|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #30 - "The Memory Game"
"The Gathering Storm"
by Blue Mystique
"Excuse me, but he's not the Doctor," she insisted to the imposingly elegant woman. "This bloke here with the big ears: he's the Doctor."
"Oi!" the Doctor exclaimed indignantly.
"Ah. Rose," the stranger stammered. He looked at her with the oddest expression on his face. "Didn't see you there. Bugger."
"What's going on, Doc?" Jack asked. Rose didn't have to look to know he was checking the other man out; he was after all slightly on the dishy side.
"Nothing good," the Doctor glowered. "What are you doing here? Just because there's no one watching anymore doesn't mean you can bugger around like this."
"Nice to meet me," the newcomer beamed a billion watt smile that rapidly faded. "Well, I received this under the front door this morning, so I thought I'd come and have a look." He held up a yellow card with a twisted gold logo on it.
"Oh, fantastic." The glower became a full-fledged scowl as the Doctor held up the identical yellow card that had prompted their own visit. "Did you not remember that I decided to look into it?"
"Weelllllllllllll. No. I have no recollection - at all - of ever having seen that before, oh, twenty minutes ago."
"As I said," the elegant woman interjected in an attempt to regain control of the situation, "the invitation was sent to all of you, at a point in your personal histories where you would be able to attend."
"Doctor, what is she going on about?" It took a real effort for the 19 year old not to stamp her foot in petulant irritation.
"I think he's the Doctor?" Jack suggested tentatively.
"How? He can't be!"
"'Fraid so," the Doctor sighed. "There used to be a law against it, but things aren't what they used to be. Which one are you anyway?"
"Next one along. Sorry."
"Next one along? I thought the Doctor was your name, not some sort of job description?"
"When I die, my body... renews itself and I'll turn into him," he explained with a reluctant half-wave in the other's direction.
"You're having me on." The attempted grin faded. "Please tell me you're having me on."
"He really isn't," the other Doctor offered apologetically. "If it's any consolation, you get used to it. Me. Us."
Rose's provincial little chip-eating monkey brain imploded.
* * *
Chris took point while Roz hawkishly watched their backs. That they were doing so with weapons that resembled nothing so much as Z shaped art deco penises looted from Ace's armoury somewhat lightened the mood.
"Who'd want to build a copy of the house?" Benny asked as Chris dived heroically through the door into the kitchen.
"It's a very good copy too," the Doctor mused, tapping his umbrella handle against his chin as the rest of them walked in. "Look on the table."
"Aren't those the things you put in your diary?" Roz asked as Benny moved across and examined the yellow squares of paper.
"They're called Post-It Notes," she nodded. "It's my pad alright — I drew this doodle on the back last week while Chris and I were watching Samurai Jack." She squinted. "But this writing's not mine. Doctor, who's River?"
"A friend of mine from a previous regeneration," he answered as he peered over Benny's arm. "But I have no recollection of her leaving me a note. Last time I saw her, she and her husband Raymond had bought a house on Mars." He reached over and ran his fingers over the hurriedly made indentations in the paper. "Obviously this facsimile was made at some point in my future."
"Maybe you had it made?" Chris suggested, opening the refrigerator and gazing in awe at the prodigious amount of mould growing on the apple that was its sole content. "Two thousand years is a long time for an antique building to stand around without falling apart, and I remember that ice age wasn't exactly kind to it."
"Possibly," the Doctor allowed, gazing out the bay window. "It certainly seems like something I might do." He reached into his waistcoat and pulling out his fob watch. "But why would I put it in the middle of a simularity of early 22nd century rural England on the other side of the galaxy?"
"We get you drunk?" Benny suggested with a smile.
"The ouzo is quite good this time of the century." He replaced his watch. "Let's check the garage next; I feel like a drive in the country."
"Shotgun," Chris called enthusiastically, already out the door.
* * *
Sometimes Jack could forget Rose was new at all this. Now was not one of them.
His friend was stalking about ten feet ahead of them, arms wrapped around herself in a massive sulk. She hadn't taken her sudden reminder of the Doctor's alien nature well at all, appearing to view it as some sort of deliberate betrayal though neither he nor the Doctors could explain why she'd think that. Customising one's physicality and gender was done with such relative ease in his own time; that a race as advanced as the Doctor's had been could physically reincarnate themselves upon death didn't seem such a conceptual leap as it obviously was to her.
"You realise that we're probably going to be bumping into some of the others," Jack's Doctor remarked a few feat behind to his... future self.
"Oooh, I'd say possibly most of them. The ones after me. Maybe the chap before you; if we're lucky the others might be kept on the other side of the time lock."
"Have we ever been that lucky?"
"We've been lucky plenty of times!" A pregnant pause. "Plenty. No. Yes. Ooh, we're buggered, aren't we? I wonder if we'll meet the old man? Of course, technically, I'm the old man. Well over a thousand. Not too much, but enough."
"To think I survived Daleks for this..." his Doctor mutters darkly.
"Celebrity is a heavy burden to bear."
Perhaps fortunately for causality at that particular moment they rounded a corner and swept into a large multi-tiered piaza built into what had originally been a natural amphitheatre. The architecture, if he was any judge, was Neo-Neo-Modern after the style of Wang. And he knew a lot about Wang, having grown up exposed to his mother's fascination for it: the strength of the curves, the gentle flare of the capping, the masterful flushes...
"We're just outside New Sydney!" the future Doctor exclaimed excitedly. "I haven't been here in ages. Of course, I still haven't. Look, there's Groenewegan's."
"Oh God, what's Jeri Ryan doing here?"
"Who?" all three men asked, turning to where Rose was peering over the railing, her snit suddenly forgotten.
"Jeri Ryan, down there. She was on one of the Star Treks. Mickey was mad about her, dragged me to a convention with his geek friends about a week before I met you so he could pay fifty pounds to get an autograph. I thought this place was all about you."
"Well, she's here with her girlfriend," Jack smiled, watching the two women in the cafe below sharing what appeared to be strawberry ice cream. Their body language just screamed out intimate affection, from the way their knees were touching 'just so' under the table to the tilt of their shoulders and the way they held one another with their eyes, eating up every moment.
"Are you sure?" Rose asked. "I didn't think she was that way."
"What way?" Jack asked. The smaller, darker woman — her attire more utilitarian and less 20th century casual — aims her spoon at the blonde's mouth but misses, leaving a pink streak across the almost alabaster skin. It doesn't stay there long.
"All lip-stick lezzy."
"Star Trek?" their Doctor asked, his manner a strange combination of wistfulness and melancholy as he watched the lovers. There's something familial to the expression, something very much not.
"Television show," the other nods sagely. "Very popular. Boldly going and all that. Part of the whole pop cultural zeitgeist that just went over your heads. Well, well, wasn't she the minx, tapping into that. No, really, that's beautiful."
"I take it that's not really this Jeri Ryan then?" Jack asked.
"Her name's Blue," their Doctor explained. "She used to be a TARDIS. Specifically, mine."
The sound of Rose's brain imploding again was almost audible this time.
"A TARDIS is capable of achieving human form?" their guide Sezzane asked tentatively after remembering to close her mouth.
"When they want to," the future Doctor nodded. "When they move past mere sentience and achieve sapience."
"When they fall in love," their Doctor continued. "They were never meant to do either. But if this universe can evolve so many wonderful, terrible, fantastic things, it stands to reason that a TARDIS can fall in love and evolve too."
"Did they travel with you?" Rose asked quietly. "You you, I mean. The you I'm talking to now. Or are they with another you? How many different yous are there?"
"Time Lords can regenerate thirteen times," Sezzane answered automatically. "We've identified eleven iterations of--"
"I wasn't talking to you!" Rose cut her off rudely. "How many of you are there, Doctor? How many like them?" she jabbed her finger angrily towards the lovers below.
"I'm the ninth. I first regenerated after saving this world from being destroyed by its long lost twin. The second time was as a punishment for helping others. The third was a punishment for my own hubris. The fourth..." he trailed off. "Each of them had their own friends, their own companions. Some of them were there and stayed with me when I regenerated."
"Could we not get into this, please?" the future Doctor interrupted. "Because I'm standing here watching my personal causality getting buggered right up, and frankly I'm not all that comfortable about that. Now, Susan... Suzerain... Sezzane, whatever your name is, given the complete lack of attention a telepath of Tangerine's calibre is paying us, I'm assuming that they're part of the exhibit and that I, Independence and Rahne will be arriving any moment to meet up with them?"
"Good, good. Because in that case I think my real eighth self has just walked into the other side of this piaza along with Kirena and Luke." He waved in the direction he was indicating.
A man in an elegant bottle green coat — possibly velvet, but hard to tell at this distance — and possessing a certain Byronic air to accompany his long brown hair waved cheerfully back. The woman, dressed in slightly garish magenta camouflage pants and pale blue sweat top, regarded Jack and the others with an obvious wariness suggesting a familiarity with the trouble life with the Doctor tended to attract. Luke's posture was far more open and friendly, while his wardrobe was almost an exact match for Jack & Rose's Doctor.
"Damn he's cute," Jack whispered to himself. Something about Luke's slightly exaggerated movements suggested a similar thought was occurring on the other side of piazza.
* * *
Tegan yawned and stretched, momentarily surprised then pleasantly thrilled to find her movements constrained by the weight of Nyssa's slumbering form nestled against her, an arm resting outstretched across her belly and a mass of brown curls spilled sensuously across her naked shoulder. Outside it continued to rain in a seductively desultory fashion, reminding her of lazy autumn evenings back in Brisbane. For a while she was perfectly content to just stay there, listening to the rain fall mingle with the peaceful breathing of this precious alien woman who means so much to her now and the steady rhythm of her own heart.
Then her body killed the moment by reminding Tegan of why it'd roused her in the first place.
She carefully disentangled herself and cast around for something to throw about herself other than the clothes laying crumpled on the floor, left there amidst the sudden desire of the previous hours. Frustratingly nothing was forthcoming, and since she didn't want to disturb Nyssa by pinching the bed sheet, she decide to brave chance.
The dash through the TARDIS corridor to the nearest bathroom was equal parts nerve-wracking and exhilarating. By some strange stroke of fate, the chamber she found on the other side of the WC door was something out of the Hilton, with all manner of gorgeously extravagant fittings and appointments; it could have just as easily turned out to be a glorified airplane cubicle. According to the Doctor, the random generation of public loo was as much a deliberate game on the TARDIS's part as it was yet another manifestation of the time ship's constant state of ongoing (dis)repair and modification that had originally led to her meeting her friends on the long dead Logopolis.
Taking advantage of her good fortune, Tegan spent a good ten minutes in the shower she hadn't been expecting before she stepped back into the corridor, wrapped in a decadently soft dressing gown, another hanging over her arm. She stopped again almost instantly to avoid colliding with the room service trolley waiting for her, laden with a full continental breakfast.
Act of TARDIS or act of Doctor? she wondered with a shrug. Either was as likely, but given his recent sense of pleased avunculance she opted for the latter. Not that they'd been hiding what their relationship had so recently become from him, but neither she nor Nyssa had made any announcements about it either; it was after all entirely their business. He'd obviously picked up on it though, and if maybe it helped him get over the loss of Adric that she knew the three of them still felt, then she couldn't fault it.
Especially not if it meant wonderfully catered breakfasts.
Nyssa was poking the restive flames in the fireplace as Tegan returned to the Rain Room, the finest of goose-bumps visible across the elegant curve of her back. There were smiles from both of them that gave way to a languidus kiss and teasingly fleet caresses. They fed one another, savouring the tastes and textures from Earth and the Union, brushing at smears and drips and brief tears of remembrance and pain and happiness as the rain grew more set in, encouraging a return to bed and one another's warmth neither woman felt at all inclined to fight.
Some time later — they neither knew nor cared how long — they were drawn to the console room by the roar of the time engines signalling a landing. Standing at the console, the Doctor wasn't quite quick enough to hide a self satisfied smile that Tegan saw as confirmation of her earlier hunch.
"Where are we, Doctor?" Nyssa asked.
"I'm not really sure," he answers blithely. "All the readouts suggest we're on a pleasantly habitable little world orbiting a G sequence sun on the far side of the galactic core, about three and half million years before the beginning of the Big Crunch."
"The point where the universe begins to start collapsing back in on itself," Nyssa explained. "Like Event One — the Big Bang — but in reverse."
"What does it look like outside?"
"Ah. I had some time on my hands, and, um, I'm afraid the scanner isn't working at the moment." He points to an exposed panel of distressed fibre-optic circuitry, ignoring the muttered 'Bloody typical'. "But I'm sure it's perfectly safe: we've been invited." He held up a yellow card with some sort of gold insignia on it.
"That has to be a first," Nyssa remarked.
"I'll have you know I've received plenty of invitations," the Doctor responded with mock indignation. "Anyway, let's go take a look-see, shall we?"
Unfurling his hat as Nyssa threw the door lever, he strolled boldly into the unknown. Sparing her lover a half exasperated, half indulgent smile, Nyssa followed him leaving Tegan to bring up the rear.
The other two were already hurriedly turning back when she stepped into the real world. She was about to ask them what was wrong when she saw it rearing dramatically above them, and the bliss and happiness that had filled Tegan melted away before the terror that clutched her soul.
To be continued...
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