Sparking Plugs

by infiniteviking [Reviews - 9]

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Sparking Plugs



"My father loved tinkering," said Jo out of the blue.

The Doctor, his upper half lost under Bessie's open bonnet, made no reply. Jo slumped in her seat, envying him; the noon sun hadn't left a single good shadow on the dusty road.

"He was at it all the time," she continued, half to herself. "The car, the radio, the neighbor's doorbell -- everything worked like a dream when he was about. If there was nothing else, he'd be fixing my toys and things, and there was a little music box he was always taking apart. I don't think his hands were ever still."

Something in the engine went clang -- to the tune of a muffled Gallifreyan curse.

Jo stared off down the road, into the hazy, wavery distance. They had to be miles away from the nearest town, and the scrubby bracken knitted the horizon into a uniformity of dull browns.

"It was a road just like this," she murmured, and her mind's eye pocked it with shell holes, scattered it with wire and shrapnel, greyed the sky, and added (drawing from stores of memory relatively recent) a rattling of gunfire and distant screams. Planes roared overhead, too low for comfort, and the ambulance van tore through the mess, miraculously safe until just about there--

"He'd done everything right. They almost avoided the shell -- it went right through the the body of the truck. When they checked it over later, all the electronics still worked." Her words mingled with the humming of insects and the sluggish roaring of her own blood, turgid in the heat. She'd listened too hard; their descriptions had been too real. Lost in the dreamscape, she scarcely heard herself. "He was a champion tinkerer, my dad....."

"There we are!" The Doctor's brisk, deep voice, unexpectedly close, startled her back to reality. "Perfectly simple, as I expected; nothing at all to worry about." He swung himself into the driver's seat, with a grin so awfully smug that she couldn't help but laugh, and the car started like a dream.

To her surprise, however, he did not immediately put it in gear. For a moment he sat there, fingers on the wheel, brow furrowed as though in deep concentration. Then he glanced at his watch and turned in his seat.

"Look here, it's gotten terribly late. Why don't we make this a half-day, get some supper at the next town, and take the scenic route back to HQ? The slides can wait a few hours, and I, for one, could put up with not running into the Brigadier after missing the meeting."

"It's always the scenic route with you." Jo's perennial smile was as sunny as ever, even as her eyes shifted, drifting under the thin brittle ceiling of the old nightmare.

The Doctor looked down at her, absently wiping his dirty hands on a rag. Then, his face softening, he dropped a couple of sparking plugs into her hands.

"Keep an eye on these, will you? I have a hunch they may still be good for something."

"All right." Her voice steadied, and she held onto the bits of dead technology very tightly.

The car shot out onto the road. After a few miles, Jo started humming. Houses slipped over the horizon, ringing them with bits of civilization. The wind whipped their faces raw, and the Doctor, reflecting that the old plugs were already doing more good than the manufacturer had ever imagined, gingerly reached over and ruffled his companion's hair.
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