Fifteenth in the dystopian!verse series. From split-POVs (Rose and the Doctor).
The Sharpest Lives
Drop the dagger and lather the blood on your hands, Romeo.
When: Pre-Ground Zero (post-Little Red)
She runs now, like the hounds of hell are snapping at her heels. The ceiling is crumbling, dropping dust and debris and chunks of plaster, and the floor shakes from the force of the explosions. Her assignment is complete. Their voices are loud in her ear, tinny and slightly muffled through the earpiece.
“What’s with the din?” They ask, demanding and insistent and commanding. “Watcher, status report.”
She does not respond. She dashes through falling rooms like a ghost escaping a burning house, or a blind man running. Dust coats her hair and face, masking the streaks of blood that stain her cheek.
“Watcher, what do you hear?”
She stops, and places her hand on the handle of the exit. The walls are buckling around her. She looks at the collapsing warehouse, and watches the way the sunlight filters through the cracks in the roof, and the way the staircases bend and twist. It is like her own fairytale world, drenched in the cloying sickness of her sins. London Bridge is falling down, she thinks, and her smile is bitter-sad.
“I repeat – Watcher, what do you hear?”
The explosions rock the ground beneath her, and falling debris hits the floor, over and over and again and again, like a broken-drumming symphony that only she listens to. She opens her palm, holding it out a little, and wonders at the way the brown-red dust trickles onto it, like bleeding wounds or red strings of fate.
She looks up, and looks at this shattering world.
“Nothing,” she tells them. “Nothing but the rain.”
The asphalt is slick and cold under the soles of his battered sneakers, and his Glock is a solid weight in his coat. The air is cool and sharp, like knifes in cotton pockets, or fingers on chapped lips. Pain is a pressure on his heart, a drawn-out ache that echoes in the emptiness of his soul. It has been eight months, and an abandoned key sears him through the fabric of his pocket where he keeps-guards it.
It is a reminder of foolishness and naïveté and false hopes, he tells himself, and ignores the stirrings of hurt and heartache and doubt. The key is kept together with a note, a three-letter affair, like a stunted epitaph. He nears the entrance of the Agency, a shadow darker than the rest.
It is not hard for him to slip in, bypassing access codes and overriding lockdown protocols. He is, after all, the best at what he does, even if what he does is murder and killing and destroying. This is the name of the game, and he merely plays with the hand he is dealt.
The hallways are deserted at this late hour, long and straight and utterly silent, like graveyard paths with doors that lead to places unknown. He steals into the expanse of the quiet cafeteria, where so many things began, and does not glance at the empty table at the far left of the room, where a girl with sad eyes and a small smile and this is John Smith wait in the archives of his memory.
He travels eight sub-levels down, to the administrative offices of the highest brass, and it is like a crypt, or the carcass of a giant beast. His footfalls resonate as he journeys down the corridors, ringing-bouncing off the walls and ready-or-not-here-I-come.
A sliver of light shines through the crack at the bottom of a door ten feet away. It mocks him, almost, his personal demon, a light in the dark that illuminates nothing. Section Director Harriet Jones, a gleaming plaque proclaims. Behind this door is a path from which there is no return, a descent into a world so depraved that he has only ever dared to dip his toes into it. She isn’t here to stop him, and he slides further and further down the road of recklessness and lack-of-control. He almost stops, almost turns back, but bridges have been burned, and the only way to go is forward, even if he does not like the destination.
It is not that, though – he knows he will like what happens next, and it scares him that the thought of revenge and vengeance and settling scores calls out to him so viscerally. But his thoughts dash to notes on cold tables and lonely houses, and the anger that bubbles is overwhelming.
He opens the door.
The road to hell, he thinks, is an amazingly short one.
“Congratulations on your promotion, Watcher Tyler.”
The accolades and titles-to-her-name trail behind her, like sneering schoolchildren. Watcher, First-Rank,. Her rapid rise through The Government has been tracked by curious and invested eyes, judging and weighing and gossip-whispering. The ranks and titles are burdens she carries on her thin shoulders, along with the weight of the world.
The Government’s headquarters is housed in a monolithic chrome building, rising from the ground like a defiant tombstone. It is stark and soulless and emotionless and cold, and she hates it, but there is little that she can do. All the world is a stage, are they are all merely players. The playing board is a rigged one, and there are only Kings and Queens and Pawns.
The insignia of her new rank is pinned onto her coat, a gold lapel pin that glints like the eyes of monsters in the dark. It burns her. The paperwork is filed, and the appropriate forms are submitted; their lives documented and recorded and followed every step of the way.
“Report to Level Eighty-Nine,” the Watcher administrator tells her. The next phase of her life waits, eighty-nine teetering, sky-piercing floors away. She does not look forward to it.
The journey upwards is fast, the lift speeding-soaring-killing, like bullets in a barrel. Level Eighty-Nine, everyone knows, is where The Government’s Power is, tightly held in the fists of faceless and nameless men. Eighty-nine levels up, she thinks, and wonders why she feels like she should really be heading down, into places like sub-levels and cafeterias-under-ground. It is a feeling she cannot fully shake, no matter how hard she tries.
The lift doors slide open noiselessly, and the room she steps into is blinding-searing bright. Sunlight floods through the floor-length windows on all sides, bathing the space in a yellow glow that is almost holy. It is not, she knows, and the floor is silent, like only the dead can truly be.
“Sit,” a voice calls from the far right, and the face of this stranger is obscured by the shadow the light casts. The word is hard and clipped, spoken by a man The Network has nothing on. It scares her, but she sits anyway.
He turns a little, and his profile is harshly lighted; slick and cruelly handsome and icily ruthless, the Devil in human form. When she fists her hands in her lap, she tells herself it is not out of fear and trepidation.
“So I hear you’re my new Watcher,” he continues, and the words cut as it slides across her skin, slicing her into a thousand tiny pieces. “How delightful.” He leans forward; resting his elbows on the glass table before them, steepling his fingers. “Tell me, Watcher, what is your name?”
She cannot explain why she doesn’t want to tell him, why the three syllables of her name have to be yanked out. “Rose,” she tells him. “Rose Tyler.”
“Mmm, Rose,” he says, drawing the syllable out like it is a treat to be tasted slowly, or the head of an insect to be bitten off. He smiles at her across the table, and it is chilling and vicious.
“You can call me The Master.”
All the world is a stage, but she never wanted to play.
The Director is not surprised to see him. He should be disappointed, he thinks, but revels in the thought that she had known her day of reckoning was coming. She should have known from the start that Ro – that she was off-limits. It had made things very simple, once he had found out Director Jones had been behind all this. There are no forces on earth that can stop him now.
She had tried to fight him, and he sneers at the memory of her pitiful attempt. He sits on the edge of her desk now, waiting for her to wake from when he had knocked her out. Blood stains the corner of her mouth, and the morbid-bloody red fascinates him. Even monsters, he realizes, bleed red, and wonders just who the monster in this room truly is. He will not dwell on the thought, not now.
Not when there are more important things to do. The Director blinks blearily back to wakefulness, and her moan is hurting when she strains against the bonds that lash her to her ergonomic, calf-leather, imported swivel chair. When her eyes focus on the figure perched before her, her face goes white, and he is amused when he internally compares her to corpses-pale-as-snow, and ash-white bones. She is not dead, he thinks. Not yet.
He will enjoy this.
He cleans his Glock methodically, carefully, purposefully, and her eyes track his movement, like cornered prey waiting to die. The anger that flames through him is destructive and violent and virulent, and he cannot be bothered to stop it. Rose is out there, somewhere, and it tears him up inside. Months of research and legwork have led him to Director Jones, the orchestrator of this sad little play that no one knows is unfolding, least of all Rose.
“Director Jones,” he begins, and cannot stop the satisfaction that courses through his veins when she shudders. “How nice to meet you again.” He begins assembling his Glock, the slow click, click of parts sliding back into place loud in the spartan room. “I see you didn’t take the chance that I gave you.” He sighs, and it is mocking. “I thought it would’ve been an easy decision for you to make – return Rose, and no one dies. It’s such a shame to see that you’re an utter fool.”
His fingers drum a rhythm on her oak desk even as he works on his gun, like soldiers marching, or an Auld Lang Syne they both hear. “Rose always said that I should give people second chances, but then again, she isn’t here, is she?” The fear in her eyes is oh-so-tangible.
“You know what they tell us on the first day of Operative training?” His question is abrupt and sudden, and she flinches. He revels in her fear, and when he thinks of the fear that Rose must have suffered, he wants to make Harriet Jones’s last for eternities.
He leans forward, and his voice is mock-conspiratory. “Kings and Queens,” he says. “They tell us that we are the Kings and Queens of promise.” The gun is complete, and he turns it about, this way and that in his hand, admiring the way the polish gleams in the sterile light.
“And now –” He inhales sharply, and thinks that if Rose were here, she would stop him at this point. But she isn’t, and her presence is only ever in his mind. “Now, we’re nothing but the victims of ourselves.” He reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a silencer. He attaches it slowly, and his eyes are unforgiving on hers. He yanks off her gag, and her breath is shaky.
“You are not God,” she spits at him. “You do not get to judge any of us.”
“Maybe,” he says, as if deep in thought, as if he is not about to crush her life with his hand. “But I do know one thing. You cannot play God and then wash your hands off the things you’ve created.” He taps his Glock on his palm, almost philosophical. “Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t run from the things that you’ve done.”
He presses the barrel of his gun to her temple, and leans in to whisper in her ear. “They tell me that you scattered her thoughts and memories and life, like useless, meaningless trash that you left out on the road.” The distinctive snick of the gun safety being flicked off echoes, bouncing off the walls.
“How about I scatter your body like you scattered Rose, hmm?”
(Hell is empty, and all the devils are here)
Part Fourteen - Another Way to Die; Part Sixteen - Wayward Soldier