“Faulty ones, all of them. These cannot move at all — Are you not paying attention, Clar-a?”
She hid a smile at the obvious distaste her supervisor held for her choice of shortened name. “And that one?”
“That one only makes short trips, and those are far between. It has a tendency to materialise just outside the Capitol. Has left a fair few of us out there, while it... returned here. The flaws are unusual. It will take a lot of work.”
She was definitely in the shop more often than she was meant to as the most junior assistant repairer, but here she felt a sense of purpose. There was something about the broken time capsules that called to her. The obsolete models, sitting there waiting for another chance... they made her hearts ache.
And then there was the last one in the row. The one that had been there perhaps the longest. The one that could be made to go on short trips only to dump its pilots. The one whose door had to be forced open every time. The one who wasn’t broken as much as just... stubborn.
Their meetings go like this:
The console room plunges into darkness.
The sad little psychic link they’ve been able to form floods with noise and pressure and the none-too-subtle insistence Clara go somewhere else.
She removes a roundel.
There’s a zap and her hair stands on end.
She pushes at the immobile dematerialisation lever with every little bit of her weight and determination. “If you can’t be repaired, you will be left to fall apart, you outdated, obstinate...!”
She tries to wipe off the central column: the smoky remnants of written orders of old cling to the glass.
A puff of soot from somewhere below ruins her uniform and protocol demands she claim another one.
“You can leave me outside the dome! Doesn’t that sound like something you would like? Come on, please, just move!”
The console disappears. Just... poof and Clara almost falls headfirst into the capsule’s shouldn’t-be-exposed-Heart. Much, much later, when they’ve finally recovered the console from inside the Panopticon Archive, she throws her tool belt to the floor and kicks it into a corner.
The link between her and the ship immediately widens ever so slightly, and she finally gets the chance to listen to this TARDIS. She hears the desire — the decicion — to see the Universe on no one else’s terms. She hears the longing and the waiting and the plan to steal a companion. Clara never picks the belt up; eventually, it melts into the floor.
(That one time she accidentally put her hand on the co-ordinate oscillator, the bite of electricity she got was... almost friendly.)
It’s him, of course. The TARDIS has chosen him. Clara’s seen him over the decades, as she’d grown from tot to student to Time Lady. The father, the grandfather, getting surlier and tenser and always glancing toward the sky.
She’s always known her place in his life, even though she was technically younger, even though they’d never been formally introduced — as surely as she knew Time, she knew she would help the Doctor. "Don't worry," she tells the TARDIS, "he'll come."