Chapter 13

The TARDIS landed with a reassuring thump. The Doctor left Amy to go and check on the readings from outside the ship. Scanning the readings on a miniature computer screen set into the waist-high control console, the Doctor smiled and gave a satisfied nod.

Watching this older, fey version of the Doctor from her rickety beach chair, Amy tugged the blanket over her chest and wondered what it had been like travelling with him. Assuming this Doctor had had someone with him in the TARDIS. She couldn't picture him on his own. That would just seem too sad.

This Doctor reminded her of someone. And then it occurred to Amy who that was. The janitor at her former primary school, Mr. Savitt. The spry little man had been a kind, cheerful bloke. Every year Mr. Savitt was asked to play one of Santa's elves as part of the village's Christmas fete, and the man was totally into it. Didn't take his pointy ears and wee green hat off for weeks. Refused to take down his Christmas lights. Even had a toy workshop in his basement. It was too bad they finally had to section him, a few years back, after Mr. Savitt tried to drive his sleigh on to the roof of the council hall. She wondered what ever happened to the reindeer.

"What are you doing?" Amy asked, realizing that she was wool gathering. The Doctor had bent down to peer at a tiny green flashing light on the console.

"It seems the first of our help has arrived." The Doctor told her, as he came over and stood beside Amy's chair. "I had the TARDIS automatically give each of the other TARDIS' completely different coordinates. Very important to avoid different versions of the same ship materializing too close together."

"What happens then?" Amy inquired.

"Complications." Was all the Doctor would tell her.

Amy looked up as the Doctor fussed with his kit, brushing down his gray and navy plaid trousers. Next he checked his colourful jumper vest for stains, smoothed down his cream jacket with his hands and straightened his paisley tie. Then he pulled a red cowboy bandanna out of his pocket and gave his black and white spats a quick swipe. Amy had to smother a laugh, because the Doctor was behaving as if he were about to go on a blind date.

"How do I look?" He smiled nervously at her as he stuffed the bandanna back down inro his trouser pocket. Where, Amy noted with a slight lift of an eyebrow, it gave off a noticeable bulge. "I wouldn't want my other selves to think that I'd let myself go" All of a sudden his face took on a disturbed look. He stared down at his the multi-coloured vest covering his stomach. "This doesn't make me look fat, does it?"

Amy couldn't stop herself this time. She threw her head back and giggled. The Doctor shot her a hurt expression.

Giving him an apologetic smile she said, "Sorry. You look fine. Really. Very, erm—nice. Definitely not fat."

"One thing I need to caution you about." The Doctor said to her seriously. "You must try and refrain from discussing anything about your time period or your travels with my future self. Even with me."

"Oh." Amy said, a puzzled frown creasing her brow. "Why's that?"

"Let's just say that it might cause some..." The Doctor began to explain.

"Let me guess." Amy interrupted. "Complications?"

"Precisely!" The Doctor beamed at her. "You're a very quick study, Amy Pond."

"That's life in the TARDIS." She smiled back. ". Always keeps me on my toe—"

Suddenly, Amy bent double, gripping her sides. She gave a harsh cry of pain. "Ow! Oh my God!" She gasped, as she began to shake with the chills. "What now?"

Bending over her solicitously, trying his best to comfort Amy, the Doctor's eyes took on a sorrowful cast.

"You've absorbed some of the chrono energy from the vortex. Take slow, deep breaths. Take your mind off the pain. Count down backwards from 100. Recite your favourite song lyrics. Say all the parts of a gavitronic atomizer out loud. That one usually works for me. I promise, the pain should subside in a moment. Then I'll go and get something to help calm your stomach."

"But my stomach's fine." Amy protested. "Oh." She quickly added, swallowing hard. Her expression abruptly bore a strong resemblance to that of a seasick landlubber. "Er—don't suppose you have any Pepto-Bismol on board, do you? And a barf bag may not be a bad idea, either."

"Alright Amy, you keep calm. Keep breathing slowly. I'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail." The Doctor told her gently.

Amy's hand on his arm, stayed him for a moment.

"What was that you said about chrono energy? You didn't mention that before."

"Because I wasn't entirely sure whether you'd come into contact with any. It's actually somewhat rare. There are scattered pockets of chrono energy about, but the vortex is so vast that you can travel in it for centuries and not come across any." The Doctor answered, not quite looking at her.

"But now you know?" Amy nodded. It was more of a statement than a question. "What will it do to me?"

"Well, that all depends." The Doctor waffled, "Without performing certain tests, there's no way of telling exactly how much of it you've absorbed."

"Doctor." Amy said, her voice level, almost angry. "I'm not a child. Tell me."

"To a human, it would act very much like a poison. It's been absorbed into your bloodstream. If it's below ten parts per billion, then all that will happen is that you'll feel ill for a few days. Not much worse than if you had stomach flu. If it's more..." His voice trailed off. Then he turned to go, saying,"You know, I really must get you something to help with that nausea. Don't want myselves standing around in sick when they get here. It'd be like that time Capone treated me to dinner at this quaint little Italian restaurant in Cicero." He gave a shudder at the memory. "Bleurgh! Never get into a drinking contest with a Chicago gun moll."

As he turned to leave, Amy stopped him again. "Finish that sentence. The one about if it's more than ten parts per billion. Then what?" She looked in his eyes and said, "Please."

"Then..." He let out a weary sigh, suddenly seeming so very old and sad, "...there's not much that can be done for you, Amy. Even if we can reverse the damage the exposure to vortex energy caused your mind, which we can do, and if we get you back to your own time stream and prevent anything else from happening, there's no antidote for chrono energy poisoning. I'm sorry."

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