Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T (violence, angst-ridden Doctor)
Summary: On another major journey the Doctor and Donna land on a planet of beings aware of him, but he doesn't know them. The danger compels him to reveal more about the past he is still fighting against, how he fears the Moment is still haunting him. And Donna sees reason to share his worries.
Disclaimer: Imagine what might have been had the Movie turned into a series as originally intended. What else could have been? So... still not mine by a long shot.
Dedication: cassikat, who kept pressing me to write more of this series. Thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo, I got started on this story when the others stalled hard.
Author's Notes: Now the series starts providing more answers about the differences the Eighth Doctor's still being alive has caused, and the effects on events from other Doctors' eras. And it's clearly leading toward more. Please, go back and read the first two stories, The Runaway Bride and Prophecies and Pompeii, before reading this one.
And cassikat? Sorry the rest isn't ready. Life and getting sick didn't help things. Thankfully, tardis_mole was kind enough to make the time to ensure this first part was.
Also posting in honor of all of my December-born friends, including dtstrainers and serenityslady. Hope y'all enjoy this, and I look forward to seeing you both at Gallifrey One. (It's been too long.)
Update Note: I suppose it's worth mentioning that some of the lines in the first chapter were influenced by both the Big Finish audio “Max Warp” and the BBC documentary “The Petrol Age”. The former is an Eight and Lucie adventure set on a space station in the future, and involves both spaceships and a mystery. (Worth finding!) The latter is a four-part series all about British automotive history, and hosted by Paul McGann. I will admit that I originally watched it out of an idle curiosity about the history of cars and had discovered it via a YouTube search for stuff PM was in. While he definitely made it more enjoyable to watch and listen to, I think I would've still found it interesting with a different host; there's a lot of interesting history surrounding the evolution of the car.
And no, you won't find the full thing on YouTube anymore. I enjoyed it so much I may buy a copy. While Amazon Prime members can stream it, it isn't shown in the order I saw on YouTube, the order it was aired in. Oh, and the closed captioning is off. As in comically off.
Altered History: Echos on Oodsphere
Started April 24, 2017
Story Unfinished as of Start of Posting
Chapter Updated July 8, 2018
Chapter One: Signs of a Bumpy Ride
Time and Date Impossible to Determine – Even by the Time Lords
“Are all random journeys this insane?! It's like an out of control roller coaster or Waltzer!”
The Doctor was not unused to hearing his companions react wildly to time eddies creating a difficult journey. Yet Donna was the first to make that comparison. And he was having as much trouble holding on to the controls as she was.
“We're nearly through!” he promised. “It's a little time eddy.”
“Little?!” she squawked.
“All right,” he quickly conceded, sensing potential consequences if he didn't placate her a bit. “Not so little. More towards medium-”
She let out a loud squawk of disgust. “You better not be understating, Spaceman! Someone could get sick from this!”
He winced. “I've seen everything from excitement on some companions' faces to becoming space-sick. Lucie nearly gave a spectacular demonstration of that once.”
Suddenly they landed. It was not a hard landing, but enough of a jolt that they stumbled with the effort to keep on their feet.
Still, it was a relief that he could stand without holding on to something. “Okay, I set the controls to random before we started. So we're on the start of our mystery tour. Outside that door could be any planet, anywhere, anywhen in the whole wide…. Donna, are you alright?” he added, his excitement draining instantly in reaction to her pale and wild-eyed fright.
“Terrified,” she admitted, turning to look at him. “I mean history’s one thing, but an unknown alien planet?!”
“You're not thinking of going home, are you?” he asked, a bit uneasy at the thought. “Not after all those promises that you'd be there?”
She scoffed, pointing at him in warning. “Don't. If I couldn't be scared off after you put the fear of God in my mum and then I nearly got buried alive in Pompeii after nearly being stabbed to death by twisted soothsayers, then this won't.”
No, a woman who could face down the entire Gallifreyan senate without flinching – and be entirely in the right – was not easily scared off. Only Donna could have done that. Or would have. He smiled gently as he walked over to her side. “Donna, I know what it’s like. Everything you’re feeling right now. The fear, the joy, the wonder, and all those other feelings that pop up. I get all of that!”
Her mouth slackened. “Seriously?! After all this time? You're not taking the mickey of me, even after all those promises that you would avoid lying to me?”
He grinned impishly. “Why do you think I keep travelling the universe and time like I do? And lying to you? That's asking for another slap, isn't it?”
She squealed. “Oh! All right then, you and me both!” She hurried to the door, and paused to turn around to look at him. “This is barmy! I was born in Chiswick. I've only ever done package holidays. And now I’m here.”
He laughed as he put his satchel over his shoulder. “And how would you describe it, Donna?” he asked, a hint of delighted laughter in his tone as he ran a last check of the outside.
“This is so… I mean it’s…. I don’t know, it’s all sort of, I don’t know what the word is!” With that she opened the door and exited. And promptly stopped still as her body registered the snowy surroundings. “I’ve got the word. Freezing!”
“Donna!” the Doctor cried as he rushed out after her. “It's quite cold out. You should-”
She shoved him further out. “Just for not checking on the temperature you can wait out here while I get my coat!”
“Well, well, well, in my defense-”
But Donna had closed the door. Sure, he had a key and could easily go inside. But he wasn't interested in risking the Oncoming Slap again.
“-you were in a big hurry. Come on, Old Girl,” he groaned aloud. “You couldn't tell me the temperature before and save me the embarrassment of looking like I don't care in front of the one companion who would have no compunction over slapping me if I make a huge mistake?”
The TARDIS chimed, evoking the tone of angelic singing.
He fought back a growl and turned to look out over the surroundings, glaring off in the distance. “That innocent whistling routine does not fool me. You pick now to be temperamental?”
The door opened. “Who's temperamental?” Donna asked.
The Doctor turned and stopped. He knew he had hardly seen any of her clothing collection and rarely noted what his companions chose for themselves unless it was absolutely unsuitable for the historical period, but he blinked at the sight of Donna's coat. He could not figure out her sense of style. Or any Earth woman's style, for that matter. “Well, Donna Noble, citizen of the Earth, are you better now for standing on a different planet?”
“Can you hear anything inside that?” he asked, motioning at the lined hood.
“Pardon?” she answered, holding her hand up near her ear with a hint of a smile.
He burst into laughter, unable to keep up the pretense. “May I assume that I'm forgiven?”
She grinned. “This time, Spaceman.”
“All right, as I was saying, citizen of the Earth-”
He cut himself off as they heard a rocket. Then a large spaceship loomed overhead, moving past them.
Once it was far enough that they did not need to yell to be heard, Donna grinned at him. “A rocket! Blimey, a real, proper rocket! You've got a blue box, he's got a flipping Ferarri! Come on, let's go and see where it's going!” she cried as she hurried after it.
“A Ferrari?!” he exclaimed, hearing echoes of Lucie's teasing when they landed during a space exhibition. “What's that supposed to mean?”
Donna giggled at his tone as he caught up with her. “Oh, Doctor! You really are too easy to wind up! I merely mean that his looks impressive whereas the TARDIS could be easily underrated.”
He scoffed, hands in his pockets and not quite letting go of the sting he felt. “You do realize that many people who have ships that big are compensating for something?”
If Lucie could hear him now. She would be laughing herself sick over him saying something she was far more likely to say.
She snorted. “Seen it with blokes with their sports cars. So some things don't change even across time and space, eh? Your own people are guilty of it. Pretending to be wiser than they really are in their case.”
He thought back to that space exhibition with Lucie, and sighed. “Well, more of them might be about mid-life crises, as Lucie once said. Although I can't argue the point about my people.”
Donna looked at him as they walked through the snow, silent as she pondered his words and tone. “Given how you last spoke of Lucie without the distraction of something else happening at the same time, the memory must be a good one.”
His eyes whipped to meet hers. “What do you mean?”
This time when she touched his arm she maintained the contact for several seconds as she spoke. She had noticed that touch seemed to focus him on the present time. “Every other time you've mentioned her, it was either while we were in the middle of something and so you were a bit distracted by frustration or something else. Or you were full of remembered grief. There you almost seemed happy despite still missing her. I assume she teased you as much as I do?”
A smile slowly cracked his tense face, and the relaxing effect of her words and touch radiated through his body. “She did. I wasn't used to a teenager on the cusp of adulthood challenging me as she liked to. And yes, she set the bar very high. You're up there with her, even after only a linear month.”
Donna tried to not let on how pleased the comparison made her; praise from him meant something. “Must not have been around many women from my time-frame, then. How long has it been since...?”
The Doctor had to give her a silent look of thanks for not saying the full sentence. “Almost 50 years, by your measure of time. Some days the pain is as strong as it was when it happened.”
“That's grief. It comes and goes in waves. Eventually we learn to cope and adjust, although some refuse to think it'll happen. It never goes away completely, and yet we can be happy again. However unlikely it seems. I still miss my gran and my dad's parents, but it's no reason to let it consume my life. They wouldn't have wanted that for me, and I doubt Lucie would want you to keep mourning her forever.”
His eyes widened as his gaze returned to in front of him.
Donna waited a few seconds to let that sink in before she continued their walking chat. “So... tell me about this memory. What did she say or do?”
He chuckled, coming out of the little shock she gave him. “Well, she did accuse me of being a rubbish date when I landed us amongst 'boys with toys', as she put it. Took almost every chance to prod me about my interest in boosters or my saying that we were looking at the latest and greatest in space-ship designs.”
“I wonder what you'd be like at a car show,” Donna mused. “I can see you wanting to be like those early car drivers, wearing piloting goggles as you tried breaking the speed record.”
He laughed, neither confirming nor denying it.
“Are you more of a classic cars or vintage-?”
She cut herself off when the Doctor suddenly stopped and looked around with big eyes. He seemed unfocused, like he was placing something that hit him right then. All traces of growing joy had vanished in an instant.
“Do you hear that?” he asked, quiet yet urgent. “Donna, take your hood down!”
Donna drew up next to him and lowered her hood. “What? I don't hear anything.”
“An erie music, like a song. It's coming from that way,” he said, leading her.
She followed him for a bit, keeping up until he suddenly sped up. “Here!” he cried, kneeling before an alien unlike anything Donna ever imagined. The head looked almost like a pale, pink-like version of the characterizations of Martians in movies, except for where the mouth ought to be. She saw little tentacles instead, and an opaque ball was attached by a wire to the grey suit covering the partly snow-buried being.
“What is that?” Donna blurted out, holding back in disgusted shock.
“Donna, he's dying,” he scolded her as he ran the medical probe over the being. “Although I don't know what he is. I've never met his species before.”
“Sorry,” she said, kneeling next to the being. “Can you help him?”
“I'm trying! I don't know where the heart is. I don't know if he's got a heart. This scanner isn't giving me the information I need! Talk to him, keep him going.”
They both started as they noticed the globe in his hand glow as he spoke, but the Doctor was the one who spoke. “Yes, I'm a doctor of sorts.”
“Yes, just what you need, a doctor. Couldn't be better, hey?” Donna said.
The being moved the hand holding the globe. “No. You are the Doctor.”
“You know who I am?” he asked, eyes widening. “Who are you? What is your species?”
“I am an Ood. Designated Ood Delta 50.”
Donna picked up the globe, talking into it like a microphone. “My name's Donna.”
“I don't think you need to do that, Donna,” the Doctor said absently, trying to solve the new mystery while placing what he had heard about the Ood. “You've been shot.”
“Doctor, the circle...”
“No, don't try to talk,” Donna urged.
“The circle must be broken,” Delta 50 said, insistent.
The Doctor was baffled. “Circle? What do you mean? Delta 50, what circle?”
There was no answer. The Ood just looked right at him, blinking slowly.
“Delta 50? What circle?”
The Ood suddenly sat up, roaring as his eyes glowed red.
“Get back!” the Doctor shouted, dragging Donna away and getting between her and the Ood. But then Delta Ood 50 collapsed, the red leaving his eyes completely as he stilled.
“He's gone,” Donna breathed. She gently pushed her way in front of the Doctor.
“Careful, Donna. I don't know what caused that, but what just happened cannot be good,” the Doctor insisted.
But Donna just knelt beside the Ood, stroking his head. “There you are, sweetheart. We were too late.”
He watched in awe as she posed the Ood's hands in a more formal gesture. Her practiced manner was enough to make him wonder how recent her other grandparents' deaths had been, or if she had lost siblings. This was a woman almost as practiced in losing people as he was, if he wasn't exaggerating in his mind.
Donna looked up at him. “What do we do, do we bury him?”
“The snow will take care of that,” he gently told her, trying to not be moved by the sorrow in her eyes. Was that a hint of shame over her earlier reaction? “Perhaps we'll locate his people and they can come for him.”
She had to accept that. Donna paused a few extra seconds for a silent prayer for the Ood before standing.
“Come on,” he whispered, holding out his hand. He was not surprised that she took it readily. It was rather cold for someone of her body temperature and he expected she would pull it free to remain warm inside her coat pocket, like the other was doing.
She held his hand for at least two minutes more than he expected, her feet not moving from her vigil over the Ood. Yet she was absolutely silent, something he could only name one or two times she was like that around him.
He sighed when she finally retreated her hand for the warmth of her coat. Even his hands sought refuge from the cold. “It doesn't seem natural for you to be this quiet,” he reflected aloud, tucking his own hand in for warmth.
Donna looked up at him. “Why did his eyes go all red? And who could have done that, shot him?”
He might have finally found a companion who could change the subject as readily as he could, and yet wouldn't let him push aside their own concerns. Aloud, all he said was, “I suppose we've found why the TARDIS chose here as our random destination.”
“If she chose it, then how is it random?”
“Seemingly random until we discovered what trouble she noticed,” he rephrased.
“Well caught, Doctor. So what are these Ood when they're at home? Or is this one species you know little about?”
“I've heard references to them, but I suspect the sources were biased. Mildly telepathic species. That was the song I heard. His mind was calling out for help.”
“I couldn't hear anything. Guess I'm clearly not telepathic.”
“Few Humans naturally are.”
“So he sang as he was dying. How do the Ood and Humans cross paths?”
“I don't remember. Even if I did, I'm not sure I would have interpreted the sources correctly. History is written through two biases, the writer and the writer's culture, and interpreted through two more, your culture and your own.”
“It's also written by the victor, and places blame on the vanquished. So much of the history being taught is still rife with those mistakes. I doubt your people are immune to it. Although... given how different you are from your people, both to hear you tell it and from what little I saw of Gallifrey, I imagine yours would be a bit unusual. You still need to correct the record so they acknowledge you for being Lord President.”
He had to smile at the dryness of her remark, even as he hid the cringe at the thought of fighting to have his three different faces preserved in marble. “You might be giving me more credit than I deserve. As you've noticed I can miss the details that make up the big picture.”
“But you see the big picture and potential consequences. So... what consequences are we facing today?”
He shrugged. “I don't know. And I suppose we're here to find out. Usually when you see something like that red eyed reaction, there's some outside force acting, like a stronger mind powerful enough to take them over.”
“Then we're keeping toward where that rocket went?”
“Yes. Maybe then we'll find out why he seemed possessed at the end there. I hope this isn't another time I have to worry about something influencing things in my path.”
“You mean... that weapon you defeated? But how could she still cause trouble?”
“Very easily. She already has.”
Donna stopped short. “What?!”
Chapter Two: Crashing Into the Future