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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #24 - "Remiel"


"Epilogue 1 — Tastes Like Forever"
by Writer X


---


'May I be looking at you when my last hour has come, and dying may I hold you with my weakening hand.'

— Tibullus, in Elegies book one.

'A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.'

— Saki, The Square Egg (1924).


* * *


Some time later they arrived at the wall, the burnt brick remains of some ancient building. It had been a long march from the landing site, the pair of captives struggling all the way, unnerved by their captors, and by this separation from their troops. The sky was dusty and grey, all colour drained from the world. Night was falling, fires were lit, but the necropolis atmosphere was unchanged.


       The two businessmen struggled as they were manhandled to the floor by grimly masked, leather-clad thugs, acolytes of some death cult living amongst the war-ravaged remains. Dirt caked the expensive material of their suits where they sprawled onto their knees and forearms.


       "Don't be so rough," came a deep, cracked, not entirely sincere voice. It bloomed out across the dead ground and echoed around the ruins, an eerie sound but natural, with no hint of amplification or modification.


       The two men were dragged backwards lightly, until they knelt bolt upright. Their hands were tied in front of them.


       "You're later than I expected," continued the voice. One of the cold shadows on the wall stepped forward from the rest of the darkness, was picked out in the flickering light. It walked forward. Well, hobbled, really. It was a man of sorts, his slight frame bent almost double, the firelight reflected by the shaft of chrome that bore his weight. The firelight also danced in two discs of pure jet, black mirrors in the eye sockets of his skull mask.


       Unlike the white, polished half-masks of the armed acolytes who littered the camp, their leader's mask was stained blood-red and covered this man's entire face. More truthfully, his whole head was covered, for a twisted mass of black dreadlocks cascaded back from the skull and down to his shoulders. The skull seemed human, but slightly larger than normal and with a pair of little horns poking from the temples. And it seemed very real, unlike those jawless props worn by the acolytes. It must have been a mask, though. It must have been.


       The man, if indeed he was, leant on his stick with his left arm, a gloved hand wrapped around the bulbous handle. His right arm seemed hidden in the folds of the high-collared, dark robes that stretched to his feet and moved like oil when he walked — they looked black, but could well have been a deep shade of blue, or even dark grey at a pinch. There were definite traces of humanity in his mannerisms and his voice, but he seemed impossibly old and distinctly alien — at least to the two businessmen.


       He started, almost spryly, up the steps of an octagonal dais set a few feet in front of the wall. Feet were revealed beneath the robes, and that was reassuring. The movement could have been comical, almost endearing, were it not for the atmosphere, the ruins, the silence and the enmity in the air. And the mask he wore. The mask. As it was, he moved like an owl with its wings clipped, charging its prey on the ground, still dangerous enough in the right circumstances to the right sort of rodent. The younger of the businessmen swallowed, while the elder held his breath. Surely this ritualistic nonsense wasn't getting to them.


       The man spoke again: "I thought you'd attempt this sooner. Or someone like you. This invasion force was ill advised, you knew we'd fight. But you had to try anyway, I knew that. I was quite surprised that you didn't arrive with the fleet. But, then, you couldn't guarantee their loyalty. And it would have been bad PR, conquering Earth with the forces deigned to liberate it. And you couldn't know the people of Earth would react the way they have."


       "We have merely come here to..." started the younger of the captives.


       "I know why you are here," growled the masked man. "Fact remains, you shouldn't be. You received the communications from the orbiting satellites, your emissaries have been down and discussed it with leaders from every corner of the globe. You know the answer to your offer."


       "And what about the people?"


       The man laughed behind his mask, a wretched noise. "Oh, dear me. To hear you talk of the people. It is the people that matter most, though not to you. Except as a resource, as something you can use." He eased himself down into a large chair on the dais. "Those who wanted to go, have gone. Gone to new colonies, gone to seek employment with you or some other corporation. Joined cargo cults, or new worlds with dubious goals. That's their choice. Some have headed into alien space, some have settled on free human colonies - if any such colonies truly are free. Those that remain, remain out of their own free will. They wish to re-build. And I'm here in the hopes that I can convince them to do it the right way. And I'm doing rather well, so far."


       "And you got here first, so you've secured the rights, eh?"


       "Got here? Got... Let me tell you a little of my life. I have had the privilege of some special knowledge. To things not known by anyone else. I have seen the future. Oh, not all of it. None of the details. There's plenty I don't know about, thankfully. But I did know about the Invasion. I knew when, who and how. And with all that knowledge, there was nothing I could do. I tried to warn people. But nobody believed. They thought I was mad, you know." He giggled. It wasn't a pleasant sound.


       "Oh, some believed my 'prophecy'. Thought I was some sort of new messiah. They were looking for answers, the key to living. All I could offer was advice on how to stay alive. I tried to warn the world about the Daleks, but they didn't believe me. So, I sent my friends. My, ah, followers away. But I stayed. I lived through the occupation. I fought through the occupation, alongside hundreds of millions. And now I will rebuild, alongside those others."


       The folds down the right side of his robes parted and his right arm snaked out, his fist clenched tightly. He beat it against the arm of his chair to punctuate his words.


       "Nobody is here to work for you, vote for you, buy your products, watch your programmes, read your stories, or to pay you money, tribute or attention. There are no bricks in the wall, there are no faceless masses, we are not Joe Public, John Doe or," he sat forward and flattened his right hand, curving his fingers over the arm of the chair. "Well, we may be King Mob, but only if you give us cause." He took a moment, relaxed back slightly.


       "Earth wishes to rebuild, and to do it properly this time. Without the bollocks, without the self-delusion and great lies. Without injustice, or exploitation, or needles suffering. That won't be possible, if people like you start to interfere. Bringing your own ideas of destiny, your dreams of power and profit. Not for all, just for a few. Just for you.


       "Freedom, equality, happiness. Those things are important. You are not. You're systems and traditions and management styles and game plans and tactical sacrifices... it's all crap. Oh, I don't expect to convert you. But I do want you to go away, and to stay away. Go back to your corporation, tell them we don't want their help and we don't want their influence. Tell them we know what the price is, we know what the terms will be. And we're not willing to make such a sacrifice.


       "You should be careful," said the elder of the two captives, the one who had remained silent until now, a gaunt man in his forties with grey at his temples. "You say you're just starting afresh, working alongside these people. But I know your sort. You think you're some rebel, a revolutionary. And every revolutionary becomes either an oppressor or a heretic."


       "Oh, you've read Camus. Well done. I have taken precautions against oppression, by anyone. There will be no place for that in the new world we will build here. And I can live with being a heretic. It won't be the first time."


       The senior prisoner smiled. "And if we were to return in strength? Earth stands alone."


       "And maybe she always will. But while we can't stand firm, we can protect ourselves. Or, rather, we have the means of protection. A population who have just survived a decade-long occupation by the universe's meanest bastards — and in terms of capitalist philosophy you're just in the playground compared to them — ready and able to fight. We've managed to inherit some of the Dalek technology, which should prove interesting, and kept a hold of our own. And received supplies from the colonies, from your own companies. Don't worry, we paid. If we must trade with you, we will. But on our terms.


       "But perhaps you think we couldn't possibly hope to defend ourselves, alone, against a force from space. You could be right. Which is why I have taken the trouble to cultivate certain... associates in positions of power and influence, throughout human space. Contacts. And also amongst the aliens. Ones you know about, like the wise beings of Alpha Centauri, and the war-like Argolins. And ones you don't, like the Ice Warriors, and the Draconians, and the Fean, and the Mogarians. I am very old, very well-travelled, very powerful, and very determined. This planet is under my protection, and that carries with it the protection of all those who owe me some gratitude or honour." He sat forward again. "All those who would be willing to stand with me, against you. And they are legion.


       "Perhaps that's not enough to persuade you. I mentioned that I knew of the Invasion long before it happened. That I have knowledge of the future. It's true. I have wandered back and forth through time. I have seen the future, and the past. I was unable to change the history of the Invasion. Too big a history to fight, I suppose. And so difficult to get access to the right places. But you, two lone men, are nothing. Give me enough cause, and I will find out where and when you were born. I will go back to those points, in time and space."


       The man in the mask paused, and his two captives exchanged puzzled looks. "I will not kill you now. But anger me, and I will ensure that you were never born, I will erase your paltry existence from the face of reality. And I can do the same to anyone.


       "Perhaps you doubt me, think I'm mad. Well, here's a little bit of foresight for you. In three years time, the... well, a certain corporation will colonise a moon in... well, in a certain system. There they will awaken an ancient and powerful being called Danjor, that will possess their minds and begin to spread its influence across the galaxy. It will creep into the dreams of every living thing within a million light years. Two men and a woman will come to that moon, arriving out of nowhere and circumventing Danjor's defences. They will stop the spread, confine Danjor once again to that world, save and liberate the colonists. It'll grab a number of headlines. And everyone will know about it, will feel the terrible presence of Danjor, and of the hero who stands against him. In their dreams. In their nightmares.


       "Move against Earth, and all Earth will fight you. And you will lose. Time is on my side now. On the side of freedom, as far as this planet is concerned. I don't advise it. But you must keep your own counsel. In the mean time, I suggest you piss off. Before you make me angry."


       With that, the men were dragged wordlessly back to their ship. They departed, with their troops.


* * *


Of course, the confused warnings of two agents was not enough to convince one, let alone all of the corporations. They did try to take Earth, individually or in partnership. But they were fought, and they did lose. And, when the prophecy of the Danjor was proved true, the rumours and terrors spread round the agents and troops of every corporation, and the fervent armies of cults and political groups with similar designs, and Earth was left most resolutely alone. For a time, anyway.


* * *


In a pod behind the old wall, part of a little web of pods usually found on freshly settled colonies and out-of-the-way moons, the old man eased himself into a chair in front of a mirror, aided by his most favoured acolyte.


       "I still can't believe the special effects and sham mysticism work."


       "Of course they work. Corporate agents have their lives directed by the stock market and inter-stellar economic models, and that's all special effects. And the cultists are even easier to intimidate."


       "Easy for you."


       "Yes." The old man drew a reedy breath. He removed his skull mask, placed it on the firm stand on the dressing table, fingered the horns with a grin, and then looked at his face in the mirror. He was completely bald, the skin of his scalp and forehead mottled and deeply lined. He sighed at the sight, as he always did. "I won't be here forever, you know," he said.


       "No, I don't suppose you will," said the younger man.


       "All of us must end one day, John," said the old man, still staring at himself. "And my day can't be too far off." Though he had once been stout and tanned, his skin was now pale and papery, stretched tightly over crow's feet and sunken cheeks. He looked at the mask, and then back at his own reflection. "Though if it isn't, I don't think I'll be needing that mask much longer."


       "You'd miss the horns."


       "And when I'm gone, there must be no tears, no regrets." He reached for some blusher.


       "I wouldn't worry too much. We'll muddle through somehow. Could probably do with the extra space."


       "Oh, how heartless," the old man spun around. "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child. How..."


       "Oh, shut up."


       "God, I hate you. You're far too much like me."


       "Yes, I hate myself too, for the exact same reason."


       "Just you wait till you reach my age." He looked back into the mirror and started brushing powder onto his cheekbones. "You'll find it's difficult to be flippant when you can't even sit up straight."


       "You don't seem to have much trouble, Luke."


       "Difficult," he grinned, "but not impossible. And what is all this Luke nonsense, John? You never call me daddy, any more," he pouted. "I'm very hurt." He plainly wasn't.


       Luke turned to face his son again. They were both smiling. John put his arms around his father and returned the embrace.


       "I don't know what I'd do without you. These days, I just can't imagine being alone. Without companions. Friends and family. But you will have to learn to do without me."


       "And when you *are* gone?" John said softly.


       "I look to you and to little Luke - and have I told you how much I wish you hadn't called him Luke?"


       "Only a couple of thousand times."


       "Yes, well. I look to you two, and the rest of our beautifully extended family, to carry on after me. If any of you want to. If that's the path you choose. Mind you, you're getting on a bit now yourself. What are you, forty-nine?"


       "Fifty-eight. And little Luke is twenty-three."


       "Is he really?"


       "Oh, you know very well he is. Don't give me the senile act, you're as sharp now as you were seventy years ago."


       "Sharper, probably." He chuckled, applying a little eye shadow — a muted shade of blue — and then reaching for the neon rose lipstick.


       "Was all that true, and the Ice Warriors and so on?"


       "Of course. You know I never lie. I hardly even need to exaggerate, these days. I went down a storm with the Ice Warriors — the Martians have really come along since they started their wandering. And I was awarded Fellowship of the Great Contemplation on Alpha Centauri. Haven't I told you?"


       "Not in so many words. And the bit about time travel?"


       "Well, that was a little bit of exaggeration. Let's say, I couldn't go back and stop any babies being born, even if I wanted to. But the rest was true. Oh, I had many adventures off-world. Before you born, mostly, and some when you were very young. All the planets I sent you and everyone else to were places I'd visited myself."


       "And the Argolins really gave you their Companion of Honour?"


       "Oh yes. I earned that for my sexual prowess. That was wonderful year. Just before you born, actually," he sneered playfully with his freshly-painted lips. "I took the commune there for my fortieth birthday. Kirena was getting precocious and wanted to go and see the Low-G-Hockey Galaxy Cup. Argolis was hosting it that year, the dates coincided, so we..."


* * *


[Extract from chapter nine of Born Out of Fire — the History of Earth from 2157-2200 (the Dalek Invasion to the signing of the World Freedom Accord), by Keora Petherbridge (publ. 2437)]

Luke Bramley lived long enough to see the re-unification of Earth, and, later, after decades of campaigning and diplomacy, to witness the signing of the World Freedom Accord, the first act of the global socialist democracy that has survived to this day. On the tenth of June 2201, a few days after his one-hundred and thirty-second birthday, he collapsed and died whilst walking with friends and family on Brighton beach.


       His wake lasted for a fortnight of constant party, and the wide attendance saw a temporary doubling of the population of Southeast England. During his lifetime he conceived over twenty children, with several different partners — his eldest daughter, Admiral Kirena Bramley, died in 2167, commanding the Dauntless and leading the fleet that breached the Dalek blockade of the solar system (see chapter 4) - and touched the lives of billions of human beings.


       His last words were not recorded, but his place in the triumph of peace, freedom and justice on Earth, will never be forgotten.

[Extract ends]


* * *


[FedNet Infobite: Human History; Luke Bramley, 2069-2201]

...was rumoured to be unfeasibly large.


       The Luke Bramley Institute for Making Life Better, a centre of learning and discourse, was built in London in 2212. It was closed-down and levelled after the military coup of the late twenty-fifth century. An exact replica was built in the reconstructed London on the reclaimed surface of Earth, after the repeal of the Imperial Edicts in 3269. A further replica was built in the Federation Headquarters complex on Io in 3532. Both buildings stand to this day, still fulfilling the original purpose of the institute two millennia after its foundation.


       To date, over one hundred planets or heavenly bodies have been named after Luke Bramley. (Exact details unavailable.)


       A personality recon of this individual is available from the Venusian University of Paleo-psychology.


       Famous descendants include...

[Extract ends]


* * *


[Neurodatastream Flash, Mutter's Spiral, 04.00 GMT, 9th April 6101]

Bramley's Eye (Elliptical Galaxy G35) reached by star pioneers. No Wirrn detected. Celebrate!

[Extract ends]


* * *


Ten and One Things I Didn't Need to Know before I Met the Doctor, by Luke Bramley (aged 31 and a fraction):

  1. How to converse telepathically.
  2. How to escape from an alien prison cell.
  3. The plural form of apocalypse.
  4. How to argue semantics with the brainwashed.
  5. Successful delaying tactics for mad scientists.
  6. A Minotaur's blind spot.
  7. What dimensional instability pockets can do.
  8. What 'Red Queen' means.
  9. How to engage a Spartan at close-quarters.
  10. How to stay with a broken heart.
  11. The best things to feed to butterflies.


---
Fin.



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