"There are many myths about the 'true' origins of Faction Paradox. The Faction, true to their nature, encourage such stories, while confirming none of them. So, take the next paragraph with a pinch of salt, as Earthlings say.
One origin story states the Faction Paradox started out as a joke that went wrong. A group of Time Lords (probably Prydonians) were playing around with a harmless possibility engine. Seeing an Elder coming down the hall, these troublesome youths decided to grab a random set of skeletons from the possibility machine. Fitting the skulls onto their heads, they jumped out, screaming the first scary thing that came to their heads.
"We are Faction Paradox!" said one youth.
"We are a new house! We exist to show how useless, how decrepit, how out of touch the Great Houses of Gallifrey is!" screamed another female youth.
"And we wear these bones of alternate possibility, of un-possibility, as a mockery!" claimed the third.
"All hail Grandfather Paradox!" added the female youth. (Clearly she had to be a Prydonian.)
A simple school prank. Angry teenagers in many societies do it. Unfortunately, this particular Elder lacked a sense of humor, and was a high-ranking politician. She quickly ran to the current President, claiming that there was a new House, that worshipped Paradox, and had already affected the youth. Soon, these hapless youth were in front of a Gallifreyan court, being asked if they actually were declaring a new House.
Most people would have realized the joke had gone too far. These kids, obviously, had not been loomed with the gene of common sense. (Again, they were probably Prydonians)
"Yes. We're Faction Paradox," claimed the female youth.
And that's how the story goes. Faction Paradox was just a prank from some drunk students, gone too far.
Now, the odd part about this myth is that, reportedly (from those who should no better than to report such things), Grandfather Paradox himself liked this origin story the best. When it was pointed out to him that, if that story was true, it not only invalidated his mystique, it also took away any legitimacy the Faction had, he not only agreed, he immediately ordered that Cousin be given a promotion up the ranks.
-drunken story overheard being said in Gallifrey by the General.
Cousin Spry couldn't see Grandfather Paradox's face. She didn't have to. There was enough anger, determination, and pure force of will for her to understand how important the Grandfather's decision was.
She felt the lights turn on. The shadows bonded within her skin receded, and her body translated it into a slight burning sensation. It was safe to open her eyes now. After letting her eyes adjust to the light, she saw the Devourers of History stare at her. She wasn't especially religious, but there was something chilling about seeing these monsters in the gray, frozen Visage of an angel. Their faces, usually, covered by their hands in a show of mock supplication, we're at their sides, allowing her to see a wide grin on all their faces. The Shadow snaking through her bloodstream snarled at them. It knew she was in great danger.
A small touch at her side made her move her head. It was Cousin Eames, her friend, fellow Cousin, and lover. He pointed at her eyes, and she immediately called the Shadow back into herself. It wouldn't be just Spry"s luck to have her eyes glow a distracting red during an important meeting.
She mouthed a silent "Thank you" to Cousin Eames, who winked, and gave a thumbs up. He nearly fell down when Mother Andy whispered something in his ears, probably a threat. Spry stifled a laugh.
She turned her face back to the Devourers. Many of them were frozen looking at Grandfather Paradox, who stood facing them without moving, probably without blinking. Others were looking at the rest of the group. One of them seemed to be staring straight at her.
And they all had the same rictus grin.
"They're not moving. Why?" asked Cousin Charles.(His Faction name was Charlemagne, but no one called him that. Ever.)
"Perhaps they're speechless. Or maybe they're waiting for us to say more?" asked Mother Andy. Her eyes were moving from Devourers to Devourers.
"No," said Grandfather Paradox. Whether that was in response to Andy's question, or just repeating the previous response, Spry wasn't sure.
(She didn't even know what the Devourers' question had been. They and the Grandfather had communicated most of the conversation in quantum memetic hyperspeech, or however Charles explained it. Essentially, it meant only the last part, the "No" which Grandfather had spoken aloud, was understandable to Spry,)
Then, Spry noticed movement amount the statues. With every blink, one statue's body went up, another went down. Their bodies were bending up and down, and their faces were grinning wider now.
"They're laughing," said Charles, a sense of horror in his voice.
They kept on silently laughing. Their bodies danced up and down.
"Um, Does this mean something bad?"asked Eames.
And then they stopped laughing The angels' faces were now hidden, cupped into the usual position of eternal thinking.
"Does that mean you'll think about it? Or something? Come on, say something!" asked Eames.
"Shush," said Mother Andy. But even the unflappable Mother looked worried, and glanced at Grandfather Paradox.
"With all due respect, Grandfather, what exactly was the question they gave you? The one you said 'No' to? Because I think you've made them laugh, and not in a good way," said Mother Andy.
"One of them is missing" said Grandfather Paradox .
"What?" said the Mother. Then Spry saw the woman's face contorted in alarm, and she wildly looked around, first at the group of angels, then at the room.
Spry felt a shadow move above her. It moved in spurts, incredibly fast, almost gliding over the floor. She looked up, letting her Shadow senses guide her eyes.
"What do you see, Spry?" asked Charles.
She saw a Devourer. Its hands were outstretched over the wires connecting the lights. In the haze, the stone angel looked like it was blessing the wires. The light shone down at Spry, making it hard to even keep her eyes open.
"Stay still. Don't even--" started Grandfather Paradox.
A snap, like wires being ripped out of their sockets, echoed down the room.
Then, the whole room was covered in darkness. Tentacles of Shadow unfurled from her heart, and licked at the darkness in the room. Spry could taste the Sweet blackness, and pushed her Shadow self further. She could sense Eames, scared and ready to fight, Mother Andy, confused; and Charles, his eyes wide in horror, even Grandfather Paradox, as unreadable as ever.
Then she tasted the other creatures in the room. She had been expecting stone angels. Instead she felt daemons.
The Devourers had become large, so large, so massive. Their edges contained edges, pieces of darkness writ large across the fabric of reality. Shadows covered them, but even that their forms covered.The darkness seemed to disappear around them, but wasn't replaced with light. It was replaced with nothing.
These monsters weren't made of matter. They were made of stolen history. A school teacher's dream to travel, a Christian woman's unrequited love for her neighbor, a homeless man's rags-to-riches story. These pieces of History stuck to them, and they absorbed all that potential, and it covered them like a cloak, or like how black wings cover an archangel. These defilers of History hungered after life potential, listed after it, craved to suck it dry, like leeches.
And then Spry realized that she was only looking at one small piece of one Angel.
"What have I done?" asked Spry.
Then an ear-splitting sound rang through the air. Spry guessed they had started laughing again. Without anyone looking at them, they were free to laugh up a storm.
"What was the question they asked you?" demanded Mother Andy. Spry could imagine the anger on her face, and taste the fear in her shadow."Damn you Grandfather, what was the question?"
And then the Devourers of History moved. Just before Spry felt them touch her skin, and violate her timeline, she had one thought.
"Please don't hurt Eames. Just not him."
30 seconds later, the emergency lighting snapped on. Grandfather Paradox stood alone. No Devourers surrounded him. Indeed, they had all gone.
"Andy? Spry? Eames?" He said. He turned around, his dirty coat flapping about him.
"Who?" asked Mother Derrida. She had no memory of seeing any of those members.
"Where did they go?" asked Grandfather Paradox.
"They've never been here," explained the Mother. The Cousins around them were staring in confusion.
"Ah," said Grandfather. Derrida caught a look at his eyes, underneath the trademark bone mask, and the sadness chilled her bones.
"When will the Weeping Angel's arrive?" asked a Cousin, impatiently.
"They're did. I gave my reply to their offer, and it appears to have upset them," said Grandfather.
"Will there be any, Um, reprisal?" said Derrida.
"You mean revenge? Oh, they've already done that," said Grandfather. He shook his head, and brushed his jacket off with his arm.
"What does that mean for us?" said Derrida.
"Do you have any recollection of Mother Andy? " asked Grandfather.
"It means nothing, then."
"If they were taken out of History, then can't we just bring them back? Shouldn't be too hard. Also, why aren't you affected?" asked Cousin Freya.
"Who's to say I wasn't affected?"asked Grandfather Paradox. His smile twinkled underneath his mask.
Mother Derrida blinked.
Grandfather Paradox was gone.
This chapter actually features Class characters!
Tanya used to be a normal girl. Clever, so clever that she advanced several grade levels. Not really any friends, but at least she had her brothers. Then she, along with four other students and one teacher, was saved from shadow creatures from another dimension, by the heroic alien known as the Doctor. That started a life of craziness, adventures, and horrors, but she at least had more friends in return.
But before that, she was a young girl. Still very clever, and very curious. When she was young, Tanya loved her mother's garden. It felt like paradise on Earth, a new delight in every corner. To be fair, for a 4 year old, everything is new. Young children don't really know the concept of being blase, even if they think they do.
Tanya loved playing in the garden. She loved the small animals that occasionally showed up, loved playing with her father, getting dirty in the grass, so dirty that her mother would begin to fuss. She didn't care. She was young, and loved the adventure.
On one adventure, she saw a new object in her garden. It was a statue of a woman with wings. The woman seemed to be hiding her face in her hands, like the woman was playing hide-and-seek.
It occurred to Tanya that she had never seen this statue here before. Had her mother brought it here? Tanya looked back, and called for her mother. There was no response. She looked back at the statue.
Instead of doing hide-and-seek, the statue was looking at her!
Tanya jumped. Slowly, she advanced toward the statue. It stayed still, frozen. But staring at her.
After one last look back, Tanya walked toward the mystery statue. Her little heart was beating, and she was as scared as any little girl would be. But she was also curious, the same curiosity that would later help her face down alien monsters. Moving closer to the statue, she touched it's smooth, stone skin.
"I'm not scared of you," lied Tanya.
The statue gave no response. Tanya suddenly sneezed, her eyes closing involuntarily. When she opened her eyes, the statue had moved closer, its face right next to hers.
Tanya moved back, blinking in surprise. The creature moved with her, its arms outstretched to her. She stared at the creature, and then blinked.
Its face was now touching hers. She could see the razor-toothed mouth of the statue.
"Mommy!" cried out young Tanya. Her eyes matched the stone's, and her heart beated fast.
Young children do not normally have a sense of exactly what wickedness happen in the world. But they understand monsters, and that monsters do something Bad. Tanya did not know what exactly the angel planned to do to her, but as she stared into its hollow sunken eyes, she knew it was something horrifying.
"I'm not scared of you" Tanya lied to the Angel. Her eyes slowly drooped close...
A voice, that sounded like a man's, resounded through Tanya's head. Her eyes opened back up, and she stared at the Angel, with renewed determination. Quickly, she walked backward, keeping eyes level with the angel statue. She was still staring when her mother grabbed her.
"I heard you calling for me! What's wrong, my little Tanya?" asked her mom. Later, Tanya would be told that she was just staring at the statue, her eyes not blinking. Her mother would claim she had never seen Tanya look so frightened in her life. Not that Tanya could remember; the memory of the scary "hide-and-seek" angel would slink back to the same subconscious nothing-space that all pre-four-yeat-old memories go to. It would be too easy to suggest she grew up with a phobia of statues due to the incident, but the human mind is not always so simple.
(Nevertheless one day Tanya will watch a broadcast of a New Years celebration in 1999. A man in a green velvet coat will show up briefly, speaking to a woman apparently named Grace. This voice will remind her of a voice years ago that saved her life with one "No." Then she will change the channel, and forget.)
The problem with the Faction, is that despite all its pretensions, it is still an organization.
Yes, it is a cult that practices perversion as a philosophy. Yes, its members involve themselves in crimes of the most horrific nature, or at least pretend to, which for the Faction, is exactly the same thing. And yes, the Faction serves as a mockery of the incestuous staleness of the self-serving "Great Houses" (or Time Lords, as the misinformed call them).
But. the Faction's dirty secret is that, behind the scary bone mask facade , they still need some organizational structure to function. Mission briefings, performance appraisals. team meetings. For those involved, it is more or less monotony, and if left unchecked, threatens to become bureaucracy. And the day Faction Paradox accepts bureaucracy, is the death-knell of the Faction.
Faction agents often try to spice up these boring moments (one vivid account that Mother Judo notes is when Faction agents attempted to have a group meeting during a battle between the Great Houses and the Daleks. On one hand, only one Cousin survived; on the other hand, that Cousin claimed it was the most successful meeting they ever had.) Nevertheless, for the most part, these jobs, recruitment being one of them, are often looked over, and the amateur agents given these tasks are never trained properly.
This is a long-winded way of saying, it makes sense why Cousin Diodes' attempted recruitment of Tanya failed utterly on so many levels. The Faction just doesn't prepare you for that sort of thing.
Not that Cousin Diodes didn't do his best. He had been only a few months into his job as a recruiter when he set his sights on Tanya. He figured it would be an easy catch, as he thought her ad rather stupid. You have to understand, Cousin Diodes came from the 50th Century, on the post-human planet of Grippi. By that time, everyone had augmented their brains with hyperactive biotechnology as a matter of fact. Diodes had been an outcast of his society for being too advanced, after the Seven Evenings Massacre, where the robots began to object bloodily to their lack of rights, Diodes' extreme augmentations made him not too popular. Fortunately, the Faction welcomed his genius.
Basically, Diodes thought of everyone born pre-40th Century was unevolved and stupid. As a member of the 21st Century, Tanya was automatically intellectually not quite up to snuff. And to,be fair, every other recruitment he had went on had gone well. Some razzle-dazzle about "getting back at the controllers of history", maybe a few references to fighting a greater War, and whipping out a shadow-blade, and they were hooked. The few still resisting were brought over by a time traveler parlour trick or two.
Tanya had attracted Diodes' interest for two reasons. One was her admittedly high intelligence for her time. Despite coming from a less than perfectly privileged background, Tanya, daughter of two Nigerian immigrants, had managed to excel rapidly in the school system. She had managed to jump several school grades, and, out of everyone who had accessed Diodes' "leaked" UNIT hack, which he had anonymously posted as a test, had been one of the few to actually get half-way close to cracking,UNIT'S security measures. She was an idiot, but she was a clever idiot.
The other intriguing thing about her were the temporal distortions surrounding her timeline. When Cousin Diodes investigated further, he found that Tanya had apparently been in contact with one of the "Time Lords." He immediately decided that he would recruit Tanya, and would do so by himself. To take away someone from right under the Great Houses noses would surely give him great fame. He told no one about this, and ensured his failure.
For had he told someone, they would have led him to search further into which Gallifreyan had meddled with Tanya's past. And he would have discovered the presence of the famed Evil Renegade, who travels in a Time Ship shaped like a blue police box, and often freely gets involved with the lives of lesser species, all for his own pleasures. Stories of the mad adventures of the Evil Renegade, and the many companions, often human females, that he kidnaps are legion, and anything associated with him would be considered far too dangerous to handle. It's not that he (or sometimes she?) would even get involved personally; just his influence added a certain level of unpredictability to a situation. Unfortunately, Diodes never did enough research into Tanya's past, and so didn't realize the potential minefield he was walking into.
But then again, he was relatively new at this recruiting thing.
He dressed himself into his best Faction mask and costume on the day of the recruitment. Practicing his "spooky monster" voice on the way there, he reviewed all the main points. First, mention how much opportunity this would be for Tanya. Mention how proud her mother would be. Hammer consistently how Faction Paradox was a chance to "get back at the privileged elite" (Diodes research had uncovered that Tanya had a deep-seated distrust of people of privilege, especially white people. Diodes had made sure to biologically modify his melatonin levels from his natural white skin, to the complexion of someone from African descent, to ensure Tanya's comfort level would be at its highest. Not too dark though, that would be suspicious.) And hammer home how much money she could gain, of course. It was alarming to Diodes how easily members from before the time of post-scarcity could be swayed with money.
When Diodes entered the Starbucks that Tanya had selected as a meeting place, he grinned to himself. This would be a piece of cake.
Perhaps it was his understandable excitement that made him miss the signs of a psychic attack. Or perhaps it was his relative lack of experience. Only a shrewd Faction agent could have noticed the slight turning of causality, the tremors in space-time as someone sent a focused assault on the primitive parts of Diodes' nearly totally machine brain, the parts that still remembered the same animal urges that had driven the pre-human ape-men of ancient history.
Whatever the reason, as soon as Cousin Diodes sat down, and was about to deliver a winning pitch to Tanya, the psychic attack hit him.
And he suddenly needed to use the bathroom badly. Like, right then.
"Ah, Faction Paradox is the answer to your dreams--Um, I'll be right back" said Diodes, running to the bathroom like a starving man runs to a feast.
And then Tanya was left alone. This, quite frankly, pissed her off. She had taken study time off to go to this interview. Apparently, this Faction Paradox wanted her skills, and the recruiter, when she talked to them on the phone, claimed it was a wonderful resume builder for college. She had of course checked reviews and references, and the Faction had turned up perfectly. Almost too perfect, especially since she never seemed to be able to help others to find those references. Nor was she told what exactly she had done to qualify. Nevertheless, they offerred money, and Tanya couldn't really afford to completely ignore that, especially after her father had died, leaving her mother to shoulder the burden.
And of course, considering all the weirdness she had gone through after meeting the Doctor and encountering the rips in space and time, a nice, normal job would be a good distraction.
However, after waiting for the recruiter to leave the loo, and getting annoyed, she was about to leave. Deciding to get another cup of coffee instead, she walked up to the counter. The cashier's eyes seemed unfocused. Probably bored, Tanya figured.
"Hello," said Tanya.
"Um, I would like to order," said Tanya.
Tanya frowned, feeling a familiar worry crawl down her neck. The worry that meant alien weirdness. The worry that promised another day of danger, horrific deaths, or at the very least, a bad day. She tapped on the desk, but no response came. Looking around, she noticed other customers not looking at their phones, just staring into space. That was wrong. No matter what, people would always be on their phones. That was just the natural order of things.
“Okay,” she said out loud. Taking out her phone, she began to call April. Obviously, just alien whatsit had caused a whatchamacallit to pop out of the bunghole of time, and probably froze people. But as Tanya tapped on her phone, she realized that her phone wasn't responding. The screen was frozen on the image of the Seraphim video Tanya had been watching before the intervieewrr came up to her.
“Having trouble?” said a voice behind her. Tanya looked up, not having heard anyone sneak up on her. It was a woman, wearing a green velvet frock coat. Her dark blue eyes contrasted with the dark, rich brown color of her skin; and Tanya got the distinct impression that this woman was old-fashioned; the tatterred coat fi oddly with the jeans she was wearing, with black mocassins on her feet. Tanya tried not to stare, but she noticed that the woman only had one arm.
“Um, hello. No one's moving. Is it like a Mannequin challenge, or something?” said Tanya.
The woman tapped her mouth with black-painted fingers, and shrugged.
“It could be. But, I think perhaps they just want to rest. People are always so busy, especially humans. Let's leave them time to stand still, hmm?” said the woman, smiling widely at Tanya. The woman had a warm energy about her, and Tanya felt calmed somehow.
“Who are you?” asked Tanya. Was this woman another interviewer?
The woman suddenly got serious. She let out a loud sigh, and shook her head.
“I'm you, from the future,” said the woman.
Tanya's eyes went wide. She stared at the woman for several seconds. Then the woman let out a large laugh.
“Had you going there, for a second,” said the woman. She suddenly grabbed Tanya, and dragged the confused girl to an empty table. “Sorry, Tanya. That's sort of an in-joke of my profession. It's lame, I know.”
“What's your job? And how do you know my name?” asked Tanya.
“I'm...well, I work for a company called Faction Paradox. As for how I know your name, I can't be giving away all my secrets, can I?” said the woman.
“Faction Paradox? That's the same company that wants to recruit me, right? What exactly are you? The other recruiter wasn't really clear. Like, are you a mathematical debate team?” asked Tanya.
“Hmm. I think you're mistaken. We're certainly not a mathematical debate team...indeed, we're more like professional jokesters. But that doesn't really matter. Because I'm not here to help Cousin Diodes recruit you. Indeed, I'm here to dissuade you from recruitment,” said the woman.
“Why? Is it something I've said or done? I need the money, so if you think I'm not ready, trust me. I can train. Whatever you need, I can do,” Tanya said. She didn't like how whiny she sounded, but she really needed the opportunity.
“Oh, calm down, girl. You know money isn't everything. Why don't you just go home? Spend time with your family. That's more important, you know” said the woman.
“How do you know what's important to me? How could you possibly know? It's really easy to say money's not that important, when you have it,” Tanya barked.
“And a day may come when you have no family, and all the money in the world won't help you,” said the woman, with a dark gravitas.
“Piss off,” said Tanya, who got up. Before she could move, the woman moved in front of her..
“Tanya, I'm not here to anger you. Quite simply, I don't have time for it. All I'm here to let you know is that Cousin Diodes—the man who wants to recruit you—is very clever, but he doesn't know the real game. If he did, he'd know not to recruit you. I can tell you that if you join the Faction, you'll bring yourself into more danger than you can know. So do not stay here. Just go. You're a smart girl. You don't need handouts. So, just go. Promise me you will,” said the woman. Her face seemed to plead with Tanya.
“Um, I guess. I mean, you kinda laid it on thick,” said Tanya.
The woman laughed, and said “I have a flair for drama, sorry. Anyway, since you agreed, I guess I can do this.”
The woman snapped her fingers, and everyone in the store began moving again.
Tanya opened her mouth, but the woman shushed her.
“No questions, please. Just keep to our agreement. And Tanya?”
“What?” asked Tanya.
“If you begin to experience certain...odd effects after this conversation, trust in your friends. You're closer to them than you know,” said the woman.
Tanya blinked, and the woman disappeared.
A few seconds later, Cousin Diodes sat opposite Tanya.
He felt much better, and said “Now where was I? Oh yes, about how the Faction will change your life.”
“You've been in the bathroom for ages,” said Tanya. Cousin Diodes noticed a certain animosity coming from her, which he couldn't account for.
“It was only a few minutes”, said Cousin Diodea.
Tanya gave an expression of confusion, and then shook her head.
“Sorry, I need to leave. Thank you, though,” said Tanya, walking away.
Diodes frowned. “But why?”
“Because I promised,” said Tanya. Then she walked out.
To the end of his life, he did not know why he lost Tanya. He couldn't possibly figure out what had happenned. But then again, Diodes was an amateur recruiter. Mistakes like these were excusable.
Chapter 3: A Fable And A Study Session
Before the Doctor left the plains of Gallifrey, before the Time Lords first reshaped history, before the Wars of time raged across the stars, there were three lords. Omega, the engineer, who created the underpinnings of Gallifrey's continuance; The Other, the oddball if ever there was one; and Rassilon, the great hero.
It took hundreds of years for those three to create the way for the Time Lords to flourish. Hundreds of battles were fought, and darknesss nipped at the heels of the time line. Rassilon would stand on the front lines, warring with the monsters that crept out through the dark eras. A few of them, Rassilon could bargain with, the rest, Rassilon would either swindle, or destroy. In the years afterwards, many would judge Rassilon for his actions at that time. True, wonderful creatures were lost in the battles. It could be argued that many of them did not deserve the punishments they received.
But, in order to understand why Rassilon was so revered, you need to understand that, at the time, Gallifreyans considered Rassilon a hero. He was the one who, when the Night Raven kidnapped the son of the peasant Froki, walked into the Raven's den, and came out, carrying a scar that would last him three regenerations. It was he who played the Roulette of Rassilon, gambling his own time line, just to protect Gallifrey from invaders. And it was he who made sure that the Matrix would always be there, so we would never truly lose his counsel. Rassilon would certainly become a tyrant later, but when Rassilon first met the Unseen, he was one of greatest heroes Gallifrey would ever know.
It was a cold day. The universe had just begun to recover from the first birth spasms, so it was as if a mass cooling had ripped across the planets that existed. Rudimentary grey ruins dotted the landscape, created by the denizens of the last verse. Those denizens had died out, of curse, but the Other insisted on keeping the ruins there, for aesthetic value. It had annoyed Rassilon, but after much pleading, he had allowed it. The sky itself was a mish-mash of colors, almost like a rainbow that had been slashed. The ground reflected the color, nearly blinding Rassilon.
Three Time Lords faced the monstrosities known as the Unseen. Beside them was a woman named Tika, a relic of the olden days, before Rassilon had set down order in the cosmos. Rassilon did not like having to use people like Tika, but only she could deal with the Unseen in their current state. He leaned over to Tika, whispering instructions into her ear. She nodded, and placed the blindfold that was required when interacting with the Unseen over her face, leaving her ears uncovered.
Omega and the Other sat beside him, their heads bowed in reverence, just as his was. For the Unseen were as haughty as the Time Lords would become, and they refused to be seen by the other races of this universe, still so new at this time. Rassilon held his breath as Tika walked over the stone floor of the barren world the Unseen had chosen for their meeting place. The Unseen had survived the destruction of the old universe, and held great influence in that old verse. In order to protect Gallifrey, Rassilon needed that information. Omega had grudgingly agreed to the plan, while the Other...well, he hadn't really said anything.
Rassilon peeked at the edge of his vision. Had Tika talked to the Unseen yet? He saw her robes flapping in the breeze, her face reflected in the crystal structures of the planet they were on. She looked concerned, almost frightened. He extended his psychic senses to her, trying to glean a sense of what it was. Unfortunately, her mind was shielded. He didn't have any idea what they were discussing.
Finally, Tika walked back. She was soon standing in front of Rassilon, her red robes tickling Rassilon's face as he stayed kneeling. Bending down, she whispered into his ear.
"The Unseen have a message for you. It is thus, Rassilon the Brave."
And then she spoke.
It took a whole day for Rassilon to stop screaming. When he finally woke from his trance, he stared at the Unseen with a hatred beyond measure, and fear that shook his hearts. He didn't even care that looking at the Unseen would offend them.
"What was that I saw? What did you show me?" cried Rassilon.
The Unseen said nothing, as they did not speak to the lower races. Rassilon stepped to them, ignoring the complaints of Omega.
"Do not ignore me, you mongrel demons of a forgotten universe. I have killed the other relics of the last universe to save Gallifrey. So tell me, did you cause that wars I saw? These Time Wars? Are they the future of my people?," said Rassilon. He noticed Tika standing on the side, and motioned her to translate.
Before Tika could move, the Unseen answered. Their response resounded in Rassilon's mind, like a headache.
"It is inevitable. We only tell you, to make it hurt more." A sound of laughter, like children dying, came from the Unseen.
Rassilon, filled with rage, wished to kill them all. But even he was not foolish enough to think he could kill the Unseen. Besides, he needed them alive. They knew about the wars Gallifrey would face, and about the Enemy that would assail Gallifrey. They would be too valuable. Yet, it was beneath Rassilon's pride to let the Unseen go unpunished. They had made a fool of him, after all.
What would be a way to punish these creatures, who considered themselves too grandiose to be seen by the eyes of others, the demons who considered themselves angels, these monsters who laughed at others' tears?
A grin spread over Rassilon's face. The same grin that he would have, years later, when he abandoned Gallifrey to become one of the Celestia, and the same grin he would have when he ruled Gallifrey like a tyrant.
He could not kill the Unseen...but he could modify them into a different format. A perfect punishment, that they would share for the entire universe's run
"I've got a wonderful idea," said Rassilon. And it would be one of the most costly, and most foolish ideas ever. Only the Lethean ritual could fix it.
"...the Lethean ritual could fix it.," said Tanya absent-mindedly, Then she stopped herself. That wasn't on the page!
Ram raised his eyebrows in concern. Tanya felt embarrassed--she couldn't really tutor him if she was drifting off. Smiling to avoid concern, she thumbed-up to avoid any questions. She didn't need any more reasons to feel like a freak.
Tanya stared at the page in front of her like it was gibberish. She definitely knew how to physics, so that wasn't the issue. Overall, the day had went well. So why did she feel so queasy? It was like the words in front of her were all messed up. or like other words were trying to get in the way. She peeked over at Ram's work. It looked like he had put a lot of effort into what he was writing, but his answer needed work.
"Eames, you're using the wrong equation," said Tanya. Ram's expression was the usual mixture of confusion and annoyance.
"How am I supposed to remember which group of numbers and letters is the right one? Also, whose Eames?” asked Ram.
Tanya paused. She didn't know why she had said Eames. The name felt familiar though, like she had met someone with that name, but she didn't know where she had met that person, or why. But she was certain she had met a person named Eames.
Ram's face changed. His scrunched-up face changed into an animal skull with a human mouth. His sweater turned into armor made out of bone, and his right leg, propped on the chair arm, changed into a meachanical prosthetic.
His mouth opened, and in a voice that sounded like Ram's, but deeper “You know, as the second one, I'd expect you to be smarter than this. Never figured I'd change gender so quickly.”
“What? What the heck?” said Tanya, jumping up. In a blink, the image changed back into Ram. He looked extremely confused.
“Okay, what just happenned?” said Ram.
“You just...changed. Your face just went all weird. And your voice sounded different!” said Tanya. She pinched herself, just to make sure she wasn't dreaming.
“Alright, shush. It's a library, remember?” said Ram, looking around. Tanya nodded, smiling apologetically at the other students. Even as she calmed down, she saw a library assisant walking toward them.
“Damn it. It's the weird one,” said Ram under his breath. Tanya glared at him, but secretly shudderred. Everyone knew about Lola—weird old lady who liked to ask too many questions, interrupt you with long conversations about metaphysics, and always kept her baby around. And Tanya was pretty certain that Lola was breastfeeding her baby sometimes. Tanya felt a little guilty, since technically there was nothing wrong with that, but with everything else, it just came off as eerie.
“Hello. How are you? Everything okay?,” said Lola. She was smiling her too wide smile, and the baby that she carried around on her back stared at Tanya with a creepy grin.
“I'm fine. Just had a slight headache. Got confused,” said Tanya, smiling as wide as she could. Her head still felt queasy, but Lola's questions would make it feel worse.
“Do you know what you need, Talia? A good book,” said Lola. Before Tanya could say no, Lola had grabbed her and taken her down a corridor. Lola grabbed a book off the shelf, and pointed at it.
“Um, I'm pretty sure that I don't need a book for my headache. Also, I'm no Talia,” said Tanya. But as soon as she touched the book, it felt right. It had a gold-embossed cover, depicting a river surrounded by half-rotten crpses, and no title. Tanya felt she had seen these book before, but she couldn't remember why. As this had been the second time today she felt that way, it was surreal.
“Thank you. Um, why are you giving me this?” said Tanya.
Lola only smiled. She hooked her arm around Tanya's shoulder, and said “Read it when you start feeling queasy. Trust me, it's not good for anyone if you feel bad. Plus, recently, events have taught me I need to use a more compassionate approach to education.”
“Alright, thanks,” said Tanya. Maybe this Lola woman wasn't that bad.
“So, what's going on? Did she ask you to hold the baby yet?” asked Ram., when Ram returned.
“Oh, shut up, Ram. She's just a very nice, weird, lady. And she gave me a weird book,” said Tanya. Oddly, just looking at the book made her feel better.
Ram grabbed it, and opened it. After flipping the pages, he shook his head.
“It's blank. With lines, like a notebook. Except for these really edgy drawings of masked freaks and scary angels,” said Ram.
“Seriously?” said Tanya. She looked at the pages, and saw he was right. Nothing but a bunch of blank pages. Tanya felt a little duped.
“You didn't even look at the book before taking it? Nerd,” said Ram.
Tanya rolled her eyes. “Be careful. This nerd is the one who is helping you with the test.”
After that, the whole thing was forgotten. Tanya tried not to think about the odd hallucinations, as she had a very real test to deal with. Within a few hours, Tanya had gotten Ram to halfway understand the concepts, which she considered a success.
“Thanks for that. I kind of get this now. Remember, you don't tell anyone about this, Talia,” said Ram.
“Who?” said Tanya.
“I said Tanya,” said Ram. He paused, and she saw a quick expression of confusion. He continued “Whatever. Just remember not to tell.”
He quickly walked out the door. She could tell he was worried. Tanya, out the side of her eye, saw the library assistant looking at him as he left. Tanya's “weirdness sense” was tingling. 'Talia' was the same thing Lola had called her. There was something funny going on. Tanya looked at the book Lola had given her, and suddenly it didn't seem so important anymore. Lola couldn't be that bad, right?
As Tanya walked out the door, she saw Lola's baby's reflection staring back at her. Something about Lola had just been bugging her, but Tanya couldn't remember what. Didn't matter now. Tanya had to finish looking at that book when she got home.
Chapter 4: Dark Daydreams
Charlie eyed Tanya from across the room. She was quiet, which was unusual, because this was physics class, and Tanya loved to answer questions in physics class. Her eyes were wandering around the room, not really focusing on the here and now. She caught Charlie looking at her, and Charlie looked down. He didn't want to seem weird.
Perhaps she was just tired. Fighting against alien invasions was draining for them all, but especially vexing for Tanya, as she always had to get permission to go out from her parents. To tell the truth, Charlie wasn't sure why getting permission from her parents was so important. It was obviously a strange human custom. One of the many Charlie was having to learn.
A voice from his right spoke to him. It was April, fellow student, fellow battler of aliens, and friend.
"Tanya's a little out of it, yeah?" said April. Charlie wasn't sure what "out of it" meant, but based on the worry in her bright blue eyes, it wasn't good.
"She does seem distant. Is that bad? Maybe she's just fatigued from lack of sleep," said Charlie. Out the side of his eye, he noticed Miss Quill casting glances at him. He shuddered. She might be his servant, but in the classroom, she was the ruler. And she didn't like talking in the class.
April noticed Miss Quill, and said, in a quieter tone, "No. I've seen her tired. This is something else. Something weirder."
From her tone of voice, she clearly meant "alien weird".
Charlie sighed. He was getting tired of "alien weird."
Miss Quill walked through the classroom aisles. She paused near Charlie, who smiled innocently, did his best to act like he hadn't been talking. She simply raised an eyebrow, and continued walking. She stopped at Tanya, who wasn't paying attention to her. Tanya stared out the window, making shapes with her fingers.
"Tanya. Perhaps you'd like to explain to the class what's so interesting about the scribbles you're doing. You are aware this isn't a school for little children, right?" said Miss Quill.
"Everyone here is a child," said Tanya. She continued making shapes. Something about those shapes felt familiar to Charlie. They felt like a memory from young, as if he had seen them as a young Rhodia, or as a baby, or--
*He peered through his bone mask, watching the 12 other bodies—it felt wrong to call them people, in a way--preparing for death. They all bled, tying themself to the ritual.*
Charlie shrieked. His heart was pounding so loudly. His mind felt like crap.
"Are you okay?" asked April. He felt her hands on his shoulder, and she turned his face towards hers. He opened his mouth to answer, but was breathing too deeply, and too quickly.
Miss Quill appeared behind her. Her face frowned, and she brought a hand to his temples.
For some reason, he had an impulse to look back at Tanya. She was still making shapes in the window. Looking at them just made his head hurt even more, but he couldn't look away. The shapes were red now, for some reason. He heard a gasp from behind him, which he realized was April.
"Tanya, stop! You're bleeding!" said April. She ran to Tanya, pulling the girl from the window. Tanya's face contorted into a look of rage, and then softened, as she began to scratch into her wrist.
"All rituals require blood," said Tanya. Charlie found himself speaking along with her, and saw April do the same. Those words felt right, as if they were the truest thing in the world. That emotion terrified Charlie, and he could see April was just as terrified.
"Miss Quill, Tanya's gone mad. Do something!" said April. She always tried to keep it together, but Charlie could tell April was at wit's end.
Miss Quill bit her lip, and shrugged.
"Well, today's lesson just went down the garbage chute. Everyone who isn't Charlie and me and Tanya, go. Study your homework. There will be a test on today's material," said Miss Quill.
"I'm staying," said April.
"You have class. Don't you want to go?," said Miss Quill.
April shook her head.
"Oh well. It's your education," said Miss Quill.
Another student asked "Can I get my phone back now--"
"Nope," said Miss Quill, without looking at the student.
The student grumbled, and filed out the classroom. Miss Quill closed the door behind them, and swiftly walked to Tanya. The girl had picked up a pencil, and was making shapes on the paper. Charlie decided it was a bad idea to look at what she was drawing, and focused on Tanya's face. She was focused now, clearly intent on finishing the design.
"Tanya, what are you making?" said Charlie.
Tanya stopped her drawing, and looked at him. She smiled. That calmed him--that was a classic Tanya "I'm being nerdy" smile. It was the first sign of normal Tanya he had seen all day.
"It's the Sigil of Lethe. It's what you use for specific rituals. Basically, the Time Lords have all these specific rituals to fight specific monsters. Except that they're all boring, so they never use those rituals. But the Faction isn't boring. So they know how to use those sigil she. I don't plan on doing the ritual, so there's no need to freak out. Just need to get the sigils out of my head," said Tanya. She continued drawing, slowly retracing over certain lines.
"Out of your head? Why would they be in your head?" said April.
"I...don't actually know. But it feels right," said Tanya. Her drawing hand paused, and a worried expression passed over her face.
"Earlier, you mentioned Time Lords. You say these are Time Lord symbols?" said Miss Quill. Her face was dead serious now, none of the usual flippancy.
Charlie felt his heart leap. Random aliens coming through space-time was one thing. Time Lords were a whole different level of problems. Rhodians knew of the Lords only from hearsay and myth, but according to the myths, Time Lords had reshaped the universe in their image. There were horror stories of whole races being wiped out, just because they angered a Lord. These had always been silly stories for Charlie, until he met the Doctor, of course.
Tanya rolled her eyes, and said "Weren't you listening? Not Time Lord anymore. Now the Faction's the one using them."
"And, who are the Faction?" asked April.
"Well, the Time Lords are like, boring old white guys, while the Faction's all cool and multicultural and sexy and New Wave. They believe in Paradox. That's why the full name is Faction Paradox. Anyway, I think I'm done drawing for today. Feel much better now," declared Tanya. She placed the pencil done, and let out a long sigh. To Charlie, it seemed like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
Quill stared at Tanya with a cool expression. Her hands reached out and took the paper. Her eyes scanned the drawing, and her body shuddered. Charlie felt his head pulse with pain again. Then, Quill slammed the paper into her purse.
"I got a weird feeling when I caught a look at that drawing. Like a chill down my spine," said April.
"That's because those aren't just drawings. There's a psychic signal coming from them. I felt it when Charlie saw those drawings. And I think you felt it too, Amy. You're just a puny human, Tanya. So why do you have an ancient psychic signal in your head? And why did you mention Faction Paradox?"
The day was getting late. Shadows were creeping in, and Quill hadn't bothered to turn on the lights. She sat like a judge, over the three students. Her expression was completely serious.
"I don't know. My mind's been in a shambles ever since I got that book from the library. I don't even know who Faction Paradox is," said Tanya.
"Very well. Go home, and rest, Tanya. Do not show anyone else those drawings," said Quill. She rose from her desk, and turned the lights on.
Tanya got up. She stared at Quill with a sudden anger. Her fingers seemed to be unconsciously reaching for Quill's purse, as if the drawings within were calling to her.
“Go, Tanya,” said Miss Quill with a sudden strength. Her gaze matched Tanya's.
As usual, April defused the situation. She grabbed Tanya's wrist. Without words, she dragged Tanya to outside the classroom. Now it was just Charlie and Quill alone in the room.
Miss Quill sat opposite Charlie. She didn't look at him at first. She just sipped her coffee, lost in her thoughts. Not for the first time, it occurred to Charlie that he had no idea what Quill really thought. When they had first came to Coal Hill, he had been sure of who she was—a terrorist who got a good chance for redemption with him. But over the past few months, he had seen her risk her lives over and over for the Coal Hill gang. Sure, part of that was just self-preservation. But sometimes, she had helped them when she didn't have to. She never acted like she cared, but occasionally Charlie wondered.
Miss Quill finally looked at Charlie, and asked “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?” said Charlie.
“Because if you die, I die, idiot. Your welfare is always on my mind. And I felt that psychic feedback from that paper. Something's rotten going on,” said Miss Quill. She sounded tired, almost depressed.
“Aren't you tired of all this alien drama?” said Charlie. He tried to say it with a laugh, but Quill didn't laugh back.
“I'm beyond tired now. It's more a sense of unrelenting waves of increasing responsibility. Plus general teacher stuff, and other stuff. You wouldn't understand, even if I explained it. It would require that your head wasn't so far up your rectum,” said Miss Quill. A small smile formed over her lips.
“What's a rectum?” asked Charlie. He had a feeling she had just insulted him, but he couldn't be sure.
Miss Quill laughed, and waved him off, saying “We'll talk at home. Get out of my classroom.”
Later that night, snuggling with Matteuz, Charlie dreamed. In his dreams, he wore a red cloak, and underneath that cloak was a bone armor, while on his head was a bone mask. In his left hand was a gun made of shadow, and on his right hand was a glove made of bone.
He was on the second floor of a large room. Dark grainy outlines of people were underneath. They looked like half-formed pieces of persons, and they danced in odd, jagged motions. Their skins were discolored, and their clothes looked sheer, though he couldn't see anything underneath them. It felt like watching a video that was slowly bufferring. On the walls were large banners of grey-skinned angels, watching over the dancers. A terrible feeling of dread suffused the scene.
On the same level where he was, a girl stood a few feet away. He stepped closer to her, and was surprised to recognize April's face. Something about it seemed wrong, though. His mind was certain she wasn't April, despite the fact she had the correct face. She wore the same bone armor he did, but with a flower pattern on it. Her shadow seemed to shift and flit.
But what scared him the most was her gaze. April's eyes were almost always soft, with a warm glow that could always cheer Charlie up. But this woman's eyes looked angry. She looked threatening, like she could stab anyone at any point. Her stance was quiet, but her shadow quivered around, as if it was expressing the inner turmoil of its owner.
“Hello,” he said. His voice sounded older than he was used to.
The girl nodded back. Her grave expression changed into a small smile.
“Who are those people down there?” he asked.
“Lost souls,” said the girl. She stared at the group.
“Are you lost?” he asked.
“You might as well ask whether or not you are lost. It's the same question, really,” she said.
This girl was being obnoxious, so he decided to move on. As he passed her, she caught his arm. With surprising strength, she wheeled him around.
“Forget this dream. Don't even think about what you see here. Or they'll find you. And then my sacrifice wouldn't have meant anything,” said the girl.
“Who is this mysterious “they”? You're awfully vague,” he snapped. A pattern on the floor caught his attention. After a moment, he realized that it was the same drawing Tanya had made in class.
“It's already started for you, hasn't it?” said the girl. Sadness played across her face, and almost pity.
“Who is the “they”?” he asked, now with fear in his voice.
Something passed over him. He looked up, and saw nothing. Then he looked at the wall banners.
“Where did the angels go?” he asked.
“They're everywhere,” whispered the girl into his ear.
Then his vision was obscured by the color of stone.