Characters: Fifth Doctor, Turlough, Susan
Genre: Gen, character study, vignette
Summary: Susan, the Doctor's granddaughter, discovers the surprising truth about her family.
Disclaimer: The sandbox belongs to the BBC. I'm just playing here, in the corner, making little sand-TARDISes.
A/N:This is another of my older stories. It was originally posted to Usenet in 1994.
I always wanted to have Susan's background explored in greater depth. I haven't read most of the NAs, and don't feel obligated to regard them as canon. Looms are for carpets and tapestries, thank you very much.
She looked out the window of their flat at the rubble-covered lot across the street. The scars of the Daleks' tyranny were slowly being erased, but the lot had remained untouched, except by the workmen restoring an adjacent building, who used it as a dumping place for broken furniture, corroded pipes, and basketloads of crumbled plaster. The scene reminded her of a certain junk yard, only nine kilometres from her current location. Nine kilometres -- and two centuries.
Susan turned away from the window. "Grandfather, I wish I could talk to you," she whispered.
Turlough sat on his bed, scowling. He missed Tegan, stubborn and temperamental though she was, but he had very little practice at missing people. (You could not count the shadowy memories that sometimes drifted through his mind just before sleep, memories of the father and brother exiled to the hell of Sarn.) Anyway, Tegan was home now, returned to her own planet and time, which was more than he dared hope for, unless by some miracle the Imperial Clans regained power on Trion.
The Doctor was depressed by Tegan's departure too, though in typical Doctor fashion he refused to discuss the matter, busying himself with what Turlough believed to be unnecessary repairs to the TARDIS console. "It was her free choice; we must respect that, Turlough," was all that the Time Lord would say. "Now, where did I put that parabolic oscillator?"
Turlough jumped up from the bed. Three days of the Doctor's non-stop busywork was driving him loony, and he suspected it wasn't doing the TARDIS much good, either. Maybe he could persuade the Doctor to go on holiday somewhere. A little tactful coaxing... He trotted down the main corridor to the control room. "Doctor," he blurted, "I think--"
The young Trion broke off his remark in mid-sentence. For the first time in several days, the Doctor was not crouched under the main console. He was bending over it, and he appeared to be programming new destination coordinates.
"We're going somewhere?" Turlough asked.
The Doctor raised his head. "Earth."
Turlough forgot about tact and coaxing. "Earth!" he wailed. "Doctor, in case you've forgotten, we've just come from Earth. In fact, we seem to go nowhere else! This is a good-sized galaxy, Doctor -- it *has* got other planets!"
The Doctor looked at Turlough with a somber expression. "If you're tired of travelling in the TARDIS, you are free to leave," he replied. "I'll be in the Cloisters."
Their arrival on Earth did nothing to dispel Turlough's gloom. Immediately after materialization, the Doctor reappeared in the control room. "This shouldn't take long," he said, with something like his old brisk cheeriness. "No, I want you to stay here, Turlough. On no account are you to leave the TARDIS. While I'm gone, you can.... well, just take a look in the room across from yours and see if everything's ship-shape, will you?"
"All right, Doctor." The room across the corridor was the one that had been Tegan's, just as his own had once belonged to that boy from E-Space -- Adrus or Alzic, something like that. Was the Doctor expecting to take on a new passenger? From what he'd heard, the Time Lord didn't really choose companions; they just... happened. Turlough himself was a case in point. He'd more or less forced his way aboard the TARDIS, partly in desperation to leave Earth, partly to fulfill his debt to the Black Guardian.
Turlough shuddered. He still had nightmares about that entity of chaos and darkness. That's behind me now, he reminded himself. His contract with the Guardian was annulled, and the Doctor had completely forgiven him. How many Earthmen or Trions would have shown such generosity? Turlough wondered. Still, Gallifreyans must have a capacity for grudges and vengeance. Look at the Master!
Turlough chewed on his lower lip, which made his sullen face look even less attractive. What if the Doctor planned not to add another companion, but to replace his current one? For the first time he realized how accustomed he had become to the TARDIS. He'd always known he'd be leaving it someday, but-- Get a hold of yourself, and stop being such a fool! he told himself. You're acting as if you were back at Brendon School, about to be sent to the Head's office. He probably just wants to be sure Tegan didn't leave any of her things behind.
"By the way, Doctor," he said with false casualness, "just where are you going?"
The Doctor paused. Beyond him, through the open door, Turlough caught glimpses of pavement strewn with rubble and debris. The Time Lord flashed an unconvincing smile. "To see a friend."
Susan sat in a sagging armchair, clutching a cold, untouched cup of tea. She had never before had a problem that she could not discuss with someone. Grandfather had always been willing to listen, even if he did grumble sometimes, and Barbara had more than one "girl talk" with her. Since then, there'd been David, of course. She could talk to him about anything. Anything except this.There was a knock on the door. "Coming!" she called out, dabbing at her red eyes. Before she could hoist herself out of the chair's depths, the door swung open.
"Susan?" an unfamiliar voice inquired. A man stepped into the room. He seemed to be about her own age, lean and fair-haired, and dressed in a peculiar archaic costume: a sort of fawn-coloured suit, trimmed in red, and decorated with a crisp stalk of celery on the lapel. "Susan," he said again, and this time there was no question in his voice, only warmth and concern.
Despite the years of separation, Susan was still a child of Gallifrey. Coming from a society where regeneration was a normal fact of life, she attached little importance to outward appearance. Moreover, she had her share of the Gallifreyan telepathic ability, untrained though it was. When the "stranger" spoke her name for the second time, Susan knew his identity as surely as she knew her own. "Grandfather!"The man nodded. "I heard you calling me."
"Oh, Grandfather, I've been so--" Susan burst into tears.
The Doctor gathered her into his arms. "Brave heart, Susan," he murmured. "Don't be so glum -- one would think you were being chased by Daleks, hmm?"
Susan realized how she would look if any of the neighbors chanced by -- standing in the doorway, tearful, and in the embrace of a oddly dressed stranger. "Perhaps you'd better come in," she stammered.
The Doctor followed her into the flat, and pulled a second chair close to hers. Susan gestured at the celery in his lapel. "Are you still having trouble with Praxsis allergies?" she asked.
"Just a precaution," the Doctor replied. "Now, tell me what the trouble is," he said brightly, "and we'll soon make it right."
Susan's eyes traced the worn, faded patterns in the carpet, then met her grandfather's patient gaze. "I'm going to have a baby."
The Doctor nodded. "I thought it might be something like that."
"But-- it shouldn't be possible!" Susan protested. "Two completely different species can't interbreed! That's basic genetics."
The Doctor sighed. "First of all, we Gallifreyans aren't as different from humans as some would like to believe. Evolution tends to follow certain patterns throughout the universe, you know. In any case, Gallifreyans have a certain genetic mutability. That is what makes regeneration possible."
This was familiar ground. The technology of regeneration, attributed to Rassilon, drew on the potential inherent in every Gallifreyan. Those who survived the arduous years at the Academy were then subjected to DNA microstimulation, and were taught the mental configurations which would induce regeneration at the time of need.The Time Lord continued, "There are medical techniques similar to regeneration patterning, which make it possible for a Gallifreyan to have a child with a member of a compatible species." He hesitated. "You owe your existence to those techniques. Your father was a human, from Earth."
Susan gawked at him, speechless.
The Time Lord sighed. "I always meant to tell you before this, Susan, but I kept putting it off, and..." His voice trailed away.
The Doctor had always avoided any mention of the parents who had died before she could form memories of them. Now, for the first time, he spoke of his lost daughter and her alien lover, his eyes fixed on the faded carpet.
Susan's mother, Kyladrasuthorena, had graduated the Prydon Academy with top honours at the precocious age of 108. The young Time Lady shared her father's passion for field research, particularly on the planet Earth. It was on one such expedition that she met Michael Drake, an Oxford historian.
"She broke all the rules," the Doctor reminisced. "Told him who she was, showed him her TARDIS, even took him on a quick jaunt back to the Tudor era, which was his speciality." He smiled, remembering. "It frustrated him no end that he couldn't publish anything, but time travel isn't on the Oxford list of approved research methods. Narrow-minded, these academics."
The rule-breaking went even further. Against all Gallifreyan law and custom, Kyladra and Michael married. The Doctor wrinkled his brow. "18 June, 1947, by Earth reckoning, in a registry office in London." The bride used forged ID which showed an age somewhat younger than her actual 137 years.
"She couldn't bring him to Gallifrey, of course. The Time Lords," he said with sudden bitterness, "like to keep other races at a safe distance, so they can maintain their feeling of superiority."
Not for the first time, Susan wondered at her Grandfather's anger at his own race. She knew still nothing about the crisis that had made him a criminal in the eyes of his world, but she had seen its scars. "Grandfather?" she said, her voice taut with concern.
The Time Lord gestured curtly. "Things have changed somewhat since then -- for the better, I think. The Capitol needs a savage or two, to stir things up. As I was saying, they travelled together in her TARDIS as often as possible. You were born there, in her TARDIS's medical section. It was materialized at the time, so you can truthfully call yourself a Londoner." He looked out through her window. "24 May, 1948."
"Then... when I was at the Coal Hill School, in 1963..."
"You were in your proper time zone, yes."
"No wonder I felt so at home there!"
"They wanted you to have both heritages," the Doctor explained, "which is how you came to have two names. Susan was the name of your father's mother."
Susan's eyes widened. She had never much cared for her Gallifreyan name. From her earliest childhood, her grandfather had called her Susan. She -- and everyone else -- had assumed that it was a nickname such as Gallifreyans of the Time Lord class commonly adopted.
The Doctor's gaze never wavered from the carpet as he related the next part of the story. Kyladra and Michael had left seven-month-old Susan in his charge while they went on a brief expedition to Yarizar, an uninhabited planet in the Taurean group. As Yarizar was unstable, prone to landslides and planetquakes, they remained within running distance of their TARDIS. This precaution should have been sufficient. It was not.
There was no question of what to do with their orphaned daughter. Michael's nearest living relative was an arthritic great-aunt who would have been burdened even by an ordinary infant. Susan remained on Gallifrey with her grandfather.
Even so, the problems of her mixed blood were only postponed. Susan had been accepted as Kyladra's child by an unknown father -- an irregular situation, but not as scandalous as the truth. As Susan grew, it became increasingly evident to the Doctor that he could not long conceal her differences.When circumstances forced him to flee Gallifrey, the Doctor had no choice but to take Susan into exile with him. "The Time Lords might have tolerated a half-alien child in the Capitol, but not the grand-daughter of a criminal," he said quietly. "So, off we went, and... here you are."
Susan slumped back in her chair, trying to assimilate what she'd heard. In just a few short hours, the map of her personal universe had been completely rewritten.
The Doctor was watching her with anxious eyes. "I should have told you before, I suppose, but I kept waiting until you were old enough, and..." He threw up his hands in a vague gesture. "You aren't uncomfortable about it?"
"Oh, Grandfather!" Susan chided. All those years of travelling round the galaxies, and he thought her capable of such narrowmindedness? She had fallen in love with a man she'd believed to be an alien, and had found joy and contentment in his company. How could she be uncomfortable to learn that her mother had done the same?
"Grandfather..." She groped for the right words. "The world I thought was mine by adoption is mine by birthright, too. What better gift could you give me?"
He tried unsuccessfully to conceal his relief. "Yes, well... I thought you would see it that way. There's no need to worry about the child, you know. The fact that you were able to conceive without... assistance is a very good sign." The Doctor removed his spectacles and began to fiddle with them. "He'll only have one heart, I imagine. When in Rome, and all that."
Susan clucked her tongue. As if that mattered! It was far better for her child to possess a physiology familiar to the local medical science. She'd always been grateful for her own good health, for it was certain that there were no Terran physicians in this time zone capable of treating her.
Fortunately, Gallifreyans were a disease- and injury-resistant species. It was conceivable that she'd never suffer so much as a head cold for the rest of--
The Doctor froze too, and then he cast off his mask of casual indifference. He knew what she was asking, and why. He had spent centuries among people who numbered their lives in mere decades. In his face was the naked anguish of a man who has said too many goodbyes; who has been burnt too often, but still cannot tear himself away from the brightness and warmth of the transient flames.
A slow eternity passed while Susan awaited his answer. Even those Gallifreyans who were not Time Lords and did not regenerate could expect a life-span of more than three hundred years. That was one implication of her marriage to David that she had never permitted herself to dwell on, never dared to mention to him. The thought had been unendurable.
"In many ways," the Doctor mused aloud, "your overall physiology is Gallifreyan -- the hearts, and so forth. But in the details of blood composition and body chemistry, your human heritage is dominant. You are unique, but the medical evidence is that you should have a Gallifreyan's health and vigour for the entirety of a typical human life-span. If I had to make a rough guess... a century?"Susan expelled all her pent-up tension along with her breath. Her bright, moist eyes fixed on the Doctor, thanking him wordlessly.
The Time Lord rose from his chair and began to pace. "Susan," he said, not meeting her gaze, "if I should happen to be wrong about this, you could, that is, afterwards-- you could go back to Gallifrey."
"Grandfather!" she exclaimed.
He mistook the reason for her startlement. "You see, I helped out with a bit of trouble, and the High Council was rather grateful, so if you should want to go home, I'm sure that they'd be pleased..." His incoherent sentence faded away without actually ending. "Or... you could come with me, in the TARDIS."
"Grandfather, this is my home now," she said, as gently as she could.
"Yes. Yes, of course. I'm glad you're feeling settled," he said with a lightness that deceived her not at all, "but I suppose I ought to be going."
Susan flung her arms around him. "Thank you for coming, Grandfather." She walked him to the door.
"Goodbye, Susan. It's been good to see you. Please do give my regards to David." He was already a few paces down the hall when he halted and looked over his shoulder. "Ummn, Susan?"
She had no need to wait for the question. "I already checked, Grandfather. A girl." He nodded, and was gone.
Susan closed the door of the flat. She resisted the temptation to rush to the window and watch his departure. Time travel had taught her that the past was fully as real and alive as the present or future. She headed for the kitchen instead, and busied herself with making a fresh cup of tea. Oblivious of the full kettle in her hand, Susan watched the glowing red spiral of the heat coil. She murmured experimentally, "Kyladra Drake Campbell..."
Turlough scowled. Maybe it was his room he ought to be cleaning and packing up. Only... what had he got to pack? A few replicas of his Brendon school suit, courtesy of the TARDIS's automated wardrobe. He had never understood why people, Earth people especially, insisted on cluttering up their lives with souvenirs and similar rubbish. The past was the past, even on the TARDIS. Once gone, best forgotten. Like Tegan.
He flung himself down on the bed, heedless of the smooth white coverlet. He lay there, unmoving, staring up at the white hexagons of the ceiling tiles. How many of them were there? Probably the Brigadier had taught the formula in his dreary maths class at Brendon, but Turlough had never paid much attention to lessons. An Imperial Clansman had nothing to learn from the science of a primitive backwater planet. On Trion, they had computers to solve such petty problems. Proper computers, not the inefficient toys that Earth produced. Even those were beyond the comprehension of most Earth people. Tegan had never shown the slightest interest in science, terrestrial or alien. Turlough muttered a short, vicious phrase in Trade Standard. The annoying girl was gone -- so why wouldn't she get out of his thoughts?
The corridor door swung open. "Everything ship-shape here?" a voice inquired. The Doctor breezed in. "Stop lazing about, Turlough. No room on the TARDIS for slugabeds."
The young Trion jumped up, tugging at the edges of the coverlet to straighten it. He turned towards the Doctor. The Time Lord set his gold spectacles on his nose to inspect the condition of the room. "Well done, Turlough," he said, with a faint air of surprise. "Now, let's pop down to the control room and set some coordinates, shall we?"Turlough stammered, "But, Doctor, what about your friend?"
"She's at home where she belongs," the Doctor replied.
"Like Tegan," Turlough grumbled.
The Doctor pushed his spectacles up and peered at his young companion, seeming, for the first time in days, to really notice him. "Like Tegan," he agreed.
"She was a terrible nuisance," Turlough said. "Bossy. Pigheaded. Always complaining."
The Time Lord nodded. "I'll miss her too." He spun on his heel. "Coming?"
"Where are we going?" Turlough tried to match the Doctor's swift pace.
"As you so wisely observed, it is a rather large galaxy, and a bit of adventure and excitement is just what we need right now to cheer us up."
Turlough sighed. What he needed most was to recuperate from their last bit of adventure and excitement. "Couldn't we just go on holiday and relax for a while, Doctor?"
"Relax?" The Doctor echoed the word as if it were an alien term beyond the scope of his Time Lord linguistic powers. "I suppose a brief holiday might be arranged." His face brightened. "Just the thing! 21 July, 1969." He began programming coordinates into the console.
Turlough raised a skeptical eyebrow. The date meant nothing to him. "Somewhere tranquil, I hope?"
The Time Lord flashed one of his rare smiles. "Oh, yes," he promised. "A veritable Sea of Tranquility."
-- THE END --