The library was supposed to contain any book ever written. Anywhere. In the entire history of the universe. Unnecessary to mention it was rather big.
And Frobisher felt like he’d walked along each and every bookshelf on his short penguin legs. Twice. It wasn’t true, of course. He’d only come across a very small part of it. An incredibly small part, to be exact. And most of the time he’d spend in a shape a little more useful he it came to walking.
It still felt like his legs would fall of any moment. He considered growing wings instead but flying he would be too fast to read any of the titles, somewhat unpractical when looking for a specific book.
Which he was. As was the Doctor, according to himself. Frobisher suspected he was sitting somewhere, drinking tea and letting him do all the work. Not that he had any right to complain, theoretically. After all it was him who had, in an incident he didn’t really care to recall, managed to set fire on the TARDIS manual. That he was the one looking for a new one seemed only fair, he thought. It also seemed pointless. As if the Doctor would be any better at flying the thing if he had a manual he never looked at anyway.
If he said that aloud the Doctor would probably strand him here and he’d have to spend the rest of his life eating paper.
The library existed outside of time and space. It was, said the Doctor, located on a neighbouring planet of his home world and absolutely off limit to any Time Lord except the president and the members of the high council. When Frobisher asked him how they had gotten inside then he’d only shrugged and said something about Time Lords needing a lot of time to change their passwords.
Naturally this meant the library was literally deserted. Well, it was deserted anyway. Not literally, as it was full of literal things. An index would have been nice, the Whifferdill mused. It would help him getting out of here within the next hundred years. Hard to believe that there were so many titles starting with ‘T’.
At least the risk of being found in here was small, as the few Time Lords allowed to enter the library pretty much never did so.
“If you see someone other than me take the form of a book about adventures,” the Doctor had told him when they parted ways. “In that case there’s no chance of them even looking at you.”
Sometimes Frobisher thought he might like those other Time Lords better than the Doctor, whose personal dictionary was veritably lacking the entry for ‘break’.
And ‘common sense’.
Another endless number of books went by and the former detective was beginning to believe that he had missed it. The books were roughly sorted by the first letter of their title but concerning the rest of the letters they just went wild. And for someone once committed to searching for things and people Frobisher was admittedly a bit rubbish at finding anything.
His little penguin heart leaped when he spotted the words TARDIS Manual and fell when he spotted the Type 45 below. Right beside that was neither the manual for type 44 nor type 46 but a book entitled Time War, History of the Last Great.
He actually glanced left and right to make sure the Doctor didn’t see him straying from his mission before, driven by curiosity, he took the book out of the shelf and opened it. He’d never heard of any Time War but the word sounded too cool to ignore.
It appeared to be some kind of encyclopaedia, concerning the participants and events of this war. Not so interesting then, and he didn’t have time to read anyway. Frobisher only skipped through the heavy book with fingers a penguin shouldn’t have, scanning the pages for anything to catch his eye. His eye caught on an entry called Oncoming Storm, the. Further defined as ‘Destroyer of Gallifrey, Skaro.’
“Uhm…” Frobisher made.
“Something tells me that’s not a TARDIS manual you’re holding there,” a voice sounded beside him and the Whifferdill nearly dropped the heavy book. He looked down at it: The entry included pictures. Of people. He doubted that a TARDIS manual contained those.
“It isn’t,” he admitted, accepting that lying was pointless. “It can’t be, because there isn’t a manual for a type 40 anywhere in these shelves!”
“Of course there isn’t!” the Doctor said impatiently. “Because I took it out five minutes ago.” He lifted his hand to show his friend the thick, large book he was holding. “I found it, by the way, in the shelve you started at.”
Frobisher thought that this would be a good opportunity to complain about the Doctor’s lacking faith in his ability to find a book in a library but he could just as well take a gun and shoot into his own foot. Not knowing what to reply he lifted his encyclopaedia and showed the Doctor the entry he found.
The Time Lord’s face darkened as he took it out of the shape shifter’s hands. He only gazed at the text for a second before giving it back.
“What’s a Time War?” Frobisher wanted to know.
“A war that is fought in time rather than space,” the Doctor answered. His voice sounded thoughtful instead of irritated as it normally would and somehow that worried the Whifferdill. Then again, he would be thoughtful as well if he’d just read that some guy with a pompous title had destroyed his planet.
Or would do so.
“Never heard of any,” he said.
“That’s only natural, as they tend to never have happened.” The Doctor frowned and refused to help Frobisher to make sense of his reply. His eyes were fixed on the pictures.
The first one, at the beginning of the entry, showed the painted portrait of a man with long, curly hair, wearing clothes that seemed to belong on Earth.
“Do you know him?”
“Never seen him,” the Doctor answered. “But he’s a Time Lord.”
“How can you tell?” Frobisher had a closer look — for him the guy looked pretty much like any humanoid he’d ever seen. Maybe only Time Lords could tell.
“Because that man is him as well.” The Doctor pointed to the other drawing: a man in a long coat, standing in front of a dark sky. He quickly read through the text — it did indeed speak of changing faces, although the word Time Lord wasn’t mentioned. The entire entry seemed vague, more like myth than historical fact.
“Not only Time Lords change their appearance,” the Whifferdill reminded him pointedly, not even knowing why he wanted to argue against this man being of Gallifreyan origin. But the Doctor shook his head.
“I’ve seen him before,” he said. “One lifetime ago. Crashed into his TARDIS.”
“So who is he?”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows at him and to Frobisher’s relief the indignation was back in his voice.
“Me, of course,” he was told, as if that was obvious.
Frobisher looked up at the man with the curly blond mass of hair towering over him in his terrible coat, then at the man in the picture: Tall, thin and with a much better taste in clothes.
“You wish,” he said.
“Excuse me. Did the penguin just criticise the way I look right now?”
“At least the penguin is wearing colours that do not hurt the eyes!”
The Doctor snorted.
“I’m more worried about becoming such a skinny streak of nothing one day.”
Frobisher looked at the two pictures again. He didn’t really understand this regeneration business but being a shape shifter himself he didn’t find it hard to believe either.
“You think so? I’d say you have something to look forward to.” The two men in the pictures were kind of attractive, he had to admit. By human standards.
“’Look forward to’?” the Doctor echoed. “It might have escaped your attention that this entry speaks of me destroying Gallifrey!”
The way he looked right now Frobisher wouldn’t put it past him. He kept this thought to himself because usually the Doctor’s temper was just for show. This time his anger was real.
And even though Frobisher knew it wasn’t directed at him he didn’t want to offer himself as a target.
“Gallifrey was still there when we came here,” he said carefully. “You didn’t destroy it in the last two hours. It’s just a story. Isn’t it?”
For a moment the Doctor was perfectly still. Then straightened.
“Silly question! What else could it be?,” he said brusquely. “Gallifrey isn’t part of your universe. Its future isn’t set.”
Which of course meant that it could just as well happen. Even though this encyclopaedia read like a collection of fairytales this story had to come from somewhere, right? Frobisher knew better than to voice his thoughts when the Doctor took the book out his hand again and put it back into the shelf.
As he turned away the Whifferdill followed in his favourite form, not caring that he fell behind. The Doctor seemed to have put that book behind him already but his friend would not be fooled. Watching the Time Lord’s retreating back he realized that, despite everything, he liked him the way he was, and the thought that one day he would become a skinny stranger unsettled him. Changing his own form several times a day he hardly had a reason to complain though. It didn’t make sense.
It was easier to explain why his thoughts kept circling around that entry that made him feel more uneasy than it probably should. It was nonsense, just a story, distorted by time. He didn’t really get how these things worked, but the Doctor wasn’t the kind of man that destroyed planets.
And if the book had been here forever, as the nature of the library suggested, someone else was bound to have read it. Surely they would have done something about the upcoming destruction of their planet if there’d been any truth in it.
And he couldn’t help thinking of the Celestial Intervention Agency and their repeated attempts to assassinate the Doctor for no obvious reason.
“It would be generous of you to find your way back to the TARDIS before the universe collapses into itself!”
The impatient voice came from around a corner and Frobisher sped up his steps a little bit — not because he feared the Doctor would indeed abandon him here (he told himself) but because thinking of the CIA had reminded him that he had no interest in meeting any of the other Time Lords in a place he wasn’t allowed to enter.
When the TARDIS came into view he found the Doctor standing in the doorway, presenting his favourite facial expression: a frown.
Well, if he wasn’t going to mention it again then Frobisher surely wouldn’t. Because he could just as well talk to a wall. And it wasn’t like there was anything they could do about this before they knew what exactly was going on.
There was either truth in it or there wasn’t. It would be better if there wasn’t which of course meant it there probably was.
At least one of them would find out.
May 22, 2008