Whisper in a Dead Man's Ear
Damn, I just killed off Nemo, didn't I? Oh, well. I'll work around it.
Times like these when he's being sucked out into space without a suit make Jack wish he was dead. Really. But he wasn't going to be for another two minutes. He had ten seconds to take measures to save his life but it wasn't going to be enough. Soon his moisture would evaporate, his eyes would burn and he'd go blind, his blood would boil and his brain would die. No-one had ever survived more than ninety seconds of exposure to the cold vacuum of outer space and he would've been forced to survive it again and again and again."
"I really don't like this story."
"Don't worry, it'll grow on you." the Doctor said and put his hand on Amy's leg. "Literally."
The Doctor's smile grew until it reached from ear to ear. "Haaa-!"
Amy groaned and shook her head.
"How long have you been waiting to say that?"
"Ages!" He removed his hand from Amy's leg and continued the story.
"Now, the trick to surviving continued exposure to the vacuum of outer space is simple. You don't. Humans just don't have the parts to survive in outer space. You've adapted to oxygen and pressure and gravity and clothing and jelly babies, but when it comes to the vacuum of space the human body is helpless; a fish out of water.
And I don't know why people always refer to the universe as an ocean. It's nothing like it. And who's people anyway? Never mind.
The last thing Jack remembered before passing out was feeling your hand within his as you were both shot into space. Then there was a sudden tug and he let go. You were gone and Jack was spinning into outer space while his skin was turning blue and his consciousness was fading away.
Then he died. Seconds away from the Eiffel Tower's oxygen bubble.
He probably made the mistake of breathing in instead of breathing out. A rookie mistake. The universe isn't an ocean!
Yes, Jack died. And Nemo died. Except they didn't.
For every second of your life there is a you. From a physical viewpoint, the cells of your human body are constantly regenerating. Your entire human skeleton is replaced every ten years. So, literally, in ten, maybe fifteen years time the old Amy will be dead and gone and the new Amy will live on.
Now enter time travel. Where things get even more complicated.
I'm with you so far.
From a non-linear non-subjective viewpoint there is a different version of you every single second. We could go back a half an hour ago right now and meet you from half an hour ago. A temporal double of you, Amy Pond. A different you. An alternative you relative to you you.
But wouldn't that be a paradox?
With every passing second you become an amalgamation of all these people, all these Amy's, these people who are left behind. Except they don't die. They evolve. These people live to become you. You're them. You're their legacy.
There were ancient cultures on Earth that thought taking pictures of people captured their souls, their essence, and even stole them from them. A single picture, a person frozen in time, captured within a single flash of light. They weren't wrong.
Of course, that doesn't mean they're right. A picture is just light. Nothing more. But when you consider shadows aren't always shadows, maybe light isn't always light. Who knows what's hiding in plain sight? Stealing souls, stealing voices, stealing moments...
Because that's what Nemo did. He's stolen all those moments from his own life and ripped them out of context and out of the proper place in his life. His life should've crumbled like a house of cards, except it didn't. Time had been rewritten yet the story is unchanged.
Of course, who said he had any choice?
We assume time to be rewritten, yet for all we know it could've been just that...written. And Nemo spent his entire life a prisoner of fate. Bernárd could sympathize, even if he had only lived it a single day.
But I'm a Time Lord. I can feel time, smell it, it's my instinct, my heritage, my blood...
Something was wrong. This wasn't supposed to happen. Every time I looked up I could just see the air buzzing with electricity, laden with wrongness, and it was practically oozing out of the glass box in my hands.
Then a man suddenly dropped from the sky and events accelerated. People started rushing towards the edge to see what had just passed them by, but judging by the things I had just overheard via the mysterious shard of glass I had a good feeling on who it was going to be.
And also you can just tell it's Jack by his dramatic entrances.
Oh, you're one to talk! I seem to remember a certain someone crashing into my garden and destroying my shed! My bicycle was in there!
I love bicycles. They're cool.
But which version of Jack was it going to be? How could I know? Was it going to be conman Jack? Time Agent Jack? World War II Jack? Torchwood Jack? Headphone Jack?
21st Century Jack? 22nd Century Jack? Depressed Jack? Jolly Jack? Camp Jack?
I'm making it sound like a series of action figures. But there was only one way to find out which one I'd meet next. I had to be careful. Jack's immortality makes him a fixed point in time and space which meant he'd remember everything I would tell him. And a single word could change the course of history. My history.
Your past. You've met him before. He is real.
Very. He's not the only real person, though. If you remember the Rat Pack.
It wasn't all panic and gloom aboard the Eiffel Tower. There was 'cool', too. I've got to give a tip of the hat to Buffalo Bill there, literally. When all was quiet you could always expect to still hear him chewing tabacco somewhere in the background and gripping his belt.
I hate to confirm stereotypes but he wás the original cowboy. He practically invented the stereotypes of the American wild west in his Wild West show.
He was the first to see the army-coated blur drop down the side of the Eiffel Tower and then suddenly drop up again.
At the whim of articifial gravity Jack kept falling up and down one some invisible trampoline until gravity pulled him in. He fell right atop the ledge with a bonecrunching snap. Three volunteers grabbed him when they caught him almost falling over. They pulled his body in.
Bill checked his pulse. Nikola stepped away from the dead body the moment he was declared dead.
"Everyone stand back!" I told them. Oh, I couldn't wait to see the looks on their faces. But there was more important things to worry about first.
He was on that ship. Nemo was dead. Someone else had taken his place. And I didn't know about the temporal doubles then. No, Jack was about to fill me in on that...
He woke up screaming and he clung to the first person within reach.
"It's okay...You're all right."
The arm he was leaning on was the arm of the best sharpshooter in the world. Buffalo Bill's right hand man, which was a woman. Annie Oakley. All he needed was a female touch. Oh, that sounded sexist.
Just get on with it, Doctor.
It's political correctness gone mad!
"But he was dead!" Bill cried out and spat a drop of tabacco on the floor. And Nikola again backed away. With Bill's rough edges and Nikola's neurotic cleanliness it was like watching the odd couple. Ever seen that movie? It's brilliant. Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau...Where was I?
"Who are you people?" Jack asked, rising from the dead. Death seemed to have scrambled his brain. Then he remembered.
Buffalo Bill then drew his weapon and pointed it at the Captain and at that point I really had to step in.
I really shouldn't call him Buffalo Bill though. That was just a nickname. He was Cody, William Cody.
"No guns! I hate guns!" I told the most famous gunslinger as I ran in front of him.
I almost gave myself away. I slapped my hands in front of my mouth and looked to see whether Jack had paid attention. His scrambled brain worked in my favour. Lucky, lucky, lucky!
"Right!" I said, trying to keep the peace. "A man falls from the sky and I know how that might seem weird, but it's perfectly acceptable in certain parts of the galaxy... where gravity is not a luxury..."
"Doctor, we're in deep space," Bill said. Or Cody. Buffalo Bill Cody.
"Doctor?" Jack asked. I had to step in again before I could let that seed of a thought grow into an idea.
I couldn't let him know. There was too much at stake. Too much this young Jack couldn't know yet and I couldn't let him ask, or guess.
"Doctor Rory Williams!" I introduced myself and shook his hand rather wildly. "We're all doctors here!"
Just a name...An old friend of mine. Ever heard of him?
No...You've never mentioned him before.
He was human. And to fool Jack that was what I had to be more like. I had to blend in.
Rory, Jack, River...Any more old friends I should know of?
Past, present, future friends...Haven't you been listening to anything I said?
But I've also got enemies.
I was going to say the Daleks or Cybermen, but sure, he might qualify. But sometimes the world just isn't black or white. It's sort of...mauve.
Jack knew. He just found out moments ago he was a mass-murderer.
I mean, Nemo didn't exactly use those words, but when the most notorious and vicious Time Agent of them all calls you a monster you might just want to re-evaluate yourself.
Maybe do some running. That always works for me.
"Where's the Doctor?" was the first thing Jack asked when he got up. He was all business, which meant his defence mechanism kicked in. He didn't even try to flirt this time.
Did you want him to flirt?
No, but sometimes I just get nostalgic.
"We're all doctors here!" I said. "At least some of us are, but we're all peaceful here!"
I awkwardly pushed Bill's hand down until his gun aimed at the floor. Then I rubbed my hands together.
"You came from that ship, didn't you?" I asked and Jack nodded. Oh, I was good. But I already knew that. I needed more.
I noticed Jack was trembling. He wasn't just shaken, he was visibly exhausted too, like he had just woken up from a very long nightmare.
"I teleported aboard," Jack explained as he was helped up, groaning in between breaths. "Teleport, it's like, technology which I can't explain right now. I was sent here to help you. All of you. But they told me the Doctor was here. And if the Doctor is here, he would know what to do!"
Oh, if only they weren't all looking at me.
"What the hell is that?" Jack's attention was luckily swiftly drawn away toward the mysterious glass box which somehow worked as both a power source and a communicator AND would be responsible for erasing the Earth from history and I still had no idea how.
"I've seen these before," Jack said. "There were thousands of them all over the ceiling, like lights."
"Of course!" I cried out involuntarily and I restrained myself too late. Jack's eye was already on me. "I mean...that makes sense...we already suspected there was some kind of connection between this thing and the ship..."
"We?" Jack asked.
"We're scientists, us," I said and I put an arm around Buffalo Bill. Then I let him go and put an arm around Nikola and Bernárd. "We're the Majestic Twelve!"
"Why do I know that name?"
"I just invented it," I lied.
Originally they were a secret committee of scientists in the 1940's investigating the Roswell incident. The term's actually inaccurate, because I was the thirteenth member. I'm like D'Artagnan in 'The Three Musketeers'.
"Majestic?" Jack asked.
"Twelve scientists," I said. "...faced with the majesty of the universe. That's what Claude said, didn't you Claude?"
Claude Debussy had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe he'd write a composition of this one day. I hope it isn't 'La Mer'.
"...oh, this is fantastic," I said, looking down at the box.
"My friend is still up there," Jack said. My excitement turned to terror. "Amy. I need to get back up there but Nemo's done something to my vortex manipulator! He's jamming it somehow. I can't get it to work!"
My sonic screwdriver was aching inside my pocket. I could fix it but not yet.
"He had dozens or maybe hundreds of temporal doubles," Jack said.
"Who?" I asked, knowingly.
"Nemo. He had something that overrided the paradox. I think it's this..."
"What's he talking about?" Annie Oakley asked and Bill put an arm on her shoulder to console her. Not everyone likes technobabble.
I do. Tell me more.
Well, I'm not going to. First there's something else I have to tell you about. The Pirate and the Princess. Now there's a good name for a story. Or what about this: The Paradox Glass. Perfect chapter title. You may want to remember that for your children's stories.
This isn't a children's story, Doctor. People die.
People always die. Don't you think children know that? Treat them like children. Don't treat them like idiots.
Like you treat us, Doctor? You're so old, Doctor. We all must seem like children to you.
Some day we'll all seem like children to Jack, but not that day. There are times I get tired of always being the oldest in the room. All those references that no-one ever seems to get.
But I've seen "The Odd Couple". It was good.
Finally! We *have* a winner! At least we have something in common. That's good. That's very good.
But on board Nemo's ship you had much more in common with Nemo than with me. So much in fact that your minds were starting to get in sync. Remember when I said the ship was mildly telepathic? That wasn't just a throwaway line. Always pay attention, Amy Pond.
What? What did I miss?
The most important bit of the story. The motivation!
Nemo's world was governed by only one single rule and that was survival of the fittest. Herbert Spencer coined that term.
However, Nemo did not live every aspect of his life by that rule. And that is ironic because in fact it did involve killing multiple versions of himself over and over again.
There was to be only one Captain at a time to steer the Khamorath. His ship. The prisoners he had on his deck were not there by accident. They were mutineers. All of them had at some point tried to kill him and take over the ship.
Killing them meant risking a total event collapse. A paradox. Most of them were half his age. Killing any of his younger self meant risking the taking his own life.
So he imprisoned them. Something a lot less definitive. Letting them live meant allowing for an opening in time and the possibility that the timeline could be restored. No paradoxes and therefore no end of the universe shenanigans.
The new Captain marched with his new conquest to the upper levels. He held his own temporal double's decapitated head under his arm as proof of his triumph and a reminder of their oaths to him. Those were the rules of the game.
After telling them to dispose of the body Nemo let himself be informed of the new situation he was oblivious to. He had seen telepathic glimpses, felt emotions and saw images. For years he had been stuck in this emotional rollercoaster beamed directly into his mind. It would take him some time to readjust to reality, but there was one thing he knew to be true and to be real in reality: the redhaired girl in the lower decks who he had tricked into wearing the mask for him.
He had caught you and pressed the mask against your face. I misspoke before. It wasn't you who had been tricked, it was the mask itself. The metal attached itself to your skin and engulfed your head entirely, causing Nemo to be freed. It was switched from one person to the next.
When his pirates told him of what had happened they said there would be more like her, and something about a skeleton. And prisoners.
"Terminate the prisoners," Nemo spoke carelessly. Words came to him out of nowhere. He'd almost forgotten what it was like to have memories of his own.
"I'm plotting a course back to Orcus. I'm the Captain now."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," suddenly a voice resounded all over the ship.
Then Nemo saw a skinny man with long, black and quite excellent hair in a tweed jacket and a bow tie standing at the centre of a dimensional hub like a ghost in top light.
"Remember me?" I said. I knew he wouldn't. That Nemo was dead.
Most of his pirate minions had scattered all over the place to do their new master's bidding, but those that remained were left flabbergasted by the next intruder of their ship.
"Who are you?"
Oh, I love it when they say that.
"Take a guess," I said. Then I vanished.
"Find him!" Nemo yelled. This younger version of him was much more violent than the former, but I guess that's what being imprisoned what might be many years does to a person, although it never happened to me.
Of course, it's hard being the new Captain. New responsibilities and all. He thought the worst was all behind him but he was so wrong. It was only just beginning.
"You know where I am," I teased and again my voice resounded across the ship. Its acoustics were terrific. "You know who I am. Who I am."
"Take the ship out of orbit!" Nemo bellowed at his henchmen and he rushed downstairs where I was waiting for him. The place all of his followers knew of but where none of them were allowed to look. On penalty of death.
I fixed the signal of the next dimensional hub so that the light would shine brighter around me.
I turned down the volume as he approached. I wanted him to see my face.
"But you have no idea, do you?" I said as Nemo slowly descended the staircase. "You're like a newborn hatchling. Fresh out of the egg. You've fought for this. I know you have. So I'm going to apologize in advance for what I'm going to do. I'm very sorry."
"And what's that then?" Nemo asked and I had perfect calm.
"I'm going to stop you."
"Then what is it I'm doing?" this Nemo asked as he stepped across the deck just out of reach of his jealous rivals. And one sleeping beauty.
"Now, you're going to have to listen," I said. "You're left with your predecessor's mess with no idea how to handle the new situation. Aren't you curious why he brought you here? Why you're dragging some tower across space carrying prisoners? Kidnapping ginger girls? Girls that never listen? I can tell you."
"My predecessor was me," Nemo said. "I don't need you to tell me about myself!"
"Can you hear me?" I spoke with a set jaw. And you slowly woke up.
"You weren't him. You and him have everything in common, except one thing," I said. "Memories. It's what separates you from him, from all of them. And I've worked it out. I know everything, except one little thing. One tiny thing.
"I know this ship is alive. And it's unique. Nothing like it in the whole universe. And it's more than just a ship to you. There's the woman who married the Eiffel Tower and then there's you. You would stand up for this ship. You would make a stand."
And you stood up slowly, carrying the weight of the mask on your head while Nemo listened on.
"There is a connection between me and this ship. Every time I lose it I come back for it. I must have it," Nemo spoke with a haunted voice of a man who knows his flaws and obsessions.
Admitting it is the first step.
"I know what that's like," I told him. "But to kill your past and future selves to get it back? Changing the course of time to your greed? What kind of a life is that? What kind of a life are you making for yourself? Why don't you just turn left (no, the other left!) and do your best to change it?"
You shuffled your feet to face left.
"Who are you?" Nemo asked.
"Stop!" I shouted, before regaining my composure.
Nemo was starting to get agitated, looking for ways to trap me on his ship."I care," I said. "And so did your predecessor. Your ship died, Nemo. The humans found its wreckage. One of them turned its remains into a magnificent tower and he (you!) stole it to give it a proper burial. I get that. It's your ship. That tower and this ship are one and the same. The same object in two different points of its own timeline. Like yourself.
"And there's people aboard that tower, Captain. Good people! People who are missing from their own original place in history where they belong!"
"I don't care."
"Exactly!" I said. "Yet your predecessor did. In his own twisted way. He gave those people an option. He offered them servitude aboard this ship or death. To him, death was a mercy. I mean, have you seen this place? Look at them suffering! He let it happen! You let it happen! And he knew he was going to pay the price one day and he did. You all are.
"But what about you?" I said. "What kind of person are you? He imprisoned you. What makes you any worse than him?"
"You want us to share?" Nemo said. "No. There can be only one Captain."
"If you didn't go back in time there wouldn't be any more Captains! This is all your own doing. You can't go back and change time. You mourn and you live. I know because I did it! And I'm looking right at you! So walk towards me! Reach out to me! Time can be rewritten! You can change the future; change the past!"
"It's too late for that, Doctor," Nemo said. "We are one. We are Nemo."
One but no one. A paradox.
"What about the Paradox Glass?" I asked and caught Nemo off guard. "Those boxes in the ceiling. They are allowing this to happen, aren't they? Their energy is spilling out all over this ship. Their radiation is allowing this perversion of timelines to exist. How is that even possible? What's sustaining it? What is it?"
"No one knows," Nemo said.
"That isn't helping!" I said and Nemo laughed. He was telling the truth. He didn't know. Not really.
"I will live my life, with my ship, in whatever way I want it. I will not let you tell me what to do. It is mine. Forever."
"Then I have one thing to say to you," I concluded. "Just one."
Nemo reached for the blaster on his hip.
I stretched out my arms and you, Amy Pond (oh, you clever girl!), ran straight into them!
One moment we were standing aboard the Khamorath and the next we were aboard the Eiffel Tower. Inside the dimensional hub we were in both places at once.
I forgot to mention that the dimensional hubs the pirates so conveniently used to walk from one deck to the next weren't part of the ship but part of the paradox. They were sustained by the mysterious boxes and the glass it contained inside and because I had access to one of them I had access to them all. Like Nemo, like the Tower and the ship, all the boxes were one and the same.
That might've been the reason why the paradox energy is so much stronger and condensed on that deck. Being in the presence of your own temporal doubles is creating so much temporal energy and that combined with the mysterious energy from the glass is sustaining the paradox and might be the cause of what is happening on Earth.
I cut the link, the box died again and the metal cord which connected your metal mask to Nemo's ship was cut as well when the portal closed.
"I've got her!" I said laughing as I held her in my hands, back and still aboard the Eiffel Tower and Jack hugged her as well.
"I love it when a plan comes together!"
Now all we had to do is find a way to get that mask off her face and repel an onslaught of pirates coming to execute us. All in a day's work!