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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #25 - "Twenty-Five Pieces of Silver"


Chapter 10
"By the Light of the Silver Moon"
by Time Lady X


---


Captain Rozchenko stands on the command deck practically burning a hole in the forward screen of her ship with the force of her stare. The light of a million stars streaks toward her on the screen as they speed their way through hyperspace. It wouldn't be long now. "What is our ETA, Commander Fayle?"


       "Another 4.5 hours to reach the end of the hyperspace conduit, and 30 minutes from there to the planet, Captain," Fayle answers brightly, her fingers playing over the keypad of her navconsole.


       Sounded like Nurrapingu had been able to boost the engines up another notch. She mentally notes to remember to recommend him for a commendation when they get back to base. "Remember, Fayle, easy does it. We don't want to alarm their orbitals more than necessary."


       Nadia Rozchenko sits down in her command chair and slaps the comms panel on the armrest. "Captain Rozchenko to Major Baxter, come in," she barks.


       There is a slight fizzle and the Major's voice crackles to life, though that might be a bit of an overstatement. "Baxter here," his voice lazily drawls, still half asleep.


       Damned if she was going to let him sleep while she had been so rudely wakened. "Major, how is your agent doing down there?"


       "I haven't been able to make contact with her since her last report. Captain Chambers should have made at least two more reports since. I don't want to speculate, but either she's been found out, she's had an accident of some sort, or someone is jamming her signal."


       Rozchenko thumps her fist on the armrest, perilously close to the panel. "It would be nice to know if they're expecting us or not," the captain says through clenched teeth. She relaxes her fist. It was just a minor inconvenience. If they knew or not, the small research base wouldn't be any match for her armada. And reinforcements certainly wouldn't be coming to their rescue, since they had already been disposed of.


       "Thank you, Major Baxter. Terminating call." She punches a button on the panel and the comms falls silent again.


* * *


The endless amber twilight had finally deepened into a rich velvety darkness, with a powder of stars scattered in the sky above. A greyish moon rose up out of the darkness to hang in the sky just above the horizon.


       The Cybermen, including the one who had once been Raven analyse the perimeter of the base in the wake of their agent destroying the generators. The blast doors still look tightly sealed, but they can still sense the residual biological traces of humans who'd stood on that very spot just hours ago: there's obviously a way inside around the doors.


       The leader of the party takes a couple of steps away to face the group. "Report!"


       The one furthest to the left takes a shuffling step forward. "Leader, we have reviewed the memories of the new warrior unit: there is a structural instability at access number 43. We can enlarge it for passage, bypassing any defensive messures taken to protect the main entrance."


       The leader turns in the direction of the access tunnel and uses vis sensors to scan it from a distance. "Affirmative. We will proceed."


* * *


The whorling patterns of energy that represent the ships' view of hyper-space slow, loosing their motion-induced streaking. The Captain shoots out of her chair, standing rigid with outrage. Fayle exchanges a look with Porter, minding the helm console. Porter shrugs with a helpless expression on his face.


       "Report!" barks the captain. "Why have we stopped."


       "The helm has stopped responding, Sir. BANSHEE has taken control of engines."


       "And the reason for this is?"


       "Sir, there is a ship just off the starboard side. It does not match any Terran vessel, nor any other vessel in the ship's computer."


       The ship lurches in the starboard direction, bringing them closer to the unknown vessel. The picture of the vessel on the vidscreen rapidly enlarges from a point of light to a large silvery vessel. It looks vaguely egg-like in shape, but as if someone had battered it with the handle of a knife. It was dented in several spots and charred as if it had come under heavy fire.


       "Raise a channel to the ship."


       "I'm trying, Captain, but there's no response." Lieutenant Melhado shakes her head, her red curls framing her face as she listens intently on her headset.


       Rozchenko sits down, again, and slaps the comms panel. "Prepare boarding party Gamma-One for search and rescue of injured crew on damaged ship."


* * *


Everyone clambers aboard the drop ship. The blast doors come crashing down shortly after.


       "Well, that's that," says Jack to no one in particular. "All aboard who's going aboard." He had already strapped himself into the pilot's seat, confident he had the wild air to him that a pilot had, and the same amount of experience that anyone else there had from basic training and the simulators. Though that isn't terribly reassuring.


       He pulls the collective joystick closer towards him and unsteadily the dropship rises into the air. The hangar's emergency systems, running off battery power, blow the entry doors upwards and away when the 'dumb' AI running them decides the ship isn't going to stop before hitting the roof.


       The ship hovers out of the fissure the hangar had been built in, just long enough to see why they're running, then Jack nudges the throttle and the vessel lurches forward. They travel a few dozen feet above the surface of the planet, hardly using any energy at all with the low gravity of the planet. All of them are aware the dropship didn't have the capacity for long-distance space travel that a regular ship had, but they could at least make it to the jump point without too much trouble. But what lay beyond that...


       The black landscape stretches itself out beneath them, lit only by their running lights and by the moon that hangs above them. The arctic wind howls outside, screaming down the shadowy fissures zig-zagging all across the landscape.


       "All of our work, lost. All of those months of research..." Mariko wails.


       Linda puts a hand on her shoulder. "Just be thankful that it's all we've lost," she says, a smile playing about her lips in the dimly lit cockpit.


* * *


The team of Cybermen march down the corridor, their boots clanking on the metal grillwork of the base floor. Infiltrating the base had been no problem. Access 43 turned out to have a malfunctioning blast door. It had a red light next to it, registering it as fully sealed, but the heavy metal door had been standing wide-open, practically inviting people to invade. They had entered a residential wing, though most of the rooms were deserted. They stopped at the sound of several voices arguing. The Cyberman second in line scanned the room. "The cyber-viral subject designated Pincus is inside, Leader, along with the Time Lord designated the Doctor."


       "We must capture the Doctor. Relay the instructions to the Cyber-viral subject."


       "Affirmative, Leader." The Cyber-Lieutenant pauses, vis brain whirring. "Unable to establish link with the subject."


       "We must capture the Doctor," the leader repeats and this time steps forward, approaching the room.


       The Doctor steps out into the hallway, still arguing with the people inside.


       The lead Cyberman raises his arm and fires at the Doctor. The Doctor stiffens up and comically keels over to the ground, unconscious.


       A woman in her fifties steps out of the room and over the body of the Doctor. She looks down at him. "Now that is a shame. I was hoping it wouldn't come to that. But he wasn't cooperating. And he was causing a good deal of trouble we didn't need." She turns to look at the Cybermen, her unearthly eyes boring into them. "Ah! Just the people we wanted to strike a deal with. We have something we know you would be very interested in."


* * *


The whole ship rocks with the deafening sound of an explosion. Klaxons start to ring throughout the Command Bridge followed by flashing red lights that seem to pulse with the same beats of the blares of the klaxons. Rozchenko can feel a headache also pounding in time to the alarms. And to make it worse, she hadn't even had her first cup of coffee yet. She steadies herself by gripping onto the arms of her chair. "What the bloody hell is going on? BANSHEE, report!"


       The Irish voice springs to life over the comms. "There was some kind of cloaked detonation device waiting for us: it went straight through the open shuttle bay door. If I wasn't a destroyer, we'd be dead."


       "Fayle, damage report. BANSHEE, sound all hands."


       "We're showing massive buckling around the hanger door that won't allow it to close. Damage is extreme, but containable." Fayle answers, her navconsole making her face eerily glow green under the red lights. "I suggest we jettison the module."


       "Can we jump back to normal space?" Rozchenko demands.


       "Affirmative, but that will leave us about five days outside the Intolt system, which is probably their intention. Emergency barrier field in place across hangar access points."


       "Jettison it, before it spreads up the fuel lines. Have the Valhalla give us fighter cover while we do it, and get Basset and Pacific to look for any more of those damned mines."


       "Aye, Captain."


       "And take that ship out of my sky!"


       "Ma'am, it's just powered up, and I'm reading multiple targeting scans!" Porter exclaims. "Energy spike!"


       "I can't manoeuvre during the jettison procedure," BANSHEE warns, just before the vessel rocks violently. "Jettison in three."


       "Shields holding," Fayle says. "The Diefenbaker is moving to shield us. Shit, the Valhalla's just been hit the way we were. They're out."


       "Two."


       "The Dief and the Svarthelm both report they can't establish a weapons lock on the enemy ship!" Melhado calls out.


       On the screen, the heavy corvette Diefenbaker is outlined by a corona of energy as it takes a broadside from the unknown assailant.


       "One." The ship shudders again, explosive bolts blasting the ruined hangar pod away from Banshee's belly. "We're clear."


       "Good. Drop beneath the Dief and give'em your main guns!"


       "They're making an attack run on the Huan Yse. Commander Nurrapingu won't be able to hold them off."


       "Come around to port and fire!"


       The ship responds deftly to the command, moving faster than the inertial dampeners can compensate, flinging the crew violently against their seat restraints. A massive thrum travels throughout the ship as the main guns open fire, the brilliant discharge caressing the enemy vessel and obliterating it in a shower of glowing debris.


       One of the other light corvettes, Keating, takes evasive manoeuvres to avoid the flag ship as it comes around. All of a sudden it seems to stop for no apparent reason, as if it has hit an invisible wall, then explodes. Those watching see the ripple start at its engines and rip forwards, shattering the hapless vessel in a blinding ball of light.


       "Another mine," BANSHEE reports. "All hands lost. The Valhalla is giving the order to abandon ship. The Pacific is reporting is reporting signs of other cloaked mines within the immediate vicinity."


       "BANSHEE, display their sensor scans," Rozchenko sighs.


       "Affirmative." The picture on the vidscreen is suddenly replaced by a view of the hyperspace conduit with the mines pictured as fuzzy yellow probability clouds. A moment later, a red trail plots itself through the three dimensional array.


       "Hope you're up to it," BANSHEE says with practically a smile in her voice, "because we're going to loose at least two more ships based on the probabilities involved."


       "Damn."


       "Captain, another ship's appeared on our scopes, coming in from behind!" Porter cries. "Sirocco and Dryad have both taken heavy damage."


       "Hold on everyone!" BANSHEE warns. "Valhalla's going up."


       "Double aft shields!"


       The ship rocks like a dingy in a typhoon, buffeted first by the energy wave of the carrier's death throe, then the debris. "Starboard engine is off-line," Fayle reports. "We're showing damage on rear decks 13 to 26."


       "Dryad is down, Sirocco is adrift," BANSHEE updates them. "Pacific is coming under fire, Vangellis and Norton are providing covering fire. Sirhat's scored a hit on their lower engineering section, but the enemy vessel is still moving."


       Rozchenko grits her teeth. "We have to get to that base before the research data is taken out from under us. Order Basset, Hades, Diefenbaker and Spike to follow us on the run through the conduit. Everyone else stays here to take care of our new friend, then follows. With any luck we'll have been able to clear a path for them."


       "If we don't get blown up first," BANSHEE reminds her cheerfully. "The Basset's good, but so are whoever's attacking us judging by their tech. Just so I can tell you I told you so, should we get blown up. If I take hacker with me when I go, I will die happy."


       "Don't say such things. We still have hundreds of lives on this ship. Forward, full steam!" commands Rozchenko.


* * *


Doc. David Brian weakly coughs, feeling his scorched lungs. He's scared to look to see if his legs are still attached to his body. From the pain he's feeling, they probably are not. Blood thoroughly coats his clothes and his hair. He's positive his head is injured as well. The medical portion of his brain wants to analyze his broken bones down to their Latin names, but he knows he is dying. But at least he accomplished his mission. The grid is down.


       He opens his eyes, feeling that the lids had melted together and he can feel them ripping open. His eyes focus enough to see a shining figure standing above him. The light reflects off it enough for it to dazzle his eyes. He weakly smiles, feeling that he has met his maker. The being reaches down to him, enclosing his throat with a large metal hand and squeezes once, snapping his neck in two.


* * *


Hours have passed since they reached high orbit, trying to make out what the cybermen are doing on the surface, hoping their supply ship will make it through whatever lies waiting on the other side of the jump point.


       The light above the dropship suddenly vanishes, replaced by the shadow of something enormous appearing over them from out of nowhere. A green beam lances out from the vessel and surrounds the dropship.


       "Jack, do something!" shouts Karen.


       "I'm trying!"


       "Move over!" Marinova pushes him out of the pilot's seat and flips some of the overhead switches. She punches the console in front of her. "This thing doesn't have any weapons!"


       "It's the backup ship, remember," Linda shrugs. "It was never meant to be used."


       "What's happening?" asks Mariko.


       "We're caught in a tractor beam," Davenport answers. "There's nothing we can do."


       "We can go swinging," Marinova says grimly, picking up her rifle. "Or we can bite the bullet before they have a chance to convert us."


       The ship heaves around them and is drawn slowly into the open hanger of the large ship. Once the dropship had been drawn inside, the hanger forcefield shimmers back into existence, trapping them.


* * *


The flagship sets down a few kilometres from the research facility, the loss of the shuttle hangar meaning the destroyer could now use its antigrav drives to navigate down Intolt-7's gravity well and be assured of leaving again.


       It hadn't been too bad of a trip through the conduit, by some people's reckoning: all four picket ships and three more each of the light and heavy corvettes had been lost. Rozchenko orders the surviving ships to remain in orbit above the planet, waiting for the remaining enemy ship they'd manage to detect shadowing them to exit the conduit and attempt to finish what its two fellows had started.


       A tedious process, waiting and investigating and reading reports. But it would at least give her time to question the people on the fleeing dropship that the Hades had captured.


* * *


BANSHEE has other ideas, however. As soon as they had landed, she had dispatched a small service drone ahead of the recovery team exploring the disturbingly empty research base. As the humans were still performing their methodical perimeter checks, her drone finally found what she was looking forand fed some of its power into the mainframe before jacking in.


       She looked at the virus still clinging to the outside of the system. Someone certainly hadn't been in their right mind when they created that. Even so, it's no match for her either as threat to her core integrity or challenge to her cognitive processes.


       She walks easily past it, tutting over how rude that had been of someone to create. It had the earmarks of that hacker guy sitting in her belly, or at least the people he worked for. Compared to her own scape, diving into the crippled polis is like moving through slurry even accounting for her drone-hack. Her exoself slips on its standard away stripe, and she spends a moment admiring her new icon - a ghostly woman in a gauzy-white dress.


       It took a few kilotau to skirt her way through the low-level scapes, barely paying attention to the dumb AIs and legion of irrelevant data she passes on the way, until she finally finds two citizens bent earnestly over their work chattering to each other as though noting at all has happened. She coughs politely.


       "Hello boys," she says in her thick lilting Irish accent.


---
To be continued...



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