It starts with waking in the midst of a conflagration, licks of flames and tendrils of smoke weaving over his head as he attempts pulling the elusive strands of his awareness back into a semblance of coherency. With eyes that don't want to focus, he sweeps a panicked look around, uncertain of his surroundings and his situation. But other than flames that seem to be shrinking back under as yet unseen forces and the smoke that obscures everything beyond his immediate view, he's alone. Somehow he knows -- though he can't explain how he knows, not yet -- he's never been so alone in his life. Who he was previously with isn't clear -- much less anything involving a previous something, anything at all -- but there's the vague impression that he's been by himself for awhile. A long while.
Sloping surfaces with hexagonal shapes rise around him; a greenish cast to the light that emanates from an unknown source, highlighting the slightly parabolic shape of the walls and limns the sweeping buttress that leans in to meet something just beyond his vision. The view is familiar, but at the same time he's never seen it in his life. Not with these eyes, anyway and doesn't that make no sense at all, but it's the only way it fits. It's awkward and agonizing but they're the only pieces that go together, no matter what logic says.
The air is acrid, burning lungs that somehow seem rawly new, like this was the first breath they'd drawn and it hurts, like inhaling fire itself. He can feel it coursing through him: burning everything inside and out, leaving everything changed in its wake. A flash of awareness makes him wonder if that's more a memory trying to surface than a present condition since the sensation fades in an instant, leaving him gasping for a breath that comes easier than expected. Too easily, for it catches in his throat with a rattle and a shudder. Coughing and gasping anew, he rolls onto his side. Everything is suddenly pitching and yawing and sends him back to the floor beneath with a cry, shoulder bumping against a harsh surface he dimly notes as being some sort of industrial grating.
Unseen fans kick on somewhere also not visible and he can feel the air moving, brushing gently against cheeks that feel too warm and a brow that seems inexplicably damp. He feels fragile, breakable, like the smallest touch with shatter him to pieces; pieces that could never all be found, much less reassembled. Perhaps that has already happened and this is just the first attempt to fit consciousness to form. Or perhaps these are just the wanderings of an unfit mind and this is just a dream; he doesn't know, can't tell and isn't sure if he wants to. There's a hole where something, everything, is supposed to be; something big, important -- a giant chasm between the before that's as tenuous as his current ability to frame a thought and the now, as vague as the sense of identity that tries to flee at the prodding of his intellect. It's like the gap where a tooth used to be but isn't, or the silence where there should be sound. All he knows is he's wearing clothes that are familiar, but aren't and the hands he uses to pull himself to unsteady feet feel larger than he's expecting. Larger, coarser -- hands that are as unfamiliar as everything else is. But they're his at least. Whoever he is.
Like the pressure wave of a thermal reactor detonating or the sound of the smallest pin dropping in the largest amphitheater imaginable, it comes back in sweeping torrents and it hurts even more than anything else has since he awoke. All he can see is fires of destruction, death and mayhem; cries of Exterminate are ringing in his ears and he knows -- he knows.
He's a Time Lord, the last of the Time Lords and he's in the TARDIS; everything's come unfettered, loose and everything's changed, even him. He can feel the winds of time blowing up a gale that's buffeting him and his ship about in the Vortex like a leaf before the November storms. And nothing's ever gonna be the same again -- nothing.
Eyes closed against the raft of horrors that suddenly play out in his mind, hands rising shakily to press against them in an effort to hold it all in, he lies there shuddering, shaking and this time it's not his ship. That's where he is now he knows all too well, but all that has suddenly resurfaced is roiling and raging inside, and he daren't let it out or it'll surround him. Because it's already everywhere within, it's everything he knows and remembers, and to set free... it might consume him entire. And somehow he can't say why that would be such a bad thing, but it is; because if what he's seeing in his mind's eye is true, he deserves it, it's his fault because he made it happen. It's already pulling at him and compressing all that he is to a singularity that's both hotter than the brightest star and colder than the vacuum of space and it burns. There's a roaring in his ears and it's him, all alone with the rage and despair boiling over, pouring out, and he just wants it not to be true.
Disregarding limbs that don't want to cooperate, he's on his feet and at the console in an instant, blunt fingers flicking switches deftly without looking, despite the fact that nothing here is the same either. Sparks fly from fraying, battered circuitry as a screen at eye level flickers on, fading and distorting before settling into a fuzzy, empty blackness. With a grunt of wordless impatience he slaps the side of it, jarring it into focus again, but that's it. It's still nothing. Nothing at all, just a few bleak fragments of space dust and some twisted, burned up wreckage he recognizes as the remnants of a killcruiser drifting by.
Eyes on the scanner and leaning forward with bated breath, he's checking and rechecking coordinates with a rising sense of frustration and heartsbreak because it's true, just like he'd known before he'd even gotten himself upright again. Just like he hadn't wanted it to be, for all the useless futility of it all. Because as much as he'd wanted to hope it was just the lingering remnants of a nightmare, as much as he'd wanted the bleak, hollow feeling in his mind to be a symptom of regeneration sickness, it wasn't and he'd known it from the first breath. The knowledge settles within him like the weight of several billion lives lost, like thousands of worlds destroyed and not just his own. And it's all true.
It's all still vague, everything from Karn on, and he doesn't know whether to count that a mercy or not. He doesn't know if these blunt, calloused hands are the ones that... doesn't know if this face is the last one that billions saw before getting pulled into that unrelenting final darkness. If it is, he doesn't want to see it; doesn't want to look upon the man that's the killer of his own kind, because it's him. Ye gods and little fishes -- it's him and how's he supposed to survive with that? How could anyone?
He hadn't meant to survive -- it had been the inevitable consequence that he'd accepted without qualms. If it would save everything else, if it would stop the spread of the madness and save even the tiniest bit of reality, it was worth it. Except this, this wasn't in the plan, surviving. He was supposed to have died with the rest of them: Romana, Leela, Brax, even Androgar, they're all gone and... Mother--
For a moment the sense of the uncertainty of it all is crushing him, bearing down to make him lean against the console for support. Even his legs don't know how to cope and he's more lost than he could've ever imagined. Just... where does he go from here? No where to go, nothing to be fixing it, and as for surviving this... no, not happening.
Head down and teeth gritted, he sets the coordinates one-handed before going off to the wardrobe room to change clothes. Not that he cares what he looks like, but the sleeves on his jacket are too short and these shoes don't fit and isn't that a laugh. Pinching his feet unmercifully, they are. Explains why his stride is uneven and hitching and he has to stop every few feet to catch himself against the corridor wall.
This place, this one place, it's the only thing that hasn't changed out of everything else that is, and he knows it well enough to avoid the multitude of mirrors. Like he's already decided, he doesn't want to look -- he can't. The wardrobe room's just something else to stand in righteous condemnation of his actions. A long trailing scarf hangs over a rack with velvet smoking jackets nearby; an opera cape hangs near a multi colored coat and a waistcoat with question marks that bring back memories -- too many memories. It's all there, immediate and unavoidable, everything he was and lost -- it's there and it's just one more thing that's too much to handle.
Turning away he strips down, avoiding still those oh so many mirrors with their blatant truth that is far too vicious to gaze upon this soon when everything's still so raw inside and out. Blindly he grabs whatever comes to hand: a jumper and denim trousers that'll do, a pair of boots that are heavy and dark like the turmoil within his own mind, and another leather jacket, because that seems to work. One thing that can stay the same, if nothing else. He doesn't even bother with the clothes he's left discarded on the floor behind him, he's got more important things to do, plans to make and fulfill.
That final solution, that one last plan, it had worked; worked too well, except for one thing. Gallif... his people, his planet were gone, but he was still bloody well here. Only thing left to do is to finish what he'd started. Plenty of fixed points that were almost guaranteed to do the job, and plenty of history to choose from. He thinks he'll start with Krakatoa.
Always wanted to go out with a bang, me.