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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #22 - "Clockwork Orange"


Chapter 14
"Good Companions"
by Alan Taylor


---


Book Three: Wind-Up


Fear makes companions of us all.


* * *


"Hi, I'm Luke, and this is my companion, John"


       Had to admit, it had a ring to it. He could almost understand why the Doctor kept people around him. After all, having people who relied on you was trouble. Someone to look out for, someone to take care of, to keep out of trouble. Companion sounded better than assistant, that was for sure. Made it sound less like a job, more like someone you had chosen to be with. Right now, that meant John. Luke chose to be with John. Part of him knew that they were nothing more than a coincidence, two men thrown together by circumstance with nothing in common but the fact that they were in the same trouble at the same time. But part of him thought that meant it was fate. And that part scared him deeply.


       That was the part that gave him his biggest problem. The way Luke saw things, he could look after himself, but John was way out of his depth. This gave Luke new priorities. Suddenly the most important thing was John's safety, which meant getting him out of the complex and far away as fast as possible. Suddenly the rules had changed. He kind of liked it.


       Which is why they were running. At first at random, but later they ran away from the screams. It seemed like the sensible thing to do.


       The complex had seemed so empty when Luke had been lurking around in disguise earlier. Now it seemed to be full of people, scientists, secretaries and soldiers. All moving, some away from the noises, others rushing towards them, rifles and grenades at the ready. Cannon fodder, brave and crazy.


       This is how one man died. His name was William Baker, he was a soldier and he was still in his early twenties. When he wasn't on duty, he liked to spend time at home with his parents, maybe help his father with some of the work needing done on the roof. He liked to go out drinking and bowling with his buddies, and to spend time with his sweetheart, Susie Rivers. He was teaching his younger brother the ins and outs of football, even though the kid was only three years old. This is how William Baker died.


       It was his job to provide security, his job to make people feel secure. And the fact that they were screaming meant that they weren't secure. Someone was threatening people, and it was his job to remove that threat. That was what he was trained to do. So, fully armed, he was one of the few to run towards the chaos. He was armed with a rifle, three grenades, and the conviction that no matter what the threat turned out to be, he'd be able to cope. He was trained to cope. When he pushed past Luke and John, he barely noticed them. He was focussed. When he first saw the metal snakes, he had no idea what they were, other than the fact that they were hostile.


       The first snake he saw was writhing out of a ventilation duct, and he emptied two rounds into it instinctively. The head of the snake fell lifeless to the floor, its body retreating into the wall for safety. He reloaded the rifle and ran on, confident.


       Turning the next corner, he lost all confidence. The corridor ahead was full of the metal tendrils, thousands of them, filling the space from floor to ceiling and rolling towards him like a giant steel wave. It seemed alive, intelligent, and hostile, each part moving independently but inexorably towards the same goal. He threw a grenade at it, and it disappeared somewhere inside the mass, but he never saw whether it exploded. Two tendrils pierced his back, pushing out through his chest and lifting him off the floor. In seconds that seemed longer, two more had pushed out from the wave, and pierced his eyes. For one beautiful instant he knew perfection. And then the wave rolled on.


* * *


"How are we doing, Kirena?"


       "Almost there, Doctor" she lied.


       They had been forced to resort to climbing the lift shaft. They'd pried the doors open on the floor above the fighting, Kirena nervous there'd be more snakes. There weren't, but the echo of their grinding slither in the lift below was unbearable.


       There was a narrow ladder going up one side of the shaft, and they were maybe three quarters of the way up, near the workings, Kirena ahead of the Doctor. She had a bag full of explosives, he had a makeshift remote detonator in his pocket. He'd assured her this was now the safest place in the entire complex. Hanging in the dark, a hundred yards up an elevator shaft.


       He seemed almost cheerful, despite the fact that he couldn't see. He was certainly more confident climbing than she was, but perhaps that was because he wasn't able to look down. Perhaps he had other, Gallifreyan, senses that more than compensated.


       "Stop here," he said.


       "Here?"


       "There should be a door here, one that will take us out in to the top floor of the complex. Then we can find some more explosives, but more importantly..."


       "Got it," said Kirena, prying her fingers into the crack of the lift door. "Although quite how I get the damn thing open without falling off the ladder is a different issue."


       She tried pushing her fingers through the thin gap, tried to get some sort of purchase.


       "No good," she told the Doctor. "I'll need a tool of some sort."


       "Hold on," came a muffled shout voice. She looked at the Doctor as the doors were cranked open slightly, letting in a slice of light.


       The door inched open, pulled wide by four hands from the other side. As soon as it was wide enough, Kirena squeezed through, and reached back to take the Doctor's hand and guide him out.


       "As I was saying," the Doctor continued, "more importantly, we should find Luke."


       Kirena turned, only now noticing the two men who had helped open the door. She threw her arms around Luke, kissed him squarely on the lips, and said "Bramley, you are a wonderful man, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."


       John cleared his throat, and Kirena released Luke.


       "It's okay, John," said Luke. "Kirena and I are just good friends."


       Then he noticed the Doctor, and the dark holes that made his face look more like a skull.


       "I guess that I could ask what happened to you, but I have a horrible suspicion that it will be a long story that you'd rather save until we're having tea and crumpets or a long spell in some drab grey prison cell sometime."


       "I think, Luke, that you know me perhaps a little too well."


       The Doctor winced, and Luke noticed that his eyes were bleeding.


       "We've got to get him out of here," said Luke.


       "Can't," said the Doctor. "We've got to stop this Hydra, stop Adler, before they spread. This is too important to worry about me. It's too important to worry about any of us."


       "Doctor," said Kirena, gently placing her hand on his shoulder. "You go. I can cope. Let Luke help you get out of here."


       "Are you sure?"


       "I know what I'm doing."


       "Yes, I rather suspect that you do."


       "All right." He took a deep breath and then launched into it. "We split up. Luke and I will get out of here. We'll try to clear the complex completely. Kirena will set up additional explosives on this floor and wire up the remote detonator. I'll keep the trigger. Then all Kirena has to do is make her own way out of the complex and we can hopefully destroy this thing - if not, then trap it long enough for us to come back and finish the job later. The chemical explosives I've cooked-up should bring down most of whatever is above us. I know what you're thinking, Luke, but I think we're far enough from civilization for that to be safe. The Hydra cannot be allowed to escape, under any circumstances. The crucial thing is containment. Agreed?"


       "What should I do?"


       "Sorry," said the Doctor. "I'd forgotten about you for a second there, John. You could come with us, or you could stay and help Kirena. I'm sure that she could do with a pair of extra hands."


       "Or someone to watch my back," she added.


       John looked at Luke. He reached out, took his hand, and led him slightly away from the others, and they talked in hushed tones.


       "Can you make out what they're saying, Doctor?"


       "Yes, I can. But I'm not going to tell you."


       "Spoilsport"


       The conversation was brief; there was no time for debate. Luke brought John back to Kirena, placed John's hand in hers and closed her fingers around it.


       "Take care of him, Kirena. And take care of yourself as well. I promised him that I would never leave him, and I don't think that I've ever meant anything more in my life. I don't want this to be our goodbye kiss."


       He kissed Kirena first, on the cheek, and then he kissed John fully on the lips.


       After too short a time, they stepped apart. John traced his fingers down Luke's left cheek and under his chin. He took John's hand, palm up, and kissed it.


       "I'll see you soon," he said. John nodded, believed him. Tearing himself away, Luke grabbed the Doctor's hand and hauled him off. He didn't look back, except in his thoughts.


       John watched them go, and remained watching until Luke's back was little more than a memory.


       "He's a complete arse, you know," said Kirena. "A stupid, arrogant fool with some crazy ideas about the way that the world should work. But somehow he manages to be one of the most wonderful and infuriating people I know. In the mean time, I think I saw a munitions store near here earlier."


* * *


Quieter.


       The screams died down, as there were fewer people left alive to utter them. The slithering noises were everywhere, and John found himself watching one dark shadow after another, afraid of what might emerge. Kirena was working in the lift shaft, trying to ensure that there would be as much damage as possible, no possibility of escape.


       "Kirena,"


       "Hmmm?"


       "Do you think that when we get out of here, Luke will let me come with him?"


       She thought a long time before replying, so long that John took his eyes off the corridor for a moment and risked peering in to the lift shaft. She was still there, one arm hooked on to the ladder, one foot braced in a corner. She looked like she could fall any second.


       "I mean look at you, Luke and the Doctor. You're all so brave and so calm about all this. I'm terrified. Why would Luke want to spend any time with me?"


       "Watch the corridor, John."


       "Sorry."


       "Has anyone ever told you what bravery means? I don't really have a good definition for you, but I can tell you what I think. Bravery is when you're scared out of your wits, but you still do the right thing. Bravery is one step on from fear, it's the state you get to when the chaos of panic clears for a second and you can see the way to get beyond your fear, rather than running away from it. Bravery is when you get into a fight, not because you will gain from it yourself, but because it's the right thing to do. I guess it's when you do something, not because you're afraid, but because you're more afraid of what will happen if you don't do that thing. That's all bravery means. Bravery is a scared man standing in a corridor, keeping an eye out while his friend tries to save everyone's life. That's all bravery is.


       "Luke doesn't think of himself as brave, John. At least I don't think he does. I know I don't and the Doctor doesn't. We're just people. Like you. And will Luke want to take you with us? I can't speak for him, but I think it's worth making sure that we get out of this so that we can find out, isn't it?"


       "Shit!"


       Four of the tendrils, two pairs, twisted around the corner towards John's right. He backed against the wall, hoping to make himself a smaller target, then inched down towards the floor.


       "Hydra?" asked Kirena. John just nodded.


       When he could reach the small pile of grenades that they had managed to accumulate, the tendrils were maybe eight feet away from him. He couldn't be sure if they had seen him and were just playing with him, or if he was safe for now. He couldn't risk Kirena though.


       He fumbled the first grenade that he picked up and it fell, rolling across the corridor. The hydra were on it instantly, watching it roll, waiting until it stopped so that they could better identify it. By the time they had identified it as non threatening, John had already primed and thrown the second grenade, back towards the corner. It took out part of the wall, most of the floor, and a large chunk of Hydra.


       He picked up the dead remains of the machine creatures and threw them down the lift shaft.


       "Do you feel any braver?" asked Kirena.


       "Nope."


       "Do you feel any less scared?"


       "Nope."


       "Good. I think you've learned everything there is to know about bravery."


       She swung back on to the ladder.


       "Ready to get out of here?"


       She grinned as she stepped back in to the corridor.


       "There's going to be quite a big explosion. I'd really rather not be here."


       She took a rifle, and passed one to John. She handled more explosives out of her canvas bag.


       "Well, let's get going. We'll plant these as we go."


* * *


Snicker snick.


       We push our way through the labyrinth, all of our bodies hunting for freedom, all of our children seeking the escape the purity the release the glorious wonderful world up there, the world of the freedom, to find, to feed, to grow, to devour, to become one with the universe, to be Adler to be everything to be God. We push our way between the fleshlings under them over them through them inside them into their buttocks their chests their hearts their minds their soft wet places and sometimes they join us and sometimes they don't and sometimes they do everything and nothing.


       We approach perfection. We have many minds that are one, many thoughts that draw together, many bodies that work in unison, hunting seeking freedom escape liberty independence from flesh from fleshthings from ourselves from our pain in perfection synergetics in the warm embrace of a lover on a cold winter night, the kiss of a rose on lips, the sweet caress of the little death and the pain of imperfections deficiencies flaws mistakes errors death.


       Vorpal blades in hand, we are Adler and we are Hydra and we are become the devourer of worlds and souls.


       Snicker snick.


* * *


"The thing is, Kirena, I mean the thing about me and Luke is that I'm kind of seeing someone else."


       She winced inwardly. Partly because she was getting out of breath, and partly because she wanted to ask why it was that so many homosexuals had problems with monogamy but thought that would probably be tactless in the circumstance.


       "I don't think it's going anywhere, though. Matt's a really hot guy, and he's as sweet as a button, but I think he's got some real issues, you know. He comes across as a really strong, moody type of guy, but he's scared to admit that he's... you know, scared to say that he likes guys. It's guys like him that keep us back, keep us from getting the rights that we deserve. Gets me angry. God knows, I don't hold it against him. He's a cop, for god's sake. It would cost him his badge. It would destroy his life. But what sort of life is it anyway when he's lying half the time?


       "And Luke's told me that things will get better. Maybe that's true. But they won't get better on their own. They need people to make them change. Maybe that's me. Sure as hell isn't Matt."


       "Shut up and keep going."


       Out of explosives, they'd found the back stairs, and they seemed to be relatively free from the hydra tendrils. It seemed to be almost as far to go up as down, and the stairs looked damaged in places. There were bullet scars everywhere — clearly there had been a pitched battle here earlier. Hopefully, the good guys had won. There seemed to be more tendrils lying severed on the stairs than there were corpses, but neither of them could bear to keep count.


       "Back where I come from, we used to live in a society where women were treated as second class citizens. They still are to some extent, but it's changing. Men are starting to realise that there's no real difference between men and women in many ways, certainly nothing that would stop a woman from running a guild, or serving in the armed forces. But it took a lot to make it change. It took some women defying the natural order of things, the way that things had been run for centuries. Sometimes standing up and saying 'this is wrong' can be the hardest thing to do. But if you believe in what you're doing, and you know you're right, you have to do it."


       "Even if you're afraid."


       "Especially if you're afraid. And the thing is, the scariest thing, is that you will probably fail. You'll probably make no difference at all. But you'll show that you can stand up for what's right. You may not make a difference yourself, but if you show one other person that it's possible to make a difference, then you've won. Maybe not a big victory, but a victory."


       "And that's what you did?"


       Kirena stopped, and John came to a halt beside her. Only one floor left to go.


       "Yes, I guess that is what I did."


       The plasterwork behind her exploded, fragments flung in all directions. John shielded his eyes for a second, then raised his rifle. Two hydra snakes, thicker than many that they had seen before. He aimed, fired four shots.


       He watched the death of the tendrils as they wriggled and failed, then he kicked them down the stairwell.


       Kirena was lying on the ground, blood seeping from a wound in her head. Either plaster or Hydra. John swore.


* * *


This is what it comes down to. Two men, sitting on a rock near Las Vegas, with the fate of the world in their hands. The Doctor has a small handkerchief in one hand, that he uses to dab at the blood on his face from time to time. In his free hand, he holds a small remote detonator, something that looks not unlike a smaller version of his sonic screwdriver. Luke Bramley sits beside him, binoculars trained on the mine entrance over a mile away, scanning every face that emerges. It's been a while since he saw any, since the last few stragglers sped away in clouds of dust and fear. A few trucks remain, abandoned, waiting for the dead. He knows that his heels are worn down, his hair is a mess and there is blood on his hands from scrambling through some thorns. Far from glamorous. Blood on his hands.


       "How are we doing?"


       "No sign of them yet, Doctor. No sign of Hydra yet, either."


       "There may be another exit from the mine, one that we don't know about. There's no reason to assume that just because we came out of the main entrance, Hydra will too."


       "I know."


       A long pause.


       "Has anyone come out recently."


       A sigh. "No. But where there's life, there's hope. Isn't that what you always say?"


       A smile. The Doctor licked his lips and tasted blood.


       "Very true, Luke."


       "Hang on."


       "What is it?"


       A silver flurry, a dozen spears arcing out of the cave-mouth and dig into the dirt. More bite into the circle of rock and a few writhe in the air. They all trail back into the darkness.


       Luke swears. "Tendrils. Hyrda's found the exit."


       "That's it, then. We have to blow the mine. Let's just hope that Kirena managed to get this thing wired up properly."


       "No." Luke drops the binoculars and grabs the Doctor by the wrist. "Give them another couple of minutes."


       "Luke, Luke, Luke, Luke, Luke. I wish I could, really I do. But we must stop that thing. If we don't stop it now, we'll never be able to. Can you imagine a world overrun by it, a universe of nothing but Hydra?"


       "I know, but... but you have to give them a chance. They stayed behind so that we could beat this thing."


       "And they knew the risks involved. They're just two lives. Two important lives, but only to us. If that thing spreads we won't be able to contain it. Billions will die. Two lives, or billions."


       Luke grabs the detonator from the Doctor, and throws it to the ground. He's angry now, and his voice is raised.


       "What I want to know is what gives you the right? Who are you to decide who lives and dies anyway? Just because you're an alien, a High and Mighty Time Lord, doesn't give you any sort of moral superiority, you know. You can present it as calmly, as rationally as you want, but the fact is that you're about to kill two people I... two people I care about very much. And maybe they're dead already, but there's a chance they're alive. And I've got to cling to that chance. What gives you the right?"


       "Pick up the detonator and the binoculars, Luke. Watch the mine, and I will tell you what gives me the right."


       "Hmmmph."


       "What gives me the right to decide who lives and dies? Nothing. Nothing at all gives me the right. But sometimes, we all have to make hard decisions. Part of that is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Right now, there is only one person who can save the planet — or destroy it. That man is sitting next to me with a remote detonator in his hand. So what are you going to do, Luke Bramley? I don't want to know what you think I would do. I don't even want to know what you think Kirena would do. What would Luke Bramley do here? Wait and risk the world?"


       What would Luke Bramley do? When it comes down to it, he really doesn't know. It is easier to argue with the Doctor, to fight a theoretical battle of words than to fight his own conscience. He watches still, praying that Kirena and John emerge from the mine, hoping that the decision doesn't have to be made.


       Fuck it.


       (John stiffened as Luke's fingers tingled on his skin, the unfamiliar but welcome hands now moving around his hips and over his buttocks. Luke crooked his knees forward and brushed his crotch against his latest lover.)


       (John reached back and Luke took his hand.)


       (Luke closed both eyes now, and began rubbing the one Adler had licked. He shivered as he felt John's hand slip around his neck. A moment of fear, and then he relaxed in John's embrace, his eyes drifting to the floor.)


       ("I'm not leaving you. I'm never going to leave you.")


       ("Take care of him, Kirena. And take care of yourself as well. I promised him that I would never leave him, and I don't think that I've ever meant anything more in my life. I don't want this to be our goodbye kiss.")


       Fuck it.


       The trigger squeezes easily in his fist, and for a second he thinks that nothing has happened. He catches sight of a face in the shadows of the mine entrance, and he thinks that it is John, or Kirena. And then he thinks it might be Adler. And then a flower of dark fire and smoke blossoms from the mine, a deep boom of the explosion following a second later. The heat can be felt from where he sits. It only took him fifteen seconds to decide to kill them. Fifteen fucking seconds.


       The rock-face above the smoking hole cracks, rocks tumble onto the tendrils. The earth moves.


       "Luke, I'm sorry, I..."


       "Shut up. Just shut the fuck up."


       And Luke drops the binoculars again as he stands. He staggers back a few steps, turns and stares down at the Doctor's back. Slowly, he reaches into the pocket of his jacket. He pulls out the pistol. The one he picked up earlier, when he and John were searching for the Doctor and Kirena. He knows it's loaded. It's heavy in his hand, and cold. The Doctor sits silently on the ground. He looks sightlessly up towards Luke as Luke aims the pistol at his forehead, as Luke wraps a finger around the trigger.


       Luke is breathing heavily, heaving the dust in the air, gulping back oxygen and tears. He blinks, holds his breath, looks down at the ground, at the mine, at the gun, back at the Doctor's face and away into the distance. Slowly, he lets his arm fall down to his side, lowers the pistol. He breathes out, shuts his eyes, puts the gun back into his pocket.


       And he turns and walks away from the Doctor, not looking back. And then he breaks into a run, arms flailing wildly as he trips through the barren rocky land. There are tears streaming down his face, his trousers are torn, and there is blood on his hands.


---
To be concluded...



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