Rating: G (There is one damn.)
Spoilers/warnings: Set after The End of the World
Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the BBC and not me.
Summary: Written for the OT3 ficathon. It ended up being a combination of the two prompts I had to choose from: one about the Doctor's birthday and one about meeting up with someone from the Forest of Cheem. This is the first time I've ever written anything like this.
Cathedral. That was the first word that sprang into Rose’s head when they stepped out of the door of the TARDIS and onto the unknown world they had landed upon. All around them for as far as they could see were trees; huge trees, fantastically tall, soaring above them. With the sun slanting in through the canopy of leaves, it made Rose think of the old, Gothic cathedrals she had visited as a child on school trips.
“Wow,” said Jack, awestruck.
“Yeah,” Rose agreed.
The Doctor had already walked ahead of them to the trunk of the nearest tree. He stood at the base of the trunk, his head tilted all the way back as he gazed up at the tree. “Fantastic!”
“Look at this!” He called excitedly to his companions. “Just the trunk of this is huge!”
Rose approached the tree and stretched her arms out around the trunk. “It would take twenty of me to circle this I bet."
“Thirty-five of you to be exact,” The Doctor told her. “It’s nearly 23 meters in circumference.
“These look like those giant redwoods they had back on the West Coast of the US at one time,” Jack said.
The Doctor corrected him. “Not giant redwoods. Sequoias. Giant Sequoias. Those were the really big ones.”
“So this is a Giant Sequoia?” Rose asked.
“No. But it’s like one,” the Doctor took his sonic screwdriver out, fiddled with the settings and pointed it at the tree. “It’s a descendent of one. It’s got the Giant Sequoia genes in it, plus a whole lot of others.”
“Are we on Earth then?” Jack asked.
“No. I’d know right off if it was. But this place is somewhere in Earth’s future. These trees tell me that much.”
Rose took the Doctor’s hand as they walked along through the forest. “If this isn’t Earth, then how did these trees get here?”
The Doctor shrugged. ‘Somebody planted ‘em.”
“Any idea who did?” Jack picked one of the many large cones the size of ostrich eggs littering the ground and threw it like an American football at the Doctor. He caught it easily and tossed it gently to Rose.
“Not a clue. Let’s keep walking awhile and see what we can find.”
They walked for close to twenty minutes before they came to the edge of the forest. It opened out onto a wide valley with a river running through it. On the far side of the river were more trees.
“Are they all Sequoias?” Rose asked.
The Doctor shaded his eyes with his hands and looked. “No. All kinds of different tree species. Most of ‘em are Earth-types, but a good bit of them aren’t.”
Jack pointed. “Look over there, Doc, starting on that next hill over.”
“What?” Rose peered over in that direction. “All I see is grass.”
“Look closely,” Jack told her. “It’s hard to see at first. Look down in the grass, not over it.”
Rose looked again, a frown of concentration on her face. “It looks like….sticks. Rows ‘n rows of sticks in the grass.”
“Seedlings,” the Doctor told her. “Each stick marks the place where a tree seedling is growing.”
“So this place is some kind of giant tree farm?” she asked the Doctor.
“Actually, the whole planet is,” came a gruff voice from behind them.
The Doctor, Rose and Jack whirled around. Behind them stood a tall brown and green clad figure. The three travels took a collective step backward. Jack’s hand automatically went to his belt where his weapon would have been had the Doctor let him take it along on this outing.
The being that stood before them was tall, taller than either Jack or the Doctor. His face was fairly human-like, with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth in the usual places but his skin was dark brown and rough looking. Almost like bark on a tree, Rose thought. The being wore a long, green robe that nearly touched the ground and was covered in a graceful pattern that resembled leaves. He looked fairly harmless enough except for the long, wicked-looking thorns that protruded from his hands and arms, even though the sleeves of his robe.
“Who are you people and what do you want?”
The Doctor stepped forward. “I’m the Doctor and these are my friends, Rose and Jack. We’re travelers. We came here by accident when our ship malfunctioned.”
“Is that your ship back there?” The being gestured behind him into the forest. “That blue box?”
“Yes,” The Doctor nodded. “That’s it. We’re sorry if we’ve disturbed you in any way.”
“When will you be leaving?”
“Sometime tomorrow,” the Doctor assured him. “As soon as our ship is ready.”
“Then you should go back to your ship and get to work on it so it will be ready by tomorrow. I will escort you to it.”
The three of them began heading back through the forest to the TARDIS with the being following them close behind.
“I get the feeling that we’re not exactly welcomed here,” Jack commented as they walked.
“We did show up uninvited and unannounced,” the Doctor pointed out. “Can’t always expect to be welcomed with open arms.”
Rose slowed down and dropped back a couple of paces. She turned to look over her shoulder at the alien following behind them. He didn’t look like a bad sort, she thought, despite his thorny arms and hands. Might as well be friendly.
“I’m Rose Tyler. What’s your name?”
“My name is Gled.”
Rose dropped back a bit more to walk next to him. “So your whole planet is a tree farm?”
Gled seemed amused at her question. “It’s not MY planet. This is Braunlea, one of the holdings of the Forest of Cheem. I am the senior forester here.
The Doctor’s ears pricked up. “Forest of Cheem?”
“Isn’t that where Jabe was from?” Rose asked.
“Jabe?” Gled walked in front of them and stopped. “You knew Jabe?”
“Yes. Rose and I were on Platform One with her.”
Gled looked at them solemnly for a bit. “I apologize for my rude behavior. I didn’t realize you were friends of Jabe.”
Rose shook her head. “ ‘Sokay. You didn’t know.”
“I’d like to invite you to come back to my home with me,” he told them. “It would be my honor to have friends of Jabe as my guests.”
“Thank you, Gled. That would be fantastic.” the Doctor told him.
They walked through the trees together toward Gled’s home.
“Did you know Jabe?” the Doctor asked.
“Yes. We grew up together, although I hadn’t seen her in several years. Our lives took us in different directions.”
“I’m very sorry for what happened to Jabe,” the Doctor said quietly.
They came to a large clearing in the forest with a main building and several smaller out buildings standing in it
“This is my office as well as my home in between my rounds of the forests on the planet.”
It wasn’t much to look at; the same utilitarian, prefab buildings that Rose had seen on many other outpost worlds that she had traveled to with the Doctor. Once Gled lead them inside, her opinion changed. While the outside had been drab, the inside was nicely decorated and much more home-like. The walls were covered in wood paneling and there were many pictures of trees and wildlife hanging on them. Just inside the front door was an office area. There was a large desk with books, papers and bits of equipment scattered across it. The wall directly behind was covered in screens showing different views of what Rose assumed were other forests on the planet. Past the office was the main living space that included a sitting area and a kitchen. Beyond that were a couple of doors most likely leading to the bedroom and bathroom. Gled gestured toward the couches and chairs in the sitting area. “Make yourself at home, please, while I get you something to drink
Once they were seated, Jack leaned forward toward the Doctor and Rose and asked in a low voice. “So who was Jabe?”
“We met Jabe on Platform One,” Rose told him. “It was the first place the Doctor ever took me.”
“The place with the bitchy trampoline, right?”
The Doctor broke in. “The bitchy trampoline that killed Jabe and several other beings and nearly killed us all. All for the sake of eternal life.” He stood up abruptly and walked across the room to look out the large picture window at the forest.
“He ‘n Jabe saved everyone” Rose explained to Jack. “The Doctor really liked her and he took it kinda hard when she died. “
Gled came back out and with a pitcher and some empty glasses on a tray. He set it down on a low table in front of the couch where Rose and Jack were.
“I think humans generally like to drink this. If you don’t care for it, I can get you something else.”
Jack tried a glass. “Lemonade!” He took a long drink. “And darn good lemonade, too.!”
The Doctor came back over to join them. “Fantastic! Thank you, Gled.” He poured himself a glass of lemonade.
“So this planet is one of the holdings of the Forest of Cheem?”
Gled nodded. “That’s why I was rather abrupt with you at first. We have constant problems here with thieves sneaking in. We have to keep alert. Especially since several of the forests are coming into maturity soon.
“People steal trees?” Rose asked, bewildered. “Why?”
“Same reason why people steal anything.” the Doctor said. “ ‘s worth something”
“I wouldn’t think wood would be worth a lot in this time, with so many other materials you can make things out of.”
“Well, you wouldn’t want to make a spaceship out of wood, that’s for certain.” The Doctor leaned back in the chair and emptied his glass of lemonade. “Ah….that tastes like more.” He got up to pour himself another glass.
“There are millions of uses for wood,” Gled told Rose. “Building homes and businesses, craftsmen use it for furniture, sculpture, all kinds of art. Food, even.”
“Books.” the Doctor threw in. “Books use paper and most paper is still made out of wood.”
“Exactly,” Gled poured more lemonade from the pitcher into their glasses. Rose thought he moved remarkably gracefully for someone so tall and with so many lethal looking thorns protruding from his body. So far he had managed to avoid poking them with any of them.
“You said you’re the senior forester. How many of you are here?” Jack asked.
“Twelve. Each one of us oversees a region of the planet. Let me show you.” Gled stood up and led them back over to the desk in his office where he called up a holo map. They could see the different regions into which the planet was divided. While there were plenty of oceans and open spaces, the bulk of the planet was covered in green.
Jack gave a low whistle. “That’s a lot of trees.”
“Can’t see the forest for the trees,” the Doctor joked. Rose gave him a poke in the ribs for such an awful pun.
“Are they all originally earth species?” he asked Gled.
“Most are but not all of them,” Gled switched off the display. “We use Earth hybrids in our forests extensively. They’re the hardiest and most adaptable.” They walked back out to the living area.
“It’s not right,” Rose said angrily. “People comin’ in and choppin’ down the trees. They should just leave them alone.”
“Yes,” Gled agreed. “It’s been a constant battle with timber thieves for the last year. It’s getting even worse now and our own timber harvesting crews won’t be here for another three month. I hope we can protect the trees until then.”
“Your timber harvesting crews?” Rose said in surprise. “You’re gonna cut the trees down yourselves? Why?”
“Because they’re ready to be cut down,” he explained. “Not all of them. Just the ones that have reached their optimum maturity, when they can bring the best price for their wood.
Rose looked out of the large picture window in Gled’s house in dismay. “All these huge beautiful trees…..they’re just gonna be cut down?”
The Doctor broke in with a question of his own. “Why are you having such a hard time keeping thieves out? Don’t you have an early warning system or some kind of defense shield to keep them out?”
“Yes, but, unfortunately Braulea’s sun gives off a certain type of radiation that plays havoc with our protective systems. Even at the best of times they only function at 80% efficiency, combine that with some very clever and resourceful timber thieves, well….” Gled shook his head. “We’re constantly on alert for one intrusion after another.”
“Well, today’s your lucky day, Gled!” The Doctor told him. “I think I know someone who can fix your system problems. Me!”
The Doctor and Jack followed Gled outside as he lead them to an outbuilding that housed the computers used to run the protective systems. They didn’t notice Rose lagging behind until she called out to them just before they entered the building.
“Hey! You boys go on and play with your toys. I’m gonna take a walk.”
The Doctor looked back at her sternly and opened his mouth to say someting but Rose cut him off. “Don’t worry. I won’t go far. Promise.” He opened his mouth again. “An’ I won’t go chasing off after any strange aliens I see or try to save the world on my own or anything that will even remotely put me in danger. Cross ‘m heart.” She waved at the Doctor and turned to leave before he could come up with anything else.