The Storyteller

One Day

I haven't gone into detail about the pirates, have I? Good. They're basically just a ragtag band of post-Asian vagabonds orphaned by the Storm. Never a time when they aren't covered in dirt or mud or muck. Imagine a futuristic samurai all rusted and ancient with claws for hands and bronze eyepatches made of black glass...

You wouldn't want to mess with them. Or their ancient traditions. Which mostly consists nowadays of taking what's nearest and draining it for all its worth. Scavengers. Parasites. It's one way to live your life I suppose. The locust way. Using up all the resources and then leaping to the next victim.

Closest thing to a vampire if I've ever seen one. Anyway...

They were disgruntled at best when Jack found them. Drunk on victory: trying to hide the fact that they just traded one dark catacomb for another. They used to call this home once. What happened?

Jack was the first to recognise what was going on and mind you he's not one to pass up on such a good opportunity to inspire mutiny. But it wouldn't work. Their loyalty was unwavering to the point of delusion. It was almost blasphemous to think of overthrowing the captain. Nemo had trained them well.

"Who are you?" they asked him. The toothless man stepped forward once again and kicked over empty bottles in his stride.

"Nemo knows me."

"Don't use that word!" the tootless man spat from his mouth. They were restless.

"How did you get aboard this ship? Tell us now!"

"Or what?" Jack said. "You're gonna shoot me? Think it worked the first time? You're tenacious, I'll give you that."

For a split second the Rygellian man was confused by Jack's phrasing of words. The first time.

They were used to imprisoning past and future doubles of their captain on the lower decks, but whenever one of them died their memories died with them.

Wait, they died?

I'll get to that in a minute.

The toothless man was sure Jack couldn't remember. He watched him die. So the next word to come from his mouth couldn't possibly be what it was.

"Chon-pau."

Dead man. Jack smiled. "Take me to him. You know you want to."

If they had captured you, he'd meet you soon enough, but if they had killed you, there was nothing he could do about it. So either way all he could do now was buy time, for you, for me, for anyone, by distracting them with his good looks and charm and finding Nemo.

He gave himself up and handed them his firearm and let them lead him to where he wanted to go. It was only when he stepped out of the light that he could see where he was. It was a mess hall. Jack was starting to wonder whether there were any sort of creature comforts aboard this ship at all.

He snatched a drink off the table when he passed it by and threw the beverage down his throat. Being immortal still didn't make him any less nervous when facing such firepower. Especially realizing what's at stake. It made him laugh. He always laughs when he's nervous.

One of the pirates smiled at Jack for finishing the drink in one whole gulp and Jack winked at him before being pushed forward. Jack's like that. Just ignore him.

Is he a real bloke or are you just making him up?

Captain Jack's too big for fiction; especially for just one story.

Is he bigger than you?

Awkward. Moving on...

The last time the two Time Agents had met was, well, that same afternoon in the Parisian catacombs, but the last time before that was years ago. Perhaps centuries or millenia even.

And Jack had no idea why Nemo reacted so harshly to meeting him again.

The last thing he remembered was a mission they were both on. Nemo didn't say a word to him the entire time. What had happened? Why didn't he remember? It was a question he had once asked himself and after all those years he had yet to find an answer.

As he was being let into the next dark abode Jack was half expecting to find a pipe organ in Nemo's quarters, or a giant octopus. It did look to be the perfect place to brood and write poetry on the walls.

A single window looked out upon the edge of the solar system. Due to this dense darkness inside the ship the blackness of outer space was blindingly bright, like standing at the bottom of a well and looking up.

Jack thought the room was empty until he saw the man he was looking for standing in front of a mirror. He was shaving.

"You missed a spot," Jack said and he was immediately slapped by the toothless pirate.

Nemo raised a hand in objection. I wonder why.

"You," he spoke again and Jack panicked for a moment. Then he saw Nemo carried no weapon except for the straight razor he used for shaving. Jack swallowed.

"I didn't come to fight," Jack lied, although part of him wasn't. He was desperate for answers.

Nemo snapped his fingers and it seemed like the air itself started glowing, becoming warmer and warmer until the whole room lit up and the space outside that window turned dark again. It's all relative.

Then he ordered his underlings to leave them alone and with a flick of a switch on his vortex manipulator he made sure there was no escape.

"Your time vortex manipulator has been disabled," Nemo said, simply stating a fact.

Jack reached for his wrist. "How did you do that?"

Nemo didn't answer. Last time he saw him he used to sport this long, grey beard, but now there was just this cleanly shaven face with tired lines and old blue eyes.

"Have you come to die?" he asked.

"I can't die," Jack admitted.

"That's not what I asked."

With a twist of his wrist Nemo motioned forward and stabbed him in the gut with the razor. He held him in his arms for a moment to watch the life fade from his eyes and then he let go and Jack fell to the ground. Blood stained the pair of them and pooled around his body on the floor. It wasn't a pretty sight.

Five minutes later he woke up with the taste of blood still in his mouth and Nemo was standing over him whilst cleaning his hands with a bloodstained towel.

"Now you know I'm not lying," Jack said and Nemo nodded reluctantly.

"It seems we've both found ways of cheating death," he said.

That was one way of putting it. Another way would be to say he's butchered past lives to sustain his future. We all have memories, sometimes demons, sometimes ghosts from the past that haunt us metaphorically, sometimes literally (manifestations vary) and we all stuff away the things we don't want to remember in a place we hope to never find it again.

And there's no denying there's always things we don't want to remember. Things we can't change. We mourn but we don't look back. We live. I know it because I've lived it.

Call it repression, call it changing the past, but what Nemo has done (quite literally) was imprison his past away in the basement one version of himself at a time.

And not just past selves, he's taken over his future self as well, taken from them the things he hasn't got yet and then the question remains whether one day his past or future self will take it away from him causing an endless cycle of pain. The question is whether it's all part of history or a subversion of history. Is time being rewritten or is time being written?

Was I by saving the Eiffel Tower doing what I'm supposed to be doing or am I merely imposing my own view upon the Earth? Am I restoring THE status quo or am I restoring MY status quo?

I always talk about how history must not be altered: some events are fixed yet some things aren't. Why aren't the aliens fixed? Was Nemo supposed to take the Eiffel Tower and I'm the one changing history or is it the other way around?

What could I do except do what I think is right by my conscience? What else can I do?

There I was, talking to myself like a madman, clinging on to hope and a tiny shard of a broken mirror in a box.

"Where are you, Amy?" I asked thin air. "How could I have heard your voice?"

I analyzed the box again with my sonic screwdriver and found something new and new's always good. A signal.

"Maybe it's Earth," Bernárd said. "You said this thing was connected to whatever's going on back on Earth. Maybe it's picking up signals from back home."

"Oh, you're clever," I said. "But I didn't say connected. I said this is what caused it. And the signal's not coming from Earth."

I jumped to my feet, startling those around me who watched my motions (but I grew less aware of them) and I aimed my screwdriver at the black and shapeless ship that hovered above us that entire time.

"It's coming from the ship," I concluded. "It's connected to the ship."

But I already knew that. Things were more complex than they seemed and there was a lot aboard that ship that I didn't know about.

I started pacing. I needed to work out what to do and I needed to work it out fast.

"My friend's in danger," I told Bernárd, because sometimes I just need a sounding board. At least that way my pacing doesn't scare people. I looked on my wrist watch for the time. There was little left. Nemo could be back any minute.

"She's on board that ship. I promised her I would keep her safe. I also promised you I would try to save you. Except I promised her first."

Some time, some place, you are screaming, and I can't always be there to help you. You can't always be lucky.

"You're leaving us?" Bernárd asked. The perfect soundbyte to make heads turn to see my reaction. I hate it when they do that, especially when I'm thinking.

"How am I supposed to leave you? Tell me!"

"There's no other way, Doctor," another said. I think it was Simon, finally daring to come out of hiding and about time as well.

"Don't tell me what I can't do! Tell me what I can do! Give me data! Give me everything you've got!"

How can I fly a spaceship with no engines? How can a piece of glass tear a hole in the fabric of time and space?

I got a sore neck looking up but someone had to. Then I snapped my fingers (several people sprang to attention and I don't know why) I pointed up and at the box. The two were one and the same.

"Amy's up there," I said. "Somehow. And there's a connection that allows me to hear her, so she must be near the source, so if she could just tell me it just might be our lucky day. Mind you this little box is probably going to be the death of us all. Miracles are always relative."

I cleared my throat and listened, hoping you were still out there somewhere, my lifeline in a cosmic game of Weekend Millionaire and I hoped you had the answers to my questions. To everyone's questions.

All these people were looking to me for answers and I didn't have any. Yet. Intelligence is relative as well. As for life...

I took the box away. To the untrained eye it was just a glass box with a piece of glass inside, but to me it was so much more. I could feel it glow in my hands. Radiation spilling out beyond the glass. It tickled my gums. What was it?

But there's a future you out there somewhere, isn't there? Couldn't he just give you the answers? Save you a lot of bother.

Yeah, but what would be the fun in that?

Time's complicated enough as it is without a second me running around: albeit with a very cool bowtie. So I enhanced the signal resonating from the box with a flick of the sonic and listened.

"Amy, can you hear me?" I said. "I need you to hear me."

I was in a dark place, Amy. We all were. In some ways more than others.

There was a question forming in Bernárd's mind which I had been preparing for; for which everyone was preparing for, really. He just hadn't said it yet. He just hadn't thought it yet.

"Is this it?"

Three words: barely words at all yet the damage they cause is unprecedented in the universe and only topped by three others: "What if?" and "Why?".

"Is this it?"

And my answer to him would've been this. Look at where you are. Just look at the universe. It's everything. It's it!

But what if one day that answer won't be enough. What do I say then?

I'll never grow tired of the universe.

Even if you'll lose your other leg?

Doctor, why are you telling me this?

Because I need you to remember. You're sad. Hold on to that feeling. Hold on to it as long as you possibly can.

Why?

What if?

"If you can hear me, Amy," I said. "...follow my voice...d'you remember that? Follow my voice..."

Then there was something else. Something new.

"Who is this?" it was a man's voice. It managed to catch me off-guard and left me scrambling for words.

"This is the Doctor. Who am I speaking to right now?"

There was no-one there to catch my panicked looks and perhaps that was for the best. Some of them were looking at old cooky me, the mad man with the box, talking to a box, oh, if only they knew...

"What? Did I misdial?" I asked. "Who is this? Wait, forget that, I'm looking for an Amy Pond, a girl with red hair and attitude, is she there? Can you hear me?"

There was something gravelly in his voice. Something sore, something odd and more importantly, something familiar but I couldn't place it in my mind. Skimming through memories would take far too long.

"Look, I need to know where you are! Can you hear me? Answer me!"

"You are too late," the voice on the other end of the line spoke. "The end is coming. For all of you."

To die means you have to be alive first. Death can be change. Endings can be beginnings.

"What does that mean: 'the end is coming'? Not even Nostradamus was that vague. The end of what?"

But all there was on the other end now was silence. Then footsteps.

Bernárd was finally catching up to what I was doing. "What's that sound?"

I had to shush him. This was too important.

Two more voices. Different voices. Where had the other man gone?

Nemo was dragging Jack down into the basement of his ship to show off his elaborate scheme. What's the point of devious plans if you can't brag about them to your old friends and foes?

"You don't remember, do you?" ("Nemo," I whispered when I recognised his voice.) "It's what they took from you, isn't it? Maybe they should've taken it all."

The metal floor at Jack's feet seemed to turn to liquid and wash away and the material reformed itself to make a giant winding staircase that seemed to move with them down into the next levels. The ship obeyed every one of Nemo's telepathic commands.

"You were a monster, Jack Harkness," Nemo said. "If that indeed is the name you go by now. It's disappointing, really."

"What do you know about me?" Jack asked.

"I know about the five years that were stolen from your memory. I stopped them before they could take mine as well."

"So, you remember?" Jack said.

"I remember everything. Your immortality is your curse and you deserve every second of it," Nemo spoke. "But you are not alone."

When the lights revealed Nemo's dirty little secret Jack froze. I would've done the same.

'My God, what have you done?" he gasped, looking down on all the temporal doubles lying in shackles from one end of the floor to the other.

"Kill me and two will take my place. I am Hydra. Scattered across time and space. I am immortal."

"But this is a paradox. You're changing your own past. How is this possible?"

"My past is fluid. Time is not fixed," Nemo said and he looked up. "Stories can be rewritten."

Jack followed his gaze up at the hundreds of objects that suddenly lit up across the ceiling, like a thousand mourning candles burning for the fate of their living counterparts below.

Without warning, Nemo punched him down to the ground and the prisoners scattered upon hearing their conquerer's booming voice. Now he walked among his own, circling Jack with another fist ready to pummel his enemy into the dust.

"This is your punishment, Captain Jack Harkness," Nemo said. "For all the horrors that you committed. For all the civilizations you burned..."

"But I don't remember doing it!" Jack yelled back from the dust.

"Yet they still burn. Forever. Because of you."

"But I'm not immortal, am I?" Jack said. "It's not cheating death if you still get to die."

"Everybody dies," Nemo spoke.

Then suddenly their eyes turned to the very same thing. People keep on missing the obvious. In a room occupied by a hundred identical men you'd think the one ginger girl would get all of the attention.

Yes. It was you. They found you lying on the floor to the side of the place where Nemo was standing (just in the corner of his eyes) wearing the same black metal mask all of the prisoners were wearing.

Jack scrambled to crawl towards you until a sudden blast hit Nemo square in the chest. He turned and managed to look at Jack one last time before he imparted his final breath that moved the dust.

From the shadows the new captain emerged. A younger Nemo who swapped places with you, Amy, and he was no longer a prisoner.

"It's over. It's time to start anew," he said and he aimed his blaster at Jack.

So Jack grabbed you and jumped out the window. Which is easier said than done.

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