Doctor Who Internet Adventure #18 - "Ticket to Writhe"

Chapter 4
"The Writhing on the Wall"
by Jennifer Pinyan


"Here we are," Luke says. Then: "Oh shi--"

       As they turn into the smallest, dingiest alley of them all, Angela fumbles for a weapon, something, anything. The creatures waiting for them look cybernetic. Perhaps they were dogs once, but now they are metallic, with glistening fangs and shining joints. They have been sitting there patiently, like statues, but at the sight of Angela and Luke, they spring to life. There is a rush of movement, then Angela is lying on her back in the street, a pair of cybernetic teeth inches away from her neck, and coming ever closer.

       It's not everyday that one has a chance to stare death in the face; Angela takes advantage of the opportunity, and thus her eyes are open to see Luke grab the monstrosity by the scruff of it's neck and admonish it, "Settle down, poochy, she's allowed here." The other cyborg backs off at the sound of Luke's voice.

       Luke helps Angela to her feet and brushes her off, in a manner that shows he is quite appreciative of what he is brushing. Angela steps back and looks at the journo questioningly. "What the hell was that all about?"

       "I'm sorry about that. Kind of stupid of me. Should've gone around the corner by myself first so they'd know it was just me and a friend. I was too busy concentrating on what might be following behind us to remember what was in front. I don't often bring people to my palatial flat."

       "Those things are yours?"

       "Can't be too careful these days, not with..." his voice drops, "certain elements in this city doing certain things..." he resumes conversational volume, "such as maltreating beauties much like yourself, Lena." He tries a charming smile on her. "Shall we go inside and see what dirt I can serve you up?"

       Angela feels reassured by the prospect of finally making progress, but she is still in a dingy part of town accompanied by a man who, even if he is no match for her, certainly has toys that are.

* * *

[Four weeks ago]
"If you ever really need me, I'll be there for you. Just remember you'll always carry a part of me with you right there." He tapped the younger man's chest lightly.

       "That's very touching," muttered the third man.

       "Oh I meant it quite literally. We've been connected on a fundamental physical, chemical, and biological level ever since I fixed that nagging twinge in his back." A grin spread across his amiable features.

       "Yeah, you lug, and as a result, I have certain powers that mere humans such as you couldn't even begin to comprehend."

       The woman with them cracked a smile. "Poor dear." She draped her arm around the offended party's waist. "Feeling," her eyebrows wiggled, "insufficient?"

       More laughter. Then it died down. Into the silence, "I will really miss you all, but this is what I've got to do. There are some things more important than saving the universe, and not everyone can have both, like you two." And turning to the older man, "I'm sor-"

       "No, you're happy. And I'm glad."

       "Where will you go next?"

       "Well, I must admit my aikido is getting a little rusty..."

* * *

Mammon watches Angel leave. He slides a hand across his stomach, to reassure himself that there's no blood. Then suddenly, his legs fail him, and he collapses to the floor.

       A man such as this could never entice butterflies into his stomach, so the unpleasant sensation he is feeling must be caused by the fluttering of moth wings. He sits there for a moment, thinking, fretting, panicking. If Angel knows… and she must know, or why else would she have come? But if she knows, why just tell him to back off? Surely she would make an example of him. She seemed mad, but not enraged. Frankly, if someone was doing to Anatoli what he was doing to Angel, he'd be really, *really* pissed. And that sort of anger would merit more than a mere warning. Witness the fellow on the cross above. Anatoli looks up at his club's still relatively new decoration and slowly regains his feet.

       "I don't much appreciate threats, you know!" Then he notices the blue- green staring back at him. The eyelids have apparently found enough strength to break through the crusted blood. "Angel wouldn't be breathing down my neck if you'd behaved yourself, darling."

       A cough, to test the throat, and then the husky voice starts, "Well, it's a bit drafty up here, too."

       Mammon watches the eyes closely. The flippancy is not accompanied by a sparkle in them. "Did you notice, old love, that I've won? I've beaten you."

       Below the threshold of Anatoli's hearing: "Actually, I think it was Ryan who did that."

       "Yes, I think you know that I won," continues Mammon. He ambles over to the counter, trying to look all suave and composed again. Grabs a half-full bottle of calvados. Takes a swig. "Funny, dontcha think, how Ryan didn't report anything to me about you and Angel. Do be so kind as to fill me in, dear. How much did you tell her? Does she know about all the taps?"

       "This isn't the most effective way to get cooperation or information from me," the weak voice points out helpfully.

       "What is the way, then? Huh, love? How can I get you to talk to me?"

       "We could sit down, have a cup of tea..."

       "I am *not* in the mood for your games, Doctor, and I'm very surprised that you are."

       "Well, I'm not up to much else, right now."

       Mammon spins around as the doors to the club are flung open. Some of his noisy and mostly inaccurate security guards enter. A few are sporting knife cuts, and one even nurses a gunshot wound in his leg. They quiet down as soon as they notice their employer in the room.

       "Where are Adrian and that other woman?"

       Anatoli is staring menacingly at the guards, and so fails to notice the Doctor's eyes brighten slightly at the use of the word 'other'. \\Perhaps, just perhaps, things are not as bad as they seem.\\

       One brave soul ventures a reply. "They managed to get into the 'Combs. We didn't follow them."

       "And why is that, darling?"

       "We were, um, evicted by Angel's goons."

       Mammon laughs outright, releasing all the tension of the last few minutes. He tells his guards to go get cleaned up, and then, when alone, turns back to the Doctor, whose eyes are closed again. "Did you hear that, love? I hope you did, and I hope it really rankles you. Angel knows nothing! She's just mad that my rats tried to scurry through her maze." The vindictive smile suddenly leaves his face, replaced by an angry scowl. "Why couldn't you just have told me that you hadn't gone to Angel?"

       There is no reply.

       "Answer me!" The bottle of calvados spins through the air, shattering against the Doctor's left arm. The new trickles of blood show bright red against the rubiginous scabs and the dull brown filth.

       With effort, the eyes open again. They display a pain that the Doctor is long past the point of concealing. "You seem all too eager to listen to me now, Anatoli. Why is it you wouldn't listen to what I had to say a week ago? There's still time to stop this nonsense."

       "Yes," Anatoli hisses. "Yes, there is."

* * *

"Are you okay?" the barman sounds concerned.

       She nods, then realises it was futile in the darkness. "Much better, thanks. Um, can't we have just a little bit of light?"

       There is a noise - perhaps he is shaking his head. "Too dangerous. If there's even a tiny imperfection in the Pillar, this close, we could blow the whole thing up. Also, I'm not sure that those guards have completely given up on us."

       "Oh." She tests the motion of her left arm. "Why are we just sitting here, uh, Adrian, was it?"

       A pause. It is too dark for her to see his smirk. "Jadi. The name's Jadi. And we're just sitting here because I couldn't carry you any further. Do you feel well enough to move on?"

       "Yeah, I think so."

       "Good. 'Cause that means you're probably also feeling well enough to give me back my jeans, at least."

       River laughs aloud at that, then hushes herself. "I think I can manage that. But I don't think I can get the shirt off."

       "That's alright. Anything's better than nothing. It's crukking cold in here."

       The clothing transfer takes place as quickly and as silently as they can manage it. Then they begin to continue down the corridor. "How do you know the Doctor, anyway, River?"

       "We've traveled, been through a lot together, as you might imagine. He looked different back then..." Almost to herself she continues, "I wonder how much time has passed for him?" Then, to Jadi again, "And how do you know him?" Jadi snorts. "I once had a bounty on him. Our relationship has matured a lot since then."

       "He does attract all types, doesn't he? He has a certain magic around him." The smile of pleasant remembrance flees from her face as she recalls the tortured form she saw in the club. "Where are we going?"

       "Nowhere," a new voice answers from in front of them. "And don't reach for your gun; I can see you quite well. Welcome to Heaven."

* * *

[Twenty days ago]
The Doctor stared at the monitor in front of him, scarcely believing the stupidity of it all. To mess around directly with the Pillar in a profitable way, one had to know quite a bit about it and its workings. But to mess around with the messings-around, that didn't require much skill or intellect. "Obviously not much intellect - or else whoever is doing this /wouldn't/ be doing it," muttered the Doctor. He was fairly certain Angel had spent enough time around the Pillar that she had made her 'improvements' relatively safely (for the time being). Still, he would have to take care of her handiwork eventually. That would be tricky, finding a way to reverse the damage, stabilize the Pillar, and get out in one piece. With a start, he began to rifle through his pockets until he found the pad of yellow Post-It Notes Benny had left behind.

       But it was the taps on Angel's taps that were the immediate problem. Two parties, both funneling energy illegally from the Pillar, without either one knowing what the other was doing... It was not a picture he cared to hold in his mind's eye for any length of time. He wouldn't be able to do anything about Angel's taps for a while, but this other problem could not be ignored that long. And he had to keep Angel in the dark. She wouldn't trust a stranger, and even if she \did\ listen to what he had to say about the Pillar, her actions wouldn't be pretty. She would probably be able to figure out who was piggy-backing faster than he could, but after she located the guilty (guiltier) party.... He could see it now; a private war breaking out in Cupid. Far, far too many people dying. Granted, it would be fewer than if the Pillar was compromised beyond its limits. But still, the best course would be if he could straighten this situation out cleanly.

       And that meant finding out who was playing with fire.

* * *

Club Feel's doors swing open again. Another wild night for the maroons, the vriks, and anyone else drawn to the chaos, the ebbing crowd that swarms, weaves, bobs, flounders, and fornicates on the dance floor under the haze of alcohol and drugs, licit and illict both. Into this mindless madness enters a lone man. He approaches the obsidian bar. His walk is wrong; there is a strange quality about it shouting to anyone perceptive that he ain't from around these here parts - but there are not many at this club that could be described as perceptive.

       The man orders a shot of whiskey, and his hazel eyes dart around, taking in the distasteful surroundings. Those eyes, unlike the rest in the club, are not glazed over by toxins. They betray a wealth of feelings: jealousy, sorrow, misery, loneliness, concern, even fright. He is older than the majority of the clientele, perhaps forty. His dress is casual, and a cowboy hat conceals his shaggy blond hair.

       As he glances around the club, he sees a large obsidian crucifix hanging above the dais. Though the cross is streaked with blood, Ray notices, there is no one on it.

To be continued...

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