The Tardis touched down in the heart of a park in central London in the middle of the night. After a few moments, the doors opened. Smoke billowed from the interior, and a man staggered out into the doorway. He was of average height, with dirty blonde hair. He was coughing and clutching at his throat. “No!” he yelled, and went into another coughing fit. “Not again!” he gasped when it was over.
He took off his jacket and began fanning the smoke with it, then he paused and took a good look at the jacket. In a fit of rage he threw it to the ground. He paused for a moment, then tore the tie off and threw it onto the ground as well. “No more!” he growled.
He looked down at his chest, panting visibly. He ripped his shirt off, heedless of the buttons that popped off. “No, no, no, no, no!” He threw the shirt to the ground as well, then turned around and slammed the doors to the Tardis. “Never again!” he yelled, and punched the door, then stood breathing heavily. His chest rose and fell rapidly, and his breath came out in short puffs visible in the cool night air.
Finally he looked down at his half naked body. He tried to calm himself and said more quietly, but still shakily, “No more.” That only lasted a moment though, because his shoes suddenly seemed to offend him. He grabbed one foot with both hands and hopped backward awkwardly as he pulled it off. He threw his shoe at the Tardis and it bounced off harmlessly. He took off his other shoe and threw that too, this time missing as it sailed clear over the light on top.
He looked down and started frantically unbuttoning his pants. He kicked them off, then dropped his boxers too.
The man stood naked, panting in the moonlight, staring accusingly and defiantly at the Tardis.
James and Carlie spread out a checkered blanket on the grassy area outside the playground. James set down the basket and knelt next to it. He opened the lid and pulled away the Velcro straps holding the plates in place. He handed them to Carlie, and she set each of the four plates on one of the corners of the blanket to keep it in place during the occasional gusts of wind.
“How long do you suppose we have before Morgan and her friend will get hungry?” James asked.
“Don’t know,” Carlie said, shading her eyes and watching the two children chase each other, then abruptly stop, sit on the teeter-totter for three or four turns before getting off again and resuming chase. “If it were me running around like that, I’d be famished already, but we’ll most likely have to call for them before they’ll come over here.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking when I had the foresight to bring this along.” He smiled broadly and turned around to reveal a bottle of sparkling wine and two flutes.
Carlie smiled. “Oh, James,” she laughed. She accepted one of the glasses.
He twisted the top off the wine bottle, enjoying the cracking metal sound of the seal breaking, and poured some wine in her glass first, then his. He raised his glass, then said solemnly, “To the calm before the storm.”
The couple clinked glasses and raised them to their lips, but before they drank, a nearby voice said, “Excuse me.”
They looked up and saw a naked man standing uncomfortably close. They both instinctively stood up and took a step backward.
“Thank you,” the naked man said. “If I could just borrow this...” He knelt down and grabbed their blanket. He whipped it quickly up and toward himself, leaving all four plates in the same position. He wrapped the blanket around himself and tied it up over one shoulder, looking like a checkered toga.
The two of them were stunned into silence, but Carlie started reaching out with her hand until she felt James’, and the two stepped closer together, holding their glasses in front of them.
“Please, carry on,” the man said with a smile, then he turned and walked out toward the busy streets of central London.
The Doctor wandered the city. There is something to be said for acting as if you belong. There were a few people who stared, even one who narrowly avoided an accident, but for the most part, they soon shook their heads and went on with their day. “Performance art,” they would decide. Or a dare, or a publicity stunt. “Anyone stops to talk to him, he’ll probably hand you a flier for that new Italian place,” one man told his wife after they passed on the street.
He stopped to watch a couple men in overalls attempt to lift an upright piano up a flight of stairs only to discover it wouldn’t turn past the door. He chuckled to himself and walked on.
He breathed in the air, which couldn’t have been perfectly pleasant in downtown London, but he seemed pleased by it.
A man walked toward him, carefully avoiding eye contact. As they closed, the Doctor said, “Excuse me, but have you noticed how much that cloud resembles a rubber duck?” He pointed high in the sky, and as the man squinted up to look, the Doctor removed the man’s sunglasses from his suit pocket and palmed them.
“There’s not a cloud in the sky, you lunatic,” the man said with obvious contempt.
“Beg pardon, sir,” the Doctor responded. “It was there a moment ago.” The two turned and continued in opposite directions, the Doctor deftly putting on the sunglasses.
He wandered for a while more, until a police car passed, then put on the brakes. He decided to duck down a nearby alley, choosing discretion over valor. He quickened his pace and headed for the other end of the alley. When he realized it was the A4 ahead. He stopped. He looked up to where he knew the sign would be and found that he was standing in Angel Court. “Between the Lions, Golden and Red, Simon is sleeping, though not in his bed,” he said to himself. Suddenly, he was startled by the sound of a can clattering on the pavement off to one side. He turned and peered into the darkness.
A voice called out to him, “Just keep moving, Sunshine. Don’t need your brand of crazy raising the average ’round here.”
The Doctor removed his sunglasses to look for the source of the voice, and could just make out a woman sitting atop a couple crates nearby. “Sorry,” he said. “Didn’t mean to disturb you.” A nearby shadow moved, and as it came closer, the Doctor saw it was a mastiff. He knelt down as it approached, and extended his hand so it could smell him. The dog sniffed at him, then started licking his fingers. The Doctor scratched him behind the ears.
“Hmm,” the woman said, jumping down off the crates and coming closer. “He likes you. He never likes anyone.”
“What’s his name?” the Doctor asked.
“Obelix,” she replied. Now that she had stepped out into the light, the Doctor could see she was little more than a girl, maybe 16 or 17 years old. “From those old French comics.” The girl had blonde hair with a chunk at the right fringe bleached silvery-white. She had brown eyes and wore thick eyeliner. She wore a brown canvas jacket with a faux fur collar over a rainbow striped sweater. She had cut-off jeans over dark leggings and Ugg boots to mid-calf. On her hands were woolen gloves with the fingers cut off to reveal her black nail polish.
“You read old French comics?” the Doctor asked, squinting up at her.
“No,” she responded. “He’s not my dog. I’m watching him for a friend.” She squatted down and patted the dog. “He’s Swedish,” she said, as if that explained everything.
The two of them were quiet for a while as they gave the dog some much appreciated attention.
“Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?” she finally asked the Doctor.
The Doctor was quiet for a while, and just as she decided that he wasn’t going to answer, he did. “You ever have one of those moments, where you realize that the clothes you are wearing are sort of like a costume? And it’s like they are for a character that you are sick of playing?”
Her look was far away, and a smile poorly hid her pain. “Yeah. Suppose I have.”
“Bet you have, at that. Well, that feeling hit me pretty hard last night, and I felt like I’d rather be naked than to wear some other bloke’s clothes. They weren’t me. They weren’t who I wanted to be.” He grabbed the dog by both ears and pulled them back gently, smoothing out the wrinkles of its face. The dog sneezed and shook free of the Doctor’s grip. “Not anymore, anyway.”
They were silent again for a while, each one deep in their own thoughts.
The Doctor broke the moment. He stood up and extended his hand. “I’m called the Doctor. I’m on holiday. Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?
“Pandora,” she said, and shook his hand. “So, your a Londoner, on holiday in London... naked?”
“Oh, I’m not from London,” the Doctor said with a broad smile.
“Coulda’ fooled me. Accent’s spot on.”
The Doctor nodded, still smiling. He looked out onto the busy street of Pall Mall. From where he stood, he could just see an Armored Transport parked, but with its blinkers on and wheels edged out, trying to merge. He watched it for a while as the rare friendly driver made an opening for it and it pulled out. Shortly after, a black SUV took the spot it had vacated. Within moments, all but the driver’s door opened, and three large muscular men stepped out. As soon as they closed the doors, the driver pulled back out into traffic.
The Doctor turned away.
“Tell me,” he said. “Did your parents really name you Pandora?”
She scoffed. “You’re one to ask. Your parents name you, ‘The Doctor’?”
“Fair enough. Forget I asked.”
She seemed to make up her mind about something. She gave a high short whistle and the dog stood up and trotted over beside her. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get you some clothes.”
She pushed a button on a junction box stuck to the wall next to her crate. There was an electric whirring sound, and a section of the paving split in half and opened up. A lift started to rise through the opening. Pandora saw the questioning look the Doctor was giving her and preempted the question. “There’s an absolute maze of tunnels under London. Shops use them to bring inventory into their cellars. If you don’t know where you are going, you could end up lost for days. If you do though, you can get just about anywhere in London without being caught on Her Majesty’s Secret Cameras. For all I know, my mum is still looking for me, and everyone says they’ve got facial recognition on those things, looking for terrorists and missing kids, so I try not to be seen if I can avoid it. And you can do avoiding those cameras too, the way you’re dressed. Likely to get arrested.” The lift stopped when it reached street level, and Obelix padded over to it and sat down. “Come on,” Pandora said again and got on.
Once they got below ground, there were brick facades to the buildings on either side. Metal doors were spaced apart for the various businesses that used this alley, and there was dim led lighting near each entrance. She led the way up one block, then turned left, down a few blocks before turning right for one block and turned left again. Halfway down was another lift. When they ascended, they were next to a donation station behind the library. “They only pick up twice a week. By Thursday there are always a few bin bags piled around.” She tore into one that turned out to be mostly full of kids clothes. She set it aside and ripped open another that had men’s wear. “There you go.”
He picked through the lot, setting one after another on top of the other bags. He settled on a hoodie sweater first, throwing it over his shoulder, then some sweat pants and finally a t-shirt. He pulled out a brown shoe lacking laces and held it up to his left foot. He wiggled his toes just past the end, and set it on top of the pile of discarded clothing. “That’s okay. I’ll pick up a pair later.”
He untied the blanket and let it drop. Pandora gasped and turned around. He pulled on the sweat pants, and she glanced back around at him. She tried to think of something to talk about other than how naked he just was, and finally asked, “What does your tattoo mean?”
He looked up from the knot he was tying in the pants. “I didn’t know I had one. Haven’t had a chance to look yet. What does it look like?” He checked both arms then twisted around, looking for one.
“It’s kind of a question mark, over your right shoulder, but there’s something tribal about it. Celtic, or Maori or something.”
“Awesome,” he said, “Been a while since I had a tattoo.”
“Um, aren’t tattoos permanent?” she asked.
“They last a lifetime,” he confirmed. Suddenly he fell to his knees and began coughing. He seemed to gag, and when he opened his mouth, straining, a cloud of bright yellow sparks floated out and slowly dispersed like a swarm of glowing gnats that winked out as they went.
“Whoa, Doctor,” Pandora said, approaching cautiously and putting a hand on his shoulder. “Okay, what did you take? I’ve never seen anyone sick up like that before.”
“It’s okay,” he said, holding a hand out. “I guess I’m not done regenerating yet.” He seemed a bit better, and stood back up. He quickly pulled the t-shirt over his head and slipped his arms into the hoodie.
She was suddenly anxious to get back to Angel Court. “The Swede will be back any time now for his dog. Let’s get back.” She gave a high whistle again, and Obelix obediently walked back to the lift and sat.
The Doctor folded up the blanket he had been wearing, and joined them.
They got back to Angel Court, the A4 buzzing past just South of them. Pandora jumped back up to sit on the crate where the Doctor had first found her. Obelix stopped and sat next to the Doctor. Even sitting, the dog’s head was well over the Doctor’s hip. He reached over and patted its head. Looking out into the street, he saw the same SUV back again. It pulled to a stop, double-parked in mid-day traffic. The men from before quickly got into the car, and it pulled away. This time the Doctor noticed the man in the shotgun seat had a military tattoo on his right arm.
“I’m on holiday,” he said quietly to himself as he watched the SUV go past. “I’ve got no reason to get involved... It’s somebody else’s problem.” He looked instead at the dog, who was currently looking up at him and panting happily.
“Tell me, Pandora, have you ever opened a bank account?”
“No...” she laughed, “Why?”
“Well, I... want to do something to repay you for the clothes.”
“You mean the clothes you just stole, that didn’t belong to me?”
“Yeah, exactly. And don’t bother, I won’t take no for an answer. There’s just a couple things I need to get first. I left them by my ship.”
“You have a ship?”
“Yeah. My spaceship. I left it over in Hyde Park. I really should grab my stuff before someone notices.”
“Of course you’ve got a spaceship.” She laughed. “That explains a lot. But tell me, you left a spaceship in Hyde Park, and you think no one has noticed yet?”
“Oh yeah. Totally innocuous, my Tardis. Come on, I’ll show you.”
“Can’t. Dog sitting, remember?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Suit yourself. I’ll grab my stuff and meet you back here.”
“Sure thing, spaceman. See you later,” she said, putting up one hand with her fingers splayed in a ‘V’. She watched him leave.
The Doctor returned to Hyde Park and dropped the blanket off where he had taken it from, the picnickers being gone. He weighed it down with stones in place of the plates.
He crossed the park to where the Tardis was still standing, now with a couple bicycles leaning against it. There were a couple sunbathers laying in the grass nearby.
His clothes were scattered around a bit, tossed by the wind, but there were only a few things he was interested in. He found his old jacket and pulled his sonic screwdriver out of the breast pocket. Then he reached into the hacking pocket and took out his psychic paper. He pulled the Tardis key from an inside pocket and dropped the jacket on the grass.
He walked up to the Tardis and paused before placing his fingertips on the door. He could feel the faint hum of the idling beast, his best and longest friend. He held them there for several moments then let them slide slowly down. “No more,” he whispered. He inserted the key, locked the door and turned his back on the Tardis.
On a whim, he stopped by his pants and turned out the pockets. He pulled out a yo-yo, a draftsman’s compass, and a bag of sweets and shoved all of his belongings into the pockets of his hoodie. He dropped the pants, dusted off his hands and walked away.
When he returned, Pandora was where he had left her, but without Obelix, and she was reading a small tablet. “You know, these clothes don’t really suit me. Would you come with me while I buy some new ones? I’ll buy you dinner.” He pulled the psychic paper from his pocket and showed it to her.
“You have a credit card? I took you for some homeless nutter,” she said. She narrowed her eyes. “Did you take that off somebody?”
“I promise you, it’s mine.”
She jumped back down off the crate and joined him.
“And you went touring about London starkers when you had cash a-hand?”
“Yup,” was all he said. “Should have enough on here for whatever we want though. It’s been doing nothing but earn interest since the late-60s, about time I spent some of it. Point me at the nearest mall. Maybe I’ll buy you a new outfit too.”
Pandora wasn’t sure what to make of the Doctor, but she decided that whatever this was, it would be more entertaining than just hanging about. “Sure, okay. Let me grab my stuff first.” She turned and walked back to the crate she had been sitting on, pulled it away from the wall, and reached in behind it. Her ‘stuff’ turned out to be a hemp shoulder bag which she looped over her neck and put the tablet into, and an ornate wooden box, a little larger than a shoe box. It appeared somewhat diamond-shaped from the front, wider in the middle where it was hinged than at top and bottom. It sat on a sturdy rectangular base with a handle on top and a clasp at the front, currently padlocked. All around the sloping sides, both top and bottom, were carved reliefs. The box was stained a mahogany brown and seemed to be fairly heavy from the way she carried it.
“Oh ho!” the Doctor exclaimed. “And this must be Pandora’s famous box. I don’t suppose you’d open it and give me a glimpse of the evils inside?”
“Funny. All you need to know about this box is it’s mine. If we’re going to spend any more time together, you need to understand, we don’t talk about it, hey?”
The Doctor pursed his lips but nodded. “I’ll contain my curiosity. Let’s hit up a cashpoint first. I like to deal in cash when possible. There’s one right around the corner.”
He led the way to the Credit Suisse he’d seen the SUV stop at. Rather than inserting his ‘credit card’ though, he stowed it in his pocket and pulled out a metal tube, longer and thicker than a pencil with light strips running up half the length. He pointed it at the cashpoint as if it were a magic wand and pressed a button. The light strips glowed green and it emitted a buzzing noise. Seconds later, the cash drawer opened up and bill after bill came out. Once there was a sizable stack, the Doctor turned off his sonic and picked up the cash, stowing both in the pockets of his hoodie.
“Wow. Now that’s a lot of dosh. What are you buying, a bespoke tuxedo?”
“Dunno yet. I’m gonna try a few things out, see what fits my style. Shall we?”
The two headed back into the tunnels at Angel Court and after some twists and turns, emerged in Piccadilly Arcade. The Doctor stood for a while studying the mannequins in front of a men’s clothier. He slowly looked away, then snapped back around to stare at them. Whatever he was thinking, he ultimately dismissed the shop and walked further along.
He walked straight into a casual clothing store and started leafing though clothes. “Pick something out for yourself,” he said to Pandora over his shoulder. He shook out a burgundy pullover and held it up against his chest, then threw it back on top of the stack.
“Oy!” called out one of the shop workers. He walked over and picked up the sweater.
“Sorry,” said the Doctor. “I’m rubbish at folding.” He pulled out a fifty pound note and set it on top of the clothing pile before moving on to another.
“Don’t mention it,” said the shop worker, gobsmacked. He picked up the fifty and began folding the pullover.
The Doctor picked up a scarf and threw it around his neck for a bare moment before throwing it back on the table. He moved on to another table filled with hats. He picked up a couple fedoras, alternating between the two before setting them both down. The shop worker began following him from table to table tidying after the Doctor.
Pandora set her box down on a counter and leaned against it, keen to watch.
The Doctor picked up several t-shirts, some he discarded immediately, but others he threw over his shoulder. He moved on to pants, holding them up against his legs and discarding the first several pairs. The pile on his shoulder was getting precarious, so he turned to the shop worker and said, “What’s your name?”
Startled, the young man said, “Um, Douglas.”
“Douglas, hold these for me, would you?” He pushed them against his chest, and followed up with another couple pair. Before Douglas could respond, the Doctor called out to Pandora. “Do I look like a boxers or briefs man to you?”
Pandora pulled a face and said, “I’m really trying not to picture you in either, right now.”
“Ah, commando then, you think?”
Her eyes went wide and she shouted, “Definitely not!”
Douglas spoke up. “Yeah, not if you want to try any of this on...”
“Briefs it is then,” the Doctor said and handed a pack to Douglas. “Where is your shoe section?”
After several more minutes of this, he took back all the clothes he had handed to Douglas and stepped into a changing room. Outfit after outfit flew over the divider, starting with the sweat pants from the rubbish bag. Eventually he emerged wearing some rather plain cross-trainers, khaki cargo pants, a graphic tee with DeForest Kelly’s face and a quote saying, “Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor, not an Escalator!” He still had on the hoodie from the donation station.
He looked down at himself, extended his arms and turned around. “What?” he said.
“Well for starters, the 80s wants its pants back.”
“Yeah...” the Doctor said with a smile. “You like them? This regeneration, I seem to be all about pockets.”
“You mentioned you were from space, you didn’t say you were blind as well. And you kept the hoodie?”
“Yeah,” he said excitedly. He stuck a hand in the right pocket and lifted it to the side, revealing the interior. “It’s got a nice comfy liner, see? And look: More pockets!” There was a standard inside pocket, and a second slim pocket for sunglasses. He unzipped the pocket and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. “See? A perfect fit.” He put it back and re-zipped it.
“You do realize you’re like, forty, right?”
“A tad older than that, but what’s your point?”
“You’re dressed like a teen-age rebel who hasn’t figured things out yet,” she said in bemused exasperation.
“Ah. And you think people will be confused. Card me, and things like that. Should I grow a beard, do you think? Ooh! How about a handsome goatee? Tell me, would this face fit a nice goatee? I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. That’d go with the rebel thing! Maybe I am a rebel!” He posed, flipping up his hood and sticking both hands in his pockets, with one leg out at an angle, eyebrows knitted in a dour expression.
“No,” she said. Then she shook herself from staring. “And no to the goatee too. I think you’ve got enough going on already.”
After paying, the Doctor took Pandora to the Red Lion for fish and chips and beer. When their food arrived, they settled in to some conversation.
“So spaceman,” Pandora said, “how come you look human? You don’t have one of those worm-things in your brain, like in Stargate, do you?”
“You’d be amazed how many species out there look basically human. Skin tones and minor details differ, but not much for the most part.”
“Tell me about other worlds. You must have some great stories.”
“Oh certainly. And the sights I could show you!” The Doctor leaned in. “I’ve been to the Singing Towers of Darillium and seen the Firefalls of Grax, I’ve eaten from the Forbidden Tree of Seradon Six and survived the Nightmare Auroras of Beldora, I’ve gazed upon the naked wonder of the Medusa Cascade and sailed the Endless Seas of Vericorm Minor. I’ve climbed the Diamond Cliffs of the First Planet and sifted through the dust of the very last.”
“So what brings you to Earth?”
“Oh, this isn’t my first time here. Far from it. I’ve spent a lot of time here. I’ve met Nero and Ghengis Khan, Shakespeare and Wyatt Earp, I was there when Pompeii blew and when the French revolted. I’ve fought off Daleks at Canary Wharf and Krynoids in Antarctica. No, I love the people of Earth. It’s practically my second home.”
“I heard about that Canary Wharf thing. Good show there.”
“So, who’s this other guy whose costume you were wearing?”
It took the Doctor a while to answer. He took a long drink of his beer, then set it down. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Just before coming here,” he started quietly. Pandora leaned in closely to hear him better. “Just before coming here, I - or rather - this other guy, landed on a planet, Barrophine, in the midst of an invasion. The people of this planet were good, peaceful sorts who wanted nothing more from life than an acre of land to farm, and a decent meal at the end of the day. The ruling family, however was conscripting them into an unwinnable war.”
The Doctor took another drink from his beer and swallowed hard. “The Invaders... These Sycorax... They didn’t care about any of that. They saw a hard-working happy people and just thought ‘slave race’.”
“The Barrophino government had converted their factories to building fighter planes, and teaching their people to fly and to kill. But for the Sycorax, that was a way of life. Wave after wave of Barrophinos were blasted from the sky.”
“But the reason the Sycorax wanted this planet was for the large deposits of elegium ore, an incredible source of energy that the Barrophinos didn’t even know what to do with. I convinced the leadership to repurpose the factories yet again to make a modular defensive barrier using the elegium. Once that was in place, any Sycorax ship that approached the planet was destroyed in the barrier and they quickly retreated to find easier prey.”
“Sounds like a win,” Pandora said. “What’s so bad about that?”
“Yes, it was a win,” the Doctor agreed. “For the people of Barrophine at least. But the leadership saw how easily I... How easily this other guy had sent away the invaders and they feared for their own position of power. They gave him no warning. They must have been planning it, and he should have seen it coming, the fool! They blasted him from behind the moment they were sure the Sycorax were gone.” The Doctor finished off his beer and set it down with a loud thunk.
After a while, he went on. “My kind... When they die, they regenerate. They get a new face, new body. I’ve done it before, too many times to mention. But to die, betrayed by the people I’ve saved...” He trailed off. He broke himself out of the mood he had settled into and returned to the story. “Well, I managed to drag myself back to my Tardis, my spaceship, before I regenerated, and I set the coordinates for London, Earth. Somewhere I’ve enjoyed my time, people I’ve enjoyed it with. Somewhere I can forget about duty and other things I’ve imposed on myself for the sake of people who don’t care. I’m on holiday.”
“Gotta hand it to you. For a nutter, your delusion is rather consistant.”
“Your turn,” he said, turning the subject around. “How long have you been on the street?”
“About two years now. But really, it hasn’t been so bad the last year or so. I got lucky and hooked up with some people who’ve been good for me.”
“Why’d you run away from your mum?”
Pandora quietly chewed for a while. Finally she swallowed and said, “I don’t think I know you well enough to talk about that yet.”
The Doctor didn’t press her. He started tucking into the remainder of his chips. “Fair enough. Do you at least have somewhere you can stay tonight?”
“Yes, I have a few places I kind of rotate through. Why?”
“Because I don’t really have anywhere to stay.”
They lapsed into silence again.
“Don’t you have a place you can sleep on board your spaceship?”
“Yeah, but she and I aren’t on speaking terms right now,” the Doctor replied sourly.
“Why is that?” Pandora asked.
Now it was the Doctor’s turn to take his time replying. “I don’t think I know you well enough to talk about that yet.”
After watching the Doctor’s expression for a while, Pandora said, “Okay Doctor, I need to ask you my three questions now.”
She paused again, and the Doctor raised an eyebrow, intrigued.
“Have you ever lit anything on fire, just for fun?” Pandora asked, holding up one finger.
“Do sparklers count?” the Doctor asked.
“Then, no. I haven’t.”
Pandora held up a second finger. “Do you think that a man and a woman can ever truly be ‘just friends’?”
The Doctor chuckled slightly. “I certainly hope so. Otherwise I’m wasting my time.”
Pandora nodded, then held up a third finger. “There is a runaway trolley, no driver. It’s heading down the tracks straight toward a group of children at play, oblivious. In front of you is a button that will shunt the trolley to another track, but there is currently an old man slowly crossing that track. You only have seconds to act. Do you push the button?”
“No,” the Doctor said.
Pandora put her hand down. “Why not?” she asked, a gleem in her eye.
“Because I could never knowingly cause a person’s death, even to save another one’s life.”
Pandora nodded thoughtfully, considering his answer.
The Doctor interrupted her thoughts, “But I wouldn’t let the children die either.”
“Wait, what? You only have the two choices...” she said, confused.
“Only in the controlled world of the thought experiment. I reject the implicit assertion of the situation: that there is only a binary response possible. Either I act, and cause someone to die, or I fail to act, which is an action itself, causing a group of children to die. I would use my sonic screwdriver to apply the trolley brakes. I would jump onto the trolley to affect it manually, or failing that, jump onto the tracks myself to cause it to derail. I would signal the children so that they would get out of the way in time. In any realistic application of this thought expirement, I would find some way to save them all.” The Doctor sat back and let Pandora think on that.
Pandora nodded. “Come on. Pay the man. I’ll show you where we’re going to spend the night.”
When they were outside, she lead him, by back alleys and underground tunnels again, quite a ways this time, to another alley.
She pointed up to a window on the upper floor with a light on. “It’s a seamstress’s shop. We just wait here for a bit. She’ll be heading home soon, now that it’s dark.”
When the light went out, she climbed the fire escape with her box in one hand, and peeked inside the window. “Okay, she’s gone,” Pandora whispered. She pushed the window up.
“I don’t use this place all the time. The lady who owns it knows someone stays here, but we’ve never met. She’s left me notes and sometimes even food, and I’ve never taken anything. As long as she keeps this window unlocked, I assume it’s okay for me to stay.”