Sophia’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…