|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #03 - "Altered State"
"Oh, dear," the two Doctors said simultaneously, glancing sheepishly at one another the next instant.
"How distressing," the Master snickered, then pulled a straight face as both Doctors turned a suspicious look upon him.
Grace did, also. He wasn't acting like the cheerful Master she knew; there was an unusual sardonic undercurrent in his speech. She shrugged internally and hugged her stomach protectively, thinking about the changes within. She'd lost her Doctor and she was pregnant. By him. "It's always something," she groused softly to herself. Well, at least she was in her proper universe.
'Doctor Ulysses' looked at the two Doctors and their companions ruefully. "I'm sorry you've lost your equipment. I hope it wasn't irreplaceable..."
"Oh, no," the Master commented. "There's always another one where that came from."
The second Doctor looked at the Master narrowly, while Zoe and Jamie clustered protectively near him. The eighth Doctor, meanwhile, was peering intently at the researcher before him, who so closely resembled the Valeyard from his universe.
"Do I know you?" he asked him pointedly.
Doctor Ulysses looked back at him calmly. "I don't believe we've met before," he replied, noncommittally.
"Ah...but that's not the question," the eighth Doctor said raising an index finger. "The question here, is do. I. Know. You?"
Doctor Ulysses glanced quickly from the eighth Doctor, to the second Doctor, to the Master. As he gazed paused on the Master, he seemed to frown, as if puzzled.
He looked back to the eighth Doctor and smiled slightly. "That's a question only *you* know the answer to, Doctor." He turned and began to make his way back towards the van of monitoring equipment.
The eighth Doctor stared after him, a perturbed expression upon his face. Grace came up beside him. "So, what was *that* all about?" she asked him quietly. "Is *that* Ulysses?"
The Doctor opened and closed his mouth, then said, "I like riddles well enough, but this is getting a little ridiculous." He quickly followed the retreating figure of the tornado researcher. Grace shrugged, and along with the others followed him.
Quite a strange sight, she reflected. If you'd offered her a wager on whether she'd ever see the Doctor and Master working together side by side at the same console, she'd have laughed you right out of the room.
But now, thanks to somebody's inter-dimensional (or was that inter-universal?) hi-jinx, there the two of them were. True, they were both foreign to this, her home universe, and in their native place were brothers and allies.
She suddenly had a very disturbing thought. If this Master was from that alternate universe...then who or what had been switched with him, to possibly menace *her* Doctor, still trapped there?
The Doctor, in red and purple (what a ghastly combination) occasionally paused to throw a friendly leer her way, though that might just have been his way of being reassuring.
She glanced away, annoyed, and looked instead at the Master, who appeared to be taking advantage of the chance to read this TARDIS's logs.
"Hey!" she said, sternly. "What do you think you're doing?" She still wasn't quite sure whether she should trust this Master. After all, he was chummy with this obnoxious version of the Doctor. That kind of said it all.
She advanced upon him, irritated. "You shouldn't be reading that," she told him, pointedly. "It's private!"
The Master looked back at her innocently. "What's the matter; something in here you don't want us to see?" he inquired. She glared at him, trying to think of a suitable come-back.
"Oh, it's not what's in there, brother," the Doctor smirked, "It's what *isn't*!"
"Oh," the Master said, glancing with a smile at Grace where she stood, fuming. "I *see*..."
"*Look*," Grace growled, teetering on the edge of fury, "are we going back to the other universe to find my Doctor and your Grace, or not?"
"Oh, eventually. But what's the hurry?"
She closed her eyes momentarily in exasperation. Stuck in here with two obnoxious jerks -- she swore she'd go insane if it was for much longer. And to think that she'd recently been speculating on what it might be like if her Doctor's behaviour were more..well, 'human'...
"Since *you're* here," she said, pointing at the Master, "that means the evil one from this universe is probably *there*, with him. Now they really *don't* like each other. He might need our help. And that's not even mentioning whoever switched us all around in the first place."
"Oh, I'm sure your Doctor can take care of himself. After all, he's *me*. Even if he doesn't know what he's missing." He concluded with yet another body-spanning leer.
Something in Grace snapped.
"I have had it up to *here* with your little insinuations," she told the Doctor, infuriated in a coldly-controlled way. "Whatever's between me and the Doctor is none of your damn business. Got it?"
The Doctor and Master looked at each other and back at her, eyebrows raised.
"Now, if we can, we're going back to that universe, and we're going to find him, and we -- at least, he and I -- are going to get back to this one," she finished, tightly.
The Doctor leaned on the edge of the console. "I see," he replied, smiling slightly, amused. "And since when did *you* become owner of this TARDIS?"
Grace stared at him, momentarily at a loss. Then she smiled sweetly back.
"Right now I've got as much claim to it as you -- since I was linked to her recently, when we--" she winced slightly, "when my Doctor and I were searching for the Key To Time. We haven't gotten around to breaking off the link, you know. It's still there."
The Doctor stared at her, a strange expression on his face, and Grace knew that this was one event that hadn't happened in *his* universe.
Now it was *her* turn to be smug. "She likes me, you know. And, after all, since *I* belong here, and you *don't*..." She let the insinuation trail off and watched as several emotions flitted across his face in short order.
He glared at her. "It doesn't matter what universe I'm from-- I'm still the Doctor. She'd never listen to you over me," he said.
"You willing to bet on that?"
He folded his arms and leaned back against the console, looking at her challengingly. "All right, then. Go ahead and show me this 'link' of yours."
The Master gazed, fascinated, as Grace and the Doctor glared at each other.
"Fine. I will, then." Grace said defiantly. She took a moment to try to compose herself. The last time she'd been fully-linked to the TARDIS, it had been because the Time Capsule had been under horrendous assault by a hostile dimension. They'd banded together, quite literally for survival. This time, the situation was not the same; the stakes were not quite that high. The TARDIS, Grace reflected, might simply not 'hear' her.
She tried to clear her mind, to be calm and *reach* out. *Hey, girl,* she thought. *You there?*
She tried again, a little desperate -- she could sense the Doctor's smugness.
This time, she tried to *feel*, instead of think. She recalled what it had felt like, that warm, comfortable feeling...
A sudden spate of images flitted through her mind, and she gasped in surprise. Such a strange sensation, the fully-active link, like a tickle in the back of her mind...
She slowly opened her eyes, smiling triumphantly. The Doctor was staring at her in open astonishment. "You *were* telling the truth! You *have* established a link to the TARDIS. I didn't think that was possible for a non-Time Lord mind..." He seemed honestly surprised. He glanced at his brother, who shrugged back at him.
"She misses him, you know," Grace told him quietly. "She knows you're *a* Doctor. But you're not *hers*." She sighed. "Look, Doctor. We haven't exactly been getting along. How about a truce? In the end, we've *got* to return to your universe." She shrugged. "Perhaps my link will help us get through that, what was it called...that CVE..."
The Doctor gazed back at her, his customary arrogant demeanor momentarily absent. "I know," he said. "Truth to tell, I'd prefer to be back in *my* own TARDIS, also..."
He straightened suddenly and slapped a hand on the TARDIS console. "Well, what are we doing, dithering here? We've got a universe to get back to!"
Ironic, that he could twist and turn and relocate his chosen pawns, yet remain trapped here.
Well, not for much longer.
He turned his attention to the Time Lord, dragged from several universes over, whose form he had determined was the most suitable for him to inhabit, and stopped in shock.
The Doctor was with the Time Lord known as Ulysses. He was with Ulysses, and *he'd* just ripped the TARDIS away, guaranteeing that they'd be thrown together.
The being known as Omega (in any universe he happened to arise in) closed his eyes in consternation.
Then he opened them again. He still had the Master pawn. And, if he really needed them, the Mortimi, and the Empress of Skaro...
In front of them, the American woman Grace was standing behind her Doctor, who was sitting next to Doctor Ulysses, listening avidly as the researcher explained the purpose of the various racks of tornado-monitoring equipment.
"What're they saying?" Jamie muttered in frustration, straining to hear. "Have they found the TARDIS yet?"
"Hush!" Zoe advised him sternly.
"If they can't find it, we'll be stuck here in this universe, forever!"
"I shouldn't worry too much -- yet," their Doctor advised them. "The TARDIS won't have been damaged. It's just a matter of finding out where she's 'landed'."
The dark-haired man next to them said nothing, but Zoe thought she saw him smirking.
She frowned. Whoever *that* person was, she decided she didn't like him very much. She turned her attention back to the front of the van.
"...Fascinating! And you say you've been 'chasing' tornadoes all over Kansas all this summer?" the younger-looking Doctor was saying.
"Yes," Doctor Ulysses said, smiling. "My research has been going very well..."
Zoe considered this. She knew that there were due to be implemented vastly superior methods of watching and even controlling wind storms such as the one they'd seen that day. Of course, mindful of the need to avoid mucking up the time stream, she knew better than to mention them to the late twentieth century scientist before her.
"I suppose there's something romantic about taking your life in your hands, chasing after these tornadoes over the countryside," she said somewhat sarcastically to her Doctor, where he stood, thoughtfully regarding the trio before them.
"Oh, yes. Certainly," he replied, absently. She glanced at him, eyebrow raised. He was definitely staring at that Doctor Ulysses. "Is there something wrong?" she asked him. When he got that look on his face, it usually meant that something was about to happen.
"I'm not sure," he admitted. "But I do know that 'Doctor Ulysses' here, is no human. He's a Time Lord."
Grace and the Master nodded from their positions across the console. Grace stood, her hands placed carefully on the console's telepathic circuits, designed to maximize mind-to-TARDIS contact. Several feet away, the Master was ready to activate various controls that the Doctor could not easily reach. At the moment, they were hovering close to the 'CVE' the Doctor had determined was most likely to return them to the universe from which he and his brother had come.
Most likely. Not guaranteed.
"Brace yourselves. This is going to be a rough ride," the Doctor advised them grimly, taking a moment to drag a sleeve across his face. Then, he reached forward and pushed the lever that would send them into the CVE.
The TARDIS shuddered angrily, as both Time Lords' hands became blurs of motion. It wasn't going to be enough, Grace thought, her eyes filling with tears as she felt the TARDIS's pain.
Grace, her own identity lost in the midst of the TARDIS's anguish, threw back her head and screamed her throat raw.
The young green-jacketed man who called himself 'the Doctor' was walking alongside him, engaging him in conversation. The rest of the group were gathered outside the van, talking quietly amongst themselves, except for the dark-haired quiet fellow, who was standing slightly apart from the others, as if he wished to distance himself from them. He seemed to be staring at him and the Doctor, he noted absently.
For some reason, the Doctor had a half-smile on his face, as if he was happy about something.
"So, how long have you been doing this tornado research?" he asked, looking at him intently.
Doctor Ulysses glanced back at him. "Oh, for a few years..." he said, noting that he couldn't remember exactly, and wondering if that shouldn't concern him more...
"I know how it is," the Doctor told him. "The years start to blend together after a while..." He raised an eyebrow at him meaningfully. Ulysses looked back gingerly. Now what had *that* look been for?
"Ah, yes, I suppose they do, after a while," he agreed cautiously. The Doctor peered at him, looking first speculative, then concerned.
One of the vans suddenly sputtered sluggishly into life, pulling slowly away from its fellows and trundling down out of the field they were parked in onto the asphalt of the road nearby.
The door on another of the vans suddenly slid open and a young man leaned out.
"Doctor!" he called.
Four heads whipped around. A moment later, three of them looked momentarily sheepish, as Doctor Ulysses stepped slightly forward, acknowledging the shout as meant for him.
"We're heading out -- we've got another sighting, ten miles away, in Northridge!" He sounded eager, and Ulysses smiled. "All right!" he called back. "I'm calling it a day. Good hunting -- and be careful!"
The man waved and disappeared back inside as the door slammed shut. A few moments later, it too rolled out of the field and took to the road. The others soon followed, leaving only Ulysses' vehicle.
"Well, Doctor, perhaps you and your friends would like to follow me back to the University? There we can check and see if your 'box' has been found," Ulysses offered politely. He looked around, then realized that the group of new researchers had no vehicle.
The Doctor followed his bemused gaze. "The TARDIS was our traveling vehicle," he told Ulysses meaningfully. When the tornado chaser looked back at him blankly, the Doctor felt a surge of impatience.
"You needn't bother any longer with the pretense," he reassured the man he knew now to be a fellow Time Lord from Gallifrey. He hadn't been sure at first, but the mental traces he could detect now left no doubt. "You're among friends. I am the Doctor," he said, re-introducing himself as he grabbed and shook Ulysses' hand vigorously. "That's also me when I was younger over there, with Zoe and Jamie, this is Doctor Grace Holloway," he added, as she came over to them, curious, "and that slightly sullen person over there might have been my brother but thankfully isn't--" He paused, blinking. The Master was no longer where he had been standing.
He shrugged, and continued. "...and I must say that it's a pleasure to meet you at last. The me who usually inhabits this universe has been looking for you for simply *ages*..."
Doctor Ulysses gazed at the bizarre young man before him and blinked.
"What in the *hell* are you talking about?" he asked.
The Doctor stopped in the midst of a shake, his and Ulysses' intertwined hands frozen in mid-air. Grace and the Doctor glanced at each other gingerly as Doctor Ulysses stared back at them, perturbed.
"...Because if this is some type of joke, I really haven't the time for it now," Ulysses informed them, annoyed.
The Doctor released Ulysses' hand, and pointed an accusatory finger at him. "Now, come on! I've found you out -- admit it! You are a Time Lord. As a fellow Time Lord, *I* know."
Ulysses looked at him warily. "Oh, dear, he muttered, taking a step or two backwards.
The Doctor frowned. "Now, what--?" he began.
Grace grabbed his arm. "Doctor!" she exclaimed. "If you say he's a Time Lord, he probably is, but don't you see-- he must have amnesia, just like you did when you first regenerated!"
The Doctor's eyes widened. "Of course!" he exclaimed. His face fell. "Oh, dear...*that* rather throws a spanner into the works. I'd been hoping for some advice from you on how to safely navigate back to my universe," he told Ulysses ruefully.
Ulysses stared back, unnerved.
"I'm afraid that's the least of your problems, Doctor," a voice called.
Everyone turned to look at the figure that was facing them, wielding what was for the eighth Doctor a wearily familiar weapon.
It didn't take him long to figure out what had transpired. "The vortex on Necros-- I *thought* you looked different for a few moments, but got distracted by the flow of events. I see you've got your favorite weapon -- the tissue compression eliminator," he commented. "I gather that means you're *not* glad to see us..."
Grace stared at the figure before them. "I don't understand," she said, frowning. "That's the Master, but he suddenly looks different -- what's going on here?!"
The Doctor sighed. "That's the Master, yes. He and *your* Master were switched, when that vortex attacked me on Necros. But this is the Master from *my* universe, from before you ever met him, and in a different body."
He sighed again. "It's bad enough meeting myself out of sequence -- now I'm running into *him*, plucked from a different time stream. This is *really* not good for the time lines..."
The Master smiled coldly. "I shouldn't worry about that if I were you, Doctor. I think I'll just take this chance to destroy you all, now."
He raised the TCE, knowing they had nowhere to run, aimed, and activated it.
To Be Continued...