The Storyteller

Spoilers!

"Perhaps I shouldn't have told him, but I thought he deserved to know.

It's one thing to keep any sort of hope alive, but when all you're left doing is leading a lamb to a slaughter...

I couldn't live with myself if I didn't tell him the truth, even if it meant telling a young boy he was going to die. Seventeen years is just too short a while to spend on this little blue rock, but it's better than not ever having lived at all, I suppose. Or am I wrong?"

The Doctor turned his neck to look at Amy but he wasn't seeing her. He looked deep into her eyes as if reflected in her whites he would find inspiration. She was his muse.

"Is it better to have lived and lost than to never have lived at all?" he asked.

"You mean love," Amy corrected him.

"Is there a difference?" he told her and exhaled. His warm breath made her skin tingle.

"Life matters," he said again but there was something in his eyes that made her think he was only trying to persuade himself. He turned to look up at the ceiling again.

"What if you could know how it ends? Perhaps there's something you alone could do in this universe. Something you were born to do. Something that you're going to do at some point in your life. Perhaps there is some bigger meaning, some bigger purpose to your existence. You never know. Your part in the play that is history. Your role in the story.

"If I knew, would you want me to tell you? What if it's something bad, something terrible and you can't change it. It has to happen.

"What if it's a cookbook? What's good for the shepherd is seldom good for the sheep. What if the purpose of your life was to needlessly die just to spark the events that lead to your own death? Trapped in a perpetual circle of death? Would you want to know?"

"So it's spoilers, basically," Amy said, getting right to the meat of the question, which bothered the Doctor. He preferred the long speeches.

The way in which she casually dismissed his deep thoughts disturbed him but he wasn't going to let it show.

"Spoilers!" the Doctor agreed loudly before sighing. He was almost starting to hate that term as much as he loved it. He loved that. Amy noticed him beaming just thinking about it while the lights in the ceiling started to flicker.

Nurses patrolled the corridors around them carrying candles as they checked on their patients in the frequent blackouts. The Doctor had his sonic screwdriver to fix the lamp above their heads.

"Yes," she said and the Doctor accepted the data and processed it in his mind and logged it for future reference. Then he smiled.

"We all die in the end," the Doctor said. "Even me. Every story has an ending, even this one, and in my experience every ending is a beginning. Perhaps that's what life is. A circle. Zero. One big temporal paradox without beginning or end. It just starts all over again. A blip in the span of the universe but what a blip it is. It's worth living again and again and again."

Big smile until it waned abruptly. "Except for Bernárd. He gets to die over and over again. Just the once. Forever. Trapped in a perpetual circle of death."

He sighed silently this time but Amy heard it.

"Perhaps we're better off without fate. Without spoilers. We shouldn't go look for it. Less fate, more fun: 42's always worked for me."

"Who needs spoilers, right?" Amy said.

"Bernárd did."

The Doctor continued his story.

"Why are you here, Bernárd?" I asked him. "You knew what this place was. What happened here. What will happen. Yet you came here despite all that. Why?"

The boy tried to hide his tears, tried to wipe them away, and in the end he stopped caring. If anyone deserved to rage against the universe it was him. An ordinary boy. The most important thing in creation. The whole universe will be different if he doesn't die.

"I'm sorry, Bernárd," I said to him. "The universe is conspiring against us, the status quo has been altered, but this time the wound is fatal. And we were sitting on the murder weapon the entire time."

"Why me?" he suddenly threw at me and for a moment I was actually at a loss for words.

"Why am I the one destined to die?" he asked.

"Collateral damage," I let slip from my lips.

"What?"

"You didn't answer my question," I asked him again (dodging his) and he pondered for a while. His lips were trembling. He didn't know where to place his hands. So I grabbed his shoulders and looked at him as I look at you now.

"You can tell me, Bernárd."

"I don't know," he said and he had to turn his gaze away from me. I think he couldn't handle looking me in the eyes. I wanted to apologize but it was too late.

"I didn't care anymore. I just wanted it to end."

"Be careful what you wish for."

A spark of realization became a concept in his mind.

"I did this?" he asked.

Now this would've been a perfect time to lie.

"Yes," I said. I plucked a bit of dirt from the front of my tweed jacket.

The truth can't help it when it hurts.

He broke down, without tears, holding himself like a mother who couldn't be there. Who was never there.

"So he died for nothing."

"Who?"

"My father is dead. He sacrificed his life for mine! He's dying right now in the catacombs! He could be dead already and it was all for nothing!"

The catacombs. That's where the general's squads disappeared to. Dead. I realized he was talking about Gustave. Last I heard he was protecting you which could mean you were in danger. Of course you were in danger. When aren't you in danger?

I learned from the best.

Well, I wasn't good enough. I lacked information. It couldn't help but at least knowing what happened could put my mind at ease.

"Gustave Eiffel is dying?" I asked for clarification and his silence told me everything I needed to know.

Whatever I would do or whichever I would choose to do (sacrifice or salvation) there was no way to fix time. Time was altered. Something altered time and messed up the status quo and those tiny little ripples set the stage for the waves of a gigantic tsunami.

The world's going to end because someone threw a pebble.

"I CAN'T WIN THIS!" I shouted.

"Doctor?" a voice suddenly came. "Doctor, is that you?"

I turned on the spot when I heard your voice. It couldn't be, but unlikelier things have happened. Impossible things.

Where did it come from? What was it? What did this? Could it help to ask?

You heard me. That meant you were alive. But did that mean you were safe? How could I find out?

Was I hearing voices, was I imagining things or was I actually communicating telepathically with Earth in some way?

"Amy, can you hear me?" I spoke to thin air. Too soft perhaps. If there was some way to contact me I knew you'd be the one to find it.

"Bernárd, come with me," I told him. We were going to follow that signal together. "You'll be safe...with me...because I have a future. Time will have to chew a lot harder if it wants to swallow a complex temporal event like me. I've got plot armour."

You did not just say that.

"Yes and I do not have a giant carrot in my pocket," the Doctor in the bed next to Amy said and lo and behold he took out a giant carrot and started chewing on the top. Then he spat it out, threw it away and wiped his hand on his tweed jacket.

"I hate carrots."

"Then they yelled for me. The scientists, artists, inventors and mostly civilians had quietly and loudly discussed their current situation at length (in sometimes poetic fashion) but I can't remember for the life of me a word they said I hadn't already uttered. Life matters and all that; that about sums it up. But as for the quality of that life or its length...

Bernárd would have lived if I would have just put my hands up in the air and called it a day. We would've made fine pirates. We would've lived and more importantly the Earth would've lived. Scarred, but intact. Past, present and future saved.

But there was something in my gut just aching to get out. I wasn't done running and neither were they. I had a future (they all did) but to preserve it one boy would have his taken away...

The thought froze me so I had to block it out. I knew this boy would walk with me like a shadow: like a ghost that hadn't died yet or a memory that hadn't been lived yet. A constant reminder of a promise I couldn't keep.

IT WASN'T FAIR. But who says I had to be? My conscience objected. Fate told me I couldn't save Bernárd but that wouldn't stop my trying.

"Doctor, where are you?" It was your voice. It emanated somehow from within the box. The shard of glass. I rushed towards the box and the crowd of scientists parted to make way for me.

"Amy! Can you hear me?" I shouted at the box and even I started to suspect I might've lost my mind. And mind you, I've seen a lot of crazy things in my time. It's all relative.

I rattled the box and put my ear against it, like a seashell or a ticking timebomb.

"Doctor?" your voice seemed to come from a distance. "Are you here?"

And on the other end of the line it was your turn to think you had gone mad. Completely bonkers.

"I'm starting to hear voices," you said to yourself.

You couldn't have been more cautious. You suddenly found yourself alone at a party and the only one you know just left your sight, except instead of a party it was a spaceship and instead of guests there were prisoners.

You made a mistake and I was right: you were in danger. But you were lucky.

It was a simple ship you were on. No fancy gadgets or luxurious systems. Very spartan. It was a ship as dark as night or like an underground lake. Solid one moment and shapeless the next. You saw windows. Sometimes round and sometimes square. The exterior was pincers and skin of metal like sharp spines and bones and they seemed to move and grow.

Everything seemed to move and slither in the dark; it seemed to change and morph in the corner of your eyes. What you saw in there was part Guantanamo Bay, part H.R. Giger's worst nightmare, all hidden in the shadows.

Your instinct told you to hide. When you stepped out of the light of the dimensional hub you joined the ranks of the not-so-dead. They surrounded you, squirmed at your feet in pain, and you didn't raise your voice desperate to not let anyone know you were there.

You called for Jack when he didn't follow. You barely registered what had happened just now. You followed the shadows and they had lead you into the dark. You knew that going back did not guarantee a return to the same level. Basically, you were stuck.

"Amy! Can you hear me?"

The closer you got to the light the clearer you heard my voice. I didn't know. I couldn't see what you were doing and you had no idea what was going on. You were just trying to find me. And you didn't even know that this was what you were doing.

One of the figures on the floor grabbed your ankle. You shouldn't have yelled. They heard you. They now knew you were there.

Pale human hands wouldn't let go. Nails dug into your skin. In a panic you kicked him away.

Then another weak hand gripped your shin and you realized they were slowly waking up. Their featureless metal masks glistened in the light of the dimensional portal. Black as hardened lava rock.

At least you had the element of surprise there. All Jack had was his gun and his good looks. Oh, and his immortality. Somehow people keep forgetting that.

Although, he had another thing going for him, as he realized when the fireworks of the pirates' blasters went right through him. For a moment they thought he was a ghost.

"Is that how you treat an old friend?" Jack quipped easily. It's like he memorized 1950's sitcom punchlines. It's pathetic really, when you think of it.

And "Who da Man?" wasn't?

I am the man. A world of difference. Now...

A lot of things were going on at once. Subplots and not to mention the A-plot. Whatever happened to that? These things were happening on the ship and other things were happening on the Eiffel Tower.

Nothing was happening on Pluto, though. Its microbe inhabitants died out billions of years ago. The environment just wasn't right for it. Not much to adapt to.

But orbiting Pluto wasn't my choice. It was Nemo's. Everything boiled down to him.

Nemo had spent the last thirty-odd years or so living on Earth as a survivor of a crash landing in the Mediterranean and trapped like Jack on Earth, and it wasn't until time and space started spilling into each other through the rift that they both gained enough energy to use their time vortex manipulators.

Bernárd did as he was told. He was used to following orders; used to living in the shadow of a mighty engineer. I could tell he was still shaking as he stood by my side waiting to follow my lead. He seemed absent, jumpy, and I couldn't think of anything to say to him to calm his nerves.

All I could think of was his future murderer.

Now, if Nemo had been the one to have killed Bernárd he would've recognised him. He didn't. Or at least not yet. Maybe he will.

I was going to have to reverse-engineer this murder mystery and find the killer before he committed the crime. This was going to be a tricky one. And I love the tricky ones.

If Nemo had been the one who left the body of future Bernárd atop the tower in the past, why didn't he recognise him? No, he was simply reaping the fruits of a cataclysm he hadn't created yet. Which begged the question: where is the killer?

I don't know how this story managed to turn into an episode of Scooby Doo, but somehow you managed to find a clue and Jack managed to find the monster.

It's why the pirates weren't impressed by Jack's ghost routine. They were already used to multiple versions of the same person. Past, present and future doubles.

Nemo had them all locked away on that deck in metal masks to avoid them usurping his command. Oh, if only Voltaire was here to see this...

In the dark they were blindly grabbing for anything they could reach, anything that could remind them they were still alive...They were probably yelling inside those masks but no-one would ever hear them. Every single one of the Nemoes. Or is it Nemii?

So we had the murder victim and we have the murder weapon, but since the Nemo in command didn't recognise Bernárd, logically...

He didn't kill him.

Yet. But our suspect list just grew a lot longer. Any one of those Nemoes could be the ones to pull the trigger. Anyone with a time vortex manipulator...

Even the future Nemo could've been among them. Or else he had already escaped by leaping into the past. Now that is clever.

What about Jack? He's got a time vortex manipulator...Did he do it?

The Doctor looked into Amy's eyes.

"Spoilers..." he whispered.

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