The Ends of the Earth

by vegetables [Reviews - 1]

Printer Chapter or Story
  • Teen
  • Explicit Violence, Swearing
  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, General, Introspection, Mixed, Romance, Standalone

It would happen like this:

There was a line of American ships blockading Cuba, the Soviet submarines underneath. And those subs had missiles that could destroy cities— but they had others too, for foes that weren’t quite as large. Wires would get crossed, they’d think the US was attacking. They’d turn that whole blockade to vapour; America would have to respond. And that response would be responded to; the dominoes would start falling. It’d only be minutes before the bombs were off flying to everywhere. To Moscow. To New York. To here.

The ends of other worlds seethed above the Doctor, maybe a mile or so above the place that she now stood. They were centred in the place the first bomb blew, of course. Time broke down at the point where London ends.

As for the overgrown crater itself, it was little different from when the Doctor had last come here. No COPS, but also no passers by. And Maltimundar was also nowhere to be seen. There was only a single woman beside a blue Police Box, and in her smile rested the fate of worlds.

That other Doctor took the Doctor in, now. She looked at her tired eyes, her crumpled coat. The raygun in her hand, doing a very poor job of looking threatening. The Doctor watched as that other self’s smile widened. But there was a sadness, still, a weight in her earlier eyes.

“I’d hoped that it wasn’t just you in the end,” her other self now said. “That you were working with someone else, aiding them. But it’s as I feared, isn’t it? I’m my own worst enemy.”

“I’m not alone,” said the Doctor. “I’ve got someone coming to help.”

The other Doctor laughed.

“You mean Maltimundar?” she said. “He won’t get here in time. I made quite sure of that.”

“How?” The other Doctor shrugged.

“I’m the Doctor, and he’s not the Doctor. Does any more need to be said?”

The Doctor glowered.

“Only that if you think you’re good at delaying tactics, you might find you’ve a thing or two left to learn,” she said.

The glimmers of other futures fizzed above them, but they were faded now, muted. That Doctor and her TARDIS were anchoring the true history to the world. There was a window open slightly, just a crack. But there wasn’t long left before it would slam tightly closed.

That other Doctor patted her police box now, looking down from the top of her glasses.

“I know you think this is wrong, Doctor,” she said. “And believe me that I do understand why. I’ve heard the arguments, so many times. I’ve felt them.”

“But they’ve never stopped you,” said the Doctor.

Her other self smiled.

“And would my arguments really ever stop you?” she said. “I told you before. The Doctor in her TARDIS, doing the thing she knows is right. Nothing’s changed.”

The Doctor shook her head.

“It’s not the same,” she said.

“Then you really believe we’re any different?” her other self replied.

“Not us,” said the Doctor. “It’s not the same TARDIS.”

Her other self frowned.

“What makes you think that?” she said.

“Call it a hunch,” the Doctor said.

From her ray gun she fired a shot right at the police box, accelerated by hypersound, faster than time itself. The box had begun to explode before she’d even pulled the trigger, causality itself bursting into flame. It screamed with a roar like smashing pianos, and when the noise faded it was totally gone.

The Doctor’s other self looked back at her, shocked, her smile replaced with rage.

“She was a living thing!” the other Doctor said.

“And I’ll grieve her,” the Doctor said. “Right after the billions of other living things upon this planet have been saved.”

Above them, the possibilities boiled and seethed. Earths met their fate, and human lives were blown away.

“Whatever you’ve got planned,” the other Doctor said, “there’s no way that it’s going to be enough.”

The Doctor looked awkward.

“Yeah,” she said. “About that.”

Her other self stared at her.

“You don’t have a plan?” she said.

“I usually wing it, if I’m honest,” said the Doctor.

“Blowing up the TARDIS destabilises the timeline,” said the other Doctor. “It doesn’t stop anything from happening! I don’t need to tell you that.”

The Doctor looked sheepish.

“Oh,” said her other self, wearily. “I do need to tell you that.”

She sighed.

“If you want to save anyone, you’re a long way from where you need to be,” she said. “War doesn’t break out in London. You’re not going to stop it from here.”

She gestured to a radio in the grass below her, clicking her fingers in order to turn it on. It started playing smooth and upbeat music, inappropriately.

“We’ll hear it any moment now,” the other Doctor said. “The warning that the bombs are on the way. And we will have to leave, when we hear it. I can show you how to escape without a TARDIS. I’m guessing you’ve forgotten that as well.”

“I’m staying here,” the Doctor said.

“Then I see I’m still not someone who ever gives in,” said her other self. “They didn’t think to take that away, at least! And I respect that. Really. Truly. But you have to be honest with yourself. It’s over.”

She waved to the radio, waiting for the warning to begin—

—but on it, the cheery tunes continued to play.

“No,” said the Doctor, softly. “it’s far from being all over.”

She still looked crestfallen and helpless, exhaustion etched under her widened eyes. But underneath it all, there was now a very tiny grin.

Instantly, the other Doctor’s demeanour changed.

“What have you done?” she snapped.

“I’ve not done anything,” said the Doctor. “I really didn’t have a plan.”

“Then who are you working with?” said the other Doctor.

“No one,” said the Doctor. “I’m working with no one.”

Around them both, the jolly tune continued to play.

“But have you ever heard,” she added, “of a man called Vasili Arkhipov?”

Her other self looked at her, uncertainly.

“He’s down there now, in one of those submarines,” the Doctor said. “Deep down; they think the war’s already begun. And they’re shouting at him to fire, but old Vasili’s saying no. Because he knows what that would mean. And he knows there might still be a chance.”

“But that didn’t happen,” the other Doctor said.

The Doctor shook her head.

“Not with your TARDIS up and running,” she said. “All I did was make it possible. Put hope into a hopeless situation, because people feel it when it happens. They know.”

“That’s never happened before,” said her other self. “Not anywhere else in the universe.”

“No,” said the Doctor. “Because you never gave them that chance. I bet you never thought it was even possible.”

The sky above them was less faded, now. Something was pulsing within it. Growing greater.

“You stopped Maltimundar,” said the Doctor. “You tore down time looking for me. But you never heard of Vasili, did you? You wouldn’t have dreamt of it. What a stupid kind of fairy tale. A human being saving the world.”

Her other self didn’t respond at first. She was looking up into the air. At the possibilities that were growing brighter, stronger. The threats the Earth might go on to face, after this. War Machines and climate change. Plastic monsters stalking London, plastic bags flowing into the sea. But that wasn’t all there was in the sky above.

There was so much to be afraid of out there in this planet’s future. Enough that you might forget what was also there, or never know. That there were so many people in those places who’d never given in.

The Doctor thought of all the other versions of her, who she’d felt up there in that sky. The Doctors who were spilling out of it, right now, emerging out of her future to save the day. And now they were coming up behind her, ready to fight. A young woman in a football shirt with pencils behind both of her ears. A tired old man in a nightgown, who looked like he’d never once slept. A woman in an infantry helmet with a flack jacket lined with screwdrivers, pulling out the one that was labelled SONIC. Many, many others, as far as she could think to see.

Perhaps she lived within a terrifying story. But she’d never been a part of it alone.

“If you’re coming for this planet, then you should know,” she said. “That this world has been saved by so many different faces, to whom you’ll never be able to put a name. Human beings! Stanislav Petrov! John Onyeneme! Kong Hualing, Maureen Barnes! History doesn’t remember all their names, but I do! I know every single one!”

“You know you’re not like those people,” said her other self. “Not really. They were part of a single world; we walk in eternity. It’s that which shapes the path we choose to take.”

The Doctor shook her head.

“You might be a god, Doctor,” she said. “But we are so much more. I’ve lived in the world like everybody else, never having a clue what I really was. What made me special. That’s the only thing that makes anyone capable of judgment. Or execution.”

Her other self smiled back, indulgently.

”Then you’re really going to do this?” she said. “Stop each apocalypse after the other, every one? They’re not going to stop coming; you know that. Not the aliens; definitely not anything else.”

“Yeah,” said the Doctor. “Because that’s what being part of this world is. It’s what it means.”

She looked up at all the possible futures, and grinned.

“It’s funny, isn’t it?” she said. “All those people up there, thinking the human race isn’t going to make it. That they’re going to need a miracle. They never realise that the miracle’s already started; that it’s been going on since before I even got here. And you know what I think, Doctor? I think there’s a chance that it isn’t going to stop”—

She waved her sonic screwdriver at the radio, which began to hiss and sputter—

One small step for man,” it blared. “One giant leap for mankind!

The other Doctor stared at it. “What’s that?” she shouted.

“Moon landing,” said the Doctor.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” her other self said. “They never got to the moon!”

“Up next,” said a voice on the radio. “Many experts feared there was no chance of a peaceful end to the Cold War. Today, we now know they were wrong. As of last night the conflict is officially over— and it never went nuclear, after all”

“Yes it did!” shouted the other Doctor. “Of course it did!”

“Some say we came out of fear our first planet is dying,” crackled the radio, “yet I stand with a hope: that from now, a second world lives”—

“Mars landing,” said the Doctor, nonchalantly.

There was a time that I thought today was impossible,” said a woman’s voice said on the radio. “Perhaps there was a time it even was. But the climate has stabilised; the rainforests are recovering. And I can say to today’s children what my leaders could not say to me: that now there is no need to look to the future with fear”—

“But that’s nonsense!” said the other Doctor. “Who could possibly have managed to do that?”

“Homo sapiens!” boomed the radio in a voice like furious treacle. “What an inventive, invincible species. They've survived flood, famine and plague!”

“That’s you,” said the other Doctor, quietly.

They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts,” the radio roared, “and now, here they are! Out among the stars! Waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity”—

“That’s me,” said the other Doctor, quieter still.

She stood firm above her other self, and gritted her teeth.

“This isn’t what should ever have happened,” she said. “That’s not someone I can ever become.”

Her hands began to glow with nuclear fire.

“This world must end, Doctor,” she said. “Better that it ends here. I will stop you if I have to.”

“Not without a fight,” said the Doctor, raising her sonic screwdriver as she spoke.

“Really?” said the other Doctor. “You and Who’s army?”

The Doctor frowned, gesturing to her future selves.

“Did you not look behind me, or something?” she said.

“This lot?” said the other Doctor. “Please. You don’t know how many of us there have been, in the Timeless Reign. When things get dicey, we’re able to call for backup.”

She smiled.

“I was in the Division for a very long time,” she said. “I learned a few tricks. Do you want to see what a real police force from Gallifrey looks like?”

The Doctor grimaced. “Not especially,” she said.

“Well,” said her other self. “Then maybe, at least? If you think you can change history, you should find out how much of it you really have.”

She twiddled something in her jacket, which began to beep—

And a wheezing, groaning sound started to fill up the air—