And this, then, could only be Hell.
And it is his.
Daleks have no prophets, no holy writs, hold nothing sacred but he can hear them skittering and stewing inside their carapaces, shrieking and wailing their curses on the Ka Faraq Gatri, the Destroyer of Worlds, as they burst like overripe melons in their superheated skins and no gods spare them from this god who unmakes Creation
the screaming of the deathless ones, and all things fall before the oncoming storm
the vortisaurs wail as the shadow-beings of the void cheat them of the feast, tearing them asunder in the frenzy over the twitching carcass of Time as her erstwhile Champion burns and burns and burns and
and he is the architect of ruin, he the all-consuming fire
atoms and molecules and quarks and quantum particles and dust and ashes scream and scream and burn
Eye of Harmony turned inward, blind, rupturing and unmaking the legacy he'd never claimed, the world abandoned in favor of the far horizon, the people so dead in life now horribly alive in their death screaming twisting screaming ten thousand minds howling into the dark and he can feel them he can feel them all
towers older than the human race crack and shatter orange sky belches fire and the flutterbys wilt on the wing fields and the moors and the cities and the houses and the Houses and
Maybe, Rose thought giddily, maybe it doesn't see us.
The monocycloptic red sensor flashed suddenly, the low grinding of its motors gearing into a high whine. Tentacles whipped out of the plated form, each grasping appendage bristling with things that looked like the unholy union of a personal taser and a cheese grater.
"You figure it's got lasers or something?" she hissed at Ragusa.
Whatever the giant crustacean was about to respond with was lost in the sudden fffwhoomppp of one of the telescoping arms moving straight for --
Claw met tentacle, slamming it down inches from Rose's face. Ragusa's plated bulk filled her vision, a secondary arm thrusting her solidly behind the Director, and Rose staggered numbly away, the afterimage of the sparking taser still burned onto her retinas.
The drone -- alarmingly active compared to the lobotomized ones that had been swanning around earlier, she noted dazedly -- swiveled to regard Ragusa, who had now drawn herself up to full height, spines bristling, all four arms extended.
The Director's voice could've etched diamond. "Leave. NOW."
The red eye seemed to waver momentarily, as though taking in this new development. Rose wondered if robots could be intimidated.
He can't have been absorbed. Not part of the network, remote or otherwise. Can't be.
"Jack, can you hear me?"
The void is cold.
He was just here; they'd gone through the gate together -- no, it had enveloped them, meaning --
The answer, apparently, was "no".
Whipquick, the remaining five tentacles shot at Ragusa. Blindingly fast, she shattered two in mid-flight but the remaining three found their marks, flashing white-hot as they touched chitin. She screamed and Rose screamed at the sound, high and inhuman and tortured and as bad as that lobster Mum dropped in the pot --
Ragusa rallied, yanking at the telescoping arms and managing to dislodge one of the sparking arms, only to have it slam back against the side of her head. The voltage intensified; spider arms flailed helplessly, the shrieking worse than ever, worse than the lobster or that rabbit or the Dalek --
Rose frantically tried to come up with a useful idea, and failed.
He is on a mountain that took forever to scale, an ascent made that much harder by having a heart (hearts) full of grievances. He is in a study lined with books and teacups and listening to the rattle of pages. He is in the Academy again and the subject of patient and loving abuse.
-- The hell?
You have to go back, you know.
Low and lecturing tones, all familiar and imperturbable and earnest and dead.
-- I don't. I got away. I have to get out, and I have to find --
This is the only thing it can throw in your path. It thinks that it has you, because it has that your moment of weakness. But you must not allow it to hold you.
You cannot hide from ruin forever, Doctor. You must face your fires before they consume you from the inside out.
-- Who are you?
A part of you that didn't burn. A part that can hold back the fire but briefly.
-- four wizened Lords worn down by Time, ashes long before the birds broke and burned in flight --
There was a saying you were always so fond of --
-- the hermit on the high hill, the broken philosopher, the criminal with his tea trolley, the usurper of a nobler name --
Spurred on by the better singing-masters of his soul, he runs.
The red eye pulsed erratically as the drone's power supply fluctuated in an attempt to bring the Director to her knees. Knee-joints. Down. Bring her down.
Rose, hands shaking, watched Ragusa wrench herself back and forth in an increasingly weakened attempt at freeing herself, the uppermost set of claws twitching convulsively. It was killing her . .
"Oi, you!" she screamed, aware in spite of herself how shrill and trembling her voice sounded. "Stop it!"
The drone didn't seem to notice she'd spoken.
Backup plan. Backup plan. Right. Right. Right. What works? What would the Doctor do?
She bumped against the side of the hookah.
fire laps the corners of his --
-- This is not his vision, is not his fire, and the streets filling with ash and smoke and death are not ones he's burned. The man standing helplessly in the street like a dispossessed puppet stares at the smoldering mountain while the shade-people run and scream and die.
The human's eyes are dark and wet.
"Jack. We're going."
The sky overhead burns white and the voices, dead voices sing louder --
The hookah clipped the side of the drone's main body, destabilizing it as it hovered. Gears ground and whined, the power surging to the tasers momentarily diverted to keep the 'bot floating. Ragusa sagged in the robotic embrace as the electricity ceased.
Rose gasped in relief, then abruptly realized that she hadn't actually damaged the drone and that any second now the situation would revert to abnormal.
Oh bloody wonderful; ever heard of the Rose Tyler method of throwing museum pieces at things to make them go away? Brilliant one you are, you stupid --
Quickly glancing about the room, her eyes alighted on the coat and she wondered --
fire laps at the corners of his vision. the storm spares nothing --
"What the FUCK!?"
The mortal does not, cannot know this the stuff of legends, cannot know the nature of these fires and it suits the Doctor that this is so because it is his and he will give it to no one and betray no more ghosts --
The world he was made on dies in heat and riot while its would-be destroyers fall out of its fractured sky in wailing chunks of superheated metal. The white towers die last.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?!"
"The way out. Run!"
He drags the man behind him, hand clenched tightly. No one else lost to these fires.
"You said there was a door!"
"This is the door."
Something that he will not look at that wears what is not a face that he does not remember does not melt and shrivel by the side of the splintering road.
"What? How do we -- oh, god -- how do we --"
"We go through. Illusionary. Last line of defense!"
"Hell of a defense!"
Hell as a defense, he thinks. But if the real War didn't kill him, this one isn't going to either.
If it's just the one in his head, there's never going to be an escape from it, anyway.
He sees it; the last of the liminal spaces. Hidden in the one place he'd never dare go back to, but there all the same; the place from which he'd unleashed chaos --
and their bodies are there, twisted burnt black but features still there boiled eyes wide and accusing --
and if he doesn't move past them he will be trapped staring at them forever while Jack burns with him and Rose dies at the hands of Time and he is running now past his past and dragging Jack and the dead lurch towards them as they pass
and the Sigil, gleaming white against the Panopticon floor, burns ultraviolet --
"You with me?"
"Anything, just make it stop!"
he stops trying to explain, and the sigil looms--
Rose lunged at the jacket just as the drone lurched back upright. Fumbling in its bundled-up mass, her fingers closed on a familiar and comforting shape. Good. Right.
She whipped the sonic screwdriver out, fumbling madly with its settings while the robot resumed its battle with Ragusa, who now was barely standing upright and had only managed to wrest a single claw from its grip. Sparks flew.
What's the one he always uses for this sort of thing -- 5449's hotwires car ignition; 1201 scans for background radiation; 4200's boosts wi-fi signals; 1667 is --
Her thumb slammed down on the activation sequence. The drone reared back as though struck, falling to the ground -- and then slowly bobbed back up, to Rose's consternation.
"What?! Oh, come on -- " She frantically jabbed her fingers against the settings, but was rewarded only with a very weak whirr.
The screwdriver had been in his pocket all the time they'd been carrying the Book, she suddenly realized. Either its power had been drained or its circuitry had been seriously damaged by that close contact. No wonder the Doctor had used the blue globe instead of just shutting them down manually --
"Oh, bloody fantastic."
The drone woozily re-centered itself in the doorway. Rose suddenly realized that she was the focus of an intense, red gaze --
Ragusa's claw slammed down through the robot's carapace with a resounding crash, knocking it out of the air with enough force that it rebounded off the floor like a huge metal basketball. Two more sets of claws ripped into the armor-plated sides and tore the flailing tentacles out of their sockets.
Shuddering and groaning, the drone lapsed into silence.
Ragusa staggered back from her opponent's remains, her exoskeleton marred by burn marks and black streaks. Her bottom mandibles hung somewhat slackly, and Rose couldn't help but notice that her top right arm didn't seem to be moving quite right.
"Thanks," was all she could say.
" . . . rrrsstttt . . "
Rose moved hesitantly to her side. "You all right?"
The mandibles moved slowly. No words came out.
The black and unlovely eyes without irises somehow managed to focus on her. " . . breaking and entering and now . . hrrrst . . and now, destruction of police property. I am becoming a delinquent."
"'Least you aren't barbecue. Can you still move and stuff?"
" . . . Hrrst."
"Only," Rose said hesitantly, slowly becoming aware of a thrumming in the background that wasn't due to their proximity to the Grid Room, "I think we're really in trouble now."
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