Fiction

Doctor Who Fiction: Strangers In The City Of The Sun

Doctor Who: Strangers In The City Of The SunColin-Baker

Featuring the Sixth Doctor

By Shaun Collins

 

Cahokia, 1201

Ezhno awoke with the sun as its first rays crested the horizon. The sky was already brightening with the coming day, but he slept until the sun rose properly, in honor of the city he lived in and the gods they served.  He washed briefly, dressed and started about his day, packing a small meal and tools in a pack. He was in need of supplies to continue to make the arrowheads and spear points that were so in demand these days, and his own stores of obsidian, coastal shells and leather thongs were almost gone. He hoped to return in time to actually begin work on a few. There was a new design was rattling around in his head itching to be put to use, but suspected today would be all about foraging or trading for parts

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

As he left his solitary hut and moved about the city, the sights and sounds of Cahokia filled him. The bakers were already hard at work firing their ovens, bushels of just harvested corn were stacked up next to the granaries, and people moved too and fro preparing for the day. Cahokia was a major trade center, located on the Mississippi river, and goods from the city were in high demand all across the Midwest… including his arrowheads.

Ezhno darted down an alley between huts intending to cross the corner of the Grand Plaza on his way out of town. Looming over the plaza—indeed the entire city—was the terraced Great Mound. It stood nearly 10 stories tall and was crowned with the temple and residence of the Paramount Chief. Construction on the last terrace apron had finished just last year, and while the work had been hard and backbreaking, looking at the sheer size of the structure, Ezhno knew it was worth it. This city would stand for thousands of years.  He had just reached flat, wide and open Great Plaza—already filling with people for the day’s ceremonies and gatherings—and barely dodged a spear thrown at a still-rolling disc-shaped rock as children played Chunkey. They shouted an apology, and he waved back, adjusting his pack slung over one shoulder and continued.

As one of the cities better known and respected artisans, Ezhno lived just inside the fortified bastions that surrounded the Great Mound and Plaza, and he had to cross through the barricade to the outlaying city on his journey to the river. He passed more huts, more people and more children playing in the morning sun. He weaved between the ceremonial burial mound that held the remains of the last Great King, and a small lake until he finally reached the outskirts of town. He knelt by the lake edge, cupped his hands and drank deeply. Though not an old man by any stretch of the imagination, his walk across town had already winded him, and Ezhno knew his work on the new arrowheads would have to wait. Cahokia had simply gotten too large to traverse easily. By the time he found what he needed for supplies and walked back it would be too late in the day to accomplish anything of real value. Best to make this trip worthwhile, and get a fresh start on the design tomorrow.

He was debating weather or not to take a short nap by the lake when he heard a noise he couldn’t place. It was as foreign a sound as he had ever heard, like a beast wheezing and groaning. A tall blue box suddenly appeared next to him, fading into existence before his very eyes. Despite being terrified, Ezhno couldn’t help it. He reached out and caressed the totem with his fingertips. It was smooth like wood, but warm and alive to the touch, and he snatched his hand back before he lost it.  An artisan without hands wasn’t much good to the community.

Voices came from within the box, and Ezhno fled to the relative safety of the tree line, abandoning his pack on the lakeshore.

“Peri, welcome to Cahokia, the city of the sun!”

“I remember reading about this place in college. The largest mound settlement in America, right?”

“The largest city in North America. Well, north of Mexico anyway. At this time in history, it’s larger than most European cities, including London.”

Two voices, a male and a female; his deep and gruff, the woman’s more lyrical. Ezhno peeked out from behind his hiding place and nearly dropped to his knees. The woman had short dark hair and wore a strange form-fitting peach tunic that covered her breasts but left her belly bare. The man’s outfit was bright as a rainbow and incorporated just as many colors. His head was topped with a fiery mane of sun blond curls. Surely these were gods. Who else could appear out of thin air?

“Weren’t they cannibals or something?”

“Cannibals?” The man sounded offended. “No. But they did practice human sacrifice, so we better be careful. We’ll just nip into town and get some measurements of Woodhenge for the archeologists to settle their bet and be off.”

“I didn’t know you liked archeologists so much.”

“The truth is Peri, I don’t. When you can travel in time, you tend to point and laugh at archeologists. But I admire and respect them, Professor Wood in particular. So I’m doing her a favor. Come on,” he said, gesturing at the city rising up before them. “Let’s take a quick tour. The city won’t be abandoned for another hundred years or so, but best not to dawdle.”

“Why was it abandoned?”

“Archeologists aren’t sure. But I have a theory or two I’ll put to Professor Wood when we get back.”

As the pair walked off toward the city, Ezhno snuck from his hiding place and looked at the strange cabinet again, then at the two people who came out of it. Who were these strangers that knew so much about his home and yet spoke about it as if it had passed into memory? Spies? Cahokia wasn’t at war with any other tribes, trade with the great city was too important, and it was heavily defended. He thought gods much more likely, but Ezhno resolved to find out for sure. He snatched his pack up off the ground and began following the strangers.

To be continued…

* Author’s Note – So this was my final project for Archeology class this semester. We had to write a fictional account of one of the places we learned about in class.  Cahokia (pronounced Ka-Ho-Kia) was the most recent, and therefore most fresh in my mind.  As I wrote about Ezhno going about his day, I was suddenly struck with the idea of adding the Doctor to the narrative.  Once that idea took hold, it wouldn’t let go.  And so Doctor Who made it into a serious paper.  So… do you guys want more?  Cause I have NO idea where it goes from here. lol.  Let me know!

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Doctor Who Fiction: The Panopticon Patsy

2 DoctorDoctor Who: The Panopticon Patsy

Featuring the Second Doctor

By Shaun Collins

The pain was the surprising thing.  He knew the change was happening, he’d experienced it once before. Of course, that had been incoming, not outgoing.  Who knew regeneration could hurt quite so much?  It was a bit like dying.

The truly unfair and agonizing part though, was that it wasn’t his choice.  Not that any Time Lord got to choose the time of their regenerations (there were a few capable of the feat, but not many) but this was a punishment forced on him by the stagnant, bureaucratic Gallifreyan Time Lord regime.  The one he’d run from to begin with.

It wasn’t fair.

Just as he’d resigned himself to it, the pain stopped.  The Doctor took stock and opened his eyes.

He was still in the tribunal chamber of the Time Lords.  He was still standing against the wall being frowned at by the buffoons, and—most surprisingly—if the mirrored surface behind their scowling faces was accurate, he was still him.

His features hadn’t changed.

He supposed he should have been grateful, he supposed maybe even a little humble.

Instead he started shouting.

“What’s the meaning of this?  Can’t you even perform a simple forced regeneration without mucking it up?  No wonder I left.  Of all the idiotic, imbecilic…” The Doctor trailed off, realizing no one had moved.  No one had even blinked.  The man standing before him—what was his name? The Junior Councilor? Goth? And there was another insult to injury, how dare they demean him by having a Junior Councilor in charge of the trail?

“Calm yourself, Doctor.”  Came a new voice, cutting through his thoughts.

The Doctor whirled, quite surprised to see a man standing behind him with his arms folded before him, dressed in ornate Time Lord robes.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Coordinator Vansell.”

“Coordinator of what?”

“The Celestial Intervention Agency.”

“CIA?  Never heard of you.”  The Doctor huffed.  “And what does the CIA do?”

“Much like yourself, we intervene.”

“Intervene?  In what?”

“Places, situations, lives.”

“I’m being put on trial and sentenced to exile for intervening and there’s a whole agency dedicated to the practice?”

“Well, not yet, but there will be.”  Vansell said.

The comment seemed to deflate the Doctor’s anger a bit.  He turned away from Vansell and looked at the tribunal, still frozen inexplicably where they stood.  “You’re projecting from the future, aren’t you?  Must be an enormous power drain.”

“It is.  Which is why I’d like to get the point of my contacting you.  I’ve come with an offer…”

“What’s that?”

“We’re calling it ‘Project 6B’”

“Nonsense.  6B?  What gibberish is that?”  The Doctor complained.  But Vansell could see he was intrigued.

“We need you, Doctor.  As even my illustrious predecessors surmised,”  He said, indicating the tribunal, “there is evil in the universe that must be fought, wrongs to be righted, dangers to be faced.  The Time Lords of this time are far to ridged with their idealistic dogma to allow for such thinking.  But I come from a more… enlightened time.  We think you are the man for the job.”

“Oh, I see.”  The Doctor said, mulling it over.  “And does this mean commuting my sentence?”

“More of a postponement.  I’m afraid we cannot offer clemency.”

“But… well that’s outrageous! Why should I agree to such ridiculous terms?  Why I have half a mind to-“

“Please Doctor, you’re hardly in a position to argue or threaten, and as I’ve said, my time is short.  We can do nothing about your sentence, because from our perspective, you’ve already served it.  Altering the time stream in that way would be catastrophic and unforgivable.  BUT, if we were to lift you out of your current time stream and allow you to work for us for a while, in our present, then return you to your time…”

“You’d be breaking the laws of time!”  Said the Doctor.

“Nonsense.  At most we’d be bending them a little.”

The Doctor had his finger raised, mouth open as if to launch into another argument, but paused mid-thought, obviously considering.  “Yes, I suppose that might be allowed.”

“What do you say, Doctor?”

The Doctor clasped his hands behind his back and began to bounce on the balls of his feet.  “I’ll need access to the Tardis.  My Tarids.”

“With a few modifications, of course.”  Agreed Vansell.  “We’d have to be able to keep in contact with you.”

The Doctor frowned.  “Hrmm. Well yes, yes of course.  Oh, and Jamie and Zoe.  I couldn’t possibly go anywhere without them.”

“I’m afraid at the moment, that’s not possible—“ The Doctor made to cut him off, but Vansell rushed to finish, “but perhaps we can make that allowance in the future.”

The Doctor dropped back onto his heels and brought his hands back in front of him, fiddling his fingers.  He looked a bit like a petulant child.  “Oh crumbs.  And when my service is done?”

“You’ll be returned to this very second to continue on your normal journey through time.”

“Will I remember?  Or will you wipe my mind too?”

“I know the answer my cohorts would give.  I’d prefer to tell you we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

“I see.  What if I refuse?”

“I sever the link, time resumes moving forward and you go into exile with your new face and persona.”

The Doctor shuddered, remembering the swirling faces before him and the hideous one the Time Lords had chosen for him.  “Best to postpone that disaster as long as possible.  I accept.”  He gave a little bow.  “Now what?”

“You go to your Tardis, and we’ll bring you to us.”  Vansell said, smiling.  For some reason, the Doctor was reminded of a shark.  “Oh, and Doctor?  Welcome aboard.”

Doctor Who Fiction: Departure Time

dr1Doctor Who: Departure Time

Featuring The First Doctor

By Shaun Collins

The fog was thick, a proper London fog that made the city feel so rife with possibilities.  The stranger stood in the doorway of an abandoned building, watching a police constable walking through the thick soup with his torch waving to and fro.  The constable stopped to check a gate on a junkyard, a tall, imposing doorway painted with I.M. Foreman in white letters on its dark surface.  The gate didn’t budge, and the policeman moved off into the night.

The stranger turned his attention away from the policeman and toward Foreman’s junkyard.  It was a rather unassuming place, run down, the paint on its dark privacy fence cracked and peeling.  Piles of junk occasionally towered over the fence, with only the top most bits and bobs recognizable.  Here a bicycle wheel, there a clock face.

But in the stranger’s experience, it was the unassuming places that were the most interesting, and held the most secrets.

He hesitated a moment longer in the shadows, scanning up and down Totter’s Lane.  He swore he’d heard something a moment ago.  Maybe he was just paranoid.  But no, you didn’t get to his station (or his advanced age) without learning a thing or two about your senses, and his were telling him to hold back.

The lane was shrouded in fog, swirling along the sidewalk and gutters.  He heard her before he saw her—or rather, he heard her radio.  The girl was young, maybe sixteen, walking along Totter’s Lane with a transistor radio for company.  It was quietly playing some awful racket—The Common Men, if his memory served correctly, though for the life of him he couldn’t remember the lead singer’s name—they’d be about right for this time period.  Probably just been ousted of their spot on the chart by The Beatles.  But the girl didn’t seem to mind their company, humming along with them absentmindedly as she walked.

She didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere, which in and of itself was strange, as Totter’s Lane was not exactly the best or safest of neighborhoods.  There weren’t any residences nearby either, so just what was she doing out here?  She stopped suddenly, her vacant, dreamy expression dropped and she became acutely aware. She turned, looking all around her, and then her eyes fell on the stranger.  Her gaze actually seemed to bore straight through him, and he fought the impulse to move further back into the shadows.  The sudden movement might throw off the perception filter he wore, and he was suddenly convinced that something was very much afoot on Totter’s Lane, and this young girl was a part of it.  He’d thought her a normal teenager, out for a walk, but now, starring at him—or at least, starring at the spot he happened to be standing in—she seemed… unearthly.

The dark haired girl stood a moment longer, then blinked and seemed to fade back to a normal teenager.  She looked down at the transistor radio—now hawking equipment from Magpie Electric—as if she’d forgotten she had it.  She switched it off, and stepped lightly up on the curb in front of the junkyard.

The stranger admired her movements.  Not at all an awkward teenager, but light and lithe on her feet like a cat.  He started admiring her form when she ducked inside the gate and was gone.

He blinked his eyes, purposefully, and hard.  The gate was locked.  He’d checked it earlier tonight before setting up his surveillance, and the constable had checked it just a moment ago.  But the girl had managed to nip in and do it quickly.

He started to move from his position in the shadow, when a couple walked into view just down the street.  The man was tall, dark haired and wore a dark trench coat over his suit.  The woman was slightly shorter, with her hair teased up into the big style popular nowadays.  They seemed intently interested in the junkyard, and appeared to be keeping the girl under surveillance, nervously looking behind them to see if they had been noticed.

The stranger frowned.  They could be spies, he supposed.  The Russians had been making noises lately if the intercepted communication chatter from MI6 was to be believed, but if they were spies, they were two of the worst he’d ever seen.  They looked like school teachers of all things.  Quickly and nearly noiselessly, they ducked into the lot.

The girl must have left the gate unlocked.

The stranger was about to seize the moment of opportunity and move after them, when a small pressure pushed into the small of his back.  It felt very much like the barrel of a gun.  “Are you always in the habit of spying on young girls?” A voice asked from behind him.

The stranger froze.  There was absolutely no way he could be seen by a normal person.  The alcove alone should have disguised him well enough, add in the shadows and the fog not to mention the perception filter and he was practically invisible.

He raised his hands and turned slowly, to find a old man dressed in a black suit and traveling cloak complete with hat doffed on his head full of white hair.  This was the man who not only saw him, but snuck up behind him?  The stranger admonished himself.  He must have been deeper in contemplation than he thought.  He was relieved to see the old man carried a cane, which he didn’t seem to need, because at the moment this was what had been pressed into the stranger’s back, and not a gun.

“I’m not spying on anyone.”  The stranger replied, offering up his best smile.  Rule one: always lie.

“Oh, I beg your pardon, but that’s certainly what it looked like to me.  What are you doing here, hmm?”

“Just locking up.”

“Locking up? This shop has been abandoned. No one’s been here for months.”

“I’m the owner.  Been thinking about doing some renovations and trying to rent the space out to a business.”  The stranger said quickly.  The old man was sharp, maybe a little too sharp.  The stranger eyed him closely.  There was something familiar about the old man, despite his certainly that he’d never met the man before.

They starred off for a moment longer, and suddenly the old man broke into an embarrassed smile.  He lowered the cane. “Dear oh dear, my my my” he said, wiping his brow with a handkerchief he produced from some pocket or another.  “How embarrassing.  Do accept my apology young man, I had no idea. Simply no idea.”

The stranger put his hands down.  “No problem.”

“I’m afraid I may be a bit over protective of my granddaughter.”  The old man said, still apologizing.

The stranger had a perplexed look for a second. “Oh, the young girl in question.”

“Yes, she’s quite precious to me.”

“Well no harm done.  Good to know that there are concerned citizens in the neighborhood keeping an eye on things.  Makes me feel that much better about getting a business in here.”

“You’re sure there’s no hard feelings then, my boy?”

The stranger gave him his best and brightest smile.  “None at all.”

“Well, goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

The old man loitered for a moment longer, then strode off across the street.  The stranger went the other way, slowly strolling through the fog until he got to his designated second viewpoint.  He ducked around the corner and watched the old man, who stopped suddenly in the middle of the street and looked back, trying to spot where the stranger went.  Satisfied he was gone, the old man turned and began walking to the junkyard at a much quicker pace.  He shuffled slightly when he walked but moved.  He was muttering to himself, “hmm” and “now, now, now” seeming to be two of his favorites.

The stranger watched closely. Once again, he questioned the directive that had brought him here to investigate.  There was something strange going on on Totter’s Lane, but he’d seen no evidence of extraterrestrial activity.  Certainly no technology they could use.  And yet, his own intuition insisted something was up.

The old man ducked into the junkyard, the same junkyard the girl and the couple had gone.  Were they squatting there?  Or was there maybe a small flat just inside the fence.  It would be impossible to tell without a closer look.

He moved back onto the street, and walked back down the block.  As he neared the junkyard, he heard raised voices coming from the other side of the towering gate with I.M. Foreman written on it.

“Grandfather?”

“Susan!”

Who had spoken he couldn’t determine, but they seemed agitated.  He paused again.  Was this just a quarrel that he had no business in?  Would he be jeopardizing his mission by intervening?

The momentary hesitation would haunt him for years to come.  From the other side of the fence game a strange, groaning and wheezing, as if a great beast had come to life in the junkyard and was struggling to breath.  To anyone but a select few, the noise would have been foreign and completely unknown.  The stranger was one of the select few who recognized it for what it was, the sound of the TARDIS dematerializing.

He ran forward, all concerns forgotten.  “Doctor?!?” he shouted at the top of his lungs.

He burst through the door just in time to see the Police Box fade from view, disappearing into the vortex.

Captain Jack Harkness walked over to the spot where the TARDIS had stood.  He knelt and ran his fingers over the cobblestones.  Eventually, he moved to the rickety wooden staircase that was attached to the outside of the neighboring building and sat, rubbing his face in his hands.  Torchwood had it right, there was an alien presence here.  And he’d scoffed, with his knowledge of the future, but come like the obedient lap dog just to be on the safe side.  And he’d missed him.  The Doctor.

The old man was the Doctor.  Not his Doctor, but certainly one of him.  He wondered which.

Ah well.  Captain Jack rose and dusted his hands off, heading back for the entrance.  He’d been stranded on Earth for a long time, but he’d catch up with the Doctor again someday. <>

Doctor Who Fiction (Magnetic Poetry Style) Contest!

So recently while dusting the top of my refrigerator, I found an old Magnetic Poetry kit.

(One: don’t judge me for owning magnetic poetry, I’ll bet lots of you do to!  Two: yes, I do clean.)

Well I realized that I hadn’t seen this set in like three years!

(Three: I do clean, but I guess that doesn’t speak well of how often I do the top of my refrigerator.)

ANYWAY, I thought it would be fun to toss the magnets up on the fridge and see if anyone still played with them.  And as is frequently the case when I’m left alone around words, the creative side of my brain took over and started writing.  So I snapped a picture of the finished product to post for all of you here.  (It’s a bit rough obviously, as these kits don’t always contain the words you want or need to pull the imagery off, but at the same time, that’s part of the fun!)

And now, a challenge!  I’m betting that those of you who DO have magnetic poetry kits lying around could probably come up with your own Doctor Who themed poem, so I want you all to do the same!  Line those magnets up and snap a picture and email it to shaun@travelingthevortex!  I’ll get them posted here, and then we’ll vote on them.  The writer of the winning poem will win a Traveling The Vortex *Prize Package of GAME SHOW proportions!  The contest will run through December 31, 2011!  Winner to be announced next year…

* NOTE – Our lawyers (if we had any) would probably disallow me to use the term “Prize Package of GAME SHOW proportions” in a post, since there is in actuality NO prize package and if there was one, it would certainly NOT be of game show proportions.  They’d bring up a lot of terms like “illegal” and “fraudulent” and “false advertising” and probably force us to run the contest just for silly fun.  Lucky for you I don’t own the “law speak” Magnetic Poetry kit, so those words are pretty meaningless to me anyways.

 

Doctor Who Fiction: The Sudden Awakening, Lonely Life, And Tragic End Of Cyberman Bob

11thdoctor01Doctor Who:

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.

SUDDEN AWAKENING

Earth, 1968

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:

The Invasion.

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.

Fear.

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.

Eventually.

All it would have to do is wait.

LONELY LIFE

Earth, 1985

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.

TRAGIC END

Earth, 2010

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?”

“Yeah.”

“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?”

“Sorry?”

“And, what?”

“You don’t see the connection?”

“Um, no.”

“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.

“Pardon?’

“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.”

“Nice.”

“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.

“Loads.”

“Find any?”

“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.”

“How giant?”

“Giant.  Ready?”

“No.”

“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:

 

Trespassing

 

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:

 

Delete

 

…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:

Caution.

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.

“Yeah.  Bob.”

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

 

Run

 

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.

“Ewww.  Doctor.”

“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.

“Yes, Sergeant?”

“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. <>

Doctor Who Fiction: Time And Again

200px-Fifth_Doctor

Film Title: Dr Who.Doctor Who: Time And Again

Featuring The Fourth and Fifth Doctors

By Shaun Collins

Dusk had fallen.

A long, multi-colored striped scarf dragged on the ground, rustling the dead leaves it passed.  The owner noticed, scooped it up with one arm, made yet another circle about his neck and dropped the remainder all in one motion.  The scarf’s fringe now dangled just above the ground as the man’s long legs carried him across the campus mall toward the bell tower.

Another, much younger man stood waiting beneath the monolithic structure.  He was curiously dressed in a cricketing outfit and white hat, and had a stick of celery pinned to his lapel.  The dress was curious because this campus was in the Mid-Western United States in late fall.

No one plays cricket in the Mid-West in late fall.

The scarf stopped swaying as the owner slowed his approach.  “Don’t I know you?” He inquired by way of greeting.

“In—a roundabout way.” The other man responded.  “Thank you for coming.”

“Well, your message said it was important.”

“So it did.  It’s important, because I wanted to warn you.”

“Warn me about what?” The man asked, tying a knot in his scarf.

“Well, the word is that you’re planning a trip to Aquida.”

This got the other man’s attention.  His eyes snapped up the curious figure in the cricket outfit, his knotted scarf forgotten.  “That’s very interesting. I haven’t told anyone yet.”

“News travels fast.”

“Yes, but that’s a little too fast.  How did you—“

“I can’t tell you who I am, and I can’t tell you how I know.  I just do.  Don’t go to Aquida.”  He removed his white hat with the red trim and glanced skyward, as the autumn breeze kicked up, billowing his blonde hair.  “There’s a storm brewing.”

The stars had just begun to shine overhead, and the other man followed his gaze up, looking toward where Aquida was located in this section of the Terran sky.  Not visible, but up there somewhere.  “Aha.”  He said, catching the meaning.  “Galactic Weather Service?”

“Something like that.  Let’s just say I’ve been there about now, and now is not the best time for a holiday.  You had a horrible time.  Dreadful trip.”  The hat returned to it’s accustomed place and his hands slid into his trouser pockets.

“Lost luggage?”

“Lost yes, luggage no.  Promise me you won’t go.”

The scarf received another knot as the thought it over.  “Well, Aquida isn’t really that interesting this time of year, is it?  A lot of ice a snow.  You can go anywhere in the universe to see ice and snow.”

“And do say hello to Sarah Jane for me.”  The other man looked up sharply at that, all levity forgotten.  There was a look of pure fire in his eyes.  But the cricketer just stood there, a haunted and bittersweet expression on his own face.  “Don’t go to Aquida.”

As quickly as the anger had formed, it dissipated, and a sparkle suddenly lit the other man’s eyes.  He rubbed a hand through his mop of curly brown hair. “You’re sure I don’t know you?”  He asked in a low voice.

The cricketer smiled.  “You haven’t met me yet.”

The sparkle quickly clouded over again, and with a shrug he turned back the way he came, leaving the cricketer standing beneath the monolith as it chimed the passing time. <>

Doctor Who Fiction: For The Glory Of Unicorns

DOCTOR WHO: For The Glory Of Unicorns

Featuring The Eighth Doctor

By Shaun Collins

The bell overhead dinged when the door opened, an interesting item of note since there was no one present to be alerted by it.  The man paused for a moment, as if expecting someone, some postal clerk to come running to the melodic tone of the bell.  He was oddly dressed in an almost Edwardian ensemble, gray smoking jacket over a gold and gray suit with a silver ascot.  His stringy brown hair flowed from his scalp, and his piercing blue eyes, though lined and tired were alive with energy.

He took a deep reassuring breath, despite the stale air in the dark and dim corridor.  The room was long and narrow and paneled in dark wood, and along both walls stood row after row of locked metal post office boxes.  The florescent lights overhead barely illuminated the place.

The Doctor strode down the aisle, deep toward the back row of post office boxes.  He pulled from one pocket a key.  The man was no stranger to keys.  In his many lifetimes, he had owned several, some as alien and exotic as the locks they opened or the items secured behind them.  This key was small, brass and quite plain.  Almost a disappointment considering other ones that he’d come in contact with.  From another pocket, he produced a wrapping of black velvet.

The Doctor continued his search until he found what he was looking for.  Post Office Box number 5274.  He inserted the key into the slot and rotated, the lock’s mechanism turning true.  The door swung open.  The box was empty, just another non-descript storage slot in a room full of them.

Next he hesitantly began to unwrap the velvet package.  He glanced around again, making sure he was alone in the room before revealing a long, bright white cone; so white it seemed to almost glow against the dark fabric.

A Unicorn Horn.

He held the horn aloft in his hand and let the meager light from the overheads play off its spiraled features.  It glinted and gleamed, even in this dimness.  The promise of hope, of renewal, of second chances…

…of life.

The Doctor sighed deeply.  He felt a great measure of responsibility for the atrocity in his hand.  After all, he’d been the one who spirited the Unicorns off Earth all that time ago to prevent their extinction, but not even he could have predicted that millennia later their new home planet would be, “of strategic importance” in the words of the High Council.  Not even he could have predicted that that importance would ultimately lead to the genocide of the unicorns, as their planet was currently the site of some of the fiercest fighting between the forces of good and evil—his own race, the Time Lords on one side, and the mechanical menace of the Daleks on the other.

Planets destroyed, histories altered, whole species fighting for survival, caught in-between the two clashing forces in what was shaping up to be the final conflict.  They were calling it the Time War.

The Doctor suspected that many more battles and much more spilled blood was yet to come.

He re-wrapped the horn and placed it gently, reverently in the post office box, then closed and locked the door.  Unicorns, like Time Lords, had the ability to heal and regenerate—on Earth long ago, this very scientific process was mistaken for magic—and there was enough residual energy in the horn that in time with a little luck, he may be able to rebuild the population.  As a champion of Earth and a child of Gallifrey, knowing that each species had had a hand in nearly destroying the Unicorns, the Doctor felt responsible either way.  It was his duty to help.

But all that would have to wait until the war was over.

The horn also contained enough energy to be perverted into a weapon if it fell into enemy hands.  He couldn’t be sure, of course, but he hoped that Earth would be spared the carnage that even now raged throughout the cosmos.  If it did, the horn would be safe until he was ready.  It was far safer here, in a random post office box in a small town on an anonymous backwater world, than in any of the Time Lord strongholds.

The way things were going, the Doctor feared nothing may survive.

He pocketed the key and strode back along the endless rows of boxes, and out into the bright sunlight afternoon.  Across the parking lot sat the TARDIS, forever locked into the familiar shape of a Police Box.  He took a last look at Earth, and another deep breath of air un-tainted by war and death.  Then he vanished inside and a moment later, the de-materialization process started and the box itself vanished.

High in orbit, a satellite re-tasked its orbit to pass overhead.  Its cameras and scanners surveyed the area, having detected a brief but powerful temporal disruption, and relayed the information back across the ocean to a tall building in the heart of London.  There an overnight analyst poured over the data.  She found nothing out of the ordinary, despite the satellite sensors.  She classified the incident, filled it in the “Unknown Occurrence” file, and flagging it for eventual follow up by Torchwood field agents.  <>

Doctor Who Fiction: A Place Among The Stars

DOCTOR WHO: A Place Among The Stars
By Shaun Collins

On a quiet afternoon in a countryside cottage, he lay dying.The bedside monitor beeped, the breathing apparatus did its slow, rhythmic pump up and down, an IV line drip, drip, dripped its medicinal concoction, but still he lay dying.He’d come to accept the idea.He’d lived a long, full life—a good life, by all accounts—and now was growing accustomed to the idea of fading away.


Of course the cancer had other ideas.It was not about to let him go peacefully or quietly.It was in fact, eating him alive.He hated it. He’d spent his whole life putting on a brave front for the cameras, showcasing a “never say die” attitude.He’d fought and won against every kind of threat possible, but the cancer was different.


For starters, it was real.There was no writer standing by with a clever way out, no Beeb executive to step in with a dues-ex-machina.He was going to die, and it would not be fading away.It would be slow and agonizing and above all, undignified.


The man wanted to get up and walk, to clasp his hands behind his back and just pace, as he had so many times in the past, but in his weakened state, could barely shift the bed covers that felt as much like a restraining strap across his midsection as they did a comforting swaddling for his frail form.


A groaning wheeze filled the air, as familiar as it was foreign, sounding as though some great beast was forcing itself through a tear in the fabric of space and time.He instinctively reached for the remote, thinking someone had left the telly on for him.And while ordinarily that would have provided a decent distraction from the ineffective medicines, he couldn’t take the program.


Not that one.Not right now.


But the television set wasn’t on.He looked across to the room’s far corner and watched disbelieving as the familiar blue box took shape, the WHORP WHORP noise continuing until at last it solidified and turned real.The light on top stopped flashing, the materialization process completed.


The door opened and a young man stepped out of the TARDIS.He was dressed like a Oxford professor; brown tweed jacket, suspenders and red bow tie, though he was far too young to sell the look.He glanced around the room for a minute and his eyes settled on the hospital bed against the wall with its astonished patient.


“Ah, good, you’re here.Thought for a minute we’d missed you.”He glanced over his shoulder back into the box.“It’s alright, we’re here.”He spun back around and clasped his hands together.“How are you, my friend?No, wait, that’s a bad question.Don’t answer that.”


“Well of course it’s a bad question!Have you no sense of decorum at all dear boy?”A gruff voice called out, and an elderly man with white hair and a cane forced himself through the doors and into the room.“Just look at him, mmm!”


“I thought we agreed I’d be first to see him?”Came a new voice, and a short man with dark hair in a mop top pushed through.His check trousers and blue shirt made for quite a contrast with the others.He scowled at them as he came into the room, but brightened when he looked at the bed.“My dear Brigadier!What a pleasure to see you again.”


The man in the bed shook his head.“You, you can’t be here.You’re not real.”


“Not real?”Shouted the next man out of the TARDIS.He had curly blond hair and wore a Technicolor dream coat.“I expect we’re some sort of fever dream then?”


“Oy!Leave him alone.”Said a skinny man wearing glasses and a brown pin-striped suit.


“Yes, he’s been through quite a lot lately.”The next man said, a blonde wearing a cricket outfit and what looked like celery.


“This can’t be happening.”The man in the bed said.


A few of them started milling about the room, muttering to themselves about the state of the accommodations.A tall man wearing an incredibly long scarf flopped down on the bed next to him.He crossed his legs, threw his feet up on the bed and smiled a mouthful of teeth.“Well he doesn’t look any worse for the wear to me.”


“Amazing when you consider the medical technology of this time.”Said another with long flowing hair and a silver ascot, as he looked over the array of monitors next to the bed.“They almost killed me.”


“They did kill me.”Said a short man in a hat carrying an umbrella.“Or rather, they will kill me.Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart we presume?”


“Oh must we presume?”The man in the scarf asked.


“Of course we must!”Said the grandfatherly figure still standing by the TARDIS.


“I am not Lethbridge-Stewart.”Said the man in the bed forcefully.


They all stopped to look at him.


“Well of course you’re not.”Came a new voice.It belonged to the one in the crushed purple velvet suit and cape with a shock of white hair.“We know that, for heavens sake.But what else would we call you—” He smiled.“but `Brigadier’?”


The one in the mop top nodded enthusiastically.“You’ve no idea what we’ve had to go through just to get here.”


“The reality compensator is completely blown; take us a month to repair it.”Said another man wearing a black leather jacket as he stepped out of the TARDIS.“Oh, hello!”


“What do you mean; you came here to find me?”Asked the man in the bed.The Doctors—and really, that’s all he could think of them as—stopped and smiled in synch with each other.


“Regardless of our differences, young fellow, we hold you in high regard.Very high regard indeed.”Said the grandfatherly one.


“It’s been a while since I was a young fellow… Doctor.”The words sounded strange in his ears but felt right coming from his mouth.“But, I don’t understand.You’re fiction.”


“What is fiction, but words that describe an idea?”Asked the Doctor in purple velvet.


“And ideas are powerful things.”Chimed in the man wearing celery.


“Some ideas are so powerful; they take on a life of their own.”Agreed bow tie.


“And here we are.”Finished the mop topped Doctor.


There was a moment of silence then, as what the Doctors had said sunk in. “But why?Why now?”


“I think you know why.”Said the bow tie Doctor.“Come with us.”


“What?”


At that moment, a single gong rang out.It came from deep within the bowls of the TARDIS and reverberated throughout the room.The Doctors looked up at the sound of it. “The Cloister Bell.”Said the black leather jacket Doctor.“We haven’t much time.”


“We know what it means!”Cried out the grandfatherly Doctor.“Let’s see what we can do about it, hmmm?”He turned to the rest.“Don’t be long.”He moved back into the TARDIS with the other Doctor as the bell rang out again.


The Doctor in purple rubbed his hands together.“Yes well, this is it, Brigadier.You can come with us, or we can part ways.”


The man in the bed shook his head.“I can’t just leave, it’s impossible.”


“Impossible!”Shouted the Doctor in the scarf as he lept to his feet and stood on the bed.“Did he just say ‘impossible’?Just look around the room, Brigadier!We’re living proof of the impossible.”


The blonde Doctor with the cricket gear stepped forward.“Brigadier, a place among the stars has been prepared for you, but we mustn’t delay.”The Cloister Bell rang out again, emphasizing his words.


The bedridden man looked at the conglomeration of tubes and wires that linked the machinery to him.He looked at the Doctors, from one to the other.All faces he recognized, all men he knew.And if what they said was true about getting here, he knew he could be in no better hands.


He made up his mind. “All right, Doctors.I’m ready.”


The Doctor in purple grinned and nodded, the mop top Doctor was positively beaming.


“Allons y!”Shouted the skinny Doctor in the brown suit as he pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and aimed it at the bedside equipment.Its high pitched hum filled the air, and then a shower of sparks flew from the monitors.The Doctor in the scarf jumped off the bed and along with the short Doctor with the umbrella, and the Doctor with the long flowing hair and ascot began to push the hospital bed across the room.The Doctor in the Technicolor coat swung open both sets of doors to the TARDIS as the Cloister Bell sang again.


“The fabric of reality is beginning to break down!”Shouted the Doctor in the cricket gear.


“Don’t worry”, said the Brigadier as the bed rolled over the threshold.“The writer will get us out of this.”


The Doctors shared another smile, and then closed up the doors.The TARDIS shuddered once, and began to dematerialize.The groaning noise started anew, the light on top flashed.The box became translucent, then transparent, and then the Brigadier got what he wanted:

He faded away. <>

 

Ode To A Myrka

Poor misunderstood nightmare from the abyss!
Why must they sneer and laugh when they should tremble in fear?
Do they not see the power rippling beneath your glistening rubber flanks
or the strength of those lumbering limbs?
Watertight bulkhead doors are no match for you!
Can they not feel the static crackling in the air generated by your very presence
as they wait for the shock of your electric hug?
Transfixed by your unflinching stare or fleeing in terror,
firing ineffectual weapons in retreat, the outcome is all but assured.
You are the battering ram, the tip of the spear,
the advance chaos clearing the way for Sea Devil shock troops.
A Silurian’s best friend,
Monster, myth, mesmerizing mediocrity.
My mighty, maligned Myrka.