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


Chapter 6
"Pasts told and futures remembered"
by Alden Bates


---


"Oh good, I thought it might be something nasty!"


       - Ace, Remembrance of the Daleks


* * *


Logic.


       The Cyberman clung to that thought as it stood motionless, trying to assess its surroundings. Another wave of pain washed over its mind.


       Visual reading: multi-layered images of scans from across the electromagnetic spectrum converged. A tall room, lacking much, if any, radiation in the visual spectrum. 2.34 metres ahead stood a humanoid figure, thermal readouts showed two hearts pumping fluid about its body. The figure reached into a pocket and produced an object. In several of the wavebands the object showed an immense intensity of emissions.


       Auditory input: Is this what you want, then?


       Pain input: 60% and rising. Cause unknown.


       A scattering of images began replaying involuntarily in the Cyberman's mind. Arriving on a new Earth colony on Sigma Seventeen. A first boyfriend. Receiving a Doctorate in exo-biogenesis at a ceremony in a great hall with thousands of attendees. A colony under attack by alien forces. Hiding in a storage cupboard as tall silver figures stalked the corridors. Discovery.


       Auditory output: Yes, that is it. Give it to me now. The emphasis was wrong, irrelevant. Logic dictated withdrawal to a safe location to mount repairs. The Cyberman became aware of another consciousness vying for control of its limbs.


       Visual reading: The figure was stepping forwards with the object.


       Auditory input: "Of course, you do know that this segment, part of an immensely powerful object, contains power in itself?"


       Tactile input: Contact.


       Visual reading: the radiation from the object soaked into the remaining wavelengths of spectrum, washing out all vision completely.


       Pain input: 98% The Doctor handed the segment to the Cyberman. The segment glowed.


       Grimly, he clung to the crystal, directing its power straight at the Cyberman. The glow enveloped the unfortunate creature, filling his vision with blinding light.


       Suddenly it stopped.


       The Doctor stood in the centre of the console room just holding the segment for a moment, then looked down to where the ruins of the Cyberman lay in a pool of green, brackish liquid. Beside the dead creature lay a male figure in Gallifreyan robes that the Doctor didn't recognize.


       "Oh dear," he said, upset. "I didn't think that would happen."


* * *


The Dalek twisted in its support chamber as its sensors detected a surge of energy. Turning aside from the human female and the older male, it directed the sensors to scan an area of ground. Fragments of a crystalline substance were emitting broad spectrum radiation.


       The battle computer suddenly off-lined.


       The mutant performed a check of all systems and attempted to reboot the computer without success. It tried to put out a distress call on every available frequency, but the environment was awash with interference. Rogue electrical impulses infiltrated the system. By the time an impulse arced across to the travel device's self destruct unit, the Kaled mutant inside was past caring. Grace pulled Merak behind the lab bench as the Dalek exploded.


       She quickly assessed his injuries. Minor burns to his left leg where he had been sideswiped by the Dalek's fire. Possible concussion from when he had banged his head on the lab bench while falling on top of her. Nothing the TARDIS's medial supplies couldn't handle.


       She stood up to inspect what was left of the Dalek; There wasn't much. Amongst the debris was a small irregularly-shaped lump of transparent crystal which she retrieved.


       The priority now was to get out as quickly as possible. She hauled Merak to his feet and dragged him unceremoniously through the classroom door.


* * *


The Doctor was reclining in his armchair, reading and listening to a record when Grace arrived back at the TARDIS.


       "Ah, you're back," he grinned happily. "Did you get the segment?"


       "Of course," Grace handed it to him, staring at the rather large greenish stain on the floor. "What happened here?"


       "Oh, nothing I didn't handle. Is he all right?"


       Merak stirred and moaned. "He was knocked unconscious. It was an accident."


       The Doctor nodded thoughtfully and cleared some assorted junk off a nearby table to clear a space. Grace lowered Merak onto the lowered space and handed the tracer back to the Doctor.


       "I'll just go raid the medical cupboard," she disappeared off to the back of the console room.


       With a faint smile on his face, the Doctor inserted the device into its socket on the console and initiated dematerialisation.


* * *


The console room was large, white and brightly lit. In the centre, a grey six-sided console pulsed with energy. A small man dressed in pale clothing walked in sombrely and hung his straw hat on the black hat stand. This was followed by a black umbrella with a moulded red handle.


       "Argh!" He exclaimed, his eyes sweeping the room.


       A young woman wearing a black jacket with "Ace" stitched across the back appeared in the doorway, just in time to see him stride outraged towards the console.


       "What is it Professor?"


       "Someone's been in my TARDIS!" the Doctor's 7th incarnation shouted angrily, in a broad Scottish accent. "Look at the mess!"


       He snatched a paper note from the console, keeping his eyes fixed on the recumbent form of a Time Lord lying under the scanner alongside some badly mangled metallic remains.


       "Dear Doctor. Sorry about the mess, but I'm in a bit of a hurry, so you wouldn't mind returning this poor fellow to Gallifrey would you? Love, the Doctor."


       The Doctor gave an outraged strangled cry. "Of all the interfering..."


* * *


The TARDIS spun through the space-time continuum towards its next destination in a way which would have been injurious to its occupants if the interior was truly relative to its exterior.


       Inside, the Doctor unscrewed the top of a bottle thoughtfully and took a sniff. Grinning, he offered it to Grace who took a sniff, screwed her nose up in disgust, and went back to tending Merak's leg. Still grinning, he thrust the bottle under the slumbering Merak's nose.


       Merak coughed and spluttered and struggled up.


       "There, all better," the Doctor said cheerfully.


       "What happened?" asked Merak, sitting there as Grace completed bandaging his leg.


       "A Dalek," Grace explained simply, fastening the end of the bandage. "It shot you, then it shot the segment. Then it blew up."


       "I think I can explain what happened," The Doctor leant on the table. "I triggered the segment I was holding into a resonant time distortion. It generated a temporal field around the Cyberman, but it also caused a resonant effect in the other segment, affecting the Dalek."


       "In that case, the segment obviously exploded because the Dalek's beam modulation caused a momentary infraction of its extra-temporal structure," was Grace's rejoinder.


       The Doctor looked vaguely surprised. "We know very little about the real nature of the segments, just that they have quite a few interesting properties. I suppose it's possible..."


       "I was joking." Grace protested weakly.


       The Doctor removed both segments from his pocket, held them up, rotated them slightly and stuck them together. The seam between the two glowed blue and vanished.


       "Very pretty," was the unimpressed response.


       "One segment to go," The Doctor replied cheerfully. "If we get it, we'll have two-thirds of the Key to Time."


       "Then what?"


       "Well, we'll be able to negotiate with whoever is collecting it That's assuming they don't send hunters after us." Reaching up, he pulled a free-roaming monitor down to eye level and inspected it. "We're about to land. Merak, I suggest you stay in the TARDIS. We've already put you in enough danger."


       "No!" Merak sat bolt upright.


       "Don't worry, Astra is perfectly safe for the moment." the Doctor told him gently. "But the Universe depends on us getting the other three segments."


       Suddenly the multitude of clocks ranged on nearby shelves all struck eleven.


* * *


In the warehouse, the figure stood in impotent rage in the shadows, staring at the section of floor where his agent's body had lain. A faint disturbance in the dust marked where it had faded from existence.


       "Time, as ever, is of the essence." He pointed a thin digit at a kneeling Time Lord. "Approach."


       The Time Lord rose obediently to his feet and stepped forwards. Two wrinkled hands clasped either side of his head. There was a struggling cry.


       The other inhabitants of the warehouse cast their eyes downwards as their companion mutated into something hideous.


* * *


The clearing might have been on any M-class planet. As it was, this particular planet was far beyond any Terran spaceways. A large, mottled moon swung around it in erratic orbits which would have any astronomer worth his or her diploma scratching their head in puzzlement.


       The TARDIS materialised in the centre of the clearing, light flashing. Observers would have noticed a strange movement in the thick layer of grass carpeting the area, as it swayed in time with the pulsing rhythm.


       The Doctor was first out, gazing around at the trees with keen interest. After a few moments he turned back and thrust his head back through the open half of the police box doors, knocking loudly on the other half as he did so.


       "Come on Grace, we've got work to do."


       Grace emerged sans jacket, straightening her shirt. She paused to take stock of her surroundings.


       "Doctor, is it just me, or do those trees have eyes?"


       "Well, how else would they see?" The Doctor winked at her and produced the tracer from a waistcoat pocket. "This way, I think. Parallel to that stream."


       The pair strolled through the grass, trying to ignore the fact that it conveniently spread apart to let them through.


       "I take it you've been here before?"


       "In my last incarnation," the Doctor nodded. "In circumstances very similar to these. Although that was before it existed in this form." He stopped to look at the swiftly flowing stream.


       Grace followed his gaze, noting the tops of hollow reeds moving through the water. Moving? As she realized something was up, a blue sphere on thin, stilt-like legs rose out of the water. The creature's body was roughly half a foot in diameter and the tube she had mistaken for a reed jutted from the top of its head.


       "Blue breasted warble walker." The Doctor stated. "Pity I didn't bring my copy of Junior Bird Watchers."


       A stubby beak on the warble walker cawed at Grace as she moved closer.


       "Ah! Hello Doctor!" She jumped at the new voice in time to see a fair-haired human approaching them. He was dressed in something resembling a pirate's costume, made from leathers and cloth.


       "Kao!" The Doctor returned joyfully, hugging the man. "Grace, this man was a member of the crew on a pirate ship I served on as cook."


       Grace stood there for a small amount of time with her mouth hanging open.


       "Well, strictly speaking it was a pirate spaceship, and we didn't do much pirating as such." he continued unabated.


       Grace blinked a few times before having the courage to speak. "But he recognized you." The Doctor turned from the now slightly embarrassed pirate. "The people on this planet have a rather unique perception of things."


       Kao cleared his throat. "So what brings you here? Wrongs to be righted? Treasures to be found?"


       The Doctor waved the tracer about. "We're on a quest to collect some segments of a crystal of unimaginable power. That way." He pointed.


       Kao nodded, grinning. "Sounds familiar. There's a small settlement over there; it's where I've just come from."


       They started off upstream, following a narrow path which looked like it was simply left there by the trees as a means of passage by lesser species.


* * *


Kao filled them in as they went. He explained that a few hours ago, a large vortex-like apparition had appeared in the centre of the settlement. So far it hadn't done anything other than hang there in a nonchalant sort of way, but as soon as he saw it he had started looking for the Doctor.


       "It could be linked to the segment." The Doctor theorized as they approached the settlement.


       The village was a number of ramshackle buildings of varying shapes and sizes clustered around a central square. A road paved with pale brown stone began at the square and perspectived off into the distance through the dense forest. Grace wouldn't have minded the run down nature of the buildings if they hadn't been constructed as if architecture was something to do with wallpapering large boats full of animals.


       By the time they entered the square, the disturbance was plainly visible: a six metre wide spinning vortex in a sort of reddish yellow colour. Gathered before it at a respectful distance from the vortex and with their backs to the newcomers were a large crowd of...


       Grace started counting species and stopped when she ran out of fingers and toes. Clearly there was no racial animosity here, just a large number of being caught up in the wonder and awe of the moment. She found herself briefly wondering how long a surgeon would have to study to be able to be able to heal any one of them on call.


       "What a beautiful baby." She heard the Doctor say. "May I hold her?"


       She turned to witness the Doctor accepting a small green infant from a proud looking reptilian woman. Cooing, he produced a small toy panda which she was sure he didn't possess beforehand, and waved it gently in the air. The baby burbled happily and reached for the toy, dropping its rattle. The Doctor handed the baby back and picked up the rattle.


       "I hope you don't mind," he told the mother, "but it's for a good cause."


       Leaving the smiling mother, he returned to where Grace and Kao were standing, well behind the crowd.


       "That is the segment?" Grace said incredulously.


       The Doctor simply pressed the tracer against the rattle. The toy glowed with a blue light, shimmered and changed into a chunk of crystal.


       "Very nice, Doctor." Kao said. "Now, if you could just clean up our little problem over there."


       "Oh dear, that should have disappeared when I restored the segment to its natural form." The Doctor looked disappointed.


       He marched up to the rear of the crowd and started to gently ease his way through. "Let me through, I'm a Time Lord." Grace and Kao trailed him through the gap before it closed up again.


       Finally they found themselves standing before the vortex proper. The Doctor rubbed his chin and regarded it thoughtfully.


       "What's the prognosis, Doctor?" Grace asked humourlessly.


       "Hmm?" The Doctor was sunk deep in thought. Grace looked around at the crowd. Various eyes and eye approximations in differing numbers and sizes looked interestedly back.


       A small voice near her feet said happily, "Is big orange swirly type thing."


       "Doctor," she hissed. "There's something disgusting sitting on my foot."


       The Doctor, obviously still deep in thought, replied, "Have you tried making friends?"


       "Is pretty sparkling thing," the voice piped up again, its owner directing three eye approximations towards the Doctor.


       Grace tried to shush the rather excitable sounding mound of what appeared to be raw mulched fish half sitting on her foot; however, it extended a pseudopod and snatched the segment from the Doctor's hand.


       "Pretend move monkey-hominids not appreciate mostly enjoyable trinket." the creature chattered, moving on three legs with an amazing turn of speed through the crowd. "Toodle pip."


       The Doctor turned in alarm and started after the thief, shouting "Stop that Sloathe!" He then promptly fell flat on his face.


       Probably, Grace decided, because of the mass of tentacles which had just emerged from the vortex, one of which had grabbed his leg.


---
To be continued...



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