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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #02 - "Six Sides to Every Story"


Chapter 1
"Ad Astra"
by William Howells


---


"Why is it that whenever you get to the end of a jigsaw, there's always one piece missing?"


* * *


"The die is cast
The time is nigh
Time's the die
The die will fly.
The die rolls quickly;
Time flies fast.
Is it the die
Or Time that's cast?"


* * *


The warehouse stood in darkness as it had for decades. Unentered and undisturbed, since the War.


       Then the dust began to move. A breeze filled the expanse. A column of dim light in the middle of the floor, the air whirling around it. And an asthmatic groaning as something materialized.


* * *


Dr. Grace Holloway kept her eyes shut, but the ringing continued. She reached out a hand to turn off her alarm, but she felt only her half-empty glass of water as she knocked it the floor.


       Swearing to herself, she tried to mop up the water in the dark, hoping she hadn't woken the Doctor.


       The Doctor. She was in the TARDIS. That's why she didn't have an alarm clock.


       The deep, sonorous ringing continued.


       Grace ran to the door.


* * *


"Doctor!"


       A young, tousle-haired man was standing at an archaic console in the middle of the cathedral-like structure she had entered. Almost tripping over her dressing gown, Grace rushed to his side.


       "Doctor!" she repeated. "It's the Cloister Bell."


       He turned a series of dials in front of him. "Yes," he said, bemused.


       "Shouldn't we do something, then?" Grace asked, trying to get between him and the console.


       "Yes, yes," he murmured, moving round, away from her.


       Grace was amazed. "I thought the Cloister Bell signified death, doom, and destruction!" she shouted.


       Finally, the Doctor looked up at her. He smiled for a moment. "Apparently not this time." He reached under the console, and flicked a switch. The dull ringing became just an echo.


       "There," he said. He hesitated. "It appears the TARDIS has been breached."


       "What do you mean, 'breached'?" Grace instinctively pulled her dressing gown tighter.


       The Doctor shook his head. "I can't say, yet. However, I'm sure it's not malevolent."


       "How sure is sure?"


       The Doctor smiled. "I would say one hundred percent, but you'd think me rash. Let's say ninety-nine percent, just in case."


       "In case of what?"


       Suddenly, the room shook. Grace grabbed the edge of the console, trying to keep her balance. She saw the Doctor fall backwards onto the floor.


       And then the room was still again. The Time Rotor — energy-filled fingers, within a large transparent column at the centre of the console — shuddered to a halt.


       The Doctor picked himself up and dusted himself down. He raised his eyebrows to Grace. She nodded back, letting him know she was all right.


       "I think you'd better get dressed," he said, lifting his jacket from a nearby chair. "We seem to have landed."


* * *


Security Officer Deveran Xao marched into the elaborately-furnished throne room and bowed.


       A middle-aged woman sat in the centre of the room. "Your report please, Dev."


       He gave another short bow. "Yes, your Highness. An unidentified object has been detected within the perimeter."


       A shortish man stood at the woman's side. "I'm sure you can take care of it, Officer Xao."


       "Yes, sir. It's just... I thought the Princess might be interested."


       The woman tilted her head to one side. "Oh?"


       "Yes, your Majesty. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the object is a tall cuboid. Blue, in fact. One agent has said that it has a flashing light atop it." The woman stood up in surprise. "Merak, it couldn't be... After all these years?"


       The man took her hand with a grin. "It seems the Doctor has come to visit."


* * *


The Doctor and Grace stepped out of the TARDIS, onto a polished floor. Grace had changed into trousers, shirt, and a light jacket. She took a lungful of the air and grimaced


       "Just like home?" the Doctor queried, walking ahead determinedly.


       "Almost," Grace said. "The air's stale." She realized he was already near the end of the corridor. "Slow down, Doctor! What's the rush?"


       He stopped and turned. "Sorry; the legs are longer than they used to be." His smile vanished. "Look out!"


       Grace spun round, following his gaze. She glimpsed a small group of people. Something hit her in the face. She reached up automatically and pulled a dart from her face. It was tipped with a small amount of a sticky liquid. And a drop of blood. Grace loosened her grip on it, and it fell to the floor. She wasn't far behind.


       The Doctor ducked away as a dart flew towards him. Suddenly, he heard boots running behind him. A large arrow flew past him, striking one of the hostile group in the arm. They yelled to one another, and a pair of them took Grace between them and began to run.


       The Doctor turned to see a couple of black-uniformed men. He began to follow Grace's captors, but was held back.


       "Let go!" he shouted. "They've got my friend!"


       "It's no good, sir," one of the men told him. "They just disappear. Threat to security, sir, and we have a bugger of a job thanks to them, I can tell you."


       The Doctor sighed. "I think you'd better take me to your leader."


* * *


Grace woke wishing she had a pocketful of aspirins, or at least some instant decaf. A blurred face looked down at her.


       "She doesn't match the description, you know," the face said.


       "So what?" asked a woman Grace couldn't see. "Blue box, brown-haired man, woman companion. It must be her."


       "Well," said the man, turning to his colleague. "We can ask her ourselves."


       Grace sat up and rubbed her eyes. She was in a white room that she recognized instantly as a medical facility. The man looking over her appeared to be a young doctor. The woman that stood beside him seemed to be in her twenties. Her hair was jet black, and her eyes grey.


       "Who are you?" Grace asked.


       The woman smiled. "Strangely enough, that was just the question I was about to put to you. My name is not important. Yours, however, is."


       Grace thought she detected menacing undertones in the woman's voice. Paranoid or not, she decided to tread carefully. "My name's Holloway -- Grace Holloway."


       The doctor chuckled. "Now I don't want to say I told you so..."


       Grace was puzzled. "You seem to have been expecting someone else."


       The woman glared at her. "We were. However, it doesn't really matter. You fit the bill just as well."


       "Which bill would that be?" Grace asked, and immediately wished she hadn't.


       The woman smirked. "The Doctor is on this planet. Our boss doesn't want him to be."


* * *


The Doctor was lead into the throne room.


       "Hello," he said, walking straight to the two occupants. "I'm the Doctor, and... Astra! Merak! A little older perhaps, but it is, isn't it? Well, I never. I'm on Atrios..."


       The woman leaned forward and looked him over. "Doctor?"


       "Well, of course it's... Ah, yes, I've, er, had a bit of work done. You know, quick haircut, bit of tucking and reshaping here and there, got the teeth sorted. I feel like a new man!"


       Merak approached him. "You certainly look one, Doctor." He paused. "You'll excuse me if I sound a little dubious; I'm sure you're being quite honest. After all, we heard the TARDIS was here."


       Astra joined him. "Is Romana with you?"


       "Romana? Oh, no; I came here with another friend; Grace, she's called. She was abducted in one of your corridors. I was wondering if you could have the place searched?"


       Astra nodded. "I'll get my SO to arrange it." She saw the Doctor look to Merak. "My Security Officer," she added with a grin, indicating Deveran Xao at the back of the room. The Officer bowed and left. "I'm afraid we've been having a lot of trouble the last few days."


       "Indeed," Merak said. "I"m worried for Astra's safety, to be honest."


       Astra shook her head. "Really, Merak; I'm quite safe. Now, Doctor, would you like something to eat?"


       The Doctor shook his head. "Thank you, but no. I really must help look for Grace." He nodded to them and headed out of the room. Merak turned to Astra. "He gets around a bit, doesn't he?" Astra chuckled. "New look for his new girlfriend?"


* * *


The Doctor wandered out of the throne room, pondering where would be the best place to start searching for Grace. He decided to go back to where they had been attacked, just outside the TARDIS. When he arrived, he saw the dart that had hit her lying on the floor. He picked it up, and carefully tasted the liquid that coated the tip of it.


       "Quartrozone derivative," he muttered. "That won't keep her quiet for long."


       He pocketed the dart and headed in the direction he had seen Grace's captors take her.


* * *


"You have your orders. Do you understand them?"


       "Yes, boss."


       "Very good. Prepare to carry them out when the signal is given."


       "Yes, boss."


* * *


The Doctor was out of luck. He'd reached an intersection in the corridor system with no clue as to which route to follow. Then his sharp ears picked up a muffled screaming. He listened carefully. It was coming from his left. He moved swiftly towards the source of the sound.


       "Doctor! Help me, Doc-"


       It was undoubtedly Grace's voice. The Doctor stood in front of a locked door, unsure of whether to force entry. Grace's muffled screams decided it. Producing his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor overrode the electronic lock in seconds and rushed inside. Grace was tied to a chair in the middle of the room.


       "Are you OK?" he asked, loosening her ropes.


       "Stay exactly where you are."


       The Doctor heard the door slide closed. He turned to find himself facing a tall, dark-haired woman with a large blaster. A medically-attired accomplice looked on, amused.


       "Hello," the Doctor said.


       "Shut up or die."


* * *


Grace struggled to free herself without attracting the attention of the Insane Blaster Woman or her friend. She finally managed it. Now what? she thought. In what seemed like a sudden fit of madness, she pushed the Doctor to one side, and charged at the woman. The blaster fell to the floor, from whence the Doctor recovered it. Grace stepped back, allowing the Doctor clear aim at the woman and the medic, who was running for the door. The Doctor fired a warning shot, but the man ignored it and ran out into the corridor.


       "Are you all right, Grace?" the Doctor asked. "Just a little shaken up, I think."


       The Doctor nodded. "Stress can have some strange effects," he said with a grin.


       "Now," he continued, addressing the disarmed woman, "what exactly are you up to?"


       The woman remained silent.


       "Ask her who her boss is," Grace suggested.


       The Doctor looked back at his prisoner. "Well?"


       "You won't shoot me," she replied.


       Grace took the blaster from the Doctor's hand. "Oh, no?"


       The woman smiled. "Not in cold blood. So, you won't get the information you want."


       Grace frowned at the Doctor. He shrugged, and took a pocket watch from his waistcoat. "I hope I can remember how to do this," he murmured.


* * *


"The Doctor is on the loose again."


       "So I see. The wheels will be put into motion before it is too late."


* * *


"Is there any news of the Doctor's companion?"


       "No, your Highness," Officer Xao reported. "We are still searching."


       A loud gong rang out around the throne room.


       "Ah," Merak said, "dinner time. A bit early today, isn't it?"


       "Oh, I almost forgot," Xao said suddenly, "the Doctor wanted to see you, Lord Merak. He asked to meet you at his TARDIS. It's in red sector 11, at the far end of corridor A."


       Merak sighed. "I'll see you at dinner, Astra." Grumbling to himself, he left the throne room.


       "Thank you, Dev," Astra said. "Enjoy your dinner." He didn't move. "Xao, you are dismissed."


* * *


"The boss commands it."


       The Doctor turned to Grace. "I think she's been hypnotized before. It was fairly easy to get her under. Drug induced, I suspect. Probably took a day or two to get the conditioning right."


       He turned back to Mendella, which was what the woman had given as her name. "Why does he command it?" the Doctor asked.


       "He wants...Astra. Dead or alive."


       "Who's Astr..." Grace stopped as the Doctor shushed her.


       "The boss, is he a contender to the throne?"


       "I... I..." Mendella shook her head, confused.


       The Doctor persevered. "Does the boss want Atrios?"


       "He... No, I don't think..."


       The Doctor pocketed his watch and turned to Grace. "Come on; the Princess is in even more danger than I thought!" He sprinted out of the room and away. Grace did her best to follow.


* * *


Astra jumped up and moved behind her throne. "Keep back, Dev."


       Her Security Officer moved forward. He took a small device from his pocket and turned it on. Astra winced and clasped her ears. As he moved closer, she fell to the floor.


       The Doctor burst into the throne room. "Stop this!" he shouted, running towards Officer Xao. Xao turned and kicked the Doctor back. While the Doctor picked himself up, Deveran touched Princess Astra with the device he carried. The Doctor watched in horror as the Princess metamorphosed into an oddly-shaped, translucent block. Xao scooped the object up. The Doctor tried to wrench the object away, but Xao drew his weapon and stunned the Doctor in the arm. The Doctor let go instantly. Grace was pushed to one side as she entered the throne room and Xao barged out.


       "After him!" the Doctor yelled.


* * *


Grace raced down the corridors. She lost her quarry a couple of times, but heard him running and managed to keep up. Finally, she turned a corner and found him spread-eagled on the ground, dead at the foot of a statue of a young woman.


       The statue dematerialised.


* * *


Grace found the Doctor waiting for her at the TARDIS, with Merak.


       "Did you find him?" Merak asked.


       Grace nodded. "He's dead. Someone took the thing he was carrying and left."


       The Doctor frowned. ""Left"?"


       "In a TARDIS, like yours."


       The Doctor thought for a fraction of a second. "Right, inside, both of you." He opened the TARDIS door and lead them inside.


* * *


The Doctor rushed to the control console and began tapping away. He was shortly joined by Grace and a daunted Merak.


       "What are you doing, Doctor?" Grace asked, as the TARDIS dematerialised.


       The Doctor pointed to the roof of the room, which displayed a dark scene. Something moved into focus.


       "It's the statue!" Grace exclaimed.


       "It's another TARDIS."


* * *


"So this Princess Astra was actually a lump of rock?"


       "You could put it that way, Grace. She was part of the Key To Time, an awesomely powerful object that must never fall into anyone's hands. It seems that someone — presumably another Time Lord -- has found out about it. I suspect this is only the start. If it is like before, there will be five other segments spread across the Universe. Hopefully, our unknown opponent has only the one piece so far."


       "How will he — or she — find the other pieces? For that matter, how will we?"


       The Doctor considered this. "I think they must have found out about Astra, somehow. It wouldn't take a particularly complicated alpha wave device to prompt the metamorphosis. Now that they have one segment in their possession, they may well be able to use it to locate the other five."


       "So we have to get them first?" Grace asked.


       The Doctor nodded. "The TARDIS interacted with the Tracer I used all those years ago. I may be able to get the TARDIS to provide the information necessary to bodge up a rough and ready Tracer. It won't be wonderful, but it should get us close enough."


* * *


The Doctor held up a thin rod of metal and plastic.


       "The Tracer," he announced, plugging it into the TARDIS console. "I hope this works," he added quietly.


       "Doctor," Merak said, "we're losing the other ship."


       The Doctor looked at the image on the roof. "It seems our opponent has decided to go elsewhere."


       "We must go after them," Merak insisted. "We have to get Astra back."


       The Doctor shook his head. "No, we'll go for the next segment. The first priority has to be to stop the Key To Time falling into the wrong hands."


* * *


A figure stepped into the warehouse.


       Five more columns of light appeared, and five tall, black boxes materialised. A figure stepped from each.


       The First took something from his pocket and placed it on the floor.


       "Do as I have commanded you."


       The object on the floor glowed, brighter and brighter. The figures shielded their eyes from the incandescence.


       When the light died away, six smaller objects sat on the floor in place of the original. The first figure took them in his hands, and handed one to each of the other figures.


       "Good luck."


       The others reciprocated, before turning back to their ships.


       "One more thing. We may have trouble with the Doctor."


       The six figures murmured together for a moment. Then they re-entered their crafts. After a short burst of sound, the dust began to settle once more in the old warehouse.


---
To be continued...



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