|Doctor Who Crossover Internet Adventure #05 - "Fear Itself"
by Gregg Smith
From Robinson Central Terminal, along Grand Avenue, turning right into Davenport Row; Gotham City
The next morning, a dark people carrier with blacked-out windows cruised away from the station and out into the streets of Gotham. Inside, a young woman sat on a swivel chair and looked at the two boxes on the table in front of her.
She glanced at the buildings and people and sweeping by outside and sneered slightly.
A man in the passenger seat turned to face her: "The address, Mistress Talia?"
Talia glanced at the open files that surrounded the boxes.
"We'll start in little Bohemia, and search the bars in that quarter. He shouldn't be too hard to find."
"Isn't it..." the man paused and lowered his eyes.
"Isn't it a little early?"
"He's probably been drinking since last night."
"Understood, mistress. Right turn," the passenger said to the driver.
* * *
A cafe in Hell's Kitchen, Gotham City
The Doctor sat opposite his companions.
"And he could fly?" said Tegan around a mouthful of buttered toast.
"Yes. Just seemed to think himself into the air," Nyssa circled her hands in a rather vague way. "Wouldn't somebody who could do that have made it into your news media?"
"Maybe not outside of America. Nobody takes anything that happens here that seriously. Any sign of that temporal corridor, Doc?"
Tegan sighed and waved her hand in between the Doctor's face and the box sitting beside his untouched cup of tea.
"Tegan," he said irritably picking up the box and turning away.
"Doctor, you haven't taken your eyes off that thing all morning. We had to stop you tripping over three vagrants on the way from the TARDIS!"
"And it wouldn't surprise me if you've been up all night staring at the temporal path tracker. You did say it would alert you with a noise if it picked anything up."
The Doctor looked up, frowning and chewing on his bottom lip. "Yes, well, a watched pot never boils, I suppose." He smiled and looked at his tea. "Talking of pots," he picked the cup up and took a sip. Then he spat it out. "It's cold!" he said, mournfully.
Tegan and Nyssa looked at each other and barely kept from laughing.
* * *
The Coward Lounge, Greenwich Village, Gotham City
"Well?" asked the woman.
'I'll Follow My Secret Heart,' played on a sound system in the background.
"What's in the box?"
"Open it and find out."
"I see." The man sat back and cradled his gin and tonic. He wore a green tweed jacket, a brown bowler and checked trousers.
"Aren't you interested?"
The man glanced across at the silent piano, around the empty bar, and then back at the woman and the two men in black behind her. He looked into the woman's eyes and she looked right back.
"What does it profit a man if he gain the world but lose his soul?"
"Do you think I don't know who you are? Boredom has always been my personal demon. What's yours?"
"The gift I have to offer you is the cure for all boredom."
"When is a gift not a gift?"
"When there's a price."
"And what's the price in this," he looked at the box. "Case?"
"A small one. Destroying a hero."
"The Batman? Because I couldn't..."
"Not this time. Perhaps in the near future. That would be up to you."
"The answer is in the box."
"The answer to 'who'?"
"The answer to everything."
The man laughed. "I already know the answer to everything. And it doesn't come in a wooden box."
"Or the bottom of a glass."
"What sort of man hates a cup full of water?"
"An easy one."
"Shhhhh," he interrupted. "My name is Smith, remember. Smith."
"Of course. With a question mark at the end, perhaps."
"Perhaps," he smiled humourlessly.
"This gift will give you immense power."
"Yes, you said."
He looked away, around the lounge again, and then back into the woman's eyes.
"Two schoolboys were playing on a toolshed roof. Something gave way and they fell through, onto the floor below. When they picked themselves up, the face of one was covered in grime. The other's face was quite clean. Yet it was the boy with the clean face who at once went off and washed. Do you want to know why?"
He picked up the box and held it out. The woman took it.
"The next time you see either your father, or your former lover," he smiled and Talia scowled at him. "I heard it on the grapevine. The next time you see either of them," he paused.
The Riddler pulled his bowler hat down over his eyes and sat back. "Tell them to look in a mirror."
Talia stood and walked briskly out of the pub.
* * *
The Batcave, under Wayne Manor, in the hills overlooking Gotham City
Batman sat in front of his computer in the middle of a video link-up.
"You couldn't find anything on him at all?"
"Well, you didn't give me much to go on. 'Doctor'. I tracked down a Quicktime of some footage from a program broadcast on Britain's BBC3 in the 1972, some sort of accident at an archaeological dig. It was on a UFO site, one that mentioned 'the Doctor' as a government department creating alien invasion stories to cover secret weapons tests. All very garbled. There are various references to other sites, to zines and books which talk of a mysterious Doctor, but I can't actually track any information down. However, the title without any name attached is frequently linked with weird happenings: Britain's Mars landings, countless alleged ET encounters, conspiracies, illegal experiments, etc. Some even hint at him being an alien himself, others seem to think 'the Doctor' is a codename for agents working for the CIA/MI6 etc. One person suggested the Doctor was working for the UN."
"Well, something called UNIT. I tried hacking into their systems but there didn't seem to be anything there. Either these guys have really, really good security, or they're horrendously underfunded."
"UNIT. Yes, I've heard of them".
"Well, somebody on one of the more obscure and esoteric newsgroups suggested that he had worked closely with this UNIT in the 70's but had recently turned against the establishment and become a free agent, perhaps a vigilante. But a bunch of other people said that was a silly idea and flamed this guy off the group."
"I wouldn't every describe what I've got as jello."
"Well, thanks anyway."
"No trouble, Bats."
Oracle's end of the line went dead and Batman settled back into his chair and took his cowl off.
"Well, I'm off," said Tim as he wandered into the cave.
"What?" said Bruce.
"To Metropolis. That thing Superboy said he wanted help with."
"Any idea what it is?"
"He didn't say. Just where and when I was meant to meet him. Actually, it was his 'agent' who got in touch."
"Agent? Now why didn't I think of that?"
Tim grinned. "Yeah, that would work. Batman could open museums, go to dinner-dances. You could even go on Jerry Springer."
"I don't think I'm violent enough."
"You're sure you won't need me?"
"Between Superman and this Doctor I think I've got things covered."
"Sounds to me like you'd need all the help you can get just handling those two."
"It's not a problem. Now..." He stood. "I should probably get some sleep."
* * *
The Glacier Club, Gotham City
"Immense power? Wauk. The key to making all my dreams come true? Wauk. In this box?" He shook the thing, and Talia winced. "Are you completely insane?" Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, dressed in an ankle-length (on him, anyway) black silk kimono over a white shirt and cream trousers, chewed on his cigarette holder. It was a nervous habit. His neatly rimmed black hair was plastered against his scalp and swept back to form a shallow widow's peak.
"This box contains a force beyond the wildest imaginations of this planet."
"Does it really?" Oswald put the box on the table. He yawned and leant over to nibble the ear of the blonde on his left. The brunette on his right started rubbing his shoulders.
"Yes. Money, position, women. Anything could be yours. And nobody would stand against you, everyone would kneel at your feet. You would be in absolute charge."
Oswald paused and looked at Talia.
"Absolute? What, even over you?"
Talia narrowed her eyes.
"You expect me to believe that you would bring me something that could give me absolute power? The power of life and death? Why would anyone give that away?"
"It is in return. For a favour."
"If the power is great, why not take it yourself? Surely whatever favour you want from me would then be within your capabilities."
"It does not suit me."
"Then I shouldn't think it would suit me, my dear. Good day." Oswald stood and began to leave.
"But this force will allow you to do anything you want!"
Oswald was disappearing up a staircase. "I already have everything I want."
"What have you got? A club. A public face that a few people are willing to forget was behind bars last year?"
"What else could I want? My business interests are very profitable. My girls are very loyal."
"What about revenge?"
"Been there, done that. Sharky, Randy, and all the others."
"And the Batman?"
Oswald paused. "His time will come."
Talia picked up the box and started, slowly, to leave. "You're afraid, Penguin."
"Waugh!" He swung around and pounded down the steps. "Afraid?! You wake me up barely after midday, have me open my club to you, and dare to accuse me of cowardice?! Intelligence is my failing. Your offer is too suspicious. I could only possibly stand to lose. Lose what, I don't know. But I have little to gain in return. What you describe is impossible, there is nothing like it in this world."
"It's not of this world."
"Waugh waugh waugh," Oswald laughed. "Now I know you're crazy. Mad bitch. Get out of my club."
"You will regret this, Penguin."
"I never regret a thing."
* * *
Fire Island, resort off the coast of Metropolis
"For the eight-hundred and fifty-second time, I'm really not happy about this. I'm not happy about leaving Honolulu, and this is definitely a bad idea."
"Nonsense, SB. It's a whole untapped section of the market."
"But nothing. Just being here isn't going to harm your regular fan base. But it will open our merchandising interests up to loads of new and willing consumers. You're going to go down huge here."
"Please choose your words more carefully."
"Oh don't be silly. They do it all the time in the UK."
"With boy bands, not superheroes."
"They don't have superheroes over there. And it's a recognised marketing strategy. It said so in that book I bought."
"What about Robin?"
"Should be on his way."
"Wait. You didn't tell him what this was for, did you?"
"No. No, I didn't exactly tell him...."
"That he was coming here for a public appearance on the beach."
"He's going to be pissed."
"Well, he can keep his costume on."
"Oh, great. So, I have to parade around in skin-tight speedos, and he boils to death in his midnight costume and mask."
"And you have to convince him it's a good idea. Improving superheroes' images everywhere, or something. I've promised everyone he'll join you tonight. The councillor thought it was quite a coup. Now, hurry up and get your clothes off — I only booked this hut for an hour."
* * *
23 Green Acre, East Norwood, suburb of Gotham City
"Leave me alone."
"Doesn't it interest you?"
"You were a pioneer of genetic manipulation, Doctor Langstrom. Even today your experiments are beyond the capabilities of all other scientists."
"I destroyed my work. It was too personal."
"You found a way to distil the traits that make one species different from another, to transfer characteristics from one animal to another."
"But I had no control over the eventual changes. My experiments were wildly unscientific. I was weak, I abandoned scientific method for fast results and paid the price. I spent months as a monster. I don't care what you have to offer, I will not repeat my mistakes."
"What I have to offer you is beyond harnessing the characteristics of animals. In this box I have the formula that delineates between reality and dreams, between the outside. Between good and evil."
"Not at all."
"I don't care what you say or what you believe, I am not interested. Get out of my house."
Talia picked the box up off the work bench and walked out of the garage.
* * *
Excelsior Motel, Gotham Heights, suburb of Gotham City
Clark Kent sat in his hotel room, watching television. He'd spent most of the day staring blankly at the blinking screen of his laptop, only touching it whenever the screensaver came up. He knew that once he hit his stride it would take him mere seconds to write the article. But he just couldn't get his mind round the subject. Fear.
There was too much else to think about. Darkseid. Batman. The Doctor. He'd kept quiet, but he'd heard the double heartbeat as soon as he met the Doctor, and a quick glance inside the stranger had shown two hearts, and a lot of unusual biology.
Somewhere in the corner of his mind something was screaming 'Time Lord' but he wasn't entirely sure what that meant.
So, he was watching television. CNN. A female reporter with a dark bob and glasses:
"Officials in Gotham and Metropolis today denied that there was any rivalry between the cities' respective Y2K attractions. Though neither is completed, both attractions will be unveiled to the public this evening, Metropolis' Millennium Park will be opened by Superboy and a special guest. Mayor Grange, who will be at tonight's opening in Brigstone Beach, today rejected claims that trying to promote Gotham's Doomsday Plaza to the public was a marketing nightmare.
* * *
Manchester City, ten miles west of Gotham and actually part of that City's sprawling conurbation
Plants, vines, creepers and assorted foliage filled the dilapidated chemical factory.
Talia stood in the forested entrance, flanked by her two men. A short distance away, in a light and rainy mist, writhing vines cradled the wooden box, probing it warily.
"Why should I be interested?" The voice was melodious and dreamy, and came from the darkness of the canopy above.
"It is the key to what you and my father both seek. The return of the Earth to the arms of Mother Nature. An ecological paradise free from the destructive pollution of mankind."
"I seek the death of mankind, not its obedience. I am acquainted with your father. A strong man. But as cold and mechanical inside as any man. Less pliant to my will, but no less worthy of my wrath. He wants order in the world, his order throughout it. I want only chaos."
"No! You want the natural order of things."
"And the natural order of things is no order at all. The patterns imposed by man are meaningless, a system imposed on the wild and free."
"That is not so."
"What have you brought me, daughter of an unnatural ancient?"
"A gift from another world that will restore this one."
"Another world?" The vines tightened around the box. "Yes, it feels alien to me. Not part of the natural environment. Like this city. Like your father, who cheats nature's cycle with his Lazarus Pit." Poison Ivy appeared on a flower-encrusted walkway far above Talia. The vines suddenly whipped the box back into Talia's hands.
"Go. Before my friends eat you."
As the plants around her started to vibrate menacingly, Talia stormed out of the shell of a building.
She stormed across the car park with her lackeys in tow. She stormed towards their vehicle.
She angrily climbed back into the people carrier. "I think we're going about this entirely the wrong way." She picked up two of the three folders she'd been given -- the one she'd been working from all day long, and the other based purely on sketchy information from her father's latest associate.
She leant forward and spoke to the driver and passenger. "Find me a teenage boy," she said.
* * *
Darkseid sat in his throne room, brooding and trying to think up new forms of torture.
"What are you doing?" The voice was placid but still sent shivers down Darkseid's spine — or, rather down the spine of a part of a great evil. The voice was a part of a darkness even greater.
"Nothing. All is proceeding as planned. I have followed your instructions faithfully."
"You have left the matter in the hands of an agent. A third party. This was not my instruction!" A ghostly figure melted into existence at the foot of the steps to Darkseid's throne. The figure was slightly taller than the average human, dressed all in black with a crested animal head- dress.
"Guardian, I trust the human I have employed in this matter."
"You trust no-one! And that is wise. You merely hope this human will not betray you. But you have already betrayed me!"
"No! No, I swear I have not."
"Failure will cost you, Darkseid. You think yourself powerful. Your powers are nothing compared to mine. You have placed yourself in my hands. The rules that protect others will not protect you."
"I am loyal, I have served you well!"
"You rest on your laurels, puny godling."
Darkseid was suddenly wracked with pain. He writhed on his throne. He screamed and the world shook.
"I cannot go to Earth myself." His pain faded.
"But you could send your own people, monitor events more closely."
"Why can't you?"
"I cannot intervene at this stage. That is why I have need of your inadequate services." Suddenly, the figure grew to immense size, dwarfing Darkseid, larger than the palace itself yet still seemingly contained within the throne room. "Send your people to Earth, have them attack Superman now before the moment is past and my target departs."
"Yes. Yes, oh mighty Guardian. And then... then, will the Source be mine?"
"You will have what you seek. I guarantee it."
"You can give me the Source?"
"It is within my power. If my scheme is successful, the Source will be yours." The figure faded away.
Darkseid smiled with immense satisfaction. Soon, the universe would be his. His own little toy in the multiverse that would be the Black Guardian's. And, of course, he would give Ra's al Ghul the Earth. Just before he destroyed it.
Darkseid's voice echoed throughout Apokolips: "Desaad! Go back to Earth. And take my fool son with you."
* * *
Thirty-ninth and Beaumont, Tri-corner, Gotham City
Jed was standing on a street corner. A little black van pulled up in front of him. It wasn't the first car he'd wandered over to in the course of the evening, wasn't the first window he'd poked his head into with a grin and a hole in his heart.
It was the first car that he was pulled forcibly into. Well, that night, anyway.
Inside, an incredibly attractive woman made him an offer he simply couldn't refuse.
And all he had to do was allow her to give him a quick injection. Just a drop or two. He was going to use the rest on a very special man. A Superman.
* * *
Hell's Kitchen, Gotham City
Tegan and Nyssa and a very conspicuous Doctor were window shopping in the night lights of the city.
"One of the most interesting things about Gotham," said the Doctor, "is that it is imbued a unique -- well, unique for Earth -- spatial and temporal status. Along with Metropolis and New York it is almost nothing more than an expression of cities the world over, concentrating on certain parts. Gotham, with its grey, black and gunmetal coloured spires and blocks, embodies the darker aspects of city life. Metropolis, with its bronze, silver and gold towers and sun-baked open spaces, many of the lighter aspects. And both cities exist in a symbolic limbo in time -- people and places seemingly from decades in the past and years in the future exist at the same time. New York combines features from both, and from even more places. The sheer diversity of cultures, generations, ideas, races, genders, and many other things has created, in all the three of these places, cities that defies simple categorisation. And the growth and concentration of these cities has given them a place on the fringes of reality, almost a dimensionally transcendental quality. All three cities are quite plainly real and exist now, yet in part they are the same city, and in part only one can exist at a time, and in part again the same city exists in the same form at any point in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. It's almost like Gotham and Metropolis have come into existence so that the universe has somewhere to put the extra bits from an already crowded New York conurbation. Or vice versa, perhaps. I really must make a study of these places one day."
Tegan turned to Nyssa. "Do you have any idea what he's talking about?"
"Yes, but I think he's making it all up."
A beeping sound suddenly emanated from the Doctor's pocket. His hand scrabbled inside and pulled out the tracer.
"It's picked up a temporal displacement. A large one it seems. Some distance away." He looked up, into the street. "Taxi!" A yellow cab pulled up and the Doctor and his friends piled in.
"Where to?" said the driver.
"South," said the Doctor. Then he turned to Tegan, and whispered: "How much money have you got on you?"
* * *
Armageddon Plaza, overlooking Brigstone Beach and the bay south of Gotham City
"Lousy tourists!" the taxi driver shouted out of the window as he sped away.
"Rather unhelpful individual. We did pay him what was due."
"But we had him driving all over the place, and we didn't tip him."
"Of course, the gratuity. I should have realised."
"Doctor," said Nyssa. "Are you sure about this trace?"
"Yes, it's around here somewhere."
"What about that crowd?" Tegan pointed at the throng on the other end of the plaza.
"No, it's nearby here somewhere."
"Oh, Doctor," said Nyssa. "What about the signal?"
"Yes, yes, the signal. Hold on." The Doctor patted his pockets. "Ah, here it is." He removed a blue cylinder from his pocket.
"What's that?" asked Tegan.
"A simple sonic device. It's to signal our two new friends."
He pressed a button on the top.
Across Gotham, in a cave underneath Wayne Manor, Batman leapt to his feet and dashed across to his car as alarmed bats flew down from the shadows above. He drove out into the Gotham night, keeping his eye on the bats as they flew. They were being inexplicably drawn to the imperceptible noise from the device the Doctor had been able to rig up on Batman's instructions.
Elsewhere across Gotham, Clark Kent heard the noise too, and flashed across his room and into the night.
* * *
"Look," shouted Nyssa. "There it is!"
"Yes, it's a bit hard to miss," shouted Tegan over the noise.
The Boom Tube had appeared seconds before, on the beach just below the plaza.
"You two, don't get too close!" shouted the Doctor. Tegan and Nyssa had been following him back towards the land side of the plaza when the tube had opened, and were now between it and him. "Something isn't quite right."
Then there was an ear-splitting explosion and a flash of brilliant light. When the light faded Tegan and Nyssa were gone.
"No!" said the Doctor.
There was riots applause from the other end of the plaza, and calls of "what a show!"
* * *
Metropolis Park, Metropolis
Robin stood at the side of the stage, his arms crossed and his jaw set irritably.
Superboy smiled out at the crowd. "I hereby declare..."
There was an ear-splitting explosion and a flash of brilliant white light in the middle of the stage.
Robin ran forward as most people ran away. And he got to Superboy's side just in time to catch one of the two women who appeared a dozen feet about the stage. Superboy caught the other one.
"Wow," said Superboy.
"Kalibak, you fool," came a voice from behind. "What have you done?"
* * *
Armageddon Plaza, overlooking Brigstone Beach and the bay south of Gotham City
Superman and Batman, who had both arrived minutes after the Doctor sent the signal and were in time to see the explosion, were examining the beach and the paved plaza. The Doctor was distractedly examining a sign for a fortune-teller stall that was apparently going to be where he was standing once the plaza was finished.
"I can't trace it," he said to nobody in particular. "I don't know where they went."
"We'll track them down," said Superman.
"You don't understand. They could be anywhere in time or space. Unless I can find the source of that corridor, and track them from there with the TARDIS, I'll never find them."
"Then we'll trace the corridors back to their source," said Batman.
"It isn't that easy," said the Doctor.
"I'm sorry," said a new voice. "I'm afraid I'm lost."
Superman flew up the wall and landed on the plaza. The Doctor turned round and saw that the new voice belonged to a teenage boy.
Batman climbed up and stood beside the Doctor as Superman approached the boy.
The boy was sitting on the floor, a box in front of him and some cylinder clasped in his right hand. As Superman got close to him, the boy flipped the heavy metal lid of the box open.
Suddenly, Superman doubled over, screaming. Batman and the Doctor both stepped forward to help but paused. Their eyes focused on the little boy.
Adric, the Doctor saw. Adric, curled up on the floor, a shouting Cyberman towering over him and brandishing a gun...
Jason, the Batman saw. Jason Todd, curled up on the floor, the Joker laughing above him and brandishing a gun...
But it was OK.
Adric had a gun himself.
Jason had a gun himself.
The boy could protect himself.
"Use the gun!" shouted Batman.
"Shoot him!" shouted the Doctor.
Neither knew what they were saying.
The teenage boy raised the syringe, pointed it at the struggling Superman. He glanced to the shadows at the edge of the plaza, waited for Talia's signal. She gave it.
To be continued...
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