Part VI: Causality and Effect

"Corl Steed."

The woman peered up from her book. Her eyes darted about the dim room. "Who's there?" she snapped out. "Show yourself!"

The man who stepped into the pool of light cast by her glow-globe was a professorial sort: all tweed and bow tie, but with long, shaggy brown hair. As if one of the Beatles got tenure. "Can you see me better, now?" he asked. His voice was cold.

Her face went white. "You!" She fumbled for the pistol she kept at hand. At last her fingers closed around the grip. The old woman's heartbeat slowed. She felt more confident with the gun in her hand. She gave him a tight smile. "So, I take it that Blackfield-Hughes failed, then."

"Yes," the Doctor agreed. "When last I saw him, he was held quite well with five pairs of handcuffs."

"Five?" she asked.

"Well," the Doctor said with a shrug, "my wife does tend to go a bit overboard." He looked around the small chamber. Books covered the walls; the only furniture was the overstuffed leather wing chair and ottoman in the center of the room, a small table beside the chair. The glow globe hovered above the chair. "We put his… helpers… back where they came from," he said. "You know, I really would expect someone with the money to hire a time-travelling assassin to have a nicer place. Large, anyway."

"This is just my reading room," she snapped. She scowled at the Doctor. "I suppose I will have to find someone else to kill you, now."

"Oh," the Doctor laughed, "I think you'll find I am very hard to kill." He drew a slender, silver object from his coat and snapped it open with a flick of his wrist. A green light glowed and the device hummed. "By the way, I just deactivated your weapons systems. Over the entire house. Go sonic or go home, I always say." He slipped the screwdriver back into his pocket. "Okay, I don't always say that," he admitted, "but perhaps I should?"

She drew the pistol and aimed it at him. "All the weapons systems?" she asked with a toothsome smile. Her wrinkled face was fierce.

"Yes. I even activated the safety on your pistol, there."

She smiled wider. "This gun doesn't have a safety," she said. She squeezed the trigger. There was a "click."

"It does now," the Doctor said. "What you get for using nanotech in a stasis field, instead of good old fashioned solid materials."

She frowned at the pistol. "That is just showing off," she said. She dropped the pistol on the table.

"You know what annoys me about this whole thing?" the Doctor asked. "Besides the fact that you ruined a perfectly rubbish holiday trip? I don't even know why you want me dead. I've never met you, never heard of you… Blackfield-Hughes said you claimed I killed your family. But I've never met them, either."

"Ten years ago," she growled. "Ten years ago. You might not have killed them, but you are responsible for their deaths. You fought the Grandmother Starlight and her Grandchildren, here, on Declan Prime. And in the struggle, my family was killed. All of them." Her eyes filled with angry tears. "They were in a flyer on their way to the capital and you didn't stop the Grandmother in time; she slapped them right out of the sky!"

The Doctor was quiet for a moment, hands in his trousers pockets. "And for that," he said, "you hired an assassin to kill my family and me."

"Yes," she hissed. She leaned forward, teeth gritted. "And I will hire another, and another! I studied you, Doctor; you won't kill me. You never kill directly… just by inaction, or sending others to do your dirty work. You…"

"Oh, shut up!" the Doctor shouted. The old woman went silent, shocked. "You see, Mrs. Steed, you are forgetting something very important."


He took a step forward. "I am the Doctor. I am the last of the Time Lords. I am fire and ice and rage. I am the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. I am the Oncoming Storm." She quailed back in her chair with each step he took forward. He stood above her, then, hands on the arms of the chair, and Corl Steed shrank back and tried to press herself into the leather padding. "And time, Mrs. Steed, time…" He straightened. " pretty much my bitch, basically. Be right back!"

He turned and dashed off into the darkness. She heard a wheezing noise, a low scraping. After a moment, she looked around the dim-lit room. "He… hello?"

A door banged open and she jumped. A man walked in and said, "Good lord, it's dark in here!" She blinked as an elderly man in a navy suit made his way to her. "Corl, my dear, what on earth are you doing reading in the dark like this?" He glanced up. "Lights up!" As the light in the room brightened, he smiled at her. "There, isn't that better? I still do not understand, after five decades, how you can read with so little light."


Jensen Steed gave his wife a puzzled look. "Heavens, Corl, you look as though you've seen a ghost." His wristcomp beeped and he glanced down. "Ah, what? Haha! I almost forgot," he said, "it's the anniversary of the day that Doctor fellow saved us all from the Grandmother Starlight and her horde!"

"You are so unbearable when you get like this," River said.

"What can I say?" the Doctor said, "I'm… amazing."

"So you saved her family and they didn't die, but she…" Amy shook her head. "Time! It's so…"

"Wibbley-wobbley?" Rory suggested.

"That," she agreed.

"Not to mention," Jenny said, "timey-wimey."

"But what about fixed points, and still points, and..." Rory began.

The Doctor shook his head. "The death of Mrs. Steed's family was none of those things. Just an unfortunate event at an unfortunate time. Anyway, who's hungry?" the Doctor asked. He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "I'm starving. How about Italian?"

He was drowned out by a chorus of, "NO!"

Author's Note: And there you have it. It sort of got away from me, given I only ever planned to write that first part. Hope everyone enjoyed the ride. Taisteal go maith- DS.