|Doctor Who Missing Internet Adventure #18 - "Festivals of Light and Darkness"
"Remembrance of Things Past" or "Haven't I Foiled Your Plans Somewhere Before?"
by Tony Whitt
A funny thing, time. Supposedly time is immutable, unchangeable. Had it been changeable, there are dozens of times over the countless millennia that I have waited here that I would have changed it.
And yet our very perceptions change it, from moment to moment. One minute we're in present tense, our actions given all the immediacy that simple grammar can afford them. Then we're in past tense, recalling events in greater clarity now than we did when we first experienced them and wishing we could re-call them in truth as well as in word and undo them entirely. Then we're in future tense, having premature conjugations everywhere. Messy business, time.
This is merely meant to say I have no idea how long it has been since the light appeared, and that little being appeared at its centre, that little being which still has no idea what it's doing.
And if that little being doesn't know what it's doing, where does that leave me?
* * *
"So you escaped from Xeraphas," the Doctor began. Then he stopped and squinted, hard, at the Master. The squinting obviously hadn't done its job, since he then shuffled through his pockets until he found his half-moon spectacles and put them on. Then he squinted at the Master again. "You know, I don't believe we've met."
Tegan blinked. Mrs. Gormenghast blinked, though she didn't know why.
Even the Master blinked. Then he coughed. Then he seemed ready to chuckle maniacally again, but thought better of it. Finally, he settled for crossing his arms and scowling at the Doctor. "What do you mean, we haven't met yet? Surely my transformation has not changed me so drastically, my dear Doctor — or perhaps it's just your eyesight going?"
Tegan looked between the two of them, puzzled. Certainly, the Master looked different from the last time she'd seen him — for that matter, he bore a striking resemblance to the cat people around them. Or were they cheetah people? She'd never been much up on her felines.
"No, no, it's not quite that," the Doctor replied, taking his spectacles off with a flourish. "There's more here than meets the eye — or rather, there SHOULD be more than meets the eye. I should be seeing an artron aura around you, one which corresponds to your specific biodata. But I'm not." The Doctor frowned suddenly. "Why is that, exactly? It is you under all that fur, isn't it?"
Suddenly, the flap to the wigwam behind the Master burst open, and Nyssa stepped out. "Doctor! Tegan!" she cried out, running forward and collapsing into the Doctor's arms. Tegan moved forward instinctively and put her arm around the girl's shoulders. Nyssa gratefully leant against Tegan for support and looked back over her shoulder at the monster that inhabited her father's form.
And then she squinted at him.
"Wait a moment..." she whispered. Ignoring Tegan's protective grasp, she turned around again and walked forward until she was shoulder to shoulder with the Doctor, both of them looking at the Master intently. "That's odd... How could I not have noticed that before?"
"What, the fur, the teeth, that sort of thing?" the Doctor asked, not taking his eyes off the Master.
"No, it's not that... There's something wrong with him, isn't there?" Nyssa asked. The Master harrumphed and frowned at them both, but she shook her head. "It's like trying to remember a specific word that you want to use, but it's not quite there..."
"'On the tip of your tongue'?" Tegan offered, unsure of what else she could say. This whole confrontation had taken a bizarre turn. Suddenly it felt less like she was in a typical runaround with the Doctor and more like she'd stepped into an Ionesco play.
"Yes," Nyssa replied, her eyes never leaving the Master, "that's exactly it."
"Since you knew Tremas better than any of us, Nyssa, you're probably experiencing the same sort of disassociation that I am," the Doctor said. He put his arm around her shoulders, smiled down at her, and then looked back up at the Master, who was growing more annoyed by the second.
"I don't understand, Doctor...is this or is this not the Master?" Tegan asked.
"Yes," the Doctor replied with a grin, "but not yet."
* * *
Somewhere in the past, the box still sits on the bed in Mrs Gormenghast's guesthouse, in the room it will book some time from now. If it remembers it, which it obviously will do.
"Damn," the box swears. "This guy is good."
* * *
The light is beginning to flare around that odd little being again. (I really must come up with a better name for it than "that odd little being," mustn't I? Even though I am the only one who will ever hear what I have to say, I don't want to bore myself to death, even if that were possible, do I? Hmmm. Fred. I'll call it Fred. I don't know why, but that sounds like as good a name as any.)
Fred still has no idea what he's doing, but I can feel the gusts of wind that he rode in on increasing in power. The light is growing brighter. If I thought it filled my vision before, I didn't know the half of it.
Something has Fred pissed.
Yes. "Pissed" sounds like the right word.
* * *
The Doctor and the three women headed away from the encampment towards the TARDIS, ignoring the sound of the Master cursing them in Old High Gallifreyan. Or so that was what the Doctor said it was, but Tegan was sure she caught a few distinctly Earthly words in there, as well. Nyssa had wanted to say goodbye to some guy named Axtir before they left, but the Doctor insisted they leave, stating unequivocally that Axtir would never remember she had been there.
Tegan turned to Mrs Gormenghast, but the older woman looked as shell-shocked as Tegan felt. "Let me get this straight, Doctor... That Master was some future incarnation that you'll eventually meet, but not yet, so this ardon energy--"
"Artron energy," the Doctor corrected her, looking off in the distance at the volcanoes dotting the horizon as they walked.
"Artron, whatever...so this stuff didn't look the same as it did the last time we met him?"
"Exactly right, Tegan." The Doctor turned to her and smiled, and Tegan felt like smacking the grin right off his open face. She simply couldn't see what he was so pleased about. She saw Nyssa giving her a small shake of the head that seemed to say, No, Tegan, don't kill him until after the explanation'. Tegan frowned and looked back at the Doctor. He was probably just pleased he finally knew what was going on. IF he finally knew what was going on, that is.
As he led the way to the rocky outcropping where they'd left the TARDIS, the Doctor continued, "Nyssa and I were picking up on different versions of the same subconscious feeling. It's what allows we Time Lords to recognize each other after we regenerate — the artron aura of a Time Lord never changes, except in periods of extreme flux, such as after a regeneration, for example. Y'know, I always did wonder why it was I didn't recognize Romana until she'd actually told me it was her, that was very clever of..."
"Doctor, dear." Mrs Gormenghast's no-nonsense voice cut through the breathless soliloquy. "You're babbling."
The Doctor stopped just in front of the TARDIS and stared at her, then noticed the relieved and grateful looks on Tegan and Nyssa's faces. "Am I? Yes, I do suppose I am, rather. I only really babble when I'm worried."
"You must be worried a lot, then," Tegan grumbled.
As the Doctor shot her a hurt look, Nyssa intervened. "Just what is going on, Doctor? If that's the Master in the future, then are we in the future, too?"
"No," the Doctor replied, "and that's the most disturbing part. That confrontation back there, or something like it, is going to happen to another me, sometime in the future. Which is when we're not."
"Doctor..." Tegan began angrily.
"Yes, yes, quite right, why don't we all get into the TARDIS and try to figure it out there, hmmm?" the Doctor said in his most conciliatory tone.
He takes his key from his pocket and puts it in the lock. Tegan sighs with relief that she won't have to kill him and allows him to usher her through the door. She hopes Nyssa is following right behind her.
The Doctor waits patiently for Nyssa and Mrs Gormenghast to walk through the doors and then stops to take a look back at the volcanic ash rising into the air. This will be a lovely place to visit someday, he thinks. Shame the Master has to be here to ruin it all.
Then he takes his key from his pocket and puts it in the lock. Tegan sighs with relief that she won't have to kill him and allows him to usher her through the door. She hopes Nyssa is following right behind her. The Doctor waits patiently for Nyssa and Mrs Gormenghast to walk through the doors and then stops to take a look back at the volcanic ash rising into the air. This will be a lovely place to visit someday, he thinks. Shame the Master has to be here to ruin it all.
Then he thinks: Wait.
* * *
Interesting, that I have not seen joy for all these millennia, not since the last attack of madness I had which left me manic at moments, depressed at others. I could almost wish for those feelings again, but now they are not necessary.
Fred is experiencing joy.
* * *
The box giggles with glee. "This should get something interesting going... I must say, I'm quite enjoying myself now!"
Somehow, it has not noticed Shigan, who has returned from doing whatever it is that Draconians do in a place like this, standing just outside the door.
* * *
The TARDIS materialised, and the Doctor stepped cautiously out. Cautiously, for he could not remember having actually entered the TARDIS, or setting the coordinates, or even coming in to land. He removed the celery stalk from his lapel and sniffed it experimentally. No, he thought, I'm not dreaming, or else that would've woken me right up.
He stepped out from the TARDIS doors to allow Tegan, who had been pushing him rudely from behind, to get out. After her came Nyssa and poor dear Mrs Gormenghast, who had gone back to looking shell-shocked. The four of them stared at their surroundings.
It was recognizably London, but not the London of Tegan's time. They had materialised on the banks of the Thames, under the remnants of a ruined building. A huge amount of shattered brickwork seemed suspended directly over the TARDIS, held aloft by the weakest looking of metal beams. I shall have to move the Ship, the Doctor thought, or else that could come crashing down any moment and block us...
Wait, he thought again.
"I have the oddest feeling I've been here before," the Doctor murmured.
"Deja vu?" Mrs Gormenghast asked.
"Oui," he replied absently, scanning the bleak horizon. "But something's not quite right..."
"Doctor!" he heard Tegan shout. "Come take a look at this!"
He and Mrs Gormenghast raced to the spot where Tegan and Nyssa stood, just behind the TARDIS. Tegan pointed up at the tattered poster which hung on the brickwork.
It read: "EMERGENCY REGULATIONS IT IS FORBIDDEN TO DUMP BODIES INTO THE RIVER"
"Oh, no, not again," the Doctor moaned.
Behind him, the waters of the Thames roiled as something below the surface began to emerge.
To be continued...
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