|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #25 - "Twenty-Five Pieces of Silver"
by Jon Andersen
I look away from the figure strapped to the bed and examine the bioreadings again. "Two hearts?"
"But he looks human," Jethro says pointlessly as he toys with the man's silver anorak. "I wouldn't go outside in this thing."
"A second heart would be a useful redundancy," Linda offers.
The implication, though obvious, unsettles me, and I can't think why."Genetically engineered?" I ask aloud. For some reason I can't figure, theidea that this man is engineered makes me less, not more, willing to believe Hanrahan's theory that he has been the saboteur in our midst.
And even as Jethro makes some unintelligible sarky reply to my question, it hits me like an epiphany exactly what's wrong with the scenario.
* * *
Hanrahan, Jules's deputy and now the acting head of security, and Austin stare at the stranger's blue box, which stands in an isolated section of the complex's vehicle bay.
"Perhaps it really is a solid block," Austin says. After Hanrahan looks at him oddly, the larger man repeats himself. "If even x-rays can't penetrate--"
"Austin, I understood what you said the first time," Hanrahan scoffs. "I'm just choosing to ignore it. Now where is Raven with that second laser?"
Austin gives Hanrahan another statement to ignore and stomps angrily from the room. In the doorway, he passes a young woman with long black hair. She enters carrying a laser drill in her arms.
"Ah, there you are!" Hanrahan says, grinning. "I was beginning to think I'd have to send out a search party." He chuckles nervously.
"I don't think this thing's box had been opened in twenty years," Raven tells him. "This drill is more likely to blow up in our faces than to create a coherent beam. Oh, and Doctor Pincus wants to see you down in the Medlab."
"Tell her I'm busy."
"Okay, but she's getting ready to release the stranger."
"What?" Hanrahan screams. "Set up the drill and if I'm not back in five minutes, start without me. Aim at this point here," he adds, pointing at what looks like a lock in one of the doors.
* * *
"Look at these neural readings," I explain. "This man's unconscious and there's more going on in his brain than in everybody else's combined."
Jethro moans. "Your point being?"
"If this is a genetically engineered human, he's waaay beyond what we're doing."
"I'm not sure I understand either," Linda admits.
"Who'd send a spy against a lagging competitor? At best, it's wasteful; at worst, it's incredibly risky. What if we--"
I'm interrupted by the timely arrival of our deputy security chief, Angus Hanrahan, who doesn't seem to get that his authority evaporates tomorrow when Jules wakes up. And naturally, the first words out of his mouth net me five creds from Linda.
"Doctor Pincus, you are not releasing my prisoner!"
* * *
In the next room, green fluid bubbles around the unmoving figure of a man clad in a white bodysuit. The transpex tank was originally one of the cloning vats used to grow the new bodies for the AIs, but after the crash it was hauled to the Medlab and reconfigured.
In its hiding place in the corner, the cybermat watches the body and listens to the argument next door. Its surveillance is interrupted as the door to the hallway opens and one of the base personnel enters.
The new arrival walks straight to the vat and raises an axe.
* * *
"This is all," Hanrahan insists, "rampant speculation!"
He's right, of course, but I'm not about to admit it. Linda and Jethro may have slipped out of the room right after Hanrahan's arrival, but even if the blowhard himself left and I were completely alone, I wouldn't dare.
"Calling him a spy and saboteur isn't?"
"I'm not a big believer in coincidence, Doctor Pincus. You're a scientist, what about Occam's Razor?" he adds smugly.
I'm still trying to come up with a reply when we hear the shattering of transpex in the next room.
"Jules!" we shout in unison. We run to the door that connects the two rooms, and it reluctantly opens. Almost immediately, we are taken aback by the sickly sweet smell of the regen fluid which now covers the floor in a sticky green film. Bootprints lead from the vat to the hallway door, but there is no sign at all of Jules's body.
Neither of us sets foot in the room; instead, we go out to the hallway, but there is nobody there. Nor do we see any footprints. Hanrahan runs to a comm panel and orders an immediately lockdown and search, then looks back at me.
"I hope you don't think he had anything to do with this," I say.
"That remains to be seen. Now if you'll excuse me." He runs off down the hall, and I go back in to look on the stranger.
"Can I help?" he asks.
* * *
The Cyberleader ponders the latest news from the humans' complex. "This is not outside projections, but it does necessitate an acceleration of the schedule. First..."
* * *
"How long have you been awake?"
The stranger smiles up at me. "Most of your conversation. When one wakes up strapped to a strange bed, it's a good way to find out what's going on. At least that's my experience, Doctor... Pincus, is it?"
"That's right, Vivian Pincus," I say, smiling back. "I'm the project leader here. And you are?"
"I'm the Doctor." He waves his right hand briefly. "I'd shake, but, well..."
Though tempted, a moment of caution keeps me from reaching for his hand. "Just the Doctor?"
"I find that's usually enough."
One thing's for sure: I like this guy already. Still, there are questions that need to be answered. "Alright 'Doctor', what are you doing here?"
"I don't know where here is, to be honest. If I'm being completely and totally honest, I'm not even sure exactly when here is."
Okay, maybe he's insane.
"My ship -- you may have seen it? Blue box, about so tall?" he says, making futile gestures with his hands. "In any case it, umm, landed on a ledge in a ravine. I'm afraid that just after I stepped out, the ledge collapsed. Now if you don't mind my asking, where have I found myself?"
To my surprise, I find myself telling him. About the project, about the AIs, about myself.
"So when Raven and Jethro and the others begin to weaken, you simply download their memories into new bodies and terminate the old ones?" he asks, intrigued.
I'm about to answer when out of the corner of my eye, I see what I think is a rat scurrying behind a wheeled cabinet. A part of my mind tells me that it must be my imagination; there are no rats - or indeed small animals of any sort - on this planet. On the other hand, the Doctor shouldn't have been here either.
I pull the cabinet away from the wall and look behind it. There on the floor is a metallic device, about a third of a metre long, thick and rounded at one end and tapering to a point at the other. I can see why I was reminded of a rat; this looks like a robotic animal.
Cautiously, I pick it up by the front end, and its tail dangles limply. In my hand, I turn the thing over and see that its underside is a forest of metal cilia. "Fascinating."
"What have you found?" the Doctor asks, sounding strangely alert. "Show me what you have."
I walk over and hold the thing where he can see it. "I've never seen anything quite like it."
"Drop it!" he screams. "Drop it and run now!"
Before I can react, the device's tail curls up like a scorpion's and strikes, its point jabbing me in the back of my hand. I immediately let go, but my head is already swimming.
The next few seconds are a blur of images: the robot falling to the floor and scurrying away; the Doctor yelling for help, saying I've been attacked; silver lines, like circuitry, on my hand and arm. Then, blackness.
To be continued...
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