Chapter Thirty Two
: One of my readers asked, at some point, how the First could be one and the same as the Beast of Krop Tor. This section, I hope, goes a certain way towards answering that question.
Just so you know that I have still been rewriting my stuff based on your reviews and comments.
(As I finish up the massive rewrites I've just made to the end of this story, based on your comments on the last chapter.)
The moment the man in the leather jacket left, a howl rushed through the air, and the entire room flooded with the aura of all that was the First. All that was evil, deadly, horrible, the darkest places in your soul that infect you in your worst hours.
The Doctor cried out, dropping to the ground, his hands clutching his head. He was shaking.
"You can't fight me, Doctor," came the echoing voice through the air. "I know all your secrets. All your thoughts. Every crevice of your mind. You are my puppet. My servant. My new vessel."
Another cry of pain from the Doctor.
The swirling aura froze, lingering in the air for a second. "No…"
Then it coalesced, turned into the Romana woman with the long hair and the funny hat, her eyes staring daggers at the Doctor.
"A trap?" Romana shouted. "I've been placed in a trap?"
The Doctor didn't answer.
"Everything that's happened, this entire world, this entire reality — it's nothing!" Romana screamed, rushing towards the Doctor. "An endless loop! Going round and round and round forever! Never changing! Never achieving anything!"
The Doctor still said nothing.
Romana crouched down by the Doctor, her anger radiating through her, her eyes terrible and biting. "Get me out of here!"
"Impossible," the Doctor muttered.
Romana held out her hand over his head, and he curled in on himself once more, giving a soft moan as he squeezed his eyes shut.
Romana gave a sly little smile, as she dropped her hand. "Possible," she amended. "You've seen it done before."
"That was different," the Doctor gasped.
"Jarra To," announced the First, rising to her feet once more. "A being originating in a quarantined timeline. But she found a way out, didn't she? Into the Hub of the Axis. And she nearly made it into the real universe, itself." She stepped back from the Doctor. "No. No, you're right, Doctor. This time, it's very different." She spun around, her fiery eyes fixed on Buffy. "This time, we've got someone in here who's going to have
to break quarantine."
Uh, oh. Now Buffy was in trouble.
Romana paced towards Buffy. "You've got a friend in the Hub," she said. "A friend who'd never let you rot in here. Your… overseer
. Your guardian. When this timeline ends, we all go back to the beginning. Except for you. You get taken out of here. Put back into the real world." Her eyes gleamed, as she stopped, directly in front of Buffy. "Seems like all this time, I've been chasing after the wrong person to be my new corporeal vessel."
"Wait!" shouted the Doctor. He peeled himself off the floor, a hand extended towards the First. "I surrender!"
Romana spun around to face the Doctor. "You what?"
"If you spare her," the Doctor said, "I'll let you take me over, instead. I'll stop fighting. I'll…" He hesitated, looked over at Buffy, then seemed to make up his mind. "If you let her live, I'll let you kill me."
Buffy stared at him. "What?"
Romana looked on, vaguely amused. "Well," she said. "That's interesting. I didn't put that emotion into your head." She tilted her own head to the side, as if reflecting. "It seems you still have some compassion left in you. Just a smidgeon that you clung to — for dear life — as I took everything else away from you." She raised her eyebrows. "Unless this is a trick."
"No trick," the Doctor promised. "Just let her go, and you can do whatever you want with me. Won't even fight back! Promise."
Romana straightened, looking between Buffy and the Doctor with keen eyes, deliberating between the two.
"She won't last out the century," the Doctor said. "Just a human. You know what they're like. Minds underdeveloped, intelligence capacity little more than an ape. Not worth the effort, really. And even for her species, this one's exceptionally dull. Petty, childish." He gave a sniff, then wrinkled his nose. "Smells a bit, too."
"Excuse me!" Buffy snapped.
"And bad tempered!" the Doctor put in. "Honestly. You go off to conquer all the world, and you choose to do it in some pitiful little body like hers?"
The First nodded at the Doctor. "Point taken, Doctor."
And then the form of Romana dispersed into the air, flooding around the room and crashing towards the Doctor. There was no scream, this time. No struggle. No shaking or gripping his head. The Doctor simply fell to the ground, limp, exhausted, and gave in.
"No," Buffy whispered.
She was angry at him. Furious at him. She'd had hopes that he could be better and had found them all dashed to pieces. She'd seen him kill, destroy, murder. She'd seen him destroy the world before her eyes. She'd watched him sentence the Potential Slayers to endless torture and torment inside a space ship he could never open. She'd heard him confessing his desire to wipe the Slayer and its customs from history.
But in the end, he was still the Doctor. The one that would give up his own life to save hers. Every single time.
And she'd killed him.
"No!" she said, louder.
She ran forwards, dropping down beside him. He wasn't real, she remembered that. He was a copy, a potential, a possibility, looping around and around and around in a quarantined timeline inside the Axis. But he felt real. It all felt real. And watching him die to save her felt just as horrible as all the times he'd tried it, back in the real world.
Then his eyes opened. But they weren't brown — or even black — this time. They were red. Red and glowing with fire.
"A body," said the man who was no longer the Doctor, as he sat up, looking at his hands. His voice was smooth, silky, deep, with an American accent. An odd voice to be coming out of that body. "A real body."
Buffy backed away, reaching for the Scythe, but found herself now frozen in the middle of the air, unable to move a muscle.
The First looked down at itself, a smile crawling across its lips. "Such power," it mused. "Such raw, surging power. To be able to reach in and manipulate everything in the world once more!"
It snapped its fingers, and Buffy found herself released. She stumbled a little, trying to regain her footing, when the cave shook around her, and a heap of dirt and rocks tumbled down from the ceiling.
Buffy darted out of the way, barely missing getting smooshed.
"Oh, you don't know how long I've missed that!" the First cried, getting to its feet. "The ability to influence, control, destroy. The power of death in my hands, again!"
"Doctor…" Buffy whispered.
The First turned to examine her, a twisted smile on his face. "Dead," he said. "I consumed him. Devoured him." His smile widened into a grin. "Best thing I ever did, removing his ability to tell right from wrong. That way, it was almost guaranteed. He was the Doctor — he saved people. That was his nature." He laughed. "And, like this, he'd always decide to save a single person at the expense of the whole world." He paced towards Buffy. "Or… maybe several timelines."
"Don't you come near me," said Buffy.
"The poor, noble Doctor," said the First. "Giving up his life for yours. A naïve, foolish gesture. Your mind is being blocked by something powerful. I couldn't get at your mind at all — not unless I gained corporeal existence." He took another step forwards, and spread his arms. "But now that I'm back in the game…"
Buffy lunged for the Scythe, but the First just laughed as she brandished the weapon at him.
"Oh, you stupid, stupid girl," said the First. "Do you really think that can stop me, now?"
Before Buffy knew what was happening, she was surrounded, on all sides, by Uber-Vamps, their green skin accentuating their hungry eyes — no longer yellow, but now bright red — their teeth clacking and their jaws drooling, as they seized her.
"I have wired the Doctor's brain," the First said, "to be the center of the Singularity. Preparing for my manifestation. Now, even in the flesh, the Turok-Hans obey my every order. My every whim. I have only to think something, and they respond."
Buffy felt the Scythe leave her hands, as she was hauled forwards, shifting and struggling frantically to get out of the Uber-Vamps' grips.
The First turned, without a word, and led them all back to the Hellmouth.