He Came Forth
Through the barriers of the mind
Knowledge he seeks
And knowledge he shall find
A mysterious image
Projected from the brain
The fog is clearing
But the image stays the same
- Fragment from a nursery rhyme
He Came Forth
Through the barriers of the mind
Knowledge he seeks
And knowledge he shall find
A mysterious image
Projected from the brain
The fog is clearing
But the image stays the same
- Fragment from a nursery rhyme
Even though it was an alien culture, I should have seen the parallels long before I did. In hindsight, they were obvious, but then again isn’t everything with the benefit of that double-edged gift of enlightenment and guilt?
I have to confess that I carry some embarrassment at feeling a sense of relief about the whole thing. It was actually reassuring to realise that rivalry, animosity and primitive destruction were not simply part of some inherent “Human Factor”.
The Universe has proved itself remarkably adept at spawning intolerant and egocentric species over the millennia.
CHAPTER ONE: End of Business
“Preparation, preparation, preparation…”
In his generation-inherited shop, Modran fussed as he always did at this time of year. He stood between the benches checking his list, ticking off items he had already signed off countless times before, eager and earnest that all deliveries had been made. Sormius looked on, amused. It was like this every year. While the crowds gathered in the streets, he would be here with Modran, ensuring that everything was in order, what he had been required to provide had been, and that all was ready for them to close the shop and join in the celebrations.
Sormius took the electronic clip board from Modran’s hands, “It’s fine, Modran. We can go now.”
Modran looked startled as the list was taken from him, as though unaware he was not actually alone. As Sormius young countenance came into focus before him, Modran’s deep set frown relaxed its grip, and he nodded, slowly, a smile starting to tease the corners of his mouth.
“Yes, it is, isn’t it?”
“Yes, now can we go …?”
Modran continued nodding, each inclination increasing in vigour. “Yes, yes, yes!” he enthused, shedding years in mere seconds. “What colour are you, this year?”
Sormius didn’t reply verbally, but simply gestured at his body, clad from head to toe as it was in bright yellow.
“Ah, yes … How silly of me…He heh. Will I do?”
“Modran, blue has always been your colour – come on!”
With that, the carpenter and his apprentice locked, bolted and left their establishment, and headed toward the sound of the crowd.
As the walked away, Modran glanced back at the sign swinging in the inner shop back draft of the shop door closing.
A man with blond curly hair smiled at those who may want to enter the shop, but beneath his image was the legend: “Closed for the Day of Celebration! Join Me! Rejoice!”
Banners, streamers and placards covered the buildings, the usually grey and red -bricked facades a wash of insane colour. The inhabitants mirrored the garish display, but each wore one simple colour – every item of their clothing the same hue. Above the excited chatter, and the ever-present whistles, speakers blared jolly, up beat tunes from the street corners, echoing the levity of the day – the day of celebration. Visitors from the planet Earth often remarked that they felt that the atmosphere felt like the rush of Christmas morning, but one that never suffered bathos and lasted the whole day through.
Sormius, his yellow clothing swathing through the crowds like a sudden injection of watercolour in an already crowded canvas, guided the blue clad Modran toward the central square. As they passed the posters, each displaying one of two smiling faces, Sormius paused so Modran could briefly nod, before moving on. Sormius smiled. While he appreciated what Modran was doing, his generation had moved on from the blind obedience and reverence still very much the core of Modran’s life, but it was a generation with enough respect to allow those elder to carry on the traditions.
Anyway, in return Modran always let Sormius stop off half way through to have a drink or two.
Modran went to the bar as Sormius settled himself on one of the benches outside. Looking around him, he realised that despite his lesser belief, the day still filled him with awe, and it was a day he would fight to ensure continued for as long as he could.
“Ready?” a voice from a nearby table asked.
“Ready!” another replied, their tones clearly indicating some sort of competition. Turning to face the table in question, Sormius saw two young men, one in green, the other in red, sat on opposite sides of the bench, their elbows rested on the surface. Their opposing right hands were clasped in preparation for what appeared to be a bought of arm-wrestling.
Today, however, it was so much more; today it was symbolic of the fight between good and evil. Sormius was, however, pleased to note those both opponents were not hampered by the usual symbols and adornments that usually accompanied the game. In fact all they had nearby were two packets of cigarettes and a drink each.
“Go!” the one in green proclaimed, and the contest began. “But don’t forget, I’m the evil one!”
The man in red chuckled, “Oh yeah? I think you’ll find I’m the evil one!” and the green individual found considerable resistance in his opponent’s arm.
Now there’s a novel twist! Sormius conceded, and sat back to watch.
As Modran returned with a tray laden with drinks (he hated going to the bar as a rule so he always ordered a few rounds up front), Sormius saw the surprised look in Green’s eyes, and a worried glance flick towards Red. Sormius understood the confusion – Red certainly looked unimpressive enough, but appearances were often deceptive. As Green started to apply more pressure, Red simply smirked – goading Green, and beads of perspiration started to erupt on his forehead.
Red upped his tactics, trying intimidation. Casually blowing at the finger on his other hand, he yawned theatrically, “Oh please, when are you going to start trying?” He asked, his voice dripping with mock sarcasm.
“I say, Sormius –” Modran began, but a quick wave of the apprentices hand silenced him, and guided his attention to the arm wrestle. “Ah, the Sacred Battle!” he breathed, and sat to watch.
Sormius nearly burst out laughing as Green suddenly grunted and brought his other arm into play.
Modran was appalled, “But that’s cheat –“
“Shhh, Modran, just watch!”
Red reached across the table nonchalantly, and slid Green’s cigarettes toward him. Flipping the pack over and fluidly placing one stick in his mouth, he lit it. Inhaling deeply, he exhaled a long slow breath, aiming it directly at Green’s face.
Green flinched, yelling as the smoke met with his eyeballs, and Red laughed, taking advantage, bringing increased pressure to bear.
“I am the evil one!” he announced.
Green felt his face flush, and for one brief moment it wasn’t a game any longer. “NO!” he declared, “I AM!” So saying, he kicked Red under the table, and as his opponent cried in pain, Green slammed home his advantage – Red’s knuckles connecting sharply with the tabletop.
“Now, give me my cigarettes back.”
Rubbing his knuckles, Red slid the packet back across the table. As Green ignited his cigarette, they caught each other’s eyes – and laughed.
“Best of three?”
Modran was shaking his head sadly. “No respect,” he muttered, “No respect at all.”
Sormius smiled to himself, and as Green and Red resumed their mock-battle, took a sip of his drink, feeling the warm tingle of alcohol course through his body.
CHAPTER TWO: Charlotte
She scratched her pen through yet another line, and lay the implement down. She had thoughts, many thoughts, but for once in her life she was having trouble writing them down.
Why was she even bothering anymore?
If she wrote, “I am” it probably meant, “I was”, or even more alarmingly “One day in three hundred years time I will be.”
Charley stared at herself in the dressing table mirror and sighed. How many others had done the same here, feeling as bemused as she currently did? She pulled a face, and her reflection obligingly mimicked it. Well, that was only to be expected, it being a mirror after all. .
Expected. Charley laughed to herself.
“Expect the unexpected!” one teacher had once said to her.
Expect the unexpected? How could anyone expect what was, by definition, unknown?
She closed her eyes, recalling that such introspection had been what led her here, on her voyage – her voyage to be an Edwardian Adventuress.
“Charlotte Pollard,” she said, sternly addressing herself in the mirror, “Why do you think these thoughts? You know your position in society, you know what you must do.”
Resting her chin in her hand, she tilted her head, adopting a softer countenance.
“But it is not enough.”
Reverting to the sterner Charley, she asked, “What do you mean, it’s not enough? Explain yourself!”
Another reversal of persona later, “I want to see things, do things, travel to Singapore.”
“And I want to be a Time Traveller.”
The graver Charley laughed in her face, “A Time Traveller? Oh come along now Charlotte, you know that is quite absurd!”
“Is it? Oh, I know there’s no financial reward, that the hours are long and I’ll never get what I’ve heard the Doctor describe as personal insurance policies, but I’d get to meet some fascinating people. And they do say that travel broadens the mind.”
“Doctor, eh? Tell me, Charlotte, have you ever considered psychiatric care?”
“What, as a profession?”
“No dear, as a treatment.”
The two Charley’s became one, and both stared at themselves accusingly for a few seconds. Then a grin broke out across her face, and she shook her head.
“After what I’ve seen recently I could certainly do with it!” she conceded.
Charley was just about to stand, when the door to her room burst inward as the Doctor emerged. He was about to say something when his face flushed slightly, and he took a step backward to belatedly, and redundantly, knock on her door.
“Come in Doctor,” Charley said, “The door’s open.” Her tone carried no sarcasm, just the usual warmth it conveyed in their quieter moments together.
The Doctor looked sheepish, and casually kicking a fallen item of clothing with the toe of his shoe said, “I need your advice.”
Charley rose, then mock fell back into her chair, “You want my help?”
Suddenly alert, the Doctor shook his head, “No, no, no. Not your help. Advice.”
Charley nodded ruefully, “Hmmm, well I did think it was too good to be true. Go on then, what advise do you need?”
The Doctor coughed, with embarrassment, and shuffled himself into a fully upright position. With a completely straight face he asked, “Do you think I need a hair cut?”
Charley neatly, but narrowly, avoided releasing the chuckle that had come unbidden to her throat and studied the Time Lord before her. In his Edwardian finery, with the deep green long frock coat, brown trousers, white collared shirt and pinned cravat, anything other than his main of brown, shoulder length hair would have looked … inappropriate.
Also, given the range and scale of events that had befallen them since she had met the Doctor on the R101, the Universal insignificance of his query almost left her breathless as it was so unexpected. Well, almost breathless. Charley usually had something to say about most things.
In a measured, almost plumy tone, she said, “Do you need a –“
“Haircut! Yes. Well?”
Charley fumbled for the correct response or what she hoped would be the correct response. “N-no, not really. And anyway, it’s you, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but if I had it cut, I’d still be me, wouldn’t I? I, fundamentally, would still be me.”
And look like some concentration camp victim from the Boer War who had been forced to have their head shaved, Charley mused. No, Charlotte! Tact, use tact.
“Well, I am stood before you, the greatest changer of changers, aren’t I? You’ve told me about previous lives, previous bodies, but there’s always you running through. So, taking that into account, of course you would still be you.”
The Doctor relaxed visibly. “Oh good!” he enthused.
“So, do you want me to get some scissors and start cutting away?”
The Doctor’s face turned grim, “Alas no, Charley. I’m rather afraid I do need your help after all.”
“You do need my help?”
“Yes! Can you help me to defeat the Dalek army that has just invaded the console room?”
“What?!” Charley breathed her mind immediately conjuring images from the time she had met the Doctor’s robotic enemies, “Daleks? Here?”
The Doctor held his face stern, but only for a second or two. “No, not really. However, I thought you wouldn’t be having a proper conversation without me dealing out a bit a doom and gloom in your general direction.”
Ordinarily, Charley would have relief at those words, have laughed, joining in the Doctor’s good-natured humour. However, with her thoughts all over the place anyway, trapped in her head, not on paper – only addressed through rather disturbing monologues to herself, the words simply turned her mind inwards. Her shoulders slackened, and the Doctor saw that look he hated more than most expression in the galaxy on her face. It was the lost look, the look that told him that she was contemplating her impossible existence again.
For once, the Doctor was wrong in his assumptions. Charley was simply realising that he had done it again. As always, just when she thought she had it fixed in her mind that A was A and B really was B, he had thrown Z into the equation. Just as she though she was understanding her situation, and more importantly Him, and was coping and belonging, her guard would crumble through blatant inexperience and Charlotte Pollard would realise how little she knew, how little she was, and more depressingly how little she counted.
The Doctor observed her for awhile, not like a scientist with a particularly interesting slide under his microscope, but a friend weighing up the right way to approach someone in a particular mind set.
After a few seconds, he crossed over to his companion, and crouched down next to her. Taking her unresisting hand in his, he asked, “Charley, are you happy here with me?”
Charley’s chin had been supported by her other hand again before he spoke. However, as soon as the question was phrased, she let it fall to the dressing table top and turned to face the Doctor. Her eyes were moist. “Happy? Of course I’m happy. Who else my age can claim, no say they have seen so much, done all the incredible, wonderful, unbelievable things I’ve done.”
The Doctor wanted to give Charley her own space, and her own time to express herself, but like any good listener knew that the occasional verbal nod, and prompt was needed.
“But….” Charley paused, unsure whether to continue, and if she did, how to word what she wanted to say. Taking a deep breath, one that shuddered in her chest, she took a gamble on spontaneity. “It’s just that whatever happens, whatever or wherever, we see or do, you somehow manage to make me realise just how little I have really seen, how unprepared I really am. How insignificant I must be to the Universe.”
“Oh, Charley, Charley, Charley,” The Doctor soothed, slowly massaging her hand, “You know I would never intentionally make you feel this way.”
Charley emitted a brief laugh, “Maybe Time’s even bigger than you, Doctor.”
“It is, Charley. I learned that a long time ago.”
“Doctor, I feel like a child staring at the ocean. Amazed, bedazzled, and yet lost and small.” She fixed his gaze and asked, “What is ‘Charley’ really? To all this? To you?”
“Charley,” the Doctor said, his voice still calming, and characteristically carrying the second syllable of her name on for a second longer than another person would, “Never underestimate yourself. There’s too many that have done that already! Life is a continual battle to adapt, to change and to survive. Look at me – as you quite rightly said, I’m not the same me that left Gallifrey all those centuries ago. Or to come. Concentrate on what you have done, what you have achieved. You’ve challenged tyranny, Charley, and defeated evil. You have made so many people’s lives richer just by being you, and being there. I, for one, wouldn’t change that for anything.”
A brief look of guilt passed across the Doctor’s expression, but it passed quickly.
Charley swallowed, “But Doctor – people have died! People we could have saved!”
“Charley, you know the wider picture –“
“Oh, I know all about the ‘Wider Picture’ only too well, don’t I?” Charley exclaimed, heatedly, “But it doesn’t mean to say I have to like every brush stroke in it, does it?”
The Doctor tried to look reassuring, but once again, for the briefest of moments his eyes strayed. Was Charley an attempt to purge his guilt at losing Katarina, Sara, Adric and Kamelion? No, he decided resolutely, Charley was destined for other things, great things; it had to be this way. Come what may.
The Doctor squeezed Charley’s hand, “No,” he admitted, “No, it doesn’t. And I don’t. From experience. However, the scales balance when it works out right. Imagine, for all those who have died, how many more would have perished had we not been there? If the darkness had swallowed the moon and evil truly defeated good?
“Charley, we have cheated death, but we can never defeat it completely. We are all mortal, we will eventually all return to the soil. That’s the reason why we battle on. You might not have been here for the whole war, but your contribution has swung many engagements. You have kept the night in shadow and the day a light, a beacon for others to see. You have touched more than you realise, helped more than you appreciate. And, thank you.”
Despite everything they had been through, despite his ever-present enthusiasm and openness, Charley had never really heard the Doctor talk in such a way before. The sincerity of his words moved her deeply. Wiping her hand across her eyes, she stood up, tugged her clothing into position and said, “Well, haven’t we got a galaxy or two to save before Elevenses, Doctor?”
The Doctor’s eyes shone, “The Universe, Charley! The Universe!”
CHAPTER THREE: Desenchantee
Not everyone was happy on Interkoll, and not everyone was good. It was a society, and like all societies it breeded its underbelly, its disenfranchised, its disenchanted.
So, while Sormius and Modran enjoyed their ring side seats at the playful interplay contest between Green and Red, in the same drinking establishment a smart but emotionally dishevelled individual was making his way to the bar.
“I’ll have a pint please, Ankie.”
“Please, but can you call it cider, just for me? Oh, and whatever you want.”
“Cider? It’s not what it is, love. Sorry, have to abide by the rules. Oh, I don’t think they’d let me have what I want today, dear. I’ve got to be on my best behaviour!”
The customer smiled despite his mood, “Ankie, even your best behaviour would make the Saviour blush.”
Ankie giggled, “Really? Ooh, I wonder what shade?”
“Scarlet, Ankie, pure scarlet!”
Ankie laughed with professional and personal grace, and started pouring the glass of Apple Concentrate.
“Oh, Ankie, can I have some potato slivers as well?”
“On their way, dear. Oh, by the way, Syde is still in the Penitentiary, you know. Defaced some poster or something.”
“I know, Ankie, you tell me every night.”
Ankie flicked the pump up, the pint poured, “Yes, I do, don’t I.? I wonder why? You still haven’t written to him, have you?”
“No, not yet. Tell him I’m sorry, though. I’ve just been busy. You know how it is: work, work, work and oh yeah, work!”
“I know love, but you could have written a transcript missive in the time you’ve been here. No one is ever that busy to completely lose touch. He misses his friends.”
“Ok, ok, Ankie, I will write soon, I promise!”
Ankie smiled, “Excellent! Right, there you go. An Apple Concentrate, Sodium Slivers and a lecture.”
“Keep the change.”
“Ta. I’ll retire on that.” Seeing the look on his face, Ankie smiled warmly, “Only messing. Enjoy you’re drink. You deserve it.”
Ankie then promptly vanished, a whirl of over-efficient bar management. Within seconds, her charms were ready to pour another regular’s drink before they had ordered. Lien smiled after the departing cyclone, and trying to blot out the revelry outside moved to sit at his usual corner.
“Give me your hand….”
The voice carried in from the outside, but Lien ignored it. As he rested his glass on the varnish-cracked tabletop, he saw, as ever, that it wobbled. Grabbing an absorption plate from the next table, he folded it in half and wedged it beneath the shortest of the table’s four legs. Giving the surface an experimental test nudge, he smiled grimly as the structure remained solid and then roughly opened his packet of Slivers.
Lien, or as he was christened Neil, was from Earth. He recognised the atmosphere of this day only to well, and envied the way it did not stop after the gifts were exchanged. In fact Neil envied a lot of things.
He had arrived on Interkoll a number of years ago, and even though he had been accepted willingly, and he had to admit lovingly on this planet, he had brought more that material baggage with him.
He had changed his name to blend in more with the society he now lived in, but that superficial alteration of his identity could not remedy the core problem in his life. Lien was a disenchanted graduate, and had been for more years than were amusing.
Lien was in his early thirties, but despite the almost permanent frown that creased his forehead looked a lot younger. His features themselves were smooth, if plain, and everyday his morning ritual included over-gelling his hair to the point that even a force-ten gale would be hard pushed to dislodge even one strand.
As his body relaxed into the much worn padding on the bench seat, he took a sip from his fizzing pint. His mouth reacted immediately to the tangy kick of that first taste, and decided to light a cigarette. Casually, he checked inside the packet. Six down, fourteen to go. At least he would not have to buy another lot from those rip-off machines. Whoever decided that twenty equalled sixteen obvious new their taxman, probably in the Biblical sense.
Lien’s eyes were captured by the health warning on the cigarette packet: Smoking May Cause Bad Breath. He raised his eyebrows with mild amusement, and remembered the day back on Earth when he and a group of fellow students had spent a productive afternoon printing off labels to stick over the health manufacturers’ bold type. “Smoking Skills” had replaced “Smoking Kills”, “Smoking Makes You Look Cool” had replaced “Smoking May Cause Infertility” and “I Know, What’s Why I’ve Bought Them Fool” replaced “Smoking is Highly Addictive, Don’t Start”. The latter was a message always printed on the reverse of the packets, a typical case of closing the stable door after the proverbial horse has bolted. Lien pictured the scene of a naïve young person buying a packet of cigarettes on the day they finally turned the age when they could. Taking the packet from the vendor, they turned it round and read the alarming warning.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” they mutter, “I didn’t realise they were addictive. Can I have my money back, please?”
Lien smiled, yeah as if that would ever happen!
Warmed by his mental image, as well as the alcohol coursing through his veins, Lien drifted into a nicotine eased reverie. He was, he decided, a good man. He had always strived to do the right thing, but whatever that was in reality he did not know as the favour had seemingly never been returned.
Neil had sat his first round examinations, run the gauntlet of the more advanced courses and swum the seas of his degree. However, since graduation, he had recoiled so many times as doors were slammed in his face. Each door had some or all of the trite phrases: “You’re over qualified for this position, you would soon get bored”, “You’re too young” and “You don’t have the right level of practical experience at the moment” written on them. Each reason for rejection was hardly his fault, but they were the explanations given. They were the rules he had to fight against to gain the employment he wanted.
After becoming almost terminally bored with daytime television, he had enrolled himself at a local Job Club. He still shuddered as he recalled the instructor insisting he really should stop refusing to fill in the application form to become a forklift Truck driver. He had tried to explain that he was not being arrogant in his refusal to complete the form, it was just that he felt he was worth more, had worked to achieve a level of education that should mean he did not have to even consider this level of employment. However, the Job Club leader had taken it as arrogance, as had the rest of the Job Clubbers, and the silent animosity that built toward him from the group over a number of days forced him to relocate his Job Club. To his credit, he never did fill in that form.
To gain some “real life” experience, Neil had done voluntary work for awhile, but while the charity work is noble, it does not pay and gradually, inexorably Neil had succumbed to the inevitable lure of Temp Work.
Even now, as Lien, living on alien world countless miles away from Earth, he worked for a Temp Company. “The grass is never greener!” he recalled his grandmother saying sagely one awkward afternoon. He now realised that this was true on a Universal level as well as global.
He knew he could have gone back to Earth at anytime, but what was the point? At least here on Interkoll the people were more hospitable.
A cloud of smoke blew back into Lien’s eyes and he blinked himself back into his surroundings.
Damn cigs! He cursed to himself. He had given up smoking for a month half a year back, but such had been the tedium of the placement (and it was a placement, it was not a job), that he had started again just to ensure he got to leave the office on a semi-regular basis. Work kills, all right.
As his eye stopped watering, Lien took in the pub around him. It was crowded, with a group of people having pulled up a couple to tables to accommodate their group. A couple of people on those tables were trying to mask the fact they were giving him strange looks. He was about to ask what the hell they were staring at when, when he realised that he may have fallen into his usual reverie habit of laughing and grunting to himself. However, he had been focused for a few minutes now, and they were still staring. What -? Then he noticed the real reason for their stares. They were in their revelry finest, and there he was in his office suit. He must have stood out quite dramatically – a collection of grey and black in an ocean of colour.
Sitting back in his seat, trying to meld into the fabric to avoid standing out so much, Lien took a deep sip from his drink and found himself thinking about his job situation again. Was this how it would be? Was this how it always had been? Thwarted ambitions and wallowing in alcohol.
“Was it always thus?” he breathed.
“I know what you mean.”
Lien looked up. A man stood before his table. He looked harmless, but Lien got an immediate and unsettling feeling that there was something not quite right about him. “Eh?”
“I know what you mean.” The man repeated, more emphatically this time. He was about five foot nine, fair-haired and had alarmingly deep set grey eyes. He was dressed in a baggy jumper, jeans and non-descript trainers. All were purple. He was harmless. A man in a pub on the day of a planet’s jubilation. He was just someone who had overheard his unintentionally audible exclamation. Yet there was something, something not quite right.
Suddenly, Lien realised what it was. The man had been stood there before him for a good minute or two, and yet he had not blinked once. Nothing. His gaze was fixed; solid and unwavering – and fixed on him.
Warily, Lien settled his pint glass and stammered, “W-what?”
Uninvited, the man straddled the barstool opposite Lien, and rested his elbows on the edge on the DIY-stable table. As the man supported his chin with a cupped palm, Lien started as he noticed he has no pours either, no where for stubble to grow.
Stop it! Lien berated himself. It’s probably a medical condition.
The man spoke, dragging Lien back from his observations.
“Frustration. Feeling aimless. As if you cannot do anything. I understand.”
The voice was caressingly hypnotic, but Lien forced himself to remain alert. Medical conditions my foot. He’s just a weirdo!
“And who is, ‘I’,” he asked the stranger in an attempt to gain control over the conversation.
“I am me.”
Lien snorted, “Evidently.”
The man ignored the rebuke, and said, “I am a friend – a fellow wallower in liquid escape.”
“What, today? The day of celebration?” Lien noticed the man flinch almost imperceptibly at the mention of the party atmosphere outside the and making a mental note of it, stated, “Anyway, escape is solitary.”
The man grinned, tolerantly. “I know, but it’s often better when two ‘I’s share one view.”
Lien was growing tired of this, in particular the underlying patronising tone to the man’s vocal delivery. He leant forward and lit another cigarette. Seven down, thirteen to go.
“Tell me,” Lien said on his first exhalation, “Is ‘I’ your favourite letter of the alphabet?”
The man considered the question, “Well, it’s ok.”
“Though so.” Lien said, inhaling again, “What about ‘U’?”
The man smiled, clearly enjoying himself, “I don’t know that one. Must have skipped that lesson at school.”
Hmm, Lien thought to himself, that figures, but then flinched as he saw the man was actually smiling at his own words. Creep!
“But I am willing to learn,” the man said leaning forward, still not blinking, “Let’s try it, shall we? ‘U’?”
“Tell me about you.”
“I don’t want to!” Lien exclaimed, and blushed slightly at the evident petulance in his voice.
“Oh, come on.”
Neil sighed. This man was not going to go away quietly, was he? Summoning up his reserves of patience, he said, “What’s to tell? Got a crap job, no, sorry, placement, lost a girlfriend, found a pint. Or two.”
“Well, there’s more, isn’t there. Much more.”
Lien took a deep drag from his cigarette, his eyes locked by that grey stare. “Like what?”
“’U’ tell me. ‘Was it always thus?’ sounded a bit too personal, don’t you feel?”
Lien looked puzzled, “Personal?”
“Yes, as if you meant yourself.”
Lien attempted a confident and dismissive shake of his head. The result more closely resembled a nervous tick. “No,” he said, “Just had a bad day, and all this jollity is making it feel worse.”
The man flipped an absorption mat into the air from the corner of the table, caught it and then began toying with its fraying edges. Without looking back up, he said, “I’m not convinced. And neither are you.”
In spite of himself, and the gut deep feeling of disquiet this individual now provoked in him, Lien did not want the conversation to end there. It could not. “Then what?” he asked, anxiety forcing the phrase to tremble audibly.
The man played the moment, but eventually raised his head. In contrast to the urgency in Lien’s question, he delivered his reply with cool, level confidence. “Think. Do you feel your inertia from this life, this day – or is it a feeling, no a certainty that you deserve more.”
Lien snorted, “Of course I deserve more. I’ve worked for my better way!”
The man simply smiled again, “No, no, no …” he purred, “More than that, more than a degree.”
Neil jolted, “How –?”
“It’s obvious. Words come easy to you. ‘Thus’ instead of ‘this’ being a prime example. English degree, was it?”
“I thought so. But anyway, I mean more personal to you – not quite so abstract.” The man then fell silent, evidently weighing the phrasing of his next question carefully in his mind. Finally, he inquired, “Have you ever been greater?”
Thrown completely by the question, Lien could only respond with a shaky, “Like what?”
The man’s eyes widened, “Ah, that’s for you to tell me!”
Lien tried, but could not break the visual link with the man before him. He tried to say something, but it died in his throat. Then for some reason he could not identify, the tension draining from his body, and he leant forward.
“Well,” he said, stubbing out the remnant of his cigarette. “I once had this dream. It was very, very strange, very surreal. I was something else. Someone else. Not necessarily greater, but different. Yes, that’s it, different.”
The man’s face blanched, loosing all its previous humour, sardonic or otherwise. The confidence now lacking in his voice, “How ‘different’?” he asked.
Lien shrugged, warming to his theme, oblivious to the change in the stranger and completely forgetting the strange way the question had been asked in the first place. “I don’t actually know for sure, not in concrete terms … don’t forget it was just a dream. I was just different. A different me, a different age, and a different place. It’s probably nothing, I’m probably talking nonsense, or reincarnation, I –“
Lien trailed off as he became aware of the look the man was now throwing his way. It was cold. It was the face of someone who had just discovered a truth they did not want to believe was fact was now law. The tension reclaimed Lien’s mind, and he shuffled back into the alcove. “L-look,” he stammered, “Who are you?”
Violently, bringing most of the pub’s attention toward him, he did not so much stand as snap up. His stool clattered to the floor, and he raised a finger, pointing it directly at the increasingly unsettled Lien. In a voice barely able to conceal its rage, he hissed, “I know who ‘I’ am. But you? Look to the ‘U’!”
Then, as suddenly as he had erupted, the man calmed down. He retrieved the toppled stool, settled it neatly in front of the table, and slowly made his way passed the entrance and through to the cheaper bar.
Shaken, and painfully aware of the stares all around him, Lien attempted a spirited laugh. It sounded as hollow as it felt, but it was enough to make the crowds ignore him and return to their drinks.
Recovering from the confrontation slightly, he weighed up a series of options and elected to go with the common denominator in them all.
“Ankie,” he called over to the bar, “Another pint when you’re ready.”
Ankie’s black-bobbed head appeared around the wall to the serving hatch, “Give me two minutes, Lien. Oh, by the way, who was your friend?”
Lien raised his hands in an “I’ve no idea” gesture, and said “Just a very strange man!”
Ankie sniffed, “Aren’t you all, love!”
CHAPTER FOUR: Modern Technology
The ‘strange man’ was at that precise moment in time earning his title.
Wedged into the corner adjacent the toilets, he was, to all intents and purposes deep in conversation with a cigarette packet. The cardboard lid was hinged back, and one of the corner cigarettes was raised about one inch higher than its bedfellows. Stranger still, but unnoticed by the passing revellers, the cigarettes were talking back.
While he scanned the area for anyone paying more than casual interest in what he was doing, the cigarettes crackled: “Confirmed.”
The man leered, nodding, “It was so easy this time. They just can’t hide it, can they? The innate arrogance and pride in their other life shows no matter how deep they bury it.”
“It seems so,” the cigarettes agreed.
“And he said it was going to be difficult, that we would have trouble tracking them down. It has taken time, but I think I should be soon be finished here.”
There was a pause, then the cigarettes said, “Concurred. Be careful. Nothing too public.”
The man smiled, humourlessly, “Well, not in a public house anyway.”
“Irrelevant. The humour in the atmosphere is obviously affecting me.”
“This day won’t be happening again.”
“I know. We will put an end to the abhorrence. As to him, I will see to him later. I won’t engage him openly again. Not until he leaves.
“Then I’ll say hello.”
So saying, the man tapped the uppermost cigarette back inside the packet and vanished into one of the queues waiting to be served at the other side of the bar.
According to her watch, it was half an hour since the Doctor had delivered his Dalek joke, but as she was more than aware time was relative here.
In the TARDIS console room, Charley was crouched next to the central column, talking to the Doctor’s shoes. The wearer of the shoes appeared to be have been semi-digested by the base of the console unit, but his frequent requests for various implements demonstrated otherwise. Each of these requests would be accompanied by a waggle of either of the shoes, a highly scientific way of guiding Charley to the items’ various locations around the general technological scrap heap clutter around her. Charley would note where the toes had pointed, and hope against hope that the piece she resultantly handed over was the one he had needed. So far, the method was proving successful.
Despite the size and seemingly endless capacity of the rest of the TARDIS, the console room itself still managed to take Charley’s breath away. It was large enough to be classified as a Cathedral, and it certainly resembled one with its ornate wooden panelling and gothic candle light shadows. The entrance, or rather the exit from her current perspective, was book-ended by elaborate marble pillars, and the floor was paved with paving slabs.
The console itself, vaguely resembling a mushroom, extruded cables like an overlimbed spider. These cables arced upwards, inevitably drawing the eye to the unfathomably deep and endless ceiling. Charley had seen worlds born and perish on the holographic screen that could be called into being up there. It was yet another piece of the Doctor’s technology that was well beyond of her understanding.
“What are you doing, exactly?”
Charley raised her eyes disparagingly. Oh yes, she thought, that makes everything so much clearer. However, that was the Doctor all over. Sometimes he could be infuriately vague about somethings, but on other occasions patronisingly detailed. She knew he never consciously meant to belittle anyone, it just was not in him to do that, but he did have a habit assuming too much or too little, and rarely when appropriate.
“Oh, alright.” Charley said, hoping that the slight vacancy in her tone would convey a request for more information.
The point was lost on the Doctor.
“Retractable Warp Clamp?” The Doctor’s voice echoed from inside the console unit, his right shoe wobbling towards his lounging chair. Charley stood up and sauntered over to it, but she could not find anything mechanical.
“Where, Doctor?” she asked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Page thirty-seven. ‘Rassilon’s Guide to Immortality and How to Get Used to It, Eventually.’”
Charley laughed, “Are you serious?”
The Doctor returned her humour, “I am. It isn’t. It’s a satire.”
“Hmm,” Charley mused, “I didn’t think your lot went in for humour that much, Doctor.”
“Not as a rule, no. There are still a few of us that aren’t as stiff as our ceremonial robes, though.”
“Glad to hear it,” Charley said, and returned to the task in hand. She located the leather bound volume, and cupping the book in both hands let it fall open in her palms. There, housed between pages thirty-six and thirty-seven, acting as a make-shift book mark was what Charley assumed was the Retractable Warp Clamp. It resembled a human spanner, but with a few extra attachments here and there. She lifted the device from the book, and replaced the Time Lord satire on the lounge.
On the way back over to the Doctor, something gasped.
“Hey! Not so hard!”
Charley gazed in astonishment at the Retractable Warp Clamp. At the top of it, a small electronic face had appeared on a small screen she could have sworn was not there before.
“Doctor?” she called.
“This retractable thing of yours can speak.”
Two voices answered the bewildered Charley in unison. “Of course I do!” the clamp said indignantly, while the Doctor echoes with a more level “Of course it does.”
“Well, excuse me, but where I come from tools and machinery are not renown for their eloquence.”
The Retractable Warp Clamp emitted a shrill beep and curtly said, “The arrogance! Don’t forget you’re a machine.”
“And,” the Doctor pointed out, “So is the TARDIS.”
Outnumbered by a Time Lord and his Retractable Warp Clamp, Charley blustered, “Alright, alright. Point, sorry points taken. I apologise clamp.”
Magnanimously, the clamp burbled and said, “That’s okay. I am aware that my capabilities sometime startle the more primitive mind.”
Before Charley could respond, the Doctor extracted himself from the console unit, took the clamp from his companion, and offered the now crimson-faced Charley a wan smile of apology.
“Forgive him, Charley. He’s from Barcelona.”
Confused as well as still slight slightly offended, Charley asked, “What on Earth is that supposed to mean?”
The Doctor frowned, and then sighed, “That’s the problem with pop culture. It dates so fast. Especially, “ he added, “When you use it while talking to someone from before it was popular in the first place.”
Charley was about to press further, but the Doctor had turned on his heels and was already making his way back to the console, talking to the clamp.
Charley ran her fingers through her hair. He really was talking to it. The Doctor was sharing social niceties with an upgraded, intolerably rude spanner. Why was she so surprised, though? He had spoken to a post box during a recent landing. And, to be fair, had she not talked to her dolls as though they were real while she was a child.
The trouble is that neither the post box nor her dolls had actually talked back.
“Hello, old chap!” the Doctor said, amiably.
“Hello, Doctor. I see you’ve changed again.”
“I have, but you haven’t. I would have thought you would learned your lesson about insulting my companions after what Leela did to you.”
“Sorry, Doctor,” the Clamp whined, and then in a louder tone said, “And sorry companion. I sometimes forget the need for tact. Probably a side effect of being a machine.”
Charley smiled. Despite the initial insult, it was hard not to warm to the device.
“Forget it, Clamp,” Charley said warmly, “I already have.”
“Most gracious. I like this one, Doctor.”
Just when Charley though it was going to be an atypical day in the TARDIS, a day of just pottering about and tying all the loose shoe laces that needed tying, the over head scanner lowered itself to just above head height over the console.
The screen crackled into life, and although the image kept fragmenting she clearly read its words:
“Humanian?” Charley pulled a face. What an ugly phrase. Maybe it made more sense in the original Gallifreyan. Or should that be Gallifrannarian.
The screen changed, bringing Charley back from her Interkoll thoughts on what was on the screen and focusing them on the fact that they were there in the first place.
The screen now said:
“No were not, Charley. The materialisation sound hasn’t….”
As if on cue, the blue crystal lattice of columns that moved rhythmically up and down to indicate the TARDIS was in flight slowed their motion, and a harsh grating sound reverberated around the room.
“… Started. Oh dear. Whatever’s happening, Old Girl?” the Doctor exclaimed, shedding the skin of the console unit.
In one fluid, imperceptible movement, he was standing upright in seconds, adjusting various switches and dials.
Solemnly, he looked over at Charley.
“I don’t like this, Charley.”
“What? No ‘lets get out there and embrace the challenge’?”
“No, not this time. The TARDIS won’t tell me where we are.”
Charley shrugged, “Faulty instruments? You did say you were fine tuning, maybe some wires got crossed.”
“No, Charley, listen to me. The TARDIS won’t tell me, deliberately. It’s actually trying to take off again… without me setting the co-ordinates.”
“But it can’t, can it?”
“Well, the HADS can relocate the TARDIS when it’s in immediate danger.”
“Hostile Action Displacement System.”
“Oh, of course. How silly of me.”
The Doctor ignored her. “The problem is, there appear to be no immediate signs of danger.”
So saying, he operated the gigantic hologramatic ceiling and a scene depicting the antithesis of danger swamped their vision.
People dressed in bright clothes were dancing, hugging, drinking, smiling and generally enjoying a carnival.
Despite the images, and the reassurance they were giving that that world outside the TARDIS was no direct threat, the Doctor’s face was grave.
CHAPTER FIVE: One for the Road
Lien drained his pint glass and considered whether to risk another. He had a covering letter to write for a job with the local Television Company, but that would not take long … and it was not as if he was driving.
Satisfied with his ability to reason himself into another drink, Lien started to rise when Cyclone Ankie arrived at his table, complete with a full pint glass.
In response to Lien’s quizzical expression, she announced, “Compliments of the ‘strange man’ you were talking to earlier.”
“Oh, him,” Lien said, shuddering slightly at the recollection.
“Yes. Don’t worry though, love, he’s been no-where near the drink itself. He did tell me to tell you, ‘it’s for times gone by’.”
“I told you he was strange.”
“But a pint is a pint, love.”
Lien smiled a broad, face-illuminating smile, “That Ankie is so true! Well, if you see him say, “’U’ says thank you.”
“Will do. Anyway, enjoy. I’ve got to get back. Mickelleg hasn’t turned in again, and a bridal party has just crashed the disco area. What a day to have a Wedding Party! See you.”
Lien waved her away in a mock regal way, “Yes, you may go,” he said, and took a gulp from his pint. Holding the glass in his hand, he gazed deep into the amber liquid. The purchaser of this drink had to be one of the weirdest individuals Lien had ever encountered. Lien chuckled. Considering he had survived three years at University, that was quite some assertion.
Rather disturbingly, the mere thought of the strange man had focussed Lien’s mind on their encounter. He was replaying segments of their exchange, words triggering off thoughts and thoughts were leading to memories he could not fully focus on. He was seeing places and events he knew were related to him, but he could not discern the How, When and Why.
It was all so …
Ah, never mind, Lien thought dismissing his weird mental trip. Blaming it on alcohol, he decided to go eight down, thirteen to go.
Ten minutes later, and now seven down, eleven to go (alcohol always made his rate of smoking increase), Lien put his coat on and took his empty glass to the bar. Waving his farewells to Ankie, he made toward the door.
“See you tomorrow, love,” she called over, but Lien was already outside.
As he jostled through the immediate thronged crowd at the entrance to the Old Institution, Lien could feel the atmosphere of the carnival seeping into him, trying to claim him, enticing him to join in.
He looked around. It was a glorious sight. He found himself smiling, and not just through the alcohol he had imbibed.
It took him a few moments to realise that someone was trying to catch his attention. As the waving hand finally grabbed his line of vision, Lien looked over to the wooden benches.
“Sormius!” Lien exclaimed, walking toward the table, “How are you?”
Sormius smiled, “Fine, my friend. Aren’t you a little drab to be here?”
“Drab? Oh, you mean the suit. Yeah, that’s why I’m not staying for long. I don’t want to distract from the frivolities by looking all gloomy, do I?”
“Aw,” Sormius said, “You’ll join Moddie and me for one, won’t you? He’s just got another round in, and as always he’s bought a few.”
“And before you ask, yes there is a pint of, er, cider. That is what you call it, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I didn’t think you liked it, either of you.”
“We don’t.” Sormius admitted, “But you know what he gets like after a few. Forgetful isn’t the word.”
Lien smiled again and rapidly seated himself at the bench. One more could not hurt.
“Hi Modran,” he said, the elderly man ignored him. That was very unusual.
Sormius saw the look on Lien’s face. “Oh, don’t mind Moddie. He’s enraptured by the side show.”
Sormius tilted his head to the next bench. Lien was slightly taken aback at what he saw. Sormius brought him up to speed.
“They’ve been at it for hours. You know that today is celebrating the day that good over came evil? Yes, well, those two are trying to out evil each other.”
“Different? Yes, I know. At first Moddie was appalled, but now he can’t stop himself from watching.”
Lien glanced at Modran, and saw that he had actually etched a series of five barred gates onto his absorption mat. Above one series of pen marks was the word “Red”, above the next column the word “Green”.
“He’s keeping score?”
Sormius nodded. “It has been quite interesting. You should have been here about ten minutes ago. The green one was actually knelt on top of the bench trying to get Red to surrender his arm.”
“Yes. All the rules are out of the window, apparently. I must admit, the only thing that made me go “eeew” was when Green started waving his sweaty socks under Red’s nose to win a bout.”
“Indeed. Anyway, it’s keeping old Moddie happy, and it looks like good-natured fun. So, how have you been? You’ve not been in the shop recently.”
Lien sighed, “Same old, same old, mate.”
Lien rolled his eyes, “Don’t! I’ve set my heart on a job at the Television Company, but don’t hold your breath. Actually, that’s another reason I’m not staying out for long. I need to write my covering letter.”
“Well, don’t forget to sell yourself. No-one else will.”
“That’s true,” Lien agreed, “Anyway, cheers!”
Sormius looked momentarily confused, and then realised Lien was invoking that strange Earth ritual of chinking glasses together. “Oh yeah, cheers!”
As the glasses connected, Lien thought about what Sormius had just said, “Actually, that’s not all together true.”
“What, the ‘cheers’?”
Lien laughed. As his top lip was immersed in the top of his glass, it caused the drink to bubble and some to spill over.
Modran turned round at the sound, distracted from watching Red and Green. They were having a cigarette break anyway.
“Oh, hello there Lien. Sorry, I was just-”
“Watching the tournament? I know.” He indicated Modran’s score sheet. “Who do you think’s going to win?”
Modran gave the matter some thought, before replying, “Green.”
“I can’t be sure, but I’m getting the feeling that Red is actually letting Green win more than he should be.”
“Why should he be doing that?”
Modran shrugged, “I have no idea, my friend. It could be my hearing, but every so often the Green ones smiles and says, ‘Option B, remember’.”
“Some sort of code, I suppose. Strange. Strange but very diverting. Talking of which, I think they’re about the start again. Please, excuse me.”
As Modran turned back to the bastardised version of the scared arm wrestling, Sormius asked, “What was so funny?”
Lien inclined his head, “What do you mean?”
“Well, not many people have laughed into their drink following on from something I’ve said.”
Lien saw what Sormius meant, “Oh that, no. It was the fact you thought it was the ‘cheers’ that was untrue. It wasn’t.”
“No, it was the ‘selling yourself’ thing you mentioned. Someone sold me to myself this very evening.”
“Well, not strictly sold me, at least not is an employment way,” Lien paused, “In fact the only way to describe the way it was done is ‘creepy’, but I was told, or lead to believe, I used to be someone different, someone significant.
“At least that’s what I think he was driving at.”
“A drunken man proffering alcohol-based resolutions?”
“I don’t think so. He didn’t appear drunk. Anyway, forget him. Let’s just soak up this atmosphere, shall we?”
Sormius nodded his ascent, and in between marvelling at the sights, singing along with catchy, bland tunes and drinking a few more pints than he had intended to, Lien enjoyed his last night on Interkoll immensely.
CHAPTER SIX: Terminal Encounter
The air was cold, Earth-society cold as Lien finally extracted himself from the company of the shopkeeper and his apprentice. As Modran had predicted, Green had won the contest, evil winning over evil.
It was only a seven-minute walk over to his transport stop, but he had set off earlier than was necessary to ensure the thinning but still dense crowds did not make him miss the last bus. He nodded politely at everyone that nodded to him, but he elected not to smile. He had seen a photograph of what his smile looked like when he had drunk too much. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
As he walked, he tugged his coat collar up over his ears and rammed his hands deep into his pockets in an attempt to beat the chill. It was a vain attempt.
His footsteps echoes loudly in his ears as he passed into now deserted side streets, and every shop doorway seemed to house the shadowy presence of lurking, human like observers.
In fact, one did.
As Lien crunched past the bank where he had christened his credit card, a silhouetted figure broke away from an archway like a honey stick removed from treacle. The form performed a quick reconnoitre of the darkened street. As the figure sidled forward, the alcoves more mineral caused shadows lost their grip on its temporary human occupant. The buyer of Lien’s bonus pint matched his steps to those of the hunched up figure he had been waiting for. How fortuitous that Lien had stayed, betraying his route home to his friends. And him.
Lien became aware that someone was following him. This was more than the normal paranoia of a solitary walk through poorly lit streets. The echo of his steps had amplified slightly, and he was acutely conscious of someone staring at the back of his head.
He turned around, but could discern nothing unusual in the darkness. Whistling a random collection of notes to mask the unease he felt, Neil carried on walking. However after only few paces, the sound of footfall increased again. Although it was synchronised to his own steps, he knew the noise was not possible from just once pair of feet.
Lien walked faster.
As he neared the alley that acted as a short cut to the bus stop, he paused to check around him once again. There was still no one visibly there. Strange. Now considerably unnerved, Lien reasoned that he would soon be home, there was no one there, it was all phantasmagoria. That, and cider.
The alley was long, and Lien did seriously consider not using it. However, as it was fairly well lit, he elected to take his normal route home after all. The row of arced lamps illuminated the phone box at the far end of the ally, and the collections of decomposing refuse that littered the entire run. The ground shone amber as the reflected light hit the spillage from a recent mains burst, reminding him once again of cider … and who had bought him a pint of the stuff that day. He increased his pace, hearing the splashes as his shoes connected with the water. In fact he heard a number of splashes.
The water exposed his stalker, and Lien spun around having only made it several metres down the alleyway.
“Look, who are …” he began, but quickly trailed off.
“’U’? Oh no, not that game again. Hello,” said the man from the pub.
Lien decided to stand his ground, “Why are you following me?”
The man looked shocked, “I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
The man lowered his head slightly, looking at Lien from under the lids of his eyes. The effect was chilling.
“Oh ok, you’re right. I am following you.”
Lien lost all semblance of reserve and his patience dissipated, “Why?” he cried, “Look, if I upset you in some way back there, I’m sorry, but it was nothing intentional.”
“That I believe.”
“And thank you for the drink. It was lovely, and very much appreciated. Now, and I don’t mean to sound rude, but will you please just leave me alone.”
The man did not move. He continued staring, “You have something I want.”
Lien laughed curtly, believing realisation had dawned, “I don’t think so, mate. If you mean what I think you mean, you’re in the wrong part of town.”
The man remained solid, clearly appearing not to grasp Lien’s meaning.
“Look, I’ve said I’m sorry for whatever offence I’ve caused, and I’ve thanked you for the drink. What else is there?” Lien groaned, “Is it money? You want the money for the drink? Or do you want more? Are you mugging me? Here, take it.”
So saying, Lien produced his make shift wallet and proffered his remaining paper money.
“Ah, the drink,” the man said slowly. Too slowly to bode well. “That was a good turn, and do you know what my father always said? No, of course you don’t know, how could you. Mind you it was a cliché, so you should recognise it Mr English Graduate. ‘Son,’ he used to say, he was very sentimental you see, ‘Son, always remember that one good turn deserved another. Oh no, it wasn’t another. Turnover, that was it. One good turn deserves a turnover!”
In a flurry of unexpected movement, the man launched himself at Lien. Shocked by the sudden and violent turn in events, Lien buckled as the man slammed into his body. The velocity forced him to the ground, hard. The man fell on top of him.
Winded but recovering from the surprise of the fall, Lien emitted a reflexive yell. Using his palms and the soles of his shoes, he propelled himself uprights, dislodging and throwing his assailant clear.
Lien took advantage of the momentum his rise had given him, and turning on the spot ran down the alley, away from the man.
“Come back here!” the man shouted, either confidant there was no one there to hear him, or simply de-ranged enough not to care.
Despite the gravity of the situation, heightened every second by the sound of pursuing footfall and rapid, panting breath, Lien found himself remembering those cheesy sci-fi movies where the monster always demanded you went back to them, or told you to “stand still”.
“Oh yeah,” he called back over his shoulder, “I’m a real masochist, me.”
The man gasped, “But it won’t hurt!”
“Oh, right!” Lien cried, his long over coat flapping like a heavy cape behind him, “And Mussolini was an ice-cream seller!”
The man was clearly in better shape than Lien, for the ground between them was closing fast. However, Lien battled on. The air lashed his face, his eyes streamed, his heart pounded, his knees trembled. Ah well, his mind sighed inappropriately, at least your mouse is holding fast.
Run Hilton! He urged himself. Get to the phone box. Get to the bloody phone box.
It was there, within reach. Lien pulled back the handle and yanked the receiver from its cradle. He had seconds to do this, mere seconds. He punched in the emergency services’ number and waited for the connection.
However, before the call could connect and he could inform someone of the nature of his situation, the door was wrenched open, and the man stood in the exposed entrance, grinning.
“Now,” he said, “Whoever decided to only put the handles on the outside of these things, eh?”
The blood drained from Lien’s head, making him feel weak and nauseous. “Look, what do you want?” he demanded lamely, aware he was repeating himself … but in situations like these he doubted anyone ever thought logically. “Clothes? Money? I’ve already offered you money!”
The man shook his head like a parent admonishing a child who still could not grasp the basic truisms of their A,B,Cs. “No, I want something a little bit more valuable.”
Terrified, Lien asked, ”Like what?”
The man feigned surprise. “You really still haven’t guessed? Why, your life of course!”
As the muscles in Lien’s body lost their ability to hold him upright, the man closed in. With a knife in one hand, he wrenched the phone receiver from Lien’s grasp with the other. In a savage, strong movement, he tore the cable from the body of the phone itself.
The man tut-tutted, and crooned in a machine-like tone, “I’m sorry, you have been disconnected.”
Lien could only stare in disbelief as the man plunged the knife through his blazer and shirt, deep into the flesh of his stomach. His body trembled with the realisation that life was leaving him behind.
Glancing down at his stomach, seeing the man’s hand gripping the hilt of the knife flush with the level of his stomach’s skin, maybe deeper. Lien could actually feel the heat of the man’s palm inside him.
Blood soiled the area where the blade had sliced into him, soaking into the fabric and spreading down. The man’s hand was similarly coated in his blood.
The man brushed a strand of Lien’s hair that had finally broken free back into place and then with a brief, fleeting look of regret he twisted the knife around and slashed upwards.
With a sigh, Lien fell forward, his entire weight now held by his attacker. Emitting a primal grunt, the assailant withdrew his knife and watched as Lien fell, first down onto his haunches and then toppled back against the vandal proof glass of the phone box interior.
“I told you it wouldn’t hurt,” the man reminded the portions of Lien’s brain that were still functioning.
Fading, Lien realised he was right. The initial fall, the cuts, the final collapse. None had hurt him in the slightest.
“Alcohol numbs the senses,” the man said, “Especially when helped. You’ve got to love Ankie, haven’t you? Despite all the patter, she despises your kind just as much as I do.”
Lien faded further, and as he died his brain claimed back his earlier name. Hey, Neil, his fevered dying mind said hysterically, you’re past tense now … going to go, are going, gone …
“Yes, your kind!” the man said, spitting on the still, lifeless form of Neil Hilton. He raised his foot and kicked Neil’s thigh savagely.
“Unwanted, unwelcome and a symbol of Him! A symbol of the day Interkoll died!”
The man smiled, enjoying the symbolism of having killed such a creature on today of all days.
As he stripped the body of all forms of identification, the man breathed deeply. Interkoll would see its folly. Interkoll would shake off its inertia, and rise again. It was foretold.
CHAPTER SEVEN: Forced Paralysis
On the TARDIS ceiling, Charley had watched the processions with fascination, but also trepidation. There was something out there that the TARDIS did not want them to encounter, and yet it all looked so harmless, so jolly. What on Earth had the TARDIS detected? It was certainly a strong enough threat for the time machine to immobilise the door opening mechanism.
Normally, she would have asked the Doctor, but she already knew there was no point. He had told her he had did not know what was going on hours ago, and his visage was a constant reminder of his unusual state of mind. It pained Charley to see him like this. Even when he had not fully understood things in the past, she had always been impressed by his youthful, almost naïve belief that he would find the solution, or at the very least a reason. Yet now he stood at the console, almost immobile. For the first time since she had met him, the Doctor had lost his essential vitality. It scared her, and acted as yet another indication as to how much she had to learn about her current lifestyle.
As the Doctor stroked an instrument panel almost absentmindedly, Charley suddenly knew what the Doctor was feeling. It was not helplessness at all, but rather betrayal. His ultimate best friend knew something he did not, and she would not tell him what that was. After centuries together, the TARDIS had a secret, and a blatantly important one.
Charley started as the sound of materialisation attempted to start again.
“I know, Charley, I know!” the Doctor said, once again brought to life with the promise of a task he knew how to perform presented to him. “Come on, old girl, don’t do this. We’re here for a reason, and you know it. I know you know it. You’ve tried to take off seven times so far and I’ve stopped you every time. Come on, calm down … we need to stay.”
Charley heard the sound of the TARDIS engines increase their momentum, the ship was responding the Doctor’s words in exactly the opposite way to what he wanted.
“The TARDIS really wants us to leave here, Doctor.”
“No, Charley. We have to stay. I don’t know what we have to face, but I’m certain we have to find it.”
The TARDIS gave an extra boost to its engines, and the Doctor countered it by re-routing the power to various other elements and components in the craft.
“Play nicely, TARDIS.”
The TARDIS responded by sounding the cloister bell.
“Oh, a touch of the theatrics!”
“Doctor, that only sounds…”
“At a moment of impending peril! I know, Charley, I know.” He looked at her, that smile back on his face, ”And when she’s not getting her own way, perhaps!”
“The TARDIS is sulking?”
“I’m not sure…” the Doctor began. Just then the Cloister Bell started to chime with more rapidity, different notes being added, altered cadences, some loud, some soft. The Doctor straightened up – the very image of a Vicar in his church.
“Charley, would mind turning round?”
“What?” she cried, trying to hear her softly spoken companion above the clamour and din of the TARDIS’ bell-like cloister sound.
The Doctor mimed a minor pirouette motion with his finger, and Charley understood what he wanted her to do. Turning around, she stared at the mini-library set into one of the walls. In an attempt to drive the sound of the bells from her mind she tried to read a line of the titles there. As she reached “Doctor Jekyl and Mister Hyde” her experiment appeared to have worked, she could not hear the noise as loudly any more. Actually, she could not hear it at all – it was just the lingering reverberation in her ears.
She swirled round, and caught the Doctor placing something in his pocket. About to open her mouth, the Doctor raised a flattened palm, “Don’t ask.”
“Let’s just say I’ve put her out of her misery for awhile by sending her to sleep.”
“You’ve switched off the TARDIS?”
“I’ve immobilised her ability to function. I know she probably has good reason for wanting us far away from this planet, but an ignored problem never goes away. It just festers.”
Ever practical, Charley asked, “So how do we get outside?”
The Doctor frowned, “What do you mean?”
“Well, if the TARDIS is paralysed-“
The Doctor winced, “Please don’t use that term, I feel bad enough as it is. That sounds so medically clinical… and malicious.”
“Ok, immobilised. If the TARDIS is immobilised how do we open the doors? I assume they’re powered by the engines?”
“So how do we get out?”
“How did your father start his car?”
Charley frowned, “He didn’t, it was started for him.”
“Yes, but how?”
“With a crank-handle?”
The Doctor was nodding.
“You mean to say that with all this technology you still carry a crank handle.”
“I learned many years ago not to put all your eggs in one basket!”
“But a crank handle?”
“It’s helped me out on a number of occasions, Charley. This will simply be another.”
The Doctor heaved a large wooden trunk from a recess of the room. It was an ornate affair, intricately carved and boasting an impressive pair of hinges at the base of its lid. Levering it open, the Doctor crouched down and started to rummage through its contents.
“I know you’re in here. No, not you. You? No… Aha!” he exclaimed, straightening up, proudly brandishing a length of bent metal piping.
“Are you planning to go out there now?”
“Why not, Charley?”
“Mainly because it’s the middle of the night, Doctor. If there is something lurking out there, surely we would be better off waiting until the morning so we can see things more clearly?”
“Who is to say what we are facing is visual? It could be a sound, a thought or time itself.”
“Not another time paradox. Surely there can’t be another time paradox out there in the Universe.”
“Charley, Charley,” the Doctor said, “You know I can’t answer that. We could be in a paradox simply by not going out there to face a paradox, if indeed it is a paradox.”
“I’m sure that makes sense to you, Doctor.”
“Actually, it doesn’t, but who’d ever know? Anyway, are you ready Miss Pollard?”
“I am as prepared as I can ever hope to be while travelling with you.”
“That’s the spirit. Here,” the Doctor said, handing over the crank-handle.
Charley held the slightly rusty object with mild distaste. “And where exactly am I supposed to place this?”
The Doctor quickly took the handle back, “I’m sorry Charley, you’ve never seen it inaction have you. Here, watch me.”
So saying, the Doctor bounded across the TARDIS console room and squatted to the right of the column fluted double doors. Glancing back to give his companion a cheeky wink, he dislodged a hinged piece of ornamentation, exposing a hole in the TARDIS wall. The whole was just large enough to accept the threaded end of the crank-handle, and the Doctor slid it home. Half-standing, he started to revolve the metal rod clockwise. His actions were slow at first, the cogs adjusting to the manual method of opening the doors. Then as the gears acclimatised, the Doctor was able to use faster revolutions, his actions reminding Charley of a silent movie she had seen as a child.
The doors gave a deafening crack, and started to move inward.
“Nearly there, Charley!” the Doctor shouted back across at her, not for one second ceasing his use of the handle.
Charley joined him by the doors, and noted with admiration that he had not even broken out in a sweat. In fact, he appeared to be enjoying himself immensely.
When the doors were open enough for them to be able to leave the ship with ease, Charley tapped the Doctor on his less energetic shoulder.
“I think you can stop now.”
“Hmm?” The Doctor inquired, still turning the crank handle.
“I think you can stop, the doors are open.”
“Really? That quickly? Excellent.” The Doctor gave the handle one final twist, and extracted the mechanism. Laying it on the floor, he rose.
“Ready. After you.”
“No, Charley, no, no, no. You are the Edwardian Adventuress, after you.”
Charley smiled, placed her arm through the Doctor’s and suggested: “Why don’t we go out together?”
The Doctor ruffled her hair affectionately. “Why not? The Time Lord and the Adventuress facing the unknown together. We make quite a team, don’t we?”
“We do indeed, Doctor.” Charley agreed, and together they crossed the TARDIS threshold leaving one dimension for –
- a dark, cold night in a lamp lit street.
The TARDIS had materialised at the end of a long alleyway. Behind her she noticed that the doors to the craft were still open.
“Doctor, the TARDIS. We can’t leave her like this.”
“Like what, Charley?”
“Well, anyone could get in.”
“Ah, yes, I see what you mean. No, we can’t have that at all can we.” He delved into an inner jacket pocket and produced his Sonic Screwdriver. Pointing the device at the doors, he indented a button on the shaft of the device and as an electronic hum sounded, the doors closed to.
Charley was dumbfounded. “Couldn’t you have used that on the inside?”
The Doctor looked shocked, “What? And hurt the old girl’s feelings? Don’t forget she’s only sleeping. Anyway, the manual way was more fun.”
“If you say so.”
The conversation over, Charley took in their surroundings.
It was certainly dark, even with the street lighting, but the ground was littered with the evidence of the celebrations she has witnessed on the TARDIS ceiling. Glancing down the alleyway, she saw it was rather well lit, the cobbles were wet denoting either recent rain or, more likely seeing as the ground on the main street was dry, a plumbing burst and right at the far end was a phone box. She squinted. In the phone box was ….
“Doctor!” Charley whispered, her breath fogging before her in the cold air.
“I think you ought to see this.”
The Doctor re-pocketed his Sonic Screwdriver and took a deep lung-full of the night air. After a few seconds of raucous coughing he asked, “What?”
Charley extended her hand, pointing down the alleyway, her voice trembling slightly as she said,” Down there. The phone box.”
The Doctor followed the direction Charley had indicated, actually noticing the alley for the first time. His eyes widened. “Come on,” he urged, and started down the splash-damp cobbled walkway.
Charley followed, her shoes threatening to betray her balance occasionally as she tried to keep up with the longer strides of her companion. She avoided looking at the phone box for most of the relatively short jog, but when she did it became unmistakable as to what they had both seen.
In the phone box was a man, or more accurately the body of a man. The individual had been decapitated, the head grotesquely placed within a stomach cavity. The sides of his face were framed not by his hair, but rather severed skin and brutally dislodged organs.
“I think I’m going to be sick!” Charley gasped, the bile already rising in her throat.
The Doctor was already crouched on one knee, examining the fallen body. Searching for identification, he was clearly bemused that the individual had no cards or paperwork on him at all.
After awhile, he reverently closed the man’s eyes and rose to comfort Charley.
“It’s so savage!” she said.
“I know, Charley, but look at it. It’s unhurried, almost ritualistic. It was a confident killing. This took time, arrangement.”
“You make it sound like a Well Dressing!”
“No, no, no. I’m merely stating that this was no ordinary stab and run.”
Too horrified to even attempt a pithy comment that that much was pretty obvious, Charley asked, “What do you mean?”
The Doctor gave Charley’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “I mean that whoever did this is severely deranged, or obsessed, but collected enough to appear normal enough to go as largely unnoticed as you or I in everyday society.”
Charley pulled away from the Doctor a little way. “Would you care to repeat that, or at least expand on it a little bit.”
The Doctor collected the pieces of stray information that had formed in his mind together. Taking a step into the middle of the alleyway, he said, “This passage is quite long, yes?”
“Apart from the rubbish, there is no where to hide, or lay in wait. Agreed?”
Charley checked out the alley for concealed doorways or overhangs. There were none. “Agreed.”
“Also, none of these bags have been disturbed. Some actually look as though they have welded to the cobbles.”
Charley could not deny what the Doctor had observed, but she was she unsure as to why it was relevant.
“Someone is murdered is such a violent way, and there are no real signs of a skirmish, no disturbed debris?”
Charley nodded, “That is unusual,” she said, realising that was trying to convince herself more than him that she understood crime scenes this well.
The Doctor leaned closer to the corpse, bringing the body back into Charley’s line of vision again. “Also, he doesn’t look surprised,” he assessed, “More merely pleasing.”
“Oh, merely. If someone had the intention of doing that to be I’d be several levels above pleading, merely or otherwise.”
The Doctor held up his hands, gently, and continued, “Charley, how, who and why do you plead?” He did not wait for her answer, but simply carried on with his explanation. “You only plead if you have time to do so, or you know the person who is there before you, that is you have spoken to them before. Otherwise surprise shows, too.”
“Surely surprise would be there if you knew them? The shock that they had turned on you?”
“Yes, and no. If you knew the person, you would try to plead even more, wouldn’t you? Appeal to a better nature you knew, or at least hoped, existed in there.”
Charley nodded, grim realisation in her mind. “So, you think he new the person that did this to him.”
The Doctor inclined his head. “Yes. Maybe for years, maybe for a few hours, but time had definitely been spent together.”
A deep ripple flexed inside Charley’s stomach, “That’s awful!”
“’As in the best it is,’ Charley. Murder is murfder, whatever the politicians may say when it suits them.”
The Doctor suddenly darted inside the phone box, noticing the severed telephone cable. “Look, Charley,” he said, beckoning her closer to the body’s temporary coffin. “He even had time to attempt a call!”
Focussing her eyes on the flex, Charley commented, “That could have been done ages ago.”
“Then why come in here? Why stop running to use a blatantly vandalised phone? You would continue running, noticing the phone in a second and then carrying on.”
Charley considered something. “Protection?”
The Doctor shook his head. “No, Charley. Look at this box.”
Charley did, and even as the Doctor put it into words she knew what he was about to say.
“The only handle is on the outside. That’s inviting them in, not empowering you to keep them away. Also, and in evidence that the Universe is insane all over, these boxes have had this ludicrous design worlds over for long enough for him to know that instinctively. No, this cable was yanked-“
“Yes, there is no sign of cutting. See?”
Charley inspected the area where the cable had originally joined the main phone. “That would make the murderer…”
“Very strong indeed. Yes.”
“Maybe, but don’t forget we are the aliens here, we don’t know the natives’ strength.”
“But they looked so peaceful from within the TARDIS.”
“True, but don’t forget they were celebrating. Also, I know of a society from a few years in your future where the most horrific individuals were portrayed as saviours. Don’t believe what you see, only what you know.”
Charley took a step backwards. “I don’t like this, Doctor.”
The Doctor had to agree. “Neither do I. However, I don’t think this poor unfortunate was the reason the TARDIS wanted to keep us away from here, do you?”
“No, however horrible this is, and it is horrendous, we have seen much worse. At least there’s one thing,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
The Doctor looked at her distractedly. “What’s that?”
“Well, we’ve been with a dead body for ten whole minutes, and no one has arrested us yet!”
The Doctor smiled, but before Charley could congratulate herself on levity successfully accomplished, somebody coughed his or her introductions behind them.
“Right, you two,” a harsh, authoritarian voice said, “Stay where you are. You are under arrest!”
In a nearby doorway, the murderer of Neil Hilton was staring in horror at the scene before him. For once, he actually blinked.
As the officer made the two people investigating the body stand, their arms above their heads, he found his blood run cold. Pressing his body flat against the shuttered door, he extracted his cigarette communicator and lifted the aerial with his teeth. In a hoarse voice, he whispered, “I think I’ll be here for awhile longer after all.”
The man shook his head, even though the gesture would not be witnessed by anyone. “Later,” is all he said, and ceased communication.
Keeping to the shadows, he watched the trio in silence. Revulsion pumping through his veins, he closed his eyes and slowly clasped and unclasped his palms into hard, bloodletting fists.
“Look officer, we really had nothing to do with this man’s death!”
The Doctor was plaintively trying to establish his and Charlie’s innocence.
Charley took her cue to join in, “Search us. Neither of us are carrying weapons capable of inflicting those kind of injuries.”
The officer regarded them suspiciously.
“Also,” the Doctor continued, “Do we look strong enough to rip a telephone mooring from its socket – either individually or collectively.”
The officer considered the points being made, and decided to call for help from base. Lifting his communicator from his belt clip, he initiated contact.
The device crackled, “Yes, Officer Polpkrell, what is you location and situation?”
Polpkrell triggered his response button, “I’m at the alleyway near the high street intersection. I have apprehended two individuals, one male, one female, sighted at the scene of a possible murder.”
Charley raised her eyebrows, “Possible? Does he really think he committed suicide?”
“Shh, Charley, the authorities have to keep all explanations open until they can practically eliminate them all.”
“But it’s obvious.”
“Yes, but the Universe over the policing authorities have to ensure they cover their back. It’s the same here, wherever we are, Earth, Gallifrey,” the Doctor drew a sharp intake of breath, “Especially Gallifrey!”
“Will you be quiet?” Polpkrell snapped, and the Doctor and Charley fell into a shame-faced silence.
“Ten minutes? Excellent. I’ll keep the scene isolated and these two under observation until you get here.”
“Very good, over.”
“Over and out.”
“You sure we’re not on Earth? This is so familiar.”
“Law enforcement follows a similar pattern wherever you go, Charley.” Catching the officer’s eye, the Doctor smiled, “I’m sorry for talking, Officer Polpkrell, but I was just explaining to my companion here how you have to work hard to ensure there is little or no room for erroneous assessments in your detective work.”
Polpkrell looked blank for a second, then once his brain had recognised and translated the word this stranger had said nodded, grunting, “Exactly, sir.”
“So, what now?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, don’t you need to know what we know?”
“Yes, yes. I was just coming to that, Sir,” Polpkrell said, his dislike of the Doctor becoming evident in his pronunciation of the word, “sir”.
Producing an electronic keypad, he raised it to his mouth and started dictating his report. The machine transcribed every aural exclamation into pixel text as the questioning began,
It was to prove a very short interrogation.
“So, how did you and this lady –“
“Charlotte, or rather Charley Pollard,” the Doctor interrupted helpfully.
“If I may finish my question, Sir?”
The Doctor nodded, “Of course, of course, I was only trying to fill in a bit a colour for you.”
Charley saw that the officer was not finding the Doctor’s interjections colourful, amusing or helpful.
“Doctor, maybe we should speak when were spoken to on this occasion?”
The Doctor’s face fell, “Really? Well, maybe you’re right. Ok, officer, you want to know what happened…”
The Doctor’s voice trailed off. The Officer was stood there open mouthed, his eyes wide and disbelieving.
“Officer?” The Doctor prompted.
“Officer Polpkrell?” Charley attempted the same, but in a more soothing tone.
Gradually, life returned to Polpkrell’s fixed gaze.
“Excuse me, Sir, but did she just call you ‘Doctor’?”
The Doctor looked first at Charley, then at the Officer, then down at his chest and back to the Officer. “I suppose she did. It is my name, after all.”
“I mean the Doctor, the traveller?”
Charley started to look amused, but seeing the earnestness in Polpkrell’s face this turned to concern and then sheer disbelief as when the Doctor confirmed that he was indeed the time travelling Doctor, Polpkrell emitted a deep wail.
Before their astonished eyes, Polpkrell fell to his knees and bowed his head. Speaking to the floor, the Officer intoned, “It was foretold you may one day return, but we scarcely believed it. You have come back to check on us.”
Charley side whispered, “Is this what the TARDIS didn’t want you to face, fanworhip?”
“I must admit I tend to agree with her, it’s all a bit unnerving.”
Polpkrell was still staring at the ground, “If I may be so bold, this is the culmination of my life. If it weren’t for you none of this would be as it is today.”
The Doctor started to look flustered, “Well, it’s nice to know that my efforts are appreciated, gives one a feeling of job satisfaction. Now, you were questioning me about this poor man’s body.”
Polpkrell snapped his head up and then immediately swung it back down, clearly feeling unworthy of staring the Doctor in the face.
“Lord, all charges and thoughts of charges against you are dropped.”
“Time Lord, maybe they’ve dropped the Time bit over history.”
Polpkrell’s body started shaking, and Charley clearly heard him starting to sob.
“Oh Lord, how can you ever forgive me? Can you please find it in you to forgive me for my actions and words toward you this evening, God?”
The Doctor ran his hand through his curly hair. “God?”
Polpkrell nodded, still sobbing, “You are Lord, You are the Saviour, You are the God overseeing Interkoll!”
CHAPTER EIGHT: From Time Lord to Deity
As Charley stared at the Doctor, she could see the full impact of this revelation hitting him. She noticed that he was staring around him, and she followed his gaze. She saw for the first time the images imprinted on the vast majority of the posters around them. There were two dominant visages and both were head and shoulder shots. One showed an elderly lady in a cardigan and glasses, the other a man with blond curly hair and the beginnings of a very brightly coloured coat. Both captured faces were smiling benignly and typed over the bottom of each poster was the legend, “Smile, for they smile on you, wherever they may be.”
Somehow, Charley instinctively knew the man was the Doctor.
“Doctor? Doctor, are you alright?”
The Doctor did not answer.
In his bed, Modran was slept fitfully. Although the room was in semi-darkness, the one tone blue clothing he had worn that day was visible, pressed and folded, hanging from a rack of identical garb, all in different hues. His clothes rack could have been photographed and used as a visual aid in schools as to what the spectrum looked like.
In his dreams, he saw the two youths from the bench next to him at the celebrations engaged in their entertaining mockery of the ritual.
Unbidden, memories of pre-schooling came back to him, and he muttered the words as his mind replayed a bought of the contest again.
“He came forth.”
“Give me your hand!” Green demanded.
“Through the barriers of the mind.”
“No, you tricked me that way before!” Red said, his face conveying hurt.
“Knowledge he seeks.”
“Come on, trust me.”
“And knowledge he shall find.”
“A mysterious image.”
“Would this face deceive?”
“Projected from the brain.”
“The fog is clearing.”
“There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“But the image stays the same!”
“Option B! You always fall for Option B!”
Modran sat bolt upright in his bed as Green gripped Red’s hand tightly and brought it down onto the table.
As beads of night sweat peppered Modran’s body, the doubt assailed his brain once again.
Had evil really been eradicated from Interkoll forever?
Could anyone achieve such a feat?
Yes, even Him?
What annoys me more than anything else is how long it took me to widen my way of thinking. For awhile, I fell into the trap of microcosmic thinking. With each landing, I took my point of reference from the area we arrived – be that geographically or temporally.
I suppose you could say that I was being as egocentric as those I have accused of the same thing earlier in this diary.
But who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
CHAPTER NINE: The Past Will Always Come Back to Haunt You
“I am not your God. I am not even a God, any God, anywhere.”
Polpkrell laughed between his tears of reverence, “They said you would deny your status if you returned. It is written that you tried to attribute the praise deserving to you at the Time of Union onto others.”
“The Time of Union?”
“Before the Doctor, sorry my Lord for using your real name, Interkoll was…”
The Doctor had had enough, “Please Officer, stand up.”
“If you command it, Lord.”
The Doctor pulled his mouth against his teeth, and raised his eyebrows, “I do not command it, I suggest it.”
“I must obey even your suggestions.”
“Oh for the love of Rassilon.”
Charley could not help herself, “Careful, Doctor, we don’t want the streets littered with God’s now do we.”
Shooting Charley a reproachful look, the Doctor softened his expression when he saw the humour in her eyes, “Exactly. There shouldn’t even be one here, let alone two.”
Polpkrell was fully vertical now, his hands clasped respectfully behind his back, his head held reverently solid.
“You were saying, Officer.”
“Yes, Lord. Before your visit, we lived isolated lives on Interkoll, blindly going about aware of the divergent nature of our race but segregated from each other by geography and ignorance.
“When one of our communities tried to take what was not theirs we were caught unprepared. One nation had amassed a massive army, and was poised to invade its neighbouring countries.
“On one fateful day, they struck, and the country collapsed without resistance, and their individuality was erased forever. The dominant invader impressed their codes and practices on the conquered peoples.
“This continued at an alarming rate, and many of our cultural differences were erased forever. This was not simply due to the aggression of the invaders, but also out own stupidity at fearing our neighbours rather than talking to and integrating with them. Each of our countries, even our counties were like one print runs of novels. When such a novel is destroyed, all of it records, all the insight it carries is lost, gone forever.”
Charley interrupted Polpkrell’s well remembered diatribe, “So, where does the Doctor fit it?”
The Doctor was staring into the middle distance, his gaze clearly taking into account time as well as space. Quietly, he said, “I think I remember only to well.”
“Yes. It was just a landing like any other. How stupid of me. I should have foreseen this. I left them with a power vacuum. I should have listened to her.”
Charley frowned, “Listened to who?”
“A very wise woman. Doctor Evelyn Smythe.”
My narrow band of thinking would not have been so bad, had I not been a lecturer in history. I had always prided myself of being able to judge a situation objectively up until that point, but I was a fish out of water, experiencing things that very few humans have or will.
If I were to give it an analogy, I would describe the time I had visited my Grandmother the day she had been baking. It was my birthday, and she made the most delicious chocolate cakes. That year she made more than ever before and as she ushered me into the pantry she said that I could help myself. Well, dear diary, you know me and my penchant for chocolate in any form. That’s how I felt travelling with the Doctor. My manors, my thinking and my reserve all went in a flush of adrenaline.
With the Doctor’s help, however, and his truly other-worldly experience and perspective, I was able to not only reclaim a sense of overall objectivity, but also re-evaluate what I already knew from my own studied of Earth’s history.
I was soon able to employ these new skills on the alien worlds we landed in. It was exhilarating, just like starting over again – me, at my age feeling like I was starting afresh. Who would ever have believed it? Certainly not the Dean!
Whatever happens between the Doctor and myself, I will always be grateful for the time I have shared with him
CHAPTER TEN: Cake
“If I may be so bold, Lord, you left us united. Interkoll became one, a patchwork of ideologies merged.”
“Yes, but under a false banner.”
“You still deny your status?”
“Of course I deny my status, this is all wrong. I should have left you independent, stronger, capable of going forward beyond the immediate aftermath of that war.”
“But you did, Lord. Surely our unity under you is the best you could have hoped for?”
“I never believe blind obedience to be a good thing. It’s what started your war in the first place – one national adhering to one persons view.”
“But he was evil.”
“One man’s evil is another man’s good, as someone very powerful said to me. I agree he needed to be stopped, but not at this cost.”
“But thanks to you, Interkoll managed to survive, our cultures maintaining their identity.”
“How? Does a grain of sugar maintain its original shape and constituent parts when baked in a cake? Of course not, it splinters, gets weaker. While it is there, it’s original form is gone forever. This is Interkoll in short hand! I wanted, needed you all to unite, but only to defeat the present threat. You could all have lived separate lives afterwards. You could have lived fulfilling, understanding parallel lives – ones that knew they could call on their neighbours when needed, but this … this is interplanetary inbreeding. It’s wrong, and it’s all my fault.”
Charley tried to placate her companion, “You can’t blame yourself, Doctor. You were not to know.”
“I should have foreseen it as a possibility. I was a little bit more abrasive in those days, not overly keen on listening to advice. I solved the problem and moved on. Or in this case, so I thought. On Gallifrey, the first rule of time is that no incarnations of any one Time Lord can ever meet in the same time-space location by forced arrangement. Ha! The hypocrites! They’re always breaking that rule when it suits their own agenda, or they need help to survive and can’t be seen to get their own imperious hands tainted with intervention. However, you don’t have to be in the same room as someone to be affected by the actions they may have committed before your presence there.”
Charley attempted to break the Doctor’s line of introspection and vitriol at the Time Lords “You were abrasive?”
“In that body, oh yes, especially in the initial post-regenerative state. Poor Peri took the brunt of it more often than she ever deserved to. Eventually, I calmed down but it took awhile. A lot of that process was down to the help of the remarkable Evelyn.”
“She meant a lot to you, didn’t she?”
“Yes Charlie, she did. She showed me how blinkered I had been to certain aspects of my travelling. On a humanitarian, and personal level.”
“Where is she know?”
The Doctor’s face clouded, “Another time, maybe. I’ve got to prove I’m not a God to these people.” He laughed, “Ironic, really. Of all the companions I have had, Evelyn is the one who would have easily dressed down any notion of my being such a being.”
“Ironic in that it was during her time with me that these seeds were sown.”
Interkoll had been a particularly interesting landing. Just as the peoples of Earth are generically known as Humans, those of that world were known as Interkollian. When we arrived, one particular nation there was waging war against seemingly every other nation on the planet.
There were so many similarities between the two worlds they could almost have been twinned.
As usual, the Doctor managed to save the day. With his ever present loquacious tongue, he addressed the entire planet via an elaborate and sophisticated telecommunication address boosted by the TARDIS’ engines, and he made them all see the futility in fighting against each other.
The one aspect of my travels with the Doctor that never sits right with me was never more acutely felt than on this excursion. We always seem to leave just as events are being rectified. I often wonder if we leave too soon, that maybe we should offer some kind of aftercare.
The Doctor would often reply “oh flibbertigibbet” or some such none-sense phrase, and claim that it was not part of the Time Lord code.
I can’t help but feeling that one day this may come back to haunt him. In fact, I recall telling him that quite emphatically at the time. Oh, ignore me. What do I know? I’m a History Lecturer with a heart condition knocking on the door of senility.
The Doctor will be fine, I’m sure.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Exposition of a Fanatic
Near the alleyway, all further conversation was halted by the arrival of a strange looking man. Even before he was within clear visual range, Charley could see that he had blood on his clothing and hands.
“You!” The man spat. “It really is you?”
The Doctor groaned, “Oh no, not again!”
The man laughed, “Oh don’t worry. You’ll get none of this fawning from me. I despise you.”
“Well, you can’t please everyone.”
“Not even as a God.” Charley chipped in then wished that she had not.
“A God? Him? A God? He is the despoiler of my world. It was him that ruined Interkoll. He brought in alien elements, unwanted notions of unity over dominance. It was this creature that brought the other aliens here.”
The Doctor addressed the man, “You killed that man in the phone box, didn’t you?”
The man nodded, smiling, “Yes. He was an alien, and worse than that a self-pitying alien. He thought he was bad done to because he could not achieve a few basic things in his life. How could he begin to understand the suffering my people have gone through, our identities stripped from us.”
“So you decided to demonstrate that suffering in a physical way?”
The man looked shocked, “No, not physical. I needed him to feel despair, real despair.”
“Then why cut him open like that?”
“I’m not a evil, Doctor, I did not hurt him.”
Charley choked, “I beg your pardon?”
“I ensured his drink was drugged. It removed all sensations of pain.”
“Oh, that makes it perfectly acceptable then, I suppose.”
The man turned on Charley, “What do you know about this, any of this. I assume you’re one of his friends, travelling from place to place with no real sense of consequence.”
Charley held his stare, “Well, I travel with him yes, but I can assure you I am acutely aware of the consequences of some of his actions.”
“Really? Maybe you’re first visit here should have been in this version of you, Doctor, and not that blustering, multi-coloured one.”
“I was going through a period of transition,” the Doctor said,” And no I’m not excusing my actions, simply offering an explanation.”
“Do you know how hard it is to do this every year?”
“Dress from head to toe in one of the colours from that ridiculous coat you used to wear? The coat that came to symbolise our unity as a planet?”
“I never wanted that to happen.”
“But it did. Every year we wear an individual colour to illustrate our past individual cultures. They do this and cheer, dance, and drink in anticipation of the Day of Union. They see the merging as a sign of strength, and in the week afterward wear violently opposing colours, even down to wearing odd socks. I partake in this freak show to mourn the day we lost everything. And I will be wearing a fresh version of what I am wearing now for the period they go around looking like clowns.”
“I don’t think so.”
During the discussion, Officer Polpkrell had been manoeuvring himself into a position just behind the self-confessed murderer. Before he could react, the man felt his wrist jerked behind his back and metal cuffs secured in place.
“I am arresting you on charges of murder and blasphemy.”
“Please, murder will suffice.” The Doctor said in a strained tone.
The arrested man laughed harshly, “At least we can agree on that.”
The Doctor did not warrant the comment worthy of a response.
“Anyway!” the man shouted, now trying to struggle against his bonds. “Do you seriously think I’m doing this on my own? The Nation of Grackcom will rise again.”
Charley whispered, “I gather that was the original aggressor nation?”
The Doctor nodded, clearly replaying events from years gone by in his head, searching for alternatives and guidelines he should have seen and implemented at that time.
Further protestations and mental recriminations were placed firmly in abeyance as the law enforcement cars swept around the corner, screeching to a halt mere metres from them. Polpkrell quickly ensured that his charge was placed into custody, and as the man was bundled into the car he issued a barrage of curses of promises that this was far from over.
Charley saw the man ask the officer next to him a question. The officer nodded, and the man extracted a packet of cigarettes from an inside pocket. However, even though he extended one, he did not take it from the pack. Instead he simply twirled it for a second of two and then slid the cylinder back inside. Shrugging at the officer, the man rammed the packet back inside his coat.
Charley frowned, but soon forgot the incident as events carried on around her.
A medical van started to back toward to entrance to the alley way, its rear double doors as near to it as access would allow. As the team poured from the van to look after the remains of Neil Hilton, Polpkrell’s superior officers marched over to him and saluted. Polpkrell instinctively responded in kind.
“So, Officer Polpkrell, it’s clear to see you’ve managed to keep the situation under control. Well done, well done indeed. Who are these two?”
Polpkrell’s face shone, and Charley saw the Doctor close his eyes awaiting the inevitable.
“Sir, this is Charley Pollard, and this is the Doctor.”
His superior looked at the tall, gangly man presented to him.
“Yes,” Polpkrell said, his tone hushed.
“He looks different to the images from the Day of Union placards.”
“It is Him, Sir, see there. Proof for any unbeliever.”
All the law enforcement officers turned to where Polpkrell was gesturing. Some gasped, but many more fell to their knees at the sight before them.
Charley smiled. While she had to admit the TARDIS was impressive inside, she had never felt compelled to kneel in awe at the sight of its Police Box exterior. Then again, she reasoned, she had never linked that image to notions of a deity.
“You have returned to us!” The Chief Officer said.
“Yes, and I’m beginning to wish I’d listened to a very good friend of mine and not bothered.” Only Charley saw him pat the pocket where he had placed the component he had removed from the TARDIS console to send her to sleep.
“You are displeased with us, Oh Lord.”
“No, I’m disappointed in myself.”
“But you are Divine, all knowing, all seeing.”
“Oh, I wish.”
“Wish what you want, Lord. Your wish is our command.”
The Doctor was exasperated. “Look, is there anywhere warmer where I can try and convince you that I am not, or at least should not be your God?”
“There’s always the station.”
“Very good, let’s go there.”
“As you command.”
The Doctor stamped his foot in frustration.
“You are angry, Lord?”
“Yes. I did not command anything. I have no right to command anything. Please, can we get out of this cold and into the station where hopefully you will all start seeing sense.”
Obviously concerned that they had displeased the Doctor in someway, the officers carried out his request, and before long the body of Neil Hilton was on its way to its second autopsy of the day while the rest of them were being driven to the Police Station.
In the back of one particular car, Charley nudged the Doctor in the ribs. “Well,” she said, keeping her tone low and conspiratorial, “This makes a pleasant change, doesn’t it?”
The Doctor pulled a face that told her he was finding none of this present situation pleasing, but asked what she meant anyway.
“Well, we’re on our way to a Police Station and we haven’t been arrested!”
The Doctor’s mouth broke into a smile that turned into a grin. Within seconds he was laughing, a deep, genuine and infectious laugh.
To Polpkrell it was the most enchanting sound he had ever heard. As long as he lived he planned to remember that noise. He wanted to be able to tell his children about it, and the day he had heard God laugh.
CHAPTER TWELVE: Backseat Drivers
In their car, Charlie stared at the Doctor’s face. He was clearly ill at ease with the role the people of this planet had cast him in, but it made her realise once again how little she really knew about the man she trusted so implicitly.
How many Doctor’s were there, and what had each got up too during their lives? While she was unquestioningly certain that the man she travelled with had always battled for good, their present situation was opening up questions that had so many potential answers that her mind was reeling. On top of those thoughts, her mind kept bringing the image of the poor man in the phone box into focus. The Doctor had clearly though he had achieved his desired result here at the time, but it was blatantly obvious that he had not. People were being murdered, with the perpetrators of the crime claiming the Doctor’s involvement, and his post-visit canonisation was the cause. While the Doctor was usually always confident in most situations and invariably took charge, Charley was under no illusion that the Doctor would never considered himself a god, or that he ever wanted others to view him in this light.
“Are you alright, Doctor?”
“What?” the Doctor murmured, clearly extracting himself from some reverie, “Yes Charley, I’m alright. Just not all seeing and all powerful, despite the hype.”
“That poor man!”
“And how many others? The death toll is counting, Charley, I’m painfully aware of that. I can sense it. It’s tangible in the very air.”
“What did you do here, Doctor? I mean we’ve helped people and planets out before, but what did you do here that was so fundamentally different?”
The Doctor turned to stare out of the window at the passing buildings. “Nothing,” he said, “And that’s what is worrying me. I did the usual, as far as I can recall. I righted a wrong. It just seems that the people of Interkoll were more susceptible to hero worship.”
“So do you think this is an isolated example?”
The Doctor faced her again, his expression grave, “I certainly hope so! I don’t even want to consider the notion opening to TARDIS doors to planet after planet of adoring followers.” He smiled, “That would be a touch too Catholic for my tastes.”
Charley took his lead and attempted to keep the tone light, “Oh I don’t know, Doctor, think of all the doors it could open for you.”
“Charley, that’s not…”
Further conversation was halted as the car swerved drunkenly to one side. Thrown together roughly, Charley and the Doctor looked quickly toward Polpkrell. He was slumped across the steering wheel, a bullet hole through his temple and blood cascading down his face and neck. The driver’s window had been wound down.
“Doctor!” Charley gasped.
“I know, Charley! I know! Another death, and one I am sure is in my name again. Now I know why gods are always depicted as ever alert – they probably can’t sleep at night with the blood on their hands.”
As the Doctor clambered over the passenger’s seat to reach the front of the now wildly careering car, Charley said, “That’s a bit harsh, Doctor. Most religions only promote peace.”
“Yes, I know Charley, but as with any mass organisation, it only takes a small handful of people to corrupt and tarnish an otherwise sterling institution.”
Charley found her gaze gripped by the slumped form of the officer. “The bullet, Doctor. I didn’t hear anything.”
“I think he was taken out by a professional, Charley.”
The Doctor’s coattail draped over the back of the front seat, and as his long arms reached over to grapple with the steering wheel. Carefully he eased the Polpkrell’s boots from the pedals with his own feet and slowly brought the vehicle under some sort of control.
Bringing the car to a halt, he opened the passenger door and flagged down one of the other police cars. As it pulled up along side them, the Doctor answered Charley’s question.
“I think that’s rather obvious. Someone wants me dead.”
“Yes, I think we’ve established that. What I meant was, why not just shoot you?”
The Doctor ducked back into the car. “Well, thankfully not everyone thinks as directly as you, Charley. Maybe they want me to have a slow death, or simply try to weaken me by showing me others dying around me. Who knows?”
The driver from the other car was behind the Doctor now.
“Lord, what is it?”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Charley had to suppress a smile as the Doctor grimaced before moving aside to allow the officer full vantage of the inside of the car, in particular the driver.
“And no, before you ask, neither of us did it.”
Although shocked at the death of his colleague, the officer quickly said, “Oh, I know that, Lord. You are the bringer of peace, not a harbinger of death.”
Charley had to look at the floor. Any more of this face pulling and he would be able to enter gurning competitions at any seaside resort in England. A sudden slump from the driver’s seat brought Charley back to the reality of their situation.
“Well, whatever else I am, I’m also someone asking if Charley and I could travel with you in your car to the station while you call for someone to attend to this poor man.”
The officer nodded frantically. “Of course, of course.” His blustering mannerisms were cut short as something sliced through the air nearby. Although the weapon had clearly been silenced when the trigger was pulled, the sound of a bullet ripping into a wall nearby was unmistakable.
“Charley! Quickly! Into the car!”
As more silently travelling bullets slammed home into various buildings, the Doctor, Charley and the officer pell-melled across the brief gap between one car and the other and slammed the doors shut. Instinct and training combining as one, the officer floored the accelerator to the floor and the car sped away.
The officer called into the station to update them on the situation, and to call for people to attend to Polpkrell.
“Very good, Officer Rumbrick,” the speaker crackled back, “Just get here ASAP.”
Rumbrick grunted his assent and carried on driving.
Within seconds a bullet smashed through the back window of the car, and the Doctor threw Charley down onto the floor, sheltering her with his own body.
“Are you safe, Lord?”
“Yes, fine and I really want to remain that way! Please, concentrate on driving.”
“And I am not…”
A flurry of bullets sped down the left hand side of the car, shattering the wing mirror.
“It’s alright Charley, I’m fine so is officer Rumbrick”
In the rear view mirror Rumbrick saw a car trailing them, and a gun protruding from its passenger window. Taking evasive action, Rumbrick drove the car in a series of erratic swerves in an attempt to prevent the marksman having a clear target to aim for.
“Keep down, Lord! They are behind us!”
Another stream of bullets slammed into the back window caused it to explode inward, showing the Doctor’s back with fragments of shatter glass.
“Yes, thank you for the audio commentary, officer, but can we save it for the DVD?”
“DVD?” Charley and Rumbrick said in unison, although the former’s tone was rather muffled.
“It doesn’t matter. Please, just drive.”
Although the police station was not particularly far away geographically, temporally Charley thought the journey lasted for hours as the car swerved, reversed, revved and accelerated through the roads leading to it.
“I’ve lost them, Lord.”
As the Doctor and Charley untangled themselves from the narrow confines of the floor, a shower of glass fell from the Doctor’s coat and peppered the carpeted floor. Once seated, the Doctor was at pains to ensure that Charley was in one piece and had coped with the frenetic dash.
“I’m fine, Doctor. What about you?”
Rumbrick chuckled, “The Doctor was never in danger. You can’t kill God.”
The Doctor shot the driver a look that said more than any words could ever have done, but said quietly and simply, “I have the unsettling feeling that I may have to.”
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Details of a Smoking Man
They arrived at the Police Station, and a shaken Rumbrick debriefed the desk sergeant of the events that had befallen them. The sergeant was clearly troubled at the news of the death of his comrade, as well as the attempt on the Doctor’s life. He assured Charley that the police station was well staffed with armed personnel (‘even Interkoll realises the need to be prepared’, he had said sombrely) and that the Doctor’s safety was, obviously, a high priority for everyone.
The Doctor and Charley had then told their accounts of what they had seen, every word dutifully transcribed, with copies later produced for them to sign.
The Doctor had refused the Chief Officers offer of him taking over his office, stating that he wanted to mingle as a mere mortal. The humour had been lost on the Chief, as the Doctor had suspected it might be, and he and Charley made their way to the reception area in silence.
The arrested man was being questioned at the main desk as the Doctor and Charley settled in. They ignored, or at least tried to ignore, the numerous iconic images around them. In fact, Charley was rather alarmed at the number of Missing Person posters that combated for space in-between the items of worship she was striving to ignore.
In need of something to distract her mind from the mental pictures of the two dead bodies she had seen that evening, now sharply back in focus thanks to having just relived the entire evening for her statement, Charley reached forward toward a low table littered with magazines. The Doctor had placed his feet on the table the magazines were dumped on, resting his hands behind his head.
“I’d quite like to look at the magazine that’s under your right shoe.”
The Doctor looked across at the table. “Oh, so sorry! Here!” He lifted his feet the merest of inches, and Charley extracted the magazine. As the Doctor lowered his legs again, Charley settled back into her plastic chair and started flicking through the glossy images of people she had never heard of. Somehow, this helped the desired diversion perfectly.
“You know, a lot of Time Lords would actually revel in all this.”
Charley looked up from the television celebrity expose she was reading, “The being revered as Omnipotent thing?”
“Yes, but it’s just not me.”
“Well, they don’t seem to want to lose the image of you as their god, so you may have to get used to it. Either that, or…Or, deliver the speech of a lifetime.”
The Doctor grimaced, “Actually, I’ve just realised that giving speeches like that on this planet that got me into this situation in the first place. And yes, Charley, I have noticed.”
“The Missing Posters.”
“I thought you might have, somehow.”
“I’ve also noticed something about them.”
Charley was intrigued. “Like what, Doctor?”
“Not of them are Interkollians, and I’d say the majority are dead.”
Charley looked at the head shots on the various posters. “How can you tell?”
“I just can. At a guess, I’d also say that the majority are human.”
“Yes. What better way to attack me than to pick off those who originate from my favourite planet?”
“But you weren’t here to witness the deaths. Where’s the victory in that?”
“The victory was in the act, Charley. You saw the look in the murderer’s face when talking to us earlier. Despite his revulsion at seeing me, he was also clearly pleased to see my reaction as he confessed what he had done. Ironic, really.”
“Well, it’s a long forgotten fact around these parts, but a lot of the inhabitants of Interkoll are descendants of a wave of humanity that arrived here centuries ago.”
“Well, that would explain a lot of the similarities in design as well.”
The Doctor nodded, “Indeed, Charley. However, given the current situation I think we’d better keep that particular revelation to ourselves.”
A heated exchange at the desk made Charley glance over. The arrested man was becoming distracted, complaining that the desk sergeant wanted to take his cigarettes of him.
“Oh, play fair. I need them. You’ve got my shoelaces, belt and all my pens. If I can’t kill myself quickly at least give me the chance to continue doing it slowly! I’m a bit of a heavy smoker.”
Charley lost interest in the exchange, and returned to the magazine.
Charley looked up again, seeing the Doctor’s pained expression at being addressed thus.
“Doctor, I am the Doctor.”
“Yes, Lord, sorry, Doctor. I am sorry to have left you unattended for so long. Can I offer you some refreshments?”
“Now you’re talking! Charley, would you care to join me in a pot of tea? Oh, I presume you do have tea here on Interkoll? The last time I was here there wasn’t much time for such niceties.”
The Officer beamed, “Indeed we do, Doctor.”
“Yes!” The Officer said happily, in grave danger of becoming a nodding dog his head was mirroring his affirmation so vigorously.
“Well, hurry along man. Charley and I are particularly thirsty.”
The Officer’s face flashed from pleasure to the hope that he had not offended his Lord in an instant, but before the Doctor could say that he had only being joking again, the Officer had gone, racing down the corridor to make the tea.
“Careful, Doctor, they’ll be jumping from cliff tops next.”
“That’s not funny, Charley.”
Charley let the magazine fall from her hands.
There was no response. Concerned, the Doctor brought his feet smack down on the ground and leaned forward.
“Charley? What is it?”
Charley slowly inclined her head to look at the Doctor. “That man.”
“What about him?”
“He said he was a heavy smoker. Insisted that they let him take his cigarettes into his cell.”
The Doctor did not see what Charley was driving at. “And? I know we may not agree with smoking ourselves, but a lot of people do it.”
“But that’s just it, Doctor. He didn’t.”
“Smoke. In the entire confrontation, he never once smoked. Now, even in a normal scenario if he were a heavy smoker he would have at least had one in that time. Given that he was angry and frustrated, surely his need would have increased. Also, when he was arrested he only toyed with the packet, he didn’t actually smoke.”
The Doctor thought back to their meeting with the man who did not believe he was god. “Charley, Charley, Charley – you are a genius!”
“I was only wondering why he was so insistent that he took his cigarettes with him when he clearly does not need them.”
“Keep thinking like that and we’ll have the Universe to rights in no time!”
“What do you mean?”
“Details, Charley, you see the details. I’m usually too pre-occupied with the wider brush strokes. So, why would an occasional smoker, or even a non-smoker demand that his cigarettes were in his cell – and all this over and above the obligatory one phone call?”
“Help me out a little.”
“Ok, why would a man who was braying retribution while being incarcerated demand his cigarettes?”
“When is a door not a door?”
“When it’s a communication device! Exactly!”
The Doctor stood and ran to the reception desk. With no one there, he started ringing the bell with his palm. “Officer, Officer, this is God calling.”
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Smoke With Fire
At the hospital where Neil Hilton’s remains had been taken, the pathologist concluded his report quickly and efficiently. Someone had once told Truvorr that if you perform a certain set procedure twenty-one times it becomes a habit. Well, if that was the case then Truvorr a fully-fledged addict of this particular report.
“Despite a lack of identification, the victim, clearly male, has the physiology of a typical Earth male. I can, therefore, only conclude that this is yet another example of the alien killing murderer that has been working here recently.”
Truvorr stopped the recorder, his vision arrested by the mutilation inflicted on the deceased.
However addicted he may be, he was not as desensitised as the outside world would see him.
Some family somewhere was carrying on its life as normal, completely oblivious to the loss of their loved one.
Even now, after several years in his profession that realisation made him balk.
It was dark, it was cold but still Sormius knew he had to keep on running. Even though his head was still swimming with the amount of alcohol he had consumed that night, he had to get to Modran, tell him what his friend had relayed to him on the communication network.
God had returned!
Even to Sormius’ jaded ears the news had been exciting, maybe re-awakening feelings of truly belonging that he had banished years ago. He had thrown on the clothes nearest to him and bolted from his home, Modran’s anticipated euphoria paramount in his mind.
He paid scant heed to the debris left by the Day of Celebration, it all seemed slightly artificial and immaterial now – the real celebrations could start in earnest now He was back among them.
He reached Modran’s shop and stood panting for a few seconds, bent over with his palms on his thighs. Then he straightened up and carried by the sensations in his mind started hammering at the door.
“Modran! Modran! Wake up!” Sormius yelled, neither aware nor caring about the time of night. “Modran!”
A light flickered into life in a small window above the painted shop signage, and a hand parted the faded curtains. Modran’s sleep ridden face peered myopically through the smeared glass. Recognising Sormius more through familiarity than actual sight, Modran heaved the sash window frame from its mooring and ducked beneath it.
“Sormius! Have you any idea what time it is?” the old man’s breath plumed before him, swirling before dispersing into the street lit air.
“But Modran, it’s happened!”
“What has, boy?” Modran asked wearily, his fingers clumsily placing his wire framed glasses behind his ears. With his apprentice now in clearer focus below him, Modran saw the gleam in his eyes and the smile that was in danger of splitting his face in two.
“Sormius! You’re drunk!”
Sormius shook his head vehemently, appearing to all intents and purposed fully intoxicated.
“No, Modran, I’m not drunk – but I have news that may very well make you feel as though you are!”
Modran’s eyebrows beetled downwards. “News? What news?”
“Come down here and I’ll tell you!”
“At this time of the night?”
“Oh, Modran, live dangerously! Put on a dressing gown and get down here.”
Muttering some ancient expletives, Modran disappeared back into his bedroom, and the window swished down behind him. Several minutes, and much unbolting later, Modran stood in the shop doorway a look that clearly stated ‘This had better be worth it’ etched into his expression.
“He’s returned.” Sormius said simply.
Modran’s expression clouded with non-comprehension, and then his tired brain placed an interpretation on Sormius’ words – or rather the interpretation his heart clearly wanted to be there.
Sormius nodded, placing his hands on Modran’s shoulders. “Yes, Modran. A friend just called me, someone who works at the police station. God has returned to Interkoll!”
Modran stood stock still, and for a second Sormius thought the old man had died through shock. Then, with a soul deep wail, Modran exclaimed, “Finally!” and his body went limp, only rescued and held up by the strength in Sormius’ arms.
Modran recovered quickly, and brushed his dressing gown down, a physical reaction to aid his dignity recover.
“Well, Sormius, you know what this means?”
“More preparation, preparation, preparation?”
Modran was about the chastise Sormius, but he saw the humour in his eyes and simply chuckled, “Exactly. I must call the organisers! Fewell, Pintar, Bonham …they’ll know how to produce this as such short notice!”
“At this time of night?”
“Eh? Oh, very true, very true. But we must do something!”
As the old man started to look slightly stressed, Sormius had an idea.
“How many candles do you have left?”
“Just gather them, and then follow me.”
It was a massive room, dominated on all walls by maps and portraits. A huge desk took pride of place down the centre of the operational centre, for that it is what it was. Located underground, the Grackcom Resistance had existed for years, building reserves in the darkness just as their native country had assimilated them in the past. While it was on a lesser scale at the moment, the intent was exactly the same.
One uniformed man crossed over to the wall-housed intercom and lifted the handset. His bearing was assured, and his visage would have been very familiar to Neil, the Doctor, Charley and his twin’s arresting officers.
“I can’t speak for long. I have been arrested for the murder of that filth.”
The man in uniform did not waver, “Where are you being held?”
“The local police station. Storm it.”
“That is too extreme.”
“No it isn’t. He’s here.”
“Yes, he has returned. Now is the time to reclaim this planet. Now is the time to…”
The line broke into white noise, and the twin of the arrested Interkollian slammed the receiver back into its cradle.
Turning on his heels, he stared at those in the room.
“The time is here. The one who interceded and prevented our natural dominance of Interkoll has returned. I know because my twin is held hostage in the building where the betrayer is located. I am sure his sacrifice will be remembered for centuries to come.”
“The betrayer?” Junkrick asked from near the relief-mapped table.
“No, you fool. My twin. We will erect statues in his honour. Alert the guard. We are going in!”
“Go into that cell! Go into it now!”
The desk sergeant brushed his paper work to one side, and stood proudly in the face of his Lord.
“Which cell must we go into, Great One?”
The Doctor swallowed, holding back his initial verbal response, “The cell with the murder suspect. He is not what he seems!”
The young desk sergeant grabbed the keys to the cells and after hitting the alarm, ran toward the room where the suspect was held. As they passed astonished looking officers, the desk sergeant announced, “God wants to speak to the prisoner. The audience is here!”
Too pre-occupied with what he had to do, the Doctor blanked the comments and followed the desk sergeant to the cell. Slamming his hands against the steel door, the Doctor shouted, “Stop that transmission now!”
From inside the cell, Neil Hilton’s killer said calmly, “I have. But it’s already too late. They’re on their way.”
The Doctor swung round, his back connecting with the cell door with a hollow clang. Addressing the desk sergeant he said, “Take those cigarettes off him.”
“Prepare for attack.”
“Yes, attack. This is now a base under siege!”
As the desk Sergeant opened the cell door, quickly closing it behind him, the Doctor inhaled deeply. This was all his doing. When would he ever learn to stop meddling and then just disappearing?
As numerous examples of possible ramifications coursed through his mind, from a nearby cell a voice said:
“Give me your hand.”
“No. Option B! I’m sleepy.”
The Doctor smoothed his forehead, recalling those phrases from the time the TARDIS ceiling had displayed the images of the festivities outside. At least life was carrying on as normal for some people.
This situation would not last, and the Doctor was more than aware of that. His re-appearance had given the underground the focus, the target, the icon they needed.
The TARDIS had been right. If they had left when she had wanted, all that would have resulted would have been one small planet holding his image in reverence. By coming back, by forcibly coming back he had ignited the touch paper and fuelled the resistance.
“Oh, why do I never listen to those with more experience?” the Doctor sighed, and slowly slid down the wall.
“Because you’re the Doctor?” a welcome voice enquired.
“Charley!” the Doctor enthused, “There you are!”
“Where else would I be than by your side, Doctor?”
Clasping her head between his palms, the Doctor kissed Charley’s forehead. “The Universe is within you, Charlotte Pollard. Never forget that! However, this is going to get ugly. This is my mess, you can always go back to the TARDIS and wait for me.”
“What did I just say, Doctor? I am with you, all the way.”
The relief on the Doctor’s face was evident.
“Anyway, hasn’t simply walking away caused enough problems on this planet?”
The Doctor nodded, “Indeed, Charley, indeed. Although just how I’m going to resolve this I have no idea.”
“Yes you do.”
The Doctor frowned, “I do?”
“Yes, you’ve already said it. You have to convince them you are not God. You have to show the people of Interkoll that you are fallible.”
“Yes, but how?”
The Desk Sergeant re-emerged from the cell, the cigarette packet in his palm.
“Is this what you wanted, Lord?”
“Doctor, thank you. Yes it is.”
“It looks harmless to me.”
“Cigarettes are never harmless, there’s always a long term danger inherent within them. Especially this packet.”
The Doctor carefully lifted the hinged lid back, and looking inside saw that nineteen on the cigarettes were a welded mass of plastic. Lifting the only free one, he heard a slight click as the aerial locked into place.
“Report,” an unknown voice said, the intonation blasted by static.
“This is the Doctor.”
The voice paused, and Charley clung to the Doctor when it resumed. The words were harsh enough, but the way they were delivered chilled her to the core of her being.
“You? Is that really you?”
Sormius and Modran reached the police station, both carrying plain cardboard boxes. They had left the shop in a hurry, Modran not even taking time to dress properly. Him inner calm was providing all the heat he needed at that precise moment.
“What about here?”
“I’m sorry, Sormius? What did you say?”
Sormius smiled at the old man. “Interkoll calling Modran? What about here, this wall?”
Modran scratched an expanse of scalp between his remaining clusters of hair. “Was I miles away?”
Sormius nodded indulgently. “With reason, Modran.”
“Indeed, indeed. I know, what about this wall here. This would be ideal.”
“That’s exactly what…Oh, never mind. Yes, and excellent idea, Modran.”
About the open his box, Sormius stopped himself. This was not really his moment. This occasion belonged to Modran.
“Modran, after you.”
The old man’s face visibly glowed, and like a child at his first conscious birthday party opened the box he had carried with him. A couple of candles fell to the floor in his fumbling haste, but Sormius knelt to collect them for him.
“Thank you, Sormius.” Modran said, his voice no more than a trembling whisper. Kneeling before the low stone wall, Modran tilted the candle and lit the wick from the disposable lighter he had brought from the shop. As the flame breathed into life, Modran kept the candle tilted, allowing the heat to melt the wax at the tip of the candle, and then he allowed the wax to splash down on to the top of the wall. Settling the base of the candle into the pliable molten wax, he held it until it welded to the wall.
As Sormius looked on, Modran closed his eyes. Just as he was about to say something, Sormius heard Modran muttering. The old man was intoning the old nursery rhyme, repeating it as a mantra of worship.
“He came forth, through the barriers of the mind, knowledge he seeks, and knowledge he shall find, a mysterious image, projected from the brain, the fog is clearing, but the image stays the same.”
As soon as he had finished, Modran looked up at Sormius.
“Your turn,” he said, tears running down his lined and yet youthful looking face.
“Yes, I am the Doctor.”
“Yes, yes it, I mean you must be. No one would use that name with me unless they were really He. Even four words convey your arrogance. You will not survive this day, Doctor. I will personally eliminate you. As your body starts to glow and transmute through regeneration, oh yes I know of regeneration, I will slaughter you again. And again. I will murder you over and over, eradicating your individual strains in the way you eradicated those of Interkoll.”
The Doctor scowled, “At least with my intervention those strains survived in some form. You just wanted to dominate Interkoll, have the entire world with your nation’s patterns and beliefs.”
“At least they would have been traits inherent to Interkoll. Raw, native and pure. Anything is preferable to this diluted, apathetic word we now endure.”
“Yes, anything. We would have preferred defeat to this domesticity.”
“I find that difficult to believe.”
“Then that shows how little you fully understood, and understand, the ways of this world, and that is further evidence to demonstrate your arrogance in interfering in the first instance.”
“I was only trying to help.”
“Without all the facts, Doctor. How many worlds have you left like this one?”
The Doctor did not respond, and the voice in the cigarette packed started to laugh, “You don’t know, do you? You think you help, but all you do is cause chaos.”
Charley could bare this no longer. “That’s not true!” she shouted, “The Doctor is a good man!”
“Ah, could this be the Evelyn replacement?”
“Charley is herself, she is not a substitute.”
“So, is she still at the blindly obedient stage, is she? All, ‘What is it, Doctor?’ Records show that Evelyn was beginning to waver from that at the time of your visit here.”
“Whatever happened between Evelyn and myself is our business. Anyway, how do you know so much about me?”
“Gods leave footprints, Doctor. A foe always knows his enemy. At least that’s one benefit of your interference here.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were blinkered, isolationist. That is how we scored our initial victory. However, we needed to know our opponents to judge their weaknesses. We did not understand that at the time. Then my ancestors saw your telecast, and read the subtext.”
“There was no subtext.”
“Oh, but there was, Doctor.”
“It wasn’t intended.”
“Oh, don’t deny yourself the only reason I grudgingly admire you.”
“I can assure you there was no underlying message in that broadcast. In retrospect, it was too one dimensional.”
“And thereby open to questioning.”
“I don’t see…”
“You promoted unity, which we wanted. However, while we required unity from our one vision, you advocated global immersion-“
“I most certainly did not.”
“Never the less that is how it was taken.”
“I can hardly be held accountable for interpretation, especially in my absence.”
“But you never left. Your image was preserved, your name revered, your very essence canonised.”
“But I’m not dead.”
“Yet, Doctor. You are not dead, yet.”
“I can assure you I have no intention of dying today.”
“Neither did any of the aliens my agents have erased over the years, Doctor.”
“Ask the police to check their unsolved murder files. The majority will be aliens.”
“I thought as much, didn’t I Charley? So, because of your hatred of me you launched an assault on anyone not native to this planet.”
“When you can’t assassinate your target, an army needs practice, Doctor.”
“To me, so are you, Doctor.”
“Anyway, I cannot waste time talking to you.”
“Not leaving already, and again, are we, Doctor?”
“I’m not going anywhere, rest assured in that.”
“Oh good. I’m looking forward to meeting you face to face.”
“I can’t say I share that aspiration.”
“That, Doctor, is understandable. I, on the other hand, have cherished the notion of meeting you for years. It will, of course, be a brief meeting. I only need seconds to kill you.”
“Oh no, not the threats again. If you’re going to something, just do it.”
The line of communication fizzled, then it severed. However, before contact was lost completely the Doctor, Charley and the desk sergeant exchanged a concerned glance as they detected the sound of laughter emanating from the cigarette packet.
Before the Doctor could even re-sheath the antenna, a huge explosion whipped through the air. The klaxon screamed into life immediately, and throughout the complex the sound of the well-rehearsed drill could be heard being put into practice.
Voices barked orders, and booted feet clattered through corridors and up and down staircases. Metal shuttered unrolled and shot down to the floor, locking into place and securing the majority of doors and windows.
The battle to kill the Doctor and liberate Interkoll from its lethargy had begun.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: History Repeating Itself
A line of wall-welded candles flickered in the darkness surrounding the police station and two figures knelt solemnly before them.
Sormius glanced across at Modran. The man was clearly elsewhere, his mind evidently agreeing with his heart that he had been right all these years. Sormius smiled, and slowly rose to his feet.
Something instinctual made Sormius glance to his right. Just as his eyes focussed on the line of dark figures that had arrived and were still arriving, one of the candles shattered, struck by a silenced bullet.
Modran, in a display of agility that astounded Sormius, sprang to his feet. Infuriated, he whirled around.
“What in the name of all that is Holy?”
In answer, more bullets were released desiccating the once proud assembly of candles. Before either Modran or Sormius could react any further, there was a huge explosion just outside the main doors of the station. The back blast blew them off their feet and into the moist grass they had been kneeling on mere moments before.
As the sound of klaxons pierced the night’s air, one of the figures crossed over to the prone figures. Through the grill in its facemask, it addressed them.
“What are you doing here?”
Sormius, although scared, managed to rise. “We are here so my friend here can offer praise at the return of Interkoll’s Saviour.”
“Saviour? Saviour? Pah!” the figure scoffed, giving the indication that if it could it would have spat on the ground there and then. “Go, get away from here.”
Modran had regained his stance during the brief exchange. “And why should we leave? We have as much right to be here, if not more so given that your intentions appear to be criminal.”
“One man’s crime is another man’s quest, old man.”
“What do you mean?”
“We are here to rid Interkoll of the greatest criminal it has ever seen.”
“Oh, we can and we will. Now, unless you want us to offer up some prime examples of dead followers I would take my advice and leave here NOW!”
“Blasphemy! Arrant blasphemy!”
Modran’s face was flushed red, and Sormius knew the danger signs inherent in that. Deciding that self-preservation was the order of day, he grabbed Modran by the arm and started to pull him after him.
“Come on, Modran. We have to get away from here.”
“Sormius! Leave me alone. I need to worship!”
The figure raised his gun and pointed it squarely at the old man’s head. Giving the weapon the briefest of flicks to the left, another figure shot the remaining candles into pieces.
Exasperated, furious but also resigned to the fact that Sormius was taking the right course of action, Modran allowed himself to be led away. However, he could not resist a final parting comment.
“God will triumph! You cannot win!”
A bullet aimed at the ground a few feet away from Modran silenced any further words and the two colleagues ran for their lives.
“Doctor!” Charley exclaimed, but the Doctor was already ahead of her.
“Release the prisoners here that are on lesser charges.”
The desk sergeant did not look sure about this idea.
“Release them, tell them to leave. There is still a way out of here isn’t there?”
Clearly shocked, the desk sergeant blinked. “Yes, an emergency route. But why?”
“Because we are under attack, and,” the Doctor paused, “Because I, God of Interkoll, command it!”
Charley knew that it had pained the Doctor to use that title, but she also realised he had had no choice. The police station had been hit and he was the target. To get to him, the attackers would not be discriminate in who they shot. How typical of the Doctor to ensure as many innocents as possible would be clear of the area.
“This isn’t going to be easy, is it Doctor?”
“What, defeating an invading armed force and then denouncing myself as a deity? All in a day’s work, Charley, all in a day’s work.”
As the sound of gunfire started to sound, Charley heard the sound of the desk sergeant’s keys unlocking cell doors and the build up in worried, concerned voices as the prisoners were released.
A gleam entered the Doctor’s eye.
“This could do both jobs for me!” he said enigmatically.
“What do you mean?” Charley asked, but the Doctor said nothing, instead guiding them to a point of relative safety.
As the armed troopers continued firing on the police station, the desk sergeant carried out the Doctor’s orders and cell after cell was opened. Dazed, scared prisoners found they were free, and only a few took more than mere seconds to make good of the afforded opportunity to leave.
In their cell, the youths that had been playing outside the pub Neil Hilton had frequented stared at each other in concern. They had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly following on from a bought of energetic piggyback riding, but were now completely sober.
The sound of gunfire can often have that effect on people.
As their cell door swung open, the lad in Red rose and addressed the desk sergeant.
“Is there anything we can do to help?”
The Green youth stared at his friend as though he was mad, “Are you serious? It sounds like a war zone out there.”
“Derkrum, I think the time for playing games is over. Interkoll needs us.”
Derkrum rubbed his green-clad shoulders, his arm still sore from a day of endless arm wrestling. Slowly, he nodded, “You’re right, Angthed.” He turned to the sergeant, ”Well, what can we do?”
The sergeant looked unsure, but as with all true believers in a time of crisis turned to God. “Go down that corridor and look for a man with long, curly hair. He calls himself the Doctor.” Seeing the youths’ eyes widen, he said, “Yes Him, but I wouldn’t bow or anything, he seems quite keen to play that down for some reason. Find him, he’ll know how you can help. Well, what are you waiting for?”
Derkrum and Angthed wasted no further time and set of in pursuit of the Doctor.
A siege is a fraught situation at any time. In the hours of darkness, the tension is almost palpable. The risks are raised, sensations are heightened, and manoeuvrability severely impeded, even with the aid of night vision gun-sights and cameras.
The invading forces were taking their time, careful to ensure each metre they claimed was secure before moving in further. So far, there had been no casualties, but that was simply a matter of time, or frayed nerves.
Behind an overturned filing cabinet, the Doctor and Charley reclined on the floor.
“What on Earth was I thinking, Charley?”
“You thought the situation had been resolved. Stop blaming yourself.”
“I should have foreseen it. I created a situation similar to one that was occurring during your time.”
Charley scratched her cheek, “What do you mean?”
“You’ve heard of the Treaty of Versailles?”
“Yes, signed after the Great War.”
“Or as I know it the First World War?”
“First World War? There was a Second?”
“Oh, many more, but none so clearly linked as the First as Second.”
“The Allies drafted a Treaty that did everything it shouldn’t have and nothing it should. With France baying for German blood and the others advocating a more balanced approach, they never fully resolved any of the issues behind German involvement. They simply locked a sleeping tiger in a paper cell.
“Instead of helping her to recover, or simply eradicating the nation from the face of the planet, they gave her a flesh wound.”
“You make it sound as though Germany didn’t suffer.”
“Oh no, Charley, Germany suffered. Her industry was crippled, inflation soared, and resentment grew. They knew that they were not strong enough to retaliate against the Allies at that stage, so they became introspective, sought an enemy within. Thanks to the twisted vision of one man, they found it.
“Once in power, largely through influential financial backing, Germany’s Chancellor turned the country around. In much the same way that Grackcom must have restructured herself under a global blind eye, so did Germany. The paper cell was ripped apart with a flick of the tiger’s paw. By wounding the German people, leaving them bitter and angry and yet with just enough resources to actually do something, it was only a matter of time before someone saw their window of opportunity.
“Although I am aware that you will know the name Adolf Hitler, Charley, to anyone born after ninety-forty five the name conjures images of horror. Millions died at his hands and countless more suffered.
“If the Allies had thought through their actions as they signed those pages in the Hall of Mirrors, he may very well never have had the chance,”
“What are you saying exactly, Doctor?”
“I’m saying that maybe it’s time I started to cross all the Ts and dot every single I before I hop, skip and a jump it away from the places I visit. I am the Allies, or rather that Treaty. I ended one war, but left enough resentment to fuel another, this one, a direct descendent.
“How are you by the way?”
Slightly thrown by the Doctor’s last comment, Charley looked vacant for a second and then smiled. “Oh, I’m fine, Doctor, absolutely fine. Bullets and very, very loud alarms aside, of course.”
At that moment, the sound of two pairs of feet could be heard running down the corridor.
“Doctor?” a voice asked, and instinctively the Doctor knew the person was nothing to do with the attacking forces. Waving his hand above the horizontal cabinet, the Doctor caught both Derkrum and Angthed’s attention and the two youths padded around to join him.
Angthed stared at the Doctor, “You look different to what I expected.”
“I’ve regenerated,” the Doctor said simply.
Derkrum shot his friend a withering stare, “He means he’s changed. God’s can do that, you know – Oops! Sorry.”
The Doctor tilted his head to the left, “Why are you sorry?”
“The God thing, we were told not to mention it.”
Angthed gave Derkrum’s ankle a sharp kick, “You fool, Derk, you don’t want to anger him.”
The Doctor waved his palm, “Fret not. Today you see before you a very calm God. One so calm, he might even be simply a Time Lord.”
The two lads exchanged looks that clearly questioned the Doctor’s mental well being, “Er, yes. Right.”
“Anyway, what brings you two mono-pigmented individuals to see me, anyway.”
Angthed coughed, “We wanted to see if you needed any help.”
Angthed and Derkrum nodded.
“Hmmm, tell me. Do either of you have strong arms, by any chance?”
When the youths started laughing to themselves, it was the Doctor and Charley’s turn to exchange concerned glances.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Angthed and Derkrum
They spend the next half an hour upending furniture and placing them in areas to create dead ends and barricades. The Doctor was impressed by the youths’ boundless energy and greatly amused by the playful banter that existed between them. They seemed remarkably capable of blanking out the sounds of gunfire and minor explosions that reverberated in the air, focussing on the task at hand.
High ranking police officials kept visiting to ensure that the Doctor was all right, offering to place him in a safety room. He declined every time, stating this was his mess and he was going to solve it. Although concerned for his safety, they could not disobey his wished and the Doctor, Charley, Derkrum and Angthed were left pretty much to their own devises.
Once as much had been protected as could be, and enough blind alleys had been created, the Doctor turned to his two helpers.
“Charley and myself can cope from here. Go, get to safety.”
“No way, Doctor.”
Angthed looked at his friend with a sense of pride. “I’m with him, Doctor. We’re in this to the end. It’s about time we did something constructive in our lives.”
Charley was concerned, “But you could get hurt. You may even die.”
“Better to die protecting what you believe in that cowering hoping someone else is brave enough to do it for you.”
“I thought you were a pacifist, Angthed!” Derkrum said.
“I am. However, theories are great when you are in no real danger yourself, or those you care about. I don’t really know why were being attacked, Doctor, but I just feel it’s right to stand up at this moment. Am I right?”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows, “Who can say who is every truly right at a time of conflict? The history books can make it all look so simple, but then anything written from one view point is.”
“So what is happening, Doctor?” Derkrum asked.
“You have a nice voice for explanations, I’ll leave this with you. Anyway, I hate talking about myself.”
Charley laughed, “Why don’t I fully believe that, Doctor?”
“Ok, ok. Basically, your planet had a war years ago when Grackcom rose and started to invade and claim neighbouring states.”
Derkrum nodded, “Yeah, we know all that. The Doctor and Evelyn saved us, the Doctor’s divine words and wisdom uniting us.”
Charley caught the Doctor’s eye, “Well, divine or not those words did not please everyone. Although Grackcom as a nation no longer exists in the form it once did, its descendants have a strong feeling of pride and identity in that history. Members of the group have been carrying out murders, killing any noticeable alien presence on this planet.”
Angthed was puzzled, “But why?”
“They blame the Doctor for everything, and he is an alien. Over and above being your God, he is alien.”
“Guilt by association?” Derkrum breathed.
“Yes, even though the only association is that they don’t belong to Interkoll. And I think I now know why that unfortunate Charley and I discovered had no identification on him.”
“I think it’s symbolic. A loss of individuality.”
“I see. But, why are they attacking here?”
“Don’t be silly, Angthed, isn’t it obvious?”
“They know the Doctor’s here, don’t they.”
Charley nodded, “I’m rather afraid they do.”
“And they want to kill him, prove his isn’t a God, demonstrate that our unity id somehow flawed and therefore should be erased.”
“Well, I’m not entirely sure about all of that, but yes they are here to kill the Doctor.”
Distracted the Doctor simply muttered, “hmmm” causing Angthed to call for his attention again.
“Sorry, Angthed, what is it?”
“I know we were advised not to broach the subject, but are you God, or a God?”
“No, I am not,” the Doctor said calmly, “And may I thank you for being the first to ask rather than assume. I am merely a traveller in space and time, who, rightly or wrongly attempts to help those in peril.”
“It can be, can’t it, Charley.”
“Oh yes. When we’re not being shot at, kidnapped, interrogated, stranded, hypnotised, tortured or generally just being treated in a fairly unpleasant manner.”
“See, what better definition of fun is there?”
“Do you need a cigarette as much as I do right now?
“You’d better believe it.”
The Doctor laughed, “Take a break. You deserve it the pair of you. Just one request.”
“Can you smoke over there, the smell is appalling.”
As Angthed and Derkrum sidled off to have a cigarette, the Doctor turned to Charley. “That was a good summary of our situation, Charley.”
“Was I right about the objectives, though?”
“I think so, but we won’t know until he arrives.”
“The voice from the communication device. He’s a megalomaniac. He won’t be able to resist his moment to explain his great plan in from of his nemesis’ face.”
“And are you?”
“What, his nemesis? I suppose I am. I may have left Interkoll in a weak state, but he’s the real enemy here. Interkoll needs diplomacy, not brute force. He wants one vision of life, and that’s as wrong as a diluted one.”
“How are you going to win?”
“I think you already know, Charley.”
“Think about it. What is his driving force?”
“Me and the fact that Interkoll believes I am a God. Me being God is his trump card, his rallying call. I have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that I am nothing of the sort.”
“Doctor!” A voice yelled, rapid footfall ricocheting down the corridor. “Doctor!”
“What is it, officer? Did you get all the prisoners out?”
The police man pulled to a stop, panting, “Yes, they left by the emergency tunnel. But the attackers, Doctor, they’re at the main door. They seem to be setting up a bomb.”
In the corner, Angthed and Derkrum paused mid-drag.
“It’s now, isn’t it?” Angthed said.
As the Doctor nodded, Derkrum moaned, “Trust you to spout the blatantly obvious, Ang.”
Taking another draft of nicotine, Angthed said, “I only do it to make sure you’re up to speed.”
“Ohhh, you don’t learn, do you?”
“Give me –“
The Doctor broke the exchange, “Not now, please. It’s time to duck and cover.”
Charley nodded, “And presumably as far away from that entrance as possible.”
Derkrum nudged Angthed in the ribs, “Your disease seems to be catching.”
The Doctor ignored Derkrum, and squeezed Charley’s shoulder. “Indeed. The officers here are trained in combat. You only have to see the way this place responded to the initial barrage. We need to ensure we are prepared to engage them with verbal weaponry when they are fatigued.”
“And people have died?” Derkrum gasped. “Ouch!” he yelped, this time being on the receiving end of a pointed elbow.
“Let’s hope not, shall we?” the Doctor asked, one eyebrow raised, “There have been too many deaths on Interkoll leading up to this event already.”
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Rethgub
Although calls had been made to gain reinforcements, the desk sergeant, Rethgub, was worried. If the reports from intelligence were correct, the bomb that was soon to be deployed outside was immense. He could not risk opening this virtually secure unit to allow his men to engage in battle at the scene, especially with Him here and the rear guard minutes away.
For the first time since he had graduated his profession worried him. Everything he believed in was on display and being addressed tonight, and in a situation that could have severe consequences. He could quite easily die here on duty before the sun rose on the new day.
Rethgub was an idealist, and up until this night a believer. It was proving hard for him to digest the fact that his belief may have been misplaced.
He gazed at the framed photograph on his desk, and sighed. It was an image of him, his wife and three children taken at last year’s day of celebration. He was in blue, his wife red, and his children were clad in green, yellow and turquoise.
Every night before they ate his entire family would thank the Universe for sending them the Doctor, and as they clambered into their beds they would pray to Him for his return or safe passage through time and space.
In the morning, he woke easily, thrilled to be in the job he had. He was upholding His law, ensuring that people were safe and as one. While he instinctively knew what he was doing was correct, were the thought processes behind it? Why would God deny being God unless he was not the deity his world believed him to be? His youngest son’s eyes caught his attention. If God were not God, what would he tell his family?
It was at the precise moment that the bomb exploded.
Even before the smoke cleared from the hole ripped into the front of the police station, troops poured in firing indiscriminately. From well-concealed locations, the drilled policemen were able to retaliate immediately, and before long the reception area was a sensory confusion of smoke, bullets, explosions and cries of agony.
The death count had already begun.
At his desk, Rethgub lay the frame face down. Rightly or wrongly, he had to protect the Doctor.
He just prayed he would survive long enough to gain some answers to the questions he had formed.
Glass shattered, and when it hit the shutters each fragment sounded again and again. Bullets tore through cement, sending more dust clouds into to the already un-breathable air. Thankfully, the police station had helmets equipped with respiration masks and audio communication, so the guard could stand their ground. However, the attacking troops appeared to be better armed. It was only a matter of time until they crossed the line and gained full entry to the station.
The Doctor’s eyes were clamped shut, his lips parting slightly as his mind replayed words he had spoken years before.
“Are we ready?”
“Yes, Doctor. The technician’s told me all you have to do is press that switch there and you will be heard and seen on every form of media on Interkoll. Are you sure this is only way to do this, Doctor? Call me a silly, superstitious old woman but I’m getting a bad feeling about this.”
“Oh, nonsense, Evelyn. I know what I’m doing. Now, no time like the past, eh?”
“You’d know that more than me, Doctor?”
“Hmm? Oh yes, of course. Now then, here goes.”
The Doctor reached forward and depressed the button Evelyn had indicated. He gave the briefest of pauses, allowing his image to infiltrate every visual receiver across the planet.
“People of Interkoll, this is the Doctor. I have worked along side some of you in the days gone by, trying to help prevent the total subjugation on your planet under the yolk of one nation. Some might say I have been arrogant, but wherever I go I strive to help those in peril, and I thought this situation was no different to countless other skirmishes I have become embroiled in.
“I was wrong.
“The reasons behind this insurrection are too imbedded in your various cultures. That is not a criticism of the way you have been living your lives, no outsider has the right to impose their ideals on another’s social structure. However, it is the truth. You have lived in scared isolation for too long, turning too many blind eyes to what your neighbours were doing, providing them with the oxygen to fuel their fires.
“You need to unite to defeat the forces of Grackcom. You must come together, share your insights and together you can win.”
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Yorela
On the floor, the Doctor opened his eyes, sadness dominating them.
Why had he not impressed that this was only a temporary measure? He had only wanted them to gain awareness of each other, not devolve into a global amoeba.
The sound of brickwork exploding brought the Doctor back to the present day. Bricks, of course! The people of Interkoll had used his patchwork coat as the symbol of unity. He would have to steer them toward bricks as a better analogy.
“Doctor,” Charley asked next to him, “What are you thinking?”
“Oh well, if you don’t want to tell me.”
“But I have Charley, I have. Remember by rather trite example of sugar earlier?”
“I should have used bricks to illustrate what I really wanted these people to achieve all those years ago.”
“I really am not following you, Doctor.”
Derkrum coughed, “I think I am, though.”
The Doctor gestured for Derkrum to explain. “A brick is a single unit, independent, yes.”
The Doctor nodded. “Go on, go on.”
“However, if piled together, or made into a wall they become greater – still an individual block within that wall, but working together with equally solid and independent bricks. Not one has dominance over the other.”
“Almost word perfect, Derkrum.”
“Swat!” Angthed sighed, but he was smiling.
“And,” Charley added, “When a wall has served its purpose, it can be taken apart and reused, the strength re-deployed in whatever task it is needed in now.”
“Come together, work together, separate but always remember they can work together again in the future if required. Yes, it’s crude, but hopefully the image will work.”
“Just one problem, Doctor.”
“What’s that, Charley.”
“Someone wants to kill you. Someone I doubt will allow you to tell nice parables about bricks.”
“That would be the one fly in the ointment, I agree.”
Another explosion sounded, this time followed by the cries of someone being hit by a flying missile.
“I think the station has been compromised.” The Doctor said slowly.
Angthed swallowed hard, and Derkrum patted his shoulder. “We’ll be all right.”
“I hope so, mate, I hope so.”
The reception area was a mess. Even through the swirling dust clouds, it was plain to see countless bullets had hit the walls, and most of the furniture had been ripped and split by the metal projectiles. Fragments of iconic posters and figurines lay smashed into pieces everywhere.
Bodies from both sides were strewn on the floor, united in death. Some were still breathing, but the act was laboured and accompanied by the sound of blood frothing in their throats. Too weak to move, and their comrades to engaged in the act of war to help them, they would soon die, drowning in their life’s blood, never to know whether their deaths were in vain.
The invading troops had not totally conquered the area, the police were valiantly holding them at bay half way. However, the people of Grackcom appeared tireless, and their weaponry hardly ever needed to be reloaded. As the police tired and took time to replenish their guns, inch by inch the troops would gain their first victory. It was increasingly inevitable.
Someone decided that the inevitable was taking too long.
One trooper broke ranks slightly, but others ensured his back was covered. Considering how heavily armoured this individual’s body was, the act of rear guard protection was somehow redundant.
Somehow this individuals relocation went unnoticed by the police officers. It could have been the smoke, the general noise that dominated their audio senses, but whatever the reason the lapse proved fatal for some.
The renegade soldier lifted his arm, a stubby looking gun brought into view. Wielding it into position covering the officers near the far wall, he let off round after round of machine gun fire. The bullets sliced through wood, flesh, masonry and bone with no distinction. Shrapnel of all denominations pierced the air, some as deadly in rebound as the initial bullet.
Officer Yorela saw the bullet coming for him, and his body froze.
The cylindrical object was heading his way, determined to end his life, and he instinctively knew it would.
Yorela’s vision blurred for a second, and in his mind he shrank several feet. As his mental vision started to return, images solidified and began to make sense to him. He smiled. He was back at school.
The young Yorela was standing in the corridor leading to his classroom. It was not overly familiar to him yet, after all, this was his first day at school.
The sun was shining through the wire meshed glass windows, and the air was heavy with the scent of…. Chalk dust? Yes, definitely chalk dust. Chalk dust and polish.
The mental sensations transported Yorela back through time. It was strange. His perception of the events he was seeing was fluid, as if he were there and yet an observer from the future at the same time.
I look down. The floor is so polished. It shines the image of my shoes back at me. No, not my shoes, they are my plimsolls. The black plimsolls that the school insisted my parents bought, and I had been dragged through the streets to try on. They were horrible – black canvas with a thick rubber edge and orange soles. How they squeaked on those polished wooden floors! Every step I took was accompanied by an ear-shattering Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Looking back, I suppose it sounded funny, but it drove the teachers mad at the time, especially when I deliberately dragged my step.
Teachers…? Oh, there she is. She’s tall, so tall, tall and kind. Miss Langton. She died, didn’t she? No one ever found out how. She was so sweet, always talking about Earth, her home planet. Aww, look, she’s smiling at me now, bent at the waist so her eye line is in level with mine.
“Come along,” she says, “I’ll show you where you can put your coat.”
She’s holding my hand, helping me down another high corridor. My plimsolls are squeaking, as nervous as I am. I see other people pass me on their way back, their coats removed.
Oh, now I’m in a room. Mud and laughter are hanging in the air. Miss Langton takes me over to a metal peg, curved at the top and bottom to form two hooks. Under the bottom hook is a sticker. My sticker! Solid green grass, solid blue sky and a blocky looking apple tree. The tree has three apples. Blood red. I’m an apple tree!
“Yorela, you are the apple tree now. The sticker is here, and this is where you change your shoes into plimsolls … oh, you already have! You good boy! This sticker is also on the back of your chair. It’s good to be an apple tree isn’t it?”
I’m agreeing with her, happy now, struggling to burrow out of my over large coat. It’s free, and Miss Langton hangs it from my peg for me. My peg and my apple tree! I smile as the blue material of my coat swings into stillness over the tree.
Hopping, each footfall causing a slightly more sharp, more excited squeak on the highly polished panelled wooden flooring, I follow Miss Langton back down the large, large corridor and into my class room.
Oh, it’s big. The tables are so large. The block-stick wooden chairs are so tall, how am I ever going to get up to one of them? I will though, I will get my chair - my apple tree chair. Miss Langton shows me to my table, my chair… Yes! It has the apple tree on the back! This is my chair! There’s the tree! There’s the tree!
Someone is talking to me. Oh, it’s a high voice. Squeaky. Not Shoe-squeaky, just squeaky. A girl. She’s asking my name. Why do I care that she’s a squirrel? I’m an apple tree!
I’m laughing, inside. A squirrel? Squirrels live on trees, and trees live longer. So, I must be more important than her.
Oh, but there’s more than the Squirrel! There’s him, he’s a slide, he’s a cat, she’s something or other in the haze…
Oh no, not junior school. I cannot cope with going back there. Please no. Not the bully that took my dinner money, and when I didn’t have any pushed my head down the toilet.
Then high school… career options, exams and field trips, all running past with increasing rapidity.
Who’s that? Oh, Junkelle, his first love, and ultimately his first rejection.
Then first drink… first, and only cigarette, first day at training camp…
Then first … no, no, sorry, no longer first . . .
Then last thought as the bullet entered his skull, sped through his brains and then exited his head, spraying the contents of his cranium down the corridor walls.
“Retreat to fall back position one!” the police officers heard in their earpieces and carefully those that slowly started to back away toward the sheltered back up post a few metres behind them. Each slithering step was punctuated by them firing their guns at the alarmingly well-armed invaders.
While the stakes had been raised, they were not going to give in easily.
The Doctor was being de-briefed again on the situation as it stood.
“Well,” he said, “I don’t think it takes a genius to work out the identity of the soldier who broke ranks, does it?”
“The twin of the man in the cell?”
“Yes, Charley. Megalomaniacs have many traits, but patience is rarely one of them. Strange really when you consider how long they plan their grandiose schemes. After all these years you’d think he would be able to hold back a little longer.”
“Hopefully he will get careless enough for us to see a weakness.”
“Well, that’s how it usually works, I grant you. We’ll have to wait and see.”
The police officer that had brought the latest intelligence to the Doctor cupped his ear. His face paled. “They’ve forced us back to back up post two, Doctor.”
“We may not have to wait that long, either.”
Inside his suit, Lugos felt his body heat rise with each successive bullet he released. While it pained him to have to kill his fellow Interkollians, they were allied with Him, and therefore fair game.
At least that was the mantra that he kept upper most in his mind.
As the police officers fell back once again, he gave the order for the machine guns to be handed to all of his elite troops. He had wanted it to be an easy coup, with as little blood shed as possible, but if they insisted on fighting back they left him with no choice.
Also, they had the advantage now. It would be folly to allow it to slip.
Unblinking, despite the sweat that coated his encased face, Lugos strode forward, his finger pumping streams of bullets into the air, and into the walls and bodies in the station.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Lugos
“They’re closing in, Doctor.”
“Thank you officer.”
“Thank you?” Charley asked.
“Yes, isn’t it strange. Manners make up say thank you for things even when they are unpleasant. I’ll have to think about that later.”
“Much later,” Angthed said, “Can you hear that commotion? They’ll be here in no time.”
The Doctor gave Charley’s shoulder a squeeze, and she winked conspiratorially.
The boots marched up stairs, and the gunfire eradicated more concrete and lives. Officers dived behind desks and the over turned stationary cupboards, falling behind, realising the battle was on the wane.
Despite the knowledge that they were on the retreat, that they were starting to lose, they still carried on. Casualty for casualty, and then one more for good measure. In the plain of war, it was easy to kill. Not one of them gave a second though to what it would be like when, or if, this night ever ended.
The reception area and the back up zones collapsed under the heavy artillery of the invading forces. Corridors fell, improvised barricades were kicked and shot asunder. The Grackcom army marched and fired on, always at the head of the group the armoured leader.
Finally, they reached the area where the Doctor was. Even though bullets were flying overhead, the Time Lord left his protective safety. Despite the pleading look in Charley’s eyes he made his move.
“Stop,” the Doctor yelled, and upon recognising the Time Lords voice above the general din, Lugos ordered his troops to lower their weapons. Relieved, the police officers did the same.
In the seconds that followed, as exhausted bodies panted and tensions carried on being frayed, the dust clouds started to settle. In the middle of the room the Doctor stood proud, but exposed. He had his hands interlaced, and his face was remarkably calm. To the believers in the room, this was the most God like the Doctor had ever been, yet even they were staring to increasingly waver in their belief in him. So many deaths. How would God allow such carnage to go on under his own nose?
“So….” Lugos started, striding a few steps closer to the Doctor.
“Please do not say, ‘we meet at last, Doctor’, it get so tiresome after the first fifty tyrants.”
Lugos unclipped his helmet and eased it from his head, a splatter-shower of perspiration raining from inside.
“You think I’m a tyrant do you?” Lugos said his voice calm and measured.
“Well, not in the mass suppression genocide stakes of your fore-fathers, but you’d make a good apprentice.”
“Are you always so flippant when staring down the barrel of a gun?”
“Usually. I often give my best speeches in those situations.”
“Interkoll knows all about your penchant for speeches, Doctor. You really are something else, aren’t you?”
“Do you really know what I’m after, Doctor?”
“Well, judging by your actions to date, power would seem to high on the list.”
Lugos shook his head, clearly viewing the Doctor with contempt.
“Indeed. However, Lugos how can anyone know what you want. You haven’t told anyone.”
Lugos stroked the end of his machine gun, “I want you gone, Doctor. I want this planet to be Interkoll, and not some neutered puppy dog waiting for its master to come home.”
“What, no plush office with an oversized desk, a glamorous secretary and the ability to kill anyone who puts one too many sugars in your tea?”
Lugos whipped his gun arm up, and pressed the barrel squarely in the middle of the Doctor’s chest. “From what I’ve read, if I shot you now I’d take out both hearts simultaneously, rendering regeneration impossible even for you.”
“Oh dear, and there was I recalling a nice chat with a packet of cigarettes telling me how you were going to kill me over and over again. How plans change, eh?”
“No, I’m not going to kill you, Doctor. That would be too quick, even if I could enjoy killing you several times over.
“No, I’m going to make you suffer.”
The bullet came unexpectedly. Lugos moved his gun arm quickly, but expertly to another target.
As the powder ignited and the bullet was shot from the barrel, time appeared to slow to a crawl. Rapid blinking took seconds, breathing was laboured and audible.
With his time perspective, the Doctor knew what was going to happen before anyone else in the room. Including the victim.
Charley felt a crippling heavy thud impact on her chest, and her body was thrown backwards. As her sense of balance deserted her, her knees buckled and she slumped to the floor. The Doctor was already sprinting to her to catch her before she slammed to the ground, but he was too late.
Her eyelids flickering, her wracked sobs exemplifying the pain that breathing was causing her, Charley lay on the over polished corridor, her arm twisted cruelly behind her back.
“Charley!” the Doctor howled, and then while kneeling beside her he rescued her trapped arm, caressing her hand crooning, “Charley, Charley, Charley.”
Fighting against the stabbing pain of breathing, Charley managed a wan smile, “It’s all right, Doctor,” she said, her voice no more than a trembling whisper. Tears of frustration welled in the Doctor’s eyes, and Charley echoed the action as she wept tears of despair and agony. “Just win.”
With that Charley’s eyes closed, and her breathing could be heard no more.
CHAPTER TWENTY: Test of Loyalty
Angthed ran across the room to attack the gunman, but before he was in reach a trooper swung the but of his rifle downward, catching the youth painfully on his lower leg. He yelled in pain, and collapsed to the floor, the landing winding him before he slid into unconsciousness.
Derkrum was incensed, and started to race forward himself.
“No, Derkrum!” The Doctor called, but his plea fell on deaf ears.
“He’s my friend Doctor!” Derkrum shouted, but he never got any further. A well aimed bullet grazed his temple, and he collapsed in an ungainly heap mere feet from the friend he had tried to avenge.
“There was no need for that!” The Doctor declared, swinging round to face Lugos, their noses mere inches apart.
“That was only the start of what I plan to do, Doctor.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re a God, save her.”
The Doctor looked around the group, and saw the shared expectation in their eyes, well in those of his comrades and followers.
Despairingly, he raised he arms level to either side of his and spun round on his heels. “I can not save her!” he shouted. “I can not save Charlotte Pollard for one simple reason. I am NOT a God!”
Lugos smiled his eyes glinting. This is what he had been waiting for.
“Surely the great Doctor has enough power to save just one life,” he purred.
“I don’t,” the Doctor said, evidently grieving, “As well you know.”
Lugos took advantage of the situation, “See, this is who the Doctor is. A man, no God. If he were, would he allow his friend to simply die?”
“I never claimed to be God! In fact I’ve spent every given opportunity denying it to anyone who would listen!”
“Shouldn’t we get her some medical help, Doctor?” an officer asked quietly.
“There’s no point. Charley is dead. I will have to cope with the fact that my involvement here caused her death in my own way, my own time. My words have proved as equally deadly as the sword, or rather the gun. Lugos, even though I have been trying to convince these people I am not a god, there were other ways to achieve this.”
“Maybe, but none as direct. What had you in mind? Please don’t say another telecast. I think the further you stay away from television the better.”
“There are many that would agree with you on that score, Lugos, and considering my performance on that day I would have to say I am one of them.”
“What had you in mind, then?”
“Something mind-numbingly simple. But I will tell you what that is when I return!”
“Where do you think you are going?”
“I am going to take Charley to the TARDIS. Don’t even think of trying to stop me. I saved her life once before, and I always promised myself that if her death were to happen while she was with me I would treat her body with the utmost dignity and respect – and I can only provide that in the TARDIS.”
“How do we know you won’t simply leave”
“I would have thought that’s exactly what you would want me to do!” The Doctor delved into his pocket and produced the circuitry he had removed from the TARDIS earlier. “However, here – catch this!”
The Doctor tossed the circuit to Lugos.
“What is this?”
“It’s a hostage, Lugos. I can not leave Interkoll without it.”
“How do I know you are telling the truth? You couldn’t wait to make your escape the last time you were here.”
“You don’t, and this is different. You’ll just have to trust me. Call it the first part of getting this planet back on to its feet.”
“Feet that you knocked from under us, Doctor.”
“Be that as it may. We can exchange all the social un-pleasantries you like when I return. The mood I’m in they could last all night thought! Now, if you don’t mind?”
Without even waiting to see Lugos’ reaction, the Doctor turned his back on him and crossed over to where Charley lay. One of Lugos’ men moved to go after the Doctor, but Lugos motioned for him to remain where he was.
“Oh Charley,” the Doctor crooned, “I’m so, so sorry. It really was not meant to end this way. I had so much more to show you, so many other experiences for you to enjoy. Maybe I need to take stock of my life, and listen more to the advice of friends who clearly know better. I once said to you can you hear that sound, meaning excitement. I can only hear silence looking at you now.”
With no further words, the Doctor lifted Charley in his arms and started to walk slowly across the room. Bar glancing briefly at the fallen bodies of Derkrum and Angthed, he paid no-one any heed and left the room and the police station in silence.
Once he had gone, the room remained silent. Everyone stood near motionless, no one entirely sure of what to say or what to do.
They realised that even though the Doctor may not be the God they had deified him as, they still needed him – and that was both disturbing to some and reassuring to others in equal measure.
Having borrowed a police car, the Doctor had reached the TARDIS. Tenderly extracting Charley’s body from the back seat, he lay her on the pavement outside the craft and looked down at her solemnly. Stroking a strand of her hair, he sighed and reached into his inside pocket to locate his Sonic Screwdriver. He looked at the device sadly, recalling that Charley had been alive and well the last time he had used it.
Sweeping the Screwdriver across the TARDIS lock, the doors clicked and the Doctor was able to press his shoulders against the panels, forcing them inwards. Before long he had widened them enough to gain entry, and the Doctor filed into the TARDIS, Charley’s limp body in his arms.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor rested Charley’s body on his lounger, a blanket covering her legs and chest.
“Ah, Doctor –“
“Not now, Clamp,” the Doctor said hollowly, and left the craft without another word.
Out on the streets, the Doctor activated his Sonic Screwdriver and closed the doors. Catching a glimpse of his earlier incarnation staring at him from a pasted poster, the Doctor said something curt in Ancient Gallifreyan and started retracing his steps to the commandeered car.
In the police station, nothing had happened since the Doctor had left. It was an impotent stalemate. All it would have taken was for one person to say something, but no-one was entirely sure of what to say.
“So,” the Doctor declared as he strode back into the room, “I’m pleased to see you’re all getting on famously.”
An officer ventured, “We were just…”
“Acting as a perfect example of what is wrong with Interkoll.”
Lugos sneered, “Surely you are the embodiment of that, Doctor.”
“Lugos! I’m so pleased you remembered my invitation to play social niceties. Component?”
Lugos threw the circuitry back to the Doctor.
“Thank you. You see, there is a vestige of trust within you. Oh, and if we’re playing social games, I’m not in the least bit pleased to see you, either.”
The officer who had attempted to speak was intrigued, “What do you mean?”
The Doctor frowned, “He’s just killed Charley. I’m hardly going to be in the mood to shake his hand, am I?”
“No, not that. What is wrong with Interkoll?”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. “You really don’t know?”
The Officer shook his head.
“Hmm, let’s see.” So saying the Doctor took a slow and steady walk around the room, taking a moment to stare intently at each face he passed.
“I see many different mouths in here, and yet none are moving.”
“Bar yours, Doctor.”
“Yes Lugos, but surely mine is the one voice you don’t want to here. Being honest, if I got the opportunity to talk over some of the powercrazed lunatics I’ve encountered, present company included, I’d jump at the chance. Actually, I usually do. Surely you despise me as much as I pity them, so why the silence?”
“What do you suggest then, oh great of powerful ex-god.”
“Talk. You don’t put a lot of thought into subtle goading, do you? Talk! You must have heard of it, it’s from that family of things that includes ranting, but it’s a bit more civilised, that’s all.”
“Are you serious? Talk? What about?”
“Everything. This planet has never talked. It went from individual to global living without any real discussion of what anyone actually wanted.”
“How will talking change the past, Doctor? How will talking bring your companion back? How can you think along such lines when someone you claim to care about is dead?”
“Talking can’t change the past, but it can give it perspective, Lugos. It won’t bring Charley back, but one thing Charley and I shared is a love for life, for the challenges it brings. Charley’s as alive in my thinking at the moment as she was in this room not so long ago. Talking is the only way forward for Interkoll.”
“Talking delays action, Doctor, it achieves nothing.”
“What does Marmite taste like, Lugos?”
Lugos frowned, clearly thrown by the question. “I don’t understand you.”
“No, a common failing. I asked you a simple question. What does Marmite taste like?”
“I have no idea.”
“And why is that?”
Lugos’ impatience forced him to start his reply, but it was only when he was half way through it that some faint glimmer of realisation dawned in him.
“Because I’ve never…”
“Tried it? Is that what you were going to say?”
“Hmm, sounds a bit like talking on this planet, doesn’t it? How do you know talking won’t work if you won’t even give it a chance? Oh, and it’s meaty.”
“Marmite. An acquired taste, but one I’m pleased to say I have. Especially on toast. Just the job when you’re too busy doing other things. Simply pop two slices into a toaster, wait …” The Doctor trailed off, suddenly aware that he was straying a little too far from the subject – and at a point where he may just be gaining some headway.
Indeed he had. Lugos was doing something the Doctor had not counted on taking a lot longer to achieve he was actually considered his words.
“You want a planet run by committee, don’t you?”
And misinterpreting them.
The Doctor held his gaze, “What I want is irrelevant. It’s what you,” he paused to point at various individuals in the room, “You, you, you and you want. This is your planet. Reclaim it. That’s if Lugos’ ego can cope with just being one voice among many.”
Lugos visibly bristled, and a number of his men levelled their weaponry at the Doctor. Lugos shook his head, and all the guns were lowered. “Despite what you may think of me, Doctor, I only ever wanted to rid my world of your taint. My, or rather my people’s ambitions have never been on the scale of my ancestors. Although I think my brother often believed they were.”
“I think I always knew that, Lugos. What is it?”
Lugos’ face was quivering slightly around his eyes, “I have killed so many of my own today.”
“Civil War carries that penalty, I’m afraid. And not let us forget the countless innocents you have killed simply because they came from other worlds.”
Lugos took a deep breath, thoughts flooding through his mind. “Doctor, will history forgive me?”
“I rather think the present needs your attention more than the future. Use the now to create a better world for that future to unfold in.” He turned to the police station officers.
“Can I make my last request on this planet?”
One officer, still reeling from the revelations of the past few minutes, stammered, “Y-yes, yes I suppose so.”
“Despite the crimes he has committed, do not treat him or his followers too harshly. They were living under a regime of war, and people do the most horrendous things when blinded by a vision. Let him be a part of the peace process, do not exclude him. I have seen examples on other words where this has proved to be catastrophic.”
Lugos stared at the ground. “Doctor?”
“Yes. Thank you. I did not deserve those words from you, I am grateful. However, I think I speak for everyone here when I ask that you never return to Interkoll. I think this time you may have set us the right road, but we need to lay the bricks.”
The Doctor glanced at where Charley had collapsed as he said the word “bricks”. If they had been conscious, he was sure that Angthed and Derkrum would have been nudging each other as the recognised the shared reference point.
“Agreed. I have someone who tries to keep me away from here as it is, so I can’t see it being a problem.”
“Oh, and Doctor?”
“For what it’s worth, I am sorry.”
“So am I, Lugos, on more levels than you will ever know.”
Rethgub strode up to the Doctor. “Are you leaving us now?”
The Doctor nodded.
Rethgub pursed his lips, then said, “Then I would like to say that I hold you no malice. We turned you into a God. I realise now that you never asked for us to. In the long run, though, we may have needed that period of our lives to reach the place we are at now.”
“Who can say, but people have been known to comment that things always happen for a reason.”
The Doctor found himself looking at where the body of Charley had lain. “Well, mostly.”
His attention was refocused on the here and now when a couple of mumbled groans caught his attention. Cross those Ts, Doctor, he said to himself, dot those Is.
He crouched down next to the recovering forms of Derkrum and Angthed. As their conscious thoughts started to return to them, they gasped at the various pains that assailed parts of their bodies.
“Welcome back, you two.”
“Doctor! How, what…”
The Doctor rested a soothing palm on both young men’s shoulders. “It’s over. Focus on yourselves, and the future.”
Derkrum looked at his friend and saw the skin damage on his friend’s shin through the tattered fabric of his red costume, “Angthed! Your leg! Are you alright?”
Angthed smiled weakly, “I’ll survive, hopefully. Shame I can’t claim Option B for myself right now.”
“You can today, Angthed.” Seeing the look in his friend’s eyes, Derkrum’s eyes sparkled mischievously, “Only today, mind you.”
The Doctor smiled warmly to himself, amused at the way such fundamental traits as in jokes between friends were surviving the traumas of the night’s events.
The Doctor rose to his feet and addressed Rethgub. “One final, final request?”
“Of course, Doctor.” Rethgub said, his smile sincere.
“Make sure these two are treated well. They were very brave in here tonight.”
“Consider your request carried out.”
The Doctor stood and placed both palms on Rethgub’s shoulders. “The only faith you ever needed was in yourself. You know that, don’t you.”
Rethgub nodded, and the Doctor took his cue to leave. He needed a walk, and was adamant that the process of clearing up could begin without him.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: Time to Leave
The Doctor returned to the police station briefly the next morning, and he left as sure as he could be that he had done everything possible and hopefully this time nothing too detrimental. His night walk had cleared his head of many doubts, and he walked back to the TARDIS a calmer Time Lord that he had been the night before.
At the TARDIS, a low breeze blew tattered and torn posters in the air, and the Doctor saw that the defaced pictures were representations of Evelyn and his previous self. The icons were already being removed, for that he was thankful.
Looking around the streets for the last time, the Doctor used the Sonic Screwdriver as a key once again and entered the TARDIS. Crossing to the console, he replaced the circuit he had removed so foolishly before, and life started to return to the craft.
A few petulant clangs of the cloister bell sounded, but as the Doctor patted one of the instrument banks he whispered, “I’m sorry old girl, I promise it won’t happen again.” The clamour faded, and then stopped completely.
As the doors to the outside world of Interkoll closed, the Doctor and the TARDIS were on good terms again.
“Hello, Doctor, Hello Charley!”
The Doctor half smiled, and picked up the Retractable Warp Clamp, “Hello you.” He said, “But I’m afraid it’s just me, now. Charley’s dead.”
Having been given the all clear by the station’s medical section, Derkrum and Angthed had followed the Doctor as he left the police station that morning, carefully keeping a safe distance. They watched from the pavement opposite as the machine roared into life and faded from view.
God had left Interkoll forever.
The early morning sun found the two youth grimy and exhausted, but proud of their participation in the events of that night.
Angthed had a crutch nestled under his shoulder, the crack from the rifle but in the skirmish had bruised his shin bone making it difficult for him to walk unaided. For his part, Derkrum had a bandage wrapped around his skull, patches of dried blood near the temple where the aimed bullet had caught him a glancing blow.
Once the TARDIS had gone completely, Derkrum turned to Angthed.
“Give me your hand,” he said, quietly.
Angthed laughed. “I am not falling for that again!”
Derkrum moved to stand before Angthed. “The time for games and rituals has passed. You are injured. Give me you hand, rest it across my shoulder.”
Still slightly unsure, Angthed complied and slid his arm across Derkrum’s shoulders. Derkrum slid his arms around Angthed’s chest to provide extra support, and together they started to walk away. Derkrum was careful to keep his pace matched to what Angthed could manage without causing unnecessary pain.
The crutch lay on the floor, no longer required.
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Chez Doctor
Inside the TARDIS, the clamp gave a startled series of burbles and whistles, before stating, “That is not true, Doctor.”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows, “Isn’t it?”
The sound of shallow snoring breaking cut through the silence following the Doctor’s question.
“No, Doctor, you know it isn’t”
The Doctor turned to face the deliverer of that last line, “Charley! Enjoy your nap?”
Charley pushed the blanket from her, and swung her legs to the floor. “Well, apart from having to remember not to breathe too deeply so people could see I was alive back there, I can’t complain. Also, that bullet didn’t half pack a wallop you know! Ouch!” she said sharply, “Can I take this thing off now?”
“Of course, Charley. It’s served its purpose.”
The Doctor helped Charlie out of the bullet-proof vest she had slipped on earlier that night.
The idea had come to the Doctor before his lecture on the Treaty of Versailles. The one way he could disprove his God like status was to be seen as fallible, and what better way that to be seen losing someone close to him. Charley had been initially uncertain about the prospect, not for the risk to herself but whether the Doctor was certain he would be able to goad their at that time unknown attacker enough to fall for his ruse.
The Doctor had simply smiled, assuring her he had pushed enough would be despots to the edge and beyond in his lives. Charley had agreed, having complete trust, not blind faith, in her companion.
Charley winced when she saw the impact damage Lugos’ bullet had caused in the fabric and structure of the vest.
“Yes, Charley, you took quite a risk for me. I am grateful.”
Charley smiled, “What else are friends for, Doctor?”
“Option B, as Derkrum and Angthed would say.”
Charley laughed, “I hope those two will be ok.”
“Ok? They’ll be superb. Just like us, eh?”
The Retractable Warp Clamp coughed, “Can you switch me off please, I am not used to this level of sentimentality between you and your companions.”
The Doctor laughed, “Well, Charley is somewhat unique shall we say.”
“Why, thank you, Doctor. So, any idea where you want to go next?”
“Yes, Charley - anywhere but here. In fact, considering how I hurt her feelings last time, let’s allow the TARDIS to take us wherever she wants us to go.”
“Like a good plan?”
“No, not exactly … but it’s better than some you’ve had.”
The Doctor looked mock offended. “Charlotte Pollard! That is not a very nice thing to say.”
Charlie said nothing, but then again with a face as expressive as hers she often did not need to. She watched in silence as the Doctor fed in a series of possible destinations and then allowed the TARDIS to select one at random.
The adventures of an Edwardian Adventuress continued.
As for the Doctor’s promise about not returning to Interkoll, he never did go back.
He was, after all, a Time Lord of his word.
One year later, Sormius was in the shop staring at Modran. The old man was stood considering his reflection in a full-length mirror.
“It feels wrong, Sormius.”
“What does, Modran?”
“Wearing normal clothes, today of all days.”
Sormius draped his arm around the old man’s shoulders, “They never said it was going to be easy, Modran. We have a long way to go.”
“Are we strong enough?”
“I think so. As long as we talk, express what we feel.”
“Maybe it’s too late for me. I’m too old to change.”
Sormius swung Modran around, “None sense, my friend. Not while ever I’m around. You always knew I wasn’t as much of a follower of your beliefs as you, but I never criticised you for them. In the same way, I will never judge you as you try and emerge from under their weight. Never forget I was there that night at the police station. I felt some of the power you believed it, who am I to criticise?”
“Talk, you say.”
In the end, it was that simple. The people of Interkoll started to talk to one another, find out who they were, what they really wanted. Years of indolence living side by side with animosity went out with a well worded whimper, not the bangs and flashes of war.
The officers at the station kept true to the promise they made the Doctor, and Lugos and his twin were invited to the discussion table even while they were imprisoned. The talks were long, sometimes arduous, but the Interkollians never gave up, they now knew what they had to lose it they failed. By including all sides, every voice had been heard. On many occasions some had been shot down, but gradually they had seen the common, or rather individualistic agenda.
The regime issued a galactic apology to the planets who’s inhabitants had ever visited Interkoll, offering sincere condolences for the atrocities that occurred, promising that those who had perished would never be forgotten in the New Order. By liasing with many word authorities, a lot of those who had been murdered were finally identified, and on Earth the family of Neil Hilton were able to lay him to rest. Despite the nature of the crimes, Interkoll never revealed the identity of the murderer. This was largely to avoid turning him into a martyr for any die-hard followers if one planet demanded the death penalty, but also to demonstrate to one and all that the past was the past, and that all attention should be focussed on a unified and yet divergent future.
It was a melting pot with a plethora of diverse opportunities. Evelyn Smythe would have found it a most fascinating period to study. However her initial thoughts, those written at the time of her travels with the Doctor, may well have been the victim of much revision has she had all the facts to hand.
By default and design, the Doctor had never found the time to sit her down and explain the full history of Interkollian society. Having read her notes, he had seen her hope in the belief that humanity wasn’t inherently carrying some form of destructive gene.
And who was he to question somebody’s faith?
He came forth
Through the barriers of the mind
Knowledge he sought
And knowledge he did find
A mysterious image
Was projected from the brain
The fog is clearing
Interkoll no-longer the same
- Extract from the diary of Modran Judrick