A woman stands in the middle of a green field, arms upraised, tears rolling down her cheeks. Sounds of battle fill the air. The Doctor comes running towards her, sonic screwdriver in his hand.
“Time to go,” he shouts. “Would you like to come?” He grabs her hand as he flies past, not waiting for an answer, dragging her with him towards the TARDIS. After an initial stumble, she clutches his hand and runs with him.
They reach the TARDIS. The doctor pulls a silver key from his jacket pocket. “I’m the Doctor, by the way.”
I’m Anna. I am to travel with you. Soon I will see my husband and children again,” she says.
“That’s impossible. We just saw them die.”
“Nothing is impossible.”
“Look, time is sometimes wibbly wobbly but this is a fixed point; we both saw it happen. You can’t go back on your own time line.” Sounds of their pursuers increase in volume.
“Nevertheless, I am to go with you. I will see my husband and children again soon.”
With a frown on his face, the Doctor unlocks the door and, still holding her hand, pulls her inside. She looks around, wide-eyed, mouth agape.
The Doctor slams the door closed and then he grins, when he sees her expression. “It’s bigger on the inside,” he explains.
Awe fills Anna’s face as she walks up the stairs towards the center. “It’s beautiful. And…” She rests her hand lightly on the console. “She’s alive!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. She’s not alive.” With his back to Anna, he lays his hand gently on the console as if the TARDIS really were alive.
“You will see her again soon.”
“What?” The doctor yanks his hand away from the controls and spins to look at Anna.
“No, not the TARDIS.” Anna closes her eyes. “I see a picture in my mind. Water. A pond. No. A river. Does that mean anything to you?” Her eyes snap open.
“Why are you saying that?”
“I listen to The One. He tells me things sometimes.”
“The One? Who is that?”
“He can be called God but he is not a god. He is The One, The One Who Is.”
There is a thump against the door. Sounds come from outside – metal banging against the TARDIS.
“Time to leave. Where do you want to go?”
“I will go where you go. You choose.” Anna sits down gracefully in one of the chairs that is bolted to the metal floor.
“Very well. Let’s go somewhere calm, shall we?” He starts turning dials and flipping switches. The TARDIS activates and a loud whooshing sound starts up, as the large cylinder in the middle of the console moves slowly up and down. “How about a park by a lake?” He presses several buttons as he moves around the controls. “I know of the most beautiful and peaceful place…” In a few moments, the sounds and movement of the cylinder stop. “There now. Here we are. Shall we go take a look?” He holds out his hand to Anna. She reaches up and stands. They walk down the stairs, holding hands.
“A beautiful park world.” He flings open the door. It’s dark out. “Oh.” He hesitates at the threshold. “It seems to be nighttime.” The camera angle shows his face scanning the darkness. He looks worried. “I’m sure it will still be very peaceful. Come along then.” They step out together, still holding hands.
There is a sliver of moon in the star-filled sky but no other light can be seen. They walk out into a grassy field.
“Can you see where we’re going?” asks Anna.
“Of course.” With the next step, the ground gives way beneath them. Anna screams. They slide down into a pit, coming to a stop as their feet encounter a sticky, tar-like substance. They then slowly continue their downward descent, sinking into the black ooze.
“Doctor? What do we do?” she asks, panic in her voice.
“Shh…I’m thinking,” he half-shouts, while waving his arms in exclamation.
Anna scrabbles at the side of the pit but there’s nothing to catch hold of. Flickering torchlight appears above them. Dark faces peer down, faces hidden in shadow, silhouetted by the torchlight.
“We’ve got her now.” A deep chuckle sounds above them. “Pull these two up and take them to the dungeon.”
A rope with a large knot on the end is lowered into the pit. Since they’re still sinking, they grab onto the rope. They’re pulled upwards. Their legs and then feet are pulled free from the muck with a sucking sound. As soon as they reach the edge of the pit, rough hands pull them up. Their wrists are bound behind their backs. One of the figures pats each of them down. He pulls the sonic screwdriver from the Doctor’s pocket. Then the Doctor and Anna are shoved forward. Anna half-stumbles but runs a couple of steps to catch herself.
Anna and the Doctor are marched towards a medieval-looking castle. Torches flicker against the castle wall, lighting the entranceway. Their captors’ faces become discernable. Most are humanoid, some alien with brown-green skin or cat-like features; all of them are dressed in long black robes.
“This is not the park-planet,” mutters the Doctor.
They are prodded forward again, into the castle and down a steep staircase. And then down another, even steeper, staircase. There is a dark opening off a narrow hallway. The ropes are ripped from their wrists. Rough hands fling them into a cell. The metal door clangs shut behind them. Anna falls. She carefully picks herself up and brushes off her dress. One of the men locks the door with a key that hangs from his belt. Then the dark-robed figures walk back down the hallway towards the stairs.
The Doctor wheels around, from where he was pushed, to face their captors. He grabs the metal bars. “What do you want Anna for?” he shouts. “You hear me?” He rattles the bars. “Why do you want her?”
The tallest of the black-robed figures laughs and calls over his shoulder as they continue to walk away. “It’s not the girl we want. It’s the TARDIS.”
Moisture permeates the air and coats the cement floor. Anna wraps her arms around herself against the chill as she surveys the small room. She sits down on the only piece of furniture there – a bench against a wall. The Doctor comes to sit beside her on the narrow metal bench, right next to her so his side presses up against hers. He leans his back against the rock wall. The dingy cell is enclosed by three walls of rock and one of bars, where the door is, and the only light is the torchlight that flickers in from the hallway.
“I’m sorry I brought you here – into danger.”
Anna smiles. “Don’t blame yourself at all. I wanted to come. And this is all part of the plan.”
“The plan?” he echoes, sitting up to look at her.
“Yes. The One knows all and is all-powerful.”
He snorts derisively but doesn’t move away from her. “I’ve been in worse situations,” he says. But, from the look on his face, we all wonder if it’s really true. He closes his eyes and leans his head back against the rock wall.
Anna starts humming. The doctor inclines his head towards hers and then leans his head against hers. Anna sings a sweet but haunting melody. The doctor pulls away, opens his eyes and looks at her sharply.
“You can’t know that song.”
“What song?” She smiles innocently.
“That song you were singing. It is a lullaby of Gallifrey.”
“Oh, is it?” she murmurs, closing her eyes and leaning her head back against the wall. “I was singing in the Sprit.”
“You were what?”
“I was just singing what The One was bringing to my heart.”
“I don’t believe you. Where did you learn that song?” he asks, accusingly.
She opens her eyes and looks at him earnestly. “If you could read my mind, you would see that I’m telling the truth.”
He looks at her thoughtfully and his face softens. “I could read your mind.” He puts his hand up towards her face. “Will you let me?”
“Yes, of course.”
The doctor places one of his hands on one of her cheeks, with his fingers slightly spread apart, as though he would draw her near and kiss her. He looks at her face intently. She closes her eyes, a faint smile on her lips.
“I see the song; it’s right here like it’s golden. Ah…I see a shiny trail that goes deeper into your mind. I’m following it back now to see where you learned it. Oh.” He pulls his hand away.
Anna opens her eyes. “What is it?”
“The shiny trail…It…just…ends. At…It was like a wall.” Confusion and frustration are written on his face.
“You didn’t see The One?”
“No. It was a wall. You think The One is in your brain?” he asks, with a sharp, derisive tone.
“You don’t understand… You don’t believe.”
“No. I do not,” he says firmly. “Who are they, anyway? Why do they want my TARDIS?”
“They serve the darkness. They don’t want your TARDIS. They want to destroy her. The darkness wants to put out the light of the universe.”
“Who is this darkness?”
“Powerful beings who refuse to acknowledge The One.”
The Doctor looks frustrated but doesn’t say anything. He leans back and rests his head against the wall. Anna closes her eyes, hands folded in silent prayer.
“But don’t worry. She’s going to get away. And we’re going to help her.”
His eyes flash open. “And just how are we going to do that?”
“I think the door’s open.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Anna gets up and moves towards the door. The Doctor rolls his eyes. She pushes on the iron bars of the door. Nothing. She rattles it back and forth. Still the door does not give.
“It’s locked. We saw the man lock it and walk away. Then I was banging against it, remember? The door is locked.” The Doctor crosses his arms over his chest and closes his eyes, still leaning back against the wall. Anna takes a few steps away and then runs at the entrance, awkwardly thumping her shoulder and side into the bars. The door gives way and she stumbles out into the hall. The Doctor’s eyes fly open and he jumps up like a loosed spring.
“Well, that was lucky. Very good, Anna. Very good. I think it’s time to go.”
They start back the way they came. The Doctor leads the way. Soon they hear footfalls; someone is coming down the stairs.
The Doctor turns around and whispers frantically to Anna, “Back! We have to go back down. Someone’s coming.”
She turns and they run down the stairs. Back in the narrow hallway, they hurry past the cell they had occupied and towards the opposite end of the hall.
“I hope there’s another way out,” says the Doctor. When they get to the end of the hallway, they find another flight of stairs. But it’s going down. It’s even darker down there. They hesitate on the top step for a moment. Anna looks back down the hallway. No one has seen them yet. Making a decision, Anna flies down into the darkness with the Doctor close on her heals. At the bottom, they find another narrow hallway lined with cells. These are also empty.
“It’s a good sign,” says Anna, making for the end of the hallway where a single torch burns, casting eerie, shifting shadows.
“The dungeon is mostly empty. Seems the darkness hasn’t had much success of late. Which isn’t surprising really, seeing as how it can’t win.”
“No one else here means they only have us to hunt!” the Doctor exclaims in protest of her theory.
The hallway ends in a closed, heavy wooden door. They stare at it.
“Well, no time like the present. Heave ho and away we go, shall we?” He reaches out and takes hold of the handle.
“Just wait.” Anna puts her hand on his arm.
They look at each other. He stares at her as she looks thoughtfully at the door, or through it almost, as if she sees something that he doesn’t.
“What?” he asks finally.
“Okay, now,” she says, pulling her hand away. “But try to do it quietly.”
The Doctor slowly turns the handle and pushes on the door. The door gives way and he opens it slowly. Mercifully, the hinges don’t creak; it’s as if they had been oiled recently, though they probably hadn’t been. They come out into a larger room, lit with more torches. Here, tables and chairs are set up but the place is deserted.
“Looks like some sort of common area,” remarks the Doctor. Three open doorways lead from the room – two on the far wall and one to their left.
“So which one should we take?” The Doctor looks to Anna.
She surveys their options. “I don’t know.”
“Right then. Let’s take that one.” He points randomly across the room. They set out in that direction just as two big aliens in black garb step into the room though that doorway. “Or not!” cries the Doctor as he spins, grabs Anna and rushes towards the closer exit on their left.
The aliens see them and give chase, flinging tables and chairs out of the way. Reaching the stairs leading upwards, the Doctor takes the steps two at a time. Anna hikes up her skirts and quickens her pace.
From the sound of their pursuer’s stomping, it is apparent they are not far behind. A figure appears in front of them at the top of the stairs. The Doctor slows.
“Keep going!” Anna shouts.
The black-robed man at the top of the stairs raises a sickle weapon and starts quickly descending the stairs towards them.
Partway up, there is a shadowed alcove on their right. The Doctor reached his hand into it and finds that it is a passageway. He steps into it, Anna right behind him. Holding his hands out in front of him, he hurries forward. It’s almost completely black. There’s an opening leading off the main passage and they take it. Then there’s another opening which they also take. It’s like a maze. Their larger pursuers have difficulty maneuvering in the narrow hallways. The Doctor stops. Anna bumps into him and then holds her breath.
“I can’t see anything in here,” someone grumbles loudly.
“Let’s go back and get a torch,” says another voice.
There’s a loud shuffling that fades into silence.
“I think we lost them,” the Doctor whispers. “Come on.” They progress more slowly, feeling their way down the passages.
Suddenly, the Doctor gasps. Anna steps forward and feels nothingness beneath her feet. She cries out. They are falling…then sliding down a polished rock surface. Anna feels the smooth stone under her fingers as she tries to slow her descent. Faint blue light filters in from below as they continue to hurtle downwards. They are completely enclosed in a narrow chute. Their attempts to slow themselves down have no effect. They spill out into open air. Then Anna lands on the Doctor’s back with a thump. He has landed face first on the rock floor.
“Ouch,” he moans from underneath her.
“So sorry!” She scrambles off his back and he picks himself up.
He rubs his jaw. “Just happy to break your fall,” he quips. Then they look around, warily. They’ve landed in a large, dark cavern, lit by distant dark blue flames that spurt out of the ground at the other end of the cavern. There are throngs of people standing near the tall dark flames.
“Let’s try the other direction.” The Doctor takes Anna’s hand and leads her away from the mob. They come to the cavern wall and walk beside it, looking for an exit. They walk for a long time, making their way around the circumference of the huge cavern.
Anna pulls away from the Doctor and stops walking. “Just a minute.” She folds her hands and bows her head. The Doctor stares at her impatiently in the dim bluish light. “Okay,” she announces. “I’m ready.” She starts walking again. They haven’t walked more than a few paces before they come to a narrow opening carved into the stone. It’s a staircase, leading upwards.
“Finally. Let’s find the TARDIS and leave,” said the Doctor. They hurry up the rough stone steps as quickly as the increasing darkness permits them. Soon there is no discernable light whatsoever.
“If we fall into another slidey thing, I shall be very cross,” whispers the doctor. “I think I see something ahead.”
In a few minutes, they come out under a dark star-filled sky.
“We’re outside!” exclaims Anna.
“Yes. Now to find the TARDIS.”
The castle is somewhat distant. “We’ve come a long way underground,” says Anna.
“This way!” He leads out through the low foliage and Anna follows. “This way to the TARDIS!”
“Can you see?” asks Anna.
“Of course!” He walks a few more paces, hesitantly. “I wish I had my sonic screwdriver.”
“Oh! Do you mean this?” Anna pulls the sonic screwdriver from a pocket in her dress. “I found it in the hallway right after the door of our cell opened. But I didn’t realize it was yours. I put it in my pocket, in case we might need it later.”
“Well, that is a lucky turn. Too bad we didn’t have it sooner. Then we wouldn’t have had to be stumbling around in the dark.” He yanks the sonic screwdriver out of her hand and presses a button to turn it on. The sonic screwdriver casts a green glow, lighting their way. There are a few trees but the vegetation is mostly bushes and long grass. The Doctor stops, glances back at the castle and then looks at the landscape again.
Anna watches the Doctor, his face lit by the greenish glow from his sonic screwdriver.
“Do you know which way to go?” asks Anna.
“This way, this way.” He strikes out confidently once more.
When Anna looks back towards the castle, she sees black figures pouring out from the gate. “Oh, no! They’re coming!”
The Doctor makes a tisk sound towards Anna. “Now look at what you’ve done. The sonic has attracted their attention.”
“What?! I never told you to turn it on!” Anna protests.
The Doctor keeps the sonic screwdriver turned on and out in front of them to light the way. “Run!” he says, bursting into a sprint.
“I hope you really do know where you parked the TARDIS,” says Anna, a hint of irritation in her voice. The Doctor purses her lips and looks worried but he keeps running. He stops abruptly and flings out his arm to halt Anna. She skids to a stop. It’s the pit that they fell into when they first arrived – or one just like it. They skirt around the edge of the pit. Though the pursuers had been distant, they’re now closing the gap.
The Doctor stops suddenly again. This time Anna runs into him.
“What is it?” she asks.
“This is where I parked the TARDIS.” He points at a patch of field just like everything around it.
“Are you sure?”
He swings round and looks at her sharply. “Yes, I’m sure. They’ve taken her somewhere. But where? And how could they do that? The TARDIS is very heavy.”
“The power of black arts,” Anna murmurs. “They’re trying to destroy her…in the fire of darkness. In the dark fire.”
“You mean the dark blue flames…where we just were?”
“Yes, I think so…Yes,” she says, with certainty in her voice.
“Let’s go!” He spins back the way they came and grabs her hand. He pulls her though the long grass and around bushes that frequently snag her dress until she pulls free. The horde from the castle, still in pursuit, change their trajectory as the glow from the sonic begins to move back in the other direction.
“Can we get to the opening to the cavern before they reach us?” asks Anna.
The doctor doesn’t answer, only glances back worriedly. Hand-in-hand, they sprint over the darkened landscape, the angry snarls of their pursuers frighteningly close.
They almost miss the opening to the stairs but Anna sees it and tugs on the Doctor’s hand to get his attention. The Doctor shines the sonic screwdriver towards the black hole. Sure enough, it’s the stairway down to the cavern below. They scoot into the stairway.
“Maybe they won’t know where we’ve gone,” says the Doctor hopefully. All is quiet for a few minutes as they run down the steps as stealthily as they can. Then heavy footfalls pound on the stairs behind them. “No such luck,” he gripes. In a few minutes more, they spill out into the large cavern. They stop and the Doctor scans the darkness, screwdriver still upraised.
“Turn it off or they’ll all see us,” Anna hisses. “This way!” She jogs towards the mass of dark-robed figures that still stand around the dark blue flames.
The Doctor turns his sonic off, places it into his coat pocket and runs after her. “We’re running towards them? Aren’t we going in the wrong direction?”
Anna’s breath comes in gasps. “They’re trying to burn the TARDIS.”
“Pfftt, fire won’t harm her.”
“It’s not ordinary fire.” As they approach the crowd, they hear chanting but, above that, a loud repeating chime sounds. They slow down, trying not to cause anyone to turn around and look at them.
“What’s that sound?” asks Anna.
“TARDIS alarm,” the Doctor whispers. “She’s in trouble.” They move behind the group until they find a gap where they can see between the chanting figures. The TARDIS stands in a pit, surrounded by dark blue flames. “She’s suffering,” he says, “but I don’t see how we can get to her.”
“Put on the external lights.”
“I don’t have a remote control. I can’t just put on the external lights,” the doctor whispers in an frustrated tone. “And what good would that do anyway?”
“They’re sun lights.”
“Yes, of course they’re sun lights. So?”
“These are the flames of darkness and the servants of darkness. Darkness cannot exist where there is light.”
“The fact remains, I can’t turn on the lights remotely,” he whispers, exasperation in his voice.
“The TARDIS has external sensors. Shout it out to her.”
“That won’t work,” he grumbles.
“Try. We have to save her. Now!.” Anna runs through the gap in the crowd towards the pit where dark flames threaten to destroy the TARDIS.
The Doctor sprints out behind her. “Activate external lighting! Activate external lighting!” he shouts.
The dark figures pull weapons from under their robes. Laser blasts sound and sizzle into the rock floor around them. Brilliant light blinks on, emanating from the TARDIS. More blaster fire. The flames wink out, just as Anna jumps down into the shallow pit. The Doctor jumps down after her and throws himself at the door of the TARDIS. “Open!” he cries, as his weight impacts the wood paneling of the door. It flings inwards and he stumbles onboard. Anna staggers in after him and he slams the door shut.
“We made it!” He turns to her, grinning. His face falls when he sees her. Blood soaks through the front of her gown and pools on the floor. “You’ve been shot! Oh, Anna.”
“It hurts.” She slumps the floor, propped, sitting-up, by a stair.
“I’m so sorry, Anna.” He sits on the floor beside her and takes her hand and squeezes his eyes shut.
“It’s okay. Must be all part of the plan.” She cries out in pain. Then her eyes refocus towards the ceiling, as if she’s seeing something in the distance. Her voice is little more than a whisper but filled with joy. “My husband, my children! Just as The One promised! Very soon I will be with them!”
“Anna…you’re dying.” There is anguish on the Doctor’s face. It is clear that he blames himself for what has happened to her.
“Yes. I’m dying. But I’m not afraid…Oh!” She frowns slightly.
“The only water in the forest is the river… But that’s not right… It’s not a forest – it’s a library.”
“What?!” he asks, almost shouting.
“That’s not right.” Her eyes refocus on him. “She shouldn’t be there. Her soul is trapped. It is not good.”
“You know who. Your wife.”
“River?” he whispers. “That’s not her soul. Not River. Just an echo. An echo trapped in technology.”
“Yet now you don’t ask how I know.” She smiles. “God is giving her another chance and you too. I will live to see you reunited.”
Anna only smiles. The TARDIS starts up.
“What’s happening?” He stands to look at the controls, presses some buttons and flips a leaver. But the TARDIS continues. “What’s happening?!” he shouts, pushing more buttons and then looking at the screen above the consol. Then he looks down at Anna. He crouches down beside her again, looking wild-eyed. “What’s happening?”
“The TARDIS – She believes in THE ONE WHO IS. She has glimpsed Him. She’s taking us to her daughter, your wife, as He asked her to.”
“That’s impossible.” The thrumming of the TARDIS stops. The Doctor stands and looks at the door.
“Go see where we are.”
“Where are we?” He looks down at Anna but she only smiles faintly. Slowly, he walks towards the door. He reaches out his hands and yanks the doors open quickly. The doctor’s eyes widen as a feminine gasp is heard from just outside the TARDIS. The view cuts to over the Doctor’s shoulder. River is standing just beyond the doorway, in the library.
“I don’t understand how I got here. How can I possibly be here?” she asks quickly, concern on her face. “Yet…I really am here, aren’t I?” She stares at the Doctor, apparently waiting of an answer.
Tentatively, he puts a hand to her face. “You’re alive!”
The Doctor grabs her wrist and yanks her onboard the TARDIS then slams the door behind her. River laughs and falls into him. “Hello Sweety! Excited to see me?”
“How do you feel?” he asks.
“I feel wonderful – amazing! I wonder if my regeneration energy is back. Is that possible? How did this happen?”
“Now everything is different!” Tears are in the Doctor’s eyes. “I don’t know the day you’re going to die anymore. The first time I ever met you, you died in the library.”
River grows serious and her eyes fill with tears. “I didn’t know that. It must have been so very hard on you.” She places a hand on his arm. “And now?”
“I have no idea how long you have now!” He clutches her hands and swings her around. They spin around wildly, holding hands. River laughs. Then he looks back to the floor where Anna lies.
She is still. Her eyes are open and a peaceful look is on her pale face. She is dead. The doctor kneels beside her on the floor, looking down at her. He puts his hand over her face and closes her eyes.
River comes and stands beside him. “Who was she? She looks…happy.”
“A friend. She believed in God – The One. Thought, when she died, she’d go to be with her family. Said she saw them. She said The One was giving you…us…a second chance.” He shook his head.
“I like second chances. I’d be willing to believe pretty much anything at this point.” River walks towards the console and gently touches the paneling.
“Hmm…” The Doctor jumps up, runs to River, a gleeful smile on his face. She turns, smiling broadly as he rushes towards her. Grabbing her around the middle, he lifts her and spins her round. “River, River, River, my wife! You’re back!”