Traveler's Halt

by Jacob Clifton June 30, 2009
The Next Doctor

"Well, that's rather dependent on you! All I can promise is to do my best." Parameters of which, she clarifies for Cyber Leader in his own language, mean she "will operate at maximum efficiency." And in return for her aid? "You will be heralded in the new age, at the Court of the CyberKing." They all salute. The Cybermen have an allergy to gold and a deficiency of imagination that leads them here: they are in the Court of St. James and thus their lives become a court. "The CyberKing will rise," they chant; she doesn't know what she means, what sort of engine CyberKing designates; she has been trained by life and men to sexualize every utterance and moment: "Indeed. How like a man." (Once, with quirked smile is liberated, but twice is silly and three times a deeper issue.) "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a funeral to attend."

It's snowy, and beautiful in another way. Black draft horses pull a black carriage to the graveyard, trailed by pallbearers in black tophats. The Doctor and Rosita watch them go from near the Reverend's house; the snow's thick and getting thicker and you can't see things fifty yards away. John Smith, for example, skulking and watching them just as they're watching the mourners. "The late Reverend Fairchild, leaving his place of residence for the last time. God rest his soul... Now, with the house empty, I shall effect an entrance at the rear while you go back to the TARDIS." They talk about how breaking into houses isn't women's work, but saving her life is women's work, and finally he yells "The Doctor's Companion does what the Doctor says!" Which makes John Smith grin, because no she fucking doesn't, and all three of them know it.

The Doctor bends to the task of breaking in, but John Smith's already inside: "Oh, front door. I'm good at doors." He asks if the Doctor's breaking into the house with his sonic screwdriver, and the Doctor holds it up proudly. "That's a screwdriver. How's it sonic?" The Doctor raps his screwdriver against the doorframe: "...It makes a noise?" The Doctor is showing cracks in his performance.

"It started with a murder," the Doctor says, rifling through Fairchild's things, and John Smith nods, happily. The worse it gets, the more he loves it. "I mean, bad. But whose?" Mr. Jackson Lake, mathematics teacher from Sussex, came to London three weeks ago, subsequently "died a terrible death." Was it Cybermen? "It's hard to say, his body was never found, but that was the first of the secret murders, which were followed by abductions. "Children," the Doctor says in a hush, "Stolen away in silence."

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