“This,” said Rose, moodily pushing off the wall and pacing the length of the room for what had to be the hundredth time, “is complete shit.”

Mickey winced around the screwdriver stuck in his mouth.  He eased an exterior panel back into place.  Once it slid into position, he pulled out the screwdriver.  “Sorry, babe.” 

They were prepping the TDDT–the transdimensional digital data transceiver–Torchwood’s latest plan for contacting the Doctor.  Esra Demir, the chief temporal calculations technician, gave Mickey a sympathetic look as she helped him realign the targeting systems for their first attempt at a sending a text message across the Void.

Rose shook her head and muttered, “Not your fault,” as she drummed her fingers against her crossed arms.  And really, it wasn’t.  If anything, this was all on her.

The Dimension Cannon project was behind schedule. Of course, that wasn’t exactly news.  Progress had always been hit or miss.  But now, the stakes were higher than ever, and Rose was feeling the pressure.

In the beginning, it had really just been a pet project–a way of investigating all the options and keeping her hopes up.  After all, just because the Doctor said something was impossible, well, that was hardly a guarantee, now was it?  And Rose had never been particularly interested in sitting back and doing as she was told.

Pete had been sympathetic, of course, and with his backing, Rose had managed to write a proposal convincing Torchwood to invest in the interdimensional travel project.  Most of the legwork she had done herself–reading everything she could get her hands on, calling (and harassing) experts across the globe, and sweet-talking the Torchwood R & D folks to take a look at the theoretical design. 

Her project wasn’t important enough (or highly funded enough) to rate the real experts, but Rose had a good eye for picking out promising rookies.  Her team had proved invaluable, and they had even managed to make a few breakthroughs, moments when they’d managed to open enough of a dimensional gate to detect the presence of Void stuff. 

Still, progress had been incredibly slow.  They were shackled by limited resources, Torchwood’s oversight, and Rose’s own sense of caution.  She hadn’t forgotten what the Doctor had said about the fragility of the dimensional walls.

And then the stars had started going out. 

In an effort to stem worldwide panic, Torchwood, backed by the governments of the world, had announced that the disappearance was the result of a collection of amorphous interstellar dust clouds passing through a portion of the Milky Way galaxy, virtually undetectable due to their light absorption coefficients and their relatively high attenuation effect on light waves.   It was all a bunch of hooey, and there were many people quick to dispute the findings and cry conspiracy, but it was enough to reassure (or maybe just confuse) the general populace.

Meanwhile, the behind-the-scenes experts debated what had actually happened.  Theories abounded about whether the stars had been destroyed or hidden or maybe just relocated.  Finally, at a secret high-security meeting, the Head of the Torchwood Astronomy Department had announced that, after careful review of data gathered by the Hubble Telescope and the Jemison robotic spacecraft, the stars were, in fact, disappearing from existence entirely.  No evidence of their destruction remained–no spikes in radiation, no stellar matter spreading outward, no force wave pushing into neighboring systems.  They were literally erased from space/time, just as though they’d never existed at all.

At that moment, Rose had looked across the room and locked eyes with Pete.  By the next morning, she had all the experts and funding she could ever need.

Unfortunately, all that came with increased oversight from Torchwood.  There were new expectations and time tables and demands, and when progress was deemed insufficient, alternative options were proposed.

The first of these had been video transmission.  Using the Dimension Cannon’s guidance programs and an adapted radio-telephonic transceiver, they had managed to send an image of Rose across the Void, and for far less energy than the Dimension Cannon required.

Rose had sat diligently in front of the transmitting camera for days as her image was beamed to thousands of completely random locations in any number of different parallels–anywhere with a display screen, really.  She had a monitor on her end that displayed a “bounce-back” image, essentially turning the screen into a window through which she and the Doctor would be able to see each other. 

Or at least that had been the idea.  Really, it had been a bit of a fiasco.

In amongst the thousands of seemingly random locations, Rose had caught a few distorted glimpses of the back of the Doctor’s head–once on the TARDIS, once in some sort of alien laboratory, and once in what looked like some sort of airplane or train or something. 

She had even managed to see her own face, looming toward her with the TARDIS roundels in the background–the transmission must have been received by her own iPod, and she had experienced a moment of major panic before she’d managed to shut down the video feed. 

The trouble was, even with a successful transmission, there was no guarantee that the Doctor would see it and, even if he did, there was no ability for meaningful communication.  They might have managed to alert him to their search, but they could hardly ask him questions about interdimensional temporal physics.

Thus, Torchwood had moved on to the TDDT.  It had been Mickey’s idea originally, one that he’d tossed out long ago when Rose had been brainstorming concepts for the Dimension Cannon.  He’d suggested that they try to send a message comprised of just text–much less data to send, much less power required, much less risk to the stability of the dimensional walls–and that they send it to the TARDIS directly.  The ship had some sort of TV tuner and a monitor, so they could be reasonable sure it was able to receive digital transmissions in one form or another.  With enough fine-tuning of the data-stream, they might even be able to communicate back and forth with the Doctor.

When Mickey had first proposed the concept, Rose had actually considered it, but then new breakthroughs had occurred with the Cannon, and the idea had been shelved.  Now, the Torchwood Board of Directors was insisting that she try it out before any more resources would be given to the Dimension Cannon.

The sheer bureaucracy of it all was going to drive her mad.

Rose fisted her hands into her hair.  “This is such a waste of time.  Why can’t they see that?”

Mickey finished verifying the coordinates with Esra before answering.  “They’ve gotta try all the options, babe.  If this works, it’d be a lot safer.”  But he still looked at her with sympathy.  “Just think of it this way,” he said, leaning over to pat her hand awkwardly, “if we manage to actually get in touch with him, you’ll be able to talk, really talk.  Well…type at least.  And maybe he could help us get the Dimension Cannon working.”

“I s’pose,” grumbled Rose. “And sorry–I know I’m being a complete cow.  It’s just…”  She sighed and took a seat at the operating station.  “I don’t know.  Never mind.”  She glanced up at Esra and Mickey.  “We ready?”

“Nearly there,” said Esra smoothly.  “Mickey, why don’t you get the transmission format set up?”

“Right.”  He leaned over Rose and started typing on her keyboard.  “Now what do you want your screen name to be?  Rose?  Bad Wolf?”  He grinned.

Rose shook her head.  “Nah,” she said seriously.  “We can’t use anything that might cause some sort of paradox if we end up transmitting too early in his timeline–I don’t know enough about what that might do, but I don’t want to risk it.”  She frowned, thinking it over.  “How about PW?  For Pete’s World.  That way, if it’s our version of the Doctor, he might be able to guess what it means, and if not, it’ll just be letters.”

Mickey nodded.  “Sounds good.”  He spent a few more minutes fussing with the settings.  “Alright, I think that’s it.  We’re ready to start.”

Rose took a deep breath as her nerves started to play up at the thought of actually talking to the Doctor.  “And f12 is the failsafe?” 

Mickey nodded.  “Yeah, but only use it if you absolutely have to.”

“What do I press to transmit each message?  Enter?”

Mickey shook his head.  “No, it’ll send each letter as you type it.  Just be careful what you say–you can’t go back and edit.  Whatever you type is what he’ll see.”  He turned to the technician. “Esra, you have that frequency monitor ready?”


“Ok, I’m initiating power systems.”  He flicked a series of switches, and the TDDT started to hum.  “And we’re live.  Beginning initial transmission.”  A few more buttons and dials, and the hum became more of a buzz.  Inside the hollow shell of the transmitter, the air began to crackle with little bursts of blue light.

“I think we’re actually through,” said Mickey, dumbfounded.  “I think we actually did it.”

“Frequency is stable,” reported Esra, grinning.

“But is it actually connecting with the TARDIS?” asked Rose. 

“I’m not sure,” said Mickey, checking the dials.  “What do you see onscreen?”

“Nothing,” said Rose, but then the display flashed green for a moment.  “No, hang on.”  As she watched, incomprehensible gibberish flashed on the monitor, random letters and symbols spilling down the screen.  “Mickey, what’s it doing?”

He leaned over to glance at the monitor.  “No idea.  Maybe that’s the TARDIS talking?  Try typing something.”

Rose nodded.  Her fingers tapped at the keyboard, and almost instantly, the gibberish stopped, leaving only her message.

PW: Hello?

There was an incredibly long pause, during which Rose held her breath.  Then the cursor suddenly started blinking.

TD:  Well, hello.

“Oh my god,” breathed Rose. 

“Is it him?” asked Esra and Mickey simultaneously.

Hands shaking, Rose typed back. 

PW: Hello, I’m looking for the Doctor.

And then, almost immediately:

TD: How exactly did you get access to this channel?

“Oh my god, it’s him!” gasped Rose.  “It’s actually him!”

“Are you sure?” asked Mickey, leaning over to see the screen.  “He didn’t say it was him.”

Rose was grinning from ear to ear.  “Exactly.  That’s him all over.”

Giddy, she started typing again. 

PW: Doctor, I need to speak with you. 

TD: Who is this?

Rose chewed on her lip.  She needed to verify where he was in the timeline before she accidentally gave away information.

PW: A friend.  I need your help.  You are the Doctor, right?

There was another long pause, during which Rose stared at the little blinking cursor.  And then, at last:

TD: Yes.

PW: Which Doctor are you?

TD: I am THE Doctor, of course.  One and only.

Rose shook her head, even though of course he couldn’t see her.

PW: No, I mean–

But before she could finish typing, he interrupted.

TD: What’s your name?

She waited a moment and then typed, Daisy.  Maybe if he was her Doctor, he would get the flower reference.

TD: And where are you from, Daisy?

PW: Earth.

TD: Ah, I see.  Human?

PW: Yes.

TD: And how are you sending this message?

PW: My friend helped me hack the TARDIS television tuner.  We’re piggybacking the signal on the datastream or…something.  Look, it’s not important. 

“Stop mucking around,” said Mickey.  “You need to tell him about the stars and all.”

“We have to make sure it’s the right version of him,” Rose insisted.  “What if it’s him but too early in the timeline?  We could give away future information.”

Mickey scanned the monitoring equipment.  “Well, work fast.  I don’t know how long we can keep a stable channel open.”

Rose nodded.

Meanwhile, the Doctor was typing. 

TD: Well, it’s important to me.  No one should be able to access the TARDIS like this.  I need to know that your intentions are, shall we say, pure.

PW: Pure as the driven snow, typed Rose and then she giggled.

From the other side of the machine, Mickey made a sound of impatience.  “You aren’t trying to catch up with him, are you?  This transmission won’t last forever.”

“Sorry,” said Rose, though even to her own ears, she sounded too excited to be particularly repentant.  “But I’ve got to convince him to talk with me without revealing anything.”

Mickey made a few quick adjustments to the instruments.  “Well, ask how old he is already, and let’s get this done.”

Rose nodded and began typing.  How old are you?

TD: Well, that’s a bit rude, isn’t it, Daisy?  Maybe I should ask you how old YOU are.

I’m 24, she typed impatiently.

TD: Are you?  That’s lovely.

PW: How old are you, Doctor?

The cursor flashed for a few moments before he typed, Oh, old enough to know better.

And then, after just a tiny pause:  ;)

Rose blinked.  Did he just…flirt with her?  With…with an emoticon?

I’m serious, she typed. 

TD: Really?  That’s terrible.  :(  I try to avoid being serious as often as possible.  You ought to give it a try sometime.

“Rose,” said Mickey, “you really need to wrap this up.”

“He won’t tell me anything,” she complained.  “And I can’t tell him anything without risking the timelines.  How do I tell which Doctor he is if he won’t tell me his age?”

Mickey snorted.  “Just ask him about his coat.  Pinstripes or leather.  That sort of thing.”

Rose nodded. 

PW: What are your clothes like?

TD: ???

PW: What are you wearing?

TD: !

Rose read back over the chat log and blushed.  No, I meant–

But the Doctor’s cursor was moving before she had a chance to finish.  Daisy, Daisy, Daisy…I wouldn’t want to be impolite.  Ladies first.

PW: ??

TD:  In other words, what are YOU wearing?  ;)

“Oh my god,” said Rose, staring at the computer screen.  “Oh my god.”

“Is it him?” asked Mickey.  He hopped up and leaned over her shoulder to look at the chat log, reading it with a snort.  “You want me to change your username?” he asked with a smirk.  “IHeartTimeLords maybe?  Or how about NaughtyLupin69?”

“Are we sure this is the right man?” asked Esra, glancing at the monitor as well.  “He seems a bit…dodgy, doesn’t he?”

“Oh my god,” repeated Rose.  She shoved back from the desk and stood up.  Almost on cue, the communication feed died, and the screen went dark.

“Shit,” muttered Mickey, moving quickly back to his equipment.  “Maybe I can fix it if I realign the–”

“No,” said Rose.  “Don’t fix it.  Shut it down.”

Mickey stared at her.  “Why?  It was working.”

“Three reasons.  First, there’s just too much risk of contaminating the time line.  You saw it–it’s too hard to verify when exactly we’re reaching him.  And messing around with time’s not going to alter just our world or just that world.  If we change any little thing that affects us arriving here in Pete’s World, it could cause a…a pandimensional paradox.”

“What would that do?” asked Esra.

Rose bit back a sound of annoyance.  “I’ve no idea, but it probably wouldn’t be good.  And secondly,” she added, ticking off her fingers, “you saw what he was like.  If the Department Heads read that, they’re going to think he’s an idiot or a lunatic or both.  And then how are we going to convince them that we need to talk to the Doctor?”  She shook her head.  “No, shut it down.  Delete the transcript log.  This never happened, and we never made contact.  We’ll funnel efforts back into the Dimension Cannon, like we should’ve been doing all along.”

Mickey frowned but finally nodded.  “Yeah, ok.  I’ll delete the logs.”

Rose looked hopefully at the technician.

“Alright,” Esra sighed.  “As long as you’re sure he’s the one we need, Rose.”

Rose flashed a smile at them both.  “I’m sure.  And thanks.”  She grabbed her coat.  “I’m going to go to my office, work on that funding request.  If we can just get that stabilizer on the Cannon functioning, I think we’ll have a chance.”

“Wait,” said Mickey.  When she stopped, he added, “You said three things.”

Rose just rolled her eyes as she pulled on her coat.  “Third thing.  Well...yeah, I just need to find him.”  She grabbed the handle of the door and muttered, “and maybe give him a good smack.”