The opening part to an ongoing Doctor Who story I’ve been writing.
Set immediately following the end of series four featuring the Tenth Doctor.
In case anybody’s actually reading out there, I’d dearly love some feedback… 🙂
It was a wrench to pull himself away from the Earth, but the Doctor knew that it had to be done. The indifference of Donna’s farewell – such as it had been – had left him more miserable than he had been aware he would feel.
It had to be done, he reminded himself. She is a wonderful person and the human race will benefit much more from her being alive than from her pointless death.
The thoughts brought him no comfort at all as he stood at the TARDIS console which only an hour or two ago had been packed to the gunwales with bodies and was now so very, very empty.
Situation, he thought grimly, normal.
It had been a bizarre few hours, one way or the other and even the Doctor, so used to peculiar happenings and strange events had felt the emotional shockwaves more keenly than he could have imagined. Coolly, clinically, he took each one and dealt with it in turn. The aversion of the end of reality at the hands of Davros and his Daleks was a long, long way down the list. That was almost run-of-the-mill in comparison to the rage of emotions that flowed through his tired body.
He had been reunited with Rose, only to then be separated from her again, most likely forever. But when he put it into perspective, that was well and good. It had served an important purpose, which had been to demonstrate to him the surprising realisation that was, in fact, over her.
Not forever, of course, and certainly not completely – but he definitely moved on. No, he would never be completely over Rose – but the other ‘him’ was a different kettle of worms. Or can of fish. Or some other bizarre human metaphor involving animals and receptacles. After all, the other ‘him’ had been force-grown from the hand of a Time Lord who had not been changed by the intervention of Rose, Martha and Donna’s humanity. He represented all that the Tenth Doctor had been in his early days – impulsive, emotion-driven and volatile. Rose would be good for him – he knew that categorically. They would spend the rest of their lives together. They would probably have children. And just as he had moved on from the emotional attachment that he had perhaps foolishly formed with Rose, she would grow to love the other ‘him’ and move forwards herself.
He hoped fervently that if they had a girl, they didn’t call her ‘Chardonnay’.
Then there had been the separation from Donna, something that the Doctor didn’t think he would ever like to dwell on too much. He had not been proud of himself for what he had done to her, particularly in light of the fact that she had not wanted to be returned to her humdrum existence. But he could not have allowed the human-Time Lord meta-crisis to have destroyed her. She meant too much to him for that.
He flipped a switch on the TARDIS console moodily and stabbed a destination into the computer, absently bracing himself as the aged machine lurched violently in a different direction.
He could have let her continue as she was for a while. The idea of a matched mind, of a companion intellect had been sorely tempting – but the degradation had already become too far advanced. Had Donna been a dull-witted, empty-headed woman, the human portion of her brain would have fought for much longer against the encroaching accumulated knowledge of almost a millennia of space and time travel. But she was clever, Donna. Oh yes. Very clever and very, very human. No, he had done what he had done out of necessity and compassion. Nothing more, nothing less.
He nodded abruptly. Yes, that was right. Compassion. Despite the tears and the terror in her eyes when he had taken the memories from her. It had been an act of compassion.
“Donna…I’m just leaving.”
“Yeah. See ya.”
The Doctor closed his eyes. It had been hard to leave her like that. It was as though he had taken everything good from her and left her with nothing. At least she had the support of her family. Wilf would see her through and he suspected that even Donna’s mother might now learn to see her daughter in a new light. But he also knew well enough that time would settle Donna back to normal, that she would ultimately reach her full human potential, whether that be as a temp in a library, or even as Prime Minister, should the dice of Fate be cast that way.
Yes, he knew who she was.
The woman whose entire government he had deposed with six little words murmured into the ear of an aide. The woman whose reasoning that someday the Earth would be in trouble and the Doctor wouldn’t be there to help had been flawless and the woman who he had all but scratched from his memory in bitter anger as a result of her hostile actions against the Sycorax. The woman who had never once given up hope – but who had given up her life just so that he might be found.
He felt more shame for his treatment of Harriet Jones than anything he could remember for a very long time. It had been so very indicative of the earlier behaviour of this incarnation and he realised, with some very small comfort, that he had undoubtedly changed exponentially since then.
Captain Jack and Martha – they were constants. They never seemed to change, not really. Only Martha was starting to become something that made the Doctor nervous deep down. She had gone from being a poised, competent, strong willed young woman to becoming UNIT’s pawn – whether she realised it or not. He suspected that in time, he would run into Doctor Jones again. He hoped fervently that they were fighting on the same side.
Jack Harkness, he knew with great satisfaction, would never change. There were some things in life that could be relied upon. Death (although not in Jack’s case, obviously), taxes, Slade at Christmas and Jack making an inappropriate sexual innuendo at the most inappropriate of times. He had grown quite fond of the time agent – not that he would ever admit it out loud.
And Sarah Jane Smith. The Doctor smiled as he remembered the joy and excitement on her face when she had left to return home to her son. There was a story there that the Doctor felt almost offended that he wasn’t a part of – perhaps the details were something he could acquire and fill in at some other time.
Some other time it would have to be. Because right now, the Doctor wanted to be nowhere near the Earth. Martha and Jack, along with Mr Smith now had the means to communicate with him should things be desperate, but right now, the Earth was the very last place in the cosmos that he wanted to be anywhere near. He had an entirely different destination in mind. He didn’t particularly want to go there, but it was a necessity.
“Just you and me again, old girl,” he said to the TARDIS, a tone of forced cheerfulness in his voice. He rested a hand on the console and the TARDIS thrummed gently under his touch. A real sense of home and comfort filled him and he allowed the familiar sounds of his TARDIS to dissipate all the negativity of what had happened. His soul lightened. So what if he was the ‘Destroyer of Worlds’? He rested a hand on the engaging lever and nodded once again.
“Sticks and stones,” he said with a sudden grin, “may break my bones, but randomly assigned monikers doled out by a crazed madman working at the behest of an insane Dalek based on the actions of a cloned half-human-half-Time-Lord-half-a-pint-of-lager-and-a-packet-of-crisps-please who was acting out of a selfless need to defend the entire human race and beyond…” His lips moved as he tried to catch up with himself. “…may never hurt me.”
Having so declaimed, he slammed up the lever and the TARDIS sped through space towards the Shadow Proclamation.
The Doctor was not surprised by the waiting Judoon when the TARDIS materialised inside the Shadow Proclamation’s buildings. He was, however, quite surprised that the rhino-like peacekeeper at the head of the platoon made an effort to speak to him in something more than single syllable grunts.
“You Doctor. You must come.”
“I’m almost disappointed,” said the Doctor. “I LIKE the way you talk. Go on. Just a little ‘mo’.”
The Judoon stared impassively at him.
“You will come. Now.” He waved the rifle at the Doctor, who tipped his head on one side, then grinned.
“Close enough.” He closed the door of the TARDIS and fell into step beside the Judoon. The others – about a dozen of them – closed ranks and the Doctor found himself in the midst of the marchers. It was faintly unnerving. The last time he’d come here, with Donna, the Judoon had been menacing and threatening in the way that they always were, but this was practically hostile.
“I’m going to hazard a guess,” said the Doctor, conversationally, “that the Shadow Architect isn’t best pleased with me disappearing like that.”
“Your guess is quite correct, Doctor.”
The woman the Doctor knew as the Shadow Architect was waiting for the group at the end of the corridor. “All is well, Captain, you may return to your patrol.”
“Mo,” said the Judoon, turning sideways and glowering at the Doctor, who beamed in response.
“There you are, see? You CAN do it!”
The Judoon stomped off down the corridor to do whatever it was that Judoon did when they weren’t stomping. Maybe polish their stomping boots, who knew?
“Ah, Architect. So good to see you again.”
“Do not think to win me over with your charm, Doctor. You are lucky that the Judoon did not kill you on sight.”
“I take it that I have you to thank for that little incidental detail?” The Shadow Architect narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him, but finding nothing dishonest or underhand in the statement merely gave a one-shouldered shrug.
“You are too – interesting – for me to lose just yet. Come, we will walk and talk.”
“The ‘just yet’ in that sentence is more than a little worrying, but…” The Doctor strode alongside the Shadow Architect, his longer legs forcing her into a more hurried pace to keep step with him. Unconsciously, he slowed himself down a little, keen to maintain a good relationship with her. Striding off at top speed was probably not the best way to keep her on his side. She was displeased with him, certainly, but she also seemed like a reasonable individual.
“You understand, of course, that the Shadow Proclamation is most displeased with your actions?”
“Which particular ones?”
“The most recent ones, Doctor, please don’t try my patience.” The Architect clucked the roof of her mouth with a tongue as a mother would scold a child. “You blatantly disregarded my direct order regarding your space vessel, and as for your actions with the Daleks…”
“Ah.” The Doctor went for supplication. It seemed easier under the circumstances. “You’ve heard about that already, then?”
The Architect laughed, but there was very little humour implicit in the sound. “Of course, Doctor. Surely you are aware that our network extends much further than most mortals can comprehend? Our agents have formed a network on reality since time immemorial. We were there at the dawn of consciousness, we will be here long after you are nothing more than a drying ink stain in the annals of history. A forgotten vigilante.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said the Doctor. “I plan to live forever. Just because I know it’d annoy so many people.”
The Architect’s lips twitched slightly at his words, but she regained easy control over her emotions. “Have you always been this foolish, Doctor, or is it merely something that you have acquired with age?”
“Let me think,” said the Doctor, rolling his eyes up and sticking his tongue out of the corner of his mouth as though deep in thought. “There was the time when I…no, not then. What about when I … no…no, not then, either.” He shook his head and gave the Architect a mournful look. “Nope. Always been this way.”
This time, she could not hide the slight smile. They had walked the full length of a corridor and now stood before a panel. The Architect put her fingertips to the panel which glowed a soft red hue and the doorway before them opened up. “This way, Doctor,” she said.
The Doctor took a couple of rather hesitant steps forward. “And this is…?” he asked, his tone querying. The Architect laughed, a strange sound coming from her, given how strait-laced she had been up until now.
“This, Doctor,” she said, somberly, “is another corridor.”
“Oh,” he said, then grinned sheepishly.
Still chuckling slightly, the Architect led the way through the doorway, followed by the Doctor.
This was more than a corridor, though. This area was rife with activity, people bustling up and down, some with hand-held computers, others merely walking with sheaf after sheaf of papers. Occasionally one of them would raise their heads and meet the gaze of the Architect. Without fail, they would nod their heads in polite deference.
But when their heads met the gaze of the Doctor, he received no such treatment. He received the thing that he had anticipated.
Looks of fear.
“Where is it exactly that we’re going, Architect?” he asked his companion, preferring for now to ignore the looks and glances.
“We are going to the Hall of the Ancients,” she replied, sounding faintly distracted. The Doctor nodded. When he’d visited in the past, he had spoken with one of the Proclamation’s many minions about the place’s geography and function. The Hall of the Ancients sounded far grander than it actually was: it was merely the name given to the current head – in this case, the Shadow Architect – of the Proclamation’s quarters.
Nonetheless, when they arrived there, less than five minutes later, the Doctor had to be impressed.
“Hallo,” he said. “Is this Time Lord technology going on in here?” He stepped into the room that by rights oughtn’t fit into the space implied by the walls and doorway. It was almost like stepping into the TARDIS, only with noticeably more plants and decidedly less junk. He took his sonic screwdriver out of his jacket pocket and discovered, much to his irritation, that it was flat. He’d not changed the battery pack, what with…everything.
“Yes,” she said. “Many years ago when the Children of Gallifrey were still working with the Shadow Proclamation, before they splintered from our governance, the Time Lords helped us with the design of this place. Please. Take a seat, Doctor. There is much we must discuss – and you must be hungry and thirsty after your exertions. Let me at least offer you this moment’s respite and sanctuary.”
“I…” The Doctor began to protest that in fact, he felt perfectly fine and then realised that she was quite right. All the fight left him in a great sigh that seemed to start at his toes, worked up his legs, gathered pace in his chest then exhaled from his mouth in a rush of emotion. He sank onto the chair that she had indicated whilst she turned to close the door to the impossibly large room quietly.
“I took the liberty of having food and drink delivered when your TARDIS was detected,” she said, crossing over to a table on which a platter of assorted fruits and cured meats was arranged. She poured two glasses of a bright yellow liquid from a tall pitcher and handed one to the Doctor before setting her own down and going back to pick up the food, which she placed on the table between herself and him.
“Too kind,” mumbled the Doctor. All the bravado and front was gone. The Architect’s unexpected kindness had confused him and had broken down his standard defences. She was a shrewd, canny woman and the Doctor sensed that her concern for his welfare was genuine and not some sort of ploy. He accepted the drink and took a sip. It had a faintly citrus tang to it and was so familiar to his taste buds that he felt a prickle of emotion at the back of his eyes.
“Lemons from the groves of Tsa,” he murmured. “The southern continent of Gallifrey, where they grew the finest fruits and bottled the finest wines in the entire universe. How do you have them here?”
“We have a rather unique botanical wing, Doctor.” The Architect smiled. “We have more than just lemons growing there: some of the more unusual flora from your home planet can be viewed there. Perhaps later you might wish to take a walk. But now, we must discuss the matter at hand.”
“Oh. Yes.” The Doctor set down the glass of Tsa lemonade and sat up straighter in the chair. “Er – which particular matter? I imagine there’s several rather…pressing ones.”
“The matter of your employment under the Shadow Proclamation, of course,” said the Shadow Architect primly. She enjoyed, for the briefest moment the unprecedented effect her words had on the normally garrulous Doctor.
He said nothing, rendered for the first time in many years utterly, utterly speechless.
Finally, he found his voice.
She treated him to a real smile.
“Drink up, Doctor,” she said.
Following her pronouncement, the Doctor stared at the Shadow Architect, a look of mixed confusion and incredulity on his face. Setting down the glass of lemonade, the precious taste of home forgotten and now tasting like ash in his mouth, he fixed the impassive gaze with a hard stare of his own.
Silence passed between them.
“You are of course, joking. Right?”
“Oh, permit me SOME credit, Doctor.” The Architect’s lips twisted slightly in a deeply expressive sneer. “Amusing though I think it would be to now reveal the extent of the jest which I have played upon you, I am sure you understand that in my position, I am obliged to be truthful at all times.”
The Doctor considered this and sighed ruefully. “That’d be a ‘no’ then, I suppose?”
“Yes. It is a no.”
The Doctor ran those few words through his head in case there were any hidden double negatives, but unfortunately for him, he determined that the Architect was very serious in her words.
Very serious and very, very misguided.
Hoo, boy. Get out of THIS one with your sonic screwdriver intact, bucko.
“So let me get this straight.” The Doctor sat back in his chair and crossed one pinstripe-clad leg across the other, running his fingers idly down the trouser crease as he spoke. “The Shadow Proclamation want me to serve under their banner – and all this despite my effectively telling you where to shove it – begging your pardon – last time I was here?”
Her lips twitched almost imperceptibly. “As you surmise.” The Architect inclined her head graciously. “Whilst your methods are reckless to say the least, you undoubtedly get results. I admit that I simply cannot fathom the logic in your techniques, but the proof is there in your success. The universe is a difficult place to police, as I am sure you appreciate.”
She leaned forward and poured more lemonade into his glass and offered him a plate brimming with an assortment of different fruits. The Doctor stared at the platter without really seeing and took a vaguely apple-shaped fruit.
Oddly, he discovered as he bit into it, it tasted like a banana. With just a hint of pomegranate. It was an exotic juice mix just waiting to happen and he opened his mouth to excitedly enquire more about this paradoxical fruity wonder.
The expression on the Architect’s face quelled any vegetative verbiage for the time being and he chewed the question back again and watched as she set down the platter of fruit and steepled her long, elegant fingers beneath her chin.
“As you have no doubt noticed, our…effectiveness is not what it once was. Many years ago, the Shadow Proclamation was able to stop galactic disturbances – often before they even started. The harmonious relationship we shared with the Time Lords was a blessing – not just for us, but for the universe as an entity.” She sighed and clenched her hands into fists.
“We have done what we can since the fall of Gallifrey…” She inclined her head as a mark of respect, something which touched the Doctor’s hearts far more than he would have thought possible. “Alas, our own time travelling abilities are limited by the constraints placed upon us aeons ago. The Time Lords long aided us in this matter, granting us the Covenant of Hours. You will know of this, I am sure, Doctor?”
“Let’s presume for the moment that the High Council and I hadn’t been on the best of terms for – ah – some time, and presume also that I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about.”
“Then for the sake of my argument, I shall enlighten you. The Council suggested that a division of Time Lords be placed on permanent secondment to the Shadow Proclamation to aid us with a variety of problems that were occurring in time as well as in space. The Judoon are masterful space travellers and most certainly a physical force to be reckoned with and have handled the space element of our investigations with great aplomb for many years. Unfortunately, their rather unique physiologies are not suited to the strains of time travel. Our own time travellers are long since dead and none of us left have the necessary…clearance.”
For the first time, the Doctor saw a glimpse of true emotion from the Shadow Architect. He well knew that the Time Lords had been eager to aid the Shadow Proclamation in whatever way they could, including time travel. He also knew that restrictions had been placed on the Proclamation in the form of limited understanding of the complex astrophysical nature of navigating the complexities of time only being revealed to a select few. This had been called the Covenant of Hours. It broke down, in simplest terms to the fact that Time Lords had received apprentices from the Proclamation and travelled the universe with them, teaching them, training them.
Now the Shadow Proclamation had nobody left with the skills and expertise to deal with the Time Lord technology that was undoubtedly simply rotting away in a back room somewhere – and Gallifrey itself was nothing more than a few pieces of galactic debris, drifting aimlessly in space without direction or form.
Not horribly unlike himself.
“Oh, no,” said the Doctor, starting to get distinctly uncomfortable with the direction this conversation was taking. “No, no, no. Oh, no.” He got to his feet and took a few steps back. The Shadow Architect also rose from her seat. “You can’t possibly think that I’m going to cram my TARDIS full of a bunch of anally-retentive Super Space Detectives – no offence…”
“…good, who will quote rule and book at me until I’m forced into a position where I rip off their ears and force feed them their own noses…”
“That’s not quite what I had in mind, Doctor, no.”
“Well, that’s a relief.” He sat back down again and his breath left him in a whoosh.
“Of course, it depends on your definition of a ‘bunch’.”
“Because from now on, I travel alone. I…what do you mean?” The Doctor started at the Architect’s tone. She smiled sweetly at him. The Doctor was reminded of a predator about to strike and tensed slightly.
“There is one of our kind who is of perfect age and appropriate disposition for apprenticeship to a Time Lord. He is the most intelligent and suitable candidate and is more than capable of fulfilling the apprenticeship – as per the agreement set in place by the Council of Rassilon itself.” The heavy emphasis on the words didn’t go unnoticed and the Doctor scowled slightly.
“Architect, the Council lost its hold over me many centuries ago. I have not been bound by their laws for so long that I can’t even spell Rassilon anymore. Is it one ‘s’? Two? How many ‘l’s does it have? See?” He threw his hands out wide in a gesture of mock supplication. “I can’t help you.”
“You can, Doctor,” she said and any geniality in her tone was long gone. “You can. And you must. You are not, after all, immortal, am I correct?” She pointed a long finger at him accusingly and he felt oddly cowed by the gesture. The two indulged in something of a staring match.
The Doctor caved first.
“Technically, yes. You’re correct. But I’ve still got a bit of ‘get up and go’ in me which hasn’t ‘gotten up and gone’ yet. I haven’t even gotten old enough to draw my pension by Time Lord standards.”
“And yet you are using up your regenerations like a man dying of thirst laps up water. Your days may no longer necessarily be counted in centuries, Doctor. Perhaps not even decades, if you continue as you are. And when you die, everything you know dies with you. Please, Doctor. You are the best hope the Shadow Proclamation has of resuming its former status, of offering a line of defence to all those planets unable to help themselves long past your death.”
Damn her. She knew exactly where to strike and now she had him. The Doctor shook his head mutely in silent protest and the Architect dropped to her knees in front of his chair, grabbing his hands and staring intently at him.
“I am begging you, Doctor. Please. If not for the Shadow Proclamation, then do it for those whose lives may have been saved if we had been able to intervene at the right time.”
The Doctor raised his head, no longer able to muster the effort to fight her. Davros’s final moments flashed through his mind, the accusation of the way in which the Doctor had shaped others into tools he could use. He had sworn, barely hours ago, that he would no longer travel with company, but now, here he was, preparing to bend that rule. Was it for himself, he wondered? Was it because he feared the loneliness that waited for him back aboard the TARDIS?
Whatever it was, he was now defeated.
The Architect must have sensed something of his emotional state, because she squeezed his hands gently, not without sympathy, and spoke more kindly. “Please, just meet with Kale and assess his appropriateness. That is all I ask.”
“The young man we have earmarked as your apprentice.” A true smile touched the Architect’s lips and pride filled her next words. “My son.”
To be continued…