Chapter Four: Consternation and the Doctor
NCC-74705 (USS Bellerophon)
Stationary near NGP-113424 (SS Queen Victoria)
Captain’s Ready Room
Captain Erisa Magambo read the recent report from Starfleet Command. The Federation starship Eagle was making good time and should arrive ahead of the other starships inbound. They managed to find themselves in a better starting point than the others. Having the added support from the other ship gave her hope that they might resolve the situation with slightly less difficulty.
The Doctor's presence also seemed to help ship's morale under the circumstances. He spent some time in the mess hall and managed to bring with him some cheer. All reports from the officers below indicated that he was very charismatic and well-liked by the crew. Unfortunately for Magambo, the unknown quantity of this Doctor was too much for her to overcome and simply accept that he suddenly appeared and provided assistance. In her experiences in Starfleet, too good to be true often was.
She studied the screen atop her desk intently. All of her attempts to find out more information about the Doctor failed. The Starfleet Security database held some records of the Doctor's previous appearances. All mentions were redacted from the official logs at the time. Redacted by the very admiral she took her orders from.
"Computer," she inquired, her voice resonating off of the bulkheads of her ready room. "I would like a database of all records of any mention of a person known as 'The Doctor.'"
"Working," replied the computer. Whatever it did, it took a long while for the computer to finally respond. "Records search completed. Database contains over six hundred trillion records."
Magambo's eyebrows rose. "Display first ten rows of records on this station, please."
The display listed the entries as commanded. Each one referred to an oral record using the words "the doctor."
Magambo sighed. "Computer, reset the database. New parameters: locate any entries that refer to a person named 'The Doctor,' and also mentions a circa 1960s police box from Great Britain."
The captain moved toward the replicator and retrieved a mug of coffee while the computer made its audio sounds as it scanned the records again. When the compute reported it had completed the search, this time the list was far less in total.
"Three results?" she said to herself. "On this screen, please."
The first result was a heavily redacted report by the USS Potemkin over thirty years prior. The report was written by the admiral once again, this time as a full lieutenant. Her report was signed off by the ship's commanding officer and the then-Chief of Starfleet Security. The report centered around a rift in the space-time continuum and the appearance of a blue box in the ship's shuttlebay.
No images of the Doctor existed within the records for her to compare to, but it was clear from his involvement that they were able to close the rift before it posed a threat to everyone living in this continuum. No more information was provided, and it took all of Magambo's considerable clearance to even read it.
The other two listings held the same heavily-redacted information. Vague mentions of another rift in space and time, the appearance of the Doctor, and a successful closure. Nothing about any threats to Federation space by any of the reports, though that information could also be hidden by the redacted portions of the files.
"Computer, save this database and let's start fresh. This time, please scan for any references to a 'Dalek.'" She spelled the term for the computer, "Delta-Alpha-Lima-Echo-Kilo."
"Working. No records found."
The speed of the computer's response startled her. "Pardon?"
"No records found," it repeated, in the same quick tone as before.
The captain rubbed her forehead. She allowed her frustration to creep into her tone, "Computer, reset database. Perform a thorough scan of Starfleet records for previous search term."
"Working. No records found."
"Computer, delete new database. Let's go with a simple inquiry. Do any records exist with the term 'Dalek'?"
"And may I see those records?"
"Negative. Access restricted to X-Ray-One or higher."
"I possess X-Ray clearance for the duration of this mission."
The computer's assessment disagreed, "Magambo X-Ray clearance provisional at present. Clearance does not provide access to records requested."
She muttered, "Of course not." In a louder tone, she said, "Computer, cancel request and present inquiry."
Within the ship's mess hall, Ensign Coralie Picard took in the smell of her usual breakfast. A mug of coffee, some fresh fruit, and a recently-baked croissant sat before her upon the tray. She flavored the coffee with milk and sweetener as she always did.
"What's all this, then?" asked a new voice.
Coralie glanced upward into the smiling face of the Doctor. "Oh, it's you."
The Doctor spun a seat around so he could rest his arms across the back as he straddled it. He gave her a wriggling of his fingers as he said, "Hello. I'm just going to sit here and watch you eat your breakfast."
"Suit yourself," she said with a shrug.
"Did I do something to upset you?"
She shook her head. "No, it was nothing you did." Coralie stalled by drinking her coffee and biting into a slice of cantaloupe.
"It was something someone did."
She played with the swirl in her coffee with a stirrer as she considered what she wanted to tell this odd man. "This is kind of difficult to admit."
He waited patiently and simply stared at her with nothing more than a held smile upon his lips .
Coralie dropped the stirrer and let it rest against the side of the mug. With a glance toward the bulkhead to avoid eye contact with him, she sighed and said, "I guess I just thought maybe my career would be more than simply cataloging cargo bays and inventorying closets day-in and day-out. I expected it to be more."
The Doctor listened to her speak and then gave her a nod. "Well, I suppose you can't say that everyone doesn't need updated catalogs and inventories. But it's a lot less glamorous, I'll agree."
"When I applied to the Academy, I was told about all the wonders of the galaxy and being part of something bigger than myself."
"It sounds noble. But look at where you are right now," said the Doctor, pointing toward the viewports. "You're out among the stars. I'd imagine that a majority of your Federation live on planets, doing their own thing and living their own lives?"
Coralie nodded succinctly. "Sure."
"Well, then. Perhaps you've gained more than you realize."
She allowed herself a smile. "Perhaps."
He smiled in return. "So, tell me more about this Starfleet."
She bit into her croissant and chased it with a sip of coffee. "What do you want to know?"
"Well, like how long it's been around and all that."
"Starfleet was founded in 2161, as part of the Federation charter. Though, the original exploration group was known as the United Earth Space Probe Agency, or UESPA," Coralie began. "Eventually, UESPA and Starfleet began to overlap with their programs and so one group was merged into the other after almost 100 years."
"And I'm sure you've faced down a number of antagonists since then?"
Coralie nodded. "Quite a few, actually. The Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians..."
The Doctor wagged his finger at her. "And all this is the culmination of those wars. The new technologies developed because of it."
She looked very uncomfortable in admitting that to be true, but with a slow nod, she told him, "That's one way of putting it, I suppose, yes. But, I prefer to view the periods of peace as the force for good."
"Even in that sentence, you still have to use the word 'force' in the context of that good. I think it's better to not use force to get the peace."
She frowned. "I agree, but if only all the other factions in the galaxy felt the same way. I think it would be best for all." She offered her fruit to him.
He accepted the fruit and picked up a grape. "That's what I like about humans. Even though you lot seem to like your weapons and your wars, at the very core of you all, you understand the need for peace. You're the reason why I travel through Earth's timeline.
"Well! At least, my Earth's timeline."
Coralie asked, "Only Earth's?"
The Doctor scratched at the back of his head. "For the most part, yeah. Don't often find myself on other worlds, because the history's kind of boring..."
"And you travel alone?"
"Not all the time. I'm alone right now because Donna had-" The Doctor stopped to consider his words. "Let's just say that sometimes I have a companion and sometimes I go it alone."
Coralie finished her coffee and set the empty mug back on the tray. "How many companions have you had?"
The Doctor glanced away, toward the ceiling. "Oh, well, quite a few."
He fixed a stare at her. "I just recently said goodbye to a woman named Donna Noble. She had to return home with her family."
"Sounds like you didn't want to say goodbye."
She lowered her tone to a conspiratorial level. "Did you and her...?"
"Oh, no! Not in the slightest!" he protested automatically. Then, he smiled and shook his head. "Funny, that sounds odd coming from just me. Usually we'd both say that at the same time. I'd gotten used to that."
Coralie gave him an understanding smile. "But it's a good thing she went back home, right? To be with her family and friends?"
The Doctor nodded slowly, his eyes cast in the middle distance. "Of course. She needed to be with them."
"We all do, from time to time." She ran her finger around the rim of her mug and watched as the vibration played with the surface tension of the coffee inside. "Do any of your companions ever come back to travel with you?"
"Sometimes they do. For a short while. But I think after they leave and return to their lives, they remember all the things that they forgot to miss while they were out traveling with me among the stars," he said slowly. "And there's always the off-chance that they might travel with me so long that they let their lives slip away."
"And what of your life, Doctor?" asked Coralie, trying to change the subject. "Your live slips away in your ship, too. Surely your family misses you. Do you get to pop back home and say hello from time to time?"
The Doctor shook his head. "I haven't got any family, anymore. I used to. I had a daughter and a granddaughter."
"You live in an empty house on your home world?"
"No, I live in the blue box sitting in your cupboard."
"And what planet is home?"
"That gets a little more complicated than it needs to be, but suffice to say that my home world doesn't exist anymore."
She frowned. "What do you mean? Why not?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes toward the ceiling as though he's explained this more than enough for his liking. "My people fought a war, a time war. In the end, their victory was a costly one, and it resulted in the destruction of both sides."
"I'm sorry," Coralie said in a small voice. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
He waved her off and folded his arms while leaning back in his chair. "You didn't know. Think nothing of it."
They sat in silence for a moment, while Coralie's hands found themselves in her lap with her shoulders lifted nervously around her neck. She finally gathered enough confidence to ask, "Who were they fighting?"
The Doctor leaned forward and his eyebrows lifted high. "Hmm?"
"Your people. Who were they fighting?"
"Oh!" He grinned. "The Daleks."
"The Daleks?! The ones who came through the rift?"
"Oh, yes. And to underline the seriousness of the threat they pose to your timeline, it took the entire resources of the Time Lords to keep them in check and even then... it wasn't quite enough."
"What do you mean?"
He sighed. "I mean that even though they should be completely gone from the universe, they always seem to find a way around that. Chance and circumstances seem to always favor their ability to subvert all the work we've done."
"I don't understand."
"Are you sure you want to?"
Coralie considered that, given the tone the Doctor used when asking that. Almost like a dare. "Yes, I do. Tell me."
The Doctor leaned forward now, his hands forming a steeple upon the mess hall table. "After the Time War, there was a cult of four Daleks that managed to traverse the void into my timestream and attempt to release the prisoners from that war. I had to stop them with my companion, Rose Tyler."
Again, she gave the Doctor a sidelong glance and made a subtle implication. "Rose Tyler, eh? You said her name a little differently then you had with Donna Noble."
For the first time since she had met him, he actually stammered, losing that usual air of self-confidence he exuded with every step he took. "Y-Yes, well... she was very special."
"Did you... love her?"
The Doctor said nothing. He cast his eyes down toward his hands and sighed.
She sensed it was more than just a sore subject. "Anyway, you stopped them. What happened?"
"When we sent them back to the Void, Rose nearly got sent there herself. But her dad stepped in at the last second and whisked her away to a parallel universe," he explained. "There was no way to return her, but she was lucky to have her mother and father there waiting for her. She's not alone."
Coralie furrowed her brow. "Sorry, wait a minute."
"So, she got sucked into a parallel universe, but it was okay because her family was already there waiting for her? How did that happen?"
"Well, see, her father was originally from another timestream," he started and then stopped. "Kind of like this, actually. Except this was more in the past than it was in the future. See, we originally ended up in the other timestream, first. And we had to combat another kind of enemy, the Cybermen."
"Yeah, I know, but stay with me on this."
"Okay, sorry. Just trying to figure that one out. I presume they're men who're... cyber-like?"
"Actually, they were former humans who were sort of cannibalized into a metal armor frame."
"Sounds wonderful," she said while rolling her eyes. "The Cybermen were causing trouble, then?"
"They were. They managed to utilize the communications network as a means toward controlling the population of the entire planet. We had to remind them of who they were and what they were doing and it finally returned to normal," he told her. "Well, after a fashion, I suppose."
"The way you explain things, I feel as if I'm missing the real truth about what happened. It's like you're explaining it to me as though I were there."
He grinned toothily. "Yes, well, if I had the time to tell you every little adventure I've been on in my existence, then I would need about thirty years or so to do it."
His joviality was infectious. She chuckled. "Fair enough, I guess. But I have a hard time believing that a man of your relative youth would have over thirty years of adventures already. Unless you got an early start or something."
The Doctor chuckled. "Looks can be deceiving. I'm well over nine hundred years old."
"Are you related to the El-Aurians?"
"Who are they?"
"Long-lived species. They're called Listeners."
"They have sort of an ability that kind of makes you want to tell them everything about you. They have a way of making you feel at ease."
The Doctor shrugged. "I'm not really an El-Aurian. I'm a Time Lord. But we kind of change ourselves a bit from one life to another."
"Like a Trill?"
"What's a Trill?"
"Symbiotic species," she explained. "They share their lives with a long-lived symbiont that resembles an Earth slug. As each host dies, the symbiont is passed to a new host. Technically, they could live for hundreds of years and I believe some are older than you."
The Doctor considered that. "I suppose it's the same, except I don't have a slug inside me. Whenever this body's cells are at the end of their life cycle, or damaged to the point of death, I can regenerate myself."
"So you'll always be reborn?"
"In a manner of speaking, yeah. My body undergoes a complete metamorphosis, and my personality does as well. So, when this body undergoes regeneration, it is a real death. All my memories and knowledge are passed to the new body's mind. But the person I am right now will cease to exist."
Coralie's expression turned to one of sadness. "That sounds a bit morbid. Doesn't it?"
He reached over for another grape and popped it into his mouth. "It's part of my physiology."
"There's a whole race of you in your continuum?"
"There were. I'm the last, now."
"I'm sorry. What happened?"
The Doctor sighed and looked at his hands briefly. "A very large-scale war between the Time Lords and the Daleks. The result was the destruction of both races, and I survived alone."
Coralie tilted her head. "But if the Daleks were destroyed, then how can they be here now?"
"The Daleks have temporal abilities like I do. So, these Daleks may not be the same Daleks from that war. They could also be Daleks from an alternate continuum or timeline." He shakes his head. "But it seems like no matter how many times I deal with them, or how many times I think I have them beat, they always seems to pop up when I least expect them."
She reached over and touched his hand. "We feel that way about the Borg."
The Doctor looked down at her hand for a moment before wrinkling his nose and asking, "The Borg? Who're they? Swedes with a bad attitude?"
Lieutenant Commander Taurik completed another set of simulations using Bellerophon's weapons against the specifications provided by the Doctor. Again, the ship would be overwhelmed by a direct attack from the Daleks. The battlecruiser alone would be a challenge, but should they launch their entire compliment of Dalek armor, their shields would fall within thirty minutes and the hull shortly after.
Toshiko watched the last five simulations and sighed. "I can see why you might be a tad frustrated."
"Vulcans do not feel frustration," assured Taurik. "I must admit, however, to experiencing a bit of futility in continuing along these lines. Without additional fire support, this ship will not stand for long in a direct confrontation, based on the available data."
She proposed, "Perhaps the data is faulty?"
"The data provided by the Doctor is anecdotal; however, I have factored in the information gathered by the attack on the outpost and the freighter." Taurik moved his fingers over the master systems display and focused on the shield generators. "In every simulation run, the generators fail and the hull is compromised."
Toshiko ran a hand through her hair as she spoke, "Even if we provided the generators with additional power, all we would be doing is delaying the inevitable. What we need is to either bolster the defenses by altering the shields, or increase firepower to destroy them before they do too much damage."
Taurik merely inclined his head slightly at Toshiko's analysis. "I have been analyzing the firing patterns, and it would seem that the Daleks like to envelope their target and overwhelm them with a massive opposing force."
"Wait a minute, sir. What about..." Her fingers flew over her PADD in a near-blur as she called up data and scanned through various documents. "I recall reading a paper on a new armor system that Voyager brought back with them from the future."
With his eyes narrowing, Taurik replied, "That information is classified, Specialist."
"Classified protocols are nothing more than a series of obstacles to overcome, sir."
"I must warn you-"
"I found it." Toshiko flipped her PADD toward Taurik and smiled. "Ablative armor. It stood up to the Borg pretty nicely until they adapted. And something tells me that the Daleks are not quite as adept at adapting as the Borg. Could we implement something like this?"
Taurik's attention distracted for the moment, he accepted the proffered PADD and read through it. "This... may be possible. We would first need to take the shield generators offline and route the power grid to feed into the armor generators. However, given our current circumstances, I doubt the captain will allow us to go without defensive systems long enough to install them."
"I'm not the right person to talk to," Toshiko admitted. Her specialty was computer systems, not shields and armor. "I defer to your expertise, sir."
"On the contrary, Specialist," Taurik said as he kept his eyes on the PADD's display, "I believe you to have intelligence beyond your area of expertise. I would hardly be surprised if you applied for a commission as an officer in Starfleet. You would do well."
Toshiko blushed. "Thank you, sir. That's... a high compliment."
"We must speak to the captain on this."
Her eyes widened. "On my application to become an officer?"
"My apologies for not including context. We must speak to the captain on implementing this armor generator." Taurik moved for the exit and called to her, "Please join me, Specialist."
Captain Magambo and the Doctor listened to Taurik and Toshiko's plan intently. Once completed, the captain asked her first question:
Taurik's features did not change as he spelled out the work involved. "I believe that the total estimate of time needed to complete the new systems would be at least three days."
"And in that time, you would require the shield generators offline?" asked the Doctor. He looked between Taurik and Toshiko.
Toshiko said nothing, instead allowing her superior officer to speak.
"It may not be necessary for the shield to be offline for the whole of the three days, but as we bring the armor generators online, it's possible that we may require some time for them to be tested as we adapt them to the power grid," answered Taurik. His eyes moved from the Doctor to the captain as he finished his last sentence. "Sir, I realize we would be taking a tremendous risk, but given the current data gathered from our simulations, I don't see how we can do otherwise."
Magambo considered this proposal and stared at the desktop display. "Work out a timetable for the next three days, with minimal impact to the defensive systems. And I would like to employ a hard cutover between the new system and the conventional one, should the need arise."
"Aye, sir. I will keep you informed of our progress."
"Very good." Magambo turned her attention to Toshiko. "Please remain behind, Specialist. You're dismissed, Commander."
Taurik opened his mouth to reply, but thought better of it and withdrew as the captain requested. The non-commissioned officer stood alone with the Doctor and the captain; she wore a chagrined expression upon her face.
"I realize that Commander Taurik finds your assistance most valuable, Specialist Sato," began the captain sternly. "It is for that reason that I will not place you in the detention center until we reach starbase. I am very well aware that Taurik would never abrogate Starfleet regulations surrounding classified data in such a fashion. But you and I, we've been down this road before, haven't we?"
Toshiko's voice was barely above a whisper. "Yes, sir."
The Doctor placed his hands in his trousers. "Under the circumstances, Captain, I'm sure we can appreciate the specialist's ingenuity."
"Doctor, I'll thank you to let me conduct this conversation," Magambo smoldered in her seat at the unwelcome interruption.
"Funny thing about that," said the Doctor with a smile. "According to your own Starfleet people, I'm to be treated like an admiral, yeah? I know this isn't my timestream, but I'm fairly sure an admiral has more rank than a captain."
Magambo grinded her teeth. "Oh, now you want rank?"
"Well, you know... when it suits me, sure. It suits me right now, Captain."
"Very well, Doctor. I will respect the authority given you by the admiral," Magambo said with a heavy sigh. "But, even an admiral would give me latitude to deal with such an egregious breach of security."
"May I remind you, Captain, that this particular breach should prove useful?"
"If it works."
Toshiko asked, "Sir, should I go?"
The captain pressed her lips together and nodded. "Return to your duty, Specialist. I will allow the ends to justify the means, in this instance."
"She means that if this doesn't work, then don't be surprised if you are court-martialed for your misconduct," the Doctor supplied. "Incentive to really make this work, yeah?"
Toshiko nodded several times in quick fashion.
"That will be all, Specialist. You're dismissed," said Magambo. Following Toshiko's departure, she turned her attention toward the desktop terminal and began using it. "If you don't mind, I need to finish reading reports."
The Doctor studied the artwork upon the bulkhead as the captain worked quietly at her desk. His eyes wandered over the oil and canvas, noting the lines and admiring the raw passion of it. The artist had something to say and the Doctor listened. Without waiting for the captain to say something, he pointed at the painting and asked, "Might I ask who the artist is?"
Captain Magambo turned her head to glance at the subject of the Doctor's question and then returned to her work. "My niece, Emily. She is studying at the San Francisco School of the Arts."
"She's quite talented," the Doctor said matter-of-factly. He turned back to back Magambo and took a seat in one of the chairs facing the desk.
Magambo eyed the Doctor as his feet propped atop the edge of her desk and his hands laced together behind his head. "Thank you. I agree. And now if you wouldn't mind, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't use my desk as an Ottoman."
The Doctor ignored her remark. "I presume you've spoken to your supreme military minds regarding the Daleks?"
"Starfleet is not a military organization, Doctor," Magambo replied evenly. "We are primarily an exploratory body."
"And if we were to go back in time and ask Cortes and Pizarro, they might say the same thing." The Doctor reconsidered his words, "And in fact, they have."
"Regardless," she bit off her reply, "I can assure you that we do not impose our way of life on others." Magambo rose from her seat and turned the desktop terminal around to face the Doctor. "Five additional starships have been dispatched. However, at maximum speed they will not arrive for at least three days."
The Doctor frowned. "Your ships are impressive, but the mean distance is still a problem for your method of propulsion. Five ships may not be enough, if the Daleks have determined a way to take this universe for themselves."
"I believe that six Starfleet vessels will be more than a match for a single Dalek battlecruiser." She did not bother to keep her confidence from her tone.
"I sincerely hope you're right, Captain."
The droning tone of a red alert began to sound, and the crimson lights appeared in the corners of the ready room. "Red alert," said the voice of Martha Jones over the address system. "All hands to battlestations."
Without hesitation, the two of them arrived on the bridge. Martha, Gwen, Ursula, and Ethan resided at their duty stations. "Captain, the Daleks have attacked a colony less than five light-years away."
"Number One, recall the away teams. Mister Pope, as soon as they're aboard, divert to the colony at maximum speed." Magambo turned to the operations station and said, "Mister Blake, contact Starfleet Command and apprise them of the new development."
Ursula nodded. "Transmitting now, sir."
Martha informed the bridge, "All away teams returned."
"Execute course, Mister Pope."
The stars moved across the main viewscreen as Bellerophon turned toward its new destination and entered subspace. Pope answered, "Now entering the star system, sir. Estimated time of arrival in less than forty seconds."
The Doctor breathed, "My word."
"Starfleet Command is transmitting, Captain," reported Ursula. "Starship Eagle is arriving ahead of schedule. ETA to our position is five minutes."
Pope announced on the heels of Ursula's words, "Now entering the solar system, sir."
Gwen called out, "I have the enemy vessel in orbit of the colony, Captain! They're sending down... a large number of... I'm not sure."
The Doctor moved quickly, using the part of the bridge superstructure to wind his way around to see the information on Gwen's display. "Those are Dalek armored units. The same ones that came through the rift at your outpost."
Magambo nodded, but did not turn to look at the Doctor. "Maintain present course, Mister Pope. Mister Cooper?"
Gwen replied simply, "Sir?"
"Lock weapons on that ship and prepare to engage."
Magambo rose from her seat and approached the viewscreen until she stood behind Pope. With her arms folded across her chest, she said, "Mister Blake, inform Eagle that they will be late to the party.