Friday, 29 April 2011

Tearing of the Soul – Complete Version

Here is a complete version if you'd like to read the story a bit more fluidly from beginning to end. Back next week with The Vault of Neverwhile...

Tearing of the Soul
    It was once thriving. The colonists had terraformed it as best they could, though the atmospheric converter didn't do its job well enough. They only found that out when the people got sick, complaining of cramps and pains, then dying suddenly in their sleep. So they sealed off City One, putting it in a giant glass dome, like a taxidermist with a specimen. It became known as Dome Town or Bowl City to its residents, silly little nicknames that made them feel like they were still at home. Not that any of them had ever lived on Earth, yet it still felt right to call it that.

    They went about their lives as they always had, making adjustments where they were necessary. Everything seemed to be at peace, something the colonists had never before known in their lifetime. Of course crimes were still committed, indignities suffered, but nothing on the scale of an all-out war.

    'Humility Ten' – that was the name that they gave to the place, an account of the respect that they showed one another (the 'ten' referring to the fact that it was the tenth planet from its sun). The inhabitants lived without fear or threat for five years. Children became young adults, adults grew older and became new parents, the old lived in harmony watching over the city.

    Until they came.

    No one had known of the 'tear'. They called it that because that's what it most resembled. A jagged cut in the sky, through which light poured. It was small at first, barely noticeable amongst the newly created atmosphere (not least through the protective dome). It grew each day, as if the air was ripping apart. No one knew what it was or why it was there. All sorts of theories were expounded: there were those who said it was the planet, giving out a warning, that they shouldn't have tampered with it; those who thought it to be a natural phenomena, an occurrence beyond their interference; while the smallest group theorised that something had made it.

    Something on the other side. Something that wanted to break through.

    While few listened to them, since the tear was causing no damage to the planet and its people, they were wrong to dismiss it so quickly.

    The gap widened day by day becoming big enough for one man to get through, then two, then four, then enough for a whole transport of people. It grew greater and showed no signs of stopping, as it were going to consume the entire sky...when one day, it was still.

    The colonists were alarmed, but less so when it began to shrink once more. Since it was diminishing, they stopped watching it.

    That was their second mistake.

    By the time the tear had sealed itself, the inhabitants of City One knew just how foolish they'd been. Or at least they would have if any had been left alive...


    The Doctor perched his panama on his head and operated the scanner screen. The image revealed itself as a vast domed city, spread across a wide area.

    "Humility Ten, the furthest planet out from the sun in the Valannti system. The colonists of the inner worlds nicknamed it 'Humanity's End' – very droll."

    Leela looked at the screen, studying the image carefully. "So the dome, it's some kind of protection? To stop intruders?"

    The Doctor turned to her, a smile on his face. "Yes, very much so. However," the smile faded, replaced by an intensity, "something's wrong. What do you notice?" He watched as Leela studied the image further, waiting for her to notice.

    "Where is everyone? There are no metal boxes carrying people. In fact," she stared closer, "Doctor, there are no people!"

    The Doctor nodded. "Precisely. Which is exactly why I wanted to come here. I'm sure I've been in this system before...or is that in the future..." He seemed to be musing over the possibilities before turning back to his companion. "Not only that, but look at the sky."

    Leela looked, seeing nothing but clouds and a very calm purple-tinged sky. Except...was that..."Doctor, that looks like some kind of tear. Like the sky is made of material that has been pulled."

    "The very fabric of the universe, torn like an old rag. A nasty but very fitting analogy in this instance." The Doctor seemed to stare right through the screen then moved to fiddle with the controls, setting the TARDIS in flight once more.

    Leela checked that her knife was still in place, the Doctor obviously aware of what she was doing but saying nothing. Could it be that this new Doctor approved of killing? She was sure that wasn't the case, but was pleased that he didn't comment.

    With a sudden jolt, the TARDIS signalled that it had landed. The Doctor flicked a control and the inner doors opened. Leela made her way to the entrance cautiously, the Doctor following, picking out an umbrella as he passed the hat-stand. He weighed it in his hands, looking at the question mark that the handle made, then tossed it aside, favouring a different one. The same reason he'd taken one look at that question mark-covered pullover and buried it in the wardrobe room. Not his style, this new man he'd become.

    Leela turned back to the Doctor, who nodded for her to open the outer door. As she stepped through, the first thing she noticed was the stillness. She breathed in the artificial air, taking a great lungful, the Doctor doing the same as he stepped out.

    "It has a stale taste. Like it is old. Is this because of the dome?" She looked around her, trying to discern where the boundary could be seen, but its vastness meant that from her position she could see nothing. All around looked like the last visit she'd made to Earth, when they'd had to defeat that android who'd tried to enslave the populace into constructing a vast army for him. Little did he know of his own limited life-span. Almost indestructible he may have been, but once his memory wafers had burned out, there was nothing to fear. The humans said they would re-programme it, the Doctor assuring them he'd stop in and found out if they'd been successful another time. Leela wasn't sure they would be, but her thoughts were interrupted as the Doctor responded to the question that she'd almost forgotten she'd asked.

    "Yes, at least in part. There's another scent to this air though, like something's contaminated it. It almost tastes like..." He paused trying to think exactly what it was. "Yes, like some could kind of lubricating fluid."

    Leela sniffed, catching a trace of it on the air. "Like the machine men on the Sandminer. Oil, to make them work properly?"

    The Doctor nodded, looking around at all that surrounded them. They'd definitely landed inside the dome, but so, he reasoned, had whatever had come through the tear in the sky. "We need to leave. Now. There's something very wrong here and I don't think even I can help. Not now, I'm still too weak."

    Leela stared at him, "But you are the Doctor, the wisest of the elders. The noblest warrior of them all. You can fight, and I shall help you." She looked behind him. "Besides the TARDIS has gone."

    The Doctor whirled round to see a small square patch on the ground, but no time machine. "It's still here. It's the HADS, they moved it forward in time. It's continually a second ahead of us."

    "So we must investigate. Then perhaps we may be permitted to leave?" Leela wasn't sure, but the small nod from the Doctor allayed her fears that they'd be stuck here perpetually.

    Without warning, a sudden fall of liquid came from above, the Doctor grabbing Leela's hand and pulling her to the shelter of a nearby awning. It stopped as suddenly as it had begun, though in the space they'd been standing was a pool of thick viscous liquid, the colour of night.

    The Doctor ventured out slowly, lifting up a hand as if to test the air for any further precipitation. He stuck the tip of his umbrella into the darkness, lifting it up to his nose in an attempt to ascertain its properties. "It's what we smelt on the air, the faint odour of lubricating fluid." He looked above his head and realised what had caused the downpour.

    Leela's gaze followed the Doctor's own, as above them, the dome itself appeared to be splintering as a mechanical behemoth scratched at the outer surface. It wasn't shaped like a humanoid, instead being constructed in the image of some kind of multi-limbed creature, not unlike a hybrid of a spider and a crab. Its many arms clawed at the dome, the jagged edges it created causing its hydraulics to tear, the fluid descending towards the Doctor and Leela as a consequence of its actions.

    "Doctor, we cannot fight it. It is a match even for your mind!" Leela looked up at the creature, knowing full well that this was a battle they had best avoid.

    "I really think you're right. Come on, let's get inside the buildings. Judging by the design of these buildings they all seem connected. We should be able to buy ourselves some time."

    The pair of them dashed inside the nearest doorway, neither quite aware of what was really happening behind them.


    It was numbness. That was the overriding sensation after the screaming. It was hard to think of anything from before, from the time when...the memory was fading like a footprint on a beach as the tide came in. A name, an image, something to cling onto, the remembrance of what once was...inside her mind was screaming at her to recall something, anything, but the neural pathways were switching off, dying embers in a once raging fire.

    She was in a small chamber, like so many before, her soul torn from her body as all those others had been. She would have cried if she'd still been able to or even had an awareness of her predicament, but with each passing second another shred of humanity was stripped away, only the most vital and best functioning of her organs remaining.

    The blood was drained away, unneeded with so few organic parts. The machines would keep what remained working, and would work more efficiently than the weakness that the flesh contained.

    Her mind was acclimatising to this new world, these new sensations, a realisation dawning that this was the future, the best way forward. This was how they would survive, like all the others. Like the ones who'd come through the tear. As her memories flickered before her one last time, she thought that he must have escaped. Somehow he must have fled in his ship before they could find him.

    Darkness descended, that function no longer required. Maximum efficiency did not require the processing of recollections from the other existence.

    This was all.


    "Is this thing on? Hello? Hello?"

    She shook the camera, determined that it would work, to record what they all feared would be their final moments. She passed it back to Valera, her best friend, her hands shaking all the while. She nodded to her to hold it up, to point and shoot ("Like they said in the old days"), to capture these last minutes before 'the end'.

    "My name is Larisa, and this is the end. The sky has broken, and they have come through, come to claim us." Behind her, masonry fell and others scurried to avoid the debris. Unperturbed she continued. "The creatures will claim our souls, wrench them from our bodies, unless we fight." Another cacophony occurred behind Valera this time, the side of the building collapsing, artificial sunlight highlighting the true extent of the chaos around them. Bodies strewn everywhere, the stench of decay already upon them.

    The two women turned, witnessing the onslaught of the metal creatures infesting the now ruined building that had been their refuge. The figures marched towards them, Larisa grabbing her friend's hand in an attempt to pull her away. Yet she remained motionless, the camera facing in their direction and capturing their image as they advanced inexorably towards her.

    Larisa ran, not looking back.

    Not even when she heard her best friend scream.


    They'd been walking for what seemed like hours, though neither complained. Leela was used to the hunt and the Doctor seemed to have an infinite capacity for perambulation. The buildings had been connected like a network, reminding the Doctor of an insect colony. Stretching the analogy he could see that this was the section where a boy had used a magnifying class to burn them. Charred skeletal remains lingered, the only sign of life.

    Leela stalked around the place, knife drawn, ready to defend at a second's notice. Her heightened senses were constantly alert for any sign of danger. She sniffed the air, noticing less of the smell of machinery; now the odour of decomposition and death saturated the atmosphere. It was a scent she was used to, travelling with the Doctor, but not one that she could ignore. She turned to the Time Lord. "Doctor, why are they no survivors? Did they not defend their lives?"

    The Doctor was kneeling, investigating what appeared to be some sort of recording device. He looked up, past Leela into the vastness beyond. "Perhaps that was what they were doing, only they weren't strong enough. We saw that machinery breaking through the dome. If these creatures are capable of breaking that, I'm only amazed the occupants of the city survived as long as they did."

    Leela's ears pricked up. She heard the tiniest of noises behind her, a sound of stone upon stone, as if someone were very carefully trying to move without being heard. She was ready to leap up and attack, but the sound of sobbing stopped her. Whatever had moved was clearly in distress, and there was no sport in hurting a wounded creature.

    "Hello!" she shouted. "We won't harm you. Are you injured?" Leela watched as almost in slow motion a young female moved from out of the shadows, clearly in some distress. She noticed the Doctor was already moving to assist the woman and she quickly followed suit, though her hunter's instincts caused her to still be on guard. She had encountered ambushes before, and if she had been less aware of the situations, she would undoubtedly have perished long ago.

    The Doctor offered his arm, his tone of voice soothing and reassuring. "Hello, I'm the Doctor and this is my friend Leela." He noticed a weak smile play across her lips, her eyes red from weeping. She looked as if she were about to faint, though Leela supported her to prevent it from happening.

    The woman's lips were dry and cracked, though she still managed to speak, her voice wavering as she did so. "The camera. Watch the camera. They came. I'll the last one. All dead." Her eyelids flickered, the Doctor all too aware what was about to happen. He tried to rouse her, Leela doing her best to assist, but it was no use.

    Leela felt the woman go limp, and gently lowered her to the ground, the life drained from her, her very soul dissipating freely from her body. "We must bury her Doctor, to honour her in death."

    He nodded. "We will. But we need to see what she recorded. If whatever it is is still nearby we may not have long." The Doctor fiddled with a few controls on the device and held it up. The whole room changed, far more of the building standing than at present. Leela watched as people of all ages ran horrified from huge metallic figures that were striding towards them, arms outstretched ready to capture them.

    The scene was chaos, people clashing and falling to the ground, the metal giants looming over, ready to strike. Yet, they didn't seem to be killing the individuals. The Doctor looked around the room, and in one corner was what appeared to be a small mobile work unit, the sounds of industry coming from within. He moved closer to investigate, and immediately wished he hadn't. The screaming rang through his head, the images burned into his brain. He could see Leela advancing towards the area, and quickly turned off the imaging machine. He had no desire for her to see the horrors that he'd witnessed.

    "Those creatures, they're far more than inhuman. A hideous splicing of man and machine, subjugating all who come before them." He turned on his heel. "Leela, we need to find them and put an end to this."

    "Yes. But let us bury this poor woman first." She began to dig at the earth with whatever was to hand. The Doctor, realising the importance of the act to his companion, did the same.

    And all the while their would-be assassin moved ever closer.





    The creature moved stealthily through the ruins of the city, using its heightened senses to locate its prey. It stopped momentarily, its processors whirring as it analysed the name 'Doctor'. It seemed familiar somehow but...the creature paused for no more than seconds before continuing on its way.

    The targets had to be apprehended.

    Whether they died or were converted was entirely down to them.


    The woman was buried. The last survivor of the relentless onslaught they had seen on the recording. All the while they'd been digging, Leela had been conscious of another presence moving ever closer to them, encroaching on their position. She had told the Doctor of her concerns, and he had, as ever, trusted her instincts. He offered himself as bait, while she scouted round, to ascertain exactly what and where it was.

    The Doctor stood, whistling, determined to attract attention to himself.

    The gamble soon paid off, a lone metallic figure striding into the derelict area and halting mere feet away from the Doctor, who raised his hat in greeting. "Good afternoon! Or is it morning? I lose track so easily these days." The creature gave no flicker of recognition, its blank chrome face betraying not even the smallest hint of emotion.

    Leela paced behind the figure, waiting for the moment to strike, watching the Doctor carefully. He seemed to be indicating for her to wait, so she slunk into the shadows once more, watching him continue to attempt to rouse the creature into some kind of conversation.   

    "I'm..." the Doctor began, but was interrupted immediately.

    "The Doctor. You are a Time Lord. We know of your race. We know of your capabilities." Again there was no emotion, the flat monotone voice giving nothing away.

    The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "I see we've been doing our homework. Should I know you, you race? I have the strangest feeling we may have met before, but I can't quite remember."  

    The figure moved forward, less than a couple of feet from him now. "You have defeated us. We now hold the power to defeat you. You shall be converted."

    The Doctor looked puzzled. "Really? I'm sure I'd remember that. Emotionless, faceless killers like you don't tend to go unnoticed. And there's this 'conversion'. A nasty vengeful act in your repertoire I assume?"

    The figure moved closer still, the Doctor though still holding his ground. "You will be like us. All will be like us."

    "Really? That's rather tedious isn't it? No originality, no love, no poetry. No soul. How can you live with it, with yourselves?" He stopped, surveying the creature, his mood darkening further. "A lack of emotion, your soul torn away. You used to be someone, a person , an individual. Is there nothing left of that?"

    The creature faltered, unmoving. It appeared to be trying to remember, to wrestle a last vestige of humanity loose from the suppression it had been subjected to. "I...I...Doctor?"

    Warily, the Doctor moved forward. "Yes. Yes I'm here."

    "Doctor, I'm scared. The pain, oh the pain." Still there was no emotion to the tone, but the words themselves were not those of a mere machine.

    Leela ventured towards the creature, though it didn't notice her at first. When it did, it almost seemed to recognise her, reaching out a hand as if it were a familiar figure, something to comfort it.

    It spoke again, its words fractured, the only hint of any emotional response. "Doctor...I...remember you and...Leela. We met...once...only brief but...I remember you."

    The Doctor's eyes narrowed. "Who were you...are you? What's it...?" He stopped, his mind flickering through memories. It was as if they were changing around him, his history being rewritten. A sudden realisation crept over him, a dread from the past as events seemed far more real than they had moments before. A stillness swept over him as he looked up to the figure that towered above, sadness and sympathy more evident than ever in his eyes. "Oh Charlotte, I'm so sorry. So, so sorry."

    Leela looked between them. "This is your companion? The one who left with my Doctor?" He nodded sadly, though the grief didn't last, supplanted by a fire in him, a desire to put right the past.

    "Someone has been interfering in my history. They have stranded me here in this universe, corrupted my timeline, destroyed all that I hold dear. We need to end this, and it starts now." He looked to the creature that had once been Charlotte Pollard, a steely look in his eyes. "I have a plan, but we're going to have to work together. Do you think can we can do that Charley?"



    A cacophony of noise played all around as the TARDIS materialised on the craft that had attacked the dome. Immediately one of the ship's crew strode over, inspecting it carefully, before turning to a superior.

    "Leader. The time ship has arrived."

    Another, slightly taller figure stalked over to the blue box, clenching its fist in what would have appeared to be satisfaction. "Excellent. We can now escape the confines of this universe and time."

    The door swung open, Leela seemingly flung out first, the Doctor being manhandled by 'Charley'.

    "Ah, so this is where all the best dressed cybernetic life forms are gathering this year! I'm the Doctor," he doffed his hat with his free hand, "but I expect you already knew that. We've met before haven't we?"

    The Leader strode up to the Doctor. "On several occasions, Doctor. And now we have your TARDIS." It motioned for 'Charley' to release the Doctor momentarily, and he stumbled forward, landing at the figure's feet.

    "Yes, so it would seem," he said, picking himself up and dusting off his clothes. "You do seem to have me at rather a disadvantage. Though I gather you know how you ended up here?"

    The Leader nodded. "A tear in the universe, leading to this one. We shall use your TARDIS to escape."

    The Doctor's face fell. "Oh really? That's a shame. Though the trouble is I've tried that and it doesn't seem to work. I'm not meant to be here either, but someone is rather keen that I don't get out."

    Leela would have attempted an attack on the creature, but thought better of it. The one that had been Charlotte Pollard had shown the immense strength they possessed, and it was little match for her hunting knife. She stood, watching the exchange, hoping the Doctor knew what he was doing.

    'Charley' moved away from the Doctor towards the controls of the ship, the other creatures thinking nothing of it. She had been uploaded with navigational data in order to replace the last unfortunate navigator who had suffered badly in the conversion. Upon viewing its new form it had been driven mad. It had killed at least four others before it could be terminated.

    The Doctor watched with interest as she manipulated the controls behind the leader, all the while wondering if events would play out as he had anticipated.

    The Leader looked from Leela to the Doctor, attempting to calculate just how much of a threat they posed. The Doctor meanwhile was trying to attract his companion's attention, ushering her subtly to re-enter the ship before the opportunity was lost. Leela sidled over to it, the Doctor distracting the Leader once more.

    "So you see you couldn't leave if you wanted to. You can't even fly my ship, so you've only got the tiniest fraction of a chance it'd work anyway." He grinned. "But then, there are rather more pressing problems, such as just what is going on with your navigational systems."

    At this the Leader turned, the Doctor dashing back to the TARDIS as he did so. The Leader's attention was torn, beckoning assistance to apprehend the Doctor.

    It was however too late.

    The door had slammed shut.


    "That was a big risk Doctor. Do you think it has worked?" Leela looked unsure, but a small grin from the Doctor reassured her.

    "Like a charm. There was no way to undo what had been done to Charlotte, not in this timeline, but after I convinced her that I could set history back on its right course I think she knew what she had to do." He sighed. "I wish I could have saved this planet, but I can't be everywhere at once. More's the pity."

    Leela put a reassuring arm on his. "It is alright. We shall find out what has happened and make it right. All of it."

    The Doctor patted her hand affectionately. "Yes, you're right of course. We'd better leave. If she's done what I told her to, this ship will implode in moments, which will have the added benefit of sealing that tear."

    Leela took a step back in shock. "But how will we find a way out? What if that was our only escape?"

    The Doctor set the ship in motion, the familiar discordant noise as ever filling the room. "I don't know. It may have been the wrong universe entirely though. Time will tell."


    The Doctor and Leela stepped out of the TARDIS once more, back onto the surface of the world they'd not long left. Looking up, they saw a tiny flash of light as the other ship imploded, vanishing from view, the tear in the sky going with it.

    The planet was eerily quiet, more so than before. The pair of them walked in silence for a few minutes until they came to a small area overgrown with flowers of all kinds. The Doctor bent down, finding a piece of rubble from the attacks, and pulling some chalk from his pocket began to write. Leela smiled at the words, understanding them immediately and mentally making a note to thank the Doctor later for the lessons in reading.

    The Doctor propped up the make-shift sign against a tree, and turned to his companion. "It's not enough, but it's all we can do. For now."

    Leela put her arm through his. "We'll make it right Doctor. I will help you to do so."

    He smiled weakly, though there was a new resolve in his eyes now. He straightened up and the pair of them walked back towards the TARDIS.

    Before they left, the Doctor turned back to look over the city one last time, before setting the coordinates for another destination.

    They would make it right.



    As the ship left, despite the distance away, leaves swirled in the breeze created by its departure, dancing over and around the small sign that the Doctor had made:


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