|Doctor Who Benny Internet Adventure #01 - "The Slay"
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Sufficiently Advanced Technology"
by Ian McIntire
"That which does not change, dies" - Proverb
* * *
Dear Diary... Log ... Future Me... Whatever.
Look, this was a stupid idea. Professor Summerfield says it helps her get her thoughts in order, so I thought I'd try it. At least, she used to say that.
Jason's here. I still have no idea how he got here - but then again, I have no idea where "here" is supposed to be.
Why couldn't St. Oscar's have had an Anthropology department? I'm sorry. I'm rambling. I guess I should explain a little.
* * *
I had trouble keeping up with Markov. Ariadne, he explained as we ran - well, I ran, Markov kind of scuttled. Sorry, rambling again - had told him to get me away from Changetown as quickly as possible. I wanted to wait for the Professor, but he would have none of it. In the end, he had to pick me up bodily to stop me from running back. The position he carried me in gave me a pretty good view of the town as an angry mob tore down the dwelling she'd been staying in, captured her, and force-fed her something.
After about fifteen minutes of travel, we returned to the site of the Athens' wreck. Markov set me down, and I had about five minutes of a good cry. I stood up, and looked round the wreck for something - anything. In retrospect, I guess I was trying to take my mind off the situation. Oddly enough, I found a note from Jason (see attached).
We wuz here. Where wuz you?
I turned to Markov to ask if he found the terrain on the back of the note familliar. I had a short list of things I hadn't expected to find in the wreckage of the Athens, and while "Note from Jason" may have been #1, "UnChanged guy holding a ship-issue blaster and standing over the still-smoking corpse of Markov," was in the top five.
It was at this point that the pain from the wound that Rech gave me became too much, and I passed out. Hey, it sounds better than saying "I fainted."
* * *
"Sir," one of the Peaces commented. "It's getting awfully close to the appointed hour. Perhaps it might save time if we were to leave ... the thing... here and start the ceremony now."
Orn was under no illusions; the man simply didn't want to touch the creature any more than he had to. But he was right about the time.
The Protector of Serenity pointed to Rech'y'van and commanded the officers of the Peace. "Slay Night begins!" One of the Peaces immediately set off, rapping on doors joyfully, and signalling the start of the monthly purification. Two other Peaces strode toward the hut in which Kem and Cordelia had been imprisoned. Orn was many things, but stupid was not one of them: killing changed without first testing them - no matter how deformed, how obvious their mutation was - was a quick way to lose control over his town.
- His* town. He liked the sound of that. The first revellers were approaching the Slay. The inhabitants of Serenity caught their first sight of Rech, and most gasped in shock and stood well back. Some of the braver ones immediately started hurling rocks, but were stopped by officers of the Peace.
"No. No rocks. We all know the laws of Slay Night. We all know what is in store for this creature." A few of the townspeople were wondering why it was Orn, and not Kem, who was beginning the ritual, but most accepted Orn's leadership. "We all know the penalties God has set forth for mutation, for the blight that covers our world, for Change of any kind! And we all know how we shall deal with those affected."
"The Pit! The Pit!" The crowd chanted.
The two Peaces had returned, each escorting one of the prisoners. The fires of hate still burned brightly in Kem's eyes, but Cordelia faced her death with calm resignation. Both, however, were taken aback by the wounded Utrassi laying in front of the Slay.
"And how shall we know the cursed among us?"
"The Slay! The Slay!" The crowd's chant was a palpable thing, a wave that washed over Orn.
"The Slaaaaaay!" As always, the voice of old Nevka continued the chant unintentionally. The old woman was always a little behind, but she made up for it by drawing the words out strangely. Orn grinned. It was a part of Slay Night that was as traditional as the Pit itself, albeit by mistake.
Orn raised a hand for silence. "As Protector of Serenity, it falls to me to test myself first." There were a few murmurs of confusion from the crowd at this. It was a standard part of the ceremony, but this was the first time that Orn had done it as Protector and not as Deputy.
A few of the Peaces were motioning him to wait, indicating that the Slaypit was not quite ready, but Orn paid them no heed. He stuck his finger into the machine. For some strange reason, tonight the pause between the insertion of his finger and the "all clear" chime took longer than usual. A few members of the crowd began to murmur, but when the yellow indicator finally lit up, a loud cheer went up.
Now, of the three obviously changed, who first?
His gaze fell upon his mother. He'd dreamt of killing his mother for years, almost ever since he'd discovered that she'd been Changed. But no. Better for her to suffer by anticipation and foreboding, and by watching two of her "brethren" suffer first.
Kem? It *would* cement his hold on the Protectorate of Serenity. But again, no. Better to seem more reluctant to condemn his mentor to death.
The abomination, then. Yes. Already he could hear the cries of the crowd. "Burn the spider!"
Orn took a set of crudely made gloves from one of the Peaces, grabbed one of the spider's appendages (causing the beast to groan in pain), and thrust it into the Slay. Almost immediately, the yellow light flared. The crowd fell silent, apart from Nevka, who blurted "What the...?!"
* * *
"I'm sorry," Ariadne said to Bernice, as the human woman was thrown roughly to the ground. Benny was wiping the inside of her mouth with her hand, trying to get the taste of the meat out. She looked up at Ariadne with a forced expression of light-heartedness.
"'Salright. I've had much worse dishes than mutant tartar." She looked over her body nervously, already feeling the nanites starting to work on her physionomy.
"It doesn't work like that" Ariadne said. Benny looked up, and realized that she was shaking with fear. "It will be weeks before you show any symptoms of mutation, and days before the Slay could detect any abnormalities."
"Time enough to get off this mudball" Benny muttered with a conviction she did not feel. "Where are they going?" She indicated the small mob that had begun moving off toward the outskirts of Changetown.
Ariadne looked towards the group sadly. "They're just going to wander around the surrounding area, shouting their hatred of the UnChanged, until one of the Serenity Peace officers picks a few of them off. They've been like this every night since Cordelia left. We're just lucky that the Peace officers are usually too frightened to follow them back to here." She folded her wings sadly. "They're animals. They don't know strategy, and can't plan ahead." By now the mob had left the small village and the nearby caverns, but their battlecries could still be faintly heard. Then the cries turned to shouts of alarm and panic.
"That was quick. Perhaps they're learning." Bernice was about to ask whether Ariadne meant the Changed or the UnChanged when a torrent of Changed erupted from the forest and streamed back into the caverns. From behind the Changed, Benny noticed something odd. Something unexpected. Something certainly out of place.
Half-a-dozen figures in environmental suits, accompanied by a strange, high-pitched hum. Each was carrying a knapsack, and whenever a Changed got within about five feet of one, the Changed would recoil in shock and pain.
The figures made their way into the center of the cavern openings. One seemed to look Benny's way and strode over to meet her. From the knapsack, it removed some kind of energy weapon, and Benny and Ariadne immediately prepared to run. (Unfortunately, Benny was in no condition to run, so her preparations consisted largely of a - clinging onto Ariadne, and b - hoping that Ariadne's wings were 1. not merely vestigial and 2. capable of supporting the weight of a second person.)
The figure saw their fear, and took great pains to demonstrate via body language that it was non-threatening. There was something about the figure's gestures that Benny found strangely familliar. She found herself trying to get a clear view through the polarized faceplate of the figure's suit.
A tinny, unrecognizable voice came from a speaker in the figure's suit. "Guys, I'm lowering my field so I can get closer to these two." It touched a control on its wrist, and it was suddenly no longer emitting the high-pitched hum.
"Hi" it said.
"Hi" Benny replied. "Field?"
"Yeah. You see, they had some technology in their shelter that was pretty close to creating a field that would temporarily put the nanites in stasis. Only a stopgap measure, but it keeps anybody infected from getting too close. I took a look at their research, they took a look at my gear, and we kind of filled in the gaps for each other. They've been in suspended animation since before the war."
Benny cocked her head, trying to place the distorted voice and muffled body language. "What about you? Where do you come from?"
The figure looked surprised. "Oh, you know. Here and there." It reached up to its helmet, and pulled it off.
"What's a nice girl like you doing on a wartorn mutagenic mudball of a planet like this?" Jason asked his ex-wife.
Benny couldn't decide whether to kiss him, punch him, or think up some witty remark hinting that she'd known he was here all along (a blatant lie, of course). In the end, her decision was rendered academic when Ariadne leaped at him and tried to claw his eyes out.
To be continued...
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