Fandom(s): Doctor Who (modern)
Characters: David Tennant, Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory Williams
Pairing(s): None (well, Amy and Rory)
Rating: PG, maybe PG-13
Warnings: Character death
Genre: Sci-fi, adventure
Summary: While filming his final specials for Doctor Who, David Tennant finds himself in the TARDIS, face-to-face with a future incarnation of the character he portrays, his childhood hero. When he discovers that he can't return to his own world, he must determine his place in this strange yet familiar universe.
Word count (chapter): 3033
Master post link: Master post
As the Doctor whirled around the console adjusting the controls of the craft, he grinned excitedly at Amy. “I thought today I might give us a little surprise. I set the target location to one of the arms of Mutter’s Spiral - your galaxy - and I’m letting the TARDIS choose exactly where and when to land. A destination even I’m not expecting.”
Holding tightly to the railing, David bit back a laugh, knowing full well that the Doctor rarely ended up where he expected to. He surveyed his friends, who were braced against the console: Amy was watching the time rotor, her face shining with excitement, while Rory concentrated on keeping his feet and looked apprehensive. David decided he felt the same as Rory.
The shuddering subsided as the TARDIS’ wheezing silenced, and the three humans jogged after the Doctor down to the doors. The Doctor, of course, always let Amy set the first foot out of the TARDIS if he felt it was safe, and, being far in the back, David only got to hear the first hint of what they were exploring today: the clunk of Amy's foot on a metallic surface. The environment outside the doors was dark enough that David couldn't see anything over the heads of his companions.
"Is this a space station?" Amy's voice drifted back to Rory and David.
The Doctor stepped out next to her, surveying the surroundings. "Nah. Hear that?"
"Hear what?" Amy asked as a reflex, as she was still looking around.
"No, listen first. Then ask. Not the other way around." The Doctor disappeared around the side of the TARDIS, and Rory and David joined Amy, their footfalls echoing in the chamber.
"Shh! Be quiet. Listen," Amy chided them, as if she were the one trying to get them to notice something.
The area they were in looked like a storage room. Three walls had deep built-in metal shelves ranging to the ceiling, stuffed with boxes and containers, and the center of the room was piled with crates; all of the items were heavy-duty plastic or metal. Each container was clearly labeled with what appeared to be serial numbers. A heavy double door with what looked like a control panel next to it occupied the wall which didn't have any shelves.
"I don't hear anything, Doctor," Amy called to the man who was inspecting the nearest containers.
"The engines, Amy,” he answered without turning. Pulling the sonic screwdriver out, he zapped a container and peeked inside.
"What engines? Are we back on Starship UK?" The girl's eyes lit up as she whirled in place, looking for clues to confirm her conclusion.
"No, no. We are on a spaceship, not a space station. The propulsion gives it away. Can't you hear it? You will." He reached into the opened box and fingered something inside, then closed it and sonicked it shut.
David frowned, not hearing any engines. He knelt down and spread a hand on the floor. The surface was dusty and he could feel a subtle, uneven vibration.
"Ah, there!" The Doctor's exclamation startled David, and he looked up to see the Time Lord pointing at him. "David's got it right. Can you feel it?"
"Um, I guess. The floor's vibrating." He shrugged.
"Exactly." The Doctor spun on his heel to point at Amy. "Use all your senses! Not just your eyes. So much to learn if you pay attention to all of the input." He dropped down to his hands and knees and licked the floor.
Staring at the Doctor, David rose to his feet, bemused and slightly disgusted. Rory sidled up next to him. "How'd you know to do that?"
David shrugged. "It’s a common trope in stories. If you can’t hear something, try feeling for it."
Jumping up, the Doctor circled around the room and read the containers. “They’re not engines, though. Wrong kind of hum. Erratic. More like a star whale, Amy, but smaller. Much smaller. More like a star manatee. Small enough that it doesn’t have those slow graceful strokes. You can feel it jerk. And it hums. Sings. This is a colony ship. Boxes full of supplies and personal effects.” He waved a hand over a stack. “These five have all the same number marking. Probably belongs to a person or family group.”
Amy bounded her way to the door. “A shipful of colonists, on the ultimate adventure! Can’t wait to meet them!”
“Can’t. This is a long journey. Probably in suspended animation. But we can meet the crew. Polthites, from Polthara V.” The Doctor joined Amy at the door, but gestured back at the containers. “That’s the script the numbers are written in.” He started punching keys on the panel by the door, and the seal on the door broke with a whoosh. As he pushed on the heavy door, he commented, "Beautiful planet. One of the most serene inhabited planets in the universe. Like the Eye of Orion, only with pubs. Fascinating race, they are. Completely honest, don’t even have a word in their language for ‘lie.’ Or ‘honesty,’ for that matter. Just make sure they don't touch you."
The Doctor stepped out into a rather narrow corridor of brushed metal devoid of ornamentation. As the humans followed him, David noticed that it was eerily quiet, which was to be expected on a ship filled primarily with sleeping colonists. The last out of the storage room, he closed the door, hearing it seal itself. The corridor was lit, but only one lamp in three was on. The Doctor selected a direction and started walking, with Amy right next to him, and Rory and David following.
“Why not?” Amy was asking the Doctor. “Poison skin or covered in thorns or something?”
“Oh, nothing so mundane. Though, I should take you to meet the pointy people. Vinvocci. Green. Look like cactus. Don’t call them that, though. It’s an insult. They’re not as poky as you might expect. You can actually hug them without injury...”
Amy interrupted him. “But why shouldn’t we let these pole people touch us?”
“Polthites, Amy. Use the right words for things. Because the Polthites are contact -”
The Doctor never finished his sentence as two green aliens stepped out from a side corridor, leveling knives at the group. They were humanoid-shaped, but they had three eyes arranged in a triangle, no visible ears or nose, a mouth like a lizard’s with a slim, non-forked tongue, and bony ridges running over the tops of their heads. They wore identical dark gray jumpsuits and heavy boots, and held their weapons with slim, very long fingers. Their skin was extremely smooth, though the emerald green of their faces dulled to yellow on their necks.
“Aliens?” the Polthite on the left barked. “What? Why?” Both aliens lunged at the group.
“Run!” yelled the Doctor. As he turned to run, Rory dashed forward and grabbed Amy to pull her back, and the couple used the wall to propel themselves back down the corridor. But David was frozen. With the talk of green cactus people, David had expected to see non-humanoid aliens, but the sight of his first real, strange aliens combined with their sudden appearance with weapons pointed at him shocked him into terrified immobility. He stared like an animal in headlights as the aliens rushed at him, unable to fight or flee, though at the last moment he was able to feebly shield himself with his arms as one of them reached forward and grabbed his hand.
His head spun as a hostile consciousness invaded his mind and picked through his thoughts. Screaming in fear and anger, he screwed his eyes shut and clamped his hands on either side of his head, as if trying to squeeze the intruder out physically, but there was nothing he could do to stop it. He heard as if from far away the one in front of him grunting in pain then exclaiming to his friend in a panicked voice, “Four aliens! They just arrived in a… I don’t know what it is! But they’re not part of it. By Lady Maroli, it hurts!”
The invasive presence in David’s mind evaporated as soon as the grip on his hand disappeared, and he fell to his knees and retched, the convulsions of his stomach shaking his whole body. He heard the Doctor shout his name, then more voices and the sound of boots thudding on metal as he collapsed against the corridor wall.
Given that when he came to, Rory was patiently sitting by his side while the Doctor and Amy talked in low tones, David realised he must have been out for a least for a few minutes. His vision was blurred and filled with flashing lights that sent stabs of pain through his already aching head, and nausea threatened to expel whatever was still left of his breakfast. Through his haze, he could make out the outline of a Polthite standing behind the nurse, and he stiffened in fear, flattening himself against the wall behind his back. Rory had begun checking him over but when his patient jerked, he turned to follow his stare, then patted his shoulder. “It’s okay. They’re friendly. They scared off the ones that attacked you.”
Some part of David knew that Rory simply didn’t understand. He wasn’t afraid of being attacked; his mind had been invaded and now he was nearly incapacitated, and it terrified him. He tried to twist, to scramble away from the alien, but his limbs wouldn't respond correctly, jerking uncontrollably.
“David, stop! Calm down!” Rory tried to hold him down and got smacked in the face by a flailing arm.
The Doctor dropped down in front of David and took a firm grasp of his legs while Rory pinned his arms. “David... David! Stop!” The Doctor tried to explain between grunts as he restrained the panicking man. “She won’t do it again... She has to touch you, and she won’t... She’s promised.”
Finally getting control of himself, David gulped for air as he fell limp against the wall. “What… what was that? What did she do to me?”
“She didn’t do it. The one who did it is gone.” The Doctor gestured down the corridor. “They are contact telepaths. He touched you and read your conscious mind.” He helped David shift so that he was sitting against the wall.
“Touch. Like you.” He was starting to regain control of his body, and he scrubbed down his face with both hands.
The Doctor nodded, then peered into David's eyes, like he was trying to diagnose his mental state. “Like me. But not like me. Far stronger, and not gentle. They read all your waking thoughts at once. Not a pleasant experience for anyone not used to it. Could do far more if they want, too.”
“Keep her away from me.” He held his head in his hands.
“I apologise for the intrusion.” The Polthite’s voice was fluty and serene, almost monotone. “Those were pirates, and they wanted information on who you were. It was the most expedient method. We also want such information.”
The Doctor motioned to the Polthite. "David, this is Egith, captain of the Hedak's Steed, the ship we're on. They are transporting settlers to one of their colonies. The men who attacked you were pirates. We just happened to be in their way."
"You are welcome on our ship." The captain stepped towards the Doctor and held up a hand.
The Doctor stood up and shook his head. “No. We don’t greet like that.” He stepped back and turned partially towards his friends. “Standard greeting between Polthites. Each party then knows everything about the other. No secrets. No lies.” He turned back to her and crossed his arms over his chest for two seconds. “We formally request non-contact parley with your species.”
Egith lowered her hand. “You’ve had parley with us before, then. Your request is granted.” As the Doctor nodded, her eyes raked across the other three. "How did you get on my ship, and what are you doing here?”
"I landed my ship in one of your cargo holds" - he gestured back down the hallway - "and we're here to look around and meet people. Which we have. What's this about pirates? Since when have Polthites turned to piracy?"
"Since the civil war, Doctor. Those men were rebels. Their ship is grappled onto ours, and they are attempting to stop our journey..."
"...By taking your navigators.” He nodded in comprehension. “How many do you have left?"
"Just one. They have taken one and killed the other.” She displayed no regret for the loss of her navigators, her voice still and calm. “I only have six crew, and it is not enough to stop them for long. I've started to wake up some of the colonists, but they won't be useful for another day."
"You have another four able bodies here, then, Captain. Well, three and David, but he’ll be up and around in no time.” He waved dismissively at the incapacitated man on the floor. “How many rebels are you up against?"
"Four, probably. They work in small groups, from small ships. I'm not sure where their ship is attached to ours."
"Then we need to defend your remaining navigator, and then find that ship and get back your other navigator."
"Doctor?" Amy stepped forward and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
“Amy, we don’t have much time…” he started, but saw the concern on Amy’s face. He turned to Egith. “A moment. Amy wants to talk. I might talk, too.”
Amy, the Doctor, and Rory knelt near David to include him in the conversation, though the actor’s unfocused eyes were fixed on Egith and he seemed to be mostly concentrating on grasping at his stomach.
"Doctor, if there's a war going on here, should we be getting involved?” Amy asked in a very low tone. “We don't know anything about what they're fighting over."
The Doctor put a hand on her shoulder. "Amy, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people on this ship who will die, stranded in space, if that last navigator is taken. Does it matter which side they're on?"
"Can't they find their way without a navigator? Doesn't the ship have a computer or something to chart the course?"
The Doctor shook his head. "A Polthite navigator is a very rare being. One in a hundred thousand. Able to read minds without touching. They're the only ones who can communicate with the creature that's driving the ship. Without one, the ship won't move. Or it'll go wherever the creature wants.” He didn’t need to continue for Amy to understand the likely conclusion of that scenario.
“Then we’re not taking sides.”
“No. We are helping make sure these travellers get where they’re going.” He hopped up and instructed them at a normal volume, “Help David up. We are going to meet the navigator first. Make sure he’s well-defended.”
“No!” David jerked against the wall, knocking the back of his head hard against it. "I’m not going anywhere near a telepath!”
Egith explained in her soothing voice, “Omnipaths do not read like we do. Ponos can hear your surface thoughts, and if he tries, can get a reading of your personality. He will not hurt you.”
“If it makes you feel any better,” the Doctor added airily, “he’s probably already read you. See, it doesn’t hurt.”
Rory and Amy helped David to his feet. He was nauseous and unstable, couldn't see through the flashes in his eyes, and his head was pounding. He stood almost doubled over, arms crossed over his stomach. "I'm no good to anyone like this. I should go back to... augh, urgh!" He dropped back to his knees and finished emptying his stomach on the metal floor.
"You will feel better soon, and we have medicine that will help on the bridge. It is best that you come with us," the captain stated. "It is far worse for you than normal. The experience for outsiders is normally only slightly uncomfortable, but I believe the pirate was trying to harm you."
"Come along, David. We'll get you sorted." The Doctor's tone was irritatingly cheerful.
David just wanted to curl up somewhere and die, but it didn't seem that anyone would let him. With Rory's help, he regained his feet, and the group moved on towards the bridge, with David leaning heavily on his friend’s arm. As he stumped along, he realised he was also upset at his initial reaction to the sudden appearance of the Polthites: he had panicked. He had been paralyzed, and if they had attacked, he'd be dead right now. Neither Amy nor Rory had frozen. In the heat of the moment, he'd been proven a coward.
"How are you doing?" Rory asked after a couple of minutes.
"Better," David lied. "I can see a bit."
"You should probably go back to the TARDIS to recover, but I don't have a key. For being called the Doctor, he really doesn't have much sympathy for injury."
There, David mused. Rory thinks I'm a coward, too. Send me back to the TARDIS to get me out of the way. I'm a liability. He sighed and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, trying to cover his shame by pretending that he felt better than he did. "Nah. I'm good. I can walk on my own." He let go of Rory's arm and bowed his head, stumbling to the bridge by following the heels of his friend's shoes.