The Robbes-Pierre of Longinus
Rassilon sighs as he looks down the plank.
Several attendants in white, pushing trolleys and chairs, are shuffling by him, around him, the flow of people like fish in a stream.
He grabs one woman by the shoulder, smiling a blank, unthreatening smile at her.
Project reassurance, he tells himself glibly as he gauges the woman’s reactions. It’s been a while since he’s had to remind himself of how to act to get information.
The small, one-eyed heart of a face responds as he thought it would, blinking its one blue eye and shuddering, the short worm’s-beak mouth wheeling with resonant odd clicks and catches and whirs.
“I’m sorry sir, but the Hospital is closed to visitors; We’ve had an incident. Please go back to your ship!”
She scurries off, her thin hands driving off with a hovering chair full of a pile of grey, slimy, occasionally bubbling patient.
A Turelo woman, he surmises, shifting himself forward through the rushing crowd.
A man whose brilliant pate is an almost diacritically mottled golden ball strikes a heavy foot across his path, his long marble fingers five in number and dangling, the palm pensive and… strangely empty.
Rassilon frowns; a spark is ignited.
“Did you lose your child?” he asks, curving the outlines of his eyebrows at just the right height, so that even he may be considered a paragon of merciful concern, “I could look for her…”
Those words surprise him; he feels even the man jump a bit at the severity of his earnest.
Golden Ball Head shakes his orb at him; it’s piteous, somehow; piteous in the sense that somewhere on that golden bulb, there is a flash of metallic pity running circumferences away from the sun. Or toward it. And for whom?
“I am a Geldoracht- the spheres on our necks crack and sprout, feeding our offspring from within. As to your inquiry, there were instructions left with the Desk about leaving that room occupied, I believe; on the third level perhaps? I was here with my wife. I would have gone to see about it, but I…”
He shuffles off, leaving the Time Lord alone behind and again, in the narrow strait of ongoers.
Rassilon hears a gasp slip slightly aft and starboard as he takes a step.
He turns, blue eyes searching for the sheer height of the Geldoracht as a visual reference to how far he’s come from the nondescript lobby.
But the Geldoracht is kneeling on the ramp, his marble hands slack and supplicant. The golden ball atop his neck has a crack too; it reveals a whiteness.
Pieces fly from the ball; the body jerks, arms flailing with each new fissure as though the man is being puckered by some sniping projectile.
A small hand escapes the crack, gripping the edge of the man’s head like a hatching chick. The hand adorns an arm. The arm adorns a little girl in a green dress, her head a shiny green marble. She climbs like a twitching bird from the wreckage, then turns to apply her tiny fingers to the broken shell of her father’s head. Her own young ball of a head bobs briefly at Rassilon. Then she skips away.
Rassilon stares at the husk of the Geldoracht’s body, sitting like a standing stone now in the river of people escaping the Hospital.
“Third level? The crying sound…?” he asks a passing metalliform Vorpal Flyrgot with a medical cruce on its tiny adamantite body.
Its small, spinning knife wings click to a stop at once, the circle of blade-like flight appendages rising to a crescendo just fingerlengths from his face. A globe appears. It beams a light from the rusted red cruce on its carapace to the lines of Rassilon’s face, humming loudly, “First right by the Lobby and Vending, left to the stairwell, down to the right and then take an up up left down right turn,” it whirs, twisting around once in full greeting before floating on a bit up the ramp.
“And what was the trouble? Why is everyone leaving?” he remembers to ask aloud, finally. But their eyes, their postures… it is in them that he finds it. There is, he has found, a certain look in the eyes of refugees from an attack. That vision of destruction is in these eyes.
The hospital has been attacked, somehow. And the attendants have no more time for him.
He follows those instructions, passing the shiny white Lobby sparsely decorated with floating root-ball plants. Then he crosses by a Vending Machine Shop full of half-open packets of some sort of edible red or white or green or orange gel. Some of the packets are leaking onto the floor, making a mess.
And the gels seem to be crawling away.
The stairs are somewhat cramped, but he manages the height difference by lurching forward, dodging the medi-bots with painted on yellow happy faces bobbing at him to leave.
“Sir, we must insist you leave,” they counter in tin voices, reprimanding him with little needles, “… the rime crust is spreading over this section! Sir!”
He waves them away like flies, and they fall at his compulsion.
“Hmph,” he sighs, glad to be rid of them as he turns down another corridor.
Could it be?
Spying the last stretch, he draws his own blue note from his pocket.
Mind the snowmaiden.
“All right,” he says aloud, listening for any sounds as he nears the simple, opaque glass rectangle of white door.
At the end of the corridor, he looks up, as he hears a high-pitched, crunching something scrape and scrape and scrape inevitably closer, inside the room.
He reaches for the roundish door knob.
It sears his fingertips with a biting, shearing cold, peeling him, flaking off his skin and gluing itself to his flesh like the sleep of Ymir.
Without looking at his hand, he reaches for the doorknob again.
Gripping the icy metal.
Again, the crawl of dread blue-white frost threatens his fingers with frozen fire.
He turns the knob, and hears the quiet cry of a scrabbling, obstructed throat.