Legacy #4: Reality Bomb

Previously on The Legacy; In The Blood


‘Brad?’

‘I feel,’ said Brad, with careful emphasis, ‘sick.’

‘Sick? Sick! Nonsense!’ The Doctor spread his arms wide and laughed a life affirming laugh.  He knelt beside Brad on the floor of the lift as it continued its rapid ascent.

Brad was sure he had left his stomach several floors below.  If the Doctor was not careful he was going to find the contents of Brad’s stomach all over him.

‘Probably still acclimatising,’ said the Doctor, clambering back to his feet.  He reached out a great paw of a hand.  Weakly Brad took it. ‘You see?’ The Doctor’s grin sparkled.  ‘Feeling better already eh?’

Fighting the giddy surge of nausea threatening to poleaxe him, Brad attempted to take in their surroundings. Not a good move. They were blurring past at a rate of about two hundred feet a second. The rapid ascent, the unusual gravity and a hefty tankard of Ossoban Soul Killer were putting a whole new perspective on drowning your sorrows.

Abruptly the lift halted.  Brad leaned back against the smoked glass, fighting the urge to retch. ‘So what are we here for again?’

The Doctor was off ahead of him and he had to run to catch up. ‘Professor Sixela Capricornn,’ came the reply. The Doctor disappeared round a glaringly antiseptic corner.

Brad paused, shaking his head.  The air was sterile and mint fresh and seemed to be taking the edge off his nausea.

‘The antitoxicant filtration works best if you remain still, sir,’ piped a high pitched voice from behind him.  Turning, Brad saw a blue skinned octopus headed creature in official uniform.  Its one eye blinked hugely at him.

‘Uh, thanks for the information,’ said Brad cautiously.  Was he in some kind of trouble here?

‘Information dissemination is my duty, sir,’ returned the creature primly and moved lightly away.  Brad stared.  Its lower half tapered to a point like an ice cream cone and seemed to be hovering a few inches above the floor.

‘Brad!’ boomed a distant voice.

‘Coming,’ said Brad and realised with a shock that his nausea had completely vanished.  He stared at an illuminated sign on the far side of the plaza: LEVEL 337 – RESEARCH & PSIONICS – AUTODETOX ZONE

‘Great,’ he said, spying the Doctor in the distance.  ‘Don’t go getting totalitarian on me will you?’ There had to be a shop where he could buy an ‘I Love the Future’ badge.  With resignation he saw the Doctor was waiting for him by another of the streamlined lifts.  This was not good.  Sober, the prospect just filled him with alarm.

The Doctor was looking at himself in profile in the mirrored panel to one side of the lift.

‘Doctor?’ ventured Brad.

‘This beard…’ The Doctor wheeled around and faced him seriously.  ‘What do you think?’

‘It’s a good one,’ said Brad, wondering if this was going anywhere. Something small and silver flashed past overhead at high speed.  Brad stared after it.

‘Carrier chip,’ murmured the Doctor distractedly. He laughed. ‘Excellent, excellent, I thought as much myself but a second opinion is always valuable.’

‘Glad to be of service,’ said Brad with a smile so unsure of itself it threatened to walk off the other side of his face.

The Doctor guffawed with alarming good humour and clapped him about the shoulders. ‘Like the hair,’ he confided with a glance at Brad’s red bangs, ‘it’s very you.’  He stabbed at a button and the lift doors slid silently open. ‘Shall we?’

*

After three more upward journeys, they reached their destination: LEVEL 2876 – ADVANCED DIVINATION – AUTODETOX & AUTOSEC ZONE

‘This is where we’ll find her,’ breezed the Doctor.  ‘One of the finest minds of her or any era, present company included.’

Brad sighed.

They were in a functional grey corridor, lit imperceptibly from overhead. The Doctor set off to the right with the air of one who knew where he was going. They passed a reception area with another of the octopus creatures in clerical uniform.

‘Good afternoon,’ blasted the Doctor and walked straight past.  With an apologetic smile Brad hurried after him.

A good half hour later they were back at the reception desk and Brad had seen enough grey corridors to last a lifetime.  True, they were futuristic grey corridors but that really was not cutting much mustard with him.

‘Infallible sense of direction?’ asked Brad with a pained look.

‘Exception that proves the rule.’ The Doctor ignored him and beamed at the receptionist.

‘Don’t tell me,’ said Brad. ‘Information dissemination is your duty, right?’

‘That is correct, sir.  I would remind you that, were you to ask me my function, I would be unable to withhold that information under the statutory protocols.’

‘Right,’ said Brad slowly.  ‘Nice.’

‘Professor Sixela Capricornn?’ interjected the Doctor before the conversation could take a further down turn.

‘The professor is currently lecturing in the holo-suite, she will be free at the forty seventh segment,’ said the creature.  Its one eye blinked slowly and changed colour to a shimmering opaque blue.  The image of a similar creature in some kind of high tech lecture hall appeared.

‘Thank you very much,’ said the Doctor. ‘We’ll follow the signs for the holo-suite.’ He glanced at his wrist as they moved off, which showed the notable absence of a watch.  ‘Segment forty seven, which gives us, ooh, two and a half segments to spare.  Fancy taking in some more corridors?’

Brad was not listening.  ‘Who are these TV set tentacle heads?’

‘Fourth Ossoban Republic.  I told you that when we arrived,’ chided the Doctor.

‘Sorry, it slipped my mind,’ said Brad.  While the Doctor had set about ascertaining the location of the Data Tower he had had his Soul Killer moment in one of the lower level IntoxiKafs.  And had promptly forgotten where and nearly who he was for a good two hours.  Or was that segments?

Brad sighed again.

*

‘Here we are!’ The Doctor’s enthusiasm was palpable.  They had arrived outside a set of silvered double doors.  A small wall mounted screen showed a gowned Ossoban lecturing to a good four hundred plus students. ‘This is the one person, the one person,’ the Doctor pummelled the air with his fist for emphasis, ‘who might be able to help us. Temporal anomalies are her speciality!’

‘As in Portland disappearing into the wild blue yonder?’ said Brad.

‘You think that’s where it went?’ The Doctor considered.  ‘Dangerous place the Yonder, especially in the blue phase.  No, I can’t agree.  It doesn’t even exist within linear time.’

Brad wondered whether to slap the Doctor or himself.  He had come down in favour of the latter when he noticed the Doctor heading for the doors.

‘Hey, what are you doing?’ He caught the Doctor by the arm.

‘Might as well sit in,’ said the Doctor.  ‘I think she’s doing singular occlusion in fringe timelines.’ He grinned.  ‘I’ll meet you out here?’

‘Good call,’ acknowledged Brad.

The Doctor vanished inside the hall with a pneumatic hiss of air.  Brad watched the Doctor on the wall screen, as he found his seat, and then he set himself down on one of the low couches opposite.  He glanced idly up and down the corridor.  Away to the right the corridor turned a corner by another, internal, lift.  To the left were a number of alcoves.  The corridor itself disappeared into imperceptible distance.  For want of something better to do, Brad wandered up to the first of the alcoves.  He stared in amazement.

Turning slowly in a beam of turquoise light was the most beautiful, well… He did not know what to call it.  It looked like some perfect hybrid of guitar and synthesiser, fashioned from ebony black and silver.  Four crystalline strings ran the length of the instrument, from body to elegantly fluted neck.  The neck was interesting because there did not appear to be any keys for the ‘strings’.  It simply tapered to a sleek crystalline sphere which seemed to glow with an inner luminescence.

Brad looked up and down the corridor.  It was no good.  He could not resist.  Tentatively he plucked at one of the ‘strings’.  He jerked his hand back as a sharp electric shock ran up his arm.

‘Ow!’

Damn thing must be security tagged in some way.  Not surprising, it was a pricey looking item.

‘Do you wish communion with the host?’

Brad looked about himself. ‘Who said that?’

Maybe the Soul Killer had some kind of audio flashback effect.  With a start he realised the guitar synthesiser had drifted imperceptibly towards him.  ‘So you’re a speaking guitar, right?’

‘We are the Atrexian Host.  We are in communion with the Host world and existing here as a cultural exchange.  You wish for communion, yes? Mind meld can cause much pain to inferior species but is permissible nonetheless.’

‘No, no communion. It’s a mistake,’ said Brad. Under his breath he added: ‘I’m here as a cultural ambassador from planet cock-up.’

The guitar seemed to turn on its axis. ‘Please forgive this misunderstanding.’

‘The apologies are all mine.’

As cultural faux pas went, this one had been pretty hot.

*

Observing this exchange from the lift away to the right was a spindle limbed figure. It stared with night black eyes, letting a placard it carried swing idly from hand to hand.  To the left it read ‘Tick’, back to the right and it said; ‘Tock’.

The Dommervoy grinned a needle grin and snickered to itself.

*

Brad shivered as he made his way back to the couch. The lift doors at the turn of the corridor were sliding closed.  He had not seen anyone get in or out. There was movement on the wall scanner. The Ossoban holo-students were winking out of existence. The Doctor and Professor Capricornn emerged.

‘Professor, this is my good friend Bradley DeMars.’

‘Or just Brad,’ Brad suggested.  Having the Doctor calling him Bradley was one thing, but he didn’t want to be introduced as such.

‘Sorry to have kept you waiting so long,’ trilled the professor.

‘No problem,’ said Brad, a little uncertain. ‘It’s been no time.’

‘You are very gracious,’ said Professor Capricornn. ‘I overran terribly but it is rare to have such an esteemed guest.’

The Doctor attempted to look modest and failed.

*

‘So you see my problem, Professor,’ finished the Doctor.  He had been explaining how he had met Brad and something of subsequent and previous events as they sat around the professor’s hexagonal desk in her office.

The professor nodded imperceptibly, her one eye blinking.  ‘Where, or indeed when, to begin.’

‘Exactly!’ The Doctor was nodding furiously.

‘Of course,’ continued the professor, ‘the primary consideration must be the so called First Law of Time, plus a recognition of those who do not subscribe to the theory.’ She paused significantly. ‘In both principle and practice.’

Great, thought Brad.  That’s made everything really clear.  He stared distractedly out of the window, wondering why his teeth were itching.

*

Outside the window, an invisible paste white figure floated impossibly thousands of feet above the ground. It held twin balloons.  One said ‘Cause’, the other ‘Effect’.  The balloons burst soundlessly.

*

The Doctor was excitedly pacing the office.  He had already done three circuits of the table. ‘So what you’re saying is it’s a matter of narrowing the field of suspects.’ He paused. ‘Still leaves a pretty vast field.’ He patted his ample stomach.  ‘All this application has given me an appetite. Sixela?’ He looked expectantly at the professor.

‘I don’t think she’s listening,’ said Brad.

The Doctor stared. Professor Sixela Capricornn was clearly speaking but no sound was emerging.  She also appeared to be fading away before their eyes.

‘Oh good grief!’ The Doctor looked anguished.  He found he could pass a hand clean through the professor. ‘Reality bomb.  It must have been primed and waiting for the trigger… Some form of nexus point.’ He looked at Brad in horrified realisation. ‘Me, Brad, me! I’m the trigger!’

The effect was now spreading.  Table, walls and floor were fading out. Snaking lines of nothing ran into one another, widening the void.  Brad stumbled away from the table, or what remained of it. The professor had completely vanished. With mounting concern Brad noted the walls and corridor outside were vanishing as well.  He stumbled towards the window.

‘What the hell do we do?’ He was not sure if he sounded or felt more alarmed.

‘We don’t panic in the face of adversity,’ announced the Doctor passionately whilst also backing towards the window.  ‘We shall face this thing together, Bradley!’

‘That’s made all the difference,’ said Brad. He looked desperately about himself and noted a softly glowing panel on the wall by the window.  ‘What’s that?’

‘What?’

‘That!’

‘Oh, call panel for the external lift,’ said the Doctor blithely.

They stared at one another.

‘Try the lift?’ wondered Brad.

‘A superb choice! And perhaps the only one left to us.’ The Doctor gave his companion a thoughtful look.

Brad shook his head in disbelief, and leaned past the Doctor and hit the panel.

*

It had taken agonising seconds for the lift to arrive but arrive it did and they had tumbled inside, the Doctor hitting the descent button. There was no sign of the work of the reality bomb yet but Brad was not counting his chickens.

‘So what is a reality bomb exactly?’ he asked to pass the time.

‘Oh, terrible things,’ replied the Doctor. ‘Outlawed by all the major conventions. The field of effect can be cosmic or very localised. They level the playing field geographically and temporally. Once they’ve activated physically there’s a kind of mental wipe out for anyone within, but not physically destroyed by, the immediate zone of effect…’ He tailed off as the lift came to rest with a gentle bump.

‘What was I talking about?’ he asked with a frown.

‘Don’t know,’ said Brad, shrugging.  ‘Something about talking guitars… No.’ He winced. ‘I feel terrible.  I knew I shouldn’t have tried that Soul Killer stuff.’

‘Oh, you’ve tried the Soul Killer have you?’ The Doctor threw back his head and laughed a life affirming laugh.  ‘Come on, let’s get you back to the TARDIS.  You might want to sleep this one off in the Zero Room!’

The Doctor frowned again and shook his head.  ‘I can’t think what we’re doing on Ossobos for the lives of me…’

Next time…

Music was not a common occurrence in the TARDIS, and certainly not something she tended to play through the communication circuits, but then his ship had been acting oddly in many ways recently.  Not unlike the universe itself, come to think of it.

Still, he had to admit, it was a lovely tune.  Made him feel all thoughtful and relaxed inside.  Mellow.  Reminding him of times past, and friends lost.

He got up and walked over to the console.  ‘Well, old girl, where did you get this tune from?’

In answer the scanner screen activated.  It was an internal image that showed Brad in his room, sitting on the bed, wearing the kilt he’d become so found of, playing his keyboard.

The Doctor smiled.  ‘Ah, Bradley.’


To Be Continued… Saturday  23rd October

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller & Elizabeth Medeiros.
Cover © 2010 by Ewen Campion-Clarke.
Reality Bomb © 2001, 2010 by Niall Turner,
The Legacy © & ™ 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen. 
Doctor Who © & ™ 1963, 2010 by BBC Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.
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