jesterladyfic: (Default)
[personal profile] jesterladyfic
Title: Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
by Jesterlady
Rating: PG-13
Characters: The Ninth Doctor, Cordelia Chase, Logan Echolls
Fandom: Doctor Who, Angel, Veronica Mars Red Dwarf, Toy Story, Road to Avonlea, The Middleman, Step by Step, Family Matters, Roseanne, The West Wing, Star Trek: The Next Generation, All My Children, Happy Days with special appearances by X-Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, Are You Being Served and a great deal of the cast of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World
Summary: The Doctor is just minding his own business when Cordelia Chase and Logan Echolls pop into the Tardis, now they're off on a tv trope adventure to find out what's disrupting reality. If only fictional characters would stop dropping by.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these fandoms, especially DW, ATS or VM. I owe a great deal to www.tvtropes.com and all of the chapter titles are a play on tropes found there. Written for the [livejournal.com profile] scifibigbang 2011.
A/N: Many thanks to my beta, [livejournal.com profile] exmanhater and to [livejournal.com profile] rainyrocket for her artwork.





Chapter Ten: Crossover Cages

There were a couple of things the Doctor was sure of. One, he was responsible for genocide and he was now the only one of his kind. Two, in order to keep that from happening again, he had to make some difficult choices. And he wasn't an idiot. No, he was very, very clever and there wasn't a chance in hell that his two fantastically intelligent companions hadn't worked this out on their own without his ever having to say a thing. Not that he shouldn't have said something. Not that he didn't wish he'd told them everything. But there was no time now and the one thing he wasn't sure of was the situation on Marvello and how he would be fixing it.

The heat blasted into them as they stepped outside. The temperature was definitely
right this time and he could only conclude they'd landed in the right era. If he hadn't been
the Doctor, he would've taken off his jacket. Thank goodness for inner temperature
regulation. His companions weren't so lucky and immediately started complaining.

“Keep your beaks shut,” he hissed at them.

Cordelia sent him an annoyed look, but acquiesced.

They'd landed in a compound of some kind. The Tardis, with all of her effort, had
followed the neon, blinking signal of so many characters being blasted from nothing to
something and landed them, probably dead center, in the midst of where they needed to be. The
Doctor spared a quick caress to her outside as he locked the door.

“Little lesson on Trikini,” he told them, moving silently. “They're tall, skinny and
gloomy as all get out. They've got hairy faces over droopy mouths. Real long necks and white
skin. Other than that, they're fairly humanoid. But they're quick and they don't need to
breathe underwater. They can stand the heat better than most though this temperature is just
riding at their limits so they probably come down from their ships in shifts or something like
that. They don't like the concept of dance, but their history is a vastly beautiful one when
it comes to literature and fiction. Makes sense, yeah? They were fairly up technologically
until the war and then they were decimated and most of their culture dissipated. A much
smaller telepathic ability than I have, with a slightly elevated sense of time and space.”

“Then that's why they're doing this,” Cordelia said.

The Doctor looked at her with approval.

“I would hazard so. Still, only one way to be sure. Let's sneak around some. I've
got to find the machine they're doing this with or I won't know how to stop it.”

They nodded and followed him down the corridor. It was a sprawling complex built over
the ruin of a Marvellian city. It was obvious where the two architectures came together, the
mis-matched patchwork of wood and steel and stone spreading as far as he could see. There was
some sort of cooling system trying to work, but it paled when the hastily built walls let in
blasts of the hot air from outside. The Doctor imagined that most of their power had to be
going into the machine anyway.

They'd been walking for about ten minutes when they saw their first Trikini. It was
elegantly striding away from them, long legs eating up the distance. He noted the gun strapped
to its back and frowned. He motioned for them to stay where they were until the Trikini had
turned a corner.

“Let's follow,” he said quietly. “Nothing else better.”

They followed the alien through several tunnels and rooms and hallways. There wasn't
much else to see; the rooms were empty and there weren't any other aliens or even characters
that they could see. Finally, the Trikini led them to a huge warehouse door, towering over
them and shored up with wood and locked with intricate locks, with two guards and several
lasers hovering outside the doorway.

“You think that might be it?” Logan mouthed, an innocent look in his eye.

Cordelia shoved him slightly, but both were careful to not make any noise.

“I need to get inside,” the Doctor whispered. “I can hear Vortex energy screaming from
here. There's a lot in there.”

“Distraction time?” Cordelia offered.

“Perhaps,” the Doctor said slowly, nodding. Their original alien had started unlocking
the doors and turning off the lasers.

“I'll go,” Logan said. “You guys get ready to go inside when he does and then I'll get
those other guards to come after me.”

The Doctor agreed, ignoring twinges of worry. This wasn't a time to be soft, but a
time for action. There was more at stake here than Logan, who technically didn't even exist.

Cordelia touched Logan's arm.

“Good luck.”

“Don't get all soft on me, Chase,” he said, grinning at her.

“If you're not captured, get back here,” the Doctor said. “If you are, you'll either
be dead or brought back here anyway.”

“Great speech to the troops,” Logan told him. They all watched.

The doors opened and the Trikini went through. The guards proceeded to shut the doors
and Logan ran into sight, then seemingly tripped and when down on his nose in front of the
astonished guards.

“How did this one get out?” one of them grumbled.

Logan sprang to his feet and ran in the opposite direction. The guards sighed heavily
and followed him. The Doctor and Cordelia kept themselves pressed to the shadows and then,
once they'd turned the corner, ran to the door where the Doctor caught it just before it
closed. Once they were on the other side, they darted behind a huge pile of crates and the
Doctor scanned the door.

“Deadlock seal,” he grunted. “I wouldn't have been able to open it.”

“Then little Logan's run was worth it,” she said quietly.

“Absolutely,” he agreed. They peered around and Cordelia's mouth opened in
astonishment.

It was a warehouse and it was huge. Right where they were standing was a small maze of
stacks of crates. Directly across from them was a mechanical monstrosity that the Doctor
stared at it in awe. The Trikini were geniuses to have built such a thing. It was beautiful.
There were shields and guards standing all around it. Taking up the majority of the space was
a giant cage. There were hundreds if not thousands of characters jam packed into it, seemingly
sorted by species and size. There were some sections of the cage larger than others, but they
were mostly all just flung in together with flimsy bars separating each group and thick, thick
bars keeping them all from the outside.

Cordelia's face grew hard.

“We need to do something about this,” she said firmly.

“That we will, Cordelia,” he assured her.


***

Logan wasn't sure how much longer he could keep on running in such heat. It was ridiculous how much sweat was pouring out of him. He made a mental note to tell the Doctor to always have his companions carry bottles of water around with them for all the running bits of their adventures.

The Trikini were very fast and if Logan hadn't been great at dodging and running
himself, a lifetime skill learned from being Aaron Echolls' son, he would've been caught
several times. As it was, he knew that time wasn't far off. It happened when he turned a
corner and ran smack dab into a dead end. There was no way out but the way of the Trikini.
Logan decided to pull on whatever acting genes he may have possessed and threw his hand on his
forehead and swooned, quite credibly.

It was a relief to lay there on the floor and let his breathing come back to normal.
The Trikini gathered him up and one slung Logan over his back. Other than the danger of
getting even more light-headed, Logan was feeling much better. He made himself as relaxed as
possible.

“I don't know how they keep doing this,” one Trikini mumbled. “I know some of them
have interesting abilities, but security's really tight.”

“We shouldn't talk about it now.”

“He's out, and besides, this one is human - they can't understand us.”

Logan blessed the existence of the Tardis in his head.

“Okay, then. There's just too many of them to keep track of. That's all. I don't
know what the higher-ups are doing.”

“We're going to have beauty again, that's what they're doing.”

“Seems like a really complicated way to get it.”

“But faster than building up an entire civilization again. We have nothing, you know
that.”

“I know, it's just, I have a bad feeling about this whole thing. What about those
aliens that came to Malataxes? That wasn't a good thing.”

“No, but we haven't seen anything of them since. And the final stage is in half an
hour.”

“You've been at this longer than I have.”

“Don't I know it!”

The Trikini fell silent and Logan contemplated what he'd heard. They needed to act
fast. Hopefully, the Doctor already had the situation well in hand. If not, well, he should
get there to help.

“You been near the machine yet?” the Trikini not carrying him asked.

“Nah, not enough clearance. But I was one of those who helped with the initial
stages. There was a funny string of numbers that they put into all the designs. It didn't
seem to make sense.”

“How odd. Do you remember them?”

“Oh sure, I saw them so often, I couldn't help it.” The Trikini listed off a bunch of
numbers and Logan gritted his teeth, saying them over and over again in his head. “It's a
pretty wonderful bit of technology. Even those Timelords would have been awed by it.”

“Don't say that name,” the other one warned. “I don't want to get in trouble.”

“I won't. I'm just proud of our accomplishments. The machine is brilliant. From what
I've heard it's along the lines of their time machines, but it's built on a reality principle
instead of a time principle. I don't understand the mechanics really. I was just there for
the heavy work. But supposedly they're similar.”

They paused, presumably in front of the big door, and Logan knew he was right when
there were lots of sounds of bolts being unlocked and pin pads being used.

Logan risked a quick eye opening to see that they were indeed entering a vast warehouse
full of characters of all kinds and a large machine. There wasn't a sign of the Doctor or
Cordelia and he hoped that meant they were figuring out a way to do something.

“Another one escaped,” he heard the Trikini carrying him say.

There was a quick jolt of pain and Logan bolted upright.

“Ow!” he yelled. “Stupid Trikini!”

They all stared at him in confusion and suspicion.

“Habla espanol?” he asked sheepishly.

“This one is different,” a Trikini with a clipboard said. “This one has not been
scanned. He displays initiative. Take him to the chamber.”

“Just what I've always wanted,” Logan said, sighing.

They hauled him across the room and through another set of locked doors. Logan was
surprised to find it already occupied.

“We are busy,” the Trikini said, “making preparations. You will wait until the
ceremony.”

“I don't suppose I'm getting an award of some kind?” Logan asked.

They did not answer him. When they left, Logan turned to the alien sitting across the
room who looked a lot like the Cinuians had.

“Hey, you wouldn't be a hostage, would you?”

The Cinuian turned to look at him.

“I am the Minister of my world and the Trikini have exploited that fact.”

“I've heard about you. Say, you want to get out of here, right?”

“Naturally.”

“Well, I have a friend who can help.”

“I hope you are right,” the Cinuian answered him gravely. Logan hoped so too.

***

The Doctor had explored every bit of the room. He estimated a total of one thousand and fifty-five characters from every time and planet in multiple galaxies were being held in the cages. The cages were locked with deadlock seals, but looked to be designed to open automatically once you got past the initial doors.

“Don't you think a herd of fictional people making a jailbreak would be a great
distraction?” Cordelia asked.

“Certainly, if we can find the controls. I'm guessing they're in that lovely guarded
area over there.”

“That'd be where I'd put them,” she agreed.

“Well, I can't think of a better way to get in there than to give ourselves up,” he
said.

“What if they just throw us in the cages?”

“Then we need to wreak a little havoc first.”

Cordelia grinned at him and he chuckled a little bit.

There was a section of the floor that looked a bit like a junkyard and Cordelia found
herself a nice piece of metal to use for a weapon, and then they crept around the machines,
clunking guards and opening as many locks as the sonic screwdriver could.

They got through the inner ring of guards and past the outer locks before they were
caught.

“Clever escapees,” a Trikini said, as a gun was pointed at them. The Doctor frowned,
because he really didn't like guns.

“Pardon me, but I think you have me confused with someone else,” he still said
politely. “I'm the Doctor and I'm as real as they come.”

The Trikini drew back as if he'd slapped them.

“The Doctor!”

“Hello!”

“How did you get in here?”

“Usual way I get into any place,” he said cheerfully. “Wits and luck.”

“Bring him,” the Trikini said, and turned and walked further into the machine.

The Doctor winked at Cordelia and followed him.

“Cocky idiot,” she mumbled, but followed.

They were led up onto the operating platform. The whole setup looked familiar, but the
Doctor couldn't quite place it. He had other things to be thinking about, didn't he? Yes, he
did. There were several Trikini, working on the machine and making calculations.

One of them, wearing a dark blue band over his head, turned to them.

“I see you decided to join us, Doctor.”

“You know me, never could resist a good fictional blowout.”

“Very amusing. I'm glad you're here, Doctor. You're going to see the strength of the
Trikini restored before you die. All of this is your fault; it is through your action that my
planet died.”

The Doctor's face grew hard.

“I couldn't save you,” he said, “there was too much at stake.”

“Who are you to decide?” the Trikini hissed. “Place them over there and bring in the
honored guests. We have a ceremony to complete.”

“I'm warning you now,” the Doctor protested as he was forced to the side. “You're
breaking so many laws and being so nonsensical even I can't begin to fathom it. If you do
this, you're bringing this down on your own heads.”

“So be it,” the Trikini said, a mad look in his eyes.

The Doctor wanted to try and reason with him, but there was a disturbance and several
Trikini entered, leading a young man with his hands bound, one encased in a baseball glove.

“There you go, Cordelia,” he said, gesturing, “the start of it all.”

“Chuckie boy himself?”

“The bonafide lad.”

“I'm so going to gloat about this to Logan,” she said gleefully.

“You all right there?” the Doctor asked.

“I'm just more than a little confused,” Chuck said, his voice breaking.

“Don't worry,” Cordelia said, “the Doctor will sort it all out and then you can go back
home.”

“That's...reassuring,” he said, licking his lips. “I've been here for so long. Such a
long time.”

There was another commotion and this time it was Logan and a Cinuian who were led into
the room, bound.

“You just had to get yourself caught,” Cordelia said, under her breath.

Logan winked at them, but otherwise, didn't say anything. The Doctor nodded in
approval. No sense in letting the Trikini know they themselves were the ones in trouble.
Probably anyway.

“This one knew too much,” the foremost Trikini said, pointing at Logan. “He can
understand us though he should not.”

“It is of no consequence,” the leader Trikini said. “When this is over, it will not
matter what he knows. He will be as he was before he came through the veil.”

The Doctor sucked in a breath, the idiot couldn't mean what he thought he meant?

“Stop this!” he warned. “You are going to be extremely unhappy with the results of a
reality reversal.”

The Trikini's mouth twitched, but he did not say anything, simply gesturing to his
people to carry on.

They started the machine.

“Doctor, what's a reality reversal?” Cordelia murmured. “What I think it is?”

“Probably.”

“We become fiction again on this side of reality?”

“Yup.”

“Won't that cause the already unstable universe to implode?”

“Yup.”

“Good to know.”

“Be quiet!” the Trikini shouted. “It has begun.”

The machine whirred, and its engines or gears or whatever it was made out of began
making noises similar to the Tardis on a bad day. The room started to shake and a huge column
of light shot to the roof and passed through it.

“Being in the innards of the machine should keep us safe,” the Doctor said, “for now.”

“That's a great comfort,” Cordelia replied.

The noises changed and the roof started to crack and rain down bits on them. Several
Trikini were knocked unconscious. The Doctor moved towards the machine, intent on stopping it
before it was too late.

“Don't move,” the lead Trikini demanded.

“Hey, buddy,” Cordelia said, tapping his back with a gun she'd lifted from a downed
Trikini. “Don't you move.”

“Doctor, stop!” the Trikini yelled. “You must not stop our work. We must rise again!
We must be as we were! This is all your doing!”

“You made your choice,” the Doctor said, “now I make mine. I'm sorry.”

“Untie him,” Cordelia said pointing at Logan. The Trikini grimaced but moved toward
the young man and untied his hands. “And them.”

The Cinuian and Chuck were released as well. Logan picked up another gun and joined
Cordelia in keeping watch over the Trikini.

“I hate guns,” the Doctor called to them.

“That's why we're holding them,” Cordelia said, a strange mix of defiance and
compassion in her voice.

The Doctor shook his head and made his way over to the machine controls to figure them
out and stop it before the universe was no longer there.

“Cordelia,” he said, “take Chuck with you and go down and unlock all the cages. Just
the outer doors. I'm gonna need them all contained so I can get a fix on them, but I can't do
that with the outer doors locked. Then get back here. You don't want to be out there when I
activate this.”

“Why does she get to go with Chuck?” Logan grumbled. Cordelia smirked at him.

“You're going to look out for our High Magistrate here,” the Doctor said, without
turning around.

He turned his full attention to the machine, learning as he went. It was horribly
frustrating because nothing made sense. It was like and so unlike what he knew.

The room continued to shake and they had to dodge more of the ceiling as it fell.
Panicked cries reached his ears from the cages and he redoubled his efforts.

“Doctor!”

“Not now,” he snapped.

“It’s like a Tardis, but built on a reality principle,” Logan said. “That mean
anything to you?”

The Doctor stared at him for a second.

“Logan, you’re brilliant!” he shouted, and then really went to work, flipping switches
and entering numbers and turning knobs just like it was a Tardis. Now he understood. Now everything was simple.

***

Cordelia had been nearly hit on the head half a dozen times and it was starting to upset her. She had to practically force the nearly useless Chuck along with her.

“Some trope starter you are,” she said, covering him as he cowered. They reached the
cages and she discovered the sonic screwdriver now worked. The distance was vast, so it took
her quite a long time to make her way all around it. The inmates screamed and cried and yelled
for her to free them.

“What does it look like I'm doing?” she muttered. She shoved Chuck through the first
door. “Stay in there, it will be safer.”

The inventor of the syndrome nodded and stayed put.

She could tell which characters had come through later and which ones had been first.
The former were half-crazed, rationality not at the top of their list. The latter were
obviously sane, although depending on the character, panicking or trying to figure out how to
escape. She even saw some she recognized, but now was not the time to exchange pleasantries.
She just went about her job.

There were still Trikini around. Most had been taken out before or were knocked out by
falling debris. But there were some who tried to stop her. She handled them well enough,
blessing Wesley for his gun training, until her gun ran out of ammo.

“You'd think they'd have unlimited,” she said to herself, then picked up some more
metal lying around.

She had gone three quarters of the way around the cages when a Trikini snuck up behind
her and knocked her down. She got back up, gripping her metal like a sword. She'd torn a
strip from her jacket to wrap around the end to avoid hurting herself and was ready for battle.

The Trikini was as quick as the Doctor had said, but Cordelia could see he was
inexperienced as well. He was probably a relief soldier, one who usually sat everything out
unless necessary. He swung out against her and she dodged, bringing her blade up to sweep
across his belly. He leaned back swiftly and threw a long leg out to sweep her down. She
jumped over it, bringing her sword down hard on his head, knocking him out.

“Even when I don't exist, I'm better,” she said, going about her business. She had
several more encounters like that before she made it all the way around.

There was a strange whirring sound and the wall farthest from her completely
collapsed. She stood staring, because, although she was used to the outside of Marvello from
her previous experience, it was even more of a wasteland now. It wasn't just the extra hundred
years. There were giant cracks running through the surface and the sky itself was black and
wavering like it was going to collapse on the planet.

The air grew thin and she felt exhausted. She moved as fast as she could back toward
the machine, fighting against the urge to lie down and take a nap. A great wind rose out of
nowhere, pushing against her. The outer hull of the machine loomed in front of her and she
could see only a small gap in the doors as they started to close. She flung herself forward
with all her might.


***

The Doctor slammed his hands against the machine in frustration. There was something he was missing, some vital key to reversing it and he couldn't tell what it was. He turned to the Trikini leader, Logan standing guard.

“What's the sequence?” he asked. “Tell me or we all die here. You don't get a shiny
new culture, you don't get to live, you just kill everyone and everything. You can sense time,
but you don't know anything about this universe. I do. Now tell me!”

The Trikini just looked up at him.

“I'm begging you,” the Doctor said quietly.

“We begged as well,” the alien said, hardly audible over the cacophony of noise ringing
through the air. “The Timelords ignored our pleas and our planet was destroyed. I cannot help
you now.”

The Doctor closed his eyes, feeling every inch of his years, and pulled up every single
memory he could to help him solve this problem. He couldn't let this happen again, even if it
would be the last time.

Logan's face had gone scrunched up and he started murmuring something to himself.

“Not helping,” the Doctor said. “I need to concentrate.”

“Doctor, try this,” Logan said, suddenly spouting out a string of numbers that made the
Doctor's mind reel.

“Logan, I could kiss you!”

“Please don't.”

The Doctor had no time for kissing. The Doctor was busy working the machine. The
Doctor was busy saving the universe.

“That's it!” he crowed. “Just touch this button and every single character goes back
home.”

“What about Cordelia?” Logan asked.

The Doctor shook his head.

“I'm sorry, but I can't wait any longer. The universe will die and then it won't
matter if Cordelia is here or not.”

Logan's eyes closed and he looked like he was struggling internally.

“Then do it.”

The Doctor hit the button and sounds rose and fell in a mighty symphony of
destruction. It sounded like the universe was imploding, but it was simply righting itself.
The Doctor could feel it all as lines snapped themselves into place and bends unbended and
cracks were mended and the stars lived in the right places and something was healed within
himself.

Then there was a deadly quiet and Logan and the Cinuian and the Trikini all held
themselves in hushed silence as the Doctor opened the doors of the inner part of the machine
and looked out. Every single character was gone. The cages were empty. The Marvellian sky
was red again, cracks in the planet's structure that weren't there naturally, gone.

“You just had to start the party without me,” he heard a dry voice from below.

Bending down, he saw Cordelia clinging to the inside of the outer hull of the machine.
She was buffeted and scratched and dirty, but she was there.

“Ha, ha!” he crowed and bent down, picking her up and hugging her. “Cordelia Chase,
you're a marvel.”

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