Title: Doctor Scully: Where Dragons go to Dream
Archiving: This story may be archived or distributed, provided that the author is clearly identified, this complete header section remains intact and at the start of the file, and the story is not altered. It may not be distributed for profit.
Summary: The fifth Doctor Scully adventure sees a continuation of the experiment that began in: Doctor Scully and the File after "W". This story finds The Doctor on Time's End - a planet where a multi-trillion dollar industrial conglomerate is making people's dreams come true - at the expense of the last surviving Dragons in the entire Universe.
The Universe has just ended. About three minutes ago.
The Doctor produces her gold pocket watch from inside her coat, flips up the lid, and studies the complex timepiece for a few seconds.
If we were to examine the instrument closely, we would see that there are seven separate sets of hands revolving around three equidistant spindles. All of them are moving in opposing directions.
There are 19 symbols engraved around the circumference of the watch face, and none of them would be recognisable as anything even closely resembling numbers. At least not to the inhabitants of a small class M planet. You know the one: Orbiting the star Sol, in the western spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy.
Perhaps this should not surprise us, because Doctor Scully, Guardian of the Cosmos, isn't from around there.
She is from somewhere altogether much more interesting.
But, anyway. The Universe has just ended. About three minutes and fifty seconds ago.
And the shit has hit the fan!
Doctor Scully: Where Dragons go to Dream by Adrian.D.Ives
Perhaps when she had been much younger, years into the future, she might have felt differently.
Possibly one of her previous selves might have been more amenable. The fourth, maybe. All teeth and curls, and always game for a challenge. Or the sixth. So arrogant that he had thought nothing was beyond his abilities.
But she was an altogether different kind of Doctor. The latest model. Top of the line. At least she liked to think so.
"Just a little job." The Lord President had said.
"Shouldn't take you too long." The Castellan had added - with one of those exceedingly irritating knowing looks that he had perfected so well.
"And we would be *so* grateful."
"And so you should be." The Doctor said to herself, circling the console to arrive back at the dimensional stabiliser controls. She tapped a few buttons, moved some switches, adjusted a dial or two, and then stared at the display screen with disbelief (and no small amount of frustration).
She took a step backwards, as if stepping back from the problem would shed a new light on things. But she collided with the old mahogany hat stand and bumped the back of her head. It hurt.
"Stupid thing!" The Doctor lashed out with her foot, and sent the startled piece of furniture flying across the room, where it collided with one of the roundelled panels, and came to rest next to an old sea chest. It glared back at her and proceeded to sulk quietly in the corner.
"Just a little job ..." She muttered, clenching up her right hand into a fist, and looking for a suitable place to thump the control panel. It was as she hovered over the octagonal console, ready to plant a firm slap just to the right of the Di-Ectotransic Conducifier Pentode Array, that a sobering thought came to mind.
"I'm standing here talking to myself," she said to the Time Ship. "Probably the first sign of madness, don't you think? ..."
The Doctor thought about what she'd just said. Then she reappraised the situation. "... Well, anyway, more likely the mark of a true genius. Isaac used to talk to himself all the time. What was it that he used to say? An apple a day keeps the -"
The Time Ship didn't answer her. It could have, though. Seeing as how it was a sentient machine that shared a space-time transcending empathic link with her. It just chose not to.
She couldn't really blame the Ship. The Doctor had been through a variety of unpredictable mood swings ever since her recent visit to Earth. The confrontation with her ancient enemy, The Manipulator, had been unsettling. And, for some reason, she felt as if she had left behind some unfinished business.
Something else had happened on that trip. Something that had brought home to her how very different this regeneration was proving to be. For the first time she had started to experience some of the feelings that she had secretly envied in non-Time Lord species. It had been ... enlightening.
As the Time Ship rolled on, she contemplated her previous eight lives, and the recurring theme that had run right through them. This apparent need to seek out companionship was curious. Especially when that companionship so often seemed to originate from the planet Earth. And now, in her ninth incarnation, the need seemed stronger than ever. And somehow different. Most curious.
For some reason she started to think about Mulder again. The FBI agent had helped her to defeat The Manipulator - and probably just in the nick of time. It was, she thought again, a shame that he hadn't been able to join her on her travels.
Afterwards she'd spent hours at the Time Ship Databank, reading about the strange cases that he and his partner had become involved with. The startling X Files that made her own adventures seem almost mundane by comparison. And, when she came to the end of the available data, she had started right back at the beginning again.
Much later, she had found herself wandering around the almost limitless maze of corridors within the Ship. Feeling so small and lonely amidst that expanse of emptiness and silence. As a Time Lord, this was a feeling that she had never experienced before. Or, at least, it had never mattered before. And it had made her certain that this lifetime was going to be quite different from the ones that had gone before it.
And then the Ship did reply to her. By working properly. And materialising exactly where she wanted to be.
"Good girl," said The Doctor, gently patting the console. She could have sworn that the Ship emitted a soft purring sound in response. Like a contended kitten. "Let's see what's out there."
She operated the scanner control and stepped back to regard the three-dimensional viewing screen, rapidly tapping her fingers together with impatience.
Slowly, the image resolved itself into clarity: Three conical structures, towering high above a densely wooded valley, their tips shrouded in wispy white cloud. Huge winged creatures wheeled and dived about the shining glass towers, and even bigger beasts roamed the forests below, their reptilian heads slowly bobbing above the treetops as they moved.
She adjusted the scanner focus, zooming in on the huge advertising hoarding, set into the side of the hill on which the complex was built ...
Futures 'R' Us
We make the future what you never thought possible
"Hmmn. Just a touch pretentious." She snapped down the scanner control switch, and watched the image dissolve into a thousand grains of dislocated light, before it finally faded away to nothing.
"Oh, well. Come along then, Doctor," said The Doctor to herself, gathering up her rainbow coloured scarf around her neck. "After all, it's not often that one gets the chance to visit the place where the end of the Universe begins."
"Stop right there!" said the voice, with a commanding tone that seemed to indicate that he (because the owner was very definitely male) might actually mean it.
So she stopped. Right there. On the side of the steep grassy hillside overlooking the forest. She held up her hands, spreading out her fingertips, and stood completely still.
She heard his footsteps pressing into the soft turf, as he circled slowly behind her. But it was the barrel of the Bloomfield and Wyatt six-oh calibre assault Proton Cannon that she saw first. When it was pressed up against her nose.
The face, and the man that it belonged to, came a few seconds later. He was tall. Taller than her. Although that wasn't difficult. Humanoid. Well, humanoid-ish: He had a mouth, two eyes, a nose, and a pair of ears. Not Terran, though, she decided. But certainly a species from that neck of the woods. Well, probably.
He was dressed in a military uniform; a khaki jumpsuit with more zippered pockets in more different places than she would have thought either safe, or desirable, for such a garment. He had a fairly muscular build, and thick dark hair that urgently needed some attention. In fact, he looked as if he could do with a really good long hot bath.
In Earth years he would have been in his late thirties. In Condrominium Twangles, a non-linear unit of time whose exact value was dependent upon the molecular composition of the being experiencing its passing, he would have been closer to -
But that was totally and utterly irrelevant.
"Hello, I'm The Doctor," she said, jovially. "And this is ... Oh, sorry. Keep forgetting. Just me at the moment. Sorry."
The man looked at her with suspicion, but he slowly lowered the massive atomic powered weapon to the ground, until it rested on the tip of its barrel, leaning against his right leg and steadied with his gloved right hand.
"Flight Lieutenant Burgess." He made a sharp salute with his left hand. "Formerly of the Andragorian survey vessel *StarSearcher*."
The Doctor took hold of the lapels of her coat in both hands and ruffled the velvet material with her thumbs. "Really?" She said, grinning. "Andragorian, eh?" She stepped forward, and placed a hand on his shoulder, gently turning him in the direction that she had been going. "Is that Andragorias Major or Anadragorias Minor?"
"Um, well Minor, actually," said the officer, caught more than a little off guard, and now finding himself being propelled swiftly down the hill towards the forest.
"Oh, good," she said, hurrying him forwards. "Never did like the other place much. A bit too ... Major ... if you know what I mean."
"Well, I -"
"Of course, that's not to say it doesn't have it's good points."
"No, of course -"
"A lot of planets with Major after their name are really very nice places. Very nice indeed. I mean, take Brimbasbador Ungothorax Major, for example. *I* never saw a nicer lump of unstable Dark Matter ... did you?"
They were approaching the rim of the forest now, and the huge pine trees were towering over them, starting to cut off the light from the planet's twin pink suns. It was like walking towards the night.
"So tell me, Burgess," she said, marching on ahead of him. "How did you come to be here on Time's End ... and where is your starship?"
"Survey mission." He explained, short of breath after the rapid descent. "We were looking for chrononic ore, and this planet is listed as uninhabited."
"Yes," she said, tapping her index finger against her lips thoughtfully. "It certainly was the last time I was here. Things seem to have changed, though ... as they so often do."
"Our ship was attacked." Burgess continued. He had caught up with her now. "Some kind of ground defence installation. Went straight through the shields. We didn't stand a chance. So we launched the Life Pods ... I've been searching for six days now, and found no-one."
The Doctor listened intently to his story, as if she were recording it in her mind for later reference. "Curious." She finally said. "Well, no use crying over crashed starships. Time is the enemy ..." She started marching forwards again, and then she stopped very suddenly. "... Chrononic ore, did you say?"
"That's right." Burgess said, wearily.
"Hmmn. Fancy that," she said, and started walking again. "Well, hurry along, man. Time is the e-"
"Enemy. Yes, Doctor. You said."
Burgess made an irritated growl through his teeth, but reluctantly set off after her. After all, so far, she seemed to be his best chance of getting off the damned place. She obviously had some form of interplanetary transport, perhaps even interstellar. And that might mean a ticket home.
"Doctor, why are we heading into the forest?" Burgess managed to bring himself to a halt, and that forced The Doctor to come to a stop as well.
"Why?" she asked, with incredulity. "Why?" She threw up her hands in despair.
"Yes, Doctor." Burgess was standing his ground, and keeping a firm grip on the unwieldy assault rifle.
"Well why do you think?" She started moving forwards again, jamming her hands deep into the pockets of her long coat. At the very edge, where the first of the towering pines rose out of the dark soil, she looked back at Burgess and produced one of her very best smiles. "To get to the other side, of course."
"Oh," said Burgess. He had, in fact, expected a rather more enlightening explanation. "Well, with all due respect, Doctor, I don't think that would be a very good idea."
She tilted her head to one side, and looked at him quizzically. "Why ever not?"
He raised his right hand and pointed cautiously towards her. Beyond her, in fact, to a position somewhere just over her right shoulder. Slowly, she turned around - and came face to face with an extremely large and very angry looking reptile.
The huge creature glared down at her through two gigantic deep red orbs.
All the better to see its helpless prey with.
Then it forced its long ribbed snout between the trunks of two trees, bringing its razor sharp incisors to within a few centimetres of her face. The Doctor found herself frozen to the spot, both fascinated by the massive reptile, but also completely terrified. It began to open its mouth, revealing row upon row of serrated teeth.
All the better to rip The Doctor to shreds with!
To be continued ...
Previously in: Where Dragons go to Dream ...
The Doctor has been sent to Time's End, by the Lord President, to avert disaster on a Universal scale. Once there, she meets up with Flight Lieutenant Burgess, apparent sole survivor of the survey vessel *StarSearcher* - shot down by a ground defence installation while on a mission to locate chrononic ore.
As The Doctor and Burgess head towards the massive twin towers of the "Futures 'R' Us" corporation, they come face to face with a very large reptile. And it seems to be hungry ...
Doctor Scully: Where Dragons go to Dream by Adrian.D.Ives
Burgess snatched up the Proton Assault Cannon and brought the stock up to rest on his shoulder. He flipped the mode selector to the setting marked: 'Absolute Maximum Destructive Power - Only use this if you *really* want to piss somebody off!', and centred the creature in the digital video viewfinder.
The Doctor heard him take the weapon off safety and, very carefully, she raised her left hand, without once taking her eyes off the reptilian beast. "No," she said, calmly - only just loud enough for Burgess to hear her.
With deliberate and cautious movements, she stepped closer to the animal and reached out to touch the leathery hide of its long snout. As her outstretched palm made contact, she felt a very slight shudder run through the animal's body. A moment of indecision during which it stared at her with eyes that seemed to be cycling through anger, fear, and curiosity.
Slowly, it closed its jaws and lowered its head to the ground, resting the length of its snout on the mossy soil, and looking up at her as if it were a pet waiting to see what it should do next to please its mistress.
Flight Lieutenant Burgess looked on with dismay. He had lowered the Assault Cannon, but it was still set to maximum force. He watched as The Doctor started petting the animal, moving closer to the top of its head. Out of curiosity, he took a step closer. At once, the creature reacted, raising its head and parting its jaws.
"No." The Doctor stretched out her hands towards the animal, trying to calm it. "No, there's nothing to fear." She waved Burgess away with one hand, while still keeping her gaze on the creature.
It blinked its eyes, then looked back at the Time Lord, and this time there was sadness in them. By now she had reached its long serpentine neck, and she could see the immense size of the beast. Fifty metres in length. At least. A long neck joined to a pear-shaped body, with a snake-like tail that stretched away into the woods. A massive pair of wings, like those of a bat, were folded against its humped back.
"What is it, Doctor?" Burgess finally asked, keeping his voice as quiet and calm as he could manage.
"This, Lieutenant, is a Dragon," said The Doctor, as she patted the animal at the base of its neck. "Probably one of the last remaining Dragons in the entire Universe." She studied the Dragon's hide, and a dark frown came over her face. "Who did this to you?" she asked it, gently examining the deep scar in the creature's hide.
The Dragon didn't say anything, but its eyes were still focussed on her, watching her every movement.
The Doctor knelt down and started fumbling in her pockets, anxiously pulling things out and carelessly discarding them. A scale model of an old blue Earth Police Box ended up in the bushes, as did something that looked like a tattered old film script. As Burgess wandered over, he glanced at the typing on the cover of the document, only able to make out the text 'Fight The F' beneath an enlarged capital X within a circle. Next came an inflatable swimming pool that he only just managed to dodge - which was a shame, because it was full of water, and he really needed a bath.
"Oh, where *is* it?" She muttered, reaching deeper still into the dimensionally transcendental pockets of her coat.
"What are you looking for, Doctor?" He knelt down beside her, carefully reaching out to touch the Dragon's neck.
"Ah!" She said, proudly holding up a stone jar.
Burgess looked at the jar. There was no label, and it was very dusty. She blew some of the dust away. Right into his face. He sneezed.
"You haven't got a cold coming on, have you?" The Doctor asked, as she started working to remove the lid. "Only colds can be very nasty things ... especially if you're a Dragon."
The Dragon, who had been watching all of this without reaction, suddenly looked extremely alarmed.
She got the lid off, and showed Burgess the disgusting-looking brown cream inside. "Raw essence of Bondarisian Slimoid. Picked it up when I was on Earth, of all places." She explained, enthusiastically.
"Oh yes, Doctor," said Burgess looking first at her and then to the Dragon, who looked distinctly suspicious.
"Yes," she said, reaching into the jar and scooping out a substantial dollop in her hand. "It has very powerful healing properties." Then she added, with a knowing wink in his direction. "It you thought Brimbasbador Ungothorax Major was a depressing place, just wait until you see Watford. That's in England, by the way."
He nodded wearily.
He nodded again. The Dragon looked on.
"Yes, Doctor," said Burgess, holding his hand to his forehead. "I had gathered that."
"Oh? Had you? Oh, well ..." She turned back to The Dragon, the gooey lump of slime was bubbling away in her hand. It didn't look at all nice. "... Just trying to impart a little knowledge," she said, under her breath, her voice trailing off into an almost incomprehensible mutter. "... Doing my bit to raise the general level of educational standards throughout the Cosmos ... I mean, is that so wrong? ... I don't know ..."
The Dragon looked at her with an expression that was easily interpreted as being: You're surely not proposing to put *any* of that stuff on me?
Gently, The Doctor proceeded to rub some of the salve into the weeping wound on the Dragon's neck. The creature rolled its huge eyes, and let out a low growl of contentment, as she treated the entire length of the wound.
"There," she said, when she had finished. "Good as new." Then she looked for something to wipe her hands on.
Burgess unzipped one of the pockets on his jumpsuit, and produced a large white handkerchief. She took it from him, studied it to make sure that it wasn't harboring too many bugs, and then she started to wipe the residue from her fingers off onto it.
She took one last look at the flying reptile. It had closed its eyes, and now seemed to be sleeping. The wound along its neck was already showing advanced signs of healing. She handed the slimy handkerchief back to Burgess, and studied her handiwork with undisguised pride.
"It only goes to show that even really nasty disgusting and totally vile alien life forms, intent on consuming everything they come into contact with ... have their uses." She smiled, indicating the now half-empty stone jar. "Well, come along, Lieutenant. Places to go. Things to do. Universes to save ..." And with that, she started marching off into the forest.
Rondas looked down on the underling with an expression of such total and utter superiority that the poor little man had no option other than to turn a very deep shade of scarlet. All the way from the tip of his forked tail to the noses in the centres of both of his faces.
"Prenderville," said Rondas, rolling the 'Pr' between his lips as if he were trying to play music on a piece of greaseproof paper wrapped around a comb - which, of course, he would never do; because (a) All Troplothians were completely devoid of body hair, and (b) he was a singularly un-musical individual, who much preferred to listen to the grovellings and pleadings of those beneath him, than any symphony or chorus. "You are a blithering imbecile."
The Crunkocruntakorian looked at him from beneath the eyelids of six optical receptors. Three on each head. Finally, he spoke. His voice came blubbering out from between his quivering lips like an unset jelly. "Yes, Your Extreme and Unequalled Eminence."
"More than that," said Rondas, as he hoisted himself out of his swivel chair, and walked around the front of his huge desk. "You are a total cretin."
"Yes, Your Extreme and Unequalled Eminence."
Rondas leant towards the being, reached out, and took hold of one of his two metre long tongues, using it to pull Prenderville towards him. "In fact, you are so useless, that for me to even tell you how useless you are is, in fact, useless."
"Yes, Your Extreme and Unequalled Eminence." This time, Prenderville's voice came from only one of his mouths, and it shifted down an octave.
"Pah!" Rondas slapped him around the faces several times with the end of his own tongue, and then turned his back to him. "Kindly remove yourself from my presence, and go away and kill yourself at once."
"Yes, Your Extreme and Unequalled Eminence," said Prenderville, as he started to shuffle slowly out of the circular office. At the door, he paused. He started to speak, his voice even more nervous than before. "Um, Your Extreme-"
"Yes, what is it?" Rondas snapped, without looking back at him.
"What method should I use to kill myself?" The pathetic creature asked, sadly.
A broad grin came across Rondas' face. "I'll think of something." He said, finally. "Now get out!"
After the swish of the hydraulics had signalled the closing of the door behind his Personal Assistant, Rondas turned to see that Serina had reappeared from the adjoining room. She had put on a figure hugging silver dress, made from the eyelids of Dribdonian Petal Fish. And she looked absolutely stunning.
"God, I love power!" Said Rondas, drawing in a long deep breath.
Serina crossed the room, fixing her most sultry gaze upon him. "You use it so well, Master," she said, as she reached out to touch his chest. "And so wisely ..."
Rondas looked away from her, out of the panoramic window of his 968th floor executive office, at the sweeping forests and rolling green hills of Time's End. And he knew that every last blade of grass was his.
To do with as he pleased.
"That's one hell of a climb," said Burgess, looking up the steep slope to the base of the tower complex.
"Calm yourself, Lieutenant," said The Doctor, tapping her fingers together. "A little exercise never did anyone any harm."
"It must be six kilometres!" Burgess protested. "Uphill!"
"Yes, yes, yes." She waved his protest aside and started the climb. "I can remember when I joined the Theopolis Gwangi expedition to conquer Mount Awesome, on Telatrix Prime ... Now that was a *climb* ... two hundred kilometres straight up. But did old Theo give up?"
Burgess stumbled after her, dragging the Assault Proton Cannon behind him.
"Of course he didn't." The Doctor continued. "... Mind you he did die from heart failure two thirds of the way up."
"Doctor!" Burgess drew her attention to the approaching aircar. The ovoid vessel swooped down from one of the towers above, descending at sickening speed, and coming to a dead stop just two metres over their heads. It hovered there for a few seconds, silently.
The Doctor stepped back to get a better look at the vessel. Just as she did so, it suddenly descended to the ground and came to rest alongside them. A pair of gull-wing doors opened on either side of the vehicle, and eight heavily armed troopers jumped out, bringing their weapons immediately to bear on them.
"I say," said The Doctor, stepping forward to examine the aircar. "Is this a model two six oh five? I haven't seen one of these since -"
"Shut it!" Said one of the troopers, raising the butt of his very black, and very large, laser rifle as if to strike her.
The Doctor looked offended. "Well, there's no need to take that sort of an attitude. I was just showing an interest in the local culture that's all. One can tell an awful lot about a civilisation by the aircars they drive, you know."
Burgess looked around nervously. They had taken the Assault Cannon from him, and he was covered by the barrels of at least three Colt *ScumKiller* .909 Phased Flux Induction Stasers.
The trooper moved closer, raising the weapon even higher, making his intent clear. "I said: Shut it!"
"Yes," said The Doctor, darkly, her voice taking on an ominous tone. "You did say that." She held out her hand. "How do you do, Sergeant. I am The Doctor ... and this is my friend: Flight Lieutenant Burgess, of the Survey Vessel *StarSearcher*."
He regarded her suspiciously. Almost with reluctance, he lowered the weapon. "You'll come with us," he said, coldly. "Make any sudden moves, or try to escape, or do anything else that might put me in a bad mood, and I'll-"
"Yes, yes, yes. You'll feed us to the man-eating six-headed pig rats, or throw us into a vat of boiling neutromic acid, or cut us up into tiny little pieces with our own toenails ... Well, come along, Sergeant. I haven't got all day for this idle chit chat.
She leant towards him, and brushed a speck of fluff from his epaulette. "Take us to your leader."
"Very good." Rondas put down the Transcom handset, and returned his hand to Serina's neck. "It seems we have some guests, my dear." He smiled.
"Oh, good." She purred, circling her hands around the back of his neck, and drawing him closer. "I do so like meeting new people."
"As do I." Rondas kissed her on the lips. Not gently, but urgently. Savagely. It was some time before they disengaged.
"One man and one woman." He continued, licking the blood from his upper lip.
"One for me," said Serena, reaching out to touch the spot where she had bitten into the soft flesh of his lip. "And one for you."
To be continued ...
Previously in: Where Dragons go to Dream ...
The Lord President has sent The Doctor to Time's End, a planet which is home to the last remaining species of Dragon, to investigate the activities of the "Futures 'R' Us" corporation. The corporation has set up a huge facility on the planet, the purpose of which is still unclear. Soon after arriving on the planet she meets Flight Lieutenant Burgess, apparently the only survivor of a survey mission to locate chrononic ore.
After encountering an injured Dragon, which they manage to help, Burgess and The Doctor are captured by armed troopers. Meanwhile, in his executive office, 968 floors up, the power-mad Rondas and his mistress, Serena, learn of the imminent arrival of two new guests ...
Doctor Scully: Where Dragons go to Dream by Adrian.D.Ives
The room where they had been instructed to wait (Well, ordered to wait, actually - under threat of extremely nasty things happening to them) was circular. Circular, like the huge glass and synthicrete tower in which it was located. Circular, so that it was easy for The Doctor to pace around its circumference at least 2.5 times every minutes.
Burgess had settled into one of the deep reclining chairs, and he was thumbing through a colourful brochure that stated, in no uncertain terms, what an incredibly wonderful and life-enhancing corporation "Futures 'R' Us" really was. There were more of the lavishly produced advertisements scattered tidily over the top of the big round glass table.
The Doctor stopped by the panoramic window that covered more than half of the entire circumference of the waiting room. She fixed her gaze beyond the glass, on one of the Dragons - as it swooped gracefully through the clear sky and looped around the outside of the tower, its great leathery wings outstretched on either side of its reptilian torso.
"Aren't they magnificent creatures?" She said, to no-one in particular.
Burgess looked up, resting the brochure across his knees. "Can't disagree with you there, Doctor," he said.
She sighed. "In this time, the Dragons that you're seeing are probably the last of their kind." She turned away from the glass and came over to sit opposite him. The Doctor interlocked her fingers and rested her chin on the backs of her hands, looking down at the pile of brochures. But her gaze was unfocussed, as if she were seeing right through them. "And now they've been driven from every planet in the Cosmos. Hunted down for their *magical* properties ... an incredibly intelligent and honourable race ... practically wiped out."
Burgess said nothing, he was intrigued by this strange woman. At first glance she appeared to be of Terran origin. She certainly shared that planet's terrible dress sense. But there was clearly something more. Something that was not only non-human, but almost non-anything. As if she were something more than just a life form. Certainly she was far stranger than anyone he had so far encountered on his travels. And that even included the thirty-six legged multipeds of Gamma Arianus IV - a race that engaged in sex only once in their entire nine thousand two hundred and forty year lifespan; and, at the precise moment of climax, dissolved into clouds of opposingly charged quarks - which promptly collided with one another, totally annihilating all matter within a forty billion kilometre radius!
Suddenly, The Doctor's eyes seemed to lock on to something, and she snatched up one of the brochures.
"Listen to this," she said, reading eagerly. "Your future is our business: How Futures 'R' Us can tailor your personal future to meet your specific requirements. Take the worry out of life. Know your place in the Universe. Better than that. Define your place.
"Futures 'R' Us - we make the future what you never dreamt possible!"
"Sounds great," said Burgess, in a tone of voice that said it didn't. At least not to him.
"No it doesn't." The Doctor responded. "It sounds totally appalling."
She turned over the page and continued reading to herself. "It says here that they are using a revolutionary new process based around the ectomonostatic inverse stimulation of chrononic ore ... The fools!"
Burgess was about to say something, but the door to the waiting room swished open. They both looked up.
Rondas had changed into a smart grey business suit, with a pale charcoal high-collared shirt, and a thin dark grey tie. Serina still had on the Dribdonian Petal Fish scale dress, and it was clinging to her figure in exactly the right places.
Burgess found it hard to take his eyes off the tall woman. Firstly because she was built to exactly the right genetic blueprint that was designed to stimulate the male gender of any member of the humanoid-derived species group (and quite a few non-humanoid ones as well). But secondly, because she had fixed her eyes on him in a manner the intent of which could never be misunderstood.
Rondas strode forward. Both of the Troplothians were tall and completely hairless. Although their facial features were close to humanoid normal, they had no head hair and no eyebrows. He stood over The Doctor, who, even when she rose to her feet, only came face to face with the centre of his chest.
"Elzevier Rondas," he said, holding out his hand. "Chief Executive, Futures 'R' Us, Time's End Facility."
She studied his features for a moment before replying. It was surely her imagination, but weren't both of her hearts beating just a little bit faster than normal?
"I'm The Doctor," she said, shaking his hand, and feeling something like a mild electrical current in the touch. Fortunately, she knew all about the Troplothians, and that the Time Lords were completely immune to the effects of their peculiar pheromone secretions. "And this is Lieutenant Burgess." She tilted her head in the other man's direction. "Somebody shot his ship down. I don't suppose you'd know anything about that, would you?"
Rondas looked shocked. He placed a hand on her shoulder and guided her towards Burgess. "Really, Lieutenant? You must give Serina all the details."
Burgess looked at Serina. The Doctor looked at Burgess. His pupils were enlarged, he was sweating along the top of his lip, and she could tell that his pulse had risen by about 10 beats per minute since the two Troplothians had entered the room.
Serina held out her hand to Burgess. "Serina Carathanos." She introduced herself. "Chief of External Security."
Nervously, he took her hand and shook it.
"Well, then," said Rondas, looking very pleased with himself. "I tell you what: Serina, why don't you go with the Lieutenant and help him file a report. Do you need transport off Time's End?"
"That would be ... helpful," said Burgess. He hadn't taken his eyes off the woman.
Rondas clapped his hands together. "No problem at all. Andragorias Major is it?" He thought he recognised the species.
"Minor," said Burgess, uneasily.
"I believe we have a scheduled transporter that passes through the Andragorias system ... when is that, Serina?"
She smiled. "End of the week."
"Well, there you are then. Until then, please accept the hospitality of the Futures 'R' Us Corporation."
Serina practically led Burgess by the leash out of the reception room. Rondas waited until they were gone, before he indicated to The Doctor that they should sit down.
"It really is a pleasure to meet you, Doctor," he said, settling into the soft couch right next to her, and extending his right arm along the back, behind her shoulders.
She shot him a warning glance. Most normal humanoid-derivatives would have already picked up on the body language by that time, and the deep frown would have been the final indicator that signalled an imminent elevation to Defcon Three. But Rondas was Troplothian, and they played by a different set of rules.
"Rondas, I should tell you -" She began, clearing her throat. "- that I know you're a Troplothian."
"Really?" He leant closer, placing his hand on her shoulder again. "You are obviously a well travelled woman, Doctor ... Tell me, is that medical or scientific? - Doctor, I mean."
"I am a Doctor of many things," she said, carefully removing his hand and setting it back down on the back of the couch. "Not so long ago I did a stint in forensic pathology."
"Pathology." Rondas appeared delighted. He didn't take his eyes off her for one moment. "Do you know, Doctor, death has always been a fascination of mine. I suppose it's because it's so ... inevitable."
"That is in the nature of death." The Doctor agreed. And then her voice took on that darker tone which indicated that she was squaring up for the confrontation. "But I want to talk to you about life."
"Go on." Rondas leant closer, studying the smooth curves of her face.
"Future life, in fact ... As in the changing of!"
He jerked back, his concentration momentarily broken. "Ah, you've been reading our brochures I see."
She snatched up the one that she had been studying before they had arrived, and waved it under his nose. "What is this, Rondas? Do you people even know what you're dealing with?"
He sighed with disappointment. "Who are you, Doctor? Who are you - and *why* are you here?"
"I'm a Time Lord," she said, secretly relieved that, for the moment, his amorous intentions appeared to have been abandoned. "Well, Time Lady, to be precise - but I find that a little sexist, don't you? So I'll stick with Time Lord ... And I'm here to stop the Futures 'R' Us corporation from destroying the entire Universe!"
Rondas stood up, and crossed to the other side of the room, by the panoramic curved window. "A Time Lord." He let out a long yawn, half covering his mouth with the back of his hand. "I thought you meddlers had given up on interfering long ago."
"Rondas, please listen to me." She threw the brochure back down on the table. "What you are doing here is having an effect on the very fabric of the Cosmos. My people have detected waves of temporal harmonics radiating out from Time's End that are affecting the time streams everywhere and everywhen - from the Big Bang to the Big Crunch."
He dismissed her statements with a regal wave of his left hand, and turned to look out of the window. "I have never heard such utter rubbish, Doctor. All we are doing here is to harness the natural time focusing properties of chrononic ore to allow a few select individuals the chance to live the life of their dreams. Now, I ask you, where could be the harm in that?"
She stood up, and threw her hands in the air. "Where could be the harm? Rondas, I -" Then she stopped. A debate was clearly going to be counter-productive, and now that he seemed to have lost interest in her she had lost her only advantage. Bad tactics, Doctor, she said to herself. So she tried something else. "- will you please show me this process?"
The Troplothian considered her request. It really was a great shame that she was a Time Lord, because he found her extremely stimulating. However, seeking any kind of liaison with one of *them* would be like attempting oral sex with a lump of coal. Or so he had heard. Of course, it was an old Troplothian saying that went something like: Just because the fuse is blown, it doesn't mean that the light bulb's broken - or was that from Earth?
"Of course, Doctor," he said, finally. "Please come this way. I might even be able to show you something that will surprise you."
On the way out, he passed his hand over the proximity sensor, and turned out the light.
The elevator descended at a sickening speed. At least it made The Doctor feel sick. And Rondas enjoyed seeing the discomfort in her face, it made him feel that he had taken back a little of the control. Just a little.
"Only another 300 levels," he said, cheerfully.
She glanced at the floor indicator, which was currently showing a number in the hundreds, clocking down at an incredible rate. At least some of the complex was underground, then. That might explain why the Time Ship sensors hadn't been able to identify any temporal emanations from the two towers.
Rondas was considering making another approach, and he had just started to move in closer to her when something made him jump back in shock. He looked at the tall man who was now standing where, just a fraction of a second earlier, the red-headed female Time Lord had been. Dressed equally strangely, like some figure out of history, the man looked at him strangely, swept a hand through his long mop of curly chestnut hair, and frowned. He started to speak.
"Rondas, did you see that?" The Doctor asked, a look of child-like fascination lit up her face. "Did you *see* it?"
He just stared at her.
"Quantum Time spike." She explained. "That was my previous incarnation!"
Rondas looked at her as if she were mad. As if he had seen a ghost. Which he had, really.
"Curious," she said, thumbing the lapels of her coat. She looked up at Rondas, who, for the first time since she had met him, seemed to be at a complete loss for words. "Well, don't you see, Rondas? Time is being affected. Local temporal events are being distorted. Jumbled. The damage is becoming localised."
"- Of course," said Rondas, slowly, nodding his head as if in agreement, whilst his tone of voice conveyed scepticism.
The elevator came to a sudden stop. The level indicator showed - 120.
Now that the Troplothian had regained some of his composure, he ushered her out of the lift onto a raised gallery that circled a deep chamber. She peered over the railings at the edge of the walkway. About a hundred metres below, a large number of what looked like operating tables were arranged in a circle. Upon each of them lay a body. She could see most of the major species represented there, including Terrans, Andorians, Vulcans, Silurians, Draconians. Even a Cyberman!
Each table seemed to be connected by a thick cable to a central pillar of complex electronic apparatus. The bodies lay still, but they were all swathed in an aura of soft blue light.
She looked at Rondas for an explanation.
"Remarkable, isn't it?" He said, proudly. "Using the unique properties of chrononic ore - properties which, incidentally, our scientists discovered - each of them has been taken out of our space/time and placed into a separate time stream of their own design. Their own personal universe, built exactly to their specifications. One in which they can live, and die, in exactly the way that they want to. They can be the rulers of great empires - they can be heroes and legends - lovers of the most beautiful women, or courted by the most handsome men. In short, we make their future exactly what they want. What they never dreamed possible.
"And it's all completely real for them, because we create a totally new and separate free-running parallel Universe in which they can exist!"
She looked at him, darkly. "You fools. Have you the slightest idea what it is that you've done?"
"Doctor, what we have done is to tap the Holy Grail. What we have done is to make dreams come true."
She leant over the railings, counting the number of tables that were occupied, before turning back to Rondas. "The fabric of the Cosmos is such that there can only be so many artificially spawned parallel Universes before the whole of living creation starts to unravel at the seams. Do you, by any chance, happen to know how many that number is?"
Rondas looked puzzled. "I don't -"
"Well, I'll tell you." She snapped. "The number is Hartzchild's Constant: The angular velocity of a negatively charged Upside-Down Quark ... i.e. Forty Two." She stabbed a finger accusingly at him. "Rondas. Count how many beds you have occupied down there."
He hesitated. "I ... I don't need to count them, Doctor. I know exactly how many customers we have currently signed up to the program.
To be concluded ...
Previously in: Where Dragons go to Dream ...
On the planet Time's End, Doctor Scully, assisted by Burgess, last survivor of a downed survey vessel, has discovered the purpose of the huge facility built there by the multi-trillion Gal-Dollar "Futures 'R' Us" Corporation.
Rondas, the Troplothian Chief Executive of the Facility, has taken The Doctor to an underground complex - where 42 different beings, from worlds throughout known space, are living out their own personal futures - in alternate universes created especially for them by the Corporation. But, as The Doctor points out, there is only so much room in the Cosmos for alternatives!
And now, with the fate of the entire Universe hanging in the balance, only The Doctor can save all of living creation from total and utter annihilation.
So what's new? ...
Doctor Scully: Where Dragons go to Dream by Adrian.D.Ives
"Well then," said Serina, crossing her legs so that the material of her figure-hugging dress fell aside to reveal the tops of her thighs. "Now that your report has been filed, perhaps we could turn to other matters. After all, it *will* be three days before the transporter arrives."
Burgess would have felt uncomfortable with any woman right at that moment. Three months out from Andragorias Minor, and there hadn't been a single day when he hadn't thought about his assigned partner. But Chloe was six thousand and eighty light years away ...
What the hell was he thinking?
And with a Troplothian at that! A genetically engineered humanoid species originally created by a company just like "Futures 'R' Us" only forty standard years earlier. A species that up until twelve years ago didn't even have the right to self-recognition.
The United Galaxies League had changed all that, of course, and now the Troplothians were to be seen on almost every major civilised world.
Burgess averted his gaze, and turned his attention to one of the colourful Tri-D images that adorned the far wall of her office. The one that depicted an endless harsh sun-parched desert, with the remnants of a humanoid skeleton in the foreground. He stood up and walked over to take a closer look.
"Actually, I'd really like to get cleaned up," he said, peering closer at the holographic rendition.
She came over and stood at his side, brushing up against him as she looked into the image. "Do you like it?" she asked.
"It's ... interesting." He admitted.
"It reminds me that there are always extremes," she said. "One should always seek out the extremes of one's existence. Don't you think?"
Burgess stared at her. She looked right back at him. And he felt himself starting to fall forward into the bottomless pits of her eyes.
"There you are, Lieutenant," said The Doctor, walking right into Serina's office, and coming across to slap him heartily on the back. "I thought I might find you here."
Serina scowled at her, but The Doctor ignored the expression and began to steer Burgess towards the door. "Our friend Rondas has been showing me around," she said, as they reached the door where Rondas was standing. She walked right past him, propelling the dazed Burgess along in front of her. "This really is a most interesting place. You just wouldn't believe ..."
Rondas watched them disappear around the curve in the corridor. He looked across to Serina. She frowned. He nodded his head slightly, then turned to leave.
"It has to be soon." She called after him, an urgency in her voice.
He stopped in the corridor, turned his head to one side, not quite far enough to look back in her direction. "Yes." He agreed, before setting off in the opposite direction to The Doctor.
Once they were out of sight of the two Troplothians, The Doctor shoved Burgess through the first door that she could find which would open for her. They found themselves back in the waiting room.
"Are you alright?" she asked, helping the Lieutenant into one of the chairs. She took hold of his right wrist and sought out his pulse.
"Since you ask - No." He admitted.
"Hmmmn ... An overdose of Troplothian Pheromones ... You'll be OK in a couple of hours. Take two aspirin and drink plenty of water," said The Doctor.
"Aspirin?" Burgess looked puzzled.
"There are very few species that are immune to the effects." She continued. "Fortunately, I am one of-" For some reason she felt herself blushing, and she let go of his wrist rather suddenly. Damnit - this never happened to the other eight Doctors!
She shook her head dismissively. "It's nothing. But, listen, I need your help with something."
Burgess sat up in the chair. He had to squint several times to get his vision to clear. "What is it?"
"It could be extremely dangerous," she warned him.
"Good," said Burgess, feeling better already. "When do we start?"
The Doctor stood up and stepped away from him, tapping the fingers of her right hand against her forehead, deep in thought. It was several seconds before she spoke again. "First, I need one more piece of the puzzle."
The Doctor stepped out of the elevator first. Out onto the gantry around the underground chamber. She motioned to Burgess, and he joined her by the edge.
"What is this place?" he asked, peering over the railings to the circle of sleeping beings below.
"A Nano-Confluic Non-Space Transphasing Chamber." Explained The Doctor, walking briskly ahead of him along the right-hand arc of the gallery.
"Oh," said Burgess.
"But they couldn't have done all of this with just raw chrononic ore." She continued.
"Of course not." Burgess agreed, not knowing what the hell she was talking about.
They came to another door. A big, heavy, door. Really big. And really heavy. It was labelled:-
MOST INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS
UNSHIELDED TRANSPHASED CHRONON WAVE EMISSIONS
DON'T EVEN *THINK* ABOUT OPENING THIS DOOR!
The Doctor spent a few moments to read the sign, then she reached out and took hold of the handle.
"Uh, Doctor." Burgess caught her arm. "Is this really such a good idea?"
She turned to look at him and smiled. A very broad smile. Closer to a grin, really. Then she pulled on the handle and opened the door.
"Well, I only asked," he said, following her into the dimly lit passage.
They walked for about ten metres before arriving at a spiral staircase that led straight down. She peered over the edge. A soft blue glow was coming from somewhere down below.
"Curious," she whispered. Gingerly, she stepped onto the first rung of the steel steps. When she was satisfied that the structure was reasonably sound she began slowly descending.
After ten steps, The Doctor looked up to see Burgess still standing at the top, looking warily down at her. "Well, come on, Lieutenant. It's only a little harmless Transphased Chronon radiation." She sighed and shook her head, muttering beneath her breath as she started her descent again. "Honestly ... I don't know ... you just can't find a good companion when you need one ..."
It took them several minutes to reach the bottom of the stairs, and they found themselves on a circular landing from which several heavy doors led off. Each of the doors had a round glass portal set into it, and the soft blue light was coming from beyond them.
The Doctor reached into her pocket and pulled out her Polymorphic Pliers. She made a small adjustment to one of the control studs, and started waving the tool around the room, pointing it at each door in turn. The instrument started making a load burping sound.
"Chronon radiation," she said, distractedly. "But there's something else ... some chemical element ..."
Burgess looked over her shoulder at the array of flashing coloured lights on the pair of silver pliers. "What? You can tell all that from those three coloured lights?" he asked, astounded.
"Of course not," she said, looking equally astounded. "They're just telling me that the batteries are running down."
The Doctor pointed to a sign that repeated the message that had warned them away from the door at the top of the stairs, and then she tapped the end of her nose. "I have a very keen sense of smell, Lieutenant Burgess. And I smell -"
Burgess sniffed a couple of times. "You're right. Something like ... almonds? No, walnuts ... No -"
The Doctor sighed impatiently. "Oxy-tripto-symethylene Nanoxide." She said, shoving the pliers back into her coat pocket and walking up to one of the doors. She peered inside.
"See anything you like, Doctor?" It was Rondas' voice. From across the other side of the chamber.
She spun around. "But this is ..." Her face was dark with anger and disgust. "... inhuman!"
"Oh, really. Such melodrama." Rondas grinned, slowly panning the Smith & Wesson hand-held 80 Gigawatt Kill Laser back and forth between her and Burgess.
Carefully, Burgess leant back and peered through the thick glass portal. "My God."
"These creatures have never done you any harm," said The Doctor, taking a step closer to Rondas. "By what right do you imprison them like this?"
"Do I need the *right*?" he asked, with genuine surprise. "Is it not sufficient simply that I *can* do it?"
She regarded the Troplothian with total contempt. "Where is your playmate, Rondas? Where there's one Troplothian there's -"
Serina stepped out of the shadows. She was also holding a Kill Laser. "Personally," she said, smiling a lethal smile. "I think they're just incredibly sweet." Seeing the expression on The Doctor's face she continued. "Oh, but we let them go afterwards. We don't kill them!"
"No," said The Doctor, glancing across at Burgess, whose attention was once again on the female Troplothian. "But you might just as well. Do you have any idea how important Oxy-tripto-symethylene Nanoxide is to a Dragon's base body chemistry?"
"No," said Rondas, nonchalantly. "And frankly, Doctor, I don't give a damn. All I am concerned with is that the chemical that those ... reptiles ... secrete while they dream holds the key to our being able to harness the full power of chrononic ore." He waved the gun towards her. "Now if you two would like to step this way, I believe that we have some unfinished business."
"What do you mean?" Burgess asked. He hadn't at all liked the way that last sentence had come out.
"Well, let's just say that we Troplothians have certain ... needs." Rondas grinned again.
"Oh, we can't help it." Serina added, sweetly. "It's just the way we were made." She stepped closer to Burgess, reaching out to stroke his cheek with the back of her free hand.
He swallowed hard. His heart was racing, and his vision was swimming in and out of focus.
"It means the end for you," she said, reaching around the back of his neck and pulling him towards her. "But, believe me, it really *is* the best way to go." His lips touched hers.
"Stop this, Rondas," said The Doctor. "You saw the Quantum Time Spike. That was just a warning. There is much, much, worse to come."
"For you, certainly," said Rondas.
"No, you imbecile!" She pulled Serina away from Burgess with such strength that she sent the woman flying back into the far wall. Serina glared at her, and she would almost certainly have shot her there and then, if Rondas hadn't held up his hand to stop her.
The Doctor threw up her hands in despair. "Listen to me, please ... What you are doing here is breaking one of the fundamental cosmological laws. There is a finite limit to the ability of the Cosmos to ..." She searched her mind for the right words. "... encompass ... contain ... parallel existences. Don't you understand? You've set in effect a causal chain that will bring about the complete unravelling of everything. The total annihilation of the Cosmos itself!
"The end of this Universe ... and all others!"
"Really," said Rondas, his eyes rolling as if he were in the grip of some indescribable ecstasy. He took in a very long, deep, breath, held it, then let it out quickly. "... Then what a truly *wonderful* experience we will all share."
The Doctor clasped her hands behind her back, breathing rapidly. Burgess thought for a moment that she was on the verge of some kind of panic attack, and he couldn't say that he blamed her. Instead, she walked straight over to Rondas and stared up at him.
"I can't let this go on," she said, coldly. "It ends now."
Rondas laughed. "Really?" He couldn't stop laughing. After all, he was the one holding the fully charged Kill Laser.
"Really," she said, reaching out with her hands to touch the sides of his face.
Her action surprised him. But it was a pleasant surprise. At least so he thought, as she pulled his face down to hers. In that instant, Rondas knew that his genetically engineered Troplothian bio-chemistry had defeated the Time Lord. After all, how could she resist *him*? He was the very zenith of male perfection. The ultimate humanoid. The -
The electrostatic charge flowing from The Doctor into Rondas was blinding. A harsh white light that flooded the chamber and caused both Serina and Burgess to cover their eyes with their hands.
Rondas' screams echoed throughout the complex as, piece by tiny piece, his body was rapidly disassembled at the sub-atomic level. The residual protons, electrons, muons, and quarks dissipated harmlessly into the background amidst the breathtaking kaleidoscopic light show. The sizzling and crackling of residual electricity filled the chamber for several seconds after the Troplothian had ceased to exist.
Exhausted, The Doctor stumbled back into Burgess. He helped her to stay on her feet.
Serina was on her knees, weeping. "Rondas ..."
"H ... He's gone," said The Doctor, her voice rasping.
The Doctor waited for a moment and then went over and gently placed her hand on Serina's forehead. When the woman looked up at her, there were tears in her eyes.
"I'm ... sorry." The Doctor said, summoning up the last of her energy. She closed her eyes. "... Forget ..."
Burgess was standing on the boarding ramp, a small rucksack slung over his shoulder. He shook hands with The Doctor.
"Goodbye, Doctor." He smiled. "It was certainly ... different."
The tiredness had gone now, and she was beaming again. "Goodbye, Burgess. When you get back, you make sure that you take Chloe on a nice long holiday."
"How did you? -"
She tapped her nose and gave him a knowing grin. "If I remember rightly, the Sun Forests of Pretsomatamia are very nice this time of year."
He nodded. "Doctor, one thing."
She waited for his question.
"What did you *do* to Rondas, down there in the chamber?"
"Me?" She looked at him innocently, then she shook her head. "I didn't do anything. Anything that happened to Rondas was completely his own doing."
"I ... don't understand."
She blushed again. "Have you ever heard of the thirty-six legged multipeds of Gamma Arianus IV?"
"Yes, of course, but -"
"Well, it's a little like that with we Time Lords." The Doctor said, enigmatically. "... A little."
"Goodbye, Burgess." She shook his hand again, and then started off towards her Time Ship. She didn't look back, not even when the transporter rose up into the air on a pillar of invisible force, and then streaked out into space.
As she started the long climb back up the grassy hill, to where the passport photograph booth was sitting, quietly waiting, in the shade of a tall oak tree, a large dark shape passed over her. She looked up, and watched with satisfaction as the Dragon, serene and graceful, glided silently through the air, and then disappeared over the other side of the hill.
"Now, where next?" She pondered, pausing to let the sun warm her face for a short while, before continuing on her climb.
Of course, there was always that terribly nice little Class M planet. Third one out from Sol. Over in the western spiral arm of the Milky Way.