A/N: This has spoilers for both "All About the Doctor and Jamie" and "Tangled Web". Please read those first. This is not "NEW" persay, actually it follows "all about" chapter 9. Reading this now lets you get a peek into where things with Nine are heading. Will he regenerate? Yes, I suppose eventually I'll catch up with the end of his time as Nine and move on to Ten. All good things must end, in time *winks* I've pulled heavily on the Lungbarrow e-book, so if you get too confused look that up on the BBC website.
Doctor Who and the Threads of Time
Part one: St Albans Space Bazaar, Wild Space/Alliance Fringe, Late 'October', 2518.
The Saint Albans Space Bazaar was a long glorified name for a smallish, half-rogue, cobbled together, mismatch of salvaged technology. The station was spaceworthy, however, and that was the important part. A common stop for Sleeper ships, coming in from the Company side, particularly as many preferred to take local transit into Alliance space proper, safer than attempting the Blue Sun Oort cloud while still in Cryo, made this a positive place to do business. On the negative, the station sat on a longer, more expensive route. This ran between Coalsack Three and Blue Sun, as opposed to the Tangiers-Conga-Scorpio-Blue Sun route. The longer route avoided the majority of the mysterious region known as "Nixman's Waste" by the local parlance. Since things like Reavers came from Nixman's Waste on regular intervals, and ships seemed to get lost in there (it was rumored that the Hunter-Gratzner was the latest victim of the region after decades of successfully making the ghost run, rather a shame as the captain had been very well known), cheap wasn't necessarily better.
The majority of travelers that came through the station were, typically, either on Hajj or trying to make a case with the Alliance for a homestead claim. Or they were fleeing the Alliance for more civil and tolerant parts. But the Majority wasn't the all. Some folks came through right regular, choosing to live in the black, instead of making roots in soil. Amnon Duul, the postmaster and sometimes general go-to-fix-it guy had seen all types. He currently held majority ownership in the station (about fifty-three percent) and thus often called the place 'my station'. None of the other titled parties really cared to call him on it.
Both St Albans prime and Coalsack were mining based planets. Minerals, in raw form, were plentiful here. This meant that certain goods, plants, food, refined technology, were worth more out here than they were closer to any one star. The space station gained it's energy in a number of ways, primarily through hydrogen fusion (some claimed it was alien tech), but light was somewhat of a rare thing, and natural sun was impossible. They truly sat in the black.
The latest stopover crowd included some odd people. Then again, when didn't they? From Chrislams from New Mecca to Elementals from Quintessa, and even a merc or two... folks from all walks of life came through here. Amnon knew that the businessmen and women that worked here would try their damnedest to glean what coin they could, some with more success than others. If it could be bought or sold, legal or not, someone here was likely to either have it or be able to get it for a price. As long as he wasn't aware of it, that was. He watched the folks flow past until some of them stopped to drop off post. It always amazed him how many pilgrims managed to collect hoards of trinkets that they needed to mail home. Private networks like his were about the cheapest way to send such things, particularly if one didn't care how quickly something got to where it was heading. In his occupation with work he did not notice one very unusual person that strolled into the main hub of the station, just a bit enough behind the rest of the visitors to not have arrived on the latest docking ship.
She was a bit flustered, but then – Travel by Time Ring often left one feeling a bit out of sorts. The young woman paused, pulled a very advance timepiece, double checked the location, date, and every other part of the timeline that the device could read. Once satisfied that the non-TARDIS time travel had gotten her to the advertised when and where, she carefully looked about, trying to make sure she'd arrived before the person she was here to meet. It wouldn't do if he spotted her first, after all. And... just because she didn't remember coming here before did not mean she'd not run into herself, with as much criss-crossing of this particular region of time and space that she'd engaged in already. Sometimes non-linear experiences of time were quite the bother. It seemed though that she had a window here of a few hours at least where this version of herself was here and not here too... or something. Honestly, the Doctor's version of 'enlightenment' had forever scrambled her brain. And she loved him for it. There was something glorious in having just a touch of madness after all.
Thinking of the Doctor, she paused. Romanadvoratrelundar found that it had been so long since she planned this that she had to actually think about which version of the Doctor she was to encounter. So much had been happening that sometimes she found it difficult to keep her own timelines straight. It was the Stattenheim remote control she needed to get back from him, currently. Although... there might be a problem, if the stubborn man wanted the added twin symbiotic link removed. Knowing this particular version of said Time Lord he would. It meant that she'd need several days to get the ingrown circuit detached and deinstalled from the Central Diaphragm and the Zyton-7 elements. Well, she supposed she owned him that, if nothing else. Far more likely however, he'd be extremely hostile and pushy.
Something shimmered across her awareness, like a pulse across time. Powerful and binding. She swiveled her head to and fro trying to get a direction from the fading embers from it. All she could tell was that it came from someplace here on the station, likely from one of the docked ships. She shielded her mind, tamping down and suppressing all the parts of her active consciousness that she currently didn't need just in case the sensation was a rogue tracker from the War looking for her. It had happened before, after all, and the War was still ongoing as far as she knew. It mattered not that the area was currently at peace, or that had never been directly impacted by any of the fighting. The War had placed both past and future into horrible flux and nothing she knew for certain was bound to stay that way. That was what made her current course of action so risky. Her presence here could alter everything, for good or ill. But then, with the way the War was going she really didn't have much choice.
Besides, the universe would survive, as long as the Doctor did. This much the Sisterhood of Karn, natural seers that they were, had insisted was true. When she'd gone to Karn to consult them about Pythia's Curse they had informed her it had already been defeated, twice. She hadn't understood until she stumbled across Penelope Gate, a human with impossible ties to house Lungbarrow (something else that had been buried, rather literally, in Gallifrey's past). She hadn't been what broke the curse, but rather was the thing that signaled it was lifting.
What broke the curse, twice, was the Doctor. He'd done it once without ever trying to do it, just being placed back into the loom of his house had spread the trait of fertility through the associated houses, all of them old (few of those remained however, and so the impact was just starting to be felt). Redloom had shown it first. Thus begin her long drawn out dealings with the Seers of the Sisterhood. He'd done it a second time, well, was doing it right now, the stubborn git.
And she knew the CIA would cleverly hide the evidence, in his future and her past. She would just learn of it, barely in time to save the Doctor's life and smuggle the infant out, or had done, or might do... if the past didn't shift like quicksand on her. Everything she had done, and would do, was designed to set it up so that the Doctor and his son would find one another, once the War was over. The blocks placed between them (or would be placed), muffling their natural family bond, would only loosen and break once she'd died, and with the way the Sisterhood had foretold of the War's end she had no doubt that she'd not live past it. Saving his Bond with Jamie might not be so easy, though.
She hated having to do things like that. Hurting the Doctor just to make sure he had something after the War was so incredibly painful. If she'd just been able to tell him that his son was alive, safe, and in a place he could reach then it would be so much easier. But she knew that knowledge would cause the Doctor to go straight away to get the child, and she couldn't allow that. Bad enough that he crossed his own timelines to travel with other grandchildren of his when the connecting parent hadn't been born yet. They should have remained part of his post-War existence. She knew no matter how much he promised to stay away the draw of family was too much for him to deny. She had to nearly force Susan to not mention her three sons the last time the Lady Larn had met her grandfather again. Had to tell her about the War, even though she shouldn't have known anything about it yet. Just that he'd even found John and Gillian back in his first life when their connection to him had yet to be even hinted at, much less a product of the unique biology that the Doctor had been blessed (or cursed) with, created so many problems. Frankly, the infuriating Time Lord was a paradox magnet. And she really loved him. She loved him enough to risk everything.
That was why she was here, after all. Risking all of reality, because she had to make sure he lived through the War, because in the aftermath of it he was the only one she trusted with the enormous, unlimited, power that would be concentrated within him. He was the only one, of the entire thousand Time Lord elite, herself included, that she knew without a doubt would not abuse the vast ability entrusted within the Other by Rassilon himself. Romana leaned against the nearest wall as the emotion hit her of how completely real this all was. How vital to the fabric of reality. She'd looked deep into the plans and the visions of Rassilon, deeper than any other President. It had driven her mad for a time, perhaps she was still. But the Doctor, her current lovely, kind, passionate, green-eyed Doctor had pulled her out of the shadows and told her that insight, and a Seer's vision always had a price. And she had already paid it. Now it was up to her to use that knowledge and he trusted her. But would he still if he realized how much she was twisting the knife?
It hurt like her own hearts had been stabbed. She had been tempted, more than once, to just run away. To flee back to E-space. She could go, right now. Abort this entire thing, take herself back to her rooms, run into her TARDIS (the Doctor's other hidden son, ironically), hit the programmed recall switch, and lock herself into the alternate dimension forever. The temptation was always there. The distant but very dulcet flow of her beloved sang into her mind, steadying her, shoring her up for this task. He'd honor her desires to flee, after she did this one final thing. Romana centered herself, gathering up the emotional mess that littered her soul and putting it all back into the little compartments that her organized self had insisted such things belonged in. Of course that was a holdover from before she'd met the Doctor, before she realized how alive she could be, and those strong emotions didn't exactly fit into the old spaces anymore. She blinked back the threatening tears and dug for a kerchief in her pocket. The one that she found reminded her rather strongly of red eroteme shaped handled brollies, straw panama hats, and steel blue eyes. She blinked at the cloth, forced herself to not sob over having gotten him killed, yet again, and blew her nose. Damn it, why did she have his kerchief? A hard, icy, lump of discomfort lodged itself right below her breasts and refused to diminish.
The petite blond glanced around the bit of low wall that she was hiding behind, scanning what amounted to a square of sorts. No sign of him yet, none at all. She frowned at herself, unsure if this was good or bad. She was eager to see the little tramp-like form again, having convinced herself that she quite liked him for all the many good qualities he had. Not to mention that being in his mind had taught her an incredible amount about how to convince people that stuff was their idea when she'd brought some obscure thing up that she needed them to do. Quite handy a skill that. Here the Doctor was, acting as her Mentor and he hadn't even officially met her yet. She grinned at the irony of it.
Someone passed her line of sight, a human male, red tightly curled hair, cropped into a neat almost military cut, tall, lean and rather merc-like in his stance, that just oozed artron energy. So much psionic and temporal power weaved through such a non-psychic being was extremely unusual. It wasn't enough to be dangerous, not to either his personal health nor to crystallize events around him, but it did signal that the individual had been present through a Time Lord regeneration or other such outpouring of raw Vortex energy, like viewing the Heart of a TARDIS. Somewhat like what Jamie McCrimmon seemed to display, really. He'd definitely traveled by TARDIS, making perhaps triad or trips at least within a ship that had a very familiar signature. His entire genetic structure was irradiated with the stuff, his nervous system flooded with it as though through long term exposure. She had a feeling that he believed everyone had started speaking languages he knew, as he could understand most everyone around him much better than he'd done before. He was broadcasting powerfully, too, although not on purpose.
She blinked at the unusual sight, suddenly rather dizzy. One of the Doctor's Companions? Someone from the War? A Gallifreyan warrior under deep cover? Why was this man here? She pulled out her sonic screwdriver and scanned for other signs and clues but came up with nothing. The Station's fusion power supply rather limited her scan, for one, and the place had plentiful magnetic and lead plated shielding too. If there were others with such strong readings of Artron energy besides herself and this strange fellow, she couldn't detect them.
Like most human built places this one was mismatched from various different groups with various different goals, all long forgotten in the quest for profit. What had started out as a planned, reasonable, ordered, floating city in space had become little more that a stopover point. The proverbial dusty crossroads of the distant outback. Somewhere along the lines the plans had been scrapped and the additions became whatever was at hand, salvaged, bought, bartered, or maybe even stolen. There was a sense of 'frontier law' about the place, one that relied on a network of human honesty, human pulling together, and willful overlooking of anything imposed by outside powers that smacked of going against common sense.
That was one of the reasons she kept coming back here, actually. It represented the qualities that the Doctor loved the most about Humanity and reminded her of him so strongly that she was nearly as much in love with this place as she'd been with the actual person. She hoped by bringing the younger Doctor here, in his second form, that he'd understand why she was doing this, that perhaps he'd make different choices, use the favor he'd gained from her in a different way, that maybe he'd call her for help when the time came instead of calling out in general and running into the CIA at all. Time was in flux. Even the Doctor could make different choices now. But would he?
When she'd found that she could contact him before he'd crystallized his pregnancy into stasis she'd jumped at the chance, knowing that it was not legal and rather liable to get her into great trouble if she was caught, but also able to alter his course if Jamie forced things and demanded the truth. And she'd set up a deal with the TARDIS to call upon the proper threads of the Doctor's future to help it along, knowing that the poor girl was hurting so badly and was so confused at the continued spurning she was receiving from her pilot that she'd do anything that might offer her some crumb of relief and mental contact with him.
Romana put this thought aside, aware that the shift change from one period of activity to another had happened only a short time ago, marking this as early evening. Not that it mattered, as the station was open all hours, every day. The tempo of life here beat steady, varying only in flavor but never in spice or variety. If one knew where to look one could find any food or drink no matter what the official time of day. One could engage in any activity here that one fancied, from freak shows to sensuous pleasure, from drug trips to religious services, anything and everything as long as one possessed the credits, UD's, plats, or cunning to pull it off.
The workers, who were the only imperishable residents of the Bazaar, lived in more or less permanently attached ships of one kind or another. That most of them had brought said crafts with them and traded various parts in order to get the privilege to stay (purchasing berth, in effect), made them more independent contractors than actual employees. Often they jointly owned whichever business or enterprise they were engaged in, or they leased space to provide a somewhat needed service of some kind or another. That the activity counting as employment might be little more than selling themselves on an hourly basis (for sex, therapy, entertainment, or all of the above), charging someone for access to a shower, bartering goods, or swindling folks out of their cash was just par for the course.
Just about every nook and cranny had been converted to services, shops, entertainment, and other public places. Some of the services actually happened right out in the open. Like the woman selling neon blue drinks in champagne flutes made of sugar for a two UD's a glass. She remembered how much of a mess those chemical cocktails could wrought if one was unfamiliar with the effects. More than alcohol, less then a proper knockout drug, but dangerous all the same. She'd tried one, out of curiosity, and ended up doing the most inappropriate things with a rather well endowed mahogany skinned human that was neither female nor male, but rather a bit of both. She hadn't asked if it was natural or surgical, that biological state. She'd actually tried to forget the entire thing. In fact the one thing she remembered clearly was the heat of it. And the mess.
Considering that the Doctor had taken humans for his lovers she'd tried to pass the entire event off as, um, – scientific research. She was still unsure what the attraction was, even though the Doctor had tried to explain to her before they parted that it wasn't just a physical thing. How could non-psychic races like humanity hold such a strong grip on a Time Lord? And yet... the Doctor was hardly alone in his fascination. Andred Redred had proved that, as had the Doctor's 'father' from Lungbarrow. And an untold number of Galliferyan soldiers... She'd ended up nearly pleading with him to come over and explain it again, physically, with as much graphic detail as possible. The dear fellow had taken one look at her on arrival, told her what she'd gotten into with an amused grin, and led her into her sleeping chambers. Even though he was in a different body, one that usually didn't remind her of the broad smiles and wild curls of the one she'd met him in first, sometimes the green-eyed version could indeed explain things with the same powerful intensity. Although the mental-physical sharing they occasionally dared to risk was always a bit strange, seeing as she was bonded to a TARDIS that was, in effect, his son. And she really shouldn't be thinking of such things now.
She looked about the various shop fronts and at the thick crowd, thankful that a sleeper ship had just arrived before her filled with travelers decked out in all manner of styles. There were Arabic desert robes, nearly American Western looking garb, tee-shirts and cargo pants, Asian styled clothing of varied types, including Indian, Japanese, and islander inspired styles. There were even a few almost medieval type gowns, although the futuristic neon makeup rather shocked home that this was nowhere near that time period. It was, all in all a perfect location to have this meeting. The swap of technology would be seen as nothing more than a business transaction among two humans, or possibly two Elementals.
She was rather more familiar with this era then was totally safe, seeing as she knew quite a bit about this region, and it's various cultures, for one very good reason. A human woman by the name of Penelope Gate, a redheaded, gray-eyed, woman with singularly bright intelligence would be born in this region of space, in about twenty-five hundred years or so, and would play a extraordinarily spectacular role in the fate of the universe. Romana had taken to tracking this woman's ancestry ever since first running across mention of her. It was nearly an obsession, and that had led her to protecting and saving people that lived here the way the Doctor often times seemed to go about saving the planet Earth. Then again... He had every reason to.
She glanced down at her clothing. The tan leather gloves, matched to her riding jacket, she had a very good reason for. She must not leave traces here. However, looking at the humans around her she felt, for once in her life, ridiculously under-dressed. She could have stepped out in full ceremonial regalia and not raised a single eyebrow with how exotically the locals here were garbed. No one kept their fingers covered here and the full gloves were drawing attention to her. No one here wore gloves. Hats, yes. Gloves no. At least not gloves that actually covered the fingers. Then again... there were a class of dangerous individuals that typically under-dressed in these parts. And she had a weapon of sorts on her, too. One that the locals would fear on sight even of the item was not shaped like a gun. That was another reason to keep her hands exposed, she realized suddenly. Blue Sun employed assassins that kept them covered. She couldn't afford to be mistaken for one of the Liquidators and cause a mass panic. The shop keepers here would shoot first and then vaporize the body to hide the evidence. That would be impossible to regenerate from.
And she'd hate to get blood on her coat. This had always been a favorite outfit of hers, or a variation of it at least. Romana frowned at the covering on her hands. Bound to raise questions, those. She carefully slipped them off and tucked them into a pocket, hoping that she'd not aroused suspicion by wearing them in the first place. The woman with the drink tray glanced from her face to her hands and tucked something back into a pocket in her skirts. Romana gave her a smile and held up both hands, wiggling her fingers just to hone the point that she was not a threat. The woman turned away, accepting some plats for a couple of her think syrupy drinks from a large top-knotted but shaved fellow and the wispy airy Elemental gent next to him.
The Time Lady put her head against the low wall in relief. That was close. How stupid. She should put that into her wardrobe rules: No gloves, unless fingerless, for any where and any when within a hundred light years and a century of Alliance space. Her distant TARDIS, through their very unusual bond, laughed at her. He'd tried to tell her. She'd not listened. Now he was amused at her expense. She groaned at his ribbing, promising to listen to him next time if he'd just shut up. He sent her feelings of love and went comfortably quiet, his normal light hum in the back of her mind. Rassilon! He could could be as bad as his father sometimes. He shot her a feeling of affront. She revised her estimate, worse then? He relented and admitted that he got his stubborn teasing traits from the Doctor true enough, but she loved him back anyhow. She smirked at that. How true. She would never trade him for another, not as long as they both lived.
She wasn't sure why she picked this where and this when, all those years ago. She'd not even known about Ms Gate then, honestly. It seemed like a neutral enough location, away from earth but with lots of humans with no interest in asking too many questions or looking too closely at some stranger in their midst. It was unaffected by War, even those that took place nearby. It was too small for most invaders to bother with, and was likely to be overlooked in most cases unless rebels took to using the place. She supposed that the fact that the station was stable as far as both time and location went was a major reason for picking it, rather at random, to use for this purpose.
Then the War had crept up on them. She wasn't even sure she'd be able to slip away and actually meet the Doctor here, frankly. It wasn't one of the allowed things, for the President to just go swanning off to wild places filled with lesser beings. Much less so in the middle of War. Then again, most of those that advised her had never set foot out of the capital, much less off Gallifrey, and she really didn't think much about their rules. She would go where she needed to go, and where the Doctor was concerned she'd not trust anyone else with the mission. So somehow she'd managed to slip away from whatever massive debate was raging on the floor of the government halls today, and here she was, at the appointed place and appointed time waiting for a Doctor that had no choice but to come to this time and space, because she'd programed his TARDIS to bring him to here.
For a brief moment she wondered how angered the little dark haired version of the Doctor was going to be with her when he arrived. She had only met him twice before she'd set this up, once when he was working for the CIA and once before that. He was a very complex man, in truth. Even more so than his profile ever indicated. He might brush this entire thing off or he might give her a piece of his mind in such a way to scare her off. This particular form might not be the most powerful version she'd met, nor the most imposing, but he was the most unpredictable.
She took a deep breath and fingered the Time Ring she used to get here suddenly feeling anxious. The heavy band of metal was safer than a TARDIS with how the enemy had been tracking their agents as of late, although she wasn't fully sure she trusted this inanimate and unintelligent technology. Her preference would always be for TARDIS travel, no matter what the risks. A Time Ring could easily be disrupted and end her up in a very bad situation. But much of the traffic onto and away from Gallifrey had been restricted. She'd had little choice in the matter.
The problem was, she suddenly had no idea if she was in the right to be here, and that was always bothersome. Mucking about in Time had such strange outcomes sometimes. She nibbled on a fingernail and glanced about the rather hobbled together space station. With a major battle of the War having been fought here just a short time ago, there really was little danger that she'd be noticed by either side. That didn't change the fact that she shouldn't be here, considering that right now she was also someplace else within enough proximity to be accused of crossing her own timeline. Bugger it. If the CIA decided to look for her now she'd be rather caught red-handed. Well, the Doctor was worth the risk. He was. She'd vowed that he'd be the one. She needed to do this.
She pulled her nail from her teeth, frowned at the damage she'd done to it, and stuffed her hand into her coat pocket. Shouldn't the Doctor be here by now? Her eyes scanned again, picking up the telltale signature of time travelers spread out through the crowd. A dark headed girl and a blond woman both in sleeveless fluttery tops trying to eat massive bowls of ice cream suspended from sticks, laughing. A dark headed young man paying a credit to go into the amusements booth. A boy of about twelve with golden copper hair and a bright smile... Then she heard the faint sound of the Doctor's TARDIS, but it seemed to be so far away, as though through a tunnel. Time was shifting on her, future and past both in flux. Had she made a fatal mistake?