Chapter 1: 1:1
“When I was younger, I was named
A generation unafraid.
For heirs to come, be brave,
And meet me on the battlefield.”
I own nothing. Least of all this.
It was finished.
She was safe. He couldn’t hurt her again, now or ever.
They’d probably find his body tomorrow. And if not, well, I’m sure a certain note would point them in the right direction.
I think it's safe to say this is not how I thought my day would end: staring over the edge of a cliff, mentally preparing myself to jump. Still, could be worse, I suppose. I could have failed. In which case, he would still be walking free, I’d be either arrested or dead, and She would most definitely not be safe. I’d call it a success that none of the afore-mentioned occurrences had, well, occurred.
So what if it cost my life? I was going out on my own terms. No prison for me, thank you very much. I already knew Hell had a reservation in my name, and I’m not the sort to check in late.
“A soul, for a soul.” is what Red Skull had said.
My soul for Hers. I’d call that a more than worthy trade.
Look at me, finally having a Dean Winchester moment. Trust my life it’d be one of these. The only difference is, for me, there won’t be coming back. And there definitely won’t be any angels, from this world or any other, to drag me up again.
I was stalling. Earthquakes aside, that ground wasn’t gonna slam into me of its own accord. It was time to pay the man. I took a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
The wind blurred my eyes, yet the world had never seemed clearer. The ground seemed to race ever faster towards me. A thought flew through my head: “I wonder, will it be friends with me?” I smiled. Trust Douglas Adams to have the perfect words.
The rocks at the bottom loomed, larger and larger, and between them, growing, was…..
The Crack at the End of the Universe.
The Crack caused specifically by the End of the Universe.
And I was falling straight into It.
As my feet touched the light, two final things flashed through my mind:
- It was June 26th.
Chapter 2: 1:2
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Dark in Light.
Light in Dark.
Making, Unmaking, Remaking.
Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A...
Fire. Ice. Rage.
Captain Jack Sparrow’s voice seemed to echo in my head: “I hope you all saw that, because I will not be doing that again.”
Never had I empathized more with a character than I did in that moment with Rory Williams. Those Cracks were nothing to sneeze at.
I fell through a Crack. A Crack, infamous for obliterating anything and everything It ever touched. How had I not been erased from existence?
I forced my eyes open. Orange. The… sky, ceiling, whatever you call it was orange. And vaguely shimmery. Hell was still a possible landing site then. I needed to see more. My body protested most vigorously as it was forced into a sitting position. I threw a hand out to steady myself, and found..a handrail? Somehow, I doubt Hell has safety railing. My eyes darted around the rest of the..room.
I knew this place.
I turned my head so fast you could have heard the air crack.
A console gleamed behind me.
This was the TARDIS.
The 11th Doctor’s TARDIS.
And I was in it.
You would have thought the floor was lava from how fast I moved.
It was all there. Every button, every switch every lever (yes, even the wibbly one). I yanked over the screen.
And there It was, right where It should be. Or, rather, not: The date, clearly reading June 26th, 2010, and superimposed over it, the Crack. The Crack through which I had, presumably, fallen.
Still, I had to make absolutely sure. I rushed to the doors (those beautiful doors), or at least I tried to. My legs still felt like they’d been fed through a wood-chipper. Pain notwithstanding, I made it to the door, and opened it to find…
This was the Void.
Of course it was.
“Looks like its Hell after all.”
I slapped my hand over my mouth. That had most definitely NOT been my voice. I cleared my throat. Maybe it had just been the echo. I tried again.
“Testing, one, two, three..”
Nope, still sounded like Mark Shephard. I ventured a look down. No doubt about it, these jeans one-hundred percent used to be longer. I slammed the door shut again, then raced back to the console. I needed a mirror, a reflective surface, something..
Glass floor. DUH!
My eyes looked down into… green ones?
My hair was still the same (my best feature), but my face..
Jensen Ackles’ double was staring back at me.
Ooo, I liked the sound of that. Very Crowley. Crowley…
I had the looks of Dean Winchester. I had the voice of Crowley. And I was literally standing in Hell.
First a chuckle. Then a wheeze. Then, death by asphyxiation due to the inability to get a breath in between laughs. Okay, it wasn’t literal death, but it sure relieved stress like death does.
When my brain finally decided the irony was low enough to let me think properly again, I immediately tried to piece together exactly what had happened. I imagine you could have seen steam coming out of my ears as my mind raced for at least some semblance of an explanation.
“Right then. Let’s take this point by point.”
Tap, tap went my feet as I paced.
“One: committed a self-sacrificing act in the manner of one Dean Winchester. Two: fell into Crack immediately recognizable as the one the Doctor dealt with. Three: somehow managed to avoid being annihilated by said Crack and arrive in, apparently, the Doctor’s universe. Four: my voice and appearance have been changed to match those of two of my all-time favorite actors.” I briefly halted my pacing. “How’m I doing so far, Sexy?”
I was not expecting the happy, congratulatory, and extremely LOUD noise the TARDIS responded with.
After I reinserted my heart back into my chest (no small feat), I managed a small smile.
“Thanks Old Girl. Glad to know at least one person thinks I’m doing alright.”
The TARDIS responded with a very loud *BLAT* which clearly meant “Debatable.”
I shrugged. She had a point. I wouldn’t call most of my last 24 hours “alright”. Could be worse, though. At least I ended up looking like Dean Winchester, the absolute hottest dude I.. knew.
The Crack. It unmade things, I knew that for certain, but since I was clearly very much alive, what if It had… remade me as well? Only one way to check. I placed my hand over the left side of my chest. One heartbeat. Then I place my other hand over the right side. Two heartbeats. Pounding in perfect rhythm. That proved it.
I had fallen through that Crack thinking about a great many things, but two in particular: Supernatural, and Doctor Who. And now here I was; a stunt double for Jensen Ackles, with a promising career as a voice-actor for Mark Shephard. Oh, and I was a Time Lord.
Chapter 3: 1:3
I own nothing. Least of all this.
I’ve never believed in coincidences.
I’d seen far too many impossible things in my admittedly dull life to even consider their existence with anything less than ridicule. This merely “sealed the deal”, so to speak (Crowley jokes for the win).
“So, any idea why reality saw fit to grant me of all people my dream life?”
The TARDIS did a little *Be-Yoop*, which I guess was Its vocal equivalent of a shrug. I sighed. Seems She had as many answers as I did; which was to say, none.
Right, that could be mulled over later. Probably with a full mug and quite a few philosophy books. For now, I needed to figure out exactly where the Doctor was. No stone outside the door, which meant the Universe had already exploded. No Doctor, and still a Crack on the screen, which meant the explosion hadn’t yet collapsed back in on itself and sealed the Doctor in. Mental math has always been something I excelled at, and it seemed a Time Lord upgrade had only furthered that skill. By my calculations, taking into account the time he would use putting young Amy Pond to bed, the Doctor was due to arrive in… less than twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes. That was loads of time! First things first, though. I was absolutely not going to be meeting the Doctor dressed in anything less than my best.
“Happen to know the quickest way to the wardrobe, Old Girl?”
The door at the top of the stairs to the left seemed to glow a bit more than its surroundings.
I followed the glow down several corridors, through twists and through turns, until I finally came to a room absolutely packed with clothes.
The first thing to go were my shoes. Good for running, maybe. Good for dangerous shenanigans, decidedly less so. Next were my jeans. Comfortable, but I was definitely gonna need more pockets. Jacket, shirt, and everything else followed.
A pair of black heavy-duty pants seemed to have enough cargo space, so I yoinked them first. And what does every pair of heavy-duty pants need? An equally heavy-duty leather belt. Next were boots to match the belt, with little pockets on the insides for snacks and escape tools. But mostly snacks. A black AC/DC t-shirt seemed appropriate, so I appropriated that as well. The green and black flannel I was wearing before had been my favorite, there was no way I was ditching that. Back on it went. Besides, flannel was cool. It took ages to go through all the coats, but in the end I settled on a knee-length gray leather one that looked as if it had survived the Time War. It had pockets, that was what mattered. A quick rifle through a certain long, brown duster produced a spare psychic paper, something I was sure would come in handy later. And what would a Time Lord be without some memorable neck-wear? A gray and black shemagh was thus procured and applied. To top it all off (see what I did there), a charcoal-gray newsboy cap with black specks was pulled on (but not too tightly. My hair was still awesome, after all).
I did a quick turn in front of a mirror.
“Marvelous. Hunter meets Time Lord. Couldn’t be better.”
That left only one item. One I anticipated being a bit harder to come by than clothes: a sonic. And I had only 14 minutes in which to find one. Easy.
8 minutes and a great deal of swearing later, I had my sonic. I would have still if the TARDIS hadn’t taken pity on me and shown me the box containing the Doctor’s previous sonics… that had been right in front of me the whole time. Still, thank Gallifrey for small mercies. The visor had taken the longest, but it was finished. I was now the proud owner of a sonic face mask that bore a singular resemblance to that of a certain Guardian of the Galaxy (hey, you go with what works). I placed the base next to my ear, and activated it. A single yellow line filled my vision, with readouts on everything I could ever need. Excellent. But I now had less than 6 minutes before him-in-the-bow-tie made his appearance… Looks like tea was gonna be a fairly rushed affair.
One table, a tea set, two chairs, a dozen Jammie Dodgers, and 3 minutes later, everything was in order. I sat back, and waited for the man.
“Hey, Old Girl?”
A *Ding* from the console.
“When Dickie Bow gets here, he’s probably gonna feel a bit low, correct?”
An affirmative *Bleep*.
“Do you think he might, perhaps, enjoy a little music to lighten the mood?”
Instantly the sounds of the Beatles filled the TARDIS.
“Here come old flattop,
Groovin’ up slowly,…”
Come Together, from the Abby Road album. Appropriate, considering how many shirts I’d seen with Doctor Who characters imitating that classic pose.
I went back to my waiting, all the while contemplating exactly what exactly kind of a story I was going to tell the Doctor. Certainly not the truth. Rule one, Time Lords lie. And I really didn’t want the Doctor to know that I knew most of his life, much less that I got it from a TV show. The appearance of a previously unknown Time Lord, i. e. me, had probably already thrown the events of the future I knew into absolute disarray. I absolutely could not let the Doctor rely on any information about a future that may not end up occurring at all.
I turned. Ah, there it was. The last Crack. Kind of impressive, in an “I could utterly destroy you if I wanted” way. And coming through It, the Man of the Eleventh Hour: the Doctor.
I waited for his eyes to meet mine. I noticed they were still damp; probably due to his recent goodbye to little Amy. When they finally came to rest on me, they flashed. Within that flash, I saw confusion. Rage. And sorrow. Especially the last. All understandable reactions.
I held up the kettle.
“Would you care for some tea?”
Chapter 4: 1:4
I own nothing. Least of all this.
He blinked once. Twice.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, a single word escaped his lips.
I sighed. Honestly, I don’t know what I expected. For the time being (hah!), this was my show. I was the one that was supposed to be doing the bantering. Well, when in Rome…
I repeated the question.
“Would you care for some tea?”
He blinked again.
I nodded. “And Jammie Dodgers. Can’t forget those, they’re very important.”
“Yes, you know, round biscuits with a little red…”
“Yes, I know what Jammie Dodgers are, thank you!”
“Ah, so you are capable of talking in more than simple phrases! I was beginning to be a tiny bit concerned.”
“Who are you. How did you get here. And can you please TURN THAT RACKET OFF!”
I frowned. “I’d forgotten how rude you can be when you’re cross. And I’ll have you know that ‘racket’, as you called it, is some of the best music the Earth has ever produced. Honestly,” I turned to the console, “how on Gallifrey do you put up with him? Such terrible taste.”
The TARDIS made a decidedly derogatory *Blarp* that affirmed my opinion. All while the Doctor stood there, dumbfounded.
I was loving this.
I finally took pity on the poor man. “If you want an explanation, then you shall have one. But I insist on tea in the meantime. After all, I did put a good deal of work into it. Well, 3 minutes of work, but who’s counting.”
The Doctor slowly made his way over to the chair opposite mine, and sat. He swallowed. “Seven sugars, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course. I expected it.”
Tea poured into his cup, promptly followed by the requested sugar.
“Now then. You asked 4 questions. I can answer 3, but if you insist on turning off the ‘racket’, I’m afraid you’ll have to take that up with Sexy.”
His eyes widened.
“Yes, I’m well aware of what you call your TARDIS. I have to say, it's a very fitting name.”
The Doctor nodded, and raised his screwdriver. Ah, I loved that whirring. The rhythm of the Beatles rapidly gave way to silence.
Silence. I shuddered. Not something worth dwelling on, not until much later at the very least. I continued.
“Three questions left. I shall try and answer them in the reverse order of their asking. And please, no interruptions. ‘What’s all this’ is, or was, tea. A setting I thought would indicate my desire for decorum and civilized conversation. How did I get here? Well Doctor, to be blunt, did you really think an explosion capable of collapsing your entire universe would merely wobble the ones next door? We had Cracks too. Fell through one, and here I am. And no, I’m not going to tell you how, for one simple reason: Spoilers. My timeline is a few years ahead of yours, and there are certain things you just shouldn’t ask about.”
His eyes flashed again. “Does that mean… “
“Ah, ah, ah, no interruptions. But I think I can guess what you were going to ask, and no, I am most definitely not my universe’s version of you. Or any other Time Lord you knew, for that matter.”
“But you are a Time Lord?”
I couldn’t help but hear the hope in his voice. The hope that he wasn’t the only one left after all. Oh, if only he knew. Still, he deserved an answer.
“Yes. I am a Time Lord. Or what passes for one in this universe. And that leads right into your third question: Who am I? You know I can’t just give you my name, Doctor. Not without getting yours in return. But as to who I am? I am…”
My voice trailed off.
Who was I now?
A Hunter? A Demon? Something more, something less?
I absent-mindedly tossed my Jammie Dodger in the air, like a coin. A coin…
I had it.
This reality already had a man who stopped the monsters. Maybe now, it needed one who hunted them.
“The Witcher. I am... the Witcher.”
Chapter 5: 1:5
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“The Witcher. I assume that means something, somewhere.. But I’m afraid I’m drawing a complete blank.”
I nodded. “Fair enough. As far as I can tell, it’s not a story that was ever told in your universe. Or needed, for that matter.”
“And why, exactly,was it needed in yours?”
“That, Doctor, is a very long business that I’m not entirely sure we have enough tea for.”
He leaned back. “I’m sure we can make some more. It's not like I have anywhere else to be.”
I smirked. “That’s what you think, Chin Boy. But we still have more than enough time. And you’re probably right about the tea.”
A small grin flitted across his face. “There are two things about which I’m always right: time, and tea. Now, the story.”
“The story.” I leaned forward and placed my cup back on its saucer. “I suppose it would be best to begin at the beginning, go along, and when I come to the end, stop.”
“That’s generally how it works, yes. Or so I’ve been told. Never been much for doing what I’ve been told.”
“Really.” I deadpanned. “I would never have thought it of you.”
“Oi! Yourself. Still, in this case I think it's best to follow the recommended order. First, the beginning.” I ran my hand through my hair. “Blimey, this is gonna be hard to keep to the basics. It’s a bit like explaining the Lord of the Rings without mentioning the Silmarillion.”
“Tried that once. Ended up lecturing for four hours.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Well, it happened at this amazing little university in Arkham…”
“I didn’t mean literally, you cranberry nut muffin.”
“Not a problem. Right then, the basics. My reality is… not that much different from yours, if I’m being honest. There are a few wonky bits, but there’s really only one major, glaring difference: monsters.”
I nodded. “Monsters.”
“I’m sorry, are we talking about the things in your closet or under your bed that jump out and shout ‘Boo’?”
“No, we’re talking about the things that will rip your heart out and eat it in front of you as you’re dying from the blood loss. Or the things that drain your blood to feed on, but keep you just enough alive that their supply doesn’t run out. Or the things that…”
“Alright, I get the picture, thank you.”
No, somehow, I really don’t think you do.” I sighed. “I’m not talking aliens here Doctor. Earth, my Earth, is home to more species than just humans and Silurians. Werewolves, vampires, wendigos, you name it, I’ve seen it.”
He scoffed. “Please. Next you’ll tell me you’ve met the Devil too.”
“Yes, actually. And, for the record, he likes classic rock.”
“Why am I not surprised.”
“Yeah, didn’t really shock me either. The point is, for some reason, Earth is absolutely chock full of things that if they got out into the galaxy at large, would cause unimaginable chaos.The Shadow Proclamation doesn’t like those. Earth has been a forbidden zone to all aliens for quite awhile now. Of course, that doesn’t stop them. Myself included.”
“And I suppose this is where you come in.”
“Not yet. First, there are the Hunters.”
“Ooo, I don’t like that word.”
“There are a lot of things in this story you won’t like Doc. Get used to it. Now, the monsters, as a general rule, know that Hunters exist. It’s our version of nuclear deterrent. If a monster deliberately harms, kills, feeds on, etc. to a human, or any other sentient species, it knows it stands a pretty significant risk of being Hunted. So, for the most part, they keep quiet. Sometimes, the monsters will even help Hunters if they know a certain werewolf or vamp is close to causing mass panic. They want their existence kept secret as much as Hunters do. They keep their noses clean, the Hunters keep them out of official records, and everything generally works out. But sometimes, something a little bigger rolls into town.”
“Like the Devil.”
“Think more like a full-blown apocalypse. Things that cause a ruckus through quite a bit of time and space. And if certain aliens, i.e. the Sontarans, somehow find out there are certain species that would be extremely useful as genetic material in their intergalactic war, well, we can’t have that, can we?”
“So a Witcher stops apocalypses?”
“Most do. But I'm the original. I’m the Witcher. The title was named after me, not the other way round. I do more. I hunt those who might just possibly think the end of the world would be a good thing. Human, monster, alien, doesn’t matter what species they are. Much less what world they think deserves ending.”
“That’s not right.” Ah, here came the Oncoming Storm. “It’s not a Time Lord’s place, it's not your place to judge.”
“A Time Lord’s place, Doctor? The Time Lords would just as soon destroy Earth as look at it. The only reason they haven’t is because of me and those who took my name. Can not the same be said of you, Doctor?’”
Ooo, he was properly mad now. “I don’t take lives. I save them.”
“Yes, you save them, but to what end? I would have thought you would have learned Davros’ lesson. You save people’s lives, but you sear their souls. Just how many of your friends were willing to commit genocide on the Crucible?”
He froze. “How. Do. You. Know. That.” he hissed.
“ Tell me.”
“You know. So much about me. You weren’t even surprised to see me come through that Crack. HOW.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just about the only thing I can tell you for sure is that in about,... “ I glanced down at my watch, “...thirteen minutes, dear little Amelia Pond will remember you. You’ll go back to your reality, do what you are meant to do, and leave me here. I very much doubt our paths will ever cross again. So listen very carefully to what I am about to say: you are partially right. I don’t have the right to judge. No one does, Time Lord or not. But in the end, there are choices that have to be made. And sometimes there’s no kind Star Whale on the other side of the big, red button. When a choice like that comes, and trust me, it will, I would rather it be my soul that bears the cost, then the soul of any other. And that is the difference between our realities, Doctor: monsters. Yours are in your mind. Mine are in my soul. And it is our companions that must provide their opposites. Demons run when a good man goes to war, Doctor. Are you a good man?”
“I try to be. What does that make you, then? A demon?”
“On a good day? Yes. On a bad one? On a bad one, I’m just the war. What does being the Witcher mean, here or anywhere else? Cruel and cowardly, but only to myself. Give up? Never. Give in? Only to save a soul. That’s what it means, Doctor. What your name will come to mean, well… that’s for me to know and you to find out.”
“I know what it means. I chose it.”
“Yes, you certainly did. But did it choose you back? Names have power Doctor. You should know that better than anyone.” I picked up my tea. “Now then, you had better go and change clothes. After all, you have a wedding to go to.”
“Pond’s, of course!”
“But I just left…”
“Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey. You know how it works. Although this time, I suppose you could blame Professor Song for it.”
“Oops. Spoilers. Now, run along. You’ve only got about nine minutes left.”
He stood. There was clearly more he wanted to say, more he wanted to know. I could see it in his jaw, and in his eyes. After what seemed an eternity, the light went out behind them. He slumped, and nodded. I picked up my cup, and took a sip. When I looked back up, he had gone.
This really was excellent tea.
Chapter 6: 1:6
I own nothing. Least of all this.
I’ve gotta say, that story has got to be the biggest whopper I have ever told.
Oh, it had some truth in it, you can be sure of that. The truth of the Doctor, and the meaning of his Name, for instance. But the rest was made up by yours truly on the spot.
As far as I knew, there were absolutely no monsters on my Earth (well, aside from the human ones). Time Lords or Witchers either, for that matter. They were all just things in my head, memories of books, shows, movies, and whatever else the human race could dream up. They were a reflection of the true face of humanity, nothing more.
But I had needed them. I had needed them to weave a character the Doctor would understand. Not agree with, but empathize with. I had needed the Doctor to see himself as what another version of him might have become, and then to listen to what that version had to say. Had I changed the future for the better? Probably not. Time has inertia. Things tended to happen the way they had already happened. But at the very least, I had made the Doctor stop. Just for a second, but stop he did.
Was I secretly hoping I had impressed him? I don’t think so. Scared him? A little. Fear is good. Fear makes companions of us all. Mostly, I just hoped that I had taught him. Taught him that sometimes the right way should be easy for you, and hard on all who would think about following.
I sighed, and put down my cup. It was empty. I picked up the kettle. Empty as well. I sighed again. Time to bring up topsails and clear up this mess.
Seven minutes and three Jammie Dodgers later (never throw out a Jammie Dodger, it's just not right), the TARDIS floor was clean again. Just in time, too. The clatter of feet on the stairs behind me heralded the return of the bow tie.
I turned to look.
“Well, well, well. Color me surprised. Turns out you can clean up nicely. What do you think, Old Girl?”
A *Bu-Wheep* from the console.
“Looks like She agrees. You look good, Doc.”
He straightened his tie.“Oh, you know, always gotta put on a show for Pond.”
I snorted. “Ain’t that the truth.”
I reached over, and turned the screen around to face him. “Looks like you’ve got less than two minutes left. You can do loads in two minutes.”
He cleared his throat. “Yes, yes you can. But there’s something I have to tell you first... Thank you.”
It was my turn to blink. “For what?”
“For the tea. And for, well, everything else really. It always helps to hear things from another perspective. But, before I go, I have a question to ask. Just the one. An important one.”
I glanced at the screen. “You’ve got enough time. Shoot.”
He nervously rubbed his hands. “You said that people, well, me… you said I sear the souls of those around me. I need to know… did I, or was I, maybe, perhaps, your version of me.. Was he the one who seared yours?”
Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.
How to answer….
I began slowly. “I think… it’s safe to say you had a hand in it. But.. there were others. Other faces. Other names. Yours was the first, true. But I only saw you, or at least my version of you, once.” Technically true. I once met David Tennant at a Comic-Con. “I think I understand what you’re really asking: are people like me, made by those like you? Do good men make their own demons? Or something to that effect.”
He nodded. “Something like that.”
“....I’d have to say, at least partially, yes. But in the end, it’s still a choice. You can choose to take a life, or not. You can choose to tear your soul, or let someone else tear theirs. I think, what really makes the difference is, which do you ask first: how do I bring peace, or how do I end the war. And who can say which is better: to try to be a good man, or to make it easier for others to be one.”
I watched my words sink into his mind. Hopefully, they stuck somewhere.
Finally, he spoke again. “I see. And thank you, once again.”
I stuck out my hand. “The pleasure was all mine, Doctor. And who knows? Maybe, someday, I’ll catch you on the Flip Side.”
He smirked, and shook my hand. “One can only hope. Witcher.”
He smiled, and leaned back. “So, what now.”
“Well, for you, the universe. For me, I have no idea. Much better that way.”
“The engines should be starting up right about…”
“Please tell me I land facing the right way.”
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
“Not really. Much better that way.”
“There’s an old Irish saying on my Earth, Doctor. Seems appropriate for now. ‘Goodbye my friend. I’ll see you in Glocca Morra.’”
A look of confusion crossed his face. “And, where, exactly, is Glocca Morra?”
“Well, you see, it’s always somewhere…over there.”
He was fading fast now, but his grin was still crystal clear. “See you in Glocca Morra, then.”
He was flickering rapidly now, and so was…. Huh. Only the engines were flickering along with him.
It was a reverse Time Crash.
I had altered the timeline of the TARDIS, and now there were two separate versions both vying for existence.
Thank goodness I remembered the short.
First, the supernova.
Now the black hole.
I could still barely see the Doctor, his movements matching mine almost exactly. Good to know he had realized the situation, because there was absolutely no way this would work if only one version of the TARDIS exploded.
I reached for the last lever, and pulled it. As I did, I felt the barest sense of pressure, as if someone else’s hand were in mine.
The Doctor’s form faded from view completely, his hand still resting on the exact same lever as mine.
He was gone.
“Whew. That was too close for comfort, eh Old Girl?”
“...Sometimes, I should just keep my mouth shut.”
Chapter 7: 1:7
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Where was I?
Oh yes, hurtling through the Void.
What an apt metaphor for my life.
I should have remembered. The Doctor had become part of his own reality again. Things like that don’t just happen quietly. An enormous amount of energy had been released. Rather violently, in fact. And I, being the idiot I am, had forgotten about the backwash.
So now, here I was hurtling through the Void. Oh wait, I mentioned that already. Did I mention the TARDIS was on fire?
No, no, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.
The TARDIS was on fire.
There, I mentioned it.
And it was taking every scrap of memory I had to keep Her from not being more on fire, while simultaneously not causing the exact same thing the TARDIS had just recently done: namely, exploding.
At least my new outfit wasn’t burning. Yet. Given time, and the chance, I’m sure it would. And I couldn’t have that. Not after all the trouble I’d gone through getting it.
First, the sprinklers. Did the TARDIS even have sprinklers?
Well, it did now.
That’s the fire sorted.
Now, the exploding.
Where was that hammer that 10 used to..
“Come on! I’m trying really hard here!”
A loud *SCREEEEEE* echoed through the room, clearly indicating the TARDIS thought I ought to try harder.
Clank, clank, clank!
Flip that lever, pull that switch, push that button…
Not that button. That was ketchup.
There. We were slowing down. That was good. I mean, stopping would be bad, but going slow was still better than exploding.
Thank Gallifrey for a Time Lord memory and enough episodes to get a rough idea of just exactly how to fly the most powerful space-time machine in the universe.
Ah. But that was the thing, wasn’t it. She wasn’t IN the universe anymore.
There was nothing but…. Empty, all around Her. No up, no down, no left, no right, no B, no A,..
But we were still moving.
And I really didn’t want to think about what would happen when we inevitably hit something.
How was I so sure we would? Hit something, that is. Two words: my luck. Coincidences may not exist, but luck for sure did. Either that, or all that talk I had spouted earlier about angels and demons had hit a little too close to home, and this was gonna turn out to be their idea of retribution.
This is normally where I would have made a “I just cleaned up this mess!” joke, but there wasn’t a mess made that the Old Girl couldn’t take care of. The fact She hadn’t fallen apart yet due to the Doctor’s shenanigans was proof of that. The mess was, thankfully, cleaned up again in less than a minute. The Time Lords may have had terrible fashion sense, but they were brilliant engineers.
“Right. Sorry about all that. I’m still new to this whole business. In fact, I expect to collapse into gibbering wreck as soon as the past day catches up with me. Still, I fully intend to do better next time. Which reminds me… You wouldn’t happen to have a spare manual handy, would you?”
I think the appropriate description of the TARDIS’ response would be “gobsmacked”. The lights in the room cycled through colors so fast, you would have thought the Fae had invaded. Every single doo-dad on the console was just twirling and dinging away, in absolute lack of harmony. After about a minute, I cleared my throat. “You okay, Old Girl?”
The answer was, apparently, yes, judging by the amount of manuals I was promptly buried in, followed by the happiest *Tu-WHEEEE!* I think I’ve ever heard something make.
I sighed, and crawled out from under the pile. I picked up a manual, and blew the dust off the cover. “VOLUME I OF XLIX”, it quite clearly stated. “AARNET To ACTUATORS”.
Hoo boy. This was gonna take awhile.
Chapter 8: 1:8
I own nothing. Least of all this.
It took an entire week to wade through the entirety of the manual, but in the end, I got through it. No matter how much I wanted to tear into the absolutely marvelous library I knew the TARDIS had, first things came first. We were still drifting through the Void, and I needed to be at least semi-competent at flying the Old Girl if I wanted to avoid bouncing off whatever we hit next. I’m sure that would agree with Her even less than it would with me.
When I finally felt confident enough in my, well, I won’t say skill, but competence at least, I allowed myself a little downtime. I came to appreciate just how marvelous of an idea it had been to put the swimming pool IN the library. I drifted for hours, letting the soothing sounds of the Encyclopedia Gallifrey wash over me. Let me tell you, it was a far better learning experience than any classroom I had ever been in.
When I wasn’t listening to the Gallifreyan equivalent of an audiobook, or reading a treatise on quantum mechanics (something I was sure would prove useful later), I was planning. Planning exactly what to make of my life, now that it was what it was. I may have had about four or five severe mental breakdowns during said planning, and I think the TARDIS may never have orange sherbet ice cream in stock again, but it had to be done. Was I just meant to be a Drifter, bonking around wherever the TARDIS or Fate decided?
Was I going to be a Guardian, find one specific place to settle down and protect?
A Hunter, always on the road, with no life of my own beyond my work?
Or, maybe, I should try to become the story I had told the Doctor: the story of a man who would burn his own soul to save another’s.
After all, in a way, wasn’t that what had gotten me into this situation to begin with?
I sighed. I guess we’d have to see. For now, my plan was to be whatever was needed most where I landed, be that Guardian, Hunter, Witcher, or Doctor. And I had the available resources to be more than adequate at any one of them.
I went poking around to see if the Doctor’s spare TARDIS keys had been copied as well, and managed to find seven before I stopped. Seven would be more than enough, both for myself and any companions I might end up captivating, in either sense of the word. One was promptly stored in my hat. In practically every piece of media I had ever seen, it was always the hat people forgot to search. The second went into one of the little side pockets of my boots. Good for cutting ropes while tied up, as well as transportation. And finally, a third went next to the psychic paper in my coat’s inside pocket. That should be plenty of insurance for calling the TARDIS whenever I needed. No having my ride float away from the wrecked spaceship I was on with no way to get it back, thank you very much. The remaining four I scattered around the control room. Handy, but hidden.
If I’m being honest, after that first week, I kind of lost track of time. The changes to my sleep pattern that came with being a Time Lord had already disrupted my internal clock, and I’m sure the boredom of a journey through somewhere Time literally had no meaning didn’t help matters. It could have been months for all I knew, but eventually, the thing I had been depressingly predicting and preparing for, happened.
We hit something.
Or, rather, we almost did.
All I can say is thank Gallifrey I wasn’t in the pool when the TARDIS’ sensors started going bonkers. Knowing my luck, I would have probably slipped while running on wet floor and hit myself hard enough to regenerate. It was still an inordinate amount of trouble to avoid going *SPLAT* on the side of another universe, but I’m inclined to believe it would have been slightly harder to do with regeneration energy rushing through me. Just a tiny bit.
As a general rule, while it is hard to get out of a universe, it is almost unbelievably easier getting into one. One you’ve actually found one, that is. After that, it’s just a simple matter of finding a crack you can get through. Not Crack with a capital letter (had enough of those for awhile), just a small little tear in the fabric of reality. It took mere seconds to find one big enough for the TARDIS, and then I just… slipped through.
Now, you might be recalling a certain incident where the Doctor’s TARDIS had fallen into another universe, and lost practically all power as a result. But since I was graced with foresight, I had already unplugged a few of the power crystals around the console, and insured they were full of energy. All I had to do was plug them back in and set them on a recharging cycle, and I should be right as rain.
We landed with a thud and a VWHOOOOSH.
Immediately I was plugging the crystals back in, hoping my plan had worked. It was mere seconds before they connected back up, but I only allowed myself to breathe after I knew the recharging was well under way. Once I was sure of that, I stood up, turned, and strode to the doors. Brand new universe, just out there. That made technically three so far for me. A new personal record.
I was sorely tempted to activate my brand-new sonic visor, just for a test spin, but I truthfully had no idea what might be just outside my door. And while a threatening visage might be useful in certain situations, it was also disastrous in others. I did, however, end up throwing a fingerless glove I found in a bin on my right hand. I knew just how much both dangerous and hot stuff the Doctor was forced to handle, and I didn’t expect my luck to run much better.
The doors parted with a snap of my fingers.
I smiled. “Always wanted to do that.”
I stepped out.
And was greeted with one of the darkest rooms I think I’d ever... well, un-seen.
“Okay. Wasn’t expecting that.”
I briefly turned to push the doors closed (yes, push you heathens), and then back to peruse my surroundings. No lights, no sounds, in fact, no signs of life at all. I thought it best to do something about that.
Two taps behind my ear, and I was rewarded with the golden glow of my sonic visor, layered over my face. A quick whirring, and we had light.
A white office greeted my eyes. Two lines of desks and computers, and between them, an aisle leading to a set of glass doors. Vaguely familiar glass doors.
I took a step forward, then swiveled to see what I had landed in front of.
Metal bars hung from the walls to my right and left, but the one to my front was completely blank. It rose higher than those at its sides, and seemed to have no visible seams to speak of. Its whiteness spoke of a sepulchre, with hidden bones and atrocities lying just beyond.
Oh yes, I recognized this wall. This entire room, in fact. Or at least its counterpart.
The crack I had used to enter this universe had been the closest one at hand. I should have known it would end up being something incredibly ironic.
This was the top floor of Canary Wharf.
I had landed in Pete’s World.
In the middle of Torchwood.
A voice came from behind the Doctor. “Did you dance? Well, you always dance at weddings, don’t you?”
The Doctor turned. “You tell me.”
River simply smiled. “Spoilers.”
A certain blue diary and vortex manipulator seemed to materialize in the Doctor’s hand.
“The writing’s all back, but I didn’t peek.”
River nodded. “Thank you.”
“Are you married, River?”
“...Are you asking?”
“No, hang on, did you think I was asking you to marry me, or, or, or asking if you were married?”
“No, but was that yes, or yes. ”
She leaned in. “Yes.”
“Ah. Well then. Suppose I should say thank you.”
“Someone told me you helped today.”
“Well now, who could have possibly done that.”
“You’re getting it now.”
“...River, who are you?”
“You’re going to find out very soon now. And I’m sorry, but that’s when everything changes.”
With a *BZZZT* and a flash of light, she vanished.
Author’s Note: For convenience’ sake, I have decided to include a few scenes from actual Doctor Who episodes to give a better sense of timing. The ending of the last chapter was merely a test run for this. If you have any suggestions on how to make this more readable, I would appreciate them.
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Before the word had even finished leaving my lips, I was moving.
This was probably not the best of ideas, considering the drain it was about to put on my recharging crystals, but I was certainly not going to let Torchwood anywhere near a TARDIS. Not even this version of them. For all I knew, this could be ages before Torchwood was discovered and taken over. In which case, I intended to give the people who ran it, like John Lumic, as little as possible.
The TARDIS probably wasn’t going to like this, but if I had a better idea, I would have used that. My visor began whirring, and gradually, with extremely agonized groaning, the TARDIS vanished from sight. There. She was now one second out of phase with the rest of reality. I had just turned what would have been an hour long recharge into a full day, if not day. Worth it.
Next, for the computers. I needed to know exactly what I was facing, and if there was any chance, no matter how small, that my arrival had been noticed. My fingers flew across some keyboard, pulling up whatever I could find that was connected to this place. Whenever I would hit a security barrier, a quick flash of my visor was enough to let me through. It wasn’t long before I had all the information I could possibly want. And, as is always the case with new information, there was good news, and bad news.
Good news: This was a long while after the whole “stars going out” problem.
Bad news: It was an extremely long while. Over two hundred years in fact.
Good news: Torchwood was long gone. This whole building had been permanently shut down and closed off.
Bad news: It was now owned by someone else, an eerily familiar company called Abstergo. And whatever they wanted it for, it certainly wasn’t nice.
Good news: My turning on the lights had not sent off any alarms.
Bad news: The same could not be said of my arrival and subsequent hiding of the TARDIS.
Good news: There was no indication that my presence had been noticed.
Bad news: A team was coming up to investigate. And I had mere moments to hide.
Off went the screen. Everything that I had found, in fact, all connections and data on any computer or device in that room, was good and fried after the sonic equivalent of an EMP. The lights followed quickly after. Hiding under a desk wasn’t going to work, and there was nothing else on the other end of the room. Just metal bars. What to do, what to do…
Idea. Long coats came in handy sometimes. Just in time too. I could hear footsteps coming this way. With one quick jump, and a swish of my coat, I was hidden in plain sight.
Judging by the amount of noise, there were three of them. Three, I could handle. Hopefully. There was a *ding*. The glass door behind me swung open. And in they strode.
“What have we got?”
Voice One. Probably the leader.
“Two registered anomalies, one right after the other.”
Second Voice. Sounded soldier-y.
“No, ma’am. Almost completely different, in fact.”
“That means one of two things ma’am; either something came through, and left again in a hurry, or two separate things arrived, and are still here.”
Ah. Guess that made the third one the thinker.
“You’ve overlooked a third possibility, my dear. If you were to recall the files on the Doctor,” here my ears perked up even more, “you’ll remember that upon his first arrival here, his transportation’s power failed, stranding him here for around 24 hours.”
Bollocks. Scratch thinker.
Leader continued. “I think that the most likely explanation is that something came through, and then found it couldn’t. And is in fact, still in this building.”
“Do we send in more troops to restrain it, ma’am?”
Oh, yes, definitely soldier.
If I could have breathed a sigh of relief, I would have.
“If it is possible to deal peaceably with whatever has arrived here, then we shall. In exchange for assistance with it’s departure, it could provide valuable help to us as well.”
“Even if it’s a Dalek, ma’am?”
“Why not? Even things such as Daleks can be used to the greater good.”
Any urge I had to reveal myself vanished. If there were two things I hated, really hated, they were people who thought that Daleks could be useful, and “the greater good.” I’d seen far too much evil come as a result of the both of them. Now, the plan was to simply remain in the building undetected for 24 hours, and then I could be on my way. The name Abstergo was still stuck in my head, making me even more sure that I wanted nothing to do with them.
The leader was speaking again. “Make sure that nothing gets out, but do it in a non-threatening way. We don’t want whatever it is shooting first and asking questions later. Even Time Lords will attack when provoked. Right, that’s all. Make sure the area is clean, then clear out.”
I heard them turn, and walk back towards me. They had just almost made it to the door, when Thinker made it quite clear exactly what he thought of my retraction of his nickname.
“...Ma’am, there’s something off.”
“The computers, ma’am. If that something is still here, wouldn’t it immediately go looking for information on how best to get what it wants?”
“...A fair point. If they did go looking, can you tell how much they found?”
“I think so ma’am. They appear to have used this station. The chair is the only one pushed out.”
Bollocks. Still, good luck finding anything, boyo. When I killed something, it stayed dead.
A *thunk* sounded in front of me. Clearly Thinker sitting down in afore-mentioned chair.
“The computer’s erased, ma’am.”
“Either they got all the way to the top level of security, and potentially saw everything in the amount of time it took to lock them out and fry their connection…”
“Including Project Rewrite?!!”
“Yes ma’am. Or, the far worse scenario…”
“HOW COULD ANYTHING BE WORSE THAN THAT?!!!”
“They could have killed the computer themselves, because they didn’t want us to know what they found. Namely, that they knew we were coming. In which case, they could be listening to every word we’ve been saying. Which also means, if they didn’t know about Rewrite before, they certainly do now.”
The Thinker turned in his seat…..
And stared directly into my visor.
This time, I did say it out loud.
Chapter 10: 1:10
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Sometimes, having a long coat can be quite useful. For example, using it to cover a desk to make it look like it was being redone, all the while hiding beneath it.
Sometimes, having a long coat can be quite inconvenient. For example, trying to do a cartwheel on someone else’s shoulders while wearing one.
How do I know this, you may ask? Let’s just say personal experience and call it that.
Where was I? Oh, yes. The Three Stooges.
The fore-mentioned cartwheel over Thinker put me in an excellent position to wrap my hands around his neck, in just the right spot for a snapping. I already had one snapped neck on my conscience, what more harm could threatening a second do?
Turns out quite a lot.
Soldier decided it would be a good idea to try and shoot me through his esteemed colleague. I don’t believe either Thinker or I reacted well to that. Thinker tried to twist to the left, while I was simultaneously turning him to the right to protect him with my own body. The end result was the same as it would have been if Thinker hadn’t been wearing his bulletproof vest: his death. Albeit one a good deal less painful than severe lead poisoning.
Thank Gallifrey that Thinker had at least some methods of protecting himself. His vest had already saved my life (if not his), and now his handgun was going to do the same. Out of his holster it came, and then up in my right hand. Three bullets went into Soldier: one in his arm, the second his forehead, and the third, his neck. That out to do the trick.
My barrel swiveled to cover the Leader, who was now standing absolutely still. Our eyes stared unblinking into each others’, neither of us willing to speak first. After about a minute, I decided that enough was enough.
“Now then. If all the theatrics are out of the way...I don’t see why we can’t start being a bit more civilized about this whole thing.”
Leader cleared her throat. “I am in complete agreement. However, I will point out that some consider it uncivilized to eavesdrop.”
I grimaced, not that she could see it behind my mask. “Sorry about that. Purely unintentional, I assure you. I didn’t have many options when it comes to concealment. If I had, perhaps this whole situation may have been avoided.”
She nodded. “Perhaps.”
Interesting. Still not a trace of fear on her face. I didn’t like that. Time to change it.
“I was intrigued by your offer of assistance earlier. In fact, I came very close to revealing myself, and would have, if I hadn’t marked your colleagues as a tad trigger-happy.”
I was lying through my teeth, and she knew it. Still, it put us on a level playing ground.
She made a *pfft* noise. “I can’t say I fault your reasoning. Those two can be easily replaced. Their deaths were no great loss, to either me or who I represent.”
Now, the game began in earnest. “And who might that be, then.”
“Oh, a group very much interested in... people like you. I observed earlier that you are, quite frankly, trapped here for the time being.” A subject switch if I ever heard one. “You have no TARDIS, invisible or otherwise, which quite clearly means you are not the Doctor.”
I nodded. “Correct.” No letting on that only half of that sentence was true.
She continued. “And no vortex manipulator either, which means not a Time Agent. Which leads to the next obvious observation: you obviously didn’t come here by accident, since you somehow managed to not only travel here, but came prepared to attempt a return journey.”
I cocked my head. “And your point is…..?”
“Whatever method of transportation you have, it quite obviously didn’t work as well as intended. If you would be willing, in exchange for a small amount of information on its workings, I’m sure that those I represent would be more than happy to help you with any repairs you might need.”
And here was the game coming back full circle.
“An amenable agreement. But I’ve never shaken hands on a deal without everyone knowing all other involved parties’ names.”
She inclined her head. “That sounds more than fair. If I might have yours?”
“It’s of little consequence, but you may call me… Witcher. And the name of those you represent?”
She reached up to fiddle with a pin on her lapel. “Oh, they’re a well-established firm. Quite old. Centuries, in fact. All the way back to medieval times.”
I was sure I had seen that pin somewhere else before….
“A truly remarkable accomplishment, I’m sure.”
She smiled. “Not as remarkable as some we have planned for the future.”
That cross pin….
Gosh, I can be thick sometimes.
Every last bullet in the magazine, in fact.
She managed to dodge more than half of them, but half of fourteen still leaves you with seven gaping holes in your body.
I walked over, and knelt beside her dying form.
“Yeah, I think I can figure out the name for myself now, thanks. We had you guys where I came from as well. To be fair, you’ve managed to last much longer than your counterparts did. Chalk one up to the Templars.”
There was blood in her mouth as she smiled. “Oh, we plan to last much longer than this, Witcher. And now, you’re unarmed.”
Her body began to glow golden. Golden in a way that meant only one thing: she was healing. With regeneration energy. And I couldn’t have that.
My mask deactivated. I was going to need my mouth for this. “That’s the thing dearie….”
I leaned down. “Time Lords are never unarmed.”
And I kissed her.
What little energy there was coursing through her body, desperately trying to fix her, I pulled from her with my breath. Not even enough to make a proper Time Lord regenerate, but just enough to help her survive things most humans couldn’t.
Wait a minute…
Where had the Templars gotten their hands on regeneration energy?
I had to know.
I had even a looser grasp on this than the whole “pulling energy out via kiss” thing, but it had to be done.
My hands came up, and clasped to her temples. Then I dove into her mind.
All I can say is that it was a good thing she was dying, because the mess I left behind in her head would have probably killed her a lot more painfully than any bullet. I burst through what few barriers I found, looking desperately for any clue, any data at all…
Oh no. Oh no.
They hadn’t. They had.
They had dared.
And they would pay.
I yanked the last energy from her corpse.
I knew exactly who was going to need it.
And all I had to do was make it from the very top of Canary Wharf, all the way to the absolute bottom, and kill each and every person between here and there in order to deliver it.
“Rose Tyler, I’m coming.”
Chapter 11: 1:11
I own nothing. Least of all this.
I now had three extremely dead corpses on my hands, and no good way to get rid of them. I could just toss them out the window, and hope no one one the ground was close enough to hear the *thump* when they landed, but that plan was far too risky for my liking. I could just leave them here, and hope it was a good while before anyone came looking for them, but that plan was even riskier. There was only one halfway decent option: frame poor Thinker.
Soldier’s body was already in the right position, so all I had to do was move Leader’s. I picked her up off the floor (not a good idea to leave a drag-trail of blood), and carried her in my arms over to Thinker’s chair. I needed it to look as if Thinker had emptied his magazine into her, but didn’t kill her fast enough to avoid having his neck snapped. I draped her corpse over Thinker’s, and then placed his hands up around her shoulders, as if he had tried to fight her off after she closed the distance. His handgun, I placed on the floor where it might conceivably have dropped from his hand. There, that should hopefully hold up to at least some scrutiny.
I relieved Soldier of his knife and handgun (like he was going to use them), as well as any spare magazines he had. This was a job that required efficient killing, and while snapping necks may be quiet, it was most definitely not ideal for groups. I was sorely tempted to take Soldier’s vest and rifle, but I was pretty sure their absence would be noted a lot faster than what I had already taken.
I was as prepared as I could be for my descent, but there was still a good deal I had left to do before I could start heading downwards. There was absolutely no way I was leaving any part of Abstergo or the Templars standing after I left this universe. Not after what I had learned. And I was sure that was just the tip of their ego and depravity. I reactivated my visor, then turned back to the computers. Time to see if I was as good with bringing electronics back to life as I was killing them.
It took about four minutes per computer or sixteen in total (not bad, if I do say so) before I was satisfied with my work. All I had to do was hook their activation signal up to my visor, and I should be good to go whenever the opportune moment appeared. I set the signal, and immediately my visor lit up with a little circle showing the progress of my little bit of tinkering.Shouldn’t be long before the circle filled up, and then Abstergo would be living on borrowed time. That was that taken care of. Right then, downwards we go. Allons-y!
I took my time with each floor. I wanted to be absolutely sure that there were no enemies at my back that would become enemies at my front when I had to make my escape. Or, rather, we did. Because I was for sure taking Rose Tyler with me, no matter what. She deserved better than what the Doctor had done to her, not to mention what was currently being done to her. Whatever she wanted, I was going to do my very best to make sure she got it.
It seemed standard procedure for Abstergo was to have one team per floor,composed of two Thinkers and one Soldier. To paraphrase Charles Bronson, “I saw three vests like that per floor. Inside the vests were three men. And inside the men were three bullets.” I have always said that modern military protection gear does an absolutely terrible job of protecting the neck area. I was now extremely grateful for that continued oversight. Made things much easier. They obviously weren’t expecting to be attacked in their own safe haven. Either that, or they believed that any intruders would focus on making their way to the below-ground levels, and leave them be. How unfortunate. For them, that is.
It was only when I got to the ground floor that I was forced to do a little sneaking. It was here that my new knife came in handy (hah!). It took me about fifteen minutes to determine which of the peons running around was most likely to have the clearance I needed to get “below decks”, so to speak. And from there, it took another half-an hour for him to finally walk somewhere with no witnesses and a handy disposal chute. I would have continued on my merry way after relieving him of his identification (my visor could replicate his retinal scan with no trouble), but I had seen the man that seemed to be the one in charge of security here. Absolutely terrible at his job, yes. Easily dispatchable, less so. “An absolute mountain” is all I can think to describe him as. And I absolutely could not have a mountain between me and my exit when I needed to reach it later with all possible haste. Thank goodness he had the sort of personality that made people wish to avoid him when they could. It only took another ten minutes before he was in a similar position to his recently deceased comrade.
It did, however, end up costing me another fifteen to make sure he was properly dead. Dude sat back up three times after I thought I had finally stabbed him somewhere vital. It wasn’t until the fourth time, when I stabbed him through the brain-stem that I realized he had been granted some regeneration energy as well, albeit it a lot less than the corpse upstairs. I can safely say that was the nastiest kiss I ever had, dude or no dude. On the plus side, I did manage to find out more about some nasty security measures downstairs that may have put a dent in my day. You know, laser turrets, sonic paralyzers, the standard stuff. Then again, considering the way I disposed of him, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at bangers and mash in the same way again. But, I was able to harvest a bit more spare energy, for either myself or Rose should something unexpected happen. All in all, I’d say it was a net neutral experience.
Where were we? Oh yes, sneaking.
I had finally reached the entrance to the underground. You’d think it would be tucked in some little, out of the way corner, but no, the Templars have never been one for subtle. A giant wood carving decorated an entire wall, with an absolutely gigantic tree covering the majority of that. Seriously, it was eerie how much it resembled the one from the first Captain America movie. There were, however, two main differences: in the middle of the tree were carved two (supposedly) fake doors. And above them, a Serpent. The Serpent, actually. And in its mouth, the Apple.
I reached up, and pressed it.
I whispered, my mask changing my voice to that of the late head peon.
“May Patrem Intellectus Duce Nobis.” The Oath of the Templars.
The doors swung open.
Behind them stood an elevator.
I stepped in, and pressed the first button.
I smiled. “And way down we go.”
The doors closed.
And down I went.
Chapter 12: 1:12
I own nothing. Least of all this.
I checked my total time so far: about four hours. Not bad. That put it at around three minutes per floor, plus the ground level. Just twenty hours to go, and we could ska-doo right on out of here. Thank Gallifrey I had arrived in the afternoon. I’m sure that the lack of people (well, alive ones) in the cafeteria would not have gone unnoticed. If there’s one thing humans can all agree on, it’s that you never skip lunch hour. This way, I hoped my shenanigans wouldn’t be noticed until the next morning. As extra insurance, I had set all security cameras that I passed on a recorded loop, so that was one more concern eliminated.
I deactivated my visor. For this part, I needed to pass by under quite a lot of people’s noses, and my mask would most assuredly draw attention. Attention I didn’t need. After the mask, I started to button my flannel up as well. No harm in looking a little more professional, something my AC/DC shirt would probably detract from. Out came my psychic paper, and then into the same pocket as my recently (and illicitly) acquired identification. Better to keep them together, just in case.
I had almost grabbed a snack from the same place I had taken care of the Mountain Man, but hadn’t, for two reasons: time constraints, and the fore-mentioned bangers and mash. I was regretting that now. For some reason, I was really craving tangerines. Any citrus-y food, really. Oh, and chocolate. Go figure. Oh well, I’m sure someone downstairs had a sandwich I could snatch. Then again, this was England, so the quality of any sandwich I found was likely to be just on the other side of edible (hey, you can’t deny it).
My ruminations were interrupted by the elevator stopping.
The doors opened. And out I stepped.
A single door stood in front of me. No cameras at all, not even any extra security measures beyond the ID scanner attached to the lock. I sighed. Honestly, I was hoping for something a little more exciting. Then again, this was the first floor. I’m sure things would get incredibly hard by the fifth one. And if they didn’t, well, I might just have to make a complaint. I mean, really, given how long they’d been around, you’d think they would have produced a better class of criminal. On the other hand, I had yet to see any evidence of Assassins making things difficult for them. If they had been eradicated, complacency would explain a good deal of what I’d seen so far. Hopefully, complacency would go out the window after my visit. That is, if the whole organization didn’t go out the window first.
My liberated ID worked like a charm. The door slid open, to reveal… cubicles. Of course there were cubicles. This was probably the side of the company that fudged all the paperwork on the things they did that they probably shouldn’t be able to do. I moved forward, keeping my eyes fixed on the ground. A man stood at the entrance to one of the offices, a folder full of papers in his hand that stuck out in the aisle. I slipped a few of the documents from the file, and pretended to browse through them as I walked. No one likes to interrupt someone who’s reading, especially if it looks like its important. Huh. This was actually interesting stuff. So that’s where they got all the supplies for the sprayers. Never would have guessed Roman Industries existed here.
I continued walking, until I spied the door that clearly led up from the lower levels’ fire exits. Into the nearest trash can went all but two of the papers, and after a quick glance for anyone watching, I slipped through the door.
No security cameras anywhere near the stairwells. There never were. You’d think they would have fixed that in two hundred years. I slipped on down. I needed to bypass the second sublevel, because that was where they kept all the nasty surprises for things of non-human persuasion. And, while I may have been human once, I’m fairly certain the lasers and spikes wouldn’t give me any leeway in arguing the point. Practically no one worked on level two. It was mainly there to get rid of all the people who came around looking for things they shouldn’t. Very handy, I will admit.
And of course, as there is with all bypasses, there was a small difficulty. Or, rather, two of them. A set of doors, one from level one to two, and one from two to three. Easily bypassed with my stolen card and copied retinal scan, but when I had to come running back this way like a bat out of Hell, they would undoubtedly cause a significant delay. Lockdown means lockdown for a reason. So, just as the first door slid closed behind me, in went one of my snatched papers right in between the lock and catch. I did the same for the next door as well.
Now, as much as I would have liked to do this all the way down, I was sure the security below level three would be a good deal too high for my credentials. It was an appalling display that they had gotten me as far as they did. But now, I was going to have to work to reach my intended target.
A quick sonic burst from my visor, and the fire alarm attached to floor three’s emergency exit went silent. Back off came the mask, and then through the exit I sneaked. This was the storage floor, packed with all the boring files, raw materials, and rubbish. All of the really fun and exciting stuff was on the two floors below me, with level four being the interesting people working on interesting things, and level five being where those interesting things ended up once they became deadly things. Three guesses as to which level I needed to get to.
This had become a waiting game. The fourth level would write up the reports on their vicious little projects, and them bring them up here to file. The people from the first level would then come down here whenever they needed the reports for reference work. Dreadfully boring system, but efficient. And now it would work in my favor. All I needed was for one of the peons to come up from below-decks with a new file, and then *WHAM*. Lights out. They would come, I was sure of it. It was just a matter of when.
I crept around the walls, looking for a convenient vantage point from which to view the “down” elevator. You would not believe how inconvenient metal tube shelving can be when you don’t need it. Still, I found a spot, and settled down to wait. This could take a while.
Surprisingly, it was only about half-an hour before the unlucky winner made his appearance. He was obviously in a good deal of a hurry, judging by how oblivious he was to his surroundings. Must have been thinking about how it was almost the end of his shift, and how he was going to avoid the most amount of traffic. Shame he didn’t spare any thought on how to avoid my knife. That made the third glowy boy I’d killed so far. He didn’t take it nearly as well as the security chief had. Further proof that Abstergo was tweaking the process for individual roles. The important people all seemed better equipped to survive an assassination, and the meatbags were obviously meant for prolonged fights.
I picked up the folder he had been carrying. What little remorse I had gradually evaporated as I read it. This twisted man had deserved much more than I had given him. Shame I couldn’t drag him back from the afterlife to send him back in a good deal more pain. I closed his folder, and placed it in the right spot. His work would burn, as sure as his soul. I would make sure of it.
I hauled his body around the corner, away out of sight. I switched his ID with the one that had gotten me down here. That ought to throw them off the scent, should they find him before my plan called for it. And my new identification ought to allow me access to the rest of the place. His retinal scan had already been recorded in my visor, and now I had to make sure no one was going to discover his eyes didn’t match his tags. I would have preferred an ice cream scoop, but sometimes you just gotta use what you got.
After that disturbing task was over and done with, I could finally afford to take a break. It had been a full five hours since I had gotten here, and after all I’d done, I think I deserved a little downtime. Besides, the next part of my plan wouldn’t come until morning, when the bodies at the top of this glass and steel monolith were discovered. I climbed up one of the shelves, and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible. My coat I wrapped around myself, and my hat I folded into a makeshift pillow. Hopefully, it would be enough. I drifted off to sleep, my dreams filled with blood and fire.
I awoke to a loud beeping in my ear. At first I thought the jig was up, and my handiwork had been recognized for what it was. It took a minute for me to realize what it was. I activated my visor. Yep, sure enough, there it was. The little circle that showed the progress of my little experiment was full. And just in time, too. The time was currently showing as close to nine in the morning. Thirteen hours down, eleven to go. My money was that by now, they’d noticed quite a few of the people that were supposed to punch in today, well, hadn’t. It was only a matter of time before they found the bodies. And then they’d really start running around like chickens with their heads cut off. That many corpses, all arranged to make it look like they’d killed themselves, was gonna have them thinking either the Assassins or the Supernatural. I pulled up the real feeds on the security cameras I’d hijacked. Yep, people everywhere. No policemen, which was good. It meant my plan was going to grab a good deal of Abstergo’s own personal muscle when its final piece fell into place. That meant less trouble later.
I sat up, and swung my legs over the side of the shelf. It was halfway through the swing I realized they were both asleep. Just before they hit the shelf in front of me, in fact.
All I can say is thank Gallifrey that it wasn’t top-heavy. That would have been disastrous. I slapped my legs a few times, clearly indicating that it was time to rise and shine. They tried to pull the classic “five more minutes” routine, but I wasn’t having that. Finally, after much protesting, they were ready to go. I scrambled down the shelving, and then quickly over to the “down” elevator. One showing of credentials and a retinal scan later, I was heading downwards into the lion’s den. Funny thing about lockdowns. They may have been picky about who they let out, but the same couldn’t be said for who they let go in the opposite direction. I pulled my psychic paper from my pocket. I was going to need it for this next bit.
The doors slid open with *whoosh*, and I was greeted by… well, I can only describe it as chaos. As was usual when scientists’ carefully ordered domains were wobbled in any way. Just from a quick glance, I could see three seemingly important people arguing about what to do. I decided it would be the perfect conversation to insert myself into, and started walking towards them.
The loudest of the group seemed to be the head scientist. At least, I thought he was. He was certainly acting the part.
“Ridiculous! Preposterous! We absolutely cannot evacuate at this time! I mean, we just got here, bejaysus!”
Then again, that could just be the Scot in him coming out.
“Sir, I am truly sorry, but it just can’t be helped. I’m sure…”
“The only thing I’m sure of is that I’ll have your job if you don’t fix this! There are programs we have to run, checks we have to make, things that could, theoretically, blow this whole place to kingdom come if they don’t like how you sneeze!”
“Now Doctor, I’m sure the Sergeant was simply unaware of the nature of your work.” So, someone was playing the peacemaker. “Given the fact that nothing untoward seems to have occurred below the ground floor, I’m sure there’s absolutely no reason the good Doctor can’t deal with what he needs to before the evacuation.”
Time for me to throw a wrench into that plan.
“Actually, ma’am, it appears something untoward has occurred.”
They all swiveled to face me, the Doctor, the Sergeant, and the… Peacemaker. Who was currently wearing the face of the very deceased Leader.
So, the Templars were into either resurrection or cloning. Both very bad for me.
I’d figure something out. For now, the plan came first.
“And what might that be, Mister, uh…..”
“Commander, actually.” I held up my psychic paper. “Commander Winchester. I was called in privately by Mr. Rikkin to investigate if anything… unpleasant had happened below level two.”
They relaxed at that, my fake credentials and name dropping doing the job marvelously. I slipped my paper back into my inside coat pocket.
“And I am afraid that something unpleasant has most definitely happened. Sergeant!”
He snapped to attention. “Yes, sir!”
“At ease. I find myself in need of your assistance. Doctor, you have until I and the Sergeant return to put things in order.”
“No buts, I’m afraid. The evacuation must go ahead, and now there is some degree of urgency to it. Ma’am, I appreciate your efforts to smooth things over here. If you would kindly continue to do so, I would very much appreciate it. I’m sure the doctor will gladly take all the help he can get. Sergeant, with me.”
I turned to go.
“Wait one moment, Commander.”
I paused. “Is there a problem, ma’am?”
“No, not as such. Forgive my curiosity, but, just exactly what did you find that merits this response?”
I took a minute. It was never a good idea to spout out a prepared lie. Invariably makes it seem a bit suspicious.
“...It seems, ma’am, that at least one person made it to level three before he met his... demise. And as to what, exactly, caused his death, I find myself... unable to tell. And I don’t like things I can’t explain. That’s all the information I’m able to give at this time.”
PM nodded (no way I was calling her Peacemaker the whole time. Too many syllables). “I understand, Commander. On your way.”
“As you say, ma’am. Sergeant!”
I began to walk towards the elevator I had so recently come down, the Sergeant at my heel. I couldn’t have that, I needed him at my side for the next part. I couldn’t bypass the lock-down without using my mask, but the Sergeant could. Perks of being part of security.
“No need to follow behind, Sergeant. I’m not one to stand on ceremony.”
“As you wish, sir.” He picked up his pace.
“How long have you been here, Sergeant?”
“Around five years, sir.”
“Ever seen a dead body before?”
“In that case, I think you had better go first. Best if you clear the way for me to focus on the deceased.”
We reached the elevator doors.
“After you, then.”
The Sergeant swiped his ID, and leaned down into the retinal scanner. There was a *Ding*, and the doors slid open.
In we stepped.
The Sergeant reached forward, and pushed the up-arrow button. Just as the doors slid closed, my eyes met those of the PM. There was a brief flash of...something. I would have called it recognition, but it felt more like she was...remembering something I had reminded her of. Whatever it was, I had no more time to process it. The elevator jerked, and then up we went.
“If you don’t mind me saying so, sir, we are alone now.”
I looked sharply over at the Sergeant. “If you’re coming on to me son, I’m afraid I don’t swing that way. I appreciate the thought, though.”
That obviously flustered him. Good.
“....No, sir, that’s...I didn’t mean…”
“S’alright, son. I was just messing with you. Now, what did you really want to ask?”
“....Well, sir, I have to know, is there a reason you didn’t tell the others exactly you found the body? I mean, how it looked?”
“...Because, son, I lied. I know exactly what killed him. Knock around America as long as I have, and eventually you’ll find out things you shouldn’t.”
“..Should I know?”
“...Probably not. But I’m at least going to tell you this: not all angels are on the side of Heaven, and not all demons are from Hell.”
“The..man, whoever he was...he was the recipient of quite the smiting. The kind that only an archangel can give.”
If it was possible to turn even paler in the elevator’s light, the Sergeant managed it.
He swallowed. “...An archangel, sir?”
I nodded. “Archangels, the Devil, Heaven, Hell, they all exist son. And if I had gone in there talking about the likes, they would have either called me crazy, or, worse, they would have convinced themselves they could reason with it.”
“...I’m tempted to go the first route myself, sir.”
“Can’t blame you, son. Took me three years for enough evidence to pile up to convince me. But it is what it is, and if there’s an archangel loose who thinks it’s good fun to leave bodies lying around looking like they committed suicide, then you can be sure there will be no reasoning with it. And that’s not even the real thing we need to be worried about.”
“...And what’s that, sir?”
“If an archangel can go through fifty floors of people, and not leave a trace of its presence, then why did it feel necessary to smite one man in particular? That, Sergeant, is what we should worry about.”
The elevator jerked to a stop.
The doors slowly opened.
I gestured. “After you.”
Chapter 13: 1:13
I own nothing. Least of all this.
The Sergeant came out first, his H&K G36 ready, but not yet aimed in any particular direction.
I tapped him on the shoulder. “We’re heading to the right. Just watch our left, and follow where my hand steers you.”
I left my hand on his shoulder, and began to walk towards where I knew the body lay. Now, you may be wondering exactly why I wanted the body found, and even more so why I spun that whole cockamamie story for the Sergeant’s benefit. I hate to sound cliche, but all I can say is “That’s for me to know, and for you to find out.'' Rest assured, I had a reason, and that reason was currently resting in a famous tomb near the city of Seville, Spain.
We continued on, and came to the body. “Now son, you know there are certain things you just aren’t cleared to know. So I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to keep your eyes on our surroundings, just until I make sure there isn’t any sensitive material lying around.”
I knelt. There wasn’t very much blood, if any. I had made sure of that last night. A little regeneration energy went a long way towards burning any stains. And eyeballs, for that matter. After ensuring that everything looked as it was meant to, I stood and turned back to the Sergeant.
“Your turn. I need another pair of eyes. Literally. I’ll take watch. Just tell me if you recognize the name on the ID, and if anything seems off to you, aside from the obvious.”
He swiveled, and handed me his rifle. Then he took his turn with the corpse.
I could tell when he spotted the body’s clear lack of vision (see what I did there). There was a distinct retching sound that could only mean he was doing his best to hold it together.
“..It seems, sir...that, aside from.. the obvious, there appears to be a … slit, in his throat.”
“I would say, sir, that it appears that he was stabbed, died, and only afterwards did...the obvious occur.”
I did my best to convey a feeling of confusion. “That doesn’t add up. How high was the man’s clearance?”
“One second, sir. I don’t recognize his name, but his ID could have gotten him down here, no problem, but not any further.”
“....I need another look. Take the watch.”
Once again, we swapped places.
“It just doesn’t make sense. Why would an archangel smite a man, after he was already dead? It… Oh. Oh no. Bollocks.”
“What is, it sir?”
“I completely forgot the only other way an angel can burn a man’s eyes out: if his body fails as a vessel.”
“Yes. An angel can possess a human, but unlike demons, it can do so only if the human agrees to it. But if the human were dead...there wouldn’t be anyone home to say no. The vessel wouldn’t last nearly as long as an alive one, but it would last long enough.”
“Long enough for what, sir?”
“Long enough to get somewhere it could find a willing host. And I can think of at least one person downstairs who would more than willingly say ‘yes’. We need to get back down. Now. You lead the way back, I’ll cover us. Guns are no more use here.”
I didn’t need to tell him twice. We headed back to the elevator with all possible haste.
“When’s that bloody thing getting here?”
“Just a moment sir.”
“We may not have a moment.”
“I know, I know!”
A *Ding* heralded the arrival of our ride (try saying that three times fast). We practically threw ourselves forward into it.
He slammed the button.
“Now, here’s what's going to happen. I can tell if someone is currently being possessed. We’re going to play it cool at first, as if we still don’t have any clue what happened. If I see that anyone has said yes, I’ll ask them down to level five. I can deal with them the best there. Your job will be to back me up on that, and help all the other people get the hell out of Dodge. Cause even if everything goes perfectly for me, then I’m not coming back up.”
“No, don’t argue. Just get the people to the ground floor. Tell whoever tries to question you or stop you that its a Code Samael, and tell them exactly who’s the person in question. Whatever you do, you can’t let them out. If I fail, then it's gonna go looking for another vessel. And we absolutely cannot let it out into London. If I succeed, then there’s gonna be one almighty explosion that should collapse just the underground. Only then can you start letting people out. Understood?”
“Am I understood, Sergeant!”
“Sir, yes sir!”
“Good. It was a pleasure to meet you, son.” I held out my hand. “Catch you on the flip side.”
He took my hand, and shook it. “Same to you, sir. It was an honor.”
The elevator shuddered to a halt.
The doors slid open.
I strode out, the Sergeant hot on my heels. There they were, just ahead, the doctor and the PM both. I had been tempted at first to use the doc, but I just had too many questions about the other one. And I don’t like having things I know nothing about where I can’t see them.
The PM greeted us first. “Were you able to ascertain what happened, Commander?”
I shook my head. “It’s the strangest thing. I’m still no closer to an explanation, and that makes me nervous. Very nervous indeed.”
It was here the doctor interjected his opinion. “I don’t care how nervous ya are, there’s still far too much ta do! We just cannot evacuate! It can’t be done!”
I sighed dramatically. “I completely understand sir, which is why we are now pursuing an alternate course of action. Sergeant, get everyone you can out up to the ground floor. I intend to do a sweep of the rest of the area, as insurance. Once I send the all clear, then you may return to your workstations. I don’t anticipate that I shall be any longer than a half-hour, but just to make sure you can return in plenty of time, I must ask you, ma’am,” here I turned to PM, “to assist in my inspection. We’ll start from the bottom, and work our way up. And when we’re done, I will have to use the secure line to report to Mr. Rikkin.” I was betting rather heavily here that there was, in fact, a secure line. It was the one thing I hadn’t been able to confirm.
“Of course, Commander. Mr. Rikkin must be informed.” Seems my bluff had held.
I turned back to the Sergeant. “You know what to do.”
He nodded. “Come on, doctor. Everyone out, as soon as possible.”
He grabbed the doctor’s arm and began hauling him towards the nearest group of people, Scottish swearing following the whole way.
I gestured in the direction of the “downwards” elevator. “Ladies first.”
“How chivalrous of you, Commander.”
One elevator ride later, and we were standing where I had been aiming the whole time: level five. I knew what I was looking for was somewhere near the back, so I didn’t need to bother with searching the rest of the place. It did, however, give me an excellent excuse to have PM do so.
As she began looking for anything out of place near the front, I made my way through rows upon rows of what I can only describe as junk. Deadly junk, but junk nonetheless. I was just beginning to wonder exactly what made this place so worth hiding, when I rounded a corner, and found my answer.
Welp, looks like it was definitely clones. At least, that’s what the pods with things growing inside them seemed to suggest. That was bad. Worse than resurrection, in fact. Implanting information in a new brain was a heck of a lot easier than retrieving an old brain intact. And there was no telling how many pods like these were scattered around the globe. Looks like every single building Abstergo owned had to go. Shame. I had really liked the Sergeant. And I was sure there were a good deal more people like him in Abstergo’s employ. He may be safe, but the others weren’t. At least they would die in ignorance. Less black on their souls.
If the pods were here, that could only mean that my target was just…
“Oh, they didn’t.”
But they had.
I had already been beyond disgusted with what I had pulled from the Leader’s mind, but this…
This just made me mad. And they weren’t gonna like me when I was mad.
A cryo-freeze chamber stood in front of me. Barbaric to begin with, but this version took things to an entirely new level of cruel. The occupant was meant to experience every single moment in absolute cold, with absolutely no sleep or unconsciousness as a relief. And suspended within one of the two chambers, was the person whose justice I was now in pursuit of:
Or, more accurately, the Bad Wolf.
Whatever had been left of Rose Tyler had died long ago. This was merely the shell, filled with nothing now but rage and hatred.
A far cry from the woman who had taught mercy to a Dalek.
And this was merely the tip of what had been done to her. Yet another stone on the Templars’ grave. I would make sure of that.
My plan now needed some major modifications. It wasn’t enough to go through with what I had originally wanted. There needed to be more. Good thing I still had ten hours to work with.
I strode off back towards the front of the room, my coat flapping behind me. The gears in my mind whirred, piecing together new means of destruction for Abstergo worldwide. As the main exit came into view, I noticed PM waiting for me beside the doors. Now that I knew what she was, she would be the first to go.
I clamped down the rage that threatened to show on my face. “Find anything?”
She shook her head. “Of course not, Commander. There’s no way anything or anyone could get to level four without the proper clearance, much less level five.”
“You’re entitled to your opinion. But as a matter of fact, I found several things that have the potential to change your mind.”
She stiffened. “No…”
“Yes. Things that lead me to believe the secure line may not, in fact, be enough.”
“Please say you didn’t find any…
“Listening devices? No. But what makes you think that if anything as real as what’s down here can be found, that anything else virtual is any safer? Just in case, I’m only going to tell what I found exactly once, and only then when I’m absolutely sure only the intended ears are listening.”
I pointed to the nearest, and also the largest of the consoles located near the door. “You start preparing the line, but don’t activate the call just yet. I’m going to try and add a few security measures of my own in the hard-wiring.”
She nodded, and immediately sat and began typing away. I slid under the desk next to her (and before you ask, yes she was wearing pants). I needed an excuse to activate my visor out of her line of sight. This got me that, plus the chance to add a little more to the surprises I had arranged. Wires were yanked from their housings, connectors strung together, my visor whirring away the entire time. That little circle on my screen got connected to a bunch more little circles, all gradually filling up. Perfect. That ought to work just fine. Now all I had to do was play for time. Bantering ought to cover that quite nicely.
I slid out from under the console. “Done. Wish I could do more, but it should work for now. You got the call pulled up?”
“All ready for you, Commander.”
“Excellent. Make the call.”
“Sir, you know I need higher clearance to reach Mr. Rikkin. He sent you, he’ll answer for you. Just enter your credentials, and we’ll be good to go.”
Bollocks. “Ah. About that…”
“If you’re fixing to kill me, I completely understand. If I were you, I’d kill me too.”
My fingers tightened their grip on my handgun. “How long have you known?”
“Just as you were going up with the Sergeant. I remembered where I’d seen paper like that before. In an old, dusty file from two hundred years ago. Psychic paper. You’re him, aren’t you? You’re the Doctor.”
I relaxed. “Close, but not quite. Friend of his. And part-time antagonist as well.”
“But you’re here to stop it, aren’t you?”
I nodded. “All of it. All that I can.”
“Good. You already killed one of the things I hated the most.”
“You mean Little Miss Snake-face upstairs?”
That’s the witch. And Snake-face describes her perfectly. She was the first of us, the first of the clones. And she did everything she could to make sure we were worth it to Abstergo.”
“And what about you?”
“What about me? I was the next to last of the ones that lived to adulthood. After Number One got done, I was the last proper. She was my sister. And One killed her. I couldn’t disobey her. I can’t disobey any of them. But I could do things without them knowing.”
“I wondered why security was so terrible around here.”
“I waited. For so long I waited, hoping there was at least one more Assassin. That they would find us. Find everything. And burn it all, me along with it. Can you do that? Will you - for me?”
“...As the lady wishes.”
“...Thank you. Right then. The Doctor had a tool of some kind, that let him through to whatever he wanted. Do you have one too?”
I tapped twice on behind my ear. “Yes. More efficient, as well.”
She stared. “I can see why you avoided using it. Very intimidating.”
“Thanks. So, how do you want to do this.”
“All it’ll take is a little work from you, and the call should go through. It should connect to Rikkin, no matter where he is. But before you call...before he answers...you’re going to have to kill me.”
“Understood. You don’t want to risk him giving you orders.”
“...Yes. Please be quick.”
“I can do better than quick. I can make it relatively painless. That is, if you don’t have any objections to being kissed.”
“...No, no I can’t think of any.”
Slowly, out came my pistol. Funny, I was only just now realizing it was a Colt. Appropriate. ‘I will fear no evil’, indeed. “I just have one question left for you…”
She looked up at me, obviously at peace. “Yes?”
“Your name. Do you have one?”
“Would you like one?”
I thought for a minute. There was really only one name I could choose, of course. “The Doctor had a friend, once. She gave her life to destroy the organization she worked for, once she found out what they were. Her name..your name, should be... Astrid.”
The word came whispering through her lips. “Astrid. I like it.”
I raised my gun.
“What’s your name? Your real one?”
“...Witcher. They call me.. The Witcher.”
“...It suits you. Alright. I’m ready.”
I nodded. “Catch you on the flip side, Astrid.”
“And the same to you, Witcher. The same to you ...”
It was a nice kiss, as far as kisses go. I mean, I only had four to go on so far, but it was by far the best. I hoped it was nice for her.
The world was never fair. And I could do was try to make sure it was only unfair to me.
The little circles on my screen had filled up completely. I was ready.
I activated the call, and jammed the line open.
Back off went the mask. I needed to meet the man face-to-face.
I needed him to see every bit of hatred I held for him and his precious Templars.
The call connected.
And there he was. In all of his cinematic villain glory.
“Who is this?”
“A thousand apologies, my good sir. Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth, and taste. I’ve been around for a long, long time; stole many a man’s soul and faith.”
If it was possible for holograms to go from blue to white, I believe he came the closest to managing it.
I chuckled. I was going to enjoy every moment of this.
“I was around when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and faith. Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands, and sealed his fate. Pleased to meet you! Hope you guessed my name! But what’s puzzling you is the...
I am ashamed to say I did the Rumpelstiltskin hand thing.
“Nature of my game!”
I stood there for a good bit. Waiting. For anything, really. Finally, when it was just beginning to get awkward, I gave up.
“Seriously? I do all that, and I don’t even get a ‘hello’ back? Rude.”
He swallowed. A single whispered word came from his lips. “ Samael.”
“Yes. That is my name. Or rather, it used to be.”
“Again, technically correct, so I’ll give it to you. But I feel I should tell you I go by another moniker now. Makes things easier when dealing with less-religious types.”
Again with the whispering. “... What?”
“They call me,” I struck a dramatic pose, “...The Witcher. And I.. am your worst nightmare.”
He swallowed again.
And for once, it wasn’t me that said it.
Chapter 14: 1:14
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“Really, I expected better language from you, Mr. Rikkin. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Don’t you know God is watching?”
“ ...What have you done?”
“Oh, you know, little bit of this, little bit of that. I am the original Renaissance man, after all.”
“ WHAT DID YOU DO?”
“Jeesh, bit loud there Ricky. Now I’m tempted not to tell you.... Oh, who am I kidding, of course I’m gonna tell ya!”
I pulled over the seat with Astrid’s body in it, and then stared down at it. “....Well, I was gonna take a seat, but looks like someone already took it. Oh well.”
I pushed the seat back out of view. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
The man was doing a pretty good impression of a corpse himself. Honestly, I was tempted to double-check I wasn’t talking to a projection.
“Any who, what I did. Quite a lot, honestly. But for now, let’s talk about what you did!” I held up one finger. “Firstly, you managed to lock up every single Assassin left. And when I say every one, I really do mean every. One. You would not believe how long I’ve gone without a good philosophical discussion. Good on you for that one. Secondly,” here I dropped my first finger and moved to my second one, “You orchestrated not only the uncovering of Torchwood, but also John Lumic’s plan to convert humanity to a single unthinking, unfeeling organism. Honestly can’t say how I missed that the first time, it was blindingly obvious in hindsight. Just your double standard to say humanity should have access to all the information it can, and then go behind their backs and dictate what they can use said information for. Thirdly,” next finger, “you found out exactly what went wrong with both ends of your scheme: namely, the Tyler family. And then you did what you do best: you arranged to have it removed. All of them, one... by... one. Even to a guy like me, that’s cold. But it was the Doctor that truly scared you. You thought maybe you could control him by threatening his precious Rose, that he would willingly climb into that ice to save her, all the while planning to take them both. But because you are truly one of the dumbest individuals that has ever had the misfortune of meeting me,” here I smiled, '' You forgot, just for a moment, that wasn’t the real Doctor. You forgot were he was born: in fire. And so, when he took the fire within himself to burn you to the ground, you had no choice but to kill him as well. And it’s here...that you did the fourth thing.” My final finger went up. “What I consider to be an absolute abomination. You ripped apart their DNA; the Doctor and Rose Tyler both. And then you started changing it. Trying to make it better, stronger, faster, smarter, more obedient. And you tested every single change on Her. But you didn’t stop there, oh no, that was just the tip of Project Rewrite. To top it all off, as your piece-de-resistance, you made... clones. You placed their pods directly in front of Her, just so she could see the only children that would ever be hers, grow up to take their places with you. Even I know that souls are something you don’t just go changing on a whim. You went and threw out the whole manual just to write your own, and anything that disagreed with you... well, lets just say, I’m sure you have quite a lot of closets, let alone skeletons. And they say I like to play God.”
His anger was visible now. He had gone from white to red rather quickly. But the whisper remained. “... What do you want.”
“You. Downstairs. I dearly want to spend some good quality time together. I’ll even bring marshmallows!”
“ You’re insane!”
“Duh! Hello! It’s me! ...That being said, there is something I will gladly take as a consolation prize.”
He ground his teeth.“ And what. Is. That.”
“Your face. Specifically, the expression it makes when you realize I never answered you when you asked exactly what I had done...Ah! There it is! There! It! Is! Oh,it's even more beautiful than I imagined! You have no idea how much I wish I had a camera!”
I didn’t think it was possible to show that much horror and terror on a face. Dude looked like he’d come across a scene from a Lovecraft story.
“The answer is, of course, that I haven’t done a single thing. It was you. It was all you. I’ve always been a sucker for ironic endings. The moment this call went through, your computer connected to the one I’m currently standing in front of. Lots of little ones and zeros, flying through the air, from here to there. Relaying more than just this conversation, I’m afraid. Specifically, relaying a bunch of nasty little programs I wrote on the very nice desktops you have upstairs here. I had intended to just tear down this one little part of your Crusade fan club, but I never know when to stop, so I’m afraid I may have gone a bit overboard. Still, it’s what you get for trying to control everything. Your computer is connected to pretty much every other one owned by Abstergo, and if not, I’m sure they’re just a hop and a skip away. And for the past,” I pretended to check my watch, “six minutes, you’ve been passing along my handiwork to every single thing you have hooked into it. So, in order, here’s what’s going to happen: every single potato you have with even a bit of data stored on it is gonna start chewing its way through every secure file it can get its teeth into; and then dump what’s left of that file all over the Web. And when it finally gets knocked out by your security, the whole thing will simply jump over to the next potato, and keep chugging away. By now well over half of your computers should be permanently disabled, if not spitting flames.”
Finally, he moved, desperately pressing any and all buttons he could think of to cut me off.
I clutched my heart with a shocked expression. “ Really! Of all the nerve! Hanging up in the middle of a conversation! I guess chivalry really is dead. And if not, well, then it's certainly about to be. I wouldn’t bother, Ricky, it was just too, too easy to jam this thing wide open. We haven't even gotten to the best part yet! Because, you see, I also managed to find those nasty little additions on each and every single one of your building projects.”
That froze him on the spot.
“Oh, yes, I know all about them. How you designed them, how you hid them, and, best of all, how you controlled them. Controlled. As in, you don’t anymore. I now have the ability to take the lives of each and every single person whose soul you’ve stolen. Each and every person you’ve ever sucked into this abomination of an organization. Including yourself. All I have to do is say the word, and a lovely mixture of both cyanide and the equivalent of breathable aspirin will be sprayed over every inch your empire. Extrermination at its finest, I must say. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were a Dalek. One word. That’s all it takes. Then, *poof*! Genocide. So tell me… would you like to know the word?”
“ No ...no, no, no,...”
I snarled “ Too bad! Because the word… is… Sinnerman.”
And just like that, the room was filled with the piano keys of Nina Simone’s classic.
“ Oh, Sinnerman,
Where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to,
All on that day?”
“Well? Where you gonna run, Ricky? Cause boy, you better start. Me? I got plenty of time. Might even pop over to the West Indies, then right back again. Can you outrun the Devil Myself, Ricky boy? Time for you to find out. Now….. RUN! ”
The screen finally went black. His computer had finally run out of connections, and so was forced to turn on the only one left: itself.
Despite what I had told Rikkin, I did not, in fact, have plenty of time. I was just as susceptible to death via aspirin spray as anyone else here. Everyone, that is, except for one person.
I turned and ran towards the back of the level. There was only one place in this entire accursed place that hadn’t had the bug sprayers installed: the cryo-freeze chamber. Personally, I thought it was hilarious. The one room that actually contained someone all too willing to burn the world was missing the one method known to guarantee that they never would.
And it was conveniently missing an occupant.
Back on my mask came. It wouldn’t hold up against the amount of poison I knew was coming, but it would work for now. Plus, I needed my visor. To not only get into the freezer, but to insure I wouldn’t go stark raving mad after eight hours with my eyes open.
The outer door of the chamber slid open. A wave of cold came blasting out. I forced myself through it, then closed the door behind me. The doors I set to open again after all of the poison had settled. The tube on the left beckoned me in. In I crawled.
As the ice around me grew, I realized the Sergeant was probably going to die after all. Shame. I doubt he knew what had gone on down here. If he had a family, I would do what I could for them.
The ice closed over my visor.
I whispered one last thought. “Catch you on the flip side.”
Then black filled my vision.
Chapter 15: 1:15
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Turns out their method for defrosting someone was just as terrible as the actual freezing.
I fell out of the container, feeling like I had been taped to the end of a hair dryer that had been turned on high.
Once some semblance of feeling returned to my limbs, I struggled to my feet. If things were that bad for me, who had barely been in there for a third of a day, how on Gallifrey were they going to feel for Her?
Nothing short of Hell, I was sure. Time to put that spare regeneration energy I had “accumulated” to good use. Blimey, this was going to be awkward.
My visor whirred, and her container came to life. A jet of hot air blasted down from above Her, blowing away whole chunks of ice at a time. When they hit the bottom, they vaporized into steam, clouding Her form. I deactivated my visor, and moved in front to catch Her.
As She fell into my arms, I forced every ounce of energy I had into a kiss.
That kiss…Ooo, that kiss.
By far the best I’ve ever had.
As the last bit of glow disappeared through Her lips, Her eyes finally met mine.
I could see the Time Vortex behind them, at the beck and call of the Bad Wolf. Gradually, it faded, leaving the enchanting orbs I had known for years.
I smiled. “Welcome back, Rose Tyler.”
Her voice, barely more than a whisper after centuries of disuse, wafted towards me.
Whereupon she promptly passed out in my arms.
I sighed. “Figures. Looks like I’m gonna have some serious explaining to do later.”
For now, it was best to let Her rest. Her body had some major healing to do, to say nothing of Her mind.
I swung Her up into my arms, and slowly headed back towards the elevators. There were just a few things I needed to grab, then we could start heading towards the top of the building.
As we passed the cloning pods, I was sorely tempted to destroy them. If they hadn’t had anyone in them, I probably would have just blew them all to bits. As it was, only two of them were occupied. I paused just long enough to fry the circuits of the others. I would have to come back and deal with the other two later.
As the exit came into view, my eyes came to rest on Astrid’s body. She had given everything she had to bring down the Templars. Now, she was going to help us escape them.
I gently lowered Rose to the ground. She needed a few more clothes than what she currently had, and, as much as I hated to admit it, it wasn’t like Astrid was gonna be using them anytime soon.
First, off came the shoes. Then the socks. Those I pulled onto Her feet, leaving the shoes behind. I managed to get the suit coat off as well, and then thread Her arms through the sleeves. Finally, I pulled off my own grey and wrapped Her in it. That ought to do the trick. At least until we made it to the TARDIS.
I swept Rose back up into my arms, and stood. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought Astrid was merely sleeping. Her whole face seemed to radiate peace, her eyelids closed and a smile on her lips.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered.
It wasn’t enough, but it was all I had.
Her identification hung from my fingers. It was a bit of a chore to swipe it through the reader while holding a sleeping person, much less to get close enough for a retinal scan, but I managed. The elevator doors slid open. We stepped in. And up we went.
It took a fairly long time to get all the way back up to the ground floor. Just making it through the doors in the emergency stairwell took ten minutes. At last, our next-to-last elevator stopped. The hidden wooden doors through which I had come merely half-a-day before swung open towards us easily, and I was greeted with...
So many bodies.
I had known there would be a lot, but still…
I counted at least seven who had tried to claw their way into the hidden passage. That made seven more souls burning Downstairs, given they obviously knew what was done on the levels below. I gingerly stepped over them, taking care not to disturb my sleeping cargo.
Everywhere I looked, I saw Death. Corpses covered practically every inch of the place.
But it was near the front that the majority of them lay. If the Sergeant hadn’t made it, that was where I’d find him. Men like him don’t let a little thing like Death keep them from their duty.
Yep, there he was. Or what was left of him. The bodies in front of him had obviously died from bullets, not poison. I would venture that when enough people had realized what was coming for them, they had tried to force their way out...directly through the Sergeant. And he had held the line, unwilling to risk unleashing something worse than Death into London. It wasn’t easy to kneel down and close his eyes, but it was worth it. I had never asked his name, but his badge clearly read “Calvers, William”.
I would do my best for what family he might have left behind. They deserved it.
I stood, and slowly picked my way back to the main elevator. Coming through here for the first time, I had been forced to stick to the stairs and corners. This time, there wasn’t anyone around to ask awkward questions, and I had a good deal more to carry. I was for sure gonna take the easy way up.
We rode it almost all the way, only stopping when we got to the floor just below the top. Better safe than sorry, after all. I didn’t fancy getting shot in the face as soon as the doors opened. Well, shot in the bulletproof mask, but you get the idea.
As we rounded the corner of the last stairway, my mask immediately began scanning for human life signs. None. Good. There were a few bodies, but that was to be expected. This was the area they would have investigated the most thoroughly after they realized something was wrong. Shame it was so far from any means of escape.
I gently set Rose down in one of the desk chairs. Seems they had cleared out the first bodies I had left behind. I wonder exactly what went through the minds of those who first came on the scene. Something with colorful language, I had no doubt.
I sighed. “Really? You think a gun will work on me?”
“ Oh no, I’m sure it wouldn’t. Lucky me, I’ve got something meant specifically for killing angels. Now, turn around. Slowly.”
I turned, and was met with the barrel of a revolver. A Colt, in fact.
The Colt that could kill anything.
The Colt meant specifically to kill anything and everything.
Oh, the irony.
The one thing I knew for a fact couldn’t kill archangels, was one of the few I suspected could kill a Time Lord. And I was being threatened with it.
And behind its barrel, was a face I had just recently pissed off in all manner of ways.
Or, what was left of a face.
“Yeesh, Ricky boy, time has not been kind to you. Or was it me?”
“ SHUT UP.”
‘Sure thing, Ricky, sure thing.”
“ Now, back yourself all the way to the elevator. You and I are going for a little ride.”
I would have gone for my own gun, but it was currently in my coat. The one I had given to Rose. I had no choice; I began to comply.
“Let me guess: I forgot about the helipad?”
“ Give the gentleman a cigar. Ironically, that was merely the latest of your mistakes.”
“ Oh, really? Pray tell.”
“ I was halfway to the West Indies before I realized what you had done...or rather, hadn’t. You wiped out every single one of our genetically-engineered people. I only survived due to a handy breath mask. You released every single Assassin we had into the wild when the computers controlling their cells shut down. You even decimated every last bank account and front company we had. BUT. You hadn’t activated the explosives that would have buried what was left of our work under tons of rubble. And the only reason someone like you wouldn’t slide in that final dagger, was if there was something left here you wanted. Something...precious. You wanted Her. And now, I find you both here, just on the other side of wherever it is you came from. Waiting for..something. Perhaps, for her to wake up? People can’t say yes when they’re asleep, after all. Vessel wearing a bit thin, Witcher? I noticed you’re wearing a mask now. Eyes not what they used to be? Perhaps you were hoping some of that DNA tinkering you were looking down on not too long ago had produced a better meatsuit. One a bit more suited for you.”
I softly began to applaud. “Oh, well done, Ricky boy. Top of the class. I’ll have to make sure you get one of my better torturers. We could use a demon as smart as you.”
“ You still think you can win this? Don’t you know? The Devil never wins! There was no ride; I just needed your back to the elevator shaft long enough for it to go up one more level! You’ve got a long drop ahead of you, for both your body and your soul!”
He aimed the Colt. “ Go to Hell!”
I smiled. “You first, Ricky boy.”
He stumbled. And I moved.
My knife slid into his chest. In, and out, and in, and out.
Finally, he stopped breathing. There had been no absorbing of energy; I had wanted his Death to last. And so it had. His body had finally run out of juice to repair the absolutely huge amount of damage I had inflicted on it.
It was finished.
I slowly came to my feet.
And in front of me, eyes swirling gold, still pointing my handgun, stood the Bad Wolf.
Her voice seemed to fill the room, a far cry from Her earlier whisper.
“ YOU ARE HE. ”
“The Doctor? No, no, I’m afraid I’m not. Just someone who saw something evil that needed fixing.”
“ YOU ARE NOT THE DOCTOR. YOU ARE HE. ”
“I’m sorry, then, I’m afraid I don’t understand. Who’s He ?”
“ HE IS THE WHITE WOLF. YOU ARE HE. YOU ARE MINE. ”
“Yours? What does that mean, yo ...ohhhhhhhhhh. Yours.”
“ YES. MINE . ”
Of all the ways to find out how I had gotten tossed into the Doctor’s universe, this was not the one I would have picked. Clearly, the Bad Wolf was a good deal more powerful than the Doctor had thought. I checked the date on my visor, something I had neglected to do earlier. Sure enough, it read as June 27th. One day after I fell through the Crack.
“You saw all this, didn’t you? When you became Yourself. You saw it all.”
“ YES. ”
“...Well then, there’s really only one question I have to ask: can you tell me why? I mean, why me?”
“ I CANNOT SEE BEYOND THE REALITY I AM IN. BUT I SAW THE WHITE WOLF.. I SAW YOU. YOU WOULD BRING ME BACK. BACK TO MY HOME. AND NOW, YOU ARE HERE. WE ARE THE TWO THAT ARE ONE. TWO WOLVES, HOWLING FOR BLOOD. YOU ARE MINE. AND I AM YOURS. ”
“...Ah. And...what of Rose?”
“ SHE WILL NEED HEALING. YOU WILL HELP. BUT YOU CANNOT HEAL. MORE I CANNOT TELL YOU. ”
“So basically, spoilers.”
“ YES. ”
“...Fair enough. Would you mind putting the gun down, now?”
Slowly, the gun barrel lowered. Just as it came to rest at Her side, the glow in Her eyes disappeared, and She pitched forward.
I only just managed to catch her before she hit the floor. Looks like the Bad Wolf had used a fair amount of the energy I had given Rose. She was going to be out for quite a bit longer, now.
I set her back in the chair. Just a few more things to take care of, then we could lift off. But first: the Colt.
I had no idea how it had gotten here. By all accounts, it shouldn’t exist in this reality. The last I heard, the Men of Letters had it. And as bad as they were, they weren’t nearly as bad as the Templars. Unless they had done something stupid like throwing it through a portal to an alternate reality, I couldn’t fathom where Rikkin had gotten ahold of it. I’d have to look into it.
For now, I pried the Colt from his hand. I checked the chambers. Five bullets. Missing eight. I began going through his pockets. Ah-ha! I pulled out... an entire box of cartridges. That was worrying. They obviously had access to supernatural help when it came to replicating the ammunition. That, plus how easily my play at being the Devil had succeeded, didn’t exactly give me a comforting feeling.
I would just have to move that much faster, then.
Into one of my cargo pockets went the Colt, and into the opposite went the extra ammo. His ID went next to the others I had accumulated. That was one thing done with. Now, for the TARDIS.
I turned back to where I had seen her vanish 24 hours later. I hoped I was right about the recharge time. My visor began to whir.
For a moment, I was afraid I had miscalculated. Then, gradually…
VWHOOOOSH. VWHOOOOSH. VWHOOOOSH. BOM.
There She stood, in all her blue glory.
“Hello, beautiful. Long time no see. Sorry about any trouble I might have given you, but in the end, it was worth it. You see, I’ve brought an old friend home for tea.”
The doors swung open, and warm light streamed out.
Gently, I eased Rose up off of the chair. She was still sound asleep, and ...I think I detected a slight snore. It was beautiful. A smile crossed my face. I hadn’t been a Time Lord very long, but already I felt I had done more as one than I ever had as a human. And I was just getting started.
I stepped into the TARDIS .
And the doors swung closed behind me.
Chapter 16: 1:16
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“Well, I’ve got to say, you are a sight for sore eyes. You didn’t have too much trouble did you?”
The TARDIS made a little *be-whoop* that I took to mean “not much.”
“Good. Speaking of trouble, you’ll be happy to know I ran into an absolute butt-load of it.”
“Yep. And take a look at who I found right in the middle of it. And before you shriek and start jumping for joy, she’s sound asleep, and don’t think she’d care to be woken up.”
I turned to let the light of the console fall on Rose’s face.
What little background noise the Old Girl had been making ground to a halt. Even a human could have heard a pin drop.
“You wouldn’t happen to still have her old room still hanging around, would you? She’d probably appreciate waking up somewhere familiar.”
A blinding multi-colored light flashed from the door at the top right of the stairs.
“Thanks, Old Girl. But would you mind just toning it down a bit? I’m sure she’ll be just as happy to see you, but for now, she needs rest.”
The light dimmed.
It didn’t take long to get Rose to her room. I only stayed long enough to make sure she was tucked in tight, and get my coat back; what was in her room was none of my business. I did take one last look back from her doorway, though; she had been through so much, and felt so much pain.
I wonder if she had kids while she was with Tentoo. I couldn’t find any mention of them in Abstergo’s files. If she had, then that was just one more mark on Rikkin’s soul. For once, I actually regretted not being the Devil proper. It would have been my pleasure to torture him myself.
I headed back to the console room.
“We’ve got a few more things to take care of before we can leave, Old Girl. I hate to ask, but do you have enough fuel for three short hops?”
*Be-whoo?* (How short?)
“One just a few floors down, then to Seville, Spain, and from there, somewhere in England. Not sure the exact location yet.”
*Be-yoop* (Very well.)
“Excellent. First, downstairs.”
I threw the lever, and then immediately brought it back up again.
I strode over to the doors, and pushed them open.
Looks like I hit my mark. The cloning pods lay just in front of me. I hopped out, bringing my visor back up as I did so.
They were pretty basic, even by human standards. The only truly advanced part of them was their electronics: how they downloaded information directly into the children’s brains. It was, however, booby trapped. I couldn’t just remove the one part, otherwise the whole thing would vaporize in my face. The only thing I could do for now was pause the upload, for the both of them.
I was in a similar position when it came to the actual growth stimulation. Once something starts growing, unless you kill it, it doesn’t stop growing. You can slow it down some, but life just keeps on keeping on. And I really hated to kill any more innocent people today, especially a pair of children that appeared to be around three years old.
The first thing I had to do was to disconnect the two containers from the main controlling circuit; a cinch with Rikkin’s ID. After that, I diminished the nutrient feeds back to what they normally should be for young humans. That ought to slow things down enough for me to plan out an alternate solution.
Physically moving the containers was going to be a good deal more difficult. I couldn’t just pick them up in a hand-cart, after all….
Huh, waddya know, turns out I could just pick them up in a hand-cart.
All I can say is thank Gallifrey I didn’t have to deal with the stairs and corners of the Eleventh Doctor’s second TARDIS. That would have been a nightmare.
It still ended up taking an hour, but finally, I got both of the pods hooked up to the appropriate feeds.
The growth had indeed slowed down to normal human levels. Their brain development, however…
I couldn’t delete the program. I tried everything I could think of, even a few things the Old Girl suggested, but...nothing. It wasn’t until I discovered the physical hard-drives were coded in Enochian that I realized it would take a literal angel to destroy the thing. One who was good with computers.
The most I was able to do was to replace some of the program’s instructions (think: All Assassins are evil and should be killed), and slow it down to match the physical growth pattern. I even left myself a back door back in to tweak the programming as well, if something occurred to me later that the two would need to know. But without a big red button, those pods wouldn’t open up for another seventeen years. Not until every single bit of data was uploaded.
Plenty of time.
I made my way back up above-decks.
The Old Girl deserved at least some explanation for what I was taking on board, and why.
“....Listen, there are a lot of things that happened...out there, that were pretty bad. Horrific, in fact. And most of them happened to… Rose. And one of those things was...they stole her DNA. Tried to replicate it, improve it. And then… they cloned it. I don’t know how many times. I only met two of them. One was evil, clear through. I killed her pretty painfully. But the other...she was something else. Became something else. She knew what had been done to make her. She helped destroy those who did it. And.. she died for it. If it wasn’t for her, I would have blown every last one of those pods to bits, occupants or not. But because she never got a chance to live a better life, I intend to try and give it to those two downstairs. Does that sound... okay... to you?”
For a very long while, there was nothing but silence.
After an eternity, She spoke.
I let out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding. “Thank you. I’ve only got one more thing to do here, then we’re off for Seville.”
I made my way to the front of the level. I did, however, take a slightly different way to get there, this time. If I was going to carry around a weapon that could quite literally kill anything under the sun, well then I was gonna wear a cool holster that matched. It took mere moments to find what I was looking for: a bunch of workbenches with all manner of weapon parts and leather strewn over them. Not very many holsters, unfortunately, but I did find a rather nice black one that fit my belt perfectly. I slid it around to my left side in a cavalry draw, and then strapped the Colt in. I was just about to leave when I spied a bunch of strange looking bullets lying next to a bandolier. Now, I may be a little uneducated when it came to things that go *bang*, but I was pretty sure you didn’t load glass bullets into guns. I picked one up and took a close look.
It was a laser.
Abstergo had created miniature, self-recharging laser cartridges for converting handguns.
Color me impressed.
They obviously hadn’t gotten it just right for semi-automatics yet, but still, it was good work. I grabbed a few off the bench, then pressed on to the main console.
Rikkin’s ID got me into a good deal more than I had previously been able to access directly. It was almost easy mode.Those explosives that he had mentioned...I had missed them earlier. And it had almost killed me. I was about to return the favor.
It took very little effort for me to find what I was looking for, now that I knew it was there. Yep, lots of nasty little black boxes, on all five floors. In each and every building Abstergo owned. And they were all connected to each other via closed circuit. Turns out Rikkin was smarter than I had originally thought. The bombs could only be activated from the level five of an Abstergo base. And only by him. Probably thought it was a good idea to have a ‘scorched earth’ policy in case the unthinkable ever happened. Now it had already happened, and I was left holding the trigger.
I set the timer for five minutes, and then started it.
I had said the Templars would burn. Now, they would.
I flew back to the TARDIS, my coat flapping behind me. The doors slammed shut behind me, and I leapt the distance to the console. Right, Seville. Off we go.
I threw the lever, just as the first explosion went off on-screen.
Definitely time to leave.
Hopefully, what had just happened around the world in the space of less than a day would cause enough of a distraction for me to reach my next goal without any interference, natural or supernatural. Because I was quite sure that where I was going next would quite a lot of attention from the latter.
While in flight, I pulled up everything I could find on William Calvers. No wife or kids, apparently. Career man. He did have a mother still alive, though, in Surrey. I copied the coordinates down for when we made the next hop.
With a thud, we landed. I could tell all this traveling through the wrong reality was stretching the Old Girl’s limits.
“It’s okay, Old Girl. Just one more trip after this, then we can leave. I promise.”
I pushed open the doors, and stepped out.
Ha! First try. I even got the right time of night!
Before me stood the tomb of one of the most hotly debated people in history: Christopher Columbus. And all I had to do was open it, grab what I came here for, then get out.
There was just one slight problem:
It was suspended twenty feet in midair.
If it had been held up by pillars or columns, I think I would have been completely out of luck. As it was, even with four statues to use as foot and handholds, it still took far too long to climb on top.
You have no idea how hard it is to rotate a stone lid using just you knees because your hands are too busy trying to keep it from sliding off. I was sweating bullets by the time I finally cleared enough of the tomb for me to reach in and grab the object of my desire using just my teeth. From there, it was back on the lid went, and then down the statue I had used to clamber up.
Finally, I stood at the bottom again, with my prize still clenched between my teeth. I reached up for it, and then pulled it away to get a proper look at it. No doubt about it, this was it. Oh, the irony that the Apple of Eden had been in my mouth, of all places.
“To think the Templars spent centuries looking for this, and here it was, under their very noses the entire time.”
“I was unaware there were any Templars still around, much less any looking for ...whatever that is.”
I had already whipped my body around to face the voice by the third word, the Colt coming up in my hand.
He (whoever he was) held up his hands. “Please, I mean you no harm.”
“Maybe. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you wish me health, either.”
“On the contrary. I’m a priest. It's kind of my job.”
“...Fair point. How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to see you appear out of thin air. You wouldn’t happen to be an angel, would you?
“I’m afraid not, Father. But I can give one a quick call, if you’d like.”
“I think I can handle that myself, thank you...If I might ask, what exactly is it that you have there?”
“It was my understanding conversations usually began with introductions, but it appears we’ve skipped right to the part where we ask somewhat personal questions.”
“You’re right. My apologies. My name is Camilleri; Father Luca Camilleri. And yours is?”
“You as well?”
“No, sorry, it's just.. You’re Father Camilleri?”
“That is what they call me, yes.”
If there was ever any proof that Fate existed, this was it.
I couldn’t help it. I chuckled. Then I laughed. Then I nearly passed out from the lack of oxygen.
When I was finally able to breathe again, I holstered the Colt and stuck my hand out.
“Sorry bout that, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting to find you, of all people, much less here. Put her there, Father.”
Slowly, he reached out, and took my hand.
“Witcher. My name is Witcher.”
“It’s a pleasure. If I might ask, how did you recognize my name? You don’t seem, well, forgive me, but you don’t seem very religious.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised. But in this case, you are absolutely right. I recognized you from a story a couple of my friends once told. One involving a certain stolen relic.”
His eyes widened. “You know…”
“The two denim-clad disasters? Not personally, but I’m well acquainted with the madness that is their lives.”
“...Am I then to assume that the object you are currently holding possesses a bit more power than what is natural?
“Absolutely Father. Because, you see, this...is the original Apple of Eden.”
“...You’re not serious.”
“I’m always serious. With days off.”
“Then it should be protected! We should place it under lock and key - in the Vatican! Yes, that’s it!”
He turned back to me, freezing when he realized I had once more drawn my gun.
“None of that is going to happen, for one very simple reason: the Templars.”
“...What of them?”
“Have you checked the news recently?”
“Yes, but they’ve been running nothing but updates on the collapse of some company called Abstergo.”
“Collapse is right. As it turns out, it was a front for a modern group of Knight Templars. And they weren’t what you think they were. They tried to play God, in more ways than one. Bending man’s will to their own. They searched for the Apple for centuries, because it would have given them the ability to do just that. I objected. So I toppled them, literally and figuratively. I doubt they have a single building left standing anywhere in the world. But if I know anything, it's that there’s no way they’re gone for good. And if we were to just give something like the Apple of Eden to the Church, where, need I remind you, the Templars originated, just exactly what do you think would happen?”
“Very bad things. Now, I could try and find our friends in flannel, and give it to them for safe-keeping, but frankly, they’ve got enough on their plates at the moment. And as much as I would like to, I can’t destroy it. So what I’m going to do is take it as far away from this universe as I can. Remove the temptation, so to speak.”
“And how will you do that?”
“Very carefully. In fact, I don’t anticipate ever coming back to this reality again. But, just in case I ever need to return, might I trouble you for a few drops of blood from ‘a most holy man’?”
“Is that what they needed it for? Travel between different worlds?”
“Something like that.”
“Were they from another world?”
“...Yes. Okay with that?”
“What is Heaven but another world we cannot enter except through Christ?”
“...I’ll take that as a yes. Wish I could stay longer, but I better get cracking. The Templars aren’t gonna be on the back foot for long, and I need to get out of here before they notice someone popping up places they probably shouldn’t be.”
“Then I shan’t delay you any longer.”
I holstered the Colt once more. “Thank you for understanding.”
“Of course, my son.”
I turned back to the TARDIS.
I paused. “Yes?”
“You said you toppled them. All by yourself.”
“How many lives did you take to do so?”
I thought of Astrid, buried now and forever in a cement tomb.
“Do you regret it?”
“Then, I’m afraid your soul may be in some danger, my son.”
“...My soul was lost a long time ago, Father. All I can do now is try and keep anyone else from losing theirs. And end those who already have.”
“...My mistake. You are not lost, after all. You are like the older of the two brothers I met: a very rare thing in this world. Not a good man, no. Something else.”
“...And that is?”
“A Righteous One. Farewell, my son. May Heaven take your soul.”
“I doubt it will, Father. But I appreciate the thought.”
“Not a thought. A prayer. Here. You asked for my blood. After, well, you know... I started carrying a few vials of it. I thought it might be useful for other things. It turns out it works well when used in place of an exorcism.”
I accepted the offered vial. “Thank you. For everything.”
“And you as well.”
“Catch you on the Flip Side, Father.”
He nodded, and slowly began to walk away.
It was my turn. “Father?”
He turned back. “Yes?”
“You might want to watch this next bit.”
The doors swung closed behind me. On-screen, I could see him still standing there, waiting.
I threw the lever.
VWHOOOOSH. VWHOOOOSH. VWHOOOOSH.
I took a screenshot. His expression was something I would treasure for years.
I looked back to the controls. “Right, then. Next stop, Surrey.”
Chapter 17: 1:17
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Surrey looked like...well, like Surrey.
Same cut-out houses, same picture perfect lawns, same cars in the driveways. Even when I was human, living someplace like this would have driven me spare.
I double-checked the coordinates. I couldn’t rely on my eyes, too much sameness out there. Yep, right spot. I could still feel the Sergeant’s ID in my coat pocket, feeling for all the world like it was burning a whole through. I took a deep breath.
Time to pay the man.
I stepped out…
And promptly tripped over a cat and fell flat on my face.
If it had been any other color cat, I would have chalked it up to bad timing, but no, this one had to be black. A bad omen if I ever saw one.
And for once, I was right on the money.
“Oh my! Sir, are you alright?”
“Just give a minute, and I’ll be fine, thanks.”
“Here, let me give you a hand!”
“No, no, that’s alright. I’ve got it.”
I pushed myself up, trying very hard not to accidentally put my hands down on another cat. When I was upright once more, I turned to see who it was that had come to my rescue.
“Do I know you, young man?”
“...No, no I don’t suppose you do. Sorry.”
“Quite alright dearie. But I must say, I haven’t gone by Figg in some time now, oh, some time indeed.”
“...You wouldn’t happen to go by the name ‘Calvers’ now, would you ma’am?”
“Why, yes, however did you know?”
“...Ma’am, I’m afraid I have some... bad news... about your son.”
“...Oh..Oh, my...Why don’t you...come on inside then, dearie? I’ll just...put on the tea. Do you...drink tea?”
“...Yes, ma’am. I do.”
“Right then...this way, then.”
And inside we went.
“There’s a closet to your right, if you’d like to hang up your coat.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Slowly, I pulled off my coat, taking a look around the room as I did so. It looked virtually identical to what I expected. I could see two of the cats from the movies, plus the one still out on the lawn that I almost killed myself on.
“..tea should be done in a jiffy.” Ms. Figg, sorry, Calvers, said as she walked back in. “If you’d like to...take a seat?” She gestured towards the sofa with the least amount of cat on it.
“Thank you very much.” I moved over to the suggested spot and sat. “Right. I’ve..never had to do something like this before. Where would you like me to start?”
“Well, a name would be a nice place to start, dearie.”
“Sorry. My name’s Winchester. Commander Winchester.”
“Do you work with my son?”
“Not really, ma’am. My work is how I met him, but we weren’t exactly in the same department. The only reason I’m the one here now is I was the one with him when...it..happened.”
I could hear the quiver in her voice. “..What did happen, dearie.”
I sighed. I was hating every second of this, but it had to be done. “You know where he worked, I’m guessing?”
“Yes. I did. I thought it was that place they said burned down on the news, and I’ve..been trying not to worry too much... ever since I heard.”
“...Well, I can tell you that anything you hear on the news from now on will be entirely made of lies. The fact is...Abstergo, the place where he worked, well, it had...things going on that were wrong. Not just illegal, but wrong. I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this, security and all, but..you deserve to hear it. The facts are, ma’am, that your son found out about some of the things, and did everything he could to bring them to light. That’s how I got called in, actually. I was the one who helped him get the information out. But when the higher ups found out, they did everything they could to stop it. Even went so far as to blow up the building we were in. But your son...he still managed to take down the man responsible. I tried to help, but...in the end, it was just him holding the line. I got there too late. I’m... sorry. So, so sorry.”
“Oh, dearie. You..tried your best, I’m sure.”
“No, but don’t you see? I sent him where I thought it would be safer! I tried to keep him safe! And I failed! I failed. And he paid for it.”
“Did you win?”
“Did. You. Win.”
“...Well, yes, but..”
“Then that’s all there is to it. You failed, yes. And I won’t get my son back. But you tried ... and that’s more than anyone else did. For that, thank you.”
“...It was my honor, ma’am.”
“There. That’s nice. Now, for some tea.”
“One minute, please. I’ve got... something... for you. I couldn’t get his...body released, but I did get…” I held out the Sergeant’s tags, “..these. It’s not much, I know, but I thought you’d like to have them.”
Shakily, her hands closed over mine. “Oh, dearie...thank you, but... no.”
“It was a nice thought. And I thank you for it. But, you see, I’ve already got so many things that were his. You... I think... need these more than I do.”
My voice cracked. “.....Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, dearie. Now, I’m sure the tea’s boiling by now. I’ll just go and fetch it.”
She slowly rose, and walked back through the doorway. I looked down at the Sergeant’s tags. “Calvers, William.” A hero if there ever was one. Even if he had been on the wrong side. Steadily, his face disappeared into my shirt’s front pocket, and then vanished completely. I buttoned it shut. The weight would be my reminder.
“...take cream or sugar, dearie?”
I hadn’t heard her come back in. Too deep in thought, I guess.
“Just cream, if you don’t mind.”
The tea flowed into my cup, followed quickly by the cream.
“So, tell me about yourself, dearie.”
And so I did.
Or, at least, the story of Dean Winchester. His life, his exploits, his ups and his downs (heavily edited, of course). He was certainly more of a hero than I was. And if, by some strange twist of Fate, he existed in this universe, well, it's not like he didn’t deserve more people hearing his tale. Any mild resemblance I might bear to him would merely lend more credence to what I said.
My story’s not the sort anyone would care to hear over tea.
Well, except for the Doctor.
After I finished, she told me about her life. She obviously did her best to leave out the bits about the wizarding world, but it was relatively easy to see the holes if you knew what to look for. So there we both sat, a pair of people both trying very hard to keep the other from knowing the truth about the other. Ironic.
It was close on to an hour before I finally got around to the real reason I had come: compensation. Sounds a bit sterile to call it that, but that’s what it was. I told her that, given the fact that her son had died in the line of duty to his country (if unofficially), she wouldn’t have to worry about money ever again. Her bank had already received the appropriate deposits (I should know, I made them), and if she wanted to she could buy Trafalgar Square and still have enough to cruise on for the rest of her life.
She tried extremely hard to insist it was too much, but I wasn’t having it. It took another ten minutes to convince her she should keep the money, and if she wasn’t going to use it herself, there were plenty of animal shelters around that could use it.
Finally, the time had come to leave.
I had already put my coat back on, and was just making my final goodbyes, when a truly horrible thought struck me:
What had happened to Harry Potter in this world?
I had to know.
“Miss Calvers, I’m afraid there’s just one more thing I have to trouble you for.”
“Oh, you’ve been no trouble at all, dearie. But go ahead.”
“....Do you know anyone by the name of Harry Potter?”
The blood left her face. For a minute, I was afraid she was having a heart attack.
“.....How do you know that name, Commander.”
Oops. I done messed up. She hadn’t called me Commander the whole time I had been there. Play it safe. You don’t know where in the timeline you are.
“I may be a...Muggle, ma’am, but you forget: The Death Eaters attacked more than other wizards. The Muggle authorities had to deal with a good many problems as well. Dumbledore had his counterparts in our world. My da was one, on the American side. I may not know much about how things work in the British Wizarding World, but even America has heard of how He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named fell. Some of the things we saw in Abstergo, there was no possible explanation for them other than ‘magic’. And your son never batted an eye. He already knew it was real. I guessed there was really only one person who could have told him: his mum. And I didn’t know anyone else in Britain to ask, I guess.”
“...And if were to say...I knew little Harry?”
Little Harry. Bollocks. He hadn’t gone to Hogwarts yet. The Dursleys would be getting a visit from The White Wolf, that was for sure.
“Then I would simply ask you tell him, that the Americans have a pretty good idea of exactly what happened that night. And we’re sorry. If he ever needs a hand, just look up Dean Winchester in Lebanon, Kansas. My twin. He can give the kid a home, and he, our family, and a whole bunch of others would gladly teach him what magic they know. He would be more than welcome, and going to Hogwarts wouldn’t be an issue. I know Dumbledore probably wouldn’t allow it, but the offer stands. Just tell him.”
“...I’ll do that, dearie.”
I doubted it.
“Thank you. I best be on my way, then. Catch you on the Flip Side.”
Take care. If you’re ever by this way, just remember, tea is at four.”
“I will. Farewell.”
I closed the door behind me. She was a nice lady, but she believed far too much in Dumbledore.
I would have to take matters into my own hands.
I discreetly activated my visor. To find a single house marked with no distinguishing characteristics, would certainly take a good…
Didn’t even half to check the mailbox. The Dursleys were the only people I knew who would make a five year old work in the flowerbed.
Oh, I was going to enjoy this.
After double-checking I still had my gun, knife, and psychic paper, I approached the house. Harry must have gone back inside while I wasn’t looking. Either that, or he had been called back in, which could be very bad. I waltzed up to the front door, and rang the bell.
It was a while before it was answered. Almost as if they were quickly hiding something.
I rang the bell again.
Finally, the door swung open.
Vernon Dursley stood in front of me.
Must have been a Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays. This would have gone so much better if it had only been Petunia home. Still, it gave me an opportunity to get rid of the whale.
“Whatever, you’re selling, we don’t want it!”
“On the contrary, sir. We want you. Commander Winchester,” I held up the psychic paper, “at your service.”
Vernon’s eyes bugged out. Must’ve been some lie on that sheet.
When he spoke again, it was with a great deal more respect.
“...Would you care to step inside, Commander? I’m sure my wife can fix up some tea in a jiffy.”
“That would be quite nice, Dursley. I accept.”
I followed him into the living room.
He bellowed in the direction of the kitchen. “PET? PUT THE KETTLE ON! THERE’S A MAN HERE FROM THE MINISTRY!”
He gestured in the direction of the sofa. “If you’ll just wait here, sir, I’ll be right with you. Got to help the wife, you know.”
He made a face I could only describe as a grimace.
“Of course, Dursley. I’ll wait.”
He turned, and waddled off back towards the kitchen.
“Who’re you? Waddyou want?”
I looked down. Sure enough, there was the oinker himself, Dudley Dursley. Already a good bit overweight.
“I’m an officer in the Army, and I’ve come to talk to your dad. And who might you be?”
“M’Dudley, and I’m the boss around here.”
“Are you really?”
“Yep. My dad says so. And he’s a very important man, so he ought to know.”
“Yes, he really ought to know. Tell me Dudley: who all are you the boss of?”
“M’the boss of dad, mum, Piers, Dennis, Malcolm, Harry…”
“We’re not ‘sposed to talk ‘bout him.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“He’s a freak.”
“So? I know lots of freaks, and here I am, talking about them.”
“Not freaks like Harry. He can do things. He turned teacher’s hair blue.”
“Now Dudley, you know that you shouldn’t be talking about that.”
I looked back up. Vernon had returned from the kitchen.
“Why don’t you run upstairs, Dudley? There’s plenty of new toys for you to play with.”
Dudley slowed trudged his way off and up the stairs.
“Isn’t he? Says the darnedest things sometimes, but he never means it.”
“Pet’ll be right out with the tea, it’ll be just a moment.”
“Actually Dursley, I’ve come to talk to both you and your wife. If you could call her here for just a minute, I’d appreciate it.”
“Of course, of course. PET! COME IN HERE!”
A disheveled Petunia Dursley appeared from around the corridor. Looks like the theories had been right: she was definitely being abused. Probably spent far too long in the kitchen cooking for the whale and pig. I’d have to do something about that.
“What are you standing there for, woman! Sit down! The man has something to tell us!”
Slowly, Petunia sunk down in a chair.
“Now, then. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley. I represent a branch of the government that deals with very confidential, very secret things. Before we go any farther, I must have you verbal acknowledgement that you recognize this. It’s not the Official Secrets Act, but it’ll do for now.”
“Yes, yes, of course. I understand.”
“And you, Mrs. Dursley?”
“...I suppose so.”
“Good. We can begin.”
I tapped twice behind my ear.
Instantly, every light in the house switched off.
All except my glowing visor.
A second later, all the lights came back on, including the TV, which hadn’t been on before. My visor had vanished back into its casing.
“....What the HELL WAS THAT!”
“Now, now, Dursley, it’s quite alright. That is, if you do as we say.”
“Yes, we. What you just saw was what merely one of us can do with barely a sign, beyond an unfortunate side effect.”
“YOU! YOU’RE ONE OF THEM FREAKS!”
“No, I am not, Mr. Dursley. And I resent the implication. I am what the government has created to handle those, ‘freaks’, as you like to call them.”
“....Oh...well that’s alright then...if you’re government.”
“I thought you’d see it that way. Now, it has come to our attention that you are currently providing shelter to one “Potter, Harry”. Is that correct?”
“Shelter? Ha! The boy’s been eating us out of house and home! He’s been nothing but an ungrateful brat! Trouble! That’s what he is, trouble!”
“Then you will be very glad to know that he will soon no longer be your problem.”
“You can’t! Dumbledore said so! He said Harry has to stay here, otherwise we..”
Here she slapped her hand over her mouth.
“Yes, we are well aware of what Dumbledore said. He said that you would only be safe, so long as this was Harry’s home. But I must tell you rule number one of wizards, Mrs. Dursley: Dumbledore lies. We know about the letters you sent to him. And we know what lies he told when he replied to you. You may not have been able to become a full witch, Mrs. Dursley, but you could have done a very good job as one of us. And Dumbledore couldn’t have that. He has been lying to you for years. Especially about Harry. What I am offering you is a chance to get out. Dumbledore merely wanted you to stay here, under his thumb. But as long as you take Harry with you, you can pack up and disappear wherever you like. The protection will remain with you, so long as he considers wherever you are as ‘home’.”
“Just what are you suggesting to my wife, Commander?”
“It’s simple, Dursley. I’m offering your wife, your son, and little Harry a tidy sum of money and an excellent contact group if they will leave Britain...for America. You, of course, will stay behind to keep Dumbledore from suspecting anything.”
Dumbledore would probably know right off the bat if Harry left, but I planned to be long gone by then.
“...NO! I WON’T HAVE IT! PET AND DUDLEY ARE STAYING! THEY’RE MINE! YOU CAN TAKE THE FREAK AND LEAVE! NOW!”
“Now, now, Dursley…”
“NOW! OR I’LL KILL YOU!”
“That’s all you had to say, Dursley.”
Right between the eyes. Nice.
“Right. Your husband just made a very bad mistake, Mrs. Dursley: he assumed that since we were from the government, that we were good people. We are not good. We are not nice. We want you and your whole family out of Dumbledore’s hands and safe. You can either go quietly, or make a mistake just as bad as your husband’s.”
She appeared to be going into shock. That wouldn’t do.
Her eyes snapped back up.
“DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND.”
Slowly, she nodded.
“Good. Now, normally, we would provide transport for you. But any official vehicles would have immediately drawn attention. We’re going to have to do something else.”
Back up my visor came.
“....There. Three airplane tickets in your name for Lebanon, Kansas just came through on Flight 394, with around a million pounds sterling added to your bank account. You are to take your family car, and drive to the airport, taking Dudley and Harry with you. Dudley is to sit in the back, with Harry hiding in the bottom of the car. Have you got that?”
She nodded again.
“Excellent. You’ll take the tickets for the 394 from the desk, and the tickets will tell you where to go next after you arrive in America. Once you get to Lebanon, go to the only bar in town. Ask for a man named Dean Winchester. He’ll find you. Tell him a friend of the Assassin sent you. He’ll take care of you the rest of the way. I would have liked to do this myself, but it couldn’t be helped. From there, you’ll have around six years before Dumbledore comes looking. Make sure Harry is back in London on his eleventh birthday, and we can avoid all that. I know its a lot to take in, but can you do it?”
Her eyes met mine. “...Will we be safe?”
“No. But you will be secure. Much more secure or safe than you are here.”
“...Then I can do it.”
“Good. Let me talk to Harry.”
“...He’s in the cupboard.”
“Of course he is. Harry? You can come out now.”
Slowly, the cupboard door swung open.
“...But...Vernon locked it! How?”
And out stepped Harry Potter.
Chapter 18: 1:18
Note: There will be a few rewritten scenes at the end of this chapter, from the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife”. I know the crossover parts of this fic reference scenes from other series, but I am working solely off the DW timeline, and any other scenes would invariably end up confusing. For me, at least. Also, I apologize to anyone doesn’t feel this fic adheres strictly to any specific canon. All will be explained much, much later. Trust me on this.
Any reviews or comments would be appreciated. Thanks!
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“You wanted me, sir?”
Oh, Vernon deserved his place Downstairs.
Just from here, I could see far, far too much wrong with the little boy in front of me. Hopefully, that would change very soon.
I slowly knelt down.
“Yes Harry. Now, I’m sure you’ve been listening to what we’ve been saying. Would you mind telling me what you heard? You’re not in any trouble at all.”
“....I heard sumfin about leaving. For ‘merica. Aunt Petunia, Dudley, and me. Did you mean it, sir?”
“Of course I meant it Harry. You are a very important person. It is very important that you and your family are safe.”
“...Will Uncle Vernon be coming?”
“No, Harry, Uncle Vernon won’t be going anywhere ever again.”
“....Is he dead?”
“...Yes. Yes he is.”
“...Can I see?”
I moved out of the way.
Harry moved forward, and stood beside his uncle’s body.
And then he kicked it.
Then he kicked it again. And again. Soon he was doing nothing but kicking, as hard as his little body could.
And somewhere along the way, Petunia Dursley joined in.
When it was all over, Petunia was holding a crying Harry in her arms, trying not to cry herself.
I had no right to intrude. But I had to.
“Harry, I’m afraid I need to check something. In your mind. If you could come over here, just for a minute, I would really like it.”
He looked up to Petunia, asking with his eyes.
“..Go ahead, Harry. Its okay.”
Harry nodded. Slowly, he stood. And made his way over to me.
Gently, I raised my hands, and pressed them to his temples. Good thing I had gotten lots of practice with this.
There it was. Right on top, a black stain on his mind. The good news was, it appeared to function in place of Occlumency barriers, so obliviations and Legilimency by Dumbledore were both right out. The bad news was, I couldn’t get rid of it. Only contain it. Maybe, if I was very lucky, sever its connection to the other Horcruxes. Never mind: this was excellent news! None of that ‘walk to your death’ nonsense.
“Harry. How long have you had your scar.”
“Does it ever hurt?”
“Would you like me to make it not hurt ever again?”
“Alright. Then I’m going to need you to hold very, very still. You can keep your eyes open if you want, but you can’t flinch. Someone put something very bad in your scar, and if you flinch while I’m working, it might wake it up. Do you think you will flinch?”
“Okay then.” I eased my knife up. “I’m not going to lie, Harry. This part will hurt. Do you still want me to do it?”
Not deep, but enough for blood. Enochian required blood. At least for this.
First, ‘Bind’. Then, ‘Absorb’. And finally, ‘Heal’.
I could feel a small bit of my soul burn away. Worth it.
One by one, the marks faded in the order I had made them, followed, very slowly, by the infamous scar.
Good. That made things harder for the goat bugger-er.
“I’m done Harry. How does it feel?”
“...Better. Like there was somethin’...pressin’. And now it's not.”
“That’s good. I’ve got two things to tell you now, Harry. First: it’s alright to be ambitious. It’s alright to be smart. Second: don’t ever try to be brave. People who try to be brave will always try and make themselves sound more important than they are. Be courageous instead. Now, why don’t you go tell your cousin that his mum wants him to come downstairs.”
I watched him trudge up the staircase. That poor little fellow.
“Now, Mrs. Dursley, I’m afraid I’ll have to check you too. Dumbledore is a master of the mind, and he may have made you forget things you shouldn’t have.”
I repeated what I had done for Harry.
No obliviations or mind-reading, hooray! Dumbledore wasn’t totally evil in this one!
Still, the old goat deserved every single bit of pulled hair I was about to give him.
“You’re fine, Mrs. Dursley. Nothing tampered with.”
“Very well then. Petunia. Everything’s gonna be alright.”
I found myself wrapped in a hug. “Thank you.”
It took me a minute, but I returned the favor. “My pleasure.”
“...Mum? Why are you hugging the officer?”
She let go. “Because, Duddykins, the man has paid for us to take a trip! To America! Isn’t that nice?”
“Guess so. What’s dad doing down on the floor?”
I had this one. “He fainted when he found out how much the trip was, boss. And now that it's just gonna be you, your mum, and Harry, that’s exactly what you are: the boss. And it’s the boss’s job to take care of everyone he’s the boss of. Got that, Dudley?”
“Course! I’m the best boss!”
“I’m sure you are. Now, you three have a plane to catch.”
“...Come along, Duddykins. Harry. It’s time to go.”
“But what about toys? Clothes? Jammies?”
“Your mum can buy all of those, and more. She’s rich now.”
“YESSSS! We’re rich! Harry, we’re rich! We’re gonna go to Disneyland, we’re gonna eat all the ice cream we can, we can do anything we want!”
I just managed to catch Harry as he fell.
“Shh, shh, its okay. He’s had a long day.”
Long indeed. That ‘Absorb’ rune had worked a little too well. Oops. Still, it guaranteed there wouldn’t be any need for death-by-Mouldy-shorts.
“He’s just sleeping. You grab what you need for Dudley and yourself, and I’ll put Harry in the backseat of the car.”
“...Why? Why would the government, why would you do all this for us?”
“Let’s call it a long term investment and leave it at that. Plane! Go!”
She ran, dragging Dudley with her.
Out to the car I went.
Harry went into the floorboard, me doing my best to give him a smooth ride. It wasn’t long before I was joined by Petunia and Dudley, throwing what little they had into the boot.
And just like that, they were gone.
Time to take out my insurance policy.
“Castiel, Angel Of The Lord,” I prayed, “I know of Dean Winchester. I know what he means to you. To the world. I’m sending him three people: Petunia Dursley, Dudley Dursley, and Harry Potter. They are a family. Help him to protect them. The world depends on it. Trust me: I’m a time traveler. Catch you on the Flip Side. The Witcher, out.”
That ought to do the trick.
Now, to correct the mistake I had made earlier.
I rang Arabella Calvers’ doorbell once more.
“So sorry, Mrs. Calvers, but I’m afraid I forgot to leave you my phone number.”
“That’s quite alright, dearie, I’m always….”
I slammed into her mind. I erased every single part of the offer I had told her to give to Harry. Dumbledore could not be allowed to find them. When I was done, I slowly backed out, scrubbing out all trace I had been there.
“...forgetting things. Sorry, what was I saying?”
“You were just asking for me to write my number down.”
“Oh! And so I was.”
“Here you go, ma’am.”
“Thank you very much, dearie. If I ever need you, I’ll call.”
‘Then farwell again, Mrs. Calvers. Sorry to bother you.”
“Not at all, dearie.”
Right. That was all over and done with. If she needed, she would call. She wouldn’t know why she needed me, of course, but call she would. Nice that.
It was finally time to leave.
“Sorry that took so long, Old Girl. You know how it is.”
She made a little whistle of indifference.
“Ready to go home, beautiful?”
“Be-yoop* (Of course).
“Excellent. Let me just check both ways before we leave.”
I swung the viewscreen over to double-check our route.
There was a man.
Standing, right where I had prayed thirty seconds ago.
And he was wearing a trench-coat with a blue tie.
Any minute now, he would…
He began walking towards the TARDIS.
I threw the lever.
VWHOOOOSH. VWHOOOOSH. VWHOOOOSH.
Castiel or John Constantine, it didn’t matter. His expression was still hilarious.
That was a terrifying thought. John Constantine, in a world where Lucifer was played by Mark Pelligrino, not Tom Ellis.
Good thing I was already dipping!
I made a quick loop of the console, pushing buttons, throwing switches, preparing for….
“We’re good, and lost now! You’re off the edge of the map, mate! Here, there be monsters!”
I spun the viewscreen around.
“HAAAA HA HA HA HA HA HA!”
Barbossa had some of the best quotes.
“.... Doctor? What was that...noise?”
Rose Tyler stood at the top of the stairs.
Her mouth hung open.
Right, the desktop. Not what she was used to.
Nor was my face, for that matter.
O course, it was then that there came a knock on the door.
I held up a finger. “Hold that thought.”
The doors swung open to VOID.
And one small, glowing cube.
“Oh, not this bit, not now, I’m busy!”
The cube wasn’t taking no for an answer.
I barely managed to grab it before it started blaring out its message.
“Right, not dealing with you House, that’s the Doctor’s busi...Hang on a minute, I can use this!”
I erased the recording, leaned in close, and whispered a new message.
One meant for the Doctor.
Then I let the little cube bounce off back to where it came from.
“And make sure he gets it!”
I slammed the doors shut.
“Right, where were we.”
If it was possible, Rose was now looking more confused than ever.
I paused for dramatic effect.
“ ...Darlig Ulv Stranden!”
The Doctor’s voice rang out. “So there are Time Lords here, then?”
And House responded. “Not any more. But there have been many TARDISes on my back in days gone by.”
“Well, there won’t be any more after us. Last Time Lord. Last TARDIS.”
“I think not, Doctor. One flew by, not long ago at all. They even left a message.”
My voice, played over a scratchy connection: “ Tell the Doctor this: He left her. He left her, standing on some beach, with naught but a name, and his word it was the one she needed. It wasn’t. And neither was His. But maybe mine will be. See you in Glocca Morra, Doctor.”
“You see, Doctor? Not the last. But you are partially right: you will be the last to ever pass this way, I think. A pity. Your people were so kind. Be here in safety, Doctor. Rest. Feed, if you will.”
It was here the Nose cut in. “We’re not actually going to stay here, are we?”
“Well, it seems like a friendly planet. Literally. Mind if we poke around a bit?”
“You can look all you want. Go. Look. House loves you.”
“Come on then, gang. We’re just going to, er, see the sights.”
“So, as soon as the Tardis is refuelled, we go, yeah?”
“No. There are Time Lords here. I heard them and they need me.”
“You told me about your people, and you told me what you did.”
“Yes, yes, but if they're like the Corsair, they're good ones, and I can save them.”
“Like the one that left the message?”
“Ye-NO. No. Not like him. He’s not the kind who needs saving. But there are others. Others, who do need to be saved.”
“And then you’ll tell them you destroyed the others?
“I can explain. Tell them why I had to.”
“You want to be forgiven.”
“Don't we all?”
“We are in your universe now, Doctor. Why should it matter to me in which room you die? I can kill you just as easily here as anywhere. Fear me. I've killed hundreds of Time Lords.”
“Fear me. I've killed all of them.”
“All but one. The one, I think, that both of us fear.”
“...I don't understand. There isn't a forest in here, or wolves.”
“Are you going to make her talk again?”
“Spacey wacey, isn't it?”
“Well, actually, it's because the Time Lords discovered that if you take an eleventh dimensional matrix and fold it into a mechanical then OW! Yes, it's spacey wacey!”
“Sorry. At the end, she was talking. She kept repeating something. I don't know what it meant.”
“What did she say?”
“The only water in the forest is the river, and the wolves of the forest are howling. She said we'd need to know that someday. It doesn't make sense, does it.”
“Not yet. You okay?”
“No. I watched her die. I shouldn't let it get to me, but it still does. I'm a nurse.”
“Letting it get to you. You know what that's called? Being alive. Best thing there is. Being alive right now, that's all that counts.”
Chapter 19: 1:19
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“... What ?”
“Darlig Ulv Stranden. Bad Wolf Bay. Stars going out. And, quite possibly, the single worst day of a good many people's lives. Including...well. No need to go into all that. But from my point of view, that was where it stopped.”
“.. .Your point?”
“Doctor, you’re not making sense.”
“...No, no I don’t suppose I am. Sorry. It's just…”, I rubbed the back of my head, “This would have been easier with tea. Most things usually are.”
*Wee-woop* (Behind you).
Sure enough, table for two, tea set and all.
I gave the console a look.
“Really. I go through all that trouble for him-in-the-bow-tie, not a peep from you. But one of your favorites shows up, instant room service. Why am I not surprised.”
I turned back to Rose.
Blimey, this was gonna be awkward.
“Well, she obviously agrees about the tea. I suggest we sit down. After you.”
And so we sat.
I started. “I guess, the first thing I should say is...sorry. I’m...sorry. For, well...for everything that happened to you. But mostly, for not telling you this in a kinder way...I’m not your Doctor.”
“.. You mean you’ve changed your face again.”
“No, Rose. I’m literally not your Doctor. Your Doctor is, I believe, currently careening around his universe like a kid in a candy shop. I’m merely an...echo...of that. Of him.”
“...How did you get here.”
“There was an...explosion. The TARDIS, it...blew up. Took the whole universe with it. Made a lot of nasty Cracks in space and time as well, including in other realities. Including mine. Including yours. That’s how I slipped through, by the way. Long story short, the Doctor ended up ‘rebooting’ the universe. Big Bang Two. But he got caught on the wrong side of it. Trapped in the VOID, him and his TARDIS. Oh, he got back through, but before he did, before all those nasty little Cracks sealed themselves off...I fell through one. Landed in your Doctor’s TARDIS, just before he made it back. And I wasn’t meant to. Me landing there broke the timeline. So, when the Doctor left, it split the TARDIS, leaving me behind in the VOID . It was sheer luck I happened to land at all, much less where I did. Where I could fix at least one thing the Doctor did wrong: leaving you behind.”
Her hand hit mine just before it hit my face.
“Striking out at me won’t change the facts, Rose. It was wrong of him to leave you. Both times. Believe me, I’ve been there before, on both sides of the coin. And not only did he leave you, he left his mess behind as well for you to fix. You may have loved him. He may have loved you. But if you had no choice but to take whatever he gave you and be grateful, then I’m sorry. But that’s abuse. And you deserve better than that.”
Slowly, I dropped my hand, hers still caught in it. “Now, are you going to try and slap me again?”
“That’s fair. No lies between us. The Doctor lies enough for us both.”
I leaned back, and released my grip on her hand. “Alright then. Moving on. Landed in Canary Wharf. Hid, found out what had happened since Davros, didn’t much like what I saw. Took out everything I could, rescued you, escaped, made a couple of side trips to deal with some things I didn’t want people getting their hands on, and did some very complicated flying to slip back through the Crack into the VOID , which brings us up to speed. Any questions.”
“ ...You said you took out what you could. What did you mean.”
“Let’s see: bankrupted Abstergo (the company holding you, by the way, who reported to a bunch of nasty people called Templars), hacked and dumped every file of theirs I could find on the web, released every single person they were keeping around for ‘research purposes’, and then killed every Templar I could find, just to be sure. Oh, and I blew up pretty much every building and lab they owned.”
“ ...You killed all of them.”
“Well, not all of them, I’m pretty sure. I’m not that lucky. But the few I missed, I’m sure the Assassins will mop up quickly.”
“... You’re not the Doctor.”
“Yes. We established that.”
“ No, I mean...you said you were... from another universe. But I don’t think...you were the Doctor there, eifer.”
“Oh, well-spotted, Rose Tyler. I had to make that clear to the Doctor when I met him. How could you tell?”
“ The Doctor... he wouldn’t kill. Never. Not like you did.”
“Did he ever tell you what happened in the Time War? What all he did?”
“Then trust me when I say the Doctor can and has done far worse than just killing. Nevertheless, you’re right. I’m not the Doctor. I’m merely someone who was fortunate enough to see his life play out on another stage.”
“ ...Then who are you.”
“The Witcher, Rose Tyler. I am the Witcher. Time Lord Unbroken, at your service. Pleasure to meet you.”
“ Wish I could say the same.”
“Ah, there’s the Rose Tyler I know. The Defender of Earth. The Woman Who Saved The Doctor. The…”, I glued my eyes to hers, “... Bad Wolf.”
“ DO NOT TELL HER. ”
“Would it hurt her?”
“ YES. SHE WOULD BURN.”
“Got it. Still, it's nice to talk to you again.”
“ ....YOU AS WELL. I HAVE HAD NO ONE ELSE FOR...FAR TOO LONG. ”
“Well, if nothing else, you’ll have me for a good while. I’ll try my best, but be warned, I’m not a great conversationalist.”
A small smile. “ YOU SEEM TO BE DOING ALRIGHT.”
“What, this? This is exposition. This is easy. Ask me for my opinion on clothes, and I’ll just blank. I mean, honestly, have you seen what I wear? I can’t even carry a conversation with myself long enough to choose something that doesn’t look like a toddler picked it out.”
She laughed. It was music, airy and sweet, yet with the crackle of thunder behind it.
It was beautiful.
I was sad when she stopped.
“ I WILL RETURN HER NOW. REMEMBER, YOU CANNOT HEAL HER. THAT IS FOR ANOTHER. ”
“ AS YOU SAY, CATCH YOU ON THE FLIP SIDE. ”
She blinked, and the glow was gone.
“ ...Not the last one. Not for awhile now.”
“...Sorry. That must be a sore subject.”
“ No, it’s fine. Just...it was a long time ago.”
“Yes. For everyone, I think.”
“ ...The Doctor...how old is he now?”
And so I told her.
I told her all of his adventures since she left, with special care given to Martha Jones and her story. She laughed when I told her about Rory’s stag party, she cried when the Pandorica opened, she squealed when Shakespeare shouted “EXPELLIARMUS!”
I may not have been able to heal her, but I could certainly try to help.
And all through the stories, the tea in the pot slowly went down, and the Jammie Dodgers disappeared from the wrapper, until all we were left with was empty cups and full smiles.
A light snore came from the chair across from mine. I sighed, and swallowed the last dregs from my cup. Looked like it was time for bed.
Funny; I had known her less than a day, and this was already the second time I had carried her to bed and tucked her in. She snored into my shoulder all the way up the stairs. Note to self: for deeper sleep, ask the Old Girl for some tea beforehand. It seemed to do the trick.
I ventured a glance back, just before I cut out the light. She was curled up into herself, surrounded by blankets and pillows. Still not used to sleeping with a source of warmth, then. I hoped that would eventually fade, but only Time would tell. It always did.
I flipped the switch.
I knew how dangerous it was to let her fall back into a routine, considering she had been living with one for over two centuries now. So the next morning I surprised her with breakfast in bed.
That went about as well as you would expect.
It turned out alright in the end, though. I guess the sight of me covered in orange juice and eggs was just too funny to resist.
After one humongous food fight, things seemed to smooth out. And for the next two weeks, we did...pretty much whatever we wanted. We would float in the pool and read (I kept her far away from the Doctor’s real name), have more food fights, throw tea parties, day-long Monopoly tournaments (we never did find the top-hat piece again after one spectacularly thrown board), and at the end of the day, we would sit in front of a roaring fireplace and trade stories that the other hadn’t heard. Judoon, Arachnis, Cybermen, Daleks, Werewolves, Vampires, and the Devil, just to name a few.
Oh, there were downsides too. After that first night, the nightmares started. And no amount of the Old Girl’s tea seemed to help. And first, when they would come, all I could do was rush to her room and hold her tight, until the both of us would fall asleep together. We gave up on that after the first week; we began spending all night in front of that same peaceful fire, neither one of us letting go of the other. Uncomfortable? A little. But worth it, if it helped her.
It was at the end of the second week, when the inevitable finally happened.
We hit the Doctor’s universe.
And when I say hit, I mean hit.
Turns out the plughole at the bottom of the universe doesn’t like when fast things try to squeeze through. Who knew?
“WILL YOU BEHAVE!”
“YES, YES, I KNOW, THE FRICTION CONTRAFIBRILATOR!”
“OI, I’M TRYING !”
*CLANG, CLANG, CLANG!*
“HAH! DID IT!”
VWHOOOOSH, VWHOOOOSH, VWHOOO-
“.....Oooooo, me head. Wait, where did the banana come from?”
I wobbled over. “Please say you’re alright.”
“... A little banged up, but I’m fine. Just never, and I mean NEVER, do that again.”
I helped her to her feet. “I wonder where we’ve come down? Certainly not Earth, I mean, we didn’t hit hard enough, but maybe ...”
I pushed the doors open, rubble falling out as I did so.
I activated my mask, and stepped out.
Yep, definitely not Earth.
The night sky that hung above shone with stars I didn’t recognize, and yet somehow I knew the names of each and every one.
Just beneath the sky, a rocky ridge rose (ha! alliteration!), with torches at intervals along the edge.
And beneath the ridge, stood…
A ring of red-clad figures, all holding torches of their own.
“Karn. We’ve landed on Karn.”
Chapter 20: 1:20
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“How very observant of you, sir. You have, indeed, landed on Karn. But not, quite, where we expected you.”
Ah, the High Priestess. “Is that so?”
“Indeed. We had prepared a somewhat more favorable landing site for you, about thirteen feet to your left.”
“Thirteen. Bad luck.”
“No, young man. Bad Fate. Yours. And it is still filled with much uncertainty. In point of fact, it was all but hidden to us, until a certain event revealed it. Before that, it was as if you didn’t exist, never had, and never would. Even now, you remain somewhat clouded to our sight,” she gestured back towards the TARDIS, “as you can see.”
“Oh no, the fault is not yours, I think. Still, you must admit it strange for one such as I to chart the sky and the future with equal accuracy for as long as I have, and yet to find one day there is a new, unnamed star blazing across Time, shedding Light on a new future.”
“I wouldn’t call it a blaze. More of a spark, than anything else.”
“That is not for you to say.”
“Perhaps. You said ‘unnamed’.”
“Yes. For once, I find myself in need of an introduction. I am Ohila, High Priestess of the Sisterhood of Karn. To whom am I speaking?”
“...The Witcher. I’m the Witcher. And in case the..” I jerked my head backwards, “steaming TARDIS didn’t give it away, I’m a Time Lord. Hope that’s alright. I would offer to leave if it wasn’t, but, you know…”
“You are more than welcome, Witcher. But it is odd. I was under the impression the Doctor was the Last of the Time Lords.”
“Quite. You may be unknown to us Witcher, but your companion is not. We greet you, Rose Tyler.”
I hadn’t even heard her come up behind me.
“ ...Thanks. I think.”
“No, thank you. If your path had not followed his, I doubt we would have seen him coming at all. Which would have been most...unfortunate.”
“Well, we would have to rush then, wouldn’t we. You’re back in your own universe now, child. The changes that were wrought on you in another world had not the power to take proper hold. But now, the Time Vortex roars all around you. It sings to Her. Calls Her. She is coming.”
“ NO. I AM HERE. ”
And if I hadn’t seen it, I would never have believed it. They, the entire Sisterhood, did something truly incredible:
Each and every one of them.
“My Lady. We are honored.”
“ WE THANK YOU. ”
“...We, My Lady?”
“ THE WHITE WOLF IS MINE. AND I AM HIS. WE ARE ONE. ”
And it was only now that I truly realized what she had meant when she said it for the first time.
I could SEE.
The tipping points of Time, that could now be tipped in an entirely new direction, simply because of the two of Us. Neither of Us could do it alone: only together. But together, We could burn the world. We truly were One.
Or at least We soon would be.
“ YOU MAY NOW, AS YOU SAID, RUSH. ”
“Of course, My Lady.”
She signaled. Two Sisters stepped forward, each holding a glass.
“You are not yet a full Time Lord, but you are rapidly approaching it. Soon, you will see all. Much more than a normal Time Lord, for you were born of the Time Vortex itself. And that is something that Rose Tyler, for all her strength, can not handle. These,” she gestured to the drinks, “will stabilize the both of you. We cannot separate You from her, but we can transfer some of the burden to another. When we learned of Your coming, our original plan was to contact the Doctor, and pray he arrived in Time to relieve the strain. But when we realized who it was that would arrive with You, well, who are we to argue with Fate?”
“ INDEED. THE DRINKS. ”
She reached out, and took her glass. I followed suit. We faced each other over the rims of our goblets.
“ NOW, SHE WILL BE HEALED. THANK YOU FOR HELPING. ”
“It was my pleasure.”
“ CATCH YOU ON THE FLIP SIDE. ”
I smiled. “You too. Allons-y!”
TWO WOLVES HOWLING IN THE FOREST.
The image of Rose Tyler, arms outstretched, head towards the sky, regeneration energy exploding outwards from her.
“...Owwwwwww. Alright, who spiked the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters?”
“ ....Am I supposed to say Zaphod Beeblebrox?”
I rolled over...and came face to face with Felicia Day.
“Your voice doesn’t match your face, that’s what!”
“You’ve got the same voice, but now you’re ginger! Oh, that’s just not fair!”
“ WHAT? LET ME SEE!”
“I would, but I don’t have anything in my…” my voice trailed off as my hands came up empty in not just the search for something shiny, but also the search for, “...pockets.”
I looked down.
White bodysuit, thank goodness, but below me was ...nothing. Well, I say nothing. There was a glass floor, one far too thin for my liking. But on the other side….
My eyes turned towards the ceiling…only there wasn’t one of those, either. Just more of that terrifying, endless white.
I had always hated hospitals. I give you one guess as to why.
“NO! DON’T LOOK!”
“We’re...high. Like...really high.”
I sighed. “Yes. It appears we are. But, more importantly, I’m not so fond of the glass keeping us at this height.”
“...Neither am I.”
I sighed again. “Can you at least see your reflection?”
“...Well now I can. Huh. You were right. Ginger. And on the first go. Wasn’t expecting...this. Any of it.”
“ NO. BUT I WAS. ”
There She was. This time, the voice matched the face.
Charlie Bradbury, back from the dead. Again.
Fate was laughing at me behind my back, I was sure of it.
A hiss. “....You. You’re Her.”
“ I AM. ”
“ You were gone. The Doctor said you were gone.”
“ AND SO I WAS. BUT I GOT BETTER. HOW DID YOU THINK YOU SURVIVED THAT LONG UNDER THE TENDER CARE OF THOSE ANIMALS? IT WAS I. I AWOKE WHEN YOU LOST HIM FOR THE THIRD TIME, AND I NEVER WENT BACK TO SLEEP. BUT I WASN’T WHAT I AM NOW, UNTIL THOSE... MONSTERS... TRIED TO... IMPROVE... YOU. YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE SURVIVED. BUT I COULD. AND DID. ”
“And, what, I’m supposed to thank you? You couldn’t save him, not when they came for us, and you certainly didn’t save our family when they came for them. And now, there’s nothing you can do but finish what you started the first time: burn me out. And I’m supposed to be...grateful?”
“ YES. BUT NOT TO ME.”
She pointed. “ TO HIM. ”
Oh, why wasn’t there a convenient rock to hide behind?
Fire burned in Rose’s eyes. “You knew.”
“....How could you? You said there wouldn’t be any lies. Not between us. You promised.”
“It wasn’t a lie: it was a secret. One that wasn’t mine to tell.”
“ So, what, you were just gonna let Her tell me right as I’m about to die?”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. You’re not going to die.”
“DON’T YOU GET IT? I had her in my head exactly ONCE, and the Doctor had to pull Her out, or I would have BURNED!”
“Yes, you would have. But not this time. This time, We have a plan.”
Sarcasm dripped from her lips. “A plan.”
I nodded. “A plan. Your mind couldn’t hold the both of you before, because you were still mostly human. But you’ve regenerated now; that means more than enough room. But it also means She needs the ability to process information at an incredible rate, something you could never safely handle. Outside of locking you away in your own skull, never to return to see the light of day again, there’s only one other option: what we’re going to do is leave a good bit of room in your head for the both of you, and transfer some of the processing speeds Her Time Lord mind needs...over to me.”
“...Like a Vulcan mind-meld?”
“Kind of. Just with a good bit more....depth to it. I’ll carry the connection subconsciously, and when you want to take the wheel, She’ll merely shunt some of the higher-level stuff over to my mind.”
“...Does that mean you’ll be able to see into Her...our memories?”
“No. Not unless you send them over of your own accord. If anything, it just means She and I will be able to ‘think’ at each other, so to speak.”
“...Will it hurt?”
“Only me. And pain’s an old friend.”
“...Are you sure?”
“As the Doctor says, ‘Never be sure about anything. One minute you’re sure, the next minute everyone turns into lizards and a piano falls on your head’.”
“It was a long day.”
A smile tugged at her mouth. “Sounds like it. ...Alright. How do we do this?”
“ IN MUCH THE SAME WAY REGENERATION ENERGY IS TRANSFERRED. THIS IS OUR MINDSCAPE: WHERE OUR MINDS TOUCH EACH OTHER. AND IT IS HERE THAT THIS MUST BE DONE. FIRST, HE AND I WILL BECOME ONE. THEN, YOU AND I WILL...REINTEGRATE, SO TO SPEAK. ”
“...Okay, then. You first.”
I turned back to…. Her. Blimey, I really did need to find a better name to call Her, just ‘Her’ and ‘Bad Wolf’ were gonna get old real quick.
My throat felt dry. Was that normal? I had no clue.
Far too slowly, We moved towards each Other. Yep, Fate definitely had it out for me. First time somebody...well, anybody, really...needed me, it was for my mind. And just to make sure the situation was perfectly clear to me, Fate had decided it would be hilarious to have the two of Us look exactly like Dean Winchester and Charlie Bradbury. Real subtle, that.
Still, at least I wouldn’t be alone. I knew far too well what happened when Time Lords were left alone for too…
Her lips were on mine, and there was no more thinking.
The universe exploded around Us. I could feel Her mind sinking into mine, the tendrils of thought racing along beneath those that belonged to me. Her lips tasted of honey, and her mind of chai tea. Sweet and fire. Appropriate.
And all too soon, I could breathe again.
“...I don’t think I can think.”
“ Then don’t. ”
“Ohhhh, your voice. I mean, it was good before, but now…..mmm.”
“ Thank you. Why don't you sit down?”
“...Yeah, yeah, I should probably just…”
The last thing I saw before I passed out was Her and Rose, gliding towards one another.
Chapter 21: 1:21
Note: I have a question for you guys. I am going to try and make it perfectly clear where we are in each fandom’s timeline as we visit it, but I don’t know if you guys would rather me list all of them now, and thus make a few spoilers, or just have each fandom come as it may and leave you guessing which one’s coming next, let alone where we’re gonna be in its timeline. Please let me know!
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Back in the real world on Karn then.
I sat up.
For once, the pain was in my head, not my body. If I had to look at one more unbearably white object, there would be no stopping the sick. As it was, I felt like I had been tuned in to angel radio while an archangel was cussing out his troops. Not a good feeling.
Getting my bearings took awhile, but I managed. The rock seemed to make up the entire room, with only one exit. Probably underground.
Tea sat on a chiseled stone, next to the slab I had been lying on. At least, I assumed it was tea. Smelled like it. And it was still steaming hot. Hadn’t been sitting for very long, then. Whoever left it must have done so recently.
Aside from myself, the room completely lacked occupants. No High Priestess, no Rose, no...anybody. That could be good, or bad. No guards meant I was, theoretically, free to leave. But no Rose meant they had left her on her own, without a familiar face. That, plus whatever I had missed while I was out, could be very bad indeed.
I needed to find her.
I began double-checking my gear. Mask, yes. Colt, still in its holster. Extra bullets, still in the box. Psychic paper and fake IDs, yep. Looks like everything was still there. Another point in the Sisterhood’s favor. But when it came to Rose Tyler, and specifically, ‘Her’, it was better to be safe than sorry.
“If you are worried for the safety of your friend, don’t be. She is more than safe with us.”
“It's not her safety I’m worried for. You didn’t see how I found her. If she wakes up somewhere unfamiliar, and feels even remotely threatened, I suspect some decidedly unpleasant things might occur.”
“We suspected it as well. She is currently sleeping, and we have kept her in that state until you could awake of your own accord. We thought yours should be the first face she sees when she awakes.”
“Wise decision. How long have we been out?”
“A little more than a week, I should think.”
“That long, huh?”
“These things take time, as well you should know.”
“Fair point. I presume the tea is for the two of us?”
“Yes. Worlds may rise, and worlds may fall, but tea shall remain forever.”
“Sounds like something the Doctor would say.”
“Perhaps he has, or something similar. Since we are no longer in a rush, I thought now might be a good time to hold a good, honest conversation.”
“It would be. But for that, you would have to find a good, honest man to hold it with.”
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And even the most skilled of liars leave nuggets of truth behind their words.”
“Okay, that definitely sounded like you were talking about the Doctor.”
“Yes. But now, let's talk about you.”
I held up a hand. “First, tea.”
She smiled. “Of course.”
One minute later, we were sitting and sipping.
“So, tell me. How is it a Time Lord managed to survive the Moment, much less escape the Doctor’s notice?”
“I didn’t survive it, because I never had to live through it. In fact, up until a few weeks ago, I lived in another reality altogether. One with a good deal more... teeth than this one.”
“Then, I wonder, how did you come to arrive in this one?”
“Purely accidental, I assure you. It’s a very long story that involves a universe-destroying explosion, Cracks in time and space, rebooting all of reality, a long detour through yet another alternate world, but mostly, just being in the wrong place at the right time.”
“A typical day for the Doctor, then.”
“Not so far from being typical for me, either. Like you said, bad Fate.”
“And I should very much like to hear what that Fate has given you up until now.”
“Alright. But I’ll tell you the same thing I told the Doctor; we’ll probably be needing more tea before we’re done.”
“Easily arranged. Carry on.”
So carry on I did.
The entirety of the story I had told the Doctor, I repeated to her, plus what I had found and done in Pete’s World. She never asked how I had known things like the location of the Apple, or what Harry Potter’s life would have been like had I not interfered. I was grateful for that. Lying about things like that would have ‘strained credulity at that’, to quote Barbossa.
But it was inevitable that she would ask how I knew so much of the Doctor’s life, to say nothing of his character.
I was forced to answer her question with one of my own.
“To give some context, there is something I must ask you, and forgive me if it seems rude, but: what do you know of the Hybrid?”
Her cup froze halfway to her lips. “...Not a lot, I confess. Merely the prophecy.”
“Would you mind repeating it?”
“...One day, there will come a creature, born of the two greatest warrior races in the universe, and it will stand in the ruins of Gallifrey.”
“That’s the one. We had a similar prophecy on my world. And in the end, I saw it come to pass. But not in the way everyone expected. How it will play out here, I cannot say for certain, but play out it will. I’ve already seen far too many similarities. And the Doctor will be at the center of it.”
“Was he at the center in your reality as well?”
“Yes. At least my version of him. He tended to avoid our Earth, for obvious reasons, but in the end, I was there with him. In spirit, if not in body. Gallifrey fell to ruin. And at the end, the Hybrid stood atop the rubble.”
“Well, unless a miracle occurs, I very much doubt that will happen here. Gallifrey has already burned. The Doctor saw to that.”
“Oh yes, the Time War raged in our universe as well. And everyone saw the exact same thing that they saw here: Gallifrey, gone. But not in the way they thought. I cannot say more, but you can rest assured, Gallifrey is not lost forever. It will return, Rassilon and all. They have already almost succeeded once. Fortunately, the Doctor was there to stop them. But he will not always be. And when they do, even I don’t know for certain what will happen.”
“The Time War will rage once more.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Not if I have anything to say about it.”
“You, and I think your other half.”
“My better half.”
“Perhaps. And as much as I have enjoyed this, we really should go to Her.”
We continued talking as we made our way through the tunnels.
“So tell me, I know you have a back-door to Gallifrey. Ever thought about checking it?”
“No. Never. There are some questions that don’t need answering.”
“Fair point. Just curious.”
She stopped at a surprisingly modern door recessed into the cave wall.
“She is through here.”
“If there’s anyone else in there, you better get ‘em out before she wakes up. I can honestly say I have no idea what's going to happen, and I don’t say that very often.”
She nodded, and opened the door. On the other side stood three Sisters, all reading from amazingly technical displays.
“Our guest has awoken. It is time to wake the Other. You may leave us.”
The Sisters immediately moves to comply with the High Priestess. Once they had moved, I could clearly see the sleeping form of one Rose Tyler, lying on a rather uncomfortable looking slab. No restraints; that was good.
A brief whirring, and the machines hooked to her began to power down. Once each one shut off completely, I moved to disconnect it as quickly as I could. Tubes and wires were definitely bad things to have anywhere near Her.
In the end, it was only three minutes before She began to stir. Her breathing became much less restful; almost angry sounding. Her fingers began to tap on the sides of Her legs, slowly at first, but building in speed.
And then She just stopped waking up.
She kept breathing, She kept tapping, but She absolutely refused to do anything else.
I am ashamed to say that my mind immediately jumped to Sleeping Beauty, but I just as quickly discarded the notion. This wasn’t just Rose Tyler anymore; and the Bad Wolf had never needed anything but herself to wake up. There must be something else….
Duh duh duh duh.
Duh duh duh duh.
It took mere seconds to charge the defibrillator.
It did, however, take me quite a bit longer to figure out how to route the charge through both hearts. But, I managed. It wasn’t a comfortable position, but it worked.
Her eyes flew open, both glowing gold with fire ...and bored directly into me.
The next thing I knew was Her lips pulling away from mine, leaving behind stars in their wake.
“ Now THAT is a way to wake up. ”
I smiled. “Needed a short circuit, did you?”
“ Something like that. ”
“Then far be it from me to complain. Are the both of you alright?”
“ I’m fine. She is still resting, and probably will be for awhile. ”
“Understood. We should probably move now, cause my right leg is falling asleep, and when it goes, well ...”
“ Of course. ”
Gingerly, I disentangled myself from my perch. Just in time, too; my leg hit the floor and immediately I felt static. That was gonna be a pain for awhile.
She slid off the table on the opposite side, appearing for all the world as if she had just had a ten minute nap, and not a week-long coma.
“ Come along, sweetie. We’ve got places to go, people to meet, things to run from .”
“Oh dear Lord yes to all of the above.”
Our goodbyes were an understandably hurried affair; both of Us wanted nothing more than to hit the ground running. But there was still one more thing Fate decided to throw my way. Not much, when you look at it in comparison with all that had happened recently, but in Time…
It would become the most important thing of all.
“Witcher. I have something for you.”
“You’ve given us plenty already. No need for more.”
“Ah, but this is not from us. This is from another.”
I blinked. “Another.”
“Yes. I told you how at first we did not realize who it was that would be coming here with Miss Tyler. In fact, the only reason we did so is we were told.”
My mind raced through possibilities. “I assume you don’t mean the Doctor, judging by how you’ve left out a name for this... other.”
‘Correct. She did not give her name, but she knew enough that we had no difficulties trusting her. She also said that we would know you were the right person to give this to, if you mentioned one very specific thing.”
“And that was?”
“I wondered why you seemed prepared for that question. Alright, what did this mysterious lady leave for me?”
The High Priestess held out her hand.
In it, lay a glistening jade coin.
“Her exact words were, ‘Toss this to him. He’ll understand.’”
“....Oh, I understand perfectly.”
Toss a coin to your Witcher.
And not just any coin, oh no.
A familiar, intertwined pair of snakes stared up at me.
This was a Gambit coin.
Somehow, someone in this reality knew about both the Witchers, and the Drifter. That meant one of two things: they either knew me from the future, or they knew me from my universe, and had somehow ended up here as well.
Sometimes I hate time travel.
I flipped the coin over.
The odds for knowing me from the future shot up dramatically.
The sigil of the Fallen House of Wolves was etched into the back. Something I knew had never been on a Gambit coin in my home reality.
Whoever had left it obviously knew about Us; the Bad Wolf and I.
Oh, well. Something to ponder later. I had a ride to catch.
“What does it mean, Witcher?”
“It could mean many things. Many things indeed. When I find out which, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“I would be most grateful. Farewell.”
“Catch you on the Flip Side.”
The doors to the TARDIS were open. Rose must have already gone in. I followed suit.
Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.
Recessed bookshelves made a large circle around the console. Above them, stone walls rose in a dome, with buttresses spaced out for support. Behind, a wrought-iron staircase wound up to a door, one that presumably lead to the other rooms. Coffee tables and reading lights took up the remaining space.
The TARDIS now looked like the bunker from Supernatural. Hows that for ironic.
“ ....I don’t like it. ”
“Not enough round things, I’ll give you that. Still, nice atmosphere. And now we don’t have to trudge all that way to sit in front of a fireplace. We’ve got one right here.”
“ Convenient. ”
“Yes. Well now; new TARDIS, new reality, new adventures. How about you go ahead and pick the first one.”
She looked back at me. “ Really? ”
She immediately pulled the view-screen around and started scrolling. After a moment, her finger came to rest. “ Here. ”
I looked at the name. “Persephone. Appropriate. Alright then.”
We both reached out and rested our hands on the lever, our grins the perfect match for each other’s.
“Way down we go.”
“ Allons-y! ”
We threw the lever.
Oh, that noise. That wonderful, beautiful noise. Accompanied by the music it might as well have been.
“Just take those old records from the shelf!
I sit and listen to ‘em by myself!
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul!
I like that Old Time Rock ‘n Roll!”
Seems the TARDIS loved the classics as much as I did.
Chapter 22: 1:22
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“The next time you pick a planet named after a Greek goddess, I am GIBBS-SLAPPING YOU!”
“ YOU’RE the one who said it would be ‘perfectly safe’! YOU said that as long as got in and got out quietly, everything would be great! YOU said that there was absolutely NO WAY to make a wrong turn in a ventilation shaft! ”
“Yes, well it wasn’t a wrong turn, was it! You can’t possibly expect ME to take the blame for a bunch of high-society snobs holding a super-secret meeting in a room that hadn’t been used in years!”
“ Oh yes I can and I WILL! ”
Things had, as you may have guessed, not gone entirely according to plan.
We had landed on Persephone with relatively little trouble. The Serenity had been easy enough to find amongst the jam of ships. After all, how many people do you know that look like Kaylee when she sits on the cargo ramp?
According to the perky engineer, Captain Reynolds, Jayne, and Zoe were out “picking up supplies” (code for getting paid for a job), and the ship wouldn’t be going anywhere for some time. Perfect. That left Us with more than enough Time to cause a great deal of trouble for a great many people that deserved it.
Or Time to walk around and see the sights, whichever Rose preferred. And if our walk took us anywhere near Badger’s base of operations, well, it would just be a fine coincidence, wouldn’t it?
I took care to describe in great detail exactly where I had parked the TARDIS, and left the job of moving it to the hold of the Serenity in Kaylee’s capable hands. Best not to go materializing around on a world where teleportation would draw a lot of uncomfortable questions. After that, it was off to explore.
We had just passed a particularly shady fruit dealer, when Rose finally brought up the subject of the planet’s government.
“ So, there’s two classes, totally separate from each other, yet both depend on the other’s existence to survive? ”
“Something like that.”
“ How is it the richer class can look down on the others so easily, then? ”
“The Alliance supports them. They prefer it when everything is rigid, set in stone. The richer class provides at least some semblance of ‘order’, however they define that. And so they turn the other way whenever something of a questionable nature might happen to anyone who brings attention to themselves as an objection-er.”
“ That’s not right. ”
“No. It isn’t. But anyone who might have had the ability to change things joined up with the Browncoats in the War. And that means they’re probably either dead, in prison, or running like the Captain of the ship we just hired.”
“ We’re not dead. Or in prison. Running, though? That might come after. ”
I smirked. “After what?” (as if I didn’t already know).
“ After We change things. ”
“Well, then. If We’re gonna change anything around here, might I recommend We start with the man inside this building that We just so happened to stop in front of at the perfect moment.”
Her head slowly turned to the warehouse, and then back to me.
“ I hate you. ”
“I know. Shall We?”
“ Do you have a plan? ”
“Nnnope. Making this up as I go along.”
“ Alright then. Lead the way. ”
It wasn’t hard to bypass what little security Badger had. Just a few goons put down for the count, and a bit of jiggery-pokery from my sonic, and we strolled right into Badger’s den (see what I did there?). I did leave what few cameras I saw running. Usually a good idea to let your host know you’re coming.
Needless to say, that made him a little antsy.
Well, either that or the mask. It does that.
“I presume all the dramatics were necessary.’
Classic Mark Shephard.
“Of course. Call it an audition. We have a proposition to make, and from what We hear, you’re the sort of person that respects ability.”
“Naturally. Whenever I see it, that is.”
“Ouch. That hurt. And here I was hoping we could be friends.”
“I don’t do friends. And what could two artists of destruction such as yourselves possibly have that I could want?”
I slowly held up my psychic paper. “Credentials. All completely genuine, all completely functional. They are, however, not for sale. We are.”
He leaned back in his chair. “I’m listening.”
“ We can get through practically any security on the planet, virtual or non. But when it comes to the actual structure, how it all runs, so to speak, we’ve got next to nothing. Comes from being new around here, I’m afraid. We thought that you might be able to point out a worthwhile...project, and provide any useful information you might have, in exchange for a split of the proceeds. ”
“ Forty-sixty. ”
“ Deal. ”
“Excellent. Unfortunately, there’s really only one job around here that I couldn’t easily replace you two for.”
He began sweeping papers off his desk.
“All the high-society types like to keep their money off-world. Understandable, given how many people here would like to get their hands on it. But there’s one group that has to keep their cash here…”
A map of a building complex emerged from under the pile of clutter.
“...is the government.”
I stared. “You want Us. To rob. The government.”
“I know your type well enough. Travels around a lot, enjoys sticking it to those snobbier than you would like. Probably fought for the Browncoats in the war, and spent a good deal of time with intelligence in order to get documents as good as those. Which means that not only are you the ones most used to breaking Alliance systems, but you’re the ones most motivated to do so. Just the right kind of job for you.”
Oh, this was perfect. “You make a fair point. What do We need to know.”
And so it was that an hour later, armed with maps, guard schedules, and an account to deposit the stolen virtual funds in (that would come in real handy later), We found ourselves running as fast as We could down a bunch of seemingly endless corridors. Thank Gallifrey for virtual overlays, because otherwise We would have gotten lost for sure.
I really did have to find a better gun to carry than just the Colt. There were so many times I had the opportunity to light our pursuers up and couldn’t, just because I really didn't want to waste any all-powerful bullets. Shame.
Still, we made it out with barely any injuries apart from a bruise where Rose had landed on top of me after I failed to move out of the way of that ventilation shaft’s exit. Partially my fault, and partially not. There isn’t really a good response to falling out of the ceiling in the middle of quite a lot of not very nice people. Thank Gallifrey that politicians make excellent hostages. Well, they did for about ten seconds. Just long enough to get through the door, and then it was lights out permanently. They wouldn’t be missed. It was pleasing to see Rose had absolutely no problems dealing with Her own blubber-er. I would have to get at least something for Her to defend Herself with as well.
After about eighty left turns interspersed with a Fibonacci sequence of right ones, we made it to our ‘back door’. Whatever or whoever might have noticed our somewhat rapid departure had been taken care of on the way in, whether peacefully or not. The ride back to Badger’s den was relatively short and quiet, all things considering. I took the time to make a change of plans due to what We had ended up dealing with. Things like that required at least some form of response, after all.
Finally, a mere two and a half hours after stepping foot on the planet, we were back in front of Badger. And things were going exactly the way I’d expected them to.
“ What do you mean! We did the job, we get the pay! That’s how it works! ”
“Not, in fact, how it works. At least this time. I was counting on you two to be discreet. And instead, you manage to assassinate two politicians, and get the entirety of the planet’s security force out looking for you ! I simply can’t afford to keep around those who make hashes of things like how you did! There’s no pay, for either of you. Now...get out.”
“I think not.”
Several guns swiveled in our direction. “I think so.”
“Very well, then. Your funeral. Literally.”
“What did you say?”
“Oh, didn’t I mention? That little bank account you set up for the funds? I may, or may not, have traced the entirety of it back to your own accounts. It was just so easy once I realized how simple it was to copy your voice authorization.” For once, my exact Crowley voice match coming in handy. “ And then, We just left all that lovely data just sitting pulled up on the Alliance’s main financial computer that We hacked.. Oops.”
“... WHAT! ”
“As of about, oh, three minutes ago, you just became the most wanted man on the planet. All of your legal assets were frozen, and transferred to the Alliance. Including several nasty viruses I left behind on the trail I so helpfully provided. Viruses that reversed whatever fund transfers they could find before they got shut down, meaning that,” my visor started whirring, “several million Alliance credits just disappeared into thin air right after the investigation into you started, and then reappeared in an account only I can see or access. Hilarious, that.”
“ WHY? WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT?”
“Oh please, you don’t think I recognize a setup when I see one? One where it just so happens that a room your records swore was permanently out of use suddenly became ground zero between a collaboration of two groups of your rivals that you particularly loathe? Tut, tut, Badger. Not very subtle at all. I had planned to just take all the money back that We rightfully stole, and leave you out that, but I really, and I cannot stress this enough, really, dislike being backstabbed. So, a little impromptu justice was served, and I get to walk off richer than you will ever live to be. At least, if the Alliance has anything to say about it.”
“And there’ll be no walking for you, not if I have anything to say about it. Kill them!”
*INSERT LOTS OF GUNS GOING OFF AND DEATH NOISES*
“....Well, that was dramatic. Good to see you, Captain. I take it my payment went through?”
Captain Malcolm Reynolds holstered his pistol. “Every last credit. You didn’t exactly give us much warning.”
“Believe me Captain, you had as much as I did. But where are my manners? Introductions. I’m the Witcher. And the goddess of beauty and destruction to my right is Rose.”
“ Captain. ”
“The lady currently pointing a Mare’s Leg at anything that might decide to be only mostly dead after all is my mate, Zoe. And the absolute unit behind you appropriating whatever he feels like is Jayne.”
A voice sang out from behind me. “ Aw Captain, you know I only take the guns and the ammo. Ain’t nothing else these goons have we need more of .”
“Jayne, your room is already stacked full of guns.” This from Zoe.
I snorted. “That man gets it. I have to ask, though: which of you thought it would be a good idea to shoot Badger in the ...southern area?”
“That’d be me!”
“Right. You get an extra thousand credits just for style points.”
“Aw hell yeah!”
“As grateful as I am for any extra money my crew happens to earn, I would prefer it if any further additions to our funds were made on board my ship.”
“You make a fair point, Captain. The sooner we get out of here, the sooner we can tip off the authorities like any loyal Alliance citizens would, and cash in on that lovely reward I’m sure has already been posted for our dearly departed friend’s whereabouts.”
“He means we split and then tattle to the Alliance about this place to get even more money out of ‘em.”
“Well why didn’t he say so then?”
Zoe sighed. “He did, Jayne. He did.”
“Alright, everybody pack up. Witcher, you and I are gonna lead the way. Zoe, you take Rose in the middle. And Jayne, watch our backs.”
And with that, back out into the city we went.
“I gotta ask, what in tarnation possessed you to double-cross Badger unarmed?”
“Oh, I was armed.” I swung my coat open a little to reveal my holster. “It’s just not a gun I’ve got that much ammo for. I prefer to solve things with a little more style.”
“Not much ammo, huh? How hard is it to find for that antique?”
“Harder than you would believe. Let’s just say the bullets are meant for those who are a little more than human and leave it at that.”
“First time I’ve ever heard ‘Reavers’ called ‘more’ ‘stead of less.”
“I wasn’t talking about Reavers, Captain. Although I suppose it could kill them just fine as well.”
“And I suppose you’re not ‘bout to elaborate beyond that.”
“It’s above your pay grade, Captain. Heck, it’s above mine. Doesn’t mean I don’t trust you; just means there are certain things in the ‘Verse that are never good to learn.”
“You don’t have to tell me; I’ve seen plenty of ‘em.”
“Yes. So I’m told.”
We spent the rest of the journey in silence. I suspected Zoe was asking lots of innocuous questions about exactly where We came from, and Rose would be doing her best to avoid giving a straight answer. Jayne, of course, would be relieving the tension with his snort-inducing commentary, whether he meant it that way or not. Still, I was sure everything going on behind me would be fine. Zoe and Jayne were two people I knew I could rely on, despite never meeting them before in my life. Funny how that works.
All too soon, we found ourselves at our destination. The Serenity, beautiful as ever. And coming down the ramp, I recognized Kaylee, the good doctor (I’m sorry to say I’d forgotten his name), and…..
A kid with red hair that could only belong to one person.
Bollocks. Much farther in the future than I had thought.
“Leaf, I thought I told you to stay with River.”
Leaf. They kriffing named him Leaf. Of course they did.
“But River said I needed to meet the new people!”
One of these days I needed to find Fate and string her up with her own threads.
Oh no. Kids were bad. Kids were potentially catastrophic. If Rose saw him…
“Rose? Rose? Doc, we got an emergency!”
And here he came. “What happened Zoe?”
“I don’t know, she was perfectly fine, and then she saw the ship and just…”
“It’s alright, I’ll take it from here.”
They all swiveled to look at me.
The doctor was the first to object. “Absolutely not! This woman has obviously…”
“THIS woman has obviously had a very understandable reaction after seeing something neither of us had anticipated. I am perfectly aware of what caused it, and bed rest is all she needs.”
“Sir, I don’t care who you are, you can’t tell a doctor not to perform his duty.”
Oh, the irony.
“In point of fact, I tell that to doctors all the time. But that is not what I’m doing now. If you’ll simply help me carry her somewhere she can rest, I’ll explain along the way what happened; as a fellow professional. It is a very personal problem, something I would appreciate not being spread around.”
“...Very well. But I reserve the right to make my own decisions on treatment.”
“I can’t ask for more.”
I could, in fact. But I liked the doc, and left it at that.
“Put your left hand under her head, and your right under her back. I’ve got her legs.”
As I once again carried the unconscious form of Rose Tyler up a staircase, I got the distinct impression that this was going to be a good deal of my life from now on.
“How, how did you know?”
“I'm from his future. I always know. Why on Earth are you wearing that?”
“The Doctor's idea.”
“Of course. His rules of engagement. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
“Have you considered heels?”
“They've taken Amy. And our baby. The Doctor's getting some people together. We're going after her, but he needs you, too.”
“I can't. Not yet, anyway.”
“This is the Battle of Demon's Run. The Doctor's darkest hour. He'll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further, and I can't be with him till the very end.”
“Because this is it. This is the day he finds out who I am.”
“And the Witcher? The Doctor’s looking for him. Whoever he is. How bout him? Does he come?”
“...If the Doctor is looking for the Witcher, then all I can say is God help you all. Because he might, just might, actually find him. ...And I’m not sure he’ll be able to live with what that truly means.”
Chapter 23: 1:23
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“Alright. She’s resting. She’s safe. Now, what on Earth is so important that you are willing to jeopardize someone’s welfare by withholding information.”
“There’s a difference between withholding and appraising doctor. You’re lucky I consider it necessary for you to know at least some of the truth before you go and do something foolish.”
“Hey, I hardly think…”
“Oh shut it. I’m telling you now aren’t I?”
“Fine. Get on with it.”
Deep breath in. This...was not going to be easy.
“Rose has...not had the easiest life. She used to travel around a lot, doing things normal people just can’t do. Saw some stuff She probably shouldn’t have. Made more than a few people angry. Powerful people. And in the end, it all just crashed and burned. Still, She was strong. Built a new life out of the broken pieces. Even had a family. But eventually, some of those people She pissed off found Her. They killed Her family right in front of Her. That by itself was enough to break Her, but they didn’t stop there. They kept Her alive, and...experimented on Her. No sleep, no rest. Just pain. She disconnected from the outside world entirely. Built an entirely new personality on top of Her old one. As protection. One without either mercy or morals, and full of rage and fire. She’d probably still be trapped in Her own mind, if I hadn’t come across Her while finishing off the last of Her captors. I’ve been...trying...to help Her, but I’m afraid healing something like that is beyond me. Beyond anyone. So, all we’ve been doing is...managing, really.”
“So when She thought She saw a young kid, running as if towards Her, while being chased and surrounded by lots of dangerous people…”
“Exactly. We’re lucky all that happened was...this.”
“And what is ‘this’, precisely?”
“I think that, for now at least, She’s fallen back into Her own mind. She should wake up relatively soon. I’m just not sure which version will be the one pulling the strings.”
“So we sedate Her until we know.”
“NO! No. Bad idea. Terrible, in fact. The people that kept Her before tried that. Any reaction we’d get from trying the same would probably be just as bad, if not worse. Just...try and keep anyone with visible weapons out, and we should be fine.”
“ She’s remembering. ”
I swiveled to face the doorway. That voice belonged to one of the most tortured souls I knew. Funny; her story and Rose’s were not so different. Maybe their similarities would give people enough pause to leave off the awkward questions.
At the very least, maybe she would be someone Rose could talk to.
“ She’s seeing things...so long ago. ”
“River, we’ve talked about this…”
I held up my hand. “No, no. It’s fine. I’d like to hear what she has to say.”
And I meant it. If there was anyone capable of seeing the truth of things, it was River Tam.
“ So long...and so very far away. Dreams of an Earth-That-Once-Was. ”
“ Her’s. But not yours. ”
She tilted her head.
“ Two sides of a coin. You once were two, but now you’re one. And so you’ll be when all is done. Mile after mile; above, beneath. One has a smile, and one has teeth. The wolves that howl in forests dead will soon be joined by Gray and Red. Fire, and rage, and ice, and pain. And then it ends. Who’ll stop the rain? ”
“Alright River. That’s enough for now.”
“By all means, don’t make her stop on my account. I’m rather enjoying this.”
“ ...Thank you. You’re not a...kind..man. But you don’t act like it. I think. You’re like Her, aren’t you? ”
“ And She’s like me. But I’m not like you, and neither is She. Why? Why isn’t there anyone like you? ”
“...I like to think it’s because it’s very hard to be like me without either failing...or falling.”
“ You fell. And yet you’re still you. ”
“Yes. I got a second chance. I intend to make the most of it.”
“ You will. But not before you make the least of it. It was nice to meet you, Mr. Witcher. ”
“Just Witcher. Friends don’t need fancy names for each other, after all. It was a pleasure to meet you as well, Miss River Tam.”
“ Friends. I think I like that. ”
A groan from the table behind me.
“...Witcher? What happened?”
I suppressed a hiss of pain as I realized Bad Wolf was now using Her back door to my mind. This was definitely not Her, then.
“After which incident are we referring to?”
“...Karn. Or...the mindscape? Still a bit fuzzy on that.”
“Understandable. And to answer your question, everything worked out fine. The Sisters’ helped us both, we had some lovely tea, you picked out a planet, we arrived, managed to rob both the local government and one of the biggest local gang bosses, got away thanks to some lovely people, whose ship we are now paying passengers on, and if we’re not already in space, we should be soon.”
“...That bit doesn't sound right.”
“The bit about the tea.”
“Oh, that’s right. You weren’t there for the tea. Sorry about that. No Jammie Dodgers, but it was Karn after all.”
“...I passed out, didn’t I?”
“Well, that’s one way of putting it.”
“That means this is the...medical room? Which means you..” she turned to face Simon (that was his name!), “must be the doctor.”
“Well there’s certainly nothing wrong with her critical thinking. Simon Tam.”
“Rose Tyler. And who might you be?”
I watched as their eyes met. A flash of gold. From both Rose and River. That was troubling.
“ ...River. I’m Simon’s sister.”
A very long, awkward silence followed, neither one of them willing to drop the other’s gaze.
“...Witcher, I think she’s like me.”
I sighed “Yes, she’s already said as much Rose.”
“No, I mean she’s like ME .”
“...Oh, bollocks. You’re telling me THAT’S what that was? Ohhhhhh, just wait ‘til I get my hands on Fate. I’m gonna force feed her her own ledger.”
“What? What’s going on?”
“Doctor, I understand if you don’t want to answer this question, but it is vitally important that you do so honestly. Because if what I think has happened, has happened, then we may have a very, very big problem on our hands. Do you understand?”
“Ah, ah, ah, ah. Now, the question: did River ever attend any government-run facility?”
I already knew she did, of course. But I needed to know more about it.
“..Yes. Yes she did. How did you…
“Know? It’s my job. Next question what was the name of this place?”
“...The Academy. Just...the Academy.”
“Where was it?”
“Capital City. On Osiris.”
“Do you know who ran it?
“...The Headmaster was a man named...Borusa, I think.”
“Oh bollocks. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.”
“Why? Does that mean something?”
“It means, my dear doctor, that I not only know exactly what happened to your sister, but more importantly, I know why. And where there’s one rat, there’s always more. Looks like we’re gonna be catching a ride to Osiris sooner rather than later.”
“Witcher? Who’s Borusa?”
“A not very nice Time Lord that was supposed to be dead a very long time ago. A man obsessed with the continued survival of his race, at all costs.”
“Time Lord? His race? I don’t understand!”
“You’re not meant to, doctor. That comes later. Come on. We’re going to see the Captain, right now.”
It was at that very moment that Fate decided to give another yank on her many strings. For what should come flying through the door at that very minute, followed by the entirety of the rest of Serenity’s crew?
Why, a very familiar glowing blue message cube, of course!
“Looks like the Captain decided to come see us.”
“Yes, I can see that, thank you Doctor Obvious.”
“Somebody stop that blasted thing!”
“It’s already stopped, Jayne!”
“And I, for one, would like to know not only why, but how the hell it got on my ship in the first place.”
“Ah. Sorry. But I very much suspect it was, in fact, looking for me.”
The glares I received could have frozen Hell.
It was then the cube decided to spit out its apparently emergency-worthy message.
The Eleventh Doctor's voice cut the air. "Hello, Witcher. At least, really hoping it's you. This was the last thing I could think of to reach you. You said I left her. You're right, of course. And now, I need your help. Because they've taken her. They've taken Amy. And I promised myself I'd never leave anyone ever again. I should have listened to you earlier. Demon's Run. That's where she is. Where she was taken. I'm sending you the coordinates. And just this once, I want you to do what you're good at. If there's shooting, shoot back. If there's killing...burn them. Burn them all. See you in Glocca Morra."
I sighed. It never rains, but it pours.
Chapter 24: 1:24
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“Aliens. You’re tellin’ us there’s aliens. Real. Life. Aliens.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“...God dammit ! Do you know how annoying it is to lose a bet to Kaylee ? I’m never gonna hear the end of it.”
“...You’re telling me, that you and Kaylee, had a bet, on whether or not aliens were real.”
“What, like we had better things to bet on?”
“He’s got a point, Captain.”
Mal sighed. “I don’t even want to know what it is exactly you just lost.”
“Well, you see…”
“Jayne, I said I didn’t want to know.”
Rose stifled a snort. Most of the rest of the crew was trying to hide grins as well.
“So, you all believe me then?”
“Managed to bankrupt both the local government and Badger, got away without a mark on your name, which, incidentally, I tried to look up, only to find it didn't exist, not restricted, non-existent, and just had a floating cube somehow magically appear on board a space-bound ship with a message meant specifically for you? I’m gonna go with aliens or wizards. Neither of which concerns me all that much. What does concern me, is the mess of words that little glowy boy just spit out. Demon’s Run? Please tell me that’s a clever name and has nothing to do with actual demons.”
“Ironically, it's the exact opposite. Base of operations for a religious group called The Silence. Bunch of very nasty people, humans and aliens alike. But luckily, very, very predictable.”
“They have only one belief. That there is a Question. The oldest Question in the universe, hidden in plain sight. And no matter the cost, no matter the price, that Question must never be answered.”
“So fanatics then.”
“On that one topic, yes.”
“You fought ‘em before?”
“No. That was always the Doctor’s job.”
“The man that sent the message.”
“But now he’s asking for you to fight ‘em.”
“It would appear so. Which is good news for you and your crew, Captain.”
“Two reasons: one, your ship is about to get a whole lot of free undetectable alien upgrades. And two, you all just got a two-hundred percent pay raise. Cause I’m definitely gonna need the whole lot of you for this job.”
“Either make it three-hundred percent, or start explaining exactly how dangerous this things’ gonna be. I don’t care to get my crew caught up in something that’s ‘above our pay grade’.”
“How about four-hundred percent, and an explanation?”
“When we get to Demon’s Run, you all do exactly as I say. That means you shoot who I tell you to, and no questions asked about how we get to where we’re going.”
“Deal. Start explaining.”
“Miss Zoe, if you would be so kind as to go and fetch Kaylee? We’re gonna need her for this next bit. Simon, I would appreciate it if you started putting together what you need to treat sword wounds. Captain, I’m gonna need your permission to start running some connections from that box sitting in your cargo hold throughout the rest of the ship. River, or whoever’s the best pilot, is gonna need a crash course in flying on TARDIS controls.”
“What the hell’s a TARDIS?”
“Something above your pay-grade, Jayne. Now, I’m gonna hook the cloaking systems of my TARDIS up to the Serenity. The hard part of will be making sure I don’t touch anything too important, hence why I need Kaylee. River will then fly us through a very complicated shortcut to the Run, where we will then dock and wait. Once I give the signal, the Captain, Zoe, and Simon will board and make your way to the largest cluster of life-signs. What you’ll be running into is a subgroup of the Silence called the Headless Monks. Dress all in red robes with the hoods pulled up. Needless to say, you can’t headshot ‘em. Chest or legs. They’re very fond of using double-sided swords, hence why the good doctor will be prepared for cuts and stabs. They should be the only hostiles you’ll encounter. Put ‘em all down, quick as you can. Save all those you find not dressed in red. Once everyone’s either dead or rescued, we pack up, and leisurely make our way off back through the shortcut, hopefully with some new passengers. Any questions?”
“Yeah, what the hell am I supposed to do while you all do the fun stuff?”
“My sincere apologies, Jayne. I have two very important jobs for you. While we’re waiting for the opportune moment, you are gonna make your way around on the outside of the Run with a spacesuit and the absolute biggest gun you have, which I intend to upgrade as well to make even bigger booms. When I give the signal, consider all transports trying to leave as enemy targets. Take as many out as you can. Each one you get is another thousand credits on your pay. Easy money, considering they’re not gonna be able to shoot back.”
“I’m liking you more and more by the minute.”
“Thanks. Just one more thing: do you happen to have any spare revolvers?”
“Tons of ‘em.”
“Good. Cause I’m gonna need one.”
“A Rhino. You have, an honest-to-goodness, Chiappa Rhino.”
“I know, right? You know how hard it is to get your hands on antiques like that? Can’t use it, cause of the flash burns, but the thing just looks cool.”
“Yeah, well now it’s about to shoot cool as well.”
Just the very fact that I had happened to dig up a revolver chambered in 9mm was lucky enough, but for it to be the closest to a replica of the infamous Last Word hand-cannon as well? Destiny (see what I did there) certainly loved her irony.
I slid six of my Abstergo-appropriated, moon-clipped laser cartridges into the cylinder. Perfect fit.
“Voila. The done, she is tricked. One infinitely firing laser-revolver to go.”
“...Oh, I gotta get me one of those.”
“Here. Eight more for you, whenever you find a gun that can take ‘em.”
“Aw hell yeah. Now, you said something about upgrading..” he hauled an absolutely massive case into sight, “this bad boy?”
“...Jayne. Just where did you get ahold of a Carl Gustav recoil-less rifle?”
Rifle in this case was a vast understatement. Things could bust bunkers that were under the bunker they just busted. And with HEAT rounds, let’s just say whoever you aimed one at was gonna have a very bad day.
“What, you thought all we smuggled was just mildly illegal?”
“...Fair point. I’m guessing however that ammo was a bit hard to come by?”
“ You could say that.”
“Hmm. Let’s fix that. I’ve got an idea.”
“You gave Jayne an infinitely firing rocket launcher.”
“No Captain, try and keep up. He already had the launcher. I just gave him some indestructible ammo that will fly for far longer than normal, with an attached teleportation system that puts the missile right back in the tube after it hits its target, so you can send it right back out again. So, instead of him having just ten shells, he now has the equivalent of around a thousand. Also, you might want to keep Jayne away from the shepherd. He made some passing remarks about roping him into hitching the pair of us, and I’m pretty sure Rose would have some things to say on that subject.”
“Wouldn’t she just. Alright, we’re standing in front of your...TARDIS. And I’m failing to see how you managed to fit cloaking technology inside that little bitty amount of space.”
“I beg your pardon?”
I snapped my fingers, and the doors swung open.
“I fit cloaking technology into this much bigger amount of space.”
“ It’s bigger on the inside. ”
“Yeppppppp. Love it when they say that.”
“But Captain, she’s so beautiful!”
“ Yes. She. What else would you call a ship with this much personality? ”
*Bu-Wheep* (Damn straight).
“SQUEEEE! Captain, she talks!”
“Yes. And she does quite a bit more than that. This is the TARDIS. Time and Relative Dimension in Space. The most powerful ship in the universe. And it’s mine.”
“...I’m confused. If you have a ship, why’d you ship out on ours?”
“Bit conspicuous. The Old Girl doesn’t exactly have the most subtle method of travel. Appearing and disappearing right in front of people usually has a lot of people questioning their religion. And that’s attention you really don’t need when moving around someplace like Alliance space. But now, we can appear and disappear as much as we like.”
But you still need Serenity why, exactly? We could all just pile onto your ship and fly to this Demon’s Run place.”
“We could. But there are certain people on board the Run I would really appreciate not knowing I have a TARDIS, and besides, it just means you get a free cloaking system out of the deal. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Captain.”
“Fine. How long to rig up the system?”
“Not long. Especially with Kaylee’s help.”
“ She’s enjoying this. Almost like an...adrenaline rush? She says she loves it whenever you pick up new strays. ”
“Aaaaaand of course she talks to you.”
“SQUEEEEE! Wait, strays? What’s she mean strays? Do you keep pets? Do you have a dog?”
“ She says she did in fact used to have a dog. ”
“SQUEEEE! Puppies on a spaceship!”
I sighed. “Sorry Captain. Looks like it's gonna take a lot longer than I thought.”
“Are you sure you’ve got it River?”
“ Yes. The Old Girl was quite specific about how to fly her. ”
“Good. Just follow the coordinates, and we should be good.”
“... Why didn’t you say you travel in time too ?”
A sigh slipped out. “Of course she’d tell you that. The thing is, people...tend to think time travel is there for them to fix whatever went wrong in their life. Fix your job, fix your school, fix your war. It’s not something most people should ever have to wrestle with.”
“ You’re trying to fix Demon’s Run, though. Aren’t you? I don’t think it happened like this before. ”
“...No, no it didn’t. But I’m a Time Lord. Fixing things is my job. And the Doctor’s too, to an extent. I can’t change everything about today. But maybe, I can change just one thing. And sometimes, that’s all you need.”
“ ...Am I a Time Lord too? ”
“Not completely sure. You can talk to the TARDIS, and Rose can see that you’re like Us. So at the very least, you’re part Time Lord. We can check later, if you’d like.”
“ ...I would. ”
“Alright. Incidentally, how long ago was it for you? The Academy, I mean.”
“ ...Six years. ”
“And you haven’t aged a day since then, have you?
“ ...No. ”
“That’s all I was wondering. Thank you. Just one more thing. After we dock, would you mind keeping Rose company? I was thinking, maybe...you...can help her more than me.”
“ ...I’ll try. ”
“Thank you, once again.”
“We ready to go up here?”
I swiveled to face the bridge door. “Whenever you’re ready Captain.”
“You heard the man, River.” I smiled. “Punch away.”
Jayne’s screaming was totally worth it.
Chapter 25: 1:25
I own nothing. Least of all this.
The conquerors of Demons Run turned to look at the light that had suddenly appeared around the TARDIS.
Amy was the first to react. “What's that?”
Anxiety crept into Vastra’s voice. “A force field.”
A sigh from Lorna. “And those are the doors locking.”
“ Apparently we're not leaving.”
Rory raised his sword. “Is that the Monks?”
Horror crossed Dorium’s face as he realized what the voices that were all around them were saying. “ Oh, dear God. That's the attack prayer.”
Rory began to move. “Quick, come with me.”
“ I'm trying to seal off this area of the lighting grid!”
“ This is where we'll make our stand. Clear lines of sight on all approaches.”
“Rory, no offence to the others, but you let them all die first, okay?”
“You're so Scottish.”
“ Centurion, you're needed!”
Lorna began to look around. “There should be some plasma pistols somewhere. They left everything.”
“ Then find them, boy!”
“ She's definitely a girl.”
Exasperated sounds from Jenny. “Oh, stop it!”
“We don't have to fight them. I'm friends with the Monks. They know me.”
“Yeah, and they know you just sold them out to the Doctor.”
“Oh, they'll understand it's only me. Only silly old me. You understand, don't you?”
“ Mister Maldovar, get back here!”
“ Arm yourself, fool!”
“ Mister Maldovar?”
And Dorium’s now headless body returned, followed by two Monks.
“ The child. At all costs, protect the child!”
The two Monks slumped lifelessly to the ground.
The group turns towards the sound of the gunshots.
“Well, well, well. Looks like we’re about to fight a bunch of fanatics with swords who think it's a good idea to go round kidnapping children. What’s that make us, Zoe?”
“Big damn heroes, sir.”
“Ain’t we just.”
I watched as the exchange played out on my TARDIS’ screen.
The Doctor was doing a very good impersonation of a tiger, what with all the growling. “A child is not a weapon!”
Madame Kovarian grinned. “Oh, give us time. She can be. She will be.”
“Except you've already lost her, and I swear I will never let you anywhere near her again.”
Time for me to step in.
“Oh, Doctor. Fooling you once was a joy, but fooling you twice the same way? It's a privilege.”
I punched the button.
Instantly the screen now displayed a split view, my face right next to Kovarian.
“Ah, but that’s the thing isn’t it? You put all this work and effort into fooling the Doctor, well done on that by the way, but I’m afraid that in doing so you forgot one minor detail that is about to become a great big pain in your neck.”
And for one brief moment, the leader of the Silence was thrown off her rhythm.
“You didn’t put any effort into fooling anyone else.”
Kovarian’s voice returned. “And here I was thinking the Doctor had finally run out of friends. Tell me, why should I care whether another pathetic hanger-on should have noticed what the Doctor did not.”
“Oh, you probably shouldn’t. That is, if I was a hanger-on. But what I actually am, who I am...is someone who is already making your life extremely difficult.”
An explosion shook the background of the Doctor’s signal.
“Oh dear. Looks like Colonel Run-Away didn’t run fast enough. Pity. At least you can save on his funeral.”
“It was so thoughtful of you to take that calculated risk with buying Dorium’s security. You thought the Doctor would be the only person to go digging around, and so you left the door wide open for me to slip into your back doors and kill all your transports dead in the water. And I’m paying a very good friend of mine a thousand a head for each one he gets.”
Yet another boom.
“No. No. Stop! Whoever you are, stop! You’re a friend of the Doctor! You don’t kill people who’ve already surrendered!”
“Oh yes I do. Especially if they never surrendered to me.”
“What have you done.”
“Finally, the man of the hour speaks!”
“What. Have. You. Done.”
“Oh, you know. Cleaned up as much of your mess as I could. You’re welcome. You did say to burn them, after all. But I’m afraid there’s still some things coming I can’t change. For the both of you. For you, Doctor, the knowledge that this is what happens when you try to do my job for me. And calling me in to fix it will always end with a great deal more blood than you care for. For you, Kovarian, the knowledge that the only reason you aren’t already dead is because I’ve seen the future. And you have no place in it. You shouldn’t have made the Doctor desperate enough to call another Time Lord for help.”
“What, you thought we were all on Gallifrey when it went schwoop? Sorry to disappoint.”
“Nope. Guess again.”
“Seriously? With this hairdo?”
“Oh, come on. I look nothing like Timothy Dalton!”
“The Witcher. His name’s...the Witcher.”
“You just suck the fun right out of everything, don’t you Doc?”
“No. No, no, no…”
“Oh. So, you’ve heard of me then. Honestly, wasn't expecting that. I was just playing it up for laughs.”
“You’re with HIM? YOU HATE HIM!”
“Okay, hate’s kinda a strong word, I feel we got this whole ‘mutual respect’ thing going…”
“YOU PROMISED! YOU SAID YOU WOULD DO ALL IN YOUR POWER TO STOP…”
Her mouth clicked shut.
“Almost made a slip up there, didn’t you? Still, I can guess what you were gonna say. I do work in the future, after all. And let me assure you, Madame Kovarian, I whatever promises I may have made in that future, still hold here. I just see more of the big picture than either of you. Now, off you both pop. Doctor, you have a party to get to. And Madame, you have a lot of running to get started on. Catch you both on the Flip Side.”
I cut the connection.
There was still work to be done, after all.
“Demons run when a good man goes to war. Night will fall and drown the sun, when a good man goes to war. Friendship dies and true love lies, night will fall and the dark will rise, when a good man goes to war. Demons run, but count the cost. The battle's won, but the child is lost.”
“Amy, she's not real! Melody, she's a Flesh avatar. Amy!”
“...Yeah, we know.”
Carnage. All the monks lie dead, some by sword, and some by bullet.
“ It's strange. I have often dreamed of dying in combat. I'm not enjoying it as much as I'd hoped.”
“Come on, Strax. Don't give up.”
“ It's all right. I've had a good life. I'm nearly twelve.”
“Listen to me. You'll be back on your feet in no time. Especially if Doctor Tam has anything to say about it. You're a warrior.”
“Rory, I'm a nurse.”
Jenny and Zoe were doing their best to comfort Amy. So far, they weren’t succeeding.
“So they took her anyway. All this was for nothing.”
“Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that. Ain’t nothing in the Verse ever for nothing. We just...ain’t seen the something yet.”
“...I am so sorry.”
Jenny tried to hold Amy back. “Amy, it's not his fault.”
“I know. I know.”
“ Doctor, there's someone who wants to speak to you. Her name is Lorna. She came to warn us.”
Captain Reynolds sat beside a wounded Lorna Bucket. “You must be the Doctor.”
“I’ve done what I can for her. But I ain’t seen too many wounds like this. Any, in fact. Best say whatever you want to say quick.”
Slowly, he knelt by her side. “Hey. Hello.”
“You helped my friends. Thank you.”
“I met you once, in the Gamma Forests. You don't remember me.”
“Hey, of course I remember. I remember everyone. Hey, we ran, you and me. Didn't we run, Lorna?”
She slumped back.
Mal ran his fingers over her wrist. “She’s just unconscious. Should be fine ‘til we get her back to the med bay.”
The Doctor rose, and backed away. “Who was she?”
“I don't know, but she was very brave.”
“They're always brave. They're always...brave.”
“So, what now? They'd almost certainly have taken her to Earth. Raise her in the correct environment.”
“Yes, they did. And it's already too late.”
“You're giving up? You never do that.”
“Yeah, and don't you sometimes wish I did?”
“I see a bad moon rising!
I see trouble on the way!
I see earthquakes and lightning!
I see bad times today!
Don’t go round tonight! It’s bound to take your life!
There’s a bad moon on the rise!”
I stopped dancing. “Oops. Sorry. Too soon?”
“You. You. What the…”
“Ah, ah, ah, Doctor. There’s someone else who wants to say hello first.”
“Well then, soldier. How goes the day?”
Trust River Song to be theatrical.
“Where the hell have you been? Every time you've asked, I have been there. Where the hell were you today?”
“I couldn't have prevented this.”
“And neither could I.”
“You, either one of you, could have tried!
“And so, my love, could you. I know you're not alright. But hold tight, Amy, because you're going to be.”
“You think I wanted this? I didn't do this. This, this wasn't me!”
“This was exactly you. All this. All of it. You make them so afraid. When you began, all those years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you'd become this? The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name. Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forests, the word Doctor means mighty warrior. How far you've come. And now they've taken a child, the child of your best friends, and they're going to turn her into a weapon just to bring you down. And all this, my love, in fear of you.”
“You got too big, Doctor. Big is my thing. Fear as well. But they’ve feared you for a long time now. Ever since the Sycorax, I should think. And now, it's caught up with you. Because they look at you now, and see a man willing to do anything to save those he has lost.”
“THEN THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE TAKEN THEM FROM ME!”
“And there...is the truth of you, Doctor. Other people shouldn’t. But never you. Never you. You yourself said good men don’t need rules. Did you really think you could get away with pretending to be one, knowing you’ve done what you’ve done? No. No more.”
“...No more. You. I know who you are, now. You’ve told me, in your story, and all the little spoilers you keep dropping. And it terrifies me. But you…” he turned back to River, “Who are you?”
“...Oh look, your cot. Haven't seen that in a very long while.”
“No, no, you tell me. Tell me who you are.”
“I am telling you. Can't you read?”
“But, but that means…”
“I'm afraid it does.”
“Ooo. But you and I, we, we, we, er..”
“...How do I look?”
“I'd better be.”
“Yes, you'd better be.”
“Vastra and Jenny, till the next time. Rory and Amy, I know where to find your daughter, and on my life, she will be safe. River, Witcher, get them all home.
“No! Where are you going?”
Down came the force-field, and into the TARDIS went the Doctor.
VWHOOOOOSH. VWHOOOOOSH. VWHOOOOOSH.
“Where's he going and what did you tell him?”
River held up her hands. “Amy, you have to stay calm.”
A gun appeared in Amy’s hand. “Tell me what you told the Doctor.”
“Amy, no. Stop it!”
“It's okay, Rory. She's fine. She's good. It's the Tardis translation matrix. It takes a while to kick in with the written word. You have to concentrate.”
A pause. Then up comes the gun barrel again. “I still can't read it.”
“It's because it's Gallifreyan and doesn't translate. But this will.”
The prayer leaf.
“It's your daughter's name in the language of the Forest.”
“I know my daughter's name.”
“Except they don't have a word for Pond, because the only water in the forest is the River. The Doctor will find your daughter, and he will care for her whatever it takes. And I know that. It's me. I'm Melody. I'm your daughter.”
“And him?” Rory pointed in my direction. “Who’s he?”
“...I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.”
“No, now it’s my turn to do the demanding. Who is the Witcher? Who. Is. He.”
“...I can only tell you who the Doctor thinks he is.”
Oh this was gonna be good.
“Once, there was a version of the Doctor. One who saw something...truly terrible. Lost someone everyone he ever cared about. And when the Doctor travels alone for too long...bad things happen. He made the laws of Time his own, to do with as he wanted. Save who he wanted. Lost the name of the Doctor. And the only thing that stopped him was a single moment where one of the people he saved took her own life when she learned what he had done.”
The Time Lord Victorious, then.
“But the Doctor still wonders. What would have happened if he had gone all the way? What kind of universe might we live in? What new name might he have chosen? And you…” she pointed to me, “have answered that question for him, Witcher.”
“I do what I must. For all other’s good but my own.”
“Yes. Because you are not a good man; you are a Righteous One.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“A Wolf is only Righteous because it has no soul. The same could be said of you.”
“Don’t I know it.”
“A Wolf. She said there were wolves....”
“Idris. The...TARDIS. She said the only water in the forest was the river...and the wolves of the forest were howling.”
Wolves again. White, Bad, Gray, Red.
“And so they did. The White Wolf, and his pack. And next time, there will be more.”
“Fair point. Alright. Let’s run up topsails and clear up this mess. We’ve got a ride to catch and a substantially richer skeet-shooter to retrieve.”
Chapter 26: 1:26
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Amy and Rory were still avoiding me. I couldn’t really blame them. They’d seen the Doctor’s dark side up close and personal in the form of the Dream Lord, and it made sense they’d both prefer not to see it again. Even if that was about as far from me as you could get.
Strax and Jayne had gotten along like an entire city on fire. I had finally had to step in after a certain card game involving live grenades and prodigious amounts of alcohol. It had taken a great deal of convincing for Strax to stay with Madame Vastra and Jenny, but he had finally given up when I made it perfectly clear exactly why humanity finding out about aliens in the time of the Alliance was a very bad idea. He still grumbled vigorously, and only the promise of some jelly sherbet fancies managed to tone it down to a manageable level.
Rose had been gone when we rolled Lorna into the med bay. It looked like Bad Wolf was back, for now at least. River must have done at least some good. I found Her standing in front of the TARDIS controls.
“Is he gone?”
“Yes. But he’ll be back. I know where he’s going, after all.”
I turned. “I don’t recall telling you to listen in on my private conversations, Doctor Song.”
“Well that’s probably because you didn’t. I can see you've redecorated."
"The Old Girl's idea. It's kinda growing on me."
"Not enough round things."
"That's what I said."
"Yes. Now, it may have slipped the Doctor’s mind, but I distinctly remember hearing about both a name that wasn’t enough, and a great deal more wolves than just the one.”
“So Amy and Rory told you, huh.”
“Something like that. Is She here?”
“You’re looking at Her.”
“No, no, she was blonde. He was quite specific about that.”
“Some of us can afford the upgrade.”
I groaned. “Oh sure, rub it in again why don’t you. The Doctor tries for over a thousand years, and me for I’ve forgotten how long, and the both of you got it on practically the first go. Bloody gingers.”
“But..but that means…”
“Bad Wolf, at your service. And who might you be?”
“You don’t know me?”
“Your face, yes. I’ve seen it before, in other times and places. Your name, I’m afraid not.”
“...Song...Doctor River Song.”
“Two Rivers. That’s gonna be confusing for awhile.”
“Not too long, though. Just a few more stops, then we can get back to dealing with what we were originally going to before that blasted cube showed up.”
“I’m sorry, can we go back to the part where the Bad Wolf is currently alive and well, and apparently capable of regeneration, while Rose Tyler is nowhere to be found?”
“Oh, she’s here, don’t worry. We came to a mutually satisfactory arrangement, you might say. Let’s just say we’re ‘roommates’, and leave it at that.”
I snorted. “She’s not the only one to just reappear out of thin air, you know. Ironically enough, we were just on our way to handle another recently re-emerged old...acquaintance, of the Doctor’s when his message came through.”
“Who is it?”
“Has the Doctor ever mentioned a Time Lord named Borusa?”
“Oh yes. Apparently, he’s gotten it into his head that rebuilding Gallifrey can only be accomplished with...distasteful genetic experiments.”
Trust the other River to show up at exactly the right time.
“I know, because he did it to me.”
“...I’m taking a wild guess that this is the other River?”
“Got it in one.”
“Another one like Us. More like You, and less like Her.”
“Just let her finish.”
“You said they would either fail, or fall. She’s one of the ones who failed.”
“Yes. You promised me you would check.”
“Of course. Would you prefer it if they left, or ....”
“They can stay. They need to See as well.”
“Alright then. Just stick your fingers in the telepathic interface, and we should be good to go."
She slowly complied.
“Are you sure you don’t want your brother in here?”
“He wouldn’t understand. Couldn’t.”
“Even if you aren’t a full Time Lord, he’ll still deserve to know.”
“I’ll tell him. At the opportune moment.”
Thirty seconds later, and we had our answer.
“Full change in everything except the brain. Looks like a lot was deleted to make sure the Time Lord consciousness wouldn’t burn you out. I could try and get rid of some of the programming, but I wouldn’t even know how to begin replacing it. You got lucky.”
She slid her fingers out of the interface.
“You said you were going after the people that did this. Can I come?”
“...I don’t know. Borusa might have some backup programming in there that lets him gain control, not to mention how either your brother or the Captain feels about it. Tell you what; you bring it up with them, and if they say yes, you can come. You’ve got a stake in this as well, after all.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“I’m coming too.”
“I didn’t ask, Doctor Song.”
“Neither did I. If someone’s out there making people into Time Lords as their own personal army, then we need to hit them with everything we have.”
“...Okay. Fair warning, we’re probably gonna have to split up into teams of two. Borusa’s never been good at multitasking.”
“I’ll go with Doctor Song.”
“You sure about that, River?”
“Alright. Looks like it’s me and Rose. We’ll work the rest out later. For now, we’ve got some people to get home.”
Doctor Song turned to leave, and then paused. “I know the Doctor’s probably asked you this before, but I have to as well: how much do you know? About what’s coming?”
“...Too much. The astronaut in the lake, the crash in Berlin, Jim the Fish…just, too much.”
“Are you going to try and change it?”
“...No. I did enough of that today. I’m not the judge; I’m just the executioner.”
“Good. Because I wouldn’t rewrite those times, not for anything in the world.”
She left. Probably to calm Amy and Rory down. Heaven knows they needed it.
"Witcher, you never mentioned exactly who she was."
"Oh didn't I? So sorry. She's the Doctor's wife."
Well that did the trick.
"He forgot me then."
"He forgets everything eventually. He doesn't like endings."
Captain Reynolds slipped into the room. “We’re all set, Witcher. Miss Lorna’s all stitched up, and the potato man is getting antsy. Let’s blow this joint.”
“As you wish.”
Up came the coordinates for Victorian London.
“Punch it, River.”
“...As entertaining as Jayne’s screams are Captain, I'd appreciate it if you shut the door. Looks like we’ve got another job for you. One that involves a bit of payback for some of your crew.”
Chapter 27: 1:27
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“No. Absolutely not.”
Rose and River had abandoned me, probably to tag-team Simon into letting his sister go. Which left me all on my own to convince the Captain to take the job. Typical.
“In the last 24 hours, we found out aliens exist, and that they’re capable of punching holes in space clear to the other side of the galaxy. We then traveled through one of those blasted holes, fought off a bunch of psycho sword monks without heads, and became a taxi service for a bunch of miscreants that make us look respectable. And we’re done. The money was nice, but we’re not fighting anymore beings. Not today. We need some downtime.”
“Fair enough. How about I propose an alternative: take a paid vacation. All on me. Fix up Serenity, try out your new cloaking systems, knock about wherever you like. All expenses paid.”
“You let me borrow whoever wants to come along. Same pay rates as before, same vacation offer. You just leave it up to them which one they want to take. And I’ll bring them back when we’re done, safe and sound.”
“Can you guarantee that?”
“I could answer that existentially, but all I’m gonna say is I’ll do my best.”
“...Let me sit on it. We still got a few more stops to make, right? I’ll give you an answer when we’re all done. Deal?”
“Good. Oh, and you might want to head up to the med-bay. Last I heard, Miss Lorna was asking for you.”
“Huh. Alright. I’ll be along in a bit.”
He nodded, and sauntered away, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I admit, I was curious to know what Miss Lorna Bucket could possibly want with me. The real question for me, was whether or not my curiosity was enough to justify the awkward conversation I would have to endure to get to her?
Because, on my view-screen, I could clearly see the assembled Ponds, plus Rose, standing in the cargo bay. Right in front of the TARDIS doors. Obviously waiting for me. I sighed. Oh well. Might as well get on with it.
I stepped out.
It came as no surprise that Amy was the first one to speak.
“She’s told us. All of it.”
“All of it is quite a lot. You’re gonna have to be more specific.”
“The Templars. Abstergo. What you did to rescue her.”
“They deserved to know.”
“Well then, far be it from me to argue with the boss. So, now you know, can we skip to the part where you yell at me for my lack of morals and say I’ve gone completely off the rails?”
“...Might I ask why?”
“Well, to go off the rails, you would have to be on them to begin with.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Last Centurion, the world’s greatest humorist!”
“What Rory was trying to say, is...we know you’re not the Doctor. You’re from somewhere a lot...darker. And we haven’t got the right to judge someone whose life we don’t know anything about. So, all we’re gonna say, is you may feel it’s still your job to do what you used to do. Make the choices you used to make. But this world has the Doctor. It’s not all on you anymore. You can...find peace. You’ve got a TARDIS; use it! See the universe. Make memories. Good ones. And let the Doctor do his job.”
“Yes. Cause that worked out so well today.”
In hindsight, I probably deserved that slap.
“Blimey. Always the gingers.”
“You, shut up. What he meant to say was yes; yes you have the Doctor. But today is what happens when the Doctor has a personal stake in his choices. And every now and then, even the Doctor needs someone to make the hard decisions for him. Witcher’s told me about the Star Whale, Amy. What if you hadn’t been there that day? Would he have still been the Doctor if if he had done what he felt he had to? No. No he wouldn’t. But that’s the point of the Witcher. No matter what he does, no matter how far he goes, he will never lose his name. We fully intend to see the universe, and make some fantastic memories. But we also intend to be there when either the Doctor won’t be...or can’t be. I can’t make it any clearer than that.”
“...I think I understand. I still don’t like it though.”
“If anyone liked it, they wouldn’t be the right people for the job, now would they?”
Amy’s head tilted down. “No. I suppose not.”
“Well, no that I haven’t enjoyed this, but I was told Miss Bucket wanted to see me. If you’ll pardon me…”
“Course. Just...one thing. Our daughter. Do you know...does the Doctor find her?”
“...Yes. But not for a long while yet. And you’ll know when he does. Beyond that...I can’t say.”
“Don’t mention it. We’ve got a while ‘til London, and then longer ‘til Leadworth. Feel free to poke around my TARDIS to relieve the boredom. You might be surprised by what you find. Rose, you can go with them, but I’d appreciate the company.”
As we left, we could hear Amy’s voice echoing back through the TARDIS doors. That made three people who didn’t care for the redecoration. Joke’s on them; the Old Girl was stubborn. I doubted she’d change the desktop before we inevitably crashed again. Which worked just fine for me.
River and Simon were waiting for us. Lorna was still up on the table, unconscious again, and obviously not doing good at all. Made me wonder what was so important she had to see me as soon as possible.
Simon’s voice crashed into my train of thought. “I don’t know, River…going back there, even to stop it...I’m not sure it’s the best idea.”
“It’s a terrible idea. The worst. Unbelievably dangerous. Horrible. But I have to go.”
“Because there are others. Others like me. And someone has to save them.”
“Then let them do it!”
He pointed to me and Rose. “They do this sort of thing all the time! Let them save the others!”
River tilted her head. “Save them? They’re not going to save them. They’re going to end them. Saving them...is my job.”
I cleared my throat. “I think what she means is, we weren’t planning on saving anyone. We’re going to burn the whole place to the ground, no matter what. I couldn’t care less who’s inside when we do. If anyone there deserves saving, it’s not up to me to do it. Doctor Song’s already said she’s coming, presumably to do just that. If your sister comes, she’ll be with her. Away from most of the danger; saving people. That’s all.”
“...Alright. I understand; this is something she has to do. If the Captain agrees, she can go. I can’t come; I have a patient. So you...you two take care of her.”
“I make no promise; I swear no oath. But I’ll do my best.”
“And it’s not two. It’s three. More, if anyone else wants to come.”
Lorna was waking up.
Naturally, that flustered Simon. “She’s supposed to still be under...I sedated her.”
“I have found that women tend to do whatever they’re not supposed to do, and damn the consequences. It’s bloody amazing sometimes.”
“I’m here, Lorna. What is it?”
“Whatever you wish. You’ll have to get back on your feet first, and I’m pretty sure I heard Vastra and Jenny talking about offering you a place, but you’re free to do what you want. Just don’t go getting shot again, okay?”
She slipped back into unconsciousness.
“Witcher, if you’re going to make a habit of having me worry about my patients’ health when you’re around, I suggest we avoid that as much as possible.”
“Fair enough. I’ll move along.”
“If I won’t get in the way, can I stay and watch? Just for awhile.”
“Of course. River, you going or staying?”
“...I think I’ll stay. For now.”
“Right. Think I’ll go check on the Paternoster gang. Strax has probably gotten into an arm-wrestling competition by now, and I’d like to see if anyone can beat him aside from Doctor Song.”
“She can do that?”
“You think she can’t?”
“...Yeah, you’re right.”
“Thought so. I’ll be back.”
There was, indeed, an arm wrestling contest. But Strax wasn’t one of the participants.
“You can do it, boy!”
Jenny and Zoe. Who would have guessed
I whispered. “How long have they been going at it?”
“About seven minutes. Jayne bet his new launcher that his friend would win. Strax took the bet.”
“And how about you?”
“I know Jenny. I’ve bet that the match will last exactly seven minutes, twenty-three seconds before…”
There was a blur of motion, and Jenny’s body was lying across the table, her hand being held down across her chest by Zoe’s.
“Well, that was unexpected. Right time, wrong winner.”
“Not bad, Miss Zoe.”
“Same to you, Miss Flint.”
“How’d you know I was gonna try and flip ya?”
“Cause that’s the exact same hustle I used to pull for a little extra cash.”
“Huh. Not that I’m objecting, mind, but could you let me up now?”
“But I do so enjoy seeing you like this, Jenny. Makes a nice change of pace for you to be…”
I coughed. “That’s enough of that.”
“Your performance was inadequate, boy. We shall have to get you up to snuff for the next battle we are called upon for. Miss Zoe, your use of tactics and superior strength was a true honor to observe. I hope to meet you again on the field of battle, where we shall crush the life from our enemies together.”
“Hm, sounds like fun. I look forward to it.”
“As agreed, fair-looking, muscular girl, here are the scissor grenades of my bet. Take special care with them; they are outlawed in over seven planetary systems.”
“Aw hell yeah, potato man. I’m gonna take real good care of ‘em. Real good care. Hey, lizard lady. Since you was half-right, I was thinking we just let your bet slide. Sound good?.”
“That’s very kind of you, Mister Jayne.”
“I thought so.”
“Do I even want to know what your bet was?
A voice tickled my ear. “Don’t you know by now, Witcher? A lady never tells.”
“Ah, Doctor Song. I was wondering where you’d run off to. My apologies, Madame Vastra.”
“As a peace offering, here’s something I managed to dig up for you.”
“A sonic screwdriver? One of the Doctor’s, I presume.”
“Nope. Brand new. Keep it close; it’ll come in handy later.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
A *ding* echoed through the room.
“Looks like London’s coming up, people. Strax, Vastra, Jenny, grab your gear and pull out the brellies. My money’s on heavy rain in old London-town tonight.”
“You speak as if from experience.”
“You might say that. Two minutes, people.”
“Any idea where my parents might have wandered off too?”
“The last I saw of them, Amy was complaining quite loudly to her husband that she really didn’t care for the layout of my TARDIS. With a good deal of emphasis on the loud.”
“Well, then. Shall we join them?”
“After you. Wait, were you saying we should join them in the TARDIS, or that we should join them complaining about the TARDIS.”
“...Is this because I didn’t have a screwdriver for you, or just because you’re having me on?”
“What I thought. Lead the way.”
Chapter 28: 1:28
I own nothing. Least of all this.
Landing a cloaked spaceship in Leadworth was infinitely easier once I remembered there was a convenient wheat field that had already been used for crop circles (well, from my point of view at least). Some of the Serenity’s crew (hm, hm, Kaylee) had gotten it into their bonnet to go exploring, and as much fun as it would have been to see certain people even more hyped up on caffeine, it really wasn’t a good idea to have anyone wandering around and discovering they were on Earth-That-Was. It had taken some fast-talking about inoculations and alien bacteria (not technically untrue) to knock the idea out of their heads. And Simon was more than helpful in pointing out the dangers of visiting alien worlds with unknown diseases.
The Pond’s goodbyes to Song lasted for a fair amount of time, presumably with a good deal of crying and hugging. I can’t say for sure; I didn’t ask. Wasn’t my place. When Song finally boarded the Serenity, I was relieved that no one mentioned the quite obvious red tinge to her eyes. She deserved at least some closure, considering what her life had been up until then. First time your parents meet you, and it's right after you’re kidnapped from right in front of them. Time travel!
Still, it was time to go. And I had an answer to get from Captain Reynolds.
“Well, Captain. Where shall I drop you and your ship off?”
“About that...we’re overdue to pick up a passenger from Pelorum. We were actually on our way there when that little devil cube broke loose. So, if you don’t mind, I would greatly appreciate it if we could get there with all possible haste.”
“Of course. And my answer?”
“...Fine. Whoever wants to can go. But as for me, I fully intend to take that nice little vacation on the beach.”
“I’ll tell the crew where we’re heading, and then about the job. Jayne’ll go; he ain’t overly fond of Pelorum. River, for sure. The doc, maybe, but I doubt it. And the others’ll probably stay.”
“As expected. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
His coat flapped behind him as he left.
“You respect him. Trust him. Why?”
“Because, Song, there are some soldiers who never came home from their war. It’s still going on for them, just with different stakes. For the Captain, the stakes are his crew. Each one is a part of him that he’s lost: his humor, his joy, his heart, his compassion, his mind. And I don’t think he could handle losing them again. So on he goes, always fighting, never resting. I guess...he just reminds me of someone I used to know.”
“...I’m sorry. I know how it feels, loving the stars themselves.”
“...That’s a nice way of putting it. Thank you. So, tell me more about this planet we’re about to burn to the ground.”
“Osiris. Named after the Egyptian god of the afterlife, ironically enough, considering what it's home to. Main hub is a place called Capital City, home to the galaxy’s High Court. And a very nice medical school. Place is known for its blackout zones; places where the electricity is cycled off to conserve power for the upper class. Anyone caught in a blackout zone is automatically arrested, due to the impossibility of finding out whether or not they were actually engaged in criminal activity. And it would not surprise me in the least if the reason such a prominent world is running low on power is because of a set of state-sanctioned experiments I know for a fact would need a great deal of energy to work.”
“Borusa. It’s strange though; this isn’t really his style. He was always more concerned with his own survival, no matter the cost. The fact he’s switched to genetic experimentation...worries me.”
“You think someone’s pulling his strings?”
“Well, we’ll just have to find out, won’t we?”
“Won’t we. I believe you promised the Captain a fast exit. Probably best if you follow through.”
“Right. Talk to Jayne; he’ll get you kitted up with whatever you need. Tell him it’ll go on his paycheck.”
“That should brighten his day.”
“Just so. See you back on the TARDIS.”
The Captain was entirely correct in his predictions. Turned out the passenger they were supposed to pick up was Inara (no surprise there), and most of the crew at least wanted to say hello. Kaylee, Shepherd, Zoe, and her kid were all planning to stay behind, and with Lorna still unconscious, Simon was staying as well. Jayne was more than willing to jump right back into a firefight (shocker), and River was, well, River, about it. That made five of us. More than enough to dismantle whatever nasty little plans Borusa had put in place during his time on Osiris. All I had to do now was come up with a plan.
Or, at least twelve percent of one.
Fortunately, I had an in.
“That...is a terrible in.”
“If you have a better suggestion Song, I’m all ears. If not, this is what we’re working with.”
“I like it.”
“Only because it leads to more shooting for you.”
“And your point is?”
“The point is, Jayne, that you can’t let yourself get too trigger-happy. No shooting until Witcher says so. If we go too fast, Borusa will realize he’s being played.”
“Which is why you’ll be the one going with him to slow him down. River and Song can handle the second and fourth parts of the plan, I’ll take care of the first bit, and then you two can deal with the third part however you want. But only after the first and second parts are taken care of. Are we clear, Jayne?”
“Sure thing, boss.”
“Good. Rose, I know you’re a little out of practice when it comes to target-shooting. Try not to shoot Jayne on accident.”
She twirled the Last Word in her right hand. “How ‘bout on purpose?”
“Completely understandable if you do. I won’t hold it against you.”
“Hey! Yourself. Well? Are we ready to go? Or not?”
“Aside from any concerns I may have about relying on you to watch our backs with just a knife, we should be good.”
“Doctor Song, I’ll have you know that this is my favorite knife.”
“...Okay then. Jayne? Enough grenades?”
“Never! But I’ll make do.”
“Locked and loaded.”
“Alright then. And for me, psychic paper, mask, and my tools. Check to all of the above. The Serenity is cleared for landing, the money’s in all the right places, and we are ready to rock and roll. Aaaaaaaand…”
I threw the lever.
“Way down we go!”
VWHOOOOOSH. VWHOOOOOSH. VWHOOOOOSH.
“S’that it? That ain’t so bad.”
“Far better than the Doctor’s flying, I’ll give you that.”
“What can I say? I had a good teacher.”
*Boo-weep* (The best).
“That’s telling him, Old Girl.”
“...Something tells me I’m gonna regret bringing all the snarkiest TARDIS conversationalists together.”
“Now, whatever gave you that idea?”
“Down girl. We’ve got a lot to get done before we can celebrate. This is your stop I believe, Witcher.”
“And so it is. Doctor Song, you have the con.”
“Oooooh, I do love a sailor.”
“Shame I was never in the navy, then. Catch you on the Flip Side.”
“Catch you, sweetie.”
Capital City was about what I expected. Too many people, not enough distributed to the right people. Ayn Rand would’ve had a field day. And Isaac Asimov, come to think of it.
Not important. What was important, was the rather impressive skyscraper I was currently standing in front of. Operational headquarters of “the Academy”, and Borusa’s office to boot. Not exactly hard to find. Almost as if he was expecting visitors. Well, aside from the whole “parents-who-weren’t-able-to-handle-their-gifted-children” kind.
I waltzed in.
The receptionist was about what you’d expect a receptionist to be. My psychic paper made quick work of whatever objections she might have had, and moved her directly to the “if there’s literally anything I can do for you, I would love to do so” stage.
“Inform Headmaster Borusa that Theta-Sigma wishes to be announced. And that I come bearing news of the whereabouts of one...Koschei.”
“I’m sorry sir, did you say ‘Koschei’?”
“Yes. The headmaster will understand. I’ll wait for his reply.”
“Of course, sir. Feel free to make yourself comfortable.”
Comfortable. I was standing in a place that was about as close to Gallifrey as I could get without actually entering the pocket universe it was currently in. Comfortable was not in my vocabulary at the time.
“Sir? Headmaster Borusa wishes to speak with you as soon as possible. He is sending down his personal escort for your convenience.”
“I am much obliged.”
“My pleasure, sir.”
Back to the waiting.
Ah, here they came. All dressed up in the uniform of Gallifreyan soldiers. Really, it was like they weren’t even trying to hide.
Of course, I knew they weren’t. This whole place just screamed “Trap for the Doctor!” as loud as it could. Shame the Doctor was only what they thought they had caught.
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”
“You will come with us.”
“Of course, of course. When in Rome, and all that.”
“No? Don’t know that one? Er, how ‘bout ‘time and tide melt the snowman’? No? Not that one either?”
“Blimey, you lot might as well be Weeping Angels for all the stone faces I’m getting.”
“You will come with us.”
“Fine, fine. Boring conversation anyway. Alright: take me to your leader. Always wanted to say that.”
Needless to say, it was a rather dull elevator ride.
When we finally stepped out, it was into the penthouse suite. Sculptures, paintings, knick-knacks of every variety. All cheap knock-offs of the Gallifreyan variety, of course. It wasn’t like you could get the real thing here.
“You will be searched.”
“Yeah, already been through that, mate. Downstairs. Didn’t they tell you?”
“...You will wait here.”
“Of course, of course.”
Waiting again. Bureaucrats were always like that. One minute it’s, “Oh, my dear sir, you really must come by to take care of this form as soon as possible”, and the next, it was “Oh, my dear sir, so sorry to keep you waiting for so long, but as it happens, I’m just finishing up for the day, I’m afraid you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
But now, it was playing to my advantage. Every second spent here was one more second for Phases Two and Three to work with. Provided Jayne didn’t do something stupid, that is.
“My dear Theta-Sigma.”
The man himself. Still wearing the same face as the last time I had seen him on-screen, to my slight surprise. Looked like the Time War hadn’t been too unkind to him. More’s the pity.
“I wish I could say this was both pleasant, and a surprise. But, unfortunately for you, it is neither. The materialization of your distinctive TARDIS, your psychic paper, and your general unkempt appearance all gave you away, I’m afraid.”
“Yes, I rather expected that. Still, I’m here, and that’s what matters.”
“You are here to, what, exactly? Stop me? My dear Doctor, did you really think that Lord Rassilon would hang the fate of Gallifrey on merely one plan? You and the wayward Master may have prevented but one of his schemes, but rest assured, Gallifrey shall rise once more.”
“Yeah, that’s what everyone else thought too. Until Trenzalore, that is.”
“You know. Trenzalore. Planet with a giant Crack in Time and Space on it. Message broadcasted out to the entire galaxy. My grave. The final attempt of the Time Lords to return to our universe. Failed miserably, I’m glad to say.”
“...No. No, I’m afraid you’re quite mistaken Doctor. Even Trenzalore was not our final attempt.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“There are yet more weapons left in Lord Rassilon’s arsenal. More plans, more devices. Trenzalore was the last attempt for some measure of peaceful resolution, true. But now, it is Lord Rassilon pulling all of the strings once again.”
“Yeah? And how’s he pulling yours?”
“You forget, Doctor. I took his promise of immortality, fool that I was. I am tied now to his will, forever. I, and six others, who will watch as our Lord raises Gallifrey from its own ash. We are honored to be a part of this, his great restoration.”
“Seven others. You, plus the six others imprisoned in Rassilon’s tomb. Eight faces, eight men.”
“No, Doctor. There are but seven of us.”
“Blimey, no need to shout! I can’t help it if your maths are off! What? What are you staring at?”
“...You don’t know.”
“You don’t, do you? You don’t know of the first?”
“I’m sorry, the who now?”
“Oh, oh, this is just too good! Our Lord’s victory is truly assured now! There is an east wind coming, my dear Doctor. And you will be merely a kite, dancing in it’s hurricane.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“Oh, didn’t I say? Forgive me. That was impolite of me. You promised me news of Koschei, of course. It is the only reason you were allowed to live this long; that, and the fact you idiotically came here without your usual sonic trickery. Tell me more of what you know, and your death will be a rather painless one, compared to the one that Rassilon has promised. Now, indulge me; what has your dear friend done now?”
“Well, first off, he’s not a he anymore. He is, in fact, a she.”
“How interesting! Do go on.”
“Calls herself the Mistress now. Kinda like the way that sounds. Lets see, what else. Oh yes! She managed to get ahold of a Nether-sphere, not quite sure how. Hooked it up to a Cyber-conversion program. Made for a lot of zombie Cyber-men walking around, let me tell you. Took quite a while to sort out. And in the end, she was killed.”
“The Master has been dead before.”
“Yes. But this time, it was me that killed her. She should be staying dead this time, that is, if I have anything to say about it. And, I did.”
“...You...killed the Master? You?”
“...Oh, I have been a fool. Well played. You had me going there for quite a good bit. Really? Walking in here with no weapons at all? Not your style at all. Threw me completely off, I’ll freely admit. But now, I’m afraid the jig is up.”
“...I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
“Oh, don’t you just...Koschei.”
Well, that was unexpected. Time for a change in plans.
“Oh, very well done, my dear sir! Took you long enough. I mean, the intrusion alarm on your wristband has been blinking for the last three minutes, so that should have given you the first clue that I was stalling. But I’m afraid, I can only give you half credit for your answer. You managed to deduce that I am, in fact, not the Doctor. But you have completely failed in your deduction of my true identity. As a chance to make up the difference, I shall give you three guesses as to who I really am. Time’s ticking, headmaster; guess away!”
“While it wouldn’t be the first time she’s stolen the Doctor’s TARDIS, I’m afraid that’s quite incorrect. Guess again!”
“Seriously? In these clothes? Monks never have been, and never will be, cool. So...strike two! One more strike, and you’re out!”
“Aaaaaaaaaand he’s out! Thanks a lot for playing, ‘The Weakest Link’! As your prize, you have now won both the destruction of everything you’ve built here, aaaaaaaaaaand my true identity! My dear Borusa, for the first time in your life, you have come face to face with...”
I activated my mask.
The elevator door behind me opened....
And flying out, came a pair of scissor grenades.
Very effective, scissor grenades are. No matter what else you can say on the subject, you do have to admit, it is very hard to regenerate when your body has been sliced in half horizontally, no matter how much of a Time Lord you are.
The six dead members of Borusa’s personal escort seemed to agree with me on the subject. Borusa himself, however, did not.
He had taken the usually wise approach to scissor grenades; namely, jumping, as opposed to my ducking. It was entirely unfortunate for him that Jayne’s aim was a little high. You could even say that two missing legs made it...doubly...unfortunate.
I’ll stop now.
“Sorry, boss. Not used to grenades bouncing hard like that. I wonder what kind of trick shots I can pull off with ‘em…”
“We’ll find out later, Jayne. For now, we have someone to interrogate.”
“Sorry guys. Not much interrogating to do. Moron was more than happy to go on and on to what he thought was his old student.”
“Awwwww, you just suck the fun right out of everything.”
“Everything else taken care of, Witcher?”
“Well, judging by the fact the dear headmaster’s wristband has stopped blinking, I’d say either our com-padres are dead (unlikely), or they’ve finally silenced the alarm. Took them long enough. Song likes her theatrics.”
“Says the man who had his backup ride underneath an elevator up five hundred stories just to blow their way out.”
“Fair point. Oh, watch out, he’s regenerating.”
Golden light began to seep from the headmaster’s form.
“Jayne, my Colt, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure thing boss.”
Just in time too. The glow encompassed the whole room, leaving us covering our eyes. When it finally faded, I was frankly shocked to see what new face Borusa had acquired.
“Hey Borusa. The TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called. They want their Mr. Collins back.”
He struggled to his brand new feet. “You laugh, Witcher. But soon, Lord Rassilon will be the one laughing.”
Transparent plates slid into place over every wall.
“While we had anticipated the Doctor, you and your companions will have to do. Gallifrey will welcome you with open arms, and you will wish for the embrace of Death instead.”
“Jokes on you, I’m already dead inside. And I believe in this case, I will most certainly have the last laugh. Because, Borusa, you have forgotten two very important things.”
“Oh? Do tell.”
“Firstly…” I began to move to the window, “you have forgotten that while we are quite a good way up, I have a TARDIS with a swimming pool that is capable of landing perpendicularly on buildings.”
“A minor inconvenience, considering you can’t breach the window.”
“True. But this is where the second thing comes in: you have forgotten the time.”
“Yes, headmaster. The time. Tell me: do you happen to know what time it is?”
“Well then, let me enlighten you. Because, it is, in fact, hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh….noon.”
I drew the Colt.
And disintegrated the window in front of me.
“Huh. So that’s what that does.”
“You’d have to ask Samuel Colt, I’m afraid.”
“I shall right after I…” he raised his wrist “take care of you!”
“Regenerate from that. Go ahead. Make my day.”
“Witcher, his wristband…”
It was blinking again.
A panel slid open on the wall behind us. And behind that panel, was a quite familiar wiring layout, with the exact opposite center to what it should have been.
“No. No, he didn’t. He wouldn’t.”
Of course, he had.
Where a white-point star had sat in the Master’s design, was instead, a black one. Absolutely massive in size. And more than powerful enough to drag the entirety of this planet into Gallifrey’s plane of existence.
“Bollocks. Go, go, go! Everyone out the window!”
As we jumped, I turned in mid-air. I had exactly one shot at this, or it was Judgment Day for all of us, River and Song in the TARDIS below included.
I lined up the Colt…
And pulled the trigger.
Then the world exploded in green.
Chapter 29: 1:29
I own nothing. Least of all this.
“Ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow...ow.”
“Witcher...please tell me...you were expecting that.”
“...I was expecting that.”
“I hate you.”
“...It’s a possibility.”
“...Boss, I hate to add to our troubles, but I don’t think the good place has walls made a’wood.”
I cracked one eye open. Whatever I was expecting, it certainly wasn’t an old, run-down...barn?...with a giant hole in the floor. Oh, and a crying blonde in the corner.
“Ah. Um, excuse me, Miss? Hello?”
Obviously still in shock. Glowing portals opening right in front of people tended to produce that reaction. I tried again.
“Miss? Hello? Terribly sorry, but would you mind telling us, exactly, where we are?”
“...Who...who are you?”
“Well, that’s a long story, but most people call me Witcher. The lovely lady I presume is behind me is Rose, and the intimidating fellow with the rather large weapons is Jayne. Now, who might you…”
A handgun filled my field of view.
She moved pretty fast for someone in obvious emotional distress.
“WHERE IS HE? WHERE’S NEAL?”
A second gun entered my vision, aimed at the now quite evidently hostile blonde.
“I’ll do you one better: WHO is Neal?”
I couldn’t resist.
“I’ll do you one better: WHY is Neal?”
The Bittenbender Method.
Throws ‘em off their rhythm every time.
“Never mind. Miss, I think I speak for all of us when I say we don’t know anyone named ‘Neal’, in this world or any other. Why, may I ask, were you under the impression that we did?”
“BECAUSE...Because...he...he fell through...and...and then…”
“And then we…”
“You. You have to know where he went. YOU HAVE TO!”
Her gun was shaking quite badly now.
“...I’m afraid, miss, that we don’t. But if you’ll just, put down that gun, we would be more than glad to help you find out what happened to him.”
“Yes Jayne, we would.”
“...How can I trust you for sure? For all I know, you’re working with them.”
“...Greg. Tamara. Whoever they’re working for.”
I knew exactly where we were. And exactly at what time we had arrived. This was where it all changed. I would have to choose my words very carefully, otherwise we might very well do the equivalent of bringing down the hammer on the timeline.
“...I can assure you, Miss Swan, that neither I, nor my associates, would ever work for the same group as Greg and Tamara.”
“...How did you know my name? I didn’t tell you.”
“Yeah, and how’d you know who this ‘Greg’ and ‘Tamara’ are, Witcher? And who their bosses are?”
“...I know your name, Miss Swan, the same way I know who you’re ultimately fighting...I’ve fought them too. Them, and their Home Office. They’ve been trying to get to both you and Storybrooke for quite a while now, I’m afraid. And Fate has, apparently, decided it’s best if we help you stop them. For good.”
“We stoppin’ more bad guys?”
“Afraid so, Jayne. At least, if you want any chance of all at getting home. Because I have a growing suspicion that the same people we’ve been discussing, the same people that opened the portal we just fell through, are now the only people in town with a way to send us back to where we came from. Am I right, Miss Swan?”
“...Yes. The beans.”
“Ah-ha. So, since you obviously want both justice and answers, and we want a ride home...truce?”
“...Fine. For now. I still don’t trust you.”
“You’d be a fool if you did. Jayne, you can holster back up. I don’t think the Sheriff is gonna be shooting us anytime soon.”
“Aw, hell. She’s the sheriff?”
“Afraid so. Looks like we’re playing nice for awhile. I’ll make it up in your paycheck.”
“Lead the way, Miss Swan.”
Counting Regina lying on the bed, there were four worried faces all looking our direction upon our entry.
Charming moved first, obviously to determine both what had upset Miss Swan so, and whether or not protection was needed from the well-armed companions she had with her, i. e. us.
He stopped when the head count caught up with him, and he realized exactly who was missing.
“What is it?”
By now even Snow had realized something had gone very wrong. “...Where’s Neal?”
“...He’s gone. Tamara...shot him.”
And everything broke down after that.
Snow stayed by Regina’s side, but I could see it was with great reluctance. Whether that was due to a desire to comfort her daughter, or question us, I couldn’t say. Charming instantly switched gears to “protective dad”, leaving the job of interrogation to the only person in the room I really didn’t care for.
“Greetings. My name is…”
“Mother Superior, yes I know. Or the Blue Fairy, if we’re being technical.”
“...You seem to know me, but I’m afraid I’m at a loss as to who you are.”
“Understandable. I’m not from around here, you might say. Name’s the Witcher.”
“Rose. Rose Tyler.”
“A pleasure to meet all of you. If I might ask, how are you acquainted with both of my names? It isn’t everyday we get visitors in Storybrooke, after all, and I thought I was acquainted with all that knew the truth of the town.”
As I opened my mouth to reply, Regina’s voice cut through all discussion.
“Where are they? Where are Greg and Tamara?”
Charming cleared his throat. “...They got away.”
“So they still have it.”
If it was possible, Snow looked even more worried. “Still have what?”
Everyone in the room turned to look at me.
Regina answered. “That will destroy Storybrooke.”
“Well, not exactly destroy it, so much as rip it from time and space and hurl it through the void back to where it came from, which I guess would technically destroy it, but…”
“Witcher, not. Helping.”
“Right. Sorry. Continue.”
Snow picked up the conversation again. “Why, exactly, were you carrying it around?”
Charming spoke up. “She was going to destroy us, Mary Margaret.”
Regina nodded. “I was going to use the beans to take Henry back to the Enchanted Forest.”
“And in the process, kill all of us!”
Regina swung right back. “You wanna discuss justification? You were going to abandon me! Or shall we discuss the more pressing issue, which is that I no longer control the trigger!”
“This trigger…” I interjected, “by any chance would it happen to look like a rather large, black diamond?”
“...How did you…”
“I’ll take that as a yes, then.”
“The same thing that got us all stuck here in the first place, yes. A black-point hole. If I hadn’t managed to destroy it, we, and the entire world we were on, would have been dragged straight to Hell. And you can imagine how that would have gone.”
“Boss, if these guys is fixing to do the same thing as that Borusa fella, does that mean…”
“That the entirety of Storybrooke will be sucked through the Void, a place where nothing good can survive, straight into the hands of demons? Yes, yes I rather think it does.”
“No. No, that can’t be right.”
‘Believe me, your Evil Queenness, it is. That trigger is the physical manifestation of the forces necessary to anchor this place in an alternate reality. Release them, and this town will be dragged back to where it was originally brought from. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for one thing: this place isn’t originally from the Enchanted Forest either. If it was, magic would have come with it. That, plus the diamond itself, and the fact that this town is one second out of sync with the rest of reality, tells me all I need to know about where this town originally came from...Gallifrey.”
“Is that in Ireland?”
I sighed. “No, Charming. It’s not. It’s in Hell.”
“Like, actual Hell?”
“Yes Jayne. Literal, actual Hell. And a journey there is something no-one can survive.”
Well, aside from a certain group of hunters in Kansas, but that was besides the point.
“Right. How do we stop it?”
I smiled. “Well, you are the sheriff here, Miss Swan. You tell us.”
“...Gold..we need to tell Gold..and Henry.”
“Capital. Keep going.”
“Mother Superior...see what you can do about…”
As Blue floated by, I barely caught her whisper. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten, Witcher. I still want to know all about you.”
I whispered back. “As entertaining as that sounds, I’m afraid we have neither the time, nor the tea. Perhaps later; if we all survive.”
“And as for you three…”
“At your service, Miss Swan.”
“I still don’t trust you, Witcher. I’m not letting you out of my sight. But I need someone to stay with Regina and make sure Greg and Tamara don’t come back to finish the job.”
“Yes, I think that would be the best for all of us.” the bed-ridden Mayor snarked.
“Hush Regina. Rose, would you and Jayne stay here? And if anyone that’s not us shows up…”
“I can kill ‘em?”
“No, Jayne. We need to interrogate someone. Shoot to disable, not kill.”
“That works too. So long as I’m the one doing the grilling.”
“Are there any objections to the absolute unit working over either Greg or Tamara if they’re stupid enough to show up?”
“Go for it.”
“...Do what you have to.”
“That’s a yes, Jayne.”
“Witcher, you’re coming with David, Mary Margaret, and me. We’re going to get Henry first, and then Gold.”
“As the lady commands. Just let me tell Rose something in private, and then we’ll be on our way.”
I pulled Rose aside.
“Shh. I don’t have much time. Just trust me when I say it’s vitally important you get Regina to trust you. She feels and understands more than she lets on. Try and stay on her good side; we’re gonna need her later.”
“Do you know what’s going to happen?”
“More or less.”
“Perfect. Catch you on the Flip Side.”
She pulled me into a hug.
“I’m coming. Alright; Let’s rock and roll.”
The conversation in the car was, predictably, stilted.
“So… what’d you say to Rose?”
“Nothing much. Just to stay on Regina’s good side; well, that and keep Jayne from getting on her bad one. He can be quite...blunt.”
“Yeah, got that.”
“Where are you folks from, anyway?”
“David! That’s rude!”
“What? We need to know, Mary Margaret.”
“You still can’t just ask people like that.”
“Oh yes we can.”
“We’re the sheriffs, it’s our job to ask.”
“Is that why you wanted him along? To grill him where he has no option but to answer?”
“It’s alright, Miss Snow. I quite understand. If anyone dropped out of the sky in front of me back home, I’d probably be doing more than just asking questions.”
“And where is home, exactly?”
“Oh, quite a long way from here I imagine. Another world, much like your Enchanted Forest. But not attached in a way such that magical portals allow travel between them.”
“Is there magic there?”
“Of a sort. More highly-developed science, than anything else. But magic like you have here? No, no I’m afraid not.”
“Then how do you know so much about how magic works here? How did you know who we all were, both here and in the Enchanted Forest?”
“...You have to understand something first: where I come from, my people...we’re the scientific equivalent of magic-users. Time Lords, we were called. It was our job to watch over reality, and ensure that no-one meddled too much. Once we traveled between worlds as easily as you can here; we saw things you would never believe. Stories like yours, we took special interest in, to keep things from ever getting out of hand.”
“Out of hand? What do you call this?”
“It’s fine, Miss Snow. He’s right: things are very bad, here, and throughout reality. And that is for one very simple reason: my people, the Time Lords...they’re gone. All of them. Well, except for me and a few others.”
“Oh...oh I’m...so sorry. What happened?”
“A war. The greatest war the universe ever saw. One which I couldn’t fight in; not as I wished. And in the end, both sides wiped each other out.”
Charming continued the train of thought. “...And there’s not enough of you left to keep things together.”
“Pretty much. But the chances of someone like me, who knows practically everything there is to know about this specific world, coming here by accident, unharmed, through an exploding portal? They’re astronomical. Things like that have been happening a lot lately. Which leads me to believe someone more powerful than any of us has decided to step in and lend a hand. And that is a comforting thought.”
“Doesn’t help like that usually come with a price?”
“Yes. And I have a pretty good idea of what it will be. Until then, I’ll keep doing my job.”
“And don’t forget: you have friends to help you. Rose, and Jayne.”
“Yes. Well-paid friends, but friends nonetheless.”
“So, you’re both rich, and a Lord of Time? What do we call you: Your Worshipfulness?”
“Ha, ha. Nice Han Solo quote. But no. I’m no Lord here. Here, I’m just the Witcher.”
“So you know Star Wars. What else do you know?”
We spent the rest of the ride discussing similarities and differences between the Doctor’s universe, the Enchanted Forest, and Storybrooke. I never mentioned Pete’s World, or Rose’s story. That wasn’t mine to tell.
Oh, and it turns out Miss Swan really liked Cat Stevens. Go figure.
Chapter 30: 1:30
I own nothing. Least of all this.
It was a nice park.
Swingset, seaside view, and an old wolf standing guard with a crossbow.
Excellent place to relax.
Henry, of course, was on the swing. And standing off to the side, watching, was the most dangerous person in Storybrooke. Well, if you don't count me that is.
"Gold? What are you doing here?"
I, of course, knew exactly what Rumpelstiltskin was doing.
"Well, my son made it clear I'm to stay away from him, so I'm spending some time with my grandson instead."
But I wasn't about to let anyone else know he had just been contemplating the murder of said grandson.
I could hear Snow behind us. "Emma, it's okay. Why don't you talk to Henry, and we'll handle this."
Emma passed us by, obviously to do just that. I tuned out the ensuing conversation. This one was infinitely more important.
"Mr. Gold, we have some news to share with you. And it's not good."
"It's about your son."
"Yeah? What about him?"
"...Tamara shot him."
"They used a bean to open a portal. Neal was hurt badly, and he...fell through. He's gone."
"...Bae wasn't supposed to die."
"Greg and Tamara, they took something from Regina. A magical trigger. A failsafe in the curse that would, supposedly, wipe Storybrooke right off the map."
Snow cut in. "If they activate it, it's a self-destruct. Everyone not born in this world will be sent straight to Hell."
"I know this is hard, but we need your help."
"They killed your son in cold blood, and you don't want to stop them?"
"They didn't kill my son. I did. I brought magic to this world to find Bae, and now he's dead. Magic always has a price, and this...this is it. But I'm prepared to pay it."
"But...we'll die! You'll die!"
"...Well, I've made my peace with that."
And off he walked, looking for all the world like the old man he was.
"David! Do something!"
Charming looked just as lost as Snow. He was in no shape to convince Gold of anything. But to be on the safe side, I thought it best to avoid any more confrontation.
"I'll handle it. You stay with Miss Swan and Henry. Don't leave without me."
And I strode off after Gold, leaving no time for objections.
"...I thought I knew everyone in this town. Seems I've missed one pathetic lifeform."
"Actually, you haven't. New around here. I just make it my business to fight people like Greg and Tamara, whatever world they may be from."
"So you're not from this world either. Tell me, Mr…"
"Mr. Witcher. I take it you're the one who informed the Charmings exactly what activating that trigger does."
"Well, you know, considering not only where it's from, but what it takes to make it, I thought it best."
"If you know what a black diamond truly does, then there is only one thing you yourself can be. Time Lord."
"...Doesn't surprise me in the least that you figured that out. How much do you know?"
"Enough. Enough to know you consider yourself above all that happens to reality itself around you, and that you would never interfere, unless absolutely necessary. Which leads me to suspect that events are about to take place such that even the Time Lords wish to avoid the return of their lost locality."
"Fraid not, Gold. I'm what you call a renegade. And I do nothing but interfere. I'm just here to make sure Greg and Tamara get what's coming to them after it's all over. Things are in motion now that cannot be undone, neither by you or by me. You've made the right call to let come what may. Go home. Make your peace. And if you see the devil before I do, give him my regards. Catch you on the Flip Side."
He nodded in acknowledgement, and turned back to face the ocean. I left him standing there in contemplation.
I had deliberately left out the bits about Rose and Jayne. It was better to let Gold think I was here by myself, and for a reason (for now, at least). Gold loved his levers, and the less he had the better. The fact that he knew about Time Lords was worrying, but that was something to deal with later. For now, the important thing was to make sure we got our ride home.
I made my way back to the group. Five people, in one car. This was gonna be fun.
It was not fun.
Thankfully, Storybrooke was a small town. I don't know if I could have stood it if Henry had asked one more question about why Gold wouldn't come. All I can say is thank Gallifrey I had shotgun, or I might have been tempted to use one.
Regina was up and walking around by the time we got back. Jayne was posted up at the window, just itching for someone on the street to do something bullet-worthy. And Rose was seated at the table, obviously watching all other entrances. She learned quickly.
Their hug was interrupted by the ground doing a rather good impression of the Wipeout.
"Regina, was that…"
"Yes. The diamond was activated."
"So, we're all gonna die?"
"You were born here, so...you'll live."
"But...I'll be alone."
"...I'm so sorry, Henry."
"It's not gonna happen. I'm not gonna let it. You did this; now make it stop."
"I can't, there's no way."
"WELL, FIGURE IT OUT! IT'S YOUR FAULT!"
I whistled shrilly. "Will you all just stop. It doesn't matter whose fault this is; what matters, is we're all in the same boat now. And I, for one, don't plan on going down with the ship. SO WORK TOGETHER ALREADY!"
"And you lot ought to know by now it's always a good idea to listen to the tall, dark, and handsome one."
I just barely managed to catch Charming's fist before it hit Hook's face. I was not, however, fast enough to stop Jayne from grabbing his hair and holding a knife to his throat, or Rose from pointing the Last Word directly at his head.
"Please tell me this is Greg. You've no idea how bored I am, and a little carving oughta take care a'that quite nicely."
"Unfortunately, that is not Greg. It is, however, someone I am more than comfortable with you causing great bodily harm to if he tries anything. Am I clear, Captain Hook?"
"Quite clear, tall, dark, and handsome. I will, however, point out that threatening to kill me seems a bit redundant when we're all about to die anyway."
"No thanks to you. Regina told us you were working with Tamara to get your revenge."
"Well that was before they told me I had to die to get it."
"We don't have time for this. We have a real problem."
"Which is why I'm here. 'Cause staring staring death in the face has made me realize that if there's one thing I want more than my revenge, it's my life. So should we stop this thing now, and then resume bickering?"
"There is no stopping it. And the best I can do is slow it down, but that...will only delay the inevitable."
A clap from my hands. "Any delay is a good delay. I have a plan. Well, half of one."
"Please, we're all ears."
"Steal back the beans, and then use them to send everyone back to where they belong; the Enchanted Forest for you lot, and home for us."
"How? We don't even know where Greg and Tamara are."
"No, but I'll wager the good Captain does."
Jayne's grip tightened. "And he'll be more than happy to tell us, ain't that right pretty boy?"
"It would be my pleasure to help, of course."
"Help yourself. You'll take them, and leave us all behind. Why should we trust you?"
"We won't have to. Charming, you and Jayne go with him. And if he tries anything, shoot him."
"Quite hostile, aren't we?"
"Hostile would have been me specifying exactly where to shoot you."
"Regina and I should go slow down the diamond, give you guys time. Mary Margaret, you take Henry and make sure everyone's ready to go once we have those beans."
"And what did you have in mind for Rose and I, Miss Swan?"
Surprisingly, it was Regina who cut in. "Miss Tyler is coming with us. You're free to do whatever you like; no skin off my nose."
"He's coming with us. If he knows about black-point whatevers, maybe he can find a way to shut it off."
"I'll do my best, Sheriff."
Regina moved to stand in front of Henry. "Henry, before you go...I'm sorry for what's happened. I tried to be the person you wanted me to be...and I failed. But I won't let you be alone. You just, know that I love you."
"I love you too."
Really, what was it with all the hugging around here?
Hook watched sadly. "The things we do for our children."
I caught the flicker in Rose's eyes as he said it. I held my breath until it passed; then let it out slowly. We really didn't need that right now. Thank Gallifrey for small miracles.
"Jayne, the orders about shooting still hold. Disable, don't kill. If you have to make a choice, go for the girl. Wring all the information you can out of whoever you get. Then kill them."
"Will do boss."
"What? No, no killing!"
"With all due respect, Miss Snow, this isn't your kingdom anymore. And practically everyone in this room outranks you, both in experience and legality. So when I give an order to the man I am paying, you'd do well not to question it. Savvy?"
"She savvies. Let's go."
It was thankfully a short walk down to the mines. Regina and Emma led the way, with Rose and I bringing up behind. Not that we needed to follow. I could practically feel the wrongness in the air, in Time itself, and I was sure Rose could too.
It wasn't long before She brought up what I had been expecting Her to.
"So, when you told me to get close to Regina, I wasn't expecting to try and make friends with the Evil Queen."
"There's more to her than just that."
"Yes. I gathered. She lost her love. Thanks to Snow White. They didn't put any of that in any fairy-tales I ever heard."
"Different world; different stories. Everything here is a good deal more interconnected; Pixar Theory has nothing on Storybrooke."
"So, I know Regina and the Charmings, Hook, the Blue Fairy who I assume is the one from Pinocchio, and, apparently, Rumplestiltskin. Who else is here?"
"Now? Pinocchio himself, the seven dwarves, Red Riding Hood and her granny (who, incidentally, are both werewolves), Cinderella, Jiminy Cricket, and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Oh, and Rumplestiltskin is both the Beast from that story, as well as the Crocodile from Captain Hook's. So many stories; where the heroes of one end up being the villains of another. Not everyone in this town is as black and white as they're made out to be back home; even someone with the last name of White can do some dark things."
"What about Sleeping Beauty? Aladdin? The Little Mermaid?"
"All in other worlds. For now. And we should probably do our best to leave before they show up."
"Why? What could be worse than a town getting dragged to Hell?"
"Name it, and eventually, it'll happen here. It's in the nature of this place; bridges between worlds attract as much weirdness as you can imagine. And this town bridges so many different realities that Murphy's Law might as well have been written here."
"Gotcha. Does that have anything to do with why we ended up here when that diamond exploded?"
"Probably. It is a Thursday."
"You don't look like Arthur Dent to me."
"You'd be surprised."
We were interrupted by the two up ahead.
"I can feel it. Like the oxygen's being sucked out of the air."
Regina clarified. "Not the air. The magic."
"Well, the reaction has to be powered by something. Did you think they were just gonna hook up a car battery to activate it? No; a dwarf's axe is what they used. It draws on the magic around it to break anything in the known universe. No matter how much it takes. And it has already taken quite a bit; I can feel the tendrils that anchor Storybrooke to reality slipping."
"So we can feel the cause, and you can see the effect. Huh. Time Lord's more than just a title then."
"You could say that."
We came around a bend in the tunnel, and…
"There it is. Once it stops glowing, all locks are broken. And then...well, then the real carnage begins. I'll try to contain its energy as long as I can."
"We won't be long. We'll have the beans soon. Then we can get the hell out of here."
"Slowing the device...it's going to require...all of the strength I have."
"...You're not coming with us, are you. When you said goodbye to Henry, you were...saying goodbye."
"...He knows I love him, doesn't he?"
"Regina, no! There's gotta be another way!"
"You were right, you know. Everything that's happening, it's my fault. I created this diamond. It's only fitting it takes my life."
"...What am I supposed to tell Henry."
"...Tell him that in the end, it wasn't too late for me to do the right thing."
"Everyone looks at me as the Evil Queen. Including my son. Let me die as Regina."
"No one else will die today. I can help you stall it. We can't reverse it, but we can pause it. You depriving it of the magic it needs, Me diverting the force away from the anchors. That should buy us more than enough time to get the beans, and then get out."
"No Witcher. Let me have this."
"All I was gonna say was...good luck. I have an idea on how to stop the thing completely; just hold on until I get back. Okay?"
"...Okay. Catch you on the Flip Side."
I smiled. "Catch you. Come along, sheriff. We have a certain scurvy scallywag to find."
"Regina, are you gonna be okay?"
"...I'll manage. Go. Find a way to stop this."
As we left, I glanced back. Both Rose and Regina had their hands over the diamond, energy crackling between their fingers. And my eyes caught a mouthed "Thank you"; from an Evil Queen, to a Bad Wolf.
Now, to make sure everything else played out in an acceptable manner.
"So, Rose is a Time Lord too."
"Time Lady. Some of us can afford the upgrade."
"Sounds about right. Any idea why Regina was so keen on having her come along?"
"Nope. Nuh-uh. No idea. Beyond the fact they both had similar experiences where something magical was dropped in their laps to escape the dreary world they lived in, and eventually saw justice done to the people that had wronged them? Haven't the foggiest."
"What Regina did to my parents wasn't justice."
"Wasn't it? She offered your mother so many other options, so many other ways of settling their differences. It was your mother who chose war. The only truly evil thing the Evil Queen has ever done was punishing the entire kingdom instead of just your parents."
"Yes. Regina. Not the Evil Queen. Not entirely. Remember that; it's gonna come up a lot."
The door to Granny's swung open. In waltzed Hook, Charming, and Jayne, carrying...a body.
"You was right boss. Meaning only to harm or seriously injure got us plenty."
I couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not.
Charming held up a bag, stuffed full of magic beans. "These, for instance."
"...David, why did you decide to bring a dead body here, of all places?"
"Well, you see, it was like this. I shot her in the leg first, okay? She went down. Turned around to help these two numbskulls. Turned back, and she was off sprinting like a wild horse, with this weird glow coming off her."
"Emptied the rest of my gun into her, she went down again. Waltzed over, and she started sparking like mad. Thought it best to stop that, so...I brained her. And I ain't getting paid enough to question self-healing chicks that set themselves on fire. Sorry boss."
I swallowed. "That's...alright, Jayne. I understand. I'll handle it from here. Set her down."
"Witcher, what are you…"
My fingers touched Tamara's temples, and down I went.
Flashes of conversation flashed by me.
"...we have faith in the sacredness of our cause…"
I dove deeper. If it was gonna be anywhere, it was gonna be…
Walls, thick ones. Medieval. Unbreakable without shattering her mind in the process. And flying from every tower…
A very familiar cross.
I yanked back out of her mind.
A glint on her jacket caught my eye. A pin.
A pin with the exact same cross.
Tamara's eyes flew open.
Her eyes met mine…
And she screamed.
She began stumbling backwards, screaming incoherently all the while, doing her best to make herself a smaller target. People scrambled out of her way as she backed out of Granny's back door. Naturally, I followed. As did practically everyone else of note.
Finally, she gave up, and curled in on herself on the pavement.
The first coherent word she had said yet.
"Please...please no...you already killed my family...I'll do anything...please just let me live."
"You know I can't do that, Tamara. You've hurt people; killed people. All in the name of a dead cause. I should know; I killed it myself."
"Please," she sobbed, "...have mercy."
"Mercy? Mercy like you showed Neal? Like you showed Regina? Like you showed all the others? Mercy?"
I drew the Colt.
"There is no mercy."
"...Everyone back in Granny's. I need a new plan."
They all stood staring at me.
I roared. "NOW!"
"Jees, boss. What'd you do to make her that scared of you?"
"...I killed each and every single thing she ever held dear. And I laughed as I did it."
It was a new sensation; that many people, all looking at me with the exact same expression on their face:
If this is how the Master felt all the time, I could understand him a little bit better.
"Did...did you have to do that?"
"Because if I hadn't, if I had let her regain her composure, she would have tried to kill me. And called who knows who else to help her do it. Your town would have been wiped off the map, diamond or no diamond."
"No! No! I will not let this stand! You have just murdered a woman right in front of everyone, and have shown no remorse about it. David, arrest him!"
"I thought I made it quite clear exactly where your standing was with me, Miss Snow. Apparently I did not. He can't arrest me; and you certainly can't order him to do it."
"Yes I can!"
"NO YOU CAN'T! THERE ARE MORE WORLDS OUT THERE THAN JUST YOUR PATHETIC LITTLE FOREST! THERE ARE ENTIRE CIVILIZATIONS BURNING AT THIS VERY MOMENT! JUST STANDING HERE, I CAN FEEL TIME SHIVER AS THEY DIE! YOU ARE NOTHING COMPARED TO THEM! A SPECK! A LEAF ON THE WIND! POOF, AND YOU'RE GONE! AND MY JOB IS TO ENSURE THAT SPECKS LIKE YOU AREN'T WIPED FROM EXISTENCE FOR YOUR ARROGANCE! THAT WOMAN? SHE WOULD HAVE SEEN EVERYONE IN THIS TOWN BURN, BASED ON NOTHING BUT PRINCIPLE! IF I COULD FEEL HATE, SELF-RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND HER WOULD BE THE ONES FOR IT! AND NOW, BECAUSE OF HER, I HAVE TO COME UP WITH AN ENTIRELY NEW PLAN THAT DOESN'T GIVE HER THE SATISFACTION OF DESTROYING THIS TOWN FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE! AM I CLEAR?"
"...What was the plan?"
"Oh, you know, take one of the beans, shove the diamond through it, have Rose and I stabilize the reaction. But of course they thought of that; open a portal, and it will rip right through any remaining anchors and set Storybrooke adrift in the Void. So if anyone has any ideas not involving that, I'm all ears. Come find me when you have one; I'm headed back to Rose and Regina. Maybe they'll have the sense to understand why mercy is a luxury."
"..We're coming with you."
"Fine. But I'm not putting up with any more self-righteous speeches. Understand?"
"We understand. Don't we?"
Snow dropped her head. "..Yes."
I turned to Hook. "What about you, handsome? Coming or staying?"
"...I believe it would be best if I returned to my ship. A captain should always go down with it."
"Agreed. Take care."
"And you as well."
Things were properly bollocks-ed up now. Even if I returned things back to the original ending, with Emma and Regina pulling all magic from the diamond, it still wouldn't give her the emotional opening to her parents, or provide the people here with a reason to follow her. Because it would be my plan. And I did not want to be stuck leading the proverbial Israelites through the desert.
All because I got greedy, and wanted to keep the diamond for myself. It was simple, really; throw the diamond through a portal directly back to where we came from, and then use one of the beans later to come back ourselves. Voila! Free emergency portal to Gallifrey.
Make your own Fate, indeed.
'Damn my foolish eyes," as the song goes.
Time to make like the Doctor, and fix it.