|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #24 - "Remiel"
"Tell the Rain Not to Drop"
by Gregg Smith
Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting
- — Finley Peter Dunne
* * *
"When God closes a door he opens a window. All you have to do is put your life in the hands of destiny and climb through." His voice carried on the wind and he giggled mournfully.
"Sam, listen to me. This isn't you. You've got no reason to die."
"Not Sam anymore. Not really. Not completely."
"Sam, please. Please don't do this."
Ruth felt the ledge shrinking under her feet. It had seemed small enough from the window. Now, teetering here on the outside edge of a gleaming residential block, it was like nothing more than a light scar on the perfect silver surface of the building.
"Just come back in, Sam. We can work this all out."
"It was stupid from the start. I should have known, if the police weren't going to put me through this, the insurance company would have. I suppose I'm lucky you guys got there first, the insurers would have assumed the worst from the start and kept my host chained up."
"Sam? Sam?" She thought about it. "Mr Curry? Ben?"
"Look, it's not going to work. I messed up. Everything was perfect, you know. Everything was done right, to the smallest detail. You and your partner would never have figured it out. But you had to get in here, didn't you?" Sam smacked the side of his head. "And no matter how much I fought, I could feel him getting closer. I ran. It's weird, you know. Running through someone else's mind. You must have noticed the changes. I can't go back after what I've done."
"We know it was suicide now. You're family will get nothing, Ben. Killing yourself again won't solve anything."
"I can't face them. I can't go back."
"Fight it, Sam. Fight it," Ruth swept strands of her shoulder-length, raven black hair away from her face, then quickly reached back to the smooth wall for balance.
"There's nothing for me to fight. There's no Sam and Ben anymore. We're united, joined, as one. And though he doesn't want to die, Sam is in total agreement with my actions. Ever heard of cognitive dissonance? Well, I want to die. And Sam wants to live, but he also wants to be free of me. He can't live with me in here," another smack against his forehead. "He doesn't want to. The resolution to my desire for death, and his for freedom, is simple. As easy as falling off a log." He turned to face her. "I'm sorry, Ruth. We both are."
And then Sam, and Ben inside him, stepped forward, out into the still night air. And he dropped like a stone.
Ruth shouted throatily, reaching out for him and nearly toppling. She pushed her way back to the window and clambered back inside, then collapsed on the floor sobbing. By the time back-up arrived she had composed herself. She left Ben Curry's flat showing just enough, but not too much, sadness to be assumed fit for duty. But she made her mind up there and then.
* * *
Luke grabbed the waiter around the waist and slammed him down to the ground.
They slid across the grass a little way, onto the gravel circle surrounding the bench. They wrestled, pushing against each other and trying to find the room, between the ground and the bench, to punch or kick.
The waiter shouted but his words were strangled away by the hands on his chest, at his throat, grabbing and pulling him. Luke was silent, though his eyes and his actions spoke of hate and pain. They rolled, the waiter on top and trying to get away, Luke determined to keep hold, trying to squeeze or strangle the life out of the other man.
"I'm sorry," screamed the waiter hoarsely. "Why did you have to get involved? It wasn't meant for her. Ack! Wrong table. I said nobody could stop me, you shouldn't have tried! You shouldn't have followed me. I didn't want your friend to die."
Luke wasn't paying any attention, grappling and lashing out, and then he was on top again, his knees pinning the waiter down, his hands around the waiter's throat. And he squeezed, as the waiter writhed and battered against Luke's arms and scratched at his face.
The girl grabbed Luke by the hair, hauling him off the waiter.
"Ow, ow, ow, wait, wait, wait, wait!" He grabbed her hand and allowed himself to be dragged back, gritting his teeth against the pain.
She let go of his hair and he flopped onto the dewy grass, his shins bumping the waiter's. The girl stood behind him, and when he looked up she was frowning and biting her lip. He pushed himself to his feet and looked from the waiter to the crazy girl.
"I'm sorry," said the waiter. "I'm so sorry. I tried to save her. I tried to stop it happening. I wish I could go back."
Luke raised his eyebrows.
"What if you could?"
"What if you could go back? Change what happened, stop yourself from planting the bomb. Would you?"
The waiter looked at him from the gravel, frowning and rubbing his throat.
"Would you really try to save her? Or would you be more in trying to get your real target? How could I trust someone like you? But I need help. If I'm going to do it, if I'm going to save her." Luke frowned, then he turned and he smiled reassuringly at the girl. She was standing a short way behind him, looking anxious and frightened and as if she were about to burst out in tears or laughter. "What's your name?" he asked her.
"It's Mavis." She smiled back nervously.
"Mavis. That's a pretty name. Do you know what the word is for taking control of your life?"
"Erm. I could make one up."
"Of course you could." He took her by the elbow and started steering her towards the TARDIS. "But it would have to be a really special word. A really, really special word. You'd have to think really hard."
She nodded intently. Luke glanced back at the waiter, who was still getting his breath back.
"I know a special place for thinking. Would you want to see a special place for thinking?" She nodded even harder, her head leaping up and down as if it were trying to escape her neck.
"And later, you can help me." He slid the TARDIS key into the little, scratched lock. "And if we fail," he looked back down at Holmes, who was staring blearily up, dimly aware of what was going on. "If we fail," he opened the door to the TARDIS and guided Mavis inside. She paused in the doorway and glanced anxiously back at the waiter. Luke reached out and put his arms on her shoulders.
"There's cakes inside. And lots of nice things. And I'll be your friend." She grinned again and went inside. The waiter was starting to stand, reaching out and shaking his head. Luke stared back at him. He grinned viciously at the terrorist.
"If I fail to save my friend, fail to stop you murdering her... then I'll keep yours."
* * *
"Tonight on Panavista, from the team who brought you exclusive news of the use of biodata grafting in homicide investigations:"
"Join us as we delve into the spine-tingling case of the Merry Widow, killed during arrest, and the desperate husband who agreed to receive a graft of her biodata to help the police locate and save his wife."
* * *
The Doctor sprinted between the short bollards at the edge of the park and on through the trees, across the grass, towards the TARDIS. He slowed as he reached the last lonely trees before the open patch his home was currently sitting on. He wasn't tired. He had lost no breath, broken no sweat, though he had run as fast as he could from the restaurant. But he could hear the sirens behind him. And he could that it was too late. That there was nowhere for him to go.
The waiter, with his streak of blond hair and his carefully careless leather overcoat, was staggering, leaning on the bench, reaching out towards the TARDIS. Why had he followed Luke? Or was he just heading this way coincidentally? Or was there something about this point in space and time. Was this about to become the start of something? The start of the end?
The waiter stumbled forward and collapsed to his knees, as the wind in the park started to heighten, billowing his leather jacket, whipping at the Doctor's hair and coat tails. And the heaving started, a sound like waves of distant thunder, like a god snoring. The blue light atop the TARDIS started to pulse coldly, and moments later the craft grew pale and started to fade from view. For a few brief, painful moments, the whole craft pulsed in and out of existence, angry as always at being wrenched out of reality, yet snorting and chapping at the bit to be gone to somewhere new and unknown.
And then it was gone, and the park fell silent and still.
The waiter was shaking his head, leaning forward to touch the ground where the blue box had been. There was an indentation in the grass, a square patch of dry and flattened green amid the spiked and dewy surroundings. And then the waiter heard the sirens and the voices. He forced himself to stand, and turned to look in the direction of the pursuit. His eyes were hollow, emptied by so many things. And then they met the Doctor's.
The Doctor stared into the terrorists' eyes, and then watched as the man turned and ran towards the opposite edge of the park, towards the sea. The Doctor said nothing. He did not move after the man, and he soon returned his gaze to the space left empty by the TARDIS. But his fingers were dug deep into the bark of the tree, flaking and tearing shreds out of it until blood pooled with dirt and dead wood under his fingernails.
And then he heard a shout from behind.
"You in the green, put your hands in the air and turn around slowly."
He did so, moving his arms up with sedate determination. He crooked them at the elbows until they formed right-angels, his hands out away and above his body. He stepped back from the tree and executed a perfect turn on his heel, slow enough as not to panic any itchy fingers. There were five uniformed men and women in the shadows between the trees, legs akimbo and arms out, aiming neat little guns at him.
"Walk over here slowly, hands where I could see them," said a Japanese man some way forward from his companions.
"I expect you'll want me to come quietly," said the Doctor, doing as he was told.
"You've done this before," said the lead policeman.
"I've a lot more experience of it than you have."
* * *
"That's specious, even for you, Bob. We both know that the Azrael Institute was set up specifically to manage this technology for the public good. It has been developed in the hands of the public, led by elected officials and appointed representatives, and it exists to serve the public. This science has been kept out of private hands, and unlike most scientific advancements of the last two-hundred years it has not been subjected to monopolisation or abuse in the name of corporate interests and profit."
"And yet it is only available at an exorbitantly high-price, unaffordable to most citizens of Earth."
"Because the process itself is expensive. There are programs for those who can't afford it, and biodata of the deceased can be extracted and stored for a little out-lay until such time as the Memento process becomes more affordable. The Azrael Institute is constantly striving to lower the cost of biodata grafting."
"Mary, won't you agree that it is scandalous that the financially disadvantaged are turning to the Azrael Institute as a way to put food on their kids' tables? These poor people are sacrificing their independent existence, their minds if not their lives, so that those who can afford the price tag can keep their dead relatives alive for the odd family function, hell even for tax purposes. We already know biodata grafting of the deceased is being used to avoid death duties, as well as artificially prolong life. How many more abuses might be waiting in the wings?"
"If I can stop you there, Bob. I'm Hiko Mori, and we'll be right back with more CrossTalk after these messages. Stay with us."
* * *
"Detective Armstrong, take a seat."
She did. Chief Santos sat across the table from her, fiddling with his glasses.
"Ruth, are you sure you want this? I'll understand if you would prefer to be taken off the duty roster for a little while. I think it might be good for you to take a break."
"Chief, I'm sure."
"Well, I' glad to have you on this one. High-profile, we need a quick resolution. I can understand you're not wanting to play host on this one. What happened to Sam... well, they don't know how to explain it. They've seen nothing like it before. That's what they're telling us, anyway. They say the risks of it happening again are non-existent. A freak accident they can correct, once they've studied the remains. Sorry. Once they've... once they've had a look at Sam. I understand your decision. But you know Barnes is next in line."
"He's a good officer."
"I don't like him. He goes the book too much. He doesn't have your experience."
"We're the same age."
"And now he'll get your promotion. Anyway. We've arrested this man." He flicked a switch on the desk in front of him, and an image appeared in the air above the table. It was a man in shirt sleeves and an old-fashioned waistcoat, long hair and a firm face. He was pacing up and down in his cell, his hands clasped anxiously behind his back. "Calls himself the Doctor, and that's all he'll tell us. We can't match his prints to any on file, and when we tried to scan his DNA it blew the machine, which suggests genetic tampering to disguise identity. He's a little old to be one of the first generation ubersoldaten, and seems completely the wrong type to me. We have no name on file from him, no confirmed identity. But we have matched his image to one of file from the extra-terrestrial investigations unit. So, what we do know is that he's wanted for questioning in connection with last year's incident on Venus."
"The Cupid Disaster?"
"Yes. As is this man," Santos flicked a switch and a second man appeared on the screen, this time in jerky footage. The image pulled back to show a restaurant. Ruth winced as the incident played out on screen, a woman with her back to the camera suddenly sucked inside out, people all around standing and screaming. And two of them running. The footage froze and zoomed back in on this second suspect.
"We've confirmed his identity, Luke Bramley. A reporter on the main Venus network, occasionally picked-up for off-world feeds. He fled the scene, along with that waiter. We've already identified the waiter as a Hiroshi Holmes, and there's an all points out on both of them. Holmes has a record, and is almost certainly with the Remiel Objective. Long history of cult activity, associations with questionable types all over the place. And his girlfriend was a former Institute volunteer, paid-up graftee who later claimed to have suffered as a result of the operation. Bramley, on the other hand. Well, like his friend downstairs, his identity is also rather mysterious — according to all records, he didn't exist until ten years ago. Investigation on Venus has turned up reports that suggest he turned up on the planet around 2088, towards the end of the War, taking jobs where he could get them."
"Looks like it. So, an assumed name, presumably. They've all been pardoned, of course. But if he is or isn't, his history is a mystery. Both characters are highly suspicious, and they make me feel uncomfortable. But the real sticking point is this man."
A third face on the screen, this one captured from a police file. Santos tapped the screen, right on the new man's nose. "A very nasty piece of work. Name of Purity, Ryan Purity. We think he made it up."
"He was killed during the events on Cupid. Murdered. Now, reports suggest that these two were involved with him. Possibly working with him. Possibly against him. Some reports even suggest that the guy we've got locked-up downstairs killed him. I'm not sure what to think. But we do know that this Purity was associated with the Freedom Foundation."
"I've heard of them. A fringe throw-back group."
"An influential one, nevertheless. Even here in New Cheadle. They're almost a century old. Grew out of some of the fundamentalist militia movements in old America. Always maintained a pretence of legitimate political activity, and were very popular with some of the more dictatorial and paranoid regimes of the first half of last century. Been a fringe party for about fifty years, although there were some military units during the war who had open links to the FF and touted the Foundation's leaders to lead the newly fledged world government. Nothing came of that, though. But what's really important is that the FF have suspected links with just about every terrorist group and criminal organization on record."
"Nothing we can prove. Nothing we can really substantiate. Rumours, little bits of information picked up here and there, and the odd coincidental association. Purity was known to be working with an Anatoli Mammon, involved in almost all organised crime on Venus — hasn't been seen since the Cupid incident. Incidental, of course. As was the presence of two FF policy makers at a meeting of the heads of Asia's biggest arms dealers last month in Manila. And there have been many documented cases of Foundation members running working criminals and terrorists. The organization denies any such links, of course, says it isn't responsible for members' other interests and has no wish to be associated with such people. There were two very public dismissal after the Manila scandal."
"So, you think these two are with the FF?"
"What's important, is that the FF is believed to be bankrolling the so-called Remiel Objection. Believed in the sense that we know they are, but can't damn well prove it.
"I remember now. But aren't there also rumours that they financed the initial research extraction and preservation of biodata, and still have a member on the board of the Azrael Institute?"
"I think that's paranoia. Though I wouldn't put it past them to play both sides. Hypocrisy and fundamentalism are common bedfellows. But with this group, you never really know who to trust. Almost certainly ten percent of the Institute's top scientists have, at some point, worked for a Foundation front company. Anyway, both of our suspects were involved in the Cupid disaster. Both have almost non-existent pasts, and both disappeared immediately after the incident. If they are working with the FF, they could be the terrorists we're looking for, and their friend a victim of her own bomb. If they're not with the FF... well, it's possible that they were the real target and the initial reading of the situation as an attack on Benz was wrong. Or maybe they were trying to stop the bomb going off."
"It could just be coincidence."
"There's no such thing as coincidence, detective. You're sure you don't want to go through with the graft?"
"Well then. I'm assigning you to our detainee. I want you to get close to him, get to know him. Make him think you understand and agree with him, whatever he's up to, make him believe you're on his side. Hopefully, he'll start to open up to you. I'm going to give him to Wiltshire for interrogation, and you two should be able to play off each other nicely. I want you to become the Doctor's protector, his only help and hope in this
heartless little stone building. Make him like you. Make him think you're his friend."
* * *
Luke stood alone in the console room, listening to 'Waterloo Sunset' on the Doctor's gramophone, projecting his internal voice:
'All the things that were running through my head when it happened are gone. The explosion… implosion, rather… her death has blotted everything else out. I remember what it looked like, when that sudden thump sucked her chest inside itself. No robot duplicate would be able to manage the gore of that sight as her body split in two. Nor the simple shock on her face, I imagine. I remember the waiter. He was trying to tell us something. And the way he looked at me… frightened, desperate. Frightened of what was about to happen. Desperate to save her. Or desperate to stop the bomb going off.
'And the Doctor. So calm. So angry, but you could already tell he was dealing with it. That manner he has. That he knows some deep, dark secrets, stuff that we don't now that makes everything OK. Only it doesn't sit well with him. The Doctor... my Doctor doesn't keep secrets. Not as well as the others hims we've met on our travels. Kirena was more aware of it than I was at first, but thought it much less important.
'I think he once relied on the pretence of mystery. But it no longer comes naturally to him. It's no longer a part of his nature. And he's still young, still getting used to that body and mind, so he says. Not sure what to do. He's pulled by a desire to scream out and a tradition of keeping mum. It must be very difficult for him. I wish I could be more sympathetic. He'll write it all down to history. Tragic. Hateful. But history, nevertheless. Immutable. Unchangeable. Done with. Mourn and move on. And that's his opinion. That's his way. No matter how much he'd want to do the right thing, he won't. So, I have to.
'When I was young, I thought it was impossible to care too much. I learnt to think differently on Venus. Learnt not to get too involved, not to get attached. But travelling with the Doctor made me care again, And now I don't know where I am.
'Spend your whole life trying to avoid angst and it seems it builds up and builds up and builds up and builds up… waiting until you close lower umbrella for just a moment, check to see if it's still drizzling. And then the flood. Then it shits down on you from a great height. And by that time it's so big there's no way you can fight it.
'It's like that big white ball in 'The Prisoner'. You can run and run and run, but it will always be there. Coming out from behind a corner, exploding from a calm sea. And the more you run the weaker you'll be when it finally gets you. No more running.
'Divorce yourself from emotions. Concentrate on the details.
'Suffering changes you. Grief makes you angry. Frustration makes you cynical. Hopelessness makes you bitter. I am fully aware of my situation. I just don't know what to do about it. How to change, or change back. What's wrong with being a victim of your own emotions? It's supposed to be the done thing. Get in touch your emotions, embrace your own victimhood, express the way you feel. Yeah. Let's express some feelings.'
Luke looked around the console room, at the vast bookcases, the furniture and curios dotted about the place, the balcony and the great dark dome above. Finally, his eyes fell on the umbrella stand, sitting in front of the astrolabe next to the Indonesian chair carved in the shape of a peacock feeding. He walked over and fiddled amongst the carved, curved handles. Simple hooks, twists and knots of bare wood, abstract and intricate arcs, a fish, a brass spiral, a question mark.
"Ah, there you are." A little wooden knob atop a black rubber shaft. He pulled it out and weighed it in his hand. A cricket bat, the rich yellow wood lovingly oiled. "Just what I need."
He gripped the handles firmly in both hands, raised it above his head and smashed it down on the astrolabe. The metal disc bent, arrow pieces flying off and wrenching apart from one another. Its thin, three-legged wooden stand spun around with the force of the blow before cracking onto the floor. Luke kicked over the umbrella stand onto the floor too, the umbrellas flying out onto the floor. Then he arced his arms back and swung into the back of the chair, splitting the wood and scarring the colourful painted feathers.
The tea caddy was next, the bat sending little china cups and cream cakes and cucumber sandwiches to a crushing doom on the floorboards. He atomised the teapot, grinding it into the Chinese brass stand, the one with the motif for peace and prosperity. And then he upturned the entire caddy, its wheels spinning hopelessly in the air as it thundered onto its side.
He ran across to the nearest bookshelf and dug the bat in, scooping out a few dozen leather volumes onto the floor. He chopped the bat into the shoulder-height shelf until it gave way, threw a few more books out and then went round the side and pulled the whole thing away from the wall It crashed forward with a boom, burying its books and sending up a massive cloud of dust. Finally, he went for the gramophone. The Kinks were cut short as the horn crumpled under the weight of the bat and the needle leapt and scratched across the vinyl.
The bat was badly scuffed and starting to splinter, so Luke gave it a rest. He picked up a fruit knife from the remnants of the tea caddy and slashed the plush purple velvet of the Doctor's favourite chaise lounge, ripping out the down. Then, he hefted the eagle's-head lectern up and drove it into the Georgian display case beside the door to the depths of the TARDIS, obliterating the porcelain Beatrix Potter figures. He stamped on
the lectern's shaft and it cracked in two. He gritted against the sudden stab of pain in his leg, and smiled as the fractured wood tore into the leather of his Cubans. Then he hauled down another bookcase and threw a bust of Byron against the wall. It smashed apart with a very satisfying noise. Then he picked up the bat again.
He walked over to the console and looked at the controls, weighing the bat above his head and breathing deeply. Then he stopped and closed his eyes.
He took a few breaths, shook his head, then opened his eyes again and looked up at the little scanner, the small box on the end of a retractable accordion strut that disappeared into the upper working of the time rotor.
It was flashing away in white letters on a black background, proudly announcing that the craft was in a temporal orbit. He grabbed the metal chain and pulled the box down until it was a little over head height. Then he bent his arms and shoulders back as if he were actually bowling not batting. With a dead smirk he swung forward.
The bat arced round and into the scanner, and the little box split open on impact. Sparks and shards of glass and electronics exploded out, raining onto the floor. A few more burst of fizzling light and then Luke hit it again and the bottom half of the box came free, hitting the edge of the console before crashing onto the floor in a sorry, sputtering heap.
The bat was cracked and splintered now, across and lengthways. Luke let it slip from his grip onto the floor. He coughed up a small, joyless laugh, and sat on the ruined chaise lounge, cradling his head in his sore hands.
'I don't know what I'm doing,' he thought to himself in dramatic monologue. 'I don't what I want to do. I don't know what the right thing to do is. In the Grand Scheme of Things one life is nothing. If that's the case, then in one life the Grand Scheme of Things should also be nothing. It's only fair. What's the point in having a scientific marvel if you can't put it to good use? Someone has to test the theory. Someone has to do
what's right. Someone has to fight Death. And Pain. *And* Time.' He stood and walked over to the console. "But I can't do this alone," he thought out-loud. Then he smiled, his face actually relaxing at the thought that had just entered his head. He started to program co-ordinates into the TARDIS.
"You've redecorated," said Mavis, looking at the damage as she hovered in the doorway to the rest of the TARDIS. Luke started at her voice but didn't turn around, concentrating on finding the time and space location he was looking for. Once you got going, operating the TARDIS was a doddle, but you had to pay careful attention if you wanted to end up in the right place.
"Yes. I thought I'd darken the place up a bit."
"Did you do it so you could find stuff better?"
"Absolutely. Did you like the butterfly room?"
"Oh yes. I've never seen a garden inside a house before. It was so big and round, and I pretended I was a spaceship in space and landing and taking off again. I ate one."
"I ate a butterfly."
"You ate a butterfly?"
"There are lots left. It wasn't very big. It tasted a bit like forever."
"Do you know what a butterfly is?"
Luke paused, his hands hovering over the console.
"A butterfly is death. We call it a butterfly, a beautiful butterfly, flying and fluttering and... and… boowishing. But a caterpillar calls it death. A caterpillar calls it death, and we call it a butterfly. What's the word for thinking you're dead, but still walking and talking and doing stuff?"
"That's two words."
"Not if you say it really fast." He reached back down to the console. "Would you like to meet another friend?"
Mavis grinned and slapped her hands together and jumped in the air.
* * *
"Sorry we've kept you for so long," said Ruth as she entered the holding cell. She looked down at her pad, checking for effect something already ingrained on her memory. "Doctor, isn't it? I expect you'll be wanting to go."
"I'm not sure I have anywhere to go. And I haven't decided what to do, yet." He had given up pacing and was sitting despondently on the bed. "So I'm in no hurry. Detective?"
"Armstrong. Call me Ruth."
"Ruth. I have told you everything I know, though. I'd prefer to just be left in peace, for the moment. Though a chat wouldn't be out of the question later on. And I'd quite like to know more about this Memento Project. Sounds fascinating."
Ruth suppressed a smirk. She suspected that she might actually enjoy being this suspect's friend. If only for a little a while, and for investigative purposes.
"We'll see what we can do. Your statement is helpful, but they want you to undergo a proper interview, perhaps help you remember something that didn't come straight to mind. Jog some of the cobwebs away."
"Cobwebs? Why would there be cobwebs? I remember everything exactly as it happened."
"And we'd like a little bit of information from you. There's a bit of video footage from a shop's security camera we'd like you to look at."
Ruth produced a small image projector from the inside pocket of her overcoat and pointed it at the wall behind the Doctor. He turned to look at it, the bed sheet twisting around his buttocks. He leaned on his left hand, the right dangling casually on the corresponding thigh.
"Now, this is the man who was with you in the restaurant. What was his name?"
"He's my friend."
"Right." Open up, damn you. "So, we've matched his image here. And it seems he was following this man."
The still changed to a picture of the waiter. The Doctor's fingers clenched, his left hand digging into the sheet.
"That's the waiter, who we are also currently looking for."
"I was afraid of this," said the Doctor. "Oh, Luke. Never more a butterfly," he said distantly.
"Obviously we'd like to question both of them, but you profess to have no knowledge of their current whereabouts."
"No." The Doctor turned away from the wall, gazing at the grey floor.
"However, your friend's presence here yesterday doesn't tally with the time you gave for your arrival in New Cheadle. Around eight hours out, in fact."
The Doctor was silent.
"Well, anyway. Perhaps you could help us with this third man."
The image changed again, to a tall, scruffy yet striking man. The Doctor looked up at Ruth and then at the wall.
"He's definitely conversing with your friend, we suspect they were both following the waiter. Any idea?"
"That's... that's... What's he doing there? Oh, Luke, no."
* * *
"It's really not me you want to be talking to."
"It's your Guild."
"No, it's my sister's."
"You're in charge in her absence."
"No, that's Brendon. I was just giving him some advice. A consultant, that's all."
"Well, you should have given better advice."
"Look, I had nothing to do with your case."
"Not good enough. Mr Adiemus was made to look very stupid. He's a laughing stock."
"I don't think the Guild can be held responsible for that."
"Someone has to be held responsible. Someone has to suffer so Mr Adiemus can get satisfaction. You just happen to be first."
"Guys, please. Out of professional courtesy. We were journeymen together. I'm freezing my arse off here."
"You've got bigger things to worry about than your arse, Morok. The bounty is a thousand sovs for each piece. So, we're going to cut you up nice and small. Don't worry, though. We'll get everyone else in the Guild eventually. And your sister. You'll all suffer equally. You're just going first, that's all."
The two bounty-hunters cum butchers started to sharpen their apparatus. And then, with a momentous groan, a big blue box appeared behind Jadi's chair.
"I know that sound." Jadi craned his neck to see what was going on. "Doctor?" he said to the box.
"What is this, Morok? Some sort of trick."
"No, it looks more like the cavalry. And if I were you, I wouldn't hang around."
The doors opened and the two torturers stepped forward, drawing their weapons. Out stepped a man wearing smudged lipstick, streaked mascara, a distressed and dirty jacket and a desperate expression.
"Jadi. I knew it would find you. Exact spot and everything."
"Luke, what the hell?" said Jadi under his breath, inclining his head towards the armed killers at the far end of the cellar. Luke saw them and composed himself.
"And who might you be," one of the men asked.
"Luke. Bramley. Luke Bramley. I've come for my friend. I do hope you two aren't going to cause any trouble."
"Trouble? So, you're a friend of Morok's, are you? Looks like another little earner just fell into our laps."
Luke walked out of the TARDIS and past Jadi, facing the men over the table with scalpels, knives, saws and bolt cutters. He started to fiddle with the implements as the two men stepped back to cover him and the craft he had come out of.
"Listen, gentlemen... well, green, blobby men, whatever the fuck you are, this is rather important and I really don't have the time for niceties or nonsense. I'm taking Jadi here with me, it's rather important to me that he comes and I don't intend to let you stand in my way."
"And how are you going to stop us?"
"Well, it's very simple." Luke looked over his shoulder. "Now!" he shouted, ducking.
Both men looked up at the TARDIS, and Jadi craned over his neck again. Nothing. The door stayed half empty, that end of the room still. But in the half-second distraction, the other end of the room was more active. And there was a painful screaming coming from that direction now.
Jadi slowly angled his restrained head back round towards the torture table and the bounty hunters, hardly daring to look at what had become of Luke in the hands of these bastards. Luke was standing on the other side of the table, dusting his knees and hands. The two bounty-hunters, men Jadi had studied with, men who would have been old friends in other circumstances on a world other than Kapone, were lying on either side of Luke, writhing in pain. As Jadi looked closely he noticed that both men had scalpels jammed dead centre into their groins, pinning their trousers into the flesh. Blood was dampening their clothes. He winced.
"Under and up," said Luke tapping the top of the table. He bent down and retried the two guns that lay discarded on the floor, then he looked from one man to the other. "I'm sorry. I'm really not a violent person, but as I said, I am rather pushed for time. And I do hope you'll think twice before attempting to hurt my friends in the future."
Neither man replied.
"Not very talkative now? Probably shock. Do you want me to call an ambulance? No? OK, well, I know you macho types always like to look after yourselves, don't let these little things get to you."
"Luke's, it's not nice to taunt people."
"Sorry, Jadi, hard to resist." He swept round the table and past Jadi, towards the TARDIS. "Right, follow me."
"Luke, I'm naked and tied to a chair."
"Oh." He turned around. "Yes. Sorry. Unlike me to notice that."
Luke walked behind Jadi and bent down, gripping his bonds firmly and fiddling with the knot.
"They should be quite loose, I've been working on them for a while."
"How exactly did you end up like this?"
"They jumped me whilst I was tailing a children's TV presenter who hasn't paid his child maintenance for over five years."
"Look, I'm not sure what it is you want, but I can't come with you."
"I think you'll want to. There, you're free"
"I have to get to the hospital."
Luke stepped back, looking Jadi over as the bounty hunter stood up. "I can't see anything wrong with you. Quite the opposite, actually," he grinned, then looked away sadly.
"Not me. It's Angela. She's having a baby."
"What? You're wife is in labour, and you're getting yourself into life and death situations? What the hell do you think you're doing? You can't take risks like that."
"I was perfectly safe."
"If it wasn't for me, you'd be dead."
"Any moment I'd have been free and had those two right where I wanted them."
"You can't take risks like this, not when the woman who loves you is about to give birth to your child! I'm fucking serious about this. What are you doing working, you should be in the hospital."
"OK, OK, I agree. But her waters haven't even broken yet. She went in a few hours ago, and I was going to join her as soon as I'd got the info Brendon wants on this creep."
"You can't take risks like this, you've got responsibilities. And you can't miss your baby's birth. You have to be there for that."
"So, take me."
"I... there's something more important we have to do first."
"Jadi... I... Jadi, it's Kirena. She's dead."
And suddenly Jadi was towering over Luke, his fingers locked around Luke's upper arms, his eyes probing into Luke's.
"It was an accident. But with your help, we can get her back."
"Where's the Doctor?"
"He's out of this one. For the best. He wouldn't like what we need to do."
"Luke, what's going on?"
"Come inside and I'll explain everything. And get you some clothes, too."
* * *
"You don't have to enjoy it so much, kid."
"I take pleasure in a job well done. They broke the law, they have to face the consequences. And I'm a part of those consequences."
"They have a legitimate right to protest."
"Not in groups of more than ten."
"You just don't have to be so... into it all."
"I'm just upholding the law. Enforcing the rules. That's what we're her for. To enforce the rules."
"What happened to serve the public? What happened to justice?"
"The law is justice, plain and simple. There is no other justice."
"And we change with them. But the law at the moment is the agreed code of social conduct. So, we enforce it. Full stop."
"How the hell did I get stuck with you?"
"You're on your way out, about to retire. They're afraid that, with my ambition, I'll put my partner's back up, whoever it is. So, they put me with you, figuring it would cause less friction."
"I really hate you sometimes, Zeke."
"No you don't. I'm loveably constant, I am. The law is stability and strength, our only guard against chaos. Your fluffy concept of justice is all well and good in theory, but in practice there are rules."
"And they aren't always right."
"But they are the rules."
"So, we punish hackers who break into an account and steal fifty credits that the holder can more than spare. But corporate bosses who cream millions off pension funds and fritter it away on bogus deals go scott free."
"That's the law. If you don't like it, go into politics and change it. Until then, it's the law, and we enforce it. And don't give me this hippy shit. I've seen you crack heads. You know what's important, you know the rules, you follow them and make sure other do to."
"You've got me wrong."
"So you think you can pick which laws to enforce and which to ignore?"
"I have done."
"Yeah, sure. And regretted it, I'll bet." Barnes' Cecom buzzed and he looked at the caller details. "It's the chief," he told his partner.
Wiltshire looked at him blankly. "So, answer it."
Barnes flipped the switch. "Detective Barnes and Detective Wiltshire, reporting in."
"I want both of you back here immediately."
"But we've got to process these protestors."
"Bugger that, just get back here. You're up, Barnes. You're getting a graft."
Santos rang off. Barnes grinned.
* * *
Dressed, and having adjusted to the destruction in the console room, Jadi sat on the chaise lounge, buttoning the silver and black zebra-patterned shirt Luke had given him.
"Do you understand now?" said Luke
"I'm not sure," said Jadi. "You want to change history? Change real history. Change the past."
"Yes. For the better. I want to save your sister."
"But to do that, you have to change history."
"Unless you know where we can get something that will duplicate her exactly but we can happily watch die in her place. Look, I've thought about this, and it's the only way to do it. We stop the bomb being planted. Or we stop her sitting in that seat. We save her. We stop the terrorists."
"But the Doctor said it was impossible to change history. He said that quite a lot, actually."
"I know, but it's just a theory."
"Well, the theory is that you can change history, but doing so creates a paradox."
"I seem to remember paradoxes being a bad thing."
"Again, in theory."
"Aren't they supposed to change the history. Yes, I'm reasonably sure that changing history was meant to destroy the entire crukking universe."
"I don't believe that. It's a silly idea. Why should changing one little thing, saving one life, destroy the universe? How is the universe ever going to know? It can't be watching all the time."
Jadi looked at Luke, looked at the changes. It had been a couple of years since his marriage to Angela. He wondered how long it had been for Luke. The lines on around his eyes and on his forehead, the fact that there was more forehead than there was before. And were those traces of grey in his hair? He was on edge, you could see it from the way he stood. He couldn't stand still. His voice was cracked, a little too fast. And his eyes were... distant. Full of sadness, though Jadi. Desperate.
"Luke, I'd hate to think you were willing to risk everything, and I do mean everything, because of... one life."
"Why not? What's the point otherwise? The point in time travel, in living itself. She's your sister, you must understand."
"I... I do. I'm just not sure I... I don't know."
"I know what you're thinking. I'm not mad. Angry, perhaps. But I can't see any reason to believe a simple little paradox could destroy the universe. I've been reading up on it, ever since Conrad."
"It's a where. A place. Look, all the legitimate and considered theories suggest that the universe will adjust to such a paradox, not destroy itself."
"If you could go back in time and change history, then any time the Doctor saw someone die, or lost a battle, or over-slept, he could simply go back and change it."
"But he's too afraid to. He's playing it safe. And maybe it's important not to do it too often, or make too big a change. But one life?"
"He could go back and stop the holocaust, Vietnam, the Thousand-Day War, the Dalek Wars, all of it."
"He couldn't, or wouldn't. But maybe I can. Maybe we can."
"Come on, Luke, be serious."
"I am. History is sick, wrong, horrible. So, I'm going to make my own bloody history. Only with less blood. And more sequins. But first things first. Kirena. Maybe I'm not thinking straight. But I know what's important. I know what I have to do. Kirena shouldn't have died like that, it was wrong, and it was my fault."
"No it wasn't."
"As near as makes no difference. If I can prevent it, don't I have a duty to? It would be wrong to let her die, knowing I can save her. It wouldn't alter history, not big history. Just small history. Mine, hers, the Doctor's. Are you with me?"
"Well... well, I've only got your word for it that she actually died. I don't know for a fact that that's what happened. In terms, of history, I mean."
"Exactly. I could be lying my arse off to spur you into action."
"Yeah. I'm with you. On saving Kirena."
"Good. We can work on the rest later. After we've saved Kirena."
"And after we've gotten you to a shrink. Something is very wrong here," said Jadi.
"I'm supposed to be the firebrand, getting the job done unconcerned about the consequences. And you're meant to be confidently cautious and world-wearily wise."
Luke thought about it for a couple of moments. "You might be right. Something's got twisted around."
They looked at each other, then said in unison: "That's what falling in love does to you."
"Still," concluded Luke. "Let's enjoy the novelty before it wears off. We'll save Kirena, set the universe to rights in some small way, and I'll get you back to Angela before the flood."
Mavis came bounding out of the interior door, trailing a broken toy train on a piece of string.
"This is Mavis. She's friends with the man who killed Kirena." He caught Jadi's arm and applied pressure as the bounty-hunter stepped menacingly towards the girl, fingering his blaster. "She may be able to help us."
"I like pointy things," said Mavis, looking at Jadi's gun. "Are you my new friend?" she asked, walking forward and standing on tip-toes right in front of him. She reached up and pinched Jadi's nose, then she put her arms round him. "You smell of dead animals," she told him happily.
"She's... special," said Luke with a wince, placating Jadi with his eyes.
"He's not as pointy as my pumpkin." Mavis released Jadi and pouted. "I miss my pumpkin."
"Well, the more help you are the sooner you'll see him again."
* * *
"You said you wanted to learn more about the Memento Project. Here it is in action."
But the Doctor was already engrossed by the scene being played out on the other side of the glass. A man in a hospital gown, stretched out and face down on an operating table, his head held in place by restraints. Surgeons surrounded him, wearing white coats and paper masks, checking equipment that monitored his life signs and body functions, fiddling with tools and computers. And there was a surgeon, obviously more senior than the rest, standing over the patient's cranium, parting the hair at the base of the skull.
"Who is he?" asked the Doctor.
"A colleague of mine. This is police business."
The lead surgeon walked over to another table. The Doctor couldn't see what was on it, there were too many people in the way, but the surgeon soon returned, carrying a what looked like a syringe the size of a rugby ball. It was attached to a coiled wire that ran up to the ceiling. He placed it at the nape of the patient's neck.
"He's receiving a biodata graft."
"Yes, I'd figured that out, thank you," the Doctor said blankly.
The surgeon pressed a few nondescript buttons on the side of the syringe. He jammed it against the skin and held it in place. And then the syringe opened out, the sides fanning to engulf the back of the patient's head. There was a whirring noise, and then several pops.
"The operation is automatic. Several discreet holes are drilled into the skull, and the biodata is implanted directly into the brain."
"What an impractical way of doing it. There's no need for surgery at all. You could accomplish the same result much more efficiently with a simple Forzat compiler and the creative and accurate application of Rho waves."
"Shh. What's happening now." The lead surgeon was inspecting a small display beside the operating table.
"They are checking to make sure that the grafted biodata becomes subservient to the host's. At this stage it can still be removed. In early experiments there were some instances of the graft taking over the host completely, or mutating with the host biodata to form a conjoined personality. There were even some cases of physical manifestation of the deceased, alterations to the host's body. But they can spot any danger of
that in these initial stages now, and remove the graft before it takes root if there's any chance of anything going wrong. Supposedly."
"Supposedly?" The Doctor turned and pierced her with his stare.
"Well, I have recently had reason to doubt that." She swallowed hard. "But that was one anomalous case out of thousands of satisfactory results. I'm assured it was due to delusions on the part of the host, rather than the graft. It was very upsetting, but no reason to doubt the technology."
"You doubt yourself instead."
"I... there's no reason to be concerned."
"Isn't there? Biodata can be a very dangerous thing." He turned back to the operation. "I'd like to get a closer look." He splayed his fingers out against the window, pressed his nose into the glass, then pulled away and stepped back tutting. He cast his eyes up and down the pane with disgust. Then he pointed his eyes at Ruth again.
"A colleague, did you say?"
"As part of some investigation?"
"Yes." Got you.
"Testimony from beyond the grave? The applications are fascinating."
"Indeed. It's revolutionised homicide investigations."
"I can imagine. There's a reason you wanted me to see this, isn't there."
"Well..." Hook, line and, with any luck…
"Is it Kirena," he said quietly.
"You know who," he snapped. "My friend." He grabbed Ruth by the shoulders. "Is it Kirena?" he said edgily, his face in hers.
"You should be pleased. It's not bringing her back from the dead, but it's the closest we can get. You'll have your friend back, be able to talk to her.
The Doctor let go and stepped away. He took another look at the operation, then turned on his heel and staked off down the corridor. This was suddenly not going the way it should, Ruth thought. She started to run after him.
* * *
Kirena tried to open her eyes, but she didn't have any. She couldn't feel anything. So, she thought. She thought back.
And then there was a rather nasty sucking noise. And she looked down and saw her chest shrinking in on itself, felt her lungs tighten to nothing and her heart explode. She probably only thought she felt that. It had all happened so quickly. Far too quickly.
Actually, she felt kind of robbed. Her life hadn't passed in front of her eyes. No seconds stretching to infinity. Just a damp patch on her breasts and lap, a thought of what the surprise was, wondering if the Doctor had managed to spark Luke's curiosity with that line about Herek Secundus. Thinking about how empty the TARDIS would feel with Luke gone. And then suddenly she was gone. Broken in half, her eyes rolling back in a bloody miasma and a shudder as her shoulders thumped onto the floor. Some screams and shouts, chairs squeaking and the band suddenly silenced. Stupid bloody waiter. It all fell into place, of course. Why he'd been behaving so oddly. Somehow she'd worked out immediately what had happened, who was responsible and who the bomb was really meant for. But it was too late to tell anyone. She was dead.
She had a little memory flash through her mind just then, of that time on Brekex Nine. That macro-bovine farmer had challenged her, made a crack at her expense, "We don't usually see teats as small as yours in this place". And, quick as a flash, Luke had replied, "And I expect dicks as fat as you are an equal rarity". And she'd hated him for saying it, and loved him for saying it. Hated him for knowing what to say, and loved him because he had the courage to say it. And he'd dug her in the ribs, and she'd smiled grudgingly at the farmer, and the atmosphere was punctured, everyone laughing and slapping them on the backs and offering them drinks. If she'd hit the farmer, like she wanted to, like she was going to until Luke spoke, they'd have never united the farmers and the townsfolk in revolution against the Juno Corporation. And the party they'd had afterwards. Rarely had she felt so alive than on the back of that bull-charger, winning the rodeo, while Luke chatted up cowboys, complimenting them on the size of their spurs.
And now she was dead. And she'd never see Luke, or the Doctor, or anyone, ever again. Maybe. She didn't know yet. This was limbo. And it was dark.
Not darkness, but the complete absence of light or anything for the light to have an affect on. She felt neither hot nor cold, she felt nothing. No sensation. It wasn't frightening, or she was no longer capable of being frightened. She'd never believed in an after-life, but there must be something for her to still be aware, still be conscious in some form. This was her soul.
"Hello, soul," she didn't say.
She had no body, no corporeal existence to speak of. Everything was still and not there.
And then she felt something. Some sort of pressure at the back of her mind. Something pushing her. And then suddenly her world was filled with sensation again. It felt like she was being pushed through a cheese-grater, little slices of her being scraped away from the rest. Suddenly, she was in two minds, one rediscovering dear as it felt itself being torn apart, stripped, reduced, the other forming out of little slivers of its old self on the other side, wondering if it would all make it through and if it would be able to retain any sort of structure and would it all make it through and would it still be structured and solid and would it make it through and would it be whole again and structured and solid and would it make it through.
She could never have remembered, of course, but this experience wasn't a million miles from one she, like everybody else, had been through, once, very early on in her life. She was being reborn, squeezed out, torn away from the nothingness into sensation. Into the light. And there was someone waiting for her. And as the little slivers of her soul, of her memories and personality and life experience, as her biodata congealed
together, she realised that she had been chopped up so that they could fit her through a tiny little hole into this someone's mind. She was fluid now, a river, a chain, a drain, that was plain.
Reincarnation? If the goddess sends me back as some sort of insect, I'm going to give her a piece of my mind next time I see her.
New thoughts. Not her thoughts.
Hold on to who you are. Remember. You are Ezekiel Barnes. You are a policeman. You uphold the law. The law is strength. The law is stability. You have a bright and shining career ahead of you. You have a wife who loves you. Remember. You have a son, and you will bring him up as your father brought you up, to be disciplined and strong. You have a son, and he will be a policeman like you, or a soldier like your father, or a business success like your mother. He will want for nothing, but he will not be spoilt. He will be a hero, like his grandfather, like you will be one day soon. You have a family that loves you, you have a law that guides you, you have learnt what is right and you will teach it to your son. Hold on to who you are. You are Ezekiel Barnes. You are receiving new experiences, a new personality, but it is just a graft of biodata, just a slice of someone else that you can use, and nothing more. It is not a person. That's what they said. It is a memory, a sample, information that can be used and controlled. Hold on to who you are.
Then there was a sensation of slurping. Most undignified. And then someone switched the lights on.
To be continued...
Prev | Up | Next