Wednesday 26 May 2010

Short Trip

The second of the Big Finish writing opportunities was the possibility of writing a Doctor Who short story to be read for an audiobook volume entitled Short Trips. My story features the Sixth Doctor and Peri, played on television by Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant respectively. Again I was unsuccessful and so here is my effort:

Ruby stood at the top of a cliff and looked out over the desolation of the plains below. She wore a long flowing red dress. It was expected. Brightly coloured smoke billowed from the wreckage of the network of factories and military barracks that had previously dominated the view. An evil scheme that had been years in the planning had been averted. She was as free of it as everybody else. People shuffled about her in disbelief. She was suddenly aware that she was drawing a crowd. No one among her newfound audience had actually approached her or said anything to confirm her identity, yet somehow there was a palpable shared question hanging in the air around her like an early morning fog. Is that her?

The man and the girl stepped from the blue cubicle and into the layer of grey dust that had settled in the industrial zone. The box had simply appeared, disappeared and reappeared, but no one showed any signs of surprise. Small pockets of people looked on. People who were as grey and dusty as their surroundings that they were almost indistinguishable from them. The man had a shocking messy blond mane and a coat that looked as though it was made from a patchwork of all the off-cut from all the carpets in all the brothels in Quaston. The girl attracted less attention initially but got more than she wanted from some of the crowd. They were reaching out to touch her face and hair and then shrinking away as soon as she looked at them.
Peri saw in their eyes that the dusty people had seen what had happened but couldn't care. That's not to imply that they were blasé about the sudden appearance of a bright blue column and two people stepping out of it, both wearing colours long since forgotten in the grey. They were just so tired that tired no longer seemed a sufficient word for how they felt.

The security cameras registered all of this, but due to the cutbacks there was no one to witness the event. Instead it was dutifully logged with a date, a time and a description that wouldn't do it justice. No one would read the log until it was much too late. Eventually the individuals would be identified, the man would later known as the Doctor and the girl’s name was Perry. The records would show this to be a boy’s name. This attracted no comment during her visit but afterwards whole essays and treatises were written about the possible significance of it. This was in itself a testament to the freedoms which stemmed from today’s events.

The wave of apathy that swept through the workforce was tangible to the Doctor who was visibly offended. He was clearly used to a better reception. Peri walked towards one man she saw limping. He slowed and bowed his head, as was custom.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
Everybody was surprised at her interest, not least the man in question. He looked behind to be sure she had meant him. He turned back and risked a look at her face. She had a beautiful face and perhaps more surprisingly, she had a clean face.
“Are you alright there?” she repeated.
There was a pause. A long pause. When he finally spoke it was with a voice that had forgotten how far it was from lungs to lips.
“Where?” he asked.
While it was a conversation that was not going to deliver on content, it still revealed much in its tone.

Ruby was deploying the weapon, it was a day she had always known was inevitable. Impressive towers with lights flashing in an apparently significant sequence loomed over an enormous gem. An exquisite stone, so flawless as to make a geologist weep. Ruby would no longer need to lie and hide her secret. The unashamed beauty of the gem was strangely reassuring for a woman throwing off the shackles of dependency and taking charge of her own life.

Somehow the Doctor and Peri had managed to be arrested, released, separated and then to infiltrate the underground movement in the space of a few short hours. It always amazed Peri that the Doctor never doubted the outcome. He would find a way to get in touch with the right people, the dispossessed, the unsatisfied and the public spirited. And so it was that she found herself running into a huge silo with an improvised rock-blasting laser on a strap over her shoulder. She didn’t have the heart to tell the resisters that she had no intention of using it, rationalising that if they believed she could pull the trigger, so would whoever she pointed it at.
The Doctor was already in the silo tinkering with a piece of machinery, his shoulders festooned with various wires and a very childlike yellow handled plastic screwdriver in his mouth. She paused and looked at her friend in his element, living his life by the seat of his pants. She sometimes needed reminding that they were pants that clashed with every piece of fabric, in whatever room he found himself.
“There you are.” she said relieved.
He spoke, but it was unintelligible until the screwdriver fell from his mouth. Peri caught it in her gun-less hand and put it in the pocket of his lurid shirt.
“Naturally” he apparently said again. He smiled.
This was what she enjoyed, these little snatches of time when he was unlike anyone else she had ever known. All too quickly they would be interrupted by a console room argument, a TARDIS malfunction or in this case a bolt of electrostatic energy tearing through the chest of the nearest resistance fighter.
Peri and the Doctor both looked up, there were heavily armed soldiers on the gantries overhead. Energy bolts were raining down. Peri looked to the Doctor before running for cover.

An explosion ripped open the far wall, exposing the outside world to Ruby’s secrecy. She had to put a stop to this fighting. This was precisely what the weapon had been constructed to avoid, she rushed her pre-checks and skipped steps seven to nine on the firing instructions.

The Doctor licked the end of a wire and twisted it to fit an unseen connection within a bank of electronics. He stood and smiled as if unaware of the chaos that had erupted around him. He turned and began to walk smugly towards Peri. She nearly died watching him from her cover behind a fallen gantry. She felt every bolt that missed him. Eventually he reached her position, leaned down and said in a loud whisper “Exit stage left?”
“You could have been killed. I should have shot you myself” Peri screamed at him.
She was aware that she was talking much faster than he was and she was still trying be understood above the noise of the battle, which he seemed nearly oblivious to.
“Oh charming”
This was how the arguments started she thought. Not because they weren’t friends, but because neither of them would admit just how good a friendship they had.

Ruby flicked open the cover to the big red button and looked up as if for divine inspiration.
Nothing happened.
She pressed the button. Nothing happened.
She looked around in disbelief and pushed the button again and again. Still nothing happened.
She stopped and glanced through the hole in the wall. She thought she saw something. If she craned her neck she had a slightly awkward view of the weapon’s effects. The weapon was working, but it wasn’t subjugating insurrectionists. Instead it was aimed at the factories. It reloaded and targeted the assembly lines and then the military bases. Explosions bounced across the seat of her power. Sparks fell from the measures she had put in place to limit the freedoms of her fellow natives. One by one her surveillance towers fell to the ground they had so studiously watched.

As the Doctor and Peri walked back to the TARDIS, the people who had previously seemed small and meek, now seemed equally small and meek. Albeit small, meek and well lit by the burning tools of the previous oppression.
“They don’t” Peri halted. “They don’t seem very-”
“Grateful?” the Doctor offered.
“A revolution happened”
“You are looking at a people living in the wake of a world changing event. These people are square pegs and their world is a round hole. They have to adapt and we have to let them.”
The Doctor ushered Peri into the blue box. He looked around and his gaze settled on the burning skyline. He absorbed the changing horizon and then stepped inside and shut the door behind him. The blue box disappeared, reappeared and disappeared again. They were gone, with no ceremony, no witnesses and, this time, no surveillance.

Ruby stood back from the edge of the cliff and dropped to her knees. Her red dress was stained with grey.
“Years of preparation, wasted. All that time spent putting my sitting ducks in a row”.
Her uppence came and she had to live with the results. The Doctor had changed her world, the Doctor had changed her life, but the Doctor didn’t change her. And for that she would always hate him.

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