The Doctor frowned for a moment. "Right then, Clara Oswald, time to find out who you are." Using the stair rails once more, he propelled himself towards the console. He began darting around it, pressing switches and pulling levers as he did so. The ship soon roared into life. "And I may as well start with investigating this leaf of yours. Right, Lancashire, 1981! Geronimo!"
The Doctor left the console, dashing down the stairs to the lower level and proceeding out of the console room into the maze of corridors which led to a multitude of other rooms."Library, library…left, right, left, left again, right, straight on…here we are." He strode confidently into the room. "…Ah. That's the swimming pool." Eventually, the Doctor managed to locate the library; though not before encountering a replica of Sarah Jane Smith's old bedroom (which he had absolutely no memory of building), the sick bay (which having not been cleaned in quite a while was rather too literal for his liking); and Squash Court 2 (which suffered the unfortunate effect of his encounter with the sick bay).
Entering the library, the Doctor proceeded through the cavernous room filled with rows upon rows of books, until he reached a section of shelves marked Comics. He immediately made a beeline for the nearest shelf. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," he picked the book up, "hmm, as much as I was enjoying this, might be just a bit conspicuous in 1981. Better go incognito. Beautiful word, incognito." He put it to one side, and picked up a copy of the Beano 1981 Summer Special. "Perfect."
A few hours later (relatively speaking), the Doctor returned to the TARDIS for about the 4th or 5th time that day. "So, what do we know?" he asked nobody in particular. "Dave Oswald and Ellie Ravenwood! They met and had little Clara, didn't even put up a balloon by all accounts, most inconsiderate. Now, to check what's happened to them. I know Dave's fine; gave me quite the impassioned speech the other day. "Call Me Dave" Cameron had better pray that his namesake never gets his hands on him, the cad! Now, Ellie, what happened to her? Dead, disappeared, separated?"
Ellie's face appeared on one of the monitors, with the words 'Ellie Oswald, neé Ravenwood' emblazoned underneath it. The Doctor began flicking switches, until a loud and brash alarm ran out. 'WARNING: Potential encounter with past self. Proceed with caution' was now displayed on the monitor. The Doctor cursed loudly in Old High Gallifreyan. A red light on the console flashed and which was immediately followed by a loud clunk, as if the TARDIS was chastising the Doctor. "Oh, shut up, dear!" he said in frustration, whilst running his hands through his hair. "Hmm. Sorry about this, Old Girl," he said as he pulled several levers. "I know it's a big drain on the power, but it's a necessary precaution." The TARDIS engines screamed in protest, and the console room listed. The Doctor caught onto a handrail and clung on for dear life until the TARDIS stopped shaking and came to a halt.
"Whew." He got to his feet and dusted himself down. Straightening his bow tie, he left the TARDIS. Its interior was visible for only a second before the door swung shut, leaving no trace of its presence. The Doctor slid a piece of paper under the TARDIS so he wouldn't walk into it again, he could do without another Oval Office. He appeared to be on a building site, which didn't look as though it had had much work done on it. He walked out of the site and onto the main road. It was dark, and the moon wasn't offering much light. Despite that, it didn't seem that late; the roads were still fairly busy and there was a steady stream of people walking along. It couldn't have been that long after rush hour.
Dave Oswald was incredulous. "You mean to tell me you understood all those equations?" "Yup." Responded his daughter with a satisfied smirk. "I don't know where you get half your mathematical ability from, Clara. I was useless and your mother was even worse! And it definitely did not come from your grandmother, God rest her." "Grandad?" Clara inquired of her father, plonking herself down on the sofa next to him. Dave pondered for a moment. His father and namesake was killed in a car crash when he was just four years old. "I don't know." He said at last. "Although, gran did say something about a finding a Mensa badge in the loft once. Maybe it belonged to him?"
"Mystery solved. Must have skipped a generation, eh dad?" Clara teased. "Oi! Too bloody cheeky by half you are, don't know where you get it from…" he said, tipping her a wink. Clara picked up the remote and began flicking through the channels, searching for something that might pique her interest. "Nothing much on," she yawned, settling on a repeat of Fawlty Towers and making herself more comfortable.
The phone rang. Dave was quick to answer. "Hello, this is Dave Oswald, who's speaking please? Oh, Ellie love, hello. You want to speak to Clara?" Clara looked up. "It's your mother, she wants to know if you need any more tights." Clara sighed in exasperation, gesturing at her father to hand her the telephone. "Yes mum? No, I don't need any tights. No, I already replaced the ones with ladders in them. Last week! Yes, I have done the geography homework. And the maths. Yes, I'm sure I've done everything. Alright, see you later. Bye mum!"
"Bye Clara! Love you!" At the other end of the line, Ellie Oswald put the phone down and left the booth. She looked left and right as she prepared to cross the road, then stopped as she saw a tall young man with dark hair that fell over his face on one side. She could have sworn she'd seen him before. But why here, why now? It disconcerted her. She rubbed her eyes. The man was staring up at the sky, seemingly thinking hard. No, it couldn't be him, she thought and crossed the road.
The Doctor stared up at the moon, thinking, remembering. Adventures involving Cybermen and Ice Warriors, Martha Jones and a Plasmavore, Amelia Pond and Apollo 23 filled his head. A noticeable mist had begun to form in his eyes. Amelia…
He wiped his eyes, and as he did so, Ellie Oswald looked back from across the street. The Doctor cursed inwardly, and running across the road after her, just as she disappeared into the midst of a throng of people. He'd drawn to a halt, at a loss for what to do next, when he spotted a newspaper stand. Why had the TARDIS thrown up that warning? He picked up a copy of the Evening Standard. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the glasses that had once belonged to Amelia Pond; pushed them up the bridge of his nose and looked down at the front page. In spite of the font size, the date seemed to loom large in front of him. 5th March 2005. A realisation had dawned. "Oh no…"
Dropping the paper, he began to jog in the direction he'd seen the group of people heading in. A sign indicated that he was heading into Queen's Arcade shopping centre. He scanned his surroundings for Ellie, but he could find no sign of her. He became dimly aware that a blonde woman was approaching him in the corner of his eye. He turned and came face to face with someone he'd last seen around three hundred years ago.
"'Eello 'andsome, what are you doing standing there like a lemon?" Came the Cockney accent of Jackie Tyler. "You're neither use nor ornament 'ere, how about coming back to my flat?" The Doctor squirmed in considerable discomfort. "Er…no…I'm…sort of married…" came the awkward reply. "You're not wearing a ring." Jackie observed. The Doctor decided upon ignoring this. "Er…I was…sort of looking for someone. You haven't seen a brown-haired woman with a heart-shaped face, have you? She was about so tall." He gestured to his chest. "I did, as it 'appens. Why, is she your wife then?" Deciding that the easiest way out of the situation was to lie, he stated emphatically; "Yes. Which way did she go?" Jackie sighed. "Why are all the decent men taken or on the other bus? She went downstairs, love." "Thank you!"
The Doctor dashed down the escalator, shuddering at the thought of what Rose Tyler would have made of that particular exchange. He made a mental note that if he were ever to see her again (considerably unlikely, as she was trapped in a parallel world, but that hadn't stopped the universe before) it was never to be mentioned, and to avoid Jackie Tyler at all costs. Just as he was thinking this, he spotted Ellie examining a pair of men's trousers on a mannequin. "Oh my stars, look at the price!" she exclaimed to nobody in particular.
"Wah!" Ellie had turned to walk away from the display and toppled into the Doctor. "Sorry, I didn't see you the-so it was you earlier!" "What was me earlier?" the Doctor asked. "I saw you standing and staring up at the moon." Ellie explained. Why are you here?" "Er…coincidence?" he sighed. No, you're never going to believe that. Actually, Ellie, I was looking for you." Ellie stared at him in bemusement. "For me? Why?" The Doctor glanced around her at the mannequin, swallowed and said "We need to get away from here, it's not safe." "Where shall we go?" she enquired, "And what do you mean, not safe?" "Well, for starters, get away from THAT!"
Ellie swivelled round. The mannequin was moving its arm. "Oh my stars!" she cried out, horrified, as it stepped forward and raised its arm in the air, bringing it down with a mighty crash and showering Ellie in glass. "Run!" the Doctor yelled, grabbing Ellie's hand and pulling her along with him as the mannequin's hand opened to reveal a gun. They sped up the escalator and towards the exit, while all around them, shop displays were shattering as the mannequins emerged. "Who are you, how did you know this was going to happen, what are those things; and why have you not aged in the past eleven years?!" "I'm the Doctor, I'm a thousand year old time traveler, I've been here before; they're living plastic creatures called Autons and I moisturise!" the Doctor rattled off his answers to Ellie's shrieked questions at the top of his voice.
Ducking to avoid a shot fired by an Auton, they sped out of the shopping centre, onto a road strewn with shattered glass and dead bodies. "You moisturise?" Ellie laughed, partly out of amusement and partly from the sheer terror of the situation. "Yes!" the Doctor replied, pulling Ellie behind a car and laughing himself. "Listen, Ellie." "Yes, Doctor?" "We need to get across the road." he stated. "Why?" she asked. "I stopped this in my past, we just have to get across the road and we should be safe, they won't be a danger for much longer." he explained. "Do you think you can manage that Ellie?" Ellie stared at him for a moment, and nodded.
"On the count of three. One, two, three, geronimo!" The Doctor and Ellie leapt out from behind the vehicle and ran for their lives, dodging shots from the Autons now appearing on both sides, intent on killing them. Trying to think about anything but the fact she was running through a hail of bullets, Ellie called after the Doctor. "What moisturiser do you use?" "Oil of Clom!" He called back. "Oil of Clo-AGH!" an Auton shot hit Ellie's ankle and she stumbled forwards. There was a sickening sound, and the Doctor turned to look. The second bullet hit Ellie squarely above the heart, the momentum sending her body into a graceful arc as she fell to the ground. "Ellie!" the Doctor yelled in horror, running towards her. The Autons came to a halt; their upper bodies bowed just as the Doctor reached the stricken Ellie, no longer a threat to anyone.
"Ellie, Ellie! Can you hear me?" the Doctor picked up Ellie's hand. She had a huge hole that went right through her chest, and was bleeding copiously onto the pavement. "Doc…tor…?" Ellie croaked. "I'm here." he said, squeezing her hand and smiling down at her sadly. "Why…why…were…you…looking…for me?" Ellie wheezed, a tear trickling down her cheek. The Doctor grimaced, before deciding to tell the truth. "Clara. I've met her before. Once, on a planet in the future, and once, in Victorian London. She died, twice. I had to find her again, and I had to know she was normal. I've met her, in her future. Just recently. Just a few hours ago, for me." It would have been easy for Ellie, not to believe, but it was as if pieces of a puzzle had just fallen into place. "And…I…wasn't…there?" said Ellie, breathing raggedly.
The Doctor nodded. "That's why I came looking for you. I ended up here, and now I know why. The TARDIS took me to the ultimate end of your timeline. I'm sorry Ellie, I'm so sorry." Hearing a note of self-blame in in his voice, Ellie squeezed his hand in reassurance. "It…wasn't your…fault." she managed to say. "Look…after…her. Look…after…Clara…" Ellie gave a final, rattling breath, and her eyelids flickered shut. The Doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out his sonic screwdriver, clicked a button and pointed it at Ellie's body. "Dead." he confirmed. "Sorry, Clara. I couldn't save her." he said heavily.
'Property of Ellie Ravenwood, aged 11'. Clara was stood in front of her mother's gravestone, tears falling onto the copy of 101 Things To See that had once been her mother's. Clara closed the book and held it to her chest as tightly as she could, tears pouring down her face. Dave Oswald reached his arm round his daughter's shoulder, unable to say anything. Thoughts raced through Clara's head. She felt guilty, guilty at how impatient she'd been with her mother on the night she died. The Doctor was stood some way off, behind a tree, watching Clara and Dave sadly. Hearing a sound, Clara turned and glimpsed him walking off.
The Doctor wiped his eyes as he entered the TARDIS. "She's just a girl." he insisted as he pulled the TARDIS viewscreen in front of him, which featured a picture of the Clara he'd met in Victorian London. "How can she be?" The TARDIS made a blooping noise, and Oswin Oswald's Starship Alaska employee profile appeared on the screen. "She can't be!" Bloop. A picture of Clara at her university graduation. "She is! But she can't be!" he cried desperately. He swatted the screen away. "She's not possible!"