"Tell me why I'm doing this again," Rose said with annoyance as she and the Doctor casually strode into the white building before them. Each side of the building rose up with modern elegance and became a point at the top. The white building shone with a kind of metallic that was blinding if several of the planet's suns reflected upon it the right way. Rose turned her head to let the Doctor know she expected an answer when she found him already staring at her. Well, staring at her dress more like. She couldn't help the teeth-wielding grin that followed.
Rose hadn't been thrilled that right after saving the world from a lonely Isolus the Doctor had intercepted a distress signal, all the way from the planet Harmony in the Poteranus Galaxy. That wasn't completely odd, they received distress signals all the time, but this one was so much more important because apparently, the planet Harmony in the Poteranus Galaxy was one of the only places in the entire universe that shouldn't be giving off distress signals. Like the name suggests, it was a place of Harmony. Therapeutic harmony.
"In Earth terms, this whole planet is one big psychologist's office," the Doctor tugged on the end of his ear nervously, "Like an alien psychologist, except they're more advanced, of course. They have all sorts of equipment here; repressed memory finders, repressed memory enhancers, memory cleaning, technology to deal with past issues, anxiety disorders, phobias, fears… Anything that's psychologically wrong with your mind, they have everything they need to cure you."
"Like mental illnesses?" Rose frowned, "Because my uncle Benjamin has split personality disorder, maybe a quick—"
"Mental illnesses are illnesses," the Doctor quickly cut Rose off, "They're hereditary, developed, triggered, they require medication. This is all about dealing with unresolved and traumatic issues from your past. They're able to dig deeper into your unconscious mind, the part that you can't even access. In here, it really is all in your head. Haven't you ever wondered why you're scared to ride elevators alone?"
Rose threw him a look, "I'm not scared to ride elevators alone, thank you very much!" she paused, "I guess there was that time in New Earth when you went up without me and I had to ride one alone and I was fine with it… Of course it led me straight to being possessed by Cassandra, but that's water under the bridge," she frowned, "Why do people say that's water under the bridge as a phrase for letting something go? Was there once a time when people literally threw water under a bridge to—"
"Nice diversion," the Doctor nodded, resisting a smile, "Don't you remember? When you were three years old, Jackie took you shopping and while she was taking a phone call, she left you in the elevator and you were so impossibly scared, do you remember?"
Rose shook her head slightly, her frown deepening, "I don't—I don't think so… Wait a minute, how do you know this?"
"Cassandra went inside your head and she roamed freely there, even into the unconscious part," the Doctor shrugged lightly, "And when she went into my head, I got all the information she got from your memories, couldn't really help it. Remind me to teach you how to block your memories off one day, that'll be useful."
"Okay, skimming past the invasion of privacy, how am I supposed to block out all the information that I know about you and the TARDIS?" Rose said, "I'm assuming that's the reason I'm doing this instead of you, and even though I'm not all Time... Lordy or whatever, I still know things, about the Time Vortex and Bad Wolf and… you."
"That's why you'll be wearing this," the Doctor produced a gold bracelet from his long brown coat, "DNA coding bracelet from my home planet, all but one in existence, just like me. It's linked to the TARDIS so whatever they're accessing inside your head, I'll be able to view it too, from the TARDIS and since it's coded onto the wearer's DNA when they're wearing it, I can override their technology and block everything TARDIS and Time Lordy out."
"Hold on a minute," Rose stopped walking into the white-themed lobby, stopping the Doctor as well, "You expect me to let these aliens prod inside my head for unresolved past issues, giving you a front row seat as well? I hardly think so, what if I think of something embarrassing? What if the alien wants to talk about the time I lost my virginity or something?"
"Jimmy Stone, I know," the Doctor muttered disapprovingly.
"How do you know?" Rose gasped shockingly. She reached over and whacked him across the arm, "What else did Cassandra pass onto you?" she didn't wait for him to answer, "No, see this is exactly why this can't happen! My first time was only supposed to be between me and Jimmy Stone and that god awful music he insisted to play! Oh my god, did she show you me and Mickey?"
"Moving on," the Doctor tugged at his ear anxiously, "I'm sorry Rose but there's no other way. What if they're doing something harmful to the patients here? Somebody sent out that distress signal for a reason. If I didn't have to lock my mind away I would be the first one in there but if the wrong people were to get their hands on all the information I know, they could rewrite the history of the universe, so let's just put things into perspective shall we?"
"Can't believe you pulled the 'save-the-innocents' card," Rose grumbled under her breath as she grabbed the gold bracelet from the Doctor's hand and shoved it onto her wrist. "Least it matches my outfit" she muttered, glancing back down to her dress, the yellow colour striking boldly against the white interior of the building. Like she guessed it would, the Doctor's eyes travelled back down to the dress unintentionally, "Something the matter Doctor?" Rose asked innocently.
The Doctor's eyes snapped back up to hers in an instant, "Absolutely not," he smiled widely, "You're awfully yellow today aren't you?".
"Don't you like it?" Rose pouted mockingly. She gazed down at the strapless yellow sundress. A slot of smooth yellow fabric slid across her chest, fitting snugly so it wouldn't drop without the support of straps. From her waist down, the short yellow dress filtered into thin waves of tiers, stopping mid-thigh. Her smooth shoulder length blonde hair fitted in nicely with her pouty red lips, light tan and the sight of much uncovered skin. When she had tried it on, she thought about Queen Victoria and how appalled she would be at the sight of such nakedness.
The closed toe patent yellow heels had been a choice of whim. The thought of almost matching the Doctor's height was teasingly fun but it had been thirty minutes since they'd left the TARDIS and she was staring to regret them. What about all the running that might be necessary if anyone found out she was here under not so innocent terms?
"Doctor?" Rose asked again when he hadn't replied.
"Mm, yeah, sure, right," the Doctor nodded quickly, "Anyway, just focus on the task at hand, don't get distracted. Also, you'll need a genuine reason to be here, you can't just lie about having father issues, it has to be real, and it has to be deeper than a fear of elevator," he paused casually and then said, "Maybe you could talk about a phobia you have? Or a time when you were scared you were going to die? Or a nightmare perhaps?"
"I'll work something out," Rose replied absent-mindedly.
"Great. Now the bracelet will enable me to see whatever they're doing as well so if they're doing something they shouldn't be doing, I'll know," the Doctor nodded.
"I hope this bracelet also works as a teleport" Rose muttered, "Otherwise how will I be able to escape if I need to?"
"I don't know," the Doctor shrugged casually, "Why don't you distract them with the piece of cloth you call a dress?"
"You're still rude and not ginger," Rose folded her arms across her chest, trying to resist the urge of blushing, "Well, do me a favour and block out my intimate memories and fantasies as well as all the Time-Lordy stuff. And no peaking."
"Yep," the Doctor replied in a high pitched tone, "Sure, no… peaking," he watched her walk off to the main desk, enjoying the gentle sway of her hips against the dress as she went. And then, as if nothing had ever happened, the Doctor spun on his converse heel and strode out.
"Hi, I'm Rose Tyler, I made an appointment via psychic paper this morning," Rose said to the red skinned humanoid receptionist behind the main desk. The receptionist glanced up at Rose, smiled widely — presenting all two of his teeth — and pressed a button on the desk. A hologram popped up with a picture of the message the Doctor had craftily sent mere hours ago.
"Okay Miss Tyler, if you'd like to go up to the 45th floor and show them this," the receptionist handed her a pink slip of paper with the number 0.678 written on it, "They should take you right away. Is this your first time using Harmony's systematic memory-processing facilities?"
"Yes," Rose nodded, trying not to look as out of place there as she felt, "Sorry what's your name?"
"Beeb," the receptionist replied, "Nice to meet you by the way. I think you're our first ever human! We don't get many around here, with the general population of the human race not yet having ventured into space yet! How exciting that'll be when humans finally do that! How exactly did you get here, Miss Tyler?"
"Vortex Manipulator" Rose blurted out, "A Time Agent friend of mine came back from the future and... died. So I got his manipulator."
"Ah yes, the Time Agency, heard rumours about them, scandalous how they ended!" Beeb replied, "So, tell, tell, is it true? Did you witness it?"
Rose hid her confusion quickly as she adopted the Doctor's nervous habit and tugged at her ear anxiously, "No, no, the rumours weren't true… Completely untrue," she composed herself and grinned, "So, 45th floor then? Stairs are…?"
"Elevators are that way," Beeb pointed to the right where a row of elevators lay, "We don't have stairs here"
"Course you don't," Rose murmured under her breath, "Okay thank you," she said to Beeb and walked off to the nearest elevator, "Come on Rose, you're fine with elevators," she sighed to herself and reached out for the elevator button. The elevator doors opened and she stepped inside an empty space and pressed the button that said FLOOR 45.
Rose sucked in a sharp breath as the doors closed behind her.
The first thing that got Rose about the office she was shown to was the number of chairs in the room. That was test number one in a human psychologist's office. At the top of the room was an official black chair, presumably for the psychologist or whatever they called it here with other chairs spread out among it. Opposite the black chair was a neat sofa and next to that was a stiff wooden chair, like one you might find at a dinner table. Across the room was a beanbag, designed for child's play. At the other end of the room lay an inflatable chair and next to that an old couch chair, like one you might find at your Nan's house. Why was there so many chairs?
Rose couldn't help but look around nervously as the man who had greeted her by the name of "Dr Ackmund Joil" settled comfortably in his black chair. Rose eventually chose the neat sofa and sat down, looking forwards with hesitation written all over her face. Dr Ackmund Joil had no notebook or pen or any kind of note-taking equipment. All he had was a long white scientist coat and an unnerving smile.
"You're not very comfortable opening up to people are you, Miss Tyler?" Dr Ackmund asked suddenly, his piercing eyes trying to slice the barriers she was so used to having up.
"Not really," Rose twiddled the gold bracelet around her wrist, "My friend actually suggested I come here, said the treatment was out of this world."
"I imagine for you, it is," Dr Ackmund replied with a smile, "Why don't you tell me why your friend suggested you come here?".
Rose thought about what the Doctor said, about giving a genuine problem and wanting to stick as close to the truth as humanly possible she opened her mouth and said quietly, "I keep having this recurring nightmare… There's a Beast, and he tells me I'm going to die, I'm going to lose everything and then someone tells me a storm's approaching… I've been having the nightmare every night for the past week."
Dr Ackmund leaned forwards, "What kind of Beast?"
"You wouldn't believe me even if I told you," Rose murmured, "I never see his face, or his body, I just hear his voice, like he possesses people…" she forced a nervous smile, "And he tells me I'll die in battle."
"And the person who tells you about an approaching storm? Is that the Beast also?" Dr Ackmund asked.
"No, that's someone else," Rose answered, "A friend… A stranger really, well no, well…" she trailed off, lost in her own thoughts. The Doctor wasn't a stranger in the sense that he knew everything about her… but he was a stranger in the sense that she knew next to nothing about him.
"Have you experienced any traumatic incidents lately?" Dr Ackmund said with a frown.
Only if you include facing Satan himself, Rose thought to herself. Then she replied, "I thought I had lost someone, quite recently actually. I thought I was never going to see them again, I thought I was all alone… but, it was just a scare," she fingered the bracelet affectionately, "Story of my life, all these little scares, terrifying, but never really doing any damage… Now I guess I'm just wondering how long I can carry on with these near misses… When is my number gonna be up?"
"Yes, it's a sad fact that human beings live such short, fleeting lives," Dr Ackmund nodded, "All things end and all things die, even intergalactic aliens."
"Such as yourself?" Rose replied.
"Yes, such as myself," Dr Ackmund smiled. He paused, "Taking in everything you've told me I would say what you're experiencing is entirely normal for your species, your nightmares are coming from a very basic fear of losing your life and quite clearly losing someone you love."
Rose froze, hoping with all her might the Doctor wasn't tuning in right now.
"I would encourage you try out our Regressor," Dr Ackmund added, "It's completely safe and designed for helping our patients to face their fears and accept what must be inevitable."
"The Regressor sounds like a gun" Rose smiled nervously.
"It's a machine, always supervised by one of our technicians. You sit in one of our confined cabins, place the Regressor's transmit beam over your eyes — it's like a pair of goggles — and once activated, it transports you into your past memories, to where your issues regressed from and you confront them," he paused, "I must warn you, it's one of our most advanced machines, I wouldn't recommend it unless I thought you were absolutely capable of handling it."
Rose paused. The bracelet would protect the Doctor's secrets but what about her own? She wasn't here for therapy, she was here to find out where that distress signal was coming from… which means she'd just have to play her part, down to a T, "The Regressor still sounds like a semi-automatic but whatever, I'll give anything a go."
"Ah, the Time Agency Motto, I see you remember it." Dr Ackmund smiled.
"Knew Jack got that from somewhere," Rose muttered under her breath, remembering Jack's past words of I'll try anything once. And oh yes, he was a man of his word.
"Please, follow me," Dr Ackmund stood up and began to walk towards the door at the other end of the room. Rose followed after him, walking through the door that led onto an even whiter room. In front of her were several cubicles in a row, all pressed together. At the side of the room many other men and woman in white scientist coats were working away at a large control panel, "Our technicians monitor every step of your journey, and don't worry, once your issues are resolved, your memories are simply deleted from the software."
"Do you know what might help?" Rose blurted out, "A different colour, I mean, white's all very calming yes but after a while, you just sort of go a bit mad," her eyes widened, "Not that I'm mad, although you might see some mad memories but that's all really because of my Time Agent friend. Or maybe there won't be mad memories, maybe…" she sighed, realising Dr Ackmund was staring at her, "Or maybe I'll just ramble like a lunatic."
"Don't be nervous Rose," Dr Ackmund reassured her as he gestured to one of the cubicles, "Everything is completely safe here."
Rose smiled falsely and walked over to the cubicle Dr Ackmund was pointing to. She slid inside and closed the door behind her. All that was there was a white comfy chair and a pair of plastic goggles sitting on them. Rose picked up the goggles and sat down on the chair. She brought the bracelet up to her mouth and hissed, "Doctor, you better be listening, if you invade my memories in any way or let those crazy white people — yes I know how that sounds — see my most intimate moments, I will make sure the possibility of you becoming a father again very, very impossible, got that?"
"Put the goggles on Rose," Dr Ackmund's voice floated into the closed cubicle from across the room.
"Oh god," Rose mumbled as she slowly slotted the goggles over her eyes and waited nervously. A moment later, the lights within the cubicle powered down with a hum and the only thing illuminating the small space she was in was the glowing goggles. Rose opened her mouth to ask if this was normal but stopped, when she felt herself being sucked into her mind, into her past.
It was like she was watching a movie - of her memory - and she could see herself and feel her emotions but she couldn't do anything to act independently. She was being subjected to watch, helplessly.
"I told you! I told you, Rose!" Jackie screamed at her daughter, "I told you to sit your A-levels but no, you had to swan off with that stupid musician, Jimmy Stone! And now you're telling me you think you're pregnant? You're too young to be a mother for god sake, you can't even look after yourself!"
"I told you I was late on my period but I did a test, it was negative," Rose wiped at her wet eyes and red cheeks harshly. "I know it was stupid and I'm sorry, I'll go to the Doctor's tomorrow and ask for the pill."
"Excuse me?" Jackie whirled on her feet, "I thought that low life buggered off to Amsterdam with some slut called Noosh? And now you're telling me you'll go to the Doctor's and get the pill? What the blooming heck for? Is this what you are now Rose Tyler? A slut?"
"No, I just meant-for the future," Rose spluttered, trying to control her breathing. Running off with Jimmy Stone had been the worst mistake of her life. The only qualifications she had were GCSE's, she had lived in a bed-sit for four months and now she was in £800 of debt. And then he had just dropped her like that, and ran off to Amsterdam with a girl called Noosh.
"Please, what future do you have?" Jackie scoffed cruelly, "Don't think you can go running back to Mickey Smith, he was broken-hearted when you dumped him for that low life! All he does now is drive around in his little car, looking depressed and stumbling out of the pub drunk! You know what you need? You need to go to college, get your A-levels and then go to university, that's the only way you'll ever get anything out of life, trust me!"
"Mum, will you just shut up!" Rose exploded with anger, "All I wanted was a hug from my stupid mother but all you've done is criticise me! I will get something out of life, I will! And it'll be more than A-levels and more than university and more than a white picket fence and a husband and a stupid career! It'll be something much more than that, it'll be… fantastic!" she screamed the last word, grabbed her jacket and stormed out of the flat.
When Rose thought the grip the Regressor had on her mind would let go, it didn't. She could feel it moving… strangely. Moving… moving somewhere else, looking for something else. Then she was sucked into her own mind again.
"Rose!" Shareen Costello threw her arms around her best blonde friend with a huge grin on her face. "Oh my god, I haven't seen you in a year! Jackie said you've been off travelling the world, with a sexy older man."
Rose felt herself blush, "It's not like that."
"Then why are you blushing like you've just ran a marathon?" Shareen wigged her eyebrows suggestively, "Oh my god, you've fallen in love! Flipping hell, have you told Mickey? Poor bloke's still walking around, acting like you two are still making the beast with two backs!"
"'Making the beast with two backs?'" Rose grimaced, "That's disgusting! And since when have you been reading Shakespeare?"
"I read! Thank you very much!" Shareen grinned back, "But seriously though Rose, what's going on with you? One minute Jackie's completely convinced you'll make a husband out of that mysterious Doctor you're travelling with and then two seconds later she's out slagging him off, apparently he's devilishly dangerous, tell all!"
"You know my mum, she's so dramatic" Rose rolled her eyes but her stomach was doing twists, "And he's just a friend, really, a good, good friend, I mean yeah, he's attractive but he's all work, all the time, trust me, sometimes it gets a little exhausting, he hardly ever sleeps."
"A Doctor who tours the world with a younger female and all he does is work?" Shareen gave Rose a pitying look, "Oh god, then he's gay! All the best ones are, and if he's a Doctor out working in third world countries then you never know what you're going to pick up, do you? Maybe you should come home, your mother is so—"
"I can't leave him," Rose suddenly cut her off, "And yeah, he's a Doctor and he helps people but most of the time, we're not visiting third world countries. I can't leave yet, it's too exciting. I'm in too deep."
"You're in love!" Shareen declared with a triumphant grin, "Flash him the twins and the skin, then you'll know if he's all gay or just swings both ways. Hey, I made those rhyme!"
"Well done Shareen," Rose burst out laughing, "But no! I would never do that, he's the Doctor, he's not sexual in any way, I don't even think he's ever had sex, he's all shop talk, all the time."
"I doubt it, your mother claims he's as gorgeous as they come," Shareen smirked, "And gorgeous men aren't virgins. Come on Rose, what are you scared of? Rejection?"
"Yes," Rose admitted, "I'm scared he'll look at me with disgust and drop me back on Earth quicker than the light of Feint times the gravity of the Metric-D system…" she trailed off when she saw the confused look on Shareen face, "Quicker than that," she snapped her fingers together and forced a smile on her face.
"Well," Shareen cleared her throat, "Maybe I have news to cheer you up. Guess who's back in jail, again?"
"Don't tell me, it's big and gross and rhymes with Himmy Fone?" Rose broke out into a teeth-wielding grin.
"Bingo! Apparently Jimmy was just trying to 'return' the old lady's purse back into her pocket, yeah right!" Shareen replied.
"What a loser," Rose chuckled into her cup of tea, "So glad he dumped me when he did, if he hadn't, I might not have met the Doctor."
"Oh yeah, that reminds me," Shareen began, "Doctor? Doctor Who?"
"No!" Rose tore the goggles from her head and threw them on the floor. Why wasn't the gold bracelet stopping memories of the Doctor? Why were they leaking through? Didn't the bracelet work? Rose grabbed the nagging sensation in her chest as she sat up and let out a deep breath. If the bracelet wasn't working then who knows what those people could have viewed after that if she hadn't of tore the goggles off when she had.
Then the wave of nausea hit her. Oh god, what was that pain in her head… What was that noise… Oh god, she was going to be sick! She was going to… What was that buzzing? Why was everything so white? Where was she again? Her vision was blurry, if only for a moment and then everything was back into focus.
A second later, her cubicle door swung open and Dr Ackmund stared down at Rose, "Miss Tyler, you ended the Regressor prematurely, do you even realise how dangerous that is? Is your memory still intact? If you remove the goggles before the de-sensitiser scans your Medofolic brain waves then sometimes you can literally regress backwards, to an earlier stage in your life, you will forget years of memories… Miss Tyler, are you listening?"
Rose gasped and raised her head slowly, her eyes narrowed in suspicion, "Who are you? Where am I?!"