SAN FRANCISCO, 1969
The wailing cries and patter of tiny feet were music to a nurse’s ears and the key to warming her heart.
There was tangible outburst of mixed emotion at the hospital; there was much caution, concern, as well as joy.
Only a few days ago, man had recently touched down on the moon, and now seemingly another miracle had occurred in the form of several new arrivals, all left on the doorstep of the hospital, and their birth certificates listing names and addresses that belonged to patients that had recently experienced miscarriages.
It was a mystery as to why this was, who was behind the arrival of these miracle babies?
How did they know which parents had experienced their own personal tragedies?
As the staff prepared the new arrivals wing of the maternity ward, these questions were at the forefront of everyone’s minds, even as the nurses thrilled to the cradling and care of newborn life.
Someone else had caught wind of this too, a trim and slim looking man with a fetching tweed jacket and bow tie who had popped in to say a couple of things.
He was looking for someone.
The babies in the ward, some of them girls, were most excited, more than usual.
It was one of the first times they gazed upon a man.
A slim looking man with a fetching tweed jacket and bow tie had popped in to say hello.
“Hello sweetie” he said.
The babies cried, and kicked, and screamed, and gurgled, but the look on the man’s face became gloomier with each outburst of emotion on their part.
It wasn’t producing the desired result.
And the nurses were staring at him, making small talk among themselves as to why he was in the ward seemingly chatting up infants.
“Ok, not one of you knows what I mean by that, and this probably looks very wrong right about now, but before I take my leave, I’d rather an adult in the room answer a question for me”
“Can I help you sir?” asked the nurse.
“Yes, very much so…what is he doing here?” The Doctor responded.
“Excuse me?” the Nurse asked, a little perplexed
“And him, and him, him, him and him” The Doctor said, pointing to six of the babies in a row.
“I don’t know what you mean by this, these are new arrivals; you do know your way around this hospital don’t you?”
The Doctor produced his ‘credentials’ on the psychic paper, informing the nurse he was a Doctor from a local clinic sent to check on a specific arrival by the name of Melody Pond.
“I’ll talk to the orderly in charge Mr. Smith, he’s around here somewhere”
“Take your time”
The nurse took her leave to fetch the orderly.
“You shouldn’t be here; none of you should be in here…not in this place or time, who decided you of all people, ought to be made vulnerable?”
Several of the babies in a row stared at him with a mesmerising expression.
“Don’t give me the eye, I know you’re not regarded as average Joes” The Doctor responded.
“Sir? The orderly in charge of new arrivals as you requested” came the kindly voice of the nurse.
The Doctor turned only for a cold shiver to travel down every fibre of his being.
“Bruce, this is Doctor John Smith” the nurse said, making the formal introductions.
“Trying to pick out your favourite Asian child Doctor?” Bruce said, extending his hand for The Doctor to shake it.
The Doctor, not wanting to make too much of a scene, at least as long as the nurse was present, gripped Bruce’s hand lightly. He could feel Bruce tighten his grip in a vice like manner.
The Doctor did not cave in to the pressure, though his face was clearly strained by the pain.
Satisfied with this, Bruce released his grip.
The Doctor scrambled to think of what to best do next once the nurse had disappeared.
He had met this orderly before, in the same city, only several decades into the future. Bruce was a free man then, an innocent ambulance orderly who had become the latest in an endless list of victims at the hands of The Doctor’s arch rival.
This was no longer Bruce, he was forever The Master.
“Are you looking for someone Doctor?” Bruce asked.
The Doctor was hesitant to answer, if ‘Bruce’ knew that he was looking for the child that would become River Song, it would be quite a catch for him were he to intercept her before he could. The havoc they would wreak together scarcely bore thinking about.
“That can wait, I’d like to know where all these babies came from” The Doctor responded.
“Can I tell you a story of the birds and bees over a glass of fruit juice?” Bruce taunted.
“You know what I mean, we can speak baby, both of us, and we know these children are touched with darkness, some of them are a bit ego-centric, already telling me everything they’d like to do, babies always have some negative impulses to work through, but I unfortunately recognise some of them based off their voices and mannerisms. What do you see when you talk to them?”
“I see a bright future Doctor, I see good men”
“Really? You’ve picked a fine motley bunch. Let’s list them all shall we?”
The Doctor strolled along the ward, naming each child as he went.
Additionally, he also listed their crimes, or rather, their future crimes.
“Gian Lugi Ferri, in 1993 he will walk into the law offices of Pettit and Martin on the 34th floor of 101 California Street. Put on a pair of orange ear protectors, and will commence shooting at random with three semi-automatic pistols”
The Doctor looked over at the small group of babies that had given him a gander earlier.
“These boys are all members of the Joe gang, who on September 4th 1977, raided what was then the Golden Dragon restaurant in an attempt to assassinate the leader of Wah Ching, a rival gang. They killed five and wounded eleven with a barrage of bullets. It was labelled the bloodiest massacre in the annals of city history”
“Let’s not forget Dan White, who in 1978 acted under the influences of misunderstood pressure from conservative departments and constituents, and had a couple of spills with bad junk food. He assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Infamously convicted of manslaughter and not murder after mounting what was known as the Twinkie Defence” Bruce added.
“He also dealt with severe depression” The Doctor snapped back.
“He was also once hailed as a hero in the news for saving a woman and her baby while on the job. He was already capable of the most incredible good, I almost refused to consider sending him back to start again, but then I remembered the strains life had put on him”
The Doctor walked back up to Bruce and grabbed him by the lapels of his black jacket.
“Some of the most heinous crimes committed in San Francisco, or will come to occur in San Francisco, monsters each of these children will become, and they’re all lined up, ready and waiting to be returned to their parents, but not their actual parents, by new ones. You’re trying to alter the course of history”
Bruce pushed The Doctor back with a firm ferocity.
“This is my good deed for the day Doctor; I’m giving these monsters a second chance before they have the opportunity to squander their first ones. They’ll go to people that can raise them well, people who thought they’d lost on their own chance to do right by a child”
“And I suppose you scouted them before hand? Followed them along their personal timeline and found they had perfectly inoffensive lives?” The Doctor said, his anger steadily growing.
“Are you proposing that they are effective in their own history by being who they are? Lost souls? Killers?” Bruce continued, knowing precisely which buttons to press where The Doctor’s morality was concerned.
“In a way, they sort of are. They are established in the web of life, they are fixed points, and they are historical fact. Unravelling the web of time is dangerous, but that’s never been lesson you appear to have ever learned”
“You think in such linear terms” Bruce said dismissively.
“Somebody has to, our people lost sight of it, you lost sight of it, and I’ve come close to losing sight of it, but in the end whatever will be, will be”
“Did your mother teach you that?” taunted Bruce.
The Doctor chose at this moment to turn the subject back to the delicate matter of how to best handle the situation going forward.
“I think you’d best leave, you know I won’t stand for this, I have to take these babies back” he said.
“Your good deed is to ensure evil carries on…a fitting karmic punishment for your sins that have been and for your sins yet to come” Bruce said, taking his leave.
The nurse returned to the ward just as Bruce departed, she looked at the haunted expression on The Doctor’s face, his features were paler, and his hands were visibly shaking, tightened into knotted fists.
He knew what to do, he would take them all back in the TARDIS, but first he had to get them off site in a most professional manner.
“Put in a phone call for me to the FBI, ask for Canton Everett Delaware, inform him an old friend needs help in shifting most of this ward’s contents with as minimal fuss as possible. They’re not meant to be here, and tell the expectant parents I’m sorry, but they’re going to have live out their lives wrestling with what could be, not will be”
After trying delicately to spin the awkward and tragic situation as best he could to her without creating the impression he was mad or complicated, the nurse held back fresh tears and took her leave to do as requested.
The Doctor looked on at the babies, all of them speaking in their infant language, some of them already tinged with the dark impulses that would later overtake them in life.
The Doctor pondered why The Master had, in the most twisted of fashions, opted to try his hand at a ‘good deed’, but with no consideration for the kind of rules good men like The Doctor maintained for themselves.
Perhaps it was to show the absurdity of trying to maintain rules in a universe that permits the very concept and execution of rule-bending, that it was steadily becoming easier to be right more in the well intentioned sense. He was trying to prove good men no longer needed rules, or at least not that many.
The Doctor felt like he was the last of a noble breed, and he had come close to abandoning all sense of that before, prior to the sacrifice of Adelaide Brook, the woman who stopped a time lord victorious in his tracks.
To honour her memory, her sacrifice, the rules would be maintained.
He just hoped that when the time would come for him to depart from this reality, his light and apposite footprint would not be washed away by the tide of those well intentioned, but morally in flux.
In the final hour, all good men must abide by the law.
Be it the law of time, life, or otherwise.