That's Miss Demelza to you (badgermonkey) wrote in timespaceandtea,
That's Miss Demelza to you

Is this the way to Magrathea?</a>

It is a fact that, even if you travel through time and space on a regular basis, eat breakfast and lunch three million light years apart, and dice with death and other dangerous creatures as often as brushing your teeth, you will still, for the briefest second when you wake up, long for home.

  Ford looked up at the ceiling, thinking for a moment of his home planet; the beautiful landscapes, the clement weather, the comely women and the extraordinary and fascinating range of breakfast cereals available there.

  Athur snapped out of sleep and into a short reverie about country lanes, small pubs, the Times crossword and double egg, bacon, mushroom, tomato and fried bread.

  Rose was missing being woken by Radio 1.

  The Doctor preferred not to sleep.  But sometimes even he had to, and in their various beds on their various spaceships, the aliens all ached for home.

  They were a galaxy apart, of course, and not even in the same epoch of time, which meant there was no possible way that these events were actually happening at the same time.  So they weren't.  But, yet, they were, and it would take considerably more words than are available in any one of the universe's copious range of languages to explain why, so you shall just have to take my word for it.

  Arthur checked his digital watch.  "It's morning,"  he grunted to Ford.

  "We're in space, Arthur, there is no morning."

  "Then why do you have such a terrible case of morning breath?"

  Ford, vowing not to risk opening his mouth and proving Arthr right, merely gave what he hoped was a retina-scarring glare and wandering into the cockpit.

  "This is it, baby!"  Zaphod was saying, holding a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster in each hand and swaying like a tourist wearing a backpack on the Tube.

  "This is what?"  Ford asked, before remembering he hadn't yet brushed his teeth and may be worryingly less than fragrant.  He took a swig of one of Zaphod's drinks, knowing from his high school Alcochemistry lessons that a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster kills all known germs, some sea creatures and a handful of the punier mammals.  He swilled it around his mouth, swallowed, felt the floor dissolve beneath his feet, swirl around the room, sing a Neptunian fishing shanty and slowly - very slowly - return.

  By the time this had finished, Zaphod's explanation was over and he was high-fiving himself in a complicated way.

  "We've done it!" he said, a beam on both his faces.  "We're rich!"

  "I thought you were rich already,"  Ford said, "thanks to that business with the time machine and the quill pen."

  "Hey,"  Zaphod said, "Turns out going back in time and forging your great-great-great-grandfather's will is not as foolproof as you'd think.  See, in retaliation, he went back in time too, and sabotaged his great-great-great-grandfather's paper mill so he wouldn't have any money to give to me.  Not only was I bankrupted overnight, there's now no such thing as soft toilet paper.  Bummer, huh."

  Of course, the intelligent reader will notice here a rampant and unforgiveable trangression of the neat and oft-quoted time-travel paradox - namely that one cannot, of course, meet or interact with one's ancestors for fear of altering or eradicating altogether one's own existence, and also that any changes made in the past must, henceforth, have always been so, meaning that there is no conceiveable way Zaphod's actions could have caused a sudden and shocking change in his timeline.

  Unfortunately, like all neat theories, it's a load of dingo's kidneys, and was not a lot of use to Arthur when he went to the toilet five minutes later.

  Meanwhile, occuring concurrently and also both pre- and post-empting the events on the Heart of Gold, the Doctor was trying to tell Rose why time alteration was, all things considered, a really bad idea.

  "Say you go back and blow up Hitler in 1930..."

  "...which he would deserve..."

  "...who's to say someone else doesn't take his place?  Who's to say Hitler wasn't keeping down some other, worse, tyrant, someone who was just waiting in the wings for the big guy to be bumped off?"

  "Who's to say he wasn't the worst person the planet had ever known and deserved to die horribly?"

  "You'll have to take my word for it."  

  Rose's eyes narrowed and she sucked her teeth.

  "Don't do that,"  the Doctor said,  "It's so Jerry Springer."

  "You're really starting to wind me up."

  The Doctor feigned surprise.  "Really?  I would never have guessed.  And after all I've done for you.  Listen, earthling..."

  "I hate it when you call me that."

  "...we're not allowed to go and change time at the drop of a hat.  There are rules, and I'm supposed to be making sure they're adhered to."

  Rose thought about it for a second.  "So I suppose making sure Hear'Say never got to number one wouldn't be allowed?"

  "Even that."

  Something flashed on the control panel of the Tardis and the Doctor leapt up and started doing complicated things with levers.  He muttered to himself while trying to press three buttons at the same time.  "If I counterbalance the hypertricity of the matter transfer temporal collider..."

  "What are you on about?"  Rose asked.

  "Nothing," the Doctor grinned brightly, "I just make stuff up to make you feel stupid."  He pressed a button with a flourish of triumph.  "That ought to do it."  Immediately, three sets of bleeping started and a small volley of sparks lauched itself from the centre of the controls.  Rose leaned back in her chair.  "Oh yeah, I feel really stupid now."

  "What on earth?" the Doctor frowned, leaning over the rows of urgently flashing buttons.

  "To your right,"  Rose called.

  "This is not the time, Rose."

  "The third button to your right.  Press that, then the green one with the squiggles on, then pull that middle lever."

  "Will it shut you up?"  

  "You'll see."

  With an utterly condescending air, the Doctor did as she suggested, pausing magnficently before pulling the lever to make sure Rose was watching.  Instantly all the beeps and flashing stopped, and were replaced by a calming hum.

  The Doctor's jaw dropped.  "How did you do that?"  he asked.  "No, don't tell me, you did a GCSE in applied Time Travel Technology and Tardis repair was one of your coursework projects.  Or you saw it on Blue Peter."

  "I don't just sit and do my nails,"  Rose said smugly.  "I watch you.  This thing isn't as difficult as it looks."


  "Speechless?  That'd be a first."

  The Doctor recovered himself.  "Anyway, anyone could do what you just did.  It's like turning the headlights on.  What would be really impressive would be getting it somewhere."

  "I can get it places,"  Rose said.  "Just haven't liked to get in your way.  My mum always said you should never interrupt a man when he's fiddling with his machinery."

  "Another Jackie pearl of wisdom,"  The Doctor said, rolling his eyes.  "Go on then, take us to the Talaxian Nebula.  In the year 31283.  On a Tuesday."

  "Just let me look it up."  Rose pressed some buttons and peered at a screen. Then she played with the control panel for a few seconds, yanked a lever into place, and the Tardis made its familar noise.

  The Doctor opened the doors cautiously and peered out.  "Well I..."

  "Did I do it?"  Rose said, smiling.

  He slammed the doors shut.  "A fluke!"  he pronounced.  "If you give enough monkeys enough typewriters sooner or later they'll figure out what Angel Delight is really made of."

  Rose stood up and slapped her palm against the controls. "It wasn't a fluke,"  she shouted.  "Why is it so hard for you to believe I might actually be good at something?"

  "I don't know, maybe because you keep getting us both in mortal danger and you'd be dead ten times over if I wasn't there to keep bailing you out?"

  "I wouldn't have even been there if it weren't for you tricking me into coming with you."

  "Tricking you?  That's rich.  You couldn't get shot of that grimy little rock fast enough."

  "Oh, what's wrong, Doctor, worried I won't let you be all manly and the head of the Tardis any more?"

  The Doctor sighed.  "Oh, for...tell you what; you're so good, here's a challenge.  Take us to Magrathea."

  "Never heard of it."

  "There's a surprise."

  Rose pulled a face, then started searching on the screen.  "I can't find it!" she said in consternation.

  "Oh, really?"  the Doctor began, but she was bent over, concentrating deeply, her forehead furrowed in thought.  "Maybe if I extrapolate from the co-ordinates of...and take a temporal vector from..and just press..." she muttered.

  The Doctor began to look concerned.  "Er, Rose, I think there's something I should tell you."

  "Keep your jacket on,"  Rose said, "I've sorted it."

  She pressed three buttons at once and the Tardis began to travel.

  When they came to a stop, the Doctor sat in silence, white-faced.

  "Aren't you going to look?"  Rose asked.

  "I don't know that I want to,"  he said.  "You see, Magrathea isn't supposed to exist."

  "You what?"

  "It's a myth!  A kid's bedtime story!  It's like Atlantis, or Tasmania, or any of those fictional places."

  "Tasmania isn't fictional."

  "Have you ever been there?"  As he left Rose thinking about this, the Doctor slowly pushed open the door and peered through the crack.  His face lit up.  "Fantastic!"

* * * * *

  Arthur Dent was having a very bad day.  Not only was there no toilet paper, but now they were being shot at by dead people.  Or something, he'd drifted off for a moment when Ford and Trillian were flapping about it all and now he was confused but determined not to show it.

  "So this is a dead planet?" he said to Zaphod, who was the only person not bashing away at a keyboard in panic.

  "Yeah, it's deader than Crimplene, baby, it's like so a few centuries ago," Zaphod drawled, looking at his reflection in the video screen.

  "That's not exactly what I meant,"  Arthur said, peering over Zaphod's shoulder and trying to read what it said on the screen.  He could only really make out the words "extreme" and "danger", though, and they were among the least welcome words he could imagine.  "Comfort", that was a word he'd like to read.  Or "peace and quiet".  Or "hot drinks served here".  But "danger"?  He liked to avoid danger.

  "Why are we going there?"  Arthur asked, in a vain attempt to make some sense of it all.

  Grins spread across both of Zaphod's faces.  "Money.  Lots of the green stuff.  They were rich and it's got to be hidden somewhere.  Nobody can spend that many Altarian Dollars.  Well, I did, but I'm a special case.  And I had a very big house."

  Sirens started wailing.  Ford banged the keys like a lab rat scrabbling for feed.  Arthur sighed and prepared for an upsetting lack of boredom.

* * * * *

Rose and the Doctor walked out on to the surface of the desolate planet.  They stepped over a broken pot of petunias and looked around.  Grey dust flew everywhere, coating their faces with gritty residue.  A few boulders lay menacingly here and there, while the wind whipped through them with an eerie wail.  In the distance, they could see cliffs, all cut from the same uniform grey rock and looming above them like policemen standing over a drunken man.

  There was nobody there.

  "I thought that somewhere that didn't exist would be more interesting than this,"  Rose said.  "Where is everyone?"

  The Doctor bent down and let a handful of dust flow through his fingers.  "Dead."

  Rose stared at the dust in horror.  "That's not them, is it?"

  "This?"  The Doctor laughed.  "No, this is just dead stones, ground down by that bloody wind over the last hundred thousand years or so."

  A strong gust blew some of the dust back into Rose's face.  She spluttered.  "I don't like this place.  It's creepy.  Let's go."

  "Wait!"  The Doctor held up a hand.  They listened for a second, and then he whispered "Footsteps!"

  Sure enough, they could hear footsteps crunching across the dry ground.  Suddenly a chill ran down Rose's spine.  "We need to leave!"  she said urgently.  "We shouldn't be here!"

  The Doctor grabbed her hand.  "You don't defy reality and not stay to see what happens,"  he said.  He looked her in the eye.  "You want to show me that you're good for something, then you stay."  She looked back.  The Doctor could go an extraordinarily long time without blinking.  Rose kept his steady gaze.  It was comforting, in a way, but whenever she looked at him like this she felt his difference from her.  It was like the distance between them was magnified in the way she was reflected back at herself, small and shadowed, in his eyes.  She felt the slow, alien pulses of his two hearts.  She felt his hand tighten on her own, a finger at a time.  And the footsteps came ever closer.

  "Holy Zarquon!"

  They both whipped their heads around to see Ford, Arthur, Trillian and Marvin trudging across the dry land, dust clouding at their heels.

  "Brilliant!"  The Doctor smiled.  "We travel to the deadest part of the universe and we run into this bunch of space flotsam."

  Ford looked at him guardedly.  "You."  he said.  "I..."

  "Ford!"  the Doctor yelled before Ford had a chance to say anything.  He slapped him on the back expansively.  Ford looked suddenly startled.  "Come and talk to me!"

 "Hey,"  Rose said, "You're not going to leave me here on my own are you?  You did this last time!"  She shook her head as they walked across the dry ground together.
  Arthur sat down on a boulder with a sigh.  Rose paused, then sat down next to him.  They both stared silently at the Doctor and Ford, who were deep in conversation, or at least the Doctor was.

  "I don't like your Ford guy,"  Rose said.  "I don't know why, he's just creepy."

  "Creepy?  You travel around space with a ... plumber."

  Rose raised her eyebrows.  "Look, you really don't know what you're talking about so just shut up, OK?"

  "I seem to have touched a nerve."  Arthur took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  "I say, this place is a little desolate, don't you think?"

  "Yeah,"  Rose said, "I thought space was going to be all alien bars full of women in gold dresses with three eyes."

  "I went to one of those bars,"  Arthur said.  "It was ghastly.  All the drinks had little umbrellas in that spoke to you.  'Is this beverage providing total refreshment satisfaction?' they'd say.  'Is your drink chilled to the optimum enjoyment quotient?' after every sip.  Damn the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation."

  "I keep, like, thinking of all the programmes I used to watch as a kid, you know?  Everyone on them was going round all these really mad planets and meeting really weird aliens and I thought it would be so cool, just like that, you know?  But instead I'm sitting on a rock next to some bloke in a dressing gown."

  Arthur opened his mouth to complain then decided against it.  "I always feel in the way, somehow.  As if I haven't quite been let in on the joke."

  A ripple of laughter drifted across the plain.  "You see?"   Arthur shrugged.  "But then, what's new?"

  "I don't think I wanna go home, though,"  Rose said.  "What's there to go home for?  BBC1?  Watching some load of rubbish on a Saturday night?"

  "Well, Zaphod seems to think we are all going to get extraordinarily rich here - or, at least he is, I'm not quite sure."  Arthur said.  "Why would I want to go home?  That's sarcasm, by the way."

  "I got that.  And how would you get rich here?  It's just grey stuff and rocks and that."

  "And that what?  Oh, never mind.  I don't quite understand all this, you know.  How can you be from 2005, when the planet was destroyed 20 years before that?"

  "Timelines, I think,"  Rose said.  "When something happens, it also...doesn't happen.  And that makes a new timeline.  So we're sitting here, but we're also not sitting here.  We could be bashing each other over the head with rocks, somewhere.  And they can both happen, but we can travel in time, and that means you have to use timelines, you have to sort of bounce between them, and they're a bit like railway lines, sometimes they merge together."

  "I see."  Arthur said.

  "No you don't."

 "No, I don't. know, Rose, it's awfully comforting talking to you.  I can't say I trust this Doctor chap.  He seems dreadfully shifty to me.  But you're all right."  Arthur looked at his feet.

  "All right.  All right!"  Rose looked at Arthur's feet too.  "It's like waiting for the 72B to work, this.  Boring.  I like it."

  Arthur laughed.  "Yes. Boredom has become the thing I long for most," he said.  "Pity I don't get it all that often."

  "OI!"  They looked up to see the Doctor waving them over.  "We've found something!" he bellowed.  "We think it's where all the money's hidden; well, that's what Zaphod thinks.  Worth a look, innit?"

  Rose laughed quietly.  "Then again, us humans need some adventure, don't we?"  She stood up. 

  "Coming?"  Rose held a hand out to Arthur.  He smiled sheepishly.  "I suppose so," he said, and reached out to grab it.

  To be continued...
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