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Tuned mass dampers stabilize against violent motion caused by harmonic vibration. A tuned damper reduces the vibration of a system with a comparatively lightweight component so that the worst-case vibrations are less intense. Roughly speaking, practical systems are tuned to either move the main mode away from a troubling excitation frequency, or to add damping to a resonance that is difficult or expensive to damp directly.

 

 

There's a couple of things going through the Doctor's mind, as they once again crash the TARDIS (and also irrevocably fall out of it). Like:

It's been so long since I've been blonde
and
Did I install a self-destruct button and forget or did that just do that on its own
and
Is the TARDIS mad at me?
and

mainly,

Wheeee!


(Go easy on them, they died not ten seconds ago and Earth is pulling them towards itself at 50 kilometers an hour.)

 

 




"Rochambeau," Nardole says. This is about who gets the last Jammie Dodger.

"Why leave up to chance what can be decided through logic? Which would dictate that it's rightfully mine, as the owner of the technically-illegal unlimited line of credit, through which it was purchased."

"I was the one who went to the shops, though. And do you even really need to eat? I've seen you go weeks without so much as looking at a picture of a vitamin."

"Says the cyborg who can technically exist on photosynthesis."

Nardole glares. "Rochambeau," he says again. He sticks out his hand, fingers in a fist, and shakes it. One, two, three.

Scissors cut paper. The Doctor self-satisfiedly swallows the biscuit whole.

 

 




Here's a fun fact: buildings can be tuned. Architects put things inside skyscrapers, massive concrete and steel weights, pendulums tuned to the building's resonant frequency. Oscillation caused by wind, foot traffic, aggressive square-dancing, et cetera. A skyscraper, like a guitar string or a box of bulk-purchased super balls rolling down into a scenic valley, has an equilibrium point. The quicker the oscillation can be brought back down to equilibrium, the less likely the denizens of the penthouse suite will experience motion sickness.

Which: considering who tends to live in a penthouse, a moderate amount of corrective vomiting might not be all that uncalled-for.

A building is a guitar string and a city can sing in chorus, if you ask politely. The high-tension bridge, the block of flats, the museum, the flat-roofed pub.  B♭sus9, strummed and left to fade out.


(That's not the most fun of Fun Facts but cut the Doctor some slack, they're dying.)

 

 




The ghost of their youth is an old man. They remember that death; some of their deaths have been fuzzy, or too sharp-quick to notice before they stood back up as someone else, but not this one. Though, of course, it's all changed now - or is it? The Doctor is there, and the Doctor is there, and there is still no bartender. Maybe a knock-knock joke instead?

The ghost of their youth is alone and afraid and stubborn. And terrible, frankly. The dumb blank slate created from Gallifrey's machines. Prydon through and through, the aristocracy's bastard son. Haughty disaster tourism only just tempered by - oh, they can't forget names, not now, not when they've forgotten so much else.

The Doctor is dying and the Doctor is dying and the Doctor hopes they've improved somewhat since the first time this happened.

(A skyscraper that doesn't move at all is useless in an earthquake.)

 

 


 


Music is movement and movement makes sound, which is why faulty electronics sometimes hum. Their body collapses outwards, shivering in the cold, snow melting in the light that spills from their hands.

 

 




The first time: that's a doozy. A Time Lord's death is all in the preparation. Traditionally: the pre-death. Grief counseling, the ceremonial upload of the self to the Matrix. The ascetic regimen towards eventual interment, or chronomation, or a donation to science, or simple evaporation. Your House notified, your Confession made. A home regeneration is recommended, a lab or hospital setting is also acceptable. Everyone always says it gets easier. Everyone is always lying.

(During the war, ships were built to withstand traumatic regenerations. Operatives were encouraged to do what had to be done in a less valuable environment, but there was some merit to staying close to a given point. Unobtrusive homing devices, a genetic suggestion to keep being what you were. Solider, scientist, medic.)

The Doctor never died during the war and the Doctor never paid attention in Regeneration 101 and the Doctor's TARDIS is an elderly research vehicle originally funded by an equally elderly, slightly batty woman of Cerulean extraction long, long before the Doctor stole it. Which is partly why the Doctor fell entirely out of it upon being born. One of these days they'll dredge up the tech for field deaths and rebirths. Would probably come in handy, one or most of these days.

 

 




It's a Tuesday, and Tuesdays are now family tea days. Nardole's willing (semi-willing, begrudgingly) to entertain the idea of Missy being more than an extremely securely locked-up prisoner if they can all politely and normally interact. Above-board, no sneaking around. No hiding away for days on end. Normal, regular tea.

Neither the Doctor or Missy can cook, and Nardole can't really either, but at least he tries. There's tea (with the leaves, and while the milk is technically expired those dates are really more of a suggestion), two jams, seven discrete types of cheeses, and five soft-boiled eggs. He's set a tablescape up in the Doctor's office, with flowers and things. A small bowl of pretty rocks. Fresh-squeezed juice.

The Doctor nurses a glass of scotch. Nardole smiles awkwardly and tries to wipe the flour off his frilled apron. Missy sighs, heavily, and sits down on a chair entirely incorrectly.

"Eggs from the egg," she says. "Are these your children?"

"I'm not an egg. More of an uncracked geode," Nardole says. "Round, hard-headed, secretly filled with crystals." There's a thought. An ice-breaker, like. "If you were a rock, what kind of rock would you be?"

Missy glares at him, the 'a slime mold is more intellectually stimulating than you' special.

"Doctor?" he asks, trying to maintain an air of jollity and friendship. "What's your rocksona? I mean. What kind of. Rock." He flushes and dips a wedge of Gouda into the jar of blackberry jam, and shoves it into his mouth.

The Doctor squints, head tilted like the hamster wheel in their head is spinning madly. Then they fall into faux-relaxed, hands-in-pockets casual. Leaning back at a fate-tempting angle. "Pyrhite, I suppose."

"Fool's gold," Missy elaborates. She rearranges herself to drape sideways across her chair, head and feet dangling off the armrests. "I bet you think that's clever."

The Doctor slams forward, chair legs hitting the ground with a thunk; a challenging, bright, 'here we go' look in their eyes. Nardole clears his throat.

"Toast, anyone?" he asks, mouth still full of cheese. He stands up, chewing, and scrambles off to the kitchenette.

Something is probably happening, back there. He should be chaperoning. He swallows, and puts two pieces of bread into the toaster, and emphatically slams the lever home. The coils dutifully heat up with a barely-perceptible electric buzz.

 

 




Seconds,

they think, distantly, as they plummet back down to Earth.

Seconds, minutes, days, years. When did 'span' stop being a thing? How long since they automatically calculated rels? The ground is rushing up at them. For fun, they recite all the sorts of time measurements they know, and judge the distance of impact in ancient Uhntor-Judoon.

 

 


 

 

 

 


This is a story called "Omicron 9 Blues"



Galba, galactic standard date 10986aj8-zucchini

Bill squelches back into corporeal form on a narrow back street. She has no words to describe the sensation. The sun is setting, sky gone pink against the orangey-gold buildings quaintly sprawling against each other, and it's beautiful, it's what she'd wanted to show Heather, this one warm, slow moment -

And what she's seeing is the puddle she's making. Or is. Water flooding the water that her mouth is, if that's what it is, not space goo or time oil or whatever, the whatever-she-is spilling away from her, threatening to dissolve entirely, and. Great. A panic attack, on a first date. Smooth move.

"It's okay," Heather says. She puts her hand on Bill's shoulder; they meld together, just for a second, before Bill shudders and flinches away.

"Sorry. I didn't mean --"

"No. I get it." Heather smiles, though it doesn't reach her eyes. She steps forward, standing close but not too close. Both facing the same direction, down the winding alley. The sun is setting. They walk up the hill, together.

 




New Roanoke, galactic standard date 0873xkB6-red

It's not that I don't appreciate what you've done, and I'm not judging or anything, just this drippy waterlogged thing is a bit...weird.


                                                                                          Take my hand.


Her atoms are rearranged. Blink, you'll miss it: Heather bites her lip and scrunches her nose and then they're both a bit less...wet.

Bill grins nervously, unsure of where to put her hands, and then her hands are cradling Heather's head, pulling her in for a kiss. Chapped lips and clicking teeth. Heather squirms, grabs a fistful of Bill's jacket and twists.

"You taste human. Like, mouth. A regular human mouth."

Heather squints, and then giggles, a rusty uncertain thing. "Okay."

"We can stay like this? Just for a while?"

"For as long as you like." Heather takes Bill's hands, dry skin against sweaty palms.

The city is all towering skyscrapers and flying cars, glossy glass and steel. The robo-future, carefully planned and automated. There's a surprisingly good kebab shop under the shadow of a particularly avant-garde bit of upwards sprawl, unassuming in the face of grandeur.

The robot behind the counter is man-shaped, with a kind face; they smile at each other as Heather surreptitiously slides into the inner workings of what's probably the Mondo 3000 version of a till.

Bill's not hungry -- hasn't been hungry, really, since she died, or thirsty or anything at all since the raw undirected pain of being...well. She's not hungry but she eats herself into a stupor anyway. Greasy meat and sloppy amounts of sauce, limp maybe-lettuce. Almost tastes like it's meant to.

Heather watches, mainly, stealing the odd chip off Bill's plate. "Good?"

"Fantastic." Mouth full, and cramming another bite in. She grins, maybe-lettuce falling gracelessly from out of her chipmunked cheeks.

(The stomach-ache is gone entirely after Heather grabs her hand and they shift elsewhere; like it didn't happen, or like she's been reset.)

 

 




Minaria Prime, GSD 872691i87ka96-flower

The forest stretches out in all directions. Pale green and pastel pink, leaves waving gently. Small furry creatures scurrying into the underbrush. Like a dream.

The air smells like lavender and that post-rain thing. Maybe-birds are chirping. Heather's looking at Bill like she's some sort of miracle.

"I like it here 'cause it's nice," Bill says, and then cringes. How to rewind time? "I mean. Like, a lot of the places I've seen. They're neat, and all, like proper outer-space exciting, but there was always something under the surface, right? Like something about to go wrong, or that's always been wrong. But here, it's just..." She shoves her hands into her pockets.
"It's wonderful," Heather says. She threads her hand into the crook of Bill's arm, tugs her close. They stand side-by-side, watching the petals drift down from the trees.

 



Qos, GSD 197k971ah[]*2-chair

"I was thinking," Bill says. "That, um. I could use a break."

Heather's eyes go wide. Even the possibly-butler rose-bush-looking creature manages to look shocked. Bill hands them her empty wine glass.

"From me," Heather states flatly. She's gone extra-drippy now as well, which Bill has come to recognize as a sign of...something.

"No. Well, a little, but not like -- oh, God." She takes Heather's hands, slippery and reluctant, and gazes at her face as earnestly as she knows how. "I like you, a lot. And this, I mean, it's mad and wonderful and perfect. But it's like - when I first realized that, hey, young adult, a bit of disposable income, nothing was stopping me from eating fifty sherbet lemons for tea. And it was great, for the first two days, and then I puked, and now I can't look at a sherbet lemon without kind of wanting to puke, and this is a terrible analogy." She pauses for breath.

Plus side, Heather's expression now mixes some bafflement in with the folorn resignation, though it's blurred by the sheet of water cascading down her face and it could be wishful thinking, on Bill's part.

She exhales, rolls her shoulders, and tries again. "Like - vegetables, right? Meat and potatoes. I really, really want to get to know you. But I don't know who I am right now, or how I feel about what happened, or if I can ever wear other clothing or if I'm stuck in semi-ironic denim forever, and I'm gonna be totally honest with you: that last one does occupy a lot of my thoughts. And I want you to be a part of that, just. Some of it, I think I need to be on my own. In a less hectic environment."

Heather squeezes her hands, makes an adorable scrunched-lips smile. "Okay," she says.

"Okay."

"Earth, then?" Heather's slipping her hands closer, that woven-in thing.

"Future it up a bit, maybe? Like a nice near-future. Less apocalypse, more post-scarcity economy. Star Trek me."

They hold hands, and smile shyly at each other, and shift out.

 

 




Earth, GSD 00812kT-?

There is a version of Bill who has not and will not experience anything past the first time Heather kissed her. A memory, static and immutable. Maybe that's not so bad, though; that moment of potential and possibility, her heart full. All that joy, and some sadness too, but more bittersweet than grief would be.

There's a version of her held in glass. She's here, real and present as she's ever been. She knows who she is, what she is. She's hugging the Doctor. The Doctor is saying something incredibly stupid; the Doctor is cringing. She is way, way too gay for this.

"Gotta hand it to you, mate," she says, punching the Doctor lightly on the arm. "We've all said dumb shit in the past, only you could be literally haunted by your problematic younger self."

"Literally time travel is not supernatural," the Doctor grumbles, rubbing his arm.

"Yeah, but it feels like it though, doesn't it? The ghost of your...adolescent? Your old, uh, young...whatever. Ignorance. Can't imagine. When I was thirteen, fourteen, I was wildly homophobic. Probably would collapse into a black hole of shame if I met teenager-me now."

The Doctor laughs, and doesn't meet her eyes. "Universal experience, I suppose."

"Yeah." She cups his face with her hand, his fever-hot skin translating roughly through the limited receptors of Testimony's technology. "The point is that we change, and we learn, and we get better. It's a process, and it's never done."

"Everything ends eventually," he murmurs, leaning only just slightly into her touch.

"Not this," she says. "Not you. You don't get out of it that easily, old man."

 

 




This is a story called "Paper Covers Rock"



Tell me a joke.

So a Time Lord walks onto an ice planet, and they say: "I'm dying, and I think I'd like to stay dead."

It's not a very funny joke. There should be a bartender involved, at least. They're working on it.

A Time Lord walks onto an ice planet, and another Time Lord walks out into an ice planet, and there's a bartender, and the bartender says, they say,

Wait. Let me try this again

"We don't serve Time Lords here," the bartender says. Two Time Lords walk into a bar.

 

 




"You'll leave eventually," Missy says. She's curled up on one of the armchairs, knees to chin. There's a run in her stockings, by her ankle.

The Doctor sighs, staring down at the Where's Wally book propped open in their lap. "We've talked about this."

"We have. And you very earnestly told me that you won't. But you will."

The Doctor considers. "I will," they eventually agree.

"Even if you stay. You'll, oh, I don't know, trip into a vat of acid, or valiantly sacrifice yourself saving a race of sentient mushrooms, or - whatever it is, the thing that you do. And then you'll regenerate, and this, this thing we have, you and me in particular. It'll be gone." She wraps her arms around her legs, a studied show of childlike vulnerability.

"Oh, don't be so pessimistic. Maybe you'll go first. Maybe I won't regenerate."

Missy unfolds, back straightening. "You have to."

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you - oh, shut up. I am the Mistress, and you will obey me: don't die, you berk."

The Doctor huffs out a laugh, a 'this isn't particularly funny' sort of thing. Closes the book, taps their fingers against the cover.

"You keep going," Missy insists. She almost sounds genuinely emotional. A less-studied vulnerability. Almost honest. "You have to."

 



The Doctor hits the ground and bounces. Enough post-regeneration energy to sail safely through a medium-sized star, probably. Their clothes are toast but it's a tradition at this point to exchange the rags of their death for a fresh, possibly stolen outfit.

They find themselves grinding their teeth, jaw clenched against whatever it is that's threatening to spill out of their throat. They have the normal amount of teeth, probably.

A little less black, this time. More colours. They used to have a rainbow coat - whatever happened to that? And a good pair of shoes, that fit perfectly. And some friends, should probably find some of those. That's what the TARDIS had said, as she ejected them bodily from her, and then fucked off. Go 'chill out' and make some friends. Paraphrased.

They bounce and find their footing and are gripped immediately by the desire for shoes that aren't four sizes too big. Their toes hurt, walking is hard, this is awful. Rainbows, those would be good. Comfortable stompy rainbow wellies. Something like that. Their skin is coalescing around them, the last wisps of light falling out of their hands. Resonance, frequency response, what all of this has made them.

"This is a process," they say, shuffling through an oil-slicked puddle.

Someone's staring at them. Judging, maybe, their appearance, or actions, or something else they don't know they're about, not just yet. Let them stare, doesn't matter. More importantly: that puddle had been a brilliant shimmering shade of blue-grey. They should get some socks in that color. Or a hat, been a while since they wore a hat.

 



"Rochambeau," the Doctor says. This is about who stays behind to shut down the electrical system just as the engine core overloads and explodes. Potentially about who dies.

Nardole rolls his eyes. "We both know I'm disposable."

"I don't know that, no." They hold their fist out.

"You're the one with the plan."

"No plan. I got nothing. Just...this." They gesture to the breaker. "Might as well leave it up to chance. So c'mon. Rock, paper, scissors."

"You realize one day your luck will run out and you'll die, for real, and the universe will be completely fucked and it'll be all your fault."

"Won't be the first time I've risked that," the Doctor says, grinning wildly, wolfishly. "On 'three'."

Nardole sighs, and holds out his hand, fingers curled into a fist. One, two, three, go -