|Doctor Who Crossover Internet Adventure #05 - "Fear Itself"
by Joe Mashuga
An unknown location in the Middle East
"Father, he has contacted you."
"Yes, my dear, I know. Make your preparations; I need complete privacy for this meeting."
As his lovely daughter left, the weathered man stood calmly, watching his communications console that somehow received an unusual request nearly a week ago. He had never been one to defer to another, but his current associate had a sizeable ego, and powers which dwarfed his own. He knew that his temporary associate could destroy him, but the "home field" advantage brought them even.
With luck and planning, he might yet swing the pendulum in his favor. He sat, turned the display on, and waited for his "partner" to deign to notice his presence.
"I apologize for the delay, great one."
"You disappoint me, Ra's al Ghul. You were rumored to be capable, for a human."
"I was ensuring the readiness of my men. They are in position, and await my word."
"A specific event must occur before the shipment can be delivered. It should come to pass within forty-eight hours."
"As I said, all is ready. I shall contact you once it is in my possession. My payment is still satisfactory?"
"Your desires do not conflict with mine, so your payment is satisfactory. Notify me if your plans are altered in the slightest way."
"I will do so, great one."
The monitor went blank, and Ra's al Ghul leaned back in his chair. Never before had he agreed to such a hazardous partnership, and he held no illusions that his powerful associate would not destroy him if not satisfied. With luck, his failsafes would not be needed. When dealing with Darkseid, however, it was foolish to not be prepared for the worst.
* * *
"Well, it's all over now," the Doctor said.
"The Mara is gone forever?" Tegan's voice held just the faintest shred of hope.
"Yes, the Mara has been destroyed."
The Doctor felt a sudden intake of air, as if the room breathed. Looking back to the wall where the Great Mind's Eye rested mere moments ago, he noticed a pinpoint of light. Before he could blink, a thunderous boom erupted from the wall, throwing the Doctor, Tegan, and the assemblage several feet through the air. The pinpoint, now glowing a vibrant yellow, expanded to encompass the entire wall.
Green flashed inside the cylinder, and an armored squad flew through the aperture just as it closed. Quick and precise, two armored men flanked the tube's opening as the others seized the Mara's freshly-slain body.
"No!" rang the Doctor's cry as he tried to pull himself to his feet. Tegan lay beside him, stunned. Nyssa was across the chamber, slowly regaining her senses.
The lead trooper impassively pointed at the Doctor, who stumbled and fell as a searing beam of reddish energy seemed to destroy the very air he had been occupying. He looked up as another boom rocked the chamber, and the glowing tube reappeared. Quick as a flash, the armored figures were gone, the tube already receding. By the time he regained his feet, the tube had vanished.
The Doctor steadied himself, his mind reeling. He helped the shocked Tegan to her feet, the Great Crystal still in his hand.
"Are you all right?"
"I... I don't... know... what was that?"
"Good enough. Some sort of temporal corridor, I believe. We need to get back to the TARDIS quickly; we won't have much time to perform a signature analysis. We've overstayed our welcome anyway." The Doctor helped Nyssa to her feet as well, then stared at the gem in his hand, the Great Crystal, as if seeing it for the first time. "Oh yes. If you don't mind, Director," spoke the Doctor, placing the artefact in his trembling hands, "we'll be leaving now. Thank you, you're welcome, all that. Nyssa, Tegan."
The Director, still shaken, looked at the Doctor blankly. "Eh? Leaving? Wait... no, no! We need to question... how did you... you can't leave yet. What did you do?"
The Doctor glanced about the chamber, noticed the Federated guards beginning to recover their wits. "Very well, but the quick version. Nyssa, could you take Tegan back to the TARDIS, please? I'll catch up. Now then. The Mara was obviously real, as I've been attempting to make you see all along, and was able to form a body when the young heir placed the Great Crystal within the hollow on the wall. You all looked at the Mara and were instantly fascinated, while I gazed into this crystal..." At this the Doctor revealed the crystal he had discovered. "...Found my psychic center, and directed myself at the Mara. Since the Mara thrives on fear and despair, it attempted to disrupt me, which allowed me to act. I removed the Great Crystal, and the Mara was disrupted in mid- materialization. Hmm. Yes, I believe that about covers it. I must admit to knowing little about that tube, but any information you have is greatly appreciated."
"I'd never seen it before," said the Director, now recovering from his shock. "Why would they want the Mara? It is dead, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. That's what worries me. I must see this through, Director. Let me leave. I'll even let you know when I've resolved the problem with the Mara. Please, Director. Time is short."
"I thought the rumors of the Mara were based on truth, but I never realized... yes, go ahead, Doctor. I think we all believe in the Mara now. But please, do keep me informed."
"I will do exactly that when it is dealt with. Thank you, Director." With that, the Doctor left the chamber and headed for the TARDIS.
* * *
"She should be okay, she'll need some rest though." Nyssa said upon entering the control room.
The Doctor was busy configuring the TARDIS. "Well, that's good to hear. Poor girl. Between the Mara's possession and subsequent removal, I'm a bit surprised that she's not in worse shape. It's a cardinal rule, though, nothing is as easy as it seems.
"No offense towards Tegan, but I'm more concerned about that tube. Those soldiers are somewhat familiar, but I can't place them. Whoever they were, they timed their entry perfectly. We were all taken completely unawares. They must have known that the Mara had just died. Unless these people have a habit of collecting large reptilian corpses, we may be 'in the fire,' so to speak. Unfortunately, the second tube seems to have interfered with my tracking of the first, but I'm very close to... ah, there! Destination, Earth. That makes a strange amount of sense, half of the events in that galaxy seem to center on a single planet. Nineteen ninety-six. Who's giving technology to Earth this time?"
Nyssa coughed loudly. "Doctor, you're babbling."
"Babbling? I'm not babbling, I'm rambling. Entirely different. But I am thinking aloud again, thank you, Nyssa. Are you ready for a field trip?"
* * *
Gotham City, United States
Batman attempted to pry the cage doors open, but to no avail. As well as he knew the Joker, he had to admit (to himself, though no one else) that he was always surprised at the Joker's ingenuity, mad as he was. The steel cage held, and the dark knight rummaged around his utility belt for the phosphorus that would superheat the bars, providing a better attempt at escape. A roar alerted the dark detective, and he ducked & rolled as the bear's meaty claw sliced into his suit. Even with the triple-weave Kevlar, pain flared. His sharp mind noted a bruised rib or two, filed it in priority behind stopping the bear and capturing the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime cackled and looked on as he sat atop a unicycle, clothed in ringmaster's garb complete with top hat and cane.
"This is so exciting, I can bare-ly contain my enthusiasm! Hahaaheeeh!"
The enraged bear turned toward its fleeing meal and received a Batarang in the nose for its efforts. It howled in rage and charged the figure, who was difficult to see and, because of the Batarang, difficult to smell as well. Another paw sliced through the air, this time striking the barrier provided by the cage.
Batman moved to the other end of his temporary prison, clanging the bars with his weapon. The bear turned and rose, towering a full three feet above the hero's six-foot-plus frame. He tumbled and rolled until he was behind the berserk animal, then struck the lock dead-on with a phosphorus capsule. The Joker's giggling diminished as he watched the lock. Seeing his well-made prison hold, his maniacal laughter redoubled, as the Batman's countenance became more determined than ever.
"Hee hee hehehehahahaha!!!!! Now that's what I call a Kodiak moment!"
As the bear turned toward its agile meal, he removed his cape and wiped some blood from his lip upon it, then tossed the cape toward the bear. After a few tosses, including an experimental strike using the weights on his cape's tail, he tossed the cape at the lock. As he'd hoped, it wrapped around the bars on the door. If the bear's sense of smell was dulled enough by the batarang strike....
As he'd hoped, the bear caught the scent of blood and started toward the cape, which now clung to the lock and door. Just as the bear charged the cape, the dark knight threw himself into the bear with all his might. The bear slammed against the cage the door flew open, and the bear fell forward as two gas capsules landed at the creature's feet. Batman dove out a second later, but the Joker was already fleeing, riding his unicycle with fiendish glee. Another Batarang took flight, this with a thin cable attached. The projectile barely missed the Joker, then arced to the left. The Joker had no time to maneuver as the wire wound itself around his waist, and the Clown Prince was pulled off his getaway vehicle. Batman approached him, but the Joker was in a tangle. He tried reaching for his hat, which now lay beside him.
A boot came down on the Joker's outstretched arm. He smiled weakly at Batman.
"Oh, come on, Batboy, why so dour? Can't you just..."
The Joker's other hand gripped his cane tighter.
He swung the cane by its point, hooking Batman's leg and throwing him off-balance.
The cane swung again, point first, but was parried. Around came Batman's fist, connecting solidly with the Joker and sending the lunatic into unconsciousness.
* * *
Batman tended his ribs from a nearby building as the GCPD tossed the unconscious Joker inside a police van. In his most recent escape from Arkham, the Joker had been able to get ahold of various cleaning agents, and create his potent Smiley gas. Why doesn't Arkham learn? A familiar voice came in over his earmike, breaking the Batman out of his reverie.
"How many times does this make that the Joker's done the circus thing?"
"Six. Do you have anything new on the sonic boom, Oracle?"
"Yes, but not much. It was powerful enough to shatter windows within four hundred feet. Also, two officers were in the area, but both are missing. The GCPD found their car in Hell's Kitchen, vandalized, but no bodies. Think we have a new maniac out there trying to prove himself? Whoever this guy is, he's not a regular."
"What makes you think this is one person?"
Oracle shifted in her wheelchair. Why must he always test her? "Well, not much, but there was some kind of light show in the area as well. Looks like trademark super-villain stuff to me."
"What kind of light show?"
"A 'flickering yellow strobe,' at least in the Gotham Herald's point of view." There was a brief pause, and Barbara Gordon could practically hear the clues falling into Batman's head.
"If that's true, then he might not even be human."
"Oh-kay. Care to update your hard-at-work information center?"
"It might be a boom tube, though I'm not certain."
"Boom tube? What's that?"
"It's some kind of transport system that the New Gods use. Find what information you can, I'll be checking it out."
"Leave him out, Oracle. This is over his head."
"Over his head, but not your own?" Barbara paused, waiting for the usual lack of reply when Bruce knew she wouldn't like something. Sure enough, there was only silence.
* * *
Gotham Heights, suburb of Gotham City
Clark Kent was restless. Despite his experience as a reporter, as well as the countless obstacles he has overcome as Superman, everything about Arkham Asylum sent a chill through his spine. How Bruce was able to deal with such insanity on a constant basis, he didn't know. His fingers hovered at the keys, but thoughts of Arkham made it difficult for him to put down what he needed to.
The Daily Planet sent Clark to Gotham to report on the Scarecrow, recently captured in Metropolis and delivered to Arkham via Superman. Bruce hadn't been happy to learn that Superman had entered Gotham, but he always did consider it his duty to defend the entire city single-handedly. No doubt he'd be less pleased if he knew that Clark was still in Gotham, writing a follow-up article on the use of fear. He was planning on using not only the Scarecrow as an example, but the Batman as well, which would no doubt draw some heated comments.
He put thoughts of Gotham's protector out of his head and was about to put thoughts to paper when his super-sensitive hearing picked up a low roar. He paused, concentrating, and picked up the sound clearly - a loud boom, originating about three miles to the northeast. It wasn't an airplane, and though he rarely visited Gotham, he didn't know of anything in the city that made such a noise.
For a moment, he considered staying in his hotel room. Surely Bruce would hear about the noise and check it out on his own. Even so, he knew his conscience would not let him just sit around, though he was sure Bruce would handle things in his own way.
Two seconds later, the room was empty, the window open.
* * *
Hell's Kitchen, Gotham City
"Not the brightest of places, Gotham," the Doctor noted, stepping out from the alley the TARDIS had materialized in. Refuse lined the streets, and people hurried by without seeming to acknowledge the presence of the Doctor, or anyone else for that matter. Nyssa followed a minute later, and wrinkled her nose.
"What a disgusting city! How can people keep anything like this around?"
"That's one of the wonders of this time period. Pollution on this level really takes effort to achieve. I'd almost admire their dedication, if the landscape was a bit more pleasing. Is Tegan coming along?"
"No. I mentioned the name of this place and she actually cringed. Said she's been here before, but suddenly felt really tired and decided to stay behind."
"Well, we should let her be. It may be her first peaceful sleep in the last few days."
"I can nearly feel the refuse of this place. I feel... dirty. What are we looking for? I hope we'll be able to leave soon."
"Well, the tube's energy signature ended near here. It shouldn't be all that difficult to locate, even in a city as infested as this. Just keep your head down, and don't meet anyone's eye." He glanced back to the TARDIS, snug in its corner, then began walking along the street. He had been walking less than a minute when a voice from behind made him turn.
"Hey, you two need a ride?"
Less than a hundred feet away, a group of teenagers was approaching. The apparent leader carried a cane, but was not limping, and another young man was almost certainly cradling a gun. The Doctor spoke in a hushed tone. "Just keep walking; these people shouldn't bother anyone who ignores them."
"Hey, I'm asking you if you need a ride!"
"No thank you, we shan't be going far."
"If you want, old man. You can go, but the lady should really have some protection. It's too dangerous to be roaming around." They were less than fifty feet away; their hard-soled boots were audible in the quiet streets.
"Well, we shall have to roam quickly, then."
Nyssa and the Doctor kept walking, but both noticed the sound of footsteps had ceased. They walked another hundred feet before the Doctor turned.
The small group was slumped against a corner, seemingly tied together. All appeared unconscious, and the leader's cane was gone as well. The Doctor looked around, but saw no sign of people, no trace of another being from his position. He shrugged.
Well, they've been dispatched by someone. Quite efficiently, too." He took a couple steps forward before noticing Nyssa hadn't kept walking.
"Nyssa? We're quite all right."
"Nyssa?" He turned to his companion, who was staring up in complete shock. Following her gaze, he noticed a shrouded figure atop a nearby building. The darkness and some type of cloak made it difficult to discern a race, and the figure was apparently masked.
"Well, it appears we have a guardian angel."
To be continued...
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