|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #25 - "Twenty-Five Pieces of Silver"
by Tony Whitt
"You realize that it's going to take longer to generate the bodies than it will for the relief ship to arrive," Mariko points out as Linda catches up with her. "I don't see the point."
"It's something to keep us busy," the English woman answers in her typically phlegmatic way. "It's also anticipating the possibility that the relief ship won't arrive and preparing for it."
"What do you mean 'won't arrive' Linda?" Mariko asks, looking at her friend apprehensively.
"It's simple logic. The Cybermen may well be interested in what we're doing here, like any other competitor. Given they've organized the deaths of most of our security team, it makes sense that they'd remove the threat posed by their replacements before moving in."
"That's a scary thought," Mariko shudders.
"Yes it is," Linda agrees, her voice falling quiet as if something has just occurred to her. "Um, I need to use the head."
"Head?" the Asian woman teases. "You've been hanging around those military types too long."
"Yeah, I guess," Linda shrugs, looking like she desperately needs to be elsewhere. "You get started in the lab. Sydney and Galaxy as the magneto- and gravito-kinetics are the most powerful, so we'll need to
start with them, then follow up with Johnny, Raven, and Irene."
"Okay," she answers as the English woman almost runs back towards the residential wing. "Guess she must really be busting."
* * *
Linda rushes to her quarters and locks the door, hoping that she has enough time to do what she needs to do. She pulls the case containing her communications equipment from beneath the bed and hurriedly connects the two boxes and the metal rod. She notices just how badly her hands are shaking and silently wills them to stop. Finally, she connects the
microphone and headphones and begins transmitting. There is also a computer data crystal in the secret compartment of the case, held in a sheath of thin plastic. She takes it out and starts rolling it about in her free hand nervously, realizing that she will have to bring it out with her and hoping that no one will see what she needs to do with it. The nerves she feels at possibly fighting the Cybermen are nothing compared to the fear she feels at having to use the crystal again.
"Captain Chambers to Marine Space Corps Command. Recognition Green Epsilon. It's Linda, guys…please come in."
The only answer is static in her headphones. She instinctively glances up at the door, frantic that some passer-by might overhear the noise, but the headphones are tight against her ears, and the door is locked. She wills herself to calm down, but it doesn't work. She's got to get in touch with them soon, to warn them that the Cybermen really /are/ here and to tell them what Davenport is planning to do. Even if she can't get in touch with them, she's got to use the crystal again, with or without authorization.
"I say again, this is Captain Chambers to Marine Space Corps Command, recognition Green Epsilon. Please come in."
Nothing but static. This is SO not good, she thinks. Why aren't they responding? Something must be blocking the signal — the Cybermen, probably. But why now? She twiddles the crystal more quickly, nearly dropping it to the metal floor and catching it at just the last moment. Yep, she thinks, my training is long gone. I hate this. Hate it, hate it, hate it.
After a tense two minutes of sending her call sign and waiting for a reply, she disconnects the unit and makes sure to take it apart carefully and hide it well. Carelessness is simply not allowable at this stage of the game. She reminds herself that she very nearly dropped the crystal a moment ago, and that causes her to take even greater care with the equipment.
She looks again at the harmless looking data crystal in her palm and hurriedly hides it in her tunic before quickly, but not hurriedly, unlocking the door and leaving her quarters again. Time to undo some
sabotage, she thinks.
* * *
Raven looks over at the Doctor once again and wishes she could frown in irritation. For his part, the Doctor looks less like he's just escaped from an enemy stronghold and more like he's out on a stroll on a mildly snowy night. Only thing is, it's hardly mild outside.
Her enhanced Cybernetic sensors have registered the cold far more accurately than her old body's nerves had been able to, and she's amazed that he doesn't seem to mind it, despite the fact that he no longer has his thermal jacket. The wind is howling around them as they trudge through the quickly gathering snow, but she can clearly make out his voice singing, "Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh, over the fields we go…"
It annoys her, this nonchalance, but at the same time it's reassuring. She supposes she should feel a lot more disturbed than she is, but she doesn't feel all that worried. In fact, she feels even less worried than the Doctor appears to be feeling. He keeps surreptitiously glancing in her direction, even as he keeps singing at the top of his voice. Maybe that's why she's annoyed with him – the glancing, not the singing, though that's likely to bring the Cybermen upon them at any minute.
Speak of the Devil. Her Cybernetic recognition protocols register the presence of two Cyberscouts very close up ahead, headed in their direction. They've registered her presence, as well, and they send a direct carrier signal, asking her to identify herself and state her intentions. They recognize her as a fellow Cyberman, but they also sense the emotions their presence has created in her. She ignores their silent interrogation, waiting until she has them both in her line of sight. So far, they have not activated their weapons, despite her silence. Yes, she thinks, we're all one big happy Cyberfamily, aren't we? She stops and begins tracking the edge of the next rise, waiting until they both appear. The Doctor has stopped singing and has turned to look at her, but she barely notices.
There they are.
"Down, Doctor!" she shouts. A part of her consciousness notices that he's dropped to the snow, but her main focus is on the two silver figures now visible. She balls up both fists and aims at the two Cyberscouts, sending out twin energy bolts. The Cyberscouts collapse immediately, and she can sense their momentary confusion before they deactivate for good.
* * *
The Doctor takes his hands away from his head and cautiously peers up at the spot where he briefly glimpsed the heads of two Cybermen before diving to the ground. There's of course nothing there now.
He chastises himself for getting so caught up in his concern over Raven that he didn't notice the danger until it was too late. Of course, ironically, Raven's now in a better position to defend them from Cybermen than he ever was. Even if they had cloaked, masking them from his sight, she could now detect them.
As he gets up and dusts the icy mess off his velvet jacket, he watches her closely. She is staring at her hands — or at least, he gets the sense that she is staring at her hands, since her visual receptors are nothing like human eyes — as if she's seeing them for the first time. He carefully moves to her side and pats her shoulder reassuringly. The coldness of the flexible metal shocks him more than her firing on the Cybermen, and he takes his hand away quickly. "There, there," he says, trying not to show how uneasy he suddenly feels. "I understand what you must be feeling. But it will be all right, I promise you."
She does not look up at him, or rather, she doesn't move her head in his direction. "I know," she says quietly. "I'm just worried, that's all." The Doctor feels the tension leave his shoulders, but it's right back again as she adds, "I should have been much more efficient at that. My emotions are getting in the way."
He takes a step back. "More efficient? At what? Killing?" he shouts. She doesn't move. He steps forward once again. "Raven," he murmurs, certain that her audio receptors will be able to pick up his voice even over the storm, "has the Cyberprogramming begun to take effect?"
This gets her full attention. She turns her head in his direction, then turns it to look into the middle distance, like a human who is thinking about a question before answering it. It's a pose he's only ever seen in a Cyberman only once before, but he didn't fear the implications then. "No, of course not," she replies after a moment. "They're still attempting to override my personality, but keeping them from doing so is easy enough."
Is it really, he thinks, but he drives the thought from his mind. "Raven, you must listen," he says. He clasps her shoulders in his hands, and this time he ignores the pain of the cold metal against his palms. "If you think there's any possibility you're being taken over by the Cyberprogramming, you must tell me now, before we get to the base. The Cyberprogram may be gradually changing your personality without you even noticing it. What you said just now... it's so unlike you."
He hears what sounds suspiciously like a sigh of exasperation. "Doctor, you don't know what I'm like to begin with! You haven't known me that long!" She turns away from him and inclines her head. "For that matter, I don't know what I'm like most of the time. I told you I wouldn't have much to miss if I were converted into a Cyberman. You don't know what it's like to have nothing to hope for except being an imperfect copy of someone else." She raises her head again and looks at him. "Do you see what I mean about emotions? If I still had tear ducts, I'd be crying by now."
The Doctor nods and takes her into his arms, even though he is uncertain whether the bodily contact has any meaning for Raven any longer. It is an uncomfortable fit — she rests her massive head on the Doctor's shoulder, causing him to crane his neck off to one side. Finally, she breaks the contact, after a longer period than the Doctor anticipates. Perhaps she still can feel the warmth of human contact, after all. Maybe there's still a chance.
They begin to trudge towards the base again — the Doctor is now noticing just how cold his hands are from touching her and redirects a bit more of his blood flow to his fingers. "A copy, perhaps," he suddenly says, "but hardly imperfect. I think you were mimicking Linda far better than you realized."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that when I first saw the two of you together, I noticed you didn't seem too comfortable during Jethro's outburst. Linda was fairly calm when you both came to help me up, and so were you, but it seemed like you were suppressing the need to take up a defensive stance. It's as if you'd learnt body language, but you'd got the accent wrong."
"Doctor, you're not making any sense."
"Don't I? You were mimicking Linda's calm demeanour, but while she was perfectly calm — almost TOO calm under those circumstances, if you ask me — you were poised mentally for something else. I imagine she's had more practice at acting like something she isn't than you have."
Raven pauses and turns to look at him. "What are you saying?"
The Doctor stops and turns to look at her directly, despite the winds that threaten to blow them along. His calm voice is again perfectly audible over the gale. "Isn't it obvious, now that you have the processing power and total memory recall of a Cyber-enhanced brain? Haven't you noticed any unusual behaviour in Linda over the time you've known her? You've observed her far more closely than any other human at the base." He sees her
biomechanical body tense in a very human gesture as she figures it out, but he says it before she can. "Linda is an agent of some kind, probably some form of military. Her act's so good, I probably wouldn't have been able to tell if you hadn't been there to provide a contrast." He rubs his hands together and continues on his way, leaving her to follow him. "Let's just hope she's called her friends in, shall we? We could use the cavalry right about now..."
He notices that she has stopped again and turns. She is looking ahead of them, in the direction of the base. "Doctor," she says, "there are eight Cybermen left in this particular Cyberhorde. Five of them are on their way to the base right now — they've received orders from the Cybership monitoring this operation to proceed immediately to the base. I think my attack on the Scouts just now alerted them to the fact that we're on the
move. They'll try to intercept us there."
She moves forward and, before he can say anything, lifts him into her arms. As she begins to trot forward over the snow, the Doctor stares at her in shock. Then a wicked smile spreads across his face. "Oh, Raven," he says, "I don't know what to say! This is so sudden..."
"It's quicker this way, Doctor," she replies impassively. "We've got to get to base before the Cybermen do, and I can move far more quickly than you can."
"From what I've seen so far," the Doctor replies, his voice now shaken by the constant movement of her hydraulic muscles as she runs, "you can move far more quickly even than the Cybermen can." His voice drops even below the range of her audio receptors. "A decided advantage – though for whom is still an open question." He senses that she is watching him closely as she carries him and rapidly adds, "That link you have with them is even
more of an advantage for us. Are they able to access your, erm, thoughts, the same way you can do with theirs?"
"No, not so far. I keep feeling them trying to do so, but it's just as easy to shut them out as it is to keep them from reprogramming me."
The Doctor looks away from her for a moment, and she cannot see the worry in his eyes. "Do we have enough time for you to tell me what they're up to before we get to base? And while we're at it, why don't you bring me up to speed on the base's experiments, as well?"
Raven thinks for the briefest of moments. "I'll give you the condensed version," she says, and runs faster.
* * *
"The Cyberlieutenant at the beach-head reports that vis troops are making their way to the base to intercept the Doctor and the Converted female."
"Excellent. Has there been any success in accessing her experiences?"
"Then order the Cyberlieutenant to boost the signal through the interference to the human woman currently in stasis. We need her to aid our agent."
"Continue to monitor the approach of the human military fleet."
* * *
In the stasis module, something impossible happens.
* * *
Ten seconds ago, Tangerine turned her back on Jethro to order a sedative drink from the AI Lounge's food dispenser. Now she is lying unconscious on the floor, blood welling from a cut above her temple. Tears are running down Jethro's face –- they haven't stopped since he told her the story about his dream –- but none of them have to do with his confusion over what he has done to Tangerine. Why did I do that? he asks himself, but there are no answers, and there is no emotion attached to the act. He knows that something will happen to him now, and he needs help.
There are voices coming down the corridor outside. He locks the door on that side, then hurries to the other door of the lounge and runs away. He has recognized Linda's voice as one of the two rushing down the hall, but he knows she won't help him after she's seen what he's done to Tangerine. The sabotage of the ship was different -– it was further away, and somehow Linda wasn't as affected by hearing about it. Tangerine would be a different story.
There is only one other person he can turn to.
He rushes off to the statis chamber, still feeling nothing.
* * *
"All communications channels are down?" Davenport had said worriedly when she caught him on his way to the AI lounge. Luckily, he hadn't asked her how she knew, preferring instead to click on an outside audio circuit. The room had filled with the same static that had filled her headphones. "Cause?"
"Not a clue," Linda had sighed. She was fiddling with the crystal in her pocket, waiting for the opportunity to get to the computer core and use it before someone can catch her at it. "Perhaps Jethro knows something about it. The communications were working fine when he was monitoring the crash – maybe he set up some sort of delayed effect." She had met his eyes when she said that, and both of them had known what the other was thinking:
that this could be the Cybermen, not Jethro.
They had still hurried down to the AI lounge, Linda wondering the entire way why she was doing this rather than making some excuse to get to the computer core. She wonders briefly why Davenport hadn't gotten there sooner –- she thought he had left right after giving everyone their orders -– but she doesn't have time to think about it. They arrive at the lounge and find the door locked. Davenport uses his security code to override the lock, and the door opens.
"Oh my God," Linda breathes. She's seen far worse on the battlefield, of course, but here in the base it's completely unexpected.
Davenport moves to Tangerine's side and checks her pulse. "She's still breathing steadily," he says. "It looks like she's just gotten a bad bump on the head." He strides to the communicator on the wall and presses the send button. "Davenport to medical. Send a medic to the AI lounge as soon as possible. We've got an injured woman here needing medical attention. Out." He pauses at the other door, which he sees has been left open.
"Jethro must've gotten out this way. Stay here with Tangerine!" Before she can say anything more, he is gone.
Linda hesitates only a few seconds before calling the security team together to go after Davenport. They're all sweeping the complex, so she doesn't know where any of them are right now, and if they're all watching over Davenport, she can make it to the computer core.
Once they all report in, and she knows they're on their way, she places Tangerine's head gently on a cushion, then makes her way stealthily to the door.
The datapad with the results from Emile's recent thermokinetic experiment lies discarded on the floor.
* * *
BUFFY and JETHRO work furiously to correct the corrupted systems, but every time they fix one problem, another crops up. BUFFY has quickly upgraded JETHRO to administrative status so that JETHRO can help. So far, they believe that no new errors have sprung up in the outside world, but since they've been unable to re-establish communications, they can't be certain.
"Cruck!" BUFFY shouts, for what seems like the fiftieth time. His goatee twitches uncontrollably. "There's nothing I can do here – all the sabotage progs are working on different areas of the system. I can't even come up with a suitable countermeasure."
"Why not?" JETHRO says, still working on stabilising a datastream which has now decided to run amok.
"Because if the wrong virus is countered at the wrong time, all the systems depending on it will go into cascade failure, and there's no way of telling which one to start with."
Then they both sense it: a sort of gurgling noise that sounds, if it had a sound at all, vaguely like a bottle being emptied down a drainpipe. They look at each other in dawning comprehension as all the chaos around them suddenly grinds to a halt.
"A countermeasure?" JETHRO asks.
"Yeah," BUFFY replies, "but let's hope it's the right one."
Then all hell breaks loose.
"Or maybe not," BUFFY groans.
* * *
Linda fidgets nervously in her chair as the computer reads the counter-measure from the virus data crystal and begins to extract the virus she "injected" months ago. She had told her superiors that it wasn't a wise idea. They could never have foreseen that Davenport would order all the bodies to be generated at the same time. Come to think of it, they could never have foreseen the Cybermen, either. This whole situation is going to hell in a handbasket, she thinks. Whatever a handbasket is.
The lights all go out in the computer core.
Oh, cruk, she thinks.
* * *
Davenport and the security team are nearing the stasis chambers when the lights go out. Within seconds, the red emergency lighting is switched on, but the air conditioning does not respond. Davenport shudders –- he knows the residual heat will not last soon, and now that the power is out, the defense grid is also down.
"Get to the main entrance, all of you!" he shouts at the last of the security team. "I'll deal with Jethro!" They hesitate for a moment, but only for a moment. They understand the chain of command.
* * *
Inside the stasis unit, Jethro is looking in at the still form of Hanrahan when the lights go out. He notices it, but he does nothing, knowing that the statis units are a priority system and that they will be fed emergency power as soon as the emergency lights come up.
The lights come up, but the stasis unit stays dormant.
He rushes to Dr. Pincus' unit and notes that it, too, is inoperative. He frantically begins to punch in the codes necessary to release the locking mechanism, but the lock is jammed. Of course, he thinks. No power.
Then he looks into the unit and sees that something impossible has happened.
He is about to turn and run when he hears a step behind him.
* * *
The Doctor bangs his head against the piping on Raven's head for the sixth time, and it hurts just as much this time as the last five. "Raven," he shouts over the wind, "I only have five lives left would you try to remember that?"
"I'll try," Raven replies simply.
The Doctor rubs his head and ruminates over everything she's told him in the last ten minutes. He now knows what the scientists in the base are planning and what little of the Cybermen's plans Raven is privy to. He can just make out the entrance to the base through the blowing snow, though, and he hopes he can use the knowledge he now has to save the day, as usual.
But something is wrong.
"Raven," he says, "your eyes are better even than mine, now... Is the entrance to the base open?"
She doesn't reply. Instead, she simply begins running faster towards the opening in the snow. Now they can see a group of four figures out on the snow, but from here the Doctor can't tell whether they're human or Cybermen.
"Raven?" he asks, but she makes a noise that sounds like a frustrated grunt, and he knows she can't tell, either.
Before he can ask her to let him down, there is a shockwave, and the ground beneath them rolls like water. Raven is hurled to the ground, and the Doctor is pinned beneath her. He can feel her trying to get up, but something has her trapped.
He looks up and sees the figures making their way towards him. He can't tell whether they've been shaken by the shockwave, though, and he still can't tell who or what they are.
Then a flash of blue light slams into the Doctor, and he has just enough time to be annoyed that he's going to be knocked unconscious yet
again, before he is.
To be continued...
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