The Sudden Awakening, Lonely Life and Tragic End Of Cyberman Bob
Featuring The Eleventh Doctor
By Shaun Collins
* Authors Note – This story deals with the events of several Doctor Who episodes and eras, including the second Doctor story “The Invasion”, and the ninth Doctor episode “Dalek” but features the eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory. I would place this story during the sixth series of Doctor Who, after the episode “Let’s Kill Hitler” but sometime before the events chronicled in “The Girl Who Waited”.
* Authors Note part 2 – Sorry for the length, but the story (and Bob) refused to die. Upon reflection, I believe there is still more work to be done, specifically with the ending segment (including some rather embarrassing formatting errors. Apparently four am is NOT the time for me to upload things to the site). I spent a bit too much time “telling” you all what was happening, and not nearly enough “showing”. Since the number one rule of writing is “show, don’t tell” I feel I failed pretty miserably on this one. If you still want to plow forward and read it, please do, and feel free to send me some feedback with your thoughts. I would love to know if the shortcomings I feel are in the story are echoed by others. If you would rather wait to read it until the “final product” as it were is uploaded, check the main page for updates.
Blackness. Empty, meaningless blackness. Then sudden light. It pulsed, flaring up bright and then fading away again in tandem with a low, deep throbbing sound. The tone increased its tempo, the light increased its flashing. Awareness blossomed along the neural pathways and cybernetic junctions. It pooled in shimmering pockets and cool logic followed, bringing with it sense of purpose, mission parameters and goals:
Reflexively, instinctively the Cyberman reached out and tore through its shipping membrane, a metallic beast born onto the Earth. It emerged into a flood of light that temporarily overloaded its optic sensors. Consequently, it never saw the attack.
The Cyberman took a half step forward and was hit with an intense wave of… of what? The memory banks scrambled, there was nothing like this in the pools of logic and straightforward mission goals. It had to search back—far back—back before the endless landings and attacks, the wars and the conquests, all the way back to when the Cyberman was still a small humanoid stranded on a outcropping of rock in the middle of an all-but dead mining operation.
Back to when it was still human.
The planetoid was small, rocky and uninhabited. It resembled nothing so much as a rock quarry thrown into a shaky orbit around a nearly dead white dwarf star. There was just enough gravity to hold a meager atmosphere clinging to the rock, but not much else.
He remembered watching the approaching ship come in for its first pass, low on the horizon and low over the camp. He’d been initially elated. Earlier that month, a freak ground quake caused a landslide that buried the mine shaft entrance along with the other five members of his team deep in the planetoid. The same quake had damaged the signaling equipment beyond repair. And without the signaling equipment, he couldn’t contact the LANDMARK, their automated ship sitting serenely in orbit for retrieval.
There were many nights early on, after he’d exhausted himself trying to dig his companions out, and he lay on a pile of rocks in a feverish delirium with only the slowly softening sounds of their screams for help to keep him company. He’d look up at the stars in this foreign sky, and just be able to make out LANDMARK as she passed over head, unaware. He’d dig by day listening for signs they were still alive, and be tortured every night, watching salvation sail overhead, unreachable.
It nearly drove him mad.
So when the other ship swooped in low over the camp and the backwash from its engines flattened nearly everything still standing after the quake, he didn’t care. He was elated. He jumped up and down, shouting with what was left of his horse, raspy voice waving his arms in what was left of his tattered jumpsuit desperate to be seen.
And when the tingle of the transmit beam embraced him, the exhaustion left and the only sensation was one of relief. And when the tingle faded, and he found himself surrounded by Cybermen on a ship full of them, the relief evaporated like the last of his water in the dry heat on that planetoid.
Captured; enslaved; processed; stripped of his identity—his humanity; raped. The Cybermen called it upgrading.
Watching as cutting tools bit and chewed into his flesh, screams trying to bubble to his lips from vocal chords that had been torn out. Watching parts of his body pass before him—parts that were never meant to see the light of day—all while the strange chemical anesthesia they pumped into him kept him awake and feeling. Then seeing the metal apertures and appendages attach and form his new body…
That nearly drove him mad.
It was all the way back to this point the memory banks searched, as the host was dissected and lobotomized alive, that the Cyberman found a word to match the wave that was hitting it now.
It was intense, powerful and overwhelming. An emotion that the Cyberman had never felt nor was equipped to handle flooded through the neural pathways and crashed like a wave over the logic banks, eroding the mission parameters and drowning the sense of purpose. Unprepared for such a raw, basic attack, the effect was instantaneous.
The Cyberman went completely and totally insane.
It cried out, a metallic moan that was as much a cry for help as it was an expression of pain. Then it began lumbering forward, toward the source of the Fear, thinking to crush it, to destroy it, to return to the blissful ignorance the silent blackness held. But the waves were too strong, relentless in their pounding, and the last vestiges of defense fell. Reason and logic gave way to terror and irrationality. The Cyberman staggered back, battering someone out of its way, and climbed the short ladder in the rear of the room. There was a way out here, a hatch that led into a vast network of tunnels if its limited scans were correct, and ANY way out meant getting away from the Fear.
The humans in the room spoke of stopping it, but the Cyberman paid them no heed, seeking only the solace the tunnels promised.
Hours, or days later, the thing was still wandering the sewers, it was hard to tell with its internal chronometer off line, one of a multitude of systems that had seized up or shut down. The Cyberman couldn’t tell, but thought its equilibrium may be affected as well. What else would be causing this stumbling lurch through the tunnels?
There suddenly appeared multiple signatures on its imagers. Three appeared to be human, but the other two were Cybermen like itself. The last vestige of reason it possessed bubbled to the surface. If they were Cybermen like it, they could report the malfunction, repair it. At the very least it’d be deactivated and even that would mean a return to silence. It continued on, lumbering toward them.
Isobel, Jamie and Zoe pressed themselves against the wall of the sewer, with two Cybermen on one side and what appeared to be a malfunctioning one on the other and them trapped in the middle.
“Ach, this is a fine mess.” Jamie muttered.
Two UNIT men dropped down the nearly hidden ladder behind them and opened up on the advancing Cybermen.
“Quick, get out!”
The companions didn’t need to be told twice. One by one they scrambled up the ladder. From below came the loud THWOMP noise of a grenade going off.
The Cyberman tried to signal to the others but all that came out was a garbled noise it didn’t recognize as its own voice. The humans were clambering out of the way when flashes of small arms fire blossomed in the darkness. The caliber was small enough to not worry the Cyberman even if it had been sane when suddenly a small spherical object was lobbed toward it.
What was the point of—
The explosion was deafening in the enclosed sewer tunnel, and devastating at such close range. The blast slammed the Cyberman against the tunnel wall while shrapnel permeated its outer casing and scrambled what was left of its sensory inputs.
The other two Cybermen attacked, but the grenades were turned on them next. Both soldiers scurried up the ladder and nearly made it out of the manhole cover above but one was dragged back down by the remaining Cyberman and killed. It dragged itself toward the carnage. That one still standing Cyberman may be its last hope for repair.
Topside, the UNIT soldiers tossed grenade after grenade down the open manhole.
The multiple explosions obliterated the standing Cyberman at the foot of the ladder, and severed the head off the insane one. Its last conscious thought was of deactivation.
But that would have been too kind.
The Cyberman—headless, riddled with shrapnel and with scrambled and intermittent sensor ability—was still very much alive. After the explosion thundered and the smoke cleared, the body lay in a powered down, nearly deactivated state… until it began to move.
Limbs twitched and flailed until finally coordinated with the motor processors and began the tedious clamber over rubble and Cyberbodies strewn about the sewer. No thought process, just movement. And like a headless chicken will continue to run about the yard, so did the Cyberman crawl through the wreckage of the UNIT attack.
One of the mission parameters made a brief squawk about trying to find and reattach the head—there should have been a locator beacon active somewhere in the skull—but the motor skills won out, continuing to move away from the murky pool where the head did lie. What cognitive functionality the Cyberman had left was wirelessly transferred to the back up control brain, little more than a CPU buried in the chest cavity just above the breathing unit. It was into this box that the Cyberman’s consciousness found itself confined, lost, confused, and still completely insane.
It railed against the confines of its new prison, raved at the motor controls acting to try and save the whole, and in general made a nuisance of itself around the other automated programs that were still functioning.
Years passed. The automated systems repaired what damage they could, regenerating the cybernetic tissue and rewiring or rerouting essential control systems. Every six hours, the motor controls took command and laboriously crawled the body to a new location. The raging insanity calmed, and a few tattered shreds of rationality and logic took root. It wasn’t going sane, necessarily, more like having free run of the house while the parent was off napping. What was left of the Cyberman’s higher brain functions remembered the whole ordeal, and still couldn’t quite come to grips with what had happened. One thing was certain.
It could not continue this meager existence within the sewers. It would either have to adapt to survive, call for help, or die. Finally having a cold hard concept to grasp, the Cyberman did, a lifeline to a drowning man. It could survive, and it could call for help.
All it would have to do is wait.
Blind Danny rummaged through the trash bin behind Sugar Mama’s Bakery looking for a spot of dinner before retiring. This had been a good week for him, having found an only slightly-bruised apple on Monday, and nearly half a turkey sandwich on Tuesday. He reckoned today being Wednesday his luck would hold one more day, (he had always liked Wednesdays, though if pressed for a reason couldn’t say why) and if you were gonna roll the dice, you did it behind the sweet shop. Sugar Mama’s was the best smelling thing on the lower east side of London, and even the garbage was a slice of heaven.
His luck was indeed holding, as Tuesday was the day the old stock went clearance, and Wednesday was the day anything left over was tossed. Apparently yesterday’s sale hadn’t gone well, for great chunks of inventory rested in the bin behind the store, including—an entire tray of sticky buns. He ran the tray under his nose and inhaled the sickly sweet smells of cinnamon and frosting. He turned instinctively for his friend, “Great ‘aul today, Bob!” before reality reminded him that Bob wasn’t there.
They’d been quite the pair, the two of them. Danny, who had lost his eyesight in a factory accident not far from here and not all that long ago (though sometimes it felt like years), and shortly after that had lost his flat and his possessions and his world. He’d just about given up when Bob arrived. Bob was mute from birth and grew up on the streets and when he found Danny trying to end it all on his rail tube line, well that just didn’t sit well. The two had been inseparable after that, and despite their infirmities, managed to eek out an existence of sorts below the bridges and streets of London. Just two more down on their luck lost souls.
Bob—the other homeless had called him Silent Bob, and wasn’t that just a great joke they thought—took Danny under his wing, taught him about life on the streets, about how to survive. Blind Danny—as the imaginative and inventive homeless dubbed him, but the name had stuck—didn’t feel like he returned much from the relationship, but finally decided Bob was just happy to have someone talk to him, even if he couldn’t reply.
Blind Danny and Silent Bob, you had to laugh.
All the laughter ended when Silent Bob was laid to rest last year, after a hit and run driver mowed him down one night.
Blind Danny didn’t see it happen—couldn’t see it of course, but the noise the car made coming round the corner…
In his mind’s eye, he knows the driver was drunk. In his mind’s eye, it’s a shiny red car, new off the factory floor. (He can’t know this for sure of course, Blind Danny knows this is his imagination filling in the details with very broad, vivid strokes.) But the too-late squeal of brakes, the hard crunch of Bob’s body ricocheting off the hood of the car, the softer thud as he lands on the pavement, the gunning of the car’s engine as the driver roars off into the night without so much as a pause, and the horrid gurgling moan that escaped Bob’s throat as he died instantly… No, Blind Danny needs no help from his imagination to fill those sounds in. Those sounds will haunt him the rest of his days.
He felt his breath catch behind the lump in his throat. Wouldn’t do to break down now, always best to rummage and run. That was the rule. He could meet up with the others and divvy the up the stash… He paused. Why? Normally the unwritten rule was if you had something you shared. Bob had believed in it strongly, and therefore so did he. But some days, some things were meant just for you.
Today was Wednesday after all.
Blind Danny turned and ambled back down the Alley, heading away from the camp the homeless community congregated at and instead moving deeper into the industrial part of the City. He knew just the spot to enjoy his treat and reflect on his friend.
A short walk later (made longer by his attempts to stay upright with the tray. He missed his eye sight!) Danny came to his spot, a small outcropping on the Thames, under a bridge. The water from the river lapped noisily against its banks, and the occasional seagull cry carried across the water. He and Silent Bob used to come here a lot, and he relished the memories the familiar smells brought back. He missed the comforting presence Bob exuded, he missed prattling on to him at length about philosophy, or science or politics (subjects about which Blind Danny knew very little, but Silent Bob never corrected him), but mostly, he missed his friend.
Danny got the first bite of only slightly stale bun into his mouth when he heard a mournful, strangulated cry echoing from a nearby sewer main. His ears were good at compensating for the loss of his sight, but this sounded nearly mechanical as opposed to organic. He reckoned that was just the distortion from the tunnel mouth which lay somewhere behind him.
Danny got shakily to his feet and went to investigate.
“‘Ello?” He called out when he got to the edge of the sewer. His voice echoed and rebounded along the curved walls. For a moment, nothing but silence greeted him, and then another moan floated out of the darkness. It was illegible, but whoever it was, was clearly in pain. “’old on, I’m coming!” Danny shouted into the sewer, and placing a grubby hand on the wall for guidance began shuffling his way in. “Keep making noise if you can!”
The out pipe was fractured and broken round the rim, and he had a devil of a time making his way over the uneven footing. After ten feet, the stupidity of what he was attempting dawned on him. How was he, as a blind man, supposed to find his way back out of the sewer once he found whoever needed help? Suppose he got himself lost down here in the endless mazes that made up the London underground? Just as he was psyched up enough to talk himself out of continuing forward, Blind Danny found the source of the noise and fell arse over tea-kettle when he tripped over a body.
Danny fell to his knees, but thankfully his outstretched arms broke the worst of the fall for his upper body. He did land in something faintly recognizable from the stench, and he was glad for once of his inability to see. He rose up, shaking from the fall, and began to feel around for whatever he had tripped over. His hand fell on a leg. It was solid, nearly more like a pipe than a limb, but no, that was unmistakably a knee joint.
“Bloody ‘ell, you alright?” he asked. There was no response, and for a moment, Danny feared that he had found a body in the sewer. A dead one. And that would lead to police, and police would lead to questions, and police questions were never very fair to the unemployed homeless. And that would lead to more questions, and inevitably incarceration of some type. And while he regretted the loss of life, he had a tray of sticky buns waiting for him just ten feet away. This poor soul wasn’t going to be eating them, but Danny resolved that if he could find some change, he’d make an anonymous call from a payphone. He could do that much for the dead.
He got shakily to his feet and had just about re-orientated himself toward the opening of the sewage pipe when the Cyberman reached out and grabbed his leg.
The Cyberman’s initial thought, was to kill, pure and simple. This was an inferior species, and it was in no condition to perform a conversion and upgrade him. Besides, now that it had been found, this one might alert others (like the ones with the explosives). The inferior specimen would have to be killed.
It was, all-in-all, an impeccable piece of logic from the Cyberman. There was a small sense of satisfaction at having made the deductive leaps. It was beginning to think again. To be again.
And that’s when it all went wonky.
The Cyberman did not kill.
It did not activate the electrical charge in it’s palm and fingers, (though the capacitors were weakly charged, they had more than enough juice to end Danny’s life.)It did not crush Danny’s leg with his hand, (though the servo motors in the gauntlet were more than up to the challenge, and it wouldn’t have taken much.)It did not swing out with it’s other arm, it did not fire a wrist harpoon, it did not use it’s sonic disruptor pulse, or any of the other dozens of weapons at it’s disposal—despite their lumbering march, an individual Cyberman had literally 112 different means of eradication in it’s arsenal—but all of them remained quiet.
What it did do—andthis was as much of a surprise to Danny as it was the Cyberman—was to call out for help.
With no head, the vocal cords stripped away at the neck, it wasn’t an articulate cry. It was more of the mournful moan, the same kind that lured Danny into the sewer in the first place. But this one was intentional. The original cry happened without conscious thought, without intent. This was obviously a plea. And while a part of the Cyberman deep within the backup CPU rejoiced at being able to force the sound into existence, the rest of it was left confused, wondering if it was mending as well as it had initially assessed.
But the cry did stop Danny from trying to leave. That noise—hell, any noise—emanatingfrom a body he was prepared to leave in a sewer scared him half to death. Never mind the fact the body had just latched on to him.
Blind Danny helped the Cyberman out of the sewer, the tray of sticky buns forgotten. The Cyberman went willingly, not knowing why. He helped it down the embankment and through town on the way back to the homeless camp. The industrial center though which they walked was either derelict and abandoned, or simplyempty by this point in the day. Dusk had fallen, the sky becoming the deep purple of twilight before the meager stars would try and shine through the blanket of pollution over the East side of London, and the streets were deserted, saving them from the strange stares that would have come their way, for they made quite the odd couple, a bum and a cybernetic warrior from another planet.
Of course, with one being blind and the other headless, they were saved from stares anyway.
Danny dressed the Cyberman in Bob’s old trench coat, and perched a baseball hat on the stub protruding from the top of his shoulders. It didn’t hide the fact that it was missing a head, (except maybe from a distance) and truthfully, Danny didn’t understand how that worked, how could you still be alive without a head? But in truth, Danny didn’t care either. His new friend was just as quiet as his old friend, the clothes made him more approachable, and when Danny suggested the name Silent Bob, the Cyberman didn’t complain.
The rest of the homeless community didn’t complain either. They were glad for Danny to have someone knew to hang out with, even if it was akin to him bringing home a wayward puppy. They thought the new Bob was a bit of an odd duck, being headless and all—but they appreciated that he didn’t eat their food, and kept to himself when Danny wasn’t around, but it was when he produced green blasts from his hand and ignited the trash barrels around the camp that he earned his place among the citizens. Warmth was a precious commodity on the streets.
The Cyberman couldn’t fathom why it had done that. A group of inferiors standing around, complaining about the cold, teams sent out to locate matches or lighters, anything to get a fire going. It had reached out it’s hand and used the built in wrist blaster, set for it’s lowest incendiary setting and set the barrel of newspapers ablaze. And they had starred. And then applauded. Actually applauded.
The part of the Cyberman who was struggling for control told itself it was trying to blend in, to infiltrate this society by subterfuge. The logic circuits countered that that was a job for a Cybermat, not a warrior. The tiny shred of humanity that was becoming more and more vocal in it’s outings from the CPUs subconscious just cheered and cried.
It was all very confusing.
After the barrels were lit, and the backslapping (gingerly done unless you wanted a bruised or broken hand) had tapered off, and the homeless were clustered around the fires, happy and warm and not looking, the Cyberman stole a small penlight from one of the other crude tents.
This could be incorporated. This could be used. So much inferiority around it, (and in truth, the penlight was very inferior) but unlike the unsuitable flesh, that surrounded the Cyberman, THIS could be upgraded.
But it would need more.
The Doctor energetically leaped from the back of the black UNIT Hummer and took a deep breath. “Oh just smell that air!” He exclaimed.
Rory clambered out of the Hummer next, and Amy poked her head out. “Doctor, that’s pollution.” She said, wrinkling her nose.
“Industrious little Humans, you.” He agreed, beaming. “Now, where were we?”
Rory grabbed Amy by the waist and helped her down. “You were about to explain why we are enjoying the aroma of industrial London’s east side instead of taking a holiday in much more fragrant Naples.” Several UNIT soldiers jumped down out of the vehicle and ran to secure a perimeter.
“Rory, you’re sulking.” The Doctor said. He pulled out the Sonic Screwdriver and began scanning, waiving it in all directions before consulting the device. Rory suspected most of this was for show, as his own limited experience with the Sonic had never indicated there was a display for any information, but he wasn’t ruling out a psychic link, either.
“I’m not sulking. And why are we here?”
The Doctor pointed the Sonic at the ground and began walking briskly toward a man-hole cover. “You know that nagging feeling you get when you’ve mislaid your car keys or wallet and you’re not quite sure where you may have left them?”
“Well this is nothing like that. Besides,” he shouted over his shoulder, “Naples is NOT lovely this time of year.”
“Oh yes it is, I was there!” Rory called back.
Amy laughed softly rolling her eyes. “Why do you bother?”
“I dunno. I should have learned my lesson by now.”
The Doctor trotted back over to the couple as a UNIT soldier ran up and saluted. “Perimeter established, Doctor. Let us know when you want us to commence the sweep.”
“Thank you, Sgt. Gage.”
Amy looked The Doctor over. “You’ve got that look.” She accused.
“No I don’t.” Replied the Doctor, fiddling with his bowtie.
“Ooh! Yes he does!” Rory said, looking The Doctor over. “I know that look! I don’t know what it means yet, but I know it.”
Amy nodded her agreement. “So, spill it.”
“In nineteen-sixty-eight there was a Cyberman invasion of Earth.”
“Wait, you mean attempted invasion, right?”
“Well, I stopped them, yes.”
“Years later I was exiled to Earth and became UNIT’s scientific advisor. Apparently the Cybermen had opened the floodgates. The Autons, the Sontarans, the Daleks, they all made a run at Earth at some point during that time frame.”
“Sounds exciting.” Amy commented.
“Boring was more like it. Between the alien incursion form, the unexplained phenomenon log and the registered entity file, they tried to drown me in paperwork. UNIT does love their forms and reports.” He drifted off, the look in his eyes relaying stories from long ago. Amy and Rory waited patiently, knowing better than to interrupt one of the Doctor’s pensive moments, and just like that, he was back and smiling wanly. “Different times.” He said, as if that explained it all.
“Anyway one of those reports dealt with the clean up of the Cyberman invasion. It was decided to keep the details quiet as the pubic was not ready to accept the idea of aliens let alone being invaded by them. UNIT cleaned it all up, the bodies, the damage, everything. Even came up with a fairly convincing cover story. There was an itemized accounting for every Cyber-body they picked up off the streets. Every part. Cyber-body parts can still operate and in some instances self repair so it was essential to get them all.”
“Don’t I know it.” Amy said ruefully, rubbing her neck and thinking of the chamber below Stonehenge that held the Pandorica.
“In twenty-twelve, I saw a Cyberman’s head in a museum as part of a private collection, supposedly found in the London sewers.” The Doctor finished. His companions looked at him expectantly, then at each other.
Rory finally spoke the question.“And?”
“You don’t see the connection?”
“The head wasn’t on the UNIT manifest.”
Amy broke in. “Well, it wouldn’t be would it? I mean, it was recovered and spirited out of London before they could clean it up.”
“Exactly. Top marks.” The Doctor encouraged.
“At the risk of sounding like a broken phonograph, And? I mean, so what? So what if someone found a head…” Rory trailed off, obviously beginning to catch the Doctor’s drift.
“So where’s the body?” The Doctor concluded for him. “Can’t have one without the other.”
“It wasn’t on the manifest.”
“No. At least I didn’t think it was, so I had Captain Magambo pull the records for me to be sure.” He pulled a notebook full of yellowing frayed dot matrix style papers out of a box from the back of the Hummer and flipped through it, green and yellow stripes flying by. “Every part from the invasion. No severed heads.”
“Are you saying there’s a headless Cyberman wandering the sewers of London’s lower East Side?” Amy asked.
“Are you saying you remembered NOT seeing one body part on THIS report?” Rory asked incredulously, taking the notebook from him.
The Doctor turned to Rory, “Speed reading courses at the community college.” He turned to Amy. “No, I’m only suggesting the possibility there is.”
“Why now?” Rory asked suddenly, tossing the notebook back in the hummer.
“Nineteen-sixty-eight, Two-thousand and twelve.” He waived his hands like balancing a scale. “And a report from sometime in between. If UNIT cleaned all this up, the body was missing its head shortly after the invasion. Yet here we are, nearly fifty years later. Why come to this time to find out?”
“And why did it take you this long to make the connection?” Amy chastised.
The Doctor shrugged. “Like Rory says, it’s been fifty years spread between these instances. I challenge you to remember what we had for supper two nights ago!” Amy opened her mouth to counter, and found she couldn’t. “And that’s fifty years Earth time. For me those events are spread over the last…” he trailed off, doing some mental calculations, “eight hundred years give or take. Of course, it’s only started nagging at me the last hundred and fifty or so. To answer your question of why now Rory, the TARDIS just picked up an extremely brief, but extremely powerful burst of subspace static on the Cyberman communication channel. I’ve been monitoring it ever since we challenged the Twelfth Cyber Legion.”
“When did you have time to crack their comm codes?” Rory asked, impressed.
“While you were parlaying with them.” The Doctor tweaked his bow tie. “Hacked into the system using an old code I had from one of my other incarnations, back when I was older. I doubted it would still work, but it did.”
“I hate to break up the mutual appreciation society boys,” Amy interrupted, “but what are we thinking, ET phone home?”
The Doctor nodded. “An attempt, anyway. The message contained nothing but static, and was too weak to reach the nearest Cyber relay, but that doesn’t mean it wont try again.” He started rooting around in the back of the Hummer and pulled out rope and flashlights.“The signal was far too brief for me to triangulate an exact location, so we’re going to have to search for the transmitter.” He handed the torches over, and then pulled out three pairs of green rubber boots.
“What’s with the boots?” Rory asked, perplexed.
“We’re going into a sewer, Rory.” The Doctor said, as if that was the simplest explanation in the world. They changed shoes while the Doctor radioed UNIT and told them to commence their search, thentrotted over to an open manhole cover.
Amy grabbed his shoulder. “Doctor, how many of your other companions have you dragged into the sewers searching for monsters?” She teased.
“Other than the usual suspects like Cybermen and Daleks?” The Doctor thought for a moment. “Alligators.”
Amy’s face fell. “Are you putting me on?”
“Oh, and a giant rat.”
“Good, lets go!” He said brightly, and with a call of “Geronimo!” slid down the ladder into the darkness below.
The sewer was dark, dank and full of a misty fog that clung to the curved walls and circled around their feet as they splashed down lightly inside the shaft of light streaming in through the open manhole.
The Doctor moved confidently forward, waving his torch with one hand and the sonic screwdriver with the other. Amy and Rory stepped into the darkness and ignited their torches, sending two more beams of light stabbing into the dark. Nearly simultaneously, they whiled on each other and wielded the flashlights like swords and began a mock duel, complete with shouts of “Vrum, vrum” and clashing noises when the beams crossed.
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possible imagine.” Amy intoned dramatically.
Rory dropped the torch down. “Why do I always have to be Vader?”
She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Because I’m the plucky hero.”
“Are you two quite finished?” The Doctor called over his shoulder.
“Doctor, why haven’t we encountered any lightsabers?” Amy asked.
“What, you mean besides the idea that a beam of light can be fashioned into a blade is complete rubbish? Inter-galactic copyright law.”
“Okay, now I know you’re joking.”
The Doctor shook his head. “George is very protective of his intellectual properties.”
“Hang on, what about the Headless Monks? They had lightning swords!” Rory protested.
“The lawsuit is still pending…” The Doctor stooped and scooped up a bit of frayed wiring from the floor of the tunnel. He shined the light from his torch on it, then scanned it with the sonic.
“Looks like a cell phone circuit board.” Amy said.
“We might be getting close.”
“What makes you think so?”
“You know that sense of foreboding you get when something nasty is about to jump out of the dark at you?”
Amy hesitated. “Yes.”
“I’ve got it now.”
They moved deeper into the sewers.
The Cyberman had been busy. For the last twenty-five years it had been salvaging, stealing, scavenging and scraping spare parts. Bits of circuit board, cell phones, flashlights. The mother load came when a major corporation went bust and tossed all their equipment. Actually tossed it. The Cyberman had looked upon the bounty of that day with the same relish Blind Danny did over day old sweet rolls.Some of the equipment had gone into it’s special project–a transmitter powerful enough to beam a distress signal into the heart of the Cyber Relay itself–and some of it had been appropriated into itself. (An old computer monitor and web cam were now integrated on top of it’s head, giving it limited “vision” and it was planning to upgrade to flat screen model.)
It had been busy within the homeless community too, making small improvements to the camp, structurally fortifying their tents and shelters, providing heat, even going so far as to defend the community from the invading Cybermen army a few years back. (Admittedly, it originally wanted to join the other Cybermen, but they had refused, some nonsense about “missing Cybus Industries Branding” and attacked. The Cyberman had no choice but to open fire and defend its position.
The project had become too important.
And of course, there was all the time spent with Blind Danny. Danny talked to they Cyberman like a confidant, a conspirator, an equal and a friend. The Cyberman was almost surprised to find it liked spending time with Danny. Almost, because it knew the annoyance it thought of as humanoid remnant was asserting itself more and more frequently these days, even succeeding in overriding motor control functions at times. Despite repeated diagnostics, the CPU had not managed to purge that part of itself. So when the Cyberman thought about Blind Danny, and felt somewhat less inclined to improve or upgrade him, it just chalked it up to that rogue bit of leftover programing.
For all intents and purposes, the Cyberman had become Silent Bob.
Or Cyberman Bob. It kinda liked that.
An alarm sounded, dragging the Cyberman’s full attention to the set up in front of it. There were intruders in the tunnels. And they were getting closer. They must not be allowed to jeopardize the project. The Cyberman made ready.
Blind Danny couldn’t find Bob. Normally at this time of day they were preparing for supper, and while Bob didn’t eat, it was a community rule, everyone came home for supper. It also afforded the opportunity for a daily head count, just to be safe.
Danny suspected he knew where Bob was. Ever since his first day with them, he’d sneak off to the sewer mouth just beyond the camp, (not all that different from the one where they first met), what Danny had come to think of as the lab. Bob was always on the hunt for bits of technology, and while it didn’t make much sense to Danny (if you couldn’t eat it, sleep in it, or wear it, why bother?) but whenever he found something and brought it back, Bob seemed happy to see it. Lately, he’d been spending more and more time there.
Danny had never been in the lab, it was Bob’s, and Danny respected his privacy, but it was time to eat whether he did or not, and community rule was community rule. Danny wandered slowly over to the entrance of the sewer. He’d call after him and get him to the dinner table.
“Rory, something just floated past my leg. Do I want to know what it was?” Amy asked.
Rory shined his torch down. “Ewwww. No, no you don’t.”
“The tunnel dries out a bit up here!” Said the Doctor a little ways ahead of them. “But I think we should be qui—“ a loud, echoing clamor cut him off mid sentence. It sounded like steam powered train whistle, but the tunnels distorted it; the enclosed stonework made it echo and reverb even louder than it was. The explorers cupped their hands to their ears in defense.
“That’s a factory whistle!” Rory tried yelling over the din.
“What?” The Doctor yelled back.
“My dad, he worked for a factory, that’s a…” as abruptly as it began, the noise cut off. “…shift change whistle.”
“Yes. Everyone okay?” The companions nodded. “Right. No point in being quiet now, it knows we’re here.” The Doctor consulted his screwdriver again. “Not much further now.” He strode off into the darkness.
Danny had just opened his mouth to call out for Bob when an ear splitting noise exploded from the mouth of the tunnel. He slapped his hands over his ears and screamed in surprise. The noise ended a moment later. Danny wasn’t sure what he had just heard, but thanks to a trick of acoustics due to the shape of the mouth of the tunnel, the noise sounded to him a lot like the squeals and groans Bob made when trying to communicate.
“Bob?!?” He called out, concerned. “Hang on Bob, I’m coming!”
He plunged into the sewer opening.
The Doctor Soniced open a door recessed into the wall and darted inside. The interior hall stretched around a corner, on the other side teaming with sound and noise and electronic beeps and whistles. The Doctor took off, and rounded the corner with Amy and Rory tight on his heels, but stopped so suddenly they collided into a three person pile up.
They were in an immense room, possibly some sort of overflow control center. There were the standard things one would expect to find in a place like this, a bank of electrical boxes and a few boxy computer terminals that looked like they would have been at home on the set for Doctor Strangelove, or the bridge of a retired battleship, old sixties models. Everything was painted a drab grey. Then there were the things they would not have expected to find:
Computers, monitors, laptops, cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, telephones, televisions, clock radios, DVD players, iPods, wire, CB radios, lengths of co-axial cable, video game arcades, microwave ovens, power cables snaked across the floor plugged into extension cords, and power strips. Anything and everything that could remotely be considered a piece of technology over the last 50 years was represented in that room, a Radio Shack garage sale.In the center of it all stood the Cyberman. Or rather, an augmented Cyberman, as it appeared to have a television perched on its shoulders in place of a head, and was wearing a trench coat.
“Okay,” Amy said. “That is not something you see everyday.”
“Hello, I’m the Doctor, and you’ve been busy.” Said the Doctor. “I am impressed, genuinely impressed.” He raised the sonic and gave the Cyberman and the room a quick once over. “Although admittedly I’m not sure what it is I’m looking at or impressed by, but still… quite an accomplishment.”
The Cyberman stood immobile, but Rory could swear the thing was looking at them, even without the benefit of eyes or a head. Somehow that blank monitor representing a face was worse than their true appearance.And then suddenly the monitor wasn’t blank anymore. The word appeared and floated on the screen:
The Doctor straightened his coat by the lapels. “And you’re dealing in stolen goods. Besides, this isn’t even your planet. Don’t get tetchy with me.” He finished, waggling a finger. The screen went blank, new words appeared.
Leave now or be deleted
“We can’t leave, we came here to find you. I know you’re trying to contact the Cybernet. I can’t allow them to come here to get you; they’d just invade the planet. But perhaps we can help.” The Doctor took a ginger step forward and the Cyberman went into full ballistic attack mode, whirling, grinding gear noises accompanied by new protrusions emerging from the Cyberbody, each one a newly fashioned or upgraded weapon.
“It looks like a transformer.” Amy said, backing up.
“Yeah,” Rory said, trying to insert himself between her and it. “Gives new meaning to the name Cybertron.”
The Cyberman raised his gauntleted hand, preparing to fire. The Doctor raised the sonic screwdriver and fired first. The Cyberman’s wrist gun sputtered and powered down.“I don’t want to have to this. Don’t make me do this.” The Doctor pleaded. He reached out his hand.
Instead of taking it, the Cyberman lashed out with his other hand, and a series of small discs shot out of a slot on his other wrist. The Doctor ducked, and the discs flew overhead, narrowly missing Rory and Amy as they embedded themselves into the concrete wall. They appeared to have once been CDs, or perhaps mini-discs, carved down and sharpened into throwing stars.
“There’s no call for this!” The Doctor shouted, diving behind a pile of tape recorders as more discs flew over his head. Amy and Rory tried moving to the relative safety of the doorway, but were cut off by a pencil thin beam of red light that burned and singed the wall, forcing them back. Rory pulled out the walkie-talkie from the Hummer, “UNIT command, we’ve found it—“ the walkie exploded in a shower of sparks. Rory pulled it away and starred incredulously at the cluster of nails that had been shot into the handset. One of them protruded out farther than the others from the top of the earpiece, and he felt a trickle of blood running down his ear.
The Doctor lobbed a cassette recorder at the Cyberman—hit it square in the chest, but he might as well have thrown a helium balloon for all the impact he got—and was rewarded with a shower of broken glass that rained down on him.
Cyberman Bob hesitated. The shower of broken glass should have launched with much greater force than that. Perhaps a problem with the pneumatic tubing or the pressure regulator? It filed the question away for later. It was getting a thorough check of all its upgrades, some of them were bound to be more effective than others.
Danny hurried along as best he could, but was unfamiliar with this section of the sewers, and there seemed to be a lot more junk piled against the walls. Overflow from what he’d been bringing Bob? Had they actually accumulated that much junk? He pressed on, his keen hearing picking up what sounded like a war zone just ahead.
The Doctor dodged to another piece of hooked in electronics just in time to dodge a hail of D batteries that hit the cinderblock wall behind him with enough force to pop and ooze acid. This was getting deadly serious. He changed a setting on the Sonic and hit the Cyberman with a harmonic resonance field, hopefully enough to scramble its projectile weapons. There was a pause in the sound of carnage, and he raised his head enough to see what was happening.
The Cyberman was turned slightly away from him, trying to launch something toward where Amy and Rory hid behind a reel-to-reel. The repeated click told the Doctor he’d been successful.
“Ha!” He yelled triumphantly, rising from his cover. “No more shootie explodiethings for you.”
Amy and Rory tentatively peeked over the top of the equipment. “Sonic to the rescue?”
“Always and forever.” Said the Doctor, advancing on the Cyberman. It turned toward him, the blank monitor casting a pale reflection of the Time Lord on its surface. “So, where were we? Oh yes, I was offering to help when you attacked my friends and me.Very naughty. Shouldn’t do that.”
The Cyberman pulled a flashlight cylinder from its leg and held it up and the top of the torch ignited and became, inexplicably, a blade of blue light, complete with a low thrumming noise.
The smile slid from The Doctor’s face.
“No, way.” Said Rory, taking a tentative step forward despite the danger.
“Doctor, that appears to be…” Amy trailed off.
The monitor flashed one word:
…and the Cyberman lunged, the saber changing pitch as it thrummed through the air. The Doctor leaped back—landing on Rory’s toes—and the blade passed through the space where he was just a moment ago. A fine singe mark scored across his blue bowtie.
“Run!” The Doctor shouted.
The three scrambled to get out of the room.
“But, how can that…? You said… I thought those were impossible?” Rory stammered.
“George is not going to be happy!” The Doctor shouted as they hustled out.
Sgt. Miles Gage listed to the squawked comm again as Corporal Hodges played it back in the UNIT command truck. It was undeniably one of the Doctor’s lot, but the message was so short and so garbled they couldn’t make any of it out. Nor had the UNIT communications officer managed to pinpoint the walkies location before the signal had been lost.
Which left Sgt. Gage in an unenviable position. He knew there was a hostile in the area; he knew the Doctor had gone after it. He knew the Doctor was probably in trouble somewhere within the locked down zone, but not where or how badly. Which meant deciding on a course of action was next to impossible.
“Orders sir?” Hodges asked, reading the other man’s expression.
Gage wasn’t a cautious man by nature, and he knew what was riding on the Doctor. Every fiber in his being screamed at him to charge in and do something. But the words from a lecture, given by a legend during his time at Sandhurst kept him steady. The Royal Academy had brought in one of their own for a commencement ceremony, winner of the Queen’s Medal and The Sword of Honor as a cadet, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Retired. And the Brig, (as all the cadets called him) had opened Cadet Gage’s mind with one word:
The Brig knew a thing or two about hostile aliens, as it turned out, and even more about the Doctor. And if he could recommend caution in the face of the unknown, then certainly Sgt. Miles Gage could heed that advice.
“We wait. The Doctor will find away to contact us.” He informed his subordinate, feeling justified in his decision.
“Don’t worry, UNIT forces should be showing up anytime.” The Doctor called out as they dodged around another corner. Behind them in the sewer tunnel they could hear the Cyberman, it’s heavy footfalls crashing down in the claustrophobic surroundings. And it wasn’t a lumbering pile of scrap now. The thing was moving. And fast.
“I still don’t see how—“
“Rory, sooner or later you’re just going to have to accept that a large number of the things we encounter defy analysis.” The Doctor said, grabbing Rory’s head and looking over his still bleeding ear. “You’re fine, it’s just a scratch.”
“So you don’t know how that trick with the saber was done?”
“Not a clue.”
“Where are we?” Amy asked.
The Doctor waived the sonic around the T-junction and consulted it. “We’ve moved farther away from the manhole we entered, but there might be an opening this way.” He headed off into the dark, the Cyberman still in pursuit.
Blind Danny was hopelessly lost. He’d gotten turned and twisted in the maze of piled up junk and couldn’t seem to re-orientate himself. He thought he knew which direction was Bob’s lab, but couldn’t find it. The war zone that was emanating from that direction had quieted down, and now there was nothing but the occasional dull crash. Nor could he find his way back to the sewer opening. It was maddening.
Just as he was about to give up hope of ever getting out, he heard the sound of footsteps. Big, heavy, clanging footsteps. Bob. Danny picked the direction most likely and started to move, only to have a young woman round the corner and careen into him. He knew she was a young woman by both the weight (or rather, lightness) of the impact and the squeak of surprise she gave as they collided. They ended up in a pile on the floor. Then two men followed her around the corner and fell over the sprawled mass of limbs and body parts. He could tell they were men by the dead weight way they fell on top of them, and the grunts of pain as the wind was knocked out of them.
And the footsteps were closer.
Amy found herself sandwiched between Rory and… well a bum if the odor was any indication. The Doctor sat up, rubbing his backside. “Spinal compression is the number 47 cause of considerable pain among Time Lords over 900.” He mumbled. “Everyone all right?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to find to have run into you lot, but do you reckon you could get off me?” Danny asked from under the pile.
The companions untangled and disengaged themselves while the Doctor helped Danny to his feet. The clanging down the tunnel was louder still. “From the sound of things, introductions will have to wait.”
“Oh, that’s just Bob.” Danny said dismissively.
Amy and Rory shared a look. “Bob?” The Doctor asked.
At that moment, Bob clanked and clattered around the corner of the new T-Junction, monitor flashing, the blade slashing through part of the wall, sending bricks crashing down.
“Get back!” The Doctor yelled, stepping in front of the companions.
“Oh, toss off.” Danny said, moving forward. “Bob wouldn’t ‘urt anyone.”He walked toward the Cyberman’s imposing form.
“Perhaps you didn’t notice, but Bob just took out a wall with a lightsaber!” Amy yelled at his back.
“He didn’t notice. He’s blind.” The Doctor said in wonder, watching the spectacle.
Bob stood, sword raised in one hand, the other gauntleted hand open with arcs of electricity sparking between the spread fingers, the monitor cocked to one side as if considering the cluster of people before him.
“What’s all this about then, eh?” Danny said. “C’mon Bob, it’s dinner time. They’re all back at the camp ‘eld up on us.”
The Cyberman seemed to hesitate, as if considering then brought the open glove down on Danny’s shoulder and sent thousands of volts of electricity into his body.
Deep within the processing centers of the CPU, the small, still-human part of the Cyberman cried out in anguish. It flew to the central mind and exerted all it’s influence to gain control of the body. The Cyber-programming would ordinarily have been too strong to even consider such a thing—and in truth, if the programing were still in effect there wouldn’t be anything to consider. The human piece of feeling a memory only existed due to the Cyberman’s mind being shattered by the fear ray in the first place—but it had been working, constantly sowing seeds of confusion and discord within the mainframe that remained, weakening the Cyber-control.
Danny!It cried out, and wrenched the hand away.
As soon as the pain began, it ended. Blind Danny crumpled to the ground, unprepared for the assault on his nerves, but he was alive.
The monitor flared to life once more, and the Doctor read the words burning on the screen for the benefit of all.
Leave now while I can still hold it at bay
I will destroy the transmitter and this body
Danny, thank you for being my friend…
“No, we can help—“ Cyberman Bob turned, and began stomping back the way they had come.
“Bob? Bob?” Danny called, half hysterical, still dazed.
“Amy, Rory, get him up and get out of here.” The Doctor motioned to them and pulled out the Sonic Screwdriver. Without waiting for a reply, he headed after the Cyberman.
Two different schools of being were at war in the heart of the Cyberman’s CPU. One was the fractured and off-kilter logic of all Cybermen, one was the fractured and under siege emotions of a one-time human who had had enough.
For the moment, the human emotions were in charge, manning the drive mechanisms that controlled the (now lumbering) movement through the sewers, but the onslaught from the Cyber-control was powerful, and the bombardment was gaining intensity.
The Cyber-control found itself locked out of it’s own command functions, and became… well enraged isn’t too strong a word. It battered against this insignificant nuisance that had suddenly become a major obstacle to the plan.
And it had to stop it.
Finally a crack in the defenses appeared in the guidance systems, and Cyber-control slipped through the just small enough gap to slam the body into the nearest wall. The impact destroyed the tiny webcam mounted on the side of the monitor and blinded the Cyberman.
Bob stumbled, and now really was lumbering, arms out in a sick Frankenstein parody as it groped its way along in the near blackness of the tunnel. It knew it was close. It must reach the transmitter and set the overload before it was too late, before the Cyber-programming broke in and regained control of the body.
Somewhere within, quite unaware to either side that it was happening, the Cyberman began to scream.
Amy, and Rory reached the surface with Danny, nearly inconsolable with grief. He kept muttering about drunk drivers, which meant nothing to the two companions.
Amy looked back at the open sewer tunnel. “C’mon Doctor.”
The Doctor ricocheted off the door into the control room, and found the Cyberman, sprawled on a pile of circuit boards, it’s monitor cracked down the middle. He approached cautiously, Sonic in one hand, the other open to appear non-threatening.
“It was Vaughn’s invention, wasn’t it?” He asked softly. “Cut though the rhetoric and tight clamps the Cyber-systems keep on your programing. Allowed the original inhabitant of that mind a breath of air, but drove you insane. How long has it been for you? Fifty years, living in the sewers, outside the confines of a civilization that isn’t yours…. I’m sorry. I thought maybe I could help, relocate you to a new home, or return you to your people….”
Inexplicably, the monitor flared with a final message on it’s cracked screen:
My name is Bob
I am home
I am with my people
The gauntleted hand rose, and pointed to the computer terminal on the far side of the room. The Doctor rose and crossed to it, scanning the device. He consulted the Sonic’s readings.
He spun around, “You’ve reversed the polarity of…” and trailed off, the Cyberman—Bob—still pointing. The Doctor looked behind the computer, and saw stacks of red petrol drums lining the walls, all with large “flammable” signs emblazoned across their hulls. The computer read 10, 9, 8…
The Doctor ran.
The explosion was heard and felt for miles around, rumbling through the area just below the surface of the streets. A wall of fire advanced through the sewer tunnels and blew fireballs that lifted several manhole covers up in the air, ten feet or more. One of these was very near the UNIT mobile HQ, and when Sgt. Gage saw the manhole cover riding a pillar of flame and come crashing down on one of the detachment’s jeeps (thankfully un-occupied) he knew instantly the Brigadier must have followed his own advice… in all instances that DIDN’T involve the Doctor.
Several small fires were started in the area, and in the homeless camp, a great crack split the pavement, almost identical to the crack that ran down Bob’s monitor.Amy, Rory and Danny were present for the belch of fire and smoke that rolled out of the sewer opening. Amy screamed and started to charge back in, Rory had to hold her back.
Of Cyberman Bob, and the transmitter, nothing survived.
Amy clung to Rory the way a drowning person would cling to a life preserver. She couldn’t believe The Doctor was gone.
But of course, it was at that moment he came staggering out of the tunnel mouth, singed, dirty, sopping and dripping, carrying his rubber boots and leaving squashy wet footprints behind him.
Amy rushed to him, prepared to envelop him in a bear hug and admonish him for running off, when she caught a whiff of him and abruptly stopped.
“Tell me about it.” He muttered, as disgusted as she was.
Rory tried to hid the smile and only marginally succeeded. “So, we can guess how you survived?”
“Went for a swim.”
“Ah.” A sudden thought dawned on him. “Doctor, you didn’t happen to grab the…” He trailed off as the Doctor spun slowly around and fixed him with a fierce stare. “…Ah, no. No I don’t expect you did, having to dive into sewer water to get away and all.”
The roar of an engine silenced them all, and a UNIT hummer drove up. Sgt. Gage jumped out, Corporal Hodges on his heels. “Well Doctor, I…” He trailed off, wrinkling his nose.
“We’ve shower facilities set up at the mobile HQ sir.” Hodges stepped up, saving the Sgt. from the embarrassment.
The Doctor rubbed his hands together, trying to dislodge some of the film. “Excellent.”
“Doctor,” Amy broke in. “Is it over?”
The Doctor looked back at the smoking ruin of the sewer opening, and down at Blind Danny, weeping on the sidewalk. “It’s come to the end it was destined to come to.” He said, thinking about a blinking monitor. Not the one on the Cyberman’s body, but the one back in the TARDIS, announcing the fixed point in time of his death yet to come. <>