|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #03 - "Altered State"
The Hero swiveled to face the Empress. "The Doctor has been destroyed."
"Doctor!" wailed Peri dizzily. Her overexposed skin, already blistered and red from the effects of Spectrox Toxaemia, had been tanned close to golden by radiating heat and energy from the blast that had...killed...the Doctor. She collapsed in a dead faint.
"Oh! Oh my goodness!" The Doctor dropped to one baggy-trousered knee and felt at the throat of his future counterpart. His craggy face creased into a deep frown after a moment, and he waved a tired hand at the two Graces, who were approaching from either direction to administer first aid. "Oh my dears, I'm very much afraid that this patient is beyond your help."
"Doctor!" Grace flung herself across her Doctor's chest and began to sob uncontrollably. Her counterpart stood over her, uncomfortable in the awkward situation. She'd had to console dozens of grieving lovers in her medical career, but what did you say to yourself? Tears pricked at her eyes and what little composure she had managed to maintain flooded away.
"Doctor!" bellowed Jamie, spitting a mouthful of dirt and crushed wheat stalks. "He's gettin' awa'!" He pointed towards Doctor Ulysses' van, which the Master was attempting to start. With a bound, Jamie was on his feet, scooping up his dirk from the spot he'd dropped it when the Master had jumped him. Och, he'd pay for that wee trick when he caught up with - Too late! The van's engine roared into life and it jolted forwards. Its spinning rear wheels sprayed a fresh shower of ground wheat field in Jamie direction, knocking him down for a second time. "Och no," he groaned as the van zoomed away, cutting a swathe through what little of the wheat remained standing in the tornado's wake. "That's just no' fair..."
"Brother!" The colour drained from the MasterÕs face as he stared down at the Doctor's dead eyes. "Oh, poor Doctor, to have come so *close*!" He too, knelt beside the body, placing his hands on either side of the DoctorÕs head. Under his breath he began to murmur, a strange sentence of unfamiliar words than ran together like a musical arrangement. His whole body began to shake, small muscular spasms at first, then erratic twitching. As the others watched, the Master's movements became faster and faster, until they were a warped blur, difficult and confusing to look at.
All at once, the Doctor's body lurched and kicked. His eyes sprang open. Grace fell away from him in shock, her own eyes wide with suppressed terror. "Is he regenerating?" she asked, but the Master silenced her with a look of pity and anguish.
"No," he whispered. "The Doctor, my brother, is finally, irrevocably dead."
"Then what -?" asked both Graces.
The Master's lean face was filled with the pain of centuries. He would not face them. He stared into his dead brother's face and wept. "The Doctor was unlike any of our people. For a thousand years he lived so close to his emotions, feeling as no other Time Lord felt. Joy, pain, anger, triumph. That was why he traveled, why he took companions and lovers from across history. He needed so much to rebel against our traditions, to take his life and *live* it as no-one has done on Gallifrey for millennia. He made the Universe his home, and there was no place in it he would not go, just to see and touch and taste and feel it. He lived with his emotions *all the time*, do you understand? Every moment of his life they threatened to rise up and overwhelm him, and he lived with that threat, he embraced it and made it part of what he is and what he does."
The DoctorÕs body seemed to relax as the Master began massaging its neck and temples. A gray mist appeared to gather about the surface of the body, swirling around the kneading fingers and obscuring the DoctorÕs relaxed features. The Master worked his hands lower until he reached the chest, then spread his palms and lay them across the Doctor's hearts.
"The Doctor is dead, but his potential remains." It was an intonation. The Master no longer seemed to be speaking directly to those present. "I will take his remaining lives into myself. There is no other way."
The Doctor grabbed Grace by the shoulder and turned her gently. "No Grace, you mustn't interfere."
"But he's going to-"
"Grace, they're not from our universe. Things work differently there, we've both seen that." He pursed his lips and attempted a smile. "I think the Master knows what he's doing."
On the ground, the body of the alternate-universe Doctor had disappeared beneath what appeared to be a finely-spun cocoon of sparkling gray light. The gray mesh was growing along the MasterÕs arms, threading along an invisible loom. His faced tensed and his teeth gritted with pain as the tendrils of mist reached his shoulders, wove around his neck and enveloped his face. In a moment, he too, was cocooned. For a second Grace saw it as a stone sculpture and was struck with the incongruity of the wheatfield setting.
The shorter, older-looking Doctor sidled up to his counterpart. For a moment the two of them regarded the curious ritual in silence, but then the Doctor ran a grubby hand through his tousled black hair and said "I assume this is something to do with my future?"
"And mine," confirmed the eighth Doctor gravely. "Though this particular future circumstance I've been granted the privilege of remembering."
"Ah, I see," said the second Doctor. "Am I to understand that it's something we'd rather not know?"
"I'm afraid so."
The second Doctor sighed deeply. "I prefer to avoid the future whenever possible. I tend to find it rather disappointing."0
Down in the sunken living area, the remainder of the Dalek task force were quietly flashing machine-code compositions back and forth, praising the Hero's brave execution of the Ka Faraq Gatri and speculating on the rewards which Mistress Mel would no doubt heap upon it. For all their professed supremacy, Mistress Mel reflected, the Daleks really were hopelessly naive at times.
It was no good. She had ordered the Daleks to slip back into her TARDIS - her previously dubious claim to the time-travel capsule was now firmly cemented with the death of its former pilot - when the others were distracted. She needed time to think. Mindlessly repetitive exercise wasn't helping her mood. She could only see one other option.
"Foxglove, please come here."
The Hero stood its ground. "Empress, my designation has changed. I now answer only to Hero or Hero of the Empire."
Mistress Mel gritted her teeth. "Oh really? Hero, then. Come here."
"Hero, why did you exterminate the Doctor?" Mistress Mel turned her back on the Hero and strode across the console room floor to a long metal chest. She rapped on the lid, muttering "Open up or else, matey." The lid sprang obediently open.
"The Doctor is the enemy of the Daleks. The Doctor is Ka Faraq Gatri. The Doctor is -"
"The Doctor," interrupted Mistress Mel furiously, "owes me a considerable debt, which he is now hardly likely to repay, is he?" She rummaged around in the smoke-filled box with both hands.
"You have taken control of his TARDIS," pointed out the Hero.
"I already had his TARDIS, you nit!" She grabbed hold of something inside the box and wrenched it free. "I wanted *him*!" She hefted her prize and swung it around her shoulder to rest behind her head.
The Hero's external monitors suddenly began screeching alerts. "Warning, Empress! You are holding the Baseball Bat of Om-"
With a mighty wallop, Mistress Mel smashed the Hero's dome from the top of its shell, sending it sailing into the centre of the circled Dalek troops.
Mistress Mel tossed the bat into the open top of the gurgling Hero's casing. "I wouldn't know," she sniffed. "I played rounders at school."
"Oh he stole it," said the Doctor apologetically. "He'll probably find somewhere to hole up until he can come up with a scheme to destroy the world. As for your other questions, I'm afraid that in your current condition the answers would be less good for you than the uncertainty."
"You won't tell me anything?"
The Doctor looked at him curiously. "Things are never quite what they seem, Doctor Ulysses. Everything is part of something larger. When you look at one of your tornadoes, you see only the crudest fraction of the greater forces at work. The trick is to see the patterns that matter, and filter out the phantoms."
"What on Earth are you talking about?"
"Nothing specifically on Earth." The Doctor dropped suddenly to the ground, lying back with his hair in the wheat and staring into the cold, black clouds above. "You, me, everyone here, perhaps everyone everywhere, is being manipulated, Doctor Ulysses. It's part of a game, I think, but to what end? The rules are so uncertain, and our opponent refuses to reveal himself. I don't see the important patterns, do you see?" He sighed. "I used to be better at this sort of thing. Lately I seem to have lost the knack."
"Doctor- Doctors, you'd better come and look at this!"
At the moment, though, there was the more immediately interesting mystery of the statue. It seemed to be cracking open, like eggs did in Jamie's time. Fractures cobwebbed along its surface, and more of the gray mist hissed from each fault as it appeared. "Doctor-" she started, then corrected herself. "Doctors, you'd better come and look at this!"
Suddenly the gray cocoon shattered, sending hundreds of fragments spinning away like wounded butterflies. Dozens of them slapped into Zoe and disintegrated harmlessly. Interesting.
Having introduced herself and her counter-self to the still-unsteady Peri and discovered that beyond the obvious they had very little in common, Grace was relieved to be spared further nasal commentary from the shell-shocked botanist about the Doctor's rotten sense of timing. "It's opening!" she cried, a little too loudly, and jumped to her feet.
The Master was sitting comfortably amidst the piles of settling dust. "It's done, he said quietly. "The Valeyard's destiny remains confounded. This time forever."
The Doctor stared at his counterpartÕs brother with open curiosity. "I really hope that later we have the chance to discuss your reasons for doing that," he said, "but for now we have more pressing matters to attend to." He looked about himself thoughtfully and suddenly realised he had everyone's attention.
"Someone has brought all of us here together for a very specific purpose," he said, thinking the situation through out loud. "What their purpose is, is still unclear. I imagine it has something to do with the Doctor's quest to locate his missing father." He stared meaningfully at Doctor Ulysses, who shrugged with acutely heightened bafflement.
The Doctor frowned, having half-hoped the death of his presumed son would jog at least a few memories loose. The problem was apparently buried deeper than he had anticipated. Ah well. "What I do know is that there's a player or two still missing from the board. If I guess correctly, our invisible puppeteer will hurry them into position soon - I detect a distinct air of impatience about him."
"I don't understand Doctor," whined Peri. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking," said the Doctor, pointing to his right without bothering to look, "about that!" He was only mildly surprised to hear a rising electronic warble and feel a blast of warm, ion-charged air coming from the direction he had indicated.
"Really," he muttered, "whoever they are, they have a preposterous sense of the dramatic." Swirls of dust and wheat husk twisted into miniature tornadoes at the borders of the disturbance, mimicking their far larger cousin of an hour earlier.
"Rivaled only by your own," observed Grace, at his side. "Only you could demand that your deadliest enemies play up to your cues and expect them to play ball." The vortices resolved themselves into a coherent shape, a cyclindrical box with doors, some two metres tall in total.
"Really Grace, I do have some little experience of theatrical timing made manifest. So do you, come to that, or have you forgotten the Toymaker already?"
"Hardly." She shivered as a seam appeared between the doors. They began to swing open. "A quick bet, Doctor - who's about to get out of that thing?"
The Doctor turned and was about to say something when a figure stepped through the doors and spoke.
"Would one of you gentlemen be kind enough to fetch my mother? We have some catching up to do." The voice and figure belonged to a woman considerably older than the one the Doctor had met recently, but the towering cascades of bouncy red hair were utterly unmistakable.
"That would *not* have been my first guess," observed the Doctor.
"Susan?" yelped the alt-Grace unsteadily. "But you're -"
"Older?" said a second, much fatter figure as it joined the young woman on the step of the time capsule. "All grown up, yes! All thanks to me, I'm pleased to say."
"Mortimus?" yelped the second Doctor. "What are *you* doing here?"
"Making a fabulous entrance, my dear old Doctor!" The meddling renegade turned to the more current version of the Doctor. "And you, Doctor? What do you have to say for yourself?"
The Doctor stared up and down at the lithe, athletic daughter of his counterpart. "Apart from the fact that I suspect it's a good thing my other self never met Susan....ahem.... I'd have to say - what do we do now?"
End of that bit...
To Be Continued...