In the end, they split into two parties. The Doctor, Jack, Jay, Cerulean and a couple of adults head up towards floor 500, whilst some of the others take the kids and keep hunting for trinkets. Jack thinks 20 million is an unreasonable target, and he knows the Doctor thinks the same. A problem for later, but one that needs addressing before they go.
The Doctor grabs Jack and pulls him aside as they head for lifts. “If these things aren’t corporeal, the glasses won’t register them. Stay close.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he acknowledges the order, but this time he sounds more like his old military self.
They head out of the room in a group. The Doctor takes point and, despite the instruction, Jack falls back to take the rear. Cerulean takes up position beside him, he recognises the sound of her voice as she says goodbye to the children clustered around the door. Jack gives her one of his smiles. “Cerulean. Pretty name.”
“Stop it!” the Doctor calls back to him.
“I’m just saying hello.”
“Well, don’t. We’re busy.”
“She’s jealous,” Cerulean observes softly. “It’s ok. I’m married anyway.”
“We’re not-” but she’s already taken a couple of steps forward to join the rest of the group. Jack doesn’t know what to say, so in the end he doesn’t argue further, just follows.
They enter the control centre. The lights still work surprisingly, and the room is bathed in a cool glow that picks out the furniture in the centre and leaves sinister black shadows. It looks exactly like it did the last time they were there. Jack stops for a moment to look at the long computer banks breaking up the large rectangular room. He’d spent days crouched in front of these, trying to get one of them to send a communication to Earth for rescue.
The Doctor is in front of the raised stage, looking up at the disused dangling plasma cables. She turns away after the moment, and looks at the door that had led to archive 6. She lays a hand against the palm panel. Nothing happens.
She’s about to start using the sonic to enter the room, when the main lights flicker. Jack doesn’t notice that, but he becomes aware of everyone turning in unison. Then all the computers whir to life at once with a buzzing hum.
“I suppose this means we’re in the right place,” Jack notes.
The Doctor turns her sonic from the door to the computer bank. She scans for a long moment. “Huh.”
“Huh nothing. There’s nothing there. It’s not even registering that the computers are on.”
Jay and the others have gathered at the door, but Jay moves further into the room as the Doctor heads for a computer bank. “Don’t touch it!”
The Doctor already has her hand over the keyboard. “Why not?”
“They get into your mind. Drive you mad.”
She wrinkles her nose, but obligingly pulls back, at least a little and kindly doesn’t point out that Jay had claimed the ghosts were only a story a mere half hour ago. “Can you hear me? Whatever you are?” she says.
The computers flare brighter.
Jack draws a little closer to her. “Anything?” he murmurs.
“I know you’re here. Can you tell me who you are? What you want?”
There’s another hum, a whine, and the room is plunged into darkness.
Over by the door there are a few gasps and cries. The Doctor ignores them. She looks up at the ceiling for a long moment and pulls in air between her teeth. Then she clearly makes her mind up and takes a single step forward.
Since the sunglasses the Doctor has given him work psychically, the dark doesn’t affect them. Jack realises what she’s going to do and a sudden fear seizes him. “Doctor!” he cries out.
“It’ll be fine.” She’s already reaching for the keyboard. She taps a few keys at random and there’s a lightning flash of blue. For a long moment her outline glows cyan, her hair stands on end; for a few seconds her skeleton can be seen, two hearts clearly beating behind ribs. A smell of burned toast fills the room.
Then the glow dies and she turns back to Jack. When she speaks her voice is rich, musical, like a dozen voices speaking at once.
“You have finally brought us what we need.”
The lights come back up. The Doctor’s coat is singed at the edges. Her smile is viciously triumphant. “Not anymore. We are the dead of Satellite 5. We are still working, still doing the jobs they programmed us to do, but now we’ll rest, go home.”
“You can’t go home,” Jack argues. “Your home is gone. It’s been 200 years.”
“No. We will find them. People are here to collect us, they will take the hard drives to Earth, we will find people to carry us, find people to take us until we can find our families.”
“We have to.” Jay interjects from the doorway. “We have to take the machinery home, it’s our only hope of getting enough credit together to be able to get off Earth.”
“Even if it does this?” Jack says angrily.
“Who cares!” snaps Cerulean. “They deserve it. Let the ghosts have them. Maybe they’ll do better.”
Jack needs back up. He lunges forward and grabs the Doctor’s wrist and slams it back down on the computer. She laughs, a high cracked sound that raises the hairs on the back of his neck.
“You thought it would be so easy to get us to give up this body?”/”It’s exactly this easy,” the Doctor says in her normal voice and then, “Jack! Let go of me!”
Seconds later, she’s glowing that unsettling colour once more and staggering backwards. She crashes into Jack and he steadies her instinctively. She shakes her head violently. “Right, well, that was quite weird.”
“You ok, Doctor?”
“I’m...hmm. Bit wobbly,” despite her words she pulls herself up straight and turns back to the computer. “Oh, stop sulking,” she says to it. “I’ve picked up enough from you to understand you have a genuine grievance. We’ll sort something out.”
The computer gives another petulant hum.
“Turn the lights back on so we can talk,” she demands.
“I mean it. I want to help you. You must have sensed that when you took me over - something you should probably ask before you do, by the way - but I refuse to plan in the dark.”
The lights grudgingly come on.
“Thank you.” The Doctor turns to the huddled group by the door. “It’s alright. You can come in. They’ll behave themselves.”
“Can you get rid of them?” Jay demands.
The lights dip warningly.
“I can help them to find forms of their own,” the Doctor answers. “I know who they are now.”
“I’m still lost,” Jack admits.
“They’re the dead of Satellite 5,” the Doctor repeats simply. “Back when this place reported news, the journalists had chips put in their heads to allow data to stream through them. But the station had been taken over by a creature called the Jagrafess. It was killing anyone who suspected its existence, but because of the chips in their head they were able to keep working at the computers doing administration tasks.”
Cerulean laughs. “Typical Earth mentality. Are you sure it was this Jagra-thing? Keeping us working even after we die, sounds exactly like my boss back home.”
“Well, these chips did more than that. They formed a backup of the person, a digital download of their memories, beliefs, personality, everything. It was a safety feature originally, in case of a power surge in the newscasting machinery causing damage to the brain.”
Jack tips his head to the side. “So...they’ve been in the machine all this time? No wonder they’re unhappy. I was here for about three months and I was about ready to kill if that’s what it took to get a ride.”
The Doctor shakes her head again, hair whipping about her chin. “Well, yes. But they were just junk files. Then the daleks came, hooking themselves into the system, searching for the bits of humanity they could use.”
“And that woke them up?” Jay asks. He turns his attention to the computer. “They’re dalek!?”
“They’re human,” the Doctor says firmly. “But the daleks woke them up and then these Broadcasters of yours reminded them of home. They’re using this Satellite to beam the bulletins around the world. This place is being used as a huge deflector.”
“So when they asked us to strip it…”
“The dangers of an elite class that has nothing to do with the means of production. They’re so anxious to acquire more and more and more they haven’t realised that they’ll cannibalize themselves. When you strip this place down, no matter how much you get or don’t get they’ll no longer be the only voice to be heard, and certainly all those voices won’t be in unison. Finally, humanity should be able to have debate and critical thinking again. And, this place still has all of Satellite 5’s history files. The ghosts have them. We’ll drop them into Earth’s datastream so everyone has access to human history, packaged for an Empire instead of for the biases of one little planet. Between that and an enforced broadcasting cessassion...I think you should be fine.”
“Except for the ghosts.”
“Well, I have a fix for that too. They want form and family, that’s all. They don’t care about Earth, not really. Jack and I will take them to the Solitract. They have no form so won’t be able to destabilize the Solitract plane and the Solitract will be able to give them whatever they want and then maybe neither of them will be so lonely.”
She beams, pleased with herself.
“So all we have to do is move them?”
“That’s the only problem. They can stay in these computer systems, because it’s where the software supporting them is, or they can be uploaded to a real living brain.”
Jack breathes in, deep and slow. Determined. “They can use me.”
“I’m offering, Doctor.”
She folds her arms across her chest and tilts her chin but before she can say anything. Jack cuts across her again.“I’ve never doubted you, Doctor; never will. If you’d let them in your mind, I trust that.”
She has rarely been so proud of anyone, even if she didn’t have a solution she would refuse, it’s the principle of the thing. She would take them herself. The ghosts are powerful and harmonious, but they are nothing to a Time Lord mind. She smiles up at him like a proud parent. “It’s ok,” she says. “We won’t take them in the TARDIS. I’ve got the settings stored in the sonic, we’ll open a portal to the Solitract plane from here and just send them right through.”
It takes only a few hours. The lights dim every now and again, speaking of impatience and anxiety, but each time the Doctor bullies or cajoles and finally, she is satisfied with whatever it is she has been rigging up. She opens the door to archive 6 with a flourish and steps through and...disappears. Jack taps at the side of the glasses, but they are definitely still registering shapes, she’s just gone.
He waits for a heartstopping 5 minutes and then the Doctor is back, smile wide and happy. She steps back to the keyboard. “OK, people, I have the perfect place for you. My friend is going to look after you and you’re going to live happily ever after.” This time the whine of the machinery is like enthusiastic children, a noise that makes Jack bounce on the balls of his feet with an excitement not his own. “Come on,” the Doctor lays her hand down flat on the keyboard.
“Thank you for your help,” she says in that musical voice and walks across the room.
This time she doesn’t step through the door into whatever the nothingness is, just holds her arm out into it. The glow isn’t as extreme, but this time it is a rainbow of colours: aquamarine, lemon, sage, violet, carmine all flickering and sparking against one another. As Jack watches, she actually levitates a few inches and then, with a gasp, it’s done.
“Good bye,” she says softly, and shuts and locks the door.
“Is that it?” Jay asks.
“Is it done?” Cerulean follows.
The Doctor sighs a sigh of pure contentment. “Everything fixed,” she says. “All you have to do is strip this place down and watch the world change.”
Jay beams back. “Done,” he answers.