He Did Warn You
The streets were packed with chaos and a bit of a mess (which I hoped wasn't my fault) so we had no choice but to venture into the river by boat, which is a form of transportation I suppose. Would've been ironic if I'd gotten seasick.
Back in chains again for the final stretch made me feel like a proper VIP. Wind in my hair and all that, sailing across the Seine towards the World Fair.
Ships from different future times passed us by on the water. Tourists would photograph us with their cameras until they would fade away again like ghosts. Then machine gunfire and distant explosions rattled our collective nerves while a mob of Frenchmen gathered to see their monarchs decapitated by guillotine. Tens of thousands were executed as 'enemies of the revolution' in the reign of terror following the revolution all across France.
I could actually feel the air become lighter the more we moved into the eye of the storm. It was there all right. The future temporal event. There should be an easier name for that. Like apocalypse or cataclysm. Something like that.
Marie was rather steadfast and hadn't said a word, like a very incompetent tour guide or a very good one. She was smiling for some reason, so I thought it was finally a good time to pop the question.
"Can I have my sonic screwdriver back now, please?" I asked very nicely. Just a turn of my head sufficed.
But perhaps I was boring her. Perhaps there was something else she was thinking about. Because it seemed to be she was the only one not thinking about the end of the world.
"What, do you need it?" she asked. I think she was condescending me. I hate sarcasm.
"No," I said and I shrugged it off. "Not so much need as want. Are boats always this slow?"
I got rather impatient by the end until I noticed troops walking by the side of the river. I recognised the blue uniform, the red hats and shoulderpads. The traditional uniform of the French Foreign Legion.
They weren't manifestations this time. The People brought out the big guns but more soldiers weren't going to fix the problem. They'd only make it worse.
Something else caught my eye before we disembarked. There was still a crowd gathering at the World Fair.
"Why haven't they been evacuated yet?" I asked Marie but she said nothing and only pointed me toward the metal ladder leading back up to street levels.
For a moment I was inclined to enjoy the Javanese dancers and inspect the model Egyptian market street and the so-called negro village with indigenous people, which would probably set off the entire African hype the next few decades, if they were still to happen.
Then I saw the general was waiting for us as I expected he would be.
I stamped my boots into the puddle of water at his feet just for the hell of it.
"You're probably all wondering why I brought you here," I said to him as my chains were being released and I was left rubbing my sore wrists. My last bit of patience for that day was beginning to wane.
"No need," the general spoke unimpressed. "Marie already filled me in on the details. Of course, there's no longer any reason to lie about your companion's escape now you're made aware. I understand she contacted you..."
He was trying to get information out of me. I don't know what he was aiming for exactly but in any case it wasn't going to work on me.
"If I could give you one piece of advice before the world ends, general..." I said and I assumed his silence meant permission, because I always do. No-one's going to shut me up.
"Never underestimate Amelia Pond. It'll be the last mistake you'll ever make."
The courtyard was surrounded by soldiers, but where secret agents were keen on blending in with the crowd they simply stood in formation around the courtyard like statues, awaiting further orders.
There were some who were startled at first but most of them just treated it as another attraction of the Fair. Some sort of presentation, a changing of the guard, which in a sense it was.
The general refused to evacuate these people or announce a state of crisis. He said it would spark a global uproar and a national panic. The Fair was supposed to be a celebration of France's grandeur and achievements and announcing the end of the world and their helplessness to prevent wouldn't look good on the world stage. They had a reputation to uphold.
You humans always think so small-minded and so biased towards human life on Earth; always failing to take into consideration how the rest of the universe will be affected.
If the cancer isn't treated it will spread but will the universe even notice this tiny planet, this tiny galaxy, this puny cell when it dies?
Time can be rewritten. If Alexandre Gustave Eiffel would die, we would just be living in a world where Alexandre Gustave Eiffel died twenty years sooner than he did. Robbed of many a splendour, many a memory, many a chance meeting...and lots and lots of bridges.
But it didn't seem this world, without one of the most influential and brilliant minds of the 19th century, would last for very much longer anyway.
If only I'd known, I could've helped him. I could've done something.
One man's death is a tragedy but a million is just a number. At least that's what they tell me.
When time implodes into a single heartbeat and the Earth is the first planet lost in a wither would anyone mourn? Would anyone care? Would anyone try to save it?
There was a race of people once, long ago and in the future, that could've seen this coming, that could've prevented this but they have all gone. They suffered a different fate. Perhaps a worse fate...
Except for one. Me. I would save the Earth. It's what I do.
"You're still our hostage, Doctor," the general said and I looked at him.
There we stood, him and me, underneath this last bright afternoon the world would ever know, right at the centre of the storm that would soon follow. It was inevitable by then. Not even I could stop it (even if I knew) but that didn't stop me caring.
"No," I said and they looked at me as if they were surprised I had a voice, yet it was this same voice they were counting on to save their lives.
"I said 'no'. Didn't you hear me the first time? Now, I'm not going to spell it out for you. No."
And he was just flabbergasted. It was wonderful, yet so simple.
Thunderstorms were approaching. The temporal fluctuations were messing up the weather and sometimes flashes of lightning would randomly pierce a blue sky.
"I'm going to do this my way whether you like it or not. I've been putting up with you lot for much longer than you could possibly imagine so take this as my final warning."
"More words of advice, Doctor? Pray tell."
I was dealing with fools.
"You really don't know who I am, do you?" I asked. Sometimes anonimity is a relief.
Thunder rolled across the city. The general flinched, but still he did not break his concentration and wouldn't even look away. He tried to keep things under his control, tried to save face and tried to understand but all his experts returned empty-handed. There was nothing he could do.
"I'm not just a hostage. I'm the one who's going to save your life and every single life on this planet and all I ask in return is my freedom. As deals go, this one's practically a bargain."
"No deal," the general decided. "We don't need your pity, Doctor."
"I'm offering my services." I said to him. "Take it or leave it. I don't see you having much of an option."
"There's always an option."
"Yes, death is sort of an option, isn't it?" I joked.
"Take him away!" he finally said.
"I WOULDN'T DO THAT IF I WERE YOU."
Instead of thunder a big booming voice over a megaphone bellowed across the Parc du Champs de March. Guess who!
"WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED, GENERAL. RELEASE THE DOCTOR OR WE WILL BE FORCED TO ACT."
It seemed to be coming from everywhere and all around us.
"That's my girl," I said. This was one of the good days.
"They can hear us," the general spoke.
"OF COURSE I CAN, STUPID." you bellowed across the park. "NOW WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?"
There was a vein in the general's sleep throbbing and I swore I saw his lip wobble. He hissed snidely at his inferior and told Marie to take me away with a nod of his head.
Lightning struck the inferior where he stood a mere metre away from where the general was standing.
"YES, I CONTROL THE WEATHER. FANCY THAT."
"You're bluffing!" the general said, shaking in his boots as soldiers rushed to the wounded man.
"Who are you?"
I could just picture you smiling behind that megaphone, wherever you were.
"I'M TORCHWOOD," you said.