My first entry in the third of four of my fan fiction series following the Doctor and several companions on a uniquely original adventure I devised. You can read the first two of the series here : The Case of the Prime Machine and Red Right Hand
- Prologue – Death Among Thieves
Elvam Tamblor had been many things in his life, foremost among them both thief and liar. It was for the former that he found himself strapped into a drop pod with four aliens descending into the atmosphere of the small planetoid that contained the largest prison run by the Priests of Paradox in the Milky Way galaxy. It was for the latter that Elvam Tamblor’s life changed forever.
Several months prior, Elvam had pulled off a particularly difficult job in the Sontaran/Rutan Neutral Zone in Galaxy 3Z-Omega-9, thieving the Pelvex Honor Staff from the Ralpaqartenian War Chief as he slumbered in his vat of symbiotic sludge. Someone somewhere had been impressed enough with Elvam’s planning and execution of that job to offer him an opportunity to pull the “greatest heist in the history of all things”, as the memo read.
Seeing the monetary compensation offered, Elvam happily accepted. It was only later that he discovered that four other entities would be joining him on his escapade. While Elvam was initially skeptical and somewhat disappointed that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to plan the job himself, once he received his instructions to be carried out during the heist, he kept his mouth shut.
Each of the five thieves had a specific role to play in the heist, and Elvam’s seemed to him to be so simplistic that, considering the size of his cut in comparison to the work involved, he was happy to accept his position on the team.
As the drop pod rumbled with the turbulence of the third and fourth layers of twelve total deadly gas shells surrounding the planetoid, Elvam couldn’t help but look at his companions. He didn’t know any of their names, and hadn’t spoken to any of them since they boarded the jumpship that had brought them to their destination.
One was a Girifindic, a four-armed, blue-skinned, reptilian race of fierce gladiatorial champions, galaxy-renowned for their matchless agility in battle.
Next to him was a Mravan Belkfrap Beast, apparently domesticated or cybernetically enhanced to act civilized. The creature was massive and took up most of the drop pod, occupying five of the ten seats in it, and only barely stabilized by extra straps and magnetic fields. Seven of the tentacles the thing had when they began strapping it down had been absorbed back into its body mass, and more had grown elsewhere. Elvam had no idea what the beast’s purpose was in the heist. He didn’t even know they could be domesticated or trained or cyberized or whatever this thing was that made him docile and able to follow instructions. Mravan Belkfrap Beasts were known to spontaneously explode when agitated.
Seated to the right of Elvam was a Draconian, and a female at that. Elvam didn’t realize the females of Draconia were allowed to even leave the planet, let alone pursue their fortunes as thieves throughout the galaxies. This one was formidable just to look at, her muscles rippled beneath her scaly skin, and her tight leather outfit left little to the imagination, and not it a good way. Elvam tried desperately to stay to the left of his seat.
Finally, to his left, was another humanoid, but this one was dressed in solid black with a full tactical helmet and mask over his head. Elvam had no idea what species it was, but it seemed, well, normal compared to the rest of the menagerie.
Elvam himself was a Morestran, virtually indistinguishable from most of the humanoid species in the known galaxies.
The turbulence abated momentarily before beginning again with a vengeance. The drop pod shook so hard that Elvam’s teeth chattered uncontrollably and he felt as if his bones were about to be shaken from his body.
The Mravan Belkfrap Beast pulled all it’s tentacles in and in doing so, unsecured itself. One of its mouths began to squeal unnervingly as it began to float freely, bouncing off the four other passengers, smothering them, and covering them with slime. Elvam thought for sure that it would explode and kill them all.
Suddenly, the drop pod slowed and came to a gentle stop with a thud. The hatch leading out opened automatically, and the Mravan Belkfrap Beast fell to the pod’s floor and oozed out. The four other passengers unstrapped themselves and wiped what slime they could from their bodies before venturing out.
The air on the planetoid was breathable to all of them–at least Elvam assumed that. The person in black might have had a respiration aid, he couldn’t tell.
The Girifindic seemed to know what to do next and waved the others to follow him. Departing from the pod they carefully navigated across the rocky surface of the planetoid, unable to see much of their surroundings beyond the massive boulders littering the landscape.
After about fifteen minutes, the Priests’ prison came into view. There was nothing special about it visually. It was a massive black cubic structure rising from an endless sea of rock. The only thing that stood out was the energy mesh encircling it, preventing entry.
No guards or guards towers were apparent, and it seemed the Girifindic knew that their approach would not be seen as he walked brazenly up to the energy mesh.
Cracking the knuckles of his four hands, he spoke for the first time, “This is where I come in. The energy mesh will vaporize anything that touches it. However, the man who hired me told me that placing my four hands on four particular vertices of the mesh in unison would short-circuit the mesh and allow us entry.”
Without further ceremony, the Girifindic measured out a section of the mesh and grabbed four vertices in unison. Immediately, energy began to course through his body and his skin began to smoke. Screaming in agony, the alien could not let go of the mesh, and he slowly died holding on to it.
“Quickly! It’s open you fools!” the thief in black shouted in a decidedly male voice. It was then that Elvam noticed that indeed the mesh was open in a rectangle, its corners where the Girifindic was touching it. Without hesitation, Elvam dove through, followed by the Draconian, and then the man in black. The three, once through, looked at each other and then the Mravan Belkfrap Beast, all seeming to wonder how it would get through. The mystery was solved in short order as the beast became liquid, and poured through the opening without touching the sides.
“That’s a nice trick,” Elvam stated. In response, the beast merely gurgled, or farted, it was difficult to tell.
The Girifindic was still screaming once they had made it through, and within seconds his body disintegrated, closing the mesh back.
Elvam had the distinctly uneasy feeling that the man who had hired the Girifindic had known exactly what was going to happen. Before he could voice his concern to the others, the thief in black was already moving toward the nearest door.
“Who’s next?” he said, pointing to the door.
The Draconian shrugged, “My instructions didn’t say anything about opening a door.”
“Same here,” Elvam replied.
The beast blurbled, but the top of its mass swiveled an emphatic “no”.
“Well, it’s not my job,” the man in black said.
“Maybe it’s open,” Elvam offered. Without waiting, he walked up to the door and opened it. No alarms went off, no automated security system fried them with laser beams. The door just opened, and behind it was a long hallway, completely empty.
“See?” Elvam said happily. “I guess they never assumed someone would make it past the mesh.”
The four thieves entered the prison and began moving cautiously down the hall. After only a few steps, several dozen guards rounded a corner further down the hallway and began firing plasma rounds at the intruders.
Without hesitation, the Mravan Belkfrap Beast stretched out to form a makeshift curtain, catching the rounds in its mass harmlessly and protecting the other three. Its mass stretch thin in spots so that Elvam could see through it. Additional guards piled in behind those that had gotten there first and they kept coming.
“Holy Haarabbax!” Elvam exclaimed. “That’s got to be an entire legion of guards! He can’t keep this up forever!”
Sure enough, the beast was vibrating strangely and beginning to squeal. Some plasma rounds were slipping through.
“Maybe he wasn’t meant to keep it up forever!” the man in black shouted over the tumult.
Elvam’s eyes went wide as he realized the beast’s true purpose.
“Back outside!” the Draconian screamed in terror.
Together the trio exited out the door they came in, and slammed it shut behind them.
The Mravan Belkfrap Beast let out a woeful moan that resonated and shook the entire complex, even the ground it seemed. The moan stopped abruptly, and the the creature exploded violently, sending the door flying off its hinges and into the mesh, where it was promptly vaporized. The three thieves outside were knocked to the ground in the blast.
After a few moments, they pulled themselves to their feet and peered through the smoke pouring out of the doorway. As the smoke cleared, they noticed there was absolutely no trace of the Mravan Belkfrap Beast or any of the guards.
“Another noble sacrifice,” the man in black said stepping back into the complex.
Elvam grabbed his arm, stopping him. “Wait a minute, pal. I’m starting to see a pattern here.”
The man in black jerked his arm away from Elvam, but stepped back outside to hear him out.
“Now, we’re in, and it took two poor souls to get here. So, I’m curious. What’s next? Now, I know my part doesn’t seem like it could possibly be deadly. How about we share what our instructions are, and maybe if things seem fishy, we can figure out an alternative before the next sacrifice. How’s that?”
“I know how to hack Turvidian eye and hand scanners,” the Draconian revealed. “That’s all my instructions said, that we’d come upon one and it would be my job to get us through it.”
“I don’t seem to recall Turvidian scanners being deadly, just impossible to hack,” Elvam replied.
“Improbable to hack,” the Draconian female replied with a smirk.
“Okay, what about you ninja boy?” Elvam prompted the third member of their rapidly shrinking crew.
“Supposedly they have anti-organic environmental controls acting as a shield around the safe holding what we’re after. With this suit, I can enter that environment, regardless of whatever toxic gas or other deadly environment awaits us and shut it down.” the man in black replied.
“That sounds fishy to me,” Elvam responded immediately shaking his head. “I’ve got nothing against you, and I don’t see any reason to stand by and watch another man die so I can profit.”
“How noble of you,” the man in black droned sarcastically.
“How about we brainstorm–”
“How about you let me do my job and stay out of my way,” came the retort. “I have no doubt in my abilities. I designed this suit myself, and it will protect me from only the environments that my unique physiology doesn’t already protect me against.”
“Interesting,” Evram replied. “Where are you from exactly?”
“I’m tired of this stalling. I’m going in, you can follow and carry out your parts of this or I’ll kill you both,” the gun was in the man’s hand before either of the other two noticed. “How does that sound?”
Elvam and the Draconian nodded their heads in agreement.
“We’re criminals, not a committee of social workers,” the man in black spat as he re-entered the prison, holstered his gun as he did so.
The Draconian followed him and Elvam took up the rear.
“So, what’s your part,” the Draconian asked as they walked the empty halls.
“I’m the safe-cracker,” Elvam said with a smile. “Elvam Tamblor? You may have heard of me.”
At this, the Draconian spun on her heels and grabbed Elvam by his jacket. Throwing him against the wall, the Draconian unsheathed a nasty looking blade from her side and pressed it to his neck.
“Incidentally, yes, I have heard of you,” she hissed at him, her face only centimeters away from his as her blade pressed in by millimeters. “Word is that you know the Doctor. Used to be one of his crew.”
“Yeah, well,” Elvam gulped audibly, his Adam’s apple causing the blade to slice his skin. “That was some time ago.”
“Anyone who runs with that demon deserves to die,” quickly she pulled the blade away and grabbed his neck, squeezing tightly. “Slowly.”
Elvam struggled mightily in her grasp but she had him off the floor and his feet kicked as uselessly as his hands hit.
“The Doctor massacred the Draconian colony on Dreides III, murdered a thousand younglings, and twice as many helpless unarmed colonists. That was some time ago, too.”
The man in black stepped in and put a hand on the Draconian’s arm. “Let’s finish this job, and then you can torture him like he deserves.”
The Draconian gnashed her teeth and hissed at the man, but let go of Elvam, who promptly slumped to the floor. Turning away from them, she continued down the hallway.
‘The room should be up here,” the said to them.
The man in black helped Elvam to his feet. “Were you with the Doctor at Dreides III?”
Elvam coughed, “No! I don’t even really know him. I just tell people that to intimidate them. It gets me jobs.”
The man in black’s grip on Elvam’s arm tightened for a second and then let go. Elvam could sense the man behind the mask staring a hole through him before he finally turned and followed the Draconian. “Let’s get to the end of this.”
The trio round another three corners without encountering so much as a door.
“So, if this is a prison, where are the cells?” Elvam croaked, still trying to catch his breath.
“Behind these walls,” the man in black answered. “The entry points dematerialize and are controlled from the main control room. None of the entities imprisoned here ever see the light of day again, or much else beyond the blank walls or their cells.”
“What kind of people are imprisoned here?” Elvam pressed further.
“Time bandits, time agents, anyone who has tried to manipulate time through travel or diversion of the time stream. Enemies of the Priests.”
“Here,” the Draconian informed them, walking up to the only door they’d seen since the one they’d entered. A small panel set into the wall to the left of the door slid up as she approached.
“Eye and DNA scanner, this one,” she marveled as a pad angled out from the wall. “Shouldn’t be too hard.”
Without warning, the Draconian’s skin vibrated, shimmered and changed. For a moment, she became a Zygon, before shifting form to that of a Priest of Paradox.
“A Zygon!” Elvam exclaimed.
“No, she is Draconian, but something of a hybrid. The Draconian’s have acquired certain prowess in DNA adherence and symbiosis,” the man in black explained. “They’re moving up in the universe, these reptiles.”
The Draconian sneered at the man in black through her Priest facade. “You know more about us than my species has seen fit to reveal to the rest of the universe, as of yet. We took this one’s substance at the Incident on Maldraga Minor. I am the only Draconian to take a Priest’s substance and use it as flesh. They’ve been hunting me ever since. I suppose I’ll end up here one day.”
A beam shot out of the pad and ran in two directions across the Draconian’s eyes. A green light flashed on the pad and then the imprint of a hand appeared on its surface.
“This will be the tricky bit,” the man in black surmised.
Hesitantly, the Draconian placed her hand on the pad. Seconds passed without any reaction. The pad briefly flashed red and all three of the thieves gasped, but the pad quickly turned green.
The door opened.
And then, the man in black promptly shot the Draconian in the back. As she fell to the ground, her form changed several times before returning to her true Draconian form.
Turning his weapon to Elvam he motioned for him to enter the room.
“What about the toxic environment thingie?” Elvam stammered.
“I made it up. Inside. Now.”
Elvam reluctantly walked in, half expecting to begin choking or exploding or dying in some other way. Instead, nothing happened. Where he expected to see a safe, there was only a chair and about a thousand wires and tubes extending out from it.
Behind him, the man in black shut the door.
Turning to face his captor, Elvam asked. “Who are you?”
The man removed his mask, revealing a sharp-featured face and a neatly-trimmed goatee. “Most people refer to me as the Master.”
“There is no safe?” Elvam reasoned.
“That’s right,” the Master said, nodding his head slowly.
“You arranged all this.”
“To get me in here. To get me in that chair.”
“And again,” the Master said, grinning devilishly. “However, based on something you said earlier, it may have been for nothing. And that would make me quite cross indeed, but I’ll just make sure, regardless.”
“Oh no,” Elvam gasped. “It’s because of the Doctor. Look, it was a lie. I don’t know him. I just say I do!”
“Let’s hope you do, Elvam Tamblor,” the Master stated ominously. “That chair belongs to the the Priests of Paradox. They use it to extract the universe’s greatest truths from those who have traveled through time. They can tear apart a man’s history and witness every move he’s every made and every impact it has had on the universe he traveled in.”
Elvam turned slowly and stared in horror at the chair. “I’ve never traveled through time.”
“Well then, you are in for quite a ride,” the Master explained, shoving Elvam toward the chair. “Get in.”
Elvam reluctantly seated himself and the Master began to strap him in, attaching nodes to his face, head and arms. It took him several moments to finish, and he worked silently and methodically.
“You see, if you haven’t traveled through time, then this device will simply erase your memories. All of them. You’ll forget how to breathe, how to eat, how not to defecate yourself, and it will never come back.”
Elvam only whimpered.
“At least not without someone who understands how to manipulate minds. Like I said, it would make me very cross if it turns out that you don’t know where the Doctor is, and have never met him,” the Master said, moving toward a control panel on the wall behind the chair. “I would very much like to find the Doctor. He’s acting completely out of character lately, and I’m not quite sure he’s himself.”
Elvam stammered out, “He’s a monster. He’s murdered millions, destroyed a thousand worlds. Why would you want to find him?”
“Because being a monster is MY job, and he’s taken it from me!” the Master shouted. “We go way back, the Doctor and I, and he would never do this. I have to know why. I will not be outdone in evil by anyone, especially THAT Time lord!”
Flipping a switch, the Master activated the chair. Elvam screeched in an unholy manner bucking in the chair despite the restraints. This continued for several minutes as the Master changed settings, growing increasingly angry as he did so.
Finally, after a final set of tweaks, he shut the machine off.
Elvam slumped in the chair like a ragdoll, and saliva began to drip from his mouth.
The Master walked over to the thief and liar and examined him, looking into his eyes, checking his pulse.
“You owe me for this waste of time,” the Master said. “Luckily, now that your mind is an empty slate, it will be easy to turn you into my slave.”
Grabbing Elvam’s head roughly by the hair, the Master stared into his eyes.
In answer, Elvam’s bowels released.