By Lora Ruffner, Judi Heath, and Richard Ruffner With Keith Topping and Peter Davison
The sea was green... deep, emerald, and glassy. I had always loved the sea, although I never felt I had enough time to truly enjoy its ability to soothe the mind, and relax an adventure-weary body. But now, finally, I was going to make time. And what better place to holiday on the seas than on Earth's splendid 21st century cruise ships? Even Gallifrey does not have such vast and evocative seas...
Before nudging the Tardis toward Earth one more time (shouldn't the old girl know her own way by now?), I had made a vow to myself that this time, nothing would interfere with a Doctor's need for a little rejuvenation. Why do I make myself these promises?
It was not the smoothest entry, and in fact had offered a jolt a bit more harsh than usual for the aging Tardis, feeling almost as if it had collided with the clouds themselves.
I pushed open the Tardis door to find myself bathed in swaths of brightly colored lights, the hum of a nearby crowd, and a bartender polishing glassware before stacking it on shiny black shelves. Of course, I'd have preferred to arrive directly on deck, but at least it wasn't the boiler room like I'd managed to target ninety years ago. My goodness, it had been a long time.
I slipped past the bar, noting the exit sign also decked in vibrant neon. A notice about passenger dining times was pinned to the wall as I rounded the corner. Feeling a bit peckish, I wondered if perhaps a bite of lunch before going on deck would be just what the Doctor ordered.
I followed the signs leading me to the buffet style cruise cuisine, and found a bounty of salads, meats, and decadent treats awaiting me. Standing over the salad bar, I could not help but notice the fresh green stalks of celery, and without missing a beat, I swiftly snatched the stalk from my lapel and replaced it with a new one. As quick as I was, however, my seemingly out of place gesture had caught the eye of a small brown eyed girl who gazed at me inquisitively. I simply smiled at her. She giggled back, as though we shared some amusing secret. She darted through a door, an apple in one hand and a camera in the other. I made my way through the rest of the buffet, anxious to get out and smell the fresh ocean air I had missed for so long.
Finding where on this cruise ship one wanted to go proved more of a challenge than I remembered. The ships had become bigger... and a bit louder it seemed. No matter, the sea was the sea. I headed for it.
Out on deck, I found a solitary place from which to drink in the experience. The water was gently lapping against the sides of the ship, and a few seagulls were perched on the rails. Perfect, I thought... simply perfect. As I stood leaning against the rail, I heard a muffled giggle. A child. The little girl from the buffet line stood at the far end of the deck. She had spotted me and was coming my way.
"Hey, mister," she said, "why did you put salad on your clothes?"
Now there was a question. "It's only celery," I told her, "and there's a long story behind that. I'm the Doctor! And what's your name, miss?" A few minutes later, I'd been told that Katie was our ship Captain's daughter, that she had just turned 11, and that she loved dolphins. She had come out on deck to try and get some photographs of them, but they'd been somewhat elusive all afternoon. As we spoke, Katie interrupted me to inquire, "Doctor? You talk just like Orlando Bloom! Do you know him? Could you get me his autograph?"
Before I could ask who or what an Orlando Bloom was, my deck companion squealed as she spotted a gathering of her beloved dolphins off the side of the ship. They were indeed the magnificent creatures that I had remembered. For several minutes they bounded this way and that, putting on what seemed to be a bit of a show for us. And then, for no discernable reason, separated and fled from the ship.
Katie frowned and clutched at her camera trying to get a final shot, but they dove deeply and quickly, and were gone. I was about to comment to her that it didn't seem very cricket of them, when an unusually thick mist seemed to roll across the waves at a rapid pace. As it came toward us, it darkened and swirled. Small ribbon-like flashes of light played against the waves. Interesting, since the wind was at our backs.
A familiar feeling washed over me... something wasn't quite right. The glassy green sea now seemed murky and dark. And a quick look above revealed an oppressive sky that was bright and inviting only minutes before. Katie stood frozen, apparently trying to decide how to react and if she should be frightened. I took her hand and suggested it might be a good idea to check in with her father. Katie looked uncertain and asked me if something was wrong. "I'm sure it's nothing, Katie, just a bit of bad weather making an appearance," I assured her. To myself I thought, "No adventures today, thank you!"
Katie scooted off to find her father, as I headed back to the Tardis. I thought sure I'd adjusted her weather sensing algorithms, yet she'd predicted sunny skies and smooth sailing for the next several days. Sure enough, a recheck of her systems, and of the report, confirmed perfect weather. Yet what was looming outside this ship was anything but perfect.
Determined to find a simple weather related explanation so that I could get on with my well deserved holiday, I headed back out on deck. As I passed other passengers in the halls, on the stairs, and in the shoppes, I couldn't help but notice a common dismal mood. The steady buzz of the large and festive group had grown somber and quiet. Interesting...
Reaching the top deck, I stepped out to find the clouds darker, the mood more menacing. I looked at the sky and asked aloud "Why? What is it that you want? Why can't I have a simple holiday?"
My body snapped to attention as I realized that I was hearing a reply. "Why can't I?"
Before I could process the commentary coming into my mind, my own thoughts were pounding with the realization that the universe seemed to be talking back to me... an odd sensation, even for a Time Lord.
Now, the words sank in... Someone was out there. I concentrated, determined to get my next query answered. "Who are you?"
In my head, I could "hear" a faint voice, "Something hit me... it hit me... " I could sense his desperation increasing. And it was at that moment that I knew.
Racing back to the Tardis, I remembered the peculiarity of this afternoon's landing. I pinpointed coordinates for the stranded cloud dweller. With only a minor wheeze from the old girl, we made the short jump.
As I turned to read the scanner, the distorted object became clear to me. Dark, spiraling tendrils were spinning from an energy leak in its shell. I realized, only now, that it was another Tardis...
Only the most improbable temporal-spatial collision could have caused such damage. As quickly as I could, I materialized around the twisted ship; then isolated it in the Zero Room. The breach began to seal itself. The hull smoothed and a door appeared. I stepped through it. A disheveled figure gripped the console. As he turned towards me first relief, then anger crossed his face.
In a quick motion, he slipped his hand into his tunic, hissing at me. "You! I should have known... you interfered with my holiday at sea!" As he pulled the paper from his pocket and shook it indignantly at me, the Master frowned. "This time, I had a ticket!"
(Last updated 2/18/2003)