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Blink of an Eye - Chapter 7

Posted on 2005.07.06 at 12:17
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: War of the Worlds (all of it) - Jeff Wayne
Long overdue, the latest instalment of Blink of an Eye is now given below. Just to explain to the unititiated why the delay:

Back in 1991 I edited a fanzine called "Apocrypha", and for my sins I invented a character called Pengallia, The Silver Queen. Pengallia was explicitly the first female President of the Time Lords who, according to legend, attempted to impose herself as Empress of the Gallifreyan Empire. Ultimately, the High Council betrayed her and her final fate was ambiguous.

In his book The Infinity Doctors, Lance Parkin made the first "official" mention of Pengallia as a passing nod, so I was obviously pleased that my creation had appeared in an official Doctor Who story.

Then, about a year or so ago, I was persuaded to write a Romana Rite-of-Passage story set between the Armageddon Factor and Destiny of the Daleks. At the heart of this I placed Pengallia, linking her to Romana in much the same way as Marc Platt had linked the Other to the Doctor.

Several chapters in, news reached me that the Gallifrey audios were treading similar ground. The backstory was the same as that I had created for Pengallia back in 1991, but the name was different: she had become Pandora. During the first CD of the second Gallifrey series it became apparent that Pandora was, just like Pengallia, being put forward as a genetic ancestor to the first Romana.

Oh dear.

Now although some of my buddies ranted and raved about plagiarism and how unfair this was, I have to say that I had put Pengallia out there, and that these ideas don't go unexploited if you don't use them. Given the life Romana has recently led in the Doctor Who books (Romana uncharacteristically ascending to become a mad War Queen and Imperiatrix of a Gallifrey-at-War), it's clear my own Romana story and that presented in the Gallifrey audios had two common origins rather than one.

So now my character has two outing in official Doctor Who stories, and this gives me a warm glow (although that could be the burning CDs in my back garden). So for those who want to see the *real* saga of the first Lady President of Gallifrey, you can either read here as and when I post, check out my yahoo group at:

http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/newapocrypha/

or else you can check it out at:

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2411404/1/

Note: depending which version you read, the chapter titles will differ.


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Struggling against the driving rain, six cloaked figures made their way down from the mountain. With the dark cycle coming early, Low Ebb had begun, and the rising water level was confusing the local fauna. Their backs glittering with light reflected from half a dozen sets of glowing green lenses, jewelled scorpions scuttled across the mountain path, forcing the monks to pick their way through nocturnal traffic.
At the head of the group, Abbot Gesar paused to wipe rivulets of water from beneath his low-light goggles. There was, he noted, as much moisture inside his clothing as there was in the air around them. Without the cooling walls of the mountain to protect them, the rising heat was starting to become overpowering. Scanning ahead, he detected an upward shift in the colour of the ground before him. A clear sign of the rapid heating that heralded the coming of the ultraviolet phase.
With a signal to his brothers, Gesar gave the instruction for them to reverse their cloaks and lower their reflective visors. Adjusting his goggles, the abbot lowered his own protective visor into place, gesturing for his men to press forward as the rain eased, and the fog thickened, lighting up the city wall ahead.
Passing through the gate, the Monks of Madronal found the streets deserted. Hastily abandoned in the panic that followed the sudden onset of darkness, the abbot noticed several half-empty stalls and a number of tilted carts and pallets scattered across the city square. Turning into a side street, he led his men the short distance to the front of the Constabulary. Mounting the steps, he tested the door and found it locked.
“Sheriff Aldus!” He shouted, pounding anxiously on the door. “Aldus, it’s Abbot Gesar! Open up!”

The Doctor’s forced laughter chilled Aldus to the bone as rivers of blood gushed from blind eyes, pouring across the time lord’s pain-wracked face.
“Damned fool,” cursed Aldus, reaching forwards for the prisoner’s scarf, which he pressed against the Doctor’s wounds. The criticism was more of himself than of the lunatic sat before him. He’d had precious little experience of self-harm. And to do it to the eyes…
“Malthus!” The Sheriff’s own empty socket throbbed sympathetically as he recalled the day he lost his own eye to a flailing pincer. “Get me some water, and bandages!”
“What’s wrong, Sheriff?” laughed the Doctor, clearly unhinged, “have you never seen a selfless act before?”
“You may think me mad,” said Aldus, using the Doctor’s multi-coloured scarf as a makeshift dressing to bind his ruptured eyes, “but nothing compares to this kind of insanity.”
“Eyes, what do I need them for,” the Doctor chirped, “when I have wings to fly?”
“Why would you do this? I was offering you your freedom.”
“Freedom in exchange for fighting an unjust war is no kind of freedom at all. This,’ the sightless Doctor gestured towards his injury, “this is true freedom. My choice. My doing.”
Aldus sighed, lost for words. Tying off the Doctor’s scarf, he took stock of the blood on the floor, the table, the Doctor and his hands. “Just look at this mess.”
“I’m sorry for inconveniencing you, Sheriff. Now, if you don’t mind putting my things in a bag and lending me a walking stick, I think I’ll be going.”
The Doctor rose, clearly intending to find his way to the door. Taking one of his outstretched hands, Aldus gently forced him back into the chair as a polite cough cut through the tension.
“Sheriff,” said Malthus, “we have a problem.”
“I can see that, Sergeant,” said Aldus, mopping away some blood from the table with the end of the Doctor’s scarf. “This is going to need a good scrubbing.”
“Not that problem. Abbot Gesar is here with a delegation from the Monastery.”
“The Monastery? Excellent,” said the Doctor. “Do you think they might have somewhere I can convalesce while my eyes grow back?”
“Enough, Doctor! Get him out of here, Malthus. Put him in one of the cells while I see to our guests.”

As the first deadbolt slipped free, Gesar and his monks slipped off their mirror-masks to embrace the near-total darkness before the great Constabulary door creaked open, bathing them in artificial light. Towering over the abbot, a rather unkempt Sheriff Aldus stood in the doorway, his great lilac-blue cloak draping him from head to foot, his single unblinking pink eye burning into the abbot’s soul.
“Yes?” The Sheriff asked in his gruffest, most menacing, voice.
“Aldus, it’s me,” said Gesar, stepping forwards, fully expecting the larger man to stand aside.
“Abbot.” The big man frowned, not giving any ground. “What a pleasant surprise,” he said, unconvincingly, making a quick headcount as his eye adjusted to the darkness.
“Well,” said the abbot, squaring up to the sheriff, “are you going to invite us in?”
“Yes, yes of course,” said Aldus, briefly glancing backwards over his shoulder. “Do, do come inside.”
Standing aside, he ushered the party into the front hall, where he had hastily cleared away all signs of the Doctor’s recent interrogation. The room was still a mess, with a bucket of water and a cloth sitting in the middle of the floor, and some scattered objects lying around Sergeant Malthus’ table, over which a large blanket had been hastily thrown. A second blanket covered the chair that the stranger had, until moments earlier, occupied.
But there was still, the sheriff noted, some blood on the floor.
“I’m so sorry about the mess,” said Aldus, perching himself inconspicuously on the corner of the table. “As you can see, I’ve been rather busy.”
Oblivious to the sheriff’s nerves, it was clear that the abbot wasn’t going to be distracted from his purpose. “I’m here to secure your help, Sheriff. We’re all in great danger.”
“Are we?” The sheriff feigned ignorance. It was clear that whatever the abbot knew, he didn’t consider that Aldus might have any useful information. “Is this something to do with the Oculus?”
Gesar nodded. “There is a Carnifex on the loose.”
Carnifex? Aldus vaguely remembered the Doctor muttering such a word, but it still drew a blank. “A Carnifex? Forgive me, Abbot, my memory’s not what it once was. What’s a Carnifex?”
“A killer, sent by the Time Lords to destroy their enemies.”
“Really?” So that was it. The Doctor was some kind of scout or spy sent by the High Council, which meant… “There’s nothing like that out there…”
The abbot responded with a dismissive sneer. “I can assure you Sheriff…”
“…because it’s in here,” concluded Aldus, wallowing in momentary smugness. Stepping down from the table, the sheriff drew back the blanket, exposing the mess of blood and relishing the look on the priest’s face. “Is this Carnifex of yours a chap called the Doctor?”
Gesar’s eyes lit up. “Yes. Yes, that’s him. You have him in custody?”
Aldus nodded. “Protective custody.”
“Excellent. I need to interrogate him, and then we need to…”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible. He’s not fit for interrogation right now.”
“Why?” The abbot was catching on to the fact that things weren’t going to plan as Aldus drew back the second blanket, indicated just how significant the loss of blood had been for his prisoner. “What exactly did you do to him?”
“As you can see, he’s not very well at the moment. But he’ll live.”
“Can I see him?” Gesar asked. “He needs to be prepared for trial.”
Aldus shook his head. “Impossible. He’s far too dangerous to risk further interrogation. In fact,” he paused, deciding to push his luck, “I’m recommending that he be tried in absentia.”
The abbot shook his head, turning briefly to look towards his men before returning the sheriff’s gaze. “This isn’t a trivial matter, Sheriff. The Doctor isn’t one of us, he’s from Gallifrey.”
Aldus shrugged. “Regardless of his origins, he’ll be dealt with, Abbot, but…”
“This is beyond your jurisdiction, Sheriff. It’s not a criminal matter, and therefore not for you to decide.”
“He’s in my custody,” said Aldus, “and I’m not about to give him up to you.”
“This is unacceptable.” Gesar gestured to his men. “Hand him over to me, now.”
At the abbot’s signal, the six monks shed their reflective garments to reveal their shining armour. They stepped forwards to activate a clutch of extendable staves. There was an audible crackle as energy rippled, and short batons became four-foot poles.
“Weapons?” Aldus sneered derisively, “I didn’t think you had it in you anymore. The warrior monks haven’t raised arms in two million years.”
“Ch’sheth, Xerinar.”
The two monks, one human and one k’thellid, stepped forward, their arms whipping through the air towards the sheriff. Aldus made his move quickly, sidestepping the human’s blow while moving inside the k’thellid’s range. The human, Xerinar, found the tip of a dirk resting on his windpipe, while the k’thellid, Ch’sheth, found itself tentacle to nose with the sheriff.
Squeeeeee. Ch’sheth also found its feet dangling above the ground, the sheriff’s giant fist clenched around the rugose umbilical that fused its head to its body. Tentacles flailed as panic quivered through its flushed cranium. Let meee goooo.
“Aldus, enough. Please.”
“Bring it on, priest,” said the sheriff, flecks of spittle peppering the creature before him. “I’ll bring you all down if I have to. You have no power over me.”
A moment later Ch’sheth lay in a crumpled heap at Aldus’ feet, while the monks distanced themselves, forming a defensive circle around him. The abbot stood aghast between the monks and the sheriff. Looking towards his men he saw their hesitation. Should they press the attack? Slowly he raised his left hand.
“Put up your staves, men,” he said. Then, to Aldus, “I’ll get the City Elders to settle this.”
The sheriff shrugged. “That’s fine with me,” he said. “I’ll summon them when the dark cycle ends.”
“No,” said the abbot, looking down at Ch’sheth. The monk sat with its legs apart, its hands lying limply between its thighs, its flushed skin quivering as it rocked to and fro, flecks of human spittle dribbling onto its tentacles. “This can’t wait. We’ll summon them now.”

Halfway down Mount Madronal, some six hundred feet below the end of their makeshift rope, two blanket-wrapped, mirror-masked figures slowly eased themselves closer and closer towards an open window, their only light-source a guttering torch that allowed them to see each other, but precious little else.
The smaller of the two figures took the lead, the sound of her voice guiding her companion towards their destination.
“They were called Madronites back then,” said Teyamat, “warrior-priests who swore their allegiance to the Silver Queen in gratitude for allowing them to return to Gallifrey. When she defeated K’thannid and ended the Time War, it was the Madronites who brought her news of imminent betrayal by the High Council.”
“Whoa,” said Romana, catching up with an infuriatingly familiar term. “K’thannid?”
The old crone nodded. “K’thannid was the first Protector. They claimed he was the world’s archon, one of the Great Old Ones in whose image the k’thellid were created at the dawn of the universe.”
“Pengallia defeated a god?”
“Whatever he was, he was immeasurably old and powerful. By imprisoning him in the Well of Time she rid the Time Lords of their last great enemy. And then the Time Lords rewarded her with a prison all of her own.”
“So… K’thannid is trapped inside a prison within a prison?”
Teyamat nodded, turning her attention to the window where they had finally arrived. Handing the burning faggot to Romana, she started to force its shutters open.
“And the Monks are the prison guards!” Romana concluded as her guide slipped back into the mountain. Setting the torch aside, the Time Lady followed her, slipping into a small side-chamber similar to those she had seen in her earlier visit to this level. With the torch left outside and out of reach, Romana paused to let her eyes become accustomed to the darkness.
“No.” Teyamat continued to explain. “Their original duty was to protect the Well from the k’thellid, but when Pengallia left us, the Order instead agreed to foster peace between her armies and the defeated enemy. Ever since then they’ve been promoting harmony between the two races.”
“And the k’thellid don’t object to their god being trapped in the Well?”
“It can only be opened by Pengallia,” explained Teyamat, “so instead they serve as monks so that they may pay their respects.”
“But if I’m meant to be Pengallia, doesn’t that mean they might see me as the means to their god’s salvation?”
“They might,” said Teyamat, pondering the possibility.
“One last question then,” asked Romana. “Would you say K’thannid was a… vengeful god?”
In the dim light, Romana saw Teyamat shrug her shoulders.

While Aldus used his martial skills to entertain the Monks of Madronal, his loyal sergeant was busy ushering the blind Doctor into a cell.
“Here, let me sit you down,” said Malthus, lowering the Doctor onto a bench. This was not, the time lord concluded, the same cell as the one he had occupied earlier in the day. As the Doctor made himself comfortable, he picked up the sound of rustling cloth as Malthus reached into one of his pockets and withdrew a linen pouch.
“Here,” said Malthus, reaching into the pouch and drawing something out, “take this. It should ease your pain.”
Reaching out his hand, the Doctor felt something pressed against his palm.
“What is it?”
It was a tube; similar to the one Toulouse’s face had emerged from. Unscrewing the cap, the Doctor squeezed a little onto the tip of his finger and sniffed. It wasn’t, he decided, too dissimilar to what the Exilir of Life had smelled like when he used it to cure Sarah Jane Smith’s blindness during a previous adventure.
“It’s called fellene gel; it has regenerative properties.”
“Hmm. It smells familiar.” The Doctor dabbed a small amount onto the tip of his tongue and rolled it around inside his mouth. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever been to a planet called Karn?”
“I’ve never been anywhere, Doctor. None of us have.”
“So where does this gel come from?”
“The k’thellid.”
“Oh?”
Malthus started to explain. “The fellene are great coral spheres that roam the deepest parts of the sea. Their outer surface produces acidic mucus, breaking down anything and everything they come into contact with.”
“So the gel comes from inside the fellene?”
“Yes, I believe so. The k’thellid milk it from some gland or other. I don’t know the details.”
“What do the k’thellid use the milk for?”
The question confused Malthus, who paused to consider it. “Nothing that I know of, they aren’t like us.”
“So,” the Doctor suggested, “they just use it for barter.”
“Barter?”
“Trade. The k’thellid give you the gel in exchange for something else?”
“No,” Malthus paused again as the Doctor challenged his perceptions.
“So,” the Doctor continued, pressing his point home, “they just go out into the deep sea, risk their lives to extract this gel, and then give it to you for free? Do you not think that might be a good reason to keep the peace with them?”
“It isn’t like that, Doctor. The monks preserve the peace, but the menks don’t need us. When we came here the planet was just a ball of boiling water. It’s the Oculus that makes the planet habitable for humanoids. That’s what it was created for.”
The Oculus? The Doctor was beginning to understand. The artificial sun was the key to understanding this planet’s weird ecology, its politics and, more notably, its survival.
“So if the Oculus fails?”
“The planet would return to the way it was before we came along. Inhospitable to anyone but the k’thellid.”
“And that’s what you think they want?”
“I’m certain of it. Why else would so many of them want to give up a life underwater and learn to walk and talk like men.”
“K’thellid priests walk and talk? That’s an impressive feat for a species without a skeletal structure, I must say. Surely they’re just adapting to their new environment. You have an alternative suggestion?”
“They’ll do anything to get close to the Oculus. To destroy it.”
“Ah,” the Doctor was beginning to understand the paranoia, and accepted the possibility that it could be justified. Then he considered the gel.
“This gel, is it yours?” He asked, holding it aloft.
“My wife’s.”
Something in Malthus’ voice caught the Doctor’s attention. There was a lot of emotion behind the words. Pain. Resignation.
“She’s ill?”
Malthus started to nod before remembering he was addressing a blind man who must have been in the most excruciating pain. He was surprised at how relaxed the Doctor appeared to be, as it the blindness had somehow relieved, rather than elevated his suffering. Beneath his dressing the stranger seemed remarkably relaxed. And attentive.
“Carcinogenesis,” said Malthus, unburdening his thoughts with a single word. “Her cellular structure is breaking down, and cancers are eating her body from the inside.”
“That’s a rare condition on Gallifrey,” said the Doctor. “They’ve added so many fail safes and redundancies to our bodies that we get a bit carried away sometimes. I can cut off my arm, gouge out my eyes or even tear out my on heart and still recover over time, but this… it’s what regeneration was made for. The ultimate cure for cancer. Have you been together long?”
“Melosa has been with me since I last came down from the mountain.”
“And before that? Don’t relationships survive regeneration here?”
“Only the body survives.”
“You don’t regenerate naturally?”
“No. We use these bodies for as long as we possibly can, then they get taken up the mountain.”
“How many times have you been up the mountain, Malthus?”
“I…don’t know. A regeneration on Rendulix is like a separate life. Most people struggle to remember their identity, let alone their personal history.”
“My minds been scrambled by regeneration, but at least I had full access to Time Lord technology. And it takes people months to recover.”
“So when Melosa goes…?”
“She probably won’t know me when she gets back.”
The Doctor didn’t need eyes to know that a tear was rolling down the sergeant’s cheek. Feeling a little uncomfortable, he reached forwards, patting his way across Malthus’ body until he found his gaoler’s wrist. He gripped it reassuringly.
“I’m sorry, Sergeant Malthus.”
“I was wondering. You’re a Doctor… can you help?”
The Doctor sighed helplessly. “It’s doubtful. I may be a doctor, but my medical qualifications come from a backwater world that doesn’t cover post-regenerative physiology, just those who still have their natural bodies. If you share this medicine with me, I can’t guarantee to save your wife in return.”
“You think it’s a bribe?” The Doctor could feel the offense taken in the sergeant’s voice. “You’re in pain, Doctor. You need the gel more than Melosa does. She has enough to see the week through, which is more than she needs.”
“Why don’t you have proper medical facilities here?”
“They have some up on the mountain. Doctor Tavic handles most of our needs, and the gel is usually enough to deal with anything that isn’t fatal or degenerative. You’ll have a new set of eyes in no time”
The Doctor held out his hand, returning the gel.
“I’m not ready for that,” he said solemnly.
Malthus closed the Doctor’s hand over the tube. “It will still take months. The gel’s not that good.”
Smiling, the Doctor took the gift, feeling for a pocket to slip it into.
For future use.




Comments:


mondova at 2005-07-07 15:42 (UTC) (Link)
I have been waiting for this little baby too long!

I seriously considered sending an army of Kyborgs to chain you up in a dungeon armed with a laptop, an intravenus tube, and a bore worm enema.

Fortunately, you have spared your life, and Mondova is pleased.
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