WARNING!!!!!!!! MASSIVE SPOILERS LIE AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!!!!!
I woke up, and my hand flew to my chest. I lay on my back, clad in my gymnastics leotard. I sucked in deep breaths, gulping the air in greedily.
"Careful. Don't overextend yourself," a voice said from behind me.
I ignored the advice, twisting around to see who it was. But my body failed me, collapsing on itself. I gasped, my face pressed against… metal mesh? What kind of a floor was made of metal mesh?
"I did warn you." And there he was, bending over me, pulling me upright. And all the memories came flooding back. The polar bear. Tobias crying noiselessly. The Ellimist. That blue box. That strange man who called himself the Doctor…
I looked around. It was some kind of room, with a central platform that had a bazillion controls on it. Surrounding it were strange coral-like structures that looked uncannily like coral reefs I had seen on Leera.
"Where-where am I?" I croaked.
"You're in my TARDIS. Something that few people ever step into," the Doctor said.
"The TARDIS. Okay. Is that like a building? A town?" I asked. "God forbid, a planet?"
"A planet?" he said quizzically. "Why would the name TARDIS sound like a PLANET?"
"Well, you're like a space person, so I just—"
He went on like he hadn't even heard me. "Well, then again, I suppose you could be correct. I mean, there IS an actual room the size of a planet on Quandor 5. And then there's Sentorania, which is a planet the size of a room." He smiled. "Oh, some crazy times there. And then there's Crayak's planetoid, the less said about the better…"
He looked at me. "Sorry. I do ramble on. Ignoring the elephant in the room. Your death and such. Anyway, the TARDIS is my ship. My spaceship."
"I had an elephant morph…" I said vaguely, remembering. "I—wait a minute. You said my DEATH. I—I'm not dead, am I?" I looked at my hands, wiggling my fingers. They looked plenty alive to me. "Please tell me I'm not dead."
"Of course you're not dead. How silly. Isn't that obvious?" the Doctor said condescendingly.
"Um, no. Obvious kinda went out the window when a dying Andalite handed me a blue box."
"But tell me, Doctor. What happened to me?" I said, almost scared to know the answer.
He looked into my eyes. "You died, Rachel Berenson. That's what happened. You died, and I brought you back."
All I could think of to say was "How?"
"With this," he said, tapping a black wire on my leotard that I hadn't noticed before. It lay directly over my heart, and my eyes traced it to the device it was connected to. It looked like a mix of a defillibrator, a mixer, and a laptop.
"Sontaran rebooter, mixed with a nanogene generator. My own creation. Reproduces a person's brainwave patterns, their—"
"An Ixcila," I said, remembering our little excursion to the Hork-Bajir planet with Aldrea. "That's what the Andalites call it. You recreated my Ixcila."
He seemed mildly surprised that I knew the term. "Yes. Essentially, an Atafalxical, although the process was a bit more complicated than that. You see, your original body was damaged. Mauled, actually, by that nasty polar bear." He shuddered. "I hate bears. Now more than ever. But anyway, I had to grow a new body for you, out of your original body's DNA. That's where the nanogenes came in. Mind you, it drained quite a bit of power. So you're welcome."
"So this… this is a cloned body?" I practically shrieked. "I'm not a person?! I'm a clone?!"
"Oi, it was either this or a life-size doll of Marilyn Monroe! Don't ask," he said, seeing the question on my face. "In any case, don't worry. It's a perfect copy of your original body. You won't notice an atom out of place. You might as well have never died."
"So I'm like a… cloned zombie?" I said.
"Exactly. Isn't it fantastic?" he said happily, with a grin on his face. Like being a cloned zombie was something everything should want.
I decided to skim over that. I didn't understand half the stuff this man said.
"What about my morphing power?" I asked. "Do I still have it?"
"Yes, of course. The Escafil Device bonds its power directly to your DNA, altering your genome. So you still have it. However, your collection of morphs is not linked to your DNA. Good thing too, because if it was, the nucleus of every cell in your body would probably explode. It's in your blood. So, I gave you a full blood transfusion. You have all your old morphs."
"What did I tell you? The full package," he said with a wink. "And in any case, if you didn't have your morphing power, I'd just give it back to you and we'd go back to Earth acquiring all your past animals again."
My mouth was hanging open. "Okay, I'm just gonna ignore all the sciency talk. But how did you do all that? In such little time?"
"Magic," he said, wiggling his fingers.
I made a sound that would not have ashamed a charging hippopotamous. This guy was almost as infuriating as Marco!
"But you said you'd just give me back my morphing power. Do you have an Escafil device?"
"Yup," he said noncommittally. "Stole it. Long story."
"From the ANDALITES?! Are you insane?"
"Just a bit," he said.
I shook my head in disbelief. "So can you morph?"
"No. The Ellimist told me not to, in case I ever ran into any Andalites. Very touchy about their technology, the Andalites."
I nodded. That sounded like the Andalites I knew.
"I doubt they'd be pleased if I was morph-capable. I'm annoying as it is."
"But who are you, Doctor? And how do you know the Ellimist?" I asked.
"The Ellimist and I are old friends. Well, I say friends. More like allies. Well, I say allies. More like acquaintances. Well, I say—"
"Okay, stop!" I said. "I get it. Kind of. You and the Ellimist are both big old space people who like, have a cup of coffee together now and then. Whatever. But I know the Ellimist. I know him very, very well. The question is, who are you, Doctor? Where do you come from?"
Then I stood back and waited for his answer.