Chapter Ten

A faint sound could be heard in the background as the Doctor began to explain to Catherine about the function of the time rotor. He was so proud of his old type forty TARDIS and the modifications he had made to it over the years that he couldn’t resist the opportunity to show off – just a little. She didn’t understand much of what he was saying, but the faint beep she heard in the background was definitely clear to her. “Doctor,” she interrupted, “Does that beep mean your analyses are complete?” Catherine was not particularly scientifically inclined, but she was used to the completion sounds of various computer programs that she would routinely run as a tool in her job. The Doctor didn’t reply, but checked the console scanner for confirmation. He frowned, their conversation forgotten, as he looked through the detail of the results again. His frown only deepened and a grim expression appeared on his face again.

The analyses were certainly complete, but he was not particularly comfortable with some of the results. It was possible to separate out from the results the effects that were bacterial and the effects that were related to the weaponry residue and the effects that were a combination of the two. But that didn’t make the results any better – it actually made them appear worse. The bacterial infection was as he had suspected. It could be contained, if it was localised. In this area, it seemed to be restricted to the vicinity of the Eye only.

Luckily, there were no other buildings in the vicinity – for once those who had chosen to make this part of the tourist track had insisted that the area’s natural beauty was too important to sully with buildings and that tourist numbers were strictly controlled by a customs system that was vigorously enforced. Central Orion Protection and Security saw to that. What did concern the Doctor greatly was how it had arrived in this particular place and its method of delivery. The weaponry residue results held no joy either – nothing conclusive, but he had some nasty suspicions as to the weapons’ source. None of this, of course, helped to explain the other problem at hand – the damage to the positive ion generation in this area.

The Doctor had hoped that there may have been some clue in the analyses’ results – a change to the electromagnetic resonance of the rubble itself or something in the residue that could indicate what had caused the damage – but there was nothing of that sort. It appeared to the Doctor that this particular damage may not have been accidental. The only way to solve this was to visit one of the other positive ion generation sites on the planet and do a cross-check. He was so concerned and engrossed in finding the solution to these problems that he had set the spatial coordinates in the TARDIS navigation control and set the ship in motion, before he remembered that he still had Catherine on board.

“Doctor, why is the time rotor glowing and moving?” Catherine asked, not knowing what was happening. The Doctor, in his introduction to the TARDIS had not explained to her what happened when the TARDIS was in motion. He did not reply; he was concentrating so hard on his inner thoughts about the problems of the Eye that he didn’t hear her. However, she persisted and asked what she shrewdly suspected was probably a rhetorical question, but asked it anyway. “Doctor, are we in flight?”

The Doctor didn’t even look at her as he abruptly replied, “Yep.” His gaze was still fixed on the scanner, while he swore at himself inwardly for forgetting she was on board. The TARDIS had previously been unreliable on short spatial trips – sometimes it landed where and when it was wanted; sometimes it landed where it was wanted, but with an unwanted temporal displacement; sometimes it landed some place and time completely unexpected. He was sure he had fixed this problem some time ago, but that had been prior to the Time War and he had not had the opportunity to test it out since, as other events had intervened. So as far as short spatial trips were concerned, the last thing he really wanted was to be testing it out with an inexperienced acquaintance, much less one that belonged to the local security agency and would probably be very severe on him if it didn’t work out. “However,” he thought, “I’m really not at my best at the moment, so Catherine’s assistance at this time would be useful.” He paused and reflected to himself, unconcernedly, “If I don’t find myself arrested on a charge of abducting a copper…..”

If Catherine was finding it strange to suddenly be in flight in this curious machine called the TARDIS, it was nothing to the reaction of her two constables when they heard the TARDIS’ characteristic whining sound. They both turned at the strange, almost obscene sound to see a flashing light on the top of the strange blue box that the Doctor had told the sergeant and Constable Crane was his ship. Constable Black’s eyes opened as wide as they could, reminiscent of cats’ eyes at night. However, his reaction was nothing compared to his colleague’s reaction. Constable Crane’s jaw dropped in shock. They both stood there, as commanded by their sergeant, guarding the mound of rubble as they helplessly watched the vehicle she had entered, with the unusual stranger called the Doctor, fade away into nothingness.

Not even Constable Crane was tempted to make any more smart remarks. Both men were completely flabbergasted. All they could assume was that the sergeant was fine – she would not be one who would take being abducted quietly, or peaceably! Both the constables thought that if the Doctor had abducted her, and neither of them was thinking with certainty that he had, he would regret that in more ways than one – not only would she arrest him, but she could defend herself better than most! Because there was really little else that the constables could do, they returned to their main focus – standing guard over the mound of rubble until she returned. Neither of them voiced the thought uppermost in their minds – if she returned…..

Catherine decided that the Doctor was not going to be very forthcoming with information at the moment, so her best idea was to find a comfortable spot and, to use a well-worn phrase, enjoy the ride! She chose to lean against one of the tree-like roof supports on the opposite side of the console from where he was standing, out of harm’s way, but close enough that she could see what he was doing. At least, that was the idea. She had not expected the thud and the sudden lurch when the TARDIS landed, and despite her attempt to grasp the nearest ‘branch’ of the tree-like support she had been leaning against, she was thrown to the TARDIS floor.

Before she could pick herself up with some semblance of dignity still intact, the Doctor, who had not been thrown to the floor, came around to her side of the console, saying, “Are you alright? Landings can be a little bit bumpy sometimes. Would you like a hand?” The Doctor spoke to her in such a concerned voice and smiled at her with such a look of understanding in his eyes that she could not refuse when he held out his hand to her to assist her up from the floor. She found herself placing her hand in his strong grip, allowing him to help her up and any thoughts she may have had of smart retorts vanished. In fact, she found herself smiling back at him in grateful thanks. No thoughts of arresting him for abduction had even crossed her mind. She would not admit it to herself, but the attraction she felt drawing her to the Doctor was increasing.

The Doctor thought to himself, once again, how very attractive her smile was; he was definitely in an emotional state at the moment. He sighed, inwardly, returning to check the scanner and their location in time and space. When he saw where and when they were, he could have almost jumped for joy – they were exactly where he had intended them to be, close to the location of Node Two. Node Two was a reference to the fact that this spot had the highest concentration of positive ions after the Eye (originally known as Node One, until it was renamed the Eye of Orion). Moreover, the TARDIS had landed in the current time period. Even the rough landing was fine – the TARDIS had landed the Doctor and Catherine atop a rocky ‘plateau’ on the edge of the coastline near Node Two. This would enable them to tell if the bacteria had reached this area or not – there should be a beautiful stretch of soft, silky sand just near those rocks. If there’s plenty of sand, then no bacteria! The Doctor estimated that Node Two would be about ten or fifteen or, if they were unlucky, maybe twenty kilometres (using Earth metrics) inland of their landing site. He hoped Catherine’s shoes were comfortable! They had a rough walk ahead of them.

The Doctor didn’t tell Catherine any of this just that they had landed on target. It was a pity he hadn’t warned her that it was high tide, though – she walked out of the TARDIS doors onto the rocks, where a strong wind was blowing, to be hit in the face by the spray and windblown foam from a large incoming wave! Luckily, the TARDIS had landed well above the high tide mark or it would have been the wave itself hitting her in the face. Catherine did not say anything to the Doctor but, turning to face him, the expression on her face spoke volumes. The Doctor, following her onto the rocks, had turned to lock the TARDIS doors behind him, just as the spray and foam hit her. He turned around to see her expression and bit his lip. It was both an amusing and attractive sight – Catherine standing on the rocks, about two metres away from the TARDIS doors, with the waves breaking in the background, a picture of outraged dignity on her face. Her nose was damp from the spray and at least two or three flecks of light brown foam were hanging off her blonde hair which had blown forward around her ears with the wind. Although appreciative of the picture she presented, the Doctor’s eyes twinkled, full of mischievous laughter. He restrained himself admirably from laughing at her discomfiture, composed himself suitably, and walked forward to stand directly in front of her. Reaching forward, he very gently brushed away the flecks of foam from her hair with the back of the fingers of his right hand. Accepting his obvious restraint and respect for her comfort, Catherine said, with dignity, “Thank you, Doctor. Where do we go to, now?”

The Doctor looked around them, gaining his bearings. He spied the stretch of beach in the distance. This was always the first area to be checked out; the Doctor needed to determine how much of it was tainted by the bacterial infection, if at all. He pointed it out to Catherine, saying, cheerfully, “First item is a short walk along the beach. All the tourist brochures say that tourists should do that at least once. Come on!” To her surprise, he grabbed her hand and, holding it very firmly in his, started to race along the rock edge towards the beach…..

(* To be continued….. *)