"The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-05-29 11:58am

Well, this dream was totally bollocks.

I mean, it's one thing to occasionally be lectured by the Doctor in his various forms. That I can take. I'm the idiot who took his name, after all. I'm the idiot who decided to become him. He had every right to come into my dreams and give me lip about it.

And yes, I know it's probably just my subconscious mind at work, I'm being rhetorical.

But to have him here? My worst nightmare? That's just going too far.

"Worst nightmare? Really? That's awfully unkind of you." Triumphant walked around me. "So, I see you found purple that didn't make you look like the Joker?"

"What do you want?", I sighed.

"Oh, no time for pleasantries? You'll exchange M&Ms and jellybabies with Four but not even a line about fashion sense to dear old me? I'm insulted." Triumphant stood before me again, arms crossed. "Which is really aggravating since we're the same man, really."

"We were. I walked away from your madness."

He made a buzzing sound. "Wrong! I'm still in here. I'm still a part of you. I'll always be in here." He looked at me with barely-concealed anger. "And you won't even accept that. Look at what I am to you now. A bloody nightmare! And yet when the going gets rough, you still call me in! What else do you call it when you go into my armory and put on my gear?"

I narrowed my eyes in reply. "The situation called for it. I wasn't proud of the choice."

"And that... that is the problem I have." Triumphant pointed his finger in my face. "You don't get to spit in my face and do things my way whenever you please. It just means you do things half-arsed. You and I both know there is so much more you could do to deal with this situation. For instance, instead of nitpicking about, you could have gathered those spandex-wearing nitwits and thrown them at that Dalek moonbase to give yourself an opening to get inside."

"And a whole lot of people would have died," I replied.

"That Dalek made it clear they were going to die anyway," he retorted. "So, stop mucking about and throw what you can at the Daleks. Before the rest of these nitwits get themselves killed trying to put out fires they can't control."

I glared at him. "You and I both know you're inflicting a death sentence on them."

"Yeah. They'll probably get wiped out," Triumphant agreed. "But it'll stop the Daleks, won't it? Things will be better off."

I gazed on my other self in horror. This was what Triumphant had ultimately become. "Making the world better" at any cost. Even if it meant the lives of allies.

I replied to him with a shake of my head. "I'll find another way."

"Oh please! If there was another way, you'd have found it by now!" Triumphant laughed in my face. "You weak idiot. If only you'd listened to me, things like this wouldn't be happening."

I glowered at him. "You... we.... were a monster. Nerys saw that."

"The Nerys who lived in caves and fought the Cardassian Occupation would probably disagree. Before you filled her head with naive trivialities."

"I showed her a better way!"

"And look where that's led you! This entire cosmos could be taken by the Daleks because of you and your better way." Triumphant shook his head. "No more games, Doctor. You know I'm right. They'll know I'm right. Make the call. Get them to make the attack. It's the only way to save their world."

I swallowed. I was still running my mind through possibilities, running it and running it. But I was too tired. I was emotionally and physically spent, almost to the verge of exhaustion. My wounded and bruised body wasn't helping matters.

"Good chap," Triumphant said. "You recognize it, don't you? That mine is the only way. If you're going to stop the Daleks, you've got to beat them head on. No tricks, nothing but force. It's the only way."

"Oh, what a load of rubbish!"

The familiar voice made us turn. Two more figures joined me and my mad counterpart in the dreamscape. The Tenth Doctor followed up his pronouncement by tromping up and looking Triumphant in the eye. "Aren't you the simple one? Simple plans, simple solutions, and look at where it got you. Running ragged trying to fix things that couldn't be fixed easily until you were ready to just blow things up."

Triumphant snarled at Ten's face. "I did what had to be done!", he roared.

"No, you did things the easy way. Blowing stuff up isn't simply 'what had to be done." Ten faced me next. "And you! Shame on you! You should know better!"

"Excuse me?", I asked.

"Going out and doing the cowboy thing like you're the hero in some Yank movie," Ten protested. "And you call yourself the Doctor!"

"I was only doing what I had to in order to save lives."

"No, you were listening to this clown!" Ten held his hand up toward Triumphant. "Simple solutions instead of putting that Time Lord brain you've got to work!"

"Oh, that's rich," Triumphant laughed. "You calling me a clown? You, the buffoon running around space-and-time mucking about and acting the sad clown over the Time War? It's bloody hilarious, that's what that is." He looked to the other figure who had yet to speak. "The same to you. The overgrown child who won't grow up. You and your antics, always trying to impress the kiddies so they'll run away and play with you like you're Peter bloody Pan. Neither of you wanting to make the hard choices, just to run along and bury your heads in the sand. I made those choices, and I'll make them again if anyone will ever listen to me!"

The Eleventh Doctor showed no signs of responding to Triumphant's provocation. All he said was, "My, aren't you rather full of yourself? You really think that you're better than us at this, hrm?"

"I know I was."

Eleven shook his head and walked up to me. "You know better, don't you?", he asked me. "You've come to realize it. You're just questioning it because of what the Daleks have done. That's alright. The Daleks have always pushed us like that. But you know better. You know this isn't the way to fight them. You won't accomplish anything with his methods."

That set Triumphant off. "Oh no?! I actually accomplished things!", Triumphant raged. "I saved worlds and put down terrible things by being proactive about them, not just stumbling into them like you lot!"

"That isn't the issue at hand," Eleven retorted. "The problem is that you're playing into the Daleks' hands by choosing to fight like that. You're giving up your biggest advantage. The thing that sets you, that sets us, apart from everyone else."

Triumphant rolled his eyes. "Oh, just what gobbledygook is this now?! Don't you listen to them," he insisted, glaring at me. "They're just a delusion. A... a fantasy! You and I know what it's like out here, the compromises that have to be made! You can't always shy away from them. The Daleks have made you realize that, haven't they? You can't always play the straight game, you've got to take control! You're a bloody Time Lord, act like one!"

We all looked at him. Ten shook his head in aggravation. "You are just unbelievably thick, aren't you?"

Triumphant glared at him. "Me? I'm the thick one?"

Ten nodded. "Oh yes. You're thick. Thick as thick can be. You're Thickie Thick, the Thickiest Thick that was ever Thick from Thicktown. You are thick."

"Is that what you call it? Your record with the Daleks, how well was that again? How many people died? How many times did you only win through sheer dumb luck?" Triumphant pointed at them and looked to me. "Are you really going to listen to these clowns? Do you think you'll always get so lucky? What, do you think things will turn out like they normally would in this silly cosmos, with those silly Power Rangers and their silly poses always winning the day in the end by determination or whatever? You're fighting Daleks here, mate, Daleks. This isn't the kiddy league, so you need to put away those kiddy ideas! Make the hard choice, it's the only one you've got, the only one we've got!"

Triumphant's face was starting to turn purple from pent-up anger. The rest of us just stared at him for the moment. And all the while, the words he spoke set wheels turning in my head. "What?!", he demanded.

"Oh my, he really is thick," Eleven sighed. "He doesn't get it at all, does he?"

"Would you stop saying that?!", Triumphant raged. "There's nothing to get! Just the ramblings of a couple of self-righteous dolts unwilling to get their hands dirty!"

I shook my head. I knew what they meant. "It's not about luck," I said to him. "Not dumb luck. It's about making my own."

"Excuse me?"

I laughed gently. "If you're smart enough, you make your own luck. You arrange things so the odds are in your favor, as much as they can be. That's what this is all about, isn't it? It's what it means to be us, to be the Doctor."

"Well, looks like he's gotten it, doesn't he?", Ten asked Eleven.

"Oh, I think so," Eleven agreed, a boyish grin on his face. "He's clever when he puts his mind to it."

Triumphant looked at them like they were madmen. "Gotten what?"

"What our purpose is," I answered. I kept my tone soft as I spoke. This wasn't something to be declared aggressively or loudly. "Being the Doctor, I mean. Sure, we do our share of running, ducking through fights, that sort of thing. All of that action-adventure stuff. But being the Doctor's not about fighting. Not directly. Our biggest weapon is up here." I tapped my temple. "Time Lord brain. Marvelous thing, isn't it? That's always been my best tool when going up against the gribblies and nasties of Creation. And it's this that makes the Doctor.... makes us.... who we are. It's what makes the Doctor the greatest threat the Daleks have ever known."

"You're talking nonsense!"

I didn't pay attention to him. I now realized what I had missed. My purpose here. My place in any situation like this. It wasn't to run off into battle. Sure, those things could be necessary. But that's not what I was needed for.

After all, I wasn't a Power Ranger. Nor was I an elementbender or a biotic or a Jedi. I'm the Doctor. I had my own role to play.

"I can't beat the Daleks at their own game," I said to him. "So you're not welcome. All you were ever good for was picking on civilizations that couldn't stop you. The Daleks require something more."

"You're being an idiot...!" Triumphant's enraged expression turned to worry.

"I know what I need to do now." I looked to Ten and Eleven. "I'm... not entirely sure what parts of my psyche you two come from, but it was a pleasure to have you two talk some sense into me."

"Oh, would you look at that," Ten said to Eleven, sotto voce. "He thinks we're just parts of his mind."

"Well, maybe we are," Eleven conceded in sotto voce, "but where's the fun in conceding something like that?"

Then they were gone.


Triumphant and I turned to see the Fourth Doctor step up. "I would have come in, but I thought they were handling the discussion quite well." After I'd taken mine, he held up the bag to Triumphant. "I don't think I like the look on this one. Still, I'm not one to be stingy..." He offered up the bag.

Triumphant growled in rage and knocked the bag from Four's hand. "Don't patronize me!"

"Oh, that's rather rude," Four sniffed.

"Why don't you go on, Triumphant," I said. "This conversation is over."

"If you think you can get rid of me, you're mistaken!", he shouted. "I'm in here too! I'm a part of you!"

"Good," I shot back. I stepped up to him and met him eye to eye. He had my face, of course. Twisted, too. Madness and fury and arrogance bordering on megalomania. I didn't like looking at those things in my face. "I want to know you're still a part of me because knowing you're in here, waiting to get out, that'll keep me on my toes! You already cost me enough once, Triumphant, and you caused hurt to people I care about. You started things that others had to clean up, and it hurt people doing it! Nerys, Janet Peratrovich, Korra, all of the other people harmed because of what you did, or the results of what you did, I can't allow that to happen again! Because when it comes down to it you're just a big dumb beast and I've got to keep you locked up so you don't hurt anyone. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a universe to save, so bugger off."

One of the benefits to being in one's own mind is that, when you become fully cognizant of that, you can start to shape it a bit. I did just that, using my mind to expel Triumphant as he glared anger at us. He wavered from sight.

"Well, that was rather interesting, wasn't it?" Four picked up his bag and scooped some spilled jellybabies back in. He looked back to me and smiled. "Good thinking, Doctor. I think you know what to do." He offered me another.

I accepted it and started chewing on it. I was finished with it rather quickly. "I do believe I have a good idea on it, yes." I smirked. "Sourpuss gave me the idea, actually." I clapped my hands. "Now I just need to wake up. But first..." I held out my hand and a little dark baggie materialized. "I really recommend the classic M&Ms..."

I awoke and immediately realized I was soaking wet. I sloshed as I came to an upright position in what turned out to be the TARDIS pool. Katara was standing beside me and seemed slightly startled. "Wait, are you okay?"

My body reported the pain a moment later. It wasn't nearly as bad as I figure it'd be. Triumphant's body armor had taken the brunt of the Dalek shot. I looked around and saw I was the only one represent. The dream was still vivid in my mind, and with it my idea, but I was able to force myself to think about something else. "Maya...?! How is...?"

"Alive," Katara confirmed for me. She looked utterly exhausted. "They have her in the infirmary with the others. Doctor Oliver wants to speak with you."

"Oh, and I want to speak with him, and Billy, and all of those scientists they have," I proclaimed.

"You should hurry." Katara's face fell. "They say the Dalek fleet is getting reinforcements. We don't have much time before they..."

"Don't worry, my dear, we have all the time in the world!"

That caused Katara to blink. "You seem... different than I thought you'd be. You were so upset earlier..."

"Had an epiphany. Liara will confirm how crazy I get when the brain is firing like it is." I tapped my skull. Looking down I saw only pasty skin above the waist. Obviously from Katara's effort to get to my wound. "Is she here?"

"She's resting in her room."

"Do let her know I'm fine," I said. "And tell the others I'll be with them shortly." I clambered out of the pool and reached for the towel rack. I ran it over my shoulders to begin drying off. "I've got to go change!"

I heard Katara ask why, but I was already running out the door. So all I shouted back was a "You'll see!"

Everyone was staring when I made my energetic walk into the rebuilt Command Center's main conference room. It was probably the energy I was showing. I'd just been shot, after all.

The fact I was back in my proper suit and not that combat suit was pretty mystifying to them too.

"Hey everyone. I hear Maya and Leo are going to be okay," I said. "Now..."

"Doctor, wait a moment." Jen looked at me like I was mad. "Why are you... back in the suit? Shouldn't you be using your armor?"

I made a disapproving face briefly. "Oi, not that. That wasn't me. I was being stupid, playing Cowboys and Rangers. Fighting is your forte, not mine. Trying that was just playing into the Daleks' hands."

Tommy crossed his arms. "Doctor, what are you saying?"

"What I'm saying, Tommy Oliver, is that I am not a Power Ranger or anything of that sort. I'm the Doctor. And my best weapon will always be..." I tapped my temple several times. "And this is what I have to use so we can stop the Daleks."

"If we can," Adam sighed. "The Zeo Zords are down."

"And the Megaship is badly damaged." Andros shook his head. "It'll take days to repair. We definitely can't fly to the moon now."

"And more Dalek ships are arriving every minute," Cole added. "There's no way we can fight them all."

I grinned. "Well, no, not all of them. At least not in... normal circumstances. But, that's the beauty of it. We don't have to fight them all." I turned to Billy. "You were right, Billy Cranston. About what strategy we needed. I should have been more open-minded toward you."

Billy shook his head, his sad little smile showing understanding. Seeing his hometown trashed had not been easy. "It's alright. I understand. And I've been analyzing the Dalek defenses. It looks like they're mostly positioned here..." At a press of a button he brought up a top-down view of the former Machine Empire facility. Large numbers of Daleks were visible on all sides of it. "Along the north and eastern sides. The others have rugged terrain that would make it harder to get in."

"So we'll need an army to take that place," stated one of the Wild Force members. Max, I believe.

"Oh, i think I can arrange that," I said. "But the important part is getting there. And then getting back to their central control room."

"Why?", asked Cole.

"To take control of their transmat device," I answered. "And then turn it against them. Instead of bringing more Daleks here, we'll send the ones that are here back through the Crack."

Tommy nodded at that. "I like that plan. Only problem's going to be getting through that army of Daleks."

"And getting to the moon in the first place," noted Ashley from the Space team.

"That's where the TARDIS comes in," I informed them.

Joel was the one who spoke up on that. "I thought you said earlier that the Daleks blocked you?"

"Oh, they did," I acknowledged. "But I did a little thinking. And I've found an obvious hole in their defenses."

"Yeah?" TJ's eyebrows went up. "Like?"

"Well, it has to do with how the TARDIS shifts across space-time," I said. "The Daleks can block my usual methods of that. But there are others." I felt my grin widen and my pulse quicken while my brain raced, running the calculations again and verifying them.

Billy's eyes widened. And I noticed the shock on Doctor K's face. They'd figured it out.

"Oh yes," I said to them. "The TARDIS can go anywhere, after all."

"Uh, Doc?" Adam smirked. "In English? For the rest of us?"

"The TARDIS normally shifts through the Time Vortex, but the Daleks can block me from coming through within their field," I explained. "And through most of the extradimensional approach vectors I could use. But there's one they don't know about. Or at least, the one they have no experience with, because it only exists here, in this cosmos."

I watched the realization come across their faces. Tommy's face split into a grin of realization.

"I know you lot made a lot of use of that 'It's morphing time' cry back in the day." My smile felt like it couldn't grow any more. "But might I suggest that in this current situation, we amend that to 'It's Morphing Grid Time!'?"

"You're actually going to shift your time ship through the Morphing Grid?!", Doctor Rawlings asked, clearly surprised at the very idea.

"Oh yes," I answered, enthusiasm dripping from my voice. "Oh yes indeed. And the Daleks will never see it coming."

The preparations were done quickly. Quickly enough that I was even able to get my backup sonic disruptor partly functioning, enough to generate protective fields at least. I found K's contribution to be especially useful in adjusting the TARDIS for what came next. "So you're sure this is going to work?", I heard one of the Rangers ask. I'm not sure which one. After a while they start to blend together, you know?

"Quite sure," I said while adjusting something under the control panels. I slipped out from it and looked to K. "Is that new line stable?"

"As stable as it'll ever be," she answered.

"Doctor Rawlings, the connection, is it..."

"...reading green! You're set!"

"Excellent." I clapped my hands together and looked to a large number of assembled Power Rangers standing about in the control room. Tommy, Carter, Cole, Billy, and Andros were nearest to me, on the outer edge of the circle around the TARDIS controls and along the stairs going up or down, and of course I had Liara and Katara with me right in the middle around the controls. K was beside me and Doctor Rawlings was below finishing a final connection. She was coming up the stairs as I stood. "Well, that does it. We're ready." I looked around the control room. "Are all of you?"

The assembled Rangers nodded.

"Well then. Ladies." I nodded to K and Rawlings. "You may depart if you wish, or..."

Before I could finish K shook her head. "I'm not missing this."

"It's going to be dangerous, K," Tommy pointed out.

"And if this doesn't work, the Daleks will hunt us down anyway," Rawlings insisted. She looked to where her husband was standing with his team, near the port leading out to my library. He gave her a supporting nod.

I smiled. "Well, I think this will be for the best anyway. Another pair of hands and all." I walked over to the controls. "Well, everyone, get ready for..."

I was interrupted by a knock at the TARDIS door. I sighed but didn't lose my smile. "Come on in, then," I called out, snapping my fingers as I did so.

A lone figure stepped into the TARDIS as the door opened. He was dressed mostly in casual wear, although it showed some wear and tear. Presumably from being a refugee. That appeared even more likely given the healed cut on his face, creating a bit of crimson on his otherwise dark skin. But despite all of that, he had a grin on his face.

Much like the ones that grew on the faces of Billy and Tommy. "Zack!"

Zachary Taylor walked in and gladly accepted handshakes from his former teammates. "Hey guys. It's been a while."

"Yes it has." Tommy bumped fists with him. "You've got some strange timing."

"Better late than never," Billy said.

"Yeah. I had to make sure my wife and kids were alright."

"Woh, you.... really?"

"Yeah. They're with the others. And I made sure to give Jason, Trini, and Kim a quick visit." Zack nodded. "But the world needs saving, right? And you'll need everyone you can get."

I stood, patiently, with my hand on the TARDIS lever, watching the scene play out. Tommy gave a look to Adam, who nodded in understanding and reached into his back pocket. He pulled out a familiar looking device and tossed it to Zack, who caught it easily. "Once a Power Ranger, always a Ranger, right?", he asked rhetorically after looking it over.

"Always," Tommy agreed.

"Good to have you along, Mister Taylor," I said. I snapped my fingers and closed the TARDIS door. "Now everyone, I suggest you hold on. I'm still not entirely sure how bumpy this ride will be."

I gave everyone a few seconds to find a handhold before I pulled the TARDIS lever.

The TARDIS VWORPed like usual at first. But the tenor of it changed perceptibly as she shifted into the subspatial domain of the Morphing Grid. The TARDIS shuddered and then began to shake around a bit. I held on as it did. "Energetic turbulence," I said. "But we're fine, we're good! Just have to ride it out while we transition to the right point to shift to the moon."

Dr. K was the first to speak. "We're in the Morphing Grid," she whispered. "We're actually in the Morphing Grid."

"Doctor, the power output is increasing exponentially," Liara reported from another console. "Are you sure this won't overload."

"Quite sure. We're going to need that power in a few minutes, in fact." I pulled another knob and felt the TARDIS right itself. "Everyone okay with the ride? Nobody hurt?" I was answered by a near cacophony of affirmations. "Good. Because here we go!"

I threw another switch, twisted a couple of knobs, and pulled the lever again. The TARDIS' shudders became more of a vibration. A couple of button presses confirmed the linkage I needed was established.

The energy was... immense. Not in the way that the Time Vortex was either. This was more like a vibrant pool, no strong currents but ever-shifting flows and eddies of pure energy. I'd only seen the energy pattern once before; my scans of the power rings of the Green Lanterns and a few of the other types. Which made a bit of sense, really. Didn't it?

Actually, not just that. The more I looked at it, the more it was clear that the energy was also rather similar to the Spiral energy I'd seen in the cosmos of Kamina CIty. Frankly just as fitting.

"Drink your fill, girl," I said. "I need that connection."

"Power is approaching critical," Liara pointed out.

"Good. We'll need the power when we get there. Which will come just... about... now."

There was a deep rumble through the TARDIS as we completed the shift. I took a moment to confirm our location before going up to the door, sonic disruptor in hand. I stepped out of it with Liara and Katara behind me and the other Rangers filing in behind them, spreading out.

Across the sandy field of this cosmos' frankly bizarre counterpart to Earth's Moon was the outside of the former Machine Empire facility. And between us and it were the Daleks.

A lot of Daleks. Normal ones, red ones, some of the blue and orange ones. Daleks levitating in mid-air. Quite the assortment.

One levitating platform hovered above them all, bearing the white-plated Supreme Dalek and his immediate council. "Time Lord," it stated. "We know you have lied to us. You are not the Doctor."

I laughed. "I'm not that Doctor, true. But it's still my name. And his code is my code."

"We predicted you would penetrate the field. We have been ready. This gesture is meaningless. You cannot resist the Daleks. You will all be exterminated."

"I don't think so!", Zack shouted back. He pulled his arms back and made that usual motion they always make with those morphing devices. After identifying the Mastadon by name energy surged around him and he was in the old black suit.

"You heard the man, Rangers!" Tommy drew his out and began the process.

And to my surprise, so did Billy. I turned just in time to see him back in those old blue duds.

Surprisingly - well, unless you were me - there wasn't any eruption of energy from them morphing together. All of that energy got shunted elsewhere. The final tipping point, you might say.

The Daleks were clearly not impressed. "We are not intimidated by this display. We are superior in every way. Your extermination is inevitable."

"The odds don't matter, we'll still fight!", Tommy declared. "For Earth!"

"For every planet!", Jen added.

"And every living thing!", Cole thundered. "We'll stop you!"

"Now now, he has a point," I said, grinning. "These odds are pretty bad, even if the Daleks can't access the Grid like you can." I pulled out my sonic screwdriver. "Funny thing, the Morphing Grid. Do you know what I've found out about it? Quite a few things, but specifically, it's tied to sentient life. In fact, each and every Ranger here is tied to it, and always will be, even if they give their powers up. It's a part of them now. It permeates them. So, of course, that got me to thinking, and after I decided to use the Grid to move the TARDIS, I realized what that could mean."

"What Time Lord deceptions are you plotting now, false Doctor?"

"Oh, not a deception," I said. "A simple fact. The Grid bonds with any living being that makes use of its energy." I pointed the sonic screwdriver backward and used it on the TARDIS. "My TARDIS is alive. She's now bonded to it as well. And that means I can do this."

Light began erupting from within the TARDIS. The lights swiftly diverged as they spread out amongst us, appearing on the flanks of the Dalek army, amongst the Rangers themselves in a couple of cases. They formed columns of light as they hit the ground before they formed figures.

Suddenly Billy and Zack were joined by Jason, Trini, and Kim. Wes appeared alongside his team, as did a young man who looked just like him; Alex presumably. Maya and Leo alongside theirs.

And so many, many more formed new figures. Humans, human-looking aliens, that sort of thing. I even saw a woman with cat features standing beside a humanoid dog.

"Here they are, Daleks," I said. "Beings from across all of space-time who became linked to the Grid. Rangers of the past, present, and future, brought here by the TARDIS and its link to the Morphing Grid. And they're here to stop you."

And a host of battlecries erupted from them. "SPD Emergency!" "Dino Thunder Power Up!" That sort of thing.

The resulting eruption of energy rippled around us, throwing multi-colored explosions flying through the air. The blast-wave threw the flying Daleks to the ground. Only the platform with the Supreme Dalek managed to remain stable.

"All right Rangers!", shouted Tommy Oliver. "Let's go!"

"EXTERMINATE THEM!," the Supreme Dalek commanded. "EXTERMINATE!"

There was a roar and a rush as a literal army of Power Rangers ran down the ridgeline and attacked the Daleks through a hail of energy fire. I watched some draw energy blasters and let loose with them. Carter Grayson flipped into the air amidst the rush and fired downward into the Daleks, sending up sparks and flames from where his shots landed.

Others went to work with melee weapons. One group of Rangers seemed to be using swords exclusively, Japanese katanas, and they sliced cleanly through the Daleks given the sheer energy at play.

On the field the Zeo Rangers ended up near one of the other teams that had been warped in, one of the groups with dinosaur style designs on it. That proved interesting, given that the black-clad member of that group seemed to be aping Tommy's moves rather... oh. I remembered that one at that point.

Well. Huh. Time travel, people. It leads to fun stuff like this.

And there was more. Quite a bit more. For all that the teams were different, they all seemed to work together like they'd always been. Perhaps it was the common energy source they had furthering a bond. Or just experience. I saw Rangers with police designs on their uniforms come to the aid of the Space team; a group with dinosaur emblems joined up with Lightspeed Rescue, and the two then merged with a group of Rangers with flowing capes in blasting their way through a multitude of Daleks. And to make things more confusing, another pair of teams in what looked like the Zeo and Turbo uniforms met up with the Zeo team I knew of and barely exchanged glances before watching each other's backs.

Picking out individuals in the chaotic melee wasn't easy, but I managed it here and there. Trip and Damon combining attacks to eliminate a pair of Daleks coming down on the backs of one of the other teams. Jen jumping on top of one Dalek and flipping in mid-air, blasters blazing. Leo and Andros went through a trio of Daleks and, faced by several more, moved out of the way to allow Carter and Kelsey to blitz by and put the Daleks down while their weapons were pointed away. Cassie and TJ met in mid-air and the former was catapulted by the latter further up, enough to rain several pinpoint shots down. As soon as she landed, a blue-suited Ranger in what looked like the Turbo outfit - I think? - took out another Dalek that was coming toward her blind side.

I briefly remembered the blue one had been an adolescent when he joined that team. Granted, that was a few years before. He'd be a teen now, I believe.

See what I meant about the Grid being a part of them, even after they retired?

Bursts of wild energy came from one group, the ones with the capes, or rather cloaks. Gave them a bit of a wizardly appearance. They were being backed by... seriously? Rangers with a pirate skull and crossbone emblem? That's just bizarre. One of them even had a sword that looked like a cutlass. Oi. Either way, the Daleks were having trouble with them too.

I don't want you to think it was a one-sided massacre, though. The Daleks are tough little buggers. They were enraged and ready to destroy, and they fought back with the full power of that rage, screaming "Exterminate!" throughout the fight. I saw some of the Rangers take hits and be shielded by others, some not even from the same team, until they recovered enough to rejoin the fight. And even as they fought, the Supreme Dalek was screeching order.

There was a loud shout, something like "Ayyah!" or something, and I saw Tommy - both Tommys - jump up into the air and run melee weapons along the lower surface of the Dalek platform. "Why don't you come down here?!", one of them shouted.

"Tactical alert! The Supreme Dalek is threatened!," one of the Daleks on the platform shouted. "We must withdraw the Supreme Dalek immediately! All Daleks, attack! Exterminate the intruders! Exterminate the false Doctor!"

Yeah, they hadn't forgotten about me either.

Now you might be asking me what I was intending to do in this grand fracas. This cataclysmic fight for the future of their cosmos. The answer is.... nothing.

Because the entire fight was a distraction.

I ran back into the TARDIS with Katara and Liara. Rawlings and K were inside by the controls, which I quickly assumed. I looked up and saw Jason and his team were entering as well. "What, not interested in joining the others?", I said.

"We figured you were up to something." Jason thumped at his chest. "And whatever it is, we'll be there to protect you."

"Well, that's quite good." I pulled a knob. "How's the leg?" I looked to Kimberly. "And your back?"

"It feels like it always has," she admitted. "What did you do to us?"

"Well, to be honest I didn't think it'd link to you at this point of time. Probably an issue of least resistance from a temporal point of view. But rather, the sheer energy of the Morphing Grid, and its connection to life, regenerated your broken bones. For all of you." I nodded to Trini. "Granted, it might not last entirely after we're done. You may still need some physical therapy to recover. Right now, though, we have other concerns." I looked to the others. "Ready?"

"We're ready when you are," Liara confirmed.

"Right." I pulled back on the TARDIS lever. This time she was set to normal travel, since we weren't going very far. "Here we go. Time to get to work."

I shifted the TARDIS into the Dalek base.

Time to begin Phase 2.

This time I materialized the TARDIS right in the central control room where the transmat and the reactor were located. As I suspected, the Daleks had guards ready for us when the TARDIS door opened.

But we didn't step out.

You see, I had shifted the door to the library.

And so instead of us stepping out, the Daleks facing the door were slammed by a powerful deluge of water from my swimming pool and attached tanks, all guided by Katara. The Daleks cried out in confusion. "Target not identified! Target not..." And then they were swept away.

Jason and the others surged out behind the water and laid into the Daleks with their weapons while they were stunned. Liara turned and threw a biotic bolt that wrecked a Dalek near the entrance. Its companion turned to fire at her. Katara's waterbending formed an ice wall in front of Liara first and caught the initial shots. Liara used that extra few moments to throw another powerful biotic bolt that blasted the dome off the Dalek's head.

I was already at the controls for the transmat at this point. I began working on the Dalek security systems. "Oh, nasty encryption. Downright sadistic. This will take me a bit," I muttered.

While I worked the Rangers went after the arriving Dalek units. Zack proved to still be fighting fit, somersaulting into the air and bringing his axe crashing down on a Dalek. Sparks erupted as it cleaved through the Dalek armor. Jason came up behind him and deflected a blast from another Dalek with his sword. With that enemy facing him, it wasn't ready for Billy to come swooping in with his hand weapons, which sliced through the Dalek armor and caused the creature to explode in sparks with its death cry echoing.

From another door some Daleks were coming in, and immediately they were intercepted by the energy arrows coming from Kimberly's bow. Trini jumped in with her blades spinning about, slicing through the Daleks standing damaged from Kimberly's attacks.

"Another layer of security, oi," I sighed. I looked up to the TARDIS. "K, Rawlings, I could use the extra hands!"

The two scientists emerged and came up to me. "While I try to penetrate the security, can you start preparing the reactor for increased capacity?"

"We're on it," Rawlings pledged. They went over to its various controls and went to work.

The sounds of battle gradually ended behind us. "Woh, here comes some more!", I heard Zack cry out. I looked back to see the Supreme Dalek and Eternal Dalek enter from the upper floor.

"Blast 'em!", Jason shouted. They shifted their weapons into the energy blaster mode and opened up. An amber energy field popped into existence to absorb their shots. It was a rather powerful field to do so. Given the fact the Daleks weren't shooting back at all, it was likely a two-way isolation field. The Rangers couldn't shoot them, but they couldn't shoot us.

"Your resistance will now end," the Supreme Dalek declared. "Increase the transmat's power! Bring through the fleet!"

Given they already had quite a few saucers already, the ones still attacking Earth, hearing that they had an entire fleet still in the wings was rather concerting. I looked at the readings, saw that the Daleks were indeed transferring enough power to bring through such a fleet, and looked up in time to see Dalek war saucers start to materialize in abundance.

"These pitiful Power Rangers cannot fight our ships. They will all be exterminated!"

I smirked at him. "Well, for one thing, thank you very kindly for increasing power as I wanted. Secondly..." I held up the sonic screwdriver and triggered it at the TARDIS. "...I thought you might try something like this."

The TARDIS engine powered up again and, yet again, tapped into the energies of the Morphing Grid. Not to summon more Rangers, but to, well...

This time the lights erupting from the TARDIS were larger and more vibrant. They blasted right through the walls and sent debris flying outward as they left the building, expanding our view of the surrounding area in the process. Because of this we got to see the lights coalesce.

Coalesce, of course, into Megazords.

All of them.

The Ranger teams were quick to take to their respective machines. Save, of course, the original Mighty Morphing team since they were sort of watching my back and all. Over the external speakers shouts came from the cockpits, identifying which was which and that they were ready.

The Dalek ships opened fire, as did the Megazords with ranged weapons, while others took to jumping or flying up to start stabbing or slicing or hitting the Dalek ships. The battle was almost insane in its chaotic mess, but had that kind of adrenaline pumping effect you might get from seeing giant bloody robots fighting evil flying saucers. Don't ask me to say which was which. I thought I recognized the Lightspeed Aerial Megazord in the mess, but that was it.

Oh, wait, there's the Astral one too, blowing up one of the saucers. And Animus and the Wild Force Megazord working on another. Okay, I did recognize them. Another one, made up of dinosaur parts as well, bashed through the protective screens of one of the Dalek saucers and started tearing interior hull away until renewed attack forced them to back off.

Either way, the Supreme Dalek's reaction was immediate. "This is not possible! Explain! EXPLAIN!"

"Nothing's impossible for the Power Rangers!", Jason shouted back.

I nodded and smirked. "It's that sort of cosmos, all right." I clucked my tongue. "You lot really should have picked another place to invade."

"Doctor, we're almost ready!", K told me. "We're finalizing checks now!"

"Good," I called back. I looked to where Katara and Liara finished off another straggling Dalek coming from the side entrance. "Everything all right?"

"Everything... is fine," Liara panted. "So long as... we get a... vacation."

"Oi, another vacation?" I made a face. "So soon?"

That won me a heated glare.

I turned away from it and finished peeling away another layer of security from the Dalek systems. Just one more to go. "Almost done," I said. "Then all we have to do is send them back through!"

"Foolish Time Lord," the Eternal Dalek proclaimed. "You do not know the futility of what you are doing."

I looked up at him with skepticism.

"The breaks between dimensions cannot be destroyed by you. They cannot be permanently sealed by you."

"So you lot think, eh?"

"You remain unaware of the origins of these tears. You are an inferior working to a purpose you cannot comprehend."

"Oh yeah?" I shook my head. "Nice psychoanalyzing of my motivations. I'm afraid it's entirely superficial. You're not very good at this."

The sounds of battle were picking up around us. More Daleks were arriving by the score. Everyone was wrapped up in fighting. Billy and Trini were nearest to me, hacking and slashing at Daleks coming from that direction. Liara threw a biotic bolt against a Dalek coming at Kimberly's side and Katara, still using the water we'd pulled out of the TARDIS, wrapped a wave around to knock over Daleks approaching Jason and Zack's backs.

"You cannot stop what is coming."

"Oh yeah?" I laughed. "What is coming?"

The Supreme Dalek's eyestalk faced me directly.


I looked down. I'd broken through the last gap of security. I was ready to start. But hearing that.... I looked back to him. "Destruction? What do you mean? Destruction of what?"

"Destruction of everything."

"Doctor..?!" Rawlings was looking at me. "Everything's ready! It's up to you!"

I didn't act, though. I was too busy talking to the Daleks. If any of the species I'd seen come through so far could know what the Cracks were coming from, they would be the ones. Not that I could entirely trust what they said, but how they said it might give me some insight. I couldn't pass that up.

Plus they were still rather infuriating.

So I shouted, "Yeah? Who? You lot?! Who's going to cause this destruction?! Is it the Cracks? Do you know who is behind the Cracks?!"

"We have determined the one responsible for the tear in dimensions," the orange scientist Dalek confirmed.

There was a grunt from outside of my vision. "Hey Doc!" Jason's voice sounded pained. "Any time!"

"Who?!," I demanded.

I never expected the reply.


I blinked. "What?"

"Doctor!", I heard K call out. "What are you waiting for!"

"You are the cause of the breaks," the Supreme Dalek answered. "That is our determination. The Universes will be destroyed because of you."

I stared at them. I didn't believe what I was hearing. "You're lying," I charged.

"Daleks do not lie. We exterminate."

"You're lying!", I screamed. "It's not me! This is just a trick, you're...!"

I never saw the blow coming. An open hand struck my left cheek with enough force to make my head turn. I turned back and looked into Liara's intense blue eyes. "Snap out of it!," she demanded.

I sucked in a breath. I glanced upward. Even more Dalek ships were arriving. Several of the Megazords were sparking and struggling. They were being overwhelmed.

Things weren't any better in this room. Katara was desperately forming ice walls to protect the fallen Jason, Trini and Billy were being overwhelmed, and Kimberly was covering Zack as he recovered.

I forced my disbelief and anger out of my mind and worked the controls again. "It doesn't matter," I said as I finished the initial transmat commands. "Lies or not... I'll stop it. It's what I do. Now bugger off and don't come back!" I hit the activation key.

Daleks began to disappear as the transmat gripped them and threw them back through the Crack.

"You are the Destroyer," the Supreme Dalek insisted. "You are responsible for the tears in the dimensions. You will bring about the collapse of our Universe, of all universes.. You are the one! You! You! Yo-!" He disappeared, courtesy of the transmat.

I ignored those words as I went to work on the ships next. One by one I sent them back as well. As they disappeared from the sky celebrations broke out around me, courtesy of the Rangers. Overhead more Rangers stood on their Zords and cheered wildly.

Using the scanners I tracked every Dalek power source straight to the Earth and, with a press of a button, whisked it away.

Within a couple of minutes, they were all gone.

The Dalek invasion had ended.

As those around me cheered, I stared forward to where the Supreme Dalek had been standing.

The Daleks... thought jI was responsible for the tears? How would that work? Why?

"You did it!," I heard someone shout. I turned and was given a powerful hug by Kimberly. The other Rangers came up and took turns patting me on the back. I gave them a smile in return. But I couldn't focus on it. Not after what that Dalek had said.

Was it just a lie? Something said to anger me? A delaying tactic to keep me from finalizing my plan?

It had to be?



With the battle won, the army of Power Rangers quickly dispersed. Their purpose here was over. And for those from the past, remaining here would be a questionable thing anyway.

With them and their Zords gone, all that was left was to give everyone a ride back to Earth. Some of the Rangers had been wounded in the fighting and needed assistance. Furthermore, with the fight over and the power from the Grid subsiding, those like Leo and Kimberly - who had taken injuries - found themselves needing help as their bodies reverted at least partially. The Grid had healed them some of the way at least - Kimberly's back was no longer broken, for instance - but as I had suspected, not all of the healing stuck past the battle. Once they demorphed the injuries returned in some fashion.

And speaking of injuries...

I grimaced as Katara peeled off the bandage she'd set over my right wrist. The skin underneath was... not a pretty sight. That infernal wrist device had inflicted second degree burns on my epidermis. Katara held a hand up and moved water to encircle the wound. It started to glow as she applied healing energy to it. "It's been a long time since I had to treat burns this bad," she admitted.

"Yes, well, it's been a long time since I was burned this badly," I answered. "If at all." I lowered my eyes as I was deep in thought. The Daleks' words haunted me. Probably more than they should have.

"You don't think they were lying, do you?", Katara asked.

I drew in a pained sigh. "Oh, I don't know. Truth be told, I've been haunted by that thought for years. Ever since I saw the first Crack. The idea that it could be me after all..."

"I don't know anything about these time travel and dimensional problems you talk about. But I do think it would be a mistake to let it get to you. You help so many people, and there are many more you can help."

I nodded. "I know." I felt a tinge of pain in my wrist. "Well, at least the nerves are intact, eh?"

"It's going to take a while to heal it fully," Katara said. "Unless you want to use the technology you've talked about."

I smirked. "I don't know. Perhaps having a burn scar there will be an illuminating lesson, yes?" I laid my head back in the recliner. My wounds and bruises were starting to sap at my constitution a bit. Liara's insistence upon a vacation was sounding more and more inviting.

There was movement at the entrance and I looked over to it. Liara and Billy were standing there. "We've found that spatial tear you talked about," Billy said. "It's about a mile under the lunar surface."

"Oh, of course. Makes sense, doesn't it?" I sighed. "Which means we have to dig it out before we can close it. And that's a pain."

"With the transmat shut down, nothing else can come through," Billy pointed out. "Maybe we should leave it alone."

I shook my head. "Then it'll just send energy into the environment around it. You probably don't want that. All sorts of nasties in this cosmos could possibly tap that power. It's better if we close it." I rubbed at my forehead. And then I smiled. "Ah yes, of course."


Liara smiled. She knew that look on my face. "You've got a plan to dig the Crack out?"

"Not so much dig as... well... that transmat's not dismantled yet, and the power source is still there. It'll make for an excellent drill, wouldn't you say?"

Billy blinked. And then he grinned as he crunched the numbers in his head. "Yeah, I think it will."

"I think K and Rawlings can handle it." I yawned. "Let them know where it is and say I need a tunnel down there. It shouldn't take long."

"And what are you going to be doing?", Liara asked, arms crossed.

I answered by yawning. "Probably getting some sleep," I admitted. "I am rather exhausted."

Liara laughed at me. But it was a good laugh.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-05-29 03:51pm

I won't bore you with the monotony of sealing away the Crack. Nor the dismantling of the transmat afterward as a further precaution (after all, they already had their own transporter technology).

After everyone was back on Earth, things shifted into cleanup mode. The Rangers employed their Zords to help with the rubble. We all helped where we could and I made some trips to Layom Station for medical supplies and the like.

The Daleks' words still haunted me of course. How could they not? But Katara had been right about how I was needed. Until I knew more, until I could figure out what was going on, I couldn't just stop. That wouldn't be productive at all, would it?

A week passed. Across the world, memorial services were held for all of the victims of the Dalek invasion. The Rangers chose to hold their service in Mariner Bay in the park, the very same park where the TARDIS had first arrived when this happened. A crowd of Power Rangers and their allies and loved ones gathered to join the Mayor, the Governor, and other dignitaries in honoring the loss of Captain Mitchell and others of the Rangers and Lightspeed Rescue organizations.

My Companions and I were given seats of honor at the front. We sat and quietly listened to the speakers. Tommy Oliver proved the most poignant, I thought. "We've lost a lot of good people," he said. "And we're going to miss them. But we've got to press on. We're not going to let their deaths turn us away from what has to be done to protect the Earth and all of the other worlds out there from the Forces of Evil. I promise you, Earth will always have the Power Rangers to protect it. It's the least we can do for Captain Mitchell."

Afterwards Dana and Ryan Mitchell were called upon to break ground for the memorial that was going to be built for their father. One by one, each of the Rangers present, regardless of their team affiliation, pushed a shovel into the soil and contributed to the foundation. After doing his part, Tommy Oliver walked up to me and extended a shovel. "Your turn, Doctor."

I considered the shovel for a moment. "Well... I'm... I'm honored, but I'm not a..."

"You might not be a Power Ranger in body, but you're one of us in spirit," Tommy insisted. He looked to Liara and Katara. "All of you."

At that I could do naught but nod and accept the proffered honor. We all pushed our shovels in and took out a load of dirt.

The cleanup in Silver Hills was still ongoing, and one of the first structures rebuilt was the Clock Tower. Katara, Liara, and I stood in front of it with the Time Force team beside us. Jen was talking through their chrono-communicator systems and smiled at what she heard on the other end. "The timeline distortion is over," she announced. "The future's safe again."

"Good to know," I said cheerily. "So, I guess you lot are going home. Want a lift?"

"I think that'll be alright, Doctor, they're sending a chronoship for us," Jen said. She looked to Wes and I saw her features cloud a bit. "I guess this is goodbye again?"

"Yeah," Wes sighed.

Eric exchanged an exasperated look with Jen's other teammates. I rolled my eyes and cried out, "Oh, for Pete's sake, would you two just get off it?" They looked at me like I was mad. "If you two want privacy, go inside, but seriously... just kiss each other and be done with it."

Their cheeks turned a little pink. My remark did draw supporting nods from the other Time Force Rangers. "It... okay, this is silly," Jen complained. "We can't be together. It just... it wouldn't work?"

I rubbed my forehead. "Oi. You Humans are such a bloody pain sometimes..."

"I mean, I'm from the future and.... and..." Jen looked at Wes and finally sighed. "Oh, whatever." And she promptly kissed him. Rather passionately too. And much to the enjoyment of her comrades.

When they were done, Katara took a step forward. "Why don't you just stay with him?", she asked.

Wes and Jen looked at each other and then at Katara. "Wait, what?"

"Stay with him." Katara smiled sadly. "You mean so much to each other. Whatever sacrifices you have to make for it, isn't it worth it?"

"Yes, but I can't... Time Force regulations... I mean..."

"I can always scramble their systems if it helps?", I suggested whimsically.

"But I know things, I can't have that knowledge overheard in the past!", Jen protested.

"So don't." Liara also stepped up to her. "If he means that much to you, secrets about the future aren't a big thing. It's worth it."

"Yes, but...."

"I think the Doc and his friends have a point, Jen," Trip said. "You weren't really happy back uptime. And it's not so bad in the early 21st Century. Why not?"

"Besides, we already know Wes needs to have descendants, right?", Katie suggested.

Jen pursed her lips and looked to Wes. He smiled brightly at her. "I'd love to have you stay," he said.

"I... I..." Jen sighed a lament and started pulling off her Time Force gear. Save her morpher of course. "Okay, you three can take this back to our time and explain things to Alex. Don't be surprised if he gets upset."

"If he does, tell him to talk to me about it," I suggested, laughing.

Soon enough it was time for us to leave. I was at the old Command Center to give some final data to Rawlings and K. "This should help you monitor for the Crack re-opening," I told them. I also handed them a beacon. "Wes has one, but this way you don't need to bug him for it if you need me."

"Thank you very much," Rawlings said. She looked at her watch. "Oops! I've got to go! Our plane leaves in a couple of hours!"

"Plane?", K asked.

"Yeah!" She was already heading to the door. "Joel and I are going on a vacation!..." Her voice faded as she went through the door and down the adjacent halls.

K looked back at me with the remote in hand. "Hopefully we won't need you."

"Yes. But I don't like leaving these things to fate, y'know?"

K nodded in agreement. She put the beacon in her lab coat. "Are you leaving?", she asked.

"Well, yeah. Liara wants another vacation. I'll be spending the next few weeks poolside, I fear."

"You've earned it."

"Right." I noticed the look on her face. "What is it?"

K was trying to hide concern. And she was failing. "Doctor, I.... okay, this is..." She sighed. "Before the Crack was sealed, I had some sensors set up to scan it. For scientific purposes."

"Alright, can't blame you on that." Truth be told, I tried to get what scans I could, but it's hard when you know the Daleks are on the other end and trying to find a way to get through. "Did you find something?"

"I didn't think so," she said. "But then i did some checking and found, well..." She hit a few buttons. On one screen a sound analyzer popped up. "I cleaned it up as well as I could."

A voice began to speak. It was obviously a woman, with maybe an English accent, but the sound was so garbled I couldn't make out the voice enough to guess if I'd heard it before. At least not beyond some vague familiarity.

After a few bursts that made the voice almost unintelligible, K's best work finally made the voice understandable, if still garbled beyond recognition. "...need help! Please! I need your help!"

My eyebrows went up. "That's interest...."

Before I could finish the sentence, the speaker resumed. And this time I felt my gut twist.

"Please! He's dying! The Doctor is dying! I need your help!"

K looked back to me with worry written plainly on her face. I know mine betrayed all of the emotions I was feeling. Surprise, confusion, and quite a bit of fear. "Did you... determine anything about that transmission?", I asked.

It repeated again as I asked. The line was painfully clear. "The Doctor is dying!"

"I'm not sure where it came from," K answered. "Or if we could have even answered it."

I drew in a breath and rubbed at my forehead.

"Does this mean..." K swallowed. "...does this mean you're going to die?"

"Not necessarily," I sighed. "Help could come."

Of course, for me, the question wasn't just whether I'd die. It was "Which Doctor is dying?"

I suddenly had the sick feeling that the Doctor was on the other end of the Cracks, dying from whatever. And that I wouldn't find out what was going on in time to save him.

"I'll keep listening for it," K promised. "Since you said the Crack still exists in the higher dimensions."

"Thank you, K," i sighed. "I most appreciate it."

All of the sudden, I needed another lie down.

I returned to the TARDIS to find Liara and Katara waiting for me. Liara was in a swimsuit and had talked Katara into one as well, a fairly modest one-piece of blue and teal color. "So. Djilami 2, the Verdant Shores?", Liara asked.

"Really?", I said. "Is that where you think we should go?"

"It's not too hot, still very warm, and the water is refreshing," Liara insisted. "So yes, I think it's the best spot for our vacation."

"Well." I sighed and nodded. "The Verdant Shores it is."

As I began inputting the coordinates, Katara gave me a worried look. "Are you alright?", she asked. "You look worried."

I looked back up at her. Liara also seemed concerned. "I'm just... preoccupied," I said. And it was quite true. "Just... this whole situation has me rattled, I suppose."

"All the more reason to take a break," Liara said. She smiled. "I know how restless you are. But even Time Lords need to get away from it all."

"Yeah." I nodded and finished inputting coordinates. "You might be right. Well, everyone ready?"

"Oh yes," Liara said. "Very ready."

"Right then. Off we go. Tally ho!" I pulled back the lever.

And as I did, I couldn't help but think about it again.

The Daleks said I was the one causing the Cracks. That I would destroy everything.

And now... now I've learned that the Doctor might be dying.

And I still had no bloody clue about what was going on.

But I couldn't stop. Long ago, Rashid the Gatekeeper - a swell chap from the cosmos of Harry Dresden - had told me that I would find what I was looking for if I kept traveling. And Death - yes, Death, that fellow from Discworld who TALKS LIKE THIS - had said I was still needed.

My choice was clear.

I had to keep going.

And so I would.

....after a refreshing vacation, of course.

”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-05-30 12:11pm

Interlude Special - Time Lords Don't Sleep
Co-Written with TimothyC

Dreams are odd little things. Even Time Lords have them. They're part and parcel of sentient beings sleeping - or not sleeping, as the Dreamers of Kla'ti'mari'tima show, very special people, those Dreamers - and usually involve some mix of memory and subconscious impulses and conscious thoughts.

It wasn't often I found myself in a dinky little office like this, though. I saw a gentleman scratching a pencil across some paper, looking like he was standing in for Sigmund Freud.

He glanced up over the top of his glasses at me, and simply said "Just a moment, I need to get this finished directly," before going back to write a last few lines. "Sorry about that. Paperwork must be filed you know. So, Junior, how are you doing?"

I raised my eyebrows. "Rather interesting question to ask. So many answers that would fit too. Questions as well."

He leaned back, stretching his arms above his head as he rolled his eyes. "Oh come on, you've just fixed yet another problem relating to a Crack. That has to take something out of you. I'd imagine that's why you're sleeping. but nice evasion Junior."

"Well, I can't go and just say things up front. That would defy the mystique." I looked around the room some more. In addition to books, there were a large number of trinkets scattered about on mounts. A bi-lobed white gun. A collection of rings in various colors, a large bracelet with a shimmering swirling multi-colored crystal. "Well, a rather interesting dream we have here."

"Yeah, dream, let's go with that." He shrugged his shoulders slightly as a smirk passed over his face momentarily. "I'd think that your mystique might be less effective on someone already in your own head. Don't you agree?"

"Perhaps, but it's always best to stay in practice, yes?"

"Not a bad point. Now, let us get down to business. The Cracks. So many, spreading so far. Any clue as to what might happen if they keep spreading?"

I crossed my arms. I didn't particularly feel like following this conversation. Especially given what the Daleks had said before I sent them back to their home cosmos. "Well, you're in my head. You tell me."

"Junior, being in your head doesn't mean I know everything in there. That said, yes, I am talking about the big stuff. Universes freezing, creations burning, all that jazz. There are those that are ... concerned if this happens. There are those that are concerned by who is causing the cracks in the first place."

"I'd think so. Especially the people living there." I paced around the room for a moment. "The Daleks think it's me."

Amusement leaked into his voice “Well no shit Sherlock – of course they do. How many” His thought was punctuated by a long pause as he carefully chose his next word "players, Yes. How Many players in This Great Game” his hand made an odd circular gesticulation emphasizing his words “can force open the skins of the universes. Especially when they pass through one and find you there.”

I regarded him skeptically. "You think the Daleks believe it's me because I was already on the other side of the Crack?"

“Dalek Science is advanced, but limited. So is their experience in dealing with concerns or worse from outside of their home multiverse. So...” He gestured again. "...what do you think the consequences could be? For the Cracks?"

"Lots of possibilities. The worse would be the complete collapse of the trans-dimensional barrier, of all space-time. Dimensional breaches could still become bad even if that doesn't happen."

He glanced down at some of the papers on the desk as he moved his hands to stack them, before returning to stare at me. "Just a hint, the entire barrier won't fall. Daleks really got that wrong, although I suppose that is mostly their lack of imagination talking. If they can’t do it, they think that no one can. There are enough forces out there to keep some of the universes intact. The Presence, Petey and the Gavs, The Children of Dune, the Grandchildren of the Lens. Maybe one of the Caves - maybe. Lots of Children on that list proportionally."

"Your point is?"

"The point is, why are the Cracks spreading? That's your first clue Junior. And 'Junior', that's your second clue. Yes, to a different mystery, but an important one none the less."

I considered him for a moment. Oi, why did my dream voice have to be this cryptic? Okay, yes, a bit hypocritical of me, but that's how I was feeling about it.

After a long uncomfortable silence, he continued. "Ok, you got me. You know the Cracks are obviously spreading. You know how to close them, but closing them only works if you know where they are. Maybe instead of looking for them, you should look to see where they are coming from?"

"I'm quite aware of that," I answered irritably. "But all of my efforts to scan them has failed so far. The only thing I know for sure is that they link to the cosmos of Gallifrey."

"Now who would want to do that?"

A knock came from the door behind me. "Just a moment," my host called out, looking like he was peering past me. His eyes returned to me. “Now, you wake up Junior.” As he stood up the room began to fade. I heard the door behind me start to open.

But I woke up before I could see who was there.

I woke up in my hammock on the TARDIS and blinked at the ceiling. The dream remained quite fresh in my mind. It represented all of my unanswered questions. Questions I knew I needed to answer if I were to get to the bottom of this.

Questions I would, indeed, eventually answer, and they would be quite terrifying in what they held.

Into the office came a tall, professionally dressed woman. Long brown hair framed her bespectacled face, a face that bore the marks of far too much worry.

“Do you think he’s going to make it?”

“He was picked for a reason. That reason is still there.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“No, I didn’t.” After a long sigh, the host in the office continued, “It was a close run thing there for a bit, but I think, yeah, he’s going to make it.”

(Note: TimothyC wrote the last bit entirely and the dialogue and mannerisms for the figure in the dream.)
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-05-30 12:12pm

Episode 32 - The Deadly Garden

The vacation ended early.

Okay, it was mostly over already, but the TARDIS... well, she did what she normally does.

Ah, but I get ahead of myself somewhat. The vacation had admittedly not been much of one. That was my fault. I was still preoccupied by what I had learned facing the Daleks. That I might be ultimately responsible for the Cracks that plagued many worlds I'd seen. That somewhere on the other end of the Cracks, someone was calling for help.

"The Doctor is dying!!"

Sweet dreams indeed.

Our vacation tour had taken us to Risa. Yes, Risa, and no, we didn't have those wooden trinkets. I'd learned that lesson well enough the last time I was here (and much to the amusement of Korra and Asami, I add). Rather I was showing my Companions what I had brought Korra and Asami to see; the majestic vistas one could find through the judicious use of a floater backpack. With the aid of the floaters, we zipped about an island chain off one of the main continents, enjoying warm sunshine and crisp ocean air from each vista.

And yet, I couldn't keep the concern from occasionally flickering to my face.

We were standing atop a rock formation and looking out over a tropical cove with warm turquoise waters stretching out below. I had put on a blue Hawaiian shirt with flower patterns and matching shorts that almost went to my knees; Liara and Katara were each in blue one-piece bathing suits. "It reminds me of Ember Island," Katara commented.

"Asami said the same thing," I noted.

A small, sad smile crossed her face. "And that stupid Fire Nation play about us." Katara giggled. "They had me crying about hope all of the time."

There was something in her voice. The way her blue eyes glistened. It was clear she wasn't actually as happy as she seemed. Liara gave me a worried look.

"And... they got Zuko's scar on the wrong eye," Katara continued. "And... and they had Toph played by some muscled up guy..." Her voice began to break. "They had a girl playing Aang and Sokka... they actually had him pretty..."

The words stopped, replaced by sobbing. Katara dropped to her knees. Liara joined her and gave her a warm embrace, letting her continue to cry. "I don't think this trip has gone as well as you thought it would," Liara remarked to me.

"I noticed," I sighed. I held up the TARDIS remote. "I suppose we'll need to find somewhere else."

"I'm not sure there is anywhere else," Liara remarked. She stopped while the TARDIS finished VWORPing in, trying to console Katara. Her eyes met mine. "And she's not the only one."

I didn't say anything. "I suppose I've been rather dour."

"The Daleks were probably lying to you," she said. "They were trying to make you doubt yourself."

"Or they were simply stating a fact."

"You can't know that," Liara insisted.

"The Daleks' reputation doesn't lend itself to lying just to make me feel bad," I remarked sullenly. I pushed open the TARDIS door and tromped in. I had my floater unslung before I got to the controls and I tossed it over the rail to the lower level. "I'll go change."

When we were all back in our usual attire, I shifted the TARDIS into the Vortex and looked at Katara's pained expression with sympathy. Helping her recover was proving vastly difficult. She had lost everyone to Xuandi's actions and had ultimately lost her world, literally; her entire timeline was erased by our success against the Dai Li. Only the TARDIS had kept her from joining her timeline in non-existence.

Sometimes I wondered if it would have been kinder to her if she had been removed, erased, or the junior partner in a quantum merging with herself after we thwarted Xuandi.

But I dismissed those thoughts. She was alive, and with that came the hope that one day she'd find peace. Real peace, I mean. I don't really count death as peace. Death is death. It's a sort of peace, but it's an inferior product compared to living peace.

Trust me on that.

"I'm sorry." Katara looked up at us with her tear-reddened eyes. "I ruined it for you."

"Not at all," I assured her. I took a seat beside her. "Truth is, I'm doing this to help you. If somewhere makes you uncomfortable, it's best to just move on."

"I'm not sure where else you could take me to feel better." Katara's brow furrowed. "Where could I go when I've lost everything?"

"Maybe somewhere that will give you a chance to have something new?", Liara proposed. "A new life."

"I don't want a new life!", Katara shouted. "I want my life. I want them back, I..." She broke down crying again.

I exchanged a look with Liara. I had a horrible feeling that this might be beyond my competency. All the while, my hearts ached in sympathy with Katara's woes. She had lost everything... as I had. I simply had the benefit that my abductor or benefactor or whatever you wish to call him or her had seen fit to lock away my memories of that stolen life.

It made me wonder... where there any losses for me to mourn? Dead family and friends? Broken homes? If I ever regained my original memories, would I find that I had voluntarily become this being so I could hide from them?

I tried to be supportive of Katara until her crying ceased again. When it did I patted her on the shoulder. I didn't say anything. There was nothing to say.

The TARDIS rumbled slightly. I narrowed my eyes and looked up to the controls.

Just in time to see the TARDIS engine begin to activate. VWORP VWORP VWORP!

I stood and went to the controls. As I did the TARDIS shuddered. I quickly hit a switch. "That was a disruption in the dimensions."

"A Crack?", Liara asked.

"Yes. A Crack," I answered. "I think I got to the systems in time to shield them. Hopefully we didn't make that Crack worse."

"We should check into it." Katara wiped tears from her face. She looked more focused and determined than before. An enjoyable distraction, one surmises.

"Yes we should," I said. I looked to Liara.

Liara folded her arms. "We are finishing the vacation," she insisted. But I could see in her eyes that she knew this was best. "After we check on this."

"Yes, of course," I assured her, smiling a little. I checked my readings. "Looks like we've set down on an Earth. Early 21st Century, it looks like. Come along."

We stepped out of the TARDIS and were greeted by the sight of a small town. The air was sweet with the smell of the ocean. I secured the TARDIS door and we set out to walk down a road lined with houses. I held up the sonic. "No sign of a Crack here," I said. "Some peculiar energy readings though. Let's keep walking."

We did so. Nobody in the town came up to us as we did, but I supposed it wasn't too strange. We were an interesting ensemble I suppose.

A couple of blocks and we were walking along the beachside boardwalk. "Well, definitely a Yank town," I sighed, noticing a place marked as a restaurant for french fries. "A shame, really. I could go for some nice fish and chips at a seaside pub."

Katara stepped up and looked toward me. "Is it just me, or are people avoiding us?"

I blinked and glanced around. The man at the restaurant we'd just passed was eyeing us warily as he shut his window. I noticed the black eye and bruise on his face as he did so. "Huh," I said. "Interesting. Usually small towns like this are friendly to visitors. Tourism trade and such."

"Something doesn't seem right," Liara remarked. "All of these buildings look like they've taken some damage."

I nodded in agreement and scanned around with my sonic screwdriver. "Well now. Those energy readings are quite a bit stronger." I turned toward a geographically peculiar bluff arising on the beach, the town-side of the bluff showing a nice grass field with a lighthouse at the top. "And they're definitely centered over there."

I heard a young lady call out in panic. "Daddy! Gunga! Get in the back, they're back!" I turned to see another restaurant door close with a young lady of dark brown complexion on the inside. She was in casual clothes and had an arm in a sling; broken, I suppose. I heard the click of the door locking after which she ran for the back of the shop.

Liara and I looked at each other. "I get the feeling we're not welcome," she remarked. "What I want to know is..."

"....why do they recognize us?", I finished for her.

"I want to know why they're scared of us," Katara said.

"Quite the mystery." I looked up. "Unlikely to be related to the cuisine. 'Fish Stew Pizza'? That sounds horrid."

Liara smirked. "You did want fish and chips."

"Doctor, Liara?" Katara pointed to something at the side of the building. "Look."

We walked around to her. On the side of the wall was a poster. It was prefaced as an official notice from the office of one Mayor Dewey, alerting the residents to avoid contact with...

...with us.

The images were clear as day, obviously taken from CCTV recordings. The three of us looking rather hostile and in the midst of attacking people.

We all looked at each other. "I think this explains things," Liara remarked. She activated her omni-tool. "Let me see if I can confirm..."

There was a sound in the air and I felt something wrap around my ankles. A pull of force yanked my legs out from under me and I hit the ground with an "oomf". A rather undignified sound, I agree.

And then I was getting pulled, which meant I was being dragged across ground. Instincts took over. My hand pulled out my sonic disruptor and I twisted my body to point it at the dark purple whip wrapped around my ankles. I triggered Setting 14 and a thermal beam superheated the material and caused it to snap just as I landed in the soft white sand of the beach. I scrambled to my feet and heard Liara and Katara run up behind me. "What the bloody...?!" I held my sonic disruptor ready to create a deflector field.

We were confronted with three figures on the beach. The tallest looked like a woman with a rather carefully crafted Afro that made her head look cube-shaped. No eyes could be seen under her shades. She wasn't Human given the deep purplish-red skin color, matched with an outfit that had a five point star design.

To her right was a shorter figure with a thin build, a long pointed nose and feminine facial features with pale white skin and a pearl-like orb set into her forehead. A sleeveless teal blouse with a yellow star on the chest and turquoise ribbon at her waist was joined with pale yellow shorts and teal footwear over salmon-colored socks.

And to the left was my attacker, given the whip in her right hand. She was short enough to be a child, with a lovely purple skin color and white-purple hair, with a sleeveless black top and light pants set with... a couple of five pointed stars. Yes, clearly a uniform motif. I also detected the same from the purple gem set into her sternum.

"Who are they?", Katara asked me.

"I've no clue," I admitted. Indeed, all I knew was that they clearly weren't Human, at least not normal baseline Human, and that given the jewel-encrusted whip, the spear, and the armored gauntlets the three were brandishing, they were ready for a fight.

The three looked at each other after my remark. "Uh, is this for real?", the short purple one asked me, or rather us. "Did you forget how many times we've kicked your butts?"

"We don't know what you're up to," the pearl-headed one said. "But we're not letting you hurt the people in Beach City, no matter how many times you show up."

"Well, this is rather awkward," I remarked, "because we've never been to this town before. Surely we can discuss...?"

The tall one spoke up, her accent sounding British-Caribbean. "Leave. Now. Or we'll put you down again."

I looked to the others. "Whatever's going on, we can get to the bottom of it without getting into a fight," Liara said. "We should probably leave."

I was about to agree when the decision was taken out of my hands.

I felt it go past my head. A burst of invisible kinetic force in a tight form. Before I could react the force hit the tall one and sent her flying into the waves. "Garnet!", the two cried out.

Garnet proved quite powerful, though. She rebounded quickly from the blast, twisting in mid-air and leaping back at us.

And I do mean right at us. The lady could jump.

And with her gauntlets grasped for a two-handed hammer punch.

We scattered and were still knocked over by the shockwave of sand that erupted from where she brought her fists down. Her compatriots brought up their weapons and came for us as well.

I was suddenly missing the vacation.

Our humanoid assailants were fast. No sooner did I roll back to my feet that I took a blast of energy straight to the chest. It might have hurt more if not for the magically-enhanced armored vest I wore, courtesy of Charity and Molly Carpenter. It sent me flying backward and onto the boardwalk. The thin one with the pearl on her forehead lunged at me with a spear. I barely got the sonic disruptor in time to absorb the blow on my deflector shield.

As I did so I noticed the purple one's whip lashing out toward Liara. It was intercepted in mid-air by water from Katara's bottle. That water whip technique of her's, now in play against an actual whip. The purple one pulled her whip back and growled in frustration at Katara before lashing out at her. Katara had to jump out of the way given the speed of the attack, but she kept her water whip solid and used it to deflect several more attacks.

The big one, Garnet, was on the move again, against Liara. Liara's biotics flashed into existence around her, dispersing her Human disguise to no apparent reaction by Garnet. She used a biotic field to defend herself and followed it up with a bolt that threw Garnet backward.

I tried to focus on the fight overall, but my attacker was quick with that spear, moving with swift grace in her attempts to get around my deflector shield. "Listen, this is a misunderstanding!", I shouted. "We...." I was interrupted by the need to focus on a flanking attempt that nearly succeeded. It was odd fighting like this. Like fencing with an open umbrella, in a way.

I heard a cry and turned to see where Katara was trapped by the purple one's whip and had been smacked into the boardwalk. Her attacker laughed and used a yank of her weapon to bring Katara in for what looked to be a punch. I quickly shifted to avoid my attacker and triggered a Setting 4 kinetic blast to strike Katara's opponent, knocking her over. Katara fell into soggy sand at the shoreline and turned until she was in the surf and loose from the whip, which she cut in half with a blade of ice bent up from the ocean. "Hey!" The purple one frowned at me and reached to the gem on her chest. Light appeared there and coalesced into another whip.

"What is it you want?", my own attacker demanded as she pressed her spear against my deflector shield. "Why do you keep attacking Beach City?!"

"We just got here," I retorted.


I glanced over and saw that it was the purple attacker crying out as she was swept back by the waves that Katara was generating with her waterbending. Katara breathed out and the water froze into ice, encasing the purple one.

"Amethyst!" My attacker twisted and directed her spear toward the ice. An energy blast fired from the tip of the spear and shattered the ice holding the obviously-named Amethyst prisoner.

Of course, this opened me up to perform a counter-attack, and I sent another kinetic pulse that drove my opponent - going by the other names I imagined the gem on her forehead meant she was named Pearl - back across the sand. She flipped with the blow and landed on her feet.

Before she could resume her attack I found myself hit by something and sent sprawling. I found myself tangled up with Liara on the sand. We both groaned and I tried to get up, allowing me to see Pearl going after Katara as well and being swept aside by a wave of water drawn up by the movement of one of Katara's arms.

I almost asked where Garnet was when I looked over in time to see her rushing at us with her gauntlets coming down. I brought up the sonic disruptor and triggered a protective field in time to hold back the blow. Pain surged through my arms and shoulders from the reactive feedback and I almost dropped the disruptor. "We don't want to fight!", I shouted.

"They're not listening!", Katara shouted. She retreated further into the surf. This gave her more water to bend. That was a good thing. The bad thing was that it further isolated her in the two on one fight she was facing.

Liara was starting to recover as I absorbed another hit from our attacker. Whatever these gem-themed beings were, the power they had was formidable, and Garnet's punches were giving me more trouble than out of control vehicles had before. Or a sliding-on-ice out-of-control polar bear dog. "Liara, I could use some... help!"

Her hand snapped up as a blow finally knocked the disruptor out of my hand. Biotic energy surrounded Garnet and threw her up into the air over our heads. She landed upside down in a boardwalk shop behind us. The big donut sign started to dip low.

....just as the occupants stepped out of the door under it.

My eyes widened and I quickly grabbed my disruptor. "No!", I shouted. I swung the disruptor back up as quickly as I could and used it to generate a deflector screen between the people and the donut sign starting to fall on their heads. At that range and against that amount of mass I couldn't keep the shield active for more than a few seconds though, and the young people that were coming out of the shop were looking up in surprise and not moving at all. "Liara!", I cried.

She was already moving before I finished calling her name. She jumped up onto the boardwalk and arrived just in time. Her biotic field popped into existence before the sign and debris would have crushed the people who had stepped out of the shop. Liara groaned from inside the field and dropped to her knees. It looked like she had been hurt, and the stresses of generating so much dark matter so quickly was burning away at her constitution.

There was a whistling of air. I turned in time to avoid getting run through from behind by the one I presumed to be called Pearl. She made a quick movement with her spear that batted the sonic disruptor from my hand and her foot caught me with a snap kick that felt like a jackhammer had slammed into my rib cage. Without the Carpenters' vest I would have undoubtedly sustained a broken rib or four. As it was, I fell backward into the sand and could do nothing as the light blue tip of her spear came down on me.


The shout brought everything to a halt. I pondered its source. High, but evidently the high voice of a preadolescent boy. My attacker and I turned our heads up and saw two small figures coming toward us from the boardwalk. The boy cried out "Stop fighting!"; he had bushy, curly black hair and a pinkish-red shirt with a yellow star on the front with blue jeans and sandals rounding out his garb. He looked a tad on the chubby side, although not outright obese or anything like that. The girl beside him had dark brown skin in contrast to his light Caucasian complexion and a thin, lithe figure; going by the complexion and facial structure I figured her to be South Indian. Tamil, probably.

"Steven!" My attacker held off for the moment and looked to the boy and girl as well. "What are you..."

"Look!" The boy pointed to where Liara was struggling to keep the biotic field up so the donut sign didn't crush everyone around her. "They're not here to hurt anyone!"

"Unnnnh." Liara's hand began to fall.

I looked over to where my sonic disruptor had fallen. I doubted I could do more than delay it for a few seconds again, but maybe....

Just as the biotic field faded, Garnet grabbed the donut sign and lifted it away. With a single heave she threw it about fifty yards onto the beach. She turned back to Liara. Her armored gauntlets turned to light and disappeared, revealing normal hands. One hand reached down to Liara, who accepted it and was promptly pulled to her feet. "Well done."

"Thank you." With her biotics no longer active Liara's holobelt restored her Human disguise.

"Ugh, just what this town needs," one of the people she'd rescued grumbled. Given the big donut on his shirt he was obviously an employee of the establishment; the fact that his ear lobes were more open space than lobe was a peculiar thing. "More weirdness." He got elbowed in the ribs by the short blond woman standing beside him.

Garnet looked toward us. "Pearl, Amethyst, stand down. We need to find out what's going on here."

As I suspected, my opponent was named for the gem in her forehead. She sighed and nodded before pulling the spear away. "I thought we had them this time."

I looked toward the beach. Katara was caught up in Amethyst's whip, but her free arm had Amethyst gripped in an icy fist of ocean water. "How about we call it a draw?", she asked Katara.

Katara didn't quite care as much, so she nodded and gave a dismissive reply of, "Yeah, fine."

"Cool." A look came over Amethyst's face. "You're not going to suck away the ocean, are you?"

Katara blinked. "Uh, no."

"Okay, good. Everyone's really sensitive about that since the last time."

I blinked at that. Just where had we come to? "I think some introductions may be in order," I said while clambering back up onto the boardwalk. Katara made an ice slide to maneuver herself and Amethyst up to join us. Liara stumbled up to join us while Amethyst and Pearl joined Garnet and the children, allowing us to face each other across the boardwalk. "Well, now that we've stopped that little fracas... I'm the Doctor, a Time Lord of Gallifrey, and these are my traveling Companions, Dr. Liara T'Soni and Katara." I reached into one of my jacket pockets and mentally cursed. I'd forgotten the packet of M&Ms again.

"Hi." The boy stepped up and offered me his hand. I knelt down and accepted it. "I'm Steven. Steven Universe. Pleased to meet you."

The girl stepped up and offered her hand too. "I'm Connie Maheswaran."

I accepted the other handshake as well. "A pleasure."

With that done, the lad continued his side of the interaction. "And this is my family, the Crystal Gems." The young lad was quite pleasant as he introduced the three formally, although I'd already realized their names from what was said during the fight.

"So, now that you're not trying to pound us into the sand, can you explain that?" Liara pointed to a warning poster with our faces on it.

"People who look like you have been going around hurting people," Steven explained.

"And no matter how many times we kick their butts, they keep coming back!" This was provided by Amethyst.

I frowned. "No coincidence, then. Something else is going on here."

"Could any of your enemies have found a way to travel in six dimensions as well?", Liara asked me.

I shrugged. "Perhaps. But how many would know to fake you and Katara instead of, say, Korra and Asami, or Katherine?" I shook my head. "I think there's another origin here. Whatever it is, I'd like to get to the bottom of it. Especially since..." I looked to the Gems. "Tell me, did you see who was on the boardwalk behind us when our confrontation turned into a fight? I distinctly felt an energy wave go past me before it struck you, Garnet."

"Well, there were only a few who came out of their stores," Pearl said. "Most of the people were staying indoors. I don't think there was anyone outside."

"Steven and I were up by the lighthouse." Connie shook her head. "We didn't see anything."

"Someone provoked the fight. They wanted us to destroy you." Garnet adjusted the opaque shades over her eyes.

I frowned at that. "Given there is a Crack somewhere on this world, I find that concerning." This was especially true for the fact that the only force to come through the Cracks and encounter Katara with me were the Daleks. A scary proposition to be sure, but it didn't feel quite right to my estimation. This didn't feel to me to be the work of Daleks, although they can be crafty buggers if they needed to be. So I could be wrong.

"Um, excuse me?" Pearl raised a finger. "What do you mean by 'crack'? Is it some sort of spatial tear?"

I nodded. "Yes, although that's hardly enough to describe what it is. It's a crack through six dimensions of space-time, to be precise," I explained. "And beings and forces from my home cosmos have been using the Cracks to invade other cosmoses."

The others, save Garnet, started blinking. Well, I suppose she could have been too behind those reflective shades. "So, uh, what's a 'cosmos'?", Amethyst asked. "Isn't that, like, space and stuff?"

Katara and Liara shared bemused looks while I sighed. "I suppose a quick lesson in multi-dimensional mechanics would be necessary," I sighed. "It's just quite hard to get across some of the ideas. But to start...."

"You're talking about sixth-dimensional locations based around fifth-dimensional clusters of localized space-time that share the same general metaphysical attributes and rules," Garnet answered.

At that I blinked in surprise. "Well, yes, that's the best explanation to put into simple vernacular." I raised an eyebrow. "I'm quite astonished, your people are that versed in multi-dimensional theory?"

"Actually, Garnet probably just saw what you were going to say," Steven supplied with a bit of childlike sheepishness. "She has future vision."

I nodded. "Precognition? Indeed? Multiple timeline potentiality?"

"Something like that," Garnet answered.

Well. That was an interesting ability to have. And not always in the good way. Multiple timeline potentiality, seeing multiple possible futures, can drive beings insane after a while. Especially in what appeared to be the Gems' line of work. Consider seeing multiple futures where some or all of the people you care about get wiped out by a foe while trying to see any future potentiality that lets you beat said foe with no serious loss. Now consider this happening repeatedly.

It was no wonder Garnet was so... stoic, I suppose?

I didn't mention that, of course, opting instead for asking, "I suppose you usually use the river metaphor?"

"It works well."

"Yes, it does, doesn't it?" I noticed Liara's look. "Yes, yes, time to focus on business. We need to find out what's going on h-."

A column of light rose over the boardwalk's buildings, coming from inland. The Gems and their young friends stared in shock. "That's not possible," Pearl said. "Where could that Warp beam be coming from?"

A sick feeling came to my gut. I started running toward the source of the light. The others were following, but how closely I couldn't tell. Not when I was focused on getting to my destination and confirming...

....that the TARDIS had been taken.

I pulled out my TARDIS remote and triggered it.

Nothing happened.

Liara and Katara came up beside me. "They took the TARDIS?!", Liara shouted. "How?"

I had my suspicions and looked to see the Gems running up, the children taking up the rear. "What's wrong?", Steven asked.

"They took my TARDIS," I said. "That column of light must have been the teleportation device they used."

"But they shouldn't have been able to!", Pearl protested. She started looking around the alley. "There aren't any Warp Pads here!"

"Um, excuse me?" A hand went up and I looked toward Connie. "What's a TARDIS?", she asked.

"My timeship," I answered. "It currently looks like a London Police Box."

That answer only seemed to confuse the young lady more. "But aren't those just phone booths? How can they be ships?"

"It's bigger on the inside," Katara answered for me. "Much bigger."

Steven and Connie looked like their eyes were ready to light up. "So it's just like the Temple?!", Steven asked.

"Hrm?" I looked back at him. "What temple?"

"It's where we live!", Steven offered enthusiastically. "And it's really big on the inside. Waaay big."

Thoughts started to go through my head. I looked at the Gems. "Your home has a dimensionally transcendental field?"

"Well..." Pearl looked a little nervously toward Garnet, who said nothing. "I guess you could call it that?"

"Hrm." I smiled at that and brought a hand up. My mind started to race. "Well.... I wonder.... that might work, I'll just...." I pointed a finger toward them. "Might I see it?"

"Uh... I guess?", Amethyst offered. She looked to the others. "I mean, they're not normal Humans, what could be the harm?"

"It's a matter of trust," Garnet pointed out. "We don't know much about these people."

"We know they want to protect people, though." Steven stepped between me and Garnet. "Shouldn't we help them?"

"Well..." Pearl looked toward us and back to Garnet. "We should. Because whoever is behind this wanted to turn us against the Doctor, and we don't know why yet. Or why they want his ship."

"True." Garnet nodded to me. "Alright. We'll show you to the temple. This way."

The temple, as it was called, was built into the cliff at the edge of the peninsula facing the Atlantic. It was clearly thousands of years old. If anything it made me think of Hindu sculptures given the multiple arms of the design.

In the belly of the statue was the obvious entrance. Fairly obvious given the small house built there. "A pleasant looking home," I noted as we ascended the stairs.

"It's my room," Steven answered with bubbly enthusiasm. He opened the door for us. "After you."

"Quite courteous of you," I answered. I stepped into what looked like a flat, or studio if you prefer. A kitchen to my right, living area to the left and stairs leading up to a comfortable bed and a small TV and visible video game console. I was quite surprised that the home of a child this age was so spic and span-clean. "You're rather well kept for a lad your age."

"Oh, Pearl keeps it clean. I'm actually sort of messy."

"Such refreshing honesty..." By now I was heading toward the rear of the "house", or rather the non-house portions. The rear of Steven's living space opened into a cave mouth. The walls glittered here and there and a single circular platform was in the center of the room. A door with a five-pointed star emblazoned on it was beyond the platform. I held up the sonic screwdriver toward the door.

"Would anyone like some lemonade?", Steven asked.

Quite the gracious host, this lad.

"I'm good. Your temple door?", I asked Garnet rhetorically.

"Yes." She held up her hands. The red and blue lights on the lower points of the star lit up. "How will you use the temple to track your stolen ship?"

"Oh, a trick with the dimensionally transcendental fields and the resonance from their proximity," I answered. "But first I need to assemble some machinery."

Behind me, spirited conversation was picking up. "So, how were you doing that?", I heard Connie ask. "With that bubble you made to stop the sign? Or moving that water around?"

"Well, Katara is a waterbender from a world where Humans can develop the power to 'bend' the elements," Liara explained. "And as an Asari I am a natural biotic. I can generate and manipulate dark energy."

Her answer more than satisfied the young lady, given her reply of, "That is so cool."

I had finished my own considerations by this point, just as Liara was asking about how the Crystal Gems' powers worked, but I overheard their explanation. It was fairly intriguing. The physical gems on their bodies being the actual core of their beings, projecting physical bodies, providing weapons, that sort of thing. It sounded to me like a Gem was at least in part a matter replicator of some sort. How that worked, well... "Magitech" in metaphysically receptive universes can be rather interesting sometimes. I'd have to find out more later.

"Do you have a quantum field focus controller?", I asked.

Garnet looked at me with that same neutral expression she'd kept for most of the day. "No," she finally said.

"Hrm.... what about a hyper-volume capacitor?"


"I see." I rubbed at my chin. "So we'll be rigging something up. Right. I'm going to need spare parts. A lot of spare parts."

Garnet nodded and looked toward the front door. "Amethyst? The Doctor is going to need to see your room."

Amethyst seemed quite energized by the prospect. "C'mon, Doc!" Her hand grabbed mine and pulled me to the door.

"Doctor." Liara walked to the edge of the cave mouth. "What do we do about the attacker who started the fight? Whoever is behind this may still be in the town."

I thought on that. "Hrm. Indeed." I looked back. "Does anyone have any of your early 21st Century communications devices?"

"Um. Here?" Steven pulled a smartphone out of his pocket. Connie revealed a flip-open cell phone from her's.

I walked up to them and started running the sonic screwdriver over one and then the other. "Woh, what's this?" Steven seemed intrigued by the new icon that popped up on his phone.

"A sort of app I've created for it," I revealed. "It can pick up levels of the energy that comes from the Cracks in the Multiverse. If anyone or anything has been exposed to such, your phone will go off."

"This is so cool," Connie said yet again as I finished working on her phone.

"It's always cool," I guaranteed her, winking at them both.

"If these beings are dangerous, I should go too," Pearl said. "I don't want Steven and Connie to get hurt."

I nodded. "Yes, of course." I looked to Katara. "Would you mind joining them? I'm going to need Liara to help me build what I need."

Katara nodded. For a moment I was wondering if she was paying much attention given the dull look in her eyes. But she went toward the door without a word.

Steven and Connie looked toward each other and then at me. "Is she okay?", Connie asked.

I shook my head sadly. "She lost everyone she cared for," I said, trying to avoid more complex explanations given the work at hand and not wanting to rub salt on the wound.

Nevertheless, they got the gist of it. And as I looked up, I saw a flicker of... recognition, I suppose, go through Pearl's eyes.

"Maybe we can cheer her up?", Steven suggested.

"Good luck on that," was my reply. "Although it's best if we focus upon the task at hand. Whomever took my TARDIS could cause a lot of trouble."

"Right. Oh!" Connie went over to the small closet built below the stairs to the bed and opened it. After a moment she pulled out a rather large sword set in a pink scabbard.

I admit that my eyes widened as I watched her heft it over her shoulder with ease. "You're awfully young to be running around with something like that," I noted.

"Oh, it'll be fine," Steven assured me. "Connie's great with a sword! Pearl's been training us and everything!"

I blinked and glanced at the aforementioned gem. She blushed blue a little. "They're quite marvelous students."

"Very well," I answered, keeping my tone delicate. It was clear this wasn't new to them, so who was I to judge? I looked back to the temple door, where the other two Gems and Liara were waiting. "We'd best get going. This is a mystery I want to solve immediately."

I was answered by nods. After they all filed out I walked back toward the temple door. "Well, shall we?", I asked.

Garnet nodded at me and looked to Amethyst. She turned toward the door. Her purple gem lit up in time with the purple light on the door. When it opened, it did so with a bizarre purple goo of some sort forming the split in the otherwise-solid door. The goo seemed to disappear as the opening completed; inside was a cavernous space of mostly purple color. Amethyst stepped through first. At Garnet's indication Liara and I went in.

The entire chamber was full of... detritus. Junk. Anything and everything one might find in a hoarder's storage shed or house. The surfaces of the cavern were glittering with what looked to be crystals or gemstones. "Ta-da!" Amethyst held her arms out. "So, what are you looking for?"

I admit I was caught by surprise for the moment at the sheer quantities of junk present. Liara seemed equally surprised by it. "I don't suppose I can complain about your piles anymore," she said.

"No, not really..." I sighed and pulled out the sonic. "Okay, first off I'm going to need...."
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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-05-31 11:22am

The others returned to Beach City and started their search on its Boardwalk. "So this 'Crack' in space is somewhere in Beach CIty, right?", Connie asked.

"I don't think so." Katara was still just starting to grasp the concepts I had explained to her of tears through space and the like. "The Doctor said he couldn't detect it when we landed."

Steven was apparently enthralled by the display my little added app made on his phone. "Woh, this is so rad! Look at this." Energy waves vaguely oscillated, showing the energy from the Crack dimly existing in the background. Trace amounts from the passage of those permeated by said energy. Including our violent doppelgangers, if my suspicions were correct.

As they passed by the pizza place, the proprietor of it called out to them. "Steven! What are you doing with that girl?! She's the one who hurt Kiki and wrecked my shop!"

"Hey Mister Pizza!" Given the response offered, it seemed nothing could get this boy's friendly attitude to diminish. "That was actually an impostor. Or something. This one's completely friendly."

Apparently, Katara did her best to smile and look friendly, regardless of her inner feelings. And they were starting to get stirred up, I imagine. "We're going to find the people who hurt you," she assured the pizza shop owner. "We'll stop them."

"Hmph. Well, I hope so!" Mister Pizza promptly returned to his shop and slammed the door behind him.

"The people of Beach City can be... difficult sometimes," Pearl explained to Katara.

"They just get a little upset from all the times we ruin their stuff while fighting monsters," Steven insisted. "They'll see you're just as nice as me soon."

"It's nothing," Katara insisted. She took in a breath. "We should keep going."

I can only imagine the turmoil inside Katara as she observed Steven socializing with his neighbors, Connie at his side. His friendly demeanor, always seeking to find the bright side in things, that sort of thing.

In many ways, he acted just like Aang had, especially at that age. Which should tell you something about why Katara was starting to get uncomfortable.

I suppose Katara's feelings weren't well-hidden at the moment. Connie asked her, "Are you okay?"

The reply was honest and straightforward. "No. But that's not important."

That answer was apparently not the right one to give to those children. "Why?", Steven asked her. "What's wrong?"

Katara directed a look at him. I can't imagine what went through her mind at that moment. How did she intend to react? Would she dismiss their concerns? Would she demand they not bring it up?

Whatever response she intended, she never got a chance to give it. Pearl spoke up. "Steven, I think we should focus on the search."

"Oh. Right." The boy didn't seem convinced by this, but he bowed to the wishes of his... mother figure? Aunt? Something like that I guess. He looked back to his phone. "I think we're supposed to go... this way?"

"Yeah, that's on mine too," Connie agreed.

They continued onward.

While that group was touring Beach City, I was busy going through veritable mountains of detritus and salvage.

Or, in this case, nearly being buried in it.

I waited until the shower of collapsing trinkets stopped before lowering the sonic disruptor and turning off my deflector shield. I looked up and couldn't keep the scowl off my face at seeing Amethyst laughing. "Wow, that was fun," she cackled.

"That was also uncalled for," I protested. "And I'm looking for very specific things here!"

"I didn't even understand half of what you said before," Amethyst retorted. "You really need to work on how to talk to people."

"I talk to people just fine, thank you very much." I sighed and looked to where Garnet was providing the heavy lifting in managing anything Liara found that fit what I had told her to find. A dismantled refrigerator was gaping open with her at the opening, hard at work removing machinery I needed. Beside her was an antenna radio providing part of the material I needed for my machine.

I looked over at the improvised scanner and shook my head. Building something I could use to test dimensional resonances between the Crystal Gems' temple and my own TARDIS, the usual effect of two different dimensionally transcendental objects being so close together, was difficult given the tools I had to work with. "Ah, here it is!", I heard Amethyst crow. She threw down a small satellite TV dish. I caught it. "Is that what you're looking for?"

I scanned it with my sonic screwdriver before nodding. "It's the best candidate so far." I took it over to the scanner as Liara brought the cooling unit scavenged from the refrigerator.

She asked, "Are you sure this will work?"

"Um... eighty percent sure," I answered. "Go ahead and..."

Together Liara and I affixed the cooling unit and the dish to where they had to go. The result was a backpack-sized unit. "Alright, I'm ready to give it a test. Setting the wavelength..." An old small television screen provided the monitor I needed, with the keys from a typewriter for my controls. It was very surprising how much junk Amethyst had in her room. "Liara?"

Liara's omnitool came to life around her right forearm. "I'm ready to receive data," she answered.

"Good. Well, here we go...!" I flipped the activation switch.

Nothing happened.

We looked at each other and frowned. I looked back to the device and examined it. "Wiring is good, power source working... just what did we..."

Before I could finish that thought, a purple fist came from the side of my vision and smacked the scanner. It came to life. "Ah, thank you, Amethyst," I said. "Although hitting it that hard may have been unnecessary."

"But more fun," she countered with a smile.

I sighed, but this time it wasn't aggravation. Amethyst's antics made me think of some of my sillier moments with Jan back in the day. I looked back to the display. "All right. Let's see how it handles some of these bandwidths..."

I started testing the range of the scanner. Liara confirmed results for me and everything looked quite good. I had again managed a feat of techno-wizardry, cobbling together a dimensional resonance scanner from a lot of, well, scrap.

"Wait, something's..."

I looked up in time to see Liara's omnitool begin to waver. The hard light displays began to destabilize and warp from interference of some sort. "Unexpected," I said, rotating the knob I was using to control the scanner's output. "Distortion effect. Hrm, must be from the..."

I was interrupted by a pair of screams. I turned my head and watched the Gems double over. Their physical bodies began to distort and waver. I immediately twisted the knob the other way until the effect stopped on them and on Liara's omnitool. "My apologies," I said. "I had no idea it'd do that."

"It's... fine." Garnet straightened herself.

"Ow, my head..." Amethyst put a hand in her white hair. "What was that?"

"It appears that at certain operating frequencies, the scanner's emissions have a negative effect upon your Gems." I brought out the sonic screwdriver and walked up to them. "Hrm. Still showing telltale traces of the effect. Again, I am terribly sorry." I swallowed as a thought occurred to me. "A good thing that power source isn't stronger. I shudder to imagine what it might have done."

"Your device, is it ready?", Garnet asked.

"I believe so, yes," I replied. I picked it up and grunted with the effort it required. "Humans and their cast-metal toys," I grumbled.

"I can carry it." One of Garnet's hands came down and gripped the device. She hefted it like it was made of air.

"Oh. Thanks." I wiped at my brow. "Well, let's get back into Steven's part of the home, once I get a fix on the resonance we can start following it."

"Then we find whoever's been attacking the city and bust them up!", Amethyst laughed.

"Something like that, yes," I answered.

The others had made a bit of a circuit around the small beach town while following the energy sources. Part of it was probably my fault in misjudging the effectiveness of the scanners; they weren't fine-tuned enough to tell the minor background remnants from actual distant traces.

And part of it was probably because of our opponents making sure they weren't easily found.

They were trudging along the northern side of the peninsula now, following the exterior of the amusement park. "Katara, can I ask something?", Connie inquired.

"Sure," she answered. Undoubtedly she expected more personal questions and was ready to deflect them.

But Connie was thinking of something else. "What's it like?", she asked.


"Living with this Doctor," Connie continued. "I mean, are you just hunting these 'Cracks'? What does the Doctor do?"

"Oh. Well... he's a traveler," Katara answered. "The Doctor goes everywhere."

"Everywhere?", Steven inquired. "Where everywhere?"

"Literally everywhere," Katara confirmed. "Different worlds. Different times. He goes to alien planets and space stations and wherever he or his TARDIS decide to go."

"Oh!" Steven's voice picked up in energy. "So could he take us to other planets?!"

"Well, yes," Katara answered after a moment's consideration. "I guess he could."

"That's great!" Steven looked at Pearl. "You should ask him to take us with him, Pearl! You could show me all of those planets you used to visit!"

"Now Steven, the Doctor appears very busy with these tears he talks about," Pearl answered. Given what I later learned, I can imagine the forlorn look that came over her expression as the topic was discussed. "He probably doesn't have the time to take us around like that."

"You... might be surprised," Katara answered, quite familiar with my tendencies at this point.

From what I was told, the expression on Pearl's face shifted to show a sort of uncertain hope.

The phones started beeping. "Wait, what's it doing?", Steven asked, seeing the signal showing on his phone picking up in strength. "I think it's picking something up."

"Mine too!" Connie held her phone up. "This way!"

The children led Katara and Pearl further down the road. "Hey, wait a minute," Steven began to say as they turned the corner. "It's leading us to...."

"....'It's A Wash'?", Katara asked, a slightly confused look undoubtedly on her face. There were still some aspects of other worlds' wordings and such she had yet to grasp, Gift of the TARDIS or no.

Steven looked confused. "Why is it coming from my Dad's car wash?"

Pearl reached to her forehead and generated her spear from her gem. "I'll go in first."

Connie pulled her sword from the scabbard and stepped up behind Pearl, Steven beside her, and Katara in the rear. As they approached they heard a commotion coming from inside the car wash tunnel. The sounds of a struggle provoked Steven to run ahead. "Dad!", he shouted.

"Steven! Wait!" Pearl and Connie were quick to follow.

For Katara, it must have been interesting to step into the car wash tunnel. Not because of it being so different from the world she had known. No, nothing as simple as that.

Seeing herself, as well as Liara and myself, beating up on a middle-aged Human, now that must have been a sight.

Steven's father, by the name of Greg I was to learn, was up against the wall of the wash tunnel with the three impostors standing over him. All four turned to look as Steven and the others ran in. "Steven!", Greg shouted. "Get away!"

"Get away from my Dad!", Steven screamed. A pink circular shield appeared over his left arm and he threw it. Appropriate that his name was "Steven", I suppose, as he was halfway to the name of the other shield-thrower I was acquainted with.

Said shield bounced off the fake Liara, sending her flying. Fake Katara turned and hissed in anger. "How dare you!", she shrieked.

"I was about to say the same!", Katara shouted back at her. She popped her flask open and created a water whip to lash at her doppelganger. The water wrapped around the doppelganger's wrist and yanked her off her feet.

The Liara counterpart jumped back up and rushed forward, generating some form of fighting staff made of dark energy. Pearl went ahead of the others and intercepted her. "What are you?", Pearl demanded.

She received no answer.

That left my counterpart, who pulled a facsimile of my sonic disruptor. Connie's over-sized saber flashed in the air and nearly took his hand off. My doppelganger snarled at her and started using the disruptor like a sword, fencing with the girl. He was quick, almost as quick as I was, but Connie made up for that with her training. Several times her sword cut the material of my counterpart's copied jacket. Whatever else he was, he couldn't match her exquisite swordswomanship.

To make matters worse for him, he wasn't in a one-on-one duel. When he did finally manage to get an opening on Connie, Steven came in with his shield and slammed him backward. Connie slipped under his legs, twisted to her feet, and brought her sword down across his back.

Had it been me, Molly Carpenter's enchantments on my vest would have partly deflected the blow, converting the cut into, at most, kinetic energy that would have knocked me forward but not sliced flesh.

But this being had no armored vest. The blade cut cleanly through flesh and drew a scream from my doppelganger. That scream was cut off by Steven jumping up and slamming his shield into the impostor's face. He fell backward and lost his footing when Connie's sword found the back of his knee, bringing him down.

Given the multiple wounds, his concentration must have failed. Something along those lines at least. His skin began to shift toward crimson and pink and the shape of his body started to change. It only stabilized after several seconds, returning to my shape, but with the skin remaining red. But this happened long enough for another detail to show itself.

Set into the creature's forehead was a red gemstone, easily the size of Pearl's.

"It's another Gem!", Steven shouted in surprise.

My doppelganger laughed at him. When he extended a hand this time, an aperture appeared at the end. Steven caught the ruby beam that erupted from it with his shield. It blew him back into the opposite wall of the tunnel and he collapsed with a groan.

"Steven!" Connie's sword flashed in the air toward the offending hand. My double's other hand swept over in the form of a shield and deflected the blow. Connie retained her balance and swung again and was deflected again, but this time with a move of the shield to bring the sword out of position to stop the doppelganger's shapeshifted gun hand. The gun hand fired again and Connie went flying, landing beside Steven.

"Connie! Steven!" Pearl pushed off against the staff in false-Liara's hands, twirled, and brought her spear down on it with enough force to break it and cause the staff to dematerialize. This prompted false-Liara's skin to turn crimson. A circular red gem appeared below her neck and she sneered. Light erupted from it and she pulled out a pair of dueling blades.

Katara's counterpart was doing the same, revealing a tear-shaped gem in her forehead as her skin shifted red. Energy gathered at her hands and turned the water whip Katara was swinging at her to steam. Katara began pulling the water back to reform it as she needed. She was just starting to turn it into ice when the blaster formed on the fake-Katara's hand and fired. A ruby-colored energy bolt slammed through the forming ice and struck Katara in the belly, sending her flying back into the nearby wall.

"They're Gems!", Greg shrieked.

False-Liara laughed and lunged at Pearl. Which proved a mistake, I suppose. Pearl apparently took this as a sign to not hold back at all, ducking the lunge effortlessly and bringing her spear up into the belly of the false-Liara. The creature shrieked and grew redder.

This seemed to surprise Pearl. She never got a chance to say so, however.

Greg struck her in the back.

"Dad?!", Steven said, horrified, as he watched the figure of his father knock Pearl to the ground.

A vicious sneer crossed the face of his father... as his skin turned crimson and his shape changed to a larger, alien being with gems set into his forehead and hands. A crimson light erupted from the gems in his hands, creating an energy that surged as it enveloped Pearl. She barely had time to call out "Greg?!" in confusion before the light finished enveloping her, forming a bubble of energy. Pearl's spear came up in an effort to puncture it.

Lightning crackled within the sphere just before she could. Her eyes widened, her pupils dilated, and her spear fell from her hand and dissipated harmlessly against the crackling energy within the bubble. She went catatonic and stiff; whatever the energy was, it was preventing her from moving her physical form.

"No!," Steven cried. He tried to get up.

"We have accomplished the objective," the Greg impostor informed his allies. The fake Liara was snarling and hissing as she lifted herself from the floor, oozing fluid from an open wound in the moments before it finished sealing. The fake Greg walked toward one end of the car wash tunnel and pulled the bubble containing Pearl with him.

"Where's my Dad?!", Steven demanded. "What are you doing with Pearl?!"

"You will find out soon, child." The fake Greg looked to the others. "I am returning to base with the package. You three, secure the boy. And do with the others as you see fit." He brought out a device and pressed something on it. A beam of blue light descended from the sky and enveloped him and the bubble containing Pearl, drawing both away.

The three impostors looked toward Steven. "Don't resist, child," the fake me said. "Or we'll kill your little friend."

"Leave Connie alone!", Steven shouted. His shield re-appeared on his arm.

Each of them caused their hands to shift form into weapon barrels.

"Steven." Connie's hand moved up. "The pipes."

"What?" He briefly glanced back to Connie, who was struggling to move, and then back up to the advancing impostors. His eyes moved up to the piping running along the ceiling.

That is, the water pipes delivering water to the sprayers for the car wash.

Now, take it from me. Steven Universe can be a little on the impulsive side at times, and he doesn't always work things out immediately, but he's not slow. He can be a pretty bright lad. So he was quick to realize what Connie was thinking. He heaved and threw the shield up into the pipes. Metal shrieked as the edge of the shield tore right into them, creating a wide gash across several of the pipes. Water flowed from the wounds.

For a moment, Steven's attackers were likely bemused by this gesture. My impostor stepped forward, as if to seize him in defiance of the downpour of water.

But suddenly the pipes shrieked more as the water seemed to come alive. A force was pulling the water out in ever greater volume than the gashes created by Steven's shield.

Katara's arms whirled about her, the water mimicking that movement and gathering together at her command. She cried out in anger and the water solidified into a solid deluge that smashed into the three. They shouted in surprise as they were thrown from the tunnel of the car wash and into the street. Katara wobbled a bit on her feet - she was still wounded, obviously - but she kept her arms moving and her breath flowing, gathering all of her energy to wielding the massive quantity of water flowing from the car wash's pipes. The onslaught kept those attackers pinned.

That was the point where the rest of us showed up.

We had been on our way to "It's a Wash" anyway, as Garnet proposed Greg's van could make a viable platform for the scanner I'd cobbled together. "Isn't that assuming the TARDIS was taken somewhere close by?", Liara pointed out.

"Well, this is the first time we've seen anyone else using warps, and these guys have been attacking the town almost every day," Amethyst answered. "So they're probably pretty close."

"Yes," I agreed. "Given this is the same warp technology you Gems use, I would surmise our culprits have found out how to set a pad to pick up a remote signal and not another one of your pads. But that would require quite a bit of power to be drawn from the pad itself so odds are the range is limited. Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred to three hundred kilometers."

"Do you know of any pads in that area?", Liara inquired.

"Yes," Garnet answered, but not as quickly as I had imagined she would.


"Wait a minute, Garnet." Amethyst looked to her larger companion. "You don't think it's..."

A column of white light emerged from over the cliff face. "The car wash!", Garnet declared, and she and Amethyst started running.

Very, very fast.

Thankfully I was also quite fast when I really pushed myself, so it was Liara who was taking up the rear. We sprinted around to the roadway, went past the donut shop, and were coming up on the aforementioned car wash when water gushed from the roadside exit of the wash. Three figures flew, screaming, out of it, and as the water cleared I realized it was our dopplegangers. Or at least, our doppelgangers if we had reddish skin.

And then I noticed the gems set into their bodies.

So did Garnet and Amethyst. Garnet set the scanner down and generated her gauntlets and Amethyst pulled out her whip. "They're other Gems!", Amethyst shouted.

A battered, wounded Katara stepped out of the car wash, pummelling our crimson copies with blast after blast of water. Her counterpart twisted under the onslaught and what should have been a hand came up. But it was in the shape of a weapon barrel. A solid beam of ruby energy lashed out and struck Katara through the water. She cried out and fell back.

Amethyst and Garnet leapt into action while I reached for the sonic disruptor. Amethyst's whip wrapped around the hands of the Katara clone before they could fire again and with a firm yank sent her flying. Garnet came down on the fake Liara as she drew blades from the red gem between her neck and sternum. The blades crossed and met her fists, the end result being that she was thrown skidding back along the road nearly to the beachline.

My counterpart faced me and sneered. "Well," he said, "we wondered when you would show up, Time Lord."

"What is all of this about?!", I demanded. "What are you?! Who are you?!"

"The future rulers of this planet," he answered. "And of many others. You arrived just in time."

"Where did you take the TARDIS? You can't possibly get into it!" I held up the disruptor and absorbed a blast from his weapon arm.

He only sneered. An energy blast erupted from his hands again, the same color as the gem set into his forehead, and the energy crashed into the deflector shield of my disruptor.

The fake Katara cried out as she slammed into my counterpart, Amethyst's whip still wrapped around her wrists. She shrieked in rage and the gem on her forehead glowed. A bolt of ruby light slammed into Amethyst's belly and sent her flying, which pulled the Katara clone with her.

I took a look around. My counterpart had yet to get up. Liara's was trying to dodge Garnet's powerful attacks. Behind us Liara was coming up, her biotics flaring into existence, though not strongly since she hadn't had a chance to eat and refresh herself given all of our activity. And there was no sign of Pearl or the children.

This fight had to end. It had to end now.

"Liara, I need that wavelength again!", I shouted, running over to the discarded scanner. She was bringing her omnitool online as she came up to me. "What was it?"

"Wait a moment.... here, I've..."

I had just a second to notice it before a bolt of red light sent Liara flying. I turned and saw my counterpart coming up on me, an angry look in his eyes that told me he was ready to end this fight in a permanent fashion.

Thankfully, a second was all I needed.

My sonic made the necessary frequency adjustment for me and I brought the scanner online, this time on a narrow beam. The same disruption effect I'd stumbled into before struck my impostor and his form began to waver. He let out a cry.

My arms strained as I hefted the scanner. I turned in time to catch the fake Katara, now free of Amethyst's whip, as she turned on me. The beam of invisible energy fell on her and she screamed, her body wavering in shape. I noticed it wasn't quite the same though. Not like the scanner had done to Amethyst and Garnet earlier.

"We must withdraw!", my counterpart shouted. "This isn't over, Time Lord!"

I turned in time to see him reaching for a device on his arm. A pillar of white light claimed him before I could bring the device back to bear. Ahead of me, the fake Liara grabbed her's just before Garnet could land a vicious hammer punch.

I swung the scanner back around and caught the fake Katara as she tried. She stumbled, screamed, and took a moment before she resumed the attempt to escape. Amethyst's whip lashed out and wrapped around her wrists and forearms, restraining her. "You're not getting away!"

The only reply was a terrible scream, after which the gem on her forehead shattered violently. I would have been pelted by the resulting shards if not for Liara getting a biotic field in place at the last second.

Amethyst and Garnet walked up to the fallen impostor, whos body began to shift further, losing the Water Tribe robes Katara favored for more of the reddish skin. The complexion of the impostor was starting to take on a more pinkish shade as well.

"Whatever they are, they are not Gems," Garnet noted. "But how could they be using..." She stopped and turned. "Wait. Steven! Pearl! Connie! Where are you?!" She and Amethyst ran toward the car wash.

Steven stepped out with Connie, who was leaning heavily against him and struggling to breathe. Given the blackened part on her blouse, the kind of point-blank energy blast she had taken had undoubtedly caused some form of internal damage to either her lungs and diaphragm. Tears were flowing from Steven's eyes. "I... I can't... my healing isn't..."

"Katara!", I shouted. I saw her stirring from where she had been hit again.

"Steven, what happened?" Garnet asked.

"Th-they took Pearl, Garnet," he cried. "And Dad... Dad w-was one of them...."

Katara managed to get back to her knees. "Set her down," she instructed Steven. Since they were all standing in an ever-expanding pool of water coming from within the car wash, I immediately got what she was doing. The moment Steven lowered Connie back into the water Katara's hands moved over the water around her. It started to give off a familiar ethereal blue light. Connie groaned and breathed in more easily afterward. The moment she sat up, Steven gave her a hug. "She's going to be just fine," Katara assured Steven, putting a hand on his shoulder. "She was just a little hurt, that's all."

He smiled at her in reply. "You can heal too?" The fact he was able to say the sentence without stuttering a word showed he was getting over the crying fit.

"It's a part of my waterbending," Katara explained. "You said something about healing?"

"Y-Yeah. I have healing spit." His eyes looked downward. "But I haven't been able to get it to work again."

"Don't worry," Katara assured him. "I'm sure you'll get it."

"Woh, okay, back it up," Amethyst said, looking at Steven. "Are you saying they took Pearl?"

"Yeah," Steven said. "And they've got my Dad. They replaced him with one of them."

Garnet put a hand on Steven's head. "We'll rescue them, Steven. I promise." She looked over at me. "These things... they know you. Do you know them?"

I turned and looked back to the impostor who had been masquerading as Katara. Even with the sun going down in the western sky, there was enough light left to recognize the being's profile, its shape, and to know precisely what it was. "Yes," I answered, sighing. "I'm familiar with them, at least."

"That's sort of freaky, isn't it?", Amethyst said, stepping up beside me and looking at the enemy she'd helped to subdue. "What is that thing?"

I frowned as I focused on the shape of the thing's head and the triangular shadow it cast behind it.

"It's a Zygon."
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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-01 10:24am

The Zygon was not very helpful.

Mostly on account of it being dead.

I looked over the body of the Zygon with my sonic out and scanning. "It can be hard to tell, what with the metamorphical cell structure and such, but it appears to have suffered complete neurological system failure," I surmised.

"Well, you did shatter its Gem," Amethyst pointed out. "We'd be dead too."

"But would you leave a body behind?", I asked.

"Well.... no."

"Exactly. Still, it's the most likely explanation," I granted. "If the Zygons are tying themselves closely to the gems they're implanting, then it might make them reliant upon them physiologically."

"These aren't Gems."

I turned my head up to face Garnet. "What do you mean?", I heard Steven ask.

Garnet held up a piece of the shattered gem from the Zygon. "Even a shattered Gem will retain something in the individual pieces. But there is no life inside of this gem. No echo. It was never alive."

I could sense the tension in her voice. "Yet it clearly granted the Zygons the power you wield." I reached down and picked up a small shard of the broken gem to examine. "Where could they have gotten these?"

I noticed Amethyst and Garnet look at each other in clear discomfort. Steven was the one who finally answered me. "Well, the Gems from the Homeworld made a place on Earth to make more Gems. They called it the Kindergarten."

"Did they now?" I frowned. "And this seems to upset you all greatly."

"Well, the Gems told me it's why they fought the Homeworld," Steven continued.

"It is, yes," Garnet answered. "It is not easy for us to talk about, Doctor."

But talk she did, laying out the basics of how this form of Gem production worked. Great injectors to implant what were essentially seedling Gems into the planet, which sucked the life out of the surrounding area to complete the creation of the new Gems. It wasn't a leap to figure out what was going on then. At least in very general terms.

"They re-activated the Kindergarten," Garnet said, and I could detect a hint of cold fury in her voice. "And they're using it to grow gems for their own use."

"That seems the most likely scenario, yes," I agreed. As I said I realized just how macabre the situation really was. The Zygons, in order to wield Gem power, were literally growing brain-dead Gems to implant within themselves. "And this Kindergarten would be within the range I stated earlier? For use of remote warp transporting?"

They nodded at me in reply.

"Well, now we need transportation," I mused. "Using your warp pad is highly dubious as a course as they're certain to be watching it."

"What about Greg's van?"

Amethyst's query caused me to turn to the side of the building. A single old van was sitting there, emblazoned with a colorful stripe and such with the name "Mr. Universe" across the side of the van. I pondered it for the moment. "I suppose we could all fit." I watched Amethyst pull open the back door and sighed. The inside was something of a mess as well, along with a mattress; clearly Greg Universe lived in the back. I pondered why; Steven had a perfectly fine abode at the entrance to the Temple. But such things were minor details, honestly. "Enough room for five of us, at least."

"Um." Connie lifted a hand. "You forgot me and Steven."

"Actually, no I didn't," I answered. "You were in enough danger here. And we know they're after Steven. If we brought him, we might as well put a ribbon on him, present him as a gift to the Zygons."

"But they've got Pearl! And my Dad!", Steven protested.

"Which is why we're going to rescue them," I assured the children.

Connie shook her head. "You need us!" She looked at the Gems. "Are you going to let him leave us behind?!"

Amethyst looked at Garnet, who seemed to remain non-committal. "Well, he's got a point, I think?", Amethyst finally managed.

Garnet crossed her arms and appeared to be deep in thought. After several silent moments she spoke. "It would be safer if Steven and Connie went with us."

I sighed. "This is that future vision Steven says you have? You're saying we're more likely to have a desired outcome if they go?"

The silent "Hm" was enough affirmation for me given the accompanying body language. I sighed again and held my hands up. "All right. We all go."

Liara looked at me sternly. "Are you really going to give in like that?"

"Well, they're almost Jinora's age, and we let her go last time," I pointed out, even if I still didn't like it. Jinora had, after all, been a master Airbender. "The least we can do is make sure we know where they're supposed to be, lest the little ones decide to behave rascally." I looked at them. "But I want you two to be careful, and to remain with one of us at all times. The fact is, Steven, the Zygons wanted you too, and until we know why..."

Katara stepped up between them and set her hands on their shoulders. "I'll watch them, Doctor."

"Ah. Good." I nodded and looked back to the van. "Well, let's get going then. I'd like the time to fine-tune my scanner, so can anyone...."

Before I could finish the sentence, Amethyst had jumped into the driver's seat. "I've always wanted to do this!", she shouted happily.

"Uhhh...." Steven and Connie looked at each other with trepidation.

"Those Zygons even left the keys in the ignition. That's so much easier!" The van's engine came to life.

"It will take time to travel by road." Garnet went to the passenger seat. "We should leave immediately."

Liara looked with trepidation. "I'm going to regret this, aren't i?" She jumped into the back and helped me secure the device among the detritus of Greg's living space. Katara, Steven, and Connie piled in behind us and the children shut the rear door.

"Here we go!" Amythest started cackling as she shifted the van into gear and hit the accelerator.

And I do mean hit.

I will give her driving credit, however. She actually managed to get us out of Beach CIty before nearly killing us.

After a quick stop outside Beach City we resumed our trip. With me at the wheel, which I took after Garnet pulled Amethyst out of the driver's seat (literally), because I was the only other person who could drive a 20th Century motor vehicle. All we had to do is wait for Liara to finish calming her upset stomach down and we were off.

"I will never complain about Shepard's driving again," she had murmured to me while we climbed back in.

And so we were off, driving along the roadways of the Delmarva peninsula's rural reaches, passing through the occasional small town as we went. Garnet had provided me the raw coordinates for the Kindergarten's location, leaving it to me to negotiate the roads to get us there as efficiently as I could.

Amethyst fell asleep while Liara quietly ate some potato chips that Greg had left in his van, tinkering with my scanner as she ate. Behind them I could overhear Connie and Steven talking about the Kindergarten as Steven remembered it.

And then Steven changed the conversation. "Are you okay?", he asked.

"I'm fine," Katara answered quietly, from her place at the back of the van.

"But you look miserable." I heard Steven move. I glanced in the rear-view mirror long enough to see he and Connie were shifting closer to Katara. "So I know you're not okay."

I imagine Katara's eyes narrowing. She didn't like talking about it, not until the grief became too much and she broke down from it. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Oh. Well..." I glanced again and saw Steven and Connie looking at each other. "Thank you for helping Connie."

"That's really cool, how you can heal people with water," Connie added, trying to keep some enthusiastic warmth in her voice. "And all those other things you did."

"Yeah. I wish my healing powers worked that well." Steven's voice took on a sadder tone. "Sometimes I wonder if they'll ever come back."

There was silence for a moment. "I'm sure they will," Katara finally said.

"So, what kind of world do you come from?", Connie asked. "Can anyone do what you can?"

"No. In my world, there are four nations, all from the elements. I'm from the Water Tribe, so I'm a waterbender. Someone from the Earth Kingdom would be an earthbender. And not everybody is born with bending. My brother Sokka couldn't bend. My parents couldn't either." Her voice wavered a little.

"Wohhhhh," was the amazed reply from both children, undoubtedly imagining what said world looked like.

Things went silent. I heard someone moving in the back and a glance showed me that Steven had crawled up behind the front seats. "Doctor, can I ask you a question?"

"Certainly, Steven," I replied.

"What's it like?"


"Traveling to other worlds," he continued. "Katara says you go to all of these different worlds and places."

"Oh, well, it's quite enjoyable. I'm not surprised a young man like you is interested in all the sights. Nebulae visible from planets, grand vistas of binary systems, great space habitats, all of that sort of thing."

"Actually..." A glance at the mirror confirmed he was being more thoughtful than giddy on the subject. "It's not just that. Pearl talked about traveling to other worlds before and she really misses it."

"Ah." I checked the van's gauges just out of caution and put my eyes back on the road. "And what was it you had in mind, Steven?"

I believed I already knew what the boy was going to say next. But he didn't get the chance. He pointed ahead, moving his arm to near my face. "Look!"

I was looking indeed. Ahead of us, I could watch as grass was starting to visibly wilt. We kept going and soon were driving upon gray and dead land. I held my sonic out the window and slowed down enough to get a proper scan. "It's all dying," I said upon checking the results. "Something is drawing the energy right out of the cells of every living thing in the ground."

"The Kindergarten." Garnet's voice was tense with anger. "Someone has set it to full power."

"Then we mustn't dally," I said, and my foot pressed down harder on the accelerator. The van's engine revved and the vehicle picked up speed. "We have to stop them."

Great towering edifices of lifeless stone told me we had arrived at our destination. I pulled the van up to the nearest roadside and we stepped out. In the distance metallic whirring and drilling could be heard. I ran my sonic in the air. "These 'injectors' of yours are putting out quite the power signature."

"Here." Liara helped me sling the scanner over my back. A hardlight interface she had rigged up with her omni-tool allowed me to review the sensor data that would lead us to the TARDIS. She gave my systems a double-check. "Everything is fine."

"Good, good. Now..." I clapped my hands together. "Shall we get going?"

The Gems drew their weapons. Connie balanced the big pink saber on her shoulder and stepped up beside Steven and Katara. "Everyone be ready," Garnet said. "They saw us coming."

"They had to have," I remarked. If anything, I suspected there might still be Zygon infiltrators back at Beach City who would have reported our departure.

We walked forward into the misty environs. Which were a perfect place for a trap if you ask me. I kept an eye on the scanner systems as we went, walking around active injectors; great large machines sending drilling shafts into the earth, resembling bacteriophages if anything.

How... thematically appropriate.

We came up to an injector and I halted. It looked like it was going through a technical fault cycle. Clearly it had been working and had merely stopped for a mechanical reason. We started to clamber over it. What looked to be a beating heart of sorts was working irregularly within the canister tube segment of the device. I held up my sonic to it. "Hrm. Looks like the central core is faulty. Some of the wiring looks to be shorted out."

"Well, this Gem stuff is old," Amethyst remarked. "Maybe it's just too old."

"Or it was damaged long ago." Garnet kept quietly sweeping the area.

"Still... it would make for an opportunity." I kept moving around it until I found a manual interface. Or rather what looked like an interface for Gems to use with their mutable forms. I used the sonic to activate it. "Hrm. What do you make of this?"

Garnet stepped up beside me and looked at the screen. She set a hand on the injector. "They've done something to the Gem cores the injector is planting. The Gems they've made are wrong."

"Wrong in what way?" I asked.

"They have no mind. No guiding intelligence," Garnet said. "They wouldn't be able to do anything."

"I see." I turned off the display and started running my sonic over the controls. Just doing the usual Doctor-y things. "Then that explains what's going on."

"It does?" Amethyst looked up at me. "Because it just makes me confused. Why would they set the Kindergarten up to grow useless Gems?"


I didn't get the chance to answer. The entire injector shook and tilted to its side with a violent shudder. Everyone cried out in surprise as we all slid to the ground as a result. Liara managed a biotic field in mid-air that lowered herself and the children more slowly. Garnet regained her balance in mid-air and landed flat on her feet. The rest of us managed to roll with the impact.

When I looked up, we were surrounded by a semi-circle of Zygons. They hadn't shapeshifted, not yet anyway, but I could immediately tell there was something different about them.

Notably the red gems laid into their foreheads, sternums, and in two cases, palms.

I got to my feet. "Well, here I was, about to complain about the service. Finally deigned to show yourselves, eh?"

"Time Lord." One of the Zygons held up a hand. "You brought us the hybrid child. And the others. Excellent."

"Where's my Dad?!", Steven shouted. His shield appeared on his left arm. Connie stepped up beside him and pulled the pink saber from its sheath. "Where is Pearl?!"

"Come with us, child, and you'll see them."

"You'll have to go through me first!", Connie shouted.

Katara stepped up to their side to watch a Zygon moving that way. "And me."

Amethyst growled and summoned her whip from her gem.

As she did so, the Zygons began to shapeshift. The one who was speaking turned into a copy of me, presumably the same fellow we'd fought in Beach CIty, and two more turned into Liara and Katara.

The others shifted as well, turning into copies of the Gems themselves. All three of them.

Which confirmed what I already suspected. "So this is what it's all about, eh?", I stated while reaching for my sonic disruptor. "That's why you're implanting those mindless Gems into yourselves. You're combining their properties with your metamorphical cells to give yourself shapeshifting at will. No more need for imprints to keep the shape, eh?"

My doppelganger smirked. "Among other benefits."

As was clear when they turned their hands to energy weapons or generated the weapons of the Gems.

"Give in, Time Lord," demanded my doppelganger. "We have power you couldn't comprehend."

"Well, isn't that embarrassing, I was about to suggest the same to you," I countered. "Return your prisoners and the TARDIS and I give you my word, I'll let you go back home through whatever tear in the fabric of space brought you here."

"Offer denied!", was the reply.

I brought up the sonic disruptor in time to absorb the shot he sent at me and the one fired at Liara. She gathered her strength and threw out a biotic singularity. Our doppelgangers jumped out of its way.

There was a loud boom and I turned to notice Garnet fighting her Zygon impostor, armored gauntlet versus armored gauntlet. She ducked a thrown punch, hopped a kick, and slammed her fists into the Zygon's face. It fell backward while howling from the impact.

Amethyst's double lashed out with a copy of her whip. The diminutive Gem rolled away from the strike and countered. Her counterattack was caught by the spear of the Zygon impersonating Pearl, who cut the whip with the spear's tip. The fake Amethyst lashed out again and her whip wrapped around Amethyst. "Woh!" She shapeshifted into the likeness of a large, yet still very purple, male wrestler, breaking the whip in the process. "Ha! What's the matter, can't copy me that well?!", Amethyst shouted. She generated another whip and used it to yank the spear away from the Zygon-Pearl. "What did you do with Pearl, huh?!"

Their reply was to keep attacking.

Katara's double was coming after her with energy weapons. Katara trailed water from one of her carrying bottles, using it to strike at the energy weapon hand with her water whip mingled with ice projectiles. Her counterpart dodged those strikes while maintaining its own attack. One shot nearly connected, only to be blocked by Steven's shield. He advanced with the shield raised against attack and Connie followed, sword at the ready. The Zygon-Katara realized their plan and shifted weapons to face them, generating larger and more powerful blasts that staggered Steven behind his shield.

A solid column of ice slammed into the fake Katara and sent her flying into the cliffside, or rather one of the holes in said cliffside. Katara pulled her arms backward, a motion that pulled the ice back and returned it to water.

Had I not been so pressed by my counterpart I would have had time to cry out a warning. Zygon-Pearl came flying in, spear raised, and Katara didn't see her coming until it was almost too late. She jumped forward just as the sharp spear cut along her back. She turned in her jump and flung a host of ice shards at her new attacker. The shards tore into flesh and damaged the pretender enough that the Zygon's natural coloring started to show on Pearl's normal features. The Zygon extended a hand and fired a quick pulse that Katara didn't have time to dodge, sending her flying back toward the broken injector. Zygon-Pearl went in for the kill.

Steven and Connie intercepted the downward strike before it could find Katara's heart. Steven's shield caused the blow to slide away harmlessly and opened up the fake Pearl to a multitude of attacks from Connie. She handled the saber like an expert would, driving the fake ever backward. A few times the fake seemed to find some ground again. But it was never enough. Connie was, despite her age, simply too much. Their quick duel culminated in a clever bit of swordplay that took the spear from the fake's hand. Before the Zygon-Pearl could go for another, Connie spun away and Steven came in, bashing the Zygon with his shield. Connie came in from the side and brought the blade down on the red gem set in the Zygon's forehead. It cracked under the blow. The Zygon screamed in agony and toppled backward.

There was another cry. My doppelganger turned and scowled at seeing Liara's biotics holding her Zygon duplicate in mid-air. Liara threw out a bolt of biotic energy that collided with the singularity and produced a powerful explosion that sent the Zygon-Liara flying into the far cliff wall.

"Having a little trouble, are we?", I said, smirking.

A quick glance confirmed for me that they were. They were down three and the Garnet and Amethyst copies were being handily beaten by the real things.

The same glance told him the same. "Do you think this will change anything, Time Lord?"

"Well, yes, rather," I said. "I'm not sure what dreams of conquest you've gotten, but I won't let you harm this planet."

The Zygon laughed. "You haven't the faintest clue what's really going on here. The real power at play."

"Then enlighten..." I stopped.

He was distracting me.

But from what?

I switched to offense with a kinetic blast that threw the Zygon backward, although not nearly with the same violence the same blast would have propelled me. I turned and realized what was going on.

Alas, a moment too late.

The Katara-Zygon was back up. But not back in the fight. Instead it had slipped by to the broken injector we'd passed and taken control. The device stood up on its legs and moved toward us. "Oh bugger," I breathed.

Liara generated a biotic singularity and threw it at one leg,, looking to unbalance the device. It stopped for a moment, shifting weight, and then began to turn. A drill bit dropped from the bottom of the main body and plunged toward LIara. She jumped out of the way just in time. The drill buried itself into the earth and kept going.

Ah. Of course. Hard-programmed, the Zygons couldn't just lift the drill right away.

I held up my sonic to try and remotely seize up the injector. "Well, if you want to play this game....", I muttered.

A powerful blast of energy threw me to the ground. I turned and had to get my deflector up to absorb another shot from my counterpart. "You're awfully persistent!"

"This is our future!", the Zygon answered. "The future of my entire species! A new world to claim! Power like nothing we have ever known!"

The Zygon-Garnet slammed into my counterpart and they both went flying. I turned and saw Garnet going for one of the legs. "Amethyst! The leg!"

Amethyst looked up from where she had wrapped up her Zygon counterpart. "Just as we were having fun!" She punched the Zygon in the head and pulled another whip from her gem.

The Crystal Gems assaulted the legs on the far side and Liara took up a third, leaving one leg for the rest of us. Or rather, for me and Katara, as I was quick to bark, "Children, keep your distance!" I looked to Katara. "Katara, use whatever water you've got left, freeze the upper leg! As cold as you can!"

"I've got it!" She pulled the rest of her water out and sent it at the upper section of the leg, where it was thinnest.

I brought up the sonic disruptor and waited for the ice to finish solidifying. As soon as Katara reached her limit I used a full kinetic blast. The metal was already weakened from age and use; the flash-freezing had put it over the edge. It snapped like a twig. The injector began to fall over.

A blast of energy came from the side of my vision and struck Katara directly. She went flying into the shadow of the falling injector. I had enough time to see my doppelganger, energy still in his hand, smirking.

"Katara!" Steven and Connie ran to her side at the same time I did.

Again, into the shadow.

"Steven, watch out!," Garnet shouted.

I was already lifting Katara into my arms when Garnet's cry to Steven prompted us all to look up. Connie and Steven cried out as the injector fell toward us. Faster than it should have, as became clear when I saw the Zygon-Katara jumping off it from the other end.

I pulled an arm away from Katara, looking to try and shield us with my sonic disruptor, even if I doubted I could stop something that big from crushing us.

Pink energy surrounded us, looking like a blooming rose until it solidified into a bubble.

And then the injector fell on us.

Which, in turn, caused the ground to collapse below us. Everyone cried out as we fell into the darkness.

One of the many, many benefits off the armored vest I wore was that the physical and magical enhancements of the vest protected my ribs from things like falling into dark and dusty holes created by crashing alien technology, all with a fairly weighty dimensional resonance scanner still on my back. I coughed a bit as I picked myself up.

"Steven? Steven?!" Connie coughed through the darkness.

"Connie? Unnh.... Connie, are you..."

"Hold it!", I said. "Let me get a light." I tested the display for my rigged-up dimensional resonance scanner, since its light could still work even if the display itself wasn't what I needed, but it didn't pop up. Blasted scrap parts, the fall must have knocked out something.

So I reached into my pocket and pulled out an electric torch. That is, a flashlight for you Yanks. A flip of the switch and a beam of light illuminated the darkness. I moved it about until I found Steven and Connie within a few feet of each other. "There." I let out another small cough from all the dust in the air. "Now where is Katara?"

A low moan came to my hearing. I looked the other way and found her sprawled out on the ground. The front of her blue robes had been burnt black by the energy blast. I went over to her and brought up the sonic. "Katara. Can you hear me?"

The children came up behind me. "Is she going to be okay?", Connie asked.

I swallowed. Going by the sonic, the blast had damaged Katara's lungs and diaphragm, not to mention her tissues surrounding that rather vital organ and its supporting muscle. "If we can get her to the TARDIS, yes," I answered. I reached into my pocket for the emergency medi-gel shot I carried. "Here, this should help."

We all waited for the seconds that it took for the medi-gel to do its work. I frowned when Katara still struggled to breathe. It wasn't enough.

"Steven, maybe you should try," Connie suggested.

He looked at her and then to Katara. Worry and doubt cast a pall on his young face. "I... I don't think it'll work... it doesn't work anymore."

"Can't you at least try...?"

"Doesn't matter," Katara wheezed. I turned my head sharply to her.

"What?", I asked.

"I shouldn't... exist anymore... anyway..." She wheezed from the damage to her lungs. "Just leave me..."

"Don't you talk like that," I growled. "Don't you dare."

Steven moved up beside me. "How could you say something like that, Katara?"

She moved her eyes to look at him and Connie. I saw tears form in her eyes. She struggled to breathe before replying, "I have..." A sharp breath. "...nothing left. Nothing."

"But that's not true," Steven protested. "You've got the Doctor, and Liara, and going to all of those different worlds and places...."

"But that's not..." A cough. "...what I want." She started to cry. "I want..." Another wheeze. "...my family back. I want... Toph... and Sokka... and Gran-Gran and... Pakku... I want Aang back."

As she gave the abbreviated litany of family and friends who had perished before her very eyes, the depths of her despair had become more than evident. For all my efforts to help her find a new life, I couldn't bring that old one back for her, and the yearning in her strained voice showed just how attached she remained to it. New worlds, new people, how could that compare to the life she should have led? The family she should have had? The only hope I could ever give her was if I found a way to give that life back to her. Since I couldn't... she wouldn't have hope. Only despair at ever knowing the happiness she once had.

And, now, a desire to just end the struggle. To accept her loss not on the road to gaining a new life, but to simply ceasing to be.

In the dim light I saw Steven and Connie look to me. I sighed and realized I had to explain more fully than I had before. "Time travelers destroyed everything she cared about. We... that is I and others... ended up stopping the time travelers, but because she was in the TARDIS, and because she became so different... she remained in existence. Even when our victory removed her entire timeline."

"But doesn't that mean everyone she misses is still alive?", Steven asked.

Connie added her own question. "You saved them, right?"

"Yes." I nodded. "But another her already exists at that time. Another her that is living the life she can never have."

"That's so sad..."

Steven nodded at Connie's words. He looked back to Katara. "I'm sorry all of that happened to you. I... I'm scared that can happen to me. That something will happen to Connie and my Dad and the Gems."

Katara looked at him as he spoke.

"They're, they're all I have. And they're in trouble. And you're really good with that water stuff you do and... and your healing... and what I guess I'm..." Steven stopped talking. "What's the use? My healing doesn't work anymore anyway."

"Steven..." Connie took his hand.

I looked to the readings from my sonic again. In an ordinary situation, this wouldn't be a big deal. The TARDIS had the means to easily stabilize Katara's condition.

But down here? In this dark, dusty hole, with naught but a sonic screwdriver and a couple other distinctly non-medical tools? I didn't have the means to save her. "You said your spit could heal?", I asked.

"Y-yeah..." When my torch moved enough again to illuminate Steven's face directly, I could see the streaks of tears going down his face. "But it doesn't work anymore."

"Can you try?" I leaned toward him. "Please?"

He looked scared at that. I saw the fear of failure in his dark eyes. "But what if it doesn't work?"

"Then nothing changes," I answered. "But if it does, you save Katara's life."

He sniffled. And then he nodded. "Okay."

Traveling the wonders of creation leads to some pretty bizarre sights. Watching the Goblins of Eorzea in their cheesemaking, for instance (I couldn't get Asami to eat any cheese again for almost a month). But watching a young boy lick his hands and apply the spittle as a life-saving measure? Oh, that's one for the record books.

We watched and waited. But nothing happened. In the dim light I could see Steven's self-doubt come to the fore. "It's not working," he said. "See? My healing doesn't work anymore."

"You tried. That's the important thing," Connie said to him.

"But..." Tears appeared in his eyes. "What if it's you next time? Or Dad or one of the Gems? What if you need me to heal you and I can't? What if...?"

He started to cry a little. I rested a hand on his shoulder. "You'll figure it out, don't worry," I said. "These things can take time..."

I looked back to Katara, who was looking at Steven as Connie comforted him. The tears in her eyes reflected the beam of my torch.

Her hand moved up toward the little spit wad over her wound. A small smile came to her face. "Actually," she said, her breath still labored and difficult, "I do feel healing power in this."

Steven and Connie looked over to her. "What?", he asked.

"There's power here. I think I can..." Katara concentrated and moved her hand gently over the drying spitwad. It started to glow blue, an ethereal light even brighter than water normally got when she applied her waterbending healing to it. Light enough to illuminate the cavern we'd fallen into briefly. Katara gasped softly and then seemed to breathe easier. I checked my sonic and confirmed that the damage was healed. At least, healed enough that she wasn't in any danger. "Thank you, Steven," she said to him.

"You mean my healing spit still works?", he asked. "But why isn't it working for me anymore?"

"I'm not sure, but I know you can figure it out." Katara sat up slowly and kept looking at him. "It took me years of practice to get my waterbending skills to where they are now."

Steven nodded and smiled, as did Connie. The two children then took Katara into a hug, which she returned. The smile on her face was not as painful as before. There were still tears in her eyes. "You remind me of Aang," she admitted to Steven. She looked at me and I nodded and smiled as well.

"What was he like?", Connie asked her.

"He loved life," Katara answered, tears bright in her eyes. "He loved having fun. He loved to meet people and help them work through their problems. And he always tried to keep people from fighting and find peaceful solutions. He only fought when he had to."

That prompted a nod of understanding from the children. "You loved him a lot," Steven observed.

Katara nodded and wiped at the tears going down her cheeks, leaving behind smudge marks from the dust. "Yes. I did."

For a moment nothing more was said. I started to examine our surroundings while they had their tender moment. Just to make efficient use of the time, mind you. Inwardly I was more focused on Katara and what effect this meeting was having on her. I had wondered so often at just how I might help her come to grips with what happened to her.

Now it looked like I'd found the answer I needed in the guise of a curly-haired pre-adolescent boy.

Don't you just love it when things turn out so unexpectantly?

As for my other work, my sonic did confirm my suspicion. There was a buildup of temporal energy in the area consistant with what I expected to find; the Crack was somewhere in the Kindergarten. That settled the "how" quite well.

Now it was time to confirm what was going on with the Zygons and what they were doing to this Earth.

As I swept the torch around I saw something sparkle. I got to my feet and briefly pointed upward with the torch, letting its beam shine over the ceiling of our little dusty hideaway. The hole that we had come down through was visible, but no light shined from above. Undoubtedly from the Injector having landed upon it.

Satisfied I had the head clearance I required, I walked over to the sparkle I saw. Upon standing over it I realized what I was looking at. A red gem reflected the light of my torch. I scooped it up and held it in my hands, shifting away dust with my fingers. I gripped the torch under my arm pit and pulled out the sonic screwdriver to scan.

"Doctor, what is it?", I heard Katara ask.

"One of the Zygons' gems," I replied. "Must have just formed from the process they're using." I kept the sonic over it, adding purple light to the mixture before me. "Hrm. Ahhh... I think I see."

"See what?" I heard footsteps and looked over to see Steven and Connie were standing beside me. Katara walked up beside them.

"Why the Zygons want you. Why they took Pearl." I chuckled. "Oh, you fools, you silly fools. Mucking about with things you don't fully understand, and look where it's gotten you."


"Sorry, just finishing confirmation of a theory," I answered. "Now, we should get going." I shined the torch about. "I'd think there would be an exit about here somewhere, the Zygons do need a way to get their new gems out after all..."

I shined the torch about. The only indication I found of an exit was the outline of a cave leading out now filled with debris. Blast. The Injector's collapse must have caused a general cave-in.

"So..." Connie looked up at me. "How are we going to get out?"

I looked around, trying to think of a solution. Blasting the debris away with the sonic disruptor was the most likely way to work, but also the most likely to cause a further cave-in. "Hrm...."

Pink light filled the cavern. We all turned to its source, a portal forming nearby. A single creature leapt from it, landing on all fours beside Steven. Taking in its features, all in pink as well, I was surprised to see it was a....

"Lion!", Steven cried out. "Good boy, you came!" He ruffled the pink lion's mane. "We're going to need you to get us out of here."

The lion made a low, not unfriendly growl.

I blinked. "Lion... Lickers?"

Steven nodded. "Yeah, he..." The boy's eyes widened and he looked to me. "Wait a minute, how did you know about those?"

"Well, your pink friend is asking for one," I answered.

The children looked at me in surprise. "You can talk to animals?", Connie asked, incredulous.

"Well, some," I said. "Depends on their intelligence."

Lion growled again.

"Yes, yes, you'll get your Licker whatevers, after we get out of here," I answered.

Another growl.

Oi. And I thought Mouse gave me enough lip.

"Can you get us out of here?", Steven asked Lion.

Lion seemed to consider it. He turned to face the rubble blocking the exit and let out a growl. Waves of force left his muzzle and struck the debris, breaking it up and throwing it about. The exit from the cavern was visible beyond.

I narrowed my eyes at the beast. "I could have done that."

There was a little growl of satisfaction.

"Smart aleck," I muttered, after which I stepped into the opening. I shut off the torch and held out the sonic. "Going by my readings, we have a clear path toward the center of the Kindergarten, this way," I said. "But we'd best keep the lights down so they don't spot us."

"Right," I heard Steven agree. "Wait, one moment. Here Lion..."

I heard plastic crackling behind me and happy growling from Lion. He'd gotten his Lickers. After a moment I held my hand out. I felt Katara take it. Presumably Steven took her hand and Connie took Steven's.

We walked into the darkness.

The tunnel went on into another dark chamber, where a greater number of the red gems were present. A scan confirmed for me what I had seen before, and so we continued wordlessly.

The next chamber was lit up. Machinery moved about, examining the gems forming along the walls and scooping up a few completed ones. The environs were dusty and sterile, fitting as the soil was now completely devoid of the characteristics that would have let it sustain any form of life. I spied a Zygon in the distance looking away from the entrance. I led the others around the machinery, making sure not to be seen, and soon we were in another tunnel.

"What do we do if we get spotted?", Katara whispered to me.

"Run," I answered. "But let's not get spotted, eh?"

There was another chamber, also gathering red gems, and this one was completely unmanned. We moved along the wall again and were justified in this measure when a Zygon emerged from one of the other openings. This one had a gem set into its sternum. It looked about and then headed on to the tunnel we had just left. As soon as a scan confirmed we were alone, I looked to the others. "They might be looking for us. And we're getting close to the center of their operation, so don't do anything unless I instruct you."

Steven and Connie nodded quietly.

Another fully lit tunnel took us to yet another chamber like the others. Even more of the red gems were present. This time, however, not all were intact. I exploited the fact that it was unmanned to move forward and get a scan of some of the fragments. Yes, total confirmation. I was right.

About what, you ask? Well, let me get back to you on that.

A pair of voices were coming from another tunnel. I pulled the others into hiding behind one of the containers for the red gems. "...unnecessary, why return when we can conquer here? There are no Sontarans, no Rutan, no Daleks, and definitely no Time Lords to intervene against us."

The two Zygons who entered were still in altered shape, looking like myself and Liara. "And there are no worlds worth it," the Zygon-Liara replied to my counterpart. "Once we finish studying these gem creatures, we can use their powers to conquer what we see fit."

"If we can perfect them." I heard some pain in my counterpart's voice. "The imperfections are too limiting." A growl. "Either way, we need that mewling child."

"I've sent..."

Their voices faded. Presumably they entered another tunnel.

"Their gems aren't working right," Steven said in a low voice. "So that's why they want me?"

"Oh, yes," I answered, my voice equally low. "Very much yes. And that's why we shan't let them have you, Steven." I scanned quickly and found where to go. "This way."

As we went, I kept my eyes open for any internal security systems. There weren't any that I could see. Presumably the Zygons didn't believe they had any risk of someone sneaking about. More likely, they had limitations on how much they could bring through the Crack, and internal security systems were one thing they had to skimp on compared to other priorities.

Still... I had questions about what was going on, and I knew where to find the answers.

The next chamber, as it turned out.
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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-02 09:23am

Well, here we were.

The main chamber of the tunnels under the Kindergarten looked like it had once been used by the Gems who created the Kindergarten, now repurposed for use by the Zygons. A shaft in the far wall existed for a lift to head up to the surface, with at least three other ways out that I could see. All undoubtedly going to other tunnels. The chamber itself was large and full of machinery and technology of both Gem and Zygon make, including several obvious reactors to give the Zygon base the power it required. Within the room must have been at least a dozen Zygons with gems set into their bodies. None of them were shapeshifted at the moment save one; the Zygon impersonating Steven's father. He was at one end of the room at some controls, speaking to someone, while the others were checking various stations. "... our end of the deal," he said in a growled tone. "Is the transmat ready to work?"

As he asked that I scanned the room with my sonic, not to mention a visual scan to go with it. Along one side were a number of capsules. A few were empty, but most had occupants. I noticed Steven's father was in one. Pearl was in another. A pudgy young man with curly yellow hair, a woman in a postal office outfit....

....and Liara and the other Gems as well.

Steven poked his head around the corner of the tunnel. "They've got Dad and the Gems..." He looked over the others. "Ronaldo? Sadie's mom? And I think that's one of the guys who run the kitchen store."

"They're in stasis and attached to body print readers," I noted. "It's how Zygons usually change shape to resemble other beings."

"Hey, Steven?" Connie tapped him on the shoulder. "Is that...?"

I looked over with Steven to not quite far end of the room, where the Zygon-Greg was standing with another figure now moving into view. This one... was most definitely not a Zygon. The skin or surface was primarily shades of green, the fingers on the hands weren't actually attached to the hand proper, and... oh yes, a green gem was set into the forehead, flatter than the oval shape of Pearl's gem.

"That's Peridot," Steven gasped.

"A friend?", I asked.

"She's one of the Homeworld Gems." Given his tone of voice, I needn't ask if that was good or bad. It definitely sounded negative.

"Didn't you say she created those Gem Mutants we fought in the Hospital?", Connie asked, as if needing to confirm for me my calculation on what side Peridot was on.

Before he could answer I shushed them both, not just to avoid detection but to ensure I could hear.

"...promised me!", the Gem called Peridot was shouting, her voice on the shrill side. "I did what I promised! Now get me off this stupid planet!"

"I promised to get you back to your homeworld when we finished our work," the Zygon answered. "We're not done."

"But you're expecting me to help you create these... these things?" Peridot's voice dripped with disgust as she held up one of the red gems. "So far you've given me nothing for my work! Without me you wouldn't have been able to re-activate the Kindergarten or rig the warp pad for remote transport! Don't expect me to have to clean up your failures too!"

The Zygon leader didn't look happy at that. It was curious that he was still in Greg Universe's form. Or, at least, curious if you weren't me. "You may have noticed that we took care of your other problem."

"What, the clods?" Peridot laughed. "I get away from them all the time."

"I see. So they didn't cost you your foot..."

As they argued I looked about and felt a tinge of frustration. I couldn't see if the TARDIS was present. I reached behind me and tapped something on the scanner I was carrying, but even it couldn't give me a definite reading. The TARDIS could be somewhere in here I couldn't see, or she could be in a nearby chamber, still behind whatever isolation field was keeping me from calling her.

Well. There was nothing more to be done about it. We couldn't stand here all day. Eventually some Zygon would need to leave down this tunnel, or would return through this tunnel, and we would be spotted. We needed to act.

I stepped back into the tunnel and knelt low, drawing the others to do the same. "Connie, I need you to sneak over to those capsules and release the Gems."

"How?", she asked.

I held out my sonic screwdriver. After some consideration I handed it to Connie. "Here, point this at the capsule and press."

She looked over the screwdriver with surprise in her dark eyes. "That's it?"

I nodded. "That's it. Wonders of Time Lord technology." I winked.

"What if they see me?", Connie asked.

"Oh, don't worry about that. Katara will be watching your back as best she can."

Katara nodded at that.

Steven, on the other hand, actually looked a little perturbed by it. "But, what about me?"

"Oh, what about you, eh?" I ruffled his curly hair. "You and I are due on stage, Steven. We're going to give them quite the performance. Up for it?"

I was answered by a nod.

By the time I finished explaining what I was about to do, shouts were coming from the control room. We all looked back and watched Peridot clenching a disembodied fist. "I should have known never to deal with organics! I never agreed to this ridiculous experiment of yours."

"The Steven Universe child is the key."

"And you clods can't even catch him! Even if you did, that doesn't mean we can get this to work! Gems aren't meant to be implanted in organic bodies and controlled!"

"You are going to help," the Zygon insisted. "One way or the other."

"Oh yeah?!" Peridot brought her arm up. Her fingers pointed outward save one, looking very much like it was going to be used as a weapon. "How are you going to make me, clod?!"

Another Zygon moved up behind her and held a hand out. Energy erupted from the gem in the hand and snapped into place around Peridot before she could move. She flinched from it when she tried to hit it with her other hand. "What are you doing?!," she demanded.

"Put her with the others. A fourth intact Gem will give us more options for the experiments."

I looked down to see Steven looked... rather ferocious, given the usual expressions I've seen for him. But I could understand it. The Zygons had just admitted the fate they had in mind for the Crystal Gems. For his family. "Don't waste it," I murmured to him. "Hold it down. Be ready to use it when the time comes. Are you ready to start the show?"

Before he could answer, a chime came from within the room. "Lord Grolon," a voice said, "we're getting a transmission through the tear again."

The Zygon didn't seem entirely pleased. He reached down and pressed a key on the nearest control surface. "Yes?"

A voice came through on the other end, distorted to the point I couldn't make out anything identifiable about the speaker save that it sounded vaguely masculine. "Is the Time Lord's TARDIS ready?"

I held up a hand. I didn't want to interrupt this part.

"Nearly so," Grolon - Zygon-Greg - answered.

"Do not take me for a fool, Grolon. It is a simple matter to prepare it for the transmat process."

"Maybe so." Grolon moved about. "But you have not informed us of why you desire this device so greatly. I am well aware of the power of Time Lord technology. I will not give it away so simply."

"If you want to see the rest of your people safe on this side of the tear, you will follow our arrangement. You will give me the Time Lord's TARDIS."

Well, that was that. I decided it was time to step in. "Oh ho ho, now what do we have here?!", I shouted, stepping out of the tunnel and going toward "Grolon" and the other Zygon. Steven came up behind me, as I had requested him to do. "Hello everyone! So pleased to see you, get acquainted, that sort of thing. So, who do we have here on the other end of this call? Because I rather like my TARDIS, sir, and I don't think you can do right by her."

I received no actual reply to that. Whomever was on the other end decided to cut the communication. The Zygons, for their part, reacted with stares of surprise and anger. And those with gems in their bodies brought forth weapons. I laughed. "Yes, bring out the guns. You're the hosts, after all, wouldn't want you to feel uncomfortable, would I?"

"You are that mad?", Grolon asked. His voice was stuffed with incredulity at my audacity. "You have just surrendered yourself and the child we seek!"

I rolled my eyes. "Oh please, you lot seem to know so much about me that you should know better. Now, since I'm talking with the boss and not that bore who's going around trying to emulate my good looks, perhaps we can come to an agreement."

Grolon stared at me. "An agreement?", he asked dully, stunned that I should have the pure cheek to do something like that.

"Yes. An agreement by which you return back through the Crack in the Multiverse so I don't have to get nasty to protect this planet and its guardians," I answered.

For a moment the Zygon stared. Then he started to laugh. The others joined in. "Time Lord arrogance! You always think you're so much smarter."

Well. That wasn't in the script.

And then I heard the very slight shuffling of feet behind me.

Steven and I looked back. Connie and Katara were being held at gunpoint by my counterpart and Liara's.

Oh. Bugger. So much for that idea, eh?

So, my nice plan to get the others free was out. Steven and I were still in the middle of the Zygon control room while Katara and Connie were under close watch by our Zygon counterparts. The Zygon-Liara was holding Connie's sword in one hand already.

"Connie!", Steven shouted.

The poor girl looked positively miserable. "They got us right after you walked out," she said. "I'm sorry."

"Such a simple tactic," Grolon laughed. "Did you expect such minor misdirection to actually work, Time Lord? You are easily caught."

I should have been nervous at this point. Surrounded, overmatched, isolated, against an enemy with quite a bit of power and every advantage..

It must have been surprising to Grolon when I didn't react like that, though. "Am I so easily caught?", I asked, smiling at him.

"Be as defiant as you want. Now that we have the boy, we can learn how his gem interacts with his body."

"Thus negating that whole problem with losing control of them over time, eh?", I asked. "Not to mention their fragility. I've heard of 'glass cannons' before, I just never expected anyone to literally do that to themselves. And it looks like you have a problem with the shapeshifting now, don't you? I can't imagine you'd still be in a Human's shape for fun, after all." At that I shook my head. "Having difficulty with the gems you're using mucking up the metamorphical cells, hrm?"

Grolon laughed. "Yes, we have had problems. Thankfully, we have other things as well." He looked away from me to the capsules with their prisoners. "Here we have the hybrid, hostages, and a Time Lord to hold them over." When he turned back to me, he was smiling with relish. "So much for Time Lord ingenuity. Our victory is assured."

"Now you just have to decide what to do with it, eh?", I pointed out. I tilted my head back to my doppelganger. "My impostor seems to think going back home is foolish."

I didn't look back to see his reaction. Grolon's was a minor smile that looked strangely amused on the visage of Steven's father. "Oh, I am aware of Brunoc's thoughts. You needn't worry about that. I've got other matters that your Time Lord brain must be put toward."

"Um, Doctor?" Steven looked up at me. He looked rather upset, understandably so. "I thought you..."

Grolon turned about. His expression turned angry. "What did you say?", he asked, interrupting Steven.

"Huh?" Steven looked at him with evident confusion. I had to restrain my temptation to smirk.

"What did you call him, child?!", Grolon demanded.

At that point, I spoke up. "Ah yes, we never got to the introductions, did we?" I put on my best showman's smile. "Hello, everyone." I raised my hand in an open greeting. "I'm the Doctor."

Oh, that got a reaction. Grolon's face contorted into stunned horror. I looked back and saw my counterpart - Brunoc apparently - had a rather displeased expression as well. "I told you," he rasped, looking at Grolon. "I told you not to trust...!"

"Quiet!" Grolon turned to one of the other Zygons. "Reset all systems! Reset them all!"

Said Zygon went to a control and began operating it. Several frantic moments later the Zygon protested, "I can't access the command functions!"

My smile grew into something more bemused. I started to speak, waving my hand about a bit. "All of this Gem technology is really quite interesting. For one thing, all of the Injectors in the Kindergarten are remotely networked to one another. Makes the job of coordinating the process easier. Funny thing is, they're quite redundant too. Each one has the necessary hardware to tap into the network. So, say, if you have one injector taken off-line because of a mechanical fault, it still has the hardware to access the main network." I looked up at Grolon and I'm sure my smile turned quite smug. "You... didn't happen to tap the Kindergarten's network into your own, did you?"

Right after I said that, one of the displays nearby started fritzing, displaying random code.

"Oh, right, you did," I continued, making my expression show fake shock. "How thoughtless of you! So now I've locked you out of all of your systems." I pointed a finger upward. "Now, what was that you were saying about Time Lord ingenuity?" I used the other hand to cup my ear, as if straining to hear. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that before. Would you mind repeating it? Go on, tell me about how ingenious we are, I can take it."

And I couldn't stop smiling. It's fun when you get the drop on a foe like that.

The truth was, I had defeated the Zygons' plan upon arriving at the Kindergarten. Or, more exactly, upon my examination of that broken Injector we came across.

One of the reactors in the room suddenly went offline. "Maintain main power," Grolon demanded. "The stasis field around the...."

He was undoubtedly talking about the field that kept me cut off from my TARDIS. I just want to make that point clear given what happened next.

The stasis capsules shut down and fell open.

The Humans were mostly just stunned silent for the moment. Liara was simply trying to get her bearings back, and given the bruise on her head I could see why.

The Gems, on the other hand? They'd been aware the entire time too, just unable to move their physical forms.

Within a moment their weapons were out. "Pearl, protect Steven and the others! Amethyst, watch the door!" Garnet's gauntlets flashed into existence and she jumped forward. Grolon managed a physical shield just before she slammed into him with a hammer punch that sent him flying.

Several of the Zygons began shifting into counterparts to the Gems again. The one trying to emulate Pearl didn't get a chance. Pearl's spear went right into its gem, shattering it. The Zygon screamed and fell over.

With the other Zygons now aiming to attack the Crystal Gems, they lost focus on everything else. Peridot's stasis bubble was left to fall to the ground, untended. And I had the moment I needed. I brought out my sonic disruptor, aimed it at Grolon, and fired a kinetic pulse that threw him into the far wall. "Steven, get to Connie and Katara!", I shouted, turning as I did. My eyes had already spied the hydraulic line that fed water to some of the biotech parts of the Zygon machinery. Another kinetic pulse blew it away, sending water spilling out on top of a couple of the Zygons behind us trying to get a bead on Pearl.

Katara's arms came up and the water responded to her, whipping about and knocking both Zygons over on the way to smashing into the Zygon-Liara. A cry came from the Zygon at the impact of ice and water, knocking it off balance and allowing Connie to pull her sword from the scabbard still in its hand. She swung the blade and nearly lopped off the limb in question, freeing the scabbard. Zygon-Liara screeched in agony and lashed out at Connie. All it ended up doing was smashing its working hand into Steven's shield. Steven whirled around and Connie's blade found the Zygon's belly, slicing across it and forcing the Zygon down. It started to lose that distinct Liara shape.

Brunoc growled in rage and came at me, energy weapon firing. The sonic disruptor's deflector absorbed the shots again and again, with growing strain. "You're ruining everything!", he screamed. "This was the future of our people! This world, this universe!"

"It's not yours!," I retorted. I triggered a kinetic blast that threw Brunoc back. "Connie! I need my screwdriver back!"

Steven, without a word, swapped places with her to deflect the blows coming from the wounded and enraged Zygon-Liara. Connie took one hand from her sword, requiring her to lower it, and pulled the sonic from her pocket. "Here!" Her throw was well done and I easily grabbed my sonic from the air. She promptly brought her sword back up and used it to cut away at their foe again. The Zygon stumbled backward from the wounds and left its gem wide open for Connie's sword to break.

The Zygon lost most of what was left of Liara's shape as it fell. And it didn't get back up again.

Brunoc was starting to recover. But he was knocked aside from a biotic blast from Liara. "Some vacation, eh?", I asked.

"I'm not dignifying that with a response!", was her reply, all while she generated another biotic burst.

A warbling sound was going off overhead. The alarm, undoubtedly, manually activated to get around my takeover of their network. I brought out the sonic and used it on the Zygon systems, looking for whatever data I could find on who sent them through. The mysterious voice that wanted them to give him my TARDIS.

Another generator crackled and fizzled. The lights flickered.

"What's going on?!" Greg looked to his son. "Steven!"

"Dad!" Steven kept his attention on using his shield to block one Zygon and cover Connie's back. She was busy dispatching the Liara-Zygon with swordplay aimed at its gem.

"Aliens!", the blonde young man with chip hair screamed. "We've been abducted by aliens! They must be after our kidneys as part of a plot by the Diamond...!"

Garnet went flying past. A moment later an impact slammed into my head and sent me flying as well. I slammed into the far wall, dropped down hard onto a control surface, and hit the ground. Stars were spinning in my vision and the disorientation was enough to keep my sprawled out for the better part of thirty seconds. When I looked up, I saw Grolon batting Liara away. The Zygon's appearance as Greg was becoming unstable, his skin turning Zygon reddish-pink and his shape starting to waver and lose cohesion. Through clear force of will I saw him hold his arm in proper shape. The gem on his head glowed and he pulled out a rather nasty looking blunt weapon. "It is time to meet your end, Doctor!" He brought the weapon up.

And then he brought it down.


Steven jumped in, shield raised, and he grunted with effort as the weapon slammed against the shield. "I won't let you hurt him!", Steven cried. "I won't let you hurt anyone else! I'll stop you!" His voice was harder now. Well, "hard" might be the wrong word. But there was more to it than his usual friendly, happy tone. He was doing as I instructed; taking all of those feelings over what the Zygons had done to the people he cared about and using it here and now. Constructively.

"Impudent child!" Grolon snarled and brought the weapon down again, but to no avail. Steven's will was not wavering. "I'll deal with you next!"

"Hyah!" Connie came flying in, jumping off Steven's shield and slashing at Grolon's head. He cried out in pain and rage and struck out, narrowly missing Connie as she flipped over him. Ichor oozed from the wound on his head, mixed with the shattered remains of one of his gems. His shape shifted entirely now, becoming an even more grotesque mix of his normal Zygon appearance and his form as Greg Universe; losing one of the gems that kept his shape stable was not doing anything good for the rest of him. He screeched with rage and flung his weapon down on Steven's shield again. Steven groaned against the impact. For my part, I scrambled for my sonic disruptor, but my head was still spinning. I was going to need Katara's skills after the battle, I surmised. This could even be a concussion.

Assuming I lived.

Suddenly Pearl was standing over us, her spear already in motion. Grolon's weapon went flying from his grasp and exposed the gem in his palm. Connie's blade shot up and came down on it, smashing it with a single blow. Grolon's other hand flew outward from shock, and it was Pearl's spear tip that caught the other gem. It too flew apart from the impact. Grolon let out what would be his death cry and promptly collapsed. His body literally fell apart. And I do mean literally. The cellular structure disintegrated and he basically dissolved into nothingness.

Steven looked back at me. "Are you okay, Doctor?" He held a hand up.

"Why do you have eight fingers and two thumbs on your hand?", I answered, only half-jokingly. Yes, my bell had been rung quite loudly, thank you very much Grolon. I put a hand on my temple.

Another Zygon was already coming in, screaming revenge, and Pearl jumped in, deflecting blasts from its energy hand to hold it off. "There's more coming!", I heard Amethyst shout. "I can't fight them all!"

"We need to regroup!"

Shortly after Garnet said that, another power generator fizzed out, courtesy of my network sabotage. I tested something with my sonic and grinned. "Oh yes, oh yes indeed." I reached into my pocket and felt the TARDIS remote in my hand.


My TARDIS, lovely as always, materialized right beside us. I snapped my fingers and opened the door. "Everyone into the TARDIS! Now!" I got to my feet and noticed the stares of the captives. "Come on!"

"Follow me everybody!", Steven shouted. He motioned to the TARDIS door.

"Steven!" Greg ran up and embraced his son. "Thank heavens you're all right!" He picked him up. Steven's shield came up and stopped an energy blast from one of the Zygons, who was thereafter seized by one of Katara's water-whips and pulled away. A momentary glance told me Katara was holding off three of the Zygons by adopting that water-octopus form she was so splendid at, using tentacles formed from water and ice to harass the Zygons and prevent any of them from getting a good shot.

When I looked back, the prisoners were all moving into the TARDIS. Liara came up beside me and threw out a Singularity that trapped two of Katara's opponents. A second biotic strike sent both flying. Katara, now able to focus on one foe, wrapped several of the water tentacles around the Zygon and then hammered the gem on its forehead with an ice column until it cracked. The Zygon began to twitch and collapsed.

With my Companions back at my side, that just left the Gems. I looked over to find them and... oh.

They were on the other side of the chamber. Garnet was busy pounding a Zygon that was trying to emulate her appearance and her armored gauntlets. Pearl was wielding a spear in each hand, twirling about gracefully while parrying blow after blow, drawing Zygon cries whenever she turned her defensive moving into an offensive attack. Amethyst's whip cracked through the air and struck the chest gem of one of the Zygons while wrapping around the shapeshifter. She heaved and pulled the Zygon around, throwing it into two others, and immediately released the whip to use it to wrap around the wrist of another attacker.

And yet there were more. They were completely surrounded.

Steven and Connie emerged from the TARDIS. "The Gems!", he cried out. He looked up to me. "Doctor, what do we do?"

I pondered the situation for the moment. The Gems were holding their own and trying to shatter the imperfect gems the Zygons had affixed to themselves, but the Zygons were adapting to that tactic and protecting those same gems. And the Zygons had numbers on us, after all, so the longer we fought, the more advantage they were likely to get. I had to end this now. But how?

Ah. Of course.

I shifted the weight on my back and put the scanner down. "Steven, get through to the Gems. And when I call for it, you need to use your defensive bubble. They're going to need it."

"Right." Steven looked to Connie, who nodded and held up the sword. She handed the scabbard over to a mystified Barb and, with Steven, charged into the backs of the Zygons. I gave them a bit of help by bringing up the sonic disruptor and sending a kinetic bolt over their heads and into the Zygons before they got into their midst.

While the yelling told me how effective the two were being, I turned to my Companions and motioned them to follow me into the TARDIS. "Doctor, what are you doing?", Katara asked. "Why did you send them into the trap?!"

"To protect the Gems!" I jumped down to the lower level and went to my tech particle. After throwing a few items around I found what I was looking for, scooped the items up, and ran up the stairs. "Katara, Liara, I need you to run and put these into the walls on the other end of the chamber!", I shouted, handing them two of one particular item. I looked to the last one and then around. I hated the idea of having to use a volunteer.

Greg reached and grabbed the last one. "This is some wicked audio equipment," he said. "You're setting up some kind of surround system, right?"

"Something like that. Not audio, though." I stepped out long enough to check on the battle. I watched Pearl swat away a blow that would have taken Garnet in the back. Amethyst's whip was holding one Zygon's weapon arm and swinging it around while Steven shielded her from retaliation. Connie lashed at anyone who got too close. They were holding out, but they couldn't do it for much longer. "I need it put over there." I pointed to one section of wall. "Just push it against the wall, about this high."

"I've got you," he answered.

With that done I was busy attaching the other items to the backpack scanner. I held up the sonic and used it to hasten the process. When I looked up to check the others, I saw Katara defending Greg from a Zygon and Liara fighting off another. But all three pieces I needed were set up.

Well. It was time to...

....get smacked in the head by the Zygon Brunoc. My doppelganger was looking down at me and scowling with hate. "We're not finished," he rasped, his voice now more Zygon than human in its timbre. He kicked me again. Pain exploded through my body. "You think you're so clever, Doctor? Always opposing our people. Always protecting these pathetic Humans. You even had to follow us across the dimensional barrier to stand in our way. But no more. Today is the day the Zygons win. Today the Doctor falls!"

I was moving over to get my sonic up, and I promptly took another blow, this one to my shoulder, that sent me flying from all fours over onto my back. Brunoc slammed a foot down on my chest and only the armored vest kept me from getting a cracked rib from the impact. He brought over an arm, which shifted into a weapon. His other foot came down on my left arm. Not hard enough to break it, but more than enough to pin it so I couldn't raise my sonic screwdriver. "So, any more boasts, Time Lord? How will you save your allies and friends now, Doctor?!"

"Doctor?!" I heard Steven's voice. "Doctor, please! Are you ready yet?!"

"Yes." Brunoc laughed. "Are you ready, Doctor? Ready to admit this is it? There is no way to victory for you, Time Lord! Not here!"

I smirked at that. And at him. And I shook my head. "You don't know me very well, do you?"


"I'm the Doctor, Brunoc," I said. "I always find a way."

I couldn't move my left arm.

But I could move my left hand.

Time Lords have some pretty good coordination. More than Humans do. And when you've been adventuring as long as I have, you tend to become very good at this sort of thing.

Also, sonic screwdrivers are pretty light.

Using my left wrist to angle it just right, I threw my sonic screwdriver toward my chest, behind Brunoc's leg. My right hand came up and grabbed it from mid-air just above my left hip.

Before Brunoc could react, I moved my right arm, pointed it at the scanner I'd cobbled together from Amethyst's room, and triggered it.

Ah, that delightful whirring sound. And that lovely purple light at the tip.

The scanner activated. The emitters I'd tied to it aligned with the ones I'd had Liara, Katara, and Greg spread around the room.

"Bubble!", I shouted. "Bubble them Steven!"

I thought I heard the subtle sound of air being pushed away as Steven's energy bubble literally blossomed into place around himself, Connie, and the Crystal Gems. As that happened, I heard the scanner's main systems activate, tied to the frequency I'd stumbled across before.

You know the one.

Brunoc screamed.

All of the Zygons did.

My counterpart flailed about and stepped off of me, allowing me to stand up. The Zygons were flailing around, still screaming in agony as their bodies began to shift uncontrollably, while within the bubble the Gems were perfectly fine.

I looked back to Brunoc, who's screaming hit a crescendo. I thought he was trying to yell something, but nothing audible came from him before the gem on his forehead shattered. He fell to the ground, halfway between my shape and his Zygon shape.

More and more gems started shattering across the room. Katara pulled in water to make an ice shield for herself and Greg while Liara's biotic field protected her from the debris. A bit of a sting on my cheek told me I'd been hit by one shard, presumably from Brunoc.

Within seconds, all of the Zygons had fallen. Some simply disintegrated, as Grolon had, while others looked like Brunoc.

"No...." The rasp caused me to turn and face Brunoc. He was dying. That much was obvious. But he wasn't dead yet, and he was pressing something on his belt.

And given the character of the man, I had good reason to know it wasn't good news.

I used the sonic and shut down the scanner. I motioned to Steven and pointed to the TARDIS. He dropped the bubble. "Get in the TARDIS!", I shouted.

"Where is she?!", Pearl shouted. "Where is Peridot?!"

"There's no time!", I answered, now from the TARDIS door.

Inside the other Beach City residents were standing there doing nothing. Save for that chips-haired boy - didn't Steven call him Ronaldo? - who was despairingly searching his pockets. "My phone!", he wailed. "They took my phone! I can't take pictures of this for my blog!"

"Out of the way!", I shouted, going for the controls and turning a few knobs to make sure of things. "Alright girl, I'm home! Time to go!"

The others came in. Katara and Greg first, the latter supremely winded at this point, and the Gems with Steven in Pearl's arms and Connie held up by Amethyst. Liara took up the rear and was pulled in by Garnet. She reached out and shut the door. "We're in!"

I pulled at one of my three-dimensional flight levers. The TARDIS shuddered as it plowed upward through the dead soil and rock of the Kindergarten. My instruments confirmed my fear; Brunoc, with his dying breath, had triggered a self-destruct device in the base. Thermal readings went up the scales. "Hold on!", I shouted to everyone as the TARDIS rocked under us. "Time for more speed!"

"What's going on?!", one of the Beach City residents cried.

"A daring escape!", I laughed. "Tally ho!" I pulled the main lever.

The TARDIS shook under us. I could imagine what the sight must have been like from the outside. The TARDIS erupting from the gray, dead soil, a plume of flame and light following underneath it. The entire Kindergarten shook from the violence of the blast. The ground below collapsed and brought down some of the Injectors with it, including one of the rock cliffs, to fill in the volume of the now-destroyed Zygon base.

I brought the TARDIS under control to the point the shaking stopped. With the critical work of staying alive complete it was time to get a look at that Crack. So I brought up my scanners and twisted a couple of knobs and...

...and nothing.

I mean it. Zip. Nada. Nothing. The energies of a Crack were completely missing. Given the pattern I knew, a metaphysically softer world like Steven's should have been oozing energy, but there was absolutely nothing.

"That's strange," I muttered.


I looked down and saw Steven and Connie standing beside me, looking up with curiosity. So I satisfied it. "The Crack is gone. I mean, gone from the base dimensions. As if I had sealed it myself."

"Really?" Liara stepped up beside me. "You're sure?"

"Quite positive," I said. "See?" I showed her the display. She'd seen it before, so she knew what a Crack would be showing on it. "Nothing. The Crack is gone. There's barely anything, just residual traces of the temporal energy."

"But we didn't do anything to it," she said. "Could this be like the Crack from Mitakihara?"

I shrugged. "I can't say for sure. I wouldn't think so, though. The Mitakihara Crack was bound to the dimensional portal to the Elves' parasite dimension, after all."

Liara nodded. "Alright. So what happened here?"

"I'm... not certain, honestly," I answered.

"Could someone on the other end have closed it?", Connie asked.

I looked down at her and then back to Liara, who shrugged. "It seems a reasonable question. Maybe the being who was after your TARDIS did it?"

"A possibility," I agreed. And it was a frightening one. The list of beings who could manage such a feat was small, and with one or two exceptions, not ideal at all.

"Uh, excuse me?"

I turned and saw Greg standing with the other rescued captives, Steven at his side. "Thank you for saving us and all," he said, "but I'm afraid I didn't catch your name."

"Ah." I nodded and forced a smile. The somber thoughts would remain in my head, but for the sake of being a good host I pushed them out. "My apologies for the lack of introductions, Mister Universe. I'm the Doctor, and these are my Companions..."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-03 09:52am

I materialized the TARDIS along the beach beside the Gems' temple. The first one out was Chips Hair Boy. He fell over and kissed the beach sand before promptly spitting some out. "I did it!", he shouted. "I survived an alien abduction! I've got to put this on my blog! The world has to know about the aliens and their master!"

"They have a master?" Steven looked actually curious about this.

"Of course!" Chips Hair Boy turned back to us. "Their master is a fifteenth dimensional being from the end of time itself! It's in league with the Diamond Authority, and together they're trying to take over, uh..." He seemed to struggle for a moment with a suitable target for this nefarious scheme. He settled on "Everything!"

"Hyper-dimensional entities, always out for pan-universal conquest," I joked.

"And what are you anyway?", he asked. "Because you look Human." His eyes widened. "Were you another victim of their abductions? Did they experiment on you and turn you into one of them as part of a plot to assimilate Humanity?!"

I chuckled at that, even if it did seem almost accurate. "Perhaps it was something like that," I remarked drolly. "All I know is that I really enjoy having this second heart."

He ran on, shouting more delusions about the Zygons and polymorphic sentient rocks trying to hollow out the Earth. The others were not so excited, more relieved to just get back to their lives. The elder Universe, on the other hand, seemed more at home within the TARDIS. Presumably a lifetime of contact with the Gems had made the extraordinary more ordinary for him. "Check this place out," he said to Steven. "This is real space rock stuff."

"Oh, that it is," I remarked before looking to him. "Now, about your van..."

We went straight back to the Kindergarten, or rather its periphery, where Greg's van was just as we found it. He went up to it and ran a hand along the hood. "Oh man! I was afraid that alien might have wrecked it!" He moved toward the door. "Did he remember to fill the tank? Because I was running low."

"I believe so, yes," I replied.

"Now I've got to drive home," Greg lamented. "Oh boy."

"It's fine, Dad." Steven walked up to the side of the van with Connie. She had the sword back in its scabbard and held on her shoulder. "We can go with you and tell you about all the stuff that's happened."

Greg gave his son a mocking scowl. "So, how come you couldn't tell that alien had replaced me, huh? Am I really that easy to imitate?"

"Well... um...." Steven and Connie exchanged looks.

That was where I stepped in. "To be fair, the Zygons had you in a body print device that gave them access to everything that makes you, well, you. It allows for rather flawless impersonations."

"Oh, a likely story," Greg said, but the smile on his face showed he was just teasing his son.

"Come on, Dad..."

"Oh, come here kiddo." Greg knelt down and hugged Steven again. "I'm just glad you're all right. I was really worried when those aliens started talking about kidnapping you."

"It's okay."

I looked back and saw Katara step out of the TARDIS. A medi-gel application had helped her to finish healing from that chest wound she'd taken before our fall into the underground, and she'd put on a new set of Water Tribe garb to replace the dusty and burnt ones. Steven looked back towards us and noticed her. "Hey, Katara? Why don't you ride with us?"

"Yeah!", Connie agreed. "I've still got lots of questions about your world."

I initially expected Katara to refuse. But she smiled. "Sure. I'd be happy to."

"We'll be waiting for you in Beach City," I promised. And I smiled as well. She actually seemed... well, happy.

Liara stepped out of the TARDIS as Katara got into the van with Connie, while Steven was in the front seat beside his father. The van's engine came to life and Greg pulled it back onto the road. "See you back in town!", he shouted, everyone waving as the van went on.

"She seems happy now," Liara noted.

"Yes," I agreed. "Good to see her smile without it turning sad, isn't it?"

Liara nodded. "So. The Crack?"

"Last scan still shows negative," I answered.

"The most obvious answer is that someone closed it," she said. "The same voice that was demanding they give over the TARDIS."

"Yes." I let out a sigh and turned toward the Kindergarten. "I asked the others, but aside from Chips Hair Boy ranting about fifteenth dimensional beings they didn't know anything. I suppose it's not surprising they're not going to remember much from their time as captives..."

"This is worrying you," Liara observed.

"Worrying. But also confirmation of some suspicions. After all, the Sontarans talked about being assured the Doctor would not interfere, and that gravitic generator wasn't exactly the kind of technology they typically utilize, not to mention being a bit beyond their usual technological acumen. And to have so many creatures and species from my home cosmos showing up? Just happening to find Cracks and being able to go through them?" I shook my head. "No. I fear there's something else going on."

"At least you know there's someone out there now."

"Yes. I just want to know why he - assuming it's a he given the voice distortion - why he wants the TARDIS."

"Not for anything good. We're going to have to be more careful."

"Yes, yes we will."

We waited a bit longer before three figures emerged from the dust cloud of the Zygon base's explosion that was still choking the Kindergarten. The Gems looked none the worse for wear, but they don't have to breathe, so why would they? "Anything?", I asked.

"There was no sign of Peridot," Garnet replied. "She must have escaped during the fight."

"A reasonable assumption given her involvement with the Zygons," I agreed. "Anything else?"

"It looks like all of the Zygon technology was disintegrated in the blast." Pearl handed me back the scanner I'd provided her for the work. "There's no sign of any of the flawed gems they were growing."

"About one quarter of the Kindergarten's Injectors were completely destroyed in the explosion." Garnet nodded. "That is one good thing to come out of this."

"Yes." I nodded and looked around. The "dead zone" around the Kindergarten was a stark reminder of what the further cost of the Zygon ambitions would have been. "I've taken some scans. It looks like the Kindergarten wasn't on long enough to permanently destroy some of the soils it drew energy from. Ultimately I think the new patches of dead zone will heal, save maybe the immediate periphery around the Kindergarten."

"At least we stopped it before it got worse," Liara said.

"Yeah." Amethyst looked particularly dejected. Given the origins she had, seeing her place of birth getting wrecked like this was causing her all sorts of conflicting emotions and thoughts. "Well, hey, we also stopped the bad guys, right?"

"Yes," Garnet agreed. She stepped up to me and extended her right hand. A welcoming smile, not wide but definitely the largest I'd seen her make so far, crossed her face. "And we couldn't have done it without you, Doctor. Thank you."

I nodded and answered with a smile of my own. "My thanks as well, Garnet." I brought my hand up. "Because of this I..."

The moment my left hand touched her right, palms pressed against each other (or rather the Gem in that palm pressed against mine), my mind became assaulted by images. Images so stark and quick that I couldn't tell them apart. Just a few of them managed to last long enough to stick.

Harry Dresden standing over a small figure, his eyes red with freezing tears flowing from them. His face locked into fury and guilt.

The snowy city of Tharkad burning. People screaming in the streets amongst ruined BattleMechs as shadows tromped in the background. Katherine's gravestone smashed, the blue mycosia upon it crushed into the mud.

A massive crater around what appeared to have been Republic City.

Earth. Which, I didn't know. But Earth... being consumed by red and orange light. Reflections of the same bounding about it.

And a face. The face I still couldn't quite place. The one that slipped from me whenever I thought I knew it. The face of the man from my dreams, the face who came to me whenever I tried to think about where I came from and who I was.

And all the while, voices were crying out, in such a cacophony I couldn't make most out. But there was one thing above all, one thing fully audible.

"Please! He's dying! The Doctor is dying!"

I found myself in Liara's arms. She'd caught me to prevent me from falling. Pearl and Amethyst had done the same thing for Garnet. Her shades had fallen off, revealing her eyes - three in all, how interesting - that were now struck wide with surprise. "What..." I took in a breath.

"Doctor, are you okay?", Liara asked, a sense of urgency in her voice.

Pearl spoke next. "Garnet, what happened?"

Garnet's eyes met mine. "Your future vision," I said. "How did that happen?"

"You can touch the minds of others?"


"Then... Sapphire. You touched Sapphire's gem. I have my future vision from her." Garnet reached down and picked up her shades. She placed them back on before looking at me again. "When you made contact with her mind, you temporarily gained access to her ability. But without control."

"Yes. Yes, that makes sense." I nodded. "My apologies."

"There's no need for that."

We exchanged nods. By this point, i honestly felt quite tired, and I could see Liara was running low on energy as well. "How about we return to your home?", I said. "It's time we all got some rest."

I was answered by nods. As we stepped in, Amethyst shouted, "So, how's this thing work? I'd love to try it!"

In response, Pearl shouted, "Amethyst, don't you dare...!"

One dematerialization and near-disaster with the Vortex Regulator later, we were again at Beach City. Liara went to her room to sleep and the Gems did... well, whatever they usually did. I took the time to check some things on the TARDIS, put away some things, et cetera.

When night had fallen and Greg's van finally returned, it was only there long enough for Steven and Connie to return to the house as well for sleep. Katara saw them in and returned to the TARDIS, where I was waiting at the entrance. The soft rustling of the waves against the breach was not an unenjoyable noise to my senses at the moment, while the air was warm from the approaching summer. "Enjoying yourself?", I asked Katara.

She smiled and nodded. "Yes."

"It's good to see you smile like that," I noted before stepping back into the TARDIS. She followed me closely. "You know, if you want to stay I could..."

"That's..." For a moment Katara seemed to think about what she was going to say. "....I'm not ready."

"Ah? Still want to travel with us?"

"Yes. I mean, I just need some more time to think." Katara stepped up beside me. "I know I've just met them, but I feel like I've known them for a long time."

"Well, he does remind you of Aang, or so you said."

"Yes. And the way Connie wants to protect him, it reminds me of..." She didn't have to finish that sentence. It was quite clear who Connie reminded Katara of.

I nodded. for a moment I considered my next question. I wanted to be careful with it. But I needed an answer. "Katara, I'm going to ask you something sensitive, alright?"

She nodded. "Yes?"

I breathed in. I wanted to make sure I worded this right. "Katara, I must know. Do you still wish you were dead?"

I was looking at her carefully when I said that. She didn't react immediately. And then, slowly, she nodded. I was disappointed to see her do so, but at least she was being honest. She took in a breath and, to some surprise for myself, a smile appeared on her face. "But not as much as I did yesterday."

I allowed myself a grin at that. I hadn't gotten the answer I wanted. But it wasn't as bad as I had feared either.

Oh well. Progress doesn't happen overnight, does it?

"Well," I said, stifling a yawn. "I think we should get some rest."

"Yes." She nodded. "I think we should."

In the morning I got up, did my morning breakfast routine of a book and a warm breakfast meal, and went to the TARDIS control room to check the scans. As expected, the Crack was still closed.

I was just finishing up when there was a knock on the door. I walked up to it, opened it, and found Pearl standing in front of the TARDIS. "Oh," she said. "Good morning, Doctor."

I looked beyond her. There was a disturbed area in the sand. She'd been waiting for a while, it seemed.

"Ah. Pearl. Good morning to you. Come on in." I moved away and let her step in. The bright sunshine came in behind her. "Looking to be a nice sunny day, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is." I watched as she walked up to the control area. I could see something of a tic form on her expression due to my... eclectic organization of some of my things. The way my "Wizard" hat was hanging prompted her to reach up and adjust it.

Since she wasn't talking, I decided to. "What can I do for you?"

"Oh, probably nothing. I just wanted to get a better look at your ship." She continued around it. "I never imagined this kind of technology could exist. I can't imagine how advanced your civilization is."

I shrugged. "Sometimes I can't. Honestly, sometimes I think we grew too advanced."

"I see." Pearl didn't pry as to why I thought that way. "Do you ever miss your homeworld?"

I thought on that. I had no memories at the time, of course, and for all I knew, Gallifrey was indeed my homeworld. "Sometimes," I admitted. "Sometimes I'd love to see Gallifrey again. When it was at its height." I watched the expression on her face shift slightly and walked closer. "I'm not alone in that, am I?"

"Sometimes I wonder," Pearl admitted. "About Homeworld, anyway. But I do miss the other worlds I saw. I've been trapped on Earth for six thousand years now."

"Steven said something about that, yes." I stepped up to the opposite end of the controls. "Hard to think about. Even we Time Lords don't live forever. Well, not normally and that includes regenerations. And those..." I stopped for a moment. I couldn't really speak on the concept of regeneration, could I? I didn't remember what I was like before my current body. And I'd spent all of my regenerations on the Citadel helping Shepard to defeat the Reapers. "...well. That's a complicated subject. Among others."

I looked back at her while she was examining my little poster wall of drawings. By which I mean the drawings I'd been given by assorted children I'd met in my voyages. She looked from there to where Katherine's amethyst necklace was hanging from its usual spot. "Don't Humans usually wear jewelry like this?", she asked.

I shook my head softly. "It's not mine or Liara's or Katara's."

"Then..." She realized what it symbolized. "Oh, I'm sorry."

"It's fine." I thought for a moment on what I was going to say next. "Steven said something about your travels to other worlds?"

That caught her off-guard a little. "Oh, well... that was a long time ago."

"Do you miss it?", I asked.

For a moment Pearl didn't answer. As if she were trying to decide on how much to admit. Or, rather, wrestling with an old ache. "Yes," she admitted. "I do. I wish I could go out into the cosmos again." A tear showed up on her face. "But I made my choice a long time ago. I gave it up for something more."

Ah. Interesting. "Oh?", I asked.

I received no answer. No verbal answer anyway. But the way Pearl's eyes briefly looked back to Katherine's necklace was enough of an answer.

Well. It was clear this line of conversation was not going anywhere. Before I could say something else, however, there was another knock on the door. I walked up to it and pulled the door open.

Steven and Connie were standing in the doorway. Steven was again in that pink shirt with the star and a pair of jeans. Connie was in a teal sleeved blouse with blue trim and a matching blue skirt that went to just below her knees. "Pearl, isn't it time for training?", Steven asked.

"Oh, um, right," Pearl answered. She looked away from the TARDIS controls. "I'll be right there."

As she spoke, I looked above the children and toward the house. Garnet was standing at the base of the stairs going up to the porch. She nodded at me and smiled, then she was heading back up the stairs.

Future vision, undoubtedly.

Well, that settled it, didn't it?

"Oh, sword training, how exciting," I said. "But first, why don't you two step in?"

I didn't need to ask twice. I'd given them an excuse to do something they already wanted to do.

"Ah good. One moment everyone." I closed the door, stepped around them, and went to the controls. I knelt down at a panel and began fussing with the wiring underneath. "I do apologize, I really should make this a permanent part of the controls." Footsteps in the hall to my right told me that Katara and Liara were awake and coming out to the control room. They stepped into it right when I looked up to check something. "Ah, Liara, Katara, good morning. You're just in time."

"Just in time for what?", Liara asked.

"For the rest of our vacation!," I announced, putting some excitement in my voice. "Now, where was that circuit. Circuit, circuit, oh wherefore art thou circ... Ah, here we... ow!" One of the lights on the controls briefly fizzed out. Stinging pain caused me to briefly put my finger tips to my tongue. "Wrong circuit. Definitely the wrong circuit. No, I need another circuit, another... a ha! Here we are!" I pulled the wiring out and got back to my feet, making sure the wires didn't come out of my hand. I turned and faced where Pearl and the children were staring at me. "Would you please hold this, Pearl?"

"Well, okay?" She reached out with her left hand and took the wires. She had no idea what it was I was doing. "Now what?"

"Now..." I couldn't keep the grin off my face. "All of those sights in the cosmos that you saw and loved? I want you to think of the one you would love to show to Steven and Connie. The one sight above all else that highlights the wonders of the cosmos that you've longed to see again. And I want you to concentrate on that thought."

For a moment, nothing happened. Pearl just sort of looked confused for a moment. She slightly focused her eyes on the wires she was holding in her hand.


They all looked in surprise as the TARDIS engine powered up, apparently on its own. "Telepathic circuit," I said, in answer to their unasked questions.

After about ten seconds the TARDIS was done VWORPing. I extended a hand and Pearl returned the wires to me. "Now..." I brought my other hand up and snapped my fingers. The TARDIS door swung open behind them.

They turned and walked down the gangway to the door, already curious by what they could see of the world beyond. They stopped at the doorway. "Woh," Steven gasped.

"That is so awesome," Connie said in a low, awed tone.

Pearl said nothing. After a moment, I thought I could hear a sniffle come from her. When she looked back at me, her light blue eyes were brimming with happy tears. "Thank you," she said, and every syllable was full of gratitude. She turned her head back and stepped out of the TARDIS. The children followed.

I looked back to see my Companions were smiling as widely as I was. "Well." I clapped my hands together and pulled my lucky fez off from its place on my control panel. A kind haberdasher had fixed it after I saved his city from... what was it again? Oh, right, a meteor. Or was it a robot uprising? Blast it, I can't remember. I nodded at Liara and said, "We are still officially on vacation, right? How about we join them in seeing the sights? Should be quite exciting!"

I was answered by nods. And together, we left the TARDIS and caught up with Pearl and the children.

I had much to think about. The visions from Garnet's future sight told me of things that might come down the road, things I had to look out for.

But that wasn't the only thing. I knew, now, that there was another force out there. A force on the other end of the Cracks, manipulating the species of the Doctor's cosmos, seeking out my TARDIS to fulfill an agenda I knew nothing of.

But now I knew that shadow opponent was there. I could prepare.

And, perhaps, learning of what my opponent was might yet give me the answers I know sought.

But there was time for that later. Right now... it was time to finish our much-needed vacation.

”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-04 08:30am

Short 44 - We're Still Here

Okay, so I got a little carried away. But who wouldn't?

I mean, two young and very sweet children who simply fell in love with the sights of alien worlds, and one poor soul getting a chance to see the things she never thought she'd see again. How could I resist the temptation to take Steven, Connie, and Pearl on a few stops? It's not like they'd be missed. I mean, hello, time traveler here!

Well, alright, if not for Liara I might have gotten carried away. But that's what she's there for. To keep me grounded.

So we were on what was to be the final little stop. Just a chance to show them something special. Namely, the Kraknaradaaplikuiuspinocka Nebula. Visible from Kraknardaaplikuiuspinralakoolis.

Now try to say that five times fast.

The earthy browns, reds, yellows, and greens filled the night sky, while below we had a nice open plain to relax upon while looking up at the sight. I'd brought out the lounge chairs and picnic blankets for the occasion. "Now..." I checked my watch. "In about five minutes, maybe ten, the plasma currents in the nebula will intersect. It should cause the most spectacular light display."

Steven and Connie were most interested in that, and they quickly found a place to sit, talk, and watch.

"You've never mentioned this one before," Liara remarked from where she was sitting.

"Oh, well, you know how it is. So many sights, can't mention them all." I smiled at her. And the smile was as hollow as my excuse, which hadn't fooled Liara. She nodded at me and found somewhere to lay out a blanket. Katara said closer to the children. The bond there was growing quite well.

I was alone for the moment. But only the moment. Pearl took a seat beside me and looked up. "This is what it's like for you all of the time, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes, yes it is," I confirmed. "You'd think one universe is enough to experience, but to have so many..." An excited grin came to me. "Oh, it's quite exhilarating. I could travel forever and still not see everything."

For all that she was still smiling, I could see there was now sadness in Pearl's expression. Her eyes grew distant. "I miss it."

"I can understand that." I sat up. "If you don't mind me asking, why did you stop?"

Pearl's eyes focused a little. I watched her think on an answer, which she eventually gave. "I made a choice," she answered. "I made a choice to take a stand."

"Ah? For what? Or, perhaps, the question should be... for whom?"

Pearl's eyes went over to where Steven and Connie were sharing their thoughts on what I'd shown them so far. Ah. "I did it for her," Pearl admitted.

"Steven's mother?", I surmised.

Pearl nodded. "I gave her everything. I swore to stand and fight for what she believed in, no matter what came."

I saw the tear forming in her eye and nodded. "I see." At that moment, I realized what had happened. It explained Steven's powers. The gem on his belly. "And now she's gone."

Pearl nodded. "And I'm still here."

Stop and imagine. Imagine what it would have been like for beings as old as these Gems, used to traveling about the cosmos, and then being banished to a backwater primitive planet over a moral choice. Doing so all in the name of someone you felt deeply for. And then, suddenly, that person was gone.

Imagine the pain that would cause. Imagine the sheer sense of loss. Everything given up for someone who was no longer with you. Your entire life - thousands of years - given away, and for what would seem like nothing.

"That would explain your devotion to Steven rather well," I remarked.

I was answered with a nod. "I'll defend him until the end."

Not surprising. It was all Pearl had left, after all.

There was thoughtful silence. I know that I took on an expression that was more mournful than anything. I couldn't help it. Not when considering where I was. And who had been with me the last time I stood on these plains.

I murmured a name without expecting to. And given advanced senses, it shouldn't have surprised me that Pearl heard me. She looked at me with tear-spotted eyes. "Who is Katherine?"

I jolted with initial surprise. I caught myself quickly though. "The necklace was her's," I answered simply.

An understanding look came to Pearl's face. "Oh."

An old and familiar ache filled me. It was best to explain. To get it out. "She was my Companion for quite a while." I smiled fondly at old memories, regardless of the tears coming to my eyes. "I'd met her as a child and watched her grow into a mature young woman. She was brilliant, charming, and devoted to doing the right thing. Her only ambition was to travel with me and see the wonders of all of the cosmoses." I swallowed as those tears begin to fall. "Now she's gone."

A shadow fell over us. We looked up in time for Katara to kneel on the other picnic blanket. "You've never talked about her before," Katara said to me.

"I suppose not," I answered. "Knowing your loss, I thought it best to not dwell on more loss."

Katara nodded. I saw tears forming in her eyes as she looked to Pearl. "I guess we've all lost people we cared about."

"Yes." Liara stepped up and joined us. I saw tears in her eyes and drew in a breath. Sometimes I forgot what had happened to Matriarch Benezia. How she had died right in front of Liara while trying to resist the indoctrination that the Reaper Sovereign had laid upon her.

Every one of us had gone through loss of some sort, and that loss had shaped us in one way or another. That's what loss does the people. You have a hole in your heart (or hearts, in my case... I suppose it'd be something else for Pearl as well) and that hole changes you. It can even destroy you.

But only if you let it.

"We're still here," I said, blinking away the tears in my eyes. "I've learned it's best to make that worthwhile."

"You're right about that," Pearl agreed. She looked toward Steven and Connie and smiled at them. "For them, if anything. I'm still here for them."

I looked to Katara, who was also looking at the children now. There was a thoughtful look on her face, mixed with obvious pain.

The sky lit up. We all looked skyward and watched as currents of blue and green and orange light streaked through the nebula, strobing brilliantly against the tones of the nebula's gases. "Well, there she goes," I said. I checked my watch."Right on time."

"It's wonderful." Pearl looked at the sight with delight showing in her teary eyes. The children started to laugh and cheer and dance around in celebration of the lovely sight.

"I don't think this could ever get old," Liara said, smiling. "Katherine must have loved it."

"Oh, she did," I said, a smile crossing my face from the memory of the night I'd showed her this sight. "She did indeed."

The image of us all watching the beautiful sight of the nebula's plasma currents intersecting is a good one to go out on. We'd had our moment of connecting, understanding one another's pain, that sort of thing. Best to go on a bright note.

But then I'd miss the fun part.

As the light show continued, the laughter of Steven and Connie reached a crescendo of joy. We were all looking skyward, so all we saw was a sudden pink flash coming from the bottom of our vision. When I lowered my head, I was treated to a most interesting sight.

Steven and Connie were gone. In their place was someone who looked like a young human woman, age anything from being a large fifteen year old to a twenty year old, wearing midriff-revealing clothes that were quite evidently the shirts the children had been wearing, Steven's pink shirt with the yellow star over Connie's teal blouse. The same with the overlapping blue skirt and high-cut jeans, once pants but now shorts. The shape of the body seemed more on the female side while the face clearly had some androgynous elements to it, and familiar ones too. Add in the long, bushy dark hair and the brown skin tone being between Steven's Caucasian tone and Connie's deep brown complexion, and it was plenty obvious what happened.

Katara and Liara were gawking in utter surprise. Pearl gave a bemused laugh and wiped a tear from her eye. "You two fused on accident again?", she asked cheerfully.

"Um... oops?", answered Stevonnie.

Yes, Stevonnie. I didn't pick the name, mind you. But I suppose that's what you'd call a merger of two people into one coherent entity?

"Ha!", I exclaimed. "Quantum state merger with physical integration. That's truly something you don't see every day." I waved a hand. "Don't mind us. Enjoy the show! Come on, everyone, the plasma intersections have another ten minutes to go, and when the main currents intersect it's going to get really good..."

There. Now that's a good note to go out on.

'https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads ... t-18960516'
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-05 07:47am

Episode 33 - The Shadows of Undertown

You might be surprised to know there were ordinary days on the TARDIS. Oh yes, it is quite shocking knowledge, but it's true!

The day began like most. Rising after a refreshing six hours of sleep - I overslept a bit - I made a quick trip to Ankh-Morpork to get some breakfast.

Yes. Ankh-Morpork. One of the little benefits of being a guest faculty member of Unseen University is access to the proceeds of the kitchens, specifically the wonderful pastries produced in the Night Kitchen. I've even gotten Liara used to the occasions when I return wearing the wizard robes and hat.

But I am digressing. A warm and enjoyable breakfast for myself and my Companions and a good book on hyperdimensional physics was all I needed to make the morning swell. Liara was busy with a 20th Dynasty Chugmerian pottery shard, giving it the once over with her omni-tool - ever the dutiful xeno-archeologist - and Katara was indulging in morning calisthenics in the swimming pool. Waterbending calisthenics, so there were swirls of water moving about above the pool.

Now, you may be asking why I am establishing such a plain, ordinary, and oh so very boring morning for us. I should think the answer is self-explanatory.

It began when I clapped my book shut and enjoyed the last of one of Miss Sugarbean's delightfully delicious baked goods. As soon as I'd swallowed I clapped my hands together and said something I really should never say. "Well. It looks to be a quiet day. Anyone have a thought on where to go next?"

Liara and Katara looked at me with some bewilderment. "Well... is there anywhere we need to go?", Katara finally asked.

"Nothing on the beacons. Cracks not showing up on the scanners." I shook my head. "We are, for the moment, free and clear. Now, we're not technically on vacation anymore, but a stop somewhere fun clearly won't hurt. How about... the Crystal Mountains of An'ram? Hrm? Or the city-moon of Solaria, if you want something a bit more lively."

"I wouldn't mind a return to Kurl," Liara spoke up. "I would like another look at some of those artifacts. Perhaps when that nice Professor Galen was around?"

"Oh, even better!" I looked at Katara. "And you?"

"Um, well..." Katara shrugged. "I'm... not sure?"

No surprise there. Katara hadn't yet gained an interest in our travels. Well, a partial interest had developed, I should add. But it was one she was still processing and wanted some time to consider.

"Well, think on it while we meet with Professor Galen. Next stop, Kurl!" I walked briskly to the TARDIS control room, sometimes managing a run from simple enthusiasm, and started inputting the coordinates as soon as I got to it. The others were at my side by the time I pulled the lever.

Now, I know what you're thinking. And yes, obviously we didn't show up on Kurl. Today was going to be far more exciting - and dangerous! - than mere archaeological curiosity would have provided.

I opened the TARDIS door and stepped out into a smelly alleyway. I groaned and looked back to the others. "I know I carried that two," I sighed. "I know I did. " The TARDIS clearly thought I needed to be here.

The others stepped out with me. "Earth, 21st Century," LIara said. "Early 21st Century."

I nodded. The air was summer hot. I looked around at the trash, looking for a clue on where we were and other specifics.

Katara reached down and picked up several sheets of paper. "What's this?", she asked.

I turned and took it. "Ah. Newspaper. Don't think I've shown you these before." I took the time to examine it for any dampness before pulling the pages open. When I saw the name of the paper, it became clear where precisely we were."

"Chicago Tribune... oh bloody hell."

I didn't get a chance to say more before we were attacked.

Lithe forms erupted from a nearby building with screams from behind them. The figures that landed around us were feline in shape and form. Given the malevolent intelligence glinting in their eyes, I knew these weren't normal animals. "Malks," I said. "Why did it have to be..."

The first one leapt at me, claws out and fangs slavering. Liara caught it in mid-air with a biotic burst that threw it back. This gave me time to pull the sonic disruptor out and generate a kinetic surge that threw two more back.

"Behind us!" Katara's arms extended and water shot from the bottles on her belt. The water slammed into two more malks and sent them flying into the far wall.

Liara threw out a biotic singularity that caught another malk and held it in mid-air. "Can't you do the 'iron in the air' trick on these?", she asked.

"Wrong fae," I replied. "That only worked on the Elf Queen's people because their weakness to iron is related to electromagnetic senses. These fae have to make physical contact with iron." I had to switch to the deflector mode to knock another malk back. The impact nearly jolted the disruptor from my hand. "Alright, you lot. This is broad bloody daylight, what are you doing attacking people. I bid you to answer!"

Much to my surprise, one voice hissed from amongst the malks. "Who are you, mortal, to bid us to do anything?"

"I am the Doctor, malk," I answered. As I did so, I kept an eye on the TARDIS. The malks were starting to move to come between us. At least one was in position to pounce on any of us that tried to go in. Maybe another. This would make escape tricky. "And here I find you, in broad daylight in the middle of a mortal city."

"We are hunting, Time Lord." A slightly larger malk emerged from the ranks of the others. "And you will make fine prey."

I blinked at that. Malks, hunting in the streets of Chicago? In broad daylight?

The leader gave me no more time to consider that. He pounced as I brought my disruptor up with setting 42 active.

It was a good thing too. I do so hate getting sprayed with ectoplasm.

Because as the malk jumped, another voice rang out in the alley. You can guess what voice it was.


A lance of fire intercepted the malk in mid-air and blew it into chunks that swiftly transformed into ectoplasm.

I turned and saw three figures appear out of nowhere. The one my height had his right arm raised with a wooden stick in his hand still smoldering from heat. "Ah, Harry," I said. "Excellent timing as always."

"Same to you, Doc," Harry Dresden replied. "Now let's get out of here!"

"To the TARDIS!"

As we retreated the malks jumped. Liara caught some with another biotic singularity. A burst of light and sound acted to further cover our escape, courtesy of Molly Carpenter.

Two other malks pounced, looking to cut us off from the TARDIS. Katara caught one with a burst of water that sent it flying. As for the final one... I'm quite sure it didn't enjoy the result as thundercracks sounded in the air and bullets with at least some iron in them pierced its flesh. The malk screeched in agony and completely failed its pounce, easily dodged by the ever-superb footwork of Karrin Murphy.

Karrin and Katara were the first ones to the TARDIS, which opened for them. Molly came in after them and reached out. Light wavered around us. She was trying to veil us.

Granted, veiling against supernaturally strong psychotic killer fae cats, beings well familiar with glamours and illusions, usually doesn't work well. So they kept coming.

I sought to dissuade a pair with another kinetic burst that sent them flying backward. Harry's favored fire magic came to life with another "Fuego!", turning one into flaming ectoplasm. Liara's biotic energy pulsed and knocked several back. Karrin's gun barked out again and caught another malk square between the eyes.

The malks continued to gather. And if not for the TARDIS, I'm quite sure they would have ripped us apart.

We escaped across the TARDIS threshold. I snapped my fingers and shut the door. There was a thump, then another, as the malks slammed into it to try and force it open. "Alright, anywhere special, Harry?", I asked.

"Yeah. Not here," he answered.

"Right. Not here." I input some coordinates into the TARDIS and pulled the lever. We shifted out right after another thump sounded on the door.

For a moment we all just stood around, regaining our breath and winding down from the close call we'd just hand. I looked over the new arrivals. Harry was sporting a bruise on his left cheek and jaw. Karrin had bags under her eyes and a cut on her neck. Molly wasn't showing any signs of physical damage but looked fairly exhausted.

Oi, that didn't look good at all. I had a fairly bad feeling about things now.

"This isn't just about the malks, is it?", I asked. "Because you three look horrid."

"Well, gee, thanks for the compliment, Doc."

"So what happened to your cheekbone, Harry? Get into a fistfight with a troll?"

"You shoulda seen the other guy." Harry put a hand on the bruise and winced. "Flipping Winter Sidhe servant. I thought I was a step ahead of her."

"Well, she was female, and you have a certain weakness there," I needled.

Karrin barked out a laugh. "I see why Harry says you have a knack for timing, Doctor," she said. "We could use the help."

"Oh?" I tapped something on the TARDIS. "So the malks are a symptom of a larger problem." I looked to the others and sighed. "So much for a quiet day. Alright, what seems to be the problem?"

"Undertown," Harry replied.

I nodded. Undertown was essentially what the name said. Chicago's lakefront terrain lent itself to sinking, so the modern city was essentially built over older structures from earlier in Chicago's history. These older structures had become a veritable hive of underground tunnels, structures, and haunts, and most had been claimed by creatures of a supernatural sort. Very nasty ones too, like the malks we had just tangled with.

"What about Undertown?", I asked.

"Something's going on down there," Harry answered. "I'm not sure what. But whatever it is, it's got the creatures down there scared and running."

I blinked. "You mean that is why the malks were out during the day? They've been chased out?"

Harry nodded. "Yep. Something's been chasing out every malk, troll, ogre... just about everything in the upper to mid levels of Undertown has come to the surface to get away."

My first thought was sheer shock at the idea. And horror at what it meant for Chicago's citizenry to have that many supernatural predators chased to street level.

My second thought was realization. "You think something came through."

Harry nodded. "I've never seen anything this bad. Hell, nobody has. Something's got the entire Undertown spooked."

"And you think something came through the Crack before we closed it," I said.

Harry nodded. "So, Doc..." He grinned. "Think you're up for an investigation?"

"An investigat...." I widened my eyes. "You're... not seriously saying you're going to..."

"Yep," he answered. "If we're going to get to the source of this problem, we're heading into Undertown."

We all stood there for the moment while I processed what Harry was saying. All of the dangers inherent in the course of action he was promoting. My expression locked into a look of quiet contemplation tinged, perhaps, with the incredible amounts of surely healthy concern... okay, maybe fear too... on the risks of that course of action.

Liara and Katara exchanged looks. They didn't know what Harry was suggesting. I'd never had cause to talk about Undertown with them.

"You're going to go down into Undertown," I said, staring at him. "Because of all of the reckless, foolish things I can imagine you doing..."

"You don't have to tell me," Harry answered. "I know. But I've got to find out what's going on down there."

"Did storming Arctis Tor go to your head?", I asked pointedly. "Because..."

That prompted Harry to roll his eyes at me. "Oh, come on Doc, I'm desperate, not stupid. This is beyond insanely dangerous. I'd tell Karrin and Molly not to go if I thought they'd listen to me about it and not follow me under veil."

Molly tried to look innocent. Murphy simply let a smirk cross her mouth.

"Ah. Well, so long as you're being realistic about it." I clapped my hands together. I wasn't one to miss these sorts of things, after all. And the prospect that something had come through the Crack was concerning, to say the least. "Need to go get any gear before we make our foray?"

"Excuse me, where are we going again?", Katara asked.

I looked to them. "Well, I'm joining Harry on his madly dangerous expedition into dark tunnels beneath the city where horrible gribblies will want to eat us or destroy our minds or do other unspeakable things to us. Don't worry, you two can stay up here in the TARDIS."

Liara rolled her eyes, as if to say "Oh please, you know we're going". Presumably wanting to make sure I got that part, she outright stated, "I'm going. It can't be any worse than anything else you've subjected me to."

"You might be surprised," I sighed. And since Liara was going, of course Katara would. She felt better after our sojourn to Beach City, but I knew there was still a part of her that wouldn't mind kicking the bucket, so to speak. "Anyway, introductions. Harry, this is Katara of the Southern Water Tribe."

"Picked up someone from Korra's world, huh?" Harry nodded. "How's she doing?"

"Better," I replied. "Moving on.... Katara, this is Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire, and his apprentice Molly Carpenter, who has saved my life several times with her work on my suit's vest..." That prompted a beaming smile from Molly, who I noticed had purple highlights in her blond hair again, much to my approval. "...and Sergeant Karrin Murphy, a detective and one of Chicago's finest."

"Finest what?", Katara asked.

"She's with the police," Liara answered, already exchanging a handshake with the shorter Murphy. "I'm afraid I didn't get to see you during my last visit to your city."

"Hey, I keep busy." Karrin Murphy nodded her head at me. "Let me guess. He needs someone to watch him like Harry does?"

"Oh." Liara looked to me and smiled thinly. "Not so much," she said, although I could tell she was understating the case for herself.

I smiled in thanks to that and kept on the subject of Katara's vocabulary. "Yes, Katara's still not up to a lot of the lingo in various worlds," I explained.

"Sounds like some wizards I know," Harry said while accepting the handshake. "So, do you have the same elemental magic that Korra has?"

At first Katara seemed confused by the question, but she put it together quickly enough. "Oh. Yes, I'm a waterbender."

"Healing too?"


"Good. I've always been horrible at healing magic." Harry winked.

He was being kind to be kind. But soon enough, he'd know more. Given time Harry would undoubtedly realize Katara was hurting, if he didn't know the scope. If I could, I'd explain it to him. For now, I thought it best to get things started before I had any second thoughts about the basic course of action. "Anyway, on to business, I suppose." I clapped my hands together. "Were you preparing to head into Undertown yet?"

"Actually, I was trying to talk to the malks and get some information," Harry clarified. "But they decided ripping my head was a better use of their time."

"Ah." I nodded and let an amusing remark come to mind. And to my tongue. "Must be your charming personality."

As usual, Harry was quick to respond. "Yeah, can't imagine how they'll react to a smug Time Lord. Oh, right, they heard a couple of words come out of your smug Time Lord face and wanted to kill you."

"The burdens of being a charming, hyper-intelligent alien," I sighed with faux wistfulness.

After that habitual exchange of banter, I returned our discussion to business. "So, you're still trying to determine the best entry point to Undertown?"

"I don't want to be down there any longer than I have to be," Harry replied, affirming my supposition.

"Well." I nodded. "That's an understandable concern. So we need to find out where we're going in."

"And good luck getting anyone to tell us,,"

"I hate to say it..." And yes, Murphy clearly hated what she was about to say. "But we could ask Marcone. He's not going to enjoy having every supernatural monster in the city out on the surface. It'll cut into his business and make him look bad."

"Oh, doubly so, I imagine," I agreed. "As the Baron of Chicago, being unable to keep order will certainly make him look bad to his co-signers of the Accords."

"But he'll still try to get something out of it," Harry said. "And for all I know, he's the one who caused it to happen."

"Hrm... a remote possibility, I suppose. But thankfully, I believe I have an alternative." I started flipping switches on the controls. "Let's head back to your place, Harry."

"Can we stop and pick up my car first?", Murphy asked. "It's in timed parking and I don't want to give anyone an excuse to tow me."

"Sure. Alright..." I reached under the controls and brought out the telepathic circuit. "Let me drop you off and you can meet us at Harry's place."

"Molly, go with Murph," Harry said. "I want you to be ready with a veil if she runs into trouble."

"I got you, boss." Molly looked to Murphy, who was quite evident with her displeasure at the idea she would need help. But she said nothing in opposition while gripping the circuit to bring the TARDIS to her car.

Harry's very tiny basement apartment was not meant for large crowds. Six people didn't have a lot of room to stand about there, and he didn't have anything near the sufficient sitting space. That was why it was best that Murph and Molly weren't present yet.

Well, that, and another reason.

We left Liara and Katara upstairs and descended into the basement of the basement apartment. This was Harry's workshop and was filled with all the various tools of his wizardly trade, plus the small workspace for Molly's training in the laboratory elements of magic as it was known for this world. The main table was taken up entirely by Harry's most ambitious project; a scale model of Chicago, aptly dubbed "Little Chicago", that added as a magical double of the city for Harry to do all sorts of things with.

Tracking spells, for instance.

"So, you think this will work?", he asked me.

"Anything that came through the Crack would have a temporal energy signature affixed to it," I explained. "At least, in my experience."

"Yeah, but it's been three years, Doc," Harry reminded me. "I mean, three years for us since we first buried the Crack in Undertown. Would something keep that kind of 'signature' for that long?"

"It's temporal energy, Harry," I sighed. "What do you think?"

I was surprised to see Harry smirk. "You don't know, do you?"

"Dresden," I sighed. "There are all sorts of variables that..."

"Just admit it. You don't know. It's not that hard."


"Hey, Bob!" Harry looked to a shelf filled with romance books, burnt down candles, and one data disc centered around a human skull. "What do you think?"

Twin orange lights came alive within the eyes of the skull. "Think of what? Oh, hello Doc. Let me guess, this Undertown mess?"

"Yeah," Harry said. "Doc here thinks that maybe some sort of energy would still be stuck to anything that came through that Crack we found."

"The one you sealed three years ago? Hrm." Bob seemed to think it over. "Well, it does involve all sorts of multi-dimensional and temporal variables. There are good odds that some trace will remain."

"See, Harry?" I looked up. "Now, if you would please do the honors? I have the sample of temporal energy ready."

Harry nodded and went to the table, where he did his wizardly thing to activate Little Chicago. "All right Doc. Try not to blow up Little Chicago."

"Disasterous destruction is usually your handiwork, Dresden, not mine..."

I held out the sonic. First I used its energy manipulation capabilities to pull in a sample of Crack-based temporal energy - taken from a Crack I'd recently found on some 9th Century Earth in the Pacific Northwest - and then I pointed the sonic to Little Chicago and introduced the energy signature to the city. The energies of the model, connected by thaumaturgical magic to the city itself (I would call it a quantum link myself), interacted with the sample. A golden glow began to appear, mostly concentrated near the center of the city. "The railyard, at Roosevelt and Canal," Harry muttered. "It's not too far from the spot where the Crack was."

"Still is, technically," I murmured in reply. "At least, if it ever manifests in the base three dimensions again."

"So what's the plan?", Bob asked. "Blunder down into Undertown and get eaten by a bunch of trolls? Or maybe whatever's scaring them out into the streets?"

"No, Bob, the plan is to go in as quickly and quietly as we can, find out what the hell is going on, and then get out."

"Right. What I said."

"My, aren't we the cheery one?", I remarked wistfully to Bob.

"Hey, I don't take joy in being the downer, Doctor. But going into Undertown is always risky, and when you're not sure how far down you want to go? There's a reason mortals stay away from the entire mess, not to mention the lower levels. Things live in the dark down there for a reason, Doctor."

"And something's driving them up," I said.

"Oh yes. And whatever that is has to be even worse," Bob said. "I really think you should reconsider."

"Not an option, Bob," Harry said. "People are starting to get attacked by these things. I can't corral every malk, ogre, troll, and other Nevernever nasty in the city of Chicago all by myself, and SI doesn't have the manpower to do it."

"Alright, fine. But you'd better make sure Molly stays behind. I'll need someone to keep me busy after you get eaten alive."

Harry scowled fiercely at Bob. Before he could say anything the hatch above opened. Liara stepped down. "Um, Harry? There is someone on your communication device. A Captain Luccio?"

Harry made a face. "Aw crap."

I winced. "Ah. Always hard with the ex."

"Don't even start," Harry mumbled. He moved up the stairs and took the phone from Liara, heading back up to the living room in the process.

After this exchange, Liara stepped further down into the lab. "This is... surprising," she said.

"Oh my. Oh my." Bob's voice would have quivered if it were visible. "I had no idea. Quick, my skull, is my skull nice and polished?!"

I blinked. "Bob?"

Liara was staring. "Who... who's talking?"

"Oh, I am called Bob, my dear Asari maiden," Bob cooed. His voice's direction led Liara to look over to his skull. "And I am most delighted to meet one of your exquisite kind in the flesh, so to speak."

I narrowed my eyes. "Bob."

Liara seemed confused for the moment. And a bit irritated, I thought. "And you say that because..."

"Why, because your species produces such fine works of art! The sheer passion and energy of your works surpasses most of the torrid works of these silly mortal apes here on Earth!"

I put my hand against my forehead. "Bob..."

"Really?" Liara looked at me with some suspicion, but mostly curiosity. "What do you know of Asari culture?"

"Enough, oh quite enough!" Bob's voice reached new heights of giddyness. "Vaenia! Oh Vaenia! That alone testifies to the superb artistic acumen of your people! Such passion, such imagination!"

Liara blinked at Bob. And then she looked at me with arms crossed. "Doctor..."

I sighed. "It was a gift. Bob was helping me with dealing with the blocks on my old memories, so I got him a present I thought he would appreciate."

"Oh, I did. I did!", Bob chortled. "I would love to visit your homeworld some day, Doctor T'Soni."

"I see." Liara was still fixing a look at me. "I hope you realize there is more to Asari art and culture than that smut."

"Oh, I should hope so! Variety is the spice of life! I can only imagine the hotness of interspecies boinking you..."

"Bob," I snapped. "Please?"

"I just can't help myself, I'm quite excited."

My mortification faded when Harry re-opened the hatch. "Alright, Bob, Molly's on her way in."

"Right, boss." Bob's eyes went dim.

Liara looked to me. "He's hiding Bob from...", she asked in a low tone of voice.

"From just about everyone," I answered in a similar tone.

We went back upstairs at that point. Katara was alone in the kitchen space, preparing bowls of water for healing as Harry had requested, and Harry was at the door to welcome in Murphy and Molly. "This place is cramped enough as it is, Harry, maybe we should meet outside."

"With all of the supernatural nasties out tonight?", Harry asked. "And even worse, my landlord? Oh no. We'll survive in here just fine." He went to a chair and plopped into it. "We have a complication."

"Luccio?", I asked.

Murphy and Molly looked intently at him. "Your Warden boss?" Murphy was being delicate in not referencing Harry's short relationship with Anastasia Luccio, Captain of the Wardens of the White Council. Said relationship had died upon the discovery that Luccio, among other members of the Council, was being mentally influenced by a traitor within the ranks using a slow and subtle form of psychic tampering.

"None other." Harry sighed. "It turns out the White Council is interested in our little problem with Undertown. Some researcher wants to go down and investigate the disturbances. And they've assigned yours truly to lead the expedition."

"Well..." I crossed my arms. "That's a complication. But not an undue one."

"I don't know." Molly frowned. "Wouldn't more people make it harder for us to sneak around?"

"That's one problem, yeah," Harry replied. "But it gets worse."

"Really?" I had a sudden bad feeling about what Harry was about to say. The sort we Time Lords get when the future possibilities turn fairly grim. "And that is...?"

Harry frowned at us. "Because the team's been formed by Gregori Cristos of the Senior Council."

At that, I could only groan.

This mission had, indeed, gotten more terribly complicated than before.
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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-06 01:55pm

For those of you unfamiliar with the particulars of Harry's little cosmos, allow me to explain.

Wizards like Harry are part of, and governed by, the White Council of Wizards. They accept only the most gifted and attuned of magical talents into their ranks and are the only faction to represent mortalkind in the supernatural sphere (Well, until Gentleman John Marcone signed the Unseelie Accords and claimed Chicago as his territory), a fairly important distinction given how many factions of that sphere see mortals as food or playthings (or both). The White Council thus serves a fairly important function in protecting ordinary people from the extraordinary. Furthermore, it is the authority that codified the Laws of Magic, the seven rules that all mortals with magic must follow - whether they are members of the Council or not - on pain of having a Warden come along to chop their heads off.

And no, they don't care how old you are. Black magic is corruptive to the soul and addictive and such. So a dumb thirteen year old boy violating the Fourth Law because he thinks the Jedi mind trick looked cool is as likely to get a blade to the neck as a maddened fifty year old screaming "Ultimate Power!" while trying to flash-fry a room full of victims.

But I digress. The White Council and its law enforcement and military branch, the Wardens, are ruled by the Senior Council. They're an elected gerontocracy. The oldest wizards always get first in line to their posts.

Thus we get to Cristos. About a year ago in Harry's timeline, there was a murder in the ranks. Aleron LaFortier, a rather dogmatic man who once tried to have me beheaded for violating their Sixth Law (time travel, if you must know) regardless of my status as a non-magic caster, was found stabbed to death. Warden Donald Morgan was also found with a bloody knife in his hand. Morgan, a man who was to Harry what DTI Agent Gariff Lucsly was to me (albeit worse, as Lucsly wasn't champing at the bit to slice my head off... well, not usually anyway), fled to pursue what he considered to be a fairly obvious frame-up. He fled to Harry. Harry did his usual thing - namely running around ruining days and setting fire to buildings and generally being a giant pain in the arse to friend and foe alike - and ultimately revealed that the secretary of the Senior Council, Wizard Peabody, was a traitor using the inks on his paperwork to expose wizards to a substance that let him undermine their free will.

Yes. Paperwork as a weapon, wielded by a bureaucrat. Let that terror sink in, eh?

The entire affair ultimately ended with Peabody and Morgan dead, Harry sporting a new scar on his face, and Morgan left uncleared.

Oh, and Mr. Cristos ascended to LaFortier's seat on the threat of secession from the White Council with up to one third of its membership. Given the losses against the vampires already incurred, such a division would have proved fatal for the White Council.

That alone didn't explain our immense concern over his involvement in this expedition, though. There was the question of the faction behind Peabody. The faction that had used him to leak information to the vampires. The ones responsible for the attempt to harness a shoggoth, who tried the Darkhallow ritual to make one of their numbers a physical god, for the squabbling in the White Court of Vampires that turned into a massacre, an attack on Arctis Tor, et cetera. Harry called them the Black Council.

And he was certain Cristos was one of theirs.

"Well, that's an unwelcome complication," I muttered.

"British understatement again, Doc?"

"Not now, Harry." I put my hands together. "I don't suspect this is something you can foist off on another Warden?"

"I'm the Warden commander for North America, remember?", Harry reminded me. "And I've got like three guys under my command. All of them are wrapped up in other business."

"Right. Of course. And how big is the team?"

"Four." Harry held up his gloved left hand and brought up four fingers. "Two Wardens and two researchers. I can vouch for Warden Yoshimo, she's got a good head on her shoulders. But I don't know the other Warden, Enfield. I think he's a newbie."

"Right. And the researchers?"

"Ceyde Orhan and Francois Levellieur," Harry said, and his pronunciation of "Levellieur" was a mangled "Leveler" with the "e" of "er" dragged out. "Orhan's apparently some expert on predators of the Nevernever and their habits. And Leveler... Levei...."

"Levellieur", I offered, pronouncing the end properly.

"Showoff," Harry snorted. "Franky is some scientist who studies... ah hell, I don't know, faerie herbs or something. A Nevernever botanist. What I do know of him is that he's got some excellent defensive magic from all the times he's gone into Faerie. Has some deals with a few lower-ranking Summer fae to explore their fiefs in Summer for services rendered."

"Ah. So a Nevernever Zoologist and a Nevernever Botanist, then." I sighed. "Well, we shan't want for experts, I suppose. Not that they will be of much use if we run into something from my end of the Multiverse."

"Well, Doc, that's why we've got you, right?"

"Indeed." I smirked. I stopped talking for the moment so Katara could treat the bruise on Harry. He let out a small, contented sigh when she pulled the water away and his facial wound was gone. "Where are they going to meet us?"

"Near our entry point to Undertown," Harry replied. "I already gave Luccio a rendezvous. We've got maybe an hour before the team arrives from Edinburgh."

"Ah. That should give us time to make some preparations then, shouldn't it?" I stood up. "Given circumstances, I think extensive precautions are called for."

"You'll get no argument from me, Doc." Harry stood from the chair. "What do you have in mind?"

"Get your gear," I suggested. "And meet me in the TARDIS." I looked over the others. "You're all still going?"

Murphy smirked and crossed her arms. Molly giggled. Liara rolled her eyes in a "Of course" way. Katara... well, she was busy healing the cut on Murphy's face, so she didn't say anything, but I already knew that answer.

"Right. All for one, one for all, everyone into the catacombs where things will want to eat us." I nodded and went to the door. "I'll see you all in the TARDIS shortly."

I won't bore you with the preparations made. It's not very exciting, mostly just tinkering and finding things, that sort of thing. Important, yes, but it usually disrupts the flow of a good narrative.

Harry took up the telepathic circuit this time. When we emerged from the TARDIS it was near one of the railyards in the heart of Chicago. The sun was starting to decline in the sky; being summer, we still had quite a few hours of daylight left, but that mattered little where we were going.

A rental van pulled up nearby and pulled into the nearby vacant lot in the yard. Figures came out of both sides and started to put on packs of equipment. Two were in gray cloaks like Harry's, a tan-skinned young man and a slightly older East Asian woman. Unlike the younger man, she bore a sword slung over her back. The other two were in long coats full of pockets with belts having even more.

As they drew closer, I could make out a blue stole on the neck of the shorter figure. A copper chevron was switched onto the collar of her field coat. Her complexion was fairly light but with the trace of Mediterranean bronze consistent with someone of Near Eastern origin, her hair graying dark brown and with light brown eyes. Given the names Harry had provided, she was presumably Ceyde Orhan. She was definitely middle-aged, but with wizards and their healing factors age wasn't always evident. She could be closer to one hundred than the fifty years of age her appearance would suggest.

That left the other man, in the more robe-like coat with a cord of silver braid on the cuff and a red stole on his neck. He was closer in height to myself and Harry, maybe ten or so centimeters shorter. Or a few inches for Harry, I suppose.

Harry blinked. "Huh."


"Levellieur's stole," he said with his voice low enough to be almost inaudible. "Red means he's been on the Council for a century. Orhan's got blue. She's a normal member like me. Doesn't have the seniority."

"I see. And?"

"Anastasia told me Orhan was the lead researcher for the mission."

I nodded. "She's one of Cristos' people then."

"Yeah." Harry nodded and stepped up toward them. He offered a hand and began to speak in Latin (unnecessarily, I might add, given the Gift of the TARDIS). "Wizard Orhan. Wizard Levellieur." He mangled Levellieur's name again, but not so badly as before. And the Frenchman - or Belgian perhaps? Possibly Swiss too.- didn't seem to mind. Likely used to it getting mangled. "Wardens." He nodded to his subordinates. "Good to see you all. Welcome to Chicago."

Yoshimo nodded. "It is an honor to work with you again, Warden Dresden."

"Hopefully we won't be fighting vampires and shoggoths this time," Harry said warmly.

"It's an honor, Warden Dresden." Enfield's voice was on the high side, and it was positively brimming with enthusiasm and awe. He offered his hand warily, as if Harry might decided to lop it off. "It means a lot to me to get to meet you finally."

"Thank you, Warden Enfield." Harry accepted his handshake. To me he looked more nervous than flattered. It wasn't hard to imagine why; another young Warden he was responsible for. Who might be killed on his watch.

Ah, the burdens of command.

"Warden Dresden." Orhan's voice was accented and warm. "A pleasure. I hope we can work well together. I will be reliant upon your knowledge of Chicago's Undertown. It's been a few decades since I last surveyed it."

"Ah. Yeah." Harry nodded. "Honestly, Wizard Orhan, I normally stay out of Undertown unless business compels me to go down there."

A small smile crossed her face. "How wise of you. It's not a place to be trifled with. I can see why Wizard Cristos recommended you."

Harry feigned enjoyment of that particular endorsement. He looked to Levellieur. "How good are your defensive enchantments?"

"Well enough to protect the five of us," Levellieur replied. He eyed me and the others. "But who are these people? I was not informed you were bringing more down, this is quite improper."

"Oh, my apprentice Molly Carpenter and Chicago Police Sergeant Karrin Murphy," Harry answered.

I cleared my throat, faking impatience. I had other reasons to do that though, given the stunned looks on the faces of the wizards. "Warden Dresden, bringing a mortal authority into this situation is highly questionable...", Orhan began.

"Oh, she's with me," I said. "Wizards Orhan and Levellieur, Wardens Yoshimo and Enfield, my greetings. I'm the Doctor. My Companions Dr. Liara t'Soni and Katara."

Levellieur's reaction was muted shock. Orhan gasped. "Warden Dresden, I... is this wise? Bringing the Time Lord of all people?" She looked at me with surprise, horror, maybe a bit of fear. "We may be attacked by vampires simply by having his company!"

"I doubt there are any vamps downstairs," Harry noted. "And they're pretty keen on honoring the truce. Besides, it's possible the threat in Undertown comes from something that's his field, not ours."

"Indeed," I confirmed.

"This is unacceptable," Levellieur insisted. "I can shield five in an emergency, but this many? It risks the entire..."

"Liara?", I asked. Liara rolled her eyes and brought her hands up. A biotic energy field surrounded the three of us and Murphy, who had taken up position closer to me to sell the point. "Cooperation makes this little excursion into the bowels of the city underground more likely to succeed, Wizard Levellieur. Safety in numbers."

Orhan looked tremendously displeased. "This is highly irregular," she insisted. "And dangerous. The Doctor is not a party to the truce. The Red Court may consider our deaths worth the price to eliminate him. Not to mention that he is not a signatory to the Accords and does not acknowledge any authority of the White Council. One of his followers even attacked the Merlin!"

"Oh, Korra wasn't my 'follower'," I protested. "Not yet anyway."

Orhan was clearly not buying it, but Levellieur raised a hand impatiently. "Listen. We can protest to the Council later, Wizard Orhan. Right now, we have work to do. We should get into Undertown as quickly as possible and discern this mystery. To emerge at night may invite others to attack."

"I'm with Wizard Levellieur," I said.

"Feel free to complain to Wizard Cristos when we're done, Orhan," Harry said. "But I want the Doctor along. And as the Warden Commander on sight, I'm pulling rank on this to guarantee your safety, if nothing else."

Orhan's cheeks briefly flushed red. But she restored control. "I was hoping to establish a good working relationship with you, Warden Dresden. But this does not bode well for that." She shifted her field coat. "We should begin. Please, lead the way to the nearest viable entrance."

"Yes ma'am," Harry said. He looked at me and we exchanged knowing glances.

It was bad enough that we were going deep into Undertown chasing an unknown force and the supernatural predators it was driving out. Now we were going deep into Undertown chasing an unknown force and the supernatural predators it was driving out in the company of an offended wizard working for a possible traitor to mortalkind.

Fun fun fun.

We slipped into one of the receiving terminals for the railyard and went into its basement, which inevitably led us to a wall that had a gaping hole in it. Thus we entered Undertown.

There was no light to be had down here. None but what we generated with electric torches (shielded from magic disruption by a quick application from yours truly) and a sort of magic lantern that the two wizard researchers were carrying. The artificial lights cast a slight yellow pall over everything. "Why does it smell?", Katara asked with her nose curled.

"We're probably near a trunk of the sewage line," Harry answered. "Plus there's all the mold and mildew. Waste from anything that came here for shelter. That sort of thing."

I had the sonic out and scanning for two things. One was to keep the fix on the temporal energy signature that Little Chicago had found roughly on this spot. The other was to see if there was anything coming at us. From in front of us, at least.

We emerged from the moldy tunnel into another moldy one, this one with standing, quite stagnant water. "Lake water," Harry muttered. "Must have a hole along the river that feeds in." He motioned to us.

We took a started down the north way, as the other seemed worse off with a collapsed floor and such. I held the sonic screwdriver out and Liara had her omnitool actively scanning. She was making a map of our journey while looking for anything of note.

There was a crunch under our feet. I looked down and was treated to the macabre sight of bones. "Well, that's comforting," I murmured.

"They don't look like people, though," Katara noted.

"They're not." I finished my scan. "Animal bones. Rats primarily, some cats and dogs. Something down here was making a meal of them."

"Could be a rawhead," Harry warned.

"I concur." Orhan knelt down with few plastic bags. She took samples from the bone pile. "But there is some abnormality about this."

"Oh?", I asked.

"The bones are undamaged," Levellieur observed. "But are clean of any other matter. Perhaps whatever dwells in this part of Undertown does not care to consume bone. But to leave them undamaged in the process of stripping them clean?"

"There is a predator on a frontier world in my galaxy that can do that," Liara said. "It eats another creature whole, processes the soft flesh in a primary stomach, and passes the bones out with no physical damage."

Orhan looked at Liara with some interest. "Fascinating. The creature's digestive fluids are capable of stripping the soft matter from the bone, then?"

"Yes." Liara made a displeased face. "The results were unpleasant to look at, though."

"Yeah, I'd think so," Murphy remarked. She had her gun at a ready position with the flashlight attachment lit up and illuminating some of the bone pile.

"Unfortunately, I know of no creature that digests the same way in all of our records," Orhan said. "So unless this creature somehow wound up here, we still have an unknown force on our hands."

"And that's why I invited the Doctor along," Harry said. He actually resisted the temptation to say "I told you so". Quite pleasing, that.

Orhan glared at Harry. "Yes. Well, hopefully there are no vampires down here."

"It's not like I did them much harm," I insisted.

"Coming from the man who once destroyed half of their major accounts in Brazil and left a high noble of the Red Court dangling helplessly from his balcony a half hour before dawn? You wounded their pride, Doctor. Repeatedly." Orhan shook her head. "Those creatures have such terrible pride. As do you. See to it that pride doesn't destroy you."

"Quite philosophical of you," I noted. "So, shall we..."

"Wait." Harry held up a hand. "Do you hear that?"

I strained my senses and focused on the dark. Indeed there was a new noise. A distant clacking sound that reminded me of crabs. And it was getting closer.

Everyone turned toward the sound. Lights directed forward and to small shapes skittering across the ground.

"Shellycobbs," Harry said.

Orhan stepped up and held her hand out. "Levellieur, Doctor T'Soni, be ready with your defenses. But no one attack. Not until..."

"Mortals." The voice was soft and sultry, coming from further in the shadows. Murphy moved her gun over toward its source as a figure came into view. A young lady from appearances, with greenish skin. Easily noticed greenish skin because she was completely nude.

"A nixie," Orhan stated. "Be wary of its temptations."

"I have no desire to ensnare you," the nixie protested. The creature's beauty was literally inhuman. And as I thought about it, I knew she was even more dangerous as a creature of Winter. "But I do desire to know what mortals are doing in my home."

"Just passing through," Harry answered. "We're investigating why so many of Undertown's residents are coming to the surface."

"Ahhhh." The nixie nodded. "Mortals. Always so curious." Her voice was keeping the seductive tone to it. I noticed Enfield start to waver a bit in his stance. That was not the best way to react to things like the nixie. That was prey reaction.

The nixie seemed more interested in Liara though. "How peculiar. A mortal not of this world. This... intrigues me. Would you like to keep me company?"

"No, I would not," Liara replied.

"A shame." The nixie's eyes glittered. "Were circumstances different, I would demand it of you. But there are greater things afoot. I would prefer you find them and eliminate them."

"You could start with an explanation of what has you worried", I pointed out.

"And what would I get in exchange," the nixie purred. She looked over Liara again.

"I have a better offer," I said.

"Ah?" The nixie focused on me.

And her expression changed. Ever so slightly. Now she actually looked nervous. I wondered why.

Oh well. Best to use that, I suppose.

"Whatever is hunting further down has destabilized the entirety of Undertown," I pointed out. "Right now we're the ones coming through here. But what happens when it's an ogre? Especially an ogre of Summer? Or some other creature that is your natural foe. You could find your home overrun by things you can't hope to face. Give us free passage and we can not only confirm the nature of what's wrong, we can also thwart it, or at least give you sufficient notice to defend your abode as you see fit."

The nixie seemed to consider this offer for a moment. "You swear that you will provide that service? To destroy the source of this disruption, or to provide me with the knowledge of it?"

Orhan took my arm and pulled me back. Harry as well. "This is beyond our purpose," she warned. "We're not here to fight, simply to investigate."

"Then this is the deal to make," Harry pointed out. "Because even if we got through here despite her, the knowledge we're coming in and knocking over everyone's living space is going to turn an awful lot of supernatural nasties against us, very fast. We do it this way, we get by without a fuss, and we meet our obligation in the debt by telling our friend here what's going on. If we don't beat it, I mean. And the rest of Undertown doesn't get pissed at us."

"Warden Dresden and the Doctor have the right of it," Levellieur agreed.

Orhan put her left hand on the side of her face to massage her temple. I was noticing it was a bit of a tell for her. "Agreed." Orhan cleared her throat and stepped forward. "I, Ceyde Orhan, swear upon my power that, in exchange for free passage through your territory in the course of our investigation, we will provide you with the results of that investigation. And, should it be within our power to do so, we will eliminate the cause of the strife in Undertown."

"Wizards? You all swear this?"

Harry nodded and repeated the same. Levellieur did so as well, followed by Yoshimo and Enfield.

That satisfied her, and for obvious reasons. For a wizard to swear upon their power meant an oath that they could not lightly break. Not without actually losing some of their magical talent.

The nixie turned toward me. "What of you, Time Lord? You, who has treated with my Lady's Queen? Would you give the same oath?"

I nodded. "My Companions and I will either inform you of what is wrong, or eliminate it, should you grant me and my Companions free, undisrupted passage through your territory and that of Undertown."

The nixie frowned and nodded. "Very well. Well bargained, Time Lord."

I didn't smile widely. My wording had been careful to keep this creature from going after my Companions during our trip. Now the nixie couldn't follow us and ambush to capture Murphy, Liara, or Katara for whatever she might choose to do.

The nixie moved back into the shadow. "Come," she said. "I accept your terms. I will lead you through my territory."

Harry and I exchanged looks. That was a bit odd. Granted, the nixie was openly considering this part of our arrangement of free passage, but it was quite helpful to us when the language of our deal didn't necessitate such an act. I could see this bothered Harry. Just as it bothered me.

Oh, maybe it was just the nixie wanting us to deal with whatever was going on, but fae usually don't act so favorable.

We were on our guard for the rest of the trip through the tunnel. What we reached at the end was a decline of mud and stone that would make our return trip rather slippery. "Below are three ways through the old mortal structures," the nixie explained. "All will take you to deeper tunnels. Good hunting, mortals." With that the nixie returned to her tunnel.

Molly looked down the tunnel with the aid of the shielded torch I provided her. "Why do we always end up with mud down here? It looks like we're going to fall and break our necks."

"Wait." Katara stretched her hands out and made a sweeping motion. The mud gurgled to either side and remained there while she wheeled her arms around.

"Great idea." Harry held up his blasting rod. "Fuego." The resulting beam of flame worked along the base of the mudwall.

"Pyro," announced Orhan in a strong voice. Flame erupted from her hand and worked along the other side. Age and experience gave her that advantage over Harry; she didn't need the focus of a rod or staff to summon the flame with such control and such ease.

The flames were not powerful, which was good given that we didn't want them consuming the oxygen in the air. But they were strong enough to dry the mud into place over the next minute. This left us with a much safer descent. The decline was angled just low enough to allow us to walk without becoming unbalanced. Now that it was dry, anyway.

At the bottom, as the nixie had described, were three potential tunnels. One led to the southeast, one directly north, and one to the northwest. I held out the sonic and scanned for the same temporal energy signature. The north and northwest tunnels were the best choices by that regard.

"So...." Harry noticed my results. "Rock, paper, scissors?"

"I suppose that would be about as arbitrary as any other method," I surmised. "But perhaps more deliberation is in order." I looked to Orhan. "Wizard Orhan, do your own means provide a more definitive target for us?"

The scientist magus shook her head. "I am afraid not, Doctor. There is too much magic here. We may be near a leyline."

"I'm pretty sure we are, if our bearings are right," Harry remarked.

"I see." I looked to the north. "I'm getting stronger temporal energy sources from our northern-most options."

Levellieur shook his head at me. "That presumes these sources are linked to our purpose."

"Well then, Wizard Levellieur, by all means, do tell me what else this could be coming...."

I didn't get to finish the sentence. An inhuman screech came from the southern tunnel. We all turned toward it. "Okay, what bloodcurdling horror was that?", Molly asked with faux flippancy. A look at her body language said she was rather more frightened than that.

"I don't recognize it as any known creature," Orhan answered. "Perhaps..."

A figure loped into the light of our accumulated means of illumination. It was sleak and black and rubbery-looking, with clawed paws for feet - quadripedal - and a tail with a bit of furr at the end. A horrific face looked at us, light reflecting from the eyes of a bat... over the muzzle of a canine.

"Is that a... wolfbat?", Katara asked.

"No fur," I remarked. "But it's quite... defend yourselves!"

My warning came in time. We all moved just as the creatures leapt from the dark. More of the same "wolfbats", a pack, came at us from all angles. Orhan and Enfield were protected by the magical barrier that came from Levellieur's rune-carved staff. Yoshimo called out a spell and powerful winds threw her attacker off course, causing the wolfbat - for wantof another name... maybe batwolf would be... no, then it sounds like something Bruce Wayne might think up after taking certain hallucinogenics - anyway, causing the wolfbat to sail right into her sword as she drew it. Dark blood flew and the creature was sliced neatly into two with a shriek of pain and rage.

I had my sonic disruptor up in time to catch one as it went for my back, knocking it up into the air. A quick swap of settings from 42 to 4 caused a yowl of protest as the creature went up even higher before slamming into a wall overhead. I turned to help my Companions and found Liara knocked one away with a biotic field. Katara's water whip had sent another off course and into the north tunnel.

Harry opted for force instead of flame. A bolt of said force, accompanied by his usual "Forzare!", sent one flying into the one Katara had knocked away. Molly grabbed Murphy and veiled the both of them, causing their attackers to collide in mid-air. The veil dropped and Murphy's gun barked out, filling one of the beasts full of holes.

With a couple of exceptions - namely the ones put down by fatal injuries - all got back to their legs and began to circle. "These things are tough," Murphy said. "What are they? Faerie monsters?"

"Nope. They're something else."

"Fomor creations," Orhan guessed. "It has to be them."

"Fomor?" Harry's voice betrayed his bewilderment at that judgement. "You sure?"

"Yes, Wizard Dresden, quite sure. I have seen their like before."

I remained quiet. The Fomor, a collection of various mystical monsters and beings and the like, were primarily aquatic and stayed to themselves. For now, anyway. They would become a greater threat in the years to come if my recollections were right. "They sell these things to others, don't they?", I inquired. "Who would be using them in Undertown?"

Murphy was siting her gun on one of the beasts. "You don't think these are the problem, are you?"

"Unlikely... watch out Murph!"

Harry's warning caused Murphy to shift her position. A wolfbat sailed through the space she had just vacated. One claw ripped into the fabric of her sleeve and the flesh underneath. Murphy cursed as she finished her movement, which gave her a good shot on the creature. A bullet to the head improved its disposition quite efficiently, if rather messily.

A cry resounded. We all looked to see Yoshimo on one knee, blood gushing from her side. Two wolfbats were dead at her feet and a third had just raked its claws through her shoulder, leaving one arm dangling uselessly from the shock of the wound. Another attacker moved to pounce before being intercepted by a singularity thrown by Liara. "They keep moving back into the shadows!", Liara shouted. "I can't get them all!"

"At this rate we..." Harry growled as one slammed into his back and slashed at his shoulders. His duster's enchantments absorbed the blow, mostly, leaving only kinetic force to interrupt him and possibly cause some bruising. He turned and let loose with a point blank burst of flame. "Fuego!" The wolfbat exploded and sent charred viscera flying everywhere. "Damn thing..."

"We need a new strategy," Levellieur suggested. I agreed, which was why I was working on one.

Before I could say so, Molly spoke up from inside her veil. "They're bats, right?" Molly looked to me. "Doctor, your sonic stuff.. I mean, it's sonic, sound, right? Can't you...?"

"...scramble their sonar sense?", I finished for her. "Already on it, just need to make a final modification." I made a few changes to Setting 28 and had it ready. "Wide arc sonic blast coming up, everyone close your ears!"

Had I more time, I might have calibrated the attack on sonic frequencies not likely to effect Human (or Asari or Time Lord) auditory senses. But the wolfbat pack was gathering in number. We had to drive them off. I held the sonic up and closed one ear. Agony and nausea washed over me from the unprotected ear as I triggered the sonic disruptor. I went down to my knees in pain.

The wolfbats screeched in even greater agony. They fumbled about as the sonic disruptor's attack figuratively "blinded" them. They still had eyes, true, but although capable of seeing more than their non-chimerical cousins, those were still bat eyes. Presumably the Fomor could not quite manage to mix lupine sight with a bat's sonar and had to go with improvements to bat vision. And so, with the darkness around us save for our few lights, their ability to coordinate their attack was vastly impaired.

Well, beyond the fact they were in terrible agony from the sonic disruptor.

The shrieking was joined by yelping. I watched them intently, trying to ignore the pain in my ear as I did, until they retreated back from whence they came. Only once they were long gone did I stop. I remained on my knees as my left ear still buzzed painfully.

Harry walked up to me and extended a hand. "Are you alright?"

"Oh, some damage to the eardrum," I mumbled. My head was still spinning a bit. But I needed to stand and we needed to get going. So I accepted Harry's hand and let him pull me to my feet. "Should heal in an hour or two."

"Good to know." Harry looked over to the others. Murphy was nursing her cut with a bandage already. A small first aid kit was on the ground beside her. Further on Orhan was keeping a light on Yoshimo as Katara gathered water from her bottle to heal Yoshimo's wound. "Freaking wolfbats. Jesus. The Fomor are crazy."

"More than you know, Warden Dresden," Orhan said. She looked at us with concern. "It's clear to me that the dangers will only multiply the longer we stay down here. We should keep going."

"North or northwest, though?", Murphy asked. She looked at where Liara was comparing our journey so far to a map of Chicago on her omnitool. "If we take the north one, we'll end up going under the North Branch, northwest keeps us on this side of the river and off toward West Town."

I scanned again. "Temporal energy traces are about the same in either direction."

"I say North," Harry said. "More openings out of Undertown that way."

Several others agreed, while Orhan and Enfield voted Northwest. I didn't vote because I considered the idea silly; either direction would work. The vote turned out solidly North.

Of course, that meant Orhan promptly walked into the Northwest trunk. Harry growled something about "arrogant pain in the ass wizards" under his breath, once again showing the man's capacity for self-realization could be amusingly low. I followed behind.

The corridor narrowed as we went, forcing us to walk in narrow file. This was especially nerve-racking given the lack of maneuver should something nasty set upon us. I felt the hairs on my neck stand up and could feel my hearts pounding in nervous anticipation while my senses strained to detect any sign of real or potential ambush.

Thankfully none came. The corridor spread out again into what looked like an old structure. It stank of all sorts of nasty things. The faded remnants of what had once been wallpaper were on the wall nearest to me, as well as old fixtures for candles. "19th Century", I observed. "Old house."

"Must be an old building that sunk down into Undertown," Harry observed. He walked around with his silver pendant casting white light everywhere. His light shined down upon a table. An opened can of non-perishable food was visible with a crushed aluminium can. "Looks lived in."

"Yes..." Levellieur looked around. "Perhaps transients?"

"In Undertown? Not mortal ones," Harry guffawed. "Not this deep."

"Well, maybe." Murphy was still looking over the map with Liara. "If there's an access tunnel near here they might just come straight down."

"If they're desperate enough, but most of the homeless in this city have a good sense about staying the hell away from Undertown," Harry answered.

Orhan's magical lantern shined toward once had been the front doors. Beyond it was another tunnel. "We should continue," she said. "There is nothing..."


We all turned to see Yoshimo staring at one wall. She looked pale, and it wasn't from the blood loss of her bandaged wound. I stepped up to her and noticed the faint writing. Someone had used what looked to be faded black marker to etch out what they assumed was a warning.

It sent a chill through me as I read it.

"'One shadow, you're fine, two shadows, you're dying?"" Murphy stepped up beside me. "Just what the hell does that mean?"

"Something very bad," I said, my voice tight with concern. I held up the sonic screwdriver.

The sonic's tip was now blinking repeatedly. Temporal energy residues were building up.

"Harry..." I swallowed. "Harry, count everyone's shadows. Levellieur, Liara, get ready for..."

"Um... Doctor? Warden Dresden?"

We all turned to face the source of the shaky English accent. Enfield was standing to one side, over the tattered remnants of blankets that had formed a sleeping pile on the floor, having set light to a surviving candle in a wall fixture. The candle light played over him, giving us a good look at him, and sending out a shadow along the floor toward us.

...no. Not a shadow. Shadows.

Enfield had apparently noticed the shadow stretching out to his right and front, not at all in line with the one being cast by the candle that was facing us. "What...." He swallowed. Sweat was forming on his forehead. "What is that? What creature of the Nevernever could this be?"

I swallowed as Harry spoke. "Doc, you know what this is, right?"

"Yes," I sighed. "Oh yes, I'm quite sure.... Levellieur, I need you to put a magic field around Enfield. Right now. No questions."

"I'm not sure I..."

"Levellieur, now," I demanded. "You've got to..."

Levellieur pulled up his staff and formed a tight energy shield over Enfield.

When the shadow surged underneath it as it formed and enveloped the inside, I knew he had been too late.

"What the hell...?!" That was from Molly.

From within the darkness now contained inside the shield, a human skull now pitched forward against the field.

A chorus of surprised cries, curses, and the like came next. "Goddess!" "Hell's bells!" "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!"

"We've got to go. Now," I said. "We need to get back to the surface."

No one budged. Katara was the one who asked, "Doctor, what is it?"

"They," I corrected. "The Vashta Nerada. The Shadows that Melt the Flesh."

"Dammit," Harry muttered. "I hate it when I'm right. They are from your side of things."

"Then you know how to face them, Doctor?", Orhan asked.

"There's only one way to survive this," I answered. Even as I said that, our light sources showed the form of a shadow creeping across the ground towards us. "Levellieur, Liara, shields for everyone! We have to run!"
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-07 09:09am

The Vashta Nerada. Of all the things to be on the loose in Undertown, why did it have to be them? Why couldn't it have been something easier to deal with? Like, say, Cybermen? Or maybe Autons? I hadn't run into Autons yet. They'd be fine.

"Molly, light! As much light as you can!", I ordered as we ran from the underground house. At that Molly held up her wand and concentrated, creating bright light all around us. Levellieur's staff was giving off an eldritch blue glow similar to the dome of energy around the wizards; Liara's biotic field was active and ready to shield.

Thanks to Molly's light I could see the shadows about us. Moving ever so closer, in defiance of the natural shadows formed by us moving through our powerful light source. More of the Vashta.

"What the hell are these things, Doc?!", Harry demanded.

"Think of microscopic piranha, they feed on soft tissues and flesh! Light makes them visible as shadows!"

"And how do we destroy them?", Liara asked.

"I... honestly have no bloody clue."


Harry's surprised shout came only a moment before we came to a literal dead end. "There's no way out of here," Murphy said.

"Doctor, can you summon the TARDIS?", Liara asked, keeping her cool even as the host of black shadow came upon us. Levellieur's shield caught it and Liara's biotic field backed him up.

I reached into my pocket to pull out the TARDIS remote.

....just to find that it wasn't there.

"My remote is missing," I said. "Someone took my remote!"

"Star and stones, this is ridiculous!", Harry shouted. "Seriously?! How did you lose..."

"I didn't lose it," I barked in retort. "Someone took it, Harry."

"But who could have?!" A look came on his face. "The nixie? She got close to you."

"There were too many eyes on her," I answered, but then again, with faeries you never could be too sure. I was suddenly feeling very happy that I had long ago encrypted the remotes so that they only worked with my data.

Not that feeling happy could last. "Doctor..." Liara's voice was still strong, but I knew strain was getting to her. "We can't keep this up forever."

"Hold on." I pulled out the sonic and my sonic disruptor. "It's tricky, but I think I can generate a remote command signal to the TARDIS with..."

There was a loud cracking sound beneath us. I looked down.

Undertown was a hodgepodge of man-made structures, tunnels created by supernatural creatures, and the soft swampy land along the Chicago River. Here we found ourselves dealing with something from the former.

Namely, wood.

Old, soggy, rotted out wood.

Old, soggy, rotted out wood trying to hold up nine people.

The wood splintered further and cracked. Molly cried out as the timber under her gave way and she fell through. I heard a cry from Levellieur as the same claimed him.

Thus weakened, the whole platform gave way and we fell through into the darkness.

I tried to roll with it. Hard when you're surrounded by wooden debris. It kept me from belly-flopping, at least.

As much as I wanted to check on everyone, the fact that the Vashta Nerada were above us, and undoubtedly descending, forced me to focus on that. I tried to think of how their senses worked. They were hunters in the dark, so we couldn't blind them obviously. Sound? Smell? Body heat?

A dome of ethereal blue energy popped into place over our heads. Levellieur was on his knees. "I can't keep a field this big up for long," he warned.

I brought up the sonic disruptor and activated a lightbeam setting, illuminating a wide arc in front of me. We had landed into another structure, but this one was... different. Cleaner, if not clean. More lived in. The walls seemed taken care of.

Oh, and the equipment laying around. Chemist gear on one table, for instance. A microscope.

We had landed into some sort of... lab?


Yoshimo was at one wall and clearing off dust. Beneath her hand I could make out a Nordic rune of some sort. "A protective sigil," she identified.

"Yeah." Harry swept his pendant over the nearest wall. He looked no worse for the wear in terms of our fall. "Another one. These must be emergency wards, help me find the activation rune!"

While Levellieur struggled to keep the Vashta Narada out, we scrambled about the room, finding more and more runes. Molly let out a shout when she got to the far wall. "Here, boss!"

"Molly, activate it!"

"Uh.... one moment." She turned and put her hand on it. I saw her concentrate. "I'm not sure I can...."

Every sigil in the room lit up with violet light. Energy surged up the walls and then into the air over our heads. Levellieur cried out and pushed with his dome, forcing the shadow mass of Vashta back up past what became the ceiling of the energy field.

Moments later warm light appeared around us. The room came alive with energy. "Looks like we turned everything on," Murphy noted, holstering her gun.

"What is this place?", Katara asked.

Orhan stood over one of the tables. "A lab. Whomever it belongs to, they are a powerful practitioner."

"I wonder how long this place has been empty?" Molly looked over a table. Vinyl records were stacked there. "Hey boss, do you know of any wizards who lived and worked in Chicago before you?"

"I know some have," Harry said, looking over a cabinet of what looked to be very old chemicals. Alchemical ingredients presumably. "But what wizard would put something this deep into Undertown? The place wasn't any nicer back then."

Orhan was moving a hand over the sigils. "The power contained here is vast. The threshold of this place has become dissipated, but the sigils will still sustain the protective field for at least another four hours."

"That gives us time to come up with a plan." Harry looked to me. "Okay Doc. You know these things. How do we fight them?"

I thought on it a moment. What I knew about the Vashta Nerada. Finally I had to shake my head. "I don't know," I admitted. "I know of no weaknesses."

Harry shook his head. "Not what I want to hear, Doc. There's got to be something. Maybe if I hit them with enough flame..."

"They're a cloud of microscopic piranha, Harry," I reminded him. "Even if they're vulnerable to fire, you'll never kill enough before they start eating you or any other person here."

"Okay. So you're saying a stand up fight is a no-sell?", Harry askked.

"I am." I looked back up. The shadows were visible against the cubic of energy where they should not be. "We need to find a way out of here that goes around them."

"Don't forget our oath to that nixie," Molly said. "I mean, if we can kill them or get rid of them..." Molly's face lit up. She had an idea. "Hey, we got them to chase us, right? Why not lead them into a Way and then come back by another Way?"

"Because, Padawan, there's no guarantee we'll arrive back here at all," Harry replied. "We could up in the middle of Siberia or the Kalahari."

"Not to mention that we have no idea where this place links up in the Nevernever," Orhan added. "There may be untold dangers on the other end. And introducing these predators into somewhere like the lands of the Faeries can cause the Council negative repercussions."

"Oh." Molly's expression saddened.

"It was a good idea, in practical terms," I said. "And we could investigate what this place is linked to in the Nevernever if it's our last resort."

Orhan gave me a hot glare at that.

"Hey, over here."

We all looked to where Murphy and Liara were standing at one wall. Murphy was using her heavy flashlight to strike the floor. "It's hollow."

Liara held up her omnitool. "It does appear that there is a passageway, yes."

"Well, that's good news," Harry said. He walked up and started examining the wall. "Must be a pressure plate and a mechanical release, maybe some sort of latch?"

I stepped up and started scanning with the sonic. "I'm not detecting anything of that matter. This portal isn't meant to be opened by mechanical means."

"A magic door. Well, that's a pain. No way of telling what magic sets it off."

"Are you feeling any defensive magic?", I asked.

Harry and Orhan knelt down to examine it. Katara and the other wizards moved in closer to us. "I sense nothing." Harry looked to Orhan. "You?"

"No," Orhan concurred.

"Well." I took in a breath. "Liara, do you feel up to doing the honors?"

Liara tucked away the energy drink she had taken a sip from. She'd been quite ready for my request. "Stand back." We obeyed and I readied my sonic disruptor to emit a field. Liara brought her arms and biotic energy began to surge around her. A powerful bolt of the dark matter slammed into the ground. Masonry cracked and broke under the assault. Most fell through the resulting hole. As soon as the rumble was over I used the sonic disruptor to carefully nudge the debris out of the way.

"Good show, Liara." Harry brought up his blasting rod. "Let's go in."

Under the passageway was a set of stone stairs. They were initially a straightforward series of steps, but soon they turned into a corkscrew that brought us to what must have been some of the lowest levels of Undertown.

Harry stepped aside once we were evidently on the bottom floor. From the corner of my eye I noticed his eyes focus on me intently before looking away. I didn't react to that and simply stood away as well, permitting Orhan to pass. Everyone began to spread out on the lower level to investigate where we were. Already I could see tables strewn with notebooks.

Once everyone was away and looking into things, I took a few steps and stood beside Harry. "Interesting place, eh?"

"Yeah." Harry took in a breath. "Your remote. No way you could have just dropped it?"

"No," I answered. "My pocket is made to not allow that."

"Dammit," Harry muttered. "I was hoping that wasn't the case."

I felt a chill. We had both arrived at the same conclusion. "Someone took it," I said.

"Yeah. Most likely choice. That nixie was fairly close to you."

"Yes. But I was focused upon her out of safety's sake." I shook my head. "No, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the nixie. We had the commotion with the wolfbats, or after our fall... there were plenty of opportunities for someone to take it while I was distracted. Especially if they had magical aid."

"Could have been Enfield. But knowing our luck...."

"No." I shook my head. "Yoshimo, Orhan, or Levellieur."

"Not Yoshimo," Harry insisted. "She's one of the good ones."

"You're certain of that?"

"Dead certain."

I nodded. I had reasons to believe Harry could be wrong about people, especially given the true nature of the major threat looming over his world, but this was not the time to veer him off track like that. "Alright. Orhan or Levellieur. So now we have to..."

"What do we have here?", a voice called out. We all turned to see Liara crouching toward what was clearly the center of the room. Light from her omnitool, and now Murphy's flashlight, shined over a silver ring in the middle of the room.

"A circle," Orhan said. "It's a summoning circle."

"More than just that," Levellieur remarked. "Look at the design patterns around it. This circle can be used as a focus for other magic."

Harry and I walked up. Harry looked down at it. "Look at those sigils."

"Summoning, binding, teleportation..." Orhan shook her head. "Whomever made this was a master level wizard."

I noticed Harry's face begin to go pale a little. "And it's not been empty for long."

I followed his eyes. Molly and Katara were standing at a table with food cans on it. Said food cans were not new, not at all, but they were clearly of graphic design from the last decade. Molly picked one up and shined light on it from the focusing crystal in her hand. "This expired in 2007," she said.

"Four years ago," muttered Murphy. "Still, that's a long enough time for this place to be abandoned."

"Whoever it is left some clothes." Liara motioned to us from one set of shadows. A couple of light sources moved over to where she was standing over a small table with two sets of clothing, tattered beyond recognition, were laid out.

Well, almost beyond recognition.

I swore I could hear the gulp from Harry's throat as his eyes focused on the two largest pieces of clothing left.

Robes. Black robes.

And I realized what he was thinking. "You don't think it could be them, do you?", I asked him.

"Stars and fucking stones, I hope not. But the timing fits..." Harry ran a hand over his face.

"Timing?" Orhan looked at him. "Warden Dresden, what are you talking about."

"This... could have been a base for them. For two of the Kemmlerites who came to Chicago several years ago," I explained for him.

Orhan paled. "You are serious?"

"I hope I'm wrong," Harry muttered. "Because if I'm not, we just stumbled into a safehouse for Cowl and Kumori, and there's no telling what gifts they left us."

"Well." Liara sighed. "That sounds relieving. It's not like we're not already..."

Before Liara could finish there was a clattering sound from further down the chamber. Lights pointed that way as snarling, guttural growls came our way.

A creature stood tall near one portal to another room. Naked, emaciated muscle, a horrific and ugly visage with horned cheekbones and massive jaws, with the only thing upon the creature being a pair of what looked like rune-carved shackles. Even hunched over it was taller than any of us. At full height, it must have been over two and a half meters tall. Possibly even approaching three meters.

"Holy crap," Harry said.

Gunfire rang out and Murphy put several rounds into the ghoul as it started to advance on us. It howled in pain and went down, spewing black blood everywhere.

Said black blood began to immediately flow back into the creature.

"Harry, this is one of those ghouls we fought in the Raith Deeps, isn't it?", Murphy asked. I could sense the fear in her voice.

"Yeah, Murph, it is," Harry said. "Throw everything at it now, before it regenerates!"

Orhan and Harry unleashed fire magic. Murphy slammed a new clip in and opened up. Liara threw a destructive biotic bolt at it and Katara threw out several shards of jagged ice from her water supply. Yoshimo mustered a powerful gust of wind. I got the sonic disruptor up just as the flaming mess of the ghoul staggered a step forward. The kinetic blast was full power and tore the damaged arm off.

Said arm immediately began to work its way back to what was left of the ghoul after that bombardment. As did all the other pieces.

And then there was a sound coming from another of the doors. One light focused on it as another ghoul, looking like the first, emerged.

And a third.

"Holy crap," Harry said.

I swallowed. "Harry, look at them. They're emaciated and weak. Probably just awoken from some sort of magic stasis. The energy they use to regenerate has to come from somewhere, if they're weak enough..."

"....we can overwhelm them," Harry agreed. A wolfish smile crossed his face. "Levellieur, you're on defense! Molly, time for you to DJ us another rave, keep them as disorientated as you can! Liara, hold them back! Everyone else, pour your fire into one at a time!"

I nodded and directed another kinetic burst at the ghoul we were hammering. More chunks flew free of its form. It hissed and howled, its fangs slavering, its intent to devour us clear.

As firepower continued to pound that first ghoul, Liara and Molly went to work on the other two. Molly brought her wand up and light erupted around the ghouls. They flailed around, blinded, and starting actively sniffing as they swapped to that sense. But neither got much further before a biotic wave smashed into them and knocked them backward.

All the while, the first ghoul was being destroyed, piece by piece, as those literal pieces did not move as they would have done. I had been right. They were starving, and that meant they didn't have the energy to reconstitute.

But there was something wrong. I could sense it. Not with the ghouls. But....

That was the moment when a powerful blow struck me in the head. I was unconscious before I hit the ground.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-08 10:29am

I awoke in a dark chamber illuminated only by the light of several candles. I rolled on my side and felt old dust on my face. The smell of it was unpleasant, that sort of old decay smell you get from such materials as they crumble, threatening to choke you and such. I tried to move my arms and could not; my wrists were bound at the base of my back. My ankles were similarly restrained.

"You're awake. Impressive."

I followed the voice to a figure in a dark robe sitting by himself beside a ritual circle. "I have just completed the final touches," said the figure. "I had hoped to be done with this before you awoke. That would have made this easier."

"Would it have?" I frowned. "Would it be that much easier, Wizard Levellieur?"

When the older man looked my way, I could see the glint in his eyes he had hidden so well before. Not out of control, but still on the cusp of madness. "Quite," he said.

My mind raced. I began to put two and two together. "You wanted us down here. You wanted us to find Cowl's old hideout."

"Not all," Levellieur answered. "Just you."


"Shh." Levellieur put a finger to his mouth. "I must concentrate now."

"Where are the others?!", I demanded. "What have you done with them?"

"Undoubtedly they have gone to nourish our experiments by now. Without my support or your's, the tide of the battle is against them. Now, shush, Doctor."

"Bloody lunatic, what are you..."

Levellieur hissed at me. A surge of energy washed over me. Kinetic force, pure magic, threw me backward against the ground. It had been directed at my head. Not enough to do anything dangerous, but more than enough to leave me disorientated for the better part of a minute.

When I could focus again the lights in the room had grown. Energy surged in the air. Levellieur bowed at his circle and a dark robed figure stood within. "You have done well," he said. His voice was raspy. A reptilian sort of rasp, I mean, that no good villain goes without.

And when you considered his chosen look and the decorum, it wasn't hard to figure out whom I had been brought before.

"Cowl," I muttered. "You're working with Cowl."

Levellieur looked my way. "He recovered more quickly than I expected."

"Then your expectations are flawed," Cowl said. "The Time Lord is a more robust being than is apparent."

"Well, I see my reputation precedes me," I said. "So, this was your game? You get Cristos to send his agents since you figure I'll be showing up? Is that it?"

"It was not hard to surmise that the presence of the flesh-devouring shadow would cause Dresden to seek your aid," Cowl responded. "They have proven difficult to control, but clearly have their uses."

"You provoked them into attacking everything down here. To get me?"

"Quite so." Cowl folded his arms. "You are an unacceptable complication for the future. A variable I cannot leave to chance. Ordinarily I would have you destroyed, but..."

I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. No, he didn't want me dead. What he wanted was arguably far, far worse. "You want to expose me to your little agent," I said. "Get it inside my head."

I couldn't see Cowl's reaction under his hood. But I could just about hear a short, raspy little chuckle. "My my. How interesting. You clearly know more than Dresden. Yet you have not told him?"

"Not meddling with history is a responsibility of a Time Lord," I remarked.

"You will soon reconsider such quaint restrictions." Cowl gestured toward me. Levellieur nodded and walked up to me.

I shifted as much as I could. But there were no sharp surfaces around me to use to cut my way free. I kicked out with my bound legs and drove Levellieur back for a moment. My second attempt was evaded, though, and a third as I tried to squirm away and buy time failed as well. He was surprisingly strong when he grabbed my shoulders and pinned me to the ground. He put a leg across my chest and shoulder and used his body's weight to keep me pinned. His hands went up to my temples.

And I felt it. A cold, slimy sensation in my mind. A force attempting to slip through my mental defenses.

"He's... strong," Levellieur said. "He's resisting."

"Yes," Cowl answered. "But he can't resist forever."

I let out a howl as pain filled my head. But I kept my mind focused. I kept a wall in my head, in the very essence of my being. Something cold kept trying to work through it. It sought holes, cracks, any weakness at all to get in.

I'm no stranger to psychic intrusions. But this was... alien, in a way I had never experienced before. Both more subtle and yet more direct than, say, the mental machinations of the Queen of the Elves. I didn't know how long I could resist something like this.

But I had to keep it up. I had to stop this thing from getting into my head. If I failed, I would become one of them. A host of Nemesis and thus an agent of the Outsiders. And with my mind and knowledge at their disposal... Harry's world would be completely doomed.

From what I later heard, after Levellieur knocked me unconscious with a directed kinetic spell of some sort, he bought his escape with a second spell that sent those closest to me, Harry and Katara, flying. "What the hell?!", Harry cried out as he hit the ground.

A couple heads turned. "Doctor!", Murphy shouted while Levellieur lifted my unconscious body in a fireman's carry. He ran back toward the circle in the main lower chamber. For a moment Murphy hesitated. The situation wasn't quite so obvious, after all; Levellieur could be pulling me to safety from an unseen threat. It was after that moment passed that she finished the tactical equation and realized what was going on. She brought her gun up and fired it. The bullets slammed into a blue field formed around Levellieur and dropped as if they had hit a solid steel wall.

"What's going on?!" Liara was busy trying to hold back the two super-ghouls who had joined the fight. "Doctor?!"

"Levellieur!", Harry shouted. He scrambled to his feet. "Let him go!"

Levellieur had gotten to the ring, at a distance of about forty meters from where Harry was. He looked back and snarled. "The end is nigh. Teleparta!" His magic surged into the circle and generated the teleport spell. We disappeared.

Orhan turned away from the burning remnants of the first super-ghoul to attack us. It was still reconstituting but sluggishly so. I had been right. Her shock was joined by terror; from what I later heard, she had been at Morgan's trial. She had heard Peabody's defiant war cry in the moments before he threw a mistfiend - a creature infused with deathstone, which kills anything with a single touch - into the midst of the White Council. She defaulted to her native tongue when gasping, "No".

"Wizard Orhan, look out!"

Orhan barely got the warning before one of the super-ghouls, having slipped from Liara's biotic restraints, clawed at her. Molly had kept the creature blinded. This saved Orhan's life, allowing her to dodge a blow that would have otherwise claimed her head.

"Forzare!" Harry threw out a bolt of force that sent the super-ghoul flying.

"Unh..." Liara strained to stand from being down on one knee. "They're strong. I don't know how much longer I can hold it."

"We don't have time for this," Katara insisted. "We've got to find where Levellieur went with the Doctor."

Yoshimo's sword sang in the air as it sliced a limb from the ghoul trying to kill Orhan. She used a burst of wind magic to throw it back into the initial ghoul. Murphy unloaded another clip into it. "I'm down to two clips, Harry!", she shouted.

"Katara's right." Harry was heading back to the circle. "Even if we win this, we won't be in any shape to help the Doc. We need to follow them."

"How good are you with teleportation magic, Warden Dresden?", Orhan asked.

"Uh..." I can imagine the consternation on Harry's face. "I can brew potions to teleport."

"A deficiency you should rectify." Orhan fell back to join him. Katara sent ice shards into the legs of the super-ghoul trying to attack her again. This pinned it in place for Murphy to shoot in the head. Not that it'd work, but it'd have to regenerate from that. Freed from the fight, Orhan knelt down beside Harry. "The magic is sophisticated. Moreso than Levellieur's usual skill."

"I'm betting it's Cowl's," Harry said. "Does it have any connections? Or does it just go wherever?"

"With the magic field around this lab, it cannot go far." Orhan put her hand over the sigil. "I can feel the energy of the teleport. I believe I can follow the path. But to teleport us all..."

"Yeah." Harry nodded. "I wouldn't have the raw power for that either. And anyone who gets left behind is ghoul bait."

"I hope you two have a good plan!", Liara shouted. She was starting to fall back as the third super-ghoul forced its way out of another biotic stasis field. "I can't hold them off."

Murphy quickly agreed. "Harry! Think of something or we're dead!"

Let me say this. I love to tease Harry about his intelligence. I play up the idea that he's the brawn and I'm the brains whenever we work together, and he's just as quick to make mock threats about leaving me to get eaten or ripped apart by whatever supernatural bruiser we're facing. It's just how we work.

But don't let that gruff, action man exterior fool you. Harry only gets wiser and quicker with each passing adventure, and he was already on the smarter side of the curve when he started out. He's no slouch in the department of gray matter, regardless of what Karrin Murphy or I might say. He's actually quite brilliant.

I just never tell him that because the man can be insufferable enough already.

So, with everything going on, Harry did as I expected. He came up with a Plan.

"Orhan, I think I know how we can teleport everyone," he said.

"How, Warden?"

"We use the energy flowing upstairs," Harry answered. He took out a piece of chalk and began drawing on the floor. "Just need to draw a few of those sigils from upstairs down here and we can create a thaumaturgical link strong enough to put more energy into the teleport."

From what I heard, Orhan was quite impressed with this. "Well, that is a very good plan, Warden. But you realize that by siphoning the energy from the sigils upstairs, we will weaken the field keeping out the Vashta Nerada?"

"Yeah," Harry said. "But if we can get to Levellieur and the Doctor, I'm betting Levellieur stole the Doctor's TARDIS remote. If he has it, and we can save the Doc, then the Doc summons his TARDIS and we can get the hell out of here."

"Presuming he's still alive and that we can get past whatever other defenses Levellieur has before the field fails and the Vashta find us."


By now Murphy's gunshots had ended. "Harry! I'm on my last clip dammit!"

"We need to do this now!", Liara added. "I can't hold them!" By this point she had gone to projecting a biotic field over the corridor leading to where the ghouls had come from. The two intact ghouls, and the stumps of what remained of the main one, slammed angrily against her field. Yoshimo tried to use what defensive magic she knew to reinforce it. Katara was busy trying to get what moisture she could out of the air for more ammunition to use. There certainly wasn't enough water for her to form an ice wall thick enough to stop the ghouls.

"We have to do this right!", Harry shouted. "Or the links won't work! Grasshopper!"

At his command Molly got into position. She started to draw another sigil, one that neither Harry nor Orhan had done, with all the careful deliberation of the older wizards.

"I'm going to start drawing in the power," Orhan announced. "I cannot be disturbed."

"Right." Murphy took up position beside her.

The two intact ghouls slammed into the biotic wall together. Liara let out a groan and collapsed. The biotic field failed completely.

At that point, it's hard to believe they all didn't die.

Thankfully, Warden Yoshimo had been ready for them. She drew in her own magical power and put her strength into a gust of wind magic more than potent enough to send both superghouls flying backward. When the stumpy remains of the first came at her anyway, her overtaxed body still had the strength to cleave it in half again. It didn't rise again. The superghoul's cells had finally run out of the energy reserve they needed to regenerate.

Liara stumbled back to her feet by this point. "I can't do anymore," she rasped.

"Liara, over here!", Harry cried out while drawing one of the last sigils. "Katara, Yoshimo, on us!"

Liara stumbled backward. Yoshimo was so exhausted Katara had to put a shoulder under her and carry her along.

By the time they arrived Molly had drawn the last of the remaining sigils. She got into the circle, which was fairly crowded. "Boss, we're not going to be able to cast any magic, right?"

"Not without disrupting the thaumaturgical link Orhan needs. So nope, no magic Padawan." Harry sighed. "So be ready in case..."

"They're coming again!", Liara cried out.

The two intact super-ghouls, mad with hunger, charged on them.

Katara's hands whipped out. Small, compact, and very deadly shards of ice slammed into the lead ghoul's head and eyes. It shrieked as it was blinded. But it still kept coming.

Harry brought up a hand and made a fist with it. He didn't utter a magic spell this time. Rather than call upon actual magical power that would interfere with Orhan's gathering spell, he went for power already stored, the power in his force rings. Force sufficient to flip a car slammed into the second super-ghoul and sent it flying into the far wall.

But the blinded one kept coming. Even as Orhan finished her focusing chant, even as the magic energy gathered and prepared to shift them through time and space itself to where Levellieur had gone, it was coming. All it had to do was get to the circle and it would be teleported too.

And someone would die.

That is why Murphy unloaded the clip into it.

The thundercracks are easy to imagine. The gouts of black blood and flesh as bullet after bullet tore into the head and chest of the super-ghoul. Not that the bullets would put it down it. It still had too much energy to regenerate.

But the bullets could and did slow it down.

Long enough for Orhan to shout in Classical Greek as her way of activating the teleport spell.

A final burst of magical energy surged from the sigils in the chamber above into the matching sigils around them, and thus into Orhan's working. Said energy did its work. The seven of them where whisked away to safety in that surge of energy.

Upon arrival they were met by another empty chamber. "Keep the lights low," Harry whispered. "Grasshopper, veil us."

"Right boss." Molly began to concentrate. A veil covered them, warping what little existing light was coming down the distant corridor. "I need everyone to stay close."

"We still have to find them," Katara pointed out.

"Yep." Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a single hair. It looked like a human hair. But it wasn't.

It was a Time Lord hair.

"Now, give me a moment," Harry said, "and I'll have the tracking spell up and running."

Given approximate timing, this was about the point that Levellieur began the process of trying to infect me with Nemesis. I tried to shift under his weight and couldn't; for all of my Time Lord body's strength, I could be out-leveraged like anyone else.

Maybe I could have escaped if I could have concentrated. Worked out of his leverage. But I couldn't. I needed everything to resist Nemesis. I felt the construct remain in my head; a constant wall, without cracks, without any flaws, holding back the cold alien force trying to push into my very essence. The wall was the important part. It had to keep Nemesis out.

But Nemesis was sentient. And it was clever. It shifted around the periphery of my mind, sifting through stray thoughts, stray memories. Things recalled by the experience I was undergoing. I am not the first to attempt to hold your mind.

I couldn't stop the thought before I thought about the Borg. The Collective trying to force its way into my mind.

Wouldn't you like to undo that?, Nemesis purred. You could save Janias and Cami. You could make it where they never left you.

No. No. That would mean I...

Ah. Katherine. Poor, brilliant Katherine. Nemesis continued to sound like the reasonable voice. I could help you undo that too. She could still be here. With you. Being brilliant.

That touched a nerve. And more thoughts. I was too focused on keeping Nemesis out to deal with them.

You fear yourself too much. You should let go. Become that which you must be. We could accomplish so much together. I could help you solve the mystery of the Cracks. I could reveal your memories to you. You could discover what you once were. With me. Together.

I didn't respond. The wall was all that mattered.

I could give you your life back.

I did nothing.

I could help discover who did this to you.

At that point, I slipped.

Nemesis had struck me effectively. That was knowledge that I wanted. That I needed. It was something that was still gnawing at the very core of my being.

Who did this to me?


Why did they want me to become a Time Lord? Why did they want me to have a TARDIS? Why had they left me with the Doctor's iconic suits, destroyed so long ago?

Why did they take away my life?

A crack formed in the wall of my mind at the distraction.

And Nemesis surged right into it.

So, what was happening while I was dueling Nemesis in my head?

The cavalry was coming, of course.

Granted, they were having a spot of bother in that function at the time.

"Well." Harry sighed. "This sucks."

The group was faced by a great stone portal. The magical sigils on it were dull even against the lights being gently played over it. The tracking spell was pointing right at the portal.

"The door must be opened with the right magical code," Orhan explained to those without the education in magic. "Or an energy backlash will strike us."

"Yeah?" Murphy looked around. "Think you could crack it?"

"It's designed to channel any residual magic into all of the code signs. I can't tell which ones were actually used."

"Maybe we should dust for fingerprints."

Harry shook his head. "Nice thought, but it wouldn't work. Levellieur didn't have to actually touch anything."

Molly swallowed. "Um, boss? Everyone? We need to hurry."

"Well, obviously Molly," Harry said. "But we need to do it right."

"You don't understand." Molly shook her head. "I... I think I can feel him in there."

"You can feel the Doctor's mind?", Liara asked.

"Yeah. I mean, we've touched minds before, I can remember it. And he's... something's attacking him."

Orhan frowned. "Psychic attack. Levellieur is a known authority on mind magic. He must want something from the Doctor."

"Or he's just trying to tear his mind to bits. Or enthrall him." Harry glowered and looked around. "If the wall's thin enough, we might be able to bash through it with enough force."

"Presuming the walls aren't enchanted against just such an attack," Orhan said.

"If the wall is thin enough I could blast it down with biotics," Liara offered. Her energy drink bottle was slung back to her belt now empty. "But it's going to take everything I have."

"Perhaps there is a way to give your body the energy it needs magically?", Yoshimo asked. "Then you could...."

As they spoke, Katara watched Murphy move along the wall. Her flashlight was moving up and down the blue-gray stone. "Murphy?"

A sharp cry, from both of us, echoed in the air. "Dammit," Harry snarled. "Whatever we do, we'd better do it fast."

"Harry, over here."

Everyone turned to Murphy, who was going around the next corner. "The voice is strongest over here," she said in a lower tone.

Harry followed her to the corner and ran his pendant light over the wall. He would have been quite surprised to see the split in the masonry where the wall met the floor. "it looks like structural damage," he noted.

"The building is supporting more weight than it used to," Yoshimo observed. "But that opening is too small."

Harry nodded. "Too small for most of us anyway. But I think there's someone here who just might wiggle through."

His eyes went to Murphy. She was checking her sidearm. With a click she held open the chamber. A single bullet was within. "Last one," she sighed.

"Well, Murph, that just means you'd better make this one count." Harry grinned at her warmly.

"Alright." She narrowed her eyes and looked to the others. "If he makes one comment about my ass, please kick his."

In the chuckles that followed, it was probably the first time Harry realized that with Enfield dead and Levellieur and myself gone, he was the only male left in the group. "Sometimes, Murph, you're just no fun."

"You're such a pig, Dresden," Murphy sighed, already getting onto her belly. She started sliding into the cap between the wall and floor.

With my momentary distraction, Nemesis surged toward the crack that formed in my mental defenses. The wall around my mind shuddered and weakened. The crack began to grow.

The more you resist, the more control I will have when I gain entry.

I knew it was a lie and made that thought clear. My reward was a renewed assault. Nemesis had leverage and it was using it. It filled my head with promises. Promises of finding out why this was done to me. Why I was taken away from my old life with such thoroughness.

I ignored them of course. The only thing Nemesis cared about was furthering the goals of the Outsiders. If I fell to it, they would use me to create even more chaos and mayhem and to eventually break through the Outer Gates.

But it wasn't easy. Nemesis made sure of that. I fought a desperate battle for my mind to keep Nemesis out. I couldn't let him into my head. I couldn't risk that; he could contaminate me.

Why do you resist so fiercely? We are not unreasonable. There are other Earths for you to enjoy. Cease your struggle and you may go to them when our work is complete.

Ha. The Outsiders are certainly the font of charity, aren't they?

I continued to resist as before. It hurt. I don't think I can quite describe just how badly it hurt. There were few beings I had matched wills with as potent and insidious as Nemesis. This wasn't just power versus power, like when the Borg tried to assimilate me. Any stray thought at the periphery of my mind could actually be a carrier, meant to bring a sliver of Nemesis in when I touched it. That was how he operated.

But the thing about Nemesis, I was beginning to realize, was that he had flaws others had not possessed. He didn't have the same relentless methodical drone of the Borg. He had emotion... of a sort, anyway. He was alien in a way even they weren't.

So alien... but also so very sapient.

I could sense he was starting to get frustrated. That made me chuckle inwardly. Poor Nemesis was biting off more than he could chew, eh?

I will prevail. I have suborned countless beings over the eons. I have claimed powerful wizards, ancient creatures, and Faerie Queens. What do you think you are compared to such power?

What am I?

I have been many things. Traveler. Wanderer. Hero. Villain.

I've done small things and I've done great things. I have filled entire civilizations with hope and resolve. I have made empires and tyrants tremble in terror at my passing. I have made children laugh themselves to tears and I have made the suffering smile.

All of those worlds and places I have visited. Alien vistas the kind of which few Humans ever get to enjoy. I have seen stars born, I have seen stars die. I have seen living beings Humans would never imagine existed. Creatures of sound and light and shadow (even living candy, I kid you not), talking ponies and living gemstones. Grand cities made of crystal and light and steel and every other thing you might imagine. I have seen them all.

And I have not been alone.

I introduced an entire Multiverse of wonders to two young slave girls yearning for freedom together. I watched a princess grow up into a brilliant young woman who reveled in going on adventures across space and time at my side. I saved a little girl's life and taught her how to rise above her anger and hate to be something better, teaching she used to save me from my own dark impulses. I helped the guardian of an entire world recover from a terrible experience and showed an inventive young woman the futures she could bring to her world with her genius. Even now I am sharing the wonders of Creation with my Companions, with a being yearning to again know the wonder of new discoveries, and a young lady who has lost everything and is trying to fill the void in her heart.

Janias and Cami. Katherine. Nerys. Korra and Asami. Liara. Katara. All of them, my Companions, whom I would move universes to help.

And others I have met on my journeys. Others who have meant so, so much to me. Comrades who have helped me save lives. Ordinary and extraordinary, but oh so... Human? Well, not just Human, but I think you get the point. People who have put themselves in danger at my side. Beings I am proud to call friends.

This does not impress! Do you think such thoughts can sway me? Do you think I can be beaten by this?! Nemesis was starting to lose his patience. I will have you!

Nemesis didn't get it. It couldn't understand.

These people, my Companions, my friends, they serve to remind me of who I am. All of the time.

Who am I? Nemesis wants to know who I am to resist his power?

Yes, Nemesis had taken very powerful beings before. But I'm not a Faerie Queen. I'm not a wizard (well, unless I'm in Ankh-Morpork). I'm not even a Dragon.

I am the Doctor.

I am a Time Lord.

And my mind belongs to ME!

And in the heat of that moment, with Nemesis furiously struggling to widen the crack in the wall of my mind, to surge in and claim me, I did something that ageless creature never imagined I would do.

With every part of myself, with every corner of my hearts, my soul, I surged forth. The walls parted and the very essence of who I was slammed into Nemesis with such ferocity that it recoiled.

What is this?!, Nemesis shrieked. You cannot be this powerful! There's nothing that can be this powerful!

"I am the Doctor," I rasped aloud. It was the only answer I could manage to give in the situation.

I was starting to see the room we were in. Levellieur's hands on my temples. We were both screaming as Nemesis recoiled from the connection. Back into the diseased remnants of Francois Levellieur's mind.

Levellieur fell backward and off of me. I turned and shifted my weight to try something I'd only practiced a few time. Curse my long legs; you can't imagine how hard it is to get them curled up enough to get your arms under them.

"Levellieur!", Cowl hissed. "Levellieur, stand! If he cannot be taken, he must be destroyed!"

I went to work on the bonds around my ankles first. The knot was fine and taunt, but not impossible. I managed to leverage it loose enough to pull a loop out. My fingers worked the delicate string carefully, undoing every tangle it found.

I'd say it took about, oh... ten seconds. Altogether.

As a result, I didn't have time to even begin to get my wrists free. Levellieur-Nemesis was getting back to his feet. The hairs on my neck began to stand on end. I could feel the energy currents in the air; Levellieur was summoning his power for a magical attack. He probably intended to make my head explode or something swift and final like that.

As I was still on the ground, I had limited tactical options. So I kicked out with my feet. Levellieur screamed in pain as my kick smashed in one of his knees. The gathering power of his spell dissipated from the lack of focus.

I used the moment to get to my feet. I felt a presence strike at my mind. This time it wasn't trying to get in. It certainly wasn't Nemesis.

It was Cowl.

"You might have been useful," Cowl said. "But instead you will have to die."

My mind was still racing from my duel with Nemesis, so I fought off the psychic attack before it could pin me. But it did slow me down for a moment.

Long enough for the panicking Levellieur to throw a quick and dirty evocation my way. A fireball, to be precise, much like the little suns Harry could summon to intimidate defiant young apprentices and terrified Mafia hitmen.

I couldn't move in time. It struck me directly. The thermal energy washed over my chest and threw me back into the wall. I cried out as I slid to the ground. My chest felt like it was on fire. I would have expected that to be true, but to my surprise only a bit off smoldering fabric around where the fireball burned its way through my jacket was actually lit up. The vest should have lit up.

Well, if it hadn't been enchanted by Molly Carpenter, anyway.

Levellieur stood over me and extended a hand. Energy gathered again.

Well. I wasn't in the best situation now, was I? He was too far away to kick again. Hands were still bound. The fireball had still hurt me, even if my vest had kept it from incinerating my heart like Levellieur/Nemesis had intended.

But Cowl and his ally or master or whatever he was to Nemesis... they had forgotten something.

The something that became abundantly clear when a crack of thunder echoed in the room. Or rather, something like the crack of thunder.

Blood and brains erupted from the back and left side of Levellieur's head. The magical energy at his hand fell away into nothing as his body collapsed lifelessly to the floor.

Cowl growled audibly. I calculated the trajectory and found what I was looking for. There was a crack where the wall to my left met the floor. It wasn't a big one on this end.

But it was big enough for a certain Chicago police detective to get off a shot.

"Thank you, Sergeant," I said aloud.

"You're welcome," Murphy answered.

I stood up and looked to the obvious door into the room. A single sigil was painted on the inside. I scrambled into my pocket for my sonic screwdriver - not easy with my wrists still bound - and went over to the door. I looked back at Cowl. "Say, you want to talk to Harry?", I asked. "He'll be here any moment."

"You are already dead," Cowl said simply. "All of you. This conversation has become pointless."

He disappeared. I looked back to the door and ran the sonic screwdriver over it. Energy was energy, after all; the magical mechanism that opened the door was triggered by energy that came from magic, and my sonic screwdriver could fake that energy easily enough.

The stone door rumbled and slid downward into the ground. Katara came across first and embraced me. "You're okay!", she shouted.

"You had us worried," Liara said, smiling and stepped up beside Katara. She waited for the younger woman to get her hug in before giving her own.

Molly rushed in and got a hug after Liara. "You're alright! I... I felt him attacking your mind, I was worried..."

"Ah, he's not the first," I answered. "And he bought off more than he could chew. Now, if you could please help me with this?"

When the others appeared at the door I was reaching into the pockets of Levellieur's suit, my bonds already snapped by a pen knife Molly had been carrying with her. Most of Levellier's pockets and pouches had the kind of equipment you'd expect for either role he was playing here. But I found what I was looking for. I reached in and took out the TARDIS remote. "There you are," I murmured. "Now..."

"We need to go," Harry said. Beside him Murphy appeared a bit bedraggled and worn, with small wounds and scuffs on her visible skin from where she had wiggled herself through that small hole. We exchanged smiles. She had saved my life right and proper, after all.

But when I spoke, it was to address Harry. "Oh?"

"He used the teleportation rune on that big circle," Harry explained. "For all of us to follow, well, we...."

I immediately seized on what they had done. "You used a quantum link with the sigils powering the force field."

"Yeah. And now..."

"....now the field will fail shortly, if it hasn't already, and the Vashta Nerada will eat us all," I finished for him. "Well, that's quite fine, because now we can get out of here, go tell our nixie friend what's wrong, and think up something to deal with the Vashta." I held up the TARDIS remote and stepped out into the hall. "Everyone ready?"

"Obviously," Orhan sighed.

Oi. No appreciation for drama there, eh?

I turned and focused on the remote, ready to call the TARDIS to us.

After a moment, Yoshimo asked, "How long does it take?"

And by that point, I was feeling rather bewildered and completely embarrassed. "Alright, that's just humiliating," I sighed. I focused on the remote again. Nothing happened. I held it up and looked at it. I narrowed my eyes and scanned it with my sonic screwdriver. "Oh, that annoying bugger," I sighed.


"Levellieur didn't just steal it, he used raw magic to damage it," I explained. "Looks like he was trying to force the mental lock and call in the TARDIS himself."

"Can't you fix it?", Molly asked.

"Well, if it's not too damaged," I answered. I held up the sonic screwdriver. "I should at least get one remote call out of it, this will just take a minute or three. Maybe four."

I was starting to work on it when Harry cut in. "Uh, Doc?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Think you could turn that into ten seconds or less?"

I looked up. I didn't need to inquire as to why he was asking. The reasoning was obvious.

All of the lights shining down the side they were facing were meeting black. And not darkness.

Just black. A large, oppressive shadow moving toward us all.

"Aw, come on," I complained. "This is getting ridiculous." I turned and checked. Liara was out of energy drinks and looked worn down; even with the drinks, she clearly would have trouble maintaining the kind of biotic field we'd need. Orhan and Yoshimo looked ragged as well. And Levellieur had been our other defensive magics man, so that was out.

In other words, I couldn't guarantee that I would fix the TARDIS remote before the Vashta Nerada were upon us.

Which left just one course of safety.

"Alright, time to run again!"
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-09 12:13pm

As usual, things didn't look so good.

I mean, look at our situation. Worn down from fighting nasties and dealing with the treachery of the late Wizard Levellieur. Trapped in an unknown hideout deep within Undertown, with no known way to escape, and the TARDIS remote broken.

And, oh yes, the great cloud of Vashta Nerada behind us that wanted to eat us to the bone.

As I said, things didn't look so good.

We were running down stone corridors as quickly as our legs could carry us. Liara was taking the lead with her omnitool up. Teleporting had essentially ruined the map she was establishing; it wouldn't work until we got somewhere familiar to the device. But it still provided us with a rough idea of what was around us.

As we ran, I continued to run the sonic screwdriver over the remote. Levellieur had damaged it to an annoying degree in his attempts, prompted undoubtedly by Nemesis, to take control of the TARDIS.

"I'm not sure how much longer we can keep this up, Doc!", Harry shouted.

"Well, by all means, go ask the Vashta if we can take a breather," I retorted.

Harry snorted at that. But he was right.

And, being Harry, he decided to act.

As we ran across a support beam, Harry unloaded into the ceiling with his kinetic rings. Given the age of the structure, the effect was immediate. Debris filled the hall behind us, blocking up the corridor.

Of course, the effect was larger than that. We had to keep running further just to avoid getting burried in the same rubble.

I smirked at him after the rumbling died off. "Well, that was good. You only nearly buried us."

Harry's riposte was immediate. "I didn't see you thinking of anything, Mister Time Lord Smartypants."

I gave him a chuckle went back to work on focusing on the repair of the remote. I was making good progress...

"That's not good," Liara said.

I looked to the debris wall, as black shadow began to seep through the rubble.

"Aw come on!", Harry protested. "Flipping shadows!"

So we continued to run and I continued to work. Not easy to do together. And to make matters worse, I was pretty sure we were going to run out of space eventually. This hidden home for Cowl couldn't be that large, after all.

And as much as we tried to run, the Vashta would catch up to us. We were in their element; the dark.

If we were going to survive, I had to act fast.

I kept the control balanced delicately in the fingers of my left hand while my right continued to hold the sonic screwdriver toward it. I was operating the remote's repair function, using the sonic to.... do something really complicated and not at all interesting, but it would make it work.


Yoshimo howled a spell in defiance of the Vashta, a powerful wind attack. It blew the shadow back a bit, but just a bit. They were microscopic after all. Such things don't provide a lot of cross-section for someone to push them with air.

My sonic made a happy little whir. "There... alright, good," I said.

"What's good?", Liara asked. "You fixed it?"

"Almost," I said. And looking ahead, I saw our problem. "But that's not the tricky part."

"What's the tricky part?", Molly asked.

Yoshimo reached the rubble first. The entire passageway had been sealed off. "Aw hell," Harry swore.

I didn't have to ask Liara. She brought her arms up and created a biotic field that stopped the Vashta Nerada in their tracks. Here we had an advantage; the Vashta, being what they were, didn't exactly have a lot of mass to press against the dark matter field holding them back. If they had been smaller I would have suggested Liara try to outright capture them.

An excellent idea, that.

Of course, Liara had been running, moving, and throwing around biotics for hours. The energy drinks replenished the calories, yes, but she was still burning through the available energy in her body at a prodigious rate.

The Vashta started seeping toward the edges. "Clever bastards," I muttered. They were exploiting the brick nature of the structure, looking to slip through those cracks. Liara's shield covered them for the moment, but maintaining that was an inefficient use of her energy.

"Doctor, you got that?"

"This is very delicate work, Katara," I answered. "If I do the wrong thing, the remote will be permanently disabled."

"Tick tock, Doc, Tick tock!" Harry held up his left arm and the shield bracelet focus he kept on it. Blue magical energy formed along Liara's purple-tinged biotics; he was supporting her with his own forcefield.

Orhan held up a hand. Blue energy weaved around both fields, slipping into the cracks in the walls and barring any potential for entry.

Of course, they couldn't do that forever.

No pressure, eh?


"Shh, almost there..."

I don't envy the others. Yoshimo was either too weak or too inexperienced in that form of magic to join their protective field. Forcefields weren't Molly's expertise and a veil would not avail us (ha!). Katara lacked the water to seal them off with ice. Murphy had nothing left. Harry, Orhan, and Liara were the only things between us and being devoured by the Vashta Nerada.

Well, me too. I just had to get done in time.

Its very delicate work, working with the remote I'd made. As I had warned them, I couldn't rush it. It had to be just right.

"On the right wall, look!"

Katara's warning allowed Orhan to siphon off a trench between bricks that the Vashta were about to enter.

"Doctor, any time," Murphy urged me.

"Almost there..." Another circuit was fixed. Just a few more...!

Ah. Last second escapes. They're so exciting in retrospect, but when you live them? It can be quite terrifying, honestly. And that's exactly what I was going through. I had to get this done in time, or some of my best friends, and my Companions, and myself obviously, would be reduced to eight piles of skeletons in some blocked off tunnel deep in Undertown.

Liara groaned a little. Her biotic field began to slacken. It contracted.

"We're losing it!", Harry warned. His voice quavered from the effort he was putting forth.

Another circuit. Just another....

Orhan gasped and fell away. The weave she'd made dissipated.

The Vashta begun to slip around Harry's field.

And I finished the final circuit repair.

"Here we go!", I shouted. "Everyone on me!" I moved forward to just behind Harry to make sure everyone was taken in. And I concentrated.


As that sound began, Harry had to release the magic field. It had been a working far beyond his usual protective dome shield, so he had kept it only as long as he could. With it down the shadow of the Vashta Nerada surged forward to devour us.

Right as the TARDIS materialized around us.

Orhan and Yoshimo gasped in surprise. Because of the number of people around me, the TARDIS materialized in a way to put us in the library.

Now, that was all fairly dramatic, wasn't it? I mean, the last minute escape and all. Completely and totally dramatic!

....unfortunately, the effect was ruined by the fact that the TARDIS just dumped us into the middle of the library.

Above the swimming pool.

So as soon as the materialization finished, we were standing in mid-air, and we all plunged into the water in a fit of flailing limbs and cries of surprise. I got a bit of water in my throat before I recovered and forced myself to the surface. I spat the water out and took deep breaths. Around me other heads bobbed to the surface. "Well, that was unexpected," Liara moaned.

After a moment Molly, with what was left of her makeup and such running, began to laugh at the comedy of it all. The laugh was infectious; I joined in too, and Harry, and Murphy, and soon even Orhan was laughing like there was no tomorrow.

Maybe it was just the survival high. But it was a good laugh.

However, our work was not done. "You know," I began, "we still have to do something about the Vashta Nerada."

"What do you suggest, Doc?", Harry asked.

I began to tread my way over to the stairway at the side of the pool. "Oh. I have some ideas," I said, smirking. "Some indeed."

I didn't bother drying off. We didn't have time for it. I went straight to the control room and snapped my fingers, opening the door.

I was not surprised when the Vashta Nerada surged in.

They, however, were probably surprised by the forcefield that met them on all angles, containing them to the doorway.

"Well, now that you're here, we need to talk," I said. I reached over and flipped a switch. A receiver came up on the TARDIS communication console and directed towards them. "I know you lot can communicate with the right tools. This waveform translator should suffice. Now, first off, you're not going to get to eat me or my friends, am I clear?"

For a moment there was no response. Then a long and mechanical sound came from the receiver. "OUR FOREST. WE MUST HAVE MEAT."

"In case you didn't realize, this is not a bloody forest," I countered. Behind me the others were gathering, trying to dry off while they observed my one-on-one with the Vashta. "You're causing an awful lot of trouble. And you killed a nice young man who had quite a future ahead of him."


"Oh, aren't you single-minded. Is food all you think about? No time for the weather? The little pleasantries that make life interesting?" I shook my head. "Now, you listen up. I'm going to be nice." I frowned. "Despite poor Enfield, I'm not going to drop you lot onto an asteroid to starve. I'll put you on a planet, nice and quiet, plenty of beasties for meat. But only if you agree to never touch another sapient creature again."

There was silence from the creatures.

"Well? What will it be? Forsake Humans and other species of similar intelligence from your diet, or no more meat for you? Don't dawdle. I'm tired and I'm sore and I'm soaking wet, that's not a good combination for you to try my patience with."

After several more moments of silence, the communication receiver rumbled. "AGREED."

"Good," I said. "I'm the Doctor, by the way. You'll want to remember that if you ever get tempted to change your diet back." I turned to the TARDIS controls and began inputting new coordinates.

I almost sighed with relief that we were done... but we weren't yet, of course. No, we had a bit more to do. Unfortunately, when you considered how eager we all were to rest.

After dropping the Vashta off to their new home, far out of our hair, I returned us to Cowl's old base. Just for a quick scan. I looked up from the scanners. "No sign of temporal energy," I sighed, feeling relief. "That was the entire cloud... horde... swarm, i suppose?"

"Swarm works," Harry said. "But you're sure?"

"Quite. The temporal energy levels have become negligible." I tapped the screen. "Even if small bits broke off from the cloud, they'll be too small to pose a threat to the kinds of creatures that usually live down here. The rotten wood is too weak and soggy for them to procreate with, so it's just them, probably eating the occasional roach or something."

"Well, I guess I'd better put the word on the street then," Harry remarked. "Get all of those fae creatures and the like to go back home."

"Or rather, to where they want." Orhan was brushing her drying hair. "I can foresee quite a struggle between old occupants and newer ones."

"Just so long as they stay away from mortals," Harry answered.

"Yes." Orhan put the brush down and looked to Harry and to me. "Warden Dresden. Doctor. I am thankful to have had you along with us. Levellieur's treason would have killed us all down there."

"It's quite all right, Wizard Orhan." I offered my hand. "An honor and a privilege."

Orhan nodded at me and accepted my hand. She did likewise with Harry. "Now, Doctor, if you would be kind enough to return us to the surface, I must be going. I have a report I need to write."

Ah. Paperwork. The horror.

We returned the TARDIS to the surface, where Orhan's rental van was waiting. Nighttime had fallen at the point in time I chose. The lights of the city illuminated this area with some gaps, enough that Murphy, ever the police officer, was keeping a watchful eye on things.

Orhan and Yoshimo, patched up by Katara's ministrations, went to the van after giving their goodbyes. We made sure they were safely off before returning to the TARDIS. "When you asked me to travel with you," Liara began, looking directly at me, "I was promised wonderful sights. But it seems I spend more time running for my life from alien horrors."

"Oh, you get used to it after a while," Murphy said. Her hair was not so disheveled as before, but it was still damp. But she'd had the foresight to know her clothing would get damaged or the sort, so she had already changed into a spare blouse and lady's trousers by this point. So was everyone else save myself and Harry, actually. "Then you start doing the really crazy stuff, like following scruffy wizards into the strongholds of Faerie Queens."

"I do believe we are being disrespected, Harry," I said jovially.

Harry laughed at that. "I'm used to it from Karrin. She's always short with me."

Murphy's head whipped about to face him. "What was that, Dresden?"

I couldn't resist joining in. "I think she's a little peeved, Harry." What can I say? The Vashta Nerada plus the Black Council people had clearly had an effect upon my survival instincts.

Murphy's eyes glared at me too. Playfully. Well, I think. "I should bash in your knee caps and get you both down here before the lack of oxygen up there starts inflicting brain damage." She eyed Harry again. "More brain damage in your case, Harry."

Harry replied with some line that sounded like he had indeed suffered brain damage. I suspect it was from a movie, because so much of his wit vocabulary is tied up in those pop culture references he so loves.

Molly was giggling like crazy at this point, and even Katara was smiling thinly.

"Well, before we kill each other," I began, "I would recommend Harry and I go dry off, change clothes, and then..." I admit I had a twinkle in my eye at this point. "...how about that favored tradition of yours, Harry? I've yet to try Mac's delectable home brews."

"Oh, Goddess, a meal sounds great right now," Liara sighed.

"Good idea, Doc." Harry nodded. "I've got a change of clothes back at the apartment."

I shook my head at that. "You really should have seen this coming, Dresden. I guess this is why I'm the brains of this duo."

"Hey, don't get cocky, or next time I'll let the monster rip that smug Time Lord face right off..."

While we waited for Harry to change clothes back in his basement apartment, I did the same in my wardrobe room. I had just put on a new shirt - I decided to give the odd green one a try instead of my usual blue - when I heard a knock at the door and turned. A snap of my fingers admitted Molly. "Ah, Miss Carpenter." I began to button the shirt. "I haven't mentioned it yet, but you and your mother have saved me from injury, even death, several times now."

"Oh?" Molly allowed herself a proud smile. "That's good. Mom will be happy that the vest has helped you so much."

"Indeed." I turned and picked up one of my normal vests from another hanger. "In fact, I'm alive tonight because of it. It absorbed Levellieur's fireball quite handily."

Now Molly was beaming with pride. Her expression turned sad, though, when she noticed the vest where I had discarded it. She held it up and surveyed the damage. Not just the burn mark, but rather... "Oh. Uh... I need to talk to Harry, I don't think that was supposed to happen," she said. The pride disappeared.


"My defensive enchantments. They're gone," she answered. "I mean.... they're completely... that fireball. It was really hot, right? Maybe it was so powerful that the enchantments drained themselves completely in stopping it." Her brow furrowed. "But I don't think that's how they're supposed to work."

"Well, it was one of your first tries, and it did work well several times." I stepped up and gave her a pat on the shoulder. And then I turned it into a hug, because the young woman needed it after another harrowing adventure and her current disappointment in her handiwork becoming undone. "Thank you very much," I said to her.

"You're welcome."

I ended the hug and reached over to my rack of vests. I pulled out a mostly-similar exact copy. Well, entirely similar, save the lack of a burn mark and that this one had never been enchanted magically. Molly stared at it. "That's... that's the same..." She pulled it open and looked at the plates of light kevlar stitched on the inside. "It's..."

"Matter replicator," I confessed. "I couldn't duplicate your magical enchantment of course, but the rest?"

"This is... wow." She looked it over. "How many did you make?"

"A few," I confessed.

"Well..." Molly smiled at me. "Can I take some? I'll get one done for you by the end of the week, then I'll work on the others? Whenever you come back, I mean?"

At that I nodded. "Sure. That works for me."

"Great!" She showed some enthusiasm as she took four of the vests and ran out of the room with them.

I finished getting dressed. When I returned to the TARDIS control room, Harry was waiting at the door for Molly to come up the stairs. Murphy and the others were patiently waiting... well, save Liara, who was looking rather hungry. I walked up to the controls. "All right everyone, time for a post-fight-for-our-lives meal?"

"It's time to introduce you to Mac's best, Doc," Harry answered.

Indeed it was.

I materialized the TARDIS in the alley next to Mac's and we all headed out. I came last to make sure the TARDIS was secure.

I was just about to round the corner and join the others when a voice called out to me. I turned, recognizing it. "Wizard Orhan?"

Ceyde Orhan stood beside the TARDIS in her black robes with blue stole. I could barely make her out given the relative lack of light in the alley. Suspicion gripped me as she took a step forward. "Doctor." She nodded again. "I thought it best to speak with you. To make some things clear."

I narrowed my eyes. Through everything, I could have almost forgotten that she, not Levellieur, was the wizard connected to Gregori Cristos. The one he had appointed to lead the mission. My hand started to creep toward the sling on which my sonic disruptor rested.

"That will not be necessary, Doctor," a rich voice called out. From the shadows of the alley a second, taller robed figure emerged. He took his place beside Orhan. "You are in no danger here."

I blinked. "Rashid?", I asked.

Rashid of the Wizards' Senior Council, otherwise called the Gatekeeper given his primary job, gave a nod I could just barely perceive in the shadow of his hood. I could see the glint of a false eye, too bright to be the usual steel eye he showed, in said hood. "I am pleased to say that our meeting here is under more pleasant auspices than the last time I spoke to you in this alley," he answered.

I nodded. The last time I had seen the Gatekeeper, he had come to try and warn me from the path I had been on at the time. The path that turned me into the Time Lord Triumphant. "That's quite relieving," I said.

"Indeed." He inclined his head slightly. And then he focused again. "And I am relieved as well."

"Oh?" I already figured what he was relieved over. "I take it you can see I'm clean of a certain malignant influence."

I thought I saw a smile curve on the old wizard's mouth, regardless of the shadows. "Yes. I was concerned the Enemy might one day try to claim you. Indeed, I was worried your prior behavior was a sign of such a thing, but that night I saw you were not taken and I stayed my hand."

"Thank you." I shivered involuntarily despite the summer warmth of the night. "I can't imagine what the adversary would have led me to do. And if he had attacked me back then..." Now that was a sobering thought.


Now I was quickly putting two and two together. "Orhan's not Cristos' agent, she's your's."

"Wizard Orhan is indeed a member of the faction that elevated Gregori Cristos," Rashid answered. The fact he was saying such confirmed for me that he had likely cast some sort of sonic-dampening magic, ensuring no one could hear us out here. "She believes in the legitimacy of those wizards' cause in the politics of the Council, and not without reason. But nor is she blind to the manipulations her people were subjected to."

"I lost friends to Peabody's mistfiend," Orhan explained. "I lost an apprentice to him. So I understand the anger my peers feel. But I know enough to see we have been used."

"Cristos." I nodded.

"Yes." Her expression was sad. "It pains me to think it. Poor Francois."

"Levellieur." Suddenly a fact came to mind. The common connection of Rashid to the two wizards. "He was one of yours too. All three of you, traveling so frequently in Faerie."

"Yes." Orhan nodded. "Francois was a righteous man. I dismissed his changes as the result of the war. Of losing his own apprentice among the Wardens in the horrible slaughter in Palermo. If only I had known..."

"I bear blame for his fate as well," Rashid assured her. "The greater blame. Do not let it concern you."

"That's what makes the adversary such a terrible thing," I said. "The way he turns us against those we care for."

"Hence why I am especially pleased that you defeated his attempt to infect you." Rashid nodded. "Go and enjoy the fruits of your victory, Doctor. Enjoy your time with your friends."

There was something about the way he said it that set me on edge. I wondered if he knew what was to come. If my calculations were right... I shuddered. I knew what was coming to this world. Things were about to get worse.

"Also, if I may..."

I looked back up at Rashid. Orhan was already retreating back into the shadows of the alley. "Yes?"

Rashid gave me a nod. "I have a feeling, Doctor, that this journey is bringing you to the point you have long awaited."

For a moment I thought about what he meant by that. And then I drew in a breath. "You think I'm... close to recovering my memories?"

"Perhaps," he said. He turned away from me. "Allah be with you in the coming days, Doctor. I believe your greatest challenges are soon to come."

"Thank you," was all I managed to say. It was appropriate enough.

Especially given how right he was. Not just about me, either. Those words could describe a number of those I knew.

Including Harry. Because I knew, even then, that changes were coming to Harry's life. Changes he had never imagined.

....oh, bugger all this ominous stuff. My stomach was growling and there was a seat in McAnally's with my name on it.

I finally had to admit defeat. And you lot know I don't do that easily.

"It is better than Timbiqui Dark," I gasped, having just taken a swig of McAnally's finest.

"And you wasted it on a bunch of pixies!", Harry retorted. Around us it was a typical night at McAnally's. Mac himself was at the bar preparing another order for some newcomers. He gave us a nod at our corner table. I'd tipped him well, after all, and my credit was always good (That it was due to Time Lord technical trickery that effectively printed electronic money, well, that was something I didn't advertise).

The atmosphere of Mac's is usually light. I mean, there is some raucous behavior, but Mac was well-armed both physically and, when it came to the supernatural, with the sign that declared his bar to be Accorded Neutral Territory under the Unseelie Accords. That is, the supernatural world's equivalent to the Geneva Conventions considered his bar to be a sort of miniature Switzerland, just with less chocolate and cheese and more steak sandwiches and ale.

"Pictsies," I corrected. "And you were quite happy enough to see the Nac Mac Feegle come to our aid against the Elf Queen's forces. Admit it."

"You could have picked something else!", Harry protested, but with more than a bit of joviality to the protest.

"So... this is that time you two ran off with him to another world or cosmos or whatever?" Murphy asked.

"Second time we did, actually," Harry corrected. "First time was a couple years ago."

"Korra's world," I elaborated. "I only came for Molly and her veils, but Harry and Michael insisted on accompanying her."

Murphy shook her head. "Oh, that's just not fair," she said with a fake glower. "So you've all gotten to go on crazy interdimensional adventures with the Doctor, but not me? Let me guess, even Thomas got to go, didn't he?"

"Nope," Harry announced. "Just me, Molly, and Michael. So far."

"So unfair." Murphy took a swig of her ale and reached for her steak sandwich. Liara was sitting beside her and wolfing down her second. "Hey, how can you put down that much food and look like that? Alien biology?"

That remark didn't give away much, since Liara was currently wearing her holobelt. "Biotic metabolism," she answered. "The more biotics I use, the more my metabolism consumes. As you can imagine, I've been eating more since I started traveling with the Doctor. Sometimes I think he pushes me more than the Reapers did."

"Reapers?" Murphy blinked. "Like farming things?"

"Evil ancient AIs in spaceship bodies shaped like cephalopods," I replied. "They used to wipe all of the Milky Way's interstellar civilizations from existence every fifty thousand years. Well, until Commander Shepard came along." I took a bite of an exquisite steak sandwich. "With a little help from me at the end. But mostly Shepard."

Liara smiled softly at that. "We would have lost Shepard if not for the Doctor getting involved," she clarified.

"Sounds like a tough guy," Harry said before taking another bite.

"Gal, actually," I clarified.

"Ha!", Murphy snorted. "You walked into that one, Harry."

"Yeah yeah, I'm a male chauvinist pig, et cetera," Harry droned through a mouthful of steak sandwich. Manners have never been his strong suit, I fear.

"So, like, this Commander Shepard, she's really badass then?", Molly asked.

"The Reapers were actually scared of her," I said. "So yes."

"Wow, it'd be awesome to meet her, wouldn't it boss?"

"Molly, no," Harry said. "We're not joining the Doctor for any adventures. We've got enough work here in Chicago."

Molly frowned at that and gave a pout. But when all we could do was laugh, she ignored it and went for her sandwich again.

I looked over to where Katara was watching us. There were tears in her eyes to go with the faint smile on her face. Camaraderie couldn't help but remind her of the close friends, the family, she had lost. She noticed me watching and used a motion of her hands to waterbend the tears from her cheeks. "I'm not new to desperate fights and a lot of running, but Liara's right." She gave me a little grin. "Adventuring with the Doctor can be harder than anything we've done before."

"Oi, I'm getting ganged up on, am I?", I laughed.

"It's tough love, Doctor," Liara said. She held up the half-finished bottle of Mac's ale before her.

"Oh, tough love is it?" I took a drink myself. Ah, such fine ale. "We'll have to do this again some time, Harry. Tough love or not!"

"Next time, let's leaving that 'nearly dying' part out," Harry answered.

I nodded in agreement. "Agreed!"

And we all brought up our bottles of ale and clanked them over the table in agreement.

I think that is how I shall end this tale. We had gone down, faced the shadows, and come back to enjoy the evening together. What better ending could one hope for?

”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-10 10:51am

Short 45 - The Stuff of Nightmares

"No. I don't buy it. I call bullshit."

I finished a swig of ale. "Oh, you doubt me, Sergeant Murphy?"

"There's no way," Karrin Murphy insisted.

It was getting later in the night of our post-Undertown foray gathering at McAnally's, and we were all good and inebriated to varying extents. Harry had just finished re-telling the story of the crazed sorcerer and his slime golem from a prior Undertown adventure of his, so I shared one of my more interesting confrontations.

Murphy pointed a finger at me. "You expect me to believe you ran into Freddy Krueger of all things?"

"Ran into. Had a nightmare with. Yes."

"What was it like, Doctor?", Molly asked. She had not done so much drinking, so she was still sober enough to enjoy the stories being told. "He got into your nightmares and stuff, right?"

"Oh yes. After I gave him a good bit of provocation, mind you."

"This I have to hear," Harry laughed.

"Well, fittingly, it starts with something I picked up from you..."

"Are you sure this is going to work?", asked the mother of the teenage girl I was standing near.

"Quite," I replied. I put the finishing touches on the chalk line, blew on it, and then pricked my finger to bleed on it. I concentrated my mind and person to imprint my willpower into the blood as it fell into the chalk. A steady thrum of energy flowed along the chalk and created an energy field around the sleeping girl. "There we are. The circle will seal her off from this entity that's been plaguing your neighborhood. Just don't disturb it."

"But that's just going to work tonight, right?" Now Dad was speaking. "What about tomorrow night?"

I smiled wolfishly at that. "Oh, I think I can handle that too. Now, I'm going to sack out here to keep an eye on things. Mind if I bring a cot in?"

"Woh, hold on." Harry brought up a hand. "Go back there. Are you saying that you used a magic circle to protect this kid from Freddy?"

I nodded. "Well, obviously." And then I took another drink of my fine ale.

"You. Used magic." Harry shook his head. "Isn't your schtick the sci-fi stuff? You're horning in on my act now?"

"Oh please, magic circles are elementary."

"No quantum whatsit fields? No technobabbly solutions? I should turn you in to the union."

"Ha!" I shook my head. "Hey, it worked, didn't it? That's what matters."

"So, you went to sleep," Liara said. "And this entity attacked you in your sleep?"

I nodded off in the cot. After a time my sleep turned into a dream. A warm grass meadow. Frolicking children in the distance. That sort of thing. I was surrounded by friends and we were all talking and laughing.

And then the sky began to darken. The children stopped playing and looked on in fear.

"So you're the smartass who thinks he can get in my way." The voice echoed over the hills. "No circles to protect you, smart guy."

And then the pandemonium began. Fires erupting from cracked earth. The sky turned red like out of an apocalypse. And a lone figure appeared at the far end of the field. He had the hat, the sweater... and yes, the glove with knives on each finger.

"Isn't this a little ostentatious for you?", I called out. "Where's the subtlety?"

"Fuck subtle," Freddy Krueger spat. "You piss me off, you don't get subtle. You get your worst nightmare!"

Krueger reached down and lifted up one small, struggling form. Karianas.

"Kari!" Jan and Cami emerged from the smoke and flames. Jan's hand went to her lightsaber and Cami pulled that Avenger assault rifle Garrus had given her.

Ordinarily a human being would fall quickly to an irate Force-practitioner with a lightsaber and a woman carrying a mass effect assault rifle. But this wasn't the real world. This was a dream realm. Freddy Krueger's playground. He faded from view just before the mass effect rounds hit. He cackled, "Over here!".

Cami turned. His gloved hand reached in and gutted her. Quite viscerally, too. Not a sight for the weak of stomach.

"Cami!", I shouted. I reached for my sonic disruptor, but it wasn't there. None of my gear was.

He was forcing me to watch.

Jan rushed in like an avenging angel, howling in rage. He shifted again. Kari was dropped, her neck bent impossibly from a broken neck, and the freed arm grabbed Jan and held her in place for Freddy's gloves to work their way through her throat.

"Enjoying the show, jackass?!", Freddy laughed. "We've got a while to go!"

"I think I can see where this is going," Harry sighed. "He was trying to work you up by making you watch him kill everyone, right?"

"Just about."

Molly visibly shuddered. "That must have sucked."

"It did," I admitted. "I knew it was a dream. But he was quite atmospheric. Close enough to make me start to feel like it was real."

"So, he gets in your head, gives you this nightmare, how'd you deal with it?", Murphy asked.

"I'm getting to that part, Karrin." I took another drink from my bottle. "Just needed to whet my throat a bit more before I continued."

I had to watch Freddy kill everyone. I couldn't move. I was rendered helpless, surrounded by a barrier of flame. Every Companion I'd made, every friend I'd known, butchered by the vengeful nightmare entity.

You'll understand if I don't go into specifics. Let's just say he got more.. inventive after killing Jan and Cami and their daughters? Let's leave it at that.

"So, here we are," Freddy announced, materializing near me. "Nobody to save you now, 'Doctor'. Nobody to do your fighting for you. It's just you and me, brainiac!"

I moved and barely avoided a swipe with the gloved hand. "You just had to stick your nose in," he continued. "You thought you knew what you were picking on. Didn't think I'd get in here with you, huh?"

The next blow I failed to stop. He shredded my jacket and cut into my side.

"So, did he physically cut you?", Molly asked. "Like in the movies?"

"Quantum bond. Thaumaturgy, if you want," I answered. "It's how things he does in nightmares can come to pass in the real world. So yes, I had a pretty nasty cut. But, do let me continue?"

Anyway, he cut into my side and I fell over, bleeding and crying out. "Bastard," I declared. "You bloody, murderous bastard!"

"Thanks for the compliment, 'Doctor'." Freddy backhanded me in the face and sent me spinning to the ground. I ended up on my back. He brought his foot down on my ribs. "Now, I'm going to gut you nice and slow..." He bent over and grabbed my hair to pull my head up. "But first, I'm going to slice up your pretty little face. That should be a real hoot for the girl when she gets up in the morning. Don't you think?"

When he brought the gloved hand down, I caught it with my own. I strained to hold him back.

"Still fighting, huh?", he rasped. "This is my world, 'Doctor'. My rules." He pushed harder and I gave ground. "You decided to get in my way. Well, payback's a bitch, isn't it?"

"So they... say."

The knives inched closer to my face. And that twisted, monstrous sneer loomed ever closer into my face.

"You obviously escaped," Katara said. "So this story isn't very scary."

"Shhh!", Molly hissed. "He's getting to the good part!"

Freddy probably realized something was wrong when I smiled.

I started to push the knives away from my face. Effortlessly. Freddy put everything he had into pushing back and couldn't budge me or my hand. "What?!", he growled.

"I knew it was your ego that'd bring you here," I said to him. "I knew you'd come after me. And that's what I wanted."

Not only did I push his hand back, but I stood up and threw him off in the same movement. He ended up on his back in what was now the grass meadow again. The flames were gone, the sky was normal, and the charnel house he had made of those I knew was gone.

"You're powerful, I grant you that," I continued. "But this is my mind. And I am a Time Lord." When my arm came up, my sonic disruptor was in my hand. I knocked him down the hill with a solid kinetic blast. "And since you are here, Freddy Krueger, maybe you'd like to see what my nightmares are really like."

Freddy was clambering back to his feet at this point. A bolt of energy slammed into the ground in front of him. He looked up to see a wave of blue helmets crest the nearest hill. An army in blue armor charged, weapons raised, and the cry of "Sontar Ha!" filled the air.

He began to flee. Reasonable. But everywhere he went, more of the Sontarans appeared. The fire converged on him. He cried out in shock and then fear as his escape routes were closed off.

The Sontaran fire converged. He screamed as several bolts hit him and sent him to the ground as a burning corpse.

By the time I walked up to him, Freddy's body was reconstituting. "You think that's scary?", he demanded, shaken but recovering.

"Oh, that's just the mild one," I replied. I reached into my pocket. "Here, you'll need this." I threw something at him.

Freddy's none-gloved hand caught it (of course). He held it up. "A marker?", he asked.

Marks appeared on his hand. He looked around, bewildered, wondering why every time he looked he saw more of the marks on his flesh.

"They're called the Silence," I said, watching as half a dozen of those dark-suited creatures surrounded him. "Auto-hypnotic suggestion. Once you break eye contact, you forget they existed."

Freddy kept whirling around, marking himself and then looking in confusion at the marks.

"Oh, one last thing," I hastened to add. "They can be quite shocking in other ways too."

On cue, the Silence all summoned their electrical power. Surges of energy enveloped Freddy and blew him apart.

He reconstituted, of course. This time I gave him no chance to respond. As soon as he was a solid body. He was grabbed and hauled to his feet by Borg drones. I stood there and watched for a moment. "Nah, not enough of a nightmare." I snapped my fingers. "There."

"Subject will be taken for upgrade," the Cyberman holding his right arm intoned.

Freddy tried to resist. But he could not. The Cybermen hauled him to a cyber conversion chamber that sort of appeared nearby. Dream world and all. His screams were loud and clear as he was forced in and underwent cyber-conversion. Body chopped up and mostly discarded, as was the usual for Cybermen. He tromped out the other end as a Cyberman. "What have you done to me?", he demanded in their mechanical voice.

"Cyber-conversion," I replied. "Nasty stuff, eh? Had a lot of nightmares about that one. But let's continue!" I snapped my fingers. The Cyberman body fell away from him in chunks and Freddy was whole underneath. Around us the sky darkened. "Be careful with this one."

"What are you..." Freddy turned and found himself facing a statue. A statue of an angel to be precise. "Statues?! You think there's something frightening about..."

"You might want to look around."

He was already doing so. He was now surrounded by statues.

And when he looked back to the first, it was no longer covering its eyes. And it was closer to him.

"Weeping Angels," I announced. "They move when you're not keeping eye contact with them. And even if you are, you can't look them in the eye, otherwise the image imprint gets into your head and, well, any image of an Angel becomes an Angel." I winked at him. "Try not to blink. You'll last longer."

He kept spinning around, frantically trying to find room to escape, but every turned back brought the Angels closer to him. Now they were in full frightening mode. Fangs and teeth out and showing. Clawed hands raised.

"Normally they just touch you and send you into the past. They feed off the time you had taken from you," I continued. "But let's face it. Look at them. They're coming up on your back whenever you're not looking. And with those claws and teeth... not hard to imagine they're going to do something worse than displace you temporally, isn't it? No, the way it looks, they're going to rip you to pieces."

"What? No! No, get away! Get..."

The first Angel took hold of Freddy. And then the whole lot.

And they ripped him to bloody shreds.

"Yikes," Molly said. "Those things sound scary. I'm glad it wasn't them in Undertown."

"Yes. They're quite frightening," Liara agreed.

"Sounds like another story," Murphy said.

"But only after this one," Molly insisted. She looked to me as I finished a swig of ale. "So, what happened next?!"

I was standing near Freddy when he reconstituted again. He looked rather different now. More aware, perhaps, of what he had stumbled into when he attacked me.

But I wasn't done with him. Not by a long shot.


With that cry, the Daleks showed up.

Freddy stared at them in disbelief for a moment before he turned to run. Of course, that just encourages Daleks to go faster, screaming "Exterminate!" over and over.

"Might want to run faster," I called out to him. "Because the Daleks don't stop. They want you dead, Freddy Krueger! They want you dead because you're not a Dalek!"


He ran. He ran across the endless meadow to get away from the armored tin cans. But he couldn't get away. Shots landed around him, over and over, until one landed. His body lit up with the skeleton inside visible and he fell over.

I walked up to him, slowly and methodically. He started to move as I stood over him. "Well, had enough yet?"

He swiped at me with his gloved hand. But I saw it coming, and it was a lazy swipe as it was, so I easily stepped away from it. "Ah, some fight still in you, eh?"

"I am the one who controls this world!", Freddy screamed at me. "Me! Not you! You're not more powerful than me!"

I shook my head. "Why don't you see my last one before you judge, hrm? Because all of those? Those weren't my worst nightmare. No. This one is far worse. It makes me uncomfortable, so I was holding it back. But if you insist..."

I snapped my fingers. And everything went dark. We were no longer in the meadow. We were somewhere else. Black. Dark. Foreboding. Pinpricks of light that were stars burning thousands of light years away appeared around us.

Nearby was a solar system. Yellow sun like Earth's. Indeed, a planet like Earth's was there too.

Or rather, what was left of it.

And standing between us and that planet was a figure. The broken planet and the yellow sun beyond it framed the figure, who was looking toward them. Simply staring.

He began to turn. The visage fit. Oh yes. Seeing that figure, framed by the broken planet, the burning star, it fit so well. It fit the madness in his eyes. The cold fury on his expression. He was a mad god of destruction surveying his handiwork.

A mad god with my face.

Freddy stared. "What the hell is this?!"

"The Time Lord Triumphant," I murmured. "My worst nightmare. Not what might hurt me... but what I might have become."

Triumphant took steady and confident strides towards us. He ignored me and went for Freddy. The demented monster, facing a bigger monster, tried to scramble away. But he couldn't. Not here. Not in my mind.

Freddy howled as Triumphant grabbed him by the collar and hauled him up. "Your world would be a better place without monsters like you in it," he declared. Energy began to build around Triumphant.

"No! No!," Freddy pleaded.

But those pleas fell on deaf ears. Triumphant would not, could not, be swayed to mercy. In here, in my mind, he had the power in my nightmares, and Freddy Krueger could not withstand that power.

He was fueled by Human nightmares and he could be fought in them. But this place was different. He couldn't handle Time Lord nightmares.

I watched as the master of nightmares was annihilated by my own worst nightmare.

And then I woke up.

"The end," I said.

Everyone stared at me. "What?", Harry asked. "That's it?"

I blinked. "Huh?"

"You didn't even name the girl!", Harry pointed out. "Or her parents. You... you skipped all the vital details that make a story work and just focused on you and Freddy. Christ, there are extras in movies who get more respect than that."

"I think Harry's right," Murphy said. "You should work on that."

"But... but the family was just... I mean, they didn't participate at all."

"Yeah, but they're still part of the story," Harry pointed out. "Right ladies?"

"He has a point," Liara agreed. "It wouldn't be fair if I told stories about fighting the Reapers and left out Engineer Adams and Doctor Chakwas, for instance."

"You... oi." I took the last drink of ale from my bottle. "I need more ale."

Harry checked the clock on the wall. "Just an hour from last call. We should probably be heading home."

"Come on, boss," Molly pleaded. "One more story. There's got to be other cool things you've run into, Doctor."

"Well, yes," I answered. "For instance, when I was investigating a dimensional disturbance some time back - when Katherine was off doing social work - I stumbled upon another transdimensional traveler. He was a clever fellow, lacking in social graces at times, but brilliant. And he had a most intriguing genetic abnormality, with a sixth finger on each hand." I held up the empty bottle. "And if you would be so kind, Molly, as to get my refill, I will tell you about my adventure with Dr. Stanford Pines most happily."

Molly jumped up to do so. "I'll take one too, Grasshopper!", Harry called out.

"Me three," Murphy agreed.

"I'm done," Katara insisted.

"I'll take another!", Liara called out.

"I'm not a waitress!", Molly protested.

Not that it availed them. Mac, as it turns out, has a Thing against people not getting up to get their own orders. And so we all had to get our next round of bottles.

And the night continued on in its final hour. Don't have anything to say beyond that, I suppose.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-11 11:03am

Discworld Tribute - A World of Wondrous, Impossible Magic

(In Memory of Sir Terry Pratchett)

We were finishing an enjoyable week exploring ruins on the Moons of Drikiri when I received an automated beacon signal on the TARDIS.

The shudder of the TARDIS told me where the beacon had led me to even before I stepped out and into the familiar smell... well, stench, honestly. Katara made a face at the smell. Liara had been here before and refrained from that. "Where are we?", Katara asked.

"Ankh-Morpork," I answered. "Rather nice district, not far from Sator Square and the University. Renters' houses and such."

I gave a nod to a passing dwarf Watchman and looked to my sonic. "The beacon signal is coming from inside this building." I stepped up to the door and found it opened. The boarding house stairway led up to the rooms for the renters while doors barred the way into the owner's main living spaces. A young dwarf lady - the ribbons in the beard were a dead giveaway - stood at the bottom of the stairs. "Hello sir," she said, her accent very Morporkian. "You're the Doctor?" She blinked at me.

"I am," I answered.

"Your patient is upstairs, Room 3," she answered. "Is there anything you need to carry?" She seemed rather intrigued that I didn't have a bag.

"I'm quite well." I nodded to her and reached into my pocket. I pulled out a nondescript gold coin. "I have a standing rate with the Chairman of the Royal Bank for those. Do tell Mister Lipwig that I expect him to be generous."

She looked mystified. "And you are Doctor... who?"

I smiled widely at that and nodded. "Just the Doctor. Mister Lipwig will understand."

That seemed to satisfy her. She pocketed the coin and went on to other duties.

We ascended the stairs to the third floor, where Room 3 was present. I knocked and announced my presence. The door opened, but there no one on the inside who had done so. We stepped into a plainly furnished living area. A pantry was off to one side. The windows showed a fine view of the Tower of Art rising in the distance and, in the not-so-far distance, the fine structure of the Patrician's Palace. Undoubtedly Lord Vetinari was already being informed by someone of my arrival in his city. He was always quite interested in my comings and goings in Ankh-Morpork.

I followed the signal into the bedroom. Also plainly furnished. But it was not devoid of life.

In the bed was someone in a plain robe, a woman of exceptional age given the state of her skin and the white-gray color of her hair. She turned her eyes toward me and I saw a familiar glint in them.

A very familiar one.

"Esk?" I blinked. "Esk, what...?"

Eskarina Smith, who looked decades older than she should, was smiling at me. "Hello Doctor," she said. Her voice was scratchy with age, but still had that familiar warmth to it.

I was still stunned. At that age, for her to manage a temporal shift with the magic she knew...

The explanation for that came when the other figure at the far table turned. An older woman in midnight black, complete with a pointy hat, with flowing gray locks and the look of a woman in her sixties who had the face of a sixteen year old. Spiritually anyway. An amulet of a golden hare was hanging from her neck. "Hello Doctor," said Tiffany Aching. She looked to my Companions. "Liara, a pleasure to see you again. And this would be...?"

Katara answered with her name and looked to Esk. "Do you need a healer?", she asked.

"You've got great talent with that water magic of yours," Esk answered, "but I'm afraid this is simply the case of an old woman who's gotten too old."

Tiffany shook her head and sighed. "I still think you should have called him from our time."

Esk nodded. "Perhaps. But I wanted to make sure I called him at the right time. Before he... well, that would be spoilers, wouldn't it?" Her eyes twinkled as she looked toward me. I was already scanning her body. "I believe you will find my body is shutting down. It's out of the energy of life, you might say. Soon, it will have none left."

I swallowed and nodded. "Shouldn't you be having a final party with your fellow wizards?"

"Ah. Well, I did. Archchancellor Stibbons insisted..." She gave me a look. "And that's not a spoiler, I think you'll agree."

"Indeed. Not surprising at all."

"Well, now you are here," Esk said. "And I would like to give you something." She looked to Tiffany and nodded. Tiffany picked up an item on the shelf and handed it to Esk, who showed it to me.

It was a blue book. Clearly meant to be a journal. And I soon recognized it. "This is your diary of our adventures," I remarked.

"The start of it, yes," Esk explained. "I'd like you to give it to my younger self when you see her next."

"How much younger?"

"Young. Fairly young. You'll know when to give it." Esk swallowed and closed her eyes for a moment. "We've been through so much, you and I."

"Yes," I agreed. "It seems that whenever I come to the Disc for adventure, we run into each other."

"Just never in the right order." Esk opened her eyes again. "Do you remember that party in Bhangbhangduc?"

I laughed. "How could I forget?"

Having the business end of a pointy stick an inch from your face can be an unnerving experience.

"You really shouldn't have said that," Esk sighed.

"Oh, you're going to blame me, eh?", I countered.

"She did warn you that things were tense, Doctor," Katherine pointed out. She was facing a similar stick. As was Esk.

The soldiers surrounding us held back for a moment at the clapping of hands. The various other guests and serving ladies all stared in bewilderment, with the exception of a couple who were already unconscious. Spilled glasses and untouched plates of food abounded.

Lord Sriraha glared down at us from his throne. "Outsiders, I have had men boiled in oil for the offense you have given me this night."

"Is it offensive if it is true?", I countered. "I mean, I called you a scheming wretch, and you are indeed wretchedly scheming against your ruler to seize power for yourself. I'm only speaking the truth."

"Doctor!", Esk hissed.

I felt my sonic disruptor under my jacket. "And drugging your guests to turn them into hostages? Poor form, sir. Very poor form."

Sriraha's eyes focused on me intently. "Yet it does not affect you."

"Oh, yes." I raised a finger. "Counter-agent. Well, it probably wouldn't have worked on me anyway, since I'm a Time Lord and all. But the counter-agent did protect my friends from the effects."

"How brilliant of you," Sriraha observed. "How did you know about my plans?"

I chuckled. "Well, sir, you are a vizier. It does seem to be the position most prone to these sorts of power plays. The excess of certain herbs in your kitchens was the other clue."

"Evil viziers and chancellors are overplayed if you ask me," Katherine added.

"I see." Sriraha steppled his hands together in that "plotting bastard" kind of way. "I may have uses for you. Your friends shall have to be hostages to your behavior, of course."

"We're wizards, you know," I pointed out. "We could turn you into a newt."

"I don't turn people into newts," Esk protested. "It's far too difficult with the mass disparity."

"It can't be that difficult. If not a newt, maybe something like a, I don't know, a monkey? Just not an orangutan. The Librarian would be furious if we took away his distinction."

Esk harrumphed. "I'd like to see you try to alter body shapes and types so easily..."

"Silence!," Sriraha thundered. "Surrender now and you will be spared to be my personal alchemist and wizards! Otherwise..."

"Doctor, look," Katherine whispered.

I nodded. I noticed the figure in dumpy clothes already entering the room on the other end. An elderly man, actually looking quite old, ambled in and started sweeping the floor in a direction to carry him to the nearest guard. I smirked. Right on time, obviously.

"How about a counter-offer?", I asked. "Everybody leaves and in return we don't tell your ruler what you are planning."

Sriraha stared at us for a moment. And then he started laughing. "I have you at my mercy, why would I..."

There was the sound of a thud. Eyes turned to see where one guard had fallen, and to where another was already taking a broomstick to the side of his face.

In the moment's confusion that resulted, Esk and I acted. Esk brought her staff up and summoned arcane energy that swept through the guards facing in her direction. I had the sonic disruptor leveled and ready for a quick Setting 21 pulse that debilitated the guards facing me. I swept it about to catch those facing Katherine as well. They all collapsed with several letting out short cries.

"Attack them!", Sriraha shouted. "Kill them all!"

The guards weren't in the best state to fulfill that command, fortunately for us. The situation was chaotic and we were adding to that with our implements of self-defense. Several guards simply fled at seeing Esk and I making short work on them, joining the fleeing guests and servants for even more chaos. Katherine, not to be outdone, picked up a McSweeney Dynasty vase and slammed it over the head of one of the sergeants trying to rally his men. "Such a waste," she sighed, surveying the shattered porcelain. "Mother would be cross."

Sriraha jumped from his throne to flee. He made it two steps before a blur moved across his path and tripped him up. He struggled back up and found himself facing all four of us. Our sweeper friend had taken his place at our side.

"Cutting it close, Lu Tze?", Esk asked.

"The dust in this palace is atrocious," Lu Tze responded, holding up his broom. "I need to show Lord Sriraha here how proper sweeping should be done. After the Prince finds out what he's been planning, he'll find my teachings quite useful."

We had a good laugh at that, and at Sriraha's expression.

"He made Sriraha sweep his entire palace!", Esk laughed. She started to cough afterward.

Tiffany made a disapproving sound. "You know better than to get that excited," she sighed. But she was smiling regardless.

"At my age, I get to do what I want."

I chuckled at that. "That you do." For a moment I was quiet, allowing Esk to recover. Seeing her like that was... painful. More than I expected. Eskarina and I had not traveled off the Discworld proper, sure, but we had worked together on several occasions, and she was one of the few beings I knew who understood what it was like to be a Time Lord. I held her journal close. It didn't have the wrinkled paper and old faded look that I was familiar with; the cover was still fresh TARDIS blue, and the inside paper had her name written in fine flowing script.

"You still miss Katherine," Esk said softly.

"I do," I admitted.

Esk extended her hand and I took it. "So do I," she said. "She was brilliant."

"Yes." I felt a tear on my face. "And I guess I'm losing you now."

"This day had to come eventually, Doctor," Esk said quietly. "But I didn't call you here to mourn it. I called you to share the memories of our adventures." She smiled thinly. "The memories that aren't spoilers, anyway."

I nodded slowly at that. "Yes, I suppose."

"Liara?" Esk looked past me to where Liara was watching quietly. "Have you met Cohen yet?"

Liara, at that, actually giggled. "Oh. That time."

Katara blinked in confusion. Tiffany crossed her arms. "As in Cohen the Barbarian? Ghenghiz Cohen, former Emperor of Agatea?"

"The one and the same," I said. My cheeks started to burn from a blush.

"The Doctor got into a sword fight with him," Liara explained.

"And it was quite humiliating," Esk added while I shook my head.

"Quite, yes. It all happened in that dirty little trading post village in Turnwise Klatch..."

The crowd around us were cheering and screaming and simply carrying on. For the locals and travelers alike, not much like this happened at all.

For me, it was depressingly more common.

It started innocently enough. I ran into Esk on a time travel mission of her's to secure a jeweled Muntab artifact that was considered lost. A favor for a friend of her's, I was told. Liara got dragged along as always.

Now she and Esk were being held prisoner by a couple of very tall, very stout fellows and I... I was facing off with their boss. A loincloth-wearing, dark-bearded, and too-clever-by-half sword-fighter who wasn't wearing any armor. Even my enchanted vest was better protection than his fur cloak.

My Time Lord reflexes allowed me to more than keep up with him in the resulting swordplay. Clang clang clang. "Fencing lessons with La Maupin really come in handy," I declared, mostly to Liara.

"Never heard of 'im," the barbarian fellow answered. "Ain't heard of you either!"

"Well, I'm not from around here," I replied. "But you can call me the Doctor." He went for a jab and I parried it. I swung at him and he dodged, causing my sword to split open a basket of fruits. I got into the moment by bringing up the split orange still stuck to my sword and eating a bite off of it. My adversary actually grinned and stood back on the defensive while I finished chewing. He attacked afterward, of course, and I parried again. "Now, if it's gold you want, I can pay you for that totem."

He didn't even look toward the totem, tied to a surly camel behind us. "Think I'm just in it for the gold, huh? No fame in just gettin' gold for things. Not when I can take 'em!"

Fighting this fellow was not easy. It wasn't that he had any superb swordfighting style. He just tended to not be where my sword ended up. And I, distressingly, ended up with a few cuts despite my reflexes and speed and that general Time Lord ability to see the future (to certain degrees).

But I gradually put him on the ropes. Superior endurance and all that. He backed his way into one corner of the market. "I'll ask again, sir. Yield, and I'll give you gold for that item."

Puffing from being winded, the barbarian lowered his sword. "You mean it?"

"My word of honor," I pledged. "Mister...?"

"Me?" He smiled. "I'm called Cohen the Barbarian, Doctor."

I admit my eyes widened at that. Especially when I realized I'd been duped.

The next thing I knew, he was moving again. I brought up the sword I'd borrowed from a nearby stand to block him, but he wasn't aiming for me.

Rather, the cart of barrels beside me.

His sword cut cleanly through the rope securing the barrels. The cart jostled and the barrels rolled off. And all on top of me.

Even worse... they were manure barrels.

"Bloody hell!", I shouted as the barrels broke on top of me, burying me in dung and filth. The stench was overpowering. Seriously, I don't want to tell you how much effort it took to get it out of the vest I got from the Carpenters, which was the only article of clothing I kept from that incident.

By the time I pulled myself free of the debris Cohen and his followers were already riding away with our prize. I had to sling some of the liquid waste from my eyes to see Esk and Liara standing beside their former captors. Liara was starting to crack up with laughter. Esk had the most amused smile on her face. "The legendary Cohen the Barbarian. When he was young." Esk shook her head. "You really should ask for names first..."

"Oh, don't even...", I sighed.

Katara and Liara were roaring with laughter at the recounting of how that battle ended. Tiffany shook her head with a wide grin on her face. "And here I thought Time Lords never lost."

"We got the totem in the end," I insisted. I was still blushing fiercely.

"Only after Cohen sold it," Esk pointed out, smiling widely. "But yes, we did. And I think the encounter was good for you."

"Things like that keep him honest," Liara agreed.

"Oi, don't you start," I sighed, smirking.

"What was so important about this totem, anyway?", Katara asked.

"It was a rare artifact from Muntab," Esk explained. "And the gemstones included eight natural octarine gems. In the wrong hands it could cause a lot of magical mischief."

"Could even in the right hands," I sighed. "Silly Humans, always making dangerous things like that."

"But for all you grumble about us silly Humans, you can't help but be around us," Esk pointed out.

I nodded and let my smile come back. "Quite true, Eskarina. Quite true." I looked out the window briefly. A carriage containing a certain familiar item to the people of Ankh-Morpork was going down the street. "Ha. Do you remember the last adventure we had in Ankh-Morpork itself? I mean, the last one from my perspective?"

"Was it the one about the Nuggan cultists?"

"Well, no... wait, what?"

Esk put a finger to her lips. "Spoilers," she reminded me.

"Oh, yes." I smirked. "Yes, quite. Well, all right. It was the time I had Korra and Asami with me."

"Oh, that one," Esk said. "The Dark Empire's Arcane Secrets, right?"

"The same," I said.

Someone had done the unthinkable.

They had stolen a book from the Unseen University Library.

And as a guest lecturer and wizard in good standing with the University, the Librarian had insisted upon my participation in the effort to reclaim University property.

I agreed. Especially after Esk informed me of what it was.

Oi, Humans. You and your silly arcane tomes of evil power. This was one penned by a top sorcerer of the Dark Empire in Uberwald, or so it was said, and contained some of the nastier magical theories and spells that the Empire had employed in its time.

The Watch was on the case, of course, but I had means that Sir Samuel and his fine gentlebeings in chainmail did not. On the Disc, such books are alive in various ways. This one in particular gave off steady energy readings. Dark, nasty stuff, but energy readings... that I could track with my sonic screwdriver.

And so here we were on the top floor of a rental house at the edge of the Shades, with a gang of toughs from said Shades surrounding us. One charged and took a gust of air from Korra for his trouble. The nasty looking woman beside him got outmaneuvered by Asami, who brought her down with a single touch of the electric glove.

"We don't have time for this," Esk insisted. She called up a magic spell that turned one of the toughs into a bunny rabbit. No, I kid you not, a bunny. It was rather amusing. "Oh, don't complain. I could have made you a rat," she said as the bunny twisted its nose toward her in confusion.

The others got the hint. They ran.

Unfortunately, they'd done their work. I looked out the window and saw the thief, still wearing a dark robe and everything, hijacking a horse-drawn cart with cargo hidden under a tarp. An accomplice of his was already getting into the other seat on the cart.

Well, we were low on time. I blasted out the window with the sonic disruptor and jumped as he urged the cart into motion. "Doctor!", I heard Esk call after me. As we moved away Korra whistled into the air.

Of course, by this point I had other problems. The dark-robed figure noticed me landing on the tarp and brought out a very wicked-looking knife. He - or she I suppose - left their partner to drive before coming at me. I brought up my sonic disruptor to parry a stab while my feet struggled to find purchase in whatever cargo was beneath the tarp.

And let me tell you, fighting on the back of a cart? Not fun. Not easy. Pain in the arse, all around. The cobbled streets of Ankh-Morpork jostled us the entire way.

We came up to a turn and the cart banked hard. We slammed against a cart at the side of the road carrying fish. A fishmonger beside it shouted obscenities at us in true Morporkian fashion. The impact jostled us both and made us lose our footing. I fell back onto the tarp while my attacker landed in his seat. My hands flailed to find a grip on the cart so I could stand up.

Just as I began to we turned another street. I was thrown to the side and fell out of the cart. I would have hit the road if I hadn't wrapped my leg up in the tarp's securing rope. This meant, of course, that I was now dangling upside down from the side of the tarp. The street-facing side, at least.

I looked "up" in time to see that help was on the way, in the form of Korra, Asami, and Esk riding Naga. "Oh bugger," I muttered. I could just see the mess that a polar bear dog could make in the streets of Ankh-Morpork. I suspected that I was going to face Patrician-scale irony when this was all over with.

My arms flailed about as I tried to reach for the rim of the cart. We were on one of the major thoroughfares of the city, and during a quiet enough time that the driver could weave through traffic instead of being stopped (in general Ankh-Morpork's streets don't leave much room for exciting cart chases). Pain shot through my hand when it slammed into a passing cart, knocking the sonic disruptor from my grip. It flew backward and into a powerful burst of wind created by Korra, with Asami effortlessly grabbing it from the air.

I finally found purchase with my fingers, just as the thief was in the back of the cart again, bringing his knife to the rope. He was going to cut me loose. I swung my other foot up and kicked at him. My first attack went wide, but my second caught him in the forearm and knocked the knife loose. It fell into the street. "You maniac!", I shouted. "That book's dangerous!"

"An' that's why I'm bein' paid a fortune fer it!", the thief retorted. He reached into his belt and pulled out a smaller knife to resume his work in cutting me free.

But I already had a grip on the side of the cart. I kicked him again, knocking him back, and pulled myself back into the cart.

However, I was still incredibly vulnerable to an angry thief with a knife, and he lunged at me again. I had to twist and turn to avoid getting stabbed, and because of my bad footing and position, he ended up on top of me, pinning me down and trying to drive the knife into my neck.

There was a shout from Esk. Magical energy surged toward us and enveloped the knife. It turned into a goose feather. The thief stared at it in bewilderment, giving me the chance to kick him off of me.

This proved a good thing.

As it turned out, there was another chaser, this one coming across the rooftops. And the driver was most stunned to see a blur of red and orange as three hundred pounds of very irritated ape landed squarely beside him. He screamed as the Librarian started to make his displeasure known, in such a way that the driver actually jumped from the cart.

Which meant our cart no longer had a driver.

Just as we were approaching an intersection. Which, of course, had another cart crossing it.

The resulting collision was quite destructive. There was even a lone wheel running along when it was all over, as was required by the Discworld's laws of Narrativium.

It was also quite painful.

....even more painful when Korra was unable to stop Naga in time. All three of the polar bear dog's riders cried out in surprise as they plowed head first into the mess of wood and vegetable that now stood in the center of the crossroads.

After we all ended up thrown about, I forced myself to my feet. Everything hurt. Before me, a single hand with a dark robe's sleeve ending on its wrist was hanging limply out of the mess of debris. I reached into the leafy, wooden pile and pulled up the thief. His robe fell open and the aforementioned tome was secure in a harness. I pulled it loose and handed it to the waiting Librarian. A thankful "Ook!" was my reward.

I looked around and saw Esk already standing free of the mess. Korra and Asami were still getting up. Naga whimpered from her place at the side of the road, evidently hurt and covered in green leafy stuff.

The driver of the cart we had plowed into had been the only one to not be thrown into the debris pile. He had managed to stay in his seat, which was now lacking a cart. He looked at the mess and the sunburned man put his hands to his head in shock and horror. In retrospect, I should have seen his cry of dismay coming a mile away.


As it turned out, both carts had been loaded down with the staple crop of the Sto Plains, and that produce was now scattered about the intersection.

Discworld Narrativium Irony at its best, ladies and gentlemen.

Korra was wincing. "So... it's over? We got the book back?"

"We got the book back."

Asami and Esk were standing beside the Librarian, who was studiously checking the tome for damage. "I've never seen something like this one," Asami said. "What kind of mon..."

I yelped, but it was Esk who prevented Asami from making a horrible mistake, clamping her hand over Asami's mouth. "Don't use that 'M' word around the Librarian," Esk urged. And indeed, our red-and-orange furred friend was suddenly looking quite alert. "He is an orangutan. That's all you should call him." Esk released her.

"Orangutan," Asami repeated, looking a bit confused and irritated at Esk. "Right."

I turned my head and looked at two very serious trolls with truncheons and Watch badges, coming our way. "But it's not quite over yet." I sighed. "It's a good thing I keep that expense account at the Royal Bank..."

"Didn't Vetinari make you pay double the expenses?", Esk asked with a smile.

"Triple," I sighed. "I had to give Lipwig more gold to refill the account. And if not for the Librarian's Special Constable status, I think Vimes would have jailed us for the evening out of principle."

Katara was recovering from a giggle fit and Liara had been chuckled through most of the story. "This world has left you pretty bruised, Doctor," Liara said. "It's a wonder you like it so much."

"She gives and she takes," I admit. "But the Disc is such an extraordinary world, I can't help but love it."

"You could never bring yourself to stop coming back," Esk said. "And I hope you continue to do so."

Esk coughed and I looked to her with worry. It was clear she was not going to last much longer. As she had said, the energy of life was simply... leaving her. It was the natural occurrence of death.

"Do you have any more stories?", Katara asked.

"Many," Esk said. Her breathing was more labored. "So many more. And I wish I could tell them all to you, Katara. It's a shame that so many of them have spoilers. And the time..." She swallowed and smiled sadly. "My time is running out."


The voice drowned out other noise in the room. We all started to turn and face the origin of it. Even my Companions, undoubtedly aided by the TARDIS in expanding their senses, had noticed it.

"Hello there," Esk said to the newcomer. "It's time already?"

Two blue lights focused on Esk, functioning as eyes as usual. A bony hand pulled out an hourglass, or rather an hourglass that had been shaped by someone who thought hourglasses should be looped a few times. Only the last few grains had yet to go through. YES. IT IS TIME WE WALKED TOGETHER, ESKARINA SMITH, Death answered.

"Through the door? Hrm. I had hoped for a little while longer." Eskarina sighed and turned her weathered face to me. "Doctor, thank you. I have enjoyed seeing you again at this time of your life."

I nodded. "Thank you for the invitation." I was trying to hold back the tears that I felt ready to flow. "I wish..."

"...that I had accepted some way to avoid this day. Oh, my dear Doctor..." Esk took my hand. "This isn't the end. Not for you. We're not done yet. Our greatest adventure is still in your future. So many adventures..."

"I see." I felt the tears form in my eyes. "I'll make sure you enjoy them."

"I know I will." Despite the fact she was moments from death, Eskarina's eyes sparkled happily. "Now go on, Doctor. You've got an awful lot of running to do." She looked to Death. In the glass, the final grains were falling to the bottom.

I watched as Eskarina Smith closed her eyes and passed away peacefully.

Thanks to my Time Lord senses, I watched as Death cut her soul free from her body with the scythe in his other hand. Her soul form was translucent and quiet as it rose to stand beside him. They waited as the door materialized. It opened to show a black desert under a starless sky. She looked back to us, smiled at me, and gave a nod.

And Esk followed Death into the desert, and toward what came next.

I'm not sure how long we waited before we spoke again. "I'm sorry, Doctor," Liara said to me. Her hand settled on my left shoulder as I felt hot tears flow down my face. My hand clasped the book she'd handed to me. The TARDIS blue book. I opened it again. The only words in it were her name, written in her own hand, and a message to her younger self.

You'll need every page, Esk. And you'll love every moment of it.

And remember, no spoilers!

I chuckled at that. I closed the book and studied the plain cover for a moment. One of my tears dripped from my face and landed on it. I blinked, trying to get the tears out of my eyes, and wiped my tear from the book.

"I'll see to her," Tiffany promised. "I can get her back to our time."

"What about a funeral?", Liara asked.

At that, Tiffany shook her head. "This was her wake. The wizards have already done their arrangements. Her family has other plans." Tiffany stepped around the bed and up to me. "Your part in this is done. You don't need to stay. In fact, I don't think you should. Remember..." Tiffany leaned in and looked at me, eye to eye, face to face. "She's still waiting for you. Her past, your future. That's what you should be thinking about. Don't wallow about here."

I nodded. "Yes. You're right about that. Quite right." I stood from the chair. I took Esk's hands and laid them on her chest carefully. "I'll see you soon, Esk. And we'll run. I promise you, we'll run."

I turned to the others and nodded wordlessly. They answered with the same. And we left.

I stood at the doorway to the TARDIS and looked out into the void of space. The light from a distant star was blotted out only by the greater light from the Discworld's small yellow sun, rotating over and under the Disc as usual. The four elephants continued to stand as always, bearing an entire world upon their backs, steady upon the shell of Great A'tuin as the space turtle continued her (or was it his?) solitary journey.

"How can something like that exist?", Katara asked in wonder.

I could have answered as I once did to Liara. I could have talked about quantum variability fields and fluxes in the fabric of reality. I could have talked about the science of this impossible thing.

But I didn't. So my reply was simple. "Magic," I said. "Wondrous, unbelievable, impossible magic."

"It is truly extraordinary," Liara agreed.

"It's ridiculous. Beyond words," I said. I felt tears come back to my cheeks as I breathed in and announced, with a smile, "And I love it. I love every bit of it. I love the ridiculousness, the way the light flows like water, like nothing else in all Creation. I love the stench of Ankh-Morpork, the silly insanity of the Faculty of the University, Vetinari's constant moving of pieces, Vimes' stubbornness.... I love it all."

Once upon a time, I had believed this world to be fictional. At this point I knew that only in the sense that a lot of the places I had seen were fictional to other places I had seen. But to know, as I do now, that the Discworld existed...

...well, actually, hold that thought. Because it always existed. It existed in the hearts of those who loved it like I have loved it. In those who could imagine standing in Sator Square looking up at the Tower of Art. The imagination thinking of clacks towers stretching across the snow-capped Ramtops while old ladies in midnight zipped about on broomsticks. An orangutan caring for a library full of magical books. Crusty old Mustrum Ridcully and reliable Ponder Stibbons.

This world had so many magical wonders, it could be easy to forget that the greatest wonders it held were the people. Those colorful beings, be they Human or Dwarf or Troll or Vampire, who populated this world and helped to make the magic of it truly special. Brave Polly Perks out in Borogravia, Nutt the Orc, Father Oats and Glenda Sugerbean and Lobsang Ludd and Trevor Likely and Tiffany Aching.... I could go on, couldn't I?

I looked down to the blue book in my hands. "It's not over yet," I said. "Not for you. And not for your world."

I looked back out at the Discworld and smiled. Whatever happened... it wasn't going away. It'd be here for me whenever I wanted or needed to see it, in all of its silly ridiculous glory.

And that's the way it should be.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-12 08:48am

Short 46 - Wardrobe Problems

"I don't believe it," I sighed.

"Well, you are pretty rough on your clothes," Liara noted.

Katara held up one of my jackets. Claw marks had torn up the back of it, enough for her to look through. "I'm not fixing this," she insisted.

I looked down the line. All of my nice purple jackets, damaged. "Don't you have a replicator system for these anyway," Liara asked.

"Well, yes.... but there's just something...off about that, you know?" I looked at the jacket ruined by our excursion into Undertown. "And Garak's made it clear he's out of the tailoring business."

Liara smirked. "There has to be another tailor capable of designing jackets for you."

"I need someone with vision though. Someone with style. I'm a showman, after all. I can't very well show up in a jacket I bought off a rack, can I?" I went over to another rack. "Hrm, maybe I should switch back to blue? No, no that won't do, doesn't match the tie. The jacket and the tie should match."

"It's just... clothes," Katara insisted. "One robe's about as good as another."

"It's not just about clothes. I'm not... that's the Harry Dresden attitude. He goes for the grungy slightly-unhygienic look. Me, I am the Doctor. I need to look spiffy, well-kept, and oh so very cool."

Katara crossed her arms skeptically.

"I could recommend some of the high class tailors on the Citadel," Liara pointed out.

"Liara, I'm very sorry to say this, but the fashion sense of your galaxy is not something I care to emulate."


Well, that did it. I'd insulted Liara. I sighed and put the jackets back. "Alright, I'll give it a try. There's got to be someone on the Citadel who knows something close to fashion. Especially if I give them a template."

The TARDIS was being a rascal again.

Instead of stepping out onto the Presidium, I was in a zoo. 20th Century Earth. Chirping alerted me to the heavy presence of birds about. A nearby sign even pointed to the zoo bird hatchery.

"So, who or what are we here to save now?", Liara asked. She had a sense of these things.

"No clue. I see a distinct lack of..."

I was taking a step when a very young lady, Katara's age if not still younger, ran in front of me. She was initially a blob of red and purple in my vision, her figure only becoming clear after I had a tenth of a second or so to consider it. The purple caught my eye for the way it fluttered behind her.

It also ended up under my foot.

She made a leap into the air, and was immediately pulled back down, just as the force pulled me off my foot and caused me to fall on my arse. I winced and rubbed at my tailbone as I stood. The girl was dazed by her own fall backwards. The way she rubbed her neck, she might have even gotten some whiplash.

I looked down. The purple I had seen... was a cape. A very long, flowing cape. I followed the cape to a set of mostly red tights and let out a groan. I didn't recognize the actual suit, but it was obvious I was in a cosmos of the capes-and-tights variety. And those more often than not end up as headaches. "Young lady, you should think about your wardrobe a little better."

She was getting back to her feet. Cute girl. Wearing a face mask of course. One of those silly superhero ones that think that if you cover the area around the eyes you can't be recognized for things like your nose size or jaw line or cheekbones. It's why you'd never see me trying it; my cheekbones are quite special, after all.

she was also obviously in something of a hurry. Without thinking she yanked to get her cape free from under me. I nearly fell back again from the sheer force of the yank. This young lady was superhumanly strong, that much was certain. "I'm terribly sorry for making you trip, sir," she began. "But I have to go. There's a jet with engine trouble and I need to..."

"...and you're going to what, use this thing to tow the plane or something?" I sighed and picked up the end of the cape. "Seriously, look at this. It's longer than you are tall! Forget about tripping me, young lady, have you ever imagined what this could get caught in? All sorts of machinery comes to mind! One moment you're flying about and then next thing you know, your cape gets snagged by the intake of a jet engine! You're asking for a broken neck at the very least!"

The girl superheroine stared at me with wide eyes. I had been rather vehement, much to Liara's clear chagrin. Thankfully the young lady didn't take that badly. Instead, the realization of my point slowly dawned on her. "Wow, I... I never thought of that before. I mean... thank you.."

"I'm the Doctor," I said. And I even smiled. "Just trying to be friendly."

"Yes. Thank you, Doctor!" She undid the cape and quite literally handed it to me. "Thank you for that advice!"

"Excuse me?" I held up a hand. "Your name was...?"

She turned back to me. Exuberant impatience like you'd expect of a teenage superhero wanting to run off and save the day showed on her expression, but she was polite enough to realize her obligation. "I'm so sorry, where are my manners? I'm Stratogale."

The name rang an immediate bell in my head. And indeed it told me where I was in the wide Multiverse. A small smile crossed my face as I realized the sheer implication of what I had just done. And upon seeing a possible outcome of it, I hastily added, "Well, Stratogale. Good to meet you. Oh, one last thing before you fly off to do the heroing."


I extended a hand and she took it in greeting. "If a platinum blond ever shows up in ten or so years and invites you to work with her and her unseen boss, say no. Especially if she sells you a spiel on an amok prototype robot or something of the sort."

"Wow, uh..." Stratogale looked at me pretty sheepishly. "That's kind of specific?"

"Yes, it is," I answered. "But I like to be thorough about these things. What can I say, I'm a time traveler?" I pointed back to my TARDIS and the open door. "See? Time ship. Bigger on the inside than it is on the outside and..."

I heard a distant sound and looked up to notice a jet plane flying overhead, smoke trailing from its engine. "...and I should probably let you get to work, Stratogale," I finished. "Good luck!"

She nodded with enthusiasm. "Okay!"

"Now go save the day. And remember good wardrobe sense in your line of work." I rolled up her discarded cape in my arms. "No capes!"

"Right!" She jumped into the air and flew off.

A thoroughly confused Katara and Liara were standing behind me. "Just.. what was that about?", Katara asked.

"Oh, just giving some friendly advice to a sweet young woman," I replied. "She talks to birds, even. Isn't that adorable?" I looked down at the bundle of purple cloth in my arms.

And I realized I had the answer to my needs.

"Come along, we're going ahead in time by a bit over a decade or so," I announced. "I know just who I need to handle my wardrobe problem."

I was welcomed at the door to the spacious mansion by an accented voice. "Who is it? Are you another one of those boors, I told you for the last time, I am not interested in..."

"Ms. Edna Mode? I'm the Doctor." I bowed my head. "And I would like to discuss..."

The door opened and a very short and very energetic woman grabbed my hand and pulled me in. "Doctor! Oh, I have heard that name before. Let me guess, a new suit, yes?" Her eyes blazed with an almost superhuman energy.

"Not a spandex one, certainly," I remarked. "But I could use a new jacket."

"A jacket? A jacket?! A jacket is for lesser beings, I forbid you to settle for a mere suit jacket, dahling! No, I am familiar with you. You need more than a jacket! And I have so little time, oh so very little..."

"I can..."

"Please, dahling, don't do this to me, the demands on my time are simply too much!"

"I can always..."

"Oh, I can't resist your pleas. I am too kind. Come, I will need to get some measurements!"

I had a distinct feeling that I had long exited the conversation. Liara stepped up behind me. "She seems awfully eager. Have you arranged payment already?"

Edna turned her head back to face us. "Payment, my dear? Oh no. That will not be necessary."

I blinked. "Excuse me?"

There was a thoughtful look on her face. "You are a time traveler, are you not?"

"Well..." I stopped. Perhaps my previous encounters with this world, save my brief one earlier, were still in my future?

"It has been many years since that sweet girl told me about meeting you, Doctor," Edna continued. "And how you convinced her to get rid of that cape. I am convinced you saved her life, Doctor. So your suit is paid for already."

"Well, I don't suppose I can argue with that, can I?", I answered.

"Of course not, dahling," Edna said. "Now, please follow me, I need to take fresh measurements for your new suit."

Edna Mode did good work.

"The synthetic silk is the finest blend. Smooth as silk, it will not tear, and it is bulletproof!", Edna announced proudly. "And look, it goes so well with your vest and tie!"

I looked in the mirror and had to admit she was quite right. The new jacket was a bit longer than the old type had been. The pockets on the inside were larger thanks to this additional surface area. The lapels were crisper and sleeker too. And the cuffs were far easier.

"Now you look like a time-traveling gentlebeing!", Edna continued. "Elegant, sophisticated, and intelligent! Dahling, you really should have come to see me sooner! This is some of my finest work! I simply must have you over more often."

"I shall gladly accept your hospitality," I said. "Your craftsmanship is the finest in all the Multiverse."

"Oh, dahling, you are too kind..." She shook my hand. "I do have one small question, if you do not mind."

"That is?"

She got right to the point. "Do you know what would have happened to Stratogale if you had not met her?"

I took a moment to think on it before nodding. "Something very terrible."

"I see." Edna nodded. "Let me show you something."

I waited patiently while she went to a cabinet and searched for something. She pulled out a framed photograph. When she held up to me, I could see that the woman in the picture was the same heroine, now an adult, wearing a khaki field suit and surrounded by tropical birds. "When the heroes were asked to retire, she went to a university," Edna informed me. "Now she travels the world helping to protect rare birds from extinction."

I allowed myself a smile at that. "Very noble. Still a heroine, even without the tights."

"And all because of you." Edna put the picture away. "You both make the world a better place. So please, do come back from time to time. It is a breath of fresh air for me to get away from those prissy models."

Now, how could I say no to do that?

Edna had her own fabrication facilities, so she had a set of five new suit jackets made for me before I left. I was putting them away when I saw Katara enter. "Ah, hello," I said.

"Liara told me," Katara said. "About what that girl became."


"You saved her life. Just... like that."

"Well, yes. As it is, saving lives doesn't always require whirling about the sonic disruptor and fighting monsters," I remarked. "Sometimes it's just helping someone realize the danger they're in." I looked back to see Katara approach closer. "Are you alright?"

"I think." That answer alone was a remarkable improvement. "I've been thinking, actually."


"Wherever we've gone, we've saved people," Katara said. "We're helping entire worlds, and more. Just like Aang would have wanted."

"Well, yes," I said.

"And every time we save someone like Stratogale... we're not just saving them. We're saving their families and the people they care about it." Tears appeared in Katara's eyes. "So they won't go through what I have."

"Ahh. Yes, that is also true." I put the last suit up on a rack and stepped up to Katara. "And we give them hope."

"Hope." Katara seemed to dwell on that word for a moment. "I gave up on that. I can't have Aang or Sokka or Toph back, so..."

"I know," I said quietly. "But sometimes there are other things to hope for."

"Yes. Maybe... there is a place out there for me." Katara's eyes glistened with tears. "And if I do find it, I know it'll be because of you." She walked up and gave me a hug. "Thank you."

I returned the hug wordlessly. Really, there wasn't anything I could say to add to that. I could only feel joy that after all this time, Katara was beginning to feel hope again.

And that's always the first step to making your world a better place.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by LadyTevar » 2017-06-12 01:08pm

You really should have spent more time in The Incredibiles Universe.
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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-12 02:58pm

LadyTevar wrote:You really should have spent more time in The Incredibiles Universe.
There's probably quite a few settings that perhaps deserved more attention but didn't get it, or never got any in the first place.
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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-13 09:39am

Episode 34 - A Better Humanity

When you live long enough, you compile some regrets. Just a fact of life.

Some aren't big, obviously. Those tend to be the short-term regrets. "Oh, I shouldn't have had that spicy taco before bed" when you're seeing to business in the middle of the night, for instance.

But of course, if some are small, some will obviously be big. Those are the regrets that stay with you. They haunt you and they taunt you with the thought of What Might Have Been.

Even with my prior life locked away in a box in my mind, I had my fair share of those.

What if I had kept the Borg from dragging away Jan and Cami?

What if I had been there to stop Zaheer from poisoning Korra?

What if I had followed Harry's advice and sought counsel before I had gone on to become the Time Lord Triumphant?

What if I had saved Katherine?

The last two, mind you, are rather intertwined.

I was standing in the middle of some of those regrets now. My armory was as I left it when I rejected the Triumphant approach in dealing with the Daleks. I was only using it to do some fine-tuning to the sonic disruptor, but I was nevertheless surrounded by the artifacts of the Time Lord Triumphant.

I really need to move the toolings for the disruptor one of these days.

The door was wide open, so nothing stopped Liara from walking in. "How are you doing?", she asked.

She caught me as I was staring at my combat suit. The disruptor remained partly disassembled in front of me. "Thinking. Regretting, I suppose," I admitted.

"Right." She looked around. "Why do you keep these things? It's clear you don't want to use them."

"Insurance," I lied. Very convincingly, too.


"The day when I have to use them." I went back to working, connecting a circuit in the disruptor to finish up my work on it.

She didn't answer that. For a moment Liara looked pensive.

I finished up another circuit before I ventured to change the subject. "Do you regret coming with me, Liara?"

For a moment she seemed in thought. Finally she grinned and shook her head. "Well, no. I've enjoyed seeing the fantastic places that exist out here. I've gone to alien worlds and places where no Asari has ever set foot. You've shown me cultures and species we couldn't imagine back home." The grin changed to show some mirth. "Granted, you have done more to get me killed than Shepard usually managed."

I chuckled at that. "Yes, we do end up running quite often, don't we?"


"You can ask to go home whenever you like, you know," I pointed out.

"Maybe soon. But not today." Liara returned to the door. "Certainly not today."

"Are you concerned about Katara?"

"A little. But she's starting to improve." Liara gave me a look. "I think she'd be happier back in that beach town. Where we met those gem beings."

"The thought occurred to me as well," I concurred. I finished the last circuit and began to re-assemble the casing of the sonic disruptor. "But she has to be ready for whatever she picks."

"Yes." Liara went through the door. "I'll be in the control room when you decide where we're going."

"I'll be there shortly," I replied, continuing my work as I did.

Katara was waiting with Liara in the control room when I came out. "Are we going anywhere today?", she asked.

"Hrm. Maybe." I flipped a switch on the controls. "I've been scanning for Cracks, but so far, nothing. Might be best to take it easy."

"I wish you wouldn't say that." Liara shook her head. "It reminds me of all the times Joker tried to make things sound casual just before we ended up in danger."

"Ah. Well. I do apologize for tempting Murphy." I tapped the control panel. "So, no Crack-hunting for today. No adventuring is preferred. Maybe we should go to a party?"

"That depends on the party?"

"Something, I don't know, rich, I think? Somewhere we can hobnob with some celebrities or princes or something?"

"I could go for some good food," Liara admitted. "But there has to be a better way."

I made a face. "Oh, you're no fun. I do so enjoy crashing those sorts of parties." I thought on it. "I am due for Emperor Vir's coronation anniversary party. It should be a good night's worth of good drink and good food. And good company of course."

Liara crossed her arms. "Why do I think that can and will go disastrously?"

"Well, it's not like it'll be crashed by Drakh agents." I coughed, "Again" under my breath while making a final adjustment. "Katara, I don't think I've introduced you to the Centauri. It should be quite an... education." I smirked at that, entered final coordinates. "Why don't you go try on that dress Edna gave you?"

Katara blinked. "Well, I... if you think it'll let me fit in better?"

"Much better," I assured her.

Liara rolled her eyes. "I'll be in my room, putting on one of my formal suits," she sighed. She didn't bother expressing her hope for a quiet evening. She knew she'd just be tempting fate.

I finished materializing the TARDIS and stepped out under what proved to be grand stairs leading to the upper floor of a magnificent ballroom. For a moment I expected to see the fine livery of the Centauri Royal Palace guards.

Finding men in robes was not what I expected.

And seeing the insignia on the robes nearly made me groan.

Due to the music playing, the guards hadn't heard the VWORPing from the distance. I reached back and activated the stealth with my sonic screwdriver as Katara and Liara stepped out. We had all cleaned up well. I made sure my hair was good and had one of Edna's new suit jackets on over the first of Molly Carpenter's new and improved protective vests. Liara was wearing a fancy piece of Asari fashion, the kind she'd wear to Citadel soirees and the such. Katara had the lovely one-shoulder-bare dark blue dress that Edna had given her. Apparently it was surplus from some model that Edna had cut ties with.

"This is not Centauri Prime," Liara sighed. She quietly pressed the key to her holobelt to assume her Human disguise.

"No, and I know I carried the two, so..." I stepped out from under the stairs. "The TARDIS wants us here."

Aside from the fellows on guard duty, there were some other robed individuals in the ballroom. But they were clearly of rank, and they were joined by many men and women in dashing uniforms and ballroom dress clothing. The different uniforms and insignia made it clear this was a multi-national gathering. Of who was made clear by the symbols hanging from the rafters, symbols of both host and guests.

Walking toward the center of the room, I avoided running into a young woman in tanned gray leathers who was scowling as she moved. Clearly not one for the environment. I had my suspicions as to her origin myself, but I said nothing. I took out the sonic in preparation for a scan. Could a Crack have formed here that my scans hadn't yet picked up?

A voice echoed in the room, drawing the attention of the assembled. It was the master of ceremonies pronouncing the arrival of another guest.

Or was he the chamberlain? Drat, I always confuse those things.

That voice began reciting titles. Very familiar ones. I turned my head even though I knew what my eyes would see.

The individual in question stepped through the doors, escorted by a personal entourage.

Given my height, it's not surprising that it didn't take the individual long to spot me. Our eyes met as the titles came to their end. My expression remained neutral, the other into stony displeasure.

"...Archon-Prince of the Federated Commonwealth, Prince Victor Ian Steiner-Davion," the announcer finished.

"Well, there goes the evening," I sighed. Given how Prince Victor and I had parted so long ago (for me anyway), I already knew my presence was not going to be welcome, and might well not be tolerated.

Regrets. We have short-term ones. We have long-term ones. I was being faced by one right now. I figured I'd regret getting out of the hammock soon enough. It looked like the party was going to end in screaming and shouting.

And I was right. About that anyway.

Of course, it was a different kind of screaming and shouting that would end the party, and herald a far more strenuous and dangerous night than I had envisioned.

And my regrets were going to come back to haunt me before the night was over.

So, I went out to have a pleasant night of fine brevari and jovial Centauri partygoers, and instead I'm surrounded by stuffy Inner Sphere nobility and about to face a man whom I had savagely insulted the last time I saw him.

Oh, and I also went out and directly undermined him by snatching away a child under his protection (read: a hostage) to keep him from making a boneheaded mistake.

A look at his entourage gave few hints as to how things had developed in the Inner Sphere since Katherine's death. Truth be told, I had been intentionally ignoring things in this cosmos since Katherine died and I had gone through my Triumphant phase. Time Lord senses for history only took me so far.

His entourage, you ask? Galen Cox, of course - no need for him to fake his death and become Jerrard Cranston like in a timeline without me meddling about - and Morgan Hasek-Davion were up front. Given the red hair, it wasn't hard to identify the youngest of his siblings, little Yvonne. And I was quite certain the dour, icy fellow in the back was Curaitis, Victor's security adviser and spymaster.

I started looking around to see if there was anyone else I recognized. I thought it best to strike up conversation elsewhere before braving the lion's den. It looked like all five Houses were represented. Canopians and Taurian delegates included too. Intriguing. A few Rasalhaguans. ComStar members of course. The young lady in the leathers had obviously been a Warrior Caste member of the Wolf Clan.

"An intriguing international gathering," I murmured to my Companions.

"Archon-Prince Victor didn't look happy to see you," Liara whispered back. "Long story?"

"Short story. He's Katherine's brother, the oldest of their generation. At her laying in state I said some... unkind things." I sighed regretfully. "I wasn't in the right place mentally, you might say."

"That's all?", Liara asked, an eyebrow raised.

"Well, I may have further insulted him by slipping Joshua Marik out of the NAIS hospital and back home."

"Splendid. Let's just hope he's not the host. I don't feel like spending the night in a cell," Liara remarked.

"No, I believe we're on Earth," I said. "Or Terra as they like to call it here in the Inner Sphere. That means we're on ComStar grounds. The good ComStar, not the nutters of the Word of Blake. The most he could do is demand I be expelled. Which they might do. Blakists, even the nice ones, don't entirely like me either." I made a face. "They took my broadcasting HPG schematics across the Inner Sphere a tad too personally, I think."

"Right," Liara said drolly. She wasn't buying it. Drat.

"Anyway, let's..."

"Oh my, it is you," a woman said. I turned and was met by a lady who looked to be entering her middle-aged years, dressed in a fine strapless gown of gold and yellow. At her side was a man in a fine AFFC dress uniform with graying red hair. "You're the Doctor."

"I am," I admitted. "You are..."

"...Misha Redburn," the woman answered.

"Ah, yes," I said. I recognized the name now. "Formerly Misha Auburn? Melissa's historian friend? A great honor to meet you. And your husband Andrew, commander of the Kathil Uhlans? A pleasure, sir."

Redburn didn't seem quite so pleased to see me, but he was courteous enough. His wife was the one who kept speaking. "I have so many questions for you," she admitted. "I'm startled to find you here, of all places!"

"Yes, well, I come and go. Sometimes I don't even know where I've gone until I get there." I kept my voice from getting too loud.

"How intriguing. Melissa said you were an interesting fellow. And dear Katherine adored you." Misha had a look on her face. I realized this wasn't just typical hobnobbing and social small talk. Oi. "I miss them so."

An old ache made my hearts hurt a bit. "I do as well."

"Who was it you worked for, again?"

"Myself, ma'am. I am not beholden or employed by any organization in your Inner Sphere. I'm a free agent. A freelance adventurer and scientist or whatever else I must be to deal with the needs of the moment," I answered. "And lest I continue to be rude, I must introduce my current traveling companions. Doctor Liara t'Soni is a xenoarcheologist in her home cosmos and Katara is a young friend of mine."

"A pleasure to meet you both. I often tried to get Katherine to speak of her traveling with the Doctor, but she insisted that I wouldn't believe her if she did."

"That's... entirely possible, Miss Redburn," Liara answered. "The Doctor's travels have led me to see many unbelievable things."

"I see." Misha looked back to me. "Many still believe you were an MIIO agent assigned to protect Katherine." Her expression darkened a little. "Free Skye even put out a reward for you after Duke Ryan disappeared."

"Ah." I nodded.

"Victor didn't have you assassinate the Duke, did he?"

"Misha, I'm not sure this is the right venue..."

Before General Redburn could finish cutting off his wife, I replied, "Duke Ryan did not die by my hand, I can assure you. Nor did Victor want him dead."

That didn't appease Misha. "So what happened?"

"Justice, ma'am," I answered simply. "That is all I can say."

Before her interrogation could continue, another guest arrived. The attention given to them was understandable; it was Theodore Kurita and his family. I noticed, quite easily, that Victor was not looking at the Coordinator but at the woman behind him. Omi Kurita. Of course.

At this point the new arrivals escalated. A red-faced, entirely irritated James Sandoval was admitted. After a few minutes the next party arrived; Haakon Magnusson, Elected Prince of Rasalhague. And then Sun-Tzu Liao and his mad sister Kali. A few moments after them came Robert Kelswa-Steiner, Duke Ryan's son, with his mother. He spotted me in the crowd and his expression hardened into rage.

Indeed, despite my slinking toward the back - I wasn't particularly interested in the festivities, or hobnobbing with Inner Sphere nobility - a number of heads did turn my way. I had been seen publicly a few times, after all. I darkly wondered how my presence was going to influence the proceedings.

Two groups remained. One was Candace Liao, her son Kai, and her daughter Kuan-Yin; rulers of the breakaway St. Ives Compact. After they came in the last group arrived. For the first time a new arrival smiled at me; Thomas Marik - the fake Thomas, that is - along with adult daughter (of the real Thomas) Isis and a teenage Joshua Marik. The boy looked completely healthy. The handiwork of the medical staff of Layom Station was quite enjoyable to behold.

"The Mariks actually like you," Liara murmured.

"I saved Joshua's life," I answered. "Well, more precisely, the fine staff at Layom Station did, but I was the one who took him there."

Some eyes turned as the Mariks made their way directly toward me. "Doctor." Thomas Marik offered his hand. His face was still scarred; purportedly from the bombing that the real Thomas survived a quarter of a century before, but I pondered it just as likely that it was surgically-added for the impostor's disguise. After I accepted he said, "I didn't expect you to attend."

"I didn't expect to attend either," I replied. "But I'm here." I looked to Joshua. "Well, my lad. Feeling spry?"

"Yes sir, Doctor!", the young lad replied, smiling.

"And Isis." I took her hand and gave it a gentlemanly kiss. "Radiant as always."

"Doctor." She nodded. "I never got the chance to thank you for saving my little brother."

"No thanks are needed at all." I looked around. "So, everyone's on Terra. Is it a wedding? Because my luck with weddings is mixed, they either go well or the host tries to kill his guests and I wind up getting shot at with crossbows."

Thomas rolled with my remarks without a question. "Not this time," he mused. "And given what happened with that one, we should probably be thankful."

I allowed myself a brief snort of laughter at that. I'd have to explain it to Liara and Katara later. After I finished that laughter I found my voice again. "Ah." I sighed with relief. "Good. So what is the occasion? You lot finally getting the Star League back together?"

"It will certainly be discussed," Thomas confirmed. "Save for Grand Duke Kell and his son, we are all present."

"His son?" I blinked. "Isn't Phelan with the..." My expression darkened. "Let me guess. The Clans had something akin to a war over one of their Refusal Trials?"


I sighed. Back in my Triumphant days, I thought killing Dalk Carns would prevent it. His was the desperate gambit that gave the Crusaders opening to remove ilKhan Ulric, after all. But apparently he was replaced with someone as ingenious. "I see. Sometimes history surprises even me, it seems. So presumably the Truce of Tukkayid has been repudiated and the Clans are probably preparing to start up again. Just as soon as they finish rebuilding from their internal squabble?"

Thomas nodded at that as well. Then he allowed himself a smile. "But I would rather not dwell on such. We're here to commemorate a day of healing and solidarity."


He opened his mouth before stopping. "Our hosts have come," he said simply.

I followed his eyes. On the upper level of the ballroom, a pair of double doors emblazoned with the insignia of ComStar opened. The robed security guards stood at attention as several figures came out, all in the robes of ranked leaders of ComStar. The First Circuit, I realized, with Primus Sharilar Mori and Precentor-Martial Anastasius Focht leading them.

Upon counting them, I realized they had one more in number than I thought. A balding man of Thomas' age. I blinked at realizing I recognized him. "Blane?", I asked aloud.

"My old friend, yes," Thomas confirmed.

I looked back to the figure. Precentor William Blane... of the Word of Blake. The ComStar personnel who were too devoted to the technotheistic interpretations of Jerome Blake's writings to accept Focht and Mori reforming ComStar to be more secular. As a former ComStar member himself, Thomas Marik had granted them asylum in the Free Worlds League, though it caused him no end of trouble.

Granted, I was one of the few people privy to the reality of the situation. That Thomas Marik was not the real Thomas, but a ComStar impostor surgically altered and conditioned to replace the critically wounded Thomas after he barely survived the bombing that killed his family. That the real Thomas had ensured his decision to take in the dissenters from his place in the shadows, serving as "the Master" of the Word of Blake, ruling from one of the "Lost Worlds" that ComStar had stricken from the records of the war-torn Inner Sphere during the brutality of the Succession Wars.

I thought back to that half-machine madman. He was a fanatic devoted to a twisted technotheistic viewpoint of Humanity. A man who would have killed billions to achieve his vision.

Would have... if I had not come along. If I, as the Time Lord Triumphant, had not utterly destroyed ComStar's hidden assets on those Lost Worlds as the culmination of a campaign to destroy the Word of Blake.

A voice spoke again in my thoughts. The voice of a man seeing his dreams destroyed. "Blasphemy! Desecration! You monster! You damned monster!"

I remembered "the Master"'s helpless cries of rage and horror that day. The day the Time Lord Triumphant had finished gutting the Word of Blake.

I really shouldn't have been surprised by what I was seeing, I suppose. With the hardcore groups annihilated, accommodation with Mori would have been seen as reasonable.

"Welcome, everyone, to Terra," Mori announced. "We thank you for attending. In the coming weeks we hope to lay the groundwork for a united Inner Sphere strategy against the Clans, whether or not they violate the Truce. But first, I bring news of glad tidings." She turned to Precentor Blane. "This is Precentor William Blane, leader of those who resisted the reforms of ComStar after the Battle of Tukkayid. After years of careful discussions, Precentor Blane and I have reached a concord. By unanimous vote of the First Circuit, I am proud to introduce you all to the new Precentor of Atreus." Mori raised her hands as if granting a benediction. "What had been divided has now been made whole. By the Blessing of Blake, ComStar is one once more!"

This inspired applause from the assembled. Even the false Thomas. I blinked while giving the same. My Companions went along mostly out of courtesy, as neither had reason to know what was truly going on. "You supported this?", I murmured to Thomas.

"Yes," Thomas answered. "We must be united to resist the Clans. ComStar, and the Inner Sphere, must be whole."

Well;. I couldn't argue with that, could I?

"And now, please, enjoy the celebrations!", Mori urged everyone.

"It was good to see you again, Doctor," Thomas said to me. "Please pardon me."

The Mariks left, clearly to go speak with other Inner Sphere nobility. My Companions and I were left alone in our corner of the room. "Well, an interesting night so far," Liara said. "Any idea why the TARDIS brought us here?"

"Not a clue. Yet."

"Perhaps you should go speak to Katherine's family." Liara put a hand on my shoulder. "You should try to make peace."

"I doubt Prince Victor will be interested," I remarked.

"Don't be a..."

Liara ceased to speak when we received visitors. Mori, Blane, and Focht stepped up. "You are the Doctor," Mori said. "You seem quite well-dressed for the evening."

"My thanks for the compliment, Primus Mori," I answered. "Had i known the occasion I would have brought my lucky fez. To help grant further luck to this remarkable achievement."

"Yes." Mori seemed more than a little interested in my presence. "I must ask you to be peaceful with Precentor Blane and his followers. They are returned to the fold of ComStar."

I nodded and looked to Blane. "I have no desire to meddle in doctrinal issues regarding Blake. Any actions I took were done to safeguard the Inner Sphere."

"I understand," Blane assured me. "On this night, I am not here to judge for past wrongs. ComStar being made whole is a goal I dreamed to see in my lifetime, and it has been. Thank you for attending."

He offered me his hand. I almost considered not taking it. But after a moment I did anyway. I did the same with Focht and Mori, who moved on. "One moment," I said to the others. "Please cover me." I made a quick step over to the windows and, without anyone seeing me, scanned my hand with the sonic screwdriver. "No sign of nanites. No poisonous chemicals, no biological compounds," I read off. "Just skin cells. Old, dead skin cells."

"You are acting paranoid," Liara noted.

"For good reason," I replied. "The Blakists love their subterfuge. I had to be sure." I looked back. His heartbeat was still steady. His breathing fine.

Blane was busy greeting everyone, talking about the need for peace, for tolerance, and I wasn't picking up any sign of him being under duress.

I looked around the ballroom and outside. Outside was the main compound of ComStar, on Hilton Head off the coast of what was once called South Carolina. Night had fallen, so even with my enhanced senses I couldn't see everything aside from the lights of buildings. Nearer, with the aid of outside lights, I saw men and women in security fatigues at various points. In the distance, DropShips were visible at ComStar HQ's main spaceport, or at least their silhouettes were.

Everything looked normal. Completely normal.

"Something's going on," Liara said. "Isn't it?"

"Yep," I agreed. "Something is going to happen tonight."

"What do you think?"

"Hrm. Clan attack. Mass assassination attempt. Alien invasion. Take your pick. And make sure to let me know if you see a yellow triangle with one eye, a bow-tie, and a little top hat, because that would make things really interesting."

"You can be infuriating with how cryptic you are," Katara grumbled.

"It's one of my charms," I answered, smirking. I started looking around. I could imagine that every visitor had their own security people on site. But in here, only ComStar personnel would be allowed. Hence all of the personnel standing at obvious guard positions and wearing ComStar robes marking them as Adepts and Acolytes.

I knew I didn't like this. There was just something off in the air. My Time Lord senses were telling me things were not as they seemed.


I tried not to curse as my concentration was broken. Yvonne Steiner-Davion had walked up to us. "Doctor, I know it's been a while, but I'm..."

"Yvonne. Yes." I forced a smile. "You've filled out a bit. Getting to be a fine young lady, aren't you?"

"Yes. Thank you," she said, smiling shyly. "Um... Doctor. I'm sorry. I'm just..." She swallowed. "...I read Katherine's diary a few years ago. All of the things she did with you. The things she saw. I just..." For a moment the young lady seemed to struggle with her words. "Growing up, she was my big sister and always looked out for me. Losing her and my mother on the same day was, well, it was just horrible Doctor. Just completely horrible. I was hoping that maybe we could talk and you could tell me more about what you and Katherine did together. So I could get to know her better."

My mind was still rumbling about a feeling of wrongness about what was going on. But at the same time, I couldn't just dismiss Yvonne heartlessly. Just looking at her made me think of Katherine. "I understand," I said. "I would love to share my memories with you, Yvonne. And I know your sister loved you very much. If she thought she could have gotten away with it, we would have taken you with us on a few of those trips."

Yvonne's eyes widened in surprise. "Really?"

"Oh yes. She thought you would have loved some of the things we saw together!" A genuine smile, bittersweet in its reflection, came to my face. "She was worried about your safety though. When you travel with me, you've got be a runner."

"Oh yes," Liara said, backing me up. "You've got to run a lot."

"All the time," Katara added.

"Well... I've taken up running as an exercise," Yvonne said. "Maybe I could... well, maybe once?"

I pondered that. "Maybe," I said. "Later, of course. Tonight I suspect your brother would prefer you do the princessing thing."

"Huh? Oh! Yes. Kuan-Yin and I are supposed to be co-chairing a committee on Rasalhaguan refugee resettlement, I need to go discuss the particulars with her!" She shook my hand. "Thank you, please, we'll talk later!"

As she walked off I sighed. Katherine had adored her little sister so. But we had agreed that, at the time, she'd just been too young.

If only you were here, Katherine, I thought to myself. You would see how your little Yvonne had grown up.

Apparently my talk with Yvonne had attracted notice. Specifically, the notice of her big brother. Victor made his way up to us. "Doctor," he said with icy politeness. Curaitis was standing behind him, trying to look casual. I figured he was already figuring out the ways he could disable or kill me if I presented a threat to his liege. "I'm surprised to see you here."

"Yes, well, it's funny where I turn up sometimes."

Victor nodded. "I don't know what's going on. But leave Yvonne out of it."

Oooh. Clear heat there. I raised an eyebrow. "Pardon me?"

"You heard me." It was rather amusing, in a way, to see Victor and his literally Napoleonic build trying to glare into my face. Up at me, by over a foot, that is. I enjoyed something like fourteen inches on him. Minimum. If I didn't have a healthy respect (and fear) for Karrin Murphy, I would probably have gone for a short joke by now. "You're not taking my sister anywhere."

"Your sister, I'll remind you, is an adult," I answered.

"And she's my sister," Victor countered. "My last sister. I don't know everything Katherine did with you, but I do know you almost got her killed. Repeatedly. I'm not having you get Yvonne killed too."

I really should have disengaged. Liara and Katara moved closer to me and I felt Liara take my arm. But something about what he said just.. drove the point into the old wound, I think. I frowned deeply and glared down at Victor. "Oh, that's interesting. Because your sister didn't die because of me. She died due to Inner Sphere politics. Your bloody game of thrones was what took her from me."

"And what about her family? Didn't we matter? Because she wasn't just yours!" Victor's nostrils flared. "And maybe that bombing wouldn't have happened if you didn't keep dragging her off. Maybe she would have helped me neutralize Ryan long before that."

"Or maybe she would have been assassinated even earlier!", I countered. "That's not uncommon for you Inner Sphere lordlings, is it? Or maybe this is just..."

"Doctor!" Liara jumped between us. "Listen, walk away. This is unnecessary."

I went to shove her out of the way, but Katara stepped between us as well. I bit into my lip. They were right. This argument was going nowhere.

"I wanted to make peace with you, believe it or not," Victor began. "But you're still the same arrogant, conceited, self-centered..."

That was when I saw it.

"Shh," I hissed.

Victor didn't like that. "Excuse me?!", he demanded. "Did you just..?!"

"Look. That's wrong."

The others were already following my eyes. Victor blinked and turned back. Curaitis did as well.

"The guard on the far wall," I said. "And the one by the entrance. And the one on the stairs. Look."

They started looking around.

"They seem... guard-like," Katara observed.

"No. There is something..." Liara began.

"They're too still," Curaitis observed.

"What?" Victor looked back to his security man. "What are you saying?"

"They're too still," I agreed. "Look. Rigid posture. Absolutely perfect. Not one fidget of the slightest muscle. They might as well be statues."

"Soldiers are trained to stand at attention for long spans of time," Victor pointed out.

"But they still make movements," Curaitis insisted, still looking at the nearest robed figure. "They blink. They have to breathe. But those guards aren't even doing that."

Victor looked around himself. "Curaitis, can you raise the team?"

Curaitis was already messing with something in his ear. "No. We're being cut off."

"Well, there we are," I muttered. I took another look around. It seemed nobody else was realizing what was going on. "Be ready, ladies," I murmured.

"Great," Liara sighed. "Another night off ruined."

I decided I might as well take the direct approach. I reached into my pocket for the sonic screwdriver as I tromped past Victor and Curaitis. I moved beside a Liao Mandarin and didn't give acknowledgement to one of Kurita's retainers on my way to the table in the center of the ballroom, where snacks and drinks were laid out. I jumped up to the table in a fluid motion. My foot kicked off a plate of chocolate somethings that looked exquisite. By the time I moved to the center of the round table I had knocked over other items, including a bottle of champagne or some other wine.

And I had gradually drawn every eye in the room.

"Hello everyone!", I called out, holding my left hand up to wave hello. When I continued speaking, I made myself loud enough to be heard across the room. "Now, some of you may have heard of me, and some of you even know me, but for everyone else, allow me to make the introductions. I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord from Gallifrey and I travel through all of time and space doing deeds of daring-do and playing the tourist and everything in between. Now, the reason I am standing before you tonight is to tell it to you straight." I held out my other hand. "This little soiree is a trap and you're all in terrible danger of being assassinated or abducted."

That brought expressions of shock and surprise and disbelief across the room. What intrigued me was how surprised Blane looked. Not as in "Oh, I've been caught", but rather "Oh no, how could this be happening?", that sort of disbelief when you find out your worst nightmare is coming to pass. And I suspected I wasn't the nightmare (I can't always be).

"Now, I know you're all wondering if I'm just being crazy. It's a fair question as Liara and Katara can tell you. And I am indeed a madman in a box. But before you get all scandalized, might you turn your attention to the guards?" I looked around. Oh, they were good. The suspect guards still hadn't moved, even if they had to know I was on to them now. "Either they're statues or they've been holding their breath for a really, really long time." I held out my sonic screwdriver. "Why don't we check on them?"

I turned on the screwdriver. The tip lit up with that lovely purple light. The whirring sound soothed my ears.

I had pointed to the guard on the far wall. Said guard suddenly convulsed. Sparks erupted from under the hood and the robe, which caught fire as the figure toppled over. This revealed to all what was underneath, to much screaming in surprise and horror.

"Ladies and gentlemen, what you see before you now," I said, "is a Manei Domini." And indeed it was a nasty sight of one. Fake skin was melting off the cyborg bits as they continued to spark from what my sonic screwdriver had done to the cyborg, who had once been a light-skinned man of low middle-aged appearance. I turned just as another of the cyborgs was reacting. It raised an arm and a laser barrel appeared below it. That laser exploded in sparks a moment later, as did the rest of the body, revealing what had been a tan-skinned young woman before she had been made into a Blakist cyborg.

I might have gotten shot if not for Liara. She threw out a biotic pulse that delayed a third cyborg before it could shoot me, allowing me to disable that Manei as well. The fourth one, and the last, was trying to get a clear shot when a number of firearms appeared in the hands of the various nobility's personal security. The resulting barrage of needler rounds did... absolutely nothing, as the Manei Domini infiltrator shrugged them off.

But they did distract the cyborg long enough for me to disable him.

The other guards started to move as now, pulling out their firearms. One shot at the Liaos and would have gotten Sun-Tzu if one of his security guards hadn't thrown herself into the path of the laser bolt. Another shot dead a noble in a Kurita uniform, and a general in the Rasalhaguan contingent. I brought up the sonic and swung it around. Their firearms exploded in sparks, of course. And so did their ear-pieces.

Curious. And concerning.

"Now, nobody panic," I called out. "Katara, please see to the wounded. As for the rest of you, I can take you all to safety. That's more than I can say of any personal staff and servants you brought with you, as I suspect they're all being rounded up as we speak. I'll get to them as soon as I can. But first..." I looked to Blane. "You look like you've seen a ghost, Precentor Blane."

I could have also turned attention to the fake Thomas, who looked like he was going to be sick, but I held back on that. No need to push things for now.

"It's... it's not..." Blane was stuttering. "Oh Blessed Blake, what have they done? Why have they done this?"

"Blane?" Mori looked at him with narrowed eyes. "What's going on?"

"The Doctor destroyed everything that made them a threat," Blane continued. He looked like he was starting to fall apart completely. "This... this isn't.... Primus Mori, you have to believe me, I was sincere! We made such strides to restoring ComStar, that's all I wanted! I didn't realize they had the power to still do this!"

"Is it St. Jamais?", I asked.

"No. No, he was taken care of. No, it's... him. It has to be him."

I nodded. And I swallowed.

It looked like my work as the Time Lord Triumphant still had repercussions to deal with.

The door on the second level opened again. The figure that came through was in a red robe. His skin was the color of cocoa. The right side of his face and head, as well as his scalp and the right eye, had been replaced by metal - cybernetic implants. If his skin had gone albino and the metal painted black, I would have thought him a Borg.

He was clapping. "It is fitting that you are here, blasphemer." the man said in a rich voice. "You, the champion of these backstabbing purveyors of ambition. The defender of all the evils of human flesh that stands incarnate before us."

"Ah. Apollyon, isn't it?", I asked. "Greek for Abaddon. Interesting name. 'The Destroyer'. An angel either in the service of God or of Satan, scorpion tale that torments for five months, all that depending on whom you're reading." I wagged a finger at him. "That's a bit apocalyptic of you, isn't it? Not to mention egotistical."

"I have longed for the day when I got to take your tongue, alien," Apollyon answered. "Blessed Blake be thanked that you are here on this day. To see your efforts rendered meaningless and to witness the ultimate triumph of the Word of Blake and the Master. Today we begin the ascension of the Inner Sphere to perfection."

"The Master? Is that the same man I left blubbering on the floor like a child who had all of his toys thrown in the trash?" I retorted. "He was rather disappointing as an enemy called the Master, i must admit."

"Your attempt at provocations do not sway me," Apollyon said. "For I have finally achieved liberation from the flaws of the flesh."

"Really?" I blinked. And then I held the sonic up. "So, let's see how this goes again, shall we?"

I activated the sonic.

This time, however, he didn't fall over, twitching and sparking, like he had when I had defeated him in front of the Master of the Word of Blake.

Instead his form melted away. A hologram, now disrupted and shut down by my sonic screwdriver.

Gasps filled the crowd at the sight of Apollyon now. My jaw fell in mute shock, followed by disbelief and then horror. "Oh no, what have you done?", I heard myself croak.

When Apollyon spoke, it was with a new voice. "I have been freed of the evils of flesh. I have become perfection."

"Doctor...?" Liara looked at me. "Do you know..."

I nodded at her unfinished question. And I snarled.

Apollyon was no longer a cyborg.

He had become a Cyberman.

Yes, Cyberman. With a capital C. Just like the one on his new, shiny metal chest.

There was a crash at the entrance door. It flew open and three more Cybermen stomped in.

That caused some screams. More came when the windows were smashed from the outside. The lords and ladies of the Inner Sphere recoiled in horror from the mess - those not crying out from being cut or struck by sharp flying glass - and watched as several more Cybermen began to enter the room.

"Take them to the conversion units.," Apollyon ordered.

The Cybermen raised their arms as one, presenting their energy weapons. "Do not resist," they demanded, their mechanical voices chorusing above the screams and cries of the crowd. "Those who resist will be deleted."

I sighed. "So much for this party."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-14 01:02pm

Pandaemonium broke out.

There was a host of shouts and screams. Panic was setting in. Some of the remaining guards were already bringing their guns up and firing. The needler rounds the majority were using simply caused sparks where they struck the Cybermen.

The Cybermen returned fire with deadly efficiency. Three of the security personnel were mowed down before I could finish my own reaction.

A full-strength burst from my sonic disruptor's Setting 4 knocked the Cybermen at the entrance down. "Liara, Katara!", I shouted.

"We're on it!", Liara was shouting back. Biotic energy erupted around her and sent two Cybermen flying back through the windows. Katara's arms whipped about and sprayed the contents of a table worth of drinks all over more of the Cybermen. Her power drew the heat from said water and quickly made it into ice.

"Get everyone into the TARDIS!", I shouted. I snapped my fingers and the TARDIS opened.

Yvonne was the first to it. Instead of entering entirely, though, she kept the door under watch. "Come on!", she shouted. "Everyone in! And please don't touch the Doctor's controls!"

Several of the nobles nearest to her were almost trampling each other as they rushed into the TARDIS door.

"Do not let them escape." Apollyon started to tromp down the stairs. "Take them all." He leveled his weapon at me as I jumped off the table. I got the sonic disruptor up in time to absorb the shots he sent my way.

"Doctor!" Liara was backing her way toward the TARDIS. More Cybermen were entering the doors. "We can't hold them off! We need to go!"

"We just need a bit longer!", I urged, absorbing another shot as Cybermen appeared on the stairs above Apollyon. I brought up the sonic screwdriver and tried to use it to short Apollyon out. But the sonic still wasn't identifying the best way to do that.

There were more cries coming from the door as the Cybermen began to physically seize party attendees and haul them off. I turned that way but could do nothing without exposing myself to Apollyon. I watched Kali Liao raging at a Cybermen who grabbed her by the arm. She shrieked in pain when the way it wrenched said arm clearly broke the limb. One of the Liao guards bravely tried to save her and was batted away for his trouble. The two remaining guards were already trying to get Sun-Tzu to the TARDIS.

I directed my attention back in time to find Apollyon getting ready to punch my deflector screen. I steeled my arm for the reaction force and still nearly lost my grip when the punch came down like a piston. I stumbled backward and swapped from deflector to kinetic pulse to try and give myself some space. The blast seemed to wash over Apollyon this time. I was understandably surprised, and dismayed, by this. "Kinetic dispersion field," I murmured. "Very nice."

A moment later he was slammed by a pure biotic charge. Dark matter washed over said field and overwhelmed it enough to give me another shot, blasting him back onto the stairs. I used the opportunity to slip away and toward the crowd of panicking nobles. I heard a scream and saw one of the First Circuit, I forget which, being hauled off with the other new captives.

"Do you have any plans?", Liara asked.

"Yes," I answered. "Survive, escape with as many as we can, and then go get a bloody army, that's my plan."

"I approve," she said. She grunted as she drew in more biotic power until she could throw a massive singularity into the nearest group of Cybermen. It didn't pull them into the air, but it was strong enough to keep them from advancing further.

"Get into the TARDIS," I urged her. I kept my sonic disruptor up with its deflector field setting as we did back up. Several Cybermen energy shots dissipated into the shield.

It was when we got back to the TARDIS that I heard "Omi!" I turned my head and saw that the Kuritas, all of them, had been isolated by the Cybermen who had come through the main entrance and the windows.

Victor was trying to get to them, Curaitis in tow. Unlike his counterparts, Curaitis had been carrying laser pistols. How curious.

"Oi, you people can be such idiots!", I growled. I pushed back through the throng of fleeing nobility and yelled, "Get back in here! You can't save them!"

"No!", he insisted. "I have to try!"

Another voice called out beside me. "Victor, no!" I turned and noticed a pair of almond-gray eyes looking intently at him. Kai Allard gestured towards the TARDIS. "You can't do this alone! We have to go for now!"

"Omi!" Red light stabbed out from the pistol in Victor's hand. It speared the hip of one of the Cybermen between the two.

By this point Omi's father and brother were unconscious and being hauled away by the Cybermen. She struggled to get closer and to evade being grabbed. She was actually quite swift and well-trained in evasion, or perhaps just a really good natural.

Unfortunately, the Cybermen were not a bunch of street hooligans or the like. They were six foot tall metal monstrosities with a lot of physical strength. This worked against them initially, with one grabbing her formal kimono with too much strength and merely ripping the silken red and black sleeve from the garment.

But all it took was one getting a grip on her flailing forearm as she slipped away from another, and that was that. They had Omi.

I pulled out the sonic disruptor and tried a narrow kinetic discharge. I had been hoping to tear the arm off of the Cyberman. All I did was make it spin around and slam Omi against the wall in the process. The impact knocked the wind out of her.

The one beside it took a laser blast to the rear in a vulnerable joint opening, fusing the hip and immobilizing the . Victor was getting closer and Curaitis was still at his heels.

"Delete the attackers," one of the Cybermen instructed. A line of them, coming in to replace those pulling prisoners out, were forming up and bringing their weapons up. The handful of needler pistols still firing did nothing to them. Even the laser pistols proved best only in crippling hits to joints. None of the Cybermen were actually being dispatched.

A flurry of shots intercepted Victor and Curaitis before they could get to Omi or before I could get to them. Curaitis took one to his left arm. Despite his attempts to take more, though, it was Victor who took the most hits. His thigh, the side of his belly, and his right shoulder, with one blast grazing the neck. His Napoleonic height probably saved his life, all things considered. Smaller target and all. A cry of frustration and pain came from him as he collapsed. The damage from the Cybermen weapons was simply too much.

I got there a moment later and got my sonic disruptor up. Blue energy flared whenever the Cybermen fired again. The setting 42 deflector was holding their shots for the moment. "We need to get him back to the TARDIS," I said. "Can you lift him?"

The security man never hesitated. "Yes". Despite his useless left arm, Curaitis pulled up Victor and hefted him up across his shoulders in a fireman's carry. I straightened my arm as we started to run back for the TARDIS.

The Cybermen kept up their pursuit. "Katara, are you ready?", I asked.



Katara was still waterbending anything from the dinner that had sufficient water content for her to bend. At my command she circulated every droplet of moisture she could and shifted energy into it. The air turned into mist and made the ballroom a sauna. But it would fool IR tracking for a short time and obscured all vision the enemy had on us. This gave us the cover to return to the TARDIS.

Once we were at the door I called out, 'Everyone in?!" A couple of security guards - the Compact ones, I realized - stepped in while I went to the controls. Once we were inside I snapped my fingers and the doors closed. I looked about. Liara was trying to organize a line to one of my spare rooms. I sighed at that. "At this rate, I might as well slap a decal on the old girl to say she's a refugee hauler," I muttered to myself. I turned the other way and saw Katara was applying water to one of Victor's wounds. "Get him to the library," she told Curaitis.

"Omi. We have to go back...."

"What are we going to do now?" Yvonne stepped up beside me. "Are we leaving?"

"We're getting you lot to safety first, yes," I replied. "Outreach sounds about right, eh? Not a lot of places a group as disparate as this will find acceptable together. And far more scenic than Strana Mechty, if you ask me." I turned another dial and pulled back the activation lever.


I stared at it. Yvonne seemed to notice something was wrong. "What's the matter?"

"There's something stopping the TARDIS from shifting out," I explained.

"So we can't get away? But they're still coming, right?!"

As if to answer her, there was a loud pounding on the door. The TARDIS shook under us. The Cybermen were starting to shake it.

No, not shake it. A glance at the external monitor told me what was happening. They were picking it up.

"Oh, I don't think so," I muttered, reaching for another control. It was one I barely touched, but which I'd given myself some practice on given what happened with the Weeping Angels.

The TARDIS rocked underneath us, prompting cries of confusion. "It's all right, everyone!", I announced. "I was just altering the external dimensions a bit. Diverting more mass to it. Cybermen can't carry us away now."

"We have to get out of here!", one voice screamed.

"Doctor." At the sound of the voice I turned and saw Joshua standing with his half-sister. He was tearing up. "They've got my Dad."

I sighed. "I'm sorry. I'll get him back. But first... alright, I don't know how you lot are holding me down, but I've got more than one trick up my sleeve!" I reached over to the flight controls. After shifting the TARDIS' external mass back to something more normal for it, I caused her to shoot up directly into the air. "I guess we'll be doing this the old fashioned way. Or at least until..."

There was a sudden crash of vibration through the TARDIS that threw most of us to the ground. The TARDIS controls sparked for a moment. "What was that?!", I hissed in frustration. I grabbed the monitor and wheeled it over. "That's... not possible."

There was a massive dome of energy now standing over Hilton Head Island. One that had resisted the TARDIS.

Never mind ComStar or the Blakies having this sort of technology. How did the Cybermen get it?

I didn't have long to ponder that, though. The floor of the TARDIS nearly dropped out from under me as her flight mode lost all power. I would have hit the roof of the control room if I hadn't been holding the monitor.

"What's happening?!", Isis screamed. She had managed to grab the railing near the controls with one hand. The other hand gripped Joshua. Yvonne had likewise snatched a railing. Everywhere in the room people were starting to go into the air as we went into free fall.

"Feedback through the TARDIS systems! I've lost flight control and internal gravity compensation is down!" I pulled and brought myself closer to the controls.

"We're going to crash?!", Joshua yelled.

I frowned. "Not if I can help it, lad. Not if I can help it."

I finished getting close enough to get a hand on the controls. A twist of a knob here, a flip of the switch there... the TARDIS recovered her gravitational compensators and a number of us did a belly flop to the floor, or something of the same. While everyone else was trying to untangle, I was fighting to regain control of the TARDIS. "Hold on everyone!", I yelled. "I can't shunt enough of our inertia! This is going to be a bumpy landing!"

There were more panicked shouts and cries from others. But not, I noticed, from Yvonne. A strange smile came to her face as she looked at me with utmost confidence.

Just like Katherine used to, I realized.

So I did what I always used to do with her. I returned the smile with the same confidence.

And then I landed the TARDIS.

It shook, of course. I struggled to keep my feet to the floor while it did so. But I was quick in operating the controls and I managed to gain enough control to keep the crash from being very bad. I even got the flight controls back online, at least enough to bring the TARDIS back up into the air instead of coming to a stop in the ground we had been skidding across. A switch flip later and stealth mode was initiated; we were invisible.

And now that we were, I set us down near the massive structure that served as the heart of ComStar on Terra. I chose it because I knew what I would find inside.

I'd managed to get some people out and to avoid crashing the TARDIS. Now all I had to do was infiltrate an isolated island complex full of Cybermen and mind-controlled Humans, try to save a bunch of innocent people from the cyber-conversion process, find out where the Cybermen had gotten this unexpected level of technology, and put a stop to this crazy Cyberman-Word of Blake compact.

Sounds about right for a Wednesday, come to think of it.

So, first things first. Take stock of what I've got available.

Which meant taking roll call.

Given the social inclinations of the Inner Sphere, virtually every noble who had training was either a 'Mech pilot or a fighter pilot. Which was, admittedly, not as useful in fighting Cybermen. Well, unless I found them some BattleMechs.

Something to consider for the future, at least.

Anyway, roll call. Everyone had gathered on the lower level for space. I had Liara, Yvonne, and an enthusiastic Joshua watching out for anyone trying to take things. I had only a few of the junior Kurita nobility; they had been the most isolated group when the Cybermen attacked, and all had either died or been carried off. None of the Capellans made it save for a few of the Mandarins. I'd been so busy trying to keep Victor from getting himself killed or captured that I hadn't noticed Sun-Tzu failing to make it. Pity, that. St. Ives was better off with Candace and both of her present children having made it. The Marik contingent was certainly larger; they'd been the closest to the TARDIS when the mess began.

The FedCom side? I was enduring the constant glare of Robert Kelswa-Steiner, but Yvonne was here too, and Victor was off being cared for by Katara. It looked like James Sandoval and Morgan Hasek-Davion had been carried off though. Or possibly killed while resisting.

Also, to no surprise, none of the ComStar leadership had made it. The Blakist Cybermen had singled them out for capture.

Well. You make do with what you've got.

"Alright, first things first..." I began.

"I will not follow orders from a murderer!", Robert Kelswa-Steiner announced.

"Who are you to give us commands?", a Liao agreed.

I held a hand up. "Okay, show of hands. How many galaxies have any of you rescued from alien horrors? Anyone? How many time crashes have you undone? How many planets saved? Hrm? Again, anyone?" I walked around the railing of the controls while looking down at them. "Alright, how many of you are Time Lords? How many of you can calculate a hyperspatial energy discharge in four dimensions in less than ten seconds? Any takers? Anyone?"

There was no answer save the deep scowl on Robert's face.

"Right," I said. "Now that we've settled that." I surveyed the assembled. The main issue I was facing was that the good I could do with them was limited. I mean, needler pistols and the occasional laser pistol weren't going to do much against the Cybermen. I needed to get them to an armory if they were actually going to fight.

"All right," I said. "Right now, there's not much you can do but stay here. Liara will be going about right now and making sure you're not touching anything you shouldn't be touching. Wouldn't want anyone to vaporize themselves or accidentally drink darkspawn blood or anything. Please listen to Doctor t'Soni. And don't get scruffy with her if you don't want to learn what a warp field does to you."

"B-but she's... blue," someone stammered.

I made a show of looking at Liara and acknowledging her holobelt was turned off. "Yes, so she is," I said.

"But she's an alien."

"Well, think about it from her perspective. She's the one who has to put up with a lot of aliens on her own. I think she's rather more deserving of sympathy over that, yes?" I clapped my hands together. "Well, I need to go check up on our other guests, then I'll head out to deal with the Cybermen. Step 1, I mean. This is going to be a multi-step plan. Always complicated, those multi-step plans. When I get back I may need some volunteers, so until then... stay calm and listen to the Asari lady who can generate mass effect fields with her mind."

I left at that point.

Katara had been her usual efficient self in getting Victor's wounds treated. Frankly I thought the swimming pool got more use as her healing pool than it did for actual swimming. "Stop fidgeting," she said to him. She was still treating the wound on his thigh, just below the hip.

"They've got our people," he insisted. "I've got to get them back."

"Not until you're healed," Katara insisted.

"Please listen to her, Highness," Curaitis urged.

That prompted a frustrated grunt.

"Well, good to see someone's healing nicely," I remarked.

"What are you still doing here?!", Victor demanded. "Why aren't you out saving the others?!"

I crossed my arms. "Here I thought you would understand the importance of being properly prepared."

"What plans do you have, Doctor?", Katara asked.

"Well, for one, I'd like you to keep him here and make sure he gets healed up," I answered. "Meanwhile I'm going to borrow Curaitis here and go see who I can get back from the Cybermen."

"I can help too."

I turned my head and saw Yvonne standing at the doorway. "I'd like to help," she insisted. "I'll go with you, Doctor."

My reply was immediate. And, amusingly, not the only one.


For a moment I thought there was a weird echo, but then I realized that I hadn't spoken alone. Victor had said the same thing as I had.

Amusing. Finally we had something in common.

Victor was looking at his younger sister intently. "I won't allow it," he said.

"I'm an adult, Victor. I can make these choices myself."

"Yes, but he's right in this case," I replied. "However you might want to experience what your sister did, this isn't the time."

"This isn't just about that!", Yvonne retorted. "I... I want to help. I'm not just going to stand here and be a helpless princess!"

"Hrm." I nodded. "Yes, I do see what you're saying. Tell me, Yvonne... how much of a runner are you?"

Yvonne blinked. "What?"

"How much do you run? For exercise or what have you? Sprint running? Endurance running?"

"Well... well, I," she began, stammering a bit.

"Because you honestly don't look it. Not quite the right build. Oh, you're certainly fit, but you're not a runner. You're a leisure jogger at best." I shook my head. "And what I do? Leisure jogging doesn't cut it. When you run with me, Yvonne, you're literally running for your life, and if you're too slow, you get us both eaten up by horrible gribblies. Or cyber-converted in this case."

Yvonne swallowed. "I can be as fast as I need to be," she insisted.

"Maybe so. But you need to be faster all the time. The other guy or robot or what have you only needs to be faster once. Do you understand?"

She made a pouty face. A very Katherine-y pouty face, thankfully, so I was mostly immune to it still. "Very well," she said, defeated.

"Good. Now, please help Liara tend to the others. Keep everything calm."

She answered with a nod and walked off. I looked back to where Victor. He eyed me closely. "Thank you," he managed.

"You're welcome," I replied. I sighed and drew in a breath. "You lost one sister. I won't cost you another."

His reply to that was only a small nod.

"Well, I need to get going," I answered. "I still have a few things to pick up from storage before I head out. Curaitis, please wait for me back in the TARDIS control room."

The intelligence man nodded and moved toward that point. I went on to some other things I'd need.

A plan was forming in my head. It remained to be seen if it would work, though.

But that's why they call these things gambles.

Liara was quite surprised when I told her to stay as well, but she didn't protest or anything. She knew I had reasons and I even gave her the details of my plan that were necessary for her to know. Her reaction was to cross her arms and say, "This is one of those times I think you're crazier than Shepard."

"A high compliment indeed," had been my charming reply. Because I am charming. And witty. Always witty.

We left the TARDIS afterward. And let me tell you, Curaitis moves like a cat. He's very good at this. Too good.

We had crashed on the beach facing the Atlantic Ocean, at the northeastern side of the island. Thanks to ComStar Hilton Head was not the same island it usually was; the marshy inlet that nearly separated the island in half had long ago been filled in. Had they not been seeking to preserve a physical barrier from the North American mainland I suspect that ComStar would have filled in the entire inlet for room. Undoubtedly why they went underground.

Which was where we were heading.

"You knew about this?", Curaitis whispered.

"Quite," I replied in an equally low tone. "I put a lot of work into compromising the Blakists' deep cover agents in ComStar. Focht just about purged them entirely thanks to me. Then I went on and took out their secret assets."

"Then how did this happen?"

"I never expected what was left to make contact with the Cybermen," I answered. "These are the Cybus types, too. They fit rather well with the Blake fanatics, ideologically speaking. And one of the technologies they have is a sort of earplug, it integrates into your brain and takes it over. You become a sort of meat puppet that the Cybermen control."


"Yes." I nodded. "Exactly."

"How do we stop them?"

"I've got a few plans.... shhh."

I shushed him at the distant ring of footsteps on metal I went to the end of the hallway we had come through and held up the sonic as the footsteps drew closer. Curaitis pressed himself to the wall beside me. "Four guards," he whispered.

"Human," I agreed, holding the sonic back. "I need one."


I was focused on listening and on checking the sonic, so I didn't see Curaitis act until it was too late. The moment the guards were walking past, he pulled his gun and shot them each.

In the head. In a matter of seconds. They'd literally had no time to react.

I was incensed. I hadn't meant that. Not at all. I still held hope to save them, after all.

So that was why I answered him with a silent scowl.

He pulled the bodies in with us one by one. "I am going to put them in the vent. They won't be missed. Now do whatever it was you were planning to do."

I picked the nearest one. Caucasian young man, short sandy hair, clean-shaven. He'd had a full life ahead of him if not for all of this. If not for what I pulled out of his ear. The earplug came out with a tendril of blue gunk-coated wiring still reaching into his head. I held the sonic up and scanned it for a few moments, checking the display as I did so in order to determine what I needed. "Cyber-conversion units have been set up another level down," I said. "Individual power supply, too, so we can't stop them by sabotaging main power. They're processing ComStar personnel right now, the guests and their entourages are coming next."

"How do we stop it?", Curaitis asked while I removed a second ear plug. This came from another young man. African complexion, I noted.

"I get close enough to use this." I held up the sonic. "Lock their systems up. Won't last for long, but it should buy us a little time to get an escape going. If we have enough escapees running about, it'll make part 2 a lot easier."

"An accurate assessment." Curaitis wrestled the young man's body in, the last of the four. "How do we get further down? The ventilation shaft is too small."

"We find a lift, of course," I answered. "Or stairs. Get a bit of cardio in. And we do it very quietly. But first, a bit of a disguise."

"What sort of disguise?", he asked.

I handed him the ear plug. After I pulled lose the blue gunky stuff of course, that would be just gross. "Here. Put this in your ear and follow me."

He understood what I was doing. "Is this networked to their main intelligence?"

"It was. But an individual unit won't be able to tell your plug's not actually plugged in." I looked out. "But all the same, the Cyber Controller is probably already recognizing he's got four puppets with cut strings. He'll be making an investigation of the area. We should hurry." I took the second plug and put it into my ear. I wasn't sure how well that'd work since it was entirely probable that my appearance had been directly loaded into the various Cybermen. But maybe the Cyber Controller, whomever that was (although I had strong suspicions of whom), wouldn't have been able to keep such information active in too many models. I'd have to find out the hard way.

We went back out into the hall. As it turned out, this connected to upper catwalks that would have given us a vantage point over a 'Mech hanger had we gone that way. But we didn't, rather moving away from the hanger and toward other sections of the facility.

Scans with the sonic screwdriver gave me some warning that we would be passing others. This allowed us to dodge patrols where we could and avoid potential problems with our disguise. When we found stairs, they were secured with a cardkey system. I waved the sonic over it and used its processing to trick the system into opening. Another sonic wave set a camera to a feedback loop. Always a fun option there. We went down the stairs, past what would have been ground floor for the 'Mech hanger and toward what lay underneath. Labs and research space, I imagined, although maybe also barracks for the ComGuard garrison.

Once on that floor, we ended up passing guards who seemed to take no notice of us. Presumably they were set to only challenge people who didn't have the ear plugs. A stroke of fortune indeed.

We left what were clearly engineering labs and were getting somewhere new, with ComGuard markings, when I heard the distant cries. I forced my pace to pick up without running - that might alert any patrols we came across - because I knew what that meant. What delay meant. Every minute we delayed, another human being was being fed into the cyber-conversion unit. They were being diced up and having their brains and spinal columns implanted into metal bodies.

There were good people in that crowd. I couldn't let that happen to them.

The barracks were empty. Not surprising. At least at first. As we came into the third section there was a locked set of barracks rooms. I detected life signs from inside. "People," I said.

"I don't think letting them out will do any good," Curaitis said. "There's nowhere for them to go."

"Right," I sighed. "Okay. Good point." I held the sonic to the door lock. "I'll jam the lock. That will keep them safe for a little while longer."

Curaitis nodded in agreement.

Now that we moved on, we were definitely running into more Cybermen puppets. There seemed to be far more of them than actual Cybermen. Not surprising, really. Apollyon and his master were running this on a shoestring in order to be doing this under Mori and Focht's noses.

Although I was wondering just how they managed the energy dome that could stop the TARDIS. Energy sphere, I presumed, since nobody would make something like that and not consider someone coming under the water.

We found more barracks with people as well, but these were opened and subjects were being taken out. Some were still in ComStar robes. Others were party-goers we couldn't save. The cries from up ahead were turning to shouts. I picked up the pace, and it didn't look suspicious either because a few around us were as well.

The shouting was coming from the mess hall. And, in horrific irony, that was where the cyber-conversion process was being done.

The tables were swept aside. The counters had been stricken of any food and turned into barriers for lines leading back to the kitchens. And beyond... there were red lights and ominous sounds one would associate with metal things cutting non-metal things very quickly. We entered in time to see a young lady in a kimono being forced in. She didn't scream or cry. She went to her fate with a sort of quiet dignity. The buzzing sound inside picked up.

The screaming was coming from someone struggling. I recognized the scowling, scar-faced visage of James Sandoval, ruler of the Draconis March, fighting two of the earplug-wearing attendants. "Let go of me!", he demanded, but they forced him steadily backward toward the opening. In desperation he turned to some decidedly dirty, entirely non-blue-blooded tactics, kicking at the groin of one of his assailants while he bit into the face of the other.

But apparently pain was not something the earplugs were willing to allow for. Despite that struggling, they still pushed on. James Sandoval screamed in rage and terror as he was pushed into the converter.

There was sudden movement at the corner of my eye. The third line had stopped. And I could see why.

The Kuritas, not to be outdone by their sworn enemy Duke Sandoval, were also starting to put up a fight.

Father and son Theodore and Hohiro had no weapons, only unarmed combat training, but they were using that to keep the attendants at bay. Further down that line Thomas Marik was waiting with an ashen-faced Sun-Tzu Liao. His insane sister Kali was adding to the madness, actively raking her fingernails at the face of another of the puppets.

Which, of course, meant that any moment the actual Cybermen would come. I had to act fast.

I whipped out the sonic disruptor and used the neural disruption pulse - Setting 21 - to overwhelm the attendants at the active lines. The Kuritas got caught in the field, regretfully, but I couldn't avoid that. They fell over and gasped.

Curaitis, meanwhile, did his thing. A shot rang out and Kali's enemy fell from a case of exploding brains.

And you lot wonder why I hate firearms.

"You homo sapiens and your guns," I muttered. "Always making such a mess." I brought out the sonic screwdriver and went up to one of the cyber-conversion units. With the sonic I was able to hack into the control system. The entire horrific group buzzed to a stop. "There, that sabotage should last an hour or two, minimum," I muttered to the others. "Okay, everyone, we need to run. And I mean run. Anyone know where the nearest armory is?!"

Unfortunately, I don't always have people who pay attention to me, and that was especially bad amongst a few dozen terrified and bewildered nobles.

Thankfully, I wasn't the only one there with a gift for speaking.

"Silence!", Thomas thundered. "We will have silence!"

He got it.

"This man is here to save us," Thomas continued. "Listen to him."

"Thank you, Captain-General," I said, nodding my head at him and getting a respectful nod back. "Alright. So. We're deep underground. I've got no way to get you to safety at the moment. But I can..."

I was interrupted by something unexpected. Slowly, everyone's feet simply... left the ground. There were cries of fright at this. Even mine did. This effect lasted for a whole minute before we all ended up falling back to the floor.

"...I can seal you into a protected position," I continued. "You'll be safe there until I can get this sorted out."

"And what happens if you cannot?", asked Sun-Tzu. "What are we supposed to do then?"

"Oh, look at you, Mister Negative," I answered. "So little faith."

"Perhaps he is being pessimistic, but I think he has reason to." This was from Theodore Kurita, who nodded a head toward me. "What shall we do if you fail, Doctor?"

"If I fail?" I shrugged. "Well, I suppose, hypothetically speaking, if I were to actually lose... you should still stay in there and act like I didn't, because either help will get to you, or you're going to have to choose between death or having your brains cut out of your bodies and stuck into emotionless automatons for a very, very long time." I winced. "Oh, that's really depressing-sounding, isn't it? Really a blow to the whole morale there, thinking about defeat. Best if we pretend I didn't say that and simply declared we were going to win. It'll make everyone feel better."

I suppose I was being a bit arrogant and condescending, but my point was made clear, and I got a little head nod of acknowledgement from old Theodore in acceptance of my argument.

"Do you know what caused that strange weightlessness?"

If Victor had been listening in on radio, this was the moment he probably would have sighed in immense relief. I turned toward the door. Omi Kurita had been separated from her brother and father, but she was evidently fine. I even made sure of it with a quick sonic scan. No ear plug. "It'll probably be something important later," I remarked flippantly. "Now, let's get going!"

The armory was a little ways down. Along the way I sealed others into more barracks rooms, especially those not up to fighting. The elderly, for instance.

And the children.

Not that it'd mean much, ultimately, but it's just something you think of, you know?

"What happen`ed to Morgan Hasek-Davion?", I heard Curaitis ask some of the leaders as we came up on the armory.

The look I saw in the Kuritas' eyes told me all we needed to know.

"I see," was Curaitis' response.

"Everyone, take a weapon you are comfortable with," was a command from one of the general-rank officers. A Liao general, I thought, but I didn't recognize him. Various laser rifles and such on the walls started to be taken down, with the trained members of the crowd helping the untrained do safety checks and the like.

I stood outside the door way with a few of the others. Thomas stood on the inside. "My children," he started to say. "Did..."

"Isis and Joshua are safe," I assured him. "They're in the TARDIS with a number of other people."

Relief showed on his features. "Then we should get..."

"Doctor, trouble!"

I turned toward Curaitis in time to see two Cybermen coming from the lift down the hall. They brought their arms up. "Surrender or face deletion," they ordered.

Hohiro raised the laser rifle he had picked up from the armory and opened fire. Being a battle weapon, it was more than sufficient to actually kill the Cyberman it it. The other opened fire and I intercepted the blast with the sonic disruptor.

Beyond the one still standing, more were coming from the lift. "They're going to try and box us in," I said. "We've got to move." I turned to Thomas, made sure he was on the other side of the door, and triggered it to close. While one hand kept up the sonic disruptor and its protective field, the other held the sonic screwdriver and sealed everyone in. "We'll be back!", I shouted through the door. I looked to the others. The Kuritas and Curaitis, essentially. "Fun fun," I murmured. "Alright, I hope you're all ready to run, because we've got to go!"

We started to run the opposite way, toward other sections of this floor. If we could make it to the stairs, we had more options.

But just in case we couldn't, I used a stop to pull Omi into a side room. She looked at me in confusion as I pushed something into her hands. "Here, my sonic screwdriver," I began. "Point and press. Just be thinking of what needs to be done, and if you don't know, well, the screwdriver knows what I need done."

"Doctor...?" There was confusion on her face.

"As for the other. Cloaking system. Keep it on until the Cybermen go past." I secured it to the silk belt on her dress. "Press the big blue button to turn it on. Don't keep it on more than five minutes at a time, though, and give it a minute or two to cycle a recharge before turning it back on."

"What is it you need me to do?", she asked.

"For one, survive. I need you to survive. And for the other..." I whispered some instructions to her. "Do you understand?"

Omi nodded.

"Good." I looked back out into the corridor. We had Cybermen coming up behind us. "Cloak now. And good luck."

That got me another nod. She reached down and hit the blue button, causing her to disappear in a waver of refracted light.

I stepped back out into the hall. "Where is my sister?", Hohiro asked.

"Safer than us," I replied. I looked back down the hall and saw some Cybermen beginning to come from where we'd started. "Now let's go!"

We kept going, ducking over and changing main north-south halls to avoid our pursuers a little longer. Our path couldn't go forever, though. And we soon found the hallway was closed off by a group of Cybermen. "Halt," one ordered.

My followers answered with laser beams, of course, and I had to go, "This way!" while shielding them to get them to go down a side corridor.

By this point, I was beginning to see myself as a rat caught in a maze. The underground levels for ComStar were vast. Centuries of secrets and such, and no easy way out.

And then our luck finally ran out in the worst way.

Another group of Cybermen had cut us off from a third approach to the stairs. As before, I encouraged the others to go down the connecting corridor.

One that was now filling up with Cybermen too.

I tried to get the sonic disruptor over in time to stop the shot, but I was too late.

The blasts from their wrists converged on Hohiro. But it was Theodore whom they hit after, with some surprising speed for a man his age, he knocked his son over and took all the shots. When he fell and I saw the charred flesh smoking on his forehead, I knew it was too late to save him.

"Father!", Hohiro cried out.

I got the sonic disruptor up in time to save him from further shots, He returned fire with cold efficiency born of rage honed by discipline. We advanced together.

"We've got more behind us!", Curaitis called out.

At that point, I realized that it was over. They had us surrounded. "Drop your weapons!", I called out. "Drop them!"

"I will not be turned into one of those machine abominations," Hohiro swore. "Death is a better end."

I grabbed his arm with my free arm. "Your father once said honor is a thin cloak against the chill of the grave. So long as you're alive, there is hope. Trust me on this, Hohiro. Drop the rifle."

"I do not know you," he answered.

"But you know of me. You've heard what I can do. You've undoubtedly learned what I did to the Jaguars at Turtle Bay after Edo. I'm telling you, I have this under control. But so long as you pose a threat, the Cybermen will kill you, and possibly all of us."

As if to punctuate my remark, they fired again. My disruptor's field held them, but only for the moment.

"Think of your wife and child," I murmured. "I'll take you back to them."

There was the tension of indecision in his body. Vibration that I thought could very well tear tendons if they grew.

And then Hohiro dropped the rifle. Curaitis dropped his as Cybermen moved in from the other hall.

"Alright, we are no longer resisting," I called out, putting my sonic disruptor back on my belt. "Take us to your Cyber-Controller, now. Or Cyber-Leader or whatever you call him."

"Negative," one of the Cybermen answered. "You will be taken to await upgrading."

"No, I won't. Not if you blokes want to find out why gravity stopped working for a few seconds," I replied.

They stood there.

"That's right," I said. "Gravitational anomalies, oh, those are tricky things. Nasty too. And if you want to know what they are, you'd better take me to your leader so we can discuss things. Otherwise, well, better hope it's not something bad, right?"

There was more silence. Finally the lead one before us shifted. "You will follow. If you attempt to flee or attack, you will be deleted."

"Yes, yes, of course." I rolled my hand impatiently. "But we'd better get a move on before..."

It happened again. This time for several more seconds than before. We were all released from gravity. And then plopped back down harmlessly.

"I think that made my point, gentlemen," I said. "Let's go."

"I hope you know what you're doing," Curaitis murmured.

"Oh, I always do, Agent Curaitis," I replied under my breath. "I always do."

Okay, that wasn't entirely true. But it was true enough, wasn't it?
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-15 10:13am

I had expected we would be led further underground.

Much to my surprise, we were led back to the surface.

The ComGuard base that was part of the Hilton Head complex was near the spaceport. As we approached we passed lines of fearful and confused people. DropShip and shuttle crews from the look of them. A few officers and personnel from bodyguard detachments were present as well. They were being shepherded toward the main building to await conversion.

We were brought to the command center for the base. As we arrived there was another gravitational disturbance. It lasted slightly longer, long enough that one of the Cybermen actually rotated enough in mid-air to tip over and fall when gravity came back. After gravity returned we were led toward the middle of the room. Various holographic and flatscreen displays showed the concentrations of the ComGuard garrisons and, given the data shown, how many of them had been suborned or captured.

In the middle of the chamber, near the main holotank, was a single chair. Wires came from the deactivated holotank and worked around the chair into the head of it. Sitting in the chair was just who I expected. The Cyber-Controller, or Cyber-Leader or whatever, was the nerve center of the Cybermen. The head honcho, big cheese, big kahuna, that sort of thing. He even had a bigger head.

"So. 'The Master' I presume?"

"I see no further need for deceptions," was the reply I got. The voice was not the same as the usual Cybermen tone, but it was familiar. Clearly the real Thomas had kept his voice.

And he was kind enough to identify himself too. "I am Thomas Marik."

Curaitis didn't seem surprised. He had probably done the genetic testing with Isis' DNA and Joshua's to reveal their lack of paternal relation. Hohiro, on the other hand, stared in bewilderment.

"Pity," I said. "I rather like the other Thomas. He's a good man."

"He is a traitor to the cause," said the real Thomas. "As are all the others."

I noticed now that we were not the only non-Cybermen in the room. To the side, several of them were holding Mori, Focht, and Blane prisoner. I raised my eyebrows. "Well, that's a surprise. No upgrading for them?"

"They are not worthy," the Cyber-Master - that fits so well, doesn't it? - announced. "The gravitational disturbances. Do you know what they are?"

"Well, that depends," I said. "For one thing, it depends on what arrangements we make."

There was silence for a moment. "You are attempting to stall for time," the Cyber-Master declared.

"Even if I was, what choice do you have?", I asked. "Gravity is such a tricky thing when it goes wonky. It goes wonky the wrong way, this entire island ends up sucked into a black hole or squashed like a pancake or something of the like." I crossed my arms. "Like it or not, Marik, you need me or you're going to end up badly off."

For a moment there was no reaction. And then...

....something I hadn't entirely expected happened.

Not entirely, mind you. It wasn't a complete shock, just... unexpected.

"We have other means of determining the issue." The Cyber-Master seemed to focus for a moment. "Establishing communication channel through the rift."

I blinked at that. Through the rift... that meant...

A Crack. A Crack was here.

I admit I shouldn't be that surprised about it. It did leave questions about how the hardcore Blakists had found it first, but it was entirely possible my rampage hadn't nailed every single Blakist in ComStar. And given how small scale the effort was so far, it was also likely it was fairly new. Perhaps the preparations for the reunion of Blane's remaining WoB members with ComStar provoked someone into making this possible.

Although that left the question of who was on the other end.

A distorted voice I had heard before came through the other end. "Why do you contact me? I am busy."

"We are experiencing gravitational anomalies. The Time Lord calling himself the Doctor has claimed...."

"What? He calls himself the Doctor?" I could hear irritation on the other end. "That is not possible, he cannot be.... ah. Ah, I see. Yes, I do see. He is a fraud. Do not heed him. The gravitational anomalies are undoubtedly caused by his TARDIS creating pockets of null gravity. A cheap and useless trick to frighten you. Take that pretender and feed him to your converters."

"Oh, you're quite hostile," I said. "Still sore over the Zygons, are you?"

There was no response from the other end to that. "And find his TARDIS," the distorted voice demanded. "I may find use for it. You will be further rewarded."

"You're the source of their dome technology," I continued. "The technology that can block even a TARDIS."

I was not dignified by a response. The line simply cut.

"You have sought to employ trickery against us," the Cyber-Master droned. "It was for nothing. You cannot prevent the upgrading of Humanity."

"Upgrading? Is that what you call this?", i asked, my voice harsh. "Cutting people up and sticking their brains in metal bodies. Installing hardware to forbid them from feeling emotions. You're taking everything that makes someone Human and cutting it out to make them into what? Metal toys? Because that's all they are. No drive, no individuality or independence, they're just cogs in a useless machine! A machine that does nothing but consume energy! No art, no progress, nothing of any real value!"

"Emotion is the foundation of all Human weakness. It is the font of all Human vice. The upgrades will lift Humans above their flaws and create a better Humanity, as foretold by Blake."

I rolled my eyes. "I happen to know for a fact that Blake would be disgusted and horrified by this. Even Toyama would. Nothing in their vision ever came to destroying everything that made you Human. This is not the way to make a better Humanity!"

"I will not be swayed. I have achieved perfection. Through upgrade, all will achieve perfection and the Inner Sphere will finally know peace." The Cyber-Master gestured. "Take them to processing."

"The Time Lord disabled the cyber-conversion machines," one of our guards said.

"I am aware. They are being repaired as we speak. The upgrade of Earth will resume on schedule."

I slipped my hand into my pocket. The hidden one within my main pocket. I had won about as much time as I could hope to, but I wanted more. "And what about them?", I asked, gesturing to the remaining leaders of ComStar with my free hand. "You say you've been lifted 'above' Human flaws. That you've made a better Humanity. You're going to deny that to them?"

"I would see it as a mercy," Hohiro growled. "Better to die a man than live a machine."

"Be nice to have the choice," I said. "But my question remains. You're refusing to upgrade Focht, Mori, and Blane because you consider them traitors. But feeling betrayed... that's an emotion."

"They do not deserve upgrade. They will be deleted."

"Why?" I spun around and faced the other Cybermen. "Why them?" I pointed again to the ComStar leaders. "It's one thing to 'delete' a person who's resisting, things happen in a fight. But that's not why you're refusing them this 'honor'. You're doing it because they 'betrayed' you, because they turned away from what you thought was the proper teaching of Blake." I looked to the Cyber-Master, who was appraising me with that cold metal visage. "They're not resisting. They're at your mercy. And here you are, forcing them to watch as you win, as your vision prevails and not theirs, and you're not even going to upgrade them to join this 'perfect society' you're forging." I pointed a finger at him. Or it. "That's not cold machine logic. That's pride. That's hatred. So much for your better Humanity!"

The Cyber-Master stared for a moment. "I do not feel pride. I do not feel hatred. I am perfection."

"Not from where I stand. This is about your ego, pure and simple."

"You are trying to delay us," the Cyber-Master retorted.

I lowered my finger. And then I smiled. "Yeah," I said. "How am I doing?"

Just after I asked that, all of the lights in the command center went out.

"Well, answers that question, doesn't it?," I remarked.

Some of the lights came back on. Local backups. "What is happening?", the Cyber-Master demanded. "Why have we lost power?"

"The reactor control systems have been sabotaged," one of the subordinate Cyberman stated. "The Time Lord has sabotaged them."

"Well, not quite," I said. "I had help." I pulled my hand out of my secret pocket and revealed the TARDIS remote. A moment's concentration and....


The TARDIS materialized behind us. The door opened wide and Liara and Katara stepped out. Katara was pulling along two rather long streaks of water, and given the door was set to the library and swimming pool that was understandable. "Down!", I shouted to Curaitis and Hohiro before ducking myself.

They reacted just in time. Katara pulled the streams of water together and they turned into a shower of ice shards large enough that any hit on the joints of the Cybermen broke through their armor and acted to immobilize those joints. The Cyber-Master was peppered with ice shards. He had little time to stand before Liara threw out a biotic bolt of such power that it knocked his chair out of its foundation and sent both flying.

I pulled myself back up and pulled out the sonic disruptor. Kinetic bursts at full power knocked over the Cybermen guarding the three ComStar prisoners. I ran up to them and reset the sonic disruptor to setting 14, creating a thermal pulse that melted through the chains holding them to the station they were at. "Hello, Precentors, glad to see you're all fine."

"Blessed Blake, what has Marik become?", Blane said in horror.

"Cyber-Controller. Or Cyber-Master fits too," I answered. "His brain and some control wiring are the only organic bits left of him.

"We have to get a warning out," Focht insisted. "There are WarShips at the Titan Yards..."

"...I'm afraid Marik's earplug-wearing operatives have likely sabotaged those ships," I answered. "They'll be kept down until they're ready to begin the cyber-conversion process on the crews."

"We have to stop him." Mori pulled loose from her chain after I melted it. "The ComGuards..."

"Get to the TARDIS," I insisted. "I've got it handled."

"What do you mean by that?", she asked.

I finished freeing Focht. "One moment." The Cybermen I'd knocked over were standing up to come after us, but Liara caught them with a biotic stasis field. Katara was still whirling water about, turning it to ice shards as necessary to damage the other Cybermen. Curaitis had pulled a backup laser pistol from somewhere and took down another with a careful shot.

This all gave me the opening to go to another station. It was a communications station, tied directly into the Hyper-Pulse Generator that gave Hilton Head its own interstellar communication capability.

"We have already locked down all HPG stations in range of Terra," the Cyber-Master said. He was getting back to his feet and looking at me. "You will not get a signal out."

"Oh, watch me," I retorted. I hit a few keys and held up the sonic disruptor. It wasn't the sonic screwdriver, you see, and it couldn't do the delicate subtle work, but the reprogramming I needed wasn't too delicate for it to do. So it worked in a pinch. All I had to do was a bit of calculation and... "There. Message sent."

"It cannot be received."

"See, that's where you're wrong." I twirled the disruptor around. "You see, Marik, you lot are incredibly unimaginative about hyperspace and such. HPGs are an incredible technology and you've never begun to consider the range they've got. For instance..." I smirked. "None of you have ever thought about how a modification to the hyperspatial pulse wave can extend the range across the Inner Sphere. Now, I grant you, it's not very useful, because to make do with the power I've got on hand, I had to shift the carrier wave fourth-dimensionally to make sure it arrived on time... as it were."

The Cyber-Master wasn't the only one staring. They were already at the TARDIS, but the three ComStar Precentors were also staring at me like I was mad. "What do you mean?", Blane asked.

"Simple, Precentor Blane." I let the smirk turn into another smile. "I sent an HPG message out. Over a hundred light years. But to make it work without a massive increase in power, not to mention other considerations, I had to meddle with the HPG so that the message moved fourth-dimensionally as well."

"You sent it back in time," Liara said.

"Oi!" I made a face at her. "You've just ruined the surprise." I did enjoy the flabbergasted, astonished looks on the ComStar people, though. "Let's just say I sent my own invitation to a party that was running a tad late to the festivities. Of course, that just leaves..."

The world shook suddenly. My feet left the ground yet again, and this time with far more suddenness as the most powerful gravitational anomaly yet began. The Cybermen in the room began to drift helplessly in mid-air. Katara found her waterbending still worked and continued to go for their vulnerable joints while Liara used biotics to orient herself.

Eyes turned toward the TARDIS, as light was wavering around it. A ripple of sorts erupted from the top and flew up through the roof, which literally blew off. Yes, literally. It was a good thing the only things up there were Cybermen.

It also gave us a view of the starlit sky as the ripple moved off out of view.

"You know that 'cheap and harmless trick' your friend told you about?", I asked the Cyber-Master. "That was just the build-up. Ripples from the charge I was building inside the TARDIS for the real deal. I just used the TARDIS to create a null gravity effect straight into orbit. Big one. Consumed a lot of power, hence all the light." And as I said that, lights began appearing on a nearby holotank showing the Earth and its orbital spaces. "The end result is that the null gravity has created a momentary point in Earth's orbital space where planetary and solar gravity are equalized."

That got me looks. "You just created a pirate point," Hohiro remarked.

"Score one for the samurai!", I crowed.

And just as I said that, even more red lights were showing up, and in the sky above I saw flashes of distant energy. I held out the sonic disruptor and used it to remotely key the radio networks. "Hello, this is the Doctor speaking live from Hilton Head!", I declared. "Welcome to the party, and don't worry about running late!"

"This is Morgan Kell. I read you, Doctor," replied a grizzled voice. "Had any other man sent that message, I would have thought him mad. But not you. The Kell Hounds are deploying."

"As are my Wolves," said another voice. I hadn't heard it often, but it wasn't hard to figure out it was Morgan's son Phelan.

"Wolf Dragoons coming in.," another voice - Maeve Wolf I presumed, given it was female - announced.

"71st Light Horse and 21st Striker deploying," said another female voice. I didn't recognize it, but I presumed it to be Ariana Winston, commander of the Eridani Light Horse unit. "151st Horse standing by in reserve."

"Northwind forces ready for deployment," a man with a Scots accent announced.

"Why, Grand Duke Kell, I'm honored you managed to pick up so many party-goers," I said in a cheery tone. "I do hope they brought some party favors. I'll be sending you a list in a moment of all the places that could use them."

"Hold tight, we're on our way."

"What have you done?," the Cyber-Master asked.

"Well, isn't it obvious?", I answered. "I just invited a few friends to join our little party. I mean, what's a few hundred BattleMechs between friends?" As I said that I sent another message to Morgan Kell and his fellow commanders, showing the current status of the ComGuard defenders. Hilton Head obviously wasn't large enough to contain something like ten regiments worth of BattleMechs plus other forces, but I wanted to make sure that there were no other cyber-conversion units in use at the other ComGuard bases, as I also explained in the message. "Now, if you'll excuse me..." I pulled back the sonic disruptor and used it to short out the entire console. In a wide arc I started knocking out everything else. "...I need to go do a few things to make sure you lot are defeated."

"Our defenses will destroy them," the Cyber-Master insisted.

I was about to retort, but before I could the entire building shuddered. Something smashed through the far wall. I looked up and up as a BattleMech stomped into the building. It was one of the more humanoid ones, and it had the usual plethora of weapon systems that could make me or anyone else into a thin smear.

"Master, I will provide you time to enable the back up plan," a Cyberman's voice echoed through the machine's external speaker.

"Your work will be remembered, Apollyon," the Cyber-Master answered.

There was more stomping. More of the ComGuard machines were moving, but several had clear modifications to them. I could see fighters beginning to lift off, but not closely enough that I could verify similar modifications.

"Get into the TARDIS!", I shouted to the others. I started to run there myself. A beam of emerald light intercepted me before I could get there, and if it had hit I would have died. I fell back from it just in time. Literally fell back. Onto my arse.

Apollyon's BattleMech loomed over me. It had been given modifications that gave it an eerie blue glow, making it look almost like a Cyberman itself. He brought the 'Mech's foot up. He barely seemed to notice the biotic singularity Liara had thrown at him in desperation. "Your deletion is overdue, Doctor," he announced.

"Doctor!," I heard Liara scream.

I tried to move, but given my position on my arse and the size of his foot, it wouldn't be quick enough.

Apollyon brought the BattleMech's foot down.

I sometimes wondered how I would go out.

Going out like a cockroach? That wasn't on the list.

There was deafening thunder in the air and the distinct roar of missile engines, all mere moments before fire exploded over Apollyon's machine. I was able to get clear as the foot came down too far to the right to crush me. I hit the ground, rolled, and looked up.

A massive war machine stood outside of the rubble where Apollyon had broken into the building. The 'Mech was bird-legged and quite larger. In the lights of the complex I could make out the features of a Dire Wolf OmniMech, or Daishi if you wish to use the Inner Sphere designations, and an insignia on the leg.

A ghost.

"Whatever you're going to do, Doctor," the voice of Archon-Prince Victor said over the machine's external speakers, "get it done before we're overwhelmed."

I realized why he said that when I looked beyond his machine. More hulking BattleMechs were moving out from the spaceport.

"I'm surprised ComStar let you bring those," I mumbled as I picked myself up. Green energy lit up the air between Victor's machine and Apollyon's; streams of emerald pulses that chewed into the armor of the Blakist's machine. I looked long enough to see that the armor of that machine wasn't ablating away quite as much as it should have been. Undoubtedly more upgrading using whatever advanced technology the Cybermen were using.

"I must get to my family's DropShip and bring my 'Mech into the fight," Hohiro insisted as I got to the door of the TARDIS.

"Yes, yes, I imagined that," I answered. I glanced skyward and was not surprised by what I saw. Flashes of cerulean lightning and streaks and pulses of light, joined in dim moonlight by the contrails of missiles and flowering explosions. Above us, ovoid and aerodynamic DropShips were coming in with weapons blazing, covered by the aerospace fighters of the coalition Morgan Kell had assembled over the months since he received my message. "This show's not over yet, everyone." I nodded to Liara and Katara. "Good job with the piloting."

"We didn't pilot," Katara answered.

"Oh?" I said "ahhhh" and nodded. "You cheated. Telepathic circuit to deliver Victor and the others straight to his ship, yes?"

"Of course." Liara smirked. "I'm not going to go around trying to fly a box like it was a taxi."

"Oh, come on, live a little!" I went up to the controls and found the telepathic circuit wiring. I pulled the wires out and held them out to Hohiro. "Here. Hold it and think of where your 'Mech is at this moment."

The samurai prince blinked before taking the wires. For a moment he focused and the TARDIS engine activated. "I had always assumed the stories were myth and exaggeration," he said. "But you really are magic."

"Clarke's Law. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," I answered. "And my people have been at this since Earth was overrun with big walking lizards."

We had arrived at our destination, so I snapped my fingers to open the door. "My sister," Hohiro said. "Please do not forget her."

"Oh, certainly not. I'm heading there next. After all, she has my sonic screwdriver." I gestured at him. "Now off you go, do the Samurai MechWarrior thing, and I'll go do my thing."

I was given a nod in reply and he disembarked.

"So, anyone else still here?", I inquired.

"Yvonne has them in the library," Liara answered. "What is your plan now?"

"The Cyber-Master has a back-up plan, my plan is to figure out what his plan is. And to do that, I need..." I was already working the controls, using them to have the TARDIS lock onto my sonic screwdriver. I pulled the final lever.

Two figures appeared in the control room. Omi was prone on the ground. A Cyberman was standing over her. Because my job always has to be complicated.

I pulled up the sonic disruptor and snapped my fingers to open the TARDIS door. A direct kinetic burst knocked the Cyberman back a bit. Liara gathered a bolt of biotic energy in her hand and threw it out, knocking the cyborg even further back. I gave it another kinetic burst, this time at absolute full power, and it was enough to get it out the door. Katara got the door closed before I could snap my fingers. She went straight to Omi, gathering water around her right hand.

"I am fine," Omi said before Katara could do more. "I was not hurt badly." She looked at me. "I did as you instructed." She reached into the folds of her dress and held out the sonic screwdriver.

"So I noticed. Good show with that."

"How does this device work?", she asked me.

"Combination of neural link and tactile response for control. Hence the button. It works with energy and data, mostly. But not on wood. Or pasta sauce, come to think of it, although I'd never have a reason to use it on pasta sauce." I clapped my hands together. "Okay. Now I need to use the TARDIS sensors to scan for that Crack. I know it's here."

"Couldn't it be elsewhere?"

I shook my head at Liara. "Our friend from the encounter with the Zygons is helping these fellows out, he explicitly asked for my TARDIS again. The Crack is here, somewhere, that I'm sure of. Just have to find it with the scanners and we're in business..."

I started to work for that. It was the explanation that made the most sense, especially with the prevalence for Cracks to form on or around Earth. Of course, it begged the question of how the original Thomas Marik and Apollyon had been the ones to make contact with something on the other end. Clearly I hadn't done as thorough a job on cleaning out ComStar as I had previously believed.

Of course, that wasn't surprising given the state I was in back then.

The waveform I'd been looking for was showing up. "There we are," I murmured. "I've got you." I checked the coordinates and put them in. "Miss Kurita, please join Yvonne in the library," I said. "Your part in this is done."

I was answered by a nod, with Liara making sure to provide the necessary directions. Before she entered the hall that would lead her to the library, Omi looked back. "Doctor, my father and brother. Where are they?"

I sighed. "Your brother is fighting alongside the others. Your father is… I'm sorry. I couldn't save him."

I could see it pained her to hear that. But she didn't say anything before walking down the hall.

"You did the best you could," Liara assured me. "You always do."

"Perhaps, but it doesn't change the fact that I failed." I shook my head. I could feel upset and morose about Theodore Kurita's death later. I had business to attend to. And, quite possibly, other deaths to feel bad about on the way.

I drew out the sonic disruptor and sonic screwdriver and went up to the TARDIS door. Katara, now back in her standard short-sleeved Water Tribe garb, readied to pull water from the containers on her belt. Liara flared with biotic energy. We were all ready.

Upon opening the door, we found ourselves in a large chamber. It lacked the sheer number of projection screens and holo-projectors that the main HQ room had possessed, with what was present serving to show basic projections and data. It was clear what they were related to.

The Crack was openly visible along the wall framed by a portal-like device. It wasn't quite a transmat but it clearly served a similar function. Several Cybermen were standing about at various positions while the Cyber-Master was overlooking the controls for the portal. "You have pursued me yet again, Time Lord. But you cannot stop the fulfillment of Blake's Vision."

"Yap yap yap," I countered. I held up the sonic disruptor and sent out a kinetic pulse. Like Apollyon, his body seemed to have shielding against that. So I swapped to an electrical disturbance emission that would impact his remaining organic brain. But that too failed.

The Cyber-Master raised an arm to counter-attack, and for his trouble he was blown clear by a biotic singularity that was immediately caused to explode by Liara. Katara used the same attacks on their joints as before. I turned my attention to taking out minions to our side with the sonic disruptor. They didn't enjoy the same shielding as their bosses.

The distorted voice began to speak, coming over the controls. "So the pretender has some skill after all."

"Who are you?", I demanded. "Why do you want my TARDIS?"

"You call yourself the Doctor, but in truth, you are nothing but a pawn. And pawns are made to be moved."

Now, I wondered, what precisely did this being mean by saying that? I mean, the content wasn't entirely surprising. Someone turned me into what I was, after all. Someone blocked away my memories of my old life. Someone had planted copies of the Doctor's wardrobe to encourage me in that direction, just as someone had provided me with a sonic screwdriver and psychic paper.

But what precisely was it for? Did this being know? Was my fate tied to the Cracks? Could I even have been set up to cause destruction, as the Daleks had insisted in our run in?

"And what is this? Why, are those followers? Are you emulating the Doctor so far as to run around with pets like he would?" There was a distorted laugh.

He could see us.

That... was interesting. He could actually see us.

I found myself gripped by curiosity for the moment. "A pawn of whom?", I asked. "You? Someone else? What game is this? Because I actually object to being considered a pawn, at the very least I'm a rook. Maybe the knight, always liked how knights could jump around on the board like that..."

"You speak of games, but the stakes are far higher than any mere game, pawn. With every move you advance another's agenda."

"Who are you talking about?"

"I think not."

I almost continued. But then I realized what was going on.

Liara, Katara, they were wrapped up holding off the other Cybermen. I was the only one free to act, so I was being distracted.

Distracted from stopping the Cyber-Master from going through the portal.

"Stop!" I raised the sonic screwdriver toward the controls. Before I could actually disable them, though, one of the Cybermen fired on me and forced me to bring the sonic disruptor over to block the shots with the setting 42. Liara's biotics lashed out and blew apart the Cyberman a moment later.

By that time, the Cyber-Master was already stepping through the portal.

I let out a growl of frustration and ran to the controls. "I need to find out where he went," I stated.

"We have your back," Liara assured me.

I nodded and kept to my work. I had to pierce the layers of computer security that protected the control terminal, but soon I had the relevant coordinates. "Back to the TARDIS," I said to the others. I used the disruptor's deflector setting to protect myself while I sabotaged the transport portal's controls and further did a number on the other controls in the room. I would be able to seal the Crack when I was done. I stepped in with the deflector up between me and the remaining Cybermen, catching their last shots before I closed the TARDIS door.

I walked back up to the controls. "I don't know what he's up to, but we've got to stop it. Who knows what damage that lunatic will cause."


I looked up and saw Focht was standing at the doorway with Curaitis, holding a weapon taken from a dispatched earplug-wearer. "This madness must end tonight," Focht said.

"Wanting to come along, eh?" I frowned and nodded. "Right. I suppose that will come in handy." I used the sonic to feed the coordinates from the portal system straight into the TARDIS. "All right, here we go."

After the VWORPing was over, I noticed we had materialized in space. Wherever the Cyber-Master had gone, it was to a moving object. I brought over the monitor and brought up external viewing.

What I saw made my jaw drop. "How..?", I wondered aloud. "How did they fix that?"

Focht looked over my shoulder. "It looks like a Faslane," he stated. "A YardShip."

"It was," I confirmed. "But not anymore." I swallowed as the ship began building power. "Look."

"What is…" He was examining the sight closely as well. "What is that in the opening?"

"A mass driver," I answered. I looked back. "It's the Erinyes."

A horrified expression crossed Focht's face. "I thought it was destroyed."

"It was," I answered. "I left it a gutted ruin."

"Just what is it?", asked Liara.

"It's a modified yard ship armed with a mass driver." I pointed to the point on the ship. "The Cyber-Master, back before the ‘Cyber' part of the name, commissioned it. It plops up asteroids and the like and shoots them at planets from distances that allows the asteroid to achieve relativistic speeds."

Liara shook her head at that. "By the Goddess. It's a planet-killer."

I was already running the calculations in my head, taking account for position, and then considering how the technology boost the Cyber-Blakists had been given could have improved their ability to accelerate projectiles.

"He's going to drop an asteroid on Hilton Head," I realized aloud.

"They would do that?", Curaitis asked. "They would destroy Terra?"

"They plan to cyber-convert everyone, remember?", I pointed out. "Cybermen could still live on an Earth devastated by this kind of asteroid impact."

"What are we going to do?", Katara asked me.

"Employ a cunning plan," I answered. "Listen up everyone, we don't have a lot of time."

I had been aboard the ship before. But it had been different at the time.

Far different.

The technology was even starker than before. Plain gray steel, or at least a steel substitute, abounded the room. Several stations were being taken up by earplug-wearing minions while Cybermen watched over everything. There was no atmosphere for us, but that was quite fine; I had extended an atmosphere from the TARDIS to sustain us.

The Cyber-Master sat above it all. Wires were again connected to him. I held up my sonic disruptor as I stepped out with the others. "This is over, Marik. You've gone too far now. I thought you were bad enough before, but this? Giving up what little Humanity you had left to become Cybermen? And now you're just going to wipe out your species' home world?"

"Necessity," he answered. "We have no other options. You destroyed the caches. You defiled all of the sacred treasures of Blake. We had no choice but to accept the Cybermen offer. They needed a Master. And we needed their perfection."

I sighed at that. "The fact that you actually consider this to be perfection..." I gestured to the contents of the room. "Sterile. Unimaginative. None of the spirit, the spark, that makes life what it is. Just a droning existence. This is your better Humanity?"


"You're destroying the very thing you want to protect," I lamented. "I can't allow that."

"You have no choice." The Cyber-Master brought an arm up. The other Cybermen raised their arms and presented the blasters at their wrists. "Delete the Doctor and his allies. Seize his timeship."

I brought the sonic disruptor up in time to absorb their shots. Liara and Katara counter-attacked from the cover I granted. Ice shards and biotic energy surged outward...

...and impacted force shields of some sort.

"Oi, a complication," I muttered. "Always a complication." I backed up as more fire converged on us. Liara's tactical response was to throw up a singularity above the Cybermen. Despite their mass, two of them were pulled up by it. A second biotic energy burst caused the singularity to collapse and exploded, sending the Cybermen flying. One slammed into a station and crushed it in a shower of sparks. The other hit another Cyberman with enough force to penetrate its shield and knock them both over and into a third.

Katara also adjusted. She bent the shattered ice back into water and formed a puddles beneath her targets before solidifying the water back into ice. The Cybermen, with their slick metal soles for feet, didn't have the traction to overcome the sudden loss of friction. Two immediately toppled over.

I made my own adjustment. Another kinetic burst, this time aimed above the Cybermen. Metal shrieked and sparks flew; the kinetic forces ripped loose conduits running overhead and brought their contents tumbling down. The force-shields being used were only frontal, so things falling on the Cyberman actually knocked it over.

"Energy charge complete," said one of the Cybermen. I looked to its station; it had targeted the mass driver for Hilton Head. "Estimated time of impact; five minutes."

Five minutes? I'd actually underestimated the technology that had been used to overhaul the Erinyes. The projectile would make the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs (in most cosmoses anyway) look like a pellet fired from a BB gun.

Well, okay, maybe not that exactly. I'm exercising a bit of dramatic license here.

I made my way to the control station, ignoring other Cybermen and letting Liara and Katara watch my back, as they always did. I got close enough to the Cyberman beside it that it turned to attack me. I narrowed the output of Setting 4 and triggered it at the knee joint of the Cyberman. It almost overloaded the disruptor, doing what I did, but I got a result when the field shattered, as did the Cyberman's knee. I followed that up with a normal discharge that sheered the arm off before it could shoot me with its weapon. With that done I turned and put a hand on the controls.

"The vision of Blake will be fulfilled," the Cyber-Master vowed. "Humanity will be upgraded to perfection."

"Oi, you lot can never shut it, can you?", I muttered as I worked to override the weapon in some way. At the very least, if I changed the targeting slightly, it'd miss Earth. It'd give Mercury a bad day in a few years, granted, but it'd miss Earth.

"I have assumed full control of the mass driver," was the response. "You cannot override the targeting."

"Watch me try," I retorted. I went back to work. He was at the core of the system, but I had a Time Lord brain and I'd hacked systems even harder than this one before. I wasn't going to let him beat me.

So he took the decision out of my hands. Literally.

An electrical discharge erupted from the console. I fell back with pain shooting through my hands. Katara got over to me while Liara gave her backup. "Here, let me see."

"Just some surface burns," I insisted, while my hands felt like they were on fire. "Nothing critical."

"Final calculations complete. Commencing firing.."

With that, the Cyber-Master announced my defeat. My defeat and the deaths of everyone who was on Hilton Head. The people I'd struggled to save and the allies I'd called in to save them.

The Cyber-Master fired the weapon.

The entire bridge exploded in sparks.

Liara barely got her biotic field up in time to shield us. Cybermen across the bridge that were still active started trying to get to stations.

"What has happened?", demanded the Cyber-Master.

"There was an overload in the capacitors for the mass driver," was the response it got. "There has been sabotage."

I smirked and held up the sonic disruptor to my head. "Well done, Omi. At this rate, you're going to get entirely too used to this business."

"What have you done?", the Cyber-Master demanded.

"Oh, I thought one distraction earned another," I answered. "I mean, we've been kind of doing that back and forth, haven't we? Always fun to play distractions. Granted, your last distraction was actually that of your boss on the other end of the Crack, so I'm not sure that counts?" I got to my feet. "Also, I really don't like the look of that jump drive you've got. It looks like the power feedback surged down the circuits and gave your ship a speed charge to the drive. And what with the damage to the ship and all of the strain on the drive from a speed charge of that magnitude, well, I sure hope someone doesn't trigger it to jump."

Around us, the ship's old systems began blaring the standard klaxon for a pre-jump warning.

"Ooh, that's not good," I remarked, wincing. I winked at the Cyber-Master. "Good luck with that. Let's go everyone!"

I gestured toward the TARDIS. "Delete them!", the Cyber-Master demanded. He started to stand from his chair as wires came loose. "They must not escape!"

Oh, he was just being a sore sport now.

I shielded the others as best as I could as we went back to the TARDIS. We didn't even have a minute at this point before the programmed jump - which I had actually been doing when I was playing around with the targeting systems - triggered. And given the state of the Erinyes and the fact that the charge had blown out entire systems? It was unlikely the ship would even make a jump instead of having a catastrophic half-jump that blew the ship to pieces.

Omi wavered into existence within ten feet of the door. Smoke was coming from the overtaxed stealth device I had handed her for the last sabotage I'd sent her to accomplish. The Cybermen briefly turned their attention to her since I wasn't there to cover her.

It was a good thing I'd given her that RK-5.

The old gun Triumphant had set up was something I tended not to touch. But I admit I can be hypocritical at times on the issues of firearms; regardless of my dislike of their effects, what they represented, or their aesthetics... the fact was they were still a tool. Of sorts, anyway. And like any tool, even a lethal tool, they can be used for constructive means.

Like shooting Cybermen with a concentrated energy discharge tuned to penetrate those special forcefields they were employing.

Omi was not a trained shot. But the aiming system on the gun helped, and the Cybermen were rather large and not very quick targets. Some of the bursts of purple light from the weapon blackened steel and sent sparks flying, but others did the same to Cybermen, who fell with fatal damage.

We got to the TARDIS first. Three seconds later Omi arrived, looking just a bit winded - only a bit mind you, she was decently fit for her age - and took shelter inside. She handed me my sonic screwdriver with her free hand, which would let her put an extra hand on the gun if she needed to.

I went through the TARDIS door last and went to close the door.

Before I could, it swung open again. The Cyber-Master lunged in and grabbed me. "I will not be defeated again," the former Thomas Marik swore. "My vision will come to pass. A better Humanity must be forged..." He threw me back and into the others. He brought up his weapon. "I will use your timeship. I will complete the upgrades of..."

Before he could shoot me, a white-robed figure intercepted the Cyber-Master's arm and knocked it far enough that the shot missed my head. Anastasius Focht had acquired some raw spare part of mine, which he wielded like a club, smacking the Cyber-Master repeatedly. It wasn't an energy attack, or a fast-moving bullet, so the shielding of the Cyber-Master didn't trigger to stop it.

There was the sound of breaking bone as the Cyber-Master's hand slammed against the collarbone of Focht. He cried out as he fell back and landed beside me.

That was when multiple blasts of purple light began to slam into him. I raised my head and watched Omi calmly put several more shots into the Cyber-Master, driving him back to the threshold of the TARDIS door. The damage caused his force shield to visibly dissipate. "That was for my father," Omi informed the Cyber-Master.

Liara, Katara, and I reacted immediately. My sonic disruptor's setting 4, maximum power, a biotic blast from Liara, and a cylinder of hard ice from Katara all slammed into the Cyber-Master, knocking him out of the TARDIS completely.

With only seconds left, I held out the sonic screwdriver to the TARDIS control and remotely triggered the engine.

The TARDIS executed a programmed emergency shift, removing us from the Erinyes and to nearby space. I got up in time to look at the monitor and watch as energy surged around the Blakist planet-killing ship. it looked for a moment, just a moment, that the ship would actually complete its jump.

But it didn't.

Plumes of flame and energy erupted from the rear of the ship The jump failed, spectacularly, with the ship's jump drive literally blowing itself to pieces in the failed jump. This started a chain reaction that led to the Erinyes being nearly vaporized by the resulting blasts.

At that point, I took in a breath.

I heard a grunt of pain and looked to see Focht, his face betraying only some of his agony, sit up. "Was that enough?", he asked.

"Well, with no controller, the other Cybermen are leaderless now," I answered.

"Apollyon is still down there," Liara pointed out.

I shook my head. "Marik didn't see fit to give him a Cyberman body capable of the processing power needed to be a Cyber-Controller. He can try to lead them, but he won't be able to impose himself beyond a few, perhaps. The fighting is still going to last a bit, mind you, but the Cybermen can't win this fight now." I went to the controls. "Now, I have a Crack in the Multiverse to seal, and I think that's about it for this little adventure."

Liara rolled her eyes at my use of the word 'little'. "You still owe me a party," she insisted.

"Without adventure," Katara added.

"Oi, listen to you two," I muttered, but I was smiling. A party without party-crashers sounded about right, if you asked me...
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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-16 09:07am

The destruction of the Cyber-Master had the expected effect. Without guidance the Cybermen fell apart. Morgan Kell's allied forces took some losses in the process, obviously, but the issue ceased to be in doubt once the Erinyes was destroyed.

Oh, you're wondering about Apollyon, aren't you? I'm afraid I wasn't there for the epic BattleMech fight he had with the others. Given the Cybermen upgrades to his machine - I think it was called a Shootist, but the Inner Sphere has far too many of these things for its own good so I never keep them straight - he would have prevailed in any one-on-one fight, but I'm told that Victor, Kai, and Hohiro teamed up on him and brought him down.

So we were left with cleanup. For starters, I invited everyone to watch me close the Crack. The Blakists' mysterious benefactor wasn't answering calls before I began that process. I would have to ponder his words later.

Once that entire process was finished - in case you're wondering who handled the "don't cross the streams" duty, it was Curaitis and one of the Kuritan bodyguards - I was immediately greeted to a cheer. Joshua ran up to me. "That was great, Doctor! How did you do that?!"

"Oh, a bit of applied science," I answered.

"Science…" The young lad looked thoughtful. "I need to study more for that. What kind of science? Physics?"

"Um.. very broadly, yes. Physics." I reached down and ruffled his hair. "But multidimensional quantum physics is a bit beyond the usual Inner Sphere curriculum."

I said that, but I still answered young Joshua's questions as best as I could. By the time I was done his family were present to shake my hand. "You've saved us all from the madness of the Master," Thomas said to me. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," I said.

I had some expectations of what came next. "I am certain a man of your capability has learned the truth about the Master and what we once were," he said delicately. "Did anyone else learn?"

"The Cyber-Master identified himself to Focht, Blane, and Mori," I replied carefully. "Hohiro Kurita was present as well as Curaitis from the Commonwealth's intelligence services. But given his reaction… I suspect Curaitis already knew."

"Ah." He nodded. "Well. Whatever the future holds, I'm ready for it."

I said nothing at that. I merely gave my own nod. By my own calculations, I couldn't imagine Hohiro acting on that information. Nor Victor or ComStar. Political instability in the League was the last thing the Inner Sphere needed as it entered the last half-decade before the Truce of Tukkayid expired.

I exchanged only the most perfunctory of goodbyes with the Liaos. I had discreetly scanned their entire entourage to make sure nobody had pilfered any technology and was relieved that they hadn't done so. Probably because they'd had few opportunities without risking discovery by rivals. As I exchanged nods with Sun-Tzu and his mad sister, I ruminated on the survival of the likes of Kali Liao. I couldn't help but think of the Combine woman who had walked, teary-eyed and dignified, into the converters when her time had come. Someone like that had been lost, and yet someone like Kali had survived.

Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair.

I had another loss of the event in mind when saying my farewells to the Kuritans. Hohiro would be heading home to deal with the political fallout of his father's death and to assert his claim to the throne. I wished him luck on that endeavor.

For Omi, I couldn't help but ask her the obvious. "You invoked your father when shooting down the Master," I said. "I've never seen you as the vengeful type."

"It wasn't vengeance," she said simply. "I did not want to feel that. But my father deserved justice, as did the others who fell here. I did the only thing I could have done in order to see justice done. To do otherwise would have given that creature a victory by letting him kill or harm others."

"I see." I nodded. "I can understand that."

"So I have heard." There was a sad look on her face. "But you chose vengeance."

"Ah." I wasn't surprised she knew of that. "Yes. I did."

"Did it ease your pain?"

I drew in a breath. "No," I admitted. "It did not."

"But you are ashamed of it."

"Very observant of you."

Omi lowered her eyes. Tears formed in them. "Justice brings no shame. But it hasn't eased the pain either. I would rather have him back."

"I understand." I put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Your father died in a way he would have accepted. For your people, he died with honor."

"Yes. But…" She closed her eyes. "Father always said honor is a thin cloak against the chill of the grave. I also think it is a very poor bandage to heal grief.

I couldn't argue with that.

I turned back to the TARDIS and almost entered it before I remember there was someone else to speak to. Two, in fact. I heard footsteps behind me, considered the likely sources, and said, "You're quite fortunate to have her affections, you know."

"Yes." Victor was in a field uniform now. Most of the fighting was over, but with the ComGuards so badly disorientated by the Cybermen strikes, ComStar had agreed to accept allied forces in clearing out the last pockets of Cybermen on Terra. "You saved her life, Doctor."

"And she saved mine," I answered. "As did you."

Victor shook his head. "I don't…"


He looked at me with some confusion.

"Do you want justice?", I asked him. "For your mother and sister and Salome Kell and all the others killed in that bombing?"

For a moment Victor stared at me. Then he gave me an affirmative nod. "Yes."

"Then, to make this work, you must be completely sincere in this. No noble waving of the issue. You saved my life. And I owe you a debt. An obligation that I am bound to repay."

"Well… yes, I suppose."

"Make sure you believe it," I insisted. "You need to. Believe it wholeheartedly."

I was answered by a nod. "Yes. Yes, I understand."

"Good. Now, I'm going to need to explain a few things to you, and then we can make this work."

Some time later we were bundled up and standing in an empty warehouse freezer. Victor watched in awe as the air split with energy ahead of us. It was, of course, a Way.

I had warned him to steel himself for what we would see, so the various monstrous figures and beings that came through were of no great shock. At the very end came two humanoid forms, both inhumanly beautiful, one with long and luscious red hair and the other with hair as white as snow. The redhead was in a fine green dress that flowed down to her ankles, while white and winter blue was the garb of the other.

I bowed respectfully, as did Victor. "Your Majesty," I intoned. "May it be my honor to present to you the Archon-Prince of the Federated Commonwealth, Prince Victor Davion. Prince Victor, it is my honor to introduce you to Queen Mab, Queen of the Winter Court of Faerie and of the Unseelie."

Mab's green eyes appraised us with sharp curiosity. But it was the red-headed Sidhe who spoke with her voice. "My respects, Archon-Prince. Please excuse my use of my vassal, the Leanansidhe, to converse with you. Such is for your own protection, mortal lord."

"I understand," he answered, as I had forewarned him to do so

"What brings you to my presence, Doctor?", Mab asked through her retainer. The Leanansidhe looked at me with curiosity. It was both unnerving and unsurprising, since she was literally Harry Dresden's fairy godmother. But not a big believer in pumpkins, I hasten to add.

"The Doctor informs me that he handed the assassin of my mother and sister over to you," Victor stated. "I have recently saved the Doctor's life. He owes a debt of honor to me and my house. I am obligating him to return the assassin who claimed the lives of my family members to stand trial by my courts."

"I see." Mab appraised me. "This is true?"

"Embarrassing, but yes," I answered truthfully. "I owe Prince Victor my life."

Mab nodded, and made a motion with her hand. One of her Sidhe retainers entered the Way again. Several seconds later the Sidhe returned, pulling with her a long-haired man. He shuddered despite his warm clothing and thick gloves. Signs of frostbite were visible on his wrinkled face when he looked up at us. "Doctor!," he screamed. "Doctor, please, take me away from them! Show mercy!"

Victor kept his composure, which I approved of, and I kept my face stony as well. But inside, I felt like I wanted to choke. Suffering was visible on the face of the man once called the Dancing Joker. Whatever Mab and her people had done to him, it had broken him so completely that I couldn't make out the least bit of resentment toward me in his features. The only thing he was capable of was begging for mercy.

"I imagined this day might come, so I arranged for the training of other gardeners." The way she said that made my stomach want to twist. I could just imagine some poor mortal being caught in Mab's web and turned into a gardener. "Nevertheless, I am grateful for the service your man provided Winter. The flowers are proving quite lovely and most robust in our climes. They have been of use."

I forced a pleasant grin to my face. "I am pleased to hear so, Majesty."

Mab nodded. The Leanansidhe bent over and cut the cord around the assassin's neck. "Your debt to the Doctor has been transferred to another. You are released from service, assassin," Lea informed him in her own voice.

Her face changed composure. Mab was again speaking. "And now, I must be off. I am most curious to see how you have developed Time Lord. It pleases me to hear of how you fended off the wiles of the adversary."

I wasn't surprised to hear that she had learned of the attempt by Nemesis to infect me. "I am always honored by the presence of Your Majesty," I answered politely.

Mab cracked a small grin at that. She turned and stepped back into the Way. The other retainers followed.

All except Leanansidhe. She stood at the threshold of the Way and appraised me with cat-like curiosity. "It has been interesting to finally meet you, Doctor," she said. "I have heard much of your involvement with my godson."

"And I've heard much about you, Leanansidhe," I replied politely. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance."

She giggled at that. "For now, yes. I look forward to the next time we see each other. It will be… entertaining, I'm sure."

As she stepped into the Way and closed it from the other end, I ruminated on what she said. I had an inkling of what would come next. And I imagined I wouldn't find it quite so entertaining.

Victor reached down and pulled the sobbing assassin up. I opened the TARDIS door for him and let him in first. Victor murmured something in German - I was pretty sure it was something like "My God, what did they do to you?" - before asking the same aloud and toward me.

"Things that would chill our blood, I'm sure," I answered. "The Faeries of Winter are brutal."

Victor brought the freezing man past my control panel and to the stairs leading upward, where he sat him down and took out the first aid kit I'd left out. "Is that why you picked them for this?"

I swallowed and nodded. "In part, yes. I wanted him to suffer. I wanted him to spend decades being forced to plan mycosias for a kingdom of wicked faeries who would allow him no respite. I wanted him to remember Katherine every time he put another mycosia into the icy soil of Winter." I had to swallow again to get a knot out of my throat while I felt warm tears form in my eyes, all from the shame I felt at what I had done. "But it didn't help. Katherine's death was a wound I couldn't heal, not like that." I drew in a breath as I contemplated what I was going to say next. I finally settled on something plain.

"I'm sorry."

Victor looked up from the assassin. The removal of the gloves revealed hands that had turned black from severe frostbite. "What are you sorry about?", he asked me.

"Everything. Taking vengeance instead of helping you find justice. Insulting you that night when I came to view Melissa and Katherine." I cringed. "And that whole mess with Joshua Marik. I don't regret saving the boy, but I shouldn't have done it the way I did. I allowed my fury and grief to overwhelm my good sense and I wronged you and your people in the process. There is no defense for the way I acted, and I am sorry for what I did."

I was answered with silence. It lingered, remaining uncomfortable as it did, while Victor quietly treated the frostbitten fingers of the man who murdered his mother and sister. Once this was done he stood and walked toward me.

And he offered his hand. I took it.

"I accept your apology," he said. "All I ask is that you make it right. I want Ryan Steiner back as well."

I nodded and a grin of relief came to my face. "Thank you for your magnanimity." I stepped over to the controls. "Katara can help him heal once we get back to Terra."

Oh, right, I forgot to mention. Curaitis nearly had a coronary at the thought of Victor going with me, so Liara and Katara agreed to remain behind as "hostages".

"What did you do to Ryan?"

"Arguably worse, but also arguably better," I answered. I finished calculating the coordinates and engaged the TARDIS to shift. As it did so, I picked up my little phone on the controls and triggered a comm line. "Ah, hello... Mrs. Queen now, right? Ah, good, my congratulations. Is Kal-El available? I have a bit of a favor to ask of him."

From that point, clean-up went by quickly enough. The Cybermen were hunted down and destroyed after a few days of effort by the mercenaries and the ComGuard units we freed from confinement. As most of their cyber-conversion capacity was at Hilton Head, the remaining pockets across Terra and the Sol System lacked the means to ramp up their numbers through conversion of the civilian populace.

As for other matters, Ryan Steiner and the assassin were locked away on Victor's DropShip, to be delivered to justice on Tharkad. As this was the Inner Sphere, Robert Kelswa-Steiner made it clear that he opposed any trial of his father on the grounds of evidence and his father having "diminished capacity", and made some threats about revolution in Skye.

Some things never change.

As everyone was prepared to leave, I found myself standing with my Companions on a balcony at ComStar HQ, looking out over the battle-scarred vista of Hilton Head. "Well, some party," I sighed.

"The scary thing is that I'm starting to get used to it." Liara grinned at me.

"Quite scary," I agreed. I put a hand on her shoulder and the other hand on Katara's. "I don't know where I'd be without you two."

"I could say the same about you two," Katara confided. She was actually smiling a little.

Liara smiled and nodded. "As much as I get tired of the constant running and danger, I still wouldn't change my choice. Journeying with you, Doctor, has been fun. When it's not terrifying."

I chuckled and nodded. As I did, I felt a bit of melancholy come to me.

Time marches on, after all. Things change. Eventually Liara would come to terms with her feelings for Shepard and her job as the Shadow Broker, and she would return home to pursue her personal life. Katara may take longer, but I knew she'd eventually decide on how she wanted to rebuild her life as well. And they'd leave.

I'd been alone before, of course. But it's never fun.

And now I was facing what felt like an escalation in the situation involving the Cracks. My second encounter with the unknown being on the other end of the Cracks had me thinking back to prior incidents. The Sontarans, for instance, and the fact that King Xuandi and his Dai Li knew how to use a vortex manipulator far beyond their technological understanding. Had this figure in the shadows been the one to play a role in those cases too?

"Ha," I said aloud. "I'll be. I should have realized that earlier."

Liara and Katara looked at me. "Realized what?"

"The Zygons. They knew what we looked like when they embarked on that terror campaign in Beach City." I chuckled. "They knew because our friend with the distorted voice told them. And he knew because he witnessed us fighting the Cyber-Master."

"But we..." Liara sighed. "Time travel."

"Right!", I laughed. "Time travel! And speaking of travel." I made a show of checking a watch. "It's about time we got going, isn't it?"

They nodded in agreement and we went toward the TARDIS. As I opened the door to it, a voice called out to us. "Doctor, please wait!"

I turned and saw Yvonne had come through the door leading inside. She was wearing a blouse and knee-length skirt with the family colors on them. Victor stepped up behind her and then past her. He gave her a look and the younger girl looked a tad sheepish before sighing. "And what might I do for you?", I asked them.

"Yvonne wants to see something," Victor said. "And... I suppose I do too."


"Katherine..." Victor took a moment before smiling. "Growing up, I always thought she would grow out of her interest in traveling with you. It just seemed like the kind of thing she'd grow beyond when she became an adult. But she didn't. She kept going with you. She aged years traveling with you, she was even older than me by the end."

I nodded. "I would think so, yes."

"I've always wondered why. What might have drawn her to be ready to leave our family."

"She never left you," I said. "I mean... for all she loved traveling, Katherine held her duties to you and your Commonwealth higher than her own wishes. She was getting ready to stop traveling with me by the end. She wanted to focus on improving the Inner Sphere. Making permanent peace, that sort of thing."

Yvonne nodded. "She... said things like that in her diary. But I don't think she wanted to. Not really."

I felt a tear form in my eye. I knew how right that was. "No, I don't think she did. But if she had gone with her personal desires over the needs of her people... she wouldn't have been the same Katherine we all knew." I nodded to the others and motioned to the TARDIS. "All right. Come on. I think I know what I want to show you."

When we stepped out of the TARDIS, we were on a space station. Figures milling around us turned to stare for a moment before they continued on. Ahead of us was a grand hall with a single flag hanging above the entrance. The flag was a nice design, bearing a number of insignia, including a bird icon and twelve stars combined with other symbols.

Victor and Yvonne started at seeing the first walking suit of metal go by. Another tromped by a moment later, the red eyepiece swishing back and forth like a visor. "Where are we?", Yvonne asked.

"Council Station," I answered. "In the Helios Cluster. Two hundred years after the signing of the Great Peace between the Humanity of the Colonies of Kobol and robot race of their former creations, the Cylons." I turned toward a statue that stood out among all the others. "And there is the one responsible."

The statue was marked simply as "The Peacemaker". Only the Cylons really knew who it represented, and it had been their initiative to make the statue. The plaque even referred to the Number 8 and Number 5 that had sculpted it together, being outliers of their type who liked art. I looked over it, admiring the lifelike countenance drawn from the marble stone, the detail on the dress and on the olive branches of peace held against the belly of the figure by the left hand and forearm while the right bore a stylized, scroll-like piece of paper with "Peace" written across the back of it.

I looked back and saw Victor and Yvonne were staring at the statue. Specifically, the statue's face.

"They had to keep our names off their histories," I explained. "And I made it clear I didn't want or need a statue... they gave me one anyway, but I think it's in the foyer of the Council Hall, not terribly impressive... so they focused on Katherine." I looked at the likeness of her etched in the marble and felt tears of pride come to my eyes. "She was the one who did the hard work of sitting at a table with them and mediating their disputes. This peace was her's. They got that part right."

"It's beautiful," Yvonne said, her eyes misty. "I can't believe..."

Victor's eyes were filling with tears. "I'm proud," he finally said. "She actually brought lasting peace between these people?"

"That she did," I said. "Oh, she didn't solve everything, no one could. But because of your sister, enough problems were settled that the Colonies and Cylons have been at peace for two centuries now." I lowered my eyes. "She considered it a test run of sorts. She succeeded here, so maybe she had a hope back in the Inner Sphere of doing the same."

"But..." Yvonne sniffled. "This wasn't in her diary."

"No, it wasn't." I sighed. "This was her last adventure with me, Yvonne. When we were done here, I took her straight to the library for your mother's reception."

They were silent for a time. Yvonne eventually reached into a pocket on her skirt and pulled out a noteputer. "May I?", she asked.

I knew what she wanted. So I nodded and stepped away.

While Yvonne took photographic evidence of her big sister's last and greatest accomplishment, Victor finally averted his eyes from the statue. "This is why," he said. "This is why you were so furious. You watched Katherine accomplish this, and then to have her killed..."

"It doesn't excuse what I did," I insisted. "I should have sought justice for her. In my fury, all I wanted was to punish."

He nodded wordlessly in reply. "I understand. I'm not sure I would have felt any differently."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But either way, whatever political power you wield, you're also Human. I'm not." I shook my head. "I'm a Time Lord. When I do wrong, the harm can be incalculable. And I was doing a lot of harm back then."

I thought about it. About how my fury had abated, only to be replaced with frustration and blind rage when my efforts to recover Katherine failed. And then came the Time Lord Triumphant. I always talked about making things better at that time, but I hadn't thought through all of the consequences.

Consequences like the desperate Blakist Master turning to the Cybermen through the Crack.

"Maybe you were." Victor looked at me with thought in his gaze. "But whatever harm you did, you just saved the inner Sphere from the Blakists. And you saved Yvonne and Omi. As far as I'm concerned, you've made up for what you did before." He extended his hand to me. "You're welcome to come back to the Commonwealth, whenever you please."

It was a sentimental gesture. We both knew he couldn't keep me from entering or leaving the place. But sometimes that makes gestures like that all the more meaningful.

I accepted his hand. "Thank you, Victor. I'll be leaving a temporal beacon with you and Yvonne, should anything happen that requires my presence."

He answered me with a nod and a full smile. I returned it.

And that was all that needed to be said on the subject.

We returned them home afterward. And Liara and Katara and I went on our way, continuing our trip through the wonders of the Multiverse, and moving inexorably to the showdowns that awaited us in the future.

Soon enough, I would meet the figure pulling strings on the other side of the Cracks.

And I knew that when that finally happened, I would finally begin to unravel the mysteries of my origin and the threat posed by the Cracks.

”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-17 08:57am

Short 47 - The Die is Cast

Speaking of regrets, sometimes it's not a decision you regret you made, but a decision you regret someone else made.

Sometimes you see someone with potential. Someone who can change their world for the better. But for whatever reason, they make the wrong choice. They make things worse. They cause terrible things to come to pass.

And when you inevitably defeat them, you end up with the tragedy of what might have been.

I'd like to say the TARDIS was her usual rascally self. But the truth was, I had meant to go where we had gone. I just didn't think we'd show up in such circumstances.

"An entire city of metal?", Katara asked as the TARDIS finished VWORPing. "All founded by Toph's daughter?"

"The younger one, yes," I answered. "Marvelous architecture, really. Su may be a bit heavy-handed at times, I grant, but she's a decent enough leader, and I do so enjoy the shows she puts on."

"Will they be anything like that opera you insisted on seeing?" Liara crossed her arms and grinned sardonically. "With the talking octopus and those men falling from the rafters and ruining the whole performance?"

"Oh, come now, that was the best part," I protested. "And then Setzer Gabbiani dropping in like that. The man's got flare."

I reached out and opened the door. We stepped out into a nice garden in the city of Zaofu, ruled by Suyin Beifong's Metal Clan, and I took in a nice breath of fresh air laced with a hint of… wait, was that burning coal?

I looked in confusion towards the main house as it shined in the dawn light. Had they added a coal plant for electricity? I took a step toward it.

"Doctor?", Katara said. "You might want to take a look at this."

I turned toward the view of the valley. That nice, wide, lovely Earth Kingdom valley with its luscious green field and river bracketed by snow-capped mountains and…

...and that scenic army camp milling with soldiers.

I knew what was going on before I pulled out the spyglass and zoomed in. But I wanted to assure myself that I wasn't wrong.

Given the uniforms and insignia, I wasn't.

"Kuvira," I muttered. "What are you doing?"


The voice prompted us to turn. Korra, Opal, and Jinora had just stepped out of the house. The two Airbenders were wearing the new flight suit uniforms of the Air Nation. Korra was in a sleeveless green shirt and dark green trousers, unsurprising since she had been planning to travel the Earth Kingdom and had likely wanted to fit in as best she could. She had even cut her hair, removing the tails that used to hang at her temples and the ponytail she had normally kept, with what now looked like more of a bob cut.

"Ah, hello," I said. I poked a thumb out toward the valley. "So, just what's going on here?"

"She did what?!"

"Doctor," Liara hissed under her breath.

I waved her off. "Let me get this straight.. Suyin actually tried to assassinate Kuvira? During negotiations?"

"Those weren't negotiations," Opal insisted. "Kuvira wasn't here to negotiate, she was making demands and threatening us with her army if we didn't give her everything she wanted!"

I let out a sigh. "And your mother walked right into her trap. Don't you see? Kuvira wanted this, because now she gets to play the aggrieved party. I'm sure she already has established this as being a truce. Attempting to harm her under that truce makes your mother into the criminal and justifies what she's doing."

"Well, we can't let her get away with this," Katara insisted, arms crossed and looking very business like. While this wasn't her time, it was still her world, and Kuvira's heavy-handedness was undoubtedly bringing back memories of Dai Li and Fire Nation behavior from her time. "We've got to stop her."

"It wouldn't be the first time we've stopped an army," Liara pointed out to me, smirking.

"We might not have to," Korra said. "I'm going out to fight her, one on one. If I beat her, I can get her to leave peacefully."

"She has an army at her back, Korra, and every expectation that you're not yet recovered enough to threaten it," I pointed out. "If she's actually going to fight you like that, I'm quite sure she has another motive."

"Maybe, but if I can beat her, she can't just break her word on leaving. Not without ruining her image."

"You think that?" I shook my head. "She's already broken her promise to stand aside for Wu. It's clear the only part of her image she cares for is that of being the Great Uniter. She'll lie and cheat and break her word without a second thought rather than let that work go unfinished." I crossed my arms and looked out the window of the parlor we were gathered in. The sun had risen further in the sky. "First here, and probably the Republic next."

"Do you really think she'd challenge the Republic?", Jinora asked, clearly incredulous at the idea. "She'd end up at war with the entire world."

"Then she'll move only when she's sure she can win that kind of war," I pointed out. "But her behavior pattern is fairly clear. She's not going to stop until forced to." I scratched at my chin. "And that's what we're going to have to do."

"Please, don't do anything until I win the fight," Korra insisted. "If we can end this without a battle, it's how we should do it."

I actually smiled at that. My, hadn't the young Avatar come first. Plan A used to be "hit it with fireballs and punches" for her. Now she was talking about minimizing conflict and talking. "Certainly," I said. "And we'll watch."

Kuvira went for spectacle, of course. Nice, organized, disciplined ranks of her troops arrayed like she was going to a parade with them. And set up, like bloody trophies, were Su and her twin boys, locked up in what looked like full metal suits.

Korra took the lead. Opal and Jinora stood to her right and I stood on the left with Liara. Katara had remained behind with her, well, her counterpart's grandchildren. Ikki and Meelo had been quite confused to meet their "Gran-Gran"'s teenage double, but I was assured they'd follow her instructions.

Kuvira was standing with Bataar Jr. and Zhu Li, but I saw no sign of Bolin and Varrick. Which wasn't ominous at all, was it? Actually, even her boyfriend seemed to be missing. Curious.

Her expression didn't change when her eyes focused momentarily on me. "Ah, Doctor. You've returned. If only you'd come yesterday. We might not have reached that point."

"Perhaps not," I allowed. "Although that's not to say you would have gotten what you sought from the exchange."

"You're not going to take their side without hearing me out first, are you?", Kuvira asked pointedly. "I came in peace and Suyin tried to kill me."

"Ah, yes. You came in peace. So this lot here…" I waved my hand at her army. "...they're just what, your traveling circus? Because to me they rather resemble an army. And when you march up to an independent city with an army, it usually means you're not there for some polite conversation along with tea and scones."

"Doctor," Liara muttered. "Less sarcasm, more diplomacy?"

"Ah, yes." I pointed to Liara and grinned. "That's what I pay her for. It's a hard job, I like to mouth off because I'm a Time Lord and I'm smarter than everyone. It's rather like Korra and her refusal to wear sleeves. I just love showing off the ol' brain power." I tapped my forehead.

Liara rolled her eyes and buried her face into her left palm.

Korra allowed herself a slight grin toward us before looking back to Kuvira and putting a serious expression on her face again. "This has to stop, Kuvira," she said. "You've restored order to the Earth Kingdom. There's no more need for this army."

"My work isn't done until the Earth Empire is completely restored," Kuvira insisted. "Zaofu is a part of our nation. If I let them stand alone, it will only cause more chaos in the future."

"Have you asked them about it?", I inquired. "I mean, about giving up their autonomy to you? Seems only polite."

"I have full faith and confidence the people of Zaofu will greet the Earth Empire with open arms."

"So what's the army for?", I asked. "The celebration party? Bring some fireworks, steamed buns and such for the festivities? Peaceful unification doesn't usually require an army, after all. You bring armies when you expect a fight." I moved my finger about. "Where's Bolin, by the way?"

There was a flicker in Kuvira's expression. Just a flicker, mind you. "Corporal Bolin is elsewhere," she said.

"Really?" I blinked. "Because he was here yesterday. I mean, unless Opal and the rest of Zaofu are liars. Odd that you would send him away."

"Doctor." Korra spoke with authority and strictness, but no malice. She looked at me. "I'm going to deal with this. I don't need you to say these things."

Ah, yes. I forgot this was Korra's show. And I was being terribly rude, especially since I was undermining Korra at doing the job I'd helped her get back in shape for. I nodded respectfully to her and stepped back to become a spectator.

Kuvira and Korra moved to a spot roughly equidistant between the Earth Empire army and our little group of Avatar supporters. For several moments nothing happened. They were sizing each other up.

Korra made the first move, a testing jab of air. Kuvira avoided it with the grace of a dancer. She didn't counter-attack either. She dodged the next attack, a fireball, and re-directed a chunk of earth kicked her way by Korra.

Kuvira's strategy became clear. Take advantage of Korra's relative lack of recent fighting to wear her down, then go on the offensive when Korra's strength had waned.

"Come on, Korra! You can do it!", Jinora shouted.

"Use the Avatar State!", I heard Suyin shout. "You have to put her down!"

For a moment I was rather taken aback. Suyin had just called for Korra to not simply beat Kuvira, but to kill her.

"Can't Korra see she's being tricked?", Liara murmured to me. "Kuvira is holding back so Korra will wear herself down first."

"Yes," I agreed, watching the fight unfold. I focused on Korra's movements as she sent attack after attack at Kuvira, simply to have them evaded.

And I smiled.

"Oh, clever girl," I murmured. "Clever clever girl."

"What?" Jinora looked at me.

"She's read Kuvira just as we have," I noted. "She knows what Kuvira's doing. And she's giving it to her."

"You mean she's pretending to fall for it."

"Exactly, Jinora. Oldest trick in the book. What's the best reaction to being in a trap? Spring the trap on your own terms. Appear to give the enemy what he wants, then surprise him. Or her, in this case."

We went quiet as the fight continued. Kuvira continued to evade with grace every blow Korra sent at her. Slowly, perceptibly, Korra began to slow. Her breath was growing harder and faster. Clear signs that she was tiring.

And just like that, Kuvira switched to the offensive. A dizzying array of attacks with her Earthbending pummeled Korra with boulder after boulder. She endured them all, breaking several while taking lumps. The biggest one forced her to a knee.

An opening Kuvira was waiting for. She gathered her strength and sent a large chunk off rock, more than enough to knock Korra down.

As the rock flew, realization came to Kuvira's face. I could see the sudden widening of her eyes. She had realized her miscalculation.

Too late to change it, though.

Korra's arms came up and grabbed the rock, shattering it. In one fluid movement she pushed her arm forward. A powerful cyclone of wind slammed into Kuvira's chest and sent her flying. She impacted in a cloud of dust and rolled several times before stopping. Her hands pressed flat against the ground and she used the earth to push her back up to a standing position. She twisted as she did, sending out the metal plates on her uniform as weapons aimed at Korra.

I frowned at that. Those metal plates, if they struck the right way, could slice through skin. And through blood vessels. A cut along the wrong artery, somewhere vital like the throat, could be dangerous. Even fatal.

Kuvira was fighting to kill.

Korra wasn't daunted by this escalation. Nor did she rise to it. She combined her metalbending with what looked like a waterbending technique, taking control of the plates and throwing them back at Kuvira. One sliced cleanly along Kuvira's left arm, cutting the uniform and drawing blood. The other slammed directly into her shoulder with enough force to knock her back over.

"Finish her, Korra!", Suyin shouted. "Do it now!"

Kuvira would not give in, even then. With blood trailing from her arm she slammed her fists down into the earth, creating a shockwave that should have knocked Korra off her feet. It should have, even, but Korra was being surprisingly agile.

No, not surprising, really. She was putting everything she'd learned into effect. She was in the air before it should have seemed possible, gently twisting in mid-air before kicking it with her right leg in a hurricane kick movement. Another gust of wind slammed into Kuvira and sent her rolling across the ground. The self-declared ruler of the Earth Empire was clearly battered as she got back to her feet. One of her metal plates moved in line with Korra's hand and caught her by the right wrist.

As Korra moved to bind Kuvira's wrists together, there was movement to her right side.

And a rock slammed right into Korra's head.

It wasn't a big rock. But it was big enough that the abrasion on her skull drew some blood and knocked her senseless.

As she struggled to stand again, Kuvira laid into her with another series of rocks. Given the blow to the head Korra was too disorientated to resist effectively. The barrage knocked her back over. In one fluid movement, Kuvira pulled up earth around Korra to hold her in place.

It was quite the change of fortune for Kuvira. But it hadn't been from her doing.

"This was supposed to be a one-on-one fight!", Opal shouted as Kuvira walked up to the dazed Avatar. "Your men threw that rock."

"I didn't see any of my soldiers dishonor me like that," Kuvira answered. "Bataar, did you?"

"No, ma'am," he insisted.


"Bloody hell," I muttered. She had us pretty good. "Katara, Plan A, are you done?", I whispered.

A little earpiece I had inside my left ear vibrated gently. "Yes"

"Doctor." Kuvira frowned at me. "Did you see any of my men Earthbend?"

"Visually? I didn't notice any single man make a movement. Of course, we both know that a decent Earthbender can throw a rock with a bit of an arm movement, don't we?"

Kuvira smirked. "But you didn't see any of my people do that. So it was obviously me."

"I find that highly doubtful," I retorted. "Given how badly off you were."

"And you're letting your personal feelings get in the way of the facts."

Liara stepped forward. "Korra's suffered a head injury, we should treat it."

"As soon as you accept my victory, you will," Kuvira promised.

I thought on that. And then I folded my arms. "Very well. I suppose Zaofu is yours."

Opal glared daggers at me. "Doctor, you can't!"

"Opal, not now," I said, my voice bitter. I needed a few more minutes. And I needed to get Korra medical attention. The issue of Kuvira and her army being a bunch of cheating cheaters who cheat could be dealt with later, and with appropriate subtlety. "Did you hear me, Kuvira? You won this battle. Zaofu is yours. Now release Korra."

"You've got to fight her, Doctor!", Suyin insisted. "She's not going to stop."

"Lady Beifong, if you would please, I'm trying to salvage this situation," I hissed at her. I mentally calculated the time. I still had a trump card to play.

Kuvira appraised me with narrowed eyes. "You're planning something."

"Well, I do have contingencies, obviously," I pointed out. "But I prefer to end this peacefully. I'm not going to fight you for the city."

For a moment nothing was said. Opal looked ready to burst into action and Jinora looked to be trying to hold her back. "I hate it when we're facing an army like this," Liara muttered to me.

Kuvira looked back to Bataar. "Have the airships move over the city. Pull open the domes."

I kept my face still as this order was relayed. Korra groaned, but the fact she wasn't throwing up and was still visibly conscious was a relief. I'd scan her when I could, of course, but right now anything like that might seem a provocation. Summoning the TARDIS would do the same thing. Not that I wanted to.

Of course, Kuvira knew I could remotely transport it to us, due to our mutual mission to save the world from Xuandi's time travel. If she had demanded it, it would have complicated things. Of course, given what I could do with it, such a demand was something that could hurt her, so I wasn't surprised that she didn't.

An airship hovered over Zaofu by this point. Metalbenders standing at the exits began to peel back the domes of the city to reveal what was inside.

Here we go, I thought. I hope you and the children are done, Katara.

I watched Bataar Jr. tense up as a radio report was relayed to him. "That can't..." He looked back to us and frowned. "Zaofu is empty!"

Kuvira's eyes widened. "What?!"

"There aren't any signs of the guards or the population," Bataar Jr. replied.

Kuvira put things together quickly enough. She turned to me and glared. "You did this."

"I said the city was yours," I answered. And I allowed myself a little smirk. "I never said anything about the people."

Ah, thank you for that bit of inspiration, Nicolai Malthus. Not that it worked out so well for him. I had rather enjoyed his look of rage when the rest of his DropShip fleet failed to launch with the population of Somerset. But now I'm digressing.

"You've broken our deal," Kuvira charged. "This is a blatant interference in the affairs of the Earth Empire!"

"Well, no," I said. "For one thing, Korra made the deal with you that she'd stay out of Earth Empire affairs. I didn't. I was willing to honor her arrangement to the extent of leaving Zaofu to you, but I'm under no obligation to go that hands off." I turned my smirk into a gentle smile. "So, here we are. The people of Zaofu who wanted to leave have gone. You have the city and those who wanted to stay in it. They're your loyalists anyway, so bully for you, eh?"

"You think you've beaten me." There was a brief glimmer of anger in those cold green eyes, but discipline shut it down. Kuvira was not going to lose control in front of her army.

"I was actually going to consider it sort of a draw," I replied. "Although if you want to consider it the other way, I suppose you defeated Korra but I outsmarted you. Don't feel bad about it. I'm a Time Lord, after all, these things happen to Humans when they try to match wits with me. Although to be terribly honest, I didn't really see this as much of a competition."

Kuvira stood silent for a moment. My hands clenched into fists. I knew that she was about to act, and do something nasty.

"You came with Avatar Korra," Kuvira stated. "As far as I'm concerned, you were obligated to keep her agreement. By breaking it, you've shown to me that the Earth Empire is not safe from either of you. Remember that, Doctor. Remember that you left me no choice in doing this."

In one move, Kuvira bent her metal plates out from behind her and brought them swinging toward Korra's throat.

Opal shouted inarticulately, although I think she was caught between a "Stop!" and "No!", and threw an airbending attack toward Kuvira. But even though air is fast, it wouldn't have saved Korra.

As it turned out, Korra didn't need saving.

She had been playing opossum, just as I'd asked her to if she had "lost".

The rock prison Kuvira had formed around her exploded outward, throwing Kuvira and her deadly metal weapons back. A funnel cloud levitated Korra into the air. I knew, right away, that she had entered the Avatar State. And while I wasn't sure how long she could sustain it, we had our opening.

"Everyone, now!" I brought my sonic disruptor out and fired a wide kinetic pulse that sent Bataar Jr. and a swath of soldiers around him to the ground. Liara followed it up with a pair of singularities. The soldiers caught by them screamed in panic as they were lifted bodily into the air by the gravitational forces. The air to either side of us surged at Jinora's command, throwing more Earth troops around and creating a tunnel straight to the Beifongs. Opal gathered air under her and formed an airsphere scooter, which she used to plow ahead to her mother and brothers. She jumped off, used a spinning kick movement to blow away the other troops moving up toward the family, and landed in front of them. The familiar whir of sonics could barely be heard over the roar of the winds Korra was whipping up in her Avatar State power; I'd slipped the sonic screwdriver to Opal for this very purpose. With it she undid the locks and freed her mother. Suyin, still clad in the dark assassin garb she'd worn the prior night, leapt from the metal cocoon Kuvira had trapped her in and went straight for Kuvira, who gave up trying to attack Korra and turned to face her former mentor.

Korra, meanwhile, did the usual thing for Avatars in that state. She began unleashing untold levels of elemental fury, with what seemed to be the sole purpose of utterly destroying Kuvira's army. Airships tried desperately to gain altitude to get away from the raging winds. Waves of earth erupted to topple mechatanks, mechasuits, and tank vehicles.

Wei and Wing Beifong were free by this point and added to the battle chaos, attacking troops dazed and disorientated by Korra's relentless assault on their army. I spotted Kuvira flipping to avoid a rock pulled up and thrown by Suyin's bending. Suyin took control of the metal plates Kuvira threw at her and sent them back. Mentor and student were locked in a heated battle, one that both had been seeking for some time now. A settling of scores.

I took the time to do something else. I went up and confronted a terrified Bataar Jr, who was being helped up by Zhu Li. I picked up up myself and held him by the lapels of his uniform. "Where is Bolin?", I demanded. "I'm not stupid, I know he's not up for this sort of thing. What did you do with him?"

"He's getting what's due to him," Bataar replied. "Nobody deserts from Kuvira's cause without getting what they're due."

"Tell me you little..."

A rock smashed into my side and threw me to the ground. "Sir!" Two of the soldiers came up. I was ready to defend myself, but they were more concerned with hauling Bataar to safety.

As I staggered up, a hand grabbed my right arm. I looked over to see Zhu Li, preparing to throw a punch. I caught it with my left forearm and pushed her arm away. My right arm twisted enough for me to grip on her arm, and I used that to twist us around and get the superior leverage.

Despite the roar of the battle, I heard her murmur something. Only I could.

A moment later her foot hit my shin. I fell over, crying out, and she reached into my pocket. She knew where my TARDIS remote was; she'd seen me use it during the trip to the past. She pulled it out and began to flee.

Despite my embarrassment, overall the battle was going well. Korra had the army disorientated and panicked, which let the others do a lot of damage even with the enemy having armored units. "Doctor!", Opal called. I turned in time to catch the sonic screwdriver from an airbending-assisted throw she made.

Which meant I had it in time to turn and disable a mechasuit before it could roast me with its flamethrower.

And so here we were. We were winning. Nice, isn't it?

Of course, that's when things went wrong.

I disabled another mechasuit attempted to get through the winds and flying rock to attack Korra. Korra was focused on Kuvira at the moment, battering her with air blasts and the like. I spied Suyin's dazed form prone on the ground as I got closer. After a few more attempts at counterattacks the attacks simply left Kuvira spent. She was on all fours and trying to get back up.

Korra reached down and, with her bending, pulled a massive boulder from the earth. She held it over her head. A glance to Kuvira showed she wasn't even looking that way yet. She was still recovering. I looked back up at Korra. The tense look in her expression, eyes all aglow with the power of the Avatar State.

She was going to kill Kuvira.

Maybe... if I had said something, things here might have turned out differently. Maybe this could have all been prevented.

Of course, I could say the same for Kuvira. Her choices had led us here, after all. Her need to control had proven insatiable. And she wouldn't stop.

Either way.... it didn't end there.

Kuvira started to look up at her.

Korra... simply stopped.

It wasn't like earlier times. She just seemed to be stunned.

And then her eyes went back to normal and she fell to the earth, the boulder slamming down beside her.

The winds died down. The ripples of earth stopped.

"Bugger," I swore.

Kuvira struggled to her feet again. I thought she would tear her vocal cords with the shout she gave. "SOLDIERS OF THE EARTH EMPIRE, TO ME! THE AVATAR HAS FALLEN! COUNTER-ATTACK!"

It took several seconds for the effects to go through the broken order of Kuvira's army. But the soldiers began to group up again. They stopped running. They took up formation.

"Opal, Jinora! Time for Plan B!", I shouted. "Get ready to..."

Kuvira smacked me in the head with a rock. I hit the ground with my head ringing and a cut above my eye starting to seep blood into my vision. I looked up to see her turning to Korra, who remained dazed and half-conscious on the ground. "I knew you were weak," she said. She made a motion with her hands, detaching more metal plates from her uniform, and a second motion turned them into rather sharp curved shapes.

This is one of those times I'm thankful I always consider multiple plans.

The delay hadn't just been for Katara, Ikki, and Meelo to evacuate Zaofu.

A voice with a slight mechanical tone to it boomed over us. "Get away from her!" Two streams of white energy came down from above and struck Kuvira dead-on, throwing her violently away from Korra.

"And here I was afraid you were caught up in civic engineering meetings," I said, while trying to wipe the blood from my eyes.

Asami landed beside Korra and looked at me. Through the glass visor of her helmet, I saw a very brief grin appear. "I had an open day on my schedule." She turned back to Korra and helped her up. "Are you okay?"

"I... I don't know," Korra mumbled. "I just... I saw... she looked like me and I..."

"You took a blow to the head earlier. Don't worry." I looked around us. Kuvira's army was regrouped, and the only reason they weren't already swarming us like ants on a picnic was because Jinora and Opal were surrounding us with a cyclone of howling wind. I turned my head and said. "Behind you, Asami."

Asami turned and faced a mechasuit forcing itself through the storm. She held her left arm up. I saw her arm plate move a bit and a projectile flew out from within the gap. The missile slammed into the mechasuit and it erupted in electrical arcs and sparks before collapsing. "EM dart?", I inquired.

"Yes." Asami looked to Korra. "Are you going to be able to walk?"


I took Korra's arm and slung it over my neck. "Come along," I said. I fished into my secret pocket for my real TARDIS remote - I wasn't going to leave the thing where I knew Kuvira and her people had seen it before, obviously - and held it out. The TARDIS VWORPed into place while, overhead, a flying bison - Oogi I think - landed with Jinora's siblings upon him. Or was it her?

"We've got to go," I said to them. "Where's Liara?"

"Here." Liara emerged out of the howling winds. She had Wei Beifong over her shoulder. "I couldn't find the others. They were too far out."

"Get him into the TARDIS," I urged. I snapped my fingers and the door opened. Katara was waiting with water and medigel shots. "Katara, how did it go?"

"Several people didn't want to go," she answered. "But we have most of the population."

That was better than one, I figured. I looked outside. All of the Airbenders were standing on Oogi and keeping the tornado up. Through the whipping winds I could see the forms of the full-sized mechatanks and more mechasuits forcing their way through the tempest. We were out of time.

And I didn't want to leave the children behind to fly through the enemy army either. So I had to do something drastic.

I don't like messing with the TARDIS' external dimensional settings. It's annoying. Pain in the arse. You seriously wouldn't want to know what it took to set up our escape from Undertown, and that was just a few extra people, not a big bloody animal. But if I wanted to fit their flying bison, I'd have to. I mean, I suppose I could have left the fellow, but that'd be bad form and all.

So I went to work on the controls while Katara went to work on triage, checking Korra's head first thing of all. Liara closed the door and secured it.

"Alright... here we go." I hit a few keys and phase-shifted the TARDIS so I could do the next step; phasing it back in around Oogi and the Airbenders, with appropriate external dimensions to actually get them in.

Once I confirmed they were in a nice open stable within the TARDIS, I hit several more keys and shifted us back to Republic City. Only when I confirmed our materialization on Air Temple Island did I allow myself a breath.

I barely had ten seconds before there was a knock at the door. Liara opened it and Bumi stood in the entrance. "Is it just me, or is this thing bigger than before?", he asked.

"Bigger on the outside for the moment," I said. "Had to bring a flying bison inside."

"Good." He looked over his shoulder. "See, Bumju? I'm not going crazy!"

There was constant thudding and Bumi was nearly knocked down by a charging Naga, who forced herself into the TARDIS and up to where Liara was treating Korra. "Hey girl, good to see you too," Korra said while getting nuzzled by her polar bear dog's muzzle.

"Just what in blazes is going on..." That could only be Tenzin, who ran up to the door. "What happened?"

"Kuvira attacked Zaofu," I answered. "Korra tried to stop her. Things got a little... involved."

"Well, they usually do when you show up," Bumi pointed out.

"Oi, not you too," I groaned. Well, pretended to groan.

The attempt at levity to deal with the situation didn't work so well after Opal came out. She saw Wei and looked to me. "Doctor, where are the others? I can't find my dad or Huan! And where are Mom and Wing?!"

I blinked and looked to Katara. "Where are Bataar the Good and Huan?"

Katara shook her head. "They wouldn't board. They said they wouldn't be chased out of their home."

"I couldn't get to the others," Liara added, speaking of Suyin and Wing. "I'm sorry, Opal."

Opal paled. "No! We have to go back for them!" She grabbed my arms. "Please Doctor! We have to go back."

"We can't," I replied. "Look around at us, Opal. We're wounded and tired. Kuvira's got an entire army occupying Zaofu as we speak. We'd never get them out."

The young Airbender looked furious at that, and then helpless. "But Kuvira, she'll...."

"Knowing Kuvira, she'll take her sweet time in deciding their fates," I answered. "After all, she wants to show Suyin that she's the better of the two. The student upstaging the master, that sort of thing. You still have time. For now, rest and recover, and you'll be ready when that time comes to act."

After saying that, I looked to Korra. Katara was treating the wound on her head with water. "I just need to find out what's wrong with me first," Korra said. "I don't know what happened out there, or why. But I need to figure things out."

Asami removed her helmet. Her dark hair cascaded around the frame of her face. An armored hand touched Korra's shoulder. "Don't worry. You will. We'll be here for you."

I looked at Tenzin and gestured toward the hall leading to the library. He followed me to the back. "Shouldn't you get that treated?", he asked.

I dabbed a hand at my brow and felt the blood. Which was still in my left eye too. "Ah, it'll be fine," I insisted. I looked at him darkly. "This isn't over, Tenzin."

"It seems to be," Tenzin said. "Kuvira has completed the unification of the Earth Kingdom under her Empire. For the time being we'll try to figure out how to deal with her illegal government, but going to war to break up the Earth Empire would just return the Earth Kingdom to the chaotic state it was in before."

I sighed and shook my head. "She's not done."

"I'm not sure what you mean."

"There's one more part of the Earth Kingdom that isn't under her rule," I reminded him. "A part independent from her Empire."

"But she took over every..." Realization dawned on him. "You're not saying she's going to..."

"You only have as much time as she needs to find a way to cow the rest of the world into accepting it," I answered. "Once she has that, Kuvira will come here. She can't help herself now. She must be in control, and an independent Republic threatens that control. And I can't guarantee she won't go further. Kuvira will not accept any threat that comes to mind when it comes to her control."

"I'll talk with the other world leaders," Tenzin pledged. "But Fire Lord Izumi will never authorize a preemptive strike on Kuvira."

"Likely not," I agreed. "So don't ask. Ask her for material defensive support. Do whatever you can."

"And what about you?", Tenzin asked. "If Kuvira attacks, will you be here?"

I didn't even have to think about it. "I told her I was giving her a chance," I said. "A chance to not become what she has become. Today..." I took in a breath. "She passed the threshold. Crossed the Rubicon, cast the die. She's my enemy. I'm her's. When the time comes and Korra's ready to stop her, I will be there."

"I feel a lot better knowing that." Tenzin offered his hand.

I accepted.

Of course, I had no idea just how... far that situation would end up going. How much of a threat Kuvira and her Empire would end up being.

But that's a story for another time.

Before I cease this story, I will give you one final follow-up report on my talk with Korra that evening. She was standing along a railing at Air Temple Island. We both had bandages on our heads. Katara had insisted. Just as Pema insisted on the fine meals that were digesting in our bellies to replace the calories we'd burned at Zaofu.

Anyway, I walked up to her. "Nice view," I said. "I actually visited that star." I pointed to the north sky. "Nothing really special about the system, but the star itself. Irregular plasma discharges. Quite interesting."


I detected the dull nature of her tone. "It's not your fault," I said.

"Then who's fault is it?", Korra replied. "I had Kuvira. I had her."

"She cheated," I pointed out.

"But then I had her again. But it's just..." She put a hand to her forehead. "I've been seeing this... specter in my head. It's like me, but not me. And that was what she became. She had my face. My head."

"Well, that sounds... interesting," I said, putting it delicately. "But I'm afraid I'm not the one you need for this. Spiritual wounds aren't my forte."

"I know." She sighed in exasperation. "And Toph spent more time kicking me around than anything."

"Old Toph? How is she?"

"Living in the Spirit Swamp," Korra answered. "She was a help to me. She helped me understand things about the past. But I just can't seem to shake this block in my head. I still can't hear or feel Raava. I can't meditate into the Spirit World anymore."

"Hrm." I nodded. "Well, I'm afraid that's beyond my expertise. Time Lords and spirit stuff, magic, we really don't mix well. And Harry was most cross with me for dabbling in magic circles." That actually drew a slight grin from Korra. I followed up by clapping my hand to her shoulder. "You're a clever girl. A far cry from the brash young Avatar who tried to punch me with fireballs in that Equalist warehouse. So I know you'll get this figured out."

"In time to stop Kuvira?"

"Of course," I said. "Have a bit of faith, y'know?" I winked. "I think Asami likes your haircut, by the way."

I almost chuckled at the blush that appeared on her cheeks. "You think so?"

"Well, it's... actually, it's rather an interesting look for you. I think I like it. And it's got to be easier in a fight."

"Maybe." Korra turned her head to face me. "So, when everything starts to happen..."

"I'll be here," I promised. "I mean it. There'll be no fobwatches and unintended comm temporal links to keep me away this time. When Kuvira makes her move, I'll be there to help you stop her."

Her reply was a hug. "Thank you."

"No, Korra. Thank you." I returned the hug.

At that point, out of playfulness or jealousy, Naga knocked me over and started slobbering me with kisses. "Ack! No, bad polar bear dog!", I cried out. "Would you... ack!"

While it was rather uncomfortable to have Naga on top of me, I admit it was worth it for the peals of laughter it brought from Korra. Given the day's event, it was laughter she needed. And a few bruises (okay, several) were worth that, weren't they?
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: "The Power of a Name" - Dr. Who Multi-Crossover SI Series

Post by Steve » 2017-06-18 01:52pm

Short 48 - Mall Mayhem

This story begins on a different note, as I sought to clean up one lingering detail from the last.

The crater loomed below us and I found it utterly fascinating as I held the sonic out over the TARDIS door. "Look at that," I murmured. "Not one sign of radiation. No excess thermal signature. Just an energy pattern like nothing I've seen before."

"I've never seen an explosion like this before," Liara agreed, checking the display showing on her omnitool. "What could have caused this?"

"I'm not sure." I sighed. "But I have a strong suspicion that it involves the illustrious Mister Varrick."

"So you think this was from him? How could he have caused something like this?" Liara's eyes widened. "You don't suppose he stole anything from the TARDIS, do you?"

"Everything was accounted for," I assured her. "But perhaps he learned something while in here." I sighed and turned away. "And the damn thing is, I can't tell one way or another if they survived."

"Well, why not go into the past?", Katara asked. "Just take us back to before they came through."

"Hrm. I suppose we're far enough from ourselves it should work," I murmured. "Can be tricky, materializing so close to an earlier part of our own timestream. Not impossible, just on the tricky side." I walked up to the TARDIS controls. "All right. Let's give this a try."

After doing my usual thing - heh - I was greeted by the TARDIS engine VWORPING happily along. Indeed, the ride was nice and smooth.

This made me incredibly suspicious.

Suspicions which were confirmed when I opened the TARDIS door and stepped out into what was clearly a normal American shopping mall, late 20th or early 21st Century. "Why do you always forget that two?", Liara sighed.

"I didn't this time."

"So this is another of those random occurrences where the TARDIS takes us where it wants to go?"

"Not where she wants," I corrected. "Where we need to go." I pulled out the sonic screwdriver. "So, let's see what's going on, hrm?"

Some active scanning told me what I had figured quickly. There was temporal energy here, of the sort that could only be produced by a Crack. Which meant that either the Crack itself, or something that had come through it, was in this normal-seeming mall.


I scanned about while we walked to the front of a clothing store. As I went to glance at the sign above it, I heard a young woman call out "Doctor?" with some confusion.

I moved my eyes downward and faced the girl standing in the store. She was dressed in the sort of fashions a teen of this cultural milieu would hew to, with red hair flowing past her shoulders and green eyes. The name tag on her shirt read "Kim". I blinked from a moment of surprise. "Miss Possible? You work here?"

"Well, I do now." Kim Possible stepped outside of the store. Her eyes took in the sonic screwdriver in my hand and a concerned expression came to her face. "What's going on?"

"Oh, nothing much, just tracking a crack in the fabric of space-time that's six dimensions deep," I answered.

"Hey Kim, what's going on out there?" A figure emerged from the store, also wearing the stereotypical teen fashions you'd expect. African complexion, dark eyes, wavy hair, and a name tag identifying her as "Monique". "Who is this guy?"

"Monique, this is the Doctor," Kim answered. "He's a sort of… time-traveling alien or something."

"I'm a Time Lord from Gallifrey," I replied. I motioned to my Companions. "And these are my traveling partners, Doctor Liara t'Soni and Katara."

Monique made that kind of face that told you she was in over her head, at least in her thoughts. "Uh.... right."

"So, what was that you said about a crack in dimensions?", Kim asked.

"A Crack in the Multiverse. And they can act as gateways for various things. Some from my home cosmos. I close them when I find them."

"Is there anything I can do to help?", Kim asked.

"Kim, the manager's going to be here soon, we've got to get this place spotless," Monique protested.

Ah. The perils of the job. But even world-saving cheerleaders need income. "I should be fine," I said. I held up the sonic. "We'll get this thing found and out of your hair in…" I stopped as my sonic's scanning determined something.

"What is it?", Liara asked.

I walked around the two teenagers and into the store. It looked rather well kept, all things considered, but given the attitudes I had seen in Human business management I couldn't fault Monique's concern for the store's appearance regardless.

But my focus wasn't on the garb exactly, but upon a figure toward the entrance of the store, clad in a sleeveless sun dress. I held up the sonic toward it and confirmed my findings. "Where did you get this mannequin?", I asked, my tone laced with suspicion.

Kim loomed to Monique, who shrugged. "I dunno. We got a shipment in this morning some time, they were all in when I got to work."

I held up the sonic toward it.

There was a scream from behind us, coming from another shop in the mall.

I noticed the movement in time to jump on Kim and her friend, knocking them out of the way. Half of the mannequin's hand suddenly flipped open and revealed a barrel, which fired into the space the two teenagers had just occupied.

The other mannequins in the room began to move as well. The door to the storeroom flew open and even more of them came out.

"What's going on?!", Monique shouted as I rolled off of them.

"Autons!", I shouted. "Living plastic robots tied to the Nestene Consciousness." I pulled the sonic disruptor off the sling on my belt and used a radio-disruption wave. The mannequin that had tried to shoot us suddenly collapsed. "They're being remote-controlled."

Two others were bringing their gun-hands to bear. Liara pulled up a biotic bubble around us to absorb the shots. The mannequins coming from the rear of the store knocked over an entire display of clothes to come toward us. "Hey, I just set that one up!", Monique protested.

"Come along, young ladies!", I called out. We ran out of the store - and now I actually noticed the signs saying "Club Banana", seriously, you Humans and your naming of commercial enterprises never ceases to amuse me - and into the mall proper. A flood of people were rushing out of other shops and even more Autons were coming out of them.

"Who's remote-controlling them?", Kim asked me.

"Under normal conditions, the Nestene Consciousness," I answered. "But that shouldn't have stunned the one I cut off like that. Something else is controlling these beings." I led everyone toward the central courtyard of the mall. A beautiful water fountain was still gushing water about, a glass elevator was visibly on the second floor, and there were kiosks about. From all directions more Autons were coming toward us. I held up the sonic screwdriver and scanned actively. "Looks like the source of the radio signal is getting closer. Closer..."

The skylight above was smashed open and a flying vehicle I had seen before flew in. "Hahaha!", a blue-skinned man shouted from the passenger seat. "Behold, Kim Possible, my new army of living plastic!"

I rolled my eyes. "Oi, Drakel..."

"Drakken!," he shrieked. "It's Doctor Drakken."

"Whatever." I held up the sonic. "Rather clever of you with the control signal at all. How did you figure it out?"

"I'm a criminal genius, how do you think?"

I folded my arms. "You found a tear in space-time and these things came through. And some fellow on the other end with a distorted voice told you the control frequency."

Drakken snarled at that. "I...."

"He's got you there, Doctor D," his driver said, smirking.

"Shego, that's not helping!", he shouted. He babbled incoherently for a minute before switching back to English. "It doesn't matter. I have an army of indestructible mannequins that I can use to destroy Kim Possible once and for..."

"That's enough of that," I interrupted, holding the sonic screwdriver up. I activated it.

Electricity arced from the controls. "What just happened?!", I heard Shego shout before their vehicle suddenly fell out from under them. They screamed as they fell with it. Drakken's vehicle slammed into the ground with a satisfying crash, smashing some of the Autons in the process.

"Nice one, Doctor," Kim said to me.

"He does love to talk, doesn't he?", I noted.

Monique pointed forward. "Uh... why are the mannequins still coming?"

I looked back to them and ran a scan. "Oh, that fool," I muttered. "Drakken was played for a patsy. The moment his control signal cut, they reverted to original programming."

"Which is?"

"Come together, re-assemble the Nestene Consciousness from their programming, and take over Earth," I answered.

Kim rolled her eyes. "Here I am, just trying to finish senior year, and here's another 'take over the world' plot."

"Certainly tiresome, I'd love to face someone who just wanted a better golf course."

"Trust me, Doctor, that's not the improvement you think it is."

The Autons all started to reveal their gun hands. Liara stopped one wing of them with a singularity that sent Autons flying, causing shots to fly about wildly. I used a kinetic burst to accomplish something similar and Kim made a somersault jump into their midst. After her first attempts at punching failed given the lack of things like pressure points, Kim adapted and started using her agility to throw their aim off, causing several Autons to hit each other.


"Please keep an eye on those bozos in the car, Katara," I answered. "I'm going to try something. Liara, a shield?"

Liara stepped up between us and created a biotic field to absorb the Autons' fire. I held up the sonic disruptor and started cycling settings. A brute force attack would take too long, there were too many of them. But thankfully there was more than one way to deal with this. All I needed was to check the readings of Drakken's control signal. While I did, Kim was doing fairly well in keeping the Autons busy, jumping around the kiosks. She jumped behind one laden with perfume as shots came that way, hitting and shattering bottles. As she jumped out her face was twisted into a grimace. "Ugh. Monique, you were right about that new Estelle line."

"Thank you, Kim, but I'm a little more worried about the killer mannequins," her friend answered. She looked around as more continued to surround us.

"Ah, there we go!" I held out the sonic disruptor and spied the nearest kiosk. Unfortunately, there were too many Autons to get to it.

Thankfully, I didn't need to get to it myself.

I pulled back my right arm. "Kim, the kiosk with those plushie... Cuddlebunnies? Use this on the phone!" My right arm shot forward and my sonic screwdriver sailed through the air toward the kiosk.

The distance seemed, if I may be pardoned the pun, impossible to cover. But with a couple of jumps and kicks off the columns around the mall courtyard, Kim was suddenly grabbing the sonic screwdriver out of mid-air and landing beside the kiosk in question. She went to the phone and without further instruction held down the main function key.

The sonic screwdriver immediately connected to the mall PA system through the phone and sent out a specified UHF radio pulse. The Autons stiffened into immobility. The pulse drove them into an overload that left them melting and sparking.

"Well, that settles that," I sighed as the Autons spread out into a multitude of pools of melted plastic.

"There is no way I am cleaning this up," Monique said.

"Hey, it's not in Club Banana at least," Kim pointed out to her. She walked back to us and tossed the sonic screwdriver back to me. "But first we need to get Drakken and..."

Liara cried out. I turned to see Shego had grabbed her and was in the middle of throwing her toward Kim. Kim barely got out of the way in time. I brought out the sonic disruptor to attack her with but had to turn when I noticed the movement in the corner of my eye. I barely turned in time to intercept a blast from a weapon in Drakken's hand with Setting 42. "Drat!", he cursed, just before the sonic disruptor's kinetic setting sent him flying backward and back to the ground.

I turned as movement came to my eye and barely evaded a clawed swipe at my head by Shego. Green energy trailed from her hands as she battered at my disruptor's deflector shield. Katara came at her from the side with water trailing behind her, straight from the fountain. Shego barely paid attention to her, simply striking out with a sudden kick that sent Katara flying. I tried to adjust after that and gain a superior position, but she swept her foot under the deflector shield and knocked my feet out from under me, while a second motion knocked the sonic disruptor from my grasp and sent it spinning over our heads. "Nice toy. Mind if I borrow it?", she asked, leaping after it. She caught the sonic disruptor in mid-air and used it on Kim as she started to land. Kim went flying backward and slammed into a column, hitting the ground with a thud and staying prone for the moment. For a moment she didn't move and all I could hear from her was a groan. "I was going to ask how this thing works, but I guess that won't be necessary. Hahaha." Shego held the device toward Kim. "Looks like you lose after all, Kimmie."

I responded by smirking. "You really shouldn't have done that," I said.

Shego looked back to me with evil satisfaction written on her expression. "Oh yeah? Done what?"

"You just kicked Katara into the water fountain," I replied.

Shego laughed at that. "So? Why should I care that..."

A massive plume of water rushed out of the fountain and slammed into Shego, sending her flying into the wrecked perfume kiosk. The sonic disruptor fell out of her grasp. I used the sonic screwdriver to activate their attachment bond, causing the device to fly over to my hand.

Shego got up, scowling, and turned to find Katara coming at her again with water trailing from both hands. Green energy came to Shego's hands again and she lunged forward. This time Katara wasn't caught by surprise. Shego's martial arts skill was superb, but as a waterbender Katara was no slouch in that department herself, and the waterbending style lent itself to defensive maneuvers aimed at turning the opponent's strength against them. She weaved and dodged the strikes and struck Shego repeatedly with blasts of water to the face and arms. The villainess, dripping wet, hissed in anger and resumed her attack. Katara continued to weave and swing and duck as needed, employing the fluid motions of waterbending to keeping Shego from landing any hits while getting in several counterattacks herself.

That strategy finally paid off as Shego went for a solid hit on Katara's face and missed. Katara slipped around her, pulled her arms up, and all of the water on the ground rushed together and up until it covered Shego completely. With a single breath Katara hardened the water into ice, imprisoning Shego in a massive frozen plume. Shego stared wide-eyed through the ice until Katara used her bending to turn some of it back into water, at which point she started coughing until her lungs were clear.

Kim stood back up from where she'd fallen and stared with wide eyes. "Wow, that's pretty amazing."

"Thanks," Katara answered.

Middleton police came to drag Drakken and Shego away while other crews started cleaning up the melted Autons. Monique was quite pleased, or rather relieved, to hear that the manager she heard was coming had decided to leave the mall upon seeing the chaos wrought by the Autons, giving her time to fix up the store.

I spent the time scanning and making sure no pieces of the Autons were still viable before they were removed. When I returned to the TARDIS at the entrance to the Club Banana store, Kim and Liara were putting the final touches on one of the displays. I blinked. "Where is Katara?"

There was a gleeful shriek toward the back, at the dressing rooms. Kim smirked. "Monique though she needed some fashion tips."

Oh. Oh, I had to see this.

I admit to chuckling at seeing Katara staring at herself in the mirror, wearing a strapless dress that looked like it was meant to be taken to the prom. "Now, we should do something about the hair," Monique was saying. "Because girl, I see that hair and I'm thinking..."

"I like my hair the way it is," Katara insisted.

"Really?" Monique ran a finger along one of her hair loops and then examined one of the.... tails... they can't be pig-tails, no spiral, too long... whatever you call the tails of hair Katara has coming down from below her brows. "It does look pretty... unique? What do you think, Kim?"

"I think she looks fine as she is."

"You do? Huh. Yeah, I guess..."

I continued to chuckle but stopped when I heard the footsteps at the entrance. "Oh man, you won't believe the day I had!" Ron Stoppable stepped into the shop, wearing what looked to be a work vest from a retail store. "Some little kids let the weasels out and I had to spend all day..." He stopped when he saw me and the others. "Woh, I thought that was your magic time-traveling box out there."

"Hello to you too, Jon... Jon Lockable, wasn't it?"

He frowned. "Oh come on, man, it's Ron. Ron Stoppable. How can you mess that up?"

"Just looking for a little levity, young man," I answered cheerily.

"So, what's with the mess out in the mall?"

"Oh, nothing much," Kim said. She walked up and gave him a peck of a kiss on the cheek. Huh. I guess they were a couple now too. "Just Dr. Drakken trying to conquer the world with an army of alien robot mannequins. We stopped them."

"Aw man, I missed the entire thing." Ron reached into his pocket and held out a wad of cash. "Well, if I couldn't be here to help with that, how about we go have dinner on me? It's special Naco Night over at the Bueno Nacho."

"Bueno... Nacho?" Katara looked at him with curiosity.

"Gastronomic menace," I sighed. "Seriously, what is it with you Yanks and your infatuation with these shops?"

"Hey, you're the one going around offering candy to everyone," Ron retorted.

"I think I've heard of this kind of food before," Liara said. "Vega always seemed to complain when he used the word 'nacho'."

"Ron has managed the impossible feat of being more devoted to his restaurant of choice than Harry is with that precious Burger King of his."

"Goddess, that sounds horrifying."

"Still, I could use a salad, at least," Kim said. She clasped Ron's right hand with her left. "Sure you don't want to come with?"

"A salad could work, I suppose," I said.

"Aw, come on, it's Naco Night," Ron insisted.

"I... guess I could try one," Katara suggested. "What's the harm?"

I shook my head and couldn't keep the grin off my face. At least the TARDIS had excellent plumbing.

The story doesn't end there, however. After dinner, and before Katara's digestive system could attempt a revolution out of protest, Kim's genius friend Wade provided us with the coordinates of the base Drakken had used when marshaling the Autons. His minions were gone. Presumably off to rescue their boss, or to find other employment. Preferably not in the evil industry.

And there, in the lower levels and the lab within, was the Crack. It spread through the walls on either end, hovering just above the ground by about four feet at its center. "Woh, that is so cool. Creepy, but cool," Ron said.

"So that's a dimensional tear between worlds?", Kim asked.

"Yes," I answered. "I'm still trying to determine the origins of them. Liara, anything yet?"

"I'm still not getting anything new," Liara replied. "The energy pattern does seem to have shifted slightly."

"Let me see." i walked over to her as she relayed the display to her omnitool. "Yes, look at that. The frequency is increasing."

"What does that mean?," Liara asked.

"I'm not yet sure." I walked over to the TARDIS monitor and looked over the readings again. "And still nothing new. Nothing that can tell me what's..."

"Hey, what's this?"

I turned my head and saw Kim walk closer to the Crack. She was about three feet from it when she bent over and picked something up. She walked it back to me and held the small white figure up. "It looks like a..."

"....it's a pawn," I said. "A chess pawn." I felt a frown come to my features as I scanned it. "And the temporal energy signature shows it came through the Crack."

"Why would someone throw a chess piece into another dimension?", Ron asked.

"It must be a message," Kim said.

I looked at it closely and finished scanning it. There was nothing harmful, but I wasn't going to take chances. I threw it back into the Crack. "It wasn't a message," I said. "It was a taunt."

"The being who was helping the Zygons and Cybermen," Liara said.

"And the Sontarans too, I suspect. Quite possibly the source of Xuandi's understanding of operating a vortex manipulator as well." I sighed.

"So you've got a mysterious archnemesis sending you chess pieces of cryptic taunts while he sics alien things on other worlds through these tears in the dimensions." Ron blinked. "Wow, and I thought our lives were complicated."

"If this mysterious archnemesis of yours ever shows up, just give us a call," Kim added. "We'll be glad to help."

Given the nature of my usual foes, I wasn't exactly going to be quick to call Kim and Ron in for such a fight. But I nodded and smiled. "Thank you, I'll let you know if I need you." I looked back to the Crack. "Well, nothing to do about that now. Let's get this Crack sealed up before anything nastier comes through."

"Define nastier."

"Weeping Angels," Liara suggested. "Daleks. Cybermen."

"You don't want to know," I said. "Now, Kim, Ron, if you would like to do the honors..."

I admit it was a risk. Ron does have that issue with clumsiness. But he performed quite well. We got the Crack all closed up.

Just in time too, given the look on Katara's face after we were done.

Fast food-quality Mexican food. Oi, the things you Humans do to your own bodies, it's enough to make my stomach turn.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

Admin of SFD, Moderator of SDN, Former Spacebattles Super-Mod, Veteran Chatnik

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