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h,'

'Ah?'

'Ah.'

'Is that an "ah, I’ve found something interesting," or an "ah, we’re all going to die?’' '

'Can’t it be both?'

Amy gave the Doctor the look she’d been finding increasingly useful these past few months. It was an elevated left eyebrow look, one which clearly said, ‘are you quite mad?’ Of course, she’d long ago realised that the answer to that question was a definite yes, but that didn’t stop her developing eyebrow-raising to a fine art.

Currently leaning over the central console, the eccentric time traveller was not exactly inspiring confidence in his work. Holding a handful of exposed wires in one hand and something that looked very much like a kazoo in the other, she couldn’t remember ever seeing him look more like a mad professor.

'Look, can you fix it or not?' she demanded.

For perhaps the third time in as many days, the TARDIS was refusing to play ball. The Time Lord’s repeated attempts to get the engines running again were proving thoroughly unsuccessful, and Amy was beginning to lose her patience.

'It’s not that simple,' the Doctor explained. 'The TARDIS isn’t just something you fix, she’s a living thing. You have to... persuade her to start working again.

'How do you...' she began, before holding up a hand. 'No, forget I asked.'

Emerging from the corridor, Rory entered the room dressed in a pair of swimming shorts, scrubbing at his head with a towel. Drips of water were scattering off him, forming a small pool around his feet.

'Watch the wiring!' the Doctor hissed, as his companion approached the console.

Stepping backwards from the Doctor’s work, Rory took up a perch a safe distance from the other two, leaning against one of the railings that surrounded the centre of the control room.

'Still broken I take it?' he asked.

'Yep,' Amy replied. 'How was your swim?'

'It was going really well until the fish turned up.'

Amy raised the other eyebrow. 'The fish?' she asked.

'Yes,' Rory nodded in reply. 'There’s a load of fish in the swimming pool.'

Amy looked confused. 'Then why did you get in?' she asked.

'Well they weren't there when I started. Then twenty lengths later, thwop, fish.'

'I don't believe you,' she replied.

'See for yourself.'

'No. I don't believe you could manage twenty lengths without passing out.'

Rory ran his fingers through his hair, then flicked a handful of cold water at Amy. Squealing in protest, she stepped away from her husband.

'What do you mean, thwop?' she asked a moment later.

'Thwop. That's the sound the fish made when they appeared.'

'Aha!' exclaimed the Doctor, suddenly taking an interest. 'What kind of fish?' he asked, clambering out from underneath the TARDIS console.

'I don’t know, blue?' Rory replied. 'Does it matter?'

'Possibly not, but a single Malengan trout provides the same power output as a type three fusion reactor. Just one of those could have provided the jump-start we needed right now.'

'Want to check it out?' Rory asked.

'Not much point, a Malengan fish would have also turned you to atomic residue before absorbing you through its gills for food.'

'Oh,' muttered Rory. 'Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.'

'The question is,' the Doctor continued, barely listening, 'why the swimming pool? Why the fish, and above all else, how and why did they thwop there?' He turned to the console and began feverishly making calculations on the main computer.

'Think about it,' he instructed. 'Every planet in the universe orbits their star at a staggering speed. Now each of those stars orbits the centre of their galaxy. Those galaxies are hurtling through space at an unimaginable rate. The TARDIS is one of the most complicated devices in the universe, but even so I still sometimes struggle to hit the planet I'm aiming for. And you're telling me a shoal of fish just happened to thwop into the middle of a tiny blue box somewhere in the universe, and not only that, they just happened to land in a swimming pool? No, the fish, the pool, the kazoo... It all just seems a bit too improbable.'

'A theory?' Amy asked.

'A theory!' the Doctor exclaimed, raising a finger in triumph. His two companions looked at each other for a moment with apprehension, but decided to listen anyway.

'Now then,' he began, 'there are moments in time that are fixed; unchangeable times where whatever happens, happens. Times that the universe and everything in it rely upon. Then there are the fluid moments where events can be changed. Slippery moments that act like the lubricant in the gears of the universe.'

 

artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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