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Part Deux - Rose meets with Sister Ohica.
Rose looked back over her shoulder and followed with great reluctance as Lyra guided her into a small chamber hewn into the dark rock adjacent to an expansive central common room. She could see reddish-orange robes and a brief glimpse of the litter disappearing into what appeared to be yet another hallway, leading away from the main room she and Lyra had just passed through. Where the common room had been brightly lit with several flaming torches and was elegantly appointed with numerous richly-woven scarlet tapestries and Grecian-style columns, this small chamber contained only a small round wooden table and a few uncomfortable-appearing weathered wooden chairs. A small glass carafe filled with a clear liquid sat on a golden tray on the table, and a chandelier-like fixture containing several candles glowed above. A cheerily flickering fire burned in a stone fireplace set into the wall opposite the door.
"Please sit down and make yourself comfortable, Rose Tyler. Sister Ohica will join you shortly. There is water in the carafe if you are thirsty." Lyra said, pulling out one of the chairs at the table for Rose.
"No..." Rose said, refusing Lyra's offer. "I'm not eating or drinking anything down here. I don't trust any one of you!"
"As you wish, Rose Tyler." Lyra bowed slightly and began backing toward the door where her immediate exit was blocked by a tall, regal figure in robes similar to those of the other women. This woman, however, wore no headdress or breastplate, and her face was devoid of the heavy gold eye makeup that Rose had seen on the other members of the group. She looked slightly older and more care-worn. Rose noted that Lyra bowed low as she was dismissed by this new arrival.
"I am Sister Ohica. The Sisterhood welcomes you and your companion to Karn."
Rose felt suddenly uncomfortable - looking into the woman's piercing eyes, she had the sensation that Ohica could see right through her. She shoved aside her unease and willed herself to concentrate. "I'm Rose," she tried to force her voice to remain steady. "Rose Tyler. What have you done with the Doctor?"
"Ah...so it is indeed the Doctor. I thought that it was he whom I sensed. It has been nearly two hundred of your earth years since he has last visited us." Ohica stood by the pulled-out chair and gestured for Rose to sit.
Rose sat without further argument. "The Doctor's been here before?"
"Yes, he was of much assistance in ridding us of a great enemy and restoring the Sacred Flame when it initially began to dim."
Rose tried to focus on what Ohica was telling her, realizing that it might come in handy later. "Sacred Flame? I only saw torches out in the other room."
Ohica scowled, making Rose suddenly feel as though she were a child that had misbehaved and was about to be punished. "Outsiders are not permitted to view the Sacred Flame." Ohica turned back toward the fireplace, staring into its brightly leaping flames. "We are the Sisterhood of Karn, servants of the Sacred Flame, keepers of the Elixir of Life. The secrets of the elixir are known only to ourselves...and the High Council of the Time Lords, with whom we share the life-giving waters." Ohica paused, gripping the back of one of the chairs now and sagging slightly with what looked like extreme fatigue to Rose. "The Sacred Flame has not burned for nearly a century now though...and that was after several decades of not producing any elixir. When your Doctor was last here, he said that the Flame would burn yet for millions of years. He was obviously mistaken. We did contact the High Council of the Time Lords for assistance, but we were told that there was a war, and because of that, no envoy could be sent." She turned back to Rose, orange-red robes swirling about her ankles. "Since then, we have only done what we must to survive."
"And that includes kidnapping people? For this...this extraction thing?" Rose accused. "I'm sure the Doctor would've helped you if you'd only asked."
"The Time Lords we captured previously traveled alone. You would appear to be a novelty, Rose Tyler. The Sisters brought you here on my orders. I regret that your movements on this planet must be restricted, but I am afraid it is necessary. As for the Doctor, yes...he will be of great assistance to us yet again."
"What? There've been Time Lords here before? What have you done with them?" Rose's heart leaped in her chest. Maybe the Doctor wasn't the last of his kind after all.
"Only five. We extracted some of their artron energy, and then they were allowed to depart. Peacefully. No harm was done to them."
Rose's heart sank. "Artron energy? What's that?"
Ohica sighed, folding her arms across her chest. "The Time Lords, as a people, utilize artron energy - a source of naturally-occurring power that even they do not fully understand. They use it not only to power their machines, but also within their own bodies, becoming symbionts with their time-travel devices, so to speak. Have you ever witnessed their regenerative process?"
Rose nodded guiltily. "Yeah...I've seen it. There was this light...a golden light...with millions of these tiny star-things in it. Hurt to look at it, it was so bright. When it faded, the Doctor was still alive, but he was...different. It was still him, but he was in a completely different body, it was really weird."
Ohica smiled. "That was the artron energy you saw. It drives the process of Time Lord bodily regeneration when their lives are threatened. We of the Sisterhood may be distantly related to the Time Lords, but we have no such regeneration process. We must routinely partake of the Elixir of Life to continue to exist."
"So...." Rose's mind was spinning at this information. "Are you saying you're immortal then? And you're somehow related to the Time Lords?"
"The Sisterhood is originally from the same planet as the Time Lords, yes. We fled to Karn when the Time Lord Rassilon expelled the Cult of Pythia from Gallifrey and established the scientific Time Lord society as we know it today. The Sisterhood is indeed immortal, but only because of routine ingestion of the Elixir of Life." Ohica turned to Rose, her gaze growing cold. "Now that the Sacred Flame no longer produces the Elixir, we had to find a substitute or perish. It was very long ago when we first used our collective power to draw a Time Lord to Karn in an attempt to obtain assistance after our pleas for help were ignored by the High Council. We were able to bring him and his machine here...directly drawing him out of the vortex. Unfortunately, the Time Lord attempted to escape the city that exists on the surface above our sanctuary, and was severely injured by a fall. We had brought him here to the Shrine to care for him, but it was to no avail. He regenerated into a new form and during that process, purely by accident, we discovered that we too were able to use the dispersed artron energy after it had left his body. With the other Time Lords we captured, we were able to experiment and further refine our techniques to obtain some of their artron energy, as the process of extraction is not a natural one for their people."
"So...this extraction thing." Rose was becoming more alarmed by the second. "You're taking his...his artron energy or whatever it is...you're going to be making him regenerate to get it?" She rose from her chair, back rigid. "I can't let you do that."
Ohica's face was impassive. "Do not be absurd. We are able to extract a small amount of artron energy without harming the Time Lord. The Time Lord race may have been cursed to suffer sterility by the great goddess Pythia, but the males are still able to climax and emit a small amount of that same artron energy in the process. By collecting it before it dissipates and then refining it, we are able to produce our substitute elixir and thus assure our continued immortality."
Rose's jaw dropped. "So you're saying...you're saying you're going to...."
Ohica interrupted, frowning slightly. "The Time Lord will know only pleasure while he remains in our care and he will easily replace the energy that we take. Through him, we will ensure our survival. Would you condemn us to death, we who have existed in this universe for longer than even the Time Lords themselves?"
Rose was silent, suddenly finding the polished stone beneath her feet to be the most interesting thing in existence. There had to be another way; she didn't think she could just stand by and let this...extraction process happen. Surely the Doctor could think of some way to restore their 'Sacred Flame' as they called it. She could feel Ohica's eyes on her and her cheeks burned hotly. "Seems I don't have any way to stop you...." she mumbled. "I know the Doctor could help you, if you would just let him wake up."
Ohica regarded Rose with a curious glint in her eyes. "I can sense that you care quite deeply for your friend and that the process I've detailed would cause you considerable distress...."
Rose sniffed. Distress wasn't quite the word she would use, but it'd do.
Ohica continued. "We have not been able to locate any sign of a Time Lord traveling in the vortex for a great many years now. We have been saving our last few vials of the substitute elixir and perhaps our powers are starting to fade; but regardless. We need the Doctor. We will cease to exist without him. I do not wish to do so, but we will confine you if we must for the duration of the extraction."
"Then you'll have to confine me. Because I'm not going to let you do this to him. The Doctor can find another way to help you..." Rose's somewhat tearful speech was interrupted by a flurry of activity at the door to Ohica's private chambers. One of the sisters entered, her eyes wide with alarm.
"Sister Ohica...you must come quickly. There is a problem. He is not responding to the usual draughts and potions. The Time Lord is fighting us."
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