Several more minutes of silent walking passed before Solomon spoke again. "We're way beyond half a mile. There's no collapse, nothing."
"So Diagoras was lying?" Molly asked. She didn't seem all that surprised, the Doctor noted proudly. She caught on quick.
"Looks like it," he replied.
"So why'd he want people to come down here?" Frank asked curiously.
The Doctor looked from Molly to Frank, considering. Molly had been in danger with him before, true, but he was getting an increasingly bad feeling about whatever was down here, and Frank was just a kid. There had been something familiar about that green blob they'd found; the Doctor wasn't sure what it was, but it gave him a greater feeling of danger than he'd felt in a long time.
Aloud, he said to the Hooverville leader, "Solomon, I think it's time you took these two back. I'll be much quicker on my own."
As Frank and, to his surprise, Molly began to protest, a loud squeal echoed around them. They all whirled around to face the noise. "What the hell was that?" Solomon asked in a low tone.
Frank took a cautious step towards the sound. "Hello?" he called out. The other tried to pull him back, but he protested, "What if it's one of the folk gone missing? You'd be scared and half mad down here on your own."
The Doctor gave Frank an appraising look. "Do you think they're still alive?" he asked skeptically.
Frank shrugged. "Heck, we ain't seen no bodies down here. Maybe they just got lost."
The Doctor doubted it was as simple as that, but the boy had a point – they hadn't found any bodies. Which meant it wasn't just mindless slaughter; there was a point of some sort to all of this.
Solomon shook his head, gaze dark. "I know I never heard nobody make a sound like that."
"Where's it coming from?" Frank questioned, peering around the dark tunnels. "Sounds like there's more than one of them."
The Doctor pointed down where he'd thought it had come from. "This way."
"No, that way," Solomon countered, pointing his torch down towards a different tunnel.
As he pointed the torch, it cast a light on a huddled figure crouched further down the tunnel. They all froze, eyes fixed on the figure. "Who are you?" Solomon asked quietly.
Frank took a few steps towards it "Are you lost? Can you understand me?" He waited a few moments, but when an answer didn't come, he continued, "I've been thinking about folk lost down..."
The Doctor cut him off. "It's alright Frank, just stay back." He made sure the kid backed up, then began slowly approaching the figure. If it was an alien, it might not understand English, so it'd be better if he spoke with it so the TARDIS could translate for him if needed.
Softly, he spoke to the figure as he edged closer. "He's got a point though, my mate Frank. I'd hate to be stuck down here on my own." The figure made no response, putting up a few red flags for the Doctor, so he pushed on. "We know the way out. Daylight. If you come with us..."
He trailed off as he got close enough to throw the figure's face into light. It had the body of a man, but the face was that of a pig, with a snout, ears, tusks, and a wrinkled, bald head. The creature gazed at him with dull, unintelligent eyes. "Oh, but what are you?" the Doctor breathed, fascinated. He had a feeling this wasn't an alien, which made things a lot more complicated.
"Is that, er, some kind of carnival mask?" Solomon asked uncertainly.
"No, it's real," the Doctor told him distractedly. He remained focused on the pig-man. Unless he was very much mistaken, this was one of the people from Hooverville who'd gone missing. The look in his eyes made him think the creature had been robbed of his intelligence, but he had to try. "I'm sorry. Now listen to me. I promise I can help. Who did this to you?"
He was so focused on the pig-man that he didn't notice more of them approaching him until Molly spoke up. "Um, Doctor? There's more."
The Time Lord looked up to see more of the pig-creatures approaching, silently threatening. "Ah, yes. This... complicates things a bit." He started backing up slowly, rejoining the others.
"They're following you," Molly said uneasily.
"Yeah, I noticed that, thanks." He watched the approaching figures, wracking his brain for a way to deal with this. "Well then, Molly, Frank, Solomon..."
"What?" Molly asked.
"Er, basically... run." With that, the small group bolted back down the tunnel they'd come from, pursued by squealing, sharp-tusked pigmen.
They hurtled through the darkened tunnels, the Doctor leading them by memory back the way they'd came. As they ran, he noticed something down a side passage. "It's a ladder! Come on!" He veered sharply towards the ladder, clambering up the rungs as the rest of the group hurried after. With a bit of encouragement from his sonic screwdriver, the hatch above the ladder opened, and the Doctor was able to climb up into the room above.
He turned back to the ladder below. Now to help save the others.
When Molly had started traveling with the Doctor, she'd imagined fantastic aliens, strange adventures, horrible danger, all of it and more. What she hadn't anticipated was the sheer amount of running that was involved. Nor had she realized how easy it was to get tired after several days straight of what seemed to be non-stop running. In the back of her mind she resolved to ask the Doctor if the TARDIS had a gym. She'd need to build up her endurance if she wanted to keep up the whole running thing.
She bolted to the ladder, scrambling up after the Doctor, pausing only to look back at the others. Solomon was waiting to follow after her, but Frank had grabbed a metal bar and was trying to fend off the pigmen that had caught up. "Come on Frank!"
"Just go!" the boy called. She wanted to stay and argue, but Solomon was still waiting to climb, so she hurried up the ladder, letting the Doctor help her up beside him. Solomon climbed up quickly, but when Frank tried to follow, the pigmen grabbed his legs with vicious squeals, pulling him away from the ladder.
Before Molly could react, the Doctor and Solomon scrambled to try and grab his hand. "I've got you. C'mon! Come on!" For a moment, Molly thought they'd saved Frank. Then he cried out, and the squealing grew softer as the pigmen retreated, taking Frank with them. The Doctor cried out, "No!" just as Solomon yelled the boy's name. The Time Lord tried to reach down to him again, but Solomon pushed him away from the hole and closed the hatch, keeping the pigmen from following them.
The Doctor scrambled to try and open the hatch again. Solomon pushed him back, wide-eyed and scared, but determined. "We can't go after him!"
"We've got to go back down!" the Time Lord said desperately. Molly had never seen him this worked up before. It was heartbreaking to see how desperate he was to save the kid. There was wild fear in his eyes, fear of losing someone else, of being responsible for another death. "We can't just leave him!"
"No, I'm not losing anybody else!" Solomon insisted firmly. For a moment, Molly saw something of the Doctor in this man. A true leader, determined to do what was needed, no matter what it cost him. "Those creatures were from Hell. From Hell itself! If we go after them, they'll take us all! There's nothing we can do. I'm sorry."
The Time Lord looked at Solomon with wide, horrified eyes, but before he could protest again, a new voice sounded behind them. "All right, then. Put them up." They turned to see a young blond woman in a black dress, pointing a gun at them in a steady hand. "Hands in the air and no funny business."
Molly put her hands up slowly, quickly followed by Solomon. The Doctor took longer, probably still in a mood because of Frank, but when the woman waved the gun insistingly, he slowly raised his hands above his head. The woman glared at them and said in a sharp tone, "Now tell me, you schmucks, what have you done with Laszlo?"
The small group blinked at her uncomprehendingly. "Um..." Molly began uncertainly, "who's Lazlo?"
It turned out they had climb up into a prop room for the Laurenzi Theatre. The blond had led them into her dressing room, and was currently leaning back in a chair by her dresser, gun held loosely in one hand. She no longer seemed to think them a threat, thankfully, but everyone viewed her casual handling of the gun with unease. "Laszlo's my boyfriend," she began to explain her earlier accusation. "Or was my boyfriend until he disappeared two weeks ago. No letter, no goodbye, no nothing. And I'm not stupid. I know some guys are just pigs," Molly had to hold back a snort of laughter at her choice of words, "but not my Laszlo. I mean, what kind of guy asks you to meet his mother before he vamooses?"
"Yeah," the Doctor said slowly, eyes trained on the gun she held. "It might, might just help if you put that down."
"Huh?" The woman looked down at the gun in her hand in surprise, as though she had forgotten she was holding it. "Oh, sure." She tossed it carelessly onto the couch, causing everyone to flinch away. The woman raised an eyebrow at their reaction, then let out a snort as she realized their thoughts. "Oh, come on. It's not real. It's just a prop. It was either that or a spear."
Molly let out the breath she'd been holding. Everyone visibly relaxed now that it was clear the gun held no danger. The woman seemed harmless now, so she took a few steps towards her and asked, "Well, what do you think happened to Lazlo?"
The woman shrugged. "I wish I knew. One minute he's there, the next, zip. Vanished."
The Doctor was starting to look impatient with the conversation. "Listen, ah—what's your name?"
"Tallulah," the Time Lord began, but the woman in question cut him off.
"Three Ls and an H," she clarified.
He looked slightly annoyed at the interruption, but all he said was, "Right. We can try to find Laszlo, but he's not the only one. There are people disappearing every night."
"And there are creatures." It was the first time Solomon had spoken since they'd abandoned Frank, and the determination he'd shown then had been replaced by the fear he'd been holding back. "Such creatures."
Tallulah looked at him with raised eyebrows. "What do you mean, creatures?" she asked dubiously.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Look, listen, just trust me. Everyone is in danger. I need to find out exactly what this is." He pulled out of his coat the green jellyfish blob from before. Molly held back a gag at the rank odor, and Tallulah's eyes widened impressively at the sight of it. "Because then I'll know exactly what we're fighting."
Solomon and the Doctor went in search of whatever it was the Doctor needed to figure out what the blob thing was. Molly had decided to stay behind with Tallulah; the blond was clearly confused about what was going on and scared for her boyfriend; she could do with having someone to talk to.
The blond in question was staring blankly at the mirror on her dresser, her earlier bravado replaced by a quiet mournfulness. "Laszlo," she said quietly. "He'd wait for me after the show. Walk me home like I was a lady. He'd leave a flower for me on my dressing table. Every day, just a single rose bud."
Molly couldn't help but feel a pang of envy. This Lazlo sounded like a really great guy. Why couldn't she find something like that? But she pushed back her jealousy and focused on the heartbroken blond in front of her. "He sounds great," she said encouragingly.
A small smile appeared on the blond's lips. "Yeah. Yeah, he is."
Talking about him seemed to be helping, so Molly pushed on. "How did you meet him?"
Tallulah sighed happily. "I grew up here, but almost across the city. I came here to get work when I lost my last job, 'cause I heard they was hiring dancers, but even after I got hired it was hard. Didn't really know anyone, and I was just going back to an empty apartment every night, you know? Anyway, a few weeks after I started here, I had trouble getting a cab to get home after work, and it was pouring outside and the wind was blowing hard, the works. And this guy comes up to me; I was still in costume, so I figured he was looking for a girl to hire, but he acts the gentleman and offers to drive me home." She smiled fondly at the memory. "He's the sweetest guy I've ever met." The smile faded as she added firmly, "And that's why I know he didn't run off on me. He just ain't that kind of guy."
With a last shake of her head, she turned to Molly, forced smile in full effect. "Anyway, enough about me. How'd ya get together with that skinny guy in the sharp suit?"
"The Doctor?" Molly asked with surprise. "Oh, we're not together. I've got a boyfriend back home."
Tallulah looked surprised. "Really? Huh, wouldn'ta called it. I guess you two weren't acting all couple-y, but you're traveling together so I just figured."
"It seems like everyone we meet does that," Molly said wryly.
"Well, at least you got a fellow back home," the blond observed sadly. "All I get every day is this." She pulled out a white rose from inside her dresser.
Molly remembered her earlier mention of Lazlo leaving her a flower. "Do you think he's leaving them for you?" she asked in surprise. She'd gotten the impression that Lazlo had gone missing entirely, but if he could leave a rose bud behind every day, he must be hiding out somewhere at least near the theater, if not inside the place itself.
Tallulah shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. If he's still around, why is he being all secret like he doesn't want me to see him?"
"Dunno," was all Molly could offer. The whole story was reminding her of something familiar. "It all seems very Phantom of the Opera, doesn't it?"
Tallulah looked at her blankly. "Who?"
Molly backtracked as she realized her mistake. "Oh, nothing." The musical wouldn't be out for a while probably, though she wasn't sure of the date.
Molly helped Tallulah get ready for her performance, then followed her backstage as she joined the other performers. The blond turned to Molly "Come on, honey. Take a look. Ever been on stage before?"
"Er, you know, did a Shakespeare play once." She held back a smirk at her own joke. The playwright would've like Tallulah, who probably would have been far more adept at flirting back.
Tallulah scoffed. "How dull is that? Come and see a real show." She pulled Molly right up to the edge of the curtain so she had a good view of the stage.
After a few minutes, the girls all went out on stage. The song was entertaining, but Molly was soon distracted by a strange sight. A pigman was standing near the curtain across the stage, but he didn't look like an ordinary pigman. There was more human in his face, and he didn't seem to be trying to chase anyone. Instead, he was watching the performance with something like sadness in his twisted face.
Molly froze, moving a little behind the curtain so he didn't notice her. For now, he didn't appear to be moving, but it could easily be a trap. Better to wait until the Doctor arrived and figured out how to proceed then run after him and possibly into a trap. Besides, he didn't seem to be going anywhere.
The performance had just finished when the Doctor finally returned, without Solomon. "Listen, I figured out where the sample –"
Molly cut him off. "Doctor, look." She pointed discreetly across the stage, where the pigman was still standing.
The Doctor blinked at it in surprise, then turned to Molly. "And you didn't go after it?"
Her brow furrowed in confusion. "You told me not to wander off."
"Yeah," he said, looking baffled, "but I think you're the first human I've ever met to actually listen to that."
Without further explanation, he grabbed her hand and started off across stage. The performers let out cries of surprise, and the pigman looked up at them, startled. It started to run for it, fleeing past the backstage into the props room, but she and the Doctor quickly followed. To Molly's surprise, Tallulah ran after them, hollering for them to slow down, though she soon fell far behind.
Without warning, one of the pig creatures grabbed the Doctor from behind. Molly whirled around to help free him, but the creature was fierce. She grabbed hold of his arm. "Come on, Doctor!" They tried to pull him loose from the pigman, but it pushed him to the ground with a fierce shove. The Doctor's head connected with the ground with a sickening thud. He twitched slightly, then lay still, unconscious as far as Molly could tell.
The pigman grabbed him by the arms and began to drag him away, baring his tusks fiercely at Molly. "No! Let him go!" She tried to follow, but someone grabbed her arms from behind.
Molly tried desperately to pull free, but the grip on her was too strong, and she was forced to watch helplessly as the pigman dragged an unconscious Doctor away. She whipped around her head to see who was holding her back. "What were you…" Molly trailed off as she realized it was the human-looking pigman who had grabbed her.
He looked at her with a desperate expression. "I'm sorry, but he's gone, alright? You don't need to let yourself get taken too."
Before Molly could react to it being able to speak, Tallulah finally caught up. "Hey, let her go!" The blond hurried over to the two, pulling Molly back from the pigman, who jerked back after releasing her, hiding his face.
He tried to shuffle back into the shadows, but Molly followed him slowly, inching closer. "Hey, are you alright?" The pigman didn't answer, keeping his face turned away from them. "You helped me. Why?"
He just shook his head with a grunt. "I couldn't just let you get taken."
"So why were you in the theater?" she asked gently.
"I… don't look at me," he whimpered softly.
Tallulah, who'd been staying back with wide eyes, slowly began to approach. "Hey, I know that voice." The pigman tried to pull back into the shadows, but Tallulah soon came close enough to touch his face. Her eyes widened in horror. "Lazlo? My Laszlo? Oh, what have they done to you?" Her voice trembled, but her hand stayed on his cheek.
He looked back at her with longing. "I'm sorry. I never wanted you to see me like this."
Molly watched the two with sympathy. This was more like Phantom of the Opera than she'd thought; a man with a hideous face in love with a beautiful woman. Normally she'd let it play out, but right now there were more urgent things to get to.
"Lazlo," she prompted softly, "Do you know where they took my friend?"
The pigman nodded grimly. "He's being taken to the masters."
"The masters?" she echoed.
"The ones who did this to me. They needed slaves. They needed slaves to steal more people so they created us. Part animal, part human. I escaped before they got my mind, but it was still too late."
She felt a thrill of horror. "So he's going to have his mind taken?"
He shrugged. "It depends. Is he smart, your friend?"
Molly nodded, puzzled by the question. "He's completely brilliant."
"Then they'll take him away for the final experiment," Lazlo told her grimly. "The people they take are divided into two groups. High intelligence and low intelligence. The low intelligence are taken to become pig slaves like me, but they take those with high intelligence to the labs for something they call the final experiment. I'm not sure what it is, but those taken never come back."
Molly's thoughts raced with ways to help save the Doctor, but then she considered something he'd said. "You said they needed more slaves?"
He nodded. "Now more than ever. I don't know what they're planning, but whatever it is, they seem to need it done by tomorrow morning."
She felt a cold shiver of fear. "Hooverville. They're going to go after Hooverville."
The pathologist hesitated, but in the end there was only one choice. "Come on," she said to Tallulah and Lazlo, "we've got to warn everyone."
"Warn who about what?" Tallulah asked, exasperated. "And what about your friend?"
She felt a pang of guilt but forced herself to ignore it. "He's clever. He can take care of himself for a bit, but first we need to warn Hooverville. You two coming?"
Tallulah and Lazlo exchanged uncertain glances, but finally turned back to Molly with a nod. "We'll do what we can," Tallulah announced.
Molly looked at the two followers she'd picked up and wondered fearfully if she was about to lead them to their deaths. Who knew what these aliens were after, and if there was even a Hooverville left to save?
The Doctor's coat was lying on the ground inside the prop room; it was the same one they had come through before. Molly grabbed it and slung it over her arm. "Alright. Let's get going."
Ah, I promised I'd be departing from canon, didn't I? Molly doesn't seem like the wandering-off type, hence the slight change that led to a larger change. I love exploring cause and effect like that.
I know I cut off this episode a little early, but I need to think about where I'm going with Evolution of the Daleks, and I wanted to get this posted.