As I thought about this story a few minutes ago, I realized what was making me uncomfortable about it. Its structure is very different from the previous long stories I posted in this series/AU. The Actor, A Choice of a Lifetime, and Neighbours are all similar in structure: the characters go through a number of events that seem to be building up in seriousness, then in the last 1-3 chapters, they realize what's going on and have to deal with it. Repercussions doesn't do that. It's more of a recounting of a set of events, happening over two days. The problem, of course, is that a series of events doesn't necessarily make a good story, but I think it fits together well. I'm still adjusting the other two chapters, but I hope to get them posted over the next two days.
I particularly enjoyed writing the first two chapters because they deal with a problem I saw in the show. A particular episode fell very flat for me (and continues to devolve into a chaotic mess of poor ideas as I think about it), and I tried to address that a bit in this story. It also gave me the chance to explore how regular people (or almost-regular people) experience one of the Doctor's adventures from the outside. You'll find out which episode very quickly.
One note: There is a story that I haven't written yet that occurs between Neighbours and this one, and Will makes a passing mention to the events in that story in chapter 2. It shouldn't detract from the narrative, though - Will says he knows something about David, and the missing story explains why. I'm not sure I'll get a chance to write the story, but the idea was given to me by a friend and it's really cool, and I hope I get to it.
Word count: 4130
As he stepped off the elevator, Will was not surprised to find David lounging on one of the couches in the hotel lobby at precisely 11:30. With no extenuating circumstances, he was always punctual to the second, if not early, which, Will surmised, was to be expected from a Time Lord. At the sight of his friend, David jumped up and strode to meet him with a delighted smile, and the two grasped hands in greeting.
"Glad you could make it down! How was the drive?"
"Splendid. Relaxing, and plenty to see, as always." David glanced around the lobby and out the glass front doors. "It's been over four years since I've been down here - well, a similar 'here' anyway - and I rather miss it. The big city, the crowds of humanity, all the history!" His face shone with enchantment. "Not that I've been to Twickenham before, mind you." He motioned at the couch he had just vacated and they sat down. "How's work been going?"
"Slow. The project is huge, and it's hard to mix two development teams' styles and processes and make it actually work efficiently." Will flopped back and splayed his arms along the top of the couch back. "If this wasn't such a huge contract, I think Markus would have walked out on it by now. The product manager, woman by the name of Sophia, thinks she's a designer and won't let him do what he does best." He shrugged. "We've only two more weeks down here, and I don't know if we'll be able to pull it out by then. Just don't mention anything when Markus is around, unless you want your ears whinged off."
"I'm sure you'll get it together. Your group is so talented and dedicated."
Will shook his head, doubting the outcome. "I wish that's all it took to make a project succeed. It's the personalities that get in the way."
"That's always the way of it, isn't it?"
"Well, at least we have the weekends to relax, though I expect we'll have to work through most of next weekend. We'll just make the most of this one." He glanced at the elevator. "They'll be down soon, I'm sure. They're never on time."
"I'm in no rush. So what am I in for today?"
"Nothing too exciting, I'm afraid. We've done most of the tourist things over the last three weekends. You know, British Museum, National Gallery, Tower of London, the V&A, St. Paul's." He sat back with a sigh of resignation. "Today's all about Twickenham. Amy's from here, you know, so Ben's been after her about taking us on the tour of the town. You know how he is, has to see every last historic site everywhere, wouldn't let her weasel out of it." He shook his head, his smirk a mixture of amusement and sarcasm. "I think we'll be getting lunch, then hitting some houses and gardens. Tomorrow we'll see the stadium. Amy sent a list in her email, but to be honest," he leaned in conspiratorially, "I really didn't read it."
David laughed and lounged back on the couch. "It's all fine by me. I'm game for all of it."
"You always are."
Over the next ten minutes, as the men continued to chat, Will's co-workers appeared one by one, coming down from their rooms in the elevator. Ben was the first to arrive, eager to get going on their tour and disdainful of the tardiness of the others, though he was late himself. Amy came down not long after, and then it was a few minutes' wait before Markus finally stepped into the lobby. After their greetings, Ben sprang up from his seat and bounced on his toes, waiting impatiently to get the day's exploring started.
The group walked down a few blocks to grab lunch, at what Amy called "the best Thai food in Twickenham". During their meal, Ben fairly lectured them on the history he’d researched about Twickenham, paying extra attention to the places that Amy said she was going to take them. Whilst Amy periodically murmured to no one, "I didn't know any of that," Will tried to pretend to be interested. David, who was toying with and not eating his child's portion of pad thai, listened with an enraptured expression, mumbling under his breath about whether or not certain details were true, noting to himself, "I should check that," making Will have to bite back a laugh many times, as he was sure David was not referring to doing historical research at the library or via Google. Markus didn't bother to look interested, and spent the meal fiddling with one of the ubiquitous strange black cubes which the restaurant had placed as centerpieces, three to a table. Once everyone had eaten, Ben couldn't rush them out of the place fast enough, leading them out as he unfolded his map of the town, pencilled with the route he wanted them to take to the various sites. As they left the table, Markus snagged his pet cube before following them out and trotted to catch up with Ben.
"You're taking that?" Amy goggled at Markus and glanced at the hostess who held the door open for them as they exited.
"Aye. No one cares." He juggled it in his hand as he talked, and the hostess paid him no mind. "It's not like they're hard to get. I bet they have a hundred in the back."
"Those things still scare me," she replied, eyeing it nervously. "What are they for?"
"Who says they have to be for anything?" Markus practised tossing the cube up and catching it on the back of his hand. "They've been around for a year now, and they don't open or do anything, and x-ray machines say they're solid all the way through. The UN said they're safe long ago."
"Doesn't the fact that they appeared all over the world in one night bother you at all?" Ben asked.
Markus shrugged. "I'm leaving that to the experts. If it doesn't bother them, why should it bother me?"
Letting himself lag behind the rest to come abreast of David, Will leaned toward his friend and murmured, "Anything?"
"Nope." David shrugged, then whispered back. "Not that I have a lab yet to inspect them properly, but I never found anything in them. Couldn't even mar the surface."
Ben had continued chatting. "You shouldn't let the 'experts' do the thinking for you. Suspicion is always a healthy impulse when dealing with the unknown." Thinking, he peered up at the clouds. "I wonder if they also appeared in the oceans? Are there millions of cubes at the bottom of the sea?"
Behind him, David wagged a finger at his back and murmured to Will, "Now there's an idea. Troll the sea bottom, and the unpopulated land areas. If there aren't cubes there, then they're definitely targeted at humans. I should look to see if anyone's done that study, when I get back home."
"Well, you're wrong, you know, Markus." Amy's tone was playful.
"About them not doing anything. See?" She pointed at the cube that Markus was carrying, which displayed a bright blue "7" on all sides. All five of them stopped and stared at the number.
Ben was the first to speak. "Seven? What does that mean?"
"How should I know?" Markus bristled uncomfortably, then broke into an excited grin. "It's finally doing something! This is cool."
"That's not cool," Ben objected, hugging himself nervously. "That's weird. After all this time, there's a seven on it."
"Yes!" Markus held the cube up at eye level. "We finally get to see what it does."
"Markus," David murmured as he held out a steadying hand, "I think you should put that down and step away from it."
"Why? It's just a cube. It's harmless. It doesn't do anything."
"I don't think it's a bad idea to exercise some caution." Trying to not scare him, David slowly reached into his pocket, pulled out his phone, and started tapping the screen.
Looking around, up and down the street, Amy noticed that many people were staring at the cubes they had and were discussing them with their companions. "It's not just your cube. It's all of them."
As everyone started looking around, Will sucked in his breath. "It says 'six' now."
"Is that a countdown?" Ben gasped. He began backing away. "Oh, mate, put that thing down."
"Come on!" Markus rolled his eyes at his friends' paranoia. "These things have done nothing for a year. I don't see what you're worried about." He frowned in confusion as David pointed his phone at the cube in his hand, not in the usual manner of taking a picture of the thing. The device made a high electronic trilling noise for a few seconds, then the man stared at the display and began tapping again.
Will tried to sound reasonable. "Well, yes, it's been a year and they've done nothing. What's the problem in waiting a bit longer to see what happens when it gets to zero? Just put it down and we'll watch it, and when we all see that it's safe, you can take it right back."
Markus stared at each of his friends in turn. Amy looked terrified, Ben worried, and Will like a parent trying to calm down his fussy child, whilst David stared at his phone with his hand over his mouth. Rolling his eyes again, he shrugged and squatted to place the cube on the pavement. "There, happy?" he grumbled as he stood up and stepped a few feet away.
"Yes, much better," Amy sighed with some relief.
"Now it's five," Ben pointed out.
David glanced at the cube for a moment, then returned his attention to his phone, mumbling, "Longer than a minute, shorter than a microspan. Don't know any established unit of that specific length."
Will glanced over to see streams of circles and lines bubbling over David's screen. "Anything?" he asked his friend.
"Not a thing. It's like the number isn't even there."
"What are you two on about?" demanded Ben.
The question seemed to draw David out of his studious trance. He drew in a deep breath. "Nothing. We should put some distance between it and us, I think."
"We should go and leave it where it is," suggested Amy, backing away a bit more.
"No." Markus crossed his arms and stood firm. "I want to see what it does, and I want it back when this is all over."
Ben threw up his hands in exasperation. "All right. It stays there, we stay here, but we move a good distance away. Come on." He spun on his heel and marched off to a spot five metres away and no closer to any of the other groups of people on the sidewalk with cubes, and his friends followed him. As the cube counted down, they stood and watched, silent: Amy hid behind Ben, David and Will stood shoulder to shoulder, and Markus squatted in front, wanting the first glimpse of what the cube might actually do.
The numbers on the cube slowly changed, from five to four, to three, to two, then to one. When it finally reached zero, the number disappeared and the top of the cube popped open. Markus jumped up to see over the lip, but it was too far away to make anything out. "Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?" He started to stride toward the open cube.
"No, Markus, wait! Let's -" Ben never finished his sentence as Markus clutched at his chest and cried out, curling up and shaking as he tried to keep his feet. The three men dashed forward to him as Amy looked around at the people nearby.
"A heart attack?" Will exclaimed as he hooked Markus under his armpits and dragged him away from the cube.
"Yes!" Amy shouted. "It's happening all over the place!" People screamed as they fell or as their companions succumbed. Some cars in the street screeched to a halt, whilst others careened into other cars and onto the sidewalks as their drivers lost control.
Ben helped support his friend. "Pull him away from the street! Don't get closer to that thing."
David came up on the other side of Will, his phone pointed at Markus' chest and whirring. "Cardiac arrest. His heart is fibrillating. I think the cube directed an electrical pulse at it."
"Is that what's happening to everyone?" Amy was frozen in panic. "What do we do?"
After working with Ben to lay Markus on the pavement, Will turned to David, who was frowning at his mobile, his hand over his mouth. "Can you help him?"
"I think so. I need your mobile, Will." As Will dug his phone out of his pocket and handed it over, David added, "You're probably not going to get it back. I don't think it'll survive this." He pointed his own phone at Will's, and it made that odd trilling noise again.
"Just save him, mate. What are you doing?"
"Severely overcharging the battery. Pull his jumper off, will you?"
"What?" asked Ben. "Why?"
"Just do it!" Will commanded and propped Markus up so that Ben could pull the shirt over his head. They laid him back down with the jumper balled up as a pillow.
"There." David spit on both screens, then placed one phone just below Markus' right shoulder and the other down on his left torso. "Clear." As soon as Ben and Will pulled back, David pressed the button on the side of his own phone and the muscles in Markus' chest twitched. Pointing his phone at the man's chest again and letting it buzz for a few seconds, David glanced at its screen, then nodded. "It worked. His pulse is steady." A very tentative smile curved his lips as he tossed the Will's phone back to its owner.
"Oh, good show, mate!" He tapped the button on his mobile. "You're right. It's fried."
Ben shook his head in amazement. "I don't know what you just did, but that was brilliant! Can you do that for others?"
"As long as we have mobiles to use, or anything with a battery I can work with. But people will start dying soon. Come on." David hopped up. "Ben, can you stay with Markus and make sure he's okay?"
"Yeah. Here's mine." Ben lobbed his phone at David, then turned back to Markus, who was starting to sit up. "Go to it."
Led by David, who was preparing Ben's phone, the three headed for a woman lying near the edge of the road with a very stricken-looking young man next to her, making sure to give the cube on the ground a wide berth. Will ordered the man to step back so that they could help while Amy opened the woman's blouse. Like before, David laid the phones on her torso and applied the voltage, and the woman's heart steadied. Without delay, they dashed up the sidewalk to the next victim, this time using Amy's phone to resuscitate the man.
As David verified that the defibrillation had worked, Amy's horrified "Oh my god!" drew the attention of her two friends. Whirling in the direction she was pointing, they saw an aeroplane looming large in the sky, listing heavily to its right, out of control. It was close enough that they could hear the distant roar of the engines. "That thing's coming down, right here!" she breathed.
David studied the aeroplane's position and movement, then his eyes flicked over what he could see of the surrounding area, as if he were calculating possible outcomes. "No, not right here, but anywhere it does..." He didn't need to finish the sentence. Digging under his shirt, he pulled out the necklace he always wore and tore it from his neck, leaving a bloody trail where the chain abraded his skin. He stuffed the remnants in his pocket as he stared up at the plane. "Sixty-five people on board. Eleven in cardiac arrest, but definitely both pilots. They're both out, and no one knows." He blinked. "They know now. Oh!" He cringed, then grimaced in embarrassment. "That wasn't the right thing to do. They're panicking, and..." He frowned. "The security system on the cockpit door won't open up fast enough."
Will placed a hand on his shoulder. "You’re not thinking of…?" He felt David shudder under his touch. “You are. You think you can do that?”
David stared up at the plane, running his tongue over his dry lips. "I... I can. I have to. What else can I do?" His horrified eyes locked onto Will's face. "It's going to… I might not...” He gulped. “I might not survive this.”
Will squeezed his shoulder. “You don’t have to do it.”
Closing his eyes, David breathed deep into his chest before looking back at his friend. “You know I do. I can’t not. All those deaths would be on my head.”
Will nodded. “I know. Is there anything I can do to help?"
David scrubbed his hand down hard around his mouth and jaw, the pull of his skin widening his already horrified eyes. "Nothing. There’s nothing you can do.” He again breathed deep to swallow his apprehension, then his eyes went cold as he focused his attention on the plane. “Let’s do this. Step back, Will. It’s probably best if you’re not near me.” Clenching his fists, he closed his eyes and prepared himself.
As Will retreated, Amy stepped next to him and touched his arm. "Will, what's happening? What is he doing?"
Will’s eyes were locked on his friend. “David is going to save that plane."
"What? How in the -"
"Don’t ask. Just let him do it. Trust me, Amy."
David’s eyes popped open and blazing golden light burst from them as he focused all of his power on the plane. It slowed to a floating stop in the air, its list correcting to perfectly level. Screams of fear and wonder erupted on all sides of the group and Amy’s hands tightened on Will’s elbow. “He’s doing that?” she hissed.
“How?” she squeaked hysterically.
“He’s psychic. He's very psychic.”
The roar of the engines abruptly cut out; David had forcibly stopped them to avoid having to fight against their thrust. The plane was now supported in the air by the psychic strength of one individual. Glancing around, Will saw that the attention of everyone who wasn’t tending an arrest victim was on the plane. Even Markus, who had gotten to his feet and was approaching the rest of his friends with the help of Ben, was staring up at the floating aircraft, his jaw dropped open.
"What?" Amy exclaimed, shrill with fear and panic.
“Amy?” Will spun to her. “What’s wrong?”
Grabbing at her head, she stared at Will. “He’s talking to me in my mind! I don’t know! Stop asking me! I don’t know!” Her shrieks were obviously directed at David, who stood motionless but was shaking with his effort. Ben and Markus ran up to her but stopped short, unsure what was going on or what they could do to help.
Will placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “What’s he asking?”
“Some place to land the plane." Shivering nervously, she wrung her hands together. "I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Will coaxed her gently to think, trying keep the urgency out of his tone. “You grew up here, Amy. You’ve got to know some place he can put it.”
“I don’t know!”
Fragments of images flew through Will’s mind: a parking lot, a wide park with neat lawns, a golf course. David’s attempts to show Amy what he needed were missing their mark; he was obviously starting to lose control. Glancing at David, who was swaying as he stared up at the plane, every muscle in his body taut and quivering, Will put his arm around Amy and murmured to her, “Amy, please! You’ve got to think of something, anything. He can’t keep this up much longer.”
"There's... there's a lot of flat space across the river. It's... I can't remember what it's called... Yes, I can drive to it.” The last sentence was again directed at David.
After a moment, David growled out through clenched teeth, “Too... far...”
“I don’t know of anywhere else!”
A hot blade of pain lanced through Will's head and he fought to contain a sudden nausea. Glancing around, he saw he wasn't the only one: people up and down the street were grimacing and holding their heads. “Come on, Amy, think!” Will urged her again. “He’s hurting and he’s not going to last. Anything nearby. You’re the only one who knows.”
"There's a park. Let me think."
A moment later, David nodded almost imperceptibly, clamping his eyes shut to concentrate harder. The aeroplane began to move unnaturally across the sky, floating silently away over the roofs of the nearby buildings, its movement jerking as David shuddered. A faint golden aura emanated from his entire body and wisps of energy curled away like smoke. His breathing ragged, he pumped his fists to keep himself steady. Briefly hugging Amy in gratitude, Will hopped over to his friend and, positioning himself squarely in front of him, cupped his cheeks in his hands. David's eyes popped open, and their radiance was blinding. Groaning deep in his throat, he murmured, “Will...”
“I’m here, David. I'm here. Use me if you can."
A faint, appreciative smile curved David’s lips. A massive weight landed on Will’s mind, bright bolts of lightning flashing across his vision, and he cried out, staggering a step then locking his knees to stay on his feet. As a reflex, he pushed hard against the oppression, and he knew immediately it was the right thing to do as David’s approval suffused his mind, and he resolutely lent what little power he had to support his friend’s efforts. Jagged images shot through his head: as the plane floated to the park, David was scanning through the eyes of spectators to guide the plane safely, and his increasingly uncontrolled psyche was bleeding into Will. Sudden flashes of panic from the plane's passengers threatened to force him to turn and run. However, as he pieced together David’s scattered thoughts, he watched the plane touch down heavily in Amy’s suggested park. A wave of contrition washed over him as a wingtip smashed into the roof of a house on the adjacent road. He then travelled with David as he checked the safety of the passengers briefly: a flood of blended panic, disbelief, and relief blossomed in his breast as they surveyed the mood in the cabin, but no casualties, at least, except the cardiac arrest victims themselves. As soon as he assured himself the plane was safe, David let out an anguished scream, grabbing at his head and crumpling against Will's chest. The golden aura around him evaporated.
“Will?” David gasped, the light in his eyes sparking and flashing erratically.
Panting heavily with relief as the pressure on his mind vanished, Will pulled his friend into a tight embrace to support them both, murmuring into his ear, "You're brilliant, mate. You saved them all."
With golden tears dropping down his cheeks, David collapsed. Will steadied him, sitting him down on the pavement and cradling his limp body against his chest. “Shush now. It’s okay,” he soothed him quietly, stroking his head as it lay on his shoulder.
Ben was the first to shake off his shock. "What was that? What the bloody hell was that?"
Trembling, Markus pointed at the man in Will's arms. "What is he?" His words squeaked an octave higher than normal.
"A hero," Amy answered before Will could. She was terrified, too, peeking out from behind Ben, but she could see past it. "We shouldn't let him lie here on the sidewalk. Can we get him back to the hotel?"
"Yes," Will agreed, "back to the hotel. He's going to be out for a while, if he..." Will gulped, not wanting to finish the sentence. Laying a hand on David's neck, he could feel the double heartbeat, weak but there; that was encouraging. Nodding, he looked up at Ben and Markus. "Can you help me?"
"I'm not touching him!" Markus declared. "And you are telling us right now how he did that!"
Will swallowed his anger before replying. "I will tell you as much as I can, when we get him back to the hotel. Not before. Now help me!"
Ben and Amy immediately moved to help carry the unconscious man, and the three of them slowly moved toward the hotel with their burden, Markus trailing behind them.