doctor’s face and wondered if he was right.
He had assured her that no-one would notice the TARDIS if it was left parked near the garden behind York Minster. “No-one complains about the tables and chairs,” he had said, nodding towards the informal café nearby. “Why should they complain about a blue box parked nearby? Come on.”
Catherine did wonder whether he really believed that or not, but he sounded so definite about it that she couldn’t really argue with him. After all, he had visited Earth before and she hadn’t. She decided to reserve her judgement until later and didn’t even comment when she secured the TARDIS doors behind them and followed him through the gates to a waiting vehicle.
It was a car. Not the type Catherine was used to in her time, but even allowing for the archaic engineering and tastes of 2009, it wasn’t just any car. The vehicle was an extremely elegant open-topped sports car. Unexpectedly, it was the same deep red as the tunic of the Doctor’s robes that he had worn when they had visited Gallifrey.
And its interior was black leather.
The Doctor and Catherine had spent a relaxing couple of days walking around York, looking at the sights of the city and its surrounds like any other couple on holiday. Except that instead of staying in one of the York hotels, they resided in a non-descript blue police box.
Catherine had enjoyed the sights and sounds of York and the Doctor seemed to enjoy showing them to her. And while she and the Doctor had been walking around York, she had seen many of the local cars. But none of them were anything like the vehicle that was awaiting them.
The Doctor reached the car before her and grinned. He guessed her thoughts when she saw the car. His blue eyes twinkled mischievously as he held the passenger door open for her to enter. As she settled herself in the black leather seat, she looked up at him and said, “I like the black leather. It matches your jacket!”
The Doctor grinned even more broadly and then checked that Catherine was strapped into her seat belt securely. Satisfied, he shut the passenger door and quickly moved around to slip into the driver’s seat. After securing his own seat belt, he turned to her and smiled one of his illuminating smiles. “Ready?” the Doctor asked.
“Ready for what?” Catherine asked, smiling back.
“A trip of a lifetime,” the Doctor replied, in a matter-of-fact voice which was belied by the wicked twinkle in his eyes.
As the Doctor drove the car effortlessly away, Catherine laughed and shook her head.
“Haven’t you already taken me on a trip of a lifetime?” she asked. “The TARDIS is one hell of a mode of transport.”
“The TARDIS is more than a mode of transport,” The Doctor answered her with a wry smile. “She’s my home, my friend, the last piece of my world. But there is nothing like the feel of a ground car beneath you, travelling through some of the most beautiful scenery on one of the most beautiful planets in the galaxy. This may not be light speed, but I think it’s rather fantastic, don’t you?”
It was a beautiful, sunny day, but she was glad she had a waist length suede jacket over her dark brown hipster slacks and the golden-brown silk blouse that went so well with it. There was a neck scarf that completed the outfit. She tied it around her hair instead, holding it in place with a double knot at the nape of her neck. Thus protected, she rested her head on the back of the seat and prepared to enjoy the ride.
And she did enjoy it. The views of the North Yorkshire Moors as they left York behind were spectacular. She had not expected anything like such a wide open vista. What she did know about Earth was huge cities, concrete, steel and glass. She never realised it had such natural loveliness.
“Not all natural, of course,” The Doctor told her. “Yorkshire is a place where humans have lived off the land and its fruits for centuries. They’ve grown crops, grazed their animals. Sheep….” He pointed to where a gently sloping hillside was dotted with white. Catherine knew at a basic level of her intelligence that wool came from sheep, but she had never really thought about sheep before. She had never seen one up close.
“Mills…. For spinning, dying, weaving the wool,” The Doctor added as he pointed towards a red brick chimney stack that rose up incongruously against the rural scene. “Eighteenth, nineteenth century, the rivers that flow through the countryside were the lifeblood of the textile industry. Water for washing and dying the wool, driving the water wheels that turned the spinning wheels, the weaving looms. Barges took the finished goods to the cities. A hard livelihood, long hours in a hot, noisy factory, but a livelihood, nonetheless, communities. See that church… built with the same red brick as the factory, paid for by subscriptions from the workforce, donations from the factory owner. There would have been a school and an almshouse for the poor, as well. That’s what I call a community.”
“Why does it interest you so much?” Catherine asked. “You’re not even from this planet.”
“Humans… they fascinate me. All species do. But humans, especially. Your resourcefulness. You started in small towns built beside Yorkshire rivers, spinning and weaving wool, and from there you branched out and expanded until there you are, born far from the mother planet, on a colony where your race is still learning and expanding, building communities. You’re fantastic.”
Praise from The Doctor was something Catherine cherished. Even if it was a general sort of praise for her species. She smiled and listened eagerly as he continued to talk about the history and the geography of the area.
“If we went to any other place on this planet, would you be as knowledgeable?” Catherine asked. “Or is it only Yorkshire you’re an expert on?”
The Doctor smiled inscrutably.
“If I admitted to knowing just about all there is to know about planet Earth would you think I’m being big-headed?”
“Yes,” she answered with a laugh. “But… from you… I think it sounds ok. Because it’s true.”
“True that I’m big-headed, or true that I know all there is to know about planet Earth?”
He deliberately chose to not understand what she was saying. She decided not to rise to it.
“You decide,” she answered. “Which do you think?”
“I think an old Earth adage comes in at this point. When you’re in a hole, stop digging. I’m going to stop digging, now. But to answer your question in a more general way, Earth was my special field of interest when I was a student at the Prydonian Academy, on Gallifrey. Understand, of course, that Gallifreyans attend school from the age of eight until a hundred and eighty. Lots of time to study. I devoured any information I could get about Earth. I longed to visit and put my theoretical knowledge to the test.”
“Why was it of such interest to you?” she asked. But he didn’t answer that question. He didn’t deliberately ignore her. He was busy paying attention to his driving. He had slowed the car just a little. They had been doing just over forty miles per house, but he had brought them down to thirty. The reason was that the road narrowed ahead as it approached a small town. A road sign told her it was called Malton. She knew nothing more than that, though and waited for The Doctor to regale her with interesting local history.
She glanced in the wing mirror and noticed another car coming up fast behind them. As it drew closer she noted it was also an open topped sports car in a rather disgusting mustard yellow colour. She cringed as the driver of the other car sounded a loud horn, creating a Doppler effect as the car streaked past on the wrong side of the road and accelerated away ahead of them.
“What was that all about?” Catherine asked.
“Boy racer wanted us to join in,” The Doctor answered. “But I wasn't that stupid when I WAS a boy. Let alone now.”
The Doctor added that he thought they might stop off at a tea shop in Malton. It was only a half hour since they had left York, but she was quite happy to stop. After all, they had no particular schedule. A leisurely stop in what was a very pretty, unspoilt little town was fine by her.
“The boy racer stopped for tea, too,” she noted as they parked the car. The mustard yellow sports car was on the other side of the road.
“I don’t think he wanted tea,” The Doctor replied. “That’s the pub car park.”
He steered Catherine towards a tea shop that tourists might well describe as ‘quaint’. It had mullioned windows and girls in black uniforms and crisp white aprons brought sandwiches and cakes on tiered silver trays. It had some tables outside under green canvas and bamboo shades. The Doctor stretched his long legs out under one of the tables and leaned back happily. Catherine sat at a right angle to him, with a view of the main street through the town. The variety of road cars that passed by fascinated her. In her own century, on her own home world there were only a few styles of private hover car and they were mostly used by government officials and overlords. Ordinary people travelled by teleports. It was a faster way to travel, but soulless, utilitarian, and you never got to see anything of the scenery between the departure and destination.
“What I don’t understand,” she said as she enjoyed their mid-afternoon snack of smoked salmon sandwiches and cream cakes, washed down with several cups of tea. “That’s a pub. They sell alcohol there. Which… dulls the senses among other things. And yet… it has a car park. People go there to drink alcohol and then drive afterwards.”
“I’ve never understood that, either,” The Doctor told her. “My own species are not affected by alcohol, mind you. Drunkenness is something peculiar to the Human race. But even so, I find the concept puzzling.”
As they watched, the owner of the mustard yellow sports car came out of the pub. The Doctor reckoned he had been there maybe fifteen minutes. That wasn’t long enough to get particularly drunk, but the maximum limit in the UK in the early twenty-first century was very strict.
“I think we might teach him a lesson,” he said. He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and aimed it nonchalantly. Catherine watched as the mustard yellow car broke down halfway out of the pub car park. As the boy racer tried to get it started again a police car passed by. The Doctor raised the sonic screwdriver again. Catherine wasn’t entirely sure what he did with it this time, but the police car slowed and stopped and then reversed until it was level with the mustard yellow sports car. Catherine watched as the driver was made to blow into a machine and then arrested and put into the back of the police car.
“I’m not sure that isn’t entrapment,” she commented. “You made his car break down so that he was there when the police car passed. And you did something to make the policeman think he should question the driver.”
“I didn’t make him drink the alcohol,” The Doctor pointed out. “If he had carried on driving the way he was before, under the influence, he might have killed somebody.”
“So, that’s either your good deed for the day, or you being an inveterate busybody.”
“Possibly both,” The Doctor replied and poured himself a fresh cup of tea. Catherine sat back and at a sandwich.
After their leisurely break they got on their way again. The Doctor kept away from the dual carriageways and drove along narrow, winding, but quiet roads. The high moorlands gave way to plains as they neared the coast, a change of scenery, but just as breathtakingly lovely. And Catherine never tired of hearing The Doctor telling her about the history of the places they passed through.
They reached the seaside resort of Filey by three o’clock, and carried on along the coast as far as Scarborough before they stopped for tea. The Doctor found a pleasant restaurant with a view of the harbour through the picture window by their table.
“This place is lovely,” Catherine said as she watched yachts going in and out of the harbour and people in bright summer clothes on the promenade. “Very busy. I’ve never seen so many people in one place except at the food riots on Orion IV during the famine year.”
“Yes, the teeming life of planet Earth took me by surprise the first time I came here,” The Doctor admitted. “Gallifrey never had more than ten million people on it. Britain alone has a little short of 60 million in this decade.”
“Are they all in Scarborough for tea?” Catherine asked. “I do feel just a little daunted by it all.”
“It’ll quieten down in a few hours. I thought we’d drive up as far as Whitby before sunset….” He stopped and looked out of the window and smiled wryly. “You know, I actually forgot… Must be because I was thinking of Gallifrey. I imagined a spectacular sunset over the sea.”
“And… why not?”
“The sun sets in the west on Earth,” The Doctor reminded her. “We’re on the north-east coast. The sun will set over the hills, not the sea.”
“We’ll just have to get up early and watch the sun come up instead.” He smiled widely, with a glint in his slate-grey-blue eyes that Catherine was used to by now. “Whitby is the very place for that.”
“I’m in your hands, Doctor,” Catherine told him. “I know so little about the planet my ancestors came from. And you, the alien, know so much. I should be ashamed.”
“Not at all,” he said. “It’s me, I’m a know it all.”
He was being chivalrous. That was a word Catherine couldn’t remember ever using in her entire life. She would probably never use it again. But it described The Doctor perfectly.
It was a warm, beautiful late afternoon as they continued their journey northwards along the coast. The sun was still high enough to warm the beaches and Catherine watched people sunbathing, swimming, wind surfing and all kinds of water sports. Again it amazed her to see so many people with leisure time to enjoy.
“I think I like Earth in this time,” she said. “It seems so very colourful.”
“That’s a way to describe it,” The Doctor agreed. “I’ve spent a lot of time in this particular era, actually. It’s… got some problems. There are some conflicts that they have to sort out, the economy is a mess, the climate is almost at crisis point. But there’s hope. None of those problems is insurmountable. The Human race has it in itself to solve all those issues and go forward into a brighter future.”
“I feel… sort of proud,” she said. “The way you describe it. I’m proud to be a Human being.”
The Doctor didn’t say anything. But he smiled in a satisfied sort of way and pointed out a landmark that he had an interesting story about.
As they approached Whitby there was plenty to talk about. He pointed out the two cliffs. The west cliff was the site of an unusual memorial that they could see even from the sea shore before they climbed up to take a closer look. It was formed by what looked like two huge whalebones curved into an arch. It was dedicated to Captain James Cook, a native of Whitby.
“I once travelled on a starship called SS Captain Cook,” Catherine said. “There was a plaque…. He was a sea captain… discovered Australia… explored the oceans of Earth when it was still a difficult and dangerous thing to do…” She smiled as she caught The Doctor’s expression. For once, she hadn’t needed telling anything. But he wasn’t jealous. Rather he was pleased with her.
“You’re just like him,” she said. “Travelling time and space, discovering, learning. You’re… a kindred spirit. That’s… why we came up here?”
“Partly,” he said. “Also because it’s a great place to watch the sun go down. Then we can decide where we’ll watch it rise.”
“From over there,” Catherine told him. “On the other cliff.”
“Oh, definitely,” The Doctor agreed as he looked across the village and the harbour to the other cliff. If the memorial on this cliff represented the spirit of exploration and adventure that coursed through his own alien blood, the associations the east cliff had stirred the adrenaline rush, the thrill of the chase.
They watched the sky turn from duck egg blue to azure before they walked down to the village and ate supper in a pub-restaurant which claimed that Bram Stoker had been a regular customer there.
“He may well have been,” The Doctor agreed. “He liked a pint, old Bram.”
“You…” Catherine laughed. She didn’t know what else to do. “Name dropper!”
She had never been to Earth before, but she was familiar with the classic literature of the planet. Dracula was one of those. Being in the place where much of the action took place actually thrilled her to bits. But she was trying not to act like a tourist. It hadn’t escaped her notice that there was quite a lot of cheap and tacky stuff in the shops and an ‘exhibition’ that The Doctor had dismissed scornfully.
“How tired are you?” he asked as they stepped out of the pub and looked up at a clear, starlit sky on a warm summer night.
“Not very. Why?”
“Thinking about that sunrise. We could walk up the cliff, there’s a couple of travel blankets in the car. We could sit up there and wait for the sun to come up. You can tell me if it’s as good as it is at the Eye of Orion.”
They had sat all night there and watched the sunrise, of course. But not by choice. She thought about spending a night in vigil with The Doctor of her own free will. Of course, she knew him better now. She knew she would be absolutely safe in his company. She knew there was absolutely no chance of him compromising her in any way. She could trust him.
“Yes,” she said. “Let’s do that.”
They took their time climbing the famous stone steps that led up to the East Cliff. There was no hurry, after all. There were old fashioned lamps lighting the path at intervals. Catherine wondered why. How many people other than them would come up here at night.
“The church at the top has services in the evening,” he pointed out. “Then you get tourists with odd ideas. I hope there aren’t too many of them up here tonight, though.”
There weren’t. The evening service at the little parish church was over. It was in darkness. Beyond it the ruin of the old priory was also dark. It stood as a shadow against the night sky.
“It could give you the creeps,” Catherine said.
“Does it give you the creeps?” The Doctor asked.
“No. I’m… hardly the sort of person who is scared by shadows. I wouldn’t have got far in my career if I was.”
“Quite right. So… I was thinking of whiling away the dark hours with a few appropriate recitations from the classic work of my old drinking companion.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a dog-eared paperback book. In the penlight mode of his sonic screwdriver she saw the cover. “Dracula”. He sat cross-legged on the travel blanket and began to read aloud. Catherine sat with him and listened. He had a nice voice. The accent that had seemed strange to her ear when she first met him, now seemed natural and normal and she enjoyed listening to him as he read the scenes that took place in the very place where they were sitting.
The hours passed easily with such diversion, with intervals now and then for hot coffee from a flask he had brought along with the blankets.
Her watch told her it was just after two o’clock when he suddenly faltered in his reading. He put the book down and gripped his sonic screwdriver tightly. He stood up and held it above his head in both hands. Catherine stared up into the night sky. All she could see at first were the ordinary constellations of the Earth sky. She recognised the one called Orion. She had grown up in the Orion sector seeing representations of it as seen from Earth.
“That’s not a star,” The Doctor said, waggling his little finger in the general direction of Orion. Catherine looked again and saw that he was right. Something was moving. It was growing bigger as it drew closer.
“What is it, then?” she asked.
“A Dendrobean pirate ship,” he said. “Nasty little bleeders. They’re about three feet high with four pairs of hands and their whole raison d’être is to rape and pillage.”
“Three foot high pirates raping and pillaging… how?”
“They’re very tenacious. Believe me, North Yorkshire doesn’t deserve a visit from them. Lucky I was here, really. Just need to concentrate….”
He stopped talking. Catherine looked at his face in the blue glow from the sonic screwdriver. It was rigid. A vein on the side of his neck throbbed but his eyes were glassy and his lips pressed together firmly. Catherine reached out to touch him, then withdrew her hand quickly, afraid of what might happen if she did.
It was several minutes before he finally sagged and relaxed his muscles. She reached out then and caught hold of him. He seemed grateful for the support.
“It’s done,” he said. “Planet Earth is saved.”
“That… was a little easier than your usual missions,” Catherine told him.
“That was… just as hard as fighting Sontarans or Daleks… just… didn’t take as long. I’m…”
“You need to sit down.” She guided him to the blanket and made him sit. She poured coffee and he drank it gratefully. “What did you do, exactly? It looked like you were just holding the sonic screwdriver up. But it must have been more.”
“I had to use my own mental energy to concentrate the beam, so that I could make the Dendrobeans think there was a thermic missile aimed at them and that they had three seconds to turn tail and leave the solar system.”
“Very clever. But now you’ve saved the planet, you look shattered.”
“It takes a lot out of me… mental energy. But I’ll be all right in a few minutes. Another cup of coffee would be good, too.”
She poured it. He drank slowly and by the time it was finished he looked a lot better. He sighed deeply and looked up at the invader free sky. Orion was directly over them. Catherine smiled to see it.
“Is… was… Gallifrey visible from Earth?” she asked. “Could you see your home in the night sky on Earth?”
“Yes, but not from this far north. You have to find Sagittarius. It’s very low in the southern sky. There’s a lump of Yorkshire in the way from where we’re standing. But if you do find it, and look at his bow…. The star in the centre of the bowstring gave light and warmth to Gallifrey. It still shines in the night sky of Earth… because it’s 290 million light years away and it will be a very long time before its demise is visible here.”
“Is that… why you like Earth… because… you can still see…”
“No,” he answered. “It’s not. There are a lot of reasons why I like Earth, why I like Humans. Too many to tell you. You like it, too, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” she replied. “I have really enjoyed visiting it these past weeks.”
They both lapsed into silence for a while. They seemed to have run out of thing to talk about. They sat close together. The Doctor’s arm was around Catherine’s back and without thinking about it she laid her head on his shoulder. They sat and watched as the dawn approached. The sky grew a little lighter in the east, across the North Sea, then a little lighter still. Then there was the merest sliver of golden light on the horizon, and a little more. The sea turned a blue-green-grey and they watched the trawlers from Whitby coming into harbour and others heading home to their own safe ports further down the coast in Scarborough, Filey and Yarmouth. The sun slowly came up on that peaceful scene, bathing the sea and the trawlers with golden light. It took a while before the early morning rays reached them on the cliff, but when it did, they bathed in the warmth. Neither realised just how cold they had been until they felt that warmth. Then they smiled at each other and stood and greeted that new day joyfully.
“It’s… not quite as spectacular as the one on the Eye of Orion,” Catherine said. “It’s not even close to the sunrise we saw on Gallifrey. But it is absolutely wonderful, still. I’m glad we came up here.”
“So am I,” The Doctor answered. “What do you think? Walk slowly down and find somewhere open for an early breakfast?”
“Yes,” Catherine agreed. “Then… maybe… we ought to book into a hotel and get some sleep…” She blushed as she realised her words might be misunderstood. “Two rooms, I mean.”
The Doctor fully understood that, of course. He held her hand as they walked back down to the village not because of any romantic ideas about the two of them, but because they shared a common bond of adventure and travel and understood each other fully by now.
The Doctor didn’t know what she was thinking as they walked, though. He didn’t know what was in her mind as they ate breakfast. It was still in her thoughts when she settled down to sleep for the morning, catching up on that wonderful, eventful night.
They ate a late lunch mid-afternoon before setting off in the car, back to York and the TARDIS. The Doctor took another long route along quiet roads, avoiding the dual carriageways, and it was just as beautiful as it was before. The Doctor did most of the talking. Catherine laid her head back on the seat and listened idly to his voice and watched the beautiful scenery passing by.
“Catherine,” The Doctor said to her and she looked around. There was a difference in his tone. “If it’s what you really want, I can’t stop you. And I won’t stop you.”
“I like Earth,” she said. “I think I would like to stay here. It’s… I know it seems a spur of a moment thing. We’ve only been here a few days. But it’s not. Ever since I came with you in the TARDIS, I have felt as if… I’ve known I couldn’t just go back to my old life. And… this seems as good a time and place to… to make the break.”
“This is nearly four centuries before your own time. You have no family here, no friends. No job. No money.” The Doctor glanced at her before turning his eyes towards the road. “I’m not telling you that you can’t. I’m just pointing out some problems you would have to face.”
“I have thought about all those things. I don’t have family and I have very few friends in my own time. Nobody that I would miss. The money… I know that IS a big problem. But I’d still like to give it a try.”
“As I said, I won’t stand in your way. As long as you understand what you’re getting into.”
“I understand,” she said. Then she laid her head back again and closed her eyes. She let The Doctor go back to his travelogue. His voice soothed her mind.
It was evening when they reached York. The Minster was warm golden-red in the slanting rays of the setting sun. The same sun they had watched come up that morning. The Doctor sat outside the TARDIS while Catherine went inside and packed the few personal belongings that she had. He noted when she came out again with a small case, that she was wearing the russet brown culotte suit that she had worn on their first adventure together.
“I know this came from your wardrobe,” she said. “But… the only clothes I actually own would be my police uniform. And that wouldn’t really be appropriate.”
“You can keep the clothes,” he said. “All the clothes. And….” He reached into his pocket and gave something to her. She looked at it curiously, wondering how a small plastic card could help her.
“It’s a credit card,” he told her. “It has a pretty much unlimited credit. Well, unless you start buying up all the stately homes of England or something. It will do until you get a job and get on your feet.” He reached into his pocket again and found a small clear crystal with an even smaller, purple coloured one inside it. “If you’re ever in any real trouble, the sort where you might need somebody like me, break the outer crystal and it will send a signal to the TARDIS.”
“Doctor!” She smiled and hugged him. “This is all… you’re such a kind man.”
His arms reached around and held her for a little while. She wondered if he might want to kiss her. He didn’t. He just hugged her fondly for a little while.
“Catherine,” he said as he drew back from her. “Have a fantastic life.”
“I will,” she promised.
He turned away. He walked back to the TARDIS and stepped inside. She watched it disappear in a flurry of unexpected air displacement and a strange, haunting sound.
She picked up her suitcase and turned to find a hotel. A meal, a night’s sleep, and then her new life would begin tomorrow.
The Doctor watched the viewscreen until York and Catherine dissolved into the vortex. He sighed. It was always hard to part with friends.
He might have let himself become depressed, but he was distracted by an insistent signal from the console. He checked it and half-smiled. What was it he once said, long ago, to a friend who he had long parted from. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere injustice…..
That somewhere was London, in 2005. And the danger appeared to be a Nestene invasion. He hadn’t dealt with one of those for about four hundred years and six lives.
The adrenaline pumped as he set course for a new adventure.