The Storyteller

The Ceiling

And while you were enjoying the confides of your new luxurious cage I was being pumped for information. And blood. The latter being more literal and physical.

I hate it when that happens.

They no longer suspected me of murdering that boy atop the Eiffel Tower somewhere in time and space but that didn't stop them from filling at least five vials with 2 inches of my blood.

Time Lord blood. Something that could get you a fortune in some parts of the universe. It's very rare.

And their nurses weren't as kind as they are around here. One of them was actively displeasant. I think she had a moustache. That definitely put me off moustaches.

Oh, thank God.

They had me strapped down and for the next three hours I was forced to look up at a ceiling.

A ceiling!

I've seen supernovas collide and galaxies merge, I've seen new species develop from scratch, comets turn to stardust and I've seen people, oh so many gorgeous, marvellous people, and then I was punished to look up at a ceiling for what felt like an eternity.

That's not how you treat a guest.

I was helpless to say the least, strapped to a table and left for hours trying to twist my neck into some kind of position from which I could see anything but the bland and dreary ceiling.

"Michelangelo," I said. "If there's one thing I hate it's a bland ceiling."

I don't know if he ever put that advice to good use but I'm glad I got that off my chest any way.

You did not meet Michelangelo.

You have nó idea.

"Get me out of of here! Someone!" I yelled. I was lying with my head towards the door strapped to a table in some empty storage room somewhere at the heart of the organization's headquarters.

I knew they hadn't gotten to the TARDIS yet. I could feel it. It was a small victory amongst a field of defeat.

I wished I could've seen some scientists or seen anyone at all. Then I saw someone through the glass. I whistled. I recognized the vague silhouette as it grew nearer. It was Bernárd.

And I knew he was probably being tested on as well. Him and the body. The body and him.

The body! I then realized it had to be there somewhere. I could still see it. Examine it. See if there's anything I missed.

"Bernárd! Haha!" I said and I was looking at him upside down. I was glad to see a familiar face. "Am I glad to see you!"

"Doctor, wasn't it?"

"Yes," I said catching my breath. "I'm the Doctor."

"Are you all right? You don't look well."

"No, I'm fine. Two hearts'll make the blood rush in no time at all!" I said as he circled the table. He seemed nervous as he approached me but not about me.

"What about you, Bernárd?" I asked him.

"I'm fine," he spoke defensive. The guards probably told him about me. More of Simon de Leeuw's warnings I supposed.

"They told me not to release you." he said.

"Of course they did!" I said. "It doesn't matter. I'm actually quite comfortable, but if you could just scratch my nose...right there..."

I wiggled my nose to point out where it itched madly. The trick worked. Bernárd moved closer and he scratched the tip of my nose.

"Oh, thanks for that!" I exclaimed. "You're amazing!"

I knew he had come in here for a reason. I could see a question forming in his head. Something that had been troubling him since he'd seen his own body but there was no-one he could ask. Then he found me.

"Why are you here, Bernárd?" I finally asked him when I found proper eyecontact. "Really?"

"No-one's telling me anything," he said. "They've been probing, testing and scanning me for hours now, and no-one's telling me what is going on. But if that's me on the table there that means I'm going to die. Is that right, Doctor? Am I going to die?"

There seemed to be no way around it. He needed the truth.

"Yes."

"Not someday, not in the far future, not in my sleep when I'm old..." he added keenly. "Am I going to die soon? Am I going to die today?"

"Everything seems to point that way."

The boy struggled to fight off the tears. I felt sorry for him. The news of your impending death is never an easy thing to hear.

"Bernárd..." I said. "Listen..."

He covered his face with his hands and turned away. Yet he had to listen.

"Time can be rewritten. It doesn't have to be this way!"

"How do you know that?"

I didn't. It's the body that sparked this chain of events. Without that body you and I would've simply enjoyed the scenery atop the Eiffel Tower, looked out into the distance with a drink in both hands and witnessed the Exposition at the turn of the century.

It would've been a lot duller, but still it would've been a lot more comfortable.

"I can save your life, Bernárd...I can try..." I said to the boy. "But you'll have to get me out of these restraints. I can help you..."

"The People will have me executed!" Bernárd protested.

Executed? He was going to die anyway!

"They'll have me -"

The doors opened and the nurse returned, and only when she was done did I know that she was releasing me back into the care of the soldiers.

I watched Bernárd struggle to remain silent underneath the watchful eyes of my keepers and I tried to tell him he didn't have to help me, but then he rushed towards me and whispered something in my ear:

"Your friend...she's with Mr Eiffel. He's keeping her safe."

The guards moved him away but I had heard enough.

"Come on then! I haven't got all day!" I told the nurse.

After another ten minutes alone in my cell I was reunited with the general at the heart of the organization's headquarters which took me at least another ten minutes to reach by foot. It was another similar building with massive metal gates and shiny floors with a guard at every door.

One day this place would be a museum.

The two soldiers who escorted me from place to place were silent chaps. Gerárd and Albert they were called. They told me to observe but not to speak.

Now there was a promise I couldn't keep.

I found the general in the last room they took me to, standing behind a large mahogany table, larger than a snooker table, at the centre of the room.

I watched him loom over a model of the city Paris, an exact replica, which stood on top of that table, wired to several large machines at either side of the room.

"I take it this is the war room," I said but from the room came no response.

"We've lost squad six and seven," the general's main translator of data explained to him. The man was very direct and to the point. Razor sharp even. "Last contact was here and here."

He pointed to locations on the model and little lights embedded within the tiny streets started flaring up red. I moved to stand on the tips of my toes to sneak a peek at the model.

"The catacombs," the general whispered under his breath. He was prone to grumbling. Something about the catacombs clearly frightened him.

I was uneasy. It had been several decades since I've stood still this long. Or was it hours? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Then I realized this wasn't the war room. This was the data room. All data, from every field agent's report to every tidbit of information that came through from wireless radio was intercepted and interpreted here.

From side doors there came messenger after messenger handing the general another envelope, another piece of paper, yet the general's face never changed or missed a beat with any read sentence.

He seemed as static and tough as the machines that surrounded him and just like the machines, not unaffected by a touch of rust and world-weariness.

"General!" I said and I felt the need to step in and circle the table. "You're losing valuable and precious men I take it. You're under a lot of stress. So if I could just make a suggestion..."

"No," the general spoke but I wasn't finished.

"I'm the greatest weapon in your arsenal. Something's definitely stirring underneath Paris, so I'm telling you...USE ME! Don't stuff me in yet another dingy cell. I can help."

"You don't get it, Doctor," the general said as he peered across the model of his precious city. "You only speak when spoken to. You only act when ordered to. You don't tell me what to do. You are a prisoner of the People."

"Right..." I finally understood what Bernárd meant when he said that. It was the name of the organization.

"If you do not conform, your companion will die. Are we clear? Time Lord?"

A valet entered carrying a silver tray. There wasn't anything on it, except a tiny model of the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps the first.

A brand new addition to the general's model of the city. I grabbed it from the tray and threw it in the air before catching it. I knew the general didn't like that.

I saw it was a good model. Highly detailed. Very good indeed.

In seconds I threw it over to the general. A tiny gesture I knew would haunt him.

"Perfectly," I said. "So, where do you want me?"

I decided to play along.

He sent me into the corner like a disobedient child but I watched him as he carefully set down the Tower in his model of the city, right atop a clump of red blinking lights.

"Ugly thing, isn't it?" the general spoke to his advisor. I watched him nod.

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