An early draft of the prologue to my set of Doctor Who stories… as well as the prologue to one particular story within that set.
This draft serves not only as a prologue, but also as a chance to play around with some of my pet theories. If/when it ever comes to publishing, it will be edited, and some of that content will be cut down or removed…notably, the parts dealing with imprinting.
But for the time being….
Can you change back?
Do you want me to?
The conversation had played in his head, over and over, even while he was unconscious.
He sighed, trying again — and failing again — to shake the memory free. But no matter what he did, he just couldn’t forget her words. Her fear.
Her reaction had stayed with him, shaped him, as he’d finished his regeneration cycle. There was little chance that it would leave him now.
Why couldn’t this regeneration be one of those that gave him amnesia? It would have been so much easier if he could forget everything. Just forget the last few days before he’d changed, the few hours after, the few minutes, even. Just forget the pain in her eyes, and the pain he’d felt, knowing she blamed him….
Except she didn’t blame him. Not really. Not once she’d understood. Well, understood it as well as he’d been able to explain it.
No, the problem was that he’d imprinted on her. Like a chick hatching from an egg. Like a chick just starting to learn how chickens should behave. Like a chick that thought he was human, because the first thing he’d seen was human. Like a….
It had been easy. Too easy. A Time Lord was vulnerable during regeneration, never more so than during the actual moment of change. And he had already been in love with Rose. A psychic bond was always easier to forge where an emotional one existed, and vice versa.
Just as well, then, that she was not telepathic as he was. Such a union might have threatened disaster, even without regeneration or imprinting to complicate things. But with the combination, and with his suspicion that she had somehow also imprinted on him, disaster would have been a promise.
It had faded, of course, once his regeneration cycle had ended. Once he no longer needed that bond to influence his regeneration. But he was cursed to remember. To see the fear in her eyes —
— to feel the pain in her heart —
— when she’d lost the Doctor she had come to know.
“Hmm?” He blinked, slowly realizing that Rose had been trying to talk to him for ten minutes. “I’m sorry… what?”
“Are you all right?” she asked. “You’re not usually that quiet.”
“Sorry,” he replied. “I was just… thinking.”
“Must have been serious,” she replied. “Thinking about what?”
“Never mind.” He shook his head. “It’s not important.”
“Then what’s the harm in telling me?” Rose lifted an eyebrow. “Unless there’s some ‘important’ reason to keep it a secret?”
“No, I was….” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I was just curious about something.”
“You’ve been doing an awful lot of frowning for being curious,” she muttered. “Doctor, please. If something’s bothering you, I want to help.” She pouted. “Or don’t you trust me?”
The Doctor tried to avoid looking at her. How he wished she was just another stupid ape! “It’s about… when I regenerated.”
When you rejected me, he stopped himself from saying. If only he could stop himself from thinking it just as easily.
She hadn’t rejected him. He knew that! She just hadn’t understood what regeneration would mean. She hadn’t understood how it would change him.
Hell, he hadn’t known how it would change him. He certainly hadn’t expected to imprint on her! The Time Lords were always careful about their psychic bonds. If they had any control over their renegades, it was over this, and with good reason.
But it was instinct, a natural part of regeneration. A side effect. And there had been no one to stop him.
And he had been a bit… preoccupied.
He made himself smile at the understatement. At least it didn’t feel like it would crack his face.
But there it was. There was so much he still didn’t know, could never predict, and there were no other Time Lords to help him.
He tried to focus on that part. Ignore the pain. Forget, just for a moment, the way she’d looked at him, when he’d admitted that he couldn’t change back.
“I told you I would change, didn’t I?” He frowned. “I can’t always remember what happens during regeneration, but I think I tried to warn you….”
Rose nodded. “Yeah, you were worried about growing an extra head or something.”
“Or no heads. That, I remember.” He grinned. “I’ve a lot of regenerations behind me. And that wasn’t the first time I had to prove my identity after. Do you know, one man insisted I try on an old ring of mine; he figured if I was the same man, it should fit, no matter how I’d changed. But look at me!” He waved his arms and spun to show off his new shape. “Do you think it would be that easy? Can you honestly see any of my old things fitting me now?”
Rose laughed. “No way, you’re too skinny!”
“Exactly.” His grin widened. “That’s what regeneration does, it changes you.” The grin faded, and he sighed. “We have seen a lot of things, haven’t we, Rose? I can’t blame you for worrying. I think some part of me is proud, actually. Proud that you weren’t too quick to take the word of a stranger. Proud that you kept on your guard.” Proud that she had refused the bond, even at the same time that the refusal twisted in his hearts like a knife. “But you saw me change. I guess I just… I don’t understand why you wouldn’t believe that. Why you wouldn’t even consider it.”
“That’s what you’re worried about?” Rose asked. “And you waited until now to ask?”
He grimaced. “Well, I was kind of… unconscious for a while.” He shrugged. “And it didn’t seem very important when I was fighting the Sycorax.”
“Good thing,” Rose replied. “If you’d asked me then, I’d never have believed you were the same man.” She shrugged. “Not sure what to think now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, ’cause we’d met before. Looking the way you do. Me, and Jack, and the Doctor… from before, I mean, we’d all met you, and you really have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
The Doctor’s mouth hung open wider with every word, and he had to make an effort to close it. “We’ve met. You’ve seen me before. Seen, what, my future self? And my past self was there?”
“Of course!” He slapped his forehead. “The Blinovitch Limitation Effect!”
“Oh, come on, now you’re just making up words.” A grin slowly returned to her face.
“No, honestly. It’s the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. Discovered by a scientist. Named Blinovitch.” He jerked his head in the direction of the library. “Look him up if you don’t believe me.”
She rolled her eyes. “And what is it, exactly?”
“It’s a discharge of temporal energy,” he explained, “when something, from different points in its own time stream, interacts with itself. It isn’t consistent, and there are ways to suppress it, but what it usually does to living things is interfere with their brainwaves, so they….”
Rose’s expression remained blank, and he trailed off.
“I crossed my own time stream,” he said instead, “met myself, and developed amnesia from it. But only during that period, and only while my past and future selves interacted, and only my past self was affected. I’ll certainly remember when I see it again, and you are not reassured by this.”
Rose had covered her mouth with her hands, and was staring at him, shaking. “You don’t know?” she asked, her voice catching on what sounded like a sob. “You mean it’s going to happen again, and you don’t even know it?”
“Hey, it’s okay,” he said. He wrapped his arms around her. He couldn’t remember her being this scared before, not even when they’d faced an entire fleet of Daleks. “Rose, it’s fine. Everything’s going to be fine.”
“Fine?” she echoed. She sniffed. “Fine? But you were —”
“Wait,” he interrupted. He backed away from her. “No. Don’t tell me. Not a word. Don’t you dare tell me.”
“No,” he repeated. He tore his gaze away from her eyes, and turned around to face the wall. “If you breathe even a word of what you’d seen, you could change everything. My future, my past, your past. Don’t you dare!”
“Are you daft?” Rose snapped, her fear turning swiftly to anger. “Do you seriously expect me to just sit here, knowing what’s going to happen to you, and not say anything? Not even try to make it better?”
“Will you make it better?” He slammed a fist into the wall. “Ow.” He rubbed his injured hand before he turned back around to glare at her. “Will you? Do you really know that?”
She returned the glare. “So that’s it, then. You still think I’m just a stupid ape. Don’t bother listening to me, ’cause I don’t know what I’m doing, right?”
“It’s not like that.”
“Then what is it? Why don’t you trust me?”
The Doctor started rubbing his forehead. Time Lords were not supposed to get migraines, but he suspected he was getting one now. “It’s like… I don’t know. Pompeii. The eruption, right?” He sighed. “Suppose we went back and tried to change that. Stopped the volcano from erupting, saved 20,000 lives. Would that be good?”
“Would saving 20,000 lives be good?” She rolled her eyes. “Of course it would be.”
“Would it?” he repeated.
“I suppose…” She bit her lip. “Maybe if one of those people invented something. A more advanced weapon….”
He couldn’t stop himself from grinning. “See? A stupid ape would never have thought of that.” The grin vanished. “But I was thinking of something else. We change it, stop the volcano, it’s no longer in the history books. We save 20,000 lives, right? But Pompeii told your world so much about what volcanoes can do.” He shivered. “Take away that knowledge, take away that history, and how many more will die in the next eruption?”
Rose hung her head. “But I don’t want to take anything away,” she whispered.
The Doctor cupped her chin and forced her to look up at him. “And do you think my future self had that information? Can you honestly tell me, whatever happened, that I knew about it in advance?”
She opened her mouth to reply. Closed it again. Gave him a flippant smile and tried again. She pulled away from him. “Not exactly,” she finally replied.
“Then you can’t tell me now. Because, Rose, even if I did nothing, even if I tried to keep things the way you remember them….” He shook his head. “Just having that information would change things.” He sighed. “Now, Pompeii, we’re talking about one event, one piece of history that’s going in one direction. And that’s complicated enough. But to change a time traveler’s history, my history….”
“Could make things worse,” Rose finished. “He did say you’d worry about that. That you wouldn’t want to hear it.”
“Hmm? Who said?”
She looked away. “Your… your future self.” The hesitation had been so quick, the Doctor suspected she hadn’t meant him to notice. “But he had a message for you, something you had to know.”
“I don’t know….”
“One thing, Doctor, please! Just this one thing.”
He frowned. Rose wasn’t lying, exactly, but he sensed she was being deceptive for some reason. She meant well, he understood that, but could he trust those intentions?
Let her speak.
The Doctor nearly jumped inside his skin; the TARDIS occasionally nudged some corner of his mind when it wanted something from him — and frequently when it thought he was being daft. But he couldn’t recall it ever being that vocal before.
Or so full of sorrow.
He nodded. “All right. What message?”
She bit her lip. “That if you find yourself in Germany… In Nazi Germany, and you meet a Gypsy woman….” She sighed. “Look after her. Keep her safe.”
The Doctor suppressed a shudder. Rose had come very close to telling him, even in such vague terms, exactly what she’d seen. It was no wonder she was scared. “A particular Gypsy woman, I assume?” he asked, trying to focus on what she’d actually said. “What’s her name?”
“A specific one, yeah. But I don’t know her name. He never — you never — said. Only to keep her safe. ‘Cause whatever’s going to happen, she has the key to fixing everything.”
This prologue, at whatever stage of editing, can also be found on one of my deviantArt accounts, along with an excerpt from later in the set and creature bios, in my NaNoWriMo 2012 gallery.
- Doctor Who “pitches” (pioneersoftheshatteredwaters.wordpress.com)
- Doctor Who regenerates in ebook form (guardian.co.uk)
- [Campaign Seed] Doctor Who: The Meddling Monk (tabletopshoptalk.tumblr.com)
- I want to be Doctor Who (bipolarbear.com.au)
- Doctor Who and the Fine Art of Regeneration (weminoredinfilm.com)
- “But *I* Want to Play the Doctor!” (bigbluedie.com)
- Doctor Who: what do we know about the 50th Anniversary special? (musingsofamildmanneredman.com)
- Who Was Who? – Doctor Who @50 – The Second Doctor Era (comicbooked.com)