Author: Shona (aka Mara)
Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine, you know that right? I'm just playing in other peoples' sandboxes.
Series: Close Encounters of the Tenth Kind - 1/10
Characters: The Doctor (Ten), Winifred Burkle
Archive: My site, LJ, and A Teaspoon and an Open Mind - anywhere else, just ask!
The numbers didn’t work, which was funny when you thought about it – not ‘funny ha ha’ of course, but ‘funny peculiar’ definitely – ‘cause there were no numbers there, just letters and scribbles and even a few doodles over in one corner. It wasn’t even about the numbers, not really, it was about particles and quantum fluxes and she knew she could find the answer if she just kept trying. She’d found the answer once, she knew she had. That’s how she’d ended up here wasn’t it? Except… sometimes she wondered if that hadn’t all been some kind of dream, that maybe she’d always been here and her other life – her real life was just a dream.
Or maybe she was just nuts. Maybe none of it was real and instead she was locked up inside some place where they took the crazy people so they wouldn’t start drooling and shouting at strangers in the street.
She bit her lip and pushed an errant strand of hair back behind her ear, no, she wasn’t nuts and she hadn’t just dreamed the other life – she’d lived it. And yes, so maybe it wasn’t the best life she could have had, after all she had spent most of her time studying or working in the library, but dammit, it had been hers! And it had been real, she had to keep reminding herself of that now. Couldn’t let herself forget.
Nodding to herself she examined her latest scribbles on the rock walls and frowned. The numbers didn’t work and she couldn’t see how to make them… suddenly she scribbled out the last thing she had written and started writing as fast as she could as inspiration struck.
She was so caught up in what she was doing, in trying to make the numbers work, that she barely noticed the strange sounds outside the cave. It was only later, when she played the whole thing back in her head, that she realised it sounded a little like metal on stone – like the sound of someone sharpening an axe – so in retrospect she was sorta glad she hadn’t paid it any heed. If she had done she might have hidden, or run, or anything and that would have meant… no, best not to think about what might have happened then.
As it was, she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until, from out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement. She dove for the pile of rags off to her right – buried in amongst her makeshift bed she had hidden some of the sharper stones she’d cleared away from the mouth of the cave. They weren’t exactly weapons but since she’d been caught unawares – they would do.
She faltered a little as she realised the intruder was another cow… human, she mentally scolded herself for using the word they used. The only way she was going to stay sane – or at least not go completely insane – was to remember who and what she was. It was a man, dressed in a suit rather than the rags they gave their slaves and he looked so out of place that she couldn’t help staring at him.
“Hello!” He was grinning at her as he spoke – too loud, even out here in the forest.
She held her finger to her lips shushing him automatically and whispered, “They’ll hear you!”
“Who will?” He was whispering now as well, but still too loudly.
She gestured for him to come closer. “They will!” she said, wondering who he was that he didn’t know who they were.
As he approached she narrowed her eyes, alert for any hint of a trap – it wouldn’t be the first time they had used tame cows… humans to trap renegades like her. Were there any others like her? She couldn’t remember now, there had been, she was sure of it, but now? She was so alone out here, lonely enough to risk sneaking into the village just to be near others sometimes. But every time it turned out to be a mistake. No one would talk to her and she lost track of the numbers. By the time she got back to her cave something had shifted and none of the writing on the wall made any kind of sense.
He was only a few steps from her when she saw he wasn’t wearing a collar. She stood upright and frowned; he was wearing strange clothes, speaking too loudly and wasn’t wearing a collar… “You’re new!” She hissed.
“Actually, more like old, when you think about it.” She ignored his words and instead circled him; still looking for the trap that she was starting to think wasn’t there.
“You’re new here.” She clarified. “They haven’t found you yet which means you can stay hidden and they won’t find you and take you away and make you do all the horrible things they make all the other c… people do and they can’t make you go kablooie. But you can’t talk so loud, ‘cause then they’ll hear you and then –“ She brought her hands up to the side of her head and pantomimed an explosion. “Kablooie.”
He tilted his head to one side and followed her movements with his eyes. “Interesting. And this… they, why haven’t they found you?” She frowned again at his question – it sounded as if it might be a trap but something didn’t fit. He seemed… open. Maybe she was just out of practice with her social skills – certainly her conversational skills had definitely shrunk down to almost nonsensical babbling – but he didn’t seem to be trying to trip her up with his question. He seemed to be genuinely interested.
“I…” She fingered the dead collar around her neck automatically. “It’s a secret. I’m good at hiding, can even hide in plain sight with this.”
“That looks like a…” He was reaching into his jacket for something and she stopped her pacing to bring up the stone she was holding. If he had a weapon… But the thing he brought out didn’t look like a weapon, it was only the length of a short stick and as he held it up she could see what looked like a mini-reactor coil of some kind inside it. “Do you mind? It won’t hurt.” She nodded a little warily, no trapped human would be allowed something that obviously technological so the chances of him acting on their behalf were now decidedly slim but that didn’t mean he wasn’t trying to trap her.
He flicked a switch on the side of the tool and a blue light came on at the end nearest her, it was accompanied by a strange buzzing sound and she forced herself not to flinch away as he brought it up to the collar.
“That’s beautiful work!” He sounded oddly giddy as he switched the tool off and put it back in his pocket. “Seems to be designed to create an infinite resonance field which would constrict the airway and at the same time cause red blood cells to violently expand if anyone attempted to break the loop.”
She nodded sagely. "Kablooie."
"Kablooie, indeed. Did you somehow manage to break the loop in this one or was it never switched on?” He paused for a second and tugged at his ear in an oddly nervous fashion. “No, wait, getting ahead of myself again. Tell me later. First things first, I'm the Doctor. What's your name?"
She took a step back, she was starting to think she was the saner of the two of them and that really didn't bode well. "Fred."
"Fred? Always liked the name Fred, never really thought about a girl being called it though... oh well, obviously you are, so, Hello Fred. Now tell me, where are we?" He was talking almost at breakneck speed and she found herself answering automatically. It felt a little like being caught in a twister, there was no point trying to fight, best thing to do was to hang on and go with it.
"Pylea. It's not here, I mean, obviously it's here, but it's not here here. Like not Earth here. It's another dimension and..." She sighed, knowing that she was babbling like an idiot but somehow not able to school her words into any semblance of coherency. It had been so long since she had had a conversation with anyone and it felt as if she had completely forgotten how.
"Uh-huh?" He prompted, not looking the slightest bit fazed by what she was saying, or how she was saying it.
"I'm not crazy, well... no, I'm not crazy. We’re in an other dimension and there's these portals that connect Pylea with Earth but the numbers aren't working and I can't get home."
He looked around at the writing on the walls and as she followed his gaze, she realised that the scribbles looked like the work of a lunatic. Her heart sank a little, she knew deep down that she was just out of practice with the whole connecting with people thing, that she wasn’t crazy, but she suspected that no one but her would believe that. He probably wouldn’t… “Doctor? Doctor what? What’s your actual name?”
He grinned again but didn’t answer. “As luck would have it, I happen to know a little something about travelling between dimensions." He pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket, and squinted at some of the writing. "And so, it seems, do you. This is clever work, Fred." She basked a little both at the compliment and at hearing her own name spoken by someone else. It had been so long that she’d almost forgotten what it sounded like. He moved over to another part of the wall, "Definitely on the right track. You've almost nailed it here, see? Problem is though, you're basing it all on the assumption that you're dealing with classic Euclidean 4-dimensional space-time here, and that’s just not the case. Plus, you’re trying to bring in theorems that haven’t… 1999? Yes… that haven’t been proved yet. Of course, they’ll be discredited pretty quickly anyway but the fact is, right now they don’t work, and yet you’re trying to make them work.” He nodded approvingly. “Shows initiative. The thing is, the universe doesn't care about maths, or rules, or theorems and proofs and conjectures. It’s far easier just to know where you're going, and let the actual getting there take care of itself... Still not too sure how you managed to get here in the first place though from… by the accent I’m guessing… what, Texas?”
Fred blinked and nodded, not exactly sure what he was talking about but unbelievably grateful to have it confirmed that she wasn’t nuts, although the fact was that confirmation was coming from someone who she wasn’t sure was entirely sane either. She retreated back into what she was sure of, “The numbers don't work. I can't make them connect and they keep changing every time I..." She could feel tears welling up in her eyes, how long had it been since she cried? She couldn't remember.
He didn't draw attention to it though, he just smiled a little and carried on, "Inter-dimensional travel is a tricky thing it has to be said, the rules change all the time. The good news is though, I've never really been much for following the rules. There’s ways around them if you know how, and fortunately for you – and, I guess, for me as well – I know how.”
She looked up at that, wondering if she was following what he was saying properly. Could he really get away from here, and could he really take her with him? It didn’t seem possible, after all, he was just a man… who in less than a minute had read and pointed out the mistakes in the theorem it had taken her three years to compile. And who had somehow not only gotten to Pylea but had managed not to be caught as soon as he arrived.
"So what do you think Fred?" He put his glasses away as he turned to face her fully. "Feel like coming along for the ride?"
She barely hesitated. Something about him – insane as it seemed – made her trust him. Fred grinned and stepped closer to him, “Will there be tacos?”