She knew that she should feel some measure of guilt for her actions, or even for leaving that man trapped under the rubble as she had. But, she argued with herself, he had made his intentions very clear when he had taken her from her adopted home, when he had stolen her away from the place where she'd built a life and memories with the humans she had loved so dearly (and oh, but she would never stop missing her David); he had planned to use her as a means to destroy and humiliate her beloved Grandfather, and that was something that Susan Campbell would never, ever allow to happen while she still breathed.
The only kindness she'd granted, such as it was, before stealing his TARDIS and slipping off into time and space was concealing what he was with a Chameleon arch. Let him live a few decades as just another human and see if that would make him into a better man.
Aside from that, Susan felt no shame in taking that which didn't belong to her. Point of fact was this was only the second TARDIS she'd made off with; the first one she'd aided in stealing was most likely still piloted by Grandfather, and she did so hope he hadn't burned through too many regenerations. Time and space were vast, and there was no telling if she would stumble across him again before he lived his last life if he'd been doing too many foolish things.
But she worried, for her new TARDIS whispered to her of many things.
She'd never really noticed it in Grandfather's TARDIS, but this one she now possessed was constantly in her mind. It - she¬ sang to her sweetly, whispered the secrets of the universe, told Susan of the worlds she had visited with her previous Master, spoke softly of the places she had wished to see only to be denied as those places did not suit his plans.
And, in what felt like fear and trepidation, she whispered quietly of a war coming, a great Time War, and her fear that she and her Lady would be called to battle.
Susan listened, and knew the fear of her TARDIS reflected her own worries. She had no love for battle, had only done so at a few times in her life out of necessity rather than desire or any manner of bloodlust. She had lost too many that she loved to ever, ever feel a desire for was again, and decided that if the call ever came... she would run.
They would run. Let Gallifrey burn; the ones she loved were no longer there, and she had no love for the world that had nearly killed Grandfather, had nearly killed her own growing personality under rules and regulations.
Let the world burn down. They were free.
She was not ready for it when the reality of just what could happen to those who traversed time and space that were actively avoiding choosing sides in the Time War.
It felt like something very heavy and very, very big had slammed directly into ARKYTIOR- the TARDIS had named herself thus out of loyalty to her new Lady, and the irony was hardly lost on Susan - causing her Gallifreyan passenger to stumble into the console. Susan reached up to shove a lock of hair that had fallen from her braid out of her eyes and mentally reached out to her TARDIS, asking what in the worlds was happening.
The Time War is ending, my Lady, ARK responded, her 'voice' strained as she tried to maintain some semblance of control. Something has happened to lock it all away. We are feeling the aftermath of some manner of explosion. I fear we may land rather roughly.
"Try to set us down in one piece, love," Susan said, raising her voice to hear herself over the sound of crashing from other areas of ARK. "We'll figure out what the bloody hell we're going to do next once these aftershocks end."
Calculating a landing trajectory now, my Lady.
Anything else that came after that, however, was lost to Susan. There was a loud rumble and she turned to see a huge segment of the wall crashing down upon her. Then all was darkness.
She woke up to see ARK's ceiling slowly knitting itself back together.
Welcome back, my Lady. You have been at rest for some time now.
"Thank you, ARK," Susan replied, pushing herself into a seated position and raising a hand to shove her hair back from her face, only to abruptly stop when two things struck her:
The first was that the hair hanging in front of her eyes was not the warm chestnut she'd possessed all her life - although lately it had been shot through with streaks of silver - but was instead raven-wing black and curly.
The second was that the hand reaching to push said hair away was not peachy-pink; it was a soft, warm brown that reminded her oddly of tea with milk added.
"What in the universe...?" Susan began to ask before reality struck her hard. She had known for a long time on Earth that she was aging so much slower than David and their adopted brood, and had chalked that up to her Gallifeyan biology. She had psychic abilities, had always had them, but had figured that it was just a natural talent. She had only attended the Academy for a few years, and had run off with Grandfather in his TARDIS before her turn to gaze into the abyss even came to pass.
There was no way, no reason in the universe that she could be a Time Lady; only those who had stared into the abyss and completed the Academy could be Time Lords and Ladies! And yet here she was, sitting on the floor in the control room of her very own stolen TARDIS, lovingly referred to them both as ARK, with a brand new body.
Still not entirely sure that she wasn't dreaming, Susan pressed one hand to the left side of her chest. She could feel the familiar thump-thump of her heartbeat, but there was a strange echo to it, not as strong as the one under her hand. She pressed it to the right side of her chest next; once again she could feel a strong thump-thump of a heartbeat, echoed by another beside it.
The beating of two hearts where there'd only been one before. The strong, double heartbeat of the Time Lords.
Was this your first regeneration, my Lady? ARK asked, a thread of curiosity and concern both in her mental voice.
"Yes," Susan heard herself replying, sounding very far away to her own ears. "Yes, it was. I didn't even know that I..."
She cut herself off with a groan, both hands coming up to cover her face. She'd never even really noticed all the times that ARK referred to her as 'my Lady' until right this second...! Her own TARDIS had known that she was indeed a mistress of time itself, and silly little Susan didn't even have the faintest idea that she could even possibly regenerate if she was close to death.
"I don't understand," she admitted aloud. "I never gazed into the abyss. I never completed my academy training. I never even chose a name; I just picked the one I have now at random, for Rassilon's sake!"
Ah, ARK whispered with a hint of understanding and amusement both, but you did choose the name, did you not, my Lady? You may, however, decide to choose another now that you are older and wiser. And you traveled for so very long with the family member you call you grandfather, correct? In all that time, are you certain that you did not catch even a glimpse of the abyss? That for even one second, the vast emptiness might have spoken to you?
Susan frowned even as she finally pulled herself to her feet. While she couldn't actively recall it happening, there had been several times during her travels with Grandfather where they'd been separated. And while her younger mind would have had no trouble letting the knowledge be locked away, it was possible that she might have gazed out into the void and found something there that shaped her entire being.
A faint memory of something Grandfather had said to her once, long before Barbara and Ian had begun traveling with them, flitted across her mind:
"I gazed into the abyss, and what I saw there made me start running. I've never stopped."
She wasn't quite sure what could cause her grandfather to run forever, be it something terrifying or something that he actively was running towards in order to stop it or slow it down, but that thought of run had shaped everything about him. And were she to be completely honest with herself, Susan was coming to the slow realization that there was one thought that shaped everything about her, as well.
That one thought was free.
The very same thought that had kept Susan and ARK well away from Gallifrey as the Time War waged on without them.
"How soon will we be able to get back into the time stream, ARK?" she asked instead of answering the question posed to her; she would prefer to reflect on it a bit longer. In reply, ARK pulled up her current status and how much time was remaining on her vital repairs on one of the console monitors. Noting that it would be at least an hour before they could get moving once more, Susan sighed. That was far too long to be stuck in one place, and she wasn't even sure where in the universe they'd crash landed. Given that no one had come beating down the door as yet, she could only assume it was a benign planet or a benign time.
She glanced down at her now ill-fitting clothing and scowled. Too bad; this had been her favorite shirt.
"Keep me posted, love, and let me know when take-off is," Susan told her TARDIS as she headed towards the door leading to the rest of the ship. "I need to go take care of a wardrobe malfunction."
Even now, gazing at herself in the full-length mirror that ARK had provided in the wardrobe room, Susan couldn't quite believe that the face gazing back was her own.
She'd been fairly accurate in her estimation of her new skin tone; she now appeared to be a rather lovely woman of African descent, with stunning grey-green eyes. Her hair was a mass of silky black curls, framing her oval face and further accentuating her eyes. She'd gone from being average height and weight to just shy of five foot four and somewhat athletically built. The clothing that ARK had helpfully provided fit her new form well, and the capris-trainer-hoodie combo even felt right in a way that the clothing she'd been wearing previously didn't.
And yet, she was still unable to reconcile that this was who she was now. She could still so very clearly remember the Susan Campbell she'd been before the crash, the fair-faced brunette wife of one of Earth's greatest freedom fighters. Now, that woman was gone and a completely new one had taken her place.
But she was still Susan, even with a new face and body.
Grabbing a hair tie from the nearby vanity, Susan quickly tugged her hair up into a loose ponytail and flashed a brief grin at her reflection. The loose curls hanging around her cheeks seemed to fit perfectly, and ARK's soothing presence served to further calm the Time Lady's nerves.
All repairs have been completed, my Lady, ARK called through their mental link. We should be able to re-enter the time stream at your command.
"Then let's get going, ARK my dear," Susan said, turning away from the mirror and making her way to the bridge once more. "I think it may be a good idea to check up on some of Grandfather's favorite people, make sure that they didn't get caught up any of this rigmarole."
She stepped back onto the bridge as the time rotor activated. Where shall we go first, my Lady? ARK asked as they slipped into the vortex.
"Earth, London, around 1965 or 1966," Susan replied. "Let's see if Grandfather ever returned Ian and Barbara back home, shall we? Oh, and I think I may have a new name, ARK-love."
And what name will you be giving to the people we meet on our travels, my Lady?
The Time Lady smiled. "Destiny," she replied, "because it has always been mine to follow where Grandfather led, even if we never again cross paths."
The newly-named Destiny rested her hands on the console, closing her eyes and letting ARK's song in her mind ease away her worries of possibly being unable to handle the heavy responsibility of being one of the last remaining Time Lords in the universe. Unless and until she heard for sure that Grandfather had perished as a result of the Time War, she would continue to hope that they would meet again someday. She would only give up that dream when she was told, quite clearly, that Gallifrey had burned to ash with its Doctor on its surface.
Humming along to her TARDIS' song, the Time Lady turned her face towards the uncertain future.