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.
Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six
Altered History: Time Trials
Started November 3, 2018
Finished December 27, 2018
Chapter Seven: The Building Dangers
From Chapter Four:
“What?” Jackie said, muting the TV. “You recognise that creature?”
“Another alien. You mentioned the 'daddy', Mickey? Well, you just saw one of them.”
“What are they?” Mickey asked before anyone else could.
“Sycorax. A warrior species from the outer reaches of the Sol System. If they're here then they mean to conquer the Earth. And we're down some key defences.”
He would not admit his fears then. Earth was screwed.
December 25, 2005
Mickey promptly hurried to sit down at a table and keep at finding information. He had plenty of motivation after hearing Eight's warning. Not that he knew that he should be calling him that.
Rose and Jackie remained silent, ignoring the telly to not look at the images running constantly on the screen. They looked at Eight in horror.
“So... what can we do?” asked Jackie. “Can you use the TARDIS at all?”
Eight took a deep breath. “I have some access, but with the Doctor so ill the TARDIS is also feeling it. So whatever made him that ill is why we and the planet are in enormous trouble. Rose, know anything about what caused it?”
He was playing with fire, but he hoped to make her realize that whatever she did was wrong. If she was merely a stroppy teenager then he would make the attempt to get through to her. As little as he wanted to.
Rose cringed. “You're blaming me?!”
“You're the only one here who knows what caused the Doctor's regeneration. It might help me help him. You don't want him to remain like this, do you?”
Luckily for her, Mickey spoke. “Rose, Dr. Smith. Take a look. I've got access to the military.”
Eight accepted the interrupting, since it was information he needed. He walked to look over Mickey's shoulder. He could mostly ignore Rose following, although he noted that she kept to the other side of Mickey.
“They're tracking a spaceship,” Mickey continued. “It's big, it's fast, and it's coming this way.”
“Coming for what, though? The Doctor?” she asked.
“I don't know. Maybe it's coming for all of us.” As he spoke, Mickey obtained a clear image of four of the aliens. “You called them the what?”
“Sycorax,” Eight repeated.
“How dangerous are they?”
“They like to claim worlds. Clearly they saw the probe or the Doctor's energy. Perhaps they detected the numerous telly and radio signals this planet gives off.”
“So what kind of danger?” Rose asked, finally looking at Eight.
“Enslaving the planet.”
That rendered Rose silent. She stepped away and sat down.
Jackie sighed and walked to Rose's room. “Someone needs to stay with him, and I don't want to keep watching that.”
“Thank you, Jackie. Keep track of what they're doing, Mickey,” Eight ordered. “If they do anything or any new information comes, get my attention. I'll think of something we can do.”
But suddenly they heard a harsh language coming from the aliens. Whatever was happening on UNIT's end, Eight did not detect any attempts at a translation there.
Rose straightened at the sound at what seemed like weird Klingon to her. “I don't understand what they're saying. The TARDIS translates alien languages inside my head, all the time, wherever I am.”
Mickey frowned. “So, why isn't it doing it now?”
“Because the Doctor is part of the circuit,” Eight explained. “The TARDIS doesn't work correctly if he's ill.” He wasn't about to admit that he understood every word, and that none of it was good news.
“So he's... he's broken,” Rose suggested.
“Ill. And from how you're reacting, I'd say you feel some guilt. Why?”
On the TV, they heard one of the news readers saying, “Despite claims of an alien hoax, it's been reported that NATO forces are on red alert.”
“Oh, come on, sweetheart,” they heard Jackie saying in the other room. “What do you need? What is it you need? Tell me.”
“Speaking strictly off the record, government sources are calling this our longest night,” said another reporter on location through the TV.
There was a sort of standoff between Rose and Eight for hours. She would not talk with him and he refused to let her come closer than the doorway of her room while Eleven lay almost motionless.
Jackie had fallen asleep by Eleven's bedside, and not been disturbed by Eight and Mickey discussing what the latter was finding on the computer.
At length, Rose finally sniffled. “The Doctor wouldn't do this. The old Doctor, the proper Doctor, he'd wake up. He'd save us.”
“Did you not hear what I said has happened to him?” Eight interrupted her. “He's suffering from regeneration sickness. It takes all sorts of forms, from amnesia to a coma. You're going to blame him for something that isn't his fault?”
Rose stiffened and glared at him. “And who are you to judge me?”
“Someone who's seen the symptoms before. Someone who can take care of him. Which is more than you have done. You've given up on him. Not exactly a friend, are you?”
“I'm not his friend!” Rose snapped, ignoring that it woke her mother. “I'm the woman he loves!”
Eight cringed, his face scrunching in disgust. “'Loves'? You think you love him, do you?”
“I know I do!”
While he could not pretend to be an expert on the subject, he knew enough to know he had her on one level there. “You're a teenager. You've hardly lived. How can you know how an alien loves? How can you be willing to commit yourself to someone more than old enough to sire many generations of your family? Where there's a great age difference there needs to be a common maturity level and common goals. Are you really willing to sacrifice yourself at an instant's notice because his duty to Time demands it? Is that really what you want?”
Mickey watched and listened to the screen, which was showing the latest attempts to communicate with the Sycorax. But his attention was being drawn away from the computer and to the train wreck he saw behind him. “Jackie, do you want me to get popcorn?”
“He's been a foster father, and a grandfather,” Eight carried on, barely letting Mickey finish and not letting either of the Tylers respond. “Some of them were your age. Now, why would you be different? Especially when you've given up on him? He has to know that you're that kind of person. He's not so easily fooled.”
Unless it was by a Time Demon that could meddle with his mind, his ship's directions, and his timeline. But he would not say that aloud.
Rose turned to Mickey and Jackie. “Are you two going to let him speak to me like that?”
“You deserved those words,” Jackie interrupted. “Every one of them.”
“Mum! You married young!”
“Don't you 'Mum' me! Your dad was much closer to my age when we married. This is hardly the same thing. I've seen friends who married much older men, and that limited their lives in so many ways. You hitch your future to a man who's so set in his ways that you have to accept them if you want to keep him. I don't want that for you. You could've had someone like Mickey, but after this you've ruined your chances with him. You've got used to getting what you want by playing 'victim' far too long. Well, I won't stand for it anymore!”
Rose's eyes watered. She looked at Mickey, who had a poker face and remained silent. He plainly thought it was about time that Jackie put her foot down.
Eight frowned suddenly. “Why were you offering to get popcorn, Mickey?”
“Oh, it's a saying. That whatever is happening is as good as a movie and you need popcorn to enjoy it with. A popcorn moment, we call it.” His glare at Rose said that Jackie was right, that he wouldn't take Rose back even if she begged him now.
The phrase confused Eight. Never mind unintentionally giving him bad flashbacks.
Suddenly outside the flat they heard a woman calling out, “What is wrong with you? Jason? Jason?!”
Puzzled, Eight rushed outside. Rose and Mickey followed him.
Rose recognized the woman. “Sandra?”
Sandra looked at them in desperation. “He won't listen. He's just walking. He won't stop walking! There's this sort of light thing. Jason? Stop it right now! Please, Jason, just stop.”
Eight, Rose and Mickey looked down and saw dozens of people walking through the estate.
“Where are they going?” asked Rose.
“So, a light appeared over them first,” Eight mused. His eyes widened. “Oh, dear.”
“What?” asked Mickey. “What does it mean?”
“At a guess, blood control that acts specifically on the consciousness and reasoning centres.”
“How's that possible?”
“If the probe had a sample of Human DNA then anyone with that blood type is vulnerable to this sort of control,” Eight explained. “The Sycorax are attempting to hold part of the population ransom to make the people of Earth do their bidding.”
“But where are those people going?” Rose re-asked.
Within minutes, it was obvious. They were all on the rooftops, inches away from jumping off.
Mickey paled. “What do we do?”
“Nothing,” Rose whispered. “There's no one to save us. Not anymore.”
“You have me,” Eight said firmly. “And it's time to use what we do have.”
They rushed inside the Tyler flat to find Jackie watching the telly. The Prime Minister, Harriet Jones, sat in a panelled room. Union flags were on either side, and a picture of Her Majesty was on the desk. Eight was the only one in the room who knew the lighting was fake, as there were no windows in the press/announcement offices to avoid snipers getting a chance shot in.
The woman looked completely tense as she spoke. “Ladies and gentlemen, if I may take a moment during this terrible time. It's hardly the Queen's speech. I'm afraid that's likely to be cancelled.” She paused to speak to an aide who stood off camera. “Did we ask about the royal family?”
The answer was not audible, but her expression said it all. “Oh. They're on the roof,” she said, just loud enough to be heard.
“Oh, this is not good,” muttered the Doctor.
Harriet tried for composure. “But, ladies and gentlemen, this crisis is unique. And I'm afraid to say, it might get much worse. I would ask you all to remain calm. But I have one request. Doctor, if you're out there, we need you. I don't know what to do. If you can hear me, Doctor. If anyone knows the Doctor, if anyone can find him, the situation has never been more desperate. Help us. Please, Doctor. Help us. God help us.”
Rose burst into tears. “What are we going to do?” she asked Eight. “The Doctor isn't able to help. You tell me he hasn't gone and left me. But thats' what it feels like to me, Doctor Smith. He's left us all.”
Jackie grabbed her into a hug, giving Eight a plea to not interfere. “It's all right. I'm sorry.”
Suddenly, all the glass in the windows shattered. Even some of the glass items inside the flat broke.
“What the hell?!” Mickey cried.
Eight led the others to look out the windows. They and everyone not possessed watched as a huge rock moved deliberately through the atmosphere. It came to a stop practically overhead, and covered a lot of the sky.
“That has to be almost as big as London,” Mickey said.
Eight made a quick decision. “Mickey, help me carry the Doctor to the TARDIS. Rose and Jackie, get some food for yourselves.”
“Do you think it'll help?” Mickey asked.
“The TARDIS is the only safe place on Earth. Especially for him.”
“What're we going to do in there?” Jackie asked.
“Hide?” Rose suggested.
Jackie gave her a sharp look. “Is that it?”
“Mum, look in the sky. There's a great, big, alien invasion and I don't know what to do, all right? I've travelled with him, and I've seen all that stuff, but when I'm stuck at home, I'm useless. Now, all we can do is run and hide, and I'm sorry.”
“You're only useless if you think of yourself as such,” Eight retorted. “You Humans should remember that before telling a disabled relative that. Now, come on, Mickey.”
It took a few minutes more than he liked, but Eight led them out. He and Mickey carried the Doctor down the stairs while Jackie and Rose each struggled with four carrier bags a-piece. When they reached the TARDIS Eight fumbled to get his key out without having to let go of Eleven.
“Here,” said Rose, getting to her own key first. “Mum, will you just leave the rest of that stuff and give us a hand?” she added as she unlocked the TARDIS.
“It's food! He said we need food,” Jackie protested as Rose held the doors open.
“And you may,” Eight said as he led them inside. As little as he liked Rose having a key he couldn't afford to argue it at present; it would mean having to tell her who he really was. Instead he rushed them inside. “Close the doors!” he called out once they were all inside.
Mickey sighed as they lay him on the grating, on the softest spot. “No chance you could fly this thing?” he asked Rose.
“Not anymore, no.”
The answer stunned Eight into silence.
Mickey frowned. “Well, you did it before.”
Rose shrugged. “I know, but it's sort of been wiped out of my head, like it's forbidden. Try that again and I think the Universe rips in half.”
“Ah, better not, then,” Mickey said.
“Do you mean to tell me that you're the one who tore the TARDIS panel open?!” Eight shouted.
Rose started, but stood up. “Well, there was this message that kept following me around. I saw him command it to open to regress a Slitheen into an egg. I figured it could also help me get back to him and save him.”
“Do you even know what you did?! He has his own people who could help him, who he could call on! That kind of power is not meant to be held even by a Time Lord! The TARDIS has safety measures to protect herself. And how the hell did it not kill you instantly?!”
If he had questioned it before, he was certain now that this girl was somehow connected to the Moment. If the energy, which he had to assume that Ten had drawn out of Rose in a way he did not want to know yet, had forced a regeneration on him, then there was no chance it wouldn't have killed a Human who forced it from the TARDIS. Had the TARDIS willingly shared her power then a Human could survive because the Old Girl would shield them from the full force of the Vortex energy. But it was obvious that it had not been shared willingly.
“I... I don't know,” Rose cried, tearing in the face of his anger.
Mickey decided he had to interrupt. “Okay, so us helping Rose was a bad idea. Doesn't tell me what we do now. Just sit here?”
“While I figure out what I can do,” Eight said. “Most of the TARDIS' functions depend on the Doctor being completely well. If nothing else convinces you that your actions were wrong, it's this denial of a key protector to the Earth. Maybe I can call on help from the Time Lords,” he added, turning to work the controls to the best of his ability. There was a chance the Old Girl would fight him on this, and he hoped she would. Else he might have to fake it to maintain his cover.
“Right, here we go. Nice cup of tea,” Jackie interjected, offering cups to Mickey and Rose. She then poured from a flask she brought.
Rose took a sip to distract herself. “Mmm, the solution to everything.”
“Now, stop your moaning. I'll get more food, we might need it.”
“It's not safe to go out,” Eight said, grunting as the ship vented steam at him. At least the Old Girl had some fight in her yet, and was helping him keep his cover.
But Jackie had already closed the doors behind her.
Eight groaned. “Humans,” he muttered, just barely loud enough to count as a whisper rather than a breath. He had to struggle to find controls that the TARDIS was willing to let him touch long enough to get the information he needed. But he was certain that intergalactic hyperlink communication was inoperable, which made contacting Gallifrey next to impossible. Not without contacting them in his time and exposing that he had left without their knowledge; that would put Ohila's life in danger.
Mickey let out a harsh laugh. “Tea. Like we're having a picnic while the world comes to an end. Very British. How does this thing work? If it picks up TV, maybe we could see what's going on out there. Maybe we've surrendered. What do you do to it?”
“I don't know,” Rose said. “It sort of tunes itself.”
“Let's see what I can pull up,” Eight said, switching his focus to the scanner. “It seems to be working to an extent.”
Rose kept away as Mickey joined Eight. “How can you trust him, Mickey?”
“Because he clearly knows what he's doing,” Mickey answered. “And he's actually treating me with respect, thank you.”
Eight frowned at a new reading. “That's odd.”
“Maybe it's a distress signal?” asked Mickey.
“A fat lot of good that's going to do,” Rose muttered.
Mickey fixed a hard look on her. “Are you going to be a misery all the time?”
“Don't take that entitled tone with me,” Eight said. “It makes you look like a child.”
Rose squawked in protest, but Mickey spoke first. “You should look at it from my point of view, stuck in here with your mum's cooking.”
“It smelled fine to me,” Eight said, taking another reading.
“Where is she?” Rose said, changing the subject as she put down her cup on a flat surface. “I'd better give her a hand. It might start raining missiles out there.”
“Tell her anything from a tin, that's fine,” said Mickey.
“Why don't you tell her yourself?” Rose asked as she went to the doors.
“I'm not that brave.”
As Mickey spoke, Eight suddenly realized what the readings were telling him.
“Oh, I don't know,” Rose said as she opened the doors and stepped outside. She was almost immediately grabbed by a Sycorax. She screamed.
“Rose?” Mickey cried, dropping the open flask of tea near where the man he knew as the Doctor lay.
“Get off! Get off me!”
Rose's screams led Eight and Mickey to run out. “Close the doors behind you,” Eight commanded.
They got there just before a Sycorax. As Mickey closed the doors they heard the Sycorax cheer.
Harriet got Rose freed and hugged her. “Rose. Rose! I've got you. My Lord. Oh, my precious thing. The Doctor, is he with you?”
Rose shook her head. “No. We're on our own.”
The man with Harriet, a device in his hands, spoke. “The yellow girl. She has the clever blue box. Therefore, she speaks for your planet.”
Harriet was horrified. “But she can't.”
Rose took a deep breath. “Yeah, I can.”
“Don't you dare,” Mickey protested, eyes huge.
“Someone's got to be the Doctor,” she insisted.
“No,” Eight said, firm and sharp.
“They'll kill you,” Harriet added, thinking this other man was helping her make her case.
“Never stopped him,” Rose pointed out, her voice calmer than her eyes suggested she was.
“Because you who put the Doctor into that state has no right to speak for Earth,” Eight clarified. “But I do, as its long-standing protector.” He turned to face the Sycorax leader, eying where the whip was aimed at. “You have heard the name 'The Doctor'. He has stood before many invaders of this planet and seen them off. If you also know the stories, you know of his species. I am one of them, a Time Lord, and that box is our technology.”
Rose gasped, ignoring the stilled silence from the Sycorax. “But you said-”
“That was an alias for Earth. Now shut up and let an adult do the talking. You'll get more people killed otherwise. Now, Sycorax Leader, I am a Time Lord of the planet Gallifrey, the highest ranking life recognised by the Shadow Proclamation. See this Seal in my hand?”
He held up the Seal of Rassilon made for him by Romana. The sight created an even bigger silence from his audience, who seemed to sense the power he was concealing. And producing it alerted him to something hidden off to the side, which gave him more fodder for his upcoming speech.
“If you do not leave this planet immediately and release all of the inhabitants, under the Convention 12 of the Shadow Proclamation, with regards to pre-spacefaring civilisations Statues 1-6; Convention 13 of the Shadow Proclamation, with regards to enforced or coerced infiltration and harvesting and/or capturing of indigenous and sentient life-forms for the use as livestock, weapons, soldiers, or biological and medical use hereof Statues 6, 17, and 34; and Convention 15, with regard to peaceful contact – which you have failed to adhere to – all of which you, the Sycorax, have signed to avoid dealing with the Judoon. Instead, you have forced a greater authority to turn up in their place. Never mind Convention 18 with regards to seizing the property of life-formed ranked higher than yourself, for that folded object you have displayed on that shelf is property of my homeworld. I shall call upon the powers of Gallifrey to send you all off. As this planet's defender I will stop you from harming anyone else. It's up to you whether any of your people have to suffer, and I know there are non-combatants on this rock you call a ship. It will be on your head if they are hurt by your refusal to be sensible.”
He prayed they would buy it. His ability to call would depend on Romana and Ohila. The former was still ignorant of his leaving Gallifrey, and the other might be in danger if he had to make that call. Else he was left with a very bad option.
The Sycorax were all silent, thinking about his words. They looked to their leader, who was the most still of all. Eight could feel the anger and tension in his frame. Then he burst into laughter, provoking the others to also do so.
Harriet's aide continued to translate. “You speak with authority, but no power can stop us. Not even the alleged powers of a race lost in a great war. And now you're going to die.”
“Why do you all have to say that?” Eight asked, suspecting that the leader refused to be defeated by someone smaller than him. He was racking his brain for something he could use to halt the danger as the leader walked up to him. He could only think of challenging the leader, and given that the leader was as big as the Draconian of the Draconians – not to mention a lot stronger – Eight did not like his odds.
The leader spoke as the aide carried on translating. “You were clever to stop that wailing child from using stolen words. But we are the Sycorax, we stride the darkness. If you are the best this planet can offer as a champion-”
“Then your world will be gutted.”
Except the words came from both the Sycorax leader and from the translator.
“And your people enslaved,” the leader continued.
“Hold on, that's English,” said the translator.
“Yes, it is,” Eight confirmed, standing taller and more confident as a smile cracked his face. “Now you all can hear him without needing that translation equipment.”
“I would never dirty my tongue with this planet's primitive bile,” the leader insisted.
“But that's English. Can you hear English?” Rose asked Mickey.
He nodded. “Yeah, that's English.”
“Definitely English,” confirmed the translator.
“I speak only Sycoraxic!” shouted the leader.
“If you Humans can hear English, then it's being translated,” Eight said, his grin growing wider as a huge amount of tension left his body. “Which means the TARDIS translation circuits are working. Which means...”
Chapter Eight: A Remembered Prophecy