The Doctor woke up in an upright position. He tried to put a hand to his head, but found his arm was strapped down. He opened his eyes and looked around.
He was in some sort of laboratory, ankles and wrists in cuffs, with one big metal brace across his chest. Next to him was Pandora and beyond her, Juno and John. They were all strapped to a sort of table with a hinge in the center so it could be swung into a horizontal or vertical position. They were slowly regaining consciousness. There was a long table in front of them with liquids bubbling in beakers on one side and sharp, exploratory instruments on the other. In the middle was what looked like a notepad and of all things, a mug of hot tea. Just beyond the mug was Pandora’s box.
Off to the side, against the wall were four booths with a frost-crusted windows. Each contained one of the Americans whose abduction they witnessed, plus a woman, presumably Svetlana. Next to the booths was a shelf containing jars of what appeared to be human brains. Additionally, there was a body, mid-autopsy on a table like theirs, except in the horizontal position.
As the Doctor was taking in his surroundings, a Sea Devil came into view from behind and between him and Pandora. It stopped a few paces in front of them and turned around, three-fingered hands clasped in front of it excitedly, and what appeared to be a smile on its beak-like mouth.
“What do you intend to do with us?” the Doctor asked.
The Sea Devil’s jaw dropped. “You can speak! Well, I knew you could speak of course, the others all tried to say something, but you have learned our language! I never could have predicted it!”
It was the Doctor’s turn to be surprised. “Predicted it?”
“I am a scientist, my dear, uh… Actually, what do you call yourself?”
“Interesting choice, naming your species the Doctor. Anyway, I—”
“No, no. I’m called the Doctor. This species is called ‘human’.”
“Ah. Human. Tell me: How far have you come? Have you spread beyond this island? Have you developed mathematics?” the Sea Devil queried. He walked to the table and selected one of his sharp instruments.
“Are you kidding me?” John said. “‘Beyond this island’?”
“We cover the entire planet!” Juno said.
“Oh ho!” the scientist said excitedly. He walked up to Juno and grabbed her face with one hand while he stuck his instrument in through a nostril with the other. Juno gagged.
“Easy does it… This won’t hurt… Ah!” he said and withdrew the probe. “Endothermic! Marvelous! Marvelous,” he said and returned the probe to his workbench.
“What do you hope to gain by experimenting on us?” the Doctor asked.
The Sea Devil turned around in the middle of selecting another instrument. “Why, my dear boy! You are the end result of the greatest experiment ever!” He raised a dismissive finger and took a long drink from his mug of tea before turning to speak to them again.
“You see, a long time ago, a meteor - that’s like a giant rock in space - was going to crash into the Earth. By my calculations, we would survive the impact, but the dust in the atmosphere would lower global temperatures to levels we’d never survive. Plans were made to enter suspension until temperatures rose to livable levels again. But I wondered, could there be an intelligent creature that could survive such low temperatures? One that would thrive and dominate its environment?”
He looked around at them with pride.
“Wait, you don’t mean…?” John asked, incredulous.
“Yes!” the creature responded. “In the days before our planned hibernation, I trapped a particularly large, er, a rodent of some kind, and injected him with some of our genetic potential. I knew it would take millions of years for these genes to spread and take full effect, for the creature to evolve into its final form, but I was in the enviable position to be here when it concluded, and here you are! I must admit I’m disappointed that you’ve kept to land when seventy percent of the world’s surface is water, but that’s neither here nor there.”
Pandora finally spoke up. “You… created humanity?”
He waved his arms in a self-deprecating manner. “Well, I… directed your evolution. I… enhanced your potential. But, my dear girl, you have performed admirably. Tell me, have humans learned to use tools?”
Everybody started arguing at once, denying the possibility and complaining about their captivity or the lunacy of even talking to this creature.
Just then a door slid open and the humans fell silent. Four more Sea Devils entered the room. Three of them were armed with the same silvery disks that these creatures used as weapons. The fourth one was unarmed, and the robe he wore was of finer material. He had a thick necklace of gold plates that joined in the center and ran down the length of his robe. His scales were of a lighter green color and where the others appeared enraged, this one was serene.
The armed creature in front stormed in and confronted the scientist. “And now these beasts are coming to us! Thausix, when are you going to admit that this experiment of your will endanger us all!”
“Oh, General Criasix! Always, you see threats! Always with you it is war! Are you really threatened by my walking dolphins?” Thausix responded.
“They are a threat, and you are blind if you can’t see that!” the General said. “You understand nothing. They are building machines that take them to our very waters!”
“Machines! How wonderful!” Thausix turned toward the humans excitedly.
“Senator Doamix, surely you can see the threat posed by these creatures?” the General demanded.
The Senator held out his hands placatingly and opened his beak to speak, but the Doctor beat him to it.
“Senator Doamix, if I may, the humans are not a threat to your people. They have learned many things during your long hibernation, and one thing they can do well is live peaceably with their neighbors. There are 195 countries of humans, and 193 are represented in a global peace-keeping group. But at the same time, if you moved against them militarily, you would find them a formidable enemy.”
“You see!” the General said, “He speaks of peace, but makes threats! Their technology is primitive compared to ours. We should strike now and wipe them out.”
“They may seem primitive, but they are clever, and they are numerous. They have a talent for war and they command mighty machines on both land and sea,” the Doctor tried to reason.
“Then we will unleash our Myrka upon them!” the General yelled, approaching the Doctor to stand face to face.
“General, even they would be no match for a modern-day human tank or submarine! But if you talk to them, they can be quite reasonable. Look, they have spent the last three thousand years fighting amongst themselves. They have built up the technology to destroy the very Earth several times over. If you came forth as an enemy, humanity would be united for the first time ever. Against you! And I hate to even imagine what a terrifying sight they would be.”
General Criasix stood silently, staring into the Doctor’s eyes. Finally, he nodded. “I sense the truth in what you say. Perhaps we cannot defeat the humans in a protracted war. So then, we only have one choice.”
The Doctor relaxed. It was rare that they saw reason so quickly.
The general turned and walked back to join the other Sea Devils. “We must awaken Lord Dagon.”
“What? No!” the scientist said, horrified. “They’ll be wiped out! Our god cannot be stopped!”
“No!” the Doctor called out, struggling against his bonds. “You can’t!”
“You see, Senator? His bravado is gone now. Come. Let us discuss preparations for the Great Awakening.” The general turned to the two Sea Devil soldiers who had come in with him and the senator. “You two remain with the prisoners and find out more about their strengths. Use whatever means necessary.” He and the senator turned to leave. The scientist hurried to catch up with them.
“Senator! At least consider the alternative!” the scientist was saying.
“Senator!” the Doctor called, struggling to free himself. “You must listen!” But the door slid shut behind the Sea Devils, and they were gone.
“You!” said one of the soldiers, pointing at John and drawing his weapon. “Tell me more about these ‘tanks’ and ‘submarines’.”
“Go to hell,” John said.
“Our weapons can cause pain, render you unconscious, or they can be set to kill. Tell me now about your war machines,” the Sea Devil threatened.
“They don’t know anything. These are scientists. I’m the one you want,” the Doctor said.
“Then perhaps these others are irrelevant. Tell me what you know, or I will kill this one.” The Sea Devil stepped closer to John, his weapon held to the side of John’s face. John closed his eyes and turned away.
“Stop it! I’ll tell you what you want to know. You don’t need to threaten anyone!” the Doctor said.
“Sergeant,” the second Sea Devil said. He pointed at Pandora. “This one keeps looking at this box over here.”
The sergeant looked from Pandora to the box. Pandora pulled hard at her cuff. “No,” she pleaded.
“What’s in the box?” the sergeant asked. “Is it a weapon?”
“No!” Pandora flailed violently. The table shook on its pivot with the force of her movements.
“The box contains scientific equipment only!” the Doctor interjected. “There is nothing of interest to you in there.”
“I think it’s a weapon,” the sergeant said. “Mailix, open the box.”
The second Sea Devil walked around the table and turned the box toward himself.
“No. Don’t. Don’t. Please don’t,” Pandora said. Tears were streaming down her face and she was nearly hyperventilating.
“It’s locked, sergeant,” Mailix called. He picked up the box and brought it around to the front of the table.
“Stand back,” the sergeant said and pointed his weapon at the lock.
“You can’t! You mustn’t!” Pandora cried.
The sergeant fired his weapon. There was no visible beam, but there was an audible whirring sound like a standing mixer at low speed, and the lock began to smoke. Bits of metal began to drip off the edges of it. The Doctor looked on with mixed fear and excitement.
Pandora’s back arched to the limits of her confinement. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and her mouth opened wide in a silent scream. Then a brilliant white light, too bright to bear, poured out of her. The Doctor had to shut his eyes and turn away. But just for an instant, just before he had to shut out that light, he could see a second figure overlapping Pandora. A being of pure white, its head bald, with immense eyes of a slightly less bright white. Its body, rail thin, emerged from Pandora like a butterfly from a chrysalis.
Then the light was replaced by a flooding darkness, and the Doctor passed out for the second time today.
The three humans and the Time Lord came to their senses again some time later. The box still lay on the table with its lock somewhat the worse for wear, but still intact, and the two Sea Devil soldiers lay upon the ground, unmoving.
The Doctor took a moment to look around. “Is everybody alright?” he asked.
Pandora groaned. “My head is properly pounding, but otherwise, I’m okay,” she said, putting one hand to her head.
The Doctor saw it immediately. “Pandora! Your arm! It’s free!”
Pandora looked down at both her arms, then the full length of her body. “I’m completely free!” She looked very confused. “Doctor, how did that happen? I don’t remember…”
“Never mind that now, Pandora. Take my sonic from my hoodie pocket and free the rest of us.”
Pandora stepped down off the table and swayed for a moment. She caught herself, and grabbed the edge of the Doctor’s table to ensure her footing. The Doctor looked her in the eye, concern in his expression, and she smiled faintly and nodded. “It’s wearing off already.”
She reached inside his hoodie and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. “You’ve never shown me how to work it. I’ve just been guessing up until now.”
“Twist the top to change the color,” the Doctor explained. “Red, green, blue, white, ultraviolet and infrared. Red is for disassembling things or picking locks. Green for welding, connecting, screwing things in. Blue for scanning, ultraviolet for sending signals and infrared for complex programming tasks. It’s slightly psychic. You have to think about what you want it to do. Pull back on the ring to change the band, or frequency, and pull it all the way back to work on wood.”
“What does the white setting do?” Pandora asked.
“That’s a torch. It can also play music. Red for now though, I believe time may be of the essence.”
“Oh, yes, of course.” Pandora twisted the sonic to red and pointed it at the Doctor’s cuffs. She pushed the button to activate it and the cuffs popped open. She did the same with the band across his chest, then the cuffs on his ankles. Once he was free, she clapped the sonic into his hand and ran over to see to her box.
The Doctor freed Juno and John, then bent to examine one of the prone Sea Devils. He felt for a pulse at its throat, then lifted one arm and felt at its arm pit. Finally, he got on all fours and put an ear to its chest.
He shook his head and stood. “There’s not a moment to lose,” the Doctor said. “We need to find the Senator and convince him there can be peace between your peoples.”
“No,” John said. “We need to get back to Alvin and the surface! We need to warn the world!”
“There’s no telling what damage the ship suffered when the Myrka attacked. We can’t risk the ship right now. And what sense is there telling people they’re about to be wiped out, if they only end up getting wiped out anyway? We have a chance to prevent this, but only if we remain.”
“But surely you can do that, Doctor — What do you need us for?” Juno asked.
“I’m not of this Earth! I can’t be the one that represents you. When it comes time to sit down at a table and discuss a mutually beneficial solution for Sea Devils and humans, there have to be humans making the decisions. You may not feel that you’re ideal candidates for the job, but by virtue of being here today, the responsibility falls to you. And I can think of no one better that two people who have devoted their careers to the preservation and conservation of all life, human and otherwise.” He stepped back and let them consider his words.
“Okay,” Juno said simply.
John looked around at Juno, then Pandora, then the Doctor and finally said, “Fine.” He stooped and picked up the Sea Devils weapons.
The Doctor held out a cautionary hand. “Nothing good will come of that,” he said.
John narrowed his eyes. “All the same, I’d rather have it and not need it.” He offered the second one to Pandora.
Pandora looked at the weapon, then up at the Doctor. “No, thank you,” she said.
The Doctor stepped between them. “I don’t want you hauling off and shooting the wrong creature just because it’s different.”
“I’m not a hot-head, Doctor,” John said defensively. “I won’t shoot unless I have to.” He offered the second to Juno.
She looked down at the dead Sea Devils and shivered. “I don’t think so, John.”
“Suit yourself,” John said and tucked the second one into his belt as well.
The Doctor walked to the door and operated the panel to open it. The coast was clear, so he motioned for the others to follow him. Pandora carried her box out after him, then Juno followed, and John guarded the rear.
“I don’t think many of them are awake yet. If we’re lucky, it’s just the senator, the general and the scientist,” the Doctor whispered as he rounded a corner. He passed by several identical doors and hallways, then turned down another as if he knew where he was going.
“If we’re really lucky, we’ll run into the scientist and not the general,” he added.
“If I may be allowed to speak,” the scientist said to the senator as they walked along a hallway identical to the one the humans were currently sneaking down. “It is premature to talk of war. We have only just begun to study these humans. We know nothing about them. Would we also wage war against the fish that swim in our seas, or the sheep that graze on the shores? You only have half the story, and from someone whose profession is war!”
“Yes, I see your point, Thausix. You think these humans may have something to offer us?” the senator said.
“Offer us?” the general interjected, incredulous. “The fish and the sheep offer us themselves as food. Are you suggesting we eat these humans?”
“No, of course not,” the scientist said. “They are intelligent, they’ve learned to communicate with us, who knows what they may have developed that our artists and engineers have never dreamed of?”
They stopped in front of the closed door and the senator took a moment to organize his thoughts.
“Perhaps we should hear this Doctor out,” the senator said. The general opened his beak to object, but the senator held out a hand to silence him. “General Criasix, I have heard what you have to say on the subject. The Doctor has spent time among both our peoples. If there are still objections after hearing him out, we would still have time to wake Lord Dagon then.”
The senator put out a hand to activate the door. It slid open with a soft hiss, and he stepped inside. “Doctor, we have decided to…” He broke off in mid-sentence. The tables were empty, and the two Sea Devil soldiers lay dead upon the ground.
“Dagon take them all!” the general shouted when he saw the bodies. “Do you see now? This is what humanity is like. This is what they will do to us, if we don’t strike first! Our only advantage is that they don’t know we are here. If we sue for peace, we give up that advantage. If the escaped humans get a signal to the surface, we lose everything!”
The senator stood silently through the general’s rant, just staring at the two bodies left unceremoniously where they had fallen.
“General,” he said flatly, “prepare to wake Lord Dagon.”
Pandora was certain that they were lost. If only they had a way of marking the turns so they could at least find their way back. If only they had some idea where the sub was as a reference point. The other two didn’t know the Doctor the way she did. He stalked these corridors as if he grew up here, and he projected this sense of self-confidence that made them trust him, that made them feel better, not so lost. But she’d been around him long enough to know that even when he was making it all up as he went along, he still acted like that, and at this point she felt sure he had no better idea where they were than any of them did.
They turned another corner and reached a dead end. There was one door leading off to the side at the very end of the hallway, and with just the slightest hesitation, the Doctor walked right up to it. Once the others had gathered outside the door, the Doctor nodded once and activated it.
The door opened to a balcony overlooking a vast crevice. The far wall was probably a mile off and partially obscured by a slight haze, though artificial lighting lined both sides.
The four of them stepped out onto the balcony and held onto the railing. On both sides of the balcony were a set of stairs zig-zagging down. Looking over the edge, they could see what looked like tanning beds, thousands upon thousands of tanning beds lined up in regular patterns embedded in the rocky cliff face and extending down and out as far as they could see. Each one had a light in the center of the unit, and they realized that the lights they were seeing across the chasm to the other side were from these same devices.
“Millions,” Pandora said without meaning to, correcting her internal dialog. “There are millions of them.”
“Each one contains a sleeping Sea Devil,” the Doctor confirmed. “At any moment, the general could send the signal to awaken them and there will be an instant army of advanced fighters with futuristic weaponry on Europe’s door step.” He looked both John and Juno in the eyes. “They will sweep the surface clean, killing everything. And those weapons of mass destruction that your leaders would never use, because they would destroy themselves in the process? The Sea Devils will use them, because, who cares about the land? So what if the atmosphere is toxic?”
He stood silently, letting them take in the enormity of what they were facing.
“Even if humans do eventually win, a war with the Sea Devils will take an enormous toll.”
Pandora’s first thought was, ‘Then why are we wasting time here? We need to stop the general!’, but then she understood. The Doctor had led them here on purpose. He needed to convince the Sea Devils that peace was their only option, but now, the humans understood it too.
Five floors below, the general was activating select hibernation pods at a control center while the scientist worked to convince the senator to forestall war.
His soldiers stepped out of their pods, disoriented for a moment, but when the general handed them their weapons, they were all business and ready to go.
The scientist hadn’t yet given up. “Yes, there was murder, but put yourself in their place, if you were captured by someone talking about wiping out your kind, you’d do whatever you had to in order to escape. Compare that to the millions who will die if there is war.”
The general gave the scientist a scathing look as he passed by, but he said nothing. His three soldiers followed him out, then the senator. The scientist hurried to keep up, continuing to plead his case.
After several twists and turns, they came to another door, and the general opened it up. Beyond lay another enormous fissure in the earth, identical to the one that housed the hibernating Sea Devils, but this one contained a single slumbering creature. It had a head like a wicked decomposing fish, but fifty stories high and with multiple pairs of eyes, open but unseeing. Along its back were spiny fins, their barbed tips glistening with venom that dripped down the length of the spine to pool in mottled sores on the giant creature’s back. It had several pairs of spindly arms that ended in clawed hands with sharp talons. Just how many arms was impossible to see from their point of view, possibly six, possibly more. Its lower body was a mass of constantly writhing tentacles covered in barbed suckers as large as automobiles.
“Behold Lord Dagon!” General Criasix announced. “Destruction and hunger itself. When it awakes, it will consume the surface world and leave it barren.”
“Perhaps… perhaps it isn’t time, just yet,” the senator said. “I spoke in anger before, out of mourning for my lost citizens. But now I think it may be time for cooler heads.”
The general’s face twisted into a snarl. He clenched his fists and appeared about to strike out at the senator, but turned instead on the scientist. “You!” he growled. “You have turned him with your lies! You speak in terms of fear! You worry that the humans will defeat us! Or worse, you care more for your playthings than your own people! You are a traitor, and I condemn you!”
In a flash, he pulled the weapon from the belt of one of the soldiers and fired it at the scientist. The scientist screamed in agony and collapsed to the ground. The general threw down the weapon and ran at the crumpled form of the scientist. He lifted his limp body over his head and threw it over the balcony’s edge.
“What have you done?” the senator asked, aghast.
“I have begun the sacrifice needed to wake Lord Dagon! There is a reason that the knowledge of how to wake him was passed on through the military; it is because only we would have the commitment to do what was necessary when the time came. Lord Dagon lives for the slaughter, and an offering is all that will wake him. Thausix is just the beginning. I will kill thousands to raise Dagon, and he will kill billions more before he is sated. And once he has cleansed the surface and come back to the sea to sleep again, the world will once again be ours.”
General Criasix turned his back on the senator and pressed a button on the balcony control board. A transparent screen slid up, and an overlay of the hibernation chambers appeared, small green dots glowing across its surface. Eight lights were missing, representing the chambers that had already been activated.
The general picked up a circlet connected to the control board by a cable, and placed it on his head. His fingers flew across the control board, and a row of eighty lights on the screen blinked several times, then after a time, turned red.
Below them, the sleeping form of the behemoth twitched.
The Doctor, Pandora, Juno and John opened another door to find the restless, but still sleeping form of Dagon. Juno screamed. John let out an uncustomary prayer of protection. The Doctor simply said, “Oh, no.”
The creature below yawned, revealing rows of shark-like teeth and two pairs of feeder arms flanking the enormous mouth. The Doctor turned to the rest of them. “Our shot at diplomacy has passed. We must take more drastic action. Pandora, you need to thaw out the other captives back in the lab. Head down this hallway, turn left at the first intersection, cross the next, then right and two doors down.”
He turned to John and Juno and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. “You need to effect what repairs you can to the submersible.” He twisted the top to show them how. “Blue is for scanning, green is for welding. It’s slightly psychic, so when you scan, the results will just pop into your head. Got it? Now, you go left as well out of here, but turn left again at the first intersection, then right at the next, through the next, right again and you’re there. Got it?”
“Left, left, straight, right, right?” John said, holding out one hand for the sonic.
“No, left, left, right, straight, right. Oh, never mind.” He twisted the sonic again to infrared and pointed it to his forehead. He screwed his eyes up tightly for a moment, then opened them back up. “There. Installed some mapping software.” He twisted the end again and activated it. The tip glowed white. “It will glow white when you are pointing the right direction for the next step of your journey. Go!”
“How do you know where you are going down here?” Juno asked suspiciously.
“There was a diagram in the laboratory, surely you noticed it.”
“And you just… memorized it?”
The Doctor shrugged uncomfortably.
“What will you be doing, Doctor?” Pandora asked.
“Making sure that thing doesn’t wake up any time soon.”
A thousand lights were now glowing red across the display. The senator felt sick to his stomach, but after seeing what he did to the scientist, he hadn’t the courage to challenge the general. He excused himself and stepped outside. The general looked up when he heard the door, but he simply narrowed his eyes and returned to his task.
The senator closed his eyes and leaned against the wall just outside the door. What was he allowing to happen? Was this how he wanted to be remembered?
He was startled out of his thoughts by a squeaking sound at the end of the hallway. He looked up to see the Doctor skidding around the corner and racing toward him. “Senator Doamix! We have to stop this while there’s still time!” the Doctor called to him.
The senator looked back at the door and moved away to join the Doctor. “He’s killing off our own to fuel his revenge!”
“Well then, you have to stop him.”
“I can’t!” the senator complained.
“If he unleashes Dagon, you won’t be able to control it! Once it has wiped out humanity, it will start in on your people! That is if it doesn’t start off with you. I mean, he is here already,” the Doctor reasoned.
“You don’t understand, I can’t. He has armed guards, and he’s already murdered Thausix. I cannot stand against him!”
“Oh, well in that case, you can help me stop him.”
“What can I do?”
“Can you cause a distraction?” the Doctor asked.
The senator thought for a moment, then a smile spread across his beak. “The general may know how to wake Lord Dagon, but I know where his panel gets its power.”
The Doctor waited down the opposite hallway, and several minutes later, the lights went out, and emergency lighting glowed softly. There was some banging coming from the door, then quiet, and a glow began in the center of the door. Bits of metal began to drip from the door as the glow spread across its surface. The metal continued to drip and crumble until there was a hole large enough for the Sea Devils to get through. The general stepped carefully out and turned around.
“The humans must have shut off the power. Come with me. And shoot to kill.” He turned and strode off down the hallway, followed by his retinue and leaving the control room empty.
Once the Sea Devils were around the corner, the Doctor sneaked out of hiding and stepped through the crumbling and still warm door. The Doctor approached the control board and picked up the circlet. “A psychic interface,” he said to himself. “Along with the sacrifice of all his people, the general was pumping his own rage, his thirst for power and his lover of conquest into Dagon, stirring him up and preparing him for slaughter! Oh, general, what have you done?”
The console had no power, so it was useless to him at the moment, but the general was about to fix that. The Doctor placed the circlet on his head and started a count. However long it would be until the lights come on, that’s how long he’d have to reverse the damage the general had done. Two minutes forty-eight seconds later, the lights came on.
His fingers flew across the keyboard. Some of those red dots were still blinking. There was time to save them!
Suddenly there was a blinding pain in his mind. “Aaargh!” he cried out and fell to his knees. The psychic interface was made to work with a different physiognomy to his, and he was suffering a massive feedback. But if he focused on the pain, that would revive Dagon all the sooner.
He focused his mind. He thought of cool, calming waters. He thought of swaying gently in the waves. He typed as quickly as he dared, and saw flashing red lights turn one by one to green. He thought of the smell of a sea breeze on a gentle sunny day. He imagined sinking into the soporific mists of Sqornshellous Zeta.
Time got away from him. He wasn’t sure how much he had left, so he pulled the headpiece from his head. He took the barest moment to bask in the feeling of not being in searing pain, then tore the circlet cable violently from the console.
“Stop!” he heard from behind him. The Doctor looked back to see the general stepping through the ruined door, and casually dropped the headpiece over the balcony’s edge.
“No!” the general screamed and lunged for it, too late. He watched it fall into the pit below. A waving tentacle from the enormous creature slammed it against the cliff face, and when it passed, all it left was a vaguely metallic smear.
The general turned on the Doctor, seething with anger. “You have ruined everything!” he yelled. He reached out with both hands and grabbed the Doctor by the throat. He threw the Doctor to the ground and knelt over him.
The Doctor struggled to breath. “You—” he managed to eke out in a strangled whisper before the general’s grip tightened on his throat.
“But we were so close,” the general whispered. His beak began to twist into a wicked smile. “Perhaps just one more sacrifice will be enough to wake Lord Dagon.”
The Doctor managed to knock away the general’s hands for a moment and gasp for breath.
The general’s smile widened as he pulled the Doctor’s hands away with one of his own and renewed his grip on the Doctor’s throat with the other.
“But what kind of sacrifice is it to kill your enemy?” The Doctor croaked. “Surely that’s not sacrifice, that’s just death!”
The general’s grip weakened, then he let go completely and sat back on his haunches. “You’re right,” he whispered in a voice suddenly softened by deep realization. “It isn’t just the death that matters, it’s the sacrifice.”
He stood up, and he looked to his soldiers, who shuffled nervously. The general didn’t seem to notice. He walked over to the balcony and looked out at his god. Its sleep was restless. It was making a sound that was half snoring and half growling, and it was moving fitfully. “What could be more of a sacrifice than my own life?” he asked as he stepped up onto the railing.
He looked back at the Doctor, a calm coming over him. “Just one more life, but just the right one. And Lord Dagon will wipe out your kind forever.” He turned back around, teetering on the edge.
The Doctor sat up and rubbed at his throat. “No, you mustn’t,” he said in a raspy voice.
“Goodbye Doctor,” the general said. “May your death be long and painful.” He leaned forward and dove into the crevice.
The Doctor rushed forward and leaned over the railing to watch the general, already a distant speck, falling to his inevitable death. One of Dagon’s spindly arms moved and swatted the general aside like an annoying gnat. He tumbled and disappeared into darkness.
The Doctor no longer had the circlet, but he closed his eyes lightly and thought the most calming thoughts he could muster. He thought of clouds drifting lazily across a summer sky. He thought of the wind creating foam as it blew over deep ocean waves. Finally, he settled on the color blue, a vast field of baby blue, pushing all other thoughts from his head.
After several minutes of this, he dared to open his eyes. Dagon’s movements seemed less agitated, the thrashing of its tentacles less rapid, the noise it made, more of a snore and less of a growl.
The Doctor breathed a sigh of relief and turned around. The soldiers looked at him blankly, then as one, raised their weapons to point at him.
“That’s quite enough of that,” said the senator, stepping into the room. “Soldiers, your general is dead, and his misguided plan to destroy both our races is at an end. Return to your pods. I believe the world is not yet ready for our return.”
The soldiers seemed as if they were more comfortable now that they had orders, and they marched out of the room, leaving the senator and the Doctor alone.
The Doctor was still massaging his throat. “What—” he started.
“Rest your throat, Doctor, I know what you are going to ask,” the senator said, holding up a hand. “I’m going to set the alarm a few degrees higher. I will recall the Myrka, and then I will join them in hibernation.”
The Doctor nodded and placed a hand on the Sea Devil’s shoulder. He squeezed gently, then left the room to find the others.
He found Pandora as well as Svetlana and the three American men in the entrance to the lava tube. Pandora came over to the Doctor and gave him a huge hug when she saw him. “Juno thinks she can right the sub with the manipulator arms.” John and the three Americans stood next to the sub with poles planted underneath for use as levers.
The two manipulator arms flexed, then moved, and began pressing on the rock of the lava tube. The four men pushed up on the levers. The ship moved, but didn’t right. The motors on the manipulator arms whined loudly and started to smoke.
Pandora and the Doctor ran over and added their strength to the levers. The submersible began slowly to tip, then it rolled, and finally it splashed into the sea amidst loud rejoicing.
“Of course,” Pandora said, “we thought it was crowded in there before…”
The group looked at each other a little uncomfortably.
“We’ll make it a little easier. Pandora and I will find our own way to the surface,” the Doctor said. “I just came to see you off.”
“What do we do next?” John asked. He held out his hand, offering the sonic screwdriver back to the Doctor.
The Doctor accepted it. “I’m purposely leaving that to you. Are you going to tell them about what sleeps down here? Are you going to increase the urgency of decreasing the temperature? Are you going to spread the idea of sharing the planet with another intelligent species?” He shrugged his shoulders. “Come along Pandora.”
Pandora hurried to catch up, then when she was close enough to whisper, she asked, “Are we really going to leave them like this?”
“Oh, they’ll be fine. And besides, I don’t want to get in the middle of this. I’m not good with the questions.”
“And how exactly are we getting out of here?”
“I sent you back to the lab, and you still didn’t look at the diagram? They have airshafts drilled up to the island surface, and maintenance elevators. We’ll come out near the town of Thasos, grab a ferry, be back in time to hop the transport back to RAF Croughton.”
“Doctor?” Pandora asked after a while.
“Is it true? Did the Sea Devils really make humans in a lab?”
“Course not. Whole idea is bullocks. You lot came out of Africa, right? The animal he experimented on probably died out on this island a few years after they all went to sleep.”
“Did you ever see humans? Back then I mean. When they were just getting started?”
“Of course. It all began when a spaceship crash landed there. Turns out the captain was so fond of baths, he didn’t leave one for years at a time. Brought a couple of hitchhikers there with him too.”
“Didn’t you get that story from Douglas Adams?” Pandora asked with narrowed eyes.
The Doctor smiled. “You got me. The truth is, I get some of my best stories from Douglas Adams.”
The trip back always seems shorter than the way there, and so it was for them on their way back to England. When Pandora stepped out of the tube and into the sunlight back in London proper, the first thing she did was pull out her tablet and check for a wireless signal.
“Yes!” she proclaimed. “Oh how I missed you.” She kissed the tablet and started downloading the latest news stories. “Let’s see what we missed out on…”
“More to the point, did we make the news?” the Doctor asked.
“Um, oh, here! There’s a story about Svetlana’s safe return. That’s something. But I don’t see anything about Sea Devils or the crew of the Atlantis.” She continued scrolling the headlines. “Hah! Here’s one you might be interested in, Time Boy.”
“Oh yeah? What have you got?” the Doctor asked.
“Just kidding really. They’re opening a time capsule today down in Grosvenor Square,” Pandora said.
“Love a good time capsule. You never know what they’ll bury. Saw a man find his car keys in one once. Can’t tell you how relieved he was.”
“So you actually want to go then?” Pandora asked, surprised.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” he said with a broad smile.
They had gotten off the tube at Marble Arch, so it was only a few minutes’ walk. They were in Grosvenor Square for the ground breaking. There was a lot of ceremony around it, and a local politician with a golden spade gave a short speech and dug the first scoop out. After that, some workmen took over and they had the box out in no time.
It looked a bit like a munitions canister, but about twice as big. This time it was a local historian who got to say a few words about the time period, and he got some polite laughter upon saying he remembered it well because he was already old when it happened. They set the canister down on a tarp, and he got down on one knee to open it.
The Doctor and Pandora pressed forward to get a good view as he pulled back the lid and reached inside.
“Our first item is,” the historian said with a dramatic pause before pulling out his hand, “a cocktail napkin, it appears.”
This got a lot more laughter than his feeble joke had.
“What’s it got on it?” someone in the crowd called out.
“Well, it’s got a lipstick mark of some sort, and there’s some writing on it.”
“What’s it say?” someone else called out as the historian adjusted his glasses.
“It says, ‘Hello, Sweetie’.”
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