Happy Sunday, everyone. Here's the latest chapter in my Doctor Who fan fiction. (Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here).
"The New Model Tomb"
The Doctor grinned, looking ahead. “Brenda was a suspect. And now, she knows Brenda has an alibi for February Fifth.”
“Ah . . .” said Rob slowly, glancing back at the taciturn inspector. “And so she's come with us now . . .”
“Because we likely look like prime suspects ourselves,” finished the Doctor.
Rob didn't know what to think of this. Around him, the general ruin started to seem worse as they went along now. Strange black and twisted shapes emerged from the rubble in various places, some of it his mind could resolve into familiar pieces of structural supports for buildings but much of it was unrecognisable, something he found increasingly disturbing. Shattered shapes with complex parts clearly once had functions he couldn't imagine. Smooth pieces of clear glass were piled like dust in charred boxes. Thick, tangled black lines drooped from overhead like willow branches. Now and then, the Doctor put a restraining hand on his arm, warning him not to trod on this or that piece of wreckage.
“It looks like this city was attacked,” the Doctor remarked. “Six years ago?”
“Seven,” said Billy, the redhead. “Where have you travelled from?”
“Who attacked you?” asked the Doctor.
“Why don't you ask Miss E-Yun?” said Tom without turning around. The Doctor, with raised eyebrows, turned to Inspector Marwat. The inspector only glanced at the Doctor and trudged on.
“Did the Aeons assault the city?” asked the Doctor.
“That's what the Wanters would have you believe,” the Inspector said flatly.
“And what would you have me believe?” prompted the Doctor.
The inspector said nothing. She only gave the Doctor a look that was half fear and half disgust.
A glowing green and white beam, bigger than a yard on a man-o-war, now jutted out at a slight angle as they rounded a pale grey hill of rubbish. It illuminated so much of the area it made Rob suddenly realise how dark it had gotten.
This beam proved to be a sort of trim on a rooftop of a building half buried. A doorway was uncovered except by remnants of a ragged, iridescent curtain. The Doctor, Rob, and the inspector followed Tom into an interior dimly lit by two thin, white, glowing beams in the ceiling. Many similar beams throughout the room were grey and lifeless. On the dirty floor, on four bare mattresses, were four female shapes, one of them a woman, the other three were girls, fifteen or sixteen years old. Here was something all too familiar to Rob though he'd never seen it afflict women and girls: battle wounds. The woman was unconscious, a white bandage wrapped about her head and her arm was in a shiny metal splint. One of the girls, a sweet faced lass with straight, dirty blonde hair, was propped up on her elbow and Rob assumed one or both of her legs were injured where they lay hidden beneath a thick, clean, beige sheet. The Doctor swiftly knelt beside another of the girls at the far end. Reaching into an inside pocket of her coat, the Doctor produced a pair of black glasses and put them on. Rob held back, not wanting to be in the way. The girl had dark hair, matted against her flushed and sweaty forehead. He couldn't tell if she was conscious but there was a pained expression on her face. From the thin sound of her breath and shuddering chest, he guessed at least one of her ribs was broken.
The Doctor briskly pulled off her glasses and looked around. “Have you any Ondrigen epoxy?”
Billy looked at her with an uncomprehending expression. Tom scowled and folded his arms over his chest. Inspector Marwat watched everyone in turn, pieces of her armour making faint clicking sounds.
The Doctor sighed. “I've dealt with worse. Maybe all I need is my sonic screwdriver.” She produced a tool with a glowing blue tip. With her other hand, she gently stroked the girl's forehead.
“Can you save her?” asked the conscious girl in a shy, quiet voice. The Doctor gave her a tight smile and said, “I can try. What's her name?”
The Doctor leaned closer to Lisa's face. “Lisa, I'm sorry, but this is going to hurt.” She put the glasses back on and placed the glowing tip of the tool a few inches from Lisa's breast. She hesitated a moment. Then there was a soft, high pitched sound like a mouse sustaining a squeal. It was suddenly drowned out by a cry from the girl. The Doctor's hand tightened on her forehead and she moved the tool slowly up and down along the girl's chest. The girl's cries choked off and Rob expected blood now to burble out of her mouth. But it didn't.
The girl whimpered once and then relaxed. The Doctor continued slowly moving the device back and forth along her chest for what seemed like an hour. Rob found out later it had only been about ten minutes. Finally, the little mouse scream stopped and the Doctor let out a breath and smiled. She wiped Lisa's forehead and stood up. When the other girl, who'd waited patiently throughout the procedure, asked, “Will she be okay?” the Doctor grunted in affirmative, a most unladylike sound, Rob thought.
“Oh, thank you,” said the girl as the Doctor carefully removed her glasses and put them back in her coat, not looking at the four.
“And what were you doing, my girl, hmm?” the Doctor asked in a severe tone.
“They were drinking on the conveyor belt,” said Billy. “Over at Henchel's factory.”
“Oh?” said the Doctor. “And what does Henchel make?”
“Kitchen appliances,” said Tom. “Sells them to colonies on Hopsai and Enanes.”
“I see. And you don't sell to Aeons?”
Before Tom or Billy could reply, Inspector Marwat stepped forward, “Doctor, I'm going to have to ask you and your friend to come with me.”
“I thought you'd never ask,” the Doctor grinned.
As she and Rob followed the inspector out, Tom said, “Thank you, Doctor.” Not very loudly, as though he'd almost prefer the Doctor didn't hear.
So the Doctor almost shouted, “You're quite welcome!” in reply then stopped at the doorway and pointed at the girls. “And you—stay out of trouble, eh?”
“Am I right in thinking,” said Rob once they were outside, “you mended the lass's broken rib?”
“Hmm, three broken ribs,” said the Doctor, pushing aside a large metal panel.
“Amazing,” he said, remembering everything else he'd seen this woman do. “You're a genius!”
“Hmm, yes,” she said, running a hand through her blonde hair piled messily atop her head in wide curls.
“That's hardly remarkable,” said Inspector Marwat irritably from behind them. The Doctor and Rob stopped as the inspector made her way around them. “All Aeons are geniuses.”
“Really?” said the Doctor slowly, her eyes wide. Just then, the air began to swirl about them and the Inspector's craft descended from the darkness above. It landed and brilliant white light poured from its side hatch.
“Inside, now!” shouted the inspector, vigorously swiping the air with her arm to motion them in.
Rob ducked inside behind the Doctor and soon found himself on smooth leather upholstery, inside the weirdly smooth interior, the most comfortable seat he'd had in his life. “Don't you want my hanger, Constable?” he asked.
“Your what?” said the inspector, scooting into a small space at the front of the craft and gripping a small black wheel.
“His sword,” said the Doctor.
“Oh, you're no threat to me,” said the inspector.
The Doctor and Rob both raised their eyebrows, exchanging looks.
Then came the peculiar sensation as the craft lifted off the ground. It was night outside and due to the bright interior illumination all Rob could see of the world were the few tiny pinpricks of light that suddenly fell away. It was amazing but his stomach had been fortified by a ride in the TARDIS. So he kept his wits and his breakfast.
“How do you mean, all Aeons are geniuses?” asked the Doctor.
“We've evolved, that's all,” said the inspector.
“And the Wanters haven't, I take it?”
“They could, if they were willing,” said the inspector with undisguised repulsion. “It's an endless mystery. Why do the poor consistently make the worst decisions for themselves?”
“You Aeons have better schooling, then?” put in Rob.
“You might say that,” said the inspector with a smirk.
“Or you might say you have cybernetic enhancements,” said the Doctor, pointing at the wiry helmet on the other woman's head.
“Is that a magic helmet?” asked Rob.
“There's no such thing,” said the Doctor. “It's science. Her helmet connects an external, intricate cloud of electronic information seamlessly to her consciousness.”
“It's not external,” said Inspector Marwat, angry with a surprising suddenness. “It's who we are. We are in the cloud and the cloud is in us!”
“Except there's been a problem lately, hasn't there?” said the Doctor, leaning forward with a smile that was both weary and eager.
“How did you know that?” demanded Inspector Marwat.
“Oh,” the Doctor waved her hand, “an educated guess.”
“Or you have something to do with it.”
The Doctor's tone turned deadly serious, “I promise you I don't.”
The inspector flicked some switches on the panel before her. “You certainly don't seem to have a favourable opinion of the implants.”
The Doctor shrugged. “They've done little to improve the lives of Cybermen or Daleks I've met.”
“And yet if you'd had the benefit of such implants you may have saved the life of the girl.”
The Doctor blinked. “Well, at the risk of bragging . . . I did save the life of that girl.”
“I'm afraid she died minutes after we left,” said the inspector in a tone tempered with some sympathy.
“She did? How do you know this?”
“Based on the severity of her injuries, her environment, and access to follow up treatment, she has only a six percent chance of having lived thirty minutes after we left.” The inspector pushed the black wheel forward and they began to descend to an area between two rows of evenly spaced blue lights. “I'm sorry, Doctor.”
“Did your algorithm factor in a sonic screwdriver?” the Doctor asked dryly. “Do you not think there are some things beyond the scope of your algorithm?”
Inspector Marwat groaned like an embarrassed teenager. “Oh, give it up. You may as well. Our interrogators are brilliant and you will confess to the implant poisoning.”
“Implant poisoning? Is that what you think Brenda was up to?”
The inspector didn't answer. The craft shook and came to a stop. They'd landed. Emerging from the craft, Rob found himself in a large, shining steel cavern gleaming with clear white light. He marvelled at the distant ceiling arched above him, bigger than the inside of Saint Paul's or any building he'd ever been in. And he'd never seen so much metal interspersed with panels of smooth beige and grey material he had no names for. White, red, and yellow lights, big and small, infested the structure, each with clear meaning and direction. There were other crafts about so it must have been a dock of sorts. People, men and women of many colours, reminding him of Liverpool, moved equipment to and from crafts. All were dressed like Inspector Marwat, wearing the skeletal armour over plain suits covered with pockets. Some seemed to be talking to themselves. One or two stood still as statues, their faces flinching mysteriously now and then.
“This way,” said the Inspector, motioning them toward a door in the distant wall.
“What do you think, Rob?” said the Doctor, grinning at him.
“Think?” said Rob. “I can scarcely think! 'In-plants' you say? The 'external' is who she is? Would this not be God? Are you certain she's no Puritan?”
“I think you'll find she's a dyed in the wool libertine,” said the Doctor.
There was a terrific sound then. It was horrible, like a screaming infant but impossibly loud. And it was a single tone sustained and then cut off—sustained and then cut off. It was accompanied by flashing red light.
“It's the reactor!” said the inspector. She and dozens of other people started running to the right. Rob and the Doctor followed. Passing through small metal corridors they came to a room with glass walls where a white man in his forties sat on the floor, his hands clutching his thin brown hair.
“Jean!” cried the inspector, kneeling beside him.
“Go away!” screamed Jean. “Don't look at me! Or please—kill me!”
Outside the glass wall, a waterfall of glowing red water in which chunks of red stone fell rapidly was gushing through a burst open metal structure. Rob realised it had become very hot, hotter than summer in the Caribbean.
The Doctor ran to a nearby panel and started pressing buttons. She stopped and stared at Inspector Marwat and Jean who were hugging each other and rocking back and forth.
The Doctor looked at Rob. “Mr. Fenner, would you like a lesson in geothermal engineering? Do say yes. We may survive if you do!”
TO BE CONTINUED