Under the Lake
Shades of blue, gold, purple, and red all swirled around me like a silent hurricane of colors. Peeking through the colorful mist were tiny pinpricks of light - stars - and planets of a million different sizes, all of them whizzing past me. Confused, I looked around and realized that I was floating. The mist had formed some kind of vortex around me and I hovered right in the middle of it, my arms and legs mere feet from brushing against the edges. A bolt of lightning shot across the vortex, narrowly missing my face and then-
I stirred, my ears ringing with the echo of a loud, shuddering wheeze. I was on the floor. How did that happen? I started to rub my eyes, but ended up knocking my knuckles against my glasses. I took them off, cleaned them with the corner of my shirt, and then slipped them back on. When I looked up, I expected to see my bedroom wall. Instead, I saw an enormous monster hovering in front of me with its serpentine face spread wide to show its gleaming fangs. I screamed and scrambled backwards on my hands until I ran into something.
I looked over my shoulder to see an overturned metal chair with an orange, plastic seat. “What the-?” I looked back at the monster and sighed in relief when I realized that the monster was just a mural. It wasn’t even real. But then I realized something else. I got to my feet and looked around in confusion.
Across the room, perpendicular to the mural, was an open doorway where two people skidded to a stop. One was a tall, thin woman with dark brown skin and short, silver hair shaved on the sides, like mine. A gold stud pierced her right nostril and she wore black trousers with a red lined coat. The second person was much shorter. She was pale and her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. And she looked incredibly familiar.
"Diana?" the two women exclaimed.
They both started towards me and I immediately backed away, stumbling over a chair leg and then bumping into a table. I suddenly recognized the younger woman as Clara Oswald. She and the older woman paused; they looked worriedly at me, then at each other.
“Diana?” the older woman asked with a Scottish accent. “What’s wrong?”
My voice trembled when I spoke. “Where am I?”
“We don’t know yet. We just got here,” Clara said. “We heard you scream. What happened?”
I glanced hesitantly at the mural, but didn’t allow my eyes to leave the two women for more than a second. The silver haired woman started towards me very slowly, but she stopped again when I backed away. She stared curiously at me and then a second later, her steel blue eyes widened. She stepped back and grabbed Clara’s hand as she whispered something in her ear. Clara shook her head, looking between her companion and myself.
“Is this a dream?”
Clara smiled, but her eyes were sad. “Diana-”
“Yes!” the other woman interjected. “Yes, it’s a dream.”
I furrowed my brows. “Then where’s the Doctor?” I questioned. The woman’s half smile disappeared and her shoulders dropped. “You are Clara, aren’t you?”
“Then where’s the Doctor?”
Clara’s wide, brown eyes locked on the semi wrinkled face of the woman at her side. She squeezed the woman’s hand and smiled again. ”She’s the Doctor,” Clara answered.
The more I looked at the strange woman, the more it made sense. She wore the Doctor’s iconic jacket and the golden ring he wore on his left hand. Her hair was much like his: curly and cut short, except for the shaved off parts on either side of her head. But she was a woman and her skin was much darker than his had ever been. Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve dreamt of a female Doctor, I reminded myself.
“You okay now?” Clara wondered.
“Um. Yeah,” I said with a nod.
“Good.” Clara dropped the woman’s hand - the Doctor - and started across the room. On the left side of the mural, a knife was stuck in the wall. She flicked the handle and it twanged. “Doctor, look at this.”
The Doctor looked around, her fidgeting hands clasped in front of her chest. “Well, Clara, looks like you got your wish,” she sighed.
I followed the Doctor’s example and turned to look at the rest of the room. We were in a cafeteria, but the tables were pushed into odd placements and several chairs had been overturned. Food had been haphazardly thrown across table tops and the floor, and some of the silverware seemed to have been thrown as well. Like the knife Clara had found, a handful of forks and other knives were stuck in other parts of the wall.
“Food fight?” Clara suggested.
“I think there was more to it than that. Whatever it was, it happened pretty recently.” I looked back at the Doctor as she twirled her finger in the contents of a cup. “Seven or eight hours ago. No bodies, though.”
Bodies? I brushed my hair out of my eyes, then froze as I noticed something different about the far wall. A chill ran up my spine as I spotted a fish swimming through the murky, dark teal water past the enormous windows. Is that the ocean? Please don’t be the ocean.
“Oh, yeah.” I turned my back to the windows so I wouldn’t see the endless mass of water that surrounded the building. Clara walked over to the Doctor with a grin. “You see, this is more like it.” She raised her hand and wiggled her eyebrows at the Doctor, waiting for the Time Lord - Lady - to high five her. “Oh, come on. Don’t leave me hanging.”
The Doctor rolled her eyes and left the room through the same doorway she and Clara had entered through. With a resigned sigh, Clara dropped her hand and started after her. She looked back at me as she stepped through the doorway. “Come on,” she urged before disappearing around the corner.
I glanced back at the windows and shivered at the sight, then hurried after the pair. Clara was waiting just outside the doorway and grabbed my hand. She pulled me down the corridor, around a few corners, and released me when she spotted the Doctor a few paces ahead of us. The Doctor looked back at us and smiled; she pointed down the corridor, where two men were kneeling in front of a wall.
“Look,” she whispered. “Crew! See? I knew this place hadn’t been abandoned.” The Doctor glanced back at me, but her expression seemed to fall flat when I quickly looked away. She whispered something to Clara and then started down the corridor.
“Hey.” Clara took my hand and laced her fingers with mine. Her fingers were thin and short, and the tips were cold against my skin. “Follow me.”
Still several feet ahead of us, the Doctor cleared her throat. “Hello, sailors!” The two men stood and when they turned around, I felt my blood run cold. They were almost translucent and their eyes were nothing more than empty, gaping black holes. Clara tightened her fingers around my hand. “Right, I did not expect that. Hands up, who expected that.”
The Doctor backed up, nearly stepping on my feet, but moved to the side at the last minute so she could stand beside me. She took my hand and I instinctively held it tighter. “Wait,” she said as the men approached us. “Don’t move. I don’t think they’re going to hurt us. I think that they’re just curious.”
One of the men stood as tall as the Doctor; he stared at her, lips moving soundlessly, as he tilted his head to the side as if he was inspecting her. The other man, a few inches shorter than the Doctor and still much taller than me, was staring at Clara. Suddenly, both men turned to look at me and leaned closer to my face.
“Are you sure?” Clara asked.
I could see the Doctor shrug from the corner of my eye. “Well, I mean, define sure.” She tried to move her head and grab their attention, but the men were focused solely on me. “Look at you lovely chaps. What’s happened to you, then?”
Then, as if a switch had been flipped, the men turned and walked away. I let out a breath; had I been holding it the entire time? The Doctor tugged on my hand and looked back at Clara and I, grinning excitedly. “Come on,” she murmured.
Clara rubbed her thumb across the back of my hand several times in quick succession. “What are they?”
The Doctor peeked around the corner. “I haven’t a clue. Isn’t that exciting?”
I shook my head firmly. As the Doctor led us down another corridor, I could feel my hands begin to shake. Ghosts were cool, but not when they were eye-less, murderous, and under water. Based on my experiences with nightmares and my knowledge of the episode this dream seemed to be based upon, I knew that I needed to wake up soon before it got any worse. No dream of Clara and a lady Doctor was worth ghosts going on a killing spree.
The Doctor pulled Clara and I through another doorway, which entered into a large hangar. “Where did they go?” Clara asked, dropping my hand to go ahead of us. On our right was a large, futuristic looking ship with what looked like plane engines attached to the side. “What is it, some kind of submarine?”
The Doctor shook her head as she guided me to the very back of the ship. “No, it’s alien,” she said. The entire back end of the ship was exposed, revealing the pure white interior and minimalistic design.
Clara spun around on her toes and looked between the Doctor and I. I glanced up at the Time Lady, who wiggled her eyebrows and started for the stairs leading into the ship. Clara followed her with a grin and an excited hop in her step. There was a large, white rectangle in the center of the shallow room and nothing else. The Doctor ran her hand along the edge of the object, her skin seemingly darker against the surface.
The dream’s only just starting, I told myself. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the sound of Clara’s heels on the floor of the ship. You’ve done this before, Diana. Just wake up. You can dream about pretty ladies another time when there aren’t creepy ghosts involved.
Normally when I managed to force myself out of a bad dream, I could feel my head spinning as I woke up. But when I opened my eyes, I was still in the large hangar and there was no spinning sensation in my head. The Doctor was still a woman and she was still inspecting the ship with Clara.
I closed my eyes again. Come on. Just wake up. I don’t want to be stuck under God knows how much water with scary ass ghosts! Wake up-
“Diana?” The Doctor’s Scottish accent drew me out of my thoughts. She was standing at the top of the stairs with Clara beside her, both of them staring wide eyed at me. “Don’t turn ’round.”
Of course, I immediately turned around and gasped when I spotted the two ghosts standing just a few paces away. I backed away as quickly as I could without tripping, my eyes glued to the ghosts who stared silently at us as they continued to mouth words that neither of us could understand. A hand rested on my shoulder and I jumped, looking up to see the Doctor standing at my side.
“Don’t panic,” she whispered to me. She glanced down at me and her smile was somehow reassuring. “Take my hand.” Her voice was low and serious. Once I wrapped my fingers around her hand, the Doctor looked back at the ghosts. “Hello there! Did you want to show us this? It’s very nice.”
The shorter ghost turned around and lifted an axe off of its hook on the wall. Clara inhaled sharply as she stood on the Doctor’s other side, her arms waving nervously. “Okay, they now appear to be arming themselves.”
The Doctor pushed me in the direction of a nearby exit. “Yes, I spotted that, too,” she said as she urged me forward. The other ghost grabbed what looked like a harpoon gun and began to approach us. I felt my heart pound against my ribcage as the ghosts rounded on us. The sound of the axehead dragging along the stone floor made my ears ring. “Was it something Clara said? She does that. She once had an argument with Gandhi!”
The axe swung through the air and the Doctor yanked Clara out of the way just in time. We all stumbled backwards, the Doctor continuously looking over her shoulder at the nearby exit. The taller ghost aimed his harpoon gun at us and without hesitating, I ripped my hand from the Doctor’s grasp and bolted for the exit. I could hear the Doctor calling my name, but I kept running and rounding corners to put as much distance between me and the ghosts as possible.
I stopped a minute later, breathing heavily as I leaned against the corridor wall. Clara and the Doctor caught up to me a few moments later. They pressed themselves against the wall on either side of me, the Doctor sparing a few quick glances around the doorway to see if the ghosts had followed us.
“Are they gone?” Clara whispered.
A hand appeared next to my head and I yelped I surprise as I stumbled to the other side of the corridor. Clara reached for my arm as she stepped away from the ghost casually walking through the metal wall. The Doctor grabbed Clara by the arm and pushed her to the side, out of the ghost’s way. I turned to flee, but skidded to a halt when I saw the other ghost emerge from the floor past an intersection.
Clara tugged on my arm. “Run!” she ordered.
We all turned right, down one of the other corridors that met at the intersection. The corridor ended several paces away at a large metal door, which suddenly opened to reveal a group of people behind it.
“In here!” a woman yelled. “Quick!”
Clara reached the door first, the Doctor just behind her. The Time Lady pulled me through the doorway by my arm and the door immediately slammed shut. I bent over slightly as I tried to catch my breath, while my companions looked through the round window in the door at the ghosts. I leaned against the curved wall of the room and let my breath start to even out. “What are you?” the Doctor whispered.
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?”
The man’s voice cut through the tense silence and I jumped. The Doctor turned away from the window and looked curiously at the man for a moment. Then she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her psychic paper. “This is Clara, Diana, and I’m the Doctor,” she said.
The occupants of the room were two women, both short and pale, and three men, two of which were dark skinned like the Doctor was. They all leaned forward to read the Doctor’s psychic paper and one of the men exclaimed, “You’re from UNIT!”
“Well, if that’s what it says,” the Doctor replied with a half smile.
The man with light blond hair gestured to himself and then to the man standing on his right. “I’m Pritchard, this is Bennett.”
Before he could continue however, a short woman suddenly leapt in front of the Doctor and grabbed her hand. “O’Donnell!” she exclaimed as she excitedly shook her hand. “Are you really the Doctor? I’m a huge fan!” She giggled and then, realizing that everyone was staring at her, cleared her throat and attempted a serious expression. “I mean, er, you know. Nice work.”
The third man waved his hand at the Doctor, grabbing her attention. “Tim Lunn, I sign for Cass,” he said.
“Tell me, what about those things out there?” the Doctor asked as she gestured behind her. “What are they? Why are they trying to kill us?”
“Well, they’re- uh, they’re ghosts,” Bennett stammered.
The Doctor flashed him an incredulous expression. “They’re not ghosts.”
The woman who stood beside Lunn began rapidly moving her hands in sign language. Lunn started to translate, but the Doctor cut him off. “Thank you, but I actually don’t need your help. I can speak sign.” She turned to Cass and signed as she spoke. “Go ahead.”
Cass looked startled for a moment, but then shook it off and began signing again. After just a few seconds, the Doctor shook her head. “No, no, actually, I can’t,” she sighed. “It’s been deleted for semaphore. Someone get me a selection of flags.”
“One of the ghosts is our previous commanding officer,” Lunn translated. “The other, um, moley guy - we don’t know what he is.”
The Doctor looked out the window at the taller ghost, who looked more like a Who from Whoville than a mole. “He’s from the planet Tivoli.”
“See? I told you he was an alien. Didn’t I say that?” Bennet asked as he began pacing around the room.
The Doctor hummed thoughtfully. “Weird thing is, they’re not violent. They’re too cowardly. They wouldn’t say boo to a goose. They’re more likely to give the goose their car keys and bank details. When did they first appear?”
“Did you see that spaceship in the hangar? Yeah, we found that on the lake bed and we’d just got it on board and one of the engines started up and then Moran got-.” O’Donnell halted mid sentence and she visibly swallowed her tears. When she finished, her voice was soft and low. “Moran was killed.”
Lunn began translating for Cass again. “Then they appeared and pretty much straight away started trying to kill us. So we grabbed what we could and we were looking for somewhere to hide, and that’s when we realized the ghosts couldn’t come in here.”
“What is this place?” Clara wondered, wrapping her hand around the Doctor’s elbow.
“It’s a Faraday cage,” she explained. “Completely impenetrable to radio waves and, apparently, whatever those things are out there.” I looked around the small, circular room and noticed the metal slates attached the the walls, which were likely what made the Faraday cage impenetrable. “So, who’s in charge now? I need to know who to ignore.”
“That would be me. Er, her,” Lunn corrected himself with a gesture to Cass.
The blond man spoke up again. “Actually, that would be me.” He reached into his shirt pocket and handed a yellow and black business card with his name and title written on it to the Doctor. “I represent Vector Petroleum. We’ve obtained the mining rights to the oil.”
“The oil?” Clara repeated. “What oil?”
“And where are we?” the Doctor added, flinging Pritchard’s business card onto the floor.
Bennett readjusted his glasses. “This used to be a military training site. There was a dam overlooking it, but the dam burst and the valley was submerged.”
“Then twenty years ago, we discovered a massive oil reservoir underneath it,“Pritchard said as he tucked the business card back into his pocket.
A low hum sounded in the cage and the lights suddenly brightened. A computerized voice began speaking from somewhere in the ceiling. “Good morning,” said the vaguely pleasant voice. “Entering day mode.”
O’Donnell smiled as Cass opened the door. “Okay, it’s morning,” the woman said with a sigh of relief. “We can go outside now.”
I peeked around the open door to find the lights brightly illuminating the outside walkways and no sign of the ghosts. Pritchard and O’Donnell left first, with Lunn trailing out slowly behind them.
“Uh, morning?” Clara said.
Bennett grabbed a towel off a hook on the wall and draped it over his shoulders. “Yeah, we’re too far below the surface for daylight, so we have to create artificial days and nights.”
The Doctor’s hands were restless and fidgety as she glanced outside. “I’d like to have a further look at that spaceship, but what about those things that aren’t ghosts?”
“Oh, it’s all right. They only come out at night.”
Clara looked back at the Doctor and tried to smile. “Weird how that is not comforting.”
The crew led us back to the hangar at the Doctor’s request. She remained at the front of the group with Pritchard and Bennett, trying to learn more about the ghosts and the base. Clara stayed back with me, not speaking but occasionally looking at me when she thought I couldn’t see her. Cass and Lunn trailed behind us at the very back of the group, signing quickly to each other, with O’Donnell right in front of them.
“You okay?” Clara whispered to me after a few minutes.
The Doctor happened to glance back at us then and I saw an unreadable flash of emotion in her eyes. She quickly looked away and continued talking with Pritchard. “Um, yeah, I guess,” I mumbled.
“It’s just, you’re really quiet.”
“I have a headache,” I lied.
She reached for my hand, but pulled away the moment our fingers touched. It was impossible not to notice the hurt and frustrated expression on Clara’s face. Had I done something wrong? Why does she keep grabbing my hand?
I swallowed a little nervously. “Why did you do that?”
“Do what?” she asked, not quite looking me in the eyes.
“Try to hold my hand?”
Clara shrugged and fiddled with one of her rings. “Instinct, I guess. We should catch up to the others. They’re getting a little ahead of us,” she said quickly.
Just ahead of the Doctor, a panel in the wall slid open to reveal the hangar and the alien ship inside. With her hands stuffed inside her trouser pockets, the Doctor raised her voice slightly while Clara and I quickened our pace. “If whatever they are-”
“They’re ghosts,” Pritchard said.
“They’re not ghosts - have been trying to kill you, why haven’t you abandoned the base?” she continued.
Pritchard waved his hand somewhat dismissively. “Oh, that was my call. We’ve got about a trillion dollars worth of mining equipment here.” The Doctor stopped walking then, making the rest of us pause as well. “We’re not just going to abandon it- What?” Pritchard asked, glancing curiously at the Doctor. “If it all goes pear-shaped, it’s not them that lose a bonus.”
Clara and I stood slightly behind the Doctor, but I could still see her face. I watched her approach Pritchard with a surprisingly calm expression. She patted him lightly on the arm and smiled sweetly. “It’s okay. I understand. You’re an idiot.” She brushed past him and started across the room, turning on her heels to face the rest of the group as we all trailed after her. “Come to mention it, why is there a Faraday cage on the base?”
“It’s the mining equipment,” Bennett explained. “It runs on nuclear fission. The Faraday cage has been lined with lead to act as a shelter in the event of a radiation leak.”
The Doctor’s gray, bushy eyebrows raised and her lips curled into a mischievous smile. “So, we are fighting an unknown homicidal force that has taken the form of your commanding officer and a cowardly alien, underwater, in a nuclear reactor. Anything else I should know? Someone got a peanut allergy, or something?”
She and Clara started inside the ship, excitement and curiosity written plainly across their faces. The Doctor was pacing across the front of the ship, staring at the floor and tapping the toe of her shoe against it. She mumbled something to herself, stroked her chin thoughtfully, and then crouched down to remove a panel from the floor. Glancing up at Clara with another unreadable expression, she started back down the steps.
“What’s happened to the stuff you’ve removed? This is for long haul flights. There should be a suspended animation chamber for the pilot right here,” she said, pointing to the floor just behind her. “Plus, one of the power cells is missing.”
“Power cell?” Pritchard repeated, hurrying up the steps.
The Doctor hummed. “You can see the casing is empty.”
The rest of the crew filed into the ship and grouped around the panel in the floor, everyone except for Cass and Lunn. They had stayed back and were signing rapidly to each other. I watched them for a few moments before giving up on trying to understand them. The Doctor and Clara were concentrated solely on the panel and the crew and whatever seemed to be missing from the ship.
“It’s not safe out here!” Lunn shout-whispered, making me and the others look towards him.
“What’s the matter?” Clara asked as she started down the stairs.
Gesturing to Cass in frustration, Lunn said, “She won’t let me look inside the spaceship. She says it’s not safe. I’m saying it’s not safe out here.”
“I imagine they’re pretty valuable,” Pritchard said.
The Doctor looked sharply at him. “What?”
“I-I mean powerful. Those power cells. I imagine they’re pretty powerful.”
The Doctor hummed and barely suppressed an eye roll. “Well, they can zap a vessel from one side of the galaxy to the other, so, you know, take a wild stab in the dark.”
“Then the missing one must still be out there.”
“Yes, well, otherwi- Sorry,” she said, looking at O’Donnell in exasperation, “why is this man still talking to me?”
Pritchard started down the stairs and stood off to the side, eyeing the others silently. The Doctor, O’Donnell, and Bennett exited the ship as Pritchard slipped away to the other side of the room. He glanced over his shoulder and our eyes met. He paused and I quickly looked away, crossing my arms over my chest. When I looked back at him a few seconds later, he had disappeared.
The Doctor moved to stand beside me with Clara just behind her. “So what have we got?” she asked, looking briefly at me with raised eyebrows and an almost-there smile. “Moran dies, and then those things appear. They can walk through walls. They only come out at night and they’re sort of see-through.”
Clara shook her head, watching the Time Lady pace. “Doctor, wait, you’re not saying…?”
“I might be.”
“Might I suggest we move to the bridge?” O’Donnell said, glancing between the Doctor and Clara. “We really should be checking the systems by now and we can get you more information on these things, whatever they are, there.”
“Could I ask,” Bennett said later on our way to the bridge, “why you’re wearing pajamas?”
I looked down at my baggy, oversized sleep shirt, patterned cotton pants, and socks. Usually I wore nightgowns or just a shirt and underwear to bed, but it had been cooler than normal the previous night. My stomach churned and I suddenly felt a little off. I stammered a few nonsense words in confusion, unsure of how to respond until Clara answered for me.
“Oh, she was just taking a nap when we got here. She didn’t really have time to change because we didn’t want to leave her alone in the TARDIS, but the Doctor knew something was wrong and we had to investigate.”
“Not even time to get shoes?” Bennett laughed.
I shrugged and attempted a smile. “I forgot,” I mumbled, hoping he would drop the question and leave.
We entered the bridge, a well lit room with more white walls and decorated with several control panels, a computer station, and a yellow tinted map displayed near the entrance. There was a large, white table in the center of the room with a few chairs on either side. Bennett and O’Donnell both pulled out a chair and sat down, Bennett’s rolling backwards slightly. Cass leaned up against the wall and Lunn moved to stand by the computer station on the far end of the room. Clara pulled out a chair for me and just as I sat down, the Doctor exclaimed, “They’re ghosts!”
She had been silent the entire time, ignoring everyone else even when they stared at her in confusion. She laughed and started towards Bennett, grabbing his hand and shaking it excitedly as she walked past him. “Yeah, ghosts,” she said.
Clara and I shared a look and she leaned one arm against the back of my chair. “You said there was no such thing,” she said. “You actually poo pooed the ghost theory.”
“Yes, well, well, there was no such thing as- as socks or smartphones and badgers until there suddenly were! Besides, what else could they be?” she countered, pacing around the entire perimeter of the room. “They’re not holograms, they’re not flesh avatars, they’re not autons, they’re not digital copies bouncing around the Nethersphere. No, these people are literally, actually, dead.” She paused for a moment and then leaned back against the table, shaking her head. ”Wow. This is- it’s amazing! I’ve never actually met a proper ghost!”
Cass began signing again, this time visibly upset. “Moran was our friend.”
Stepping around the table, Clara lightly tugged on the Doctor’s wrist. “The cards,” she whispered, just loud enough that I could barely hear her.
The Doctor frowned and then her eyebrows shot up. “Oh! Oh, right you are.” She hurried to the head of the table, next to me, and fumbled around in her coat pocket for something.
Clara sighed and stuck her hand in the Time Lady’s pocket, pulling out what looked like a stack of prompt cards. She shuffled through each of them until finally choosing one and handing the stack to the Doctor. The Doctor cleared her throat and looked seriously at the card. “I’m very sorry for your loss,” she began. “I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend slash family member slash pet.”
The crew all looked at each other, then back at the Doctor, and Clara just shook her head. She took the cards back and shoved them into her coat pocket, sighing with a resigned expression.
The Doctor looked at the crew and smiled. “But don’t you see what this means? Death! It was the one thing that unified every single living creature in the universe and now it’s gone. How can you just sit there? Don’t you want to go out there right now, wrestle them to the ground and ask them questions until your throat falls out? What’s death like? Does it hurt? Do you still get hungry? Do you miss being alive? Why can you only handle metal objects? Oh, I didn’t know I’d noticed that,” she mumbled, obviously surprised. “Okay, so they’ll try to kill you. Blah, blah, blah. What does that matter? You come back! A bit murder-y, sure, but even so!” She paused again, taking a deep breath and making a smoothing motion with her hand. “Calm, Doctor, calm. You were like this when you met Shirley Bassey.” She shook her head and the excitement passed slightly. “Okay. Question one. What is a ghost? Question two. What do they want?”
Suddenly, the lights overhead shut off and the room fell into darkness only illuminated by the pale yellow lights behind the map and stationed along the floors. O’Donnell jumped up and looked to the computer station.
“Good evening,” the overhead computer voice said. “Entering night mode.”
“That’s not right,” O’Donnell said, her hands flying across the keyboard as she checked the systems. “We’re switching back into night mode again. This can’t happen! No, no, no!”
A loud, echoing bell sounded in the distance and I half jumped out of my seat. Clara and the Doctor glanced at me, then the Doctor looked off into the distance as if she could see her ship through the walls. The cloister bell continued ringing, low and ominous as the lights seemed to flicker.
“The TARDIS,” the Doctor muttered.
“Doctor? Doctor!” Clara cried as the Time Lady ran off.
I leapt out of my chair and ran after the two women, the Doctor several paces ahead of us both as she darted through the base. We skidded to a halt when we reached an intersection, almost falling myself as my socks slipped on the floor, the Doctor already scrambling inside. The TARDIS loomed in front of us, reaching nearly double my height, and the light on top blinked slowly as I stared agape at her. A low hum sounded from inside the ship and Clara quickly hurried after the Doctor.
I stared spellbound at the ship instead, hardly believing my own eyes. I peeked through the door left ajar and felt my heart skip a beat or two. A metal walkway ran from the doors to the middle of the room, where an enormous console stretched from floor to ceiling. Metal railings encircled the entirety of the room on two separate levels, the top level decorated with bookcases, a leather chair, and a chalkboard.
“It must be the ghosts,” the Doctor said as she circled the console. I stepped onto the metal walkway and cautiously rested my hand on the railing. “That’s why she was upset when we got here.”
Clara waved her hand and smoke billowed around her face. “Why? I don’t understand.”
“It’s just what I was saying. You live and you die. That’s it. The ghosts are aberrations. A splinter of time in the skin. They’re unnatural.” Looking up at the spinning cogs attached to the ceiling, the Doctor said, “She wants to get away from them.”
“So, what do we do?”
Grabbing something on the console, the Doctor yanked her hand down and the cloister bell suddenly stopped. The engines that had been groaning seconds earlier faded away and the red lights switched to white. The door shut behind me and I jumped, eyeing the wooden panel suspiciously.
The Doctor furrowed her brows as she looked around. “Put the handbrake on.”
I stepped further down the walkway, my eyes flinching across every inch of the room. The smoke was quickly dissipating as I stepped onto the main platform, my toes curling when I felt grating instead of solid ground through my socks. The ship hummed softly when my fingers hesitantly brushed the console. Warmth spread from my fingers through my arm and settled in my belly and although I had been scared and confused before, those worries seemed suddenly less… worrying.
It was then that I noticed both Clara and the Doctor watching me. I quickly looked away and withdrew my hands so they were folded over my chest again. The Doctor approached me and leaned against the console, awkwardly scratching her chin. “Did you, er, did you want to change clothes?” she asked softly. “Maybe get some shoes?”
I glanced at my feet and nodded. “Yeah.”
She turned and pointed to a small set of stairs that led from the console platform to a lower level of the room. “There’s a doorway just down there. The TARDIS will show you where to go.”
Nodding in thanks, I hurried down the steps and through the doorway. There was a double hallway that led to the left and right with a wall directly in front of me. The lights laid into the walls of the left hallway flashed. Sparing the opposite hallway a glance, I started towards the lights. There was a closed doorway with a button at the end, only a few paces away, and as I approached the door I heard Clara start to speak.
“You’re distancing yourself,” she said, her voice drifting down the hallway.
“You picked up on that, did you?”
Clara sighed. “Look, it hurts me just as much as it hurts you. But she needs both of us, Theta, you know that.”
I moved so I was leaning against the wall with my head titled in the direction of the console room. “I thought I was ready,” the Doctor said softly and I strained to hear her properly. “I thought I could handle this. But the way she looks at me, like- like I’m not real-”
“Like you’re a dream.”
“I was thinking of… leaving earlier. Just leaving the base so I could show her, prove to her that it’s not a dream. This isn’t what I wanted her first memories to be of.”
“I know. But there’s nothing we can do to change that now. We’re here and I know you won’t actually leave. Not when all their lives are at stake.”
The TARDIS groaned then and I pushed off of the wall. The light above the doorway blinked and I quickly pressed the button, hurrying through as the door opened and closed with a low hiss. The ship had clearly directed me to the wardrobe. The room was about the size of a regular store with rows and rows of clothing hanging up on portable racks. There was a full-size mirror at the front of the room, held a few inches off the ground by a stand and a chair right next to it. A pair of jeans, a few shirts, and a skirt were folded on top of the cushion.
Something tells me these are going to fit, I thought with a smile. Luckily enough for me, I’d gone to bed with a sports bra and underwear the night before and didn’t have to worry about finding new undergarments. I quickly changed into the more comfortable looking shirt, a black v-neck, and considered the skirt. It was ankle length with diagonal black and white stripes, and didn’t require a belt like the jeans would. Comfortable and easy to run in. Skirt it is.
Placed against the wall behind me was a large case full of shelves with dozens of shoes. I opted for a pair of sandals that strapped behind my foot at my Achilles tendon and then headed back to the console room. As I rounded the corner, I froze mid-step and felt my jaw fall open as I spotted Clara and the Doctor hugging. The Doctor was leaning against the console, her arms loose around Clara’s hips and her lips pressed to Clara’s temple.
“What the hell?” I whispered.
Clara spotted me first, quickly pulling out the Doctor’s arms and walking around the console towards me as I stepped onto the platform. She smiled bashfully at me and tucked the longer strands of her bangs behind her ears. The Doctor completely avoided looking me in the eyes and fiddled with a few of the switches on the console.
“Hey,” Clara said. “You look nice.”
I smiled and adjusted my glasses, noticing that she’d taken off her leather jacket. “Thanks.”
“You ready to go?”
Starting for the doors with a spring in her step, Clara gestured to the Doctor with a wave of her hand. “Come on, then!”
The Doctor hurried after her, shaking her head. “Whoa! Ho, ho, ho, ho! Where do you think you’re going?”
Clara furrowed her brows in confusion. “Out there, where the action is.”
Scratching her head, the Doctor turned towards the console for a moment. “Look, you, er-”
“What? What is it?”
“This is my own fault,” the Time Lady sighed. “I like adventures as much as the next person. If the next person is a person who likes adventures. Even so, don’t- don’t go native.”
“What do you mean? I’m not.”
The Doctor gestured emptily. “Look, there’s a whole dimension in here, but there’s only room for one me.”
“Now wait a second. You just raved about ghosts like a kid who had too much sherbet! And besides, Di basically gets to be you two point O.” Clara protested.
“Oh, d’you know what you need? You need a hobby.”
Clara laughed and shook her head. “I really don’t.”
“Or even better, another person in our relationship.” I looked at the Doctor like she was insane. “Come on, you lot, you’re bananas about relationships! You’re always writing songs about them, or going to war, or getting tattooed.”
“That’s not how we work and you know it.”
“I know, but-”
“Doctor, I’m fine.”
The Doctor ran a hand through her hair and then looked down at her hands. “I just felt that I-I-I had to say something,” she stammered.
“I know.” Stepping forward, Clara smoothed her hands over the Doctor’s coat lapels. “And I appreciated it.”
“Because I’ve got a duty of care,” the Doctor continued, her eyes flitting across her companion’s face almost worriedly.
Clara smiled. “Which you take very seriously, I know.”
“So can I stop now?” the Doctor asked, looking physically uncomfortable as she continued speaking.
Nodding with a little laugh, Clara patted her hands on the Time Lady’s shoulders and stepped back. She opened the doors and stepped outside. The Doctor motioned towards the door, wordlessly offering for me to go before her. As we left the TARDIS, O’Donnell’s voice came over the speakers.
“Attention, all crew. The Drum has switched to night mode early so grab provisions and make your way to the Faraday cage.”
Clara looked to the Doctor and started chewing on her fingernails. “Shall we help them with provisions?”
“You can help with provisions. Diana and I will go back to the bridge.”
“Alright. See you in a bit then.”
She went off down one of the corridors to our right and the Doctor watched her for a few moments before starting down a different one. The walk to the bridge was perhaps one of the most painfully awkward few minutes of my entire life. I was still reeling from seeing the Doctor and Clara embrace so comfortably and freely, and from the realization that they were in a relationship. Was I was ‘one of those’ shippers who firmly believed they were in love? Absolutely, but actually seeing confirmation in a semi-realistic manner was more than a little confusing, dream or not.
O’Donnell hardly noticed us when we returned to the bridge. She was still focused on trying to get the base back into day mode, with no luck. I sat down at the table and swiveled the seat from side to side. The Doctor stood by the computer station, looking at the security camera relays as she leaned her shoulder against the wall.
“Have you spotted either of the ghosts yet?”
O’Donnell shook her head. “No. And they’ve done nothing, caused no incidents yet. I’m still waiting for everyone to finish reporting in.”
“Well, Clara should be in the mess hall by now to help with provisions.”
“Bennett’s in there, and Cass and Lunn are in the Faraday Cage.”
The Doctor hummed and looked back at the camera relays. “That just leaves Pritchard.”
Scooting her chair to a different station along the wall, O’Donnell began speaking into a microphone. “Pritchard, you are unaccounted for,” she said, her voice echoing throughout the base’s speakers. “Contact the bridge or get to the Faraday cage immediately.” She waited, checking the relays for any sign of him. “Pritchard, contact the bridge or get to the Faraday cage!” Leaning back in her seat, O’Donnell adjusted her cap. “No answer.”
“I don’t see him,” the Doctor said as she shoved her hands into her trouser pockets.
Bennett’s voice came through the speaker system by the microphone, crackling slightly. “O’Donnell, it’s okay. Pritchard’s in here.”
O’Donnell rolled her eyes and grabbed the mic. “Pritchard, you moron, grab your stuff. We’re locking down early.” Ending the transmission, O’Donnell rolled back to the computer station. “In case I can’t get this back into day mode,” she said to the Doctor.
Just a few seconds later, Bennett’s voice came over the speaker again. “Man overboard. Man overboard! We need a rescue team in the water now!”
“Bennett, wait!” said Clara. “Look. It’s Pritchard.”
The Doctor shot past me like a rocket, practically sprinting through the doorway. I turned towards the relays and saw her running across a few different screens. She burst into the mess hall and skidded to a halt a few paces in front of Clara and Bennet. Cass and Lunn came into view then, standing just behind the Doctor. They were all looking in the direction of the camera, but I couldn’t see what it was that had them so spooked. Then Pritchard’s ghost stepped into view.
O’Donnell tapped rapidly at the control panel, muttering to herself. “Come on, come on.” I glanced back at the relay and saw the group start to back away slowly as Pritchard’s ghost lifted a chair into the air. “Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on.”
The nighttime lights faded into daytime lights and Pritchard vanished, the chair clattering to the floor immediately. The computer announced day mode and I let out a breath I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding. O’Donnell groaned and fell forward, her elbows braced against the table as she let her face fall into her hands.
“You okay?” I asked.
She took a deep breath and smiled a little shakily at me. “These ghosts are gonna be the death of me,” she grumbled.
Once the group returned and verified that no one else was hurt, the Doctor had O’Donnell play back the security footage to find out what happened to Pritchard. When he had left the ship earlier, he had apparently gone diving to look for the missing power cell the Doctor had mentioned. But when he returned to the base, the ghosts trapped him inside the airlock and drowned him. I had to look away when the chamber flooded with water.
“They’re working out how to use the base against us,” the Doctor said after O’Donnell ended the footage. “Altering the time settings so they can go about uninhibited, opening the airlocks. They’re learning.”
Clara nodded. “And now there’s three of them.”
Bennett cleaned his glasses on the corner of his shirt. “Cass, what do we do?”
She thought for a moment. “We abandon the base,” Lunn said for her while she signed. “Topside can send down a whole team of marines or ghost-busters or whatever.”
The Doctor shook her head. “Wait, wait-”
Cass rounded on her and signed angrily in her face. “I can’t force you to leave, so you can stay and do the whole cabin in the woods thing and get killed or drowned if you want. But my first priority is to protect my crew.”
Backing away with a single nod of acknowledgment, the Doctor walked over to the computer station to stand next to Clara. They whispered something to one another, but I couldn’t be bothered to strain my ears to listen.
Cass continued signing, this time directed at O’Donnell. “O’Donnell, contact Topside. Tell them we’re abandoning the base on my orders,” Lunn said.
On the right side of the computer station was a telephone on a pedestal. She picked up the phone and pushed a button on the pedestal. “Topside, Topside, this is Lance Corporal Alice O’Donnell from Drum Control. Over.”
Topside’s reply played out over the speakers. “Drum Control, this is Topside. We have received your message. Submarine on its way. Over.”
“Repeat, Topside. Over.”
“We’ve received your request for a rescue sub. It’s two minutes away. Over.”
O’Donnell shook her head. “Topside, who did you speak to and when was this request made? Over.”
“Drum Control, it was in Morse code and arrived maybe half an hour ago. Said it was urgent, comms were down, two crew members critically ill, full paramedic team requested. Over.”
Snatching the phone out of O’Donnell’s hand, the Doctor said, “Topside, this is the Doctor, UNIT security visa seven one zero apple zero zero. You may be familiar with my work. Call back the sub.”
A brief pause. “Doctor, why would-”
“Call it back!” she snapped. “We have a hazardous and undefined contagion on board. This base is now under quarantine.”
“What did you do that for?” Bennett asked after the Doctor replaced the phone.
“Well, none of us sent the message, did we? So that means that the ghosts sent it, which means they want that crew down here.”
“Why would they do that?” Lunn said for Cass.
The Doctor shrugged. “Well, I don’t know, but I’m pretty certain it’s not so they can all form a boy band. Okay,” she said. “We solve this on our own. The ghosts can only come out at night so they change the base’s time settings. Why? What’s different at night?”
“It’s mainly atmospheric. The lights are dim, the noise from the engines is muffled,” O’Donnell said.
The Time Lady shook her head. “No. Something else, something else.”
Cass gasped. “The diagnostic sweep. When the systems are checked, that stops at night to save power.”
“What systems specifically?”
“Life support, the locks. They’re electromagnetic. They have to be secured in case of flooding, so throughout the day, they’re checked, one by one, every few seconds,” O’Donnell added.
“The answer is in there somewhere, I can smell it.” The Doctor smiled. “O’Donnell, excellent work returning the base to day mode.”
She blushed and smiled giddily. “Shut up. It was nothing. You- You really think so?”
“Mm. Now put it back into night mode.”
Her smile dropped immediately. ”What?"
“We know nothing!” the Doctor exclaimed. “We don’t know what they want. That’s what’s getting us killed. Well, I won’t run. Not any more. So, O’Donnell, kindly put the base back into night mode. We want to know what these ghosts are after? We ask them. We’re going to do the impossible. We’re going to capture a ghost.”
The speakers sounded again with computer’s greeting: “Good evening. Entering night mode.”
Cass and I stood behind O’Donnell at the computer station, anxiously watching the relays. Bennett nervously stepped into the mess hall and I could see him visibly shrink away as he saw the three ghosts. He waved at them and then scrambled down the adjoining corridor, terror written plainly across his face.
“Bennett’s got them moving and Clara’s in position,” O’Donnell said.
The Doctor was at the opposite end of the room by the door, focused on the base map. “Clara, Bennett is going to run across the top of the T-junction to your right in about ten seconds. Draw the ghosts towards you. Turn right, and then take second left.”
On the relays, I could see Bennett as he ran out of view of one camera and into view of another with the ghosts just behind him. Clara jumped out from her hiding spot as Bennett ran past, shouting and waving at the ghosts to get their attention. They turned towards her and then advanced as she spun around and started running.
The Doctor had come up behind me while Clara did her part, watching the cameras. “Lunn, they’re coming your way,” she said as she went back to the map. “Clara’s going to duck down to her left. You’ve got to keep the ghosts going on the same route they’re on now. Then after about fifty yards on your left, there is a flood door. O’Donnell will close the door once you’re through.”
She paused, seemingly waiting for Lunn’s response. She looked back at the cameras and put a hand to her headset. “Lunn, don’t let them see where you go.”
All four of us watched with baited breath as Lunn distracted the ghosts, hoping divert them so Clara could get to safety. But instead of all three ghosts advancing on Lunn, only one of them did while the other two went after Clara.
“They’ve separated,” O’Donnell said worriedly. “Moran and the mole guy are going after Clara.”
“Clara, look out. Two ghosts are still on your case. Right behind you!” O’Donnell said into her own headset.
The Doctor went back to the map and ran her finger along the corridors. “Clara, there’s a flood door at the end of the corridor, around the corner to your right. We’ll close it from here.” She looked back at the cameras. “Listen to me. You’ve got to get through that door before Moran and the other ghost sees you.”
Once Clara had gotten past the flood door, the Doctor gave O’Donnell the signal and the door was shut. The Doctor confirmed that she was safe before checking in on Lunn. Then, at her order, O’Donnell shut the second flood door and Lunn was out of range of the camera.
Cass and I couldn’t hear anything that the others were saying since we didn’t have headsets, but we could tell something was wrong when the Doctor’s face grew more serious than usual. Cass touched my arm and asked what was going on, looking worriedly between me, the Doctor, and the relays.
“Doctor? What’s wrong?” I said. “What happened?”
“It saw him.”
The relay focused on Lunn showed Pritchard’s ghost stepping through the flood door and into the chamber.
“We don’t have a camera in there,” O’Donnell said, shooting the Doctor a worried expression.
Cass, who had been reading everyone’s lips to understand what was happening, shot towards the door only to have the Doctor block her. Cass groaned in frustration and paced back to the computer station, chewing nervously on her thumbnail as she watched the relay.
“Lunn, can you hear me?” the Doctor said into the headset. “Can you hear me? Lunn, what’s happening?” She repeated herself over and over, clutching the headset as she stared at the relay in hopes of seeing something. Pritchard’s ghost exited the chamber, melting through the door and then striding down the corridor. “Lunn? Lunn? Can you hear me?”
Both O’Donnell and the Doctor let out a breath a moment later, and the Doctor ran a hand through her hair. O’Donnell got up and smiled reassuringly at Cass, placing her hands on her shoulders. “Cass, he’s alive,” she said.
“What’s wrong with you?” the Doctor said, making me turn at look at her incredulously. “Why didn’t it hurt you? Never mind, we’ll worry about that later. Bennett, you’re on again. Bennett, where are you?”
We all let out a collective sigh when we spotted Bennett on the relay, caught in his hiding place with all three ghosts just around the corner.
The Doctor leaned against the back of O’Donnell’s empty chair. “Bennett, can you hear me? There are two ghosts just around the corner from you.” She frowned. “The Faraday cage is across the intersection and down the corridor to your right. This last bit is down to you.”
On screen, Bennett dodged across the intersection and down another corridor. The ghosts spotted him and followed, easily catching up to him despite the fact that he was running at full speed. He ran down two more corridors, rounding a corner and finding himself at the Faraday cage just as planned. The cage door was opened and stepping into the doorway, a hologram of Clara appeared. The ghosts seemed to move even faster and strode into the cage, walking directly through the hologram.
The Doctor appeared on the relay and I looked over my shoulder, only realizing then that she had left. Back on the relay, the door quickly slammed shut behind the ghosts and as the Doctor ran up to the cage whilst fidgeting with her sonic sunglasses. The hologram disappeared with a wave of static. A cacophony of footsteps sounded by the door, and Cass, O’Donnell, and I turned to see the others running through the doorway.
Cass immediately pulled Lunn into a hug, while Bennett, who very clearly wanted to hug O’Donnell, just waved a little awkwardly at the other woman and let her playfully punch him in the arm. “Oh, I’m fine, by the way,” Clara said, leaning against the table as she caught her breath. “Just in case any of you were worried.”
“Sonic glasses Wi-Fi locked in,” said O’Donnell. “On screen B2.”
Clara and I turned. Cass was standing next to O’Donnell, staring at the relay that showed the Faraday cage. She signed something and shook her head. “She says she can’t see them properly,” Lunn said. “The glass is too thick and they’re too far away.”
The Doctor apparently said something because O’Donnell and Clara began protesting. “What?”
“Doctor, you can’t go in there, they will kill you!” Clara practically shouted.
I grabbed Clara by the hand. “What did she say? What’s going on?”
Clara shook her head in frustration. “She wants to go into the cage since Cass can’t see them well enough. But it’s too dangerous-” She paused, seemingly to listen to the Doctor. “O’Donnell, unlock the door.”
“You’re letting her in?” I asked.
“It’s the only way.”
Back on the screen, I could see the Doctor standing just inside the cage. The tall, dark skinned ghost, Moran’s ghost, stepped forward and thrust a hand inside the Doctor’s chest. She flinched and started to fall backwards until she suddenly stood upright again and began speaking. I still couldn’t hear what she was saying, so I looked to Clara and asked what was happening.
She adjusted the headset and squinted at the relay. “I don’t think she’s hurt. She was just being melodramatic, as usual.”
Lunn began speaking for Cass again. “She says they’re saying the same thing- the same phrase over and over. They’re saying: the dark, the score- no, the sword, the… for sale? No, the forsaken! The temple. Yes, she’s sure. The dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple.” Lunn looked up at the screen, where the Doctor was pulling a confused expression. “Just that. Over and over.”
A few moments later, Bennett started rushing around the room. I shot Clara a look and she sighed, pulling the headset off and then running a hand over her face. “The Doctor said she needed maps for… something.”
“Apparently she know what the ghosts are saying, why they’re saying it.”
“And why’s that?”
“Well, she’s keeping us in suspense.”
“As usual,” I guessed, managing a smile and a genuine laugh.
Clara nodded, but her smile faltered for a second and her eyes flickered to mine. “Aren’t you supposed to know what’s going to happen?” she wondered. “Or at least have an idea, even though things are different?”
Her question caught me off guard. “Am I?” When she nodded, I shrugged and leaned back against the edge of the table. “Well that’s dream logic for you.”
“Don’t you remember what’s going to happen?”
I furrowed my brows, trying to recall details of the episode and what was supposed to happen next, and although I remembered, there was a fogginess in my brain that made it difficult to sort through each thought. “I, um, I remember some of it,” I told her, adjusting my glasses so they were perfectly balanced on the bridge of my nose. “But it’s hard to process. My head feels kinda foggy.”
“Are you okay? Does your head hurt?” she asked.
“No, I’m- I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m a total baby about pain, Clara. If my head was hurting, you’d know,” I said.
She hummed thoughtfully and smiled, but the worry didn’t leave her eyes. “Okay, well, just take it easy. Why don’t you sit down? Do you want some water?”
“Clara, I’m fine. You don’t have to mother me.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I just- I worry about you, okay? The Doctor, too, she just isn’t very good at expressing her feelings. That and she’s possibly more stubborn than I am.”
“That’s saying something,” I teased, daring to nudge her arm with my elbow.
“Shut up,” she laughed. “Just for that, I’m going to mother you for the rest of the day.”
The Doctor returned soon after, digging through her coat pockets frantically. Bennett had laid out some of the physical maps on the table and started up a screen in the center with a few more maps displayed there. The Doctor started pulling things out of her pockets; first a handkerchief and a yoyo, then an apple, a ping pong ball, a black cell phone, a handful of hair ties, a knobby stress ball, a guitar pick, and a spoon. She poured over the maps, fingers tracing marked lines and paths of solar systems and star charts, and I couldn’t help but notice the gold ring on her left hand. Clara moved to sit down on the opposite end of the table, out of the Doctor’s way, and I followed. We stayed sitting for a few minutes, Clara and I absently fiddling with whatever was within our reach, while the others chatted softly with each other. The Doctor remained focused on the maps, occasionally muttering to herself, until she cried out.
Clara stood up. “Doctor?”
“The words. They’re coordinates.”
“How can they be coordinates?” Bennett asked.
“The dark? Space. I figured that one out in a snap. So, whoever’s following the coordinates knows they’re going to another planet. The sword?” She picked up the apple and handed it to Bennett, then moved him so he was standing near the computer station. Then she moved O’Donnell in front of him, handing her the knobby stress ball. She waved Clara over and handed her the ping pong ball, then moved her in front of the others. She picked up the yoyo and looked over at me. “Diana, come here. Hold this.”
She directed me in front of Clara and pushed the yoyo into my hand, then had all four of us hold our arms at a specific angle so the objects formed a diagonal line.
“Orion’s sword. The sword, the three stars - although one isn’t actually a star but the Orion Nebula - hanging down from Orion’s belt. But if viewed from back here,” the Doctor said, hurrying behind us to the computer station, “the Earth, which is Diana in this case, becomes the fourth bit of the sword. So, narrowed it down to a planet now. Getting closer.”
She returned and took the items back, placing them haphazardly on the table. Turning around, she leaned back against the table to watch us. “The forsaken. The forsaken or abandoned or empty town. See? It’s a location, beaming out to someone or something across the universe, over and over. And every time they kill one of us-”
“It strengthens the signal!” Clara realized. “Another ghost, another transmitter.”
“Which is why they sent for that rescue sub,” O’Donnell added.
The Doctor nodded. “Get more people down here, kill them, make even more ghosts to beam out the coordinates.”
“But why are they beaming out the coordinates?” Cass signed. “Is it a distress call?”
“It could be. Or a warning. Might even be a call to arms. It could mean, ‘Come here, they’re vulnerable, help yourself-.’ Wait a minute,” the Time Lady said. “Wait a min-u-et. Do you know what this means? It means that they’re not a natural phenomenon. It means that someone is deliberately getting people killed, hijacking their souls and turning them into transmitters.”
O’Donnell crossed her arms over her chest. “But what do the coordinates lead to, though? To us? To the ghosts? What?”
The Doctor snapped her fingers and pointed at her. “Ah! What the coordinates are for. That is part of the answer to the other question you’re all thinking.” She glanced expectantly at each of us, a hopeful and excited look on her face. But when none of us said anything or offered an answer, her smile dropped. “Really? Come on. None of you? Surely just being around me makes you cleverer by osmosis? What. Is. The other. Question?”
“The temple,” Lunn said for Cass. “The fourth part of the directions. What’s the temple?”
"Finally,” the Doctor groaned. “It’s like pulling teeth. This is the flooded military town,” she said, pointing to one of the maps. “Shops, houses, town square, and this.”
Clara leaned over to look at it. “A church?”
“Whatever the coordinates are for, it’s in that church. Find that and you’re a hop, skip and a jump to stopping them.”
“Wait, you’re not actually suggesting that? But we’re safe now,” Bennett snapped. “The ghosts are in the cage. We can get out of here.”
The Doctor set her jaw. “No one has to stay. In fact, I would prefer it if you went. You’ll all get in the way and ask ridiculous questions. But, you know, you have chosen to protect and serve,” she said, gesturing to Cass, Lunn, and O’Donnell. She turned to Bennett. “You have given yourself to science and the pursuit of knowledge. None of you have chosen anonymous or selfish lives. You go and a part of you will always wonder, ‘What would have happened if I’d stayed? How could I have helped? What would I have learned?’ I want you to go. But you should know what it is that you’re leaving.”
The others all looked at each other. They were all silent until Cass began signing with a resigned expression. Lunn raised his eyebrows at her and she nodded, gesturing for him to translate for her. “Cass says we should go, but everything that happens here is her responsibility now, so she’s going to stay. So,” he said, exhaling heavily, “I guess I should too.”
“Well, count me in,” O’Donnell chimed. “Who wants to live forever anyway?”
“Sorry. Um, have you gone insane? We can go home.” He looked at O’Donnell and she shrugged and giggled. His face softened and the corners of his lips turned up. “They’re ghosts, though. How can they be ghosts? Well, at least if I die, you know I really will come back and haunt you all.”
Since the ghosts had already killed Pritchard after he went diving for the power cell, sending anyone else out to dive for the church was out of the question. Bennett suggested using one of the drone submarines the base had so that no one would be in danger. And transporting anything they might find or need back to the base would be easy since the drone was capable of hauling tons of weight.
But while the crew began planning to send the sub out, Clara pulled the Doctor outside and began speaking to her. I stayed by the table, unable to help anyone with the sub and too awkward to join the pair that had slipped away since it was obviously a private conversation. I grabbed the yoyo off the table and fiddled with the loose end of the string, glancing occasionally at the Doctor and Clara through the window. Whether she noticed me or not, I could very obviously see the Doctor looking at me every now and then. I tried to strain my ears and hear them, but Clara kept her voice low and the others were talking loud enough that it was of no use.
I replaced the yoyo and noticed that the Doctor had left her sonic sunglasses on the table. Making sure the Doctor wasn’t looking my way, I slipped my glasses off and replaced them with the sonic ones. At first my vision was slightly fuzzy, as it usually was when I didn’t wear my glasses, but then the lenses went static and my vision turned crystal clear. Everything was a shade darker since they were still sunglasses, but otherwise they seemed perfectly normal. That is, until I pressed my finger against the bridge to push them up after they slid slightly. The glasses buzzed and the light fixture above the Doctor and Clara sparked, then fizzled out.
Immediately, the Doctor’s eyes fixated on me through the window and I felt my face grow hot with embarrassment. She hurried back inside and I yanked the shades off so quickly that they caught on the piercing at the top of my ear, making me wince. The Doctor took them out of my hands before I could put them back on the table.
“What did you do?” she asked. Her tone was low and stern, but not angry.
“I-I just pushed them back up because they fell. I’m sorry, I was just curious.”
She slipped them on and went back outside, looking up at the fixture while she adjusted the glasses. Clara put a hand on my arm, but I pulled away and walked to the other side of the table, sitting down at the chair farthest away from everyone else. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t even look anyone in the eyes. Unfortunately, I realized only after I sat down that my glasses were still on the opposite end of the table and I’d have to walk back around to get them.
I crossed my arms over my chest and spun the chair around so my back was turned to the others. My cheeks felt like they were on fire and I pressed my fingers to my skin in the hopes of cooling off.
“Here.” A dark hand came into view in the corner of my eye, my glasses held delicately in the Doctor’s long, thin fingers. I took them without looking any higher and slipped them on. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I, er, I know how much you hate it.”
" ’s fine,” I mumbled.
“How’s your head?”
“My head?” I briefly glanced over my shoulder.
“Clara said you were having trouble remembering things?”
“No, I can remember things fine. It’s just understanding them is hard.” I looked down at the Doctor’s shoes. “Which, I realize now, isn’t a good sign.”
“It’s probably just a side effect. You should be fine soon.”
“A side effect of what?”
The Doctor scratched her chin. “Well-” A call from Bennett made her stop. He explained that O’Donnell had released the sub and was on her way back, so they would start the search for the church when she returned. The Doctor looked back at me, visibly agitated, and started fiddling with her ring. “I don’t have the time to properly tell you what’s going on and this certainly isn’t the right time to do it. But I’ll explain everything later, I promise.”
“What do you mean? What are you even talking about?”
“I’m just sorry that this didn’t happen another way, an easier way.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Doctor, what-? I don’t understand.”
She bowed her head and traced a finger over the ring. “I know. And I’m sorry.”
“Doctor,” O’Donnell called as she entered the room, “we’re ready when you are.”
The Doctor looked seriously at me. “Just… Just stay close to me and Clara, alright?”
“Why- Doctor, wait.” I reached out to grab the Time Lady by her sleeve, but she was already dodging the table and halfway to the computer station. Groaning in frustration, I trailed after her.
“Hey,” Clara said, catching me by the arm as we passed, “you okay? She didn’t say anything mean to you, did she?”
“No, she’s just being incredibly cryptic and weird. Which I really shouldn’t be surprised by,” I grumbled.
"Shh,” the Doctor hissed, waving at us half heartedly as she looked up at the camera relays.
Bennett stood to the side of the computer station with what looked like a virtual reality headset strapped around his head. He had both of his arms extended in front of him with tiny sensors strapped to his fingers, the wires all connecting to the headset. “Okay, the sub is approaching the town square,” he said. “Which way is the church?”
O’Donnell checked the clipboard she was holding where she had scribbled something. “Northwest, one hundred and fifty yards. That’s it. Starboard two degrees.”
Clara leaned up against O’Donnell’s chair. “What are we looking for, exactly?”
The Doctor squinted at the relays. “Something that has the power to raise the dead and turn them into transmitters. I expect we’ll know it when we see it.”
“Wait!” Bennett exclaimed. “I think I’ve found the church.”
The Doctor nodded. “That’s it, keep going.” It was difficult to see much of anything through the murky water and the animals swimming by, but something bright and white was caught in the sub’s lights. “Wait. What’s that? Move closer.”
“It’s the suspended-animation chamber from the spaceship,” the Doctor said as she circled the object, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind her.
Clara started fiddling with her thumb ring. Does everyone just fiddle with their rings then, or am I missing something? I wondered. “So the pilot could be in there?”
“There’s something inside there. But it’s deadlock sealed. I can’t open it.” The Doctor frowned as she ran a hand over the surface. “It should be the pilot, it should be. So why do I think it isn’t? More questions. Everything I solve, just more questions. I have to go back to the beginning. We arrive, we see the ghosts. They don’t kill us. They lead us here, they show us the spaceship. Then they try to kill us.” She looked back at the ship, looming emptily behind us. She hurried up the steps to stare at the words carved into the wall. “Not translated by the TARDIS. Why?” Cleaning her sonic shades on her handkerchief, the Doctor slipped them on and leaned in closer to the wall. “Lunn, translate for me,” she said after returning to the group. “Whenever I step outside, you are the smartest person in the room. So tell me: what’s weird about this? I know that it’s all bonkers, but when you think about it, one thing keeps snagging in your mind. What is it?”
“The markings on the inside of the spaceship,” Lunn translated, clearly finding her comment more than a bit weird.
“The markings on the inside of the spaceship! Yes! Why?”
Cass frowned. “I don’t think they’re just words.”
“They’re not. They’re magnets.”
“Magnets?” Bennett echoed.
“Well, a localized and manufactured electromagnetic field, to be precise.” Well that means absolutely nothing to me, I thought. “The dark. The sword. The forsaken. The temple. When we heard the coordinates for the first time, did anyone expect them not to be that? No? Exactly. Me neither. It’s like we already knew, somehow. Like the words were already in us.”
As the Doctor explained her reasoning, I could feel the fog start to clear. Everything she said was making sense and the instant she said it, I felt the memories click inside my head, but I couldn’t catch up to her. Every detail, every memory of what she would say or what was about to happen was just out of reach.
“Everything we see or experience shapes us in some way. But these words actually rewrite the synaptic connections in your brain. They literally change the way you are wired. Clara, why don’t I have a radio in the TARDIS?”
“You took it apart and used the pieces to make a clockwork squirrel.”
The Doctor rolled her eyes. “Yes, and because whatever song I heard first thing in the morning, I was stuck with. Two weeks of Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre. I was begging for the brush of Death’s merciful hand. But don’t you see? These words are an earworm. A song you can’t stop humming, even after you die.”
Clara nodded. “Okay. So, the spaceship lands here. The pilot leaves the writing on the wall so whoever sees it, when they die, they become a beacon of the coordinates, while he slash she slash they slash it snoozes in the suspended-animation chamber-”
“Waiting for his slash her slash theirs slash its mates to pick the message up,” the Doctor interjected. “My God.”
Nearly scaring me to death, a loud alarm began blaring throughout the base, loud enough that I almost had to cover my ears. “Attention, all crew,” the computer said over the speakers. “Evacuate base immediately. Emergency protocols have been initiated. This safety message was brought to you by Vector Petroleum. Fuel for our futures.”
O’Donnell sprinted across the room where a large screen was propped against the wall. Flashing in big, red letters were the words ‘FLOODING INITIATED. REACTOR MALFUNCTION. EMERGENCY COOLING.’ “Oh, no!” she cried. “The ghosts tampering with the day-night settings caused a computer malfunction. I-Its first priority is to keep the reactor cool, so it’s opening the hull doors and it’s flooding the base.”
Cass began signing rapidly. “Cass says, close the internal flood doors. That’ll contain the water in the central corridor,” Lunn said.
“Where’s the TARDIS?” Clara asked.
O’Donnell pointed somewhere on the base map after following Cass’ orders. “On the other side.”
“We need to get there,” the Doctor said. “It’s our only way out.”
“Okay, we’ve got thirty seconds before the flood doors close.”
The Doctor grabbed my hand and bolted before I could even process where we were headed. O’Donnell led us through the corridors with Bennett, the Doctor, and myself right behind her and Clara, Cass, and Lunn behind us. I could hear Clara shouting, but I didn’t bother listening. All I cared about was getting to safety and not falling behind and drowning.
As we turned a corner and dashed across a corridor, I felt water splashing on my legs. My feet stuttered and I stumbled for a moment. Something pushed me from behind and I fell forward, nearly tripping. Multiple voices were shouting, some of them saying my name, and I was tugged forward into a dry corridor by O’Donnell.
“Doctor!” Clara yelled.
Across the flooding corridor, the flood door had shut and trapped Clara, Cass, and Lunn behind it. The Doctor looked back towards me as our flood door began to shut. She dove forward, under the door and landed hard on her front.
“Doctor!” I scrambled forward to help her up.
She got to her feet and pressed her hands against the door, gazing through the glass window at Clara. Beside the door was another screen and she pressed a few buttons, activating an intercom to Clara’s side. “I’ll get you and the others out. Sit tight. I’ll come back for you,” she said breathlessly.
I looked over the Doctor’s shoulder to see Clara peking through her own window, the water level rising quickly. “Just come over here in the TARDIS now.”
The Doctor shook her head. “The TARDIS won’t go there. It won’t go near the ghosts.”
“You can’t just leave us!”
“I’m not! Clara, listen to me. I’m going back in time to when this spaceship landed. If I can understand why this is happening, I can stop them killing anyone else. I-I can save you. You trust me, don’t you, Clara?”
The water stretched above the windows now, but I could still see a wavy, unclear vision of her and the others. She nodded and the Doctor sighed heavily. She bowed her head and stepped back, letting her hand fall. Then, swallowing and and setting her jaw, the Doctor turned and marched down the corridor.
“Wait, you’re going to go back in time?” Bennett said as we hurried to keep up with the Time Lady. “How do you do that?”
The TARDIS hummed as we stepped inside a minute later. We filed into the console room one by one and the moment my hands touched the console, I felt the same warm, soothing sensation as before. My rapidly beating heart calmed and I took a deep breath. The Doctor typed something into a keyboard on the opposite end of the console and then flipped a switch.
“Yes, I know. We don’t have time for that right now,” the Doctor said flippantly. She pointed to the lower level. “Go through that doorway, to your left, and open the door at the end. Grab coats, scarves, hats, whatever you need. It’ll be cold where we’re going.”
Bennet and O’Donnell gaped at the TARDIS for a moment before O’Donnell took him by the hand and excitedly guided him into the hallway. The Doctor glanced at me, eyebrows raised. “You should change into something warmer,” she suggested.
“Clara’s going to be okay,” I blurted.
Her remarkably pale eyes darted back to mine. “Do you know that?”
“I remember it.”
“Can you remember things easier now?”
“I don’t know. Not really, but I know she’ll be okay. I can… feel it.”
The Doctor managed to smile, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She focused on the console again and continued typing. “Go change, Diana. I can’t have you freezing to death in your wet clothes.”
As I started down the steps, I turned to see the Doctor bent over the console with her face in her hands. She sighed, probably for the hundredth time that day, and then straightened to her full height. The TARDIS hummed again and the lights in the console room dimmed slightly. The Doctor rested a hand on the console. “I know, old girl. I know.”