Fandom(s): Doctor Who (modern)
Characters: AU - Tenth Doctor, Donna Noble, Sylvia Noble, Wilfred Mott, Lance Bennett, Nerys
Pairing(s): Tenth Doctor/Donna Noble
Rating: R (well, probably more PG-13)
Genre: Sci-fi, adventure
Summary: Original AU. A normal human in a world in which a handful of individuals have suddenly developed superpowers, Donna lives her mundane life whilst always keeping one eye to the skies to catch a glimpse of the city's new heroes.
Word count (chapter): 3588
Donna had been sincere when she promised the Doctor that she wouldn’t go to the rally, but as the weekend wore on, her curiosity got the better of her. She really wanted to find out just what that machine was meant to do, and if it was something bad, she wanted to see the Doctor take care of it, rather than just hear about it on the news. She argued with herself about it all Saturday, but finally, in the late morning on Sunday, she announced to her family that she had a sudden urge to go shopping and, stringing her handbag over her shoulder, she stepped out to catch a bus, then the Tube, to the rally. She gave herself plenty of time to find the square in which it was being held and to scope out the place before it got too crowded.
The area was more accurately described as an urban park, tucked away amongst tall buildings, with concrete walkways winding among manicured patches of trees and flowers, converging in a wide central area with a low stage on one side. The rally organizers had erected a scaffolding on the stage to support a platform for their candidate to speak from that was about five metres above the audience floor, to give him more visibility and allow him to reach a much larger crowd. A plain white tarpaulin provided a non-distracting backdrop for the afternoon’s activities, and a similar one, this time with Harold Saxon’s name and campaign slogan printed it on, hid the scaffolding from the audience. Tall speakers were set up at either end of the platform, their cables running up poles high above the campaign workers’ heads and back down at the rear of the platform to connect to the audio equipment. A podium and microphone stood at the very center of the platform.
Having arrived quite a while before the main event, Donna found she had nothing to do but wait and observe. Much of the setup had already been done, so the idle campaign workers mingled with the gathering crowd and walked out to the streets around the park to encourage people to come in and see their candidate. A television news team arrived and as they began to set up, one of the campaign workers intercepted them. They were close enough that Donna could hear their conversation and she was astonished to hear that they weren’t welcome. The worker explained that Mr. Saxon preferred to speak directly to prospective supporters and he preferred to not have his speeches televised, so whilst the reporters were welcome at the rally, they were not allowed to bring their video cameras within the park. Odd, Donna thought. I see why he might not want his message filmed, but the publicity could only help him. The reporter told his cameraman to return to the news van and found himself a spot to watch the rally and take notes.
Except for that one incident, Donna found that the workers were pleasant and accommodating, eager to present their candidate in the best light. She was entertaining the notion of going to talk to one of them, to learn more about this mysterious Harold Saxon, when a voice sounded beside her.
“I thought you knew better than this.”
The warm, resonant voice was unmistakeable. She turned to find the Doctor standing next to her, his head shrouded by the hood of a charcoal gray sweatshirt. She could barely make out the mask he was wearing under it.
“Oh, that’s not suspicious-looking at all,” she drawled.
“If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t have to wear this,” he shot back with a humourous reprimand in his tone.
Though Donna knew that he was right, that he’d be able to mingle with the crowd bare-faced without fear of discovery if she hadn’t been here, a different thought came to mind. “You expected me to come here! That’s why you have that awful sweatshirt with you in the first place.” She crossed her arms, smirking at him with triumph.
“Guilty as charged. I knew you wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
“Yeah,” she acquiesced. “So, what do we do?”
“We wait and watch.” Stretching to his full height, he craned his neck to peer at the stage. “Do you know what this machine of yours looks like?”
Pursing her lips, she shook her head. “No. Jon showed me the designs, but I can’t tell a thing from that. And he said it’s part of a bigger system, so who knows what it’ll end up as.”
“Hmm. Then we really have no choice but hope that Saxon uses the thing right in front of us.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out his mobile. “Best I make myself scarce. What’s your number?”
“Oi! Getting a bit fresh after only one date?” she teased, then told him. He fiddled with his phone a bit, then Donna’s rang in her handbag. As he connected his mobile to a wire poking out from under the hem of his jumper, she pulled hers out then grinned at him as she answered, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “Now I’ve got your number. You know I’m a secretary, right? I could trace you blindfolded.”
“Burner phone,” he replied with a smirk, wiggling the cheap device at her before dropping it in his pocket. He adjusted what was obviously an earpiece hidden under his hood, then nodded. “Seems to work. I’m off.” And he disappeared into the crowd, slinking off with his hands jammed in his pockets.
As they waited for the rally to start, the park filled with people, most of them non-supporters curious about this minor candidate, judging by the conversations Donna could hear around her. She kept up a running commentary of what she was seeing and hearing for the Doctor, though it all seemed unimportant. A few minutes before the starting time, two workers emerged from behind the backdrop carrying a small box over to one of the pieces of audio equipment on the side of the platform. One of them lifted the cover the box and held it out whilst the other removed an object from it. The Doctor’s groan filled Donna’s ear.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, trying to scan the crowd to locate him whilst keeping an eye on what the two workers were doing.
“That… that feels like…” He mumbled indistinctly for a moment. “It’s like when I… Donna, they have a piece of Blue Rain. A tiny piece, but I’m sure of it.”
The worker opened the case of one of the pieces of equipment and placed the small object inside. Donna sprang up on her tiptoes to try to see the thing as she asked the Doctor, “What does it feel like?”
“It’s… I can’t explain. It’s just weird…” He shuddered, trying to dispel his unease. “I just know it’s there. Any prime will be able to feel that.”
“Would it give you new powers, if you touched it?” she murmured, her voice low to prevent the people around her from overhearing.
“No, I don’t think so. It doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s too small. Hmm. That thing must be the amplifier. If it amplifies the effects of that rock -”
Donna chanced a guess. “It would give people powers?”
The Doctor was silent for a moment, obviously considering the possibility. “I don’t know. My gut says no, but I’ve no idea where these powers really come from. You think he wants to give people powers in return for their votes?”
“Well, what else could he do with that thing?” she hissed into the mobile. “Seems a risky business, though, giving out random powers. From what you’ve said, people would be just as likely to hate him for it as to thank him.”
The Doctor sighed. “We could throw out guesses all day. Nothing we can do, really, but see what happens.”
“Might be too late by then.”
“If you’ve a better suggestion, I’m all ears.”
“Oh, ha ha. You’re a riot,” she drawled. But Donna didn’t have anything at all to suggest, and they fell silent. A few minutes later, a stately young dark-skinned woman in stylish business suit stepped up to the podium.
“Hello,” she murmured into the microphone, hesitant eyes peering up at the crowd. As the general noise quieted down, she seemed to take some confidence from the audience’s attention. “Yes, thank you. Thank you all for taking time out of your Sunday afternoon to come here and hear our message. My name is Letitia Jones. I am the manager of the Saxon mayoral campaign, and I would like to welcome you all to our little get-together here. Now, I know that this rally may seem a bit odd to you. We’ve no music, no celebrity endorsements, no entertainment, and that’s by Mr. Saxon’s wishes. He doesn’t want a rally. What he wants is a conversation with you. He’d like to meet you, talk with you, find out what your concerns are, and let you know exactly what you’ll be getting when you vote for him.”
She paused for a moment to let the audience react to Saxon’s novel ideas, watching people turn to their neighbours with questioning frowns. “To that end, he will come out in a moment and say a few words, and then he invites you to come and talk to us. All of the staff will be available, but he especially wants to meet each and every one of you, as many as he can in the few hours we have here. So,” she announced, “without any further delay, here is your independent candidate for Mayor of London, Mr. Harold Saxon.”
Raising her hands to lead the applause, she stepped back from the podium as Harold Saxon emerged from backstage. He bowed a thank-you to her then stepped to the front of the platform as she retreated behind the backdrop.
From his spot kneeling inside a window on the first floor of one of the buildings surrounding the park, the Doctor leaned forward to get a better look, studying Saxon closely with a pair of tiny binoculars, the lenses of his mask up and out of the way. The man was unassuming, his plain black suit hanging a little loosely on his slender frame and his short, dark hair neat but common, indicating he’d combed it himself rather than had his PR wing style it for his public appearance. Waving enthusiastically at the crowd, he beamed a bright, friendly smile but his eyes were alert and shrewd, watching the polite, hesitant acknowledgements he received from all sections of the audience. He bowed a couple of times, then, as he slipped behind the podium and adjusted the microphone for his speech, the Doctor noticed that the workers by the machine removed a panel from its front, revealing what looked like a camera lens pointed at Saxon’s back, then fiddled with something he couldn’t see on the other side of the device. Settling back on his heels, the Doctor pulled off the sweatshirt and focused on Saxon.
“Citizens of London,” Saxon began, “thank you for taking the time out of your busy lives to let me bend your ears. I know that many of you, probably most of you, had never heard of me before the last couple of weeks, but I believe you’ll find in me a candidate for the mayor of London that you can truly trust with the future of our great city. Just let me tell you about myself and what I stand for. But first, I want to introduce to you a very special person, my rock, my beacon, the woman who is my strength and my light. My fiancée, soon to be my wife, Lucy Springer.”
As Saxon stepped back from the podium and thrust a welcoming hand toward the opening in the backdrop from which he had issued only a few minutes earlier, a beautiful blonde woman in a plain conservative dress strode out from behind the tarp. She took his outstretched hand and curtsied demurely to the politely clapping audience before taking her place behind her partner as he returned to the microphone.
“When I think about what I want for London,” he began, “I think about her, my Lucy. What would she want? What would her ideal city, her ideal living space and life, look like? She’d want London to lead the world in economics, style of living, and human rights. She’d want the people of the city fed and housed and gainfully employed, and their children growing strong and educated well. She’d want safe streets and exceptional medical care. That’s what she wants. That’s what you want. And that’s what I want.”
Taking the microphone off the stand, Saxon stepped to the front of the stage to get closer to his audience, walking back and forth along the edge. The Doctor noticed, however, that he stayed at the front center as much as he could, right where the machine was pointing. “I will bring London back to international prominence and unify this city to foster cooperation between business and government. I will clean up the streets and eliminate the housing and transportation problems. These are the things you’ve wanted now for years, that my opponents have discussed only at election time, and yet these issues disappear from view as soon as the ballots are counted, as soon as my opponents have been assured of securing their offices for four years. If these issues are important to you, then you want to elect me as the next mayor of London.”
The Doctor jerked back, startled by the raucous applause that answered that round of rhetoric. The crowd, which had been curious and hesitant about this new candidate, had turned its opinion around in the space of one minute’s worth of words, and Saxon was standing there, soaking in the support and grinning, waving at his new supporters. Sputtering with incredulity, the Doctor laughed into his headset, “What kind of rubbish was that? He just made a bunch of grand promises without a word of his policies or how he’s going to do any of it. That’s bollocks, that is.”
“I thought he was brilliant,” came Donna’s reply. The Doctor’s mouth dropped open in astonishment. “Definitely the kind of mayor London needs.”
Floored by Donna’s opinion, the Doctor forgot about tact. “What are you talking about? You’re not thinking of voting for him, are you?”
“Certainly. He’s the candidate I’ve been looking for.”
“What about his strange energy machine and shady environmental company?” he shot back at her.
“Oh, sure, those need to be taken care of, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make a magnificent mayor.”
Leaning on the windowsill, the Doctor rubbed at his jaw under the veil of his mask, his mind whirling. How did Saxon manage to turn everyone, including Donna, to his side? Saxon had started talking again, and the Doctor listened to him carefully. Psychology wasn’t his strong suit, but he had to figure out why he was so persuasive.
“...years of Tory this and Labour that. It’s time for something different. It’s time for someone who won’t simply toe the party line, who will listen to you and do what’s right. That’s who I am. You want me to represent you. You want me to lead London the way it was meant to be run.”
Whilst the crowd cheered, the Doctor stuck his tongue out in distaste at the nonsense that man was spewing, accidentally licking the inside of his mask. As he wiped at his mouth, he pondered the odd emphasis Saxon had put on the word “want”, both times, and suddenly it hit him: each time he’d made those statements, he’d caught someone’s eye and held it, almost as if he was pushing the thought directly into their mind.
“Ohhh!” he breathed, sitting back on his heels, limp with reluctant revelation. He’s a prime.
“What?” Donna’s voice crackled from the cheap speaker.
“Hold on, hold on. I haven’t worked it out yet.” The Doctor went through it step-by-step. He’s a prime. He’s a mind controller. He’s convincing people to vote for him, but… but… but he doesn’t have much reach. Yes. That’s it. That’s why he campaigns in small groups or door-to-door. And… and that’s what the machine’s for! Jumping up, he punched the air, spinning across the room. It’s amplifying his power, so he can reach more people at once. It doesn’t work over television, and he doesn’t want the media here because without his power backing him up, it’ll be obvious his campaign is nonsense!
He sucked in a breath to tell Donna, but stopped as he realised he didn’t have it all. But why isn’t he affecting me? I should be shouting his praises, too. He tapped a finger against the front of his mask. Because I’m a prime and he can’t affect primes. No! That’s not it. He must have used his power to convince Kathica and Crimson Angel to help him get the machine. They’d never have done it otherwise. So why not me? He hopped over to the window and looked down over the crowd. Most were still listening, but there were a few wandering off, no longer interested in what the man had to say…
Because they realise he’s saying nothing. Because -”
“Donna!” he barked into the mobile.
“What? What do you want? I’m listening to Saxon.”
“I know!” He paced around the room, rubbing the back of his neck. “Listen, Donna. You have to listen to me. Saxon is manipulating you. He’s making you want to vote for him.”
“Well, duh! He’s brilliant.”
“No, he’s not. Listen to me.” Trying his hardest not to yell, afraid of alienating her completely, he forced himself to speak evenly and plainly. “He’s a prime, and his power is to make you want to do what he wants.”
“What are you talking about? You mean voting for him? That’s mental. I chose him myself.”
The Doctor was almost jumping around the room in frustration, amazed at the strength of Saxon’s coercion. “No, you didn’t! You were undecided, remember? You were still researching the candidates.”
“What? How do you know that?”
The Doctor slapped his hand over his eyes, which only served to smudge his lenses with his thumb. Sloppy! he berated himself. “You told me on Friday, remember? When you called for me in the street?”
“Really? I don’t remember talking to you about -”
“Donna, Donna!” he cut her off. “That’s not important. Just listen to me. Why would you suddenly make a firm decision after listening to him for two minutes? You have to believe me: he changed your mind.”
“Oh, that’s bollocks. Besides, if he’s a mind controller, why aren’t you singing his praises? Obviously you’re not supporting him.”
“That’s because I had already decided who I’m voting for, a long time ago. You see?” The Doctor couldn’t help but admire Saxon’s power. It was so subtle, so elegant. “He can’t outright change your mind. He can only nudge it a little. That’s what his power is, but it’s plenty enough to sway this election, because most people haven’t made their choice yet or aren’t completely devoted to it.”
“That’s bollocks,” Donna repeated, but this time, she was clearly flustered and uncertain.
“That’s it, Donna, fight him,” he urged. “You can do it. Throw off his control. Try to concentrate on the fact that he’s lying to you. Leave the crowd so you don’t listen to him and maybe that’ll help clear your mind.”
“But, but I want him to be mayor.” Her voice was tiny.
“Keep fighting, Donna. You’ve got to keep fighting.” He glanced out of the window, at Saxon still pandering to his crowd. “But I’ve got to go. He’s using that machine to amplify his powers to influence more people, so I’ve got to destroy it. I’m going to take a stab at getting up there and pushing it off the platform. So keep fighting him. It’ll all be over soon.” He hoped he sounded convincing.
“Good luck,” she wished him quietly, though she didn’t sound very sincere.
Pulling his earpiece out, he stuffed the device and the binoculars into his pocket and snapped the lenses of his mask back over his eyes, then turned to dash out of the room and up the stairs. Going straight out of the window to leap to the ground, cross the square, and scale the scaffolding would have been too obvious and he needed as much surprise as he could get, as he suspected he’d have only one shot at the machine. The best way would be to attack from above.
The second floor gave him the height he needed, and, coming up to the window above the one he’d watched the speech at, he paused to assess the situation. Saxon was still speaking, with his fiancée standing behind him. The two campaign workers were standing at the back of the platform, watching their candidate. They were far enough away from the machine that the Doctor decided that if he could get in there fast enough, they wouldn’t have time to react and stop him.
“Here goes nothing,” he mumbled to himself. Throwing open the window, he took a moment to plot his path, then, sitting on the sill and swinging his legs over, he took a deep breath and launched himself at the nearby tree.