"The procedure is exceptionally... humane... for want of a better word. They have evolved."
Intolt-7 is a cold rock in the middle of galactic nowhere. As such, it's the perfect home for a corporation's secret research project to produce an instant army of psionically-gifted AI-dpiloted soldiers. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the project isn't so secret anymore: both Earth's military and the remnants of the Cyber race want the technology for themselves, but something else dwells in the shadows for whom this is merely the first step of agrander design.
Once again travelling alone, the Doctor arrives in distress and quickly finds himself beset by a constant tide of suspicion and violence as he tries to save as many lives as possible. But even when the day seems won, what will happen to him when the cornerstone of his life turns to someone else in his hour of need?
Change is the only constant. As the Doctor is going to discover whether he wants to or not.
This is another round-robin story featuring the 8th Doctor.
Diaspora by Greg Egan (the culture and terminology of the AIs, self-perpetuating memes).
The Bible (devaluing the wages of betrayal).
X-Men and Farscape (the new look of the cybermen resemble the techno-organic Phalanx and the Leviathans respectively).
The Marvel comic Excalibur volume 1 (Tangerine was a telepath from the future).
Star Wars (the Spartii cylinders were author Timothy's Zahn pre-AOTC stab at the tech behind the Clone Wars; Tangerine and the Doctor repeat the dialogue from Skywalker's rescue of Princess Leia; the Cybermen use an Interdiction field; some character & planet names).
Babylon 5 (jump engines).
Aliens and its spin-off novels (Gorman and Einstein Space).
White Wolf's Trinity role-playing game (the Upeo Wa Macho are a group of teleporters).
"Fangrrl Life" by Phil Pascoe from the Perfect Timing 2 fanthology (The TARDIS runs away from the Doctor).
The computer game Enemy Infestation (several character names).
Blade Runner (genetic constructs possessing artificially limited life spans)
During the evacuation of the research facility, Mariko despairs that months of work will be lost when she should have said years [She's somehow aware of the secret backups that not even the people running the facility know about].
The AI term for a communal home is a polis; individual spaces within are called scapes.
Hyperspace is referred to in human scientific circles as 'Einstein Space' in oblique reference to the General Theory of Relativity's claim that FTL travel was impossible.
Transferring a digital consciousness into an organic host is called embodiment.
Interdiction fields create synthetic 'mass shadows' to disrupt hyperspace transit.
Jump engines are used to access hyperspace.
Computer systems use 'ICE' (Intrusion Countermeasures) programmes to prevent being hacked into.
The spy in chapter six was genetically re-sequenced to impersonate a crewman, and was given suicide implants.
The intelligence utilizing the nanites refers to itself as a distributed consciousness.
Clones without a built-in obsolescence date are referred to as Alpha class.
Tangerine uses an ion rifle.
Davenport has degrees in Para-psychology, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Mathematics and Brain Chemistry.
BUFFY and JETHRO disappear midway through the final chapter [The EMP erased them].
Tangerine's final preparation before rescuing the Doctor.
The attack on the regeneration tank [Presumably it was Doc Brian, or potentially Jethro].
How did the nano-intelligence and the cybermen find out about the research facility in the first place? [They intercepted communications].
Where did the cybermen capture Doc Brian's family? [Dathomir].
Doctor Who In-jokes
Captain Varkentine named for Ben Varkentine, a long time poster to the once secret and currently moribund alt.fan.stonecutters newsgroup, set up by some fans to get away from the ugliness of the rec.arts.drwho group.
The redoubtable Lieutenant Fayle is named for Helen Fayle, who amongst other things is a co-editor of the two Missing Pieces charity fanthologies.
The base personnel - grey uniforms with coloured patches. The military come off just as badly. [They get their uniforms from Androzani Major?]
"Captain Rozchenko tells me she performed a preliminary debrief when you came aboard."(Ch. 12)
"Nothing can stop us. Nothing will ever be able to stop us." (Ch 3)
"What in the name of Babbage have you boys been doing?" (Ch 12)
The Doctor to the Cyberleader:
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.
"Please 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." (Ch 5)
Jethro's description of his dream (Ch 5)
An alien intelligence and the Doctor:
"Noble words, but futile. There is nothing here with which to carry out your act of murder."
"I prefer to think of it as euthanasia. Life as a cyberman would be a living death I can inflict on no one." (Ch 12.3)
The Doctor to Tangerine:
"...the TARDIS has been my only home for longer than some civilizations have existed. Without her, I become trapped, constrained, a mere vestige of myself. She has cradled me in death and in rebirth, been my doorway to wonders and horrors than break the soul or heal it... We exist in symbiosis. If that ever stops, one of us becomes a parasite. A vampire, a dead thing sucking the life out of the other. A travesty of what once was." (Ch 12.7)
The cybermen tell distance in metrons and time in time units. The technology employed by this group is biomechanical rather than conventional cybertech; the conversion process now seems to involve the nano-machine transmutation of organic tissue into 'living metal'. The race's compulsion to assimilate other races in order to survive is referred to as the xeno-consumptive directive; the effectiveness of a replacement meme of generating clones as raw material instead of harvesting alien populations remains to be seen. They have strategic weapons capable of preventing hyperspace transit, and appear to have established a bastion on the planet Dathomir. They possess closed-beam transmat technology (a terminal is required at both ends of the process).
Humanity's attempts at creating psionically adept soldiers have historically met with limited success (see NA: Love & War for an example, and also the 'Psi Powers' arc in the later New Adventures). By the time of what will become known as the Intolt Incident, the 21st century ban on breeding brain-dead clones for research has either been overturned or doesn't apply to ones intended to act as AI hosts [or Archer Industries doesn't feel the stricture applies for whatever reason].
The Doctor wonders if there's a genetic link between Tangerine and the subjects of the covert Time Lord biodata experiments a few centuries earlier (Remiel).
The research staff talk about the old but useful technology of the Glitter Gun (Revenge of the Cybermen) and surmise that the cybermen may have access to technology scrounged from the aftermath of the Dalek Wars (Death to the Daleks, amongst many others).
Earth is in the first stages of resting power away from the mega-corporations who have controlled human space for centuries (Deceit).
Archer Industries Psionic Warfare Research Facility on Intolt-7 and surrounding space & hyperspace rather late in the 26th century.
Terran Military Station Upeo Wa Macho orbiting Mars, same time period.
Archer Industries secondary research facility, 8 years later.
Following the conflicts with the Daleks, Cybermen and Draconians that have seen the power of the mega corporations weakened, Earth's government begins a decade long course of 'nationalisation' of corporate interests that ends with Earth laying the foundations of Federation and Empire but with several major corporations still holding on to their powerbases (see the essay in the back of Deceit).
By the 26th Century, artificial intelligences have gained significant rights and are considered participants in research projects rather than mere subjects.
The 6th Doctor and Mel visit the planet Dathomir where he makes a host of small robots to maintain the a place known as the Hanging Gardens after having a fight with her.
This story was nominated for the alt.drwho.creative 2001-2002 Adric Award for Best Round-Robin.
This story was nominated for the alt.drwho.creative 2002-2003 Adric Award for Best Round Robin.
The Bottom Line
"She's still alive!" The longest IA ever, it threatened to become another Shada and instead ended up as the sort of anniversary cyber-story that Silver Nemesis should have been. The events of this story mark a significant change in the status quo of the TARDIS crew.