Prompt: Dr Who/Vorkosigan crossover: Eleven, Amy and Rory on Barrayar
Rating/warnings: PG, none
Length: 8200 words
Summary: Amy asked to visit a planet with lots of horses.
whiir whiir whiir
"All right," the Doctor cried, "here we are, everyone! Now this is a bit of a different sort of place. This planet got cut off from the rest of the galaxy a few centuries ago, and it dropped way back to primitive standards. They're home to some of the best horse riders in the galaxy right now, and they've invented six kinds of horse-drawn carriage that have never been used anywhere else, ever. They're also pretty cool with swords." He flung open the door of the TARDIS. "Everyone who likes horses and swords, this way!"
Amy was right behind him. Rory followed more slowly. Amy had asked for horses, and the Doctor had grinned and started pulling levers, and Rory was bracing himself to smile and look happy about half-ton animals with tiny brains and enormous feet marching all over the place. Amy and the Doctor went out onto the new planet, and Rory followed. Then Rory grabbed Amy and the Doctor and dragged them back inside as a bright red flying machine shrieked bare inches past their noses.
"Funny kind of horses they have here," he observed. It might be a completely different planet centuries in the future, but the red thing screamed 'boy racer' all the same. The Doctor and Amy joined him in staring up at the skyscrapers, with flyers weaving in and out of them as silent cars sped along the road. Then the Doctor dashed back to the controls of the TARDIS, scanned a little screen in a corner and said, "Well, we might be a couple of hundred years off. Hundred years here, hundred years there, it's amazing how it all adds up after a while. This is the start of the reign of Emperor Gregor the Great." He grinned at Rory. "At least, the Barrayarans thought he was Great. Some of the other planets had much ruder names for him. Though not as bad as the previous one. Admiral Lord Vorkosigan, the Butcher of Komarr, everyone called him. Things are getting better around here these days. I think."
"But you said we were going to go to see the future with horses," Amy grumbled.
"I expect there are some around somewhere," the Doctor said, looking at the vehicles dubiously. "Somewhere." He took a breath. "So, anyway, let's go look around, see some history."
"It can't be history if it's in the future," Amy objected.
"It's all history sooner or later." The Doctor twiddled his sonic screwdriver and frowned.
"What?" Rory said.
"Well, you see," the Doctor said, twiddling the screwdriver some more, "in this ... well, it's a bit complicated, but around here and now, there aren't any aliens. Just humans, all over the place. But according to this--" he flourished the screwdriver "--there are some alien lifeforms around here somewhere."
Amy gave him a pointed look. "Perhaps it's you."
"No, it looks like an Ergophage or two. Not a very interesting creature, they're not sentient or visible, and they feed on energy sources. They can be a nuisance depending on what you use for power and how well it's shielded, but they're not dangerous. A bit like cockroaches, really. I wonder how one got here." The sonic screwdriver flashed around a few more times, and he said, "Hmm. Well, you two wander around. There's a gorgeous bridge that way, very honeymooney." He rummaged through the inner pocket of his jacket. "Here's some local cash, get some dinner or something." He hesitated a moment. "You might want to be a bit careful with the locals--they've had loads of civil wars and terrorism and stuff like that around here, and they're a bit... touchy. Just don't go too close to the Imperial Palace or anything like that, and don't bother anyone whose name starts with a Vor, and you should be fine, the ordinary people are perfectly friendly. I'm going see about these Ergophages."
"Huh. We'll just wait for the loud bangs, shall we then?" Amy said, but he was already deep in the workings of the TARDIS, muttering to himself.
Rory looked around. The tall buildings opened out in the direction the Doctor had pointed. It was early evening, chilly and brisk with a note of spring in the air, and it looked more or less like any other city at rush hour, with heavy traffic as everyone headed home for the night. Admittedly most cities Rory was used to didn't have the flying cars, but the basic idea was the same.
"Come on, then," Amy said, heading down the road.
The city was an odd mixture, Rory thought. In between the shiny skyscrapers there were older buildings: crumbling Soviet-style concrete monstrosities, equally faded-looking traditional architecture with lots of hand-carved bits and not-quite-straight walls, and everywhere, construction work going on. The place must be growing fast. They watched a flying crane doing some kind of complicated work on a skyscraper, and passed a gaggle of old women sitting on a low wall by a bus station, selling bits of garden produce and handiwork. Amy bought a bag of a fruit preserved in sugar that looked a bit like small plums, and they sat on a bench by the river to eat them. The bridge the Doctor had mentioned was a bit upstream, and Rory had to agree that it was very fancy and romantic. On the far side of the river the road looked much grander, with trees lining it and the glimpse beyond of a big square with a statue of a man on a horse in the centre. It was the first horse they'd seen.
"Let's go that way," Amy said.
The square had a lot of imposing-looking buildings around it with small plaques indicating that they were looking at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance, the Imperial Treasury Office, the Ministry of Terraforming … all sorts of boring stuff. The tree-lined boulevard continued on the far side of the square, and at the end of that, Rory suspected that they had found the forbidden Imperial Palace. Amy gave a grin.
"There. I thought it had to be this way."
There were a lot of guards around now. Rory had seen some police outside the government buildings and patrolling the square, but the guards outside the palace had a very serious look about them. He hoped the gun emplacements around the place were historical rather than in current use.
"Amy, the Doctor said..." he tried, but she shut him up with a quick kiss.
"He only said that to make us go here," she argued, putting an arm through his. "You know that. I wonder what they have here that's so interesting, anyway. Emperor Gregor the Great, I suppose. I bet he's about ninety."
They walked along the pavement, up against the high iron fence. There was a wide strip of garden, grass with a few low flowerbeds that nothing could possibly hide in, and beyond that the walls of the palace. It was illuminated with spotlights and looked very grand against the darkening sky. Further ahead was a gate with a checkpoint beside it and several more guards. One was beginning to eye them with professional interest. Rory tried to look like a very harmless sort of tourist. Did they even allow tourists around here?
A flyer screeched overhead and landed near the checkpoint with a scrape of metal on concrete that made Rory and Amy both wince. It was the red flyer that had nearly taken the hair off their heads earlier. A young man jumped out of the driver's seat, and Rory knew his snap judgement had been correct. Boy racers.
"... not going. I am not going to listen to your mother try to give me The Talk again. She's tried four times now, and each one was worse than the one before. She had pictures, Miles. Pictures! Really awful ones with hair and ick."
The passenger door opened and another young man, very short, got out. "You've been to Beta now. That's just how they do things. They like realism."
"Well, I don't."
Amy gave a huff and marched up to them. "Your driving sucks," she said to the tall youth. "You nearly squished me and my friends earlier."
Rory followed, caught between admiration of Amy's front-and-centre approach to life and wishing she wouldn't immediately start by insulting the locals. He stood behind her, trying to project 'don't mess with my wife' vibes and not sure he was succeeding. But the tall youth, after an initial blink of surprise, gave Amy a blinding smile.
"I was dazzled by your beauty, milady. How may I earn your forgiveness?"
"He always drives like that," the short one--Miles--countered. "Sorry."
"Ivan Vorpatril," the driver said with a flourishing bow. "How can I be of service, milady?"
Rory could tell that the bowing and milady-ing was having an effect on Amy. She returned his smile. "We were just looking around. Is that the Imperial Palace?"
"That's right," said Ivan. "Are you off-worlders? Are you staying here long?" He gave Rory an uncertain glance, but when Rory said nothing he turned his attention back to Amy. Rory didn't see any reason to tell him that when you knew your wife liked you better than the Doctor, you didn't have to worry about exotically tall, dark and handsome strangers on holiday.
"No idea," Amy said. "We came to see the horses, but there don't seem to be any around here."
Miles, unexpectedly, brightened. "Not in the city, no, though there are some hacking paths in Vorbarra Park, and of course the Household Guard. You want to go down to Vortala's District, that's where the big shows will be happening, starting next week. My grandfather… used to compete there. I mean, his horses did, he was too old to ride himself." He paused. "I'm Miles Vorkosigan," he added, giving Amy a shyer version of the look Ivan was turning on her.
Rory blinked at the name as he recalled what the Doctor had said earlier. The Butcher ... but surely this guy was too young to be anything like that. "Are you ... related to Admiral Vorkosigan?" he asked.
"My father," said Miles shortly.
"Oh, he's the one--" Amy cut herself off, slightly too late for tact. Miles' eyebrows lowered, making him look suddenly like he could be related to someone called 'the Butcher of Komarr'.
"Well, you're galactics," Ivan said with a slightly over-cheerful smile. "Barrayar is a very nice place to visit these days, you know. And romantic." He looked at Amy, who had turned back to admiring the Imperial Palace, and his expression brightened. "Do you want to see inside?"
"We can't just go in there," Rory objected, still eyeing the guards.
"No," Ivan said somewhat smugly, "but we can. We're on leave from the Academy, and we were just coming to visit Gregor but he said he'd be with our mothers, so we've got some time yet. So how about a tour?"
"Ivan..." Miles began, "the security--"
"I just mean the public rooms," Ivan said defensively. "I'm not completely stupid. They do tours during the day--not for just anyone, you understand, but diplomatic people and so forth--anyway, why can't we do our own tours in the evening?" He grinned. "What's the point of having connections if you don't use them?"
"You have connections?" Amy said with a sardonically raised eyebrow. Rory didn't doubt it himself, and he suspected Amy was just winding the boys up to make sure she got her tour. Both young men had an air of effortless confidence and security that Rory associated with the very rich and privileged. Born with silver spoons in their mouths, his Nan would have said. And Ivan had said they were visiting 'Gregor', and Rory was utterly certain that they meant Emperor Gregor the Great.
"Miles used to live here," Ivan said, obviously bragging now. Rory gave Miles a surprised look. He'd pegged Ivan as the higher-ranking one, somehow.
"When I was a baby," Miles protested. At Ivan's smile, he grimaced. "All right. I'll have a word with security. If you don't mind telling me your full names..."
They did, Rory a little dubiously. He didn't suppose they'd actually pass anyone's security check, what with not having arrived officially here or anything. This looked like the sort of place that cared about having the right paperwork, and the Doctor and his psychic paper weren't here. But Miles returned surprisingly quickly. "They're both on the green list," he said. "You didn't mention that your friend was already visiting here."
"Oh," Rory said stupidly.
"Yeah. Having tea with both our mothers as well, if you can believe it."
"So much for 'don't go near the Palace,' the hypocrite," said Amy in tones that promised dark retribution for the Doctor later on. "We're on our honeymoon," she added with a sharp look at Ivan, "so we went off on our own."
Rory hadn't been planning to mention that, not wanting to come across all possessive, but he was pleased that Amy had. He had to reluctantly admire Ivan's manners. The briefest crestfallen expression crossed his face, then he smiled and said, "Then a tour of the Residence on your own will be just right, and no need to bother my mother."
"Right," said Miles. "Come on in, then."
Illyan went into the sub-basement, the last stop on his evening walkabout of ImpSec HQ. He did not ask the guard to leave the door open behind him, though he would have liked to. The conversion of the old cells to evidence storage was going well, so well that they'd already moved the first batch of materials into its new home. He exchanged a casual greeting with the sergeant in charge of the building works, who was overseeing the demolition of a set of walls to make the biologicals storage room, and then entered the completed area, where his own cell had been. It gave him a certain feeling of satisfaction to see the shelves of carefully ordered items now in its place.
His commlink chimed.
"Sir. Security violation at Entrance Six. We've just caught an intruder."
Illyan frowned. Entrance Six was one of the top-secret ways into ImpSec HQ, and nobody ought even to know about its existence who wasn't cleared.
"He's requesting to speak to you," the guard continued. "He says he has urgent information for you. He has a Level Two pass, sir."
That made Illyan pay attention. Level Two was the second-highest clearance level for civilians, used by some of his most senior informers and deep cover agents. "Did he give a name?"
"No, sir, but he's, um, very insistent that it's urgent."
Illyan sighed inwardly. Just once, just once, he'd like to have a day where he could work seven to nine, go home and sleep all night and not have random crises breaking out around mealtimes or quitting time. "Well, scan him and bring him straight to me, then. Under guard, please."
The man who was escorted in a few minutes later was eccentrically dressed, tall and lean with a very fidgety, inquisitive air. Illyan was reminded irresistably of Miles. But the man was absolutely not on his list of Level Two pass-holders. In fact, Illyan did not have a single image of him anywhere on his chip, which was quite unusual by itself.
"Hello, hello," he said cheerfully. "You've got a serious problem in here, did you know?"
"Excuse me," Illyan said, speaking carefully in his most bland bureaucratic voice, "I need to see your credentials again. Procedures."
The man brandished a piece of paper, and Illyan read it. It was a perfect Level Two pass with his own signature and thumbprint. He looked away, then called up the image on his chip. His chip showed a blank piece of paper. Illyan glanced at the pass again, then at the chip-memory. Blank. He felt a twinge of anxiety in the pit of his stomach. Either there was something wrong with his chip, or something wrong with his eyes. When in doubt, Illyan tended to trust his chip.
He made a small hand signal to the guards, and a moment later the intruder was jammed up against the wall with two large ImpSec guards between him and Illyan.
"Now," he said, "you're going to answer my questions. How did you forge those credentials and why were you poking around outside?"
The man grinned disarmingly. "How did you figure it out? The psychic paper works really well on most people. You're not psychic, I can tell, so how did you know?"
"The point of an interrogation," Illyan said with a certain amount of asperity, "is that you answer my questions. Who are you and what are you doing here?"
"I'm the Doctor," the man said, uninformatively. "And somewhere around in here is an artefact that really doesn't belong. I'd like to take it off your hands before it attracts trouble. I think it might do that very soon if we're not lucky."
Illyan had met some cocky miscreants in the past, but none who would blithely tell the Chief of ImpSec what to do in his own dungeons. He raised an eyebrow. "Well, Doctor, I'm not in the habit of letting people forge my signature and then steal things from me. Sorry. Request denied." He looked at the guards. "Take him to--"
His wrist comm chimed. "Yes?" he said impatiently.
His secretary was on the other end. "Sorry to intrude, sir, but Lady Vorpatril is being very, um, insistent on your personal line. Shall I ask her to wait?" He sounded as if he'd rather be assigned to Kyril Island.
"No, I'll talk to her. Put her through." He signed the guards to wait and crossed to the nearest comconsole. The Doctor, unexpectedly, looked rather annoyed at the interruption, as if he'd wanted to be marched away.
Lady Alys' face on the vidscreen was as lovely and forceful as ever. "Captain Illyan," she said. "I believe you may have a strange man at ImpSec."
Illyan had long since noticed that Lady Alys knew more about what was happening in Vorbarr Sultana than any other person anywhere, but this was remarkable even for her. "Why do you say so?" he said cautiously. In an aside, he ran a check on what Lady Alys had been doing for the past few hours. Taking tea at the Residence with Countess Cordelia and a visiting academic, apparently a friend of Cordelia's. Nothing unusual there.
"I have reason to think you should pay attention to what he has to say," Alys said.
"We'll be holding him on charges of forgery, for starters," Illyan said, deciding it was pointless to deny the situation to Alys. "And trespass in a restricted area. Why do you believe him to be trustworthy?"
"Well, it's a long story, but so long as you let him explain himself, it should all be fine. He apparently has information about--"
The screen flickered, then went dark. Illyan blinked. The lights overhead began to flicker, his comm link beeped erratically and then fell silent, and then every light in the old cell block went out. In the darkness, Illyan heard the automatic deadlocks slamming shut on the doors.