Title: Nothing Goes the Same, But it Stays the Same
Disclaimer: I don't own this, I don't own everything I've borrowed, (which includes Doctor Who, which I don't even watch) and I'm still not making money from it.
Summary: Even if Connor wasn't there are the start, he'd still get there in the end.
AN: Because I can't let my headcanon of Connor the mechanic go. Also, there is some Conby. Also also, here's to big balls of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.
All roads lead to Rome.
The same thing can sometimes be said for history, at least, if you're to believe The Doctor with his fixed points in history theory. They never change. Natural disasters, wars and deaths. Some of these are simply inevitable. For good or ill, some things just turn out the same way no matter what happens.
So, in one history Connor Temple left home for a brief spell to get certified at college as a mechanic, met a couple geeks named Tom and Duncan and discovered that there was something to this university thing. He had a falling-out with his family back home, but he got new friends and eventually wound up as one of Nicholas Cutter's PhD students in evolutionary biology.
But in another, he didn't trip and fall while leaving the public library branch closest to his flat, scattering the notes he'd made for the item he was going to publish on the website he'd been planning for a while. Instead he kept them all together, walking right by the redhead and his slightly dumpy friend, paying them no more notice than they paid him.
And history changed.
Connor still had a falling out with his family, because he was from a small town and found it all too restrictive. He loved London. Loved that, even though he hated them per se, there were museums there with dinosaur skeletons he could examine and sketch, a public library system that had resources he'd never even dreamed of in his small town up north. There were universities where he could attend lectures and cinemas which played all the latest sci-fi blockbusters and cons every so often where he could get to see his favourite actors and actresses and meet other geeks like himself.
So, by day he was an ordinary working man, fixing cars for a living, and rather Jekyll and Hyde-like, he'd transform after work into Super Geek, taking in all the city had to offer and painstakingly putting his database up on the internet and posting his theories about evolution, dinosaurs, archosaurs, prehistoric animals of every kind in long articles. His hit count was never very high, but it was enough to get the occasional kind comment from some student or other who'd found it helpful.
One day, just outside the shop, a behemoth of an all-terrain vehicle died just outside the garage where he worked, was the only mechanic on duty there, actually. "Need some help?" he asked as two men climbed out and stared rather gormlessly at their dead car. "Yes," said the one with brown hair who had the kind of looks that made girls practically peel their knickers off without being asked.
The other one was older and blond, and he responded with, "No," and popped open the bonnet and stared determinedly at the engine.
The handsome one rolled his eyes and came over to lean on the wall next to Connor. "You work here?" he asked, jerking his head at the garage.
"Yeah," Connor said, watching in some fascination as the blond one seemed to be poking helplessly at the engine.
"Give Cutter a few minutes," he said. "When he's done trying to pretend he knows something about cars he'll come over and be bad-tempered at you, but he'll still let you fix the Hilux."
Now that he was a little closer and had the chance to look, Connor saw the front was dented and the sides were muddy. "What the hell happened?"
"There was a bit of an incident in the woods," said his interlocutor. "Front-end collision."
"There's a hole in the bonnet," Connor said. "It actually looks an awful lot like a bullet hole from here," he added dryly.
A quick grin. "Seen a lot a films?"
"No. We've got one client who's a bit of an upper class twat. Goes hunting and shooting and whatever rich people do and usually manages to hit his bloody Ferrari nine times out of ten. He comes here because he knows none of his rich friends'll find out he's that bad of a shot," Connor said in disgust. "He shot up his own engine once." Then he gave the much less amused man a look. "Someone seems to have done the same here."
The other was saved by his friend, Cutter apparently, storming over in a bad temper having failed to glare his engine into submission. "What'll it take to fix the car?"
With something to do, Connor became all business. "Give me a minute to see what the damage is and I'll get you a quote," he said. "That said, if I find something worse later, I'll drop you a line and let you know what it's gone up by."
He took a look at the damage. The outside seemed fairly simple, most of the dents could be hammered or popped out. The engine wasn't in too bad shape, all things considered, but some bits were stripped, and he was right that a bullet had gone through the bonnet. It had only knocked a wire loose, was the cause of the breakdown as the drive back into London must have shaken it the rest of the way off. Still, oil needed changing and it really wasn't a good idea to have a bonnet with a hole in it on the front of the car.
When he'd finished his assessment, he headed to the office. "Half a sec," he told them. "I just need to check on the pricing for something quickly and I'll be right back." When he came back, laptop set up to give him a quick rundown of the cost of replacement parts, he turned to the pair. "Alright, there's a couple options. It'll be a cheap fix if all you want is to be able to drive this back to your usual garage," he said. "But you'd better take it to one, because you've got some bigger problems what need fixing. I can do some quick things that'll buy you some time for a hundred quid, roughly, but if you want this fixed up proper so's it won't fall apart on you sudden, I'll need a week and it'll cost," he named the amount.
Cutter blanched. His friend's eyes narrowed. "Why?"
"Because you need a new bonnet, you can't drive around with one with a hole in it. Rain'll get into the engine, it'll rust, radiating from that point outward. You've stripped some pieces down in there, and they need replacing, the oil hasn't been changed in a donkey's age and it looks like your brake pads are getting worn. The scrapes on the sides'll start to rust too if they aren't dealt with, and while the front end will be fine, the next collision'll do it in." He shrugged. "The parts are all simple enough to get, but between that and the labour, that's what it'll cost and the time it'll take to get everything in."
"Show me," demanded the blond man. His friend rolled his eyes. "Cutter, if you don't want to pay him, don't and we'll take the car to the mechanic you usually use."
"Stephen," growled Cutter, "I want to know whether I've been cheated with my mechanic or if this one's cheating me, so just-"
"How'll you know?" Stephen asked, shaking his head. "You don't know a thing about-"
Cutter turned his back and stomped irritably back to his car and waited expectantly for Connor. This was new. Still, he gamely headed over and began to explain. At first the man's expression went from a sort of smug irritation to befuddlement, and from befuddlement to interest. He asked some questions that started out idiotic, then moved to practical, finally ending in actually intelligent. The look levelled at Connor when he was finished was evaluating.
"Right," he said abruptly. "Do you need a deposit or should I just leave my number and you'll call when it's finished?"
"The number and your name are fine," Connor said, taken aback at the whole process. "If I need to track you down because you decide not to pay, I'm more than capable," he told the man absently. Then he put together the quote, warned him again that this was just an approximation based on currently extant information and added the Hilux to the list of work to be done over the next week.
He didn't think much of it when Cutter came back and collected his car. Nor did he think much of it when a woman named Claudia Brown dropped off a car for service, saying in passing that Cutter had recommended the garage. Businesses like the garage ran on word-of-mouth advertising. It got a little odd, though, when he got the Hilux back with the same sort of damage as before, only this time from the side, another car from Claudia Brown, different vehicle, same make and model, also having been in a collision and an incredibly hot blonde dropped off a mini. "Cutter says you're good," she commented as he frowned at the job that had been done to this one. Another collision and, yes, there was a bullet hole.
"What the hell are you lot doing?" he asked. "This is getting as bad as that Witherspoon idiot that keeps shooting his own car 'cause he thinks it's a duck."
Her lips pursed. "Sorry. Can't tell you."
"Why? You work for MI5 or something?" he asked, joking.
"Or something," she said with a shrug.
Connor found himself gaping. "Seriously?"
"It's classified," she told him, grinning.
He shook his head and walked away, getting her a quote. Either she really really didn't want to tell him, or he'd become the mechanic for MI-something-or-other. More likely she was lying. When he came back, she was frowning intently at his laptop. He'd left the database up because he'd had a few spare minutes until she'd come in and he'd been updating. "That's my dinosaur database," he said. "Been working on it since I was fifteen." He handed her the paper. "Here's the quote and thanks for your business."
She hadn't moved. "That one, the mononychus. It's a dinosaur?"
"Yeah," Connor grinned, happy to discuss his passion. "Mononychus. Late Cretaceous and some people think it used its one claw for breaking up termite mounds, like an anteater."
"Huh," she said, eyeing it. "Is that online?"
"The database?" he asked. "Oh, no. I can't afford the server space to put up all the data. I've got a limited version of it up, but that's sort of the top couple hundred most well-known dinosaurs and a bunch of weird ones. Mononychus is, though, if that's what you were asking."
"What's your source material?" she asked. He got her email address from her, sent her the list, she thanked him, then went on her way.
Three days later, he got a highly combative commentary on one of his posted essays about dinosaurian evolution. The commenter was anonymous, so he shrugged and replied, then went on with his day. The next one was more technical and just as combative. Soon, recognisable for his or her writing style, the person commented on everything, including Connor's theory that aliens had something to do with some of the really weird stuff going on in terms of the fossil record. The back and forth got so voluminous that he finally he asked the person, whoever they were, to continue the battle in email, just because it was taking up a lot of space on his boards and it was just between them, anyhow.
It was Cutter.
Connor looked the man up and found out he'd been crossing swords online with a professional evolutionary theorist, someone who did this for a living. He immediately backed down in his next email. He hadn't planned to take on the establishment, after all. He quietly apologised for thinking he would know better than someone with Cutter's bona fides and began plotting how to correct his web site.
Not two hours after he'd sent off the email, Cutter was at his door, having apparently intimidated Connor's boss into giving up Connor's flat address. "What the hell do you mean, you didn't mean to have pretensions of being an academic?" the man demanded.
"Erm . . . that . . . I'm just a mechanic," he replied, not sure what was going on. "The dinosaurs are just a hobby, yeah? I mean, I sometimes get students using it for a quick reference and sometimes I argue with them, and I thought that's what this was. But you're . . . the real thing."
"You've got a good mind," Cutter told him. "Just because I don't think you're right doesn't mean you're wrong. It just means I think you need to support your arguments better." He eyed Connor. "And why are you wasting your time in a garage anyhow?"
At that, Connor snorted. "What? Me? As opposed to what?"
"Getting your doctorate," Cutter said as though it were obvious.
"Me?" Connor snorted. "Pull the other one, it's got bells on it. Me. At uni."
Cutter was about to speak, but his mobile rang, and after a brief and urgent-sounding conversation he said, "I have to go, but this is not over."
With his life having taken a turn for the decidedly weird, Connor continued to go along with things, including that the hot blonde, Abby Maitland, asked him out on what seemed to be something halfway between a date and an opportunity to pick his brain about dinosaurs. And archosaurs, ornithodirae and any and all behavioural indicators that had been found. After the fourth of them, he took the risk and kissed her, surprising them both, and getting a smile and agreement to go on a real date.
He'd been working on a theoretical reconstruction to do with basilosaurus echolocation and the likelihood of its similarities to modern whale song when he got another email from Cutter, this one with a rather overbearing demand that he drop his life and get a PhD. It had got so weird by that point that Connor lost his temper a bit and stormed out to the man's office only to find him not there and just the other one he'd seen the first day, Stephen. "Can I leave a message with you for Cutter?" he demanded, then didn't wait for a reply. "Because I'm sick and tired of him harassing me about bloody uni. I'm not so stupid as to think I belong at some place like this and I'd really like it if he stopped shoving his nose in where it doesn't belong."
"Why would you think that?" Stephen asked, looking curious. "He and Abby constantly sing your praises about the database, and I've had occasion to use it myself. It's an impressive piece of work and your essays are quite good, even if the writing's a little sophomoric."
"Are all you people this crazy?" he shook his head. "Nevermind. You know what, I'll ask Abby this afternoon when I get her from work."
"You have a date?" Stephen asked.
"Yeah," Connor said. "But I'm more worried about her. She said her boss disappeared and so did one of the lions, just," he waved a hand and made a popping sound. "She also said a lot of the animals are getting ansty, like there's some sort of predator there running about."
Stephen dropped any pretense of casual behaviour and half dragged him out to the Hilux. "Move it," he said. Then suddenly changed his mind. "You drive, I need to make a few calls." He was on his phone a moment later with Cutter, Claudia, someone called Lester and then a further call to a Ryan. When they got there, he led the way on finding Abby as Connor trailed behind, baffled. Abby was quite possibly a potential girlfriend, and if Stephen thought she was in danger, he wasn't going to ignore it.
They found her by the sea lions and just after she'd greeted them both, somewhat confused as to why they were showing up together, Connor spotted something he'd never seen before in his life. He gasped, then he and Abby were pulled against the wall by Stephen, who suddenly looked wary and a little dangerous. They watched it creep along, Connor staring in fascination and fear at the weird mutant with its needlelike teeth. It had no eyes, he saw, but it was making a clicking noise as it crept towards them.
Suddenly a crowd of people came thundering in the far exit and the creature, whatever it was, bounded past them and out the other way. They were outside when Connor said, "What the hell was that?"
Looks were exchanged and Abby said, regretfully. "That's sort of classified, Connor."
"What do you . . . is that some sort of mutant bat?" he asked, his mind making connections at a sort of mad pace. "It doesn't have eyes but the clicking's like whale sonar echolocation. It's clearly bouncing the sound off things. God," he began to shake, "That's why it didn't kill us. I bet the sea lions and the water were making a sort of white noise that confused it or something." He stared at Abby and Stephen. "Is this what all the research is about? Making mutants? Is someone breeding dinosaurs? Haven't you people ever watched horror films? This never ends well!"
"No one is breeding anything," Claudia said soothingly.
He just glared. "Oh? So, what then? Aliens just . . . oh my God. My theory's right. There are aliens that have saved species from the past and let them loose in other times."
"There are no aliens," Stephen said, looking aggravated. "Seriously? Aliens?"
Defensively, Connor said, "How else do you explain the numbers of temporally misplaced species in the fossil record?"
"You don't," said Cutter. "Unless . . ." he turned to Claudia. "He's smart and I'll bet he'd be more than helpful in the program."
"No," she said, "Absolutely not." They argued, but she won in the end, and Connor was told to go home and forget that he'd seen a probably temporally displaced superbat predator.
But they'd let Abby stay, not with an armed guard, but just around the zoo. With that thing creeping about, and probably, given the nature of bats, with a tendency to take to high places, Connor didn't want to leave her alone. So while Cutter and a bunch of soldiers and Stephen all marched off, looking for a killer superbat, Connor broke into the Hilux, because he'd long since learnt every trick in the book when it came to cars, where he'd seen a laptop in the back. It was the work of moments for him to break in, another few moments to break into the zoo's internet access and he set about creating something to incapacitate a creature that saw based on echolocation.
He'd just finished when he looked up to see its ugly mug on the bonnet. When it smashed through, Connor yelped, but hit the button to start the white noise. The creature froze, blinded.
But the computer was running out of charge and Connor knew it wouldn't take long for the thing to catch him if he tried running. He looked back and forth, praying for something to help when he saw the gun in an open case on the floor. He'd watched a lot of action movies, fumbled it, but got it loaded, then just as the battery died, shot point blank into the thing's head.
Films didn't prepare you for how loud guns were. They didn't prepare you for the way recoil jerked the things about. But the end of the gun had been literally an inch from its forehead, and the shot did the job clearly, since it fell over at once.
And Connor just sat in the back of the car, shaking, until Abby showed up, then Stephen, then the pair of them coaxed him out where he fell over into a puddle of nerves beside the car. "I thought I was going to die," he informed Abby levelly. He felt quite cold, the back of his mind telling him he'd gone into shock. "I didn't want you to get hurt so I'd stayed so I could use the laptop to keep it off. And then it showed up."
"Nice shot," Stephen said.
"Awful shot," Connor contradicted. "It wasn't moving. I just sort of pointed the gun and hoped. And it was right there."
"But you stopped it," Abby contradicted him. "You stopped it and you're fine." Then she smiled. "You stayed for me?"
"I was worried," he said. "I know you're like a superhero with the kickboxing and all, but it's not human, you know?"
"You were brilliant," Abby informed him and kissed him.
Nick Cutter and the rest showed up, trailed after by some woman Connor hadn't met yet who seemed oddly disappointed no one had died. He was carted to the Home Office, where he met one Sir James Lester. "Cutter, I will not start bringing in every random stray you find on the street."
"He's nearly figured out the anomalies on his own, based just on the fossil record," Cutter insisted. "And that predator from the future, if it weren't for him we wouldn't have caught it. He's smart, Lester."
"He's a mechanic with a college education," Lester said disparagingly.
Stephen spoke up now. "He's a better evolutionary theoretician than a great many graduate students and professors I know," he said. "He thinks on his feet, clearly, and we need that just as much."
"We're already utilising his database-" Cutter began.
"All right!" exclaimed the man in the suit. "Fine! I will draw up the paperwork," he grumbled. "Welcome, Mr. Temple, to the Anomaly Research Project. I do hope you will be less trouble than your colleagues."
Nothing stays the same, but some things turn out the same way no matter what you try, for good or ill.