Doctor Who: Panic Moon Ch. 07byKurokami©
Author's Note: This is a sequel series to Amy, Captured. To get the full experience, please read through that one first.
So, I missed a week. It's been a while, sorry for the delay. It's been a bit busy for me lately, what with moving into a new house, going back to university, and finding out that my twins are both girls! Daughters, yay!
Beyond all that, many thanks to my partner Isabel for her assistance with this chapter, and to Allyourbase for looking it over. Both great people, but I'm sure you all know that by now. I'll try my hardest to get back into schedule again, so we should be back to normal by this time next week, barring any kind of horrifying mishap.
This chapter introduces the first new captive into the mix, so please, please let me know what you think, because it's important that I get this right. Also, apologies for the song that appears midway through this chapter, but I so rarely get to model my own relationship with my wife in this place. That song gets used a lot around here, much to the irritation of the listener.
In the end, Amy found herself sitting in her cell. Yes, she had basically been given the run of the base; or at least, the less intimidating areas. Jericho would tell her if she wandered too far out of the approved area.
And that was exactly the problem, if she thought about it: Jericho was always there. Always watching, listening... He was her silent guard. Exploring an alien world like this would normally occupy her for quite a while, and given her situation she should have been thankful for the distraction, but it lost its appeal when her every move was monitored by a computer program. When she called him that, he had actually gotten offended and claimed that he was no mere program: he was a smart A.I, and practically as human as she was.
That's as may be, but Amy couldn't think of a creature like that as human. Not when its awareness extended the length and breadth of the moon, when it could hear and see her wherever she went. Not when it, without a second thought, could render her immobile with a beam of zero-point energy. That was just creepy.
And so she found herself sitting on what she was reluctantly beginning to think of as her bed, knees brought up to her chest and face covered by a ginger curtain of hair. She couldn't shift the feeling of being watched, now that it had been brought to her attention. Her skin seemed to itch with it, the myriad cold, mechanical eyes, whether real or imaginary, pressing in on her. She had never been more aware of just how serious her situation was.
The Command Collar hung on her neck, feeling cold and heavy and utterly merciless. She felt deflated, somehow. As if all her energy had drained out into the ground. It was Dulcimer that had done this to her; the Dullahan had revealed the precise extent to which her mind had turned against her. That Idyll, that half-formed fantasy about Ren... It hadn't been at the forefront of her mind, but it had been there. At all.
What was being done to her... She still hated it. It was unpleasant and shocking and awful... But it shattered her, broke her down, trapped her in her rebellious flesh and forced her to crave it. It wasn't some external force bringing her to that edge, it was her own body, and it scared her. What had broken inside her to make her this way?
As the sunset light shone in, her mind wandered to the worst of her predicament; she would not be alone in it for long. Somewhere out there, another unlucky girl was being snapped out of time and put in precisely the same position. Soon, Sander and his ilk would have a second plaything, and some unbelievably selfish part of her mind wondered: would that mean less work for her?
So many questions plagued Amy's mind; would she be allowed to talk to this new girl? Could they form a plan and escape together? Where would they go? What would she be forced to do with the newcomer?
Beyond that, there was one question that Amy dreaded getting an answer for: Would the newcomer be stronger than her? Could she resist the ordeals she would be put through, or would she share Amy's fate, left with a body that no longer seemed to care that she had been kidnapped and raped?
If she was being totally honest, Amy couldn't decide which possibility was worse; seeing another woman ground down beneath Sander's heel, or seeing her resist, an act that would prove how weak and degenerate Amy herself was. Hopeless pity, or self-loathing, which was worse?
As it turned out, Amy's mind was big enough for both.
Amy Pond flopped to one side, still curled up in a fetal position, and closed her eyes. She hoped that sleep would take her soon, if only to give her something different to think about. Even her dreams had turned against her lately, had become populated with pain and humiliation, but at least she could escape there.
She wished that thought could provide her with more comfort.
Night passed, and too soon Sander found himself standing at the railing of a balcony overlooking the sun as it rose over the forest canopy to one side of his home. He knew he had personalized Jericho's interactions with him for a reason, but part of him still felt irritated at being prodded awake at the crack of dawn by an A.I.
His head rested in his arms, which in turn rested against the cold iron railing. His eyes drooped, almost closed in the vague orange glare of the first daylight; one could almost think he was sleeping there, if not for the cigarette smoking away at the corner of his mouth. He sighed, expelling a stream of smoke that dissipated slowly in the cool morning air.
By all rights, he should at least try to get enthusiastic; Jericho hadn't just woken him up for nothing. Right now, the Eternity Engine was finalizing the excision of the first of the Doctor's companions from the time stream. Soon, Sander would be a busy man; reconfiguring the entire Trismestigius system for another person didn't happen instantly. Beyond that, cells would need to be prepared, he owed it to the crew to inform them... And the mystery new girl would probably want some explanations herself.
That was the part that he would particularly relish.
'Hello Sander!' A voice sounded from inside. It was altogether too chipper for this time of "day". 'How are we doing this fine morning?'
'Hi... Mr. Nakatsukasa?' Sander tried to smile as he formed the pointed question. He liked Tsugi generally, but something about not knowing his gender really threw him off.
'Whatever you think, Mr. Hackett,' Tsugi grinned as he joined Sander at the balcony. He gestured to the little paper box sticking out of Sander's coat, 'Give me one of those.'
'I didn't know you smoked,' Sander tilted his head to one side and regarded the androgynous young person with a curious look. His lighter slid along the railing, and Tsugi nodded gratefully.
'If there's one thing you should have figured out by now, it's that there are heaps of things you don't know about me,' Tsugi said above the sputtering of the flame coming to life. 'So, so many things.'
'One of these days, I am so going to figure you out, Nakatsukasa.'
'So not going to happen,' Tsugi shrugged. 'So, what's got you up so early?'
'I could ask you the same question, but I don't think I'd get a straight answer if I did.'
'Oh, I just... don't spend a lot of time sleeping. And yourself?'
'No shit? Today?' Tsugi cocked an eyebrow.
'Like, half an hour, buddy,' Sander sighed. 'Hence, me being up at the top of the fucking day...' He yawned.
'Okay, well then let me ask: when do I get a shot? At, like, Amy,' Tsugi said. 'I know I'm getting paid, so that's like a perk, right?'
'Hell, take her today if you want,' Sander waved a hand vaguely. 'I'm sure we'll all be busy with the new girl. But you know I'm just going to make Amy tell me whether you're a guy or gal, when you're done, right?'
Tsugi's mouth twisted into something that wasn't quite a smirk, or a smile. It was an expression he often wore, and it made him look like he knew something that everyone else didn't. In a sense, he really did, 'As if I'd make it that easy for you.' He chided.
'Ha,' Sander sighed, again. 'Outstanding.'
Curiosity finally overwhelmed Tsugi's carefully maintained apathy, and his eyes slid lower. He blinked. Ren was right: There really was a little gold ring on Sander's left ring finger, being twisted absently between the fingers of his other hand.
'You know, you've been acting kind of odd lately,' He frowned, pointing. 'And you keep fiddling with your fucking wedding ring, there. What's the deal with that, anyway? You and Mara get-'
Tsugi trailed off as he caught sight of Sander's expression. He had never seen the older man truly upset before, and he had a feeling that he was now. Sander sported a thousand yard stare, only turned up to an intensity that could probably etch glass. His entire face seemed to have set like stone, rigid and immobile and hard enough to bludgeon. It took him a few seconds to speak, and when he did his words were short and clipped; very, very quiet, almost inaudible, but unmistakably the final words that would be said on this topic.
'Drop it, Tsugi.'
Tsugi spread his hands in a placating gesture, 'Hey, okay, okay. It's alright, man. I'll let it go.'
'Fine. Thank you.'
They stood in silence for a few moments longer; Tsugi feared that if he left now, it would look like he was fleeing. Whilst hardly inaccurate, this was not the image that he wished to portray. He was almost thankful when a small, gentle tone issued from the speakers directly behind them, and Jericho spoke up.
'Master Hackett, the new arrival has fully materialized. I have her in a holding loop, awaiting your presence and authorization,' The A.I said, oblivious of the awkwardness in the air.
'Thank you, Jericho,' Sander nodded, closing his eyes. 'Prepare a cell for her, then transport the receptacle there. I figure our mystery guest will be easier to deal with there.'
'Well, this has been fun, Tsugi. Sorry it got all intense there for a second,' Sander shrugged helplessly. 'But duty calls, and all that. Go have fun with Amy, I guess. But be gentle. I guess she had an unplanned run-in with Ren, yesterday.'
'Do I look like the kind of person who'd expend any energy being rough?' Tsugi asked quizzically, trying to sound natural despite the oddness of their immediate previous exchange.
'Good point. Take care!' Sander turned on his heel and sped off, honest excitement rising in his gut. He grinned, eyebrows rising in concern, 'Oh, man...'
He had no idea how he was going to explain all this...
He didn't go straight to the newcomer, but instead to his own bedroom. The complex star system that lit Trismestigius had risen higher in the sky, coating the room in crystalline orange light. Silence reigned in the still room, broken only by Mara's soft, steady breathing. The woman herself was only visible as a vaguely defined lump curled up in the centre of the large bed. It rose and fell softly in time with her breathing.
The problem was that Sander really didn't want to deal with a new captive alone. It had been three full years since his last experience explaining this situation to someone, and he had to admit he handled it less than admirably. Thinking of the newcomer made him think of the Doctor, and after that everything generally became obscured with a red haze of rage, and he became less that entirely coherent.
The obvious solution was: Wake Up Mara.
Of course, the problem with that was waking up Mara.
'Hey, Mara?' Sander lilted, as playfully as possible. It was always a good idea to phrase waking up in positive terms when talking with his hypertensive Evil Mistress. She was less likely to bite his face off then. Nevertheless, there was a slurred, lazy growl from the depths of the blankets.
Sander persisted, 'Mara, I need you. Please wake up.'
The growl got louder, and there was a shift as the blonde woman rolled over. Sander grinned wickedly; he still had one trick up his sleeve, and it was one his girlfriend would have a hard time refusing. God knows, she'd used this particular sickly sweet number on him enough times.
He opened his mouth, and started to sing, 'Time to face the daaay, time to make it snap-py! But y'know, first you gotta make it outta bed!'
Sander actually had a rather pleasant singing voice, and by all rights this gesture should have at least qualified as sweet, but the only effect it had on Mara was to intensify the inarticulate annoyance in her growl, 'Sander!'
He kept going, trying hard to stop from tittering, 'Hello Mr. Sunshine! Today you're gonna be fine! Make-'
'Fuck off, Sander!' The suggestion of an angry blonde head poking out, baleful blue eyes practically melting the air between them.
'Nuh-uh!' Sander shook his head, continuing. 'Take on the day, with a one-two PUNCH!' He cheered, stopping abruptly as a pillow hit him in the face with enough force to knock him off his feet. Not for the first time, Sander considered that Mara kept handcuffs hidden in her pillowcase. Metal, hard handcuffs.
'Sander!' Mara snapped, sitting up. 'This is the kind of thing that gets you punished!'
'Yeah, okay, honey,' Sander picked himself up, scratching the back of his head. 'I just thought you might want to come and check out-'
'I know there's a new toy in town, Hackett,' Mara groaned, flopping back down onto the remaining pillow. 'I have the same clearance level as you, Jericho let me know. I don't really give a shit, right now. I was up all night repairing the outgoing comm. Array, because this Marduk shit? It's fucking that up a little. So, I want to get some sleep, okay?'
'Alright, sorry...' Sander mumbled, deflated. All the music had left his soul. 'I'll just go, then...'
'The song was cute,' Mara conceded as she rolled over, eyes drooping closed. 'Wake me when it's lunch time, okay?'
'Sure, sure,' Sander grumbled quietly as he left. 'Spoilsport.'
The looping receptacle was designed to keep the Engine's target in stasis until the base was good and ready to receive her. In short, it was simply a mechanical answer to the fact that Sander could not be everywhere at once.
It certainly looked more... dramatic than all that.
Each cell had a port in the ceiling designed to project the stasis field; normally it was retracted and the ceiling was a flat surface, but in this currently empty cell the casing had drawn back and the single red aperture was fully opened. An orange spotlight flowed from the mechanical eye, focused into a conical beam that contained within it a single human figure. Sander's eyes lit up.
'Hey, it worked!' He crowed.
'You sound somewhat surprised, Master Hackett,' Jericho's voice slid through the air like an ice cube over skin. 'The subject is in a stable condition, awaiting your order, and I am reading normal, if subdued, brain activity. Everything is fine.'
'Oh, come on! Surely you can see the enormity of what we've accomplished here!' Sander grinned, his whole body light and energized. 'We've pulled an entire person out of time! For all intents and purposes, this woman no longer exists, but every choice she has made remains stable. Effect without cause! We've pulled off a miracle! Make a note, Jericho: This was a triumph!'
'Huge success,' Jericho agreed solemnly.
'Well, I don't see any reason to delay, or anything,' Sander shrugged, having to physically stop himself from jumping for joy. Even he had thought this idea was insane, and if the math hadn't been completely sound he wouldn't have even attempted it. Reeling Amy back in had been a nice initial success, but that had been rather limited in scope; they already knew where to find her, and it hadn't exactly been their first time at the rodeo in that respect. But this was different; for one, people still remembered who Amy was.
It was those damn cracks in reality. Amy Pond was deletion proof.
'Awaiting your command, sir.'
'Ah! Wait, almost forgot! Collar first,' Sander grinned sheepishly, retrieving the Command Collar he had made a point to bring with him from his pocket. He spun it in his hand once, twice, before reaching into the stasis field. The orange light made his skin itch as he fastened the Collar around the newcomer's frozen, pale neck. Something in that made him feel vaguely uncomfortable, almost perverse.
Although he was aware that what he was about to do wasn't exactly going to lessen that feeling.
'Alright, release her,' Sander took a few steps back, placing himself out of arm's reach of his captive. He didn't know how she would react or even what would happen immediately after she properly materialized, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
'Executing...' Jericho affirmed, the cone of light fading away and returning its occupant to reality. Sander hadn't noticed until he had something to compare it to, but the stasis field had a highly disconcerting effect on human flesh; it froze it completely in place, giving it the appearance of stone. It was a little unbalancing to look at something you knew was alive, but to perceive it as inorganic.
Once deposited back into the world of the living, the newcomer dropped immediately to her knees, impelled downwards by the same surge of weakness that had claimed Amy a few days prior. She shivered at the sudden influx of new sensation. Nor for the first time, Sander wondered what level of consciousness a human being retained when in stasis.
Realizing he now had a job to do, Sander smirked. He found that, so long as he kept his attention focused on the woman in front of him, he could avoid thinking about the Doctor for any significant length of time. He kept telling himself that this was a victory; that this, precisely this, was what he had spent sixteen years working towards. This was his revenge, but he needed to keep his mind in the present. It wouldn't do to get wrapped up in the past, to let his emotions get the better of him. It was harder than he cared to admit.
The reason she was here... He thought of that, it brought his mind inexorably to the Doctor. Which made him think of Elsa... Lifeless as his life burned to the ground before his eyes. As his entire family died because of an idealist in a blue box.
With a great, wrenching effort, Sander pushed the crimson tide of rage back down into himself. Everything in him screeched in protest, but this wasn't the time for anger. It was happening; this, right now, was another blow in the war he had been fighting for over a decade. It was working, and it hadn't been murderous rage that had caused it to happen. He needed to remain objective.
Keep the faces of the dead in the heart, he thought. Remember them, and how it felt to lose them. The hate will come when it's needed if you do.
Besides, his brother Cohen was still alive. And he had Mara, and the rest of the crew now. There were plenty of living reasons to fight this war to a victory.
'Lady Christina de Souza,' Sander clapped his hands together, grinning. 'So good of you to come.'
The hum of machinery was the one reliable element in the A.I core; the centre of Kanaria's working life. It was omnipresent, from the moment she entered the core to the moment she left she was enveloped by the noise of impossibly complex processors. Not that she minded; to her, it was the same as being home.