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Doctor Who in the Multiverse of Madness

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  Yasmin Khan loved entering the console room. No matter how many times she did it, the chamber would not lose any of its magic or charm. The pillars seemed to glow warmer and brighter as they noted her presence, alerting the Doctor to her presence. The Time Lord was currently lying on her back, mostly underneath the console with her goggles on. Yaz stared down at her little legs poking out, doing well not to laugh. The Doctor was very sensitive about how short her legs were. So any thoughts or jokes were strictly left in her head, lest she wanted to deal with a Gallifreyan strop for the rest of the day. And their days usually went on for a while.

   “Are you just going to stand there and stare at me, Yaz?” the Doctor suddenly asked, though she still didn't move out from her hiding place. Even when a few sparks flew from the machine. “As you can tell, I could do with a hand.”

   Yaz, momentarily recovering from the slight blush painting her cheeks at being caught out for taking the opportunity to look at the other woman, quirked an eyebrow. Not that the Doctor saw. “It’s not usual for you to actually ask for help. Something must be really going wrong…and you’re trying to pin the blame on me by getting me involved.” She was, by now, accustomed to the way the Doctor worked.

   “Nothing is going wrong , I’ll have you know. I’m just putting in a few upgrades.”

   “I thought we just upgraded her after the whole Flux debacle. Remember? You almost killed us in the process?”

   “Are you now expecting me to keep tabs on every single time I put you in a life threatening situation?”

   “I don’t think even your brain is big enough to catalogue that.”

   The Doctor rolled out from underneath the console on a metal creeper, looking up at her companion. “I was doing a nice thing by inviting you to help on our ship and all I’ve gotten in response is backchat and insults.”

   Yaz smiled. “I think that’s the first time you’ve referred to the Tardis as our ship, not just yours. It has a nice ring to it.”

   “I suppose it does, yeah.” There was a shyness to the Doctor’s return grin.

   “Do I get offered the chance to help or am I not worthy yet?”

   They both jumped at the sound of the voice, the Scouse accent an unexpected noise. Sadly, for the Doctor anyway, her jumping meant she banged her forehead right against a metal panel, sending out a chiming clang. She rubbed her head painfully as she staggered onto her feet, looking over at Dan as he sat on one of the steps. He was grinning wolfishly at her clumsiness. Yaz was better trained to hide her smirk when the Doctor cast her gaze over to her. 

   “How long have you been there?” the Doctor asked, annoyance clearly evident in her tone.

   “Half an hour, I reckon,” Dan replied with a casual shrug. He rolled up a football magazine he’d been reading. It was woefully out of date, covering teams and players that were playing closer to the decade he’d been a child. “I see how it is. I’m here, and you don’t bat an eyelid. But Yaz walks in and you’re suddenly scrambling to get her to go down with you.” He bit his lip. “Maybe I should have worded that a bit better…”

   The Doctor cocked her head to the side like a puppy trying to make sense of the human language. “Why? Did you say something wrong?”

   Yaz was currently holding her head in her hands. “Can we move on instead of talking about this?”

   “But why?” The Doctor wasn’t going to be perturbed that easily. “I don’t see the problem with what he said! I suppose I did want you to go down with me.”

   “Excuse me?” Yaz managed to squeak out. Her cheeks were definitely on fire now. There had to be a room deep inside the Tardis where she could hide. She wanted to shoot Dan daggers for what he’d caused, probably on purpose knowing what he was like.

   “I needed you to go down with me under the console to help me reach one of the exposed wire connections.” The Doctor had her hands on her hips, still not following the humour one of her friends was enjoying and the embarrassment the other was going through. 

   “I think I’m going to need some time to recover before I can do that.”

   “Suit yourself,” the Doctor said with a pout. “But if something goes wrong, it’s your fault.” She went back to her earlier position, oblivious to the torment she’d just put Yaz through. The complexities of the inner workings of the Tardis were much simpler and easier to understand than the mind of Yasmin Khan.

   Dan sidled over to his mate, nudging her with his shoulder. “I thought she was actually offering there and then. I thought your head might explode with the implications.”

   “Shut up,” Yaz hissed. She wished she’d never told him about her feelings sometimes. Only sometimes. It was nice to have someone who she could joke about it with. Making the topic lighter and easier to talk about made it less daunting to consider. 

   The lights around the console room suddenly dimmed, like the life force was being drained out from the arching columns surrounding them. The Doctor was up once more, abandoning the goggles as she anxiously checked the monitor. Yaz was by her side, always her place to be in a crisis. Usually because it was the Doctor causing the problems. She couldn’t make sense of the Gallifreyan swirling across the holographic screen even if her friend had been trying to teach her some basic phrases. But it was easy to tell that, whatever was happening, it wasn’t good . Most noticeably when she looked at the Doctor’s worried expression.

   “What did you do?” Yaz gave her a pointed look. Things always went wrong when she started messing with the Tardis. The time machine was temperamental at the best of times.

   “This isn’t me!” the Doctor assured her. “I was just making the systems more efficient, trying to get the navigation circuits to be more accurate since you’re always complaining about not landing in the right location.” She ran a hand through her hair in a way that shouldn’t have been distracting for Yaz given the circumstances. “But…oh no.”

   “What, ‘oh no’? That’s never good. There’s never a good ‘oh no’.”

   “I didn't want to fry my body as I was working because…you know…I rather like the way I look and I’d hate to change it so soon. In order to do that…I put the Tardis on a temporary low power mode.”

   “Like you do with your phone?” Dan was there with them now, even more confused than Yaz by what was happening. The Tardis was now letting out a low hum that sounded a lot like a distress signal. 

   “It’s a bit more complicated than that but yes…basically.”

   “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. Maybe that’s why the lights have gone out. To save power.” Yaz’s voice was getting increasingly hopeful. 

   “It wouldn’t be too bad…if it didn't also shut the shields down.” The Doctor bit her lip, refusing to meet their (now furious) gazes.

   Dan had his hands on his head. “Why would you do that?!” His voice had the tendency to go more high pitched and squeaky whenever he was panicked.

   “We were floating in a harmless bit of the time vortex! I made sure of it! I was adamant that a few minutes wouldn’t do any harm. I can go a few minutes without getting into trouble.”

   “Well you obviously can’t!” Yaz argued.

   The humming stopped. For a second, they wanted to believe that was a good thing. Then it was replaced by a chiming sound, something Yaz hadn’t heard the Tardis do too many times. It usually signalled impending doom.

   “The cloister bell.” It was strange to see the Doctor truly terrified but this was one such occasion. She pushed past Yaz to grapple with the screen. “That’s not possible.”

   “I don’t think I even want to ask.”

   “The vortex…it’s gone…well, to be more accurate, we’ve gone out of it. But we didn't move!”

   The room buckled all of a sudden, spinning wildly as the chiming tones became louder. They did their best to cling onto the console to keep their footing, but Dan was the first to lose his grip, tumbling to the floor with a heavy thud. Yaz was soon following his example, covering her face as sparks flew out around them. The engines of the Tardis were wheezing unhealthily, the symbols on the monitors flickering and changing every second. Helplessly, Yaz looked to the Doctor, who was just about managing to stay upright in a sort of half-crouching position.

   “We’re being pulled into something! The Tardis can’t fight it!” The Doctor wasn’t even looking at them. She couldn’t, for fear of what their expressions would tell her. She had let them down. She had put them in danger again. Knowing that there was nothing she could do to control their rapid fall, she pushed herself against the console and towards one of the columns. Slowly and clumsily, she reached down, searching out for Yaz amidst the chaos. If it was going to end like this, she at least wanted to be with her. 

   Just as they were about to hold onto one another, the ship came to a juddering halt. The sudden jarring movement sent the Doctor flying, ending up completely flush against Yaz’s front. Everything was still once more, the only sound now being their ragged breathing as they contemplated just how close their bodies now were. For a moment, they might have considered to even forget about the problem and just enjoy the opportunity but the Doctor was never allowed such luxuries. And she was leaning rather forcefully on Yaz’s bladder that kind of ruined the romantic vibes.

   The Time Lord looked up. “The Tardis,” she said with a gasp.

   The entire console was now matching the columns, in that the warm glow, something that had provided comfort to them for so long, had dissipated. It was grey and cold, the central column frozen in place. Yaz watched as her friend staggered towards it helplessly. She didn't know long the Doctor and the Tardis had been together but could only imagine the sort of anguish she was going through now. She reckoned it must have been something akin to the way she had felt when she and the Doctor had been torn away from one another for three years. Yaz couldn’t imagine a sensation feeling worse than that. 

   Dan was struggling to stand up. “What was that? You said we were being sucked in…was it like a black hole or something?” He didn't really know how they worked but he’d definitely heard about them on some boring science show he’d accidentally put on the tv one evening.

   “I don’t know.” The Doctor’s voice was monotonous, devoid of feeling. It was like she’d been drained just as much as the Tardis. “Whatever it was, it killed the Tardis. There’s nothing there.” She ran a hand over a lever, testing it to no avail. “We’re stuck.”

   “And where are we stuck?” Yaz asked the obvious question. 

   “Perhaps some sort of void. A space between realities. That’d be the only explanation I can think of for what happened just then.” The Doctor’s shoulders were sagged, her back hunched. In the blink of an eye, she had lost all of her drive and enthusiasm. It was breaking Yaz’s heart. “I think I’ve been through this before…I just can’t remember when. It was a long time ago now.”

   “Then shouldn’t that make you hopeful? If this has happened before, then that means you managed to fix whatever went wrong back then. You could do that again.”

   The Doctor gave her a halfhearted smile. “Yeah,” she sighed. “Maybe.”

   Dan was walking towards the doors. “Is there a way of looking at this void?”

   “The scanner’s are down. I can’t get any readings. I can’t even bring up images from outside. The only thing that’s operational is the life support, which has the fail safe put in place. But that won’t last forever.”

   “Well, there’s always the old fashioned method.” Dan, not really thinking about it, pulled open the two doors, only to hear the Doctor shouting at him in panic. The Time Lord ran over, trying to stop him, but it was already too late. He was too far away to reach. The doors opened and she anticipated the worst, covering her eyes from what she expected to see. She anticipated an awful sensation of being dragged out from the relative safety of the Tardis and sucked into the void. She imagined hearing her friends’ cries as they succumbed to the same fate. 

   But none of that happened. Slowly, she moved her arm down, peering at the expanse before her. It was black and endless, like one might expect a void to look at. But it wasn’t empty. It was swirling and changing in almost infinitesimally small ways, things only she could perceive because she’d been wandering the universe for so long. And there were stars in the distance, blinking away, hanging there despite the impossibility of their presence. It wasn’t making sense and the Doctor hated it when that happened. 

   Yaz, having been struck by panic at the Doctor’s behaviour, joined them in the doorway, confused as to why the Time Lord’s reaction had been so visceral. “It’s space.”

   “It’s a great view,” Dan commented. He would never get used to this. How lucky was he? Despite all the crashing and the constant danger, he got to experience this firsthand. “If we are stuck here forever, I can imagine worse places to be. Like Liverpool city centre late on a Friday night.”

   “But…it’s space.” The Doctor was frowning, more out of confusion than anything else. “That…shouldn’t have happened.”

   “Stop complaining,” Yaz said. “Isn’t that better than what you were thinking?”

   “Well…yes,” the Doctor allowed. “I mean, it’s still not good . We can’t go anywhere. But it’s not nearly as life threatening.”

   Dan gave her a sideways glance. “Just the normal amount of life threatening when we’re with you.”

   “Precisely!” 

   “Hold on…” Yaz was pointing at something in front of them. “What’s that?”

   Just out in front of them, there was a small object floating across the black expanse. They narrowed their eyes at it, trying to make out what it was. It had a familiar shape though they couldn’t quite place it. There was a light coming off it, a purple glow that made it stand out against the never-ending darkness. Whatever it was, none of them reckoned that it was supposed to be there.

   “It almost looks like a person,” Dan commented, furrowing his brow. “But that’s not possible.”

   The Doctor was already rushing over to the console. “A lot of things are happening today that shouldn’t really be feasible. Why would we expect anything else with this?” She was pulling at levers, pressing buttons, trying to coax a bit of life out of the old girl.

   “What are you thinking?” Yaz was next to her again, watching the way her hands moved deftly over the controls.

   “If the life support system is still operational, which it is - you can tell that from the way we’re still actually breathing - then that means the gravity and air bubble around the perimeter of the Tardis is still in place. If I can just manipulate it…a bit like this…” She grunted as one lever was more difficult to push up. She was having to go under the console, bypassing the usual mechanics and getting right to the heart of the machine. “...I should be able to create a sort of…tunnel.”

   “And that’ll drag whatever that is towards the Tardis?”

   “Hopefully. We might have to give it a helping hand during the last stretch.”

   “And what if it’s something dangerous? A bomb? It was definitely glowing like something that might explode. You’d be surprised at how often it’s a bomb when it comes hanging out with you.”

   The Doctor looked at her with an exasperated expression. “I could leave it, if you really want. But I’m pretty sure that it’s a person out there, someone who doesn’t look to be enjoying the openness of space. This will definitely use up the last remaining energy we have in here, the tiny bit that’s left. I could ignore it and be selfish, put us first for once. If ever a situation warranted a bit of selfishness, it’s probably this one.”

   “You know I’d never ask for that. And I know you’d never even go through with it. If there’s even a chance that it’s a person, and they’re somehow still alive, then I don’t think it was ever a choice.”

   “I don’t think we have this long for a deliberation,” Dan called out, still standing by the door. “How long can a person survive in space?”

   “Not very long,” the Doctor growled. “Thanks for your running commentary as ever, Dan.” She looked at Yaz. “Is that a yes then?”

   “Do it,” the other woman replied. 

   The Doctor got to work, lunging under the nearest panel. The Tardis shuddered for a few seconds and, in that time, she was heading back towards the doors to watch her work in progress. The space in front of them seemed to shift and glimmer as the bubble distorted, contorting and shaping itself to fit their needs. They watched as the object began to move in a different direction than before, slowly floating towards them. It was an anxious couple of moments as they waited for it to get nearer, the Doctor constantly worried that the final power cells would peter out of life before the job was finished. But the object kept getting closer. And, as it came more into view, it was increasingly apparent that they’d been right about it being a person.

   The three of them reached out once they were close enough, taking a limb each and carefully dragging the body into the ship. It was a strange sensation to hold, the entire body covered in a layer of what looked like crystals. It explained the glow they had seen, not that any of them understood what it was. The Doctor was understandably curious, wanting to investigate what the material was, but then the person was entering the interior gravity shell and returning to its own weight, making it much heavier to carry. With a bit of effort, they managed to place it on the floor, propping it up against one of the pillars.

   “What do you think it is?” Dan asked as they stared at it. It was at least providing a bit of illumination across the chamber. “It definitely has to be an alien.”

   Yaz quirked an eyebrow at him. “Obviously. Have you ever seen a human do that?”

   The Doctor was crouching in front of it, waving her sonic screwdriver over its form. “I wouldn’t be so sure. The readings are all over the place but I’m getting notes of a terrestrial-based life form. But that doesn’t explain what…this is.” She gestured wildly to the glowing substance that was beginning to pulse softly.

   “Are you sure your sonic isn’t just getting it wrong?” Dan suggested. “After the day we’re having, I reckon it could be likely.”

   “I’ll have you know that my sonic is working perfectly fine, thank you very much. I did make it myself after all.”

   “That’s what I’m worried about.”

   The Doctor frowned at him, about to think of a witty retort, when the glowing seemed to subside. The crystals quickly vanished from view, revealing the person lying underneath. They looked at them in confusion, finding a young girl with her eyes closed. Her hair was fairly tousled, but they could forgive her for that given the situation they’d found her in. The Doctor was more curious about the gorgeous bangle wrapped around her left arm, inscripted with something she couldn’t quite make out. She wished the Tardis translation circuits were still functioning properly.

   “I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Yaz said, looking at the figure in astonishment. “She was in space! Without a spacesuit! That shouldn’t be possible.”

   “We managed to survive it,” the Doctor idly pointed out. “Remember? First time you ended up on your first alien planet. That all started with accidentally getting transported into space. If it hadn’t been for those ships passing by, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.” She looked down at the unconscious girl. “Is it so unfathomable to think that she’s just as lucky as we were back then.”

   “I think you need to tell me about that story,” Dan responded, trying to decide whether they were telling the truth. “But is it possible that she’s the one that brought us here? Like…she wished really hard for some help and we were the closest to her?”

   “It doesn’t really make much scientific sense but it’s as good an explanation as we currently have to work on. There’s definitely something different about her.”

   The girl’s eyes opened unexpectedly. They might have expected her to react slowly after what she’d been through but she was instantly jumping back in fright at their presence, scrambling across the floor and finding that she had no room to move backwards. She looked at her new surroundings, staring at the vast room and the strange console in the centre. Wherever she had expected to go, it wasn’t this. The three people in front of her looked just as clueless about this as she was.

   “Where…where am I?” she croaked. “I was…I was in my bedroom and then…it started to feel funny. The bangle. It was glowing and then…then…I can’t remember what happened next.”

   “You’re safe,” the Doctor reassured her, placing a hand on her shoulder. She was happy to see that the girl didn't flinch away from her touch. “Don’t worry. We managed to get you inside before you were hurt.”

   The girl cocked her head to the side. “Hurt from what?”

   “What sort of accent is that?” Dan asked.

   “New Jersey.” The girl looked distinctly offended. “I don’t think you should be commenting on anyone’s accents, mister.”

   “So not an alien then,” Yaz reasoned sensibly.

   “What? Of course not! Do I look like an alien to you? Why would you think that?”

   The Doctor gave her a polite smile, trying to take back control of the conservation. “Why don’t you start off by telling us your name?”

   “Kamala. Kamala Khan.”