He wasn’t supposed to have remembered.
The planning had been rushed, certainly.
(Odd, that. Perverse. Monstrous. All of time to rule and mold, for a timeless forever. And now, chasing each precious second as it chased them into death, caught just as the “lesser races” had been, always and forever. Now they truly understood stopwatches.)
But he had definitely been promised a tabula rasa. And who could he trust to keep promises, if not his trusty, dour, rigid, miserable brethren?
Oh, miserable brethren, loomed and larger than life, and looming large in blessed, hated memory. Come back and make me miserable, and I will bless you, and love you.
Their faces.... He had often complained about their colorless lives. Served him right, then, to see their faces at the very last, drained of all color except the grey of total exhaustion, of no escape, of inescapable sorrow and horror, of fixed and frightened determination. Served him right.
But he had definitely been promised erasure. He’d queried them quite pointedly about it, and the few theoretical time researchers left in the Citadel had taken his queries seriously. And they had answered him honestly. Or so he’d thought at the...so he’d thought.
I ran from you, you spit me out, I shook the dirt of this place from my ever-changing shoes again, and again, and again. What did you see in me? What did you take from me? What did you leave me, that I cannot put aside? Was it because I hated you, or because you hated me? I run after you now, and you still spit me out.
At the last, the Citadel had become a perfect shambles, in the dreadfully correct sense of the word. He would never have been able to get the blood off the hems of his trousers...the ones who were dead from bombardment, the ones who chose death deliberately — always an unhappily protracted operation for his kind — the ones who simply sat and shook, with nothing behind their eyes anymore....
She had refused to look him in the eye, come to think of it. She was cruel, but she couldn’t lie. She just kissed him, lightly, on the lips, cupped his cheek with one hand and stroked his hair with the other. She had been out on the battlements earlier in the day, and the greasy smoke from fires in the nearest valleys had covered her in darkness, granted her a premature shroud.
We had run through Paris, and you had pretended to be young for me. I believed you, until that last kiss, and even then, I chose to forget what you’d revealed. Beautiful, beautiful, and faithless to me, at the end, so that you could keep faith with everything else.
It was to have been a three-part operation.
First, destroy the world in the operative present.
I did it from space, surrounded by Dalek ships. Useless to even guess at their numbers, because they kept flicking in and out, traveling up and down the countless time streams, singing their hymns of extermination everywhere and everywhen before gathering here, like hyenas at carrion, to feast on us. I was disappointed when they shivered out of existence; I wanted them to burn.
Second, employ the temporal formulae loaded into the ship’s memory to twist the Vortex and ensure that its ripples erased the world both forward and backward.
We are the Lords of Time, you filth. You think you know Time? You think you deal Death? We will teach you about both.
And then, the third and final part of the operation; erase the memory at the nexus of the operation. Grant the final hero a life in which he thought he was simply a man of some place else. A story become blessed truth, as he walked the streets of some newly and unknowingly saved world. The new memories were loaded into his mind, they’d said, one last gift of the Matrix. Simply hit the third button.
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