It’s Sunday again so it’s time for the fifth instalment of my Doctor Who fan fiction.
“The New Model Tomb”
The inspector drew her gun and pointed it at the Doctor. “We don’t want anything!” she shrieked. “Now you will remain silent and come with us!”
The inspector would respond to no further attempts at conversation with the Doctor as they went back to her craft. Rob looked for the man called Jean whom they’d seen when first entering the reactor building but he was nowhere in sight. He asked the inspector where he was but was met with stony silence.
Once they were in the car it rose back up into the night sky. “Not much traffic,” the Doctor remarked. “I don’t see any other cars out there.”
She looked at Rob who was reclining happily in his seat. The Doctor smiled and also leaned back, putting her bare arms behind her head, her coat having been left back at power station. “Good to rest after sweaty work, eh?” she said.
“A more luxurious capture I’ve not suffered,” replied Rob.
They ascended further as they approached a mountain and a very dark, featureless tower. It grew larger and larger, much larger than Rob had estimated its size from a distance. An opening now slowly appeared and expanded beyond which a tunnel lit by evenly spaced white lights grew to meet them.
“This is very impressive, I must say,” said the Doctor, her fingertips resting lightly on the window pane as she tried to peer around the edge. “The isolated location and the elevation are perfectly balanced.” She glanced at Rob and tapped the glass. “Between the lights are interlocking sensors . . . “ she looked over to watch the Inspector’s hand flying across the controls. “And there’s a separate code for every ten feet! The Inspector must input ten characters a second!” The Doctor looked over at Rob to see his baffled face. “A series of passwords,” she said, “communicated to the machines by hand.”
Rob looked from the Inspector to the tunnel outside and said, “’Tis a far sight more formidable than the Tower of London, to be sure.”
The craft landed on a thin platform and they were ushered into a corridor with long, vertical strips of light on either side. Between these strips, the air shimmered with colour like a soap bubble. The Doctor told Rob these were “security forcefields.” Inspector Marwat typed a series of numbers into a panel by each field for it to vanish just long enough for them to step through. At a corridor junction they met a pretty blonde woman wearing a white coat over the usual armour. She, like everyone else, wore the little helmet skeleton. She stood on the other side of a forcefield.
“Thanks for staying late, Judy,” said Inspector Marwat.
Judy smiled tightly and said, “I’ve usually taken my shoes off by now.” The two of them both started typing quickly on either side of the forcefield. Rob realised they were hitting precisely the same buttons at precisely the same time.
“That’s certainly something you couldn’t do without a cybernetic implant,” said the Doctor, folding her arms across her chest and smiling as she looked down her nose at the the two Aeons.
“Yeah, so maybe it wasn’t a good idea to poison people,” said Judy. “Might want to think about that before you commit acts of terror and sabotage, hmm?” This earned a caustic laugh from the Inspector and four other people in a room they walked into now. One desk occupied each corner of the room, each with a shiny metal surface perfectly bare of paper or tool. Nonetheless Rob recognised a clerical space.
“Good one, Judy!” said a man with dark hair and red nose at one of the desks.
The Doctor and Rob were placed in a cell. Like the car, it greatly exceeded Rob’s idea of the comforts that should accompany imprisonment. Two soft white bunks were separated by a white silk screen. Benches on the walls were upholstered like the seats in the Inspector’s car and there were even video screens, the purpose of which the Doctor explained to him as providing information and entertainment by way of recorded plays and pamphlets.
“Truly, a man could pass his days in perfect bliss!” said Rob.
The Doctor laughed, “I’ve seen more than my share of prisons and this one, I must say, surpasses others on both security and comfort.” She reclined on her side on one of the benches like Cleopatra on a divan, resting her cheek on her palm. “We could live out our lives comfortably here. Would you like to, Rob?”
He sat down on a bench along the wall perpendicular to hers, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “No,” he said firmly. “Maybe I ought to. But I don’t. Many’s the lad lured to sea by the promise of comfort and riches. But those that stay in the life are either slaves or . . . men like me.”
“What sort of man would that be?” she asked.
He laughed and looked down. “I hardly know myself.”
“’Only the shallow know themselves’,” the Doctor grinned. “A man named Oscar Wilde wrote that. Shallow you’re certainly not. But as a seaman I’m sure you’re aware that depths have their advantages, even the unfathomable kind.”
He laughed again, looking down as he blushed. “I think you flatter me. Really, I think it not so profound. Like you said, I tend not to join in my fellows in egregious slander of Royalists. Though, at heart, I suppose I am a Parliamentarian, there’s something . . . ” He grimaced, searching for the word. “About their certainty. Their certainty about so many things that really are . . . obscure. But perhaps I am simply . . . irresolute.”
The Doctor shrugged. “I hardly think so.” She sat up, stretching her arms over head. “But perhaps we may indulge ourselves in some repast, eh, hmm? You should eat, my boy!” She let out a breath as she dropped her arms and stood up. “Let’s see what’s on offer.”
She walked over to a wall panel that she evidently recognised, a sort of cupboard built into the wall with a row of black buttons above it. Peering at it, she raised her eyebrows, her enormous eyes widening to a slightly comical effect, drawing a smile from Rob. “A robust selection!” she said. “What meal have you dreamed of in your long hours at sea?”
“Hmm . . .” he thought. “A shoulder of mutton with oysters?”
The Doctor laughed. “Well, this thing wasn’t wired for 17th century guests. I’ll order for us both . . .” She pressed a series of buttons and there was a rumbling far below them followed by a clatter, like a barrel of cookware was overturned into a copper tub. She now turned her wide eyes to the floor and took a step back. Both the Doctor and Rob slowly looked up as the sound travelled all the way up to the panel. There was a shaking behind the wall and then the door shot open loudly. Within was a tray with two large plates, two small plates, and two cups. The Doctor cautiously removed the tray and brought it over to Rob. She sat beside him.
The two large plates held what looked like roasted potato and various vegetables, the small plates each had a few slices of bread with cream coloured crusts. He took up one of the cups, the liquid inside was a translucent amber.
“Barley tea,” said the Doctor. She took a sip from her own cup and made a face. “Or that’s what I asked for. This is more like . . . lemonade. But sweeter.”
Rob took a sip and recoiled. “’Tis sweeter than honey . . . And somehow repulsive.”
The Doctor took a bite of the bread and nearly choked on it, coughing heavily. Rob instinctively put a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m—I’m all right,” she said, sitting up and rubbing her throat. “It’s like the ingredients of a thousand bargain birthday cakes condensed into one. But it seems meant to pass for ordinary bread.”
This was not an encouraging commendation but Rob had eaten nothing but small morsels of mouldy bread for two days. He hastily crammed two slices of the bread into his mouth. The thick, eggy sweetness seemed to permeate the back of his tongue while it also burned his nostrils. But he worked it down slowly while the Doctor watched, fascinated. He started on the potato which was like lumps of sugar and burnt cocoanut.
He felt a little embarrassed, slowly but steadily chewing the mass in his mouth while this beautiful, elegant, and weird woman stared at him. But he was so hungry.
“We need to get you some real food,” she said in a resolute tone, standing up. “Good thing I took this from my coat.” She produced the sonic screwdriver from her skirt pocket.
Just as quickly, though, she put it back in her pocket as they both now heard two pairs of footsteps approaching. Soon, on the other side of their cell’s forcefield, there appeared Inspector Marwat and the old man from the power station. The Inspector seemed annoyed and the old man looked uncomfortable, faintly embarrassed, and angry.
“Hello!” said the Doctor. “Nice to see you again. How are things at the power station, all running smoothly? And how’s your leg? I’m the Doctor, by the way, I don’t think we were introduced.”
“You have a lot of nerve,” said Marwat.
“My name’s William, William Hayashibana. The reactor is back to normal levels,” he said grudgingly. “And my leg is fine.”
There was an uncomfortable silence finally broken by the Doctor who said, “You’re welcome.”
William peered at her, searching her countenance and big, round eyes which were open wide, suggesting a weird mixture of intense interest and placid equanimity.
“Maybe this is all some kind of game to you,” said Marwat, sarcastically. “But poisoning the implants is worse than killing people. You’re effectively trapping them in a living Hell.”
“Hmm,” the Doctor frowned and put a hand on her chin, leaning her head down thoughtfully.
“I don’t know what kind of people you are or where you came from,” said William, slowly building steam as he spoke. “I don’t think you’re Wanters. But you don’t understand. We Aeons, when we’re children, we’re helpless. We don’t know anything. But when I was ten I knew I wanted to be an engineer. So I got the data installed to me and that’s who I become. You know what would’ve happened otherwise?”
“Years of schooling?” asked the Doctor.
“Maybe! Or maybe I’d have failed the first or second test required to advance to the next level. And then where would I be? Who would I be?”
“Good question!” the Doctor grinned at Rob who shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
William nodded, “That’s what I thought. You don’t understand. I’m an old man now. I have a long career to look back on and I can feel pride in the things I’ve accomplished. Optimising the north east turbine . . . Repairing the . . .” he struggled for words. “the—the” he held his hands up, as though trying to grasp something before letting both fall back to his sides. “So maybe, what’s left of my mind after the poison, it can’t . . .” he took a breath. This was clearly not something he’d had the courage to say aloud before. “Maybe I can’t do the things I used to. Maybe I don’t . . . know what I used to. But I’m seventy-two years old. I’ve had a good long career. What you did to me is cruel.” He fixed a stare on her. “But if you do it to my son, or a kid just starting out, that’s . . . evil. I can’t think of a better word for it.”
The Doctor now employed a very cautious, gentle tone. “Have you considered the possibility that the implants weren’t poisoned but are simply malfunctioning on their own?”
Inspector Marwat groaned in disgust and William frowned at her.
“How long have you been using the implants?” asked the Doctor.
“A long time . . .” William said helplessly, looking at Marwat.
“Hundreds of years ago, the first Aeons made the data cloud,” said the inspector impatiently. “They put it together and created it to make us whole.”
The Doctor leaned forward, tilting her head slightly. “Yes, and?”
Inspector Marwat looked baffled, “That’s it. That’s how it happened. Look, I need to take you two to the interrogation room.” She punched in a code and William stepped aside.
The Doctor shrugged and Rob stood up. They followed the Inspector and William down the corridor.
“Much of what you say is well beyond my ken,” said Rob. “But I consider myself a seaman. I collect the wages of an able seaman when pay’s not in arrears, which it too often is. But I came to be so not for my childhood fancy but years on a soggy wharf, building callouses as a young lad carrying tackle or learning to tie knots.” They started to pass through the forcefields and Marwat began inputting codes. Judy was already visible waiting for them at the junction. “There were years when I was the lad who could barely tie a bowline.” Rob continued. “There were years when I was the lad who could splice two lines as neat as any fine lady’s embroidery. It’s not simply being able to do that makes me me. It’s all the years before. If I didn’t go through those years, well . . .” He scratched his head. “Might be I wouldn’t be so understanding to them what was still learning.”
“Haven’t you noticed that you’re frightened all the time?” said the Doctor, gently. “In ways the Wanters don’t seem to be?”
“The Wanters are ignorant and repressed,” said Marwat flatly.
They came now to Judy who was standing there, staring at them with an odd smile on her face.
“Still here, Judy?” said the inspector tiredly.
“Ah, yes,” she said quickly. She was blinking rapidly.
“Wait,” said the Doctor but the inspector was already inputting a code in the nearby panel. Judy’s hand went to her corresponding panel to punch in precisely the same code at precisely the same time. But her hand moved too slow and then too fast as she tried to catch up.
“Judy!” cried the inspector.
Judy screamed and clutched at her helmet, backing away. The lights went out and then the white illumination was replaced by a dim red causing Rob to strain his eyes. A high pitched horn sound now repeatedly pealed throughout the corridors.
The Doctor now pushed the inspector aside and raised her sonic screwdriver to the panel. The forcefield went down but the light stayed red and the alarm continued to sound.
“How did you do that?” said Inspector Marwat, angry and frightened. Judy slumped to the floor, against the wall, staring in terror at the opposite wall, her eyes rapidly moving side to side, searching.
“I think I can get us out of here,” said the Doctor. “We can talk about how later.”
“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?!”
TO BE CONTINUED