Under Ice, or, What Happened when the Lights Went Off
Jenny could feel herself drifting. Her eyes felt stuck open, as if someone had suspended her in the ebb and flow of time. She could see what was happening, but she couldn’t move. And the TARDIS wasn’t answering her. With the slow care of a mossy stone, she watched the figure move about the ship in clipped movements. It flitted here, there, searching carefully for something in the strange dark that now filled the once-bright console room. Once-bright, for just a few moments before she had watched helpless as her father awoke from his coma, watched as he bled his half-grown triplets onto the grates. Watched as pain struck him like a gong and resounded through the two men who knew they couldn’t let him live. Still as a standing stone in an ancient lake, Jenny could not feel the brain waves of the other women. They were completely frozen, fixed in a temporal loop initiated by some obscure whim of the Ship they were all now trapped in. But the figure was not. It knew its way around, almost as if it had been for tea several times in the library, or left something out in the kitchen. Or talked with her father like they were old friends. For It was a man. She had heard him muttering to himself in the dark of the dimmed circle of twisting coral beams and panels and grates and softly gleaming devices that filled the console room. However, Grace, Martha and herself were still stuck like flies fixed in gossamer. Her father had said ‘I never would,’ to the man who had murdered her on Messaline. But this man, he seemed to contradict her father’s purpose with his very being. Still, they must have been friends once, else why would he know so much about the workings of this particular TARDIS? About her father? He had disabled the ship just as Jenny had become aware again. She thought, from the way he lurched into action at the slightest noise, that he must be in a hurry. But why? Then she remembered. The things outside, the things that had attacked Jack Harkness.
“Life is full of little helpless moments, little girl. But an infant like you would never understand. Hah! Especially not with dear Thete for a father.”
Jenny would have shivered, if she could have moved. The man knew she was aware of her surroundings, and was chatting to her as though out for an afternoon tea.
“What? Oh come now. Don’t tell me dear daddy hasn’t told you about me? Ohhh, my sweet little strumpet! Your father never could do domestic. He simply can’t keep still.”
He patted her head, cracking a small, lopsided grin on one side of his face like a nasty little doll. He was an ultimate parody of the Doctor then, a dark thing to stand against at all costs. Someone to be saved.
“That was marvelous work on the Timestation, by the way. Pure, sodding brilliance. Honestly, my pet! The way you aggravated uptight, nervous Ushas to distraction. I nearly died laughing. It took an effort to play the part when you showed up again, in the control room. Did you like the bone-shattering crunch? The wet slide of meat beneath bruised flesh? I’m rather fond of it, myself.”
Then his fingers reached for her cheek again, and he bent toward her, as though to steal a kiss, but he only mimed a cheeky aunt’s pudgy pinch and then danced away in sloppy two-step. His black eyes were two cracked marbles, ancient and youthful, and soured by centuries of murderous intent, and they met hers from the darkest place in the console room. He smiled whitely.
“I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. I’m the Master.”