The Storyteller

To Understand the Night

G-forces pinned our backs to the ground and a mighty surge rose up within our chests. I thought I heard someone go 'wheee!'. Wait, that was me.

Bernárd clung to my hand as he clung to life. His survival instinct got the better of him in the end. In the end nobody wants to die. They hold on to the very last.

I could hardly resist letting out an excited yell. Best rollercoaster ever. Although technically I've never been on a rollercoaster before. Life is my rollercoaster!

The speed at which we were being dragged across space was intense. The Tower wasn't going to endure this much longer. It wasn't built for long space voyages nor acceleration of this kind. It was on the brink of falling apart beneath us.

Then I realized something was keeping it together, some force, something was preventing the air from venting out into space. They must've extended the airshell or put some kind of bubble around the Eiffel Tower. It was the most likely explanation.

As I looked out at the stars I could just see the glimmer of the bubble's outer shell. One burst and the bubble would pop. We were now at the mercy of the captain and his ship.

Nemo.

The TARDIS assumed the word on the wall to be Latin and therefore translated its meaning to my eyes. It blinded us from seeing the actual word underneath. The name.

Captain Nemo. Captain of the Nautilus. Prince of India. A free man. Ruler of the kingdom beneath the sea. The netherworld. But more importantly...fiction.

A creation of French science fiction author Jules Verne which couldn't possibly be real. Or could it? The evidence was compelling but first things first.

The Nautilus was named after a real-life submarine, not a spaceship. He told me so himself. It didn't make sense. This couldn't be the Captain Nemo from fiction.

Or, quite possibly, the fictional character of Nemo was based on this man (this pirate) whoever he was, or even more curiously, it might've been the other way around. Many people have taken their names from the books, songs, comic books or movies that inspired them. Their alter egos. Or even stage names. Aliasses.

Is that how you chose your name? Doctor?

Hardly. Of course, you should know, Amelia.

I like 'Amy'. People never took me seriously as 'Amelia'.

Shakespeare once wrote: "A rose with any other name would smell as sweet". Which was dead wrong, because if it were true no-one would wear Prada.

It doesn't take much to manipulate people's perception of things. Sometimes just a little bit of misdirection can change your entire thinking. A word or a thought can make you miss the very thing in front of you.

Just ask Houdini. He was the expert.

Houdini? Jules Verne? Stop the name-dropping, Doctor! I get it. You've been around. Isn't there any famous person in history who isn't an old friend of yours?

Charlie Chaplin. Future friend. Do keep up.

In that instant Saturn was a blur and Jupiter was barely a dot. We were leaving the solar system at an alarming rate. I wondered where this left the universe. The theft of the Tower separated us from ground zero by space but never ever forget time! The future was still ahead of us.

Where was Captain Nemo taking us? We were about to find out.

"Don't fight them!" I said to anyone who could listen. They were taking Bernárd away and forced us to put our hands on our heads. "Don't struggle. Just...do as they say!"

"Coward!" another prisoner spat at me with his hands pressed on the top of his Stetson hat. I immediately wanted one.

Apparantly he was American. He had this distinct moustache and goatee and the eyes of a hunter wrapped in warm colours and buttons, in direct contrast to the neat and quiet tones of the fellow to his side. Another American with a combed moustache and nervous eyes.

I felt like I had seen these men before.

When the vessel stopped our frictionless momentum had the Tower bump into the back of the ship and lightning lit up the universe. The airshell was buzzing yet I was the only one who saw it or at least realized what it was. But I couldn't do anything about it. I was a hostage. Again.

You'd never let me hear the end of it. At least I was still alive. Of course, that could all still change.

Plenty of fighting spirits among the stars and back on Earth as well. You aren't one to surrender easily, especially not when you've just seen your designated driver be abducted by aliens right before your eyes.

Of course these things always seem to happen to me. That's why always carry a toothbrush just in case.

"The Tower's gone," Marie said. "Does this mean it's over?"

No-one dared to shatter her hopes just yet and even you dared to pretend just for a moment everything had worked out for the best. You closed your eyes and thought of Leadworth.

Somehow you knew (you've always known) that when you would open your eyes that moment you would see it. The crack in time and space.

It's like someone threw a brick into a window, except there's no glass, no window and no brick. There's just the hole in time and space that's bleeding energy and the ghosts of the past and future are bleeding through the fault lines into the present. Every present.

The spot lingered in mid-air, sometimes a single dot but sometimes a ribbon, always expanding and glowing in the near dark. It was the final clue.

Reality is dented and what you witnessed in the air where the Eiffel Tower once stood was a retroactive echo of the future event that would crumple time and space as we knew it to be. As the world turned the decisive moment grew nearer.

As of that moment the temporal calamity could still happen. The symptoms were clear yet the cause unknown. What was I missing?

"This is a fight we can't win," I told the struggling captives. A small little group of fifty of which I'd recently become a part of. Tourists mostly but of course so was I, so I fit right in.

"We're in the hands of the Captain now."

The pirates concurred almost too gladly. I was treading a fine line here. The trick is to establish an equilibrium between hostage and pirate, a bond of trust or a silent promise you may say, based on the simple concept that no-one wanted to kill and no-one wanted to die.

It took a leap of faith based on assumptions that all men are equal. We all want the same things in life. You find motive, you find character and when you do you can understand. Try to imagine yourself walking a mile in their shoes and hope that they would do the same for you. Empathy can't be that hard, can it?

Understanding is the first and most important step towards reaching a mutual agreement. Remember that, Amy. If you don't want to understand there will never be harmony.

There isn't a being in the universe that does not fear what it does not understand.

So imagine these fifty people born in an era barely conscious of their place in the universe confronted with the full wonder of the universe.

"We're in space," Bernárd spoke awestruck underneath the giant bulkheads of the Tower. His knees dug into the dust on the large floor of the space they'd rounded us into. When we looked up we felt like we were standing in a giant metal cathedral stripped to the bone. Outer space was visible from all angles and therefore impossible to miss.

Vast night had engulfed us all before they'd even realized they were flying farther and farther away from the sun's warm rays. Everything they had ever loved and lost was on that tiny spec of blue toiling in the dark. It was so small they couldn't even see it anymore.

I asked to see the face of the man who had kidnapped us but their answers were short and violent. I had yet to discern their motives. What was their plan?

"You'll see him soon enough," they replied. I recognised their Asian descent, the Rigellian symbols on their swords and the original Dokka under their breath. We weren't the only ones far away from home.

Golden eyepatches and bad teeth made up a ragtag band of burly rebels fighting the dark under the banner of their captain. Their victory had left them in a dazed state, an almost drunken demeanor, and with every passing glance to each other the thirty or so pirates laughed as if there was some in-joke we were all missing.

A toothless man closed his mouth around a set of fake silver fangs. Whenever the pirate tried to smile it sent a shiver down the spines of fifty men and women.

The pirates had reunited the generator with the Tower and because of you I was still somehow assuming they were going to try and retain their former glory by restoring their ship, but fact was they already had a ship. It was hovering right above our heads.

So, why did they need the Tower? It didn't make any sense.

"Why do you need the Tower?" I asked the pirates. "It's hardly a spaceship anymore! It's a skeleton! It's hardly even airtight! No navigation, no engines, no shields...!"

"Be quiet!" they told me. Then there was a flash and a man where there was once dust.

Nemo had arrived.

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