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


Chapter 9
"Desperation"
by j.d. andersen


---


Cybercommand Vessel
Hyperspace

"Activate the tactical display unit," the Leader orders. "Centre on human vessels."


       "Yes Leader."


       Behind the cluster of flat screens, a holographic sphere blossoms into existence. Initially it shows only the stylized representation of hyper-space; three blue shapes edged in black are visible against the ghostly miasma. A moment later the image reforms, display the ships of the human fleet in varying shades of red representative of their individual threat level. Amongst these are a scattering of purple dots, edged in black as the first three objects had been.


       "Do the munitions remain undetected?"


       "Affirmative Leader. The hangar doors of the fighter carriers remain closed; probability modelling indicates they will remain in this condition until the vessel enters combat."


       "This is acceptable. Signal the other vessels: move two degrees off the jump point and initiate final pre-attack procedures."


* * *


Engineering Level
Intolt-7 Psionic Warfare Project Complex

"I thought we'd managed to kill all those damn things. Melted them down to slag!" Chang Li snarls as the three guards run towards the generator pod.


       "Davenport just had them thrown into biowaste containers and buried in a lump of quickcrete until they could be shipped back," Jack answers.


       "Idiot," Petra snarls. "Frelling damn scientists'll get us all killed yet."


       Ahead they hear Austin yell out a curse, his unmistakable voice bouncing around the curve of the corridor. Something like "Die you bastard!" but Petra can't be sure.


       The explosion that follows knocks the three of them off their feet, thin fingers of flame licking the door frame of the generator pod and lingering briefly over their heads. The stench of burning reaches them, along with the sudden bawling of emergency klaxons. Crawling forward, Petra pokes the muzzle of her plasma rifle around the doorframe, then peeks in over it.


       Spot fires litter the chamber, all of them sputtering and wisping away into smoke as their fuel is exhausted. In the centre of the largest of these sits a cybermat with a huge dent in its back, electricity sparking around it quite malevolently. The second cybermat lies on its back a small distance away from the first, cilia waving frantically as it tries to right itself.


       Austin lies in the furthest corner of the pod, in contrast terribly still. His clothes smouldering, his skin charred, head at entirely the wrong angle, a look of astonished surprise on what she can make out of his face. Next to him lie the twist remains of a fire extinguished. The sequence of events is obvious, but the reason behind them isn't."


       "Dren."


       "Is it clear?" Jack calls out.


       The cybermats make the appropriately cathartic noises as she slags them with a half dozen shots apiece. Cathartic for her.


       "Is now," she answers grimly. She can feel the others peer past her, but she doesn't glance at them being too busy mastering the urge to spew. Jack doesn't quite master his response, just making the smell worse.


       "What the cruk happened?" Chang Li asks.


       "One of those things didn't like getting hit."


       "Great. You realise we now have no pilot." Jack, ever the one with happy news.


       The klaxon cuts out.


       "Security team from Davenport."


       Petra hits the panel harder than she has to. "Maranova here. Austin's dead."


       "We heard the explosion. What happened?" He doesn't sound overly concerned about the death.


       "He tried hitting one with a fire extinguisher. The extinguisher blew up. The generators look undamaged and are making all the right noises."


       "Fire extinguishers are under pressure," Davenport answers. "They don't explode. They're meant to stop things exploding."


       "You don't say," Chang Li sneers under her breath.


       "You're going to have to check every other extinguisher you come across," Davenport declares after a moment. "And I'm afraid Ryan's been murdered."


* * *


Vivian Pincus' Living Quarters
Intolt-7 Psionic Warfare Project Complex

"We cannot allow you to interfere Doctor," faux-Pincus states calmly but irrefutably over the sound of the alarm.


       "Because you're afraid I'll stop your insanity?"


       "Yes. We cannot allow you to interfere; your presence has already set events in motion that would otherwise have remain undone."


       "That's what I do," he snaps angrily, pushing past her and out of the bedroom. He stops just beyond rather sharply, then turns back to glare at his expositor. "Are they merely your pawns too?"


       "Angus Hanrahan and Julian M'Benga are unharmed, as is Vivian Pincus. Their awareness is integrated into our own." She gestures towards the lounge where the other two are kneeling over a third person. "Jethro is undergoing a process of neural restructuring to counteract his perceptual and psychological flaws."


       The alarm cuts out.


       "You mean you're brainwashing him," the Doctor taunts, wishing for the old friend he can see quite clearly sitting on his work bench back in the TARDIS. Then for a moment something tickles the back of his awareness and occludes his awareness of his immediate surroundings, like a feather brushing across his wrist. It's gone before he get a sense of what it was.


       "--oing the damage we were responsible for," faux-Pincus counters. "Our awareness was introduced virally into this polis, resulting in certain structural alterations to its many operational parameters so that we might operate unremarked. Unfortunately, Jethro's psyche was inadvertently damaged during the process."


       For the first time her expression shows emotion, softening as she looks at the young man. The other two each rest a hand on his forehead, a pale nimbus that a human eye would never detect surrounding the contact points. A beat later, the moment passes.


       "When the cybermen reacted to your arrival, we were forced from our strategic position onto a tactical footing. Preventing either side from accessing you has become a prime objective."


       "Why are you telling me all this? If you know anything about me at all, you have to know I'll do anything within my power to stop you."


       "We know your fellowhood fights injustice wherever you find it. And in that fight, the loss of individual consciousnesses is sometimes regrettably necessary."


       "I've tried to leave that sort of woolly thinking behind me," he retorts. "Even if your proposition is correct, the people you're prepared to trade for your greater good deserve the right to choose the manner of their ending."


       "Sometimes that choice can not be given."


       The blue light flares in the Doctor's peripheral vision and he again falls unconscious to the floor.


* * *


Operations Room
Intolt-7 Psionic Warfare Project Complex

Doc Brian gives Ryan Nguyen's body a cursory examination, though the cause of death is blatantly, offensively obvious: a point blank blast with a particle weapon through the back of his chair. The exit wound is a blackened, cauterized crater, the console directly in front of him in a similar state and beyond the capacity of any of them to repair.


       "It must have happened while the cybermats were attacking Austin," Davenport sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose as the medical officer comes out of the now effectively useless Operations room to join him. "It smells too fresh to have been sitting there any longer than a few minutes."


       "That makes two dead, four missing inside a single day," Doc Brian remarks dourly. "No identifiable perpetrators and no idea where the cybermen are or when they'll attack."


       "Well, obviously we have a double agent in our midst," Davenport agrees. "I think we can safely rule out Petra and her cohorts, but pretty much everyone else, including the both of us, is a potential suspect. Linda and I were in my office when Austin called in, and I sent her back to the medlab to keep Mariko company. Karen is in the hangar prepping the drop ship, and you were with Tangerine, but she's still sedated after Jethro's attack."


       "Then I suggest we wake her up, put her behind the security team and let her scan everyone. No more faffing about wondering if we're going to get it in front or behind."


       "An eminently reasonable suggestion. It'll take an effort of will on her part and a particular chemical cocktail on yours to circumvent the behavioural protocols we hardwired into her current genetic matrix to prevent any invasive scans."


       "Speaking of invasive procedures, was Nguyen able to find anything useful before he was killed?"


       "His last report to me indicated the mainframe was still under viral attack, and though the inadvertent reboot it was given by the power outage probably won't have made any difference it did seem BUFFY was still in there trying to fight them off."


       "Davenport from Benson."


       "Go ahead, Karen" Davenport answers, leaning against the comms panel more than he'd like, wishing this was just over, one way or the other.


       "You might want to come down to the hanger. Tangerine's down here, and she's acting odd."


       "Odd?" he asks, sharing a worried look with the other man.


       "Yeah. You know that blue box we bought in this morning? I'd swear she was talking to it.


* * *


Conversation<bt> A Private Place

Hello. I'm Tangerine.


       I[WE] AM... ... BLUE.


       I think I know you?


       YOU HEARD OUR[MY] CRY. WE[I] HURT YOU. WE[I] DID NOT MEAN TO.


       You were in distress.


       I[WE] FELT YOU. THERE WAS ALSO ANOTHER BUT SHE WAS ALMOST UNHEARING. I[WE] SCREAMED.


       Doctor Pincus. She's slightly like I am.


       YOU CAN HEAR. I[WE] CAN HEAR. THE PILOT CAN HEAR, BUT NOT AS CLEARLY AS YOU.


       The Pilot?


       YES.


       The Doctor?


       YES.


       You're not in this ephemera are you?


       NO.


       You're alive. Like me.


       YES. NO. YOU ARE OF THE MOMENT. WE[I] ARE OF ALL MOMENTS.


       I... I know. Communing with you, I feel it. Feel how tiny and insignifica--


       YOU ARE NOT. [WE]I FIND SIGNIFICANCE IN ALL LIFE. ALL TIME. WE[I] SOMETIMES FORGET, BUT [WE]I ALSO REMEMBER. WE[I] EXIST ON DIFFERENT SCALES, PERCEIVE THE EXISTENCE OF ALL DIFFERENTLY. WE[I] ENJOY[NEED] OTHER SCALES.


       My scale is very small, very brief. My physicality is finite the way yours isn't. My physicality will literally end within the week.


       MY[OUR] SCALE IS VAST. YOURS DOES NOT HAVE TO REMAIN...


       Small?


       YES. WILL YOU ENTER?


       Do you desire that I should.


       DESIRE...


       ...


       ..


       .


       YES. I[WE] DESIRE YOU INSIDE ME[US].


* * *


Hangar Bay
Intolt-7 Psionic Warfare Project Complex

"Hey? Hey Tangerine, wait! Stop!"


       They hear Karen's call as they enter the hangar, Davenport and Doc Brian followed closely by Linda and Mariko. The technician is pointing towards the blue box the doctor was found with, and the first two are quick enough to see the door close from inside with a brittle slap of wood against wood.


       "What happened?" Mariko asks before Linda can.


       "She was leaning up against the box, like she was lying against it but standing up. I looked away, and when I looked back she was going inside. We tried opening it when it was bought in, but we had nothing that'd work."


       "A telepathic lock?" Linda gets in.


       "A reasonable guess," Davenport nods, moving towards the box. The other three follow him.


       Suddenly a horrendous noise fills the chamber, harsh to the ear but touching strange places on the inside. They watch, astonished, as the box slowly fades from view.


       "We are so screwed," Karen mutters.


       "What's happening?" Petra calls out as she and the other guards run into the hanger, rifles leading the way. "What's that noise?"


       "Some kind of transmat," Davenport shrugs, turning around. "Where's D--?"


       His question is answered by the sound of the containment bulkhead leading out of the hangar slamming shut. On the other side comes the sound of a particle weapon discharging, followed by the panel on the hangar side exploding in a shower of sparks.


       Davenport slams the comms panel. "David, what the hell are you playing at."


       "I'm sorry Wallace. They have my family. Helping them was the price of thei--"


       "You can't possibly think they'll let them, or you, go!" Linda shouts.


       "Of course they're going to be converted! It was just a matter of how. Helping them meant it'd be the way that wasn't the one we all know about from the history tapes, the one where you're butchered alive. This way it's quick and painless."


       "Get back!" Petra orders, grabbing Davenport and shoving him to one side. "Jack, Chang Li, frag the door."


       "Forget the door," Linda says, knocking the barrel of Chang Li's gun aside. "Everybody into the dropship. He's obviously going to blow the generators and bring the grid down, and when he does we're toast and the cybermen have everything."


       "We can't leave the research behind!" Davenport protests. "It's taken too long, too much, to let them have it. There's no offsite storage. We leave here and we loose everything!"


       "And if we stay they get everything, including us. As it is, they'll still have to counteract the viruses in the system, break the encryption on the stand alone mainframe /and/ get it off world before our back up arrives."


       "Our back up is a corporate security escort that they're probably waiting to blow out of hyperspace!" Mariko protests.


       For a moment Linda looks ready to say something, then changes her mind. "Do you have a better idea?"


       A distant explosion rumbles through the bones of the complex. The lights flicker and die, leaving them in the darkness. A beat or two later, the dropship's landing lights flicker on.


       "Alright, let's go."


---
To be continued...



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