elisi: (Stepping Sideways)
[personal profile] elisi
Summary: How do you save people that don't want to be saved?

For notes etc, please see The Prologue, or just follow the tags.

Note: Gallifreyan will be indicated by the use of « and » any other language uses "". It seemed the simplest solution.

(As always, lots of thanks to luckweaver)

SherwoodBanner1


Chapter 11

For endless seconds she couldn’t breathe.

The Dalek had been a shock, but this was like being body slammed, the impact too much for her already highly-strung nerves.

Staggering back, she collapsed against a wall, unable to process the sight that had greeted her. Maybe she was losing it. Could a hallucination be that real?

Momentarily pressing her fingers against her eyes, a kaleidoscope of colour bursting to life, she took a deep breath and opened her eyes.

Above her stood the Seeker, laser in his hand, and it was like yet another deja vu - this time from The Year That Never Was, memories she barely had access to, slipping in and out of focus, the Master standing above her, laser in his hand, just the same, just the same, she’d never be free; the War, the pain, it’d always follow her, she was caught forever in a loop.

Except the next bit didn’t follow the script in her head.

«Roda…»

The Seeker crouched down in front of her (so much like the Master, she had to close her eyes again), but then he threw her expectations to the wind and sat down beside her, shoulders almost touching. Like a friend. Like-

«Look, I’m sorry. For just… being me. For getting you captured, practically killed, trying to dictate my methods in how to deal with everything, and now by re-traumatising you… If there is anything I can do - even if that something is just removing myself from your life effective immediately…»

Clasping her hands together, fighting to find some sort of response, she eventually managed to speak.

«“Why-» she couldn’t finish the sentence, red upon red upon red still flooding her mind.

«Why do I have a substantial chunk of the Crucible incorporated into my TARDIS?»

He sighed.

«Well, like I told you, I won a war. And the Daleks had planet moving technology… Which I took. But it was integral to their ship, so I sort of detached a whole bit? Hell of a job, on top of fighting a lengthy battle, but it was worth it. A good day, all told.»

(A day? A day? A good day? Wars were not fought and won in a day, they lasted months, years, forever; spreading until the whole universe was burning and you felt as if it had consumed you whole. Even now it was still burning through her.)

«How can you-» Her voice broke, and he tapped the laser against his knee thoughtfully.

«How can I bear to even look at it, never mind have it on my ship?» A pause. «Well - a murderer’s knife is still a knife. If something is useful, that’s what matters. Take the laser as a prime example…»

His voice trailed off as she turned to look at him, not bothering to hide her pain or her fury.

«You have no idea

(No idea what you are talking about, no idea about suffering, no idea about loss, no idea about fighting, no idea about war!)

She couldn’t articulate it all out loud, but he lowered his eyes.

«True. But I have observed the effects in those around me.» A momentary hesitation, as he glanced at her. «I don’t know what you know of my father’s role in the Time War, but he saw the Crucible and took a one-way trip to the end of the universe, fob watching himself in the process.»

Something that was almost a chuckle.

«When the Doctor eventually found him, he was a kindly old human professor, busy saving the last of humanity. You can remind him of that if/when you meet again…»

«Why are you telling me this?»

He stroked his beard thoughtfully.

«I think… Because I’m the anomaly. Quite possibly because of my upbringing. I don’t share in your loss or grief. To me, the equipment through that door is quite simply just useful. Dalek, Sontaran, human – it makes very little difference to me. It probably should, but – it doesn’t.»

The look on her face must have spoken volumes, and he added:

«All of this is like... seeing myself in a mirror. It's not very flattering. I ran away to a whole different universe to get away from that image, and here it is again, worse than before.»

She couldn't help snorting, and he shrugged:

«No wonder you - other you - broke up with me. I am, and always have been, a self-impressed, blinkered jerk, and I don't deserve your friendship.»

Uncertain she had understood him right, she queried his word-choice:

«Broke up?»

«We were lovers,» he replied matter-of-factly. «For about a century.»

The Dalek horror momentarily forgotten, she could only stare at the Master clone beside her.

«The other me must be a very forgiving sort,» she muttered, and he sighed.

«Oh I didn't have any Dalek paraphernalia back then. Also I had a different face. I was quite, quite stunning… Cheek bones up to here, hair the colour of the sky. I was quite the catch.»

Skaro, he was insufferable.

«Am I supposed to be impressed?»

The Seeker swore under his breath, in a language that sounded like 21st Century Earth something, and shook his head.

«This is getting us nowhere. What would like me to do

«You seem to have done quite enough

He opened his mouth to reply, closed it again and fell silent.

Roda shook her head. This wasn’t working.

‪«Space.»

‪«What?»

‪He tilted his head, obviously confused by the answer, which gave Roda that little bit of courage it took to lift her head again, and try to look him in the eye. See if this was another one of his lies - like his father, so much like his father and yet not ‪- or the honest truth.‬

‪«I need space.»

‪The Seeker made to stand, and made an admirable attempt to hide the pain in his eyes.

«I... as you wish. Just let me know where to drop you off, I'll leave you to-»

‪«No.» She grabbed his arm, holding on too tight. (She had to remind herself he was real. The world was spinning still, everything upside down. Long sentences were still beyond her.) ‬

«We owe those people something‪. You can't just leave.»‬

‪He ran his free hand through his hair. «Then what do you want me to do?»‬

‪«Skaro!» she swore, anger flaring up again, «You’re impossible.» She dropped his arm, and used the wall to pull herself to her feet. «I need some air.»‬

The Seeker’s TARDIS thankfully shortened the walk, and in mere moments she was stepping out of the doors.

She had parked on the mountain above the human ‘city’, on a ledge where she had previously spent time observing the humans, unseen. She had expected a soothing, if humid, breeze, the smell of wet growing things, the odd chirping sounds of the long legged insects that built nests in the highest trees…

Instead she was met with dark smoke, the scent of burning and the unmistakable sounds of fighting and weapons being fired. Screams and angry voices, both human and Crinitus, also drifted up, and she found herself paralysed for endless seconds.

How long had they been gone? Ten minutes? Fifteen? Maybe more? She guessed the Crinitus would have taken advantage of the diversion - and the Time Lords’ absence - to launch an attack. If they had been planning something like this, it made sense that they had been so reluctant to engage in the peace process…

‘Space’ would clearly have to wait…

Silently (stomping down on her more spiky and conflicted emotions) she went back inside, found the Seeker, and wordlessly dragged him back outside, ignoring his confusion. He stopped beside her on the ledge, grasping hold of the tree growing sideways across the edge and forming a natural waist-high barrier.

«This,» she said grimly, «is war.»

It was almost like her dream coming true… Although if nothing else, this time both sides were more or less equally armed. Not that that was a cheering thought.

Taking in the tableaux below, he sighed, bowing his head in what looked like defeat.

«I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I got it wrong. I don’t know what I could have done differently, but somewhere there was a fundamental flaw. »

«And when did you have this blinding insight? Just now?»

Her voice was acid, but she didn’t care.

However he didn’t rise to the bait.

«Last night… But I was too angry then. With the humans, they- Nevermind. It’s too late now. Maybe it was always too late.»

She wanted to scream and shake him, instead letting her fingers grasp the wood under her hands so tightly she could almost feel it breaking.

«We can't leave it like this!» she retorted, and he shook his head:

«But what can we do? Whose side are we on? It was all a wire act before, now they'll never…»

Letting go she took a step back, leaned against the TARDIS (now in the shape of an Earth tree, its brown-and-green clashing with the pale blues and greys surrounding it) and swallowed bitterly. Being angry with him was easy, but she knew that in the end it wasn’t so simple.

He’d stepped in, young and driven and pleased to take charge. And she was old and tired.

«You’re wrong,» she said eventually. «It’s my fault. I got here too late. If only I had gotten here sooner, if I'd managed to steer them to safety elsewhere before they crashed here-»

Her voice trailed off, and they watched the unfolding carnage below in silence. There was a large explosion. And then another. The Crinitus had gotten clever…

«You still could,» the Seeker eventually said, proving that despite all differences their thoughts were running in the same direction.

She shook her head.

«And what? Add all of these to the ranks of the never-were?»

The Seeker shrugged.

«They’re currently being added to the ranks of the recently deceased…»

His cold - almost brutal - logic was painful, yet for the first time she appreciated it.

«Is never living worse than a life in pain?» she said softly, and he stroked his beard thoughtfully.

«It’s your call,» he eventually said.

She didn’t reply, eyes growing distant, weighing what could be against what was, and what must not.

People, names, faces. Little Aisha - alive - “what will happen to us?”

She was so tired of war, she had just wanted to save them…

Was she being cruel or kind - or playing god? And was there a difference?




Epilogue

(no subject)

Date: 4 September 2017 06:05 pm (UTC)
enevarim: (hourglass)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
«Why do I have a substantial chunk of the Crucible incorporated into my TARDIS?»
– Okay, yes, that is slightly worse even than what Jack saw. You win. :)

«When the Doctor eventually found him, he was a kindly old human professor, busy saving the last of humanity. You can remind him of that if/when you meet again…»
– That is a nice piece of assisted revenge.

the TARDIS (now in the shape of an Earth tree, its brown-and-green
– Yay for Allie’s Mum’s plum tree cameo!

«Last night… But I was too angry then. With the humans, they- Nevermind.
– They do say that anger is always the shortest distance to a mistake, though this must have been set in motion long before the night before.

Hmm. So after a month of not messing with the time lines because they’re already enmeshed in events, they are deciding – «You still could,» / «And what? Add all of these to the ranks of the never-were?» – to break the laws of time after all? I mean, yes, obviously renegade Time Lords / Time Lords at war do that all over the shop, to such an extent that (from the vantage point of season five, anyway) the rest of the universe eventually decides to lock Eleventy into the Pandorica to stop him from doing that, but…

«It’s your call,» he eventually said.
– Your universe, your rules. Give me an order…

Was she being cruel or kind - or playing god? And was there a difference?
— I’m not whether Roda means “he” or “she” here, though it could obviously apply to both. It will be interesting if this comes up in the epilogue.

(no subject)

Date: 5 September 2017 12:49 am (UTC)
enevarim: (hourglass)
From: [personal profile] enevarim
Huh? They're just rewriting a tiny slice. It's not a fixed point in any way, there'll be no repercussions...
– Sure, but if that argument applies now, it also applied a month ago when they realized that they had arrived 70 years too late and there was “nothing they could do about it”. Except it turns out, in extremis, that wasn’t really true, and they could have fixed the whole thing back then, by doing whatever it is they might decide to do now.

Which is of course why it’s tricky to write time travel stories and we need things like Blinovitch Limitation Effects or dark mutterings about crossing one’s own time stream or, best of all, Moffat’s Rule Three, which, if I remember rightly, goes “Ooo, monsters”.





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