It was distorted, at first. The sound of the TARDIS. The futuristic hum that filled the room whenever she was drifting through space. From behind Ace, she heard what sounded more like a large vibration, followed by her vision growing shaky. The feeling had become so intense; it felt as if her head was splitting in two. Her eyes slammed shut in hopes of it all stopping, but the sensation only grew worse. A moment of light headedness was quickly followed by the feeling of the cold TARDIS floor.
Ace was unsure how long she had been unconscious for. It could’ve been mere seconds to a few hours. But as her eyes fluttered open, the bright white TARDIS interior returned her stare. The humming of the console had returned to normal, and for the briefest moment Ace was sure everything was alright.
Even the feeling of someone walking up to her body, pressed against the TARDIS floor, had comforted her. Her immediate reaction was to believe the Professor had come to check up on her, it must’ve been a wicked sight to see her fall like that. If that’s even what happened; she wasn’t so sure anymore.
All that comfort drained quickly as the voice she assumed belonged to her gazer spoke up in a stern and dry manner. The sound of his voice had actually sent chills down her spine. It wasn’t one of comfort, much like the Professor’s was often in such situations, but one of pure annoyance.
“Do you plan on lying there all day, hmm?” the voice had questioned her, causing her to flip her body around and get her first glimpse at the inquirer.
She examined the features of the man who was leaning over her - not in a sense of worry, more so in a sense of observation. She felt like an insect under his gaze being inspected by a giant magnifying glass.
This definitely wasn’t the Professor. Long white hair, wrinkles along his face, glasses hanging off the tip of his nose. He was ancient. The only thing she found decent about him were his glistening blue eyes. They seemed almost out of place on such a man. They were young compared to the rest of him.
“You’re not the Professor,” Ace pointed out, propping herself up on her elbow.
“Ohh, stating the obvious, are we?”
Sitting up, she was able to get a better look of her surroundings. At first glance, it looked like the TARDIS. The walls were lined with the same roundels as she remembered, and even the hat rack was in the same location. The control panel was the biggest difference she had noticed. The panel itself seemed wider and flatter, and it was a hideous green colour that reminded her of a car she had seen back on a trip to the 60’s with the Professor.
Her eyes searched for the old man frantically, noticing he had adjusted his position from standing over her to hanging off the edge of the central controls.
“What’d you do with the Professor?” she snapped, swiftly jumping to her feet, one fist clenched as the other firmly pressed against her forehead. The sudden movement and bright white walls surrounding her were not doing well for her head.
Expecting a reply, all she heard coming from the other man was an amused chuckle. He had now placed a hand at the base of his neck, flat against his chest, as he continued on with a brilliant smirk.
“Careful, child,” he had replied, obviously observing the way she so quickly reacted to her headache. “I imagine materializing in the middle of my TARDIS uninvited might provoke an awful headache. Perhaps you should ask permission next time, hmm?”
Ace was confused by how quickly he was able to change his demeanor. First he was laughing, at her pain no doubt, now his face had gone straight and stiff — not amused in the slightest.
“Look, gramps, I-“
“I’d watch carefully what you say to me, young lady. You’ll be lucky if I don’t toss you into the next black hole I come across!” he retorted, the hand that rested under his neck now dropped to clutch at the lapel of his jacket.
“Hold on a minute, d’you say TARDIS?” Ace had finally asked, taking a step closer to the control panel. The man didn’t seem to like this, as the grasp on his jacket tightened. “Only one man I know calls his ship a TARDIS. That’s the Professor!”
“Yes yes, well now you know two. How wonderful for you, my dear.”
“What’s your name then, huh?”
“Am I to assume, child, you walk into my ship uninvited and most certainly unwanted and you’re asking me questions?”
“Yeah, ‘suppose so. ‘Cept the walking in part. Wasn’t really on my feet at all, was I?” Ace sharply responded, crossing her arms across her chest.
“Quite the barbaric young lady,” the man stated, making his way around the console.
“Quite a vile old man!” she replied, her tone growing just as aggressive as his was now.
“Certainly you don’t expect to get answers from me with that tone of voice!” he snapped, thrusting his chin out in a dignified manner.
Ace leaned back on the heel of her shoe, biting on her bottom lip as she thought about it. This man was clearly as stubborn as she was and they weren’t going to get anywhere if they kept this up. And the sooner she found out what was going on, the sooner she could get back to the Professor and away from this old crude.
“Fine. What’s your name?” she asked, this time her voice softer than she had ever heard it.
“Well, my dear, I suppose you shall call me the Doctor,” he finally answered, tucking his chin back now.
Ace’s eyes grew wide and the melancholy expression she had on her face from having to back down to the Doctor had now disappeared. A twinge of confusion rusted her features now.
“Hold on. How can you be the Doctor? That’s the Professor’s name!” she feverishly asked, her hands dropped from their crossed position to clutch at the edges of the TARDIS control panel.
“Is it? How remarkable,” the Doctor commented sarcastically, his fingers tapping against each other as he held them up in front of his face.
Ace could tell by his mannerism that he was not at all surprised. That or he simply didn’t care. But despite his off putting behavior, there was a feeling of curiosity that she sensed from him. Perhaps it was the way he had been leaning over her when she woke up that struck the notion in her. All she knew was he did care. He had been thinking and he was probably more interested in how she got there than who she was. He had already seemed to dismiss her presence completely.
“What do you know?” she asked, walking away from the console to where the Doctor now stood.
“And what makes you assume I know anything, eh?” he asked, turning his body in her direction just a fraction of the way.
“Of course!” he almost shouted, retreating to his original position. “Contrary to what you might believe, I am certainly no fool! Yes, the answer is quite simple. Quite simply indeed. You see, my dear,” the Doctor continued on, turning to Ace once more and resting a hand on her shoulder. She was seconds away from shoving it off, but she was too interested in what the Doctor might have to say that she worried it would displease him to do such a thing.
“I suspect you have been travelling with a future incarnation of myself, hmm?” he explained, sticking a finger in the air to wave about as he spoke.
“A what?” Ace had begun to question, about to turn into the Doctor before he pulled himself away.
“Oh, never mind! Little use explaining to you. Especially when I- I have such an amount of work to do, yes,” he shook his hand in an irritated manner and turned around to head back to the console, his mission to seek a handful of switches and buttons Ace didn’t even think were on the TARDIS anymore. Or if they were, they had changed quite a bit.
“But you’re the Professor then?”
“Young lady,” the Doctor straightened his back, his gaze lifting from the controls on the panel to face Ace with an exasperated expression, “Shall you stop calling me by that ridiculous name! I did not choose my alias to have you parading about calling me something else entirely different, now did I? Hm? Now hush up, will you? I have much to do- much to do if you want to be returned to my future!”
“Fine!” Ace replied, her voice gaining back that aggressive manner as she began to storm off to the back of the control room.
“Stop right there! Where do you think you’re going? Oh no! Not further into my ship! Not without my supervision!”
“I don’t need anyone’s supervision! I know right where I’m going! I’m been through this place hundreds of times,” Ace continued to inch her way to the corridors that lead to the unlimited amount of rooms hidden in the back of the TARDIS.
“Incorrect, my dear. You’ve been through my future ship. I’m sure there are a few select differences between that of my current console room and my future one, hmm? Clearly I could have switched about the rooms as well! This ship might be entirely different from the one you are used to and I won’t have you getting lost! I don’t intend to spend any more time on you than possible!” he huffed, slamming his fist down against the free air and stomping his foot to top it off, much like a five year old throwing a temper tantrum.
“Whatever you say, Professor,” Ace leaned against the wall she had reached, crossing her arms against her chest again and throwing the Doctor a snarky smile as he prepared to open his mouth and comment on her name calling again. He was wise enough to drop the topic completely and turn back to the controls when he saw Ace had given up on trying to get through the back doors.
Of course the second the Doctor had turned around, Ace flung herself off the wall and into the corridors she had so desperately been attempting to get to the whole time.
The Doctor simply closed his eyes for a brief second, not bothering to go after her. He was already worn down from the arguing they had gone through in the past few minutes, he was in no shape to go chasing her through the TARDIS. It was better for him to go on his way and continuing trying to resolve the mess he was unwillingly thrown into.
Ace had made her way through a great deal of rooms she had never seen before until she had finally come across one that she had recognized immediately. The pattern on the walls was much the same as every other room, but the use of the room was much different. The machine in the middle was what had dispensed food, or at least little rectangles the Professor referred to as food. They didn’t eat from it too often, but she was pretty familiar with how it worked.
As she took a few steps forward, a head popped up from behind the machine. Ace was more than surprised to see the young girl and her mess of black hair, and the girl seemed equally surprised as well.
“Sorry. Didn’t know anyone was back here,” Ace said, eyeing the girl over.
“Oh no, it’s alright,” she insisted, emerging out from behind the machine excitedly. Ace couldn’t help but notice how swiftly she moved — she seemed to glide across the floor smoothly, almost inhumanly. Fact, the more Ace watched her graceful steps, the more she was sure this girl was not human.
“I’m Susan. Susan Foreman,” the girl had stated, extending her hand to shake with Ace’s.
“My friends call me Ace,” she had replied, shaking Susan’s hand in return, a bit sloppily. “What’re you doing back here?”
“Oh, I’m just trying to fix the food machine. Grandfather-“
“Grandfather? What, you mean that old bag out front? He’s your granddad?” Ace interrupted, far too intrigued by the one word to think of much else.
Susan smiled brightly, not seeming to take much offense to the way Ace had described the Doctor, and nodded.
The excitement and curiosity Ace had exhibited just moments ago seemed to fade. If that really was the Professor out front, how come she had never heard about his granddaughter? He never said much, but Susan was his family. The thought had made her grow a little furious at the Doctor.
Susan seemed to catch up on Ace’s change of behavior, causing her to lean over to place a hand on the other girl’s shoulder.
“You mustn’t worry about anything Grandfather might say. He doesn’t like much of anything really!” Susan reassured her, Ace almost finding her soft, gentle tone soothing.
“Nah, I don’t worry too much about what the Professor says. ‘Specially not this groggy old version of him. It’s just a little weird. See, I travel with the Professor in the future, or at least that’s what he says, but I’ve never heard him say anything about having a granddaughter. Guess I was just sort of thrown off by it.”
“Oh,” Susan said, retracting her hand from Ace’s shoulder. Susan’s bright expression seemed to dim a bit upon hearing what Ace had to say.
“’Course, he doesn’t talk much about anything really,” she attempted to cheer Susan up, not particularly liking the version she was seeing now. It was clear to see in just one statement how loyal to the Doctor Susan was and how heartbreaking it must’ve been to know Ace had never heard of her.
Susan simply nodded and turned around to face the food machine once more, doing what Ace guessed was more repair work.
“So you travel with Grandfather in his future?” the thrilled expression lit up Susan’s face again. “What incarnation is he in?”
“There’s that word again. I’ve heard it twice and I still don’t know what it means.”
“Oh,” Susan giggled and Ace could’ve sworn she saw her blush a little as well. “We can do this thing whenever our bodies get damaged. Regeneration. I’ve never done it before, Grandfather either, but you learn about it in the Academy. We get thirteen new bodies when we need them. I only figured Grandfather has regenerated by the time you come along since you don’t seem very familiar with how he is now.”
“Yeah, he’s definitely done that. Don’t know how many times though. Sorry, Suzy Q.”
“It’s alright. Just thought I’d ask,” Susan replied before stepping aside to give Ace a full view of the food machine. She flipped a switch and watched as one of the food bars came sputtering out of the bottom.
“Are you hungry?” Susan asked, handing the bar over to Ace who examined it with a bit of a put off manner.
Ace flung the bar into her mouth and chomped down on it, allowing the rush of flavor to fill her mouth. The taste was a bit off and her face crumpled in disgust.
“Aww rank!” Ace spewed out as she forcefully swallowed the chunk of food.
Susan let out another giggle, this time having to cover her mouth with her hand to not seem too amused by Ace’s displeasure.
“You get used to it, I promise!” Susan informed Ace, her bubbly persona causing her to almost physically bounce up and down in place.
“Tastes better in the future.”
“Grandfather has probably upgraded the machine by then. This TARDIS mark is outdated. We took her out of the repair shop on Gallifrey,” Susan explained, moving to sit down in a chair that rested across the room.
Ace was still getting over the awful after taste in her mouth as she followed Susan to take a seat next to her. Susan continued to look on with a bright smile and a giggle that occurred every now and then.
Seconds of silence went by before Susan had finally mustered up the courage to ask a question that had been sitting in the back of her mind since first speaking to Ace.
“You said your friends call you Ace, is that not your real name then?”
“It is!” Ace exclaimed, before catching herself and noticing the slight fear that Susan had expressed by Ace’s reaction. She softened her voice again and broke direct eye contact from Susan. “I mean, it’s supposed to be. It’s not really my real name, but my real name is stupid.”
“Well your mother and father must have liked it-“
“Who cares what they think? They’re not my real mum and dad. I don’t have a mum and dad.”
Susan, now noticing the sour look on Ace’s face, slouched down in her seat. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t have any parents either. At least, I don’t anymore. Grandfather’s all the family I have now.”
Ace lifted her head just slightly, allowing herself to look back on Susan for a moment. Her elbows rested on her knees and her shoulders slumped down, much like Susan had done in her seat. “Yeah, the Professor’s kind of like the only family I have too. Or least he will be.”
Susan saw how Ace seemed more upset by being apart from her version of the Doctor than she was talking about her parents. This had caused a sympathetic reaction, realizing Ace truly wasn’t comfortable where she was right now.
“Oh, do give Grandfather a chance!” Susan sat up. “He can be terribly difficult at times, yes, but he’s still wonderful. I promise,” she smiled.
Opening her mouth to say something, Ace was suddenly thrown off guard as she was yanked out of her seat. She looked over at Susan then, who had fallen down as well, and quickly caught on that the TARDIS had had another fit of violent shakes. Only this time it was more abrupt.
Ace, managing to pull herself to her feet, extended a hand for Susan to get her balance from. As they leaned against the wall, catching their breath as the TARDIS continued to thrash about, the two girls tightly grasped hands and leapt forward to the control room to see what was going on.