Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 11
The Doctor and his Electric Runabout

-=Chapter Eleven=-

We joined the line for the trolley, but there were a lot of people downtown who wanted to go to the Exposition that day.  After all, today was the big day, when the President was going to give a speech.  Although Buffalo had already been the hometown of two past Presidents, it wasn't every day that a sitting head of state graced this little city by the lake.  I looked up at the towering elm trees that made a canopy over the street.

"Someday these will all be gone," I said, to the Doctor.

"Eh?  What will?"  He seemed distracted by something.

"These elm trees.  Dutch elm disease will wipe most of them out.  Worse than the October storm of '06."

"Shhh!"  He put his finger to his lips and hunched close to me.  "Don't say another word."

"Why?" I whispered.

"I'm thinking."

I looked at him.  He looked like he was having some sort of conversation with himself, that only he could hear.

"What are you thinking about?"  I asked, finally.

The Doctor spun around, and faced one of the other people waiting for the trolley.  "Excuse me sir, I have a question."

The man looked at him unsavorily.  "What?" he bleated.

"Um... Never mind.  You, sir!  I have a question!"

The second man to whom the Doctor had turned his attention looked up from his shoes dreamily.  "Mmm, hmm?" he muttered.

"Have you noticed any odd changes to the weather recently?  I'm a meteorologist, and I..."

"Meteorologist?" somebody else asked.  "Like in meteors?"

"Well, no, actually it's the study of weather..."

"...'Cause we had a meteor not too long ago...."

"Did it affect the weather?"  The Doctor was acting like he was onto something.

"Hard to tell, in Buffalo.  Don't like the weather?  Wait five minutes!"  A round of laughter arose from the surrounding people.  As if on cue, a cloud obscured the sun, and it suddenly became chilly.

I looked at the person who had mentioned the meteor.  He was dressed like a farmer.  "So where'd the meteor come down?"  I asked him.

He looked around.  "Don't you read the papers?  In Lake Erie, of course!  Right near where the Black Rock used to be."

"Black Rock?" the Doctor asked.

"At the mouth of the Niagara," I said to him.  "There used to be a big, black rock.  They blew it up when they dug the canal."

"Aye, that's where it was," the farmer concurred.  "And then right after it came down, we got that storm.  Rained for a whole week, it did.  Bad for the pumpkins."  He spit some tobacco juice on the dirt sidewalk.  "Finally stopped about a week ago.  Had to put the pumpkins up on pallets to keep them above water, we did."

"Well, now, that's what I was asking about!  Freak weather conditions like that!"  The Doctor seemed flustered.

"Ain't no freak weather in Buffalo," the farmer said.  "Just weather.  All kinds."

---

The Doctor pulled me away from the rest of the people waiting for the trolley.  "They've been here two weeks," he said.

"I gathered that," I said.  "The meteor was their space ship?"

"I would assume that.  The body we found in that house was a fresh kill, so I assume they have another base of operations.  Do you know what else I would assume?"

"What?"

"That electric automobile over there belongs to Tom."  He moved his eyeballs rapidly to indicate that he was referring to something behind him.  I looked that way, and saw the car, parked near the front door of the Greystone Hotel.

"That car's electric?"

"Most cars these days were electric.  You humans should have stuck with that."

"So what are we going to do?  Borrow Edison's car?"

"No, of course not.  You're going to the Exposition.  I'm borrowing the car.  Now give me your phone."

I pulled my phone from my pocket.  "Battery's dead, again," I said.  "I think the Rutans ate it."  He waved his sonic screwdriver at it, and handed it back.

"It's fully charged now.  Call me when the TARDIS reappears."

"Oh, yeah!  That reminds me... did Edison know that Tesla stole the TARDIS?"

"No, how could he?"  the Doctor looked at me, confused.  I could hear the trolley approaching.

"Well, they work together.  Isn't Tesla his assistant or something?"

"No, not for years.  Bitter enemies, now."

"I saw them together yesterday," I said.  Now I was the one who was confused.

The Doctor stood close to me, as though confiding a secret.  "He was only here to steal the TARDIS.  And I let him do it."  Then he suddenly ran off, in the direction of Edison's electric automobile.  I turned towards the approaching trolley and joined the line.  As I was stepping onto the little electric train, the Doctor zipped past in the car.  He was going maybe twenty miles per hour, and loving it; his face was all goggles and smile.

---

It was an uneventful ride to the Exposition grounds.  In the daylight, I was able to recognize more of the buildings that still stood in my day.  The city was filled with the noise of car horns, horse carts, and street vendors.  Every time the trolley paused for an intersection, young boys ran up to it, trying to sell newspapers to the passengers.  I had to keep shooing them away, as I still had no money.  I wondered how I was going to get into the Exposition.

When the trolley stopped in front of the Observatory, most of the festival-goers disembarked and headed straight for the entrance gates.  I saw a pair of Secret Service agents standing beside the gates, surveying the crowd.  A woman stood just within, taking tickets.  I looked around for another way in.  Just then, my cellphone rang; it was a good thing that I had set it to silent mode.  I stepped away from the line that had formed by the entrance, and flipped it open discretely.

"Hello, hello?"  I answered in my usual way.  I always said "hello" twice.

"Matt Matt, it's the Doctor Doctor."

"What what?"

"Is there an echo on this line?"

"No.  What line?  How are you able to call me, anyways?  Our phones shouldn't work without a cellular network!"  A couple of people waiting in the line looked towards me as I spoke, so I wandered further away from the crowd.

"The TARDIS is our network.  So long as it stays within this dimension, and doesn't become time-displaced, or blocked by a trans-psychogenic force field..."

"A what?"

"A trans-psychogenic anti-electromagnetic force field.  You know, like... Do you read comics?"

"Comics?"

"Like Batman and Spider-man?"

"When I was a kid..."

"Susan Storm."

"Who?"

"Susan Storm!"

I racked my brain for a few seconds.  "Oh!  Sue Richards!  The Fantastic Four!"

"Richards?  No, you're thinking of Reed Richards.  Mister Fantastic."

"They got married."

"Really?  When?"

"When I was a kid."

"Hmmph."  He sounded disappointed.  "Well, anyways, she had those force fields that she created with her mind, remember?"

"Yeah, invisible force fields."

"They're all invisible.  If they were visible they would just be walls."

I sighed in frustration.  "So, Doc?"  I had wandered pretty far away from the South-West entrance to the Exposition, and was walking down Elmwood Avenue.  Ahead of me I could see another entrance, but only a few people were standing outside.  I also saw the Police Box in which the Doctor and I had been temporarily incarcerated the night before.  I looked around for the Irish policeman, but didn't see him.  "Why'd you call?"

"Oh!  Um... I'm lost.  Sorry."

I sighed again.  "I should have come with you.  I'm a delivery man, remember?  Some of the streets are the same."

"Okay, then, Delivery Man.  I crossed over a bridge and now I'm surrounded by some unusual buildings.  I think they're silos?  I smell grain."

"You're going the wrong way.  Turn around and head North along the lakefront, through the city.  Keep the water on your left and sooner or later it will become a river instead of a lake.  But at the speed that car goes, it'll take you hours."

"I tweaked it a bit.  Much faster now!"

"How fast?"  I worried about his safety.  I doubted that the car had seat-belts or good brakes.

"Oh, about tenfold.  Maybe twentyfold.  Hard to tell."

"Twentyfold?  So you're going about..." I heard a loud screeching noise.  Something that resembled a missile shot down the center of Elmwood Avenue along the trolley tracks, leaving a cloud of dirt and flaming debris in its wake.  "You're going the wrong way!  Again!"

"What?  Blast!  Who designed the streets in this ridiculous city?"

"Frederick Law Olmstead.  Make a left on Hertel Avenue, if it isn't too late."

"That was a rhetorical question, by the way."  I could barely make out his voice, through the other noises that were coming through the phone.  "Okay, I made the left.  You know, the brakes on this thing are terrible.  But it corners well.  Just a bit of understeer, though.  Bounced off a building or two.  I think... I think I killed a chicken!"  He sounded distraught.

"Okay, Hertel Avenue should take you straight to the river.  When you hit Niagara Street, make another left and..."  I was interrupted by another burst of noise from the phone.

"Too late.  Good news, though!"

"What do you mean, too late?"

"I'm in the river.  But the chicken lived!"  I heard a clucking noise, as he apparently held his phone up to the chicken.  "If you see Tom, tell him that the floating seat cushions work great.  One of my more brilliant ideas.  There's a bit of a current here though, isn't there?  I'm moving right along!"

"Yeah, of course there's a current.  It's the Niagara.  I suggest you..."

"The Niagara?  The Niagara?"

"The Niagara that falls.  As in Niagara Falls.  I suggest you get to shore."

"Tell you what, let me call you back.  Let this be a lesson to you about driving while talking on your mobile."  I heard some splashing noises, and he hung up.  I shook my head in disbelief.

---

I closed my phone, and slipped it back into the inside pocket of my great-great-grandfather's jacket.  It clinked against the old coin that was still there, but then I heard another, slight clink.  I pulled the phone back out and dug into that pocket.  I pulled out four coins: the Gulden, which I put in my pants pocket, and three shiny dimes.  The front sides of the dimes showed a portrait of a handsome woman, with a laurel in her hair and a tiny diadem which read "LIBERTY."  She was surrounded by the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 1900."  The reverse side simply read "ONE DIME," the words encircled by sheaves of corn and wheat.  I wondered how the dimes had gotten into my pocket.

I juggled the dimes in the palm of my hand.  How much was the admission to the Exposition?  I could spend these dimes to get in, maybe even to get some lunch.  But if I could save these coins, and take them back to the future with me... I could probably sell them to a collector for a lot of money.  I looked at the dimes again.  They seemed extra shiny.  Maybe too shiny... I sniffed one, and it smelled of chicken fat.  Of course, Horace must have put the dimes in my pocket!  I wished I had gotten a chance to say good-bye to my new friend, but I didn't see him at the hotel that morning.

I glanced at my phone again.  The little display on the casing showed the time and date as 10:03 AM, September 5th, 1901.  Something in the back of my mind started to bug me.  Niagara Falls...  September 5th...  September 6th!  I opened the phone and hit the green button twice.  The first time, it remembered the previous call, and the second time was to tell the phone to dial that number.  I heard the distinctive double-ring of a European phone, and then the Doctor answered.

"Hello?  Who's this?"  His voice sounded a bit different.  Deeper, for one thing.

"Doctor?  It's Matt."

"Who?  Matt?  Leela, talk to this fellow, would you?  I'm a bit busy at the moment."  It definitely wasn't the same voice.  I heard the phone being passed from hand to hand.

"What is this thing?  Is it a god?"  I heard a woman's voice ask.  She sounded British, but I didn't recognize the dialect.

"No, of course not, it's a telephone... oh, just talk to it."  The man sounded short-tempered.

"Hello?  Telephone?"  She asked.

"Hello," I replied.  "Who's this?"

"I am Leela of the Sevateem.  Who are you?  How did you get into this tiny box?  Is it a TARDIS, like the Doctor's? He has said that TARDISes come in different shapes and sizes, but his is always the blue box.  He says it is broken, but he likes the blue box.  It does not look broken to me, though.  Are you a Time Lord?"  Although she spoke strangely, her words were clear as she spoke quickly.  I wondered if English was her native language or if it was the TARDIS translating her words.

"Leela of the Sevateem?  I've never heard of the Sevateem.  Where are you from?"

"Doctor, where am I from?"

"Never-never land," I heard him reply.  There was a considerable amount of clattering going on on their end of the connection, and I could hear the TARDIS engines running.  "You're one of the Lost Boys.  Well, Lost Girls, anyways."  I could almost hear him smile.

My phone beeped.  I had another incoming call.

"Hang on, I've got a call."  I pressed a button on my phone.  "Hello?"

"Hello?"  It was the Doctor.

"Hell-O!" the other Doctor replied.  I must have accidentally turned it into a three-way call.

"Now there are two of them in the box, Doctor!"  Leela exclaimed.

"Leela!" the Doctor shouted, hurting my ear.  "Oh, my dear Leela!  How are you?  Still wearing the old leather knickers?"

"If you must know," the other Doctor replied, "She's dressed like a sailor, right now.  I finally got her to wear a proper dress, and she chucked it for a wool sweater and baggy pants.  But don't worry; she'll be dressed properly by the time we reach our destination, won't she?"  I heard her laugh, defiantly.

"'Atta boy, Doctor!  Keep trying!" the Doctor encouraged him.  "Not going to do much good, though.  She'll go back to the leathers, eventually.  Sorry!  Spoilers!"

"This is why we don't talk to ourselves much," the other Doctor said.  "You know you're breaking at least three laws of time by placing this call?  You'll have the Time Lords down on our heads.  Well, our head."

---

"I hate to interrupt," I interjected, "but I need to talk to the Doctor."

"Yes?" they both said, simultaneously.

"Not you, Doctor.  You, Doctor."

"Leela, press the mauve button.  Good-bye, Doctor!  Be you later!"  I heard a click as they hung up.

"That was weird," I said.  "Leather knickers?"

"Oh, don't worry.  Her tribe used all parts of the animal.  It wasn't just a fashion statement," the Doctor said.

"Still, it sounds... uncomfortable."

"Yes, they were.  Quite."

"So, um..."  I was distracted by a disturbing mental image. "Anyways...  I forgot something.  Something important."

"What's that?  Ooh!  I found something!"

"McKinley arrives today, but tomorrow he goes to visit Niagara Falls!  He doesn't get shot until tomorrow afternoon!"

"Tomorrow?  Well, nothing we can do about that.  Don't you want to know what I've found?"

I decided to humor him.  "Okay, Doc.  What did you find?"

"Rutan technology.  On the power line.  Hang on, I'm trying to get it."  I could hear him exert himself, and imagined him climbing a pole.

"Are you climbing a utility pole?"

"Yes... why?"

"Aren't you soaking wet?  You'll electrocute yourself!  I don't think they insulated the wires that well these days, anyways."

"Excellent point."  He was silent for a moment or two.  "Do you have a better idea?"

"Hit it with a stick."

"Good plan, monkey man!  Score one for the apes!"

"You know, if I was a black man, I'd be offended by your monkey comments."

"You're human; you should be offended anyways.  Now where am I going to find a stick, way up here?"

"Way up where?"

"Halfway up the post, of course.  Where else would I be?"

"Well, there might be one on the ground..."

"Oh, how silly of me.  Of course there are sticks on the ground.  But I'm not going to climb all the way down there and then climb all the way back up here.  I'm not built for climbing, you know.  My ancestors didn't live in trees."

"Well, you know what, Doc?  Call me when you find a stick.  I'll tell you where to stick it."  I closed my phone with a snap.

 

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