|Doctor Who Missing Internet Adventure #23 - "False Life"
"Is This The Real Life, Or... (and then something about a landslide)"
by Cameron Dixon
The door opened, and a woman with long blonde hair stepped into the room. "Kris, supper will be ready in..."
She stared at Tommathan, and he recognised her as the Doctor's companion. "Who are you?" she demanded. "What have you done with my daughter?"
"We need to talk," he said.
But Romana only screamed.
* * *
Romana winced, holding a hand to her eyes. Suddenly the lighting in the control room seemed just the wrong shade of too bright, and someone else's thoughts were digging into her head, seeking purchase. Or else she was genuinely concerned for her daughter.
The Doctor didn't seem to have noticed. "Fascinating," he murmured, his eyes widening as they took in the sight on the scanner screen. "Congruence of sorts? But in which direction? Is the fantasy of riding a horse in the back forty reinforced by the reality of riding this rather unappealing character in reality, or is it the sensation of riding in reality which causes the dream of the horse?"
The melting man looked at him, or towards him. "What's a horse?"
K9 rolled forward, eyes flashing dimly. "Danger, Master," he drawled. "Intruders."
"Yes, yes, tell us something we don't know." The Doctor turned back to the melting man. "By the way, I don't believe we've been properly introduced after all of this, have we, I'm the Doctor, these are Romana and K9, I didn't catch your name, not that it's the most important question here, that being what exactly you did to end up on this planet, I assume it's not your idea of a holiday getaway?"
The burning man shook his head bitterly. Romana ducked aside with a grimace as some of his skin splashed on the floor. "What did any of us do to end up here?" he said bitterly. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, falsely accused. That damned judge! I don't even know what I stood accused of!"
"Hmmmm. Sound familiar, Romana?"
Romana held out a hand to support herself against the console. "Doctor," she faltered, "we don't have a daughter, do we?"
"None that I'm consciously aware of," the Doctor said, "and that wasn't quite what I meant to say. How interesting. You know, of all the prisons I've ever escaped from, this has to be the five hundred and sixty-third."
"Warning, Master," K9 insisted. "Intruders!"
"Not now, K9, not now! Now..." The Doctor spun around and knelt next to K9. "K9! What state are your power systems in, eh?"
"Energy supplies recharged to fifty-three percent of maximum," K9 responded. "Imperative to deliver warning of intruders in the TARDIS!"
"Ha," the Doctor snorted. "Intruders, plural? You need to learn how to count again, K7!" He leapt to his feet and pulled Romana to one side. "Romana," he murmured. "I think there's more than one stranger in the TARDIS, what do you think?"
"I think K9's rationality circuits are deteriorating," Romana replied. "If only we'd had time to repair him properly before we ended up here."
"Ah!" The Doctor snapped his fingers and pointed to the small pile of sand on the floor of the TARDIS. "Tell me, what were you thinking before the TARDIS was captured?"
Romana looked into space, remembering. "I was worried about K9," she rattled off, "concerned about the diseases carried by the tick you'd removed from my neck, admiring the mathematical precision of the seashell we'd picked up, considering the romantic aspect of our relationship."
"And we're Time Lords. Travelling in the Vortex. With a special relationship to Time." The Doctor nodded. "Yes, it all makes sense now, unless I'm making a wild leap to a bizarre and overcomplicated conclusion, completely lacking in common sense of any kind. But where would the fun be in that?" He looked back over his shoulder. "You, I didn't catch your name?"
The burning man shuffled around again. "Yes?"
"You need medical attention. You're in desperate need of a Doctor."
"I'm quite aware of that." The man lifted his arms. "The strange atmosphere of this ship of yours must be keeping me alive. I know I should be delirious with pain right now, but..."
"Yes, well..." The Doctor draped his arm over the man's shoulder, and then winced and took it away again with a slight tearing sound. "Ah. Well. Never mind. I've got hundreds of similar jackets just lying about the place. Now there's a room I'd like to introduce you to, I think you and it would get along very well together, Romana? Look after K9, our friend is going on a little journey."
On the floor, a few grains of sand ran down the pile, as something beneath it stirred.
* * *
"Are you quite sure you're feeling better?" Maurrice inquired.
The Doctor sat on a bench in his workshop, pale-faced and sweating. "No," he replied, "I'm not sure. Not sure at all. I know this is real, I know this life of mine is real and the novels are the fantasy, but it's all backwards in my mind, as though I can tear aside this reality like a mask and somebody else will be staring out from underneath."
"Oh, pull yourself together, man," Maurrice snapped. "Honestly, you writers are such moody types it's a wonder you're ever able to string two sentences together. You've got a good life here. Don't throw it away now!"
The Doctor looked up, brain ticking over feverishly. "Throw it away? Or have it taken away? Is this where it all starts to fall apart? A happy life can't be a suitable punishment, can it? It's not just the robot dog that brought you here, is it?"
Maurrice harrumphed uncomfortably. "I didn't want to say anything, not yet, but yes, your publishers have been making noises. Remember, you signed away your ownership to the character of Doctor Who to the publishers when you put your name on that contract."
"Yes," the Doctor murmured, "when I bought into this place, the Doctor was no longer mine to control."
"Quite. And you're not the only writer out there. The publishers are willing to let you drop the current assistant, they've listened to your complaints about her use of violence, but they demand in exchange that you launch the new year with a linked series of six novels, so that the readers have to buy the next novel each month to see how the sequence turns out. They want you to give Doctor Who a new assistant and send them on a quest through time and space, to collect the fragments of a magic idol that can control the flow of Time in the Universe."
"I've said this time and again," the Doctor snapped, "he doesn't need a new assistant, they're all the same anyway, he might as well just have a talking cabbage on his shoulder which he can explain the plot to..."
"And that's exactly the kind of talk they won't put up with any longer! They don't need you any more! There are dozens of young writers out there who want to play in the Universe you created, and Target's willing to open the doors to them if you won't co-operate! They're on the point of signing on a new author now, a former naval officer who wants to break into the children's market. I'm telling you now that if you don't buckle down, then the first story in the new sequence will end up being written by Andrews Sullivan instead!"
The Doctor stood up. "Are you trying to frighten me, Maurry?" he spat. "Are you trying to frighten me by threatening to take all of this away from me? Because if this is what I'm here for, then you're attacking the wrong reality! If you want to take away something that really means something to me, you should threaten my dreams!"
"Listen to yourself! Don't you hear what you're saying? This *is* reality! You're putting your own fantasy life above the real lives of your wife and daughter! Your daughter, man!"
The Doctor faltered, sitting back down on the workbench, and Maurrice pressed his point home. "You see? You think about that! Think about that young woman in there, relying on you to support her! Are you going to turn away from all that because you think these things you've invented in your mind are real?" He leaned forward, eyes flashing, and the Doctor felt himself sliding off his stool, black bursts flashing behind his eyes. He realised with some surprise that he was about to faint. "Are you going to choose that over your own daughter?"
Romana burst into the workroom, her eyes wild and terrified. "Maurrice! You have to help me, there's something wrong with Kris, she isn't my daughter! She *isn't!"
"Oh, really," the Doctor muttered as he slumped to the ground, darkness closing in on him, "you couldn't have come in at a worse time."
* * *
Kris stared at herself in her bedroom's full-length mirror.
Tommathan stared at his dream-body in the mirror. This female body. Not his.
What had happened? He remembered the trial, he remembered Bert leaning back in his chair and looking pensively at the ceiling. Ari looking at him. Ari's eyes. Then what?
This had to be Paradise-2. He knew it, he knew what was done to criminals or to those who had been accused of criminal activity, although until recently he'd always considered those to be one and the same; but he couldn't remember anything after the trial. He knew that his body was lying on the burning sands of Paradise-2, its flesh boiling away, but he couldn't remember them actually taking him there.
But he couldn't remember much of the trial, either. It was fading away, fading like a dream upon waking, and he, she, remembered playing in the sand and the surf with her parents; Romana waking her on Christmas Day to unwrap a new doll with shrieks of delight and her father trying to cook Cornish rock hens for them all, memories of a life that wasn't his, but was hers.
Tommathan? The name rang a distant bell, but all she could think of was that time she and her friends had stayed up all night watching movie after movie starring that nice Mr. Baker. But something had happened to her now. She'd always been happy in her life, and now she felt as though something had happened. She felt displaced.
This isn't my dream, she thought, this is someone else's. What am I doing here?
* * *
K9 rolled erratically across the floor of the console room. "Imperative warning danger Doctor-Master, Mistress-Romana. Multiple intruders. Dream incorporated. Temporal anomaly." He rebounded off the opposite wall and spun to a halt. "Bedebedebedebedebedebe."
Romana tore her gaze away from the cockroach-thing on the scanner, digging deep into the sand. "Oh, K9," she said sadly, and reached out her hand. "Don't worry, I'm sure that the Doctor will."
Something black and shiny crawled out of K9's side panel. Romana snatched her hand back with a moue of disgust.
"Multiple intruders," K9 rasped, and his eye-screen went dead.
Something scuttled on the other side of the room. Romana turned to see another crab crawling out of the sand they'd cleared out of K9 earlier that day. She remembered the questions the Doctor had asked her before he left, and suddenly she understood some of it, or more of it.
On the screen, with quick, scuttling motions Romana recognised as generated by instinct, the cockroach-thing was digging something out of the sand; something that looked like the remains of an escape capsule.
* * *
"There's something nasty crawling under the skin of Paradise," the Doctor said as he supported the burning man down the corridor. "But that's usually the case, isn't it?"
"Are you sure this is the right way?" the burning man asked. "I thought I saw some medical equipment through the door back there."
"Yes, but your eyes are melting out of your head, no offence intended. The room we want is just down this way. You see, I've worked out where this place is, and what happened to us, and I've got a theory as to why, but I'm afraid I haven't worked through all of the implications of it yet. You see," the Doctor leaned forward, as if to whisper, and then spoke in perfectly normal volume, "I'm not quite in my right mind at the moment."
"You don't say," said the burning man.
"You see, the TARDIS has a symbiotic relationship with its occupants. In a sense, we share the same mind, although some of us aren't quite as conscientious about taking their turn on the cleaning rota as they should be. Now what I believe is that when we left our last destination, we passed through a weak spot in the Vortex, and somehow, all of the thoughts the TARDIS had bubbling through her at that moment went into selecting its next destination. The hermit crab that had crawled into K9's workings, the discarded shell Romana added to her collection, my own subconscious desire for a happy family life; the TARDIS brought us to a place where all of these images and feelings we were experiencing internally could be brought out in reality."
They'd come to a central hub, a round foyer of sorts where corridors split off from the centre and ran wildly off in all directions. There were a pair of double doors embedded in the wall, and the Doctor reached out and opened them. "But that doesn't explain why or how Romana and I were apparently framed for a crime before we arrived here, or how you're walking around talking when your body should have shut down from shock."
"I assumed your ship..."
"Yes, you mentioned, but how did you know that? Hm? You know, Time Lords -- such as myself and Romana and presumably not you -- have rather advanced autonomous nervous systems. In an ordinary human being the parts of the brain and nerves that are used to keep the heart beating, or the diaphragm flexing, for example, can be used by us to think when the conscious brain is otherwise occupied. Or when it's been removed."
The Doctor stepped forward into the room, and watched with satisfaction as the burning man suddenly straightened up, a surprised expression crossing what was left of his face. "Which again brings us to you. And this room. The Zero Room. Why do you, an ordinary human being, now seem to share the attributes of a Time Lord? Why is your autonomous nervous system doing your thinking for you instead of carrying messages of pain?"
He sighed and reached out for the doors again. "I'm sorry about this, really I am. I'm afraid this is going to sting a little. But it's far more likely to hurt much more than that."
He shut the doors behind him.
* * *
A lone figure sat in the centre of a web of television, images from Paradise flickering on the walls before, beside, behind and above. His skin crawled with anticipation. All was going according to plan, the plan he'd planned out and had planned for him.
He remembered foreseeing all of this before. A lesser mind would have called it a dream, or at best a vision. A lesser mind would have dismissed the fulfilment as deja vu. But he had been able to tell the difference, even back before he had words for what he was sensing; back before he knew that there were such things as Time Senses. Before he'd felt the name of the future blown back on the time winds to him, and had started calling it "Doctor".
Time senses. The ability to look beyond the narrow little perspective of "now", to perceive the shape of the future, and guide it into place. The first murders, the first trials; the victims unimportant, whether they be the killers or the dead. Justice rushed in the name of the public peace; nobody questioning the hidden purpose, the establishing of kangaroo courts. More hosts collected and sent out into the streets, while the future became clearer, the new senses sharper, until finally the names and faces were there, before him. The precedents now established, the Doctor and Romana tried and convicted in their absence, capture and sentence carried out before they had a chance to work out where they were or what was happening to them, let alone what to do about it.
And now They had the Doctor and Romana in their gestalt, their abilities added, their conscious minds subsumed while the creatures implanted in their physical bodies did their work. With the Time Lords added to the mix, the natives of Paradise-2 now had the abilities of Time Lords, including the time senses which had reached back in time from this moment and made all of this possible; the existence of the future guiding the past.
Judge Bertram Gorelli sat back in his seat, satisfied, content, and the creatures under his skin crawled to the surface, ready to hatch out and claim paradise.
To be continued...
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