The Storyteller

Awakening

"Hold my hand."

The bedsheet slid gently from her feet and exposed the newborn cells to the cold light. Dust danced in the illuminated air. Cries for help stifled any meaning of achievement.

"Careful. New legs don't grow on trees. Nor do second chances."

She stumbled. Her foot was pale as the sheet it used to hide under.

"Doctor, it's numb," Amy said.

"It's supposed to be. Be grateful. You could've been in some terrible pain..."

"As opposed to what?"

"Shift the weight!" the Doctor's reflexes kicked in when Amy was about to buckle and fall. "Careful! It's brand new!"

He left Amy at the bedside to cling to the side like a dog afraid of water clinging to the edge of a pool.

It didn't feel real. It felt like plastic, like somebody else's leg. Outside the confines of her secure bed her confidence waned, but her determination did not. She could do this. At least she thought she could.

"This isn't happening," she groaned. Time went too slowly. Sometimes the curtains that cut through her world seemed to close in on her, but she closed her eyes to everything that went on outside of them.

They were all dead. They were all suffering, but they were all dead. In her time.

In her time this was history. And sometimes history can feel all too unreal, until the day you find yourself part of it.

Amy felt like she could wake up at any second from a deep sleep. The slow passage of time only made the nightmare worse. In movies you would get a montage here to indicate a passage of time. If this was a movie it would've skipped this part. This horrifying slow part. But that's also what history really is and what being part of history means. Going slow.

The Doctor simply hit and ran. She preferred that strategy. No fuss. No pain.

"I want to get out of here."

The outskirts of her vision started sparkling, like pixels in a computer desktop that were malfunctioning and spreading like a colourful cancer. Her head was all fuzzy and light and a cold spread down her body. More numbness. Until she couldn't see. Too light.

She collapsed beside the bed where the Doctor luckily caught her in time.

"Dear, oh dear," he said, and he threw the crutches he had procured on the bed beside her. "And not a moment too soon. Are you okay?"

"I fainted," Amy said, embarassed that she was caught in one of her weakest moments. "I do that sometimes. Especially if you cut off my legs!"

She couldn't look him in the eyes. Especially now that there was this light directly behind his head. She could barely see past his silhouette and the sparkling pixels were still there in the corner of her eyes. The bed was uncomfortable and not to mention smelly. She couldn't stand to be so vulnerable. What a damsel in distress she'd become.

"Take me home, Doctor," she said. "Please."

But they couldn't just yet. Not until morning. The TARDIS was still out of range. A world war was standing between them and their spaceship and that doesn't happen every day.

He felt the clammy cold as he put a hand to her forehead. She was sweating.

"It hurts, Doctor."

"No, it doesn't," he replied solemnly. "But you want it to."

He threw the sheet back over her, tucked her in and started gently massaging her leg to cause the blood to start flowing again.

"We're all right, Amy," the Doctor said while bombs were dropping in the distance somewhere in the fields of France. His eyes were wandering to their respective corners. "We're going to be all right..."

The smell of rain crept into the hospital's creaking hardwood floors, carried by the wind from distant muddy fields with a hint of garlic. It's France, after all.

Every painful moment was pivotal. It's what makes them meaningful. It's what makes them hurt.

The sad man with the box finally sat on the edge of Amy's bed, pondering.

"The bad days are just as big a part of life as the good days," he told a feverish Amy. The bowtie tightened around his ancient neck.

He checked the numerical face of his wrist watch more out of habit than necessity. The timepiece had no hands, yet the Doctor looked away from it knowing exactly what time it was.

"Shadow's only a small and passing thing. All moments are."

"How does your story end, Doctor?" Amy asked, shivering. "Do I get a happy ending?"

The Doctor cracked a smile. She wanted a distraction, so he'd be happy to give her one.

"Where was I? Oh, yes," the Doctor said. "A kiss. But mostly, an uncomfortable silence in the lift, begging me to comment:

"So, you two kissed?" I asked both you and the good captain standing on either side of me.

Can't you go into a little bit more detail with the kiss?

Oh, I knew you'd be a shipper!

"I can't even leave you two alone for two whole seconds," I told you two. "Rabbits..."

"My lips. My business," you said, teasing. Probably rubbing it in that I rejected you before. Touchy. You are so obvious sometimes it's not even funny anymore.

Don't taunt me, Doctor. Not now.

Sorry. Sorry. Only trying to recapture the energy of the scene.

It's you who's rather quick to skip the whole kissing scene. I bet you can't stand the thought of seeing me with another bloke.

Well, FYI, I think of you and other blokes all the time!

I bet you do.

That came out wrong.

Are you fixing me up with anyone? Is that why you're telling this story?

I'm fixing you a brand new leg. I'm not an extraterrestrial matchmaker! I don't do love anymore.

Why not?

Can I tell my story now? I've almost reached the ending and it's really good. But every time I think I'm close to it some other good idea pops up and occupies an entire chapter. It's not a bad thing, it's just annoying. Yes, there's a downside to being this brilliant.

Oh, please...

You see, they were waiting for us all this time. Upstairs. Nemo's pirates had took those that had already made it to the top hostage and they were standing around, teeth bare and knives put to the necks of the innocent, as some horrible surprise party I didn't have any time for.

So I sent them back where they came from.

"Too easy!" I cried out as I reversed the teleportation feed again with a flick of the sonic and sent the pirates flying in blazes of bright blue light back up toward the ship. "Come on! You can do better than that! Seriously, it's like they're not even trying. Hello, again!"

The hostages had never been so happy to see me. "No time to waste though, but rest assured I've got a plan!"

"Not a good one," you said. But that's because I already told you what it was.

"Criticism will have to wait too!" I said.

"You always say that."

"And I'm always short on time!" I replied. "My idea has to work. In fact, it already has worked. The Earth's dying in the past because it did work. In the future. But we can fix it. It's better to say you're sorry than to ask permission. At least that's what they always told me."

"Doctor, it's the end of the world," Jack said. "Doesn't hurt to be a little careful."

"What's life without a little risk?" I joked and I breathed in deeply. "Smell. That. Air!"

It was the last chance to abort. Last chance to think about it. We were about to risk everyone in the history of humanity and beyond and change the face of the universe just to save fifty lives. Just to solve a puzzle. Could I do it? I had already done it. But could I do it again for the first time?

"You don't even know how it works!" you rightly pointed out. True, the box's properties were still a mystery to me.

"I don't need to," I said. "It has worked. In the future. And Nemo's used it for fuel for decades. Perhaps even centuries. All we have to do is change a few plugs!"

"And destroy the world! Doctor!" Jack ephasized once again as if repeating it would make his argument better. Maybe I should've listened.

For every problem there's a solution. Every door has a key. But there was no way of knowing what's behind each door. Whether it holds salvation or destruction. I was taking a gamble, perhaps asking too much, but I did promise. I did. I make promises all the time.

Sometimes I'm just the right person in the right time and place. Just the right key for just the right lock. A skeleton key that fits any lock, any situation, any time or place, past, future or present, but sometimes you just have to bash that door down. Luckily, I'm a locksmith. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Of course, there's nothing lucky about a causality loop. Or is there?

"Come on, everyone!" I said. "Breathe in deep! Soak up as much as you can! Jack?"

"You're a genius," he immediately said upon realizing and he quickly had his vortex manipulator soak up all the energy it could. The pieces were falling into place.

Nikola could see it with his naked eyes. The energy was spilling out into the universe above us, brooding like a bottled lightningstorm in between the Tower and the Ship. It's the Blinovitch Limitation Effect.

That's when the same object from two or multiple different points in its own timestream touch or are in close proximity to each other in the same space there's a discharge of energy, sometimes mild, sometimes dangerous. This time we were counting on the latter.

"What's going on? Are we destroying the world or saving it?" Bernárd asked.

"Finally! You're catching up!" I told him with a pat on the back. "I told you I could save you. Nemo's basically handed us all the ingredients for our great escape and there's nothing he can do to stop us."

Then I saw Bernárd's hands. They were shaking.

"This is real, Bernárd," I said, clutching the back of his neck and looking straight into his eyes. Such vibrant colours.

Most of the people around me were still going through the motions, living by the script of this terrible nightmare they're forced to endure, all expecting to wake up in their comfy beds any minute now, awaking from some bad dream.

They were looking at us as if we were enacting the weirdest play they'd ever seen. The play's the thing.

"I know," Bernárd said.

"Take control of your own life!"

"Doctor, when I saw my own reflection in the Drone's eyes it felt like waking up. I'm here. I'm okay. I'm not going to die."

"And neither is your father," I said to him. "We can still save him!"

"How?"

"We're going to fly the Eiffel Tower back home."

The glass box in Nikola's hand started glowing more and more as we headed to the top. The more Nemo's ship reached down towards the Tower the more it was helping our cause. Just a little bit closer...

"What are you doing, Doctor?" Jack asked. I had expected the former Time Agent to feel a little bit apprehensive about lending his vortex manipulator to the cause.

"We need to divert the energy the vortex manipulator is soaking up and use it to fuel the box. I need to expand its radius to include the entire structure of the Eiffel Tower, which means I'm going to need every drop of energy I can get my hands on. Any questions?"

"Doctor," Simon interrupted. "As the representative of LONGBOW I cannot allow you to continue. You're risking the lives of everyone on the planet! Everyone in history! You do not have the authority to make this decision!"

I stopped sonicking Jack's vortex manipulator and straightened my back. I watched him swallow and sweat in my presence. His complaints stopped being fun a long while ago now.

"Someone has to," I said. "I'm the Lord of Time. I've saved the Earth more times than I can count and I'm going to save it again. Are you going to stand in my way?"

I looked from eye to eye to see what kind of man he really was.

"Your exploits have jeopardized my homeworld long enough! I'm taking a stand! One day you're going to slip up. One day your mistakes will cost us our world and it'll be your fault, Doctor. This is our world, not yours. This is not your decision to make."

"Are you challenging my authority?" I said.

Simon shivered. "Yes. You time-travellers have tampered with history long enough. I am not going to risk the destruction of the whole of creation to save a mere fifty lives. There has to be another way."

"Even if it means your own life?" I asked.

After a hesitation he closed his eyes and nodded. He was a brave man.

"Fine," I said. "Have it your way, Simon from Brussels."

"I work in Brussels, but I'm not from there. I'm Dutch."

"Oh, are you now?" I said.

It took a lot of guts to stand up to me like that. Few that dared before left untarnished. He was right, though. This was humanity's decision to make. Maybe it was time for a vote.

"Doctor, they're not ready," Jack whispered into my ear.

"They have to start somewhere," I said. So the situation was explained once again and they all voted while time was running out.

"Remember the choice Nemo gave you. Now consider mine," I stated my case before them. "It's either this or death."

"Death of only fifty or death of the whole human race!" Simon said. "Such a decision must never be taken lightly."

"I can do this," I said. "But you're going to have to trust me."

"But we don't even know who you are!" Annie Oakley cried. Claude deBussy voiced the same concerns.

"He's the Doctor," Bernárd said.

"The man classified by Torchwood as the most dangerous man to walk the Earth!" Simon said. "I am not being unreasonable here!"

"What's Torchwood?" someone asked.

Jack stepped forward, assuming his place at my side once again. "I'm Torchwood. And I trust this man with my life."

"I'm Torchwood," you cut in. "I trust this man too."

You took your place on my other side.

"I'm Torchwood," Nikola Tesla spoke, much to our surprise. Then came another:

"I'm Torchwood too," Bernárd said.

I doubt they really knew what it was, but it worked. It caught on and spread. A tiny spark becoming a flame and then a roaring fire. More and more stood up and followed their example.

"I am Torchvood," Vilhelm Bjerknes said.

"I'm Torchwood." Buffalo Bill said when he regained his voice finally and his men followed his lead. "We're Torchwood."

Sitting Bull the Sioux was silent no more. "I am Torchwood."

And I couldn't help be teary-eyed. There was hope. There was always hope.

Here we stood we bunch of cowards. I clapped and rubbed my hands together. My voice embarassingly sore. I had to clear it twice.

"I'm Spartacus. And who says democracy is dead?" I said while Jack consoled the agreeable Simon. The Flying Dutchman. Ha.

"Now, let's get to work!"

In the night sky above us the tentacles of the giant morphing metal octopus were becoming dangerously close. What was Nemo waiting for?

Back on Earth time and space were spilling across the fault lines and bleeding into each other and the solar system was slowly freezing into place. The effects were even reaching Pluto.

Time ánd space.

We caused it to happen in the future, but the effects rippled back in time. We are the only ones who could've caused it, therefore I was justified in assuming we are there at the heart of the storm in the future when it happens. When we cause it. Our escape triggers the event.

With me so far?

Because we're already there in the future and all timezones are merging, we can effectively use the mysterious glass box's spatial overlapping properties here in the present to transport the entire Eiffel Tower structure into the future. You're right: two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, but the walls between timezones are gone; there's nothing to stop you from simply leapfrogging into the past and future, because they're all becoming condensed in the same space, the same time. No need for a time-machine anymore. Or a timepiece.

To prevent the Eiffel Tower from landing atop a future Eiffel Tower we were going to use Jack's vortex manipulator device to nudge us a few feet backwards into the past, where it can safely become the future.

First space, then time. I even astonish myself sometimes. Now that's just the easy part. The tricky bit is what comes after.

"Doctor, I'm scared," you told me as you lay on the floor, clutching my hand.

"Why? You're not dying. You're returning."

"I can't go back."

"You're going to have to," I said. "This body was never meant to last. It's a cheap knock-off. You have to let it go!"

"What if the Drone takes over? Kills the lot of you? Then what?"

"It won't."

"How do you know that?"

"Trust me."

Jack placed the glowing glass box in your hands first and then took over from me, sitting by your side.

"I knew you'd be trouble from the moment I saw you," he said.

"As if you're a saint," you replied, making Jack chuckle.

"I'm really not, you know," he said.

Your real body was placed beside you. The mask was still covering your face.

You took a deep breath and focused on the warmth of Jack's hand.

"I think I'm ready now," you finally said and closed your eyes.

Jack looked over his shoulder and nodded at me. Timing was everything. We had to shut down your active connection with the Validium (in favour of a non-damaging passive connection) to prevent your mind from being completely ripped apart when the inevitable transportation would happen.

I think we had gathered enough energy from the ship's hull floating above us in the dark. The glass box had never glowed this brightly before. I remembered back to the start of the day when it seemed dead and inactive. Maybe the wound had finally healed and our actions had only ripped it open again. The energy was bleeding into the box where it was contained. For now.

Six minutes to midnight.

This was really happening. You were waking up; not falling asleep. It felt counter-intuitive, but it was true. You felt like you were slowly sinking deeper and deeper and we saw your hands turn to ash and then bubbling into warped silver.

The metal melted around the glass box as we predicted, giving it a secure position for the launch. All systems go.

The box was working and created its dimensional hub above the decaying Drone.

I had the vortex manipulator and I diverted more and more power toward the box, causing the dimensional hub to grow beyond its proportions and engulf the entire room and soon the entire structure.

I had not yet detected the fatal flaw in my design.

Nemo was patient. Nemo was precise. Nemo wouldn't just ignore a glaring hole in his security like this. He would've investigated. I should've known. I should've foreseen it.

He used my own strategy against me. His Achilles Heel became my own. And he had known all along. He had been waiting all this time. Listening in through you, Amy, and through the metal.

He was waiting on the other side and I practically opened the door for him to get in. No teleports needed. An army of ghosts descended upon us, invaded through a veil of fading light in the wake of their leader. They came through the dimensional hub as I had before the moment I activated the box.

The hostages screamed but there was nothing we could do. Jack was knocked aside. Nikola and I were forced to our knees. The pirates were merciless and cruel when they were permitted to be. Blind dedication to their master's empty series of successors had made them heartless and cold to anything but a direct order.

I looked over to you hoping to see some sign of life but your hand lay motionless beside you.

The vortex manipulator had been forced out of my hands and on to the ground but the energy that had been invested could not be undone.

Silhouetted against the bright light of the mysterious box stood Captain Nemo; clueless to the fact that he'd already lost and he just didn't know it yet.

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