He hadn’t been aiming for 21st century London, or even Earth at all. Sighing, the Doctor closed the door and made his way back to the console, silently scolding the TARDIS. Entering the coordinates for the third time, the engines roared to life and soon they landed yet again.
“You know what they say,” he said to himself as he made his way to the wooden doors, “Third time’s the-”
Before he could complete the thought, he opened the door to find the exact same city street. Slamming it this time, he spun around and glared at the console.
“No, no! This isn’t funny!” Ordinarily, arriving at the wrong time and place would have been annoying, but still par for the course – if there was one thing the old girl was good at, it was defiance. Ordinarily, he would’ve stepped outside without much complaint and at least have a quick look around. This was different, though. The last time he’d been in this time and location was with the Ponds, when they popped into the TARDIS for what would be the last time. He wasn’t ready to be back yet, not while he was on his own. “What kind of game are you playing here?”
The TARDIS hummed. Letting out another sigh, he leaned against the archway in defeat.
“Ok, fine! But we’re not staying long!”
Resentfully, he turned back around and opened the doors, stepping out onto the pavement. Whatever it was the TARDIS had deemed so important, he was determined to find and deal with it quickly.
Finding it didn’t take long. Rounding the street corner, he was greeted with a gathered crowd and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. Completely forgetting about his bitterness, he pushed his way through the crowd of humans, reaching the taped off scene just in time to see paramedics load an unconscious young man into the back of an ambulance. Lights and sirens flashing, the vehicle quickly drove off, and the Doctor turned to the man next to him.
“Was there an accident?” he asked. It didn’t seem likely, as there was no evidence of any kind of collision, apart from the gawkers and emergency responders, but it was important to rule it out.
“Depends on who you ask,” the stranger said, “It’s happened again.”
Raising a brow, the Time Lord’s interest was piqued. “What’s happened?”
“Where have you been, mate?” the woman on the other side of him asked, turning her head to face him, “People have been dropping like flies for weeks now!”
“On the streets, in their homes, at their jobs and classes…” the man agreed, “One minute you’re fine, and the next-”
“You collapse,” the woman interrupted, “Twenty-four hours later, you’re dead.”
“Right…” the Doctor said, glancing around at the scrambled emergency workers, “Been gone a while. Not quite up to date on local goings on.”
“It’s been happening all over the world!” the woman informed him, eyes wide with shock. She couldn’t fathom how someone could not know about this.
“Bit of a recluse.”
“My nan thinks it’s divine intervention,” the man said, almost scoffing at the idea, “Crazy old bat. I keep telling her it’s probably some kind of super virus or bacteria, but she won’t have it.”
“My brother’s convinced it’s some sort of terrorist attack,” the woman said, now looking to the man, “I don’t see how that could be, since it’s happening world-wide. If it were terrorists, they’d focus on just one country.”
While the two humans discussed the possibilities, the Doctor slipped his psychic paper out of his pocket. Ducking down under the police tape, he was quickly approached by an officer.
“Sir, you can’t-”
Flashing the sheet of paper, the Doctor gave a cheeky smirk. “Specialist detective from Scotland Yard, codename the Doctor. I understand that this is a crisis.”
Reading his credentials, the officer gave a small nod. “My mistake, but… I didn’t know Scotland Yard sent for two of you.”
“Well, you know what they say; two heads are better than one.” Grinning, he flipped the leather binding closed and slipped it back into his pocket. “So, where’s this other guy they sent?”
“Right this was.” Gesturing for him to follow, the officer led the Doctor through the scene. “Almost turned her away too. They really need to give us proper notice when they send out you specialists. Especially with this Detective Song looking like she just strolled out of first period.”
Hearing the name, the Doctor perked up, a spark of delight in both his hearts. Looking to where the officer was taking him, he scanned around for her face – more specifically, her new face. Sure enough, there she was: brown hair cut into an A-line bob, slim face and figure, and sporting a modern dress that took inspiration from the 1950s. Peeling off a pair of disposable gloves, it was clear she was too caught up in her work to have noticed him as she approached a female officer. Having long stopped listening to his escorting officer, the Doctor wore a wide grin as he hurried ahead of him, approaching his daughter from behind.
“The strangest thing is there’s no link,” Cecilia continued to say to the officer, “I’ve studied hundreds of these incidents, and nothing links the victims: not their race, age, medical history. It’s bizarre.”
“So, what you’re saying is, there’s no way to solve this?” the officer asked, dejected.
“I highly doubt she’s saying that,” the Doctor chimed in, grinning cheekily as he stayed standing behind his daughter.
Hearing the voice, the brunette woman’s spine stiffened. As much as she wanted to hide her shock, her body betrayed her. Her eyes were as wide as dinner plates, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and she was certain the racing of her hearts could be heard by the others.
“What was it that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said?” the Doctor continued, smile still plastered on his face, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. But surely you know that, Detective Song.”
Cecilia’s mouth was unbearably dry. Body still stiff, she turned around, slowly meeting the eyes of the other Time Lord.
“Hello Cecilia.” The Doctor greeted.
Words failed to come to the young woman as she stared at him. Forcing herself to turn away, she managed a wavering smile as she looked back to the officer.
“I’ll be in touch if anything turns up,” she told her, “I left my details with your partner. Feel free to reach me at any time.”
Without so much as sparing a glance to the man behind her, Cecilia hurried off, stopping only to pick up the small duffle bag she’d left on the pavement. Brow furrowed in confusion, the Doctor’s smile was quick to fade as he watched her speed-walk away.
“Cecilia!” he called after her. All thoughts of the scene around him having faded from his mind, he hurried to follow her. “Cecilia!”
Even once they were passed the crowd, keeping up with her proved to be difficult. How she was able to move so fast in heels, the Doctor had no idea.
“Cecilia!” he again called out, finally reaching her after a few blocks, “Have I upset you? What have I done?”
“Nothing,” Cecilia said, clutching her bag tightly and eyes staring straight ahead as she walked, “You’ve done nothing. That’s why I’m upset.”
The Doctor’s brow furrowed further. “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”
“That note you left me. You said you’d be back soon.”
“That was two years ago.”
Hearing that, the Doctor’s legs ceased movement, his gaze falling to the pavement as he suddenly understood. “… Ah.”
Looking up, he saw she’d already made significant headway. Not wanting to lose her, he ran back to her side. “So, you’re cross I kept you waiting?”
“Cross isn’t the word.” Her jaw clenched tightly as she spoke, and she still refused to look at him.
“I’m sorry. I got distracted.”
“For two years!?” Coming to a block of flats, she walked up the steps and entered a code into the keypad.
“I didn’t intend-”
“Of course you didn’t!” Spinning around, she finally looked him in the eye. A tight-lipped, uneven smile crossed her face, and her jaw stayed clenched in anger. “See, I’ve had a lot of time to think over these years, and I realized that this is how it’s always been. I’m not your priority. Why would I be? I’m only your daughter.”
“It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally realized what I am to you,” she interrupted, “A convenience. It’s never about me, it’s always what suits you. Well, I’m sick of it, Doctor. I’m sick of you only being there when it’s convenient for you, I’m sick of waiting around, I’m sick of the broken promises, and I’m sick OF YOU!”
With one swift motion, she opened the door, slamming it in his face once she’d slipped inside. Wanting to go after her, he quickly tried the knob, but without the key code, he was locked outside.
“Cecilia!” he called to her, banging on the door’s privacy window.
Leaning her back against the wall, Cecilia ran her hands through her hair, her hearts beating wildly in her chest. Hearing footsteps approaching from the stairwell, she pulled herself together and put on a warm smile just as a mother and son came into view.
“Hey Maggie,” she greeted, “Blake.”
“Afternoon Cecil-” The sound of banging on the door cut her off.
“Cecilia, let me in!” the Doctor’s voice continued to plead.
“Family matters,” Cecilia quickly explained, “Long story. Might wanna go ‘round back if you’re heading out.”
“Just grabbing the mail. Do you need me to call someone?”
“I’ve got it under control. It’s fine.”
Nodding, Maggie went to the wall of postboxes as Blake stayed standing by the stairs. The brief exchange reminding her that she hadn’t checked her email in a while, Cecilia reached into her pocket, pulling out her phone and a pair of readers with square lenses. Slipping the black frames onto to her face, she frowned as she noticed the lack of signal.
“Did Wallie change providers again?” she asked, looking up from her phone.
“‘Fraid so,” Maggie confirmed.
Cecilia huffed, looking to the ceiling as she leaned back against the wall. “I swear that’s the third time since I’ve moved in.”
“Tell me about it,” the young Blake finally piped up.
Glancing over at him, Cecilia noticed that his eyes were glued down, not to a phone or tablet, but to a book. Summer Falls, by Amelia Williams. Grinning as she eyed the cover art of the main characters, the Time Lady thought back to when she first saw the title, written down on a stack of papers in 1950s New York.
“What chapter are you on?” Cecilia asked.
Looking up from his book, Blake met her gaze. “Eleven.”
“Eh, rubbish,” she shrugged, “Power through, twelve’s better. Oh, and then thirteen is the best!”
Blake gave her a small grin before returning to his book. Having retrieved the mail, Maggie returned to her son. She opened her mouth to speak to him, but the continued noise from the door again grabbed her attention.
“I could send my husband down if-” She began to offer as she looked to the younger woman.
“I appreciate it, but it’s really fine,” Cecilia assured her, “I can handle some idiot in a bowtie.”
Maggie nodded, hesitantly, before ushering Blake upstairs. Now hearing a sonic whirring, Cecilia huffed as she turned back to the door.
“Breaking and entering is a crime, you know!”
Shaking her head, she returned her attention to her phone. Two new networks were available for connection, neither explicitly stating whether they were for the flats. Sighing, she settled on seeing which one would let her connect first, and ringing the landlord to have a chat about it once she got upstairs.
A series of alerts from a single computer were hardly enough to interrupt the day-to-day chatter of the office, but a small number of higher-ups gathered around it, nonetheless. A click of the keyboard made the sound cease, leaving only a basic profile and real-time video of a young woman’s face on the monitor. Frowning, one of the men looked up at his supervisor.
“It can’t be her,” he said, “The Cecilia Song on file looks nothing like-”
“From what we’ve gathered on the Doctor, he has the ability to change his face,” the woman interrupted, the fancy pen on her clipboard displaying the company name of Shard, as well as her surname, Kizlet, on its shiny surface, “Stands to reason his daughter does as well.”
The man nodded.
“Upload her,” Kizlet ordered, “If she has what we need, our client’s mission will be complete.”
Satisfied, Cecilia made her way up the stairs as she scrolled through her email. Halfway to her floor, she suddenly picked up the sound of footsteps. Glancing up, she saw a young girl in a floral dress. Stopping as she removed her glasses, she grinned at the child.
The little girl stopped as well, her face blank as her eyes fell to the Time Lady. “Hello.”
Slipping the readers into her pocket, Cecilia studied the girl further. Her hair was braided and tied back around her head, quite an old-fashioned style.
“I haven’t seen you around before,” she said, a pit of unease settling in her stomach as the girl’s eyes stared through her, “Are you with the new family upstairs?”
The little girl waited maybe a second too long before responding. “I’m with the new family upstairs.”
Cecilia nodded. She was certain she’d never seen her before, but somehow, she seemed… familiar. “Where are your parents?”
Another delay. “I have parents.”
Rasing a brow, Cecilia looked her up and down, trying to deduce the situation. “You’re not really a little girl, are you?”
“I’m not really a little girl, am I?”
“Are you here for me?”
The seconds that passed were heavy with unease as the “girl” generated a response. “I’m here for you.”
In that moment, Cecilia was hit with a realization. “And you generated an image you’d thought I’d like,” she said, the girl on the cover of her grandmother’s book clear in her mind, “Nice trick. Now, let’s see what you really are!”
Reaching into her pocket, Cecilia just managed to touch the smooth surface of her sonic pen before being engulfed in a blinding light. More than a light, she quickly realized. It was paralyzing, restricting her movements. The purpose of this became clear as the world around her began to darken, and she felt her consciousness being peeled away from her body.
No! she screamed in her head. Fighting back with every bit of power her Time Lord genetics instilled in her, she forced her mind back as she fought to wrap her fingers around her sonic. It was almost like fighting sleep paralysis, the force and focus needed to move even the tiniest muscles feeling foreign and not of her own. Grip weak and shaky, she almost managed to lift her hand out of her pocket, when a piercing pain shot through her head.
Not now! She thought as the pain spread. The sensation causing her to lose focus, her consciousness was ripped away, and her physical body collapsed to the ground. Now just a cloud of conscious thought, she was vaguely aware of the sound of a door being forced open before everything went blank.
It was like waking up any other morning. Only it wasn’t morning, and this definitely wasn’t her flat. The sheets that covered her were softer than the cotton ones on her bed, and the mattress hugged her body in a way none on Earth could. Suddenly realizing where she was, Cecilia’s eyes snapped open as she sat up, the sight of the purple ombre walls and the small waterfall in the corner sending a gentle warmness through her core. Home, she thought.
A throbbing pain shooting through her head, she groaned as she massaged her temples. This body had gotten more headaches in the past few months than the last one did in her lifetime. Seeing something out of the corner of her eye, she turned her head to see a plate of jammie dodgers waiting for her on the nightstand. Gladly reaching for one, she wondered as she took a bite if they had been left by her father, or the TARDIS.
Electing to ignore the lingering pain in her head, she slid to the edge of the bed and got to her feet. The way to the console room came to her as naturally as the layout of one’s childhood home would come to a normal person. She’d never gotten lost in the corridors, not even when she was small – in part, she suspected, to the old girl’s fondness of her. Still, she wondered if she’d made a wrong turn when she came to where the bright, open control room should have been. Gone was the space where she learned to fly, where she took her first steps, and where she spent long hours with her family. Now it was darkness and metal, all whimsy her child-self felt upon entering gone and replaced with a stiff, cold feeling.
How fitting, she thought with melancholy.
As she stepped in from the corridor, the Doctor poked his head out from the other side of the console.
“Good, you’re up,” he said, smiling at her, warmly.
“You redecorated,” Cecilia noted, looking around the room as she made her way down the stairs, “I don’t like it.”
Frowning, the Doctor decided to let it pass. “How do you feel?”
“Bad. Why’d you change things?”
“Long story. Do you remember what happened to you?”
Biting the side of her lip, Cecilia looked to the ceiling as she thought back to earlier. “I was walking up to my flat… and something disguised as a little girl attacked me. Knocked me out.”
“Did a bit more than that, I’m afraid.” Grabbing something from the console, he walked towards the doors and motioned for her to follow. “I’ll show you.”
Reluctantly, Cecilia followed his lead. Stepping through the wooden doors, she was surprised to see they were parked in her living room.
“I like your flat,” the Doctor said as he sat what was in his hands onto the dining table, “Why do you have a flat?”
“Not everyone has a TARDIS,” Cecilia shrugged, “Gotta sleep somewhere.”
“Been here a while, it seems,” he noted as he studied the décor. The shelves were lined with trinkets from all over time and space, along with pictures of her various adventures. Many of the frames held snapshots of her first face, of her mother, of Amy and Rory, and even of him. Only a handful, he noticed, were of her current face. “How long, exactly?”
“Six months.” She placed a hand on her hip. “Are you going to tell me what happened, or…?”
“Right…” He turned his attention back to her. “Right before you were attacked, what were you doing?”
“Checking my email.”
“And you connected to the Wi-Fi to do that, yeah?”
The Doctor nodded. “This whole world, Cecilia, is swimming in Wi-Fi. It’s a whole Wi-Fi soup. Now, suppose something got inside it?”
The young woman thought for a moment. “Like… If the Wi-Fi is a soup, a fly’s flown into it? Contaminated it?”
“Sort of, but the fly’s still alive, living, breathing in the soup, creating a nice and cozy home.”
“You’re saying something’s living in the Wi-Fi?”
“Exactly! Something’s living in the Wi-Fi, harvesting living minds, extracting them. Living souls trapped in the world wide web, stuck forever, crying out for help.”
“Sounds like every social media site in existence, but I’m guessing it’s darker than that.”
“Much darker. Your mind, Cecilia, your mind was extracted from your body and uploaded somewhere. I just barely managed to get you back before you were fully integrated. What’s more worrying is whoever took you fought very hard to keep you. I very much doubt they’ll let you get away.”
Before the Time Lady had even a moment to think on that, the Doctor spun around, facing whatever it was he took from the TARDIS. Hearing typing sounds, Cecilia stepped closer to see what he was doing.
“Is that my laptop?” she asked, recognizing the device.
“I had to borrow it. Oh, and I suspect you’ll want this back.”
Without looking, he tossed a small, rectangular object in her direction. Catching it with ease, she looked back and forth between him and it.
“You took my phone and my laptop?” she asked, her voice laced with irritation, “Without my permission?”
“You were unconscious. I needed to look through them.”
“That’s my property! You have a bloody TARDIS database! Why the hell would you need my-!?”
A sudden flicker of the lights caught her attention. Looking up from the laptop, the Doctor’s gaze fell to the window.
“You might want to take a look…”
Turning her head, at first all she saw was the dark of the night – had she really been out for that long? One by one, however, every light in every building switched off.
“What are the odds that everyone except me forgot to pay the electric bill?” she asked with a dry wit as she and the Doctor approached the window.
“Oh, great.” More and more lights went out, leaving the city in darkness. “How are they doing that? It’s not like all of London runs on smart tech… unless-”
“The human brain is essentially a living, sentient computer,” the Doctor interrupted, “And any computer can be hacked.”
“So the Wi-Fi isn’t switching off the power-”
“The people are.”
“All except this building. But why? What’s the point of-?”
Suddenly, tiny, flashing lights appeared in the sky. In seconds they were able to make out the shape of a plane, one that was rapidly approaching.
“Oh, that’s the point.” Hearts racing, she turned to her dad. “In the box?”
With that, the two Time Lords raced to the TARDIS, the Doctor stopping only to grab the laptop before heading in. By the time he was inside, Cecilia was already at the controls.
“Plane. Crashing!” she said as they both rushed around the console, “Lot of casualties just to get to one person!”
“A mind like yours is very valuable,” the Doctor reminded her, “Now shush, short hops are difficult!”
“Yeah, for you!” Flipping a switch, the TARDIS shook as they landed. After flashing him a smug grin, the two of them raced to the doors, stumbling almost immediately as they stepped out into the narrow aisle.
As they half ran, half fell towards the cockpit, it dawned on Cecilia that none of the passengers seemed to be panicking. Or moving at all. After nearly falling on top of a row of seated passengers, she had a good idea as to why.
“Are they all dead?!” she asked, slight panic in her voice.
“Asleep! Switched off by the Wi-Fi!”
Finally reaching the cockpit, they threw open the doors, seeing the unconscious pilots slouched in their seats. The lit-up block of flats was approaching rapidly, leaving them with only minutes to act.
“I just realized I can’t fly a plane!” the Doctor announced as he took the pilot’s controls, “Can you?”
Adrenaline-fueled determination pumping through her veins, Cecilia took the co-pilot’s controls. “If we can fly a TARDIS, we can fly a plane!”
Giving each other one last glance, the two of them pulled at the handles, screaming as they tried to maneuver the rapidly descending hunk of metal. Scrambling through their knowledge of space and time travel, they pressed what they hoped were the right buttons and flipped what they hoped were the right switches. At the last second, the nose of the plane turned upward, and they flew over the building with mere feet of wiggle room. Terror giving way to relief, the Doctor and Cecilia went from screaming to laughing as the plane settled safely in the air.
“Would a victory roll be too showy offy?” the Doctor asked as he pulled his screwdriver out of his pocket.
“Let’s not push our luck,” Cecilia advised.
“What the hell is going on?” the pilot asked as he gradually returned to consciousness.
“Well, I'm blocking your Wi-Fi, so you're waking up, for a start,” the Doctor explained, “Tell you what, do you want to drive?”
The adrenaline high lasted for as long as it took to get back to the TARDIS. Once the doors closed behind them, the Doctor took the controls and Cecilia sighed, running her hands through her hair and down her neck.
“You wouldn’t happen to have any gin on board?” she asked.
“Since when do you drink gin?” he asked, remembering the faces she made just from tasting wine, back when she was a redhead.
“Since two years ago.” Arms falling to her sides, she made her way to her father. “What the hell was any of that?!”
Looking up at her, the Doctor couldn’t help but grin. “That is what you’ve been investigating, Detective Song.”
Grabbing her laptop, he opened it back up and began pulling up case files. “You said earlier that you couldn’t find the link, what connects all the victims. That is your link!”
Cecilia blinked. “The Wi-Fi?”
Nodding, the Doctor continued. “Every victim was found with a phone, a laptop, a tablet, something that requires Wi-Fi right beside them. Before they collapsed-”
“They all logged into the same network!” Her eyes widened as the pieces came together.
“The very same one you logged into earlier! You’ve kept very thorough records, Detective. Bravo on that.” Closing the laptop, he flashed her another grin. “I see you’re still operating under the Angels Detective Agency, as well.”
“I’m sentimental,” she shrugged, “So, what’s our next course of action?”
Reaching under the console, the Doctor pulled out two motorbike helmets. “I was thinking breakfast.”
“So, why couldn’t we just take the TARDIS straight to the café?” Cecilia asked, glancing up from the work she was doing on her phone.
“I try to keep the TARDIS out of battle, if I can help it,” the Doctor explained, working diligently on her laptop, “Don’t want the most powerful ship in the universe falling into the wrong hands.”
“Right.” Her eyes returned to her phone screen. “Bad enough it’s fallen into your hands.”
Pausing his typing, the Doctor looked up at Cecilia. Sensing his gaze, she glanced back up, flashing him a half-smile. Chuckling, the Doctor went back to work.
“And jumping straight to the next morning?” the young woman asked, “What’s the point of that?”
“Tire them out, mostly. Have them work through the night to find us, so when they do, they’ll be more likely to make a mistake.”
“So you’re counting on them finding us?”
“Well, we’re not having much luck finding them, are we?”
Cecilia gave a small nod of understanding. “They’ve gotta be close, based in London judging by the signal strength.”
“My thoughts exactly. Best I’ve got is hacking the lowest level of their operating system, so unless we can bypass security-”
The sound of a sonic whir grabbed his attention, effectively cutting him off. Looking up, he watched as his daughter pointed her sonic pen at her mobile, presumably trying to boost its signal strength. Only, it wasn’t her sonic, not the one he made her, at least. The one he made had the casing of a fancy, black ballpoint pen, while the one in her hand was a marbled blue with a narrower body.
“New sonic?” he asked.
“Sort of. Lost my other one when I fell off the roof.” Looking up at him, she twirled the device between her fingers. “Made it myself.”
While studying the design, something else caught his eye; a familiar brown, leather band around her wrist. “That’s your mother’s vortex manipulator.”
Cecilia’s eyes too fell to the device. “Well, yeah. How do you think I got here?”
“Why do you have your mother’s vortex manipulator?”
“Well, who else would have it?” Feeling a painful lump rising in her chest, she focused her attention back to their work. “So, what’s the plan for when they do find us? Let them take us back to their secret lair, and dismantle them from the inside?”
“Something like that.” Glancing her up and down, he tried to piece together why he felt he was missing something. Something was off about this, about her, but what? What was he missing? “So… you said you’ve been here six months. Why? What are you doing here?”
“Needed a change of scenery. Never really felt at home in the 51st century, and one day I just sort of… left. Packed up and headed to parts unknown.”
“In other words, you ran away.”
Cecilia paused. Her expression having fallen, she looked up at him.
“What are you running from?” the Doctor asked, “And what about your mother? Does she know you’re here?”
Hearing that, Cecilia felt a chill creep across her skin, and her hearts sank. “You don’t…”
For a moment they just sat there, staring at each other in silence. A cold dread washing over her, Cecilia shoved her devices into her pocket as she stood up from the table.
“I need a coffee.”
She was gone before he could protest. Reluctantly, the Doctor got back to work. What was he missing? And why did he feel like the answer was right in front of him?
Hearts aching, Cecilia entered the coffee shop, stopping only to run her fingers through her hair. He didn’t know. How could he not know? He always knew, that’s what she deduced after…
No, she decided, she couldn’t dwell on this right now. Lives were at stake, her own being one of them. Sighing, she let her hands fall as she walked up to the counter.
“One cappuccino, please,” she told the old man behind the counter, “Feel free to make it Irish.”
Chuckling, the man set to work making her drink. “You realize you can’t escape.”
His words taking a second to register, Cecilia paused as she looked over at him. “Excuse me?”
There was a subtle flash of blue light, and the man blinked. “I said one moment, miss.” The light flashed again, and his posture stiffened. “I said, you can’t escape. And don’t annoy the old man. He isn’t speaking.”
There was the light again. The man went back to work, and Cecilia could sense a presence behind her.
Turning around, Cecilia was met with the sight of a waitress.
“Just using whatever’s at hand,” she continued.
Hearts pounding, the Time Lady knew that she should back away, get as much distance between her and the possessed woman as possible. However, she found herself stepping forward, observing her with curiosity.
“You’re quite angry with him,” the waitress said, gesturing to the rooftop terrace, “Not quite the hero you thought he was. I could change that, if you like, make him the man you want him to be.”
Cecilia’s mouth and throat became incredibly dry. “What do you want?” she asked, her voice stern.
“I want you to see how impossible your situation is.” The waitress slowly circled her, like a predator sizing up its prey. “Go on, take a look. I do love showing off.”
Hesitant to take her eyes off her, Cecilia glanced around, seeing all the people casually going about their day.
“Just let me show you what control of the Wi-Fi can do for you. Stop!”
Suddenly, the people froze, as if time itself had stopped.
“Yeah, got a peek at your little tricks last night,” Cecilia informed her, turning her attention back to her.
Right on command, everyone, including the waitress, left the shop. The blue light flashed again, and the news anchor on the TV began to speak.
“We can hack anyone with the Wi-Fi, once they've been exposed long enough.”
“Yeah, you’ve made that clear.” Head held high, she walked closer to the wall-mounted television. “I don’t know who you are or why you’re doing this, but frankly I don’t care. The people of this world will not be harmed. They will not be controlled. They will not-”
“The people of this world are in no danger whatsoever. My client requires living minds, healthy and free range.”
“There’s nothing “free” about any of this. It’s obscene. It’s murder.”
“You’ve got a twisted definition of life, then.” Taking a step back, Cecilia kept her eyes on the TV, smiling with a mix of smugness and anger as her arms extended in challenge. “So, what are you waiting for? Come and get me! Try to upload me again, I dare you! Or did you figure it out?” Her arms lowered and she grinned triumphantly. “I’m not human. I’m stronger than what you’re used to. You got lucky once, but I won’t let you take me again.”
“No need for that, Miss Song. You’ve led us to an even bigger prize, one my client will gladly accept.”
The blue light flashed one last time, and the woman on the screen went back to reading the news. Confused, Cecilia stood there a moment, eyes narrowed as she contemplated her words. Mere seconds went by before her eyes widened and her breath hitched.
“No!” Panicked, she sprinted towards the doors.
Typing away at the keyboard, the Doctor multitasked trying to find a weak point in this Shard’s database and working out what Cecilia meant. “You don’t…” He didn’t what? What didn’t he know? Or was it what didn’t he do? River had to be involved somehow. Why else would she have that reaction after he asked-?
“She was only a few years older than my daughter.”
The memory hit him like a punch to the gut, bringing both his mind and body to a sudden halt. River…
“Why do you have your mother’s vortex manipulator?”
“Well, who else would have it?”
“And what about your mother? Does she know you’re here?”
No. No, no, no! It couldn’t be. River couldn’t be…
“No…” his voice was barely above a whisper. In a sudden burst of haste, the Doctor knocked over his chair as he got to his feet. He had to go after her. He had to know.
Spinning around, he was shocked to find her already on her way back.
“The Library!” he said, hoping more than anything that he was wrong, “Your mother… did she go to the Library?”
“She went to the Library,” Cecilia confirmed.
The Doctor’s hearts plummeted, shattering like glass on hardwood as they reached the bottom of the pit of despair that was his stomach. River… she was gone. Not for him, perhaps, but for Cecilia… their time as a family was up. The three of them would never travel together again. The very thought brought tears to his eyes.
“I’m sorry. Cecilia, I’m so, so sorry.” His mind raced faster than a freight train. No wonder she’d been so upset with him. How could he have let this happen? How could he have failed her like this? “I shouldn’t have left you. I should’ve come back. I… I should’ve been there for you.”
“You should’ve been there for me,” Cecilia agreed.
“I’m so sorry, my girl, I am. Do you understand that? I never meant it for it to be like this. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
“You never meant for it to be like this. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. You’re sorry. You’re so sorry.”
Mind clouded in heartbreak, it took him too long to realize that there was no emotion in her words, that she was simply repeating what he was saying. By the time it occurred to him, it was too late.
Pushing past the glass doors, Cecilia sprinted through the terrace.
“Dad!” she half-screamed, “Da-!”
Coming to a sudden halt, she nearly lost her footing. The Doctor was on the ground, a spoonheaded robot baring her likeness standing over him. His eyes were closed. He wasn’t moving.
“No… NO!” She rushed to his side, falling to her knees as she checked his pulses. Both were steady, but slower than they should be. His life force was already draining. “No… No, no, no, no, no!”
Shaking, Cecilia felt a sob rising in her throat as she rested his head on her lap. She was too late. Now he was gone too. Both her parents… She was too late.
Startled, Cecilia lifted her head. That voice. It was his voice. But how? Where-?
“Cecilia, are you there?” Realizing it was coming from the spoonhead, her eyes locked on sophisticated tech. “I don’t know where I am, but I hope you’re there. I don’t know where I am... It’s up to you now, my girl. It’s up to you to stop this. Save humanity. Save me.”
A single tear trailing down her cheek, Cecilia glared at the robot before looking back down to her father.
“You can do this,” his voice said again, “I know you can do this. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Nodding, she picked him up by the torso, moving his limp body to sit the one upright chair. Looking over the terrace at the view of the city, she took a deep, determined breath.
“I’m coming, dad.”
A loud CRASH echoed as glass fell to the floor. Having heard the commotion, Kizlet entered her office, seeing Cecilia Song standing stiffly in the middle of the room, surrounded by broken glass and a damaged motorbike.
“Do come in,” Kizlet said, eyeing the mess she’d made.
“Bring him back,” Cecilia demanded, her jaw clenched as she stomped towards the older woman, “Download him back into his body. Now!”
“I can’t.” There wasn’t even a trace of remorse in her voice.
“Listen to me and listen to me clear.” Hands clenched into fists, her brown eyes held a deep seeded anger as they met Kizlet’s. “Either you bring him back, or we find out together how far I’ll go to get him back. Do you understand!?”
“He’s a fully integrated part of the data cloud, now. He can’t be separated.”
“Then download them all. Every soul you’ve got trapped in there!”
“You realize what would happen?”
“They would be free.”
“A tiny number. Most would simply die.”
“Better than a life in a computer. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” She took a step back, eyes still narrowed. “Don’t make me force your hand.”
“And how would you do that?” Kizlet asked, almost amused by that notion.
“A bit of motivation.”
“You’re a ridiculous young lady. All this for a man you despise?”
“I might be angry with him, but despise… I don’t hate him. It would be so much easier if I did, but I don’t. Love doesn’t turn off just because you’re cross. The heart’s far too complicated for that, and I’ve got two of them. For all the time you’ve spent poking around in people’s minds, you’d think you’d know that.”
“Are words all you have?” Kizlet asked, all but rolling her eyes, “Why did you come here?”
Cecilia smirked. “I didn’t. I’m still at the café.”
Taking a sip of her drink, Cecilia looked to her father, slumped unconscious on the table, across from her. Putting the cup down, she again spoke into her phone. “Just finishing my coffee. Lovely day for breakfast on the terrace.”
Looking at the image on the laptop screen, her lips curled into a grin. Seemed that Kizlet was beginning to understand. “Did I not mention, Ms. Kizlet? I’m bloody brilliant. Now, have some motivation.”
A click of the keyboard, and she watched as the spoonhead did its thing. Soon, Kizlet’s body collapsed in a heap on the floor. Any second now. Any second, and she’d demand her lackies to put her back, releasing the other souls in the process.
Right on cue, a deep breath came from the man across from her, along with a stir. Satisfied, Cecilia closed her laptop. Getting to her feet, she quickly checked his pulses. Letting out a breath of relief, she picked up her laptop, carrying it under her arm as she walked off.
The Doctor stirred again, eyes peering open as he slowly sat up. “Cecilia…”
Looking around, he realized he was back, back in his body and back on the terrace. Before he even realized it, he let out a chuckle. “You did it.”
Kizlet stood in front of the large screen, hoping her nerves were masked well as she spoke to her client. “UNIT are here. Friends of the Doctor, I presume.”
The man on the screen scowled, his silver mustache furrowing under his nose. “You’ve failed me, Kizlet.”
“You know what happens now.”
Swallowing, Kizlet looked to her desk. When he gave her those pills, she was sure she’d never use them, that it would never come to that.
“Goodbye, Ms. Kizlet.” With that, the screen went dark.
The TARDIS doors opened, and the Doctor stepped inside. The plan was to go to Cecilia’s flat, to either find her there or wait for her to get back. To his surprise, she was waiting for him, back turned to the console as she leaned against the railing.
Quietly closing the door, the Doctor approached her, grabbing the railing to the left of her.
“The Library,” he said, quietly, “She went to the Library?”
Cecilia nodded, her eyes on the ground below.
She didn’t answer right away. Briefly closing her eyes, she took in a deep, quiet breath. “Ten months.”
The Doctor nodded. It was so hard to look at her. How many nights had he lied awake, River’s sacrifice replaying over and over in his mind? How many times had he been tortured by the knowledge that one day, Cecilia’s world would shatter, that he’d have to look her in the eye and tell her that her mother was gone? He’d been so caught up in that fear that he never considered what was even worse; that he wasn’t there at all.
“You said you’d be back,” Cecilia said, her voice faltering as she gripped the sleeve of her dress, “You said we’d have more adventures together…” Tears filled her eyes, and she slowly shook her head. “Why? Why didn’t you come back? Why did you make me burry my mother alone?!”
Tearing up himself, the Doctor was lost for words. Not knowing what else to do, he wrapped his arms around her, holding her head to his chest as she quietly cried.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice trembling, “I’m so, so sorry Cecilia.”
He lost track of how many times he repeated those words. It couldn’t undo what happened, it couldn’t bring her mother back or make up for his time away, but it was all he could do.
“Come with me,” he eventually said, “Travel with me again. I won’t leave you like that ever again; I swear on my life. Come with me. I want you here.”
Sniffling, Cecilia looked at him, tears still trailing down her cheeks. As she pulled away, the Doctor couldn’t quite read her expression. Was she going to refuse? Had the offer come too little too late?
Finally, she walked over to the console, managing a grin as she grabbed hold of a lever.
“Where to first?”