06 March 2007

The Desert of Einfuhlung - Chapter 2, Part 1

The Doctor stood just inside the library door, his forehead resting against it. Why had he just turned down Saskia's offer of dinner, he wondered.

Jealousy. He was jealous that someone else was going to be cooking for her, after ten days of being her personal chef.

What was there to be jealous of, though, when she had told him that she didn't have a man in her life. Besides, he still wanted to be with Rose. He pulled away from the door and opened it, then went to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. As he waited for the kettle to boil, he thought about his earlier behaviour and wondered at what point he'd started behaving like a moody teenager rather than a 900 year old Time Lord.

He turned the kettle back off, tea unmade. He ought to go and apologise to Saskia, at the very least. Only yesterday he'd been gratefully thinking about the closeness of the bond they were developing, and now he was doing his best to destroy it. Did he really want that? He couldn't love Saskia as he loved Rose, but Saskia was special to him now, he knew that. She'd entered his mind to save him from the Devron, and his previous selves had helped her to do it. Snapping at her and acting like an adolescent was hardly the best way to repay her. He knew she had risked losing her own mind in order to save his, and the fact that she probably hadn’t realised just how big a risk she was taking, didn't make it any less significant.

He hurried out of the kitchen and up to the Control Room. He picked up his coat from where he'd tossed it across a railing earlier, and checked the local time: just after 4.30 pm. He paused in the middle of pulling on his coat. He ought to take her a peace offering and there was still time to find a local shop selling something suitable. He pulled his coat on properly and headed outside. He made a point of locking the TARDIS door this time, then headed down the side street towards the Museum. He recalled seeing a nice gift shop not far from the Museum the last time he'd been here. He walked briskly towards the Museum and was about to pass it when a poster caught his eye.

                                              TODAY ONLY

Explorer and Archaeologist, Professor Jackson, will lecture on his recent trip to the fabled Lost City of Eupatoria in the Dasleere Viertel region.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "The Lost City of Eupatoria?" he muttered. "Presumably someone has found it again!" He went up the steps of the Museum to find an elderly man in a grey suit sitting behind a desk in the foyer.
"Yes sir?" The man looked at him expectantly.
"Today's talk by Professor Jackson, what time does it start?" asked the Doctor.
"In ten minutes, sir," the man answered.
"Do I need a ticket?"
"Yes sir."
"Oh!" The Doctor patted briefly at his pockets. Money! Why was he always so vague about money, he wondered crossly. He looked at the expectant face of the man before him and shrugged nonchalantly. "Some other time," he said and walked across the foyer to look at a display case as a party of four young people, presumably students, arrived and requested tickets. He sidled down the corridor whilst the man was busy, following the sound of excited chattering. Fishing in his coat pocket, he found his psychic paper and grinned suddenly. He allowed the students to catch up with him, then followed them down the corridor to a large lecture theatre. He briefly flashed his psychic paper at the elderly woman who was checking the tickets, but not collecting them, he was relieved to see. The lecture room was vast and packed almost full. The Doctor looked around for a seat, convinced he would have to stand, then he spotted a spare seat in the raked tiers at the back of the theatre. He wormed his way through the chattering groups of people who were still standing, suddenly grateful for the fact that his new body was wiry and supple. He reached the seat and sank into it with a small sigh of relief.

"Smooth moves," said the young man beside him, with a grin.
"Thanks," the Doctor answered, surprised but pleased at the compliment. Before they could get into a proper conversation, a sudden silence rippled to the back of the theatre from the stage at the front. The Doctor looked up at the stage and saw a man, dressed in desert clothing, walk briskly onto the stage. The man was in his mid-fifties, with steel grey hair, a weather-beaten face, and a military bearing. Suddenly the Doctor regretted Saskia's absence. She could have told him more about the Professor, whom he suddenly realised was striking a pose on the stage. The Doctor frowned, baffled by the man's manner, until he spotted a small cluster of people in the centre of the lecture theatre, who were apparently recording the Professor's lecture.
"He always does that." A quiet voice broke in on his thoughts and he looked at the young man beside him, surprised at the note of contempt in his voice. The young man glanced up at the Doctor's intent expression. "The Professor makes a lot of money selling his lectures to an eager public," he explained.
"Well exploration can be an expensive business," the Doctor answered mildly.
The young man scowled, but before he could reply, a booming voice rolled around the lecture theatre.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am Professor Jackson." Most of the audience immediately erupted into enthusiastic applause. The Doctor noticed that the Professor made no effort to discourage the applause, he simply stood and waited, a smug look on his face. The Doctor felt the young man beside him stiffen with dislike. He wondered why the young man was there, if he disliked the Professor so much. Before he could ask, however, the Professor began his lecture.

It was, the Doctor had to concede, a slick performance, as well as a fascinating talk. The Lost City of Eupatoria had, in fact, only just been rediscovered by the Professor and his small team of archaeologists. Empathians had long believed that there was a city out in the desert region known as the Dasleere Viertel, which the Doctor knew meant "The Empty Quarter" in German, an old Earth language. The Professor's film show, maps and drawings showed an awesome cityscape, apparently well preserved despite its age. The Doctor found himself wishing he could see it for himself, and wondering whether Saskia would like to see it. Saskia ! The Doctor suddenly remembered that he had been going to see her, to apologise for his earlier behaviour. He frowned, wondering why he had decided to come to the lecture instead. It wasn't like him to get distracted that easily. He looked up at the stage and suddenly found the Professor staring very intently, apparently at him. He blinked, then glanced at the young man beside him, who was glaring angrily at the Professor. The Doctor heard the Professor thanking the audience for attending his lecture, but his thoughts were elsewhere. He wondered why the Professor had been staring at him so intently, then shook himself mentally. He really should go and see Saskia to apologise. He got to his feet with the rest of the audience, but before he could move he found an obsequious man beside his elbow.
"Excuse me, sir. The Professor would like a word with you."
"With me?" the Doctor asked, eyebrows raised.
"Yes sir. You are the Doctor, are you not?"
The Doctor smiled widely. "Indeed I am."
"Then would you come with me please?"
The Doctor turned to say goodbye to the young man who had been sitting beside him, but discovered that he had already left.
"Sir?" The obsequious man was looking back at the Doctor impatiently.
"Oh well," thought the Doctor. "I guess I won't find out why he disliked Professor Jackson so much."

The Doctor followed the man out of the crowded lecture theatre, then down a corridor to an anteroom. The man knocked on the door, then ushered the Doctor inside.
"I got him, sir," he said breathlessly.
"Good! Don't stay!" Jackson answered brusquely.
The Doctor frowned slightly at Jackson's tone.
"So you are the Doctor? The man who single-handedly saved Einfuhlung from a bunch of marauding aliens?"
"That's me," the Doctor answered cheerily. "Although, technically, it wasn't single-handed."
"Well you didn't have an army, did you?" asked Jackson with a frown.
"Nope, just my own two arms." The Doctor knew his cheery manner was irritating Jackson, but he didn't intend to modify his tone. There was something slightly off about the man before him, but he couldn't quite work out what it was yet. He was hoping that if he irritated Jackson enough, without actually being outright rude, he might have the chance to work out what was going on. He was surveying the room as he talked, thinking furiously, and wishing yet again that Saskia was here to help him.
"Yes well, I didn't really ask you here to talk about those insolent Rovians," Jackson said abruptly.
"No? Then why did you ask me here?" asked the Doctor curiously.
"I thought that whilst you were back on Einfuhlung, you might like to visit the Lost City with me."
The Doctor looked at the Professor in surprise. "I thought you'd only just got back from there?"
The Professor nodded. "I have, but I'm going back again in a few days. There's still a lot of work to be done at the site, and frankly, I'm not sure my junior assistants are up to the task. I thought you might like to come with me."
"That's a generous offer," said the Doctor, pulling distractedly at his earlobe. "When do you leave?"
"In three or four days. I've got to sort out some more funding first and replace some equipment we lost in a sandstorm."
"OK then," the Doctor answered brightly.
"Excellent! Here is my card. My hotel number is on the back. Call me in three days and I'll let you know when exactly we're leaving."
The Doctor took the card and put it into his breast pocket.
Jackson immediately bellowed, "JONES!"
The anteroom door opened and the obsequious man stuck his head around it. "Sir?"
"See the Doctor out, man!"

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