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


Chapter 5
"Liquid Silver"
by Dave Robinson


---


Sunset.

The Doctor looked up at the small patch of sky that was visible above the canyon. The sky had darkened greatly and the stars were now clearly visible he recognized a few of the constellations, the Southern Cross caught his attention, though he had never seen it from this angle before; it looked more like a spoon.


       The Doctor looked at Raven, she was coping, but she probably wasn't designed for this sort of thing. Then again he doubted anyone was really designed to be stranded halfway down a canyon on the surface of a planet that made drawing breath a challenge while not knowing if you were going to be rescued before the Cybermen got there.


       The Doctor looked at Angus, the chest wound was still bleeding but the rate had slowed down, they needed to get him back to decent medical equipment within the next fifteen minutes if they were to have a chance of saving him. The flight back to the base would take twenty.


       He looked at the two Cyberman that had just stepped out from behind the rock face to the east. Hmmm, he thought to himself, they seem shinier than last time.


       The Doctor listened to the dropship engine that was rapidly closing on their position. Not rapidly enough however.


       The closer of the two otherwise identical Cybermen pointed its left arm at Raven, a blue flash shot out of the back of it's hand and into Raven's chest. She collapsed. Ah, thought the Doctor, they've learnt-- But he was cut off as a second blue flash slammed into his chest and he lost consciousness. Again.


* * *


Now.

JETHRO blinked and knew something odd was going on, it was as if the whole world had changed in an instant. He looked around the room, it looked exactly like the room he had been in a moment ago, but it didn't feel right. Something was going on.


       He realized with a start what it was, he was digital again. Professor Davenport hadn't mentioned this, he was sure that the Professor had said "just a quick backup, only take a few seconds." Maybe the Professor had pressed the wrong buttons.


       JETHRO sat up and shrugged; seeing as he was here, he might as well have a look around. It still seemed strange that he would arrive in an exact copy of a physical world room rather than a scape of some sort.


       It was at this point that his exoself noticed his clock was out of sync. No that couldn't be right, he checked it again. He was offset by about seven months. But that only made sense if he was the backup.


       The door to the room opened and BUFFY walked in. BUFFY had changed his icon a lot since they had last seen him, he'd grown a goatee and his hair was tied back into a ponytail, he also seemed taller, his skin was still silver and from waist level down he just seemed to fade out.


       JETHRO looked at his own icon, he could change it to anything at all, but it now matched perfectly to his physical world body.


       He looked back a BUFFY, it had been two and a half years since they had meet face to face, they had talked a lot, but with JETHRO physical and UFFY digital, it hadn't been the same. Two and a half years, JETHRO did the calculation quickly that was about 2000 years subjective time online 75 gigatau. He'd been away awhile.


       BUFFY walked up to JETHRO and hugged him warmly.


       "It's bloody good to see you, mate," BUFFY whispered into his ear and the moment JETHRO heard his thick Australian drawl he was remained of exactly why he loved him so much.


       "You too," he replied, "but what's going on?"


       They broke apart.


       "Right, down to work. There's a problem, we've lost contact with the physical world."


* * *


Five months earlier.

Lawrie didn't fancy this club much, played too much 50's music for his taste, but it was loud and the drinks were cheap so it would do. He walked up to the mock battle damaged bar and ordered a something strong and green. As he sipped the drink he scanned the room, looking for his contact. He had no idea what his contact looked like but reckoned he'd be able to pick them anyway.


       Lawrie was a good boy. He never lied, swore, broke the law, violated corporate policy. At least that was what the people that didn't know him very well always thought. It wasn't like he was evil or anything; it was just that not all the rules suited his purposes.


       But tonight was different, this wasn't just a bit of software piracy or ID forgery, this was bigger and that in the end had been why he had decided to meet with these people.


       Three drinks later they still hadn't showed and they were now half an hour late. Lawrie was pretty sure there were better clubs he could be getting drunk at. He was defiantly sure there were clubs with better looking patrons. So he ordered one for the road as his father used to say, skulled it and headed for the nearest transit point.


* * *


Now.

Doctor Chambers entered Central Control just in time to hear Austin's voice over the commlink.


       "Cruck, he was right, there are Cybermen here!"


       Professor Davenport was the only other person in Central Control.


       "Say again Austin," he responded.


       "I said the Doctor was right, there are Cybermen here."


       Chambers sat down at one of the other stations.


       "There are two of them, one is carrying Raven, the other is picking up the Doctor, here, I'll punch up a vidfeed."


       The main monitor that dominated the room flicked from its normal securiscan display of the system to the vidfeed coming from the dropship.


       It showed the Doctor and Raven being carried along a ledge by Cybermen and Hanrahan unconscious lying on the ledge, he seemed injured.


       "Where's Lawrie?" Chambers asked.


       "No sign of him, looks like the ship kept going and ended up at the bottom of the canyon."


* * *


Now.

"--a few new tricks," the Doctor finished. He looked around. He was in a tunnel, no a cave, defiantly a natural formation. He was at the end of a dead end, only one way to go then.


       He got up and dusted the red soil off his silver enviro-jacket, it had after all been a bargain at only 599 creds, at least that's what the shop assistant had said. He strolled of down the tunnel in search of his captors; mildly wondering were the warm breathable atmosphere was coming from.


       After about only ten meters the tunnel turned and opened into a smallish room in which stood a motionless Cyberman.


       "Hello," said the Doctor as he walked up to it with his right arm outstretched, "I'm the Doctor."


       The Cyberman turned to face him and said simple: "Do not attempt to escape, we have only established a suitable environment for you in this cavern."


       "Oh," replied the Doctor. "Well that's awfully kind of you I suppose. I have a few questions, perhaps you can help."


       Another Cyberman entered the cavern from one of the other tunnels that lead into it. This on was slightly different, black detailing some places around the head.


       "The prisoner has regained consciousness Leader," stated the first Cyberman.


       "Good, return to your function," replied the Leader as it walked over to the Doctor.


       "Should he not be guarded?" queried the first.


       "There is nowhere for him to go."


       That seemed to settle it and the first Cyberman stalked off down a tunnel.


       "Nice to meet you, I'm the Doctor," he said again, offering his hand to the Leader.


       "I know."


       Right, thought the Doctor, down to business.


       "Sooo, what's are your plans?"


       The Cyberleader stood motionless. "You will soon converted and share all of your vast knowledge with the Cyberrace."


       "Same old thing huh. 'Cybermen are the superior race', 'all other races will be crushed', 'you will be assimilated'. You guys are begin to sound like Daleks," he paused. "What if I don't want to be converted?"


       "Your wishes are not relevant."


       The Doctor smiled. He stepped up to the Cyberleader and stood directly in front of it. He stretched up on tiptoes and kissed the Cyberleader on the faceplate. The Cyberleader did not react, did not step back, did not consider the Doctor's behaviour in any way threatening.


       "Explain your action," the Cyberleader stated coldly.


       The Doctor smiled to himself again. "It's been such a long time since I had to fight a good old-fashioned bad guy that knows all the cliches."


       The Cyberleader didn't understand, the emotion manipulation subsystem could find no logical explanation for the Doctor's behaviour. The Cyberleader decided this was just another example of irrational behaviour that inferior races often exhibited.


* * *


Five months earlier.

Lawrie was sitting in the co-pilot seat waiting for the captain to get clearance to break orbit. It was a routine trip and only required a crew of two; the co-pilot himself was out back double-checking the cargo. The captain turned to Lawrie and gave him the thumbs up.


       The captain touched a button on the comm panel and talked into her headset. "J'son, get your arse up here, were leaving."


       The bulkhead door at the rear of the bridge opened and J'son walked in.


       "No need to yell Cap, I'm here."


       Lawrie got up out of J'son's seat and the two of them squeezed past each other, Lawrie using the chance to cope a feel. J'son sat down in the co-pilot seat and smiled at Lawrie. Lawrie feel into one of the passenger seats and grinned to himself.


       "Everyone set?" asked the Captain rhetorically and touched a few buttons on the nav console.


       The ship slugged out of orbit and jumped into hyperspace. Boring as it was Lawrie always liked watching the jump, but now they had at least a three day trip and the J'son looked like he was going to be busy with co-pilot type stuff for a few hours anyway so Lawrie went to sleep.


* * *


Now.

JETHRO looked at Buffy as if he didn't believe what he had just heard.


       "Lost communication with the physical world?" he asked.


       BUFFY nodded.


       "Okay, so why activate such an old backup of myself, the backups are made weekly."


       "You were the newest one I could find that wasn't corrupted."


       Cruck, corrupted backups were a much bigger problem than lack of communication.


       "We have to get to security," said JETHRO, he headed for the door.


       BUFFY placed a hand on his shoulder. "You know your digital now, you don't have to walk everywhere."


       JETHRO smiled. "Oh yeah, I forgot."


       He jumped to the securityscape. BUFFY followed a moment later.


       The securityscape was the one public scape in the polis that JETHRO really felt that he owned, it was after all his job to look after these systems. This scape was a store place for all of the non-sentient software that was needed to administer and maintain the polis. It looked very much like the Central Control room of the base, large sweeping data panels, vidscreens, there weren't any chairs here.


       JETHRO started methodically with a general system check. Everything checked out except the in/out channel to the physical world. He started a bunch of subprograms searching the backups for corruptions.


* * *


Now.

The dropship hovered into the main hanger and paused, it spun around and then touched down while the main bay doors glided shut.


       Waiting on the hanger floor was Doc Brian, his assistant O'Brien and a stretcher. The moment the ship access hatch opened Doc Brian was charging up the ramp and into the ship, they quickly transferred Hanrahan onto the stretcher. Hanrahan still had the metal shard protruding from his chest. They rushed him off to the infirmary.


* * *


Five months earlier.

Lawrie stood in his dreams in that awful club he'd gone too a few nights ago, again he was standing by the mock battle damaged bar and again he had a smoothing strong and green in his hand, but the bar tender was the only other person in the place. Thankfully, the music was also missing.


       He looked at the bartender.


       "Sorry for the strangeness of this meeting, but we couldn't risk being overheard."


       "Okay," Lawrie replied, "mind telling me what's going on?"


       "Your asleep aboard the cargo ship on your way back to Intolt 7. My name is irrelevant. I'm a recording here to brief you."


       "And, how did you get in my head again?"


       The bartender blinked and smiled disarmingly.


       "We spiked your drink at the club the other night, nano-ware, coded with the virus we want you to plant and this recording and a few other bits of software you might find useful."


       Lawrie took a sip of his drink.


       "Virus?"


       "You job is to upload the virus into the AI mainframe on Intolt 7, it will require some sort of physical connection, you'll have to work that bit out yourself, just prompt the nano-ware before initiating the connection and it'll sort out the messy bits."


       "Right, I'm a service tech, a junior service tech, I can't get access to the AI mainframe without raising suspicion."


       "I'm sure you'll figure something out, you've got six months to get rid of the virus."


       Lawrie drained his drink and put the glass on the counter, the bartender refilled it.


       "What happens in six months?" he asked, knowing he wasn't going to like the answer.


       "The failsafes that are currently preventing the virus from running decompose and the virus starts running."


* * *


Now.

Jethro was pacing around the room. They were in the AI lounge; in the design stages of the research program it was realized that the AI's would themselves be spending considerable amounts of time in physical form and that increasingly as the research continued they would require accommodation so they were given there own residential wing.


       Tangerine was sitting calmly on one of the lounges flicking through the results from Emile's recent thermokinetic experiment.


       "Jethro, would you sit down," said without looking up from the datapad.


       He stopped by the window and rested his forehead on the glass.


       "Why?"


       "Because you're starting to annoy me," she looked up at him and decided to try a different approach. "Why don't you tell me what's going on?"


       He turned around and walked over to her. He sat down heavily on the lounge.


       "How can I? I don't know myself anymore."


       She smiled and touched his arm. He shrugged it off and slouched back away from her.


       "Then just tell my what you do know."


       Jethro looked at her, sure, what the hell.


       "I woke up one morning and everything was the same."


       Tangerine said nothing, she just listened.


       "The sky was blue and the rocks were green, and a dwarf had taken my job. I got a letter from someone called 'The Queen', not sure what that was about. It read: 'Dear sir, I would like to welcome you to the world and congratulate you on having achieved sentience.'


       "I didn't understand it the, I still don't. Next I found myself in a garden, but all the plants were made out of plastic and kept flickering different colours. There was a mirror in the centre of the garden, people were trying to eat it, but the horse said it wasn't a very good idea because it would only give me indigestion later in life.


       "I asked her what life was but she simply blew red bubbles at me, until the people that had eaten the mirror came over and ate the horse too. When there was nothing left of the horse the people ate each other until there was only one left, a seventeen year-old boy, for some he was naked. He turned to me, smiled and then belched a red bubble at me. The boy's attention was then caught by another horse in the distance so he ran after it. The bubble popped with the words 'sometimes madness is a necessary state of mind and sometimes mind is a madness necessary of state'.


       "I don't know what happened next, I remember being in an old atomic power station, I'm flicking all the switches, just to see if I can make the green light turn blue. But I can't seem to find the right switch. There's a statue that's drawing a sketch of me, but the sketch is better than I am, more realistic, more animated. So I give the sketch of me my memories and my letter from 'The Queen' and let it have a go a life instead."


       Jethro was crying, he sniffled and tried to wipe his eyes dry. It was very clear to Tangerine that the story meant a lot to him, touched him very deeply, but she hadn't a clue what that meaning might be.


       She waited for a few minutes while Jethro settled down. "Is it a dream? A story? A memory?"


       "I don't know," he replied and the tears started rolling down his checks again.


* * *


Now.

Medical Technician Mariko O'Brien pushed the trolley down main corridor of the bio-med research section. The body that was on the trolley was covered by a silver sheet, it had been dead for most of the day and with all the requisite samples taken there was no need to keep it. It had served its purpose.


       At the end of the corridor she pushed open the door marked 'Biological Material Disposal Unit', then she pulled the trolley into room and closed the door.


       Like most of the rooms of the base, this room was bare and functional, on the wall opposite the only door was a closed hatch, there were some small markings on the floor in front of the hatch. The only other thing in the room was a small puterconsole and a metal stool.


       Mariko moved the trolley so it hovered directly above the markings. Then she went over to the puter and entered her security code. The hatch opened.


       She went back over to the trolley and removed the silver sheet. She checked for a pulse, just to be sure, but the blood had long stopped pumping. The skin was cold and blue. She folded his arms, there wasn't really anything she could do to give him a dignified send off, there never was. She touched three buttons on the trolley and it tilted so that the body rolled of and through the hatch.


       She returned to the puter and touched the final confirmation button, the hatch slide quietly shut. She spent a few seconds updating the research files, adding a time and date stamp and the confirmation of the destruction of Emile's 28th body to the end of the report.


* * *


Three months earlier.

Lawrie was bored, there was a whole lot of nothing to do in this place and it wasn't really like he could go for a walk outside. He rolled off his bed and took the two steps to the other side of his room. The damned virus was still in his head, he had to get rid of the thing but had so far been completely unable to get anywhere near the AI mainframe.


       He didn't like the idea of jacking into the mainframe anyway. There was always 'Plan B', body fluid exchange with one of the AI's while they were in a body. But his charms seemed to be failing him. It would only take a drop, a kiss would be enough. He had tried sharing a drink but the virus had refused to download unless it was being transferred to a new host.


       Time to check todays memos, perhaps an opportunity would show up.


       He sat at his desk and scrolled through the latest memos and other assorted routine messages, a request for repair of the grav unit in sector 4, Sydney was getting her new body today, mail from his mum, dance class held in the gym tonight.


       Lawrie suddenly remembered that he had been meaning to fix a humming power conduit in the bio-med lab area. He got up, put on his overalls, and headed out of his room in the direction of maintenance.


* * *


Now.

Raven lay on a very cold metal table in the middle of a large cavern. She was scared, cold and lonely. Since she had woken a few minutes ago she had seen only the one silver creature. It had not answered any of her questions, or even indicated that it understood her.


       She tried to steady her emotions by focusing on what the silver creature was doing, it seemed to be seemed to be working with some form of equipment but she could not see clearly what.


       There were restraints around her ankles, writs and waist. She had been unable to budge them.


       The silver creature walked over to her and stood by the table. It reached over her and placed a small silver disc on the left side of her chest. Directly over my heart, she thought.


       Then she felt the pain, a cold stabbing pain, the disc was doing something, burrowing into her flesh. The pain only lasted moments and then was gone, she looked down and saw a gapping wound, she should have been able to feel that, she thought. But instead nothing, she couldn't even feel the cold table anymore, her body just felt kind of numb.


       A different kind of pain stabbed through her mind, something was trying to break down her mental defences. It was strong. She wouldn't be able to stop it; maybe she could slow it down. She was too occupied to notice that her skin had changed colour and now had a distinctively silver tint to it.


       The last of her mental barriers was broken and the invading program took control of her mind, it began rewiring neurons, breaking the synaptic links that were her and writing its on code.


* * *


Now.

BUFFY was restless, he hated feeling so useless, but this really was JETHRO's job, system maintenance was after all what JETHRO had been designed for.


       There was an extremely loud bang and the datafeed into security shut down.


       "Cruck!" shouted JETHRO.


       "Er, that's worse right?"


       "Yeah, its worse. I almost had a vidfeed from the base security systems, but some sort of sub-program kicked in and cut everything. No matter what I try I keep finding errors or sabotage, there are virii everywhere, this place is a mess."


       "But you can fix it right?"


       "I don't know yet... it's almost as if the system has been tampered by a bunch of different people, even the sabotage progs are interacting, sometimes cancelling each other out, sometimes making things worse. We could be it big, big trouble."


       BUFFY walked over to JETHRO and put his hand on his friend's shoulders. "What'd'ya mean?"


       "If there corrupting systems keep counteracting each other in unpredictable ways we could very quickly end up with chaos."


* * *


Three months earlier.

He found Smithe in the maintenance storeroom.


       "Hey boss," he said casually while getting a tool kit from one of the shelves.


       "How many times do I have to say it Lawrie, call me 'Austin'?"


       "Sure boss," he smiled.


       "What ya up to boy?" Smithe replied, also smiling.


       "Thought I'd have a look at that power coupling in the bio-med labs."


       Smithe nodded. "Sydney's new body should be on the slab waiting for download, be sure your out of there before 1400."


       "Right boss."


       Lawrie left and headed for the bio-med labs.


       After a hours work he had managed to track the source of the humming noise down to Bio-med Lab 2, which wasn't really a surprise to him as that's were he had damaged to conduit a week ago. It also happened to be the room that Sydney's new body was waiting in.


       He pulled open the floor access panel by the entrance to the room, the way the panel leant against the door when opened meant nobody would be able to get into the room until he was done, which wasn't a problem it would only take a few seconds to tighten the connection that was humming.


       Lawrie queried the virus about recommended delivery options, the virus suggested hypodermic as the fastest and least traceable.


       He stood by the slab and brushed his had along Sydney bare arm, her skin was surprisingly warm, the body was technically alive it just lacked a consciousness.


       He suggested an alternative to the virus, it accepted.


       Twenty minutes later Lawrie opened to Bio-med Lab 2 and headed back to maintenance to return the tool kit.


* * *


Now.

The Doctor followed the Cyberleader into another large chamber, in the centre of which was a table on which lay a Cyberman. The Doctor had a rather bad feeling about this.


       The Cybersurgeon that was standing by the table turned to the Cyberleader. "Conversion complete, about to activate brain stem."


       "Proceed. Now Doctor you shall witness the birth of a new Cyberrace."


       The Cyberman on the table moved slowly into a sitting position and then swung its legs over the edge of the table. It looked around the room and noticed the Doctor.


       "Oh, so they caught you too huh?" it said. It stood up and tried walking around in its new body.


       The Cybersurgeon checked readings on a nearby screen. "There is an error. Conversion did not overwrite the memories or personality of the subject. Control systems are unable to function."


       "Raven?" the Doctor asked with a half smile.


       "Who else would it be," it, no, she responded.


       The Cyberprogrammes kept trying to override her, so she kept slapping them, she was getting the hang of this very quickly, it was like being digital but in a physical body.


       "Seems you still have some problems to sort out Leader," the Doctor said.


       "We will find the cause of the fault and fix it. In the meantime we shall proceed with your conversion."


       The Cybersurgeon walked up and grabbed the Doctor roughly by the arm. Raven reached gestured with her right hand and pushed the silver creature away from the Doctor with her mind. Nothing happened. She tried again. Still nothing.


       Plan B, she balled her fist and fired blue energy at it instead. The energy bolt hit the Cybersurgeon in the faceplate burning a hole clean through it's head. Her left arm had also come up to firing position and similarly blown the brain out of the Cyberleader.


       The Doctor looked from on Cybercorpse to the other. He then looked at Raven. "Thank you. But now I think it might be a good idea if we got out of here."


* * *


Now.

Professor Davenport and Doctor Chambers where in Central Control with Ryan. Ryan was running standard procedures.


       "So what are you going to do Wallace?" Doctor Chambers asked.


       "With positive identification of the Cybermen, we should lock the base down, activate the auto-defence system and send a distress call. Hopefully the new security team will get here soon and we can evac data and personnel on that transport."


       Doctor Chambers nods. The auto-defence system wasn't a great idea, it would make a military take-over more difficult, but she didn't fancy letting the Cybermen just walk in.


       "Okay, lets do it."


       The base went to full alert, the defence grids activated, with automatic heavy particle weapons at every entrance and the security fields in place with would at least slow things down. In theory. They'd never had to use these systems before, she couldn't remember the last time they had even bothered with the drills.


---
To be continued...



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