Legacy #7; ’70s Cutaway

Previously on LEGACY - Three Night Engagement.

Not for the first time that afternoon, Doctor Langton found himself wondering about drugs. He’d already seen two of his regular methadone patients and had handed out the usual scripts.  The man sitting in front of him now wasn’t obviously asking for methadone or anything like it, yet his behaviour certainly mirrored that of someone experiencing a chemical come down.

‘You don’t understand,’ said the man for the umpteenth time.

Yes, thought Doctor Langton, he’s finally going to come right out and say it.

He leaned forward expectantly, fascinated to see that his patient did literally appear to be wringing his hands. A drop of sweat fell heavily onto the blotter pad on top of the desk.

‘I can’t go to sleep you see,’ continued the man.

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t going to bare all, at least this was getting somewhere.

The man fixed him with an unnervingly intense stare, now speaking slowly and deliberately. ‘You don’t have to look at me like that, I know what I’m doing, you know? Doctors…’ He laughed, a short, harsh sound. ‘This decade is so lame, I’m glad I missed it first time round…’ He stopped dead, aware of what he’d just said.

Scratch the drugs, thought Doctor Langton, definite mental health case. Or maybe both. And I’m in here alone with him. Fantastic.

The man sighed heavily, looking distractedly at one of the watercolours on the office wall. Doctor Langton took the opportunity to ease his chair back a few inches from the desk.

‘Look, forget that,’ said the man, noticing the movement.

‘It’s okay,’ began Doctor Langton, in what he hoped was a calm and reassuring tone.  ‘Can you tell me how long you’ve been having trouble getting to sleep?’

‘What?’ snapped the man fractiously.

‘You said you’d been having trouble sleeping.’

‘No, no, I don’t want to go to sleep.  Sleeping is the problem.’ He fixed Doctor Langton with an impassioned look. ‘I can’t sleep.  Not now. If I do, I’m as good as dead. You’ve got to help me!’

Doctor Langton cleared his throat, trying to think of an appropriate response.  None came immediately to mind, beyond notifying social services.

The man stood up abruptly, coming round the desk to lean over the doctor. Without meaning to, Doctor Langton also stood up, backing his chair noisily into the wall.

‘Oh, come on!’ His patient was looking at him petulantly, and his eyebrows rose archly. ‘You think I’m crazy, don’t you?’

Before Doctor Langton could respond, the young man appeared to slip rapidly back into quite floridly psychotic speech.

‘They’ve probably got the Doctor already. I’ve got to do something and I can’t afford to go to sleep. Do that and they’ve got me.’ He looked up abruptly. ‘You must have some kind of one-shot system stimulant?’

Doctor Langton could only shake his head by way of reply.  He wondered what age the man was. Early to mid twenties? It was a sad case. ‘I can see you’re under considerable stress,’ Doctor Langton heard himself say eventually.

‘Oh go on, say it,’ muttered the man in a dejected tone.

‘Say what?’ wondered the doctor.

‘I’m mad,’ said the man, running a hand through his black hair. ‘I am, you know.’ And he smiled, a little unnervingly. ‘If I understand it right, I go to sleep now and the whole of reality buys the farm. Me too, come to think of it,’ he finished a little disconsolately. ‘Oh well.’ He held out his hand, which Doctor Langton took a little uncertainly. ‘It’s been fun. Have a nice life.’ With that, he turned on his heel and was gone.

‘Yes, well…’ Doctor Langton continued to lean against the wall for a moment, regaining his composure.  Eventually he sat down and pressed the intercom on his desk. ‘Jean, could you come in here a minute?’

A few seconds later his secretary, Jean Brooker, entered the room, smiling enquiringly.

‘Is everything all right, Ian? We could hear raised voices in reception.’ She lowered her voice confidentially. ‘He left in ever such a hurry you know.’

‘That’ll be reality running out,’ said Ian Langton, nodding sagely to himself.

‘Oh.’ Jean looked flummoxed.

‘I’m sorry, Jean.’ He rubbed his eyes tiredly, aware he still had another six patients to see. ‘Chap was definitely a few cards short of a full deck.  I need to put a call through to social services before I see anyone else. What was his name again?’

‘DeMars,’ said Jean with a frown. ‘American I think. He didn’t give a first name.’

‘Okay, thanks, Jean.’

‘No problem.’

As he began to dial, Ian Langton smiled wryly to himself. He’d only agreed to see the chap as a favour; he wasn’t even on the books.  Ah well, no peace for the wicked.  He stared out into the reception area.

*

Unseen by Doctor Langton, Jean Brooker or the bored patients in reception, a needle limbed creature hung upside down from the reception’s wall mounted clock by its feet.  Button eyes stared as it mouthed a soundless ‘Tick’ then ‘Tock’ in an absurd call and response.  Swinging serenely to and fro, a malignant pendulum, it grinned a rictus grin.

*

Mooching dejectedly down the road Brad reflected that his doctor’s appointment could, on the whole, have gone better.  Trouble was he’d never particularly liked or trusted doctors, with the one honorary exception. So why he’d actually come up with such a stupid plan in the first place was a moot point. Desperation perhaps? Yep, he thought that pretty much covered it.  Those last minutes in the TARDIS had been pretty surreal. Well, more surreal than usual.

He’d been headed for the control room, intent on talking to the Doctor about Jacen. In fact, he’d got to the control room, he was sure of it. The Doctor had grinned a greeting, no, scratch that, they’d even started talking.

Then it had happened.

There was an ear-splitting shriek and buzzing globules of what looked like TV static had started spilling from the scanner. Operating controls frantically the Doctor had engaged ‘Emergency Materialisation’, stuffed a bag of unfamiliar notes and coins into Brad’s hands and literally bundled him out of the doors.

‘Construct bounty hunters,’ he’d said in a stage whisper, then raised a theatrical finger to his lips.

‘Construct what? Doc, what the hell’s happening here?’

‘Construct bounty hunters, they’re trying a time jump.’ He’d paused, looking up and down the unfamiliar street.  ‘I’ll try and put them off the scent.’ Then he had given Brad the ‘deadly serious look‘. It was so absurdly pretentious it couldn’t be anything but deadly serious.  ‘Whatever you do, don’t go to sleep.  Reality’s liable to break down without you and I’ve not got the leads for a jump-start.’

‘What?’

The Doctor just grinned his enormous half-moon grin.  ‘You’ll be magnificent, Bradley, I know you will!’ With that he was gone, the TARDIS vanishing with its familiar asthmatic trumpeting.  A final sentence seemed to hang on the air.  ‘I’ll be back!’

And that had been it.  Now, having spent nearly forty-eight hours in London, 1975, Brad had had enough.

Who were these bounty hunters? Would they be coming for him too?

Finding himself standing outside a newsagent, he rummaged in his pockets, stuffed with various denominations of legal currency. Plus, he noted forlornly, a TARDIS homing device. Much good it would do him.

Locating a crumpled one pound note he pushed open the shop door.

*

Inside it was dark, cool and blissfully quiet compared to the street outside.  Garish racks of confectionery jostled for space alongside newspapers, magazines and sundry household items.  Wondering vaguely how a packet of dusters might help him save reality, Brad’s gaze settled on the rows of chocolate bars with their various unlikely names.

‘You got ten pence mister?’ Looking down Brad saw an Afro-Caribbean kid in denim, all of six years old, staring hopefully up at him.

‘Hey you!’ growled a white haired old shopkeeper from the back of the store.  ‘I’ve warned you before. Hop it!’

‘Hey, it’s cool.’ Brad raised his hands in a placating gesture, found a coin and gave it to the boy.

‘You shouldn’t encourage ’em,’ the shopkeeper rumbled.

‘Hey, seeing as he’s going to spend it in your shop, I don’t see why you’re complaining,’ Brad said tartly.

‘Smartarse.’

‘Yeah, right, whatever,’ Brad muttered as the shopkeeper proceeded to serve the boy.

He grabbed himself a random handful of chocolate. Definitely needed the sugar. Coffee would be good, too. ‘Hey, do you sell…’ He tailed off.

The shopkeeper had the boy’s coin and was inserting it into some sort of indentation on top of the cash register. Weird looking cash register come to think of it.  A look passed between the boy and the man.

‘Definite match?’ the boy asked.

‘Definite.’ The shopkeeper nodded. ‘DNA strand’s unmistakeable.’

They both turned to face him, eyes glowing a luminescent green.

Brad dropped the chocolate.

How come it was he who got to walk into the only trapped alien newsagents in the whole damn world?

‘Hope you’re not thinking of going anywhere,’ said the shopkeeper, turning a weirdly glowing ball of energy in his hand.

‘Big price on your head, man,’ added the boy nonchalantly.

‘You’re Construct bounty hunters, right?’ Brad saw a grin pass between them.

‘Well,’ said the old guy, tossing the ball from hand to hand.  ‘We are. But the contract’s changed.’

Brad didn’t need to hear the rest. As the ball of light hurtled towards him he wrenched at the central rack of shelving. Stumbling backwards out of the door he saw the middle of the store was now a mess of items encased in a web of viscous light strands.  He ran.

*

Soon he was aware of shouting from behind him.  The old man and the boy were in pursuit. In the middle of the air, balanced like surfers on futuristic skateboards, zipping in and out of the traffic.  They were gaining fast.  Brad went to catch at the arm of a traffic warden, but his hand went straight through the warden.

‘Don’t know you’re there, man,’ mocked the boy.  ‘Playing by different rules now.’

Brad stared wildly from side to side. The boy swooped overhead, turning for an attack, another ball of energy to hand.  Brad ducked sharp left, into the stairwell of a multi-storey car park. The familiar smell of urine and rubbish hit him. Lifts or stairs, lifts or stairs? One of the lifts was opening.  Brad stared.

It was the Doctor.

‘Well, come on!’ his friend boomed.

Brad needed no further encouragement.

*

Inside the lift he turned to the Doctor and stared again.  He was in the console room. The Doctor grinned triumphantly.

‘Yes, the chameleon circuit’s operational!’ He nodded to himself. ‘I would have done it sooner but necessity often proves the mother of invention.’ He grabbed Brad by both hands. ‘It’s good to see you, Bradley!’

‘You too, Doc, you too.  Now can you please tell me what’s going on?’

The Doctor beamed, plucking the homing device from his jacket pocket. ‘A small matter of splitting our resources. I had to throw the Construct off the scent, so I dropped you off and –’

‘You did what?’

‘I dropped you off and –’

‘You were using me as a decoy!’

The Doctor nodded, eyes gleaming. ‘If you like, yes. And a very good one too! Well done, Bradley!’

Brad sighed. ‘Great.’ He noticed the central column was moving. They were in flight again. ‘So what are the Construct again?’

The Doctor waved a hand. ‘Oh, creatures of pure causality.  With the causal nexus unravelling, and me being at the centre of it, those that watch such things have doubtless declared open season on us. The two you just met are Bartholomew and Anotyne.  Very dubious company.’

‘It just gets better,’ said Brad.

‘Yes, yes.’ The Doctor grinned in delight.  ‘It’s wonderful to feel wanted, isn’t it?’

‘No,’ said Brad pointedly.

The Doctor gaped. ‘I’m sure you can’t mean that. Oh, that’s interesting.’

‘What is?’

‘We’ve arrived somewhere else already.’ The Doctor operated the scanner. They were on top of a multi storey car park. In 1975 judging by the two figures hovering a good ten feet above the roof.

‘Tranquillisers,’ said Brad.  ‘I should have asked that guy for tranquillisers.’

‘Bradley, be a star and distract them would you?’ the Doctor asked. He was staring thoughtfully at the central column. ‘If they’re operating a linear inductor the only option’s to bypass it with a randomiser.’ He met Brad’s gaze. ‘It’ll take a minute. It won’t take them too long to get in here and I hate interruptions when I’m working.’

‘Right,’ said Brad.  ‘I’ll go and do the distracting thing.’

*

He found himself getting out of the passenger seat of a chrome blue Land Rover. This chameleon thing seemed to be working.  Turning he saw the bounty hunters hovering over the far wall of the car park. Brad backed around the Land Rover and looked over the rim of the wall. At least a hundred and fifty feet down. The boy was approaching at alarming speed, a shimmering ball of energy crackling in his hand.

‘Hey, so who are you?’ called Brad weakly.  ‘Bartholomew or Anotyne?’

A grin was all he got by way of reply. The skateboard sped closer. Heart pounding Brad took a step forward. The boy brought his arm up, bowling underarm.  Brad grabbed for him.

Confusion.

Brad fell heavily, very heavily, at first he thought the kid was on top of him but it was the skateboard thing.  It was incredibly heavy for something so small, an absolute deadweight.  Struggling up Brad saw the boy prone against the wall.  The light ball had exploded around him. A tracery of luminescent lines seemed to be eating in to him.

With an electrical fizz, boy and light disappeared.

‘You got Anotyne! You’ll pay for that!’ The old guy was incredulous.

So was Brad to be honest, but his shoulder and side were aching too much to think clearly.  Now white hair was coming for him.  The driver’s side door was opening.  The Doctor leaned out.

‘Bradley, strap yourself in!’

Brad stumbled to the passenger door.  Buckling himself in, his stomach lurched as the Doctor performed what felt like a three hundred and sixty degree turn. Bartholomew was very close now; Brad could see him in the wing mirror.

‘Time for the unstoppable force to meet the immovable object!’ announced the Doctor. And drove straight for Bartholomew.  Head on.  At the last minute Bartholomew seemed to realise the Doctor was serious and tried to swerve.  It was too late.  There was a clang of impact from the roof and the bounty hunter went sailing over the edge of the car park, complete with skateboard. There was an unnatural silence.  Brad shook his head.  He wasn’t sure if he felt like crying or laughing. The Doctor placed a hand on his shoulder.

‘What the hell is happening?’ said Brad.  ‘Did we kill them?’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘Not a chance. They’ll have reverted to causal particles. They were over confident, that’s all.  We were lucky.’

‘Right.’ Brad became aware he was sitting in the front of a Land Rover. ‘Hey, the TARDIS?’

‘Emergency reconfiguration,’ said the Doctor simply. ‘Inserting a randomiser is a devil of a job, Bradley. We need to lie low for a while, let the temporal trail go cold.’ Gunning the engine he headed for the exit ramp and the next level. ‘So,’ he said, his eyes sad and his smile serious.  ‘Tell me about Jacen.’

Brad looked down, noticing a newspaper in the well by his feet. He picked it up and looked it over; apparently something called UNIT was due to make a world shattering announcement tomorrow.

‘Bradley?’

Brad squirmed in his seat.  Before the Doctor had chucked him out to be decoy, Brad was all for telling the Doctor about Jacen; he even had a plan of how to save his friend. But now… He sighed.  The Doctor wouldn’t let this one go, he had that look on his bearded face.

‘Okay,’ Brad said, and began talking.

*

Brad talked and the Doctor listened.  As he talked, he felt a weight lift from his mind. Nothing changed but he felt easier just for having talked it through out loud.

A good two hours later they were parked high above the suburbs to the south west of the city.  The Thames sprawled lazily far below them.

‘You know, it’s weird,’ said Brad, ‘I can’t even remember the sound of his voice, y’know, what he was like. That’s got to be wrong.’

The Doctor seemed to smile at a private memory.

Brad sighed.  ‘You can’t take me back can you?’

The Doctor shook his head.  ‘I might be able to take you back in the normal course of things but I still couldn’t change what happened.’

It was Brad’s turn to shake his head. ‘But look what’s happening to you.  I mean, if that isn’t someone messing around with time…’

The Doctor laughed a short, uncharacteristically mirthless sound. Brad looked closely at his face in profile. There were anger and passion and questions there to match his own.

The Doctor continued to stare ahead, into the dying evening.

Neither of them spoke again for a long time…

To find out what happens next, look out for the soon-to-released collected stories of LEGACY season one, volume one, Requiem. It will be published by Japaf Publishing and distributed by Lulu Distributions. As ever, LEGACY is a non-profit series and the cost of the book covers printing and postage only – the contributors do not make a single penny from it. As an incentive for buying it, though, there will be two exclusive stories to volume one; The Ugly Bug Ball by Greg Miller (previously only available in the limited 2006 e-anthology, The Other Side of Reality), and The Flames of Chambrook by A. R. Montacruz – a never before released season one story!

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller & Elizabeth Medeiros.
Cover & Artwork © 2010 by Ewen Campion-Clarke.
'70s Cutaway © 2001, 2010 by Niall Turner,
Legacy © & ™ 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen. 
Doctor Who © & ™ 1963, 2010 by BBC Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.

 

The online LEGACY adventures will resume New Year’s Day 2011 with The Millennium People, which follows on from the events of Requiem. But until then I shall be running a new weekly serialised novel, exclusive to this blog, called Vampire Knights. The novel will be an experiment, modelled on the early days of LEGACY. It will be written week-by-week with no absolute direction to follow. The story will grow organically, and along the way will feature guest authors – some of whom will be known, others will be fresh new talent.

 

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