Alternative EscapeBy Kathryn Andersen
Page 2 of 8
"You don't look the same, father - you regenerated?"
"I had an accident with a tachyon funnel," the Time Lord said truthfully, surveying the Tardis console with an expert eye.
"Where's Mother?" Avon interrupted. "Why isn't she here?"
"She couldn't come."
"The High Council wouldn't let her." Something like contempt coloured his voice. "It's not the done thing for the President to go gallivanting around the universes." He gave an ironical smile. "They would very much like me to be on Gallifrey right now, if they knew where to find me!" One of the proximity-alarms started beeping, and he hobbled over to the other side of the console to deal with it. "This is very awkward. I could do with a hand..." He waved his arm over the displays.
"You know I can't!" Avon snapped in frustration. It had been years, more than thirty, since he had even been near one, and he had never been taught how to use them; his schooling had not advanced that far. There is only so much that a six-year-old can learn - even a genius. But anything was better than thinking about Bl- about what happened back there...
"There is a way..." said the older man. "If you're willing to try."
"What?" Avon asked wearily.
"A modified version of the Morb-Terillian Process... direct brain to brain transfer of knowledge," his rescuer suggested.
"From your brain to mine? Rather risky, don't you think?"
"It's been done before - there's no chance of overload, the program takes care of that."
"And what if it goes wrong? It's my brain."
"Mine too. Surely it is worth it? CVE-navigation is a tricky thing, and I'm not up to par," the Time Lord admitted, hoping to sway Avon to his point of view. "If something happened, and I went into regeneration crisis, wouldn't it be better for both of us if you had the expertise to take over the controls?"
"Your logic is impeccable," Avon straightened up. "However, I feel uneasy trusting my head to a computer..."
"Aren't you the expert?"
"That is why I don't trust them," Avon smiled, shark-like. "I know how often they can go wrong."
"This is worse than pink Asteroids," Vila muttered to himself, as he gazed around at the inside of the blue cabinet he had dashed into.
White walls patterned with circular depressions formed a room quite definitely bigger than the outside had been. And there were other doors; implying that there were more rooms in this queer cabinet. The centre of the room was dominated by a hexagonal bench/control-bank with many displays and switches forming a complicated array below a semi-transparent cylinder in the middle.
Uncanny. Unbelievable. And certainly not homelike.
"I like the scenery, though," he added with bravado, staring at a lovely pair of legs that belonged to the young woman who entered.
"Who are you?" she asked beligerantly.
Vila's answer was forestalled by the breathless entrance of the two young men.
"Hostile natives - we're leaving!" the redhead gabbled, as the blond started frantically punching keys and buttons. The central cylinder began its slow measured oscillations, and the blond relaxed.
"Well?" the woman snapped.
Why do all the nice-looking ones have bad tempers? Vila thought.
The blond man looked around. "Well now," he said. "I think it's time for introductions. I'm the Doctor, this is Turlough," he indicated the redhead who had accosted Vila earlier, "and that's Tegan." He gave Vila a gimlet stare. "Now who are you, and why were they shooting at you?"
"They weren't shooting at me !" Vila protested automatically. "Well, not at me in particular. I'm Vila," he added, answering the Doctor's first question second. "Thanks for rescuing me. I'm sure I'm much obliged..."
"Yes, you are," the Doctor said sternly. "Now who is it that we inadvertently and unintentionally rescued you from ? Why were they shooting at us?"
"I expect they were cross at being stunned by that old geezer who came out of the pillar and shot Servalan. At least, I expect it was him - unless it was some rebel booby-trap; but the timing was rather -"
Turlough interrupted him, voicing his confusion. "Out of the pillar? Old geezer? That doesn't sound like him - who's Servalan?"
Vila shuddered theatrically. "Someone you never want to meet - she's soon as knife you as look at you. Who's this guy you're looking for?"
"We are chasing him," the Doctor responded, irritatedly pedantic.
"Why, did he steal something?" Vila asked, his mind going to what seemed most obvious to him.
"He's not a thief, he's a megalomaniac!" Tegan protested. "He killed my aunt, he kidnapped Adric, he nearly destroyed the universe - goodness knows what he's up to now!"
It was relatively easy to satisfy Avon that even if something had gone wrong with the equipment, there were so many safety margins that to worry would be foolish; and that he didn't know enough about the equipment to be able to do anything about it anyway. A bewildering array of circuits and connectors, a control console, and two neural-tap helmets.
He was too tired to push the matter. There wasn't much choice, really. If he wanted the knowledge, he had to do it. It had not occurred to him to doubt the identity of his rescuer. Who else could it be? Who else would be looking for him?
"Let's get it over with," Avon said at last, putting one of the helmets on his head.
His rescuer followed suit, sitting in front of the console. He punched several keys and pressed the final switch.
A tingling, half-painful sensation flickered through Avon's head, and the process started in earnest. It implanted knowledge, yes, knowledge of time patterns, theory and practice, CVE navigation, TARDIS repair and maintenance, Galactic co-ordinates and cultures, regeneration and difficulties thereof - a torrent of information, enough to drown a man; and in that flood, threads of control, so delicate as to be un-noticed, but in their sum, woven to such an unbreakable net, that the mind caught therein had but one path - obedience.
"I am the -," the Time Lord began, then stopped his habitual phrasing. "I am your father, you will obey me."
"Yes," Avon whispered, colourlessly, and fainted.
"You mean Avon's in one of these, these Tardis-things, with one of your enemies?" Vila squinted at the Doctor, who was sitting on the floor making adjustments to the device he had been waving before. "But why did Avon think he was his father, then?"
"His father? That's impossible!" the red-headed Turlough objected.
The Doctor dropped a probe and banged his head on the console overhang. "His father! Avon! Not Avontrokerrdred! Not in this space-time!" He jumped up and grabbed Vila in his excitement. "What does your friend look like? Avon! How dense of me! I just assumed... How long have you known him?"
Turlough and Tegan looked on in astonishment. They'd never seen the Doctor so worked up before.
"Er, when we were in our teens we met once or twice..." the thief began. "Then the last few years on the Liberator and Scorpio..." he trailed off under the intense scrutiny.
"Young enough," the Doctor murmured inscrutably, and dashed out of the room.
"What was that all about?" Vila blathered. "Does he usually interrogate his guests like that?"
"Only when they have friends called Avon who claim to have Time-Lords for fathers," Turlough remarked, deadpan.
"What's a Time-Lord?"
"Well, he is," Tegan answered, inclining her head to the door the Doctor had rushed out of. "This is a time-space machine, didn't you know?"
"A what? A time machine? Where are you people from?"
"Another universe," Turlough put in.
"You mean another galaxy, don't you?" Vila stuttered.
"Oh, no, I meant universe, " Turlough answered smoothly, amused at Vila's discomfort.
At that point, the Doctor returned with a dusty holo-cube, and showed it to Vila. "Is that your friend?"
The cube showed a boy with sharp, almost elfin features, dark hair, and a solemn expression. Vila frowned at it.
"Well... maybe. He might have looked like that when he was a kid, I guess. If Avon ever was a kid. Hard to imagine..." He looked at the Doctor suspiciously. "Why all this interest in Avon? What's he got to do with you? You're not even from this universe, if what Turlough said is true!"
"If I'm right, neither is Avon..."
"Enough cryptic comments, Doctor," Tegan demanded. "What are you talking about?"
The Doctor sighed. "My great-great-nephew Avontrokerrdred was kidnapped when he was six by the Master. We tried to trace him, but the trail was too faint, even with the help of his mother's link... We couldn't know which of the parallel universes he was in. But if the Master has returned to fetch him..." He trailed off. "How old is your Avon now?"
"Oh, late thirties, early forties, I'd say."
"To have missed him by thirty years!" the Doctor exclaimed.
"I wonder how he managed to live so long among humans without going completely mad," Turlough muttered, sotto voice.
I'm not so sure he didn't Vila thought, remembering some uncomfortable moments. Then he recalled what the Doctor had said about his relationship with Avon, and frowned. "Oh, come on, you're too young to be his uncle!"
The Doctor smiled slyly. "Why, how old do you think I am?"
"Why, late twenties, early thirties..." Vila stuttered.
"Multiply that by thirty and you'd be about right."
Unfortunately, there was one semi-immortal being that stood out in Vila's experience - and that was Dorian. He eyed the Doctor warily, and made note never to go into a room alone with him. Not that he was in a terribly good position now, trapped in a Tardis with nowhere to go. Why did it have to happen to him? Even gun-pointing troopers seemed friendly compared to a hidden basement with no exit. He sidled closer to Tegan.
"Er, how big is this place, Tegan?"
"Big enough to get lost in - I did, that first time." She frowned. "That was when the Master killed my Aunt." She gave a half-laugh. "I guess if I hadn't been in the Tardis at the time, he would have got me too. But if the car hadn't broken down, none of it would have happened at all..."
Vila looked again at the Doctor, who was doing something esoteric with one of the Tardis displays, and discussing it with Turlough. "Is he really as old as he says? How can that be?"
Tegan shrugged. "He's an alien - how should I know how it works? When he's nearly dying, he regenerates, looks completely different. I've seen it myself once; very strange."
"Ah," Vila said with relief. No hidden basements then.
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