Series: Altered History
Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T/M (dark Doctor, character death, extreme danger)
Summary: Eight does not want to answer a mysterious – and diverted – call to come to The Library, but Donna won't let him shirk his duty. Yet the dangers there echo ones from the past, and the Doctor has never been so close to sinking into his darkest elements. Never mind the time stalker he's barely missed meeting before. Or did he?
Disclaimer: Utterly not mine. Just talking things from canon, mixing in Big Finish stories, and a healthy dose of my imagination.
Dedication: cassikat, for getting me interested in the Eighth Doctor in the first place. tardis_mole for being an awesome beta. And bas_math_girl for encouraging me to continue the series and keep posting.
Author's Note: Started during NaNoWriMo when I suddenly found “Echos on Ood Sphere” finishing two chapters sooner than I expected (leaving one flashback bit out in the original draft), and to keep me going. I had to figure out on the fly what else I needed to write, and figured out later where the ideas would fit.
Once again, please make sure you've read the earlier installments: The Runaway Bride, Prophecies and Pompeii, and Echos on Ood Sphere. Otherwise you'll have no context for why Donna is travelling with Eight.
One other challenge for me was to ensure that I was not going overboard in my treatment of River Song. In full disclosure, she has rubbed me the wrong way since the first time I watched the Library episodes. I've made efforts in writing to make myself like her more, and I find that at a fundamental level she is someone I would not want to know or have in my life. (Even with the occasional instances where I almost want to root for her.) In this story I also hit upon what I feel is the biggest reason to not trust her, but... to quote her, “Spoilers”. Keep reading to find out. I have made some effort to include Big Finish info, but even that adds to the reasons I cannot like River. (Hey, no one will like every Doctor Who character. We can make an effort to accept that they exist, and that may be the best anyone can ask of us.)
And as always, a big thank you to tardis-mole for beta reading. You keep my historical info on track, and help me weed out those Americanisms that stand out like Six's coat in a sea of... any color. Never mind stop me when I need to be stopped on some tangent.
Altered History: Time Trials
Started November 3, 2018
Finished December 27, 2018
Chapter Two: Locum Doctor House Call
Planet Unpronounceable in English
The Distant Future
The Doctor entered the TARDIS, lips tightly pursed and his steps louder than usual. He closed the doors himself, not waiting for the TARDIS to do anything for him.
Once done, he leaned against them and sighed aloud. “Who is that person who keeps following me? I know I've seen them before, but why can't I remember? I think it's a woman, but how can I be certain? Did she do something to me? I should be able to remember someone like her, so why can't I? There are only a few things that could interfere with a Time Lord's memories, and if she has one of them then I have to find a way to stop her before she can try it again.”
He drew out his scanner and smiled grimly. “At least I got her scanned from a distance. Human, and yet something is inconsistent with typical Humans – even accounting for time travel. Which she must be. She must be masking herself somehow. Hmm...”
On a hunch, he hurried to the screen and hooked the scanner to the readings. “Come on, Old Girl. Am I right? Have I seen her before?”
The TARDIS read the scans and compared with her databanks compiled from their numerous adventures. It took a few minutes, which felt like a lifetime even to him, but she produced something that answered his questions.
He groaned. “Whoever she is, she's somehow met each of me who's existed before? But what did she do? Why can't you show me? And what is she?!”
The chimes switched from high to low, sounding more like what Human ears might register as speech than anything she had ever produced before.
The Doctor pushed away from the panels. “Looks like a certain someone doesn't want me to know. Might even be connected. Or perhaps because my life doesn't run linear to the universe, I effectively haven't met her yet and the memories won't arrive in my psyche until after the first event in linear time.” He took a deep breath. “Well, I know things I didn't before. That means I'm on the alert.”
Something caught his attention in the corner of his eye. It looked like movement. He turned and stilled. “Who the hell are you two?!”
Indeed, two females in Time Lord robes stood before him several meters away. Both seemed young, like they were just out of the Academy or perhaps in their final years. The one on the left had wavy ginger locks past her shoulders, and blue eyes that seemed to sparkle with golden energy in the light. The other, now she seemed a bit more familiar but in the echo way that kept hitting him every few adventures. Dark hair and a face that – while not quite right – reminded him of his Fifth incarnation.
“You are needed on Earth,” said the ginger. “December 24th, 2005. This will take you there.” She drew out an oversized watch with a huge strap and held it toward him.
The Doctor eyed it with narrowed eyes. “What is that?”
“A Vortex Manipulator. It's been invented in your time, but you missed the memo.”
Her word choices made his brows tighten. 'Memo' was not a word a Time Lady used, even if she had been around Humans. “Why not use my ship?”
“Because another version of her is already there,” answered the dark-haired girl. “Neither she nor the Doctor is well, and you must be the one to help.”
“Because that is what Ohila warned us about,” she continued.
“Okay... I suppose that must be taken seriously. Do you have any proof?”
“That wouldn't qualify as spoilers?” asked the ginger.
He groaned. “Yes, yes, yes. I can tell that you're from the future. Please, I just ran into-”
The dark-haired girl nodded. “Someone your instincts are right to distrust. Shame, because she had potential. Best that the High Council never got their hands on her, I suppose. Especially during what could have been the Time War.”
The ginger turned a glare on her companion, who shrank. It was clear who was in charge of the two.
The Doctor had enough. “Do you both mind? I'm waiting.”
“One of those times from the old timeline happened, and now our Doctor is in a danger that we dare not approach as we were told you were there instead. Ohila instructed us to prepare for this day, and give you this,” the ginger continued. “Please, take it. I programmed the coordinates.”
“Will I be allowed to keep it?”
“Not yet. It has to return to our Doctor's time,” the dark-haired girl explained. “And you'll need the items in here.”
His eyes widened as she pulled out a bag and placed in on the floor. Her companion placed the Manipulator on top as he asked, “A medical bag?”
“Trust us: you will want these,” the ginger said, straightening. “And please, do keep your instincts in check. A certain someone has to live or some of your future won't quite proceed correctly.”
Then they both vanished.
The Doctor glanced at the controls. “They were... here and yet not here. They projected their minds here, and were able to transmat the items through the Vortex. Impressive in someone so young, and yet for two at once that is unheard of. A mystery that I have no time to solve, because I now sense that something is very wrong.”
He quickly set the TARDIS down on an empty planet, with no meteor activity or any signs of potential life. He promptly detached the portable scanner. “There, that will keep you safe. Let's see what they want me to do.”
Once he reached the bag, he picked up the Manipulator and checked inside the bag. “Well, the items look right for what my apparent cover will be,” he noted as he found some ID badges for the era. “UNIT advisor badge? Oh, this won't be good. Well, there's nothing for it.”
He put on Manipulator on his wrist, picked up the bag, and made sure his sonic was in his pocket – along with his usual scanner. With that confirmed, he activated the obvious button and vanished.
The Doctor reappeared behind some trees, out of the sight of any possible watchers. He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths. “Oh, that's only a bit better than a Time Ring. At least this has some scanning ability in it.”
He drew out his sonic and scanned the area. “Okay, East London. And there's a sign that says 'Powell Estates'. So why here? And where is the Old Girl?”
Soon he found her, around a corner and standing all alone in what seemed like a courtyard of sorts. He ran to the doors and touched the outside. “Yes, it's his TARDIS. I recognize those marks. Why are you so quiet, Old Girl?”
He tried his key, and was shocked that the lock morphed enough to let him in. The drastic difference from his own TARDIS' design still unsettled him, but something else caught his attention quickly. “What is this?! Your panel's damaged! Someone ripped you open. Oh, no, no, no! Please don't tell me it's who I think it is!”
His sonic alerted him. “Someone's approaching. Oh! He'll have answers!”
He rushed outside and closed the doors, knowing that they would lock behind him. Sure enough, the young man running up was very familiar. Enough that the Doctor managed a small smile. “Mickey Smith, hello. Do you know where the Doctor is?”
Mickey slowed down to a stop in front of him. “Um, yeah. He's in Jackie's place, unconscious.”
“Oh, that is not good. Take me to him. I can help.”
Mickey started in a jog, and the Doctor easily kept up. “I have to ask,” said the young Human. “He said that his ship got stuck on a certain setting and he liked it. If yours is also in the same design on the outside... are you two related?”
The Doctor let out a little laugh as he thought about what he could say. The fewer who knew who he was, the better. But he sensed something about Mickey Smith that told him that he needed the chance to shine, and had been treated poorly by Rose. So perhaps a little more honesty was called for. Especially since the young man had the sense to keep his voice low. “Well, yes. You can't tell Rose any of this, not until the Doctor you know says it's in his interest for her to know, but it's more than that. He's a future version of me.”
Mickey stumbled over his feet and stared at him. “You mean you do change bodies within the same spot?”
That made the Doctor stop to face him. “How do you know that? I know that Rose didn't hear that bit from Clive.”
“No, she didn't. But I looked him up when she was off with the Doctor. I told him I wanted answers about who she had gone off with, and although he didn't have anything left he told me what he remembered. Given that the man who came out with Rose looks taller and younger, I guess you are phoenixes.”
“Of a sort. It's not something we speak of in public,” the Doctor hedged. “But you're a smart person, so I'll explain. It's called regeneration. If the future me is unconscious, and he must be if the TARDIS is that quiet, it must have been a bad one. Where exactly is he?”
“Um... Rose pressed us into taking him into her room.”
Eight's eyes went huge and his face paled. “Take me there now!”
Luckily Mickey led him right up a flight of stairs and to a door, which he unlocked immediately as he had the key out. The Doctor pushed past him and thundered inside.
“What's going on, Mickey?” cried an unfamiliar woman's voice, just beating the source to his sight. Her blonde hair and something subtle in her face told who she was. She held a pair of pyjamas in her arms.
“Jackie Tyler?” Eight demanded.
“Yes. Who are you?” she asked, taken aback and yet snappish.
He held out the badge he thought would work best, the UNIT badge. “You have a person in your place I need to treat immediately. Where is he?”
Her eyes went huge. “Okay, this way.” She led him promptly to a closed door.
Eight pushed past her and opened the door. What he saw made him shout, “Hands off!”
Rose sprung away from the unmoving male on the bed. Her hands had been drawing his jumper up his chest, and the leather jacket was on a side dresser. “What are you doing here?!”
“Step away from the patient,” Eight insisted, walking firmly into the room.
“He's my friend-” she started, stepping between him and the bed.
“And he's that way because of something you did, I assume. I saw the state of the TARDIS. He's ill and she's ill with him. You know nothing of treating a Time Lord,” he whispered loudly.
“Rose, you know him?” asked Jackie.
“He saved us from that place under the London Eye,” Mickey interjected. “Treated me nicely. And the Doctor trusted him. That's enough for me.”
“Mum, he's like the Doctor in one way,” Rose insisted.
“I'm also his physician,” Eight interrupted.
“You are?” Jackie said, intrigued. “So you know how to help him?”
“You're a physician?” Rose scoffed.
Eight drew out the credentials. “Read it and weep. John Smith, Locum Doctor. And if that isn't enough...” He held out the other badge. “See this? This says I'm a UNIT advisor and have the right to call for help. Get in my way and I will have him taken away from here where he can recover in peace.”
Rose trembled but did not move. “I'm not leaving him.”
“You're an underage child still, thanks to his taking you away. That's how UNIT will see it, and they take a dim view of anyone who assaults their operatives.”
“Rose!” Jackie scolded. “I told you to leave it to Mickey.”
“Those clothes aren't suited for him anymore,” Rose protested. “I'm doing him a favour!”
“One he and his kind would not welcome. Now, Rose Tyler, for once in your life shut up and listen to an adult!”
The Doctor knew he was playing with fire, but he was certain of one thing: this was not the time that the Moment would strike. There was no way that his future self would have put his life on the line if he had not believed he had neuralized the threat for the time being. And he knew that striking now would not fit within the Time Demon's plans.
Rose's mouth dropped and her eyes went enormous. Her jaw moved, but no sound came from her lips.
Jackie sighed and put down the clothes. “Can I borrow you for a bit? That's the quietest she's been since she turned 16.”
Eight ignored the intrigue in her voice. “I'll be remaining with him. So... Mickey, take Rose out shopping. I need the following items,” he said, drawing out a pad of paper and quickly jotting things down.
Mickey accepted it, and blinked.
“Rose, do not return without them,” Eight warned as he also handed Mickey some money hidden in the bag. “What are you waiting for? I have a patient to examine and no one can be present!”
Rose closed her mouth, glaring at him but she stomped out of the room, grabbing her coat from the back of the door. “Come on, Mickey!” she snapped as she exited.
“Sorry,” Eight whispered to Mickey, aware that the young man would be dealing with a viper. And that they would discover that at least one item was not yet available. It was meant as a diversion to keep her away until Eleven could be stabilized.
Mickey shrugged. “Been here before,” he muttered before he followed her. He was already dressed for the cold weather outside, after all.
Once he heard both voices leave and the door close, he drew out the medical probe. “Mrs. Tyler, please leave the room.”
“Jackie, please. And just answer me this: did Rose really cause this to happen to him?”
Eight looked at her. “How much do you know about what your daughter has been doing?”
“The Doctor says he's a time traveler, an alien,” Jackie said, quietly. “I wasn't happy with her disappearing for a year, but it seems that wasn't his intention. He told me he knows what it's like being a parent, and promised to do whatever he could to help Rose grow up. I've tried, but I... I lost my husband when Rose was a baby. My friends said I was being too nice to her, trying to make up for not having a dad. That I molly-coddled her after Jimmy Stone hurt her, and overcompensated to the point of allowing her to continue playing the victim.” She sniffled. “Suppose they were right.”
“Not every child who endures that turns out the way Rose has,” Eight said, stopping her mid-thought. “The past has happened, but you can show that you've had enough.”
“Easier said than done. Staying here and having a job, or flying about the universe and time? She hardly calls. I don't think she respects me anymore.” She sniffled. “If she ever did.”
Eight sighed, feeling so sorry for her. “Well, Jackie, I think you're owed some answers. While I don't know for sure what happened after the TARDIS was torn open, I do know that the ship is injured. She and the Doctor are closely bound together. That's how our kind work when we travel like this. She's injured, I'm injured. At least there's not a connection through time itself,” he added on a mutter.
“Wait... Mickey mentioned meeting you. He said... that he thought you two were more closely connected than just the same species. If the Doctor I knew could change into this... then who are you to him?”
He eyed her for a minute while he ran the medical probe over his future self. He had already noted the younger features and the overall appearance, and only knew that he had a Time Crash with him at some point in the past. “An earlier version. Which makes me being here problematic. Although I tend to forget details surrounding when I meet a future me. And as I told Mickey, you can't tell Rose any of this until the me lying there says he's ready for her to know.”
Jackie collapsed into a nearby chair. “Really? So... can you touch him?”
“Ah, you're thinking of a science fiction. No, different mes can touch. But the same me? No. Someone cannot touch their earlier or future self of the same regeneration.” He looked at the readings. “Weakness in the back, wrist missing some tendons, brainwaves disrupted but both hearts working.”
“Both hearts?!” she squawked, just barely keeping quiet. “Anything else you got two of?!”
He blinked at her as he put away the probe. “Is there some joke in that?”
Then the Doctor in the bed inhaled deeply, and exhaled a cloud of air. The golden midst floated through the ceiling and out of sight.
Eight paled. “Oh, I hope no other species sees that. With the TARDIS effectively out of commission Earth could be in deep trouble if danger comes.”
Chapter Three: Horrible Histories