Ex Machina

by Grym [Reviews - 2]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Alternate Universe, Drama, Standalone, Vignette

Author's Notes:
Because I can deal with the loss of River Song, but can’t see her doing domestic for a digital eternity -- especially when she has all of history and imagination to explore. Not necessarily a kinder ending, but a more viable one in my book Many thanks to Kamots for the initial concept, for taming my tendency toward melodrama, and for making one crucial character sound more like himself.

Hundreds of people flow through the grimy spaceport, coming and going in constant flux. Most of the ships are small, battered, returning from places best kept quiet or heading out into the nether regions of barely-known space. The reek of exhaust mingles with the press of bodies in motion, a promise of danger or adventure, simultaneously seedy and thrilling.

The tall figure in a well-pressed black suit almost seems out of place at the edge of the shifting, muttering throng. He leans over a table in front of a filthy port-side pub, speaking quietly to a woman in well-worn flight gear. After several minutes of discussion, the pair shakes hands to conclude their deal. Professor River Song rakes the collection of brittle papers and digital maps off the edge of the table and shoulders her pack. Her eyes glitter as she spins on her heel, gesturing for her team to join them.

"Right," she begins, meeting each of their eyes with her direct gaze. "New expedition. Tolarus Galaxy. Thirty-second century, human standard time. The remnants of an uncharted civilization. We’ll arrive well after most of it is gone, of course. Safer that way and leaves us more of a puzzle. Then, we do what we've always done, and we do it better than ever."

They grin and nod their agreement, already moving toward the docking bay where an older explorer-class timehopper waits, trailing their suit helmets in experienced hands. Only at the edge of the gangplank does one of the crew turn around and call back. "Professor Song? Coming?"

She blinks. "What?" A sudden sweep of wrongness overwhelms her, stifling, almost blinding. Images and shadows flicker through her mind. Her own voice, shouting. You wouldn’t have a chance and neither do I!

"Are you coming? Is something the matter?"

The archaeologist shakes her head, trying to clear the haziness. "I -- I'm not sure." She pushes one hand through her riot of hair, frowning. She was sitting, surrounded by darkness, staring into wide brown eyes, into an unfamiliar and well-loved face, at a lean blue form struggling against the inevitable. She died. She knows this as surely as she knows her name.

"Dave’s firing the engines. We’re ready to go if you are.”

Ready to go. Ready to die. Ready to sacrifice everything for her past/his future, all come full circle in a blaze of electricity and light and him, pleading. You and me. Time and space. You watch us run. That impossible man.

"Yes, you should get moving," murmurs a voice at her elbow.

She looks up into the face of the expedition’s benefactor. Behind the thin spectacles, his dark eyes are warm, compassionate. "But -- but I…”

The smooth-shaven head nods slowly. “Yes, you did. And then you forgot.”

River Song, professor and explorer, arches one rakish eyebrow at him and slides the last minute papers into her bag. "Well, I'll see you when we return, Doctor Moon. Unless you've changed your mind and want to join the team? Could do with your knowledge of the colony."

He shakes his head, chuckling. "You’re not ready for some of my knowledge yet.” It sounds like a quip, but the slight shiver that speeds down her back makes her wonder. “But I expect I’ll share someday, perhaps when we meet again.”

“And what knowledge is that?” she can’t help but ask.

Thin eyebrows rise in feigned surprise. “Why, Professor, I never figured you for one who enjoyed spoilers.” He smiles softly and nods at her ship. “You shouldn’t keep the universe waiting. Godspeed.”

She stares at him for a moment, then nods briskly and walks away from him, into the smoky, sparking, people-filled air to board her ship.