I know your face and know your soul
Fetch the coffin, dig the hole
None of you are growing old,
You'll lie beneath, your story told
Eternal things will drag you down,
I fear, my dear, we own this town.
So count the time as your heart beats
While from within the monster eats.
A slap, an angry yell.
"LEAVE HER ALONE!" screamed the tall boy, but none of the attackers seemed to hear or care. They pushed the raging girl into the dirt, and continued on their way.
Rory ran towards Amy and pulled her up.
"Those-" she was spitting, "Those..I'll kill-"
"Amy," Rory said, "come on, come with me, it's going to be alright." Currently it was far, far from alright. He led her away. In the distance, Amy's attackers were walking and laughing and not bothering to look back.
He led her to the Hole and helped her in. She winced as her feet hit the dirt, and Rory worried about that, it wasn't uncommon for the prisoners to have their feet whipped for the most minor of offences...
Also huddled in the Hole was a young girl, younger than Rory or Amy, blue-haired and weeping. Her name was Alya, they knew her as they knew all the others, all the prisoners, all the slaves.
"Alya," Rory asked, "are you ok?"
She turned her tear-streaked face to him. "Of course I'm not ok," she said. "That's a stupid question."
"She got you there," Amy said, sinking onto one of the planks of wood embedded in the mud. "Ignore her, unless she needs you. How long do we have?"
Rory looked at his watch, his twenty-first century watch, a present from his mother on his eighteenth birthday thousands of years ago. "Um, let's see, the guards won't reach our posts for...ten minutes? But it's the apprentices I'm thinking of, the ones who just..."
"Hit me," Amy finished.
"He's coming," Amy said. "He will."
"I know," Rory said, although in truth he didn't. He hoped the Doctor was coming, desperately hoped, but for now he was focusing on more practical things. "Amy, I should look at your feet."
"They're fine," she said, "just sore. We have ten minutes, right?"
"Kiss me, then."
He did, even though Alya was watching.
Ten minutes later they were back at their posts, carefully ignoring each other. Rory was cleaning the insides of a rusty robot, Amy was digging holes for artifical trees.
The apprentices were wandering back.
"Alright, ginger girl," one of them called to Amy. "Marry me, and I'll take you out of here, and I won't hit you any more."
"I'm married already," Amy snarled. "Go to hell."
They laughed, one of them aimed a clump of mud in her direction, and they carried on.
As Amy and Rory stared angrily after them, an alarm sounded in the distance.
"Oh God," drifted a voice from another post, an old man watering the plants. Slowly, the people around Amy and Rory put down their tools and began to walk tiredly away, all forming one group heading for the courtyard.
"Come on, Amy," Rory said, "we have to go, if we don't..."
"Can't we go hide in the Hole again?"
"They always check it. Moonlight told me."
With a deep, sad sigh, Amy took her husband's hand.
"Maybe it won't be so bad this time," Rory said, although he knew he was only trying to reassure her. "I'll look after you, Amy, ok? I promise."
"I don't need looking after, remember? Not by anybody." Amy said, but she clung his hand so hard that it shook.
There was a stage in the courtyard, in front of the entrance to a dark, forbidding cave. It was the cave that everyone from the group of prisoners eyed with fear as they went past. Neither Amy nor Rory had been in there, but they knew the stories about it, that those who entered did not exit.
To the right of the stage was the building that housed the prison guards, named the Phoenix Building and guarded by the apprentices. It was large and forbidding, and Amy and Rory suspected that any prisoner sent there would not exit easily either. It was surrounded by huge stones, tributes, Amy and Rory had learned, to the people humans had killed in this war. To the left stretched out the prison camp, miles of mud and rocks and desert, current home of the Ponds, current hell.
A man stood on top of the stage, his goons and soldiers behind him, looking down at them all. He wasn't human- his skin had a green tint, he had more than ten fingers, and his hair was also green and looked like leaves- but Rory and Amy tended to refer to him as 'that man'. Sometimes in tones of anger and sometimes in tones of fear.
He was of the Forest. The Forest would one day evolve, into creatures more tree than human, but Amy and Rory weren't to know that. He was called Mort, Mort The Coming Son in fact, after Forest mythology, but if he spoke to a prisoner, they had to address him as 'General'. Now he was walking up and down on the stage, a pleased smile on his face, his eyes lingering just a little too long on Rory and Amy. He wore the ceremonal uniform of the Forest, leaves and coloured wood and pieces of bark displaying each letter of his name. Amy thought this seemed a grotseque parody of a nametag, like the one she had worn during her one-week job in Matalan.
"It carries on," Mort said. "You have drowned us and burned us and invaded our moons, you have killed thousands of us and we have killed less than one hundred of you!" He swept his hands out at the vast rows of tombstones. "But we continue, times will change! And the human race will be wiped from the galaxy."
No-one in the crowd below him spoke, the punishment would have been severe, but all were angry and some were shaking with fury, or terror. For the next words Mort said were, "I have the retirement notices here."
Amy clutched Rory's hand yet tighter, and while Rory knew that he and Amy were reasonably safe- well, maybe - he still felt dread in his heart.
"Moonlight Jones," said Mort, and a young woman a little ahead of Rory and Amy turned white and didn't move.
"Moon. Light," snapped Mort, and slowly, so very slowly, the woman walked forward, climbed the stairs to the stage and, shaking, took the small piece of card. She knelt, tears pouring down her face, and although Amy and Rory had seen this once before they couldn't bear it...
"Lois Beth Jameson!" Mort yelled, and the same thing happened again, another shaking woman walked forward.
"Samuel Flane!" he yelled again, and a middle-aged man, hands in pockets, head slumped, devastatingly resigned look, ascended the stage.
"Rory," Amy whispered, "I can't..."
"I know," Rory whispered, "I know."
"These three people have disregarded the rules," Mort announced. "They shall be punished. Watch."
Amy closed her eyes, Rory closed his. But 'retirement' took an hour at the least, and although Amy had once kept her eyes jammed closed to escape the Weeping Angels, and although Rory had once spent a very long time being a robot, neither could keep their eyes closed completely, and every so often they'd open them and see flashes: the men leading the three condemned to the caves, pushing them in, blocking the entrance, fellow prisoners with their hands over their mouths, waiting-
After an hour and a half of standing there, legs quaking, hearts beating, there was a scream from the cave. Another fifteen minutes later and there was another voice, a man's voice, yelling, but they couldn't make out the words and wouldn't have wanted to. And then, finally, two hours and thirty-eight minutes after the whole thing had started, a final scream echoed around and the whole thing was over.
"Dismissed!" shouted Mort, who had passed the time painting a picture. "Back to your posts!" And as every prisoner turned, he added, "But not, I think, our little Ponds." And Amy and Rory stopped, hearts pounding.
Every other prisoner walked away, some of them even daring to shoot a look back. Amy and Rory were left alone with Mort and his men, all of whom were armed, and they felt so small and hopeless. Mort smiled, showing his red teeth.
"The Doctor likes you two," he said. "I find it odd. Perhaps because of his physical resemblance to humans? But whatever the reason, it is ill-advised. He begs me to return you both to him, to free you all, the most powerful thing in history begs. To me!"
Amy and Rory waited.
"The Doctor knows where to find something that I want," Mort continued, "and when I have it, you'll go free."
Neither of them said anything.
"Talk!" Mort snapped. "Grow a backbone, little humans, talk!"
"What is it that you want?" Rory asked.
"A weapon that will destroy Earth from the inside out," Mort answered. "The Osterhagen key."
"We've never heard of it," Amy said.
"Really? Well, that's what your lives are worth. You, both of you, free if the Doctor gives up the key."
"But he won't," Rory said, without even really thinking, as Amy tensed beside him. "The Doctor would never help anyone destroy Earth, not even to save his friends."
"And you're sure of that?"
"Yeah," Rory said, suddenly uncertain, wishing or dreading. "Yeah...I'm sure. Completely sure."
"So we're just going to have to tough it out," Amy said, "and both of us are tough."
Mort smiled. "Fair enough. You're assigned to different posts as of today. You-" he pointed to Amy, "-will be working below ground on the sewers."
"You," he said to Rory, "will be on security."
"No-" Amy began, but Mort just grinned.
"We'll see if he will ever come for you," he said. "If he'll give up an entire planet, and the millions who live there, for Amy and Rory Pond."
The Doctor had been tied to a chair to stop him intervening with the Retirement. They'd done it before. They'd used special rope, supposed to be unbreakable, and left him to watch the goingson.
Now they came to untie him.
"I'll never, ever help you," he said as they pushed him to the floor. "You say you've heard all about me, well, many people have. But clearly you haven't heard much. Earth is under my protection. Any planet at risk from hostile, violent idiots is under my protection. Any people who send innocents to their death, I fight those people! And I win! Understand?"
"Your friends are still down there, Doctor," said Mort, as the Doctor rose. "In pain, in desperation, waiting for you to come and save them."
"Both my friends are good at waiting."
"That's as may be. But they'll probably die."
The Doctor paused, uncertainity in his eyes. "Well. I don't think they will."
"Brave words. No conviction behind them. You like your friends. You don't want them to die. Give me the key, and they won't. You're the Oncoming Storm! You can do anything, do this!"
"No," said the Doctor.
"They don't have long."
"Between them they've had a good few centuries," the Doctor said, "and they have more to come. Don't underestimate Amy and Rory. I never have."