So, you might have noticed, I’m writing again. I really need to finish this one up–so, here you go.
7. Tea and Nemesis
“The tea party shall commence in one hour,” the Goddess’s spearman said to the group as he roughly escorted them into their cell. “A wash basin has been provided so that you might make yourselves presentable.”
The cell door slammed shut, its echo adding a foreboding finality to their plight, and the four men were left to themselves in a small circular room with a table, four chairs, and, as the spearman promised, a wash basin.
“Well, at least she’s civil,” the Doctor remarked. With a deep sigh, he sat down in one of the chairs and let his head slump into open palms.
“So, what’s the story here, Doctor?” the Captain asked, pulling up a chair opposite the Doctor.
“You know better than I do. She’s your people.” The Doctor casually sat upright, staring at the Captain with an accusing gaze, and folded his hands before him. Tobun took a seat with them, but Griln began to pace.
“If I could only get within range, I could communicate with Penelope,” the Captain said to himself more than the others.
“What do you mean?” the Doctor asked, interested. “You can communicate telepathically?”
“Within a certain range. It’s not telepathy, it’s digital. I have an implant,” Captain Light explained, tapping his temple.
“Any other technology you have on you that we should know about?” the Doctor asked. “Dalek death ray? Pocket-size Absorbotron?”
“We could break this table and chairs and fashion weapons!” Griln exclaimed suddenly, slamming his fists on the table.
“No violence!” the Doctor replied bluntly, to which Griln responded by sulking. “With the exception of the Goddess herself, it appears these people are not in full control of themselves. You’d be harming people that can’t help themselves. She’s a very clever girl, this one, but I still don’t get it. What is the significance of the red hand?”
“Do you think that’s how they’re being controlled?” the Captain asked.
Tobun had remained silent since the Goddess had appeared to them, but politely cleared his throat before speaking. “It has long been my wish to keep our people true to the ways of our ancestors while embracing change as it benefited us. Perhaps we are merely being stubborn and should do as the Goddess commands.”
“No, no,” the Doctor interjected. “Don’t say that. These people are not looking out for the interests of you or your tribe, or your planet for that matter. We’re missing something here.”
“What about the mining? They’re using the people they control to mine Vollusite from the planet,” the Captain offered.
“Coincidence,” the Doctor said dismissively. “The rubidium is an element required for their method of time travel. It’s merely convenient to have these people mine it for them. She said they’re here to stop a paradox, and that’s vaguely similar to what we’ve heard previously. The Death Tribe, remember?”
“You think they’ve been here before?” the Captain asked, taking a seat.
“I do. I believe that Death God was none other than a TDI operative,” the Doctor said, his eyes on Captain Light. “The circumstances are the same. Control the population. Stop an event from happening. Spin it primitively and it’s religion and prophecy.”
The Captain shifted in his seat and stared down at the table.
“Why do you always get so uncomfortable when someone talks about the Death Tribe, Captain Light?” the Doctor asked carefully.
The Captain sighed, but did not answer.
“This all smacks of something familiar,” the Doctor said with a sigh. “I just can’t shake it loose.”
Before the Doctor could press further, the door slammed open and several armed spearmen entered.
“That wasn’t even close to an hour,” the Doctor remarked.
“The Goddess is displeased that no one used the wash basin we provided you, and has decided that the tea party should commence now,” one of the spearmen said. “You will come with us now.”
Roughly, the spearmen ushered the Goddess’s special guests out of their cell and down several hallways that the Doctor noticed had been disguised by walls before.
“We’re near the relic room,” the Captain whispered to him.
“Sounds like something only a Death God would know,” the Doctor hissed back.
The Captain seemed shocked. “Doctor, I never–”
“Don’t bother,” the Doctor interrupted. “I can put thirty-seven and the square root of seven thousand forty-three together.”
The guards led them into a long banquet hall with a high ceiling. A table occupied most of the room, and it was covered in food. Platters of strange steaming meats and artistic arrangements of fruits of every imaginable color broke the otherwise monotonous stone color of the room.
The Doctor noticed that several tapestries had been removed recently, evidenced by the subtle discoloration of long strips on the wall where they would have hung. At the back of the room, behind an ornate throne holding the diminutive deity, a single tapestry showed a right red hand, and on the palm of the hand…
“The Seal of Rassilon,” the Doctor exhaled.
“Explain that one, Doctor,” the Captain said with a smirk.
“I don’t think I can,” the Doctor replied.
“Welcome everyone!” the Goddess exclaimed, standing up in her throne. “Have a seat, enjoy yourselves.”
When none of them moved, the spearmen roughly grabbed each of the group and forced them into chairs.
“A bit shy, are we?” the Goddess said with a smile. “It’s understandable. I have that effect on people.”
She grabbed the red hand of one of the spearmen standing near her and waved it at them. “I also have this effect on people. Tell me Doctor, have you figured it out yet?”
“Not at this time,” the Doctor replied unhappily. “But I have some questions–”
“Silence!” the Goddess fumed. “This is my tea party and I decide what we talk about.”
Jumping up, she allowed herself to fall into the voluminous cushions of her throne, and then took a sip from the tea cup in front of her. Smacking her lips, she looked to each of the men in turn.
“I think we should play questions. I’ll ask a question, and then you answer. We’ll take turns. How about that?”
Turning to Tobun she asked, “How quickly do you think we’ll control your tribe after you walk back to your village with a red right hand?”
“My people will not give into you, no matter what tricks you may devise,” Tobun answered steadily. “They are strong without me, and will see through to your true intentions.”
The Goddess raspberried his replied and then turned to Griln. “What is the–”
“I thought we were going to take turns,” the Doctor interjected. “When do we ask questions of you?”
“That is not the game I described, Doctor,” she replied. “I said I ask a question, and then you answer, and then we take turns. Don’t worry, silly Time Lord. You’ll get your turn to answer questions.”
She looked at each of the men, and then the food and drink before them. “Why are you not eating?” She seemed to think it through for a moment. “You don’t think it’s poison, do you?”
They did not answer, and in response the Goddess laughed maniacally. “Oh come now, boys. I’m just a little girl. Not so evil as that. I’ll prove it.”
She turned to one of the spearmen. “You. Eat this,” she commanded, throwing one of the fruits to him.
The spearmen ate a few bites, then shrugged.
“See?” she said in a singing voice.
A few seconds passed and still no one reached for any of the food. Finally, Griln shrugged and reached for a piece of meat. Just as he lifted it to his mouth, the spearman fell over quite dead.
The Goddess laughed gleefully at Griln, who quickly threw the meat aside. Standing in rage, Griln roared, “Enough! We will not play these childish games any longer! Either you–”
Before any of them could warn him, Griln was in her grip. Slowly, his right hand turned red.
Tobun rose from his seat in horror, but spearmen surrounded him quickly and forced him back down into his seat.
“Damn,” the Goddess sighed in disappointment. “I had hoped to see this one die choking on meat. Stupid fast poison.”
Griln quietly sat back down in his chair with a smile on his face.
“Now, you Doctor,” the Goddess said turning to the Time Lord. “Why are you here?”
“A rather vague question, but to answer narrowly, I’m at this place right now to stop you, obviously,” he replied.
“Doctor,” the Goddess laughed. “I don’t think you really know who we are. And, whatever this fool has told you, you can rest assured he has no idea either.”
Turning quickly to Captain Light, she asked, “And you, Captain Light. How bad do you want this little cube here?”
From under one of the cushions, the Goddess removed the blue cube that held Captain Light’s AI companion. As soon as she did so, her face locked into a rictus of shock and disbelief. The cube flashed rapidly and pulses of what appeared to be blue light shot up the Goddess’s arm and into her head.
Several of the spearmen slumped to the ground, while others looked around with confused looks on their faces. Their hands were still red, but whatever control the Goddess had over them had been terminated.
Griln shook his head, and seeing that the Goddess was vulnerable, he rose to throttle her.
“Stop Griln,” Tobun commanded. “Something has happened.”
“It’s tricky, Captain,” the Goddess said in a voice that was not her own. The Doctor recognized as soon as the Captain did.
“Penelope!” they said together.
“This platform is connected to something else in this structure. It is quite agile, but I think I have it tied up in loops for a while,” Penelope said through the Goddess.
“It’s an android?” the Captain asked in disbelief.
“Only this platform,” the Goddess said. “That which controlled it is … something else.”
The Doctor quickly moved over to the Goddess and reached into one of her pockets, removing his sonic screwdriver with a flourish. “Now, let’s see just what you are.”
Wielding his sonic screwdriver confidently, the Doctor activated it near the android’s neck. After a few seconds of warbling from the sonic screwdriver a small panel popped open at the back of the android’s neck.
The Captain quickly checked the Goddess’s chair and found his blaster also hidden among the cushions. Slipping it back into its holster beneath his duster, he then moved quickly to check the entrances in the room for TDI agents that weren’t under the Goddess’s control.
Having given a cursory glance to an engraved panel, the Doctor seemed satisfied and shut the panel. “Therapy droid, probably originally belonging to one of the spacefarers that have visited here. It’s been hijacked. And I’ll bet the red hand is bio-electrical. When she touches you, you’re infected by nanoworms or some such nastiness.”
“You are correct, Doctor,” Penelope intoned.
The Captain did not hesitate. “How long can you maintain control over her?”
“At the current rate of loop failure, I can keep the entity contained for 120.922583 minutes,” she explained. “At that point, the platform will reject me.”
“Do you need to be touching her?” the Captain asked.
Smiling, the Captain snatched the cube and pocketed it. “Come on, Doctor. We’ve got a limited amount of time to grab these relics and get off this rock.”
The Doctor remained seated. “So that’s it? You get your precious relics, and then you’re off?”
“That’s right, Doc. Now, get off your ass,” the Captain said, waving him to come on.
“What about these people? What about this planet?” the Doctor asked, standing and gesturing to the spearmen still wandering around aimlessly. “What about our responsibility to help them?”
“It’s done,” the Captain replied desperately. “They’re free!”
“Now! But what about when whatever Penelope is holding back gets control over this platform?”
The Captain paused. “Then we destroy it.”
“I would suggest you wait until I am able to mine valuable data about their purpose here. This platform has a certain amount of data storage on board. I should be able to determine a great deal of its purpose here,” Penelope explained through the Goddess.
“I agree with Penelope,” the Doctor said. “I came here for information, not relics.”
“Fine,” the Captain relented. “Penelope, run your scan. Doctor, follow me.”
“They’re coming, too,” the Doctor said, pointing to Griln and his father.
“Fine!” the Captain barked over his shoulder.
The three of them followed Captain to the tapestry that hung behind the Goddess’s throne. Pulling it aside, he revealed a darkened corridor.
“I knew that was there,” the Doctor said quickly.
Captain Light scoffed and waved for them to follow him in. Griln hefted a decorative axe from its place on the wall before take his place at the rear.
For several minutes, they followed the Captain down several passages, backtracking twice when he became lost.
“We’re running out of time, Captain,” the Doctor pressed. “Whatever is controlling the Goddess may have other minions, and there’s the rest of those TDI agents about. They might suspect something when the majority of the people here start wondering why they’re here. We need to get back to Penelope.”
“Aha!” Captain Light exclaimed, turning a corner the Doctor was sure they’d turn three times before. This time, however, the corridor opened into a large chamber, lit by a small number of torches.
As they approached a raised dais with an intricately carved table on it, Captain Light turned and gave the Doctor a smile.
The smile quickly faded as he turned his attention to the table. Rushing forward, he looked around in desperation. “Where’s the other one?”
The Doctor stepped up behind him and examined the single egg-shaped relic on the table. “That’s it?”
“There were two left,” Captain Light said angrily, slamming his fist on the table.
“Oh, too bad,” the Doctor remarked sarcastically. “Only half the profits.”
Turning on the Doctor, Captain Light got in his face. “I’ve had it with you. You don’t know the first thing about me. You assume that–”
The Doctor’s eyes widened slightly as they caught sight of something behind the Captain. Seeing that the Doctor’s attention was elsewhere, Captain Light followed his gaze. Both Griln and Tobun were looking at it too.
A large tapestry behind the table depicted several men in dark running from a figure in a long duster holding a small blue cube. The figure in the duster was standing on another black figure with a skull for a face.
Captain Light sighed and turned back to the relic in silence.
“I am sorry,” the Doctor said to his back. “I didn’t know.”
“You are the one that vanquished the Death God!” Tobun said in awe. “But how? You’ve not aged.”
“I travel through time. That wasn’t so long ago for me,” the Captain explained.
“But the stories say you were of our tribe,” Tobun replied, confused.
“I am,” Drustan said, turning around to face the three men now staring at him. He seemed about to explain further, but apparently decided against it and turned away from them.
“Why did you come back?” the Doctor asked softly.
“I wanted to save my mother,” Captain Light said quickly, not giving them anymore than that.
Both Griln and Tobun fell to their knees and bowed to the Captain.
“Oh stop it!” both the Doctor and Drustan said in unison. The two tribesmen reluctantly obeyed.
“So, this relic,” the Doctor prompted.
Seeing the revelation had played itself out, Captain Light turned quickly back to the table and the egg-shaped relic on a stand at its center.
“Not a relic,” Captain Light corrected. “A vessel.”
The Doctor’s brow furrowed as memories and half-forgotten snippets of random knowledge began to click together. “And what’s inside?”
“Let’s find out,” the Captain said frankly. Before the Doctor could stop him, The Captain pressed a small round indentation at the top of the object.
Purple lightning erupted from the egg and it begin to rise, spinning faster and faster. All four men were knocked back into a pile by the energy released at that moment.
From the corridor behind them, the Goddess came running in at that moment screaming ineffectively, “Don’t activate it!”
From the pile of bodies, the Doctor quipped, “Bit late for that now.”
As the four men scrambled to their feet, the egg-shaped vessel began to grow in size. The purple electricity shot out in increasingly violent bursts, causing the five onlookers to shield their eyes with each crack of energy.
“We should probably get out of here,” the Doctor shouted above the tumult.
“We need to know what it is!” Captain Light shouted back.
The Goddess, still being controlled by Penelope, was about to say something when the vessel suddenly split in two, both halves separating to reveal a humanoid figure standing inside.
In robes of black, the figure had a hood pulled low over a blank, featureless mask.
“I hope that’s not what I think it is,” the Doctor said, backing away slightly.
“And what do you think I am, Time Lord?” a voice bellowed out from all around them.
Seeing that the entire group was backing away with him, the Doctor made up his mind, steeled himself, and stepped forward in mock confidence. “You are a Priest of Paradox,” the Doctor replied frankly. “Though how you’ve survived, I’m not sure. My people believed your order died out long before we ever even discovered time travel. We only found vestiges and smatterings of legends to mark your passing.”
“Passing?” the figure said with a laugh. “We never left, Doctor. We have always been here. Watching. Waiting. Your people failed this universe, and they failed themselves, and now the true masters of time will return to undo all the damage you’ve done against the paradox. You were infants when we were gods. And you’ve ineffectively played your games with our universe while we had transcended this universe to the multiverse beyond.”
“If you’re so transcendent, why bother with us? Why get involved with a primitive planet and its people?” the Doctor pressed.
The Priest of Paradox laughed and the entire structure around them reverberated with the power behind it. “No answers for you, Doctor!” it cried, its blank white mask showing naught but nothingness.
“He is pushing me out!” Penelope said with some difficulty through the clenched teeth of the Goddess.
“And now, Doctor, you will witness the power of the true masters of time!” the Priest of Paradox bellowed. Before them, the Priest began to grow in size as it raised its arms above its head. Purple lightning erupted into the room and engulfed the powerful figure in white hot flames that did not burn it or its clothes. “I will now send you into the void between universes, Doctor, for all of eternity!”
Quite suddenly, the tumultuous display stopped. The lightning dissipated, and the flames burned out. It was only then that the rest of the group could see what had happened. The Priest of Paradox wavered slightly, and a thin rivulet of ochre-colored liquid ran out from where a large axe had appeared in the center of its mask.
Those assembled turned their eyes towards Griln, who simply said, “Violence works.”
The Priest of Paradox fell backward to the ground quite dead.
“My hand!” Griln cried out in pain, holding his red right hand before him. The warrior collapsed to his knees and Tobun ran to aid him. Slowly, the redness in Griln’s hand turned to pink, and then resolved to the darkened tan of the warrior’s natural skin tone. The look of pain on his face soon faded, too, replaced by a look of relief. “It’s alright! I’m alright!”
Tobun laughed and clapped a hand on his son’s shoulder happily. “We defeated her! We have defeated the Red Right Hand of the Goddess!”
The Doctor and Captain Light did not share in the mirth however. Both had concerned looks on their faces as they looked to the Goddess.
“This is not good,” Penelope said through the Goddess. “There are at least two more Priests active in this universe. I’ve mined as much data as I could from this platform, and have been unable to determine their purpose. All I can tell you is their destinations.”
“The Kelvaxan Reliquary,” Captain Light said quickly, having already pieced together the first location. “The other relic I gave to Curator Heems, it was a Priest of Paradox.”
“That doesn’t bode well for Heems or us,” the Doctor surmised, running a hand nervously through his hair. “There is a significant amount of history tied up in that museum. There’s no telling what the Priest may be trying to accomplish there. Where did the other go?”
“A small planet in a neighboring galaxy,” Penelope replied. “Sol-3 in the third starsector of Galaxy 3.”
The Doctor’s face went ashen. “I’ve got to go.”
“You’re coming with me, Doctor,” the Captain demanded, grabbing the time lord’s arm. “We have to do this together. I need you.”
“My friends need me,” the Doctor replied, shrugging his arm away. “Earth is–” hesitating, he ran his hand through his floppy hair again.
“Those two you were with,” the Captain said, nodding. “At the Reliquary. I understand, Doctor. Perhaps it is best if we split up, each going after a Priest.”
“Shall I destroy this platform?” Penelope asked. “It would be simple to engineer a cascading fault that would deteriorate its component mass quite quickly and completely.”
“No,” the Doctor countered. “I want to take it with me. I’d like to study it further and see if the mechanism of the red right hand doesn’t lead me to some answers. Is the therapeutic intelligence still on board and functional?”
“It is a basic intelligence, Doctor, not nearly as advanced as myself. Perhaps I could accompany you instead?” Penelope said somewhat coyly.
“Now look,” Captain Light interjected. “You’re making me extremely jealous, Penny.”
Penelope laughed mischievously as the Goddess for a minute before relinquishing control to the native therapeutic intelligence. The Goddess stopped laughing abruptly and stood straight and rather stiffly before saying, “Memory fault. Short-term memory unavailable. This unit must be rebooted.”
“Yes, well,” the Doctor said patting the Goddess’s shoulder. “We’ll get you sorted out.”
Turning to the two native inhabitants of the planet, the Doctor smiled. “And you lot, I believe you have your planet back, though there might be a few remnants of the TDI you’ll have to contend with. They won’t like the disruption in the flow of fuel, but I’m sure having the full might of the tribes behind your leadership will mean their quick departure.”
“Not my leadership,” Tobun said, lifting his chin proudly. “Griln will lead them. It was he who saved us all this day, and this old man will at last retire to his hut and let the next generation take their place.”
“Are you sure?” the Doctor said, a bit concerned. “He’s awfully violent.”
“I think that might be just what we’ll need to turn these invaders away,” Griln said grimly as he yanked the axe free from the Priest’s face.
“We’ll survive,” Tobun said simply. “Thanks to you, Doctor.”
The Doctor merely smiled and nodded. “I’ve got to go now. And Captain Light here should be on his way, as well.”
“I’ll return to check on you, Tobun,” the Captain said. “There may be some more clues here to unraveling what the Priests are up to, but first I need to find that other relic.”
“As a great hero from our past and present, you are always welcome, Captain Light,” Tobun said bowing low to him.
“Ah, well,” the Doctor said, clapping his hands together. “Anyone seen a blue box?”
It was the fifth time Rory had listened to it, and it just got better each time. The music literally vibrated through his entire body. Never before had he experienced Radiohead quite that intensely, not even the first four times.
“This implant is the absolute best,” Rory remarked to himself.
Distracted by the intensity of the song playing through his mind, Rory did not notice the plate he had been washing up was now deflecting the water from the tap onto his pants and onto the floor.
Suddenly, brought back into the present, Rory gasped and dropped the plate into the sink with a clatter. The clatter seemed to echo into a heaving, wheezing sound that grew in intensity and it took Rory a few seconds to realize it was a familiar wheezing sound he had been expecting for quite some time now.
A smile played across his face as he left the tap running and sprinted for the front yard. As he burst through the front door he called out, “Amy! The Doctor is back!”
The TARDIS materialized a few feet ahead of where Rory stopped, and he waited patiently for the doors to open.
Behind him, Amelia Pond came running through the open door to their house and sidled up next to her love. They shared a smile together and pecked each other lightly on the lips before turning expectantly to greet their friend who they’d both sorely been missing.
“Wonder if he forgives me for that gunbunny business,” Rory asked ashamedly.
The door to the TARDIS opened before the two companions could muse further and the Doctor stepped out hurriedly. Seeing his two companions his beaming smile erupted across his face and he held his hands out to them.
Just as suddenly as the smile had appeared, it disappeared, and the Doctor’s arms fell limply at his sides.
Amy and Rory stopped just as they were about to run forward and embrace the time lord. They saw the look on his face and immediately were concerned for the entire universe.
“What is it, Doctor?” Amy asked nervously.
The Doctor was looking at their right hands.
“Oh no, not you two,” the Doctor sighed. “I’m too late.”
Each of the companions had a red right hand.
(to be continued)