|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #30 - "The Memory Game"
"NO! That's not how it happened!"
Someone was throwing quite a wobbly, thought Greeter Dete as he hurried through the exhibit's back-tunnels, past access door after access door. Somewhere nearby, someone was definitely losing it.
"You idiots! Must I program everything myself?!"
Uh-oh, Dete thought. Probably one of the Head Programmers; better make myself scarce.
So he did.
* * *
"Hmm," a man mused aloud, in the casual tone of one for who ‘odd' was actually a daily occurrence. "I wonder why anyone would bother to build all of this."
"It's like...an exhibit. Different static scenes." A pause, then: "Look, Doctor! That's...you, and another women, at that table. In that café over there."
"Eh? I don't recall meeting her before. Might be someone from my future."
"Oh, this is just creepy..."
"Oh, I don't know, Sarah; it's all quite interesting. See, over there...?"
"Oh, my--! It's me-– what is that thing on my back?!"
"Well, that was when the Queen of the Spiders possessed you..."
"Why did I ever listen to her--!"
"You came out all right in the end, Sarah."
"I know.... but seeing it here brings it all back..."
"Yes, it does, doesn't it..."
* * *
Somewhere off in a control room, someone put his head in his hands. "No! They're all here, but half of them are in the wrong areas! They were supposed to all have been escorted to their individual Experiences! Greeter Dete hasn't even reported in with the first one's location yet, number 7's still at large - this is chaos!"
Something resembling an alabaster sphere on a plinth that sat in the centre of the room suddenly lit up, and the silver-suited man started violently, and then sat still, his eyes gone unfocused. "Yes, yes; I knew of his reputation, it's just--" A pause, then, "Of course, if as you say it won't matter--" Another pause. "Yes, of course — immediately, Sir." The globe winked off, and the man sat, composing himself for a few moments before turning back to the elaborate control panel in front of him.
* * *
"Stay back, Jo!" The 3rd Doctor chivalrously thrust out a velvet-clad arm, as if he were afraid she might gallop forward straight into the flexing mandibles of the enormous arachnid before them. Striding forward to within 50 feet of the creature, he stopped to fold his arms and glare.
"Now, see here — I refuse to be threatened by someone I haven't even yet met!"
The spider had fallen silent as if in surprise; a few mandibles twitched, but that was all.
"Well? What have you got to say for yourself?"
Apparently, nothing: the creature who'd so sneered at them a few moments earlier now stood poised above them, frozen.
The Doctor and Jo exchanged bemused glances, and then he advanced yet a few more yards. There was a long pause, before the Doctor's voice floated back to her, his own relief evident in his voice. "It's all right, Jo — this isn't real. It's a simulacrum. Programmed, or some sort of artificial intelligence, but it seems to have stopped."
"Not real?" Jo exclaimed as she moved somewhat reluctantly towards her friend; the frozen spider was still quite a disturbing sight. "Then what is this place? Some sort of sick practical joke? Who would do such a thing?!"
When the Doctor replied, his voice was grim. "That's what we're going to find out."
They both paused as, behind them at the mouth of the cavern, someone awkwardly cleared his throat.
* * *
The distinguished, moustachioed man to whom ‘Auntie Iris' had escorted them smiled beneficently at Susan and her irritated Grandfather.
The Doctor refused the pro-offered hand. "'Doctor Who'?"
"You're the Doctor, he's the Doctor, " Iris offered, amused. "You know — alternate yous."
"Nonsense! There can be no more than one of me in a particular time and place. Common Knowledge! Do you take me for a fool?!"
Out of the corner of her right eye, Susan saw 'Auntie' Iris rolling her eyes, and she suppressed a commiserating smile. "Actually, Grandfather, it is possible to meet oneself..." she ventured, trailing off and wincing slightly as he turned and stared scathingly in her direction. She continued when he didn't actually interrupt her. "I remember; one of the last lectures before we...left. About Temporal Null zones..."
"Theoretical only, child — the energy cost would be unfathomable!"
"Not just a theory any more, Doctor. You really should do more to keep up with developments," Iris informed him cheerfully, pretending not to see his glare. "Let your Temporal Physics Today subscription lapse, did you?"
Oh, yes; Grandfather was quite discommoded. On one hand, refreshing, on the other... Susan would feel much safer if she was certain that he knew what was going on.
In the meantime, this mystery was the most interesting thing to have happened in weeks.
The man calling himself 'Doctor Who' again held out a hand in welcome. After a few, dubious moments, the Doctor resigned himself to the temporary truce, and took it. They shook.
"There; now that that's settled, I have crucial information to tell you both. All of your selves who've been lured here are in great danger — as well as your companions. We must act quickly!"
Well, at least Barbara and Ian were safe back in the TARDIS, Susan thought in relief.
* * *
The 8th Doctor stood frozen next to Ace, caught up in the potent mixture of memories brought again to life as 'Fenric' — in the form of Captain Sorin — lifted the poisonous green capsule to dangle it over Ace's head.
"The choice is yours, Time Lord. I shall kill you anyway, but if you would like the girl to live, kneel before me."
The Doctor closed his eyes momentarily, remembering. Yes; this was how it had gone...the moment of Truth: I hurt Ace, in order to destroy her faith in me; which allowed the Old One to get close enough to Fenric to destroy him. Ace and I ....reconciled... and went on.
But oh, the anguish on her face as she'd collapsed....
Well, bugger that.
His eyes flew open as he took one step to the side, his left hand grabbing hold of Sorin's hand and the capsule, while his right hand snatched his sonic screwdriver out of a pocket and activated it, aimed right at 'Sorin's' head. "But you're not Fenric. And this isn't the real Ace."
You're just an AI, a robot. And chances are, this blast of sonic energy will put you out of commission--
Except that it didn't.
Instead, Fenric/Sorin's free hand swung around and backhanded him off his feet. He hit the wall several feet behind and slid down, losing the screwdriver as he landed in a dazed heap next to the staring 'Old One', who joined in on the attack, grabbing his front and lifting him back up by his collar. The Doctor blinked as both
'Sorin' and 'Ace' stalked towards him.
"That was...unwise, Doctor," Sorin growled. Ace wore a similarly irritated expression. "You deviated from the re-creation. Most unwise."
"I thought... I was an honoured guest," the Doctor rasped. "Why has that suddenly changed now?"
"You have to re-live it exactly the way it occurred!" Ace snarled. "There can be no deviation. Now we have to re-create the Experience again from the beginning until we get it right!"
"I've re-lived enough of that one already," the Doctor muttered. "No, thank you."
"It will be re-created. Or your companions will suffer."
"Suffer. So much for 'esteemed guests'..." he grumbled as they dragged him back over and resumed their places.
Why did he have such a Bad Feeling about re-living this bit of his past? Some other instinct was at work, here, more than just his understandable reluctance to revisit a particularly painful memory...
Were his other selves also being forced to re-live some of their worst moments?
* * *
The 6th Doctor stood on a facsimile of his TARDIS, hands clenched, helplessly watching a certain doomed freighter on the scanner screen as it arrowed unerringly towards Earth. This was the recreation from his former life that he'd found himself in once he'd passed through the portal, alone. *This* one.
"No," he muttered. "Not again." He turned to march off, to leave this scenario, and found that all eyes were upon him.
"That is not how it happened. Do not deviate," the ‘Cyberleader' warned him.
The 6th Doctor paused. "Oh, don't worry; I'm not going to 'deviate';" he snarked, "I'm just leaving. Done. Finished."
He started forward again, only to find Nyssa and Tegan moving to block him. "You will not deviate, Doctor," Nyssa said, eyes narrowed.
"Oh, won't I? And who's going to stop me?"
"Peri will suffer for your lack of cooperation," ‘Tegan' informed him crisply.
The 6th Doctor opened his mouth, but anything he might have been about to say was lost as the TARDIS doors were flung open, and two figures dashed in, waving bloody big guns. He blinked as they then used said guns, expertly targeting the erstwhile 'Cyberleader', who made a satisfying CLANK as he toppled over. Catching the eye of the lithe black woman, the Doctor jerked a thumb at his remaining companions. 'R-O-B-O-T-S,' he mouthed, and she turned her attention to them as they dashed forward, bringing them down mid-stride with two well-placed shots.
He then found himself the subject of his mysterious rescuers' scrutiny, as they looked him up and down, eyebrows rising slightly.
Then, a short, dark-haired man in a rumpled suit walked through the open doors. "Hello, me," he said, smiling tiredly. A brunette followed him, glancing around with bemusement. "Which one is this, then?" she asked the short man.
"Number 6," he replied. "I could feel your... discomfort all the way down the hall," he told the Doctor.
"And you are?"
"I am not a number," the 6th Doctor muttered, sotto voce, then informed the others, "This situation is not only highly irregular, it's also just lost any appeal it might have had for me."
The 7th Doctor's eyes flicked about the 'set', taking in the details, and his eyes narrowed in recognition. "I can just imagine..."
"I wonder if this was what was in store for all of us? Bad memories?"
"Excellent question" the rumpled Doctor muttered. "Any why here? Why now?"
* * *
Now this, this was kind of surreal, even for travelling with the Doctor, Luke noted, as he dashed down the corridor. Being right behind Captain Jack Harkness, he had a particularly good view. Behind him was Kirena and after her, Rose. It appeared that the others had scattered down a different corridor — probably just as well.
He glanced behind as he heard Rose's voice, urgent and breathless. She'd yanked her...cell phone out of a pocket and was frantically shouting into it.
"Doctor? I'm all right for now; Jack broke us out. The others are helping us, yeah! Where are you?"
* * *
Me? Oh, I'm just trapped in my past, on the verge of reliving the worst experience from that life, the 9th Doctor thought. That's all.
He stood on a recreation of his former, Gothic TARDIS, a short time before he'd discovered... before he'd realized... he'd just frozen in that same, dawning horror... couldn't move, couldn't breathe...
But then Rose had broken thorough, shaken him out of it — rung him up. He shook his head ruefully. That bloody phone — it'd saved him. "Listen; I'll see you in a bit!" He flicked his own 'phone' shut, thrust it into a pocket of his leather jacket, and strode forward. First thing was to get out of here and find the others. Rose and Jack? He'd just head for the nearest chaotic nexus, yeah, that'd be them.
But when he flung open the TARDIS doors, he found himself on the shores of a wind-swept, frigid bay, face-to-face with his future self.
"Where is she? Where's Rose?" the Tenth Doctor demanded intently.
Oh, this was not good, the 9th Doctor thought, as he stared at his future self.
To be continued...
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