It’s Sunday again and this time I bring you the final instalment of my Doctor Who fan fiction. Yes, there’s an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
“The New Model Tomb”
“Doctor, this whole building will be filled with toxic gas within ten minutes,” said William. “Can you get us out of here before that?”
The Doctor raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips. She looked back at the wall panel thoughtfully.
“Doctor?” said William insistently. “Doctor?!”
The Doctor’s eyes wandered to the bare space of wall beside the control panel. Its metallic surface offered faint reflections of the five people standing in the corridor. “Inspector,” said the Doctor, “what are these walls made of?”
“Isharasteel,” said Marwat, her voice shaking, “re-reinf-inforced by divaranised mesh . . .” She stopped as the Doctor reached over to Rob’s hip, grasped the hilt of his sword, and drew it. The looks of terror that suddenly overcame Marwat’s, Judy’s, and William’s faces showed they’d suddenly realised leaving a prisoner armed didn’t make very much sense. But instead of attacking them, the Doctor walked over close to the wall, raised the weapon, and began pounding the pommel into the surface.
Instead of the loud clang of metal on metal, there was a knocking sound accompanied by the sight of splinters. Splinters of wood. Very soon, the Doctor had made a small hole.
“It’s—it’s wood,” said William, stunned.
“It’s plywood,” said the Doctor. “Made to look like metal.” She continued pounding, expanding the hole. Rob drew his dagger and started helping her, expanding the rupture and the red light started to filter into the darkness behind the wall. The smooth surface of some kind of oblong object on a rough hewn table slowly became visible.
“I don’t understand,” said Marwat, something like awe coming into her voice. “There’s nothing about this in the Cloud.”
The Doctor shrugged, stepping over the rough bottom edge of the hole, lifting her skirts. “There didn’t need to be. It occurred to me . . .” She went over to the object and started twisting dials and flicking switches. “. . . that for a great security system, the most important thing is convincing people it’s a great security system.” She stepped back, letting out a breath. “And when people voluntarily limit their sources of information, it becomes much easier to convince them of even absurd things.” The Doctor now looked at some lines running from the oblong object into the rough, pale wooden wall.
“Plywood?” asked Rob.
“Ah, yes, hm. Cheap, weak wood veneer,” explained the Doctor, gathering up one of the small lines and examining it. “Very good for . . . theatre and television. There was a show in Britain I liked—”
“Doctor, what about the gas?” said William.
“Ah, turned off,” said the Doctor, pointing at the oblong object. “There are others like this tank but I’ve hit the master control. We’re quite safe.”
“No, we’re not,” said Marwat, starting to get angry. “These are all relics of a Wanter infiltration. According to the folder 27115, this tracks with an attempt to infiltrate and monitor our prison!”
“Ha! That was fast,” said the Doctor. “Already writing articles to protect itself, eh?”
“The date on the article is from two years ago!” said Marwat, getting more confident. “In fact, the more I look, the more articles I find on how rooms like this have already been discovered and dealt with years ago.”
The Doctor raised her eyebrows and put her hands in her pockets, the corners of her lips turned down. “Well, who am I to argue with articles, eh?”
“And you shouldn’t!” said Marwat, “because one of my colleagues has just uncovered an article that exonerates you. You and your companion are free to go.”
Rob didn’t understand what was going on but he couldn’t help smiling at the sudden look of delight that spread over the Doctor’s features.
“So, now it shows me its belly!” she laughed. “Well, then, Rob. Let’s go!”
“Now wait just a minute!” said William. “They can’t go just like that. After everything she said.”
Marwat looked at William pityingly. “All I can say, William . . . is you would understand if you were still . . .” she couldn’t finish.
William clenched his fists.
Rob was kneeling beside Judy who’d slumped to the floor, her hands clutching her shoulders.
“Is there anything I might do for you, miss?” he asked.
“Leave me alone,” she said and, just like the man Jean, she said, “Don’t look at me!”
The inspector saw nothing strange about telling the Doctor and Rob to find their own way out of the high security detention facility. The Doctor seemed to have no trouble finding it. Whenever a locked door or forcefield presented itself, a wave of the sonic screwdriver granted them passage. They found the Doctor’s green velvet coat in the now deserted office. She put it on and they proceeded down a cold, dark stairwell before emerging from the base of the tower on the mountainside. By now it was quite late and the slumbering city of the Aeons lay below. Smooth, blocky buildings lit by evenly spaced, coordinated lighting.
“All the lights fit together,” said the Doctor, a subtle laugh in her voice. “No motley of shapes in a commercial district, no distinctive decorations on the homes in the residential zones. Little even to indicate which is which.”
“Aye . . .” said Rob, very tired and now not a little cold. “I can’t believe men can build such a place.”
“Hmm, neither can I.” The Doctor eyed him, noting his fatigue. “Perhaps we’d have been better off in that cell, eh? Hmm.”
At this point, they both became aware of William standing behind them. He’d followed them down the stairwell.
The Doctor quietly looked at William expectantly while he fixed on her an intense gaze. He seemed ready to say something several times but caught himself each time and said nothing.
“It seems very strange, doesn’t it?” said the Doctor slowly and loudly.
William frowned, his eyes flashing mutely.
“How can the inspector change her mind so swiftly, so completely . . .” the Doctor continued.
“If she’s wrong . . .” said William, “then you’re guilty of poisoning us. But how—how can she be right . . . ?”
“Ah, ha ha. I see your trouble,” said the Doctor. “Well, a stopped clock is right twice a day, you know! We didn’t really poison the implants. But it’s also not reasonable for the inspector to change her mind so quickly.”
He grunted and looked away, to the ground. He took a few steps to the right, his work boots scratching on the dirt. “There’s something else, you see. It’s not just losing part of ourselves now. It’s losing the part of ourselves that lives on . . .”
The Doctor’s body tensed as comprehension dawned on her. “Ahh . . .”
“Is it in the Great Tomb?” he asked, looking at the Doctor now. “Is it there waiting, like I’m—like I’m dead already?”
“Is it in the Great Tomb!” the Doctor repeated. There was a pause and then she pounded one fist into her palm. “One way to find out, eh? Let’s go have a look, shall we?”
William scowled but started trudging down the mountainside. He stopped, looked back, and motioned for them to follow.
They passed in silence between rows of indistinguishable white buildings shaped like boxes occasionally connected by hard edged corridors. Rob wondered how anyone could find their way. Finally, there was an open square in the centre of which was a roughly three storey round tower that tapered slightly to a flat top. Eight smooth buttresses adorned the exterior. There were no windows and Rob could see only one double door which was open, revealing an interior dimly lit as though by candlelight except the light was a pale blue. As they stepped inside, they saw the interior was mostly hollow with two levels of platforms above ringing the edges. At the centre of the room was a small pedestal with what looked like a bell jar on top containing something within.
“Ah,” said the Doctor in a dark tone. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”
As Rob came around the Doctor he had a better view of the thing on the pedestal, in the jar. It was a helmet, not one of the thin wiry ones the Aeons wore, but one that would fully cover the head. The remarkably smooth metal extended across the face and down the neck like a hard metal cowl. A sort of handle was attached at about where the ears would be and it ran over the top of the helmet. Two perfectly round holes for the eyes had smaller holes, like little tears, connected to them and the mouth was a perfectly rectangular, horizontal slit.
“You know what that is?” asked Rob.
The Doctor nodded. “The helmet of a Cyberman.”
“When we Aeons die,” said William, a curious look on his face, “the sum of our knowledge and skill goes to rest here and can be accessed by anyone.” He gestured at the wall and Rob saw that the walls were covered by little shiny black boxes, each with identical sets of little blue lights and tiny slots.
“So you would say your spirit, if you will,” said the Doctor, “descends from the Cloud to rest here, in the Great Tomb?”
William nodded slowly, contemplatively. “We don’t call it a spirit. It’s simply us. We are all of us one foot in the Cloud and one foot on the ground, as the saying goes. Most of us.” He reached up and touched his own thin, lifeless helmet which, it now occurred to Rob, never made the clicking noises of the helmets belonging to the other Aeons.
The Doctor nodded distractedly and started strolling along the wall, looking at the black boxes as though viewing paintings in a gallery. She came to one box that was different to the others. It was about the size of three of the others, roughly the size of a seaman’s chest, and had no lights on it. The Doctor held her sonic screwdriver close to it, there was a wirring noise, and the box swung open, revealing a coil of black line. At the same time, the light inside the tomb changed from dim blue to dim yellow, quietly.
“William, may I borrow your helmet?” said the Doctor, her eyes remaining on the coil of line.
William’s mouth opened and he didn’t respond at first, clearly taken aback. “Doctor . . .” he said finally. “Doctor, I wouldn’t let my own wife wear my helmet.”
She looked at him now and smiled gently. “I understand. But it’s very important, William. I might be able to solve this whole thing.”
“You mean—you mean you could help me recover the part I’ve lost in the Cloud?” he took a step forward eagerly.
Her smile tightened. “I could possibly, William. But I’ll need a helmet like yours to interface with the Cloud.”
“But—but it’s poisoned. Broken. Isn’t it?” said William, reluctantly pulling some tiny wires from his temple and lifting the frail looking headpiece.
As he slowly placed it in the Doctor’s small, pale hands, Rob suddenly found himself saying, “’The cares I give I have, though given away; They tend the crown, yet still with me they stay.’”
“Richard II, eh?” the Doctor smiled at Rob. “Well,” she said, looking at William, “I hope it’s not so bad as that.”
She placed the headpiece on her own brow, attaching the end of the coiled line as she did so. She lifted her sonic screwdriver to her temple and suddenly the little helmet started making the familiar clicking sounds.
William sucked in his breath. The Doctor’s eyes widened and started moving quickly from side to side, as though seeing something Rob couldn’t. He tried to follow her gaze and looking at the entrance to the tomb he saw a number of Aeons entering, all of them armed with rifles, led by Inspector Marwat.
“What are you doing, Doctor?!” screamed the inspector. “I demand you cease your activity immediately! Stop! Stop!” But she seemed unwilling to shoot at the Doctor. The dozen or so Aeons all watched with various shades of anxiety on their faces, each impotently clutching their rifles. All of them looked very tired, as though they hadn’t slept in weeks.
Rob drew his sword and stood between the Aeons and the Doctor.
“There is no Cloud!” the Doctor pronounced loudly. “Only the Tomb! All of the data is here! All of your folders and your articles and your expertises are here, contained on these servers.” She frowned and there was silence. Then all of the Aeons screamed and fell to their knees, clutching their helmets. Some of them went quiet, some of them started weeping.
The Doctor removed the helmet. William looked bewildered and a little angry. “What have you done?!”
“I’ve ‘poisoned’ everyone else,” said the Doctor sternly.
“No!” cried William, lunging for her but Rob shoved him to the ground.
“I’m sorry,” said the Doctor, “But it was inevitable. This whole network is breaking down. It was built on a single outdated piece of Cyberman technology. Left as it was, it would have all shut down within a week. It couldn’t support that kind of neurological interface any longer, your population has grown too large. But all the data is still here, intact. You can access it from this terminal.” She pointed to a screen and panel inside the larger box.
“That’s not good enough!” screamed Marwat.
“All of the knowledge is here still,” said the Doctor. “But you’ll have to learn it on your own.”
“You don’t understand, you damned alien!” shouted William. “It isn’t about knowing things . . . it’s about—about being who we are!”
“Perhaps you aren’t who you thought you were!” said the Doctor. “It can happen, you know. It certainly happens to me now and then. You don’t look receptive to any advice I might offer,” she grinned apologetically at the furious faces arrayed about her, “but I would say . . . you’d be surprised how very much you can find in very little things. Sometimes you can find a whole universe in a daisy.”
One of the Aeons lifted a rifle and pulled the trigger. The thing clicked ineffectually.
“Yes, I’m afraid those won’t be very helpful,” said the Doctor. She looked at Rob, “You know, I think we’d better go.”
The two of them walked out of the tomb, Rob sensing angry eyes burning holes into him the whole way.
It was a couple hours’ walk back to the TARDIS and Rob was amazed at the Doctor’s ability to find the way to the ruined Wanter town. Along the way, she tried to explain cybernetic implants and computers to him. He felt he might understand better once he’d gotten some sleep.
At last, standing beside the TARDIS, he took one last look about him.
“Will the Aeons be all right?” he asked.
“They’re smarter than they give themselves credit for,” she said thoughtfully.
Rob was surprised. “They seem to accord themselves a great deal of credit.”
The Doctor grinned. “Hmm. Well, now they must put aside their resentment and sloth and learn to build. They can do it. Especially if they make peace with the Wanters who, despite what the Aeons say, are much more skilled at living than they are.”
“It seems the more tools people have at their disposal,” Rob said, “the greater the folly they create.”
“Ha!” the Doctor opened the door of the TARDIS. “Humans make some truly marvellous things, too.” He followed her inside, the door shutting behind him as she began operating the controls on that peculiar capstan. “I should show you the cathedral on Balyitsu Fourteen. Or the bathhouses on Konaral in the 6740s.”
“For now,” he said, “I’d like nothing more than a good hammock.”
She laughed and that strange wheezing sound filled the air again.