“He’ll be all right, Jamie,” Zoe insisted. In their tight confinement, her voice echoed and sounded hollow. One of her hands gripped Jamie’s shoulder tightly as she watched the Doctor in the distance. He was seated in the open airlock beyond their prison cell, gasping for breath. “How many times has he got out of far worse situations than this?” she said. “He’s going to be all right.”
Jamie’s eyes were not on her. They were riveted on the little Time Lord opposite them, separated from them by a thick piece of clear glass or plastic, which Jamie was clawing desperately at.
The Doctor had been strapped to a cruel looking metal chair facing the airlock, which was opened to outer space. Before that, they had been on holiday, enjoying the sun, when Zoe and Jamie had been kidnapped. Their captors—Cybermen—hadn’t wanted information, only a simple bargain. They had wanted revenge for Mondas, and their offer was Jamie and Zoe’s life in exchange for the Doctor’s.
The Time Lord had willingly agreed, on the condition his friends were released without harm. No other appeals or pleas had worked. The Cybermen had simply bound him up, given him his choice of execution methods, and sent him away. Later, they made Jamie and Zoe watch.
The airlock had already been open for six minutes.
“Zoe,” Jamie rasped. “Zoe, he’s no’ moving!”
He redoubled his futile effort to break through the glass to get to the Doctor. Even with his sgian dubh he would have been unable to cut through the barrier, and his fingers were now raw and bruised from his desperate attempts to claw his way through. Had he succeeded, without a tether it would have only sent he and Zoe tumbling into space.
“He’s all right,” Zoe insisted, her voice growing weaker. “He’s just got to be.”
From where they stood, it was hard to see the Doctor. His back was to them, the chair blocked most of his features, and his head now sagged against his chest. Whether he still breathed was impossible to tell, but he did not move. For several long minutes, he remained like that.
Miserable with his inability to do anything, Jamie turned his back to the view, pressing against the glass. He stood that way, resolutely staring at the far wall, before slowly sinking down against the glass until he was slumped with his face buried in his knees.
Zoe knelt beside him, still watching the Doctor, found Jamie’s hand and squeezed it.
Their prison cell was small, barely four feet by four feet, and reeked of poorly recycled air. The ground was ice cold metal and they were surrounded by the thick plastic-glass on all sides save the one that led back to the ship proper. There were no chairs, no facilities, and no means of escape—there was no oxygen on the ship proper.
At last, out in the airlock, another door opened against the ship and two Cybermen stepped out into where the Doctor was being held. They began approaching the unmoving Time Lord, obviously unhindered by the lack of air or gravity.
“Jamie, look!” Zoe called.
Despondently, Jamie turned around. The Cybermen cautiously approached the prone form of the Doctor, acting as if they expected him to spring alive at any moment. The thought gave both the humans hope—the Cybermen were still wary of the Doctor. “They’re still afraid of him,” Zoe observed. “That must be a reason to suspect the Doctor is all right!”
One of the Cybermen finally reached him. It prodded the Doctor several times, but only his hair, floating softly about his face, moved. The second Cyberman jabbed a button on the back of the chair, and the restraints suddenly released. The Doctor’s body floated effortlessly up, limbs askew.
“No,” Jamie breathed, disbelieving. He was on his knees, facing the glass. “He’s got to be pretending.” He wrenched his hand from Zoe’s and beat ineffectually on the glass again. “Doctor!” he cried.
The Doctor bobbed up to the ceiling of the airlock and began inching along it, toward open space. The two Cybermen conversed with each other, though what they said, Jamie and Zoe could not hear. One Cyberman saluted and remained standing by the chair. The other turned and stalked back inside. There was silence for several more minutes, and then a groaning, grating hiss started up, as the airlock doors began to close.
The doors shut with a thud that resonated through the entire structure of the ship, and then a loud hissing filled the air as the chamber began to be pressurized.
The Doctor’s body dropped like a stone. His leg caught on the chair, causing him to twist as he fell. His legs wrenched at the waist, but he landed on his back. His eyes were open, staring vacantly up at the ceiling. There was no rise and fall of his chest.
“Doctor!” Jamie somehow managed to climb the slick wall before him, until he was on his feet again. “Doctor! Wake up!” His incessant pounding on the glass caused the Cyberman still in the airlock chamber to glance at them.
The monster said nothing, merely walked to the Doctor and gave him a swift kick to the side. The Time Lord did not stir. The Cyberman looked back at Jamie as it began to approach them.
“Jamie, be careful,” Zoe said, backing away from the wall where the Cyberman was. Her voice wavered, and her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “Oh, Jamie!” She desperately wanted to pull him back to safety, but dared not get closer.
The Cyberman stood opposite Jamie, peering down at him through the glass. After several seconds, it raised its massive hand and pressed a key on a keypad. The thick plastic separating them suddenly whisked up into the ceiling.
Within seconds Jamie and Zoe found themselves on their knees, gasping for air.
Very slowly, the chamber began to fill with oxygen. The Cyberman stood, impassively staring at them as they recovered. “It is done,” its mechanical voice said.
“Let us go,” Zoe begged, a hand to her throat.
Jamie crawled past her, working his way toward the Doctor.
“You made a promise to the Doctor,” she said, struggling for breath. “His life for ours. Please, let us go.”
The Cyberman regarded her coldly. “You are imperfect,” it said. “You are not a Cyberman. You will be upgraded and freed.”
“We don’t want to be upgraded!” she protested, growing stronger as the air poured in faster. “Please, just release us. We . . . we like being imperfect.”
The Cyberman’s back straightened. “You will be like us,” it stated.
“No,” Zoe resolutely said. “No, you will release us. That was the deal.”
“You’ve killed him!”
Zoe’s eyes shot past the Cyberman, to where Jamie knelt, cradling the Doctor’s body in his arms. The Cyberman turned to take him in as well. “That is correct,” it said.
Zoe expected fire and anger from Jamie. She expected him to attack the metal man, despite being unarmed; perhaps she even expected his devotion to the Doctor to let him win. But the Scot did not move away from the body he clutched. Tears ran openly down his cheeks. His fingers worked the shoulder he held, massaging it desperately, as if he could rub life back into him.
With a sudden, certain clarity, Zoe realized he’d lost hope. Without the Doctor, Jamie couldn’t function. In losing one, she’d lost the other.
Angrily, she forced herself to her feet. Her head throbbed and her lungs ached, but she put a hand out to steady herself against the wall, and remained standing. “Even Cybermen must have honor,” she called. “Honor your deal. Catch us again later, if you must, but let us go now. You’ve got what you wanted.”
The Cyberman couldn’t have helped but hear her, but it did not turn away from Jamie.
“This human emotion is your weakness,” it said to him. “Cybermen do not feel pain, or anger, or sadness. We are perfect. You can be like us.”
Jamie’s eyes were raw and red. Zoe could see them from where she stood. His gaze was fixed on the Cyberman, but there was no look of hate or even anger in him—just a horrible, deep emptiness. He didn’t respond, or even blink, but his fingers kept working, clutching, at the body in his arms.
“Get up!” Zoe cried, terrified of what Jamie was going to agree to. “Get up, Jamie! Jamie! Don’t let what he did for us be a waste! Jamie, please!”
It was as if he did not hear her.
“You will be like us,” the Cyberman intoned. Taking Jamie’s silence as consent, the Cyberman bent toward him, ready to drag him to his feet. One large metal hand clamped around Jamie’s wrist, and in that instant the Scot sprung alive. He revealed his concealed hand, showing the Cyberman the vial of gold dust he’d found in the Doctor’s pocket just a split-second before crushing it into the Cyberman’s chest cavity.
It let out a retching roar, jerking back in surprise as it grasped at its chest.
Jamie half stood in front of the Doctor’s prone body, like a wild animal guarding its injured mate. He watched dispassionately as the Cyberman tore through its death throes and finally collapsed, dead. Seconds later, the door to the ship began to open again, revealing the legs of another Cyberman coming to the aid of the first.
“When the doors open,” Jamie said, his voice cold and flat, “run.”
His eyes met Zoe’s for the briefest of moments, dead and empty, and she knew what he meant to do.
“Jamie!” she cried. “No!”
The second Cyberman stalked into the room, firearm raised to bear on them. “Halt!” it demanded. Jamie feigned to the left and then ran to the right, heading not toward the door, but the cage they’d been held captive in previously.
It took only one blast from the Cyberman to bring him down. Jamie fell without a cry, collapsing flat on his face, dead before he hit the ground.
Zoe didn’t think she’d ever stop screaming.
“You will be quiet!” the Cyberman demanded. “You will be silent, or you will be destroyed!”
“Jamie,” she cried. “You’ve killed him!”
“He killed a Cyberman. The exchange is now fair.”
“Fair!” Zoe shouted. “How can you talk about fair? You don’t know the meaning of the word!”
“No, I won’t be! You’re going to kill me no matter what I do, aren’t you? So I’m going to tell you whatever I want to tell you! What you need to hear!”
The Cyberman regarded her indifferently. “We will honor your bargain. You will be returned to Earth.”
“It’s too late for that now,” she spat. “Jamie’s dead!”
“You will wait here.”
The Cyberman did not say anything else. He merely turned on his heels, effortlessly scooped its dead comrade and stalked back through the still open door. The door Jamie had died trying to let her escape through. She had just stood there, horrified, and done nothing. She had wasted his sacrifice, foolish though it was.
The door slid shut behind the Cyberman, and Zoe was alone in the cold, empty room. Alone with the bodies of her two best friends.
Slowly, she crossed to where Jamie had fallen. Except for the entry wound in his back, and the stench of seared flesh, he looked almost as if he could be sleeping on his stomach. She wobbled uncertainly beside him before collapsing to her knees. She wasn’t saved. She had no idea what the Cybermen were going to do to her, but even if they let her go, she wouldn’t be saved.
“Oh, Jamie,” she cried, pulling him close, onto his back. His eyes were open, and she shut them. His hair was in disarray and she smoothed it out, so it fell neatly against his brow. She wiped her eyes dry, and then folded his hands across his chest, so his palms covered the wound in his stomach. In the silver light of the ship, he looked almost peaceful.
She was not a religious person, far too entrenched in science for such fantasies, but she vehemently wished that wherever the Doctor had gone, Jamie had gone with him.
The initial intake of air was faint enough that she didn’t hear it. She glanced about at the rustling, but Jamie was still perfectly still, and the doors were unopened.
“Oh, dear me.”
The voice was too familiar to mistake. She whirled around, and there he was, sitting up, looking disheveled and confused, but very much alive. “Doctor!”
“I suppose it worked after all! Splendid!” The Doctor clapped his hands together with gusto. Then he set about sorting over his twisted legs. “Oh my, oh my. Zoe, how did I end up on the floor?”
She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even believe what was happening was happening. It was her mind playing tricks of course, wasn’t it? Perhaps some ruse of the Cybermen?
The Doctor got to his feet and dusted himself off. He mopped himself down with his handkerchief and then started over to her, limping rather pronouncedly. “Oh my word,” he said, taking in Zoe and Jamie on the floor. “What’s happened here? You two both look a mess. Has it been that long? Poor Jamie, let’s not wake him.”
Zoe couldn’t speak, but shook her head mournfully.
“What’s wrong, Zoe?” he said. “You . . . you didn’t think I was really dead, did you? Oh, my dear. My dear, dear girl. I was able go into a hypnotic trance, you see. I wasn’t sure it would work, I was never very good at it, but it stops my hearts and lets me survive without air for much longer than I could have normally.” He started to offer her his handkerchief, but stiffened as he reached across Jamie to do so. His hand remained extended, but his eyes traveled to the boy. “Jamie?”
Zoe blinked, spilling tears down her cheeks once more. No matter what magic the Doctor had done to survive that, she knew Jamie couldn’t pull off the same stunt.
“Zoe, he’s not breathing!” the Doctor cried in alarm. He quickly put his hand to Jamie’s cheek, then dropped his handkerchief and fell to his knees, evidently preparing to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In the jostling, Jamie’s hands slipped, falling limply to his sides, revealing his exit wound. The Doctor leapt to his feet as if scalded. “Oh my word!” he exclaimed, a hand going to his mouth. His eyes were wider than Zoe had ever seen. “Oh, Jamie! Jamie!”
“He tried to let me escape,” Zoe managed to say, digging her fingernails into her knees for strength. She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the acrid stench of burnt flesh and recycled air. “He thought you’d died. We both thought it. Oh, Doctor.”
“What have you done?” the Doctor crooned, hovering over Jamie like a lost child. He worried his hands pathetically, swaying from side to side as he looked down at the boy he seemed afraid to touch, though it was clear he longed to. “Oh, Jamie! My dear, dear Jamie.”
“What can we do?” Zoe asked, her voice empty and small.
The Doctor didn’t seem to see her. He didn’t quite pace, but his hovering over Jamie’s body grew more and more territorial. His flighty features seemed to shut down, gradually getting replaced by harder ones. “Not even with Mondas destroyed am I free,” he whispered, his eyes still trained on Jamie. “Oh, Jamie, Zoe. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Zoe reached down and took Jamie’s hand in hers, because the Doctor wouldn’t and Jamie shouldn’t be alone, and gripped it tightly. “Doctor? Doctor, what do we do?” Her voice was only slightly stronger, but if she lost the Doctor again, this would all be in vain. “If they find you, they’ll kill you for real this time. We must go. It’s what Jamie would want.”
The Doctor’s eyes swept over her, and a chill coursed her entire length. Those eyes were cold and dark and unfamiliar. They were old, and alien and so hard. They were not the kind eyes of the loving, laughable Doctor she knew; they were not the eyes of grief Jamie had had. They were something horrible and black and final. In that moment, she feared him. In that moment, she knew she was as good as dead. It was already over.
Behind her, the now familiar hiss of the door opening announced the return of the Cybermen. She did not turn to see their arrival.
“It is the Doctor!” a Cyberman cried. “Impossible!”
“I am Lord of Time!” the Doctor announced. His voice was full and booming, reverberating through the room, almost deafening in its gravity. “Compared to me, you are tiny and insignificant! Too long have I allowed you free reign. Too often I have shown you mercy! You have crossed me for the very last time! It is done.”
The Doctor was bigger than life. Zoe didn’t need to see him to know his incredible wrath; she could feel his anguish as clearly as she could feel the cold of the floor beneath her. Though she had never seen him fearsome and horrible, rolling in like black thunder and lightning, she knew what he must look like. She did not want her last thoughts to be of the Doctor and his awesome fury. Instead she focused on Jamie, and how peaceful he looked.
Behind her, the Cybermen began to fire their weapons.
She reached out and stroked the hair off Jamie’s brow, and smiled as she cried. She had always wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.