AUTHOR: Laura H fried_flamingo
FANDOM: Doctor Who
CATEGORY: Angst, Romance, Ten/Rose
SPOILERS: Season 1, TCI, CiN special and kinda sorta Doomsday
The Doctor opened his eyes slowly and fought the nausea that was crawling its way through his stomach.
It was cold. Not the chilly cold of a brisk walk in the Lake District. Not the bone biting cold of the harsh ocean winds that battered the rickety, Victorian wood of Brighton Pier, not even the pitiless cold of the barren wastes of Antarctica, which the Doctor had experienced only once in his lifetime; that was a cold that slashed at the skin on your face and threatened to turn the moisture in your eyes to ice.
What he was feeling now wasn’t that type of cold. This could only be described as… an absence of heat. There was nothing. No breeze, no sound, no light. Which meant one thing alone. This wasn’t where they were supposed to be. This wasn’t Earth.
He glanced around him, disorientated, confused by the blackness that gave no clue to his current location. Only the hard surface he could feel at his back told him he was lying down.
The Doctor sprang to his feet and whirled around. A man stood behind him, tall with slim build. The skin on his face and bald head was white, almost glowing and his eyes were pale and glassy. They did not blink. He was dressed immaculately in a dark suit, white shirt and matching tie, hands clasped neatly in front of him.
“Who are you? Where is this?”
The figure just smiled. Then the Doctor was struck by a sickening realisation. He spun around, eyes searching the darkness.
“Where is she?!” he demanded.
The suited man stood there, his expression serene.
“To whom do you refer?” the figure asked in a thin, quiet voice.
“You know damn well to whom I refer!” he spat with venom, “Where is Rose Tyler!?”
“She is contained.”
Lunging forward the Doctor made a grab for the man’s lapels. It was unclear whether he suddenly found himself facing the other way or whether the man simply moved out of his grasp too quickly for him to see, but his hands closed on nothing and when he looked the man was behind him again. The darkness was making him light-headed and he shook his head to stave off the dizziness.
“You cannot overcome me by force, Doctor. Physical laws do not apply here.”
“And where is here?”
“Don’t you know, Timelord? Haven‘t you spoken of this place before?” asked the man, his tone bearing hardly any expression.
The Doctor’s brow furrowed. How could he know this place?
The man continued. “It has many names. The Neververse. The Howling.” He paused. “Hell.”
The Doctor baulked as comprehension dawned, but the man was still speaking.
“All nonsensical names, unnecessarily poetic. Why are real-time dwellers so preoccupied with melodrama I wonder?” He shrugged dismissively and walked towards the Doctor.
“This place has only one real name, Doctor.” He inclined his head and said, “Welcome to the Void.”
The Void. A place that should scarcely be passed through, never mind visited. The Doctor battled to contain his anger and frustration and, through gritted teeth, asked, “Why have you brought me here?”
“You have meddled. The columns must balance.”
“Meddled with what? What columns?!” Then a sudden, obvious truth struck him and his mouth fell agape. “It was you. All of this it was you.” Fury still bubbled under the surface and he clenched his fists, but his words were almost whispered.
“Why? What did you hope to accomplish?”
“The chosen path had been altered, Timelord. The impossible had been achieved and it was imperative that we rectify it.”
“You mean the Time Vortex, don’t you? The heart of the TARDIS. Rose should never have absorbed it so you decided to take it all back.”
“She altered the path and left her dirty, feral stain on the timeline.” The man’s nose wrinkled in distaste. “For what? To save a species? To save you? It was a foolish action to take. Foolish and repulsively human. We found this intolerable. Therefore adjustments had to be made.”
“And you were the ones to make them.” The Doctors voice was hard and filled with disdain. “Why not me then? The regeneration wasn’t reversed. Why do I still exist in this form?”
“Regeneration of Timelords is not a matter in which we are skilled. As far as we are aware it is fixed and irrevocable. Besides, rudimentary physical form is immaterial. Your memories were what concerned us.”
“And so you removed them.”
“That much is self-evident.”
“Who are you?”
“We are the Administrators. We ensure the columns balance and procedures are correctly followed.”
“Ha!” cried the Doctor, a note of incredulity in his tone and for the first time since they had begun speaking the Administrator frowned.
“I see none of the usual requisites for laughter in this situation. Why is it amusing to you?”
“Why is it amusing?! Administrators! That’s all you are. I’ve heard all about you lot and I know exactly why you exist.” The Doctor pushed his coat back and shoved his hands casually into his pockets. The Administrator stared back blankly. “Oh come on! You said it yourself. You ensure columns balance but you have no real authority. Smug bureaucrats trying to assert power you don’t possess. Give yourselves a grand title with a capital letter at the start and try and cover up the fact that all you are is pen pushers.”
The Doctor chuckled and rocked back on his heels. “Oh you really have been getting above yourselves, haven’t you? Your purpose is to regulate the multiverse. Ensure time anomalies are kept in check, make sure cats don’t bark and dogs don’t miaow. You deal with the details.” He strode towards the colourless man who, this time, did not disappear. When he spoke again his tone was quiet, but menacing. “Since when do you get to tamper with free will?”
“Free will is a blight on the concept of order, Doctor. Free will creates chaos and that cannot be tolerated.”
“Free will is not yours to regulate.”
“And who are you to decide?”
There was a moments silence as the Doctor glared at the Administrator and fought against the malice that gripped his hearts. Right now though he sought only one outcome.
“Where is she?” he hissed.
“Come with me and I can show you.”
The Administrator turned and began walking into the blackness and the Doctor saw no option but to follow.
He stepped forward and instantly found himself in a room occupied by enormous screens that he knew did not occupy normal space time. His eyes burned as they tried to adjust to looking at something that could be right in front of him, yet at the same time be a thousand light years away. The screens were bare save for static, like a TV without the aerial and cast a blue light across the room.
In front of a computer desk sat another figure who the Doctor assumed was also an Administrator. He was dressed almost identically to the one standing next to the Doctor, apart from a few subtle differences. Glasses for one. Little half moon glasses perched on the bridge of his nose and a tie, which instead of blending in with his shirt was red; bright, cherry red. It was the only splash of colour in the otherwise monochrome room.
The first Administrator walked over to the desk at which his colleague sat and placed upon it a briefcase that had appeared suddenly in his hand. It opened with a click and from inside the Administrator retrieved a small disc and handed it to the seated man. The disc shimmered and for a moment it was so transparent that the Doctor thought it had disappeared. The second Administrator slid the disc into a slot on the console and turned his attention to one of the screens, upon which had appeared rows and rows of basic binary.
“You know, you really should think of upgrading to Windows 2000. Much more user friendly.”
“Allow me to introduce my associate, Doctor,” said the first Administrator, gesturing, and the Doctor thought he may have detected a hint of disapproval in his voice.
“To be honest I’m not really interested in social pleasantries.” He turned to glare at his host. “Give me Rose Tyler.”
“First let me show you something.” And there was a door. Right in front of him where he hadn’t even been aware there was a wall appeared the faint outline of a door. The Administrator walked over and pulled it open.
“After you,” he said and the Doctor, sensing that acceding to his requests would be the fastest route to finding his friend, stepped through.
He was in London. Westminster Bridge. It was daylight and he could see the usual landmarks, easily identifiable along the banks of the Thames; the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, King‘s College. They were all there. But there was one thing, one major thing, that was missing.
It was the middle of the day and there wasn’t a single person out on the streets. No car horns blaring, no bicycle couriers gambling with their lives weaving in and out of traffic. No traffic at all.
The sky was grey and bleak. Not the usual London Grey of overcast skies and oncoming rain. This was a lifeless grey, uninterrupted by clouds. The buildings too were bathed in the same dull light, that bleached colour from their facades.
“Where are we?”
“Come now, Doctor. I think you know.”
“I know it looks like London, but this isn’t it. Where are we?”
“Isn’t this what you wanted, Doctor? To come home? Well home is where we are. This is your universe. Your sullied, tainted world. You have reached your destination, traveller.”
“No.” The Doctor shook his head, walking backwards across the silent bridge. “No, I don’t believe you.”
“Oh I think you do. This is your universe, Doctor, and isn’t it a beautiful sight.”
“What have you done to it?”
“All we did was make the columns balance. We removed you from the reality that your friend had insisted on altering and placed you in another, more appropriate one of our own creation. This,” he said, sweeping his arm round in a wide arc, “is merely the outcome of our administrations. This is our confirmation that the project has been a success.”
“Project? Rose is not your project!”
“Ah Rose. The companion. A common theme in the life of the Doctor. Such a yearning you have, Timelord. Such a need to have someone with you. To push back the inevitable loneliness. How poignant. How utterly human.” The Administrator shook his head. “But your need takes root in self-interest. Your companions are not the centre of your world. They are like comets passing through your atmosphere. Visible for a moment, bright and vibrant, but then gone with little left in their trail. And yet you go to such lengths for this one.”
The Administrator stopped then and closed his eyes.
“Forgive me, Doctor. I have spent too long in your company. Analogies and imagery have permeated my language. I shall rephrase in plainer terms. Why do you insist upon the return of Rose Tyler?”
The Doctor swallowed, unsure of how he should answer. Unsure if he even knew what his answer would be. Then he spoke.
“ I need her.”
“You need her?” The administrator frowned. “You’re need is so strong that you would bring her here? To a defunct universe? Look around you, Doctor. This reality is spent. There’s nothing left to which you can return.”
“I’ll take my chance.”
“You would be happy to play the laws of percentages?”
The Doctor took a breath, sick of the debate that seemed to be taking him no closer to his goal. He stepped up to the Administrator, his face centimetres away.
“Enough,” he said in a low voice that was laced with malice, “No more discussion. Show me Rose Tyler. Right now!”
The Administrator stared back without flinching, seemingly unimpressed by the Doctor’s threatening tone.
“Gladly,” he said and reached out, his hand closing on a door knob that wasn’t there a moment ago. He pulled open the door that had appeared in the middle of the road and both of them stepped back through to the blue room.
Once across the threshold, the Administrator crossed to his colleague, who still sat at the desk staring at the computer monitor. Rows of noughts and zeroes scrolled upwards, almost hypnotically. The Administrator turned and looked at the Doctor as if waiting for a response.
Patience had evaporated a long time ago and now he was running on barely contained fury.
“What?!” he shouted, looking around him. “What are we waiting for?!”
“We’re not waiting at all, Doctor. You asked to see Rose Tyler and I’ve granted your request.”
“Where is she?!” roared the Doctor, the brittle thread that was holding back his rage, finally snapping. “Where is Rose!?”
The Administrator merely smiled strangely and turned to the screen upon which scrolled the lines of binary.
“Come now, Doctor. I thought you understood. That.” he said, gesturing to the screen. “That is Rose Tyler.”