Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 12
Jack

-=Chapter Twelve=-

I crossed the street amongst the horse-drawn carriages and street vendors, some of whom were just managing to put their stalls back together after the Doctor's hell-ride down the center of the road.  As I approached the entrance to the Pan-American Exposition, an electric car hummed down the road and parked directly in front of me.  I didn't recognize the driver, but I saw Thomas Edison getting out of the passenger door.

"Mister Edison!  Tom!"  I said, as I rushed over.  "Good morning!  How are you today?"

He turned to look at me.  "Oh, just dandy.  Fine and dandy," he answered sarcastically.  "I trust you and the Doctor found another room to sleep in last night?  Without blowing it up?"

"Yes, sir.  We stayed with a couple of the maids."

"Oh?"  His eyebrows shot up.  "Maids at a hotel who have their own room at the hotel, inviting strange men to share their beds?  For shame, sir.  For shame."

I knew what he was getting at.  "Are you insinuating..."

"They may not be maids," he grinned broadly.  "But Maureen and Hattie provide an excellent service, do they not?"  He started to chuckle a bit, his grin taking on a more mischievous slant.

"Oh!  Um, uh... we just slept.  Well, I slept.  The Doctor just sat in a chair all night."

"Yes?  Well, he would.  I've never seen him sleep."  Edison then turned to the driver of the car, and gave him instructions.  "Take the camera to the spot where I told you to set it up.  I'll be along later to make sure it's ready for the President's arrival."

"Wait, Mister Edison... " I said.

"I told you to call me Tom, I believe.  Or you can call me Thomas and I'll call you Matthew."

"Tom," I continued, "is that your car?"

"Well, yes.  It says Edison on it, doesn't it?  My factory built it.  Very nice automobile, if I do say so myself."  He beamed proudly.

"It's just that... "

"What?"

"The Doctor borrowed a car.  He thought it was yours."

"Why would he think that?"

"Well, it said Edison on it."

He clucked his tongue.  "Oh, dearie me!  So that's where young Mister Park's automobile vanished to!  Don't worry, I already promised him a new car from my factory, to replace the stolen one.  Best thing to do, considering he's a lawyer.  Where did the Doctor take it?"

"To the river."

Edison and I had started walking towards the entrance.  "To the river?"

"Well, in the river.  He said the floating seats worked great."

Edison stopped walking.  "In the river?"

"He said he had trouble with the brakes.  And of course he was going 500 miles per hour.  Maybe faster."  We started walking again.

"Five hundred..." Edison stopped walking again.

"He said he 'tweaked' it," I said, shrugging my shoulders.  "He's lucky he didn't kill anybody.  Especially himself."  We started walking again as Edison drifted into thought.

"Hmmm I suppose I could get an engineer working on that.  Make the brakes better, somehow?  Uh, you wouldn't happen to have any 21st Century suggestions about how to build automobiles?"  He peered at me with a hopeful expression.

"I just drive 'em, I don't build 'em," I replied.  We reached the entrance, and Edison waved good-bye as he headed for a separate gate.  He was waved through without hesitation.  One of the benefits of fame, I figured.  Still, it would have been nice if he had let me go through that gate with him.

---

Admission to the Exposition was twenty-five cents, and the Menches Brothers' Original Hamburg Sandwich cost five cents.  I had no more dimes.  I sat near the temple of Music, where I could see the spot on which the TARDIS had stood.  As I bit into the patty, I realized why the sandwich was served with no condiments: it was absolutely delicious, just the way it was.  I could detect the flavors of coffee and brown sugar, and various spices.  The sandwich came wrapped in a paper napkin, which I needed as much to control my own drool as I did to contain the drippings from the greasy sandwich.

I figured that the Doctor would call me if he found anything else of interest, or if he got lost again.  Although, with the car in the river, I doubted that he'd be running around the city quite as quickly as he had been.

"You, there.  Move along!"  Two Secret Service agents snuck up on me while I was finishing the last bite of my sandwich.  I glanced at their feet first to see if they were human.  I waved at them with a greasy hand and mumbled through my food as I shook the crumbs out of the napkin.  Then I wiped my face and hands, and stood up.  They waited patiently for me to dust myself off before the younger one gave me a shooing wave.  I wandered off, trying to look like I had a destination, but just circled the big building.

As I came around to the back of the building, I tripped over a soldier, who was sitting on the ground, leaning against the wall.

"Hey!" he yelled.

"Sorry.  I'm so sorry.  I was just looking for a place to piss, but uh..." I looked around at the hundreds of soldiers who were clustered around me, all in formal uniform and looking very uncomfortable in the morning sun.  "You folks got a latrine set up, maybe?"

"We're just here to do a parade, mister.  We ain't diggin' in," the young soldier at my feet said.  He pulled the brim of his cap further down over his eyes.  "Now why don't you just go back around the building?  We don't need no civilians gettin' in the way."

I came back around the building and saw some men setting up chairs and banners for the President's speech.  I saw Edison fiddling with his camera on a tripod, and wandered over to him.

"Mister Edison!"  He ignored me.

"Mister Edison!"  He continued to ignore me, and peered through the camera.

"Tom!"

He looked over the top of the camera at me.  "Matt!  Where's the Doctor?  Has he made it here yet?"

"No, I haven't spoken to him for about an hour."

"Tsk, tsk.  He's probably dead, then.  You should call him.  Go stand over there."  He waved in the direction of the building, towards the spot where the TARDIS had been.

"All right, I'll call him.  He was doing fine last I knew, though."  Reluctantly, I pulled my phone from my pocket and started walking that way.  Behind me, I heard Edison's camera start whirring.  I held my phone where nobody could see it, and pressed the green button twice.  As I put it to my ear, I heard a familiar noise.

Razors on guitar strings... with a wa-wa pedal.  Turned up to eleven.

Air rushed towards my face, presumably being displaced by the arriving TARDIS.  I forgot that I was holding my phone as I reached out wide to hug that big beautiful blue box.  Then I dropped my hands as I remembered that Tesla was inside, and there was a good chance that I'd have to fight him.  I wondered what I could use as a weapon, if I needed one.

The TARDIS finished materializing in front of me.  The door swung open almost immediately.  I saw a shock of black hair poke out around the door frame, followed by a pair of bloodshot eyes.  He looked frantically about, and locked his eyes on me as he stepped from the TARDIS.

"Freeze, or I'll shoot!"  I said, pointing my phone at him.  "This is a Death Ray from the future!"

"Oh, brilliant plan," I heard the Doctor's voice come from the phone.  "Death Ray from the future?  Is that the best you can come up with?"

"Quiet, you!" I hissed at the phone.

"Hey, you called me.  Shall I start making Death Ray noises now?  PEW PEW!!!"

Tesla wasn't buying it.  He stepped closer to me, took the phone from my hand, and put it to his ear.  "Doctor?" he said, in his thick accent.

"Hello, Nikola.  Did you have a pleasant trip?" I heard the Doctor say.

He screamed and threw my phone at me.  Then he ran away, still screaming, through the crowd.

I noticed that the two Secret Service agents had come back, and were watching us.  One of them followed Tesla; the other came over towards me.  I picked up my phone; thank goodness the Exposition was paved with mud and straw, and not concrete.  I brushed it off and put it back in my pocket as the Secret Service agent stepped up.

"Let me see that," he said, pointing at my pocket.

"See what?" I said.

"The thing you just put in your pocket.  Hand it over."  He stood close to me.  Strangely, he smelled  really good.  Not like anybody else I had encountered in this decade.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

He grabbed my arm and very quickly put me in a half-nelson, twisting my shoulder.  An old work-related injury flared up with new pain, and I yelped in agony.  "Which one are you with?  I have to know!"

"Which one which?" I gasped in pain as he twisted my shoulder more.

"Which Doctor?"  He bent me over further and reached into my pocket, grabbing my phone.  He flipped it open and released me as he started flipping through my contact list.  "No!  No!  No!!!" he cried.

"What?"

"Wrong number.  Damn it!  Wrong Doctor!"  He seemed very upset as he took off his bowler hat and sat on the ground in front of the TARDIS.  "Damn it, Doctor!  Where are you?"

"Wait, you know the Doctor?"  I asked, moving closer to the man, who was now sobbing.

"I'm sorry," he said.  "I shouldn't have hurt you like that.  I just needed to know."  He handed me my phone back.

"Who are you?"  I offered him my hand to help him back to his feet.  He grasped it with a firm grip and pulled himself up, effortlessly.

"Captain Jack Harkness," he said, turning my helping hand into a handshake.  "51st Century Time Agent, currently stranded in the primitive past.  And you are?"

"Matt Schoaff.  21st Century truck driver and amateur historian."

"Ooh, a truck driver!" he felt my biceps.  "Lots of heavy lifting?  Big packages?  Nice beard, by the way.  I've been thinking about growing out the sideburns; what do you think?"

I pulled my hand away.  "So how do you know the Doctor?"

"We traveled together, for a while.  Him and me and Rose.  Is Rose still with him?"

"No, just me."

"Oh,"  he sounded disappointed.  "He's certainly traded down, hasn't he?  Rose was hot."

"So, wait a second.  I thought you were Secret Service?"

"Special assignment from Torchwood.  Undercover work, if you know what I mean."  He smiled again.  "I'm the closest thing they have to an American, so they sent me.  I'm actually more of a freelance agent right now, just killing time until I can find the Doctor.  My Doctor."

"Well, he's on the other side of town right now."  I had heard of Torchwood.  Somebody on one of my forums brought them up during some discussion about aliens.  Some lady named Linda... no, wait, I remember now: she spelled it Li'n'da.  I wondered whatever happened to her.  Now I regretted calling her a crackpot conspiracy theorist.  "So, uh... what's Torchwood?"

"Sort of like alien hunters... and that's the wrong Doctor.  I know his mobile number; he wouldn't change it unless he changed himself, you know what I mean?  Or don't you?"

"I called his number earlier and got the wrong Doctor, too.  Him and some lady named Leela of the Sevateem."  So Torchwood was real, and they chase aliens!  I wondered if he was looking for the Doctor just so they could kill him and dissect him.  I hoped not; Jack seemed like a nice guy.

He smiled.  "Leela of the leather knickers?  Shame I missed her."  He punched me lightly on the arm and wiggled his eyebrows.  "But that wasn't my Doctor, either.  There's ten or eleven different versions of him running around the Universe, back and forth through time and space..."

"That's the regeneration thing he was talking about... growing new bodies or something like that.  That's how he's lived so long, right?"

"Well, it's not like that, but yeah, sort of.  He gets a new body every time he dies.  Not like me.  I just can't die."

"You... you can't die?"  My jaw dropped.  It seemed like everybody I met on this trip was not who they seemed at first glance.  The Doctor was an alien.  The box was a spaceship.  Edison smelled of whiskey and cigars.  Horace was an anarchist.  The maids were prostitutes.  And I knew that the Mister Statler who owned the Greystone Hotel was in no way, shape, or form related to the Statler who owned the much larger and fancier Statler Hotel.  Well, at least Tesla had seemed just as insane as I had imagined him to be.  And the Rutans... well, they were never who they seemed at first glance, were they?  I took another glance at Jack's shoes.  Very stylish, and on the right feet.  "Why can't you die?  How'd that happen?"

"I don't know."

---

Jack and I entered the TARDIS, which Tesla had left unlocked.  He was telling me a story about a Slitheen named Margaret, when he suddenly stopped in his tracks.

"He's redecorated!" he said.  "This used to be all coral!"

"Really?  Coral?"  I touched the shiny metal column.  "Sounds... very nautical.  But then again, the whole place is laid out like a seashell."

"A seashell?  Huh, I never thought of it that way."  He went over to the console and touched a switch, whch turned on the screen.  We could see what was directly outside the TARDIS, including the men who were still preparing for the President.  "So what brings you here, of all places?"

"Rutans."

"Rutans!  Nasty green blobs of hate and destruction!  One of my least favorite creatures in the Universe.  What are they doing here?"

I hesitated to tell him too much.  "Uh, not much.  Just being nasty green globs.  You know."

"Aw, come on, you can tell me."  He moved closer to me and placed his arm arond my shoulders.  He smelled really good.  I wondered what cologne he used.  I felt compelled to trust him, despite my misgivings about his intentions towards the Doctor.

"Okay, okay.  Tomorrow the President is going to get shot."

"I know that," he said, matter-of-factly.  "I'm not looking forward to it, either.  Remember, I'm from the future, too.  Tell me more."

"Yeah, but there's a Rutan who's impersonating Teddy Roosevelt.  I think their plan is to wait until McKinley dies and then replace Roosevelt with the imposter."

"Not a bad plan... wait, wait, wait.  You and I both know about the assassination.  We're from the future."

"Yeah, I know."  I didn't get where he was going with this.  "And?"

"Rutans don't have time travel."  He looked into my eyes, waiting for me to recognize what he was saying.

"Oh, crap."  A chill ran down my spine.  "How do they know about it, then?"

Jack answered me by picking up the laptop.  "Two questions: 1) where did Tesla go, and 2) you got anything interesting in here?"

"Pictures of the Doctor and his friends, and the TARDIS.  He's got one of those electronic picture frame things over there on that little table by the big comfy chair," I pointed towards the corner of the room, near the door.  "Apparently they were all copied from it.  He showed me all of the pictures, and they matched."

"There's no picture frame on that table,"  Jack said.

"What?"  I looked.  He was right; the picture frame was missing.

"No picture frame.  I remember it, though; there's some cute girls in those pictures.  Cute guys, too.  You see the scotsman with the kilt?"  He acted as though his hand was on fire as he mouthed the word "hot."

"Yeah, okay, whatever floats your boat, Cap'n.  There were some videos, too."

"Videos?"  He perked up his ears.  "What kind of... videos?"  He smiled.

"Edison's movies.  Vitoscopic recordings, he calls them.  Taken here, at the Exposition."

"Am I in any of them?"

"Check and see."  I motioned towards the laptop.  He opened it and tried to turn it on.

"Battery's dead.  Let me see... there's a power supply around here somewhere..."  He pulled a wire out of the TARDIS console and plugged it into the laptop.  It came to life, and displayed an error screen.  Jack tapped away at the keyboard for a few moments before he slammed the lid shut.  "Empty."

"Empty?"

"The hard drive's been wiped.  There's nothing in here."

---

"Okay, so here's my theory," I said, as I paced the control room.  Jack sat on the railing, smoking one of my cigarettes.  "Tesla went to the Rutan planet, somehow.  He finds himself surrounded by electric space boogers..."

"Electric space boogers?"  He snorted smoke out his nose.

"Quiet!  He freaks out and throws the picture frame at them; it's conveniently located near the door.  Well, it was, anyways.  That's how they got the pictures."

"And the laptop?"  He blew smoke rings at me; he was very good at making smoke rings.

"They're electric.  Maybe they fried it accidentally.  Or they took the files off it somehow.  The Doctor said they could control electrical systems."

"Right!  And these coordinates," he pointed at part of a display on the TARDIS console, "indicate that wherever he went, it was the year 1792 AD, Earth time.  109 years ago.  I don't know what the rest of these numbers mean, though..."

"109 years?  Wait, that's got to be more than a coincidence.  I'm from 2010, and the Rutans are there, too.  109 years from now."

Jack blinked.  "That's a very odd number."

"Very odd, indeed," the Doctor said, as he entered the TARDIS with a chicken under his arm.  "You, get out!"  He pointed at Jack.

"Wait, Doc... it is you, right, Doc?  Do you remember me?  Or am I in your future?"  Jack ran to greet him, but stopped when he saw the expression on the Doctor's face.

"Oh, I remember you.  Out!"  The Doctor advanced on him, and grabbed him by his jacket collar.

"You know, you look really good!  Very young, very fit."  Jack didn't fight him as he was led towards the door.  "Just do me one favor before you kick me out!  Tell me what happened to me.  Why can't I die?"  Jack fell to his knees by the TARDIS door, holding the Doctor's hand.

"No."  the Doctor snapped his fingers, and the TARDIS doors opened.

Jack got up reluctantly and stepped outside, slapping his bowler hat on his head again.  He turned back to face the Doctor.  "You've changed.  And not just your face.  What happened to you?  What happened to Rose?  Tell me!"

"I already explained it to you once, I'm not going to do it again."

"You did?  When?"  Jack stuck his hands in his pockets, looking confused.

"My past, your future.  You're just going to have to wait."

"I don't want to wait.  Why can't I come with you?  Could you at least fix my vortex manipulator so I can jump ahead to the good parts?"

"No, Jack.  You have things to do in this century.  Important things."  The Doctor stood with his arms crossed in the doorway, holding the chicken tight.  It clucked in protest.  "You've become a permanent part of the timeline, and I can't change that."

"Just tell me one thing.  One thing.  Why'd you leave me behind?"

"You're wrong, Jack.  So wrong.  We'll talk again, someday.  Go back to Cardiff.  You know the spot."

"So I'll see you again?"  Jack was on the verge of tears.

"No, not me.  The me I used to be.  Like I said, it's already happened, in my past.  Just be patient; you have all the time in the Universe."

"Good-bye, Doctor."

"Good-bye, Jack.  Now go away and don't come back.  And when you see me again, don't mention that you saw me here.  I always hated spoilers."  The Doctor closed the door to the TARDIS, and hung his head in silence.  I watched Jack walk away on the screen.

"Doc?  You okay?"  I asked.

"Not now."  The Doctor lifted his head, and slowly turned back to face the interior of the TARDIS.  "I'm going to take a shower."

---

The Doctor was in the shower for over two hours.  I found the chicken wandering in the hall, and wondered what he intended to do with it.  Maybe he had finally found a companion that he'd never have to forcefully kick out of the TARDIS.

On the screen in the console room, I watched the military parade, trying to recognize the soldier over whom I had tripped.  I didn't see him.  It took me a little while to figure out which of the men standing with their back to me was the President.  Once I recognized him, though, I watched him like a hawk.  I couldn't figure out how to turn on the audio, so I watched him give his speech in silence.  I didn't see Jack again.

"So, you've met Captain Jack."  The Doctor had snuck up behind me.  He had changed his clothes, and they were even less stylish than his previous outfit.

"What's he the Captain of?  The Gay Men's Choir?"  I asked, jokingly.

"Don't you start, now!"  He wagged his finger at me accusingly.  "He's from a different time.  They don't have any understanding of sexual orientation in the 51st Century.  Completely different rules."

"So that isn't why you kicked him out?  I thought maybe..." I shrugged.  I had no idea why the Doctor had evicted Jack, and I didn't really think it had anything to do with his excessive affection.

"No!  That's not why.  He's just not supposed to be here, that's all.  And yet, he must be."  The Doctor looked at his jacket by the console glow, and frowned.  "This jacket has a hole in the sleeve."

"What do you mean, he's not supposed to be here?"  I followed him as he crossed the room to the big chair.

He sat down, opened the drawer on the little table beside it, and pulled out a small sewing kit.  "He's not supposed to be anywhere, really.  He's just... wrong."  The Doctor threaded a needle and started sewing the sleeve of his jacket, while still wearing the jacket.

"What do you mean, wrong?"

The Doctor stopped sewing.  "Look, here.  I'm using the wrong color thread.  Now, watch."  He yanked on the thread he was using for the repair, and it tore through the fabric, leaving a bigger hole.  "Jack Harkness is a stitch in time.  He became part of this timeline, and for that reason I can't yank him out until the right time.  Possibly never.  Or else..." he stuck his finger through the hole and wiggled it at me.  "Redrum!  Redrum!"

 

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