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): 4370
Master post link: Master post
By the time Rory and David caught up to the captain, the Doctor, and Amy just outside the door to the bridge, the flashing lights in David's eyes had subsided and he could see, though a bit blurrily. Egith paused to warn them.
"Please understand that Ponos might be a bit strange to you. Omnipaths can hear everyone, and they spend their lives trying to block them out. It is very stressful and they never have peace. It tends to make them a bit... different."
"It's ok." Amy glanced at the Doctor. "We're used to different."
Egith tapped a few buttons on the door panel, then pulled hard on the door as the seal broke. She motioned for the visitors to precede her.
The bridge was a cramped little room, with the same plain metallic walls as the rest of the ship and, oddly, no large window or viewscreen to see out. There were three workstations: two with a number of monitors and control panels and a third with a tired-looking Polthite sitting in its chair with all of its eyes closed. Near him, against the wall, was a pile of blankets, a pillow, and what looked like some personal effects. Two more Polthites stood near the door with knives in sheaths, obviously guards.
"Ponos. We have visitors. Aliens." Egith stepped over to him and held up her hand. Ponos opened his eyes, then touched her hand with his. He nodded, then stood to meet the newcomers as Egith moved to touch hands with the guards.
David felt something flicker across his mind and he knew he'd been read. The touch was so light that he wasn't sure he would have noticed it if he hadn't had the more violent experience before this. The tickle was almost soothing, but he had to suppress a shiver at the thought of another alien in his brain. Clenching his fists, he concentrated on observing the navigator Ponos. He wouldn't be able to tell him apart from the other Polthites except for the blue symbol on his uniform and the haunted look in his three eyes. Even though David could not read Polthite facial expressions, this one's eyes told him of the constant noise in his head and that he was weary of the fight against it.
"You've come to help us." Ponos spoke with a slow and tired voice, but it expressed his gratitude. "It is appreciated." He peered at each of them in turn, starting with Amy. "The one who refuses to choose. Which one? Equal but opposite." He turned to Rory. "The one who waits. The one who doubts. But the one with true conviction.” Stepping in front of David, he tipped his head to the side. “The one who pretends to be what he is not. But he cannot hide forever.” Lastly, he turned to the Doctor. “I cannot hear you. That is exciting.” Though his voice maintained the near monotone of the Polthites, his eyes danced.
“Is it now? You really don’t want to be in here.” The Doctor tapped his temple.
“Becoming acquainted with someone, instead of instantly knowing him. You are exciting, Doctor.”
“Not an adjective I normally hear. It’s usually ‘crazy’. ‘Weird’. ‘Mad’. ‘Cool’. I hear ‘cool’ a lot." He straightened his bow tie.
“Only when he says it himself,” Amy added.
"The medicine, sir." One of the Polthite guards appeared in front of David with a tray holding a small cup filled with a green liquid. "It will help." The actor glanced at the Doctor, who nodded, then grabbed the cup and downed the liquid in one gulp. It was a good thing he did, for it tasted awful. Dumping the cup back on the tray, he nodded a thanks and, leaning against a wall, slid down to the floor and closed his eyes.
The Doctor turned back to the navigator. "It seems your efforts are concentrated on defending this room.”
“Yes. It is my place of sleep and my place of toil now.” Ponos gestured at the pile of blankets and the chair he had been sitting in.
“And you have only these two guards?”
“Two others. Sleeping in cycles, round and round.” David noticed that Ponos' placid monotone and unusual speaking cadence were very soothing. He became irritated by the constant interruption from the Doctor's exuberant voice.
The Doctor began circling around the room, inspecting the workstations and the quality of the door. “So we’re going to recover your missing navigator and convince your attackers to leave. Do you know how many there are?”
“Three have approached where I can hear. Who knows how many beyond that?” Ponos was no longer looking at the Doctor. He seemed to be staring nowhere, his three eyes each looking in a slightly different direction.
"Do you have a schematic of the ship?"
"Yes." Ponos moved to one of the workstations and touched a few buttons. A 3-D projection of the ship appeared above it. "We." He pointed at a spot near the front. "I hear." He curved his fingers into a sphere and held them among the hologram.
"So, the back quarter of the ship. Five decks. And we landed here." The Doctor pointed at a spot just inside the navigator's range.
“Any places you can rule out?”
Egith answered the question. “No. We haven’t the manpower to go searching back there.”
The Doctor nodded. “Okay. Split into two groups and search all of the decks. Don’t want to split more. Don’t want anyone to be alone.”
The mere concept of wandering around the ship with hostile Polthites with knives lurking around each corner sent David’s heart rate skyrocketing. If they could incapacitate him by just touching him, it’d be easy enough for them to finish the job with the weapon. He shivered.
Amy spoke up. “Then what are we looking for?”
“The ship will have drilled a hole in the outer hull,” the captain explained. “It is simple to recognise.”
Amy frowned, confused. “It just punches a hole in the hull of this ship? And you couldn’t feel it?"
Egith nodded. "The ship is large and heavy, and the hull is thin. It is not a difficult task."
"I thought ships had to have thick, sturdy hulls."
"It's sturdy enough," the Doctor commented. "But this is a one-way trip to a colony, and the ship will be pulled apart for material. It has to be built cheaply and hold as much as it can. And it was built in peacetime, no worries about pirates."
"That's why they carry knives," came a voice from behind Amy. David was still a bit unsteady, but feeling a lot better than he had expected in such a short time. He felt it was time to join them.
Amy moved aside to let him into the conversation. "What?"
"Because guns are too dangerous. They can blow a hole in the hull.” He pointed at the doors in the schematic. “The doors are all heavily sealed to prevent a breach from depressurizing more than one section. Besides, there's a huge advantage to getting a Polthite close in to his enemies, where he can touch them." He swallowed to calm himself down at that thought.
Astonished, Amy gaped at him for a moment. "How do you always figure these things out?"
As David answered, “Lots of sci-fi movies,” the Doctor replied over him, "Watch and listen, and think, Amy. You feeling better, David?"
"A lot." This time, he was telling the truth.
"Polthite restoratives are very potent. They developed them when they discovered the adverse reactions they sometimes have on visitors."
"We do not intend to harm anyone," Egith assured them.
"Well, we have a lot to do. Amy, Rory, you search this deck and this deck.” The Doctor pointed at two different levels. “David and I will take the other three. Together. Don't split up. Check each room. Look for a hole bored in the wall large enough for a Polthite to climb through. If you find it, come back up immediately. Try to be quiet. Watch your backs, and don't let them touch you. Run if you see them. They’re not fast."
"Would it help if we covered up?" asked Amy.
"No." Egith shook her head. "It would take material at least this thick to stop the read." She held up two long fingers indicating a space of over a half an inch. Disappointed, Amy nodded.
"Okay. Sit tight, Captain. Come along, David." The four travellers strode out of the door, and they heard the guards setting the seal behind them. When they reached the stairs, the two groups separated, and the Doctor and David started their room-to-room search.
The vast majority of the rooms held colonists in individual suspended animation tanks, each of which required a mass of machinery to maintain and monitor each person. Glass windows revealed the faces of the occupants, and finding them quite eerie, David tried to keep his gaze averted when walking by them. The rooms were large and packed enough to require having to walk through each of them, inspecting the walls. The other spooky thing was the silence in this part of the ship. Every creak of the ship was like a gunshot, and their best efforts to move quietly still resulted in sounding like rhinoceroses. David began talking to the Doctor, just to break the silence.
"I don't see how Ponos can remain so calm, when he's the obvious target of these pirates,” he commented as they walked among the tanks. “It's got to be terrifying."
"Well, he knows it'll be a while before they can get to him. He's got early warning and capable guards, after all. He just needs to keep them." The Doctor talked while inspecting every item they passed.
David kept his head up, watching for movement around them. It suddenly occurred to him what the Doctor was getting at. "Oh! That's why they're waking up some colonists. Not for more fighters, just for more time."
"Right. Then the pirates pick off the colonists, not the guards, when they send them down here to maintain the cells. They're vulnerable out here, and when Ponos sleeps. Which is why he is so erratic. I doubt he's slept in days."
"Erratic?” David stared at the Doctor. “Ponos is a picture of serenity!"
The Doctor continued to creep along. "To you, maybe. To a Polthite, he's downright unstable."
The Doctor stopped and faced David, wagging a finger at him. "Think about it. If you humans could read each others' minds and did so all the time, how would you feel? Everything you're thinking about, everything you're feeling, everyone would know. You'd be an open book. The only way to have any privacy would be to hide away all those thoughts and emotions. Suppress them. Even keel. Don’t have the thought, can’t be read. They’ve been like that for thousands of years. To them, Ponos is psychotic.”
David took a moment to try to imagine forcing himself to suppress or ignore things going through his head, but he couldn’t fathom it. It was like the old joke of “try not to think about a pink elephant.” The mental fortitude these aliens have must be phenomenal. “We must be completely strange to them, then.”
“I expect so. Crazy, emotional, noisy aliens, we are. That’s why they’re usually very receptive to non-contact parley. Regular diplomacy is hard for them, but touching one of us is profoundly disturbing. Nothing on this level. Next one, David!” The Doctor swept out of the room, with David jogging behind him.
“Interesting thought.” It comforted him a little that the Polthites didn’t actually want to read his mind.
When they descended to their next assigned level, the Doctor squatted down to inspect the floor. David spotted that and paused on the stairs, keeping an eye out for anything down the corridor.
“David, come look at this.” The Doctor beckoned with one hand as he touched a spot on the floor with the other.
“No. Don’t want to disturb whatever it is you’re looking at.”
The Doctor was pleased at his response. “Good! Still using that rattled-up brain of yours. There are footprints in the dust here.”
The Doctor pulled out his screwdriver and scanned it. “Yes. Either it’s on this level, or they’ve been to this level for a specific reason.” He retreated to the stairs and checked the steps going down. “Definitely the first. Footprints on the stairs are older.”
David’s heart was pounding in his chest. The pirates were probably close by, and they were armed, both physically and psychically. “If we’re sure they’re here, we should get Rory and Amy. The pirates will outnumber us. This is probably a trap.”
“It probably is. They’ve heard us coming. Let’s walk right into it.” The Doctor strode down the corridor, leaving David sputtering on the stairs and wishing that the Doctor would share his plan with him. He willed his legs to move to follow the Doctor, keeping a lookout behind and ahead of them, while holding his hand over his heart, trying to still it.
“Hello!” the Doctor called down the dim corridor at the top of his lungs, making David wince. He came up and stopped five feet behind the man in tweed. Clenching his fists so that his nails dug into his palms, he couldn’t convince his feet to move him any closer. “We know you’re there. Come on out now! Come talk to the Doctor!”
Three aliens issued from a door just ahead, brandishing their knives in front of them while their eyes flicked back and forth, assessing the Doctor and David. One stepped out in front of the other two and declared, “You’re not armed.” He had the same serene monotone as Egith and Ponos.
“Why would I be armed? I’ve already got two perfectly serviceable ones.” The Doctor waved his arms aloft. “I’m the Doctor. This is David.”
“Saylid.” He indicated his companions. “Gilt. Ana.” He held his hand towards the Doctor in the standard Polthite greeting, though he didn’t move, tacitly requiring the Doctor to advance to them.
Saylid lowered his arm. “Granted. What are you hoping to accomplish here, Doctor?”
“Negotiation.” The Doctor held his arms open wide. “Return the navigator to this ship, and we’ll let you go without informing the homeworld of your crimes here.”
“You speak as if you have any say in the matter.” The incongruity between the threat in the words and the placidness of the voice unnerved David even further.
“I do.” The Doctor clapped his hands together. “Because this is the best offer you’ll get. If you don’t take it, I’ll have to stop you and retrieve the navigator myself.”
Saylid’s eyes narrowed. “What’s in it for you? We know that you just arrived and weren’t involved with this ship.” Ana glanced briefly at David, and he realised that this was the Polthite who had touched him earlier and gotten their information from him. He involuntarily flinched at the thought of the alien in his mind again.
“The lives of the colonists. I’m not going to let you take the last navigator and let them drift in space forever.” The Doctor’s timbre changed subtly; the pirate was entering dangerous territory.
“You are expecting me to believe that you happened to be on this ship and are dealing with us out of the goodness of your heart? By Lady Maroli, you must think me an idiot. What are they paying you?” Saylid advanced a few steps, his men keeping close behind him.
“I am not paid. I don’t even carry money. What would I do with money?” The Doctor shrugged.
“You’re not employed by the State, then?”
“You could call me a freelancer.”
“No one to miss you then.” He jerked his head and his two men surrounded the Doctor, forcing him against the wall by holding their knives to his stomach.
“Oh, plenty people to miss me, actually. Just not your government.” David couldn’t tell if the Doctor was unconcerned or simply blustering.
Saylid strode to David, who, backing up in a panic, tripped over his own feet and fell hard on the floor. He tried to scramble away, but the Polthite squatted and put his knife blade against his throat. “I can tell you’re not paid. No one would pay for this kind of incompetence.” The smooth, calm tone of his voice contrasted with the mockery in his words. Feeling the metal edge against his skin, David held himself as still as possible. He couldn’t stop his terrified tremors.
Gilt reached out and covered the Doctor’s cheek with his palm. “Captain, I can’t read him.”
“What?” Saylid’s face wrinkled in what David suspected was a frown. “Try harder.”
“I have. I can’t.”
“Then he’s useless. Kill him.”
David saw Gilt pull his arm back to plunge his knife into the Doctor’s stomach, and the Doctor raised his hands, David surmised, in an effort to shield himself. Fear for the Time Lord overwhelmed every other thought, and an image flashed into his mind, of Ana grunting in pain as he grabbed David's arm, and he saw how he could use it. Calling up all of his panic, his terror for himself and for the Doctor, and his anger at the Polthite who invaded his mind, he grabbed Saylid’s arm and pushed all of his rage and hysteria into the alien consciousness as it entered his head. As the actor began to reel from the mental assault, the Polthite screamed and tried to pull away from him, and David felt the blade bite into his throat. Nicked and barely sharp, the metal caught his flesh painfully; he held on to Saylid as the Polthite fell to floor, then staggered back, clamping his hands to his neck.
Having spun around at their captain's scream, the other two pirates rushed to his aid as he fell, and David, fighting the psychic explosion in his head, lunged at them, scrabbling for anything he could catch hold of. This time, he knew what he needed them to know. As his bloody fingers latched onto them, he ignored the agony of two alien minds in his and called up his memories of all of the stories of the Doctor, the Oncoming Storm, the vanquisher of the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Nestene Consciousness, the Great Intelligence, and so many more. When he heard their cries, he showed them the fates of Omega, Sutekh, the Racnoss, and any others he could think of, and as they collapsed, with his last thoughts, he chanted in his mind, Return the navigator. Leave. Return the navigator. Leave. Losing his grip on both consciousness and the pirates, he felt someone catch him in strong arms as everything went black.
Waking from a deep, dreamless sleep, David’s first thought was that it must be a weekend, as no alarm had woken him up. He began to recognise where he was, in the TARDIS’ sickbay, and he startled fully awake, recalling the last things that had happened to him.
“Doctor? Where are you?” He spotted Rory, who had been sitting in a nearby chair and had jumped up at David’s sudden movement. “Is the Doctor all right?”
“Relax, David. He’s fine. And you’re fine. You’ve been asleep for hours.” Nearing the bed, Rory began checking David’s vitals.
“Hours? But, the pirates….”
“They left. They returned the navigator and left. Dalis was his name. Nice guy.” He grabbed a box from the counter. “Here. You’re going to want this. You haven’t eaten in twelve hours, and what you did eat, you left on the floor.” Opening the box, he revealed a thick sandwich and put it down next to his patient. At the sight of it, David’s stomach grumbled loudly.
“They’re gone? We don’t have to go back there anymore?” Shaking his head with his question, he felt the stiffness of a bandage on his neck, and he groped at it with a hand. Glancing down at himself, he gasped. His jacket had been removed, but the jumper he still wore was drenched in blood. “Is that all mine?”
“It’s not as bad as it looks. Well, not anymore. The cut was deep, nicked your jugular. Lots of blood, but we’ve got Time Lord medicine. It should be long healed by now. Let me see.” Rory peeled off the blood-soaked bandage. “Yup. All done. Not even a scar.” He patted David’s arm. “All good.”
David still hadn’t gotten the reassurance he needed. “We’re not going back, right?”
“No. We’ve already left. I think we’re parked in the Andromeda Galaxy.”
David closed his eyes and sighed with relief, then struggled to sit up. Suspecting the fuzziness in his head was half due to his hunger, he grabbed the sandwich and bit into it. Rory nodded. "I'm going to call the Doctor. He wanted to know when you woke up. Back in a mo'." He trotted out of the sickbay.
David spent the next couple of minutes cramming down the sandwich way too fast. Thus, his mouth was stuffed with bread, turkey, ham, lettuce, and tomato when the Doctor swept in with Amy and Rory.
"Ah, David, finally awake! Feeling better?"
"Excellent!" Bending over, he peered into David's face, lifting eyelids and trying to look up his nose and into his ears while the actor tried to chew and swallow as fast as he could. "No lasting damage, then, yes?"
David finally got the last bit of the mouthful down. "Except for the aliens tromping through my brain, no." He rolled his eyes, knowing the Doctor wouldn't comprehend his sarcasm.
"Good man!" He stood back and beamed at the actor. "Back to normal in no time! Still, you need some rest. Somewhere peaceful. Not like Polthara peaceful. You wouldn't appreciate that. Not the Eye of Orion. You've already been there. There's this little spot on Raxacoricovarlonpatorius that would do. If only they'd let me back there..." He strode out of the sickbay, David staring after him. He found that bemusement was a common mental state these days.
"Hey." Amy stood at the end of the bed and grinned at him, her hands clasped in front of her. "You're doing better, then. Don't mind him. That's the way he says thanks."
"I don’t bother trying to understand him." He quirked a smile at her.
"He says you're a hero." David stared at Amy, eyebrow cocked. "Well, not in so many words. But he said you took the pirates down. You touched them." The respect in Amy's eyes communicated that she understood how difficult that act had been for him.
"Yeah," Rory cut in. "How did you do that? The Doctor said you touched them and they fell."
David tried to remember; the events were rather fuzzy. "He told me that the Polthites suppress all of their thoughts and emotions to keep things private. And the one that touched me before said that I hurt him. I was so terrified that I took a chance that it would be too much for them to handle. I grabbed his arm and held on as long as I could."
Amy's jaw dropped. "That must have hurt!"
"It kinda tears your brain out, yeah." He shuddered.
"And then you did it again, on the other two?"
"I had to." David himself couldn't believe he had done it a second and third time. "They were about to kill the Doctor." His head suddenly began to ache, and grimacing, he clapped his hands to his temples and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the memories of the psychic intrusions.
Amy darted around the bed and sat down next to David, gathering him into her arms. "Hoy. They're gone. It's okay. That took some real courage, you know." Rory moved to David's other side and patted his shoulder.
"Never been so scared in my life," David breathed.
"It's what you do when you're scared that counts." She clapped him on the back a couple of times.
"Well, it worked out." Rory sat down on the bed. "After we got you here and patched up, we went back to the bridge, and Dalis, the other navigator, walked right in. Said that when the pirates returned to the ship, they let him go right away, and flew off. You scared them good."
David shook his head. "That wasn't me. That was the Doctor. The Doctor scared them."
"Hey, credit where credit is due." Amy's light punch on his arm told him she didn't believe him.
"No, really, it was the Doctor." But Amy jumped up from the bed and handed him the sandwich box, and he knew she wasn't going to listen to him.
"You need to finish that.” She stood with arms akimbo, like a mother scolding her child. “Need more food? Was thinking of ordering a pizza. Chicago-style deep-dish, from actual Chicago."
David grinned. "Yeah, that sounds good." She flounced out of the sickbay.
"Yeah." Rory bit his lip. "Finish that sandwich, and we'll get you back to your room so you can shower and change. Or whatever. And I'll tell the Doctor no more trips for a couple of days."
David sighed in relief. "Rory, you're a lifesaver." Smiling, he took a huge bite of the sandwich.