Title: Set Fire To The Stars On Fire, Chapter 1
Author: scarlet_city / odtwistofevents
Fandom: Doctor Who
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rating: PG (language)
Length: 2,747 words.
Pairing: None as of this chapter.
Spoilers: Season 3, Episodes 8 & 9: "Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood"
Warnings: This fic will eventually contain torture, angst, slash, and possibly some horror elements.
Summary: The Eleventh Doctor feels someone walk over his i and goes to UNIT, year 2063 to find out why. It has to do with a scarecrow who was once a man, who was once an alien--and a sinister presence that would like to play a game.
Author's Notes: Title is taken from the song "Set Fire To The Face On Fire" by the Blood Brothers.
The being once known as Jeremy Baines was bored.
Really bored. So bored he thought he could die, if there wasn’t that one pesky problem. He no longer could.
Oh, Doctor. Kindness, eh? So kind, and yet so cruel. It’s no wonder you ‘won’ the Time War; you really are the perfect soldier. No one gets hurt, until they make it personal. Then the gates of Hell’s fury open and you feel nothing for the victims of your kindness.
But of course, 150 years (give or take) strapped in a scarecrow and unable to move had allowed him to mull these thoughts over for longer than he would’ve thought possible. Paralyzed within the stasis field with only the ability to think—the Family had a vast capacity for consciousness, after all, being gaseous in form—he ran his life over and over in his mind so many times that he knew exactly how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
12. Not that knowing that would serve him. In his mind, he sighed and wished he could remember how it felt to move. He could feel nothing of his body; the stasis kept everything perfectly still, so it was like not having a form at all.
He had been formless long enough. And then, upon getting a form, each member of the Family had been thoroughly tricked by the Time Lord, tricked into being formless in a different way.
In his mind, Baines clenched his fists.
In nowhere and nowhen quite yet, the Doctor shivered. He had the strange feeling that someone had just walked over his grave--possibly even danced a sprightly jig over it. The thought was ridiculous of course, as he never planned to be shoved under the dirt of any strange planet, but he could not quite shake the chill nonetheless. Had he forgotten something important again? Left the toaster oven on?
"Hey, Rory, did I leave toaster oven on?"
Rory looked up from the book he had been reading with an expression of befuddlement.
"There's a toaster oven on the TARDIS?"
"Of course there is, you big goof! How else do you think I made toast and jam earlier?" Amy questioned drolly, as she strolled into the control room. Rory gave her a smitten look. The Doctor didn't think Rory was capable of giving Amy an un-smitten look, but he was pretty sure that it had gotten worse since the wedding.
"So, boys," Amy continued with a yawn and stretch of her arms, "where are we off to?"
The Doctor frowned in consideration. He really didn't want to go there, but if he hadn't left the toaster oven on...
"I think we had better head to UNIT. Not sure what time though...suppose I'll leave that up to the TARDIS."
"Is there trouble then?" Amy asked at him with a raised brow. "You know, the universe-destroying kind that tends to follow you around?"
He activated the time vector and began to fiddle with the blue stabilizers.
"Not sure. Best pop in and have a look."
Sometimes traveling through the Time Vortex felt like a roller coaster that lasted all year; lots of being thrown about and crashing into things and hanging on tight and possibly—occasionally—screaming for your mother. This time was different. It was like the TARDIS herself was anxious, worried, and though she couldn’t keep still she couldn’t find the heart to give them a wild ride.
It made the Doctor nervous. And Amy could tell.
They landed, but before the Doctor could sprint away, Amy grabbed his arm. “What aren’t you telling us?” she said, with a serious face and intent eyes. The Doctor wriggled a little and looked sheepish. “What? What do you mean? I said we were going to UNIT, didn’t I?”
Amy didn’t let go. The Doctor wasn’t really sure if he would run if she did, but he held on to it as an option. Sadly, she was stubborn and also smart. He liked that, but would have preferred something different right about now.
“I’m waiting,” was all she said in reply. Who do you think you are, Pond? the voice in the back of her head said. He trusts you, but not that much! She shoved it away and told it firmly to kiss off. She was still holding on.
“Ah. Well.” The Doctor cleared his throat. “I have to check in on a scarecrow. At UNIT. Happy?”
Amy let the silence drag.
After a few minutes and a few exasperated looks among the three of them, the Doctor sighed. “Oh, very well. Before I regenerated into this form, I was in a fix. My companion and I were hiding from these beings that called themselves the Family of Blood, kind of like mayflies made of gas who possessed humans, and I really, really didn’t want to have to confront them, I wanted them to just fizzle out, but they were very persistent. They wanted me, Time Lord, etc, because I could give them immortality. In the end I, ah, gave it to them. One of them was a scarecrow in a field…I check back, every once in a while, to see him. To make sure he’s still there. Still a scarecrow. Sometime in the late twentieth century he made his way into UNIT’s stockpile, so we need to go there and see.”
Amy frowned, but finally let go. “I hope I’m not the only one who feels like this is a bad idea.”
“Nope,” Rory said. “I am definitely with you there. Immortal aliens who eat Time Lords. What could be better?”
The Doctor laughed, quietly, possibly with a bit of hysteria. “Thank you, Rory. Because that is exactly what I wanted to hear right now.”
The doors creaked and they stepped out into the bright midday sun at UNIT’s London office. The Doctor checked his watch. “So, here we are. UNIT. 2063, August the…fifteenth. Sunny and calm, and… oh hello. There’s the welcoming party.”
Three UNIT officials, upon hearing the TARDIS’s distinctive engine, had come out to receive them. Each was dressed in no. 2 service dress, and yet—
“Hang on,” Rory whispered, “The army always wears green. Why are their uniforms…white?” Amy elbowed him to be quiet. Rory grumbled, but said no more.
“Doctor,” the woman in the middle saluted him. The men on either side of her followed suit silently. “Major Jennifer Campbell. We were not expecting you. How can we offer you our services?”
Amy noticed the Doctor fidgeting, tiny movements that the UNIT officers probably wouldn’t notice, but that made her wary. “Actually,” he said, “I wanted to have a look into your storeroom. An old acquaintance of mine is there, in stasis, and I want to know that he isn’t a threat.”
The major looked the tiniest bit affronted. “Doctor, I can assure you, our storerooms are well guarded and the contents safe even from themselves. We must have thousands of artifacts now, many from you, and we can’t just—”
“Major, the request was a courtesy. I need to see it.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but just gaped. After a few seconds she closed it, and cleared her throat. “This way, please.”
Major Campbell led them down a series of identical and nondescript hallways to what was decidedly not a storeroom. Instead they were in what appeared to be one of the science department's work labs. There were several projects in various states of completion, and the Doctor could not help but be impressed with how advanced some of it was. In fact, were those...
"Are those banshee circuits? That's...that's...that's impossible! Those are TARDIS components! Earth shouldn't have the proper materials to make these, let alone the technology...no...hmm...but...no. Nope. Nuh-uh. Still doesn't make sense."
The Doctor picked up one and promptly began disassembling it. Looked the same. He sniffed it. Smelled the same. He cautiously stuck out his tongue and licked a strip of metal, keeping his tongue there to get an accurate assessment.
Someone cleared her throat. Loudly.
The Doctor looked up without removing his tongue. Rory seemed rather confused, Amy had her arms crossed and appeared ready to scold him, and Major Campbell wore an expression of appalled distaste. He removed the circuit from his mouth and placed it carefully on the table.
"Right then. We're not in the storeroom. Why are we not in the storeroom? Also, I really would like to meet the person who made these. And by ‘I would really like to meet the person who made these’ I mean ‘you have no choice but to show me who came up with this.’ You know, the whole courtesy thing again."
Major Campbell sniffed. "I was about to accomplish both before you decided it was necessary to lick the equipment."
She turned around as she spoke and continued to lead them to the back of the lab where a lone figure sat hunched over the papers and baubles strewn across the table. As they drew closer, however, the Doctor realized that the person was not diligently working but slumped over in sleep. At first, the Doctor thought the figure was female because of the long, strawberry blond braid, but it quickly became apparent that he was definitely male. The hands were too large and angular, and the body was the wrong kind of thin.
Next to the man's head lay a much abused comic section of the day's paper that was held down by a sinker. Above that was a paper cup that was still one-third full of cold, black coffee and a peanut butter and jam sandwich with one bite out of it. Stacks of papers with carelessly scribbled equations were pillowed under the man's head and beneath his oil and ink stained arms. There was something disconcertingly familiar about the equations...
"This is Doctor Hollis St. Clair," Major Campbell sneered with more than a little derision. "He will show you to the proper room, since he wanted to make that his responsibility. Please come find me if you need further assistance."
When she had walked several feet away, Rory broke the silence again.
"Well, I take it she isn't very fond of this bloke. Or us since she seem to have foisted us on him. Think we should wake him?"
The Doctor shook his head distractedly, still eyeing the equations. One equation in particular. One equation in particular that he could barely see right under this St. Clair's ear.
Very quietly the Doctor leaned over the man's shoulder and peered at the space where his head met the desk.
"Doctor! What. Are. You. Doing?!" He could hear Amy whisper-shout from behind him. He turned around to give her a disapproving shush face. Then, he turned back to the sheet of paper with the troublesome equation. He just need to pull the paper out a little more...but something was different. What had changed? The paper was there and the head with the long coppery blonde hair and the grey eyes...Oh, dear. Yes, those were definitely open grey eyes.
The Doctor cleared his throat. "Yes, well, hello. I'm the Doctor. You are also a doctor. Doctor Hollis St. Clair, I believe. You have a scarecrow I'd like to check up on."
Dr. St. Clair raised his head up from the desk, hair messy and glasses askew. He ran fingers through his hair quickly and pushed his glasses up higher, but he still didn’t look awake…until he really focused on the Doctor.
“Ah! It’s you, oh, what a day. Nothing like two geniuses meeting to make the world go all topsy-turvy.” He stuck out a hand and then retracted it. “No, no, you aren’t one for touching, so I’ve heard… Oh yes, all this clutter…” He picked up a hunk of the papers lying in stains and tossed it in the garbage can next to the desk, making for the rest of them, but the Doctor snatched it up first.
“Right, nice to meet you, but what I want to know, is—banshee circuits. You have them. Why? And where did you get this equation?” He brandished the paper in the direction of Dr. St. Clair’s face. The engineer looked amused rather than insulted.
“Oh, banshee circuits… Is that what they’re called? I wasn’t aware, but that is quite fitting. I made them, they were my pet project for about… a year? They’re finished now.”
“Yes, but what are they for?” The Doctor said, somewhat impatient upon remembering the scarecrow. He needed the scarecrow. Why not just put it on the TARDIS? But no, that really was a bad idea. If I kept all the enemies I’d vanquished, or all the trophies I’d won… Too crowded.
“They’re like…extra hard disk drives. They save information—I mean, all information, passengers, cargo, the ship itself—into themselves and lock down a ship so that nothing can get in or out. They’re like emergency bubbles that pause the ship and prevent it from crashing. Very specific; not entirely useful. Working on it,” he finished sheepishly. The Doctor’s eyes narrowed.
“This technology…is so far beyond human capacity. There is no way you could have created this yourself. I’ve seen it happen before; people passing off technology like they thought of it all themselves. Even I couldn’t make these myself; it takes a whole team of dedicated researchers to create these even in their own era. So tell me, Doctor St. Clair—where did you get these plans?”
Dr. St Clair simply laughed. It was almost…mad.
“I’ve heard the tales, Doctor. ‘The Oncoming Storm’; ‘fire and ice and rage’; ‘the lonely god’. But I’ll tell you this: You don’t scare me. And maybe it’s foolish, petty, but I reserve the right not to answer your question. Now,” he said brightly, “let me take you to the storeroom.” And he walked to the stairs.
They followed him all the way down the flights of stairs, down, down, into UNIT’s basement, and the Doctor never once took his gaze from St. Clair.
The storeroom was a vast hangar of space extending beneath all of the UNIT property. Its surface area was larger than three football fields placed side-by-side; and even then there was barely any room to admire what filled it.
There was a Cyberman suit, now empty, left from the Canary Wharf debacle; Autons salvaged from the invasion attempt of 2005; remnants of Torchwood 1’s arsenal; the pterodactyl, now dead, that had haunted Torchwood 3’s base; the empty Dalek armor from Henry van Statten’s stronghold… So many memories, totems, trophies. An archive of the ways the Doctor had prevented disaster, all saved should they one day have a use.
“Dr. St. Clair,” the Doctor said, all business. “Can you direct me to the scarecrow?”
“It should be section C, aisle 87. Or was it B-43… Or G-14?” He smiled, a thin, serpentine, mirthless smile, with a flash of white teeth. “Looks like you’ll have to start combing, Doctor.”
The Doctor’s eyes blazed, and for a second Amy was sure he would lay down his pacifist mantle over a petty argument. But no, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “…Okay,” he sighed, turning to his companions. “I’m going to need your help with this one, it seems. Rory, Section A, please. Amy, Section B. I’ll take Section C. You are looking for a ragged grayish-brown scarecrow, possibly with straw, but unlikely. You may be able to see a dark-haired young man underneath the cloth. Go. As for you, Dr. St. Clair… Thank you for your time.” Their eyes met and St. Clair bowed, a strange sentiment in modern Earth that reminded the Doctor of Gallifrey. The engineer turned his back and was gone.
“Work, work, work,” the Doctor muttered, scanning the shelves and racks and miscellany. Always work. Why wasn’t he on the TARDIS, roaming freely through time with his companions, his lovely wedded companions… How nice it was, that love permeated the air and filled it pleasantly, instead of raking one’s flesh with its claws. But wait, getting off track…
What was that? The drumming, no, it couldn’t be, that was not his madness, but someone else’s left like another fragment of disaster—so why—? But no, his hearts, his hearts were beating louder, pounding, pounding in his ears… Dizziness swept over him like a hurricane, making him fall, the orange encroached over his vision, and then—