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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #03 - "Altered State"


Chapter 3
"Cross Purposes"
by Becky Dowgiert


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***************
'Altered State'
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Warning: Frisky concepts follow...


The Doctor woke in darkness. There was an immediate nagging feeling that there was something wrong.


       Perhaps it was the fact that he was half-lying, half-sitting, sprawled up against a dank stone wall.


       The next instant, a drop of water fell onto his forehead, trickling down the front of his face and rolling down over his mustache.


       He snorted in annoyance and went to get to his feet, only to find that his range of movement had been restricted by the primitive but extremely effective chain running from the iron cuff on his left ankle to a ring in the wall.


       "*Damn*!" he commented succinctly.


       He heard a *clink* as something stirred in the darkness to his right.


       "Doctor?" he heard Grace ask, cautiously.


       "Yes?"


       "Please tell me that the crawly thing I feel on my leg is your hand,' she said, somewhat plaintively.


       He looked sympathetically over in the direction of her voice. "Sorry, no," he told her sincerely.


       "Ohhh, hell, then there's something walking on me!" she exclaimed.


       "It's probably just a rat or something," he replied, off-handedly.


       "Well, *thank you*; I feel so much better now," she told him, through gritted teeth. "I know that jails in the past centuries were bad, but this is ridiculous!"


       "Silly Grace," he chided. "This is obviously not a municipal jail, but a dungeon. Anyone can see that!"


       She sat, considering. "What happened? One minute we were on our way to the jail..."


       "...and the next, we were flung into oblivion by some dastardly villain or other!" he proclaimed, energetically. "Such are the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, eh? And as for where we are, who can say? Perhaps we'll be trapped here for decades, nay, even centuries! wasting away in our solitude, until one day when the door at the top of the stairs will open, and--"


       Somewhere above them, protesting hinges squealed as a door opened. Dim light flooded into their prison, causing them to blink. The silhouette of someone's head appeared around the door frame.


       "Mother of God!" it exclaimed. "Will you have mercy on us and SHUT UP!"


       The silhouette disappeared as the door slammed shut with a dull clang.


       "Well, you're definitely wearing them down, Doctor," Grace commented.


* * *


Meanwhile, in the next universe-but-one, another Doctor and Grace sat frozen, as a hovering Dalek examined them closely.


       Despite the Doctor's predictions of either incipient extermination or an impromptu poetry recital, the floating mutant continued to circle around them silently, regarding them from all sides.


       It was quite unnerving. Grace winced. The idea of being examined, found wanting, and then having a lethal amount of energy discharged into her body, which would then be left lying, like a discarded, broken doll--


       God, she was getting morbid. It must be the place they were in, a desolate plain of crumbled rock, solidified slag heaps, twisted metal girders, and scudding clumps of fog. There was a bitter chill to the acidic air.


       She spoke aloud without thinking. "How do you stand it?!"


       The Dalek whirled on its hover-disk to regard her, and she flinched. *Boy, that was stupid, attracting its attention like that,* she reflected, as it came up extremely close to her, its multi-lobed eye-stalk peering at her as its clawed arm hovered alarmingly close to her face. She flinched involuntarily back against the metal sheet she was plastered against.


       It spoke then, in that electronic buzzing twang that she'd heard before on several occasions. "Repeat statement."


       She stared back at it. "I asked how you stand it, living in a place like this," she said, indicating their surroundings with the slightest wave of her right hand, before sending a worried glance her friend's way. The Doctor looked back, managing to look both grave and intrigued at the same time.


       "You are intruders. All intruders must be exterminated," the Dalek informed them with merciless logic. "However, your query must also be answered."


       Grace and the Doctor looked at each other in involuntary surprise. They'd won an at least temporary reprieve, for curiosity?


       "You will accompany me," the Dalek sentry informed them. "Do not attempt to escape, or you will be-"


       "Yes, yes, yes, we know! Or we'll be exterminated. Really, you'd think this sort of thing had never happened to us before!"


       "-exterminated," the Dalek finished, as Grace gave the Doctor an irritated look.


       The Doctor, not noticing, made a noise of disgust, as he scrambled to his feet, helping Grace up.


       They started to walk, the Dalek following watchfully behind them.


       "Actually, it's all going very nicely, so far, Grace," the Doctor informed her, cheerfully, as he slid an arm companionably around her waist. "Now we'll be able to ask if they've seen any sign of Ulysses..."


       Grace blinked. Not around her shoulder momentarily, as she might have expected, but tightly around her waist.


       This was new.


* * *


"As dungeons go, I must say that I don't think much of this one," another Doctor said, shrugging his shoulders in irritation. A succession of steady drips from the ceiling and wall were hitting his dark red jacket and purple trousers. "There's no ambiance, no fellow prisoners for us to share our fears for the future with," he complained.


       "Oh, I find it quite sufficiently depressing," Grace informed him. "*I* think you're too picky."


       "Ha! If you'd been in some of the places I've been in, you'd see how this one pales in comparison!" he declared.


       "Yeah, well, I'll take your word for it..." she began. She stopped suddenly, listening. She had heard the jingle of a chain from the Doctor's direction.


       "Doctor, what are you doing?" she inquired.


       "Oh, just pulling this chain out of where it's attached to the wall," he informed her absently. There was a grunt of effort, an oomph! and a clank, as someone stumbled backwards.


       "Just pulling the chain out--" she repeated in disbelief. "You mean you could have done this hours ago?!"


       She still couldn't see much in the windowless room, but she somehow knew that he had just shrugged.


       "Well, I figured we might as well leave now, since it's such a bore in here. Besides, we should get back to finding Ulysses, as well as finding out who switched us from our universe to this one."


       She shook her head. "Sometimes you amaze me," she said sardonically. Suddenly she yelped.


       "Why, hello, Grace," the Doctor said, innocently. "I seem to have found your leg..."


       "Yes, I noticed," she remarked dryly. "The chain," she informed him patiently, "is over here." She resolutely redirected his hand from her leg to the metal wall staple.


       He sighed. "Grace," he chided, "sometimes you can be depressingly serious."


       "Yeah, well, one of us has to be, right now." She could hear him reach forward and yank the metal staple out of the wall.


       "There!" he said, cheerfully, dropping the end of the chain with a dull clink. "Now, where were we?"


       "*Doctor*!"


       "Oh, come on, Grace! Isn't it kind of romantic, here in the dark?"


       "With all the dripping water and the vermin? Not really! Doctor, we should be escaping while we can -- this is no time for romance!"


       "Spoil-sport," he complained, as she clambered to her feet.


       "We have to get out through that door, up there," she said, considering.


       "Right, unless there's a secret entrance to the sewers, or something."


       She glared in his general direction. "You sound almost like you don't mind the idea of going through the sewers..."


       "Amazing places, sewers! You never know what you'll find lurking in them..."


       "Right; I'm taking the stairs, even though there might be a hoard of henchmen waiting up there," Grace announced, brightly. "Do you want to stay down here, and look for the sewer?" She moved carefully towards the direction she last remembered the door being in, then stopped in annoyance to pick up the trailing end of chain that was dragging behind her.


       "Right behind you, hon," he told her.


       She moved forward, chary of barked shins, and felt her feet hitting stone. Reaching forward, she felt stone steps. "Okay; I've found the stairs," she told the Doctor. "I'm going to go up and see if I hear anything..."


       She carefully slipped up the steps, clutching both her chain and her skirt to avoid tripping. She could see ahead of her the faint light-limned outline of the door. Carefully holding her chain as to avoid any clanks, she carefully laid an ear against the door. What she heard made her frown in puzzlement, there in the dark.


       She could hear little clinks and clanks, supplemented by the sound of murmuring voices. She flinched back as heavy footsteps passed by the door.


       The next instant, the smell of onion soup wafted into her nose.


       "I smell food," she hissed to the Doctor where he stood, right behind her.


       "Feeding time?" he suggested. "Well, now's the time to go, while they're busy..."


       They both jerked back in surprise, as the door was suddenly yanked open in front of them.


       The balding middle-aged man dressed in drab nineteenth-century work clothing stumbled back with a shout of surprise, as the Doctor gleefully bounded forward, grabbing Grace's hand and pulling her after him.


       "Thankyouforthehospitalitybutwereallymustbegoingnow," the Doctor informed the stunned warder, as he and Grace rushed through the archway next to the door to the cellar they'd just emerged from, and into a dining room.


       Not slowing down, the Doctor began to thread his way around the patron and dinner-laden tables, as the balding man shouted out in alarm, and diners began to leap to their feet in surprise.


       "Somebody stop them!"


       Dodging to put a table between them and one of the wait staff, who had begun to lunge at them, arms outstretched, the Doctor and Grace threw themselves out of the door, into the cobbled Parisian street, and began to run.


* * *


On Skaro, Grace glanced, bemused, at the Doctor as he walked alongside her, left arm still wrapped around her. He was pointing out landmarks as if he were a Skaroan bus tour guide. If there ever had been such a thing.


       "...And over there, see? is another hill of melted glass. You get those from the extremely high temperatures at the centers of thermonuclear detonations; the silica in the soil fuses together from temperatures as high as several million degrees..."


       Their Dalek guard, she noted, glancing warily behind, was merely following them, though she got the impression that it was listening intently to every word that was being said. The only times it spoke were when a course change was necessary to keep them going in the correct direction.


       It spoke thus, now. "Course change, forty degrees to the right," it shrilled.


       The Doctor immediately stopped, spun on his heels to face in a slightly different direction, then set off again, pulling Grace with him.


       Grace shook her head slightly.


       She suddenly realized that her alien friend was asking her a question.


       "Grace? Is something the matter?" he was inquiring solicitously.


       She frowned, speaking in a low tone so that their guide wouldn't hear. "Well, aside from the fact that this isn't our proper universe, and that we're being taken God knows where by a floating pepper-pot with claw...no, I guess not."


       He grinned as he squeezed her encouragingly. "That's my girl."


       She looked at him suspiciously. What was he up to, here? Was he trying to act like what he imagined his counterpart to be, so that no one would find out that they were not the exact people they were supposed to be?


       That had been quite a shock, waking up and finding him in her bed.


       After all, their relationship was quite clearly defined; they both knew exactly where they stood. That was a good thing.


       The fact that they'd shared a few moments that might be construed as 'romantic' when she'd first met him had nothing to do with her decision to travel with him, the second time he had asked. Absolutely not. No siree Bob.


       At the time, it had been obvious that they were just to be good friends. She'd decided she could deal with that.


       Now was no time to go upsetting the status-quo.


       Right.


       She blinked and tried to ignore the pang of disappointment she felt as the Doctor disentangled his arm from around her and stopped to point out something up ahead.


       "Look! Our destination, I presume."


       "Continue!" the Dalek commanded them.


       They proceeded the few hundred meters to the edifice, which was a depressingly unimaginative warehouse-style building. As they approached, a door set into the wall slid open.


       The Doctor and Grace hesitated momentarily, then, as their guard came menacingly close behind them, walked gamely through the doorway.


       Once inside, they stopped in dismay. The building was *full* of Daleks, all like their compatriot who had just shooed its two captives inside.


       "Oh, no..." Grace murmured, and found herself instinctively drawing close to her friend. Or was it the other way around? At any rate, they were both clinging to each other for comfort.


       They moved forward reluctantly, as their guard herded them further into the open space. Literally dozens and dozens of Daleks turned their double eyestalks to stare at them.


       Their captor hovered forward. "These intruders were found in sector 17. Protocol dictates extermination, but the female made a query, which *must* be answered prior to extermination."


       Grace blinked, first at the 'extermination' part, and then at the veritable electronic murmur which rose from the ranks of mutant-machines. It was, she realized, the Dalek equivalent of interested muttering.


       The speaker turned to regard Grace once again. "Repeat your query," it commanded her. So Grace once more stated her question:


       "How can you stand to live here, on Skaro?"


       The speaker moved back, satisfied. The other Daleks hummed a bit, and then drew back, creating an open space. One lone Dalek then floated forward out of the crowd and into the center of the clearing.


       It sat, momentarily, as if preparing itself for something. Then it began to speak.


       The Doctor and Grace stared as the Dalek began to recite poetry.


       "My God!" Grace whispered. "It's a Dalek poetry slam!"

To Be Continued...


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To be continued...



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