Still Brilliant, Thank You Very Much
Disclaimer: For fun, not profit. Do not own Doctor Who et all.
Warnings: Slight spoilers for Journey's End, End of Time and Waters of Mars if you squint
Donna Temple-Noble is hardly the typical picture of anyone's grandmother. She speaks her mind, reads dirty books and mystery novels, hasn't really forgotten all that much, and gobbles up scientific doings with an eager mind. People are always telling her that they can't believe she's approaching her centennial and it's quite true – she looks great for her age (though, sometimes, she imagines that she's much older but you're only as young as you feel, after all, and some days she feels like she's nine hundred).
"An awful lot of running," she tells the doctors and reporters who ask how she's made it this far and smiles to herself because it's somehow funny, like it's the punch line of a joke she's long since forgotten.
They say she's special and she supposes they may be right.
She's been special ever since that day in 2009 where she'd lost her memory.
It's something of an oddity that she knows that day of that year was when she ceased to be normal, best temp in Chiswick Donna Noble and became something special, when she can't even remember what had happened that day before she woke up with a spectacular headache. Planets in the sky, killer robots, hundreds of thousands missing and damage to lots of buildings and such, that's all everyone ever said about that day. She remembers thinking her friends were having her on about it, but then it was everywhere and even thinking about that still gives her a bit of a headache. Post-traumatic stress, the doctors told her back then and suggested maybe she'd remember in time. She never has and probably never will.
After that day, everything changed. She didn't quite know how and couldn't pinpoint why or where it had changed. She started to get her life in order, sort out her priorities, even took some night classes in mathematics, and then she met Shaun, wonderful, wonderful Shaun. Took a chance on him, she did, and she's never regretted it. He was a great man. Nowadays, she thinks that maybe something of how she was before her memory loss stuck with her in bits and pieces to help her on her way.
Her luck also took a phenomenal turn back then - she'd won the lottery. A wedding present from a friend of her grandfather's, the lottery ticket turned out to be the winner for a triple roll-over. She'd always been good with numbers, so she invested it wisely, spreading out the winnings in such a way that she and Shaun were always living comfortably and able to travel as they wanted while keeping some set aside for future endeavors, children, and all that business.
She still participates in charities and follows the academic successes of her daughter and granddaughter with a keen eye, though she has not traveled since Shaun passed.
Speaking of her granddaughter, Donna is watching Susie prepare for her thesis presentation on faster than light travel. Susie has been working on this for years and it represents a dream she's had since childhood of traveling to distant worlds. Space flight specialists and mathematicians from all over will be in attendance. Tomorrow, on the day Donna turns one hundred, little Susie will change the world with this thesis and Donna can think of no better present in the whole universe.
Tomorrow, the stars will be in reach.
Susie finishes up her speech and Donna applauds, though she is not alone in this. Susie's teaching aide, a man in a goofy tweed jacket and silly bow tie, also applauds and almost drops the papers he's supposed to be holding onto. They scatter and he apologizes to Susie, scampering after the sheets like a child.
"Don't mind Doctor Smith, nan," Susie says, sitting next to her. "He's just... excitable is all."
A doctor, that baby face? By word, they kept getting younger and younger. Then again, at her age, everyone seemed eons younger.
"An odd duck, that one, flapping about like that," Donna says, "Doesn't seem like academia is his pond at all."
Susie hums in agreement, and then turns to her. "So how did you like it?"
"Math's solid," Donna replies. "You'll knock 'em dead. Mark my words, Proxima Centauri's never been closer."
"I've been thinking, though, nan," Susie says. "Even with FTL travel, we still are limited by the fuel and supplies we can carry. If there were some way to expand the amount of storage without exceeding the fuel drain, then-"
Susie approaches the chalkboard and scribbles out a series of calculations. Somehow they seem familiar, like something Donna remembers seeing long ago but can't place.
"And that's basically as far as I've got with it, nan," Susie admits, shrugging sheepishly.
The equation is incomplete. She knows it, even as her head begins to ache and a strange, alien part of her thinks this is beyond humans.
It's too early for humans to have this, that strange little voice says.
Donna stands, distantly aware that Doctor Smith is watching her curiously, and approaches the board, leaning on her cane. "You're trying to shove a warehouse into a hatbox, yeah?" she says, picking up the chalk. Her head aches sharply, but her arm moves on autopilot to write down the rest of the equation.
"If it were a stable artificial dimension with a linked interface to the real world room, the size of the dimension could be nigh infinite," Donna started, finishing the equation with a sweep of chalk.
"Then, because the dimension is stationary and only the interface moves, the contents wouldn't put a drain on the fuel, brilliant!" Susie exclaimed, clapping her hands. "Oh, nan, you're amazing! How did you do that?"
The headache is already receding. "Oi! I'll have you know your gran is brilliant!" She pauses, sitting down again, and smiles at her granddaughter. "It's mostly you, though. I just expanded on it. Only my brilliant granddaughter could try to redefine physics forever."
"Guess it's genetic, nan," Susie giggles, looking at the board again. "We'd probably never be able to make it in our lifetime, but can you imagine the possibilities?"
"You could get lost in your own spaceship," Donna quips, thinking of labyrinthine corridors, strange little hexagonal windows, and a steady, grinding thump-thump of something she couldn't place. How odd.
"And just think, nan, it's only a hop from faster than light travel to calculating time travel," Susie adds. "Add this and you could go anywhere in time and space, without ever needing to worry about supplies."
"Sounds wonderful," Donna agrees. "I'd like to go to Pompeii."
Doctor Smith suddenly trips, papers going fluttering all over the desk and floor again.
"Oi! Spaceman, watch where you're walking!" Donna shouts, thumping her cane on the floor. "Can't have your head on Mars all the time, eh?"
He stares at her and, for a moment, she thinks she knows him, because she knows those eyes. And then it's gone, her head aching like fire.
Maybe she knew his father or grandfather when she was younger. Yes, that seems right. She seemed to recall running into a strange young man who resembled Doctor Smith a few times when she and Shaun were still traveling - he was from some village in Scotland or something... what was it called?
"Sorry, sorry," he apologizes, gathering the papers. "Terribly clumsy of me."
"Clumsy as a Judoon in a hospital, that's what you are," Donna sighs, rubbing her forehead. "Least you're not a skinny streak of nothing. I can see why Susie keeps you around."
"Nan!" Susie gasps in mortification, blushing bright red.
"I'm a hundred, not dead!"
"A hundred and still brilliant," Doctor Smith says, smiling happily.
"Too right, Alien Boy," Donna says, because it feels like the right thing to say, and the face he makes as he sputters and nearly trips over himself again is hilarious.
Yep, still got it, she thinks.
...You know Eleven would totally check up on her.
If you missed the Waters on Mars reference, first pilot of a lightspeed ship was Susie Brooke. Trust Donna, being a complicated time-space event, to be related to another complicated, universe-shaping individual.