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- LORD TIME Divided into thirteen chapters, each with it's own link. CHAPTER BY CHAPTER - LT1 LT2  LT3 LT4 LT5    LT6   LT7  LT8    LT9      LT10    LT11   LT12 LT12b LT13

LORD TIME CHAPTER SIX - IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST.

Ace stepped nervously into the total darkness and tested the ground with her foot. The floor below her felt flat and even, but rubbery and pliable. It was very slightly wobbly.

From the silent void around her, a voice boomed out an echoing message. "One small step for Dorothy. One giant leap for the girl calling herself Ace."

Ace shouted back, demanding explanations. She received no reply beyond the fading echo of her own words. She pointed her torch directly in front of herself. The torch light poured out in a long straight intense golden beam for about two hundred feet, before fading gradually away. There was nothing within its range to be seen.. Ace pointed the beam down towards the floor. The light shone on her feet reflecting back off the ruby red shoes she had suddenly acquired instead of her coveted faded, no longer fashionable sports trainers. Beyond her feet, the light shone down an infinite black chasm, and vanished again. Ace pointed the torch towards the ceiling and even back towards the Doctor’s TARDIS, but still she could see nothing but the torch light itself. She knew that she had moved barely a few feet away from the TARDIS door.

Fear welled up inside her. She put on a brave, strong face, and bit her tongue as she told herself that she would come through this and make The Professor feel proud of her.

The floor was still there, she told herself. She could feel it under her feet. Slowly, cautiously, she crouched down and brushed the floor with her hand, as though checking that her bath water was the right temperature before getting in. The ground felt cool, and slightly leathery, wrinkled and mottled, and porous, like old skin. Ace flinched with disgust and revulsion. Standing up again, she experimented some more by pointing the torch in different directions again. She suspected that it was futile, but she felt compelled to do it, until some new idea presented itself to her. The torch light began to dance and fluctuate wildly. Its colour turned from golden yellow, to white to red, to blue and finally to an absurd tartan, before becoming completely kaleidoscopic. Occasionally, the light went out, and then flickered back on again. Ace was fully aware that the battery controlling the torch was new and fully charged, so the disturbance had to be external, had to be had to be. This assertion of Ace’s logic was confirmed when the light detached itself completely from the torch and started frolicking around Ace in the shape of giraffes, lions and rabbits. Ace was reminded of an uncle of hers, turning balloons into cute animals, and making performing shadow puppets on the walls with his hands during children’s birthday parties.

"Don’t you think I’m a bit old for this sort of thing?" she shouted, trying to sound as mocking and derisive as possible. "I won’t come back to see your puppies with you, you know. My Mum always warned me to stay away from strangers."

The voice came back again, but clearly not intent on directly addressing Ace.

"In the beginning, Lord Ichabod said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light."

There was a sudden blaze of intense white light that definitely wasn’t coming from the torch beam. Ace shielded her eyes for a moment until they had adjusted to it. When she looked around, she saw what closely resembled a TARDIS control room, not a million years removed from that of The Doctor’s own machine. The white walls were covered in roundels in much the same way, but this control room, if that is what it could be called at all, was much larger; cathedral like in many respects. The ceiling was a thousand feet above her. The floor and walls were flesh coloured, and rather pale and anaemic. The walls seemed to pulsate and close in slightly once in a while, as though they were breathing. Strangely, there seemed to be not one main control console, but two, set about eighty feet apart. Each was divided into four chambers, hinged together around a central control column, that rose and fell, rhythmically Through the connecting chambers ran what looked like narrow vein-like tubes, carrying various liquids, which looked like water, and blood. There was a strong smell of oil in the air. The obvious fact of what she was seeing struck Ace Immediately. The control columns were hearts, the twin hearts of a ....

"Time Lord..... Yes, Ace.... That is what 1 am.... Or rather, what I was, once."

Ace felt sick. If anything, the realisation that her captor was able to read her innermost thoughts stopped her from giving in to the desire to vomit. She remembered seeing an old film or TV show about sailors trapped in a whales' stomach, surrounded by old sailing ships, and rotten fish, and the other debris of its previous meals. There was also something in the Bible about such a thing wasn't there... what was it....

"The story of Jonah and the Whale?" said the voice, helpfully.

"Where am I?" Ace demanded.

"Home!" Said the voice, helpfully. This is now your new home."

"And who are you? My Father or what?"

There was no reply.

"Fat chance, creep...." Ace murmured, under her breath, and the words echoed out around her as some unseen force played with the noises in the acoustically fine-tuned atmosphere around her. At first the voice was her own, then it transformed itself into that of her jailer, before becoming a chilling reproduction of her Mother's voice and fading out to silence.

Ace realised that her torch was still on, and was about to switch it off, when the light-beam solidified, and instantly shattered like glass or ice. The fragments of light danced around the floor and gradually sank into it, absorbed away to nothing. Ace had a momentary sense of dread that she would soon share the same fate. She looked around for the Doctor's TARDIS and saw it, about a hundred feet away, even though she was sure she couldn't possibly have moved that distance away from it. As she walked towards it, the TARDIS sank slowly down, consumed and absorbed by the floor. Its still active roof light was flashing even to its final disappearance.

"Keep my TARDIS tidy, Ace, there's a good girl."

"I've had enough of these games. Why don't you show yourself?.... Let me see what you really look like? Are you scared?"

"I am showing myself, Ace.... I'm all around you. Don't you understand that yet?"

"A TARDIS isn't alive.... It needs a Time Lord to control it.... `Where are you?"

"Foolish impudent girl... I am the TARDIS... and I am the Time Lord. We are become one."

The voice said nothing more. It allowed the full shocking impact of its statement to become apparent to Ace. She looked around again at the heart like consoles.... the breathing walls.. the pulsating flesh coloured floor.... The revelation made her feel very shaky inside.

"You stupid bas...." she started to cry, as pity overtook her anger. "How could you do this to yourself... what for?"

"To live. To survive.. To be the true Lord of Time. To be a God. I am going to remake the universe in my image.... knowing what I know, I can make it better the next time round."

Ace detected a note of uncertainty in the voice, as though he was trying to convince himself as much as her."

"What are you going to do with me? Kill me?"

"No, you'll live. I need you. The Doctor will answer to me while I have you."

"Don't be so sure of that, Ichabod. It is Ichabod, isn't it?"

"I need you to observe my actions, Ace. I want to gauge your reactions to me, to see how people will look upon me and what I do.... I need to make the universe accept me, love me.... Please grow to love me, Dorothy."

It was the first time she had been called Dorothy without feeling the urge to become violent. For the first time, she felt able to live with her former, hated identity.... Answering Ichabod was difficult. She felt obliged to be candid and honest with him. "I can't love you. You’ve already killed so many people... "

"They were my people to kill Ace. Only a few people from your world were killed there. It had to be done."

"Murder never has to be done. No one has to die like that. How can you kill people and then ask me to love you? No one will love you for that... No one will ever forgive you... not from my world... And certainly not from Gallfrey."

"So, Ace... What should I do... just give up? Surrender? There's a voice in my head that keeps telling me to surrender. Should I do it?"

"You should, but I don't think you will. I don't think you can give up. You want to, but you can't."

"Raskolnikov did. He gave up!"

"Rask... who?"

"Raskolnikov is a character in one of your world's most famous novels; Crime And Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevslry."

"You've read Russian literature? Don’t make me laugh."

"Yes. It's a big book. It took as five seconds to read it. Are you familiar with it yourself, Ace?"

"You tell me; you're the mind reader."

"You haven't read it, but you once saw an old film version of it on television., with Peter Lorre in it.... "

"I don't even remember that! How could you find that out?"

"It's all in your subconscious memory Ace.... I can see it, even if you don't."

"Why are we discussing Dostoyevski? Haven't you got more important things to be getting on with?"

Ace regretted the question. If Ichabod was wasting time on trivial academic lecturing, the Doctor would have more time to find her, and Ichabod.... Quickly, she added to her observation; "Go on then, tell me about it....."

For a moment, Ichabod started to recite what Ace correctly assumed were the opening sentences of the book, but Ichabod, paused, stopped and suddenly declared that he had a better way.

"See for yourself!" he said.

The landscape changed itself around Ace. She was now standing on a typical English country lane, surrounded by hedgerows, and trees. She could smell the spring flowers, see and hear the birds. A wasp buzzed close to her, and she instinctively waved her arm to sweep it harmlessly clear. She felt as though she might have been back on Earth, in Kent, except for the fact that the narrow country road she stood on was made of yellow bricks. There was a song playing faintly in the background, about following just such a road. Ace realised the significance of the ruby red shoes she was wearing, and also that she suddenly had pigtails, and a cutesy checked pattern dress on. The path itself seemed to be moving, like an escalator, only horizontally, and very slowly.

"I don't think Dostoyevski wrote this," she shouted. "You've got the wrong book."

A large mechanical scarecrow materialised on the path directly ahead of her. He had metal hands on the end of straw arms, and a sphinx like lions' head, with a majestic golden mane of hair. He carried a woodsman's' axe.

"I was a brainless, heartless coward, until the great wizard-God Ichabod of Galifrey and Oz gave me courage, and will-power. tow I am free, and above such vices. Come with me, and watch me carve my own destiny." The talk was stilted, as though spoken by a very lame actor, in a poor amateur dramatic attempt at fringe theatre. The Russian accent was forced and pitiful. Ace couldn't resist giggling.

Her laughter stopped when she spotted the old lady in the witch's outfit. It was her own Mother. The Scarecrow leapt forward and beat the old woman down with the axe. Ace screamed in rage and jumped forward. A rainbow appeared between her and the violent tableaux; which stayed just out of her reach, as the song was suggesting, 'Somewhere, over the rainbow'. The blood and violence, the screams, were very real, despite the surrealism of the scene. Ace screamed for Ichabod to stop. It continued. The cast iron scarecrow lay down, using the corpse as its pillow, and as it slept, holographic dream bubbles arose, depicting a nightmare fantasia of a cart horse being butchered by its drunken owner in the street, with a knout, as the Scarecrow, and Ace were also depicted in the dream, watching, helplessly, unable to intervene.

"I don't see the point," demanded Ace.

The three in one, unholy trinity of a monster awoke, and leapt to its feet, speaking now in the dominant, proud Lion's voice. "I have done it! I have killed the Wicked Witch of The Past."

In the Scarecrow's sore protesting, tone, another voice joined in. "Murderer! She was just a poor, wretched old moneylender.... a pawnbroker... and you killed her sister too..."

Ace noticed another corpse nearby, a headless witch, bleeding in the gutter.

"I am the very Napoleon of crime." roared the Lion in over-melodramatic pompous self congratulation. "I am free of guilt, free from the world's notions of what is right, and what is wrong. I make my own morality now."

Ace cut in, knowing that her heckling was being ignored, still. ""You won't get any Oscars for this you know."

The Tin-mans' metallic voice took up the monologue, if that is what it could still be called. "It has not been quite so easy as I expected. I still have regrets about my actions, but I cannot stop now. I must accept my suffering, embrace it, nurture it, care for it, and direct my pain to my advantage. The creature took out a book, and read from it. The book was the very book he was trying to re-enact for Ace's benefit... or was it really for his own benefit? Ace suspected the latter. He recited in Russian with the Lion's head, while the Tin man translated his words back into English. ,

"What if man, the whole human race in general, ( or the people of Galifrey for that matter', he added, as an aside) isn't really a villain at all? If that's true, it means all the rest is just a load of superstition, just a lot of fears that have been put into people's heads, and there are no limits, and that's how it's meant to be."

The scene was re-enacted three times to emphasise the point; "There are no limits, and that's how it's meant to be."

There was a long pause, while Ace realised she was being invited to add comment a this stage. The play had suddenly become a promenade production, inviting audience participation.

"You can't just do anything you want. What makes you think you're above everyone else? Some people are evil, some are not.... You can't just declare yourself apart from all that...." Her articulation seemed stifled to her. She couldn't quite put together the case she wanted to. "Oh God; this is rubbish." she shouted in frustration. "Just stop it, right now."

She was surrounded by an ocean of applause. The audience that arose around her out of the ether consisted of the creature, herself, and her Mother, replicated thousands of times. There were shouts of 'Bravo, Bravo'.

The Scarecrow voice loosed large again, as the creature returned to the foreground of the action. "You dare to steal my glory? You dare to say I an in the wrong? What do you know of right and wrong? Who are you to judge me?"

"You tell me." Ace snapped back.

"I admit it. I killed people. I have left my people and 'become a new kind of being. In order to do that I have had to do what some people sight regard as evil.... yes, but just think of the good I can do with what I have gained from a little evil..... Think of it, Ace. Evil can beget good."

"No it can't. You have to stop. You have to put right what is wrong?"

"How Ace? How can I do that. How can you for that matter? Why can't you make

amends with your Mother? Can't you repair the buildings you burnt down? Can't you stop

running away from Perivale?'

The accusations hurt her. She was uncertain about how to respond. "You know I

can't. What's done is done, for me. But it’s different for you, because you are a Time

Lord. "

"No Ace. I am not a Time Lord. I an a god now. There can be no going back for

me now. No going back....." The words kept on repeating themselves in an ever

increasing refrain. ‘No going back’ . "Don't you see, Ace. That is my suffering. I still have

a conscience about what I have done. That is why I an not evil.... I regret my actions....

That doesn't mean I can stop though... does it?"

"Doesn't it?" Ace asked.

A police station appeared at the end of the road. The rainbow vanished, and Ace

found that the road was beginning to actually take her closer to the action. The corpses of

the monster's murder victims had vanished. On the police station steps, stood the Doctor,

wearing the uniform of a typical London bobby, with red question marks on his helmet.

He didn't seem to see Ace though.

"The Scarecrow pointed. "He wants me to surrender. He wants me to just walk in there, and accept defeat. He's feeding me subliminal messages suggesting that I accept defeat... Oh yes, I know that. I've been told. There are those who would buy my allegiance, if I let them."

"Who told you?" Ace felt as though she was hearing something important.

"His people.... People who want to follow se. I received messages. telling me that they are ready to follow me, to serve my bidding. He won't let them though. He will stop me if he has a chance."

"You must listen to him.... He's trying to help you."

"I can't..... I wish I could."

Ace leapt forward towards the policeman. "Then let me do it for you!..... Doctor, can you hear me?"

Another Ace appeared on the road ahead of her, running towards the Doctor, throwing a Nitro-Nine canister at him. The Doctor, and the police station exploded and turned into a sea of butterflies with question mark wings. Each butterfly turned to a tiny plume of flame and vaporised. The new Ace also vanished, along with the whole range of scenery from the play. Ace found herself back in the TARDIS Console room with its two giant beating hearts.

"Foolish girl," the voice of the control room bellowed. "Do you think you are here to stop me....? I know you'll keep trying to contact the Doctor.... I know you're thinking of finding some way of escaping. It won't work. Why don't you try bombing me with that Nitro Nine of yours. Oh, yes. I know you thought of it."

"I know you'll stop me now, so what's the point?" Ace reached for her two bombs, not with an aim to throwing them, but in order to surrender them to him. At first her jacket pocket felt empty. As she was about to take her hand out, something tickled her. She pulled her hand free and saw a dozen tiny spiders crawling on her fingers. She shook her hands to try to make them fall off, and almost screamed out, but the spiders disappeared."

"I've had it up to here with your illusions." she said, putting on as brave a face as possible. "Show me what you looked like. Let me see you, as you were before you married your TARDIS."

A series of elderly faces appeared in the roundels on the walls of the TARDIS. It was all the same face, in different angles and images. It was a friendly enough face, full of sorrow, and fear.

"I'm sorry if I upset you my child," it said.

"Don't call me that," Ace insisted.

"I must, my child, for right now, you are my only family.... and I am the only friend you have. The Doctor won't be able to help you. You have to be my daughter."

"Never in a million years! I'm just your prisoner."

"And I, your prisoner too, my child. Now, I know what you're thinking... you need a bathroom, and a bedroom, don't you? You are tired."

She knew he was right. She felt exhausted. She had to rest. "I need my privacy too. I'm not having you watching me."

"You're right, of course. I will give you your freedom for the night. I will give you a room where you can rest assured that I won't be watching you....".

A door appeared, standing upright, with no frame or walls around it. Ace walked up and the door opened by itself to reveal a bedroom with a separate bathroom attached. The bed was single, with just a duvet and a single pillow. The wallpaper was plain white. There was a film poster on one wall, for an old Boris Karloff film, The Bride of Frankenstein. Ace realised that Ichabod had captured her memory of once contemplating buying such a poster for her own bedroom, only days before Fenric's timestorm had taken her to Iceworld. The only sign of childish, churlish immaturity in the room was the fluffy white teddy bear tucked into the bed, which Ace quickly snatched up and threw onto the floor. The bathroom was similarly simple in design and lacking in imaginative decor. As she washed her face, and used the toothpaste, Ace recalled once using a restaurants' bathroom window to escape from a particularly undesirable boyfriend, with a fetish for French-kissing, and how futile such an escape method would be here. Once in bed Ace lay awake for a while, wondering if she was being watched, and when she felt comfortably alone, she finally allowed sleep to overcome her.

Ichabod watched her, all the time she slept.

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell

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