Saturday, 23 October 2010

Being Alien

Story 4, which means we're a third of the way through series 2 already! Rachel Morgan's Being Alien this week, the first of her two contributions to series 2 and some 4th Doctor adventure this time. The other story she's written is a 3rd Doctor one in a few weeks time (which is also the other story to have a sequel of sorts in series 3a!).
Hope you enjoy, and please comment/vote back on the forum. Here is:
Being Alien
Begin The Begin
    Space, the final frontier…literally. The universe isn't infinite, it just feels that way. It's actually a lot smaller than it seems, especially when it's a fraction of the size it used to be. The problem with parasite universes is that they have to be small in order for the shark not to notice you're clinging on to it, slowly feeding on a tiny proportion of its life force, like a vampire.
    Adric is a vampire, he wasn't always but he was bitten and now he's one of them. Romana doesn't want to give in yet and so she's doing her very best to cure him or at least find a way to halt the worse of the side effects. The Doctor meanwhile is sullen and broody; he knows that they are trapped in E-Space for good. A misjudgement at a critical moment caused him to hesitate in trusting the right man and a lot of people died. Now he's stuck here inside of a universe that is too small for someone used to running free across the ages; and for the first time in seven hundred years he must make a home for himself.
    The other universe had all sorts of amazing wonders, sights to dazzle the senses and amaze the intellect. Here though everything is done on a smaller scale, the senses are only dazzled a fraction as much and as often. The intellect is barely stimulated at the best of times and the charred lump of metal in the corner is the remains of the Doctor's beloved pet dog.
    Romana almost considered their fate to be an irony considering how much had happened to them in the last few weeks. Trapped for all time inside of a universe with only two-and-a-bit fairly good galaxies, she had been infected by a mutagenic virus.
    Adric screamed as his blood burned with the fires of longing. "Please, Romana, I must feed! I'm thirsty!"
    "No, Adric." Romana hurt because her friend hurt, but she wouldn't give in. She'd be strong for him, help him through this time of pain and torture. "Be strong, it's all in your mind. The craving is an illusion, you don't NEED the blood. You can go for years without it; it's all in these white scrolls." They had the seal of Rassilon himself on them so she knew they were accurate. She didn't dare to wonder how the Doctor had them hidden away in a forgotten storage room but she was grateful that they were there all the same.
    Adric screamed again and raged against the bonds that held him to the medical table. "Let me go!"
    "We'll not let you go." Romana almost started to cry. "Not until you're better."
Ghost Watch
    The Doctor skulked through the corridors of the castle. His morbid figure gave the time-sensitive locals a scare because he was disembodied in the three main dimensions of being and yet he lived on in the other twenty three dimensions of reality. "What are you looking at?" He said slowly. "Can't a Doctor rest in peace?"
    Leonia looked at the ghostly figure of the man. "Why do you haunt us? You should be dead and gone, not lingering on here, visiting us like an echo of dead time."
    "I can haunt who I like." The Doctor replied darkly. "Besides I'm not dead, not really. My body is around here somewhere; once I reconnect I can be myself again." He lamented the sacrifice of the TARDIS to save the peoples of this universe but he could always build another, maybe, one day. The technology wasn't that difficult really, but the mood swings of a temperamental teenage time machine could be too much for a small appendix universe like this one. "A body, a body, a few words of folly for a body. Steady on Doctor you're talking to yourself now and that's never a good sign." The lonesome ghostly figure walked on back to the Tannhäuser Gate, the name he gave to the place that connected all times to the now where his two friends were located. "Never a good sign at all." He remembered the last few weeks and shuddered, as if someone had walked over the grave he didn't even have.
The Howling
    The full moons rose slowly. Romana felt them before she could see them. Quickly she left Adric, restrained and contained. He was easy to deal with; her own problems were much more severe when they occurred. The main one was of course the flaring up of the Alzarian virus. Alzarius was afflicted with a dual star system; the gravity of that second sun caused the peculiar season of Mistfall. During the onset of that season Romana had been bitten by a marsh spider and infected by the virus. A native being was fully transformed for all time, but her biology was much more aggressive. Normally it contained it, but the twin approach of this planet's two moons duplicated the effects of Mistfall in miniature for Romana and one night out of the month the virus flared up and she was physically transformed. Once the gravity effect weakened, her natural Gallifreyan biology reasserted itself and fought the virus back into dormancy.
    The second problem was that the changes were mainly physical. Romana was a petite Time Lady, but the Marsh-woman she became was slightly taller and much more muscular. If she didn't prepare herself properly then she'd ruin her outfit and she only had a few left to wear and she was down to her last clean bra as well.
    The third problem was of course not going on a rampage and slaughtering the locals, who in turn would hunt her down and try to kill her. She barely had enough credibility with them as it was and they were a prideful people who were distrustful of strangers at the best of times.
    She made her way down the catacombs through the maze of stone corridors and chambers to the lowest, lockable, prison cell. She'd made it herself, a place she could let the creature inside of her emerge: safe and containable. She didn't much like what she had to do but she had no choice either, that was what made it a curse after all.
Most Haunted
    The Doctor looked morosely across the desolate wasteland that was the astral plane. It was an echo of the real world, all black and white and a billion shades of grey instead of reds and yellows and pinks and greens. This was a place with no life, no soul, no vibrancy. It was where dreams came to die. It stank of unfulfilled potential from all the lives that had never succeeded. All the wasted lives, those killed in wars, those born before or after their time where their skills would have been appreciated. This was not a place for the living, it was of the dead. A fat old man in a white shroud with white hair sat in a comfortable armchair by a grey fire that gave no warmth.
    "Hello." The Doctor said simply. "Who are you?"
    "Ahhhhhhhhh!" The figure exclaimed theatrically, drawing the exclamation out to just short of the point of absurdity. "Now there hangs a heavy tale."
    "You look familiar." The Doctor was boggle-eyed now. "You're me, aren't you?"
    "No." The figure smiled. "And yes." He frowned. "Let us say I've adopted this figure so that you might better appreciate the complexity of your situation without running away and shrieking. They do that a lot you see, when I appear to them as I truly am. I look old to you because I am what causes all things to wither and die."
    "You're making me consider running away right now." The Doctor didn't mean with fear either. If there was one thing he despised it was an idiot. This was probably why he never got on with himselves, any of them. "Feel free to start making sense at any moment."
    "You're not dead." The stranger mused. "You have none of the charming characteristics of the dead. They usually do a lot more bowing and so forth. It's refreshing to talk to someone more…normally."
    "Well everyone should try it at some point in their lives." The Doctor stated. "I'm the Doctor by the way. I didn't catch your name; I only mention it because you seemed to avoid revealing it."
    "Names have power."
    "Of course."
    "My name is the most powerful name; it is the first name and the last. Your name is not Doctor either. You keep yours hidden for much the same reasons that I do."
    "I doubt your name means Opener of Pickle Jars in the ancient language of the Gyadi." The Doctor briefly wondered if he still had that last jar somewhere in the broken remains of his ship.
    "I must go now." The old man announced. "You may call me The Gate if you're so inclined."
    "But that means Celestial Majesty on Gyadus." The Doctor exclaimed to a now-empty room.
Near Dark
    Adric was thirsty. He didn't desire solid nourishment but rather something warm and runny. Rich with existence and the syrupy metallic tang of iron. He craved sweet liquid nourishment; not water or orange juice or milk but something hot and metallic imbued with the very essence of life.
    Beyond that though was the certainty that to give in to his thirst was wrong, deeply wrong. It was something that had to be fought, with every fibre of his being. He had to fight and fight and fight again each and every moment or he'd give in and make the wrong choice out of weakness.
    Varsh walked through the door. "You were always too weak to be one of us, little brother."
    "What are you doing here?" Adric demanded. "You died."
    "We cannot die." Varsh smiled coldly, almost mockingly. "Not really. We live outside of death's domain now little brother. We're blessed with life eternal."
    "Cursed you mean." Adric retorted. "We can never die, but we can never really live either. We just go on, trapped in the same moment for all eternity. We can't learn new things and we can't change our minds about anything. We're like timmits in lugar, frozen in timeless beauty."
    "Then how come I'm free and you're tied up?" Varsh asked. "I could release you…let's see how thirsty you really are."
    "Romana tied me up because I asked her to." Adric replied. "I knew the hunger would take me and so I asked her to make sure I couldn't do anything bad if the thirst got too much for me."
    "Such a pity." Varsh began to undo the bonds. "What sort of knots are these?"
    "Romana said that she got her advanced knots badge when she was in the Gallifreyan Girl Guides." Adric said. "She may have just been making it up though."
    Varsh used his strength to snap the rope. "There we are little brother. Come with me…let's find you someone nice to drink."
    "No," Adric said but seemed less certain than he should be. The thirst was bad again; it burned with dry fury, like a desert in his neck in need of life-giving blood to make it disappear. "I can't, I mustn't."
    "One drink, just one sip." Varsh said softly. "One neck, just one. Who will know…who will care?"
The Morning After
    Romana felt totally drained when she awoke from a dream about a kitten. She felt cold and her limbs ached as she rose up unsteadily and once she pulled her thoughts together she began to get dressed again. This was the third time now she'd gone through this nightmare ritual.
    The first time she'd lost her favourite bra, the pink one with the white lace trim.
She'd found it shredded on the floor in a sad little pile along with the rest of her clothes, the torn dress, the shredded shoes and the less said about the state of her pants the better everyone would be!
    The second time she'd prepared better and she'd even videotaped herself; ironically the videotape would fall through a crack in time and end up in a video libel case, but that's really another story and one that won't be mentioned here.
    She finished dressing and went over to the recorder to see what it had made of the previous night. "How was it?"
    Alice showed Romana her hand-drawn pictures. "I did this one with the pink crayon."
    Romana thanked the helpful robot with a spare dolly she kept for such occasions, before the robot went back home to her own issues and problems to share her new toy with her family. "I'd better go and check on the others I suppose. Honestly I'm the one who turns into the creature from the black lagoon every month and they expect me to sort out all of their problems for them as well. It's almost like they think that I'm their mother for Omega's sake."
    Adric welcomed Romana with a sneer. "You took your time, didn't you?"
    "I was busy." Romana replied. "I just returned to normal after completely changing species last night. Don't mind my pain though; just go on thinking about yourself why don't you?"
    "My pain is always there." Adric retorted. "The thirst, the never-ending thirst. You might at least be grateful; I sacrificed myself to save your precious blood."
    "My blood is instantly fatal to vampires." Romana said, not quite sure if it was totally true but it sounded like it probably was. "We drove the vampires into extinction by forming a barrier of ourselves between the great one and the rest of the universe. How were we to know he'd fall into a CVE and escape into E-Space?"
    "Then why don't you untie me if you're so fatal to me?" Adric asked.
    "Because you might try drinking my blood as a way of committing suicide." Romana scowled as she saw the ropes had been snapped apart and then tied back together again and she smelled something new in the air too. "There was someone else in here wasn't there? A man. Do you have a boyfriend?"
    "No." Adric said sharply. "It was my brother if you must know. He didn't die. A surviving vampire found him and gave him immortality too. Now he wants to drink this world dry and make more like us."
    "Well we can't have that, can we?" Romana asked. "I'll have to do everything, as usual. Find him, fight him, defeat him. A woman's work is never done, especially when she's surrounded by men."
    "You're more sexist than usual." Adric started. "What's up now? What are you really worried about?"
    "Well if you really must know it's the Doctor. I still can't think of a way to bring him back from the astral plane."
    "Don't bother." The Doctor said walking into the room. "I can see things that you two can't. The past and the future as just as much in the now as the now is." He paused for a moment. "There are doors, to the past and the future, and from them this is either the past or the future. Am I making sense?" He was sure he wasn't. "Don't worry about it. I'll just go and make us all a nice cup of tea."
    The day wore on with its usual relentlessness. Romana went outside to get a suntan while Adric stayed indoors away from the light to talk with the Doctor.
    "Do you think she knows?" Adric asked. "About the Eternals hiding outside of life with chairs and bins?"
    "I hope not." The Doctor mused. "It reminded me of something I saw on the television once on Earth. Susan used to like watching human television from the 80's and 90's. She said that their male sports personalities were interesting. I never understood it or watched it much myself, but it reminded me of that in a way. Pity I didn't ban it instead of simply moving us backwards in time to 1963."
    "I saw some of that." Adric smiled. "I can see what she saw in it. Human men are curiously interesting, speaking purely from an academic point of view of course." The concept of one being naked in his bed was a matter for thinking about and not speaking about, so he did and didn't.
    Romana returned, pulling her nearly sheer white sarong on over her question mark patterned pink bikini as she moved indoors. "The sun's lovely but I think I've had enough for one day. I don't have much skin moisturiser left so I have to be really careful with it."
    "Of course." The Doctor said. "How about a cup of tea? I've got the kettle on."
    "It's strange how you got that old thing working and much of the rest of the TARDIS is either burned to a crisp or lost somewhere in time." Romana shrugged and smiled. "It's lucky that I rather like tea isn't it? Are there any cakes as well?"
    "Oh there's always cakes." The Doctor grinned and opened a plastic box full of cakes.
    "Yum yum." Romana smiled back.
    "Oh for goodness sake!" Adric moaned. "Can you two stop pretending everything is fine when it's not? We're stranded on a planet with no way of leaving. I'm thirsty and you're both acting like nothing's wrong!"
    "We'll sort everything out." Romana said casually. "We'll fix the TARDIS. We'll locate the Doctor's body. We'll even find a cure for you. But first we'll enjoy a nice cup of tea and a cake, it's the civilised thing to do."
    "If we're not civilised then we're not anything." The Doctor picked up the teapot and was mother for the three of them. "Drink up Adric, that tea's perfectly fine for you."
    "I'd rather have blood." Adric pouted, but took a sip anyway. "It's very nice, it's just not remotely good for me."
    "Try one of these cakes." The Doctor pushed the tin closer to his young friend. "I found them three hundred years back in time. I think they have a fruit filling, like a jam of sorts."
    "Well if I must." Adric sighed and tried one of the cakes, it was as dry as dust and as flavoursome as ice. "Nice." He lied. It seemed like that was the most diplomatic thing for him to do. "I won't have another just now, I really want to savour this one." He wondered where he could hide it where they would never find it and he'd never have to finish eating it, ever.
    Varsh looked at the natives. "Yum yum, your blood in my tum." He closed the door that was the only way out of the room. "Now who wants to feed me first?" Seconds later the screaming began…
    The Doctor wondered what to do next. "We're trapped on a small and uninteresting world, no TARDIS, no Time Lords, too many vampires, you two are wearing shades and I think we should repaint our hovel a new colour."
    "I call pink." Romana said quickly.
    "What's wrong with yellow?" Adric asked.
    "I like pink." Romana smiled, "and I did call it first."
    "Romana wins the house painting contest." The Doctor celebrated by brewing up a fresh pot of tea. "Adric can choose first in the next doing something thing."
    "Well I vote we get off this planet." Adric said once Romana left to find the pink paint. "Use one of those time portals to investigate where they go."
    "You can see the time portals?" The Doctor asked.
    "Of course." Adric replied. "I don't think Romana can though, even though she's a Time Lady."
    "That's because they're not true time portals." They don't allow just anyone to travel back and forth in time. Only those dislocated from reality like myself. I'm surprised you can see them though."
    "I'm a vampire." Adric yawned. "Technically an immortal."
    "You're a fixed point in time and space. You're a fact, it's not meant to be. That's why we killed almost all of your kind. You're different though, you and your brother. Maybe it's the way the virus works on your species. You can tolerate sunlight for a short amount of time but it weakens you, makes you hungry quicker. A mutation or a blessing? Maybe you're more resistant?"
    "She's coming back." Adric said softly. "I've been thinking, about naming our home." He said quickly. "How about simply 'Home'? Well I think it's catchy."
    "I like it." The Doctor said with a slight smile.
    "Well it is your turn." Romana agreed "and it could have been a lot worse."
The Nightstalker
    Varsh stood over the bodies of the dozen or so men and women. Not all of them had died, some clung on at the edge of death, the virus slowly rebuilding them into new immortal bodies. The gift of undeath would be theirs and they would be the foundation of his army, one that would sweep through time and space killing or recruiting all who stood in their way.
From Dusk Till Dawn
    Romana had another slice of cake to go with her fresh cup of tea. "What I don't understand is why we're still here. We should be building a rocket, a space ship, something to get off of this world."
    "We can afford to spend some time here I think." The Doctor replied. "I quite like this little home from home. It's not like we're settling down for good, only until I can get my body back."
    "Of course." Romana berated herself. "How silly of me, I forgot. We'll get your body back, cure Adric and then find or rebuild the TARDIS. What could possibly be simpler?"
    "My brother's out there recruiting an army of vampires." Adric said to the others. "I can feel him, his life force, and I can feel those of the recruits that he's making. We're in for a rough time of it because he'll be coming for us eventually."
    "Well that's something to look forward to." Romana sighed. "And I've just finished painting our home a lovely bright shade of pink – we couldn't be a more obvious target!"
    "What's done is done." The Doctor mused. "What happens next, well that's something else."

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