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


Chapter 12 Part 5
"The End Times"
by Jon Andersen


---


TMV Hades
Orbiting Intolt-7
(MEF plus 90 minutes)

"Doctor Pincus, what's going on? Why can't I see anything?"


       Vivian Pincus starts as Jethro's plaintive voice intrudes upon the nothingness she'd awoken to. She casts back, trying to remember where she might be or how she might be there, only to find surreal flashes of things she has no recollection of. Jethro's presence, however, doesn't feel at all unexpected for some strange reason.


       The smell of something burnt reaches her nostrils, a combination of hydrocarbons and ozone. Plus something somewhat more organic.


       "Jethro?" she calls back when he calls for her a second time. She reaches out towards the voice and her fingers brush cold metal. The interaction brings the realization she's in zero-gee, thus most likely in space. "Where are we?"


       "I don't know," he answers back dolefully. "The last thing I remember was Mr M'Benga and Mr Hanrahan doing something nice to me. It made me feel all tingly and warm. Not like now."


       "Yes, it is a little cool," she agrees after a moment, putting aside the oddity of the comment for the moment because it somehow seems familiar. Instead she settles on something more immediate, reaching out to orientate herself and finding what feels like a bunk above her head. "I think we might be in a spaceship of some kind."


       "Then why is it dark?"


       "A power failure of some kind probably. Keep talking and I'll try and find you."


       "Yes, Doctor Pincus."


       Using the slightly malleable surface of the bunk as a guide, Vivian turns herself a half revolution and plants her feet carefully on the floor. Or what she thinks is the floor. Once standing, she pulls herself slowly along the frustratingly smooth wall by her fingertips.


       "So Jethro, what's the last thing you remember before Mr M'Benga and Mr Hanrahan doing what ever the nice thing was?"


       "I don't know," the AI replies with a verbal shrug. "It's like there... It's like someone's gone through my head and removed a whole lot of engrams. There are links, but they don't go anywhere."


       "Hmm. Well, it looks like whatever or whoever brought us here didn't want us remembering the experience." She moves around a door frame and starts travelling along what feels like a connecting wall of some kind. "Do you remember the Doctor? The man Raven rescued?"


       "Yes," he answers, his voice sounding strange. "I remember feeling he was a threat, but I don't know why." A long pause, during which time she finds the entrance to his room, then, "I don't feel that anymore but I think something bad happened to him. One of those links that lead nowhere. It's so frustrating! Like whoever did this didn't take the time to do it properly."


       "I know," Vivian agrees. Reaching out, her hand finds Jethro's knee, prompting a giggle. "I hope the others are alright."


       Then from the impenetrable gloom comes the unexpected noise of someone pounding on a door.


* * *


TMV Banshee
Orbiting Intolt-7
(MEF plus 90 minutes)

"Status?" Rozchenko demands over the sound of an arc welder sealing Melhado's inspection hatch.


       "Engine coming back on line now," Fayle answers. "Avionics systems are showing green and yellow, but nothing red. Close range combat systems are all online, but long range ones are still being reinitialized. Life support is mostly green and some yellow. Shields are green. Long range sensors are going to be red until we hit a space dock, midrange and close range show yellow and green respectively. Communications shows green, but we're detecting no signals from the rest of the fleet apart from what appears to be hand communicator traffic and a couple of emergency beacons."


       "Well, at least there's life, but without our shuttle bay we can't get to them. Can we punch a signal back to Fleet HQ?"


       "I couldn't guarantee it Captain," she shakes her head. "Intolt's far enough off the main hyperspace routes that the best I could give you would be even odds considering the damage that EMP did."


       "Still no sign of a follow up attack?"


       "Not a one," BANSHEE replies. "As far as I can make out, that asteroid has now stopped all forward movement. I say we kill it. Just to be sure."


       "Sounds like a good idea to me," Rozchenko agrees. "Target a jump point five klicks directly beneath it and have the dorsal batteries open up as soon as we drop back into real-space. But before we jump, signal the rest of the fleet that we're going to get help."


       "Calculating co-ordinates now," BANSHEE says.


       "Begging your pardon, Captain," Fayle interjects, "but I think you're forgetting something."


       "I haven't, Lieutenant, but thank you for reminding me anyway. The bottom line is if we can't get our hands on the research data, no one else is either. Better we destroy it than allow it to fall into enemy hands."


* * *


Cyber-command Ship
Sunward side of Beachhead Asteroid
(MEF plus 83 minutes)

The Doctor dies.


       A tingling sensation ebbs from his perceptions. The world coalesces into some other place, and the nascent Doctor takes his first breath.


       "I love what you've done with the place," he quips, looking around the textured metal walls of the transmat bay. Moving away from his captors, he runs his fingers over the nearest surface and beams in childlike delight. "My, your technology has improved."


       "A natural process of our evolution," a second Leader declares, drawing the Doctor's attention as ve enters the chamber through the only apparent exit. "Report."


       The cybermen carrying the stasis cocoons move silently out of the chamber.


       The first Leader strides over to vis counterpart. "Evacuation has been completed. The secondary device is primed. The prime enemy known as the Doctor and the mission's primary objective have been acquired. System departure may commence at any time."


       "Excellent," the second acknowledges, then turns towards the Doctor. "You do not resist your addition to the cyber race?"


       "I've been told that it's a good thing," he replies with a smile. "Oh, I'd watch out for your friend if I were you."


       "What do y--?" the second Leader demands, then staggers to vis knees, the dark handprint left by the first Leader's surreptitious contamination already beginning to fade.


       Uninterested in the scene unfolding next to them, the remaining cybermen pick up the mainframe and carry it out.


       "That was sneaky."


       The first Leader ignores the comment, concentrating on the other of vis kind. A few moments later, ve stands.


       "Meme has been encoded. Transmission will occur prior to system departure. Secure the prisoner."


       The first Leader responds to the directive by simply reaching out and clamping a fist firmly around the Doctor's neck.


       "Understood," ve answers before marching the protesting Doctor out of the chamber.


       Lost between those cries is a sound of recognition.


* * *


Shuttle wreckage
Surface of Intolt 7
(MEF plus 93 minutes)

Harnel coughs wetly, spitting out another globule of blood, wincing as the action drives his broken rib further into his lung.


       Behind him, the shuttle bathes in roiling plumes of black smoke that even the planet's harsh winds don't seem to be affecting much.


       No one else sits with him. No one else had survived whatever it was that hit them.


       Drawing a laboured breath, he looks skyward again, and pauses as something new makes itself known against the firmament. He cycles up the vision enhancements available to his damaged HUD and swears silently to himself.


       The TMV Dauntless is coming down, portside first, and burning up in the atmosphere. Given the thinness of that gaseous envelope and the armour fitted to the engineering decks, the fusion core's probably going to remain intact until it hits the surface. Then there won't be a surface for at least a hundred klicks in any direction.


* * *


Cyber-command Ship
Sunward side of Beachhead Asteroid
(MEF plus 85 minutes)

The cyberman is in the process of ducking behind the cover provided by what appears to be cylindrical storage unit as Tangerine hurls herself out of the TARDIS at knee height to slide along the smooth metal of the floor. The cyborg's own movements and the obvious expectation that any targets would exit higher up sees vis shot burn overhead and impact on the open door.


       Her return volley paints a staccato arc of blue light that terminates just below the cyberman's hips. It jerks forward, arm scything down so the wrist blaster walks fire towards her back as she shoots at it again, the blue coruscations striking vis shoulder.


       The impact spins the cyberman around and backward, the bolts from vis weapon missing her but coming close enough she can smell singed hair and the side of her face grow flushed. Images of what energy weapons do to organic tissue flash briefly through her mind before being calmly quashed.


       Scrabbling to her feet she fires a third volley directly into vis face that finally succeeds in toppling the alien to the ground. The cyberman thrashes about wildly, sounds she hopes never to hear again rend the air. The wrist blaster fires off a couple of random shots that splash harmlessly against the wall.


       She shoots twice more and the chamber Blue had materialized in becomes silent.


       After a moment it strikes her that she's feeling surprisingly calm. Heart beat and breathing feel barely elevated, and she's aware of feeling less anxious now than in the seconds before the fight started. Her first real combat, and it feels no different to her body than a training exercise.


       Crouching down she brushes her telepathic senses against the mind of the cyberman. Normally, her hard-coded operational parameters would force her to obtain permission before conducting an intrusive scan, but the same coding allows her to ignore such ethical considerations against designated enemies selected by a recognized superior officer. Having removed herself from the chain of command, her heuristics having little difficulty applying that designation to anyone acting counter to the interest of Blue, and by extent to her crew.


       Unsure exactly what to expect, she finds only the psychic equivalent of white noise.


       Not dead then, but something approaching the encephalic bodies generated for the AIs before a consciousness is downloaded into them. Functioning on a purely autonomic level without even the most basic self awareness of its existence. Alive in only the most technical sense. Perhaps she's managed to erase what was left of the person that the cyberman had been, or maybe the internal systems have a dead man switch that shuts down the higher functions to prevent damage.


       No way to tell.


       She looks at the closed blast door leading out of the... storage hold, from the looks of things. Blue, can you help me find the Doctor? Do you have any sense of where he is?


       THE PILOT IS COMING, Blue answers. HE[WE] IS CONFUSED THAT I[WE] AM HERE.


       Tangerine looks around again, properly this time. The storage unit proves to be one of many - thirty three at a quick count - labelled in an alien script the characters of which look very neat and geometrically inspired. Walking around, she notices that on the side the cybermen had been attempting to hide, each of the cylinders has a transparent door. Behind the doors are technological workings she doesn't know anything about but which anthropomorphic impulse suggests to be part of a stasis chamber.


       Damn, I hope these were intended for us and aren't a sign of how many of those cybermen I'm going up against.


       I[WE] FEEL THE PILOT GROW NEARER.


       Slinging the rifle over her shoulder, Tangerine rushes back to the fallen cyberman with the intent of moving it out of view of the chamber's door. It's then that she discovers how heavy they are - at a guess about three times what a comparable human would weigh.


       It's also when the door starts to open.


       Left no option, she flings herself backwards behind the nearest stasis tube. Behind her, several heavy footfalls echo into the room then stop.


       As quietly as possible, she pulls back into the crevice between two tubes, gripping her rifle tightly.


       Two objects are placed on the ground - non metallic from the sound they make - then two of the new cybermen continue their progress forward.


       "Unit is in emergency shutdown," one of them declares, the thought underlying the words formed coldly and precisely. "Distress signal is non-functional."


       "Cause?"


       "Residual ionization detected," the first cyberman reports. "Probability mapping suggests this as the cause of systems disruption."


       "Source of ionization?"


       "Unknown at this time."


       "Transmit the meme and reinitialize higher functions," the second orders.


       "Anomalous object detected," a third reports, presumably the second cyberman checking out vis fallen comrade, given the others haven't moved from the doorway enough to make the observation. "File search designates it the trans-temporal vehicle belonging to Prime Enemy designated The Doctor."


       "The access to vehicle is unsecured."


       "The unit may have been damaged attempting entry. Return to chamber access point and alert the Cyber Leader."


       Dren.


* * *


TMV Hades
Orbiting Intolt-7
(MEF plus 95 minutes)

Major Baxter peers around the corner as Linda's hands tighten around the grip of her sidearm. The ship remains in total darkness - apart from the faint blue glow given off by the strips of emergency bioluminescent lighting running down the middle of the corridors. Unlike the gloom, however, the lack of gravity remains unalleviated.


       "What can you see, sir?" she asks, straining her hearing to notice anything.


       "This one's empty too," he scowls. "Damn. You know, I miss brigs that have bars as well as force fields.


       "Understood sir," she nods slightly, privately feeling a little ambivalent about whether she wants the escape attempt mounted by her erstwhile colleagues to succeed. "I imagine they'll be trying to make it to the flight decks."


       "That's where I'd go," he answers. "Call ahead and alert them to escape, but stress that they're not under any circumstances to be killed. The scientists are too valuable, and which ever of your guards it was whom managed to break out of our brig deserves a chance to be recruited."


       "Probably Maranova," Linda answers, reaching for her comlink. "The other two weren't anything special. Flight decks, this is Captain Chambers. If any of you are receiving this transmission, be warned that a group of fugitives are suspected to be making for your position. They are to be apprehended. I repeat, apprehended. All other positions, do not engage. Repeat, do not engage. Termination is not an option under any circumstance."


       "This is Deck Officer Mancuso," a Proximan accent replies, unexpectedly triggering a mix of emotions that make her throat tighten for a few moments. "Order received and understood. Do you have an ETA Captain?"


       "Assuming they follow the route markers on the bulkheads, probably at least ten minutes."


       "Understood," Mancuso answers. "We'll be waiting for them. Flight Deck out."


* * *


Cyber Command Vessel
Sunward side of Beachhead Asteroid
(MEF plus 89 minutes)

In the short amount of time its taken the Cyberleader to march him to the stasis chamber, vis grip — gentle enough not to break anything, hard enough to make all attempts to escape it impossible - hasn't lessened an iota. Every pace is measured, exact, identical to the one before it.


       The Doctor, however, has stopped noticing his captor's mind-numbing sameness of being. His thoughts have turned inwards, wondering just how the TARDIS managed to get from whatever Earth ship it had been taken to into this one.


       The only logical explanation would be the Hostile Action Displacement System having come into play. But if it had, the TARDIS would have just stepped sideways somewhere else on the planet rather than being taken by the humans in the first place. Unless of course that's what did happen and the cybermen had just mistakenly made the assumption that because the TARDIS hadn't been in the base when he was, it had been taken by the escapees.


       But if the HADS scenario were true in either event, the TARDIS suddenly appearing here could only be explained by the cybership being the nearest 'safe' point. Which would mean that Intolt-7 and the human fleet both no longer existed...


       A cold shudder runs through him. Even their attempt to attack Earth with a freighter full of antimatter hadn't been capable of that sort of destruction. But if they possessed a weapon of that magnitude, the cybermen wouldn't be running the way they have. No, though overly dramatic in a way he's more than used to, that reading of the situation makes far too little sense to be viable.


       Besides which, he hasn't used the HADS in centuries. Life would have been so much less complicated on several occasions if he had remembered to flick the switch on his way out. But the thrill of exploring strange new worlds and times, not to mention an innate reckless abandon, always seemed to get the better of him.


       Oh well.


       Still, that leaves only the possibilities that the TARDIS either came through time and space under her own power, or someone was at the controls. And both prospects alarm him almost as much as the supposition about the HADS and its requisite scenario had.


       A TARDIS shouldn't be capable of that degree of independent action, convenient though that action may be. No human, or indeed, most other races, should be able to get inside one and pilot it through the inherently difficult manoeuvre of a short spatial hop with such precision just off the cuff if at all. And given the symbiotic bond between a TARDIS and its Pilot, he shouldn't find it so difficult to keep track of where it is.


       The cessation of movement breaks into his thoughts, bringing with it the realization he stands in front of a blast door labelled in a Mondasian dialect. The cyberleader passes vis free hand over a control plate.


       It's rather a pretty script, he notes as the door opens. Pity they don't comprehend such a fa--


       Get Down!


       The silent order bursts into his perception with such passionate, vehement force that the Doctor is too surprised to do anything except follow it. Unable to do anything else, he goes completely limp.


       The world suddenly spins, the Doctor's face becoming intimately familiar with the wall. He falls to his knees, a sensation of white heat filling his senses to the accompaniment of a horrendous noise neither completely electronic nor organic.


       Not again! he screams in frustration, fighting off any notion off his consciousness putting its feet up yet again. The pain fades to a dull throb and he attempts to get up. The noise is gone.


       A hand touches his shoulder, another his arm.


       "Back off!" he hears himself snarl, pushing the hands away, turning to use the wall for support. The anger goes as quickly as it had come and he starts to stammer out a blind apology.


       Then he stops.


       "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?"


---
To be continued...



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