by Casey J
Somewhere deep within the abyss between the now and then and the chasm separating here and there, the TARDIS spun through its natural habitat of the space/time vortex. Within its police-box interior, the two time travelers were caught up in the last phases of an activity they’d spent most of the morning striving to complete. In the brightly-lit control room, the Doctor and Adric were struggling between them to wrap a gleaming metal shape in translucent polypherified material. After nearly a dozen separate attempts, they had finally begun to synchronize their movements, winding strip after strip around the object until it was little more than an amorphous blob of packing material that gave no clue as to what it really was.
At last, the Doctor held up a hand and Adric abandoned trying to add another layer of protective packaging to the object.
“I still don’t understand why we’re doing this,” he eventually, waiting for the Doctor to get his breath back.
“Well, it’s specially-designed to prevent damage to fragile objects when they’re in transit,” grunted the Doctor by way of reply.
“No, I just mean that we’ve spent the last few weeks building a brand new K9 and then all of a sudden you want to get rid of it!” Adric protested, shaking his head in despairing confusion. “It simply isn’t a rational course of behavior.”
“Yes, well, very little of behavior is rational in my experience,” the Time Lord replied airily as he struggled to lift the shape in his arms.
Adric added his strength and together they shuffled across the control room to where a large matt grey wooden packing crate was waiting for them by the external doors. After much shifting and grunting, they managed to align the parcel into the top of the crate and it slid down into the bottom with no difficulties. The Doctor let out a triumphant “Ha!” and punched the air as if this was hands-down the single most arduous and difficult task he’d ever attempted.
The Doctor’s smile vanished. He shot Adric a sidelong glance as if unnerved by the question. “Well what?” he asked cautiously, as if finding a veiled threat in Adric’s words.
“Why are we doing this?” Adric groaned, waving his hands at the crate they had spent most of the last three hours assembling and loading.
The older man gazed down at the box as though he’d never laid eyes on it before, then he brightened. “Aaah! This! Yes, well, there’s a perfectly logical reason for that. You see, Adric,” he went on, crossing to the lid to the packing crate which was propped up against the hatstand, “I was just giving this new K9 a quick diagnostic and I realized just how shoddy the parts are.”
“Sub-par. Inefficient. Below standard. Daylight robbery.”
“But… why didn’t you notice this when you were first putting him together all those weeks go?”
The Doctor’s tone was as sour as his expression. “You’re very fond of sentences that begin with “W” and end in question marks, aren’t you?” he retorted, heaving the lid up and carrying it over to the packing crate.
Sighing, Adric helped him lower it over the box. “How else am I ever going to learn answers?”
“Well, at least that question didn’t begin with a “W”,” the Doctor replied, lifting the packing crate lid and lowering it over the box. “The problem is, Adric, that while K9 Mark III works well enough, all the Tristate Bus Drivers and UARTs are Earth technology, specifically twentieth century.”
“Ah,” said Adric, understanding. “The components are too specific, is that it?”
“Exactly. You know what sorts of trouble that K9s can get into, and we can hardly fix his laser scan bubble memory if we were still on Traken. No, the safest place for this K9 is to be in a time where those spare parts are fully available.” The Doctor crossed over to the control console and began to set the coordinates. “For example,” he went on, “Earth, South Croydon, Hillview Road, 1978...”
Adric looked sadly down at the box as he affixed the bolts with the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. The words FOR THE ATTENTION OF S.J.S were stamped across the top in a harsh metallic red font. “But just dumping him there and leaving him behind seems a bit...”
“Reckless?” suggested the Doctor with a knowing look.
Adric stared up at him. “Cruel.”
The Time Lord was outraged. “Nonsense!” he snapped, banging his fist down on the crate. “Adric, I’m leaving him in the expert care and attention of someone I personally consider a veritable paragon of virtue!”
“In a wooden box!”
“Temporarily, Adric! Only temporarily! He’s a Christmas present, you see,” the Doctor insisted. “And the point of Christmas presents is that they’re always opened sooner than you’d think. K9 is a gift to an old friend. And she’ll look after him for us, Adric, I’ve total faith in her. Now, in the meantime we can start work on another K9.”
“Another K9?” repeated Adric.
The Doctor nodded. “Mmmm. And one slightly more advanced in design than this 51st Century theme-pet we’ve been working with...”
Adric’s expression brightened immediately. “K9 Mark IV?” he asked eagerly.
“Yes, yes, something like that,” the Doctor promised vaguely, crossing to the hexagonal console and beginning to set coordinates. “You can help work out the designs if you like, Adric. Ever considered a career in robotics?”
“I’m not surprised, the hours are awful,” the Time Lord agreed, adjusting the controls.
“When do we start?” asked Adric eagerly.
“Once we’ve dropped this K9 off, of course,” the Doctor replied, banging the console with the flat of his fist to loosen up the oscillating time rotor. “After all, would you like seeing your replacement wandering around, acting like they own the place?”
Adric grinned, buzzing with new ideas. “I can hardly wait!”
“Neither can I. Well, as long as nothing crops up to distract us in the meantime...”