Post Chosen, Post Doomstay, spoilers for Rise of the Cybermen and Doomsday.
All characters belong to their respective creators, production companies, etc. This story may not be distributed on a profit-making basis.
by Marcus L. Rowland
It's been a few months since Rose was reminded of the Doctor. The doors between universes are closed, and the work of rebuilding Torchwood keeps her busy. Life's pretty good; not perfect, there's still a gap that dad, Mickey and the other friends she's making can't fill, but pretty good. But every now and then she gets a reminder of the worlds and the men she's lost. Today it's a half-remembered face, one of a group of girls she sees across the Docklands pub, in the shadow of the Torchwood building. Rose knows she's seen her somewhere before, but can't put a name to the face.
"So what does your mum want for Christmas?" asks Mickey.
"Your mum? Christmas?"
"Christ knows," says Rose. "You've left it a bit late, haven't you? Not a box of Black Magic and a Barry Manilow CD these days. Too down-market for her."
"So what, then?"
"I don't know... Belgian chocolates, maybe? Marks and Sparks used to do a good selection in our world, I haven't checked here. A potted plant? Something for the dog?" Outside there's the lights of an airship in the sky, probably inbound to London City moorings.
"What are you getting her?" asks Mickey.
"Haven't decided yet. It'll be something girly, so don't worry. Perfume or a nightie or something."
"Jackie in a nightie. Now that's a scary thought... What are you staring at?"
"Girl over there," says Rose, nodding towards the corner where they're sitting. "The tall slender brunette, the one that looks like she should be a model."
"What about her?" says Mickey, ogling the girls.
"Nope. Should I?"
"I'm pretty sure I met her, back in the old world."
"So?" says Mickey. "Lots of duplicates around. I had a double for a while."
"I'm pretty sure I met her when I was with the Doctor."
"Oh." And like that Mickey's casual enthusiasm is gone, and he's all business. Years on the run fighting cybermen took care of that. "You think she's trouble?"
"I don't know. Maybe if I knew who she was..."
"This place has surveillance cameras," says Mickey, pulling out a pocket PC - nobody wears VR earsets any more, of course - and punching in a string of override codes. Sometimes Rose forgets how advanced the computers are here, and how thoroughly everything is networked. Of course that's how the cybermen got started.
"You can't do that," says Rose. "What about the privacy laws?"
"What about them? Okay, she's on camera. Let's try a little face-matching and biometrics... I've got nine matches. How tall would you say she is?"
"Five seven or eight."
"What's that in metric..? Okay, that narrows it down to six. Age?"
"About twenty, maybe twenty-one or two."
"Narrows it to four. Eye colour?"
"Blue-grey, I think."
"Bingo. She's in the immigration service database. Dawn Summers, US citizen. She's a student, ancient languages, currently visiting London for research. Ring any bells?"
Rose thinks, trying to remember why the face and the name means something to her. It's there somewhere, in the back of her mind, but it's eluding her.
"Hang on a minute," says Mickey, with one eye on the group. "She's headed this way." He shuts down the display.
"Excuse me," says the girl. "Are you Michael Smith?" There's something about her voice, too familiar to be coincidence.
"Umm... Yes." He's not quite drooling, but he's definitely interested. "Call me Mickey. Grab a seat. What can I do for you?"
"I'm Dawn Summers," says the girl, "and I was hoping to interview you?"
"You're a reporter?"
"I'm an author. My first book's out in May."
"Congratulations," says Rose. "What's it about?" Dawn looks at her impatiently, no doubt wondering who this rude cow is that's interrupting her.
For once in his life Mickey's perceptive and says "Sorry, forgot to introduce you. This is Rose Tyler."
"Oh right," says the girl. "Didn't recognize you, but I think I know the name. You're with Torchwood too, right? I'd like to interview you as well."
"So what's your book about?" Rose repeats.
"It's called Sunnydale Nights, it's a horror story."
Rose remembers now, remembers who Dawn is and why her book's important, or will be in the other universe. She still remembers some of what the Doctor said: 'It's about beating impossible odds. Long after the novel's forgotten people are fighting real horrors rather than giving in to them, and part of the reason is the story that girl's going to tell.' It's an eerie feeling, knowing what's to come. Or might be, if things are the same in this world. Stalling for time, she says "Sunnydale?"
"The town where I grew up," says Dawn. "Fell into caves a few years ago. I kinda embellished the story a little, and the publishers seem to like it."
"I think I heard about the disaster," says Rose. She's not exactly lying, but she heard about it ten years ago and in another universe, when that version of Dawn was a child, seven years before it happened. Time travel's funny that way. "What's it got to do with us?"
"If Sunnydale Nights doesn't flop they're going to bring out my next book in December, that one's about the LA blackout that happened a few weeks before Sunnydale, but after that I'm kinda groping for ideas. My publishers suggested the cyberman thing, and when I looked up the resistance movement I kept seeing Mickey's name." She nods at Rose. "Yours too, of course," she adds politely. It's a white lie; Mickey's the hero and is probably going to be the star of a couple of chapters, Rose will be lucky to make the footnotes. Most people don't know about her and the Doctor, the alternative universes, and their part in defeating the cybermen. "Anyway, you guys are supposed to be the experts. Someone said this is the pub the Torchwood people use, so I thought I'd hang out a while, see if I ran into any of you."
"Experts?" says Mickey. "We're pretty good at killing the bastards, and Torchwood is making bloody sure they never come back, but there are no experts on those things. The cybermen 'upgraded' everyone who understood how they work." Micky gestures the quotes. Rose guesses that within a few years 'upgrade' will be an obscenity, never used in polite conversation. As for the rest, these days Torchwood is about as public as it's possible to be, pest control for the cybernetic age. Nobody's seen a cyberman since the dimensional rift was closed, but that doesn't mean that they're not around, somewhere in the shadows, lurking like cockroaches, plotting to upgrade the human race again. Rose has no intention of being upgraded.
"They were pretty horrible," says Dawn.
"You saw them?" asks Rose. This universe got off lightly compared to her world. London and the surrounding areas were hit hard, but most other places the resistance was ready before they got out of the factories, with the military not far behind.
"Sure. Some of my friends are.. um.. special forces, they took out a few around Cleveland. I got to watch one of the autopsies. Nobody really expected them to be human inside, we thought it was robots at first."
Cleveland. That's where she'll meet Dawn again next May, in the other universe. She goes to the book launch with Jack and the Doctor. In this universe that probably won't happen, of course; she can't remember why they were in LA when they first met Dawn, but the odds are it wouldn't have happened if she and Jack hadn't been along. Things are different here; there are a few shadowy hints of the Doctor in Torchwood's files, but the pictures are nothing like the men she knew, and there's nothing recent. Maybe in this world the Time Lords weren't wiped out and the Daleks really were annihilated, maybe the war ended with no survivors.
"Is something wrong?" Dawn asks.
"Sorry," says Rose. "I was a million miles away. How long do you have to do the interviews?"
"I'll be in Britain until the end of February."
"Okay," says Mickey. "Can we do something after Christmas?" On the surface it sounds like he's asking Rose to set up the interviews. Really he's asking if it's okay to talk to Dawn, or if something needs to be done about her.
"Tell you what," says Rose. "The person you really want to talk to is my dad, he was in it from start to finish. Then Mickey and some of the other people who were fighting them before they came out into the open. You can meet most of them at our New Years Eve party, if you're free that evening, and we can set up some interviews then. How does that sound?"
Dawn grins, and says "Excellent."
"Give me your details, I'll send you an invitation."
They chat for a few more minutes, then Dawn goes off with her friends. Mickey waits until she's gone, then says "She's okay then, is she?"
"Dawn? Yes, she's fine."
"But you said you ran into her with the Doctor."
"Sorry if I got you worried. I remembered while we were talking. We met her in Los Angeles when she was a kid, he told me she'd be a famous author when she grew up. Nothing to worry about, it probably didn't even happen in this universe." It's near enough the truth.
Mickey doesn't need to know the full story, that there's something funny about time when Dawn's a kid. In the other universe it drew the TARDIS in, then they checked her out a few years later, the day her first book was launched, to make sure that she was okay. In this universe the odds are that none of it happened, that time took care of itself without the Doctor sticking his nose in. But there's always a slim chance that some of the story is the same. It's worth trying.
She's going to make friends with Dawn, and check out that signing in Cleveland next May. The Doctor won't send Rose to queue up for autographs in this world, there wasn't a Rose to send until she was dragged through. But maybe, just maybe, he'll be there himself, or send Captain Jack along, if they ever met in this universe. And Rose still has a TARDIS key, it was round her neck when she fell through the rift, and she's never taken it off. It's all she needs to get the Doctor to listen to her, if he shows up. Most likely it's a wild goose chase. Even if it isn't, maybe the Doctor here is nothing like the man... men... she knew. It doesn't matter. She wants to visit the stars again. She wants her Doctor again, if he exists here. She remembers what he said. 'It's about beating impossible odds.'
She repeats it like a mantra. 'It's about beating impossible odds.'
She's done it before, she can do it again. She can beat the odds.
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