Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 5
The Pan-American Exposition

-=Chapter Five=-

"What year is it again?" the Doctor asked, as he leapt about the control room, flipping switches.

"Twenty-ten," I replied.  "Why?"

"One hundred and nine years, then.  One hundred and nine.  One hundred and nine.  I remember when I was one hundred and nine.  Ah, to be young again!"

"What?  You look younger than me.  How old are you, anyways?"

"Closing in on a thousand.  Oh!  Oh, dear!"

"What, what's wrong?"

"I'm going to need a new journal soon.  AH!  I've got it!"

"Got what?  Wait... a thousand? You must be joking."

"I'm not joking.  I don't age like you do.  I regenerate."

"Regenerate?"

"When my body dies, I get a new one.  But it isn't easy and... I'm running out of new bodies.  New subject!"  He looked slightly uncomfortable.

"Ok, new subject.  So... they sent a ship here a hundred years ago.  And then waited a hundred years to send another one.  Why?"

"They're very busy losing a war.  Oh!  1901!  Fang Rock!"

"What?"

"I've met them before.  Here on Earth.  I remember thinking how strange it was that a Rutan battle-fleet would only dispatch a single scout, but now I understand."  He turned away from me and made some adjustments to the controls, before pulling a lever.  The room lurched about, and I grabbed a railing to steady myself.

"So where are we going?  Their home planet?  I don't have a hundred years to spare, you know."

"No, no, no.  Don't be silly.  I can travel faster than light.  If we wanted to go there, we could be there in a few hours.  But we're not going there."

"So?"  I asked, leaning in.

"So what?"

"Sew buttons.  So where are we going?"

"Ah!  Sorry!  Not where, but when!"

"When?"

"We're going to an Exposition!"  The Doctor pulled another teddy bear from a pocket, and held it in front of his face.  "Hello, remember me?" he said in a falsetto voice, waving its stuffed paw.

---

While I searched through the files on the laptop, the Doctor recharged my cellphone.  "Here," he said, when he was finished, "I've added my number to your contacts list.  Any luck?"

"Yup," I said.  "Easy enough to find.  Now I just clickity-click, and..." the movie started to play.  There was no sound, of course.

There was the placard again.  1901.  Buffalo.  Pan-American Exposition.  Thomas Edison.
The first person we saw was a thin man with dark hair.  He looked at the camera with an expression of impatience, then marched towards and past the camera.  He looked vaguely familiar.  "Was that Tesla?" I asked.

"Yes, that's him."  The Doctor said.  "He looks mildly upset about something... I wonder what?"

The scene quickly changed.  It became immediately apparent that the movie we were watching was made up of brief segments of many different films, all recorded at the exposition.  There was the TARDIS, with Tesla standing beside it, examining it.  Then the TARDIS from a different angle, with the Doctor standing inside, waving at the camera.  The next scene was filmed from the bow of a canal boat that circled the Exposition grounds; the Doctor and I could be clearly seen, walking amongst the crowd.  Then another segment from the boat, when it passed near where the TARDIS was parked.  The light atop was flashing, and it slowly vanished, like a ghost.

"Is that what it looks like from the outside, when we travel?"

"Yes, it is.  But look there: we're not in it."  I could see the Doctor running towards the spot where the TARDIS had just been.

"Where am I?"

"There you are!"  The scene had changed again, and it was an image of me, standing near that same spot.  As we watched, the TARDIS faded back into existence.  The door opened, and the screen went black for a second.

The next scene was familiar.  President William McKinley was giving a speech in front of a large, majestic building.  Theodore Roosevelt (who we now knew to be an alien) was at his side.  The TARDIS was barely visible in the background, behind the crowd.  I was looking to see if I could see myself in the shot when I noticed the Doctor standing in the crowd.  "There you are!"

"Yes, but what am I doing there?" he pondered.

The movie skipped forward in time again.  The next scene was chilling. though.  President McKinley lay, mortally wounded, on the ground where he had just stood.  A crowd of bystanders were pummeling the assassin, and Roosevelt was helping.  When they finally pulled the assassin to his feet and dragged him away, we could see that it was the Doctor!

"That's not right," we said in unison.

---

Before we landed, the Doctor directed me down the hall to the wardrobe.  I hung my parka and hat on a coat rack, and poked through the selection.  One of the coats fell off its hangar, and when I picked it up I saw a tag inside.  "Ignatz Schaaf," it read.  I grabbed the coat and ran back to the control room.

"Did you know Ignatz Schaaf?" I asked.  The Doctor was busy at the controls, and ignored me at first.  "Doctor!"

"Eh, hmmm, what?  Sorry."

"Ignatz Schaaf.  The owner of this coat."

"Oh, yes.  Nice kid.  Met him on a boat somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.  I was cold, so he loaned me his coat.  Pity I never gave it back.  Why?"

"He was my great-great-grandfather."

The Doctor looked stunned.  "You have got to be joking."

"No."

"But... but 'Schaaf' doesn't mean 'thumb' in Glessadomnian!  Glessadomnese.  Whatever.  It means..." he snickered a bit, "never mind.  Let's just say that it's a different body part entirely."

"You mean...?" I raised an eyebrow at him.

"I said never mind."

My thoughts returned to my previous contemplation of the Doctor's real name.  "So what does your name mean?"

"What?  You know, the Doctor.  Person who helps people.  Makes them better.  And stuff."

"No, I mean your real name.  Is it something terribly embarrassing or something?"

"Never mind that.  Seriously.  You don't want to know."

The TARDIS landed with a thud, interrupting our conversation.  "We've arrived!" he said, with some relief.

---

The first thing that hit me, when we stepped out of the TARDIS, was the smell.  A fine mixture of manure and human body odor curled my nose hairs.  Then I noticed the clothes.  Everybody was wearing an outfit that looked terribly uncomfortable, overly complicated, and probably way too warm for the sunny weather.  That was another thing; when we stepped into the TARDIS on my in-laws' street, it was late February of 2010.  Now, the Doctor informed me, it was mid-September of 1901, and it was much warmer out than it had been in that strange, empty warehouse in London (or wherever it was).  I resisted the urge to take off my great-great-grandfather's coat, because I knew that my T-shirt and blue jeans would attract too much attention.  For some reason, the crowds were walking past us, like we were invisible.

"Are we invisible?"  I asked the Doctor, as he exited the TARDIS behind me and closed the door.

"Invisible?  No.  Inconspicuous?  Yes.  There's a perception filter that surrounds the TARDIS.  Makes people look away and not think about it."

"I noticed the TARDIS.  I saw it on the side of the road at least three times before you - we - showed up in the back yard."

"Only three times, eh?  I was stalking you for weeks.  Maybe the perception filter worked pretty well, after all, eh?  Anyways, I got the trajectory a bit wrong and showed up too early.  Figured I'd bounce around and see the sights while I waited for you to find those pictures on the internet for me.  Spent a lot of time at Niagara.  Have you seen the waterfalls?  Of course you have.  Come on!  Allonz... no, never mind.  Vamanos!"  The Doctor started walking before I could respond to his babbling.

---

I started to follow him, but the reality of it all was just so... real.  The noise, the people.  The smell.

I spotted a cart a little ways off, where a young lady was selling flowers.  Thinking to head off the olfactory assault on my nasal passages, I headed that way.  I suddenly realized that I had no money that I could spend in this century, but a search of my great-great-grandfather's pockets yielded a single coin.  One side depicted a man named Friedrich I; the other simply read One Gulden.  It also bore a date: 1856.

I wandered about the Exposition grounds for a while, awed by the sheer size of it all, hoping to find the Doctor.  Everybody who lives in or near Buffalo knows about the Exposition... it was the last time our city held any importance on the national stage.  But I had never imagined that it had been quite so chaotic.  Hundreds of people roamed through the exhibits, which ranged from demonstrations of farm equipment to new scientific breakthroughs.  I was near one such exhibit when a man approached me.

"Good sir, have you a watch?" he asked, excitedly, with a distinct German accent.

"No, I'm sorry," I replied, gesturing at my bare wrist.  He didn't seem to understand, and then I realized that he meant a pocket watch.  I opened my great-great-grandfather's coat to reveal my t-shirt and blue jeans, "No watch pockets here."

He looked at my unusual attire, confused.  "Are you one of the performers, perchance?" he asked.

"Uh... yes.  I'm from the 'City of the Future' exhibit."  I didn't know if there was such an exhibit, but I figured that it was as close to the truth as he could handle.  "Everybody's going to be wearing clothes like this in a hundred years.  And this," I pulled my cellphone from my pocket, "this is what telegraphs are going to look like."

"Fascinating!  I should go see that exhibit later.  I, myself, am an inventor, and I hope for my machine to be found in every household someday."

"Oh?  What's it called?"  I wondered if he had actually invented something that was in my household in the future.

"I call it..." he paused for dramatic effect, "The X-Ray!"

"Ooh!" I cooed.  It was exactly the response he was hoping for.

"Now, sir, if you had a watch on your person, I could demonstrate this amazing device for you.  But instead I shall simply describe its properties.  I ask you sir, have you ever held your hand before a lamp, and seen the bones therein?"

"Why, yes, I have.  Of course I have."

"Well, sir!  X-Rays are very much like light, but they pass invisibly through any object!  But now sir, you are asking yourself, if they are invisible, how do I know that they truly exist?"

"Hmmm..." I pretended to ponder this question, while scanning the crowd for the Doctor.  I saw him still speaking with Thomas Edison, apparently examining his motion picture camera.  "Well, I have just seen the marvels of Mister Edison's camera.  Perhaps if the rays could be captured in photographic form..."

"Precisely!  The X-Rays pass through solid objects, and leave upon the film..." he pulled out a few sample X-Ray images from beside the machine, "... a precise and accurate depiction of the interior of the object, without opening the outer casing!"

"Amazing!  Can you use it on people?"

"Yes, my good sir.  In fact," he produced an X-Ray image of a hand, "this is my wife's hand, as seen from the perspective of the invisible X-Ray."

"Amazing!  Simply amazing!  But I regret that my time is short.  What is your name, sir?  I shall come see you again sometime, and your incredible machine."  I was doing my best to sound archaic, but I didn't want to get into any longer conversations for fear that I would use an unfamiliar word.

"Wilhelm Roentgen, Professor of Physics at the University of Munich."

"My name is Met... Mathias Schaaf."  It was the name of my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.  I figured that it would make a fine alias.

"Ach!  I should have known by your accent.  I have known many Schaafs, and most of them came from Baden.  You are from Baden, yes?"

"Um... yes."  I was confused.  My accent?  I was speaking american english with a mid-atlantic accent, so far as I knew.

"If there is anything you need, you just ask.  It is always good to meet fellow countrymen when traveling abroad."

"Well, actually, sir..." I pulled the Gulden from my pocket.  "I found this coin recently, and I have no idea what it might be worth in today's currency."

His eyes lit up when he saw the coin.  "A Gulden?  It's been replaced with the Mark, now.  But this one is worth about two Marks.  I could direct you to a bank where they could exchange it for American dollars.  But this coin, this particular coin..." he held the coin by the edges and examined the portrait, "this coin is rare.  It is special!  This was minted for the coronation of Friedrich the First, Grand Duke of Baden.  You could probably get more for it from a collector of rare coins!  Fortunately for you, there is such a person at this very Exposition!"  He returned my coin, then rummaged about his stall and found a hand-drawn map of the Exposition.  A tiny red "X" had been drawn upon it, presumably indicating my current position.  He quickly explained to me how to find the exhibit of rare currencies from around the world, when suddenly I felt a hand upon my shoulder.

---

"Hell-O!"  It was the Doctor.

"Oh, hello Doctor!"  I was so relieved to see him again, I almost forgot my manners.  "May I introduce Professor Wilhelm Roentgen of the Univeristy of Munich?"  The Professor beamed at me.

"Oh, hello Professor!"  The Doctor seemed overjoyed to make his acquaintance.  "I've just been speaking with Mister Thomas Edison.  Fascinating man.  Are you aware that he has also been working with X-Rays?  Both he and his... erm, associate, Nikola Tesla?"

"Yes," the Professor scowled, "I am aware of his research.  He is one of my worst opponents on the practical use of X-Rays for medical research.  He believes that X-Rays can damage living tissue, but nothing could be further from the truth."

"Yes, well..." the Doctor looked uncomfortable.  "It depends on what kind of living tissue, I think."

"Certainly, Doctor, all things in moderation..." I tried to interject.  "Even sunlight can damage tissues if one is exposed to it excessively."

"Then perhaps you should get out of the sun, yes?"  Professor Roentgen suggested, sounding slightly surly.  "Perhaps you have had too much already?"

"Perhaps we have.  Shall we?"

"We shall."  I replied.  The Doctor walked briskly towards one of the large buildings, and I followed after him.

---

"Interesting friends you're making," he observed.

"That was weird.  He really thought that I was German!  I don't even speak German."

"You do now.  Gift of the TARDIS.  It creates a telepathic link, and translates everything you say and hear.  And it does it so subtly that it's hard to notice when it's happening."

"So that's how you speak English?  Is that why you sound British, because the TARDIS makes you sound like you speak English English as opposed to American English?"

"That's not a bad theory.  Let's go with that, shall we?"

"So what does your language really sound like?  I noticed that some of the symbols on the screwdriver were the same as greek letters."

He suddenly stopped walking and turned to face me.  He reached out to my face, and placed two fingers on my left temple.  Then he spoke.  I can't reproduce the words he said, but it didn't sound greek to me.  He removed his hand.

"So that's what... what's your language called?"

"Gallifreyan."

"So that's what Gallifreyan sounds like."

"Yup."

"Stick with the British."

"Will do."  He looked me over and then said, "so what's with the coin?"

"I found it in my pocket.  Professor Roentgen said it was rare.  I was thinking that I could exchange it for some real money."

"What for?"  He seemed suspicious of my intentions.

"Well, for one thing, I'm hungry."

"Pfft.  I take you a hundred years back in time and the first thing you want to do is eat.  You look like you could afford to miss a meal or two.  C'mon, there's aliens to catch!"  He started walking again.  As we crossed a bridge, I noticed a canal boat passing beneath us, with Edison standing in the bow, his motion picture camera mounted upon a makeshift tripod.  Tesla sat behind him, watching him operate the camera.  I looked down at them and noticed that Tesla was not paying that close of attention to Edison, though; he was enthralled by something to his left.  I glanced in that direction and saw that he was looking at the TARDIS.

 

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