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Chapter 3: The Planet of Stars
“Who are you?” Lucy asked, deciding she would be much more firm about getting an answer this time than she was when she was eleven.
“I told you,” he replied. “I’m the Doctor, I’m a Time Lord, and I’ve come to show you the stars.”
Exactly as she’d remembered the words when she was eleven, then. She’d been worried she’d forgotten them, or her memory had altered them somehow.
“What’s a Police Box?”
“Oh, they were a big thing in the fifties. Chameleon Circuit’s broken, you see, so she’s stuck like this.” He patted the box affectionately. “This is the TARDIS. Time And Relative Dimension In Space. She can go anywhere.”
“Anywhere,” the Doctor repeated with a grin. “Come inside.”
She followed him into the box, which, as she’d expected, was considerably bigger on the inside, and dropped her trunk in the middle of the floor. It was strange – alien was the only word she could think of to describe it. It was green and orange and yellow and blue simultaneously, and it seemed alive, as if some wondrous magical garden. It was circular, with a – thing in the middle that had a lot of complicated looking gadgets on it, and stairs and pathways leading off into all manner of directions.
“What do you think?” the Doctor asked, looking thoroughly pleased with himself as he took in her reaction.
“It’s amazing,” she replied, walking around the circular room in awe. “It’s like Hogwarts but more alive, and less…made of stone.”
She had a fleeting memory of her Muggle primary school teacher telling her that her creative writing lacked imagination, and for once she could see his point.
“What about…the size?”
“It’s very nice.”
“Oh, why does nobody say the line anymore!” the Doctor cried, throwing his hands in the air. “The line! I haven’t heard the line in years, can’t somebody just come in and—”
“What is the line?”
“They act like they’re not impressed that it’s bigger on the inside!”
“Oh.” As far as things to be impressed by, that was one of the least impressive things about the TARDIS. “Well, I suppose it would be impressive if you travel with Muggles often…”
“Muggles? Oh, that’s right, you’re…magic, I suppose you can do all of this, can’t you? Wave your wand and you’re on the other side of the planet wearing a nice new coat, probably after turning yourself invisible so nobody can see your nice new coat – what’s the point in wearing a new coat if you’re invisible? Wizards.”
Lucy blinked, having been left behind at the point of the conversation where the Doctor had started talking about coats, and changed the subject. “So where are we going now?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” The Doctor scowled. “I don’t know anywhere that would impress you, I travel with ordinary people, take them to see the end of the world or to meet Shakespeare or to Pompeii – that was a bit of an accident, meant to go to Rome – but what am I going to do with you?”
“We can’t travel in time,” Lucy pointed out. “Or beyond planet Earth. You told me when I was a kid that you’d take me to see the stars.”
“The stars,” the Doctor sighed. “Very ambiguous, the stars. Okay, which star? Pick one.”
“We can’t see any.”
“Oh, right, we’re still landed. Hold on to something!”
Lucy had just enough time to grab onto a nearby railing when the TARDIS lurched violently, sending her sprawling onto the ground, still clutching the railing. There was a loud whooshing sound – the same sound that Lucy had heard on the night she met the Doctor, and it seemed like only seconds later that he was telling her to open the door and look outside.
“Found one yet?” he called as she pulled open the door, gasping as she came face to face with the entirety of space.
She could hear nothing; there wasn’t a breath of wind as she leaned out. She felt weightless, like she was walking on clouds or in some kind of amazing dream, and all around her stars sparkled and swirled. She could see Earth, not too far away but already a perfect sphere ringed with clouds, and she closed her eyes, pointing at random into the distance.
“No, no no no. That one sacrifices gingers.”
“Neither of us are ginger,” she pointed out.
“It’s the principle that counts,” he replied. “I’ve always wanted to be ginger. Pick another one.”
“Okay.” She moved her hand around a bit. “That one.”
“Anxogorratian? Been closed for three hundred years due to quarantine. Pick another.”
“Palhad,” the Doctor told her. “Nice planet, that one, have you read Lord of the Rings? Always thought Tolkein must have visited the place sometime, that’s where he got his ideas from. Full of…little people who don’t do a lot.”
“Right,” Lucy said, though she had no idea what he was talking about.
“Normally I would just drift around until the TARDIS takes me somewhere,” the Doctor explained. “People always need my help preventing the Universe from exploding. Sometimes I wish it would just look after itself, it’s certainly big enough to.”
“Right,” she said again, not sure how to respond.
“But I promised you the stars,” the Doctor said, leaping to his feet. “Nothing dangerous, nothing dramatic – just the Universe in all its glory. I’m taking you to Astraleia.”
“Australia?” Lucy asked, confused.
“No. Astraleia. Astra-laya. It’s got waterfalls of diamonds that are soft as snowflakes and lakes of liquid crystal. And if that doesn’t amaze you, Lucy Weasley, I don’t think there’s a place in the universe that will.”
He leapt to his feet, gesturing for Lucy to close the doors of the TARDIS, and bounded over to the controls. She didn’t need warning this time to grab onto something, though this time the TARDIS barely even seemed to be moving. The Doctor lounged against the railings for a moment, before leaning forward and playing with the controls again. Lucy heard the now almost familiar whooshing sound.
“Astraleia!” he proclaimed, heading for the doors. “Well, what are you waiting for?”
“I’m still in my school robes,” she explained, looking down. “I can’t go outside in these, we’re not meant to act or look like wizardkind—”
“You’re human, that’s weird enough,” the Doctor told her. “Humans haven’t really discovered space travel, well, not as far as Astraleia anyway. They’re not going to think twice about what you’re wearing, they’ll just assume that’s what all humans wear.”
“Oh,” Lucy said thoughtfully, shaking her sleeve over the edge of her wand which she always kept hidden in her sleeve. She knew some people who kept their wand in their socks, or their waistbands, or – and it was increasingly common among girls at Hogwarts, though she thought it must be uncomfortable – in their bras.
The TARDIS jolted slightly, throwing Lucy against the railing.
“They’re moving us,” the Doctor explained. “Astraleia is a tourist planet, so any incoming ships get taken to the tourist centre. You’ll have to fill out a form – I hate forms. Forms are boring. I’ve tried using psychic paper, but I never fill out all the right fields and they’re trained to recognise it now. It’s a very secure place, very safe, very boring—”
The Doctor cut himself off, leading Lucy out of the TARDIS. He’d told himself he was done with the adventures, because adventures meant taking people to dangerous places and dangerous situations, and he was through with endangering everyone who ever travelled with him. If he took Lucy to all the safe, pretty places in the Universe, the touristy, gimmicky planets, she would enjoy herself. He would have fulfilled his rashly made promise to her, to show her the stars, but it wouldn’t become a part of her like it became a part of everyone else who travelled with him.She would leave him, maybe after a few days, maybe a few weeks, and live her life as she should have done before he came into it, safe and alive, with the memory of all the places she’d seen but a contentment to, having now seen them, stay where she was.
It went against everything in his nature to travel like this, but he couldn’t bear to lose someone again. He had taken Amelia Pond on adventures, had visited her when she was seven, and she had helped him save the world when she was nineteen. She had, singlehandedly, the Doctor realised on reflection, saved the last of the Star Whales at twenty-one. She could never have gone back to a normal, boring life, and it was the Doctor’s fault that she’d kept travelling with him long after she should have stopped. The TARDIS had become part of her, travelling with him had become her life, and in the end it had cost her her life…
Lucy was pressed up against the glass of the Visitors’ Centre, and it took him a moment to find her again through the crowds.
“Rule one,” he began, joining her at the window, “Don’t wander off.”
“Hmm?” she asked, stepping back. “I didn’t go very far.”
“I know. Just…don’t wander off. People do, and they always get into trouble.”
“You told me you were over twelve hundred years old,” Lucy began as they drifted towards the queue to get out of the visitors centre. “Do you usually travel with other people?”
“Sometimes,” the Doctor replied evasively. “I travel alone a lot.”
“Yeah, but have you ever taken anyone for a long time?”
“Sometimes,” the Doctor repeated. “They travel with me for a while. And then…they stop.”
“Why do they stop?”
The Doctor fell silent, not speaking again until they reached the counter.
“Fill out these arrival forms, please,” a voice said, but Lucy couldn’t identify the creature speaking as masculine or feminine. They were tall, with shimmery skin, silver hair and a decidedly androgenous face and body, but with a bored expression that said very clearly that whoever this creature was, they were decidedly sick of telling visitors to fill our arrival forms and answer questions.
Lucy couldn’t understand a lot of the form – apart from her species and planet of origin, she had to ask the Doctor for help with most questions.
“Answer yes to anything that asks if you’ve been immunised and no to anything that asks you if you’ve been to a specific planet. You haven’t been through the rift. You’ve never travelled via vortex manipulator. You are not bringing in foreign technology or futuristic weapons.”
“Right, thanks.” She finished the form, handed it to the operator at the counter, and was waved through a scanner.
“No weapons detected,” a cool voice told her, and she waited for the Doctor to join her.
“Sonic device detected,” the voice intoned as the Doctor walked through.
“Oh, really?” he asked as he pulled his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket. “It’s a screwdriver, look, it’s harmless—”
“All weapons must be surrendered,” the operator told him, and very reluctantly he handed it over and joined Lucy as they walked towards the door.
“What damage is a sonic screwdriver going to do anyway?” he muttered. A whisper of cool wind brushed past them as they stepped outside, and Lucy blinked in the bright sunlight.
“Wouldn’t my wand have been a weapon?”
“The scanner was sonic. Sonics don’t do wood.”
“So you could point your thingy at my wand and it just wouldn’t register at all or do anything to it?”
“No. I’d show you, but—” he scowled in the direction of the visitors centre. “Anyway. I’ll take you to the crystal lake, if you like, there should be a bus coming soon…”
The Doctor stepped decisively onto what looked like a plate of glass, and a ringing sound came from deep within it. Lucy took a moment to have a look around – it didn’t seem all that different from Earth, except that the trees were more like strange hedges that grew in spirals and flat canopies of leaves at the top of tall trunks. The ground was mostly white, shimmering in the sunlight, and it was beginning to hurt her eyes.
“Almost forgot,” the Doctor said quickly, and pulled a pair of sunglasses out of his pocket. “Bought these the last time I was here. They’ll protect your eyes.”
“Don’t you need them?”
“No, I’ll be fine. Should be fine. It doesn’t damage Time Lord eyes as much as human eyes, I’m told – well, you’ll need them more than I will…”
“Hold on a sec.” She shook her wand out from her sleeve, pointed it at the sunglasses, and used a quick duplication charm, handing one pair back to the Doctor.
“How did you – oh, right. Magic. Well, better not let security see you doing that, you’ll have a lot of questions to answer.”
She smiled to herself as she put the sunglasses on, and the ache in her eyes immediately subsided. She loved using magic when she was the only witch around – it made it that much more special, more unique, as if she was the only person in the world who could perform magic – well, she was the only person on this planet who could. It was a thrilling thought.
The bus arrived, an open deck on wheels with hard, cool white seats made of some unidentifiable material.
“Two for the Crystal Lake, please,” the Doctor told the driver, and Lucy followed him to a couple of seats near the back.
The scenery that flashed before her as they drove was unlike anything Lucy had ever seen. It was flat, barely interrupted by trees, just a wide expanse of glittering white and brilliant blue. Far in the distance she could see vast cliffs covered in some kind of green – a form of inorganic moss, the Doctor explained, caused by the chemical reaction of the waterfalls on the exposed rock.
“Are the waterfalls actually made of water?” she asked.
“It’s a form of water, I suppose, not the water you know of but more sort of…powdery.”
“So is it solid or liquid?”
“It’s not really either. There’s no such thing as a waterfall here, actually – the local term for it is probably best translated as ‘shinefall,’ but it’s a very precious resource and is the basis of all life forms here.”
“After we’re finished here there’s somebody I’d like you to meet,” the Doctor continued. Lucy was barely listening; she was too busy taking everything in, but the Doctor continued regardless. “A friend of mine. Well, a friend of mine’s son, I haven’t seen much of him myself…he probably doesn’t remember me, I only met him when he was a baby. I told his father I’d be back to take him on a trip. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Did you hear any of that?”
“Something about a friend’s son, I wasn’t really listening.”
“Yes. Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All.”
“That’s his name. Well, that was his name when he was a baby, it probably isn’t anymore. Not the name his parents gave him, the name he gave himself. As a baby. No, he probably just calls himself Alfie now.” The Doctor sighed. “Alfie. Much more boring than Stormageddon. What is it about boring that people like so much, Lucy? Why are people so interesting when they’re young, and then they get old and settle down and buy a house and have children with names like Alfie and Hannah?”
“Don’t ever meet my parents.”
“Why, are they boring?”
“Beyond belief,” Lucy said with a roll of her eyes. “My dad’s a politician and my mum works part time in a clothes shop—”
“Oh dear. What are their names?”
“Percy and Audrey.”
“Oh, you see, that even sounds boring. You can’t have interesting people named Percy and Audrey. Lucy Weasley, though, that’s a name to remember. Don’t ever become boring with a name like that.”
“I’m a witch in outer space, I don’t think I’m going to be boring again.”
“Again? You were never boring. When I met you when you were eleven, you know what a boring kid would have done? Run away. Gone to the neighbours’ place. You just sat in the park and when I showed up, strange man in a bowtie, you came out and talked to me. And you believed me about the stars. Eleven’s quite old to believe in fairy tales.”
“The Muggles have fairy tales about us, and we’re real,” Lucy shrugged. “I keep an open mind.”
“Then you’ll never be boring.”
The bus lurched to a stop and the Doctor leaped to his feet. “The Crystal Lake. Coming?”
Lucy was stunned when the bus finally pulled away to reveal a vast, glittering lake. It was a beautiful turquoise blue, casting a shimmering reflection on the white rocks above it on the far side. To her left, halfway around the lake, she could see the green from the waterfalls, and, though it was difficult to see much from such a distance, the waterfalls themselves.
“Can we get any closer?” she asked.
“There should be boats…” the Doctor began, but Lucy had already spotted a couple of small dinghies lined up along the beach. She was making her way towards them, but soon became aware that the Doctor wasn’t following.
“Something wrong?” she asked, frowning.
“Yes, but I don’t know what.” The Doctor began to pace up and down the beach. “There’s something not right, but I can’t think of what it is…come on, Doctor…”
“There’s nobody else here,” Lucy said, frowning. “There were so many in the Visitors Centre, where’ve they all gone?’
“Those boats, the ones out on the water.” The Doctor squinted. “They’re empty. Why are they empty?”
“Maybe there are aliens who we can’t see from here,” she suggested. “Maybe they’re really short or they’re lying down or something…”
“Or something,” the Doctor muttered. “Get in the boat.”
Lucy clambered into the boat, the Doctor following her. They hesitated for a moment, realising they were still on the beach.
“I suppose I’ll have to get out and push,” the Doctor said, rolling his eyes.
“No,” Lucy replied, and, pulling out her wand, she tapped the side of the boat and it began gliding towards the water.
“Well, that makes things easy.”
Lucy steered out towards one of the bobbing empty boats in the middle of the lake, standing on the deck and leaning over to get a better look.
“Careful,” the Doctor said, reaching out a hand to steady her.
“I’m fine,” she assured him, turning back to the boat and recoiling immediately with a scream.
“What did I just say about being careful?” the Doctor yelled, pulling her down before she could topple over the side. “What is it, what’s in there?”
“A-a body,” she managed with a shudder, breathing deeply to compose herself. “It looks like it’s been frozen – but it’s too warm out here—”
“Stay in the boat,” he told her, and before she could protest he had launched himself across the space between the two boats and was crouching beside the body.
“Don’t touch it,” she said. “It might be cursed.”
“Cursed?” the Doctor repeated. “Blimey, wouldn’t want to live in your world. Right,” he muttered, taking his sonic out of his pocket and addressing the corpse. “What happened to you, you poor thing?”
Lucy was silent as she waited for the Doctor, listening to the gentle slap of the water against the hull of the boat. She leaned over the side to trail her fingers in the water.
“Don’t touch that water!” the Doctor yelled sharply.
“Because I said so. Bring the boat closer.”
“Stop asking questions, because I said so. Because I don’t want to jump in there and risk tipping us both out.”
“What’s wrong with the water?”
“What did I tell you about asking questions?” the Doctor asked angrily. “I’m thinking.”
“Okay, okay.” Holding her hands up in surrender, she steered the boat closer to the body – much as the thought sent shivers up her spine, and inadvertently gripped the side of the boat as it wobbled with the Doctor’s extra weight.
“What about the other boats, do you think the same thing happened to them?”
“Yes, I expect so.”
“What caused it?”
“Poison, in the water,” the Doctor replied briefly. “It’s been contaminated somehow. Targets very specific life forms. Humans. Some of these boats have been out for months. Not many humans come to Astraleia, they wouldn’t have to clean up very often.”
“But why would they—”
“I don’t know and I don’t want to know,” the Doctor said tersely. “We’re getting out of here, now.”
“How does it work? Do you have to drink the water?”
“This isn’t real water. This is like broken glass. It will cut your skin, wherever it touches, so small you won’t even notice it, or you’ll just think it’s the cold. But the toxin enters the bloodstream and you’re dead before you realise what’s happening. Thanatos. That’s the name of the poison. It’s not found on this planet, not in this galaxy or yours. It’s thousands of lightyears away. This is no accident.”
“Somebody’s trying to kill every human who comes out here?”
“Either that, or they’ve got a specific target. Either way I’m not sticking around to find out.”
“But shouldn’t we stop—”
“No,” the Doctor said, cutting her off as they landed on the beach. “We’re leaving. Right now. Do you have any way of getting us back to the visitors centre without catching the bus?”
“I can Apparate,” she said nervously – she’d never Side-Along Apparated anyone before, and she wasn’t sure if it would work properly on another planet – then again, her other charms had worked so far. She took the Doctor’s arm and, without waiting to check if he was ready, she Apparated them both inside the centre.
“What the hell was that?” the Doctor asked, doubling over and coughing violently.
“Apparition,” she said apologetically. “It’s not overly pleasant.”
Heads had turned at the sound of their Apparition, and a couple of officials moved towards them.
“Not to worry,” the Doctor told them, “Just trying out a new Vortex Manipulator, popped outside for a bit – look, I’ve already been through immigration—”
Lucy cast a Confundus Charm before she could think twice about it and grabbed the Doctor’s arm. “Shut up and run.”
He did so, arriving at the TARDIS moments before her and snapping his fingers to open the door. She’d just closed the door behind her when he pushed various levers on the console and the TARDIS lifted off with that familiar whooshing noise.
“What now?” she asked after a long silence; the Doctor was leaning against the console, head hidden by his arm, and she thought he was upset until he jumped up with that bouncy, enthusiastic manner.
“What now? Up to you, Lucy Weasley. Where and when?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “That’s not what I meant. That planet’s killing humans, how are we going to stop them?”
“That’s not our job,” the Doctor replied, the smile disappearing from his face. “And certainly not yours. I’ll alert the Shadow Proclamation, they’ll look into it.”
Lucy didn’t know what the Shadow Proclamation was, and even though she assumed it was a suitably high authority, something didn’t sit right with her about the way they’d fled. And, judging by the tense, hardened look on the Doctor’s face, it didn’t sit right with him either.
A/N: The summary quote is from Doctor Who 6x12: Closing Time.