The Play's The Thing
The tide had come in.
Hopes were being shattered over and over again into increasingly tinier pieces. It seemed this band of desperate people trapped in the dark atop the Eiffel Tower were doomed to see even their tiniest specs of hope trampled beneath a boot.
Now there were not enough pieces left. No more glue.
It was my mistake. First space, then time (although it's a little bit more complicated than that). The dimensional hub had reached Nemo's ship first while the Earth remained out of range. The pirates had leaped aboard almost too easily because I opened the doors.
All atop the Eiffel Tower were once again the victims of circumstance when all they ever wanted to do was visit the World Fair. What they got was so much more. The performance of a lifetime.
Two timezones now collided inside the dimensional hub, warring for dominance over the Eiffel Tower's third platform, even though only one seemed to be present. But looks can be deceiving.
The Khamorath and the Eiffel Tower were reunited in a perversion of twisted and broken rules.
A thousand splinters in time were burning aboard Nemo's ship: the same object in different points of its timestream affected retro-actively by the power invested into the oldest, last and present box. They were amplifying its effects, strengthening the connection through time and space.
The pirates would've hacked down all those who showed signs of resistance. Of hope.
Simon fell first. The man of principle defended the helpless against the Rygellian barbarians and they struck him down without mercy. I looked. He wasn't dead.
In the chaos I couldn't see and couldn't help. Jack fired at the first pirates he could see before the shots were returned. They did not miss and he fell to the ground beside you without a hint of life in his once joyous eyes.
Nikola's knees were dug into the dust, pressed against the metal, while the thugs smirked. He was grabbed by the neck and pushed down whenever he tried to look up.
Oh, Nemo was clever. Not as clever as me, mind you. He just copied off me like all the clever ones do, but it wasn't clever enough. Except sometimes you don't need to be clever. You can be lucky, or very very strong.
They'd tried to stop me. Simon tried to stop me. Torchwood tried to stop me. They were founded on that very intent. And sometimes I need someone to stop me. Now it was too late.
Lightning in a box lit up the air around Nemo and even struck the metal of the Tower. One flash. Then another.
"You really thought you could escape? Take over MY ship? You don't know who you're dealing with!" Nemo spoke.
This man was out of his depth. He had no idea what was going on in front of him. The glass box at his feet was burning a hole in the fabric of time and space, ticking away like a time bomb ready to go off, and he ignored it.
He wasn't remotely important in the slightest, although he wanted to be, to proudly follow in the footsteps of the captains who had steered their ships toward self-destruction. He and all the others were the copy of a man who never existed. A life maimed beyond recognition.
He was shouting for attention at the top of his lungs. Because this was his moment. His birthday.
Reborn from the ship's womb, he had taken over the role of Captain Nemo and was chewing away at the scenery, elongating his stride and savouring his silences to milk his victory for everything it was worth.
He would've been a really, really bad Shakespearian actor.
"You lose, Doctor," he continued. As if we had been playing a game all this time. Our reality had been his entertainment.
"I have you by the throat. There's nowhere to run now."
"Very good," I told him. "We get the point. You won, we lost, you're brilliant and we're stupid, but can we just skip the villain monologue this time? The world's going to end and I really don't want to miss it...ooh, pointy swords."
The pirate beside me who was sticking a cutlass between my breeches stank of bad teeth and fishbreath. How could they smell of fish? The universe isn't an ocean.
Nemo growled with restless teeth, churning. Eager to bite. And here's me, playing the part of bait!
They don't like it when you don't take them seriously. Villains are romantic like that. They want countdowns and superweapons and really bad puns. But what they really want is someone to listen to them. An audience to watch them be clever.
The pirates laughed at their designated cues. I turned to heard Bernárd cry a muffled scream. A hand was put over his face while another in the form of a hook skimmed his uniform as a silent, hovering threat. When the boy saw me he resisted and the hook dug into the back of Bernárd's left hand. The wound formed an all too familiar mark.
"Not a single one dies today, Nemo," I told him. "Not one. Do you hear me?"
"You don't tell me what to do," he growled back, haunting every step with a scowl. "This is my ship. And I know you tried to steal it!"
"Not. Everything. Is about. You!" I yelled. Riled. Incredulous. The pirates shoved me back into my place.
Nemo brooded, kneeling beside you almost to see whether you were injured. He hovered his hand over your mask as if he wanted to sense your aura and I couldn't tell whether he was gloating or mourning.
"Only I can commandeer my ship," Nemo went on, musing, performing while the audience were hooked. Literally hooked. "Only Nemo can control it. And only one can be captain."
"Mind control," I whispered, working it out. He was still in sync with the ship. And the ship was still in sync with him. And with you.
He took one final look at the dead Captain Jack Harkness, unaware of his secret (and unaware of mine). The Captain Jack Harkness who was once the partner of the man he could've been. And had been. The man he killed.
"You're paranoid, Nemo. Look at yourself!" I told him. "Your predecessor was the one with the brains. He was the one with the plans. Your predecessor was the one who defied the Ethereal Shadow. You're just his echo. You don't even know what's inside that box!"
"I don't need to know!"
Cognitive dissonance. He can't know so he pretends he doesn't want to. How quaint.
"But I bet you know, don't you?" I asked, turning to my captors. "You can tell me. What's in there? Where's all that energy coming from, eh? Is it dangerous?"
"YOU WILL SPEAK TO ME!" Nemo hollered. He didn't impress me.
"You'll have to wait your turn just like everyone else."
He pointed his gun at me from a distance and I touched my chin. I'm always more aware of my chin when I yell. Then he slowly closed the gap between us. Just like the universe was trying to do right now.
By provoking this unstable man I was putting the lives of all those hostages at risk, and yet despite the danger, despite everything, I couldn't have felt more excited doing it anyway. Sorry if that makes me a bad person.
The surface of Pluto beneath us was already frozen but now a web of light seemed to crawl around it, a trail of frozen motions and ghostly spins fading into being until the planet simply stopped, but the trail continued. Space was freezing, stopping, time was coming to a dead stop as all time zones were being compressed into a single present. A single second.
We didn't see the flittering shades of brown zooming around us through the silence and vacuum of outer space until one creature dared to fly closer. Its screech petrified all on the Tower.
"What was that?" Bill cried out before being nudged with the butt of a rifle by the pirate that was guarding him. He too checked the night sky for movement.
"Reapers," I told Nemo. "Creatures from the Time Vortex. They sense the future. They're drawn to temporal hot spots and damaged time/space. The universe is bleeding and they're here to clean the wound."
A whirlpool of energy was eminating from the little glass box on the floor,steaming into the air around it, before finally escaping into the universe.
"They devour paradoxes. Consume. Which makes you dinner."
"You don't scare me," Nemo growled, a vicious tongue.
"Then you're an idiot," I said. "Time and space are crumpling all around us. The history of the human race is imploding. Do you even care? Or am I expecting too much from a man who can only care for objects?"
"No. You don't control everything. In fact, you don't control anything. You don't even control yourself."
It was working.
"Do you even know who you are? Captain Nemo was once a legend. A great man with a great vision. A mighty traveller. A King. Or was that just a story?"
"I did not ask to become this," Nemo spoke.
"Then stop. Just stop. STOP. No-one can change the past. But they can change the future!"
"I can change the past and I have."
"Yes, you've mutilated yourself beyond comprehension. Do you even know who you are anymore? Who you are supposed to be? Once long ago, there must've been a boy called Nemo. You must've had a childhood, a home, moments in your life that aren't changed. Moments that define you. All of you."
All those that were dreaming. Inside the womb of his living metal ship. Alone in the dark. But never really alone.
"Those moments were erased," he spoke. He clung to his hatred, spoonfed to him inside the mask for all these years. He thrived on pain and misery.
"Oh, I have seen myself. This is all I can be. This is all I want to be. They all thought they could be different. Every single one of them. They were wrong. All roads lead here. Lead to ME. When they awake from the darkness they will be just the same. They will be Nemo."
"Let's put that to the test," I said.
If he'd wanted to end it, he could've abandoned us. He could've shut down our oxygen supply or simply destroy our pressure, but he didn't. Why?
At some level, I think Nemo wanted someone to stop him. He wanted someone to end his suffering.
He's a caged monster lashing out at whatever's nearest his cage, immersed in his own little world, not interested in world domination or universal destruction. Just his own selfish, sollipsistic little bubble.
Accept who you are not and start from there.
"I am the Doctor," I said. "And I challenge you. Oh, this brings back memories..."
The pirates laughed loudly and Nemo laughed along with them in a gesture of mockery.
"I assume the Rygellian laws of combat still apply?" I added.
"No-one here recognises your claim for command! We reject your claim, Doctor!" Nemo laughed.
"Oh, I understand," I said. "I don't have any rightful claim for the captaincy...but they do. Because tell me, Nemo, if you're the only one who can helm your ship, then who's flying it?"
I pointed up with a single finger. Above us in space the living ship's metal tentacles were retracting. The ship was drifting away from the Tower.
You should've seen the look on Nemo's face when he realized what had happened. A mutiny.
"It's the eve of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution," I said. "I'd call it a perfect tribute."
Have you worked it out yet?
"How are you doing this?" Nemo yelled, pressing his gun into my face. A desperate act of a desperate man.
"A magician never reveals his secrets," I said. "But this isn't my trick. It's yours. By giving Amelia Pond your mask. It's a wonder she hasn't begun redecorating. Because that's all your ship needed. A woman's touch."
Nemo turned to look at you lying on the floor. The mask was beginning to loosen and slip from your face like jello.
"Are we getting it now?" I said to anyone within range. "Is anyone paying attention? THIS IS A REVOLUTION! A thousand Nemoes are now free aboard your ship to do WHATEVER THEY LIKE and they're taking over. They're overthrowing the system! They're taking what is theirs and I hope for your sake they feel inclined to share."
We had reached out to that vessel of pain and the Validium heard us. It felt for us. It felt because you did, Amy. Now it let go of its prisoners and let go of its programming. It let go of hate. And it had heard everything.
The pirates started to realize what had happened. They just lost their ride.
There was just one thing left to say: "You really shouldn't have let me talk."
The pirates one by one activated their temporal vortex manipulators and beamed through rays of perfect blue light back toward the ship for they no longer served a single master. And the captain they used to have was now standing on the wrong boat.
"Curse you..." Nemo said. The tables had been turned on him now. He was alone. Just like the rest of us.
Time was hardening around us and the Tower shook as the magnetic field of the Khamorath passed it by. Reapers were clinging to its hull, feasting on its age, for it was the oldest thing around. But of course it wasn't. The Tower was.
"Doctor!" Bill yelled. "Those creatures are coming this way!"
"Everybody hold on!" I said as I reached for Jack's vortex manipulator. Both you and him still hadn't woken up yet.
A superficial hole had been burned into the fabric of time and space all this time and temporal energy had been spilling out. But we had to burn deeper.
Imagine two dots on a piece of paper and a line drawn between them. Linear time. Crudely. Imagine me crumpling the piece of paper. Now I ask you to draw the line again in order to restore linear history from A to B. You'll tell me you can't. I can. By burning a hole through the crumpled paper. Do you understand now what we were doing?
Now imagine us causing the crumpling to begin with. With every turn of the wheel, every return of events over and over again through the causality loop we're only living once, remembering once, but time has felt a thousand times, the effects are increased until the paper is set alight.
Our actions are burning holes in the fabric of time and space and the universe tries to compensate by filling the holes with everything else. That's what causing the crumpling. The tapestry of time can't afford any gaps. They must connect, no matter what. No matter anything.
I poured more energy into the box, expanding it until the connection with the ship was lost.
Finally, Nemo saw his ship fly away without him while time exploded around him. He saw nothing else.
"You can't do this to me! This is all your fault! YOUR FAULT!"
In a fit of rage he aimed his blaster at my chest and Bernárd jumped in his way. For a split second time seemed to stand still when nothing happened. Nemo did not pull the trigger.
Annie Oakley knocked him out cold with the butt of her rifle while Bernárd sighed a breath of relief, but just before everything went black he saw your ginger ghost in his mind's eye standing before him with your arms spread out wide. His face hit the ground. Justice had been served.
"IT'S HAPPENING!" I yelled. "DON'T PANIC! AAAHHH!"
We were travelling through time and space and everything was merging. Spiralling.
For a moment the Milky Way and all its planets and asteroids seemed to blur and twirl, starlight seemed to dance and all colours of the universe coalesced into one big sweeping motion, like someone was mixing colours with a paint brush.
With every breath I added more fuel to the raging fire inside the glass box as we were fulfilling this temporal prophecy and causality loop. We were merging with the future Eiffel Tower on Earth, burning through the space time vortex and the fabric of existence bled.
Soon the universe would count on me to put the genie back into the bottle, but was that even possible?
Timezones were merging, fading into each other, warring, contrasting and conflicting until for the briefest moment I found myself staring at an incredible scene. The future.
The future was standing among us, no longer separated by space and only time, like ghostly apparations fading into being as separate wavelengths began to co-exist. The walls of time and space were still in effect, but through the crack in time, the hole in the fabric of existence, they were worked around and circumvented. Cheated.
This is what happens when you cheat the laws of time and space.
In the future, you were awake. You were crying. There were people running and they seemed mere blurs to me, while the motionless stood apart in clear view.
"He's dead, Doctor!" you cried as you found me through a veil of tears."Doctor!"
Jack's time vortex manipulator burned in my hand so I quickly pushed the last series of buttons, fired the temporal co-ordinates and sent the Eiffel Tower flying into the past. The apparitions faded into their right place and finally all energy was spent.
We had arrived at the eye of the storm.
Figments of Paris' past, present and future flew around us in giant turmoil, like standing at the heart of a bright tornado. Space collided with space, time warred time, atom exploded on to atom and everything burned with the intensity of a supernova until the sky was completely white and everything was just a blur.
Everything in the history of the solar system from birth to death was burning around us right now while the cause of it all was yet to happen.
The glass box stood at my feet while Nikola held on to my arm, the both of us were terrified of not falling into the abyss outside. The universe roared until everything would eventually become totally silent.
But not just yet.
"HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" I yelled, switching settings on my sonic screwdriver, looking for the right one to do what it was supposed to do. But ending it wasn't part of the prophecy. I didn't even know if it could be done.
"I CAN DO THIS!"
There was a hole in the skin of the world. The only way to close it was to open it all the way. Forces would invert and it would snap itself shut... or...
Or everything. Everything and nothing. And the end of all things.
"Great meeting you, Nikola!" I yelled through the thunderous roar of the universe and I shook his confused hand. Then I raised my sonic screwdriver, aimed it at the box and in the split second it shattered, under the weight of the tremendous energy it contained, it spilled the guts of the universe out into the open, and I flicked my sonic screwdriver on.
Bright brilliant light engulfed the last living second in the world. And that was it really.