|Doctor Who Benny Internet Adventure #01 - "The Slay"
by Jeffery Beuck
Extract from yellow "Post-It" Note affixed to the Diary of Prof. Bernice Surprise Summerfield:
What can I say? I was overjoyed and exuberant when my husband (well, ex-husband, if you want to be strictly accurate) Jason appeared from nowhere in his shiny environmental suit, my knight in shining armor. After a brief misunderstanding in which Ariadne was knocked unconscious, Jason explained to me how he and his fellows were searching for a lost artifact which possessed the power to deactivate the nanites causing the mutations on Gash. The artifact would be the saviour of both the Changed and unChanged alike. After a pleasant exchange of differences which did not turn in the least bit hostile, Ariadne and I cheerfully set out with Jason's posse in search of this mysterious artifact, which could literally be anywhere on the planet. I love nothing quite so much as a good archaeological challenge.
* * *
Extract from the Diary of Prof. Bernice Surprise Summerfield hidden beneath above-mentioned "Post-It" note:
The bloody git did it again!! The bastard! There I was, minding my own business, getting a peaceful handle on the senseless racial dispute between the Changed and unChanged, when the bloody, no-good, [expletive deleted] Jason Kane appears out of nowhere, and sticks his unwelcome nose into my business. What the hell was he doing there? Of course, the first thing he does is knock poor Ariadne unconscious. I suppose that for the sake of historical accuracy I should mention here that Ariadne was attempting to claw his face off at the time, but that was still no excuse. Well, I guess it was. I hate it when he does this! Even after all this time, and all the crap he's put me though, I still can't decide whether I love him or hate him. The worst part is that he doesn't really even care what I feel! He only looks out for himself! And that's exactly what he was doing here -- looking out for himself yet again. Why can't he just leave me bloody well alone?
After the attack on Ariadne (or vice-versa), he looked at me with those sheepish, puppy-dog eyes, the ones that used to melt my heart. He looked so helpless and dependent, but I wasn't falling for that mularkey again. Not this time. He had a half-dozen goons to back him up, all with those nanite shields. The shields shouldn't have been able to affect me yet, but I wasn't taking any chances.
"What are you doing here, Mr. Kane?" I asked him, trying to appear as distant and cold as possible.
"Er ... um ... " he began. After a few seconds, the speech centers in his brain finally kicked in, and he explained to me that he was assisting the people of Gash in locating an ancient artifact from before the war, an artifact which could save both Changed and unChanged alike. After pressuring him for a few more specifics, he finally broke down and explained that he was working with the unChanged to find the long-lost Nanite Failsafe program which would deactivate the little metal buggers and put an end once and for all to the waves of random mutations that swept this godsforsaken planet. Of course, he had just *happened* to get to Gash several weeks before me, make friends with the unChanged, and realize that he had no clue where to start when he discovered that by some conincidence my ship just *happened* to have crashed on the very same planet. Although he pleaded complete ignorance as to the causes of the Athens's crash, I couldn't help but cast some suspicion in his direction as to the reason for our crash.
"And what will happen to the Changed when you suddenly deactivate all of the nanites that are keeping the Changed alive in their artificially mutated bodies?" I asked, ratherly cleverly I thought. Jason replied that he didn't know, but he was sure they'd be fine. Of course, this initiated a round of muttering and growling from the assembled Changed in the cavern. I knew that Jason wasn't involved in all this for purely humanitarian purposes -- like everything else he's ever done, he must have had an ulterior motive. And as I didn't know what this was, I thought it better to reject his offer.
Straight up, I told him to go to hell.
I don't remember much of what happened next, but I do remember a full-scale battle breaking out, and the last thing I remember before being knocked unconscious by a large stone was Jason and his associates carrying Guardian Ariadne and myself out of the cavern.
* * *
The Protector/Guardian of Serenity stared in disbelief at the obviously incorrect judgement pronounced by the Slay. The crowd fell into silent whispering, just as unable to understand the error. In generations, the Slay had been infallible, the center of the unChanged's faith. But now it was utterly and completely wrong.
Orn turned to the Peace fidgeting nervously next to the Slay. "What is wrong? Why is it telling us that this abomination is unChanged? Is it broken?" The Peace shrugged, and they all began to look from the Slay to the Utrassi in fear.
They were abruptly saved from the inevitable mass hysteria and confusion when Rech'y'van murmured, "I don't know what you're doing, but I'm not from your world. This is my natural form! Let me go, and I can explain, help you. Please? I'm hurt and I need rest."
The commotion of the crowd grew louder. A few of the crowd began to shout, "The Pit! It is an abomination!" The others quickly silenced them. The decision of the Slay was sacred.
Orn made an abrupt decision. "Take it away. Put it back in the cell until I decide what to do with it. We'll return to it later," he told the guards. As the Peace dragged Rech away, half the crowd let out a cheer of relief, and the other half began shouting and cursing all the more.
"The Slay has deemed that this creature should live ... for now," Orn Hull declared. "The Slay must be obeyed. Never fear, though. There are two more abominations to be tested. The Slaypit's hunger will be satiated on those who would contaminate our species with their uncleanliness. Bring the ex-Guardian!"
Kem resisted in fear as his former subordinates dragged him to the Slay and thrust his hand inside. He closed his eyes, praying that somehow the Slay would pronounce him unChanged. Only a moment passed, though, before he heard the crowd roar and begin to chant, "Death! Death!" At that moment, he knew his life was over. For the first time in his life, he realized that what the unChanged was doing to the Changed was wrong, horribly wrong. The Changed had done nothing sinful to be treated in this fashion. He opened his eyes.
The Slay glowed blue.
"Burn him! Burn him!" the crowd chanted. Shouts of "Changed!", "Unclean!", and "Abomination!" were hurled at him, accompanied by sticks and rocks. His two Peace guardians turned him around and dragged him towards the Slaypit.
"This is wrong! Orn has poisoned me with the meat of the Changed to gain control of Serenity! What you are doing is wrong--" Kem was abruptly silence by a blow to the head from Orn.
A blast of flame lit up the night, and one of the Peace carrying Kem collapsed, his hand clutching his chest. Another blast of flame, and the chest of the second Peace collapsed. Orn and the others looked around in confusion.
"Father! This way!" Kem heard a voice calling. It was his son.
Del Allane stood before the shadows of the Filter Forest, clutching a weapon in one hand, aiming it at the other Peace who stood their ground. "If any of you move, you die!" Del shouted. Kem limped over to him.
"You will both be cast into the Slaypit for this! You are abominations and traitors to your kind!" Orn shouted.
"Abominate this," Del muttered and fired at the Protector's heart.
Orn screamed and toppled over as the blast hit him in the leg.
A shout of anger rose from the crowd.
Del put his arm around his father. "Can you run?" Kem nodded. "Let us flee, quickly." With one arm supporting the elderly man, Del and Kem limped speedily into the forest. The crowd started after them, but hesitated as they considered the destructive force of Del's evil weapon.
"Kill them. I want them destroyed," Orn Hull hissed as he clutched his wounded leg. "And bring me that magic weapon." A few of the Peace picked up their spears and started off in pursuit. Orn whimpered as the burning pain seared through his leg. This had not been a good night. In the recorded history of the Slay, only one Changed had ever escaped the Slaypit after being tested, and that demon had escaped into the wastes nearly ten years earlier. Tonight, though, two had managed to avoid the Pit. The people of Serenity would have his head for this.
Only the death of the last prisoner, his own mother, could redeem him. Once, many years ago, Orn would have felt at least a twinge of regret for throwing his mother to the Pit. But in recent months the woman had become unspeakably wicked; her intrusion into his private quarters the night before confirmed it. He gestured for the Peace to help him stand. As the guards helped him to his uninjured leg, he cried briefly in pain. "The Changed shall not escape!" he declared to the people. "Bring the last prisoner to the Slay!" The Peace dragged his mother, Cordelia, to the testing box.
"If you kill me, the people of Changetown will rise up and slay you all!" Cordelia shouted to the crowd. "We cannot help who we are! Let me go free, and there can be peaceful coexistence between the people of Serenity and the people of Changetown!"
The crowd booed and hissed. "Burn her! Burn her!" they shouted. One of her guards raised his spear, but Cordelia was not quick enough to completely deflect the guard's mind from the attack. The spear delivered a glancing blow to her oversized, sensitive head. She cried in agony. She felt one of the guards lift her hand to thrust it into the Slay ...
"Wait," she heard one of the guards say. She opened her eyes, and saw a group of silver-suited figures walk into the clearing. The crowd began to mutter in fright, suspecting these to be yet more Changed.
Orn, supported by the Peace, hopped over to the leader of the silver creatures. The leader was carrying a strange-looking woman; another was carrying an antennae-headed Changed. The leader set down the woman it was carrying and removed its helmet. The crowd gasped to see an unChanged man beneath.
"How dare you interrupt the Slay Night!" Orn hissed.
"Forgive me," the man replied, "but I have found the woman from the stars whom I told you about. Her name is Bernice. She can help us find the location of the Failsafe program. With it, you can destroy all of the Changed in a single blow." He motioned to the Changed whom his compatriot bore. "This Changed is a gift to you, to show you my good faith. Now, about your side of the agreement ..."
"The agreement can wait. The Slay must proceed." Wincing in agony, Orn turned to the Peace. "Continue with the testing!"
Cordelia's hand was thrust into the Slay.
The blue light shone.
The Peace supporting her dropped her as she reached into their minds and turned them off. She turned as four more raised their spears and prepared to attack her. Quickly, one by one, she put the first three asleep. She didn't have time to nullify the fourth, though. The fourth jabbed his spear through her side, and she cried out in pain, realizing the battle had been lost.
Hearing a strange cry and finding herself on the cold ground, Benny awoke.
Cordelia knew the end was near. She could barely breathe, now that a spear had punctured her abdomen. The Peace were already dragging her to the Slaypit. There were only moments left.
Reaching out with her mind, she tried to contact the mind of one who was just beginning to undergo the Change.
She could feel the heat from the flames as the Peace held her over the Slaypit.
She found a mind that had just begun to Change. There was still time to influence its mutation. She transferred her mental powers into that one, and guided the Change in that one so that it would duplicate her abilites to the letter.
The Peace cast Cordelia Hull into the Slaypit.
The crowd roared.
Benny's head reeled.
A flash of flame, like a solar flare, erupted from the Slaypit, accompanied by an unearthly wail.
Benny rolled over and went back to sleep.
* * *
Emile awoke. As he opened his mouth to speak, a foreign hand covered it.
"Keep quiet, if you wish to remain alive."
Emile looked up and saw that he was still with the unChanged man who had killed Markov. In the distance, he could hear scattered shouts from the wild Changed, protesting the capture of Cordelia. The shouts were coming closer. The man removed his hand from Emile's mouth.
"Nice pyjamas," the man whispered derisively. Caught off-guard, Emile blushed, embarassed. So, this man was an-offworlder. One of Jason's party?
A Changed came into view, a feline-like creature who appeared completely harmless. The off-worlder raised his blaster and put a hole through it. The creature fell into the dirt.
"What did you do that for?" Emile hissed. "It looked harmless."
"We're here to put an end to the 'Changed,' as the normals call them," the man replied. "Picking off a few here and there will just make our job easier later on."
Emile stared at the man for a moment. He was rather handsome, in a rugged kind of way. If the man hadn't been such an utter bastard, Emile might quite have fancied him.
* * *
Del helped his father into the cavern where he had found the gun. Kem looked around in wonder. "How did you find this place?"
"I stumbled across it one day in my patrols, hunting Changed. I knew instantly it was something special."
"It is, it is," Kem replied. He hobbled over to a crease in the wall. Two of the walls were made of solid metal. "I think that this place is a relic of the pre-war days, a place where weapons were stored."
"You should rest, father. It is still a long way to Changetown, and we should get moving, while it is still dark."
"I have a better plan." Kem collapsed to the floor. "About ten years ago, a friend of mine, Ponretto, was suspected to have the Change. On Slay Night, he was tested, and found positive. Ponretto had a special mutation, though." He paused, recalling the days of yore. "He had the ability to remutate those who already had the Change, something which was unique. Using his abilities, he strategically reChanged two of the others who were due to be tested that night, allowing one to emit a blinding light, and another to confuse the minds of those holding him. Using these distractions, he made his escape into the wilderness. Until tonight, he was the only one to ever have escaped the Slay. I think we should head into the wilderness to seek him. Now that the Changed have united as one people, he could be a valuable asset in the conflict to come." He groaned as two fins pushed their way another few millimeters from his back.
"Surely you can't believe that this Ponretto has survived in the wilderness for ten years?" Del questioned. "There's -- there's nothing out there except desert!"
"The war was a very long time ago. Ponretto may have found another hospitable environment far away from Serenity and begun his own colony of Changed. I admit it's an improbable chance, but one worth inquiring into."
Del looked at his father. He didn't seem strong enough to make such a journey himself. "I have a better idea. Let me get you to Changetown, and I'll go on alone and seek out this Ponretto."
"No, no! He wouldn't recognize you or trust you. I'm Changed. He would trust me. He might even be able to help me." He gasped for breath. "I think I'm Changing into some kind of sea creature. I'm finding it harder and harder to breathe. I may die soon unless he can stop my mutation."
Del nodded in agreement. "Then there isn't much choice. Get some rest. I will guard this cavern tonight with my 'gun.' In the morning, we will head into the wastes and search for Ponretto."
* * *
And that night, in the village of Serenity, Benny's head swelled (literally) about two inches.
To be continued...
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