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


Chapter 8
"Sticky Spot & Stain Remover"
by Writer X


---


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, including what little of the Cybermen's plans Raven is privy to. Ahead, 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, 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 and he wonders if the Herculean effort she's put in will take it's toll at the eleventh hour; even cybertechnology has its limits and she's been running for the past two hours faster than most people drive.


       Closer now, they can see a group of four figures outside the base, 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. And disturbs him greatly.


       Before he can ask her to let him down, there's a shockwave and the ground beneath them rolls like water. Raven crashes to the earth, pinning the Doctor is beneath her. He can feel her trying to get up, but something inside her sounds broken.


       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.


* * *


"They are both unconscious," Julian M'Benga says calmly, holstering his weapon. His normally deep voice sounds reedy in the thin atmosphere. "The cyberconversion process will now be able to continue unabated."


       "Will it hurt?" Jethro asks, gaze flitting from the unconscious duo to the dark tower the supposedly missing security chief cuts against the horizon.


       "No," Doctor Pincus answers, still quietly holding his hand as she has been since the stasis room. The light of the setting sun reflects off the few remaining strands of the cyber-virus visible on her skin; they grow ever fainter with each passing moment. "The procedure is exceptionally... humane... for want of a better word. They have evolved."


       The sound of something metallic striking the ground pulls Jethro's attention back to M'Benga and the sight of he and Hanrahan stepping back from where they'd rolled Rav-- rolled the cyberman off the Doctor. The wind tugs at the bloody ragged edges of the rent in the deputy's uniform, revealing the neat scar where there should have been a gapping hole. A scar growing smaller all the time.


       "The others will be here soon," Doctor Pincus remarks, looking outwards. "The residual virus is responding to the proximity of their waveforms; we must return to the facility. Julian, bring the Doctor please."


       Gently the bear-like security chief scoops the Doctor into his arms the same way Jethro had sometimes seen him carry Emile, when he'd exceeded his tolerances and off-lined. M'Benga had always insisted on being there at the end of Emile's runtime, he remembers, as though he felt some sense of responsibility to the AI that had chosen him as the model of vis physicality.


       That thought sparks others, raising something that has been puzzling him quietly. "How can we be here without suits?"


       "It's a gift," Doctor Pincus smiles pleasantly as the entrance to the facility swallows them.


* * *


"Leader, we have received a burst transmission from our agent within the research facility."


       "Report."


       "Only two of the cybermats have been recovered and upgraded to counter the jamming signal; the remainder have been terminated by the humans. The cyberviral designated Pincus and the human designated Hanrahan have both been removed from the medical facility by an unknown vector. This observation was made following fluctuations in their power grid, vector also unknown."


       "What is the status of the assault group?"


       "They are cloaked and taking up position outside the human defence perimeter. The rogue unit formerly designated Raven has been reacquired; full conversion has occurred."


       "Does ve have access to vis psionic ability?"


       "Negative, Leader."


       "The information we have garnered regarding the neural architecture of the AI embodiment process is flawed. Relay situation report to the forward position then order the agent to begin second tier insurgency procedures."


* * *


"Captain Rozchenko, BANSHEE's noticed something at the periphery of her forward sensor sphere."


       Rozchenko groans, reaching up and slapping the comms panel above her bed. "What is it Fayle?"


       "A waveform of some type."


       "We're in hyperspace," she counters, forcing open her eyes. Just another hour, is it too much to ask? "Strange waveforms aren't exactly rare."


       "BANSHEE's aware of that," Fayle answers with something sounding suspiciously like a smile. "But this particular one looks slightly too irregular, like it's been made to resemble the hyperspatial equivalent of hydrogen hiss but was slightly off."


       "Are you sure about this BANSHEE?" she asks, resigning herself to the inevitable. Years of service together has taught her there are few entities more diligently observant and down right suspicious.


       "Positive," the ship answers. "Between us, the Navy flagships have clocked close to a million hours in Hyperspace, and we've been programmed with significantly more second-hand data. And all of that says this waveform is as synthetic as I am. If I hadn't been looking for anything out of the ordinary I wouldn't have noticed it."


       "Great. They've probably got a security satellite or something set up monitoring hyperspatial approach vectors -- good thing their wanting to be unnoticed out here is going to keep the bloody thing small and too weak to notice us this far out. Since they're probably asking it if it can see their relief ship, better tell Nurrapingu to step on it a bit and everyone else to drop back a little and start running countermeasures. I'll be down."


       "Aye Captain," Fayle answers, ending the call.


       She takes the time to shower before heading to the bridge, figuring it will only irritate her later if it doesn't. That, and the sensation of the water pummelling against her back feels good enough to almost make up for the lack of sleep.


* * *


"Davenport, this is Marinova," the young Australian's voice crackles slightly over the portable comms.


       "What is it Petra?" he asks after picking up the chunky black handset from where it rests next to the lantern from the same emergency kit. Nowhere near as secure as a fixed line system, but better than nothing in their current situation.


       "We've forced open the decompression bulkhead that dropped when the power went down and made it to the entrance. The doors are still secured, and frankly unless the generators start up again we're going to have to blow it if we need to get outside."


       "Understood," he nods pointlessly. "Austin is checking them over now, so I want the three of you to go back to sweeping the facility. We currently have four people unaccounted for, so be careful as I have no wish to add to that number."


       "Understood."


       "Do you think it's the cybermen?" Linda asks, attention directed towards the unknown lying beyond the blast shutters covering the window of her office.


       "I don't know," the older man shrugs. "It's possible the failure of the med bay backups to come online could have let Doctor Pincus loose, but she should have been contained by the decompression bulkheads and her earlier behaviour wasn't exactly indicative of higher reasoning. And why take Angus? In his condition he was more dead than alive, hardly of use to anyone."


       "Conversion perhaps?" she offers, turning back to face him. "But then as you said, Angus would have died outside of stasis so that can't be the answer, can it?."


       "And according to the history tapes, the hardware required for the process took up some considerable space, which I don't see being occupied anywhere near here."


       "They had an entire installation here for goddess knows how long, and we didn't notice that until this morning. And only then because the Doctor showed up and Jethro went insane."


       "That is unfortunately true," he concedes. "Personally, I hope it is the cybermen who took them."


       "You what?" she demands, looking at him that suggests she's thinking Jethro isn't alone.


       "If it isn't, it means there's something or someone else in here with us that we don't know about. Or worse still, that one of us isn't who they appear to be."


       At that moment, the lights flicker back into life.


       "Well, one of us is a genius," Linda smiles, taking the handset. "Austin, this is Linda. You're a genius."


       "Well, much as I'd like to agree, I didn't do anything," he answers after a moment. "They came on by themselves, and I couldn't find anything wrong with them. It's just like someo-- Oh dren! There's two of those cybermat things in here! I can't get out!"


       "Copy that Austin," Petra's voice cuts into the transmission before Linda or Davenport can answer. "We'll be there in a minute."


       "Well, hurry the frell up, because they're coming towards me and my gun's right next to them and I really don't want to become a psycho zombie like Pincus."


* * *


"Good evening, Doctor."


       The voice that greets him as he wakes sounds familiar, but it takes a moment to place. A brief visual survey suggests he's back inside the research facility, a bedroom in one of the residential pods. Everything looks spick and span, sparsely decorated but not Spartan.


       A face belonging to the voice comes into view.


       "My dear Doctor Pincus, I don't believe it."


       "Not quite," the scientist answers him, and the expression of puzzled pleasure he had so briefly worn disappears because he can feel that she's right. The control virus has gone, but there's something else in his place, something inhumanly subtle.


       "I don't believe we've been introduced."


       "No we haven't," she answers, offering him her hand. "Like you we are an interested third party, and hopefully our agendas will not prove mutually exclusive."


       Halfway through taking it he pauses. "Where's Raven?"


       "Her programme is asleep inside the research mainframe. The embodiment you were familiar with is outside with the other cybermen currently preparing to assault this facility."


       The Doctor's eyes narrow. "You're responsible," he states a little coldly. "That stun charge shut her down and let the conversion process take over."


       "Yes," she answers calmly. "When she is next embodied, the last two weeks will not have happened for her. And it was vital that one of the embodied AIs be converted."


       "Why?" he demands, getting to his feet and glaring angrily at her.


       "We are aware of your long enmity with the Cyber race through both your own conversations with the people of this facility and through historical research we've been conducting since the last great war between them and the collected fleshling races they pose a danger to. A danger we believe we can end by the judicious manipulation of events here, leading to a mutually beneficial outcome for all concerned."


       "You're mad if you think you can cut a deal with the cyberman!" he declares flatly, moving away from her.


       "You are allowing the past to cloud your perceptions."


       The comment gives him a moment's pause, tugging forth the memory of Peladon, of how wrong he'd been then about the Ice Warriors. Then there was Lytton, another person he'd been proved wrong about. But against that he can feel a chilly silver hand clench around his hearts, remember the people he's seen them erase.


       "Believe me, they don't care about politics, about 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' accommodations. Their only concern is the survival of their cobbled together species without regard for anything else. Which means they must dominate the fleshling races as you put it in order to access breeding stock. Or should that be spare parts."


       "What if they didn't have to."


       "Didn't have to what?"


       "What if they no longer needed to prey on other races? What if they possessed the technology to generate their own biological components? Remove that need, and the logical imperative for racial survival no longer needs to be one of xenoconsumption."


       "And what if you're wrong? What if they simply use the technology here to build a massively overwhelming army of psionically gifted locusts to remake the galaxy in their image?" His voice drops an octave, his expression darkening further. "Can the peoples of this galaxy afford the risk?"


       "How can they not?"


* * *


"Leader, the human fleet has entered the outer tactical zone. The lead ship has accelerated and is broadcasting a recognition code. The remainder have slowed and activated stealth routines."


       "Have we been detected?"


       "Negative. Intelligence analysis indicates it to be an attempt to hide their presence from the research facility, to prevent it from fortifying its position against them."


       "Human nature continues to work in our favour. What is the status of the cloaked munitions?"


       "They have dispersed themselves throughout the fleet. Revised tactical modelling still indicates minimum damage will be incurred by the destroyer if the current deployment configuration is utilised."


       "If the humans launch their fighter craft, we will be terminated too early. Inform the beachhead of our status; they have one planetary day remaining in which to capture the technology or else it must be totally destroyed."


---
To be continued...



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