|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #24 - "Remiel"
by Alan Taylor
|>From the Herald Diary 12 January 2101
A nervous chap in Edinburgh tried to broach, with his elderly mother, the subject of whether she wanted to be buried or cremated when she died. Listening to his faltering attempts to raise the subject, she ended theconversation with a simple: "Surprise me."
* * *
"I've been thinking, pumpkin."
Holmes sighed. If there was one thing he didn't need, it was Mavis thinking. When she thought, the words just tumbled out of her, all greens and purples, piled on top of each other. If she wasn't so useful, he'd have left her at home.
"What have you been thinking, love?" he asked, the exasperation clear in his voice.
"What's the word for the time when things stop being one way and start being another way?"
"That's change, Mavis."
"Oh. So it is." Her glance followed an imaginary butterfly as it fluttered from one end of the railway carriage to the other. "And what's the word for the moment when you can't remember whether your first memory is actually real, or just a memory of remembrance?"
"I don't think there's a word for that."
"Oh, I thought there was."
* * *
It's not the centre of the universe, that's true, but it's not the back of beyond. It's certainly not South East England, reflects Luke as he steps out of the TARDIS onto the soft grass beyond. The air smells clean, the sky looks blue, and the temperature is pleasantly warm, with just enough of a sea breeze for comfort. He's heard about New Cheadle, of course, although he's never been. One of the politically independent floating cities that made up the Atlantean Protectorate, a free port with free press. Famous for its libertarian attitudes in a time when libertarianism was the norm. In short, not a bad place to make a new start.
But the right place?
He's still not sure.
He realises that they've not followed him out of the TARDIS. They're probably scared to, now. He's been... harsher than he meant to be. Which is
not to say that he didn't mean what he said, only that it didn't come out quite the way he'd expected. Ironic, really, for a journalist to stumble over his words.
They've landed in a park on the outskirts of the city. Half a mile across, perfectly green, perfectly flat. On one side, the silver and glass spires of the city, reaching up vainly towards the stars, towards Venus. On the other, the Atlantic Ocean, stretching out into the distance. Calm and blue, here, thanks to the weather satellites allowing the city to track its course away from rough weather. In the distance, another city. The park is
quiet. There are some young men playing five-a-side soccer on a makeshift pitch to the landward side of the TARDIS. All in shorts, half of them stripped from the waist up, their shirts becoming makeshift goalposts. Beyond them, two young women with babies sit on a tartan rug and watch. It's so peaceful, so normal. And he's seen it almost destroyed several times.
Perhaps it's subconscious. He's pushing them away to make it easier to say goodbye. Perhaps that's it.
"A penny for them?"
And he snaps out of his reverie, suddenly aware that there's a tear in his eye and he's not certain his mascara's waterproof. The Doctor is standing behind him. He's left his jacket in the TARDIS, and standing there in his waistcoat he looks impossibly young.
"Only thoughts, Doctor. Nothing of any consequence."
Luke turns away from the Doctor, to watch the soccer game, unfocussed. He doesn't notice the Doctor opening his mouth to speak, stopping himself, pausing, before finally saying "Is this where you want to stop?"
"It might be," replies Luke. "I don't know yet."
"We're in no rush, Luke. You can take your time."
Luke nods. Then he turns to face the Doctor. "Look," he says, rushing his words in case he lost his nerve. "I know I've been the queen of all bitches for the last few days and well, I just want to say that it's me. It's all me — it's not you guys — just all the shit that's going on in my head at the moment. And I want to make it up to you. Really. Let's... let's go out for dinner. The three of us. And then I'll decide."
"Apparently the view from the Didsbury Grill at the top of the Park Hyatt is breathtaking."
Luke grins, and for a second he feels like his old self again.
"I should go and apologise to Kirena," he says.
"Best not to," says the Doctor. "I don't think she's in the mood to hear you."
* * *
Josiv Adirun Morok was a bounty hunter. Feared throughout the Nine Systems, the Three Systems, and also the One System, he was almost a celebrity in certain sectors of Kapone. He had natural ability with weapons, a fact that he used to the full. It seemed to run in the family.
Kirena lifted the automatic rifle and fired six shots. Two in the head, two in the heart, two in the crotch. The target ratcheted forward for inspection, a new paper mannequin slipping in to place behind it. She hated to admit it, but target practice helped. Helped to relieve the stress that she didn't want to take out on Luke.
She'd grown up looking after her family. All of her brothers. She used to shout at them a lot, and usually they shut up and listened to her. Because usually she was right, and because they knew that she loved them more than life itself. Sometimes she forgot the fact that Luke wasn't one of her brothers. He infuriated her as much as Jadi had ever done — he even had the same annoying habit of calling her Kadi when he was angry. And she loved him almost as dearly as she loved Jadi.
In a way, Luke and the Doctor were both part of her family now. And that meant that she could shout at them when she was mad at them.
And it also meant that sometimes she kept out of their way, rather than make things worse than they needed to be.
She'd found the firing range in the same corridor that used to hold the rain room and the cathedral of memories, back before they were lost. It had the same sort of feel to it, though. A room that was haunted by travelling companions of the Doctor. So it was a room that she kept to herself, not wanting to ask the Doctor what happened to the man or woman who used to shoot things here, just in case it opened old wounds.
But just being here made her feel she knew him better.
* * *
She was counting the buttons on the elevator. They were numbered from one to fifty, but so far she had reached three different totals: six, a gazillion, and eleventy-thirteen.
"Are there sixty-nine buttonses, pumpkin?" she asked.
"No," replied Holmes, shaking his head.
"Do you think it would make a difference if I jumped up and down while I counted?"
"In a minute Mavis, love. I want to know more about the layout of the restaurant first."
"Oh," she said. "That's no fun." She looked at him, crestfallen. Her eyes — one purple, one green — were wide open, and her lower lip was curled
in a petulant pout.
"Nevertheless, Mavis, I need your help. Tell me what I want to know, and then you can count the fifty pretty buttons."
"Oh , poo," she said, and crossed her eyes. "Okay. The basic shape of the restaurant is circular. If you think of it like a clock, then the lifts open at twelve, the open kitchen is at four o'clock, and the band sits at eight o'clock. That's also when they start playing, but never mind. The VIP table's at six o'clock, with a clear sight from the kitchen, so the chef can come and discuss ingredients with the guests. It's terribly gauche, but
was very popular in my day. That's where they'll put the Minister, for sure. He'll be in the chair with his back to the kitchen — it gives the best view. Are there six buttons? I know you said that there weren't but you might have been fibbing."
"Wait here," said Holmes as the lift door opened.
* * *
When Kirena stepped out of the TARDIS, it was twilight. The park was empty except for two men sitting on a bench. One was showing the other how to fold origami cranes — a pile of colour paper birds lay at their feet.
"Hi," she said, trying to keep emotion out of her voice.
Luke stood slowly, took a step towards her.
"I know," she said, hugging him close before he could get another word out.
The Doctor picked up the cranes and slipped them in to the pocket of his waistcoat. He sniffed the air, as though trying to pick out something other than the aroma of the ocean or freshly cut grass.
"I think I smell dinner," he said, turning on his heel and walking off.
"Shall we go?" asked Kirena.
"I think we should," replied Luke, linking his arm with hers.
For a second, it felt like old times.
"I'm probably going to stay here," he said once he was sure that the Doctor was out of earshot. "Look after him for me, won't you?"
"Could be tricky. He does get in to some terrible scrapes sometimes. He's really too much for just one person to look after."
"I know. But you'll cope. You're more like him than either of you like to admit."
"I'll look after him. But who'll look after you?"
"I'll find someone. Or I'll get dogs again."
"Dogs, Bramley? You sound almost domesticated."
She was smiling now, and that made him feel better.
"Not quite, Kirena."
He paused for a moment.
"I am going to leave, you know."
"I know," she said. "Come on, we better catch up with the Doctor."
They walked more briskly, stride for stride. The sun was setting over the ocean and their shadows stretched long before them in to the future.
* * *
The substitute waiter was an odd one.
He had a completely inappropriate air of superiority, for one. He had bleached blond hair as well, which would never have been permitted if he were a full time employee at Didsbury. Mind you, Judy thought to herself, there was something downright... sexy about him. She'd always liked taller men, and he was easily two metres tall, which was odd for someone of Japanese extraction. Mind you, he spoke with an English accent that probably meant some mixing of heritage in there somewhere.
He called Judy 'Love', which she found oddly sweet, although if he called any of the punters that she'd boot him out of the door.
On balance, she was definitely interested in Hiroshi Holmes, and she'd probably ask him to stay behind and help her in the office after the restaurant closed.
She stood by the reservation book, watching him as he prowled around the tables, as though checking the terrain. Learning routes. That was good.
The phone rang. Minister Benz and his party. She pencilled them in to table fourteen. Checked her watch. Five to seven. They'd start getting busy in a few minutes.
He'd appeared suddenly, leaning on the reservation book, face to face with her. She smiled automatically.
"Yes?" She glanced over his shoulder. One of the elevators was on it's way up.
"I'm worried about my friend. You saw her in the lift when I got here, didn't you?"
She'd seen his friend, all right. Orange and green hair. Hard to miss.
"What about her?"
"Well, she does tend to go walkabout every now and then. I'm worried that she might show up here later and make a scene."
"Thank you for the warning, Mr Holmes, but I'm sure that Security will cope with her if required."
"She'll freak out if you get Security, love. Just get me over and I'll take care of her. That'll be easiest. And I won't disturb anyone, promise."
Judy sighed. There was definitely no way that she would ever have hired this man. But they were short staffed, and if she agreed to do him a favour
it would give her more leverage in their later negotiations.
"I suppose," she began, but was cut off when he kissed her on the cheek.
"Thanks, Judy. You're a gem."
And he strode off back in to the dark body of the restaurant. Her cheek tingled.
* * *
Luke could think of worse places to wind up than New Cheadle. It was clean. The air was fresh. Many of the people that they passed as they walked along the tree-lined streets were remarkably attractive. It was pleasantly warm even in the early evening. It wasn't Venus, but he wasn't the same Luke any more.
He'd been lying to Kirena. He hadn't decided for sure that he was going to stay here. He thought that he probably would, but he wasn't really ready for that kind of decision yet. Maybe after a couple of drinks, he'd make a spur of the moment choice. That was a method that had served him well in the past.
That's why he suggested stopping at one of the cafes that they passed. A little drink before dinner. The Doctor and Kirena had agreed, and so they
found themselves under an orange parasol on the corner of a quiet street, sitting outside a pretend French patisserie. Kirena had a glass of red wine, and Luke and the Doctor drank Perrier.
When Kirena went to "freshen up", the Doctor leaned across the table and pressed a piece of plastic in to Luke's hand. Luke peered down at it,
a matt black credit chip. He turned it over and over in his hands, watching the holographic image change from Luke's face to the American Express logo and back again.
"Take this," said the Doctor. "I'm reliably informed that in this period, black is the new platinum."
Luke slipped it in to his pocket. "Dinner's on me, then?"
"Something like that."
There was somebody tugging on the Doctor's shirt sleeve. A young woman, in her mid twenties, maybe five feet tall. Her dyed hair piled up on top of
her head like a green and orange pineapple. She was wearing a short leather skirt, one fishnet stocking and a baggy pink tee shirt with the words "Oops I did it again" printed on it.
"Excuse me," she said.
"Hello," said the Doctor. "I'm the Doctor, and this is my friend Luke. How can we help you?"
"I was wondering," she said, beaming at Luke. "Do you know what the word is for when you're trying to remember something, and you're trying so
hard to remember that you forget what it is that you're trying to remember?"
Luke looked at the Doctor. The Doctor looked at Luke.
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor. "I don't think that there is a word for that. Do you want to make one?"
"Make a new word?"
The Doctor nodded.
"Is that allowed?"
The Doctor nodded.
"I'd like to make the word 'snowplough'. I think that's a nice word."
"If you want," said the Doctor.
She sang the word to herself a couple of times, at different pitches, and with her head at different angles.
"Have you seen my pumpkin?" she asked, suddenly serious. Then she started singing 'snowplough' again as she wandered along the street away from them.
"Should we let her go, Doctor? She seems a little lost."
"Do you know anything about biodata?" asked Kirena, returning from the rest rooms with a piece of newspaper in her hand.
"Hang on a second," said Luke. He looked around for the woman with the coloured hair, but couldn't see her anywhere.
"Sod it, let's go for dinner."
* * *
The lift doors slid open silently, and the Doctor, Luke and Kirena stepped forward in to darkness.
There was no lighting in the reception area of the Didsbury Grill. The only light came from the picture window, with its view over the whole city. From here you could see across the business district to the far shore of New Cheadle, and beyond to other cities twinkling in the distance. It was breathtaking.
"Excuse me." A small, prim woman dressed in black stepped forward from the shadows.
"Do you have a reservation?" she asked politely. Luke stepped forward to speak to her, and she took him to one side to discuss arrangements. The Doctor and Kirena stepped forward to the window, to gaze outside.
"An Inuit walks into a restaurant, and the maitre d' asks 'do you have a reservation?' and the Inuit thumps him."
"I don't get it, Doctor."
"Sorry, must be a culture-specific joke. Anyway, biodata?"
Kirena hunted in her pockets for the newspaper clipping that she had pinched from the cafe. "I was reading this cutting. Well, I was reading the whole paper, before I took the cutting. I thought you'd be interested."
"Give me the general details, and we'll worry about the specifics later."
"It looks like the whole economy here's built round scientific research into biodata — whatever that means — and ways to graft segments of biodata from one person to another."
She had the Doctor's attention now, and was about to tell him more, when Luke bounced up and told them enthusiastically about how he'd bribed the Maitre d' to let them have the best table in the house. Apparently he'd even managed to get a local dignitary bumped to a normal table in the process.
He led them through the restaurant, as eager as a puppy.
The theme of the restaurant was 'dark'. It was very warm and intimate. Every table sat in its own pool of light, distinct from every other table, and the glass walls allowed clear views over the city. Soft jazz played in the background. Kirena felt at home here, but she found it hard to imagine Luke feeling the same.
Their table sat apart from the rest, on a balcony separated from the rest of the restaurant. The scent of orange blossom filled the air.
"Well," said Luke. "This is very nice. Now let's talk about happier times."
And they tried. They looked at each other a lot, without catching each other's eye. Appetisers came as a welcome respite from the awkwardness, giving the Doctor an excuse to talk about his onion soup, and compare it to the onion soup that he once had at Versailles... "as I said to Marie Antoinette, the secret is in the stock..."
Luke looked at his bowl of clams with ginger, coriander and chili, counting himself lucky that the Doctor could find a story in the smallest of details. Kirena picked at her grilled tuna, but if she had a story to go with it, she kept it to herself.
And when the plates were cleared away, before the silence could engulf them again, Kirena found the newspaper clipping and read it aloud.
* * *
"What is it this time, Mr Holmes?"
"The party at table fourteen — wasn't Minister Benz supposed to be sitting there?"
She looked up from the reservation book. It wasn't any of his business really. She'd accepted a nice little extra payment from the man in the Cuban heels, and Holmes wasn't getting his hands on any of it. He had very nice hands, admittedly, with long, slender fingers, but that was purely of secondary interest.
"I don't see what concern of yours the seating arrangements are, Mr Holmes."
"It's just... I'd been hoping to have the pleasure of serving the Minister."
"Life's full of disappointments, Mr Holmes."
He made his way back into the restaurant, swearing under his breath. This could get awkward. He wished that Mavis were around so that he could get the benefit of her experiences, exasperating though she was.
He was on his own here, though. He had to improvise.
* * *
|Second Minister Benz today approved increased funding for the third stage of the Memento Project.
The Azrael Institute in New Cheadle is pioneering this alternative to cloning, that aims to allow the extraction of biodata from one individual, and the grafting of this data onto another, allowing the graftee access to an increased range of experiences and information, while still retaining overall control of the body.
Stage One, the grafting of biodata from the newly deceased was completed early last year, allowing President Thomson to have access to her predecessors' insight.
Following Stage One, a spokesman for a group calling themselves The Remiel Objection described President Thomson as an abomination, however, and cited a number of cases where the grafting process had caused degradation in the biodata and the synaptic processes of the host.
Stage Two was completed last month, and involved the extraction of biodata from living organisms, in this case specially bred encephalic mice.
The Remiel Objection have objected to the process at every step of the way, however, and have raised questions in Senate and Synod concerning the potential for abuse of the technology, and in particular the safeguards against the grafted biodata gaining dominance. In a move calculated to delay experimentation while debate continues, the Remiel Objection have blockaded laboratories working on the project, and in one instance have blown up a research facility.
Stage Three aims to transfer the processes developed in Stage Two, to extract human biodata without damaging the person in question. Second Minister Benz stated that today's measure would secure the future of New Cheadle as a key player in the world economy.
The Remiel Objective responded by requesting a court injunction, prohibiting Azrael from continuing their experimentation pending a full enquiry.
Second Minister Benz was unavailable for comment.
* * *
Luke took the cutting from Kirena, and looked at the photograph.
"He looks familiar," he said, looking at the picture of the chubby, balding man.
Kirena nodded. "That's because he's sitting over there," she said. She pointed to a table near the band, where Second Minister Benz, a young lady and two burly body guards sat.
"Miserable looking bloke," said Luke. "Probably pissed off at me for pinching his table, too. Anyway, I think it's about time someone proposed a toast. To new adventures."
The Doctor and Kirena lifted their glasses, but nobody smiled. They were all drinking cherryade, and the lurid red drink looked out of place in champagne glasses.
"I kind of wish this evening didn't have to end," sighed Luke, just waiting for one of the others to tell him that it didn't have to end. They said nothing though. They seemed resigned to the fact that he was going. He was more or less resigned to the fact himself.
And then the main courses arrived, rescuing Luke from conversation again. He'd picked the goose liver with caviar, just because he had no idea if he would like it.
* * *
Somewhere else, Mavis sits and eats her dinner and thinks about snowplough.
Her pumpkin made her dinner for her, so it's her favourite. Mayonnaise and chocolate biscuit sandwiches cut into the shape of people, so that when she eats them she can pretend that she's eating their memories, learning how to be new people.
She decides that this sandwich was once a famous man, a man who sang in public, and made millions of people happy. But behind closed doors, he was so lonely. So he made himself a woman, a wife, out of pieces of other people's happiness. She made him content for a while, and gave him a beautiful baby. But he couldn't believe that he deserved her, so he destroyed her one piece at a time, starting with the inside. And when she
was completely hollow, he discarded her. And when they saw what he had done, all the people who he had made happy said that he was a bad man. But they still listened to him sing.
So Mavis eats his legs first. And she can't remember if he was actually a real person, or a thought that she once had about making into a real person.
* * *
Kirena had barely touched her honey glazed duck, although she had carefully devoured all of the mango chutney. Three slices of tender duck sat in the middle of a sea of gravy.
On the other hand, the Doctor had devoured a large plate of pumpkin and eggplant with tomato, pepper and bamboo shoots. "That," he announced as he wiped his plate with soft bread, "was delicious. Almost as good as the stuffed Shitaake on Herek Secundus. Now there's a dish. The Shitaake are caught at midnight on moonless nights, because that's the only time that the snuffleguds aren't out eating them, obviously. Shallow fried for just a second in almond oil, just to seal the flavour, and then stuffed with the finest shredded nibblepibblie root. Beautiful."
"Sounds delicious," said Kirena, dabbing her lips with her napkin.
"Yes," said the Doctor. "And of course, the only place to eat it is the bouncing restaurant on Grabadene Harbour. The chef there is an old friend of mine, you'll love him."
Luke stopped himself from licking his lips. He knew the Doctor was just trying to tempt him. Instead, he focussed on the waiter who came to clear their plates.
He was a different waiter from before, and seemed less confident in himself. Probably new, thought Luke. Not bad looking either, for a Japanese guy with bleached hair, although a bit on the tall side. Then he chided himself for thinking thoughts like that at a time like this. Definitely not an experienced waiter though. As he cleared Kirena's plate, he fumbled with it and ended up spilling gravy down her shirt and over her chair.
Kirena was on her feet in a second, and the waiter was instantly apologetic, trying to wipe the gravy away, accidentally touching her breast — and getting slapped for doing so — and grovelling as hard as he could. The Maitre d' came over to investigate, and was almost as apologetic herself. Dessert would be on the house. They would cover dry cleaning costs. She would fawn over them. He found himself smiling to himself, and hoping that the Doctor's gift of a credit card was permanent. Money changed everything.
The waiter tried to change Kirena's chair for a new one, but Luke told him not to be so silly, and asked him to leave them alone. He tried to object, but the Maitre d' glared at him and he skulked off to the kitchen.
A different waiter brought them the dessert menu, and Luke took great delight in ordering the Cointreau souffle with gold leaf, most expensive item he could find.
"I think," said Kirena, licking her lips. "I think I'll have the
At which point the implosion grenade in her chair detonated.
* * *
Even as he ran towards her, trying to push her out of the chair, or to warn her, or Something...
Holmes watched as the bomb that he'd meant for Minister Benz went off on schedule. He'd tried to get hold of the chair, to disable the device. It hadn't worked. He didn't want to watch, but he couldn't tear his gaze away as she folded in on herself, space distorting around her and the chair. Her torso was ripped in half by the quiet blast, the top half of her body falling back to the ground, while her legs fell to the floor under the table. This was his fault.
Luke watched as Kirena's face changed from a smile into a look of — almost — surprise and then twisted in pain. He looked as the chair folded up through her chest, and as she fell apart in front of his eyes. This was his fault. His choice of restaurant. His choice of table. His choice to make the waiter leave the chair. This was his fault.
The Doctor watched.
The Doctor watched Holmes, though. He watched the shock hit the man's face. He watched him turn and run for the lift. Then he turned back to look at Kirena's corpse.
"This is wrong," he said, simply, and to nobody in particular.
Later, Luke would think back on the conversation he'd had with the Doctor about his former companions. About how they left him to settle down, left him because they found causes to support, because they died. The Doctor always fell quiet when he spoke about his lost companions, but spoke about them with simple pride. Pride in their achievements, and pride in the fact that they had sacrificed themselves for causes they had believed in. Luke would think about this conversation and wonder how the Doctor would re-script Kirena's death for those who came later. "They died so bravely — except for Kirena, of course. She was blown up over dinner." And when Luke thought of this, he would remember the look on the Doctor's face at this moment.
So much rage that it hurt to look at him.
Luke turned and ran for the elevator, one thought in his mind.
* * *
|Citizens of New Cheadle were today shocked by a seemingly random terrorist attack on an exclusive restaurant. A small implosion device concealed in a chair exploded, killing a woman.
The woman has been identified as Ms Kirena Morok (39), a tourist. Her body has been retained by the authorities for further investigation.
No party has yet claimed responsibility for the incident, although it has been suggested that the target of the attack was Second Minister Benz, who had originally intended to dine at the table in question. Mr Benz denounced the attack as cowardly and amateur.
Police are currently investigating the whereabouts of Mr Hiroshi Holmes, a temporary waiter at the restaurant, and an unidentified companion of the deceased.
The Remiel Objection were unavailable for comment.
* * *
Luke didn't stop running until he reached the TARDIS. After all, that was the obvious place to go. Back in time. Save Kirena. Hide in the cafe they'd stopped at earlier and when Kirena went to the rest room, swap her for a cunningly created robot double.
Except he was far from certain if he could pilot the TARDIS, and had no idea how to create a cunningly created robot double.
But there had to be something he could do.
The girl from the cafe was sitting on the bench beside the TARDIS.
"Hello," she said.
Luke noticed her for the first time, and just glared at her.
"I'm waiting for my friend," she continued. "He's big and pink and not like me. I used to think that he was a kangaroo, but kangaroos aren't pink, are they?"
"I'm not in the mood for this," snarled Luke.
"Have you heard of the word snowplough? It's a friendly word and it sounds really heepish when you sing it."
Luke fumbled in his pocket for his key.
The girl started singing about snowploughs, but suddenly let out a loud cry of "pumpkin!"
Luke looked up to see a figure walking towards them, a tall blond man, with a large leather overcoat flapping around him. There was something familiar about him.
The waiter from the restaurant. The one who spilled the gravy over Kirena. The one who wanted to move the chair. The one who — Luke suddenly realised — had planted the bomb in the first place. Their gazes met, and for a dreadful second, both men recognised each other.
Then, with a terrible cry, Luke threw himself at Kirena's murderer.
To be continued...
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