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Short Attention Span Theatre
Your place for cognitive dissonance!
Author Auction fic, part 3-- COMPLETE 
28th-Oct-2008 09:32 pm
Title: The Library of Blank Books, pt. 3/3
Author: Ponygirl
Rating: PG, for half of a swear word
Characters: Nine, Rose, Ace, Seven (genfic)
Spoilers: Seasons 25-27
Warnings: Er... snark? Do you have to warn for high levels of snark, these days?

A/N: Thank you for your patience, readers, and thanks, as ever, to dark_aegis for her invaluable beta eagle-eye.

Who_Daily: a href="http://ponygirl72.livejournal.com/26947.html">The Library of Blank Books, Pt. 3</a> by lj user="ponygirl72"> (Nine, Rose, Ace, Seven | PG | Spoilers: DW Seasons 25-27)

Part 1
Part 2

The Library of Blank Books, pt. 3

"... and since then, anyone who goes near the General Collection just sort of-- disappears," the Doctor finished, chains rattling as he shifted position to try and ease the ache between his shoulder blades.

"Fascinating!" his younger self exclaimed. "That implies that the informational vortex around the library is still active, to some extent, at least. And this group of so-called scientists intends to fill the void with knowledge gleaned from the most advanced races in the cosmos, and somehow harness it for their own-- erm, are you quite all right, over there?"

The Doctor froze, then made a conscious effort to relax his cramped shoulders and stop fidgeting. "Fine. Yes. No problems, here. Nicest place that I've been chained to the wall in, oh, must be months, at least. You?"

The smaller man shrugged. "It was fine for the first twelve hours, or so. But, back to the point at hand; we can't exactly allow them to gain all the secrets of the Time Lords, now can we? The results to the Web of Time could be disastrous. I mean, with that kind of knowledge at their disposal, this lot could make the Daleks look like a children's theatre group by comparison."

He tried not to flinch. "Yeah. Sure. Not to mention the fact that I have several things on my itinerary this week that don't involve getting eaten by a book with an attitude problem. And Rose would kill me if I left her stranded here."

"Ace would probably blow up the building," the other Doctor mused.

He couldn't help the smile that tugged at one corner of his mouth. "Ace would blow up the building, wait until you'd regenerated, and then kill you."

"Uncomfortably close to the truth, I suspect. We need some sort of plan."

"Right. A plan." Okay. Focus. "Here's what we'll do. As soon as they come to the door--"

The door opened with a clang, revealing the goons and their keeper.

"Nicely timed," said the little man. "Couldn't have done it better, myself."

"It's a gift," he muttered.

* * *

"Spooky," said Rose as she and Ace walked down the deserted street leading to the library.

"I know what you mean," Ace agreed. "Looks like the locals give this place a wide berth. Can't really blame them, I s'pose. Hang on a minute, before we get to the building." She stepped over to one of the marble benches flanking the large plaza, swung her rucksack down on to the seat, and then began rummaging inside, pulling out a silver canister. "I need to check my stash."

Rose stared at the can for a couple of seconds. "You need to check your stash... of... spray deodorant?"

Ace let out a single bark of laughter. "Nah. I just re-use the cans, that's all. I need to check my stash of nitro-nine."

She must have caught Rose's blank look, because she paused, looking expectant. "Nitro-nine? Explosives? Like nitro-glycerin, but with a bit more wallop?" she said, as if it was obvious.

Rose blinked, then blinked again. Glancing down at her feet, she noticed that she was backing away from the other girl slowly, and forced herself to stop. "You're carrying a bomb," she said, more of a statement than a question. "A bomb. In a deodorant can. In your rucksack."

"I've got three," Ace said helpfully.

"Three bombs. Okay. That's really... okay. Are they safe?"

"Well, I had some problems during the early development, but in this latest batch, I think I've got everything ironed out. More or less."

I'm about to break into an evil library with a madwoman, Rose thought. Aloud, she said, "Er, good. That's good. Now, we, um-- we need to figure out how to get inside without getting eaten. I'm not sure I believe the stuff about the books, but something obviously happened to the people who've gone in there and disappeared."

"And the robot. Don't forget the robot," Ace said, packing her "stash" away and closing the sack. "The newsagent said once it got near the General Collection, it disappeared. Now, to me, that says that it was okay to be inside, just not to be where they keep the books."

"Makes sense," Rose allowed. She stared at the marble building, thinking fast. "You know, I've worked in a lot of big old buildings like this. One thing they all had in common-- they all had a main entrance, for the customers... patrons, whatever... and a tradesman's entrance tucked away out of sight, for deliveries and what have you. I bet this one's no different, and I think that's where we should go. It'll be further from the books, and if anyone's watching, they'll be paying more attention to the front door. Probably easier to break in, if it's locked, too."

"Good thinking, Blondie," Ace said, looking mildly impressed. "All right, then. Let's go find out what the inside of a Library of Blank Books looks like."

* * *

"You have no idea of the sort of power you're dabbling with," said the Doctor's previous self, his voice admirably strong and level considering that he was being frog-marched up a marble stairwell with his wrists handcuffed behind him.

"Besides," the current Doctor added, "the knowledge is no use to you if you can't access it. Try to read the books you've filled, and you'll get sucked in as well. You've no way to turn the process off."

"What makes you think that I don't?" asked the scientist; probably rhetorically.

The Doctor met his previous self's eyes for a moment, frowning.

"Well, do you?" he asked.

"Would I have started a project like this if I didn't?" said the scientist.

"Dunno, " he answered. "Depends on how much of a delusional megalomaniac you are."

The man in the white coat raised an eyebrow, and turned his attention to one of the Doctor's guards.

"Guard," he said. "Hit him. Don't do any permanent damage, please."

The Doctor gasped as the guard on his left punched him sharply in the kidney, barely breaking stride. The younger Doctor winced in sympathy, but wisely held his tongue. Taking a firmer grip of his arms, the two guards continued hauling him up the stairs.

* * *

Ace peeked out of the door of the stairwell. "All clear," she said.

Rose followed her out cautiously, looking up and down the dusty hallway. She tried the first door, and then the second. "Looks like conference rooms, or offices, maybe."

"Same here. Seems deserted," Ace said from across the hall. "I think we should split up; try to find anything suspicious."

Rose nodded. "Sounds good. Just try to give us a little warning before you go setting off any of that nitro-whatever-it-is, yeah?"

"If I can, Blondie. If I can."

"Good luck. Watch out for carnivorous books, eh?"

"Same to you."

* * *

"For the last time, you're meddling with forces that you cannot possibly understand. Causality... time itself!"

The scientist continued to adjust the detection equipment in the entryway of the General Collection, almost but not quite ignoring him.

"Time Lords," the man muttered. "The legends said that they were pompous know-it-alls, but it didn't warn that they could be so ridiculously tiresome." He raised his voice, addressing the two Doctors directly. "Look at it this way, gentlemen. You and your fellow prisoners are about to explore completely uncharted territory; unlocking new knowledge and new possibilities-- for myself and my colleagues, if not necessarily for yourselves."

He was met with no reply, and he peered suspiciously at the two of them, still handcuffed and guarded. "Little man, your companion cajoles and threatens, while you remain silent. For someone facing life from inside the pages of a book, you seem remarkably unconcerned. Why is that?"

The younger Doctor straightened himself to his full height, like a magician preparing to pull a rabbit from a hat.

"Simple," he said. "It just so happens that I have an Ace up my sleeve."

The older Doctor's eyes flickered unbidden around the room, coming to rest on a small, dark figure in the shadows of the entrance through which they'd been marched a few minutes before. He quickly looked away, clamping down on a grin, and schooling his features to a calm mask instead.

A second later, there was an outraged squawk from the other side of the doorway. The scientist looked away, toward the source of the noise, then turned back to his captive, eyebrows raised superciliously.

"Perhaps you have overplayed your hand," he deadpanned.

The smaller man's face fell as two more guards entered, subduing the struggling Ace. One of them stripped the rucksack from her, and tossed it back through the doorway, out of reach.

"Ace?" he called anxiously.

Ace jerked against the arms holding her, without effect. "Sorry, Professor. I didn't see the toerags coming."

"Never mind," said the scientist, playing his scanner over the girl. "I don't have any humans in the collection downstairs. They're not exactly what you'd call an enlightened species, but they do have a certain resourcefulness that might be useful. I'm sure we can find room in the library for your little soldier."

* * *

Rose pressed herself further into the shadow behind the pillar as the guards dragged Ace away. She could vaguely discern male voices arguing in the room beyond, but her attention was focused on the black rucksack lying abandoned on the ground in front of the doorway. Silently, she crept toward the canvas bag, praying that the commotion of Ace's capture would distract everyone for a few more precious seconds.

Sticking close to the wall, she chanced a quick look into the room. The Doctor was there, handcuffed, along with Ace and another man, surrounded by bad guys. She darted out at fast as she could, grabbed the rucksack, and pulled it back, out of the line-of-sight. Sweating, she reached inside and pulled out a silver cylinder.

It looked like deodorant.

Felt like deodorant-- well, a bit heavier, maybe.

With a deep breath, she gripped the cylinder in both hands, and barged through the door. Two guards were forcing the Doctor toward an archway on the other side of the room. Rows of bookshelves were visible beyond.

"All right-- everybody freeze!" she yelled, holding the deodorant can aloft. "This thing is a bomb, and I'm not afraid to use it!"

The Doctor was gaping at her, but she couldn't let herself be distracted.

The head baddie whirled around at the sound of her voice, and she could feel him weighing her; measuring her.

"Are you really ready to commit suicide, girl?" he asked. "I don't think you are. That doesn't even look like a real bomb. Perhaps you think you can bluff me?"

Rose opened her mouth to formulate a response, but Ace cut her off.

"Pull the top off and throw it, Sunshine!"

Rose pulled the top off, and threw it with all her might across the room and through the archway into the General Collection.

In slow motion, the silver cylinder arced through the air-- a perfect throw.

In slow motion, everyone in the room dove to the side, away from the direct line through the arch.

There was a beat. And another.

Nothing happened.

Several angry-looking guards clambered to their feet and began to stalk toward Rose as she huddled on the floor with her hands over her head. She watched as they loomed closer and closer.

"Oh, sh--" she began, only to be cut off by a deafening boom that shook the room and blew the approaching guards off of their feet. Her head was ringing as she staggered unsteadily to her feet, trying to see past the smoke and the dust.

"Rose!" The familiar shout sounded distant; attenuated. But in an instant, the Doctor was next to her, still handcuffed, and with a smattering of dust making his hair and eyebrows white. She steadied herself against him, and grinned up at him like a loon, watching as his worried look relaxed into an answering grin.

Across the room, Ace was searching the pockets of the head bad guy's white lab coat. She pulled out a set of keys, and quickly released the other prisoner's handcuffs-- her Professor, Rose was willing to bet. The two of them resumed the search, the little man pocketing several weird technological items. Then Ace pulled out a familiar-looking device, scrutinised it for a moment, and tossed it to Rose with a grin.

"Fantastic!" said the Doctor, as Rose turned the sonic screwdriver on his handcuffs, unlocking them. Rose handed him the screwdriver and he pocketed it. Then his expression fell. "Uh-oh," he said.

Rose looked around. The stunned guards were slowly beginning to pull themselves up. One of them was pointing through the archway with a shaking finger. "The books," he cried. "The books are on fire!"

Sure enough, smoke was beginning to billow from the room beyond, and Rose could just make out the faint crackling of flames as her hearing began to return to normal.

"What have you done?" yelled the scientist, now handcuffed himself, thanks to Ace.

"Should we try to put it out?" Rose asked.

"How?" said the Doctor. "If we go in there, we cease to exist."

"Oh. Yeah. Good point."

"But once a big enough percentage of the books are destroyed, the interior and exterior of the informational vortex will equalise," said the Professor. "And as soon as that happens..."

"Boom?" finished Ace.

"Boom," confirmed the Professor.

"He's right," said the Doctor. "We need to get everyone out, right now."

The guards didn't need to be told twice. Grabbing their injured colleagues, they staggered toward the exit.

"What about my specimens?" wailed the head bad guy.

The Doctor hauled him to his feet. "They should be safe underground. It'll be more of an implosion than an explosion, I expect. You know, it's a pity you couldn't've cared more about their well-being when you were planning on feeding them to the library. C'mon, Rose-- no time to lose."

In the end, they made it most of the way across the plaza with the benches before a giant sucking sound behind them alerted them to the library's final demise. A sonic boom shook the ground as air rushed back into the now-empty space, setting Rose's ears ringing once again.

"Wicked!" Ace opined.

* * *

Several hours later, Rose lounged in the jump seat as the Doctor ushered the last of the erstwhile prisoners out of the TARDIS, and back home. The fire and explosion had brought sirens to the scene within minutes of their escape from the library. The authorities were wary at first, but confirmation of the underground cells full of prisoners soon convinced them, and the scientist and his guards were taken away, into custody.

The Doctor played the Time Lord card, and in no time at all he was given free rein, granted custody of the scientist's former prisoners and placed in charge of returning them to their home planets. Somehow, in the confusion, the Professor and Ace slipped away before Rose had a chance to speak to them.

"There we go!" The Doctor strode up the ramp, dusting off his hands. "All sorted, and just in time for tea."

She smiled at him.

"Yeah," she said, wistful. "I just wish I'd had a chance to give Ace a proper good-bye."

The Doctor leaned against the console in front of her, one ankle crossed over the other.

"Liked her, did you?"

Rose snorted. "If by 'liked', you mean 'was scared to death of', then... yeah. I liked her."

He turned around, and began setting the co-ordinates on the TARDIS console.

"Who knows," he said. "Maybe your paths will cross again, someday."

"Maybe. It's just... her and the Professor. They reminded me a lot of me and you. I thought we were unusual, but now... maybe there are lots of people travelling around out there, standing up for what's right and fighting the bad guys. Y'know?"

The Doctor only smiled, and hit the dematerialisation lever.


29th-Oct-2008 06:29 am (UTC)
Seven & Ace with Nine & Rose in a creepy library? Fantastic!
29th-Oct-2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it. Or should I say "Wicked!"?
29th-Oct-2008 09:19 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this :o) A lot of the Ace and Rose interaction made me laugh, especially the bit about the nitro-nine, and "I'm about to break into an evil library with a madwoman" :oD Lots of fun, this fic, and I think I'll bookmark it for later re-reading.
29th-Oct-2008 12:38 pm (UTC)
Aww... thanks hon! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and that I could brighten your day. Hope you're feeling better today.
30th-Oct-2008 05:00 am (UTC)
Great finish! Rose and Ace make a fantastic team, and I loved Nine's silent amusement at Rose commenting that Ace and her Professor were a bit like her and the Doctor. Very nicely done! :)
30th-Oct-2008 02:17 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! See? I can keep the angst mostly out of a story, when requested to do so. ;-)

This is me, aiming for a "lighthearted romp".
30th-Oct-2008 05:29 am (UTC)
The entire story was so fun, both because of the memorable faces as well as the excitement and drama of it. You do write action sequences well! But there was something so sad and wistful about the end of it! Nine was so very in character, and with the Time War such a recent event, he must have felt sad and wistful at the end of the adventure. Beautifully done! Thank you so very much for all the hard work you invested in it!
30th-Oct-2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the kind words! Anytime one writes for Nine, the Time War is always the elephant in the room. I didn't want it to be the focus of this story, by any means... but it is very much a fact of the NuWho universe.
1st-Nov-2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
Lovely! Rose & Ace make a good team ;-)

Edited at 2008-11-01 03:40 pm (UTC)
1st-Nov-2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
2nd-Nov-2008 02:08 am (UTC)
This was great fun! I wish there were more multi-era stories out there. Thanks again for participating in the auction and writing this for me.
2nd-Nov-2008 05:08 am (UTC)
Oh, good! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for being so generous, and for bearing with me through my molasses-like writing efforts.

Like you, I'm a complete sucker for multi-era. I wish more people would write it.
(Deleted comment)
27th-Sep-2009 03:30 am (UTC)
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