Susan is reunited with her grandfather once again! But will things go as smoothly as he would hope?
Susan had been a great help during the Time War. She didn’t fight on the front lines, but she was instrumental in securing alliances with various races against the Daleks. Her skills developed from these assignments made her a perfect candidate for this next one. Cardinal Ollistra just hoped her newly assigned partner wouldn’t cause any trouble. She decided to give Susan the briefing in person, thinking it might soften the blow a little. Her entrance carried a great deal of elegance; even in wartime, the Cardinal made sure to keep her composure. She made the first greeting, “Good afternoon, I don’t believe we’ve met yet. You must be Susan.”
“Yes ma’am. I’ve heard a great deal about you, Cardinal. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“We have an assignment that would probably be best handled by you.”
“What kind of assignment?”
“Have you ever heard of Shada?”
“Unfortunately, I’m not quite as caught up on Gallifreyan history.”
“It’s a prison planet, meant to hold conquerors of the universe. We think one of the occupants there would be able to give us an advantage.”
“I see. What will I be doing?”
“Wake him up, explain what’s happening, promise him freedom if he works for us.”
“Is he dangerous?”
“To some. That’s why we wanted to send you. He has powerful psychic abilities, and we believe that you’ll be the most likely to resist them.”
“What kind of psychic abilities?”
Ollistra pulled a file out of her robe, and handed it to Susan. “Everything you need to know is in here. Including a dossier about your partner.”
“Yes. Just remember one thing, Susan. Whatever anyone says during this trip, you’re in charge. Got that?”
“Understood.” Susan wondered why the Cardinal mentioned that, until she opened up the file. Her Grandfather never told her that he started fighting in the Time War.
This incarnation reminded Susan of his first, mainly because of how grumpy he was. He had a lot of reasons for being grumpy. Being caught up in a war he didn’t want a part in, confined to be at Ollistra’s beck and call, and having gone a good few centuries without finding a proper razor, he didn’t even like being called the Doctor anymore. After several reminders to be on his best behavior, Susan was finally given control, and they went inside the battle TARDIS prepared for them. The outside was moderately elegant, but not so much that it doesn’t look prepared for combat. The weapons were currently concealed, like a cat’s retractable claws, so that the prisoner doesn’t know they’re a component of the vessel. The inside had a control room that almost looked like a grand ballroom with a large mushroom growing in the middle. The Seal of Rassilon was a prominent feature in the decor, as its use became more widespread after his resurrection.
The controls were preset, so all she had to do was press a few buttons. When they were finally alone, he spoke to her. “You seem to be doing rather well for yourself.”
“I’ve been doing my part. I’m glad that you’re finally helping out too.” She went to the console, while her Grandfather stayed away from it as instructed, despite how much he really wanted to take control. She stopped before pressing the buttons. “What’s the matter?”
“I hardly ever get to pilot a TARDIS of my own. It’s funny that I have about as much input as when you tried to teach me.”
“What do you mean tried?” His offence was in jest.
“You didn’t know how to pilot the TARDIS while we were together, and you know it.” Even after all this time, her giggling was still infectious.
“Well, I’ve gotten better. Maybe I could show you?”
“Not a chance.”
“Ah well. Worth a shot. At least it will be a quick trip.”
“You really think we can convince Salyaven that easily?”
“Oh, I doubt it will matter.” Susan found that odd, but he continued before she could comment. “It really is good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too, Grandfather.” She was sure that she was honest about that. Well, pretty sure. Very sure. However sure she needed to be to comfort herself. But not certain. Before long, they landed. The scanner showed an empty looking landscape, with only a building making this look different from the surface of any other asteroid.
“Well, now that we’re here, why don’t we see if this TARDIS has any deck chairs?” her Grandfather asked, rubbing his hands together. Susan was in shock for a moment. “Are you serious?”
“Well, don’t you think we deserve a bit of a rest? We have been fighting in a war, you know.”
“Grandfather, this is a serious mission!” She was aghast that, even after joining the war, he seemed to not even want to help his own people. “You once told me that you admired Salyaven. You thought he was wrongly imprisoned? Something like that? Wouldn’t you want to see him free?”
“Look, there’s something I should probably-”
“No, Grandfather, I’ve had enough of your excuses! I’m in charge during this mission and you will come with me!” He could see he wasn’t winning this one. “Fine, fine. Do you have your celery ready?”
“Right here.” She grabbed it out of her pocket. Her Grandfather put his stick on his lapel out of habit. The area around the entrance had a sort of bubble that contained Praxis gases, which was hazardous for Time Lords, to which the celery acted as an antidote after being exposed to the gases. Regeneration didn’t seem to make celery taste any better. Thankfully, they could turn the gas off temporarily once they were inside to give themselves a window of escape. The interior looked grim, to say the least. If the prisoners weren’t frozen, just looking at the inside for that long would’ve been torturous. Maybe the freezing is a sort of kindness, in that respect. Or maybe freezing them was a worse torture than death. Susan wondered how Salyaven thought of it. “Now, I’ve been studying the maps, and-”
“No need, I remember where it is.” He remembers? By the time Susan turned around to look at him, he was already sauntering off towards the cell. She hurried to catch up with him, immediately asking, “What haven’t you told me, Grandfather?”
“Well, if you let me speak back in the TARDIS, I would’ve told you, but you’re in charge and seem insistent on finding out for yourself.”
“Can you blame me?”
“Of course not! By all accounts, I should be proud of you. You’re chip off the old block, Susan.” He went to lovingly nudge her shoulder with his fist, but she avoided it. “Just tell me.” Her Grandfather stopped walking. “Why, here we are.” Tapping in the code, the cell opened to reveal a nearly empty room. She stepped inside, bending over to pick up the only thing that was in there. The small slip of paper had a note written on it, along with a gesture that’s very rude in Gallifreyan society. Susan was chastised once or twice for using it as she learned it on Earth to convey peace. He spoke up as she finished reading it, “Salyaven broke out a long time ago. He ended up quietly living out the rest of his regenerations teaching at a university on Earth. He was a friend to me.” The only thing she could think to say was, “Why?”
“Well, he took on the identity of a different Time Lord, and-”
“No, Doctor.” He stopped dead in his tracks. “Why didn’t you mention this? Not even before we went outside, you could have said anything to the people assigning us the mission.”
“I just wanted a break from Ollistra. I was under the impression that I would have a more pleasant time with you, though you seem to insist that not be the case.”
“Well I’m so sorry for spoiling your holiday, but if you haven’t noticed, a lot of people aren’t in an ideal situation in this war, but they do their job anyway. And do you know why?”
“Because the Daleks will take over everything, yes, I’m aware. I’ve been fighting them longer than any of these Time Tots in bulletproof vests that Rassilon deems worthy to call a soldier.”
“You think it’s Rassilon’s fault they have to join the fight that young?”
“Frankly, yes. I keep trying to tell them that they should try reverse engineering a Movellan or a Mechanoid sometime, but nobody ever listens to me when I actually want to help!”
“Maybe they’re cross with you because they know that this war is your fault.” He could try masking it all he wanted to, but hearing that from his granddaughter hurt. “What makes you think you can put the blame on me?”
“You know exactly why! You lied about the TARDIS not working so we would have to explore Skaro!”
“Oh, so you think the Daleks would never have been made if we didn’t go outside?” he asked sarcastically.
“Maybe not, but the Time Lords told me things about you that you never mentioned to me. A part of me still wants to believe they aren’t true, but the more you’ve been telling me, the more I’ve been starting to believe them.”
“What sort of rubbish have they been telling you?”
“They told me they sent you on a mission to prevent the Daleks from having been created.” Oh boy.
“Ah, yes. Well–”
“Apparently, you got to the point where if you had simply touched two wires together, we wouldn’t be here.”
“That’s not fair! I didn’t know any of this would happen, and they were asking me to commit genocide!”
“I understand. When they told me about that, I could tell exactly what you would’ve been thinking in that moment. That was something My Grandfather did.” He was relieved for a moment, until she continued, “That wasn’t what I was really angry about.” He knew what was coming next. “Do you remember why we left Gallifrey?”
“Oh, I had lots of reasons for leaving Gallifrey.”
“Well, I remember us leaving because we didn’t want the Time Lords using the Hand of Omega. In fact, you would always stress to me how dangerous it was.”
He sighed. “I remember.”
She moved closer to him, inches away from her Grandfather, so she could really see his face when she asked, “Then what gives you the right to use it to destroy Skaro?”
“I didn’t destroy anything. If Davros kept to himself, Skaro would still be standing.”
“Well we also wouldn’t have been here if you just let us stay inside the TARDIS on Skaro, or if you hadn’t taunted the Daleks about life on other worlds, Or if you had just touched the two wires together, OR IF YOU DIDN’T SET THE HAND’S COORDINATES!” At this point, she was absolutely furious with him. “Just answer me this. Were there any Thals on Skaro when you destroyed it?”
He tried thinking of something to say back at her, but he had to admit, “You have a point, Susan. I shouldn’t have interfered as much as I did.”
“It’s more than just that, Grandfather.” And with that, she turned around and walked right back to the entrance. Although taken aback for a moment, he was able to catch up with her quickly. “What do you mean, Susan?”
“I don’t feel like I’m back home! Ever since I accepted the call to arms, I thought I would actually feel connected to the ground we were walking on, you know? To the people I was fighting with. But, for some reason I don’t. I feel as alien walking among my own people as I do on Earth.” Her eyes were beginning to water as emotions began rushing out of her that she was trying to push aside for the time being. A tear was shed as she continued, “I feel so alone.” She looked up into his face again, having managed to shift around enough wrinkles that he looked so much warmer. “Oh, Susan.” He cupped her face, and brought her in for a hug. “I’m so sorry. I understand how you feel. Maybe it’s my fault that you’re feeling the way you do.”
“I just want to experience Gallifrey the way you did. Most of what I learned about home was from you.” Her Grandfather thought about what to say next for a few moments. Eventually, he came up with, “I think I might have an idea.”
“When all this is over, what do you say you and I go on another trip together? I’ll show you absolutely everything I can about Gallifrey, give you some hands-on experience.”
She wasn’t crying as much now. That’s a good sign. “Like what?”
“Well, obviously the first thing on the list is a guided tour of the Capitol. We could look through some archives to show you more about our history, visit places you might remember from before we left, something like that.”
She didn’t want to ask, but it’s been weighing on her mind. “Do you think we can survive it?”
“Did you think you would survive them invading Earth?”
“Not all the time.”
“And yet, here you are. I find that one of the best ways of tipping the odds of survival in your favor is to operate under the assumption that you’ll make it just fine.”
“Sometimes I feel myself getting paralyzed if I think about the war too long. Do you know, both sides are working to turn entire planets into ammunition? After I helped negotiate with the Sensorites, it started to sink in just how much an entire planet is. And we’ve resorted to throwing them at each other.” She had managed to regain her composure by this point.
“War brings out the worst in us. It’s easy for some to forget how precious life is. You never got to meet my 7th incarnation, did you?”
“No, after the Death Zone, the next one of you I met was the 8th.”
“Probably better that you didn’t. I was convinced that every move I made was like that of a chess piece in some cosmic game. The reason that I destroyed Skaro was because two separate Dalek factions were trying to use it for their own purposes. Back then, I thought it would be the only way to keep them away from the Hand. If the Time Lords can’t be trusted with it, imagine what they could do.” He sighed, reflecting on his past. “I’ve done horrible things when I was him, thinking I had the right to do so because I was “Time’s Champion.” I still never apologized to Ace.” With that last sentence, Susan could see a tremendous weight on her Grandfather’s shoulders.
“Oh, you would love her. She reminds me of you, in a lot of ways.”
“I’m sure a lot of your companions remind you of me.”
“I’m sorry, Susan. I should have been a better grandfather to you. I should have been a better person.”
“You did your best. That’s all anyone could have asked for.” She hugged him.
The journey home went without much issue. Cardinal Ollistra wasn’t happy about Salyaven’s disappearance, but seemed to almost be grateful that it wasn’t Susan’s Grandfather screwing it up. That was the last time they saw each other; even if they were related, they work on different fronts in the Time War. Susan didn’t mind, though. She has work to do.
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