|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #18 - "Ticket to Writhe"
by Paul Benson
Third is the Doctor, his head bowed. He holds Mammon's message.
\\Why would a body--\\
* * *
The sound that is torn from River's lips is so far from human that Jadi turns around and runs in sheer terror. He doesn't stop running once he reaches the surface, because the sound doesn't either.
[Three weeks from now]
He stands in front of the full-length mirror, pretending to adjust his cravat. He steps back, carefully fastens his shirt cuffs and then reaches for his jacket. It is, in spite of his earlier complaints to the tailor, a good fit. Stepping back, he critically examines every aspect of his appearance, looking for any signs of fault in the new clothes or himself. The wounds have healed over quickly and even the face is beginning to fill out, losing the haggard, drawn look that comes with continuous pain. He seems satisfied as he takes in the full effect.
His old self.
Part of the jacket seems to catch the light in an odd way, looking darker than the rest. His hand comes away wet. He sees the source almost immediately, seeping from the scar in each of his palms. He didn't even notice when they started bleeding again. There is blood on his nice new clothes.
And on his hands.
He sinks to his knees, weeping silently to his spoiled reflection, and wonders, as he has done everyday for the last weeks, how he could have done such a thing.
* * *
Wounds heal over. Scars last much, much longer.
River is dancing in a tide of euphoria higher than any chemical could ever induce. The music is the combined voices of the Elohim, a mass choir of eternity. The bass beat, her own mortal heart, one of the few organic functions she can still sense. Thousands of minds and millions of years are reverberating with an intensity that is unbelievable. She idly wonders if this is what it would feel like to be not just the dancer, but the whole crukking club. She is the lights and the rhythm, and it feels joyous.
* * *
She is vaguely aware that she is screaming.
For Jadi there is, it seems, no such thing as heaven. Outside seems relatively peaceful, at least for Cupid. The eye of the storm, he feels, not the aftermath. He shrugs, puts his hands in his pockets and wonders how long it will take him to find a callbox that hasn't been vandalised.
* * *
[Two minutes ago]
"I see the old 'you distract him while I hit him over the head with a blunt instrument' trick is an old friend of yours as well," remarked Angela as she picked up the unconscious guard's gun. Luke grinned, and tried another pickup line while they dumped the man in the skip.
"Maybe I can show you some more tricks later on this evening."
She smiled, hoping the nausea would stay away for a while. "Like I said, I'm having a relationship with the guy you saw me with at the club."
"Is that a problem? He looked cute, maybe I can teach him a thing or two," he added, wearing the same joking/not joking expression.
She looked at him oddly. "You're serious, aren't you?" she said, finally.
Luke's grin widened. "How do you think I got so good at 'distracting' guards? Anyway, this is hardly the time or place. We've a villain to capture." He gave a small whistle and the dogs bounded into the hallway. The problem with cybernetic canines with razor sharp teeth was that they were effective, but unsubtle if you were trying to sneak in anywhere without causing a scene. "I can see the headlines now," he announced to Angela. She didn't say anything, so he added: "I give good headline," just for good measure. She seemed to ignore him and he decided that he may have overstepped the line. Best to just keep to the task at hand then.
* * *
In fact Angela hadn't heard him. She was too busy rechecking her systems after a diagnostic programme had informed her it desperately wanted some celery.
"River, can you hear me?"
"No. But I know what you're saying."
"Do you know where we are?"
"Well, that's a very poetic name for what basically amounts to a dimensional pothole, but yes, if you like."
"Doctor, I can hear them."
A pause, then what might have been a sigh, if sighs were possible without corporeality.
"I know. An unexpected side effect of Mr. Mammon's siphoning, I'd guess. Angel didn’t know about it, so there's probably less than they all need. It must be stopped before the Elohim take things into their own hands. Will you help me?"
"Then take us to the club."
"What about Angel?"
"She already knows what to do. Fly."
"I'm not Elohim, Doctor. I don't have wings."
* * *
"You don't need them."
Towns are hardly ever designed, and that's just the problem. Oh, the buildings might be, the first few blocks may manage to conform to the scheme of some underimaginative architect. But then they grow. New expansion plans are made to accommodate this, but they rarely keep pace with the needs of the population. Boundaries are overrun, facilities are taxed beyond their limits and areas of land hoped to last for a thousand years are swallowed up by a voracious city in barely a decade. Chaos eventually conquers all attempts at planning. The inhabitants excuse this by saying the anarchic mess has 'character'. They even go so far as to use it as a justification for staying there.
Even Cupid, suspended high above the surface of Venus like some giant airborne mushroom, holds true to this. Its original functions and layout have long since been consumed in a mass of traffic, squalor and high art; the foundations of 'character'. "Alright," a denizen might say to any tourist dim enough to ask, "so it's a polluted, crime-ridden, corrupt, morally bankrupt intellectual wasteland. But it's got 'character', right? By the way, do yer want to buy a watch?"
They are, of course, technically correct. It does have character, in much the same way as a scar does. And a city's character can be shaped in much the same way as a person's, traumatic events imprinting themselves on the city's very structure. If you are on Cupid now, then in precisely seven minutes and twenty-three seconds, you will have a wonderful opportunity to see exactly what I mean. Only I wouldn't bother buying a watch if I were you, because it's childsplay to work out the time.
* * *
It's ten to Too Late.
Purity wears his tuxedo awkwardly, hating the restrictiveness of the fabric. Angel still hasn't turned up and he's beginning to think about arranging himself some entertainment in the meantime. 'The boys', as his illustrious employer calls them, are similarly dressed, and they slouch at the private bar, waiting for something to do. Or someone to hurt. The difference between them, reflects Purity as he drains the last of the vodka and starts crunching the ice cubes, was that the rest of the boys don't care which it was; maim or kill. Purity does care. Very much. He knows 90% of the population would call him mad and, quite frankly, he can't give two hoots.
He is doing something he enjoys. Hurting people. Sculpting, as he likes to think of it, living people into works of art. Their pain was a mere part of the whole artwork. Their pleading and screaming often mixes with the music from upstairs and a new, unique symphony is heard. He enjoys playing with them. Showing them the tools of his trade before beginning the work. He enjoys that feeling of power, deciding what and where to begin. Whether this man will ever have children. Whether that woman will be able to look in a mirror again. How or even if that boy will walk when he grows up. Most of his subjects aren't dead.
He hates killing with a passion. It's such a waste, he thinks, when one considers the possibilities that spring from keeping them alive. Seeing the results of one's endeavours five or ten years later. The feeling of control, of pure power, is enough in itself. The fact that he's met someone prepared to pay him to do it is a bonus.
He turns round. 'Tony' Mammon is standing behind him, looking irritatingly comfortable in tails and silks, coughing politely. "Is she here already?" Purity asks.
"No, love. It seems that although we had Easter early this year, Christmas appears to have been cancelled. A pity. The note should have been enough, I would have thought. I misjudged her, it seems."
"Pity. I'd have enjoyed working on her tonight." Purity has been thinking about Angel. Leaving the wings intact could be a good move, but he wants to make her more... birdlike. Birds don't have arms for one thing. Or noses.
"But you seem to have acquired some home entertainment anyway," observes Mammon, pointing to the screen Purity has been idly watching.
"Yes," he smirks. "The funhouse is active tonight." He turns his attention back to the display.
* * *
It shows a young man and a woman, accompanied by two metal dogs walking up a hallway. Purity's hand flicks a switch and the dogs seem to prick up their ears, as if hearing something. The camera point of view changes to a dog's eye one. Purity reaches for his VR helmet. "Care to join me?" he asks his boss, knowing the answer will be in the negative.
The attack, when it comes, is completely unexpected. Luke cries out as first one, then the other dog sets upon him, dragging him down and tearing at his legs in a manner that certainly wasn't in their programming. Angela stares in horror for a moment before long forgotten instincts/combat subroutines kick in. She shouldn't be doing this, not in her condition. But, she reflects, who else is there?
* * *
[One minute ago]
"How many more times? I don't want to order anything to eat. I'm calling on behalf of the Doctor and- hello?" the receiver went dead in Jadi's hand. He wasn't sure if the Doctor had given him the wrong number, the call box was defective or whether he'd simply misdialled. However, he was absolutely certain that the current situation couldn't be solved with a large portion of chicken tikka. There seemed to be confusion coming from outside. Poking his head from inside the box, he heard the shouts and cries of a people in panic. Whatever the Doctor had wanted to prevent happening, thought Jadi, it seemed to be too late.
One man seemed to be shouting about the stars going out, and the angels descending from on high. Typical Armageddon stuff, thought Jadi. But... he strained his naturally sharp hearing. "Oh cruk." he exclaimed.
* * *
Over the cries of the crowd, Jadi could make out the beating of thousands of feathered wings.
Mammon doesn't answer, seeming to be lost for words for the first time in living memory. His face is visibly draining of blood as he points out of the enormous bay window towards the evening sky. Tearing off the helmet, it takes the torturer a moment to realise what he is pointing at. The stars, normally so bright, appear to have gone out. Looking carefully, he sees glimpses of light, as if something were moving in front of them. A lot of somethings. Convulsively, he drops the helmet and gun.
The sound system goes dead. A young redheaded woman is briefly floating in the middle of the room, her amber eyes staring into his. Then she is gone, leaving an bright afterimage superimposed on his retina.
"Wha--" he begins.
"She's gone to see the relatives," snaps a voice. Purity has to wait a few seconds until he can see properly to identify the newcomer.
It is the Doctor. He is leaning on the bar, his posture casual, but his face set and his eyes burning with... surely not hatred? His voice, Purity realises, is different because it is laced with anger. The fact that he is dressed in a shabby green bathrobe slightly spoils the effect, as does the blood seeping out from his injured hands. Purity is suddenly aware that Mammon and the others have vanished along with the woman.
"Gone to keep his appointment with Angel," the Doctor explains. He looks at Purity again. "He's amazing, your employer. He's nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things. Nothing more than a second rate criminal with a few pet sadists, and yet he could still cause the death of an entire species."
"Wrong." Purity tells the Doctor.
Curiosity overrides contempt for a moment. "In what way?" Has he misjudged a part of Mammon's involvement in some respect? Will it affect his own plan?
"Not a pet. You think I did what I did to you, what I'm doing to your friends, is at /his/ instructions? Mammon just wanted you inconvenienced for a little while. He doesn't care how. You know," he seems to be warming to his topic, the alcohol sluicing around in his brain keeping him relaxed. "I don't think he appreciates me at all, really. I'm not a thug!" he says, trying to explain. "I'm an artist. Look at that," he points to the screen.
It now depicts Angela dressing Luke's wounded legs as best she can. "Scarred for life. There are thousands of people like him, all over town. Mammon's told me you have a naturally long life. Well, even if I died today those people would go on. And they'd carry a piece of me with them, whenever they realise there's a piece of themselves missing." He giggled. "Kind of immortality, really."
"They're my friends," the Doctor whispers, looking at the screen.
"My point exactly." He leans in close, the Doctor almost recoiling at his breath. "And I'm not. But whenever you think of them," he smiles at the thought, "you'll think of me. I'll live as long as you do and you can't change that. Ever"
The Doctor looks at the torturer. The days of pain, of helplessness and degradation are crystal clear in his memory now. Not days, he realises, weeks. Weeks of torment, starvation and humiliation while one face watched on and enjoyed it all, wearing the same happy, contented expression it wore now. "If you died today," he murmurs hesitantly, "then you could never hurt anyone else. Ever." Purity laughs as the Doctor fumbles with the gun on the bar.
"Yeah, right. So look me in the eye. Pull the trigger. End my life."
Much to Purity's surprise, the Doctor looks him in the eye and does just that.
The gun clatters to the floor. He stares for several, shocked seconds. Shakily, blankly he walks slowly towards the staircase leading to the dancefloor.
And all hell follows him.
To be concluded...
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