Chapter Twenty Five
"I'm starting to like the begging," Leandra crowed at the prisoner, as he winced in pain. "Begging us to hurt you. You're not a masochist. So maybe — it's that guilty conscience of yours, telling you that you deserve everything we're doing to you." She placed the hot poker down on his chest — for just enough time that he could feel every bit of it, but not for long enough that it would cause lasting damage — then lifted it away, again. "What have you done, Time Lord, that weighs this much on your conscience?"
He panted, trying to catch his breath. Then, in a weak voice that attempted but failed to sound brave, light, or unaffected: "Trying to convince me that living without a conscience is better, then? Without a soul? I should introduce you to the Cybermen."
Leandra raised the poker, again. "You begged me to do this to you," she reminded him. "Every ounce of pain you feel — you brought it on yourself."
The Doctor glanced over at the restrained hostage, at the other end of the room. Whatever this one's name was. Then back at Leandra. "You never had any intention of harming Jessica at all. You only threatened her because you wanted me to beg you not to hurt her."
"I wanted to have fun with one of our pets," Leandra replied. "It didn't matter which one. The lion or…" glancing at the hostage, "the pussycat. They both roar out their pain the same way."
"Really?" sighed the Doctor. "The lion or the pussycat? Did you steal all your worst excuses from the evil-villain-cliché wiki?"
Leandra felt her grip tighten around the poker. "You think we act purely out of fear?" she asked, through her teeth. "Do you know how many humans we've taken prisoner? Tortured and torn up and broken? They were nothing — weaklings! Worthless! But we destroyed them, and we enjoyed it." She gave him a cold smile. "Loved every single minute of it."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "Others," he muttered.
"Many others," Leandra agreed. "Through the decades. We're not afraid. We are the top rung of the food chain. The ones who should rule. The ones who should get anything we want. We are vampires. We inspire fear in all mortal creatures, because we are supreme." To prove her point, she hissed at the hostage human girl, who shuddered back.
The Doctor considered this. "Interesting" he said.
Leandra snapped her head back to him. "What?"
"Oh, nothing," the Doctor insisted. His brow creased. "But… tell me, Leandra. Really. Been feeling a little… off, lately, when your daily dose of Time Lord blood comes too late? Dizzy spells, cravings, nausea?"
Leandra's eyes darkened. "Vampires don't…"
do," the Doctor cut in. "Withdrawal symptoms, when you don't drink quite enough of my blood, or wait a wee bit too long before drinking it. You get sick. Sick
. That sounds almost… human of you, don't you think?"
"Leandra!" the voice boomed from the background.
Leandra turned, to find Razor and all the others — an entire group of vampires surrounding him, their hungry eyes fixed on the prisoner, their hands twitching in anticipation.
"He only speaks to you to distract you," Razor pointed out. "Would you rather listen to the insane ramblings of a prisoner with no hope of escape? Or would you rather have your fun?"
Leandra tossed the poker away, when she saw what the other vampires were carrying. And knew what it meant.
"Is it time?" she asked, trying not to give in to the eagerness that was clawing at her insides.
Razor's eyes landed on the Doctor, who'd also noticed what the vampires were carrying. He'd gone very still, his face turning pale, and Leandra could smell the sweet scent of horror the prisoner was emitting into the air.
"No," the Doctor told Razor. "I won't."
"Then your newest human hostage dies," Razor replied. "Or are you finally admitting that your own pride is worth more than a human life?"
"Please, please, just do it already!" one of the vampires in the entourage begged Razor. "I don't want to wait."
The other vampires joined in, their voices pleading with Razor to do it — carry out what he'd threatened, what they'd all been waiting for, since the last time they'd gotten the chance. What they wanted, so very, very much.
The Doctor looked back at the human hostage. She was struggling in her bonds, trying to see what was happening. Trying to understand.
"What… what are they doing?" the human asked. "What are they talking about?"
The Doctor turned back to Razor. "And if you don't do it to me," he said, "I suppose you'll do it to Jessica, instead? Then kill her, in front of me. Along with anyone else you happen to have at hand."
Razor's grin widened.
"Same as always, then," the Doctor muttered.
"Same as always," Razor agreed. "You give yourself up to save an innocent human. One you've spoken to, become fond of, consider a friend. Predictable."
A light appeared in the Doctor's eyes. He glanced at Leandra. A small smile on his face. "Yes. Predictable. Funny, that. After all, what if she's right?"
"Enough talking!" shouted one of the vampire entourage. "Do it, already!"
"No, really!" the Doctor insisted. "What if you're right, Leandra? And I've been letting this all happen? Using it to my advantage? What if—?"
But he never finished. Because the vampires had long since lost their patience with him. And he only had time to let his expression drop into resignation and disgust, before the vampires descended.
And the ritual began, once again.
"I'm close," Joanna told Angel. "I know I'm close."
Angel glanced out the window, at the sky. "The sun's about to come up," he told her. "I can't stay here."
Joanna didn't look up from her work, just shooed him away with her hands. "Yeah? So? Get out of here. You're blocking my light."
And so he retreated, back into his sun-sealed room. Leaving Joanna to get on with her work. And Joanna knew she was close. She was sure. Because this was exactly what Carolyn had done to discover vamp-away in the first place.
Creating vampire cells. Watching how they increased. Then finding ways to contain them.
Except that Joanna had already found and tested the traditional vamp-away formula. And discovered that — with this level of Time Lord Blood in the vampires' bodies, it was far, far too late for vamp-away. So she'd added in another element to the process. Infused the vampire cells with Time Lord blood, and conducted her experiments that way.
And she'd nearly come up with the solution.
It was already mid-morning by the time she had things properly set up to test her results. She had a number of laboratory rats — vampirized, injected with Time Lord Blood — that she could use. She selected one. Poisoned its food supply. And watched the results.
Joanna felt herself slump, as she realized that this wasn't going to work. That she'd failed, once again. How had Carolyn managed to do this? Had Carolyn simply been a genius, or had it been working in the TARDIS labs that had given her the ability to create something so powerful?
"Might as well just run you through a maze and make you find the cheese," Joanna muttered to the rat.
Then stopped. Froze. And stared at the rat.
The rat blinked at her, dumbly, then sipped at its food once more, before meandering back to its wheel. Running around, over and over again, in circles. Trying to get somewhere it couldn't.
Joanna got up, and went to all the other cages. Examining the other lab rats she had at her disposal. None of them suspecting anything would happen to them. None of them understanding their situation. All of them just proceeding with their normal routines with no change — except for sprouting fangs and leaping at the glass of their cages, trying to attack the rat in the cell over from them.
"Maze," she repeated. "Should run them through a maze."
Because it was obvious to her — so obvious, now! The TBVs around the world, when they'd drunk the Doctor's blood, hadn't just grown stronger, faster, completely invulnerable — they'd become smart
And none of these rats — subjected to the same conditions — showed any evidence of increased intelligence.
Joanna felt her mind reel.
"It doesn't make them smart," she muttered. "The blood. It doesn't make them smart!" She clutched at the back of a chair, trying to catch her breath. Thinking through all the things she'd discovered, since she started. "The TBVs. They knew where the Doctor was. They knew how to combat Slayers. They knew how to use technology, hack into computer systems, adapt Torchwood's weapons to suit their own purposes. They knew how to infiltrate UNIT. They knew everyone they needed to get rid of. And… they couldn't have known… any of it… unless…" It is not time.
Joanna spun around, looking for the owner of the voice that had just flooded her head. Except that there was no one there.
A psychic signal.
"Who are you?" Joanna demanded. "Why've you been telling these vampires everything they needed to know? What do you have against the Doctor?"
There was a pause, hovering in the air. Then, once again, the disembodied voice spoke up. Samantha Jones Finn should never have remembered. Time could change. The future may be corrupted. The critical instant might never occur.
"Critical instant?" asked Joanna. "What are you…?"
But she never finished. Because she felt a sudden, horrible, stabbing feeling in her head, as if she'd just been struck by lightning, and the bolt had chosen to focus exclusively on her brain. And she felt herself falling, falling away, and didn't know if she'd ever come back.