Authors: Beautiful Chaos # Gary Russell
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Published in 2008 by BBC Books, an imprint of Ebury Publishing.
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© Gary Russell, 2008
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ISBN 978 1 846 07563 6
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For Russell and Julie
for letting me play in the sandbox…
Recent titles in the
series: MARTHA IN THE MIRROR
SNOW GLOBE 7
THE MANY HANDS
GHOSTS OF INDIA
THE DOCTOR TRAP
THE STORY OF MARTHA
ONE DAY …
It was raining up on the hill, the steady patter-patter-patter hitting the vast golfing umbrella like bullets on tin. Truth be told, it was raining everywhere, but up on the hill, here in the allotment, that was the only place Wilfred Mott really cared about it raining right now.
Whenever it rained, he couldn’t help but remember.
That awful, awful day when
had come to the house, bringing Donna with him. Unconscious, unable to remember anything. For her own safety.
Wilf remembered that final sight of the Doctor, soaked in the rain, his face streaked with water, hair drooping, clothes clinging tight to his skinny body. And his eyes, his eyes looked so haunted, so sad, so lost. So, so old. They looked like the eyes of an old man, trapped in a ridiculously young body. So miserable. So alone. So lonely.
Then that marvellous blue box had vanished as Wilf saluted it.
And he’d never seen the Doctor again.
But that didn’t stop him looking, up there. Up into the night sky, up into the stars that were only still there because of Donna. Up at the stars that warmed and illuminated countless planets, with countless lives that owed their continued existence to Donna Noble. Who would never know – who
never know. Because if she did…
He didn’t want to think about that. He didn’t entirely
understand it; he just trusted the Doctor. With his life. And the Doctor deserved that trust because he had saved them all.
From the spaceships in the sky, from the Christmas star, from that huge great
, from the Adipose, the Sontarans and the Daleks.
And those were just the ones he knew about. He knew from Donna, Donna as she had been before, that there were countless more.
He shook his head at the scale of it all. And how small and insignificant he was in comparison. But he didn’t really mind about that. Because the honour had been in knowing the Doctor.
He reached into a damp pocket and pulled out an old leather wallet. And from inside that, he pulled out some photographs.
One showed Donna on her wedding day, the wedding that had never happened. Donna believed she had never even made it to the altar because poor Lance had got caught up in that business with the Christmas Star attacking the streets of London. Lance had died then – that was the story he’d told her. Indeed, it was the story Wilf told everyone. And he also told Donna that she had been so traumatised by Lance’s death, that she’d gone to Egypt to get over the shock.
Whatever it was that the Doctor had done to her memories made her brain accept the story and find a way to fit it together so she was convinced that was indeed what had happened. Perhaps that was the one good thing that had come out of the ‘accident’ – her brain did that to
cope so, rather than a year or so of blankness, if you put an idea to her, she was able to rationalise it without question. Like a jigsaw where any pieces that didn’t fit just reshaped their edges to make sure they did, and formed a slightly different picture but one Donna would never query.
Another picture was of Donna with her mum and dad at her dad’s birthday dinner in town. His last birthday as it turned out.
The final photo was of an older woman in a wicker chair, glass of stout in hand, toasting the photographer.
He sighed. So much sadness in the Noble house over the last couple of years.
He put the photos away and took another look through his telescope.
Nothing to see.
‘How’s the night sky?’ asked a voice from behind.
‘Hullo, sweetheart,’ Wilf said, indicating the newcomer should join him under the umbrella. ‘What are you doing here? You’ll catch your death.’
‘Oh, I’m all right, Dad,’ said Sylvia Noble, passing a thermos flask to him. ‘Brought you some tea and a bar of chocolate.’
Wilf gratefully took the flask, and they sat in silence for a while, letting the rain create a symphony above them. Then he unscrewed the thermos and offered it to his daughter. She shook her head.
‘Donna used to do this,’ he muttered.
Sylvia nodded. ‘I know. Maybe I need to jog her memory, and she’ll start again.’
Wilf shrugged sadly. ‘Best not to, eh? Just in case.’
Sylvia changed the subject. ‘No blue boxes in the sky tonight then?’
‘Not today. But one day I’ll see him.’
There was a pause. ‘Does it really matter? After all he did to us?’
‘Yes, love, it does,’ Wilf said. ‘I need to know he’s out there, still watching over us. Watching over the universe.
Because then I know that what Donna has suffered was worth it. Because without him, we’re not safe.’
‘That’s a lot of faith to put in one man, Dad,’ Sylvia said quietly. ‘And a lot of responsibility.’
Wilf knew that Sylvia didn’t like the Doctor, and not just because of what had happened to Donna. She felt that if the Doctor had never come to Earth maybe those Dalek things wouldn’t have either. It was an old argument, and the two of them would never agree about it. As a result, they tried not to talk about the Doctor too often.
‘He’s out there, love. Protecting us. And the Martians.
And the Venusians. And God knows who else.’ He took a swig of tea. ‘You should probably get back in the warm, shouldn’t you?’
Sylvia nodded and stood up. ‘You going to be much longer?’
‘Nah, just want to stay here till eleven, then I’ll head back.’
‘Donna suggested a drive out to Netty’s tomorrow.’
Wilf put his tea down. ‘No thanks,’ he said quickly.
‘Dad, you have to see her some time.’ Sylvia reached out and squeezed his hand. ‘For your sake if not hers.’
‘You shouldn’t let Donna go,’ Wilf said. ‘It’s not safe.
What if she says something about the Doctor?’
‘That’s not likely. Even if she does, Donna won’t understand and Netty won’t be able to explain it.’ Sylvia stood up and walked back into the rain. Then she looked back at her old dad. ‘We’ve gone through more heartache than anyone should have to, Dad,’ she said quietly. ‘Let’s not bring any more on ourselves. Please come.’
‘I’ll think about it. Now go on, before you get a cold.’
Sylvia pointed up to the sky. ‘The Doctor would want you to,’ she said.
Wilf turned to her with a frown. ‘That’s beneath you, sweetheart. Please don’t.’
Sylvia nodded. ‘I’m sorry, Dad.’ And she walked back out of the allotments and down the hill.
Wilf watched her receding form until she was out of his view, then unwrapped his chocolate and bit a chunk out of it. He turned for another look through the telescope, cross because Sylvia had invoked the Doctor. Cross because it was a cheap shot. And cross because Sylvia was dead right.
A tear rolled down Wilf’s worn cheek.
For so many reasons.
One month after the skies had burned…
Terry Lockworth checked his mobile, but there was still no signal. Maria was going to be so fed up with him –he’d had to work late but couldn’t let her know. No doubt the spag bol would be in the bin tonight. Again. Poor Maria – it wasn’t her fault she got fed up with him, but what was he supposed to do. They’d been married three months, had a child on the way (please let it be a girl), and money was tight.
Sure, her dad had given them a deposit for the flat in Boston Manor, but there was still the mortgage, the bills, pre-natal classes, food…
Terry shook his head as he pocketed the phone. Stop moaning, he told himself, and get on with the job, then he’d be home in an hour with any luck. More importantly, he’d be out of this mobile phone black spot in half that, so he could at least phone her then.
He picked up his toolbox and took out the wire-cutters,
clipped the plastic coating from the copper wiring and cut the wires. He then yanked the old cables from the junction box and pulled a long thin coil of fibre optics out of the toolbox. These were interesting fibre optics (well, OK, only Terry found them interesting) because they were even finer than normal. A new system, developed by the Americans (aren’t they always), and this building was the first in the UK to utilise them. They’d sent Terry on a course in New York six months back to learn about the system. That’d been fun – lots of nights on the town with Johnnie Bates, discovering that it really was the city that never slept. Frequently they’d only just made it to the training classes the next day, hung over but happy.