Doctor Who: Panic Moon Ch. 23byKurokami©
Author's Note: This is a sequel series to Amy, Captured. To get the full experience, please read through that one first.
Hi everyone, here's the latest chapter. Hopefully you all enjoy it, and if you do (or don't, I'm not picky!) then please let me know. I live for feedback, guys and girls! Enjoy!
'So, where are you taking us, Sander?' Mara leaned into her boyfriend, trying to shoot him a bit of warmth to dispel the once habitual gloom that had descended over him. He stared out the window of the shuttlecraft as it swept through the closed-in airspace of Selestene, his surgically enhanced eyes filling in the trappings of a modern consumer culture over the blank building faces; a thousand billboards superimposed over the desolation. He looked awfully pensive...
She hadn't seen that expression since... Well, since Nirvana.
She caught the unmistakable drift of his eyes over Amy's wary form, seated opposite the pair, pitched forward to catch as much of the city below as she could from the interior of the shuttle. It was easy to forget, given her current situation, that if Amy was anything, she was a consummate explorer of the universe. A companion, a TARDIS traveler; alien cityscapes were her bread and butter.
Still, the way Sander's eyes locked on hers before heading to Mara troubled the blonde; was the old fixation returning?
It had been easy for her to forget how he had once been, once she had extracted him from their old home on that desolate asteroid; just how sick he had been, trapped in what amounted to a dungeon, with his plotting and his desperate, pathological need for revenge the only things keeping him going. Moving him, giving him friends and a goal to work toward had done wonders for the last scion of the Hackett family; he had evened out, shrugged off the shackles of vengeance. The Doctor no longer dominated every waking moment he had, which had come as something of a relief to Mara; the glimmers of humanity that had only occasionally shown through the shell Sander had become following the death of his wife had blossomed, become the rule, rather than the exception. She had watched her boyfriend become human, day by day.
This was why it unnerved her to see that look back in his eyes, as though it had never left; the melancholy with which he viewed the world, and that mix of vengeful glee and strained near-hatred that he beamed out to Amy. It spoke of the old Sander, the mad man with a plan and the know how to deal some serious damage.
Mara wondered which Sander had decided to take them out on the town today.
'Someplace that I would never take anyone else to see,' He mumbled, returning his gaze to the window. Somehow, this didn't alleviate Mara's anxiety. A brief glance at Amy told her that the redhead felt essentially the same way. When Mara opted to send the other girl a small smile, Amy blinked, before returning it tentatively, quickly looking away.
It was odd to feel a sense of camaraderie with the captive girl, especially given the animosity that had characterized their previous interactions. But Mara was beginning to feel adrift here; normally Sander was a great source of comfort, and without that she was forced to look elsewhere. At least Amy was familiar and besides, it wasn't as if either of them knew the city that well. This high up, it was all buildings and fake advertisements plastered across their sclera anyway.
Of course, even from this height, Mara could tell the shift from business to residential districts when she saw it. The buildings became shorter, yet more horizontally expansive, spaced further apart and ringed by distinctive border fences. These were the homes of the upper class within a city built for the upper classes; immaculate, painfully symmetrical things that made her ache to land and just... mess them up a little.
Even if just to watch the army of maintenance robots she was sure each and every home below had scuttle out to fix the damage.
The shuttle dipped, keeping it in line with the predetermined flight path Sander had laid in before departing; this was one of the newer, pilotless models of transport. In the past, Sander had expressed a marked dislike for the A.I driven craft- after all, if the onboard computers failed, what kept them from simply falling out of the air?- but apparently his time with Jericho had softened him on the idea somewhat.
She felt herself shift forward a bit, with the firing of the braking jets, pushing the shuttle from horizontal flight into descent. Below them was a landing pad, overlooking an expansive, near to palatial home that, once they had landed, would tower over them. As the shuttle descended past floor after floor, Mara began to wonder exactly who would live in such a place; the thing was essentially one step away from being an apartment building.
But there was an air of... neglect, about the place too; the gardens seemed just slightly overgrown, the landing lights on the pad below them needed to be replaced in several places, and there was no sign of the ever present, friendly identification programs asking them who they were. Sander didn't seem terribly perturbed by this, but Mara knew already that something was up.
'Give me a minute,' Sander said absently, rising from his seat to make his way through to the cockpit panel, speaking in hushed tones into the microphone placed there specifically to communicate with air traffic control. Moments later, the grounds below them came to life, the access gangway down to ground level sliding out and attaching to the ship, as a sudden voice announced that their presence here had been recognized, and they were cleared for entry. Sander sighed to himself, before wordlessly opening the door and extending his hand to help Mara down.
'Come on, Hackett, where are we?' She asked, giving him a persistent, "I'm not letting this go," look as he aided her descent down onto the floor, before offering to do the same with Amy. He grinned through clenched teeth when she opted to ignore him, avoiding his touch as she exited the shuttle herself. Always so independent...
'Well...' He began, trailing off into an awkward and confused silence, expression shifting to one of deep thought. He approached the sentence from several angles, trying to come up with some way to phrase it that would... work. That wouldn't seem harmful to him, that the jagged edges of his memories wouldn't hurt too much when he said it. None was forthcoming; this place was nothing but pain to him now. If he hadn't had to come back, he would never have set foot here again. Hell, if it had been up to him he would have seen the place demolished years ago... though it had turned out fortunate that his father's will had forced him to leave the old place standing. Lucky, lucky, fucking lucky...
'This is Hackett House,' He said finally, wincing a little as he said it. Too many goddamn memories in this place, things he could never get back, no matter how hard he tried. And... things he could never escape.
'This is where I grew up.'
'You know, I'm beginning to feel like we don't have much of a handle on the concept of a holiday.'
Lysithea felt the gaze of the Dullahan pass over her; being more than a little psychic herself, she felt the sensation more acutely than most. Strictly speaking, given enough time she was sure she could tap into Dulcimer's own neural network and spend the rest of their time cohabiting communicating with her solely through telepathy, but that entire idea made her feel a little uneasy; she kept herself mainly disconnected from the Trine-form's Chorus for a reason, after all. Sitting inside someone else's mind... well, she'd grown like that, only on a civilization wide scale, dropped into the hive mind of her entire species from the earliest point in her life cycle.
That kind of collective thought process... had some downsides. And she had been disconnected from it for so long that the voices ran together, became indistinct; not a Chorus, but a Cacophony. She had to concentrate just to pick them out, one by one. Given a little more time, she wondered whether she would even be able to hear them individually at all, or just perceive the whole. One great, raised voice, a torrent of thought, the grand collective of her entire species, screaming in her head... and completely untranslatable.
Well, in that case, she supposed she would have to simply disconnect for good. Lysithea the free agent...
'Why, whatever do you mean?' Dulcimer's telepathic voice broke her from her ruminations, and Lysithea felt herself smile awkwardly, embarrassed to have been caught thinking about that. After all, telepathy was all the Dullahan had...
'I mean that here we are, on a whole new planet, the cradle of human culture... and we opt to spend the day in the hotel room,' She said, crossing one long, pale leg over the other. 'Tsugi even worked up the courage to take Kanaria out, and we just lay around like this? It seems like a wasted opportunity to me.'
'Perhaps,' Dulcimer sent, throwing a casual gesture over her shoulder to the corner of the room, where Lorna and Sally pored over a datapad together, the Gamma girl acting as operator of the device, which Sally would have no hope of using correctly. Its functions had been locked down; though the two aliens had no problem with the girls using it, it wouldn't do to have them be able to contact the outside world through it. Hence, it operated on a closed loop; programs could be accessed from it, but nothing could be sent out through it. Still, it put them at ease, and was preferable to having the captives watch the two of them warily from the background all day.
'Yes, I know we've been told to keep an eye on them, but there's no reason they couldn't go out with us,' Lysithea persisted. 'They have their Command Collars, and I'm led to believe those are properly legal here. Why not go out and see a bit of the city? We're in an Arcology, Dulsie. I've never seen a city with a roof before.'
'Where would we go?'
'The world is our oyster, as they say,' She smiled, giving the Dullahan a wink. 'Besides, this is a pleasure city, and believe me, I know my way around those.'
'Ah yes, you worked in a telepathic brothel, I remember. Very horizon expanding, I presume?' There was a wry tone in Dulsie's message, it was easy to see she was interested. 'New experiences are good, after all...'
'So come out with me!' The Trine-form said, going in for the kill. 'I'm sure I could find another one with ease. This is a human centric world after all, I doubt there would be much consideration for psychic shielding around here... imagine the kinds of things we could find wafting out of those buildings...'
Without warning, Dulcimer stood, going from stationary to upright in an instant.
'Alright, you have me convinced. Let us take in the town, Lysithea.'
'You taking me home to meet your parents, Hackett?' Mara grinned, hoping her joke would elevate her boyfriend's mood... before freezing in place. It had just come out, she hadn't thought about it, it had been the natural joke given he had taken her to his childhood home. She swore to herself she hadn't meant to dredge that up; there were no parents in this place, there were no Hacketts in this place. Stupid. Suddenly, the empty nature of the house and its surrounds made a lot more sense.
'Something like that,' There was a tightness to Sander's expression that hadn't been there before; part pain at the old memories she had undoubtedly just thrown into his head, and part cringe at the insane faux-pas she had just committed. 'After all, you two are the only people who actually know all there is to know about... well, the past. I wouldn't exactly want to bring the others here and have to explain.'
He spoke with a deliberate, significant emphasis that was clearly designed to admonish Mara for her slip up. It was a good sign, oddly enough; Mara knew that if what she had said had really bothered him, he would have let it go unnoticed. Kept it to himself, like the closed off old sod he became whenever he was confronted with the particularly difficult elements of his past. She could smile and go to him without fear of being pushed aside.
'But, since you ask, I guess I could take you on the tour,' He sighed, seeming quite put upon. Mara supposed she was meant to be his emotional support for this belated homecoming, but... what did that make Amy? Was she just here because she knew the whole story? Or, more likely, was she here so that Sander could impart another one of his Doctor lessons?
Frankly, she didn't know whether she wanted to listen to another one of those...
'Although creepy abandoned buildings and the Doctor's companions historically don't add up to anything particularly happy,' He said, after a pause. 'But then, it's never been a creepy abandoned building in the future, now has it?'
'Spoilers,' Mara prodded him. 'Or just mean, I don't know.'
'Probably both,' He said grimly. 'Come along then. We've got business to attend to.'
Mara attached herself to Sander a tad self consciously as he strode toward the building. There was a somber expression on his face that, if nothing else, told her loud and clear that he needed her support, even if he didn't have the heart to outright ask her for it. So she gave it willingly; to deny him that would have been... wrong. Unspoken things had characterized the first eleven years of their relationship, and it was only once they had mustered up the wherewithal to actually talk to each other that things had begun to progress. Mara had promised herself never to let him go silent again.
Amy, on the other hand, was less immediately willing to follow her kidnapper into the lion's den. She stayed behind, leaning against the hull of the ship, weight shifting nervously from foot to foot. When Sander turned, she bore up under his glare with a raised chin and a defiant look in her eyes.
'Look Amy, I could just whisper that special little word and order you to follow me, but I'm really not in the mood today, okay?' He growled, taking a step back toward the ship. 'So just follow me, yeah? Because I am not leaving you alone out here.'
'Like you said, I don't do well with abandoned buildings,' Amy replied, rooted to the spot. 'There's usually something bad in them, and if I follow you into that one there will definitely be something bad in there. Two bad things,' At that, she shot a sharp glance at Mara, who couldn't help but smile back. How cute...
'You're right, there will be something bad in there, something that could make your life real hard, not only while you're inside, but in the foreseeable future too,' Sander said. 'So I guess the question becomes, do you really want to be the woman who irritates that bad thing before you even enter the building? Besides which, d'you think I brought you all the way out here to my family home just to... what, screw with you?'
This caused Amy to pause; the question was a valid one, but she was still actively trying to decipher why he would bring her out here at all. What possible reason could he have? Sander wasn't the kind of man who would do something for nothing; there had to be some plan behind this, an angle he had, and it made Amy nervous that she didn't know what it was. She knew he wouldn't outright hurt her, but other than that...
'Then why did you bring me?' She said finally, her vulnerable position coloring her voice.
'Because there's things you need to see,' Sander sighed. 'Just come on, Pond. Don't make me use your Collar.'
'Ugh, fine, okay!' She relented, sneakers tapping against the cool metal of the landing pad. It was an odd, slightly distressing fact to have to confront, but Amy was still getting used to the feeling of wearing shoes. She had been barefoot around Trismestigius for days, even when she had been allowed to wear clothes at all... she had become accustomed to is, as dissatisfying as that was. The worst part was, this was actually a step up...
With a tightness in his posture that seemed to actively discourage further conversation, Sander led the girls along the- by now- slightly grubby path, toward the looming silhouette of the house. His eyes remained level on it, never deviating from the door; Amy suddenly understood just how unpleasant this was to him. She resolved herself to be careful here; one wrong move or misplaced word could trigger that old rage in him, the kind of thing he could easily take out on her. She still remembered: there had been a time when she was his favorite punching bag for that kind of thing. An effigy of the Doctor.
'Okay, let's see how easy the old man's gonna make this for me...' Sander murmured, more to himself than anyone else, placing his hand against a contact pad beside the undoubtedly expensive door; at odds with the more technologically advanced house that surrounded it, the front door itself was simple wood, albeit finely carved and polished. It struck Amy as a vaguely amusing anachronism, especially as Sander's efforts at the scanner were rebuffed with a red light and series of warning tones.
'Not working?' Mara asked.
'Well, the place has been abandoned for sixteen years at least, it's a miracle there's still power,' Sander settled himself into a crouch, running his fingers along the seam that connected the device to the wall. 'Besides, there's a couple backdoors into the system. Cohen set them up for sneaking in and out of the place when things got too... heated. Made of much firmer stuff... Ah ha!'
With an unpleasant metal creak, the casing came away from the wall, revealing the intricate innards of the device. Sander slid aside the lower panel, leaving the rest of the case to hang unsupported against the machinery itself, as he delved into the mechanisms beyond, groping blindly until he hit out at the correct section, connecting two wires that had never touched before. Simultaneously, a section of the roof above them split open, revealing an aperture that spewed a deep orange light into the air, coalescing into a ball of floating cogwheels, like someone had torn out a series of components from an analogue clock. Each segment slid and wheeled around the others in an intricate and seamless pattern.
'System active, restoring from backup memory. System inactivity logged at: Eighteen years, one hundred thirty nine days. Inactivity has reached abandonment threshold, activating security protocols: non lethal holding apparatus.'
'Program, instruction: run voice print identification for Alexander Evan Hackett,' Sander cut off the orb of tessellating clockwork before it could continue along that rather distressing train of thought. 'Dumb A.Is, man...'
'Voice print identified: Welcome, Master Hackett,' The hologram shifted from orange coloration to a more conciliatory blue. 'Would you like me to update you on the status of Hackett House?'
'No, skip it. Instruction: restart the house's technical systems, giving priority to the computer network and the labs. Start them slowly, don't want anything to explode in a sudden power surge,' Sander said. 'While you're at it, do a search of the public records. Update your administrator privilege list based on... currently active Hacketts.'
'Working...' An hourglass bloomed into being at the forefront of the hologram, completing a few lazy turns before disappearing. 'Completed. List updated, Alexander Hackett elevated to sole administrator. Please accept my condolences on behalf of Cantrell Security Systems for your loss, Master Hackett.'