“No!” he decides, and the web shakes again. He slams down a lever and wrenches at the controls, the TARDIS fighting him every step of the way to two minutes ago, inside Adelaide’s house.
He waits behind the living room door till she walks in, then a quick burst of the sonic screwdriver renders her gun so much scrap metal. Time flaps loose, in flux, as she spins round.
“You bastard,” she spits.
He doesn’t answer, just steps up to her and, for a moment, enjoys towering over her — she is a fixed point but he is Lord of Time — before bringing his mouth down on hers. She pushes him away the first time, not the second.
They fuck on the floor, all anger and scratches and cries.
“You killed yourself.”
“I know,” Adelaide retorts, and bites deep into his shoulder. “I don’t trust you.”
“Will you do it again?”
“Oh yes. And again and again and again. How many times can you stop me?”
“As many as it takes,” he vows. “Time is mine and I will possess it.”
Adelaide makes a scornful sound and rolls them over, catching him unawares.
“You’re mad,” she says, and gasps as he presses two impatient fingers against her clit. “Insane. Dangerously unhinged.”
“I can see all of time,” he tells her, and reaches up, presses his fingers against her temples, shows her.
They can see the future, fraying with this fluidity of a fixed point. They can see the future, he forces, where she kisses Susie goodbye and is so proud. They can see... He cannot see her. The Dalek, fifty years before, has seen this uncertainty and killed her. Time unravels further.
When she returns, he holds onto her tightly, his fingers leaving shadows to come on her hips.
Time is tearing free, a steel cable whining and lashing out. A stray thread catches the edge of his mind, her mind, and the pain and the pleasure and the power of it overwhelm them both.
“Come with me,” he asks, a few minutes later. His next words, all the arguments he has — you’re spectacular; I don’t want you to die; if Susie doesn’t fly that ship, someone will — go unsaid as she accepts. It has changed her, he realises. She has been rewritten with time. He takes advantage of that.
Every journey through the Vortex creates ripples in space and time, even with such a sophisticated vehicle as the TARDIS. Some of those ripples (and actually they’re bigger than he would expect: the TARDIS doesn’t fly well with Adelaide on board) make changes. Adelaide Brooke is tweaked and altered; she is left-handed, right-handed, stronger, sillier, sadder.
He carries on, stubborn, grim and manic, until they end up on Trandor. It should be Trandor, anyway. It should be busy, prosperous, benefiting from one of the most successful alliances in galactic history, bustling with humans, Trandorians and their mixed descendants. But there’s no-one left and no-one cares enough to remember if this blighted, desolate planet ever had a name, or inhabitants.
“No,” he says and runs his hands over his face, through his hair, agonised. “This is wrong.”
“This is over,” the woman called Adelaide tells him and, sick with despair, defeat and guilt, he agrees.
They never reach the TARDIS. Adelaide, another Adelaide, is standing in the hallway. She holds a gun identical to the one she had...some time ago.
“The Time Lord Victorious is wrong,” she says. “You’ve lost.”
All the arguments he has against this are large in his mind but, like before, they die silent. He knows.
“What happened?” he asks, perhaps out of ghoulish curiosity, perhaps wishing to hear of adventures he will never have. There are many different versions of this moment, one for each ripple.
“You sent me here. You told me that, hundreds of years ago, you were sent to destroy the Daleks in their infancy. But you couldn’t do it, because the Daleks were too important, made too much of an impact on the universe. You didn’t have the right to change all that. You lost sight of that, Doctor. And here I am.” She gives him a brittle, mocking smile that doesn’t look right on her face but he can no longer remember what expressions would. “Your trophy.”
“No,” he says. “Not that. Never just that.”
Adelaide ignores him and reaches out instead to Adelaide — his Adelaide, no, never his, never will be — who is quiet and muzzy with Time. Perhaps she isn’t even listening to this conversation, hearing instead what has been or might be. The nearness of herself, this paradox, seems to perk her up, though; she looks at the other with clear eyes and Adelaide the elder stops short of actually touching her.
“You disappear. Susie grows up and goes looking for you. But she doesn’t look up, out among the stars. She stays here. She searches for you here, on Earth, in the dust and the smoke.”
If Susie Fontana Brooke didn’t fly the first lightspeed ship, someone would. But Susie wouldn’t meet the man who would father her child. If that child was never born, that entire line of Brookes fell, like dominoes. Daphne Brooke, destined to fall in love with a Trandorian prince and become the architect of their species’ alliance, her children being the first of what was eventually recognised as a new species, would not exist. The alliance would not exist. Without the alliance, that group of planets would destroy each other.
Just as good came from the evil of Daleks, so extending the life of Adelaide Brooke would lead to great harm.
Adelaide takes the gun from herself.
“Are you going to stop me, Doctor? Over and over again, wasn’t it?”
He isn’t. He can’t. She knows. “It’s not fair,” he says, bitterly, futilely.
“No,” she says. “It isn’t.”
She dies. He runs on, mad, reckless; there’s more history out there. He saves planets, gives a galaxy the wrong name and finds himself in a historically inaccurate marriage that he does nothing to extricate himself from, not until after the wedding night.
These are all just petty rebellions. He will go to the Ood Sphere. He will die. But not yet.
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