The TARDIS noise fades into nothingness, as we arrive on board the Daedalus. Womble steps out almost immediately, straight towards the control of his ship, truly like a man retuning home. We said not a word to one another during the trip, rather just stood apart like two overly polite people in a museum. Even when we arrived and him having swapped ships, I’m still in the TARDIS medical bay, the blue box having flown itself on automatic and set to a previous destination. Whoever thought of having ‘Favourites’ on a sat-nav was an unsung hero.
My transformation back to normality is easier than I could have hoped for. Personal healthcare is a cinch when you’ve got a whole time vortex and universe of hospitals and medicines from which to
steal draw inspiration. Although I always avoid pre-21st century Earth. It took a lot of scrambling for Earth doctors to get their sh*t together. Even post-21st century medicine isn’t amazing; I draw your attention to those who believe the benefits of drinking their own urine.
With the aide of a Nine-Waters Hospital Restoration Cradle, I go from a scarred husk of burns and welts into my usual, youthful self in a matter of moments – with one small exception. During the reconstruction of my skin, I decided to allow a small patch on the back of my right hand to remain as it is, all pink, fresh and shiny. Rather like a brand, or a reminder, in the shape of the letter G.
I finally enter the Daedalus myself, stepping out of the chilly TARDIS control room and into the warmth. I’m probably only just noticing the cold due to the lack of long coat – I’ve also recently realised how heavy it was as well, my shoulders seemed to have gained a lot of freedom in the last few minutes. Not that it makes any difference. I’m replacing the thing, first chance I get.
Womble sits at the controls, his back to me, steering us through the endless night and putting as much space between us and the planet behind as possible. The silence sitting between us is the most uncomfortable since our first encounter on Brighton Pier; awkwardness always feels like standing in a fog which is both cold and hot at the same time.
I fold my arms and lean against the TARDIS doorway, trying to fuse the chattering in my head into usable sentences. I can’t shake an unnerving feeling, that all which has just occurred is only the start of something unbelievably dangerous. I know there’s a lot I need to do before we return to our usual life style of exploration and adventure – if we can, anyway. Somehow, I get the same vibe from Womble as well.
“Am I alone in thinking this feels like a goodbye?”
He doesn’t turn around. “No. But seeing as you brought it up…”
“I mean, there’s a few things I need to do.”
“Well, then. There we are.”
“Don’t get sentimental, HH- when has this ever not happened? We split up all the time, when you think about it. This is just going to be awhile longer than normal.”
Hmm. Lanipus, Rapture, Towel’s House, Zombie World, Gotham and not forgetting the Reunion in Futurama. Okay, he makes a fair point, we stick together even less than a band of Hobbits. And yet, Womble, I must note that you’re still not looking at me. You’re doing the deliberate not-looking dance, and after being partnered with over a dozen weeping angels I know damn well how that goes. Kittens nail it; humanoids butcher the poor thing. I wonder if you notice I can see your reflection in the ship’s windscreen?
“So where are you going?”
“-who the hell asked you!”
I’m forced to field an errant Nibbles, never one of my strong suits considering how little I pay attention to sports outside general cardiovascular, as Womble angrily hurls him from his pocket with a snarl. I give Womble a Look*, and after a rather embarrassed and stubborn pause, he relents with a sigh.
“It doesn’t affect people like…me, as it were. The darkness. It’s going to help me think, and I need to think.”
You and me both, friend – especially now Nibbles is perched on my right hand, giving the best robotic Look of contempt I’ve ever seen. Even Marvin could look more cheerful than this…by perhaps a fraction of a degree.
Why have you come back? Have you ANY idea what it’s been like, since you named me?
It’s a tricky thing to look guilty or piteous when you’re being threatened by something you can drop kick. “Well I assumed you could’ve got a job in an advertising firm. Possibly for chocolates or pet food or….er…?”
“Ducks,” Womble puts in.
“Yes, ducks……wait, what?”
Womble retreats back into silence, perhaps a good idea for all involved. Nibbles on the other hand looks ready to burst with accusations and insults – I can actually feel the robot shaking with anger against my hand. I wonder just how attached Womble is to this little penguin translator – now Womble no longer has flippers, or a tail, or a beak – because there’s an air lock behind me and a potentially good laugh ahead. We could supply a nearby planet with The Legend of Nibble’s Chattering Comet and both Womble and I go down in the history books as two (more) local lunatics. It wouldn’t be the first time – against all odds we were immortalised in Lanipus archaeology. I never showed Womble the sculptures of us. My ears are big enough to begin with.
Why is this one here?
Seems this little metal packet of angst is not to be deterred. I’ll save an extra quip, for now. “Don’t get too attached, Nibbles. I’m assuming you were listening just now; Womble and I are going our separate ways.”
Because you plan to wreak double the havoc apart than you can when you’re together?
“Because Womble just saved my life. Again. Once more I find myself needing to find a way to repay the debt. And now, more than ever, I need to make sure the need never arises again.”
I agree. He’s not very good at being the hero.
“I heard that.”
You know you’re not. You don’t even want to be. That’s why-
“-shut it. Unless you fancy dancing in space some more.”
I bite the bantering bullet, as t’were, and cut in. “Some more?”
Womble grins evilly. “How do you think our pal got this way?”
The planet exploded!
“And somehow you survived. I must say I’m impressed, for a contraption made by an orangutan from a much, much older contraption made by a child.”
You are going to mention the method in which you retrieved me, aren’t you? Because I doubt many ships have a claw as old as the one on this piece of junk.
“Don’t bother asking about the rest of him, HH. I’m not that bloody charitable.
“No worries, Womble.” For example, I don’t know if you’ll ever scrutinise the finesse inner workings of my ship. All manner of robots gave their lives and remains to help me get across the stars. Honestly, you’d be surprised just how nice a coffee table you can make out of Ultron.
This isn’t the TARDIS I’m talking about, just FYI. While the outer shell of any TARDIS central console room seems to convey disorder and chaos, thrown together by an eccentric owner, the actual set up and lower layers are more fastidiously arranged than a Swedish sock drawer. Timelords build to the paradigm design and their owners just pile things on top. That’s why I always liked my ship. One life thrown on top of another, each one years and miles away from the original. Remind you of anyone?
HH. You’ve been staring at that figurine for a few minutes now. Don’t you types with eyeballs usually blink?
“Just wait,” Womble says over his shoulder. “It means he’s got a plan, has forgotten something, is hungry, or thought too hard and is about to reboot.”
You studied in Timelord Vacant Stares?
“Nope, Wookie Dialects as it happens. But when you’re friends with someone who can slip in and out of a coma while still standing up, you learn their patterns. It all depends on what word comes next. ‘Right’ is a plan, ‘damn’ is forgotten, ‘I’m’ is hunger and a reboot is-”
“Where was I?”
Womble and Nibbles exchange a look I’m not familiar with.
This is a difficult personal quandary to be in, currently stuck somewhere in a mixture of apprehension and laziness. Holding me back, there is yet again the unsettling possibility that I won’t see Womble again**. And then there’s the ordeals I need to get through before I can start looking for him. Get my ship back, for one. Get Guardian out. Give FutureHH a piece of his mind. Quite the to-do list, we’d agree, potential rivals with “Destroy the one ring”, “bring balance to the Force” or maybe just “live long and prosper***.” I know which I’d rather be doing of the three, and it doesn’t involve hairy-footed thespians or dead-pan nerds. There’s Comic-Con for that anyway.
Ooh, that could be fun. I need some new reading material and it’d be good to be in a room where I’m not the most socially awkward/weirdly dressed.
I think we’re reaching a different realm of awkward, now. The gap of time I’ve left between saying my pseudo-goodbyes and actually leaving has gotten too long and is still going. It’s all terribly non-British. Is there something I’ve missed?
Ah! Our method of reunion! I’m not trusting Amazon twice and we’ve done Futurama already. This time we need a little more flair, a touch of cool, a…………well, any plan would do, to be honest.
“When you’re ready to meet up again, Womble,” I find myself saying, “just finish the guitar solo.”
Right. Such are the dangers of speaking aloud an idea before it’s finished compiling itself. As always, we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it, I suppose. Womble, or his reflection at least, just grunts in return. It’s still not the strangest thing I’ve suggested and I think is suitably random enough to serve as a temporary goodbye, befitting our times together. Boring guff like “take care” or “until the next time” is both predictable and impractical.
And on that final note, I slide backwards through the doorway and let the TARDIS door swings shut behind me. Without bothering to approach the console, I set my destination remotely with the sonic and get walking even before we’ve properly left the Daedalus. In flight, with everything pitching and yawing about as usual, I do my best to wrestle with gravity and make my way towards the TARDIS wardrobes and the new coat awaiting me.
Something in black this time, I think…
Why do you continue to hang around with him?
“Because funnily enough, quite a lot of the time……I don’t.”
HH & W
*Because no matter how angry one gets, hurting an inanimate object is not going to resolve things.
**Although I’d more likely die than admit that. Men shouldn’t do soppy. We just shouldn’t. It’s like watching a child learning to speak, but ninety times more awkward.
***Live long and prosper – I’ve always found it difficult to do both at the same time.