𝟘𝟛𝟘 ▹ 𝕊𝕚𝕝𝕖𝕟𝕔𝕖 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕃𝕚𝕓𝕣𝕒𝕣𝕪 (ℙ𝕒𝕣𝕥 𝟝)
THE DOCTOR IS SCANNING the floor with his Sonic Screwdriver, Violet again receiving the readings, but being too caught up in the conversation between her past/current wife and her current husband’s - who is also her wife’s past/current/future husband - companion.
“You travel with him, don’t you?” River asks Donna. “The Doctor, you travel with him.”
“What of it?” Donna asks defensively. “You know him, don’t you?”
“Oh God, do I know that man. We go way back, that man and me. Just not this far back.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“He hasn’t met me yet. I sent him a message, but it went wrong. It arrived too early. This is the Doctor in the days before he knew me, and he looks at me, he looks right through me and it shouldn’t kill me, but it does.”
Violet holds her wife’s hand. “Hey, at least I know you. I mean, unlike the first time I met you. That must have been so terribly hard on you considering you and my not-too-far-in-the-future self had not long got married.”
“I suffered through it because I knew it had to happen. You still ended up marrying my past self.”
“What are you talking about? Are you just talking rubbish?” Donna demands, her voice gaining volume. “Do you know him or don’t you?”
“Donna! Quiet,” the Doctor scolds. “I’m working.”
“Donna,” River says in disbelief. “You’re Donna. Donna Noble.”
“I do know the Doctor, but in the future. His personal future.”
“So why don’t you know me? Where am I in the future?”
River gives her a sad, apologetic look that even Violet knows the answer to, and it’s hard to meet Donna’s curious eyes and not tell her the truth.
“Okay, got a live one,” the Doctor calls. “That’s not darkness down those tunnels. This is not a shadow. It’s a swarm. A man eating swarm.” The Doctor throws a chicken leg into the shadow. It is only bone by the time it hits the floor. “The piranhas of the air. The Vashta Nerada. Literally, the shadows that melt the flesh. Most planets have them, but usually in small clusters. I’ve never seen an infestation on this scale, or this aggressive.”
“I’ve seen them in worse,” Violet says, her voice breaking as she thinks of the family that she watched be slaughtered by these shadows.
“What do you mean, most planets?” Donna asks, worried. “Not Earth?”
“Mmm. Earth, and a billion other worlds. Where there’s meat, there’s Vashta Nerada,” the Doctor assures. “You can see them sometimes, if you look. The dust in sunbeams.”
“If they were on Earth, we’d know.”
“Nah. Normally they live on roadkill. But sometimes people go missing. Not everyone comes back out of the dark.”
“Every shadow?” River asks.
“No. But any shadow.”
“So what do we do?”
“Daleks, aim for the eyestalk. Sontarans, back of the neck,” Violet lists. “Vashta Nerada? Run. Just run.”
“Run? Run where?”
“This is an index point,” the Doctor muses. “There must be an exit teleport somewhere.”
“Don’t look at me,” Lux exclaims. “I haven’t memorised the schematics.”
“Doctor, the little shop,” Donna reminds the Time Lord. “They always make you go through the little shop on the way out so they can sell you stuff.”
“You’re right. Brilliant!” he exclaims “That’s why I like the little shop.”
“Okay, let’s move it,” Proper Dave orders.
He heads towards the shop but the Doctor spots something. “Actually, Proper Dave? Could you stay where you are for a moment?”
“I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry. But you’ve got two shadows.”
He has, at right angles to each other. Violet’s feet move of their own accord as they skid against the floor, colliding with both River and the Doctor hardly a second later. She barely hears her husband give commands to Proper Dave, too far gone in her terror of the flesh eating shadows to fully concentrate. She feels the Doctor leave her side to put Proper Dave’s helmet on him, so she clings to their mutual wife.
The Doctor uses his screwdriver to adjust Dave’s suit and then passes his sonic screwdriver to River, startled when the blonde holds up a sonic screwdriver of her own. River upgrades everyone’s spacesuit and the Doctor grabs Donna, dragging her from the room and into where the teleports are. Violet knows that he’s sending Donna back to the TARDIS; that it’s the safest place for her to be, but the half Gallifreyan is confused as to why the Doctor’s not doing the same with Violet herself.
River calls the Doctor back. “Doctor.”
“Where did it go?” the Doctor demands, and it’s then that Violet realises that the second shadow is gone.
“It’s just gone,” Proper Dave says with a confused look. “I looked round, one shadow, see.”
“Does that mean we can leave?” River asks the Doctor. “I don’t want to hang around here.”
“I don’t know why we’re still here,” Lux complains. “We can leave him, can’t we? I mean, no offence.”
“Shut up, Mister Lux.”
The Doctor stares worriedly at Proper Dave and bombards him with some questions. “Did you feel anything, like an energy transfer? Anything at all?”
“No, no, but look, it’s gone.” Proper Dave turns around.
“Stop there. Stop, stop, stop there. Stop moving. They’re never just gone and they never give up.” He sonics the floor by Proper Dave. “Well, this one’s benign.”
“Hey, who turned out the lights?”
“No one, they’re fine.”
“No seriously, turn them back on.”
“They are on,” River assures Proper Dave, but Violet can hear the apprehension in her wife’s voice.
“I can’t see a ruddy thing.”
“Dave, turn around,” the Doctor says calmly, the same tone in his voice.
Proper Dave turns back to the Doctor, his visor completely dark. “What’s going on? Why can’t I see? Is the power gone? Are we safe here?”
“Dave, I want you stay still. Absolutely still.”
Proper Dave jerks and Violet knows that the man is dead. However, the Doctor continues to talk to Proper Dave until his comm. unit lights blink and River tells them all that he is ghosting. Lux asks the serious question and Violet’s stomach drops, her hand twitching by her side, wanting to take hold of her husband’s coat and drag him away from the still-standing space-suit.
Proper Dave grabs the Doctor by the throat and a skull falls forward against the visor, now visible in his helmet. River zaps the zombie with her sonic screwdriver, freeing the Doctor, who orders everyone away from it. Zombie Dave lurches a step towards them, steps halting and shaky, rather like a toddler still learning to walk properly.
“Doesn’t move very fast, does it?” River asks, amusement and excitement in her voice.
“It’s a swarm in a suit,” the Doctor reminds his future wife. “But it’s learning.”
Zombie Dave has four shadows, and they are growing.
“What do we do?” Lux demands, panicking. “Where do we go?”
“See that wall behind you? Duck.” River fires a gun at the wall and makes a square hole in it.
The Doctor grins. “Squareness gun!”
“Everybody out. Go, go, go. Move it. Move, move. Move it. Move, move.”
Suddenly, the six remaining individuals are tearing through the stacks in an attempt to be free of the monster tailing them.
“You said not every shadow,” River says.
“But any shadow,” the Doctor replies.
“Hey, who turned out the lights?” Proper Dave’s voice repeats.
“Run!” River cries.