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…