Prologue: Red Sign in the Mooring
Letters in red.
They fly in the face of the dusk outside.
Flamina can feel them, calling her to slip deeper, to find them out. To dare and wipe them off the wall.
But she cannot see them.
Are they being spoken?
Cannot hear them.
The light outside is violet and pale, bled through by clouds of loud red.
Flamina cannot fathom their twisting way along her neural pathways, their floating forays along the dust already settling in her sleeping mind.
Already, her hand is scrabbling in the sheets, wild. Variable. Lashing out.
Sweat stings in her eyes, bringing salt and random sensations. She blinks.
The soft of pillowcase.
The hard of the Master's absence last night.
A middle toe that nearly froze because the coverlet came off sometime in the night.
Her fingers spill over the thickness of the closest heavy bed post, white nails crouching like a hungry spider as awake fills her brain.
She rubs a white hand through her long white hair and glances at the window instinctively, buttering herself up for the cold flush of daylight.
But there are no twin suns winking drunk eyes through the glass at her, blinding her with the daylight.
No. the dark is still there, the chorus of twilight.
And, no stars.
"Still night," she murmurs, dazed as she calls out to the wall panel to light the room, "...bright, 30 to 35 per cent."
No light, no light.
"Wall panel, restore settings!"
Still no light.
And now, the room, still dark, seeks to threaten her with its mounting emptiness.
Shrugging into the bed sheet like daddy taught her, Flamina falls out of bed and finds a wall after a tumble over air and some resultant fondling of the carpet.
On her knees now, she heads for a corner, feeling around.
Feel, touch, hear.
Feel, touch, hear.
Fluff. Probably carpet. No,no... too smooth. It's that pile of silk underthings she bought the Master but never wrapped because he failed to show last night. And now that she's looking for it, the big red bow is still there, shining sadly in the not-light.
The carpet, not the underthings.
Because her foot feels cold.
She must have knocked her water mussing about near her bed in the dark.
Her hands lift her up, along the solid flat of wall near a raised indentation.
"Ah, the door panel!" she cries, hitting the signature triangle button of the manual lock.
It's rather like an elevator... the thought bubbles from somewhere. She ignores it.
The entry sticks, then slides, spilling Flamina half out of doors and into the silvery hallway.
"Aunty River always had a pie in the TARDIS icebox for me..." she breathes as she stands up, then pulls up the sheet she's draped toga-style around herself, "...it's a long shot, but maybe the kitchenette for this floor is operational again... damn thing was on the fritz yesterday, I remember it buzzing and sparking..."
The shadows are long in the hall that leads to the food machine, however, and her wings are not out.
The breath on her tongue is cold ice between her teeth.
She inhales frost suddenly, and the sound of footsteps behind her rattles her brains.
Half asleep, she remembers what was instilled into her bones by the Doctor, and takes it to hearts.
Her pounding legs carry her down by the north stairwell, her naked feet slapping against the slick tiles of the Panopticon's third floor of apartments.
Draw the enemy into a trap.
Blind with purpose she gallops in a downward springing circle, a white horse amid trees of silver and stone.
Wet, warm, thick liquid gushes through her toes and she loses her balance, falling into the private teleport panel sometimes used to access the Panopticon more quickly from the central stair.
Her face immediately slams the three-prong slit in the floor that conceals the Eye.
She touches the bruise, squeaking as an arc of dark blood follows her fingertip and morbidly rubbing thumb from the floor, as though the gravity's been displaced.
It's... not hers.
She looks up, following the strange trail of blood as it floats up from the ground, such a strange thing.
But there is one way it could happen.
If the person who lost it was still alive... or immortal.
Her eyes glaze like iced pottery as she follows the blood farther up its line of resolve, up, up, up.
Beyond the high windows, the rows of stout benches perched under stone canopies.
Beyond the arches that support the Panopticon's emerald dome.
Beyond all of this, Flamina stares at the thing dangling from the place where the pod fell.
For there in the top of the dome, there is strung the flayed remains of a singular presence, a hawk among pigeons.
Cat among rats.
Man among minstrels and thieves.
That man is Rassilon, dripping backwards, his wet bones bunched like exotic carrots under that purple robe as they rebuild themselves from flesh assumingly repurposed from nearby matter. Her... father.
She looks down at the floor again, realising she's missed it, in the semi-dark.
There is another man, naked at her feet, stained, she presumes, by the climbing blood. Or perhaps a wound.
He is shivering and unconscious.
The only man she would scream for.
As a figure in guard's silvers sprints across from the hall she came from, she cries out.
"You! Get me Medical, now, quickl-hmph!"
One silver glove plunges down her throat in a surge of liquid.
Another rips the Egg of Law from her neck, leaving a red dent.
And as she is dragged away, one tight cheek of her bared rump squeaks and bumps intermittently across the smooth tiles.