The Doctor paced around the TARDIS’ controls. He had just left Sarah Jane, after saving her from the Trickster’s plans with the help of her amazing kids; but with victory came the death of another wonderful human. Why did most of his plans involve the death of someone, or at the very least causing significant pain to those he cared about? His song was ending…and he would know it by the sound of four knocks. After losing Donna, hurting Sarah Jane and Martha, not being there for Jack, losing Rose…he would welcome the end.
The Universe may scheme, and the planets may align, but there are more worlds than the Doctors’; a whole multi verse. And while this universe may have decreed the end of this current form, another stronger force had decided that would not do. This being took the form of a man, unremarkable and unstylish in his blue jeans, nondescript t-shirt and leather jacket. But as he peered into the TARDIS, after looking in at his other charges, he smiled. He would begin in earnest with the Doctor. It always had to start with him.
The Doctor had felt this before. He was alone, and suddenly another presence was in the TARDIS. It was like when Donna had first come aboard…but not. He spun around to stare into the brown eyes of what appeared to be a human male. But there was something more than that appearance. His eyes widened in recognition.
“But you…you…you are impossible.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” the visitor said, with a grin. “Just a bit unlikely.”
The Doctor looked pained to hear his own words repeated to him. Before he could continue, the visitor interrupted him. “You know who I am Doctor…and you know what I represent. Alongside stories of the Toclafane and the Discord Pantheon, you heard stories of me, or at least people like me. Those who were meant to stand against the nightmares of Time Lord children. And when your people told stories of my kind, you were also told that I would one day come to this universe seeking the aid of the greatest Time Lord ever, to stand with me against the greatest threat this Universe will ever know.
“Doctor. You have been renegade, traitor, hero, father and friend. Leader and Follower. You go by many names. The Oncoming Storm. Destroyer of Worlds. Bringer of Darkness. The Lonely God. Thete. You are the last of the Time Lords, and the greatest of them. Its time to stand Doctor. Its time to fulfill the purpose of the Time Lords; to be one element of the last and greatest defense of the multiverse. Will you and your TARDIS stand with me?”
The Doctor stood straighter and straightened his tie. When he became a Time Lord and took his oath, that particular clause seemed so inconsequential, so anachronistic, a product of a bygone time and tradition. But the Doctor knew who the man was, if not by sight, then by feel. The power radiating from him was like the Untempered Schism, only more primal, more unvarnished. As if the visitor was about to explode, and was only just holding it all in. The Doctor feared, not for the first time in his life. But he had no choice.
“I will not leave my universe unprotected.”
At this the visitor smiled. “Of course not! Have to protect the Earth after all…that’s more important than even you know. Particularly around the early 21st century. Fortunately for us, you have some friends in that neck of the woods, don’t you?”
The Doctor grinned. “I do indeed.” He scampered back to the controls. “Allon-sy!”
Ealing, London - Sarah Jane was just about to show Clyde and Rani to the door when she heard the tell tale sound of metal scraping against metal. The children, now inducted into the Time Lord’s inner circle, scrambled up the stairs as quickly as they could. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, they heard the Doctor talking with an average looking man in a leather jacket.
“Doctor, is something the matter,” asked Sarah Jane, “is it the Trickster?”
“No Sarah,” the Doctor began. “It is much bigger than that. We need to go on a trip, just a quick trip around London…and Wales…and maybe Plymouth Majoria.”
“Doctor, I told you, they can’t,” Sarah Jane said, putting her foot down as only a mother could.
“I am sorry Sarah,” the Doctor replied mournfully, ignoring the wide eyed glee of the children at the prospect of travel in the legendary TARDIS. “We have no choice. I need to gather you all up. I need to make sure the Earth stays safe no matter what.”
The note of dread in the Doctor’s voice registered in Sarah Jane’s ear and a chill ran down her back. “What do you mean, stays safe? Where are you going? And who is that man?”
“No one,” said the man. “Just another of the Doctor’s companions.”
At this the Doctor shot the man a look of incredulity and confusion, which he quickly squashed before the others could notice it. Again, fortunately the children were focused on the TARDIS and Sarah Jane on frantically figuring out what was happening.
“It is a time machine ma’am,” the stranger remarked. “Clyde’s and Rani’s parents will not notice they are missing.”
Sarah Jane knew that whatever was going to happen was serious, and if she didn’t help when the Doctor asked, she could very well be endangering the earth. “Clyde, Luke, Rani, touch nothing. Let’s go.”
Mechanic’s shop, London - One would think that after all the adventures Mickey Smith had on parallel worlds and out in space, returning to London to do some work as a mechanic would be boring. But Mickey knew better. He was special, and he knew things. This was just a break in the action. And one day, the Doctor would walk through that door and would say…
“Mickey! Up for a little exercise?”
Mickey smiled at the tall, skinny alien and said, “sure boss. Took you long enough.”
London - Martha Milligan nee Jones strolled down the street lost in her thoughts. She had told her new husband everything, about the Doctor, about UNIT, everything. And Tom had taken it well, or as well as could be expected. He was still shaky on alien life, and baffled by how she could trust one man as completely as she trusted the Doctor. And he had been a little confused as to why, if she ever disappeared for longer than 48 hours, he should call her old cell phone and not the police. But if there was anything Martha was sure of, it was that one day, a tall gangly man would walk up to her and ask for her help. A man that looked kind of like…
“Oh. My. God. It’s the world…it’s ending again, isn’t it?”
“Oh, it is not that bad. Although it might be worse. Come on, we got a few more to pick up.”
Chiswick, London – Donna stared despondently out the window. She did that a lot lately. It was like she had lost something and couldn’t remember where it was. Her life just felt off. It was no different than normal, with the exception of her mother cutting her more slack than normal. But she just felt so listless, her life just felt so much smaller, so much more inconsequential.
She was startled by the sound of a commotion at her front door. Her grandda was, yelling at someone?
“You said if you ever came back to see ‘er, ‘er ‘ead would explode. You can’t see ‘er.”
“He won’t be,” said a calm voice. “At least not at first.”
A man of average height walked in, and sat down next to her. “Good afternoon, Ms. Noble. This will only take a moment.”
The next few minutes were a blur, like Donna had had a bit too much to drink. But when she came to she remembered everything. All of it. No wonder her life had felt so small. She looked up, and saw the one face that she had desperately wanted to see again, even if for so many weeks she didn’t know it. It was plastered with that solemn, pained look. “Donna,” he said softly.
Donna slowly stood up, and stared at the Doctor, her Doctor. The one that had opened up the universe to her. She slowly approached him. His eyes became slowly hopeful.
And she slugged him in the arm. “THAT IS FOR WIPING MY MEMORIES.” She slugged him again as he cowered. “THAT IS FOR LEAVING ME WITH MY MUM FOR SIX WEEKS.” She slugged him a third time. “THAT IS FOR…WELL I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS FOR BUT YOU DESERVE IT.” She paused, as the doctor went into an almost standing fetal position. Then she hugged him. “And this is for saving my life. And because I missed you, so.”
The Doctor smiled and hugged her back. “Welcome back, Donna Noble.”
Donna turned to her grandfather and smiled. “Well I am off. Tell mum…well whatever you want. But if this pratt came here to get me, obviously the universe is in deadly peril.”
Wilfred smiled fondly at his granddaughter, ecstatic to have her back. “You just bring her back in one piece Doctor.”
“If anyone should be worried about coming back in one piece it’s me,” the Doctor said as he and Donna left the house arm and arm, the stranger trailing behind. “That really hurt.”
“Oh, just grow a new arm,” an unperturbed and incredibly happy Donna replied. “It’s not like you haven’t done it before.”
“That is totally different and you know it,” the two bickered as the entered the TARDIS.
Cardiff, Wales – Gwen Williams paced the floor with her newborn daughter, shushing her as she fell asleep. Gwen loved being a mother, but missed Torchwood. Without Jack, there was no point in keeping it open with just her. She heard a rapid knocking at her door.
“It’s 9 o’clock at night, who could be knockin’ at this hour,” her husband Rhys huffed as he answered the door. He was bulldozed over by a tall gangly man who Gwen recognized instantly from one crazy night months back. He was a man who had saved the universe multiple times and had been the only person that kept the unflappable Jack Harkness in awe.
“Who in the bloody hell are you,” roared Rhys, as an entirely forgettable man followed the Doctor into the Williams’ flat.
“Rhys,” Gwen said in a voice that slightly trembled, “meet the Doctor. I believe I have told you about him. He saves the universe on a daily basis, is 900 years old, and travels around in a little blue box that allows him to move through time and space.”
Rhys paled as he recognized the name. Gwen didn’t tell him much about her work, but what she told him about the Doctor made him think twice about his tone.
“Gwendolyn Cooper, I apologize, Gwendolyn Williams. A privilege to meet you. Oh, and this must be little Penelope,” the Doctor exclaimed. “Wonderful, just wonderful. Well, Ms. Williams, are you ready to go back on active duty, as it were?”
“Now wait just a minute,” Rhys roared. “Torchwood is done. Jack is gone, everyone else is dead. My wife has a daughter now. She is not going to go about gallivanting around risking her life for a bloody rift in time and space.”
The Doctor sighed as the visitor smiled into his hand. “Look, I know that this is hard to hear,” the Doctor began, “But Gwen doesn’t have a choice. I was there when her great-great-aunt created the Rift…”
“WHAT” exclaimed Gwen, dizzying suddenly.
“Yeah… ‘bout that, long story, amazing woman your aunt,” the Doctor said breezily, masking the pain of the memory of yet another woman who died for him. “But, basically, your family has been tied to this place, defending this rift for generations. You just didn’t know it. It is your fate, Gwendolyn Williams, and it will be the fate of your daughter.” The Doctor said this softly. “I am sorry, I am so sorry, but you are meant to defend this place. And you do it so well.” His face lit up. “You, your entire family, is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I need you now. The whole world needs you.”
Gwen nodded, and handed Penelope to Rhys, who seemed a cross between resigned and pissed. “Alright. I am in. But I can’t do this without Jack.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way. Just a quick little jaunt off planet then.”
Bar, Plymouth Majoria – The man known as Captain Jack Harkness stared into his empty glass, in that dangerous world between drunk and blacked out. Maybe it was time to change his identity again. He couldn’t live as Captain Jack anymore. He just couldn’t. He killed so many people, his own flesh and blood he sacrificed. It was just too much.
The barkeep stirred slightly as the door opened behind the Captain, and the light outlined a tall man with spiky hair. The stranger stepped into the bar, followed by a nondescript man who took a seat near the back wall. The Captain didn’t even have to turn around to see who it was. “Doctor, Doctor, Doctor. I wondered how long it would take for you to find me.”
“Jack,” the Doctor replied, his words hollow and flat. “Jack it is time to come back.”
“Go back where,” Jack replied, turning around to face the Doctor. “Where do I go? Earth? The 51st Century? Where do I go Doctor? I have bounced around so much, I don’t know where I belong. I just know that wherever I go, I cause pain and people die. And I know that most of that started after I met you.” Jack slowly stood and moved towards the Doctor. “So tell me, Doctor, last of the Time Lords, where I go? What do I do? Where else does the blight that is Captain Jack Harkness go next?!?! Tell me, oh wise one. WHERE DO I GO?!?!”
The Doctor stared straight into his friend’s eyes. “Jack, you need to listen to me. Something is coming. Something is coming for Earth. And I am not going to be around to help stop it. I am going to need to be somewhere else. You need to go back to Earth, rebuild Torchwood, and hold the line. I am sorry, I am so sorry for your loss. But its time to stand up.”
The words slowly penetrated Jack’s alcohol addled brain. The Doctor was not going to defend the earth? The concept defied all logic that Jack still clung to in his state. This wasn’t making sense. So he resorted to what little he knew. “There is nothing for me back there Doctor. Torchwood is done.”
“This won’t be Torchwood Jack,” the Doctor replied evenly. “It can’t be. It is going to be bigger. Its Sarah Jane, and Martha, and Mickey, and Gwen, and everyone. You will use whatever you have left over from Torchwood, but it is going to be a totally different paradigm. A totally different set of rules. A new start.”
Jack rocked back on his heels as blurrily stared at the only man who had ever left him in awe. “Doctor, that is everybody. Last time that that group got together…”
“I know what happened Jack. I was there. I only hope that it is enough. So what do you say Jack. Big messy fight, new beginning, little chance of survival. Sounds like you.”
Captain Jack Harkness put on his overcoat, the alcohol already beginning to lose its effect, and snapped to attention “Sir.”
“Oh shut it,” the Doctor said, turning on his heel. The stranger in the back of the room smirked as the Doctor walked by. Jack glanced at the man and did a double take, as the stranger followed the Doctor out.
Eiling, London: True to his word, the Doctor brought everyone back, scant moments from when he had picked up Sarah Jane and the children. The group filed out of the TARDIS and waited expectantly for the Doctor’s explanation.
The Doctor paused for a moment, figuring out how to explain this to them. The visitor, who still hadn’t given the Doctor his name yet which was quite annoying…oh…so that is how that felt, had given very clear instructions. Make them aware, but don’t tell them everything. So the Doctor figured he would do his best and go from there. His best was very good after all.
“When I was a child, many, many years ago, I was told a story. It said after a time of Time Lord tribulation, existence would be placed in deadly peril and a Time Lord, along with others, would be called to it. To fight in a great war for all of existence.”
“Like we did against the Daleks,” asked Martha.
“No, no, no, much bigger,” the Doctor. “Worst case scenario, Davros would have destroyed a few universes. Davros was never that powerful, and the Daleks never knew how truly expansive existence is. Mickey, Donna you know that there are other universes out there, you have been to them. Well existence is made up of countless universes. Countless existences. The Time Lords were only allowed to go to travel through a small section of it.”
“Wait, allowed,” asked Clyde. “I thought the Time Lords were all powerful and no one could tell a Time Lord what to do.”
The Doctor sighed, “yes, in this universe that is the case. But existence is a big place. Anyway, just trust me when I say, its huge. And somewhere in this huge, vast expanse, something has gone terribly wrong. Existence is in deadly peril…”
“…after a time of Time Lord tribulation, a la the Time War,” Jack said, the alcohol finally totally wearing off. “And, oh look, there is only one Time Lord left.”
“When anyone becomes a Time Lord,” the Doctor continued, “they swear an oath. Its formality, but some of it was important, like not interfering in locked events, and some of it, we thought was not. Turned out it was all important. I have to go, I have to do this.
“But here is the thing. There is an Enemy, a Force out there in the Darkness, that moves through the Void between worlds as if it were water, that wants to destroy us. And it is going to target Earth at this time. I won’t be able to stop it. It won’t manifest itself here fully, but it will send out, well its minions for a lack of a better term, to try to get Earth. Right here, right now, is an important time. You have to hold. No matter what. Do whatever it takes. Because I won’t be here to help.”
It was Donna who spoke next, after a brief silence held the room. “We can do that no problem Doctor. But who will help you. You need someone to stand beside you. You know that.”
It was then that the stranger spoke for the first time in what seemed like forever. “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll be traveling with him, and I imagine we’ll pick up some guests as we go.”
“And who the bloody ‘ell are you,” challenged Mickey.
“Me? I am nobody. I am like the butler. I get the tea, take the coats, you know how it is,” the stranger prattled on. The Doctor looked at the stranger out of the corner of his eye, and Jack and Gwen flinched at the thought of another man who just “got the tea.”
“The Doctor will not be left unattended. However, Doctor I think we really should be getting going.” To everyone else, it sounded like a request. To the Doctor and Jack, it sounded like the command it was. The stranger turned and went back into the TARDIS. The Doctor made his goodbyes and saved Jack for last.
“Jack, they are going to need you the most,” the Doctor said. “You have the leadership experience, the contacts…”
“I know Doctor,” Jack interrupted. “I’ll make this work. I have to. But that guy…he doesn’t make tea. Or take jackets.”
“No,” the Doctor said solemnly. “He does not.”
“I may not be a Time Lord, but I have been around the block. Never trust the ordinary looking guys. Those forces that kept the Time Lords boxed into this set of universes,” Jack asked.
“Jack, you don’t want to know.”
“I hope you know what you are doing Doctor,” Jack asked.
“Actually, for the first time in a long time, I don’t,” the Doctor responded. “It is kind of invigorating. Is this how you feel all the time,” the Doctor asked with a cheeky grin.
“Go save everything Doctor,” Jack smiled as he pushed the Doctor towards the TARDIS.
The Doctor walked in, and found the stranger playing with the TARDIS’s dials. “I made the necessary adjustments. Congrats, Doctor. Your TARDIS is ready to go where no Time Lord has gone before. You have, what, 127 living quarters. I hope some of them are tidy, at least.”
“Why, are we taking on borders? This is not going to be domestic is it? I hate domestic.”
“Shush, and be glad I didn’t make the TARDIS red. I was thinking about it you know. And as for the borders, yes there will be a few. We are going to pick up the first set now. Husband and wife combo, and a best friend. I’ll think you will like them. They have been dead a few times before. You can bond over that.”
“You know, you never told me your name, you know.”
“I know. Its Craig. Craig Hendrickson. Let’s go to work.”