Doctor Who. The Church of the Fallen
By Sara Black
The Doctor held his steady pace as he strutted off in the direction his sonic screwdriver was telling him to go, its constant bleeping sound signalling to him that he was on the right track and whilst he tried to concentrate and not let himself get distracted, the constant bleep of Donna Noble his latest human companion, nagging relentlessly in his ear was beginning to give him a headache.
"Look!" Donna insisted as she caught up with him and tried desperately to match his fast pace. "All I said was that we should do something to mark the occasion. I mean, when was the last time you celebrated your birthday in what....how old are you again?"
Donna was not giving up on the conversation that had started by complete accident about 40 minutes ago inside the TARDIS, when the Doctor had casually mentioned, upon seeing the date, that is was in fact his birthday! It had taken him by as much surprise as it had Donna who had stopped talking about her mum's new neighbours and the fiasco with the double glazing, and had actually got to her feet with a loud "WOAH!" just to be knocked back into her seat as the TARDIS came to a sudden halt, for seemingly no reason.
The Doctor, who was frowning now and mentally slapping himself for even mentioning it, never liked to discuss personal details about himself to anyone, mostly because it brought back painful memories of who and what he was, and mostly because he had forgotten a lot about himself and sometimes truly couldn't remember. Who would remember 900 years of birthdays? Most humans stopped counting when they got to 39!
He naively thought he had managed to escape the barrage of questions though when the TARDIS had her wobble and crash landed in the middle of a wind storm, somewhere in the present ( Donna's present ) day, instead of taking them to ancient Rome as he had promised her and whilst he smirked to himself hoping the sudden jolt was actually his space ship trying to shut Donna up, she just got to her feet once more and started flapping like a flea in his ear, still going on about it even though he had told her he thought there might be an injured life form somewhere in the storm outside.
"I'm 903...4...or 3, not sure when I remembered my last birthday which I actually think may have been last week when we landed on that moon crater. Remember? It was exactly a week ago but in a different time? So I'm around 900ish, now stop talking 'cos I'm sure there's someone out here!"
Donna did as he asked and rather reluctantly stopped talking but made a mental note to question him on it later. She had been with him for months now, or was it years? Funny how time seems to stop when you're jumping around it like a trampoline, but not once had she even thought that he might have a birthday, not until this morning and she was going to make damn sure they did something to celebrate it, no matter what he said.
She'd followed him outside and was skipping along like a dog at his heels, her coat pulled tight against her chest with her hood over her head to protect her from the storm, when he stopped suddenly and without warning she collided into his back with a loud..."Oi!” To which got her a hand flap and a "Shhhhh" as he held his sonic screwdriver up into the air and watched it carefully for a few moments. She was going to say..."Don't shhh me spaceman!"...when all of a sudden, the wind storm that had been mercilessly whipping itself around them like a frenzied and hungry pack of wolves, suddenly died down and stopped as quickly as he had.
That was when Donna noticed that they were not where he had promised to take her.
“This is not
This is bleedin' Falls Road in Peckham!" Egypt
"Over there!" The Doctor shouted, ignoring her outburst as his eyes came to rest on the thing his screwdriver had led him to, and was off running towards what looked like the steps of a large church, and with a resigned sigh, Donna ran after him, not knowing what he had seen or what they were running towards and slightly annoyed that she was wearing flip-flops in January.
A woman with short black hair in what looked like her mid 20’s lay on the bottom stone step of the church. She was unconscious but breathing and the doctor was hunched over her, running the screwdriver up and down her body, checking it from time to time with a worried look on his face. Donna glanced round and shook her head sadly at all the houses with their boarded up windows and broken glass covering the pavements. The church stuck out like a bit of a sore thumb and not a building that would be placed so oddly in such a street, but she shrugged and gazed back from where they had come and saw the TARDIS looking more out of place than any church could.
"Doctor, don't you think you should get that cam belt thing sorted? At least blend in a bit, I mean, I'm all for retro stuff and that but a police box?...In this day and age? No wonder the aliens keep finding you, you're practically travelling round in a great big arrow which says I am here!!
"What?" The Doctor said, slightly confused as he looked up at her and then across to his ship. "Its chameleon circuit and no I don't think I should fix it. It might say I am here, but it also says I am here so don't bother trying to invade this planet. Now are you gonna help me or question me all day?"
Donna knelt down besides the girl and sighed again. ”Well least no one will question why a bleedin' church is here when the TARDIS is right up the road; they'll think they’re on some film set or something. Honestly though, a church in Falls Road, that's like putting a....well, police box down here too!"
The doctor was about to point out something more important to Donna, when the young woman on the ground snapped open her eyes and sat up with a gasp as though she were taking a breath for the first time.
"Its ok, just breathe....can you tell me what happened?” Said the doctor, his concern for her more than for her health but for the reading on his sonic screwdriver.
The girl looked towards the church and tried to get to her feet, using the Doctor's arm to pull herself up but she wobbled slightly, a bang to the head causing her some double vision and sickness in her stomach. "My ship, it crashed....we fell...he told me to get out." She was obviously confused.
"What ship?" The Doctor asked curiously yet as casually as he could, looking around him for signs of a crash.
"There!" She pointed towards the church. “My ship is there. In that church? The chameleon circuit must have malfunctioned in the crash, I have to get inside, there was a fire, I need to find the rest of the crew and my husband"
Donna stared at the Doctor and the Doctor stared at Donna as the girl spoke. He was reluctant to let her go seeing as she looked so fragile, but she had pulled out of his hold and was slowly making her way up the steps, looking up at the church with as much intrigue as they had.
"Doctor" Donna said in a hushed voice. "We were just talking about chammy whatsit circuits and crash landings, do you think she somehow heard us and thinks that’s what happened to her or is she telling the truth? Can spaceships really look like churches?”
The Doctor pulled a face and shrugged. "Well, to be honest the Master once had a TARDIS that took the shape of a fireplace, so anything is possible, but a church??? Must be one hell of a ship!"
Donna, shook her head and pulled a face to signify that he wasn't understanding what she meant.
"But does that mean she's one of your lot then? If she's got a space ship that can change its appearance, is it really a TARDIS?”
The Doctor shook his head. "No, many planets and species have perfected the chameleon circuit, look at actual chameleons! There could be a billion space ships all hiding in places all over the world. Think about it, you get invaded every other day but you never see it coming, how else do you suppose they got here, by tube?"
The Doctor took Donna's hand and headed off after the girl who had entered the church and Donna muttered something about aliens being in her bedroom cupboards or in her actual shower and made another mental note to ask the Doctor for some kind of device that would show these things up before she even dared get naked anywhere ever again!
The Doctor pushed the church door open and stepped inside with a wide grin on his face that soon faded to a frown followed by a loud and echoey. "Oh that's not fair!”
"What isn't?" Donna replied looking round the church's interior, failing to notice anything suspicious at all. "Looks like a normal church to me, look’s exactly like the one I was supposed to get married in except for the bit over by the window with the scaffolding and plastic sheets"
"Exactly!" The Doctor whined. "When she said about spaceships and chameleon circuits, I assumed like the TARDIS, that when we stepped inside it would be a space ship full of alien life forms. I was looking forward to seeing what kind of technology they had and what species they were.” He ran his hand through his hair and rubbed the back of his neck. “Perhaps you were right all along, perhaps our conversation got into her unconscious mind and created a false scenario for her before she woke up. These readings though, and her state of health, I just assumed!”
"Oh I see, yeah” Donna chuckled a little, looking round again. “Not exactly much of a ship with a load of pews and an altar is it? Unless it's a religious thing, some kind of space church!”
Before the Doctor could ask the question of the girl who had seeming vanished, she came running out from behind the plastic sheets with a look of panic etched across her face. "It’s gone! They are gone! There's nothing here but the shell of the form it took. How can this happen, I need to find them, I need....."
She wobbled slightly and the doctor rushed and caught her before she hit the ground, taking her to one of the pews which he sat her in as he asked Donna to look around and see if she could find the girl some water.
"Its ok, just take it easy and tell me everything you remember, like your name?” He asked her, hoping to shed some kind of light on the situation, be holy or otherwise.
The girl looked sick, pale and tired and obviously not too happy as she tried to think back to the past events that bought her to where she was now.
"I don't know...I was on-board the ship and all of a sudden there was some kind of crash and we were falling from the sky. My husband yelled at me to get out, to get some air. There was an explosion, a fire...over there...” She pointed to the window that was wrapped in plastic sheeting with a danger sign perched under it. "I stumbled and ended up outside where you found me....I don't understand, how can they all be gone, all 109 of them?"
The Doctor scratched the back of his neck as he listened and held up his sonic again.
"Well that explains the 112 life forms registering on this...no wait...113....112, stupid thing, its not liking this...whatever this is at all. So how many were on board the ship, 110 yes?
"Yes." She replied
Donna returned with a plastic cup of cold water she had taken from the font and hoped the holy water didn't burn the poor girl like in a film she had recently seen and handed it to her as she was starting to look as though she might pass out again.
"So where did you come from, what year and planet?"
The girl thanked her and drank the water and Donna exhaled the breath she was holding as she didn't burst into flames and with a shaky breath, the lost woman began her tale.
"We were in the Dawning, it was coming to an end and we were out hunting, making sure there were no strays, ,no one that needed help. When I last looked at the scanner, just before I fled, it said we had fallen 903 years from our time, that we were no longer in our own orbit, but had reached our intended destination. It didn't make sense as we were supposed to go home, we were not supposed to time travel, the end of the Dawning had prohibited it"
"So you fell 903 years from the future? That would make it the year 2918 right? Or did you come from the past from the year...” Donna did some mental maths in her head. “...1112? Doctor I'm confused."
The Doctor was frowning again, looking from his screwdriver to the woman and back again as the readings flashed from 112 life forms to 113. 109 missing aliens, 1 crew member, himself and Donna made 112, so who or what was the 13th?
"Er, oh its complicated, timey wimey stuff. Take me for example, I'm 903 myself but does that mean I was born 903 years ago or 903 years in the future? Or does it mean that I was born 20,000 years into the future but because I can travel through time it doesn't matter as I'm still 903, do you see? She may have fallen 903 years but from what point in time?”
Donna was now even more confused but seemed to pick up on something he hadn't. "Is it a coincidence that she fell exactly how many years old you are? Perhaps if she told us what year she came from we'd know exactly if she was past present or bleeding future...God I need a gin and tonic!"
The Doctor had picked up on the fact that the girl had fallen exactly the number of years he was, but he had ignored it, trying not to use it in a factor of the what when's and how's of the situation they were in and instead answered the other part of Donna's question. "Not all life forms use years and dates to denote time. You lot have your days, weeks months and years to tell you exactly where you are, where you've been and where you're going. My race for example used a turn of events, like I was born in the time of the Medusa Cascade, and this girl comes from a time event called the Dawning....the dawning of what though? You said you were out hunting for survivors? Looking for what was left? Are you a rescue mission or a hospital ship?"
The girl nodded slowly. "Rescue mission, although this was to be my last for awhile, it was supposed to be routine and easy. The Dawning had been peaceful, many were born and raised during its reign, myself included, but the coming era was to prove more difficult and we were sent to make sure that everything was in order."
Donna had stopped listening to time events and the Doctor's explanation of what they were and was trying to work out why, on this day that he had declared his birthday, a woman, make that a pregnant woman, judging by her slightly swollen stomach and the way she kept looking like she was about to vomit everywhere, had appeared from nowhere claiming to have fallen from somewhere in space and time exactly the number of years old he was. Was it just one massive coincidence or was it something else?
The girl continued to speak. "Our ship contains a chameleon circuit so that we can land safely on other planets and worlds and blend in. I assume it has taken the shape of this church because that is what is classed as normal here, but I don't understand the inside or why the rest of the crew are hidden. Once the ship has repaired itself it will take flight and leave again and if I cant find a way in, it will leave me behind"
Donna perked up as the girl spoke and cut in just as she finished.
"No, there hasn't been a church down this way for years, well probably 100 years I reckon, long before these houses were here anyway and no one lives down here so don't ask me why the government are spending a fortune doing this place up when it'll only get vandalised and knocked down again"
The Doctor perked up this time and jumped to his feet, the smile returning to his face as he beamed at Donna and the girl in turn.
"That's it! Oh Donna you're brilliant as usual."
"Why, what did I do now?" Donna exclaimed pulling a face.
"Explain it to me again, this street, this church and what happened to it." The Doctor enthused, sure now that he was on to something.
Donna took a pew and got comfortable as she began to recall what she knew.
"Well I only know a bit about it 'cos of some filling I'd done as a temp, but before all the houses were built, this road was more like a field really. The church had been here for years, a few 100 I would say. There was a vicarage next to it and a few old farm buildings. The church hadn't been used though, some kind of unholy goings on apparently so it was due for demolition but it took ages for the paper work to go through and in the end it got vandalised and some yobs set fire to it. Well a few years later, the council began building houses here and it became a street called....Falls row...something to do with the vicar of the church Rev Fall, anyway it soon became known as Fools Row and death row as the place was filled with druggies and used as half way houses from the prison a few miles away and no one's lived here for about 30 years? Far as I know it was all going to be flattened and sold at auction so god knows why they started building the church again"
"HA!” The Doctor exclaimed, “HA! Cant you see, it makes sense now.”
Both Donna and the girl shook their heads.
"The ship crashed and fell yes, and needs to repair itself, but it landed on the site of the old church, a place used for, ...oh I don't know what over the years but its steeped in history, magic, voodoo and now time travel. Once the ship landed it didn't just start to repair itself, it started to repair the church too as its chameleon circuit had picked up what it used to be like inside and cloaked itself to be hidden, but hid itself completely so that the inside looked like the outside. The ship is still here but in a small pocket of time, that's how I can pick up on the life signs still. The chameleon circuit is working both inside and out to protect the ship. Obviously we have a find a way in before it leaves but I think I know how. You need a biodetector. There'll be one hidden somewhere in the church, a symbol or a name or number according to your race, all you have to do is touch it and let it sample your DNA and you'll pull the ship from hiding and you can go home...brilliant! Now we just have to start searching.” The Doctor grinned widely, extremely pleased with himself for working it out as he always did.
Donna leaned across and whispered to the girl.
"Its ok, he always rambles like this, just ignore him, as long as he thinks he's making sense then just nod and smile and go along with it all"
The Doctor who had started walking down the church aisle, waving his bleeping sonic screwdriver in the air, yelled back at Donna.
"I heard that! Stop yapping and help me look for the biodetector...Allons-y!”
"Well what does a bio-thingy look like?” She called back in a huff as she got to her feet and helped the girl to hers.
The Doctor stopped scanning the air and span round to look back at her. "Good question, no idea, er, you...sorry what's your name?"
The girl looked at him but didn't answer; she felt too sick to deal with questions and was beginning to hurt all over her body.
“Oh well!” Exclaimed the Doctor, "You'll know when you see it, you’ll be able to feel it. Concentrate, its will be like a kind of alarm calling out to you, telling you its there, getting louder as the ship heals like an alert system to warn you of its impending departure"
"Like a migraine, a pounding, almost drumming in my head you mean?" The young girl asked.
"Possibly." The Doctor said with a note of caution in his voice as he remembered the last time he had heard words of that nature.
"I thought it was just my head hurting from where I hit it, but it’s getting faster and louder, like a call to war, a drumming, a warning telling me to hurry, its making me feel quite sick and I wish it would stop!" The girl grabbed the sides of her head and winced in pain.
The Doctor spoke as though he were seeing the young girl with new eyes, as though he had finally worked out who she was and where she had fallen from. His voice was low and calm, like an echo of the past bleeding directly into the future.
"Concentrate on the sound, let it consume you, let it guide you. It's telling you something only you can hear so listen to it, let it take you where you need to go."
The girl closed her eyes for a moment and did as he told her and began to slowly walk up and down the aisles, weaving in and out of the pews still with her eyes closed. Donna watched in fascination and the Doctor watched with a pained expression until finally the girl stopped by a book shelf which contained a stack of old and dusty Bibles. Opening her eyes, she pulled one from the middle shelf and held it in her arms and looked at the hard front cover with a growing smile on her face.
"Its here, this is it!”
"Before you touch it, Donna and I have to say goodbye. Once you pull your ship from hiding we'll be trapped here so we need to leave the church now". The Doctor walked back to Donna and took her hand, the reading on his screwdriver settling to 112 life forms and staying there, putting a firm smile on his face as he nodded towards the girl and the swollen round of her pregnant stomach.
"I understand now, I didn't before but now I do and I think you do too, don't you?”
The girl smiled and nodded, running her hands over her stomach as she winced again in pain.
"Yes, it became clear just now, but why now, why did this happen and why today?"
The Doctor grinned. "Weeeeell, it’s my birthday and Donna was banging on about me celebrating it somehow so I guess our time lines converged and something happened. My TARDIS is a clever old girl, it must have been her that you banged into, she knocked you out of your time and into this one, to this very place. Not quite worked out the significance of the church though but I'm sure it’s relevant somehow."
Donna was getting slightly annoyed by this point. "Err, I don't' understand actually, so do you want to fill me in on what it is you're both talking about?"
“Oh Donna, if only it was that simple!” The Doctor smiled once more at the woman and left, pulling Donna along behind him who was still trying to get him to explain things to her.
"Who is she? Where is she going and what the hell is all this got to do with churches and your birthday?"
He stopped at the door and pushed it open, but before he stepped out he turned back and glanced at the woman once more. She placed her hand over the symbol on the front of the old bible and a whooshing sound filled the air, a sound of stuck brakes and engines that didn't want to move and she began to fade away whispering "Goodbye my son”, taking the church with her and just in time for the Doctor and Donna to run the last few steps out into the street to watch it disappear altogether.
The ship's bridge was full of people, a man ran towards the woman and took her into his arms, his eyes filled with tears as he caressed her face and stroked the growing bulge of her stomach.
"I thought you were lost, I thought I would never see you again nor see the birth of our son. Are you ok, are you hurt, I knew we shouldn't have come today, I knew it; I said he would be born this day didn't I? A child born on the dawning of the Medusa Cascade, what will become of him?"
The woman smiled and placed her hand on her husband's cheek, smiling as the first stabs of labour filled her body.
"He will be just fine my love, trust me, he will be a fine young man, a leader of many, the saviour of worlds, a man to calm any oncoming storm”