Don't Fear the Reaper
By Cho Cozi Seyunolu
I do not own Doctor Who, El Goonish Shive, or any of their characters.
Chapter 1: The Investigation
Desmond looked around the gallery. It was a mess.
Three years as a security guard here at the museum, and the worst thing that had ever happened was someone trying to run off with a painting during operating hours, and one time that someone had broken a window and apparently been scared off by the resultant alarm. Nothing like this had ever happened. He was just glad that he wasn't the night watchman; that man had a lot of explaining to do.
Whoever had done this, they were obviously a pro. No alarms went off, no signs of a forced entry anywhere in the building, no surveillance cameras saw anyone… but the Reaper, one of the prize statues in their collection, was gone. Or at least mostly gone.
He heard a commotion in the hallway off the gallery, and a tall, thin man walked in and ducked under the police tape. He wore a blue and brown pinstripe suit under a long brown trench coat, with spiked brown hair that had to be gelled. Approaching the man, the security guard said, "Sir, you have to leave, this wing has been sealed off to collect evidence –"
The man's face registered sudden understanding as he patted his coat for a moment before reaching inside. "Detective John Smith, Scotland Yard. Here for the investigation," he said, flashing an ID. Slipping it quickly back into his pocket, he extended his hand, a big smile on his face.
"Desmond Jones," he replied, taking the detective's hand and waving off the other guards in the hallway. "I'm the head security guard for this wing. I didn't realize your people would get here so fast."
"Oh, you know us," John Smith replied, letting a hint of amusement into his voice. "To protect and serve and all that bit. So tell me Desmond, what exactly happened here?" he asked, looking around.
"To be honest we aren't quite sure if it's an act of vandalism or theft yet, sir. Last night, the night watchmen closed down this wing of the museum like usual. And at around 4:15 AM, the video surveillance shows some kind of light falling on the statue, and then cuts out. When we came in this morning the camera was busted, like it had been hit by something." He gestured at the rock fragments littering the gallery. "The ground was covered with these. They're the same color and texture as the Reaper was, and a few are shaped like chips of the statue, but others don't seem to fit and it's not nearly enough to add up to the whole thing."
"Can I see a picture of the original statue?"
"Uh, sure, here," Desmond said as he walked over to the entrance to the hallway and pulled a brochure out of a rack on the wall. "It's under the East wing highlights heading. We have better pictures on the computers and in the gift shop if you need them, plus the surveillance footage of course."
"Lovely," the detective said, enthusiastically thumbing through the brochure and opening it up fully when he reached the appropriate page. His face twitched briefly into an expression of surprise at what he saw, though, and he studied the picture intently before looking up.
Slipping the brochure into another pocket, he took a deep breath and asked another question. "That picture made it look like the pedestal had some writing on it; what did it say?"
"Well, that's the bit that makes me think somebody is messing with us. The Reaper had an inscription on the pedestal that said 'I rise only to reap what I have sown,' it's where the name comes from. And if you'll look over in the center of the debris…"
The two men gingerly stepped around the fragments littering the floor inside the police tape, detective Smith's trainers (trainers… not exactly regulation) making little noise compared to Desmond's boots.
The detective stopped dead as he reached the middle of the roped off area. Looking down, he saw two thin flat plates of stone from the pedestal with ragged edges, but their inscriptions reading as clear as day, laid out end to end to produce a sentence:
"I Rise To Reap"
With a focused look on his face the detective reached into his trench coat again and produced a small pen-shaped device; silver, blue at the end. Crouching down, he telescoped it longer and started waving it over the fragments, the tip glowing a bright blue and it making a strange warbling buzzing sound. "What's that? What're you doing?" Desmond said, his face scrunching up as his confusion deepened. This man wasn't acting like a crime scene investigator…
"Oh… just looking for fingerprints," detective Smith replied, his eyes remaining focused on the stone fragments and his little cylinder.
"But you need to dust for that! You can't just see fingerprints with a blacklight," Desmond retorted, his confusion deepening.
"Nah… new model." The detective was obviously very distracted, sweeping the blue glow over every square inch of both fragments and then bringing his device up to his face, staring intently at its side for a second before collapsing it and returning it to his pocket. "No help there, and I don't think you'll be finding fingerprints on any of these other pieces either. Just one more thing. You said the name of the statue was 'The Reaper' because of the inscription on its pedestal. Not because that was what the artist called it?"
"Uh, yeah, that's the other funny part about the story. Of all the works in this museum, we don't know who produced this one. It was found in a field several decades ago, with one set of footprints leading up to it –"
"– And no footprints leading away?"
"Exactly. They figured it was some kind of publicity stunt but nobody ever claimed responsibility."
"Yeah, publicity stunt…" the detective echoed slowly, his eyes far away and his mouth not quite closing as he trailed off. Suddenly taking a deep breath and putting on a smile again, he looked back towards Desmond. "Well, thanks for your help, I think I'm done here for now. I'll just head out and, uh, make my report; the technicians will be here any minute to help you out more. Good to meet you, Desmond," he said, shaking hands once more, and turning on his heels and walking quickly down the hallway.
"Wait…" The man kept going around the corner. "How can we contact you? What department are you…" Desmond rounded the corner, but the detective was gone. He stood at the corner, dumbfounded.
Someone walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me, are you in charge here?"
"Ah, yes. What can I do for…?" Desmond turned around and was surprised to see a man with a sour expression on his face flashing him a badge.
"My name's detective Jake Brooke, I'm here from Scotland Yard with the forensics and investigative team. Can you direct us to the crime scene?"
"Wait, you're from Scotland Yard… what about the other man? Is he with you?"
"What other man?"
Desmond's face fell. Something was definitely wrong here. "The man in the trench coat, with the funny hair. Detective John Smith…" His voice trailed off as he saw the look of incomprehension on the new detective's face.
The lock on the maintenance exit shorted out, and the Doctor stepped outside. Striding quickly down the road, his face a thoughtful mask, he put the sonic screwdriver back in his trench coat and his hands in his pockets. What he had just seen was certainly not what he'd been expecting – though he wasn't quite sure what he'd been expecting.
At least it wasn't an Angel, he thought. That was one of the first icy fears that had entered his mind when he heard about a missing statue – one of them on the loose in London would be a nightmare. But Angels didn't leave notes.
Turning a corner into an alley, the Doctor walked quickly up to a familiar blue box. Taking a quick glance around, he spied no one, and so quickly slipped out his key and slipped into the TARDIS.
Once the door to the massive interior was shut, he took off his coat and started to throw it onto the organic arches near the door before remembering something important he'd stashed in it. Reaching a hand into another pocket up to the elbow, he reached around for a few moments and extracted the stone fragment he'd palmed when the security guard was busy staring at his sonic screwdriver. He hadn't been able to tell anything substantive in the museum other than that the stone was artificial; transmuted from the air when it was created rather than quarried from the ground. He had a hunch as to what was going on, but he would need the TARDIS scanners to confirm it.
He placed the rock in a small circular depression on the console and began flipping switches and levers to engage the powerful if a bit jerry-rigged internal sensors. Extra-terrestrial symbols and graphs flashed across the screen as the TARDIS cycled through every method it was capable of to figure out just what was in that rock. Isotopic composition, radiation signatures, residual bio-energy, and time displacement readings flashed past one after the other. But then the Doctor grinned as the console pinged and the swirling symbols on the screen stabilized on the latest results, his hunch vindicated. "Ah, that's it! Classic lithosuspension! A living being with all its biofunctions paused and wrapped up in a mineral shell to protect it from – " He stopped suddenly, his face falling as he looked around, remembering he was alone. Talking to himself again. He'd been doing that a lot lately. Ever since Martha left. And ever since Astrid… no, he wouldn't think about that, he couldn't, not now.
There wasn't time for that anyway. That was in the past, and he had more past than he could deal with if he thought about it all the time; more than many beings could even conceive of. He had to focus on the present, or he risked losing himself in everything that had happened over his last three incarnations. Focusing on the panel once again, a serious look on his face this time, he realized that this wasn't just everyday lithosuspension. There was an impressive amount of psychic energy locked up in the rock – psychic energy with a very peculiar pattern that he had only seen a few times. "He's got to be a wizard," the Time Lord muttered to himself. He was pretty sure that the man he saw in the brochure wasn't an Uryuom or an Immortal, two other races that could channel energy like that with a chance of being found on Earth. No, the only humans who could channel that much psychic energy were the so-called 'magic' users, and judging from the sheer amount that had been absorbed into the rock while the man had been frozen he had been a formidable one indeed.
Someone this powerful could do a world of hurt if they wanted to. Armed with the energy signature of the statue fragment, the Doctor turned the TARDIS's sensors outwards, searching for any evidence that the wizard's powers had been used again in the last few hours. At first he got nothing but then, unmistakably, the scanner slowly picked up the trace left by a trans-mat moving the mass of one person a few thousand miles, suffused with the wizard's unique stamp and less than an hour old.
He traced the wizard's trans-mat, though it was unlike any he'd ever seen before – the process had obviously not been controlled by a computer, but instead been performed as if by feel. It was hardly a concentrated pattern, and used far more energy than it had to. After much fiddling with his scanner screen, the Doctor managed to narrow the trans-mat's exit point to a circular region about 20 miles wide in North America, just west of Chicago.
Pulling the scanner around to the other side of the console and jiggering the controls there, he tried to narrow that further – to no effect. The signal was just too diffuse and unfocused. "Argh, that's not good enough!" the Doctor groaned in frustration, pacing around the console and ineffectually trying to fiddle his sensors into better working order. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he accepted that he wasn't going to get the reading any better. That area held a good sized suburban town, and bordered on a major city just a few tens of miles away. That was a LOT of people, and he didn't have any idea of this wizard's intentions. Was he a megalomaniac from the past, escaping from justice into the future? An adventurer, eager to explore the new world that had sprung up while he slept? Who knew how old this 'Reaper' could be.
"The Reaper…" the Doctor intoned aloud.
No. None of that fit. Not with his message, rising to reap what he had sown… this man was on a mission. Somewhere out there, there was something this man felt he was responsible for. Something that had awakened him from his sleep. Something dangerous? The Doctor stared at his scanner, thinking of the ominous words on those two chunks of stone. He looked around the empty, gently humming control room. It was just him, alone with no help. All he had to go on was a map of suburban Chicago, and a cryptic message engraved in stone. He had no idea what was going on there, who this man he was following even was, or what he might find. And no plan.
At least that last part was business as usual. He braced himself, and pulled a lever.
The floor vibrated under his feet as the still-recovering TARDIS roused herself from her rest. She powered up slowly, still unsettled from the Master twisting her into a paradox machine and then being run over by the Titanic. The Doctor gently manipulated and eased the controls as the time rotor thumped on, grinding and wheezing into action. As they dematerialized, he patted the console and nudged the capsule into the spacelike dimensions of the time vortex, grabbing a handrail as the floor tipped slightly from horizontal. "And we're off again, old girl," the Doctor said with a slight grin, stroking the rough skin of the console.
He glanced at the map in the scanner view, and the town centered on the trans-mat trace.
"Let's go see what's so interesting in Moperville."