Moving Forward by LN29 [Reviews - 106] Chapter or Story |
When plots collide. The link to Step by Step finally fully steps out into the open, and Rose realizes that they are in SERIOUS trouble.
A nice looong chapter. Enjoy, and once again, thank you so much for your reviews, favorites, and reads. Things have been sort of rough recently, and you guys's reviews have been one of the brightest spots of my days.
She had no way of knowing how much time had passed, but she did know that she had long since progressed from bored and annoyed, to bored out of her mind and seriously ticked off. This didn’t make sitting alone in an empty, silent cell any more appealing, and only served to heighten her stir-craziness.
However, despite her boredom, frustration, and fear, she must have finally dropped off to sleep, for the next thing she knew, she was jerked awake as loud footsteps echoed outside her cell. She had just enough time to jump defiantly to her feet before the door swung open, revealing a figure Rose hadn’t expected.
Flanked by two soldiers, but barely looking at them, her large, piercing eyes boring straight into Rose’s, stood a woman.
She wasn’t human, that much was immediately obvious. She was over two meters tall, dwarfing the soldiers who stood by her side. Her skin was a delicate cross between white and blue, but her facial features appeared human, her hair black and falling freely down her back. She was dressed in flowing green robes, embroidered with gold, which gave her the appearance of an empress or some other authority figure.
But what caught Rose’s attention most of all was her attitude. This woman had an air of authority about her which was like nothing she’d ever seen. Only the Doctor had ever come close, but even his innate authority somehow paled in comparison to this. There was no question that this woman was in charge of the situation, despite the fact that Rose had no idea what the situation was.
The intensity in her gaze was enough to make Rose want to back away, and it took all her willpower not to do so. With no effort at all, this woman made the soldiers beside her look as though they were just children playing at war. Rose’s heartbeat quickened as every single instinct she’d ever cultivated screamed at her that this was bad. That this woman was dangerous. So, so dangerous.
Rose had no doubt that this was the “her” that the leader had given orders to contact.
For a long moment, the woman regarded Rose with icy grey eyes, and the look in those eyes chilled her. The woman looked as though she were coldly admiring a new plaything. A new addition to a collection.
“Rose Tyler?” the woman asked. Her voice was low and soft, yet somehow carried an undercurrent of danger with it.
“Yes,” Rose nodded, refusing to show fear.
The woman’s lips twitched in the slightest of satisfied smiles, but the next second, she’d strode into Rose’s cell, followed closely by the two soldiers.
Her eyes widened.
“Why is she still restrained?” she demanded, rounding on the soldiers. “What possible reason could you have for it?”
“Our orders…ma’am,” one of them said, trying his best to sound professional and not frightened out of his wits.
Rose wondered how she ever could have thought of them as the enemy. Then she reminded herself that, regardless of how ridiculous this woman was making them look, these men still had guns, and would use them.
“We were told to take every precaution to ensure she was secured until your arrival,” the other added, doing a slightly better job at not looking terrified than his counterpart.
“That’s no cause to unnecessarily bind her,” the woman snapped.
She reached out and caught hold of Rose’s cuffed wrists in a surprisingly strong grip. Her fingers were long and tapered, and she appeared, Rose noted detachedly, to have six fingers, not five. She pulled Rose forward a step, nearly causing her to stumble as she fought to keep her balance, and yanked Rose's arms out straight, displaying her wrists to the soldiers.
“Look at this!”
The cuffs had caused some bruising, though Rose hadn’t really noticed until that moment. The soldiers looked at each other, clearly wondering what was the proper thing to do.
“And this,” the woman added. Rose flinched, unable to help it, as the woman forcefully tilted her head back, displaying the bruises caused by the soldiers' blows. Her voice was indignant, but her tone rang false to Rose, and she didn’t let down her guard for an instant. “Honestly! How have you people managed to live with yourselves all this time, if you get your entertainment from needlessly harming a young girl?”
She released Rose’s face, and Rose backed away.
“Get those off of her at once,” the woman ordered, gesturing to the cuffs. “And if anyone else lays a hand on her without my permission, there will be consequences.”
One of the soldiers moved forward and uncuffed her, quickly backing away again.
Rose looked from the soldiers to the woman, unable to shake the terrifying feeling that she’d moved out of the frying pan, and into a very, very hot fire.
“Now leave us,” the woman ordered, with the type of authority that did not request to be obeyed, but fully expected it.
Casting half-fearful, half-resentful looks over their shoulders, the soldiers did as they were told, closing the door behind them with a resounding thud.
Rose took a deep breath, steeling herself for whatever was coming next.
The woman moved away from the door a bit, so that she was regarding Rose from across the cell.
“Rose Tyler,” she said, sounding each syllable out with triumphant precision. “I am very sorry that we’ve had to meet under these circumstances, but I’m very pleased to meet you.”
Despite her fear, Rose’s temper had not yet recovered from hours and hours of boredom and isolation.
“I can’t quite say that the feeling is mutual,” she replied, barely keeping from snapping the words.
“Understandable,” the woman nodded. She stared at Rose for a solid minute, and Rose shifted uncomfortably. “You have no idea how long we’ve waited to find you.”
“Who’s we?” Rose demanded. “And who are you? And how do you know who I am?”
“Who I am isn’t important, nor is the matter of who my lackeys are. And you’re quite well known in some circles, Rose.” She smiled, but there was very little warmth in it.
Rose contemplated pressing for further information on the woman’s identity, but decided it wouldn’t be wise. She’d just noticed the long, wickedly-curved knife the woman was wearing at her side.
“What am I doing here?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea what you did to make enemies out of those boys out there,” the woman said, with an idle wave of her hand. “And to be perfectly honest, I really don’t care. All that matters is that you are here, and that I have found you.”
“Why were you looking for me?” Rose asked, trying to keep calm, though she was getting frustrated by the lack of information, not to mention frightened by how much this woman seemed to know about her.
“Well, not you, specifically,” the woman admitted. “No offense, Rose, but you’re not exactly worth my time, are you?”
“Thanks,” Rose grumbled. “I think I’ll take offense.”
The woman leaned against the wall, clasping her hands together.
“Right then, enough pleasantries. We know who you are, Rose Tyler, and we know who you travel with.”
Though Rose had suspected it, her heart still stopped at these words. However, she kept her outward composure.
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play games with me!” In an instant, the woman's entire demeanor had shifted, and the dangerous undercurrent Rose had detected was fully visible on the surface.
The woman advanced.
“We know that you travel with the Time Lord known as the Doctor.” She nearly spat the last word.
“What?” Rose demanded. “The Doctor? Doctor who?”
The woman advanced another step, and Rose realized she was backed against the wall.
“Rose,” she said, her voice surprisingly gentle, “please don’t lie to me. I already know that you travel with him, and it’s in insult to both of our intelligences to claim otherwise. You carry twenty-first century Earth technology, and you bear a unique energy signature present in those only who have been exposed to the time vortex. And there’s only one way you can travel in the vortex like that…”
The woman paused for effect.
“…and that way is sitting in our vaults.”
Rose felt like she’d been kicked in the chest. They had the TARDIS too? How? And what did they want with her? With either her or Rose?
“There it is,” the woman said in satisfaction, evidently seeing the expression on Rose’s face. “A TARDIS. The last living TARDIS, to be precise. And her pilot…the last of the Time Lords…the Doctor.” Again speaking his name with revulsion, though she was trying to temper it for Rose’s sake.
Rose swallowed hard. Playing dumb was definitely not going to work in this case. This woman already knew too much.
At least now Rose had her answer as to what they’d seen on the scan. Now that she thought about it, she remembered the Doctor mentioning something about temporal energy altering a little of her body chemistry. He’d assured her it was harmless, and eventually, she believed him and forgot about it.
“Look,” she said, thinking fast. “I’m sorry I lied.”
“I understand why you did, Rose, I really do. But please don’t ever lie to me again.” There was no mistaking the warning this time.
“Why do you care about the Doctor?” Rose demanded. “What did he do to you?”
The woman’s eyes blazed like fire, and she struck Rose hard enough to knock her to the floor. Rose tried not to cry out in pain as she hit the hard metallic floor. For a second, the woman looked as though she were going to murder her right then and there, and Rose scrambled backwards.
Then she calmed down.
“I am sorry about that,” she said. “But my temper sometimes gets the better of me.”
“Stay away from me,” Rose warned, moving backwards along the wall, ignoring the pain as she got to her feet.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Rose.”
“Somehow, I’m not convinced.”
“You just need to learn respect. I know that this isn’t your fault, and I don’t want you to end up in further trouble.”
She held out her hands placatingly.
“Rose, I’m going to be honest with you.” Rose sincerely doubted it. “You’re in trouble. You’ve wound up in a situation far larger than you could ever comprehend, and far more dangerous. There’s a storm coming, and the Doctor is right at the center of it. And you’re caught up alongside him.”
“That’s where I want to be,” Rose retorted.
“I know you think he’s a good man, Rose, but you don’t understand. This is far bigger than you, and if you don’t help me, you’re going to be swept up in this, and I won’t be able to stop it.”
“Help you?” Rose demanded.
“I don’t want to hurt you. You’re innocent, and I know that.”
“If you’ve got a problem with the Doctor, you’ve got a problem with me!”
The woman closed her eyes, shaking her head.
“He’s really done a good job on you, hasn’t he?” she sighed. “This is going to be harder than I thought.”
Rose was furious and frightened all at once. She was immediately aware of how volatile this situation was, and this woman in particular. If she had a hope of getting out of this cell in one piece, she had to keep this woman, whoever she was, calm. And gather as much information as possible. Which meant she might have to play along, just a little.
“Not that I’m going to,” she said slowly. “But if I were going to help you, what would that mean?”
The woman eyed her, and gave a slight, satisfied nod.
“You see, Rose, the body count that the Doctor leaves behind has not escaped notice. And for many years now, I have made it my mission that he is apprehended.”
“Apprehended? You make it sound like he’s a criminal.”
“You think he’s not? Even you must know some of the things he’s done! Some of the lives he has destroyed.” Again, the raw rage, and Rose knew that this woman must have some personal connection to something that had happened involving the Doctor. “Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me that those deeds were right?”
“It’s not that simple…” Rose tried to protest.
“I have many contacts,” the woman continued as if Rose hadn't spoken. “As you may have surmised, I am not from this planet, nor am I in any way affiliated with these toy soldiers and their foolish war.”
“That ‘foolish war’ is killing hundreds of thousands!” Rose retorted.
“And the Doctor has killed billions! How can you condemn one without the other?”
Because he never wanted to hurt anybody. Because he's forced to make the decisions no one else ever would. Because he's forced to take the entire weight of the universe on his shoulders. Because his hearts break at every death. Because he hates himself every day for what he’d done. Because the faces of the dead will never leave his mind.
All these thoughts swam through Rose’s head, yet she knew she couldn’t express any of them in a way that could make this woman understand.
“In any case,” the woman continued, not giving Rose time to formulate a reply, “I am not from here at all. In fact, my base of operations is far, far from here, hence the time it took for me to reach you after word was sent of your arrival.”
My capture, Rose thought, though she chose not to speak.
“And, not to sound proud or anything, but I’ve acquired quite a bit of authority in my little neck of the universe, so to speak. Enough to spread the nets thin, to alert all those over whom I hold any sway, to catch him before he kills again.”
Rose couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“He’s nearly impossible to catch,” the woman said. Her hands clasped behind her back, pacing back and forth.
Rose clenched her fists, trying to keep calm. And trying to fight back fear, as she realized just how big this had the potential to be.
“Although we did have one success a while back.”
“What?” Rose asked, startled. These people had gotten hold of the Doctor? How? When?
“It nearly succeeded too,” the woman added darkly, switching moods once again. “Ten days, we had him…”
Ten days…Ten days?! Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh please no…not that, please not that...
“And they were extremely productive days. But then…you came along and managed to slip him past us!”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Which I’ve got to admit, looking at you, is rather impressive.”
“It was you!” Rose shouted, waves of terror and fury overwhelming her, memories surging back…a dark cell…surrounded by blood…screams of pain…the heat of his burning hand in hers…the feel of his heart struggling to beat…a gun in her hands…oh, please, no! “YOU were the client! The anonymous client!”
“Oh, so they did keep it a secret until the end,” the woman said, looking pleasantly surprised. “How loyal of them.”
“You…you…YOU DID THAT TO HIM?”
“Calm down, Rose!”
“I WILL NOT CALM DOWN!”
She was blinded by rage. All those nights of dreaming of the faceless, nameless monster who’d so nearly destroyed the man she loved…all those hours of wondering, agonizing over who it could have been…and never, never would she have suspected it was someone like this. But here she was, the subject of more hate than Rose had ever vented on any faceless person…here, real, and actually smiling as she referred to the Hell she’d put the Doctor through.
“HOW COULD YOU?” she screamed, shaking so violently that she nearly fell over.
“You have to understand…”
“Rose!” The woman seized her by the shoulders, forcing her to look her in the eye. Rose struggled to get away, but couldn’t. “You have to calm down and be reasonable.”
“I WILL NEVER HELP YOU!”
“All right,” the woman said, letting out a long breath. “Clearly, you need some time to calm down, and start thinking clearly again. I’ll be back tomorrow, and I expect you to be more reasonable.”
Rose choked back a furious sob as the woman let go of her.
She began to walk away, and then turned back around.
“Oh, and before I forget,” she said, drawing the knife.
Rose scrambled back, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. The woman advanced until she’d cornered Rose, and she yanked her arm out straight. Rose fought to escape, but the woman’s grip was like iron.
“This is nothing personal, Rose, honest. It’s just research.”
The knife pierced her skin, opening up a long shallow cut. Rose bit back a cry of pain, refusing to give her the satisfaction.
With a satisfied nod, the woman let go of her, letting Rose move backwards again.
“Had to test the force needed to penetrate your skin,” she said breezily. “It’s different for humans than Time Lords.”
She walked to the door and banged three times. It slid open, and the woman stepped out, looking back over her shoulder as she did so.
“I truly am sorry about this, Rose.”
Then the door shut, and Rose was alone again.