|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #30 - "The Memory Game"
"Play It Again, Doctor"
by Molly Schlemmer
"No, what I meant was--"
A loud electronic bell rang, interrupting Rose.
"What was that?" asked the Sixth.
Sezzane smiled thinly. "It seems that everything is ready. While one or two of you might not be quite in the right place, there's enough of you here to make a start." She clapped her hands once. "Let the games begin."
* * *
"If this is your idea of a game, I think I'll pass."
Rose turned around to see who was speaking. A blond man in a cricket uniform had joined the group in the piazza. She could tell instantly that another version of her Doctor had arrived; the ever-so-slightly arrogant attitude that all of the Doctors seemed to share — not to mention the rather odd taste in clothing they all seemed to share as well — was a dead giveaway.
"You'll pass?" Sezzane asked, sounding as if she was unsure about what this Doctor meant.
The newest Doctor continued. "Yes. I've seen part of your 'game', and I have as little desire to revisit Manussa as my companions do."
Several of the Doctors looked compassionately at the two brown-haired women standing behind the new Doctor. One of them, the one with the short hair, wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. The other woman pulled the short-haired woman into a hug and whispered something in her ear.
Rose grit her teeth. It was getting harder and harder to suppress the jealousy she felt every time another Doctor appeared with his own travelling companions. Finding out that she was just another random person the Doctor had picked up hurt like hell.
Sezzane looked taken aback by what the Sporty Doctor, as Rose decided to call him, had said. "I assure you that was an unfortunate mistake. You were meant to land here, not in the game zone. You and your companions won't have to experience that event again."
"And what will we have to experience in this game?" the Hobo Doctor asked.
Sezzane smiled. "Your life, from a new perspective. We have recreated some of the most important places, people, and events from each of your incarnations. As our honoured guests, we would like you to be the first ones to experience what we have built. However--" she said, looking at the Doctors, "some of these events have yet to happen for some of you. Therefore, each of you will be re-enacting the events of your previous self." Sezzane clasped her hands in front of her and smiled brightly.
The Garish Doctor huffed. The Sporty Doctor opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, then closed it. The Hobo Doctor and the Victorian Doctor seemed deep in thought. Rose's Doctor and the Dishy Doctor wore blank expressions, but Rose could tell by his clenched jaw and cold stare that her Doctor didn't like the idea one bit, and she suspected the Dishy Doctor was feeling the same way.
Jack leaned over to Rose. "Where do you suppose we fit into all of this?" he whispered.
"Don't know," Rose replied.
Suddenly the Dishy Doctor spoke up. "What about me?"
"You?" Sezzane said.
"You said you have a recreation of Bad Wolf Bay. In case you didn't notice, there's no one after me to have a new perspective on that event." The last word had a pained, slightly bitter tone to it. Once again Rose found herself wondering what on Earth happened there. It's where I know you're safe. It's where I kept my promise to Jackie. What did he mean by that?
"Ah, yes." Sezzane bit her lip. "We were hoping that you would be willing to play that part of the game, to ensure the veracity of the exhibit."
The Dishy Doctor's eyes darkened. "No," he said gruffly. "I won't."
"But it's first on your list of events. You can't move forward in the game until you've completed Bad Wolf Bay."
"Then I won't play."
Sezzane sighed. "I was afraid this might happen. Unfortunately, you must play. All of you must play."
"And who's forcing us?" Rose's Doctor said gruffly.
Smirking, Sezzane looked up at the buildings surrounding them. Sunlight glinted off the metal men that lined the rooftops. Each sentry was aiming some sort of gun down at the group in the piazza.
"Cybermen!" Peri cried, moving closer to the Garish Doctor. Jack stepped in front of Rose, pulling some sort of futuristic pistol out of his jacket. The Doctors went on high alert, moving to protect their companions and confront Sezzane at the same time.
"As you can see," Sezzane shouted above the noise filling the piazza, "your choices are somewhat limited. Play the game, and you're free to go. Refuse and..." She smirked again. "Well, you've always managed to escape the Cybermen before. Maybe you'll get lucky and be able to do it again."
Sezzane clapped her hands again. "The bell has sounded. We're already running behind." Six men and women, each wearing the same elaborate robes Sezzane was, approached the group. "These people will lead you to your starting positions. They will brief you on the rules of the game. Good luck!"
The mass of people in the piazza separated into six distinct groups and followed one of the guides. "Oh! One more thing!" Sezzane said. "Companions, please remain here."
There was a commotion among the individual groups. Rose looked to her Doctor, but he was already heading toward Sezzane, as were the other Doctors.
Sezzane held up her hands. "Do not worry, Doctors. Your companions will be safe in our care. They are honoured guests as well, after all. AI companions, like you see here--" she gestured to the fake Blue and Tangerine sitting at the cafe "--will be available depending on the event you are playing."
"Doctor?" Rose asked.
"It'll be alright, Rose. Do as she says."
The Doctor took Rose's hand and gave it a squeeze. "It will be alright."
Rose returned his hand squeeze and backed away from the Doctor.
"Good luck," Jack said, giving the Doctor a pat on the back. The Doctor gave them one last look before joining the other Doctors and walking out of the piazza.
"Now," Sezzane said, "if everyone will look this way, we'll begin."
Rose heard Luke begin to ask what they were about to begin, but he was cut off. Rose turned to see what had happened, and she briefly felt herself begin to fall as the blinding white light that filled her vision turned into darkness.
* * *
The Tenth Doctor stopped as the Powell Estates turned into the cold, grey beach at Bad Wolf Bay. He couldn't do this, not again. It had barely been a month since the last breach across the Void had closed, ripping Rose out of his life forever. He always grieved when a companion left him, but saying goodbye to Rose had been especially painful. If only the breach had stayed open a second longer!
"Why are you making us do this?" the Doctor asked his guide.
The guide stopped walking and turned around. "We have our reasons. Personally, I'm just following orders."
"Whose orders are you following?"
"That's none of your business."
"That's not a good enough answer."
The guide closed the distance between them. "Look, just trust me. You don't want to make these people angry. Just play the game, follow your memory of the events to the letter, and you and your friends will get out alive."
The Doctor was puzzled. Get out alive? What was happening right now to his previous companions, to Rose? There were so many more questions that needed to be answered, but he decided to do as his guide asked and trust him. "Fine," the Doctor said. "Lead on, Macduff."
In silence they walked down onto the beach. With each step the Doctor fought his instinct to run away, the same instinct that had kept him out of danger on numerous occasions.
The same instinct that kept him from having to face the consequences of his actions. He shook his head, trying to move that thought back into the dark recesses of his mind.
It wasn't long before they reached the spot where he had said his last goodbye to Rose. "Wait here," the guide said, and walked away.
"Where are you going?" the Doctor asked.
"I'm just a guide. You? You're the star."
The Doctor's forehead furrowed as more questions formed in his head. What in Rassilon's name did the guide mean by that? He didn't have long to ponder his questions, as within a minute Rose - his Rose - appeared in front of him.
* * *
Japa groaned as another computer screen flashed red. Like clockwork, the young technician ran up and immediately dropped to his knees next to the computer. After ripping wires and cables out of the system, the flashing red light stopped and the computer began rebooting.
The technician stood up. "That's fixed, but the system can't take another blow. The mainframe will crash next time we use the scoop."
"We're in luck, then," Japa said. She made the tenth tally mark on her clipboard. "That's the last one. We should remain up and running from here on out."
The technician breathed a sigh of relief. "I guess I'm done for the day. It'll be nice not having to run in here every hour or two."
Japa nodded, and smiled at the technician. "Excellent work... um..."
"Valen," the technician offered.
"Excellent work, Valen. You're dismissed for the day."
Valen nodded, and practically ran out of the room in his excitement to leave. Japa chuckled. She was somewhat envious of the young teen; she had to work for another four hours. With a small groan Japa stood and went to report to Mr. Bragin.
Mr. Bragin's office was down the hall from where Japa worked. Compared to the sterile, temperature-controlled room that she reported to every day, Mr. Bragin's sparse office was luxurious. The carpeted floor was a Godsend to her feet and her back. Japa straightened her uniform, and knocked on the door.
"Come in!" Japa opened the door. Mr. Bragin smiled. "Ah, Ms. Silva, what news do you bring?"
"Good news, sir. All ten Doctors are present and accounted for. Better still, the mainframe is still up and running. The game has begun."
Mr. Bragin clapped his hands. "Excellent! Oh, well done, Ms. Silva. You and your team have done extremely well." He stood and walked around his desk to meet Japa. Offering his hand, he said, "Congratulations."
Japa shook his hand. "Thank you very much, sir. With any luck, everything will be finished by tomorrow morning."
"Will the computers be able to support the time loop?"
"The time scoop was the big test of our computer systems. Aside from a few complications, the mainframe didn't crash. We've been testing the time loop all along, with the supporting characters. We're adding more and more characters as we go, working our way up to the main attraction."
"Good, good." He paused for a moment. "Tell you what, why don't we celebrate later? Would you like to-"
Mr. Bragin was interrupted as the lights flickered off and on. "What was that?" Mr. Bragin asked.
"I'm not sure. It was probably just a hiccough in the system as the scoop dropped the last Doctor in his starting place. Nothing to worry about, but I should head back to my post." Japa began to leave, but stopped as she opened the door. "Pick me up at seven," she said, closing the door behind her.
* * *
"Am I ever gonna see you again?" Rose asked, sobbing. Except it wasn't Rose, the Tenth Doctor reminded himself. It was just an AI, a simulacrum of Rose. That fact was the only thing keeping him from going insane. He repeated it like a mantra.
"You can't," he replied, his voice hoarse. This isn't Rose... This isn't Rose...
"What're you gonna do?"
This isn't Rose... "Oh, I've got the TARDIS. Same old life. Last of the Time Lords." This is what Hell must feel like, he decided. Saying goodbye to Rose had been painful enough the first time. This time it felt like someone was shoving a very large sword through him millimetre by millimetre. This isn't Rose...
"On your own?"
The Doctor nodded slowly. It was all he could do not to go over to her and take her in his arms. He wanted so desperately to say what he hadn't been able to say the first time through this. But he couldn't.
Follow your memory of events to the letter, and you and your friends will get out alive. He wasn't sure why he refused to disobey this rule, but he just couldn't. Couldn't risk it, not this time.
"I lo--" she said, her words choked off by her sobs. In that instant when her sob wracked her, something shifted. He couldn't put his finger on what had changed, but something about Rose definitely changed for a second. "I lo--" Again, Rose's sobs choked off her words, and now the Doctor knew something was wrong. The events had changed. "I lo--" In a flash her coat changed into a blue blazer and back again. "I lo-- Doctor--" Rose shifted again, and for a brief second he thought he saw several figures in black uniforms appear just up the beach from them. "I lo-- Doctor, help me..."
The Doctor's blood ran cold. This is Rose...
To be continued...
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