"I can't. I just---"
"Why can't you find a way? Tell me. Don't let this happen, I'll do anything—"
"I can't. I'm sorry, but I can't. Sometimes I do. Most times I can save someone. Or anyone. But not you."
To a Time Lord, the universe is built on moments.
Moments build the whole of creation. There's a moment where two atoms collide and suddenly there's an explosion. Light and fire and suddenly, something new is born.
The beginning of Gallifrey, that only took a moment. The creation of the rest of the universe, that starts with a moment, too. There's the moment Rassilon split the Gallifreyan DNA and created the Time Lords.
And then there's you. Born in a moment on a pompous, overtight planet.
It all starts with you, really. If it wasn't for history and experience and faith, you could believe the whole universe started only in the moment you opened your eyes.
There's the moment the Earth is built, the moment you first see it through a telescope, the moment you decide you'll go there, and the moment you steal a TARDIS so you can. Everything is held on by such a delicate, delicate string of moments, with tiny, fixed moments as tacks holding them all together.
All those tiny fixed moments. Those tiny terrible fixed moments.
The death of the dinosaurs. The toppling of pharaohs. The death of Richard III. The death of Madame du Pompadour. Jack the Ripper. The Sinking of the Titanic. The Holocaust of the 1940's. The Battle of Canary Warf. Lady Gaga's second album. The Attack of the 456. The Dishonesty Riots in London. Bowie Base One.
You have visited a number of these moments. You've watched so many die and wished you could rewrite history. You wish you could fix it, you wish you could change it, but sometimes it feels like the whole of your favorite little planet is littered with those little tacked on moments.
It takes a lot of moments to build a world.
This is one of them.
And Captain Brooke is so utterly convinced she can get away.
She doesn't turn the comm off to your helmet and you don't tell her. You try to tell yourself that you're just experiencing Time. You're experiencing it.
In a moment, everything goes wrong.
You listen to the cries of Erlich, you listen to her turn on the images of her children. Their mid 21st-century German translates perfectly to your ears. When you close your eyes, you can see her obituary. You know she'd only just given birth to her second daughter, Ulrika, and initially refused placement on Bowie Base One because of the risk. You know she's only 38 years old. You hear the choked sounds of her tears drowning out. You hear Captain Brooke crying out for her. In a moment, the sounds are nothing but silence, water, and the daughter asking if her mother will be home in time for her birthday.
You always knew this would happen. It's just different, hearing it. It's different, walking away from the disaster with it ringing in your ears.
They move on. Captain Brooke is a strong leader, she doesn't let them stop to grieve. She pulls them ahead, she makes them be strong. There's a reason she was your hero for so many years. This doesn't diminish that, you tell yourself. You know she's afraid, but she's not giving up because she's strong and that's admirable.
In another moment, you hear them lose another. Groom is only 25, but he's finally taken the things you say to heart and he knows he can't leave with them. One drop. Bennett starts screaming that you can't leave him that you just can't leave him but they must just like you must leave them.
You think that no, no, wait, you could. You know how. The Flood was defeated by the Ice Warriors, it's in all the history books. Steam them out, destroy their entire stock. Or the TARDIS. You could pull all of the remaining crew back into the TARDIS and take them back to Earth.
Except you can't.
It's right there, in the Time Laws. That one Romana would always quote to you. Section II, paragraph A, subsection 1. No Time Lords shall use their Power on a scale that would corrupt Time. Capitalized P in Power and all. You're not a god. You can't pretend you're a god. You can't save them.
Ed Gold is gone next. You know that several movies in the future are created about his heroism, though there is often wide speculation that he wasn't that heroic. It's true, you can tell that now. You tell yourself that's why you're in this part of history; you're just proving that your heroes are real. It's just proof, if a future companion should ask, that the crew of Bowie Base One were so very strong and so very heroic and they deserve their praise.
You can hear the defeat in their voices as Ed sets up the shuttle to destruct. He won't give up Earth to this thing. He tells Captain Brooke---no, no Adelaide, her name is Adelaide---he tells her that she's never forgiven him. You'll never know what he means when he says this to her, all you know is that he wouldn't have to if you could just turn back---
The residual blast from the shuttle hits you squarely in the back. It throws you forward, next to a pile of burning debris, the flames turning bright and brilliant in the thin nitrogen and carbon dioxide atmosphere, and then vanishing in an instant.
Vanishing in a moment.
Just like these people. These brilliant little people. No, no, they're not little. The people you usually save, they're little. They're specks on the benchmark of history in comparison to the crew at Bowie Base One. These are fixed people. These are big people. When they walked around you on the base, you could feel Time yielding to them. It would ripple and shift with their every movement and you could feel it.
You never once thought about altering that. Okay, no, no, that's a lie. You thought about it, but you never would. Too many laws, too many things that could go wrong. All those laws. All those laws built by your people.
Your people. Your hand unconsciously turns into a fist against the red Martian soil. Your people who wouldn't stand up to help themselves, your people who wouldn't fight when the universe needed them. Your people who drew up laws and regulations and still manipulated the universe at their whim. Your people---
Your people are dead. There's no trial waiting for you. No one to knock a gavel four times and insist you'll have a forced regeneration or death for your crimes. It's not that you feared that, no, but they were the authority. No. No, now the only authority left is you.
And there is no authority greater than you. You've said it before. You've stood by it before. Those laws apply to Time Lords acting under Gallifrey. But Gallifrey is gone.
Those people need you.
Moments build the whole of creation.
There's a moment where two conflicting emotions collide and suddenly there's an explosion.
Light and fire.
You make a decision.
Something new is born.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,216, not including dialogue from 'The Waters of Mars'.