Union of Souls
Dec 22nd, 12.01am
Tracey Collins wasn't really sure why she'd parked down this particular alleyway. It was dark, dirty, and the wet concrete beneath her feet was slimy with lack of care from the local council.
The pathway led between two disused buildings that had once been factories. It was within walking distance of the local theatre and there were no double yellow lines anywhere to be seen. That was why she'd parked here, she convinced herself.
And after all, it wasn't as if she was actually alone and had anything to be scared of.
The echo of her high heels ringing in her ears reminded Tracey that muggers and rapists didn't care why women parked their clapped out Vauxhalls in places like this, nor did they really care if their victims were alone or in pairs.
Criminals tended to think of girls as the weaker sex, and right now Tracey was inclined to agree with them.
The thirty-four-year-old shop assistant glanced over at her workmate and smiled wanly. This was supposed to be a girlie night out to see their favourite soap star on stage, and so far it had been everything they'd expected and more.
And yet, now, as they headed back for the car, Tracey knew Carrie was feeling just as uneasy as she was. The creases in the younger girl's face as she tried not to stare at every elongated shadow were evidence enough.
"Next time, I think we park in the multi-storey," Tracey suggested with a sigh as she tugged out the Vectra's key fob. "Might be free, but this place gives me the willies, big time." She pressed the centre of her car's ignition key, but the familiar beep and flash of orange indicators didn't come.
Tracey pressed again. "I knew I should've got those new batteries in this thing…"
Still no reaction from the car.
Carrie looked over her shoulder as if some childhood bogeyman was going to jump through the nearest boarded up window and grab her with his claw-like hands. Her wary eyes darted from building to building and then to the far end of the alleyway.
"Maybe we should go back, call for a mechanic or somethin'?" she mumbled, her voice quivering a touch.
"Yeah right, pay the local grease monkey a hundred quid to pick my own car's locks?" Tracey fumbled with the door and finally got the Vauxhall to open up, but without the chip inside the key actually activating, the alarm system wouldn't budge, and she knew it.
The car was totally immobile.
"Now I wish I'd joined the AA when that goon at Asda tried to talk me into it…"
Tracey slumped down onto the driver's seat and reluctantly pulled out her mobile. She hadn't much credit left, but maybe she'd be able to get through to her brother and he'd know what to do – if not, he could at least pick them up so they didn't have to walk home alone.
"Trace, I don't like this. Somethin' ain't right…" Carrie began to rub at her arms as if the temperature had suddenly dropped several degrees. "I think maybe we should just go…"
Tracey pressed hard on the LG's touch screen, but still the little phone said there was no signal. No signal in the middle of the capital city? What is this, 'The Day The Earth Stood Still'? Yeah, right, no Keanu around here...
Eventually, she gave in and tossed the mobile onto the passenger seat. A wonderful night was turning into a disaster, and all because she'd been cheap and not wanted to pay the local NCP fees.
"Suppose we'll have to walk it home." She climbed back out of the car and slammed the door shut as if it was the Vectra's fault it wouldn't start.
Letting her heels drag a little, she began to clomp back down the alley with Carrie in tow.
Looking into the distance, she realized just how long the path was between the two buildings. In fact even pedestrians on the pavement that lay adjacent looked like matchstick figures. It hadn't seemed that far in the light of day, had it? Great, Tracey, you and your bloody scatterbrained ideas…
Something clattered behind them and both girls whirled around, spooked by the abrupt movement. It was probably a cat, or worse, a rat, but in the gloom, it was too hard to make out any distinct shapes.
And that made it all the more terrifying.
The sound came again, and this time a lanky figure emerged from the shadows along with the rattling.
Tracey felt her stomach lurch as she looked at him.
The man – if he could be called that – looked like he hadn't eaten in months. He was as thin as a rake and had eyes as wide as a frying pan. A thick growth of beard covered his angular features and his trousers were muddied and torn.
The word tramp came to mind, but even that description was too good for this loser. He was probably a wino or drug addict.
"We don't have any money, so don't even think about it…" Tracey let a hand slide towards her bag. She didn't have any Mace, but maybe a face full of Impulse would slow the scruffy little waster down.
"Tracey…" Carrie's bottom lip was quivering and she turned and began to run towards the open end of the alley without waiting for her friend.
Tracey rolled her eyes and backed away from the man, but she didn't run. It was obvious despite his apparent lack of muscle that he was as sprightly as a Springbok. He'd catch them in no time with their stupid high heels and tight skirts.
"We need to run!"
The tatty tramp surprised her with his outburst. Instead of attacking her or grabbing her handbag, he was frantically gesturing after Carrie, arms waving around like he'd had lessons from Magnus Pike.
Tracey cringed. Did anyone even remember Magnus Pike these days? Jeez, I'm getting to be a right old fart…
"Well what are you waiting for? RUN!" The tramp grabbed her arm with long spindly fingers and tugged hard. He gave no explanation why they should suddenly exert themselves for no good reason, but Tracey felt strangely compelled to follow his instructions.
Kicking off her shoes, she ignored the pain of the uneven concrete and discarded rubbish digging into the soles of her feet, and began to sprint after Carrie.
The tramp gave chase, but for some reason he seemed content to bring up the rear, even though he could undoubtedly run faster than either girl.
Every few moments, he seemed to slow his gait and dare to look over his shoulder. If he saw anything there, he didn't mention it as they ran towards the light of the nearest street lamp.
"Who are you?" Tracey managed to ask in between sucking down air. And why the hell am I taking notice of a word you have to say? she muttered under her breath.
But the tramp didn't answer.
Instead, he'd stopped dead in the middle of the alley, his dark brown eyes growing even wider than before. "Can't be…" He rubbed at his beard as if the rough tactile sensation would give him answers. "Couldn't have got in front so fast…"
Tracey pulled to a halt with him and gasped down air as the stitch in her side threatened to double her over. When she'd regained her breath enough to concentrate, she looked up, following the stranger's gaze.
At the end of the alley, just in front of an astonished Carrie Peters, was something the likes of which none of them had ever seen before.
Stretching from one factory corner to the other was what looked like a wall of energy.
The only thing making it visible to the naked eye were the sparks and tendrils of pale blue electricity that seemed to stretch across it like a pattern of intricate veins.
The outline ebbed and flowed as some unknown power source channelled across it, through it, feeding it.
Carrie gulped, but somehow her throat wouldn't let her swallow. She didn't look scared, she looked terrified.
Tracey shared the younger girl's horror. Things didn't happen like this, not in the real world. This was something straight out of the whacked out Sci-Fi shows her little brother loved so much.
Carrie moved, daring to edge towards the spiking, energy -spitting phenomenon. She rocked on the balls of her feet, obviously torn between common sense and the overwhelming desire to escape into the open world.
"Don't touch it!" The tramp held one arm outstretched, begging her to retreat, but Carrie just wanted to escape. "Don't!"
Making a final decision, Carrie Peters dived forwards at the pulsing barrier of light and hissing static, ignoring the stranger's pleas.
Her body seemed to slam into the thing like she had run smack into a brick wall at thirty miles an hour. And instead of moving through the discharge, she appeared to be held by it, like a fly trapped in a giant spider's web.
As Tracey and the tramp watched, Carrie began to convulse, her petite frame spasming as the blue sparking current danced over her torso and limbs. She screamed over and over as thin streams of blood began to ooze from her ears, nose, and eventually her eyes.
And then, suddenly, Carrie grew still, her taut muscles relaxing as some unseen hand finally let her go.
She tumbled to the wet concrete and remained there, motionless.
Tracey Collins' scream mimicked that of her friend's only seconds earlier, and she turned, intent on running back to her car and locking herself in.
Except now, the wall of death was behind her and the stranger, waiting patiently for them to succumb. It seemed to want them, to need them, to want to feed off them, even though there was no way to know what it was thinking.
Indeed, if it could think.
Tracey ran forwards anyway, making the same mistake her friend had. It wasn't a well considered choice, but more of a knee jerk reaction. She wanted to escape, she would feel safe in her car.
This was all probably just some nightmare after all the junk food she'd eaten outside the theatre. So not eating burger and chips again with all that sauce…
Tracey impacted with the phenomenon and realized the last sentient thought she was going to have was about chips.
The moment her flesh came into contact with the bizarre energy form, she knew how a car battery felt after being sucked dry by lights being left on all night. Something was draining her, leeching her life away as easily as flipping a switch.
Tracey yelled out in agony as white-hot spikes seemed to pierce her brain, searching, probing until there was nothing left but an empty shell.
Like Carrie, the bare husk that had once been Tracey Collins fell to the ground and was still, small streams of blood ebbing from her features and congealing in small pools under her skull.
The wall of energy burbled, flashing and sparking like a child that had been given a new toy. And yet still it wanted more.
The tramp stared at it inquisitively, head cocked to one side as if analyzing every hiss of static and pulse of energy it emitted. "You're beautiful, aren't you then?"
It burbled again, blue lightning streaks forking from its centre as it began to move, pressing the stranger backwards until he had nowhere left to go.
As his spine bumped into the cold brickwork of the factory wall and he was engulfed by its raw power, he smiled almost excitedly. "Beautiful…but oh so very deadly, eh?"
Thirty seconds later, not two, but three bodies littered the ground in the alleyway, and as the crescent moon momentarily broke through the clouds above, it began to rain.
Not a heavy downpour, but just enough to make the small puddles of blood begin to turn into watered down lakes of crimson.
From somewhere in the city, a dog howled like a prairie wolf, its intuition telling it something was off.
But already, it was too late.
A new kind of predator had found London, and soon it would need to feed again…
Dec 22nd, 11.21am
Martha Jones couldn't believe what she was doing. After careful consideration, she'd convinced herself never to step into a U.N.I.T. building ever again.
While the work the establishment conducted was for the right reasons, its military leaders tended to use force more often than was necessary. Something she had almost become too accustomed to at one point.
She had almost, almost become like them.
And yet, here she was, a few days before Christmas, ambling through the long empty corridors as if she'd never left the organisation. A visitor's badge hung from the top pocket of her leather jacket, but she suspected that if Colonel Alan Mace had his way, she'd soon be inducted back into the fold.
She'd been shopping for last minute gifts for Tom, her fiancé, when she'd received the call. The Colonel hadn't said much – except that she was needed, and that no other substitute would do. It had been the last line that had hooked her.
That, and the fact that Mace rarely pleaded the way he had. She'd worked with him before against the Sontarans with the Atmos device, and he was a typically stoic British officer.
Begging in any way, shape or form was definitely beneath him.
So why did U.N.I.T. think it needed her so badly when it had top ranking experts from every nation in the world amongst its divisions?
Martha rounded a corner and flashed her I.D. at a reader inset in the wall. It accepted the code, allowing her into the next section of the base. She knew an armed guard would be waiting for her at the end of the corridor.
It was procedure – just like the old days.
True to form, a young soldier in black, red beret slightly askew, stood on guard with snub-nosed weapon at the ready.
What she hadn't expected was that Colonel Mace was waiting with the soldier, a grim expression clouding his features that suggested whatever was going on was far graver than even his phone call had implied.
The officer held out a hand, but it was clear he wanted done with the pleasantries as swiftly as possible. "Dr. Jones…Thank you for coming at such short notice. I wouldn't have called you…but…"
"But, you have something going on that you think is alien in nature, yeah?" Martha cut to the chase, falling in step next to the Colonel as he about-faced and began to stride down the secure corridor, arms behind his back.
"We're not sure what we're dealing with at this point," he confessed. "What we do know is that the same phenomenon has killed fifty-two people in the Greater London area within the last five days – and the time between each attack is shortening."
Martha blinked. "Fifty-two? I haven't heard anything on the news…"
Mace nodded, ushering her into a small office with what appeared to be a two-way mirror. "We've kept a complete media blackout. After all the other, shall we say, seasonal incidents over the past few years, we didn't want a mass panic on our hands."
"But why me? You must have the best brains in the world at your disposal…"
Mace huffed as if the idea amused him. He picked up a manila folder and tossed it across his desk. "We'll come to that shortly. First, take a look at the latest victims' autopsy reports. Perhaps you might see something familiar. After all, you are singularly well qualified in this field…"
Martha caught the file and flicked it open. "Because of the stuff I've seen travelling with the Doctor?" As she talked, she began to read through the medical reports and crime scene information.
The top report was about a young girl named Tracey. A small photo was paper-clipped to several pages of information.
The girl reminded Martha of a friend she'd gone to school with, but then, in these kinds of cases, you could always draw a parallel with someone.
"Your medical officer suggests subdural haemorrhage caused by massive intracranial pressure?" Martha looked up from the folder quizzically.
Mace sniffed. "He was being a little reserved with that description. Let's just say almost every victim so far has had portions of their 'little grey cells' turned to pulp. Not pretty…not pretty at all." He turned to look through the two-way mirror. "It's our medical department's belief that something is feeding on the electrical activity in the human brain, and it doesn't care what damage it causes to do it."
"Almost every victim?" Martha flicked to a second dead girl, but her autopsy file was identical to the first.
The Colonel nodded, but didn't turn to look at Martha. Instead, he gestured through the mirror to the room beyond. "That is why I invited you here…or rather, he is. When U.N.I.T. picked up the electrical disturbance created by the phenomenon, we dispatched a team to the epicentre. The two girls were beyond our help, but he was still clinging to life."
Martha stepped to the officer's side and peered through the back of the mirror. The room she looked upon was pure white, with only one doorway. In the centre lay a bed with a rather scruffy, apparently undernourished occupant.
It looked as if the man hadn't shaved for at least a week, maybe longer, but given his current condition, Martha guessed that was the lesser of his woes. "He survived the attack?"
Mace finally turned and shot her a bemused glance. "Yes, but that wasn't our most immediate concern. Take a closer look at our friend, Dr. Jones…"
Martha's right brow quirked upwards, but she leaned closer to the mirror, this time examining the man's features rather than focusing on his overall condition.
After a brief pause, her mouth opened and she shook her head. "It can't be..?"
"The Doctor," The Colonel confirmed, fixing his hands behind his back again. "I thought the same when he was first brought in, except our medical officer confirms this man is human – only one heart. You can see why I insisted on your presence?"
Martha bobbed her head, acknowledging Mace, but her mind was already brimming with possible scenarios and suggestions. This wasn't her Doctor, but if he was human, it meant they had already met. This was the Doctor born in battle with Donna Noble.
This was the end result of a human/Time Lord Meta-Crisis, and right now, he shouldn't even be in this universe. He should be in a parallel reality with Rose Tyler.
How was it possible for him to be here when the void was sealed? Where was Rose? Why was he even here? Could it be connected to the attacks?
"Even if I can't be here, I will be here, one way or another…"
The Doctor's words danced around in Martha's head. Her Doctor. Had this been what he'd meant? What had he known, even then, as he'd left her behind?
"Dr. Jones?" Mace's concerned voice broke her from her thoughts. "Do you think this man could be part of some kind of alien conspiracy? Could he be working with whatever is causing the attacks? A fake Doctor of some kind left here to throw us off the scent?"
"No!" Martha's one word response was abrupt. "He might not be the Doctor you know, but we can trust him – if he wakes." She put her palm on the glass, wishing she was in the room beyond. "He's…" She tried to choose her words carefully, needing to explain without really explaining. In the end, she realized she couldn't. "He's a friend," she said simply.
Mace winced at the answer, clearly not satisfied, but for now, he didn't push it further.
Martha was glad he gave her enough credit for that at least, because right now she had other things on her mind.
Just thinking about the human Doctor scared her. He wasn't the person she'd come to love, his memories of her weren't even complete, but still she sensed the bond that had carried her across so many different worlds, and through so many adventures.
He might not be her Doctor, but he deserved to live.
"What was your medical officer's prognosis?" she eventually asked, letting her palm unconsciously slide away from the mirror.
"We don't know," Mace offered bluntly. "His DNA might be human, but his brainwave activity is certainly nothing like anything our specialists have ever seen. We have no benchmarks to use as a comparison. If the girls are anything to go by, we could be talking massive brain damage, though…"
"And there was definitely no-one with him?"
"Only the two dead women, and obviously, we couldn't question them." Mace pursed his lips and then frowned. "Our crime scene people collected any possible evidence from the alley, if you'd like to examine their findings? Anything you can help us with at this point…"
Martha took down a breath and nodded, moving away from the window, even though she hated to turn from the human version of her friend. "I'll take a look."
Mace led her back out of the office and into what she presumed was a room that adjoined 'the Doctor's'. A long table lined one wall, adorned with various evidence bags. At the end of the table was something that almost touched the ceiling. It was covered with a khaki section of tarp, but Martha didn't need to pull the cover free to know what lay beneath.
"The TARDIS?" She swiftly walked over to the deceptive blue box and tugged a key from her handbag. Slipping a hand under the canvas, she slid the key inside the only lock on the space ship's exterior.
The key was the right size, but it refused to work the tumblers within the barrel. Martha wiggled it, a look of confusion filtering across her face. Could there be two TARDIS's as well as two Doctors?
"Something wrong, Dr. Jones?" Mace was watching her intently, a small plastic bag in his right hand. "We found the ship near the alley…"
Martha shrugged noncommittally and took the bag. "No, nothing's wrong." This just isn't the TARDIS I'm used to. The words formed in her head, but she didn't voice them. Mace was already jittery about the new Doctor. He didn't need to know there appeared to be two time travelling police boxes as well.
She examined the evidence bag's contents without looking back up at the Colonel. Inside was one solitary earring. Nothing flash, just a ring of gold that could be bought from any jeweller's or market stall. And yet, Martha had seen earrings like this before.
Rose Tyler had a pair just like it.
"Was this close to where the victims were found?"
Mace's nose twitched like a rabbit and he checked the code on the bag. "It was near the Doctor's ship. Is it relevant?"
Martha shuddered. "It might be. I don't know yet." An image of Rose seemed to fix itself in her skull, and no matter how hard she tried to push it away, it wouldn't go.
Could Rose be in trouble or…or?
"How did you track the disturbances?" Martha let the bag and its contents slide back onto the table. She had bigger fish to fry. "You said you were able to dispatch a team?"
Mace grunted. "The thing sends out some kind of electromagnetic pulse. It neutralizes phones, alarms, cameras, you name it. Anything within a mile radius."
"So you'll know when the next attack is going down, yeah?" Martha was on the offensive. Her friends were involved now, and whatever she felt about U.N.I.T.'s tactics no longer mattered. "Because I want to be there…"
"We can't possibly allow a civilian…"
Martha waved a hand as if she'd already expected his retort. "Fine, I'll sign whatever you want." She reached for the door handle and then turned back as if something had occurred to her as an afterthought. "I'll be with the Doctor until you hear anything."
Mace coughed as if he was about to argue and had then had second thoughts. In the end, he simply nodded and allowed her to leave.
Outside, across from the evidence room, was another door. Martha was convinced it led to the human Doctor – especially as it had an armed guard posted either side.
As she approached, both men stood to attention and saluted as if they already respected her authority. Squinting, she realized she recognized the man on the left from the Sontaran affair at the Atmos factory.
She smiled at him and he leaned over, opening the door for her to enter.
Inside the room was just as she'd viewed it earlier from the mirror, except now she could smell the clinical aroma that lingered in hospitals and care facilities like this. The sharpness seemed to irritate her nostrils as if she was new to it.
Martha ignored the niggling sensation and pulled up the sole chair next to the sleeping Doctor.
Was he actually just sleeping, or would his injuries keep him this way forever?
She shrugged away the thought of examining the chart hanging from the end of the bed. She was here as a friend, not a physician.
As she tugged off her jacket, she realized her ears had automatically tuned themselves into the monitor the Time Lord was hooked up to. Telling herself it was just her training kicking in, she avoided looking at the beeping machine and instead looked at him.
Beneath the beard, the sharp features were just the same as she remembered them – except now there were no sparkling brown eyes peering inquisitively back at her, and he looked almost too gaunt.
What had this version of her friend been through since their parting?
Feeling slightly sheepish, Martha took his limp hand and pressed it into her palm. Maybe if he knew she was here…
His skin was warm, and as their flesh touched, she could almost pretend that she felt his fingers twitch ever-so-slightly, straining to grip hers.
Do I even know you, I mean really? Her mind screamed. Or are you just a carbon copy of the real thing? A human version with no heart and soul?
She dismissed the thought, suddenly realizing that his eyes were frenziedly moving beneath their lids.
He was dreaming, but she suspected the reverie was nothing pleasant.
"It's alright," Martha whispered, squeezing the hand still entwined with hers, but her soothing tone appeared to have little effect.
He was almost thrashing suddenly, his back arching as mumbled words of despair and agony fell from his lips. She had never seen her Doctor like this, and it frightened her.
"Not here, can't be here…old, so…old. Not Rose. PLEASE not Rose!"
Martha jerked backwards as the Doctor abruptly sat bolt upright in the bed, eyes wide and face drawn in a mask of anguish.
"Shush," she tried to calm him, even though her own heart was thrashing against her ribcage. "Whatever is was, it's gone. You're safe now." It felt like she was cajoling a small child, and instantly guilt hit her. He deserved more than that, whatever state the entity had left his mind in.
The Doctor didn't seem to hear her at first. He simply stared at the freshly painted wall at the end of his bed. Then, as his wounded psyche began to focus, he blinked, throat bobbing as he repeatedly swallowed.
Eventually, he looked to Martha, but there was none of the usual mirth she associated with his character. If his mind was still intact, then this version of the Doctor was in his gravely serious mode.
And that scared the hell out of Martha.
"You're safe here," she tried again.
He sighed. "Martha Jones, if I'm right…and let's face it I usually am…we'll never be safe again…"