Well, here it is. At last, I've done it. I think this will be the last chapter of this story. I will probably write a sequel to it, someday soon, but for now, I am finished. It seems...quite appropriate, to say the least. I started this back in 2007, even before the Third Series started, and now...well, here it is. (Apologies if some of the Doctors and companions aren't well represented here, I just felt like finishing it, I suppose, and I ran through this thing as much as I could. I hope to do more with various Doctors and companions in the sequel, if there is one. I'm just so glad that I finished a fanfiction story, I hardly ever do.)
Chapter 21: The Impossible Girl
Outside the warehouse, the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Doctors had willingly armed themselves with the specialty weapons designed to target Cybermen, anti-Cybermen guns and hand pulsers, as did Captain Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Barbara Chesterton, Ace, Polly Jackson, Sarah Jane Smith, even Donna and Sabalom Glitz had gotten hand pulsers as a last-resort weapon to protect themselves with. The only Doctors who weren't armed were the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, who seemed to despise the use of such weapons, but they still coordinated the battle plan and subdivided their forces to put Ace, Captain Jack Harkness, and Martha Jones near the front alongside a few of the armed Doctors, while the others would take up the rear. Barbara wound up with the Tenth Doctor and Donna, who were admittedly a fun pair to be around.
Occasionally, Polly Jackson would glance out to the Thames, wondering if she would spy a ship of the Royal Navy sailing this way, until the Seventh Doctor told her that Ben's forces wouldn't be ready to join them in the initial assault, but that they would be here eventually. The Eleventh Doctor and Jack opened up the warehouse doors as soon as they heard the signal from the Eighth Doctor, "Geronimo," after he and Victoria had been freed by the Sixth Doctor, who had planted himself and Tegan amongst the Theologians of the 4th Quarter a few hours ago.
Barbara shook her head and remarked, "This is a very complicated plan."
"It took us long enough to organize it." The Tenth Doctor remarked as they charged forward into the warehouse with the rest.
The Sixth Doctor and Tegan had already picked off several Cybermen, and continued firing as the main party joined them from the opposite side. The Theologians of the 4th Quarter attempted to stop the pair, but the Eighth Doctor used some of his old Venusian aikido on a few of them and Victoria knocked a couple of them out so that the rest started to flee. Then the Eighth Doctor and Victoria huddled down, taking stock of their situation before they moved towards the coffin section to search for Susan again.
However, either one of the Cybermen or one of the Theologians had managed to sound an alarm and now, throughout the warehouse, some more dormant Cybermen were waking up to join the fight. Tegan and the Sixth Doctor continued to hold the Cyber transformation room, a key position to prevent any cyber-conversion of themselves and others, while the Seventh Doctor and Martha Jones guarded the warehouse entrance, their exit. Sabalom Glitz was also kept in the Cyber Transformation room, to watch out for him more than anything else.
The rest continued forward into the main portion of the warehouse to rescue civilians and fortify their escape route. The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors quickly set to work waking up civilians and ushering them out of the warehouse, while the Eighth Doctor and Victoria were armed themselves. The group took up key positions, with Donna and Barbara next to each other at the rear, as the Cybermen started to approach; the group fired at them, again and again, and while Barbara managed to keep up with the pace of the fight, it was exhausting and she felt like it wasn't right. This wasn't something that was supposed to happen when paired up with the Doctor, not this type of fighting, anyway, with guns and everything else. Occasionally, there had been some violence during their travels, even involving guns, but not directly involving the Doctor. It just wasn't something that he did, even if others around him did.
"Do you need a rest, ma'am?" Donna asked, turning around to face Barbara once. "I can take over if you want to go." She nodded towards the exit.
Barbara shook her head and said, "No, I'm still game if you are."
"All right, then, suit yourself. Just be careful not to wear yourself out." Donna remarked as she used her hand pulser again.
"I can take care of myself." Barbara muttered. She hated being treated like a child or an old woman, even if she was the latter.
Once or twice, as Barbara glanced around, she thought that she saw another person engaged in the fight that she didn't recognize from all of the other familiar companions that she had met; a young woman with long brown hair tied up in a ponytail, firing her anti-Cybermen gun like an expert at the approaching cyborgs. However, no one else seemed to notice her or comment on her appearance, so she just assumed that maybe this was another of the Doctor's companions, like Tegan, who had slipped in here a few hours before in preparation for the fight. In fact, if Barbara squinted hard enough, she thought that their party might actually be bigger than she had first assumed, that there might be dozens more that she had never seen before…
At this point, the warehouse windows were broken as UNIT soldiers and Royal Marines finally swung into the warehouse and joined the fight, using their own weapons against the Cybermen, and disrupting Barbara's vision. With that, the Eighth Doctor shouted, "Susan! I found her!" Then the Doctors and all of their companions, with a dazed, half-awake Susan amongst them, quickly retreated out of the warehouse along with the last of the civilians, leaving the fight to the Royal Marines and UNIT. All of the Cybermen were soon quelled.
Barbara stared at Susan in the distance, shocked at her unchanged appearance, not a day older than she had been when she, Barbara, and Ian first traveled together with the Doctor. Of course, she was the Doctor's granddaughter, which might explain her youthful vitality.
"Susan! Are you all right?" Barbara called out to her former student in the distance, worried about her. The last time she had seen Susan, the Doctor had left her behind with a young man named David in the ruins of London, which had been decimated by the Daleks. Susan turned around at the sound of her name being called, and glanced around, but her eyes slipped over Barbara without recognizing her. It hurt for a moment, not being recognized by her former student.
"I suppose it has been awhile." Barbara murmured, thinking of her own changed appearance, "Almost 45 years for me."
The Tenth Doctor grimaced, realizing what she was saying, and whispered, "Barbara, this is before she met you. We haven't traveled to 1963 yet. She doesn't know who you are. For that matter, she doesn't know who any of us are, which is probably for the best." He sighed.
Barbara stared at the Tenth Doctor and said, "You mean…oh, Doctor, this must be so hard on all of you, but…is your older, younger self here in this time period, my Doctor, the First?" She asked.
"Yep, and he's searching for her right now. Let's get them reunited." The Tenth Doctor remarked with a sad smile.
As Admiral Ben Jackson and his ship of Royal Marines had arrived at the warehouse dock, a flock of UNIT soldiers in jeeps, a helicopter, and even a tank arrived on the landward side, effectively surrounding the Cybermen's warehouse. The Royal Marines stomped off of the ship, prepared to surround and enter the warehouse by various ways, before Ben ran down the gangplank and went around towards the front of the warehouse, in time to meet the Brigadier, Harry, and a stranger Ben assumed to be the Ninth Doctor, in their jeep.
They hailed each other, smiling slightly, and then watched the proceedings with the Brigadier and the Ninth Doctor occasionally calling out commands. A few of the UNIT soldiers stayed behind to round up escaping civilians and Theologians alike, to question and process them accordingly if they were innocent or guilty of aligning with the Cybermen, while the rest joined the Royal Marines in invading the warehouse.
Ben glanced back at the Ninth Doctor, and then after awhile, he eventually asked, "Remind you of anything?"
"Could you be a little bit more specific, Ben? I've been through a hell of a lot more, and it starts to blur together." The Ninth Doctor said. Harry and the Brigadier grimaced at each other.
"WOTAN. The War Machines." Ben said.
"I think I remember that." Harry said. "I was just a young man, barely more than a boy, when they issued an alarm about WOTAN and those machines. They tried to hush it up afterwards, and people forgot, but I knew that it had happened."
"That caused quite a stir," The Brigadier agreed with Harry, nodding. "I had just been promoted as a captain. First time I had to take command of a unit as we prepared to face those War Machines, although we never had to."
The Ninth Doctor paused a moment and slowly nodded. "That's right. We faced one of those War Machines, coming out of a warehouse near Covent Garden." He said to Ben.
"You faced it, alone." Ben said. "When all of those soldiers were on the run, their weapons jammed, you strode out there, a wizened old man with eyes like a hawk, and faced it down alone. From where I stood, amongst those faltering men, I almost thought you stopped it yourself, with the power of your hypnotizing gaze."
"That was a different me, a younger, foolish me, ages ago." The Ninth Doctor commented. "I wouldn't have done that now. And it was a little bit more complicated than that. The programming was faulty, I knew it would shudder to a halt before it got much further. Too much exertion in that fire fight, jamming all of those guns."
"Still, you did it, and it probably wasn't as certain as all that." Ben remarked. "You could not have known if you would get blasted or not."
"Ah, forget about it," The Ninth Doctor said, shaking his head.
"He's right, you know." The Brigadier remarked. "You may have been through or seen a lot in your time, but those old faces, the lives you used to live…they are still in there, you know, all of the old bluster and courage. I've seen that."
"I know that well." The Ninth Doctor said, grimacing. "I'm not ready yet to face the monsters again. To face me again." He said.
"Leave him alone." Harry said. "If he says he's not ready, he's not ready. I can understand that."
"I can't believe I'm siding with Harry." The Ninth Doctor said, rolling his eyes.
"What's wrong with that?" Harry asked, causing the others to laugh. Finally, the last group of civilians came out, along with a very large, familiar group of people; the Brigadier, Harry, Ben and the Ninth Doctor all straightened up and stared at the scene, the group of survivors who had been through so much together over the years.
"Blimey, there's so many of them." The Brigadier said, recognizing all of the familiar faces. "So many yous, I should say." He commented.
"Yeah." The Ninth Doctor said, staring down at the ground and looking away when he could not stand being confronted by his past and future selves right now. He knew so much more than his past selves did about the Time War and he did not want to reveal how horribly wrong everything went; if they just looked into his eyes, they would know what had happened and what he had done, he feared.
Harry and Ben had gotten out of the jeep, and rushed forward to greet the group of companions and Doctors, including Sarah Jane and Polly, but the Ninth Doctor didn't move as the Brigadier slowly withdrew. "Are you sure?" He asked the Ninth Doctor.
"Go ahead and go." The Ninth Doctor muttered.
"All right, have it your own way," The Brigadier muttered, leaving the Ninth Doctor in a huff. The Ninth Doctor eyed the Brigadier as he went over to greet the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors.
He did not really want to see his future selves either, because he did not really believe that he had a future at this point, nor did he even want to have a future right now, even though he had glimpsed it. And seeing his future selves would just make him angry, for they knew just as much as he did about the Time War, maybe even more so, yet they had not revealed anything to his past selves, they had been able to conceal it, admittedly for the same reason that he did, to avoid paradoxes, but still. He wished that he had known before about the Time War, if there was some way of stopping the Time War, stopping himself from destroying everything, he would have done anything to prevent it.
For their part, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors steered their group away from the Brigadier's jeep as much as possible, knowing who was there, and knowing what he was going through at this point, since they had been him not that long ago. Though the pain of the Time War still hurt them, it had gotten better for them, and perhaps they wanted to avoid the most painful reminder of the more recent past, and wallow in the simulated joy of a past long ago, but still with them, when the Time Lords had been alive and the Doctor had almost been a casual traveler, before it completely faded away.
He walked along the sidewalk, quietly humming a favorite old song to himself, one that he cherished very much as a reminder of happier times that he had spent with friends, friends who were now long gone. He kicked a little bit of trash that someone had dropped out of his way with nothing better to do to occupy his time. It was quiet this morning, not much happening around here. Apparently there had been a commuter train crash earlier, but that was in another borough far from here, and he had not really paid much attention to the news about it. He figured that whatever happened, it would be dealt with.
It had been a really bizarre year for him. Ever since…he tried not to think about it too much, but he had a really stark reminder of that event. He tried to remain hopeful and upbeat, for her sake if not for his own, so that she wouldn't worry so much, but sometimes, he felt himself cracking under the pressure.
For the past couple of weeks now, he had been calling this coffee shop; at first it had been just an accident, when he was trying to contact anyone at Royal Hope Hospital, even though it had already vanished, taken to the moon, though he did not know that at the time. He just thought that if a big London hospital just happened to have vanished in the middle of a bizarre, localized precipitation event, with the rain falling up, then the Doctor had to be involved in it somehow, even if the Doctor was trying to stop it. He just had to warn them of what to expect when the Doctor was around; he wished that someone could have warned him and his friends not to look for the Doctor, that it was too dangerous, but it was too late for them now.
But then again, did he really just want to warn somebody at Royal Hope Hospital about the danger of dealing with the Doctor, or did he also want to get into contact with the Doctor again? (Not like old times, though.) Did he want to tell the Doctor, face to face, that the alien had ruined his life? Perhaps that was obvious, considering what had happened to him, his mother, and friends, but he just wanted it to be clear, to see the look on the Doctor's face, the guilt and horror that the Doctor must feel about his actions, the same as he felt sometimes, when he was thinking back on everything in the dead of night while she was asleep, wondering if he could have changed it somehow. He couldn't wait to see that. And yet would the Doctor feel that? Would the Doctor even know about such guilt and horror? What if the Doctor had gone through so much, and done so much, traveling in that blue box of his, that the Doctor couldn't feel anything anymore? Then the Doctor truly would be an alien.
He actually wound up applying for a job at the same coffee shop that he had accidently called, again quite by accident, but then again, he knew that his wrong call had to be for a coffee shop in the vicinity of Royal Hope Hospital, considering that he had to be just a number or more off. And this particular coffee shop was the closest…the chances were slim, and yet he was right, the next time he called to check on his job application, that woman who answered the first time was on the phone. And he babbled. He babbled so much that he didn't even know what he said, he just wanted to offload so much, and he couldn't talk to his girlfriend about it all when she was in a more difficult place, dealing with her own situation. It wouldn't be fair to her.
But the woman on the other end of the line wasn't exactly helpful as told him that her job was tough, that he should go seek help, and that Mr. Saxon would correct things just before she hung up. Yeah, right, that had not exactly turned out well. Mr. Saxon was dead in some pretty bizarre circumstances; made him wonder if the Doctor had been involved…
So he had called the coffee shop again about a week later, and again, the other woman had hung up on him, after telling him to go seek help. Maybe he should, but what exactly could he tell a psychologist? "My mother was killed by a shadow monster when I was a child, my friends were all absorbed into some giant monster, except for one who became a slab of concrete, and she and I are having some relationship issues. And the man who I had been searching for my whole life turned out to be more interested in berating me than in saving me at first? And though he did save my girlfriend, albeit by turning her into a slab of concrete, still, it wasn't enough to help her." Not a very good session, straight to the insane asylum. Elton really did not want to go through with that.
So Elton was walking along, wondering if he should go back home and check on how Ursula was doing, when an old man, dressed in an odd looking suit, came up to him. "Excuse me, young man, I wonder if you can help me, hmm?" The old man asked, looking up at Elton.
"What seems to be the trouble?" He asked.
"I've lost my granddaughter. She's about yea tall," The old man gestured, "A teenager with dark hair, round brown eyes, a round face with a lovely smile, dressed in a shirt and black pants." The old man said.
Elton shook his head and said, "I'm sorry I can't help you, but I haven't seen any teenage girls fitting that description. Um, perhaps you might try looking around…" He turned around, wondering if there were any shops nearby where the girl might have gone.
"Grandfather!" They heard a girl's voice cry out, and turned around to see a teenage girl, fitting the old man's description, running over towards them.
"Susan!" The old man cried, spreading his arms out and welcoming the girl into his embrace. For a moment, Elton stared at the peaceful, warm scene, and wished that he could hold Ursula in the same way in his arms. He tried his best at times, rubbing his face next to hers, but sometimes, all he could feel was the cold concrete that she had been pried out of.
"Don't scare me like that, Susan." The old man said, breaking off the warm embrace. "Now where were you, eh? You've been gone for hours. I was looking for you all night."
"It was a horrible nightmare." Susan said, shaking her head. "I was so frightened. I had to run to get away from them, I don't know why they wanted me, but then I was captured. Everything went black for awhile. I thought I was dead, but then some people saved me and some others, they got us out of the building and away from those monsters." Susan glanced around. "They're over there, my rescuers." She pointed.
The old man looked up, and stared off into the distance, towards the alleyway with an expression of shock and awe. Elton looked up, and saw a small crowd of people standing there, of various ages, although most of them were old, men and women, and amongst them…Elton spotted the Doctor he knew. And there were several others…when LINDA had been searching for the Doctor, with Victor Kennedy's help, there had been files on all of these men who had been known as the Doctor, and they were there as well. In that moment, Elton knew that they were all the same.
"Yes, well…" The 'older' voice hesitantly said, and Elton turned around to stare at the First Doctor, recognizing him as well. "Come along, Susan, we better be going," The First Doctor said, tugging at his granddaughter.
"Grandfather…" Susan muttered, but she ran off after him down the street.
Elton hesitated, not quite sure what to do, as he saw the First Doctor departing, and then turned around to see the other crowd dispersing…who should he follow? Who should he talk to first? And was there any point in talking to any one of them? For there were so many, and he wasn't even certain what he should say to any of them anymore, especially if they didn't understand his plight, or maybe they understood it too well. For Rose wasn't with the Doctor he had first met, but these other people who weren't the Doctor, perhaps they had been like Elton, or more like Rose once, people who had traveled with the Doctor and then had left the Doctor or been abandoned by the Doctor. Perhaps the Doctor left a trail of broken hearts wherever he went.
The Tenth Doctor, the one he had first met, stood there and nodded at Elton, waving slightly. Elton hesitated, tried to smile, and waved back at him before he left as quickly as he could, not wanting to get any further involved in this mess. It was time for him to stop chasing after the Doctor. He had to go talk to Ursula.
Barbara sighed, seeing her First Doctor and Susan leave, to travel once more into her past, and then noticed the other young man, waving and smiling at them before he departed. Barbara turned to the Tenth Doctor and asked, "Was he waving at us? Have you met him before?"
"Oh, yes, once, twice, three times I should say, awhile ago…an ordinary man named Elton, by all accounts, yet he's seen more than most people have." The Tenth Doctor said and sighed. "At least he's gone now."
Barbara shook her head, not quite understanding, as she said, "You miss Susan very much, don't you?"
"Every day, though I try not to let it phase me." The Tenth Doctor murmured. "One day, I shall come back, yes, I did say that, and here I am. I just went further back than I had intended." He murmured as Barbara sighed and patted him on the back.
"So, Doctor," Donna said, coming up to them, not noticing what was going on between them. "I've been thinking and I would like to join you…"
"Uh, not quite yet, Donna," The Eleventh Doctor said, coming up to her.
"Oi, why the hell not?" Donna asked.
"Yeah, why not?" The Tenth Doctor asked, turning around, starting an argument between them as the other Doctors took their leave of their companions, and went off in search of their individual TARDISes scattered about the city, and the companions smiled and joked amongst themselves as they left, returning to their own lives, with Barbara and Donna soon amongst them.
A short distance away, unseen by any of the others, Clara 'Oswin' Oswald walked off towards her Doctor and asked, "Problem solved?"
"Problem solved." The Twelfth Doctor said, smiling. "Let's move on." And they left, with that familiar vworp sound fading into the vortex…
THE END...for now.
So that's it, problem solved! We made it! I finished this arc, and if I do another arc, it would be quite different, so I might as well finish this story here, with the Twelfth Doctor, and do another one some other time. (I had to include Elton. I had planned on including Elton from the start of this whole Companion Coffee Shop story, and I stuck with it. Admittedly, things are different than what I had originally planned, but Elton is here, at least. Let's move on.)