Word count: 4272
As soon as he made it in the door, David began pacing around the living room, lost in thought, raking a hand through his increasingly messy hair and mumbling to himself. “We can’t do this alone. How am I going to get his attention? The right him?” The slam of the front door startled him back to the present and he whirled to face Will, glaring at him with his arms crossed. “What?”
Will threw his hands up. “‘What?’ You have the nerve to ask what?” Fists clenched at his side, Will was barely holding himself back from decking his friend. “You are going to come clean with me right now!” He jabbed a finger down at the floor.
“Now? There are aliens out there! We’ve got to do something. There’s no time!”
Will strode forward and poked David in the chest, sending him stumbling backward a step. “We've been friends these few months now, but you’ve never told me anything about yourself, nothing real. You’ve always been a bit weird, but hey, I thought, you’re my mate, that’s fine. Now you’re dragging me toward an alien invasion like we’re going to stop it by standing in front of them and singing showtunes. That’s it. I’m done. I’m not doing anything until you tell me what’s going on. Who the bloody hell are you?”
David gaped at him. “I… I’m not… I can’t -”
“Yes, you can, and you will! What are you, UNIT? MI6? I don’t care if I don’t have security clearance or whatever. Tell me what’s going on.”
David spun away and paced across the room, scrubbing down his jaw with his hand. When he turned back, his eyes were wide with fear. “You’re not going to believe me.”
“There’s an enormous spaceship standing in the park down the road, packed with a platoon of space rhinos. What exactly am I not going to believe?”
David sighed. “That… that I’m one of them.” His hands flew up to negate the incorrect implication. “An alien. Not a rhino. I’m not a Judoon. But I’m not human, either.”
Will blinked at him, a slight frown wrinkling his brow. After a few seconds, he scowled. “No. Look, okay, I understand if you can’t tell me, if whoever you’re working for is going to kill you for it. Or kill me. I get it. Just, have a little respect, okay? I may be just a regular citizen, without all this knowledge of aliens and things, but don’t expect me to believe something that stupid.”
“Will, I’m telling the truth. I’m an alien.” When Will threw his hands up and whirled away in frustration, David trotted up to follow him as he strode out into the hallway. “I am. That’s why I know about the Judoon. And that’s why I’m so weird. You said it yourself. All the strange things you’ve seen. I don’t sleep or eat much. I say odd things, and I know you’ve seen my books covered with circles and lines. And you’ve been upstairs, haven’t you? You must have. And it's all empty except the bed and the big metal thing. All these things you can’t explain.”
Will knew he had to get out and stomped off toward the front door, trying to shut David out. “No. Just shut up. Shut up and leave me alone.”
David grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. “Will, look at me. Look at me, just for ten seconds.”
Glowering, Will stared at his friend, then clapped his hand to his mouth and staggered back as his eyes grew wide. At first, he had thought it was a trick of the sunlight streaming in through the windows, but a faint golden glow sparkled in David’s eyes and grew brighter and brighter, until he could no longer see his brown irises through the blazing light. Wisps of glimmering energy curled away and dispersed into the air. Stumbling back a step and colliding with the door behind him, Will flattened himself against it. “What is that? Stay away from me!”
Abruptly, the glow vanished, the last bit of energy drifting away from David's eyes like smoke, and he appeared completely normal. He began to reach for his friend but Will cowered at his approach, and he held himself back; his mere presence was now a threat. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It was the easiest way. I’m still just me. I’m your friend, and I’m not going to hurt you. Not ever.” Holding his hands up, he backed away. “See? It’s okay. If you want me to leave, I will.”
Collecting himself, Will stood back up straight, though keeping a wary eye on David. “No, I’m okay. You don’t have to leave." He inhaled deeply. "You’re an alien. Apparently aliens are Scottish.” He snorted. “Actually, that explains quite a bit about Scotland.”
David smirked. "No, just this alien is Scottish. I can't speak to any other."
"So..." Will had no idea what to say. "What exactly are you? What do you actually look like?"
Opening his arms wide, David displayed himself to his friend. "This is what I actually look like. I'm no different from what you've always known."
"But you're not human." He could barely believe the words coming out of his own mouth.
"No. Well, not really." Hesitating for a moment, he screwed his face up with apprehension. "I'm sort of, well, the race I'm closest to was called the Time Lords."
Will screwed up his face in disbelief. "Time Lords? That's a rubbish name. You made that up. What kind of people would call themselves that?"
David shrugged, shaking his head. "Pretentious ones. But that is really what they called themselves."
"But you don't."
"Because I'm not really one of them."
Glowering, Will hooked his thumbs on his trouser pockets. "You're not making this any easier, David."
The alien sighed. "I'm trying to tell you the truth, only... it's so very complicated." Crossing his arms, he grasped his forehead and closed his eyes, searching for some inner strength. After a moment, his eyes popped open and he nodded. "Okay. I'm going to try to explain everything. It's very complicated, so I'm going to say now that it's a bit of an simplification, and I promise I'll explain everything fully later, every detail if you want to know, but this right now is close enough. I'll answer all your questions, but later. Okay?"
Will searched David's face, trying to assess his honesty, but it occurred to him that he had no way to judge an alien's morality or emotional state. It sickened him to realise that he wasn't sure he could trust this man he thought was his friend. Finally nodding, he drawled, "Okay."
David took a deep breath before starting to speak. "You remember I told you about my brother, the one who's gone now." He continued when Will nodded. "He’s called the Doctor. Yes, yes, that's weird, I know, but that's the name he took. He's a Time Lord, from a planet called Gallifrey, which was destroyed. He's the last true Time Lord, and he's not really my brother. He... he created me, a sort of a clone of him, but human. I grew up human, in a human family, in Scotland, so no, Scots aren't aliens normally. A couple of years ago, I met up with him and learned who I was, and as a result of some very strange circumstances, I was transformed into a Time Lord, but only partly. That's what I meant when I said I was in an accident: it changed me, changed who I am, how I think. Thing is, it didn't work right. The shining eyes thing, that's actually a symptom of my body being broken by the change. I... I'm really neither Time Lord nor human, though I'm more Time Lord than anything else." He paused, sighing. "That's who I am, in a nutshell."
Will's mouth had slowly dropped open as he listened, and once David had finished, he thought on what he had heard for a while, his mouth working soundlessly. Finally, he grunted out, "So you're a copy of another alien that looks human." It was about all he could comprehend from everything he’d just heard.
David stood with his hands clasped in front of him and his head slightly bowed, peering up at Will as if he were waiting for a verdict. "Yes."
He stared at David for a moment, his hand over his mouth. "And you were human, but you're not now."
"And..." Will's brow creased in sudden suspicion. "You're living here why? Infiltrating the planet and assessing our weaknesses? Abducting people and probing them? Is that why this house was empty when I first got here?"
Taken by surprise, David stepped back defensively. "No! I'm not here to do anything like that! Aliens aren't automatically hostile and evil. There are plenty of species out there who are perfectly friendly and harmless."
"Then why?" Will spun, his hands indicating the whole house. "Why live here like a mad hermit? What are you up to?"
David's answer was matter-of-fact. "I needed somewhere to build my spaceship."
"My spaceship. I need time to build it, a couple more years, but I thought, I need to live somewhere in the meantime, why not Earth? No one would notice me, right?" He laughed feebly at the absurdity of his assumption.
Crossing his arms, Will leaned back on one leg and shook his head. "That doesn't make sense. If you don't have a spaceship, how did you get here to build it?"
"I was with the Doctor. He let me choose where to go and I chose Earth." David's voice became tiny. "It’s my only home, really."
“And when exactly were you going to tell me this?”
“I wasn’t." At Will's angry glare, David shrugged. "There was no need to. I look human, don’t I? I act human except for a few oddities. I’m not dangerous. Am I a threat to you in any way?”
Will gaped at him, then stabbed a hand toward the window. “You just dragged me into an alien invasion! Yes, you are a threat to me.” Stunned, David’s face fell and he stumbled back, staring at his friend in horror, and Will decided to press his advantage. “I don’t know anything about you, what you’re capable of, but you expected me to follow you in there blindly. You still do, don’t you? You’re going to go up against that army, and you expect me to go with you!”
“No! Well, yes, but not like that. I told you what they’re going to do. If they don’t find whatever it is they’re looking for, they’re going to find the town guilty of obstruction of justice and execute everyone. I can’t just let that happen.” His shoulders sagged. “But you’re right. I assumed that you’d come with me. I just thought…” Abruptly, David whirled away and strode off into the hallway, and after a brief hesitation, Will dashed after him.
The alien stopped and spun back. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he composed himself. “I never intended this. I didn’t think there’d be any harm in living here for a while. To everyone else, I’d just be this bloke living in this house, and I’d get to pretend for a while that nothing had changed and I was still normal. But you’re right. That was stupid. I’m not normal. I never will be.” Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes with resigned acceptance. “Of course I’m a threat. I can’t not be.”
“That’s not what I meant…”
“But it’s true.” He stepped forward and grasped his friend’s shoulder. “Will, you have to run. They haven’t seen you yet, but if they do, they’ll consider you part of the town and if they condemn it, they’ll hunt you down. Pack an extra set of clothing, and wear something over your face. When you get out of the town, change into the other clothes so they won’t recognise you by what you're wearing. They’re really not very smart.”
“David, I -”
David cut him off, his voice firm, though quiet and gentle. “You don’t have much time. You’ve got to go now.” He clapped the human on the arm. “Thank you for being my friend, these past few months. I’m sorry for deceiving you all this time.” His soft, regretful smile lit his face, and he glanced toward the door. “Go on. Get yourself safe.” Turning, he trotted upstairs and disappeared into the bedroom at the top of the landing.
At a loss of what to do, Will watched him retreat. There were still space rhinos marching around outside and the thought of them made Will want to flee on the spot, and yet, for all that he was at the center of an alien invasion, the situation in this house was far more important. In urging Will to flee and save himself, David had appeared noble and strong, but it was painfully obvious to Will that the realisation that he’d endangered his friend without thinking and was completely alienated from the planet he wanted to call home had nearly broken him. David had always been a good friend, caring for Will when he was sick, providing him a home when he didn’t have one, and just being there, but… Will groaned in frustration. I trusted him. That was the crux of it. David hadn’t trusted Will, keeping who he was a secret. And then he betrayed Will’s trust, dragging him into a life-threatening situation, without concern for his safety and again, holding back vital information. Clenching his fists, Will spun on his heel and stomped off toward the door.
The puff of air in his face as he yanked the door open gave him pause. He was going outside again, back into the thick of the invasion. Down the street, a rhino bulled open a door with his shoulder and disappeared into the house; Will hoped the family had fled and the place was empty. He turned back and gazed at the stairs, up which his friend had disappeared. David was going to do something about them. Will had no idea what, but he knew that he was going to try and that the man had the right of it, that something had to be done. He shook his head: no matter how betrayed he felt, he couldn’t let him do it alone. Groaning, he bounded up the stairs and into David’s room.
It appeared as it had earlier that day - that year ago when he'd explored the room whilst David had been out shopping, or so it felt - with a single bed, made up meticulously, and the odd metal cylinder standing in the corner. The alien was nowhere to be seen. Will stepped over to the window, but it was latched and undisturbed, so he couldn’t have left in that manner. Turning back to the room, he noticed that the door on the cylinder was slightly ajar, a dim light spilling out from the crack between the edge and the jamb. He could have sworn it had been completely closed a moment ago. He’s in there? What is he, a vampire? Frowning in confusion, he walked over to it and pushed it open.
Beyond the doorway, the cylinder opened into a chamber much larger than the room Will was standing in. His first reflex was to pull his head out and check that the cylinder really was only a metre wide, and it was. He then stuck his head back in, even though the sight was causing his stomach to churn. The vaulted chamber was over fifteen metres in diameter, its walls, uniformly honeycombed with shallow round depressions, and floor made of some unknown pure white substance. In the center was a hexagonal table-like structure, made of the same material, featureless except that cabinet doors and floor paneling beneath it stood open, revealing mechanics and electrical circuitry. It was surrounded by piles of mechanical components, bundles of wires, workbenches covered with tools and materials, and other unrecognisable objects, and above it, from its center, a clear glass cylinder rose to the high ceiling. David stood hunched over the edge of the central table, his fists supporting him and his head hanging.
Will must have made a sound, probably a strangled gasp at the sight of the inside of the cylinder, for David looked up wearily. Spying the intruder, he threw his hands up in exasperation and stared at the ceiling. “Oh! You won’t talk to me, but you’ll let him in.” Will spotted David’s necklace grasped tightly in his fist, the medallion dangling from the brass chain.
Opening his mouth to speak, Will coughed, his first words getting strangled in his throat, and swallowing, he tried again. “This is your spaceship?”
“Someday she will be. Maybe. Maybe she’ll…” His tone was laced with a despondent undercurrent. His shoulders sagged for a moment, then he stood up straight and cleared his throat. “Welcome to the TARDIS. It stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Yes, that means she’s a time machine.”
Dumbfounded, Will stood stunned, gazing about the chamber. “It’s incredible.”
“She is that.” Stroking the table with reluctant but clear affection, he gazed up at the glass cylinder and sighed. He turned back to Will. “You need to go. You need to get out while there’s still time.”
"I'm not going." He plowed ahead as David frowned at him in surprise, one eyebrow arched. "I'm not letting you face those things alone."
David shook his head fervently. "I can't ask you to do that."
"You're not." He held his head high. "It’s my decision. I'm going to help you however I can."
David’s eyes grew wide. “You will?”
"Yeah." Striding into the spaceship, he planted himself squarely in front of the man who'd taken him in and helped him start out his new life in this town. "I don’t know who you are, and frankly, at any other time, I’d be done with you. But," he blurted to stop David from interrupting, flinging his arm toward the door, “whatever’s going on out there is bigger than the both of us, and you’re probably the only person who can stop it. This can wait.” He held up his hand as David drew in breath to speak. "Just move on, okay? Let's get past this." He exhaled and looked David in the eye. "So what are we doing?"
David met Will's gaze with all of his worry, guilt, and disappointment plain on his face. Then, with a brief flash of gold in his wide brown eyes, his expression snapped to cold and serious. He spun away, clapping his hand to mouth. "I... I don't know. I'm not equipped for this. If I could contact the Doctor, he'd take care of it straight away -"
Frowning, Will tried to make sense of what David was saying. "The Doctor? But you said he was dead."
"No, no, not like that. The Doctor is still alive." Running his hands through his hair, David tried to pace but was blocked by the mess around his feet. He turned around and leaned back against the table. “Time Lords… they don’t die like we do. When they die, they change into another person. They remember their past lives, but they become someone new.” At Will’s confused boggle, he laughed. “Yes. Unbelievable, but true. The Doctor that I came from, the one I consider my brother, he’s dead, but the new Doctor still lives, as far as I know.”
“And if he were here, he could do something about those things?” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder.
“Yes, he does this kind of thing all the time.”
Will frowned. “But you can’t call him.”
“No." David's next statement was quiet. "I can’t ever.”
Will could tell this wasn’t a technical problem. “Why? What’s wrong with you calling him?”
David bit his lip and paused before attempting to explain. “The Doctor, he’s a time traveller. Always has been. And he loves Earth, comes here all the time, has been doing so for centuries." He sighed. "The problem is me. If I try to contact the Doctor, any of his previous selves might answer, and that would be bad. I didn’t exist until his last self created me, and if any of his previous selves meet me, including the one that created me before he did it, they would know about me before they knew about me. That’s a dangerous paradox, and I can’t allow that to happen.”
Will just stared at him. Why he thought any of this might be simple escaped him at the moment.
“Yeah.” David barked a mirthless laugh. “Like I said, everything about me is bloody complicated. But the bottom line is, I have to make sure the Doctors never find me.”
Will set his fists on his hips. "Then we have to take care of this ourselves."
"Looks like." Crossing his arms, David settled himself in a defiant, determine stance, his feet set wide apart.
Will nodded. "So what do we do?"
David stroked his chin, his eyes wandering sightlessly as he worked through ideas in his mind. "I think the only thing we can do is find out what they're looking for and find it for them."
"And how do we do that?"
The alien walked over to the table and placed a hand flat on the surface as he thought. Tapping twice, he spun around and leaned back against it. "The only way I can think of. By asking them."
Will couldn't believe it. "Just walk up and ask them?"
"And you don't think they'll gun you down on the spot?" Will couldn't quite keep his voice from squeaking.
"Oh, that's not a problem." David pushed himself off the table and picked up what looked like a mechanical component from one of the nearby piles, toying with it as he talked. "Judoon follow the law. Every reaction they have is determined by some law. If you break a law, sure, they'll condemn you and mete out punishment. But if you are innocent of any wrongdoing, they'll deal with you fairly. As far as I know, there is no law against you asking them a question."
Will was starting to understand how David crafted his words to leave out important bits of information while seeming to reveal everything he knew. "But there's a law against you asking them a question, isn’t there?"
David smirked, impressed that his friend had read between his lines. "There might be. I'm an alien. They'll know that right off. And if it's an alien they're looking for, they might decide I'm what they're here for and execute me on the spot. You should be ready for that. It might be left to you to deal with them."
"Don't talk like that, mate."
"It's the simple truth, Will." He didn't seem concerned about that possible outcome at all. "So, that's what we'll do. Walk up to them and ask them what they want and how we can help them find it. A fine a plan as any. Just give me a moment. I’ve got to get this back on.” David nodded at the necklace in his hand.
Will stared at the medallion. Up close, he could see it seemed to be made of brass and etched with the same motif of interlocking circles and lines that he'd seen in David's books. “Why? What is it?”
“This,” he said, holding pendant up at eye level, "is a neural inhibitor. You see, Time Lords are psychic and they can sense the presence of one another. Which means, of course, that the Doctor could sense me if he arrived here on Earth in this time zone. Since I can't let him do that, I have to wear this to shut down my psychic abilities, so that the Doctor can’t hear me." He gestured around the chamber. "I can take it off in here, because, well, because telepathy doesn’t cross the dimensional barrier between here and out there.” He undid the clasp on the chain. “Welp, on again.” With a pained grimace, he looped the chain about his neck and secured it, then dropped the pendant under his shirt.
“Does it hurt?”
David pursed his lips in distaste. “Not as such, no. I think it’s much like becoming deaf when you’re used to being able to hear. It’s not like I can normally hear everyone’s thoughts or anything - that’s not how my telepathy works - but when it’s on, the background noise I never notice is gone and everything is completely silent. And there’s this pressure on my mind." He pressed a hand to the side of his head and screwed his eyes closed for a few seconds. "It's... uncomfortable. I can’t explain.”
The idea of David being in constant discomfort due to having to hide from the other Time Lord dropped a rock into the pit of Will's stomach. “Oh. That’s why you don’t use the house. You’d rather be in here, with that off.”
“Yeah. There’s nothing in here but floors and walls, not until the TARDIS matures, but just not having this on is everything. It’s still silent in here, though.” He glanced up at the glass cylinder above the table with a discouraged frown, then took a deep breath. “Come on. We’ve got to do this.” Hopping over the piles of components, he trotted toward the door, Will following close behind.