It was very large, and very long, and not something you wanted staring you in the face.
On the other hand, it was freeing him from his underwater snare, so it could look as unpleasant as it damn well pleased.
The Doctor felt a sudden release from the area around his ankle, felt the heavy metal pushed aside by the creature's grasping foreclaws. Something caught him around the collar and threw him to the surface of the water, where he gasped and sobbed for breath, giddy and too weak to tread in place.
Claws caught him again before he submerged, hauling him over the rim of the raised pool and depositing him beside it. As his pupils contracted in the comparatively bright light -- in sharp contrast to the murkiness of the underwater pit -- he could just make out a crustaceous face glowering down at him. Black spots danced in front of his eyes.
Talking was impossible, so he just smiled madly. And then threw up.
"How much further 'til the Director's?" asked Rose irritably, after they turned yet another corner. The spatial configuration of the Library seemed to be based around the idea that a lot of interlocking dodecahedrons were a good use of floorspace. They'd covered about two football fields worth of twists and turns already. Apparently the future was as devoid of practical architecture as the 21st century.
Vetch waved a vague hand. "Just a few more turns. She's over on the unlit side of the northwest quadrant." He glanced back at her. "What, can't you keep up?"
She clenched her jaw. "It's early." And I was up all night worrying, you pasty git. "So, if she's one of the big dogs, why's she so far out from the main bit of the Library?"
The intern shrugged. "Well . . . not my place to speculate, really, but I think the main turbines -- you know, the generator, the ventilation, those things -- bother her. She's very sensitive to vibration."
"Really," Jack drawled. Rose punched his arm.
"Oh, yes," Vetch continued distantly, rather missing Jack's tone. "Probably because she spends so much time in her tank."
Both the Doctor's companions stopped in mid-stride. "Tank?" asked Rose, brow furrowing. "As in, army tank? Just what is this Special Collection, anyway?"
"No, no; water tank. Honestly, you must've heard something about the Director -- "
Jack airily took over for Rose. "Give her a break; she's new. Never met your Director myself, though." He dodged another blow.
Vetch laughed politely, though Rose noted that he shuddered just a bit. "She's . . . essentially a nice person. Essentially." His eyes seemed a bit glazed. "I mean, she didn't have me fired after that incident with Archivist Lyn, so . ." His voice trailed off, and he quickly composed himself. "Well, we're almost there -- "
Another thing about the layout of this damn building, Rose thought, was that you were always running into people around corners. The fat little man with the toolkit knocked Vetch off his feet as they collided; spanners and pliers scattered across the floor.
Ragusa was quickly losing patience with her mysterious guest's inability to refrain from retching all over her floors.
Though she was willing to allow him a few moments to catch his breath, at this rate he'd undergo a massive coronary or lung collapse or whatever it was that these air-sucking chordates were always succumbing to just when the workload tripled.
He kept trying to inhale badly-needed air while spewing out what looked to be sticky water. His ears were bright red, but the rest of his face had a decidedly bluish tinge.
A dead human in her office was the last thing that she needed.
She inflated her oxygen sacs to full capacity, tucked her mandibles to the sides of her maw, and tried not to think about how utterly revolting this was going to be.
"I -- I -- I -- " Vetch seemed to be staving off a nervous breakdown. "Archivist Horten? Are you all right?"
Jack was bending down, supporting Vetch's shoulders. "Is he all right? Kid, you nearly got coldclocked by this bozo." He glared over at the pudgy little man that Rose was trying to pull to his feet. His hands, Rose noted, were decidedly clammy.
The man -- Horten -- fumbled around on the floor for his glasses. "I. Er. Oh. Excuse me -- Vetch, was it? Excuse me -- "
Rose disengaged herself from the Archivist, turning to go look around the corner. The hallway was wide and deserted, and yet two people had managed to collide at this particular junction. Amazing. Maybe the Doctor had a point when he went off on how the human race was still such a pack of stupid apes . . . She strolled a few feet away from the others, impatient with the general charade.
Behind her, she could hear Jack asking him, "Why the hell do you have all these tools? Can't you guys afford in-house technicians?"
She didn't hear the answer, owing to the sudden, distant but all-too-familiar cry that echoed out of one of the segmented corridors.
Keep perfectly still and calm and do NOT THINK ABOUT RIDLEY SCOTT FILMS JUST BREATHE --
Something wet and fleecy grazed his inner cheek.
The Doctor wasted an otherwise decent lungsworth of air with a scream.
Rose pounded down the hallway, hellbent on tracking the sound. Faintly she heard Jack calling after her, asking what was going on but there wasn't time for all that now; the Doctor was in trouble --
The dying fall of the yell ended at the nondescript door set into the waterstained marble wall. A brass plate denoted it as the office of Ragusaergosicatus, Director to the Special Collection.
She kicked in the door -- unnecessary, as it was unlocked -- and saw it looming over the gasping, thrashing form on the ground, the form of --
The Time Lord's head jerked upward, staring wide-eyed in her direction. "Rose!?" He tried to speak, but began coughing explosively.
The monster swiveled on its jointed legs, both sets of arms raised. Hatchet claws sharpened into pale approximations of hands clenched and flexed as Rose darted along the side of the wall, keeping well out of striking distance.
It was horrible. Like a giant lobster crossed with a spider, or maybe a scorpion welded into a horseshoe crab. Water dripped menacingly off its mottled brown carapace, running down the sides of perversely lacy flukes and rigid armored seams. Black, beady eyes glared at her from under the heavily-ridged mantle while skittering fangs scissored wickedly back-and-forth.
It was watching her with something like derision.
Rose's hands flew behind her, instinctively locating some heavy, solid objects on the edge of the counter. Whipping one around and brandishing it in front of her, she was hardly in the right state of mind to realize that her weapon was the Annotated and Revised Collected Works of Shakespeare (142nd edition).
She forced herself to lock gazes with the beast. "Get away from him you bitch!"
The creature spoke. "Would you mind very much -- hrrst -- putting that down?"
Rose blinked, then threw the book with all her might. The monster easily dodged it, plucking the volume out of midair with one casual swipe.
"Rose," gasped the Doctor, still foundering under the creature's belly, "don't upset her -- " He started choking again, spitting water.
"You would do well to listen to your friend," the monster hissed.
Adrenaline and panic leant Rose's voice strength, if not her legs. "Back off." She fumbled for something, anything; found another book.
"Whatever you are -- hrrst -- doing, I advise you to stop."
Rose chucked the mildewed copy of Faust at the monster, again watching it caught in yet another fell swoop. "Leave him alone!"
"I am doing nothing, you stupid child -- "
Rose swung The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in front of her -- not easily -- and felt the beginning of an idea forming. "Don't make me blow you out of an airlock, bug." She grinned in desperate bravura, silently begging Jack to get here and soon.
"Do not -- " the creature's voice was like grinding metal " -- throw the book."
She threw the book, this time aiming it at the pool. The beast lurched forward in an attempt to catch it, instead knocking the works of Edward Gibbon down onto the Doctor's ribcage. He convulsed, eyes bulging as he curled up into a foetal position.
Wincing, Rose nonetheless reached for the final two tomes. Running out of options, make this count . . She hoisted Vesalius in one hand and Kant in the other. "So, Bugly -- think you're fast enough to catch 'em both?" Did her voice always sound that shrill when she yelled? . .
"Stop this!" the monster screeched.
" . . . " warned the Doctor.
This was stupid, it wasn't even a plan --
"Catch!" she shouted, throwing De Humana Corpus towards the water, feinting a throw with the other book but keeping a firm hold. The beast lunged again, rearing back on its back two sets of legs in an attempt to grasp the Vesalius.
Several things happened very quickly:
Rose darted forward, ramming into the monster's unbalanced form and knocking it back onto a single pair of legs.
The monster's long grasping arms slammed into the exposed ductwork, sending the rest of the shaky metal down in a resounding crash.
Rose and the beast tumbled back violently against the wall, the kraken's armored body taking the brunt of the blow and shielding the human from the falling metal.
The Doctor rolled to dodge said falling metal, skidding breathlessly under the monster's crablike legs.
And then something fell out of the ducts.
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