Time and the Trickster
Chapter Five: Mission in Time: First Encounters
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who or any of the spinoff material and I gain no income off of this story, just the satisfaction of playing with the characters.
Either she was getting used to travelling by time window or the closer she got to her home time the easier it got because Rose not only managed to stay conscious this time but only fell to her knees. She took in a long shaky breath and forced herself to shake off a cold feeling that clung to her. It occurred to her for the first time that she was travelling through the Time Vortex without a capsule. The Doctor had remarked about it when he took her to the past and said it was unpleasant. He had been understating it.
Rose raised her head and looked around. She was in a field with tall brush surrounding her. The weather was cool and it was probably spring based on the green she could see starting to creep into the vegetation. Sitting up further, Rose peered over the grass and saw a collection of buildings about half a mile away. There was a narrow paved road a few feet from here leading towards the village. Rose glanced around and noted that otherwise, it was just farmhouses and empty countryside. Ducking back down, Rose pulled out her mobile and glanced quickly at the date. She had time to read 13 June 197- before a loud crash up ahead distracted her from the mobile. Snapping the phone shut, Rose shoved it back into her pocket and checked the dagger and hammer in her pocket. Creeping towards the road, Rose peered over the brush every few seconds trying to see what the source of the noise was. So far she could see a group of jeeps and people in what she thought might be uniforms again. Rose really hoped she wasn't stuck in another war zone.
Then another truck rushed by with an insignia that Rose did recognise: UNIT. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Rose wasn't aware of how many ways Earth's history could be changed by altering events in UNIT's history, but she didn't like the idea and even more so she didn't like the idea of changing her personal history by running into the wrong person. Rose crept forward letting her eyes track the moving vehicles until she came to the backside of one of the houses. Carefully, she looked through the window to glimpse into a small bedroom. Judging from the light pink duvet and the doll on the floor it belonged to a child, but it was also empty.
The window was locked so Rose pulled out the sonic pen and opened the lock quickly. She leapt into the house as quickly and quietly as she could and slid the window closed again but didn't lock it. She pulled the curtains shut and gave her eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness. Once she was sure of her ability to walk without causing a crash, Rose went to the door of the room and listened for a moment. Hearing nothing, Rose pushed the door open and peered down the hall of the house. Everything was still so she walked forward towards the front of the house past two more bedrooms.
The living room was small with a comfortable looking sofa and a thick rug and wasn't as dated as Rose would have expected. On the far side of the room was a large window that was open a crack with a warm summer breeze entering the house along with the sounds of voice and moving vehicles. Rose ducked behind the sofa for a moment before she crawled to the window on her hands and knees. Rose stayed on her knees, just below the window frame and moved carefully over to where the curtains hung. Pressing her back to the wall, Rose let out a soft breath and strained to hear what was happening outside.
For a few minutes, there were only movement, the sound of boots on the stone outside and the sound of orders being given at a distance. Then things calmed down a bit and Rose took a chance and peered out the window while trying to keep herself hidden behind the curtain as much as possible. She hoped that if anyone saw the curtain move they'd just attribute it to the open window and the wind. At first Rose didn't notice anything special as she looked past the small garden and gate to the village's central area which was down the street. A few UNIT trucks were parked in the centre of the village square, right in front of the pub and shop. Soldiers were armed and patrolling the inside of the town. Rose ducked behind the curtain, trying to figure out a way to get closer to the main action rather than be stuck down the street. The problem was that she had no idea what she needed to find yet and her identification would tell UNIT that she wasn't from around here very quickly.
"There is nothing here, your machines must have been mistaken," a familiar male voice said beyond the window.
Rose straightened and peeked outside again to see two male and a short female figure standing at the house's gateway. Rose gasped softly as she studied the three figures since she recognised two of them almost right away. The first man who was closest to the gate had dark brown hair and a moustache, but all of his features otherwise were exactly the same as when Rose had first met Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Rose smiled to herself, well according to his rank ensign he was still the Brigadier and he was lighter than when she had first met him. Her eyes went to the woman, a young Jo Jones, still Jo Grant, dressed in a very seventies green dress with a dark green jacket. She turned her attention to the final person but was always certain who he was. This Doctor has curly white hair, looked to be in his fifties and was wearing a cape outfit. He fit Jo's description of the third Doctor perfectly and Rose couldn't contain her smile.
"Brigadier I am not wrong, there is something here," the Doctor insisted, his smooth voice ringing with very familiar confidence.
"We've searched the whole town Doctor," Jo insisted, her voice much more youthful than the Jo that Rose knew.
"This is something subtle," the Doctor explained. "I was repairing part of the TARDIS and it reacted to something in this area."
"Could it be the Master?" the General, no the Brigadier, asked the Doctor.
The Doctor frowned and glanced around; Rose ducked behind the curtain but strained to hear the answer. "I don't believe so Brigadier," the Doctor replied. "However have your men stay alert because if he finds the same energy spike that I did then he'll come to investigate."
"Just wonderful," the Brigadier huffed. "If you find anything else Doctor tell me immediately."
Rose heard footfalls that faded away quickly and then cautiously looked out the window. Jo was standing near the Doctor while he glanced around at the area. "Any ideas?" Jo asked the Doctor.
"There is something here Jo with a strange energy signature, something that is out of place and time." The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck for a moment. "And all residents have been evacuated?"
"Yes Doctor," Jo said. "And all insisted that there has been nothing strange lately."
Rose really hoped that the Doctor was referring to the chronosteel and not to her. He'd never mentioned anything like this before, but she supposed that a Time Lord might feel the power of the chronosteel trying to alter history. His presence here also answered her question about why the White Guardian didn't want the Doctor taking this mission or helping her with it. The Doctor turned to Jo and motioned for her to follow him before they started walking towards the centre of the town. Rose bit her lip softly as she tried to think of what to do. He'd mentioned repairing the TARDIS so this was probably when he was still in exile which meant that he didn't have the ship here. Hopefully, that would keep him from detecting the chronosteel in her pocket.
Then she heard it, the distinctly familiar wheezing sound of the TARDIS very close to her. Rose turned as the wind picked up in the room, but gasped as it was not the familiar blue box that started materialising. Instead, it was a large machine of some kind, possibly an old computer. Rose jumped from her spot and rushed back into the hallway, ducking into one of the bedrooms. She kept the door open a small crack and peeked out into the living room as the TARDIS finished materialising.
Rose forced herself to stay completely still as the door of the TARDIS opened and a strange man stepped out. He was an older gentleman with an air of importance about him. His hair was greying black and slicked back and his beard was neatly trimmed. It took Rose only a split second to realise that she was seeing one of the Doctor's fellow Time Lords and his nemesis the Master. She swallowed back a sound of surprise and watched the Master who was dressed in a neat black suit. The Master pulled a small device from his pocket and held it flat in his hand. It beeped and whirled for a moment before the Master smiled. He turned towards the hallway leading to the bedrooms and Rose stepped away from the door. A faint light drew her attention down to the pocket where the chronosteel hammer and dagger were stashed. They were shimmering once again and Rose realised that the Master was detecting them and activating their power somehow. Spinning away from the door, Rose rushed to the window and pulled it open. She jumped outside and run away from the house, ducking behind a bush in the next garden over. Looking back carefully, she saw the Master leaning out the window and looking around with an irritated look on his face. He vanished from a window a moment later and Rose forced herself to take in a deep breath and think.
She was in the 1970s, still not sure what year exactly, with two chronosteel pieces that together seemed to be capable of drawing attention and still had a piece to find if she was going to preserve Earth's timeline. The Doctor was here, but he had no idea who she was and talking to him might be an even greater threat to the timeline. Rose glanced around quickly before she left the bush and headed down the street and slipped into a side road. Leaning against the wall, Rose slipped her hand into her pocket and touched the chronosteel objects gently.
"Think Rose," she muttered to herself. "What here could alter the Earth's history?" There were several answers: the Doctor being killed with the chronosteel, regenerating early might alter history or maybe he wouldn't be able to regenerate if killed with the chronosteel. Maybe a member of UNIT like the Brigadier, Jo or Benton was the target since they all had roles in keeping Earth safe in the years to come.
Rose shook her head and straightened back up before she started heading towards the centre of town. Maybe the Brigadier could help her and would be willing to keep her a secret from the Doctor, but she couldn't keep hiding around the edges of town. She'd only managed to get the first two pieces of chronosteel by getting into the thick of things. With the Master here maybe she could even convince the Doctor she was on his side without having to bring the White Guardian into it.
She was almost to the main square when the temperature dropped around her. Rose shifted into a defensive stance and looked around carefully. A shudder went through her body like someone walking over her grave. Everything around her slowed for a moment as a being appeared in front of her. The being had a humanoid form and was a bit taller than herself, but its face was hidden by a low and wide black hood. The being wore a long black hooded robe and gloves, covering his entire body apart from his face. The only feature Rose could see was a mouth of sharp teeth that were almost like a shark's. It reminded Rose of the ghost of Christmas Future from the Christmas Carol.
"Rose Tyler," the strange creature called in a strangely smooth voice that seemed to echo. "At last we meet."
"Who are you?" Rose questioned as she straightened up, but kept her body tense and ready to react.
"Nobody. I am nothing," the being replied.
"Any chance you could be less cryptic?" Rose asked with a raised eyebrow. "I've got quite enough of that already in my life."
"It is difficult to make you understand," the being said and Rose noticed that its image was shimmering around the edge like he wasn't fully corporeal. "Ephemeral minds are so limited." The being raised its hands to pull back its hood. Above its mouth, the face was featureless with only darker spots where its eyes should be and only a fleshy bump for a nose. "As you can see I have no self," the being replied. "I exist only as a shade in your world Rose Tyler. Fueled by my purpose only."
"What do you want with me then shade?" Rose questioned.
"I want you to stop playing the Guardians' game," the being replied calmly. "I want to set you free Rose Tyler. I want to undo what they did to change your life."
"And let me guess," Rose quipped trying to hide her nervousness. "All it will cost is my soul."
The being chuckled and shook its head. "Nothing so dramatic Rose Tyler," it replied. "My quarrel is with the Guardians and not you. By helping you I prevent them from reaching their endgame, at least for a time."
Rose swallowed and glanced over her shoulder. "I'm not interested," she replied as she turned to walk away.
"A normal childhood," the being said behind her. "No manipulations from the Guardians that put Spellman in your path when you were so young. That is what I can give you." The being smiled as Rose looked back at it curiously. "You will instead grow up a normal girl and meet the Doctor when you are nineteen. You will travel with him in the TARDIS and be happy just as you were always meant to be." The shade shimmered as it floated towards her. "No Pied Piper, no Mona Lisa, no Apep, just a peaceful life without fear until you leave Earth with the Doctor."
"But if I'm not there-" Rose started to say.
"I will turn the threats back," the being promised. "Give me your agreement and I will have the power to turn back the alien threats from Earth." The being moved closer to her and continued, "No families will suffer when the Pied Piper comes for their children, no one will die in the earthquakes caused by the Xylok, no cities will suffer damage and the Gorgon's Circle will be quietly destroyed without any deaths." The being added, "I'll even see to it that Sarah Jane does meet the Doctor again and rescues Luke to form her family. You don't owe the Guardians any loyalty," the being hissed to her. "Give me your agreement and I will release you back into the life you were supposed to live in the first place. A normal girl until the age of nineteen and then a time traveller in the TARDIS, a heroine of the universe by the Doctor's side."
Rose swallowed, frozen to the spot. She should have been able to say no right away, but the old doubts and fears were nagging at her. "You're the Trickster aren't you?" Rose asked the being. "The Guardian said that you seek to create chaos and would rip the universe apart if you had the chance."
"The Guardians see what they wish to see," the Trickster replied. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely and they sit in absolute power over the universe." The Trickster chuckled. "I need your agreement to impact your life Miss Tyler, but they have unleashed monster after monster upon you without any warning or question so which of us is truly acting with respect for Free Will?"
Rose stepped away from the Trickster again and shook her head. "You're twisting things, I can see that Trickster."
"I am offering you back the life that was taken from you Rose Tyler," the Trickster countered. "The Guardians determined how to manipulate you because they studied you in other lives, in alternate realities to decide when and how to move their move. I am just undoing that abuse of power and setting you free. You will still have your precious Doctor, but will not have to worry about what the Guardians are going to do to you next time you see them."
Rose's mind brought forth every memory she had of the Guardians: being watched by the Black Guardian and finding out that he put Spellman in her path, the White Guardian and the Shopkeeper using Sarah Jane to teach her a lesson and the Doctor's distrust of the Guardians. At the same time, however, she also remembered a question that the White Guardian had asked her during that hard Christmas.
"If you had the chance to undo our influence on your life would you?" he had asked her and Rose hadn't been able to answer then. All she had known was that she didn't want to lose the Doctor and the Trickster was promising her that.
But she couldn't help but think of another promise, one that she had made to the Doctor that Christmas Eve.
"The White Guardian asked me if I would undo their influence if I could, but I didn't have an answer because I do like who I am and I like knowing you. You told me time can be rewritten, but I'm giving this to you so you understand that even with days like today I won't. In both of our futures, you'll give this to me and close the loop that it represents. Even after today I still fully intend for that to happen."
She had promised him that as she gave him the journal that his Eleventh self would give her. Even if she didn't trust the Guardians completely was she really ready to give up her history with the Doctor even if it was promised that she'd still find her way to him.
"No thanks," Rose heard herself say even before she fully processed it. "Whatever else my life was 'supposed' to be this is my life now and I'll stick with it."
The Trickster didn't seem to react to her statement at first showing no facial movement at all. Then its mouth twisted into a strange little smile. "Very well Rose Tyler," the Trickster replied. "We'll see if you can save Earth's history and your own."
The Trickster vanished and Rose took a small breath and started walking towards the square and UNIT vehicles once again. She was nearly there when a figure stepped out in front of her holding a weapon in his hand. Rose stopped suddenly and looked up into the face of the Master who was smirking as the device in his hand beeped again.
"Greetings my dear," the Master greeted pleasantly. "I believe you have something that I would very much like to take off your hands."