Title: Lost Luggage and Lost Souls
Author: Nemo the Everbeing
oOo oOo Chapter 5 oOo oOo
Tim watched the Doctor shake with fury and hate, and he wondered if he might have looked like that too the night he killed a man, because in his state, the Doctor seemed liable to do anything. If it was Tim's little girl in there, he'd take his own hands off at the wrist getting to her. He'd beat those men between them to death with his bloody stumps and call it righteous retribution.
His eyes went to the door, but there was no sign that the police were going to make a move any time soon. They were always slow on the pickup, were law enforcement types. Probably worried about liability while a girl was getting savaged.
And then, as the thugs moved off to take a look at what their boss was doing to Ace, the Doctor turned on the little girl in the black leather who sat two seats down from him. Across the chasm where Ace used to be. "Are you going to let this happen?" he asked.
"What?" she asked.
"You know precisely what I'm asking. Are you going to let those men harm an innocent girl because they believe she's you?"
"Miss Moritz, I suggest you not attempt to lie to me. I'm in no mood. Now, the question put to you here is this: you sold everything you had to get this new life, your old friends, your life and livelihood, and you knew the risks of what you chose. Do you face the potential consequences of that choice now? Do you follow through, or do you thrust someone else on the pyre in front of you?"
She looked away. "It's not my problem," she said.
"That girl is suffering because you won't speak out."
"Would you rather I suffer? You have no idea what I went through to get here, and I'm not giving up what I've got going."
"Not even for another human life?"
"I've never met her before, and, no offense, but one of us is going to end up dead either way. If it's her or me, I pick me."
"And when they realize their mistake? You'll still die."
"Then I'll bank on the chance that she can't convince them she's not me."
The Doctor snarled something Tim couldn't make out, but he seemed to be saying something about "the Master."
There was the sound of shouting through the door and a crack of something very hard against flesh and bone. A feminine groan, low and pained. The thugs heard the noise and turned to come back. Tim tested his bonds for the twentieth time, but nothing gave. One of the thugs went from person to person testing the tightness of the zip-ties, while the police were repeating the message, the muffled words filtering through the doors. Soon, Tim thought, they'd be sending in a phone if the movies were to be believed, which was a great load of bullshit, in his opinion.
What the hell good were the police if they wouldn't move? If no one could move, then how were things going to get better? How could he be an avenging angel when he couldn't even leave his seat?
The Doctor's head snapped up as the thug testing zip-ties approached him, and Tim felt the change. This wasn't the man, but the stone god, and whether or not he was divine or alien didn't matter because he was a frightful power either way. His eyes were chill and dire and so flat, like a sheet of ice over a very deep lake. A man'd be liable to drown if he broke that ice.
"Come here," he said, his voice a low rumble.
"What?" the man asked.
The Doctor wasn't blinking, wasn't looking away. Tim felt a weight settle about him. The woman next to the Doctor was squirming, and her little girl was staring up at the Doctor, her mouth hanging open.
"Shit," Detective Thomson whispered. "Holy fucking shit."
"Come here," the Doctor repeated. The man approached, his gun half-raised, his eyes round.
"Do you hear those sirens?" the Doctor asked.
"Yes," came the whispered reply.
"Those men have come for you, do you understand that?"
The Doctor nodded. "Yet here you are, waiting for your illustrious leader to give the orders." He leaned forward. "He's going to get you killed," he said, each word so leaden that Tim felt that he would be crushed under the weight of the Doctor's speech.
"I . . ." the man said. The thug moving nearest the Doctor turned to listen, too.
"He's going to kill you unless you give in, surrender yourselves to the police. Surrender."
"I . . ."
"Drop your gun, go outside, and surrender yourself."
"But . . ."
"Drop your gun," the Doctor said again, voice full of thunder and eyes full of lightning. "Go outside. Surrender yourself."
Both their guns clattered to the floor and the men turned, marionettes with the Doctor pulling the strings. Their eyes were lifeless and lightless, their steps stiff and artificial as they propelled themselves toward the door, feet hitting the tile in perfect unison. Even the thug shot in the leg walked as though he had never been injured, all pain forgotten under the all-consuming imperative to do as the Doctor said.
A terrible smile settled itself on the Doctor's face.
From the other side of the room, the last unaffected goon turned to see his comrades drop their guns and leave, hands in the air.
He ran over, pointing his gun wildly. "What's going on here?" he demanded.
"Benjamin is going to kill you," the Doctor said again.
"What the hell are you—"
"He's. Going. To. Kill. You."
"He's . . ."
"He's going to kill you."
"He's going to kill us!" the man gasped, as though it was his revelation, as though the Doctor had no part. "That son of a bitch wants to finish this job, but I didn't sign on to get killed. I can't collect on the money when I'm dead."
"You can get out of here," the Doctor said, "but you must let me go. I must help you." He had that abstracted, powerful look in his eye, and the man responded without question, cutting the Doctor's ties and straightening, a toy soldier waiting for someone to put him in position.
"Now," the Doctor said, "free Mr. Ross so he can retrieve that gun on the floor, and then we're all paying a visit to Benjamin." The Doctor was vengeance at that moment, cold and hating. The thug did as he was told. The Doctor stood, watching, eyes piercing the man's back. Tim wanted to check under the thug's shirt for strings. This wasn't a man anymore, but a puppet. Just like the other ones. The cop a few seats down was shaking with horror. The ticket-kid looked liable to pass out.
Tim stood, snatching his girl's ring from the thug's pocket while he was at it. The man didn't even react. Tim looked him in the eye for any sign of faking it, but this guy was as blank as the others, everything about him that made him an individual completely smothered.
Tim walked over to the discarded weapons and picked up a gun for the first time since he shot a man and went to jail. He flicked the safety off, checked the clip and then locked it back in place. He looked up and the Doctor was watching him.
"This is your choice, Mr. Ross," he said. "You may leave now. I'd not blame you."
"There's a girl suffering behind that door, Sir," Tim said. "Seems to me I've been a long time out of the world, a long time where I couldn't help nobody. It's an occupation I'd like to get back to."
The Doctor came back a bit from that alien wrath, a soft, sad expression ghosting across his face. "Good man, Mr. Ross," he said.
"What about me?" the cop said suddenly. "You're finally getting at this bastard, finally got guns, and I'm left out."
The Doctor eyed the cop, and Tim wanted to tell him no. Tell him not to trust the cop as far as he could punt him, because as soon as Benjamin was dealt with, he'd be turning his piece on the Doctor. He'd said as much already.
The Doctor took the knife from the thug's unresisting hand and walked over to the cop, kneeling down in front of him. "Do what she would have wanted you to, Detective Thomson," he whispered as he cut the ties on the cop's ankles. "I'm trusting you not to act on blind vengeance."
And then he cut the ties on Thomson's wrists, stepped back and waited. Thomson stood, staring at the Doctor. There was a confrontation here. The cop walked over to his old seat, eyes never leaving the Doctor. He squatted down, pulled out his Glock from under the orange vinyl cushion, and came back.
The Doctor turned and said, "Come, Gentlemen. It's time we had a civilized conversation with our host."
He led the way, and they let him. He stopped at Miss Moritz, an expression close to disgust on his face, and said, "I believe you have something of mine."
"I can't reach it," she said.
The Doctor pulled the wailing tube out from where it was tucked under her corset. "Thank you," he said, turned on his heel, and walked away. Tim saw the girl flinch and watch him go, trying to look like she didn't care. She did, although maybe she'd forgotten what it felt like and mistaked it for something else. She maybe didn't know it, but she wanted his approval, just like Tim did, although her reasons were perhaps her own.
Tim walked away from her, knowing that there were some problems he couldn't solve and some people who couldn't be saved except by themselves.
The Doctor, instead of readying his tube, slipped it back into one of his pockets. Thomson still looked twitchy, and kept glancing at that pocket, but whether it was fear of the tube or fear of the pocket itself, Tim had no idea. Tim kept an eye on Thomson's gun, ready to remove it along with most of his hand if he so much as pointed it in the Doctor's general direction. He was a guardian angel, the right hand of God himself.
Tim was a believing man, but the idea that his stone god was from some other planet really didn't bother him all that much. He knew God wouldn't be sending any help, not to Tim Ross. His angels would be stranger and more befitting a murderer. He'd seen what the Doctor could do, seen his eyes go black and endless. It didn't matter where he'd come from so long as he was there.
"My good man," the Doctor said, his eyes skipping over to his puppet thug, "if you'd kindly knock for us."
The man kicked in the door, striding in with his gun ready. Thomson moved in after him, but didn't shoot right away, something Tim had half figured on. Tim went next, and the Doctor followed him, unarmed, powerless except in that he had all the power.
Ben the Runt was standing over Ace, who was slumped in a corner, her lip split and hand-prints still visible on her shoulders. He'd tried to force her down and she'd given him a hell of a fight. She was down now, but it was more to do with the gun pointed at her than any physical prowess Ben had managed to marshal. Ben removed his hand from the button on his fly, and Tim felt a grim satisfaction. There were some men as deserved what was coming to them.
"What the fuck?" Ben asked, spinning to see.
Ace's smile was as cold and hard as the Doctor's. "That's the Oncoming Storm, Mate."
Ben was staring in horror as his own man, now a living mockery of free will, covered him. "What . . ?" Ben breathed.
"You, Sir," the Doctor said, hands behind his back and eyes not leaving Ben, not even to blink, "have caused me no end of inconvenience. You waylaid what was to be a perfectly routine trip to a perfectly routine human city, albeit due to a cult of alien-worshippers with delusions of temporal grandeur. Then, you compound the issue by being so very obtuse that an amicable compromise is rendered impossible, and you single out my companion for your rather odious attentions, forcing my hand."
Ben didn't look to have heard a single word the Doctor had said. He was still staring at his thug. "What did you do to him?"
"I told him what to think."
"You see, Benjamin, what you've failed to grasp in all of this, what's eluded you, Rassilon only knows how, is that I'm not particularly human."
Ben blanched white, as though he was seeing something truly horrific. "Not . . ."
"Human, Benjamin. Come now, transcendental pockets, my sonic screwdriver, the fact that I mentioned multiple lifetimes and time scales like two-hundred years, and you never wondered?"
"You're lying! You work for the UN!"
"No, Benjamin, I'm a Time Lord."
Ben stumbled back, bringing his gun up and shouting something incomprehensible. He wasn't faking or intimidating this time. He meant to shoot the Doctor, and that couldn't be allowed. There were shots fired.
Tim raised his own gun a fraction of a second too late.
Except the Doctor wasn't down, but Ben was thrown back against the wall next to Ace, two neat holes in his chest. He slid to the floor, his eyes fixed with that last expression of fear. Thomson, his gun still smoking, stepped forward and shot him again in the face.
The Doctor had rushed forward, checking Ace for injuries or stray shots. She held tight to his arms as he helped her stand and then hauled him into a tight hug. The Doctor looked over her shoulder and down at the huddle of flesh which was once Ben the Runt. He said, "That was unnecessary. There was no need for any further deaths."
The door in the main room slammed open, due, no doubt, to the sound of gunshots inside.
Thomson stared at the Doctor. "I should shoot you, too."
"There's been enough death, Detective, and wonton destruction won't bring her back to you."
Thomson took aim, but didn't fire. He just stared down the barrel into a pair of eyes as old as time itself and so sad. Tim raised his own gun, and all three stood there, waiting for someone to move. The Doctor eased Ace behind him. She stared, wide-eyed, at Detective Thomson, but found nothing to say.
Finally Thomson's arm fell and all he could manage was a bitter cough covering the sobs that were bound to come when he stopped. He looked at the gun in his hand, and then let it fall to the ground. "Nobody'd believe me anyway," he said.
He turned and left, his shoulders slumped and his feet heavy. Through the door, Tim saw police and paramedics rush to him, but Thomson just kept walking.
oOo oOo oOo oOo
Zoe stood with her mommy by the ambulance. She'd spent a little time watching the sirens go, but then she did what Mommy had told her not to. She looked at Father Time and Ace.
They stood by another ambulance, and Father Time had made the hospital people help Ace instead of him. Probably because he had two hearts and the hospital people wouldn't understand. They'd be like Mommy and be afraid.
Zoe wasn't afraid. Zoe had watched Father Time save them all, just like he'd promised. She'd seen him come out of the ticket place holding Ace up with one arm like they did in the movies, and they both looked old. Ace had held out her hand and offered him back his watch and said, "I grabbed it when—well, he had his mind on other things."
Father Time had hugged her with the one arm that was already around her and he said, "Oh, Ace," like she was the most important girl in the world, and since she was traveling with Father Time, Zoe believed that she was.
They were both covered with red splatters, like the watercolors her mom got her from Wal-Mart, but Zoe knew they weren't paint. They were blood like the lady bled.
Now, Ace sat at the end of the ambulance, and the lights on the top lit up her hair. She leaned her head on Father Time's shoulder. Mr. Ross, the big old man with the tattoos walked up to them and put a hand on her shoulder. "You gonna be alright?" he asked.
She smiled but she was still sad. "Oh, I'm ace," she said. The Doctor rubbed her arm.
"I'm headed to St. Louis to give my little girl a wedding present," Mr. Ross said. "I could take you along. She's a nice girl, she'd show you around."
"What, to live?" she asked.
"If you want."
"I've already got a home, thanks," she said. Then she looked at Father Time like she'd forgot that she was his favorite. Zoe didn't understand how she could have forgot, with the way he looked at her. "I still have one, don't I, Professor?" she asked.
"As long as you want it," he said.
She smiled and leaned against him again.
"We would accept a ride together," Father Time said. "We still need to go to St. Louis."
"Something about a cult?"
"They're looking to tear history apart," Ace said. "Again."
"I'll give you a lift," Mr. Ross said, and Zoe thought he might be a hero, too. Father Time thought so.
"How are you going to get down there?" Ace asked.
"Well, my hip's been feeling better since you cured that kid. I figure you had something to do that," he said to Father Time. "I got my Harley. I could hook up the passenger bucket for you, Doc. Ace could ride the back."
Father Time looked at Ace. He was asking her a question without asking, and her smile was almost what Zoe remembered from before the men came. Father Time said, "I think we'll take you up on that, Mr. Ross."
Mr. Ross said, "I'll go get the Harley. I don't live far off."
He walked away and Ace said, "Wicked."
Miss Moritz, the girl who knew things she hadn't said, walked by. Ace didn't see. Her back was to Miss Moritz. Father Time looked at Miss Moritz and she looked tough. He looked away, not because he was scared, but because he was mad. When he wasn't looking, Miss Moritz looked sad, and stood back watching Father Time and Ace like she wanted to be Ace. Zoe couldn't blame her. She wanted to be Ace too.
This was Zoe's last chance. Soon Mr. Ross would come back with his motorcycle and they would leave and she wouldn't see them again. She wouldn't see Father Time again. She knew Mommy would be mad, but she ran up to them, holding out his umbrella. He looked surprised. Maybe he thought she'd obey Mommy and not come over.
He took the umbrella and she asked him, "Are you coming back?"
He looked out into the distance. Maybe it was like he said, and time was a map and he could see all the places she couldn't. Maybe he was reading the future on that map. "I don't know, Zoe. I don't think so."
"Then take me with you," she said. This was the biggest decision of her young life, but traveling through the universe wasn't something a little girl like her was going to miss.
Father Time put a hand on her shoulder like he'd done with Ace, and he looked at her like she was important too. Then he said, "I can't."
Zoe tried not to cry, because she knew if he left, she'd never see him again. Father Time was like that. "Why?" she asked.
"Because you're so young. Because you have a mother who really does love you, and would miss you terribly."
"But she thinks you're bad!"
He looked away, back at his invisible map of time. "Maybe she's right," he said.
"No," Zoe said.
"She's not," Ace said.
Then Mommy was running up, taking Zoe's hand. "Come on, Zoe," she said. "We've got to get on the next bus."
"You're still taking the bus?" Father Time asked.
"Not much choice," she said.
Father Time dug into the bucket where the police had put all his stuff and pulled out a bag that jingled. Zoe wondered if he was going to juggle again, but he got a wad of bills out instead. They were all funny looking, but he pulled out some dollars, too. A lot of hundreds.
"Here," he said, giving them to Mommy.
"I don't want your money," she said. She was still mad at him, still scared. Zoe looked between them.
"It's for her," he said, nodding at Zoe. "I'm not sure how much this is; all your money looks the same to me. It should be enough for some tickets and a bit of rent wherever you go. Take her on a plane. Let her see the Earth as small for just a while."
Mommy put the money in her pocket and was maybe going to cry. She was still mad, but he'd done a good thing, and Mommy was confused. She said, "I really really wanted to . . . I wanted . . . thanks. You know, for the money." She took Zoe's hand and started pulling her away. Zoe turned and watched Father Time. He waved at her, looking sad. She waved back, hard as she could. She waved while Mr. Ross came back and Ace climbed onto the motorcycle, tossing her hair and looking as important as Father Time thought she was. Zoe hoped she looked like Ace when she grew up. Maybe in their new home, she'd say that her name was Ace and she'd find a skirt and boots like Ace's.
She waved while Mommy got the baby and the motorcycle drove away. Zoe's arm got tired and so she just stared. She stared until Father Time and Ace were long gone.
And when she got on an airplane bound for Alaska, she saw a world shrunk and hidden behind clouds, and she thought about Father Time and Ace in his spaceship and wondered if this was what they saw.