"Hold still!" I told Bill as the metal crawled up his chest. The silvery goo managed to engulf button after button of his formerly impeccable uniform that stood out underneath his grey longcoat.
"Hold perfectly still!"
I managed to stall the Drone for now and made it harder for its molecules to coalesce into being. Gas is one element it can't become. Dispersal was its weakness, but it was still slowly reaching Bill's throat.
I couldn't stop it. Slowing it would do for now. It bought me time to think. That's all I needed.
Oh, I saw the fear in the proud man's eyes. Suffocation is a nasty way to die. The pulse was hardly keeping the metal at bay.
"Come on, come on!" I told myself, keeping the sonic screwdriver firmly aimed at its target. Bill's entire body had succumbed to a layer of the hardening metal now and only his head was sticking out from it.
"They're Drones. They're metal," I summarized and I began to sweat. "How do they work? How is he controlling them?"
The others were desperate to step in but I had to keep reminding them nothing would work. Nothing I hadn't thought of yet. But there had to be a way.
"Don't touch it! It'll jump on to you. I can't save both of you. I can't save you all...I can't...URGH!"
Bill could barely move his chest underneath that layer of metal. He was watching me. He was waiting for me. He had faith in me. But it's not enough.
"They're creatures. They're metal. Like the mask. They're part of the ship. They are essentially the ship! Which means..."
The metal reached his adam's apple. His larynx. It had almost completely covered the distance of his neck and was going for Bill's chin. My hand was shaking. I had to keep it levelled.
The answer was right in front of me, the solution was staring at me, but the more the metal encapsulated Buffalo Bill Cody the more it seemed to slip away. I almost had to grab every thought physically to keep it from escaping me. Like building a sandcastle and the tide's coming in.
Oh, the tide's always coming in...
"There's a signal. A connection between the Drone and the Ship. WHAT'S THAT CONNECTION?" I yelled.
And at that very same time in some other place not far from our own suffering there were voices screaming in the dark. And they would keep screaming even when their throats could no longer bear to sustain the noise. Can't be sure whether they were slaves to the machine or eternally on hold. A dreadful metal limbo...
But you were different. You ascended the background noise even though you felt the horror Nemo put you in. The cold inside the mask. He felt it too.
"Can you hear it?" Nemo asked you. Inside the darkness of his ship. "They are dying all around you, aren't they? Screaming. You can't help them. Your life will be the last to be extinguished."
He was fixated on the flashing red dots with a restless intensity you'd only seen once before. He couldn't stop tapping his fingers on his folded arms. He had a grip like a bear but the mind of a fox. A very paranoid fox with a squadron of pirates at his command.
"Is that it?" you said to him as the hologram flashed before your eyes. "You're going to watch us die?"
"No," Nemo said. "You're going to watch them die."
After so many years trapped inside it, his very senses stolen from him, that very mask had become his only way of feeling anything. Like an absurd umbilical cord, they were trapped inside the metal ship's womb until it was finally their turn to be reborn.
In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is King and in the land of the dead the living becomes Captain. And the voices haunted him everywhere. Like children fighting over a computer, terrified they'll usurp his spot when he lets it go for a single second. Paranoia! Oh, if only he'd learned to share.
It's an obsession that had literally taken over his life. He's fighting to stay alive for all the wrong reasons, fighting to possess it...but life's not something to take. Life's a gift.
Wanting it for the sake of wanting it defeats the purpose when life can be so much more. It's like money. Wanting money for the sake of having it is pure greed, when you can buy a yacht and sail the oceans, build hospitals and help the needy, anything...Anything at all.
Buying things keeps the economy going. Living life keeps life going. And it's always about balance...Similarities end there. Well, I hope.
Life's a tool. It's useless on its own. It's what you do with it that makes it count. What makes it beautiful. And the potential is there. It's everywhere. Especially in the face of death. White is whitest compared to black. But then again, I've learned to deal with the grey areas...
Bill was dying, they were all dying, even Jack, and there was nothing you could do about it.
There were a thousand possible outcomes narrowed down to a handful and only one of them had the happy ending. Quite a few of them held the end of human history.
"We need to get out of here, Doctor!" Nikola spoke wisely. A man can only survive without oxygen for 3 to 5 minutes before the brain is too permanently damaged to live on. A little bit of cold would've helped. "When it finishes with him it'll be coming for us next!"
"You can't!" Annie yelled, raising her rifle again aimlessly. "Save him, Doctor, please!"
A thousand outcomes. A thousand voices. A thousand possible realities. A thousand different Nemoes locked in the dark. All paths leading to the same time, the same space, the same ship...
Who was the first Nemo to break the timeline? To shatter it. The first Nemo to alter himself...And which Nemo are we dealing with now? First, last, does it matter? Is there a difference?
Oh, I'm computing a thousand different things at the same time. Sometimes it helps if I approach the subject from a different angle. An important angle. The man behind the curtain. The man controlling everything. But is he?
A million sperm and only one beats them to the punch. And this is the Nemo we ended up with. The mutineer. Any other Nemo would've lead to any other outcome, but any other Nemo wouldn't have had the same prowess for escape.
"Is that who he is?" I tried to deduce. "Is that who I'm fighting?"
Because it wasn't going to stop here. Saving Bill right then and there wouldn't solve the problem. The signal was the problem. The signal was the ship's the key.
"Doctor..." Bill managed to utter finally before the metal hardened his jaw in place.
"But it's more than just a ship. It's more than just metal," I continued. "It could turn itself into a complete replica of Captain Jack Harkness. It can become whatever it wants to be. Whatever it needs to be..."
He closed his lips, otherwise the metal could've poured down his throat, but his nostrils were exposed. Finally he closed his eyes. His life in my hands...
"Doctor!" Annie cried.
"There's nothing we can do, Doctor!" Nikola yelled.
You first have to understand the problem to know how to solve it. Understand the question before you can answer it. And if you're very lucky then you can make the problem part of the solution.
A word of advice, Amy. Don't mess with alternative timelines, or parallel worlds for that matter. It never ends well.
Of course, think of the Nemoes that didn't end up on that lower deck. Those that could've had healthy lives somewhere in the multiverse and who never heard an inkling of the fate that might've awaited them here...
Think of a universe without the Eiffel Tower...
And I knew. It was running through my mind in a thousand different ways. Logical deduction can lead to the truth, but there's no point in arguing past possibilities when dealing with present certainties.
The timeline had been broken. Fact. The Paradox Glass is sustaining the breach.
The Glass ís the breach. A splinter in time. Without it the paradox could have never existed. The unresolved events would've imploded into itself first chance it got.
Without that splinter in time contained within that glass box none of this could've ever happened.
Nemo's once linear life has been allowed to shatter because of it, creating more 'breaks' within the original timeline and maiming it beyond recognition, eventually leading to the end of human history. 'And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.'
So my plan was simple. I was part of events then so I couldn't just pop out and go back. No TARDIS! I had to stop the breaks. Like a line of dominoes falling, I had to step in and save Domino Day before it would end a billion years too soon.
Or like, the Little Dutch Boy who sticks his finger in the hole in the dyke. But with the lives of Gustave, Jack and now Bill at stake I was running out of fingers to stem the flood of water.
And there were cracks. The damage was spreading. The fire at the end of the universe, the water beyond that dyke, was going to wipe away everything that ever existed.
And sometimes I think I'm the only one who can stop it. But I'm not, Amy. I've got you.
The key to saving time...is you. It's always been you.
Stop it. You're making me blush.
A thousand Nemoes but only one Amy Pond stuck inside his mind.
"You don't even know who I am. You don't even care!" you told him. "And I don't know who you are, Nemo, but you're going to stop this."
"NOBODY tells me what to do," Nemo responded. "Not you and not your Doctor. I am the Captain of this ship. It's my turn now."
You were there but simultaneously here. You were in both places at once, like the dimensional hub. The same connection. Two places becoming one. Two minds connected, not swapping, but overlapping!
But, it's like your eyes, Amy. Your brain and your eyes. You can't see everything at once. You can only focus on one thing at a time. So sometimes you were on the Eiffel Tower and sometimes you slipped somewhere else, saw something else, inside Nemo's mind. But there was more, oh there was so much more.
"The metal!" I cried out as the understanding flowed through me. It's like warm eggnog, apple pie and a whole lot of free Sundays! Nothing beats a good 'eureka' moment!
I looked at the others but they didn't understand. Oh, sometimes it's definitely good being me.
"It's psychic!" I said. See? Never an offhand remark with me. Something's gotta give.
Stop trying to be clever, Doctor, and get to the point. So I save the day?
Oh yes, you do, Amelia Jessica Pond! Yes. You. Do! But not just yet.
I ran towards you and asked the two nice French girls to put you down quickly, but gently, and in the corner of my eyes I saw the metal engulf Bill's face. Five minutes and counting.
"The metal formed her face!" I explained to Nikola. "She wanted to warn us so the metal let her! She can control the metal! She can save Bill! All of us! She's the key!"
Yet the metal showed no sign of life. Two places cloud the mind. Nikola and I bowed over your comatose self.
"Amy?" I said to you. "Amy, I know you can hear me. You need to wake up. You need to come back. We need you! I need you. The whole universe needs you!"
Now, there was a second problem. Two places were one. Through the mask you were connected to the ship, connected to Nemo, but that meant Nemo was connected to you.
He was hearing everything you heard. He knew I was reaching out to you. He tried to distract you. Every second wasted meant a life lost. The Drones could start morphing into something a bit more deadly any second and there were more roaming below, like giant, metal, silvery centipedes crawling across the metal beams of the tower.
Urgh. Thanks for that mental image!
"From the moment I was born they've been trying to kill me, trying to take away my right to captain the Kamorath." Nemo mused gripping the back of the chair that manifested itself in front of him at his request. The metal liquid seemed to surge upward towards his hands, striking some invisible barrier and then harden on command.
You already saw the shape of what it would become before the process had been completed. Nemo shaped the concept in his mind and the ship made it for him.
"You're so keen to crawl inside my head, peek inside my mind, why not try and see what I'm talking about. Witness my memories. I challenge you, Amelia Jessica Pond, to walk a mile in my shoes. I dare you to live my life, for just a single moment. Then you'll know what I mean. You'll know who I am. So sit."
I felt his presence. Something I'd felt before but couldn't quite place. He was right there beside you and inside your mind.
"He's distracting you, Amy!" I yelled at the mask. "He knows you're the only one who can help us! Don't let him beat you, Amy. Don't let him fool your senses!"
Every second you spent inside that mask distorted reality for your mind. Trying to reconcile both, your brain adapts to overlap the two places inside your mind, until they're merged completely, physically overlapping both signals! The brain will adapt to this new standard of reality and won't take kindly to someone pulling the plug on one. It'll be like shutting down half your brain. Permanent brain damage after a few hours.
Why is there never enough time? What's a Time Lord without time?
"Amy, you have to focus on my voice," I said to you. "You can control the metal! You can stop the Drones from attacking! Amy!"
On the other end my voice seemed to reverbate down into the bottom of a well, inside which you could no longer tell what was real and what wasn't. All the items on the wall could've been relics of past captains or elements of Nemo's mind. Figments.
"Wow," you told him. "So you had a tough childhood. Don't take it out on innocent people!"
Oh, he knew just how to push the right buttons with you. Of course, he was in your mind! Scanning the surface he knew just what kind of attitude would set you off. A tirade of insults formulating in your mind stopped you from decyphering the background noise that was trying to raise your attention. He knew it.
Every second focusing on Nemo disconnected you from reality more and more. And I couldn't get through.
He knew I was listening and trying to get through.
"No-one is innocent," Nemo said. "But what did a five-year old do to deserve the annihilation of his entire homeworld? Yes, it happened. I'm the only one left to remember. An entire civilization dead all for one boy. Yes, I did this. My future self. And it is inevitable I do it again. It cannot be undone. I am an anomaly. A child without parents. The man without a past. The man without a name.
Time did this to me. I had no part in it. I did not ask for it to happen. I did not ask to become a monster."
Sometimes they were echoes, sometimes they were visuals flooding the dark with ideas, fading like ghosts, like a clip show from hell. Memories of a bygone age, and all he chose to remember was the pain.
"Then don't be. Stop this!" you yelled.
"Who am I to question the laws of time? Who are any of us? I've seen how it all ends. In the dark. There are hundreds of versions of me on the deck below. Every single choice they made had them ending up here. Tell me, did I really stand a chance? Someone clearly wants me to be this way."
"You can be better!"
"I don't need to be. I AM THE CAPTAIN. AND THIS IS MY SHIP. My predecessor was right. This is my property. I have every right to its remains."
You shed a single tear for him. It rolled across your cheek and it wasn't even real. You touched it with the tip of your index finger and the drop seemed to sparkle and reflect light that wasn't even there.
"No," you said. "Can't you see? You don't own it. It owns you."
"I. Don't. Care," Nemo said. "My conscience doesn't exist anymore, so there's no point in pleading to it. This is my destiny now. This is all I ever wanted and no-one's going to take it away from me!"
"Only one man can."
"I already told you. It doesn't matter. I win," Nemo said, but then the unexpected happened.
"Not even the Doctor can stop the silence. I am the Khamorath's final captain. It is inevitable."
He keeps saying that, doesn't he? He's obviously never met me. But you weren't talking about me. You know about the chain of command. Only Nemo can dethrone Nemo. And there were a thousand Nemoes waiting below to do exactly that. He's ruining it for himself, really. And it's the eve of self-destruction.
A streak of sad-masochism in him didn't seem to mind. No, he was enjoying it. He wanted to endure. It made him feel important. Powerful. For him, all the suffering in the universe happens for a reason. Some cling to hope in times of hardship but Nemo clung to greed.
Everything you threw at him just made him more of a martyr in his own eyes.
He got what he wanted now. Screw the rest. Such a handsome face hid a twisted mind. Can you blame him for turning out as he did? Yes.
And yes. What we are defines us, not what we could've been. Wallowing in self-pity never helped anyone, nor sulking in the dark alone. Alone's just alone. Nothing romantic about it.
An eternity alone would drive anyone insane. I'm living proof.
"Who are you to judge me, Pond?" Nemo said. "You're just a girl. D'you know how long it's been since I was with a woman? Guess."
"I'd rather not," you said as he approached you.
"Amy! Don't let him get to you! Don't let him into your mind!" I yelled from the bottom of a well.
"I know what you're afraid of," Nemo spoke.
"Focus on my voice, Amy! Focus on me! You can find me, Amy! I know you can!"
"You're afraid of the dark," Nemo said. "Afraid to be alone. What you don't see is, Amelia Pond, you are alone."
"Don't focus on the bad bits!" I stressed. "Don't focus on the dark!"
"The mask is the dark!" you yelled back at me in Nemo's face. "I don't want to go back there!"
"You'll be blind, helpless..." Nemo described. "I was stuck inside that mask for five years until I was able to pass it on to you."
"You'll die there," Nemo spoke. "In the dark. Alone. Forgotten. Your consciousness will fade away from your mind like a faded memory of someone you once loved..."
"Don't focus on the pain! Remember Dr. Bracewell? And the Daleks? You did that! You saved him! That was you!"
You remembered helping Dr. Bracewell. You remembered whispering words that saved his life. But it didn't feel like you anymore. It felt like someone else. It wasn't that long ago.
"Doctor, why don't I remember?" you asked.
"You are empty," Nemo said. "We all are. We're seashells on the beach and the tide's coming in. The tide's always coming in."
"You need to concentrate!" I said. "Focus on my voice!"
And the last thing you saw before the dark swept in was Nemo's ominous smile.
This was not the man Jack met at the Time Agency. He'd been a much older man. Perhaps his life had him be or become a Time Agent as well, but I can't be certain. Let's say he was. His encounter with unwritten time might've been his motivation for joining and maybe even specializing in that particular subject. But Jack's Nemo was dead.
And just before he died he'd revealed Jack had been a monster. Even worse than the man tasked with erasing civilizations from history. Five years of Jack's memory had been erased and there's no way to know for sure he was telling the truth, but he was willing to kill Jack at first sight over it.
Jack couldn't remember and he'd tried so hard. They stole five years of his memory and ever since then he'd been intent on getting even with the Time Agency by conning them out of lots of money. (Tricks usually involving Pompeii or a German bomb.)
But he never once stopped to consider if it had been done for the right reasons. Maybe he shouldn't remember. Maybe that was not the man he wanted to be. That was not something he would want to remember or have on his conscience.
And the man and monster he did not want to be was pounding him below. On the Eiffel Tower's first floor. The metal that carried his face and wore his coat. Maybe he deserved this pummeling. This pain. This was his punishment.
"You're a sick man, Jack Harkness," the words emerged from his bloodied mouth as the metal man towered over his pummeled flesh again. And he wondered whether he wanted to die. No, he had so much life still ahead of him.
"I left that part of myself behind," he spoke again as he fought tooth and nail hitting the metal as hard as he could. Bullets wouldn't hurt it. "I moved on. This isn't who I am anymore. I'm better. At least, I want to be."
But the metal man just wouldn't stop.
"Hell, I'm going to be. As soon as I get the hell out of here. I'm going to help these people, save a planet and kiss the Doctor. It's what I'm good at. Maybe I'll even kiss Amy while I'm at it."
"You're optimistic!" you said. It was your voice. Jack looked around but there was no-one besides him and the monster.
Then the monster stopped. Then it winked.
"Hello, gorgeous," you said through metal Jack's lips.
"Amy?" Jack replied completely flabbergasted and loving it. Oh, he loves impossible things. He's definitely one of mine.
"Oh, you don't want to know what I'm thinking right now."
"You might get lucky," you told him. "But first things first..."