|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #03 - "Altered State"
by Alden Bates
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"Hello, I'm the Doctor, and this is my friend Grace."
* * *
Grace woke in darkness. There was an immediate nagging feeling that there was something wrong. *Great,* she thought, *First thing in the morning and I'm already getting bad feelings.*
OK, they had left Gallifrey having sorted out the Key to Time. She had immediately stumbled to bed, making the excuse that hopping between alien worlds and encountering powerful ancient entities and insane Time Lords had worn her out. Nothing wrong there.
She clambered into a sitting position on the side of her bed.
The nagging feeling was still bothering her. Her pajamas were puddled on the floor beside the bed, and she definitely remembered putting them on before going to sleep. She shrugged them back on to protect herself from the TARDIS's chilly atmosphere and staggered over to her antique dressing table.
After a moment of waving her arm around over the mirror, she realized that the cord for the table lamp wasn't there. *OK, I can handle this.* It would take more than a missing cord to phase Doctor Grace Holloway.
"Lights please," she said wearily.
The room's illumination factor rose, revealing clean white walls with inset roundels. *This is new* Grace thought, her interest level rising. The walls ought to have been ersatz wood paneling, with tacky carved supports pretending to hold up the ceiling. The new decor wasn't, in itself, odd since the Doctor had shown her the TARDIS's internal reconfiguration systems, but the gothic look was still in as far as he was concerned. There was still something bothering her; she peered into the mirror, looking across the bed.
Something sat up in the bed. It had tousled light-brown hair and a childlike look of perplexed puzzlement on its face. The sheets fell away from its bare chest.
"Grace," said the Doctor in the tone of voice people use when they discover a library book they've misplaced. "I seem to have been sleeping in your bed."
There was a pregnant pause as both parties tried to grasp the situation.
"Would I be sorry if I asked what you're wearing under there?" Grace asked finally.
The Doctor looked at her with an unreadable expression. "Yes," he responded calmly.
"Well..." Grace continued in stunned confusion. "Maybe you'd like to tell me why you're in my bed."
The Doctor's gaze swept around the room. "I don't know. The last thing I remember doing is setting the co-ordinates for nineteenth century France and then dozing off in the armchair in the console room. I certainly don't remember any... oh no, don't look." His voice rose in alarm as he stared fixedly across the room.
It was too late, however: Grace had already spotted the pink bunny rabbit costume draped over the chair on the other side of the bed.
"I'm going to go and have a shower," Grace said through gritted teeth. "And then I'm looking forward to your explanation."
The Doctor sighed and reached for his clothing. It was going to be one of those days.
* * *
Dressed in his usual costume of a dark waistcoat, deep green jacket and brown trousers, the Doctor was looking through the TARDIS data banks. This job was hampered by the fact that the filing system was chaotic to the point of randomness. He remembered that Mel had organized it ages ago and it was orderly enough last night when he recorded his TARDIS log entry, so its current state of a scattered mess was an utter mystery.
He was therefore having a great deal of trouble finding what he wanted. He had found out a lot of stuff he really didn't want to know, such as some hints about his third incarnation's exact relationship with UNIT UK, and some even nastier hints about his academy days. All completely untrue of course. As far as he could remember.
Grace entered the console room. "Have you seen the TARDIS wardrobe? I thought the stuff in the bedroom was bad..." She paused to take in the vastly altered chamber.
The console room was significantly smaller than she remembered it. There were more roundelled walls and a square scanner screen mounted by the interior door. The wooden console with pull-down monitors and arching metal beams had gone and instead there was a large futuristic gray console with a closed off piston which was bouncing up and down. The ceiling was the height you'd expect in a normal building.
The Doctor looked up at her with a look of intense worry. She had put on gray trousers, a purple velvet smoking jacket and a light pink shirt. "This was the best I could find," she explained with a faint smile.
"I _don't_ want to know," the Doctor said firmly. "What I've found in the data banks is quite disturbing enough."
"OK, what's going on?" Grace leaned against the console. "I know where the TARDIS tool kit is, remember."
The Doctor rubbed the back of his head unconsciously. "Listen to this, it's dated as our first meeting on Earth in 1999." He pressed a switch on the console and his own voice emitted from a small speaker.
"I was nearing the end of my seventh incarnation, when the Time Lords contacted me. The Master had been put to trial on Skaro. The Daleks claimed that he had given their poetry a bad review. In his defense, my brother called me as a character witness. Despite my expert testimony, he was exterminated and I departed for Gallifrey with his remains. Little that I know that he wasn't actually dead; He was just pretending."
The Doctor flicked another switch. "That's as far back as I dare* go. I have too much respect for my former companions to look any further." If anything his excursions into the data banks had left him even more puzzled.
Grace was trying to absorb the information from the data bank. "I don't remember you telling me this."
"That's because it's not true. This is the entry I recorded last night, supposedly." The Doctor pressed another button.
"Grace and I have left Gallifrey after the fiasco with the Key to Time. The supreme High Council exercised their powers and banished the Black Guardian to the nether reaches of the Universe, of course. Grace seems quite annoyed with the whole affair, and I intend to go to her room tonight with a bottle of Antarian wine and the bunny outfit to cheer her up. Tomorrow we can continue my search for Ulysses."
There was a short squawk, and a loud Australian voice emitted from the console. "You can materialize the TARDIS on the freighter and save him," it pleaded.
The Doctor frantically punched buttons as the familiar voice of his fifth incarnation rang out: "Oh, all right then. Anything to shut you up..."
The Doctor gave the console a hefty thump and gave Grace an embarrassed look.
Grace shook her head with something that went beyond disbelief and into the firm territory of incredulous denial. "It didn't happen like that."
"Exactly," the Doctor nodded. "The entire databank seems to be inaccurate."
Grace stood motionless for a moment. Frown lines stood out on her forehead. "A parallel universe?" She remembered the rather far-fetched story she'd read in school about a world where America had been taken over by Germany in the Second World War. After traveling with the Doctor, that story seemed almost plausible.
"Either that or someone hijacked the TARDIS, reconfigured the interior, rewrote the data banks and stuck me in bed with you. Beyond having a good laugh at us, I can't think of any motive for doing that." The Doctor replied briskly. "Besides that, it would take tremendous power and an extremely sick mind."
"OK, so it's a parallel Universe," Grace said. "Someone still must've put us here for some reason."
"To get me out of the way probably," the Doctor said, sunk in thought, "while they enact some plan or scheme. Using the TARDIS to get back is out of the question; I've only ever managed something like it once and that was completely uncontrolled. I think the best plan is to track down this Ulysses character, since he seems to be a large part of my alternate self's life."
"OK, so who's Ulysses?" Grace prompted.
"My father, apparently."
* * *
The TARDIS materialised on a pile of rubble in the centre of a large number of piles of rubble. It was very obviously a ruined city of some kind, with torn metal structures jutting from crude piles of rock. There was a vague fog in the air, wreathing the outcrops and eddying through metal archways.
The Doctor emerged first and surveyed the terrain. It seemed vaguely familiar; he had been here before of course, so that would explain it.
"Skaro!" the Doctor announced as Grace joined him. "Home planet of the Daleks. This is where the co-ordinates were preset to. Dreadful place, isn't it?"
Grace sniffed at the stench which filled the air and heartily agreed. There was the faint whiff of something decomposing.
"Now, we're looking for either Ulysses himself or some sort of clue as to where he might've gone. He's a sort of renegade Time Lord like me, so he could be in any place or time."
"Any idea what sort of clues?"
The Doctor began clambering down the side of the rubble. "An object, a map, perhaps an inscription. The last clue was a three thousand year old sketch of a Dalek on a pharaoh's tomb."
Grace was making a better go of it in her sneakers, but there was still a lot of noise from rocks clattering down in front of them. "And you've been looking for him since you left Gallifrey?"
"My alternate self has, yes. Since his first incarnation apparently."
"So basically we're looking for a guy who an alternate version of you has been searching for all his lives, and you expect to find him just like that. No problem, I didn't have any plans for this afternoon."
"Really, Grace." the Doctor smiled happily at her as they reached the ground. "If I were you, I'd be far more worried about what's happened to the versions of us who we replaced."
"Loose in our universe?" Grace thought aloud. "Oh dear."
"Yes. I hope they don't run into anyone I know. It could be most embarrassing."
* * *
They hadn't gone far when they came across a shard of metal protruding from the ground like a splintered tooth. The Doctor bent down to examine the faded markings on its side.
"Dalek writing," he said, scanning the text. "No, Dalek _poetry_. And the Daleks aren't going to win any literary awards for it."
Grace remembered that Daleks she'd seen on Deremar and during their last quest on Earth in 1963. They hardly seemed the sort of beings who wrote poetry, unless it was about blowing things up.
The Doctor grasped her by the arm and pulled her down. "Shh, look," he whispered, pointing.
The Dalek skimming along ten metres away at the bottom of the slope didn't look much like the ones she had seen before. It was larger, with a multi-pronged claw instead of a sucker. As it turned to survey the territory she noted that it had a double eye-stalk, giving it a bug-eyed look. The multitude of hemispheres around its base flashed in a rhythmic pattern like some sort of hypnotic light display.
Grace slumped down, her back to the metal sheet. "This is hopeless. Do you seriously expect us to search the entire planet?" The Doctor didn't answer her question. Instead he was looking at the Dalek on the hovering platform that had positioned itself roughly three metres away and was staring back at him, gun pointed firmly in the direction of his head.
"Keep very still," he said quietly. "It's either going to shoot us, or read poetry."
To be continued...
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