|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #30 - "The Memory Game"
"And Then There Was One"
by Aron Toman
"Games, child? Oh don't be ridiculous. I'm much too old to be playing games, now come along."
Susan sighed and took one further look at the lines drawn on the asphalt before chasing after her grandfather. She liked hopscotch. It was one of the few games she genuinely enjoyed at her time at Coal Hill, as opposed to the other sorts she pretended to like when she was occasionally trying to fit in. She couldn't work out why she liked it - it was pointless, really. Leaping about a bunch of squares missing a specific one due to who knows what imaginary dangers that penny might start should you land on it — Susan tried to see the point and couldn't. And yet, somehow, with its inane stupidity, she found it oddly calming. Nothing too complicated, just avoid that square and hop around.
She should have remembered that Grandfather wouldn't be interested of course. As he said, he was too old, and he wouldn't see the abstract nature of the game. Even if he were so inclined to have a hop, he'd over analyse the whole situation. She could hear him already, "yes, that's it, you find the correct path by using the mathematical formula pi, oh but the application, the application..."
Realising her grandfather was getting further away, Susan abandoned the hopscotch board and raced to catch up with him. For an old man, he could put on a turn of speed when he needed to.
"I see you've managed to tear yourself from your distraction, my dear" he said.
"Yes, sorry Grandfather" Susan replied quickly. She learnt long ago not to try to argue with him.
"We have to keep focussed, especially considering this place we've found ourselves in."
"Are you listening to me child?"
"Of course, Grandfather."
Grandfather stopped suddenly, making Susan almost collide with the back of him. He spun around and peered down at her with those ancient blue eyes of his.
"Obviously you haven't been, since you haven't asked me the obvious and pertinent question yet."
Susan paused for a moment, thinking the point over. Then she realised and asked "Where are we Grandfather?"
He sniffed. "That's better. And to answer your question, Susan — I don't know."
Susan almost rolled her eyes, except she wouldn't dare when he stood that close. He said he was too old for games, but she knew that they had to be the right sort of games.
"However," he continued, waving his stick to point at the buildings around them, "it seems obvious that we're back in London again. Surely the architecture looks familiar to you child?"
Susan nodded. It certainly did look like London, if not the sixties version she remembered.
"Perhaps it's a good thing the others stayed in the Ship" she said. "Seeing London like this, so close to their own time and yet not--"
"Oh, use your brain, child" Grandfather snapped. "This isn't London"
"But you said--"
"I said it seemed like London," he said, his patronizing tone coming to the fore. "In the five months we spent there, when have you known a Norway beach to back onto a London estate? Continental drift is one thing, but really--"
"Yes, of course, I'm sorry Grandfather."
He spun around and headed further into the estate grounds. "No," he called back, "I think it's a much better idea that Barbara and Chesterfield stay where they are. We don't need them asking irritating questions about where and what that is up there."
Susan was about to mention that she was the one who just said they should stay behind, when she realised what he was pointing at. It was a sign on one of the balconies, written in red on what looked like could have been a table cloth, "Hello ET."
"ET?" Susan asked.
"Extra terrestrial," Grandfather said, his nose in the air. "Hardly a flattering description. I wonder if it's intended for us?"
Susan gave him a confused stare. "Us? Who would know about us?"
"Who indeed, my dear, who indeed. It's strange, but since we left the Ship, I've had the most curious sensation of jamais vu."
Susan's French wasn't perfect, but she knew enough. "never seen?"
"The opposite of deja vu. I'm sure I've been here before somehow. Yet I don't recognise this place at all."
Susan was about to tell him exactly how little sense that sentence made, when she heard the familiar sound of slipstream engine out of phase and clearly broken whirring somewhere nearby. She looked up — and saw one of the largest crafts she'd seen in a while fly overhead, black smoke pouring out the rear in a dangerous fashion.
"Extraordinary!" Grandfather said, almost breathless. "Quite extraordinary! Can you see that Susan?"
Susan nodded, a grin starting to play across her face. "It's fantastic."
Grandfather looked at her. "Well, I wouldn't put it quite like that."
"Should we go check? There might be survivors, they might need help."
"No need to go get involved my dear, calm down. I'm sure there are appropriate authorities who will deal with the situation."
Susan watched the craft blast through the side of Big Ben in the distance with a dull 'boing' and a lot of debris, and then she noticed something. "Grandfather, there aren't any people."
Grandfather didn't answer for a second. "Hmm? No, no, quite right. Yes, very interesting."
"Wait!" Susan pointed back at the stairs into the estate building. "There's somebody."
She couldn't quite see who it was through the glass doors, but the person was tall, wearing robes of some kind. And a headdress, though Susan wasn't too sure about the shape. Then she felt her grandfather's hand on her shoulder.
"Time to go, child," he said, quietly.
"But Grandfather, maybe--"
"Don't you recognise the style, girl?"
Susan shook her head, but then the figure stepped through the doors, and she saw the outfit properly. The circular headdress, the white robes, the seal motif.
"They've found us, Susan. Time to go, don't argue."
Susan knew better than to argue, and immediately followed her grandfather into the nearest alcove --
* * *
--where she immediately found herself standing in the middle of a green field, no sign of a crashed spaceship or broken Big Ben anywhere.
"This is... interesting," Grandfather's voice said beside her.
"What happened to London?"
Grandfather waved his hand dismissively. "All these foolish questions child. Come along, they won't be far behind."
Susan turned around and saw nothing but more fields, the alcove, the estate and the rest of London completely gone. "Are you sure? I can't--"
"They never will give up, Susan, don't you forget that. Do as you're told."
Susan nodded and followed her grandfather across the grass, almost surprised at the speed he was making. Although she was not completely surprised — she knew just how much trouble they'd be in should they be caught. They always unnerved Grandfather. Just the slightest hint of what they could do terrified him, and even he couldn't hide it.
They marched through the green fields for what felt like ages, without exchanging a single word. Eventually the grass made way for an road (though road was pushing it, it was more like a path covered in asphalt). Susan was momentarily hopeful that their journey was about to get a purpose, until she saw the road. Completely straight, travelling for miles and miles with no end in sight.
"A road to nowhere, eh, my dear?" Grandfather said, smiling for the first time since they landed on the beach. He must have been feeling safer.
Susan returned the smile, then noticed a strange shape not too far away. "What's that, Grandfather?"
"I'm not sure. Looks like a craft ... yes, a craft of some kind. I'll need to have a closer look--"
"Wait, Grandfather," said Susan, grabbing his arm, "what if it's dangerous?"
"Oh, don't be silly, it'll be perfectly safe if we're careful. Come along."
And that was that, Susan found herself following the old man down the road to the object.
It was larger than she initially thought it was — the size of a small automobile. Made out of what was probably moulded plastic, it was shaped like an upside down saucer with a transparent bubble over the top revealing controls, a steering wheel and two seats inside. Definitely a vehicle of some kind.
Grandfather was overwhelmed. "Yes, yes, isn't it incredible! Look, look Susan, it floats. Yes, a hovercraft definitely!" He chuckled to himself. "Now, how do you suppose we open it, hmm?"
"Open it?" Susan exclaimed before she could stop herself. "Grandfather, I don't think--"
"Where's your sense of adventure, child? Let's see... yes, good, release switch here..."
Susan cringed as her grandfather reached across the craft and pressed a button. Expecting the worst, she was almost disappointed to hear only a slight hiss as the protective shield rose up on a hinge at the front, giving them access.
"Yes, exactly where I would have put it!" Grandfather gave her a toothy grin and held out his hand. "Shall we go for a little drive my dear?"
"You really don't want to get in there, dearies!"
Susan turned, ready to flee as soon as she heard the unfamiliar voice. She spun around to see, standing directly behind her, an oldish woman with pink hair under a wide yellow hat that matched perfectly with her yellow floral dress and golden handbag. She was grinning like a lunatic.
"I must say," she continued jovially, "seeing you like this again Doctor, well, it makes a girl feel all gooey inside, I must say."
Grandfather took a step forward, getting closer to being between Susan and the strange woman. "Do I know you, madam?" he asked firmly.
"Ohh, not yet, ducks, but you will do. Just call me Auntie Iris for the time being, you'll work it out someday." She pointed to the hovercraft with a gloved hand. "Now, as I was saying, you don't want to get into that. You might think it's the way out, but it's not. You'll just be playing into their hands."
"Their hands?" asked Susan. "Not... not them?"
Iris winked. "No, not them. They're long gone, believe it or not. No, these are far worse. They've got the others, but I seem to have got to you two in time. Now, give me a mo, I've got a device thingumy here somewhere."
She opened her handbag and started rummaging through it, spilling tissues and cigarette packets all over the road. Eventually she produced what Susan initially thought was a simple bit of jewellery. Until she looked closer.
"A time ring?" she asked. "Grandfather, she has a time ring!"
"So I see" Grandfather said gravely. "Just who exactly are you then, hmm? I want answers!"
"And you'll get them, Doctor, just be a good boy and hold onto this." Iris held the time ring out before her.
Grandfather was fuming. "How dare you? I demand to know--"
"Oh, I knew I should have gone for the dishy one in the leather jacket," Iris moaned. She reached out and grabbed Grandfather's hand. "Here, let me help you."
In a swift move that even Susan didn't realise what she was doing, Auntie Iris forced Grandfather's hand onto the time ring and, somehow without letting go herself, forced Susan to do the same. There was a bright flash, a feeling of temporal/spatial movement, and all three of them were somewhere else.
* * *
"Benny?" said Roz, struggling to stay upright amidst Chris's attempts at tank driving, "did you just see three people disappear over there where everything's an English field and not a battlefield?"
Benny gave her a look. "No."
"Good. Neither did I."
* * *
"Quickly, follow me!" said Iris, beckoning that Susan and her Grandfather move down the dark passages with intense speed. He's an old man, Susan felt like telling the woman. He doesn't move that quickly, and neither do I when I have to help him like I am. Why don't you let us rest and explain everything? Susan would have said that, except she was feeling much too polite. But she was close.
The boring non-descript corridors soon came to an end, thankfully, when they opened into a large cavernous room that Susan found to be instantly familiar, and yet wrong at the same time.
"Grandfather, look!" she whispered. "Don't you recognise it?"
Grandfather nodded. "The Dalek control room."
"We must be on Skaro" said Susan with an amount of certainty, but Grandfather shook his head.
"London looks like it was brought here, perhaps Skaro was too."
"Come along you two, stop dawdling!" Iris called. "We haven't got much time."
Moving across the Dalek control centre was unnerving for Susan, bringing back many recent memories of being tied to a nearby wall while the Thals (with Ian and Barbara's help) wrestled with the evil creatures as a countdown ominously ticked downwards. But she soon realised this room was different. It was somehow much more colourful than she remembered, with reds and greens on the controls and panels instead of the light blue as she last saw it. It was also distinctly lacking in Daleks.
However, what it wasn't lacking in was a large chair placed in the alcove where Susan and her grandfather had once been held, a bright overhead light obscuring the figure sitting inside. Iris lead them towards the chair and gave a big grin who was sitting in it. "Good news! I found one! Took me long enough, but I got one before they did!"
"Ooh, excellent, excellent!" said the indistinct figure. He had a kindly voice, an older man. "Umm, I'm so sorry, what have you found?"
"I demand you explain yourself, sir!" Grandfather said, expertly hiding any weariness he may have felt only minutes earlier. "Who are you and why are we here?"
"Oh, yes, yes!" said the figure, as if just remembering an important fact. "Dear me, where are my manners. Hello there Doctor, hello Suzie, it's so good to have you here!"
He stood up and stepped forward, giving Susan and her grandfather a better look at him. He was tall, and would have been taller still had he not had a slight stoop. He had short grey hair with a matching moustache and wore a mid-length brown jacket, a blue cravat on a white shirt and dark blue corduroy pants. He held out his hand to Grandfather with a warm, friendly smile.
"Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr Who, and I am so very glad we were able to find you in time!"
To be continued...
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