It starts when they are eight years old. Most children come willingly to the Academy, the coldness of their parents making the separation easier. His father tells him that it would've been kinder for him to have not had such a human mother, the loving atmosphere made him weak.
He cries when they take him away. He sits in the cold transport alone, toying with his fingernails, sniffling like a child far younger than he is, and staring out the window at where his life will now be lived.
The Academy sits within the glass dome of the Citadel on the continent of Wild Endeavor. Snow sparkles from the burnt orange sky, trailing down the sides of the glass dome. The school itself arches upwards, mimicking the spiral of the time vortex with tall towers and the occasional bolt of electricity shooting across them from students' experiments. The entire building sits twenty-eight miles across, only a fraction of the size of the entire dome.
The transport slides past the glass dome, heading towards the external processing center. No creature is allowed within the Citadel without proper paperwork and passes and all that. Ridiculously tedious, but it gives the boy a chance to wipe off his tears and make himself look a good bit more respectable. It's the first day at the Academy, after all. Can't be looking like a newborn human.
He stands in a long line in a large processing building between the mountains of Solace and Solitude. They are to become Time Lords, so waiting should not be such an issue as it is for him. All the same, he constantly loses his place in line by wandering off to the windows to stare at Mount Cadon, which looms over the city like a giant protector. He wonders what sort of things sit up there on those icy peaks.
"Wait. In. Line." They use his name, which is far too long and far too complicated. He hates it. What if he was in terrible danger? By the time they spit it all out---"Look out…"---he'd already be dead!
Eventually, he is called forward. They take his hand and slice off a thin piece of biodata. He cries out, and immaturely sticks his forefinger in his mouth. They roll their eyes. Half-breeds. If they had their way, the boy wouldn't even be coming to the Academy, let alone having his extract placed in an already over-cramped Matrix system.
"Biodata placement in Matrix unit Theta Sigma," he is told by a thin, bitter-looking woman. With a roll of the eyes she adds, "And Prydonian chapter. Ooooh, doesn't that just figure. The biggest troublemakers come out of that 'noble' chapter."
The woman hands him his cards and his red and orange robes. He stands and steps aside to change. There is no one else in line for him to hold up. The robes are too thick and itchy, and he grumbles about them as he walks away, leaving behind his soft green jumpsuit that his mother made him.
"They do it on purpose, you know," the boy whose biodata was placed in Koschei Alpha tells him, tugging at his own Prydonian robes. "They want you to hate it here. They want everyone to hate it here. It's supposed to be part of the 'learning experience'." He makes finger quotes in the air, and snorts in irritation.
"That's stupid," Theta Sigma says pointedly. "I don't need itchy clothes and grumpy women to let me know that school is a completely ridiculous institution."
Koschei grins. The boys instantly become friends. They make promises to stay in the same dormitory and to get enough people together to play Eighth Man Bound so they can beat the Arcalian record.
Theta Sigma is called before Koschei for the final part of his initiation. He is led down to a beach to stand before the Untempered Schism. A crack in the fabric of time where he can see into all of the Time Vortex.
His father tells him that some have gone mad looking within that Schism. He says that the raw power of it is terrifying, but inspiring. As with everything, Theta Sigma believes that seeing the Schism would be billions of times better than simply hearing about it, so he steps forward, unafraid.
Sitting in the middle of the beach as if it had belonged there forever is a large mirror-like pool. It ripples and spirals with waves of energy, light and time blended together.
"Look." They instruct him.
Of course, the instruction was far from necessary, and he leans forward, gazing into the darkness.
At first he sees nothing. Just the darkness and the ripples. He knows what they are from his pre-Academia studies---brainbuffing, they call it---but they don’t terrify or inspire or really mean anything at all. Then---
There it is. A light breaking out at the surface. A spotlight at thirty fathoms. It widens and shapes and suddenly he can see everything. He can see everything. All that is, all that was, all that ever could be.
Light and pain and war and suffering and cruelty freedom love forgiveness redemption pain everything everything don't be afraid a beat a drum beat it pounds and pounds and hope and he clings to that they need to be saved and he can see everything and it's beautiful and terrifying and beautiful and---
He can't take it.
He can't control his feet as they bolt down the side of the beach. The Time Lords there are prepared for the children to run, but not like this. He squirms from their grasp and runs, his short legs carrying him a surprising distance at an even more surprising speed. He runs and runs and doesn't stop, not when the cries behind him start to fade, not when the icy cold of night bites at his skin.
He's quite certain he's alone now, alone on the beach without men in big robes darting after him, and it's just him, him and the Vortex and all of those things he saw.
He can run forever. He can smell the wind and feel the sand under his feet and run forever and somehow that feels like it's something he saw in the Vortex but he doesn't know. He doesn't know anything anymore. The universe is so big. There should be a word that's more poignant or more poetic than that, but big is just right.
He wants it. He wants to see all of it, he wants to know all of it.
His foot catches on the end of his heavy robes and he falls forward, his face landing squarely in the sand. He wants to sob but he doesn’t know how, he wants to scream but he doesn't know how, and suddenly he's being lifted by two very strong pairs of arms. They bring him back to the Citadel, and to the school.
After an earful from the professors, he makes it to the dormitories very late. He crawls up a spiral staircase to a large, bland room that looks and feels like it was carved out of the side of a mountain rather than built within a grand Academy building. Perhaps they really do want the students to hate it there.
Koschei has saved him a bed bottom bunk to his own. "Heard you broke the school record," he says. "Two miles. Most Tots only make it a few hundred feet."
It didn't feel like he ran that far. "Did you run?" Theta Sigma asks the other boy.
"No. Guess I was inspired or something. You know how when you look at a picture and it stays in the back of your eyes forever, right? It's like that with me." His fingers drum against the bedframe. "It's like I took a bit of it with me, you know?"
Theta Sigma can understand, he nods and drops to his bed, his sand-covered feet mucking up the soft covers.
It's the first day at the Academy. And here he thought it would be dull.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,349