Problem Child

by dblauvelt [Reviews - 10]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • General, Humor


Subject deployed, memory wiped to condition consistent to when subject initially entered Type-40 TT capsule. Returning young male to original time/space coordinates. Will return to check on progress of female subject.

End Report


*

It was a hangnail that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.

Zoe stumbled down the corridor, pouting. They had left her. Jamie and the Doctor had gotten in their peculiar little box and just vanished. She tried to stowaway, but Jamie had shut the door too fast and then the strange craft had simply faded away. She could still hear its peculiar sound reverberating down the passage behind her.

She was stuck on the station. Stuck with lessons and boredom and… well, cleaning up probably. The Cybermen had left the whole place a bit of a mess. It wasn’t fair. She could be of more help to the Doctor than that Jamie ever could, probably a thousand times better-

Zoe bit her fingernail, a nasty was a habit that she’d been trying to break. It was then that she noticed how long her nails were; nails that she quite clearly remembered trimming just the other day. Except now they were more than six millimeters. And the hangnail she’d been worrying with was completely absent.

Voices called her name from down the corridor, no doubt requiring help rebuilding and cleaning up the station now that the Cybermen were gone.

Zoe stared at the tips of her fingers. This was far more interesting.

She headed for her room at a run.

*


Twenty minutes later, Zoe found herself staring at the scattering of nail clippings that sat on the little sampling tray. She checked the readings on her equipment again. The results were unchanged. The data was accurate; there was no error. She had triple-checked.

The isotopic decay rate indicated that she was two years older than this morning, plus or minus seventy-six days. She had used some strands of hair from her brush as a comparison.

Zoe put down her notes and stood before the mirror. She couldn’t remember any missing seventy-six days, let alone two years. Yet, looking at her reflection, there were definitely new bits there that she didn’t have when she woke up this morning.

Various scenarios raced through her brain. The most obvious possibility was that the Cybermen had done something to her, altered her somehow. But having seen their cumbersome technology, Zoe doubted they could pull off something as subtle as this.

The only other unknown elements recently introduced to the station were the Doctor and Jamie.

Zoe flashed her image a smile before grabbing a scanner and skipping out the door.

*


The scanner in Zoe’s hand hummed happily as it analyzed the space where the large blue box had once stood. The TARDIS, that’s what the Doctor had called it: Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Zoe had memorized the acronym when he told her about it, but it was only now, staring at the alien energy signature, that Zoe began to realize what the words actually meant.

Time travel. TIME travel!!! Dimensional inversion!!!

And the stupid Doctor hadn’t taken her with him! Was he insane? Didn’t he realize how intelligent she was? How useful she could be? What on Earth was someone like Jamie doing cavorting across the time streams? He was nice and all, but not the brightest boy she’d ever encountered…. probably not even in the top fifty…

Zoe focused back on her scanner. She needed to stabilize the energy pattern, but it was behaving unlike any wave she had ever studied. She needed to think. She needed to stay calm. She needed to think. How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

How do you smack a git when he’s already gone?

Still fuming, Zoe returned to her lab, the residual energy pattern continuing to oscillate on the miniature screen as she flounced down the hall, her belly grumbling as it digested an earlier meal.

Funny, she hadn’t remembered eating today.

*



The base, still in disrepair, was continually under construction. Fortunately, the opportunity to try and solve this waveform was the perfect excuse to lock herself in her room. The construction team tasked with looking after her were dismayed that she was always late for everything. Except, of course, for every meal.

Zoe was welding furiously away in her room when another thought struck her: perhaps the Doctor wasn’t insane. Well, she amended as she recalled his peculiar antics during the Cyber-invasion, at least not completely insane.

She had managed to replicate an energy sample in her lab. Boxes, wires and crystals littered the floor around her as she continued her frantic construction efforts. She ransacked the station’s spare parts, damaged parts and even bits of Cybermen. Having analyzed the waveform, she’d built the new machine based on the mathematical premise she’d found buried within the underlying algorithm. It was quite simple, from a mathematical standpoint. Once she understood the equations, the machine practically begged to be built.

A new thought peeped into her mind, pushing aside the equations and the fractals. If the Doctor wasn’t a git, and she was missing two years…

“Oh, I see!” It was a simple as that. Her anger vanished and, altering some of her maths, she set to work.

“There we are!” Zoe snapped the last connection in place with a flourish. She desperately wanted a drink of water and her back ached from the hours of crouching over the equipment, but it was done. Her strange device was built. Gently, she pressed the large purple button.

The machine hummed into life.

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

Castellan Thorp smiled as he lowered his weapon. These new stasers emitted a satisfying, solid Fwwwaaaaaap!!!! sound when discharged. He never had the opportunity to use one in the Capitol, it was too tranquil, too dull. The bizarre energy reading emanating from the station upon his return led him back to the girl. It was only as he took in the design of the equipment arrayed around him that his smug smile started to slip.


*


Thorp draped the young girl across the couch before striding to the console and activating the viewer screen, hopping and tripping over the scattering of boxes and cables that he had dragged in from the girl’s room. The main scanner screen glowed to life, revealing a large rotund face with jiggling fleshy checks that obscured by the edges of billowing robes. “Yes, Castellan?”

“My lady.” Thorp saluted. “I’ve returned the young man to his proper time space coordinates…”

“Yes?” Chancellor Kahalia leaned closer to the screen, her gaze tired and weary. “Very well, return, there are other duties that await you-“

“Yes, my Lady, but… the girl… she-”

”Yes?”

“I wiped her mind clean of all but her last encounter with the Doctor as you instructed, but she’s-

“Spit it out, Castellan, I don’t have time for this.” She glanced off camera at some unseen audience, irritated. “I only have three remaining regenerations you know, and I’d like to end this conversation before I use any more of them.”

“She’s somehow managed to… she was working on… My Lady, she was attempting to reverse-engineer a TARDIS.”

Chancellor Kahalia blinked. There was a long pause, and Thorp fingered his collar, his throat wet and sticky as he awaited her response.

Chancellor Kahalia waved to someone that Thorp couldn’t see before replying. “Wipe and start again. Be careful to erase any other anomalies. Use the capsule’s telepathic circuits to monitor her thoughts for any further aberrations.”

“Very good, my Lady.”

“And Chancellor,” her voice dipped ominously an octave lower.

“Yes?”

“This girl better have not received any of this technology from you. I’d hate to think of the consequences. I shall be monitoring you through your capsule’s systems.”

*


It was her stomach that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.
Zoe chewed on her cuticles, lost in thought, the strange mechanical sound echoing down the corridor around her. Jamie and the Doctor had just left her here. Left behind. Had she upset them somehow? Did they think she was just a child? She tried so hard this time. But she was alone again. Mind you, how could she have gotten the Doctor to stay longer? It’d be like trying to catch and pin down a cloud…
Her stomach rumbled, churning some recent meal.
Hold on, Zoe paused in midstep in the corridor. She hadn’t eaten since yesterday…
Puzzled, she headed for the laboratory equipment in her room.

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

“Damn flibbertijibbet!”

“Language, Castellan.”

“She’s analyzed the contents of her own intestines… I mean who does that?”


*

It was a scrape that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.

On the way to her evening meal, Zoe was whistling on the stairs when she noticed that her dress had a tear. And a scrape on her knee, with dirt in it. Which puzzled Zoe considerably, since there was no dirt on the Station. Dust yes, but no dirt. She carefully plucked out two or three of the grains of sand and rushed to her room, excited- she hadn’t used her mass spectrometer in months! As she waited for the door to her room slide open, she peered at the little flecks in her palm that surely must be mica surrounded by either kaolinite or bentonite and judging by the texture it must have come from a wet, M-class system…

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!


It was the tan line on her calves that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

It was her period that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

It was the new filling in her tooth that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

It was her bangs that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

It was the sound that made Zoe realize something wasn’t quite right.

Zoe hadn’t noticed the sound until now. It was faint and fading, but she could almost hear the math inherent within the notes that comprised wheezing and groaning sound- in fact, as she staggered down the hallway, the sums began to coalesce in her head, a four dimensional recursive algorithm that would not only duplicate the sound but she could use it to actually re-create-Zoe placed a hand against the wall, steadying herself as the new ideas washed over her. The sound grew louder, returning, swelling as she realized that she could actually recreate a temporal-

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

“Rassilon’s Rod! Just STOP!” Thorp was on his knees pleading. Zoe’s unconscious body lay on the couch before him in the TARDIS console room, the taser quivering in his grip. The room was vast and dusted with faint grays and shadows, as if a fireplace had sneezed, layering the walls and floor with a fine layer of ash. The central console was still, faintly flickering with reds and muted yellows as the controls awaited instructions from their quivering owner.

“Honestly, Castellan. Show some restraint. It’s only a human.” The Chancellor strode into the console room, her robes gusting about her

Thorp’s eyes popped wide open in surprise at the sight of the Lady. He had not been informed of her arrival. His left eyelid started to twitched as he found it difficult to contain these unfamiliar emotions of frustration and loathing. “I’m confused, Chancellor. Out of focus. Bemused. It’s this girl, Zoe. I’ve never seen anything like it. Every time I think I’ve got her, she’s turned everything around. She’s a damned will-o'-the wisp! I never know exactly where I am any more.” He turned back to the prone figure. ” She'd out pester any pest… This girl… she’d drive a hornet from its nest!”

“Calm yourself, Castellan.” The Chancellor examined one of the console’s many screens. “There’s no need to rhyme.” Despite her calm tone, she eyed her comrade, noting his disheveled appearance and wild hair.

Thorp spun to face her, his hands tearing at the air around him. “She is a very innocent, gentle angel and yet she is a riddle.” He stroked her face tenderly with his finger. “No!” He raised his hand to strike her. “She’s as unpredictable as the weather. She's a headache! She’s a child! I’ve gotten rid of her tan, her freckles, her wrinkles, rinsed her hair of any impurities, flushed her stomach, cleaned her bowels, clipped her nails, rebuilt her teeth, removed scars, moistened cracked lips, counted eyebrow hairs, altered her menstruation cycle, regressed her hormonal growth by two years but… She's as flighty as a feather… She matches my every move! She’s a lamb and a demon! I’ve tried everything and still she persists on discovering something new each and every time! She could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl. She is wild! She... She’s just…She's a girl!” Insane with rage, he pointed the staser at Zoe, flipping the setting to Kill. “Just DIE you bi-“

Fwwwaaaaaap!!!!

The Castellan fell as the weapon clattered across the floor. The Chancellor stood over him, tapping her own staser thoughtfully, the muzzle still warm from the discharge. Eventually, she sat down among the piles of discarded equipment that lay scattered around the console room and started to piece it all back together.


*

The machine hummed into life.

Zoe found herself standing next to a rather imposing, middle-aged woman of quite a substantial mass.

“You’re not that clever, you know.” The woman stepped closer. “Your creation is workable, but you didn’t have the proper energy source. I had to feed it to you. Still conceiving, designing, and building a site-to-site transport capable of following an Artron energy trace. Not bad. Trying to track down the Doctor, no doubt.”

Zoe looked down to see her own arms were visibly shaking. She lowered herself on to the empty couch and looked up at a scanner screen that dominated the strange, white room. There she saw an image of herself walking down the corridor in a daze. “Hold on… that’s me… is that a live image? How am I… is this a paradox?”

“That,” the large woman waved at the screen, “is Thorp- Ex-Castellan Thorp. Newly force-regenerated, with a bit of last minute tailoring.” Chancellor Kahalia smiled fondly as she watched the new Zoe stumble down the hall. “He’ll live out the remainder of that life in your form with most of your memories before he regenerates again. It’s just as well… he had some anger management issues to work out. Not a good quality in a Castellan. But yes, to get this version of you, the least manipulated, I used the machine you built to pluck you from a particular timeline. Your other iterations should have dissipated by now. But let’s not tell anyone, shall we?”

Zoe frowned. The couch was very uncomfortable, lumpy with some very suspicious stains on it. She didn’t want to be here. She’d lost the Doctor and Jamie and now, it appeared, the entire station as well. Panic started to claw its way up her throat. “Why did you need to replace me with a copy?” Her voice was faint and scratchy.

“You have your life to live, or at least he does. We can’t leave that little gap in space-time unfilled,” Chancellor Kahalia strode over to the console and began to flick switches, her robes swishing in her wake. “I’ve been monitoring your thoughts. You were right about one thing: you’re too clever to leave on that station.”

Zoe’s fear was replaced by curiosity, and more importantly, by the satisfaction of being validated. And a desire for something else...Of course this woman already knows that, Zoe thought, she’s read my thoughts somehow, she’s said as much. She knows exactly what I want. Yet Zoe couldn’t help but ask, “And?”

“I’m offering you something we should have offered the Doctor.” Chancellor Kahalia pressed the dematerialization switch, confident she knew what Zoe’s answer would be. Must be. “Something we should have thought of before.” She turned to face the young woman that was sitting upright on the sofa, attentive and fearful, yet eyes gleaming with defiance. Good. “My dear little problem child, we’d like to offer you a job... how would you like to be an agent of Faction Paradox?”