Roleplaying with Doctor Who!

Teaser: “Kingdom of the Cybermen”

Fiction001IT HAD been hours since they’d returned to the TARDIS. With the Emperor Claudius left cowering in his field tent, drenched in sweat and pleading for mercy, the Doctor’s work in Roman Britain was done. He was standing at the console now, a hunched and shadowy shape flipping switches with the verve of a man possessed. The control room echoed with the beeps and pings of the time capsule’s petulant computer. To Selene, such noises were a sort of birdsong, not a distraction or annoyance.

The Doctor was in a particularly snippy mood, however, and he had made it clear that he did not need her help. Instead, she had forged ahead with her own pet project—the repairs to the Master—and, after countless hours of anticipation, it seemed the android was at last on the cusp of reactivation.

“Nearly there!” Selene chirped excitedly. She pointed to a tool she’d left on his side of the console. “Could you hand me that pneuma-spanner?”

“Selene!” the Doctor snapped, eyes feverishly scanning the monitor before him.

“Excuse me,” she muttered, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “I’m only putting the finishing touches on a project that you have, up until this point, considered all-important. I’ve only solved a problem that we had, up until this point, considered to be impossible!”

The Doctor froze, his cold blue eyes rising to offer her a reproachful and demoralizing stare. “Selene,” he said solemnly, his pale face drawn. “We have just been informed that the course of human history as we know is the result of a perversion perpetrated by one of the most heinous and malevolent forces that I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. This isn’t the time to be tinkering with that moral time bomb left to me by the Time Lords! The Divinity are out there, taking their places in the temples and the shrines, damning all earthly civilizations in my name.”

“I—” she began, but she was silenced almost immediately.

“Enough!” the Doctor hissed. “I’ve got to finish this.”

And he returned his full attention to the console without another word.

He didn’t need to utter another word.

Selene waited a moment, letting the tension in the air settle, before stepping around the antique comb back Windsor chair propping up the android body to retrieve the pneuma-spanner herself. She fused the remaining structural links in the Master’s skull in silence before slapping her hands together a few times and stepping back to survey her work.

Anyone unversed in cybernetics would have considered the lifeless Master—a fallen figure clad entirely in an imposing black interrupted only by a pale, sullen countenance—to be a downright ghoulish spectre. Selene had seen inside of him, however. She’d repaired his many microleads and realigned his psychotrack intakes. There was wonder in this mechanical man from Gallifrey. She felt that he was as wondrous as any of the curiosities that they had encountered outside of the TARDIS.

Smiling with pride, Selene looked over her shoulder. The Doctor was continuing to ignore her, however, as well as the body slumped before her on an old wooden chair. “Where are you going to look for them?” she asked after a moment. “The Divinity.”

“Arrowdown,” the Doctor declared without hesitation.

“The village by the sea? With the funfair?”

“That’s the one. Somewhere buried in the silt beneath Arrowdown Bay is a casket. You and I need to have a conversation with the monster that’s playing dead inside.”

The Doctor wrenched a knob on the console and, in response, the time rotor roared to life—but only for a moment. At the peak of its cycle, the central column shuddered and fell still. “Blast!” the Doctor shouted into the echoing chamber, then he wound back his hand and slapped the controls. He was immediately punished for the outburst and Selene had to suppress a smile as he shook his fingers in pain, doing his best to hide a pout behind the green collar of his cape. “The coordinates are locked. England, 1989.” The Doctor sighed. “Terrible year, and I can’t override it.”

“The Time Lords,” Selene surmised.

“Perhaps,” the Doctor said, waggling a finger in the air as if to challenge the assumption. “Perhaps. There’s only one way to find out.”

The waggling finger was driven down to the console, jabbing at one of the buttons below. The central column sprang to life. The walls and the girders surrounding them began to hum with the usual resonance. The TARDIS took flight, plunging through unseen dimensional barriers into the seething currents of the time vortex. All of this was familiar to them, comforting even, which made it all the more alarming when the panel closest to Selene chose to explode.

There was a sudden and violent burst of sparks, an overload of light and noise. Selene leapt back, toward the Doctor, who reached out to pull her back further still. The two of them watched, stunned, as, a moment later, an arc of bright blue electricity burst forth from the machinery. If Selene had remained standing near the Windsor chair she might well have been vaporized.

“Artron energy,” the Doctor said gravely. “Stand clear.”

In the azure light of the artron surge, his pallid face flashed from confusion to astonishment to something resembling horror as he watched the energy stream reach out—seeking, searching, snaking through the crackling air—until it had made contact with the slumped and inert figure propped up on the comb back chair. The synthetic carcass spasmed once, then again, its arms twisting and its neck stiff. There was another shower of sparks from the console and the surge of artron energy generated by travelling through the time vortex subsided.

Selene’s jaw went slack as she realized the figure was now sitting up on its own. She took an eager step forward before the Doctor’s frigid hand fell on her shoulder and stopped her in her tracks. Before them, the android stirred. The bearded head turned in their direction. Its eyes snapped open.

The Master lived.

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