1. Chapter 1 by Haiza Tyri
2. Chapter 2 by Haiza Tyri
3. Chapter 3 by Haiza Tyri
“So where are we now?” Rose asked eagerly. She was always eager. It was one of the things he liked so much about her. Nothing dampened her for very long.
“Well, Rose,” the 9th Doctor smiled, “I’ve detected a tiny discrepancy in the timeline. Very minor, nothing that will end life as we know it—”
“That’s a relief.”
He grinned. “But it will have an important and negative impact on some old friends of mine, not to mention a number of individuals associated with them.”
“One is an old friend—the other will be an old friend, only he doesn’t know it yet. Ready?”
“Time and place, Doctor?”
“Oh, yes. Delaware, the East Coast of the United States, 1996.”
“Well, that’s not as much of a jump as I expected. Still, America is fun.”
The door of the TARDIS opened. They were in a long, dark corridor, cut by a few shafts of smoky light. It all smelled of stale smoke.
“Doctor, is this place safe?”
“If you mean it won’t come down around our ears, yes. Other than that, no.”
He grinned. She grinned back. “So what exactly is it we’re doing here? This isn’t exactly how I would have imagined Delaware.”
“We’re underneath Delaware, twenty-seven levels below the surface of the Earth. It is a top-secret installation—”
“Of course it is. They all are.” Rose tripped over a burned beam, and his hand caught her and kept her from falling. “Thanks.”
“And in the original timeline a man held unjustly here for thirty years escaped yesterday.”
“Is he the one who is the old friend or the one who will be the old friend?”
“Will be. We are supposed to meet in two years. Something’s gone wrong with the timeline, though, and he hasn’t escaped. We have to find out what went wrong and make sure he escapes.”
“All right! Let’s find him. Where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, great. If this is twenty-seven levels below the surface, this place must be big. Does it all look like this?”
“No. This level burned fourteen years ago, but it’s well cut-off from the rest of the Centre.”
“Then how do we get out?”
The Doctor gave her a mischievous look. “Look up.”
There was a grate in the ceiling, a very dark hole. “Ventilation?”
“Ventilation. Take the sonic screwdriver and give me your foot.”
The Doctor boosted her up, and she used the screwdriver to release the grate. With a grunt he pushed her up into the square hole, then jumped and pulled himself up after her. “Torch?” he said, pulling two small torches from his jacket pocket.
“Ugg. It’s filthy in here. Big, too.”
The ventilation shaft was easily large enough to allow a tall man to crawl in it. They crawled until they came to a shaft that went up. Then the Doctor showed her how to activate the Van der Waals force in the shoes they had picked up on Ioppas, and they climbed the shaft as easily as two geckos.
Almost as easily. “Getting a workout,” Rose gasped, “was not what I had in mind when I joined you. But then, neither were zombies. Doctor, are there going to be any zombies in this story?”
“Good. I’m sick of zombies.”
They kept going up for a long time, up nine or ten levels. Finally they stopped to rest in a horizontal shaft. Light came through a nearby grate. Rose jumped when she heard the voices.
“That’s very good,” said a slow, accented voice. French, maybe?
“Belgian,” the Doctor whispered, as if he could read her thoughts.
The voice was continuing. A male voice, an older man. He sounded nice. “Now, can you solve this puzzle?”
As silently as she could, Rose maneuvered herself to the grating and peered out. They were high above the floor of a large, utilitarian grey room, laboratory-like. Two little boys sat at a table facing each other over papers laid out before them. A man stood watching them. He fit his voice, a tall man in his late 50s with grey hair swept neatly back, a gentle, intelligent face, bright, deep eyes. He watched the children intently, and when, at the same moment, they put down their pencils and gave him their papers, he smiled as if they had given him a gift.
“Very, very good, boys. We’ll have to have a little talk about how you do this.”
“How they do what?” came a voice directly below the grating. This voice was distinctly creepy, low and rasping, interspersed with very audible breaths.
“Oh, hello, Raines.” The man left his students and moved toward their side of the room. The Doctor was sharing Rose’s grating now. They looked down onto the top of the man’s head as he spoke with his invisible questioner. “It’s a study into the possibility of psychic connections between identical twins. These two are quite remarkable. They are each given half of a mathematical puzzle, and simultaneously they come up with the complete solution.”
“Well, you’re going to have to put them away for now. We’re still having problems with Jarod.”
Rose felt the Doctor’s hand clasp on her arm. Your friend? she mouthed at him. He nodded.
Anger came into the Belgian man’s voice. “Raines, I strongly deplore the methods you chose to get Jarod to cooperate while I was gone. You know how stubborn he is. You should have let me deal with him. He always gives us what we want when we give him something he wants. Now you might have ruined everything.”
“We got the results we needed, Sydney.”
“Yes, and now you may never get results again! Don’t you understand, Raines? You’ve destroyed Jarod’s trust in us! You’ve ruined everything I have built up with him over his lifetime! Now he will dig in and refuse to cooperate. He doesn’t even trust me anymore.”
“You’d better reestablish trust and get him to cooperate, Sydney, or we’ll have to try other methods. There’s a simulation we need him for tomorrow. Send the kids back to their room. The sweepers are bringing him here now.”
Under cover of the bustle of people coming in and out, Rose whispered, “Doctor, what is this place?”
“It’s a think-tank. They think up answers to problems and sell them to the highest bidder. Usually the United States government, but not always.”
“Who thinks up the answers, Doctor?”
His face in the semi-darkness was grim as he only allowed it to be on rare occasions. “Prisoners. Brilliant slaves. Like Jarod.”
Two large men had come into the room through the door in the wall under the vent. They had a man by the arms, a tall man with dark hair, pushed him down into a chair with his back to the door. The Belgian man—Sydney (what kind of a French name was that?)—nodded to them with a dark weariness on his face, and they retreated. The tall man in the chair crossed his arms and stared at the floor.
“How are you today, Jarod?” Sydney asked.
“You tell me, Sydney. You’re the psychiatrist. How do you think I am?” His voice was low, angry, his words precise, not quite touched with the accent of his questioner.
“I think you’re confused and disturbed. And angry, too. Are you angry with me, Jarod?” Sydney spoke very evenly, like a good psychiatrist.
“I don’t know, Sydney. But I am doing no more simulations. This place isn’t to be trusted.” And he folded his arms more tightly yet and refused to move or speak, no matter how much Sydney talked to him.
Sydney finally sighed and made a motion that summoned the two large men back into the room. “Please, Jarod, for your own sake, do the simulation tomorrow,” he said, his calm voice almost a plea. Jarod didn’t answer as he suffered himself to be led away. Sydney stood in the middle of the room, staring after him, his own arms folded. “Curse you, Raines,” he muttered. “Look at what you’ve done to him. Curse you.” He stalked out of the room.
Rose sat back and stared at the Doctor. “There’s something really, really wrong going on here, Doctor.”
“I know, not the least of which is that Jarod should have escaped from here in the early hours of the morning today, and he hasn’t.”
“Doctor, tell me exactly what’s going on. Who is this Jarod?”
“I’m not sure, Rose. He’s a genius. He can learn anything, be anything. He gets inside the heads of anyone he meets or learns about and effectively becomes them. But no one knows who he really is, least of all himself. He was kidnapped as a child and brought here, and he has lived here ever since, doing their simulations, solving their problems. He has recently learned that his simulations have sometimes been used to injure and kill innocent people. He has always believed he was doing good, until now. They’ve done some horrible things to him, Rose, and they’ll do worse things yet. Especially now that he hasn’t escaped as he should have. A lot of people’s futures depend on him—depend on him escaping. A lot of nobodies, the sort of people no one cares to help.”
“The sort of people we help?” Rose said softly.
“Yeah. He cares, and he will help many of them, if we can get him out of here.”
Rose suddenly jumped and clutched his arm. “What’s that?”
There was a sound very much like the sounds they had been making, the sound of someone crawling in the ventilation shafts. A shaggy head popped around a corner several meters away, and round eyes stared at them. Then the head disappeared, and the crawling sound started again.
The Doctor’s wide mouth spread in a grin. “Come on,” he said and started crawling rapidly after the figure.
“This is ridiculous,” Rose muttered.
They followed the figure up another level, he climbing with ease, as if he were a gecko himself. Finally he came to a stop in a large, round metal tube that ended in another grate looking out into a large, empty grey room much like the one they had just seen. Rose could see him clearly, an ungainly figure in a green shirt, his face round, his eyes rounder yet, his expression…strange. Somewhat dull, as if the world was bewildering; somewhat blank, as if he didn’t know how to change expressions. But after staring at them a moment, he put out his hand and touched the Doctor’s arm.
“Doctor?” The word seemed to be an effort.
The Doctor put his hand over the hand on his arm. “Yes, Angelo. It’s me, the Doctor. I look different than I did the last time we met, but it’s me. You can feel that, can’t you?”
Angelo’s lips pulled back from his teeth, and Rose realized he was smiling. “Doctor!”
The Doctor reached forward and hugged him. “It’s great to see you again, Angelo. Rose, my old friend Angelo. Angelo, this is my friend Rose.”
“Hi, Angelo,” Rose smiled. There was something very strange about Angelo, but she had met so many strange people in the last year that it hardly mattered.
He reached out his hand, and she took it and gave it a shake, but he did not release when she did. His brow wrinkled as he held on to her hand. “Rose…is angry. Confused.” He smiled. “Happy, too. Happy with the Doctor. Angry here.”
She wrenched her hand out of his. “Doctor?”
“He’s feeling your feelings, that’s all.” The Doctor put his hand on Angelo’s shoulder. “He has a great talent.” And his eyes were sad, his mouth grim. “He’s right, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, he’s right. I am angry. What are they doing to that man? How can they have kept him locked up since he was a kid? This is the United States of America, not North Korea!”
“Jarod,” Angelo said. “Angry about Jarod. Rose wants to help Jarod. Doctor wants to help Jarod.”
“That’s why we’re here, Angelo,” the Doctor said. “Something has gone wrong.”
“Jarod didn’t escape,” Angelo said softly.
“Angelo! You know he was supposed to? Can you feel the discrepancy in the timeline, Angelo?”
“Jarod escaped. Jarod didn’t escape.”
“Why, Angelo? Why didn’t he?”
Angelo’s eyes narrowed. “Mr. Raines,” he said, suddenly menacing, his face that of another person.
Rose drew back, but the Doctor didn’t move. “Mr. Raines,” he repeated. “How did you find out, Mr. Raines? We’ll have to have a talk with him. But first we have to find Jarod. Do you know where they’re holding him, Angelo?”
Angelo nodded. “Holding cell.”
“A holding cell? Not his regular room? Angelo, do you know what happened? What did Raines do to him while Sydney was gone?”
“Angelo doesn’t know.” He screwed his eyes tight shut. “Experiments. Jarod doesn’t remember…has nightmares. Afraid. So afraid. And a simulation.” His eyes opened. His accent and voice changed. “How do I know what will be done with the results? I won’t do it!” Then he was Angelo again. “They hurt his friend. Jarod is angry. Jarod hurts. Afraid. He gives them the results. They kill his friend.” His face filled with an expression of deep pain. “No!” He clutched his head and rocked back and forth. “Hurt. Jarod hurts. Angry—guilty. He killed his friend. Afraid—what will they do with the results? So hurt. Escape! Jarod must escape. He can escape from his room.”
“But he’s in a holding cell instead of his room,” the Doctor muttered. “Raines knew he was going to escape from his room. How? There’s something rotten in the state of Delaware. Angelo, can you take us to his cell and provide a diversion long enough for us to talk to him?”
Angelo nodded and led the way.
Presently they were looking down into a hallway that looked like a prison, or a high-security psychiatric hospital. Heavy metal doors with tiny windows lined it. Angelo pointed out a security camera at one end of the hallway.
“Is there another in the cell?”
Angelo nodded. “Guards…watching. Always watching.”
He pointed to the door at the end of the corridor.
“A guard room through there? Can you get in there and cause a distraction until I can take out the cameras?”
Angelo grimaced his smile and nodded.
“I’ll give you three minutes.”
Angelo crawled rapidly away. The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and made some adjustments. “Good thing I added a new subroutine,” he said with a grin. “Instant security camera feed looping. They’ll be watching an empty hallway for days.”
“Or at least until someone walks down it who’s supposed to be there and they realize they’re still watching an empty hallway.”
“Until then, yeah.”
He used the screwdriver to loosen the grating and set the metal aside very quietly. They waited a few moments, and then they heard Angelo’s diversion. A shout—“Hey! What are you doing here? Angelo—?”
The Doctor leaned down out of the ventilation shaft and aimed the screwdriver at the video camera. “Got it,” he grunted. Grasping the edges of the square hole, he rolled down out of it and landed like a cat. “Come on.” He held up his arms, and Rose slid down into them. “Good girl. Now I’ll have to do the same for the camera inside.”
In one swift motion he unlocked the door with the screwdriver, slipped in, detected the camera, and had it looping before the man sitting on the bed with his head in his hands could do more than look up. Rose slipped in after him and pulled the door closed. They grinned at each other.
“Nice work, Doctor.”
“Thank you, Rose.”
They looked at the prisoner in the cell. He was staring at them. The Doctor hadn’t mentioned how handsome he was. Strong-boned rectangular face, long, straight nose (not so long as the Doctor’s), very nice mouth pulled in a tight line, deep eyes that held more than she had ever seen in a man’s eyes—except the Doctor’s. “Hello, Jarod,” Rose said softly. Some peculiar impulse made her want to hug him.
His dark eyes were puzzled. They seemed to be trying to figure her out. “Well, you’re new.”
“Old, actually,” the Doctor said.
“Did Sydney send you?”
“Ah…no. Though…maybe someday. We don’t have much time, Jarod. I’m the Doctor; this is Rose Tyler. We’re going to help you escape like you should have done last night.”
“Sydney, I’ll do the simulation.” Jarod’s voice was spiritless. “Just make them let me out of here and back to my own room.”
Sydney stood looking at Jarod for a long moment. What had they done to him? He knew Jarod was having nightmares, and not just about the friendly janitor he had watched them kill to make him obey. There was something else, but Jarod said he couldn’t remember anything but the horror of the dreams. Sydney felt some of the defeat he saw in Jarod’s eyes. So many years spent working with Jarod, fostering his intelligence, his interest in his work, his goodness of heart, doing all he could to protect him from the worst aspects of the Centre, and now Jarod’s own stubbornness was going to expose him to it. Unless they had finally managed to break his spirit, in the three weeks Sydney had been so conveniently got out of the way. For thirty years Sydney had watched Jarod’s spirit burning bright, unquenchable despite the unorthodoxy and frequent pain of his life. Surely he wasn’t now watching it die away? He didn’t think he could bear that. “Jarod—” he said softly.
“Please, Sydney. I just want to be in my own room.” And he turned away, lying on the bed facing the wall.
“I’ll see to it, Jarod.”
“What was Angelo doing in the guard room?” Mr. Raines demanded.
“Apparently he wanted to see Jarod,” Sydney answered. “He can sense his pain from quite a distance, it seems. But when he got to the guard room he was distracted by one of the guards who is going though a divorce. He is easily distractible, especially when someone near him is feeling something quite intensely. He had the guard in tears.”
“The man should be shot.”
“Who? The guard or Angelo?”
“The guard. Angelo is too valuable, even if he is a nuisance. Jarod has decided to cooperate now, has he?”
“Yes. Letting Angelo see him might have had something to do with it. But he says he has to be in his own room. He can’t think in a holding cell.”
Raines gave a short, unamused laugh. “He can go back anytime…now.”
“Raines, I wish you would tell me—”
Raines’ head swiveled around. “What was that?”
The shrill voice of a girl could be heard in the corridor outside the laboratory. “Let me go!”
Sam the Sweeper flung the door open. “Mr. Raines, we’ve caught an intruder!”
“An intruder?” Raines and Sydney both repeated.
“In the Centre?” Sydney said. “Has that ever happened before?” People usually wanted to get out of the Centre, not in.
Sam and Willie brought the struggling girl in. She was short, stocky in an attractive way, blonde, and very pretty. She was also very young and rather grubby.
“What is this?” Raines demanded.
She crossed her arms and glared at him. “He said there weren’t going to be any zombies.”
Sydney cocked his head. London accent? Cockney? Not something you would expect from a Centre intruder.
“Just you wait until my daddy finds out about the way your sweepers have treated me, Mr. Raines! Or should I say Doctor Raines?”
“Who are you?” Raines growled at her.
“Miss Tyler!” came a new voice from the doorway. Five heads swiveled this time. The new intruder was a tall man, hair cropped short, very long nose and wide mouth, wearing jeans, a black leather jacket, and a smirk. “There you are! You have given me quite a chase, young lady. As soon as my assignment here is cleared up, I am taking you straight home.”
Another Brit? Northern England, Sydney decided.
“No. I’m not going home. You tell Mutumbo it’s not his job to send sweepers after me. If Daddy wants me home, he can jolly well come here and fetch me himself.”
Raines dragged his oxygen tank forward and glared up at the tall man. “What is going on? Who are you?”
“I’m the Doctor.” He smiled widely beneath his long nose.
“Doctor? Doctor Who?”
“Just ‘the Doctor.’ My business here is with you, Mr. Raines. Mutumbo sent me.” He pulled a wallet out of his pocket and flashed what was clearly a Triumvirate authorization, signed by Mutumbo, in Raines’ face. “It also incidentally happens to be with Mr. Tyler’s little girl.”
“I’m not a child anymore!” Miss Tyler shouted at him. “And I don’t want to go back to Africa! I hate Africa! I want to go back to London where I belong!”
“Who is Mr. Tyler?” Raines snapped. “And what is his kid doing in the Centre?”
“Oh, you wouldn’t have heard of Mr. Tyler, Mr. Raines. But he’s valuable enough that Mutumbo is even willing to put up with his spoiled brat to have his assistance in Africa. She stowed away aboard my plane, thinking I was going to Dover. Dover, England, not Dover, Delaware.”
“I like Delaware,” Miss Tyler announced. “And I really like the famous Centre. Really neat place. Wicked. You know I’ve been here a day and a half and none of you ever knew? The poor Doctor has been searching for me all over Delaware, and here I’ve been.” She edged up to Sydney and smiled at him. She had a dazzling smile, one that made her face glow. “You’ve been doing some interesting experiments, Doctor Sydney. I liked the one with the little twin boys. Do you think they could actually read each other’s minds?”
Sydney chuckled with a sly enjoyment of Raines’ predicament. “I’m not sure yet. Identical twins do have a very special connection. Are you interested in twins, Miss Tyler?”
“Of course! Who isn’t?”
The Doctor interrupted them. “Sydney, keep the child occupied while I talk to Mr. Raines. Don’t let her escape. Alright, Mr. Raines. Mutumbo sent me to find out why you’ve been keeping the Centre’s biggest discovery from him.”
“Discovery? I haven’t been keeping any discovery from the Triumvirate—”
Sydney quite enjoyed talking to Miss Tyler. She was a change from his normal subjects, a chaotic but vivacious seventeen-year old with no mother and no home life to speak of. He could see that her antics were an effort to get her father’s attention, not really a bid to go home to England.
“Tell me about your father, Miss Tyler.”
She made a face. “What’s there to tell, Syd? He’s a workaholic. So he works for Mutumbo. Big deal. That man thinks he’s a king.”
“Well, he is, in a way.”
“The important thing is my father thinks he is. Mutumbo says Jump, and Daddy jumps. Doesn’t matter that he promised to take me to the wildlife reserve last week. No, he has to run off on another assignment for King Mutumbo. It’s not fair! He should be here!” Angry tears started out of her eyes. “I hate Africa, and I hate Mutumbo.”
“Your father is probably trying to protect you, Miss Tyler. It’s not an easy thing working for the Triumvirate. He probably has no choice—anymore than the rest of us do.”
Miss Tyler stared at him. “Is that why you do it, Sydney? Why you work here and do experiments on little children?”
He stared back. No one had questioned him on his motivations before, not since Jacob—that night— He pushed the memory away. “My work here is valuable, Miss Tyler. The discoveries I make about the human condition will benefit society.”
“You really think that, don’t you? So it really doesn’t matter what happens to a few individual lives, as long as you can feel like you’re benefiting society.”
For a moment Sydney seemed to see another person behind the eyes of the seventeen-year-old girl, and that person was analyzing him as intently as he was analyzing the girl. But then the glimpse disappeared.
“That’s probably what my dad thinks, too. What do we matter as long as the Triumvirate is served? Forget society. The Triumvirate is what matters.”
A sweeper stuck his head in the door. “Jarod’s room is almost read for us to move him there to get ready for tomorrow’s simulation, Mr. Raines.”
Sydney broke away from Miss Tyler. “We’ll meet you on the way, Sam.”
“I’m done here,” the Doctor announced. He clapped Raines hard on the back, making Raines burst out into a fit of coughing. “Mr. Raines, I expect this project you’ve told me about to be completely buried until you receive word from Mutumbo about what he wants done with it. It should never have got this far without Triumvirate authorization. You people here at the Centre really are overstepping your bounds. He’ll probably be sending in some overseers from Africa. You can tell Mr. Parker to be ready for a complete audit. Miss Tyler, come along. You’re coming home.” He took her arm. “Don’t bother to see us out, Mr. Raines. We’ll go out the way we came in.”
Miss Tyler tried to shake out of his grasp and failed. She heaved a dramatic sigh. As he began to pull her out of the room, she turned back to Sydney. “Be seeing you, Number Two!” she smirked with a strange sort of salute, curved fingers raised to eye and flicked away.
Sydney and Raines stared after them. What did that mean? Sydney wondered. That was familiar, what she did. It’s important. Why?
“That was a disaster,” Raines muttered. But then he smiled his ghastly smile. “But at least we still have Jarod.”
The Doctor pulled Rose down the corridor, both choking on silent laughter. “That was so fun!” Rose chortled quietly. “They didn’t know what hit them. What did the psychic paper say?”
The Doctor pulled out his wallet and glanced at the blank paper in it. “Something about Chief of Security for Mutumbo, full authority, etc., etc. You were fantastic, ‘Miss Tyler’! How old are you really? And all that stuff about your dad and hating Mutumbo…!”
“I’m just glad I could remember his name. The bloke sounds like a thug who thinks he’s God.” As they stepped casually into an empty laboratory and from there accessed the ventilation shafts again, Rose mused, “You know, that Sydney is an interesting man. I wanted to find out why he does this work. I don’t think even he knows why.”
“He’s a scientist, Rose. He’s a scientist even before he’s a human. As long as he’s learning something, he doesn’t have to think about anything else. The next few years will change him, though, open his eyes.”
“I hope so. I can’t help liking him. I think he actually cares for Jarod. What did you learn from Mr. Raines?”
“Experiments with time. I didn’t have time to get all the details, but I don’t need the details. Somehow Raines in the future managed to get word back to this Raines in the past. This Raines doesn’t know how it worked, except that it was further research on a simulation Jarod did a few years ago. Future Raines has it figured out. He’s in a position to influence the development of any event his past self has control over.”
“Doctor, we’ve got to stop him!”
“We will. We’ll stop him now, before it ever starts. His present self knows almost nothing about the research. Apparently his future self doesn’t trust even himself.” He grinned.
“So what are we going to do?”
“Oh, we aren’t. Angelo is.”
“Angelo?” she asked skeptically.
“Angelo’s mind has been scrambled—by Raines, incidentally—but he has a brilliance the Centre knows nothing about.”
“He loves Jarod, and Jarod has integrity. He’ll do anything for Jarod. But Jarod doesn’t know it yet.”
“This whole time thing is fun, Doctor. It must be neat to know how people are going to interact in the future.”
“It must be strange not to know.”
She gave him a prod as they crawled through the vents. A low chortle reached their ears.
As before, his head popped around a corner.
“Angelo, do you know about Jarod’s Simulation 742? Do you know where the information is kept?”
“Raines,” Angelo said.
“That simulation needs to be compromised. It needs to disappear, or be ruined in some way. Jarod’s future depends on it. Can you do it?”
He chortled again.
“I trust you, Angelo. You’re a good friend.”
“They’re going,” Angelo said.
“Moving Jarod? Then it’s time to move. Take us to where we can head them off.”
Sam and Willie walked with Jarod between them, another sweeper behind. Jarod had never needed very much guarding before. The Centre was his home. No one had ever considered him trying to run away. But he had been more and more stubborn in the last few years, and Mr. Raines had given them strict instructions to watch him. They watched him. He walked slowly with his head down and his shoulders slumped, his hands clasped behind him. He seemed to have turned from his old inquisitive, interested self into a defeated man.
Then the world exploded in chaos. The blond girl they had caught earlier came running toward them shouting, “I’m not going back! Leave me alone!”
The tall man in black leather rounded a corner. “Stop her! Miss Tyler! Stop that girl!”
She dove behind Jarod and clutched at Willie. “Don’t let him take me!” Willie tried to shake her off.
The man barreled into them, reaching for her. Then his hard fist was connecting with Sam’s stomach, Jarod was whirling, his lassitude dissolved in energy as he tackled the third sweeper, and the little blond girl was backing away from Willie, his gun in her hands and her big smile on her face.
“Don’t you move, Willie.”
The third sweeper was lying on the floor, and Sam was on his knees looking up into his own gun in the tall man’s hands. The man pulled something that looked rather like a large pen out of a pocket and pointed it at them too, while the girl removed their radios and phones.
“Now get up and into that closet.” The man pointed with the gun. “Take your friend.”
As he and Sam bent to hoist their fellow sweeper up, Willie’s hand snuck into the man’s holster.
“Now, now, Willie, none of that,” Jarod’s familiar voice smiled. He held up the gun between two fingers, then smoothly removed the clip and tossed the empty gun down the hallway. “Into the closet now.”
Helpless with rage, the three tall men crammed into the dark closet. A peculiar electric sound at the doorknob told them what their hands twisting at it already knew. They were firmly locked in.
Sydney and Raines took the elevator down a level, silent. Once they had been colleagues. Now each despised the other. Sydney was trying to remember why Miss Tyler’s words and her strange gesture at him had been so familiar. He could almost hear those words in his mind spoken in a man’s voice, in crisp, sardonic, perfect British Received Pronunciation. <i>Number Two. Number Two. What is Number Two?</i> Then the voice flashed in his mind again, a hard, angry, <i>“Who is Number One?”</i>
“What are you gasping about?” Raines snapped at him.
“Number Six! ‘I am not a number! I am a free man!’”
“What? Have you gone insane, Sydney?”
Sydney took a deep breath and explained. “Before Miss Tyler left, she called me ‘Number Two’ and said, ‘Be seeing you.’ I’ve only just remembered that those are catchwords from an old British television series. It must have been…oh, thirty years since I have seen any of it, but the protagonist has remained buried in my memory. A very remarkable man, called only ‘Number Six.’ He is a man who was kidnapped and is being held in a prison called The Village so his captors can obtain information from him. Number Two is in charge of the Village and in charge of gaining the information. Number Six’s goal in each episode is to escape.”
“Escape? Was she calling herself Number Six?”
“Wouldn’t that make the Doctor Number Two, then? She called me Number Two.”
They stared at each other. “Jarod,” Raines said. His hand lashed out at the wall of the elevator. <i>“Jarod.”</i>
On cue, the elevator stopped, and the door opened. The two men hurried out and down the corridor, around a corner, pulled up short. Jarod walked down the corridor toward them, his head up, his shoulders back, his eyes alight, every vestige of depression gone. With him walked the Doctor and Miss Tyler, both grinning. The Sweepers were nowhere to be seen.
<i>“Jarod?”</i> Sydney gasped. In the moment between seeing Jarod and understanding what was happening, he had felt nothing but a flood of relief. No, Jarod had not been broken.
“Oh, hello, Sydney.”
Raines’ hand was in his pocket, but the Doctor was faster, a familiar-looking gun trained at his head. “Don’t even try it, Raines. Rose?”
The blond girl, who was suddenly not looking seventeen any longer, took Raines’ gun and phone from him, then pulled open Sydney’s jacket.
“Sydney doesn’t carry a gun,” Jarod said.
“Apparently not. Neither do I, usually.” She ran down to the end of the corridor and looked around the corner. “Coast is clear, Doctor. And the lift is there.”
“Lift is good. Ring to go up, Rose.”
When the elevator door opened and no one came out, the Doctor and Jarod herded Sydney and Raines back into it. Rose came in last, handling Raines’ gun as if she did indeed carry one frequently, and leaned against the door grinning.
“You know, Doctor, we ought to come back here some time. I like Delaware!”
“We will. That is, I already have. Will come back. You know, that’s the one thing about the English language. No tenses for temporal paradoxes. Ah, here we are.”
He pressed the Emergency Stop button, then pulled out a long, silver instrument and began fiddling in the control panel. “I hope you two Doctor Frankensteins don’t mind being stuck in an elevator for a few hours.”
“It’s better than being locked underground your whole life,” Jarod said, and there was something in his voice Sydney had never heard there before.
“Jarod, what are you doing?”
“I’m taking my life back, Sydney. You’ve had it for thirty years. Now it’s mine. And I’m not coming back.”
Standing, the Doctor pointed his instrument at the grating in the ceiling of the elevator, then jumped and pushed it out. Easily he pulled himself up into it and leaned back down through it.
Jarod offered a knee and a hand, and the Doctor pulled her, grinning cheekily, up through the hole. Finally Jarod pulled himself up as easily as the Doctor had. He stuck his head back down.
“Jarod, <i>why?”</i> Sydney asked helplessly.
“You’ve stolen my life, Sydney! Well, no more. Goodbye, Syd.” He slammed the grate back into place, leaving them trapped in the elevator.
It was a long time before anyone realized they were there.
Jarod shuddered as he looked around the gloomy, burnt-out corridors the Doctor and Rose led him through. Rose gave him a sympathetic smile. You didn’t have to be Angelo to know there was something ominous about SL-27.
“I did not know there were twenty-seven sub-levels to the Centre,” he said. “Although, perhaps if you were to do a calculation involving the earth displacement in building the Centre—”
“I don’t know anything about maths,” Rose said. “Come on. The TARDIS is this way.”
“The…TARDIS? What is a TARDIS?”
“It’s your ticket out of here,” the Doctor answered. “They’d have expected you to go up, after all, not down. Having gone down, you will now go—not up but <i>out.</i> Here we are. This is the TARDIS.”
The blue police box did look out of place in the smoke and gloom. And yet somehow it always managed to make itself look at home.
“This is…familiar. A telephone booth? A British telephone booth from the 1960s and 1970s? I saw one of those in my Irish terrorism simulation—in 1971.”
“Irish terrorism?” Rose whispered. “1971? You couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve then.”
“I thought you said you didn’t know anything about math.”
“Oh, look!” the Doctor called. “Somebody’s left us a present. Left you a present, Jarod.” He picked up the silver Halliburton briefcase leaning against the door of the TARDIS. “Your DSAs.”
Jarod slowly reached out and took it, opened it. “When I planned my escape for yesterday, I planned to take these. They’re my entire life.” He held up a small, round disc labeled with some numbers. “My whole life on these discs.” He ran his fingers over them. “There’s one here that says ‘Doctor.’” He held it up.
“That’s it. Jarod, this is why you didn’t escape yesterday. Your time simulation. Do you remember it?”
“Yes, I do.” Jarod’s face went dark. “Another thing the Centre has used against me and other innocent people?”
The Doctor put a hand on his shoulder. “Yes. It must never fall into Raines’ hands. Can I take it? It will be safe with me.”
Jarod looked him in the eyes for a long moment. “Yes,” he said. He held onto the disc another moment, a tiny piece of his life, and then relinquished it. “Who put them here? Who knew?”
“Someone’s left you a note,” Rose said. She picked it up out of the case. <i>“’Your life.’</i> Signed, C.J. With an email address.”
“C.J.? There’s someone inside the Centre helping me? Is that why you two came?”
“Er…not exactly,” the Doctor said.
“Who <i>are</i> you?”
“An old friend, Jarod. Come on, now. Into the TARDIS.”
Jarod gasped and gaped at the TARDIS’s interior, larger and far more peculiar than its outside. “But this is—”
“Impossible?” the Doctor said. “Well, impossible is what I do, Jarod. I frequently think of six impossible things before breakfast, and then I do them, just for fun. I’m the Doctor! Hold onto something now.”
He pushed buttons, pulled levers, gave something a kick, and the wonderful TARDIS sound that always made Rose smile grew around them, died again.
“Here we are.”
“Here we…are? We’ve…<i>gone</i> somewhere?”
“We are in the woods outside Blue Cove, Delaware, yesterday. In a few minutes a man will drive by and give you a lift, and your adventure will begin. It’s quite a world you’re going to discover, Jarod. I’ve been to a lot of places, but I have a soft spot for Earth.”
<i>“Earth?</i> Who are you?”
“Oh, you know. Just a bloke who goes around solving problems, fixing things, helping people. Like you.”
Jarod muttered, his eyes darkening, “I haven’t helped anyone.”
“Oh, but you will. Are you ready?”
“Will I see you again?”
“Me, yes. Don’t be surprised if I don’t recognize you. At that point I won’t have met you yet. Your future but my past, you see. Rose? I don’t know. It’s still the future for her.”
“Goodbye, Jarod,” Rose said softly, and she did what she had been wanting to do since she first saw him. She spread out her arms, and he, with a rapid blink and a swallow, stepped into her embrace, clinging almost like a child might, his face down on her hair.
The Doctor opened the door. It was dark out. They could barely see a road ahead through some trees. Jarod picked up his DSA case and gave them both a sudden smile, his whole face alive, then stepped through the door.
“Who is he really?” Rose asked.
“Just a man. Just another Human.”
“Well…OK, it’s true that there’s a genetic marker in his blood that makes him unique.”
“What <i>kind</i> of genetic marker, Doctor?”
“Perhaps not entirely Human, Rose, but that’s pure speculation. I’m a Time Lord, not an alien geneticist.”
“You mean he’s not entirely Human?”
“Genetics aside, he’s Human alright, Rose. No one’s more Human than Jarod.”
They watched him walking away down the wooded road in the moonlight. In the distance a vehicle was coming.
“Time to go,” the Doctor said. He closed the door and began pushing and pulling and kicking things.
“So the timeline’s all restored?”
“Yes, it is. Ticking along beautifully. Though I might have been wrong. The results Jarod came up with for that time simulation might really have put an end to life as we know it.”
“It always does.”
The TARDIS sound rose around them.