In which two fictional worlds collide; Superman and the Doctor join forces against a common enemy. I would prefer David Tennant’s version of the Doctor here.
The Doctor and Superman are not my property. Enjoy!!!!
The dull clang of the cloister bell reverberating through every metal surface was what woke him out of a deep sleep. His uneasy dreams had not returned and it took a moment for his brain to whir into life, reminding him where he was sprawled out on the makeshift seats that ran around one side of the console and drooling into the fading upholstery.
He did a quick mental check that he was still in possession of all of his limbs as he stretched, popping various joints and making the silence of the control room quiver with little ripples of sound.
The alarm bell had stopped clanging its mournful news and in its place the silence throbbed like a living thing, almost overwhelming him with its volume.
Something was wrong.
In a distant galaxy in between somewhere and nowhere, a fleet was preparing itself for battle. Each soldier was heavily armed with weapons and vicious intent; each suit of armour was completely impenetrable. While the fleet was not large, it was effective.
The blast of sound that no human ears and few alien ears could really hear, much less describe, roared its way round the hangar where gleaming spaceships sat ready. The soldiers snapped to attention at the sound and their commanding officer fixed them with a glare, barking out their final instructions. As one, they turned to the ships, gliding into them with practiced ease; within minutes, each engine hummed with life.
It was time to go to war.
Clark sighed and rolled his head backwards and forwards, trying to loosen some of the tension in his neck. While he didn’t usually mind taking sentry duty at Watchtower, it was a particularly trying task this week. No-one else was on the huge space station that served as the headquarters and base of operations for the Justice League, and the lack of chatter and noise was getting to him. For a man who could hear everything, the silence was unnerving.
It didn’t help that this week was his wedding anniversary. He hated missing any time with Lois, but missing a special occasion was much worse. Clark grimaced at the memory of the amount of bargaining he had had to do just to make sure he could spend Lois’s birthday with her earlier in the year, even though it had been worth it. But the rota had said he was on sentry duty, so on sentry duty he was.
The Justice League was a good idea, really it was. It was just that all of its rules and policies and procedures and rotas and damn paperwork got in the way of other things, like his life. He missed the days when he had been on his own, doing the things he could that only he could.
He sighed again when he rolled his head backwards, accidentally freezing a spot on the ceiling; maybe when he saw Oliver again he would talk to him about cutting back the amount of time he was spending as part of the League. He would still be Superman, of course, but he would spend less time filing reports about the latest League mission and sitting in committee meetings trying not to fall asleep.
It wasn’t fun any more. Not that keeping the world safe should be fun all the time, but he had always managed to balance the responsibility that was part of Superman’s job description with knowing how to enjoy his own abilities. He couldn’t remember the last time he had properly stretched his legs on a good run there was always somewhere he needed to be, and running just to feel the wind on his face had to be pushed to one side. Lois had nodded in understanding when he talked to her about it, and she did truly understand; while it had been an honour for her to win a Pulitzer, it had somehow morphed into a dead weight round her neck and career in the year and a half since she had won it. Every article she wrote was relentlessly scrutinised, and she found herself writing because she had to, not because she had a story to break.
Clark reached inside the neck of his uniform and pulled out the chain he kept there when he was on duty, pulling it up over his head and letting in hang in mid air. His wedding ring dangled on the chain, glinting in the artificial light of the massive bank of screens and computers in front of him, stretching up towards the ceiling and curving left and right, matching the shape of the control room. Everything was monitored here; twenty four hour rolling news from every country in the world that had ever had a journalist to find the news and a newsreader to read it out; government transmissions and intelligence, internet chatter and rumours; Watchtower’s own extensive systems that regulated everything from the engines to the music piped into reception; and the radars and scanners that reached out into deep space, the front line of any kind of alarm.
He had his feet propped up on the counter in front of him, crossed at the ankle, his long legs stretched out as he leaned back in his chair. No doubt Bruce would make some kind of snarky remark about “slacking on the job” when he arrived to take over from him, but Clark didn’t care. If he was going to sit here looking at machines all night, he was going to be comfortable.
Clark rubbed his neck, kneading the tight muscles with one hand as he pulled his wedding ring off its chain with the other. He regretted every time he had to remove it from its proper place on the third finger of his left hand, but being as public a figure as Superman necessitated the measure. Lois understood.
He missed her; he always missed her, but especially now, alone in the silence and the dark and so far from home. Mentally calculating what time it was at home in case he woke her up, he was just about to reach for the satellite phone to his right to call her when a buzz somewhere in the bank of screens and machines caught his attention. His shoulders sagged; of course when he was on sentry duty something would go wrong.
Silently Clark debated with himself whether he should check it out or not. It might be nothing the last time that particular alarm had gone off, it had nothing to do with an actual situation and everything to do with Wally rigging some game console to the hard drive of the entire Watchtower system so he could play ‘Space Raiders’ on a really big screen.
But then, there had also been the time that the New Gods of Apokolis had appeared from nowhere and almost destroyed Earth.
Using his propped feet as leverage, and thankful for the wheels on his chair, Clark swung himself left in the direction of the still-buzzing alarm and knocked its attached monitor out of sleep mode. He frowned at the readings that it was showing and tapped a few keys on the keyboard beside it to restart the sequence. The same readings scrolled down the screen and his frown deepened.
Clark flicked the ‘on’ switch on another screen that showed all the footage of space from one particular satellite, and keyed in the password one-handed for the radar settings that belonged to the co-ordinates on the other screen. He pulled his feet off the counter and planted them on the floor in front of him, leaning towards the screen as binary code filled it, completing the sequence that would allow him to see what the other monitor had alerted him to.
Footage flickered into life and Clark’s mouth fell open in surprise.
That simply wasn’t possible.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
The Doctor’s perplexed question didn’t yield any kind of answer from the TARDIS. The screen in front of him didn’t tell him much either, except that they were being suspended in space running on the auxiliary power. And that was it. No co-ordinates, no information of any kind, not even a joke.
The TARDIS was dead. No life, no spark, not even a little bit of noise, and the Doctor allowed himself a minute to inwardly curse both himself for falling asleep and Amy for not being here if she had been here, he wouldn’t have fallen asleep and allowed this to happen. But what had happened? He walked towards the doors, hesitated, then pulled them both open, hoping whatever was beyond them didn’t have lots of teeth.
Space fell away below him, stretching on for miles and miles, the stars twinkling against its expanse. In the distance he could see Earth and felt instantly relieved. Earth was always a welcome sight, because in many ways he considered it his home as much as the TARDIS was. He shut one eye and then the other, before closing both of them and reopening them, just to check that Earth was still there. It was.
Turning towards the console, he closed the doors behind him and walked thoughtfully back to his previous spot. Though the screen hadn’t told him anything, he at least knew that he was near Earth. So why had the alarm bell sounded? The Doctor tapped at the screen and brought up the readings for the last couple of days and noticed some blips in the information, indicating that something, somewhere, had been detected. The readings announced that following analysis of the something and its trajectory, it was headed in this direction. Clearly, something was coming, and it wasn’t friendly. It was, literally, always something.
He stroked his chin as he took stock of the situation – he was alone in a time machine that didn’t work in the middle of space with something approaching that he couldn’t see, and he couldn’t do anything. Even if he had had a plan, he was completely and utterly helpless.
In his gut, the Doctor knew why the TARDIS wasn’t working. Though it was powered ultimately by the Eye of Harmony at its heart, it’s peripheral power was provided by Huon particles that fed off the time energy surrounding the TARDIS in whatever place or country or planet it was in. But that depended on which world the TARDIS was in. If the Huon particles couldn’t detect the energy they required, the Eye of Harmony was automatically rendered useless. The fact that the TARDIS wasn’t working brought the Doctor to one troubling conclusion.
He wasn’t in his world any more.
It was a blue box, hanging in space.
Clark rubbed his eyes and looked at the screen again. He tapped on the keyboard to his left, commanding the scanners to sweep the whole area within seconds, their findings appeared on yet another screen, this one perched above his head. The scanners said the same thing it was a blue box, hanging in space.
It also appeared to be made of wood.
The scanners couldn’t determine its origin or design, or its capabilities or potential weapons, and Clark wondered idly what the point of two billionaires bankrolling a superhero space station was if the state-of-the-art scanners they had installed couldn’t tell him anything about a fairly nondescript blue wooden box that had just appeared out of nowhere.
Zooming the picture in on the box, Clark thought that it looked friendly and not at all threatening. A sign round the top of the box proclaimed that it was a police box, and another sign on the door invited the public to use it if necessary. And for free.
Clark’s memory was vast; he never forgot anything, something that always made Lois slightly miffed in the middle of an argument; he could recall names and faces with ease, even if he’d only seen them or met them in passing; he could work out problems and discover solutions in the amount of time it took most people to blink; his brain capacity was the envy of his good friend Dr. Hamilton, who frequently complained about it when Clark figured something out before he did. But never, at any time, had he come across anything like a police box.
And certainly not one that ended up in space.
He grinned to himself suddenly as he imagined the look on Oliver’s face if he was here; he’d probably burst a blood vessel trying to work out what protocol to use for this kind of situation.
Static was hissing on a speaker on the other side of the control room, and Clark stood up, his gaze lingering on the blue box on the screen for another moment before he strode across the room to increase the speaker volume and adjust the settings. If the blue box was transmitting something, he needed to hear it.
What he didn’t expect to hear was a male voice singing “Lady in Red”.
The wireless that Susan had bought him for Christmas so many years ago had been turned into a communication device long before today, but the Doctor had never been more glad of it. He set it to both transmit and receive on as many frequencies as it could, a crude two-way radio, in the hope that someone somewhere might hear him. It was a ludicrously optimistic idea, but there wasn’t much else he could do except sing to the TARDIS and feel increasingly worried about what would happen when the auxiliary power ran out. He was only singing because the silence was adding to the worry that refused to go away.
So when someone said “hello?”, he yelled and jumped about three feet in the air in surprise.
The voice was coming from the wireless and the Doctor dived for it, fiddling with one of the knobs to increase the volume. “Who’s this?” the Doctor asked, pulling the screen round from the other side of the console to look at it. Who else could be out here? The screen was blank and couldn’t tell him anything.
The voice replied, in what the Doctor recognised as a mid-Western American accent, “uh… this is Watchtower. Who are you?” Though he hadn’t a clue what ‘Watchtower’ was, the Doctor felt his spirits lifting already. Maybe it wasn’t a completely hopeless situation after all.
“I’m the Doctor,” he said, his cheerfulness returning. “And I’m stuck.” On reflection, this probably wasn’t the best way to introduce himself, but it would have to do.
There was silence again and the Doctor fiddled with all the knobs on the wireless thinking the communication had been cut. Drat, drat, double drat – his one link to this world and it was gone. As it turned out, the voice hadn’t been lost, it was just thinking. Or surprised. Possibly both.
“Yep, that’s me. Just, the Doctor.”
“Are you… in a blue box? That says ‘police box’ on the outside?” was the hesitant question that came through the wireless speaker.
“Yes. It’s my spaceship.”
The voice sounded completely baffled. “But why is it blue? And wooden?”
“Oh, that’s the chameleon circuit. The TARDIS was designed to blend in with its surroundings, but the circuits broke in 1959 and I keep forgetting to buy the parts to fix them.”
“Your ship has been broken since 1959?”
“No, not since then, I was in 1959 at the time.”
There was silence again; the Doctor suspected that ‘Watchtower’ had never come across anything remotely like the TARDIS before, which was hardly surprising since it was rather unique.
“What does TARDIS stand for?” was the next question from the American voice.
“Time And Relative Dimension In Space.” He couldn’t help the little flourish he added at the end of that explanation. It was an amazing piece of technology and he liked showing it off.
“It’s a time machine.” Normally this revelation was shouted at people in exasperation when they didn’t make the obvious connection between its name and function, but the Doctor, for reasons he couldn’t explain, liked and trusted this voice from space and didn’t think he needed to shout this time, so he went with a patient explanation instead.
“Really? As well as a spaceship?”
“Yes, really,” was the Doctor’s pleased reply. He liked it when people were surprised over the fact that he could travel in both time and space, not one or the other.
“Well, ok. Um… where were you planning on going? You’re kind of just.. hanging in space.”
The Doctor cleared his throat. He didn’t ask for help if he could help it, so to speak, but since he was stuck on another world with no way of getting home, he decided to ignore his pride.
“I’m in the wrong world, so my ship won’t work here.”
More silence. He chuckled to himself whoever ‘Watchtower’ was, they were obviously getting the shock of their life, thanks to him.
“Uh… Doctor, is it? Are you any kind of threat to this world?”
Clark didn’t want to ask the question, but he had to. For one thing, he had no intention of coming face-to-face with angry members of the League who would criticise him for not doing his duty properly, and who would point out that protocol existed for a reason. And then there was the paperwork.
Besides that, Clark was weary of battling people and things from other worlds who had decided to come to Earth to try and take it over just because it was there. He was weary of being judged by their standards he was Earth’s most famous alien and was not only accepted but looked up to, and then along would come another Maxima intent on causing death and destruction everywhere and who would give all aliens a bad name.
“Why do you ask?” was the Doctor’s careful question.
“Well, Watchtower is here to protect Earth and you’re an unknown, unidentified… person.”
The Doctor didn’t respond, and Clark pushed on. “It’s protocol. It’s just… I’m doing sentry duty and I have to do things right.”
“Ah.” The Doctor sounded as though he didn’t really care about doing things right, but was humouring him anyway.
That was him, always doing the right thing and going by the book. He was the boy scout after all, a nickname that had mystified him the first time he’d been called it he’d never even been in the scouts.
Clark scratched his chin and did some quick thinking. If he took the Doctor’s word for who he was a lost traveller in the wrong world it could backfire spectacularly. But he could also be a friend who really was just lost.
To hell with protocol, he decided.
Lois would be proud.
The Doctor tried to reassure the hesitant voice coming from the wireless.
“Well as it turns out, I’m not armed and there’s no weapons anywhere on board my ship. I don’t even have a toothbrush.”
The voice chuckled, a deep throaty sound, and the Doctor found himself smiling.
“It’s ok, Doctor, I believe you. Do you need help, if you’re lost and… uh … stuck?”
“I’m running on auxiliary power and I don’t know how long it’s going to last because I don’t know how long the TARDIS has been running on it.” He added helpfully, “I fell asleep and woke up here.”
“Ah. Do you remember the last time the TARDIS was running normally? Roughly?”
The Doctor screwed his eyes shut and thought hard. He had left Amy off at Median Mon Ur to go shopping, since the whole planet was one giant bazaar, and then made a quick stop at Arachnophilixturus to stock up on vanilla pods because he’d run out of them and needed something to chew on. Sometime into chewing his fifth pod he must’ve fallen asleep.
“I think it was twelve hours ago.” He decided finally.
“And how long can the auxiliary power last?”
“Eighteen hours before all the lights go out and the heating shuts down, and another two hours of suspending the TARDIS in space before it runs out completely.”
“Which leaves eight hours of auxiliary power left. That gives us… aw shoot, hang on Doctor.”
The Doctor drummed his fingers impatiently on the console, curious as to what had caught Watchtower’s attention.
After what seemed like an absolute age, he heard a throat being cleared through the wireless.
“What’s wrong, Watchtower?”
“The scanners have picked something up. Headed straight towards us.”
The fleet had travelled in a formation that scholars studying the history of ancient Rome would have recognised, the tortoise. The outer ships cloaked and protected the whole fleet, making it undetectable to any kind of radar on any world. The organic nature of the cloaking devices meant they could adapt to each world and protect the fleet before its designated target was in range.
Then the big guns would come out.
The fleet had a straightforward and simple strategy first, take out all satellites and space stations and leave the planet they were surrounding blind. Next, destroy communications and power sources, leading to panic and confusion. Finally, major government institutions would be surrounded with an impenetrable forcefield meaning the countries they governed were left leaderless. It was swift and usually bloodless.
They were the advance guard for the rest of the species, who would not be so kind as to leave the people of the planet unharmed.
Passing between worlds was easy by punching a small but definite hole in the fabric of each universe, and leaving it for a period of time, the hole would widen of its own accord. If it was left long enough, a whole planet could fit through the gap that had been created.
The fleet slipped through easily into the world that held this version of Earth. The flight course and co-ordinates for each target had been prepared months in advance by a small scouting trip that had slipped past every radar undetected.
The first target was Watchtower.
ETA, ten minutes.
“What can you see, Watchtower?”
The Doctor’s voice crackled round the room. Clark had turned the volume up on the two-way radio so he could look at the screens in the control room and hear the Doctor at the same time. Technically he didn’t need to, but he had some very human habits and frequently turned things up louder out of respect to other people who didn’t have his hearing.
“It’s a… a rectangular.. shape. It’s using some kind of cloaking device but the scanner picked it up because there’s a discrepancy between the cloaking device and whatever it’s trying to hide.”
He tilted his head to study all the screens with their images and data flashing wildly round him. There was even one flashing red, as if to emphasise that this was definitely an alarm situation.
The Doctor hmmm’ed and Clark could hear him muttering about not being able to see a thing without looking out the door. He wondered what the ship was like on the inside. It certainly didn’t look very big.
Suddenly, the images changed. The shape transformed as the cloaking devices were deactivated and Clark could feel the cold tendrils of panic and fear twisting round his insides.
This wasn’t a friendly visit.
“Doctor, we’re in trouble. Can we get you moved before Watchtower has to start firing?”
“What can you see? What is it?”
Clark tried to describe what he saw. “It’s a fleet of maybe three hundred ships, black and long and each of them have a tail fin painted red.”
The Doctor sucked in a breath and asked, “Is there a circle painted on the nose with a hexagon inside it?”
Clark focused one of the scanners on the nose of one of the ships and zoomed in on it. There, painted near the front of it, was a hexagon inside a circle, surrounded by writing that he couldn’t read.
“Yes, there is. Do you know what they are?”
The Doctor let out the breath he had sucked in earlier and cleared his throat. “They’re the Gorgogs, a warrior race who make it their mission to enslave every civilisation they can – whole worlds destroy themselves trying to fight them off and whoever’s left becomes like them… savage and bloodthirsty. Sometimes they stay on the planet after they’ve wiped it clean. Sometimes they use it as a staging post for the next world to destroy.”
Clark was aghast. He needed to get the Doctor to safety, and soon.
The Doctor was still talking, though he sounded as if he was moving around a lot. “They get to other worlds by making a small hole in the skin of a particular universe and waiting for it to rip itself apart wide enough for their advance fleet to get through. The hole must’ve been made a while ago… that’s how the TARDIS fell through it and ended up here.”
“But why would anyone want to do that?” Clark had met and fought enough enemies to know that that was probably the most naÃ¯ve question he’d ever asked, but he couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to turn Earth into a carcass, a shell.
“Have you ever met something that had no humanity in it, whose only purpose was to kill and destroy everything around it?”
He had, and it had killed him. “Yes,” was his succinct reply to the Doctor’s question as he tried not to shudder at the memories of Doomsday that, even now, still haunted him.
“That’s what the Gorgogs are,” the Doctor was saying.
“How do you know so much about them?” He was curious about how the Doctor knew so much, even if now wasn’t really the time.
“I travel a lot.”
“Where do they come from?”
“No-one knows. Their reputation precedes them on most worlds and in most galaxies, fairytales about the evil monsters who come in the night, but very few people have ever met them and lived.”
“So do we have a plan?”
“Well that depends on what we’ve got.”
Clark rhymed off the vast arsenal of weapons and shields that Watchtower possessed, hoping he hadn’t left anything out in case it was the one thing the man in the blue box needed. He trusted this man, the Doctor, whoever he was. “Is there anything there that might help?” he finished.
There was a shocked silence on the other end, before the strained question came back, “What did you say Watchtower was?”
“It’s the headquarters and base of operations of the Justice League.”
“The Justice League?”
“You’ve heard of it?”
“Heard of it? They’re the best. A whole group of superheroes and aliens all joined together to protect Earth!”
Clark chuckled. The Doctor must be a fan, judging by how he started talking in a way that reminded him a lot of Lois. “Who’s Green Lantern now? The Lanterns are my favourite, I always liked Hal. He met an alien and didn’t try to kill it but he did what it asked! And Hawkman’s best impersonator helped me out in a sticky situation on Jafficor 3 about ten years ago. The mace was very handy. Even when there wasn’t any treacle.”
Clark could only smile at the man’s enthusiasm, even if he was still baffled by most of the things that he said. “Who are you, then?” asked the Doctor, excitedly.
“Just the sentry,” Clark replied, shrugging his shoulders even though the Doctor couldn’t see him.
Just the sentry. That’s all he was.
The Doctor couldn’t believe his luck. Of all the worlds to accidentally end up in with monsters on his tail, he just had to end up in the one where the Justice League actually existed.
The feeling didn’t last Watchtower’s slightly panicked voice came through the wireless relaying all kinds of information that he didn’t want to hear.
“Doctor, we’ve lost all communication with Earth, and the long range scanners and radar are out too.”
Well that was only a small setback. Wasn’t it?
“I can’t summon any other members of the League here because the telepad isn’t working either, and there’s no way of warning anyone about what’s going on.”
Right. Slightly larger setback.
“And I can’t activate the tractor beam to lift you out of the way and get your ship into Watchtower.”
Hmm. Larger setback.
“The weapons aren’t responding either and even if they did, they’d destroy the TARDIS first.”
He rubbed his hand over his eyes and face, his brain kicking into high gear. Watchtower had weapons a-plenty, but with the TARDIS in the way, they couldn’t be used.
“How long until the Gorgog fleet gets here?” he asked, his brain whirring away, calculating time and distance and capabilities and what was going to happen to Amy if the TARDIS was indeed destroyed.
Watchtower’s answer couldn’t have been more disheartening. “Five minutes. I can see the whole fleet lining up on the radar here.”
Five minutes. Five minutes to stop the most vicious species he’d ever heard of and never met from destroying him, Watchtower and Earth.
A niggling voice in the back of his mind pointed out that it wasn’t his earth. It was the earth of someone else to protect, so why was he worrying about it so much?
He shook his head to get rid of the thought and concentrated on trying not to die.
“Doctor, four minutes and closing.” Clark warned, desperately trying to activate any kind of shield around the TARDIS and Watchtower. His brain calculated and calibrated every kind of possibility based on what the screens and monitors were telling him.
While there was a pressing need to save the world, Clark was, for the first time, completely unsure of what he could do to save both the Doctor and Earth. Despite all of his abilities, they were useless here.
For a brief second, he closed his eyes and cleared his mind of all thoughts except one directed towards his friend J’onn J’onnz. His Martian friend was handily telepathic if he could get just one hint, even, that something was wrong, J’onn could alert the other members of the League.
Hoping that his one thought of “J’onn, emergency, help” had somehow reached the consciousness of his friend, he opened his eyes again to see that the ETA of the Gorgog fleet was now three and a half minutes.
His problem was two-fold; an advancing enemy fleet, and a friend about to be caught in the crossfire of whatever attack was going to take place. While he had worked out a way of circumnavigating whatever forcefield was around Watchtower and cancelling out its weapons potential, that still left the TARDIS vulnerable.
He told the Doctor his conclusion with a heavy heart.
There was silence for an agonisingly long ten seconds before the Doctor spoke. “So you can stop the Gorgogs from destroying Watchtower and leaving Earth unprotected at the expense of me.”
There was a pause.
Clark was shocked. The Doctor was willing to sacrifice himself to protect Earth. He did it all the time, and the League had been forced to do so in the past, but it was rare to find someone not in the League and not endowed with superpowers (as far as he could tell) who was willing to do it too.
Had he grown so cynical in his old age? Maybe he had. Or maybe it was simply that the Doctor was extraordinary.
“No. I won’t. I won’t do it, Doctor.”
“Why not? It’s only one life.”
Clark almost growled out his answer. Did the man hold his life in so little regard? Was that why he was willing to sacrifice it? Life was precious, and worth hanging onto. Clark knew that he had so much to live for, so much still to see and do so many things he wanted to tell Lois. Maybe even one day they might have a family. He wasn’t just doing this to protect Earth; he was doing it to protect the possibility of the future for every single person who lived there.
With a fire that he hadn’t felt in a long time, Clark retorted, “Every life is worth saving, no matter who it is.”
“Good for you,” was the Doctor’s quiet response, and Clark couldn’t shake the feeling that it had been some kind of test.
“The shields will work, yes?” he added, and Clark wondered idly where the Doctor was from, his slightly rough-around-the-edges accent contrasting to the stereotypical image he had in his head of what English people sounded like.
“Yes, they will. I can program them to slip past the force field surrounding Watchtower.”
“How long will they take to be raised completely?”
“Twenty five seconds. Why?”
“Oh, you know, just a plan that I made up there now that could possibly destroy everything within ten miles of the TARDIS.”
The Doctor cackled through the speaker and said, “Yep!” popping the ‘p’ at the end of the word.
Clark was getting worried on so many levels that it was difficult to focus on one at a time, but the Doctor’s as yet undefined plan was definitely attracting most of the worry at the moment.
“What’s the plan then?”
“The TARDIS is powered by the Eye of Harmony basically, it’s a black hole at the heart of the ship that was formed when a Dwarf Star collapsed in on itself, a huge star. I’m sitting right in front of Watchtower, so if you raise the shields at the same time as I open the TARDIS console, it’ll push all that energy out into space-”
“And straight at the Gorgog fleet,” Clark finished.
Well, it was a risk, but with the fleet precisely one minute and thirty seconds away, there weren’t many other options. Quickly he programmed the shields to bypass the force field and deploy as they were meant to, his fingers blurring over the keyboard. As he finished typing in the seemingly endless codes of numbers, a thought struck him, prompting him to ask the Doctor, “Doctor… if you’re going to push all that energy out into space, how far is it going to reach?”
There was silence from the Doctor, which confirmed Clark’s suspicion too much and it would reach Earth, causing who knew what kind of damage.
“We’ll have to wait until the Gorgogs are right on us, so you don’t have the console open for too long, but long enough to reach them.” Clark concluded; the Doctor hmmm’ed again and Clark could hear some banging and clattering from inside the TARDIS. It echoed, as though there was a cavern inside that tiny blue box. He wondered what kind of spaceship it was and who had built it. It wasn’t like anything he’d ever seen.
“Right!” came a shout from the Doctor. “Almost ready.”
“What are you doing?”
“I can’t find my sonic crowbar.”
“Don’t you have a normal one?”
“Nah, that’s boring. And I think the warranty I got with it ran out about twenty years ago when it snapped in half after an argument with my godmother’s teeth.”
Clark marvelled momentarily that in the face of certain death, they could still find time to talk about tools (and teeth too, apparently).
“Is the .. Eye… ready?” he asked, his hand twitching nervously over the button marked ‘deploy shields’.
“Yep. Just have to wait on the Gorgogs.” The Doctor sounded suspiciously as though he was rubbing his hands together in glee. Maybe he had near death experiences like this all the time.
They were taking a huge risk; he was personally taking a huge risk, using something as unknown as the Eye of Harmony. He didn’t know what it consisted of, or the kind of energy it would blast into space, and there was the risk that if there was a fault with the shields, the combination of the Eye’s energy with the shields could blow up the TARDIS, Watchtower, or both.
“Bet you wish you hadn’t picked tonight for sentry duty, Watchtower,” came the Doctor’s voice, butting in on his musings about the man who was going to try and save the world by almost certainly dying in the process.
If he hadn’t been on sentry duty, Clark thought, he knew exactly what he would’ve been doing sitting on the couch in his living room with a bowl of pretzels in his lap and one arm round his wife, watching whatever television programme Lois wanted to watch. He pictured the scene, seeing the photographs on the coffee table, the throw cushions that Lois had hunted round most of Metropolis for; the magnolia walls he had tried to paint using superspeed until a raised eyebrow and a glare from a dark pair of eyes changed his mind.
Most of all, he pictured her.
Whatever happened to him, he hoped that at least she would be safe. He rubbed his thumb across his wedding ring, realising that at some point in the last hour he had absent mindedly put it back on his finger. Glancing at the screen in front of him, and with one last silent prayer sent out into the universe that the Doctor knew what he was doing, Clark pulled the cover off the switch for the shields. Thirty seconds. Twenty nine. Twenty eight.
I love you, honey, he thought, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, remembering Lois’s smile.
Twenty seven. Twenty six.
Clark really hoped this was going to work.
Twenty five seconds.
He flipped the switch.
At first it didn’t seem as if anything had happened, other than the anxiety that was clawing its way up his chest increasing. Then, from somewhere, the Doctor heard a rumble, a deep booming clatter of drums that made the TARDIS shake. The shaking grew more pronounced until the Doctor had to hang onto one of the columns just to stay upright.
Still, the shaking got worse, and the Doctor lunged for the console, wrenching open the panel that he had been loosening during the conversation with Watchtower. He hadn’t told the sentry the exact truth about the Gorgogs that they were creatures of time and space itself, much like the Weeping Angels, which meant their passage into other worlds was made much easier.
He knew from the minute that Watchtower had described the fleet to him that this would be the only way.
He also knew that the TARDIS had been trying to tell him about this. His uneasy dreams had been the ship tapping into the telepathic circuit that connected him to the TARDIS, and what he had thought had been memories of times past were actually warnings about the future.
He pulled the console panel wider, straining with the effort.
Golden light poured into the control room as the shaking grew ten times worse. The TARDIS wasn’t just shaking, it was being flung around like a rag doll on the crest of a wave. Above the noise of the TARDIS as it shook and the roar of the Eye of Harmony as the console opened, the Doctor could hear Watchtower’s sentry speaking through the wireless, even as the communication line was breaking up.
“Doc- firing on us… need to get that vor-… shields are up full…”
The voice was cut off completely, just as the Doctor thought he had been split in two. The sheer force of the shields colliding with the energy erupting from the console in the middle of the room flung the TARDIS forwards. The Doctor was tossed into one of the columns and had to disentangle himself from it to scramble back towards the console. With single-minded determination he held onto the floor and the railing and the chair and anything within reach, crawling towards the gaping hole from which time energy was still spewing.
An almighty explosion rocked the TARDIS again, throwing him off course, but he kept going.
The Doctor had never thought of himself as a particularly strong man, except when Michelangelo had asked him to help load the statue of ‘David’ onto a cart on the day that it was finished and he had lifted a whole side by himself. But he doubted that even Hercules could’ve done what he did to close the side of the console against the huge volume of energy that was straining to escape.
Without questioning how he could do it, or why he thought he could in the first place, he slammed the panel shut and collapsed on the floor in a heap, panting and gasping for air.
And then, there was nothing.
Silence reigned. There was no roar or shaking or creaking or crackling of the wireless, only dead air.
Tired as he was, he tried to roll onto his side and prop his body up, but he couldn’t. A hundred different scenarios raced through his mind, each one progressively worse than the last. What had happened to Watchtower? And the faithful sentry?
The wireless crackled once, twice, and then an urgent voice was heard saying “Doctor? Doctor!” It took him a great deal of effort, but he managed to reply, “I’m alright. Did it work?”
“I’m checking the radar now… they’re gone! Completely gone!”
The Doctor tiredly punched the air and hooted with delight. The Gorgogs were gone, flung back through the hole they had created into nothingness, never to return. He heard a similarly enthusiastic whoop from the wireless, followed by “Doctor, we did it!” The Doctor started singing again, not caring who heard him or how tiredly off-key he was.
Earth was safe.
The TARDIS had been pulled into Watchtower’s loading bay by its tractor beam and set down gently in the middle of the vast white expanse. While the events of the day had surprised and exhausted the Doctor, nothing had prepared him for what he saw when he opened the doors of the TARDIS.
A tall broad figure stood three feet away, resplendent in red and blue. The man stood as straight as if he had a ruler at his back; his hands were clasped behind him, making his chest expand everything about him radiated power, strength and authority. He had a broad jawline, the bluest eyes and, in the middle of his forehead, a single curl.
It was only Superman.
The man strode towards the TARDIS as the Doctor stood transfixed. In some dim corner of his mind the thought occurred to him that he might be gaping, with his mouth hanging open and everything.
“Doctor?” the man said as he came to a halt just in front of the TARDIS, his head tilting to one side as if studying him.
It was the voice in the wireless. All that time, the sentry he had been speaking to was Superman.
Clearing his throat and shaking his head slightly to clear it, the Doctor smiled his toothiest smile. “The one and only,” he said. “The sentry?”
Superman nodded and smiled. “That’s me. Welcome to Watchtower.”
The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS and gazed round him in rapture. The loading bay stretched in every direction by at least a mile. Fluorescent lights bathed everything in a harsh glow, but the machines and ships and tools that were scattered in different parts of the bay looked sleek and shiny and gorgeous. He looked back at the TARDIS and the contrast it presented to the gleam of the loading bay was disheartening; it was so humble-looking in comparison to a transport pod sitting a few feet away, glinting; the TARDIS was battered and worn and the paint was peeling from the blast of heat generated by the shields, and he was sure that if it could speak it would be wheezing and apologising for dirtying the nice clean floor. He patted the side of it and murmured, “Don’t worry, old girl. You’ll be right as rain in no time.”
Superman, for his part, was eyeing the inside of the TARDIS curiously, and the Doctor invited him in for a tour. Superman didn’t say much on his way through the myriad of rooms and corridors inside the TARDIS but looked suitably impressed. The Doctor was struck by how incongruous he looked as he stood at the console with his cape providing a splash of vivid colour against the warm browns and orange of the TARDIS’s interior. This was his life, where the fantastic and the impossible met the ordinary and the weird, and he loved it. Eventually Superman’s tongue loosened enough to fire a hundred different questions at the Doctor about how the TARDIS could possibly be bigger on the inside than the outside, and they wiled away some time discussing Gallifreyan technology something he hadn’t had the opportunity to do in a very long time.
For his part, the Doctor couldn’t successfully hide his glee at Superman’s offer to take whatever he needed from the loading bay to repair the TARDIS. He skipped from place to place, lifting things that were useful and interesting and, in some cases, just shiny. The repairs didn’t take long; even though the Doctor got temporarily annoyed and upset at not being able to find his acetylene torch, Superman proved to be just as useful with his precision accurate heat vision, and provided some heavy lifting too.
The favour of a tour was returned by Superman, who showed him round the vast Watchtower complex, which was as much a home to the League as it was their headquarters. The Doctor was very disappointed to see that Batman did not have a pole in his room to swing upside down from when he slept. He skipped around the engine room and the telepads and the war room, feeling as though all his Christmases had come at once.
What really took his breath away was a seemingly innocuous corridor that, at the flip of a switch, became a viewing platform into the whole of space. Earth shone in the distance, lit by the sun and as bright as any star. He smiled fondly on seeing it, glad that the old bean was still there. Superman stood beside him, also looking out into space. The quiet of the viewing platform was an unusual and surprising balm to the Doctor’s ears after the events of the day.
“Where are you from, Doctor?” Superman’s question didn’t take him by surprise, and he almost smiled at the lilt of curiosity in the man’s voice. A small part of him was whooping with delight that not only had he met Superman, but he was having a whole conversation with him too.
Superman tilted his head down and stared at him curiously. “You’re not human?”
The Doctor shook his head, still looking out at the magnificent view presented by the viewing platform. From beside him, he heard Superman’s slightly awed statement, “You have two hearts.” He turned to look up at him, asking “how did you know?”
“I can see them. And,” he tilted his head sideways, “I can hear them too.”
The Doctor grinned at Superman’s surprise and waited on the questions that everyone always asked. Superman, however, asked different ones.
“What kind of planet is Gallifrey?”
“It was the home of the Time Lords. We ruled time and space, it was what we did when people tried to muck about with it, the Time Lords intervened to prevent all sorts of catastrophes.”
“was?” Superman stepped closer, his face curious. The Doctor didn’t want to talk about it, not really, but he wouldn’t leave Superman without an explanation.
“It’s gone now. Just dust. There was a war, a great war and we lost. Everybody lost.”
“So you’re the the last one, the last Time Lord?”
The Doctor nodded.
“Can’t you go back in your time machine and fix whatever happened?”
He sighed. “I’ve wanted to, even thought seriously about doing it, but I can’t. It’s part of my timeline, the one I exist in, and I can’t cross it to go back and change something so… profound.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor.”
“I had a family there. They’re all gone too.”
He felt a broad hand on his shoulder in sympathy, and heard Superman’s deep voice say, “I’m the last one too. My planet exploded and that’s how I came to Earth. My cousin came after me but… she’s not here any more.”
The Doctor glanced down at the hand on his shoulder with its ring on the third finger. Nodding at it, he said “But you’re not completely alone, are you?”
Superman pulled his hand off the Doctor’s shoulder and looked down at it, smiling to himself. “No, not alone,” he said, rubbing his thumb across the gold band. “She… she’s everything to me. She’s my whole world.”
The Doctor nodded in understanding. Of course he knew the story of the great love affair between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, aka Superman. He just never thought he’d get the chance to see it up close.
“You don’t have anyone at all, Doctor?”
He smiled. “I have Amy. She travels with me.”
“Not completely alone, then.”
The Doctor chuckled at his own words being repeated back to him. “No, not completely alone,” he said, this thoughts turning to Amy and the need to get back to her as soon as he could.
“Maybe…” Superman began after a pause, “since this is a different world… there might be another Gallifrey here?”
He shook his head again. “Not every world is a parallel. Some things are the same but others… others are specific to one world. Gallifrey belongs in mine, Krypton belongs in yours but they don’t belong in the opposite version.”
“So no parallel-world Krypton then?”
They stood in silence for a moment, absorbing the knowledge, once again, that they were the only ones left from their respective worlds.
“Is there a Justice League in your world?”
“No. Only stories.” But, the Doctor thought, what wonderful stories they are. Here, it was real.
“So who protects Earth?”
“I suppose… that would be me.”
Clark reached out his hand and grasped the Doctor’s firmly. “Then I’m very glad to have met you, Doctor.”
“And I you, Superman.”
They smiled at each other, and with a nod of acknowledgement, let go of each other’s hands; they turned back towards the glass, Clark with his hands behind his back, the Doctor with his arms folded, in a quiet moment of victory and friendship.
Together, two lonely aliens, the last of their kind, stood above the stars and watched the Earth turn.
It was two weeks before the TARDIS had charged enough to take the trip back into the Doctor’s own world. Watchtower’s radars had detected the rift closing, thanks in part to the Doctor and his mad plan of opening the console and shifting vast tonnes of time energy in its direction. Clark had offered the help of other members of the Justice League if the Doctor needed it, but he declined. The last thing he wanted was to become an exhibition piece among a group of people who were already famous for being just that.
There was still one thing he had to do, however.
The last afternoon that the Doctor spent in this exotic world where heroes roamed the streets and sky, he found himself sitting on a bench in the middle of a park in Metropolis, eating a hotdog and reading the morning edition of the Daily Planet.
The headline read “Superman to step down as member of the Justice League” in 72 point font, no less. The story ran for six pages, dedicating masses of column inches to the views of various high profile leaders and pundits, a history of Superman’s time on earth and membership of the League, and a slightly sensationalised editorial that asked if this was the end of the Justice League as the world knew it.
However, he hadn’t come to see the clean cut all-American hero whose photograph was emblazoned on the front page of every newspaper at every news stand he had passed. He had come to see the other side of him, the one that very few people knew about.
The Doctor stood and threw his hotdog wrapping in the bin; he licked his fingers, tucked the newspaper under his arm and, rounding the corner from where he had been sitting, unexpectedly found who he was looking for.
There was a low rise wall in front of him, topped by a small hedge; in front of the wall was a green, circled by benches and bins. Couples and children and grandmothers and dogs were milling around, enjoying the sunshine, creating a pleasant soundtrack to the afternoon; the Doctor’s attention, however, was focused on the couple sitting on the bench directly opposite him.
The man was dressed in a casual shirt and jeans, with dark hair spilling over his forehead and black, thick-rimmed glasses sliding down his nose. He was laughing at the woman sitting beside him, holding a hotdog out of her reach while she tried to take it from him. Eventually he relented and gave it to her, watching her take a huge bite out of it as he sipped on some coffee from a cardboard cup.
Even though he knew their story, the Doctor wondered idly how their story had really begun; perhaps there had been a look, and a smile, and hope for something more. Seeing the two of them sitting on the bench, happy and content in the sunshine, he felt an ache that had never really gone away. It was loneliness, and he found himself missing Amy more than he usually did when he wasn’t with her.
He was about to turn and leave when Clark, pushing his glasses up his nose, glanced upwards and caught sight of him. The look of delighted surprise on his face caught the woman’s attention; he nodded in the direction of the Doctor and she turned towards him. The Doctor saw long dark hair, tumbling across her shoulders, fine features and a pair of dark eyes.
So this was the woman who had captured the heart of Superman, and married him, and signed up to a life that even he couldn’t imagine leading. Studying them both for a moment, he waved the newspaper with its giant headline at them, and Clark raised his coffee cup in return. Smiling and nodding in goodbye, he walked down the path to the street with a spring in his step.
It was time to go home.
If Amy noticed the steaming mug of tea perched above the stabilisers in the middle of the console when she walked into the TARDIS two days later, blissfully unaware of everything that happened since she left, she didn’t mention it.
It was a blue and yellow mug, stamped with a large red ‘S’