MARINER II

by Jason A. Miller ©1998

Chapter 4: Town Without Pity

"Callie's Journal

September 21, 1992"

Dear Leda,

The Doctor came yesterday morning. He parked his phone box right on the docks. It looked sort of cute sitting there. Then he and Benny joined Dad and I on the sub, and we took it out into the Atlantic for a little joyride. That's the first time the ship's left the pier in over a month!

We spent the night bobbing underneath the Atlantic Ocean, 30 years off shore. Barek was right all along!

Last night, I dreamed. Do you know the kind of dream that seems unbearably *real*? When I woke up in the morning, I felt *wrong* somehow -- as if the dreams were my real life, and everything else was a prison sentence. The Doctor cooked a fancy breakfast for all of us, but I felt empty inside. I felt like I wanted to jump out of my physical self (as Saja would say) and go to live in that dream landscape.

We were at a beach. In the dream, it was Costa Del Sol, though it didn't look like the real Costa Del Sol. There was a hotel along the beach -- well, actually, twelve one-story bungalows, in a sort of pentagonal formation along the shore. All my friends from town were there -- twelve people, twelve bungalows, I guess. (Saja would talk about harmonic mystical convergence.)

The thunderstorm was ferocious. Waves beat against the shore. It was primal, scary. But inside, the buildings were warm and safe. The heating systems were noisy, and the rooms smelled like fresh laundry.

Jimmy and Sydney Rutledge were supposed to share a bungalow. But the two of them had a terrible fight, right outside in the rain, and Sydney's mother came to take her away. So he came to stay with me instead. We cuddled up together, hiding from the storm, and watched television. He had his arm around me as we lay on the floor!

When I woke up, there was a real storm outside. The sub pitched in the water. And Jimmy's arm wasn't around me. I closed my eyes and tried to get the dream back. But it was gone, and I felt empty, exhausted, even after eight hours of sleep.

Then the boson's whistle sounded in my quarters. It was the Doctor, asking me to join the others on the bridge. There was a lot to talk about.


Bernice S. Summerfield, Ph.D. (imagined)

While Chris and Roz were out chasing some stereotyped late-20th-century Eastern Bloc spies, the Doctor and I were engaged in some family counseling. In 1992 time, we'd been away from Swans Crossing for a month, and Captain Walker and his daughter had essentially stopped speaking to each other. She'd withdrawn from her old friends at school, and he was making noises about lifting anchor and moving away from Swans Crossing again.

I really don't think they needed our help for this. Callie Walker is an Earth girl, after all, and she's fifteen years old. This was all to be expected. We even saw the beginnings of this when we left last time. But her dad's one of the Doctor's oldest friends. So I guess he thought he needed to help out. And besides, he had reasons of his own for wanting the Walkers to stay in town for a while longer yet.

The Doctor and the Captain tinkered on the submarine's bridge all night long. I don't like sleeping underwater, so I kept watch on them with half an eye, and doodled in my journal with the other eye and a half. They were trying to install some new techniques that would restore the sub's old travel capacities. After all, we're going to need them in about a week, when the Eastern Bloc spy action is going to shift to the Eastern Bloc, and the local children will have to follow them in a hurry.

Well, actually, the Doctor and Chris and Roz will need to join them. I'm supposed to stay here, and start dealing with the *other* problem that's going to be cropping up here. I hate ghosts, but at least I'll get to work with Saja again.

Callie and I had a strained heart-to-heart in her room. Neither of us really knew what to say. She's concerned about the Clayton boy at her school -- I didn't really get a chance to get to know him the last time we were here. Neither of us knows the first thing about boys, it seems. She'd had a typically adolescent dream about him last night. I gave her some vague advice -- If you want something, you have to go after it, and not stop for anything -- but she grabbed it for more than it was worth, and cheered up considerably after that.

Then, we rejoined the Doctor and Captain Walker for an espionage planning session around the sub's periscope. The Captain was unusually chipper. I wonder if any of us should be worried about that.


*

It was September 21, the first day of autumn, and although it was sunny, there were little nips of true fall in the air for most of the morning. Jimmy compromised with the weather by wearing his denim jacket (instead of the leather one) over a white Swans Baseball T-shirt (with his name and uniform number 21 on the back). He parked his bike next to the other cycles, both motorbikes and not -- next to Owen Fowler's, as it turned out -- and chained it to the rail.

Hundreds of students crowded around the main doors of the building, waiting for the homeroom bell to ring. When the weather turned, they'd wait inside, in the massive school lobby, but for now, students congregated in groups of 10 to 12, in rough circle formation. The older students, the juniors and seniors, tossed frisbees and footballs around on the grass.

He scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces. There were Nancy, Sandy, and Sydney, sitting on a wooden bench near the main doors. J.T. and Glory sat on the ground next to them. He quickly turned away before they could make eye contact, but it was too late -- they'd noticed him, and all beckoned him over.

"Good morning, Jimmy!" they all said, roughly in unison.

"'Morning," he grumbled. He was *so* not in the mood.

Sydney grabbed the collar of his jacket, and with a playful grunt, dragged him onto the end of the bench. She and Nancy scooted over to make room for him. Sandy stood up, and, realizing that she wasn't going to get her seat back, joined J.T. and Glory on the ground. Glory met her with a shrug.

"Well well well, Mr. Clayton", said Sydney. "We're looking awfully solitary and mysterious this morning, aren't we?" She wore a tiny T-shirt with a panda on it, and fashionably plaid shorts. Mirrored designer sunglasses were pushed back onto her head; she dropped them onto her nose and stared straight at him. "See? We're all being Aloof on this fine school Monday!"

Jimmy laughed in spite of himself. Sydney was the social magnet of the 9th grade.

"Now, Glory and J.T. tell me that Callie and her dad are out of town again?" J.T. and Glory each poked Sydney's ankles, but it was too late. Jimmy's frown returned.

"Oh! I'm sorry!" she said.

"Don't be," said Nancy. Her voice was gravely and sarcastic. "Honestly, James, what you can see in a woman who won't even tell you when she's leaving town?"

"Nancy!"

"It's all right, it's all right," Jimmy said. "It's only a temporary thing. They'll be back before the week is out, I promise."

"Ah," said Nancy. Her face fell.

"Well. We're throwing a party for you guys," said Sydney. "This Friday. You're the guests of honor! Um. So long as Callie comes back, that is."

"For *me*? And Callie?"

"Actually, it was Glory's idea, but I'm in charge of arrangements."

"And I'm in charge of organizing dates," said Nancy.

"And I'm doing the music!" said Sandy, but the sense of what she said was lost in the morning when the bell rang.

The overlapping crowds of Swans Junior-Senior High students began moving towards the main doors with a collective sigh. "We'll talk more during lunch!" Sydney promised, and then she and Nancy got up and ran after J.T. and Glory. Jimmy was left alone with Sandy, who smiled shyly.

"So, erm," he said, "I guess we'll -- I'll -- see you on Friday?"

"I'll?" she said. "Is Callie going to be there?"

"Whatever," Jimmy said, and then he got up and walked back towards his bike. He wasn't up to going inside just yet.


The TARDIS was still parked at the Swans Crossing docks. Callie stood outside of it, eyes closed, enjoying the feel of the ocean breeze against her face. Her hair blew in the wind. She could smell strong salty water, and lots of other hidden smells and fragrances carried out from all over the Atlantic. She'd been to all those places. She loved it there.

The Doctor's return had been exactly what she and her father needed. For the first time in a month, she felt *normal* again. Fifteen. Happy -- well, as happy as you could get at fifteen.

So, she was off to school. It wasn't as much fun as learning with her dad -- but her friends were there now. Her friends. Who'd have thought?

Well, she'd always had friends. But this was different. None of her other friends had ever been Jimmy.


The school day was split up into nine class periods, each of them forty minutes long, with four minutes in between them. This was a big school, housing six grades. When he'd first started here two years ago, Jimmy had wanted to ride his bike through the school corridors -- it'd be a lot easier, and faster, than walking!

It was fifth period now. Lunch. No enthusiasm here -- school food was drab and tasteless. Pizza (rubbery -- tasted more microwaved then oven baked) and hamburgers (usually used as hockey pucks when he and J.T. were feeling frisky) were the staple meals. Something vaguely lasagna-esque was on offer today, but Jimmy couldn't be bothered to buy it. When your dad runs his own restaurant, you don't let yourself suffer school cuisine. Jimmy brought brown-bagged lunch, prepared by his dad's kitchen staff the night before.

He found a seat at table all the way at the back of the room. He kept his back to the main doors. Through the window, he faced the teachers' parking lot. Students weren't allowed to leave the building for lunch, but teachers were. He envied them their freedom.

He opened up his lunch bag and emptied the contents. But he only had a few seconds to survey them before someone grabbed his shoulders. It was Sydney. Of course.

"I told you I'd find you!" she said, and sat down opposite him.

"I didn't know you, um, had lunch this period. I thought you weren't here until next period."

"Oh, you're right. But our English teacher was absent this morning, and they couldn't find a sub in time. So we have a free period. Lovely feeling."

"Well. That's good news. I have Ms. Arnold ninth period. No class means I can go home early."

"Yes! You can go home and find out if your tuxedo still fits."

"Oh wait, that's right," said Nancy, who'd sat down next to him. "You don't *wear* a tuxedo, don't you?" She put an arm on his shoulder. "Such a rebel! My young James."

He looked at Sydney for an escape route, but she wasn't helping. He let the arm linger for as long as was polite (two or three seconds, but it felt a lot longer), and then gently shrugged her off.

"Maybe I can have Ralph design a line of tuxedoes for all the boys at the party. Clayton Chic," said Sydney.

"A black jacket over a white T-shirt. How avant-garde," Nancy smirked.

The lunchroom was big, but the walls were closing in.

"Well. I'll be seeing you then," he said. He tactfully wrapped the remains of his lunch in the tin foil, and left.

"Ta," called out Nancy behind him, but he didn't answer.


Saja and Sandy both had lunch two periods later. Sandy ate with her friends in the cafeteria. Saja chose to be alone. She didn't find him until late in the period, sitting cross-legged outside the building, eyes closed.

She knelt down in front of him. "Guess who?"

He opened his eyes, and looked right at her. "I give up."

She groaned melodramatically. He winked at her. Her pulse shot up and she felt momentarily dizzy, displaced. She was not used to this.

"So, um, Saja, have you heard about the big party this Friday?"

He nodded sagely. "My counsel has been sought for this festive occasion. I have been communing with warriors past for advice on how to conduct such an affair of state."

"So what are you going to do?"

"I shall go in costume. I shall adopt the guise of Bobby DeCastro. Teenage Partygoer."

She frowned at him. "You mean you're not going to be Saja?"

"To the extent that I am always Saja, I shall not be Saja for this particular night. A grand costume party!"

"Great," she moaned. "I have nothing to wear. I'll have to borrow something from Sydney again."

"You misunderstand. I shall be going in costume. But it is not a costume party."

"Wait. If it's not a costume party... why will you be going as Bobby?"

"Because it would not be seemly for a Saja to be seen with a date. But..." he trailed off, and quickly broke off eye contact.

"Ahhhh," she said. "I get it! You want to go with a date. To Callie's party."

"You read my mind. My guard must be down."

"If I could read your mind, I'd know who your date was going to be! Instead, I'm in suspense." Oh please, oh please, she thought.

He reached into his vest pocket and withdrew a mirror. He silently flashed it at her. She could see her reflection. Gah! She was having a bad hair day! No wonder Sydney had ignored her during homeroom this morning.

Oh. Wait.

"Saja? Do you mean..." Before she could finish the thought, he winked at her again, replaced the pocket mirror, stood up, and walked away.

Wow. Wow!


When Jimmy reached his ninth period classroom, a teacher's briefcase sat on Ms. Arnold's desk, and a cream- colored jacket was draped over the chair. Not Ms. Arnold's usual sweater. Shoot! They'd found a sub, this late in the day. No free period. No getting out of school early.

J.T sat down next to him, not so much by choice but because Ms. Arnold had arranged the seating in alphabetical order on the first day of class, and the students were arrayed such that Adams sat next to Clayton. Callie would have been on the other side of the room. He turned around to look at her customary seat. Still empty.

"Aw, rats!" yelled J.T. "I thought for sure we were getting out early today!"

"It's not like you to want to miss class," Jimmy said. "What's the matter?"

"Miss class?" said a familiar voice. "Why would two fine young boys such as yourselves want to remove yourselves from such a fascinating literature lecture?"

Jimmy and J.T. both wheeled around in their seats to face the new voice, the familiar Scottish accent.

It was the Doctor.


Callie pulled her bike up next to Jimmy's, and chained it to the rack. She checked her watch. 1:45. The last period of the day would have just been starting. She was late for English. Which was all right -- the current substitute English teacher at Swans High would be more than willing to forgive her absence. Indeed, the new substitute English teacher had *caused* her absence.

She walked through the hallways quickly. Her absence today may have been excused, but she was still afraid that one of the administrators would notice her and instantly mete out punishment. This was her first real school experience since that woeful year in Jakarta, and she wanted things to go more smoothly this time.

Fortunately, no-one noticed her. She reached the door, but didn't go in just yet. Her heart was pounding, and she closed her eyes, to compose herself. I will not make eye contact with him. I will walk slowly so I don't trip out of nervousness. Oh please, don't let me make an embarrassingly noisy entrance. I am not going to care.

She opened the door and walked into the room.


Predictably, the class stopped short at the late arrival. Even the Doctor stopped lecturing. The class had been laughing at something when she opened the door, but stopped abruptly. Naturally, her desk was all the way across the classroom from the door, and she felt every eye follow her across the room.

The Doctor surreptitiously winked at her, and then resumed his lecture. "I'm afraid this interruption has left us in the lurch, so to speak. We're in between Parts Four and Five of `The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. What on Earth do we do to remedy this incomplete state of affairs?" He rolled his "R"s to comic effect. The class laughed again.

"Ms. Walker, now that you're here, perhaps you can enlighten us by reading from Part V. Mr. Clayton had been doing a valiant job in your absence, so let's give him a rest and let you take over."

She opened her textbook. She longed for her dad's glossy edition. She read the verses, a little uncertainly. She hadn't had to perform since dinner theater in Vienna a few years back. It didn't help that the Doctor stood directly over her desk, eyes closed, rapt smile on his face.

"The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;

Yet never a breeze up-blew;

The mariners all 'gan work the ropes,

Where they were wont to do;

They raised their limbs like lifeless tools-

We were a ghastly crew."

"All right, let's pause there for a moment. Very good, Ms. Walker. But what does it all mean?"

"Well," she said. "It's a little weak, isn't it?"

The Doctor frowned. "Weak?"

The class laughed. Disagreements between teacher and student were the essence of class discussion. They lived for this.

"Well, it's got a nice rhyme scheme. But there's no real effect to what he's saying, is there? I mean, yes, he's trying to be terrifying, but there's no humanity here."

"Ms. Walker, this is a poem *about* humanity." The class laughed again, but the Doctor silenced them with a wave of his hand.

"Well, here's the next verse then," she said. "`The body of my brother's son / Stood by me, knee to knee.'" We're more than halfway through the poem, and this is the first time the Mariner even bothers to tell us he *has* a brother."

"Ms. Walker, the Mariner is alone in the middle of the world's largest ocean, and he's being surrounded by two hundred animated corpses. And you're trying to tell us that there's not *enough* horror?" The class laughed again.

"There's no human element. We don't know who the Mariner is, what makes him tick. He's a human plot device."

"Exactly!" the Doctor said, as he turned to face the rest of the class. "A little preachy, isn't Coleridge?"

The Doctor turned back to Callie. A special look. "Maybe he should have consulted with someone who was there, hm?"

He winked at her. Then he walked across the room, and laid a kindly hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "And now, Mr. Clayton, you can resume the narrative for us."

She smiled at him, from across the room. He gave her a thumb's up sign, and she leaned back happily in her seat. It was all starting to come together again. She couldn't wait for the period to end. Then they'd really get to talk. Maybe he'd kiss her again. She missed that.