34 : Forest of the Dead (Part 3)
A few moments later, the Doctor has got into a Library Archive File. “See, there it is, right there. A hundred years ago, massive power surge. All the teleports going at once. Soon as the Vashta Nerada hit their hatching cycle, they attack. Someone hits the alarm. The computer tries to teleport everyone out.”
“It tried to teleport four thousand twenty two people?” River asks in disbelief, staring at the screen.
“It succeeded. Pulled them all out, but then what? Nowhere to send them. Nowhere safe in the whole library. Vashta Nerada growing in every shadow. Four thousand and twenty two people all beamed up and nowhere to go. They’re stuck in the system, waiting to be sent, like emails. So what’s a computer to do? What does a computer always do?”
“It saved them.”
The Doctor draws on a large polished table. “The library. A whole world of books, and right at the core, the biggest hard drive in history. The index to everything ever written, backup copies of every single book. The computer saved four thousand and twenty two people the only way a computer can. It saved them to the hard drive.”
Before the Doctor can get any further with his explaining, an alarm sounds that makes Violet want to throw up. A voice declares that autodestruct has been enabled for twenty minutes time, and then there will be maximum erasure. Violet tries her best to get into the computer to stop it, but the terminal screen goes completely blank, making her curse and slam her left fist against the device.
“All library systems are permanently offline,” the computer informs in an annoying, monotonous robotic voice. “Sorry for any inconvenience.”
Lux and the Doctor talk about the main computer while Violet tries her hardest not to break down in front of her husband, her wife, the owner of The Library and the one remaining archaeologist, who Violet has the feeling is actually no longer with the living. Eventually, River points her screwdriver at The Library logo in the middle of the compass rose in the floor and it opens.
“Gravity platform,” River declares.
“I bet I like you,” the Doctor tells his future/current wife.
“Oh, you do,” River and Violet reply with a smile, the latter’s far more forced than her wife’s.
The five people step on and go down, heading to the core of the planet as the autodestruct continues to count down. Once they’ve reached solid ground, the Doctor looks up to see a globe with swirling energy in it, saying something about it having thousands of living minds “trapped” inside it. He finds an access terminal and a young girl’s voice sounds, begging for someone to help her. It makes Violet’s stomach twist, memories of war-torn planets and children screaming flashing through her mind.
“The computer’s in sleep mode. I can’t wake it up. I’m trying.” The Doctor taps at the keyboard.
River stares at the screen with something akin to wonder and confusion. “Doctor, these readings…”
“I know. You’d think it was dreaming.”
“It is dreaming,” Lux replies, something different in his voice this time. “Of a normal life, and a lovely Dad, and of every book ever written.”
“Computers don’t dream,” Anita says.
“No, but little girls do.”
Lux pulls a breaker and a door opens. They all run in and a node turns to face them; a node bearing the face of the little girl they saw in the computer earlier. Violet’s stomach churns at the sight and she has to look away, bracing her left hand on the wall, almost doubled over as her stomach threatens to empty itself as Lux explains that the little girl is essentially the computer; his grandfather’s youngest daughter.
Lux talks of how she was dying, so his grandfather, her father, built her a library and put her living mind inside, with a moon to watch over her, and all of human history to pass the time. Any era to live in, any book to read; that she loved books more than anything, and he gave her them all, and that he asked only that she be left in peace; a secret, not a freak show. Then he says something about it only being a half life, and that makes Violet’s head snap up, her grey-blue eyes staring at the man.
“And then the shadows came,” the Doctor says. “And she saved them. She saved everyone in the library. Folded them into her dreams and kept them safe.”
“Then why didn’t she tell us?” Anita asks.
“Because she’s forgotten. She’s got over four thousand living minds chatting away inside her head. It must be like being, well, me, and Violet.” He notices her hunched over and hurries over, helping her upright and walking her over to the others. “Are you alright, Vi?”
“I’m fine, old man,” Violet sasses weakly. “Just getting one hell of a bombardment of memories.”
“So what do we do?” River asks, needing instructions right now, unable to figure out some way to save all the people in the computer’s database.
“Easy! We beam all the people out of the data core,” the Doctor declares. “The computer will reset and stop the countdown. Difficult. Charlotte doesn’t have enough memory space left to make the transfer. Easy! I’ll hook myself up to the computer. She can borrow my memory space.”
“Difficult. It’ll kill you stone dead.”
“Yeah, it’s easy to criticise.”
“It’ll burn out both your hearts and don’t think you’ll regenerate.”
“I’ll try my hardest not to die. Honestly, it’s my main thing.”