This story contains major spoilers for the Doctor Who
episodes "The End of the World," "New Earth," and "Gridlock," including some dialogue from those episodes. There are also minor spoilers for the first three seasons of the current production of Doctor Who
. Part OnePart Two
His tank sat in a darkened room just beyond New Earth's Senate chambers, high atop a tower in New New York. He had been addressing the Senate when the catastrophe struck, when the Senators had begun dying as the virus embedded in the Bliss tabs suddenly mutated and became airborne. Ironically, he had been addressing them on that very subject, attempting to get the mood tabs outlawed, attempting, in fact, to prevent the disaster that he knew would come.
But history, it seemed, had other plans. In the seven minutes it took for the airborne virus to sweep the planet, the Face of Boe had acted. He teleported Novice Hame into his transport tank and thickened the atmosphere, shrouding them both in medicinal smoke as he trundled into the outer rooms where he could access the city's power supply. Thick cables seemed to fly through the air with no guidance as he attached himself to the power supply and closed off the lower city and the Motorway, saving those people he could by isolating them from the virus. If anyone in the trapped cars died from the virus, no one ever knew about it; their cars remained powered up and on auto-pilot, endlessly circling with the others when he discovered that while he had enough power to maintain the system, by continually feeding his own life energy into it, he was unable to generate enough power to restart a stalled system.
"What do we do now?" Novice Hame asked. She stood outside his transport, surveying the dead in the Senate chamber, her feline face unreadable.
"We keep the lower city alive," he answered, "and we wait. The Doctor will come."
"You know this?"
He looked unflinching into his acolyte's face. "Twenty-four years." She closed her eyes briefly, struggling with the knowledge, then nodded.
"A long time to wait."
He would have shrugged, if he could. He could already feel the strain of maintaining the systems. "I will need your help to stabilize these systems and keep things going for that long."
"Of course. It is why I am here."
"You may also want to see what other survivors you can find."
"Do you believe there are others?"
He was silent a moment. He knew there were not. Where before, the sounds of a teeming world had filled his mind, now, there was only silence. But it would keep Hame occupied. "There may be. We must check."
"Of course," she said again. She moved to his hastily-rigged connections. "Let me take a look at these." She set to work.~*~*~
An ending, at last. Only a few more hours. He found that he looked forward to it, to stay in the comforting darkness forever, to not be dragged gasping once again into the light. There had been a time when he had not thought it possible that he could die, at least, not for long. There had been a time when his life had been one long cycle of deaths and resurrections, so many that he had lost count. But he hadn't been killed in centuries and he was ready. Not for the brief darkness and return to light, but for eternal rest in whatever form it might be granted.
His transport tank sat in the same spot it had occupied for the last twenty-four years. Thick cables carried power to the machines that kept the under-city alive, kept the trapped drivers safe. He knew about the Macras, of course, how could he not? He had known when the infestation started, but with the over-city dead and only himself and Hame between the under-city and death, there was nothing he could do. He ached for the dead.
But soon, there would come an ending. He could hear the TARDIS' unending song, but he had no energy to spare, this time, in summoning the Doctor via the psychic paper. Instead, he sent Hame to fetch the Time Lord. Both he and Martha would be found in the Motorway -- trust them both to get into trouble almost the instant the TARDIS doors closed behind them.
That Hame would succeed, he did not doubt. He knew the future. And he had one more message to impart to his old friend.*~*~*
The noise roused the Face of Boe from his somnolent state. In an effort to conserve what energy he could, he had spent most of the last twenty-four years either asleep or dozing. It sometimes amused him that he had become like any other elderly creature. He wasn't concerned about leaving things to Hame. All he had to do was provide the energy necessary to keep the Motorway systems running. For that, he needed only be alive. Hame could handle the rest, and did so willingly as part of her self-imposed penance for the misdeeds of the Sisters of Plenitude, all now long dead.
The noise in the outer chamber continued. If there was one thing the Doctor excelled at, he reflected, it was noise. Hame's voice rose as she attempted to calm him, to explain the predicament that they all found themselves in. He felt the Doctor's distress as the Time Lord at last understood. Doctor.
The Doctor recognized his mental voice at once. "The Face of Boe!" He dashed toward the transport tank and knelt in front of it, one hand on the glass. I knew you would come.
His aeons-deep fatigue colored his voice.
Concern crossed the Doctor's mobile face. "Old friend, what happened to you?" Failing.
For a moment, he lapsed into unconsciousness; when he came to, Hame was explaining to the Doctor what they had done, how they had managed to save those in the under-city from the virus that had devastated the over-city and the world. Save them, Doctor. Save them.
He almost smiled as the Doctor practically exploded into action, whipping out the sonic screwdriver as he went.
"Who looks at a screwdriver and says, 'Gee, this could be a bit more sonic'?" he heard in his memory. Other images chased that first one, and he knew himself to be dying. Again. But it was different this time. At long, long last, a true end approached. He had once been brought back to life by the energy of the time vortex itself, but even time comes to an end eventually -- he would know, after all.
In his mind, he saw once more Rose's excitement as she finally managed to name the planet Raxacoricofallipatorious without tripping over her tongue. He remembered kissing her goodbye -- and the Doctor, too -- before that first death. He'd been in love with both of them. He still remembered the deep pain he'd felt upon reading her name on the list of the missing after the Battle of Canary Wharf. She was long dead now, stranded in her alternate universe after the Doctor sent the Cybermen and Daleks back through that rift.
Rift, of course, not his Rift. That Rift hadn't been in London, but Cardiff, right through the center of the city. His to guard. He had been a guardian most of his life, he realized. Not a bad way to live, after all.
His attention was drawn back to his companions by the Doctor's rising cry of denial. "The transformers are blocked! The signal can't get through!" Doctor.... I give you my last....
A tendril of thought opened a floodgate of energy, the last of his life-energy, pouring out through the cables to release those trapped so far below. Martha, he thought. Fiery Martha, so proud of her medical knowledge, so pleased with her job with UNIT. But that was yet in her future -- his so distant past. He could feel the exultation from below, the rising tide, as the motorway roof opened and the trapped vehicles rose triumphantly into the sky.
Infectious as the Doctor's elation was, he could not share it. Though he wanted to dance with joy, whirl Novice Hame about and kiss her feline face, he was long past such displays. And he was dying. At long last.
The last surge of energy had disrupted the systems of his transport. The glass began to crack, the smoky atmosphere -- there mostly for show; he had never been able to resist the theatrical -- leaking out. Novice Hame, who had been doing her best to cycle the transport's systems manually, made a small noise of distress. He reached out with a mental caress. She had done so well these past years. She had more than earned the forgivenes she sought.
"Doctor?" A new voice. An old voice. Martha Jones had arrived.
"Over here," the Doctor called, his attention mostly on the dying being before him. Martha entered the room, looking exactly as
he remembered her, though his form clearly bothered her more than a little judging by her exclamation of "What's that?"
"This is the Face of Boe," the Doctor replied. "It's all right. Come and say hello. And this is Hame. She's a cat. Don't worry. He's the one that saved you, not me."
"My lord gave his life to save the city," Hame said, as Martha knelt beside her. "And now he is dying."
"No, don't say that," the Doctor said, false cheer in his voice, "not old Boe. Plenty of life left."
He had been in that transport chamber so long that he'd almost forgotten what air smelled like. It smelled musty. Still, "It's good the breathe the air once more," he said aloud.
"Who is he?" Martha asked the Doctor.
"I don't even know," the Time Lord replied.
The Face of Boe found that despite his vast age and his greatly changed state, that pricked his vanity. But the Doctor was still speaking. "Legend says the Face of Boe has lived for billions of years. Isn't that right? And you're not about to give up now."
"Everything has its time. You know that, old friend, better than most."
"The legend says more," Novice Hame said unexpectedly.
The Doctor shook his head. "Don't. There's no need for that."
Hame continued inexorably, like the darkness that Jack could feel creeping over him. "It says that the Face of Boe will speak his final secret to a traveller."
"Yeah, but not yet. Who needs secrets, eh?" The Doctor was still desperately trying to prevent the inevitable. For a moment, Jack felt sorry for his old friend. There had been a time when he had been a child in comparison to the Time Lord, but now, it was the Doctor who was like a small child desperately trying to prevent bedtime from approaching. But there was no preventing what was to come. What had already come.
"I have seen so much," he mused. "Perhaps too much. I am the last of my kind — as you are the last of yours, Doctor."
"That's why we have to survive. Both of us. Don't go," the Time Lord pleaded, tears in his eyes.
"I must," he said firmly. "But know this, Time Lord. You are not alone."
Shock reverberated through the Doctor's mind and closed it to his touch as the Time Lord jumped up and away, removing his physical presence as well. Jack closed his eyes. Very well. Everyone dies alone in the end. Had someone said that to him?
The darkness was very close now, and he welcomed it. He sensed Martha's puzzlement at the Doctor's reaction, as well as her unrequited love for the Time Lord. She did not yet know the Time Lord's secret.
He sent one final pulse of love and respect to Novice Hame, felt her weeping, and then darkness rolled over him, and broke, and there was, at the last, light, and a voice teasing him.
"Well, you took your time," Rose said.
Disclaimer: Doctor Who
- This story was written almost immediately after the end of the third season of the current run of Doctor Who, after Jack Harkness reveals that he was known in his youth as the Face of Boe, because he was the first Time Agent to be recruited from the Boeshane Peninsula. I did not revise it to take into account any of his subsequent Torchwood or Doctor Who appearances. (Which is why neither Donna nor Sarah Jane appear in it.)
- It's a little maudlin, but there's something really, really, really sad about the Face of Boe.
- Because of the nature of the story I was telling, I had to weave in the dialogue from the three episodes in which the Face of Boe appeared. Very little of the dialogue, therefore, is original to me.
and the characters, situations, and appertenances thereto are all owned by the BBC. I'm just borrowing them. No infringement is intended and no profit will be had herefrom.