Chapter 17

From the gloom he'd encountered while descending the rickety staircase under the Black Guardian's Georgian home, the Doctor expected to find himself in a dimly lit, cobwebby cellar. Or, perhaps some dank, mouldery underground tunnel. Instead, he blinked his eyes. They adjusted quickly from the light of a few sputtering torches, to a line of fluorescent bulbs crossing the ceiling. When Jack the Butler pushed open a heavy a door at the bottom of the stairs, the Doctor had walked through and found himself inside a futuristic science lab.

Its spotless white walls nearly blinded one after the dark passageway. There were two long rows of lab tables. These were chock-a-block full of Bunsen burners, tubing, glass vats full of coloured liquids, and various other apparatuses. The science geek in the Doctor might have marvelled at the sight. Except for one other detail. Along a wall at the back of the room were row upon row of red plastic, Perspex fronted cubicles looking like upright coffins.

It was what was inside those red cubicles that made the Doctor's eyes narrow dangerously. They were full of humans. The people's states of dress came from the Elizabethan era on the far left, to the seventeenth and eighteenth century in the middle, ending with men and women kitted out in Victorian and early twentieth century style clothing. All told, the Doctor reckoned there were at least several dozen humans.

Each of them seemed to be in a state of suspended animation. All were covered with a thin rime of frost. They had tubes full of liquid running from their heads into a vat at the top of each cubicle. But, it was the looks on the captive's frozen faces which made the Doctor ball his fists in anger. Each face had its eyes wide open in a look of pure terror.

"What have you done?" He turned and growled at the Black Guardian.

"I needed to lure you to me, Doctor. And like a sweet innocent lamb to the slaughter, you followed." The Black Guardian sneered. "Unfortunately, I knew your TARDIS was, shall we say, a bit erratic? It might take hundreds of years for your ship to get you here. At exactly the right while away the time I decided to amuse myself in with a little extracurriular activity. Experimenting on humans. Such a nasty little species. They're not much more than sentient parasites, if you ask me."

"What. Did. You. Do?" The Doctor repeated through gritted teeth. He knew that using innocent people to get to him, was the one thing that could really push his emotional buttons.

"It's very simple, really." The Black Guardian shrugged. "I've distilled all the negative emotions, while removing the positive one's. I wanted to see what these humans would be like without paltry emotions such as love or caring to get in their way. Oh, I had my failures, of course. Jack here was my first real success. Weren't you, dear boy?" He smiled at Jack.

"Yes, sir." The butler smiled back and bowed to his master. "And if you don't mind me saying so sir, I enjoyed every minute of it."

"Unfortunately, an agent of Her Majesty's Secret Service shot Jack here, before I could withdraw him from the experiment. I saw you there. The noble Doctor, ready to jump in and save Jack the Ripper. I could have taken you then. But, decided to let you go. The time wasn't right. I had a barge nearby and managed to retrieve the body for recyling. I did well repurposing Jack as my butler, did I not?

"What's this all got to do with me?" A deep, dark suspicion was beginning to niggle away at the back of the Doctor's brain.

"Things have changed, Doctor. You are now here in exactly the right time and the right place. I am about to embark on a breeding programme, which will eventually wipe out the entire human race. By their own hands, I might add." The Black Guardian gloated, rubbing his hands in anticipation. "Such a deliciously mean, petty and violent species! But, they lack one last thing. One thing which will push them over the brink of self-destruction."

"You know, something about all this sounds tediously familiar." The Doctor said, thinking out loud and pacing shortly up and down. "Wait...let me put my thinking cap on...that was my fez, by the way. It got disintegrated by a...friend. Dunno' why. Fez's are very cool." He stopped. Whistling his surprise, the Doctor nodded to himself.

Turning to look at the Black Guardian the Doctor shot him a sly grin, "Ah, I've got it now! I think I've just closed the book on one of Galifrey's oldest cold case files. There was an ancient Time Lord. Called Diabolica. He'd tried something very much like what you are doing. On a planet called Matar. He performed a very similar experiment. Tried to reduce an entire level twenty-one civilization into baseless animals. It was believed that he had some help from one of the immortals, but no one could ever prove anything. Diabolica never got around to making a confession."

"And why is that, I wonder?" The Black Guardian said. Yet, the tone of his voice said he probably already knew.

"His accomplice made sure of Diabolica's silence." The Doctor said levelly, going eye to eye with the Black Guardian. "Before he could go on trial, he died. All thirteen lives regenerating at once, dying over and over again in the space of a few minutes, until he could regenerate no more."

"How very sad. A terrible way to go, I'm sure." The Black Guardian said with mock sorrow.

The Doctor looked down at his toes, cleared his throat. "Bit of an embarrassing way to go, I'm afraid. Premature regeneration. Our biotechnicians later developed a drug to help with that little...er—problem. They also came up with a way to enhance the length of your regeneration, and then everyone on the planet started getting flooded with spam messages every five seconds..." He sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Diabolica would have been perfect for my plans here on Earth. What a pity I had to kill him." The Black guardian shrugged. Now though, I have you. The perfect distillation for the downfall of humankind is inside your own mind, Doctor. Inside your head is a boiling cauldron of emotion, just waiting to be set free. The power and rage of a Time Lord!"

Instead of showing that rage, the Doctor instead sprang up on to the edge of one of the lab tables. He was sat there taking deep breaths to calm himself. With his long legs dangling, the Doctor steepled his fingers together and closed his eyes. "Ooom-ooom..." He chanted.

Folding his arms, the Black Guardian regarded the Doctor with amused eyes. His expression was that of patient parent indulging a difficult child. "I have all day, Doctor. I've waited hundreds of years."

In answer, the Doctor shut his eyes tighter and deftly switched from his chant to a soft, lilting Venusian lullaby. "Ooom, ta-roon, ta-roon, la-soom, la-soom, ta-roon..."

"Perhaps you need a little more persuasion." The Black Guardian said, deciding to change tactics.

Turning his back on the Doctor's antics, he moved his arms to form a large square pattern with his fingers. There suddenly appeared a video screen in the middle of the room. Slowly coming into focus on that screen, was the TARDIS. Ignoring it, the Doctor crossed his legs, folded his arms and began to snore.

"I can, if I so choose, move your TARDIS to any part of the universe I wish. Any time, any place." He brushed thin air with his fingers. "Such as this, perhaps?"

All at once, the scene changed. It was a supermarket in the early twenty-first century. A light rain was falling. Just coming out of the doors of the building were a woman and a man. The man was pushing a shopping trolley, the woman was busy putting her wallet in her purse. It was Donna and her husband. Though no words could be heard, they seemed to be chatting with each other, smiling, not a care in the world.

The Black Guardian moved his finger once more. The scene went back to that of the TARDIS standing in the alley where the Doctor had left it. There was a man with a shotgun in front of the doors. The light on top of the ship began to flash. Slowly, the ship began to de-materialize. The Doctor saw the man's clothing being whipped up by a sudden wind, as he whirled around to stare in disbelief. The man staggered back and dropped his gun. They saw the bright red explosion from its twin muzzles light up one wall of the alley.

All the while, the Doctor watched through half-closed eyelids. With growing alarm, he saw the TARDIS gradually disappear from view. A flick of the immortal's finger, and the scene switched back to Donna and her husband. The couple had paused under the supermarket's overhead awning. They were looking at the wet car park. The light rain was slanting down, driven nearly sideways by a brisk wind. It dripped from cars and loose trolleys and lamp posts. The Black Guardian gently coughed into his hand, and the picture focused closer on the pair. He cleared his throat. Suddenly, there was an audio link, as well.

"Show off." The Doctor grumbled under his breath.

"Look! What did I say? I told you it was gonna' rain." Donna said crossly, gesturing unnecessarily at the low gray clouds overhead. "You had to go and park the car way at the other end, didn't you?"

"Sweetheart, it's only a little mist. It's not like it's teaming down or anything." He tried to reason with her.

"A little mist? What are you, Scottish? It is not mist. If it's wet, and it's falling from the sky, it's rain." She countered.

"I don't know why you're fussing about rain. Honey, we're English. Getting rained on is part of our culture. Besides, it won't hurt you. It's not like it's corrosive acid."

"I just had my hair done." She asserted, as if this answered everything.

"Oh. Right. Yeah." He nodded, completely in the dark as to why his wife had abruptly switched the conversational topic to hair, but deciding humouring her was now his best option.

Out of nowhere, quietly at first, then gaining in crescendo, was the wheezing, grinding noise of the TARDIS. It slowly began to materialize beside a people carrier parked in a nearby handicapped spot. Gazing at it, Donna's face became more and more baffled looking. Then, she seemed to recognize the sound. As she did, Donna cried out and clutched her head. She slowly slumped to the ground, as her eyes began to glow with a golden fire.

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