Infinite Eights

Adric closed his eyes, waiting for that familiar moment of pain, and agony, and-

Hold on. He hadn't been shot. He hadn't been shot. Had that psycho decided to let him off? He opened one eye, cautiously.

And almost immediately closed it again.

'Step away from the kid, lady.'

Nyssa gawped, then quickly regained her composure. 'And who's going to make me?'

The newcomer tipped his hat. 'Name's Joe Smith, private investigator. Friend of mine asked me 'round to help. Looks like he was right...'

Nyssa's mouth curved into a manic grin. 'Then let's see you investigate *this*!'

She leaped for Adric. Or tried to, anyway.

Because for some reason, her feet seemed stuck to the floor.

Joe grinned. 'Thanks, Qui...'

'Lord Quiquaequod, please...' the bearded man in wizard's robes said, dusting his hands off. 'It was easy. A simple spell of binding. As long as she tries to attack the boy, she will remain frozen where she is...'

Adric opened his eyes again. And blinked furiously. No, they still hadn't gone away.. He decided to make the best of it. 'So-'

And got interrupted.

A one-eyed man pushed his way in, dragging two figures behind him. He was dressed like a gunslinger; eyepatch, fancy waistcoat, white shirt. 'Found these two lurking in the bushes. Occurs to me they might mean our boy here some harm...'

'Hey!' Doug yelled. 'I'm trying to *protect* him, not _kill_ him!'

'Hard to tell the difference, with you around...' Adric murmured.

The gunslinger raised an eyebrow. 'And how about you... *pardner*?'

Number One looked at the gunslinger, looked at the frozen Nyssa, then looked back at the gunslinger. He fidgeted uncomfortably. 'Well... that is to say... Ummm.... Yes?'

He blinked. 'Hold on. Why the hell do I have to justify myself to _you_, anyway?'

The gunslinger's eyebrow kept raised. ' 'Cause I'm Doc Gallifrey. And-' He pulled out a revolver, whirled, and shot. The ricocheting bulliet banged off one of the pans hanging above the bar, off a Dalek shell, smashed into a glass and-

'Oooowwww!!!!' Nyssa sucked her stinging hand.

'-I've been shooting since 'fore your daddy was born. So... Do you feel lucky?'

Number One opened his mouth, thought about the way his luck'd been going recently, and wisely decided to shut up.

The gunslinger touched his hat. 'Joe.'

Joe leaned back against the pillar. 'Doc. Seen any of the others?'

'Seen that-' the gunslinger began.

Someone crashed through the door and smashed into the bar, nearly bringing it down.

'Replicant scum!' The voice was loud. And slow. And had a heavy Germanic accent.

'Oh no. Not that psychopath...' Joe moaned.

The figure in the bar struggled to get up. Quiquaequod looked over, muttered a few words to himself, and levitated the remains of the bar up, letting the figure sit up.

'You are going to _pay_ for that...' it said.

The cyborg standing in the doorway grinned. 'The Sonic Screwdriver _never_ pays. He makes everybody else pay!'

'And pay, and pay, and pay...' Joe muttered

The figure that picked itself up from the wreckage was big. Very big. Almost seven feet. And, somehow, the fact its features looked painted on managed to add to the sense of fear. 'Payment just came due, Screwdriver. I'm harder and stronger than you'll ever be. Even in your dreams...'

'Excuse me,' a woman's voice said. 'Would you mind putting that down... Thank you. Now, maybe we can stop the macho posturing, sit down, have some tea... and _talk_ about this?'

'Vhat is there to talk about?' the Sonic Screwdriver said. 'He is a replicant, no? And replicants must be destroyed!'

'The fact that _you_ are one of us never ceases to amaze me...' the woman said. She had long brown hair and mournful, sad eyes. 'Nevertheless... _No-one_ can die in This Time Round. Killing them simply means they'll come back...'

The Sonic Screwdriver grinned. 'Good. More targets.'

'Like this one?' the woman said, patting the Screwdriver between the shoulders.

The Screwdriver whirred. 'V-Vhat h-have y-you done...?' His voice trailed off.

The woman crossed her arms. 'You were fitted with a reset button. Didn't they mention that in your specifications?'

'Probably couldn't even read them...' the giant said.

Adric's jaw was, by now, hanging open and flapping loose. The woman looked over at him. 'Don't worry about the damage, Adric. Put it on his tab...' She pointed at the dormant Screwdriver.

Number One finally managed to find his voice again. 'Who _are_ you people? And why in holy Nyssa's name do all of you look like the Eighth Doctor?!?'

'It's a long story...' the woman answered. 'We're all... what's the right word? Facets. Aspects of something bigger, that exists across the omniverse... Well, all of us bar him. _He's_ a replica created by the Toymaker...' she finished, pointing to the giant.

'I prefer to see myself as the only true Doctor. _He's_ the weak reflection...'

The room fell silent. Horribly silent.

_This_ time, the silence was broken by scuffling, crashing sounds coming from the back of the pub.

Then it went quiet.

Then Francois emerged, holding a tubby humanoid cat, in jacket and waistcoat, in one hand, and a humanoid lizard, with large eyes and no nose, in the other.

'My good man-' the cat said.

'Ogron.' Francois rumbled.

'My good Ogron, I can reassure you that there is a valid and proper reason for the two of us to be in your refrigeration unit...'

'I no think he buying it, Tardis...' the lizard said.

'Silence, Lizzy.' the cat blustered. 'Allow me to introduce myself. I am Tardis Tails, and this is my acquaintaince and compatriot Lizzy. We are... refrigeration servicers, here to ensure that-'

'I think he still no convinced, Tardis...'

'Put them down, Francois...' the woman said. Francois dumped the unlikely pair in an unceremonious heap.

'Found them in fridge, trying to eat salmon sandwiches...' Francois said. 'Hold on... why most of you look like weird huggy man with weird fashion sense?'

The woman coughed. 'Ah. Like I said... that's a long story...'

Number One wore a dark and terrifying smile. 'And have any of you appeared in Who? Hmm?'

'Yes.' said a new voice. The Infinity Doctor got up from where he'd been sitting in a quiet corner, and walked over to them. 'They _have_ appeared in Who. And if that's not enough for you,_I_ will vouch for them. Okay?'

'Whe-' Number One began.

The Infinity Doctor rolled his eyes. 'Honestly... You'd think no-one ever read the comic strip any more... The doll-Doctor-' (the giant grimaced at this, but said nothing.) '-appeared in Endgame. That's the _strip_ Endgame, not the book. Clear? The others have all appeared in The Glorious Dead. And, as she said-' (he nodded at the Eighth Doctrix) '-it is a very long story...'

He thought about this. 'Ah. There was something I'd forgotten. Adric, your laptop please... Oh, and the telephone line, please...'

Adric mutely reached under the ruined bar, handed over his laptop, and pointed over to a spare telephone line in the wall.

After a small amount of fiddling... (and much cursing at ISPs...) the screen flashed up...

|Hi, guys! How's it going?|

Infinity started typing. |Fine, DOCTOR. How was it for you?|

|Well, if _someone_ had remembered to download me in time, I wouldn't have been stuck on a poxy server in the middle of nowhere for four minutes...| the screen spelled out angrily.

Doc peered over the Infinity Doctor's shoulder. 'Why do we need that lowdown bottom-feeder?'

|I heard that.| the screen said. |Guess who got hired to keep the Doctors' accounts...|

The Doctrix went white. 'Oh no...'

Joe looked around. 'We're missing someone. Where's the kid?'

'He was having a milkshake-' Infinity said. A muffled 'oof!' came from outside. 'Oh dear. Sounds like the Rani challenged him to kick the hyperball again...'

Yelling from outside. Then a five year old Rani ran through, crying.

And a man in a moleskin coat walked in, carrying a stunned boy. 'Are this boy's parents anywhere around? He's been concussed...' He trailed off, looking at the faces in front of him, closed his eyes, opened them again, pulled a bottle of pills from his pocket, opened it, swallowed two, then closed his eyes again.

When he opened his eyes again...'Oh no. Not again. Please...'

'Shh... It's going to be all right. Calm. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.'

'Let me check,' Doug said. 'You're _all_ from the strips?'

Infinity shook his head. 'I'm the Infinity Doctor, of The Infinity Doctors.' He nodded to the laptop. 'That's DOCTOR, an AI based on the Eighth Doctor's surface mannerisms, created while the Doctor was in jail in Seeing I.' He nodded towards the man in the moleskin coat. 'And _he's_ the Doctor... the Doctor who lives in the Obverse. At least, that's one interpretation of The Blue Angel... Tardis, Doc Gallifrey, Joe, Quiquaequod, the Sonic Screwdriver, the Doctrix, Theta... they're all facets. The Doctor in other multiverses. And you know what the giant is.'

'Theta?' Doug repeated.

'The kid.' Joe said, pointing to the unconscious boy. 'All for one, and one for all... you know the line.'

Lord Quiquaequod looked as if someone had just fed him raw Krynoid. 'Law of contagion... Once together, always together...'

Infinity paused. 'Oh no.... Adric, did Paul McGann ever appear in any fanfic?'

'Ah... Ummm...Err... Alryssa did that piece "Dramatis Personae".... and I'm pretty sure there were a couple of others... Wh-... Oh no.'

In the silence, everyone could hear the car pulling into the car park. They heard the door open and shut. They heard the footsteps on the gravel.

Adric swallowed. 'What- what happens if one of the Actors walks in?'

Muttering from outside.

'_That's_ not the problem,' the Doctrix whispered. 'The problem is... what happens when Mr. McGann walks in and sees eleven people who all bear a striking resemblance to him... or to a role he's just come back to...'

'You're all crazed fanboys?' Number One suggested. 'Oof!'

'Oh dear, I seem to have accidentally toppled the Sonic Screwdriver over,' Tardis said. 'Clumsy me...'

Shuffling from outside.

'Maybe he'll leave.' Doug suggested. 'I mean, the place _does_ look like a war zone...'

'Remind me again,' Doc said to Joe. 'Why are we here?'

Screaming from outside.

'Oh dear. PMEB alert.' Infinity murmured.

'The Doctor said he needed a favour.' Joe told Doc.

'_What_ favour?'

'Something about "guest stars taking over for me while I'm on holiday..." '

|We're his smegging *temps*?!| DOCTOR shrieked. |I want danger pay!!|

Which was when all hell broke loose.




Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat