Replaced by deathman
Summary: Rose thinks the Doctor is something that cannot be replaced. However an old enemy has other ideas.
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Original Companion, Other Character(s), Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th), The TARDIS
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Het, Horror, Romance
Warnings: Explicit Violence
Series: Deathman - Chronology, Sophia Of Wolven
Chapter 1: The Museum
Chapter 2: Hall of Dreams
Chapter 3: Dreams and Screams
Chapter 4: The Prison of Minds
Chapter 5: Overload
Chapter 6: The Trap Closes
Chapter 7: Sense of Intelligence
Chapter 8: Bio-Data
Chapter 9: The Szaborg Plot
Chapter 10: See For Yourself
Chapter 11: Enhancement Machine
Chapter 12: The Dark One Rising
Chapter 13: Mental Songs
Chapter 14: Paper Aeroplane
Chapter 15: Midday to Midnight
Chapter 16: Cowards
Chapter 17: How Time Flies
Chapter 1: The MuseumSophia bent down, out of breath for only a moment, and placed her hands on her knees. Her clawed fingers wriggled for a moment, regaining their feel, and then swung her body up again, fully recovered. ‘So,’ she spoke energetically, brushing a few stray strands of hair out of her eyes. ‘Where are we going next?’
The Doctor and Rose were both lying spread-eagled upon the grilled floor of the TARDIS console room next to their alien companion. They were panting and mopping sweat from their foreheads. The Doctor managed to lift his head about enough from the floor to stare incredulously into Sophia’s dark eyes. ‘Come ON!’ he groaned. ‘We’ve just made a narrow escape from Uhildanar, defeated both the Ice Warriors and the Danars, ran a few miles back to the TARDIS, flew it away before they could attack it, and you want to go somewhere else? Sorry, Sophia, but it’s out of the question.’
Rose nodded limply. ‘Do you know, Doctor? Do Wolvens have, like, the most accelerated energy recovery systems of any species?’
‘True, in fact,’ Sophia replied. Rose rolled her eyes.
‘Give me a break!’ she exclaimed.
Sophia walked across to where the Doctor lay, reached down and scratched his back. Hard. ‘OW!’ the Time Lord cried out. He rolled into a small, protected ball. The Wolven continued to claw at his exposed spine. ‘You know, Sophia, sometimes I wonder about you...’ he moaned.
‘Oh, this is ridiculous!’ Rose rolled on her side to get a better view of Sophia’s assault, half amused and half annoyed.
‘Oi, Rose, you’ve no cause to complain, you’re not the one being mauled here!’ The Doctor attempted to make his body-ball even smaller and tighter, but to no avail.
‘Just lay off him a little bit, will you, Sophia?’ Rose asked exasperatedly.
Sophia immediately stepped back. ‘My pleasure, your highness!’ She imitated a sing-song voice, and bowed.
Rose let her eyes fall right up into their sockets. But also allowed herself a small smile.
The Doctor snapped out of his position, mumbling and trying to bend his arm to such an angle that it could rub his sore back. ‘Listen to that, did you listen?’ he asked, indignantly. ‘Sophia’s like Rose’s little pet dog! We should call her ‘doggy’! Obeying every command, all that stuff... Maybe we should have just left her on Troven. Would have been much simpler, don’t you think, Rose?’
Rose grinned and nodded, but was careful to hide her smile from Sophia.
Sophia stepped back from the pair, genuine hurt in her eyes. That is, until she saw the little twinkle in the Doctor’s eye, and picked up on Rose’s giggles.
‘Oh, her face!’ Rose teased.
The Doctor and Rose shared a quick laugh together.
Sophia gazed at the Doctor, hard. ‘You do know your so-called ‘boyish charms’ don’t work on me, don’t you?’
‘They weren’t meant to,’ the Doctor retorted. Then he noticed the look in Sophia’s eyes, and his chuckles faded. ‘Oh come on, Sophia! For someone who’s got some of the sharpest claws in the universe — and I should know all about that — you really can be a bit over-sensitive sometimes.’ He levered himself up and gave her a pat on the back. ‘Nice doggy.’
This had Rose in laughter again. But Sophia suddenly hissed.
‘Sorry,’ the Doctor said. ‘Couldn’t resist.’
‘You owe me a favour for that,’ Sophia replied, her eyes suddenly going bright with an idea.
‘Go on then. Ask me for anything you like.’ The Doctor spread his arms emphatically, eyes glowing.
‘We go somewhere else. Now.’
The Doctor’s face fell along with his arms. He mopped his forehead and grimaced, knowing that he had set himself up for the fall. ‘Ask me for anything you like except that.’
Sophia’s eyes pleaded with him. The Doctor drew in a tight breath. Rose mouthed ‘No!’
‘That’s a bit harsh isn’t it?’
Sophia dropped her pleading expression, her face becoming a harsh, emotionless expanse of flesh and fur and hair. Her claws clicked out, extending from her fingertips.
‘Harsh but more than reasonable,’ the Doctor added hastily, running to the console and flicking switches.
Sophia smiled. Sweetly. ‘Thank you for your co-operation... doggy!’ She patted him swiftly on the back.
The Doctor groaned. ‘I’ll have to get you back on that one...’ He reached across the console to press a large green button.
Rose got up, running a hand through her hair. ‘We’re not seriously going somewhere now, are we?’ She looked pleadingly at the Doctor.
‘Don’t blame me, blame Sophia!’ the Doctor replied, avoiding the question slightly.
‘Yes, we are, Rose,’ Sophia interrupted. ‘Stop being so lazy!’
‘I’m not lazy, I’m normal,’ huffed Rose, but showed no sign of denying Sophia’s request. She walked up to the Doctor. ‘It had better be somewhere relaxing. Somewhere that’s not under threat from some random bog monster. Somewhere interesting.’
Sophia’s eyes lit up again, as they always did when she had a bright idea. ‘A museum!’
For once the Doctor was in agreement. ‘You’re a genius, Sophia! We haven’t been to a museum since...’ He thought for a moment. ‘We haven’t been to a museum.’
Rose smiled. ‘I love museums. I didn’t like the Natural History Museum much, but I suppose any museum we go to will be all alien and exciting...’
‘And under threat,’ Sophia teased.
Rose threw her arms up in the air in exasperation.
During this little exchange the Doctor had produced a large book from underneath the TARDIS console and was flicking through it with a bemused look on his face. ‘The Museum of Vegetables from the planet Iglond...’
‘No thanks,’ Sophia laughed.
The Doctor looked up, offended. ‘Best museum I’ve ever gone to!’ He was silent for a moment, then added, ‘They had Nastapukars on sale!’
Rose licked her lips. ‘I’ve got to admit, they are delicious. They make you feel a bit weird afterwards though...’
‘No. Thanks.’ Sophia said firmly. The Doctor looked at her for a second and saw the steel in her eyes. He gulped. ‘Moving on,’ he spoke, and flicked through more pages in the volume.
Rose was moving her head into awkward positions, darting and ducking with a look of concentration on her face.
Sophia burst into laughter, the steel in her eyes vanishing instantly. ‘What the hell are you doing, Rose?’
‘Trying to see under the Doctor’s hand,’ she replied absently. Sophia looked towards the body part in question and saw that it obscured the title of the book. She decided to help Rose.
‘Doctor!’ she called. ‘Can you move your hand a bit?’ The Doctor gave her a funny look, but complied anyway. Rose stopped straining to see and gazed straight at the book’s front cover, which read — ‘The Essential Time Traveller’s Guide To Famous Museums Across The Universe’.
Rose snorted dismissively. ‘Where d’you buy that book then, Doctor? A charity shop?’
The Doctor chuckled, without looking up. ‘Shut up, Rose.’ He then seemed to read something interesting, and his eyes blazed with sudden inspiration. ‘Oh YES!’ he cried. ‘You B-YOO-TEE!’
Both Rose and Sophia approached the captain’s seat from either side, trying to see what the Doctor had exclaimed about. ‘What is it?’ inquired Sophia.
‘Dream museum,’ the Doctor explained.
‘Go on then,’ Sophia said impatiently, after a long silence. ‘What is your dream museum?’
‘No,’ the Doctor shook his head, whilst smiling. ‘It’s a DREAM MUSEUM. Exhibits people’s dreams...’
Rose exhaled deeply, impressed. ‘Nice one...’
‘Can we go there? Now?’ Sophia asked, eagerly. ‘It sounds amazing.’
‘Yeah...’ Rose agreed. She turned, smiling to the Doctor. ‘I’ve always wanted to know what you were really dreaming about that night... When you said, ‘Too graphic for you, Rose.’’
‘That is if you can do that sort of thing,’ she added, suddenly worried that she might not be able to.
‘Oh yeah, you can,’ the Doctor replied immediately, without thinking. Rose grinned devilishly.
‘You wouldn’t, would you?’ the Doctor asked, truly scared.
Rose’s grin told him everything he needed to know.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 2: Hall of Dreams
Author's Notes: Welcome to the new chapter of Replaced! Pay attention to the little details, as they ARE important, and watch out for a cameo appearance from another of my characters...
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER TWO - HALL OF DREAMS
Wheezing and groaning, the TARDIS faded into view at the end of a long pillar-lined hall. The doors slammed open and Sophia breezed out, followed by Rose, with the Doctor closing the door behind them and bringing up the rear.
The first thing that Sophia said was, ‘Is it closed or something?’ She was gazing around at the silent marble gargoyles and intricate carvings on the walls.
‘Closed,’ the Doctor replied, smiling up at the beautifully painted ceiling. ‘Wouldn’t be half as fun if it was open. Now we can explore all around without anybody else. We can go in the out of bounds areas, the cellars... wherever.’
Rose suddenly peeled out of the procession to the side, gasping in awe. She stopped walking at a statue. It was a statue of a spiky, armoured warlord, painted all reds and greys and whites and blacks. It had been sculpted with grace and elegance, and Rose wanted to know who had done so. But when she looked at the glass plate pinned to the pedestal, she saw only one word — ‘Chained’.
Rose summoned Sophia, but the Wolven was equally baffled at the short inscription. They talked quietly for a moment, then called the Doctor, who had walked on casually towards the end of the hall, his sneakers clicking gently on the cold and dusty floor.
‘Doctor?’ Sophia cried. Rose put a finger to one ear. Even though Sophia had not uttered the Time Lord’s name very loudly, it had bounced upwards, reverberating among the pillars and beams of the ceiling, and had come down magnified by ten times at least. Sophia herself looked startled, and continued to speak in a more subdued voice.
‘Doctor!’ she repeated. The Doctor faced the pair. ‘D’you have any idea who this statue is of, and who did it?’
The Doctor’s bright eyes fell on the statue. Instantly they darkened, along with all the blood being drained from his face. ‘That’s an... old friend of mine.’ He replied, clearing his throat, which had seemed to suddenly disappear. ‘Best if you don’t know until you have to.’ With that, he turned and continued walking.
Rose shared a bemused look with Sophia, but followed the Doctor. The Wolven cast one last intrigued glance at the nameless sculpture, and then set off behind the Doctor and Rose.
‘Anyway,’ Rose spoke, catching up with the Doctor, ‘I thought this place was a dream museum, not a statue museum.’
‘No,’ the Doctor waved this off. ‘It’s a dream museum, with some... statues in it.’
‘But where are the dreams?’ Sophia inquired eagerly.
‘Just down here,’ the Doctor replied, lightly. At that moment the three time travellers reached the end of the hall, and saw two paths — one branching to the right, one forking off to the left. The Doctor indicated the left path, and the trio swerved down it.
After a while of branching halls and chambers they came up to a large room. It was in the shape of a cube, with tall marble walls and pillars. In the very centre of the room was a sort of bed, with manacles fixed to it. The inscription read ‘The Tortucle of King Marculus the Second of Gongmis.’ Around the sides of the hall, fixed securely to the walls, were boxes made from see-through glass. But the main feature of the room was a massive computer screen, pinned glaringly to a wall, a little bit out of place amidst the historical items and marble pillars that surrounded it.
‘Aha!’ Sophia cried out, relieved. ‘The Hall of Dreams.’ Rose looked up, following her gaze, and saw she was reading from a swinging sign dangling precariously from an intricate ceiling, beside a chandelier of scintillating crystal and coloured glass. ‘Here you may look into the past and visualise every dream known to the universe so far.’ Sophia gazed at the Doctor, who was rubbing at his head, tearing and ruffling his hair.
‘Oh... my head, my HEAD!’ he was mumbling. Rose giggled as the Doctor continued to calculate.
Finally he swung his head round. ‘To do that in the year 2007 you’d need a database the size of a galaxy.’
‘Aaah, but is it the year 2007? And are we even on Earth?’ Rose asked.
‘No, it’s the year three thousand billion, four hundred and twenty-nine million, six hundred and sixty thousand, nine hundred and fifty two.’ The Doctor gushed. ‘Roughly. And we’re not on Earth, we’re somewhere near... the Mazucaktr galaxy, near the centre, orbiting Star Seventy Three Thousand and Two Point Nine...’ He looked up triumphantly. ‘We’re either on Lilula or Klindex.’
‘Kleenex?’ Rose misheard.
The Doctor snorted, not bothering to correct her. ‘But ther point is, you’re right. Anything could happen this far off in time and space. Who knows, a database the size of a galaxy could by now be compressed into museum size...’
‘And most likely is,’ Sophia concluded. She was studying the blank computer screen. ‘How does this work, Doctor?’
‘Just touch it!’ he responded instantly, as if this was obvious. Sophia was so eager and in such a hurry to see a dream that she forgot to retract her claws and made a large scratch in the screen. Sparks fizzled out, and Sophia jumped back with a small shriek.
‘It’s OK, Sophia, it’s not going to eat you,’ Rose laughed. Sophia gave her a glare. ‘Just next time try not to do it with your claws out.’
Sophia, although slightly hurt, obeyed. The screen lit up despite the scratch to its surface, and showed a cheery sign. ‘Hello, visitor. Please select your organism, then select a dream from their list. The dream will be played inside all of the glass chambers.’
Sophia wriggled in excitement. She didn’t care which dream, she didn’t care which organism of the billions of googols of googolplexes of organisms in the entire universe. She just wanted to see one. She touched the name of the first organism in the universe. ‘A’. Not surprisingly, the list was in alphabetical order, and so this ‘A’ creature was the first.
The next list was of all A’s dreams, complete with dates and summaries. Sophia touched the first one, entitled ‘Pink Monsters’.
‘The weird world of dreams,’ the Doctor muttered when he saw the title.
The light from the chandelier snapped out and all the glass chambers came to life with visions. ‘A’ - who turned out to be some sort of organic blob — was rolling along the ground, attempting to escape from several pink blobs with horns. Then the ground cut away, and A was falling, and then the dream ended.
The Doctor, Rose and Sophia all nearly wet themselves laughing. Rose fell around, gasping for breath, tears flowing from her eyes, hugging the Doctor for support. Sophia was howling with joy and glee, the eerie wolf noises ringing among the pillars. The Doctor was wiping his eyes. ‘Oh well,’ he said after they had all had a good round of hysterics. ‘I suppose every creature has its different fears, even if it is being chased by little pink versions of itself.’
Rose looked at the Doctor. Sophia looked at Rose. The Doctor looked at Sophia.
Rose giggled once. But even this tiny laugh was enough to set them off again, and soon they were all laughing hard and joyously again.
In fact, they were laughing TOO hard. For none of them noticed the little ringing, pleading voice coming from behind a door in the west wall.
‘Help me. Please. Someone. Eternity. Help...’
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 3: Dreams and Screams
Author's Notes: Hello there again! Not much to say, not much to say... Oh yes. The rhyme in this chapter is not mine, but again is 'The Oncoming Storm's'. Please don't sue me for using it!!!! (Joke) I think it really adds to the tension and it is such a wonderful poem!
Next chapter should never be posted. (Joke)
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER THREE - DREAMS AND SCREAMS
The Doctor, Rose and Sophia continued to scroll through A’s dreams, which mostly seemed to consist of the creature in question being chased along treacherous patches of ground by angry pink blobs. Apart from laughing, the only thing the Doctor seemed to do was shake his head. ‘This is just SO impossible,’ he kept muttering. Now and then Rose gave him a funny glance and wondered why he was being so incredulous. Sophia was too wrapped up in the dreams to either notice or care.
Once the Wolven had finished watching A’s latest dream, Rose made a statement. ‘All right, enough of this green blob business,’ she declared authoritatively. ‘Let’s watch a dream we’ve had.’
The Doctor heard this and groaned. ‘Noooo!’ he complained softly. ‘Rose. This is intruding.’
‘That’s the point,’ grinned Rose. She looked more closely at the Doctor’s face, and saw that he really looked worried. Perhaps the dream had something to do with her... At the thought of this she blushed, and had to rotate on the spot, facing away from the Doctor so that he couldn’t see her face.
‘All right,’ she said once her blush had faded and once the Doctor and Sophia had finished looking quizzically at her. ‘Let’s have someone else’s...’ Her eyes lit up, slightly cruelly, and gazed upon Sophia. ‘Success!’ she exclaimed.
Sophia’s eagerness for seeing dreams suspiciously ended when it came to hers. She moved on the spot for a while, indecisively and frustratedly, until coming to a halt and speaking, reluctantly yet still energetically, ‘Go on then.’
Rose now began to share some of Sophia’s enthusiasm, leaping towards the screen and, although gently, pushing Sophia out of the way in order to get to the screen. Sophia instinctively growled and tensed up, but remembered her position. Manners! she thought to herself.
Rose tapped on the scroll button. Although the scroll speed was incredibly fast, it still took over five minutes to reach the end of the ‘Aa’ section of the list of creatures. Rose would have carried on scrolling had the Doctor not jumped in and dragged the cursor over a search box. He looked at Rose expectantly.
‘Come on, you know how to type!’ the Doctor encouraged her, slipping a hand round her back and pushing as if to urge her onwards.
‘Erm, in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s no keyboard,’ Rose pointed out sarcastically, annoyed that the Doctor had somehow managed to seize her control over the screen without her noticing. Sophia laughed at Rose’s comment.
The Doctor was not put off. ‘You draw the letters. Like so.’ Delicately, he ran a finger across the search box, in the shape of the letter ‘S’. The screen automatically replaced the handwritten letter with a neat mechanical version.
Rose tutted, meaninglessly. Sophia made a small unintelligable noise in her throat, like a growling click. ‘Smarty-pants,’ the Wolven joked at him, then grimaced as the words came out raspingly and the Doctor and Rose chuckled. ‘That sounded better in my head...’
Rose reached up at the screen, and traced the other fourteen letters of Sophia Moonstone on the cool glass. The text blinked up when she had finished, and she pressed the ‘Enter’ button harder than she had intended in her excitement. The results appeared a few moments later, a long scrollable list of names and dreams.
‘Hey, my name’s not original!’ Sophia exclaimed, looking regretful and even slightly upset. Rose supressed a snort. The Wolven was SO over-emotional, but Rose enjoyed it. Sophia wouldn’t be so likeable without this trait.
‘Of course!’ the Doctor replied, as if this was obvious, which it probably was. ‘There are googols of organisms in the universe — did you really think you were the only Sophia Moonstone?’
‘Not really,’ Sophia laughed quietly and a bit sadly. ‘It’s just odd.’
The Doctor laughed and patted Sophia on the back. He didn’t mean this as another ‘doggy’ reference, but Sophia hissed and he withdrew hastily. ‘I didn’t.... I mean...’
Sophia’s mood changed from anger to mere irritation. ‘Look, Doctor, just let Rose get on with seeing my dream, if she really must. No more distractions!’
‘It wasn’t...’ the Doctor began, but contained himself and settled for looking annoyed.
By now, Rose had swiftly and silently found Sophia’s list of dreams. She scrolled down and clicked on a random one. The title was ‘Rhyme’.
The glass compartments glowed wth sudden light as Sophia’s dream began. Rose rubbed her hands together in glee. Sophia watched, interested but not excited, from the surface of King Marculus’s Tortucle. The Doctor wasn’t paying much attention. He was gazing around, seemingly looking for something. Rose spared him an irritated glance before fully settling down to watch the dream.
It was simply a black background, with a simple yet slightly menacing tune thrumming into its essence. Sophia’s eyes shone as she obviously remembered the dream and the rhyme, but she kept quiet, not wanting to spoil Rose’s experience.
The lyrics began to echo throughout the room, slightly familiar to Rose and very to Sophia, a nursery rhyme of unnerving predictions.
‘Black Wolf, Black Wolf, why do you cry? I cry for the time and space as it dies. Oh, why does the time and space die? It dies cause the Bad Wolf came and took it all away, trying to make a better day.’
The seriousness and spookiness of the words were slightly spoilt by the fact that Rose was now drumming her hands on the wall in time to the small yet catchy tune. Sophia shushed her, her eyes still glittering with remembrance.
‘Black Wolf come, Black Wolf leave. Wherever he goes there is death and grief. The soul he inhabits is pure and strong. Yet is soon to break with the falling sun.’
The Doctor was still searching for his mysterious item, eyes roaming around for any sign of it. He also had his fingers cupped over his ears, as if he was trying to make out a sound over the increasing volume of the music in Sophia’s dream, as the rhyme reached its arching crescendo.
‘The lives that he took were one to many, to repay time and the cracks he made. He shall fight for the world, he shall fight for peace. Fight alongside Bad Wolf and the Oncoming Storm. The final battle that shall leave the world damaged yet stronger than the dying sun.’
And, as the poem ended, the Doctor found what he had been looking for. The noise of the rhyme faded, to unmask a different sound. A shrill, rasping cry, different words jumbled up inside it.
‘That’s IT!’ the Doctor cried. ‘To harness the dreams of every living thing, including time travellers, is impossible. And where there’s impossibility there’s trouble!’ He leapt into a running position, dragging Rose with him and towards the door.
He suddenly stopped when he had it open, realising Sophia had not made a move. He turned back, quickly, quickly. ‘Sophia!’ he cried. ‘Are you coming or not?’
The Wolven was right up against the screen, pressing and tracing lines on it. She turned distractedly. ‘No,’ she said, and grinned, baring her sharp teeth. ‘It’s probably only a lost tourist or something, I’m sure you can sort it out.’
The Doctor nodded frantically. Normally he would have argued, but now he was too tense and was ready to run. ‘See you later,’ he managed to blurt, before sprinting off, pulling Rose with him.
Once they had safely rounded a few corners Rose turned to him, grinning. ‘I think she’s fallen in love,’ Rose chuckled. The Doctor gave a brief smile before running off again towards the mysterious source of the screaming.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 4: The Prison of Minds
Author's Notes: Nice little chappie, the first sign of horror and action and even some Dark Doctor at the end! Please R and R as I feel it is my best yet. The action will properly start next chapter, I promise you!
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER FOUR - THE PRISON OF MINDS
The Doctor sprinted along the corridor, Rose panting behind him. It felt like they had already gone miles and miles through the museum and they still weren’t anywhere near the source of the screams.
The Doctor suddenly ground to a halt, and Rose seized the hesitation to try and regain some of her breath. ‘Doctor,’ she hissed, as the screams intesified and became unbearable. ‘That’s not a lost tourist.’
He nodded grimly. ‘No. And for some reason, I can’t find it, whatever it is. Unless…’ The Doctor suddenly had an idea and pounced at the wall, pressing his ear against the cool marble, listening.
To him, the screams suddenly got louder again. He winced, and withdrew, before turning to Rose. She waited expectantly for his explanation.
‘This museum’s hiding something,’ he spoke, his face going red with something close to fury. ‘And I really, REALLY don’t like it when people hide things from me.’ He pulled out the sonic screwdriver and shone it at the wall. There was a beep and a series of clicks.
Then an entire panel of the wall was ripped open, flying across the museum, clattering across the smooth floor, sending clouds of dust roaring into Rose’s face. She coughed loudly and covered her mouth with her sleeve. When the dust cleared, she could see the Doctor standing in the gap in the wall, facing into the darkness between the two sides of the construction. ‘Hollow,’ he spoke, darkly. ‘I knew it.’ He turned back towards Rose, and beckoned. ‘Come on,’ he said, suddenly light again.
Rose walked uncertainly to the Doctor’s side, and stared into the silent twilight. ‘The screams have stopped,’ she whispered.
As soon as she said this, they started again, a terrible high-pitched cry, ripping through the darkness like a cloud of whistling knives. The Doctor took Rose’s hand and pulled her further inside the wall, towards the source of the screams and the solution to the mystery.
Sophia grinned. The word ‘revenge’ was burning itself into her already excitable mind. Rose had looked at her dreams, well, she would look at Rose’s.
She drew the words ‘Rose Tyler’ into the search box, and pressed the ‘Enter’ button. The list of Rose Tylers came up. Sophia scrolled down until she found ‘Rose Tyler, 21, Home: Earth, Occupation: Shop girl/time traveller.’ She whistled appreciatively to herself for a moment. The machine knew all of this. How?
But she didn’t really care. Sophia pressed the screen where it said Rose’s name, and scrolled down the list of dreams.
None in particular caught her eye, until the one that was highlighted in big red letters, ‘Horsehead’. She clicked on this, wondering why it had been highlighted.
Her question was answered a moment later when a huge red highlighted notice popped up onscreen. ‘WARNING — The playback of this particular dream may require an excess amount of energy.’
Sophia frowned. She didn’t understand. Why was this dream different from the others? And how come it needed more power to play? Surely the museum database, with its infinite knowledge and energy, could summon up enough fuel to play one simple dream…
Hoping this was true, Sophia clicked ‘OK’.
The glass compartments powered up with blazing purple radiance…
Suddenly, a neon light switched itself on above the Doctor and Rose, with a small yet slightly menacing humming noise. The pair stopped walking for a second and observed the lamp. It was a long, stretched rectangle of harsh yellow, which illuminated with dull precision a square shaped sector of the corridor directly in front of the Doctor and Rose.
Shrugging, the Doctor moved on, Rose following. It turned out that the neon lights were triggered by motion, so the patch of floor in front of them would always be lit up.
The screams carried on, a constant background noise against the humming of the neon lights. But the Doctor was not running towards the sound, just walking calmly. Rose didn’t know how the Doctor could stand it. She just wanted to get to the source of the noise as quickly as possible and sort the problem out.
But the screams were definitely coming from down here, though, so the Doctor felt no need to rush. He was thinking as he walked, about who could be screaming and how he could sort them out.
However, just as he spoke these thoughts inside his head, a little voice rang out, shattering all his resolves of nonchalance. ‘Doctor?’ it called. ‘Help me. Please. Draining. Eternity…’
Rose turned, shocked and also bemused, to the Doctor. ‘What the hell?’ But he wasn’t there. He was now running, further along the inside of the wall, towards where the mystery would finally be unveiled.
Sophia stared at the glass compartment nearest to her in rapture, as swirling patterns of every colour erupted into existence, steadily joining and mingling, to form a shape. Sophia flinched at the shape. It was so simple, and yet so menacing.
A disembodied horsehead, floating in space, surrounded by a spinning swirl of all the different colours of the rainbow, ringed by the majestic void of deep space, stars glittering like tiny scintillating crystal shards.
Then she saw Rose herself, falling down through the darkness towards the horsehead shape. Screaming. Sophia suddenly sensed something was wrong.
As soon as this thought passed through her head, sparks erupted from the screen and klaxons blared through the empty museum. Sophia cried out as the sparks singed her tail. She ran around, not knowing what to do.
Then she stumbled for the door. ‘Doctor!’ she bellowed, ‘What’s happening?’
The alarms rang in her ears like blazing bells, harsh and ugly and shuddering. She dropped to the ground and curled into a ball, shielding herself from the sparks and smoke that continued to pour from nowhere, watching the dream intently for all the danger she was in.
What had she done wrong?
The klaxons suddenly ceased. Snuffed out by an unseen force.
No one was coming.
As the Doctor took one final step forward, a huge neon light slammed on with a CLANK! This one shone upon the vast room at the end of the corridor.
Rose gasped. ‘Oh my god.’
For there in cavernous expanse of the illuminated hall, were thousands of brains. Stacked in rows in tall glass containers, the clear water glittering and rippling, bathed in the industrial heat of the neon light.
The Doctor’s face contorted in complete and utter outrage. ‘How dare they?’ he hissed, quietly yet full of menacing force. Then he repeated his question, shouting in fury, the growling words ripping at his voice box. ‘HOW DARE THEY?’ he thundered. Rose winced — a cross between fright at what he might do next and actual pain as his message slashed at her eardrums.
He turned to Rose, the colour of his face a blotchy battle between blazing red and pallid white. ‘Brain banks,’ he said, furiously, and also incredulously. Despite the horrific visual evidence looming before him, the Doctor still couldn’t quite take in the concept of such mass slaughter and experimentation.
He continued, his body radiating rending waves of rage. ‘Brains slit right out of their owners’ heads. They’re stacked in jars, preservation and intelligence drugs fed to them until they’re fit to burst. Every nerve and fibre screaming agony. But unable to get out.’
Rose tried to shut out the gruesome thoughts that the Doctor was putting into her mind, but failed.
‘That’s how this museum harnesses so much power,’ he hissed, only calming down slightly. ‘Whenever a creature thinks up a dream, PING, it’s transferred to the brain banks. Again and again until they have so many dreams to think about they scream. But no sound comes out. As ever. A silent prison of minds.’ The Doctor almost spat the last sentence, utterly disgusted.
There was a ringing silence as the Doctor surveyed the thousands of minds, which was finally broken.
‘I’ve got to find out who’s done this,’ the Doctor said, now apparently calm. ‘Because I’m going to rip them up, burn them, drown them and cram them in a jar. See how they enjoy it.’
Rose blinked, not quite believing the words that had just passed from his mouth. She turned to stare at him. He looked her straight in the eye, emotionless, menacing.
She found this even more terrifying than the rage.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 5: OverloadSophia squinted through sheets of smoke at the glass compartments. They were all vibrating now, shuddering at their very hinges. Sophia backed away slightly, bent in a cautious, animalistic crouch, wary should all the glass cages suddenly shatter and pour down upon her. The only safety was the centre of the room — King Marculus’s Tortucle. Sophia sprang upon the torture-bed just as the vibrations increased tenfold.
Wolvens had incredibly acute senses of hearing. Normally this would have been a bonus. But right now the only only purpose it served was to deafen Sophia with explosions and Rose’s screams from inside the glass cages. Sophia clenched her claws over her wolf-ears, howling silently, praying for the tumult to end.
And now the horsehead in the dream had begun to speak. ‘There is no life in the Void…’ it growled, a horrid, pulsating growl that penetrated Sophia’s mind, somehow selecting the most fragile sensory nerves through which to send its shaking hiss. ‘Only… death.’
Rose spiralled towards the horsehead, yelling her heart out but unable to escape. Like Sophia at this moment. Both deafened, both lost.
Normally Sophia would not have been scared in the least, relying on her many fearsome traits — including incredibly sharp claws and teeth, wolf transformation and unnerving intelligence. But there was something about this situation that scared her more than anything she had seen before.
Maybe it was because this time, she didn’t have a clue what was going on or what she was up against.
Sophia huddled on the Tortucle as the dream continued…
Rose quietly attempted to console him. ‘Look, Doctor, I understand. But first we’ve got to find out what’s happening.’ Rose winced as new screams penetrated the air. ‘And when you said ‘A silent prison of minds’, well, I think you were mistaken.’
The Doctor’s eyes widened. ‘No…’ he murmured, horror replaced by unholy fascination. Then he gazed around, looking for a stairway down. He found one at the far right end of the balcony they were currently standing on. He looked back at Rose. ‘D’you wanna come down?’ he asked.
‘Of course,’ Rose lied, giving him a half-hearted smile whilst trying to keep down the bile rising up her throat at the sight of this appalling genocide.
The Doctor took her hand and sprinted down the stairway. Rose struggled to keep up with him. The incidents on the planet Uhildanar were still taking their toll on her and she just wanted to lay her head on the Doctor’s shoulder even as they ran, just go to sleep and let him drag her unconscious form along…
Rose sighed at the concept, and let her muscles relax, her fingers loosening around the Doctor’s palm. He noticed this and spun round to face her, skaing her fiercely. ‘Rose!’ he exclaimed.
She jerked upright and rubbed her eyes. ‘Sorry,’ she murmured, and gazed around. ‘It’s something about this place… it makes you want to fall asleep and forget.’
‘Yeah, I had noticed that.’ The Doctor glanced up. ‘I also noticed hypnosis drug dischargers, lined all over the ceiling. They want you to sleep.’
Rose stared at the ceiling. The Doctor was indeed correct — machines on stalks sprouted from every square metre of the distant ceiling, sprays fuming out of their nozzles.
‘They do work hard to keep you unconscious,’ Rose remarked.
The Doctor shoved a hand roughly over her mouth. ‘Try not to yawn.’
They reached the foot of the staircase. The Doctor released Rose’s hand, and stared around at the rows of brains, arranged like a maze through which the two time travellers wandered, occasionally pausing to cast uneasy glances at the many drug dischargers lining the ceiling.
The Doctor’s eyes were glazed with disgust. ‘I CANNOT believe this,’ he said quietly.
‘I can’t either,’ Rose replied quietly, and perhaps sensibly. ‘But we’ve got to. To try and rescue them.’
‘We can’t,’ the Doctor responded, grimly. ‘But what I REALLy want to know is how come one of them’s suddenly got a voice.’ He grimaced at his own words, with distaste. ‘Did you hear me? I’m talking like this is normal!’ He grinned darkly, holding up the sonic screwdriver into the thick, drug-laden air. ‘Which one is it?’ The device hummed, and beeped loudly. The Doctor ran off, shouting to Rose, ‘THIS WAY!’
Rose followed him, winding through the grisly corridors of silent, squirming brains. At last the pair came to their destination. There, in front of the Doctor and Rose, stood a tall tank, filled with rancid, sickly liquid and a living brain, fat flaps of tissue billowing around it in the murky water. It was no different from the rest — except below this one’s tank a large cube-like device was plugged into an unseen socket. The machine was flashing a vibrant red, and beeping loudly, a panicked contrast to the screams of the brain. ‘HELP!’ cried the mind. ‘TOO MUCH ENERGY! LIVING DREAM! NEXT LEVEL! HELP! ETERNITY! HELP HELP HEEEEELLLPPPP!’
‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,’ the Doctor said, reaching out lightly to stroke the smooth glass surface of the tank. The brain seemed to relax slightly from its frenzied, piteous flapping, although the machine beneath it continued to beep. ‘Doctor…’ came a horrid, mangled, croaking voice. The most horrific thing about the sound was that Rose could detect fragments of what must have once been a silky, attractive voice, but was now reduced to torture and imprisonment. Rose retched.
Tears swam into the corners of the Doctor’s chocolate brown eyes, but he managed to continue the investigation without breaking into sorrow. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he repeated, as if the brain’s state was his fault. ‘But I need to know. How come you have a voice?’
The voice audibly muffled another scream, as the blaring light of the device drilled into the brain’s underside, its beams penetrating the dark water like spears of sound. It spoke. ‘The machine… It was you…’
The Doctor’s face creased into a frown of incomprehension, dark thoughts and sadness forgotten momentarily. ‘What d’you mean, “It was you”?’ the Doctor enquired incredulously.
A tattered sigh erupted from the mind, distorted by the beginnings of another scream. ‘The machine allows me to speak. But also to work on higher levels of dream reconstruction… AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!’
Rose winced. ‘Doctor, what is it?’
The Doctor turned briefly to Rose. ‘I dunno,’ he said worriedly. ‘But it sounds like Sophia’s done something wrong in the Hall of Dreams.’ Pushing thoughts of pity to the back of his mind once more, the Doctor tried to think clearly. ‘Come on, come on…’ he moaned, racking his brain, ignoring the continued roars of the agonised mind behind him.
‘Come on… think like Sophia… Come on…’ he babbled, voicing his thoughts at a frantic pace. ‘She probably wants revenge on you for playing her dream, so she’s playing yours now… in fact I saw her as we left… selecting ‘Rose Tyler’ but why does the dream need increased power? Think, think, the brain said ‘Living dream’, think, think, think…’ he clutched at his tangled mess of a hair. And suddenly his face was drained of all colour. ‘Mongolia…’ he gasped. ‘The only living dream ever… Rose Tyler… conjured… it’s replaying itself… it’s alive… it’s alive…’ He exploded back into life. ‘SOPHIA!’
Turning, he clutched Rose’s hand. ‘ALLONS-Y!’ he bellowed.
Rose picked up on his panic instantly. ‘What’s wrong?’ Rose shouted, as suddenly, sparks spewed from the brain banks, every single one of them, showering the entire room with smoke. Flames erupted in front of the Doctor. He skidded on the floor, and made a hasty turn, trying another way back to the stairs. As he ran, the Doctor made unconvincing attempts to answer her question. ‘Unluckiness,’ he panted, as he dragged Rose around a sharp corner. ‘Sophia clicked on the one dream in the entirety of time and space that wasn’t one-dimensional. Your dream.’
Rose gasped with the heat as flames flared in her face. She and the Doctor swerved around them and reached the stairs. She was confused and panicked. ‘Which dream?’ she exclaimed as the Doctor pulled her roughly up the stairs as fire raced viciously around the corridors of brains.
‘Mongolia,’ the Doctor hissed, even as they bounded through the door into the corridor sandwiched inside the hollow wall. Rose’s face paled. ‘Oh my God, I remember. The one in the volcano, with the Hycrons and the-‘
The door slammed shut.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 6: The Trap ClosesRose screamed, and Sophia watched her powerlessly, convincing herself that it was only a dream and her friend did not need rescuing. But the highlighted message had said something about a dream of higher power… and Rose’s yells of horror sounded terribly realistic, whereas the chanting of Sophia’s rhyme dream had been muffled and ruined by the humming of computers and engines.
It suddenly hit Sophia, that sickening message scorching through her brain, knocking the agonising vibrations of the hall to either side. ‘It’s alive…’ Sophia moaned, the sound of her voice instantly whipped away by an inexplicable breeze. Sophia’s fur ruffled in the wind.
In the dream, the horsehead shape continued to speak to Rose. ‘I have waited eternity for this… lurking in the dead space, alone and separated from the whole. The war of the mind becomes the war of the flesh, the fleet glides downwards, the plan is laid, my other self draws closer, and… I AM THE HEAD OF THE BEAST!’
The roar of the horsehead ripped through the glass cage, and splinters of fragmented white hurtled at Sophia. The Wolven yelled in surprise, but her inhuman instincts allowed her to propel her weight off the Tortucle just in time to stop the sheet of broken glass smashing her body. The shards whistled over the Tortucle and embedded themselves in the wall.
Wind howled from the open compartment, so strong that it tossed Sophia bodily into the air. The Wolven just had time to dig her claws into the edge of the surface of the Tortucle, and so was not sent flying through the air. Instead, the wind blew her out horizontally, only her fingertips clinging onto the Tortucle. Unrestrained purple energy swirled from the open cubicle, whipping in translucent sheets around Sophia’s body. A voice boomed from the cage, an dull pulsating roar of unjustified anger —
‘We are the Szaborgs!’
Sophia squeezed her eyes shut as a blinding flash of light illuminated the Hall of Dreams. She was aware of her body sinking from its desperate, stretched position, and normal gravity resumed.
She opened her eyes.
The Doctor and Rose hurled themselves along the corridor, the Doctor’s long brown trench coat flapping into Rose’s face with his momentum, blinding her. She tried to protest, but the coat was restricting her mouth movements.
The Doctor whipped out the sonic screwdriver and pointed it up. Every single one of the neon lights snapped on at once, giving them a better line of sight. Rose was aware of continued screams flowing after them from the prison of minds.
But not for long. Suddenly there was awful, stark, dusty silence. Rose ground to a halt, but the Doctor kept on running. She had opened her mouth to speak but, seeing as the Doctor had ignored her, there was no reason to continue speech. Rose ran after him, and saw him stop at the exit of the corridor. The Doctor turned to face her. ‘Coming?’ he asked rhetorically.
Rose didn’t answer, simply caught up with him and sprinted out of the blasted doorway. ‘We’ve got to find Sophia!’ she panted back to him, only just convincing herself. The Doctor shook himself off, and dived through the yawning arch — one step further to the final end of the mystery.
Another thing it could be the end of was Sophia. Though the Doctor was praying with every fibre of his being that this would not be true.
Sophia stared with wide, dark eyes at the glass compartments, her gaze flicked from one to another. Each one was filled with the outlines of incredibly tall, bulky men. They seemed perfectly normal humans, except that their heads… Sophia shivered. Their heads were elongated, writhing lumps of fleshy meat. As the lights brightened and the system powered up once more, Sophia could make out even more horrific detail. Thick, blood red tentacles, swirling in ethereal patterns around small, frighteningly intelligent scarlet eyes. Then every creature held up its hands — except the hands were miniature versions of the heads, except with a tiny palm snapping with teeth embedded in the slimy flesh. Each creature wore a tight black business suit, with shiny black shoes and long sleeves — yet not long enough to obscure their frightening palms.
They reminded Sophia horrifically of the Ood, although she did not know if this bore any significance to the events of the present.
The creatures’ hand-tentacles swirled eerily in the air, the fact that they were doing nothing making them all the scarier. Sophia pushed her uncertainty and horror to the back of her mind, and her eyes swivelled nervously from one glass compartment to another. Each cage held at least five motionless creatures — or Szaborgs, as the horsehead had called them.
When the Szaborgs continued to stand still, Sophia risked a glance towards the door. It was quite close — far enough for her to leap to with the aid of her wolf-like agility. What would happen when she reached the door was another question, but Sophia didn’t want to worry about that now. Maybe she could scratch it open — seeing as the Szaborgs were not making a move. With that in mind, Sophia tensed her thighs and prepared to spring.
SMASH! SMASH! SMASH! Sheets of glass cascaded from the walls as the Szaborgs simultaneously swung their hands down upon the surfaces of their cages. Sophia let out a surprised yelp. With the shock came loss of balance, and she struck the ground heavily, her hard claws ringing on the steel floor. A myriad splinters of glass crashed in a blinding, stinging waterfall all around Sophia, and for a moment she felt as if she was surrounded by a crackling, tinkling forcefield. Then the truth drove home, just as hard as the cold stalagmite of icy glass that came at her now, flying through the air like a jagged, merciless bird. Sophia watched helplessly as it embedded itself in her leg, and howled, more in anger than in pain.
Through the furius torrent of shards, the Szaborgs advanced, purple energy leaking from the shattered chambers lining the walls. The energy swirled around them, mirroring the movements of their many tentacles, clutching slowly at the air like multiple hooks.
There was a sudden whirring, and the door burst open, followed by the Doctor and Rose. Rose snapped a hand over her mouth at the devastation before her. The Doctor looked grimly at the writhing form of Sophia and the Szaborgs, fanning out calmly around the hall, encircling Sophia and silently pushing the Doctor and Rose towards the centre.
Towards Marculus’s Tortucle.
Towards the end.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 7: Sense of Intelligence
Author's Notes: Yay, another chapter. I don't really like the way this chapter's been written - I don't think it's very well. As I have been concentrating on the novel I am writing. I am on page 94... Ho hum... Almost 100.
Bet you didn't expect THIS! Though if you look at the series that this is in...
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER SEVEN — SENSE OF INTELLIGENCE
‘Aaaah,’ the Doctor said suddenly, stepping in front of Rose and Sophia. ‘Szaborgs, eh?’ he looked calm and unsurprised. ‘Again…’
The Szaborgs stopped their relentless inward marching, and simply stared at the Doctor, Rose and Sophia. For a while there was unnerving silence. Then one of the creatures stepped forward, its dark red eyes glaring ahead. ‘We rise again, as we always must, our foes will perish in fire and dust. Eradicate!’ The Szaborg raised its right hand, the tiny palm agape with jagged, snapping teeth.
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ the Doctor drawled. ‘If you wanted to kill us, you would have done already. So just cut to the chase. What do you want?’
Behind him, Rose, her eyes squeezed shut, was trying to pull the huge splinter of glass from Sophia’s leg. Sophia herself was whimpering softly, like a wolf cub, but ever so brave.
With a final effort the shard came out, and Sophia howled as bright blood burst from the wound. Rose quickly tore off part of her jumper and wound it around the gash, all the while keeping wary and tentative eyes on the confrontation between the Doctor and the Szaborg leader.
‘You will become the saviour of the Szaborg race,’ the leader rasped in its hissing, growling, animalistic voice.
‘Oh, I thought Sophia was,’ the Doctor replied, anger and possibly even hatred radiating from his quiet tones. ‘And look what you’ve done to her.’ The Doctor waved his hand at Sophia’s bleeding leg and the clumsy, makeshift bandage that was already soaked in deep red colour. ‘Is that the gratitude of the Szaborgs? To the being who brought them back out of the darkness?’
‘The Szaborgs have no sense of gratitude,’ answered the leader evenly.
‘Ah, I see.’ The Doctor nodded. ‘What you do have, though, is a sense of…’
‘A sense of… intelligence!’ the leader exclaimed, voice as hard as steel.
‘Hmm,’ the Doctor said. ‘Very modest. What I was going to say was evil, but intelligence, I’ll give you that. This trap, I’ve got to say, is ingenious. Or was, I suppose.’
‘A trap?’ Rose exclaimed.
The Doctor turned to face his companion, seemingly irritated at her ignorance. ‘Of course it was a trap, haven’t you worked it out yet? During their brief existence in Mongolia, the Szaborgs beamed themselves off into space at the command of their leader, to form some sort of security mechanism ensuring that if they were destroyed, they would be revived again. So they built this place.’ The Doctor flicked his gaze around the Hall of Dreams in appreciation. ‘The museum.’
The Szaborg ring tightened. ‘The Doctor must be captured!’ the leader hissed.
The Doctor held up a warning finger. ‘No, no, no, I just need to explain this to my friends. Then you can capture me as much as you like.’ He turned back to Rose and Sophia. ‘They installed the brain banks, putting in an enhancement machine so that one of the minds could think on a whole new level, and be able to display the dream in this hall so that the Szaborgs could escape.’
The Szaborg Leader interrupted. ‘We did nothing!’
The Doctor frowned. ‘What?’
‘The enhancement machine does not belong to us,’ the Leader responded. ‘That is not part of our design.’
The Doctor was baffled. ‘Then who installed it?’
The Leader cut in again. ‘If I am not mistaken, you have finished explaining. You will be captured!’
‘Ah…’ the Doctor breathed out tensely. ‘Now there’s where you’re wrong.’ And, in a spurt of inhuman adrenaline, he leapt, bowling over one of the Szaborgs and creating a gap in the ring of creatures. Before the Szaborgs could react, Rose had raced through the gap, pulling Sophia with her.
‘Au revoir!’ the Doctor waved cheekily, and pointed the sonic screwdriver at the screen. The onscreen volume control rocketed, and the humming of the computer system intensified by five thousand per cent. The Szaborgs collapsed with hissing screams, clutching futilely at their tentacled heads.
The Doctor, Rose and Sophia hurtled along a corridor. ‘Doctor…’ gasped Sophia. ‘I’m not sure… I can last…’
‘Not long now,’ Rose reassured her. ‘Soon we’ll be back at the TARDIS, and the Doctor can deal with the Szaborgs.’
‘Those spaghetti things?’ Sophia shivered, but smiled nonetheless. ‘I hate spaghetti.’
Back in the Hall of Dreams, the Szaborg Leader levered itself to its feet. The creature, its sharp-toothed mouths contorting in agony, reached over to the screen and laboriously dragged a tentacle down the volume control bar. The humming faded, and the Szaborgs began to pick themselves up.
The Leader turned sharply to face its army of twenty or so Szaborgs. ‘Find the Doctor! Find him! Find HIM!’
The squid-headed men marched out of the room. The Leader itself remained standing before the screen, its eyes narrowing to angry slits. ‘Doctor…’ it spat. ‘You will NOT ESCAPE!’
Szaborgs crashed clumsily along the corridors of the museum, lurching from side to side in their frenzied, drunken marching. A horrible hissing chorus of alien voices clashed among the lofty, dusty rafters of the ceiling. ‘Return the Doctor! Return! Return!!!’
The squid-headed men rounded a corner — and caught sight of the fleeing forms of the Doctor, Rose and Sophia. While the majority of the Szaborgs clumped forward, the leader of the platoon held up, pausing to press a long, wet, pulsing tentacle to its jagged mouth. ‘The Doctor has been located!’ the Szaborg reported.
And, back in the Hall of Dreams, the Szaborg Leader responded through the same telepathic link. ‘Excellent. Then I will prepare the body!’
The link was cut, and the Leader returned to its work. Beside it on Marculus’s Tortucle sat a huge, fat lump of misshapen clay. The Szaborg, with a lopsided, malicious grin, stroked a lashing lump of tendrils across the soft surface of the object. Slowly shaping it into something new…
Rose whipped her head round as she sprinted, panicking, only to see that the bobbing, advancing heads of the Szaborg group were only a few metres behind her. She gasped at their awful proximity, but forced herself to run on. Only a few more corridors now.
They swerved around a sharp corner, and, to Rose’s relief, the thick, reassuring blue shape of the TARDIS stood at the end of the passage, its light already glowing as if eager to be off. A small part of her screamed about the moral abyss of simply leaving the museum without clearing up the situation. But most of her brain burned a terrible, inexorable message into every nerve in her body. RUN! RUN! RUN! RUN! RRRRRUUUUNNNN!!!
And they arrived at the TARDIS. Rose skidded to a halt beside the Doctor, with Sophia doubling up and panting with the pain of her wound. Rose couldn’t resist a tiny smile at the fact that Sophia was now the one who was panting.
The Szaborgs stopped their marching as well, seemingly almost disappointed that their quarries had given up so soon. But, weirdly, they made no move, simply standing before the Doctor and his friends, a line of stationary, emotionless monsters.
For half a minute there was silence. Then, finally, the Szaborg Leader pushed to the front of its legion, brandishing a vaguely humanoid lump of clay at the Doctor. ‘Clay… The most potent substance in all of time and space,’ the Leader sighed. Rose was sure there was a hidden meaning within the Leader’s words, but hadn’t the faintest idea what it could be.
The Doctor looked amused and bemused. ‘Um… so what? Look!’ he cried, and lunged for a nearby statue, standing on a pedestal. Through her pain, Sophia recalled that the figure was the one that they had stumbled upon earlier — the one with the strange plaque, reading ‘Chained’. The Doctor wrenched the figure off its support, and waved it around mockingly at the Szaborgs. ‘Look! I’ve got a lump of clay too!’
The Szaborg Leader hissed reproachfully. ‘Mine’s bigger,’ it replied, somewhat childishly.
‘True,’ the Doctor admitted. He waved his statue around again. ‘But mine just happens to summon a trans-dimensional 3D hologram of an evil intergalactic warlord.’
The Doctor hurled the statue roughly at the floor, and it smashed with a terrible ringing din. Sophia’s hands flew instantly to her ears, and she growled angrily at the Doctor, who smiled apologetically. ‘Sorry, Sophia,’ he said through the clamour. ‘You’re not having the best of ear-days.’ He glanced at the recoiling Szaborgs, suddenly hateful. ‘Or the best of leg-days.’
From the ruined heap of splinters lying in the middle of the corridor, a figure sprang up. An impossibly tall, dark figure, standing around ten feet tall, clothed in cold, black, glinting armour. It wore a helmet, or a mask, or both — it was hard to tell, but whatever it was, it was spiked, jagged and the complete opposite of aesthetically pleasing. Its long, thick arms were dotted with cruel spines, and its three-fingered hands were gauntleted with hard iron. Around its chest it wore a leather belt, which carried the sheath for the longsword it held in its claw. Its legs ended in titanic hobnailed boots. The floor was lit by the beams from its hellish white eyes.
‘Szaborgs, meet the Dark One!’ the Doctor announced cheerily, as the creatures shrank away from the towering figure. ‘Dark One, meet the…’ He trailed off as the figure swung round to face him, its cold white eyes penetrating his soul like insubstantial swords.
For a moment the Doctor and the figure held eye contact. Then the figure turned again, and marched menacingly towards the Szaborgs, who were already fleeing.
Sophia was astonished, yet not at all frightened. ‘What the hell did you just do to those spaghetti things?...’ she asked, boggling at the recoiling Szaborgs.
The Doctor tossed a shard of the statue up in the air cheerfully, before catching it again. ‘The statue contained a hologram generator,’ he explained. ‘When I shattered it, the generator activated. Simple. The Szaborgs aren’t in any danger, it’s just a trick. Scares your pants off, but that’s as far as it goes.’
‘Like blood control?’ Rose commented drily, staring resolutely at the huge dark figure as it terrorised the Szaborgs.
Sophia was already stepping into the TARDIS, and the Doctor started to follow while answering Rose’s question with a grin. ‘Just like blood control,’ he said. ‘Only even more harmless.’
At that, the figure wheeled sharply round, its eyes glowing even more ferociously than before. ‘Harmless,’ it laughed, and its voice sent shivers down Rose’s spine. ‘HARMLESS?!’
‘Yup,’ replied the Doctor cheekily. ‘Sums you up. Just a hologram.’
The figure threw back its head and laughed even more, its terrible, malevolent voice shaking the ceiling. Its longsword burst into flame, casting a pulsing, flickering shadow upon the dusty floor. ‘You think I am an image, Doctor.’ The helmet of the Dark One lashed down, viciously, mouth-hole twisted into a misshapen sneer. ‘How pathetic.’
The Doctor was about to answer back when a stream of scarlet energy flowed suddenly from the figure’s outstretched fist. The river of power wrapped itself around the Doctor’s neck. Rose gave a sickened cry as the figure yanked the energy back, and the Doctor went soaring into its arms.
‘Poor Doctor…’ the Dark One laughed. ‘He doesn’t realise what he’s done.’ And with that final, mocking message, the warlord flung the Doctor straight at the fleeing Szaborgs.
The last thing the Doctor remembered was the terrible, metal face of the Dark One, and his twisted laugh burnt into his brain.
Then his head bounced against the floor. He felt a sharp crack sear through his body — then he felt no more.
Rose screamed for him, screamed her heart out. And the Dark One screamed with her, teasing her cruelly. Slowly, Rose felt a pair of sharp, clawed arms slip around her waist, her eyes staring all the while out to the ruin of the museum.
Sophia pulled Rose gently into the glowing console room of the TARDIS. And, without guidance, the machine faded away.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 8: Bio-DataSlowly, the Doctor’s vision returned to him. He gazed through mental mists at a large, blurry object — about as tall as a man but much wider than one. He also saw several indistinct humanoid shapes, moving constantly around the object.
He blinked, ridding himself of the clouds obscuring his vision. Once he opened his eyes again, he could see clearly that the large object was a sort of suspended cubicle hanging on a chain from the ceiling, and the shapes that clustered around it were all Szaborgs. Dozens of them.
One of them noticed the Doctor’s consciousness and quickly reported to the Leader. ‘My Lord, the Doctor wakes!’ the creature hissed, its face-tentacles lashing in its urgency.
The Leader, without a reply, turned to the Doctor, who tried to sit up, but failed. His waist, neck, arms and ankles were all chained to King Marculus’s Tortucle! The Doctor swallowed a gulp at the row of torture instruments hanging above the bed. A chainsaw, a vat of acid, a needle, and a device of uncertain properties. And a handle at either end of the Tortucle indicated the fact that it could be used as a rack. Another machine lay beneath the bed.
‘At last, the sleeping prince wakes,’ drawled the Szaborg Leader. Its tentacles were cutting the air with lazy swipes. Its entire posture radiated ease and sickening confidence. The Doctor eyed the creature warily as it made its slow, frighteningly drunken way towards him.
‘What do you want from me?’ the Doctor asked, simply.
‘Not a lot.’ The Leader shrugged dismissively. ‘Once this little bio-data scan is completed… nothing. You can just sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Oh, and also,’ and now the Leader’s eyes narrowed with malice, ‘you can tell us how you summoned that creature and how we can destroy it.’
Memory came flooding into the Doctor’s head, all about the unexpected appearance of the real solid Dark One. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, honestly. ‘I thought the statue contained a hologram generator which would create an image of him — the Dark One, he’s called, by the way — but obviously it was something that summoned the real him, like… I dunno… maybe a portal activator? There, is that enough for you? As for how you can destroy him…’ the Doctor gave a small, grim, knowing smile. ‘You can’t.’
The Leader was not satisfied. ‘You can destroy anything if you have the right information, and this ‘Dark One’ will be no exception. Tell us more about him.’
The Doctor obeyed. ‘It’s a very complicated story, but I guess you do have a ‘sense of intelligence’…’ The Doctor sneered. ‘Anyway, in the beginning, there were only two beings. The Dark and the Light energies. They constantly battled in the dead space, wrapping round each other, punching and blasting and twining. It was called the Battle of Balance, that war. The everlasting war. And basically, the Dark energy was exiled to a planet named Lilula. It called itself the Dark One…’
‘Stop right there,’ the Szaborg Leader intoned. ‘Are you implying that the creature we’re going to fight is from the beginning of time? Because, number one — it’s impossible, and number two — it’s a lie.’
The Doctor shrugged as best he could while chained to the Tortucle. ‘True, I am actually drawing all of this from Lilulan mythology, not from personal experience or anything… but I do know that nothing can kill the Dark One.’
The Leader seemed troubled for a few seconds, then dismissed it. ‘He is not our first priority anyway.’ The Szaborgs swung its writhing head straight down to face the Doctor with steely scarlet eyes. ‘Our first priority is… YOU.’
The Dark One rose upwards, his three-fingered claws glowing with ominous radiance. ‘Let this planet taste my fury!’ he screeched. With his words, tonnes of masonry suddenly cascaded from the high, pillared ceiling. A single beam of light flowed from the distant sky into the now open-roofed museum, illuminating the Dark One in a pallid, sickly hue.
Smoothly, the warlord floated up, through the hole in the ceiling and out into the open sky. Air touched the Dark One’s cold mask for the first time in centuries, washing the warm, stale dust from between the lips of his mouth-hole, twisting and twining between the spikes of his helmet. The Dark One’s eyes stared blankly out onto the horizon and the pale, rising sun. He looked upon the veridian canopy of a titanic forest, stretching away into infinity. He watched cold, dew-stained brownish grass ripple in the morning breeze. He observed wild lizards and mice, wandering through the endless plain, chirruping and greeting the oncoming dawn with life — something he didn’t have.
Soon, neither would they.
With a cruel, ringing laugh that broke the peaceful quiet of the morning, the Dark One prepared to glide away. But he stopped as he remembered something. The Doctor. His old enemy.
The Dark One’s mouth-hole crunched and contorted into a mashed, lopsided, artificial grin. ‘He will pay,’ the warlord chanted into the sky. ‘They will all pay. For being alive, for living, for existing. That is a bad enough crime.’ And he truly believed that. A red beam sliced from the Dark One’s claw with a hissing sound. Suddenly the plain erupted into noise. Birds screeched at the commotion, flapping away. The sound scared many small creatures, and soon the grass was full of the scampering of tiny, frightened rodents, running for their lives.
The Dark One looked looked out on chaos. And knowing that he had caused it made him all the more hateful.
‘Er… why?’ the Doctor asked. ‘I still don’t get it, despite the effort you’re making to help me understand. Which doesn’t seem to be very big.’
The Szaborg Leader hissed with annoyance. ‘You don’t understand YET, Doctor?’ The Szaborg stepped aside, so that the Doctor could see the lump of clay that it had made earlier. The clay was now positioned inside the hanging cubicle, its brown summit just protruding above the door of the tiny room. The Doctor could see that the mound was now shaped like a person, but no ideas came to him. ‘Well?’ the Doctor inquired, still confused and impatient for an answer.
The Leader ignored him, and began to order Szaborgs about. ‘You there,’ it called. ‘Turn on the bio-data transmitters!’ Each of the three Szaborgs marched into a far corner of the room, and pulled three different chains dangling from the ceiling. The smashed dream cabinets hummed with power. The Doctor saw that where dreams had once been displayed, ferocious-looking mounted tubes now stood, presumably weaponry.
‘Feed the data disc into the monitor!’ the Leader commanded. A single Szaborg trudged obediently to the computer screen, its posh black shoes eerily clicking upon stone tiles, and slid a disc into a mechanical slit. The screen came to life, and a bright display popped up upon its gleaming surface. The scratch that Sophia had made earlier marred the perfect skin of the machine, but the Szaborgs couldn’t have cared less.
The display showed the internal organs of the Doctor in a sketchy, diagrammatic way, the scratch just about blocking the Doctor’s second heart from view. The Szaborg Leader laughed triumphantly. ‘Activate all transmitters!’
The weapons within the glass-flooded, exposed cabinets lining the walls fired rays of bright gold radiance right across the room. The Doctor gave a shocked cry and squeezed his eyes shut with some force, expecting the beams to collide with him and turn him into dust.
But instead the blasts slammed into the closed cubicle that currently housed the clay man made by the Szaborg Leader. The Doctor risked a quick peek between his eyelashes, his mouth locked in a frozen, contorted wince. There was no damage to himself or, surprisingly, the cubicle. He was about to protest about the impossibility of this when he remembered something. The Szaborgs hadn’t called the beams lasers or death-rays. They had called them bio-data. His bio-data, evidently.
And then the truth hit home like a speeding missile, fast as the wind and hard as steel. The Szaborgs had always loved mythology, he knew that from his previous encounter. They had been especially interested in Earth mythology — they had thought that it might help them in their invasion of the planet. And he had not recognised a classic scenario from mythology — shame on him.
The cubicle began to descend from its high, dangling position, and its doors opened. This action revealed a man, a man of clay, features vague and smudged by dust. Its eyes were blank, and its entire body was rigid and motionless. Much like any other statue in the museum.
The Szaborg Leader smacked its hands together as if dusting them off. The tentacles wrapped round each other excitedly. ‘A man of clay,’ the Leader commented, stepping back to admire its work, smugness spreading across its leering, hideous face. ‘But who is he?’
The Doctor stared as, slowly, colour and vitality spread in a wild, blotchy mess across the clay surface of the sculpture, seeping into the construction like water into a sponge. As more and more of the statue gained this kind of life, the shape began to flop forwards, peeling out of its fixed position.
‘Rassilon, save me,’ the Doctor murmured, turning his head sideways as if towards the object of his prayer, but keeping his eyes on the moving statue as if he so much as looked away for a split second he would die.
The sculpture lost all of its rigidity, and picked itself up, almost proudly, brushing clay stains off its sickeningly familiar pinstriped suit. Shaken by the vibrations of power that continued to rack the Hall of Dreams, silhouetted against the illuminated wall and heralded by the victorious cackles of the Szaborg Leader, a perfect living replica of the Doctor emerged from the opened cubicle and bounded brightly onto the floor below.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 9: The Szaborg Plot
Author's Notes: Hello again, readers! Iâm very sorry for the slow update, but donât complain, chapter 9 is here now! Not much to say here, apart from a bit from this chapter foreshadows a future story. That story will be announced soon – not yet, but watch this space! Enjoy the chapter, anyway. ^_^
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER NINE — THE SZABORG PLOT
Rose fell backwards onto the floor of the TARDIS. Sophia dodged her crashing form, a blush of guilt discolouring her cheeks with a patchy conflagration of pink and white. The TARDIS grilles rattled with the impact of Rose’s fall.
From her prone position, Rose observed Sophia, shocked tears covering her eyes in a silvery film. ‘What the hell happened?’ she asked confusedly.
Sophia’s wounded leg sent a throb of pain coursing through her body. The Wolven gritted her sharp teeth, and forced herself to concentrate on Rose’s question. ‘Um… some spaghetti monsters chased us down a corridor, and a big shape gave the Doctor to them and…’ she trailed off, her eyes glittering as usual with unnerving intelligence. She wouldn’t tell Rose that she had dragged her into the TARDIS — Rose would probably go mental. Sophia’s alien, advanced mind was racing, calculating what to do next.
‘I think you should get some sleep,’ Sophia advised, not watching Rose, still attempting to figure out an escape route from this messy predicament.
Rose nodded, pulling her hair forward so as not to let Sophia see her tear-streaked cheeks. She wandered off towards her room, body shaking slightly. Sophia gave a small, muffled howl for her, feeling her pain, and clutched her melody locket tight. The mechanism ticked, and a small hologram sprung up. Sophia didn’t watch it, however she let the accompanying tune soak into her mind. The same tune that played in her dreams, the nursery rhyme, the sinister, repetitive melody.
Black Wolf, Black Wolf, why do you cry?...
Silently, Sophia wondered what ‘Black Wolf’ was, and why those words kept following her across time and space. The blood began to clot on her leg, hardening the small wolf-like patches of hair near it — remnants of Sophia’s second form. Sophia thought of the Doctor and Rose’s love for each other. Maybe this was the time when she could make them confess. She gave a small smile. Matchmaker, matchmaker… she thought.
…the final battle that shall leave the world damaged yet stronger than the dying sun.
The locket closed with a tiny click. And the song ended.
She dreamed she was in a cavern, a huge, sculpted cavern, pale blue pinpricks of light dotting the rough-hewn walls. A huge dark shape hissed into existence before her. ‘Rose Tyler…’ came a strange, shiver-inducing voice.
She brushed back strands of her dream-hair, feeling nothing, and tentatively walked forward. ‘What are you?’ she inquired.
The shadow lifted one obscured, swirling arm. ‘I am the one who was, is, and will become. I am the fire that dwells in the shivering arteries of your mortal heart. I am the creeping mist, and the reaching fog, the sound of drums, and the endless night. I am He Who Hungers, the Destroyer of All.’
Rose was not afraid. ‘You don’t scare me with your words… what are you?’
‘You know my name…’ the figure hissed. It began to step forward. A terrible white light burned profusely in shadowed eye-sockets. ‘My name is the word that lies at the centre of your fleeting life, the thing that all men and women fear.’
‘What do you mean?’ Rose asked. She was beginning to quaver, but her insubstantial eyes blazed with determination and courage. She stood her ground as the towering shape swung its arm down, and terrifyingly solid fingers grasped her naked throat, and hauled her upwards.
‘Can’t you see it, Rose?’ the figure spoke, its eyes upturned towards the starlight that impossibly twinkled in the cavern roof. The entire hall filled with an eerie melody. ‘The light at the end of the tunnel.’
Rose shook her head as best she could with cold claws stifling her throat, her eyes bulging.
‘It’s coming…’ the figure rasped. ‘Closer… and closer… the blinding beams… the howl that burns into the sky… the light!’
Then Rose could see it. In a flash. An ethereal tunnel, a spiral of radiation stretching on into forever, and, at its very end, a sea of swirling radiance, streaming down the tunnel, coming towards her…
‘The Vortex calls,’ the dark shape hissed. ‘But I will not be denied my moment of triumph… I am the sovereign of blood, the king of the Void, the doom, and the purge, and the falling sky… and… I AM THE DARK ONE!’
The call splintered Rose’s ears.
She woke up, shaking.
She couldn’t see anything. No light, just darkness. Rose sank back into her pillows and settled slowly into a deep and dreamless sleep.
The Doctor faced the clay Doctor from Marculus’s Tortucle. He gazed into those chocolate brown eyes — his eyes. He felt déjà vu and sickness and horror and anxiety, and all of these built up in his throat until he retched.
The Szaborgs were silent, shuffling around the room to admire their handiwork from every possible angle. The false Doctor clapped his hands together, and looked happily at the Szaborgs. ‘Ace-a-mundo! All this technology looks brilliantly complicated. Just LOOK at that bio-data processor! Ah! I’m getting chills!’
The Doctor felt like vomiting. ‘All right, very me,’ he said thickly, wavering between disgust, anxiety and fascination.
‘Cut out the very,’ the Szaborg Leader corrected. ‘It is you. More or less.’
The false Doctor looked down upon the real one, distaste curling his lips. ‘Who is that impostor?’ he asked the Leader, without taking his eyes off his counterpart.
‘Never mind him. Just go outside and wait for orders,’ the Leader commanded. The doppelganger obeyed, tearing his gaze from the Doctor and trudging out of the open door, his sneakers clicking on the cool, dusty floor.
As soon as his double was safely out of hearing distance, the Doctor stared up at the Szaborg Leader, more confused than angry or revolted. ‘What is this? Apart from the biggest image and likeness infringement in history?’
The Leader ignored the Doctor’s quip, choosing to only answer his first question with a patronising shake of its hideous, tentacled head. ‘You haven’t guessed yet, Doctor?’ It shook its head a second time, almost regretful. ‘What a pity.’
The Doctor was angry now. Suppressing his feelings, he protested, ‘Look, I’m not asking much, just tell me — what’s the point of going to such great lengths just to make a clever clay man who looks like me? It doesn’t make sense!’
‘Oh, yes it does.’ The Leader’s tones were quiet and unnerving. ‘And since you’re not going to shut up until we do, I’d better tell you the plan. It’s not as if you can do much, chained to a bed…’ the Leader sneered.
‘Quite right. Glad you’ve finally seen sense,’ the Doctor gabbled, before turning serious again. ‘Now tell me, please.’
‘Very well.’ The Leader walked closer to the Tortucle, and perched on the edge. The Doctor forced back laughter at this, but concentrated. ‘We have made a copy of you so that it will replace you, basically.’
The Doctor nodded. ‘OK. Insane so far, but go on.’
The Leader hissed in annoyance, but did as the Doctor asked. ‘The clayform will join your companions in your machine, it will fly across the universe — and spread destruction.’
The Doctor drew in a breath. Slowly, he was getting the gist of the plan.
‘Before long, the name of the Doctor shall be cursed. The wheeling stars and worlds of time will come to fear him, and then… then it begins!’
The Leader paused for dramatic effect, spreading its arms wide, eyes glaring forth through the dusty twilight of the Hall of Dreams. The Doctor still didn’t quite understand, though. ‘Then what begins?’
‘The Szaborg Empire. Soon the clayform will have a price on its head. A huge price — in fact, an uncountable price. On every planet in the cosmos, posters will be displayed. WANTED — THE DOCTOR. In the end, when the clayform has caused enough death across the universe, then we will invite every damaged civilisation to a grand festival — a festival where the Szaborgs will destroy the Doctor, once and for all!’
‘And it won’t have taken any effort to capture him, will it?’ the Doctor asked, sickened. ‘You’ll just send him a message saying, ‘Return to your master,’ and he’ll come running. And then you’ll make a big show of killing him, when actually you just turn him off.’
The Leader nodded, a grin creeping along its fanged, partly obscured mouth. ‘Every bounty ever placed on the clayform will be ours. Wealth beyond measure, Doctor. Wealth with which to build ships, gather an army, and attack the universe!’
The Doctor tried to think of a reply, but when the Szaborg Leader lifted a syringe filled with a vile-looking liquid he gave up even trying to speak.
All he could manage was a lame: ‘You really do have a sense of intelligence, don’t you?’ just as the needle slipped into his chest. The liquid pumped into his veins, and with a groan he let his head fall back. The Doctor numbly felt himself tumbling into sleep — and then blackness enveloped him.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 10: See For Yourself
Author's Notes: The tenth chapter of Replaced! *slaps head* Yes, I know it was obvious. What happens in this chapter? The answer is: not a lot. But it does do quite a bit of setting up for the rest of the story, and... the last line... well, I don't know about readers but it sent a shiver down my spine. I am being completely honest. Even though it's not much of a surprise, and isn't really that scary, it just... does it for me, really. Anyway... on with the story!
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER TEN — SEE FOR YOURSELF
A blaze of light streamed along the edge of every eastern window, marking the dawn of a new day. Rose woke with a start at the spectacular light display, and stared around her room. It was a plain, spherical space like most of the rooms in the TARDIS, and in the entire span of her year long travels in the time machine, she had never once bothered to decorate her room with anything except an old photograph of her mum and dad and her childhood teddy bear, which sat, neglected, on a desk made of some kind of weird alien metal the Doctor had picked up on one of his adventures.
At the thought of the Doctor, tiny, frustrated tears pricked her eyes like twin needles. She brushed them away, and sat up, suddenly feeling angry with Sophia. Last night, she had dragged Rose into the TARDIS against her wishes — away from the Doctor, but all the Wolven had told her was that they had been pursued by the Szaborgs, and a big dark shape had given the Doctor to them! Sophia had not told her about how she had pulled her into the time machine — out of guilt!
Rose’s guts burned at this thought. She flung herself out of bed and made to get dressed — but suddenly realised that she was already fully clothed. She must have fallen asleep without undressing.
Ignoring this, Rose stormed out of the chamber, closing the door gently in case the TARDIS got angry with her, and winded her way through the maze of the TARDIS’s interior until she finally arrived at the console room.
Sophia was lying on the old car seat bench beside the control panel. When Rose entered she straightened instantly, and flashed her a sheepish, apologetic smile. ‘Sorry.’
Rose didn’t reply, just glared at Sophia.
She got the message without Rose having to speak, and threw up her arms in sudden bitterness. ‘Well, what was I supposed to do? I was feeling the same way, you know, about the Doctor and everything, but I didn’t want to break the news to you yet in case I didn’t have to!’ Sophia realised her voice had descended into a growl of protest, and stopped immediately, casting her sharp eyes down to her clawed hands, and waited for Rose to do something, occasionally giving the odd restless shift.
After a long silence, Rose became simply too exasperated, and flopped onto the bench beside Sophia. It wobbled dangerously with the weight of two people, but Sophia pretended not to notice, still avoiding Rose’s gaze.
Rose sighed. This was awkward. Sophia was obviously hurt — both physically and emotionally — and certainly didn’t need this kind of anger directed at her, however justified it was. So Rose cast her eyes to the long line of light seeping from the crack between the TARDIS doors. ‘Where are we?’ Rose asked, genuinely intrigued. ‘I thought we were still in the Time Vortex.’
Sophia stirred once more, to Rose’s relief, lifting her head a little, her eyes gaining a little more of their former brightness. ‘We were never in the Time Vortex.’ The Wolven got up, stretching her claws as she did so, and trudged over to the console. Rose followed her with her gaze, interested. Sophia patted a squat turquoise button. ‘Mile jump.’
Rose squinted at the button. ‘What?’ she inquired.
Sophia rolled her eyes. Humans had such bad hearing. ‘MILE JUMP,’ she said, stressing the syllables mockingly. ‘Does what it says, literally, jumps a mile.’
Rose nodded, ignoring Sophia’s impudence. ‘Right. So we’re still on the same planet, then?’ Sophia nodded, expecting the conversation to close, but Rose had another question. ‘How come you know that? I thought you didn’t like technology.’
Sophia made a face. ‘I don’t — the Doctor forced it on me. In case of emergency, he said.’
‘So he tells you and not me.’ Rose felt a bit angry again, but managed to repress it, and shifted into a more comfortable position, one hand reaching to play with a few strands of blonde hair. ‘But the real problem is… all those… what’re they called?... Szaborgs. That’s it. What about them? We’ve got to rescue the Doctor!’
Sophia looked and felt repulsed at the thought of returning to that spaghetti monster-infested place, but fought it and said, ‘Yeah. Obviously. But how?’ she asked, narrowing her eyes.
Rose continued to play with her hair absent-mindedly, thinking all the while, her eyebrows furrowed deeply, her mouth small and tight-lipped. ‘The usual, I suppose,’ she said eventually. ‘Just blunder in, and hope something’ll turn up…’ She gave a small, nervous smile, and turned to Sophia for encouragement. The Wolven nodded, and grinned at the same time, deliberately displaying her fearsome teeth.
‘Sounds good to me!’
A scream slashed open the Doctor’s unconscious state. He thrust himself upwards, but his chains forced him back with a painful metallic screech. He looked around wildly. ‘What?’
The Szaborg Leader was sitting on a nearby stool. At the Doctor’s cry, the monster turned round, but upon the confirmation that nothing was wrong, swung back to its former poition, facing the dream selection screen, a strangely thoughtful expression etched upon its hideous face, its scarlet eyes glassy and absent.
The scream that had woken the Doctor sounded again. This time, the Time Lord recognised it as the voice of the talking brain, and sank back down, feeling sick. He tried to return to sleep — but a moment later he snapped back up again. The chains strained with the second impact, but they held. At the Doctor’s shocked exclamation of ‘Another living dream?!’ the Szaborg Leader turned again, all thoughtfulness gone from its countenance, replaced by exasperation and annoyance.
‘I thought you would have noticed before,’ it replied, icily.
Slowly, the Doctor lay down yet again, his head whirling and pounding, trying to think over the horrific yells of agony emanating from the prison of minds. How could there be another living dream? The Horsehead Nebula was no longer alive since he had destroyed it with the Hypernova Missile, and, as far as he knew, it was the only being ever to possess the ability to, literally, make dreams come true. The Doctor decided he would have to ask the Szaborgs. So he did. ‘How can that be, though?’ he inquired.
The Szaborg Leader had been watching him intently throughout the time in which he had been thinking. Now, with a snarling snort of derision, it returned to observing the dream selection screen, and waved off the Doctor’s question with a simple, ‘See for yourself!’
The Doctor suddenly realised that all this time, the screen had been playing a dream. The title at the top of the pane of polished plastic read: ‘Rose Tyler: Light at the End of the Tunnel’. Over the heads of the Szaborgs that were clustered around the screen, the Doctor could just about make out what was happening in the dream. The Dark One and Rose were standing in a large cave, the former’s mouth-hole twisting and spitting out malicious words. Rose was shivering slightly, but overall standing firm. The Doctor felt a surge of affection for her. Even in her dreams, she was strong and courageous.
But still she was no match for the Dark One, who was now advancing. His claw shot out to grab Rose’s throat. Anger and revulsion burned deep in the Doctor’s veins, but he carried on watching and listening.
The Dark One’s dream voice sounded, low and growling, hissing through the speakers scattered across the high and distant ceiling, as his image onscreen clutched and squeezed at Rose’s neck. ‘Can’t you see it, Rose? The light at the end of the tunnel?’
The Doctor frowned, deeply. The light at the end of the tunnel was supposed to be a superstitious story — apparently it was what dying people saw just before passing into Heaven or Hell. He found no reason why either the Dark One or Rose should be seeing the light, whatever it was. To his profound relief, the dream Rose shook her head, weakly.
The Dark One would not have any of it, however, and urged Rose on with threatening words. ‘It’s coming… Closer… and closer… the blinding beams… the howl that burns into the sky… the light!’
The Doctor was horrified when, suddenly, the screen burst into a somehow blurred and indistinct image. He strained to make it out, but couldn’t. If only he wasn’t chained to this bloody BED! He gave a cry of frustration, which was completely ignored by the Szaborgs. The dream continued, but the Doctor did not watch any more of it. He only listened, and heard the Dark One’s evil voice roaring: ‘The Vortex calls… but I will not be denied my moment of triumph… I am the sovereign of blood, the king of the Void, the doom, and the purge, and the falling sky… and… I AM THE DARK ONE!’
The Doctor’s intrigue had been stirred by this speech, but he still did not bother to watch the dream any further. He soon realised that even if he had decided to view it, he would not have been rewarded, as no further noise came from the screen and therefore he presumed that the dream had ended.
The silence enveloped him. He felt a bit light-headed — he felt his mind slipping away, his telepathic barriers lowering into insubstantialism.
It was then that he received the mental shout, so hard and so loud that it shattered several neural nerves. DOCTOR.
The Doctor recognised that voice. Internally, he found the link that had been slotted into his mind, and slid a reply down it, with some trepidation.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 11: Enhancement MachineSophia’s hand thumped down upon the thick turqouise sphere that was the mile jump button. The TARDIS console suddenly sprang to life. Rose gave a cry as the room tilted and she slid at a breakneck pace off the end of the car seat bench and crashed into a curving pillar. Her head rolled around her shoulders in the turbulence, her dazed arms desperately clinging to the pillar.
Sophia had dug her claws into the console, ignoring the sparks and smoke that fountained around her body as the TARDIS protested, her eyes burning, determined not to fall like Rose had. The TARDIS roared, a chilling telepathic shriek that sizzled cells and incinerated nerves. Then the machine ground to a sickening halt, wrenching one of Rose’s arms and jarring the other. She groaned, looking at Sophia weakly. ‘Did you know it was going to be that bumpy?’
The Wolven’s face was riddled with dismay. ‘No.’ Sophia shook her head around, sparks flying off her hair like water off the coat of a wet dog. ‘If I did, then I wouldn’t have done it. Obviously. Strange, though. It didn’t do it before.’
Rose sighed twice, getting her breath back, before pulling herself dizzily upright. She brushed herself off and, slowly and carefully, made her way towards the doors. ‘Well, at least it worked!’ she exclaimed.
Sophia made no comment, only followed Rose obediently to the exit.
Presently they found themselves in a lush, mossy clearing, presumably in a forest or wood. Rose swung her gaze from side to side, marvelling at the heady sense of well-being the forest gave her. ‘It’s beautiful,’ she heard Sophia murmur, and silently agreed.
After a few moments of wonder, the task she had set herself slammed back into Rose’s brain like a physical blow. All of a sudden, the forest was drained of its beauty, becoming just another clump of trees, just another obstacle between her and the museum. With a sigh, Rose stepped forward, her trainers crunching on the wet leaves, the breeze playing with her, sending tickling tendrils of air snaking round and round her ankles. She ignored it, and continued to walk.
‘Rose,’ Sophia called, uncertainly. ‘Do you actually know where you’re going?’ Rose smiled half-heartedly.
‘Not a clue,’ she replied, without turning around. She heard and felt Sophia’s reassuring presence suddenly fall into step behind her, and her heart swelled at how faithfully the Wolven followed her.
After a few minutes of walking, Rose finally perceived a chink of true, undiluted sunlight peeping from a gap between trees a few hundred metres ahead. She quickened her pace at the sight, and so did Sophia. They marched across the expanse of grass and leaves, no longer turning at all to admire the scenic glory of the forest, their only ambition to reach the museum and set free the Doctor who lay chained within its walls.
Rose burst out of the confines of the forest, Sophia close behind her. While the sudden sunlight flooded Rose’s eyes, blinding her, Sophia stared straight ahead, not blinking, happily. For ahead of them lay the museum, a long, low chunk of curving, arching stone, the drab flatness of the roof broken only by a couple of sturdy transmitters.
The pair of time travellers were about to continue their march, when Sophia spotted something, pulling Rose back into the cover of the trees. Rose gasped in shock, but otherwise did not protest.
Once under the shadow of branches again, though, Rose burst out. ‘What the hell was that for?’ she inquired loudly. At Sophia’s grim expression, her eyes narrowed dangerously, and she went deadly quiet. ‘What have you seen?’ she whispered.
Sophia pointed. Rose swung her eyes up her companion’s arm, and found a dark, cloaked figure, hovering several metres above the roof of the museum, frozen in mid-air as if paralysed. With another gasp, Rose recognised it as the figure who she had dreamed about, the one who had proclaimed himself the thing that all creatures feared.
The Dark One.
The Dark One’s voice blasted into the Doctor’s brain again, producing a pained wince from the Time Lord. You have seen Rose’s dream, yes?
The Doctor’s wince vanished instantly. His face burned with anger. Yes, I did, he replied, his telepathic voice as well as his normal one tight and constricted with revulsion, and don’t ever invade her mind again.
A cruel laugh echoed in the Doctor’s head. And why not? the warlord asked, mocking him.
Something within the Doctor snapped, and raging words were torn from his mouth, a stream of them, shredding his throat and mind with their ferocity, and he felt a hatred rise in him, an uncontrollable force like bile, spinning his existence into something new, the previously contained monster, the Oncoming Storm. Some distant part of him observed with horror and sickness.
I hate you. I hate you and your pathetic taunts, and I’ll tell you why you won’t ever touch Rose again, ‘cause if you do, I’ll kill you, Dark One, and you can join that brain that you enhanced, screaming in a jar, and you can BURN IN HELL!
The Doctor realised he had actually been screaming the words out loud. The Szaborgs were all watching him with their red eyes narrowed to blazing slits of malice, but he didn’t care, and he continued to roar, and the power inside forced itself from him, on and on and on, until every fibre of his being was exhausted and powerless, a catalyst for this furious parasite, his body and mind flopping and churning.
At last the anger subsided, and he lay back on the Tortucle after what had seemed like hours, but really been a few minutes. The telepathic link was still lodged inside his head. He tried to shake it off, but it had been firmly inserted. With irritation and slight embarassment, the Doctor returned to his internal conversation.
What is it?
The Dark One was laughing. I hope you enjoyed yourself, Doctor.
The Doctor clenched his fist, deliberately digging his fingernails into the palm of his hand to stop the anger from rising again. Just tell me, DARK ONE, what do you WANT?!
Well, I was going to give you the latest update on the decreasing population of this planet, but something you said in that… outburst… made me wonder. You told me I had enhanced one of the brain banks so that it could think on a new level and therefore broadcast living dreams to the cabinets…
The Doctor turned onto his other side on the Tortucle as best he could, his chains clinking and clattering in a twisting river of rusting links. I didn’t say all that, he replied, irritably.
The Dark One’s growling voice sounded slightly evasive. It was implied.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. Yes, so what? Then a thought occurred to him, and he jolted up, wrenching his chains for the third time that morning. Are you telling me you didn’t put the enhancement machine in?
Well, for a start, I didn’t even know about the brain banks until after you turned on the portal activator, which summoned me to the museum. And secondly, the only purpose the living dream served was to bring back the Szaborgs, and why would I want that?
The Doctor spoke numbly now, disbelieving, the anger of a minute ago long forgotten, searching for a reason why the Dark One would have installed the enhancement machine which allowed the brain to return the Szaborgs.
Well… maybe the Szaborgs… you must have… I don’t know! The thought of another, as yet unknown enemy putting in the machine was simply too sinister to contemplate.
I did no such thing. The Doctor felt the Dark One tugging at his end of the telepathic link — pulling it out.
No! Don’t go! I need to work this out!
The warlord laughed again. No thank you. Farewell, Doctor. I hope you enjoy the rest of your imprisonment. I shall let you know when this planet has fallen. With a jolt, the link disintegrated, and the Doctor was left staring at the Szaborgs, with no mental conversation to occupy him. The squid-faced aliens were still gazing at him, still waiting for him to explain his outburst of wrath.
The Doctor shrugged, giving his trademark wolfish grin, dismissing the shouted message. ‘Oh, don’t mind me.’
The Szaborgs all turned back to the dream display screen, waving off the Doctor’s words as an outcry of frustration. Only the Doctor dwelled on the incident, his head resting against the thick sheets of the torture-bed, wondering why he had become so angry all of a sudden. The Dark One’s comment had been spiteful, but no more than usual.
So why had he done it? And, perhaps more importantly, if neither the Dark One nor the Szaborgs had installed the enhancement machine, then…
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 12: The Dark One Rising‘That’s him, Sophia!’ hissed Rose, quietly, all the while keeping her eyes pinned to the Dark One’s hovering form, as if afraid that he might suddenly awaken from whatever unholy trance he was immersed in. ‘That’s the warlord I saw in my dream.’
Sophia was confused. ‘Er… which dream? Which warlord?’
Rose instantly realised that she had not even told Sophia about the dream, and, with an air of frustration, turned to her and began to summarise the vision. ‘Well, I was in a cave, and, basically, this big dark figure came up, and called himself the Dark One. He asked me if I could see something about light and a tunnel…’
Sophia’s eyes lit up, imbuing Rose with a feeling of dread and terrible expectation. ‘The light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve seen it too.’
Rose and Sophia were so busy staring at each other in shock at this revelation that neither of them saw the twitch of the Dark One’s head, the wave of life that suddenly rippled across his armoured body with awful speed, dragging him from paralysis, the ignition of his burning white eyes…
In a few seconds, Sophia sensed movement and whipped round with her slanted eyes wide… but too late. Already the Dark One was swooping down towards them, his cloak flapping about his shoulders like the wings of a bat, scarlet beams building around his gauntleted hands.
Rose heard Sophia scream ‘DUCK!’ just as a blazing flash obscured the world. The next moment, Rose and Sophia were both running blindly, smoke pouring from the edge of the forest, a shattered tree trunk the sickening evidence of the Dark One’s terrible firepower.
A cold and bitter laugh rang from behind them, and Rose felt the Dark One turn round for another shot. She could visualise with unnerving accuracy that seemingly rigid mouth-hole twisting into a grin, those fingers playing across the hilt of the longsword that was strapped to his side…
That very same sword slashed into her vision, and blood fountained from somewhere near her. Rose had no idea whether the blow had wounded Sophia or herself — and then the Dark One was swooping up, back towards the museum that lay ahead of her. Rose faintly hoped that he would remain there, that the violence would be over — then pain embedded itself deeply into her shoulder, she realised that the Dark One had hit her and not her companion. Sophia was screaming loud, meaningless words into her ear, and through a misty scarlet film of panic and pain she saw the Dark One wheeling round, his white eyes shining with the excitement of the chase, soaring back down towards her.
Sophia let go of Rose and watched in frenzied horror and panic as she collapsed upon the dewy grass, her shoulder spurting blood. Rose’s pale, clammy fingers trailed up her own body, pressing against the gash, trying to stop the flow, but desperately failing… thinking of wounds, Sophia’s leg was still hurting, draining her strength — she hadn’t noticed before because of the intrigue of exploring the forest, but now, in the face of danger, it just had to go and hurt again… The Dark One was mere metres from her now, his sword ready, flames seething along its smooth, scarlet surface. With a victorious laugh he raised the sword…
Something surfaced inside Sophia. In the few moments before her inevitable death, eight tiny, seemingly insignificant words were pulled from her throat as if some part of an automatic process, the words which had haunted and dogged her for so long, the dreaded yet somehow magical sentence that spoke of time and death and all she feared.
‘Black Wolf, Black Wolf, why do you cry?’
And, somewhere deep inside Sophia’s soul, a growling voice answered to the same rhythm.
I cry for the time and space as it dies.
The Dark One’s sword smashed down. Yet as it did so, a curtain of thick, stinging black smoke billowed up. Smoke and sword met with a resounding crash that hurled both Sophia and the Dark One back. The warlord’s eyes crackled with disbelief as he thumped to the ground, his sword spinning from his grasp. Sophia gasped in amazement and relief.
Oh, why does the time and space die? the internal voice called back. With a strange, dizzy smile, Sophia recognised the tone that the thing inside her had used. Smugness.
At first, the Dark One had been shocked at the mysterious appearance of the wall of smoke. But now, with a simple flick of his hand, the flaming sword flew back to him like a boomerang. The warlord shot up into the air, all the while watching Sophia and Rose behind the dark, translucent smokescreen.
‘You cannot keep this up forever, wolf who hides in the shadows. Your little veil will die within seconds. The soul you inhabit shall be killed, along with her companion who is already near to oblivion.’
As if to confirm the Dark One’s words, the smokescreen folded neatly into the ground. Sophia’s eyes widened in the moment of silence after the dissolving of the screen but before the Dark One’s assault. She grabbed Rose’s arm and hauled her upright. ‘Fight, Rose, fight for the Doctor!’ she whispered, and then the Dark One’s sword came slashing down in a hissing arc of scarlet.
Sophia ran forward with a fierce howl, her claws pointing from her outstretched fingertips. The Dark One gave a roar of rage as his sword-stroke missed and Sophia smashed into him. To Sophia’s horror, her attack did not bowl the Dark One over like it did most life forms. The cold presence of the warlord began to overwhelm her like a strangling blanket of frigidity — and then the blood red sword was swinging round again…
She made the transformation instantly, falling and folding inwards into her wolf-like shape. The sudden decrease in stature ensured that the Dark One’s head-height blow also missed. As the Dark One’s sword arm continued the sweeping arc away from her, Sophia leapt, her mouth curled into a feral, slavering snarl. Her claws gripped the Dark One’s head like a squirrel would an acorn, her piercing blue eyes staring into his white ones, she felt a shiver of sudden despair ripple across her thick coat of fur, she sensed Rose, wounded but determined, lunge at the Dark One, hitting and tearing, and the warlord’s deadly grasp was steadily weakening...
The word was like a terrible physical blow which sent Sophia and Rose reeling back in confusion and instant, quaking fear. The Dark One’s laugh sizzled into their brains, and, instinctively, they knew it would be the last sound they would ever hear.
They both shot back into the Dark One’s arms, who was now ready for them and completely in control. He lifted them up, one in either arm, and they screamed their pain and terror out, but it was no use. For the Dark One had them, and now Sophia could feel it, that terrible energy rising in the Dark One’s hands, the energy that would incinerate both her and her human friend.
Sophia, with great sadness, realised that this was the time. The time that she had known would come — the time when the TARDIS crew finally faced up to an enemy which was simply too strong to defeat.
They had lost.
But then something came barrelling into the Dark One’s back — something tall and strong and powerful. The Dark One lurched forward, taken by surprise, his grip loosening around Sophia and Rose. They fell forward heavily onto the dew-stained grass, Rose gasping with the pain of her throbbing injury — and then a hand pressed itself into Rose’s — a brilliantly familiar one. Rose gazed up into warm chocolate brown eyes.
The Doctor grinned from ear to ear. ‘Run!’ he said.
Rose laughed with disbelief as the Doctor pulled her to her feet. Sophia, still in her wolf-form, sheltered the Doctor and Rose with her muscular shape as they pounded towards the cover of the forest.
The Dark One had recovered from the Doctor’s impact with his back, and stared at Sophia hatefully. He pointed a three-fingered claw at her, and growled, ‘They shall not escape, Sophia of Wolven. Your efforts have been in vain. Death should come as a blessing!’ His white eyes flared, suddenly contemptuous. ‘Give in to the darkness. Give in to me.’
Sophia held her ground, glaring at the warlord who loomed ahead of her, his impossibly tall figure blotting out both the museum and the sun, until he filled her vision, a gigantic shadow of despair, laughing at the light and the world and everything she loved.
A river of crackling energy shot from the Dark One’s claw. Sophia dodged, and dived at the warlord’s long, spiked legs. He merely smiled and, with a flick of his wrist, sent her spinning backwards into a tree with a dull, pulsating thump.
She panted for a moment at the base of the tree trunk, regaining her breath and, unfortunately, giving the Dark One time to attack. He glided forward as if on oiled wheels, and, when he was no more than a metre away from her, threw forth a beam of red light.
Sophia held up a paw in an attempt to defend herself, however she realised, too late, that the beam had not been meant for her — it had been meant for the tree. The ray flew way over her head, slicing the tree in half in an eruption of sap and smoke. Then the top half of the tree crashed down upon Sophia, spinning and rolling through the air like a colossal javelin.
The thick trunk crushed her back in a sickening crunch. The Dark One watched, satisfied, and listened as a muffled howl of agony came from beneath the broken tree.
The Dark One remembered the fleeing Doctor and Rose, and snarled in fury. He rose back into the sky, and flew like smoke on the wind over the dazzling green canopy, his immense shadow sliding smoothly along the expanse of leaves so far below.
Rose hissed to the Doctor as they sprinted, ‘We’ve got to go back! Sophia’s in danger now!’
The Doctor shook his head, looking upwards all the while. ‘We can’t.’ He cast a grim and resigned glance at Rose. ‘I’m sorry.’
Rose gave him a fierce look. ‘But we’ve got to…’ she was cut off by a mind-blowing eruption of noise and colour and light. Sparks rained down on her and the Doctor. ‘What the hell?’ she cried.
And then she saw him. The Dark One was soaring between the treetops with frightening, effortless grace, his arms spread in an emphatic, triumphant gesture, his mouth curved in a cruel smile. Beams blasted from his claws, annihilating the tranquility of the wood with a series of explosions and shattering bangs.
‘He’s destroying them,’ the Doctor murmured, shocked to death. ‘He’s destroying the trees. It’s history, this wood. He can’t just go and…’ his voice was almost dream-like.
Rose yelled at him in panic and frustration. ‘Don’t worry about that now, just RUN!’ When the Doctor didn’t move, and the Dark One’s path of destruction continued to slither dangerously towards them, Rose snapped. Her shoulder was burning and her whole body was screaming at her to get out of this place. ‘RUN, DOCTOR! FOR GOD’S SAKE, JUST RUN!!!’
He obeyed, almost mindlessly, as fire blossomed in the canopy above. At last, the pair reached the clearing in which the TARDIS stood. The Doctor shoved a hand into his chest pocket, desperately hunting for the key. Rose did the same, swinging her gaze from the Doctor to the exploding treetops to the TARDIS and back again, her legs stretched and tense, ready to run at a moment’s notice. ‘HURRY UP, DOCTOR!’ she shrieked.
‘I’M TRYING, ROSE, I JUST CAN’T FIND MY…’
He trailed off, his eyes alighting on something behind Rose, and freezing in terror. Rose turned round, both knowing and dreading what she would see.
The Dark One stood firmly upon the ground, backlit by the flickering of the fires he had created. From one long steel claw dangled two silver TARDIS keys, glinting slightly in the eerie radiance.
‘Dropped something?’ he asked.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 13: Mental SongsThe Doctor continued to stand, paralysed with fear, for a moment. Then he turned, fast as lightning. He whipped out the sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the crack between the TARDIS doors. Blue light lashed from the glowing, bulbous tip…
But the Dark One was ready. With a flick of his hand the screwdriver was torn from the Doctor’s grip. It flew through the air and landed with a soft thump at the Dark One’s feet. The warlord lifted one hobnailed boot and stamped on the device with a sickening crunch, and when the Dark One lifted his foot once more, the screwdriver was a mangled, broken, fizzling tube, bereft of life and power.
Rose eyed the Doctor, in utter despair. He slumped against the TARDIS doors, and let himself slide down the dark blue wooden surface until he hit the ground, his face cadaverous, his eyes staring hopelessly ahead.
‘Well, go on then,’ he spoke, weakly. ‘Whatever you’re going to do now.’
The Dark One chuckled. ‘Well, for a start I want to know how you escaped from the clutches of the Szaborgs. It seemed like they were never going to let you go.’
‘But they did.’ The Doctor’s voice regained a little of its former strength, and he smiled widely, if half-heartedly. ‘Did you miss me?’
The warlord seemed to appreciate the Doctor’s sense of humour. He tilted back his helmeted head and laughed. Rose was stiff and alert beside the TARDIS, her hands clenched and clammy with nervous sweat and streaks of blood from the wound on her arm.
‘You are funny, Doctor. But you’re still going to die.’
Sophia groaned her pain out to the world, trapped beneath the fallen trunk of the tree that the Dark One had toppled. Her body was paralysed and inert, her wounds bleeding freely — but her mind was spinning. Who was this Dark One? Why did he want to kill them? What was the voice inside her? And, perhaps most importantly, how come Rose also saw the light at the end of the tunnel in her dreams?
Sophia, having only death to look forward to in the physical world, sank deep into her own mind, swimming in the gentle, drifting depths of her subconscious, reaching out as swift, shimmering memories floated past.
She recalled the last time she had had the dream — a few weeks ago. The dreams were infrequent and were overshadowed by the more regular and previously more threatening rhyme visions — but they still came. They always contained rhymes as well, Sophia remembered, smiling slightly, and then wincing as a wave of hot, pulsing pain washed over her. What was it with her and rhymes? Usually she dismissed it as a quirk of her species, but whenever she thought about it on a deeper level, she knew that there was more to it than that — a truth she was not yet ready to accept, let alone dwell on.
Sophia let memories flow across her mind in the same way that blood was creeping across her matted fur. The thoughts soothed her, and Sophia felt the complex network of muscle and bone beneath her sodden skin sinking deeper into a gentle posture. Her eyelids slid shut. In the darkness of her subconscious everything was clearer and cooler, there was no hard heat pressing down on her, no stinging of cuts and wounds. Just the night.
In that second of complete peace, the dream entered Sophia’s brain, that unique cellular code which switched her to another world keying itself into neural computers, and into her head beat a slow, sinuous melody.
It’s the light at the end of the tunnel
And the storm in the blazing of heights
The rain has come down in the mountains
Forty days and forty nights
As the rhyme reached its conclusion, Sophia knew that something was happening. Something bad. The background tune had gone, and there was nothing in her head all of a sudden. Nothing at all except a presence, looming, threatening.
An image flashed across Sophia’s soul — an image of a dark wolf, snarling, its mouth curled around yellowing teeth, eyes white as the snow that twinkled around it. In one of its bristling claws it clutched the moon. Sophia watched as the hand squeezed, a crazy, shattered conflagration of flickering moonlight whirled around the creature. Its feral smile widened — its eyes were alive with sharp intelligence. It loomed towards her, grinning silently. With one brutal clench of ebony claws, the moon stopped shining and the wolf lunged…
It filled her like black, swelling juice pouring into the jug of her soul… smoke sizzled from her mouth, and her eyes ignited.
And, incredibly, a second rhyme was forced into her head by unseen hands.
Born in the Void, in the swirling womb
Chained in the Void, in the dark and the gloom
Free from the Void, to rise from his tomb
Back in the Void, to ponder his doom
Lord of destruction, bringer of night, remover of hope and eraser of light
The Battle of Balance raged on for a year
The darkness lived in eternal fear
With the song of Sunradin in his ear
He was bound never to reappear
Lord of destruction, bringer of night, remover of hope and eraser of light
He walks in time, bound by song
Wrapped in the shadows for ages long
You think he’s dead? Then you’re wrong
The Great Destroyer of Worlds lives on
Lord of destruction, bringer of night, remover of hope and eraser of light
And, with that final ominous note, the same internal hands that had fed her the rhyme picked up the soul jug by the handle, and tossed it. Sophia flashed to a mixed, insane world between dreams and reality, she saw the soul jug flitting across the air, she had four eyes, one pair white and one black, and through them both she watched dizzily as the jug shattered into a million pieces on the surface of the tree trunk pinning her to the ground, she saw the juice slop out thickly, eating into the wood, she screamed as her vision swirled… the wolf was bounding at her, its claws and teeth slicing, the moon a dark, limp sphere in its hand, it was a tornado of fur…
The tree trunk dissolved as the last of Sophia’s spirit was banished. In her stead, looming tall and undiluted upon the trembling earth, was a white-eyed, black-haired girl, resembling Sophia but obviously another person, claws as long as knives, teeth glinting like swords in the sunlight.
Black Wolf had risen again.
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Chapter 14: Paper Aeroplane‘Am I?’ the Doctor said, slowly. Rose looked into his face, searching desperately for a hint of hope in his eyes… and, to her utmost surprise, found it. She opened her mouth… and closed it quickly. If the Dark One detected a whiff of confidence in them, he could kill them instantly.
The Dark One frowned slightly, and brought down one black boot with a near silent swish. ‘Do I detect a hint of sourness in your tone, Doctor? Tut, tut!’ The Dark One pointed at the Doctor, and the Time Lord shot into the warlord’s arms like an unwilling child swept up by the crushing embrace of its father. Rose forced back a cry, and tried dizzily to haul herself upright without alerting the Dark One to her movements.
‘Tell me,’ the Dark One hissed, low and throaty, his empty eyes staring into the Doctor’s panicked, twisted face, ‘how you escaped from the Szaborgs.’ The warlord traced one cold finger up the line of the Doctor’s windpipe.
‘All right. You want the truth?’ The Doctor’s eyes were wide, his hair was scraggled like the fur of a rat, as he leaned in towards the Dark One. ‘I already said — they let me go!’
‘Lies, lies and lies again, Doctor!’ The warlord released his grip on the Doctor, who crumpled to the ground… but his face was still hot with defiance.
‘Something is going on here,’ the Dark One said, taking a step sideways, his cloak swirling about his armoured knees, ‘and I need to know what it is, so, for the last time, tell me!’
Rose was standing before the TARDIS doors now, and was frantically trying to batter them open. This did not go unnoticed by the Dark One, who vanished in a whirling of his cloak. The next moment, he was beside Rose. A claw shot upwards to grab her neck and twist. Rose crumpled, lifeless.
The Dark One turned again, his face now soft, calm and menacing. ‘I’m going to kill you, Doctor,’ he said maliciously. ‘I’m going to destroy you. No more teasing, no more merry hunts. Just your death.’
A red line of light arched from the Dark One’s hand… and snapped the Doctor’s neck. He fell.
From behind, in the cover of the tall trees, the freed Black Wolf watched with mixed emotions. The Doctor and Rose had just died. He couldn’t have prevented it — the Dark One was too powerful by a long way. But it had happened so fast… just a flick of the Dark One’s fingers, a surge of power…
But it was not his place to wonder, to dream of what could have happened. All he knew was that he must face the Dark One, for whatever reason. To join with him or to fight. And Black Wolf knew which one he would choose.
He glided from between the brown, rugged pillars with silent grace, and floated behind the Dark One. Something about that impossibly towering metal form made Black Wolf want to run and hide, but he continued forward. No birds called. The air was flat and grey.
‘Hello, Black Wolf,’ the Dark One intoned. The wolf was not surprised that the warlord knew of his presence, and straightened himself, plastering a grin of domination upon his face. He could not appear frightened. Not as if he was, but still…
The Dark One turned. His mask was cold and emotionless as usual.
‘How come I know you, and you know me?’ Black Wolf asked, carelessly, his neck stiff with pride, his claws carrying deadly power.
‘My reputation proceeds me,’ the Dark One replied. ‘I am the warlord of the night, the champion of the dark.’
The first strings of jagged hate curled like snakes inside Black Wolf’s brain. How dare this Dark One creature be so… smug?
Black Wolf hovered before the Dark One, black smoke spewing around his body, condensing into tasting, flickering tongues of power. 'Well then, warlord of the night, champion of the dark... are you going to attack me or just sit there like a lump of lard?' The ethereal wolf burnt as much venom as possible into his taunt.
The Dark One's response was quiet, sorrowful. 'You waste your strength on me... I am the Destroyer, and I cannot be defeated.'
Black Wolf shot back, 'Oh, then how come Sunradin managed?'
The Dark One's hands gripped Zangaradrim like thin, wiry vices. 'You dare speak of the Battle of Balance, of powers beyond your understanding?'
'Yes, I do!' Black Wolf cried angrily. With that, he sprang forward, his claws locking around the Dark One's neck. The Dark One threw him off effortlessly, and the shadow wolf was hurled backwards… when their eyes connected once more, Black Wolf saw there was a glint in the Dark One’s face now, a spark of wrathful, all-consuming rage threatening to ignite.
‘Beware, Black Wolf,’ the Dark One said, balefully. ‘I have been toying with you up to this point, leading a long, happy chase though woods and plains. But now the Destroyer is calling. The side of me which will incinerate you all without hesitation. Go home, back to your cage of souls.’
Black Wolf spoke through Sophia’s mouth, trying to be defiant but desperately failing to conceal the uncertainty within his voice. ‘Well then… set free the Destroyer. I’d like to see a bit of a challenge.’
The Dark One hissed, a sound which shook the hearts of all who heard it.
‘Come on,’ urged Black Wolf once more. His eyes were like stars shining in the forest. His claws clicked at the ends of slender, padded hands, thirsty for battle. ‘Show me why you’re called the Dark One!’
Instantly the warlord’s face exploded. Slivers of red metallic light danced across his steel face — Black Wolf looked round for an object that might be reflecting this light onto the Dark One, but there was no such thing. The Dark One’s mouth-hole flashed into a different position, then another, and another, and soon his entire face was a sequence of blurred, jerky images. The chain movement spread down his entire body…
Black Wolf watched as the Dark One became a whirlwind of changing postures… then the world bent, as if the laws of the universe were struggling to keep up with his constant motion…
The warlord sprang. Black Wolf tried to dodge, tried to parry with his claws, but the Dark One was too fast. One moment his sword was above Black Wolf’s head, and splitting his skull… then it was embedded deep in his stomach. The wolf cried for help, but there was nothing… only the unconscious forms of the Doctor and Rose, slumped beside the TARDIS.
The Dark One screamed in triumph as Zangaradrim bit deep into Black Wolf’s arm. The following second, all traces of the scream were gone from his mouth-hole, replaced by another. The Dark One’s flashing face was now dominated by a series of ecstatic cries. His arms were spinning as fast as light around Black Wolf’s head, slipping Zangaradrim into weak points — the neck, the shoulders, the eyes… ghostly blood poured from every nameable position on Black Wolf’s body… He was now just a living mass of agonised screeches, incapable of resistance or escape. He simply watched as the Dark One slowly began to cease his lunging, and his blows became less frequent, until at last they stopped all together. The warlord stepped backwards to admire his handiwork. Only there was nothing to admire.
There was no more skin to stab — all of Black Wolf’s former spirit-flesh was scattered upon the unforgiving grass, either dissolving or already vanished. There was no blood to draw — it was lying forlorn and trickling on the ground. Similarly, there was no bone left on him, no sinew and no soul. The Dark One had destroyed it.
Black Wolf had been obliterated.
Still not giving up, Black Wolf watched the Dark One. Somehow. He had no eyes and no brain to process the visual information, but he managed. And, in that instant, the moment when most creatures would have given up hope, the many splattered fragments of his spirit body started to float together. Black Wolf roared in triumph as his form steadily became whole once more… but his jaws closed when he saw two things.
The Dark One’s white eyes were dimmed as if invisible eyelids were clamped over the jagged holes, and his claws were swinging from side to side as if moving pieces of the air to and fro. With a jolt, Black Wolf realised that his revival was nothing of the sort. The Dark One merely wanted to restore his body so he could be killed again!
But this was not the sight that really shook Black Wolf. The real cause for his surprise was that behind the Dark One, the Doctor was standing up!
The wolf’s jaws opened slightly… but the Doctor drew a finger across his own lips. ‘Shhhhh…’ the Time Lord breathed, and swung forward one leg. His sneaker-clad feet made no sound when they slid onto the grass. He crept forward. The Dark One was oblivious to his enemy’s motion. Two TARDIS keys dangled temptingly from a strap inside the warlord’s cloak.
The Doctor’s hands locked around the two keys, and pulled gently. They came loose. Black Wolf’s mind raced… and then a grin of satisfaction swept up his face, wrinkling his muzzle. ‘Dark One,’ he intoned. ‘The Doctor has just stolen your keys.’
The warlord snapped from his trance, and whirled round to face the Doctor lividly. Black Wolf’s newly formed body rippled with excitement and contentment at the confirmation of the Dark One’s stupidity.
As he ran, he called backwards towards the Dark One: ‘I shall see you again, warlord of the night, champion of the dark, etcetera. Hopefully, next time, you will be less easily distracted.’
The Dark One turned yet again, and yelled, empowering the scream with every drop of his ancient might. ‘OBLITERATE!’ The entire forest erupted into flame, the leaves spiralling down in a blanket of sudden cinders, red skeletons of light shooting like blades of fire at the fleeing Black Wolf. Trees crumbled in seconds, piles of flickering ash marking the points where their towering trunks once stood. Branches crashed down in ruin, to be incinerated moments later. Birds gave operatic bursts of song and took flight, plume and beak and beady eye shattering, living fireworks.
Amidst the chaos and tumult, the Doctor fitted his TARDIS key into the Yale Lock upon the dark blue door, and pushed it open. The familiar green and white space greeted him, a nexus of light and warmth and snaking pillars. He threw Rose onto the floor, waking her with a start.
But he did not follow. Instead he stood there in the doorway, a block of solid defiance, looming against the shadow of the Dark One who whipped around, casting despair deep into the Doctor’s single heart.
‘I am not the Doctor,’ he said, and in his eyes flickered primal joy at letting the truth fly free at last. A shard of purest white shot from his hand, hurtling at the Dark One, blinding him. Then he was in the TARDIS… and gone.
‘CURSE YOU!’ the Dark One thundered, and faced the devastation he had created, and, in the distance, the small black shape of the spirit wolf he had fought. ‘BLACK WOLF!’ he screeched. ‘RETURN!’
A second blast of energy ripped from the warlord’s very being, but this time it was not fire or lasers. It was a key. The key slashed at Black Wolf, it penetrated his soul, reaching the cage of emptiness that lay within. The tip of the key pulled loose the door, and two souls screamed together. Separation. Sophia flopped to the burning ground, and Black Wolf was dragged backwards. ‘Sophia!’ he screamed.
Like a spear, Black Wolf hurtled away, straight into the clutching arms of the Dark One. Leaving Sophia lying upon the ash of destruction, her eyelids firmly closed, her soul dreaming, floating free upon the air of autumn.
There were no rhymes.
The Dark One’s arm swung of its own accord. His claws mashed into Black Wolf’s brain with a crunch. ‘You have…’ the Dark One sliced across the wolf’s throat with Zangaradrim… ‘no idea…’ the sword dug and twisted into Black Wolf’s stomach… ‘how much I am going to…’ the warlord ripped out the wolf’s tongue… ‘punish you…’ and cast him onto the ground… ‘for this!’ The Dark One spat upon Black Wolf’s tattered yet still breathing body, and picked up the shard of whiteness that the Doctor had thrown at him, now lying dejectedly upon the barren, mangled earth.
It was a paper aeroplane.
While his mouth-hole formed a deep, confused frown, the Dark One tore at the edges of the aeroplane, unfolding it with much anticipation.
There was a message scrawled upon the creased paper.
I am not the Doctor. I am a doppleganger created by the Szaborgs to assist their plan of universal domination. I am willing to co-operate with you and pilot the TARDIS to Lilula if you will leave Klindex alone for the time being. I know a place at which we could meet — Mount Ookan, one day exactly from now. I hope you enjoy torturing Sophia, Rose and Black Wolf or any combination of the above, depending on which of them you manage to capture during our fake escape attempt.
If I am forced to take some of them on board the TARDIS I shall deal with them. You will unfortunately not have another opportunity to capture them. In letting you take them I risk their escape and their notifying others of the plan.
P.S. Remember. One day from now, Mount Ookan.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 15: Midday to MidnightThe majestic sun of Klindex was high in the sky, and from its perpendicular perch, it stared down unblinkingly at the devastation of the forest.
The Dark One threw the paper aeroplane high in the air with a curse, and pointed a finger at it. There was a brief, sharp crack, and then pieces of white drifted down, momentarily framing the Dark One’s head in a ripped halo of fabric and light.
He needed to destroy Klindex. He needed to get revenge on the Doctor. He should break into the museum, and destroy the real Time Lord, who was obviously being held prisoner by the Szaborgs to sustain the life of the copy. But then the copy would die too. He would be left with no way of reaching Lilula, except to float across space, which would take years. By which time, no doubt, Lilula would be warned. They would call on their god…
The Dark One shivered deeply, and, just for a moment, he felt truly afraid. Sunradin. The very image rippled through his helmet, the one thing which could penetrate that cold prison.
He had to accept the doppleganger’s offer. Lilula would be obliterated. After that, he would find a way back. Definitely.
Diverting such thoughts for the present, the Dark One gazed mercilessly down upon the limp forms of Black Wolf and Sophia. It took him less than a minute to decide upon his torture plan. He would keep one half of this split soul, and force the other to run away. Not only did he have the satisfaction of toying with a life form and chasing another, he could also absorb the physical pain of Sophia’s spirit at being divided.
Smiling darkly, he made a mental note to find and visit Mount Ookan the next day, and fired a neural awakening pulse into Sophia’s mind.
Rose woke with a jolt. ‘What?’ she said dizzily.
The Doctor danced around the console, flicking switches. He cast her a grinning glance. ‘You’re in the TARDIS now. Safe and sound.’
‘But…’ Rose realised, and leapt to her feet. ‘No! I can’t keep doing this! We have to go back!’
‘Rose…’ the Doctor’s face seemed to slow and darken, like the gradual onset of thunder. ‘If you know what’s best for you, then you won’t object. All in good time.’
Rose reeled… and then froze. Perhaps the Doctor was partly right. She was getting hysterical. Slowly, she brought her bloodied hands upward to fix her head in place. She closed her eyes, and, without a word, dropped to the floor. Her body bounced twice, and stilled.
A malicious grin spread across the Doctor’s face. Smoothly, he brought a sneaker-clad foot forward, and let it hover above Rose’s shoulder, where her sword wound lay like a ripped worm of blood.
‘Running on adrenalin,’ the Doctor rasped, letting his perfect caring voice imitation drop, becoming a dark hiss like the whisper of clay. ‘Not any more.’
Smiling, the doppelganger retracted its leg and strode over to the console. He twiddled the dials, and the TARDIS gave a desolate groan, like the bone-numbing creak of an iceberg. It shot into the sky of Klindex, and then disappeared into the Time Vortex.
The doppelganger’s smile didn’t falter. ‘As the Doctor would say, allons-y!’
With a massive, shuddering gasp, Sophia jolted upright. Her head hurt so badly that she could easily liken the pain to a thousand needles being stuck through her eyes and ears. The latter pair of organs were swivelling sharply now, in much the same way as those of a wolf listening to the heartbeat of its prey.
Except Sophia’s prey had no heartbeat. As she listened, her pupils still recovering, she found she could not even classify her opponent as prey. It was too vast and cold and incomprehensible for her to even think of attacking.
Yet she had. She had been foolish enough to do so. Her memories sprinkled across her entire brain like the shards of glass which had embedded themselves in her leg.
Something turned towards her in the sightless void. Something massive and powerful. The name was amongst her shattered memories. She unearthed it: the Dark One. What creature deserved such a menacing title? More memories presented themselves, images of a shadow of despair, looming up, obscuring the sun, laughing at her powerlessness.
‘Run, Sophia Moonstone,’ the Dark One growled. ‘Use your Wolven abilities. The sensitive touch, feeling every blade of grass. The smell, gathering information, the proximity of fire, the closeness of death. The hearing, claustrophobic hammering from miles away, loving the fear of your quarry.’
The Dark One chuckled. ‘You and I are quite similar.’
Something snapped inside Sophia. ‘I’m not a monster,’ she hissed at the invisible threat.
The Dark One just laughed as Sophia blindly ran. ‘You will be, Sophia. You will be.’
Sophia crashed through the devastated forest, her usually smooth lope interrupted frequently by tree stumps and her own clumsiness. Flames surrounded her, but she could not see them. What has he done to me? she wondered, shivering, hoping with all her heart that she wouldn’t be blind forever. Her train of thought was broken as, once again, she stumbled.
In the blind, crushing darkness, smell and hearing together formed her single lifeline. She called on the power of her ears to seek out life forms around six miles away. She enlisted the aid of her seemingly normal nose to sniff the scent of fire.
Both of these senses told Sophia that there was a great concentration of life up ahead, beyond the border of the forest. Her panicked emotions giving way to curiousity, Sophia accelerated, her feet pounding again and again on the scorched, reeking grass, a complex, endless treadmill of dodging.
Smell told Sophia that she was out of the forest. The stench of burning wood and dry bark was behind her, and before her lay the unmistakable smell of a colossus of dull brick.
She had nearly reached the museum.
Spurred on by this, Sophia sprinted yet faster, all the while hoping that the Dark One was not following her. Then she dismissed that hope. Of course he was. She resolutely refused to shiver at the thought of an invisible, invincible enemy creeping up behind her.
And, before her mind could even begin to get worried at that prospect, something smashed into Sophia. Or, more accurately, Sophia smashed into something. The something gave a loud cry and fell away. She hissed at the invisible life form, as to vent her frustration at not being able to see.
It became more and more apparent to Sophia that many similar beings were standing between her and the museum. She pondered on that fact while she drove on through the cloying mess of bodies. Screams and sirens were slapping the air around her, but Sophia didn’t care about petty law. All she wanted to do at that point in time was find shelter from the horror that was chasing her.
And then it hit her.
The bodies were tourists. Hundreds of them, all clamouring away, jostling each other with hands and knees, eager to reach the museum. Up until now, Sophia had almost forgotten that the place they had visited was a tourist attraction. Of course! She hadn’t paid any notice to the signposts hanging upon almost every ceiling in the museum complex!
OPENING HOURS — MIDDAY TO MIDNIGHT.
Obscure shouts of protest and violence rang around her as Sophia pushed forward. It seemed like every tourist was now rounding on her from the horrible noises they were making.
And then, blissfully, they forgot her. They rushed forwards, shouting with delight, straight into the museum. Sophia attempted to join the flow, but was shoved by multiple hands. She lashed out blindly, her claws extended. A cry of pain told her someone had been hit. Guilt flushed her face — she hadn’t meant to hurt anybody — but was soon replaced with fear as dozens of invisible tourists broke off from the procession, jeering.
Sophia could smell their sweat, their heat and anger at being forced to wait, magnified by her attempt to push forward in the line. The first few tourists caught her glancing blows across the cheek. She thought she heard a furious scream of ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’
‘Sophia of Wolven,’ she replied, keeping her voice calm, flicking her clawed arms back and forth, deflecting blows, striking people only when absolutely necessary. She had to control her temper. She had to control her temper... had to… temper…
Something new arrived on the scene. Something muscular and powerful, bearing with it the stench of death. Sophia presumed it to be the Dark One, and gave a warning growl, edging backwards, holding out her claws. But it wasn’t him. It was slimy, and through the darkness behind her eyes it walked with an almost mechanical precision. It was causing fearful cries from the surrounding tourists.
Sophia smiled, ever so slightly, thinking, That’s all these crowds really do, isn’t it? Shout. Then even that small trace of humour was lost as a slithering, fleshy mass encompassed her face.
‘It’s all right, Sophia,’ the Szaborg Leader hissed, its voice sounding soothing to Sophia’s fading consciousness. ‘Just… go to sleep…’
Oh no, not again, Sophia thought, just before she plunged into oblivion.
A familiar voice shot into his head, systematically squeezing his brain back into life. The Doctor groaned, and tried to roll over. He couldn’t. His eyes opened, gently, wearily.
He got a shock when Sophia’s bright face blazed at him. ‘Doctor!’ she hissed again.
‘It’s all right,’ he replied. ‘I’m awake,’ he added, not really thinking about what he was saying, but rather concentrating on the motion of his pupils, taking in every detail of the room, filling in his memory blanks once more. The Doctor wondered yet again how many drugs of sleep and amnesia the Szaborgs had pumped into him. Four? Five? Or a lot more? He felt sick trying to think about it, but repressed his nausea and observed Sophia.
She was chained like him, but she had been forced to occupy a makeshift stone slab of a bed, rather than the Doctor’s comparitively comfortable Tortucle. ‘What…?’ the Doctor drew in a sharp breath. ‘They got you too… I thought you were in the TARDIS…’ More memories flooded his mind. ‘I told you to stay away from here!’ he exclaimed.
‘Nope.’ Sophia’s face was dull with anger. ‘Even if you had, I wouldn’t have done it. You know me, Doctor.’
‘Where’s Rose?’ The Doctor couldn’t help worrying about his other companion, but as soon as he said it, he knew he shouldn’t have. Sophia’s countenance flashed perilously.
‘Oh, so you don’t care about me, only Rose, then, hmmm?’ she retorted.
The Doctor’s face folded in on itself with anxiety. ‘No, no, no, shh, sorry, I didn’t mean that. I could just… see that you’re safe, that’s all.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Sophia’s voice rose once more. ‘Well what do you call these bloody spaghetti things roaming around? They keep sticking needles in me.’ She frowned. ‘And, in case you can’t quite grab what that means, I’d sort of like them to stop.’
‘Not much chance of that,’ came a shallow, creaking hiss. The Doctor twisted round as best he could, and laid eyes on the Szaborg Leader, on the opposite side of the Tortucle to Sophia, its tentacled mouths all open, wearing fleshy, sinister smiles.
‘No!’ he cried instantly, noticing the large syringe in the Leader’s hand. ‘Get away from Sophia… and me, for that matter!’
‘That goes double for me!’ Sophia put in, trying to fold her arms but desperately failing due to her cruelly restrictive chains.
‘Calm down,’ the Leader growled. ‘This lovely syringe is not intended for either of you.’ As if to stress its point, the monstrous creature delicately twirled the syringe in the air with the aid of its dextrous hand-tentacles, and propped it decoratively against one of the shattered dream cabinets.
The Doctor’s eyes darted back and forth suspiciously.
‘I have some footage for you to observe,’ the Leader explained. ‘It comes from the twin eye-cameras of your double, Doctor.’ The Szaborg’s smile widened, something the Doctor hadn’t thought possible.
‘What are you planning?’ the Doctor hissed.
‘Oh, nothing much. Just a bit of light entertainment. My kindred and I will enjoy the sight of your face.’
‘Aaaaargh!’ A sudden cry from Sophia disrupted the Leader’s sinuous threat. With great difficulty, the Doctor turned once more. Sophia was clutching in vain at her right leg with one clawed hand. ‘Oh, let me out of these chains, will you? I’ve got pins and needles!’
The Doctor couldn’t help smiling slightly.
The Leader completely ignored her, instead choosing to stride over to the screen, and switched it on with one flick of a tentacle against the polished glass. Fuzzily, the Doctor watched as his captor scrolled through menus and dials, and soon lost track of the computer’s activity. He had almost tumbled back into his artificial sleep when a soft, teasing call emanated from the general direction of the Szaborg Leader. ‘Oh, Doctor…’
Pulling up his eyelids once again, the Doctor saw the screen was ablaze with the vibrant colours of the TARDIS. He strained himself upwards. The glowing interior of the time ship looked the same as ever. One thing that did not, however, was its occupants. For a start Rose was lying unconscious on the grilled floor. Secondly, the fake Doctor instead of the real one was flinging his fingers all over the controls, grinning not from excitement but wicked anticipation.
‘Watch,’ the Leader reclined against a wall, ‘and learn.’
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 16: Cowards
Author's Notes: At last, the sixteenth chapter! I'm not nearly as proud of this one as I am of the last one... mainly because I was rushed into finishing it by TOS and RANG on MSN. Dedicated to you to. I don't mind really. :D
Anyway, in this chapter... More tourists! More romance! More waking up and falling asleep! More Dark Doctor! More squee!
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER SIXTEEN — COWARDS
Something tapped her shoulder. ‘Rose,’ a voice came. She stirred. Her clothes rustled on the grilled floor of the TARDIS. Her wound flickered back into life… she could feel the Dark One’s blade lodged there like a parasite, injecting her with poison, feeding off her life.
Rose gave a cry, and forced her hand upwards to feel her shoulder. Her fingers pressed against a tight cotton bandage, bleached scarlet. She stared up into the Doctor’s warm gaze. ‘Rose!’ he repeated. His face was brimming with concern. Anxiety dripped off his features, staining the air with tension.
‘Are you all right?’ he questioned, offering her his hand. Rose took it, groggily. ‘Yeah, I’m OK,’ she lied. Her shoulder juddered and spat. She could imagine the needle of a pain graph jolting up and down, measuring the spikes of distdistress.
‘You blacked out.’ The Doctor’s eyebrows pulled themselves upwards.
‘Yeah.’ Rose breathed heavily, hauling herself onto the car seat bench opposite the console, fully aware that she had taken exactly the same position on her and Sophia’s journey back to the museum. The journey that had not ended in the Doctor’s rescue, but merely a swap. The Doctor for Sophia. And now they had to go back again, but this time fighting an invicible enemy. The Dark One. She closed her eyes. The scenario was slowly descending into a nightmare.
She said so.
‘Oh, you’d better not have a nightmare,’ the Doctor spoke, giving an uncharacteristically twisted smile, and sitting down next to her. ‘You know what happened the last time you did.’
Rose smiled half-heartedly. The Doctor reached out and held her hand. She was surprised at its coolness, but made no comment. Time Lords probably did not get hot when running, unlike herself. She was boiling. With her other hand, she fanned herself, and pulled her red top over her head and away.
‘We’ve still got to go back, though,’ Rose told the Doctor, desperately, shaking her head, her eyes pleading with him. ‘We owe it to Sophia. She’s saved our lives so many times. We should at least…’ she was silenced.
‘Shhhhh,’ breathed the Doctor, shuffling closer to her on the bench. There was a glint in his eye. ‘Of course we’re going to go back. You need some rest first though.’
Rose stamped her foot, aware she was behaving like a petulant child, and not caring in the slightest. ‘No, I don’t! If I go to sleep again then Sophia’ll be killed before we get there!’
‘And what use to Sophia will you be like this? A wounded, shouting wreck?’ The Doctor smiled softly, understandingly, but still managing to be condescending.
‘How can you be so uncaring?’ Rose cried, pushing his hand away from her. ‘Sophia is dying out there, with some warlord monster standing over her body, and you just…’ she struggled to find the words, and instead she leapt from her seat, as if spring-loaded.
The Doctor remained on the bench, his face long and sunken. He was tired, more than he had been letting on, and he ran his fingers across his eyebrow, frustrated. ‘It’s as simple as this: live or die,’ he replied, composing himself, preparing for the retaliation.
‘How do you know that?’ Rose hissed.
‘Because I’ve seen the Dark One in action!’ the Doctor exclaimed. ‘I know what he can do!’
‘Yeah, so have I!’ Rose matched him. ‘He blew up a forest, he stamped on the sonic, and he stabbed me!’ In her unthinking protest, she ripped off the bandage and frantically indicated the deep wound. ‘But he still didn’t kill us! And d’you know why? Because he can’t. He’s a stinking great coward, hiding behind a silly mask.’
The Doctor paled. His lips moved, up and down, struggling to find an answer. ‘I’m taking us back,’ Rose decided, and she marched over to the console. Her fingers hovered over the switches. Her mascara-rimmed eyes looked fierce. But, for all her fierceness, she did not know how to fly the TARDIS. The Doctor stood shakily. ‘You’ll never get it to work.’
‘Yes I will.’ She smiled. ‘With your help. Come on, over here.’
His eyes widened. For a little more time he stood there, frozen, as if calculating his next move. Then his grim slash of a mouth slid into a long, lazy grin. ‘You’re right, Rose,’ he said, fingertips brushing listlessly along the edge of the console as he approached. ‘You’re right to be doing all of this.’
Rose laughed slightly at the uncharacteristic change of mind, and turned her back to him, fiddling with the controls. ‘I gather this screen shows us where we’re going…’ she stopped as the Doctor leaned in towards her. Her eyes widened. Their lips gently touched.
She opened her mouth once, to protest, twice, to laugh… and decided to keep her words within as he kissed her slowly.
As he tasted Rose’s mouth with his tongue, the Doctor pushed one hand deep into his pocket. Rose did not notice, instead choosing to pull him closer and sigh. ‘We really…’ she breathed between feather-light kisses, ‘…shouldn’t…’ the Doctor’s fist ascended, ‘…be doing this.’ She tried to turn away slightly.
The Doctor brought his fist behind her neck. Inside was cradled a Szaborg syringe. ‘No, Rose, we shouldn’t.’ The needle slammed into her spine.
Rose’s neck arched, and she uttered a bone-splitting scream. The Doctor threw her to the ground like an annoying child.
‘That’s you dealt with for a while,’ the doppelganger rasped. ‘It’s funny how we all seem to be popping in and out of oblivion. But after all, sleep is the Szaborgs’ biggest weapon.’ He kicked Rose once to make sure she was unconscious. ‘The kind of distractions needed to stick a syringe in…’ He stuck a few fingers into his mouth, grimacing, extricating strings of saliva, discarding them. ‘Disgusting humans.’
The TARDIS rumbled angrily. The doppelganger faced the ceiling. ‘No arguments from you, thank you very much. What were you called again, TARDY? TURDIS?’
The TARDIS screamed its rage, but could do nothing. Rivers of smoke smashed from the walls. Sparks flew as the sentient machine snapped its own wires.
‘That struck a chord.’ The doppelganger pounded the console with a hand of clay. ‘Take me to the next time the Dark One stands upon Mount Ookan, machine. And don’t be tardy.’ The doppelganger’s voice box rippled with suppressed laughter. The TARDIS had no choice: she whipped the intruder hours into the future, fuming silently. Revenge would come.
The Doctor was shouting in his shackles as he watched his duplicate kiss Rose. ‘What is the point?’ he cried, streaks of sweat flickering on his cheeks. ‘What is the point in just…’ he trailed off, taking deep breaths, leaning back.
Sophia observed him with sadness, the Szaborgs with satisfaction.
‘Thought you might enjoy that,’ the Leader said, twiddling a syringe between its finger-tentacles. ‘Though you’re going to enjoy this even more.’
‘I did not enjoy that,’ the Doctor growled, as the Leader turned its back to him and paced over to the door. ‘Not one bit, and if you harm Rose again, then I’m warning you, Szaborg Leader…’
‘Etcetera,’ snapped the Leader. Its fleshy, writhing hand played like moonlight over the door handle before wrenching it. Hinges hissed pneumatically as if the Leader’s action had been a computerised command.
On the other side of the sheet of reinforced metal stood a group of tourists. They were chained together by their wrists, necks and ankles, and could hardly move without falling over. On their different faces lay the same expressions: sheer panic.
‘What have you done to the Hall of Dreams?’ one of them exclaimed. A man, large and looming, his bulk restricted by the chains, cowed and lurking, his face dark with anger and stubble. ‘I worked on this place, I designed it, and you’ve ruined it!’
A slimy hand clenched his lips together. ‘Shhhhh,’ hissed the Leader, in such a repulsive voice that even the large man withdrew, as best he could, grimacing.
‘These, Doctor,’ the Leader grinned darkly, removing its hand from the man’s mouth, who instantly spat to wash away the taste of meaty tentacle, ‘are the agents of the future.’
‘We’re not agents!’ cried a woman. ‘Leave us alone! What are you? Some kind of kidnapping ring? Are you going to tie us like those people?’ She nodded at Sophia and the Doctor, furious.
‘Yes, they are,’ Sophia interjected, her eyes flaming with Wolven instinctive rage, her mouth a grim slash. ‘Just escape!’ The tourists’s expressions were wild. ‘They won’t let you go! They’ll never let you go!’
‘We can’t!’ the woman responded, her voice rising to a shrill apex. ‘We’re chained, we’ll never get out…’
‘Enough, Sophia!’ screeched the Leader. It turned to the bound Wolven, its head-tentacles lashing like waves on a stormy sea, its mouth glaring, a bottomless eye of tiny, chipped teeth. Sophia defiantly poked her tongue at her captor.
The Doctor sighed, pushing his head back, banishing images of a different tongue probing Rose’s mouth. His whole body seemed to contract at the thought, sinking to a livid spacial point. The feeling was nauseous.
‘Help me!’ came a cry from one of the tourists. ‘Someone, set off the alarm!’
‘The alarms are down,’ the Doctor replied throatily.
‘There must be some form of help!’ A woman twisted round her neck desperately, staring towards a window, her hopes disappearing with the realisation that the window was shuttered. ‘There are three billion people on Klindex, they wouldn’t just leave us!’
‘They would.’ The Doctor steepled his fingers, seething at the Szaborg Leader, avoiding its gaze. ‘Because all living things are cowards. I learnt that a long time ago.’
‘You should listen to the Doctor,’ the Leader rasped, even as it rapped on a wall, summoning several burly Szaborgs to drag the tourists into the Hall. ‘It’s a valuable lesson.’
‘Doctor. If that is your name,’ came a tourist’s voice. The Doctor turned. Many of their eyes were pleading with him. ‘Please help us. You’re our only hope. Stop these things. Warn Klindex…’
‘That’s enough,’ cried the Leader. A syringe slashed across the Doctor’s vision. The last thing he saw was its label. ‘Sleep and Forgetfulness’.
Nightfall over Klindex.
The sun crouched on the horizon like the failing wick of a cosmic candle. The warm, watery breeze ruffled the Doctor’s hair as he emerged from the TARDIS. He tutted when he saw the light. He and the Dark One had agreed to meet one day from when they had last talked, which was midday. This was sunset. Oh well. The Dark One had come early. He must be here: the TARDIS had calculated that this was the time of his visit to Ookan.
Sure enough, a shadow slid from the cover of the trees. A ten-foot metal shadow, with chips of blinding white embedded in its unclear face.
‘Dark One!’ the doppelganger cried, waving at the figure.
‘Take me to Lilula.’ The Dark One’s voice was a wasteland of glass, a sharp, distant breath that was torn even by the slight wind.
‘No problems there.’ The doppelganger held out a hand, smiling nastily.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Chapter 17: How Time Flies
Author's Notes: I've given in yet again to TOS and RANG's demands... and updated this. As you can see. Only this time, they didn't rush me so much, and I hope it shows.
There are a few graphic scenes in here. Nothing extreme, but enough to make me raise the rating again.
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN — HOW TIME FLIES
The Doctor’s chest was open and the Leader was playing around inside.
Sophia had been drugged into sleep, he thought through an oceanic haze of pain. She wouldn’t have to see him like this, without his shell of indifference and wit. The only company he had was the Szaborg Leader, looming above him like an avenging angel, twisting syringes and torture devices into position.
The scalpel had only been the start.
Eleven hours ago, 1:30 PM
Sophia touched her bonds miserably, her eyes sawing through the hot darkness. Her pain-ridden voice sounded like insects’ wings as they rubbed together scratchily. ‘Rose is all on her own,’ she said. She neglected to mention that they were too. The tourists had been taken by the Szaborgs on a parade across the museum, for some reason known only to their captors.
The Doctor gave a sad, heartfelt smile. ‘I wish.’
The silence yawned between them, a gulf of unspoken words, horrible truths yelling their immensity, ringing in the Doctor’s ears. This might be the end. He thought that every time he was in danger. There was a final quality to this adventure, though. If it could be called an adventure. He and Sophia were chained. Rose was the only hope for both of them, and she didn’t suspect a thing, judging from the way she had kissed the doppelganger as if it were him.
As if it were him. The Doctor faced himself. Rose had enjoyed that kiss. Something fluttered within him, an adrenalin-streaked opening of a chasm that had previously been shuttered by immense bluffs of rock.
The bluffs fell back into place. The Doctor frowned. He couldn’t be thinking about this. Humanity had corrupted him. That was all there was to it. He wasn’t in love, he was in love with the idea of being in love. Caring for someone would help wash away the sins of his past. It wasn’t for her that he longed, it was for his own forgiveness, and he couldn’t afford the luxury.
‘Doctor,’ Sophia sighed abruptly, spanning the void of quiet between them, countering the Doctor’s mental holiday with a ticket to reality. He found himself struggling to remember the last part of the conversation. ‘Please don’t go emo on me.’
The Doctor snorted. ‘When did you learn to read minds?’
‘Primary school,’ Sophia replied. When the Doctor neglected to respond to her remark, she pouted and said, ‘You don’t need to be psychic to know what’s going on in there. You’re angry at the Szaborgs. And the doppelganger.’ She rolled her eyes, pretending to be exasperated.
The Doctor jolted, assuming an even more rigid and shocked position than that which he had been holding for the last couple of minutes. ‘You know about the doppelganger?’
Sophia leaned forward over steepled fingers, her claws interlocking, her eyes fierce. ‘I’m not that stupid, Doctor,’ she spoke slowly, drawing the message out. ‘How could you be in two places at once if there wasn’t another you?’
The Doctor nodded slowly.
‘Okay,’ he said eventually, and grinned. ‘I’ll stop being ‘emo’ if you stop complaining about pins and needles.’
‘Ah.’ Sophia’s intense expression didn’t change. ‘Can’t be done.’
The smile sloughed off the Doctor’s face like a ribbon off a shelf, floating into the darkness and vanishing. ‘Why?’ He tried to incline further towards her, but couldn’t. He kept forgetting the chains. Ignoring his own pain, he spoke, a concerned glint in his eye, tilting his head to bring his ears closer to Sophia. ‘Is there something wrong?’ Before Sophia could make a snarky retort, he covered up his mistake with a hasty, ‘Apart from being tied up, that is.’
Sophia felt a bit deflated at being robbed of the chance to snap, and sighed to calm herself. ‘Yeah,’ she murmured, averting her eyes. Whenever the Doctor stared at her like this, she had to. She wasn’t irritated at this need. He had the same problems when she gazed deeply at him.
When this elicited no response, yet again Sophia had to continue herself. ‘Well… firstly there’s the pain. When I get pins and needles it feels like I’m being shot… but you know about that, so…I keep getting these flashes in my head,’ she said. In the otherwise perfect silence, the Doctor could hear everything, the tiny wet clicks as her lips moved against each other, the jagged laps of her breath, the sigh of her hair as it fanned around her face in the cool breeze from the open door, the tick of some distant clock.
‘Flashes of… well, me,’ Sophia admitted, returning her stare to the Doctor, hoping he had some kind of answer. ‘A me that isn’t me.’
The Doctor just waited for more details.
‘Black smoke all around?’ Sophia delved for a reaction, pushing further descriptions of her current condition from her voice box. ‘White eyes instead of black?’ She sank back in desperation.
‘Sophia.’ The Doctor shifted. ‘What makes you think I know what you’re describing? I’m sorry you’re in pain, but honestly,’ he gave an edgy smile, ‘these flashes… I’ve no idea what they are. Or what they mean.’
The abyss of silence reared its ugly head once more.
‘I suppose,’ Sophia muttered uncomfortably, a while later.
The Doctor felt bad. He couldn’t tell her about the cause of the pain and the flashes, but he knew. The Szaborgs, or possibly the Dark One, had managed to separate her from Black Wolf. Her soul was divided, and so her whole body hurt. Her brain kept imagining the wolf, trying to bring him back through thought alone.
If she knew about Black Wolf, she would probably take desperate measures to escape. And then the Szaborgs, sensing something wrong, would torture the information out of her.
Four hours ago: 7:30 PM
Sophia and the Doctor had not spoken since. Neither of them understood why: it seemed natural. Sophia had told him everything she knew about the pain which was writhing all over her. He had provided no answers. There was nothing further to say or do. She sat numbly, her chin between her knees, this position putting strain on both her bonds and her body. She didn’t care.
The Doctor observed the way she was wasting away, and felt his heart once again leap against the cold weight of the bluffs that closed the chasm of emotions buried within him.
He had to tell her about Black Wolf. It wasn’t fair on her. But the torture that would inevitably follow her realisation… that was fair? No. The Doctor was restless with indecision, his body a sweating mass, contradicting the obvious frigidity of the air and the darkness of the sunset.
On the peak of Mount Ookan, the Dark One stepped forward, and came within stabbing range of the doppelganger. But he did not draw his sword. This time, the Dark One limited himself to scaring.
The doppelganger’s hand fell. He shrugged, all the while smiling. ‘I won’t hold it against you. Not many creatures like holding lumps of clay. It’s been statistically proven.’
The Dark One pointed at the doppelganger, who stared expectantly at the finger. When the warlord made no move, the doppelganger shifted uneasily. ‘If you’re going to blast me, get on with it,’ the clay man rolled off its tongue. ‘Go ahead and blow your only chance of revenge.’
‘I’m not,’ the Dark One responded hollowly. It was the only thing he could say. He was angry, though. The doppelganger had provoked his temper with its witticisms. He flexed his finger, and the doppelganger was lifted off its feet and slammed against the doors of the TARDIS.
‘No more of that,’ the Dark One whispered, radiating pure, wriggling malice. The doppelganger shrugged casually.
‘Can’t promise it,’ it replied, as the warlord released his grip. Before the Dark One could resume the attack, he had slipped inside the TARDIS, and had called, ‘You coming or not?’
The Dark One drew in an icy breath of anticipation and stepped into the Doctor’s time machine.
One and a half hours ago, 10:00 PM
The tourists still hadn’t returned from their expedition around the museum.The Doctor wondered with increasing panic what the Szaborgs were doing to them. Wny had the Leader referred to them as the agents of the future? Were they to be the slaves of the promised Szaborg Empire? The Doctor instantly dismissed the thought: there were too few of them.
‘Sophia,’ he murmured, trying to part the darkness with blurry waves of his hands. He could just about see her outline, hunched upon her stone slab. Her back was rising and falling. He cursed. She was asleep.
Another rise of her body revealed a long thin object protruding from her shoulder. The Doctor squinted... and then recoiled in shock.
It was a syringe, and it was being held by a swirling, ungodly mess of limp fingers. The Doctor watched, paralysed, as the Szaborg Leader emerged from the darkness, pulling the syringe roughly out of Sophia’s side, its eyes hard diamonds of refracted light.
‘Not shocked at all, are we?’ the Leader hissed, attempting a pleasant tone. Tonight it seemed to be driven by an emotional fire. Every footfall was a slap to the Doctor’s groggy state, every movement of a tentacled hand was forceful and furious.
‘What was that for?’ the Doctor cried, seeing a thick string of blood dribble across Sophia’s shoulder and down her arm.
‘Well you wouldn’t want her to see this, would you?’ the Leader growled, ducking beneath Marculus’s Tortucle to pick up some unknown object. The Doctor’s eyes widened in horror long before it was revealed. He sensed the Leader’s intent, felt it drilling into his marrow…
The Leader shook its tentacles around, readying itself, murderously fingering the long, narrow implement before swinging it round in a sickeningly precise arc, and embedding it in the Doctor’s chest.
Now, 11:30 PM
The Doctor continued to scream.
The lines the scalpel had traced over an hour ago were raw and slippery with blood. The Szaborg Leader had finished with the knife. The Doctor assumed that it had become boring. It was now in need of more ruthless and exciting instruments of pain.
It was currently fitting these to an arch of metal which it had pinned to the floor. The arch began on the ground behind the Doctor’s head, stretched up and flowed over him in a line parallel to his body, before descending at the other end of the Tortucle.
The Doctor gritted his teeth. He would probably pay dearly for it later, but he just had to comment, vent his anger and pain.
‘Had any tourist trouble?’ he managed to force out, before screaming again as the Leader viciously hooked a tentacle beneath one of the scalpel cuts and pulled at the flap of skin. He nearly passed out.
‘At first,’ the Leader said matter-of-factly. ‘But now they’re co-operating splendidly.’
The Doctor’s eyes flashed suddenly in the dark. The Leader returned his gaze, and the flash died into nothing. The Doctor rolled his head back once more, and moaned. ‘If you’ve hurt them…’
‘It’s always ‘if’ with you, isn’t it?’ the Leader hissed, slotting poison cartridges into a torture device with almost savage haste. ‘I’ll be glad when the doppelganger’s done its job, and we no longer need you alive to sustain it.’
‘Me too,’ the Doctor growled, pure hatred thumping through his veins.
‘Well,’ the Leader continued, pulling off the safety catch of the poison gun, ‘you can find out yourself in a while. Whether we've hurt them, that is. They’re going to come in, and they’re going to see you, a pathetic, wounded mess.’ It stretched out the words in its obscured mouth, as if the syllables were strands of spaghetti to be sucked into the throat and chewed to pieces. ‘Will you be able to bear it?’
‘How they see me doesn’t matter,’ the Doctor spat defiantly. ‘So long as they beat you in the end, I’m happy.’
The Leader laughed, all malice and no humour. ‘That’s really likely, isn’t it? A bunch of tourists against the might of the Szaborgs.’
The Doctor’s lips were torn open in another yell of agony as one of his wounds sent out a particularly strong surge of pain.
‘They’re going to rebuild the dream cabinets, with added doors,’ the Leader revealed on a whim, stroking a finger along the barrel of the poison gun, suddenly brooding. ‘Then the living dream your funny girlfriend had so long ago shall be replayed again and again. A living dream about Szaborgs equals Szaborgs. They won’t need to break the glass this time: there’ll be exits.’
‘Why the tourists?’ the Doctor cried. ‘Why not build them yourselves?’
The Leader whipped a tentacle across the Doctor’s face, shoving it to one side. ‘Because we can’t be bothered,’ it breathed, its snapping maw mere inches away from his complexion.
The Doctor moaned. He wished with every cell in his body that the torture would end. But it hadn’t even started.
Half an hour later, midnight
The Leader had left the Doctor alone for the moment, and had begun attending to more pressing matters. Mainly meaning the rebuilding of the dream cabinets. The tourists had long since been frogmarched into the room, and were now picking up glue guns and hinges, metal frames and, ultimately, the new sheets of glass which would fit into them.
The Leader spared a moment to step up beside the Doctor in the complete darkness and tap him on the shoulder.
‘Enjoying the show, Doctor?’ it leered.
‘No,’ he replied. He wasn’t really concentrating on the Leader. He had just received a pleading glance from one of the tourists, and had returned it with a wink.
The Doctor had a plan.
‘They should be ready by dawn,’ the Leader rasped, oblivious to his plotting, enjoying the reaction on his face. The reaction of terror, of despair and misery. The reaction he was faking. ‘And then the Empire begins.’
The Doctor nodded wordlessly, crazy, mixed thoughts of hope and anticipation cutting through the pain of his scalpel wounds. Dawn.
How time flies. He mulled over the phrase. It did seem to be true. He was glad of this. If time had seemed slow during his brief torture at the tentacles of the Szaborg Leader, then he doubted he would have survived that terrible period. Still. It was over now. There would be no more agony.
At least, if his plan succeeded there wouldn’t be.
The Doctor ran it over one last time in his head, calculating the likelihood of success, smoothing its rough edges with reassurances. Even amidst the pain, he couldn’t help experiencing a burst of pride and hope. This was what he was born to do, and he was doing it magnificently.
The probability of winning and losing popped into his head like a bullet from the barrel of a gun. An unfortunate comparison, since a similar weapon was currently hovering over his neck like a storm cloud threatening to break. Still, it would have to do.
Fifty per cent chance of success, and an equal chance of loss. The Doctor smiled with blood between his teeth. It was enough. It was more than he deserved.
That was when he would strike.
That was when everything would be decided.
The Doctor settled down to wait.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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