Title: Time In Blue
Story Summary: Susan survived the Time War. Now in the aftermath, she does her best to live.
Setting: After the Time War. AU version of Series One of New Who, kind of. Spoilers for Seventh Doctor story Battlefield in this, but not that many.
This is the Author Auction fic for Wiggiemomsi. She requested Susan, having read Family Matters and Daughter of Time, and so I promised her a Susan & Nine story. Naturally this meant that it was going to be a post-War fic, and it went from there.
This has Susan in it. She is a little different from my usual Susans, however. The Ninth Doctor was the Doctor left torn and hardened and battle-weary in the aftermath of the Time War; this Susan is his equivalent, the Susan who fought in and survived it but was left damaged.
This fic will start out a bit dark, with odd comical touches, but should lighten up a bit later on.
I owe thanks to Jessa L'Rynn who suggested the form of the aliens in this chapter when I was stuck, which not only solved my dilemma but opened up a possible backstory idea I never would have thought of otherwise.
TIME IN BLUE
The first thing that Susan knew, in a long time, was that she was in a cell.
It wasn't a Dalek cell, because the architecture was all wrong and besides, Daleks weren't the sort of thoughtful beings to stick you in a bed and clean clothes.
Some other species, then.
Susan drifted off.
The next time she woke up, nightmares fading but still clinging like ghostly echoes, she was a lot more lucid. She felt weak, and was in a lot of pain, but could think more or less coherently despite the lingering fog in her mind.
She had a drip in one arm, and the other was attached to a set of monitors. Susan blinked groggily, trying to persuade her eyes to focus.
There was a noise, and Susan turned her head to see people in the doorway.
Humans, Susan thought, with a sudden unexpected rush of affection.
"Major General Bambera, U.N.I.T.," said the woman in front briskly, while Susan fought down emotion. "Name and species?"
There were a lot of names Susan had used, over the years, including a lilting chiming one – not the lilting chiming one – but for some reason she instinctively chose one of the oldest.
Susan found that she had to search for the words from memory, and realised that part of her pain was the throbbing absence of her TARDIS' presence.
"Susan Foreman," she said carefully; it had been a few centuries since she'd last spoken English. "I'm a Time Lady."
Bambera's face showed a conflict of emotions of which at least two were disgust and exasperation.
"I see. Have you been on Earth before?"
Susan nodded, wincing as her headache increased sharply with the motion.
"I attended Coal Hill school in 1963 as a student, and I spent thirty years here during the 22nd century."
"Thirty years?" It was slightly challenging, matching Bambera's skeptical expression.
"I was married," Susan said quietly, "to a human man. We had children."
Susan wasn't sure, but she thought something in Bambera's expression softened at that. She was still in too much pain to care.
One of the people with Bambera, not a soldier, cleared his throat.
"She's still recovering, Major General."
"I understand that, doctor," Bambera not-quite barked at him.
She turned back to Susan, her tone returning to brisk and professional.
"We'll start a search for your records. Do you represent any kind of threat to this planet and what are your intentions in coming here?"
Susan thought about both of those questions for a long moment. She was beginning to drift off again, thanks to all the drugs in her system and her debilitated state.
"I don't intend any harm. I just... I just want to live."
Susan closed her eyes and let oblivion wash awareness away.
The next time Bambera stopped by, Susan was more or less her usual self, despite the jagged edges in her mind and the gulf of loneliness stretching as far as her thoughts and emotions could feel.
"This is excellent tea," Susan informed the Major General, from where she sat nibbling some convalescent food. She'd looked in a mirror this morning, so she knew that the face that greeted Bambera was a young gently-rounded face, bruised and battered, surrounded by a mess of dark hair that fell raggedly to the jawline, the rest having been haphazardly hacked off. Long hair had been a hindrance that Susan couldn't afford. She'd been half-delirious with regeneration sickness at the time, and that was bad enough.
"I've been looking at your school records," Bambera said without ceremony. "They say that you were a model student, except for some strange misconceptions on certain subjects. Very bright."
Susan grinned impishly. It felt unfamiliar.
"Well, it wasn't my fault that my previous education had been more advanced than theirs."
"According to the school's notes, your home address belonged to a junkyard. It was assumed that it had been recorded incorrectly. We also spoke to two of your former teachers, a married couple, who claim to have travelled with you at one point. According to them, the Doctor's your grandfather."
Susan couldn't help the delighted smile that took over her face.
"They got married? Oh, that's marvellous. Yes, he is." The smile wavered and died. "Was."
"Was?" Bambera interrogated.
"There was a war." Susan's eyes were distant.
She sent Bambera a sharp look.
"Be careful with my ship. It's Tcalanth class. Military issue. It has automated measures to prevent its seizure by the enemy."
Bambera's expression turned sour.
"Yeah, we've discovered that."
Susan twitched irritably.
"What did you expect? That it would be easy for someone else to commandeer it?"
Susan closed her eyes, regretful at the startling amount of venom that had coursed through her. She consciously pushed the war-hardened part of her away and down.
Susan opened her eyes.
"I'm willing to help U.N.I.T. recover some of the technology," she said softly, "but honestly, some of it really is too dangerous for humanity to get hold of at this point in history. You're a very young species, you know. Time Lords existed for a million years. We had time to learn restraint."
"Not enough to prevent getting into a war," Bambera muttered.
Susan's eyes suddenly blazed unearthly fire.
"For you and your miserable peers!" she yelled. The rage was all-encompassing. "We fought and died so that you and all the other species could continue in ignorance, never knowing how close you came to being turned to dust! We stopped them from annihilating you and all the others, the civilians, because no one but us could! Because it was our responsibility to keep you safe and we died for it!"
Susan screwed her eyes tightly shut, but the tears continued regardless. She was shaking uncontrollably with anger and anguish.
Bambera spoke quietly.
Susan just ignored her, and listened to the footsteps recede until Susan was left alone with her pain and loneliness.
o0o o0o o0o
It took time, of course, but Susan's injuries healed, and the raw agony in her mind scabbed over.
Susan was surprised to be offered the post of scientific advisor at U.N.I.T., but accepted. She let her hair grow and had it trimmed into something resembling order, so that she could pin it back neatly. It would be nice to have long hair again.
She was also surprised to find that she got on quite well with Bambera. They were very different people, but somehow their military experiences had given them a kind of common understanding to work from.
It was bemusing to discover that Major General Bambera was also Winifred Bambera, with a little girl and a husband.
Of course, the little girl was a tiny fury who thought she was a paratrooper, and the husband was a former knight of the court of King Arthur, but still. It was very friendly and homey, even with Gwyneth jumping out of cupboards at unexpected moments wearing a hat she'd stolen from an unsuspecting corporal and yelling at people to put their hands up.
"She's very fierce," Susan told Bambera, who was demanding to know where the hat had come from.
"Thanks," Bambera said. "Leave the men alone, Gwyneth, or no duelling lessons for a week."
"Awww." Gwyneth turned her attention to Susan. "Do you know anything interesting?"
Susan looked down at her and tried to decide what would interest the strange little human girl.
"How would you like to hear a story about escaping a murderous civilisation called the Aztecs?"
"Cool!" The little girl exclaimed. "Mum, can I?"
"Only if you behave," Bambera said sternly.
So Susan told Gwyneth about finding herself in 15th century Mexico with her grandfather and Ian and Barbara, and pretending to be important people, and the fanatical Aztecs, especially the traitorous Tlotoxl.
"The knave!" Gwyneth shouted. She used words like that a lot.
As Bambera returned from telling off the corporal for letting a little girl steal his beret without him realising, Susan explained how their cleverness allowed them to escape.
"C'mon, kid, your Dad's back, so let's get you back to him before I kill him for leaving you at headquarters all day," Bambera told Gwyneth.
"Fare well, Lady Foreman," Gwyneth said to Susan, and followed her mother, thick ponytail bouncing with her hyperactive movements.
Thinking about it later, Susan decided that the child's visit had brightened up her day.
o0o o0o o0o
About three months after Susan joined U.N.I.T., the usual state of affairs was interrupted by a fully-fledged alien invasion.
The first Susan knew was when she received a phone call at six in the morning telling her to come into headquarters immediately.
Headquarters was swarming with people, all in a flurry of activity. Susan sought out Bambera.
"About time you showed up," Bambera said shortly.
"What's happening?" Susan asked. "And is it possible to get a cup of tea?"
"Corporal Sparrow!" Bambera bellowed. "Get Miss Foreman a cup of char this minute!"
The hapless corporal whose hat had been stolen a few weeks earlier by Gwyneth saluted and hurried off.
Bambera turned back to Susan.
"We've been invaded by dinosaurs." It was a flat statement.
"Dinosaurs?" Susan ventured, feeling that this demanded further explanation.
"Yep." Bambera sighed grimly. "Four o'clock this morning, a ship landed on the outskirts of London. Within half an hour dinosaurs in jumpsuits were assassinating cabinet ministers. The rest are under heavy guard now, but the dinosaurs've started working in groups, which makes them even harder to stop. They're very fast, and lethal."
Corporal Sparrow reappeared then, bearing a cup of tea. Susan thanked him politely and sipped at it.
"Has anyone gotten any images of them?" Susan inquired.
"Parker!" Bambera's shout filled the room. The head of U.N.I.T.'s scientific team looked up and around in surprise.
"Show Ms Foreman the photos of our assassins," Bambera ordered.
Parker scowled slightly, but beckoned Susan over.
The two of them didn't get along very well. While Parker was officially in charge of U.N.I.T.'s scientific experts, in practice Susan was often given precedence because of her superior knowledge and experience with aliens, and Parker resented it. Susan tried to work around his hostility, but found that it often slowed things down.
Now she peered at the photos with a mixture of intrigue and resignation as parker tattled off everything U.N.I.T. had deduced so far.
To Susan, they looked awfully and depressingly like velociraptor mongoliensis in an impossibly-advanced state of evolution.
Acting on a hunch, she waited for a pause in Parker's stream of data and asked,
I don't suppose anyone noticed whether they appear to have a group of symbols somewhere on their skin, by any chance?"
Parker looked surprised and suspicious.
"As a matter of fact, we noticed earlier that the aliens appear to have some kind of symbolic markings on their neck," he pulled out a photograph that had been cropped and enlarged to show a close-up of a dinosaur's neck, "although these do not appear to be tattoos or artificial markings, but part of their natural skin coloration."
Susan looked gloomily at the familiar symbols.
"Well, I can tell you why they look like dinosaurs," she told Parker and Bambera. "It's because they are dinosaurs."
"How is that possible?" Parker demanded.
"Because they've been genetically-engineered." Susan tapped the symbols. "This marking was implanted on a genetic level so that they could be easily identified as modified creatures. She must have been called away in such a hurry that she never had a chance to terminate the experiment. These dinosaurs must have had an entire planet to evolve on, and technology to scavenge once they evolved highly enough."
"How do you know?" someone called.
Susan paused a moment.
"The first two markings are representations of my grandmother's name," she admitted.
"What?" That was from Bambera.
"She always had a certain interest in dinosaurs," Susan explained. "But I told you, they're clearly part of a pre-Time War experiment. Even if she wasn't dead, Grandmother would never have let them run amok like this."
"Whether she let them or not it doesn't help the situation," Bambera said tersely. "Is there anything you can do?"
Susan paused in thought.
The Major General waited impatiently, clearly restraining herself from saying something scathing,
"Possibly," Susan said finally.
"Well?" Bambera prodded sharply.
"Well, I won' know until I'm dealing with them," Susan pointed out reasonably.
Susan had noticed, over the years, that being calm and reasonably infuriated some humans near to the point of derangement.
She watched now as Bambera demonstrated that she was one of their number.
"If you don't know then why am I hiring you as a scientific advisor!" the woman bellowed.
Susan blinked in mild surprise, not at all affected.
"Because I have a much better chance of working out a way than anyone else, of course."
Bambera appeared to struggle with herself, or possibly the urge to strangle Susan.
While she was doing that Susan borrowed some of the photographs and sat down to look at them more clearly.
This was mostly as a prompt for her mind to go over everything she knew about her grandmother's experiments.
This was not as much data as Susan would have liked. She hadn't visited her grandmother very often, and most of her memories were a bit fuzzy anyway from being forced through two consecutive regenerations in a very short period while Time was unravelling around her.
Still, Susan thought, her experiments always had some kind of weakness, so that her grandmother could terminate the experiment promptly without any trouble. The tricky bit was working out what that weakness was…
Susan moved on to mentally cataloguing everything she knew about velociraptor mongoliensis, ignoring everything that was going on around her.
Her attention refocused on the chaos when Bambera stood before her.
Susan looked up attentively.
"We're sending a couple of teams out to their ship to negotiate. Are you up to it?"
Susan's eyes went sharp and cold.
"Quite up to it, Major General."
"Right. You're going. See if you can figure out a way to deal with them."
Susan nodded shortly.
o0o o0o o0o
Susan found herself climbing into an armoured vehicle with a small team of U.N.I.T. soldiers. They'd given her a bullet-proof vest, and a gun.
There was another team in the vehicle in front, who were to directly negotiate with the aliens. Susan was going with the back-up group – mostly soldiers – and would intercede if she felt it was necessary.
There was no conversation as they drove. Susan examined her gun and the expressions of the other occupants. It reminded her of the War.
The alien's ship proved to be all sharp angles and smooth planes. There were a handful of aliens standing sentry outside. Further down the street UNIT had set up a blockade.
As the two armoured vehicles approached, part of the blockade was opened up and they were waved through.
The dinosaurs had apparently noticed their presence; a number had exited the ship and were hanging around in packs as the vehicles drew near.
The first team left their vehicle and approached. Susan listened to the attempt at conversation/negotiation through her earphones. It was going nowhere.
Then it went to hell.
Suddenly the dinosaurs were swarming, attacking everywhere; the people in the first team were dead. Susan was surrounded by bellowing soldiers scrambling to defend and the sound of gunfire.
Time slid out into splintered moments.
Susan was out of the vehicle and running.
Slow blurred shapes flickered in and out around her, a U.N.I.T. beret recognisable here, the glinting clawed fingers of an alien there.
Most of the aliens were near the ship. Susan went for them.
Time snapped back together with a slam.
"STOP!" Susan roared. She'd sent out a mental pulse full of commanding tones, so she wasn't surprised when everyone halted, even the aliens.
Susan stalked over to the leading velociraptor, radiating presence.
"Identify yourself," she ordered in Galactic Basic. There were innumerable dialects of it across the galaxy, but all were more or less understandable to others speakers with a bit of concentration.
The velociraptor gave a low snarl in reply.
Not for the first time, Susan wished her TARDIS was still alive. The telepathic translation circuits would have been really useful right now.
One of the other aliens snapped something at the first. It growled back in return, but twisted its head back to Susan.
There was a brief crackle, then
"Identify yourself." The rasping snarls and barks were overlaid with smoothly accented Galactic; a translator was in use.
Susan recognised the challenge.
If they wanted things to be difficult, so be it.
Susan let loose a string of chiming lilting syllables that precisely identified her alone and that made the velociraptor's head rear back.
"Time Lady," Susan finished, and glared at the dinosaurs.
There was agitated movement among them, roaring back and shoving and making alarmed twitters.
Their leader whirled and snapped its jaws at the others, displaying deadly teeth in a threatening gesture.
Susan waited coldly.
A second velociraptor moved forward to stand parallel to the one at the head of the pack. Two leaders.
"The Time Lords are dead!" it barked.
"Not all of us." Susan glared with the weight of centuries behind her gaze. "You know what we are. What we can do. Do you dare risk annihilation?"
There was a low snark, and the lead dinosaurs sprang.
Susan let Time stretch out instantly, blurring into a drab watercolour landscape again as she stepped sideways. She brought the gun up and fired twice, and dor an instant the possibilities surrounded her in golden threads.
She tweaked a few almost as an afterthought.
Once again the moments slammed back into a cohesive web of time.
The two aliens landed where she had been standing, and collapsed limply, eyes staring and blood pulsing out across the bitumen.
This was too much for the others. The packs exploded into chaos, pushing and snapping at each other, and reforming to move swiftly back to the ship.
Susan waited, staring up at the spacecraft.
"Ma'am?" It was a soldier.
Susan held up a hand to stop him.
She watched stoically as the ship hummed and began to rotate before lifting up and flashing out towards the sky.
Susan let go of her hold on Time and threads snapped all around her, sending her into a dizzying spin of instants.