Disclaimer: I don't own what you recognise; the drill should be familiar to you by now
Feedback: I'd appreciate it; I'm trying to do something a bit different here
AN: As promised, a new take on a very particular story, as Amy meets some former companions for the first time...
We don't get into the action of that story yet, but it should be obvious what's coming up, so I hope you like my 'prequel' before we get to canon.
The History of Paradox
"This is it?" Amy asked, looking out at the large wasteland spread out before the TARDIS's entrance, two moons just visible in the sky and a red tint seemingly surrounding the entire planet, along with large piles of wreckage scattered around them.
When she'd dropped in on the Doctor to inform him that school was closed due to a nasty bout of food poisoning among the staff, she'd naturally been expecting the subsequent offer of a trip, but she hadn't been expecting it to be somewhere so... lifeless.
"The wasteland of the Crimson Heart," the Doctor said, smiling in satisfaction at the sight in front of him before he looked back at Amy with a slight shrug. "Probably wouldn't have come here now, but I picked up a signal from this area, and, well, why not take a look? We need something simple after what happened last time, and this is perfect; an excellent excuse to have a wander around a quiet, deserted planet with nothing to worry about but some old bits of wreckage that I know neither of us will examine too closely if it might be dangerous."
"Uh... in other words, we're basically acting like archaeologists?" Amy asked, looking uncertainly at the Doctor.
"Well, it's a fresher environment than what most archaeologists would work with, but... you're basically right, yep," the Doctor said, looking back at Amy in time to notice the slightly teasing smile on her face. "Why?"
"What happened to 'I point and laugh at archaeologists'?" Amy asked, smiling as she recalled a story that the Doctor had once told her; that incident with the Library might have been scary, but there had been something amusing about it, even if the Doctor hadn't explained exactly how it had been resolved...
"We can't progress if we can't look at the past, Pond, and considering the mysteries surrounding this battlefield I'd like to know more about what we're up against before I start looking into its past," the Doctor explained, shrugging slightly as he looked back at her. "Besides, this isn't archaeology; that involves digging and the acquisition of expensive equipment to see something broken that I can look at when it's intact, but this is just having a poke around to see if we can anything interesting."
"So... this is a treasure hunt rather than archaeology?" Amy asked.
"Precisely; archaeology is based on finding clues for anything, but treasure hunts are based on finding something very specific and very interesting," the Doctor said, grinning at her as he indicated the nearest debris. "Shall we?"
"Why not?" Amy replied, smiling at the Doctor in understanding as the two of them walked over to the nearest pile of rubbish and began to search through it.
It might not be in the thick of the action, but after everything that she and the Doctor had been through on their last trips, Amy had to admit that this trip looked like it would be a different but interesting- and, more importantly for the moment, less potentially dangerous- kind of trip.
As the two of them spent the day moving through the piles of wreckage, Amy had to admit that the Doctor had been right; this was actually a surprising amount of fun. Not only did the Doctor enjoy telling her about the battle that had left the planet in its current condition- apparently there had been-, but he was even able to provide her with some descriptions of the ships that the parts they were studying were likely to have come from, based on factors such as the manufacturers of the device they'd found or the metallurgical content of the hull, as well as the history of the area and the races they'd been in contact with before the war.
It might just be another form of school, but the difference between this and schoolwork was that the Doctor actually brought it to life on a constant basis; it was the ultimate field trip with no limitations on what the lessons would be about.
"So... after all that effort, they just destroyed themselves?" she asked, looking sadly at the Doctor as he finished telling her the story of the battle.
"Last gambit of the last few ships in the fleet according to all reports," the Doctor said, his expression grim as he reflected on the stories he'd heard. "The ships on one side had virtually drained their weapons, and the opposing ships had sustained serious engine damage; the only thing the first side could attempt was a last desperate charge, one side setting a collision course while the other side fired everything, and they each pretty much tore each other apart in the process."
"That's..." Amy began, before she trailed off, uncertain about the merits of continuing that sentence without coming across as insensitive.
"Stupid?" the Doctor finished for her, reassuring Amy on that front; if the Doctor had expressed a positive opinion of the fight, Amy could have known that it was over something worthwhile, but the fact that he hadn't said something positive suggested to her that there was nothing positive for him to say.
"Exactly," Amy said, smiling in relief.
"Well, it was," the Doctor confirmed. "They were basically just fighting to control a planet that was in a strategically important situation in their formerly cold war- beat the other side to it before they gained enough of an edge; think of it as the interstellar equivalent of Cuba, you know-, and then, when their fleets tore each other apart, they decided to back off and leave the planet on its own..."
His voice trailed off as he looked up, something attracting his attention away from the pile of wreckage that he was studying that Amy couldn't see. "Hold on... hyperspace distortions?"
"Pardon?" Amy asked, looking at him in confusion. "I don't-"
"It's one of my peoples' additional senses- I don't always register it because I prefer to focus on the human level, and it's not something I'd normally be aware of if we weren't in an atmosphere unless I was trying or it was really powerful-, but there's something..." the Doctor said, his voice trailing off as he looked around.
"What is it?" Amy asked, her apprehension growing as she looked at her friend; after all the times she'd seen the Doctor looking in control no matter what they encountered, just the idea of him looking confused about this situation was enough to worry her. "What's causing that… distortion?"
"I'm not sure..." the Doctor said, his expression thoughtful as he continued to study the field of wreckage surrounding them before pulling out his sonic screwdriver. "There's definitely nothing actually active here; I would have detected it when we were arriving..."
Just as the Doctor had spoken, a large ship that put Amy in mind of a large vulture or a Klingon ship from Star Trek, with an extended 'neck' and long wings, came down from the sky, emerging from the clouds above them and moving at incredible speed towards an area that Amy was fairly sure she recognised; there was something about that antenna-like thing at the top of one pile...
"TARDIS!" she yelled in realisation before she turned to the Doctor. "It's-"
"Heading for the TARDIS; come along, Pond!" the Doctor said, hurrying towards the location where they'd left their precious blue box, Amy following him as quickly as possible.
Even as they ran, however, both of them knew that it would be too late. They were barely half-way back to the location where the TARDIS had materialised before they saw the ship taking off, a small blue object just visible underneath it, moving up to the main ship, apparently drawn to the other object by what Amy was automatically inclined to think of as a tractor beam…
"The Claw Shansheeth of the Fifteenth Funeral Fleet?" the Doctor said, looking at the ship in confusion as it vanished into the dark atmosphere above them.
"Who?" Amy asked.
"They're basically the funeral directors for fallen galactic heroes; they come after major battles and take fallen heroes back to their homeworlds," the Doctor said, briefly automatically slipping into his 'teacher mode' before he returned his attention to the more obvious question facing them, his gaze focused on the departing ship. "But that doesn't make sense; why would they come here, and why would they steal the TARDIS?"
"Well... maybe they got tired of it?" Amy asked, seizing on the most obvious answer to her friend's question.
"Tired of it?" the Doctor repeated, looking at Amy in confusion. "Tired of what?"
"Of always seeing all that death and not being able to do anything about it?" Amy asked, recalling some of the tales she'd heard in history about people becoming disillusioned with war after finding out more about the people they'd killed on the other side. "I mean, if they just keep seeing people when they're dead- particularly if it's a conflict like this; you said yourself that nobody really won anything after the fighting here was over-, maybe they..."
"Decided to take my time machine and use it to stop all that death?" the Doctor finished for her, nodding at her with a slight smile. "Good thinking, Pond; took what you knew about the situation at hand, applied it to present a practical theory, and clearly explained it."
He looked thoughtfully up at the sky in the direction that the ship had departed, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Of course, even if we assume they were responsible for the signal that drew me here, that doesn't explain why they just left; I locked the old girl before we left and the key's still in my pocket, and while the Shansheeth aren't exactly stupid, they definitely don't have the technology to make themselves a substitute key without... without..."
His voice trailed off for a moment as he continued to stare up at the sky, his eyes widening in realisation before he looked sharply back at Amy. "What's the date right now?"
"What-?" Amy asked, before the Doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out various objects, finally removing what looked like a large old-fashioned watch, which he held up in front of his face and waved around for a few moments before he smiled in understanding.
"Just under a year since I saw him; close enough," he said, smiling as he looked at Amy.
"Saw who?" Amy asked, looking at the Doctor in confusion, even as he turned and ran towards the nearest pile of junk, quickly starting to rummage through it with a speed that was faster than she'd ever seen him move. "Who are you talking about... and what are you doing?"
"Working on something that will take me to Earth," the Doctor said, pulling out a few parts as he began to use the sonic on them.
"And... that's going to help us?" Amy asked, looking in confusion at the Doctor; he might have been giving her some pointers on how to steer the TARDIS and some of the basic examples of technology they might encounter, but what certain bits of advanced technology were meant to do still confused her, and right now she couldn't see what the Doctor was trying to assemble. "But how can you know-?"
"Because," the Doctor said, looking back at her with a smile, "as intelligent as the Shansheeth are, they aren't intelligent enough to work out how to open the TARDIS with anything they've got on their own, but they may have some technology that could recreate it if they have access to the right resources, and those resources include certain things that they can only find in this time period if they keep going in their current direction on Earth..."
"Oh," Amy said, stuck for anything else to say as she looked at her friend. "So... what are you doing?"
"Well," the Doctor continued, picking a few more parts out of the junkyard as he continued to speak, "a few months before we met- actually, it's been about that long from their perspectives according to the calendar-, I was visiting a friend to protect her from the Trickster- pan-dimensional being who serves as a manifestation of the Pantheon of Dischord, and that's another long story that I'll tell you later-, and one of her friends became charged with the artron energy of the TARDIS when he and the old girl were stuck in a temporal trap."
"Oh," Amy said, stuck for anything else to say.
She thought she recognised some of the terms that the Doctor was using, but that didn't mean that the sentence itself made sense; what exactly was a 'temporal trap' in this context anyway?
"So... how does that help us now?" she asked, deciding to focus on what was most relevant; she could ask about the other things later.
"On its own, it wouldn't; it'd just be another interesting story," the Doctor said, before he pulled a small gold object with a green gem in it out of his pocket. "But with this taken into account, it's another matter altogether."
"What's that?" Amy asked.
"A spare artron energy cell," the Doctor explained with a grin, as he began to work at a small rod for a few moments before attaching the energy cell to the end of it. "Considering how I lost the old girl before... well, things happened; let's leave it at that... I decided that it would be a good idea to keep this kind of thing around; in the event of me falling into a parallel world where the TARDIS loses its link to the remnants of the Eye of Harmony in this world- the Eye was originally stretching out across all known dimensions, but with Gallifrey's destruction its influence is limited to this plane of existence, and I need to occasionally recharge her to retain that much-, this power cell provides me with a short amount of reserve power that I can use to return to my home universe."
"But what good does that- oh," Amy said, her eyes widening in understanding. "If it's from the TARDIS..."
"Exactly," the Doctor said, grinning proudly at her. "With this energy cell to provide me with a sample of the TARDIS's natural artron energy- and assuming that I can find the relevant parts around here-, I should be able to set up the necessary equipment to initiate a very complicated biological swap across ten thousand light-years by using that friend as a receiver, allowing me to travel to Earth by focusing on the artron energy within him as a beacon, track down the Shansheeth, recover the TARDIS, and return for you in a matter of moments, and that is the worst case scenario."
"Oh," Amy said, smiling hopefully at him. "That's... good, right?"
"Well, it would be good, if it weren't for the fact that I can't be certain why the Shansheeth would take the TARDIS to Earth and therefore can't know how long it would take me to find the old girl," the Doctor explained. "They should be able to get there in a day or two- their ships have to be fast, after all-, so I should have it ready in time, but whether they'll be in a situation that will make it easy for me to find her when I get to Earth is another matter."
Amy was briefly anxious at the reference to them potentially being here for a couple of days- they didn't have a thing to eat and she hadn't seen anything to eat on this planet; how would they survive?-, but she forced that issue aside and tried to focus on the fact that they had a way to get out of this mess; she could manage without food for a couple of days, right?
"But… you can get us home, right?" she asked, looking at the Doctor as he continued his work. "Once you've finished this?"
"Well… yes and no," the Doctor said, looking apologetically at her.
"Yes and no?" Amy repeated.
"Even if I'm right and we make it back to Earth, we'll be a few years in the future from your perspective, so our priority will be getting back to the TARDIS rather than going back to Leadworth- the moment we learn if we did or didn't get back we run the risk of creating a paradox-, and even then this isn't exactly top-of-theline equipment we're working with here," the Doctor said, sighing as he paused in his work for a moment and studied the sonic screwdriver. "From what I've seen of the material available to me, I'll need the sonic's power source if I'm going to make this mess actually work- the artron cell will be needed to set up the biological swap-, which means that I won't be able to get it as refined as I'd like; unless I can get a substitute at the other end, this is going to be relatively unstable..."
"Unstable?" Amy asked, her mind seizing on the potential negative connotations of that word. "Does that mean-?"
"It just means that I might not be able to set up a permanent transport at the moment; we can worry about that once we know whether we're actually going to be able to leave here in the first place," the Doctor said, before he put his hands into his pockets and pulled out something else that he subsequently tossed over to Amy. "Oh, and while we're waiting, you might like these."
Looking at the object that the Doctor had just passed to her, Amy was slightly surprised to find herself looking at nothing more than a couple of ham sandwiches in a plastic container; it looked like the Doctor had brought them from the local convenience store in Leadworth.
"Uh... thanks," she said, looking back at him, slightly taken aback at his anticipation of her food-related concerns before she'd even voiced them. "Do you-?"
"Had a good snack before we left; I'll be fine," the Doctor said, smiling reassuringly at his friend. "Just focus on keeping yourself together and fed, and I'll do the rest; we'll be back before you know it."
Amy knew that she should feel more optimistic at the news that the Doctor had a plan, but it was hard to focus on something like that when faced with a barren alien planet after your only means of departure had been taken from you.
She'd faced danger with the Doctor before, but back then the TARDIS had always been there as a way off; this time they didn't even have that as an option...
All they had was a plan that even the Doctor admitted might not work, relying heavily on several assumptions that were based on theories that felt more like guesses than anything Amy had heard from the Doctor before now.
She might believe in him, but when her dear madman with a box had lost his box… was anything possible?
AN 2: I take it you can guess which story is coming up next?