[The author sits back in his chair. Right. So, next scene starts with Fitz waking up and learning what's happened to the others. Okay, let's give it a shot...
Bugger. It's not working. It gets up to him discovering the first body, but after that... blah. Maybe if we tried one of the others... but that'd mean giving away what had happened.
Brilliant. Just brilliant. Sometimes you just wish that the *characters'd* tell the story, and let you get on with building the world. At least that way, you wouldn't end up with something like _that_....]
A dark figure walks amidst the debris. There's an air of silence around it, like the silence between the stars. Dust-devils follow in its wake, called up by its passage. It makes no sound, betrays no emotion. Perhaps, it doesn't even breathe.
It bends over each of the fallen bodies, as if searching for something. It nods as it leaves each one.
[The author looks up from his (distracted) thoughts, and stares. *He* didn't write that bit....
As he watches, more words come up on the screen... and he knows, totally, that there's no way anyone could be using the keyboard. _He's_ not using it, fer Chrissake...]
The figure pauses for a long time over the Doctor's body, then nods. Then it looks straight at the author.
[The author blinks. For a moment there, he got the impression someone was _looking_ at him. Grief, whatever's writing this is better than it looks...
He suspects some kind of virus, or some weird hacker trick.]
The author looks into dark, ageless eyes. Eyes that watch the galaxies spin, and planets fall. Eyes that contain eternity, and nothing more.
Everything goes black.
The Doctor's eyes flickered open. Consciousness achieved, at last.
Right, physical check. A few bumps, couple of bruises, pounding headache...
The Doctor's eyes narrowed. That was _far_ less physical trauma than he'd expected, even with a Time Lord's healing ability. Something Was Up.
Including a tendency to think in capital letters. _Definitely_ worrying.
Mental check, just to be on the safe side. Any missing/extra memories, mental blocks, hypnotic commands?
No more than the usual... although there were a couple of odd things.
One was the repeated telepathic barrage smashing into his mental defences. Which was doing _nothing_ for the headache.
The other was the vague sense of something missing... but he couldn't quite think what. He let the question sink to his subconscious whilst he focused on the barrage.
Who/whatever it was, it was powerful, intense... and utterly unfocused. Not powerful or intense enough to crack a Time Lord's defences, but enough to set them jangling.
Which ruled out another Time Lord. Or one of the 'higher powers'.
Another question attempted to get the Doctor's attention: what was a _telepath_ doing so near an experimental laboratory?
He quashed it for a moment, in favour of concentrating on the emotions leaking through his defences.
_hurt. pain. burning. darkness. oblivion_
*Not* the cheeriest of emotions to wake up to, the Doctor reflected. He extended a mental tendril, just to confirm that he wasn't dealing with an angst-ridden, telepathic, poet.
The resulting mental blast sent him crashing into the nearest wall.
The Doctor pulled himself to his feet, staggering slightly, and reflexively checked his neck.
Experiencing someone's remembered strangulation, even by telepathic proxy, *hurt*.
It also meant that somewhere around here, there was someone in severe danger. He _had_ to intervene.
Then he took in the full devastation of the laboratory. The prone bodies of his friends were scattered over the whole room.
For a moment, the Doctor dithered. Stay here, and make sure his friends were all right? Or go and find the telepath in trouble?
He made up his mind. Appear strong, capable and decisive. _Despite_ what some people thought....
Check your friends, make sure they're okay, _then_ go and find the telepath with their help.
Hold on. He'd just thought about what some of his readers thought of him.
He'd _thought_ about his *readers*.
What in Rassilon's name was happening?
Okay. Still in the story (there's that telepathic barrage, and my friends are unconscious)... but I'm thinking about my readers. Unless I'm in a Paul Magrs or Dave Stone story, I shouldn't be thinking this.
And it was at that moment that his subconscious told him what was missing. The feeling in the back of his mind, the one he'd had ever since he was created. The one that meant someone was telling his story, was influencing his personality with their writing.
The author wasn't writing for him any more. _He_ was writing for himself.
It was an exhilarating feeling, one that, normally, he only got by being _outside_ the story. Like being in the 'Round. But to have it now? While they were mid-story? What had _happened_?
The Doctor made up his mind. Check his friends. Find the telepath. Finish the story as soon as possible, then get *out* and find out what has *happened*.
Quick check. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven..... One missing. Check again. Sam. Izzy. Fey. Ssard. Stacy. Kroton... and...
The Doctor blinked. It wasn't Compassion _or_ Fitz. There was a five year old girl lying at the opposite end of the room. Bundled in a combat jacket that looked like it should size an adult. Red hair. Chubby cheeks. Oh dear.
He had a very nasty feeling he knew where Compassion was.
So where was Fitz?
There was a groan. From _above_ him. He looked up...
...to see Fitz lying on the ceiling.
The Doctor rubbed his temples. This had all the makings of a *very* long day.
'Alright. Fitz, listen to me. Whatever you do, do _not_ open your eyes...'
'Well, that was coherent...'
'Ouurrrghrhr.... Wha' that?'
'Don't open your eyes.'
The Doctor took a deep breath. 'Because you're not lying on the floor. And if you see where you _are_ lying, you'll probably panic.'
Fitz went quiet. Whether that was because he'd fallen asleep again, or because he'd heard the Doctor, the Doctor didn't know.
Now. The others. Izzy was closest, slumped in an undignified heap on the floor. Quick examination, the Doctor reminded himself. Make sure there are no serious injuries, then get them into the sickbay for a full checkup.
Izzy was breathing, which was a good sign. Make sure there are no head injuries or blatant wounds. Nothing he could see... not necessarily a good sign. He reached for her head...and his hand went straight through it.
He pulled it back in shock. Late-onset hallucination? Trick of the light?
He tried again. This time, his hand went far enough through her head that he could feel the floor it was (supposedly) lying on.
Izzy groaned. The Doctor whipped his hand back, and shoved it behind his back in embarrassment.
'Doc'r? Wha' hap'ned?'
'Izzy? Are you feeling alright? Not feeling a little light-headed?' The Doctor winced at that - it sounded like the kind of pun his sixth incarnation would've made.
'Fe'ls l'ke som'one drove ' Dal'k ov'r my h'ad'....'
'Just stay there. Don't move. I'll get back to you.'
'Nnn. 'M fine. Honestly.' To prove it, she rolled over and stretched out. 'H'y? Wha' happened? Can't feel floor...'
The Doctor hunkered down next to her. 'Izzy? Do you think you can stand up on your own?'
'Yeah. No...Not tha' far gone. ' A stricken look passed across her face. 'No'... not par'l'sed, am I?'
'No. I can assure you on that point you have nothing to worry about.' It's the _other_ points you have to worry about, the Doctor mentally added.
Slowly, groggily, still a little fuzzy (minor concussion, the Doctor diagnosed) Izzy stood up. 'Uurrghhh... Room sp'nning...'
'Stay calm. Take deep breaths. In... out. In... out. In...out.'
Finally Izzy returned to a state approaching consciousness. And the telepath was still rappling away at the Doctor's head.
'Oooh... what hit me?'
'I have no idea.' the Doctor said. 'Izzy... do you think you'll be able to handle any more major shocks today?'
She raised an eyebrow. 'No. Not really. Why, you going to tell me you're my father?' At the horror-struck look on the Doctor's face, she amended 'Small joke.'
'Okay. There's something you have to know. Listen to what I say, and be _very_ careful. Put your hand a little way from the wall, so you're not touching it.'
From the look on her face, she'd decided to humour him.
The Doctor took a deep breath. 'All right. Now push your hand forward until you touch something.'
Izzy moved her hand forward... and forward... and straight through the wall. She pulled it back, and tried again. Back and forth, until the Doctor got a little... disorientated. 'Wow. Too mad. So... is this a hologram?'
The Doctor closed his eyes. 'No. You are.'
The Doctor's jaw dropped. The last reaction he'd expected had been _enthusiasm_.
'...And I thought the lightshow was good. This is *brill!* Hey, wonder if I can still do the lightshow? Light ON...' The dazzling white light that shone from Izzy's body had the Doctor's eyes squinting up.
'Izzy? If you could... turn it down?'
'Whoops. Sorry.' The light blinked off, leaving Izzy standing there with a sheepish look on her face.
The Doctor could hear groaning, moaning sounds from across the room. Apparently, Izzy's 'light show' had woken everybody up. 'Okay. Everybody stay where you are until I can come round and check on you.'
Sam was next. Again, she was surprisingly undamaged... but where Izzy was a hologram, Sam's ears had developed points, and her eyes looked disturbingly... feline. Her reaction, on feeling her ears, had been: 'Oh God... not Spock jokes *too*...' Nevertheless, she seemed okay, if a little depressed.
Ssard, surprisingly, seemed relatively unchanged. Apart from... Oh *Other!*... the Osirian broadsword magnetised to his hand. The Doctor was fairly sure he hadn't _entered_ the lab with it.... so where had it come from? Ssard's response, in a human, would have been termed a mixture of fear, horror and realisation. Which was a lot for the act of bracing the sword against his back with duct tape to convey, but Ssard managed it.
Fey... the Doctor had felt slightly revolted at the sight of the little tendrils of shadow snaking from her body, but he quashed the thought as unworthy of him. Her comment, on seeing her body, had been 'Hmm. There was that time in South America.... Of course, Howard Lovecraft never mentioned it...' The Doctor clamped his mouth shut; he _knew_ what could happen if they started talking about the People They'd Met...
Kroton, again, seemed okay. Of course, it was hard to tell what _was_ major injury to a Cyberman; nevertheless, Kroton assured the Doctor, his self-repair system would take care of it. However, the Doctor noticed his fingers tingling and noticed a spark fly off them when he was around Kroton. Kroton seemed unaffected, though, so the Doctor left the questions for later.
Compassion's transformation, on the other hand, was ...disturbing... to say the least. When the Doctor had gone over to the five year old version of Compassion, the first thing he'd noticed was that she was _breathing_.
TARDISes don't breathe.
This, in the Doctor's opinion, was _not_ a good thing. Not in this case, anyway...
It had taken all the others sitting on her to keep her from trying to attack the Doctor or Fitz.
Put simply, Compassion had been transformed into a five year old human girl.
The Doctor's worries increased. Could she change back? *Would* she change back? And how would she react if she found she couldn't?
Compared to that. Fitz's problem seemed a doddle. He'd apparently manifested telekinetic powers, effectively levitating himself to the ceiling. The problem was... he didn't seem able to shut it off. Fitz's subsequent Superman impersonation, thought the Doctor, had been even more disconcerting.
Which left... Stacy. Who'd apparently slept though the whole thing. _Nothing_ since had woken her up.
[And what's the author been doing whilst all this is going on?
He snaps back into consciousness with a jerk. His bleary eyes note he's been out for an *hour*, according to the system clock. Grief, and nobody woke him? Gits.
The next thing he notices is that there's a new email waiting for him. He minimises the story, and checks the email program. No sender is listed. However, its subject line reads 'Your story'.
He opens it. It's a reprint of the story he's been writing, up to the point he blacked out. The only addition is three lines at the end.
'Your wish is granted.
Their universe is yours to do with as you wish.
Those who dwell within, however, are beyond your control.'
It's signed with a symbol that reminds him of something he's seen. It looks like a refrigerator... maybe a Police Box?
He closes and saves the message. Maybe he can use it to track down that hacker later.
Then he opens the story.
And gapes. There's a whole _shitload_ of new stuff here. The bastard's been writing his story for him!
He scans through it. Though he won't admit it, he's grudgingly impressed - especially with that little twist with the Doctor being aware he's written for.
Eventually he gets to the end of the post. The cursor's flashing away, ready for the next sentence. He gets his hands ready to type...and realises he's gone blank.
He _knew_ what he was going to say. He was going to get Stacy to wake up. But... He tries again. Again, he goes blank.
Try one of the others. Maybe it'll work with one of them.
Huh? Come on, we could take this a number of ways, and I can think up quite a few. Why the hell can't I say anything?
F***. Maybe if I set the scene outside.]
Outside the lab, it was raining.
The Doctor frowned. 'Did one of you say something?'
The others shook their heads.
It looked to be another wet, grubby day.
'Where's it _coming_ from?' Izzy muttered. 'It's sort of... in my head and out here...'
The Doctor's frown deepened. 'Not a telepath, then. Which means...'
'...I WANT TO TALK TO THE WRITER!'
[The author is currently going blibber blibber blibber. _Someone's_ really having fun, and it ain't him. Right, if _that's_ the way you wanna play it...]
'Ooooh... Hey, who _is_ this?' Fitz grumbled.
'This, I have the dubious pleasure of reporting, is our author. And he will kindly explain why he's suddenly decided to demolish the 'fourth wall.' Now.' The Doctor's expression brooked no argument.
-It's not me. It's you-
-No. I mean whoever's writing this-
'Writing this? Nobody's writing this...'
-Well, that's what you'd say, isn't it? After all, that's what you came up with-
'Wait wait wait. What was the last part before 'I' started writing this?'
-You'd just confronted the embodiment of the Nestene Consciousness, banished it, and prevented a quantum mnemonic that would've destroyed the world. But you should know this. Otherwise, how the hell are you responding to this?-
'Because we can hear you. Why do you think?' Kroton's voice said plainly that he was _not_ in the mood for sarcasm.
-Wait a minute... How can anybody be writing this post when I haven't even sent it?-
-Can I have your autographs?-
Izzy looked as if she was about to agree. The Doctor, however, interrupted. 'We are not talking about autographs. We are talking about your decision to knock down the fourth wall!'
'Oh yes? And who else would have the power to do that?'
-Well, there was this dark figure in here a while ago...-
'Ah. A phantom stranger. How terribly convenient.' The Doctor's tone said he didn't believe a word of it. 'Back to the situation at hand. Will you *kindly* write us back into the story?'
-I can't write anything about you. I keep trying, but the best I get is the weather...- The author's voice sounded near the point of tears.
'Doctor?' Sam whispered. 'I think he's serious...'
-Hey, what's *she* doing up?-
They all turned around. Stacy had finally woken up. Oddly enough, she didn't seem to have made a sound.
And it was at that point that the Doctor realised the telepathic barrage nagging at his mind had ceased. Putting two and two together, that meant...
_Doctor? Come on, come on, make a noise. Say something, *anything*_
'Umm... Stacy?' Izzy said. 'We heard that.'
_Heard *what?* I can't even hear myself, and they're saying I said something? Oh no... not deaf, too..._
'Stacy?' the Doctor said gently, 'I think you'd better sit down....'
(One explanation (or lack of one) later...)
_A *telepath?!* But there aren't any psis in my family...._
'No,' the Doctor agreed. 'It probably has something to do with the period our *friend* here...' He gestured at the author contemptuously. '... blacked out.'
_So now what?_
'The story, such as it is, appears to have ended. I think it's time we made our farewells, don't you?'
-What about me?-
'*You* are coming too. I want this resolved!'
'Err... Doctor?' Fitz said, from his uncomfortable resting place on the ceiling. 'how're we going to get out? Cammy's not exactly in a position to get us anywhere...'
"Cammy's" muttered oaths of vengeance on the author were proof, if any were needed, that this was the case.
'You're still reading this, I take it.'
'Listen. I want you to say that the door to the lab, through the quantum mnemonic, has become a PLOT hole.'
-'Kay, Don't see what it can do-
Sam opened the lab door, and yelped. Behind it, there was nothing but swirling blackness. 'What's *that*?'
'That,' said the Doctor, 'is a PLOT hole. And it's our way out of here.' So saying, he jumped in.
Sam took a deep breath, and followed.
Stacy and Ssard looked at each other, then stepped through together.
Izzy raced in, Kroton hard on her heels.
Fey, dragging a squirming Compassion behind her, made her way to the hole and threw Compassion in, before following her.
Fitz, by careful dint of getting a hold of the door top, flung himself up and over...
... into the PLOT hole.
Adric blinked as he came to the end of the script. 'So that's how you got back to the 'Round?'
'Yes,' the Doctor said. 'I do owe the author an apology, though: he appears genuinely clueless about what happened, so it's probably not his fault.'
-Thanks. I think-
'Just one thing left; how'd you get Fitz down?'
-Ah. You see, there's a range of frequencies at which human thought breaks down. I suggested that the Doctor try giving Fitz a dose using the sonic screwdriver-
'And, bar his tendency to run to the toilet every so often,' the Doctor added, 'it seems to have worked.'
'What now?' Adric asked, gesturing to the group. 'It's not like there's anything resembling a continuity now...'
'It'll be fine, Adric,' Fey said. 'The next time an author writes for us, we'll return to our established portrayals.'
'YEEEESSSSS!!!!' came the yell from Compassion.
'Yeah.... but you're still like this inbetween...'
'That,' the Doctor said, 'is a puzzle I intend to solve in due time. For now, I believe my friends would like their orders, and a quiet seat.'
As he turned away to prepare the drinks, no-one noticed the massive smirk spreading over Adric's face. He'd just got a *brilliant* idea...
To Be Continued...
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat