Pandora grabbed Blaise by the collar and pulled him away from the gathering. She stopped when they got to the edge of the tree line and turned around, anger and fear in her eyes.
“You keep an eye on them. I’ve got to find the Doctor. You still got that knife?”
“Yeah,” Blaise said timidly, pulling it out to show her.
“Good. One of those things comes near you, you cut them. Got it?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it.”
Pandora pointed a finger at him warningly. “Don’t you let them out of your sight, and don’t let them take you,” she said, then she turned and left without looking back.
She went back over the field, then skirted the fence lining the row of houses to the North and cut across the farmland at a quick walking pace. She was heading straight for the faire, heedless of the damage being done to her Ugg boots or the hem of her long skirt as she trudged through muddy fields.
When she got to the faire, she ducked between the ropes and kept walking past the caravans and toward the booths that were between her and the funhouse.
Dogs began barking the alarm, and for the first time Pandora felt conspicuous in her trespassing. She stopped and looked both ways. In the dim starlight, she couldn’t make out much, but around the deep shadow of one of the caravans appeared the silhouette of a trio of dogs, running full tilt toward her.
Pandora turned the other way and ran, looking for something she could climb on, but she didn’t have a chance as the first of the dogs caught up with her in moments.
It began jumping up around her and whining. With great relief, Pandora realized it was Obelix. She reached out and grabbed him by the muzzle, scrunching up the skin behind his ears. “You scared the life out of me boy,” she said.
The two other dogs slowed to a stop just behind the two of them. If she was okay with Obelix, apparently she was okay with them too. “Kom,” Pandora commanded.
All three dogs came to heel and followed her as she continued on her way to the funhouse. She could hear activity behind her now, faire workers woken by the dogs’ barking, but she continued on, and was surprised not to find any guards outside the funhouse itself. Just as she was about to enter, she had a mental image of the dogs stretched out and distorted when they passed in front of the mirror. She stopped and turned to the dogs, who looked up at her expectantly.
“Sitta,” she said in a commanding voice. Obelix instantly dropped onto his haunches, and upon seeing what he did, the other two dogs, dobermans both, sat down too. “Bo,” she commanded, turned and went inside.
She had to stop in the first room and turn the flashlight app of her phone on again, as even the low lighting of the funhouse was currently switched off. She made her way quickly to the mirror room.
There was a light on in the mirror room, and she could see the movement of shadows inside. She approached with caution and peered in through the doorway. She found the Swede holding a blanket over the mirror, while another of the faire workers taped it into place. There was a lantern sitting on the floor behind them. Both of them looked toward Pandora when they heard the sloshy footfalls approach.
The Swede smiled weakly when he saw her, then returned to his task. “If you’ve come looking for the Doctor, you are too late. We found one of those faceless things dressed like him wandering around the faire about an hour ago. The police have it now. We came back here and found the blankets down. Guards were gone too. Gonna be sure they get fired.”
Pandora stepped inside and turned off the light of her phone. “I’m pretty sure that faceless thing was the Doctor,” she said.
The Swede looked back over his shoulder again. “Oh,” he said with only slight surprise. “Maybe that explains why it acted so different than the others.”
“What do you mean?” Pandora asked.
The worker finished with the tape, and the Swede stepped tentatively back. When the blanket didn’t immediately fall, he nodded and put a hand heavily on the worker’s shoulder. He turned around and addressed Pandora, hands on his hips. “Well, it didn’t grab nobody. Come to think on it, it didn’t struggle at all. Even when the cops were putting him in cuffs. No struggle, I’d even say he went willingly. Hmm,” he said.
They were all silent for a while, neither Pandora nor the Swede knowing what to do next, and the other worker just looking on uncomfortably.
“Well, Georges,” the Swede finally said, “you should get to sleep. We’ll post some more guards, I’ll get Pandora some tea or maybe something stronger, and she tell me everything. You know, I think weird things happen around you now, Pandora. No one lost faces here until you and him come by.”
“No,” Pandora said. “Well, I mean yes, you’re right. At least it seems that way, but I’m going to skip the tea. I’ve got to get to the police station and talk to him.”
“Suit yourself, Pandora, but I don’t think he talks so much now.”
“I’ve still got to try,” Pandora said. The three of them headed toward the exit.
Just as they got to the doorway, Georges remembered the lantern and ran back to grab it. Pandora and the Swede waited at the door while he picked it up and turned to head back to them, but then he got an odd look on his face. He turned back and held the lantern up toward the other doorway. “Did you guys hear...” he said, and began heading toward the entrance.
Just before he got there, someone else entered the room. He was dressed in the security t-shirt of a faire worker, but his features were that of the horribly distorted. He reached out before Georges could react, grabbing him by the shoulder and pulling him in to wrap both arms around him. Georges dropped the lantern.
Two others stepped into the room, holding the unconscious forms of two teenage kids.
“You let go of him!” the Swede yelled. He began marching across the room, massive hands tucked into fists.
Pandora wrapped both arms around one of his and tugged backward as hard as she could. “No! Don’t!” she yelled.
The Swede stopped, and looked at Pandora, disbelief and lack of understanding mixing with the anger that was still there. “What?” he shouted.
The distorted security man watched Pandora out of the corner of his elongated eyes. He emitted a series of quick clicks and a sound like a rolling ‘r’ which was echoed by the other two behind him.
Pandora kept yanking on the Swede's arm, trying to pull him toward the exit, but barely managing to move his arm. “There’s nothing you can do! We have to go!”
The Swede looked back toward the alien creatures. the one holding the struggling Georges reached out a tiny arm and yanked the blanket down off the mirrors. The other two approached, all three of them watching the Swede and Pandora.
“Please!” Pandora begged.
The Swede took a step backward, unable to tear his eyes away from what was happening. Sparks began to swirl around Georges and the kids. The two aliens set them down on their feet. Suddenly the sparks circled their heads, then streaked down to the ground. There was a bare moment where it looked like Georges and the kids were gone, then in less time than it took to blink, they were back, but distorted, their features matching exactly their reflections.
“Go! Now!” Pandora yelled. This time, the Swede moved. The two turned and ran for the exit. They got out and down the stairs, continuing to run until they were out in the open.
They stopped and turned to watch the exit. The Swede whistled, high and loud, and the dogs came running to stand by his side. They were on guard, growling softly, ears pointed.
The creatures never came out this way.
The Swede sounded the alarm, and the entire camp was roused. Eventually, figures were reportedly seen trudging across the farmland away from the faire.
Pandora squeezed the Swede’s hand. “I’ve got to go. We need the Doctor.” She let go and ran off.
Pandora was panting with effort when she got to the police station. As she was reaching for the door, she suddenly had a moment of doubt that quickly turned into panic.
Earlier in the day she and the Doctor had been kicked out of the station, and now she didn’t have any ID, not even the psychic paper. Her credentials were a fraud and as a runaway, the police were actually looking for her. What if they wouldn’t let her see the faceless prisoner? What if they demanded her ID? How would she talk her way out of it? She knew there were security cameras in there; what if they identified her? Or even wanted fingerprints?
She put her arm down and walked away, forcing herself to breath calmly. It was probably a whole different set of cops on night shift than were there earlier, she told herself. That helped. Maybe she could talk her way in there. What would the Doctor do? she asked herself. Well, he wouldn’t show any doubt, for one thing. If this was the right thing to do, and it was, then do it. He’d also make it up as he went along. No sense in coming up with a script, the person on the other side of the conversation wouldn’t have one.
She found she’d been pacing, and she stopped herself. He breathing was normal and she felt more relaxed. She looked down at herself. She was sweating from the heat and her exertion, and she was covered with mud and probably worse. “Well, Pandora,” she said out loud, “This is the best the world is going to get, and it needs you now.” She pulled a hair-tie off her arm and did up her hair, then marched back to the door and threw it wide.
There was a balding red-headed man in uniform behind the counter doing paperwork. She approached him purposefully. “A faceless man in a grey hoodie and cargo pants was brought in here an hour ago. I need to see him. I’ll take him in Interrogation Room One.” She started past the desk.
“Hey!” he yelled, standing up and leaning over the counter. “Who the hell are you, missy?”
She stopped and turned. A feigned look of surprise and offense on her face. “Pandora Jones, Interpol, Circuses and Traveling Fairs. Undercover, otherwise I’d show you my ID.”
“Aren’t you a little young for Interpol?” he asked.
Pandora laughed, one hard barking syllable of a laugh. “That’s kind,” she said, then her demeanor changed. “Condescending, but kind.”
The officer reacted as if he’d been slapped. “Yes ma’am. Sorry ma’am. One faceless John Doe for Interrogation Room One. Getting to be a lot of them now.”
“I only need the one,” she called over her shoulder. Her knees suddenly gave out for a moment, but she caught herself before she fell and she walked down the hallway toward the interrogation rooms.
Minutes after she got there, the faceless man she hoped was the Doctor was brought in wearing a straightjacket over an orange jumpsuit. “I’ll need his effects as well,” Pandora said.
The officer who brought him in looked quite put out by that, but said nothing. He led his prisoner to the chair and helped him to sit. He ran the chain from the back of the man’s collar to the brace on the floor and left.
Pandora paced back and forth while she waited for the officer to return with the Doctor’s effects. In the meantime, the prisoner sat calmly, not put off one bit by the straightjacket he was wearing. He faced the table and didn’t move in the slightest. Pandora’s gaze searched him, looking for any confirmation of her suspicions. Just the slightest hint of his personality coming through... But there was nothing. What could there be? She thought about the way the Doctor would flip up his hoodie when he was uncomfortable, but he had no hoodie. He would also bite his nails when he was deep in thought, but this creature had no mouth to bite with, and his arms were trussed around behind him.
Pandora turned away and breathed deeply. She simply couldn’t be sure. She would have to trust.
The door opened up, and Pandora turned around. Something of her uncertainty must have shown on her face, because the officer paused halfway to handing her a gallon zip ‘n’ cloze bag of the Doctor’s possessions. Pandora reached out instead and took it from him. The officer gave Pandora a penetrating look, but then held up two more gallon bags.
Pandora frowned and set the first bag on the table, then accepted the other two. “Thank you,” she said. “You can go.”
He looked from her to the faceless man, then said, “I’ll be watching from observation,” he said, indicating the mirror, then he left the room.
She set one of the bags on the table, then turned the other over and over, looking for the sonic screwdriver. There was a yo-yo, a bag of marbles, a paper sailor’s hat, a tiny nub of a pencil with its rubber intact, a paperback copy of ‘Kim’s Game’ and a dozen other odds and ends, but no sonic.
She set down the bag and picked up the next one. She found a troll doll with bright green hair, a key she assumed was for the Tardis, his mobile phone, a plastic squeeze coin purse, a deck of cards, a harmonica, and there under it all, his sonic screwdriver. She opened the back and pulled out the sonic, then walked to the door and used the sonic to lock the door. She looked nervously toward the mirror, but there was no turning back now. She walked around behind the faceless Doctor and set the sonic between her teeth to undo the leather straps holding his arms behind his back.
There was a pounding on the silvered glass, but Pandora held up one hand and tentatively stood up.
The faceless Doctor slowly flexed his arms, then folded his hands on the table in front of him. Pandora pulled the sonic out from between her teeth with a smile, then turned to the mirror and gave a thumbs up. She walked around the table and stood in front of the Doctor.
She leveled the sonic at him and tried to remember what color the light was when he’d done that inner-ear trick at the bank. Blue, she thought. Definitely blue. She switched it on and thought, “Nod if you can hear me.”
No response. She clicked the rear of the sonic left one position and tried again. He nodded.
“What can I do for you?” she thought.
He raised his arms and dangled the long ends of his sleeves.
She walked around around to his left arm and pulled the sleeve back until his hand showed. He set his hand on the table and mimed writing.
Pandora went quickly back to the effects bag and pulled out the tiny stub of pencil and looked around for paper. Finding none, she regretfully tore out a page of ‘Kim’s Game’ and slipped it under his right sleeve. She placed the pencil in his hand and stepped back.
He began writing quickly, but neatly, hunched over the paper as if he were able to see it despite his lack of eyes. Pandora came around to view it over his shoulder.
It was a list of some sort. ‘Blender cowling’ was the first item, followed by ‘Cathode ray gun’ and ‘Incandescent bulb’. The Doctor continued with the list, in a penmanship that bordered on calligraphy in its precision. The list was filled with parts from various electronic devices. It reminded Pandora of the disassembled appliances all over Steve and Jessica’s house. Thinking back, it seemed so long ago, but it was only a few hours.
Pandora pointed the sonic at the Doctor and thought, “You want me to bring those to you?”
The Doctor nodded.
“Those distorted people from before; they’re the aliens, and they’re up to something. They’re building something, and they’re making more like them.”
The Doctor pushed the paper forward and tapped it.
“Okay, I’ll be back,” Pandora thought at the Doctor. She picked up the paper, sonicked the door unlocked, and left.
On her way out, she stopped at the front desk and got the officer’s attention. “The man in interrogation room 1 - he stays there until I return, got it?”
“Whatever you say, ma’am,” the officer said.
Pandora turned to leave, then something else occurred to her and she turned back. “Oh, and we’ve got it backward. These faceless ones are the victims. They’re still a danger to themselves and others, so keep them here, but they’re in protective custody now, not prisoners, yeah?”
The officer nodded, but grumbled something under his breath.
Close enough, Pandora thought, and left the station.
“How the hell am I going to get all this?” Pandora asked herself, standing in front of an electronics store at 3:00 in the morning.
Even if she managed to use the sonic to pull from the cash point like the Doctor did, she’d have to break into the store to get everything. She thought about all the security cameras in the store and turned the sonic over in her hand. She had no idea how to turn the cameras off. She made a mental note that once she got the Doctor back to normal she was going to make him show her how to use the sonic.
She read the list again. How was she even going to carry it all back? This task was starting to look insurmountable. She walked up to the glass doors and peered inside. There, tantalizingly close, were the blenders. But out of the corner of her eye, she could see the blinking red light of a security camera and she stepped quickly back away from the doors.
She was feeling like a failure before she even began. There was no way she could do what the Doctor could do effortlessly. She sat down on the curb to feel sorry for herself, but just as her rear hit the concrete, she realized what her mistake was. She bounced back up immediately.
She shouldn’t be trying to be the Doctor at all. How would she normally go about getting something she needed? In other words, what would Pandora do? The answer was obvious: With a little help from her friends.
She began walking with renewed purpose.
That was the only way to survive on the streets after all, she thought. To develop a network of people who you could trust, and who were good for you. She’d come to rely heavily on the Swede, and she knew he was nearby. He knew how to get things, and he knew even more people than she did..
“I’m sorry to wake you,” Pandora said when the Swede sleepily joined her outside the RV he was staying in while the faire was in town. “I mean, wake you again.”
“Don’t worry about it, pet. Most of us are still up and watching the funhouse to keep those creatures out. What do you need?” he yawned.
She handed over the list and the Swede stepped under the lamp post to read it. “Yeah... I think we can find all this stuff. How big does the cathode ray gun need to be?”
Pandora threw up her hands. “Hell if I know. I’m not even sure what that is,” she admitted.
“It’s part of the old tellies. The ones with the big chunk of glass in front. I’ve got a little one, like that,” he said, holding out his hands just a few inches apart. “Mickey’s got an old blender he never uses. Someone here will have the rest.”
“You are a real life saver. Only, I need them tonight. As soon as possible.”
“Then, you make some coffee, and I’ll start grabbing people.”
Half an hour later, she was back at the police station pulling a wagon loaded with two cardboard boxes filled with assorted electronic parts. The desk sergeant stood as she came in dragging the wagon, but Pandora passed the desk without saying a word, and by the time he thought of anything to say, she was gone.
The interrogation room was just as she’d left it, with the Doctor sitting calmly at the table, left arm out of the straightjacket sleeve and his other sleeve dangling well past his hand.
Pandora looked at his blank face for a while before reaching into the wagon and transferring one box to the table, then the other. She turned the Doctor’s hand palm up and placed the sonic screwdriver in it. He clenched it tightly, then turned it over in his hand, slipping his index finger through the ring.
Pandora walked around to the other side and helped him get his hand out of the sleeve, then lifted it to place it inside the nearest box.
The Doctor set down the sonic, and reached inside the right-side box with both hands, feeling each item within it. Once he’d touched them all, he moved the box to the floor on his right side. He repeated the process with the box on the left, setting it on the left-hand side when he was done. He then picked up his sonic and reached inside the right-hand box, pulling out the toaster. He worked on it until he had just the thermo-regulator, then swept all the other pieces off the table and picked out the blender cowling from the left-hand box.
He acted with precision, as if he’d memorized where each item was within each box and wasted no more time or effort searching for anything. He reached into each box, pulled out an item, grabbed his sonic and welded it onto the overall structure. He pulled out the next piece, broke it and removed the parts he needed, adding it to the mass on the table. After several minutes of this, he grabbed the cord and felt along its length until he found the plug. He held it up and rapped on the table. Then he held out his sonic with the other hand.
Pandora accepted the sonic and clicked through the settings until she had the blue light again and aimed at the Doctor. “You want me to plug this in?” He nodded. She found a socket and plugged it in.
The device on the table hummed, and it radiated an odd glow. It was like watching an explosion in a slow-motion film. The glow extended slowly outward until it came into contact with the Doctor and passed through him. The skin on his face stretched and twisted as it passed over him. Pin pricks on the surface of his face widened into actual features. A small spot in the lower center of his face widened into a mouth and moments later had all the details of lips and chin and five o’clock shadow. In a matter of seconds, he was back to normal. The glow continued to extend slowly toward the walls of the room, but suddenly the contraption sparked and banged and shut down, taking the lights of the station with it.
“No time to lose,” the Doctor said, taking his sonic back. He used it to remove the chain from the back of his collar, then he shimmied out of the straight jacket. He looked down at the god-awful jumpsuit they’d dressed him in and patted it down. “No pockets,” he observed with horror.
Pandora pulled open one of the bags containing his effects and removed his hoodie. She held it out to the Doctor.
“It’ll have to do,” he said and threw it on over the orange jumpsuit.
“I’ve missed you,” Pandora said.
The Doctor smiled warmly. “And you,” he said. He gave her a quick hug, then put his sonic in his inside hoodie pocket, snatched up all three effects bags, and headed for the door.
As they left the police station, Pandora grabbed the Doctor’s arm to stop him. “What about all the other Faceless?”
The Doctor paused for just a moment, then said with certainty, “They’ll be fine where they are. Either sending the extra-dimensionals back will free them, or we’ll do it afterward.” He set a fast pace walking away from the station, and Pandora hurried to keep up.
He dug through one of the bags with the other two firmly squeezed under his elbow, and he pulled out his cell phone. “How do you get ahold of the Swede when you need to?” he asked Pandora over his shoulder.
“Mainly I just go where I know he will be and talk to him. I’ve got his number now though, if that’s what you are asking, why?”
“Because I need to. This ends tonight.”
Pandora pulled up her contacts and showed the Swede’s entry to the Doctor. “They’re building something in the marsh outside the housing development. Something huge,” she said as they walked.
“Describe it to me,” the Doctor said.
“I couldn’t really say. It was large and curved, and made from all of their appliances and stuff. It had lots of light bulbs too. Oh, and it wasn’t close to finished, but it looked like it would make a circle when it was.”
“That would be a conduit. A doorway between our world and theirs. A dangerous and ill-advised tear in the fabric of the universe. Lead the way.”
“But that’s the same thing as the mirrors, right? Only bigger,” Pandora asked.
“No, it’s nothing like the mirrors. With those, it’s a two-way operation. They need to replace a certain quantity of mass to transfer anything here. Someone standing in front of the mirror gets scanned, and the extra-dimensionals are transformed to duplicate what they see. Only what they see is distorted by the mirror. They steal the victims face in the process. Then the two swap places. The aliens come here and the victims go to their world. Except, it’s like pushing through a rubber sheet. It wants to snap back, and it takes a force of will to stay on the wrong side. The victims get pulled back to our world.” The Doctor turned around to see if Pandora was keeping up. She nodded at him and motioned for him to go on.
He turned back around and started dialing. “The conduit is completely different. When it opens, it will stay open. Those creatures will be able to come through in their true form, and believe me, you do not want that. They will flood into this world, bringing their tech with them, and they will devour it as they have their own.”
“Were you able to communicate with them when you were on their side?” Pandora asked.
The Doctor gave her a grim look, then spoke into his wireless earpiece. “Hello, Swede? This is the Doctor. I need your help.”
They approached the tree line and Pandora pointed out the spot where Blaise was still hunkered down amongst the brush.
Blaise started when he heard them, but sighed with relief when he saw who it was. “I’m dying out here,” he whispered when they got close. “I think they’re finished, or nearly.” He looked the Doctor up and down, then added, “Weirdest thing happened to your doppleganger. About half an hour ago he was just working there with the rest of them when some sort of hole appeared behind him and he just got sucked through.”
The Doctor nodded enthusiastically. “Just as I expected, but it’s good to have the confirmation. There’s still a connection between each of the victims and these invaders. If we sever the connection, they can’t remain in this reality and get pulled back into their own.”
The Doctor leveled his phone, where a compass app was displaying. He peered through the trees to where the invaders now stood around a complete circle of metal odds and ends, the inside surface covered in light bulbs. He then turned his back to the clearing and sighted along his phone back the way they had come. “One hundred ninety-six mark two azimuth,” he said mysteriously. “Roughly two kilometers. Final distance and ascension to follow.”
He turned back to his companions, placing one hand one each one’s shoulder. “Wish me luck. No matter what happens now, you must remain hidden. If something bad happens to me, run. Call UNIT. I’ve added their number to your contacts, Pandora. Ask for Kate Stewart. She’ll take your call.” He gave a final squeeze and left without waiting for a response.
He stepped through a gap in the trees and approached the gathered creatures. “Hello, Invaders of Earth!” he yelled out to get their attention. “Welcome! If you’d be so kind as to dismantle your conduit, we can discuss terms of your continued existence in this plane of reality.”
The creatures exchanged a series of clicks and low whumps, and several of them broke off to approach the Doctor menacingly.
“Funny thing,” the Doctor said, starting to pace, seemingly unconcerned by the approaching invaders. “The Tardis automatically translates any language in existence for me - which has been very useful, speaking to anyone in their native tongue - but she can’t make heads or tails of that gibberish you speak. Now, I know you can be understood when you want to be, because I spoke to two of you before. Now might be a good time to communicate.”
He approached the edge of the conduit and ran a hand along its upper edge, then he sat down on it. “Real beaut, this, by the way. I don’t know if I could’ve come up with one as quickly as you did, so kudos there.”
A group of five of the invaders came to stand in front of him. “Yooou will exssshplain how you came back,” the middle one said simply, in the slurring speech pattern his deformed face allowed.
The Doctor looked deep off into the sky, seeming to consider what they said. “No, I rather think I won’t.” He got up off the conduit and checked his phone, then pushed through the group to resume pacing. “Of course, we can talk about all sorts of things as soon as you dismantle this device. The Earth won’t support your population at this time. I can help you find a location to habitate, but only once this threat is resolved.” At his furthest from them he mumbled under his breath, “Two mark one one kilometers.”
He turned and walked back toward the group. “So what will it be? Are you willing to shut down and accept my resettlement help, or ignore me, invade this world and force me to stop you?”
He stood there, oblivious to the obvious threat, staring at the chest of the one in the center. The creature’s bright yellow shirt read ‘Security’ in tall thin letters. Two of the others wore similar shirts and were of similar size. They spoke to each other in clicks and whumps, and the others around the conduit began making noises too.
The two creatures at the ends of the group confronting the Doctor lunged forward and grabbed him by the arms, holding him fast.
The Doctor didn’t struggle to free himself. “You know what I love about this planet?” he asked them. “They based the idea of gravity off the mass of this world so Earth’s gravity is just a constant of one. Makes the maths so simple. Ascension thirty-two mark four. Full power, I should think.” He gave the invaders his serious face. “Last chance. Stop this invasion, and let me help you.”
The creatures continued to hold him tight, and the rest turned to face the conduit. There was a deep humming noise and the bulbs lining the inside of the conduit became painful to look at. The rest of the world seemed to grow darker, and the night became cold as if the light and heat were being drained from the environment to feed the conduit. There was a loud snap, and a leathery brown shape spiraled out from the center of the space inside the conduit all the way to the edge. The surface rippled like cloth, lit by the surrounding bulbs.
“I’ll take that as a no,” the Doctor said. “Why is it always no?” He trailed off, staring at the shadows moving beneath the surface within the conduit. “Fire,” he barely spoke.
Pandora braced herself, then looked over at Blaise who was still watching the conduit, half crouched. Pandora pulled him down and covered his head, holding onto a tree trunk for support. Nothing happened.
“Well, that’s done,” the Doctor said. “I don’t suppose you have Time Lords where you come from. No? Tardises?” He looked from one to another. They gave no response. He tried to break free from their hold so he could pace, but they didn’t budge. “During the Time Wars, many Battle Tardises got destroyed, which was a terrible sight to see. Their insides suddenly and violently became their outsides. All those extra dimensions unfolding across reality...” He raised his voice to be sure everyone could hear him. “You may want to turn around. You don’t get many chances to see the process in reverse.”
The Doctor turned as best he could and looked up into the dark sky. Pandora and Blaise turned to look. The two creatures holding the Doctor followed his gaze. Slowly the rest of the group turned as well.
Something glittered distantly. As they watched, it became obvious it was moving fast and tumbling rapidly. As it spun, and one side of it caught the moonlight it would flash brightly, then disappear. Over and over it did this, slowly increasing in size. Before they could tell quite what it was, they could see it was coming straight for them.
The creatures surrounding the conduit began clicking rapidly and loudly, then they scattered in all directions. The two holding onto the Doctor let go of him and sprinted away. The Doctor found Pandora and Blaise and held out his hands, palms toward them. He had a reassuring look on his face. He then turned and looked back up into the sky, where the funhouse mirror was quickly approaching.
It plummeted toward the ground and passed neatly through the ring of the conduit. The coffee colored surface deformed, becoming a funnel. Several of the bulbs surrounding it burst and winked out. The metal structure screamed as it bent and pulled inward. The creatures who had been running away were dragged backward as if pulled by unseen tethers. They continued to struggle against the pull, looking like deformed mimes walking against the strongest wind ever. Several of them had found something to grab hold of and were hanging horizontally off whatever they had found.
Eventually each of them lost the struggle and flew through the air into the conduit and spun, stretched out, down the funnel. Bulbs continued to explode, sending sparks into the air. The looser bits of metal structure broke loose and fell into the center of the swirling brown event horizon. The rest of the structure continued to shrink as it deformed and collapsed.
The Doctor walked forward to observe it, feeling no pull whatsoever from the object. The last of the creatures lost its grip and got pulled through the barrier between worlds. At that point, the structure gave up all resistance and folded in on itself. With a loud roar and shriek, it collapsed to nothing and disappeared.
The dim light and dull heat of the evening returned instantly. The Doctor watched the spot for a few moments longer, then turned back toward Pandora and Blaise. “That worked a treat,” he said into his earpiece. “Thanks.” He tapped it to hang up and took the earpiece off. He pulled his hood up, shoved both hands into his hoodie pockets and walked over to join the other two.
They walked back toward the police station. Blaise was full of questions, and the Doctor filled him in with brief explanations. “...So I had the Swede load the mirrors onto the Human Slingshot. At that point it came down to some basic geometry. As I got the last details, like exact direction and distance, I fed them to him, and his team angled the bungee. Once the invaders turned on the conduit, we passed one opening through the other, and well, you saw. It’s a bit like a snake swallowing its own tail. There were no openings left in this world, and they all got pulled back to theirs.”
The Doctor stopped walking, and the other two looked at him. He motioned with his head toward the station, just coming into view in the early morning sunrise. “Looks like they’re releasing the victims. No need to go any further, everything’s back to normal. Everyone’s got their faces back. Of course, their houses are trashed. Try explaining that one to insurance.” He sighed deeply and looked to the other two. “Only congratulations or blame lie in that direction, and I want none of either. If you guys are interested, go ahead. I’m heading back home.”
“The Faire is my home for the weekend,” Blaise said, “Assuming it hasn’t been closed down, of course.” He was looking at Pandora hesitantly, though she didn’t see. “Um...” he started to say, but got no further.
The Doctor smiled knowingly. “You know what? It’s a long walk back to Paddington, but I need to clear my head. Pandora, how about you walk Blaise back to the faire and take the Tube back? I’ll see you in the morning.”
Blaise looked grateful, but his expression quickly changed to ‘just curious’ when Pandora looked from the Doctor to him. “Sure, Spaceman. See you tomorrow,” she said, and the Doctor turned to leave.
The two watched him go for a while, then turned East to trudge back across the farmland in the direction of the faire. “Is this how it always is with you two?” Blaise asked, breaking the silence.
“Well, a bit. It’s always different, and there are long periods of just nothing, but yeah. The amazing bits are just brilliant.”
They were quiet for a while longer, then Blaise spoke again. “I could help, you know. I’m stronger than I look, and I, um, I could... help.”
Pandora smiled. “If you are looking for an interview, you should send your CV to the Doctor.”
Blaise looked at his feet. “Yeah, um, I’m building up to that. But what do you think? It wouldn’t be all bad having me around, right?” He looked up at her hopefully.
Pandora’s smile remained, but looked a bit forced. She seemed to come to a decision and turned serious. “Okay, I’ve got three questions,” she said.
They walked on in silence for a while. Blaise waited for Pandora to ask her questions, but several minutes went by in silence. Finally he prompted, “Okay, ask away.”
Pandora looked over at Blaise as they walked. “Have you ever lit anything on fire, just for fun?” She had one eye closed, as if looking toward the bright sun.
“Wow, um,” he said, blowing out air. “Yeah, I guess, when I was a kid. Ant hills and magnifying glasses, you know. Who hasn’t?”
Pandora didn’t comment, she just went on to her second question. “Do you think that a man and a woman can ever truly be ‘just friends’?”
“Well, yeah. Of course,” he said. Pandora watched him as if expecting more, so he elaborated. “Most of the time, I suppose, if they’re honest, one of them is looking for something more, but that doesn’t always happen, so yeah. Just friends.”
Pandora nodded. She was quiet for a while longer. They reached the ropes surrounding the carnival, and Pandora remembered the dogs, so she stopped. Blaise stopped as well, waiting for the third question.
“There is a runaway trolley, no driver. It’s heading down the tracks straight toward a group of children at play, oblivious. In front of you is a button that will shunt the trolley to another track, but there is currently an old man slowly crossing that track. You only have seconds to act. Do you push the button?”
“Definitely,” Blaise said immediately. His eyes held a question, as if to ask, “Who wouldn’t?”
Pandora paused briefly. “Why?” she asked.
“Well, because the old guy’s lived his life, hasn’t he? I mean, I’d feel horrible after, but yeah.”
Pandora nodded, swallowing hard, but showing no other sign of judgement.
“So? Did I pass?”
Pandora smiled weakly and cocked her head to the side. “You got some place we can reach you?” she asked, one eye closed again.
“My buddy has a business recycling vegetable oil, you can leave a message for me there.”
Pandora pulled a biro out of her bag and stuck out her hand for him to write on. He jotted down the number and handed the pen back.
“I’ll call you,” she lied.
Blaise smiled excitedly and jogged on toward the fairgrounds, pausing to turn and wave once he’d ducked through the ropes.
She turned and walked in silence, North to the District tube stop. She’d get off at Edgware and pick up her box before the Doctor got there. And if she had a bit of a cry on the way, that’d be nobody’s business but hers.
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