XTC
by Henry Wyckoff
Crossover: XF, DW (4th Doctor), HL, ST:Voy, and the world of David Eddings


Chapter 16

Darkness Within Darkness


Pancho had been watching the trucks the whole time. When he turned, back around, he saw that everyone else had vanished.

"What the hell?"

He walked a few steps forward and found that there was something keeping him away. Not a force, per se, but a fear that wouldn't let him move any further, like the fear that keeps you from moving when you know you'll be hurting only a moment later. Only thing was, Pancho didn't know what this hurt would be.

"Damn it." He had no memory of this event. In fact, there were a lot of things that he didn't remember because of his twetieth-century self's current condition.

The curious thing was that the people walking around him avoided the spot too, choosing to walk around, even though they were taking inconvenient routes. Though their way was not visibly blocked, they behaved as if it was ... and yet they also behaved as if the spot was invisible.

"Excuse me!" he said to one pedestrian, suddenly pretending he were blind.

"Yes?" answered the person.

"Is there anything over there blocking the road?"

"No," the person hesitated. "Looks clear to me." He decided to be a good samaritan. "Do you need help getting anywhere? I have a few moments."

"No thank you," smiled Pancho. "I'm waiting for somone. Just curious, is all." He saw the look of confusion as the man went on his way. After the man had passed, his smile faded. Something odd was going on.

Then he saw Powys, hiding behind a pillar of the parking garage. "Welshie, you've got some explaining to do."

Pancho knew the grounds well enough to sneak up behind where Powys sat. Just as he was about to wrap a knife around Powys' neck, everyone reappeared, behaving as if nothing had ever happened. Pancho was so shocked that he didn't do anything for a few moments.

Powys looked at the coin that had just fallen to the ground. "Heads. My luck hasn't failed me yet."

"What luck would that be?" asked Pancho, keeping a hand on his knife.

Powys turned around. "There you are. I didn't see you come up."

Pancho's expression was grim. "What the hell did you do?"

Powys' expression was honest enough, "I didn't do a damn thing to start it. I was just lucky enough to pick a universe where they'd come out of it all right."

"What are you talking about?"

"Somebody just shoved them into a box," he nodded towards the group, which had just gathered together. "Just like Schroedinger's cat, and there was a high chance that when the bubble popped, they'd all appear dead. A convenient way to end a threat, wouldn't you say?"

"I'd say that a few rocket launchers fired from the administration building is a more effective way."

"Maybe, but this is subtle."

Pancho turned his head then and noticed something unusual. Somebody was staggering out of the parking garage, holding his head. "I wonder if he has anything to do with this?"

"Him? Maybe... or maybe he just got back from getting stoned."

"Stoned?" Pancho snorted. "Jump into the 90s! It's heroin and XTC now, and XTC for only a little while."

"Shows you how fickle people are."

They decided to ignore the staggering man.

"Come on, Welshie. You're coming with me."

"Where?"

"Back to the others. I'm sure that whatever you say will be very helpful. Scully's really going to enjoy it."

Powys shook his head, chuckling as he got up. "I can remember when it was Axer's 'duty' to break the bad news to Scully. This'll be a cake walk compared to what those two used to get into. Behind her back, he used to call her 'Miss Abrasive Personality Queen.'"

Pancho snorted, trying to hold back a laugh. "What did he call her in public?"

"Just 'Scully' as far as I know. Unless he was talking *to* her, and then he'd use a bunch of adjectives."

They reached the rest of the crowd. Scully turned around, "Powys! Just the one I wanted to see!"

Powys smiled, "Your place or mine?"

The comment was not only totally unexpected, it was so out of place that Scully just stared at him, with her jaw hanging open for a few moments. Everyone else was just as shocked. A moment later, she snapped at him, "I'm warning you, Powys, I've had enough of your games, and if you try avoiding the issue, I'll have you arrested."

He smiled.

"By Interpol."

He frowned, "On what charge?"

"False impersonation of an Interpol officer. You turned in your badge years ago, and there are two witnesses to the fact."

Powys tilted his head, "Do you think I really care about anything you can throw at me?"

She stepped a bit closer, her volume low but her eyes focused, "I think you're very afraid, especially when your luck runs out. Why don't you start talking?"

"All you needed to do was ask. What do you want to know?"

"What happened?"

Powys sighed, "Someone tried to very hard to kill you. Things have gone that far, that she'd try to be this subtle. You see, she wanted to kill you so silently that you wouldn't even know it happened. Why, you could be dead now and you might not know it."

Scully shivered, not knowing why. "What could have done something like this?"

The Doctor answered, "The Anti-Man could."

Powys spun, "You've encountered the Anti-Man?"

He nodded, "I see you have too."

"Yes. I wish to God I hadn't, but I have. His brief appearance on this world was a... precursor of darker moments to come." He looked at Scully. "You were with me."

That caught her by surprise. "What?"

He nodded, "I blocked out the memory, which is why you didn't recognize me on the plane, or at your sister's funeral just beforehand. I wish I could have done it to myself. Have you ever wondered why you always hated Axer Carrick with a passion? An almost irrational passion? (Forgive the redundancy)."

*

*

She looked at Powys, "I remember everything. You hypnotised us!"

He looked pained, "Hypnotism is for carnivals and magic shows. Plus, it doesn't work. Let's just say you chose to forget for your own reasons. Scared people will do anything to forget certain things."

Her eyes widened, "I remember something else you said. You theorized that the Anti-Man was summoned ..." Through closed eyes, she tried to remember the fleeting memory. "I forgot."

Powys shrugged, "It must not have been important."

The Doctor paced back and forth, his mind alight as a thousand thoughts ran through his head. Scully's story had disturbed him. "This is not good. You actually saw an Anti-Man, and even interacted with it."

Powys nodded. "There's something beyond the obvious that disturbs you."

"Yes." The Doctor's eyes closed. "Once you reach my age, things start to slip, and there's something that's threatening to slip away, but I know it's there."

It was Silk who came up with the right question. Trust a truly ignorant man to find it. "If this Anti-Man needs such protection to even come here, what would be his motivations in doing it? What would he want?"

The Doctor's eyes opened. "That's it!"

"What's it?" Scully asked him.

"I found the elusive thought! The Anti-Man has absolutely no motivation in coming here, but he might have motivation in taking something from here! He wanted something that I might have had to offer, and he might have had something that either one of you, or Axer, had to offer."

That thought hadn't occured to Powys, and he looked troubled as well. "Could it be though that the Anti-Man is the agent? Or is there another agent?"

"Agent?"

"The prime mover of what is unfolding. The Anti-Man would need some kind of data or information to reach this side. Could it be someone on this side who provided it, or could the Anti-Man's presence be the result of their own efforts?"

Memories ran through the Doctor's brain, but it was Sarah who spoke first, "I remember a time when we found a gateway, and a team of scientists were gathering anti-matter to use as a fuel source. The head scientist knew of the gateway, and the monster that nearly killed the head scientist -- the monster from the other side who wanted to reclaim that anti-matter -- knew about it too. It could be both sides."

Powys and Scully stared at her for totally different reasons. Silk didn't understand a thing, so he just had a blank face. Pancho understood who Sarah was, so didn't raise an eyebrow. The Doctor was disapproving, because it meant that his secret was obvious, even if nobody was grabbing at the hint.

Scully shook her head, "Who are you?"

"I'm Sarah Jane Smith," she smiled, imitating the Doctor perfectly, "and this is the Doctor."

Scully felt like collapsing Sarah's throat into a fine cord. "I *know* that! I mean, who are you with?"

They looked at one another, and said at the same time, "We're with UNIT."

Scully nodded, "I've heard of that. You deal with 'extraterrestrial' events?"

"Pretty often, that's the case."

* * * *

Jan looked around his new landscape. The University was gone and had been replaced by a dark passageway. Clovis stood still, leaning against the wall. Something seemed strange, and Jan finally realized what: Clovis was happy.

"Something weird just happened," noted Jan. "Did you see it?"

"Not much really. Was I supposed to notice anything?" Clovis' voice was totally unconcerned. He was happy because he didn't care about a thing. "I think this is your fantasy. Do you recognize it?"

Jan looked around. "Never seen it in my life." That was not true. "Something is familiar though." He began to become very afraid. "Something is not right."

Clovis shrugged, "So you're having a bad trip. That's bound to happen sooner or later. Maybe your real desire is to live a nightmare. Sometimes that gets dredged out by the drugs."

Jan suddenly realized something. "This is real."

"Of course it's real. How else do you think XTC can be so great? This isn't a fantasy -- it's the real thing. Nobody can see us, but we're here. Come on. Let's explore your desire."

They walked through one dark tunnel after the other. "It seems pretty featureless."

Clovis shook his head, "That's a matter of perspective. I find these passageways nice and soothing." He smiled, "No sun. I don't like the sun."

"You don't like the sun? Why?"

"I just like being in the dark."

They finally reached a change in the pattern. They reached a room, with redness radiating from it, touching them from hundreds of feet away as they approached it. On entering this room, they encountered a Spanish Inquisition-style interrogation room. Nobody was being questioned, but it was apparent that the instruments were ready for use. All the fires were nice and hot.

"Pretty cool. Were you an Inquisitor once?"

"No. But I was questioned. Not fun. Ever meet Torquemada?"

Clovis shrugged. "No, nice guy?"

Jan stared at him, "Not even to his assistants."

Although there had been no doors, one suddenly slid into place over the entranceway from the ceiling, effectively blocking the exit.

"I see the honored guest has arrived." whispered a voice that came from everywhere.

"Who are you?" screamed Jan in total fright.

The voice didn't respond, but Clovis said, "Pretty cool. I think you're about to find out what nightmares are made of."

Jan spun on Clovis, "How do you know that?"

Clovis pointed to the wall. "Only 'cause he showed up."

Jan jerked his head to where he pointed, and saw a hooded monk in pure white. The monk raised a skeletal hand, and spiked chains appeared from nowhere, whipping themselves around Jan's body, confining him as effectively as a fly caught in a spider's cocoon. The chains bound his legs, wrapped around his chest, binding his arms to his sides, and covered his mouth. His screams came out, but they were incoherent moans. Jan struggled as hard as he could, but the chains only wound tighter, digging into his body. Blood began dripping from the spikes.

Clovis sat down on a block, "Cool. Mind if I watch?"

Jan's eyes painfully moved to Clovis, perhaps in a plea for help and perhaps some disbelief as well. He was trying to say something, but all that came out was a moan. A long, pitiful moan.

The monk slowly approached.

* * * *

Janeway opened a second beer. Whether she had a beer or not, she had decided that life was good right now. Smog above, nothing going on at the moment, and a pleasant sense of exhaustion that made sitting back against a tree even better.

Even without having gotten shot, she had every reason to feel exhausted. Who else could claim to be a captain of a lost starship, deal with a kidnapping event, travel across time and space, and cope with all the events that followed? It was hard to believe that it wasn't even the next day yet.

A tear fell down her cheek as she realzed that sooner rather than later, she'd have to return to the ship. Even if this world was in her past, she knew that she wanted to stay But she knew better. She had her responsibility to the crew of Voyager.

"You're troubled about something," observed Methos lightly. Under his jovial surface, she could feel a strong power.

"This isn't my home," was all she said.

Methos thought about it for a moment. "But it reminds you of home?"

She nodded.

He took another swig of his own beer. "You're weighing duty with your own needs. What would happen if you threw your duty to the winds?"

"I don't know."

Methos paused for a moment, "I've often wondered about Clovis and Pancho. Does Pancho belong here? Or Duncan?"

Janeway gasped, and looked at Methos with shock before she could catch herself, which she did. "What do you mean by that?" She hoped that he wasn't suspecting the truth.

"I know Duncan MacLeod very well. The Duncan that I saw today seems much different. More... weathered, I would say. He's always been stolid, but he's worse now. It's as if he's been taken through hell. Pancho? He looks like a Clovis who learned his lessons, but still carries the pain." He shook his head. "A wonder Clovis is still alive..."

* * * *

Clovis was eating popcorn. He didn't know how it had gotten there, but this was XTC, so who cared? Jan was being slowly taken apart, slice by slice. The Inquisitor was quite skilled. He also wasn't asking questions, and he wasn't listening.

But somebody else did ask a question. "Clovis?"

He turned around, finding a black-suited gentleman. If he hadn't known better, he'd/ve thought the guy it was a nobleman of some sort. "Yes?"

The gentleman held out his hand, "I believe you know me."

"You're right. You're very familiar. Have I seen you here?"

"You've seen me many places. I was wondering if we might talk?"

"Sure."

They left the room. Clovis didn't even think about Jan anymore. They left the tunnels in a flash, and were now outside of a grand English mansion, in a garden where tea and biscuits were being served. Clovis hadn't had much of an appetite since he'd been drinking most of the time, but now he found himself hungry.

"You do know that there is a confrontation coming up?" asked the gentleman. "You might have been told that it's a 'fight between good and evil' or some such nonsense?"

Clovis shrugged, "I figured something was up. Why else would all that chaos erupt?"

"Not chaos," corrected the gentleman. "A buildup of potential. Do you know what I mean?"

"A spring gathering tension, I gather."

The gentleman nodded, "Do you know what this confrontation is about?"

"It all comes down to economics, that's what I always say." He corrected himself. "That's what I always say after I heard it from Marx."

The gentleman nodded and explained for several minutes.

Clovis smiled, sipping some wine that had just been delivered by a faceless butler. "So you're saying you want me to be your representative?"

"That's it," smiled the gentleman.

"What do I get out of it?"

The smile widened, "How would you like to join my company? All the time you want in this place, and whenever you want to return to your own world, all you have to do bring someone else over here. Not much of a price, don't you think?"

"One might even thing it an extra bonus," Clovis laughed, thinking of Jan. "You know, the more I think about it, the more I like hurting people. I mean, I could be having some fun with Jan."

"You'll become one of us yet."

If Clovis had seen himself in the mirror, he would have sworn he'd turned just a shade whiter. "Speaking of Jan, why don't we see how much he's enjoying the special attention?"

"Excellent idea."

They made their way to the tunnels. The way now seemed somehow less dark, but more soothing. It occured to Clovis that it wasn't that there was more light, but rather that he'd just become used to the place.

They returned to find Jan in ... a lot of pain. Whatever he'd thought agony was before, it wasn't anything near what he was feeling now. "How's it going, Jan. Having any fun?"

A detailed description of what had been happening to Jan would most likely turn the stomachs of anyone paying attention, and in any case would probably be illegal. Perhaps it would be more effective to say that Jan was very much alive, unable to scream, and desperately wishing that either condition was not true.

Jan's eyes opened, and as he looked at Clovis, they widened even more. What he saw, he couldn't believe. Had he been able to speak, he would have shouted, "He's one of them!"

Them. Not even a suitable word for what Jan saw. "_THEM!_" might be a closer approximation, but even then, it didn't do the concept justice.

"Jan. Do you know why I needed the XTC?" Clovis waved his arms out, "This! I'm no longer the observer, watching everyone possessing happiness that I never could! Now, *I* am happy. Do you know something? Your happiness was transparent and transient. Mine will last forever."

* * * *

Duncan was making himself a sandwich. Jan and Clovis had been silent and still for a while now. He'd overheard the argument they'd had. Jan, the Puritan after his time, had no understanding of why someone would want to escape the real world. Clovis couldn't understand someone who didn't want to escape.

He shook his head, //Can't help but feel sorry for them ... mmm... good sandwich, though.//

The sight was pretty grisly and sudden, and as luck would have it, it happened at the same moment Duncan bit into the sandwich (and though he knew better, he would always afterward associate biting the sandwich with what happened to Jan). Clovis and Jan still sat a few feet apart, Indian-style, but everything was not the same. Clovis went as pale as bone, and Jan was . . . a mess. How he'd gotten into that condition Duncan had no idea, for two reasons: (1) whatever instruments needed to create Jan's condition were not visible, and (2) it would be virtually impossible to imagine what instruments or means could create such a condition.

Duncan dropped the sandwich on the floor and stared open-mouthed at the sight. "Hey! Methos!" he yelled. "You need to see this!"

* * * *

Chakotay slowly opened his eyes, and raised his head with great effort. At first, he was disoriented, but clarity soon came. The first thing that he noted was that Janeway and Methos were shooting the breeze, leaning against a tree, and drinking some beer.

It was Janeway who noticed her officer's revival from his coma-like state. "Chakotay!" She ran over to him, helping him sit up, "Are you all right?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Just had some strange visions."

Methos blinked, but Janeway knew that the visions could have some meaning worth noting. "What did you see?"

Before Chakotay could answer, they heard Duncan yell, "Hey! Methos! You need to see this!"

Something about his tone got them running into the house. On reaching it, they all thought they were going to vomit.

"What happened?" Methos finally asked.

Janeway held back her sickness because she was familiar with having to do that. Looking at Chakotay, she raised her eyebrows, and he nodded. "I think we know what's at work here."

"What!?" Methos and Duncan asked unison.

"Trouble."

* * * *


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