A/N This is based on the prequel to DOTD, the Night of the Doctor. Told from Cass' point of view. That prequel shocked me so much. Definitely wasn't expecting McGann, though definitely glad to see him again. Wonder how Moffat managed to keep that under wraps? Anyway, hope you like it, and, if you do, please drop me a review :)
It wasn't the first time Cass had regretted her own selflessness.
But she had a feeling that it might be the last.
"Help me, please!" the radar showed not a blip nor a flicker of another ship within the limited reach of her sonar signals, but still she slammed the communicator until her hand was black and blue. "Can anybody hear me?"
The only answer, of course, was the placid, empty voice of the gunship interface, which had been malfunctioning ever since their stop off at the Kanic space station. Kanic had been their first time within communication range of military base, and news from their families. It had also been the day Cass smashed her compulsory firearm over the console.
Please state the nature of your ailment or injury.
Now, she really regretted taking out her anger on the hunk of metal and wiring.
"I'm not injured, I'm crashing!" she shouted at the thing, knowing full well that it wouldn't be able to help her, even if she did have an 'ailment or injury'. "I don't need a doctor."
A clear statement of your symptoms will help us provide the medical practitioner appropriate to your individual needs.
"I'm trying to send a distress signal! Stop talking about doctors!"
"I'm a doctor."
But that voice wasn't the lousy, malfunctioning interface. For a second, she thought it was Tara. Back from the dead to make sure Cass never followed her there. It wasn't, of course. It was too low, too confident, too alive.
And its owner was a rather ordinary looking man, if it weren't for the fact that he was standing in the control centre of the X3 gunship. Which should have been empty but for her and Death, who thankfully had not yet shown his face.
He smiled, an eyebrow quirking up. One of the charming ones, she supposed, but maybe she needed some arrogance to help her out of this. "But probably not the one you expected."
"Who in God's name are you?" Cass demanded, because she wanted to know who she would be sharing her dying moments with.
"Told you, didn't I? The Doctor."
She set her mind back on the hopeless communication system, and the hopeless prospect of somehow using it to contact a nonexistent saviour.
"Where are the rest of the crew?" the 'Doctor' asked, now beside her, much too still and stoic for their slim chances of survival.
Contrary to the breezy way in which she said the words, it was true that, in some dark part of her, Cass regretted being the only one of her crew with altruism enough to man the system while everyone saved their own hides.
"But you're still here?"
"I-I teleported them." Guaranteed her death.
"But why you?"
"Everyone else was screaming." Liar, liar. A truer answer would have been 'everyone else had someone to miss them'.
"Welcome aboard," the man announced, rather too happily. For some strange reason, he and his words sounded like the best thing her ears could listen to. Like hope. Like a saviour.
"I'll show you." He didn't smile, but the set of his face radiated power, sureness. She followed him, because there was nothing for her to lose and only a little more than that for her to gain.
"Where are we going?"
"Back of the ship."
"Because the front crashes first, think it through." Cass was right. Definitely on the egotistical side of 'hero'.
The door before them slid shut just before they reached it, locking behind them the little glimmer of hope she'd so selfishly let grow.
"Ahh, why did you do that..." the Doctor muttered to the irreversibly sealed door.
"Emergency protocols," Cass replied simply, making sure her voice stayed steady. The man took out a curious device from his pocket, not one she recognised, either. Sort of pen like, with a red glow at one end and several buttons. He waved it around the door, while it produced a buzzing drone.
"What's your name?"
"You're young to be queen of gunship, Cass." And you're very close to death to be making small talk.
"I wanted to see the universe," she said instead. Though it was only half-right. The real reason wasn't something she was going to flippantly share with this stranger. "Is it always like this?"
"If you're lucky." There was a shadow of a laugh in his tone, and he flashed that charismatic grin again, the one that told her he was going to get them both safely out of this. Which she could believe, as the door slid back open.
Cass wasn't sure what she had expected, but it definitely wasn't this tiny closet-of-a-spaceship somehow parked in the middle of the corridor.
He noticed her hesitation, assuring, "Don't worry, it's bigger on the inside."
Bigger on the inside.
It couldn't be.
"What did you say? It's bigger on the inside, is that what you said?"
"Yes, come on, you'll love it!" He smiled again, that overconfident smile that rather than setting alight her hope, as it had before, dimmed it to less than nothing.
"Is this a–TARDIS?"
All the stories, rumours, reports...the War. The all-consuming War.
And here was one of its warriors.
"Yes, but you'll be perfectly safe, I promise you."
A liar, too.
He was pulling at her hand, desperate now with the sound of impending death echoing through the ship. But this man, himself, was impending destruction.
"Don't touch me!" she tore her hand away from that evil skin, that evil man, evil Time Lord.
This was one of them.
And behind the sparking and roaring and the own pounding of her heart, Cass heard that voice again. The sickly indifferent voice of some uncaring official, through the crackling communications system of the gunship.
I regret to inform the crew of Gunship X3 that the planet of Havsitte in the Earth Empire 4 galaxy has been lost. On January 6 a Dalek legion shifted from the central wargrounds to the capital of Meltron. It was closely followed by a brigade of Time Lord warriors. Havsitte and several surrounding, yet uninhabited, planets have been obliterated.
"I'm not part of the war. I swear to you, I never was."
"You're a Time Lord!."
All inhabitants of Havsitte are assumed deceased due to the catastrophic temporal distortions around the area. We have it in our records that one crew member of Gunship X3 originates from the Havsitte area. Our condolences to Cassandra Deidre Gates and our best hopes for the Gunship crew to continue in their current assignment. Transmission terminated.
Except she had interrupted the last word with the butt of her gun against the communication console. She remembered the piercing static afterwards as being much too quiet, peaceful, for the shouting a inside her mind.
"Yes, I'm a Time Lord, but I'm one of the nice ones!"
"Get away from me!" She jumped away from the man–the monster–as he started towards her.
"Well look on the bright side, I'm not a Dalek!"
"Who can tell the difference anymore?!"
And then it took barely any thought for her to slam the button beside the door, sealing him off from her, and sealing her off from survival.
"Cass!" he pounded on the glass, no longer the overconfident saviour she'd been grateful for, but the Time Lord warrior who'd tear apart time to taste triumph.
"It's deadlocked! Don't even try!"
"Cass, just open the door! I'm trying to help!"
"Go back to your battlefield!" she yelled back, for this man was not a saviour, not a hero, not a doctor. He was a soldier, and a monstrous, manipulative one.
"You haven't finished yet," she finally let the pain leak into her voice, as she hadn't done for a long time. Perhaps all the people she had known were dead, but there were still millions out there the Time Lords hadn't touched with their poisonous fingers. "some of the universe is still standing!"
"I'm not leaving this ship without you."
"Then you're gonna die right here! Best news of the day."
There was something martyr-like about it, something that made a flicker of euphoria rise in her chest. Or perhaps she wasn't becoming a martyr, maybe it was more like becoming an avenger.
He sounded desperate, as if he actually cared for her life. As if he wasn't a vicious Lord of Time, one of the beasts from all those stories.
Except those stories were true, and they had stolen away Cass' life.
It had been a selfless act, training for the Gunship X fleet. Protecting the planets of the human empire, she thought she'd be able to do her part for her people. Shield her family, her friends, from the ever-expanding destruction that was the Great Time War. True to form, and true to most of her sacrifices, it hadn't worked.
She'd been the only one to volunteer to stay behind in the ship, while everyone else teleported away to safety. The only one with no one around to lose her if she didn't live. The only one who had too much of selfishness in her past that she couldn't stand exercising that trait in herself.
For the second time, that voice morphed and rippled in her ears, which were already bombarded with the sparks and crashes of the dying ship and the monster's pounding on the door. The voice sounded, again, like Tara's.
The last time she would hear her voice, and it wasn't even real. Just a shadow of a person, leaking through from oblivion via the memories of humanity and the sourness of nostalgia.
She was wrong before when she thought she would never again have a chance to regret her own selflessness. This was that chance. She regretted her own self, her own irresistible instincts. She regretted the part of her that wanted this Time Lord's death, if only to lessen the chance of the universe suffering his wrath. She regretted refusing the prospect of life that hung so tantalisingly before her. She regretted being willing to choose death over that survival.
She wanted to live.
But she wanted this Time Lord, this ravaging beast just like from all those stories–those true stories–this monster who was tearing the universe down around him for the sake of some hopeless victory, this man whose hate had rendered him indistinguishable from those he fought against...
Yes, she wanted to live.
But she wanted this man to die.
The past tense of self-sacrifice.
But now, as always, selflessness triumphed.
And she had no mind to do the regretting.