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Ripping Time (5/7?)

Title: Ripping Time
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: All original as explained in the notes
Word Count: 3522
Notes: This was dreamt up years ago when there was still talk of a theatrical release and before the new series. A friend and I got to talk of casting and came up with Ioan Gruffudd as the Doctor and Natalie Portman as his American companion Nora. Since we were writing this between the two of us, we had to wait for a reponse from the other before we continued. Anyway, once done it sat in my computer waiting for a bit of polish. Ray (my co-author) had also done a pic of Nora and the Doctor that I wanted to find before posting but it's lost somewhere. If I do eventually find it, I'll edit the post to include it. I will be posting in parts as it is rather long. If you find anything wrong, please let me know!


**********************************************************************

The glass craft slowed then rebuffed against a black cushion. The Doctor released his grips. Nora did the same.

"That was quite pleasant," Jenny said.

"It was indeed. Not at all the bumpy ride I thought it would be. Whoever built this is far ahead of his time."

"What is it, Doctor?"

That's two I owe you, Bram. Of course, I know what it is. So there.

"Well, we're standing on a glass and brass shuttle. It's situated in a long glass tube. I imagine it has been lubricated with an experimental formula. The ride shouldn't have been so smooth. Impressive. When I pull this lever." He touched the lever. "I'm opening the vent which is sucking in the air that's stored under pressure in a chamber behind the craft. When the pressure becomes too much, the lever moves forward signaling the occupants to get ready."

"Ready for the concussive force. It's like a dandelion being blown by a hurricane."

"Precisely, Nora."

"But I don't understand, Doctor. We're underground. Where's the air coming from?" Jenny asked.

He shined his beam out of the glass craft.

"You can't see it, but we're in a cavern that's man-made."

"It's air-filled," Nora added.

"Yes, and the air I think is being drawn from the surface to here."

"How?"

"Oh, lots of methods." The Doctor shrugged. "I tend to think there's likely some hidden vents on the property. These folk like hidden things. The air's drawn in through capillary action, it becomes trapped in the cavern and the method of propulsion."

"Why do it though?"

"Rockefeller has been seen in the company of scientists. I imagine they're working on something queer that isn't yet to be seen. I don't believe any of the scientists have ever been seen entering or leaving Sea Gate. Though I'm damn certain now it's not a lightning gun they're working on. Excuse me, Jenny."

"For what?"

"The profanity."

"I run a cafe, Bram. I've heard far worse when somebody scorches their thumb. Said worse too."

"Well, the journey's not over. Fancy a climb anybody?" said the Doctor as he unsealed the hatch from whence they entered.

Nora's stomach grumbled on the way. Troubleshooting was hungry business.

Their journey ended at another hatch that opened into darkness cursed only by the Doctor's trusty penlight.

The Doctor gripped the penlight in his teeth. He pulled himself up and then helped Nora out of the tunnel. They helped the others out. She wiped the sweat from her brow and tugged at her collar. Pretty, the fashion sense of this time period wasn't the best sort of style for any strenuous activity.
She followed the Doctor who almost scented the crack of light shining as an outline of a door. He handed Nora the penlight. She focused the beam on the doorknob, and the Doctor upon affirming it to be locked slid out his lock picks. The sonic screwdriver was out of the question. The keening may alert the players on the other side of the door to their intentions.

Without a sound, The Doctor unlocked the door. Without a sound, he opened the door. Then the hinges let out a monstrous Crrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaakkkk.
The surprise on the man's face was evident.

"What do you want? Stay back!"

He gripped a crowbar. The hairs on the back of Nora's neck stood, but she relaxed. The room was very disappointing. Instead of a secret lab, they found a secret sandwich bar for a frightened worker.

"We're dreadfully sorry. We're looking for the other scientists. We're new you see." The Doctor raised his hands.

"Oh, right." Thompkins lowered the bar. "Through that door, up the stairs."

"Thank you, Mr.....?"

"Oh, you can call me Thompkins. Everybody does. Bart's my first name. Bart Thompkins."

"Thank you, Mr. Thompkins. You mind if I steal some of your sandwich? My companion's tummy seems to be rumbling like a thunderstorm."

"She's hungry?"

"Yes. She has such an appetite for a slip of a thing."

"I suppose that's all right then."

The Doctor smiled and used the man's knife to cut a small corner from the sandwich. Nora smiled graciously and took the piece, and although ravenous, she had caught the Doctor's code word. The Doctor never refers to her as companion unless something is up. She sniffed at the combination. It smelled awful. It looked worse. She saw something wiggle from inside. She almost lost her appetite visibly.

"You know something, Uncle. It went away."

"Really? How strange is that, Mr. Thompkins?" The Doctor took back the corner of rot as his other hand slipped into the inside of his pocket in a move so smooth that had Nora not been on alert she never would have seen the Doctor being the Doctor.

"That is strange."

"Not as strange as you are."

The Doctor cuffed the "man" in the jaw. He fell backwards, and Nora noticed that the Doctor had donned a rubber glove. Quick as a hare, he pulled on the other glove and assumed a defensive pose.

"Very clever." Thompkins rubbed his jaw. The action apparently altered his voice. "Whoever you are, you're as human as I."

"Don't flatter yourself, but do slip into something more comfortable, Rutan."

Before Nora's eyes "Thompkins" glowed until he became so bright she could barely look at him. She shaded her eyes as she wracked her brain for any information she knew on the Rutans. Got it! Sarah Jane, I love you. At war with the Sontarans a race that looks like a bunch of walking spuds. The Doctor and Leela first encountered one at Fang Rock. She used a shotgun on it!

"Bram! Shoot it!"

Bram whipped out his revolver and cracked all six shots at the beast. Jenny stood dumbfounded, and Nora really couldn't blame her. It wasn't every day one came face to no face with a glowing blob of lightning. Well, for her, this was a walk by the creek, but for somebody with no experience. The bullets vaporized in mid-air. She actually heard the lead dust fall on the floor as the crackle of the creature's aura ebbed. Oh, crap!

"Foolish humans! I am superior to your firepower!"

"You have quite a motor mouth too, Rutan."

With his open hand, the Doctor, who used Bram's attack as a diversion to sneak behind the Rutan, smacked the beast. It flew like a handball and bounced off the wall like the same. It let out a very strange sound that made Nora think of embarrassment.

"You'll pay for this humiliation!"

"You know if I had a celavo for every time some lover of his own voice said that to me, I'd have enough celavos to buy the Rerarch's crown jewels not to mention the Rerarach himself."

"Die!"

The air crackled.

The Doctor held out his hands, and like magic, the lightning that would have blew the Doctor's head off his shoulders--can a Time Lord regenerate from that, Nora wondered--dissipated off his rubber gloves.

When the glow cleared however the Rutan had the last trick. It had vanished leaving the door to the stairwell ajar in its wake.

"Typical cowardly blob!" the Doctor shouted.

"It's not coming out."

"No. Drat the luck." The Doctor whipped open the door and double-timed up the stairwell. He didn't even bother to be subtle with the next door. He bashed it down with that dreamy shoulder of his--one of a pair--and stood heaving prepared to do battle in a laboratory filled with work benches, glassware, something that looked like an electronic brain along the wall and five men staring at an open window.

"Ball lightning it had to be," said the one.

****************************************************************

Douglas took the words of Matteo at face value. After all, electricity fell into his field of study. One thing bothered him, though. Nothing they were doing at the moment would generate such a phenomenon. Maybe Thompkins saw something in the break room. It seemed to come from that direction.

The others were looking at the mess of shattered glass and scattered papers caused by the path of the ball lightning. The Renaud brothers were bickering as usual. Josef was bemoaning his lost work and Matteo was mumbling and jotting notes, most probably about what they had just seen.

"Dooglas," said Armand Renaud, mispronouncing his name-again, "get a broom to clean this mess."
Oh, he was looked down upon not only because he was the youngest at 23, but also because he was a lowly biologist, and a Darwinian on top of that. He gave up trying to argue that he held degrees from both Harvard and Yale weeks ago.

He turned and saw four strangers--two men and two women--in the doorway. The man in front wore a purple coat that was a few decades out of style but he didn't seem to care. He looked oddly familiar, but Douglas couldn't place him. The other man seemed a few years younger with dark hair. His clothes were a bit more worn in if of somewhat decent quality. The women were both good looking. One was a redhead in a sky blue dress and the other a younger girl with brown hair and in a dress the color of goldenrod.
"How did you get in here?"

This question brought the attention of the others in the room. "This is off-limits to anyone not involved in the project," stated Matteo facing them.

"We were promised a quiet working environment with no interruptions or prying eyes," put in Josef.

"Working in a secret underground lab would certainly keep casual observers away," remarked the young girl in a slight southern accent.

"So what are you doing here?" demanded Etienne.

"We are neither casual nor observers," said the man in purple. "Care to tell me what exactly you're working on?" No one spoke. "Let me see if I can guess." He walked about the room, ignoring the mess on the floor. He examined the notes and experiments on the tables before facing them again. "You have a pair of physicists, a chemist, an engineer, and a biologist. A machine of some nature that needs human interaction." He stopped in front of the brothers.
"Too bad no one thought of adding a mathematician to the mix. Breaching the fifth dimension needs exact equations. Your sums are abysmal."

Armand took offense at the man telling him his math was off. He began to turn red in the face and the man ignored him, which made him angrier. Douglas tried to hide a smile as Armand learned what it was like on the receiving end.

The other three of his party moved into the room. "Doctor, what is all this?" questioned the redhead.

"This little science project is going on at the behest of Mr. Rockefeller-who is also financing it."

Douglas felt the best way to gain information was to be polite and let the other do all the talking. "You are a doctor?" he asked. "What discipline?"

"Name one." He then paused, realizing something was wrong. "One of you is missing."

"That would be Thompkins," said Matteo. "He's our guardian."

"Is he an older, shorter, stoutish man with balding hair?" asked the other woman. "We've met."

"Ah, yes, in the break room. That wasn't Thompkins, not the real one, anyway. I'm afraid he's dead."

This announcement brought disbelief from both groups. What this man said was ridiculous! They would have noticed if it weren't Thompkins. Wouldn't they?

"This is madness!" declared Matteo. "We have been living together for months. I think we would have noticed."

"One thing about scientists when they're in the midst of a project," the Doctor explained. "They tend to experience tunnel vision. You would have seen a body that looked like Thompkins, but I strongly doubt that any of you would have noticed the details."

At that moment two of the men that Rockefeller hired as "security" entered the lab. They had probably been recruited from one of the many gangs that proliferated the city. Josef slipped in behind them, unnoticed by all except Douglas. When had he left? The two men did not speak but moved to either side of the men.

"I think you had better go before we summon the police," said Etienne smugly.

"I am the police," declared the younger man.

The Doctor seemed to barely register their presence. "We'll leave now, but I want you to think on the possible far-reaching effect your actions could cause." His striking brown eyes that seemed in motion then settled on Douglas even though he spoke to them all. "Realize you are not alone and that what happens in this lab will extend far beyond the shores of this island and well into the universe. Everything is interconnected and you want to make sure you are remembered for the right reasons." He then swept out of the lab leaving both his friends and the guards to keep up.

"That's the last we'll see of him," said Josef as he collected his fallen papers.

Somehow, Douglas strongly doubted that.

********************************************************************************

Once outside, Bram noticed they were in a different entrance than earlier. "How many ways are there into that place?"

"I'm sure there are a number of exits periodically along the tunnels for air as well as escape," commented the Doctor.

"Did you mean what you said about far-reaching consequences?" asked Jenny.

"I always mean what I say. Every scientific discovery is built on those before it and lays a foundation for others to follow."

"So whatever they're working on can lead to other discoveries, some that could be dangerous," said Nora.

Bram wondered if the Doctor could actually "see" the consequences. Either that, or he knew of something similar happening for why else would he be so fervent in his argument. However, there was something more immediate that he felt needed attention. "Doctor, what about Thompkins? If he's dead, we need to investigate."

"I very much doubt you'll be able to find the body in that warren of tunnels even if you were able to search. I believe the experiment is what drew the culprit to this city and it will return until it gets what it wants."

"And how will we find out what he wants?" he asked, dreading the answer.

"We ask it."

**************************************************************

Maeve walked down the stairs from the El with an extra bounce in her step. She had been looking forward to this day for weeks now. It was so rare that she even had the money to shop let alone have the time off. At the bottom of the stairs she waited for her sisters to join her. This excursion had originally been planned to buy items for Alannah and the baby, but she hoped to find something to help her attract a certain someone. She blushed at the picture of the Doctor she brought forward in her mind's eye. Of course she couldn't say anything to her sisters or they would try and out-do her.

Tara was the first to join her. "You're certainly anxious today. You're usually dragging your feet when we go shopping."

"I don't know. Maybe it's just because we haven't all been out for a long time," Maeve said, hoping she would be believed.

"I've been looking forward to this, too," said Dierdre as she and Alannah arrived.

"I haven't decided if we should get one large item with the money or a number of small things," remarked Alannah as they walked toward the store. "Liam hasn't been any help in deciding either."

"Men rarely know what's required when it comes to babies," said Tara. "All they know about is a crib, pram, and nappies." Sometimes Tara's duties included helping in the nursery.

"We'll just have to see what strikes your fancy," remarked Dierdre.

A hansom cab, courtesy of Bram's generous donation also known as the anything to get you out of my shadow donation, dropped them off at Lloyd's Department Store. They entered through the gilt edged doors and made for the children's department, stopping to look at the different clothes and accessories along the way. Maeve made a mental note to sneak away to the millinery to find something to dress up her plain hat.

"C'mon, Maeve," called Dierdre. Maeve hurried to catch up with them. "I don't know why you were looking at them anyway. Even if you could afford it, where would you wear it?"

"If I could afford it, I'd have lots of places to go." Her sisters looked at her condescendingly. "I can dream, can't I?"

"Sure you can," said Alannah. "We'll look before we leave."

After spending nearly two hours ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the little clothes, Alannah finally decided on one of the new "Teddy Bear" stuffed toys. "It's just perfect," said Tara. "Now let's go look for us."

Maeve walked away from her sisters and browsed through the racks of ribbons, lace, and other trimmings in the hope of finding just the right item to engage the Doctor's attention. She couldn't see the others but heard them discussing the merits of each item they looked at. Then she saw it, a purple scarf almost the same shade as the Doctor's jacket.

She fingered the material and saw herself beside the Doctor driving in the country, her hair protected by the wind with her beautiful scarf. She bought it and hid it in a bag so her sisters wouldn't see.

She should have known better. Tara saw the bag and playfully grabbed it from her. "Now that's a fine scarf, Maeve," she said, taking it out of the bag. "The color reminds me of something."

"Lilacs," Alannah offered. She looked at Maeve knowingly.

"That must be it. Where did you spot it? Maybe there's one for me."

Maeve pointed out the bin and then Tara and Dierdre left to see what they could buy. Thank goodness Alannah has no need to impress him. "Thank you for not telling."

Alannah smiled. "It matches his jacket perfectly. But do you think it will make an impression? He didn't strike me as one who cares much about appearance."

"I don't know. Even if he doesn't say anything, I just don't want him to forget."

"I doubt he will. Let's go get the others. My feet are starting to hurt."

"Oh, miss, you forgot something."

Maeve stared into the face of the stranger. It startled her. The face wore a smile but didn't know what that smile meant. She looked down at his offered hand and saw a handkerchief.

"Th--That's not mine."

"Are you sure? I saw that you dropped it."

"You're mistaken, Sir. This is not my handkerchief."

"Pehaps, you're right. It looks new."

"Yes, it does."

"Do you know where in the store they sell these?"

"Maeve!"

She looked over her shoulder to Alannah, who stood in the entranceway to the women's department. Maeve smiled and waved. She held up a finger, and Alannah rolled her eyes.

"It won't but take a second. I'll show you."

Maeve smiled and led the strange man forward. The Doctor was a strange man, but in a far different manner. He was unlike any man she had met. There was such a kindness about him, and when he listened to you, he gave the impression that he was genuinely interested in what you had to say. Not strange. Better.

"Mmmghmph!"

"Sir?"

Maeve turned around, and the strange man she had been leading to the handkerchief counter had gone. She looked around and saw only shoppers engrossed in the store's ware. She looked down and saw the handkerchief. Maeve shrugged her shoulders. She picked up the handkerchief off the floor. Grinning cheerfully, she greeted the man at the counter.

"May I help you, miss?"

"Actually. I can help you." She produced the handkerchief. "This found its way from its home and onto the floor."

"Oh! Well, thank you."

"My pleasure, and I would like to purchase this scarf."

"A fine choice."

Maeve handed the man the coins, walked away from the counter and hummed a little ditty her ma sang to her when she was a wee child. She thought of that county ride with the Doctor and her new lilac scarf. Alannah's mood had grown fouler by the second. Must be the child's doing.

"What pray tell was that all about?"

"I don't know. A man said I dropped a handkerchief. I didn't. So I was leading him to the counter and he disappeared. He left the handkerchief, so I had to return it."

"Oh. That's all right, but my feet are killing me. So, may we please go?"

"It wasn't my fault."

"I know, and Ma did say to do the right thing even when it's out of your way."

The girls passed the store detective who doffed his bowler. He wondered about the encounter the younger of the two had with the stranger. He had only turned his head away a minute, and the stranger had gone. Still, nothing had been stolen. So, he was doing his job. He smiled. Nice girls.

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