|Doctor Who Missing Internet Adventure #23 - "False Life"
"One Man's Fantasy"
by Greg McCambley
Life on Paradise-1 never really stopped, whether day or night. The vastness of the its central City, combined with the decadence of the majority who lived there, ensured that something was always going on somewhere. The majority of action occurred in the immediate vicinity of the beaches. Further inland, towards the spaceport, life was somewhat quieter. Here, the massive hotels and apartment dwellings gave way to somewhat smaller buildings, such as warehouses and the like. The majority of people in Paradise tended to ignore these areas, and in all probability didn't even realise they were there.
In one of these warehouses, a room sat in total darkness. Or, rather, it would have sat in total darkness except for the flickering images on a gigantic screen floating in the centre of the room. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of images appeared and disappeared on the screen, changing rapidly. Below the screen was a console, on which sat several smaller monitor screens. Each of these screens showed a smaller image, the next different from the last. One screen showed an alley; another showed the entrance to a building; still another showed a busy hotel lobby, full of people going about their day. They appeared totally unconcerned about the presence of the cameras, as that was the part of the price for living in Paradise.
The figure sitting in front of the monitors said nothing; preferring to just sit and watch.
* * *
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor and Romana watched the man stumbling and staggering along towards them, with the large cockroach-like creature rapidly gaining on him.
"What is it?", Romana asked. "It's positively repulsive."
"A reject from 'Them', perhaps?", the Doctor replied.
He quickly went over to the console to check the door control. He flicked it twice, but the doors didn't move. Moving through the interior door, he stopped at the nearest trunk, and began sorting through it, throwing its contents all over the floor.
"What are you looking for?", Romana asked. "You're not going out there, surely?"
"Of course not," he replied, "but that fellow appears to be in rather a hurry to get here, and we'd be horrible hosts if we didn't let him in. Keeping in mind, of course, that our other visitor is definitely not on the guest list."
Not finding what he was looking for, he looked around desperately. "Where did it get to?"
"Where did what get to?"
"The manual crank for the door," the Doctor replied, as he opened another trunk.
Romana walked over to a roundel, opened it, and pulled out the crank. "It's here, Doctor. I've got it," she said.
"Hmmm?" said the Doctor, as more items flew through the internal doorway.
Romana spotted the hole next to the doors, and attached the crank. "I said, it's here, Doctor," she said, raising her voice slightly.
The Doctor stuck his head back through the door, a beekeeper's hat on his head. "That's the one," he said, dropping the soccer ball he had been holding. "Well done, Romana." He grabbed the crank and began to turn it. Slowly the internal doors, which had been wide open, began to close.
* * *
Outside, the man stumbled along, what remained of his vision focussed entirely on the police box. So close, he thought. So very close. The front doors appeared closed, but he knew that they would be open when he got there. They had to be. Then he would be safe. Safe from the heat and the stink. Safe from...
His thought was interrupted when he slipped on a rock, and momentarily lost his footing. He stumbled, landing on his knees. He didn't feel the knee of his suit rip, or the pain of his scraped knee. He momentarily lost sight of the box, and instead his remaining senses were filled with the sound of chittering behind him. It sounds close too, he thought. Close, and hungry. Refusing to look back, he got back on his feet and hurried on.
* * *
Literally a world away, Tommathan sat on a bench in one of the many parks Paradise-1 had to offer. He sat with his head back and his eyes closed, basking in the gloriously summery day. He didn't bother looking at his watch. When a voice said, "Hello, how are you?", Tommathan smiled. Right on time, as always. He opened his eyes. Sitting next to him was a smaller man, wearing the light grey tunic which denoted his position as a Technician.
"Hello, Gim," Tommathan said. "I'm fine. How are you doing? It's been a while."
Gim smiled. "Can't complain, all things considered," he replied. He rubbed his balding head. "I was beginning to think they'd made your job obsolete."
"Not likely," Tommathan said, laughing. "Despite what the brochures say, this planet isn't entirely crime free."
"You don't have to convince me of that. You wouldn't believe the number of cameras that I have to fix because some idiot vandals decided to have a little fun." He looked Tomm squarely in the eyes. "So what can I do for you this time? Need some expert testimony again?"
Tommathan picked up his briefcase. "Not today," he said, opening the case, and pulling out a short list. "Right now, I'd like your help checking on some issues concerning camera problems."
Gim laughed. "So you want me to use my off time to do my job for you?"
"Sort of," Tomm said, giving his serious look. "I have a list of camera locations I want you to check out." He also pulled out a miniature monitor and punched in channels 523 and 546. The screen showed nothing but static. "The cameras that broadcast on these channels don't seem to be working. I'd like you to check them over for me. Give me a reason they're not in service."
"Is that all?," Gim said. "No problem. It might cost you a little extra, though."
"Of course." Tomm handed over a credit chip. "Is a thousand enough?"
Gim slipped the chip in his pocket. "Only because I like you." He also took the list. "I'll check them now, and get back to you in a couple of hours."
Both men stood up. "Thanks, I owe you one," Tomm said.
"How many times have I heard that?", Gim said. The two men shook hands, and walked off in opposite directions.
Across the street, a man watched Gim and Tomm leave. He stood there, with his head tilted slightly, not saying a word. Then, after a momentary hesitation, he seemed to come to a decision. He set off in the direction that Gim had gone.
* * *
The Doctor sat at the computer, watching the words 'Doctor Who' bounce around the screen. He didn't really feel like writing anything, but Romana seemed less concerned about him if he appeared to be working. He glanced around the room. He noted the bookcases, stacked half full of books. The rest of the books were still in various piles on the floor. His eyes glanced out the window, and he watched as Romana puttered in the garden. She loved to get in there and dirty her hands, the Doctor thought. So why does the whole idea of it seem so... well, wrong? He turned back to the computer, then back at Romana again. Being with her feels like the most natural thing in the Universe, and yet this whole relationship with her seemed almost unnatural. The Doctor was so lost in thought, he almost jumped when he heard a voice behind him.
"Hello, Daddy. How's the book coming along?"
The Doctor turned. There was Kris standing in the doorway, watching him. He marvelled at how he could look at her sometimes and see Romana, and at other times he could see himself. She seemed so natural a daughter. And yet...
"Hello, Kris," the Doctor said. "The book's coming along fine. Just taking a break."
Kris wandered over from the doorway. "Let me see," she said, as she cleared the screensaver, revealing a blank screen. "You haven't written anything!"
"Well, it's not called 'The Invisible Enemy' for nothing," the Doctor said, smiling.
Kris winced. "That was a bad joke, Daddy. Even for you." She put her arms around her neck. "Having trouble coming up with ideas, Daddy? Or is it because you and Mommy are arguing?"
The Doctor began to get uncomfortable. "We're just having little disagreements from time to time. Most people do, you know."
"No, I didn't," Kris said, hugging the Doctor. "I just wanted to let you know, Daddy, that I know you and Mommy will sort everything out." She looked over at the pile of Doctor Who books on the floor. "Do you remember, when I was younger, how you'd read your stories to me at bedtime?"
The Doctor, who had vague recollections of it, nodded. "I remember you even had a favourite one."
Kris smiled. "Uh-huh," she said, and she went and pulled a book out of the pile. She handed it to him, and the Doctor stared at the cover. It featured a gaudily dressed man in robes, like a priest or something, with a sniper's crosshairs imposed over his face. The title read, in bright red letters, 'Doctor Who vs. the Deadly Assassin.'
"This was your favourite?" the Doctor asked. "As I recall, it was a bit gruesome." He looked at Kris. "You didn't find it too scary or frightening?"
"Well, a little bit scary," Kris admitted, "but I knew you'd protect me from anything, Daddy. Besides, It's not real."
The Doctor laughed. "Of course it isn't," he said. He looked at the book again. "Why was it your favourite?"
"Because it was different from all the others you wrote, silly," Kris said. She grabbed the Doctor's hands. "Come on, Daddy. Let's go outside."
The Doctor put the book down, then stood up. "Of course. Let's go help Mommy with the gardening. Get fresh air in our lungs." They walked out the door, hand in hand.
* * *
Gim whistled to himself as he made his way through the streets. A thousand credits, simply for doing 30 minutes work. That will do nicely, he thought, in helping me get lucky tonight. He checked the list again. The building where the cameras were located was just up ahead. He glanced around him. He'd left the crowds back several blocks, so now he just had to deal with manoeuvring his vehicle through traffic. He didn't get out this way very often, as cameras in these sections weren't deemed high priority. Still, I get paid for a job, I do it. Doesn't matter who pays me, Gim thought, as he pulled his vehicle into a parking area. After getting his tools out of the back of the vehicle, he headed down the street.
* * *
In the darkened room, the figure watched Gim head down the street with his tools. The camera didn't pan to follow him, though. Instead, it focussed on a hooded figure who stepped out of an alleyway and immediately set off after Gim. The figure sat back, still not saying a word.
* * *
The Doctor had managed to close the doors to a degree wide enough for the man, but not for the creature. I hope, the Doctor thought to himself as he stood up. He looked at the screen. "How's he doing?", he asked.
"Not very well, Doctor," Romana said. "He's stumbling more and that thing seems to be gaining on him."
"Right," the Doctor said. "Romana, remember how I said I wasn't going out there?"
"I lied." The Doctor headed towards the doors.
"Doctor, wait!", Romana said.
The Doctor held up his hand. "No long goodbyes, Romana. If I don't come back, you take care of the TARDIS. K-9, you take care of Romana, and the TARDIS can take care of you. Farewell, my friends," he said.
"What is it, Romana? I said no long goodbyes."
She tossed him his hat. "Here. I rather think you'll need this."
The Doctor caught it and put it on. "Good idea," he said, and out the doors he went.
* * *
The chittering grew louder, and yet the man still refused to look back. Looking back would mean seeing the thing chasing him, and that was something he was sure would drain him of any desire to live he had left. Best to keep looking ahead. Towards safety. That was when he noticed that the front of the box wasn't blue anymore. It was black. This didn't make sense to him at first, but then a figure standing outside the dark registered. He must have come from the box! The door was open! He had been right. The sight spurred him on and he redoubled his efforts.
* * *
As soon as the Doctor stepped outside the TARDIS, he decided that the scanner really didn't do this planet justice. It was Hell, pure and simple.
The heat and the stink hit him full force.
"If we were on Paradise-1 before, this must be Paradise Lost," the Doctor muttered. He smiled at his joke. I must remember to use it again when Romana's around, he thought to himself. Shielding his eyes, he looked towards the man. The man appeared to have renewed vigour, as he had stopped staggering. When the Doctor noticed the man's conditions, he winced. How could anyone survive in a place like this with injuries like that?, he wondered. Especially with nasty creatures like that running, or rather scuttling, around. Yet there was something about it...
Slowly, the Doctor realised that he was walking away from the TARDIS, towards the creature. He tried to stop walking, but found he couldn't. He kept putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward.
* * *
The man saw that the figure was working his way towards him. He couldn't understand why. There was nothing out here to attract him. All that was here was Death.
"Go... back," the man said, but it came out as barely a whisper. He tried again. "Go... back." This time it was a little louder, but still not loud enough. The figure was still moving towards him. He decided to try one last time. "GO... BACK!", he yelled. That took something out of him, but it seemed to have the desired effect. He saw the second man close his eyes and turn around.
* * *
The Doctor sighed with relief as he found he could control his movements again.
"That was close. Talk about animal magnetism," he said. Suddenly a flash of blue went past him. Realising it was the man, the Doctor ran after him, listening to the chittering behind him. He ran back to the TARDIS, and saw the man disappear inside. A few seconds later, he followed him in. As he broke into the Console Room, he turned around, just in time to see Romana crank the doors shut. Finally, with a resounding thud, the doors closed.
"Ha, ha," the Doctor yelled. "Close, but no cigar! Well done, Romana!"
Romana stood up. "Welcome back. I'd assumed from your last words you'd be pushing up the daisies."
"Nonsense," the Doctor said. "I wouldn't be caught dead dying out there. Speaking of which," he looked around the room, "where did he go?"
"Into the TARDIS," Romana said. "I would have stopped him, but I had to close the doors."
"Well, let's go find him, then," said the Doctor. He checked the scanner. The creature was standing outside, its antennae quivering.
"We should be safe, I think. K-9, give us a shout if it breaks in."
"Vocal capacities at 40 percent, Master," came the dog's reply. "Unable to comply."
"I'll look after K-9," Romana said. "You find him."
The Doctor smiled. "Won't be a moment," he said, disappearing through the interior door.
Romana knelt down, and started to work at K-9's insides.
* * *
The Doctor smiled at Romana and Kris running around the garden. Kris had sprayed Romana with the hose, and now Romana was trying to do the same to Kris. Kris was screaming with delight. A lovely picture of family life, the Doctor thought. He stepped off the back stairs, following a little path which went around the side of the house.
As he turned the corner, the garage loomed before him. Its windowless walls contrasting greatly with the openness of the house. At the end of the path was a door with a padlock on it. The Doctor reached the door and, pulling a set of keys from his pocket, unlocked it. He pulled the door open and went inside. Once inside, he closed and locked the door behind him. He turned on the lights, and turned to survey the interior. Their red Convertible sat in the centre of the floor, gleaming in the harsh electric light. To his right, there was another door with a padlock on it.
At the far end of the garage, a table was set up with cords of wood stacked up on top. Below the table lay a pile of tarps. The Doctor went over to the table and, kneeling down, he pulled aside the tarps. Sitting on the ground was a box full of electronics and various pieces of metal. He picked up the largest piece of metal and examined it. It was grey and very smooth, and rectangular in shape. He picked up the box and, after he unlocked the second door, disappeared into the next room.
* * *
Gim was stumped. He had been checking the camera for over an hour, and he could not find anything wrong with them. They were working perfectly, and yet they didn't come up on the channel scanner. Sighing, he picked up his communicator and input Tommathan's number. Shortly, Tommathan's face appeared on his screen.
"Hey, Gim," Tomm said. "What's the news?"
"Not good. I've been over every piece of these things, and by all rights they should be working, but they're not."
"Let me check," said Tomm. "What channel?"
"OK, hang on a second."
* * *
In the darkened room, the figure flicked a switch.
* * *
In his home, Tommathan punched in Channel 546. "You're right, Gim," he said. "It's still off." As he said that, Channel 546 suddenly appeared on his monitor. "Wait a minute. It just came on."
"Well, I still don't see anything," Gim replied. "I don't understand this at all. I..." Gim suddenly fell silent.
Tomm looked at the image on his monitor. The screen was completely empty. "Gim, where are you? What happened?"
As Tomm watched, Gim suddenly reappeared onscreen, staggering into the image. He was staggering down the alley, his hands clutched in front of him. Then he collapsed, and a slowly spreading red puddle appeared beneath him. Suddenly, another figure walked into the camera's view, looking down at Gim's body. It took Tomm a few seconds to register the bloody knife in his hand. Then the figure turned, staring directly into the camera. Tomm swallowed hard.
The figure with the bloody knife in its hand was him, smiling broadly...
To be continued...
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