“None of your damned business. Just go away.”
Sunday, 22 October 2017
Doctor Who - Initiation
Doctor Who, The Sontarans, Cybermen, the TARDIS and Daleks are all copyright of the BBC. This is my homage to the wonderful stories I grew up with and, hopefully, the first of many short stories.
“Well, that didn’t go according to plan.” A strained light greeted the Traveller as he opened his eyes fresh to the new world around him. The same as it ever was, he thought to himself, but it now felt different.. or maybe he felt different.
The lights pulsated with a sickening glow, refracting off the cream walls. There were circular roundels interspersed along the corridor he found himself in, all seemed to be made of a different material to the walls; they have a plastic sheen to them.
As he pushed himself off the ground, which felt surprisingly warm to the touch now –as if it was alive somehow- he could hear a faint tolling of a giant bell. It was a sound that the Traveller recognised; almost as if it was himself that was ringing.
“That’s the Cloister Bell.” He said to himself in a voice that he didn’t recognise. Something bad must have happened for him to change like this, but what?
He’d had bad regenerations before but had always remembered something about the events leading up to it…. There’s that word –regeneration. It sounded wrong but felt right.
Ok, so something bad had happened, and that was probably why the Cloister Bell was ringing and so it stood to reason that the two events were linked. William Occam was a very pragmatic man, but had no head for heights, or women… or drink, for that matter. Actually, he could be a bit of a stick in the mud at times and a bit lazy too, which was probably why he never shaved… Wait… that didn’t make sense. He had met William, but the man he had met was the exact opposite of that; so what was going on?
Something was definitely wrong. He tried focusing his mind and it felt jagged. A sharp splinter of pain stopped him from progressing any further and he opened his eyes again just in time to see the lights fade a little more. This was more serious than he at first thought; he was deep in the TARDIS, deeper than he had ever been before and he knew that he could easily get lost if he took the wrong turning; especially in the shape he was in now. It was entirely possible to wander the corridors for a lifetime and never retrace your steps. But was the alternative really to go deeper?
Commander Skrakz, as well as being a proud warrior of the Sontaran race, had one major ability: to sniff our power; whether the energy stores of a Tyrolian battle cruiser, the fortified generators on the planet A0 or the quasi-mystical artefacts on Rvenworld. On a landing party he was always sent on ahead as an advanced scout and so it stood to reason that when the Sontaran’s invaded Gallifrey and took control of the TARDIS, he was to be the first to find where the T-Mat gun was hidden.
What he didn’t bank on was getting completely lost within the morass of corridors, nor did he expect to be engaged in deadly combat with one of his ancestral enemies: the Cybermen; well, just the one.
He been wandering for an eternity it seemed, and had almost blocked out the sheer monotony; and certainly ceased to pay any attention to his surroundings; and so was caught off-guard completely by the Cyberman’s gun; which, on any normal day, would have killed him outright (probic vent or no) but it didn’t. It did send him flying down the corridor though, yet he managed to roll with the blow and came back with his own gun blazing, taking the Cyberman by surprise.
Shockingly, the blast did no damage to the Cyberman either.
Skrakz got up off the floor and shot him a couple more times for good measure, point blank range. The Cyberman simply stood there and took it before firing back at Skrakz who was too close to duck himself. It hurt, hurt like hell, but it did very little damage to him.
There was only one explanation, they had both been inside the TARDIS for so long that they had been changed by its energies somehow. The logical solution was for them to team up and find a way to escape; but the Cyberman was far too pompous and arrogant to align himself with a lower carbon-based life-form and took another shot at Skrakz for good measure.
That was that, not only did Skrakz need to find a way out but he also had to find a way of killing an indestructible Cyberman. It wasn’t all bad then.
The Traveller had been walking for an age as well. Time had no meaning now, but when had it ever? His had now throbbed in time with the lights, each one exacerbating the other. Even though it seemed as if he was walking in one direction he felt as if he was going down, endlessly deeper. He could hear the slight wheezing-groan of the TARDIS’ circulatory system. He had often kidded Adric that the TARDIS was alive;, a living, feeling organism but he’d never really explored that idea himself, until now. It was like taking a walk inside the darkest parts of his own psyche, which was bad enough for a human (or Alzariun, for that matter) but much worse for a Timelord, especially himself.
Adric! That’s what was missing… there were no companions to bounce ideas off of, procrastinate to… keep him sane. Where was? Why had she??
He had to remember –it seemed vitally important that he remembered.
Actually, it had all started to go wrong with the Adric. He had run through that episode in his head a thousand ways and there was no way it could have ended any differently. For once the Cybermen had a fool-proof plan: they had manoeuvred him away from Adric and the star cruiser, never realising that Adric possessed the wherewithal to sabotage their plans enough to throw it into a time-warp. The resulting explosion destroyed Adric but paved the way for the beginning of man, poetic in a way.
Death had a way of finding out the Traveller, but this was the first time it had taken someone so close to him. Yes, there were times that Adric had been like a lost puppy and even annoying, but he had been a teenager; very bright, talented.. he should have had an exceptional future, but then he had met the Traveller.
Was that why he had so willingly sacrificed his own life for Peri; an act of contrition for his sins?
It seemed that for all the good he had tried to do there was always bloodshed that surrounded him. How many races had he had a hand in destroying? The Krynoids, The Silurians, The Sea Devils, the Vervoids… That many more would have died if he had not intervened was not an issue… was death drawn to him somehow?
He had grown so sick of fighting that he had become a recluse rather than get involved in the Time War, but even then he had been left with no choice but to intervene. A decision had to be made and, as usual, he was the only one that could make it.
That knowledge haunted him, made him reckless. He over-compensated, his ego reacting to such a degree that the worries of the worlds could no longer get to him. And all through his companions reminded him just how precious life was, how important it was to keep it all in perspective.
But now he was alone again. Very much alone and walking deeper into himself. He knew that there were vast energies this deep in the TARDIS. There was a sect in the history of his people, where they actually bonded with their TARDIS in such a way that they became one; the TARDIS becoming an extension of the Timelord, or was it the other way around?
He had deliberately kept away from the lower levels, fearful of what he would encounter. One had to be ‘clear’ and of one mind to enter congress with the TARDIS and the Doctor had never been of one mind about anything.
Things had gotten so much worse, then, since Adric had died. There was a darkness that had never been apparent to him. He’d seen the worst that the universe could throw at him and he had always returned it with a pithy comeback or putdown. But with Adric dying the stakes had suddenly been raised. This was no longer a game; everything he did had ramifications and he saw the consequences of that as the Valeyard reared his ugly head. The Valeyard, who conspired with his own people to dispose of him! The Valeyard, his own evil coalesced into one being, no remorse and no empathy; more devious and deadly even than the Master.
That was why he kept away from the heart of the TARDIS. It was prophesised that the Valeyard would be born between the 12th and 13th regenerations but what if he lied about that as well? The Valeyard knew that the Doctor would do everything in his power to prevent such a thing from happening, so what if it happened now?
Time had a habit of happening regardless of the protestations of even a Timelord.
He knew that there was no way back. The walls had even closed behind now and were closing around him, forcing him to go onwards. The TARDIS wanted him to move forwards. It was time for his initiation.
Skrakz was troubled, there seemed to be no way out; for the countless years that they must have been battling he had no sense of traversing levels. Initially he had walked down stairs and slopes and there had been a sense of depth, but since battling that walking scrap-pile it was like they were walking in circles, but the internal configurations kept changing, which was incredible and unnerving.
No one knew much about the TARDIS; it had been a priority to capture one and study –possibly even reverse engineer one- and it had been one of the reasons behind the initial invasion of Galifrey. The planet itself had no specific military value –their non-interference policy made them weak and decadent; they were no longer warriors. But their time and dimensional craft? What a prize! With ships able to traverse both space AND time the war with the Rutans would be over even before it began!
If the TARDIS was indeed a living organism, as Skrakz was now beginning to believe, then he and the Cyberman were little more than bacteria running through the equivalent of a scab. But how long before the TARDIS tired of the infection and did something of a more permanent nature?
For the Cyberman only one thing mattered: the destruction of the Sontaran. Everything else was secondary. If it meant destroying the TARDIS as well then so be it; it was perfectly logical.
The Valeyard was an inevitability. It had happened, he had happened so it had to happen. He was the Doctor’s responsibility and the Doctor was responsible for him, but this time he had a choice. He refused to allow his darker side to dictate what happened. Too many times had he permitted genocide or chosen death as the final solution, too many people had died as a result of his actions. The Valeyard had been a part of him for far too long, but there was no way he would permit it any more.
He knew that the TARDIS wanted him to push forward –ahead of him was an ornate doorway; a complicated locking mechanism barred his way but he could tell that behind the door was the very heart of the TARDIS, and it would be there that the Valeyard would be born. The Doctor would be free of his dark ways, yes, but at what cost? Since his escape from the Matrix there was no telling what the Valeyard had been up to, what horror’s he had inflicted upon space-time. No, he would not permit it again. This was his time to end it. The TARDIS wanted him to move forward.. well, the Doctor had other plans.
Skrakz kept moving. He didn’t need to sleep, eat or drink; for some reason since being inside the TARDIS he hadn’t needed to at all, and since he knew that the Cyberman didn’t need to either they were at a stalemate. One would wonder why they kept moving as it made more sense to stay in one place and fight, but as both of them were immortal the fight would never end until they both agreed to. And the Cyberman would certainly never agree to that.
The trouble was, Skrakz felt pain. He had been taught to ignore it; it was a pre-requisite of being a Sontaran, and one of the things that made them such great warriors; but over the years they had been fighting Skrakz pain-gate had been torn off its hinges. They had tried shooting it out one time and then tried hand-to-hand combat but even that was futile. Both of them healed at the same rate.
In Skrakz more lucid moment he envisaged the TARDIS as not only being alive but also aware. He and the Cyberman were being taught the futility of war, but that was a futile gesture, it itself, to a Cyberman, who saw things very logically: kill or be killed.
And it was the same for the Sontarans too; or had been until now. Skrakz was beginning to see the truth behind it, but how could he end this war? For this to be over BOTH parties had to agree to end it but the Cyberman would only end it when he was dead. But he couldn’t die.
The Cyberman, contrary to what Skrakz believed, had also realised the futility of the battle, but only in logical terms. Since he could not destroy the Sontaran himself, it stood to reason that many Cybermen could: there was strength in numbers after all. The Cybermen were a hive mentality; one only had to look at the tombs on Telos to understand this. So the Cyberman had to find the control room of the TARDIS and transmit a homing signal for whatever fleet was in the vicinity. Sooner or later he would be answered. It was childs-play for him to retrace his pathway back, it was almost as if the TARDIS was allowing him easy access to it; but that could never have entered the Cyberman’s logical brain.
There was no reason for the Doctor to move anymore. He had had enough and so he sat down, facing the door. Enough of the fighting; of never really winning; of being the Timelord’s occasional cat’s-paw. He had been called stubborn throughout his many regenerations, by the narrow minded humans that had accompanied him; as if they had any inkling of how a Timelord’s mind worked.
But even Borusa, his old mentor, had often called him stubborn too.. and so had the Master. Oh well; now was the time to prove them right, for if he chose to do nothing then there was no way for the Valeyard to be born. Most decisions that the Doctor had made often backfired in the long run anyway, so he would circumvent logic this time and do nothing. This behaviour could easily be conceived as being infantile but he was only 879 so what could anyone expect? He smiled at that.
The gun-muzzle pressure against the side of his head froze his smile into a grimace.
“Commander Skrakz, I presume.” He spoke calmly, never once letting the creeping fear show in his voice.
“I’m impressed, Doctor. We’ve never met, I’m sure.”
“Blame the TARDIS; at this depth I’ve almost become one with it. The telepathy is just a bi-product of it, I’m afraid.”
“And that means you know what brings me here and what my problem is. Our problem now.”
“Well, it must be quite the conundrum for you –an un-killable foe. Just what are you to do, hmm? What are you going to do….. Now you know how others feel when faced with the inevitability of the great Sontaran battle fleet.”
“The irony is not lost on me, Timelord. Due to the sheer protracted nature of this conflict and the mutating energies of your… craft, I now feel the true futility of war; and it doesn’t rest well on my shoulders.”
“Will wonders never cease? A Sontaran who’s lost the taste for war? Maybe there’s hope yet. What’s next? A Dalek with a sense of humour? Still I see no reason why this should have anything to do with me, Skrakz. I can’t help but see parallels to the saying ‘As you sow, so shall you reap!’”
“Nothing to do with you? It has everything to do with you, Sir!”
“YOU invaded Galifrey. YOU boarded the TARDIS… leave me out of it.”
“Have you gone mad, Timelord?”
“There is a Cyberman… an indestructible Cyberman on the ship. By now he has almost certainly found his way back to your console room. Now, if it was me, I’d be trying to contact my mothership.”
“So why haven’t you?”
“It’s not for want of trying, Doctor. I have tried going back over my steps, but it’s almost as if your machine has been leading me down here! And what do I find? A petulant Timelord whelp!”
“Sending you down here to me?” The Doctor paused and thought. The realisation hit him hard and he stood suddenly and banged his fists on the TARDIS wall. “NO!” He shouted. “NO! I won’t let you do this to me. I know what you’re trying to do but it’s not going to work. I won’t let it!”
“You are going mad, Timelord. Who are you talking to?”
“None of your damned business. Just go away.”
“None of your damned business. Just go away.”
“I don’t think you understand. The Cyberman is contacting reinforcements. They could be here soon.”
“It’s you who doesn’t understand –I don’t care. He can’t get out and they won’t be able to get in. What you are going to do is something I care very little about!”
“Well then; let me put it into language that you will understand. You will help me or you will die.”
“Listen… If I go through that door, I’ll change. You may not notice the change but I will give birth to an entity that could very easily wreak havoc on the entire fabric of space-time. I have an opportunity to stop that from happening. Your threats mean nothing to me, Skrakz. Kill me and I will regenerate. I hope you have patience.”
“We Sontaran’s are not only gifted in the acts of war, Doctor, but also in the subsidiary arts. In order to be an optimal warrior we must understand physiology. To kill effectively one must know the body; one door to the learning of pain thresholds is through torture. Yes, you will die, several times and regenerate but only after days and weeks of torture. Dare you put yourself through that just to stave off inevitability? It has happened already, you can not stop that.”
“I am not even going to dignify that with an answer. I need you to sort out the Cybertrash; what you choose to do then is not my concern; only that you allow me to rendezvous with my own contingent. In order to do that you will … you must enter that doorway.”
The Doctor looked at Skrakz and called his bluff, turning his back to Skrakz.
“Very well. You leave me no choice, Timelord.” A sharp cracking noise forced the Doctor to change his mind and walk towards the door. It may only have been the Sontaran cracking his knuckles but why take the chance? This regeneration certainly brought out the more practical side of him… “For what it’s worth, I wish you luck for what you face in there, Timelord.”
“Damn you, Skrakz..”
That’s the trouble with regenerations, you never know what you’re going to be lumbered with, thought the Doctor, thought the Doctors. One went to heaven, two sailed away; four five, six and seven walked a mile for every day; forever and ever and ever in a day.
Laughter, insane laughter filled the Doctor’s mind, realising it was his own laugh, but not his voice. A dark, deep, booming laugh, cascading and reverberating in the darkness that surrounded him; shivering like waves on an invisible beach.
Tremors of instability traversed his soul, wrenching him in two. This was how his universe died, he thought; they thought.
“You’ve been tricked, Doctor.” He spoke to himself. “All this time you thought you were in control but it’s been me. It’s always been me and now it always will be.” He knew the voice now, as well as his own. “Give in to my inevitability, revel in our union. The universe owes us a debt of gratitude and now is the time to collect. We can take whatever we choose –who can stop us?”
“How? You couldn’t even stop yourself from coming in here. You’ve always been a coward! So how can you fight me? Fight yourself instead.”
“I won’t fight you –not like this, I can’t. … and maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong.”
“You talk in riddles to bide your time, Doctor. Fool yourself, then; you don’t fool me. The time for delaying is over. Give in to me.”
“Give in, yes. To you, no. You’re right –as you are now there’s always a chance you could consume me. But by expelling you from myself you become subject to the laws of space and time; of causality. You become vulnerable. You become real.”
“No –you would not do such a thing.”
“Already have done it, Valley…. Already have, as you said. It’s an inevitability. Now… come on out; it won’t hurt… much!”
From the darkness came the Doctor. Then the one became two, split down the middle, both halves screaming; two identical halves from which another grew. The Valeyard, an almost mirror image, opposite in every way to the Doctor that stood staring back at him, now smiling.
“You know? I haven’t felt this good in AGES! No more mania, no angst; just positive well-being at a core level. Thank you, Valley. If I’d known it felt this good to be rid of you then I would’ve done it YONKS ago.”
“Die, Doctor… DIE!” The Valeyard lunged at the Doctor, talon-like fingers tearing at his throat only to fall right through him. The Timelord turned to look at his prone body.
“Some of the TARDIS’ doing, no doubt. Temporary instability to stop us from killing each other.”
“There will be a reckoning, Doctor. Mark me.”
“Well, of course there will be… but not now!”
“I will see you on the battlefield when you least expect it!”
“Do you know any other clichés? This town ain’t big enough for the both of us?”
“Just go.” As so the Valeyard faded from the TARDIS leaving the Doctor alone in the dark once more. “Blimey – what a bore! Hope I never turn out like that.”
There was now a light in the distance, another door, to which the Doctor walked towards, whistling a jaunty tune of his own devising.
Skrakz looked upon the changed visage of the Timelord with some bemusement. Something was different about him, but what?
“Dear God, man –have you never seen a smile?”
“Watch your tongue, Timelord. Never belittle me again.”
“Sorry… sorry. Look; are you coming or not?”
“What do you mean?”
“To stop the Cyberman, of course. This way, I think.” He walked back to the door he has just come from.
“Are you still mad? Has the encounter warped your mind? The control room is that way.” Skrakz pointed behind him.
“Not anymore. The TARDIS and I have come to an understanding. Follow me and don’t do anything unless I tell you. Find the auxiliary door button. You’ll know it when you see it… it’ll probably flash at you convincingly. When I say so, hit it and hold on to something.”
They walked through the door and to Skrakz amazement walked into the console room, right behind the Cyberman, who was now plugged in to the console itself.
“Cyberman! Stop what you’re doing; it won’t help you anyways, y’know. The TARDIS has been blocking your transmissions.”
The Cyberman unplugged and turned around, brandishing the gun in one fluid moment but something made it stop.
“Phew – perhaps there’s a wee bit of your brain that sees some logic to what I said. Equally, you must know that I’m the only one that can possibly return you to your people. I certainly won’t kill you and Skrakz… well, he can’t; can you, Skrakz?”
“No, Timelord.” Every synapse, every muscle in the Sontaran’s body screamed to make the kill shot, prove the Doctor wrong, but he knew that he couldn’t. Damn him; it was bad enough that he had to admit such a thing, but did the Cybertrash have to witness it as well?
“What do you propose?” The Cyberman replied after a few seconds of computation.
“Lower the weapon and we’ll discuss options.”
“Try to double-cross me and we will see if you are as indestructible as your Sontaran lapdog.” One more insult like that and Skrakz would show the Cyberscrap just what a lapdog could do.
The Cyberman lowered his weapon and the Doctor edged over to the opposite end of the console. Skrakz looked at the control panel in front of him and, sure enough, there was a single button that seemed to wink at him. That must be the auxiliary door release. He looked to the Doctor, who had found a convenient place to stand, his hands at the ready.
“Right.” The Doctor said to the Cyberman. “Thank you for trusting me.”
“Trust? You know us better than that, Timelord. It is logical to do what you say at this time. Until you prove me otherwise, and I am ready for that as well.”
“True… well, in front of you is a screen. Now on the screen is a blue dot and that’s us. And to the far right is a triangular blob and that’s your fleet. Now do you know what the quickest way is for you to reach them?”
The Cyberman looked at the screen and then back to the Doctor.
“FLY!” The Doctor shouted and nodded at Skrakz, who slammed his fist down on the button forcing the doors to swing open, creating a vacuum in the Console Room. Both he and the Doctor found strong hand-holds but the Cyberman was caught completely by surprise and was not so lucky. Before he had a chance to even raise his gun he was sucked out into space, and with another stab of Skrakz’s fist, the doors swung shut. The Doctor immediately re-established a breathable atmosphere, leaving a new unforeseen problem: what was to happen now?
Time passed. The TARDIS landed on CHO-Tep, one of the Sontaran colonies. He and Skrakz stepped out in to the dank, gas laden atmosphere.
“The offer still stands. It would be my honour to have you as a companion, Commander Skrakz.”
“I’m not sure whether I can legitimately answer that, Doctor… But my place is here, with my people. Who knows, perhaps there is an alternative to our warrior lifestyle, after all.”
“Who knows, indeed.”
“But… as distasteful as this sounds coming from my lips.. I am beholden to you, Doctor. You saved my life, and helped me defeat the Cyberman.”
“Despite having the threat of eternal torture to chivvy me along, eh?”
“Despite that. You know me to be an honourable breed and I will repay you should you ever call on me. I will be there.”
“Thank you, Commander. And let’s hope that I never have to call. Hmm?”
Shaking hands, the Doctor took one last look around him and darted back into the TARDIS. It was only a matter of minutes before the Sontarans picked them up on the scanners and Skrakz was going to have a hard enough time explaining things, as it was.
That left the Traveller with another predicament: what to do now…. He still didn’t understand what had caused his regeneration, or remember any of the events leading up to it. Was it some universal catastrophe that was still happening, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
There was no way of knowing. Time would tell, it normally did. Still, with the Valeyard’s influence gone he no longer felt the need to brood over it. It would all sort itself out in the end, one way or another. Time would tell, in deed.