Inspiration. I often find it when I need it most, and not a second before I am about to give up and strive to become a normal human being.
Unrelated to this story, sort of, a recent trip to Honduras has completely filled in all the plot holes in my next novel (tentatively titled Luna-C). And just what does Honduras have to do with a lunar colony, a broken marriage, and fat, rich people being hosed down in zero-G? I guess you’ll just have to wait.
And, while you’re waiting…
2. The Kelvaxan Reliquary
“Some lesson plan,” Rory quipped from the uncomfortable metal bench in the holding cell the Doctor and his companions found themselves in.
“Yes, well,” the Doctor stammered. “I suppose this is the Principal’s Office.”
The Doctor paced back and forth in front of the energy field across the entrance to their cell. Occasionally, he spared a glance at the heavily armed guards in the long hallway outside their cell.
“I don’t understand it,” he said to Amy and Rory. “Heems and I have an excellent relationship. I’ve supplied him with countless additions to his collection. Why would he leave us to stew here like this?”
“Maybe this friend of yours is no longer in charge,” Amy offered.
“Perhaps,” the Doctor said quietly, not convinced.
The Doctor continued his pacing and several moments passed without a word being said between the companions. Finally, Rory cleared his throat.
“So, this is like a space museum or something, right?”
“It’s much more than that,” the Doctor explained. Sighing to himself and apparently abandoning his solemn pacing, he sat down between Amy and Rory, causing them to have to move to either side to allow him room.
“This is a reminder of all the accomplishments of all the known species of the universe. Detailed histories, ancient relics, recreations of long-lost technologies. This is the ultimate museum. Mind you, there are several smaller collections throughout every galaxy and I’ve seen several of them, but nothing comes close to the range of history covered here.”
“Is there anything from Earth?” Amy asked.
“Oh yes,” the Doctor said with a smile. “For starters, there’s the Promethean Hearthstone.”
“What’s that?” Rory questioned. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“You wouldn’t have,” the Doctor explained. “It’s supposedly the stone that the progenitors of your species first created their own fire on. Sad, really, how long its taken you to mature since then. If we ever get out of here, you two might become the first true humans to have ever laid eyes on it. It’s from about eight hundred thousand years before either of you were born.”
“You mean we’re the first humans to come here?” Amy asked, surprised.
“I said you’d be the first true humans to lay eyes on it. Once your species masters faster-than-light travel, several humans visit this place – though by that time, their DNA’s a bit … muddled.”
“Muddled?” Amy queried, raising an eyebrow.
The slamming of heavy doors echoed down the long corridor toward them, followed by the steady sound of footsteps approaching. The Doctor quickly stood up and his companions rose behind him, following his lead. Squinting through the gloom of the poorly lit corridor, the Doctor finally made out the form of the aged curator, flanked by two guards, walking towards them.
“Let me do the talking,” the Doctor said over his shoulder.
“Curator Heems!” the Doctor said loudly. “Have I done something wrong? My companions and I are a bit ruffled, if you understand my meaning. What’s all the fuss?”
Heems gestured to the guards and one flipped up the cover of a control panel housing the energy field controls. The guard keyed the unlock sequence and the field soon dissipated.
“Doctor,” Heems said, his face reddening a bit with embarrassment. “I do sincerely apologize for the unfortunate delay. Had I known you were coming I’d have issued you security clearance that would have prevented all this.”
With a genuine look of pleasure on his face, the curator grabbed the Doctor’s hand and shook it vigorously. The Doctor’s face softened and he too revealed his pleasure at seeing his old friend again.
“It’s good to see you, Curator Heems. I trust you are well.”
“Oh, you know, still an aging relic among relics,” Heems joked. “Who do you have here with you?”
The Doctor turned, putting an arm around the old man’s shoulders and gestured to his companions. “May I present my good friends, Amy and Rory of Earth, circa second millenium OCE.”
“OCE?” Heems remarked, his eyes lighting up. “This is a very special visit indeed.”
“Yes, well, they’re not that special,” the Doctor mocked.
“Any friend of the Doctor is an honored guest here,” Heems declared, shaking each of the companions’ hands in turn. “Now let’s get out of this dank cell and we’ll have refreshments in my office.”
With another gesture to his guards, Heems dismissed them from their posts and they marched off down the corridor. Heems motioned for the Doctor and his companions to follow him and they began walking leisurely down the long corridor.
“Doctor,” Rory whispered. “What’s OCE?”
“Old Common Era,” the Doctor whispered conspiratorially. “Though in this day and age its often abbreviation for a more derogatory and possibly more appropriate label.”
“The Oafish Common Era,” the Doctor said with a smirk. “No more questions!”
The Doctor and his companions followed the curator down several long hallways before reaching the ornate doors of the curator’s office.
“That’s new. Is that real Valosian oak?” the Doctor asked, marveling at the rich wood.
“Good eye, Doctor,” Heems verified. “The carvings are the work of Jeb Sabe Sob of Cheem, excommunicated artist.”
“They’re beautiful,” Amy remarked. “Why was he excommunicated?”
“He was a tree of the Forest of Cheem,” the Doctor explained. “His people considered his carving of wood grotesque and abominable. No more questions! You’re here to learn, not ask questions.”
Amy and Rory exchanged puzzled looks.
The group entered the Curator’s office and followed Heems to his old desk where three ornate chairs and a small table had been erected for them. Refreshments of various types had been laid out on the table.
“Help yourselves,” Heems waved absently. “If you desire anything else, don’t hesitate to ask for it. We can probably get it.”
Graciously, the companions took their seats and began to partake of the offered food and drink. The Doctor remained standing and walked around the curator’s office for a few moments, perusing the private collection.
After Heems had situated himself behind his desk and sipped at his own drink, he turned his attention to the Doctor.
“How long has it been, Doctor?”
“Hard to say. What year is it?”
“I’m not sure myself,” Heems chuckled.
“The Van Statten Collection,” the Doctor surmised, snapping his fingers.
“Ah yes,” Heems said, nodding in remembrance. “Not the most intriguing collection of artifacts, but significant nonetheless. Lots of visitors to it.”
“Significant and difficult to get,” the Doctor said. “If you remember I had a thousand tons of concrete to get through to secure it.”
“And we greatly appreciate your efforts, Doctor.” Heems turned to the companions. “Did you know that the Doctor is the second greatest single contributor to our collections here? On the tour, I’m sure he’ll be able to point out all the artifacts he has secured for us.”
“Second?” the Doctor asked with surprise, holding a large egg he had picked up from a display awkwardly.
“Yes, second, Doctor. You’re not the only relic hunter we’ve had the fortune to work with. I’ll have to arrange a meeting while you’re here – he’s expected anytime now.”
The Doctor set the egg down carefully and made his way over to the wall of alien heads and began talking to himself as he looked at each in turn, saying things like “nice bloke” and “so that’s what they look like under all the hair”.
“What line of work are the two of you in?” Heems asked the companions.
“Uh,” Amy hesitated, looking to the Doctor for help that wasn’t coming. “We’re students.”
“This is sort of a, uh, field trip, thing,” Rory offered.
“Excellent,” Heems said with genuine delight. “I’m sure you’ll both just love some of the exhibits we have here. Do you enjoy music?”
“Oh, we love it,” Amy said.
“In our Arts Division we have the entire history of music on Earth on file, from ABBA to Zed Zed Nine.”
“Do you have it in MP3?” Rory asked, hopefully.
“What is MP3?” Heems asked, confused.
The Doctor interrupted before Rory could answer. “What happened to the Thripitifalus Vex you had?”
Again, Heems seemed confused and caught off guard. “I’ve never heard of it, Doctor. Was it something you brought me? I do have the habit of being rather forgetful.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow and turned to regard the curator. His face was one of momentary concern, but he soon changed the subject. “I’m probably misremembering it, I suppose. So what was the story with all the security, by the way?”
The Doctor left the private collection and sat down heavily in the remaining empty chair.
“Ah yes,” Heems said. “Again, I do apologize. Security was heightened at the time you arrived while a new piece was being delivered to me. We often increase security measures during certain high profile transfers and all traffic to the asteroid is prohibited during such transactions. Of course, the sudden unexpected and unsanctioned arrival of a vessel on the asteroid was quite the breach of that security.”
“Yes, well, I do like to pop in from time to time unexpectedly,” the Doctor joked.
“You’re lucky you weren’t shot on sight,” Heems replied, a bit more serious than he had been since their arrival. “But its all sorted out now.”
Amy and Rory shot meaningful glances at each other, realizing that once again the Doctor had managed to narrowly postpone the death of his companions.
The Doctor took a sip from his beverage and leaped up out of his chair again. “I’m sorry, Curator Heems. It just keeps bugging me. I’m absolutely positive you had a Thripitifalus Vex head on your wall last time I was here.” Walking determinedly towards the data console set into the wall opposite the alien heads, he pulled up an antique chair to it, causing a loud shriek as he dragged it across the floor. “Do you mind if I check your logs for it? Maybe it was moved to a public exhibit.”
His face ashen, Heems quickly rose from his desk. “Don’t touch that console!”
With painful slowness, the Doctor swiveled his head to gaze directly at the old relic collector. His eyes narrowed with suspicion.
“We’re installing a new system and are in the middle of transferring data. You could corrupt that data flow and we would lose eons of research in just one second,” Heems explained. He seemed more than just a bit agitated.
“Hmm, yes,” the Doctor said, moving away but still eyeing Heems. “Perhaps later then.”
Curator Heems sat down again slowly, his brow furrowed as if he found his own outburst unusual.
“We definitely appreciate your hospitality, old friend,” the Doctor said, walking leisurely back to the desk. “I think my friends and I are a bit full now, so we’d like to freshen up a bit before we begin the tour.”
“Actually,” Rory said, moving a cookie towards his mouth. “I thought I’d have a couple more -”
The Doctor slapped the cookie out of Rory’s hand.
“The facilities aboard my ship are somewhat lacking. Do you have some place we might clean up a bit and relax?”
“Absolutely, Doctor,” Heems said, rising from his desk. He pressed a series of buttons and the ornate doors opened again. “If you head down the hall, you’ll come to an intersecting hallway. Take a right there and you’ll come to our guest quarters we set aside for visiting dignitaries. The caretaker is named Dolla, she’ll take care of you.”
“Thank you, Curator Heems,” the Doctor said with a bow. “We’ll leave you now and hope to meet up with you later – perhaps for a personalized tour?”
“Just let Dolla know when you’re ready and she’ll page me,” Heems replied. “I look forward to it.”
“So do I,” the Doctor said and turned to leave. “Come along, children.”
Rory and Amy quickly rose from their seats and followed the Doctor. Rory suddenly turned back and trotted over to the table where he pocketed a few cookies. Heems smiled and nodded that it was acceptable.
“Rory!” the Doctor called from the door.
Rory jumped and knocked the plate of cookies to the ground. “Sorry.”
“Leave it,” Heems said, chuckling.
“I’m coming,” Rory said, and caught up to Amy and the Doctor. The three companions left Heems’ office and the doors closed behind them.
After a moment, Heems opened a small drawer in his desk. Inside was the Speak & Spell, glowing eerily.
“He is a Time Lord,” Heems began, and then related to the Speak & Spell everything he knew about the Doctor.
The Doctor and his companions walked casually down the long corridor that led away from the curator’s office, stopping occasionally to view the art mounted intermittently along the walls.
“Alright,” Amy said, having noticed the Doctor’s mood change. “What’s wrong, Doctor?”
“There’s something definitely amiss here,” the Doctor revealed, whipping out his sonic screwdriver. Activating it, he waved it about and looked with interest at the readings. “We should keep our eyes and ears open.”
“Oh great,” Rory sighed. “Even class time is dangerous with you.”
The Doctor didn’t remark on the observation and led them to the intersection Heems had spoke of. “I’d like to take that tour now, but we should probably stick to our story. We’ll pop in for a quick wash and stretch and then get into the thick of things.”
Amy and Rory followed the Doctor as he led them right and towards the Guest Quarters. The architecture changed as they proceeded further down this new hall. The ceiling rose and the hallway finally gave way to a large vaulted lobby. It was readily apparent that they had entered the equivalent of a posh hotel, complete with sitting areas and a front desk.
As they approached the front desk, they couldn’t help but notice an argument ensuing.
“I don’t have a reservation, for the last time,” a dusty looking man sat to the girl at the desk. The girl, a young blonde-haired petite type with impish features, seemed rather put out with him. “Do you know who I am?” he said impatiently.
The girl, seeing the three companions approaching, brightened up considerably and ignored the troublesome guest. “You must be the Doctor and his companions. Curator Heems called ahead and told us to expect you. I’m Dolla. Don’t hesitate to call on me at anytime, should you need me. I’ll be happy to serve you.”
“Uh, we don’t have reservations, per se,” the Doctor apologized, with a significant look to the other guest who now stood agape at the rebuff.
“That’s alright, Doctor. Curator Heems has told us to give you our finest suite for your stay. You’ll find all the amenities you might need here. I’ll show you to the suite.”
As an aside she curtly said to the other guest, “Excuse me.”
The man reddened visibly in the face and he slapped the gloves he was holding against the desk. A small cloud of dust rose from the impact.
“Now wait just a damned minute,” the man barked. “Who the hell are you people?”
Sighing, Dolla turned an offered an quick introduction. “This is the Doctor and his companions.”
“Amy,” Amy said politely.
“Uh, Rory,” Rory responded in like manner.
“The Doctor, Amy, and Uhrory,” the man repeated. “Imperial dignitaries from the Kalthex Empire? Estimators from the Ixian Council of Artifact Reconciliation?”
“They are special guests of Curator Heems,” Dolla explained. With reluctance, she reversed the introductions. “This is Drustan Light.”
“Captain Drustan Light,” the young grizzled-looking man corrected. He wore a long Earth-style duster over a utility vest and a dirty white long-sleeved shirt. His dark brown hair was short but messy and he was covered in a thick layer of grime in several places. His leather boots looked as if they had been hastily repaired a thousand times. His beard, though also trimmed close, was wild and shot with grey streaks.
“A pleasure, I’m sure,” the Doctor replied, inclining his head slightly.
“Here to paw unappreciatively at the fine collection here, I’ll wager,” Captain Light said bitterly.
“Actually, I’m a relic collector. Heems and I go way back,” the Doctor said snootily. Amy and Rory didn’t miss the rising tension between the two men.
“Is that right?” Light said with a sneer.
“It is,” the Doctor said, not backing down.
“Can we please wash up before we’re irreversibly stained with testosterone?” Amy blurted with exasperation.
“We’ll meet again Doctor,” Captain Light said before walking away.
“I suppose we will at that,” the Doctor replied. He quickly changed his demeanor and patted his companions on their shoulders. “Alright! Washing up time! Heave ho! Allons-y! Ha, haven’t said that in a while. I shall have to do it again sometime.”
Dolla led the three to their suite without further incident.
After thirty minutes or so, the Doctor and his companions emerged from their room and made their way back to the front desk where they found Dolla smiling and waiting for them.
“Curator Heems sends his regrets. He won’t be able to take you on the tour himself, but he has authorized me to show you around,” she explained.
“Is he ill?” the Doctor queried with concern.
“No,” Dolla replied. “Nothing like that. Our good friend Captain Light has his attentions for the time being. Their discussions can get rather heated and lengthy.”
Stepping out from behind the front desk, Dolla clicked a small device in her hand and a service robot rose up behind the desk in her place.
“Enjoy your stay at the Kelvaxan Reliquary!” it said to them as they left.
“I don’t often get the chance to take such esteemed guests on a tour of the facilities,” Dolla explained with enthusiasm. “Curator Heems usually has that honor.”
“Has anything troubling happened here lately?” the Doctor probed. “Heems seems a bit preoccupied.”
“Aside from that awful Drustan Light arriving? Not that I know of.”
“What was the transfer that was taking place when we arrived? A new arrival for the museum?”
“We’re not allowed to discuss it at this time,” Dolla said quickly. “Confidentially, I’ve never seen the place so locked up during a transfer. Apparently, the extra security was requested by the collector. It’s a wonder you weren’t gunned down as you entered orbit.”
Again, Amy and Rory exchanged concerned glances.
“Yes, well my ship offers special access privileges at times,” the Doctor said with a smirk. “Did it have something to do with the new system being installed?”
“New system? I don’t know anything about that,” Dolla said, confused.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows meaningfully at his companions.
The quartet enter the main exhibition area and Dolla took her time going over the history of each piece as they viewed them. Her knowledge of the exhibitions was quite extensive and the Doctor offered personal insight where possible. Several times he revealed that he was the one who had brought a certain piece to the Reliquary. They had passed through several areas and hours had elapsed before the Doctor stopped the tour and asked Dolla a personal question.
“How do you know so much about this place? I thought you were just a hotel clerk.”
“Oh that!” Dolla said, pleased that the Doctor was interested in her personally. Amy rolled her eyes. “I just work the front desk when things are slow here. I’m actually an archaeologist.”
“Are you now?” the Doctor replied excitedly. “Where do you come from, Dolla?”
“Phi Gamma Six,” Dolla responded proudly.
“An Earth colony,” the Doctor said knowingly. Turning to Amy and Rory he mouthed the word “muddled”.
“You’ve heard of it?”
“I’ve been there. Several times in fact. Lovely place. So, I guess that means you’re a student of the Academy?”
“I graduated with the highest honors,” Dolla said beaming.
This time Amy and Rory both rolled their eyes.
“I think its time we split up,” the Doctor said. “I’ll go with Dolla here and discuss some of the intricacies of universal history and you two can wander about as you please.”
“What about that lesson you’re supposed to be teaching us?” Rory asked.
“Hands on!” the Doctor said, hurriedly pushing them along. “Newest breakthrough in curriculum. Enjoy!”
And with that, the Doctor and Dolla left Amy and Rory to themselves.
“That man,” Rory said, clenching his fist.
“Come on, love,” Amy said to him. “Let’s go have a bit of fun.”
From down one of the many corridors they heard the Doctor’s voice in a booming echo say, “Don’t touch anything!”
Most of the day slipped by before the Doctor and Dolla finally caught up with Amy and Rory. The two companions had found the Communications Wing and were testing out Earth technology that was only a few hundred years more advanced than their own time.
“Doctor,” Amy said excitedly. “Look at this!”
Amy and Rory were both wearing headsets with small reticles that fit over one eye. On their right hands, small adhesive microchips had been set on each finger and thumb.
“It’s like having an iPad without the iPad!” Rory said in techno-ecstacy. “It’s amazing! the screen looks like its just hovering in front of me.”
“This has got to be an Apple product,” Amy said with finality.
At the remark Dolla burst out laughing.
“What’s she laughing at, Doctor?” Rory asked.
“Let’s just say Apple was a blip on the screen. Significant but passing. And thus endeth the lesson, children. No matter how fantastic, how trendy, how amazing something seems to you, it will soon be obsolete. No need to buy the next great thing every year. Know your tech, choose your tech, customize your tech, and make it last. By the time its worn out, something better than the four hundred iterations that have passed in between will be there to buy. Rinse and repeat,” the Doctor said sagely.
“That’s actually an older model,” Dolla said. “The last design was eventually integrated cybertech. The chips were implanted in your fingers and a special optical implant obsoleted the need for a reticle.”
“No way!” Rory said. “Do you have any we could take back with us?”
“Absolutely not!” the Doctor chided. “You can’t take future technologies back to Earth, you’ll muck up the whole future history of the planet and possibly the galaxy.”
“Oh come on, Doctor,” Amy pleaded. “We’d keep it secret. No one would know.”
“Besides,” the Doctor continued. “There won’t be a person that can implant it without killing you for another hundred years after your time.”
At that moment, Curator Heems walked up to them, beside him was Captain Light.
“Doctor, I said I’d introduce you to the number one contributor to our little collection here. And this is that man. May I introduce Captain Drustan Light.”
The two men stood glaring at each other, resuming the standoff from earlier in the day.
In unison they both said, “We’ve met.”