The Storyteller

The Question

I'm the cleverest man in the whole universe but sometimes I can just be tremendously stupid.

Thing is, I've been so busy trying to solve the puzzle and save the day that I forgot to ask a simple question. An important question.

When it came to establishing my priorities that question didn't make it into the top ten, but maybe it should've been. It definitely deserved a place in the top three, right above "What's the mystery behind the glass box?" and right below "Will Buffalo Bill Cody die?".

I can't be expected to know everything. I can't be expected to save everyone. I take on all these responsibilities because I make all these promises I can't keep.

I needed help. I was desperate. The question had completely slipped my mind. And I'm sorry, Amy, I really am, but saving the world wasn't going to be as easy as it just seemed to be.

I was certainly going to slap myself when I'd realize it, but I didn't yet. There was an elephant in the room, or better said, the room was one giant elephant. Let's see if you can work it out.

Is this a test?

Let's call it a challenge.

It's a test. Oh, I hate tests. I was always crap at school.

I bet you loved school.

I hated it. They literally had to tie me down to the chair once. Didn't stop me cheating.

Favourite subject?

Guess.

Art. No. History. Ancient history. Mythology.

You think you're so clever when you do that.

I am clever. Weren't you listening? Like, at all? Question: people are dying. What do you do?

Save them.

Good girl. How?

I don't know.

What did I just say? Think back. There's a problem and it needs solving.

Depends on the problem.

Exactly. So what do you do?

Examine the problem. Find a solution.

Say a man was trapped inside a layer of living metal. What would you do?

Smash the metal.

That's what they thought. I already told them it was indestructable, but that didn't stop them trying.

How'd you know it's indestructable if you don't try to destroy it first?

Now you're asking the right questions.

There were approximately ten people still trapped in the dark on the Eiffel Tower's second platform, with their backs against the Figaro pavillion. Almost nothing separating them from the cold universe, except beams of metal.

The elevator car could've held up to 65 people and therefore all of us, but I knew why they stayed behind.

They stayed because of me. Bill was dying because of me.

Bill's men started shooting at the metal creature that engulfed Bill when Annie pierced the silence with gunshots, being the first to fire. I objected but it was too late. The violence did nothing to halt the Drone's vicious advance. In fact, it seemed to like it.

That was the first sign that should've jogged my memory, but it didn't.

"That's not good," I said. "That's really not good."

The bullets seemed to be absorbed by the Drone. It only added to its strength. It was food to the creature. It literally ate bullets for breakfast. Someone tried jabbing it with a walking stick but found the creature unwilling to let go of it.

"You're only making it stronger!" I cried out.

You should've put an end to this. You were supposed to control the metal. Force it to let go. But there was something else at play here. Something I should've seen from the start.

"Wood!" Nikola suddenly spoke. "Doctor, clearly there are things it can't absorb. Human flesh and bones, or else it would've devoured him by now. Which means we need wood."

"Wood?" I said.

Nikola ordered Bill's men to start ripping apart the wooden bannisters and start throwing chairs. But Bill was still in there and they had no way of knowing whether their attacks would harm the person inside the creature.

"It doesn't do wood! That's brilliant!" I realized. "We need wood! Preferably a forest or a park...Wood! Where'd you find wood these days? My, a tower made out of iron and all we need is wood. Where's a fork when you need one?"

"Everyone, stand back!" Nikola yelled and I slid across the floor to your side. Without you we didn't stand a chance. We're all damsels in distress here; counting away the time towards our certain destruction.

But we can bend time, cheat death and rig tests. Destiny's never what it seems.

"Where are you, Amy?" I whispered close to your ear. "What have I done?"

In the dark there were a thousand voices. But I was wrong. There were a thousand and one.

Your all too human brain chose to manifest a fully formed you, focusing all of its energy into a single spot, to inhabit and control, instead of even trying to fathom the possibility of taking the house and controlling the lot. The latter option meant stretching the mind thin, overloading your sensors with too much information, flooding Plato's cave with readings of multiple places at once.

First in Nemo's mind and now inside the ship. It was letting you take over but you could barely hold a fraction of it in your hands. I know you don't like to hear it but your humanity was your limitation.

"I can feel it," you told Captain Jack. "It wanted to kill you."

The voices were still roaming the dark. Complete silence and utter noise co-existed in your head (and no it's nothing like wearing headphones). It's two different states of mind.

Or maybe it's exactly like wearing headphones. Invisible ones you can never take off. Headphones that aren't there because you're the headphone! I'm not making any sense am I?

Nope.

That's because you're human. The Amy Pond in my story however was only human for the most part at the moment as she remotely controlled one of the ship's detached and hostile parts of itself that attacked the Tower's occupants, like cats sent in to take care of the mice: we just converted a cat.

"Are you okay?" you asked and he stared at how the metal that used to resemble himself changed to become a version of you.

"How is this possible?"

"You can thank me later. Right now we've got work to do."

"Yes, ma'am!" he grinned with a dash of his bruised longcoat.

You were effectively using Nemo's own greatest weapon against him and turning the problem into part of the solution. First lesson learned. Well done. Of course, we only had little time left before the connection would kill you.

But there was another connection, nothing like the one you experienced, blinking in and out of existence on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. The four-sided glass box started glowing more and more ever since I'd re-activated and drew power from it many moments ago.

It was just lying there but with your new Drone senses you could sense the electromagnetic field growing around it like a bubble of hot radiation, and a warmth that could light up skin. Human skin, not Drone.

"Nemo didn't make this," Jack said. "He's a scavenger, a thief, and besides, Time Agents aren't that smart."

"What is it?" you asked.

"I've seen something similar only once before. A splinter in time, literally. Nemo's found a way to harnass its power."

"It's dangerous, isn't it?"

"In the wrong hands? Definitely," Jack said. "In the right hands? We're looking at the end of the universe."

Nikola could sense it. He could actually see the universe changing colour from turqouise to beige. From birth he had been gifted with a peculiar sight because he could actually see beyond the mind's eye and picture his projects in front of him. An extreme imagination, a brilliant eye for detail and something a little bit more. It's said he could see energy in all places. Sparks flying off a single act, a single motion, like petting a cat. Witness the electricity in the very air.

But this wasn't his imagination. Today he would see the universe end.

The effects of the future rippled into the past, growing stronger and stronger, spreading wider into the universe up until the moment of actual impact. The moment of destiny was slowly approaching. The fate of humanity would be decided in the final few seconds.

Bernárd knew it too. He could feel it in his stomach. His impending death was approaching. He grew sick and tired of waiting for it. No-one could blame him.

As the lift rattled upward carrying over twenty passengers he was the only one determined to go back. He wanted to help me, because I was the only one who could help him. I promised I would.

First there was silence aboard the 'Leon Edoux' lift, then complaints.

"This Tower is cursed," one passenger said, spitting on the floor. "A plight upon Paris. The very iron is poison to us."

Bernárd felt the insult pierce his heart but he did nothing. He endured. He keenly listened and watched, counting the metal beams that went past the open window as the lift was lifted up by water-powered hydraulic pump.

And when it came to a sudden stop the car's passengers screamed.

They're going to die, aren't they?

No, they just panicked, but this was all part of the process. The car would only go this far and they had to change lifts to reach the top. A narrow walkway separated the cars. And the familiar cliché 'don't look down!' comes to mind. The lift boy cried out it was time to go but none could bring themselves to move.

The boy started sweating. He didn't sign up for this. Dangling halfway down the neck of the Eiffel Tower and none of them dared to set a foot toward the dark that surrounded them.

"This is what happens when people like the Doctor meddle with our world," Simon told Bernárd. "Our time. We end up paying the price."

Bernárd listened and the information burdened him. He didn't process it. He just took it upon himself to carry it. The end was near.

'Burden me,' he thought to himself. 'That's what I'm here for, aren't I?'

To see all this and not be able to do anything with it. To have a taste of the universe but not be able to eat it. I imagine it can be torture.

He started to wonder about a world without himself in it. He wondered whether anyone would miss him.

They finally, one step at a time, faced their vertigo and walked from one car to the next and Bernárd simply followed mindlessly, going through the motions like a robot, programmed to die.

And if I couldn't help him, he decided that he was going to help himself. He rushed back into the first lift.

"What are you doing?" Simon bellowed. He probably got pushed aside.

"I'm going down," Bernárd said. "Back down. There's nothing for me up there."

"What's the matter with you? Do you want to die?" Simon yelled, trying to get him out. The lift boy nervously beckoned, realizing what was going on after consulting his partner who would operate the second lift. Bernárd called to him after locking the lift's fence.

"Get this lift to go down!" he cried but the lift boy refused.

"You're mad!" Simon yelled. "There's monsters down there!"

"They can't hurt me. I'm already dead."

"This is what the Doctor does to people!" Simon yelled. "This is what he does! They go mad!"

When the lift operator didn't want to help him Bernárd jumped down himself and started fiddling with the controls of the lift. He was there when Gustave Eiffel approved of the designs. He was there when they installed it. He told himself it couldn't be that difficult. And he managed it to work! Oh, I would've liked him.

Bernárd finally felt some life running through his veins again as he retook control.

But Simon was right. I am dangerous. Sometimes.

It took less than a flash for you and Jack to get from the first to the second level. Boy, you do like to cheat.

The both of you were wisecracking and smiling and still unaware of the horror that went on inside the iron suit. The silence in between desperate final breaths, the trapped sensation of pure claustrophobia, wrapped inside cold alloy. Bill was dying and wood didn't affect it. The living metal just wrapped itself around it, let it stick to its skin like glue and devoured it whole.

It managed to stretch the metal but it did nothing to save the man inside. Then everyone did a double take when Amy Pond stepped into the room. Of course, no-one had seen your face by that time so I was the only one to recognise you. It was my double take.

"Lost something?" Jack quipped.

"No," I said, looking back twice from one Amy to the other. "Two Amy Ponds...it really is the end of the world. And is she wearing your coat?"

"Doctor, I get it now. I really do," you said to me and Jack threw me the mysterious glass box.

But you were wrong. You really really didn't.

The people around us were still panicking, still asking questions, still confused and baffled and there was no way to give some condensed explanation to all of them in the limited amount of time we had left. But through all the mania there was a single clear voice that stood apart.

"Doctor," Nikola spoke and his widened expression lead me to the tin soldier dying in a deathly hug, frozen within a layer of metal, but still alive inside. It was moving. The metal was moving, as if a statue of Bill had just grown tiny wheels. And it was moving towards you.

I should've seen it. I should've known long before, but I'm old and stupid and I forget things I shouldn't forget. Things I should never forget. Because I've seen so much.

"Doctor, what's happening?" you asked. A thousand and one voices roaming through your mind.

"It's going to kill us!" Annie cried out. "It killed Cody and now it's going to finish the job it started!"

And I remembered how it absorbed the bullets. Bits and pieces of wood were still sticking out of the metal's surface. It had just oozed around it like glue, stretching itself to its limit, like butter scraped over too much bread. Like your mind.

"Are you taller?" I asked you but I had to let that thought go immediately. The Drone was coming.

"It's recognising the most dangerous person in the room. Just like before," Jack said. "It's going to kill Amy."

"No," I said. "This is different."

At first it was almost slithering, then all of a sudden the hands of the statue that used to be stretched in fear dropped to its sides. The tin soldier raised its feet and started walking towards you. Carrying a dead man inside it and reaching its hand towards you.

"Doctor!" you cried.

"All right, this is scary! This is very frightening!" I admitted. A flick of the sonic didn't do a thing. Jack and I made sure to keep you behind us, but then suddenly you pushed us aside.

"Amy!" I cried.

There are times when something happens. Something extraordinary. And you need someone to make sense of it all. That's me.

That's why I'm the cleverest man in the universe.

"Doctor, what's happening?" Jack asked.

"No idea."

The Drone looked to be composited of a single smooth entity, its skin bright silver and cool as glass, cold, hollow and indestructable. But its appearance of simplicity was a lie. The Drone constituted of various metals scavenged throughout the universe, most of it worthless, but at the heart of it lay a terrible secret. A drop of life in an ocean of death.

You sensed it. As you melded with the metal you could feel what it felt: the very magnetism that made you want to reach out towards it. The Drone felt the change, felt your consciousness and gravitated towards it.

"Amy, don't touch it!" Jack said.

"No," I said. "Let her. She's stronger than the metal. She can absorb it, like it absorbed the bullets. Amy, you can beat it! You didn't give up before, you didn't let it overtake you when Nemo climbed into your mind. You can do it again."

"Stop your yammering! I'm busy!" you yelled back.

I apologized silently.

You hesitated. You fought your instincts telling you to run away and placed your hand upon the metal.

It was draining. I could tell. Thrashing, the metal desintegrated and reverted back to its original components which fell apart in puddles on the floor like sludge. All bits that weren't required were filtered out and separated from the heart of the matter until all that was left standing was a drenched unconscious cowboy and a glowing girl. Bill fell to the ground where his companions rushed to his aid.

"Doctor...I'm glowing," you said, watching your hands.

"You noticed," I said.

You started trembling and lost balance. Both Jack and I were there to hold you up when you fell. The voice grew stronger. One voice. Just one.

"It's not you," Jack said. "It's the metal."

"Right," you said. "This is not me. I'm over there. I keep forgetting."

"Doctor, what just happened?"

I knew now what had evaded me all this time. The answer to a question I never stopped to ask myself.

"Validium," I said. The idea haunted me.

"You're kidding," Jack said. How did he know?

"The ship," I explained to you. "The living metal. It's Validium. The tiniest fraction of it. Enriched with other metals."

"What's Validium?" you asked.

"It's Time Lord," I said. My responsibility.

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