Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 13
The Original Cheeseburger Sandwich

-=Chapter Thirteen=-

"So Jack and I were theorizing..."  I started to say.

"Theorizing?  So that's what he calls it?  I thought he was just convincing you to tell him everything he wanted to know."  The Doctor was finishing the minor repair to his sleeve.  He had decided to patch it with a piece of his sock.  The fabric did not match.

I leaned back in the barstool by the console, putting my arms on the railing behind me.  "What did he want to know?"

"Oh, the usual.  He wanted to know what I know."  He put the jacket back on and frowned at his handiwork.  He pulled off the jacket and sat back down, pulling up his pant leg to collect a swatch of the other sock.  The two socks did not match each other, either.  I wondered if he was color-blind.

"And what do you know?" I asked, hoping that I was leading him into telling me.

"Oh, I know a lot.  I know what you'll eat for breakfast on your seventy-fifth birthday.  I helped you find your father in a crowded store when you were five."  He started cutting his sock with a large, ornate pair of scissors.  "I attended a seminar on advanced mathematics that was held by your mother in 1992... and she's good.  Pity none of that mathematical genius rubbed off on you, though."

"Hey, I'm pretty smart.  I just hate math.  With a passion."

"Purely psychological."  He had finished cutting the piece of sock, and started sewing it over the other patch.  "If you didn't hate being smart, you'd be a whiz."

I had nothing to say in response.  I knew what he was saying.  He was saying the same thing every psychologist I'd ever seen had told me.  I was afraid of success.  I was scared of being smart because that meant I might be successful.  I avoided my responsibilities because I couldn't bear the thought of being expected to actually fulfill those responsibilities.  I avoided making friends because friendship entails responsibility.

"You want to know what else I know?"

I considered my words carefully as I tried to construct a sentence that would include every vulgarity in the human language.  But all I could say was, "No."

"Too bad, I'm going to tell you anyways!"  He jumped up and started bouncing on the big, wing-backed chair.  "I know where the Rutans are!" he sang, tauntingly.

I pushed off from the railing and leaped to my feet as the barstool righted itself.  "Where?"

"Well, technically, I know where they were."  He stopped bouncing.  "They were in a building near the river.  Part of the electrical system system that's bringing electricity from Niagara Falls to Buffalo for the Exposition."

"But they're not there any more?"

"Well, eight of them aren't."  He sat down and looked sad.  "I had to kill them.  There was no sign of the little 'q' queen, though.  She's around, somewhere."

"How'd you kill them?  With fire?"  I sat back down on the stool.

"No, no.  Simple biochemistry.  I used a pencil and an egg yolk to make a room-temperature localized superconducting graphite-sulfur composite, which I then applied to the skin of the sleeping Rutans by means of a handheld elastic projectile device."  He pulled a slingshot from his back pocket and put it on the table.  "Upon the release of the compound from its containment shell, the flow of current from the transformer to the creatures was greatly increased, beyond their capacity for absorption."

"Then what happened?"

"They went boom."  He mimed a series of small explosions with his hands.  "Pow, pa-pow pow pow!"

"You killed them with a slingshot and an egg?"  I didn't know whether or not I should believe him.  I guessed anything was possible with the Doctor.

"An egg with a pencil in it!"  He reached into a pocket of the jacket he was repairing and withdrew a golf pencil.  On the side I could see the words embossed in shiny letters: Luna City Mini-Golf.  I wondered what mini-golf was like on the moon.  "Lunar graphite.  Slightly radioactive... which doesn't bother me but it might bother you so I should put this pencil away."

"Did you find their ship?"

"Oh, yes!  It was easy to find.  I drove the car into it."  He smiled.

"Well that was lucky!"

"Not so lucky for the Rutans!  It's amazing how much damage Tom's car did to it.  Cracked it like... well, like an egg."

I stood up and walked over to him.  "I hate to tell you this, but... that wasn't Tom's car."

He looked up at me, surprised.  "Whose was it?"

"I think Tom said he was a lawyer.  Some guy named Park."

"Oh, well.  No harm, then."  He stood up and put the jacket back on.  The patch-on-top-of-another-patch looked terrible.  "Well?  How's it look?"

"Um... great?"

"Liar."  He smiled.

---


"So Jack and I were theorizing..."  I started to say.

"You said that before," the Doctor interrupted.

"And I was interrupted before.  Come over here and look at these coordinates."

The Doctor stopped fiddling with the useless laptop computer and walked over to the console.  "Oh!  Now that's an amazing coincidence!"

"What's that?"

"The coordinates for the den of the Great Mother Queen on Ruta III in the Earth year 1792.  But that's not the coincidence!"

"What's the coincidence?"

"It's the coordinates to your back yard in 2010, except completely in reverse.  Completely.  Reversed."  He scratched his head in bewilderment.  "How the blazes did I do that?"

"Wait, you did it?  How?"

"I locked the coordinates on the TARDIS before we left.  I knew Tesla was going to take it, and I planned on sending him to visit you, on March 12th, 2010."

"Why?  Why then?  Why me?"

"Birthday present?  I don't know.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  But now it appears that I caused this whole mess to begin with."

I glanced at the screen on the console, which was again showing the exterior of the TARDIS.  I thought I had seen somebody walking nearby, in the shadows.  It was late now, and the Exposition was shut down for the night.  "Yeah, that kind of fits my theory.  Tesla ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and somehow they got all the information they needed to formulate a plan.  They know about the assassination ahead of time because of us."

"Right.  But why bother?  Why would they wait 109 years to implement a plot involving subterfuge and painful metamorphosis, when they could easily conquer this planet with brute force?"

"109 years twice."

"Eh?"

"109 years between when they got the information and when they could use it.  109 years between then and when we met in 2010.  That's a lot of waiting.  How long do Rutans live?"

"Oh, about the same as humans.  Maybe a little longer.  Their year is about the same length, too."

"Maybe about 109 years?"  I was fishing for answers.

"One-oh-nine.  One-oh-nine.  One hundred and nine.  What's so special about 109?"  He started pacing back and forth in the control room again.  "It's not just a number, is it?  Must be something special."

"Well, it's a prime number."  I said, trying to be helpful.

"Yes, yes, yes.  Obviously it's a prime number.  That's not important."  He paced some more, then came to the steps.  He stepped gingerly down the steps, then back up, then sideways down and up, making it into a crazy dance.  Halfway up, he stopped.  Then he went down one step, stopped, and then came all the way back up and spun around.  "I've got it!"

"What?  Happy feet?"

"No!  It's a prime number!"

"I said that."

"No, you didn't, you said... oh, wait, yes you did.  Sorry!"  He started pushing buttons on the console, and a mathematical formula appeared on the screen.  "But it's not just a prime number!  It's a centered triangular prime number!  Three N squared plus three N plus two end parentheses divided by two... the third number in the sequence of centered triangular prime numbers is 109!"

"So what does that mean to the Rutans?"  I felt like I was in math class again, failing to understand what the teacher was trying, in vain, to teach me.

"Their culture is ruled by electrical energy and mathematics.  Prime numbers are sacred to them.  Centered triangular prime numbers doubly so... well, actually, triply so."  He scratched his head, "Nontupily so?  No, that's not right.  I wish I could remember their sanctity formulae!"

"So they waited 109 years for religious reasons?  Because they worship numbers?"

"Precisely!"  The Doctor struck a pose indicative of the grandeur of his deduction, which looked like he was imitating John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever.  I heard the jacket rip.

---

The Doctor settled down in his chair with a thick book while I went looking for a place to sleep.  He was letting the chicken roost in one of the round cupboards in the control room.  I passed the bathroom and the kitchen and the billiards room... how many rooms were there?  The hallway stretched before me but I couldn't see the end of it because of the way it curved.  The next room, just past the garbage and laundry bins, was the wardrobe.  I thought about wandering in there to find a fresh shirt, but decided against it.  I didn't think anything the Doctor owned would fit me properly.

I opened the next door and was surprised by the brightness of the light.  The whole room was taken up by a hydroponic garden.  There were tomatoes and carrots and celery and eggplant and peppers... and right in the middle of the room, there was a banana tree.  I turned back to the hallway and closed the door.  So there was food on the TARDIS, after all.  I went back in and grabbed a banana, for later.

Further down the hall, I opened a door and found a bedroom, of sorts.  Six slanted benches lined the wall.  One of them had a blanket and pillow on it.  I walked over to that one, and laid down on it.  The bench responded to my weight by gently reclining back, and becoming softer beneath me.  I felt it grow warmer, and noticed that the part directly beneath my head had inflated like a pillow.  It was definitely more comfortable than it looked.

I fell asleep.

---

I awoke to the Doctor banging two cooking pots together, and singing a marching song as he marched through the room.  I guess it was time to get up.  I shuffled down the hall to the bathroom, eating the banana for breakfast.  After a visit to the toilet and a hot shower, I wondered if I could find some clean clothes.  I wandered down to the wardrobe, clutching my towel around me.  The towel was oversized, nice and fluffy, and had Scooby-Doo printed on it.  I think I had one just like it when I was a kid.  It had been the only towel hanging in the bathroom when I got out of the shower, though.  I dropped my dirty t-shirt, socks, and underwear in the laundry bin in the hallway.

Just inside the wardrobe room, I noticed a chest of drawers.  I wondered what the doctor hid in his sock drawer.  To my disappointment, all I found were socks.  All different kinds of socks.  There was one pair, right on top, that looked just like the socks I usually wore.  I grabbed them.

The underwear drawer held a variety of different men's undergarments.  Boxers, briefs, boxer briefs, sparkly thongs, swimming trunks... I selected a pair of briefs that looked to be about my size, which once again were right on top.

The next drawer was full of t-shirts, of various colors and materials.  Right on top was a shirt exactly the same as the shirt I had just been wearing.  I grabbed that one.  After I got dressed, the Doctor was waiting for me in the control room.  He had changed his clothes again, and looked slightly more normal... but still a bit strange.

"Ready to go find some Rutans?" he asked, smiling like the crocodile that swallowed the cat that swallowed the canary.  "I'm not sure how many are left, though.  Little 'q' queens tend to control broods of sixteen drones, and we've killed that many drones already."

"Well, it's been hours since we saw her last.  Maybe she grew some new ones?"  I was doing my best to comb my hair with my fingers.  The Doctor reached in a pocket and pulled out a plastic comb, which he tossed to me.

"Not likely.  Their ship is gone, and the mothership was destroyed over Fang Rock... she's stuck here.  And I think I found and disabled every piece of Rutan tech in the city, so she doesn't have a power converter any more.  No converter, no new Rutan drones."

"So basically we have one Rutan to find and kill."  I finished combing my hair and beard, and handed the comb back to the Doctor.  He handled it like it was something nasty, and carefully put it back in his pocket.

"Unless she can build a power converter.  But she'd need a lot of technical bits and pieces.  Vacuum tubes, most likely, in this decade.  I doubt she could find them at a local hardware store.  Well, then, shall we?"  He gestured towards the door.

"Sure.  By the way, what time is it?  All of your clocks show different times."

"Oh, it's about..." he was interrupted by the sound of a rooster crowing outside, "Dawn.  Ish."

The chicken started clucking excitedly, in her drawer near the floor.  "So what are you going to do with the chicken?"  I asked.

"I don't know.  Maybe I'll keep her!  I like eggs."  The Doctor opened the TARDIS doors, and stepped out into the chilly morning air.  "She needs a name, though.  If she's staying, that is.  I can't just call her 'chicken.'  Certainly not 'chook' or 'chicky,' either."

"I thought you didn't eat meat."

"Eggs aren't meat," he said, as he peered out into the morning fog.

"Well, sort of.  I guess you're not a vegan, are you?"

"Certainly not!  Vegans have one eye, in the middle of their foreheads.  And they love eggs!  Wonderful omelets on Vega.  But the service was lousy and the coffee was cold."

I followed the Doctor outside.  The Exposition was still fairly empty, but a few vendors and demonstrators were moving about in both horse-drawn wagons and push-carts, on their way to set up their stands.  I noticed a man running in our general direction, but couldn't tell who it was.  The fog was thick enough to obscure distant details.

"Doctor, who's that?" I asked, pointing out the running man.

"It's your old friend Professor Roentgen, I believe!  I wonder what's got him all in a tizzy?"

When Roentgen drew nearer, I called out to him.  "Professor!  Over here!"

Professor Roentgen changed direction and came directly to us.  He was out of breath.  "Mathias!  Have you... have you seen any policemen around?  My X-Ray machine was vandalized overnight!  I can not believe this has happened, on today of all days!  The President was going to come see my machine today, and hear my presentation on the medical use of the X-Ray!"

I turned to the Doctor.  "Technical bits and pieces?  Vacuum tubes?"

"Well?"

"Well what?"

"Well, I was right!  She didn't get them at a hardware store!"  He turned to the Professor, and said, "Let's go see your machine."  I made sure the TARDIS was locked before we set off towards the area where Roentgen and others were displaying the latest innovations in technology and science.

---

As we approached the technology pavilion, the fog seemed to grow thicker.  "That's odd," said the Professor, as he led the way.  "I thought today was going to be another glorious day, like yesterday.  It was so nice.  I watched the parade.  Did you watch the parade?  The American army looked ridiculous, tripping over their own feet.  Not like the German army, not at all.  Well, here we are!"  He pointed at his wrecked machine.

The Doctor started poking around inside the X-Ray machine, as the Professor provided plenty of unwanted supervision.  I looked around for suspicious Rutan-like activity as he exclaimed "Don't touch that!"  and "Please do be careful!" several times.  Everybody I saw had their feet on the right legs, including the Professor and the Doctor.

After a few minutes, I started to get bored.  The fog was getting thicker, and chilly.  I started to shiver in just a t-shirt and jeans.  "Doc?  I'm going back to the TARDIS for my coat, okay?"

The Doctor and Roentgen both muttered at me, and waved without looking up from the ruined machine.

I started off into the fog, certain that I knew the way back, but soon found myself in front of vendors' tables that I didn't recognize.  A lady was setting up a table full of blocks of cheese, and she offered me a free sample.  I thanked her for the small hunk of cheese, and asked her for directions to the Temple of Music, where the TARDIS was parked.  She had trouble pointing out the landmarks in the fog, but she knew that if I could find the Hamburg Sandwich stand, I was on the right path.  I just had to follow the scent of burgers.

I went in the direction she indicated, and soon saw flames ahead of me in the fog.  The Menches brothers were cooking up the first batch of patties for the day.  As I approached, one of them called out to me, asking if I'd like to try a sandwich to see if the meat was properly cooked.  I agreed, and it was.

I was pretty sure which way to go from the burger stand to the TARDIS, so I started heading that way.  I realized that I had a hunk of cheddar cheese in one hand and an Original Hamburg Sandwich in the other hand.  I slipped the cheese between the hot patty and the top slice of bread, and kept walking.  I had only taken a few bites of my incredibly delicious cheeseburger when I spotted the TARDIS ahead of me.  I quickened my pace.

Suddenly, the TARDIS' lights came on.  I saw a man standing in front of the TARDIS.  As I drew closer, I could see that it was the Doctor.

"Doctor!  I got lost in the fog, and invented cheeseburgers!  And it's good."  I took another bite of cheeseburger heaven as I walked up to him.

The Doctor turned to face me.  "Open the TARDIS," he said, flatly.

"Uh, my hands are full of yummy delicious cheeseburger.  I'd just get the handle greasy,"  I said, around the food I was chewing.

"Open the TARDIS," he repeated.  "Now."

"Okay, okay, hang on," I said, as I balanced the messy sandwich in my left hand.  I tried to fish the key out of my hip pocket with my greasy right hand, but dropped it in the dirt.  I groaned as I bent over to pick it up.

That's when I noticed that the Doctor had his shoes on the wrong feet.

 

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