“You don’t understand!” Simon was saying to the Doctor. “I know what I’m doing, you see! I have a plan! We did our research on you. You never have a plan. He doesn’t know, you see, that I know that he doesn’t have a brain! Time’s all gone wrong, hasn’t it? All smashed like broken glass. The Simon he was, he didn’t have the life I did. Things are different for me than they were for him. So it’s fine for me to play along, until I figure out how to take his place!”
“It’s funny,” said the Doctor, “because you, I can see that you do have a brain. You just don’t have much luck with actually using it.”
Simon laughed at that. “Come, now!” he said. “I’ve built an empire, haven’t I? You don’t do that without knowing a thing or two. So many times, people told me how I’d never make it. I’ve become quite accustomed to proving that sort of thing wrong.”
The Doctor smiled sadly, and Simon didn’t react well.
“Are you pitying me?” he said.
“No! Well. A bit. It’s just I’m used to it, now. People who build something, or venerate it, until it’s too big for anyone to comprehend. Who think they’re winning, because of their part in all that’s appened, and who know there’ll always be a place for them because they’re the smartest person in the room. But what they create — what you’ve created — well, it isn’t a person, is it? And just because a man breeds a lion, doesn’t mean it can’t turn around and eat him.”
“You’re underestimating me.”
“Probably. And you’re underestimating it. That’s the thing about you. You’re so used to winning, you don’t realise you can lose, and you’re so familiar with getting what you want you don’t notice when things aren’t going to go your way.”
Simon laughed. “That’s what I said about you, isn’t it? Is that an exact quote?”
“It’s one of my skills,” said the Doctor with a smile.
“Ha! Maybe there’s a use for you after all, Jean Smith.”
“It’s John now, I think. I used it by accident; made me realise how much I’d missed it. You can’t go letting people tell you what names you can and can’t use,” she said. “It’s the 21st century, some of the time.”
“Well, John…” Simon sighed heavily. “I know you don’t like people like me. The investors, the men at the top. And I’ve never bothered to be such a likeable chap. But from what I saw, in the files we had on you, I’m not sure you’ve ever given us a chance.”
“You set a Cyberman on my friend.”
“And before that we gave her a job. I started out at the bottom, you know; it was easier then, but still damn hard. And I remember the first day I was in the shop realising that there was no one behind it all; no one person controlling everything. There was just this system of people getting by for themselves, and it all worked better than anything even you could make. Of course, later I learned that people were behind some of it. Making silent decisions, so it didn’t go off the rails.”
“It’s not just me you think of as a god, is it?”
“Well, the company needed me. Don’t you see that? That it needed me?”
“A shark would say that the little fish need him, too.”
“You’re pompous to the end.”
“And you’ve imprisoned me in this tasteless room. I’ve earned a bit of judgement here.”
“And that’s what you’re all about, isn’t it? Judgement.”
The Doctor smiled at him, a quick, warm smile no one else would have given to an enemy.
“I said I’ve earned it. I didn’t say anything about using it. You’ve told yourself the story you needed to survive. I’m the last person who gets to call out a thing like that.”
Simon Jones hid his emotions well, but you could tell he was genuinely surprised.
“As long as you know you did believe in something,” she went on, “then that’s enough for now. ‘Cause all I’m asking is for you to do something impossible.”
“I’m asking you to believe in me.”
“SIMON!” came a loud voice from nowhere. “It looks like you’re getting very comfortable with our guest.”
Simon laughed in an uncomfortable way.
“Just biding time, Simon! Conversation, you know, warming up the saliva! Just what we need before enjoying some really good whisky–“
“Oh, the whisky’s off, I’m afraid. Afraid it didn’t have much of a nose. I, on the other hand, possess a very great number of ears“–
The screens all flicked on at once, each showing the older Simon’s face with a horrible grin. But where his forehead should have begun the whole of his face just stopped, giving way to a total flatness past which nothing rose up at all. You no longer needed to be a Time Lord to see that there was no brain in his skull.
“You heard,” said his younger self. “Of course you did.”
“Oh, I didn’t need to,” said the Simon on the screens. “I’ve known all about your plan for quite some time. I thought it was funny! It’s just, you know, you can’t keep on talking to yourself forever before you start going a little mad. And besides, now the Doctor’s here, I’ve got myself a new pet to go running around and pretending it’s got its own agency.”
“I’ve gone more than just a little mad, haven’t I?” said the younger Simon sadly. “And I always thought I was such a rational man.”
“Well, you know what they used to say on the board, Simon. We always did have our head in the clouds.”
“What he means by that,” said the Doctor, “is that he’s uploaded his brain to a distributed computer. That he’s in everything mechanical in here, controlling it. And that he’s going to try and kill you with your own furniture.”
“You got that from what he said?”
The Doctor shrugged. “I’m very clever.”
“Cleverer than I’d bargained for, perhaps. But I’m not sure it’s enough.”
The younger Simon listened sadly to his older self chuckling to himself on the screens, as the mechanical parts of his chairs began to click and creak. The table in the centre of the room glowed red and eyes flashed unexpectedly on a vase, and he began to think it had been a bad idea to agree to make so much of the flat automated.
One piece of machinery still obeyed him, at least. He pulled out the sonic screwdriver he had shown the Doctor, and waggled it sadly in his hand.
“You should know, Doctor. The last you… it didn’t end well for them.”
“It’s a good job, then,” she said, rolling up her outfit’s sleeves, “that I’m not the last me. “More supermarket experience. Better taste in hats. And most importantly of all”–
She took the other screwdriver out of his hands.
“Two whole sonic screwdrivers,” she said with a grin. “You know what people say, when they hear a Time Lord work more than one of these?”
“No!” shouted Simon as both instruments began to whine.
“Nobody does,” said the Doctor. “And you’re about to find out why.”
The screens with the older Simon on them broke off the walls, propelling themselves into the air with electrostatic force. Metal struts ripped from furniture and knives began to zoom in from the kitchen, swiping at Simon and the Doctor as the multiple objects took on a single form. The Doctor yelled something, and before anyone could hear it her screwdrivers began to twist and amplify a ghastly and unlistenable sound…
...the scene unfolded in the younger Simon’s ears, a raw and endless roar of aural violence. He thought about what he’d said to his older self, what they’d thought the trapped Doctor would do. And as she smashed a grinning vase with the amplified meow of a cat, he found himself longing for the days he’d imagined that the world could be predictable.