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Fic: Someone Else's Promised Land
TARDIS
lyricwrites
Title: Someone Else's Promised Land
Rating: G
Warnings: none
Word Count: 2166
Characters: the Doctor (twelfth), Journey Blue
Summary: The Doctor said that he would do something amazing for Gretchen Alison Carlyle.
Author's Note: unbetaed and un-britpicked, sorry.  I am still finding my bearings with the twelfth Doctor's voice, but I'm fond of this fic even though I'm not sure I got it perfect.


When Journey had first been assigned to the surveillance base, she had shared a cabin with a Daedalan augment named Marrin.  But Marrin's broad-spectrum eyes and frightening-fast reflexes had failed er, and er body was drifting somewhere in interstellar space.  After that, it had been a baseline human woman named Tila, with similar results.  Both of those seemed centuries ago, eclipsed by Journey's latest loss.  Only responsibility made her return to her cabin at a reasonable hour rather than drowning her sorrows.  She had an observational flight at oh six hundred.  They knew the rogue Dalek had accounted for one ship by sheer element of surprise, but nobody knew if it was still operational, just that the rest of the fleet seemed to be in disarray.

She went into the room entirely focused on her bunk.  Which meant that she crouched, spun, and half-drew her gun when a familiar voice said, "Your line is too feathery and you need to stop avoiding hands.  You're obviously no good at drawing them."

Journey closed her eyes for an instant, then eased her gun back into her holster.  The Doctor looked no different than when she had last seen him.  He hadn't even changed his peculiar clothes.  "What are you doing in my desk?"

"Snooping."

The next sentence, already on Journey's lips, had been, no, you were snooping!  She shut her mouth, feeling somewhat derailed.

"This isn't an invitation, by the way.  I need your opinion on one thing, and after that, we'll probably never see each other again.  Is this your brother?"

He was holding Journey's picture cube.  Journey hurried forward and took it away from him.  "I thought you didn't care."

"I don't.  Have you ever fixed anything by caring at it?"  He got out of the chair with the same air of springlike bound energy that she'd noticed inside the Dalek.  "Come on."

"Where?"

"Out."

"Yeah, my mother never bought that one."  She followed him back out her door, though.  "How did you get in here?  The security is supposed to be absolute."

"I tiptoed."

Journey's mother would have had some choice words about that one, too.  The Doctor's bigger-inside box was parked right by the restrooms, exactly where someone should have noticed it even if it inexplicably failed to set off all the alarms.  Which it had.  She followed the Doctor inside.  "Where's Clara?"

"Teaching.  I think.  Said something about going on a date, but then she said she might have to put it off."

"Oh."  Journey took a deep breath.  "You wouldn't happen to know . . . er.  What sort of people she, um . . ."

"Likes?"

Journey nodded wordlessly.

"Ah, so that’s why.  I didn't think I was pleasant enough to make you want to come along.  I know this particular date is a young man who works at her school, but that's all.  I'm staying out of it."  He pulled a lever.  The box lurched and Journey grabbed for a handhold.

 "I'm transferring out," Journey said, somewhat arbitrarily.  "Going back planetside, to Taniwha."

The Doctor was silent for a moment.  "More to sketch on Taniwha," he said.  "Especially if you like oceans.  Or storms.  I take it you're not leaving the military."

"No.  Well, not yet.  I thought you didn't like my sketches."

"If I thought you were hopeless, why would I tell you to start drawing hands?  Minimal talent and a lot of persistence is better than the other way around, in the long run."

Journey tried to sort that into insulting or encouraging.  After a moment, she gave up.  She decided not to try to explain why she wasn't leaving the military.  If she could get some sort of job with R&D . . . nobody was confirming anything, which was SOP for the base, but rumor had it that the mission inside the Dalek might have exciting results.  The memory-suppression computer—they'd seen the things in every Dalek shell they'd broken down, but the purpose had always been unclear.  Find a weapon, maybe a virus, that would affect the thing . . . even if it didn't yield good Daleks, it might result in confused Daleks, cowardly Daleks, Daleks who didn't grate I OBEY whenever they were ordered into a suicide attack—Daleks that had some sort of motivation besides killing you and screaming while they did it.

Journey didn't have high enough science scores to be a researcher, but she wanted in on that.  Even if all she got to do was guard the labs.

They stopped after a few minutes, with another lurch.  Or, at least, Journey assumed that was when they arrived.  The Doctor spent a few more moments with the console, before striding to the door.  Journey followed him out, and then stared.

The first alien element was the light, a weird, cloudy yellow verging on green, a color that made Journey think of cartoon magic.  But the color wasn't surprising when you saw the sky, which was also yellowish green.  And the sea—they were on a steep hill, and either the sea or a very large lake was visible in the distance—that was an even more lurid shade, almost fluorescent-looking.

It was the only color.  The vegetation was sable, almost black.  Instead of grass, the ground was covered with something that looked like power cables, rubbery ropes that wouldn't have looked organic at all if it hadn't been for the numerous roots branching off them.  The trees—saplings?  Shrubs?  What they looked like was barely-opened mushrooms, except for the ones that looked like candalabras with sharply tilted plates on the candles.

It was the single most alien planet Journey had ever landed on, and she knew exactly why.  "This is a halogen world."

The Doctor's expression might have shown the faintest flicker of approval.  With him, it was hard to be sure.  "Yes."

"Chlorine instead of oxygen."

"You just said that, yes."

"The most poisonous, deadly planets in the entire galaxy.  They melt suits.”

"Good thing we're not wearing any, then."

”How are we not wearing suits?  How are we breathing?  We should be dead—"

"Dying," the Doctor said.  "Poison, asphyxiation, and pain and shock from your dissolving skin, all racing to kill you.  I'd hang on a bit longer, but it would get me in the end.  But as you might have noticed, that's not happening, so don't worry about it.  Just don't step away from my ship."

Journey took a casual step back toward the box.  "Why are we here?"

"Halogen civilizations.  Not the most popular group in the galaxy, are they?"

Journey shrugged uncomfortably.  "We get along well enough now.  Mostly.  Daleks shoot at them the same as anyone else; that has a way of putting your problems in perspective.  But before the Daleks—I don't know all the history, but didn't they try to xenoform inhabited planets?"

"Only a minority ever attempted it, but they do have that reputation.  Do you know why?"

"Because planets like this are rare.  One in a thousand, probably less.  And they take the same temperatures we do; they have to be in the Life Band.  So it isn't exactly easy for them to find a lifeless world to xenoform."

"And the galaxy being what it is, halogenic civilizations have been forced to evacuate their homeworlds in the past," the Doctor added, "which makes finding a viable planet a priority."

"Yeah.  Okay, so?"

"So, this."  The Doctor motioned to the surreal, dark landscape around them.  "Thousands of years in your past, a halogenic world is about to be destroyed by the Betelgeuse Event.  They're attempting an invasion of an oxygen world, and it's going to fail.  With or without my interference, actually; their plan is laughable.  Or tragically desperate.  One of those."

Journey swallowed.  "Okay.  So . . . there isn't anything we can do, is there?  Or is there?  And—wait, why'd you say 'about to be destroyed' when it's already happened?"

This time, she was sure about the flicker of approval.  "I said thousands of years in your past.  About two years from this spot.  And, yes, there is something I can do.  I plan to give them this planet.  If they agree to my terms."

"You can't just give away someone's planet!"

"Yes, I can, because it isn’t someone else's planet.  Yet.  I just put it here."

Journey was still for a very long moment.  Then she said,”What?!"

"There are trillions of stray worlds floating between the stars.  Orphans of the nebulas, never touched by sunlight.  I found one.  I used a supernova tap for energy—not Betelgeuse, a different supernova—and tossed it at a likely-looking K-type star.  Set off every volcano on its surface when I jerked it to a stop.  Fireworks for a hundred years."  This time, he actually grinned, a quick expression, wild and mad as it was euphoric.  "A few robots to seed the chlorine-producing algae, a few more to disseminate a basic ecosystem—jump ahead a couple of millenia, and here we are.  Move-in ready."

Journey counted to five inside her head, to make sure her voice wouldn't waver.  Then she said,"Who the hell are you?”

The Doctor's happiness switched off.  It was unsettling to watch.  Too sudden.  Too alien.  "Wrong question."

"What?"

"What you meant—what everyone means when they ask me that—is what am I?"

"Okay," Journey said unsteadily,”what the hell are you?"

"Does it actually matter where I'm from?  I'm not human.  I'm not like anything you've ever met before.  I'm very old and I've seen a lot.  The parts with people shooting at each other weren't my favorite."

"So you're giving away a planet.”

"With conditions."

"What conditions?"  What conditions could a person—an entity?—possibly want, if he could fling planets around?  What could ordinary sapients offer him?

"First, that they stop trying to take over other peoples' planets.  Second, that they evacuate their own world without regard to shell color, antennae length—whatever ridiculous trait they've picked to keep themselves from actually learning from their history."

Journey nodded cautiously.  "That sounds reasonable . . ."

"Third: when they get back on their feet, they should make provisions for refugees from other halogen civilizations."

"To make sure they have someplace to go," Journey realized, "rather than murder oxygen worlds and plant their own ecosystems—maybe make halogenics less hated?  But, I'm from the future, and I know they have been, so does that mean . . . "

"It means that one planet doesn't solve everything.  It can't.  But taking the pressure off, perhaps preventing a war or two around the fringes, or giving a group of nomads a goal rather than a universe of cold shoulders—even if it doesn't affect cosmopolitics on a greater scale, this place will save lives, and perhaps a few hopes.  What do you think?"

"I think it's—I don't even know what I think.  It's a planet.  You moved a planet.  A whole one."

"They look funny cut down the middle," the Doctor said.

"And besides, if you've already done it, already planned all this—why are you asking what I think?"

The Doctor looked away.  The strange green light gave his profile an unearthly air, as if he were an aquiline granite statue rather than flesh and blood.  "Because of my final condition," he said.  "I plan to tell the halogenics that this world is to be named Gretchen Alison Carlyle.  Linguistic drift will make it a bit different by your time, but the legacy will live on.  And you knew her.  You can tell me if she'd like it.  I could always just invent a better toaster."

Journey opened her mouth.  And then closed it, and then did it again.  She realized she was shaking her head slightly, helplessly, and that she couldn't find any words at all.

So she stepped forward and hugged the Doctor.

The reaction was immediate, dramatic, and better suited for escaping a pouncing tiger. "Stop doing that!”  The Doctor flailed free and backed away from her, composure actually broken.  "People need to stop doing that!  Is that approval, or did you just decide to jump on me?"

"I approve," Journey said.  She swiped at her eyes, realizing belatedly that she needed to.  "I think—she approves.  You know what, Doctor?  I think, underneath it all, you're nice."

"No."

"I think you are."

The stern old alien was back.  "I'm an ancient, impossible thing with enough vitriol in my belly to change a Dalek's choice of target.  I'm not nice."  The Doctor's face softened infinitesimally.  "I just prefer people who are.  I'm glad you're going to Taniwha, Journey."

The landscape here, Journey thought, was unexpectedly beautiful.  Bizarre, yes, but the candelabra-trees were fascinating to look at, and in the distance, there was the golden-green sea.  Journey had always loved the ocean.  "So am I," she said.

It wasn't until later that she realized: despite everything he said about not caring, the Doctor had remembered her name.

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This was beautiful. And provided a much-needed (well, somehow-needed) closure. I approve wholeheartedly. Thank you :)

review

(Anonymous)
This is now head Canon for me. I do hope you start writing again soon. You are my favorite story teller.

Thank you! Having two-year-olds has not been great for my health or energy, but I hope to have the wherewithal to write again sometime soon.

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