Controller

by HonorH [Reviews - 16]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Character Study, General, Standalone

Author's Notes:
The Controller from "Bad Wolf" is one of my favorite unsung heroines of the series. I wondered what her story might be, and this is what came of that.

Her name is Lily. She had a mother.

These are two things no one else knows. They assume she was bio-engineered, perhaps given a number for a designation, and slipped smoothly into place when the old Controller for Satellite 5 died.

She knows differently. She was born of a woman and given a name. She remembers.

She and her mother had a flat in New Devon. Not much, but then, nobody except the very rich had anything more. She doesn’t remember the sky, not very well; by that time, the Atlantic dust storm had blotted most of it out. She remembers outside as being cold and unfriendly. Inside, though . . .

Her mother sang and made something sweet and hot to drink. The sound and taste elude her now, but she remembers the comfort. She remembers love.

When she was five, a transmat beam took that away.

No one ever told her why she was chosen, but she’s come to understand that she is unique. The Controllers are geniuses born, their brains able to handle the flow of information required of them. With modifications, of course. She’s as good as blind, her visual cortex co-opted for information routing. Most of her other senses are gone, too, though she can still hear. It’s necessary for the job.

She can feel pain, and does, every moment of every day. That’s not necessary for the job. It’s just a byproduct. Unavoidable. There’s not a moment her head doesn’t ache and her flesh doesn’t sting from the plugs that keep her alive and hooked into the system. If there were a way to avoid it, her masters would likely dismiss it as superfluous.

After they took her, they made her over to suit their needs. She remembers screaming for her mother as cold hands encased in gloves dragged her down a corridor and into an operating room. When she woke from the anesthesia, she started screaming again, this time from pain.

They had installed her. That was when she met her masters.

YOU ARE NOTHING. YOU WILL SERVE US.

My name is Lily, and I want my mummy!

Her masters tried to tame her with pain. They chased away every memory she tried to cling to, every emotion except fear, because they could use that. For many years, they seemed to succeed.

She waited, and she waits still.

Perhaps they overshot their reach with her, took a supergenius where a mere genius would do. Or perhaps she simply had more to hang on to. Whatever the reason, they didn’t manage to eradicate her individuality completely.

At first, it was just two things she tucked away deep in her mind: Her name is Lily, and she had a mother.

A third thing joined them some time later, perhaps after years had passed (she can’t tell how long it’s been):

Anger.

Anger at the loss of her mother, anger at the technicians who keep her alive in this state, anger at the human race for being so blind, yet not even having the excuse of a burned-out visual cortex. But she reserves her best anger for her masters.

***

Anger sustains her now that her plans are finally in motion. She hardly keeps it a secret anymore; her masters think they’ve beaten her. They stopped noticing her long ago. They listen to their Controllers only for certain words and phrases, any hint of rebellion. They don’t understand emotion.

It was when she discovered how little she meant to them that she realized she had a measure of freedom. She could see more than they imagined, even with all the information pouring through her. She watched; for years, she watched.

And then she found it.

It was one word, a name or a title, that got tucked into her mental box next (with her name and her mother and her rage). During the all-too-brief times she’d be taken offline for “maintenance,” she would examine this one small fact, turn it over and over in her brain while sifting through other information she’d gathered, plotting her next move.

More than five years would pass before she found what she was looking for. A mention of his name in an archive that had been imperfectly deleted. A description.

“Doctor,” she whispered as technicians adjusted the flow of nutrients to her body and neurotransmitters to her brain. They paid her no mind, as usual.

Back online, she searched. Any stray transmissions that wandered her way were examined, turned over and over even as numbers scrolled across her vision. She sent out transmissions of her own, disguised as signals meant for the planet below.

And finally, she found him.

She waits. The timing must be perfect. If he reacts in the way she expects him to, it will only be a matter of hours before he finds her, and she won’t be able to speak to him if he gets there too soon or too late. She’s patient. Rage like hers is in no hurry for vengeance; it wants to savor it.

The time is right. She reaches out with her transmat beams and pulls in the Doctor and his companions. They must be hidden in the games, and separately, lest they alert her masters to their presence.

She waits.

Her staff grow concerned. They know something isn’t right. She brushes off their fears, knowing that they’ve become so complacent, so obedient, that none of them will question her too deeply. She despises them for it when she can be bothered to.

She waits.

The staff is yelling that he’s coming. She locks her mind against them, not allowing the box in her mind to open even a crack. Her masters will see. Their plans are so close to fruition that they’ve become more vigilant in monitoring their Controllers. So she holds back the surge of joy that wants to rush through her as the Doctor storms the control room. It’s not quite time, not quite time . . .

And then it’s time. Solar flares erupt, and the noise in her head is silenced. Normally during a time like this, she would think only of her name and her mother, cherish them like the treasures they are.

This time is different. She calls for the Doctor, and he answers. She hears the anger in his voice, a match for her own, and everything she’s been holding onto comes pouring out. It’s an information dump; she can’t listen to his questions, can’t give what she’s saying coherent form, because her masters have stripped so much away from her.

She holds onto her fury as she betrays her masters to the one they have named as their enemy. But before she can complete her betrayal, the flares end. She didn’t have enough time.

Perhaps she gave him enough. Perhaps he can find them even without her help.

Then she hears the Doctor’s friend (file: Jack Harkness on What Not to Wear) tell him that Rose (file: Rose Tyler on The Weakest Link) is alive, but she’s been taken from them.

Another girl, taken from those who love her by her masters.

My name is Lily. I had a mother.

Nothing will be left to chance. They’ll kill her, but better to die than to endure their existence, their presence in her mind, a moment longer. She gathers her strength and completes her betrayal, giving up the coordinates of her masters.

Their reaction is instantaneous. The pain center in her brain is activated, and she’s in agony. Every cell in her body feels like it’s on fire, but she rails against it, defying her masters.

Dimly, she hears the Doctor’s voice, commanding her to stop, they can see her, they’ll kill her--

He doesn’t understand that it only drives her on. For the first time since her masters took her, someone cares whether she lives or dies. She’s screaming the coordinates now, almost done--

For the second time in her life, a transmat beam rips her from her life. The first time, it delivered her to a living prison, a waking nightmare. Now it delivers her to her death.

It doesn’t matter. The Doctor should be able to work out the rest of the coordinates, and once he does, once he sees them . . . what she’s seen in her masters’ minds convinces her that he will be the one to take vengeance for her, and for the human race.

Her flesh is raw, her muscles spasming painfully, but it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter because they’re not in her head anymore. She’s free.

My name is Lily. I had a mother.

She still can’t make sense of visual stimuli, but she hears something coming toward her. Her former masters, she knows. Not her masters anymore. She will greet them on her feet. Fierce joy pulls her upward, and she’s giddy with it, giddy with her freedom, giddy with the knowledge of what she’s done.

“Oh, my masters,” she says. “You may kill me now--for I have brought your destruction.”

As the Dalek’s beam hits her, she thinks she hears her mother calling her name.