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Last of the Time Agents

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Every afternoon, Erik Lehnsherr sees the same man sitting on a blue park bench, paper in hand. Erik passes him on his daily walk through the park, on his way back to the hotel. He hardly pays anyone attention outside of his targets and those he chase with a dogged determination. But this man is different.

There’s a chess set by his side, immaculately forged and carved from metal that beckons his curiosity. The composition is unlike anything Erik has ever encountered before and it tugs at his senses. From the ridges of rooks to the muscular curve of knights, Erik finds himself gravitating towards the park bench until he finds himself hovering over the newspaper man.

Over the top of the latest editorial of Die Zeit, Erik observes the man from his clean shaven face down to his tailored suit. With such an innocent countenance, Erik cannot help but to wonder as to how the man can appear so carefree, especially in the aftermath of war where hunger, loss and anger continues to hang like a cloud over the world.

“Hello there. I see you have taken an interest in my chess set,” the man comments as he folds his newspaper away. Erik is startled to find a warm smile on his face for it has been quite some time since anyone has greeted him in such a manner.

“Your chess set is beautifully made,” Erik says as his eyes flicker down to the engraved set. Up this close, Erik can almost make out the individual features on the kings and queens.

The compliment delights the man and brings out a twinkle in those blue eyes that is equal parts mischievous and pleased. “Thank you, my friend. It is rather unfortunate that it has been quite some time since this chess set has seen any activity and how terribly rude of me to not introduce myself. I’m the Doctor. Would you fancy a game?”

Erik agrees before his brain has the time to formulate a decline. The Doctor waves a hand down to the still pieces arranged on the checkerboard. “Which side do you prefer to play with?”

“Black,” Erik replies as he sits down and angles his body towards the board. He snorts mentally to himself at the choice.

The Doctor’s eyebrows shoot upward at his request as he rotates the board around. “I’m a little surprised, my friend. Players request for white usually.” He moves a pawn to E4 regardless.

Erik shrugs nonchalantly as he inches his own pawn to C5. “You will find I am not most people or your friend. You don’t even know my name.” Erik holds the Doctor’s gaze, ignoring the way slim pianist fingers run down the mane of the knight at F3. The warmth of the Doctor’s touch lingers upon the surface of the chess piece and Erik feels the residual heat purr in his mind like a content cat in the sun.

“I would very well like to be if you would be so kind as to inform me, friend,” the Doctor replies with a cheeky grin as he props his head up on the back of the park bench with his left hand.

Erik bares his teeth in return and moves another pawn forward. “If you can win a match against me, Doctor, I shall tell you my name.” He is confident in his ability to win this game but knows he will not remain an enigma for long.

The Doctor doesn’t make it an easy victory though, proving himself to be a formidable opponent. He finds out Erik’s name two days later and they continue to play chess every afternoon whenever Erik finishes his business outside of the park.

It all changes when the man Erik has been tailing finally arrives in town. The man had been particularly close with Doctor Schmidt and Erik is out for revenge.
He stops spending afternoons playing chess with the Doctor. Instead, he spends them tracking down every movement Gustav makes. Erik studiously watches and painstakingly devises the perfect course of action to deal with the man. And after many nights of observation, Erik decides the date for when Gustav will join his friends down in the depths of hell.

The following Wednesday, Erik is dressed to the nines in his best grey suit with a leather suitcase in his hand. The weather, steadily turning for worse during the week, came to a head, the sky opening up overhead. The sound of rolling thunder drowns out the sound of the cars as they screamed past.

The heavy downpour encourages the working crowd, rushing about on the street, to return home. Erik steps out of the hotel and joins the moving mass. Only instead his long strides bring him closer to Gustav.

Nothing short of death will stop Erik from tracking down Doctor Schmidt. He will move mountains and look through the mess with a fine toothed comb to find the man who had experimented on children with mutations. The revenge Erik will exact by eradicating Schmidt from the earth will never bring back his beloved Mama but it will be enough.

On the journey to his end goal are men like Gustav, who preyed upon his people and prospered for it. Greedy scumbags that will sell their friends out in order to protect their pathetic lives deserve nothing more than to rot in hell for all eternity. By the end of the night, Erik will make certain he joins his friends there, right after he tortures all the information out of the Nazi about the location of Schmidt.

The clean-up crew in the morning will undoubtedly receive a nasty shock when they find the corpse, but by that time Erik will be out of the country.

The mechanical lock on the front door of the run down building is no obstacle; the mechanism clicks open easy and he slips inside the building. Erik is silent as a shadow as he stalks down the corridor, towards the only office that still has lights on.

Adrenaline courses through his veins and he can feel the effects in his elevated heart rate and in the quickening of his breath despite his efforts. The hunt is on and his body buzzes with anticipation.

His heart beats faster as he creeps closer to the door. There is no one in the building that he can feel aside from Gustav and himself, perfect.

Gustav is shouting at someone, presumably over the phone, on the other side of the partially closed door. Erik smiles to himself. He can see it now: the slow torture he has meticulously planned, the possibility of new information and being one step closer to Schmidt.

His buffed dress shoes make a satisfying click on the floors, squealing on occasion when the soles meet droplets dripping casually off his overcoat. It amuses him to hear Gustav pause mid-sentence as he approaches the office door and he wastes no time pushing it open slowly on muted hinges with just a mental nudge.

The man sitting at his desk is plump and is sporting a comb over, all the signs of an opulent lifestyle in one convenient package. "Guten Abend, Herr Gustav," Erik greets the man pleasantly with a show of teeth. He steps into the room and sets the leather briefcase down on the table with a soft thud.

Gustav drops his phone, the plastic clattering loudly against the wooden table top. He can practically smell the fear rolling off the man. The tables have turned now, the prey becoming predator.

"W-Who are you? How did you get in?" the man speaks in heavily accented English, feigning his inability to understand German. It does not deter Erik one bit when he has seen the tactic employed too often. He’s made a conscious effort to understand as many languages as he can to cover all his bases and ensure future smooth transitions.

"That seems to be irrelevant as I am already in the building. The more important question is how you can be of use to me. I am looking for a man and I believe you are very familiar with him. His name is Klaus Schmidt. What can you tell me about him?" Erik asks as his eyes sweep over the quaking frame of the portly man.

Gustav continues to feign his innocence even as sweat beads his forehead, his eyes darting frantically around his office for a chance of escape. His body broadcasts the truth of the matter; after all, actions speak louder than words.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about. I can’t help you. N-now get out!”

Erik wags his finger from side to side. "Let me help you with your apparent faulty memory then, Herr Gustav." The metal clamps on his briefcase flick open on their own accord and Erik opens it to reveal the bar of Nazi gold that lay snugly against the plush red satin interior.

There is no mistaking the guilty look that falls over Gustav’s face. Erik drags Gustav forward by the metal cufflinks and pins his face to the table with a hand.

“We can stop playing games now. Tell me where is Schmidt?”

The man panics as he struggles against the hold Erik has on him and babbles incoherently in a tongue that Erik does not know. His tentative hold on his temper frays further and Erik gives Gustav a proper reason to cry out.

He exploits the small number of fillings, twisting the small silver and growls out, “My patience is wearing thin as I am sure you are well aware.” The amount of noise that comes from the man would have been startling if Erik had not done the same to others before him.

Gustav struggles against the hold and glares defiantly, opting to keep quiet despite Erik’s hand at his throat.

Erik’s control on his temper finally snaps and his hand twitches reflexively tighter as his mind moves quickly between ideas on the best method to use to deal with such stubbornness. Each idea is more gruesome than the next and it brings a smile to Erik’s face.

There's a startled noise from the doorway and Erik looks up, displeasure written as clear as day on his face. He has had enough of delays today. However, his displeasure quickly melts away into confusion.

"Stop that. What are you doing?"

In the doorway stands the Doctor, wearing a suit over a cornflower blue cardigan and disapproval upon his face. Erik scowls when the Doctor bats his hands off the man.

“I’m sorry for that old chap. Your front door was open so I assumed you were open for business. Perhaps this is a bad time. Shall I come back later? I can return after I’ve had a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits,” the shorter man says as he pockets some contraption made of metal away and moves towards the door.

"What are you doing here?" Erik blurts out.

The Doctor takes that for the invitation that it is not and steps back into the room. "I am just as surprised to see you here as you are."

Erik scowls as he gestures towards Gustav. "Do you mind? I'm in the middle of something here." Every minute he spends arguing with this idiot is a wasted one he could use to track down Schmidt.

"Not at all, please carry on. It's funny how coincidences work out and I couldn’t help overhearing earlier. I'm here to ask this chap the exact same question if you would believe it. I hope you do not mind if I take a raincheck on the tea to listen to what he has to say? It would save this old chap here from having to answer the question twice."

Gustav flicks his head between the two of them like a particularly enthralling tennis match. There’s a hand massaging his throat and Erik is quick to remind him who the bigger threat in the room is.

"If you aren't here to rat me out, then stay out of my way," Erik replies curtly, having no qualms in allowing the Doctor to stay if he so wished. All he wants is the information inside Gustav’s head.

Gustav coughs as he eyes the Doctor with distrust. "Is this some good policeman, bad policeman routine? Who are you people?"

Before Erik can get another word in edgewise, the Doctor chirps up with, "How terrible rude of me. I'm the Doctor. I wish we could have met under more pleasant situations but alas. Perhaps you know the chap we're looking for by another name? He's gone through a list of aliases longer than my arm and it is difficult for me to keep up with the different time streams and all. Does the name Time Agent Sebastian Shaw ring any bells?"

Time streams and Sebastian Shaw? For that matter what the hell is a Time Agent? "What is going on here?" Erik demands as he moves his hand to curl around Gustav’s neck. From their first meeting, Erik knew there was something different about the Doctor.

He watches as the Doctor presses his thumbs against Gustav's temples, his other hands splayed along the side of the man's head. It is even more surprising when the fool closes his eyes.

It is as if time stands still. Gustav doesn't quiver a muscle, lying pliant across the table. Erik doesn't even realise he's holding in his breath until the Doctor pulls back and commands the man to sleep before opening his eyes once more.

"How did you do that?" Erik demands as he tries in vain to slap Gustav awake. The man is out like a light and doesn't look to be waking up any time soon. "I wasn't done with him yet."

"You have your tricks and I have mine. From what I have seen in his mind, the situation is far worse than I had previously anticipated." The other's expressive face pulls into a frown as he folds his body into one of the two chairs in the room.

Erik feels the annoyance and anger bubbling away underneath the surface of his skin like an old adversary. He moves to loom over the Doctor, using his height as an intimidation technique. "What do you want with Schmidt or Shaw?"

The Doctor's gaze shifts as he tilts his head up to meet Erik's eyes. "To stop him of course, though I suspect for different reasons than your own. We want the same thing and I will be most glad to show you what I have seen within his mind if you would like to come with me."

He stands and Erik moves back a step instinctively. "How do I know I can trust you?" Erik asks.

"You don't," the Doctor replies casually over his shoulder with a wry smile; his hand is still upon the door knob. "Shaw has got friends. I'm sure you can do with some. You know where to find me. I’ll be leaving tomorrow." The Doctor bids Erik farewell and disappears from view.

Erik returns to his hotel room and sits out on the balcony with a glass of whisky in hand. He is inclined to believe that the Doctor has no reason to lie to him. The Doctor’s abilities were undoubtedly to do with the mind, especially when it came to his display on Gustav.

Erik spends the night pondering whether to go with the Doctor and decides to pack all his belongings before turning in for the night. He’ll join the Doctor conditionally.

The next morning, Erik checks out of the hotel and makes his way down to the park, taking the same route by the west gate over to the old birch tree where a familiar figure is leaning against a blue police box; no blue park bench in sight.

The Doctor pushes off the wood as soon as he spots Erik walking up the path, a pleased grin on his face. “I thought you would not be showing up til later in the afternoon, my friend.”

Erik inclines his head. “There is nothing left for me here if what you say about Schmidt – Shaw¬ – is true. You will tell me everything you know if I am to join you.”

“Quite certainly, I wouldn’t have it any other way Erik,” the Doctor eagerly assures him, “It is the least I can do if we are to defeat Shaw. You probably have a large number of questions for me, so why don’t we step into the TARDIS and I’ll answer them all as best as I can.”

He blinks, feeling as if he has missed a very important connection somewhere along the way. “The what?” Erik has never heard of any such word, be it anagram or acronym. The Doctor is certainly right on the money about the questions Erik has for him.

“Erik, meet the TARDIS. Also known as Time and Relative Dimension in Space,” the Doctor runs an affectionate hand over the blue wood of the police box’s door and smiles like a mad man. “Well come on in then.”

The Doctor holds the door open and as soon as Erik takes three steps inside, he freezes. The door closes behind them with a soft click. This police box – TARDIS – is surely a violation of the many fundamental laws of physics. He can’t take another step forward. His mind tries to process that the interior of the TARDIS is much larger than the exterior.

The space inside the TARDIS feels like a labyrinth to him, a mixture of both unfamiliar alloys and delicate electrical circuitry that thrums with life. Erik has never felt anything like this before and it both intrigues and awes him.

of a variety of metal compartments with compositions that Erik has never felt before and the new discoveries and circuitry both intrigues and awes him.

“It’s bigger on the inside,” Erik blurts out as he absorbs the console in the middle of the room where a variety of shiny knobs, handles, buttons and thingamajigs lie innocently amongst wires. Another metal bridge connects the control panel – for that must be what the console is – to a long corridor that must lead into the mysterious bowels of the TARDIS.

The Doctor laughs and walks towards the console, carelessly throwing his overcoat onto the conveniently placed arch that doubles as his coat rack. “That’s what they all say, you know. The desktop theme thankfully isn’t set to leopard skin any longer, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the time to customize her outside of fixing the chameleon circuit, and even then it’s still a little finicky.”

Erik isn’t entirely certain what a chameleon circuit does, but he figures it doesn’t have anything to do with the animal. He leaves his suitcase by the door and follows the Doctor up to the middle of the room.

He is entranced by the green column that stands proudly amongst the controls and watches as the piston lazily moves whilst the Doctor dashes about pulling on levers and twisting other bits.

“You’re going to have to use smaller words, Doctor, because I’m not entirely sure what you are talking about,” Erik cuts in as soon as the Doctor pauses long enough to draw in breath.

“Oh!” the other man has the gall to blush from embarrassment, “It has been such a long time since I’ve last had a companion you see, so I am rather excited to be able to show you the galaxy is all that my mouth’s run off before my brain can stop it. Here, come and take a seat and I’ll explain from the top about flying technique.”

Erik dutifully sits at the only seat – a puffy beige coloured thing that had seen better days – and quietly listened with half an ear as the Doctor makes another go at explaining the mechanics of travelling through the time vortex. He can’t help being distracted from time to time as he turns a variety of metal parts in his mind with his power, entranced by the different mental taste and alloys.

He gets pulled out of his thoughts when the Doctor whirls around and says, “Right then, I’ve set the course. I feel a little famished. Let us head to the kitchen and see what we can find there. Come on, up we get and then we can have a talk over a game of chess.”

“Don’t you need to fly the ship?” Erik asks dubiously as he trails after the Doctor up the second bridge and down the longest corridor known to the history of man.

The Doctor opens a door to his right and hastily shuts it behind him, turning around sheepishly to reply, “Wrong door there, I wouldn’t suggest going in if you are a fan of your toes; funny thing about the TARDIS you see, the ship is very much auto-piloting and has a personality of its own. I don’t quite know where we’re going to end up myself. It’s perfectly safe, I assure you.”

Erik is beginning to think that joining up with the Doctor may be one of the decisions he will live to regret. “You let your ship drive you around as it fancies.”

The Doctor finally wrenches open the right door and beams at Erik’s statement, “Precisely. The TARDIS has a knack of knowing where I am most needed at any given time even if I have the means to travel anywhere at any period of time. This is probably all very new and confusing to you, but the concept is very simple once you get around the fact that time is more of a wibbly-wobbly ball of stuff.”

Erik stares as the Doctor gestures with his hands the approximation of a sphere and nods very slowly. Perhaps it would be better to cut his losses now and admit he knew exactly what the Doctor was referring to so that they could move onto more important matters.

“Excellent. Now, I won’t have my newest travelling companion stand up for any meal. Sit anywhere you like. I hope you don’t mind if I make something quick and simple like Bubble and Squeak with mustard,” the Doctor wrenches open the fridge and begins taking out a variety of ingredients.

“Would you like any help in preparing anything?” Erik offers as he watches the man make his way over to the counter with his arms filled a variety of vegetables.

The Doctor shakes his head as he begins chopping up onions in a startling carefree manner that has Erik out of his seat in an instant and taking over knife duty. “Ah, thank you for that my friend. I’ve always been rubbish at cooking.”

“I can see that. In exchange for my services, tell me everything you know about Shaw.”

The Doctor bites his lower lip at the mention of the name and then relocates to the recently vacated bar stool to perch by Erik’s side. “Sebastian Shaw is the man that is solely responsible for the destruction of the Time Agency.”

“Time Agency?” Erik frowns as he begins chopping up the cabbage. His mind is still reeling from how quickly the situation has become so complex.

The Doctor stirs the mashed potato with a wooden spoon, made from a box, as he organises his thoughts. “The purpose of the Time Agency is to change how certain events take place but leave no trace as to how or the why. They never get the credit and work behind the curtains to ensure a certain conclusion is reached.

“Sebastian Shaw was one of their best agents until he became obsessed with the idea of ruling over a race of powered individuals, that you now know as mutants, after meeting them in the future. Ever since then he has been recruiting powered individuals from across all dimensions and timestreams to join him.

“The end of the Time Agency – or the Incident as they like to call it – left only seven Time Agents alive. I’m afraid he has slipped under my radar for quite some time. I had to pick up the trail in 1962 after chasing Shaw back in 3074. I guess it’s serendipity that I ran into you,” the Doctor says.

Erik says nothing as he fries up the mix of vegetables on the stove and digests the information the Doctor has given him. They eat in silence and the Doctor hums a nonsensical tune as he does the dishes afterwards.

“How long would it have taken for him to resurface if I had not joined you?” Erik finally asks to break the silence between them. The tea towel in his hand is damp.

“Oh, it’s hard to say since he has the ability to use the Vortex Manipulators to teleport between two different points in time and space – these are standard issue for every Time Agent by the way – and a terrible way to travel. Never do it given the chance. But back to your question, I’d say about ten years, give or take a few months maybe,” he shrugs and hands over the last plate before pulling the plug out of the sink.

“If I got my hands on one of those, would it be possible for me to find Shaw then?” Erik asks, trying not to think of the possibilities of ending his long search with such a simple device.

The Doctor shakes his head and heads back out towards the door. “Not unless you know for definite where he is. Shaw can be anywhere between Honolulu and the Ice Caves of Shabadabadon. For it to work we need a definite point in time when we know he will show up, or find out what he’s plotting because all of scans haven’t turned up anything useful. In any case, I know we won’t be able to defeat him alone if Gustav’s information is correct.”

Erik’s mind pings at the mention of that name and follows the Doctor into the room down the corridor from the kitchen that is decorated to look like an opulent English library of some upper class gentleman.

The Doctor paws through a pile of items on the large oak desk in front of a fireplace, a projection of fire dancing merrily against the brickwork. “Gustav knows about Shaw’s plans but only very little detail as disclosed to him. Unfortunately, what I did see in his mind doesn’t bode well for us, my friend. There are a number of humans with abilities that have been displaced and Gustav is responsible for collecting those from his time and the last on his list was you.” The Doctor hands over a piece of transparent material and Erik blinks in surprise when the sheet lights up to show a full list of those that Shaw had recruited.

“I would have never joined him,” Erik vows bitterly as he hands the sheet back over to the Doctor and turns to stare into the fireplace. A hand descends upon his shoulder and there’s a light squeeze before the Doctor retreats once more.

“I know, my friend.” The Doctor, as though recognizing a plea for solitude, turns for the door. “If there’s anything you need just give a mental or even a verbal shout. I’ll go put your things into one of the guest rooms.”

 

Erik isn’t entirely sure when he fell asleep. He is rudely awoken by the floor shaking and the sound of books falling from their shelves. The last thing he remembers is thinking about Shaw meeting his grisly end at his hand.

He stumbles off the couch and down the corridor, stretching out his senses as far as possible to get his bearings. There’s a siren going off in the background and Erik makes his way to the console room to find the Doctor alternating between jabbing at a combination of fiddly bits, shouting at his TARDIS and stroking the central piston as if it were a sentient being that required just a little bit of coaxing to work.

“What’s going on, Doctor?” Erik shouts above the din, ignoring the twisted leads that vibrate underneath their feet in a worrying manner. “Can you even fly this thing?”

The Doctor ignores him as he runs circles around the console, hammering away at the console and shouting at his TARDIS to behave. Minutes later, the sirens turn themselves off, only to be replaced by the sound of the Doctor’s short gasps. “I’ll have you know the TARDIS is a very sensitive piece of machinery and you might hurt its feelings by calling it a thing.” He turns back to the central pillar and coos as he strokes the transparent outer casing.

“Shh, there there. Everything is okay now.”

The Doctor makes his way over to the screen and swivels it to face him. The destination makes his eyebrows shoot upwards. “Apparently we’ve taken a small detour.”

“And what exactly does a small detour mean?” Erik asks as he safely walks down the bridge now that the floor isn’t swaying from side to side.

The Doctor beams as he nearly skips to get his coat. “You’ll just have to come with me to find out.” Erik hustles to follow the Doctor as the man disappears around the door.

Outside, luscious flora stretches as far as the eye can see, but Erik’s breath catches as he steps out onto the leaf litter, greenery surrounding them. The crunch of dead leaves beneath his shoe plays counterpoint to the symphony of insects all around. The atmosphere is oppressively humid and Erik wonders, not for the first time since meeting him, if the Doctor is completely mad.

“Hurry up Erik! There is a lot to see and do!” the Doctor calls out before disappearing over some tree roots. Erik questions his decision to follow the Doctor.

By the time he joins the Doctor at the top of the ridge to survey valley below, Erik can feel his breath rate increase and his fingertips throbbing in time with each heartbeat. The Doctor’s many layers belied just how physically trim he was underneath.

“Beautiful scenery isn’t it, my friend?” the man asks as he spreads his arms wide to encompass the ecosystem of dancing colours all around them. “It never fails to steal my breath away at just how picturesque this planet is.”

After a cursory sweep of the landscape, Erik finds himself watching the Doctor’s face. There is an expression of boyish wonder on his face and something close to marvel in his eyes.

“You know where we are going then?” Erik asks as he walks side by side with the Doctor picking their way through the underbrush. It appears to be an old animal track that weaved between giant trees and twisting vines like a snake shedding its skin.

“Certainly. If you can believe it there is a race of people who live amongst the trees not dissimilar to the woodland fairies from fairytales, though I suspect the name itself would have given that one away.” The Doctor pauses to shoot a wry smile in Erik’s direction. He turns around and would have tripped over the next root if it hadn’t been for Erik’s steadying hand on his arm.

“Thank you for that, my friend. I met a young girl on my travels many years ago with wings like a dragonfly. She belongs to a culture that is perhaps the only one that can coexist with the Weeping Angels.” Erik withdraws his hand as soon as the Doctor regains his footing and feels his eyebrows shoot upwards.

“Weeping Angels?”

The Doctor nods once more. “The only race of alien life that kills you in the nicest way possible, in my opinion, by sending its victims into the past before they are born and feeding on the displacement in time energy. There isn’t any way one can destroy them and the only way one can stop them is by looking at them which puts them in quantum lock. I suspect Weeping Angel social events are boring if all they do is cover their faces and blush.”

Erik snorts derisively, “I am beginning to think there will never be a dull moment when travelling with you, Doctor.” Feeling distinctly overheated, he shrugs off his suit jacket and rolls his sleeves up to his elbows.

“I probably should have told you to change into something more appropriate, instead of ruining your suit like this, but I’m certain the ladies will appreciate the view,” the Doctor comments as Erik unbuttons another button at his collar.

As if acting on cue, there is the distinctive sound of something buzzing overhead that makes Erik instinctively wary. The Doctor isn’t fazed and tilts his head skywards, prompting Erik to do the same. High up in the canopy, shadow figures flit and dive playfully to the chorus of carefree laughter.

A petite female breaks from the group and lands on a large buttress root. She is olive skinned and up this close, Erik can make out the delicate veins in her wings. “Is that you, Doctor?”

“Angel! How splendid it is to see you,” the other man’s face splits open like a second sun. In a matter of seconds, Angel launches herself off the root and the two are hugging. “Goodness how much you have grown into a beautiful young lady. You were but a little girl relearning how to fly, the last time I laid my eyes on you.”

Angel nods and blushes at the compliments before turning a curious eye to Erik. It is obvious she is pleased by his clothing choices. “Who is this, Doctor? The last time you were travelling alone unless you had him squirrelled away in the TARDIS somewhere. I know I would certainly have remembered someone this handsome.”

Erik barely resists the urge to fold his arms across his chest. He knew others saw the appeal in his figure, but he hasn’t ever made the effort to go out of his way for anyone.

“It does get boring travelling on my lonesome from time to time, you know.” The Doctor waves his hand vaguely in the air and offers a fond smile in Erik’s direction. “Angel, this is Erik. Erik, this is Angel.” The two shake hands and Erik nods politely in her direction. For a minute, Erik wonders if the TARDIS’ detour had been predetermined by the Doctor or if the time travelling machine is truly sentient with a mind of its own. At every turn it seems he finds more questions than answers.

“I must insist that the two of you follow me and share supper with us. Should I believe that this isn’t a social call?” Angel asks almost knowingly, letting out a teasing laugh when the Doctor nods in acquiescence.

She turns around and daintily picks her way through the leaf litter on foot, leading them back to her village. Erik trails behind them, his mind wandering as the Doctor and Angel catch up.

Small pockets of metallic ore tug at his senses. Erik appreciates the impure quality of the metals. He can feel little metal on Angel but the Doctor’s pocket houses a tube like shape made out of a composition Erik has never felt before.

They walk into a clearing and come to a stop, a statue of an angel covering its face adorned with flowers and offerings laid upon its pedestal. The community is abuzz with excitement as to their new guests, everyone craning their heads to get a look. Erik takes in the wooden bridges that connect one tree to its neighbour.

Angel shoos away the attention and leads them past roots and then up a flight of stairs that spirals up around the heart of the tree. The stairs lead to an open living area with various sections allotted for different parts of a normal house.

“I used to live with my parents but share with my elder brother. I’ll see if I can get him to give us some privacy when I fix up dinner,” Angel comments and beckons them to sit outside on the balcony.

The Doctor is immediately drawn to the pod hammock in the corner and settles himself comfortably. “I love what you’ve done to the place, Angel, it’s very Lord of the Rings with the trees and such. Possibly a better comparison would be like that Avatar film,” the man pauses in his musings and takes in the twin expressions of confusion. “Right, neither of which you know. Never mind that then.”

Erik ends up seated on a stool that appears to be carved from a tree stump. He raises an eyebrow in the Doctor’s direction. “I did read the books as a young adult so I’m not completely ignorant. I am getting the distinct sense that your imagination is far more active than my own,” he replies dryly.

“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m sure the painted world of the Shire is as beautiful as any other,” the Doctor says as he gestures with his hands enthusiastically to what Erik believes are to be trees and Nazguls.

Erik shakes his head briefly and leans against the tree trunk that doubled as a wall. The sun has already set and the three moons are slowly rising in the background, peeking through gaps in the canopy and casting the entire forest in an ethereal glow.

Angel reappears with dinner and the conversation shifts to Angel’s adventure with the Doctor who had rescued her as a young girl after her wings were burnt. Erik’s interest piqued when Angel describes her captor, the image of Shaw beginning to take shape in his head.

The Doctor looks up from where he has been holding her hand and catches Erik’s eye. He gives an almost imperceptible nod as if to affirm what Erik is thinking. Erik feels his breath catch, frowning to know Shaw’s path of destruction wasn’t limited to his own experience.

“What would you do if we told you that we may have found the man who held you as a child?” Erik asks, folding his legs elegantly one over the other.

Angel’s face instantly shifts; her expression hardens like a seasoned warrior about to enter battle. “I wouldn’t hesitate to join you in taking him down. Is this what this is about then Doctor? You have found him?”

The Doctor frowns, his eyebrows knitting together and a number of frown lines appearing on his forehead. He replies with a simple syllable, “Yes.”

“Will you join us knowing you may not return to this life here?” the Doctor asks.

Angel’s lips quirk upwards into something more feral; calling her expression a smile would be to imply she is pleased or happy about something. “Do you know why we worship the Weeping Angels, Doctor? I never quite understood when I was younger why we would choose to believe in something that can send someone to the past and feed off the time energy.

“It is because they kill their victims by waiting for them to live to death. They may be displaced from their own timelines, but we find peace in another time and live till the end of our days. And frankly, you two seem rather hopeless. You’ll need all the help that you can get.” Angel smirks and disappears with the dishes in hand.

The Doctor shares a look with Erik and smiles. Maybe Shaw will build his army, but come hell or high water Erik will destroy them or die trying.

 

Erik wakes to the Doctor’s cheery and smiling face close to his own. He makes a strangled noise as the Doctor pulls back and laughs. Either the Doctor is good at sneaking up on people or he hasn’t slept this well in quite some time. The woven fern blanket and his suit jacket pillow were more comfortable than he had initially thought.

“Up we get. Back to the TARDIS we go. Angel is just saying farewell to the rest of her family. We’ll meet up with her at the edge of the village.”

Erik makes a vague grunting noise and scrubs a hand over his face to hide a yawn. A cup of tea is thrust under his nose and Erik downs it without question. He’ll take all the caffeine he can get.

True to the Doctor’s word, Angel is waiting for them by the entrance and the trio set off down the path back to the TARDIS. The walk back seems all the more short in comparison to the walk to Angel’s village.

“How long have you been travelling with the Doctor, Erik?” Angel asks as the door to the TARDIS shuts closed behind them. She parks herself onto the only chair available near the console. The Doctor fiddles with knobs and pulls on handles in a seemingly random fashion to Erik’s eye.

“Not very long,” Erik answers. He leans against the metal banisters and hears the tell-tale whirling sound of the TARDIS lifting off. “Is there an actual method to your madness that normal people are not privy to?”

“Of course there’s a method. This button fires up the whirly cryotubes and then by pulling this handle here we get access to the Gravitic Anomaliser.” the Doctor begins listing the various parts, most of which have no actual meaning to Erik. Angel disappears halfway through his talk in order to explore the corridors and claim her old room once again.

He decides to humour the other man regardless, as Erik receives an impromptu tour around the column (“That’s the Time Rotor, Erik.” “It’s also a column.” “Touche.”). How a time machine’s hand brake worked will forever remain a mystery to Erik.

“A game of chess, my friend?” the Doctor asks after he stabilises the TARDIS, sending them travelling once more to destinations unknown. “According to the triangulations, it’ll be a few hours before we get to the next place.”

Erik flashes his teeth at the prospect of yet another chess match. “Lead on.” He wonders if the Doctor ever cheats with his ability and vows to make him work harder for each move.

“I can tell you’ve been wondering about my abilities. I can read minds unlike my previous regenerations, who didn’t,” the Doctor explains as they make the short trek to the library and start up the first game of many.

“Previous regenerations?” Erik repeats – and to his annoyance, he’s been doing quite a lot of repeating – he moves one of his knights and settles down to wait.

“You may have noticed that I’m not exactly human despite looking like them,” the Doctor begins.

Erik rolls his eyes. “I am confused, not blind. What exactly are you then?”

“I’m a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey and the last of my kind,” the Doctor says, his tone bitter like a black coffee. “I would have brought you there to Kasterborous, to see Gallifrey just as the second star rises from the south and causing the mountains to shine.”

A quiet settles in the library, broken time to time by the sound of chess pieces advancing.

“I know why you want him gone, Erik. And I’m sorry… I am so sorry.”

His head whips up to stare at the Doctor. He doesn’t need this man’s – Time Lord¬’s – pity or his platitudes. Erik has not needed anyone for most of his life and he doesn’t want to start now with someone who he has barely known.

“What do you know about me?”

The Doctor gives him an undecipherable look that Erik instantly translates to sympathy. “Everything. I have seen what Shaw has done to you and how you felt in those moments. Let me help you.”

Those words bring Erik to his feet, knocking the chessboard askew in his haste. “If you know what is best for you, stay out of my head Doctor.” He doesn’t stay long enough to see the black king fall over and trace a lazy arc over black and white squares. He doesn’t stay long enough to see the Doctor’s expression as he storms out of the library towards his assigned room.

 

Several hours later, the Doctor’s cheerful chirps over the internal PA system like a flash of lightning through Erik’s dark and moody cloud of emotion. “Ladies and gentlemen – though I suppose it would be more fitting if I just used singulars instead of plurals at this given point in time – we have but arrived. If you’ll make your way to the door, let us see where she’s landed us this time around.”

The Doctor is pulling on his coat and adjusting his lapels when Erik joins them by the door. Angel must have found the Doctor’s closet earlier and for a moment Erik is glad the Doctor is no longer in the TARDIS as he wonders why the Doctor’s closet contained summer dresses.

“Just for the record, I haven’t the foggiest idea where he gets these clothes either,” Angel says as she holds the door open for Erik. “This dress was one of the tamer things the Doctor has stashed there.”

Erik snorts at the revelation, shaking his head slightly when the Doctor gives them both a quizzical look. “Why am I not as surprised as I should be about that?”

They both pause as soon as they realise everything around them is painted in a commercial grey colour and large warehouse lights illuminate the long corridor. The atmosphere is cold, clinically so, as if controlled to be just on the other side of comfortable.

“Where are we, Doctor?” Angel asks in a whisper as they walk in one direction. Erik turns towards her, wondering why she is keeping her voice low. There isn’t anyone around to hear their conversation.

“I’m not entirely certain either Angel. The TARDIS didn’t say anything concrete about our current location.” The Doctor runs a hand through his hair.

Erik folds his arms at the revelation. “That sounds assuring. What exactly does that entail?”

“It means, Erik, that we’re most likely not on a planet. This happens from time to time though, so I wouldn’t be too entirely worried.” The Doctor stops once they get to a large circular door, similar to what one might find on a submarine. Angel peers around the Doctor’s shoulder.

“And of course not being planet-side means locked doors. Oh, I do love finding out what is on the other side of locked doors,” the Doctor comments and sounds entirely too gleeful as he rummages in his coat pocket for the metallic contraption Erik felt earlier.

At this distance, Erik can see the mix of bronze and chrome. “What is that?”

The Doctor grins as he extends one end and toggles what Erik assumes are the settings. “This is the sonic screwdriver. It’s also known as the best piece of Gallifreyan technology ever built. I would know.” The Doctor points the screwdriver towards the door and emits a low hum.

Erik hears the heavy door unlatch with a dull thunk. He is left wondering the logistics of how sonic waves have the ability to do what it does. “Ta-da! If you could please turn that open, let’s see what’s on the other side shall we?”

With an outstretched palm, Erik rotates his hand and watches the wheel turn slowly with a certain amount of satisfaction. He gives the heavy door a light nudge using his power and stands back, expecting more or less the same endlessness of yet another corridor.

The door, however, has other ideas and opens up to reveal a group of soldiers waiting on the other side; each and every one of their guns trained upon their person. Erik is left to wonder if they had triggered a set of silent alarms they had somehow missed; too late now to know for certain.

“Who are you?”

Erik is tense and about to lash out when he feels the Doctor’s hand settle over his wrist. He stays his hand and lets the Doctor take charge. They didn’t exactly have the time to deal with bloodstains after all.

Angel and Erik exchange a quick look whilst the Doctor takes a step forward and holds out what appears to be travel pass holder for their perusal. “We’re the caterers you called. See, says right there. Have I mentioned over the phone how simply divine Erik’s teacakes are? No? Then I do implore you to try them, yes?”

It really comes as no one’s surprise when they are all thrown into a cell together. However, the reason for being thrown in a cell - because they had allegedly forgotten Arthur’s sandwich – was rather surprising.

“What now Doctor?” Angel asks as she sits daintily on the only horizontal surface available. “How do you plan to bust us out of here? I can melt the door easily.”

The Doctor gives both of them a look. Erik is certain the Doctor knows the capabilities of both Angel and himself. “Don’t be so rash to jump right in and breaking the walls just yet. Don’t you find it strange that they’ve just put all of us in the one cell?”

“I wouldn’t know the protocols of prison ships from the future,” Erik says bitterly, but stays his hand once more. The Doctor looks suitably apologetic for a minute until his mind goes back into solving the conundrum that has just presented itself.

Angel pipes up from where she is swinging her legs back and forth, “I can most likely melt the door down. What about you, mister? If it’s a clean getaway you wanted Doctor, I’m sure Erik can do it with his metal magic. Like what you did back there to open the first door.”

Erik raises an eyebrow. “Metal magic? I’ll have you know there is nothing magical about my abilities.”

“Sure there is. You opened the door without touching it. It was magic,” Angel replies with a childish grin.

The Doctor interrupts their back and forth and removes the two fingers held against his temple like a headache had suddenly sprung from seemingly nowhere. “There’s a young man amongst the thousands here that we need to find and soon. For the sake of leaving this door intact, Erik can you work on getting past the physical latches. I’ll take care of the security codes.”

Angel pouts petulantly as he watches both men at work: the Doctor with his sonic screwdriver by the small panel by the door and Erik standing by his side where his fingers twitched from time to time.

“So, now what? How exactly are we going to find this guy of yours?” Angel asks as they stand outside their prison door, grey concrete stretching out as far as the eye can see. The heavy metal door is several inches thick and undoubtedly designed to keep people out or ensure that people would stay in.

The Doctor waves his sonic screwdriver down both ends of the corridor and pauses to observe the readings. “We shall find him easily enough, just as soon as we find some stairs. What I want to know is how we managed to land inside a prison warship. I’m sure he will be more than happy to get out of this place. This way then,” the Doctor says as he points towards the left. Angel and Erik fall into step behind the Doctor.

They take a left turn and then another one before the Doctor stops so abruptly that Erik walks into the back of him. The Doctor hushes him before Erik can even get the first syllable past his lips.

There is the sound of heavy footsteps and the trio are quick to find a hiding spot behind the next corner, squatting behind a small pile of crates. The patrol is clad from head to toe in black military gear with oddly shaped helmets and matching studded kilts. Erik is astonished to see the helmet open up to reveal a rhinoceros-like head within.

As soon as they passed, both Angel and Erik turn their heads simultaneously towards the Doctor who appears to be in a world of his own as he bites nervously on his lower lip.

“Why on earth would the Judoon be here? I’m almost certain this should be a government vessel. This is making no sense to me.” He quickly launches himself onto his feet and heads down the corridor where the Judoon have just come from.

“You’re going to have to do more explaining please, Doctor. What were they?” Angel asks, her wings fluttering anxiously behind her. Their footsteps have quickened to nearly that of a light jog as the Doctor stalks the alien creatures. Erik hides his eagerness to learn more about them easily due to many years of careful practise.

“The Judoon are mercenaries, of sorts. You can think of them as the intergalactic police if you will. I’ve never heard of them aboard a government prison vessel before and there must be some reason. Unless, of course, they’ve hijacked it for their own diabolical ends, but what do they have to gain from this?”

Neither of them can answer and the Doctor eventually stops his hasty steps when the Judoon are out of earshot. It felt like they were wandering through a large labyrinth, eventually finding two flights of stairs through sheer dumb luck.

The Doctor stops momentarily – both in step and in his musings – to stare at one of the electronic security panels outside one of the prison cells. He presses a finger over the touch screen and pokes the screen, crooning in delight later when the screen displays the correct prisoner information.

“This is the one! Now if I can bypass the microcircuitry and security protocols, we should be able to slip in unobserved,” the Doctor grins, taking a moment to run his tongue along his lower lip to wet it.

Erik shakes his head, wondering at how the Doctor could remain so oblivious and optimistic at the same time. “I think they would have noticed we’ve escaped our cells by now. I’m starting to think that silent alarms are their kind of thing,” Erik says over the sound of the Doctor’s screwdriver at work.

The locks on the door are more intricate than the ones two floors down and Erik gently coaxes the multiple latches open until they can unlock the door.

Angel peers at the screen and tilts her head as she appraises the picture of the prisoner within. “Why exactly are we going to talk to this guy? If he’s in here for a reason, don’t you think it would be a better idea to stay on this side of the door? It says here that he killed at least two dozen people. Doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of guy I’d want to be friends with, cute face or not.”

The Doctor flicks his screwdriver out and observes the readings before turning to Angel. “He was framed for those crimes by a time agent. Three guesses who and the first two don’t count.”

“I hope this Alex Summers won’t require much convincing. I’ll keep watch outside. Now stop wasting time,” Angel says and shoos the pair inside the prison cell.

A lone male, not much older than a young adult, sits upon the cool metal bench clad only in a white undershirt and a pair of standard issue pants. His fingers steeple together as he trains his eyes on the ground between his feet. A pair of heavy manacles resting snuggly over his wrists anchors the young man firmly to the floor of the cell. It would have been impossible to tell whether Alex was awake had it not been for the giveaway tensing of his biceps.

Alex tilts his head upwards, surprise written on his face. Clearly, Erik and the Doctor weren’t who he had been expecting today. “Who are you? What are you doing in my cell?”

The Doctor smiles and takes a step forward. “My name is the Doctor. This here is Erik. We know precisely what happened the day you were caught in the middle of a crime you did not commit. We’ve come to get you out of here.”

Alex looks alarmed for a minute before his eyes narrow. “How do you know where I’ve-”

Erik steps forward and gives the younger man a cold smile. Time is of the essence and if he allows the Doctor to continue talking, they would all be caught by the Judoon. “Let’s move this along shall we?”

The heavy manacles are simple to unhinge and Alex stares at them in poorly veiled shock and possibly awe as they fall into his lap.

“We’re going to take down Shaw and extending the opportunity to get out of here. Unless of course you would prefer to spend the rest of your days withering away in this cell for doing a crime you didn’t quite commit. It wouldn’t matter to us either way,” Erik says. His words seem to light a fire underneath Alex’s ass and the younger man jumps up from the bench.

The Doctor shoots him a disapproving look that Erik ignores with a shrug of his shoulders. This hadn’t exactly been what he had intended when asking Alex whether he would join up with them or not.

“Did you say Shaw? Like hell I would pass up the chance to get even. You can count me in. I don’t have to return here do I after we kick his ass right?” Alex asks, a little bit of hope infused into his voice. The Doctor isn’t sure how long Alex has spent on this vessel, but he can imagine how easy it would be for time to slip through his fingers if he spends hours on end staring at the same four walls.

The Doctor smiles and cradles the small flare of hope with his words. “Yes Alex. Everything we have said is completely true. I will get you out of here if that is what you wish.” He can see the instant when Alex’s mind is made up and boyish wonder seeps through the frown.

“Yes, Doctor. Shaw took me away from my siblings when they needed me the most and I will aid you in any way that I can. After we’re through with him, I hope that I can find them once more,” Alex vows, standing up and staring critically at the manacles that fall heavily to the concrete floor.

Angel is glad when they step out of the room, introducing herself to Alex with a firm handshake and a flutter of her wings. “About time you cats got back out here. I was starting to think the rhino-guys would come back at any moment.”

“Thank you Angel. That reminds me, would you happen to know anything about what the Judoon are doing on this ship, Alex?” the Doctor asks as they work to reseal the door.

Erik is somewhat surprised the other doesn’t pluck the answers straight from the blonde’s head. Surely that would save them all the game of twenty questions.

The blonde tilts his head and frowns. “The rhino guys? They came on board a few days ago and no one really knows why. Not that anyone talks on my level. Everyone here is in solitary confinement and actual mass murdering fuck heads. But Erik can handle them, no problem right?” Erik nods at that wondering how easy it would be to use the metal studs to slice through the Judoon’s hide.

The Doctor turns on his heel to face his three companions. “Right then, let’s find out what they are up to before we head off shall we?”

“And why exactly should we be doing that? We have Alex now. If the Judoon are some kind of space police as you’ve said, would it not be painfully obvious and suspicious when we walk around with him. We should just get the hell out of here and go after Shaw,” Erik reasons. The Doctor’s curiosity is going to get them all killed, Erik is certain of it. Alex agrees, out of his new found freedom and possible hero worship.

The Doctor laughs and shakes his head. “Don’t be ridiculous. The Judoon aren’t particularly clever and they are more like intergalactic thugs gallivanting around pretending to be some sort of authoritative figure upholding the law. I’m curious to see what they are up to.”

“And you couldn’t have insulted their intelligence earlier? I was under the impression that there really is more to see underneath their custom made helmets,” Erik replies and the Doctor chuckles. “Are you always this unfailingly optimistic? I’m surprised you aren’t dead in a ditch somewhere.”

“A ditch, Erik, the very idea! I’ll have you know I’m far too charming and charismatic to meet my end like that. Besides, I’d just regenerate,” the Doctor says, looking properly aghast.

Erik isn’t sure if he is being entirely serious or faking it, but they all follow the Doctor up the stairs as he takes off sprinting to destinations unknown. Alex and Angel are behind them, bickering about something or other and Erik is left to his own thoughts. He is getting the distinct impression that the Doctor tends to make a lot of things up as he goes along, despite the Doctor knowing quite a lot about the world at large.

Erik feels someone squeeze his forearm and turns to ask the Doctor what the matter was now. The serious look leaves his words dying upon his tongue so instead Erik settles for frowning.

“If for some reason something happens to me, get back to the TARDIS and wait for me inside. You will be safe there. Nothing can get in as long as the door closes. There’s a spare key hidden behind the first P,” the Doctor says seriously. He gives Erik’s forearm another squeeze before letting go and dropping his hand to his side.

“You know, not to be the one to point out the obvious,” Angel pipes up from having stopped to look down corridors that are starting to look startlingly similar, “But we haven’t seen hide nor hair of these Judoon people. Shouldn’t they be patrolling the place or something if they’re looking for something?”

Alex groans and slaps his forehead. “Great, now you’ve gone and jinxed us. Now you’ve gone and triggered them with that very phrase. They’ll be swarming down on us in every direction faster than I can say ‘Judoons in a dress’.” Angel splutters a noise of protest and looks about to smack or punch Alex in the face when Alex’s premonition comes true.

Erik immediately shifts into a defensive stance and quickly catalogues every piece of available metal around them. Although he has no real obligation to be protecting anyone, Erik can’t help but stand in front of both Angel and Alex.

One of the Judoon approaches them, a scanner of some sort in one hand. He thrusts the technology in their faces as the diagnostic scans begin to run. Erik has half a mind to break the contraption into its components until the Judoon speaks. “Three humans. But one non-human. Bring him.”

The Doctor walks over to stand in front of the Judoon with the scanner and smiles. “Say old chap, who exactly are you looking for?”

The Judoon looks him up and down, his small nostrils flaring as if to get a proper scent. Up this close, Erik can practically hear how fast the Judoon’s neurons were firing. “You do not smell like the Yend we seek.”

“That is because you will find that I am not,” the Doctor explains slowly, as if talking to a particularly slow child. “Perhaps I can be of some assistance to you? I am the Doctor.” The Judoon blinks at him and then steps back into formation.

“Move out,” they move like a well-oiled machine and disappear down the corridor and up yet another set of stairs.

“You know what, I vote that we just get the hell out of Dodge,” Alex pipes up, his eyes trained on the staircase. “Because I figure we’ll eventually hit some human guards that will figure out I’m meant to be in a cell. The uniform you know is painfully obvious.”

The Doctor nods, his enthusiasm flagging a little for having to give up the hunt for the Yend. Erik can tell he is split between solving this mystery and making sure they do not lose Alex after going through the trouble of busting him out in the first place.

“Let the clever rhino guys take care of whatever the hell a Yend is,” Angel adds. “I’m sure they’ll eventually find what they’re here for.”

They cautiously pick their way back towards the TARDIS, hiding as necessary when the Judoon stomp past them twice down the same corridor. They let out a collective sigh of relief when they climb back through the circular archway without encountering any human guards.

Alex pauses as soon as he sees the TARDIS. “This is your ship, Doctor? It’s not very impressive to be honest. With the four of us, wouldn’t it be a little cramped inside? I’m not exactly keen for this sausage fest.” Alex looks dubiously between Erik and Angel, the latter grinning and saying she definitely wouldn’t mind.

“This is the TARDIS, Alex,” the Doctor says as he unlocks the door and opens the door.

The size of Alex’s eyes grow comically wide as he steps inside and promptly walks back out to peer around the side of the ship, not quite believing what his eyes is telling his brain. “Woah. It’s bigger on the inside!”

Angel laughs as she follows Alex in. “That’s exactly what I said! Wait till you see how many rooms she’s got. There’s even a room where we can train. And the Doctor has the biggest closet I’ve ever seen. Would you believe he has this sparkly blue sequinned dress and wigs?”

Alex’s face is hilarious to watch, his habitual smirk fading into something younger and lighthearted. “Go show him around Angel and slander my reputation where I can’t see it happen. I’ll have you know that dress saved many lives.”

The Doctor watches as the pair walk off. Angel’s laughter is light and carefree as Alex shoots looks over his shoulder before they disappear from view.

Erik brings up the rear and closes the door shut behind him with a soft click before he saunters up to the Doctor casually and claims a small part of the console to lean against. “Did I hear that right? A sparkly blue dress? How kinky.”

The Doctor’s cheeks flare up and he busies himself running around the console to prepare the TARDIS for take-off. “I had no idea what Jack was thinking when he left that behind. There ought to be a few hours before we get to our next spot. Was there anything you needed, Erik?” the Doctor asks, his bright blue eyes flicking upwards to meet Erik’s fleetingly before he ducks behind the Time rotor once again.

“I can’t figure out whether it is in your nature to genuinely fix everything or whether it is a manifestation of your guilt as you run away from something,” Erik comments nonchalantly. He angles the monitor the Doctor is looking at away, such that he can look directly into the Doctor’s startled blue ones.

The Doctor’s fingers stop flying over the handle briefly before he is stirred into action once more. “I haven’t any idea what you are talking about Erik.”

Erik walks to the other side, allowing himself a small victorious smile when he sees the Doctor’s face, even if it feels more like a bitter and hollow win. “It is one thing to lie to me about it - we’ve only just met after all - but another thing to lie to yourself. The thing with the Judoon and finding the Yend for them, at some point you have to stop looking over your shoulder and start looking forward, Doctor.”

He quietly slips away from the gangway when it becomes clear the Doctor is not going to say anything, instead opting to find Angel and Alex. If they were going to tackle Shaw, and whoever had joined Shaw by that time, they would need to better themselves physically and mentally with training.

Angel readily agrees but Alex completely shutters himself down when Erik suggests it. “People tend to get hurt when I use my abilities. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

Erik offers a small smile and gives Alex’s shoulder a small squeeze. “We’ll start off with conditioning the body then work our way up to abilities. Maybe by then the Doctor and I may come up with something to help you.”

What feels like hours later, and who can tell when one is on a spaceship, Erik sends the pair away to rest for a few hours before continuing his run around the room Angel found earlier. There’s a nice healthy sheen of sweat upon his skin, having accommodated to the slower pace, and Erik is glad to feel the familiar burn in his muscles.

The Doctor walks into the room and stands in the middle, watching Erik silently as he completes his final lap.

Erik comes to a stop in front of him, wipes the back of his hand over his brow. “I…” the Doctor begins and then turns his head to look anywhere but Erik. “You’re correct, you know.”

“I find that I am rarely incorrect.”

The Doctor laughs quietly, “Thank you for that, my friend.” Erik decides the Doctor has a nice laugh and gasps quietly for air, knowing there is much more the Doctor has to say.

“I’m older than you can possibly imagine. Having the ability to regenerate is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve lived for so long that even my name is lost in the Medusa Cascades. Delving into my past contains but terrible memories of horrors that you will be forever blessed to never see.”

Erik gives the Doctor a patient look. “I’m sure we have time for a story or two, Doctor. Perhaps even over a game or two of chess?” Erik wonders briefly when he last felt honest concern for anyone.

The Doctor smiles genially and reaches a hand out to squeeze Erik’s forearm. “I will be in the library waiting for I‘m certain you will want a change of clothes before we engage in mental battles.”

“It’s like you can read my mind, Doctor,” Erik cannot help tease as they walk towards the door.

The Doctor offers a quick grin before sharing a conspiratorial look and a wink. “Don’t tell anyone but I do have rather groovy powers.” Erik watches as the Doctor walks down the hallway in one direction before turning and heading down in the opposite direction.

He takes a quick shower, purring softly as water cascades over tired muscles and towels himself off afterwards. His bag sits on the bed and Erik rummages through his belongings for a fresh set of clothes. He’d have to hang up his suit later and ask the Doctor about doing laundry at some later point in time.

The Doctor’s expression brightens when Erik enters the library; the chessboard already reset and waiting for play. Erik settles down into the chair opposite and waits for the opening move and the Doctor to begin speaking.

He isn’t disappointed on both fronts as one of the white pawns advance two spaces. “Looking forward isn’t an easy thing for me to do, especially as a time traveller.”

Erik shrugs as he moves a knight. “It isn’t the actual journey that matters Doctor, but rather the lessons we learn along the way. You are haunted by your own past and that much is obvious to anyone that chooses to look and observe you for once.”

The Doctor swallows, his throat working in ways that shouldn’t be attractive. “Aren’t we always looking towards the past? Mistakes, past actions, small events that we wish we could go back and change; those all breed regret. Haven’t you wished you could go back and change something you could have done differently?”

Threading his fingers together, Erik folds his leg over the other and mirrors the Doctor’s position. “No. Everything happens for a reason and if you linger on frivolous emotions, you no longer have the scope of the future in mind. That is perhaps your flaw for you have lost sight of your long-term goals.”

The Doctor says nothing but it is apparent in the abysmal way he plays.

“When was the last time you allowed someone to know the real you, Doctor? You are always so busy running around trying to help with someone else’s problems. But when do you ever have the time to find the answers to your own?”

“I can’t,” the Doctor states as he pushes his chair back and stands up. He moves to stand in front of the fire and turns his back towards Erik, hiding the pained expression on his face as he stares into the flickering light. “What I have done is unbearable. During the Last Great Time War, I-”

Erik moves to stand directly behind the Doctor. “I am sure you had your reasons for whatever you did. You have to let it go because you can never go back to change the past.”

“What do you plan to do with Shaw?”

“Simple. You already know the answer to that one. I’m going to kill him, Doctor.”

The Doctor’s hand closes slowly into a fist. “Can you live with that for the rest of your life, knowing that you have extinguished someone from existence? There will be blood upon your hands,” the quiet way the Doctor speaks make Erik feel like an accomplice for the crime of murder. He isn’t too far off the mark for that one.

If Erik is truthful to himself, and Erik strives to be whenever convenient, he has thought of nothing else but that one glorious moment. “He has brought suffering to many and nothing short of that will set my heart and soul at rest. There is already blood upon my hands. Shaw has already stained mine with purpose ever since I was a young boy. I will decimate him and there is nothing you can say or do that will change my mind on the matter. This much you know.”

The Doctor finally turns around. The orange glow from the fireplace behind them contrasts greatly to the electric blue of his eyes; it gives the Doctor an almost eerie look. “What will you do after, Erik? After we have defeated Shaw?”

“I am not naïve enough to plan that far ahead,” Erik says, even if he is being a little contradictory with what he spoke earlier about looking forward. It has been his end goal for so many years that whatever came after Shaw had been overlooked. He steps back and moves back to his chair.

The Doctor sits back into his and they play the next three games in silence.
“You can perhaps-” the Doctor begins, only to be interrupted by the TARDIS. He immediately stands up and heads for the main deck.

“I am starting to think your ship has an excellent sense of timing,” Erik comments wryly as he follows the Doctor. They stare at the screen, the destination making no sense to Erik at all.

Alex and Angel appear in the hallway, looking distinctively rumpled after their sleep. Alex stifles a yawn whilst Angel buttons up the shirt she must have appropriated.

“Where are we this time, Doctor?” Alex asks as he walks to the door. The Doctor smiles as he gathers his coat.

“How do you guys feel about visiting the galaxy’s biggest vivarium?” The answer comes in the form of Angel’s excited squeal much to the Doctor’s amusement. “Open the door then, love. We’ll go have a quick peek around.”

Erik raises an eyebrow, knowing that a quick peek around in the Doctor’s terms usually spells trouble for everyone else. This is a lesson that he is quick to learn when travelling with someone like the Time Lord.

They open the door to the sound of running water and shrill bird calls. Angel is seemingly reminded of home and laughs as a multitude of animals fly past in an array of different colours. There are lizards of various shapes as they lay upon their favourite rock sunning themselves.

Alex seems equally impressed by the set up as he looks skyward and finds nothing else but a pale green sky and fluffy white clouds. In a certain light, the sky sometimes flashes white but then smooths away without further incident.

They wander as a group until they come across someone leaving scraps of meat on the floor.

She looks as shocked to see them as they do her and clucks her tongue when she sets the bucket down. Her face is reptilian like, small scales making up the majority of her face. “Oh hello. Did you lose your tour guide? I swear that Sean Cassidy is nothing but trouble always skivving off work. I’ll escort you out in a jiffy.”

The Doctor, on the other hand, looks utterly fascinated by the Silurian’s work. “Excuse me. I’m the Doctor. Would you mind telling me what you are feeding? Or rather hoping to feed, as the case may be?”

“I’m Sahal. I’m trying to coax the new Pteetsa chicks into coming out, but nothing yet so far.” She wipes her hands on her brown apron before shaking the Doctor’s outstretched hand. The apron has the words ‘Viridescent Vivarium’ emblazoned upon the chest pocket in curly green letters.

They stand awkwardly around as the Doctor croons in delight and starts quizzing Sahal about the various things ranging from phosphate levels in their food to complex mating rituals that the birds use.

Sahal leads them to the door of the Aviary whilst talking animatedly to the Doctor about the other kinds of birdlife that live there. “Have a good day exploring our attractions Doctor. There’s plenty to see and do here at the Viridescent Vivarium and I hope you have a pleasant stay.” She nods politely at them before heading back inside.

“What was she?” Alex asks as soon as she’s out of earshot, gesturing back towards the Aviary as they walk out.

“Sahal is a Silurian, Alex. They’re a species of Earth reptile and a cousin of the Sea Devils which are amphibious,” the Doctor explains as he pushes the door open.

All around them are a variety of large domes. In the distance, one sphere contains water with dark sleek shadows cutting through the medium like a knife. Another sphere is calibrated to look like that of a desert and dust clouds wafted towards the ceiling. It’s been a long time since Erik had set foot inside a zoo for the pleasure of observing animals and none of them resembled anything remotely like this.

“Can we go have a look at the aquarium?” Angel asks as she points in the direction of a large water sphere suspended in mid-air, the water overflowing at the top and cascading downwards into a waterfall at its base. Alex enthusiastically agrees, practically bursting with the energy of a young child.

The Doctor laughs and concedes easily enough between the twin pair of pleading eyes. The bubbly atmosphere of families, of all shapes and sizes, is relaxing. Erik tails after the running pair with the Doctor at his side.

“I somehow feel like a parent,” the Doctor jokes as he looks all around him with wonder in his eyes. “Never did I think I’d see the day when I would have children of my own. There’s nothing quite like the sound of laughter to uplift the spirit and it almost makes me glad to be alive.”

Erik doesn’t comment, merely placing a hand on the small of the Doctor’s back and guiding him through the doors of the aquarium.

The inside of the aquarium is vastly different from the one Erik briefly visited while trailing after a target. The sphere itself is sectioned into smaller spheres and small groups floated around in a bubble vehicle to get up close and personal with all the aquatic creatures.

This time around though, the Doctor ensures Erik sees each and every one of the exhibits ranging from seahorses to seal like creatures from a galaxy that Erik has never heard of before.

The lighting is dim at the lower depths of the sphere and the tunnel they are walking down is illuminated every so often by glowing coral. Angel and Alex are nowhere in sight and the Doctor chalks that up to their youthful enthusiasm to see everything quickly. Erik finds himself learning more about fish from planets he can’t pronounce the name of than he ever wanted to.

They spend a long time at the reef, which turns out to be the Doctor’s favourite exhibit, as he coos about the amphiprioninae from earth. Erik finds himself smirking as the Doctor begins talking about the mating rituals of sequential hermaphrodites such as clownfish.

They take a bubble-craft to the colder part of the aquarium. The flimsy transparent base wavers from time to time as aquatic creatures swim past below. A particularly playful Delfin swims circles around them causing Erik to laugh even as the Doctor holds his elbow hostage.

“It’s perfectly safe Doctor. No one’s going to pop the bottom of the bubble-craft if we so much as sneeze,” Erik chuckles as the grip on his elbow tightens. “Just enjoy the sights why don’t you? Surely you’ve encountered this before in your many years of travel?”

“Maybe! Oh look over there Erik, aren’t those Delfins pretty. Look at their dorsal fin and sharp teeth. Look at them play with that other bubble-craft as if they want to break it apart and kill us all,” the Doctor says, his voice sarcastic.

Erik is glad when they return to solid ground and the Doctor finally lets go of his elbow, leaving a tingling pins and needles sensation in his wake.

Their feet lead them to another enclosure. A young man with a ginger mop of hair is standing shoulder to shoulder with another Silurian. From the look on her face, she is unimpressed by the boy’s pick-up line and subsequent pleading.

“It’ll be the most spectacular date you will ever go on, Aralia,” he boasts as he half-heartedly helps feed the Pinguins (some distant cousin of earth penguins, Erik reads from the sign). “You work here, I work here. You like Pinguins and I do too. That’s already two things we have in common. We should totally meet up after work and talk about it.”

One of the Pinguins looks inquisitively at the pile of fish, its head tilting from left to right as if surveying which one is the plumpest and freshest of the lot. It nips at the tail of the largest fish and pulls the slowly across the ice floor, towards another thinner but taller Pinguin at the far end away from the larger group. There’s some squawking and squabbling before the taller one accepts the fish much to the obvious excitement of the smaller one. The Doctor joins the assorted group of females cooing at the sight of snuggling Pinguins, much to Erik’s embarrassment.

The Silurian rolls her eyes and replies, “You already used that line last week Sean. The answer isn’t changing. I still have to feed the Delfins and you should get back to leading the tours.” She picks up the empty buckets and heads towards the exit.

Sean looks back towards the water enclosure, a thoughtful expression on his face. He sends out a supersonic wave and turns to shout, “What Delfins are you talking about?”

“The ones that you summoned towards you Sean, but I’m not too concerned,” Aralia says as she continues walking, “They know the one who has got food around here.” True to her word, the Delfins lose interest quickly and abandon Sean when they find out he has nothing to offer.

“Is this the same guy that the other Silurian was talking about?” Erik asks as they slowly approach the young man from both sides. The Doctor claps Sean warmly on the shoulder and strikes up a conversation.

Sean is a slip of a thing, all knobbly knees, long limbs and loud voice. Erik can’t help but think the boy might snap in half if so much as a light wind blows past. He can only imagine what Sean could do with that voice of his and meanders away from the pair to look for Angel and Alex when it seems like neither of them were going to stop talking any time soon.

Between the pair of them, Erik knows the Doctor’s silver tongue and effusive charm can get him out of most situations. It is his ability to remain so unflappably sincere that stumps him. Erik has no plans to master that particular skillset in the near future.

By the time he locates them, the pair are seated outside complaining loudly of hunger. Erik finds that he is also in agreement with that certain assessment when his stomach protests loudly.

“Where’s the Doctor, sir?” Alex asks as he peers around Erik’s back to see if he had somehow squirrelled the Doctor away behind him.

Erik lifts his shoulders before answering, “He’s probably sweet talking someone into joining our cause.”

“Can’t he sweet talk faster?” Angel grumbles as she sits on the stone bench and watches small children run past with sweet smelling food held in their grubby little hands.

Erik smirks and folds his arms over his chest. The Doctor’s sense of timing could definitely use some improvement.

Minutes later, Alex crows and points out a familiar mop of chestnut hair. “There he is. Who’s the kid that’s with him?” Erik turns to see that Sean with the Doctor. His brain is already categorizing the areas where their young recruits can do with some improvement. They can all do with some improvement.

“Hello everyone. This here is Sean, a delightful young man who works here at the Viridescent Vivarium. He’s agreed to join us on our journey.” The Doctor is positively radiant, undoubtedly proud for having been successful.

Angel and Alex look at him with varying degrees of curiosity. Sean takes the three steps that separate him from Angel and bends down on one knee to graciously take her hand and kiss the back of it, much to her alarm.

“It must have hurt when you fell from the sky above, my beautiful Angel,” Sean says as he presses another kiss to the back of her hand.

“How on earth do you know my name?” Angel demands as she takes her hand back and stares suspiciously at Sean.

Alex laughs and comes up to her side, slinging a friendly arm around her shoulders. “I don’t think he does. Just a wild stab in the dark, right Sean?” He reaches over with his other hand and ruffles the ginger curls.

Sean scowls as he bats Alex’s hand away from his hair and then wiping his hands on his apron. “You said your ship – the TARDIS? – is in the aviary? Near the Pteetsa’s you said and you’ll return me to my family after my aid is no longer required? I can meet you there after my shift is over and I’ve told my family that the universe requires my help to save the galaxies from certain calamity.”

The Doctor nods gravely, his voice layered with sincerity and warmth. “Your help is greatly appreciated. Take all the time that you require, Sean.” Sean gives them all a thumbs up and then makes a dash back inside.

“Seriously? ‘Save the galaxies from certain calamity’. Are you sure it isn’t cruel to send Sean on this journey?” Angel asks as Alex lost control of his laughter.

“Such slim pickings, Doctor. I wouldn’t want to dash his heroic dreams about poetic justice and saving damsels in distress,” Erik comments dryly.

The corners of the Doctor’s mouth twitch upwards as he leads the way back to the next sphere. “He’s young, but he’s strong. I may have embellished the glory side a little but we are very lucky to have Sean,” he says, “Now I’m not sure about you lot, but I’m famished. Let’s say we get a spot of lunch and then explore the rest of the Viridescent Vivarium? I wouldn’t feel right leaving without seeing absolutely everything.”

 

They idle their time away, grateful for the fact that it seemed the Vivarium itself did not have a closing time. They sit on a patch of purple grass outside of the Aviary, talking about nothing in particular as people from all different walks of life walk past.

Sean finds them outside the Aviary whilst Erik finishes off teaching basic hand-to-hand combat with the Doctor as his demonstration partner. He’s changed out of his uniform and into a Henley shirt, a pair of slacks with a duffel bag in his hand.

“Wicked,” Sean comments as he takes in Erik’s form whilst punching, the Doctor deflecting the blow with a swat of his hands. “My Pa used to teach my siblings and I self-defence when we were younger. I’m actually pretty good.”

Angel beams, although her raised eyebrows betray just how much truth she hears in Sean’s words. “Really? Do you think you can take on Erik in a fist fight then?”

“Nah,” Sean says, helping her stand up from the grass, “I quite like this side of the mortal realm, thank you very much. Mr. Erik looks like he could rip me limb from limb and I am rather fond of them.”

Alex swivels his head towards them, his attention now split between the adults and Sean. “You ready for this?” the Doctor asks, finally lowering his hands and smiling warmly at their newest recruit.

Sean lazily bends and gives a mock curtsy, “Yes sir, as ready as I’ll ever be. Oh yeah, my Ma’s baked a shepherd’s pie for us. It’s in the bag, in case you haven’t eaten or anything.”

“That’s kinda gross, dude,” Alex states. Angel pulls a face as they both stare at the duffel bag in question. “Who knows where that duffel has been?”

“It’s in Tupperware! The pie tastes fine,” Sean exclaims, quick to defend his ma’s cooking. Alex and Angel continue to look unconvinced and Sean eventually pleads his case to the Doctor as they enter the TARDIS, even going so far as to dig the box out of his bag and opening the lid.

Surprisingly, the first words out of Sean’s mouth upon seeing the interior isn’t about the size but rather the awesome texture on the walls. Angel and Alex flow around Sean, taking a cursory interested look at the pie within.

Erik walks past and plucks the Tupperware box straight out of Sean’s hand, announcing he’ll be in the kitchen over his shoulder.

 

When they agreed to join the Doctor and Erik, none of them realise the sort of physical pain that came alongside Erik’s strict training regime. The Doctor runs with them, coaxing them to work at it using positive reinforcement whilst Erik makes them work for every inch and mile.

The Doctor works exclusively with each of them when using their powers, even going so far as to bring them into a room specifically designed with reinforced walls made from composite materials.

He reassures them that the TARDIS can withstand anything that they can possibly throw at the walls. Spitting acid? Not an issue. High energy plasma beams? The TARDIS can withstand that, no problem. High pitched yelping? Might have to work on the sound proofing a little, but there shouldn’t be any need for concern.

The Doctor sends them off to have whatever was left of Sean’s pie and prescribes them sleep afterwards. He lets out a long sigh when the loud squabble of feet and voices disappear.

“I don’t think any one of us realised what we were getting into,” the Doctor says as he walks up to examine one of the scorch marks Alex produced earlier. “They are all so amazing. I feel like I can spend so much time helping them grow, nurture their skills and help them gain confidence in themselves. How long have we been here for?”

“A couple of hours by Earth standards,” came Erik’s reply after checking his watch. He walks up to stand next to the Doctor, looking at the gaping wound in the side of the TARDIS. He brings a hand up to touch the frayed edges and slowly urges the wall to repair itself.

“Definitely high time for some tea.” The Doctor hides a yawn behind his palm. Who knew working with young adults could be so draining?

Erik lays a hand on the Doctor’s elbow before he could move away. “What about my training, Doctor? Don’t I get a sliver of your time?”

The Doctor places his hand on top of Erik’s, giving it a gentle pat before replying in earnest, “My friend, you only ever need to ask for my help and I will freely give it. There is something that I do need your help on and this will be the perfect opportunity for training your control on the micro level. That is, of course, if you are up for it.”

“Lead on, Doctor.”

The Doctor leads Erik inside another room, turning the lights on to reveal a workshop straight out of a metallurgist’s dreams. The air is warm and tainted with the scent of iron and solder, and it embraces Erik like a long lost friend. There are a variety of tools strewn over a wooden workbench and various uncompleted projects nestle amongst coils of copper wire. Erik can tell the Doctor is in his element here, and the ordered mess is a testament to that.

“What do you think of our young friends?” the Doctor asks as he digs around for some butcher’s paper and a pencil.

Erik looks up from his inspection of what may have been an old vacuum cleaner and pauses to think before answering.

“Angel is a force to be reckoned with, but she can do with improving her aim and increasing the length of time she can stay airborne. Sean is young and reckless, but eager to learn and improve. And then there’s Alex. He- he reminds me a little of when I was younger, angry and brash,” Erik finishes, eager not to dredge up the memories of the past.

The Doctor’s pencil is still upon the paper and Erik can feel his gaze intently. “There is a lot of potential in Alex. I think this may be a case of once bitten, twice shy. He’ll definitely get there in the end. He respects you, they all do. And for what it’s worth, I’m glad he can see a role model within you, my friend.”

“Why would you say something like that?” Erik asks, his head whipping up and gaze instantly locking on blue. “I’m hardly a good role model for anything.”

“You’re far too harsh on yourself. There is good within you.” The Doctor’s eyes are sincere and Erik finds it difficult to look away. “You’re tough with them when they need you to be and you inspire a great sense of camaraderie. They respect you and can count on you to be there for anything, Erik. I know I can trust you to be there for me when I need you to be.”

Erik clears his throat, a strange sensation building up there. He nods towards the butcher’s paper and asks, “What have you got there, Doctor?”

The expression on the Doctor’s face changes in his eagerness to show Erik his drawings. He slides the butcher’s paper along the bench without a care for his projects underneath. “I’m thinking of devising a device that can help Alex actually with managing his power output until he can control it himself. At the moment he’s loading everything he has into every shot and depleting his energy stores fast,” the Doctor scribbles all over his drawing as he both explains and visualises improvements on the fly.

“If we rig up this micro-circuitry using materials that can withstand Alex’s plasma rays, it’s possible that we can reroute the excess which Alex can reabsorb,” the Doctor’s tongue pokes out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrates on the design. “Of course, I’m a little rusty when it comes to design proficiency. But what do you think?”

“If this works, it should definitely help with his abysmal aim. The worst that can happen is Alex decimates it and we build another one. You’ll have to fill me in on the various material properties of the items around us,” Erik says as he takes in stock of the raw materials around them.

He gives the plan his approval regardless and settles in by the Doctor’s side to help flesh out the idea. And for the first time in his life, Erik feels a certain sense of pride inside of him that stemmed from helping another person. It is a heady feeling and Erik can understand why the Doctor does what he does.

 

The Doctor wakes him up hours later with a gentle hand on his shoulder. Erik must have fallen asleep halfway through building the prototype and the Doctor had disappeared to check over the TARDIS.

There’s a mug of coffee within his grasp, steam rising lazily from the surface. “You should go to bed and rest, my friend. I can look after the training today,” the Doctor comments as he tugs gently on the tab of his tea bag.

Erik lifts his arms overhead and hears the satisfying pop of his shoulder joints. He lifts the mug to his lips and downs a gulp heedless of the scalding temperature. “There are still things I can do here. The sooner Alex gets the device, the longer he has to acclimatize himself to using it,” he declares.

He has run several times to the Doctor’s library in order to fetch a variety of textbooks, most of which were too advanced for him to follow. The Doctor patiently explained a variety of concepts and Erik felt somewhat like a certified engineer in passing with all the information the Doctor shared with him.

“I can finish up. You’ve already spent all night using your abilities in laying out the circuitry precisely where I wanted them. You need a break Erik. The circuits won’t run away and will still be here later, I promise,” the Doctor says, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards in amusement.

“How do you know that? What if we meet up with Shaw next? Alex can use this plate sooner rather than later,” Erik reasons. He swallows another mouthful of coffee then turns his attention back to the hunk of metal on the table.

The Doctor, however, will have none of it. “If that is when we meet up with Shaw, then so be it, but that doesn’t mean working yourself to exhaustion over it. You need to be at your fighting best.”

Erik can’t find fault with the Doctor’s statement and allows the Doctor to drag him from the seat and outside. “Now, the kids have promised me pancakes, although now that I think about it. I may have requested that they make waffles also, it matters not. Both of them will taste delicious with custard. Don’t look so worried Erik. I’m sure they’ll do a much better job of making food than I ever will.”

“It does make me wonder how you’ve managed to live on your own for so long, Doctor. Your culinary skills do leave a lot to be desired,” Erik comments as he downs the last of his coffee. He hopes there will be a pot of coffee in the kitchen with his name on it.

The Doctor gives a small self-deprecating smile as they walk in through the archway. “Hush. I know how to make a killer cup of tea. I’ve also made sure to fireproof and childproof the kitchen, so nothing can go wrong.”

Erik gives the Doctor a disbelieving look. He smiles sheepishly in return and says, “Famous last words, I know.”

Angel, Alex and Sean greet them cheerfully as soon as they sit down, a different kitchen utensil in each hand. Erik takes a seat closest to the coffee pot and watches as Angel delegates Alex to the stove and Sean to the waffle grill whilst she made more batter, most likely to minimise the mess made.

The scene is oddly domestic and Erik wonders quietly to himself if it was alright to enjoy the relative peace he has found here. The three young adults get along well, like a house on fire and the Doctor is no better for encouraging their carefree behaviour.

Maybe it would be okay to indulge, just this once, Erik thinks as he laughs along at one of Sean’s lame jokes. He misses the moment when the Doctor looks in his direction with a fond smile on his face.

 

**
The Doctor is sitting at the main console wearing one of his blue cardigans and a pair of fluffy bunny slippers. He is staring aimlessly up at the ceiling of the TARDIS as he holds a cup of tea in one of his robin egg blue mugs.

They have been travelling for three days, by Earth standards. In between playing chess with Erik and training the children – because despite the injustices they may have faced at the hands of Shaw, they were still every bit children in the Doctor’s eye - the Doctor hasn’t had any time to himself. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is in the quieter hours of time travel, when his new companions are dreaming and his cup of tea has long since turned cold, the Doctor can almost hear the vast emptiness echo in the hallways.

These days, the Doctor is glad to have the kids and Erik on board. He looks forward to the sound of laughter or the crisp clack of Erik’s shoes as he stalks the corridors. It is another person’s heartbeat and thoughts that chases away the loneliness of travelling alone.

The TARDIS whirls quietly and the Doctor watches as the Time Rotor slows to a halt. The landing is smoother than usual and for that moment, the Doctor is glad.

Erik had been methodical and pragmatic when it came to training and preparing them for what may lay ahead. They had begged off from the adventure, preferring to take some time off to nurse their hurts. The Doctor suspects with a chuckle that they could sleep through anything.

“I’m sure it would be lovely and magical as unicorns,” Sean had reassured them earlier that morning before running off to his bedroom. It had been another gruelling training session with Erik, who had been grumpier than usual. The Doctor knows the man is antsy to do something more active than preparation.

The Doctor is certain a set of bruises are already blossoming on Sean’s forearms when the boy had been practising his blocks against Erik’s punches.

He leans back into the seat and puts his feet up on the edge of the main console.

“It’s just you and I again, my friend,” someone murmurs, air tickling the shell of his ear.

The Doctor nearly knocks the mug onto the floor with a sweep of his foot. He clamps a palm over his ear as he feels blood travelling to the area. “Erik! I thought you were still asleep. Don’t scare me like that.”

He can tell Erik is laughing at him. The Doctor watches as Erik’s shoulders move up and down, a smile creeping its way unnoticed onto Erik’s lips. The mug is moved away from his foot to prevent any accidental damage.

Casually, Erik leans against the side of main console. “You’re not a very good telepath if you didn’t hear me coming for you. That is what your mental powers make you, right?”

“I tend not to make it an active thing I do. It tends to not go over well when people find out I overhear things, even if it is against my will,” the Doctor replies as he sits up properly. It takes more than a minute to soothe both his erratic heartbeats.

“We’ve landed then?” Erik asks.

“Yes, we have. Are you ready to go?” The Doctor looks at Erik. He briefly wonders how the man can tell and figures it probably has something to do with Erik’s ability and the amount of time spent aboard the TARDIS, Erik is likely to be in tune with his ship.

“Have you had a look outside yet? Does the temperature warrant large overcoats and snowshoes or would sandals and shorts work better?” Erik asks. The Doctor overhears Erik thinking of a wide spectrum of temperatures, from snowy mountain passes to hot sandy deserts.

The Doctor stands up and slides the screen over to show Erik. He tinkered with the interface last night and a bright yellow sun takes up the top right corner. “Perfectly warm and pleasant weather, no snowshoes or fluffy furcoats warranted,” he says brightly. “I can even wear my cardigan.”

Erik gives his footwear a critical eye, raising an eyebrow in question.

“What? You’ve never worn bunny slippers before? Frightfully warm things that look like they’ve eaten your feet, but ever impractical when rock climbing or running marathons,” the Doctor explains as he goes to retrieve his shoes from underneath the console.

“I can’t imagine doing any physical activity with them on would be a good idea, Doctor,” Erik comments. The sarcasm is layered on so thickly, the Doctor can practically taste it.

“Must you be so practical, my friend? You are, however, completely right,” The Doctor admits as he finishes lacing up his shoes and gives each of his slipper a pat on the head before heading out.

“Someone has to be,” Erik replies smoothly as he shrugs out of his jacket and throws it carelessly on top of the Doctor’s own coat. If what the TARDIS screen shows is accurate, the Doctor expects it to be similar to a London summer: frigid and rainy with a hint of sunshine just to keep things interesting.

“I can be practical when the need arises,” the Doctor says indignantly, moving to stand next to Erik and frisking his coat for his sonic screwdriver.

“I believe you.” The easy smirk on Erik’s face is an indicator that he didn’t. Taking the moral high ground, the Doctor ignores Erik’s teasing and pockets his screwdriver.

They step out onto a beach. The sun is warm upon their faces and a gentle breeze blowing in from the sea carries the scent of sea salt and sulphur. The sand is soft, cushioning each footstep the Doctor makes towards the water’s edge. The sand upon the beach explains the soft landing the TARDIS made earlier.

The Doctor feels Erik come up to a stop beside him and aims his gaze out towards the horizon where mist curls and engulfs the sky. For this moment in time, it is just the two of them standing on the precipice between sand and surf.

“Let’s take a look around,” the Doctor suggests quietly. The longer he stays, the longer the bay begins to remind him of old companions, of another Doctor and of another coastline in Norway. He doesn’t even realise it when his fingernails dig painfully into his palm. He’s never felt quite so old.

Erik offers comfort through a single hand on his shoulder then turns around without further question, leading the way past the TARDIS and up the beach. He strides up the shallowest sandy incline and waits patiently near the top, offering a hand to the Doctor and hoisting him up the last few steps.

The view at the top is stunning. The Doctor sees craggy mountains in the far distance, snow-capped and majestic in their tall domineering presence. A silvery fog weaves its way through the underbrush and a line of misshapen shadows advance towards them like a welcoming committee. It is almost serene.

“Well. This certainly is a postcard view to write home about, if I still had a home to return to,” the Doctor remarks, squinting to make out the blurry shadows as it inches forward.

He finds himself moving closer towards Erik. His hand slips down into his pocket and curls around the reassuring weight of his sonic screwdriver. “Erik.”

Erik turns to him at the sound of his name. “What is it?” The man’s eyebrows are furrowed causing wrinkles on his forehead to deepen. The Doctor knows Erik can feel them approaching and senses Erik settling into a defensive stance.

“It appears we have a small situation and we may or may not be surrounded,” the Doctor says. He wishes he didn’t eat the last jammy dodger with his tea earlier. One didn’t know when the situation calls for an impromptu TARDIS self-destruct control. “I also never did tell you why I am the last of my race, which is slightly related to our current situation. But don’t panic. I have this situation entirely under control.”

The Doctor feels the tension creeping into Erik’s frame, fingers twitching in anticipation. “What are they, Doctor? Why are they chanting exterminate?” Erik asks as the small horde creep closer.

“These are Daleks, Erik,” the Doctor explains as the Daleks form a tight circle around them. “You can say we’ve been enemies since the very beginning. I ended the Last Great Time War by bringing upon the near end of both our races.”

Two of the Daleks, the ones with a coloured Dalekenium exterior, are loudly talking about imprisonment as the others continue to chant exterminate. Their luminosity dischargers light up with each word said as they wave their Gunstick and Manipulator arm in the Dalek’s interpretation of excitement.

“I see how well that ended up working for you, Doctor. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you missed a spot,” Erik comments, bumping into the Doctor from behind when a Dalek hits him. “You know, Doctor, I am starting to see a common theme in regards to our adventures that relates to imprisonment.”

The Doctor laughs lightly the droll statement as he helps Erik regain his footing on the sand. “I don’t exactly go about actively seeking that out, my friend.” He brushes some sand off Erik’s sleeve whilst keeping a catalogue of any available opening in the Daleks’ formation.

“Move the human and the Doctor back to the Dalekenium factory. We can contact the Commander from there,” the black Dalek says, clearly the leader amongst the Dalek drones. As one unit, the Daleks begin herding Erik and the Doctor down a wide path leading away from the beach.

“Ohhh a factory you say? How marvellous. I’ve always wanted to see how you produce Dalekenium, especially how you attach those globes onto the bottom part. I have to say it makes you all look super dapper,” the Doctor declares with a grin, walking close enough to Erik that their arms brush together.

“So, these tin cans are your greatest enemy of all time?” Erik asks conversationally, his face somewhat unimpressed by their captors. The Doctor knows Erik has the ability to critically damage the Daleks in one fell swoop.

He is glad Erik is taking cues from him and nods. “They were a rather formidable foe, I’ll have you know. Especially when they outnumber you many thousands to one and I’m only armed with a police box and a sonic screwdriver. If only I had met you several hundred years ago, Erik,” the Doctor sighs dramatically, noticing when the gravel underneath his shoes begins crunching and the wild grass gradually transforms into tall swaying trees.

His theatrics encourages a derisive snort from Erik. “You must be a veritable pit of knowledge when it comes to these Daleks since you’ve spent such a long time doing battle with them. Tell me Doctor, why do they come in such a wide variety of colours?” Erik asks, as he points out that their colourful Dalek escorts.

The Doctor blinks and stops himself from bursting into uncontrollable laughter. He never paid too much attention to the societal benefits of using colour, before answering with, “Excellent question, Erik. I suppose they are vain creatures inside and secretly want to be groovy? Why? Does Dalekenium feel different than other metals?”

He can feel his curiosity tug at the edges of his focus. It is thrilling to see how other mutations work, almost similar to how people have different preferences with how they take their tea. The Doctor isn’t rude enough to ask if he can take a look in their minds and experience it for himself. That, he knows, is an invasion of privacy. He can satiate his thirst for knowledge just by living vicariously through their descriptions.

The Doctor can almost see the gears in Erik’s brain spin as he attempts to find the right words in English. “I can feel metals and see them, in a sense, like colours. If I’ve never seen a metal before, I can still be able to tell how well my powers can affect them. Alloys tend to be a mix of colours to me,” Erik explains.

Conversation stalls as they approach a building built into the base of a mountain. There is a steady flow of Daleks moving in and out of the mine. Each Dalek is in charge of one cart, going in empty and then coming out filled to the brim with a bronze coloured substance that will later be refined to be the colour of a Dalek drone.

“Being surrounded by so much raw Dalekenium, what colour do you see?”

Erik thinks for a minute as he takes the time to cast a critical eye all around them. “It’s a mix of bronze and red. All of them are this colour except for one.” He turns and points to the only blue Dalek. “I can’t sense any Dalekenium metal from that one, a possible upgrade in armour perhaps?”

The Daleks all turn towards the one Erik singled out. “Explain yourself, Beta Four! What is this human saying?” If a Dalek’s outer shell has the ability to display any sort of emotion, then Beta Four is currently doing a very good interpretation of surprise.

“The human is lying. The human is lying!” Beta Four waggles its Manipulator arm in the air, as the eye stalk waves frantically up and down.

The black leader Dalek rolls up and suddenly its eye stalk begins flashing. The Doctor realises it is performing a scan and the results seem to be unsatisfactory. “Reveal yourself Beta Four or I will be forced to exterminate!” it demands.

A strange clicking sound fills the air and the Doctor watches as the blue Dalek transforms into a blue woman. Her scales slide back into place as she takes on a humanoid form. The Doctor thinks she looks absolutely splendid.

“I guess the gig is up. And I was so close to finishing up with this factory,” she complains. The blue woman turns towards Erik and glares fiercely at him with her hands on her hips. “Thanks for ratting me out back there. That was a supremely stupid move.”

The Daleks begin chanting exterminate once more, each repetition getting louder and faster. This close to the factory, reinforcements are around every corner and they are horribly outmatched even with Erik’s power on their side.

The Doctor takes out his sonic screwdriver and flicks the setting to disable the Daleks weaponry. Despite being sworn enemies, he still prefers to outsmart them rather than resort to violence.

“My name is the Doctor and this is Erik. We’re terribly sorry about this kerfuffle. Would we be able to talk somewhere?” the Doctor asks. The sound of lasers flying overhead prompts the Doctor duck. “I think it’s time to go. Erik, please help me disengage their air thrusters and if possible, their gunsticks.”

“Excellent suggestion,” Erik says and the blue woman nods. They move quickly through the opening in formation and duck behind a pile of red rocks. It provides them with provisional cover, but enough time for Erik to disengage the thrusters in the first wave of Daleks.

“My name is Raven. I’m a Dalek Wrangler. Just so we’re clear Doctor, your friend owes me for ruining my operation,” Raven says, shooting a dirty look at Erik. The look doesn’t seem to faze Erik at all.

The Daleks aim as one for the rocky shelf above them. The Doctor looks up prompting both Raven and Erik to do the same. His mind is a whirlwind of mental calculations and it helpfully suggests that moving is in their best interests.

“Would you happen to have a safe place for us to talk?” the Doctor asks hurriedly. “This isn’t exactly the best place to stop and have tea, if you catch my drift.”

Raven nods and nimbly jumps over a pile of rubble, shouting her shoulder at them to follow her. Erik and the Doctor move as one – and not a moment too soon – as the overhanging ridge hurtles towards the ground. The resulting crash causes everything to shake.

A dust cloud kicks up and provides them with appropriate visual cover. Erik keeps a firm hold on the Doctor’s wrist, in case they are parted. They give chase after Raven, jumping over rocks and stooping under random protrusions growing from the side.

“In here Doctor,” Raven says, pointing out a crack between two cliffs before slipping inside and disappearing from view.

There is a narrow tunnel there, wide enough for one person to shimmy inside sideways. It leads to a cavern at the end, deep enough such that none of the Daleks' scans can permeate

As soon as the Doctor stumbles in, Raven seals the opening with a piece of technology that he has never seen before. She whirls past him, turning on a variety of different machines that litter the cave floor, muttering about increasing surveillance and the security of her hiding spot. Transparent screens turn on instantaneously and the Doctor watches as a number of video feeds and diagnostic scans chirrups for Raven’s attention.

The cavernous space is lit by the fireplace set deeply in the corner, a fire crackling and giving off heat that spreads warmth throughout, a lump of something glows red nestled amongst the flames. There's a large cube mould near the fireplace and the Doctor follows the line of the wall to find lines of bronze stacked up neatly.

"Is this all Dalekenium?" the Doctor asks the obvious question, pointing out the production line from furnace to end product.

Raven turns her head from one of the screens and nods. "Yes. We're safe for now if the Daleks don't come actively looking for us. You said you wanted to talk, Doctor?"

Erik parks himself near the furnace and amuses himself by testing the full capabilities of his powers on a piece of scrap. The Doctor leaves him to it and sits on the offered wooden crate opposite Raven.

“How did you get here Raven? It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of such a profession such as a Dalek Wrangler. What exactly do you do?” the Doctor asks, sitting on a crate and watching as Raven jogs about packing things away. He can make a fairly good guess as to the job description just by taking in the surroundings.

"It's only a temporary job title. I've been a Cyberman Babysitter, an Ood Overseer amongst other things. I'm here harvesting Dalekenium from the factories, or rather I would still be if someone hadn't gone ahead and-" She glares acidly at Erik's turned back, "It's difficult being the only Dalek in the area who requires ramps to go anywhere."

The Doctor nods consolingly and pats the back of her hand gently. "That's incredibly resourceful of you, Raven. I'm convinced you do your job splendidly. I don't know many individuals that can emulate the proper lift required by Daleks. You are incredibly talented."

His efforts towards diplomacy prove to be fruitless when Erik ruins it with his question. "Are you a mutant human also?"

She stands up sharply and knocks over the crate. "Human? Don't be ridiculous. I come from a prestigious race known as the Darkholmes. We are famous throughout the galaxies whenever someone needs a job completed. Whether it be information or raw materials, the Darkholmes guarantee results."

"Really? the Doctor asks, racking his brains for any information on the Darkholmes and coming up empty handed. Here standing in all her blue glory is a race of humanoids he has never met before. His face lights up as if all his dreams have suddenly come true all at once.

"Of course," Raven sniffs and pads over to the furnace. "As to how I got here, I crashed during the landing sequence a few months ago. My ship isn't in good shape. I've been conducting my own repairs sparingly. There is only so much Dalekenium I can siphon off in a day before they get suspicious."

As she puts on her protective gear, Raven continues speaking, "Dalekenium has gone up in demand you know. It's difficult to get enough for my operation let alone my ship as well."

The Doctor frowns. He is aware of the galaxy's black market, having met several black marketeers. Trades are made with items of approximate value. "Why has demand gone up?"

Raven pours the liquid Dalekenium into the cube mould and replacing the container in the fireplace turned furnace. "The grapevine told me that there's this guy called Shaw. He has fluctuated the market price of practically everything because he keeps buying in bulk and driving all the prices to go down. No one seems to know where he comes from either.

"Typically, the Moderators keep an eye when the shadier stuff happens, you know, decapitations if debts haven't been paid off, that sort of thing. But this guy's using money - sentient money - and he's got a lot of it. He's undervaluing hard work, making it extremely difficult for an honest girl like me to make a living," she scowls and pours water over the mould, effectively quenching the metal.

"How long ago was this?" Erik interjects, using a tone of voice as sharp as knives. The Doctor overhears Erik's mind whirling with this new information. All roads lead to Shaw after all and the expectation of any information that Raven has to offer will lead them directly to him.

Raven is caught off guard by his words then frowns as she tries to recall. "I don't know. It might have been a month ago, it could've been longer. The last time I was at Destiny's is a likely time. Shaw is apparently interested in another shipment of Dalekenium to be delivered in a week's time, although he usually does his business with Azazel and Janos Corporations. There's no way I'll be done on time to claim the second half of the money, especially with my ship the way it is." Raven curses darkly under her breath. "Stupid ship. Stupid Shaw. Stupid humans."

The Doctor notices the way Erik's hand clenches around the wrench he had been inspecting. Gently, he coaxes the tool out of his grip and quietly reminds him to breathe. "Raven, we have a ship and I would be delighted to assist you back to Market if you wish. Consider it my apology for Erik's mistake earlier."

Raven's eyes widen and a smile is brought to her lips. "Really? You'd do that for me even though we've only just met?" Raven asks as she walks up to the Doctor and envelopes him in a hug.

He allows himself a small smile before pushing her gently away. "There's a few things you need to know about him," the Doctor continues seriously. "He's a Time Agent and I suspect he's using those materials for something that can threaten all the inhabitants of the galaxies as we know it."

"I'm going to kill him," Erik declares. He turns to Raven and smiles, showing far too many teeth to be human. "Sorry you might never see that money after all."

Raven gives them both a sceptical look. "Do you have any proof of all this evildoing? How do you know he isn't secretly building, I don't know, buildings for the homeless?"

The Doctor gives her arm a gentle squeeze in warning but it is Erik who answers. "I have seen with my own eyes the destruction he has caused to an entire race of people. My people paid the price with their lives. Shaw leaves orphans, widows and widowers, broken families in his wake and he plans to do it all again. I am going to kill him," Erik reaffirms and quickly turns to look into the fire once more.

An awkward silence settles, Raven looking stunned at Erik at the revelation. The Doctor bites his lower lip anxiously, wondering if there is anything he could say to help Erik. He has never asked Erik about his past, finding it better to leave it up to Erik if he needed someone to confide in. Good things happen to those that wait.

It is Raven who finally speaks, clearing her throat awkwardly to gain their attention. "Well, I'll go ahead and consider myself between jobs. If you can help me move the Dalekenium onto your ship and drop me off at Market after we kick him to the curb, consider me signed up for this mission."

"We didn't ask you to join-"

Raven silences the Doctor with a dismissive wave as she begins pulling large canvas bags from their hiding spots and opening them. "I know. Shaw had some tough looking brutes hanging around him whenever he comes to Market. You two can use the extra help I'm sure."

 

Hours later, all of Raven's equipment is packed away and loaded onto her hovercraft hidden in another chamber of her cave.

"Are you just going to leave your old ship here, Raven?" the Doctor asks as he looks at the framework. A large portion of the hull of this one woman ship is missing and threads of Dalekenium is tentatively holding other pieces together.

Raven shrugs as she drops the last of her weapons cache into the vehicle. "I liked my old ship, but I've had my eye on a newer model and you're giving me a ride out of here after the fireworks so it works for me. Get in and make sure I don't lose anything."

Erik and the Doctor squeeze themselves with their backs against a case of Dalekenium cubes and Raven's canvas bag filled with the tools of her trade. The Doctor casts a hand out to the side and uses it as a rudimentary safety belt for her items. The space between the cases and the tools shouldn't fit one grown male, let alone two.

She claims the driver's seat and starts the hovercraft's engine. Raven produces a small remote controller from the satchel at her side and presses one of them. A set of doors spiral open up to reveal a space big enough for the hovercraft to squeeze through. She presses her foot down onto the pedal and they shoot out like a bullet.

The Doctor misses when Raven presses the second button, trying to recover from where he's being crushed on one side by a heavy case of Dalekenium and in turn crushing Erik. There's an explosion behind them, destroying her hideout and sending a cloud of dust everywhere.

"Won't the Daleks realise we're trying to make a quick getaway?" the Doctor yells over the thrum of the engine and the wind rushing past as they hurtle along on a path less travelled.

"Probably! Hold on tight!"

He hunkers down next to Erik again and watches the surroundings flash past. The Doctor realises she is taking the same route back to the beach.

"What's the last button for Raven?" Erik asks, gesturing towards the remote in her hand. The hovercraft jerks to one side smoothly and Raven turns to him, white teeth gleaming in the sun. From where he is sitting, the Doctor can see the Dalekenium factory below them as the Daleks work below.

"It does this, Erik." She presses it gleefully before throwing the remote overboard. The Doctor feels cold all of a sudden as a series of bombs occur throughout the mines and the factory below.

"What have you done?" the Doctor demands as he leans over the side of the hovercraft to stare at the destruction that lay below them.

Raven smiles as she coaxes the hovercraft forward again, "Nitro-9 bombs placed throughout. It's a little recipe I picked up from Earth and packs a lot of oomph." The Doctor's eyes widen at the knowledge. The nitroglycerin's variation is possibly the only explosive that can get through Dalekenium to the Dalek's organic body inside. Any Dalek that wasn’t caught in the blast didn’t have any hope of survival.

"Oh believe me, I know," the Doctor says and smiles, even though it doesn't quite reach his eyes. He wonders if the person Raven learnt the recipe from happens to be a mutual acquaintance of theirs.

A handful of Daleks that weren’t caught in the blast turns towards them. Each of the Daleks take-off from the ground and fly towards them, their gun sticks aiming and waiting to be within range to exterminate them.

“Uh oh, time for us to go,” Raven says as she turns the hovercraft down towards the beach. The vehicle takes off like a rocket and the Doctor immediately resumes his position as a seatbelt for the cargo.

Erik, however, is having none of that and he stands up, his legs on either side of the Doctor for balance. “Erik! What are you doing Erik!”

“I don’t particularly feel like being exterminated today and take offense to their attempts.” Erik looks at the Daleks and holds his hand out, his palm outstretched and pointing towards the sky. The Doctor watches as Erik brings his fingers to make a fist in his hand. A horrific wail comes from within the Dalekenium armour.

Under the force of gravity and no longer having any thrust to oppose it, the Daleks fall towards the ground with a heavy clang. Erik smiles down at the Doctor. “Are you alright, Doctor?”

“I’m fine. Thank you, my friend.”

The ride back to the TARDIS is smooth. There were no more Daleks in pursuit and the Doctor can almost say it is a pleasant ride with nothing but the thrum of the hovercraft and both Raven and Erik's thoughts to keep him company.

"There's my ship," the Doctor points out as the hovercraft easily descends the soft sand. Raven stops the vehicle outside the door and looks critically at the TARDIS.

"How many crew do you have in there? Are you sure you can take me and my stuff on as well?"

The Doctor smiles and hops out to unlock the door, pushing it slightly ajar. "Why don't you go in and have a look?" he offers, turning to share a knowing look with Erik who looks amused.

Taking a bag in each hand, the Doctor shoulders the TARDIS doors open and is nearly knocked aside when Raven dashes outside. Erik avoids being run over by stepping neatly aside as he carries one of the heavier cases inside. He laughs at her reaction and presumes to leave all of Raven's things by the side of the TARDIS near the wall where it won't get in the way.

After her lap around the TARDIS, Raven reappears at the door and declares, "The inside is so much bigger than the outside! How does this work? Oh! Is this the rest of your crew? They all look so young."

The Doctor turns to see his young friends lean over the bannister. "Who is this, Doctor, and why is she naked?" Alex asks, his head tilted to one side as he appraises Raven. Angel and Sean peer around him, in mirrored states of curiosity.

"This is Raven, Alex. You know it is bad form to ask any lady that," the Doctor chides causing Alex to reflexively apologize. "You should all come down and introduce yourselves. Afterwards, please come outside and help move her belongings into the TARDIS."

Raven chuckles and daintily walks up to them, shaking hands with each and every one. Angel looks particularly delighted to have another female on board.

"You know they'll never come out, right?" Erik asks as they begin their second trip to the hovercraft.

"You are right, my friend. Let them be for now." The Doctor hoists another canvas bag over his shoulder and then pauses thoughtfully when Erik bends down to pick up yet another case. "Can't you use your power to pick them all up at the same time?"

Erik releases the handles on the case and looks thoughtfully down at his hands and then dubiously at the doorway of the TARDIS. "This many, I lack the co-ordination and dexterity to juggle them all at once. I need the situation, the anger to help me focus." He clenches his hands into fists and looks out towards the sea.

The Doctor smiles and lays a hand over Erik's fists. "You know, I believe that true focus lies between rage and serenity? If you'll allow it, will you let me help you?"

"Why do you genuinely try to help everyone?" Erik rasps out, his voice almost inaudible over the sound of the sea in the distance. He gives the smallest of nods and lowers his head a little.

The Doctor smiles as he brushes back the hair on Erik's forehead with his thumb. "It is because I see the goodness in everyone and believe you can achieve the same." He closes his eyes and relocates his thumbs to Erik's temples, gently insinuating himself into Erik's mind like a cat in a warm sunbeam.

The experience is much more pleasant than what he performed on Gustav earlier. The Doctor sees flashes of memories going in reverse chronological order. The most recent ones are of their adventures, their new friends and chess matches played underneath a tree. There is affection encoded in these memories, yet the Doctor presses on and ignores them allowing Erik's mind to tug him in the opposite direction towards one memory in particular.

The Doctor reaches out towards it and gasps when Erik's mind shimmers with light, transforming into a small wooden hut that is both simultaneously bare and homely. There is a faint damp smell in the air that is covered by the scent of latkes.

There's a woman wearing a head scarf with a young boy, both looking far too thin and world weary. Yet, they are smiling and the Doctor watches from the corner of the room as the young boy lights the menorah.

There's the loving look his mother sends in his direction, and she gently pulls him into a hug as she presses kisses into his hair. The Doctor doesn't have to strain his hearing to listen to her whisper the love and the pride she feels for her liebling.

The door knob squeaks open and the door opens to reveal a man, tall with a thin face. The young boy rushes to him and takes the man's hand, pulling him towards the table where the menorah sits, its candle twinkling and filling the room with light and a sense of hope.

The memory fades to black and the Doctor slowly disentangles their minds, opening his eyes and feeling water slip down his cheek. The Doctor doesn't drop his hands and Erik doesn't push them away.

"Thank you Erik for that beautiful memory."

"I didn't realise I still had that," Erik says quietly. They stand close enough that if Erik drops his head a little, their foreheads will touch.

Lifting his head up, the Doctor can see the shimmery quality of water tracks on Erik's cheeks. "You don't need the anger to be able to do glorious things, Erik. If you remember the reasons you continue to live and fight for, you will possess the power to achieve anything." The Doctor raises a hand to wipe away the moisture from his eyes.

The Doctor breaks their physical connection and looks at the crates. "Do you want to give these cases a go?"

Erik nods silently turning to face the hovercraft with a look of concentration in his eyes. He smiles encouragingly at Erik when he holds out both hands and the Dalekenium hovers steadily in the air. "Excellent work, my friend. Truly, you are remarkable," the Doctor says earnestly as they follow the cases inside the TARDIS.

"I could not have done it without you, Doctor."

 

Life on the TARDIS became familiar and routine with Raven aboard. She proves to them that she can hold her own in a fight and takes over training when it becomes apparent that Erik and the Doctor require more time to work on Alex's focusing dish.

"They're actually very boring," Angel complains as they run laps of the aptly named 'Danger Room'. Alex, in typical fashion, is powering ahead as Sean lags behind to gossip.

"All they do is play chess in the library or hole themselves up in the workshop," Sean adds, ticking off the most likely locales to find the Doctor or Erik. More often than not they are together anyway. "You'd think with all the time they spend together, they'd pay more attention to us."

"Are you jealous that Erik's monopolizing all of the Doctor's time? Or are you jealous that it's the Doctor that is taking up all of Erik's time?" Raven teases.

"None of the above!" Sean shouts, keeping a lid on his powers easily now that the Doctor had spent some time helping him control it. "I'm just saying."

"Still talking about the Doc and Erik? Don't you ladies have better things to talk about?" Alex asks as he runs past them, doing yet another lap of the room.

"Not really!" Raven shouts at his retreating back, though her mind is thinking about how intimate the Doctor and Erik had been over lunch. Their heads had been pressed against one another as they had yet another one of their serious conversations. She didn't eavesdrop long after the words 'plasma separation' and 'capacitive analysis' had cropped up.

"You know, back at Market, I used to run the lottery for ship-side romances. It's like the more interactive version of playing bingo. So you can say I have an eye for these kinds of things," Raven says.

"Is that right?" asks Angel, her wings flap repeatedly behind her. "What is your take on Erik and the Doctor then?" Raven's addition to the team is definitely a plus as Angel listens to all of the small observations.

"They're just really good friends, ok? Nothing you say will convince me otherwise, nope," Sean calls out, still refusing to believe anything without hard and concrete evidence. "LA LA LA LA..."

"Suit yourself, Sean!"

 

“Okay Alex. Try to shoot the target this time and not me, there’s a good chap,” the Doctor says as he points to X he’s taped onto a mannequin. Erik stands in front of Alex and critically makes final adjustments to the second prototype they had painstakingly built.

The first one they had created and tested with Alex, the metals had been unable to withstand the power behind Alex’s ability. There hadn’t been able to recover any part from the metal plate. Alex had looked so forlorn but perked up as soon as Erik gave him a nod of encouragement.

“It’s obvious that we need something that can withstand the extreme heat that Alex’s power produces. We didn’t take that into account,” the Doctor murmured over a cup of tea as they ate breakfast. Erik closed the materials handbook he had been looking at and chose to sip his coffee instead.

“We probably should have run a capacitive analysis before using the material,” the Doctor continued as he spread both butter and jam on slices of toast that Sean had placed in front of them.

Erik raised a dubious eyebrow as he stole the just buttered toast from the Doctor, ignoring the unsubtle way Raven listened in on their conversation. “Somehow I don’t think that is the physical property we should be focusing on. The plasma separation is causing the atomic bonds to break their structure.” She had moved away quickly after that.

They spend more time cooped up in the lab running tests on different substrates before it occurs to the Doctor that the perfect material had been in front of them the whole time. Raven had easily agreed to donate a cube of Dalekenium to their cause. The Dalekenium had passed muster, cementing to the Doctor’s belief that it had the possibility of withstanding anything Alex could throw into it.

Erik spent all his time ensuring the circuitry had been perfection before giving the nod to the Doctor to run field tests.

Erik gives the plate a firm pat, finally satisfied with the final calibrations. “Are you sure about this, Doctor?” Alex asks as he gives the Doctor a worried look.

“Positive. You shouldn’t have to be afraid of your powers, Alex. It is simply something you have to master and I have complete and utter faith in you,” the Doctor says, putting his hands into his pockets and smiles encouragingly.

“Alright then. Here goes.”

Red waves cut through the air in a wobbly straight line with a whoosh, searing a hole in the mannequin’s stomach. Alex looks in suspended disbelief at the device on his chest and then back up to mannequin.

“I’d say that’s a success. Wouldn’t you agree, Doctor?” Erik asks as they exchange exhilarated grins of success.

“I believe so, Erik, I believe so.”

 

The Doctor and Erik are playing a game of chess on the steps when the TARDIS whirls. They rise as one and head over to the main console. The Doctor moves the screen and brings up the information with a few taps with Erik looking over his shoulders.

“Looks like it’ll be cold and chilly in Cardiff today,” the Doctor mentions. He pulls on his coat and digs through his pockets, crowing victoriously when he finds his fingerless gloves.

“What is the year?” Erik asks as he does up the buttons of his jacket. He sweeps a hand down his body, smoothing the fabric and chasing away any wrinkles.

“It’s 2012,” the Doctor replies as he wriggles his fingers through the holes of his gloves. They are made from wool and incredibly toasty, making them perfect for Cardiff’s weather. “Don’t keel over in surprise when you see the changes that the future can bring.”

Erik gives him a look as he twists the door knob and pulls the door open. “Your warning is unnecessary and comes far too late. You need to work on the timing of your delivery, Doctor.”

The Doctor chuckles as he holds the door. “My timing is perfect, thank you very much.”

“Hey wait up, Doc! Let me come with you,” Alex’s voice rings out. He makes a dash down the gangway and the outline of chest plate is evident underneath the black shirt he’s wearing. There’s a black leather jacket in his hand and a hopeful look on his face.

“Of course Alex. I hope we don’t find a use for your powers today, but the more the merrier after all, isn’t that right Erik?” Erik nods once, prompted by the Doctor’s raised eyebrow. Alex merely grins and follows Erik out the door.

“Not to sound judgemental, but Cardiff’s décor leaves a lot to be desired,” Erik comments as he takes in the plastic that covers the walls from floor to ceiling. Tarpaulin is laid out on the floor and the air smells oddly conditioned and sweet. The room is an industrial steel blue colour and floodlights were placed in the four corners of the room, bathing the TARDIS in artificial white light.

“And not to sound a little alarmed here, but it’s like someone expected us to land here, Doc. Either that or the light placement is a huge coincidence.” Alex folds his arms protectively over his chest and gives the floodlights a distrustful look as if they will suddenly grow teeth and eat them all.

“Let’s not jump to any conclusions here. Shall we take a quick look around?” The Doctor doesn’t wait for an answer. He is already pulling back plastic from the walls and disappears around the corner. Alex and Erik follow him, carefully taking in all the details. Everything in the hallway is also covered in plastic and the glow of the floodlights illuminates the dancing dust motes in the air.

“Adventures with you always seem to involve long corridors, Doctor,” Erik observes when the Doctor finally pauses at a crossroads. He freezes for a minute when something pings on his power and he thrusts out a hand to stop the Doctor from bolting in the next second. “Wait. There is something metallic – are several somethings - moving towards us.”

Without knowing whether it is friend or foe, they quickly look for an exit, hustling to move towards the only door on the right behind them. Alex reaches the door first, jiggling the door handle to no avail. “Locked.”

“Stand aside Alex,” Erik and the Doctor say in unison. They aim a hand and a screwdriver in the direction of the lock, which didn’t standing a chance against the combination of Erik’s will and Gallifreyan technology. “Quick, get behind the door.”

They leave the door open just a sliver, enough to peek through as the sound of rhythmic stomping gets louder. The plastic distorts the humanoids encased in silver as they march past in synchronicity, each arm movement and stride perfectly executed. The Doctor doesn’t even realise he’s holding his breath in until they pass and the sound fades into the distance.

“Cybermen,” the Doctor informs them. “They’re a race of cybernetically augmented humans with a hive mind you could say. What I want to know is what they are doing in Cardiff?” He slips around the door and takes five light steps to peer around the corner, the tarpaulin crinkles softly with each one. The Doctor catches the sight of the last two Cybermen as they head down another hallway.

There’s a scream; a high-pitched yell of horror and the Doctor instantaneously makes a dash towards the source of the noise. Erik and Alex yell out the Doctor’s name and runs after him. The doorway flashes blue and then there is silence.

Out of nowhere, someone grabs his elbow and the Doctor whirls around to come face-to-face with a young man with dark skin. His hair is trimmed short in a crew cut and he’s wearing a lab coat, a stethoscope is hanging around his neck. He warns, “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. I don’t know who you are, but wandering in here will get you killed. You need to leave the way you came.” There’s a sense of urgency to his tone of voice.

The Doctor urges the man to calm down, keeping his voice as low and soothing as possible. “My name is the Doctor. This is Erik and Alex. I’m here to help in any way I can. Can you tell me how long this conversion plant has been here and what you are doing here?” the Doctor asks.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Doctor, although I wish we had met under different circumstances. My name is Armando but you can call me Darwin. I am an army doctor and got picked up in one of the groups. The Cybermen are using me to perform checks on the people they drag in here,” Darwin admits, cringing as if the very thing he has been forced to perform is alarming.

The Doctor frowns, recalling to the numerous occasions he had encountered the Cybermen. In the past, they had never been picky when upgrading and converting humans to be like them. “Why exactly is that necessary?”

Darwin shakes his head, tangling his fingers around the rubber tubing of his stethoscope. “For some reason, they want me to sort them into two lines: one possessing a genetic mutation and ones that do not. The humans undergo their upgrade sequence to become Cybermen. But mutants possibly suffer a worse fate.”

“What do you mean? What happens to them?” the Doctor asks, waiting for Darwin to elaborate. It didn’t make sense for Cybermen to sort.

“I am uncertain, I’m afraid. I’ve been delaying the tests and trying to get people out, but the lines keep on getting longer and longer,” Darwin says, his eyes flicking to and fro for any signs of Cybermen. “I’m not sure if I’ve been found out yet, but my instincts tell me otherwise.”

Alex pats Darwin on the shoulder and offers Darwin a reassuring grin. “Then it’s a good thing you found us when you did. The Doc will help you out as best as he can.”

“You will?” Darwin asks.

“Most certainly,” replies the Doctor, a kind smile on his face. He’s good at inspiring people to trust him; this much Erik tells him over chess. And yet it’s a quality he finds daunting, to have so much faith being entrusted to him, willingly and unreservedly. The consequence of betraying these good innocent people does not bear thinking about and the Doctor strives to protect Earth to best of his capabilities.

“If there is anything I can do within my power to help both humans and mutants, I will not hesitate to do it. Trust me,” the Doctor says solemnly. Something in Darwin’s face relaxes and finally he nods.

“Are you a human or a mutant?” Erik asks from where he’s hovering behind the Doctor. It seems prudent to ask such a personal question.

But Darwin is unperturbed by Erik’s bluntness, replying, “This would be an inappropriate time for a demonstration as we’re a little pressed for time. However, my mutation allows me to adapt to any situation. So I’m submerged underwater, I will grow gills to breathe. You can imagine how many times it has saved me in the army.”

The Doctor smiles kindly, fascinated once more by the diverse display of mutant abilities he’s encountered thus far. “That’s splendid, Darwin. What would occur if we throw you in a volcano or-”

“Doctor,” Erik says with a sort of fond exasperation that stops him in mid rant, “This is neither the time nor the place.”

The Doctor coughs, feeling slightly embarrassed as his mesmerisation with mutation gets the better of him and having Erik call him out on it. “You’re absolutely right Erik. We must buy as much time as we can. If you can reach out with your power, break one of the circuits in the conversion unit."

"Already done, Doctor," Erik comments with a smug smile on his face. In the distance, there is the sound of metal dropping and pinging off the floor. A buzz saw rolls past them, propelled presumably by Erik's power.

The Doctor stares as the saw turns the corner, wondering for a moment if Erik suddenly developed a secondary mutation to be able to read his mind. "That should definitely give us some time."

"Tell us more about the Cybermen, Doctor. Do you know what happens to the humans in there?" Alex asks.

The Doctor makes a face and nods. "Unfortunately I do. They remove nearly all organic parts and replace it with an artificial component. Most of the time, the humans lose everything: personality, emotions, love. I would not wish such a fate on anyone. They must be stopped at all costs."

Darwin asks, "What do you need us to do, Doctor?"

"Get everybody out without the Cybermen noticing and investigate where the mutants are going. We need to try and buy as much time as possible," the Doctor lists, quickly prioritizing.

“It might be an idea to destroy the power generator,” Erik adds thoughtfully. "If that conversion thing runs on electricity and they do end up fixing it, they won't be able to turn it on."

The Doctor approves, quickly suggesting, "Let's split up. Alex and Darwin, you are in charge of destroying the power generator but only on my signal. That should cripple the process long enough for Erik and I to investigate what is happening with the mutants. Does that sound agreeable?"

"That sounds like a solid plan, Doctor. I'll show you the room and then we'll find the generator," Darwin says, then motions them to follow him as he takes off down one corridor with his labcoat trailing behind him.
Erik stops them from time to time, carefully avoiding Cybermen Patrols and prompts Darwin to pick alternative paths through the labyrinth like building of plastic and floodlights.

“Divide and conquer, Doctor. I’m impressed,” Erik comments as they set off at a brisk jog after avoiding another run-in with Cybermen.

“It isn’t like you haven’t seen me use that strategy before during our chess matches, my friend,” the Doctor quips and gives a quirky smile, fighting down the immeasurable amount of pride that is growing inside his chest.

Eventually, Darwin leads them outside a large reinforced door. They file in to one side of the door and press up against the wall. “This is the place Doctor. This door is the exit so it should be easier to sneak inside when the Cybermen come out,” Darwin says. “The mutants walk through a security gate and then are branded with a black wrist thing but I've never been close enough to see what it is. The one thing that I can confirm is that the mutants that go into this room never come out again.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” Erik says gruffly. “Go see what you can do for the humans and then find the generator. We’ll catch up with you later.”

“How will you find us when you’re done investigating?” Darwin asks. “We haven’t got any mobile phones or a way to communicate.”

“Alex’s metal disc on his chest acts like a homing beacon to Erik and if he’s out of range, my telepathy shouldn’t be,” the Doctor explains. “You can talk to me at any moment and I should be able to hear it, unless I’m a preoccupied in which case, anything goes.”

“Oh,” Darwin gasps, “Well that certainly is a handy skill to possess. Fair enough then. We’ll be in touch. Let’s go.” The pair nods at one another and then disappears down the corridor. The DOctor can feel the familiar tingle of anticipation run down his spine, causing his hearts to pump faster and his palms to sweat. He watches Erik’s hand clench and relax in fascination until Erik stops, gesturing towards the door which gives an ominous creak.

"Wait, my friend. Don't open it with your powers."

"Whatever is inside this room can lead us straight to Shaw and you know I can open it," Erik protests, clearly antsy to bust in guns blazing. In a fight between a Cyberman and Erik, the Doctor had all his money on his friend emerging as the victor. Many Cybermen on the other hand, is a completely different story and he didn't particularly favour those odds.

"Patience, my friend. It is better to be cautious in this situation," the Doctor says, wetting his lower lips with his tongue.

Erik glares at him but says nothing. They thankfully didn't have to wait long as the heavy doors swing open outwards on creaky hinges. Although the Cybermen probably could not sense them, the Doctor waits until they turn the corner before slinking inside with Erik as his silent shadow behind him.

The inside of the room resembles a large warehouse with crates stacked on top of one another, surrounding a well-lit open area. At the far end towards the other door, there is a security scanner that Darwin mentioned, a tall and imposing grey thing; though The Doctor doubts that it still serves its metal detecting purpose.

There is not a soul in the room - Cybermen included - and the Doctor turns his attention to where Erik is busy ripping out the nails from the wood, sending splinters flying into the air. Erik levers a piece of the lid off and they lean over the side of the crate to stare at the contents. The Doctor' stomach fills quickly with dread."Now we know how Shaw has been able to collect so many mutants and then hide them away." He picks up one of Vortex Manipulators from the top of the pile and opens covering, quickly changing the setting on his sonic screwdriver to run diagnostics. "Although they are nothing like the ones from the Time Agency, they are an incredibly good forgery."

"What does that mean, Doctor?" Erik asks impatiently as he turns another one around, looking for a way to turn the contraption on. The Doctor can hear the continuous cycle of Erik's thoughts of getting to Shaw as quickly as possible and what he plans to do when he gets there. If it is one thing that the Doctor plans on denying Erik, it is a one-way ticket to an early grave.

The entrance door opens this time and a small group of mutants is marched into the room, surrounded by their Cybermen escorts. The Doctor and Erik press themselves against a crate and peer over the top, watching as each of the group members are given the device to put on and within seconds teleport away. The Doctor wagers the other crates are also filled with the same technology.

"Everything is starting to make sense. Why Shaw requires the Dalekenium and how he's able to keep so many mutants in the same place at the same time. The question now is how he's doing it," the Doctor unsheathes the sonic screwdriver and stares at the readout. The answer stares blankly back in his face, a set of co-ordinates displayed on the screwdriver's small screen.

"I feel like a complete idiot. Of course this is where he stays undetected. He is a clever man and if only he wasn't hell bent on destroying everything we know and love, I would have liked to have tea with him," the Doctor says as he drops the Vortex Manipulator back into the crate.

"Where has he been all this time?" Erik demands, his mind shouting a number of questions all at once and all very loudly. The Doctor hears Erik considering the what if, and winces as a particularly violent thought floats to the surface.

"Please Erik, calm your mind," The Doctor pleads, "Shaw has been in the Medusa Cascades all along on a ship made out of Dalekenium called the Caspartina. It is a place that you could not have possibly been able to follow to, I'm afraid."

Erik frowns, "How? I would have eventually found a way. Like through Gustav. I could have killed Shaw by now if you hadn't shown up and ruined everything." His tone turns accusatory and this time, it is the Doctor who frowns.

"What are you trying to say Erik? Are you insinuating that I purposefully stood in the path of your revenge?" The Doctor cannot believe what he is hearing. How could Erik say such things after all the time they spent together, to help shape Sean, Angel, Alex and Raven to become better versions of themselves.

"I didn't need your help," Erik snapped, strapping the Vortex Manipulator to his own wrist. He angrily fiddles with the buckle, only successfully managing to do it up on his second try. "Now tell me how to use this thing and I'll take care of him like I should have many days ago."

"Would you stop to think for a moment? Do you seriously think Shaw has enticed what can potentially be tens of thousands of mutants to his side because he has cookies? How do you think he keeps them all in check?" Erik gives a defiant shrug, uncaring for the consequences.

The Doctor flicks his gaze down to his sonic screwdriver and changes the setting with a twist of his thumb and forefinger. "Don't delude yourself. You needed my help that night; it isn't just me you'll be walking away from. You can be part of something bigger than yourself. You do not have to do this alone."

In the next moment, the Doctor seizes Erik's wrist in hand and recalibrates the circuitry with a pulse of sonic waves from his screwdriver. "There. I won't stop you from going if that is what you want. I could. But I won't." He stands up and gives Erik one last glance before walking out the door they had just come in.

Outside, the Doctor takes a deep breath in. He refuses to think Erik will take the chance to jump and he knows he is too optimistic for his own good sometimes. Taking a moment to himself to concentrate, he pinpoints the bright minds of Alex and Darwin.

« Darwin? Alex? » he sends, gently poking them with fingers made from his thoughts. The Doctor isn't ready to feel the resistance Darwin's mind puts up, wincing as pain lances through his temples.

« Is that you Doc? Stupid question huh. We're nearly ready to blow this joint to pieces. We stopped power going towards the converter things. On your signal we can blast the Cybermen to kingdom come. How do I show you where the generator room is? Wait, I thought you said Erik can find me? »

« Hold the blast until I get there. Go ahead and think of the route you took and I should be able to pick it up from your thoughts. You've done an excellent job. Erik is indisposed so I'm coming to find you. » The Doctor picks up the directions from Alex's mental map and hurries to join up with them.

Avoiding the Patrols is a little more difficult without Erik there to act as his radar and the Doctor nearly bumps into the back of a Cyberman on several occasions. The door to the Generator Room is unguarded and the Doctor knocks.

"Block the door after you come in, Doctor," Darwin suggests after he opens the door. “Alex and I were able to break the conversion thing earlier and the Cybermen are trying to fix the problem. He’s really good at aiming from afar, melted the cutting things right off.”

He points his screwdriver at the door and sonics the lock. “Splendid. You went above and beyond.” The Doctor takes a look at the room. It looks like a typical industrial laboratory storeroom with shelves upon shelves of acids and bases and there’s a musty sour scent in the air despite the dust tickling his nose. There’s a cylindrical electricity generator humming away in the background.

"Did you find anything useful in the room? What happened to the mutants that go in? Where’s Erik?" Alex asks from his chair, lounging with his feet up.

The Doctor fills them in on everything, from the way Shaw has been teleporting large amounts of mutants to the Medusa Cascade down to Erik’s decision to leave. He didn’t realise how quickly he has gotten used to Erik’s presence and feels oddly bereft without the familiar press of Erik’s mind.

Alex scowls as punches the desk he’s sitting at. “What are we waiting for? Erik to pulls his head out of his ass and come back before we pull the plug? There’s only so much time before the Cybermen fix their machine and if the Cybermen come marching and beating on that door, we can only hold the fort for so long,” he reasons.

“There are people still out there that need our help, Doctor,” Darwin says calmly, taking everything in stride. “Erik seems like a reasonably smart guy. But I’m with Alex on this one. The window of opportunity is small and time is unfortunately not on our side.”

The Doctor looks down at his hands and nods, “You’re completely right. The only way is to get rid of all the Cybermen. Alex, get ready to destroy the generator on my signal. Darwin, let’s see what we can do with all these chemicals around us.”

Alex rubs his hands together in glee. “About time, Doc. I was getting a little tired of sitting around doing nothing.”

Darwin is immediately on his feet, looking awfully concerned. He doesn’t seem too pleased with the Doctor’s plan. “But the Cybermen are human. Isn’t there any possible way we can still save them?”

The Doctor shakes his head solemnly and then looks around the room to see if there is anything of use. “They were human. Now they have been assimilated and now they only have a singular goal: to convert others to be just like them. There is no way we can help them now. I’m sorry, I am so sorry.”

Darwin takes in a deep breath and then nods. “How do we do that then, to stop them from converting any more humans to become like them? If this is the humane thing left for us to do it, I will be willing to do so.”

“Their chest unit is incredibly fragile. The internal wiring is made out of polymer and if we can break the polymer chain, Cybermen cease to work instantaneously. Or we shoot gold particles at them which jams their breathing apparatus and suffocates them.” The Doctor runs a hand through his hair and brushes his bangs to the side.

“The chest unit seems like the better option here.” Darwin joins the Doctor, looking at the variety of chemicals stored on the shelf. “Breaking a polymer chain will require the use of a strong solvent, correct. How about acetone? There’s a few bottles in here and we can dilute it far enough to give us enough ammunition to get back to your ship. I’m not sure how we can propel the acetone at the Cybermen we encounter, let alone aim it at the chest unit. Where’s a water gun when you need one?”

The Doctor laughs, thinking that this would be a most convenient time to have a toy store located next door. “Splendid work Darwin. Yes, let us get to work. I’m sure we can find something to propel the diluted acetone, even if it ends up being a squirty bottle.”

They pull out a large industrial drum from the corner with help from Alex, filling it with bottles of acetone and water. The Doctor is glad whoever ran the building decided to keep everything stocked and ready to go. Darwin pulls out a pH meter from one of the shelves and stops the water running when the mixture becomes close to neutral.

Alex looks down at colourless liquid, staring at the contents in uncertainty. “This is going to kill Cybermen?” he asks.

The Doctor nods. “I would have preferred to use an acid, but that has the risk of hurting us as well and we most definitely won’t be able to transfer that safely. Help me empty out these bottles and then we’ll see about getting rid of these Cybermen.” Alex nods and starts emptying spray bottles of window cleaner.

Darwin uses a hose to fill each of their containers up with the acetone and then loads each of them up onto a trolley. The Doctor hustles to build a fort that will withstand several hits from the Cybermen’s phaser weapons. He stands back and admires his handiwork. It isn’t the best job he has done, but given the circumstances it will have to be close enough.

“We’re ready, Doc,” Alex says as he looks at the fort the Doctor built out of chairs, hose piping and whatever else he could get his hands on. “Nice castle. I like what you did with the turrets.”

Darwin comes up behind them with the trolley, the wheels squeaky and uneven that causes the metal framework to rattle. “Is that a flag?”

“Thank you gentlemen, I’m quite proud of it myself. Now, here’s the plan. Each bottle here holds enough acetone to take down two at most three Cybermen. Once the generator is down, the Cybermen will send two to come and see what is wrong. Once the rest of the Cybermen realise what has occurred, they’ll send in more.

“Hopefully we’ll have enough to take them all out but it’s difficult to say when we don’t know how many there are out there. Once the power is cut, it’s going to get pretty dark in here. If you’re ready, then Alex do your worst.”

“On it like a boss,” Alex comments and turns around. The generator splutters and then whirls down, the edges of the hole that Alex made glows red before fading away.

The lights above them flicker and then turn off completely. The small window in the corner of the room reveals it is dark outside, a lone streetlamp in the distance casting a dull glow inside.

They sit and wait behind the Doctor’s fort. Above the smell of acetone, the Doctor can easily identify the odour of fried copper. His hands feel clammy and cold, the adrenaline pumping throughout his body. There’s a soft splash by his shoe and he mentally tells Alex to relax before he wastes all the ammunition on the floor.

True to his word, there is a shuffling of armour and the regular sound of Cybermen marching. In the silence that settles into the room, the Doctor can almost make out their conversation.

The door handle jiggles and then bursts apart. The floodlights outside in the corridor continue to work, casting an almost eerie glow into the room. The Doctor can see the silhouette of the pair of them clearly and he mentally tells Alex to wait for them to get closer.

“Now!”

They spring from behind their fort and douse the pair of Cybermen in acetone. The Cybermen react in surprise, one of them shooting and hitting Darwin in the stomach. Darwin shouts out a cry of pain and doubles over in on himself.

“No! Darwin!” Alex shouts. Without another thought, Alex sends out a red beam that instantaneously causes the Cyberman that shot at Darwin to keel over with a large gaping hole in its chest.

“I’m alright, Alex. See?” Darwin says, as he stands up and shows the hard scales on his stomach receding back into his skin. “Not sure how many of those I can withstand, but I am fine.”

The Doctor vaults himself over the fort and checks the chest unit of the Cyberman he had thoroughly squirted especially glad to see that chemistry truly did prevail. With its last dying breath, the Cyberman calls out to his brethren for help before powering down for the very last time.

He runs to the doorway and takes a look down the corridor in both directions. “Buck up boys, it’s going to be a bumpy ride,” the Doctor declares when he hears the quickstep march of more Cybermen coming in their direction.

Holding a squirty bottle in both hands, the Doctor waits. He sends his telepathy out in one direction, hoping to check in on Erik but finds nothing there. There isn’t enough time to dwell on the implications as the Cybermen stream in with a metallic battle cry coming from their voice modulator.

 

The aftermath of the fight with the Cybermen leaves a large amount of empty shells strewn around on the floor. They had run out of acetone and the Doctor ends up doing the best he can with a Cyberman arm in one hand and his screwdriver in the other. Half of Darwin is covered in a hard persistent shell and the Doctor figures it will eventually fade away when Darwin’s body isn’t convinced more Cybermen aren’t out to kill them.

Alex’s shirt is in tatters, a large hole burnt away into plasma with the constant use of his powers. The skin around the metal disc is bright red and Darwin immediately sets to work with the first aid kit where Alex sits in one of the chairs with his eyes closed. The Doctor knows he has never had to use his powers so completely and can relate to the fatigue.

Throwing the arm away in disgust, the Doctor stumbles over to the pair with an exhausted smile. “We did it. I think it’s time to get back to the TARDIS and don’t fancy waiting for Torchwood to discover us here. I suggest you return to your family, Darwin before they get here. They’re known to be inquisitive almost to a fault.”

Darwin looks up from his work as he tucks away the gauze into the box. “I was wondering Doctor, if you have room on your crew for one more. Alex has told me everything and I want to help you against Shaw.”

“It will be dangerous and nothing like this. I cannot guarantee whether we will make it alive by the end of it,” the Doctor warns. He hesitates to think of the difference between taking down a score or two of Cybermen when compared to Shaw’s army.

Darwin says, “You’ve convinced me, Doctor.”

“Then we’ll be glad to have you on board, Darwin.” The Doctor reaches out and clasps Darwin’s hand in a firm handshake. “I believe it is time for us to get Alex back to the TARDIS. He looks like he can use a good rest.”

Alex tiredly smirks and declares, “I can do with a cat nap.” With a hand under each arm, the Doctor and Darwin help Alex walk back to the TARDIS.

“One thing, Doctor. What exactly is a Medusa Cascade? I overheard some of the Cybermen talking about it earlier,” Darwin asks curiously.

The Doctor stiffens slightly then forces himself to shake off the memory to answer clinically, “The Medusa Cascade is a rift in time and space and a place I used to visit all the time as a child. It is also the place where we’ll find Shaw and Erik and end things once and for all.”

 

“Nice ship, Doctor,” Darwin says as soon as they board. The Doctor wonders how Darwin is so well adjusted and nods his thanks. The Doctor locks the door behind them, vaulting up to the control screen to enter the co-ordinates that was written on the Vortex Manipulators.

There’s a flurry of “Doctor! You’re back. Where’s Erik?”, “Who’s this guy?” and “Oh my, is Alex hurt?” as Angel and Raven hurry down to help with Alex leaving Sean to look curiously at Darwin. The Doctor leaves Alex under the care of Darwin’s capable.

“Where’s Erik, Doctor?” Raven asks later after they help move Alex to his room for some rest. Angel and Sean look on from where they are sitting on the steps.

“He left earlier as he found an alternative transport to where we are going now,” the Doctor replies. He dislikes Vortex Manipulators on principle for being a cheap rip off of the TARDIS but now, he loathes them.

“And you just let him do that?” Angel asks in surprise.

The Doctor sighs softly, feeling a slight headache coming in. “Erik is a grown individual with strong ideals. I do not hold any power over him. He made the choice and I will respect his decisions.”

“How long will it take to get to wherever we’re going?” Sean asks, licking a lollipop that must have come out of his stash of confectionery.

“I suggest you all get some rest. We’ll be there in two hours.”

“What’s to say Erik hasn’t already killed Shaw by now?” Raven asks.

“That is something I am hoping to prevent. Now if you’ll all please excuse me,” the Doctor says crisply and heads towards his room for a change of clothes and a shower. He doesn’t notice the glance exchanged between Angel and Raven.

 

The TARDIS whirls quietly exactly two hours later, each of them looking as the Time Rotor grinds to a halt. He looks around at his companions who each have varying expressions on their faces. Alex looks a little better after his rest and a fresh shirt and Darwin stands next to him stoically, a medical kit in his hand. Angel and Sean look a little nervous standing next to Raven who is the most relaxed out of all of them.

“We’ve got your back, Doctor.”

“Thank you my friends. Allons-y,” the Doctor says as he pulls on his overcoat over his cardigan and unlocks the door.

The TARDIS must have shifted the co-ordinates a little and materialized into someone’s lab as he takes several steps to stand in the middle of the room. The Doctor can see five experiments running concurrently in the white lab and his gaze eventually lands on a tall man with blue fur and spectacles standing protectively in front of another experiment. He’s wearing a pristine white lab coat and fidgets uncomfortably.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” the furry man asks, stuttering a little over his words.

“I’m the Doctor and I’m here to stop Time Agent Sebastian Shaw. Now, if you’ll be so kind as to show me the way, Hank,” the Doctor says as he walks into the middle of the lab. Raven looks at everything in the lab with a sort of detached interest while Darwin and Alex scour the lab for all the entrances and exits. Sean brings up the rear and closes the door of the TARDIS firmly shut.

“How will you do that? He’s a dangerous man! And how did you know my name?” The words all come out as a sort of jumbled mess as Hank panics.

“Calm down Hank. We’re like you. I have the ability to read your mind,” the Doctor explains calmly. Hank freezes. “I would not invade your privacy if you do not wish me to. Please Hank, I do have manners. Can you tell me how you came to be here Hank?”

“He’s forcing me to work for them, I swear, I’m sorry.”

“I know you are and we’re here to stop this. We will stop this. Just as an aside, are you the one that built all those Vortex Manipulators he’s been using? They are an excellent mimicry of the real thing, how absolutely clever of you. If I wasn’t so pressed for time right now, I would suggest we compare notes over a spot of tea,” the Doctor says.

“Y-you won’t be able to get past all the mutants he’s collected,” Hank informs them.

Alex scoffs from where he is leaning against the closed door of the TARDIS. “Fuzzy, you haven’t even seen us in action and I know we kick ass.”

Hank frowns at the nickname, but then shakes his head to clear his thoughts. “Statistically speaking, the six of you will each have to face down at least ten thousand mutants each. Given factors such as the rate of your muscles getting tired, how fast you can take down each opponent and how much damage you will most likely take, I’d say the probability of your victory in this case is extremely slim.”

“Hey, don’t say that! You have to think positive about these things. If you will it, it will be yours,” Sean says, nearly knocking over a flask of yellow solvent in his haste to defend their cause.

“Please Hank. Despite the odds that are stacking against us, will you help us?” the Doctor asks.

Hank looks surprised to hear his words but still looks unconvinced. “Doctor… Well I…”

“Please Hank. I promise you that I will get you out of here. No one should have to live like this, least of you or the mutants that Shaw displaced from their lives and time streams and I will take you wherever you wish to go after.

“‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.’ Something a friend of mine said once and he was an extraordinary man. Will you help us defeat Shaw?” the Doctor asks once more.

“I… yes, I’ll aid you in anyway way that I can,” Hank nods. Sean whoops and rushes to give Hank a high five.

“We can always just blend in with everyone else, right? If you have some sixty thousand mutants on board, held against their will, you’d think someone would have said no right? How did you avoid that?” Raven asks, propping her hip against the counter and giving Hank an appreciative once over.

“I may have inadvertently built a machine which allowed someone to control them through the Vortex Manipulators,” Hank confesses as he takes off his glasses and cleans the lenses on the tail of his shirt.

“Oh I like the sound of this. How is someone doing that?” Raven prompts as she takes a step closer.

“Cerebro is a machine that can amplify psionic abilities. Shaw has a telepath called Emma Frost and she’s his right hand woman and she’s able to connect to Cerebro to channel suggestions to the wearer of the Vortex Manipulators. Those pieces of technology act similarly to conductance rod,” Hank explains.

“And you built this all yourself?” Angel asks, incredulously.

“So aside from your mutation making you all blue and fuzzy, you’re also super smart? Oh I like you,” Raven purrs, making the fur on Hank’s cheeks to turn darker as he blushes.

“A telepath you say? Marvellous. Can you lead me to Cerebro?”

Hank nods. “Certainly. Let me turn off these Bunsen burners.” For a tall mutant who gives off the impression that he is uncoordinated, Hank moves swiftly around the lab without knocking over a single thing.

The Doctor turns to his companions, taking in their excitement and eagerness. “I need you to help me locate Shaw and Erik. No matter what you do, do not engage him. I’m afraid I will not have the time to find them on my own if I use my telepathy.”

“You got it, Doc.” Alex gives him the thumbs up.

“Please do be careful. If you need help, don’t hesitate to shout out. I will be able to hear you mentally,” the Doctor says. They nod and scatter, the girls taking one direction and the boys running in the other.

“This way, Doctor.” They move quickly away from Hank’s lab. The Caspartina is built similar to a submarine and the air around them feels cold. As they walk down the passageways, it is eerily quiet and the Doctor supposes that is because of the sedate state all the mutants are currently in.

Finally, Hank draws to a halt at the bottom of a ladder and the Doctor looks up to see it disappear into a white light. “Cerebro is up there. Frost has to be plugged in at all times; otherwise we really will have riots.”

“Thank you for that, Hank.” The Doctor takes hold of the rungs and begins to climb steadily upwards. The ladder leads into a dome structure, the panelling made from some kind of reflective material that causes everything to glow.

At the focal point stands a blonde woman in white with her eyes closed and a circlet perched on top of her head. “I think I’d like a word with her. Hank, can you power it down?”

“Is that such a wise idea?” Hank asks, looking increasingly nervous at the idea.

“With any luck, Frost’s suggestions are strong and will hold.”

Hank nods and slowly lowers a handle. The machine whines and once completely turned off, Cerebro turns silent. The Doctor stands in her direct line of sight and waits until Frost acknowledges him.

Frost opens her eyes looking completely disorientated. It takes her a minute to refocus and frown. “What?”

“Hello, Miss Frost. I would like to-” The Doctor stops suddenly when he feels a cold sensation take over his mind, lancing through the first line of shields he raised. The feeling is thoroughly unpleasant, as if he will never become warm again.

He opens his mind and drops his shields long enough to drag her inside. The inside of his mind is fashioned to look similar to the interior of the TARDIS and all of his memories are split into each of his regenerations. Everything is familiar.

Emma looks confused and somewhat intimidated. It only makes the Doctor smile. After all, it wasn’t every day one can wander inside a Time Lord’s mind.

“That wasn’t very accommodating of you, Miss Frost. I only wished to have a chat,” the Doctor says pleasantly. “Was there something you hoped to achieve by invading my mind?”

“How? What are you? Who are you?” Frost asks, taking a hesitant step back through the floating hologram of the Fourth Doctor’s head.

“I believe none of that matters,” the Doctor says almost conversationally as he walks up towards her. “You see, I am here to stop the man you are working with or working for. The lines are little blurred between business and pleasure, aren’t they Miss Frost?”

“How did you know that?” Frost asks icily, taking another step back and feeling the barrier dig into her back.

“Oh, I knew from the very moment you woke up exactly what your motivations were and what kinds of tricks you were going to pull before you even made them, Miss Frost.

“Let me ask you again. What did you think you could hope to learn by coming into my mind? What can you hope to manipulate that I haven’t already thought of, Miss Frost? Because I do regret informing you that nothing you do will work on me.” He takes another step forward and reaches out with a hand to cup one of her cheeks, almost like a tender lover.

“You see, normally I am more of a gentleman, but I have found that my patience has finally run out. As to the question of who I am, well, I am the Doctor and very displeased with Shaw and his conduct. You do not want to see me angry, Miss Frost.”

The Doctor smiles pleasantly as he moves a lock of blonde hair off her forehead. “You will stop using Cerebro and you will allow the mutants on board their freedom. Of course, it isn’t like you have any choice in the matter.”

The Doctor ejects her from his mind, sending a strong mental suggestion for her to sleep. He takes one moment to calm down his breathing and turns to stare at the past faces of his reincarnations before closing his eyes and returning to the present.

Hank is hovering by the controls, a look of alarm on his face. The Doctor has forgotten that everything in the mental plane occurs faster than the physical. She must have given Hank a fright when she collapsed onto the floor.

“Terribly sorry about that Hank. Now I have a question for you. Is it possible to reverse-calibrate all the Vortex Manipulators and send our mutant friends back to their homes?”

“I… Certainly, yes, that should not be an issue. But I hesitate to know what they will do with the Vortex Manipulator afterward.” Hank wrings his hands as he gives Frost’s still form another uneasy look as if she will suddenly wake up.

“That is a little bit of an issue. We will have to gather them up and work on each individual Vortex Manipulator,” the Doctor says and pulls out his sonic screwdriver, adjusting the settings before offering it to Hank. “This is my sonic screwdriver. It should be set to jam the vortex technology and make it a one way ticket home.”

“Sonic screwdriver… that’s ingenious,” Hank mutters underneath his breath. “Uh, what did you do to her by the way?”

The Doctor takes the circlet from where it fell next to Frost and places it on his own head. “She’s merely sleeping deeply because I suggested that she should. Miss Frost won’t wake up any time soon unless I ask her to. If you can please turn Cerebro back on, I’ll see to it that our mutant friends get to your lab without causing too much damage.” Hank nods and turns the power back on.

“Remind me never to get on your bad side, Doctor. Cerebro comes online in 3… 2… 1.”

The Doctor gasps as his usual range spreads out in all directions, filling the ship and beyond into the emptiness outside. He lets out a soft laugh as he feels himself able to reach every mind on the ship that is wearing the piece of technology. He is connected to so many people all at once and the Doctor feels so very alive. It is a glorious feeling.

“Oh, Hank. You are a very clever man,” the Doctor praises, trying to keep his enthusiasm from erupting.

Mentally, the Doctor explains who he is to every mutant on board. He doesn’t give anyone the chance to speak when he relays the message for them to visit Hank’s lab in an orderly fashion such that he can send them home. There are varying degrees of fear and excitement and the Doctor sends out a mental suggestion to keep calm and carry on.

There is only one on the ship that he cannot touch or communicate with and the Doctor recognizes it as Erik, who is currently on the opposite side of the ship. He can’t tell what Erik is thinking through Cerebro or see whether his assistance is required, but the Doctor knows he needs to be there in that very instant. He can’t even feel Shaw at all.

He nearly tears the circlet from his hair as he tells Hank to turn off Cerebro and makes a dash for the ladder. “You’ll be required at your lab. All the mutants on the ship will be coming to you. Get them home in one piece and don’t break my screwdriver.”

 

Raven is surprised when the mutants that were sitting placidly all stood up at once. Some had immediately begun to fight with the person next to them and everything quickly escalated from there.

She did her best to not get caught in any fights, mentally chortling at Hank’s failed prediction. There wasn’t any need for them to lift a finger when all of Shaw’s mutants were so content in beating one another up.

She rounds the corner and freezes when a man in a clean suit teleports in with a swirl of red. His skin is red and his black hair is slicked back, a pointed tail swaying lazily behind him. He looks just as surprised to see her. Raven can recognize him anywhere.

“Azazel.”

The man smiles, his white teeth gleaming against the colour of his skin, “Shaw did not say he had recruited a beautiful flower like you.”

Ignoring his compliment, Raven shifts into an offensive position and fluidly shifts in to strike. “You’ve made it a very tough couple of months, you know that.” It’s only a shame that he is a teleporter and moves to stand behind her.

“Ah, the beautiful flower is deadly. I like already.” Raven changes her stance and attempts a roundhouse kick. The man laughs when he catches her foot, nearly causing her to overbalance if she were a lesser person.

“And I really don’t like you, what a surprise,” Raven says, using the narrow hallways to her advantage as she presses off the ground to reach the plumbing above. She hoists herself up with both hands and moves to strike at the side of Azazel’s head to disorientate him.

They exchange more blows, Azazel teleporting as he likes to confuse her. She grabs a hold of his tail with one hand, keeping the prehensile limb away from causing any damage, and then wraps both her free arm around Azazel’s neck and her legs around his waist. She keeps her eyes carefully trained on his tail.

Suddenly, a force hits Azazel and the man collapses like a house of cards sending Raven sprawling onto the floor.

A blue furry paw is thrust towards her and she looks up to see Hank, looking mighty scary with his fangs bared. “Are you alright there?”

“Uh, yes. I had him on the ropes though, you didn’t need to step in,” Raven says, a little miffed but allowing him to pull her to her feet.

Hank shrugs and doesn’t quite let go of her hand. “I thought hitting him in the solar plexus would be quicker. Sorry. Anyway, I’ve got to get back to the lab and start recalibrating those Vortex Manipulators.”

“Hey, I’ll come with you. I hit a dead end earlier anyway,” Raven declares, inviting herself along. He had nice eyes, up this close, she decides.

Hank blinks at her then looks down at their attached hands and quickly dropping it like a hot potato. “Oh I err… yes. Sure, if you like, Miss- ?”

Raven laughs. “Raven. My name is Raven.”

 

The Doctor doesn’t wait as he sets off at a dead run to the other side of the ship, yelling loudly for people to move out of the way. There are always spectators when you didn’t need them.

« Doctor! It’s Angel. I just saw Erik walk past on his way to the engine room. There’s still no sign of Shaw though, I’ll keep looking. Just thought you ought to know. »

« Thank you, I’m on my way there. »

He shoulders past everyone, using Angel’s mind as a guide through the ship. “Come on, come on. Please don’t be too late,” the Doctor mutters under his breath as he skitters around the corner and sees a sign for the engine room.

He’s dashing down another corridor when Alex’s voice filters through. « Not to sound too alarmed here Doc, but we’ve got a small situation. Some of these mutants are attacking us in a not very nice way. »

« Alex. Try to keep them as calm as possible. » The Doctor sends out as he jumps over a pair of fighters rolling and brawling on the floor.

« Easier said than done without your skills, Doctor! Let me try subdue them with my voice. » Sean adds, sounding a little winded.

« Excellent thinking, Sean. Let me awe them with my singing. That’ll go over well. » Alex replies sarcastically.

« Shut up, Alex. You can use your stupidly big arms to knock them out. »

The Doctor chuckles at their interaction before returning to the task at hand and opens the engine room. The heat produced is incredible causing the atmosphere to become almost stifling and hot. The air is thick with the scent of sulphur and destruction, the Dalekenium Shaw commissioned surrounding them and containing the cloying smoke inside. It is a miracle the hull hasn’t been breached.

He finds on the other side is something he expected but had hoped to prevent: Erik stands over Shaw, his hands outstretched towards him as if ready to go in for the kill. Shaw lies on his back and leans up onto his elbows. There’s a ridiculous looking helmet on his head and a matching grin on his face. “We can rule the new race together Erik. Think of the galaxy as a blank slate for the next step for evolution for us mutants. I always thought of you as my son and I nurtured you as if you were my own and I will be glad to share this with you.”

“It’s a shame because the feeling isn’t mutual. You killed my mother,” Erik says as he straps Shaw firmly to the floor with strips of Dalekenium and moves in for the kill.

“Erik, no!”

Shaw laughs heartily as he sends out a pulse of energy that sends Erik and the metal restraints flying into the air. “You think you can kill me this easily?”

Shaw turns his head towards the door slowly and asks, “And who is this? I always thought you were a bit of a lone wolf, little Erik Lehnsherr. You were always so good for me, doing as you were told and keeping to yourself. Of course, you understood the consequences didn’t you, Erik?”

“What are you doing here?” Erik growls as he picks himself up from the rubble.

The Doctor ignores Erik, instead focusing his attention solely to Shaw. “I’m the Doctor. You have violated a number of laws and threatened the universe as we know it. I am here to stop you.”

Shaw’s grin gets impossibly wider. “Is that right, Doctor? I’m sorry, but I don’t find you terribly intimidating. What is it that you can do?” Shaw’s face changes fluidly between expressions and it finally settles on fake curiosity.

“That is correct. What makes you think I can’t do everything?” the Doctor replies easily.

« Erik. I need you to remove his helmet. It is the only way that I can get a hold of him. » Erik doesn’t give him any signal that he’s heard.

“I think I have heard tales about a Doctor that travels through space and time. You can definitely relate to my Erik here.” Shaw dusts his suit off and smiles cockily. “Are you implying that you are a god amongst men?”

The Doctor chuckles, matching Shaw’s pleasant tone of voice with one of his own. “A god amongst men? Hardly. Your fascination with mutants is understandable but from a genetically speaking point of view, everyone is a mutant. You find powers to be something that you wish to control and how embarrassing will it be when I tell you that my left toenail grows at a pace slightly faster than my right? How would that match up to your power? What is it, the absorption and release of energy?”

Shaw shakes his head and laughs. “You’re a human then, but a clever one. I find that a little surprising considering how many mutants with powers you would have encountered before finding Erik and I here.” A lone wire of Dalekenium snakes through the air, swaying as if in a trance.

The Doctor pretends to act shocked before walking towards Shaw. “Let me tell you a little secret. I do confess I have a power. For you see, I didn’t come here alone. Do you remember a little girl with wings like a dragonfly’s? She’s here. Perhaps you may recall a young man with blonde hair who you pinned murder charges on? He’s also here. And then there’s Raven who has found her job difficult because of you. See, my power is that I can find and unite individuals against deluded people like you.”

The Dalekenium wire swoops in and fuses with the back of the helmet. “Now, Doctor!” Erik shouts as he whips the helmet off of Shaw’s head. The Doctor immediately takes the opportunity and seizes control of Shaw’s mind. He forces Shaw to his knees and with one hand covers Shaw’s eyes.

“Doctor? What are you doing?” Erik asks as he joins him to stand in front of Shaw.

“I’m sorry my friend. I cannot allow you to dirty your hands with this man’s blood and it has never been my intention all along,” the Doctor says, sounding apologetic. He turns back to Shaw, ignoring the other’s bid to get free. “By the Shadow Proclamation, Clause 244, Time Agent Sebastian Shaw, you will be stripped of everything you know. Your trial has found you guilty of interference with time, the people of Earth as well as conspiring with the race known as the Cybermen. You are hereby sentenced to live here in the Medusa Cascade, where you will live the rest of your days in solitude.”

With a deep breath, the Doctor closes his eyes and urges Shaw’s mind to forget everything he remembers and forget the very essence that made him Shaw. Shaw’s body keels over backwards and is still.

“You can’t do this. You can’t just make him forget all the crimes he has committed,” Erik shouts at him with all of his bottled up rage and hurt.

“And what is the difference if you were going to kill him? A dead person doesn’t remember who they are. Shaw will spend the rest of his life trying to remember who he is and what transpired here on this ship. This is the tragedy that befalls those who lose themselves, Erik, and it is worse than what death can grant them for they cannot answer the question who.” The Doctor watches as Erik storms away and the helmet drops loudly to the floor with a clang. He squats down to pick it up, feeling the smooth polished exterior with his hand.

“You have caused everyone a lot of grief, Shaw. This is the only kindness I can give you for all that you have done.” The Doctor stands and walks away, the helmet held loosely with his thumb and forefinger. There is still much to be done.

 

The last mutant disappears with a press of a button and a satisfying sizzle. “I’m telling you, you should have seen me Doctor. I was amazing,” Sean says after he tells his tale once more about facing down a room of fifty three mutants and making them all bow before him. They’re slowly packing Hank’s things away into cardboard boxes and tossing various coloured solvents down the sink.

Raven rolls her eyes at Sean as she waves a box of filter paper in his direction. “Please. You should have seen me. You know the guys from Azazel and Janos Corporations showed up with a new load of Dalekenium. Angel and I gave them hell,” she grins smugly and high fives Angel as she passes by, dropping the box haphazardly amongst the other clutter.

Sean whoops and listens to her give a very detailed play by play of the fight. Alex and Darwin laugh when Raven begins demonstrations on a flustered looking Sean placed in a headlock. They carry a box each and walk towards the TARDIS.

“So what now, Doctor?” Hank asks, looking at the half packed state of his laboratory. Frost is propped up against the side of TARDIS, still sound asleep.

The Doctor hums from the lab stool he is sitting on, observing everyone with a look of contentment on his face. He likes watching their interactions and tries to ignore the melancholy he feels when he knows they will be going their separate ways very soon. “What are all your plans? I have mentioned that I have a TARDIS that can get you anywhere at any point in time, right?”

“We know that, Doc,” Alex says with a roll of his eyes and a chuckle as he walks back out empty handed. “Since you kind of busted me out of prison and I don’t plan on going back there, I’m going to head back to my time stream and try to find my family. I’ve got brothers out there somewhere. What about you Darwin?”

Darwin shrugs as he squats down to take a hold of yet another box. “I don’t really have to be anywhere. All my family aren’t alive any longer. The army’s just a job you know?”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Darwin,” Angel says, giving Darwin’s forearm a friendly squeeze as he passes her. The Doctor knows what a tight-knit group Angel’s family is and feels a drop in his stomach. Although they really haven’t known each other very long, they had all grown on him and in the end, the Doctor knew he will be all that’s left once more.

“Why don’t you come with me then?” Alex suggests with a grin. “It’ll be great. Just two guys hanging out, looking for my family and we could even solve crime! We’d be like Sherlock and Watson.”

“Really?”

“Sure! I mean there isn’t even a guarantee I’d be able to find them on my own in the first place. I can definitely do with a buddy to travel with.” Alex looks exactly as an energetic puppy should and punches Darwin in the arm when he agrees.

“What about you Sean?” Darwin asks.

The ginger-haired boy perks up at the sound of his name. “Back to my family and tell them of my heroic exploits. My younger siblings are going to be so psyched. Of course, I didn’t get to kiss or save the damsel in distress. Angel?” Sean asks with a wry smile and a flutter of his eyelashes

Angel pulls a face and throws a scrunched up piece of filter paper at his face. “No Sean, no. I think that one’s pretty obvious. I’ll be returning to my family as well. I kind of miss them actually, after all the travelling we’ve done.” She turns to Raven and looks expectantly as she twirls a lock of hair around her finger.

“Me? Oh. Well I’ve got all that Dalekenium that needs to be sold. But afterwards I’m definitely going travelling after I buy a new ship. Or you know, Hank builds me a new one,” Raven adds with a suggestive wink, laughing herself silly when the fur on Hank’s cheeks darken. “Are you going home too, Hank?”

“No. I guess I’ll go back to my own time and I don’t know,” Hank shrugs as he carefully packs the last of his beakers away.

Raven goes to poke him in the side and looks up at him. “And what? Be squirrelled away in another lab and invent more things? I bet you half of this stuff you’ve invented will net you a huge amount of money on the Market. You know what, you’re coming with me and building me a new ship and you’ll come travel with me.”

“I am?”

“Yes. The Sparrow was getting a little lonely being a one woman ship. You can surely build a better, faster ship right?” Raven looks Hank up and down, as if it were possible to gauge his shipbuilding skills just by looking at him.

“Well I don’t know… I’ve never really built one before,” Hanks says as he pushes his glasses further up his nose and runs a hand through the fur at the top of his head. “But I can definitely try. I don’t have any lodgings or money though.”

Raven slings an arm around his lower back and pats him roughly between his shoulder blades. “Not a problem. I’ll put you up if Destiny doesn’t come up with something. It might be a bit of a tight squeeze though.” Hank’s face instantaneously turned darker as he blushes, clearing his throat awkwardly as he turns studiously back to packing away his delicate equipment.

The Doctor traces the intricate pattern on the edge of the helmet and smiles at his reflection, extremely pleased at each and every one of their plans, each of them has such a bright future to look forward to. “They all sound wonderful. I’m going to go prepare to put this place under a time-lock. We’ll be ready to leave as soon as I put it in effect.”

The Doctor stands up and heads back inside the TARDIS, nearly tripping over one of Raven’s crates on his way to place the helmet somewhere where no one will ever have access to.

He finds an appropriate box big enough to place the helmet in and closes it before locking it in his cabinet underneath one of his bookshelves in the library. The Doctor straightens himself and his eyes instinctively home in on the chess game he never got to finish playing with Erik.

He pulls himself away from the room and goes to get the time-lock in place. It will take some time to prepare everything, but the Doctor can’t seem to wonder if Erik will have left by then using the Vortex Manipulator on his wrist or if he will come back to the TARDIS.

 

The Doctor sits on the platform looking at the door. Everything is set, all of Hank’s equipment is finally loaded, Cerebro has been dismantled, Frost is on board and the time lock ready to activate itself once the TARDIS leaves the Medusa Cascade. He knows he’s putting it off yet when he had checked earlier, Erik’s mind was a pacing speck somewhere on the ship.

A blanket is dropped over his shoulders and he sees Sean there with a plate of cookies in his other hand. Sean takes a seat next to him and looks at the door as well. “You’ve been sitting here for hours. I don’t think he’s coming Doctor. Come back to the party, we’ve left you some cake. Here take a cookie.”

The Doctor sighs in defeat and finally nods, taking a cookie. “I… I know. I just wanted to be sure.” He stands up and dusts the seat of his slacks off. “I’ll be right there. I just want to say goodbye if he’s still out there and give him a chance to leave first before the time-lock activates.”

He walks towards the door and jumps back in surprise when it swings open when his hand touches the handle.

“Erik!”

The spare key is in his other hand and Erik is there. “Am… I still allowed to be here, Doctor?”

“Of course, my friend. I was just about to give you the warning to teleport. We are just about ready to leave.”

Erik shuffles on his feet and nods curtly, closing the door behind him. “Good. I’m sorry.” Erik admits to the door and the Doctor moves to start the TARDIS up with a smile on his face that rivals the brightness of a thousand suns.

“My friend, you have no need to be.”

 

The parting of ways is always a little unbearable and emotional. They linger by the door of the TARDIS, saying goodbye and enjoy the rest of your lives. The Doctor promises to give them a call sometime in the future, although how close into the future is anybody’s guess.

Erik’s reappearance is well received by everyone except for Hank, who shies away and spends the rest of the party talking to the Doctor about genetics. The Doctor wisely decides Market is the first place to stop.

Unloading all of Raven and Hank’s things take all of their manpower to unload, although the burden is greatly eased with Erik’s extra set of hands. They leave them on the doorstep of Destiny’s with cases and boxes surrounding them. “We have so much stuff,” Raven says, pointing out the obvious to anyone with eyes.

Sean is the next one to leave them, kissing the back of Angel’s hand once more before he takes his duffel and walks out of the Aviary of the Viridescent Vivarium. They leave to the sound of Sean declaring his undying love for Sahal.

After Angel is returned to her world, Alex and Darwin end up in the future of modern day Cardiff. Fond farewells are exchanged and the Doctor watches as the pair of them wonder about how much interest Darwin’s money had gained during the time he had been gone. “It’s been several hundred years, surely you’re rich by now!” Alex exclaims as the Doctor chuckles and closes the door of the TARDIS.

The Doctor gently coaxes Frost awake. She jerks backwards, startling the chair she’d been placed in to swing backwards. “Easy, Miss Frost.”

“Where am I? Am I in your head again?” she asks, darting wary looks at the interior of the TARDIS.

“Not today, Miss Frost. I’m going to return you to your family if that is what you wish. I want to give you a fresh start, one that hasn’t been shaped by Shaw ever since you were a young girl.”

“I… Yes. I should be in 1962 at my age,” Frost says as her eyebrows knit together. Her face softens a little and she gives the Doctor a smile. “I think I would like to see my brother again. It has been far too long since I’ve last seen Christian. Thank you Doctor.”

The Doctor offers her a smile and lets the TARDIS take them to the whereabouts of Christian Frost in 1962. Erik and the Doctor watch from the door as the Frosts have a tearful reunion on the steps of a humble house in Massachusetts.

In the end, the Doctor doesn’t ask about Erik’s plans and takes Erik back to the park where they first met underneath the birch tree.

Erik folds his coat over his arm and they stand awkwardly outside the TARDIS for a few minutes.

“I –” Erik starts only to be interrupted by the Doctor.

“Come travel with me, Erik. You can think about where you want to go during our travels and I can use the company. Let me show you the suns and the stars.” The Doctor tries not to sound too pathetic or needy, but he has seen many companions come and go during his long life.

Erik’s face does not change and the Doctor steels himself for Erik’s words. He tries to keep his disappointment off his face and tries harder to not look crestfallen.

“It is okay if you want to stay here. I understand. I can give you my number and if you are ever in need of my assistance you can always call.” The wind blows and the Doctor is reminded of the season as leaves fall to the ground.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Doctor. Who will keep you in line if I’m the last one?” Erik reaches out and brushes a leaf out of the Doctor’s hair. “There are just a few things I need to take care of before we leave.”

The TARDIS behind them shimmers and changes into the same old blue park bench, a chessboard already lying innocuously upon its wooden seat.

“In the meanwhile, set the chess board up and let’s have a game.” Erik taps his temple as he walks down the path. « And don’t you dare cheat. »

« I wouldn’t dream of it. I am just incredibly pleased you will be travelling with me. »

« Seeing all the suns and the stars will be worth it if I can have you by my side. »