Chapter 5

"I can't believe Amy's gone." Rory said into his hands. He was sitting on one of the steps by the TARDIS' control console. "I should have held on to her, Doctor. I could have saved her if I'd just held her hand or something."

"Then you'd probably have been lost as well, Rory." The Doctor said gently. He was sitting on the step beside him. The Doctor put his arm around Rory's shoulders. "I know it's not much consolation, but do you really think Amy would have wanted that?"

"We'll never know what my wife wanted, Doctor." Rory said bitterly, savagely brushing away the Doctor's arm and jumping up to pace the floor around the console. The glass resounded with his footsteps. "She's only gone because you had to go and show off. Leaving the doors open while you set the coordinates?" He stopped and whirled around to face the Doctor, his face set in a mask of rage and grief. "That was just plain irresponsible, and you know it!"

Saying nothing, the Doctor looked down at the hole pocked TARDIS floor. He knew Rory was at least partly right. He had been showing off. Though he also knew that under normal circumstances, it would have been perfectly safe. The TARDIS was sentient.

The ship instinctively and faithfully did her best to protect those travelling inside her. On her own, without him having to do anything, she'd put up a force field whenever the doors were opened in space. Even if the Doctor was physically unable to do so, she should have also automatically shut the doors, the moment the ship sensed an incoming object.

Only, for the first time since he'd stolen her all those years ago, she hadn't. Something had gone terribly, awfully wrong.

"What happened, old girl?" He whispered to his ship. "Why didn't we see this coming?"

Without warning, a fog horn sounded. It came from the main control panel.

Rory jumped, staring oddly at the TARDIS console. The Doctor did likewise, leaping up and dashing to the controls. His face baffled, the Doctor quickly went over to the typewriter, which was busily typing away.

"What the hell was that?" Rory demanded to know.

"Incoming message!" The Doctor explained.

The typewriter finished typing, a bell pinged and it promptly spat out a sheet of paper, like one of those old newspaper teletype machines.

Ripping off the sheet, the Doctor said, "Distress call. Though I might say that the timing could be better." His eyes widened in surprise, the Doctor gasped. "I don't believe it! Alright, obviously I do. Otherwise I wouldn't even bother reading this. But, Rory, this is just...incredible!"

"What is?" Rory said shortly.

"It's a message from another TARDIS."

"I thought yours was the last one." Rory shook his head. His gazed suspiciously at the Doctor, thinking that perhaps this was some sort of ruse to take his mind off of the loss of his wife.

"It is! The message is from this TARDIS."

"OK, I get it. You've gone mad with grief." Rory said.

"No, no, no, Rory! It's from my TARDIS in the past." The Doctor explained excitedly, "One of my previous selves is sending a message to all of my other selves. This is just so far-out!"

"Is there a place they take Time Lords to be sectioned?" Rory asked nicely, as if he were a nurse talking to a behavioural health patient, "Cos' I think your Kiddies Meal may be missing some of its chips..."

"Oh you clever, sexy ol' TARDIS! You're gorgeous, you are!" The Doctor said, bending down to kiss the console.

"...and lost the little toy as well, apparently." Rory nodded, eying the Doctor dubiously.

However, the Doctor didn't hear him. He was too busy running over to the monitor, which resembled old fashioned television set hanging over the console. After a few seconds of frantic typing, the Doctor stopped and stood back. Looking up, he read the geometric Galifreyan writing which appeared on the screen. First, his jaw dropped in astonishment. Then, he broke into a wild, delirious grin.

Bounding over, the Doctor hugged Rory. He nearly stumbled, trying to take a step backward, not sure what the Doctor was on about.

"She's alive, Rory!" The Doctor shouted, releasing him. "I've no idea how she survived, but Amy didn't die in the vortex."

"She's what?" He was suddenly afraid he hadn't heard correctly. "Doctor, are you sure? You told me no human could survive the vortex."

"Here! Read it for yourself! She's still with us, Rory. Well, not actually 'with' us, but with me, anyway. OK, not precisely with 'me', either, but..."

"Shut up, Doctor. Let me read this." Rory said tersely. He looked down at the sheet of paper the Doctor had just handed him. It was written like an old-time telegram. Rory read it out loud:

'Emergency protocol 378 activated, stop. Companion in trouble, stop. Came in contact with vortex energy, stop. Alive but in grave danger, stop. Need all hands to operate TARDIS to reverse process, stop. Come at once, stop. Coordinates to follow, stop.'

Over the moon with joy at the news of Amy's rescue, Rory nevertheless was also sobered by the words, 'alive but in danger.'

"What are they—you, doing?" He asked.

"Whatever my other selves are doing, they obviously want it to 'stop'." The Doctor quipped. Then he noticed the deep frown of disapproval on Rory's face. "Erm—sorry."

"We must've been side-swiped by past version of my TARDIS." Using his hands, the Doctor described the action, "Two of the same ships, travelling in the same time stream of the vortex, colliding at the same time..." his hands dropping to his side, the Doctor shook his head, "...very nasty. We're lucky the whole of time and space didn't go ka-blooey. That's a technical term, by the way. Didn't think that was even remotely possible, but obviously it is. Something must've been wrong with his, I mean my past self's collision avoidance system."

"Er—I'm sorry, Doctor. I mean, about what a said before. That it was all your fault. I know it was just an accident." Rory apologized humbly.

"No, you were right. I was showing off. Getting careless, not giving the controls my full attention. I'm the one who should be sorry, Rory." He answered contritely, looking away to check the controls. Trying to come to grips with his guilt.

"What about Amy? It says her life is in danger. Will she be alright, Doctor?" Rory said evenly, trying to calm his own churning emotions.

"If all eleven of us are there to operate the controls, quite probably she will be, Rory. Yes."

"What will that do?" He asked anxiously.

"It's rather hard to explain in layman's terms, so to speak." The Doctor replied, scratching his head wondering how to do just that to a human.

"I'd like to think I'm fairly clever, Doctor." Rory said, "Try me."

"Right. Essentially Rory, if seven or more Time Lords, preferably from the same exact genetic pool, operate the controls with which the TARDIS navigates and manipulates the vortex field, all at the same time, it can—theoretically, reverse the damage done to Amy. The more Time Lords available, the better the chances are of success. It's a very complicated and dangerous process. One wrong move, and the entire Space-Time Vortex would collapse, taking the whole universe down with it. That's why I—I mean he, activated protocol 378. It's the one emergency procedure no Time Lord can ignore."

"So what are we waiting for, Doctor?" Rory smiled for the first time. "Let's go save my wife."

As he spoke, the typewriter began typing once more. With another bright 'ping!' is gave the coordinates of the other TARDIS.

"Your wish is my command, Rory Pond!" Giving a theatrical bow, the Doctor glanced at the coordinates and turned to the task of working the controls.

For once, Rory didn't protest that his last name was 'Williams.' He was just glad that the Doctor, whichever version of him that might be, had rescued his wife from the vortex.

No sooner though had the Doctor flipped the lever to set the TARDIS in motion, then all at once everything in the ship went dead. It made no sound. The central column, the lights on the control boards, and the main lighting all went dark at the same time.

In the sudden silence, Rory swore he could hear his own heartbeat as his anxiety levels mounted again. The red emergency lighting clicked on. In its crimson glow, the Doctor's face looked like a caricature of the devil as he glared angrily at the controls.

"Of all the times to throw a tantrum, you had to choose now?" He muttered crossly, kicking the console with his foot. "Owww!" He whinged, hopping around the console on his sore foot.

The Doctor toggled switches and pushed buttons, but nothing happened. He finally stopped and just stared at it helplessly, his hands falling to his sides.

Giving a big sigh, he tried a different tack. The Doctor bent down and talked softly to his ship. "Come on, old girl. This is Amy Pond we're talking about here. You like Amy, I know you do. What's this about then, eh? What's wrong?" He spoke almost tenderly, stroking the console like it was a faithful pet.

"What the hell was that?" Rory said, his voice echoing in the quiet room.

"I'm not sure, Rory." The Doctor said worriedly. "It's like she's fallen ill, or something."

"OK, now you're just being ridiculous." Rory shook his head. "How can a ship be sick?"

"This ship isn't all bits and bobs of machinery, you know. She's partly organic. She was grown, not manufactured. I don't know yet what's wrong with her, Rory. But it's almost like the poor girl's just had..." He stroked the console again, sadly, "...a heart attack."

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