Chapter Eight

The Doctor’s frown reappeared. He appeared to be deep in thought again. The sergeant’s pleasure at having arrived at an explanation for the infection had disappeared, as she realised that he had been testing her, once again. She had the feeling that she had arrived at a conclusion which he had already thought through long before he even asked her the question. “This is a man of very complicated ideas and motivations,” Catherine thought. “But he needs to share these ideas and motivations if we are to be any help to him at all. It is so frustrating just standing here, waiting in the wings so to speak. We seem to be just biding time to be called in to play walk-on scenes in some drama of his scripting!” She paused, and then, as her frustration and anger overtook her better judgement, spoke her thoughts aloud, “We want to help you. We can help you. Just tell us where we need to start, Doctor….”

Catherine’s face reddened with embarrassment at her show of strong emotion, but contrary to this, her hazel eyes had darkened with something akin to a flash of steel mixed with real anger at being sidelined, albeit inadvertently. She may be embarrassed by her outburst – in fact, she was extremely embarrassed – but she was not ashamed of it. Defiantly, she looked the Doctor straight in the eye as if to challenge him.

The Doctor looked at her, still frowning. He had been undecided about her motives in all this, but seeing that flash of real anger in her eyes and that she could be moved so strongly decided him. “Maybe I should let her have the chance to really prove herself. She obviously has spirit. I appreciate that in a human,” he thought, not even admitting to himself that what he really meant was that he appreciated it in a woman; spirit in a woman and bravery in a man. He had travelled with many companions – some human, some not – in his hundreds of years of time travelling. The humans that had travelled with him longest were the spirited women – Victoria, Jo, Sarah, Leela, Tegan, Ace – and the brave men, like Ian and Jamie, that sometimes travelled with them. Of course, it also helped that each and every one of them had a sense of adventure as well!

He sighed, but he realised his brain was not functioning at its full capacity at this time. The relaxation necessary for him to restore himself quickly and completely was to be denied to him, here. As a result, the opinion or assistance of someone with an instinct for the irrational, based on logic, would certainly be useful. Catherine had shown herself to be perceptive and sensitive, but determined, with a strong sense of justice. All these were qualities that the Doctor needed now. But it was more than that. He knew she could control her emotions, most of the time – logically, she could not have risen to sergeant without that ability, despite her unique instinct. However, he was relieved to see that sometimes the emotions were too strong for her to handle – it underlined her humanity, somehow.

In the past, he had had trouble dealing with people who did not value emotion in the right circumstances, as indeed he did with those who were overemotional. He didn’t imagine he had changed that much with this regeneration. Bodies and personalities change, but the mind, the memories and the emotions continue. Catherine was disconcerted when she had found she was emotionally pulled towards the Doctor. She had been able to put it to the back of her mind, even if she couldn’t banish it entirely. The Doctor had been aware of her emotional bond with him – after all, he had set out to attempt to use charm to gain information from her, guessing that she was probably receptive to it. But it didn’t prevent him from admiring her control, or partial control, over her emotions. He wondered what her thoughts would be if she knew that a small part of the personal magnetism she had seen in him was reflected back. The emotional bond between them may be an unequal one, but it was a synchronous one. It didn’t concern him too much, at this stage, as he realised that the emotional shock from his involvement in the destruction of Gallifrey was still affecting him. He expected to feel more emotional under such conditions. What he didn’t know was how much was emotional shock and how much was real.

As he shook his head to clear those thoughts away, his frown cleared and he said to Catherine, “OK. So you want to help. You can start by taking this.” He handed her his sonic screwdriver and directed his gaze back at the mound of infected rubble that had once been a beautiful piece of architecture.

Catherine looked at him a bit sceptically. Her idea of helping him was not holding his instruments until he needed them – she wanted to really contribute in a major way to what he was doing. As the sergeant, her immediate reaction would be to refuse his directions. However, as someone who was more interested in becoming actively involved in not only solving this difficult issue of the damage to the Eye, but in learning the Doctor’s methods of doing so, Catherine could see some value in following his directions – at least in the short term. As a result, she didn’t say anything, just stood where she was, waiting for his next move.

After what would have been, in Earth calculations, about twenty minutes of elapsed time, he turned back to her and grinned. “At least you can be patient when you need to be!” he said. She felt affronted for a few moments, as she realised, yet again, that he had been testing her. “He really is an unusual man,” she thought, “I don’t really know which way he is going to go next.” However, she chose not to say anything to him.

The Doctor’s grin broadened into a grin that would have done justice to Lewis Carroll’s famous Cheshire cat. “The first thing to do is to stabilise the mound of rubble. If we can prevent it shrinking further, it would help, until we can determine which specific bacteria are involved.” Catherine looked at him, with a query in her eyes. “Turn the setting on the sonic screwdriver to the left slightly, press the button halfway down its shaft and direct its beam towards the base of the mound,” he said, nodding as she followed his directions. “Hold it steady for about fifteen minutes and that should be enough to freeze the bacteria into a form of suspended animation. It will prevent the bacteria from spreading for five or six hours, at least, by Earth standards. That should give us enough time to find out more about the specific infection.” Of course, neither the Doctor not the sergeant were to realise that this time window was not going to be anywhere near enough time for them to find the answers that they sought…..

Catherine was surprised that the Doctor had used the word ‘us’ instead of ‘me’. Not expecting to be directly involved in the search for the solution to this particular problem, she supposed that it was simply a matter of him being courteous to the local sergeant! However, as she came close to the completion of her task, she looked up to see him smiling at her, his eyes twinkling. “I’m finished, Doctor. What do I do next?” she asked, impassively, as she switched off the sonic screwdriver and held it out to him.

“How about we analyse my piece of rubble and see if we can learn more about the bacteria and its source?” the Doctor said cheerfully, as he retrieved the sonic screwdriver from Catherine’s grasp and placed it back in the inner pocket of his leather jacket again. She looked inquiringly at him, but before she could ask him where the analysis would take place, he said, “My ship has a complete laboratory inside – all the best equipment for this sort of thing. Come on, this way, if you’re coming!” Catherine thought he must be exaggerating, as his ship was not that large. However, he quickly turned back the way they came and strode off rapidly towards the TARDIS, not even checking if she was following or not. Regardless of whether the Doctor was right or not, the sergeant was determined that she was not going to be left out of this! Opportunities like this did not come Catherine’s way that often, so all she could do was to ‘grab it with both hands’ and learn whatever she could while the opportunity was there.

Catherine turned and was about to race after him, when she belatedly thought about her two constables and their roles in this endeavour. The sergeant stopped and turned to call over her right shoulder to Constable Black. “Constable, I need you to join Constable Crane in guarding this mound from outside interference. Don't touch anything yourselves until I return.” Satisfied that the mound's protection had been assured, she looked around to see that the Doctor had almost reached the TARDIS door. She took off at a run to follow him that would have done credit to a first class sprinter. After all, it was her chance to be involved in the resolution of an unusual crime and, besides, she was fascinated as to how he was going to proceed with this investigation. Not to mention, although she would never admit it, how fascinated she was becoming with the Doctor, himself…….

(* To be continued….. *)