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Title: The Library of Blank Books
Author: Ponygirl
Rating: PG, for one swear word (Bad Nine! No biscuit!)
Characters: Nine, Rose, Ace, Seven (genfic)
Spoilers: Seasons 25-27
Warnings: Er... snark? Do you have to warn for high levels of snark, these days?

A/N: Thanks, as ever, to [livejournal.com profile] dark_aegis for her invaluable beta eagle-eye.

Who_Daily: a href="http://ponygirl72.livejournal.com/26446.html">The Library of Blank Books by lj user="ponygirl72"> (Nine, Rose, Ace, Seven | PG | Spoilers: DW Seasons 25-27)




The Library of Blank Books



The nightclub was dark and smoky, lit by black light and throbbing with a deep, alien musical beat. Rose prided herself that she was finally starting to feel comfortable in surroundings like these-- weird aliens and all-- but, to be honest, she was used to the Doctor being at her side, or at least nearby.

Normally, she would have protested when he suggested she spend the evening here while he took care of some business elsewhere in the city. In fact, normally, she would have dug her heels in and refused, point blank. So soon after her dad's death, though, she'd hesitated. Thinking that it might be good to just let go for a night, and lose herself in some good music and good drinks, in a place where absolutely no one knew her.

She smiled as the alien bloke she was dancing with executed a stylish duck-and-spin. The people here were pretty different; it still startled her when one of the long, ropy braids of hair favoured by both the men and women swayed back and forth to the pounding drumbeat, apparently under its own power. What was the word? Prehensile, that was it. Like a monkey's tail. Still, they were friendly, and not put off by her human appearance. She'd seen a scattering of other people from different planets, including one who looked like a giant octopus wearing a toga, so apparently there was space travel here.

Her dance partner, who gave the impression that he'd been sampling the local version of ecstasy pills, gave her a friendly hug as the song ended and walked away with a distracted wave and a giddy smile, back to a group of his friends. Rose waved back, and pushed damp hair away from her forehead, fanning herself as she made her way off the crowded dance floor and back to the bar.

Turning to people-watch as she sipped her fruity, blue mystery drink, her eye was caught by a girl leaning against the wall, half-hidden by shadows. It took a moment to realise what was so strange about her; she was human. About Rose's age, hair swept back in a ponytail, she was dressed in a way that struck Rose as more retro than retro-- as if she'd just stepped out of the 1980's, black bomber jacket and all.

Unable to ignore the mystery, she got a firm hold on her drink and made her way through the crowd, toward the girl from the past.

She saw the exact moment when the girl noticed her; saw her own surprise and curiosity mirrored, but with an added bit of wariness. Rose smiled, trying to look friendly and unthreatening.

"Hi! I'm Rose," she shouted in the simplified club-speak made necessary by the pounding music. "You're human, right?"

The girl nodded. Tapping her ear to indicate the noise level, she pointed to a hallway behind them. Rose gave her a thumbs-up, and led the way through the door, to where several knots of people were engaged in conversation, kissing, and a bit of occasional groping. When Rose turned back to her after the glass door closed behind them, cutting off the deep thrum of the bass line, some of the wariness had fallen away. The lighting revealed a girl about Rose's age, with a round, pretty face and intelligent eyes.

"Hiya," she said. "I'm Ace. So, tell me-- what's a nice Earth girl like you doing in a place like this?"

* * *

One thing you could say about a crew cut, the Doctor mused. It made for a lot less work when the hair on the base of your skull stood up, compared to all those chestnut curls.

And, even if he hadn't heard some of the tales that the locals spun about the Library, his neck would still be prickling right now; the amount of energy coming off of the white marble structure in front of him was phenomenal. Rose wouldn't notice it, of course, if she were here-- at least, not beyond a vague sense of unease. Funny little human brains. It was a wonder that enough of them managed to stay out of the jaws of the sabre-toothed tigers to ever clamber out of the Stone Age.

Best if he took care of this little problem alone, and quietly. The universe was littered with these reminders of the War. He still had some contacts among the higher races, though, and if what he'd heard was correct, this place was about to change from a curiosity into an unexploded land mine in a schoolyard.

Slipping further into the shadows, he took a quick reading with the sonic screwdriver, panning it around him like a high-tech divining rod, taking note of the change in pitch as he swept it downwards.

Underground. Yeah, they would be.

He was willing to bet there would be corridors involved, as well. With a sigh, he resumed his careful prowl around the perimeter of the deserted library.

* * *

"I'm just sort of... travelling," Rose said. "I've got this friend. He's an alien-- I met him on Earth, and now we travel around together."

Ace gave a soft laugh, as if at a private joke. "No kidding? And here I thought I had a monopoly."

"So, what about you?" Rose asked. "You sound like you're from London, am I right?"

"Perivale. 1984," Ace said, not sounding particularly pleased about it. "Not by choice, mind you. But now, I travel with the Professor. I met him on Iceworld. Long story. He's a bit mental, but he's a good mate. Anyway, we were having trouble with our ship, so we stopped here to pick up some parts. I figured I'd take a look around the place while he was busy haggling. We were s'posed to meet here when he was done, but he's late. As ever." She shrugged. "Figured I'd give him until first light, and then get out my butterfly net and go looking for him."

Rose couldn't help smiling at the image. "Sounds like mine. Dunno when he'll be back. I could wait with you; keep you company. Us Earth girls have to stick together, you know."

"If you like."

Rose gestured back into the main part of the club with her half-finished blue concoction. "Drink?"

Ace's eyes crinkled with amusement. "And dancing. Yeah, that sounds really good, actually."

* * *

Yup... corridors. Damp, poorly lit ones, at that. Still, the "poorly lit" part was actually in his favour. The sonic screwdriver had made short work of the cobbled-together security scanners, but it was nice to have some handy shadows to melt into should the need arise.

Seemed like his sources knew what they were talking about. Cell after grimy cell was filled with members of some of the most intelligent, enlightened and empathic races in the galaxy. Someone was amassing themselves quite a tidy little collection of interesting specimens. He briefly considered freeing them all as he went along, but, once the prisoners started milling around, his cover would be blown, and all hell would break loose.

Better to face the lion in its den, and deal with the library itself. Then he could concentrate on getting all of the victims back where they belonged.

He passed another of the identical cell doors and then froze in place, one heart stuttering momentarily in shock.

Ka-thump-THUMP.

No.

Surely not.

Steeling himself, he backtracked two steps and peered through the tiny glass window, and then tripped the lock with the screwdriver. The door creaked open, revealing a small man with dark hair and bushy eyebrows chained to the wall in the corner. A Panama hat sat forlornly on his head, slightly askew.

"You have got to be kidding me," he said to the little man.

The man peered at him for a moment, brow furrowed, and then broke into a cheerful smile.

"Oh, hello. Don't mind me," said his seventh incarnation. "I'm just hanging around for a bit."

"You shouldn't be here," he observed, intent on dazzling his past self with his brilliance, apparently.

"Well, one of us shouldn't. I think it's yet to be determined which one."

"No." He tried again. "I mean, you really shouldn't be here. You being here is Bad, with a capital 'B'."

The younger Doctor frowned, and he could almost hear the wheels turning. "And... why is that, exactly?"

"Because you're sitting on top of a whopping great paradox, that's why! I've got five words for you: the Library of Blank Books. Ring any bells?"

"Never heard of it."

"Yeah, you wouldn't have done. It hasn't happened for you, yet. Did I mention a paradox?"

"But..." The wheels were turning even faster now, if that was possible. "Time doesn't work that way. Not unless there was temporal interference on a massive scale, in my own personal timeline. Some kind of a... "

"Time War?"

He'd succeeded in rattling the little man, judging by the appalled look on the face that used to stare back out of the mirror. He stamped down on the tiny twinge of unhealthy satisfaction he felt at sharing the misery-- even if was only with himself in an earlier body.

"But that means..."

His seventh incarnation had always known that something big and terrible was coming, back then. He'd spent decades trying to stave off regeneration, in hopes that it would stave off that terrible something. But, still, that was no excuse for breaking the First Law of Time-- even if there was no-one around to enforce it anymore.

"Tell you what," he interrupted. "Do us both a favour. Don't go there. Just... don't. All you need to know is: library full of blank books; evil scientists trying to take control of it for their own personal gain; dungeon full of kidnapped aliens."

"Er... right. Yes. Sounds simple enough."

"Yeah, that's what I said. Now, I'll just release those shackles, and you can be on your way."

He expected stubbornness and an argument-- he knew his own mind, after all-- so he was taken somewhat aback by the look of resignation on the other's face, which seemed to be directed over his left shoulder.

"Somehow, I think the gentlemen standing behind you might have something to say about that," said the other Doctor.

He whirled around, only to be confronted by two goons with guns, flanking a man in a lab coat, aiming a scanner at him.

"Another Gallifreyan!" exclaimed the evil scientist. "My cup runneth over. You know, for a mythical species, you lot seem as common as houseflies." He turned to the goons. "Search him, then chain him up next to his friend. We'll make them the first in line for the experiment in the morning."

The goons headed for him, guns raised.

"Bollocks," he said.

"Language," chided the little man chained to the wall.

tbc

thank you

Date: 2008-10-19 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grace61.livejournal.com
Wow, I wish I was really wealthy, so I could get fic on demand all the time! Can't wait to see what happens next, I'm really enjoying this so far. Looks like it's going to have to be Ace and Rose to the rescue. Thank you for participating in the auction and writing this for me.

Re: thank you

Date: 2008-10-19 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ponygirl72.livejournal.com
Thank *you* for your kind words and generosity in the auction, and for being patient with me-- I was supposed to have the whole thing done, not just one chapter!

However, the next chunk is already with the beta, and Sunday night and Monday are devoted to finishing it up, so I promise not to leave you hanging for long.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-19 03:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wendymr.livejournal.com
Finally got time to read this! I've been out all day, at an excruciating event, and only now sat down at my computer.

I love Nine in this. You've captured him so perfectly, with his ruminations on humans and their bare ability to function, on the War and what it's meant for him, and on his desire to undo bad stuff he's seeing as he sneaks around. Nine, even more than Ten, so much wanted to put things right wherever he could, even when he claimed otherwise.

Rose and Ace... of course, Ace is the only other companion Rose could meet and have it be really difficult for her to work out that they're with the same person. The Professor doesn't exactly sound like the Doctor!

And of course the Doctors get captured by evil goons with guns. Does this mean Rose and Ace will have to rescue them? I'm also intrigued by this paradox that Seven knows nothing about. So part 2 is coming when?

(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-19 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ponygirl72.livejournal.com
Glad you're enjoying it, and that I could provide some light relief after a tiresome day.

Yeah, the Ace/Professor, Rose/Doctor thing is terribly contrived if you look at it too closely, but for a short story with lots of action (and a large part of their interaction taking place in a loud club where talking is difficult) I'm thinking I can just about get away with it.

The only other option would be Susan and her "Grandfather", but, well... bleh. I've written them before, but they're just not really my thing.

As for Seven's paradox, it's really just that he's present at a place that's been drastically affected by the Time War, when the Time War hasn't happened for him, yet. That question has always niggled at me-- why do the Time Lords exist for Seven, when they've been wiped from Time during the War?-- so I figured I'd tackle it head-on... even though I don't have any real answers to give. It's a paradox (and a pair of Doc's! ::groan::), and paradoxes are Bad. With a capital "B". Apparently. ;-)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-19 04:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angel932.livejournal.com
Wow, pretty cool start!

(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-19 03:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ponygirl72.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying it. I'm aiming to have it up and finished by Tuesday-- real life hasn't been co-operating the past couple of days.

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