I’ve returned the TARDIS.
Perhaps given the magnitude of that magnificent machine, the journeys its made and the asset it’s been, such an event deserves more than just those four words – although tell that to anyone who makes up newspaper headlines. I admit that the TARDIS helped me escape a war-torn Gallifrey, took me on numerous adventures and is even the reason that I bumped into Womble. But the simple fact of the matter is this:
The TARDIS isn’t mine.
Even though they have their own personalities and operating systems far beyond the developmental stages of most galaxies, a TARDIS cannot disobey a direct order from a Timelord. Some, like the Doctor, may believe that they could never have their own personal ship stolen. The same people can also be left behind. But just because the TARDIS has granted my requests so far doesn’t mean its been happy about it – indeed the manner in which I left it behind for its true owner to reclaim was a little bit frosty. A blue wooden box can demonstrate feelings of smugness and a general air of “good riddance”, I now know that for sure. And that’s why it was time to return it. We travelled, we trekked and we traversed the universe but we sure as hell were never friends. That’s why this moment doesn’t need to go beyond the four simple words. Returning stolen property never requires much detail, only the act.
So now I have Odyssey again. Sure, he’s still not quite his entirely true self seeing as I no longer call myself Guardian, but I’m working on it. We have captured a new power source for him, that was a good start, though neither of us can agree on a name for the newly imprisoned star. So much of me wants to go down the ‘Nibbles’ route because that joke is still funny.
But such things will have to wait, as there’s been a new development. Only a few minutes of peace went by after I abandoned the TARDIS, turning my back on a large portion of my past life, towards my new ship and the sudden arrival of a large portion of my future life. A self-satisfied demon wrapped in white leans against Odyssey’s centre console.
“Have I missed much?”
I approach FutureHH much in the same way that tidal waves move in a smooth mixture of speed and fury. I lash out a punch and catch him on the left side of his jaw, sending a jolt of pain from my knuckles to my head which is entirely drowned out by a wave of satisfaction. He barely reacts so I throw out several more with each sick, wet thud bringing with it a fresh tinge of euphoria. On my tenth strike, my future self’s nose breaks. A blindingly white coat is stained red.
FutureHH spits something dark and thick off to one side and wipes his sleeve across his chin. “Proud of yourself? Because now you get to wait for the day when some idiot does the same to you.”
A flash of regeneration energy sparks in his hand which he rubs across his face. In two wipes, the nose is fixed, the blood is gone and two black eyes return to normal. The glare of dissent remains utterly intact.
“Pain is a simple thing yet so difficult to control, rather like emotions in that respect. That happened to be the last of the regeneration energy. Let’s both hope we don’t need it later.”
Whoa, hang on a moment here, the last of it? Guardian may have reduced it but I’ve still currently got enough for a full body MOT, keeping the same appearance. What the hell goes wrong?
Yet anger keeps me away from such sensible questions, preferring petulance and irritation. At the very least, it does what very few other of my emotions can do. It keeps me focused and to the point.
To receive such a mild reaction, it takes me a few moments to realise he already knew I was going to say that.
“Right now. You are, if possible, the very last person I wish to see. I would honestly rather go ice skating in Hell than listen to you, and you know how bad we are at ice skating. I don’t need any more guidance, I don’t need any more riddles, I don’t need you being a condescending prick right now. I just put one inconvenience in prison, Ned tell me you’re having the next cell.”
“You want to put your future self in prison, do you?”
“I don’t want to be lectured or have you talking down to me. Not this time. You cannot play the part of the better man here, when you left me to die with Guardian and the Darkness.”
“You were left behind. I was left behind. I wasn’t saved by my future self and so nor were you.”
“What about all your lessons that time was not my master, that I can change the past?”
“You can change the past HH, but not your past. No more than you change a chosen course when you’ve already arrived at the destination. Were I to rescue you from Guardian, then I would have been rescued, but I wasn’t. I led on that freezing stone floor, screaming the life out of myself and burning in undying agony. Now you have done the same. It was necessary.”
I throw my hands in the air and stalk off around the console. “Yes so you said, you learnt a lesson and now so have I. So what, pray tell, what is the great moral here? I experienced the grand peak of endurance and if that was your intention, there are much less convoluted ways of doing it.”
Having rounded the console and brought my future self back into view, I find him with a hand to his face.
“How was I ever this stupid?”
That stops me short. A drop of guilt slides down my spine and cools off the temper tantrum. I’ve managed to disappoint myself. That’s quite an accomplishment.
“You’re my future self. Why can’t you just tell me what to do?”
“The fact that you’re asking such a childish question just proves why I shouldn’t.” He turns to look at me. I know to expect the eyes-like-burning-galaxies and am not left disappointed, though this time they seem far more weary. “Do you realise you are older than some star systems and yet not once do you seem to have evolved? Like all children who have run away from home, still you seek the guidance of an elder. You’ll just have to see for yourself.”
He waves a hand at me and the Q.U.A.R.K beeps. Upon inspection, I find that the next ability has become available.
Greed ( )
I stare at the five letters for a noticeably long time, hoping to find some hidden meaning hiding between them, but no clarity comes to me. This leads me to ask yet another question, directed at the worst possible person to ask questions.
“What do you expect me to do with this?”
Neither FutureHH, nor his disconcerting gaze, have moved an inch.
I suddenly find myself staring at the wall behind him, or rather at a dog-eared poster of Gorillaz which covers up a panel gap. My future self has gone and barely disturbed the air, once more leaving me alone to my own thoughts and devices. Well, with one exception I suppose.
Why does your future self hate you quite so much?
Never one to miss a cue. “It’s a basic age thing, Odyssey. Clearly something has happened between now and him which I’ve yet to see. Jealousy of someone else’s youthful ignorance is a powerful thing.”
And what do you suppose that something was?
“Is. It hasn’t happened yet. And I truly haven’t the foggiest.”