26 : Silence in the Library (Part 1)
“Books,” the Doctor declares. “People never really stop loving books.”
Violet grins and hurries out of the TARDIS. It’s in a mostly empty area with just a few small cases of books, not what she expected, but happy nonetheless. Donna and the Doctor follow her out, the man coming to a stop beside the Australian girl and putting his arm around her shoulders. Violet smiles and looks around, taking in the century her first love, and the man she will always love, was born in.
“51st Century. By now you’ve got holovids, direct to brain downloads, fiction mist, but you need the smell,” the Doctor continues, pressing a kiss to the top of Violet’s head before walking away. “The smell of books, Donna. Deep breath.”
They walk down a set of large, marble stairs
“The Library. So big it doesn’t need a name. Just a great big The.”
“Nice honeymoon location, lover,” Violet teases the Time Lord.
“It’s like a city,” Donna breathes in disbelief.
“It’s a world. Literally, a world. The whole core of the planet is the index computer. Biggest hard drive ever. And up here, every book ever written,” the Doctor says with a smile. “Whole continents of Jeffrey Archer, Bridget Jones, Monty Python’s Big Red Book. Brand new editions, specially printed.”
They look over a balcony onto roofs below.
“We’re near the equator, so this must be biographies,” the Doctor decides. “I love biographies.”
“Yeah, very you,” Donna teases.
“Always a death at the end,” Violet agrees in a somewhat small voice.
“You need a good death. Without death, there’d only be comedies,” the Doctor rebukes. “Dying gives us size.” Donna picks up a book and the Doctor takes it from her. “Way-a. Spoilers.”
“What?” Donna complains.
“These books are from your future. You don’t want to read ahead. Spoil all the surprises. Like peeking at the end.”
“Isn’t travelling with you one big spoiler?”
“I try to keep you away from major plot developments. Which, to be honest, I seem to be very bad at, because you know what? This is the biggest library in the universe. So where is everyone? It’s silent.” The Doctor uses his screwdriver on a nearby information screen, bringing it online.
Violet shakes her head. “The planet. The whole planet.”
“Maybe it’s a Sunday,” Donna tries.
“No, I never land on Sundays.” The Doctor grins. “Sundays are boring.”
“Well, maybe everyone’s really, really quiet.”
“Yeah, maybe. But they’d still show up on the system.”
“Doctor, why are we here? Really, why?”
“Oh, you know, just passing.”
“No, seriously. It was all let’s hit the beach, then suddenly we’re in a library. Why?”
“Now that’s interesting.”
“Scanning for life forms. If I do a scan looking for your basic humanoids. You know, your book readers, few limbs and a face, apart from us, I get nothing. Zippo, nada. See? Nobody home.”
“But if we widen the parameters to any kind of life…” Violet types a few things and the screen says “Error 1,000,000,000,000 lifeform number capped at maximum record.”
“A million, million,” the Doctor says. “Gives up after that. A million, million, and not a sound. A million. million life forms, and silence in the library.”
Violet shrugs and walks back the way they came, knowing that something is seriously wrong in The Library, but being unable to put her finger on it. She can hear the voices of her friends considering about whether or not the books are alive, and, as they both reach slowly for a book, a voice makes them jump. They return to the mostly empty room to find Violet standing there. A vaguely humanoid sculpture by a curved desk turns its head and speaks with a female voice from a small face on its surface.
“I am Courtesy Node seven one zero slash aqua,” the Node greets. “Please enjoy the Library and respect the personal access codes of all your fellow readers, regardless of species or hygiene taboo.”
“That face, it looks real,” Donna says, a little put-off by it.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” the Doctor says.
“A statue with a real face, though? It’s a hologram or something, isn’t it?”
“No, but really, it’s fine.”
“Additional. There follows a brief message from the Head Librarian for your urgent attention. It has been edited for tone and content by a Felman Lux Automated Decency Filter,” the Node continues. “Message follows: “Run. For God’s sake, run. No way is safe. The library has sealed itself, we can’t. Oh, they’re here. Argh. Slarg. Snick.” Message ends. Please switch off your mobile comm. units for the comfort of other readers.”
“So that’s why we’re really here,” Violet says with a mocking pout that quickly morphs into a grin. “This is going to be a fun honeymoon.”
“Any other messages, same date stamp?” the Doctor asks, winking at Violet.
“One additional message,” the Node replies monotonously. “This message carries a Felman Lux coherency warning of five zero eleven-”
“Yeah, yeah, fine, fine, fine. Just play it.”
“Message follows: “Count the shadows. For God’s sake, remember, if you want to live, count the shadows.” Message ends.”
Violet’s muscles freeze and she feels as though ice water has been poured over her. “Doctor, it’s them.”
“Donna?” the Doctor says warily.
“Yeah?” the redhead replies.
“Stay out of the shadows.”
“Why, what’s in the shadows?”
The Doctor doesn’t reply, so Donna turns to Violet. However, the young girl is still partially frozen in terror, her eyes flying around the room in a desperate search for what she knows lingers in the shadows. She forces her feet to move, and, moments later, all three of them are walking through the stacks of The Library, searching for something.
“So, we weren’t just in the neighbourhood,” Donna accuses.
“Yeah, I kind of, sort of lied a bit. I got a message on the psychic paper.” The Doctor pulls out the psychic paper which reads: ‘The library come as soon as you can. x’ in handwriting familiar to Violet. “What do you think? Cry for help?”
“Cry for help with a kiss?”
“Oh, we’ve all done that.”
“Who’s it from?”
“I recognise the writing,” Violet murmurs, turning around and freezing. “Doctor.”
“So why did we come here?” Donna sighs. “Why did you-”
“Donna,” the Doctor says sharply, eyes flickering to his new wife as she begins to back away as the lights behind them are continuing to go out.
“What’s happening?” Donna demands.
They can’t get the nearest door open, and Violet has to suffer through her new husband and Donna bickering about how his Sonic Screwdriver can’t be used on wood.
“What, it doesn’t do wood?” Donna sasses angrilly.
“Hang on, hang on. I can vibrate the molecules, fry the bindings. I can shatterline the interface.”
“Oh, get out of the way!” Violet screeches, hardly waiting for them to move before she kicks the door open. The three of them hurry in at that and slam the door closed behind them.
“Oh. Hello,” the Doctor says, leaning down to look into the metal globe. “Sorry to burst on you like this. Okay if we stop here for a bit?”
The Doctor, Violet and Donna watch as the small metal globe falls to the ground. The former picks it up and turns it in his hands, assessing the globe.
“What is it?” Donna asks.
“Security camera,” the Doctor says. “Switched itself off.”