|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #25 - "Twenty-Five Pieces of Silver"
"The Spy Who Came In From The Cold"
by Jon Andersen
Even though the envirosuit is working perfectly, I still feel the cold. Still feel its long savage teeth sinking through skin and muscle and sinew and deep into the marrow of my bones. Feel the way each breath makes my lungs ache beyond belief as they struggle for enough oxygen to sustain me and enough heat to remain functioning.
Or perhaps it's only my mind telling me I'm cold. I wouldn't be surprised, but if I'm right it means we've leapt a generation ahead of schedule and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not.
The watchword of this project has been control, in engineering precise increments in power levels and potentialities that haven't been deviated from since we began. Twenty years everything has been running as smoothly as liquid teflon, so perhaps a glitch like this was inevitable.
"Central Control, this is Pincus."
As I wait for a response, I look around without really expecting to see anything new. The late afternoon sunlight is a wan amber colour that gives the arid and heavily fissured rockiness of the landscape an appearance of warmth that it otherwise lacks. The wind, gusting brutally hard, is enough to make the thin and already inherently cold atmosphere frigid to the point of lethalness.
"Go ahead Doctor Pincus," the static-tinged response comes a few seconds later. It sounds like Jethro, but I've never been able to tell his voice apart from Austin's over the comlink because they both speak with a Proximan accent thick enough to cut. It's one I've never cared for.
"Can you get Linda for me?" I ask as I bump up the temperature a notch.
"Is there a problem?" I can hear barely disguised concern in the young man's voice, so it probably is Jethro after all - he's one of those tedious types always expecting the worse to happen. Whether he's capable of acting when they do, or if he just goes to pieces saying 'I told you so' remains to be seen. On the other hand, given I'm essentially solo on this wretched planet's antartic landmass, it's also of some small comfort.
"Just routine," I reassure him blithely, and the line goes quite as I trudge onwards, glad of the servos built into the suit that mean I don't have to strain my own poor musculature to lift the grav boots that are the only thing stopping me being picked up and flung like a ragdoll.
"Vivian, Linda here. What's up?" Her middle English is a welcome, even dulcet, relief.
"How's the telemetry on my suit? My HUD's showing green."
"We're reading green as well."
A pause, presumably containing a significant glance from Jethro. "Is something up?"
"I think Tangerine's ahead of schedule."
"How?" Linda demands, sounding suitably taken aback by my pronouncement. "What makes you think that?"
"Since my suit checks out, I think she's feeding me Emile's sensory response," is my eminently logical answer. "How's he doing by the way?"
"Hmm, I'd say he's about ten minutes away from exceeding maximum tolerance."
I've reached the nearest fissure by now, a dark rent the bottom of which is barely visible due to the position of the sun somewhere over my shoulder. With great care, I crouch down and crank the vision enhancement systems up all the way trying to find some trace of the ladder that should be here, but without success.
"Ten? Grud, we predicted at least thirty at this point." Today isn't going at all well. Hopefully I'm just in the wrong spot. Hopefully.
"We may be reaching the limits of this particular vector," Linda remarks philosophically. "We knew some of them would max out before the others had been fully explored. Hell, that's the whole point. How far away are you?"
"According to the geosat reading, I should be right on top of you, but I can't see the ladder anywhere."
"Hell, I thought those fastenings didn't look right," Jethro can be heard cursing. "I'll bet you anything you like that nimrod Lawrie botched replacing them yesterday."
"We would have heard something as large as the ladder hit the ground, even in here," Linda counters a tad defensively. Guess it must have been her I saw going into Lawrie's chamber the night before last.
"Not if it's only come partly away," Jethro disagrees. "It's probably hanging curved over itself. Look, I'll route the dropship back here ASAP and get Raven to suit up and give her the gear to put the ladder back in place, then I'll get on to giving that nim a good old roll."
"Sounds good. Linda, are you and Tangerine going to be alright down there dealing with Emile without me?"
"Don't worry about us." I can hear the grin in Linda's voice, though she's so phlegmatic that it's probably for everyone else's benefit.
"Fine. But do you think you could ask Tangerine to stop being so diligent in monitoring Emile, please? It's enough that I'm going to have to be cooling my heels up here without feeling like they're actually being frozen."
The comlink goes quiet again, leaving me alone to contemplate the landscape. Why did I feel the need to come down and watch Emile's latest test when I could have just waited in the main complex and gone over the results later on in comfort? I could say it's because I'm a hands-on sort of project leader, bit it's getting hard to deny that I feel a growing affection for our lab rats, especially the one's like Emile whom we have to keep terminating with each stage. Davenport says they're all coping with it quite admirably given they don't actually experience it per se, but I think I'd go nuts if I had to keep on coping with the knowledge of my own physical death over and over like that. But then I'm a genetic biologist and not an AI psychologist, so I'm not exactly coming at that from a position of authority.
Perhaps five minutes go by before Linda's voice comes back over the link.
"Vivian, we have a problem," she announces grimly. "Or more accurately speaking, you might."
"What do you mean?" Damn, Jethro must just be finding this day so fulfilling.
"Tangerine's not sending to you. She's been unconscious for I don't know how long."
"Are you sure?"
"Grok it, Vivian!" she swears. "Of course I'm sure. I'm dragging her back to the camp now. And given we both know Emile's genetic profile by heart it can't be him. Your suit might well be malfunctioning after all. Or..." And here her voice almost drops half an octave, though that's probably just my own subliminal sense of fear kicking in.
"There may be another telepath out there somewhere. One that isn't ours."
"The securiscans would have picked up any foreign vessels entering the system," Jethro magically appears in the conversation. "We haven't even had a meteor strike for the past two months."
"Stealth technology?" I suggest.
"Possible," he allows. "But the securiscans have the latest Static-X arrays fitted. There are ways around them, of course, but there aren't many."
"Not wanting to get anyone down," Linda cuts in. "But there being something wrong with Vivian's suit seems the more logical explanation.
"We're a bio-armaments research world," Jethro almost sneers at such an obvious fact. "Someone trying to steal our data is just as likely. And now their spy's gotten into trouble. That might even explain how that crash happened last week."
"How long until Jules is out of the regen vat?"
"Um, another day and a half according to this," Jethro answers me. "It's still your call, Doctor Pincus."
"Okay then. The moment Linda tells you Emile's flatlined, I want a maximum intensity scan of this sector. And tell Raven to forget about the ladder for now, she'll have to evac Linda and the others as soon as the dropship gets here. Oh, and put everything on alert. Better to be safe than sorry."
* * *
The chamber is gloomily lit, a loose cluster of flat screen monitors towards one end providing the only illumination. Three figures stand before them, blank mockeries of a humanoid face reflecting the data being displayed.
"Have they detected us?" the central one asks, the deeply modulated electronic voice boomingly loud in the chamber's small environs.
"Negative, Leader," one of the others answers in a slightly softer tone, touching the closest screen and bringing up a new display. "Our presence here remains totally unregistered; the reference to our arrival is incidental."
"Excellent," the first declares. "What is the projected arrival time of the replacement security force?"
"ETA remains at two days, local time scale," the third answers in a voice as similarly distinctive as those of its fellows. "Main detachment remains on standby for hyperspatial intercept at jump point."
"Have the cybermats detected the random unit the humans are referring to?"
"Negative, Leader," the second speaks up again. "I suggest we instruct the unit assigned to observing the thermokinetic endurance test to enter stasis mode until the area scan has concluded."
"At once, Leader."
* * *
The fissure is just as swathed in shadow as the one Emile had been tested in, perhaps even more so given it's roughly a kilometre further north. A small lick of sunlight across the northern lip still leaves the bottom unseeable. And then the shadows part beneath the assault of a savagely brilliant spotlight erupting from the belly of a drab khaki ship looking something like a diving hawk.
A hatch opens and someone in an environment suit drops surfacewards. The person should just plummet to their doom, gripped in the thrall of the planet's gravity well. But they don't, they slow down and flutter the way a leaf does on still day until they're hovering, still bathed in the light And just beyond the shadow created by a jutting overhang half way up the fissure's southern wall. On the suit's left breast is badge with the legend 'Raven'. On the right is a logo that has fashioned the letters A and I into an arrowhead.
"I'm over it now, and it's the weirdest damn thing I have ever seen," Raven announces, her voice conveying a young person's sense of wonderment. "Of course, I've never been off-world so my experience in weird is limited."
"What does it look like?" Jethro's voice asks over the comlink. "All the geosat can make out is that it appears a container of some variety."
"It's a blue box, about two and a half metres long, roughly a metre wide, wedged lengthways near the fissure bottom," she reports, turning on a wrist-mounted lantern to examine the obfuscated section. "There are some things that look like windows but I can see through them. And there's writing here to: across the top there's a panel reading 'police public call box'. And then lower down there's a second panel that goes 'Free for use of the public. Officers and cars will respond to calls'. The pattern of windows, indentations and the first panel are repeated on either side, probably on the bottom too, but that second panel and three handles look like they're just on the top. Hold on and I'll check."
Raven floats to one side of the box then stops as her light passes across something. "Guys, I think we found our telepath. He looks human, and pretty beat up. I'm bringing him up now."
"Okay," Jethro answers. "I'm cycling up the drop ship's autodoc now. Doc Brian is prepping the med bay back here."
There's a little scrunching sound as Raven's feet touch down on the gently canted surface of the blue box. Looking down at the silver jacketed figure lying crumpled amidst chunks of broken stone some fifty metres below, she closes her eyes and makes a small gesture with her hands, but nothing happens. Sighing, her brow furrowed, Raven closes her eyes again and concentrates a second time.
The body begins to move, shifting limply as it floats upwards, arcing onto the box next to her. "He's still breathing, and there's a lot more blood than I thought. Is that autodoc ready yet?"
Raven just grunts as she picks up the body. "Hang on there whoever you are, help's on the way."
* * *
"Leader, a situation has arisen which may necessitate an alteration of our plans."
"Explain," the Leader orders, entering the chamber from the rear.
"Contextual examination of the most recent human communications indicate the presence of the transtemporal transit device recorded as belonging to the Time Lord designated as the Doctor."
"It also indicates he may be severely injured," the third adds.
"Cyberconversion of the Doctor would be of immeasurable benefit to the resurgence of the Cyber-race," the Leader declares. "I will contact the Cyber-Controller, but for now the cyberconversion of the psionic warfare project will continue on schedule."
To be continued...
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