katherine_b: (DW - Hurt Doctor)
posted by [personal profile] katherine_b at 06:20am on 19/11/2013 under , ,
Title: Redemption 47/50
Author: [livejournal.com profile] katherine_b
Rating: PG
Summary: When you have lost everything, what do you do to get it back?
Characters: The non-Doctor first glimpsed at the end of Name of the Doctor and a lot of old friends.

Part XLVII

“And there it is,” the Vadlott says, looking down at the planet sailing serenely through the sky beneath the tardis. “Your home, Oswin.”

“And – my family?” she asks hesitantly.

“Working on it.” He checks dates, places, and for cameras into which he can hack to give Oswin the information she so desperately craves. In the end, though, he has to let the tardis work her magic. “There we go!”

Immediately the screen changes, zooming in closer to a particular continent, then a country, a town, and finally an individual house. The Vadlott hears Oswin’s sharp inhalation of breath as the tardis shifts viewing angles, allowing her to see the front of the house rather than just an overhead view. And she lets out a stifled sob as the front door opens to reveal a middle-aged woman who comes outside and walks down the front path to the letterbox, checking for the mail.

“Da!” she exclaims suddenly. “Come quick! A letter from Oswin! At long last!”

“What?!” Oswin demands at once. “How? I never wrote to them!”

“Never?” the Vadlott asks in surprise. “The whole time you were on the Alaska?”

“It was only two weeks!” Oswin sounds slightly offended. “Just a fortnight before the ship crashed into the Asylum. It didn’t leave me a lot of time!”

“Well, it looks like you have done now.” The Vadlott returns his attention to the screen, seeing tears shining in Oswin’s mother’s eyes as she and a man the Time Lord presumes to be her father read the letter.

“It’s just occurred to me,” Oswin remarks, clearly trying to distract herself, “that my parents don’t look anything like Clara’s.”

“Not to mention that both of yours are still alive,” the Vadlott points out patiently. “You aren’t Clara, Oswin, and she isn’t you. Genetic multiplicity; that’s all it is.”

He suspects she is only talking to try and avoid bursting into tears at the sight of everything that is so familiar to her and to which she knows she will never be able to return.

Sighing as he watches Oswin’s parents go inside their house, he is about to head the tardis away from the planet when an idea strikes him. He reaches under the console and pulls up an old telephone, swiftly wiring it into the heart of his ship, which immediately makes the necessary connections to the planet below them.

“You know,” he begins, “letters are all well and good, but really, when it comes down to it, the best way to communicate is always to speak to somebody. Oh, and you might want to get yourself a glass of water – and maybe some more tissues.”

“Can I... talk to them?” she asks unevenly.

“That’s certainly the plan,” he agrees, watching the progress of the tardis connecting with the telecommunications system within Oswin’s home. “Ah, here we go! Now, speakers are only active here in the console room and in your space. I’m going to the kitchen. Call me when you’ve finished.”

He leaves the room just as he hears the call picked up and Oswin’s mother speaking. After all, his companions have a right to their privacy and their secrets, too. Besides, after all this excitement, he wants something to eat. And then there’s the mess he left in the study last time he was there. Oh, and his bedroom could probably also do with a tidy and a clean. Maybe the bathroom, too. Hmm, and did he ever finish that load of laundry?

When everything on his list has been ticked off, he realises that he still has not heard a word from his companion. He is about to head back to the console room and see if everything is all right when he thinks of one more thing that might occupy a few minutes.

He is filling a fountain pen when he finally hears a muted voice.

“Vadlott?”

“Hello!” he says cheerfully.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“Getting things ready,” he tells her as he finishes filling the pen and caps it, “to write a letter.”

“Who are you writing to?”

“Who said I was the one doing the writing?” he demands, neatening a pile of pretty notepaper and setting it to one side for the tardis to provide to Oswin in the mysterious way she does, and which he has not bothered trying to understand. The tardis deserves to have her secrets as well.

“Oh...”

“Don’t forget,” he reminds her as he gets up from the desk and heads for the console room. “There was a letter from you in that box – so let’s make sure there is one.”

* * *

“But you don’t even know who they are!” protests Oswin.

“They’re calling out for help,” the Vadlott replies as he pulls on his coat. “That’s enough for me.”

“How have you lived this long, putting yourself at risk like this?” she demands.

“What are you, my mother?” he snorts, and for good measure he cuts her connection to the console controls so she can’t interfere. “For your information, I’ve been longer in this body than the Doctor in most of his incarnations, particularly the recent ones, so I must be doing something right!”

He leaves before she can continue the argument, stepping out of the tardis and closing the door – only to find himself confronted by a half-circle of weapons pointed right at his chest.

“Oh,” he says brightly, “hello! I wasn’t expecting a welcoming committee, but I heard that message you were sending out so I thought I would see if I could help.”

He realises that, in his surprise, he is babbling in a manner reminiscent of the Doctor, so he stops and waits to see what these people have to say to him rather than giving them too much knowledge about him. He also suspects Oswin is torn between glee at the shock he received and concern for him. Then he has no more chance for reflection as one of the people facing him steps forward.

“You heard our signal?” the female armoured figure facing him demands. “You understood Ancient Martian?”

“I understand every language,” he replies, adding, “You must be Ice Warriors if that is your chosen tongue. What are you doing here on Earth?”

“Our commander is missing. We were seeking him.” She gestures and the other warriors lower their weapons. The Vadlott is unable to help the way his eyebrows dart up at their instant obedience. “What surprises you, Earth Man?”

“Oh, I’m not from Earth,” he tells her, eyeing the jewels that decorate her helmet, and which he understands to represent her rank of Marshall. “Definitely alien to this planet, me. But I have had meetings with your people before, and I hope you’ll forgive me for saying so, but I’ve never seen a female commander of a starship among the Ice Warriors before.”

A proud smile can be seen beneath the armoured helmet. “I am my father’s daughter,” she says, and then the smile vanishes. “It is he for whom we are searching. He is the Fleet Commander.”

“Oh, I see!” The Vadlott frowns a little. “And he isn’t on one of your other ships? You’ve checked?”

“That was our first task,” she assures him. “I have sent them home, but I will not leave until I find him.”

“I don’t blame you,” the Vadlott murmurs, thinking hard. He has already placed his location as hovering above Earth in about 3,000BCE, so he knows the approximate development of those on the planet below them. He is well aware that, without the global communications that are common in the 21st century, they can hope for no assistance in finding one man.

Perhaps realising that the Vadlott means no harm, and in fact may be helpful, the female Ice Warrior gestures towards the control room. He walks with her into the large space that looks out over a vast expanse of ice he guesses to be the South Pole.

“If your father is down there,” he suggests, “it may have been too cold for him to do anything but hibernate. And if that’s the case, he won’t hear your signal.”

“True,” the Marshall agrees, her lips tightening visibly.

“But you won’t leave without him,” the Vadlott adds, holding up a hand to stop her when she seems about to interrupt, “and nobody would expect you to. However, it’s impossible to know how long it might take before he will wake or be woken. It may be centuries – millennia, even! How can you hope to wait that long?”

There are mutterings from the other Ice Warriors in the room, but their leader lifts her hand, which silences them.

“You are quite correct, stranger,” she says, and although he detects a faint tremor in her voice, he doubts anyone else will have noticed it. “Do you have a solution to suggest?”

“You could hibernate also,” he suggests in a low voice, not wanting to be the cause of mutiny in this ship’s crew. “The land below you becomes a mass known as Antartica, a place of permanent ice. You and your ship could sleep there until your father awoke and called for you – always assuming he has that technology,” he adds hurriedly, realising that he may be presuming circumstances that do not exist.

“He does,” she responds at once. “He wanted to ensure he would never lose me, so we have a way of calling one another. But,” the hope that had filled her at his suggestion seems to drain away, “the orders to set this ship, and its crew, into a state of hibernation can only be done on the orders of the Fleet Commander himself.”

“Oh, I think I can find a work-around for that,” he says confidently. “My ship can manage it easily enough. And I can arrange for your life-signs to go unnoticed until you are summoned by your father.”

For a moment she stares out at the massive ice-sheet below them, clearly deep in thought. Her eyes then travel past him to those members of her crew who are waiting to receive her orders. Then, much to the Vadlott’s astonishment, she crosses to the communications operator.

“Send for one of the ships in the fleet,” she orders. “Tell them return at once. They are to collect more passengers.”

The murmuring grows louder, and the Vadlott starts to feel a little uneasy, but the Marshall seems to be aware of her crew’s concerns.

“I stay,” she announces in a voice that echoes around the room. “I wait here for our leader. Any who wish to stay with me, who wish to sleep through the time in the safety of our ship, may join me. All others will be returned home. Those who choose to leave will prepare for immediate departure.”

She closes her mouth and returns her steely gaze to the vast field of whiteness outside, but the Vadlott suspects she is more tense than she is letting on, wondering if she will be left alone for the unknown length of time ahead until she can be reunited with her lost father.

Several Ice Warriors do slip out of the room, looking almost comically awkward, but many more cross to stand in tidy ranks behind their leader. One, whom the Vadlott suspects to be second-in-command, waits for every individual to make up his own mind before turning to his captain.

“We have decided, my Marshall,” he says crisply. “We stay.”

If further proof were needed that Ice Warriors are unable to cry, the Vadlott reflects, this moment would provide it because the woman is completely dry-eyed. But there is deep gratitude in the gaze she turns to her loyal followers. Then she looks at the Time Lord.

“Give us some time,” she tells him. “When the other ship has left, we shall be ready.”

“Of course, Marshall,” he agrees, meeting her gaze. And he is unable to help adding, “Good luck,” before he leaves the control room and heads for his tardis.

“Oh, Vadlott!” Oswin’s relief is clear when he arrives in the console room. “I thought you weren’t coming back!”

“You might have mentioned the crowd waiting for me,” he says rather acerbically as he takes his place at the controls and begins remotely linking the tardis with the mechanics of the ship in which they are parked.

“I thought you knew!” There is an edge of hysteria to her voice. “And when you went out there, with them all pointing their guns at you – ”

“Well, it all worked out for the best,” he reassures her, watching as another starship arrives next to the first, and a beam of energy from one ship to another appears, presumably to transfer those who have chosen to leave. “Just let me concentrate for a moment and then I’ll tell you all about it.”

The tardis is able to give him a view of the control room and he watches as the remaining Ice Warriors take what he guesses to be their usual seats. The entire ship begins making its descent towards the ice, and at the same time, the Vadlott arranges for the heat to be vented out of the ship and into the tardis, where it can be disposed of once he returns to the surface.

“I suppose venting it outside the ship might melt the polar ice-cap,” suggests Oswin, who has clearly understood at least part of what he is doing.

“Exactly,” he agrees, loosening his collar against the rather uncomfortable warmth. “Now, to let the cold air in so that they can hibernate.”

The tardis opens the starship’s external vents to their fullest extent, while still maintaining the powerful forcefields, and a blast of icy arctic wind sweeps through the ship, gusting into the tardis until the blue doors slam shut in protest against it. Then the freezing temperatures roar into the control room of the starship. The Vadlott watches as, one by one, the crew sink into life-saving hibernation, each collapsing limply at his station.

He fixes his eyes on the Marshall, who, befitting her post, is the last to succumb. But when she has seen each of the others sink into insensibility, she takes one final look out through the massive pane of glass to the place where she will spend her future and finally closes her eyes.

Although the Vadlott was ready to act, the tardis is quicker off the mark, taking control over the ship and driving it through the massive ice-sheet with a grinding and crunching that almost sends the Vadlott crashing to the floor. However he maintains his footing and applies a strong perception filter to the ship, even as the ice is sealed up hundreds of feet over their heads.

“I just hope,” Oswin says rather nervously, “we can escape all this! I don’t much like the idea of sleeping for centuries.”

“Oh, yes, no question about that,” the Vadlott reassures her as he enters new co-ordinates. “And we’ll need to go now, in any case, because the heat from the tardis might be enough to confuse the Ice Warriors’ hibernation patterns.” He sets them off on a new journey, out of the starship and into the safety of normal space. “Do you believe me now, Oswin?” he asks. “That I can take care of myself?”

“Yes, Vadlott,” she agrees happily. “I do.”

Next Part

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