Thirty Minutes Earlier...
The mobile flew into the air, across the expanse of the TARDIS's metal flooring and landed expertly into the palm of the Doctor, more than used to the concept of difficult throws and catches in his present incarnation.
His soon-to-be former travelling companion smiled wryly back at him. "Keep that. Cause I'm not having you disappear. If that rings, when it rings, you better come running. Got that?"
He nodded back at Martha Jones with a warm smile, quite understanding. "Got it."
"I'll see you again, mister." With one final triumphant look back at the Time-Lord, Martha Jones stepped out of the TARDIS... and certainly for the time being, out of his world and life. But not forever. Not like Rose.
The Doctor permitted himself a sad smile. Martha had been a good friend, but the events which had happened to her across the so-called 'Year Which Never Was' and their battle against the Master had been understandably more than emotional to her. Her family had nearly been destroyed, her home torn apart. He inwardly noted that perhaps the only saving grace of this own affair was the reuniting of her parents in the face of such horrible tortures by the evil resurrected Time Lord .
They were safe, and that was what mattered most. The Master was dead. He was alone. Again. Once more the sad wave of memories of the Time War and equally moving events of the years since moved through his brain.
He always tried not to dwell on them, particularly Gallifrey, and he knew there were times he wished he could go back, undo that dratted Time Lock and save the Time Lords from destruction; Romana, Leela, Susan... But he couldn't. Not ever.
With a final glance at the TARDIS door, and electing to put any bad thoughts to the side and enjoy his travels by himself once again, the Tenth Doctor pulled a lever and the groaning and wheezing of the ship began as no doubt outside, the exterior form of the Blue Police Box would be slowly fading in front of Martha into nothingness.
He would miss her, of that was no doubt. But she was right – there were people who needed her more than he did now – her family, Thomas Hattigan, UNIT and with that, the entire world. Her role in his life was complete. He no longer completely felt the downward spiral which had plagued him in the wake of the Battle of Canary Wharf. Across the craters of the Moon and the highways of New Earth, in the dirty streets of Elizabethan London and avenues of Depression Era New York, from Edwardian Balmoral to the End of Time, he and Martha had travelled the stars together. And he would never forget her.
The first ten minutes went without a hitch. Indeed it was one of the smoothest flights the Doctor had recalled in recent memory, perhaps out of the tuning he'd been forced to give to the poor girl after the Master's gross alterations to her into the Paradox Machine required to bring the Toclafane into Martha's time, a trillion years in her future. Under the circumstances he'd been expecting some upsets, but he'd been pleasantly surprised to see how well behaved she was being – none of the Master's dirty fingers had been able to do too much harm to the old girl in the period of some months which they'd been separated from one another.
Still, as the ship entered a Time Vortex tunnel which connected the first couple of years of the Twenty First Century for Earth to the rest of all Space and Time, the Doctor felt a nagging sensation that something was not quite right. He couldn't put his finger on it really – just a feeling he was missing something.
Nothing was immediately clear to him, and he had checked extremely carefully before leaving Earth to ensure that the Master hadn't planned some last-ditch revenge scheme into the TARDIS' systems; he still recalled the occasion, early in his Eighth Incarnation and just shortly after the events in San Francisco, at the cusp of the Twenty First Century where had had regenerated from Inquisitive Scotsman to Romantic Byronian (which reminded him – he really must pay good old Grace Holloway another visit sometime soon this century) that his old foe had planted a tear shaped memory spike on the now deadened Eye of Harmony which had robbed him of his memories and forced him to visit his previous seven incarnations in a bid to understand his very nature. But certainly this time the Master had seemed confident enough in his master-plans, for no such problem seemed to exist.
So what was wrong? The Doctor listened intently to the hum of the TARDIS, straining his ears to try to determine the cause of the fault he felt was wrong in his mind.
Nothing seemed out of place.
Shrugging, the Doctor reached for the lever to pilot the ship deeper into the Vortex...
...and all at once, everything went crazy. The moment he pulled the lever the TARDIS tumbled and spun violently, and he became forced to cling on as tightly as possible. The central console sparked and buzzed as flashes of energy erupted from its core. The Doctor became aware of a Time Distortion – his form multiplied a dozen times some seconds out of synch as he reached for the controls once more, and in desperation he thudded a hand on the emergency stop switch.
The ship slowed painfully and came to a halt. The shuddering stopped.
Glancing about for a second, the Doctor then turned back to the console and patted it sympathetically. "Now what was all that about, hey? What's the problem, hm?" He moved round the console, pressing various switches and buttons to determine the cause of the TARDIS's unruly attempt to travel through the Vortex.
Just as he realized that he had done something as simply stupid as to leave the Temporal Shields down in his extensive repairs to the ship, his body thudded against somebody else. "Oh, excuse me." He said calmly, perhaps thinking for a moment that Martha was still accompanying him, and carried on in his investigations...
...then looked up sharply.
His Fifth Incarnation was staring right at him.
"What?" Words couldn't be spoken any harder. He was staring at himself! The memories of a thousand adventures in a different guise flooded into his thoughts as he tried to discern the impossibility of what was in front of him.
"What?" His older... well younger body seemed to be equally in shock, though the Doctor knew all too well that seeing your own personal future was a far stranger experience than revisiting his past. That didn't make the appearance of his younger self any less bizarre.
He tried to speak again, his brain fighting to recall the circumstances of this encounter, but nothing appeared. "What?" He uttered for a second time, both with a mixture of worry and fascination mixed into this one-word statement.
His past self marched right up to him with a frown and eyed him up warily. "Who are you?"
Horror was swiftly overwhelmed by first immense interest, and then sheer amusement in the Doctor's mind, and he couldn't help but grin in front of the cricket suit wearing paradox right in front of him. "Oh... brilliant! I mean, totally wrong, big emergency, universe goes bang in five minutes but... brilliant!"
So many questions he could ask... so many answers come to that that he could-
"I'm the Doctor, who are you?" His past self was speaking in a carefully calculated manner, as if the Doctor was a quite possibly insane trespasser in his own back yard... which to be honest, was probably half correct if you reckoned to look at things in a certain way and another man's (or the same really) perspective.
Still, once more he couldn't help but point out the painfully obvious. "Yes, you are! You are the Doctor." All the same his more rational side was straining to know what was going on. He definitely couldn't recall being sucked up in the body just in front of him and running smack into some bizarre blue pinstripe wearing lunatic in what he would be convinced was his TARDIS. So what was happening? A scheme of the Master? Mere happenchance? Or something more sinister?
The Doctor was beginning to tire of this strange fellow in the blue suit staring at him as he was Santa Claus himself. Just who was he, and for that matter where on Gallifrey was Nyssa? Deciding to deal with one crisis at a time the Time Lord opted to aim to try and see if he could calm this strange fellow down.
"Yes, I am. I'm the Doctor."
The stranger grinned ever wider, appearing to try and glance at every line and curve of his jacket, right down to the stick of celery and tie."Oh, good for you, Doctor. Good for brilliant old you."
His patience beginning to be tested, the Doctor frowned hard at this lunatic. "Is there something wrong with you?"
The stranger in the blue suit seemed even more amused than ever. "Oh there it goes! The frowny face, I remember that one! "The Doctor was suddenly stunned as the fellow quite simply grabbed his cheeks and frowned himself. "Mind you, bit saggier than it ought to be, hair's a bit grayer. "
Wondering what on earth the man was going on about the Doctor glanced at his dim reflection in the TARDIS computer (Also vastly changed – just how much damage had this nitwit and stowaway actually caused?) and became uncomfortably aware that he did indeed look and even feel something like a century older than he should do.
He was so occupied he nearly missed the stranger's apparent explanation; "That's because of me, though, the two of us together has shorted out the time differential, should all snap back in place when we get you back home." The stranger attempted to pull his cricket jacket in better, much to the Doctor's irritation. "Be able to close that coat again. But never mind that! Look at you! The hat, the coat, the crickety cricket stuff the..."
The figure's rhetoric slowed for a second, and the Doctor saw his gaze had reached the celery on his lapel. "...the stick of celery, yeah. Brave choice celery, but fair play to you - not a lot of men can carry off a decorative vegetable."
That was it. The Doctor had had quite enough of this madman criticising or over glorifying every detail of himself, and resisting the urge to yell that the celery had a perfectly reasonable usage still raised his voice.
"Shut up! There is something wrong with my TARDIS and I've got to do something about it very, very quickly, and it would help, it really would help, if there wasn't some skinny idiot ranting in my face about everything that happens to be in front of him!"
The stranger looked genuinely hurt, but thankfully quietened down. "Oh. Okay. Sorry... Doctor."
The Time Lord sighed inwardly. At least one problem appeared taken care of. "Thank you." He turned round, preparing to see if he might begin to sort out this strange case-
"Oh! The back of my head!"
Whilst he couldn't see the strange man's face he got the impression he was back to full form. And what was he talking about – his head? The fellow carried his tirade. "Sorry, Sorry, not something you see ever day, is it, the back of your own head? ...mind you, I see why you wear a hat. I don't want to seem vain, but could you keep that on?"
His patience stretched to its utter limit, the Doctor twirled about; determined to get some answers. It was becoming clear this fellow had knowledge of hi s TARDIS – was he a Time Lord, or merely some human who'd blundered in his ship from his and Nyssa's last trip to Earth? He seemed too lively, un-boasting and beardless to be some new regeneration of the Master, but the thought of his old foe the Monk crossed his mind. "What have you done to my TARDIS? You've changed the desktop theme... what is this one then, coral?"
"It's worse than the leopard skin!" Thinking he'd get no answers from this nitwit after all he whipped out his specs , feeling the need for them more thanks to the century gained upon his current body – he shuddered inside as he recalled his previous incarnation's increased aging experience on Argolis and thanked Rassilon this hadn't been so severe, and was hopefully reversible as with-
The fellow started once again. "Oohhh! There they come! The brainy specs! You don't even need them; you just think they make you look a bit clever."
Just as he felt the need to rant for peace once again, a sound invaded his ears and he glanced up alarmed, the stranger forgotten for an instant. "That's an alert. Level five. Indicates a temporal collision." He rushed across to the changed console and was still able to locate the required circuits for further investigation, irritatingly aware that the loony had parked himself right next to his shoulder. "It's like two TARDISes have merged, but there's definitely only one TARDIS present. Looks like two time zones at war in the heart of the TARDIS. "His voice became severe. "That's a paradox. Could blow a hole in the space time continuum the size of..."
The amusement of having his old self in the TARDIS beginning to wane as the apparent crisis appeared; the Doctor pressed a helpful button for the befuddled Cricket Wearer.
"...Well, actually, the exact size of Belgium. That's a bit undramatic, isn't? Belgium?"
His past self started to snap buttons and still keen to help out, not to mention jog some memories and hopefully confirm his identity the Doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out his trusty Sonic Screwdriver, offering it to his Fifth Incarnation. "Need this?"
"No, I'm fine." Irritatingly his past self seemed to recognise the thing but not put two and two together. The Doctor decided to push his luck and try some more insulting banter.
"Oh no, of course, you mostly went hands free didn't you? It's like 'Hey, I'm the doctor, I can save the universe with a kettle and some string, and look at me, I'm wearing a vegetable!'"
It seemed to work, and once again his past self halted to glare across at him. "Who are you?"
The later version of the same Time Lord kept his gaze. "Take a look."
For the first time realization seemed to dawn in his past self's eyes, and a concerned look drew sharply on his face. "Oh... oh no."
The Doctor managed to smile, knowing the next chain of events precisely. "Oh yes."
"You're... oh no, you're…"
"Here it comes, yep, yep I am."
"A fan!" And with that he moved back to his work, exactly-
"Ye- What?" The Time Lord blinked violently. Not what he had expected at all!
"Level ten now. This is bad. Two minutes to Belgium!"
"What do you mean 'a fan'? I'm not just a fan, I'm you!" Slightly enraged that his past self hadn't gotten the most logical of hints he'd decided to stick with plain reveals, paradoxes and Belgium be damned!
But he seemed to be out of luck as the younger Time Lord turned back to him. "Okay, you're my biggest fan. Look, it's perfectly understandable. I go zooming around space and time saving planets, fighting monsters and being, well, let's be honest, pretty sort of marvellous..." Despite everything the Doctor couldn't help but smirk at that comment.
"And naturally every now and then people notice me... start up their little groups. That LINDA lot..." Suddenly the past Doctor's eyes narrowed as if struck by the concept. "...are you one of them?" Without giving the Doctor the chance to respond he pointed a finger. "How did you get in here? Can't have you lot knowing where I live."
The Doctor had quite enough. "Listen to me, I'm you! I'm you with a new face. Check out this bone structure Doctor, because one day, you're going to be shaving it."
Just as he thought realization was burned onto his younger self's face an infamous dong struck in the room and he glanced upwards. "The Cloister Bell!"
Outside the Larva sniffed the air and hissed aggressively. It hadn't set these events in motion –it knew it had simply been at the right place and time to manipulate such things. Without its presence the Time Lords – the same Time Lord in two different forms - would simply encounter each other and soon be on their way. But the Larva wanted more than mere disorder.
It wanted Chaos.
Thrusting its head back and drawing on its remaining resources of chaotic power, it targeted its selected victim and prepared to strike...
The TARDIS shuddered violently and the pair of Time Lords – the same Time Lord, they seemed to have collectively realised, only just too late – glanced with sudden concern at the Central Console as the Cloister Bell donged ever harder.
Then for the second time in a row for both of them, everything went crazy.
The Doctor – the one with the blue Pinstripe Suit – felt himself bombarded by fierce temporal energy as it coursed round the TARDIS. "What? This isn't part of a trans-dimensional paradox!"
The younger Doctor was steadying himself at the controls. "Some kind of outside interference! Just like before... That weird organic presence in the vortex I detected..."
The elder Time Lord boggled, very worried. He definitely didn't remember anything like this, and he should. That fact terrified him more than the energy he felt pressing painfully against him. "What presence? What force?"
His younger self shouted something over the din of noise howling round him as yellow waves flowed about his body, but he couldn't hear him. Only something chuckling. Something evil and cruel sounding as they felt rather than saw the invader.
"Revenge will be sweet, Time Lord." He could hear a hissing voice speak from nowhere. "Fear your past. Embrace your future. For soon you will be mine, body and soul – FOREVER!"
He turned to see the other Doctor look horrified and knew he too had heard those words across the din of the vortex he realized was now seeping into the TARDIS – both TARDISes he came to understood - past and future. For a second, the ship blurred, and he saw the familiar old settings of the whitened hexagonal console room his Fifth Incarnation had kept, then back to his old version, then-
He heard his scream echo loudly before his body seemed to be hurled violently into...
Everything went quiet. Slowly, he managed to open his eyes.
Panic gripped his hearts. "Oh no..." He was in that white hexagonal console room once more but this time it did not vanish. It might have been some change in the design, a desire by his past self... but he wasn't anywhere to be seen. Terror entered the Doctor's mind as he came to realize that he was by all accounts trapped in his own past.
Fear your past. Embrace your future...
The mysterious enemy who had deposited him here had played its hands well. If he understood rightly, his past self would be quite trapped in the depths of his own TARDIS – a prisoner in his future, just as the Doctor knew he was within his own history.
All at once he became aware of something behind the console, and cautiously he moved forwards to investigate.
It was a person. A woman dressed in a brown furred suit, curly brunette hair, her face down-
He started as he recognised her. It was Nyssa! Memories of Traken, the Master, Heathrow, Mondas, the Mutant Phase, Pudding Lane and Terminus flooded his brain. And she was here now, his old friend and companion, right in front of him.
"What?" He summed the situation up with his most common expression of disbelief in this particular incarnation. Somehow this time, it didn't feel enough.
The Doctor blinked. The man who he had just realized was his own future had quite simply vanished, taken by the powerful foe of whatever old enemy had targeted them both in the heart of the Vortex in some scheme for revenge, shutting him from his familiar surroundings without companions or friends to rely on and leaving him stranded in the world of his own personal future.
It terrified him.
Quickly he moved to the unfamiliar console controls once more, attempting to see if he could detect the foe outside, or indeed his own, younger TARDIS. Nothing seemed to register. In fact, the TARDIS – his future self's TARDIS, he corrected – appeared to be in the process of rematerialis-
A loud fog horn bought his attention.
Then a huge object became crashing out of the walls and loomed over the Time Lord. "What?!" Already out of his depth this sudden invasion of the interior dimensions alarmed the Doctor completely as he brushed waves of sawdust from his cricket jacket and groggily pulled himself back up. Was this the next stage of the mysterious enemy's plan?
Then his eyes caught the circular object on the floor, read the single bold word on its side and he had to will his hearts not to stop.
It said HMS Titanic. It was a life preserver marked HMS Titanic.
The Doctor usually prided himself in keeping himself calm but for once, words failed him completely.
The Larva smelt fear. It smelt possibility, confusion, anger, distrust.
They were delightful.
The Doctors would be seeking for its presence in the trials to come. No matter; it would corrupt even them with ease once it would be ready to – once it had feasted enough on the entrails of negativity.
It cackled. How fortunate that the Time Lords had been to see such worthy challenges in their next journeys! How much their confusion at being in the wrong places would cause in the universe! And how it would feed from its effects.
It could just taste the impending deaths to come. See just ahead the likely candidates for its coils to latch onto and make its puppet of.
The Doctor had defeated it once before. Never again. It would draw itself into the cracks the violent journeys both TARDISes had made, and cause chaos and destruction like never before.
And then before the end, the Doctor would be its slave. All of him.
The Larva pushed its mutating form into both pockets of Space-Time, laughing all the way.
This would be a fine banquet.
AN : The events mentioned over the Eighth Doctor losing his memory and visiting his previous incarnations happened in the BBC Novel 'The Eight Doctors'.
OCC: Thanks for the lovely reviews and alerts so far. I had intended to save this til the beginning of September where 'Time Switch' will hopefully become a weekly update, but with it being such a popular fanfic of mine I decided to release the second chapter slightly early. I hope you enjoy, I would incidently like to warn people in advance that the chapters will become shorter after this to allow for the weekly rota to be feasable. Oh, and I have to thank the Doctor Who Transcript website for providing the scripts for 'Time Crash' in which this chapter used much of its dialogue, and also 'Voyage of the Damned' in coming chapters as well. Unfortunately there's no transcript for 'Arc of Infinity' I can find so I am likely to need to purchase the old Target Novelisation in the future, though I do have a summary to work with if needed. If anyone does of course know the location of the entire 'Arc of Infinity' script, PLEASE send me a link via IM if possible, you'd be doing me a huge favour. Thanks once again. :)