Sorry this took so long, but here’s the next installment in the Doctor Who short story. Enjoy!
Upon seeing it, the word was planted into the back of the Monitor’s mind, spreading cold, tingling tendrils throughout his body. He wanted to look away from it, to run and hide like a child from an imaginary monster in the closet, but a paralyzing dread coupled with the motionlessness of his two companions prevented him from exhibiting his true reaction in an open manner.
And he feared that, were he to turn his back upon it, it would swoop upon him and drag him into a haunted abyss a thousand times colder and blacker than the Void which surrounded the Keeper’s building.
It stood twice as tall as he did, perhaps even taller, and possessed a width across its chest and shoulders that may well have been impossible for him to encircle with outstretched arms. Limber, long limbs that appeared to be bone, sinew, and muscle covered by a tight and unyielding skin were attached to a trunk formed from the darkest of black, fashioned with the ripples and curves that denoted an absence of any excess fat. From the elongated, spindly fingers fell wisps of black smoke, as if it were bleeding some kind of noxious fume. Atop the shoulders sat a large, bulbous head, smooth and featureless, save for the twin protrusions which jutted from either side and formed a pair of horns that arced out beyond the shoulders and came together at a point central to the thing’s “face”—if it indeed could be called a face, as no external organs of any sort could be discerned upon the head, not even eyes. The head tapered to a sharp, angular chin which rested against its chest, suggesting a state of dormancy.
Discomfort prevailing, the Monitor took a step away from it. He looked at the Librarian and the Paladin, and saw that, like him, they too had retreated.
“What is that?” the Paladin hissed. Her rifle was now tight in her grip, ready to be used.
“Something I found,” the Keeper remarked, standing in front of it. She gave the trio half a smile. “I assure the three of you that it’s quite harmless in this state.”
The Monitor nodded, but did not approach. “Where did you find it?” the Librarian asked.
“In a desolate area, not far from the place which you have come to know as the Death Zone. But it was here long before all of that, before the time of Rassilon.”
The Monitor turned his attention upon her, thankful to tear his eyes away from the mammoth monstrosity behind her. “It’s a Gallifreyan creature?” he asked.
“I found it on our world, but it is not Gallifreyan in origin.” She turned back, looking up at the sleeping giant. “It arrived here sometime in the infancy of the planet, from somewhere else beyond our knowledge, perhaps even from another dimension. Precisely why, I cannot say.”
The Librarian moved to her side, reaching out and touching the transparent encasement. “Is it sentient?” he inquired.
“No… and yes. As absurd as it may sound, it is simultaneously both living and machine.”
“Like a Cyberman,” the Paladin put in.
“No, not like a Cyberman. The Cybermen impose their physical alterations upon unwilling subjects through violent and relatively primitive means. This—” she paused, stroking the glass, “—this is a perfect weaving together of the cybernetic and the organic. There is a seamless continuity to its structure. I can point out specific constructs within it which are artificial, in contrast to the aspects which are part of its natural biology, but to attempt to discern where the natural ends and the artificial begins is an impossible task to undertake. One simply blends into the other.”
Merriana nodded her head, a satisfied smile filling her face as she faced her guests. “It is as perfect a balance of natural and artificial life as I have ever found in this universe. To compare the work of beings such as Cybermen to it is like comparing a stone-age wheel to the TARDIS in terms of transportation capability.”
“So it’s dormant at the moment,” the Monitor said, unwilling to close the distance between himself and it. “When will it wake?”
“When I desire it to wake. Though my knowledge of the creature is limited, I can tell you that it seems to require a large amount of rest, as its energy expenditure is incredibly high, much like that of a shrew.”
“A what?” the Paladin asked.
“Earth creature,” the Librarian replied. “Requires almost ninety percent of its own body weight in food each day due to its high metabolism, or else it will die.”
The Keeper nodded in the elder man’s direction. “Precisely,” she concurred, “except that in the case of the Absolute Rectifier, it needs vast amounts of rest rather than food as we understand it. It does need to consume, yes, and it subsists on a diet of something other than conventional food, but sleep is far more valuable to it in one sense, as it can regenerate itself in a limited sense through unconsciousness, as if sleep serves as a sort of medical treatment for it.”
“I’m sorry, what did you call it?” the Monitor asked.
“The Absolute Rectifier.”
“And where did you contrive that name?”
“From it, because that is its name.”
The Monitor glanced at his two companions for a moment, then back at the Keeper as she continued. “An odd name, isn’t it? But that is its designation nevertheless, given to it by beings who may have ceased to exist long before it arrived on Gallifrey. When I came across it, I also found with it fragments of writing, inscribed with a language which I don’t dare pretend to understand. But when I woke it, it communicated with me, told me what it was called, and presented bits and pieces of its history to me, as fragmented and incomplete as the inscriptions that had accompanied it.”
She walked to the other side of the tall cylinder, gazing at the almost featureless face. “It must have lost a great deal of its memory, because it gave me so little detail. But it told me it was weak, told me it was dying. It had preserved as much of itself as it could through dormancy, but having been asleep for so many millennia, it needed to rise and eat. I told it that I’d do what I could to help it.”
She paused, looking at the other three with a soft expression. “Then the first attack came.”
The Monitor frowned “First attack?” he asked.
“Then and there, at the site. Two Time Lords from the future—from my future, that is—came to intercept me. Deverost and Qotile, they were called. Members of the Council.”
“How do you know this?” The Paladin challenged.
“Because they told me as much,” Merriana replied with a sour look. “Braggarts, they were. Talked on and on about how they had been ordered to come back and stop me from following through with my ‘diabolical plan,’ as they put it. Sadistic ones, too. Acted like they were getting their jollies from trying to intimidate me. If they’d had any sort of torture device on hand, I’m sure they would have loved to apply it.”
The Librarian mumbled something under his breath. “And what did you do, Keeper?” The Paladin asked.
“Me? I did nothing. The Absolute Rectifier, on the other hand…”
She took a step forward, a haunting stare filling her eyes. “It came to life,” she began, speaking in a tone that barely exceeded a whisper, “and sprang from its place. Advanced on the two Time Lords with a speed I’ve never before seen from any creature, blurring through the air like a fleeting shadow, as if it were unhindered by any natural force in its movements. Before I could react, it was upon them, and placed one hand on each face. Then they disappeared—all three of them, along with the TARDIS the Time Lords had arrived in! Half a moment later, the Absolute Rectifier returned. It thanked me for providing it with nourishment.”
“Nourishment?” the Monitor asked, “You mean it devoured the Time Lords?”
“Forgive me, Keeper—” the Librarian began.
“It did, in the blink of an eye.”
“So it lives on flesh and blood?” the Monitor continued. “It consumes creatures?”
“Not the way you’re thinking, Monitor.”
“My dear Keeper, I beg your pardon, but who did you say the Time Lords were who confronted you?”
The young woman turned toward the old man. “Deverost and Qotile,” she replied. “And I know what you’re going to tell me.”
“And what is that?” the Monitor asked.
“That no Time Lords called by those names ever existed.”
The Paladin looked at the Librarian. “Is she telling the truth?” she asked.
“She is,” the hairless Gallifreyan replied, nodding.
“Because the Absolute Rectifier did not simply kill them. It erased them from history. They never existed.”
The Monitor looked up at the ominous giant, unresponsive to the conversation about it. He took a step forward—a small step. “It did what?”
“That’s how it survives, Monitor. The Absolute Rectifier targets creatures and consumes them by essentially devouring their past, up to the point of their conception. It feeds upon their past existence through this method, essentially absorbing a lifetime in a fraction of a second.”
“Amazing!” the Librarian hissed.
The Paladin moved to the Keeper’s side. “Yet it doesn’t endanger you,” she said.
The other female shook her head. “It has something to do with the bond we’ve forged when it first awoke,” she replied. “It looks upon me as its liaison, for lack of a better way of putting it.”
“You mean as its master,” the Monitor quipped.
“I don’t think so,” the Keeper answered, her tone soft and pensive. “I don’t command it, per se, Monitor. I feel no sense of superiority over it. Nor do I detect a tension of power between the two of us. It’s… well, I suppose you could say that the relationship is not completely unlike that of an ideal marriage in which the husband and wife are on the same level of thought and purpose in every conceivable way. It’s a bond so perfect, so symbiotic, that it could almost be considered spiritual.”
The Paladin wrinkled her nose. “Who’d want to marry that?” she scowled, gesturing at the giant with the tip of her rifle.
“I don’t mean it in the physical sense, child,” the Keeper replied, winking.
The Monitor put his hands to his forehead. “But I’m lost here,” he said. “This thing, this—’Absolute Rectifier,’ as you put it—it simply caused two Time Lords to cease to exist?”
“Yes,” the Keeper murmured.
“Meaning that, in so doing, no other person would realize what had happened.”
“Precisely, Monitor. Deverost and Qotile are not simply dead; they never came into being at all. They were never born. They never grew up. If there were any significant historical acts caused by one or both of their actions, those acts never came to pass, or at least didn’t come to pass by their hand, meaning that history somehow changed. And the only reason I know this is because of my bond with the Absolute Rectifier. If I were not bonded to it, I would be as ignorant of their identities and existence as you.
“As a matter of fact, that’s one of the amazing things about this creature: it’s ability to defy what we consider to be fixed points in time through its ability to erase people from history. It is not bound to our rules, whether naturally occurring or artificially put into place. When the Absolute Rectifier decides to eliminate a being, that being will be eliminated, and not a single person will remember it after it has happened, nobody but me and the Rectifier itself.”
“How!?” the Monitor cried, shaking his head. “How is this possible!?”
Merriana held up a hand. “I have a theory about this,” she said, pointing to a waist-high object beside the unconscious Rectifier. “Observe.”