Doctor Who 24/7 - Competition Entry 2/3.
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The Stranger in Black, by Brennan McCann.
The Doctor strolls through the doors of the TARDIS, Rose in tow. He removes his long brown coat, and tossed it onto the railing by the entrance.
“Who would have thought Nero was a Slitheen? I mean, truly, a Slitheen!?! Of all the times and places for a Slitheen to go, he decides to go to Rome, WHEN IT’S BURNING! I’ll never understand them. Well, maybe one day, yes, but now, all I see are a bunch of Raxacoricofallapatorian arsonists,” The Doctor says. He walks around the console of the TARDIS and begins manipulating the console.
Rose chuckles. “So, where to now Doctor?” Rose rests her elbows on the edge of the TARDIS console, staring at the Doctor as he manipulates the countless controls. He twirls around the corner, vigorously turning the dials.
“Where not to? Anywhere! There is a planet where the entire sky is filled with massive islands of pure emerald!” After contemplating this option for a moment, the Doctor shakes his head no, and turns to face Rose.
“Why not keep it interesting? Ah?” He tilts his head upward while cocking his jaw. “The Randomizer.” The Doctor points out a small, red button near the bottom of the console. “Anywhere, anytime. So, whaddaya say? Wanna give it a go?” A slight smirk paints the Doctors face as his hand reaches toward the button, knowing full well what Rose would say.
Rose laughs and nods in affirmation. The Doctor depresses the button and the TARDIS whirs to life. Suddenly, the TARDIS jolts forward and tumbles wildly out of control, the sound of the cloister bells filling the control room. The Doctor tries in vain to combat the erratic motion of the TARDIS while attempting to regain control. One large shudder tosses both Rose and the Doctor to the far end of the room. The spinning continues until it seems there is no way for the Doctor and Rose to possibly regain control. Just then, the TARDIS abruptly screeches to a halt, cloister bells continuing their dismal warning, the flickering lights casting a foreboding light over the control room. The Doctor hesitantly rises from the floor and helps Rose up. He quickly runs to the monitors, attempting to ascertain where and when they had landed
“These readings are off the charts. This doesn’t make any sense,” the Doctor says in an intense, contemplative manner, eyes wide with worry. “This says we’re in Athens, normal, but, but but but but but, this monitor,” the Doctor exclaims, running from one monitor to the next, “this one says we’re in the year 25 billion. There is no Earth, no Athens, no new Athens-that’s in a couple more thousand years-no, the monitors are saying the Athens, your good old fashioned Greek Athens, Rose. So where does that leave us?” the Doctor asks, peering deep into the monitor. The cloister bells multiply the tension in the room.
“An instrumentation error?” Rose asks.
“No, that would be too easy, too docile. And the TARDIS won’t even respond to me,” the Doctor says, turning wheels, pressing buttons, and pulling levers. Eventually, through exasperation, the Doctor smacks his palms on the console, “Come OOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!! What’s the problem with you?” The Doctor stands erect, and wanders around the console.
“Could something take control of the TARDIS? Bring us here?” Rose inquires. The Doctor quickly dismisses it with a wave of his hand, but then shoots up with a wild look in his, conveying his sudden epiphany.
“OOOHHHH YES!!!!! Rose Tyler you are BRILLIANT!” He quickly hugs Rose and runs over to the monitor once again. “Someone brought us here, my guess is accidentally-that would account for the confused time coordinates. Or maybe, much more sinister, they were trying to throw us off their scent. And enough of THIS!!!!” The Doctor whips out his sonic screwdriver and points it up into the sky, turning off the cloister bells. The Doctor looks into the console, his air of excitement quickly turning to one of confusion and disbelief. “But what could be powerful enough to control the TARDIS?!?!”
“What do you say we find out Doctor?” Rose asks tentatively, yet filled with excitement and anticipation. The Doctor turns and snaps out of his inquiry based trance at the sound of her voice. He quickly smiles and jumps up from the console.
“I’m am soooo GLAD to have you along, Rose Tyler. Allons-y!” The Doctor grabs Rose by the hand and runs out the door. Upon flinging the door open, he abruptly stops before exiting, at awe with the site which beheld him.
The Doctor’s jaw drops as he beholds, in its splendor, Gallifrey, the red sky soaring over his head, the plains rolling out in front of him. The wind blew gently through the grass, creating an undulating mass of vegetation which appeared to crash onto the shores of a long forgotten beach. The Doctor’s eyes water as he vainly tries to comprehend this impossibility.
“Doctor, where are we?” Rose asks, still firmly grasping his hand.
“Gallifrey. The Gallifrey. My home planet.” The Doctor stumbles out of the TARDIS and falls to the ground, running his hands through the grass. He takes several deep breaths, remembering the scents from his childhood. A tear falls from his face and splashes on the ground.
“This can’t be. This simply….simply can’t. And here it is. Every blade, every breeze, every color and scent, exactly as I remember it. How?” Rose comes up behind the Doctor and places her hand on his back, attempting to soothe him. He takes in one sharp breath while placing his head in his hands, and rises from the ground. The Doctor points to a hill, and lets out a sad laugh.
“Over there, on that ridge, I would lie there and watch the stars and planets whirl around us. And on that rock, over there, I would run my hands over it, feeling every groove, crevice, indent, protrusion. I knew it as well as I knew my own hand, well my first hand.” Once more the familiar light fills the Doctor’s eyes as a smirk plays upon his lips, but it is quickly decimated when he looks around with an incisive glance. “Where are all the children? It’s…..” the Doctor looks up to see the sun, “Well before the evening meal, so where are the kids?”
“A holiday, maybe? Maybe their parents were cross?” Rose asks.
“Maybe, but I don’t think so. Hundreds of little Galifreyans would wander these fields. And the sound of the nearest city could be heard from here. No, something is definitely wrong. This even being here is wrong.”
“What can I do Doctor? How can I help?” Rose asks, her concern palpable.
“Just being here is enough. Because, if this is a trick, I’m going to need you to hold me back. Remind me of who I am, who you made me, do you understand? Don’t let me lose myself. Not now, not ever. Because if this is a trick….well…..let’s hope it’s not a trick,” the Doctor warns an unseen enemy.
“Okay, Doctor. I promise with every fiber of my being.” Rose responds.
“Rose Tyler,” the Doctor says with a smile, “Looks like we have business to do. SOOOOOO HOW IS THIS PLANET BACK!!!! I WATCHED IT BURN! I MADE IT BURN!!!! SHOW YOURSELF!!!! COOOOOMMMMMMEEEEE OOOOONNNNN!!!!” the Doctor yells into the vast expanse of enigmatic enormity, offering an unabashed challenge.
“Wehehehelll. Doctor. Doctor. Doctor. I was hoping I’d catch you. But then again, I knew I would. Your TARDIS is so bright, and so warm in the Universe. It is, delectable.” Slowly, a man with black hair, slicked back, wearing an all black suit with black tie and black shirt wandered around from the back of the TARDIS.
“Who are you, and how do you know me?” the Doctor questions.
“Oh, I know everything about you. I know everything about your “companion” Rose, really are you still going with that word? I think you two have gone past that. I know all about the Time Lords, Slitheens, Sycorax, Daleks, Cybermen, everything. Everyone. I know all, see all, hear all. Everything that ever was and will ever be is in my mind, and I have dominion over it,” the new stranger leans in and whispers to the Doctor.
“Who are you? What are you? The Great Intelligence? What?” the Doctor bites with contempt.
“Oh, I don’t even know,” the stranger leans against the TARDIS, “I’ve been around since the beginning of time, even before the Time Lords. And please! The Great Intelligence? They’re pushovers. Weak. Oh, and you Time Lords! You’re so adorable you little baby-faced insects. You see,” the stranger wanders around to face the Doctor and Rose face to face, “you Time Lords have, or should I say, had, this inferiority complex. You always wanted to save people to make up for some great injustice or loss. And look what happened.”
“I have seen things you couldn’t believe. I could end you with the use of a single word. A snap of my fingers, and I could squash you like a bug. Yet, I let you live because I am better, because I walked away from the Time War, because I survived and must be better. But I can assure you,” the Doctor leans in and grasps the stranger by the suit jacket, “you are on the short list. And if I were you, I would quickly explain myself before I lose my patience. Now you will tell me how Gallifrey is back, and why you brought me here.”
“Woah, woah, woah, let’s not get our TARDIS ahead of our Time Lord here. I was getting there, but you have to have some respect for the system. There’s a chronology to this. I have to build my case, butter you up, then, oh then good Doctor, we may talk plainly.” The stranger quickly retreats from the Doctor’s grasp, and Rose places her hand on his arm to calm him. “You see, I’m hungry. Always hungry. No amount of energy can satisfy me. At least that was what I thought until I saw the TARDIS. I needed to ear. I needed the power. So I brought you here, messed with your controls, arouse your sense of curiosity that is so infallible. Your TARDIS was so bright, so so…”
“Yes yes yes, warm, delectable, we’ve been through this, now move along!” the Doctor pleads.
“My my, someone’s grumpy.”
“You have dropped me on my planet, my dead planet, and I am curious as to what you want from me. What I can possibly give a stranger, a stranger who won’t even tell me who, or what, it is. So yes, you could say I was slightly grumpy,” the Doctor retorted. The stranger smiled, and with a flourish of his hand, a set of three chairs surrounding a table appeared.
“Please, have a seat Doctor, Rose. There is much to talk about. So you see, I am hungry, and your TARDIS can provide me energy. It can sustain me for all eternity. I want it. I need it”
“And pray tell, why would I give this to you? My life, my oldest companion. She has been with me since the beginning, so I’m at a loss as to why I would help you.”
“I can give you something Doctor. Something I know you want. I am in your head, I’m in her head,” he says pointing to Rose, “and ooooohhhhh, the things you think about each other! It’s so wonderful!!!! But, I know everything, like I said, I know the future, and I know the past, and I am the only one who can change it. Not even you, with your false sense of superiority, Doctor, can change it. So, I have a proposition. Give me your TARDIS. I’ll take her, and in return, I will give you back what you lost. What you had to destroy. It wasn’t your fault. I know it wasn’t. But I can give it to you. Your friends, your family, your planet, your people. They will all return. Because my people. We can do that. We have the power. So, stay here, give me the TARDIS, live with Rose, stay with her, you will both have eternal life. No more regenerating, no more death, just life. Now, that’s not so bad, isn’t it?” the stranger asks, clearly feeling he had the upper hand. The Doctor’s resolve is being tested.
“And tell me, what if I say no?” the Doctor countered. The stranger smiles, looks down at his hands, and snaps his fingers in Rose’s direction. Her eyes roll up into her head and she faints. The Doctor rushes to hold her and elevate her head. His eyes are wild and desperate.
“What have you done to her?!?!?!” the Doctor exclaims.
“Oh don’t worry, she’s just asleep. For a few minutes. No harm is done. Yet. Now, back to your question,” the stranger rises and walks away from the table, “I’ll be frank with you, I’ll just take it anyway. And because you were not cooperative, I will make you hurt. I will torture you in the ways most terrifying to you.” Suddenly, the sky was filled with lightning, and quickly, the sound of humming filled the air. This was accompanied by a resounding cacophony of “Exterminate” as a whole battalion of Daleks soared over the horizon. They seemed to be oblivious to the trio gathered on the plains. The battalion quickly approached a city in the distance and began to lay waste to the city. The sounds of war filled the plains.
“Stop, stop, make it STOP!!!” the Doctor yells, close to his breaking point.
“Only you can do that, Doctor, Predator, Oncoming Storm, which would be your preferred name? Or perhaps, you would like to hear the sound of your planet as it burns. As the sky comes falling down. As the very ground sizzles and bursts into flame.” The atmosphere is suddenly consumed with light and the very earth caught fire. The screams of his fellow Galifreyans consume the plains with the confused orders of the Daleks.
“You may think this, ALL OF THIS, can turn me, but it won’t. This is just a memory, a shadow, an illusion. Go ahead! Try me!” the Doctor yells.
“Hmm, strong, feisty, I like it. Well, if the past can’t change your heart, then maybe your future can. Cause I know that too. Oh, all the people that will die, the people you love that will lose, oh you should see what happens to Rose. Heartbreaking, truly. Your regeneration, you are quite sentimental about this shell, odd. Oh, and your death. The end of it all. Your death. The Death of the Doctor. The fire and the rage and the war, searing through you in a moment of infinite pain, on Trenzalore, oh but you don’t even know about that one yet!!!” the stranger taunts, leaning in closer to the Doctor, “I can end that. I can stop all of that. Just give me the TARDIS. I am the master of all, I can make you a paradise, I can make anything, and you know it. Because slowly, you are figuring out what I am. Who we are. And you know there is no way out of this one. But, you have no need to put yourself through that torture. Just give me the TARDIS, and I give you a way out.” The Doctor stares at the ground, turns his gaze to the still unconscious Rose, and back to the stranger. It is easy to see he is contemplating the offer.
“And what happens. What happens to all those I save, in the future?” the Doctor inquires.
“Oh, now I think you know. But, perhaps I can offer you another prerogative,” the stranger says, placing his hand on the Doctor’s shoulder. Suddenly, the images and visions from his future begin to flash before his eyes. Every death, loss, defeat, and even his next regeneration flash before his eyes. He screams in pain and rolls on the ground.
“No, no NOOOOO! I refuse to accept the consequences!!!” the Doctor continues to scream as the stranger lets out a small smirk. Slowly, Rose begins to wake up, and sees the Doctor on the ground. She grabs him by the shoulders.
“Doctor. Doctor! DOCTOR!!!” she yells. The Doctor opens his eyes and sees Rose. Suddenly, his paroxysms stop, and he manages to rise from the ground.
“This is what awaits you Doctor. So, either willingly give me your TARDIS, in return for paradise. Or, I will forcibly take the TARDIS, and make you live your darkest days out here. Over and over and over again. Your choice.” The Doctor is biting back his pain and anguish and inches back toward the TARDIS
“I know the legends, the stories. The most ancient race in the universe. A race so powerful, a name would not do it justice. It is said that none could kill it. But I know better. Everything has its weak point. It’s just a matter of pressing the right button,” the Doctor says, leaning in toward the stranger, “Cause you see, the TARDIS and I are connected. I scratch her back, and she scratches mine. And luckily we know each other, and we know each other’s weaknesses. Fortunately she has told me yours.” Abruptly, the Doctor whips the sonic screwdriver, places it in the stranger’s ear, and pushed the button. Rapidly, the entire landscape, the burning plains, the Daleks, the chairs, and the stranger himself began to vibrate. The sound of the screwdriver resonated over the landscape. Gallifrey began to fade away.
“We are spread out across the universe!!! You will meet one of our kind again! Weak, very weak, but he is growing in strength! Someday you will meet him, and he will rain fire upon your world! YOU WILL REGRET THIS DOCTOR!!!! WHEN THE CLOCK STRIKES TWELVE, MY BRETHEREN WILL BE WAITING!!!!!” the stranger yells.
The entire landscape disappeared. What was left was a barren asteroid, rotating around a black hole, the halo of a long forgotten sun floating around it. The Doctor helps Rose up.
“Are you okay?” the Doctor asked, extremely concerned.
“Of course Doctor. But more importantly, are you?” Rose counters. After a long breath, the Doctor turns and nods his head. “What happened?”
“The TARDIS concealed my thoughts. That being couldn’t read mine, only hers, and she is much more powerful. We were linked, telepathically. The being had an illusion that fed off of our thoughts, and deepest fears. The sonic distracted him and broke the illusion. Even the stranger was a façade. He’ll be back soon. Let’s go. I’m tired of this place.” The Doctor pushes the door of the TARDIS open and walks back inside. He walks over to the main console, and quickly presses a variety of buttons, deactivating the randomizer. The Doctor appears to shrug off his experience, taking in a series of deep breaths and turns to Rose, “So, where to now?”
“Are you sure you’re okay? That’s enough to best anyone, even you, Doctor.” Rose asks.
“Yeah. The memories are bad, but the rest, well, I won’t burden you with that. Not yet. You see, there are others out there. Others of those, those, things. That one said I would meet it when the clock hit twelve, which could suggest it’s on the planet Midnight, at least that’s what I think. Lovely resort, that planet has. So, we could go there end the threat now, or anywhere else. Anywhere in the entire universe, but not there. Your choice.”
“I would rather go anywhere else, Doctor. Anywhere with you,” Rose responds, “Doctor, what did you see while I was out?” The Doctor looks up from the console, presses several more buttons and a lever, and the TARDIS hums to life, off to its next destination. Exhausted, he sits down on the chair. He takes in one last deep breath, dismay and severity clouding his face.
“Too much. Too much.”