|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #24 - "Remiel"
"Heroes in Waiting"
by Chris Shephard
Wounds heal over. Scars last much, much longer
- — Paul Benson, Ticket to Writhe (chapter nine)
* * *
A bisexual fugitive-by-nature ex-journalist, usually done-up to the nines but currently looking like he's been dragged through a hedge backwards. Eight or nine times. And then dumped down a well.
And next to him on the bench, a girl dressed as a butterfly with several lifetimes behind her eyes, skipping and giggling and flapping and sitting very, very still because it's very, very important, what's going on. There are lots of people in her head - many more than are gathered her now. And every now and then, one of them, maybe a fast-food addict, maybe an architect, maybe a contract killer, maybe a pacifist doctor, comes to the fore.
The weathered bounty-hunter is tired and worried. Worried about the future. Worried if it'll still be there when he gets home. If he'll be in time to see his wife give birth. If she's still alive. If she was ever alive. He is looking, sideways mind, between the crazy girl and a bloke who is apparently his sister.
The bloke is a cop, his whole life dedicated to the law, but he's temporarily sharing his mind with a stranger for whom justice is more important. As yet, they've had nothing to disagree about — and they've both decided they don't like sharing the same cell like this, and want to be free. But the night is young, and things can change.
And this group is all that stands between the universe and absolute nothingness?
Well, thankfully, no.
* * *
With the scanner gone, the Doctor activated the viewing capacities of the dark dome above the console room. He handled the console gingerly, avoiding the areas that had been patched-up after his little explosion. The misty ceiling melted to reveal the anonymous roof of a corridor.
"The Azrael Institute. This is where you wanted to be."
"Yes." Mavis was looking around the TARDIS, examining the instrumentation on the console and the freshly exposed areas of machinery, amongst the wood panelling and stone walls. The damage to the console was severe, and the Doctor had had to hard-wire certain TARDIS functions to get her going again. All those centuries of work, occasional tinkering and fixing, and thanks to two individuals and a few moments of desperation and despair the
TARDIS was now more of a wreck than ever.
"I'm not convinced this is our primary concern."
"Your paradox is a much more complicated problem, yes? So, we can think about to deal with it whilst we deal with Minister Benz and his army."
"Army, yes. He's hidden it all very well. Nobody seems to have discovered that he's resurrecting bodies."
"Yes. Yes, you did."
"I know you must be concerned about your friends. But Benz is threatening to take over the world. And you and I both know that his
interfering in the natural transition of the soul is much more dangerous than this paradox."
"Of course. Much more dangerous."
"We should encounter little resistance to begin with. But it will get more dangerous as we get closer to Benz."
"And you're sure he'll be here? In the Institute."
"Fairly. If not, we'll be able to track him down with this machine of yours, won't we?"
"Probably. But will we need to? If we can dismantle the Memento Project, deal with his army."
"The most important thing is that we stop Benz. He's behind it all. You must focus on him."
"Mmm. You're probably right," said the Doctor with a very serious expression.
"And we must do anything it takes."
"We're agreed, then."
* * *
"Why would the police in a place as liberal as this do what they did?" asked Luke.
"They weren't the police," said Zeke.
"They were security from the Institute. They were moved into police headquarters when we had the Grafting equipment installed. But why are they involved in investigations and interrogation? Well, hang on, that was weird. Anyway, they started helping out and sort of manoeuvred themselves
in, until they were doing the same job as us. But they answer to the Institute's head of security."
"Nobody is keeping a check on this bunch of thugs?"
"Well, no. I mean, they haven't broken any laws. What they did to you was... awful... within the remit of certain emergency jurisdictional remits. Terrorist activity and such like. You killed a known terrorist — albeit one who wasn't actively wanted at the time."
"So what is the Azrael Institute's scheme?"
"They're trying to form a power-base," said Mavis. "Corporate take-over of public-sector operations. Only they know the government — local or global — won't let that through, so they're going in the back-door. The goal of corporations on Earth is to have as much power and control here as off-world corporations have on the planets in the solar system and the deep-space colony worlds."
Everybody looked at her.
"Where do these moments of lucidity come from, Mavis?" said Luke.
"Dunno," she said. She bit her lip, looking down at the ground as she dug at it with her left heel.
"She's got more than thirty people retro-grafted onto her."
"She told me. She's received more than thirty retro-grafts. She must have been some kind of lab rat."
"Volunteer," she said. "I needed the cash. There was no welfare where I lived, and I couldn't afford the fare out. Then some guys in suits came looking for volunteers. So I went. I..." she trailed off and started to cry. Luke stood and put his arms around her. He felt her legs go and he was supporting her whole weight, tears soaking into the red velvet of his ruined jacket.
"And how does Benz fit into all of this?" Luke said quietly.
"I'm not sure," said Zeke. "You say they were going to kill him, and that's how all this happened." He waved his hands up and down, pointing at himself. "But I can't see what they would possibly have to gain from killing him. He supported the Institute, with some good reason. But he's got nothing to do with what goes on there now."
"He was to be an example," Mavis sobbed. "The Objection thought killing him would shake support for bio-data grafting. He was a fat man. They thought killing him would advance their cause. But that's not the real reason." She pushed away from Luke and he let her go gently. She brushed her fingers over his coat. "Fuzzy. Fuzzy felt. Little animals."
"Mavis," Luke cooed to her. "What is the real reason?"
"Holy Joe. Holy Joe!" She jumped a little and waved her arms about to emphasise the point.
"He's a member of the Freedom Foundation."
"And they are?"
"A terrorist group," said Zeke.
"They want power too. But they aren't going to get it. The Institute captured him a few months ago, soon after the Objection first made its presence felt. Fuzzy. They killed one of their top people and retro-grafted her into Joe. He's a spy."
"And killing Benz was his idea. Bright idea. Bright butterflies. Burning Butterflies. Bright and burning..."
"Mavis," Luke cooed again.
"Sorry. He said they should kill Benz, said it would help. It wasn't him really though." She tapped the side of his nose. "They're all stupid, and they went along with him. But killing Benz would only damage the Objection. Actually killing someone would turn those who sympathise against them. The Institute want to get rid of the Objection. And this is how they are going to do it."
"So, where does that leave us?" said Jadi.
"When you killed Holmes," Mavis pointed at him. "Bastard. When you killed my pumpkin, you threw their plans into disarray. Of course, as soon as I reported it, the news got back to the Institute. And they needed to hush it all up, and make what capital they could out of it. And you just watch, before long the Objection will try to do the same, try to say my pumpkin was murdered by the Institute to shut him up. They're all as bad as each other. Only my pumpkin was good. Only he was special."
Jadi turned away, but he felt Mavis' arm on his shoulder.
"Do you believe her," Luke said to Kirena (and Zeke) quietly.
"Not sure. Still doesn't explain why this Memento Project doesn't go anywhere. Unless we really were meant to stop them killing Benz, ensure that the Objection won and got the Project scrapped."
"But even then, the technology would still be around."
A short distance away, Mavis whispered in Jadi's era: "It's OK. I know you're sorry. And I know you're special too."
And then all four of them started, as a new, somewhat irritating voice piped-up from behind the bench.
"What are you all waiting around for? The end of the universe?"
* * *
The Doctor's arm snaked out and he slapped his handkerchief over the security guard's mouth. The guard started, tried to twist around, and then collapsed under the (diethyl) ether. The Doctor dropped the handkerchief after him, waving away faint, noxious wisps with his other hand.
Mavis bent over the man and picked up his pulse rifle. She checked the power and shouldered it. Then she fumbled with the man's belt and pulled out a laser pistol. She offered it to the Doctor, but he shook his head and held his hands up in rejection.
"Trust me, you'll need. For your own protection, if nothing else. I can't believe you've never handled one of these before."
He took the gun reluctantly.
"OK." She crouched again, then looked back up at the Doctor. "Down the corridor and to the right. Go ahead, I'll check this guy won't wake up and raise the alarm."
"There's no need to kill him."
"I won't. I'll cuff and gag him." She pulled the guard's cuffs from his belt and waggled them at the Doctor.
The Time Lord nodded, unquestioning, and moved off. After a few moments he heard Mavis stand again and start to follow.
"Can I ask you a question, Mavis?" he said over his shoulder.
"Yes," said Mavis absently, walking along behind him.
"If Benz wasn't doing what he is doing, if this evil scheme wasn't involved, would you approve of the Memento Project?"
"I don't know," she replied irritably.
"But surely saving lives like that is a good thing. Giving people immortality."
"This isn't proper immortality. It's a science-fiction substitute. Immorality isn't about living forever."
"Really? I might think that, because I am naturally very long lived. But I wouldn't have thought you'd have reached that conclusion. You're life is short compared to mine."
"I'll live as long as you do, Doctor." Mavis smiled. "I've made sure of that."
The Doctor turned and pointed the borrowed pistol at Mavis. "That's just the response I was looking for."
Mavis smile faded slightly, but her expression remained strangely contented. "Oh dear. Have I given myself away?" She pouted mockingly. "And just when I had you right where I wanted you. You really are a fool, Doctor."
* * *
"Perfect," said Jadi as he registered the new arrival.
"I'm thinking, bad penny," said Luke.
"How dare you. I am a Time Lord, you know. Although... well, I was wondering if you'd be good enough to forget that little bit of information." Young walked around the bench and held out his arms like a supplicant. "You see, I really don't want certain people to find out that I was here."
"Never mind that now. Can you help us to sort all of this out?"
"You're beyond help. Everyone is. Don't you understand, it's too late. It's already happened. Effectively, the universe has already ended. Oh, it will take a few centuries for the full effects to wipe everything out of existence. But the die is cast."
"Yes, yes, nevermore a butterfly. We've heard the spiel," said Luke.
"It's not spiel. It's not... Look, take hold of this." He held out a large, bronze ring.
The four meekly took hold, Luke guiding Mavis into the circle. They hooked their index figures around the thick, alien metal. When they were all ready, the air started to shimmer around them. They felt like they were floating, as the world faded in and out of view and the began to pivot round as a group. When the effect stopped, they found they were standing exactly where they had been. But now the sky was pitch black, it was night instead of afternoon.
"We've travelled back about eighteen hours," Young informed them. "Now, I think..." he was looking off across the park, gazing around to get his bearing. "Ah!" he exclaimed. "Look, there's your proof. There's your paradox." He pointed across the park, and Luke and the others followed his indication.
Some distance away, out of earshot, stood the TARDIS. And, in front of it, stood three figures.
"That's it," Young threw his arms up in the air and directed himself at Luke. "You've done it, you've destroyed the universe."
"It'll all be gone. Look. Look at that. There's two of you."
"That's... that's Kirena," said Jadi, and then he glanced at Zeke. "What's going on."
"Paradox, I told you. It's what, midnight?" Young also glanced at Zeke. "Kirena was killed a few hours ago. But, because of that, Luke went back in time to save her. Stupid. Very stupid. And he managed it." He pointed at Jadi. "You killed Holmes, so the bomb was never planted. So, Kirena never died. And there she is, with the Doctor, and with you, Luke. Or, rather, versions of you and the Doctor who didn't see Kirena die, who had a nice meal and are about to depart."
"But why isn't there... erm, aren't there two of everything?" said Jadi. "Two of everybody, two of this place. Why are there extras of just the Doctor, Luke and Kirena?"
"Because they are outside of time. The same almost certainly applies to me, too. A version of me who had no reason to leave Gallifrey on this silly mission. And of you, and this girl and this bloke. Who are you, by the way?" he said to Zeke. "No, never mind, life's too short. Now, anyway. Look, they aren't the extras," he pointed at the time travellers in the distance. "Our counterparts, wherever they aren't, aren't the extras. We are."
As the five by the bench watched, Luke released Kirena from a hug. Her right hand lingered on his left shoulder. Then she said something and rubbed her left eye. They hugged again, longer this time, and then they parted and she disappeared inside the TARDIS. Luke looked after her, and the at the Doctor. They shook hands genially. And then, simultaneously, pulled each other into a hug. After a few moments, they too parted, and the Doctor said something to Luke. Luke nodded, and then nodded again at another comment. Then he shook his head, smiling. Finally, the Doctor went into the TARDIS.
"He hates goodbyes," said Mavis.
"Especially early ones," added Jadi.
Luke — the Luke who hadn't seen Kirena die, hadn't gone back in time, hadn't destroyed the universe — stepped back as the TARDIS faded away. He lingered on the spot a few moments, then turned and started to walk away.
The other Luke smiled slightly, nodding to himself. At least that went right. He wished he could have been there.
"Shame," said Zeke, turning away. "I would have liked to have asked her what the real surprise was."
Jadi frowned at him.
"What are you talking about," said Young to Zeke.
"I didn't get to have pudding. I was blown up, remember?"
"What? You're not Kirena."
"It's this retro-grafting thing they've got going. I was killed, but they retro-grafted me onto... onto me."
"More paradox. And beyond the grave, how unusual. I've never read of anything like this, I should probably be taking notes. Might have gotten a paper out of this. But it bodes very ill." He rounded on Luke. "And it's your fault," he said, but he didn't give Luke a chance to respond.
"Tell me, any fluctuations in your memory, perceptions or personality?"
"No more than usual."
Young pulled out a notebook and a pencil and started making notes.
Zeke stepped across and stood next to Luke. "You once said to me that it had been an ambition of yours to make the universe sit up and take notice."
"Did I? I must have been drunk."
"Well, you've done it," she said softly. "You've changed history. And destroyed everything. And I didn't even know you cared."
"Oh, don't you start. Look, if the universe is under threat, we find a way to fight that threat. A way that doesn't involve your death. Of course I care. I was trying to save you. Anyway, if all this paradox stuff is true, why is your brother standing here?" He thumped Jadi lightly on the arm. "Look. He's solid enough. If there's no future, why hasn't he evaporated or something? And why are you still here, for that matter?"
"Just more paradox," said Young. "He might disappear, of course. So might we, given that we're no longer part of the real timeline. But if we do, if you do, then everything you did will be undone. And then you'll have reason to do it again. So we'll reappear. So many paradoxes, piling up on one another. One would be enough, but one always means another, and they spin on and on. It's not just about changing history, altering the course of the future. When you do that, you create contradictions, juxtapositions. Two unresolved conditions existing at the same time, mutually exclusive versions of the same thing irreversibly linked. Paradox from paradox, and from paradox only nothingness."
"Oh, give it a rest. If you hadn't..." Luke trailed off. "Look, I can't talk to you with that face on. Do you mind?"
Young frowned, and bit his lip. Then he reach up and pressed a little button hidden behind his ear. His face and body seemed to fold in on themselves, shrinking down to the mid-point of the belt of the man who was left standing there. If anything, he seemed even younger than Gwilym Young had. Not physically — there were embryonic crow's feet at his temples, lines across his forehead, and his hair was thinning. But he looked even less self-assured, even more uncomfortable. He was pale and painfully thin, dressed in what looked like a contemporary black business suit, a padded all-in-one with a high collar and a patterned band across the mid-rift. And it was obvious to all that he just didn't want to be there.
"What was with the disguise, anyway?" said Jadi. "It was never going to fool the Doctor, was it? I thought you guys could feel each other's essence."
Luke raised an eyebrow in Jadi's direction. "Essence?"
"You know what I mean."
"It wasn't meant to fool him," blustered Young thinly. "It was simply a matter of plausible deniability."
"Gallifrey has forbidden itself from intervening. All except the Celestial Interventionists. People like myself. We look after the universe, the timeline. Make sure everything runs smoothly. But even we operate under certain guidelines. Nothing had happened yet. We were trying to stop things before they started, as always. But we also thought we'd take this opportunity to enact a little pressure on the Doctor. Things like this happen all the time. But this was... things weren't meant to get this out of hand."
"But as I was saying, your presence just made matters worse," said Luke matter-of-factly.
"Don't start trying to shift the blame, human. Look, we just wanted to make it clear to the Doctor what was important. Remind him of his allegiances and responsibilities. And now it's all gone wrong. There'll be hell to pay on Gallifrey. Look, I want no more to do with this. This is your mess. I'm not getting any more involved. You're on your own." He tapped his heavy bracelet, his time-ring, and heaved out of existence.
Mavis ran over and danced around on the ground where he had been standing. Then something caught her eye in the moonlight.
"Look, swings. Can we go and play?"
"He's right," said Luke as Mavis skipped off. "About shifting blame. And we are on our own."
"This doesn't bring us any closer to fixing things," said Zeke.
"I'm still thinking," said Luke.
"I don't think we've got that long."
"Hang on," said Jadi, bending over where Mavis had just been jumping around. "Might this help? A parting gift?" He held up a thick, bronze time-ring.
* * *
"Maybe. But not on this occasion. Your lie was hardly that convincing. It hardly made any sense at all."
"But you followed me."
"I just thought I'd play along. And I wanted to work out who you really are. Ryan."
"Oh, well done."
"I wouldn't have thought you could afford the distraction."
"I thought you might be important. Now I know I was wrong."
"Oh, I beg to differ. And after today... well, who knows? When did you work it out?"
"Just now. When did you take control of Mavis?"
"It took a while. This preposterous girl is stronger than she looks."
"Or maybe you're weaker than you think you are."
"No. I proved you wrong, you know. You said I wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else."
"Everyone makes mistakes."
Silence hung between them for a few moments, before 'Mavis' continued.
"I recognised you immediately, of course. Up till then, I'd had no reason to act. Oh, I'd tried to take control before. But I was fighting thirty other people, not just this stupid child. But you gave me a new
determination. Thanks for that."
"You're welcome. But I still can't work out why. Why are you doing this?"
"You ask that? After what you did to me?"
"I... I killed you. It was..." he trailed off, tired of excuses. "I killed you. So why not just kill me? Why all this?" He swung his arm in a curve to encompass the corridor. "Why this deception?"
"Because this is so much fun." She grinned. "Because I want you to kill Benz."
"Why? Why is he really so important?"
"He isn't. He's nothing. It's the killing him part that matters."
The Doctor narrowed his eyes, and then he nodded.
"I see. It won't work. I'm not going to kill for you."
"I can see you won't kill Benz. But what about me?" Ryan/Mavis brought hir rifle up to bear on the Doctor.
"You've done it once."
"Do you think I won't do it again?" the Doctor asked nervously. "Why should I care about killing you?"
"I confess, I'm not quite sure myself. But you do, don't you? You see, I've learnt a lot about you since you killed me and they brought me back. I was one of the first, you know. As a member of the Freedom Foundation, I was important. But it didn't quite work, I could hide from Mavis and from them when I wanted to. And I wanted to. Though Mavis, through little suggestions and influences, and through the other people in here, I've found out a lot about you. There's one person in her," she tapped the side of her temple, "who knows you. Not sure what she's doing in here, but she is. A friend of yours, I guess. In here with me. Perhaps I'll get to her later. She knows you as Life's Champion."
"I never liked titles," said the Doctor.
"But it applies, doesn't it? Yes. And I know what killing me, what letting me drive you to murder, must have done to you. And I want to do it again. I think that would hurt you more than anything else."
"Now that you've told me, you can't possibly hope to convince me to do it."
"Well, maybe not. If I'm forced to, I will settle for just killing you. But if you want to live, if you want to be able to stop what's happening here, to stop your precious paradox, you're going to have kill me. And Mavis. And the other thirty people in here."
"And if I leave you alive, you'll just torture them inside that head."
"Maybe. So, you'd better kill us. And you're probably going to have to kill some cops to get out of here. I'll could kill you. Or you could kill me. Kill or be killed, Doctor. It's me and my thirty cell-mates, or you and the entire universe."
They stood in silence for a few moments more, aiming their stolen guns at each other. Finally, the Doctor spoke.
"I know why you're doing this. You want to be free."
"You want your existence to end." The Time Lord flapped his free hand in the air and continued, "You want your 'soul' or whatever to be released. The respite of death. Was that why you used such an obviously fake story? Hoped I'd see through it and challenge you."
"You're not a challenge Doctor. You're a tool."
"You once told me you wanted immortality."
"Yes. Though I didn't quite mean like this," he shook his shoulders.
"All those people you tortured, living the rest of their lives with your face burned into their memory, carrying around a little part of you in their scars."
"That's right. And this new life gives me ample opportunity to carry on, to spread myself about a bit more."
"That doesn't make sense. That you can have immortality this way surely makes the old way redundant. Unless you really are a thug."
"I know, as I always have, that immortality isn't about how long you live. It's about how many people remember you. I was right, wasn't I? You've never forgotten me."
"Did anyone remember you? Did anyone whisper your name in the night? Outside of police files and close-circuit footage, where's your immortality?"
Mavis grinned, like a knife-edge. "You remembered me Doctor. I'm sure others did too."
"But now you want to die."
"No. Oh, I'm prepared for it. My legacy is assured. Besides, I've been dead once already. Didn't mind it too much." A giggle. "But you're the important one here. It's your choice. We hold the fate of the universe in our hands, if you're to be believed. Now that's something I never dreamed of. And it comes down to a simple choice. Kill or be killed, Doctor. A simple choice."
To be continued...
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