Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 14
Cleaning up the Mess

-=Chapter Fourteen=-

"What's all this, then, eh?"  Patrolman James Patrick O'Malley of the Buffalo Police Department came up behind the Doctor look-a-like, swinging his billy club.  "It's th' two arrrsonists who escaped from th' lockup shed!  I've been lookin' fer you two!  All right!  Up against th' wall!"  He grabbed the disguised Rutan by the back of the neck, and was instantly electrocuted.  He fell to the ground, dead.

The Doctor/Rutan never took its eyes off me.  "Open the TARDIS."

From out of the fog, I could hear a familiar whistling noise.  The Doctor... the real Doctor... appeared at my side, his sonic screwdriver held before him.  The Rutan fell backwards, and glowed bright green.  It contorted its copy of the Doctor's face into a caricature of anger.

"Micro-millimeter wave," he explained.  "Remember the cigarette burn?  I widened the field a bit."

The Rutan flailed about in the mud and straw, suffering unimaginable pain.  The Doctor shut off his screwdriver, and the Rutan stopped moving.  It reverted to its natural form, which looked like a glowing green wad of chewed bubble gum that got stuck to a handful of spaghetti.  It pulsed with energy.  Some makeshift device lay on the ground beside it, covered with vacuum tubes and other electronic thingamajigs.

"YOU HAVE KILLED OUR BROOD," it said, in that high-pitched bubbly voice.  "YOU HAVE DESTROYED OUR SHIP.  WE HAVE BEEN CUT OFF FROM THE HOST.  THE POWER CONVERTER DOES NOT WORK.  WE ARE ALONE."

"I can take you home," the Doctor said, keeping his screwdriver leveled at the Rutan.  "Or I can destroy you.  Your mission is finished, either way."

"Kill it," I said.  I tried to gesture with my left hand and discovered that I was still holding half a cheeseburger.  I took a bite.

"What is that?"  The Doctor asked me.

"Wha?"  I responded, my mouth full.

"Is that a cheeseburger?"

"Um..." I swallowed.  "Yes?"

"Did I or did I not tell you... Hold it right there, mister!"  He pointed his screwdriver at the Rutan again, who was starting to slither away.  "Oh, no!  Not again!"

"In this fog, nobody's going to notice my sandwich."

"That's not the point.  Have you had your cholesterol checked lately?  Now, Rutan!  Make your decision!  Go home, and never return to the Planet Earth, or die now!"  The Doctor gave the Rutan a look that chilled my blood.

"WE... WE WILL GO HOME.  YOU MAY TAKE US HOME, DOCTOR.  WE SHALL NEVER RETURN TO THIS PLANET."

"Good choice,"  the Doctor said, producing a TARDIS key from his pocket.  "Do you have a name, or shall I just call you Rutan?"

"Wait, you can't be serious," I said, stepping between the Doctor and the TARDIS.  "We are not giving that thing a ride home.  Even if it doesn't kill us on the way there, we'll die as soon as we arrive."

"Don't worry, Matt.  I know what I'm doing.  Now come along.  Unless you'd rather stay here in 1901?"

"No way," I responded.  I stepped back and let him open the TARDIS.

"Matt, you first!  Down the hall to the wardrobe; you'll find what you need.  Go!"

I ran into the TARDIS, almost tripping over the chicken on my way through the control room.  The air inside the TARDIS smelled like chicken feces.  I gagged a bit as I jogged down the hall to the wardrobe.  As soon as I walked in, I saw what I needed.  A pair of fisherman's waders and a matching jacket, made entirely of rubber, hung on a pair of hangars near the door.  A pair of rubber gloves sat on top of the chest of drawers.  I hastily pulled it all on, and then noticed a hat that matched the outfit.  I squeaked and creaked my way back to the control room.

The Doctor was leading the Rutan inside.  It had taken on human form again, and was carrying its makeshift device close to its chest.  It took me a few seconds to realize that it was now copying me.  As soon as it cleared the threshold, the device lit up.  The Rutan started glowing brightly, and spread it arms wide as if it was being pushed back by a great wind.

"Stop it!  Whatever you're doing, stop it!"  The Doctor tried zapping it with the screwdriver a few times, to no avail.  The Rutan swung its free arm forward, and it turned into a tendril as it stretched out to touch the Doctor.  The tendril wrapped around his hand, and I heard a loud buzzing noise as the Doctor fell to the floor, motionless.

"SO MUCH ENERGY!  WE SHALL GROW A NEW BROOD!  WE SHALL CONTROL A BROOD OF A HUNDRED AND NINE TIMES A HUNDRED AND NINE.  WE SHALL BE A NEW GREAT MOTHER QUEEN AND WE SHALL RULE THIS PLANET!"

The Rutan advanced towards me, where I stood near the door.  I felt a tendril bounce harmlessly off my rubberized chest.  It lashed out with its electrified tendril again, and I caught it in my rubber-gloved hand.  It screamed as I squeezed the tendril tight with both hands, wrapping it around my hands like a rope.  I took one step back and gave the thin piece of Rutan flesh a good yank.

The Rutan lost its human form completely and dropped its power converter, as it rolled around the TARDIS control room in agony.  The tendril I was holding had ripped completely off its body, and fluorescent green blood was spraying from the wound in every direction.  It screamed for several minutes, until it finally lay still on its back, slowly pulsing green.

"WHY?  WHY?" I heard it say.  It was covered in its own blood.  From this angle, I could see all of its internal organs through its translucent belly.  I could also see the enlarged brain sac that the Doctor had described.

"Welcome to Earth," I said.  I lifted my big rubber boot and kicked it right in the sac.

---

The Doctor woke up, after a while.  I wasn't too surprised that he had survived the Rutan's attack, but I didn't know how long it would take him to recover.  I was sitting on the railing, smoking a cigarette, with the Rutan under my boot when he woke up.

He looked around, saw the Rutan, and jumped away.  "Is she dead?" he asked, looking scared.

"I think so.  Want to make sure?"  I put my cigarette out in the Rutan's flesh.  The skin sizzled as the hot embers touched it.  The Rutan did not react.

"Stop that!  How could you?  That's, that's... inhumane!"

"No, sir," I said, as I considered the green goo that covered the end of my cigarette.  "It is not humane.  But it is very human."

The Doctor gave me a cold, hard stare.  Then he straightened his tie, and cleared his throat.  "I'm taking you home."

---

Once we were in flight, the Doctor brought the TARDIS to a halt.  He opened the doors.  Outside I could see flashes of colored light, swirling around crazily.  I closed my eyes as he kicked the Rutan corpse out the door.  "Into the Time Vortex with you, there you go!"  He stood by the door for a moment longer.  "Wow, that's a long way down.  Looooong way down."  He tore a button off his coat and dropped it out the door, whistling like a falling bomb.  "Long way down."

He suddenly turned and closed the door, then walked slowly back to the console.  "Well, I suppose you had no choice.  I should have realized that she was lying about her power converter not working.  Rutans can make nukes out of pencil shavings; they can certainly make a power converter.  But of course she was no longer interested in mere electrical energy.  She wanted the power of the TARDIS."

"Well, thank you for the rubber suit.  I would have been dead without it.  You're lucky to have survived, though."

"Thank the TARDIS.  She always provides what is needed most.  Well, so far as clothes go, anyways.  Like the dirties being instantly laundered?  You can wear the same thing every day if you want.  Sometimes I do."

"So... I'm going home now."

"Well, not yet.  We're not done with the Rutans.  Remember?  Sixteen Rutan drones and another little 'q' queen who likes to dress up as Barack Obama?"

"Oh, yeah!  I almost forgot!  So what's our plan?"

"No plan."  He started making adjustments to the controls.

"No plan?"

"Nope!"  He double-checked the coordinates and pumped a bicycle air pump a few times.

"Do we at least have some weapons that we could use against them?"

"Nope!  No weapons.  Never use them."  He flipped a few switches on the console.

"So what are we going to do?"

"I don't know.  And that's half the fun!"  He put his hand on the hand-brake.

"What's the other half?"  I looked at him, my brow furreled.  He just smiled back.

Then he released the brake.

---

The TARDIS finally stopped spinning and tumbling.  I felt like I was going to lose my cheeseburger, and slowly pulled myself off the floor.

"Here we are!  Two Thousand and Ten!  London, England!"  The Doctor threw open the door.  A humanoid figure, covered in shiny black from head to toe and carrying an automatic weapon, stood before us.  We both froze in our tracks.

"Mmmph, mmmph-mmph!  Mmmph mmph!"  the figure said, raising its hand in greeting.

"What?"  The Doctor said.

The person put his weapon down and pulled off the black mask.  It was a dark-haired man with sideburns, a little younger than me.  "Hi, Doctor!  It's me!  Ianto!"

"Ianto Jones!  How are you!"  The Doctor slapped him on the shoulder in greeting.  Ianto grimaced and rubbed his shoulder.  "So where's Jack?"

"Right here!"  Captain Jack Harkness entered the huge room from the sliding door, similarly dressed in black rubber.  This time, we had arrived near the door, rather than in the middle of the room.  "Doctor!  Good to see you again!"

"Good to see you!  So... what brings you here?"

"Rutans!  What, you thought I was going to forget running into you in 1901?  Or that I could ever forget this beefcake you've got with you!"  He punched me in the arm.  "Ooh!  I forgot how solid those muscles are!  I'll bet you could pick me up and throw me, couldn't you?"

"Don't tempt me," I said, as I looked around at all the open trap-doors.  At least I knew that they had checked the lower level.

"Jack, why are you all wearing those ridiculous outfits?" The Doctor asked.

"Non-conductive.  So the Rutans couldn't electrocute us.  It also neutralized their energy weapons."

"But you can't die.  Why are you wearing one?"

Jack flexed his muscles.  It was clearly obvious that he was naked beneath the skintight rubber.  "Do you need to ask?"

"Jack, stop," the Doctor said.  "Don't."

"Doc, I can handle him," I said.  I looked Jack right in the eye and said, "Jack, you're a nice guy, but... you're just not my cup of tea."

"A cup of tea!  Splendid idea!"  Ianto ran off, slightly flustered.

"Ianto!"  I yelled after him, "Coffee for me!  Black!"

"Got it!"  I heard him call back, from the hallway.

"So, Jack," the Doctor said.  "Did you get all the Rutans?"

"Yup!  All sixteen of them!"

"Sixteen?"  The Doctor asked.

"Yeah, sixteen.  Why?"

"The queen."

"The Queen?"  Jack looked confused.

"The queen.  Spelled with a little 'q'.  Or did you forget about her?"

---

The Doctor and I were ordered to stay with the TARDIS while the Torchwood people ran around, trying to find the queen.  There were four of them, I think, all dressed in that tight black rubber.  A couple of them were women.  The suits looked good on them.

One of the Torchwood women ventured over.  "Doctor?"  she asked, as she removed her mask.  It was a black girl, with long straight hair.  "Is that really you, Doctor?"  She had a british accent, of course.

"Hello, Martha," the Doctor said.  "Torchwood?  Really?"

"Hey, you founded it.  Got no-one but yourself to blame for it."

"Queen Victoria founded it.  After I saved her from a werewolf.  Its original purpose was to protect the British Empire from me."  The Doctor looked angry.  "Don't accuse me of being responsible for Torchwood."

"Sorry," she said, looking sheepish.

"Howdy!" I said, offering my hand.  "Nice to meet you.  Matt Schoaff, truck driver, Buffalo."

"Doctor Martha Jones, MD.  Currently with Torchwood,  formerly with UNIT, and before that, I was with him."  She shook my hand politely, while giving the Doctor an evil glare.  He avoided eye contact as he looked around the room.

"You were with him?  Like..."

"Like you're with him.  Just a couple of traveling buddies."  She had a bit of an edge to her voice as she said that.  "Where'd he take you?  To meet Shakespeare?"

I shook my head.  "Edison."

"Edison?  Nice one.  I never got to meet Edison."

"Oh, please, Martha.  Edison would have tried to seduce you or put you to work in the kitchen," the Doctor said, defensively.

"Shakespeare tried to seduce me.  And you put me to work in the kitchens."  She strutted off in a huff, her backside looking glorious as it bounced from side to side in that tight black rubber.  The Doctor didn't even notice, though.  He was still looking around the room.

"Dude, she's totally into you," I said to the Doctor.  "Wake up and smell the hormones."

"Martha?  No!  And don't ever, ever, ever call me Dude.  Ever."

"Dude?  Dude.  Dude.  Dooooooood!"  I did the two-handed Metal sign, with both fists together and the pinkies raised.

"Stop it!"  He threw his hands up in the air.  "Just stop!"

"You know she likes you.  Why not?"

"Time Lord," he said, pointing at himself.  "Human," he said, pointing at me.  "You might as well start a romance with a mayfly.  It'll be dead tomorrow."  He suddenly started looking around the room again.  "You know, I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with this room," he said, obviously changing the subject.

I looked around.  "A room this big shouldn't have a cellar and a whole bunch of trap-doors?"

"No, that's not it."

"There's no windows or doors other than the huge sliding door?  Not even a fire exit?"

"No, that's definitely not it."

"What then?"  I looked around at the empty room.

"There's no Rutans here!  Let's go find one!  Come on!  Vamanos!"  He started jogging down the hallway.

I groaned and yelled after him, "Do you always have to run?!?"

My work boots made a loud squeaking noise as I ran on the polished tile floor of the hallway.  The Doctor was somewhere ahead of me, but the hallway curved a few times and I couldn't see him.  Judging by the sizes of the rooms, I guessed that we were in an empty factory of some kind.  The hallway ended at a door that led out to a loading dock.  A truck was parked at the dock with its back door open, and technical equipment inside of it.  It looked like some sort of mobile command truck; probably Torchwood's.

There was no sign of the Doctor at the loading dock, nor did I see any of the Torchwood people in the truck.  I turned to go back into the building and almost ran into Ianto.

"Ianto!  Hi!"  I took a few steps back, to give him personal space.  "Did you bring me some coffee?"

"No," he said, flatly.  "No coffee."

"Oh, well.  Guess I'll have to settle for tea, then."

"No tea," he said.  I noticed that he was carrying his automatic rifle again, as he pointed it at me.

"Oh, I beg to differ," the real Ianto said, as he came through the door behind the Rutan imposter.  He had a metal teapot in his hand, which he quickly emptied over the Rutan's head.  "There's always tea!"

The Rutan screamed ear-piercingly as it dropped its weapon.  Its human shape melted away as its tendrils flailed back and forth.

"And," Ianto added, as he brandished a steaming cup and saucer in his other hand.  "I make the best damn coffee this side of the Atlantic!"  He poured the coffee on the Rutan.  Its screaming increased in volume.

I picked up the automatic rifle.  It wasn't really what it looked like; it was some sort of Rutan-designed energy weapon.  I pointed it at the suffering Rutan and pulled the trigger.  It exploded in a mess of green goo.

Ianto and I looked at each other, covered with Rutan guts, and grinned.  "Sorry about that," he said.  "I'll go get you another coffee."

"Get the Doctor his tea, first.  Or you'll end up like this Ianto did."

---

Sitting around the kitchen table in the TARDIS, Jack and Martha explained the Rutans' plot.  They were intending to kill President Obama and impersonate him to gain access to the other leaders of the world.  Gwen and Ianto explained to me how they were so worried about interference from the Doctor that they had set a trap for him, by making his personal photograph collection available on the internet.  Edison's Vitoscopic Recordings were thrown in to pique his interest, and the faked scene of the assassination almost guaranteed it.  The Doctor made omelets with fresh eggs and fresh veggies from his hydroponic garden.  Ianto's coffee really was the best coffee I'd ever had.

After we had all eaten and the Doctor had done some catching up with his friends, I stepped outside the TARDIS for a cigarette.  I didn't really feel like was a part of the group, so I didn't mind distancing myself.  Jack followed me out.

"Hey, can I bum a smoke?" he asked.

I handed him my pack.  It had one cigarette left.  "Last one," I said.

He lit the cigarette and took a huge drag on it.  "American cigarettes," he said, appreciatively.  "These things will kill you, you know."

"Yeah, I know.  Did you ever figure out why you can't die?"

"Oh, yeah, long time ago.  Thousands of years ago, from my perspective."

"And?"

"It was a goddess.  A girl named Rose who looked into the heart of the TARDIS and came out with the power to make men immortal, turn monsters to dust, and grafitti her name across space and time.  And she had a great bottom."  He smiled broadly.

I nodded.  Anything seemed possible, now.  I finished my cigarette and ground it out beneath my boot.  I looked at the butt, blackened and broken on the floor.  I coughed out some phlegm as I headed back into the TARDIS.

"Enjoy the cigarette, Jack.  It's my last one."

---

We said our good-byes and I exchanged email addresses with the Torchwood gang.  Jack made me promise to send him some chicken wings.  "As hot as possible," he said.  I knew just the place to order them from.

Martha insisted on giving the Doctor a big hug, and Jack joined in, pinning her in between them.  Suddenly everybody was hugging the Doctor, except me.

"Matt!" he yelled.  "Get over here!"

I shook my head.  "You're on your own, Time Lord."

He looked hurt.  "No, I'm not.  I've got you.  All of you."  The others loosened their grip on the skinny alien and beckoned me to join in the group hug.  Reluctantly, I wrapped my arms around him, and I felt many more arms wrap around me.  It felt good to be a part of the gang.

---

We landed in my living room, in the dark.  I watched my phone suddenly change its date and time to 5:01 AM, Saturday, February 27th, 2010.

"When I say 'go,' go.  Head straight to your bedroom and don't come out until you hear yourself knock.  You remember what happens next, right?"

"Yeah.  I wait until I leave with my daughter and then I walk over to where I left my car," I recited.  "By the time I get there, I'll be gone, and so will you."

"Precisely!  Now, are you ready?"

"No.  Will I ever see you again?"

The Doctor stood by the door of the TARDIS, ready to open it.  "Of course, you will!  Actually, probably not.  Sorry.  I have a tendency to ..."  he waved his hands back and forth, making his fingers wobble, "... flit about haphazardously.  Like a flutterby.  Maybe you'll see me.  Maybe I'll see you."

I took off my great-great-grandfather's coat, and handed it to him.  "Here, you take this.  It's a hundred times more stylish than the coat you're wearing."

"Thank you, Matt."

"Thank you, Doctor."  I picked up my parka and hat from the railing beside me.  "Ready?"

"Yes!  And 3... 2... 1... go!"

We left the TARDIS.  I heard the back door of the house closing as I saw another Doctor come in the front door.  They both held their fingers to their lips and quickly tip-toed up the stairs behind me.  I went into my bedroom as they headed down the hall to the computer room, whispering to each other.

"Who's there?" my wife asked, suddenly jumping up in bed.

"Just me, sweetie."  I put my parka and hat on the floor of the closet where I was sure that 'me the former' wouldn't notice them in the morning.  "I just had the weirdest and most wonderful experience."

"Without me?"  She beckoned me to the bed.

I crawled into bed beside her.  "Well, maybe not the most wonderful.  But it was definitely the weirdest.  Let me tell you all about it."

---

The next time I saw the blue box, it was in my back yard again.  I was surrounded by a dozen screaming little girls, who were running around the house like crazy people.  My wife was bringing out the birthday cake when I glanced past her and spotted it through the kitchen window.  I shook a couple of kids off my legs and ran out to the back yard.

I stood in front of the TARDIS in my shirt sleeves, shivering in the snow, and tentatively knocked.  The Doctor opened the door, with a huge smile on his face.  "Matt!  I haven't seen you for years!"

"Years?"  I felt confused, even though I knew that he was a time traveler.

"Well, technically, decades.  But who's counting?  I brought your daughter a birthday present!"  He reached back into the TARDIS for something.

"Really?  What did you get her?"

He pulled out a shovel and a map.  "Buried treasure!  Right here in your back yard!"

---

My wife and daughter were both a bit shy around the Doctor, when I first introduced him.  After all, he had caused quite a bit of confusion in our household lately.  But Mary and her friends really liked the idea of a treasure hunt.  They quickly made pirate costumes for themselves and the Doctor, which he gladly put on when ordered to do so by the Dread Pirate Captain Bloody Mary.  He gave her a hearty salute and volunteered to be the crew-member in charge of carrying the shovel.

They marched around the yard until the map led them to a spot in the corner of our yard.  The Doctor started digging a hole.  Within a few moments he had retrieved a small mason jar from beneath the frozen ground.  I saw him open it and give my daughter something out of it.  She ran inside the house to show us what they had found.  It was the Baden Gulden coin, visibly aged.

My eyes started to well with tears as I heard the TARDIS engines buck and heave against the fabric of space, pushing its way into the time vortex.  I knew that I would probably never see him again.

---

The next time I saw the blue box, it was a long ways away.  I had trouble seeing it, even with my glasses.  I wasn't even sure it was there, and had to stare out at the crowd for a few minutes before I was sure of it.  There were almost a hundred million people gathered on the Mall for this momentous occasion, so I doubted that I would be able to see the Doctor, himself.

I looked over at my nephew, who looked very handsome in his black robes.  His red hair shone in the sun, as he faced my daughter and held the bible in front of him.  She placed her right hand on the bible and raised her left hand, then quickly reversed the positions of her hands.  I knew she was nervous.

"I," my nephew started, "Mary Elizabeth Schoaff,"

"I, Mary Elizabeth Schoaff," she repeated.

"Do solemnly swear,"

I looked at my son-in-law.  He was a good man, even if I could take him in a fight.  Really, I could.

"Do solemnly swear,"

"That I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,"

I looked over at my grandson, all twenty-five years of him.  He was seated behind his mother, with about a dozen different web-based devices attached to his clothing.  I knew that he was webcasting the inauguration live, to every planet connected to the internet.

"That I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,"

"And will to the best of my ability,"

I looked out at the sea of faces.  Thousands of arms waved to us.  I wondered how many of them had ever eaten an Original Cheeseburger Sandwich.  In every restaurant I prominently displayed a copy of the 1901 newspaper article about the electrocuted policeman and the mysterious half-eaten sandwich found beside his body.

"And will to the best of my ability,"

"Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

"Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."  She finished her oath, and the crowd roared with applause.  I turned down my hearing aid.  Somebody tapped me on my shoulder, and I turned to look behind me.

Captain Jack Harkness stood there, looking only slightly older.  Beside him stood the Doctor, who hadn't aged a day.  He was wearing my great-great-grandfather's coat.  They both gave me a thumbs-up, then joined the applause.

---

I never saw that blue box again.

It was March the Twelfth, 2079.  My nurse told me so, so it had to be true.  It was my birthday, again.  I was tired of birthdays.

They wheeled me into the activity room, where some of the younger residents were allowed to have some cake.  They even sang to me, in seven different languages.  Halfway through the last verse, it seemed like they reverted to English to finish up the birthday song.  I waved my fingers to keep time, half-heartedly.  I wasn't allowed to have any cake.

They told me I had a visitor.  I hadn't had any visitors for a long time.  My family were all old or dead, or living on other worlds.  Nobody had time for an old man like me anymore.  The nurses helped me get back in bed, and told me they would send the visitor in as soon as I was ready.

He came in without a sound, and sat by my bedside.  "Hello, Matt," he said.

"Howdy, Doc," I said.  "I never thought I'd see you again."  He looked a little older, but that may have just been the harsh lights on his sad face.

"I had to say good-bye, you know.  And... Clive sent a present."

"Who's Clive?"

He gave me a huge smile, and smashed a brown egg over my forehead.  The yolk dripped down my face and onto my neck.  It was cold and uncomfortable.  "Clive the Chicken, of course!"  The Doctor jumped up and started dancing like a chicken.

I started laughing, and flapped my arms weakly in mimicry of him.  He ran out of my room and down the hall, waving his elbows and clucking like a chicken.

And that was the last I saw of him.

THE END

 

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