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The Legacy of Gallifrey
As they stood in front of the control room that would lead to their enemies- based on both the directions their foes had provided for the Ninth Doctor and the sheer size of the doors before them-, the Doctors exchanged a final glance at each other before they turned to look at their companions.
"Well, we're here," the Ninth Doctor said, looking grimly at everyone around them as he indicated the door. "Behind this thing is the greater alliance of evil we've ever seen in over a thousand years of travelling through time and space; we're dealing with a quartet of psychopaths with a ridiculously ambitious plan and power and resources beyond anything we've had to face on our own."
"If you'd prefer not to come," the Fifth Doctor said, speaking for all of his other selves as he addressed their friends, "we will completely understand; our enemies brought you here, but this isn't your fight-"
"It became our fight the moment we stepped through those doors, Spaceman," Donna said, glaring at the younger Doctor before he could even complete his sentence with the kind of stare that would have left even the more confident Doctors uncertain about their position. "Maybe it's bigger than the usual stuff we run into with you, but we're here now; we're not backing out!"
"I… second… that," Compassion said, looking over at the Doctor with a slightly sloppy stare; she still wasn't back to her usual peak after whatever the Valeyard had done to shut her down- the Eighth Doctor had also expressed concern about how she'd adapt to this kind of temporal paradox, given that she was linked to all ten of him to various degrees even if her link to him was strongest-, but she'd regained enough of herself to walk and talk, and had unequivocally refused to remain behind even before the Doctors explained their plan to her.
"We didn't exactly ask to be here, but when has that stopped us?" Ian asked, smiling slightly at the First Doctor. "If it's important enough for all of you to be here, it's important enough to make it worth our while to help you; we are going to stop this, here and now."
"We are all here for you, Doctor," the Brigadier said, looking firmly at the ten Time Lords standing before them. "After what you have done for Earth over the centuries, it would be selfish at best to abandon you to face something like this."
Looking around at the resolute expressions on the faces of their various assembled companions- even Serena, Amy and Claire were as committed to the current task as the rest despite the relative brevity of their time with him, although Klein still seemed to be slightly shaken at their last 'chat' even if she was clearly committed to staying there-, the Doctor smiled.
This was why he'd come to appreciate humans so much; they might be flawed at times, and as a group they could make stupid decisions, but, when push came to shove, one-on-one, they could still surprise him, and the best of them were often worth more than any number of Time Lords that he could mention or call upon.
"Just… I know that it's exceptional circumstances, but do we have to use these?" Barbara asked, indicating the Dalek weapons they'd recovered from a locker on their way.
"I'm far from happy about this either, Barbara, but we don't exactly have a choice right now," the Fifth Doctor said, studying the weapon he held with an obviously distasteful expression; the last time he'd held something like that had been when he'd been trying to kill Davros, and he'd never been able to go through with it in the end. "The Daleks aren't going to particularly care about the temporal paradox they'll cause if they try to kill any of us right now, so we have to operate from a position of strength from the beginning if we're going to make any kind of impression on them that won't involve them just shooting us on sight."
"Just remember; don't shoot unless you're sure you have to," the Seventh Doctor added, looking over at the others. "What we're about to do will be dangerous enough as it is; we can't afford to provoke the Daleks and tip our hand too quickly."
"What are you talking about; this-" John Hart began, only to stop as Jack directed a cold stare in his direction.
"Don't make me regret letting you come along," he said, looking firmly at the other agent. "You're on the Doctor's team now, which means you follow his rules; clear?"
"Crystal," John replied with a slightly anxious nod.
The Doctor hadn't really registered the other agent that much- he wondered if Jack had asked the man to keep quiet to avoid drawing attention to himself, even if the memories that the Doctor was remembering from the perspective of his first two selves was enough to give him a disturbing picture of the man's personality-, but he was slightly ashamed to admit that he actually felt slightly better seeing him standing there with a weapon.
He respected all of his companions for their willingness and ability to recognise that killing, while the expedient way of dealing with a problem, blurred the line between them and what they had to fight in a manner that none of them could ever be comfortable with, but in a situation like this, facing four of his most dangerous enemies and his most consistent adversaries all at once, he was almost grateful for the fact that he had at least two people who would be willing to kill regardless of what he might want them to do.
"Let us proceed," Leela said, her expression grim as she looked at the Doctor.
"I second that," Gwen added, cocking her own gun and nodding at the Time Lord.
With their companions and allies resolved to continue, the Doctor turned and opened the doors before them with a quick flick of the sonic screwdriver- clearly they weren't exactly unexpected or unwanted-, revealing a vast room centred around a half-globe in the ceiling filled with golden Rift energy, a metal pillar extending from the centre of the globe to the floor. Various computer panels were scattered around the room, their controls reflecting a twisted amalgamation of Dalek and Time Lord technology, assorted Daleks at a few control panels while Rassilon and Omega were visible at two consoles on either side of the pillar connecting the floor to the globe. Davros and the Valeyard stood off to the side on an elevated platform that provided a clear view of the room, the Valeyard in a chair that put the Doctors in mind of a throne rather than any kind of practical command position while Davros 'sat' off to the side in his usual life support equipment.
"ALERT!" one Dalek said, turning towards the door, only to be halted when Claire fired her gun at the nearest Dalek, her eyes wide with panic.
"Hold it!" the Fourth Doctor said, as the group raised their weapons to aim at the Daleks that were already moving in to surround them.
"I freely acknowledge that you possess the numerical advantage, but I would ask you all to consider the implications of shooting us all dead coupled with the fact that we may very well manage to cause some damage to this equipment surrounding us before you can stop us," the Second Doctor said, waving his gun around slightly apprehensively as he took in their surroundings. "Does anyone wish to go first?"
"No need for that, Doctor," the Valeyard said, his voice frustratingly casual as he took in the assorted Doctors and their companions, sitting nonchalantly back in his chair. "It's good to see you all."
"You're not surprised to see them, then?" the Ninth Doctor asked.
"You had your moments, but I think what you'll do at Satellite Five shows that you'd still never have the nerve to do what needs to be done; I just felt like giving you a chance to show you what you can be if you really wanted to become it, no matter how pointless it was," the Valeyard said, waving a dismissive hand at the Doctor in leather before he looked at the oldest Doctor present. "You know, I never actually got the chance to ask; how does it feel to know that you created this mess?"
"If this is your chance to go on about how you're only doing what we'd do if we 'had the courage'-" the Doctor began.
"I was actually talking about the fact that my presence here is only possible because you sent Rose back to her world," the Valeyard said, indicating the blonde in question with a casual wave. "The rift she left in the void-"
"Was a completely unanticipated side-effect of what I'm sure was a difficult time for all concerned parties; Rose Tyler is no more responsible for what you're doing right now than we are," the Sixth Doctor said, glaring at his former prosecutor; the younger Doctors might not fully understand what had happened in their future, but they knew enough to keep Rose from finding out more than she should. "We may have created you, but we will never be you; the fact that you're even trying this proves that."
"Uh… it does?" Barbara asked, looking at the Sixth Doctor in confusion.
"Considering that he's trying to kill us when he used to be us, he'd have to be confident that anything that he does to us won't have any effect on the uses that become him," the Second Doctor said, smiling over at the teacher who had taught him so much without knowing it.
"So… you're saying that he's not you?" Claire asked, looking uncertainly between the Valeyard and the Second Doctor. "I'm a bit lost here…"
"Oh, I was them, Miss Aldwych; they're just not guaranteed to become me ever since I came here," the Valeyard said, shrugging as he looked at her. "After all, would I have ever bothered coming back to confront them if I didn't believe I could win?"
"It's a time-travel thing; trust me, it's easier not to think about it," Jack said, looking sympathetically over at Claire even as he kept his weapon trained on the nearest Dalek.
"But you haven't won yet, have you?" the Seventh Doctor asked, glaring coldly at the Valeyard. "Even when you had virtually every advantage, you still lost-"
"Only because you were lucky, Doctor; don't try and pretend that it was ever anything more than that," the Valeyard interrupted, shooting a harsh glare at his killer. "If it hadn't been for your bomb-happy friend, I would have had you long before you could work out any way of stopping me-"
"Does any of this even matter?" Serena asked, looking in exasperation at the Valeyard. "So you're a projection of a defunct future timeline who resents being cut out of existence; why don't you just get over yourself and get out the universe?"
"On the contrary, Lady Serenadellatrova," Rassilon said, stepping away from his console to look at her with a cold stare. "That man has proven himself to be the most loyal Time Lord-"
"'Loyal' only because he's doing exactly what you want him to do," the Eighth Doctor practically spat, glaring at the first Time Lord with a disdain that shocked his younger selves. "It's just like it was with the Divergents, isn't it; if the universe doesn't do exactly what you want it to do, rig the competition and make sure you stay on top regardless of who else suffers, is that it?"
"You should be begging for the honour of helping us, Doctor," Rassilon said, glaring at the man he'd once tried to turn into his assassin. "You have rejected your duty as a Time Lord-"
"Exactly!" the Eighth Doctor said, all but yelling at Rassilon as he glared at the man history recorded as the first Time Lord, stepping forward to stand in front of his other selves as he addressed his foe. "I am a Time Lord! Repeat that title to yourself; we are Time Lords! If it is a choice between our duty to our home planet and our duty to time, by the definition of our title my duty to Time must come first, and this completely violates that duty!"
"Just the same as ever, I perceive, Doctor," Rassilon said, looking coldly at the Eighth Doctor. "You never understood your duty to Gallifrey-"
"And you never understood how some things are meant to happen," the Eighth Doctor replied, silently supported by his other selves as he glared at his foe. "You may have created your web of time, but that was only to preserve Gallifrey rather than to preserve history itself; time can be rewritten, I won't deny that, but there are some lines that cannot be crossed without our civilisation becoming everything we should be acting against!"
"Even when faced with your creator, you remain a hypocrite, Doctor," Davros said, smirking as he looked at the Time Lord, his gaze flicking between the Fifth and Tenth Doctors. "Look at yourself; you have never been able to bring yourself to destroy me when my creations are perfectly willing to do so to you, and yet you come before us in the company of killers-"
"Oh God, you're not going to try that, are you?" the Doctor said, rolling his eyes as he looked at Davros with a scathing glare, the Brigadier's last words in a world that never was once again fresh in his mind. "The Master tried to pull it a couple of years back- not exactly a pleasant experience, I'll tell you that for nothing-, but the Brigadier reminded me that I don't do that; they're here with me because they want to stop you, not because they're going to kill you."
"Not that we'd be adverse to that if it became necessary," Klein said, her eyes narrowing as she looked at Davros (The Doctor only didn't bother correcting her because this wasn't the time to show a divided front; he did not condone what Klein was implying…).
"But the point," the Eighth Doctor said, understanding what his other self was trying to make clear to their enemies as he resumed his role in their debate, "is that, even if we are willing to go as far as you imply, we will only do it if we have absolutely no other choice; you destroyed your own people's leaders because they might not have agreed with your plans, continued to treat people like idiots and tools when they asked for your help, and even had to brainwash your own Daleks just to ensure that they wouldn't turn on you later, and you still think you're in the right?"
"I have to admit, that fits the definition of insanity to me, Davros," the Fourth Doctor said, looking coldly at the man he'd met on Skaro so long ago. "Delusional narcissism, to be precise; projecting your own failures by attributing them to others rather than accepting them yourself, and then trying to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
"You seek to stand in judgement of me, Doctor?" Davros said, looking coldly at the Doctors before his gaze focused on the Doctor's eighth self. "The man who murdered millions-"
"Because I had to," the Seventh Doctor interrupted, his voice grim and his eyes narrowed as he stared at Davros, the younger Doctor speaking in defence of his next incarnation. "I have never claimed to be a saint, Davros... but even in this body, I have only gone that far when I had no other choice. Have I murdered? Killed? Destroyed? We have all found ourselves in a position where we had to go that far... but we have never done that as the first option."
"But you?" the Eighth Doctor said, stepping forward slightly to stare coldly at the Daleks' creator. "You created the most ruthless creatures the universe would ever know... any further amendments you made to them were intended solely to turn them into better killers... you tried to force me into a position where I would have no choice but to kill you... and you called your creations a work of good."
"Good?" Ian said, looking incredulously over at Davros. "What could possibly be good about those... things?"
"When the Daleks are in control, they will create peace-" Davros began.
"You're trying to justify creating monsters by arguing that nobody would be at war after the Daleks have conquered everything else?" Barbara said, looking incredulously at Davros. "Don't you know anything about history? People aren't just going to give up because they're up against bad odds!"
"From what the Doctor told me, you've lived through a whole war, and you really think that everyone else is just going to lie down and quit once you've stomped all over them?" Fitz asked, looking sceptically at Davros. "You're a complete idiot, you know that? I don't know much about psychology and even I think that's a stupid theory!"
"You are hardly in a position to judge my actions-" Davros began, his voice growing louder as his temper grew.
"Don't you EVER judge us by YOUR standards!" the Doctor said, glaring at Davros; right now, it was easier to focus on the thing that had created the Daleks than think too much about the allies he'd gathered. "We ALWAYS care about those who die to help me. Every death that was the result of my failure... every life lost in the wars I've witnessed... every sacrifice made to help me end the conflict... I remember them, and I will always wish that I could have done more to protect them."
"But you?" the Sixth Doctor said, looking mockingly at Davros. "You murdered the woman you loved and couldn't even admit how you felt to yourself... you created the race that destroyed your own... and then, even after all that, every time you have had the opportunity to improve... every time someone gave you a chance to do something other than kill... you always chose the way that would ensure that people suffered for what you perceived as 'the best'."
"You have done the same-" Davros began.
"No," Martha said, her voice cold as she stared at the man before her. "The Doctor only kills when he has no choice; you would kill just because you can."
"Because you can…" the Doctor repeated, a thoughtful expression on his face that shifted into sudden enlightenment as he looked at the Valeyard with a new sense of disgust and pity on his face. "That's it, isn't it? All of this… is just to show that you can do it."
"Hold on; he's doing all this just… because?" Tosh said, looking at the Doctor in shock before she looked back at the Valeyard. "But why-?"
"Because it is the only way-!" the Valeyard began.
"To prove you're better than them by doing what they failed to do?" Owen said, staring grimly at the Doctor's darker future. "You're really a sad, desperate idiot, aren't you?"
"He has done the impossible already; he saved me-!" Omega began, glaring at the Doctors behind his mask.
"He saved you by using Compassion's chameleon circuit and various other salvaged components to create an external projection from the anti-matter universe; you're no more real than the nurse was Queen Xanxia, and that's not going to last forever," the Fourth Doctor said, tapping his head slightly as the Valeyard looked at him in shock; the Valeyard might be from a possible alternate future, but it was still relatively easy for the Doctors to make a low-level psychic link with the Valeyard to determine some of his more prominent thoughts. "That body's going to run out of power eventually- you can't maintain a portal into the anti-matter universe forever without causing some damage to this side-, and you'll just be left stuck where you were before."
"They will release me-!" Omega protested.
"They can't," the Fifth Doctor said, shaking his head as he looked sympathetically at Omega; the other three may have their own long-term agenda, but all Omega had wanted as long as the Doctors knew him was to be free, and he couldn't even have that. "That projection's more advanced than Xanxia's, but there's no way to make it permanent; you'll always be trapped in the anti-matter universe no matter what anyone does over here, any attempts to establish a permanent physical presence on this side nothing but temporary regardless of the methods used to do so…"
"Enough," Rassilon said, glaring at the Fifth Doctor. "This discussion is pointless, Doctor; regardless of your freedom, with the additional computational power provided by your time capsules, we require only a few more minutes to prepare our equipment-"
"A few minutes?" Rose said, looking at the first Time Lord in shock. "But-"
"You were never going to give me a chance to find another way, were you?" the Ninth Doctor asked, staring in frustration at their enemies. "You just wanted to make them hate me for giving in…"
"It would have been interesting," the Valeyard said in a dismissive manner. "But it doesn't really matter in the end; the equipment just needs a few more minutes to process the rift energy we're taking in, and then the timescoop will be ready to activate."
"And what exactly are you going to do after this is done, anyway?" the Brigadier asked, looking sceptically between Davros and the three twisted Time Lords. "As I understand it, Gallifrey was engaged in a war with the Daleks when the Doctor was forced to destroy you both; have you actually considered-?"
"Oh, that's already agreed on," the Valeyard said, smiling mockingly at the Doctors. "Once both planets are restored- and the necessary adjustments have been made to compensate for whatever our actions do to history-, with me as the impartial observer to come up with acceptable terms, Rassilon and Davros have already drawn up a truce."
"A truce?!" Susan repeated, looking at the twisted version of her grandfather in shock.
"With the Daleks?" Romana said, not even bothering to conceal her revulsion at that idea. "Are you insane?"
"It is a perfectly reasonable balance," Rassilon said, looking firmly at Romana. "The Daleks will leave Gallifrey alone, and in return, we shall ensure that the Daleks' actions do nothing to jeopardise the Web of Time to a serious extent-"
"In other words, once Gallifrey's safe, the rest of the universe can be left out to dry while the Daleks conquer it so long as time isn't too badly damaged?" Serena said, looking at Rassilon in disgust. "That's… that's…"
"You're selling out the universe so that you aren't hurt; there isn't a word for how repugnant that is!" Claire said, glaring at Rassilon. "You're a sick, twisted bastard, you know that?"
"I seek nothing more than what the Doctor should seek," Rassilon said, looking dismissively at Claire. "After all, he drove us to this-"
"What, now you're going to blame us for provoking the Daleks?" the Ninth Doctor asked indignantly. "In case you're all forgetting, it was you lot that sent us there to stop them evolving in the first place; they'd have left time travel alone if we hadn't provoked them by showing them what they could do with it!"
It was in that moment that the Doctor knew how to regard his previous self.
The Ninth Doctor had been flawed, and he had made mistakes, but, when push came to shove and he had to make a choice, he was the man who would always do what he could to prevent the death of innocents.
He may have fallen when faced with evil at times, but he would never back down if there was anything he could do that wouldn't result in more people dying, acknowledging his responsibility while refusing to allow it to put him down.
He'd made a mistake in his relationship with Rose, but they'd all made some mistakes in their friendships in the course of their lives; that was no reason to condemn the Doctor, after all.
"Quite," the Second Doctor said, looking coldly at Rassilon and the Valeyard. "I confess that I remain ignorant of the fine details of our future with them, but certainly the Daleks I have encountered only utilised time travel as a means of conquest and assault under specific circumstances; you cannot create a threat and then claim that they would have attacked you anyway when there is no way to know for certain!"
"You are responsible for this war, Doctor-!" Davros began, pointing angrily at the Fourth Doctor.
"I did what I thought was right at the time, Davros," the Fourth Doctor retorted, looking solemnly back at the last surviving Kaled. "Maybe I made the wrong choice when we met, but I made the choice that I could live with… just as I am certain that I will continue to do so in the future."
"We can't expect to be perfect, and we've never professed to be anything like that," the Seventh continued, nodding solemnly at his past self before he took up the response. "We are the Doctor, and that means living with what we can't do-"
"Because you're weak-!" the Valeyard tried to interject.
"Because sometimes, the strongest thing to do is nothing," Barbara said, looking solemnly at the Valeyard. "If you are the Doctor, you'll remember that I asked him why we couldn't change history, and his answer was that it makes it too complicated if we just change everything; some catastrophes have to happen if anyone is going to learn anything, and changing everything freely just gives us all more power than anyone should have a right to…"
"Always the same old sheep, aren't you, Miss Wright?" the Valeyard said, looking mockingly at her. "I never understood why I didn't just kick you out-"
"Because, my boy, we do not dismiss others as failures the first time they let you down and let that define them," the First Doctor said, looking indignantly at the Valeyard. "Life is about accepting that people are people; they can make mistakes, but you must give them a chance to show their worth."
"Big words from the man who ran from his family-" the Valeyard spat.
"I left them because I could not be what they wanted me to be; I did not abandon them because I gave up on them, I left because I could not be what was expected of me," the First Doctor said, still staring at the Valeyard with the cold intensity that was only made more intense by his physical age. "You have truly forgotten everything about us, haven't you, mmm?"
"Says the man who continues to reject his people for these primitive apes," the Valeyard said, looking over at the companions even as they stared defiantly back at him. "You make yourself so weak, catering to the whims of creatures who will never understand you, and deceive yourself into thinking you have found a family while secretly enjoying the chance to lord it over them all-"
"They are our friends, Boneyard," the Sixth Doctor said coldly. "And if you're going to quote that statistic about how often they're in danger at me, I would like to remind you that there have been several of them and only one of me; proportionately, I think you'll find that I tend to put myself at risk for them more often than they endanger themselves for me."
"Does that sound like the attitude of someone who'd take people along to show off?" the Eighth Doctor asked, smiling mockingly at their other self.
"I have never felt like I was there for the Doctor to show off to," Leela said, looking at the Valeyard with a slight smile; the Valeyard's eyes seemed to widen slightly as he looked at her, but the expression vanished so quickly that nobody could be sure. "I have grown in my time with the Doctor, but I always realised that what he did for me were things that I would have wanted to do for myself if I had known about them."
"Exactly," Jo said, staring firmly at the Valeyard. "The Doctor doesn't bring us along just to tell him how brilliant he is; he brings us along because he wants to show us what's out there and help us become… more than what we were."
"And you believe that?" the Valeyard asked.
"We know that, Valeyard," the Brigadier said, glaring at the other man. "And if there was anything of the Doctor left in you, you would know that too."
"Maybe they're just a bunch of stupid apes at times," the Ninth Doctor said, a slight smile on his face as he looked at his dark future self, "but they're apes who proved themselves time and time again, and never let me give up-"
"And that attitude led to you destroying Gallifrey because you preferred to protect one pitiful planet to trusting your own people," the Valeyard said, smirking as he looked over at the eldest two Doctors. "Don't you remember what Marnal told you, Doctor? The second rule of the Time Lords; 'Do nothing, and all will be well'-"
"I never believed that even when I was him; do you honestly think we'll accept that now?" the Doctor asked, waving an indignant hand at the First Doctor. "If all you can do is sprout that, it's clear that you've forgotten more about being the Doctor than we've ever learned about you!"
"You know, when you get down to it, you're really kind of pathetic, you know?" Martha said, looking at the Valeyard with a grin, the fear in her eyes the only sign of just how unnerved she was at the idea of facing the personified evil of the man she loved. "You started out with all of the Doctor's imagination and drive, and all you can think of doing with that potential is trying to kill him and do what he didn't do?"
"And what about you?" the Valeyard asked, smirking back at her. "Jumping into a relationship with a man you met in an alternate timeline just to get over me-"
"Pardon?" Donna said, looking at the Valeyard incredulously. "Sorry, sunshine, but you've really got your facts crossed; Martha's been dating the Doctor since that whole mess with the Master."
The surprise that crossed the Valeyard's face at that news was all that the Doctor needed to realise something.
"You knew that our timeline had diverged from yours, but you didn't know that it had diverged that far, did you?" the Doctor said, smiling at the Valeyard in realisation. "Rose coming back created an opportunity, but you never stopped to explore what else it created…"
"Were you even aware that I am here?" Leela asked, stepping forward to look firmly at the Valeyard.
"Of course I was; I just-" the Valeyard began.
"You didn't think it was relevant, did you?" Gwen asked, smirking at the Valeyard. "You saw Leela, and you tried to cover up your shock, but you didn't have a clue what she was doing here…"
"You're up the creek and off the map when you thought you knew it all, eh?" John said, joining Gwen in grinning at the Valeyard. "You're really in trouble now…"
"Because I made one mistake?" the Valeyard said, glaring at the Doctor and his companions, his original confidence returned. "You may have acted contrary to what I was expecting, but that doesn't matter; I still know everything that you will do.
With that said, he glanced over at the Daleks, a firm glare in his eyes. "Give them a few minutes to witness our victory, and then stun everyone else, but eliminate those I instructed; we can contain the others and work on tying up the paradox later."
As the Daleks aimed their weapons, the Doctor swallowed.
This was it.
All or nothing…
"I'm giving you one last chance," the Doctor said, looking at the Valeyard and his assorted allies. "Stop this right now- end this whole insane scheme- and just leave history alone; we can find some way to preserve Gallifrey that doesn't involve this-!"
"We are Time Lords, Doctor!" Rassilon proclaimed, glaring at the last of his race. "If history must be sacrificed to preserve our race, then so be it; we forged this history, and it is our right to rewrite it if we feel it appropriate!"
"You can't-!" the Eighth Doctor yelled.
"We will," the Valeyard said, grinning at his past self before he turned to address his associates. "Initiate the Time Scoop!"