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

Chapter 5
"Tears In Heaven"
by John Seavey


[Two weeks ago through 10 minutes ago, all inclusive]
Everything in all existence is linked to something else, the Doctor thought as he hung from the ceiling, letting the pain of nails hammered through his wrists and ankles wash over him, through him, and fade away. Those links are, in turn, connected to other links, until the whole universe is formed of a single interconnected entity. Thusly, by studying a microcosm in sufficient detail, one can gain information about the entire universe.

       Of course, while it was an excellent theory, the practice was somewhat more difficult. First, one needed a prodigious intellect. The Doctor smiled faintly past the pain. No problems there. Secondly, one needed a sufficiently chaotic and turbulent medium to watch - one man he'd known had set up an entire wall of television sets, each one set to strobe through a random channel every few seconds, gleaning information on trends from the flickers of the cathode tube. The Doctor didn't have that kind of time, but having a bird's eye view of a constantly shifting crowd that came from every planet in the solar system seemed to be at least an adequate replacement. And thirdly, one needed to be in a peculiar state of mind, almost a meditative trance - trying to shut out the existence of the outside world, and yet curiously aware of individual details. 'Ignoring the gem while watching the facets', the old hermit had called it. There were ways to do it - prepratory hallucinogens, alpha-wave inducers - but to go on a real, old-fashioned vision quest, the Doctor thought to himself, pain induced shock and trauma combined with near-starvation diets did it every time.

* * *

Angel watches the two life-forms, one human, one decidedly not so, with eyes that can see entire spectrums of energy not imagined by most beings. The female is wary, but Angel knows from the way she moves that she could protect herself against most threats. Not from Angel, of course, but Angel does not plan on threatening them. Yet.

       The male, on the other hand, seems far more confident. A distant part of Angel wonders why; given that she could have him destroyed in a blink of an eye, could destroy him herself with her bare hands if need be, she cannot imagine anyone being so foolish as to remain calm. It must be ignorance, she thinks.

       But the song is growing ever more discordant, and she has no time to indulge that part of her mind that still thinks the way that they think.

       "Heaven?" the man says, his face a picture of bewilderment.

       "It is," the woman says. "It is a place, and a metaphor, and an expression, and a cruel and twisted joke on those of us who have come here. Now, follow me. The song is changing, and I will need to find one of us who remains enough like you to be able to explain things."

       Jadi and River follow, exchanging glances as they do so. Though they have not known each other long, this strange experience, combined with the common bond of their mutual friend, is conspiring to tie them close.

       River whispers, "Who is this Angel person?"

       Jadi responds, "I'm not sure - nobody talks about her, really. I know she holds the area around the Pillar; that's why I came here. It was a place where Anatoli's goons wouldn't follow. But the Doctor seemed to know her, or know about her, or... something. He was even more vague than usual this time."

       River's only response is a nod. She is thinking of her own experiences with the Doctor and his 'vagueness', and of a scrap of paper that led her halfway across a solar system to perform a task of uncertain nature - and of the skull of an angel, found three galaxies away and ten thousand years in the past, carefully hidden approximately one mile from here.

* * *

Ryan Purity is talking to a man.

       Well, Ryan is talking. The man is screaming. His screams have long ago ceased to be a pure, virtuous expression of pain, and have passed across the threshold into the choking, tortured agonies of one who understands he is truly damned.

       "Well, Raymond. Can I call you Raymond?" Ryan asks. "Let me see if I understand this story of yours correctly. The fact that you had an acquaintance with my prisoner - my escaped prisoner - and the fact that the woman who crept in here last night and caused so much trouble is your wife... all this is mere coincidence? The only reason you came here to Cupid was to apologize to your wife for being so harsh, the gorgeous flowers having simply melted your heart. And the fact that you showed up just after the Doctor vanished is also coincidence. I see." He ruffles his fingers over a selection of scalpels like a virtuoso pianist, selects one, and carefully excises the littlest finger on Ray's right hand. The fingers on his left hand are already gone.

       "I am, I'll admit, almost inclined to believe your story. It's certainly too dull to be a lie, and you've stuck to it throughout our little chat - if you've managed to stick to a lie, you've got a higher pain tolerance than most people I've known." The scalpel flashes out, and with the expert precision of a surgeon, a flap of skin on the face is flayed neatly, cleanly from the bone.

       "So congratulations. You are of absolutely no worth or value to myself, or to the organization I represent. You are quite clearly an innocent bystander, caught up in events beyond your control, and it is with the deepest, most heartfelt regret that I continue this torture for my own personal enjoyment." Purity reaches over to a series of incredibly sophisticated life support systems, and checks the readings carefully, lovingly, making sure that his victim will survive many days of this pain.

* * *

[twenty-five years ago]
Tony Mammon brings down the rock, shouting, "You won't make me into one of you!" The man with no eyes manages to dodge, hearing the rush of air, but the stone shatters several vertebrae, killing him instantly.

       "That," the Doctor said, "could have been the exact worst possible thing to do."

* * *

Luke turns out to be, in addition to everything else, a surprisingly competent field medic. As he carefully splints Angela's fractured wrist, she takes the opportunity to look at his spacious apartments.

       The first thing that strikes her is the technology levels. Admittedly, she is far from her own time - the neural-jacks and interstitial tunnels of the System are light-years behind what she is used to, as antiquated as a phonograph is to someone used to CD players - but this room is suprisingly low-tech, even for its time. Incandescent bulbs light up the room, and the sound is provided by a high-fidelity analog sound system that uses wax cylinders as a storage medium. They are probably worth a fortune as an antique, but their very age makes them impractical. She wonders how, without access to a time machine of his own, he can find a stylus to play the records, but the thought is soon lost in the jumble of other impressions.

       The only thing that seems to fit is incongruity itself. It is as if the man goes out of his way to cultivate a number of different impressions about himself so as to prevent anyone reaching or understanding him in any meaningful sense. Angela muses on his surprisingly frank offer in the bar. Perhaps that is it exactly, she thinks.

       "So," Luke says, once her wounds are bandaged, "what would you like to do now? I'm afraid that filing a complaint with the police would be pointless - the Club, and Purity himself, are both just fronts for the real power in Cupid. Anatoli Mammon. He owns the police, he controls the government - about the only thing he doesn't control is Angel, and she wouldn't care if you did go to her."

       "Angel?" asks Angela. She does not know the name, but hearing it, after what little the Doctor let slip, is like finding another piece of the puzzle. The problem is, she does not know what the picture is of. Details are useful only when one can see the forest through the trees.

       "Angel," Luke replies. "The only person who ever leaves the Deep Combs...well, apart from the Doctor, but that was twenty-five years ago. Before Angel, back when Mammon was still a little street punk. Before my time, and yours."

       "He'll go back there," Angela says, surprising herself with the words as they fly out of her mouth.

       Luke looks at her curiously. "You think the Doctor's coming back?"

       "I know it. And if he does, he'll head for the center of things. It's how he is." She decides not to mention that the Doctor is currently pinned to the ceiling of Mammon's nightclub. Knowing the Doctor, it is only a temporary state of affairs anyway. Jadi and Angela had tried to rescue him, but nobody rescues the Doctor as well as he rescues himself.

* * *

[what was ten minutes ago two hours ago]
The Doctor devoutly hoped someone would come to rescue him soon. His vision had finally come, after two weeks of being up here, and now he needed to impart it to someone. He'd tried shouting it down to the club-goers; they might be callous enough to watch him hanging up here, or cruel enough to throw glasses to shatter against his flesh, but they didn't deserve what would happen. But his throat was too parched and ragged to let out more than a croak.

       He'd seen Jadi and Angela, of course, but he'd also seen the way their rescue attempt fell apart. But they'd met River. That would save time later on. Unfortunately, he needed to get free, or there wouldn't be a later on. He decided to take the initiative and free himself.

       Most of his escape could be done under the simple cover of his having been up there so long that nobody watched him anymore. Mammon thought him beaten, and the club-goers thought him dead. It was a simple matter for him to scrape open the wounds on his wrists and ankles again, creating a flow of blood that lubricated the nails and made them slick. It was only slightly more difficult to extricate himself from the ropes and straps - Houdini's techniques were easy enough, but they were not designed to be used while also using biofeedback to halt the flow of blood.

       From there, things got increasingly more complex as he used the straps to short out a nearby light fixture, creating an area of darkness that allowed him to drop down to the floor, absorbing the impact on his knees and elbows to avoid hurting his wrists and ankles. A few judicious bumps and prods, and the resultant brawl provided perfect cover for his escape... and the fact that he was badly injured only added verisimilitude.

       He managed to not pass out for very long any of the times he collapsed while heading for the Combs.

* * *

Angel turns around without having headed more than twenty feet into the tunnels. She walks past Jadi and River without saying a word, and catches the stumbling, bleeding, bruised, battered body of the Doctor as it collapses once more to the ground. She checks for a pulse.

       "I believe he's dead," she says.

To be continued...

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