Doctor Who: Panic Moon Ch. 26byKurokami©
Author's Note: This is a sequel series to Amy, Captured. To get the full experience, please read through that one first.
Hey gang, I'm back, and earlier this time. I'm trying to speed up the writing process for this thing, and it's coming along pretty well, so keep watching, you'll see more from me soon. Other than that, I hope y'all enjoy, and see fit to let me know what you think at the end of it all!
Tsugi leaned against the sky, feeling an abiding sense of peace for the first time in a long time.
At first, the thought troubled him; exactly how long had it been since he had properly felt at peace with his situation? A little perspective reminded him that it was often hard to retain a calm life when in the middle of a secret war with a living god who's on the warpath. He had chosen this, after all; what right did he have to complain about it now?
Especially with Kanaria here.
There was a cordon sectioning off the edge of the city, presumably running in a ring around the entire dome. Beyond that lay the foundations of the skybox, the screen extending all the way down to the ground, projecting a false horizon in picture perfect clarity. Tsugi had jumped a lot of barricades in his youth, and this one was no different; he had even gotten to act the gentleman and help Kana over it too. They sat side by side in the hologram, sinking into it up to the shoulders. Looking over, Tsugi watched the light play over her; from this perspective it looked as though she was engulfed in sunlight, a little slice of a bright summer day. She blushed when she caught him staring.
'Tsugi, do you ever get worried?' She ventured, breaking the peaceful silence. 'About all of this, I mean.'
'Sort of. It's not something I'm used to, anyway. Not just the plans, and the big cities and stuff, but... see, I'm used to little backrooms and screens. I'm just a tech guy,' He said. 'But I get the feeling you had something different in mind.'
'Sander,' Kana said.
'Ah,' The topic was an uncomfortable one. Anyone could see that the boss man had been making some questionable decisions lately, taking a quartet of hostages out into an open, uncontrolled environment being the least of them, but at the same time he was still a friend. But there came a point, when reality-rending technology was on the fritz and a renegade Time Lord was out for blood, that friendship stopped being sufficient to make Tsugi hold his tongue.
Sander wasn't just representing himself anymore; his decisions could end up being life or death for the rest of his crew, to say nothing of Amy and the girls, and a good chunk of the surrounding solar system should the Eternity Engine go into meltdown. Questions needed to be asked.
'I get why he's doing this,' Kanaria hastened to add. 'At least, I get one reason why. It's nice that he wants us to relax, I just wonder if it's the right time for it. Especially after...'
She trailed off, but Tsugi ended up looking at the scar curving around her throat anyway. The dents and bruises that the crew had suffered weren't going to go away with some new scenery and nice hotel rooms. At times it seemed like Sander was just trying to spackle over a far more serious issue than he realized existed.
The can of worms was open now; they would never again be able to pretend that they were entirely safe in their work. The worst part was that they all knew that as bad as Walker had been, he paled in comparison to the Doctor, that nightmare riding in, all fire and ice. Frankly, it was miraculous Sander had survived the last time.
'We've trusted him so far,' Tsugi said. 'And he's never led us astray before.'
'He's never really had the opportunity to,' Kanaria replied. 'This is the first time we've ever been in a position to fail.'
'And we...' He stopped. He had been about to say that they had gotten out of it okay. Stupid. He tried again, 'We all got out of that alive.'
'Barely,' She said.
The silence that followed was speculative and also short-lived, as a few moments into it a chime rang out through the air, tinny and small but unmistakable. The call had been made to both of them at once, but Tsugi got to his holo-pad first, summoning the resulting little hologram of Sander into the air above it.
'You need to come home,' It said, diminutive, insubstantial hands sliding into the depths of its holographic pockets. 'Before it gets dark. Kanaria's with you, that's good. But the nighttime transition is when things get dicey on the streets unless you have the correct identification programs. I do, you don't, so... hurry.'
'What kind of dicey are we talking about here, boss?' Tsugi shifted uncomfortably, mind suddenly filled with all sorts of strange, worrisome possibilities. He had heard all about Sander's time on Theros during his first attempt at this, after all; he knew the boss' holiday destinations could be quite aggressive to newcomers.
'The kind of dicey that one should be in a group of more than two to avoid,' Sander said. 'Come on, I've got something fun in mind anyway. I booked ahead and everything.'
With a luminous little wink, the hologram faded out, as Sander disconnected the call. With a sigh, Tsugi got to his feet, mouth curving into a helpless, not-all-the-way-positive smile.
'We can be worried all we want,' He said. 'But in the end, we always come when he calls...'
An hour later, the night transition had swept the light from the sky and the city itself had replaced it from below, a series of pulsing, writhing veins of light rising up from the ground like the roots of some immense neon tree. Selestene became filled with nightlife, burning with hedonism and lust and a haze of chemically altered mental states.
And it was into this city that Sander Hackett's group had set out.
Somewhat ominously, Sander had enhanced the security of the group long before heading out. At his word, Ren had been stuck close to Christina, with Dulcimer providing guard duty for Lorna, though Mara opted to stick close to her own private project as well, for obvious reasons. Sally stuck close to Tsugi and Kanaria, subconsciously keeping herself nearest to the most normal looking humans in the group. It made sense; the newly formed couple hadn't done anything to Miss Sparrow yet.
Of course, this left Amy walking side by side with Sander, occasionally reaching up to finger the lining of her brand new collar plating. That had been a somewhat scary prospect; through her time with Sander, Amy had almost learned to completely ignore the Collar around her neck. It was there, an ever present weight keeping her attached to the dark-haired man and his crew, but for the most part, the thin little ring had become like background noise. One wasn't aware of every strand of hair, after all.
But Sander's modification of the captive's Collars had brought the damnable device back to the forefront of her mind. After a few minutes work- without so much as unlocking the Collar from around her neck first- Amy had been able to view the modifications in the nearest mirror. The formerly glittering silver had been covered by thin, deep red plates, segmented by black bands that, judging from the unevenness of the pattern, must communicate something in some language Amy wasn't familiar with. Though initially cold to the touch, the moment Amy's fingers pressed against the new plates, something moved beneath them, and quickly heated up, though not unbearably so.
Newly outfitted, they walked through the streets, orbiting around Sander as though he were a center of gravity and, as a consequence, around Amy too. The talking, lively retinue moved through an increasingly crowded set of streets; the average person on the ground was human, though the occasional alien could be seen moving through the throng. In some ways it reminded Amy more of her time on the Starship UK, as opposed to any of the multitude of alien worlds; this was a place informed by humans and human culture, almost exclusively. Even Theros, as terrible as that place had been, had a patchwork of future and alien cultural artifacts threaded through the infrastructure of the planet. But this was a little, encapsulated piece of Earth.
And Amy was here as a slave...
Their path led them underground, down a wide staircase and past a number of softly glowing screens, depicting a series of shifting patterns that, although nonsensical, were oddly enticing. Though he watched Amy staring, to Sander the artifice of this place was all too obvious; the Olivan club was one big psychological trap, built to draw you into its dimly lit, neon-girded maw, and to keep you there. The architecture was designed to make you want to go in and, for the kind of person who knew what actually went on inside... that view was entirely justified.
Loci built for entertainment- the kinds in which Sander would spend all his time, if he had his way- all had places like the Olivan; clubs or shops or meeting places that were all but unknown by the masses, but highly respected, and hence patronized, by those in the know. The select clientele of these places kept it to themselves, so their little treasure trove remained pure and uncrowded; Sander was sure that his crew would be the first newcomers in a few months, at least. But that would be fine; the Olivan had no membership criterion, nor conditions of entry. If you could find the place, and know enough about it to want to be let in, you could.
Of course, once you had, you had to deal with Fiori...
Getting in was simple, but the Olivan had rules like any other club, and the first rule there was simple: what Fiori says, goes. Fiori is your god. You fear Fiori, or he would be happy to give you a reason to.
Sander shot a meaningful look to the bouncers- a pair of Ogrons in ill-fitting suits- and his group was allowed entrance to the club floor itself. The trick was to project confidence like a spotlight; of course I'm meant to be here, are you?
In all honesty, a part of him was surprised to see Fiori atop his little dais at the far end of the room; Sander had sort of expected someone would have bumped him off his throne by now. An ignoble little death with an unmarked grave would have suited him, really. Instead, Sander found that the years had transformed the once bright and unhinged founder of the Olivan into a middle-aged man, content to watch over his little slice of the world like a king. Sander supposed he was, really; within these four walls at least, Fiori was the law.
They used to say that he had built this place in a day, constructed it around the wreckage of some other now anonymous nightlife lord's empire. They used to say he had toppled his predecessor from the same throne he himself now sat upon. They used to say Fiori never left the Olivan.
They still said Fiori Kamui was unbeatable.
Sander couldn't say whether the Olivan King was now bald by choice, or whether his genetic manipulations hadn't extended to hair retention, but what he could say was that the man had been able to pull it off well. He looked downright imposing, lording over his dominion with the air of one entirely confident in his surrounds even breaking through the strobing lights and thumping music of the club around him.
Sander knew better than to point him out directly, but he inclined his head toward Fiori before his group could spread out too far, 'Be careful of him. He runs the joint, so try not to get on his bad side. Ren, that goes double for you.'
'Why me?' The Half asked defensively.
'Because I'd like to get through this without witnessing a massacre,' Sander said. 'And if you two get into it... well, I dunno who'd win.'
'I'm liking this guy already,' Ren grinned.
This was how things worked here. Selestene was prime real estate, and in an area that had relaxed its laws, to boot. Profit ruled; those who wanted it enough would seek out a way to carve out a piece of it from the arcology's breast, by force if necessary. The land here was limited, and little backroom scuffles broke out over it with some regularity; everyone needed something, they didn't much care who gave it to them. Selestene bought up those who could do it best, and let the others fend for themselves.
The impact the Hackett family had left on the city meant that Sander never had to worry about that; the Hacketts were above it all, so long as robots bearing their seal still patrolled the walls of the Arcology. Anyone arraying themselves against Hackett Industries would have a very hard time, attacking, as they were, the sword that defended the city.
Sander left his crew to their own devices, heading straight to the bar. There was, of course, an automated service panel built into each of the tables and booths that dotted the club, but sometimes the personal touch was required. After all, there were many things that, for legal reasons, did not appear on the Olivan's official inventory.
The bartender was human, though just barely; Sander could see the extensive modifications rippling under the surface of the man. There was a glint in his eyes that was surely mechanical, and most likely connected to the Olivan's surveillance network; Sander felt a strange urge to wave.
In a low voice, speaking only to be picked up by the bartender's undoubtedly enhanced hearing, he ordered for his entire group, hoping in the back of his mind that the club still worked the same way as it had during his last visit, all those years ago. Some nights he still got jerked into wakefulness by dreams of that day, and he was convinced that some of the things he had taken that night were still in his system. He grinned when the man behind the counter nodded in understanding and slipped into the back room.
Minutes later, Sander wound his way through the maze of people and furniture back to his crew, having miraculously not spilled a thing in the process.
'Ladies and gentlemen, this night just got interesting,' He winked, throwing a bit of theatricality into his demeanor. Perhaps it was unnecessary from a strictly logical point of view- after all, the last thing a wanted criminal like him needed was outside attention- but Sander felt an odd need to flee from the events of the day. Hackett House could stay in the past, where it belonged; he needed to keep looking forward.
His eyes went to Amy, as she eyed the tray of drinks at the center of the table. Her trepidation was palpable, but she reluctantly accepted the glass Sander handed her, downing its contents in the shadow of the knowledge that if she didn't do so willingly she could easily be forced to. Sander grinned, watching as each of the captives did the same after varying lengths of time delaying. Lorna, still so pious, took the longest, but she was seated beside Ren. It was hardly a battle of wills, there.
'So, Sander,' Ren rocked back on her haunches, slowly and deliberately taking a swig from her own glass. 'Approximately speaking, just how spiked are these drinks?'
'It's almost like you've been here before!' Sander grinned. 'Answer is, they are very spiked.'
Silence descended on the table, aside from Ren, who gave a sharp spike of laughter and, as the crew watched, drained her glass with a daring smile. From there, every pair of eyes swiveled to Sander.
'What have you done to us, Hackett?' Mara said slowly.
'Oh, nothing to you guys. Why would I want to fuck with my friends? Now, Amy and the girls, however...' He put an arm around Amy and drew her close. 'They should be feeling the effects pretty soon.'
'Come on, don't you think that's even a little irresponsible, boss?' Tsugi frowned, abandoning his drink in his irritation. 'Just think about where we are!'
'It's just a round of interfacers,' Sander shrugged nonchalantly. 'Nothing major.'
Interfacer drugs had been the natural conclusion of the development of illicit narcotics; a hybridized mix of chemical and machine. The technology had existed for years- the field of medicine had been benefitting from the use of nanogenes for decades- and it had only been a matter of time before someone saw fit to reprogram some. All that remained was to tweak the mix until it was just right.
Essentially a cloud of nanogenes suspended in a synthetic opiate liquid, interfacers had the immediate advantage of not being inherently addictive; the active ingredient was the infinitesimally small robots themselves, there was nothing within the drug itself to become addicted to.
The sensations they caused, on the other hand, often proved highly addictive.
The nano-cloud still did what it had been created to do; namely, to home in on certain areas of the body to stimulate them. Only the targets had been changed. Interfacer nanogenes headed not to injuries, but directly to the pleasure centers of the brain. Once colonies of the tiny machines had integrated themselves harmlessly into the cranial tissue, they had been instructed to simply await a signal.
And that was where things got clever.
Because the nanogenes didn't just head to the brain; auxiliary colonies would be set up in the auditory and visual nerves, in order to transmit the signal the central colonies were waiting for. The beat of the club's music, and the shine of its lights.
Interfacer drugs were the answer to the problem of keeping patrons within the Olivan for as long as possible. The mechanical cocktail reacted directly to specialized tones in the sights and sounds of the club, pulsing pleasure through every nerve in the body in time with the rhythm.
They were the perfect carrot, keeping those who took them on the dance floor, buying drinks, buying more drugs, topping up the all too brief runtime of the nanomachines within.
And all the while, the music only pulsed stronger, growing ever faster as the night progressed to an insensible climax. An orgy with sound itself.
Right now, hordes of those same microscopic mechanisms were coursing through the bodies of the hostages. Very soon, they would be finding the music here far, far more pleasant.
Already, Amy's eyes were becoming heavy lidded...
'Ladies and gentlemen, I've set up a tab for us,' Sander took the redhead by the hand and pulled her to her feet. He glanced around surreptitiously, pointing at the club's owner only once he was sure the coast was clear, 'So go nuts. Just... you know, stay away from Fiori. He's dangerous. And keep the companions under guard at all times. Have some fun with them. Don't drop your toys, boys and girls.'
With that, he tugged at Amy's hand, sending them both stumbling into the thronging, writhing mass of the dance floor. Sander had never been much of a dancing person himself, but he had observed Amy at work in her youth, clad in those enticing costumes, paid to strut her stuff among the young men of Leadworth, and occasionally beyond. Subsumed in the sensory fugue of the interfacers, the young woman would undoubtedly find herself falling back into those old patterns, relaxing even in this nest of wasps.
At least, that was the plan.
'What are you doing?' Amy raised her voice over the din of music and countless voices, buffeted by aliens and humans alike. Her skin was awash with the passing spotlights, aflame in neon for a scant moment before fading back into the gloom, only to be illuminated once more. The music beat a heady rhythm from speakers above her head, a thumping electronic beat, strung together with the sinewy, distorted melodies of a violin and shaken by the vibrato thrum of a guitar.
A constellation of sound filled her up from the top down, dotted throughout with the unfamiliar noise of alien instruments, deep, oscillating hums that touched her bones. Whatever Sander had put into her drink...
Was sound supposed to be warm?