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): 4659
Master post link: Master post
“All I’m saying is that the way things are going, we’ll have launched a manned mission to Mars by 2020. 2025 at the latest.” Rory took a biscuit from the package on the table and waved it at Amy, who was leaning against the counter. “I’ll bet you this Jammie Dodger.”
“That’ll be one stale Jammie Dodger.” She snatched it out of his hand and took a bite. “They’ve been saying that forever, and they haven’t even been back to the moon for forty years. They won't make it to Mars by 2050.”
Rory shook his head. “There’s a lot more support for it now, with all the aliens popping up. People want to get out into space.”
"Hey, how about Mr. History tells us who's right?"
She leaned over, sticking her face directly in David's. He had been sitting with his feet up on the table, listening with amusement to the couple's debate. He held his hands up and shook his head. "Hoy, don't drag me into this."
"Come on. You know everything. You must know when humans make it to Mars."
"Why? It's not like I memorised everything about the show." Both Rory and Amy smirked at him skeptically. "Okay, okay, maybe I did. But it's not like the show was history class. They don't give dates for each episode."
"Do humans at least make it to Mars this century?" Rory grabbed a biscuit and stuffed it in his mouth.
"Think so. They spread out all over the galaxy and more, eventually. I just don't know when."
"When what?" came a voice from the door. The Doctor strode in, curiosity plain on his face, though his first target was the package of Jammie Dodgers.
"When do humans make it to Mars? On their own," Amy added as an afterthought.
"2041. First manned mission to Mars. Three humans. First colony in 2058." The Doctor twirled his biscuit among his fingers before finally taking a bite of it.
"You were both wrong," teased David, glancing at Rory and Amy.
Rory shook his head. "I really thought it would be a lot sooner. Technology is advancing so fast these days."
The Doctor shook a finger at him. "Ah, but you see, technology may advance, but application is slow. You can't use technology until you get it right, and you can't be sure you've got it right until you've tested it, and you can't test it until you've built it. Every advance in the microprocessor is obsolete by the time it comes out because it takes so long to develop. And single molecule transcription is about to make the microprocessor obsolete anyway. But it’ll take years to gain traction."
"Single molecule what?" asked Amy.
The Doctor spun on his heel to face her. "Single molecule transcription. Invented in 2019. A revolution in computer hardware. Hardly ready for commercial use by 2025, but people tried. Computers the size of wristwatches." He shook his wrist in front of her face. "First ones were unstable and hard to use, but people had to do it. Status symbol. You know what? Let me show you." He dashed out of the kitchen. Amy and Rory immediately followed, and David tailed them at a leisurely pace.
In the console room, the Doctor set the TARDIS on its way, its passengers grabbing the rails to keep on their feet. "To London, 2023. First introduction of the wrist computer. Suffered from input difficulties. The buttons were bigger than the screen. They didn't really take off until holographic displays were invented."
A short moment later, the time rotor halted and the clunk indicating the landing reverberated through the chamber. Followed by Rory, Amy, and David, the Doctor bounded down the stairs and threw open the doors.
"London's looking a little small," Amy commented as they gazed out into a strange room. In its center were six bluish round spots in a hexagon on the otherwise metallic gray floor, each about three feet in diameter. Above each spot hung what looked like machinery with a nozzle pointing down at the ground. From what they could see, the chamber itself was square, about sixty feet on a side, with metallic gray walls and a large double door on the far wall. A random assortment of crates and tanks constructed of unknown materials stood in each corner.
"This is definitely 2023," the Doctor remarked as he stepped out of the door, "but not London. This is a transmat chamber."
"A what?" asked Rory as he looked around.
"Teleporter room," explained David as he stared at the room in wonder. "Like in Star Trek. The equipment in the ceiling teleports you to and from those spots." He wandered past Rory, out of the doors of the TARDIS, to get a better look at the whole room. This was his favourite part of these travels: seeing the wonders of new places for the first time. And examining an actual transmat device? Fascinating!
"Handy having you around. Saves me the trouble of having to explain everything." The Doctor strode up to the transmat to inspect it, analyzing it with his sonic screwdriver.
Amy followed him, staring up at the device. "He does it better than you."
The Doctor's attention was still fully on the device. "He does not. You just hear him better. Now, I haven't seen one of you in a long time." On tiptoes, he reached up and touched the barrel of the transmat, then licked his fingertip. "No, you're not a good little t-mat at all, are you?"
The tone of his voice set all three of his companions on edge, and they turned toward him. "What's wrong, Doctor?" asked Amy, her voice nervous.
"I'm pretty sure I know what this ship is. Come, but stay behind me, and stay quiet. David, try not to be so tall." He trotted to the door and pointed at a panel next to it. "Communicator and door control." He held a finger to his lips, then pressed a couple of buttons on the panel. The door slid open and stayed that way.
Checking to make sure no one was on the other side of the door, he led them down a ramp to a short corridor. To both the left and the right, the corridor led about fifteen feet to a T-intersection. The Doctor went right, and at the intersection, verified that the hallway was clear. "To the left," he whispered, "crew quarters and farther on, the bridge. To the right, cargo bays and shafts to the engine room. Same hallway on the other side. Come on." He turned right and followed the corridor down to the first door on the left, a heavy metal door with a wheel on it and a sign above it that read "Cargo Bay 3." Further on, the hallway curved right.
"Two'll be right down there. One's on the other side." He spun the wheel and pushed the door open.
As they stepped into the room, the lights turned on, and immediately calls and shouts assailed their ears. The chamber was not large, maybe twenty feet on a wall, but in each of the three other walls were set two narrow doorways, barely wide enough for a person to fit through, and through each of those doorways, they could see a crowd of people packed in. Most were sitting in the tiny space they had, but some had gotten to their feet and were screaming for freedom.
"I thought so. Slaver ship." The Doctor instinctively put out a hand, stopping Amy from running to them. "Force field doors. Don't let them out yet. We need to get control of the ship if we're going to get them safely home." He nodded at his companions, and they all ran into the room to check the captives.
As David approached a doorway, he noticed from their clothing and dirt that the people were from many different countries and some had been captive for a long time, at least weeks. The people nearest the doorway stood up and crowded near him, and he promised them, "We'll get you out. You have to stay here for a little while longer, but we'll come back and get you out. We'll be right back." Without thinking, he tried to touch the hand of the girl in front of him, and the air flickered with energy as his fingertips brushed the force field. He nodded and smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner, and turned to join the others, followed by calls of "Don't leave us here!" and "Help!"
The Doctor was already in the corridor. "Come on! Time to put a stop to this. They probably already know we're on board." He turned and ran up the corridor towards the bridge, the other three close on his heels.
"They'll be waiting for us? Like a trap?" Rory didn't bother to hide his apprehension.
"They're probably fleeing. Slaver ships are cheap and their cargo valuable. They could turn a profit losing their ship once every three trips. Better for them to abandon ship and cargo than to get caught." Passing a hatch in the wall marked "Escape Pod," they reached the bridge door. The Doctor punched a button on the nearby panel and burst onto the flight deck, only to catch a glimpse of a figure retreating through the other door. He yelled, "Stop!" and dashed across the bridge to see the figure down the other corridor climbing into the other escape pod. The pod's door closed and the ship rocked as the pod detached.
"Damn!" He swung at the air in frustration.
"Doctor! What's this?" Amy called.
"Auto-destruct sequence," he answered without looking.
"Auto-destruct?" Rory and David squeaked together.
"Yes. Insurance. It's got, what, thirty minutes on it?" The Doctor began inspecting the three control panels in the cockpit.
"Little over twenty-eight," answered Amy.
"Right. Just enough time to get all of the captives out, but not enough time to do that and chase after the slavers. Make your choice." He stopped in front of a panel with four screens, one focused on the transmat spots and the others monitoring the cargo bays. "Aha! The transmat controls are here. Okay, we've got to get them out."
"What do we do?"
The Doctor ran his hand over the buttons and levers. "These controls are manual, so I'll have to stay here and operate them. You three get down to the cargo bays and start letting the people out. Tell them to get up to the transmat room, stand one person to each spot, and I'll mat them down. We don't have a lot of time, so tell them it's important to stand one to a spot. I've got a comm here, so I can talk to the ship, but you can't answer back."
"What about the other escape pod?" David asked. "Send some people down in that?"
"No! The ship is designed to destroy all evidence. Firing both escape pods means the ship's been abandoned and so it self-destructs in one minute instead of thirty. It has to be the t-mat. Keep people out of that escape pod, or we're all gone. Get going!"
David, Rory, and Amy dashed down the corridor to the cargo bays. "I got one. Rory, you take two. David, three." At the cross corridor, David peeled off to the starboard side of the ship and ran into cargo bay three, right up to the doorway he had chosen the first time. He gave an encouraging smile to the people behind the force field, then pressed the lone button on the panel nearby. The slight hum of the force field silenced, but resumed as soon as he let go. He pressed it again and the same thing happened.
"Hold the button down," the Doctor's voice boomed over the comm system. "Keeps the prisoners in when no one's around."
"Okay," David muttered, then pressed the button and held it. He called out to the people as they rushed by him. "Go out to your right, then take a left and go up the ramp. Stand on the spots on the floor, one person to a spot, and you'll be teleported out. One person to a spot! That's important! Only one person!" He kept up the litany of instructions as the crowd of captives pushed their way out of the room. Soon, the Doctor's voice started drowning out his own.
"One to a spot! Only one! I can't send you down if there's more than one. The faster you move off, the faster I can get you back to Earth. Good, good. There, that's a set gone. No, one to a spot..."
A woman who came out of the cell turned to see what David was doing, and immediately moved to the next doorway and pushed its button, but nothing happened. The people in her cell frantically pushed at the forcefield and called to her. She threw up her free hand and waved at David in a panic. "Why isn't it working?"
Holding his button, he shrugged. "I don't know. No instruction book."
"David, I see you. What you're doing. Only one door works at a time," came the answer over the loudspeaker. “To keep the captives in easier, and to make a rescue take as long as possible."
David nodded, then waved his hand at the woman in a "shoo" motion. "Go on, get out of here. I've got this."
Though visibly worried for him, she smiled. "Thank you!" She joined the crowd heading up to the transmat.
David resumed his instruction speech as the last of the captives in the first cell exited. He estimated that there were at least thirty people in each cell, and as soon as it was empty, he moved to the next. Getting them out wasn't the slow part; the transmat was the bottleneck. The Doctor's instructions over the comm were getting less frequent. Obviously people were starting to get that crowding the platform was not getting them rescued.
It took time, but the people were getting out. David moved to the last locked cell and, as he glanced in before pushing the button, he was startled by a familiar redhead in the back of the crowd. He immediately grinned as he recognised his old co-star, Catherine Tate, but her face was lined with the aging of over ten years. That’s not Catherine. That’s Donna Noble. As the memory of her fate rushed back to him, his jaw dropped in horror. Next to her stood the woman who he identified as Jacqueline King, but who he knew was Sylvia Noble, Donna’s mother. Their eyes met, and Sylvia's expression darkened as she moved to block her daughter’s view of him.
Donna had traveled with the Doctor, when the Doctor looked like David, and had been infused with the Doctor's mind during a biological metacrisis. It had given her the Doctor's intelligence and memories and enabled her to defeat the Daleks, but as a human, she was unable to cope with the Time Lord consciousness, and the Doctor had been forced to lock it away before it burned her mind up and killed her. A reminder of her life with the Doctor would release her Time Lord mind again and kill her - a reminder such as a man with the face of her Doctor in an alien situation saving her life.
To David, Donna Noble was a character in a programme he acted in, but her story - her deep and true friendship with the Doctor - resonated with him, and his close relationship with the actress who played her only helped him connect with the all-too-real woman standing before him. He might not be the Doctor, but he cared about this woman, the Doctor’s best friend, and he knew what his presence, his face, could cost her. David ducked out of the doorway and punched the door button, then turned his back to the door, hunching over and shielding his face with his free arm, trying to peek out to see when Donna and Sylvia left so that he could stop hiding. He wasn't sure if the instructions he was trying to call under his arm were loud enough to be heard anymore.
"David?" came the Doctor's voice over the comm. "What in the world are you doing?"
Oh, wonderful. Just keep calling attention to me. He waved his arm to try to communicate to the Doctor to shut up.
It turned out he didn't need to see Donna to know when she passed by. "Quit pushing, dumbo! We'll all get out! That don't help, you know. Oi! I'll shove you, sunshine!" David grinned under his arm.
A few minutes later, he snuck a peek and verified that Donna and Sylvia were no longer in the room. He straightened up and breathed a sigh of relief. A few more minutes and this last cell would be empty.
The Doctor's voice crackled over the comm. "There’re people in the escape pod. Someone's got to get them out! The comm doesn't reach there. David, go, you're closest! Hurry!"
David grabbed the nearest person. "I've got to go. Hold this button in until everyone is out, okay?" She nodded and pushed in the button. "Thanks." He squeezed her shoulder and pushed his way through the crowd, out of the cargo bay and up the corridor.
A few stragglers had made their way up the corridor to the escape pod and they seemed to be arguing about whether or not to use it.
"How do we know where it's going to go?" one man asked the next.
"I don't know. It might take us anywhere."
A man's voice from inside the pod called, "Come in or stay out! We want to go!"
David hesitated for a moment. It probably was too difficult to explain that launching the pod would destroy the ship, so he needed a quicker, easier explanation. "Don't use the pod. It's programmed to go back where the ship came from, which isn't Earth. You won't ever get home."
That did it for the two men. "I'm not getting in that thing," one of them stated, and they rejoined the crowd heading for the transmat. David was pleased that the explanation worked, and stepped up to the pod entrance to convince the rest of the passengers.
Poking his head in, he immediately spotted Donna and Sylvia among the fifteen or so people packed into the pod, and he ducked back out. For a moment, he froze with indecision. I can't do this. If she sees me, I might kill her! But if I don't, I kill everybody. He glanced back at the queue to the transmat, hundreds of people waiting their turn, and covered his mouth with his hand, rebelling against the choice facing him.
"Is that it?" David heard someone call from the pod. "No one else? Let's launch this thing. I think it's that lever over there, for the door."
His heart leapt into his throat, and he darted into the pod. Sylvia's jaw dropped, and she stared at him, appalled.
"I'm sorry, but you can't use this pod." Trying to cover his face with his hand, he spoke loudly, in an unnaturally low voice and with an exaggerated version of his normal Scottish accent, so that he sounded as little like his Doctor as he could. "It's programmed to go to its home, which isn't Earth.” As he spoke, Donna grimaced and clamped her hands to her head in pain. “To get home, you need to go up to the transporter room. Really. You can't use it."
The people in the pod began to shift and he darted back through the door, but Donna's anguished cries followed him. "What? What's happening to me? My head! It hurts! Who... who was that? I know him! Ahhhh, it hurts!"
Leaning back against the corridor wall, David held his breath and clenched his fists. Come on, Donna. You can control it. You'll be okay. He could hear Sylvia's encouraging words. "It's okay, love. Don't think about it. Don't worry about it. You'll be fine."
Donna's cries lessened, until he finally heard her gasp, "I'm all right. I'm all right. My head never hurt like that before." David sighed with relief, then dove into the crowd to get away as quickly as possible. He crossed over to the port side of the ship to check Rory's and Amy's progress, and to help direct people up to the transmat. He figured there was no reason Donna would end up in those areas.
The cells of cargo bays one and two were empty, so Rory and Amy must have moved on. Come to think of it, the Doctor hadn't called out instructions on the comm in a while, so they must have gone up to the transmat chamber to assist there. David moved to the entrance of cargo bay one and directed from there, answering questions and reassuring people as they waited in the long queue for the teleporters.
Even over the noise and chatter of the crowds of people, Donna's wail carried from the transmat chamber to David's ears, and he plowed his way through the crowd and up the ramp. He burst through the door to find, beyond the transmat circle, Donna staggering in front of the TARDIS, holding her head in both hands. "What is it? What is that box? Why does it hurt so much? Mum! Help me! I can't think. There's a flippin’ enormous wasp in my brain! It hurts! Help me!" Sylvia tried to hold her daughter, to turn her away from the blue police box, but Donna was transfixed by it.
Amy ran over to her, but had no idea what to do. "What's wrong?" She turned panicked eyes first to Rory, and then to David.
Sylvia spotted David as well, and cried to him, "Help her, Doctor!"
David dashed to the mother and froze with utter helplessness. "I'm not the Doctor! I'm... I'm David! I’m a human!" He whirled to call to Amy. "Get the Doctor. He's the only one who can save her life."
Amy leapt to the panel by the door, and screamed into it, "Doctor! We need you here at the transmat! There's a woman dying! David says only you can help her!"
The Doctor's voice boomed over the loudspeaker. "I can't. No time. Can't get everyone out if I stop transmatting. I'm sorry."
Donna's sight fixed on David, and her eyes shone with a joy that shattered her haze of pain. "Doctor! It's you! It's you!" Sobbing, she lurched forward, away from her mother, into his arms. "I'm back. You're here. We’re together. I remember. The whole universe, in my brain again. It hurts so much. Oh, Doctor!"
She was losing strength, and David gently lowered her, holding her close. Sylvia knelt beside them, her hand on her daughter's shoulder. "I... I'm not..." Looking into her eyes, he saw Donna Noble, his best mate, and for her, he was the Doctor, her Doctor. He didn't need to remember the accent and voice: they flowed naturally. "Donna. My brilliant Donna. I'm here. Right here. With you." Overflowing with tears, his eyes shone with his love for his friend, and he stroked a lock of red hair back from her face. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. This is my fault. I can't stop it. I can't help you."
She tried to lift a hand to his face, but it fell limp. "Don't want you to. Don't want to go back. I've missed you so much. Didn't know it, but I did. You're here. You're the Doctor. You’re magnificent. Oh it hurts! I can't think... I can't... Doctor?... Doctor?... Doc..." She fell silent. David buried his face in her shoulder and wept.
A hand on his shoulder brought David back to the present. A familiar Scottish voice told him quietly, "Everyone's out. We've got to go." He looked up into the concerned faces of Amy and Rory. Sylvia was near the TARDIS, her back turned.
"Yeah. We've got to go." He hugged Donna once more. "Rory, could you help me?" Rory nodded and moved around to Donna's feet.
"Okay! Everyone is out and..." Striding into the chamber at that moment, the Doctor halted his exuberant speech when he spied the woman in David's arms. "Donna!" he murmured, aghast. David stared at him in despair.
"Doctor!" Amy called. "We have to get out first. Sort the rest out second."
"Yes. Yes!" He clapped his hands. "Into the TARDIS everyone!" Amy opened the TARDIS doors and escorted Sylvia in while the men carried Donna inside. David sat on the floor and insisted on holding her while the Doctor sent the ship into flight.
"You!" Sylvia strode up to David and slapped him, hard. "You killed my daughter! You told us to never remind her of you, and we never did, and then you come waltzing back here and kill her!"
He stared up at her with a blank expression, his eyes dead. "I did."
"How dare you, Doctor? How dare you? You spirit her away from her family, fill her head with all that space stuff, and then strip her mind of all of it! What kind of life do you think that was? She couldn't be herself either way. You ruined her life! And then you killed her! And now I've lost my daughter, Shaun has lost his wife, her children have lost their mother." She pulled back to slap him again, but the Doctor caught her wrist.
"No. If you're going to hit anyone, you hit me. I'm the Doctor. He's David." He positioned himself between Sylvia and her target.
Sylvia's face twisted into a sneer. "I'm not stupid. I know who the Doctor is."
"No, you don't, Sylvia Noble. You know that when I looked like him, at Donna's wedding, I was regenerating. That version of me died a very long time ago. I'm the Doctor. David just looks like who I was."
Taken aback, Sylvia retreated and looked back and forth between the two men. "You're the Doctor? Not him? Then who is he? How does he know..." Her finger, pointing at David, completed the question she was unable to articulate.
"He is a complicated space-time event. He knows everything about my life, my relationship with Donna. He knows. He understands, more than you can ever know. He loved her as much as I did."
"I still killed her." David's murmur was almost inaudible.
Sylvia pursed her lips. Crossing her arms, she strode to the doors of the TARDIS. "Take us home."
"That's where we're going." The Doctor knelt next to Donna and David and bowed his head for the rest of the journey.