Tuesday, August 6, 2013

*Someone* Had To...

John Frobisher was a man of responsibility. To his superiors and paymasters as Permanent Secretary, to those who worked under him in the Home Office, but above all to his family. He was no saint, he had done things a good man should never do and never have to regret - keeping that side from his family had driven him into the arms of another woman on more than one occasion. But the weakness was balanced by loyalty to his wife and children, which gave him an inner strength no one would have suspected he'd possessed. Perhaps it was a week without proper sleep, facing living nightmares, rooms full of bodies and realizing his boss was a far greater monster than anything called 456. Perhaps it was the simple truth he had been painted into a corner.

There was only one way out now. Only one way to spare his daughters from the living death the 456 offered. Only one way to save his wife from the horror of their loss. Only one way that guaranteed to spare them from the hell the world was becoming, because even if he somehow found another way to keep his family safe, they would be at the constant mercy of anarchists and vengeful parents demanding retribution after he had helped ruin their lives - always assuming of course the 456 didn't release another virus and wipe out the human race altogether.

His family were gathered upstairs in the girls' bedroom like it was a birthday or the morning of Christmas. This would not be as joyful an occasion, but at least they'd be together.

Frobisher was quite nervous around guns. It was only back in 2003, when he became Director of Crime Policy, that he'd been given training in how to use them - and even then under strong protest.

The tiny part of him that was still sane was impressed at how good a shot he was.

Barely a second stood between the headshots that struck dead Lilly and Holly, extinguishing their lives before they could even ask what he was doing. Anna, his precious Anna, was smirking with almost hysteria, probably remembering that Hallowe'en prank when the girls pretended to be victims of their father dressed up as Dracula. The horror hadn't had time to sink in yet, and a third bullet from Frobisher's requistioned pistol made sure it never should. She sprawled over the bodies of her children in a strangely protective gesture.

John Frobisher wanted to believe that death happened faster than any pain could be felt. He wanted to believe that some glorious afterlife existed and that his family were waiting for him.

Well, he had the consolation that whatever they were experiencing - be it paradise or oblivion - he was about to join them.

He closed his eyes and put the painfully-hot barrel into his mouth.

The fourth and final bullet tore up into his skull even as his legs failed him. The agony and darkness took over, there was blood rushing and...

John Frobisher was floating near the ceiling, looking downwards at the blood-spattered bedroom and the four cooling bodies. His mind was fuzzy and disoriented, and the sight of the murder-suicide seemed far away and unimportant. He couldn't shut his eyes against the sight; he wasn't seeing with his eyes. He had no arms to reach out to the bodies of his family, no tongue or mouth or lips to cry out their names. There was blood on the walls, seeping into that crack on the northern side of the room, the crooked smile in the brickwork they'd never got round to fixing. The blood gathered in the smile, a blood-drenched grin laughing at him.

Frobisher watched as the bedroom, then the world beyond, all dissolved. He was somewhere else, somewhere that was nowhere. In the dimness, the crack remained glowing with light.

In the other direction there were familiar faces in the nothingness - his parents, his wife, his children, laughing delightedly. The dead man's fear vanished as though he'd never been afraid. Yet he felt compelled to turn - or something that felt like turning - to see the crack in the dark beneath him, a widening mouth on chaos. Somehow, the ghostly vision of the world outside didn't feel unimportant any more. There were riots on the street, the children were screaming, the sky was ablaze and somewhere a mother saw her child die and could do nothing.

Frobisher knew he was running out of time - he could be a ghost forever walking the haunted places of the Earth or he could embrace the sweet and warmth of whatever lay beyond.

The crack yawned open wide.

A third choice.

Part of him still wanted to fix things, make amends, make a difference. He felt no anger or misery at how his life ended, he was well and truly beyond that now. But he wished he could have done more, helped the others, stood apart from what he'd known what was wrong. He could have been a player not a piece. He reached out insubstantial hands towards the gaping chasm. Through it, he could see himself and his family cowering in fear and... snow? Ash? His family in togas and Roman clothes, fleeing through the doorway of an old blue police box. A skinny man in a pinstripe stood in the light that blazed through the indeterminate greyness. He held out a hand.

"Come with me," said the man.

Come with me. Make a difference. Make amends. Be fantastic. Be brilliant.

Frobisher ran through the absolute, all-encompassing darkness, away from the quiet dark stillness to the noise and light and life. He was being swallowed up, torn to shreds as the darkness pressed in on him. Even as he curled and twisted like smoke, dissolving into nothing, John Frobisher grabbed hold of the proferred hand and was wrenched backwards into the blue box, into the light.


The light began to fade. He was standing in a vast blue-grey metal room, before a six-sided table framing a glass pillar that stretched to the ceiling. A short dark-haired woman was looking at him with a mixture of concern and amazement. Awareness was returning. The TARDIS. Clara. The bowtie hanging loose around the collar of his ill-fitting shirt. "Right then," he heard himself say. "Eyesight? Not bad. Bit blue. Ears? Not pointy, right way up, more or less level." He grabbed at his face, fingers tracing the outlines of his skull. "Face? Well... I've got one." His eyes widened as the last trace of the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office melted away. "Oh no... French!"

"French?" repeated Clara cautiously.

"I've deleted French! Plus all cookery skills, and the breast stroke and hopping. Never mind hopping - who needs to hop?" He grimaced and shifted inside his ill-fitting clothes. "Ohh, the kidneys are interesting. Never had that before – interesting kidneys."

"Are you all right?"

"I don't know," the Doctor admitted. "Do I look all right?"

Clara shrugged. "I don’t know!"

The Doctor bent down so they were eye-to-eye. "How's the face? Seems all right from the inside. Nice action, responsive. Bit less heft on the chin. How is it?"

Clara looked into the features of John Frobisher without recognition, comparing it to the twelve other enfleshments she had seen the Doctor wear. "It's… okay," she said at last.

"Okay?" repeated the Doctor sususpiciously.

"It's a bit… you know," she trailed off, trying to explain the strange feeling the face conjured.

"No I don’t," the Doctor reminded her patiently. "I haven't seen it yet!"

"Maybe it's just new?" Clara suggested.

It was new. It made a difference.

And it would continue to do so.

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