It is many years ago. I am not Homeless Helper, not in name, body or soul. I am the man I was. The man whose name I left behind.
I am standing in the Gallifrey archives. Outside, the Time War rages on, reaching into its worst moments. Amidst the insanity and slaughter, no-one thought to protect the archives. Or those who were in charge are no longer able. The Timelords’ biggest, deepest and darkest secrets, and I got to them first. I took everything. Every last detail. As their punishment. Or my revenge.
In so doing, I may have saved lives. The Daleks never found anything. The wrong thing in so doing became the right…
“You’re doing well, HH. Keep going. What happened next?”
…I left. In a TARDIS that had been abandoned. Its owner had gone to fight. Or find me. But it was a blue box, so I know exactly who-
“Avoid the anger, HH, just move past.”
I regenerated. The instant I fled Gallifrey, my body changed. My mind changed. To one far younger. Free. And homeless. And then, I discovered
“That you couldn’t read the archive files, yes. But don’t worry, that’s about to change.”
Everything dissolves around me. The memory of my newest face changes into the present view of an aged one. He stands right in front of me, close enough I can smell the burning again, attending to the new device strapped to my wrist.
This feels like a hangover. It’s all way too groggy, inside and out. The old Timelord ‘open mind’ trick. Great for information. Not so much for the one on the other side, as it turns out. “What’re you doing?” I sound hungover as well.
“Sorry. I had to break your focus to get this set up. But in a moment, you’ll be ready to decipher all Gallifrey archive files.”
“That’s great, but I don’t exactly have them on me. It’s all well and good trying to teach me to read without any books.”
He taps the device. “All saved on here, Mr Disbelief. You can thank me later…ah, you won’t.”
An arrange of beeps and clicks ring out as he carries on with, well, whatever it is I’ll be doing, a number of grey hairs later. I’d just like a clearer head. And vision, while I’m on it.
He steps back, and extracts his own sonic screwdriver. I sincerely hope he doesn’t expect me to read right now, the words ‘File 1’ on this screen are only just standing upright. “Why, why are you doing this?”
He pauses. The storms are in his eyes again. Ned almighty, at least I’m on the road to perfect the ultimate glare.
“You need this, HH. You need to see without restrictions. It nearly happened once, when you saved the girl from the windmill island. You broke a Timelord rule. And that’s good.”
Is it? There goes a few decades of schooling up the swanny.*
“Now you need to break all the others. Then, you will be free. Heh. Then, you will be me.”
I had centuries to work on that joke and that happened? Maybe time isn’t such a great healer. The self satisfied smile really isn’t working either.
“Now, time for part two. And this time, I am really sorry.”
His sonic lights up and buzzes, familiarly. For a split second, I see the words “MASS DOWNLOAD” flash up on screen.
And then I enter the exact opposite of a blackout.
YOU’RE FREAKING TELLING ME! I would happily take a coma right now.
No living thing was meant to learn like this, learning is a drawn out process built on input-practise-repeat-output, but this is beyond madness. Now I know how Towel’s must’ve felt, my mind’s been cracked like an egg and had a massive library shoved back in. No wonder he went mad-reclusive; I’m currently weighing the bonus of tearing my brain out through my nose just for some BLOODY PEACE AND QUIET.
Ooh, hello. Let’s just slow down and peek at this here attraction.
To protect both the minds of innocents and lifestyles of elders, powers and abilities have been kept hidden from public Timelord view. From the first teachings, a strict regime of suppression and cognitive learning is introduced, for no amount of medical research seems able to remove these abilities from the bodies of any Timelord, of any status. Every single Timelord has these abilities, but only the select few know they exist, and how to utilise them.
“THOSE ABSOLUTE LYING SONS OF-”
Future HH has moved further away this time, understandably I’m sure, and adopted a meditation pose. That, and a face of pure amusement.
“No I’m not ‘having fun’. I’m having the meltdown of a generation! All those lessons, those rules and guidelines, the endless scrolls and strictures they were just, what-”
“To keep you in your place. It’s the age old story, HH, you’ll know that better than ever now. A higher power keeping big info from the lower down? Textbook. Or Achive, if you prefer.”
“So all of us had the powers of the Elders? And yet we were squashed, crushed, deflated…”
“Because, HH, what one word separated you and everyone else from the powerful Elders?”
Dress-sense (if hyphenated)
“Paranoia. Chapter Two of the age old story. The Higher Power’s biggest fear is the Lower Powers. All there is to it.”
Silence finally falls between us. Him, ready to answer more questions, I imagine, and me…I don’t even know. All throughout life you go through these huge Life-lesson revelations: illnesses, war, famine, suffering, death, and you can always, somehow, find a way to live through it. But in the here, and now, with all of my past just one fat lie and everyone I – somewhat – trusted a fear-mongering traitor, everything falling on you at once…
At least, unlike so many others, I’ll know I make it out of this one. He’s only sitting a few feet away, after all.
<sigh> “So, what happens now? What do I learn next?”
“All that is to come, HH. Everything you know is now released, you have the unlimited powers of a newborn, untutored Timelord, plus, that small gift from me that’ll periodically help you in the discovery of these powers, but,” he waves a hand, “that’s no biggie.”
Good to know I never dropped the explaining-at-100-miles-an-hour trick.
I study the wrist-device, almost surprised it isn’t red hot, or smoking at least. “What do you call this thing?”
“Oh Womble names it, actually. Not long after you see him again. Since ‘rabbit man’ came to his mind, I believe he likes giving out nicknames. You’re going to see him, quite soon now. There’ll be a few more little disturbances when I leave.”
This feels like a goodbye. Not as easy to spot as a British person saying goodbye**, but still fairly obvious. Another moment of silence drifts between us, and I’m given a chance to inspect my future wardrobe. It’s more or less the same, ridiculous, except now the system’s gone somewhere between ‘Jedi’ and ‘God’. The shoes, I like. The white long coat, not as much.
And then, there’s…or rather, there isn’t…
“No top hat.”
It’s not a question. We both lock eyes for a moment.
“So that means, you’re…”
Ned. “Good luck.”
“Ah, well, you know me. Or rather, you will.”
With a smile, he knocks two fingers to his temple in a mock-salute, and disappears away from me like neither time nor space are really there. And for the first time, in a long while, I am left alone with my ship.
Or rather I would be, had another one of his time splinters not sent me to…
Ah, I’ll just ask this gentlemen here…”Nice coat!”
*For whatever reasons, “up the swanny” is one of my favourite expressions. It makes no sense, I can’t tell if it’s rude or not, and if anyone uses it I end up laughing for a long period of time.
**The British goodbye, of course consists of four things: Checking the time/looking outside and commenting on either + Saying the word ‘Right’ + Standing up to leave + Leaving ten minutes later once you’re done with the stood-up-about-to-leave part of the conversation