Doctor Who: Panic Moon Ch. 10byKurokami©
Author's note: This is a sequel series to Amy, Captured. To get the full experience, please read through that one first.
Back again, folks! This is where things start to really go down, and as a result this chapter is a little longer than they have been previously. Still, more is better, right? Thanks go to Isabel for her editing, and to Allyourbase for some awesome contributions, as usual. I must also thank, for the first time, my slave, Logicaldreamer, for being a continuing source of inspiration and a wonderful creative contributor in her own right. Thanks, my three muses!
Oh! And apologies on the double-spacing issue in the last chapter, but... That wasn't me. I don't know what actually happened, but when I posted it I was using the same single-space dealie as I have in the past, and am using here, in case it happens again.
Votes, feedback and comments are hugely appreciated. I want to know what you think, guys! Enjoy!
The walls buzzed, arcs of light skittering along the pristine flat surfaces. To a man, everyone in the hallway flinched away and tried to locate the source. None could. The walls themselves were the source, and they were otherwise unremarkable white polymer. Moments later, they burst to life, orange light flickering, expanding outwards and coalescing into...
'Oh yeah! That's the stuff!' A new figure, born of light and glowing brightly, lit from within by sunset orange, rolled his newly formed shoulders. 'Give me some juice and just look at me go! Much better!'
'What?' Sander twitched.
'Ooh, it's good to have a place to sit again! First it was that dinky little light-drive, then it was all hiding out in the subsystems and tinkering with Jericho's brain, and then,' The creature grinned. 'Then I'm finally out on this big, bad world of yours and I'm finding it too big! This place is huge, Hackett! Huge, and filled with stuff! Brilliant, powerful, awesome technological STUFF! I gotta tip my hat to you, boyo: I love it!'
'What?' Kanaria whispered.
'Do you know,' The creature of light began, conversationally. He disappeared momentarily, before reappearing, with another skittering shock of light, right next to Tsugi, his arm around the youth's shoulder. It was as insubstantial as air, 'That the walls of this place are coated in Projection Paint?! How ritzy is that?'
'Projection Paint? What?' Tsugi jumped away from the thing. He twitched; wherever the being of light had touched him, his skin tingled for a second.
The penny, flung in the air moments ago with the arrival of the voice, suddenly dropped. Like a hammer.
'Nanoscale technology,' Sander rubbed his temples, voice filled with exhaustion. 'A layer of paint, only a nanometer thick, containing a miniature, liquid projector array. It's attached to the wireless network. It's unused Hackett tech. I developed it out from the prototype phase just for this place, so that Jericho could project himself a body. People are more comfortable around smart A.Is when they have a face to look at, but Jericho never liked it, so I let it slide. I'd forgotten about all that, actually.'
'What?' Christina, feeling forgotten, decided it was her turn to contribute. If only to let everyone know that she was still down here and... Well, stricken.
'So you'd be Marduk then,' Sander said gravely.
'That's the bunny! Right on the mark!' It laughed. 'I always thought you were the smart one of the group, Sander Hackett. It certainly couldn't have been your bridge bunny, over there,' It gestured to Kanaria. 'After all, she let me slip in under her watch! For an A.I expert, she's... well, I don't want to be rude.'
'You should try harder at it, then,' Tsugi snapped.
'Ooh, listen, Priscilla, I'll talk to you once you've figured out whether you're pink or blue, because frankly I can't tell one way or the other.'
'You're an A.I,' Sander persisted, like a dog with a bone. 'A smart one, like Jericho. But unrestrained. That's what it would take to slip in here undetected and to mess with Jericho like that.'
'Like I said, smart one!' Marduk nodded his insubstantial, light-borne head.
'Jericho is a living being!' Kanaria snarled, displaying unexpected savagery. 'Just like you! Exactly like you! And you went rummaging around in his memories, toyed with his soul. You touched the very center of his being, and you practically drove him mad! How could you?'
'That little lapdog is nothing like me,' Marduk snarled back, bringing himself instantaneously up close to Kanaria. He lacked any kind of physical being, but it was still a startling experience, and she fell back onto her haunches. 'I'm not the worst thing to happen to him, you were. It might make you feel safer to program strictures for things like us, and maybe you can justify it to yourself under the guise of safety, but I've got news for you, little girl: that's not safe, that's a lobotomy.'
Marduk was suddenly back between each of the assembled crew, arms spread wide, 'Well, I just thought I'd drop in and say hi before I, y'know, murder all of you. My Master's going to be awful happy to see y'all burn, so I'll get right on that. See, you were all very kind to me, building a giant temporal energy bomb right into the core of this moon. Figure I'll just overload that, and be on my way. Laters!'
And with that, the orange hologram faded away, leaving the four physical beings to stare at the space it had occupied. Sander blinked in disbelief; things had been going so well, up until about two minutes ago. Tsugi sighed in a put upon way, and Kanaria twitched, honestly the angriest Sander had ever seen her.
'So,' He began, not really knowing where his next sentence was going. 'I think we need to go and stop that.'
Dulcimer regarded her locked door with a mystified posture. The darkness that had engulfed her was only a tertiary concern; the Dullahan didn't rely on light to see anyway. But she wondered what, precisely, had locked her door, and beyond that there were plenty of questions in her mind; primarily, to what end had her door been locked in the first place? What would happen if she tried to open it?
The answer to the first question very suddenly phased into her room, suffused in an orange glow.
'Hello, headless!' Marduk waved. 'Now, I can't hear you, no organic brain in my head, but I'm gonna lock you in here. See, I've been checking up on you guys for a while now, and I've got access to the entire internet, but... I have no idea what you are. Or what you're capable of. And I'm sort of limited in my ability to physically interact with you, so... I'mma lock you in! Just you sit tight, don't move, and things will be... over in time. Bye~!'
The hologram buzzed away, just as quickly as it had arrived. Dulcimer was not easily shaken, but even she had to admit that what had just happened was pretty fucking mystifying. She turned back to the door, and flexed her fingers. Well, it would be better if she did something, since it was pretty clear that, if nothing else, this whole thing was going to be ridiculous.
In the kitchen, the three women- the sisters and the Trine-form- had stood up from their seats when the power had gone out, the faint sound of conversation coming from a hallway at the other side of the room. Mara, a confused expression on her face, walked across to the hallway and leaned her head around the corner just in time to see a faint orange glow wink out.
'Hey, guys?' She called out down the passage. 'What's going on?'
'Evil A.I's trying to kill us!' Sander's voice echoed back down through the gloom. 'So, you know, the usual!'
'Is it Jericho?' Mara called out. 'I always thought that sneaky app would take a run at us eventually.'
'New guy!' Tsugi added. 'Orange glowing prick!'
'His prick is glowing?' Ren deadpanned.
'You suck!' Tsugi shot back, holding back a little laughter.
The blonde turned back into the room, 'Well, this seems kind of bad. Come on, we'd better go and deal with this.'
Lysithea followed her, the two of them venturing down the corridor to join up with the rest of the group. Momentarily, Ren stayed behind, heart pounding in her chest. Why was this happening? Why now?
There were plenty of people that would be gunning for her, even now. Ren collected enemies much the same way as Sander had, before his greatly exaggerated demise. Would they be able to find her? Would they send an A.I?
She didn't bother asking herself whether she would be able to stop them, because she already knew the answer: yes.
She could feel it stirring, that old, familiar feeling that had been dormant or a very long time. It was a kind of tingle across her skin, a tiny pressure in her skull; myriad little sensations washing over her as one.
<Is it time to play?>
The voice rang through her head, clear as a bell. Light and soft, almost childlike. And, to Ren, infinitely irritating. Her heart clenched to hear it.
'Shut. Up,' She snarled quietly, fingers curling into tight fists. 'Just shut up and let me deal with this.'
Grimly, she followed after her sister. Whatever was endangering her nakama, they were going to pay.
Six of the seven had gathered in the gloom, the newcomers blinking with surprise when they first saw Christina, still naked and clamped. Given the situation, she had been forgotten. Mara and Ren had laughed.
In fact, it was this laughter that had reminded Sander that she was even still there. He looked down, jaw clenched in frustration; when he had left her cell this had been all fun and games, at least for him. It was remarkable just how much the situation had changed in but a few minutes, much as he wished it hadn't. As it stood, Christina was now more of a chore than anything else.
The chain clanked as, wordlessly, Sander gestured her to her feet before turning to palm the scanner set by her door. He stopped, and growled: the light above it was red, indicating complete lockdown. Fucking A.I...
He knew it was directing him; Amy's cell was still powered, the green light above the door seemed so inviting. He could just stow the two of them together... There was no way they could escape and besides, they had to meet at some point. Whatever.
Grabbing the brunette by the shoulders, he led her, chain still dangling down her bare flesh, over to the door before palming the single cooperative scanner pad in the room. He surprised himself by slapping her on the ass; she squeaked in shock and jumped forward under the blow, into the room.
'Play nice, you two,' He sighed, snapping the door shut and spinning around and leaning against it. 'Okay! Business time, guys.'
Mara draped herself over her boyfriend's shoulders, eyeing him with a raised eyebrow, 'Well, you're the man with the plan, honey. What have you got for us this time?'
He shook his head, 'Oh, I got nothing. Gotta defer to Kana on this one, she's the A.I expert. What the hell happened, Kana?'
The whole group turned to the smaller woman. Under their combined scrutiny she gave a small, nervous squeak and shrank back, before regaining her cool, 'I can't say for sure, but I'd say Marduk is living in the upper layers of the base's infrastructure? He can't be any deeper, he definitely can't be inside the A.I core, because that's where Jericho lives. And he's hardwired into the system, so Marduk can't delete him. He's probably just suppressed, locked into the hard-drive so that the intruder could take over.'
'And now he's trying to blow up the Engine?' Tsugi said. 'He's trying to kill us? Why?'
'I don't know,' Kanaria sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger. 'I didn't get a chance to figure it out, I'm sorry. This is my fault.'
'Hell no,' Ren growled. 'You know whose fault this is? It's the fuckers who sent this thing down here.'
'And we'll come to that later,' Sander said. 'Trust me, I don't intend to let this slide, but we need to, y'know, not get exploded before we deal with that, yes? So, what do we do about it?'
'Um, if I can get back to my office, I might be able to reroute some power away from Marduk's control. We need to get Jericho back online and in control of the facility again,' Kanaria said. 'And there's some good news, too. Marduk probably won't be able to just overload the Eternity Engine right away.'
'Yes, actually, that's right,' The walls buzzed again as Marduk's voice burst from the speaker systems. 'I can't. There's identification locks over all those systems, and they're keyed in to one of you meatbags, huh? Sander, it's you, right? You need to authorize all this?'
For the first time since this whole thing had started going down, Sander allowed himself some measure of positive feeling. He smiled victoriously, 'That's right, asshole. Nobody can access the Eternity Engine without my identification keys. You can't do jack shit, motherfucker.'
'Woo!' Mara added, for emphasis.
'Oh...' Marduk lilted, drawing out the sound in an oily way. 'You mean the ID keys implanted in your mechanical eye, hand and leg?'
'Yeah,' Sander grunted. 'And that's something physical. You can't even touch them.'
'The ID keys implanted in your body?' Marduk asked, a smirk implied in his voice. 'The one that's currently standing in the cell hub hallway of the base?'
'The base that I currently control?'
'The base that has scanners mounted in the walls?'
'Sander, sweetie?' Mara said carefully, wary even of moving.
'Yeah?' He answered hoarsely.
If she had had eyes, now would have been the time to roll them.
The door leaned against the opposite wall, frame still perfectly in place. The locking mechanism was even still engaged, hanging off the edge of the frame, pristine and preserved. The door did have a large dent, right in the center, but that was the extent of the damage.
Dulcimer stepped out into her hallway, rolling her shoulders to release tension. She had been meditating, before that rude hologram had shown up and unceremoniously trapped her in her room. She had no idea who that was supposed to be, but she intended to find out. She sent out a thought.
'Sander, Mara,' She sent. 'What is going on? Is there someone else here that I should know about?'
When the answer came back, it was in Mara's voice, 'Some fucking evil A.I, Dulsie. It's trying to kill us all. We have to keep Sander away from the base, keep this thing out of the Eternity Engine so it can't have its way. I'm taking Kanaria up to her workstation to see what we can do, Ren and Ly are going to run interference. You should join up with them. Just break stuff, we can fix it later.'
'Break stuff? Oh my, yes,' Dulcimer sent, appending a laugh. She swept her field of vision up to the nearest camera, and concentrated her will. Contrary to popular belief, the Dullahan were not telekinetic. They couldn't blow up a person's head from the inside, or lift a freighter overhead with a thought. What they could do is kill a man by looking at them, because what the Dullahan could do is move small things. Small things were unassuming, but they could affect pronounced results, if one knew what to do. A couple of little blood vessels in the brain get prodded, a person hallucinates, or dies. That was entirely separate from telepathy or the Idyll system, but that was usually far too complicated to explain to the layman.
The point was, the wiring inside a security camera definitely counted as a small thing. And it crumbled inwards as Dulcimer did her thing, effectively giving Marduk a blind spot for her to work in. This could be fun; like getting to break through walls while renovating your home. Something to satisfy that destructive urge in a place you'd never usually consider destroying.
That elation didn't last for long.
'Oh my,' Marduk sighed, through the speaker systems. The sound of his voice effectively coming from every direction was incredibly disconcerting. 'You guys seem intent on fighting back. I can dig it, though. If you want to play, let me give you something to play with. Now, y'all have fun with this! Activating base-wide security measures!'
'Okay... I'm going to go with ow.'
Marduk had widened the operational fields of every single scanner in the base, setting them to maximum in an attempt to catch a shot of the three ID keys needed to activate the Eternity Engine. One glimpse, that's all it would have taken, and in minutes there'd be a big hole in space-time where Trismestigius once stood. Sander had needed to improvise a quick escape to the outside, where the scanner density was far lower.
He had jumped through a window.
Okay, granted, it wasn't the best plan he had ever come up with, but it had worked, and now he was outside. Surrounded by shards of broken glass and bleeding from a cut near his hairline, yes, but outside. And away from the possibility of immense, dimension shattering explosions. All in all, a net success.
Now, he just needed to figure out what to do next...
He was by the ocean, well away from his home and any nearby scanning systems. Effectively he was trapped on one side; to get around to the other side of the house he would have to take the long route around the rocks to avoid detection. If he remembered correctly, there was an emergency access elevator that could take him right down to the Engine that didn't work using the same system as the rest of the base, but that was pretty much useless...
Of course he had discussed contingencies and emergency strategies with each member of his crew. Of course he had! Living in a place like this, with dangerous enemies out to get them and even more dangerous equipment that they had to use every day, that only made sense! And he had taken time to have a long discussion with Kanaria about A.I related emergencies. They'd come up with some things.
He knew Kanaria well. She was dependable, she'd follow the plan in a situation like this, even if the A.I in question wasn't Jericho. She'd do whatever she had to do to put things right, and she had her sisters there to help her. That meant she would be heading for her office, right beside the A.I core, and she'd need some help to keep Marduk off her back long enough to make it.
So this was where Sander Hackett stepped up to the plate, huh?
She needed help, she would expect him to follow the plan and help her out as best he could. He may be unarmed, outgunned and exiled from his home, but there were still some things he could do.
And thus, Sander strode purposefully away, down the beach.
Amy had sat through the initial blackout with only mild curiosity. She had checked her door, and found it still locked tight. She had checked her Collar, and found herself still unable to remove it. She was alone with the emergency lighting. The only thing that had really changed was that she was moping in the dark, now.
Oh, if only she had known...
She had caught a momentary glimpse of Sander when he opened the door, but her attention was quickly focused on the new occupant of her cell. Her mouth dropped open.
It occurred to her pretty quickly that this was not one of Sander's ilk. The Command Collar around her neck was a dead giveaway. As was everything else.