At the end of everything, it all comes down to dust. Which is fair, I suppose it’s more convenient than everything turning into water when it dies. It is also really irritating. I may love history but my allergies sure as hell don’t. They don’t agree with my breathing the Ash of Ancestry, but hey. I’m not not going to come here. It’s been a year after all, but this time it isn’t the cell of nameless face number Seven. This is actually where Seventh Self (crash)landed and now serves as the grave of my old ship. I might be the only person in existence to make a grave to an inanimate object, but…if we show our love for people by a good send-off, why not the same for our machines? And Odyssey was one hell of a machine. A type 45 TARDIS, the only one – as far as I’m aware – in existence.
A bit like my own HH, ‘TARDIS’ is a nickname that stuck. No Gallifreyan can remember what TARDISes were called before the Doctor came along which, yes, is yet another reason on the list titled Why HH Hates the Doctor. I’ll admit I’ve kept the anagram while borrowing his, but for my very own dimension-crosser, it had to have its own name. Even, the title of one of my favourite classical stories; the tale of a man who braves more than Hell itself for the sake of seeing home again. I’ve always maintained that Odysseus would have made a great Timelord.
Odyssey himself didn’t make it. He sleeps where he fell, on an old forgotten world called Adraxus. Before that, like my “good” self, he served in the Battle of Silent Plains. Between there and Adraxus he performed his final flight, carrying my post-suicidal Seventh Self to some form of safety. His owner, the one he’d been allocated to since his creation, had tried to end his own life. I can’t blame him for giving up on me, or Life in general, but that’s never going to make it feel better.
So here he stands, shrouded in dust and the dead white sands of Adraxus. Unlike the Doctor’s, my chameleon circuit never broke, never leaving me in the bizarre situation of travelling around in a homage to the Earth’s 1970s. Odyssey and I saw many new shapes in the past – a vending machine, a Greek column, a Port-a-Loo. (that last one was a royal mindf*ck for a construction site worker. Happily I managed to get him out before it was too late.) At least he died in a slightly more dignified way, in the shape of a planet-class laser cannon. I guess he thought that might turn some of the Silent Plains armies away. Bless him, he tried.
I’m reminded of the interior as well, when entering with my cargo slung over my shoulder. It was the last one I ever designed, complete with – but not limited to – inner fountains, contemplation zones, wingback leather arm chairs, hot drinks machines and walls upon walls of books. You think you can’t have a bookcase in a circular room, you’re not trying hard enough. Not that you’re able to tell, anymore. As I said, dust plays hell with my allergies and aesthetics in general. It’s hard to remain impressed when everything’s under a thick layer of grey, as if the console room has been repositioned into a black-and-white film.
At the very least, it will serve well as Guardian’s prison. Not many of us can boast of incarceration in a near-infinite ship with its own restaurant and home cinemas. Note the cinemas. Plural.
I dump the SHELL™ on a nearby seat which exudes a thick cloud of impending asthma attacks, so I side step off around the hexagonal console. It’s a shame you can’t see the old glistening metals, inner lighting and my well-arranged consoles. And by well arranged, I of course mean anything but. Just running a hand over it now reminds me how hard it was to get from engines to brakes, with several obstacles in the way such as light switches, diffusers and more than several cup holders.
Letting my fingertips glide over the gritty glass seems to have an effect. A few under-lights of the console start to flicker on after a long time asleep, coming to life blearily like eyes that have only just adjusted to being closed. Against unfathomable odds, it appears Odyssey isn’t entirely without power.
“Tell you what,” I say, equipping the sonic, “for old times’ sake…”
On the panel closest to the door is a circular slot, designed to house a sonic screwdriver. This is actually a non-Timelord-approved addition to my ship. It allows for recharging but also includes a sync function. This means Odyssey could capture all which I’ve scanned and studied, keeping a real-time record of everything without all the mucking about with reports, forms and everything else which a Vogon would call a holiday. When you’re in the middle of a war, such a feature is a bloody relief.
I’ve been through several sonics since its last use, but although the outer casing is different the inner core is still the same. Odyssey and myself can relate.
Even if you haven’t synced your iPhone in a few months I bet it’d have nothing on this. How many centuries has it been since the last update, I think at least three?
...s-s-s-s-s-sync in progress........
My breath catches in my throat, feeling a little too thick for my liking. The three words echo distantly as if I’m being spoken to from the opposite end of a long tunnel, but there’s no doubt in my mind to whom it belongs. I’ve yet to speak to any other omnipresent computer which sounds like a slightly more digital version of Christopher Lee*.
A thin blue line of laser cuts through the murk, travels horizontally up the length from my feet to my hat and vanishes as quickly as it appeared. I get the unmistakable feeling that I’ve just been scanned; it always leaves me with a faint, full-body itch.
.....sync.....in......progress......pleeeeeeeeease stand b-b-b-by.....
Lights start to flicker on around me and a very faint roaring noises starts to build in momentum. This lasts at least a few seconds, before retreating back into silence and near-darkness.
Low power. Not that it comes as much of a surprise. I’d have a similar result asking someone newly awoken from a coma to run a marathon. Also makes things that bit trickier, if Odyssey and I truly are to be reunited. I start turning on the spot, as if a handy generator will just appear out of the gloom. There’s a Pac-Man arcade machine in here, a few kettles and a multitude of phone chargers.** Everything which requires power, not supplies it. Vaguely I find myself wondering whatever happened to Eternity, but right now, the biggest and nearest remaining power source by a long way is….well….me.
Needs must, I suppose.
In the near-dead room, I break the quiet with a quick snap of my fingers. Followed by about fourteen more in quick succession. Something flares and catches on the sixteenth click and instantly in the palm of my hand sits a roiling, golden flame, fed by a small, white seed at the bottom. Its light more than outweighs its size, bathing everything in midday sunlight. Immediately, it’s painful to look directly at it.
A click to my left announces a small slot opening on the console – Odyssey always know what to take as a cue. I tip the seed into the slot, its flame and light with it so the room around me becomes dull again.
“I just gave you twenty years of my life, Odyssey. Be sure to put it to good use.”
A faint rumble echoes up from the bowels of my dead ship. Noises like ancient gears grinding against each other can be heard beneath the floor and the console gets a few fractions brighter. The distant roaring noise resumes and continues to build. In a few moments I’m standing in a well-lit, yet still incredibly dusty, console room.
A snap to my right catches my attention. My sonic pops out of the console and I catch it on reflex, avoiding a smack to the face by a matter of inches.
An awful silence lands in the dust and the dark, and settles. We both know he isn’t going to be the one to break it. He always was the best at ending conversations, short of dropping them down pits. This is not how I imagined our reunion. To be honest, I didn’t imagine one at all. When you turn your back on a grave, you tend to assume that’s all said and done. Trust Gallifrey technology to take on the same death-defying philosophy as their creators. We truly don’t like to say goodbye.
And right now one of us doesn’t even want to say Hello.
I blow air through my cheeks. “So…..where shall we start?”
I can sense Guardian. Where is he?
Sneaky devil. Now I remember where I got my universal residue ability in the first place. I tap two fingers against my temple. “That’s actually why I’m here. Of all the maximum security containment units in existence to choose from, I thought he might appreciate being here.” Despite absolutely everything I still play the part of the nice guy. People like me truly are the suckers. “Now I learn that you’re alive, I think I’ll take you both with me. What better way to keep a constant eye on him?”
I am assigned to the Timelord designated as Guardian. You are not him.
“Well spotted. You’re right, I’m not him and have a grand plan to never be like him again. Times have changed, as Time always will. We know that old friend, better than most. If Guardian had regenerated into a new man, a woman or even a cactus, you’d still have to obey him. And guess what? He’s shown up as a young-looking bloke with bad fashion and incomplete facial hair.” Your humble narrator, no less. I suddenly have to suppress the urge to bow. Odyssey retreats into a terrible silence which in itself speaks volumes of guilt and accusation. I start to twirl the sonic between my fingers, just to have something else to look at.
“You saw the life I had before, can you really blame me for escaping it?” My voice is barely above a mutter but still perfectly audible. The noisy conglomeration of Odyssey coming back to life settles to a background hum, not unlike standing in a moving lift.
"Escape" is a common euphemism for "suicide" but does not serve as justification.
“I’m not trying to justify myself, merely explain to you what’s happened in the time I’ve been gone.”
The sync showed me enough. My owner died and then I didn't. That doesn't immediately make me yours.
“Actually, by Timelord regeneration inheritance laws, it does.”
That’s just a little random nugget of factoid which FutureHH showed me in the Gallifreyan archives. We own an entire planet and there is not one executor of a will, because everyone’s reads the same: I hereby leave all my worldly possessions to myself.
This reunion has come of nothing short of a surprise. I’d truly like to avoid it becoming an argument, but can’t help but add in: “I gave you twenty years of my life, I’d say that’s something towards recompense. What happened to Eternity anyway?”
For context, Eternity was the harnessed star I captured in my youth and fully exploited as Odyssey’s power source. What we Timelords lack in ethics and moral code, we more than make up for in alternative fuels. Never did I consider just how ironic Eternity‘s name would one day become.
Crash landing here completely shattered all fuel cell stabilisers and Eternity collapsed. The burning star in my core is now a black hole in the Prison Deck. And yes, while we are far from equal, your sacrifice has at least granted me with the opportunity to listen.
I go to retrieve the SHELL™ from the chair beside me. “That can wait. You mentioned the Prison Deck, I need you to open up a route. And get the Link ready.”
“A plan which is dangerous and completely devoid of morality.”
The background hum spikes into a short, quick rumble. I believe it to be Odyssey grunting. Or laughing. It’s a sound not unlike tectonic plates colliding with one another in the depths of a planet; I can even feel the console room vibrating.
Perhaps you haven't changed entirely. What do I even call you now?
“HH. Short for Homeless Helper. And yes,” I add, hauling the SHELL™ over my shoulder, “I’m both.”
*My personal settings choice. If I’m going to hear this voice from everywhere within a near-infinite ship, it had to be one I like.
** Always the wrong one, of course. When more than one phone charger is involved, they are always the wrong ones.