The Storyteller

Judgment Day

The only man he was ever going to be happy with, the one man who can kill Captain Jack Harkness, was himself.

The lift had come crashing down, but it didn't matter because Jack was thrown out the carriage before it even came to a standstill. His back nearly broke bouncing off the bulkheads. (See what I did there?) But he managed to hold on in the end and climb his way to the stairwell inside the Tower's leg.

Jack may have been immortal but he wasn't devoid of feeling, especially pain. The taste of his own blood in his mouth reminded him of that. Even an immortal bleeds.

The blob of metal pursuing him up the winding metal stairwell morphed back into his own handsome face again and it didn't bother him at all. He countered with a self-deprecating joke.

"This is so weird," he chuckled hastily.

Then under the cover of humour Jack tried to kick the metal impostor down the stairwell but it had grabbed his foot before it ever touched its chest. The metal man pushed him to the ground.

Jack imagined it would be easy for such an unstoppable force to steamroll right over a human. He'd be the most handsomest pancake. It'd be hard to come back from that one and very painful.

"Can you talk?" Jack asked the silent threat bearing down on him. With every approaching move Jack responded in kind and retreated up the stairwell.

"Okay, so you only look like me, but you don't think like me. You don't know me. You just want to kill me."

An echo of his former self. Jack drew breath for a final charge.

"Good luck with that," And he threw himself upon his metal self and sent them both falling down the stairwell. They fell over each other and rolled until Jack couldn't work out metal from flesh.

I must admit, climbing the Eiffel Tower without the view can be quite dizzying. Without a point of reference there really doesn't feel like any change has taken place. Except we did climb.

And for all I knew Jack went down, falling at a 70 degree angle to the first platform, or so I hoped.

If he'd fallen down through the pant leg of the Tower the only thing saving him from open space would've been the lift's strong cables and pulleys. Kudos to the Americans for that one.

Except we were all still trapped within the framework of Eiffel's structure, built out of the remains of Nemo's ship, built like a giant web of metal machinations stretching out above us toward the top.

Every step on the metal grain floors seemed to shake the structure like a rattled fence. We could feel every remote motion reverbate across the metal. Something was definitely coming up.

This was the Eiffel Tower. The future of human history was about to be decided here. And yet all I could think about was fireworks.

"Don't worry, the plan is still in effect! And it's a good plan!" I told the survivors while the tremors of an approaching death shook the tower.

"What was that, Doctor?" Bernárd asked, but it didn't seem wise to tell him or anyone.

Nemo's metal monsters were on their way. They were part of his ship, made of his ship, they were his ship! But was a flight of stairs going to stop one of the most deadliest creations in the universe?

"We can't go up, Doctor," Bill told me. He stood in front of me like a soldier reporting to his superior officer and I hated it with every fibre of my being. "The third floor's out of bounds."

"I'm the Doctor," I said. "Nothing is out of bounds for me."

"He's right, Doctor. And I should know," Bernárd said. The silence brought back memories of the engineer who created this structure and the boy that had never left his side. "The construction workers were still working on the top. I doubt the lift's even working."

I looked up trying to imagine the state of things up there in my mind. It didn't work.

"It has to be. There's no other way. Doesn't matter. We'll have to make it work!" I said and leaped toward the centre of the platform.

A three-story structure with an unfinished third one? Sounds like a metaphor for your entire story.

Oh, behave will you. Trust me, I've got a really good ending planned for you but the trick is to get there first. Resolution is tricky. But how can you resolve anything if you can't remember it?

How do you deal with a trauma that never happened?

"Three Drones," I mused out loud to anyone within hearing range. "Jack won't hold them for long. All he did was buy us some time by distracting him. We have to use it. There's no other choice. Bill, get your people inside that elevator. Or should I say lift? Or 'Ascenseur'? Listen to me. Just do as I say and we'll all live. Simple, yet effective."

"And dangerous," Bill added.

"That too."

What's an adventure without some danger? A good horror without a good scare? Life's got all those things. Art imitates life imitates art. But when it's real it gets messy. And very frightening.

And exciting.

"If we all survive you get to tell your grandchildren how you sailed the Eiffel Tower beyond the solar system and lived," I told everyone. "If your grandchildren are still alive by the time we get back."

In the back of my mind there's this constant clock. Time is a Time Lord's instinct. The river we traverse. The songs we sing. So much to do in so little time while the Earth was slowly turning into a giant ball of timey whimey stuff until it would eventually explode.

Fireworks.

"...Doctor, where's the box?" Bernárd then asked. He wasn't the only one to wonder.

"There has to be a way of stopping them!" I said musing out loud again. It's a thing I do. It helps me think.

"Doctor?"

"I just don't know how yet. But we've got ourselves a distraction! And distractions are good! It bought us some time. Thank you, Jack!"

"You know how to fix elevators?" Bill asked.

"Simple block and tackle system! Only in reverse..." I exclaimed while sonicking the insides of the elevator. You have to know the basics in order to get it to work. Mind you, 1889 is very basic. "Lift operator! Where's the lift operator? We're going to need him!"

"I'll find him," Bill said and Nikola took his place. Finally someone who can understand what I'm talking about. And that'll be a first.

"Two hydraulic rams exerting a force 8 times the total weight of the carriage...wait, that's the other lifts, this one is different! But different in what way?"

"Doctor," Bernárd pointed out by leaping in front of me and barring my way. "The box? The engine! The thing! Where is it?"

And then it hit me. Bernárd gave the box to me. I made him give it to me. And what did I do? Jack handed Amy to me (I mean you) and what did I do with the box? I literally stopped to let my mind panic for a bit.

"I left it in the lift," I finally said.

"But the lift is back down!" Bernárd yelled after me as I rushed back towards the empty shaft.

"Okay, distractions are bad!" I finally said.

"Distractions are definitely bad. What do we do? I don't know. Do yóu know? We'd have to get back down. They'd never expect that! We could surprise them just before they kill us!...How terrific."

"Doctor, they can't kill us. Remember?" Bernárd said. "I die back on Earth in the past. I can't die, because I'm already dead!"

I almost would've told him to hold on to that thought. He was going to need it.

Bernárd shocked me, actually. You were locked inside a metal mask, Jack was fighting a metal version of himself and now Bernárd was willing to die to stop himself from dying.

"Rory was right," I said. "I am dangerous. This is all my fault."

"You're all we've got!" Bernárd spoke. "Gustave said so! We need you!"

"I'm getting the box back, Bernárd," I said. Oh, I love alliteration.

"I'm coming with you," the boy spoke eagerly.

"No," I said. "You're getting on that lift."

"Doctor!"

I had to make him understand the danger.

"Bernárd, there are things down there. Things that want to kill you. It doesn't matter when you die, you're dead. Just because time can be rewritten doesn't mean things can't get worse."

"I'm going to die," Bernárd said. "How much worse can it get?"

Sometimes I envy how little you know. How little you have to fear...

Your lives, your worlds, are so small, because you know so little! It's practically vacant in that little melonhead of yours.

The Doctor tapped Amy's forehead with his knuckle.

Oi!

Extraordinary things are called extraordinary because they aren't ordinary. They are extra. Special. And they're special because they're rare. In the life of any ordinary person this stuff doesn't happen every day. Just one day and the next day all is well again and what's left is just silence after the big day. A disquiet. When all the adrenaline has faded and you're left staring at a blank ceiling.

And I live for moments like that. The big days. I've lived so many extraordinary days that they've become ordinary. The normal life, the normal person, they are extraordinary to me.

Sure, the big days are amazing. Everyone likes being the hero of the story, but this story isn't about us.

We time-travellers read history like it's a book, but reality is never like the stories. I could tell you everything about Bernárd and you still wouldn't know him. He's the ordinary man travelling the slow path. They are history. We're just passing through.

We're cheating. Life in the TARDIS is simple. The real world is hard. A simple life. The one thing I could never have. The one thing that's been robbed from you...

And Jack's just the small town boy that got in over his head. Still the good old-fashioned romantic deep down. He gets to live everything. For millions of years. An extraordinary ordinary life. Many lives, in fact. Perhaps too many.

That's why the death of a single, boring ordinary man is the most important thing in the universe. I had to protect him but Bernárd wouldn't listen. He insisted on coming with me.

I know I told him to keep close but I had to change the plan. I kept trying to reason with him but he was terrified of being left alone again."I'm trying to protect you. Just get on that lift..."

"No."

"There isn't any other way. Run along and..."

"I can help, I'm not..."

"JUST DO AS I SAY!" I yelled. I lost my patience. I did not have the time for this.

Poor kid brings out the worst in me. Would I have fought harder to save his life if he would've been a painter, an artist, a scientist, a future president?

What if he can be all those things? What if I can save his life? But how could I? I couldn't save mine. I couldn't save Rory. It's the curse of the Time Lords I have to bear alone.

I'm the only one who can see. I'm the one who has to read all these stories and remember them. These sad, terrifying, brilliant stories. I'm here to live them with these people. And so are you. We're in this together. You're part of my story now and their story has become ours and if it ends, so do we.

We're only ever here to help. Don't forget that.

"You shouldn't talk to people like that," Nikola suddenly said when I bumped into him. The pale Hungarian polyglot and genius may not have had a knack with people, but he did have the decency to recognise common sense when it hit him in the face. "It upsets them."

"Good point," I rightly noted.

"I don't know who you are, Doctor." Nikola pointed out. I couldn't help but respect the man's moustache. "I don't assume to understand all of the universe's mysteries, nor expect to find all answers to all questions in life, even though it will never stop me trying."

"Good man!" I said, thinking he had finished and I patted him on the back and walked on.

"There's one thing you should know, Doctor," he added and I stopped midstep.

There was something quite unsettling and grim about the look on Tesla's face. I wish I could've spent more time with him. There was so much I wanted to ask him. He really is brilliant, you know.

"We're all putting our lives in the hands of a stranger," Nikola told me off. "Show us the proper respect."

"I was just about to," I swallowed. Well, it was hardly a democratic decision. It was just me against the world.

"Oh, and Nikola?"

This time it was his turn to turn back, still puzzled by how I knew his name.

"Thank you," I said and he nodded curtly.

He was one of the few who understood. You can't know how you're going to be remembered, but I try to do the right thing in spite of it.

But with fearful men like Simon de Leeuw it's never enough. He probably never expected to find himself in one of my stories; one of the historic case files he's been studying for years on end. He noticed me in the pages of history. Nothing more but brief cameos, but that's why I never stay in one place too long.

"Find a catastrophe and he's there. Anywhere in history," Simon started telling Claude. The composer always had been a stickler against authority.

"Who is he?" Claude Debussy asked.

"I don't know. Pray we'll never find out."

My mere presence changed his life. He was my responsibility.

"Amy..." I said. I found you. They were taking good care of you and becoming sick and tired of hearing me tell them not to touch the mask. Not even with a fingernail.

"I don't know if you can hear me," I told you and your hands were still cold and lifeless, but your pulse was still pounding through your veins. "but I know you came back for me. You followed me all the way out here at the edge of the solar system. Look at where it got you. Oh, I can never get rid of you...Impossible Amy Pond."

"Doctor!" Bill called for me. The lift operators had been found. They would need all the help they could get.

I kissed your hand.

"I've got to leave now, Amy, but I'm going to leave you with some friends of mine. They'll take care of you while I'm gone. Won't you, girls? What are your names?" I asked them.

The two posh girls, probably royal, told me their names and I told a joke to set their nerves at ease.

"Please take care of her while I'm gone. I won't be long. Well, what's long, anyway? It's all relative. Five minutes. Ten years."

"I couldn't help but lean in and whisper into your ear.

"You're brilliant, Amy, you really are. You're a bright shining light in the dark. Don't ever go out. Not even when I'm not looking. Now, I'm off. You be good."

And when I got up and turned away I couldn't help but add something special.

"I'll be back!" I added with a twist of my heels. Of course, the reference was lost on everyone. Arnold wouldn't even be born for another sixty years.

And that was a good thing. Timelines were still coalescing. Time was still running out. No, scratch that. This wasn't a fixed event. Time's in flux. It literally is in flux. Time was waiting. Time was stalking. Following me wherever I went. Everything I did, even the slightest decision was changing the course of time itself.

That's why it was so important to keep Bernárd alive. He wasn't supposed to die yet. It isn't fair. I could save him, but what if I'm not meant to? The options are still there. A thousand options spinning around in my head. Alternate realities where we're all alive or where we're all dead. Or where we never existed in the first place. They're waiting for us.

Everything depended on the moment that was yet to come. But it was so close. Fireworks.

I'm brilliant.

What?

Oh, you know what I'm talking about. You keep pretending, but I know your heart, Time Boy.

Don't call me that.

You called me brilliant.

You áre brilliant.

Oh, I bet you say that to all the girls...

Well...

Shut up! Finish the damn story so we can go home.

Home? Is that what you want?

Oh, you know what I meant.

Yes...

No.

Just tell your story, Doctor. I'll stop interrupting.

Bless. Now...

You love to hear the sound of your own voice...

"How'd you know so much about elevators, Doctor?" Bill's lovely right hand woman asked me and I told her:

"Same way you learned about guns, Annie. Practice. Experience. And mostly wikipedia. Everybody get aboard the lift! It'll save your life. Not everybody at the same time!"

Bill then approached me. I was already expecting him.

"Let me come with you," Bill said.

"I'd love that, Bill. But I can't let that happen. You're way more important than silly old me. If anything were to happen to you...and besides, you've got these terrified people to look after. They'll need someone. I'm not that person. I just like puzzles."

"And danger."

"That too."

"What about the Drones, Doctor?" Bill asked.

"Don't worry! When we're out of range the Drones will simply shut down and revert to their basic components. Scrap metal!"

"Is that your plan, Doctor?" he asked. "Is that what the box does?"

"I don't know. Let's find out."

"What about your friend, Doctor?"

"Jack?" I said. "He's having the time of his life. Take care of Amy and Bernárd. If anything happens to them..."

"Good luck, Doctor."

"Anything...Take care of history, Buffalo Bill Cody. I know I'm leaving it in good hands."

The lift went up a second later, carrying the first twenty or thirty passengers up and just as I was about to leave there was this uncomfortable sound of chafing leather.

"Doctor," Bill suddenly said before I was even two steps away. "I can't move."

It had snuck up on us while we weren't looking. From below. I was lucky. I moved away just in time but Bill's boots had been caught. A thin layer of reflective silver liquid spread across the floor like an expanding puddle of water, a sentient puddle of water, grabbing hold of everything it could touch.

Annie cried and clung to her rifle. The silent Sioux Sitting Bull could not believe his eyes witnessing what was unfolding in front of them.

"Everybody stand back! Shooting it won't help!"

I was thinking. The liquid was spreading and soon it would reach optimum mass for physical manifestation.

"Take your boots off, Bill!" Annie cried, but the metal was already climbing over its shoes and reaching his ankles. It was spreading over his skin until finally the puddle stopped expanding horizontally and instead opted to grow vertically, drowning every part of Bill's body with its liquid.

"Doctor, help him!" Nikola demanded. I sonicked the liquid for data as it spread.

When Bill touched it with his hand it jumped to his fingernails and spread towards his elbow. He was going to be completely engulfed in a minute, then dead in two. He was effectively turning into a statue.

History was going to change. It would adapt. In two minutes there'd be a world without Buffalo Bill Cody and his infamous Wild West show. No cowboy clichés. No old West stereotypes.

That surely can't be all we remember him for.

After Gustave Eiffel, how many more pebbles were going to change the flow of river? How many more men were going to die today? How many more could history take before it was stretched to its limit?

The Drone's metal was crawling over his chest and he could no longer feel or move his arm.

"No, no, no, no, NOOO!"

I should've seen it. This was my fault. And I knew that somewhere up there Nemo was watching this. To him we were but a few red dots on a blue screen. Just a number; not a tragedy.

"Why are you doing this?" you asked him.

"You call it murder," Nemo answered. "I call it pest control."

And all the pity you might've felt for him vanished into thin air.

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