Doctor Who: Panic Moon Rising Ch. 02byKurokami©
Author's Note: This series build off of elements of the previous Panic Moon series. To get the full experience, it is recommended, though not necessary, to read that one first.
Hello again fellows! Here's the second chapter of my little experiment. Once again, it's a spin off, but you'll learn some new things about the main series too. Many thanks to my support crew, Isabel, D, LogicalDreamer and Allyourbase, for their creative might and encouragement. And to all the readers who let me know that they're enjoying things.
Like what you see? Please comment or vote! I love your feedback, guys! Enjoy!
Gwen was blushing. Must be a sign of the end times.
Jack sat opposite her at the too-small table, the noise of the little village pub burbling around them. There was always a little village pub, and they all looked exactly the same, like a factory had spat them out, one by one. Or maybe that was just his perception of them; after travelling the universe and seeing bars that existed in multiple dimensions simultaneously, earthbound things were always going to be a bit bland. And there was certainly nothing here that would make a woman of the world like Gwen blush.
In fact, if he really put his mind to it, he couldn't remember ever seeing her blush before.
'So, none of us managed to get lucky today,' He said, rotating his glass idly on the table. He had meant it as a status update, given that Owen had opted to stay up in his room in that depressingly tiny motel working, and Gwen hadn't seen him since they had split up to investigate, but Jack noted with interest that she blinked conspicuously, seeming to nearly choke on her drink. Interesting...
'Yeah, looks like we'll be stuck here a while longer...' He tried to sound appropriately put out as he continued, but the fact was he was quite looking forward to finding out what made every life form that had ever come to Earth give this little town such a wide berth.
And at the same time, he tried to disguise his inspection of Gwen. She had come in with grass stains on her knees, disheveled as all hell... if he hadn't known any better, he would've sworn...
But no. Couldn't be.
Jack realized that his eyes had wandered under the table; he was staring at her knees again. It couldn't have just been a fall, like she claimed. The dirt and muck was too ingrained, like she'd been down there for quite a while. What had she been doing?
'Uh, Gwen?' He remembered that he was Jack Harkness, and that if need be, Jack Harkness could be extremely blunt. This was a mission, after all. This was work. It was a status report, nothing more.
But she wasn't even listening. Her head had turned, body twisted in her seat almost entirely around, and it didn't seem like she could even hear him. He followed her gaze to the other end of the bar, where a young redhead dressed as a policewoman- dressed as, not was, that skirt was far too short to be authentic- had her tongue down some young man's throat. Jack could see the appeal, and judging by the length of the girl's legs he deemed the man she was attacking to be very lucky indeed, but Gwen's interest mystified him.
'Gwen,' A little more insistently this time, bringing her back to him. She turned around to face him and, after a moment's silent thought, she stood.
'I'm... going,' She said haltingly, voice a little higher than usual. If she had been blushing before, now she was practically glowing. 'Tired, you know.'
He could see her trying her hardest not to speed up and attract any excess attention from him, as she almost threw herself out the door. Jack watched it shut, before he turned his gaze back to the ersatz policewoman.
'There's a man sleeping under the tree out back.'
'Hmm?' Amy raised an eyebrow, confident that there was nothing in that idea worth saying aloud. There were no homeless people in Leadworth, it was too remote; chances are that whoever was out there was just someone from the pub, sleeping it off a little before he went home. Why even bother mentioning it?
'There's a man,' Mels repeated. 'Sleeping. Outside. Never seen him before. 'S a bit interesting, thought you might want to know.'
'Yeah?' She leaned back against the wall, crossed her arms. Whenever Mels led with a sentence like that, what she was actually saying was "I've found some trouble, come look." Amy had been lucky so far, in that much of what Mels did and found hadn't reflected too poorly on her friends; god knows, Amy didn't need the kind of reputation Mels had, on top of just being seen as an otherwise harmless weirdo. It wouldn't have been a good look.
Normally, she would have avoided even the potential for the kind of trouble Mels could dig up, but tonight was different. In some ways it was a good kind of different; she'd taken to entertaining here on her off days just to earn some semblance of a steady paycheck, and tonight she had been... popular. Business was good, but what was troubling was why...
She had been distracted by reminders of Gwen all night, mostly from within. She had been trying to keep it suppressed, but perhaps her performance tonight had been possessed of a little more verve than usual. Every little touch sparked off that throbbing deep inside her...
'What's he like?' She asked, smiling as Mels winked. Her enthusiasm was undeniably infectious.
'Ooh... Tall, dark... the usual for mysterious strangers,' Mels said, gently extracting a bottle from the bar and, with a furtive glance about the place, taking a swig. 'Doesn't look like he's been living rough or anything.'
'And you want me to go out and have a look with you?' Amy said flatly. 'Maybe poke him with a stick?'
'What?' She stretched, ran a hand through her hair and bounced back on light feet. 'No, no. I'm going home. Just thought you might want to go check out the new guy.'
With that, Mels gave a theatrical wink and turned on her heel. As she walked away, she threw a glance at Amy over her shoulder, looking her friend up and down.
'By the way, you look great in that costume, very... leggy, as always,' She grinned. 'Perhaps a little too leggy. Pull your skirt down, girl!'
Amy looked down as the doors swung closed behind Mels, and rolled her eyes. Of course her skirt had ridden up and exposed a little more than was strictly ladylike; it had been that sort of day. That... thing with Gwen seemed to have opened the floodgates, and now she couldn't stop thinking about it. About that. Being manhandled in the grass, and all the things that came with it. And though they were only fleeting images, her mind had taken to producing vivid imaginings of what that would look like, with each and every guy who had talked to her that night. Each time it happened, she got ever more flustered, until she could barely hold a continuous train of thought together.
And when she got flustered, she started drinking. Not exactly the smartest course of action for a woman whose job involved sexy costumes and slightly loose behavior, but it at least made the insistent nagging of her biology a little easier to bear, and blurred the line to the point where she could no longer decide whether it was her persistent arousal or the booze that had added that extra energy to her "work" tonight.
She decided that she would go outside, after all. If nothing else, the fresh air would do her good, as would being away from all these people. And she just knew that Mels would quiz her about the stranger the next day; she had an impeccable memory when it came to these kinds of things. It was time to take in the sights.
Amy had already decided that the night air would be cool in that comfortable way that tugged at the skin without being unpleasant. Leadworth was like that; the nights felt exactly the same until winter rolled around and made everything unbearable. The sky was cloudless as usual, stars pinpricking the heavens. Yes, this was Leadworth, alright.
Lo and behold, there was indeed a man leaning against the large tree behind the pub, in a pool of shadow cast by the neighboring floodlights filtering through the branches above. But he didn't seem to be outright asleep, as Mels had assumed. His posture suggested at least a modicum of alertness, and he seemed to stir as she approached cautiously.
He heard the footsteps clacking on the cracked concrete, and his jaw clenched. Not another gawker, surely... The first couple he had felt comfortable ignoring and just pretending he was asleep, but by now Sander wanted to scream. It hadn't taken him long to realize the unpleasant truth of his new situation: he was stuck in the past. His first clue had been the presence of paved roads, but his fears had congealed into cold realization once the first car- with wheels!- had trundled past him; this was no mere holdover from the bad old days, keeping their roads through nostalgia or obstinacy. He had travelled through time.
The obvious course to take had been to simply wait. If, as he suspected, he was here due to the Eternity Engine backfiring, then he could count on Mara and his team to recall him to his native present. All he would need to do was wait a few hours at most, until they noticed he was missing, check the destination logs and reverse the process. Simple.
Granted, as the hours had dripped past, he had begun to lose confidence in that plan. Linear time had never felt so slow...
Which had left him with the singular question of what he could do with himself until he was pulled out. Sander's surroundings had convinced him that he was currently situated in the midst of the twenty-first century, so helping himself would be downright impossible unless he could secure some alien intervention, and with nowhere near enough on him to trade or sell, he would have to rely on charity there. And that went both ways; all that had been brought through with him was an ID chip implanted in his hand attached to a bank account that wouldn't exist for over a millennium, and a short range signal beacon he had been replacing at the time of his... dislocation.
One moment in 3378, doing some routine maintenance. The next in a field, a thousand years earlier and suddenly a whole lot poorer.
In a wider sense, he felt the kind of isolation he imagined many time travelers went in groups to combat. The town he had been dropped in was tiny, but the people in it seemed so, so much tinier. He walked by them, their mere existences so transitory it was almost painful; from his point of view, Sander was literally walking through a city of ghosts, suddenly made flesh. Even the ground beneath his feet was dead, wiped away by cosmic inevitability before he had even been born. Though he stood inside history, he couldn't bring himself to reach out and touch it, for fear of smudging it.
He wasn't the Doctor. He wouldn't presume to toy with the past... Any more than he would be doing in the subjective future, anyway.
Even the graves these people left behind had been erased, the ashes reduced to their component molecules and dispersed to the universe... It was downright existential.
Which was why he almost had a meltdown when he cracked open an eye and found himself face to face with a familiar one. He flew to his feet.
'No!' He shook his head, back pressed against the tree, eyes locked on Amy's. 'No, no, no! No! I am not dealing with this right now!'
And he was moving, giving Amy a wide berth as he passed her, heading... anywhere away from Amy. This was wrong. He couldn't be here, it had never happened. He and Amy weren't supposed to meet until their appointment on that far flung asteroid. This was exactly the kind of causality violating thing he had been trying to avoid! And she was following him!
'Um, I'm sorry I woke you,' Normally she wouldn't persist around a man as clearly agitated as this one, but a combination of drink and her- by now rather irritating- desire had left her bold. 'I didn't mean to startle you...'
'You didn't... Am I in fucking Leadworth?' He spoke over his shoulder, talking through sheer directionless panic, mind working furiously. How would this change things? Amy's timeline was already so fragmented... 'Actually, that would make sense. When in doubt the Engine's programming would revert it to the first target on record, which would be here given how much time...'
'Sorry? You're talking really fast, there...' She kept up with him as he passed over the road, despite her rather unwieldy shoes. Given the number of handsy men she met in her line of work, she had become something of an expert in staying upright in heels, no matter what pressures were exerted upon her.
'Why are you following me?' He said, eyes wide. 'Stop it. I can't see you now. I swear, every little thing I do is a fucking divergence... Why are you still following me?'
That almost made her stop, but the truth was, the simple truth... was that she knew exactly why she was following him at this point. Without realizing it, some deep and abiding memory had been called to, and her legs were practically moving on their own.
'Because the last time I met a stranger who talked about things that didn't make sense as fast as you do,' She paused, close to stopping completely. She couldn't believe that she was going to let the first person in recent memory who didn't think she was crazy into this... 'I... had a really interesting time...'
'Well, fuck!' If there had been people out on the streets at this time of night, they would have been staring, Sander had yelled so loud. 'Now I'm your goddamn replacement Doctor?'
And then everything froze.
They had walked into an alley, where only indirect light filtered in, bouncing off of poorly maintained pavement. It gave Amy's shocked expression an eerie cast; Sander really felt the established timeline snapping like a bone in that moment, looking at her face. All due to one stupid comment.
'What?' She was sure she hadn't heard that right. She couldn't have...
'Nothing, Amy,' He said, shaking his head... Fuck!
Again she froze, and this time Sander winced at the realization. One slip up he could have put down to simple familiarity, but two? That was just careless, and a man who spent his time building machines to pervert the course of time and causality should never be careless. Amy was staring, and for once, Sander had nothing to say to her. It was... a different feeling.
'What was that?' She took a step forward, he took a step back. Even a single divergence in the timeline could destabilize everything he had been working toward, at best, and every interaction he had with Amy counted as a massive divergence. She had never met him in Leadworth, and now... 'How do you know my name?'
'Look, I must have heard it in the bar... pub, I mean,' He shook his head violently. 'Doesn't even matter. I don't matter. Think of me as a drifter, and don't follow me.'
He started running. His future depended on it; destabilizing the past, especially the past of a figure so central to his own life, could adversely affect the future, and any change would change who he was. All he was, all anyone was, was their memories, and if those were to change...
Luckily, he could easily outstrip her if he put his mind to it; as good at heels as she was, add in some uneven ground and low light conditions, and even Amy would find it hard to follow in them. Not to mention the tight skirt... easy on the eyes, not so easy on the gait. She stared, watching his back recede into the distance, noting that he had been oddly composed for a man ostensibly sleeping one off outside.
Her heart pounded in her chest. He had said Doctor, she knew he had. Oh, it was possible he had just heard the name from some gossip or another, it was a small town after all. But that was the point; it was a small town, and she had never seen him or even heard that anyone new had blown in. Besides, this was the closest thing to a closed circle Amy could think of; the people here didn't just volunteer information.
And as she thought, another cold fact slid into her mind: he had only said Doctor. Not Raggedy Doctor.
He had spoken, and in his voice it hadn't been a fantasy. He hadn't been talking about an imaginary person...
She shivered, as she had been all night, in the presence of every single person she had talked to. Something was definitely wrong with her, and now this stranger... She realized she was smiling.
Finally, something strange was happening in Leadworth.
Morning sun shone on his face. His expression shifted, distaste written across his features. He grunted.
This was an important time. So long as he sat here with his eyes closed, he could be anywhere. It was possible that, during the night, he had been... retrieved. He could open his eyes and be back at home, a thousand years and more away from that little planet and back on his moon, with his girlfriend and his team. And the work. Forever the work.
Sander cracked open an eyelid, momentarily dazzled by the sunlight. He swore.
Earthbound trees, under earthbound clouds, lit by earthbound sunlight. It was all so painfully limited, and so long as he was here, so was he. The waiting would be what killed him, in the end; if the past sixteen years of scheming had taught Sander anything, it was that he was not a man that was comfortable with inaction.
But then, there were little moments that hit him all at once and then flitted away, like spells of dizziness. He would look up and see the sky, and remember that he was on Earth. He would look down, and realize that he was standing on the human home planet. It was nearly a revelatory moment, before he remembered that he was stuck here.
Unwilling to stay in denial for much longer, Sander opened his eyes, the muscles in his legs tightening as he stretched. He felt like hell, probably looked it too; sleeping rough tended to do that to a person. He ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it down as a dozen birds chirped from the trees around him. The noise was surprising; Trismestigius had always been depressingly lacking in wildlife, and he hadn't really heard birdsong in years. Just another thing he was going to have to get used to, here in the backwaters of spacetime.
He lifted himself up off of the grass, brushing himself off as he did so. He stood, ready to move... and stopped. He was at a total loose end. He was all prepared to get going, but where would he go? The fact was, he had no money, nothing but the clothes on his back, nobody knew him, and nobody could know him. His little run in with Amy was potentially damaging enough.
The logical thing to do was to leave Leadworth, just pick a direction and start walking. Put some distance between himself and Amy, disentangle those two timelines before they ended up knotting. Problem was, location was important.
He suspected that the Engine had backfired and lodged him in the past of the first timeline it had targeted. Amy's timeline. And Leadworth was the crucible of Amy's life, the formative mold of her character. Everything she was came from here, it was only natural that the Engine had aimed for the largest target. He had to stay put if he wanted to give Mara the best chance of recalling him.
Of course, after this length of time, his hopes of being returned to his native present were becoming a little dim. It was an academic concern anyway; it wasn't as though there was a direct pathway between his current present and his native present. Theoretically Mara could have spent days reprogramming the Eternity Engine to pick him up and drop him back home, and set the target for a minute after he had arrived in Leadworth. Hell, he could have been back before he had even left, and all the effort it would have taken was the shifting of a few digits within the machine's targeting system. The fact that he was still here, hours later, didn't bode well, either for his prospects of ever leaving, or the temporal accuracy of his Engine.