Ship in a Bottle

I don't post much of my fiction on here - and I don't write fan fiction, generally speaking - but the Doctor Who storyline below is actually from a dream I had.

It's not the most original of storylines, but it amused me to dream an episode of Doctor Who, and I thought I'd write it up when I woke up, before I forgot it all.

Ship in a Bottle

   The blue box shuddered and shook as it spun through space and time. Inside, its crew shouted to be heard over the grinding and shrieking of its central console.

   'Doctor, what's wrong?' asked Amy Pond, her hair tossed to one side as she clung to the railing on the console room stairs of the TARDIS.

   'Just turbulence, Pond. Nothing to worry about. Something's passed this way before, that's all - stirred up the fabric of space-time a bit.'

   'Probably you,' muttered Rory, but his voice did not carry over the noise as yet another lurch threw the Doctor away from the controls of his ship for a moment. He wheeled back on his heels and, throwing his weight forwards, lunged back to the console, throwing a lever, rotating a dial anticlockwise and, with a jolt, bringing the TARDIS to a stop.

   Amy, thrown from the stairs by the sudden deceleration, looked up at the Time Lord from her new position on the floor by his feet.

   'What happened? Have we landed?'

   The Doctor looked down at her for a moment, a blank gaze, brow furrowed as though lost in thought.

   'Landed? No. We've just... slowed down. We're coasting. Ride out the storm, you know?'

   'But Doctor,' began Rory, 'is this normal? Are we safe? I mean... that felt different from anything I've felt before in the TARDIS.'

   'Rory,' the Doctor chastised, his frown reshaping into a broad grin, 'the old girl hasn't let me down yet. As soon as it's calm out there, we'll be back to full speed. Until then, the TARDIS will protect us - we're safe inside her temporal field, like a ship in a bottle.'

   But Amy was worried too - a glimpse of something in the Doctor's eye as he'd thrown the brake on the TARDIS, perhaps. She walked over to the door of the ship, its frosted window ablaze with the blue glow of the tunnel through space and time in which they now drifted.

   As she peered out, Amy noticed the faintest of trails sketched out in the glow. A hairline crack in the glass, perhaps, or a cobweb on the outside. Yet despite the frosted glass, the more she stared, the more Amelia Pond convinced herself there was light in that fracture, the starlight of a thousand tiny suns, streaming away from the TARDIS along the narrow black fissure, while all around it blazed the wormhole, as bright, as clear and as calm as a summer's day.

   'Doctor-' began Amy, turning to walk back across the atrium of the TARDIS to the console, but as she took her first steps her foot caught on something and, with a clanking rattle, it rolled across the floor ahead of her.

   The Time Lord and his companions converged on the object as it came to rest, the Doctor stooping to scoop it up from the floor of his vessel and peer through the glass of the bottle at its contents within.

   'A ship,' the Doctor wondered aloud, focusing the wisdom of his centuries-old gaze on the tiny wooden structure and its delicate array of sails. 'A ship in a bottle.'

   'But... that's what you said we are,' Rory offered.

   'Did I? Yes, I suppose I did. The TARDIS within her temporal field, that's us.' He perked up: 'Well, this demonstrates the point perfectly!'

   'Yes Doctor, but where did it come from?' asked Amy. 'It wasn't there a moment ago, when I walked to the door.'

   'Ah... well, there are a few possible explanations. Let's suppose it's no coincidence that it appeared minutes after I said its name, so... something that can hear us? No, not hear us. Something that can... hear us think. Something that knows our thoughts, and can make them real, bring them directly into the TARDIS.'

   He looked up at Amy, his expression a combination of bemusement and concern.

   'Pond, I think my TARDIS has a puncture.'

*         *         *         *         *

   Amy and Rory watched as, with a frisson of vortex energy, a circular wooden table appeared in the centre of the TARDIS console room. The Doctor walked over to it, ran his hands across its surface, then walked back.

   'It's real,' he said. 'It's all real. Brought into being by my own thoughts.'

   'But how?' asked Amy.

   'We're leaking. Energy is escaping from the Time Vortex of the TARDIS. And that energy is very powerful. Very powerful indeed. It has the ability to change time and space.'

   Behind him, a chocolate cake appeared on the table. The Doctor glanced at it.

   'Yes,' he continued, 'cake. I haven't had a decent cake since my 900th birthday. Cakes are cool.'

   He scooped up a fingerful of frosting, absent-mindedly tasted it, and crossed back to Rory alongside the controls of the TARDIS.

   'Each of us is connected to the TARDIS by a psychic link,' the Doctor explained. 'It protects us in unusual places, it allows us to speak unusual languages, and it helps us to withstand the rigours of time travel. But it changes us, makes each of us part of her. Our thoughts are connected directly to the Time Vortex itself - and that's where the leak is.'

   'I think I saw it,' said Amy. 'The leak, I mean... I thought I could see a trail behind the TARDIS, through the window. It looked like... exhaust fumes or something, I don't know. But I wasn't sure.'

   'So what if we think something bad?' Rory asked the Doctor. 'What if I think of something that could hurt me? Or hurt you?'

   The Doctor briefly picked up the cake and a short time later, as his companions watched, a bucket appeared in its place, brimming with water. The Time Lord replaced the chocolate cake, carrying the bucket over to Rory.

   'Stand over that grating,' the Doctor ordered, and Rory took a pace to the left, his stance placing him over the metal grating alongside the TARDIS' central console, beneath which the orange glow of the Time Vortex itself could be seen.

   In a swift move, the Doctor hoisted the bucket above Rory's head, pouring its contents out in one. But as Rory ducked, the water vanished above him, a sparkle of time energy remaining in its place for a heartbeat before vanishing too. He turned to look, questioningly, into the face of the Time Lord, who was scanning for residual energy with his sonic screwdriver.

   'The puncture is in the Time Vortex itself, Rory. The water leaked out, to another point in time and space. But we're not just passengers - we're all part of the sentience of the TARDIS. Just because your engine leaks oil, it doesn't mean you're losing fuel. We're still cocooned within the protective field. Unless...'

   'Unless what?' asked Rory, wandering over to the wooden table to try a handful of the cake.

   'Well, we might not be able to directly hurt each other,' the Doctor mused, 'but the leak has to go somewhere. And everything so far has appeared right there.'

   Rory froze, his head bobbed downwards towards the cake, a fistful of frosting partway to his mouth. The Doctor continued, his arm outstretched, sonic screwdriver scanning the area around Rory, the table and the cake.

   'I suppose, if one of us were to think of something... unpalatable... it might materialise right where you are. As might anything else that falls into the leak.'

   And with that, the water completed its journey through space-time, drenching Rory as it appeared and fell from inches above his head.

   Minutes had passed, but every second felt like a lifetime as the three travellers strove to keep harmful thoughts from their minds. Rory had been delighted to see a towel appear within a minute of thinking he could use one, and towelled his hair as the Doctor spoke.

   'OK, let's not panic. We can deal with this, we just all need to be careful. Nobody think of anything dangerous. Kittens, kettles, kites, those are all fine. Stick to inanimate objects if you can, they're easier to get rid of later...'

   He trailed off as he realised his companions had fallen still, their eyes gazing back at him unblinking, their focus fixed somewhere beyond his face.

   'Are you even listening to me? No, you're not, are you. You've glazed over. Or... not glazed over, you're not staring into space. You're staring behind me. There's something there, isn't there? Who thought of something... awkward?'

   Rory's lips were moving as if to speak, but no sound was coming from his mouth. The Doctor turned his attention to him.

   'OK Rory, what did you do? What did you think of? What has just materialised behind me?'
Even as he asked, he heard the laboured breathing, the movement of armour, the heavy footsteps of the Sontaran. The Doctor sighed, and frowned at Rory.

   'You couldn't keep it simple, could you Rory? Mittens and kittens and balls of string weren't interesting enough for you, you had to bring a warrior into the middle of my ship.'

   'Doctor-' Rory began, but the Time Lord would not be interrupted.

   'I suppose it's up to me to deal with this, as usual. Without anyone getting hurt. I suppose I'll get the blame if they do...'

   'Doctor-' Amy managed, finally breaking through her fear to speak - but it was the noise that followed that finally caught the Doctor's full attention.

   With a great high-pitched electronic shriek, the unmistakeable sound of Dalek weapon fire echoed around the TARDIS, and the Sontaran fell dead to the floor. The Doctor, his expression fixed with renewed fear, slowly turned to face the creature that had passed through Amy's thoughts for the briefest of moments, just seconds before.

   'Amelia Pond, the Doctor's companion, you brought us here. Daleks, finally inside the control room of the TARDIS. And the Doctor is unarmed.'

   Amy turned to the Doctor, her wide eyes beginning to brim with tears after minutes of not blinking, her mouth still open with shock and fear. But the Time Lord was not looking at her. His mouth was closed and set, but his eyes, wide with a fear that echoed her own, were focused on the Dalek ahead of him.

   'You will be converted, Doctor,' the metal beast began. 'Your body will be broken down, each cell sifted to find suitable tissue, and reconstructed in Dalek form. You will be purged of your emotions, and you will lead the regenerated Dalek race.'

   'Doctor-' Amy hissed, but now the Time Lord turned to look her in the eye, and she saw the strength of his fear fully for the first time.

   'Amy, I can't allow them to take me. A Time Lord, stripped of emotion, at the head of the Daleks - the universe would fall. All of it. They must not take me.'

   As he spoke, the Doctor backed slowly away from the Dalek, its antenna tracking his movements, preparing to fire.

   'OK, so what do we do? How do we fight it?'

   'There's nothing we can do, Pond. We're unarmed. Even if we had weapons, we'd be dead before we could fire them. I'm sorry. I... have... to... run.'

   With each word, he took a step, brushing the console of the TARDIS, never looking away from the Dalek. There was the faintest of clangs as he stepped on to the glowing metal grating in the floor of his ship.

   And he vanished into the Time Vortex.

   For the briefest of moments, Amy thought she could still see the Time Lord's outline in shimmering light, like iron filings scattered over flame, but in an instant the mirage was broken and she was left alone with Rory and the Dalek.

   'The Doctor has deserted you,' it barked. 'But we have his ship. We will find him, and our plan will go ahead. Human tissue is not needed. We will rebuild the Daleks using the Time Lord.'

   Amy heard the high-pitched electronic whirr of the Dalek's weapon system charging, its antenna trained on her heart, and turned for a final look at her husband's face.

   But Rory was not looking at her; his gaze fell behind the Dalek, and she turned back as the shriek of weapons fire echoed around the console room, to see a plume of smoke rising from the metal monster.

   She looked beyond it and saw a second Dalek, its antenna slowly lowering after firing on its predecessor.

   'Rory,' she hissed. 'Did you bring this one here?'

   'No!' he protested. 'My mind was blank, honest. All I could think was, I hope Amy doesn't die.'

   'Well that's sweet, but it wasn't me. And why did it kill the first one, anyway?'

   'How would I know?'

   They fell suddenly silent as a muffled grating sound grew louder; the hub of the Dalek, the top of its artificial head, had begun to rotate. Faster and faster it spun, the screw thread of its housing quickly becoming visible, and the pair braced themselves for the horrible visage of the creature inside.

   But as it fell open, the lid landing heavily on the TARDIS floor, a familiar voice called out from inside: 'Come along Pond, help me out!'

*         *         *         *         *

   Orange flame licked at the Dalek exoskeletons as they dipped below the surface of the great lava lakes of Vesuvian Prime.

   'Will they be destroyed, Doctor?'

   'Yes, don't worry about that. The lower depths of these lakes are hotter than the hearts of the brightest stars. Nothing will remain.'

   'I still don't understand - how did you get inside one of them?'

   The Time Lord's eyes momentarily lost their usual smile, fading briefly into a steely look Amy had seen before, but not often.

   'Fear, Pond. The fear of an eternity as ruler of a universe populated solely by Daleks. The fear of losing you and Rory to one of those creatures. But, at the instant I stepped over the Time Vortex, the fear of waking up inside one of those things.'

   And that one fear, that thought, that practical notion, had transported the Doctor, the Time Lord leaking out through the puncture in his own ship, materialising moments later within the metal belly of one of the few beasts he truly feared.

   'And that stopped the puncture?' asked Amy as the pair walked back into the TARDIS, parked on the banks of the lava lakes with Rory waiting inside.

   'Hard to say. I was transported through time and space within my own timeline, Amelia. Nobody is supposed to do that. Perhaps the TARDIS detected the paradox and fixed herself to prevent it happening again. I don't know... the delay was shorter each time something leaked through the Time Vortex. Maybe time just... caught up with us.'

   He closed the door of the blue box, walked over to the console, and threw a lever. A grinding, a shuddering boom and a familiar wailing noise began, but the Doctor flicked a small switch on the dash.

   'Come on you two, it's late. She's on autopilot - let's all get some sleep.'

   Amy made to cross the room, but stopped as she spotted the glass bottle, back once again in the middle of the floor. She picked it up and peered at the ship inside.

   'I think I might keep this...' she thought aloud as she joined her fellow travellers.

   The Time Lord and his companions climbed the stairs, heading into the bowels of the ship to their respective bedrooms.

   Behind them, the centre column of the TARDIS cast a soft glow over the console room as it rose and fell within its housing, the abrasive shrieking muffled as the vessel coasted under its own control.

   From the frosted windows of the door, the midnight blue of the wormhole outside cast oblong rays on to the TARDIS console room floor.

   And, where the blue rays met the orange light from the console, there was the briefest sparkle as a circular wooden table came into being, followed moments later by a rich chocolate gateau.