Disclaimer: As much as I'd like to, I don't own Doctor Who
Feedback: Of course
AN: Another emotionally complicated chapter, but I feel that the final result works
The Legacy of Gallifrey
Having settled into a larger lab a shorter distance down the hall- this one consisting only of a larger computer and a large meeting table-, the two oldest Doctors only had a relatively short amount of time to wait until their other selves and assorted companions had come to them. As the other Doctors took up their seats around the table, the Doctor wasn't blind to the glares that the other eight of him were shooting at his immediate predecessor, but he was surprised to see the uncertain expressions on the faces of his non-Time Lord companions (Although he was pleased to note that Ianto Jones, while still clearly shaken, didn't seem to be confused any more; evidently the others had managed to bring him up to date with what was going on).
"We haven't... filled them in on everything yet," the Fifth Doctor said, looking briefly at the oldest two Doctors, answering the question they hadn't asked yet; knowledge of what would happen to them hadn't been shared with everyone yet. "I thought- we thought- that it would be better heard coming from someone who knows what we're talking about first-hand."
"Quite," the Doctor said, nodding in acknowledgement at his past self's decision- it could be seen by some as 'passing the buck', but he had to admit that the central idea was sensible enough- before he looked around at the rest of the people in the room while placing a reassuring hand on his previous incarnation's shoulder. "Firstly, don't blame him for what he did, given that we are talking about the dimmest of us- which admittedly still makes him smarter than most-; no real innovation-"
"Oi!" the Ninth Doctor said, looking over at his future self with a glare that was mitigated by the slight grin underneath.
"You called yourself Doctor Table at one point, Doctor; I don't think-" the Doctor began, enjoying the brief return to form as each incarnation nitpicked at the parts of themselves that they didn't entirely like.
"I did?" the Ninth Doctor said, looking at his future self in confusion.
"Oh, wait a minute, just you and Rose... you haven't done that yet," the Doctor said, shaking his head awkwardly before he continued. "The point is, he screwed up, but he did it because he's had a lot to process and little time to do it, made even worse by the fact that he regenerated shortly after he remembered everything that he'd done- the Victorian gent over there suffered from amnesia for some time after everything happened before he got back to normal-; he basically had all the crap from our previous life dumped on him all at once on top of the usual post-regenerative trauma attack."
"He gets off on a temporary insanity plea?" the Sixth Doctor said, looking sceptically at the Ninth Doctor.
"I'm tolerated because I wasn't thinking clearly for various reasons; I'm not expecting automatic forgiveness," the Ninth Doctor corrected, looking grimly at his previous self. "And considering that you're the one who thought about killing himself when you were stable, you're not one to talk about me making mistakes because I'd been through a lot."
The Sixth Doctor didn't reply to that statement, and none of the other Doctors were inclined to press the matter, even if the earlier ones were obviously curious; it was clear that this wasn't the time or the place to talk about something like that.
"So... who are we dealing with here?" the Brigadier asked, seizing the opportunity to address the problem right in front of them.
"We already told you who-" the Third Doctor began.
"Yes, and from what we've heard, I find it unlikely that three such unstable egomaniacs- to say nothing of the Daleks- managed to come together on their own, even if they could find some common cause to work towards, which means that someone else actually brought them together to do whatever they're trying to do," the Brigadier said, looking grimly at the Doctors. "So, now that we're all here, can you tell us who brought these men together, and why they did it?"
Looking around at his other selves, the Doctor took a deep breath and nodded in understanding at their own accepting stares.
Even those of them who didn't know anything about the Valeyard beyond what their later selves had informed him of knew that they would have to rely on their companions if they were going to accomplish their goal, and also knew enough to know that their friends would never abandon them.
They might be facing an unprecedentedly dangerous enemy, but they were accompanied by their most loyal friends; if they couldn't trust them now, they couldn't trust anyone.
"He calls himself the Valeyard," the Doctor said, before taking a deep breath as he gave himself a last moment to collect himself before revealing the final secret. "But... he was originally known as the Doctor."
For a moment, the other companions simply stared at the Doctor in silence, until Jo finally spoke.
"You mean... he was posing as you?" she asked uncertainly.
"No, Jo," the Third Doctor said, indicating the later five Doctors. "According to myselves here, this 'Valeyard' is me-"
"Hold on; you mean that you're doing this? Claire said, looking at the Sixth Doctor in shock (The Doctor noted that Klein had a self-satisfied smirk on her face at this news, but he quickly resolved to ignore that; he'd get back to her when the time was right and everyone was aware of what they needed to know). "But why-?"
"He is not 'me' in the sense that we are me," the Sixth Doctor replied grimly.
"To put it simply, the Valeyard is the manifestation of the darkest sides of our nature, created at some point in our future; we don't know how he was created, so don't ask," the Eighth Doctor explained, taking up the explanation. "Somehow, a corrupt High Council were able to bring him into existence- from my perspective, a couple of lives ago- to serve as the prosecutor in a sham trial intended to conceal their own shortcomings after we discovered evidence of their mistakes- a future Earth relocated and decimated by a fireball that nearly wiped out all life on the surface just to prevent people learning that certain secrets had been stolen from the Matrix-; we only just defeated him that time, and we were certain that he had died in our next encounter when I was the little fellow with the umbrella..."
"Hold on; you... killed your evil future self?" Barbara asked, looking incredulously at the Eighth Doctor, her confusion clear on her face. "Isn't that a bit... well, I mean...?"
"He wasn't our future self in the sense that we'll become him- from what we gathered he's just the physical manifestation of our darker side rather than actually being us-, and he actually died when his TARDIS exploded and he was caught in the blast, but that's another story for another time," the Eighth Doctor clarified.
"OK, so he's not you in the sense that you're you; if you saw him die- and from what Jack's said you don't make that kind of mistake-, how is he still walking around?" Owen asked.
"Unfortunately, that's where I come in," the Doctor explained. "During a recent crisis involving... the creation of a paradox machine, the machine's destruction didn't completely erase everything that its creator had done; part of his plans included... well, they involved drawing something from a parallel universe across the inter-dimensional void- a non-space where nothing exists except what no longer existed- and into this reality, with the result that, even with that event erased from both universes, there was now a tear in the Void that was sufficient for the Valeyard, now trapped there after we erased his present, to escape and get back into the real universe."
"And... that allowed him to possess this 'Nivet' person you mentioned?" the Second Doctor asked.
"Nivet?" Serena asked, looking over at the Doctors. "You never actually specified; who is Nivet?"
"He was a technician we met back on Gallifrey; he... well, Compassion took him with her after she decided to make her own way, reasoning that he could deal with any problems she might encounter in the absence of the Eye of Harmony," the Ninth Doctor said, looking awkwardly at where the two Compassions were still standing silently in one corner; they had been physically reactivated, but whatever their enemies had done to them had still knocked their mental processors out for the count for the moment. "As for how the Valeyard did it... Well, we'd been linked to Compassion's telepathic circuits, which meant that he was linked to them as well; in a discorporated state with access to potentially the entire universe, it wouldn't be that hard for him to find her present condition and hi-jack Nivet's body through the telepathic circuits, given his own youth and inexperience."
"So... if he has his own body, what exactly is he trying to do?" Ian asked. "I could understand revenge- it'd be excessive, but I could understand it-, but this is just too elaborate..."
"He wants to save our home planet," Susan said, her expression clearly showing her grief at the thought of the situation she had just described.
"Save your home planet?" Barbara repeated, looking at Susan and the First Doctor in shock. "But what-"
"It's been destroyed," the Ninth Doctor said grimly, attracting various shocked gasps from the companions who hadn't been aware of this news already.
"Oh no..." Jo said, staring at the Doctors in shock, before her gaze settled on the Third Doctor. "I... Doctor, I'm sorry..."
"Thank you, Jo," the Third Doctor said, nodding in grateful understanding at her before turning to address his other companions. "Regardless of the... scale of the tragedy, how that happened is not what matters at this time; the only thing that matters is that, according to what the Valeyard told us- and we have no reason to doubt him-, Rassilon and Omega have allied with Davros, the creator of the Daleks, in order to save both Gallifrey and Skaro- the Daleks' own home planet- from destruction, by replacing them with two planets from the present."
"Hold on; they're going to what?" Gwen asked, looking at the Third Doctor in shock.
"They're... look, I think I've got what you just said, but I'd like to be sure, OK?" Fitz said, looking at the Doctors incredulously. "You mean... they're going to just take two planets from now and put them where those two planets were just before they got blown up... and then dump Gallifrey and Skaro back here?"
"Exactly," the Doctor said.
"But... doesn't that solve everything?" Donna asked, looking uncertainly at the Doctor. "I mean, Skaro, OK, I get why you wouldn't want that place to come back, but-"
"Except that they'd be devoting too much power to actually accessing the planets through the dimensional ripple that was caused by Gallifrey's destruction in the first place to be able to specifically choose which planets will be replacing them," the Ninth Doctor said. "I tried to do the math on that myself, but I just couldn't make it work; there's no way to choose specific planets to be sacrificed at this end if they're going to have enough processing power to save the planets at the other end of the rift."
"So... they'll save your planet and this 'Skaro' place... and just sacrifice two random worlds in the process?" Claire asked, a gradually dawning expression of horror on her face as she processed the scale of the implied crime. "Oh my God..."
"But why did they bring you all here then?" Martha asked, looking in confusion at the Doctor. "I mean, wouldn't they want to wait until they'd actually won before showing you what they'd done?"
"Unfortunately for them, they needed us to actually complete the plan," the Fifth Doctor explained.
"They did?" Amy asked in confusion.
"They intend to use our TARDISes to provide the necessary processing power to 'do the math' to actually recover the necessary planets for the plan to succeed, and the anti-matter mining we discovered on Zeta Minor helps provide them with the power they need; what they've gained from the Rift will be useful, but they need all available power to get the job done," the Fourth Doctor continued. "With Compassion's future self posing as Ianto Jones to act as an inside man to gain access to the Cardiff Rift for additional power, as well as providing them with the chance to steal our TARDISes and capture us, it's now just a matter of time..."
"I don't see what you're all complaining about," Klein said, speaking for the first time as she looked at the Doctors with a grim, cold smile. "After all, you'd all do the same thing if you could."
The rest of the room fell silent at this statement for a moment before they turned to look at Klein, their expressions varying from shock to rage at what she had just said.
"What?" the Brigadier said at last, his voice a low, dangerous tone that even the Doctors couldn't recall him using before; in their experience, the Brigadier tended to shout when he got angry and wasn't afraid to ensure that others knew when they had evoked his displeasure.
"Well, maybe you wouldn't be as obvious about it, but you can't say you all wouldn't do this if you could get away with it," Klein said, looking over at the Seventh Doctor with a brief, cold stare before she took in the rest of the people sitting around her, a smug expression on her face that suggested that she couldn't believe she was the only person saying what she was currently saying. "After all, you changed history to get rid of my world just because you didn't like it; considering that we're talking about your planet-"
"WE DON'T DO THAT, KLEIN!" the Ninth Doctor yelled before any of the others could do anything, walking over and grabbing the former Nazi by her jacket as he hauled her off her feet and slammed her into the wall behind her with such force that the other Doctors winced even as their companions stared at the Ninth Doctor in shock. "WE DON'T CHANGE HISTORY-!"
"YOU DESTROYED MY WORLD!" Klein yelled back, forcing the Ninth Doctor's hands away from her shoulders as she glared at him, rage and pain in her voice as she glared at him. "Do you honestly expect me to believe-?"
"What did we do while you travelled with me?" the Seventh Doctor asked, cutting Klein's rant short.
"What?" Klein asked, turning to look at him in confusion at the interruption.
"What did we do when you travelled with me?" the Doctor repeated.
"We... went to other planets, we visited those mercury swamps, you tried to help those 'Krill' things-" Klein said, clearly lost at the point that the Doctor was trying to make.
"And in all that time, did I ever go anywhere with the goal of changing history?" the Seventh Doctor asked, staring firmly at her.
"No..." Klein said, her manner briefly faltering before she glared at him again. "But that was just because-!"
"Because I don't do that," the Seventh Doctor said, his tone still firm as he stared at her, his harsh stare refusing to allow the possibility of an argument. "I changed history to remove your world because it was not meant to be, Klein; the reason I do not go back and alter the outcome of other historical events that I might disapprove of is because it is just too dangerous to do so."
"Didn't that mess with the Reapers teach you anything?" the Ninth Doctor asked, still glaring at Klein. "It's like the little tramp said when we all met in the church; they just didn't bother coming for you because you'd done so much damage to Time that they couldn't have stopped it on their own."
"You destroyed my world-!" Klein spat in outrage.
"We've all done things that we wished we could undo after the fact, Klein," the Doctor said, looking solemnly at her. "I was present when Pompeii burned..."
"I have to live with the knowledge that a part of me was Jack the Ripper," the Seventh Doctor put in.
"He'll be unable to do anything but watch as the Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve plays out before him," the Second Doctor said, indicating the First with a brief wave of his hand, ignoring the shocked look on his previous self's face as he continued to speak. "Personally, when looking back on my shortcomings in this body, I'll always remember how I wasn't able to save the Selachian homeworld from being destroyed by a bunch of trigger-happy soldiers, so bitter about what had happened in recent years that they couldn't see another way..."
"You'll come to think of the day when you couldn't save London from the Xhinn," the Fourth Doctor suddenly said, looking solemnly at the Third Doctor for a moment before sighing himself. "And as for me..."
He looked grimly at his hands, a contemplative expression on his face at the memory that now filled his mind. "I'll always remember the day that I had the chance to stop my greatest enemies from ever existing... when my own people had asked me to avert their creation at the very beginning... and didn't take it."
"You didn't?" Ian asked, looking at the Fourth Doctor in shock. "But... I mean, you'd been asked-"
"And how would that make me any better than them, Ian?" the Fourth Doctor asked, looking grimly back at his first human companion before he looked over at Klein. "I learned long ago, Klein, that just because I have the ability to change history doesn't mean that I should; any attempts to rewrite the past could result in something even worse coming about. I will interfere to put history on the right track if someone else changes it- and I won't deny that we've occasionally taken action to undo temporally dangerous timelines if the futures being created will have long-term damage to the web of time-, but we will not constantly tamper with the timeline to achieve the results we want."
"Quite apart from anything else," the Second Doctor said, smiling slightly at her, "can you imagine how exhausting that would be? Going back and forth, making sure that history is unfolding exactly the way we want it to, constantly stepping in when something happened that didn't fit the vision of the world we were trying to create, making everyone so dependent on us stepping in to handle everything that came up..."
He sighed in an exaggerated manner before he looked back at Klein. "Well, with one planet completely dependent on us to the point that we can't visit anywhere else in case they need us for something while we're 'away', it would be a frustrating dull way to live, wouldn't it?"
Klein opened her mouth as though to protest, but then closed her mouth, a shaken and contemplative expression on her face as she took in what the younger Doctor had just said.
Only the Seventh Doctor and his successors knew what was going through Klein's mind; the Second Doctor, without knowing it, had just described the exact situation that Klein had found herself in when she had changed history to try and recreate her world; even after she'd helped the Nazis win the war, she'd kept on going back and forward in time, getting advance knowledge of alien invasions and going back to warn the Nazis about them so that they were ready, never able to take the time to actually enjoy her trips in the TARDIS as she was so focused on her primary goal to the exclusion of all else.
"Well... so you're less professional about your use of time travel-" she began.
"Less professional?" Jo repeated, looking incredulously at Klein. "He travels through time because he enjoys the chance to see what's out there and help when he can; the fact that he doesn't just travel around for the sole purpose of fighting evil and changing history is-!"
"The point, Klein, is that the Doctor would give anything to change those events, but knows that he cannot," the Brigadier said, looking solemnly at the Nazi scientist; he had a feeling that whatever Jo was about to say would just inspire an elaborate shouting match that none of them had time to deal with right now. "He will do what he can to protect us, but if it comes to a choice between changing history and saving lives, I have come to recognise that the Doctor will not change what has come before even if it means that he must allow others to die; he was present at the death of Rasputin- whom I am assured was a far more benevolent individual than history records-, and did nothing despite his thoughts on the man's murder, and he and I once met your 'Fuhrer' in 1942, but neither of us did a thing to try and end Hitler's actions at that time because we could not predict the consequences."
"But..." Klein said, looking around the room only to find herself met with nothing but cold stares as she tried to find the right words.
"Trust me, I asked him that question when we in Pompeii, Lizzie," Donna said, looking coldly at Klein. "I wanted to save the city, but all he'd do is insist that he couldn't do anything... and, in the end, I got the point that he was making; sometimes, doing something can be more dangerous than doing nothing, because we can't be sure that what happened before wasn't better than what would have happened if something else had happened instead."
"It's like Alistair said to me," the Eighth Doctor said, smiling sadly at Klein even as she looked uncomfortably at Donna, clearly thinking about what the other woman had said. "Life is only what it is because it isn't forever."
"I said that?" the Brigadier said, looking at the Eighth Doctor in surprise.
"You will say it, eleven years in your future," the Eighth Doctor clarified, smiling briefly at his old friend before returning his attention to Klein. "The point is, Klein, that while we would like to change those parts of history that we don't like if we could, the fact that we can't just reminds us that, even as time travellers, we have to cherish each moment that comes to us; if we could change the moments that we don't like, we'd never be able to appreciate the moments that we do."
"And where's the point in living if you can't make mistakes?" Jack asked, looking solemnly at Klein. "We can alter history so that we all live perfect lives, never making a single error in judgement or having a single regret... but how would we be able to enjoy the really good moments that come about when they're all we'd have ever known?"
"Even when those bad moments include the destruction of everything you know?" Klein asked, looking over at the Doctors and their companions.
"Even then, Klein," the Doctor said, speaking for all of his other selves. "We did everything we could to save Gallifrey... but, having failed, we won't go back and try to undo its loss just because we don't like how things turned out. There are things we will always wish that we could do, and there will always be people or places that we would give anything to save... but, if we could save anyone and do anything, nothing that we had now would be worth anything."
For a moment, there was silence as everyone around the room looked at Klein, waiting for her reaction of what they had told her, until she looked at the Seventh Doctor.
"If my world had been the right history..." she began, looking uncertainly at the Doctor she had spent so much time travelling with and hating, a contemplative expression on her face, "would you have left it alone?"
"Yes," the Seventh Doctor confirmed. "I would have objected to what you had done to maintain it after you stole the TARDIS while I was helping the Krill, but if Germany had won the Second World War on their own, I would have done nothing to help the British change that outcome."
After a long moment of staring at the other man, Klein sighed, an expression of desolation on her face that the Doctors could never remember her showing before.
"You're telling the truth..." she said, her voice low as though she wished that she could deny what she had just said even as she knew that she couldn't.
"I always was," the Seventh Doctor said, staring sadly back at Klein. "Believe me... if there had been another way, I would have taken it-"
"Save your apologies, Doctor," Klein said, looking firmly back at him for a moment before she turned to look at the other Doctors and her fellow companions, her usual cold stare on her face once again. "Let's deal with this problem, shall we?"
"Of course," the Seventh Doctor said, trying not to look at his future three selves as they each tried not to consider the implications of what they'd just done.
Erasing Klein from history had been hard enough when she was unrepentant about what she had done and considered her erasure the only chance for her history to be restored; how were they were going to do it when she actually regretted what she had done...?
"So," the Brigadier said, turning to look at the Ninth Doctor, bringing the later Doctors' thoughts back to the threat in front of them, "now that we've got that out of the way, what can you tell us about what kind of resources we'll be up against when we confront our enemies?"
AN 2: Hope that meets with everyone's approval; coming up next time, the Doctors engage in a confrontation with their greatest enemies, and face an even greater challenge...