Prior to the sensations one experiences with the real thing, it is photographs that are your infant footsteps into the mists of time.
The day you’re born, the day you marry, the day life you’ve yourself created comes to life, and the cycle repeats.
All of it contained in photographs.
In her attack on Bannermen Road, Sarah Jane Smith was looking over one such photograph, trying to solve a puzzle. She had been resisting a desire to sort it out at later date, but something was compelling her to examine it more thoroughly now.
It had been sent to her via a time/space telegram courtesy of her computer Mr. Smith, who had intercepted it. The photograph, a colourful photo of what appeared to be a bright and bustling summer’s day, two young and energized people standing still in the midst of a traffic jam surrounding a vast futuristic city with golden spires and lush gardens growing from every rooftop.
They stood transfixed, one holding the other tightly, beside him a small grey and white cylinder.
It was tranquil, it allowed her present mood to settle.
She turned back to her computer to resume her Skype call, all too suddenly reminded why she had put off her examination.
“You alright Mum?” Luke Smith asked as they continued their online chat.
“Tell me more about this Earl ‘Early’ Ladd” she asked
“Well, he kind of got that nickname from how early his social care buddies always were with him. He’s sort of become the envy of the rest of the dorm at the moment, his carers caught wind one of his interests was professional wrestling, so they found someone who had connections with the business and were keen to give him an opportunity to interview them”
“Oh my, I hope he doesn’t feel too overwhelmed” a concerned Sarah asked
“He did sort of vent to me about it, he said he was starting to feel less like a person and more of a project, something for the programme to brag about if he ever achieved success through those opportunities”
“He should make that clear to his carers then, when’s this interview due?”
“It’s just past midnight, so sometime this afternoon, Saturday the twenty-ninth, the choice is entirely up to him”
Luke couldn’t help but notice that Sarah Jane was starting to look a bit distant. Her eyes had widened, her face looked visibly fragile. She peered over at a calendar and let out a small giggle. Luke kept his eyes trained on her eyes.
“Mum?” he asked
“Oh don’t mind me, it’s silly” she said.
“No, it’s sad” came a voice from behind her.
Sarah turned around to find a lean, tall, somewhat elder man standing in front of a bulky police call box situated in the centre of the loft.
“Mum…is that…” Luke began as he recognized the police box as belonging to a friend of the family, The Doctor.
Sarah swiftly turned back to the computer and cut him off.
“We’ll talk later, ok? You be a good boy and pop off to bed, dream of the next day, or the day before, pick and choose, just don’t worry about tonight”
“Any dream will do” said the man.
“But Mum…” Luke spoke.
“I love you” Sarah continued.
With a punch of a key, the Skype chat was cut off, and Sarah turned to address her visitor.
“Yes, well, memories can be sad as well as kind I suppose” she said
“Tell me what’s wrong” The Doctor replied
“It’s an important date today, surprised you remembered it” Sarah said, folding her arms.
“I count all the anniversaries…none of them get past me” The Doctor replied.
“We both know from experience some people evade time” Sarah replied.
“Not always by choice Sarah” The Doctor responded.
“That photograph you sent me…from the far future correct?”
“Correct” said The Doctor.
“Who’s future is it? Yours, or mine?”
“There’s a third answer to that”
“Yes, well I’m not entertaining it”
“Yes, I imagine you wouldn’t” The Doctor remarked.
“I shouldn’t even have asked you the first question” Sarah replied.
“Days like these to a time traveller…they provide all sorts of questions, even the answers are riddles to us all” The Doctor answered back.
“Is that why you’ve come…to help us sort something out? Keep that future in place, or are we to prevent it from happening?”
“That would entail running towards something, I just dropped in to say why I’m not dropping in on this day a lifetime ago…why it has to be me”
“I got careless Sarah…incredibly careless. Something happened at the Olympic Games last year for you…so many years past for me now”
“I saw it on the news, you carrying the torch, I was beaming with pride” Sarah replied.
” I was there twice that day Sarah, a runner with the torch came under attack. I saved him”
“Saved him from what?”
“I delivered him from Angels” The Doctor replied, walking over to a table and flicking small traces of dust from atop it.
“So what was the problem?”
“The Angel found its way into the TARDIS, it gathered up as much artron energy as it could muster and it hid itself away, lurked undetected and followed us all the way back to Manhattan where we dealt with other Angels…and when we tucked time back into place, it picked it’s moment to strike…and it took them Sarah, my friends…sacrificed to it…’my Angel'”
“Is that how you lost her?” Sarah asked, knowing what this meant.
“She chose her heart over her head, it’s love, it triumphs, that’s all I can take from this”
“You must tire so easily these days”
“Of what?” The Doctor asked
“Of how many times your hearts break”
“So many of them stray so far beyond me…this one was different, this one encouraged me to go on..just for a bit longer”
“And you did?” Sarah asked.
“Eventually, life sent forth a spark, one that lit the milky way, it will take a very special star in the eye of another to match what I saw in that…whoever that may be, I intend to give their name and their face a place in my memory”
“You’ve forgotten the last one? You?” Sarah said, slightly aghast.
“It surprises even me too”
“But you remember the feelings that person gave you, it’s strong…as strong as when you said…”
She trailed off, not wanting to add further tension, The Doctor opted to finish her sentence for her
“…As strong as when I said goodbye to you. You and one other”
“Other? There was another?” Sarah asked.
“Her name was River…” The Doctor replied.
A chap came from the TARDIS doors, The Doctor’s plump and oafish assistant Nardole stepped forward.
“Interrupting am I?” he asked.
“Hopefully it’s with good news” The Doctor remarked.
Nardole waved to Sarah, who nimbly waved back.
“Doctor, the temporal tears over Manhattan were made of the same artron storms as those over Coal Hill”
“Are you trying to tell me our attempts to deflect the tears caused them to bounce off one continental radius to another?”
“Were they supposed to?” asked Nardole.
“I’ve got to get over there as soon as possible, someone may lose an arm or a leg over all this” The Doctor remarked, and ushered Nardole back into the TARDIS.
He took a look back at Sarah.
“I’m on call” he said.
“Do your duty” she said.
Before he entered The TARDIS, The Doctor froze, and looked back up at her.
“When River and I last parted…I said goodbye, but I never called her mine. She’d kill me if I ever claimed her as my property”
“It’s never been about property Doctor, it’s always been about the promise. Promise me you’ll be safe…that you’ll always be safe”
“Goodbye, my Sarah Jane” The Doctor replied, permitting himself a wry smile, before entering his faithful ship.
As he began punching in co-ordinates and cross-examining tears settling across the Manhattan and Coal Hill skyline, Nardole saw fit to intercede again.
“You know I was running a background check on that photograph you sent Ms. Smith and I was fascinated by it, apparently it’s meant to be a representation of a secret commitment ceremony that Time Lords make to those they consider compatible soul mates that they are torn from by time and duty …was there any particular reason you…”
“If I were you, I’d just answer the call” The Doctor remarked.
“That didn’t work out so well for Melissa McCarthy” remarked Nardole.
The TARDIS dematerialized, leaving Sarah Jane Smith to tend to her moist eyes, her tense emotions, her photograph, and her eternal promise.
“God speed my Doctor…….MY angel” she whispered.