|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #14 - "Endless Night"
"Ladies and Lords"
by M. Elizabeth
HOLDING BACK LIGHT
The Paracastrians strapped Angela roughly to an operating table. As one released its hand from her mouth, she screamed out for help, but a gag was quickly placed across it to silence her. The aliens worked as one, preparing medical instruments, testing surgical tools, bringing lights to bear on her head and chest.
Another laboratory, another time...
Sharp metallic objects poking into her skull...
Her neural implants being reprogrammed...
Angela struggled futilely against her bonds. An alien face, the upside-down face of a native Paracastrian peered over her, and then a whirring metallic object hovered into view before being lowered slowly, slowly, towards her skull...
* * *
"Doctor... are you all right?"
The Doctor opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling. "Grace..."
"... Kelly?" Wil quipped, then immediately regretted it. Luckily, the Doctor's mind seemed to be off in its own little world (as it so often was), and he didn't seem to have heard.
"I heard Grace ... calling out to me." The Doctor sat up with a speed that caused Wil to jump back. He slowly turned and stared at Wil with his piercing blue eyes. "Grace is in trouble," he whispered. "I heard her calling telepathically to me — she and the TARDIS once shared a telepathic bond, you know." Wil nodded dumbly. The Doctor leapt to his feet. "The bond was severed, but somehow the TARDIS is picking up her thoughts and relaying them to me. Her thoughts must be being amplified telepathically at her end. Something is very wrong here."
"You're telling me," Wil replied, then turned an eye slowly to gaze at their two guests, who in turn were eyeing the time travellers suspiciously.
"What are you two up to over there?" Hal called out anxiously.
"Nothing!" the Doctor replied pleasantly. Out of the corner of his mouth he whispered, "I've got a very bad feeling about this. If whatever is attacking Grace is telepathically-oriented, these two may be carriers planning to infest other planets. We can't allow them to reach Universal III. Distract them while I reset the coordinates." Wil nodded dumbly, just as Hal leapt out of his seat, waving his gun angrily around the console room.
"What are you doing? Show me our coordinates!" the madman demanded.
"How about if I show you my knife juggling act?" Wil asked, in a pathetic attempt to distract the man. "Or cigar boxes?" He edged between Hal and the Doctor. "I also juggle flaming torches, babies, bowling balls — well, weightless ones — and--"
Hal shoved him roughly out of the way, and the Doctor, smiling, turned to face their captor. "Nothing to worry about; we're nearly there." He twisted a dial on the console, illuminating a hologram of the interstellar neighbourhood on the ceiling. A red line marked their course, and the blue dot that represented the TARDIS inched nearer to a star marked "Universal." Hal gaped up at the ceiling in awe — or perhaps glee at almost reaching his destination.
"--women's underwear," Wil finished, lamely. He felt a soft touch on his arm and whirled around, startled. Surreptitiously, Deborah had approached him, and was now stroking his arm rather pleasantly. Wil smiled at her, awkwardly.
Hal and Deborah smiled back insanely.
* * *
Nuhral cringed as the female offworlder jabbed him in the back with his own gun again. He calmly told her, "Look, toots, if you don't stop jabbing me with that gun, I might make a mistake. And we wouldn't want that, would we?" He turned around and blinked twice — the female's hair had turned a dark brown. He could have sworn her hair had been a flaming red just minutes ago.
"If you make a mistake, I'll blow your head off," Sophie replied, equally calmly.
Nuhral groaned. That's what he had been afraid of.
Jadi tapped his foot impatiently and kept looking back nervously. "Hurry up. I want to get out of here as quickly as possible."
Nuhral finally pulled a blue wire. "There. I've deactivated the biogenic scanner. You can pass through the door now." He turned to face Jadi. "I wouldn't be in such a hurry to get to Standard Incarceration Department One if I were you."
Jadi grinned mockingly. "Oh yeah? Why's that?"
Nuhral strode nonchalantly through the door. "They *do* things to you there. Nasty things."
Sophie jabbed him in the back again. He *really* hated that. "Well, you'd better hurry then, hadn't you?"
Sighing, Nuhral led on. The longer he could stall these two with their insane plan to go to SID1, the better the chances that someone would discover they had escaped. And the sooner they were all caught, the less likely the probability that he would be executed for allowing two human prisoners to overwhelm him and escape. And if he could stall them for just long enough, perhaps the Paracastrian race would be reborn and none of this would matter any longer...
* * *
Lord Gerund Harsferd grunted and slammed his flagon of ale onto the arm of his chair. One of his few remaining serving wenches quickly hiked her skirts and refilled his glass before he became angry. Harsferd sighed. Things had really gone downhill the past few months since the bug-eyes had taken over. The damned natives had appropriated 40% of this year's wheat harvest, most of which had had to come from his own private stores in order to prevent the serfs from starving and rising up against him in revolution. He couldn't afford a class skirmish now that the natives were in control — the natives only suffered his continued rule as a figurehead because Denurys was too backwards and distant a province for them to spend too much effort to control. It was much simpler for them to let things continue the way they were, but levy a tax upon the province. Damned natives!
The clown performing before him had resorted to contorting body parts and dislocating joints for entertainment. It had been semi-humorous the first ten times Gerund had seen it; now it was just tedious. Like so much of his life now. Gerund made a mental note to have the current jester publicly flogged; at least he could derive some entertainment from the dreadful freak before he outlived his lord's good humour and was executed like Gerund's last six jesters.
The one before that, that damned Young boy, had had the gall to run away. Harsferd's bounty hunters had scoured the planet for that boy for a year-and-a-half before he finally gave up and assumed that Young had either fled the planet or perished in all that Rawd business a few years back. Either way, he wasn't likely to see him again. Since then, though, Harsferd's stranglehold on the province hadn't been the same. Hundreds of peasants had slowly escaped over a period of months; then when the natives took over, an exodus of thousands began.
It would take decades to rebuild the population and economy of his province. Harsferd was getting on in years, and he wasn't even certain he would live long enough to see it. He almost felt sorry for his young son, now a year-and-a-half old, the child of his youngest concubine. The boy would probably inherit nothing from his old man. Harsferd almost felt sorry for him, but not quite. He felt too sorry for himself to feel sorry for others.
"Wench! Servant girl!" Gerund called. He had had enough of this.
The girl skittled over to him. "Yes, m'lord?"
"Help me rise." The girl put out her arms and helped all 300 pounds of Gerund rise to a standing position. The clown, his body in the shape of a pretzel, paused and watched with imminent dread. "I didn't give you permission to stop performing," Gerund called to him. The pretzel-clown continued walking around on his hands, even as Gerund turned away. "Take me to Lupanza, my dear." His only joy in life anymore was to gaze upon the 22-year beauty upon whom he had sired his youngest — and now only — child. But even she was growing distant from him, spending more and more time with her — their — little brat of a son.
"Yes, speak. Out with it."
"I heard tell that your son spoke his first word today."
Gerund grunted. He was in a bad humour today, and nothing was going to change that if he could help it.
* * *
The TARDIS materialized with the usual wheezing and groaning sound in a dust-and-trash-filled alley.
Inside, the Doctor gave the controls a final tweak, then opened the doors. "Well, here we are," he announced to his guests, "Universal III, home of holovision studios, theme parks, and the tackiest museums this side of Disneyplanet."
The Doctor and Wil stood motionless as Deborah and Hal strode towards the door. Deborah egressed first.
She quickly turned back inside. "We're back on Paracastria!"
Hal instantly raised his weapon to point it at the Time Lord. "Is this true?" he hissed.
The Doctor laughed. "Oh, I'm sure it's just a movie studio designed to look like Paracastria." He elbowed Wil in the ribs, and Wil belatedly began to chuckle as well.
"I know this is Paracastria," Deborah replied, the golden flecks in her eyes becoming brighter.
"This is Paracastria," Hal repeated, aiming the gun squarely between the Doctor's eyes.
"How can you be cer--" the Doctor began, then, too late to dodge, noticed that Hal was squeezing the trigger.
"Run, Wil!" he shouted.
Hal pulled the trigger.
The Doctor wiped a bead of sweat from his brow as he quickly disarmed the befuddled marksman. "State of Temporal Grace, you see. Prevents weapons from being fired inside my ship," he explained authoritatively. "At least most of the time," he muttered to himself.
Wil was about to run past Deborah when he spotted a twinkle, a flame growing in her eyes, her beautiful, beautiful eyes. He paused, just for a second, to stare, before Deborah opened her mouth. And blew.
An inferno of orange and yellow flames nearly engulged Wil. Fire like that from a dragon blazed forth from Deborah's mouth.
Wil ducked. And darted through the doors of the TARDIS as fast as his feet would carry him, nearly losing a boot in the process.
* * *
Dakota Armanta lit a cigarette and stepped out of his bar. The sun had just set; the curfew was now lifted for another evening. Dakota wasn't bothered by the curfew very much. People tended to frequent bars more in the evening and at night, and business had increased if anything since the natives took over. He had been making a pretty prosperous living since he gave up his last job nine months ago and opened up this little establishment, especially if his 500-mazuma leather trenchcoat and 200-mazuma fedora were anything to go by.
People were beginning to come out of their homes, out into the endless night that now governed their social lives. Dakota pondered the mystery of why the natives had imposed the curfew during the day for a moment, but figured it was none of his business. As long as things stayed the way they were, he'd be happy. Although a little extra business venture on the side and a little extra cash never hurt.
Dakota's peaceful little twilight smoke was rudely interrupted by a young man running pell-mell around the corner and darting off down the street. That face... it couldn't be... he wasn't sure that he recognized it, but it had to be.... He had spent a good majority of the last two years looking for the owner of that face. It was a little different now from the pictures he had once seen — he seemed to have aged several years, and his hair was much longer, but it was definitely the kid.
Dakota strode quickly into his bar, flipped through his personal notebook, and punched in a call on the satcom. A tough face appeared on the other end. "Yeah?"
"Harsferd still have a bounty out on that Young kid who went missing a few years ago?" Dakota asked.
"Tell him I've found him."
* * *
Grace Holloway sat on the dirty floor of her cell, alone, cold, helpless, suffering.
The world spun around her, but she remained still.
Words, images, phrases flashed through her incoherent mind --
a bright yellow car
Key to Time
DOCTOR! HELP! DOCTOR...
Grace shuddered. Suddenly something was different. The random images had gone, replaced by lucid, crystal clear thought. It had been so long since her mind had operated on a level even approaching normal that it came as something as a shock to her. At first she wasn't certain what to think. She stood up, and realized clearly, for the first time, that she was in a cell. She was being held prisoner. By them.
And it all came flooding back.
And she screamed.
But something had just happened. Her mind was working normally again. It was as if... the implants in her mind had just been... shut off. As if there was no need to keep them functioning any more.
The Paracastrians had found what they were looking for, achieved what they had planned to achieve.
And then she realized that she hadn't come out of the experience unscathed, after all.
She couldn't remember her name.
She couldn't remember her identity.
There were huge chunks missing from her mind.
She screamed the scream of the helpless.
* * *
The Paracastrian surgeons stood motionless as the Shadowmaker-00 came back to life.
It opened its eyes slowly.
But it wasn't Angela's consciousness that peered out from behind those eyes.
The madness that had been inflicted upon the Paracastrians stared out from behind those eyes.
And night fell upon the capital city of Paracastria.
To be continued...
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