Copyright:Doctor Who, its characters, primary universe and plot devices, are owned by the BBC. Anything not owned by them is owned by Big Finish Productions. This leaves me with the white space around the characters and between the lines. This fanfic is for entertainment (and/or author psychoanalysis) purposes only. No infringement is intended.
This short story is set with an indeterminate post-ninth Doctor and makes reference to some concepts and events described in the New Series. It also makes reference to concepts and events from the Eighth Doctor stories from Big Finish.
*** Excuses ***
The ending is horribly weak. Amputation is recommended, but the author lacks the medical facilities to provide a prosthetic alternative.
The sky was dark. It had been dark for some time, now. Well, a much as time meant anything in the desolate world he was in. The inky blackness was total. No stars, planets, moons or nebulae to offer even the faintest of light. The silence had been crushing, once, but he had long-since ceased to be aware of such details. Staring ahead at the nothingness, he waited. True, there wasn't much else to do in the void, but there were other reasons. One of those reasons would be there soon, he knew. How he knew, he wasn't sure. He'd forgotten that a long time ago. But he knew and that that would have to suffice.
The Doctor awoke with a jolt. It wasn't often that nightmares disturbed his sleep, but this one was particularly bad and exceptionally vivid. The last days of Gallifrey, if you can call them the "last" when they ceased to have ever existed a short while later. A war of violence, cruelty and savagery beyond anything he'd ever witnessed or ever imagined witnessing. A war he'd ended by attempted genocide, an attempt he had realized over time was largely futile. It hadn't stopped the Daleks, he had encountered many since then. It hadn't stopped those Time Lords guilty of unimaginable despotism, either. He'd either locked them elsewhere, meaning they would have been unaffected, or encountered them since. The casualties had been friends, innocents, nearby worlds and time itself.
Time? Oh, it still existed, but it was dying back to its pre-Rassilon state, changeless, meaningless. All possibilities co-existing in an amalgam of multiverse, where everything had already happened. No deviation, no progress, no variation, no learning, no failure but also no success. Worse, the last fissures between universes would seal and time travel would be at last extinct with no hope of ever regaining it. Since the destruction of the Eye of Harmony, the Rassilon timeline was no longer stable as an independent reality. Changes that would have once required extensive work to remain a part of history were no longer possible at all.
He had suspected as much, when Rose attempted to save her father from having already died. He, himself, had saved hundreds from deaths that had already happened. His bravado and abuse at the time that he had known what he was doing sounded hollow to him now. He had known nothing more than she had. Less, as it required enormous power to change time to any significant degree - only beings as powerful as Suteck had that kind of capacity - and no being of any power could change a self-referential past when a part of it. Time loops, even in such a trivial form, were forever and immutable.
His nightmares briefly returned, even in waking, clouding him to reality. His dark depression slashing at the remnants of his sanity. To have done so much, achieved so much, only to see the freedom he had secured for others vanish into nothingness. Where his impact remained, it would be a parody of everything he had stood for. His presence would no longer make a difference to anyone. Whatever happened had already happened. Total determinism meant zero freedom and zero heroism. Not a life he looked forwards to. But, then maybe he would vanish altogether, the last paradox to be erased. If he was purged from reality, there would be nothing left of him to look forward with.
He knew the answer, the way out, but it would mean also being a way in. Only a few beings in the multitude of eternities had the powers, skills or knowledge to repair time on this kind of scale. Assuming they'd agree, of course, which was far from certain. Also assuming he'd not let in more than he'd want - if that was the right word - to. Again, far from certain. Also assuming that two other very powerful entities would put aside their absolute opposition to each other to assist. But why should they? They could both win, in a way, if history devolved entirely. Finally, getting that first being to obligingly go to a more harmless reality afterwards... Four impossible tasks, in an effort to carry out a fifth, so as to to achieve a sixth, making an infinity of possibility real. Six impossible things, not just before breakfast, but to enable breakfast to have any real existence at all. The Doctor mused that a British novelist he had once drunk too much with would have been proud.
But how to do any of them? They were, after all, quite impossible. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and if nothing was ventured for too much longer, nothing would ever be gained again.
The figure glanced up in the absolute dark. Well, he thought it was up. It didn't really matter for now. What mattered was that something had shifted. Oh, not by very much, and far beyond anything that could be externally sensed, had his external senses still existed. Something was now very different. In a timeless time, whatever that might mean, this couldn't happen. There was no where or when for an event to occur in. Only an ever-present, universal here and now. Change required something external to arrive - which it hadn't - or some external possibility that was inexorably bound to this reality to have come into existence and provided just the tiniest of tugs.
There were only a few ways the second could be true at all, as far as he knew, and most of those could be instantly discarded. That left one alternative, one he'd not really considered much before, but now thought the most likely to happen. Revenge would have to wait, though, if there was to be enough left of his own ancestral universe for revenge to take place in. Isolated he was, but no universe is so isolated as to not feel disasters on a great enough scale. Ignorant of details he was, perhaps, but not so ignorant as to be unaffected by the results or unaware of what must lie down that road.
Besides, The Doctor loved to sacrifice himself, and he, the Lord Rassilon, would have a need for a replacement Omega if the Eye was to see once more. It would require a Time Lord, and he suspected there were very few of those left. To recover his Foundry, he believed, would also require a good deal more. But the sort of "more" that The Doctor had achieved before on his adventures. Items that, if he could control them, would turn his prior heights of power into mere dots on the landscape. To create a timeline was hard enough, but to seize control of one as it imploded, force it to bend to his will, to grow back into shape and stabilize... That would need The Doctor to hand over objects so powerful even he, Rassilon, knew of them only in legend, and the aid of the two elemental, raw, personified forces of the universe itself.
Even then, it would be a gamble. Failure was entirely possible for all sorts of reasons. Entities that lived in their own pocket universes that occasionally plundered the universe of Rassilon and The Doctor wouldn't care if time was fixed and rigid. It might even make it easier for them. Such entities might oppose any attempt by Rassilon to do what would be needed, when he would be almost utterly vulnerable. Nor had they any need to win, only to delay long enough for collapse to be inevitable and inescapable.
Then, the Divergent Universe itself had assorted entities that would be quite capable of destroying the universe entirely, static or not. He and The Doctor would need to keep those creatures from escaping into the physical realms. An interesting problem, as he certainly didn't trust The Doctor, nor The Doctor him.
And after reconstituting time, he would need to eliminate the catastrophe he still knew nothing about, or it would instantly revert all his hard work back to naught, a catastrophe so overwhelming that it could extinguish one of the greatest civilizations that ever existed, a civilization that still had access to some of his greatest technologies and achievements. This was why it would take more than even him. Alone, even if he could regain everything he had made, he would be helpless. A position he was getting tired of being in.
Ultimate, unremitting, unforgiving, implacable foes, unifying? The Guardians - yes, even those creatures who had avoided his every effort to learn more of them - acting together as one? It was an insane hope, a fool's errand, but since he questioned his own sanity after such a long time alone and considered The Doctor a fool, it was an appropriate quest. If nothing else, it was important to be appropriate.
Time billowed and possibilities crossed through the random, disjoint fractures remaining between realities. A violation of causality, allowing the whispers of ideas, of events, to transcend the limitations of reality. In a sense, all possibilities had ceased to exist, the future - all futures that could happen - had already happened, but these flickers subtly changed what those futures ended up being. The Doctor knew of these rifts, had journeyed them, exploited them, and sealed them when necessary. Now, he would commit the gravest sin for a Time Lord. He would deliberately rupture one to bring back the greatest enemy that future hope could ever have, then rupture more and more, to destabilize time so that the Rassilon timeline could re-emerge from the firmament he would create. Destroy many futures of many universes, merely so that his own would have one.
And then he would need to deliberately plunge the one who had rescued him into a black hole. Imprisonment for life with no hope of escape or redemption as a reward for saving more lives, more civilizations, in a few moments than The Doctor had done in all his regenerations or was ever likely to do. It was either that, or allow one tyranny - stagnation by mathematics - to be replaced with another.
Defeating an enemy who was an active and direct threat - that was one thing. Killing a rescuer in cold blood, without mercy, without pity, merely because a statistical probability based on incomplete and old data - that was quite another and not a path The Doctor liked to go down. To save all he believed in, he would need to also destroy all of him that believed. Irrevocably. He would need to become a tyrant himself, to prevent the rise of another. Oh, over the years, carrying out mass murder and genocide, endangering innocents and abusing power for selfish ends, these had become easier and easier. He was on the way to becoming quite the despot himself. This would complete the hard part of the journey, the transition from Light's Champion to Zagreus Mk. II, the Valeyard even, would go from a faint possibility to a manifest destiny.
The Guardians looked on, through all multiverses, at the battles being fought within. Neither was satisfied, per se, with the bargain, but it would suffice. Each would own the very soul of both Time Lords. Light and dark, good and evil. You cannot create a stable timeline with only one, so the creators would need both. The conflict would be fatal in the end. No-one, not even a Time Lord, can serve two masters at the same time and escape. Without that conflict, though, no creation was possible. For either Guardian to advance in their everlasting game, it would require them both to sacrifice their greatest pieces. No other moves in the game were left and a stalemate would destroy the Guardians themselves. A universe with no real future has no need of light or dark, so no need of Guardians. They united at times, in a manner of speaking, when it served their purposes collectively. It suited them both to oppose the unreality that would remove them utterly. Naturally, both would seek advantage over the other, within the Rules and within their own beliefs, but for now there was an appointment with the rebirth of Variant Time to keep.
As the forces massed, the decisions made, the collapse accelerated. In the same way that a magnetic field is generated so as to oppose the change in a variable electrical field, the forces pulling the Non-Variant Universe back into being from the Rassilon Timeline were generated so as to oppose the change in Variant Time. Non-Variant Space, to some degree, is created by changes in Variant Time, which is why small paradoxes can usually smooth themselves out. If this were not the case, the first time traveller would have utterly destroyed the universe they came from.
However, this was not about preventing paradoxes or repairing minor wounds in time. A Battle Royale was going to begin. Changes with gigantic potential had been made. The potential had not yet been realized, but it was great enough to create vast tidal waves of Non-Variance. This was going to be both the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.
The Doctor awoke, his memories scattered by splintering forces of a magnitude far beyond his imagining. He could hear Susan in a nearby room. Today was when they'd escape Gallifrey, in a machine that included illicit components he had obtained in an unauthorized an illegal escapade in The Forbidden Zone during The Dark Times. He could not afford to be asked too many questions, such as how he'd even managed to get into The Dark Times in the first place (should that ever be discovered), why he had a ring with powers associated with items from The Dark Times, and most certainly no questions at all on how someone who came from a race that was sterile could have a provably biological, genetic descendent. Not a clone or genetically engineered child, but an actual descendent. That would have required considerable knowledge of just what engineering had been performed on Gallifreyans in the first place, knowledge that had been lost. They'd also be unhappy he'd been consorting with a Time Lord so powerful that even time capsules were unnecessary to him. So much harder to track an individual who has access to time and space by willpower alone.
Rassilon emerged into the Matrix local to his Foundry. He wasn't sure quite what had happened. The insurrection he remembered clearly enough, the bodily death, the regeneration not into his original body but into a quasi-physical, quasi-virtual state in the Matrix computers. But there were gaps in his memory. Not everything made sense. The nature of the Rassilon timeline, he supposed, and shrugged it off.
The Black Guardian turned. "The meta time loop has been complete. The entire sequence will replay itself forever, as realities merge and unmerge."
"Not forever," the White Guardian corrected him. "They have free will, so the loop will not repeat exactly each time. They will know nothing of the previous cycles, of course, but won't always make the same decisions."
"And if they change their decisions enough to prevent the Time War and the reversion?"
"Then the meta time loop will collapse at that point. The Time War will collapse into its own pocket universe, which itself will collapse out of existence as there will be neither time nor space left in it."
"And what would that take?"
"If you had won any of your battles, that might accomplish it, as might any number of things."
"The truce, then, need not hold until after the meta time loop has collapsed."
"Not at all. There is no further need of this truce. The universe will survive without it."
"Then the game begins again."