Authors: Gary Russell
Activate the memory weave
Colonel Karim strode back into the Funeral Chamber, holding her device up. ‘Excellent. I’ve got the Brady Bunch exactly where we need them, getting a bit hot under the collar.’
Azure looked up from one of the Memory Weave consoles. ‘The children are irrelevant.’
Karim sighed at their lack of imagination. ‘Not to the Doctor, they’re not,’ she said, slowly, hoping that spelled it out to the Shansheeth. ‘Wherever he is, he’ll be planning something. So we need to divert his attention.’
And she ran her finger up the device, increasing the heating in the ducting walls…and then smiled as three new dots appeared suddenly on the screen. ‘Gotcha,’ she said.
In the bedroom allocated to Sarah Jane, where they had been standing before being zapped off to that alien planet, the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Jo Jones had popped back into existence in a blue flash.
‘They’re not here,’ said Sarah Jane, meaning the teens.
‘Help!’ came a voice.
The Doctor whirled around the room, taking it all in properly for the first time and then his eyes settled on the ventilation grille lying on the floor where the Groske had, unknown to the Doctor, shoved it earlier.
‘Ventilation shafts,’ he said delightedly. ‘That takes me back. Or forwards.’ And he kneeled down and crawled in. ‘Hold on!’ he yelled. ‘We’re coming!’
‘Doctor!’ That was Clyde. ‘We’re getting roasted!’
The Doctor touched the walls. Warm. ‘Must be hotter further on,’ he said to Sarah Jane and Jo behind him, without turning around. Because he couldn’t.
But there was no reply.
Which meant they were in trouble – probably that UNIT Colonel and her Shansheeth friends.
But who to help? His old friends or the teenagers trapped in a rapidly heating-up shaft?
It was getting hotter where he was too. But why weren’t Clyde and the others coming towards him?
He noticed slits in the walls. ‘Shutters. In case of fire. Gaaah!’
Decision made – he had to get to the youngsters who were almost certainly trapped behind a shutter.
Clever Colonel Wotsername, she knew how to press his buttons!
He scurried forwards as quickly as he could, hands and knees, feeling the increasing heat as he got closer to the calling voices.
‘Clyde? Rani? Jo’s grandson whose name I never got?’ he yelled.
He turned a sharp left and ahead was a closed hatchway.
No sonic screwdriver, and Sarah Jane still had her lipstick with her.
‘Brute force it is then,’ he muttered, and pushed his palms against the heated panel. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, focusing on the panel, and with one mighty shove, it lifted a fraction.
Clyde’s fingers immediately appeared underneath, followed by a series of complaints about how hot it was.
Adding both their strengths, the panel didn’t stand a chance and it lifted and returned to its slot in the wall.
The Doctor found himself face to face with Clyde.
‘Blimey,’ Clyde said. ‘You really have changed your face. Couldn’t see before, what with all the body-swapping and stuff.’
‘Good to see you,’ the Doctor grinned.
‘Oi!’ yelled Rani. ‘Still cooking back here!’
‘And where’s my Gran?’ came another voice.
‘Right, yes, sorry,’ the Doctor stammered. ‘She’s in danger.’ Actually, that probably wasn’t a wise thing to say, he chastised himself silently. ‘So, we’d better…oh, can’t turn round.’
‘You have to sort of shuffle backwards,’ Clyde pointed behind the Doctor.
So the Doctor did, as fast as he could.
Clyde moved forward, face to face with the Doctor. ‘Even your eyes are different,’ he said as they scurried. ‘Weird. I thought the eyes would stay the same. Can you change colour? Or are you always white?’
‘I can be anything,’ the Doctor said, slightly breathlessly. Going backwards at speed wasn’t that easy.
‘And is there a limit?’
‘Yeah; how many times can you change?’
‘Five hundred and seven,’ the Doctor said, feeling his feet in the larger space of the bedroom now. He popped out and quickly all but dragged Clyde, then Rani, then Jo’s grandson, Santiago (the Doctor shook his hand as he introduced himself), then – ‘Oh, hullo,’ he said. ‘A Groske. How nice!’
The Groske jumped out. ‘No smell anymore,’ he said to Clyde.
‘That’s comforting,’ Clyde muttered.
‘Listen,’ snapped Santiago.
There was a hum, steadily rising, coming from some way away.
Rani touched the bedroom door. ‘Vibrating.’
‘That’s a lot of power building up,’ the Doctor said, yanking the door open and pelting off in the direction of the noise. Towards the Funeral Chamber!
Inside the Chamber, Colonel Karim was operating the computer console for one of the Memory Weaves, into which Sarah Jane was strapped.
On the opposite side of the room, Jo was strapped into the other one, and Aureolin was placing the wired-up helmet on her head, while Azure operated the controls.
Amaranth fitted Sarah Jane’s helmet.
‘I never trusted you, Colonel,’ Sarah Jane said.
Karim raised her eyes heavenwards. ‘Like I care. Frankly, I’ve never met anyone so staggeringly pious in all my life.’
‘The Doctor will stop you,’ Sarah Jane said.
Karim sighed. ‘Oh, give it a rest. The doors are sealed. This room was originally designed as a bunker in case Mount Snowdon, and this base specifically, was attacked. He’d need so much dynamite to blow those doors apart, he’d bring the mountain down on his head first.’
Jo, however, was staring at the TARDIS, the lead coffin lying discarded to one side of it.
‘I never thought I’d ever see the TARDIS again,’ she breathed.
‘That’s what this is all about,’ the Colonel said to her from across the room. ‘The TARDIS and you two.’ She looked at Azure. ‘Activate the Memory Weave.’
Azure flicked a switch with his great talons, and Colonel Karim did the same on her console.
And simultaneously, they turned similar dials. The hum got louder.
‘So, come on then,’ Sarah Jane said bravely. ‘What does a Memory Weave do?’
‘Cos I warn you, sweetheart,’ Jo said, just as bravely, ‘at my age, the memory’s going.’
‘You only need to remember one thing,’ said Amaranth, now strumming the Cradle again. ‘The TARDIS key.’
Karim explained. ‘The Weave takes the memory out of your head and makes it real. It weaves matter – a physical key from your thoughts.’
‘And then,’ Azure said, extending his massive wings in victory, ‘we will have access to the TARDIS! The most miraculous machine in creation. And it shall be ours!’
‘But you mustn’t,’ Jo said.
Azure ignored her. ‘We have seen so much death. The Claw Shansheeth have presided over infinite funerals. We see the pain, and the suffering, again and again and again. But with the TARDIS we can stop this, we can intervene to prevent such loss of life on a universal scale. A noble quest to stop the endless, endless weeping.’
‘You’re going to stop death?’ Sarah Jane was appalled. ‘That’ll change the whole of history. That’s why creatures like you can’t have time machines, you’d wreck the entire universe.’
Colonel Karim threw Sarah Jane a look. ‘What did I say? Pious.’
But Sarah Jane was furious. ‘I’d rather be pious than vile. Talking of which, what do you get out of this, Colonel?’
‘A bigger horizon. Cos there’s nothing for me on Earth anymore. So the Shansheeth are going to take me to the stars.’ And with a cruel smile, she turned the dial up more.
At which point a furious hammering began on the door, from outside. Then a voice – the Doctor’s, calling their names anxiously.
‘They want the TARDIS key,’ Sarah Jane bravely called out to him. ‘They’ve got your TARDIS and a Memory Weave!’
‘You’re too late out there,’ Karim yelled, her voice cracking slightly, a tone of mild hysteria in it. She was getting stressed as her plan neared completion. ‘You can’t stop us…me!’
And she turned her dials up further.
Azure did the same, as Amaranth strummed the Cradle and the Memory Weave power throbbed and throbbed, louder and louder.
‘Concentrate,’ Azure demanded. ‘Think of the key!’
‘I’ve got the original key in my pocket.’ The Doctor’s voice came from outside in the corridor. ‘You can have it if you let them go.’
The Shansheeth looked at one another.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ Karim spat at them. ‘Let him inside this room and he’ll destroy us! Keep going!’
She ramped the dial up more and Sarah Jane finally cried out in pain.
‘Think of the TARDIS,’ said Azure.
‘Think of the key,’ said Aureolin.
‘Remember,’ said Amaranth, strumming faster and louder.
And Sarah Jane flinched, trying not to remember.
But images formed in the air, created by the power of the Cradle’s music, showing her memories: being inside the Tenth Doctor’s coral TARDIS, with Rose and Mickey. And Martha. And Donna. And of course, Captain Jack Harkness. The Fourth Doctor’s TARDIS, as she said her goodbye, walking out on to the cold streets of Aberdeen, watching that door close behind her.
Other times outside the TARDIS – the South Pole, the realm of Mandragora, Zeta Minor, Nerva Beacon, Peladon, Exxilon…
So many memories…
And Jo was doing the same, another hologram in the air, showing her memories of the key in use. Inter Minor, the realm of Kronos, Skybase One, Peladon, Uxaerius…
‘The memories coalesce!’ said Amaranth gleefully.
‘The key…it takes shape,’ Aureolin announced.
‘Can’t…stop…’ Sarah Jane cried, watching as her memories, her beautiful, amazing, treasured, precious memories were used against her will, creating a duplicate TARDIS key in the air before her. ‘How…dare…you?’ she cried at Karim, who just laughed cruelly, and her eyes blazed in triumph as the key started to solidify!
Out in the corridor, the Doctor was concentrating.
‘There’s no other way in?’ he asked the Groske. ‘No ventilation duct?’
‘Not big enough,’ the Groske said. ‘Just air vents.’
Clyde grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall and slammed it against the door with all his might, but it didn’t even scratch it.
Santiago then kicked angrily at the sealed door. ‘Need a bulldozer,’ he said.
Rani was looking around. ‘Maybe there’s a fire axe or something?’
‘There isn’t,’ the Doctor said sadly. ‘And it wouldn’t do any good – that door’s built to withstand a lot.’
‘Then what can we do?’ she replied.
He looked at the three faces of the humans in front of him: anxious, terrified, alarmed…all hoping he would come up with something.
And the little Groske, sadly standing apart from them.
The Doctor loved humans – these three kids were fantastic, determined, never giving up, with total belief that they could rescue Sarah Jane and Jo. It was why he loved humans, why he always remembered to have one travelling with him because –
‘Memories! They are using Sarah Jane and Jo’s memories!’ He yelled.
‘Then don’t you see? We do exactly the same!’ He yelled through the door. ‘Sarah Jane! Jo! Listen to me!’
‘The key…’ That was Jo.
‘It’s almost solid…’ That was Sarah Jane.
And the Doctor spoke so softly and yet powerfully that there was no doubt his voice would carry into the room.
Clyde shivered. It was like the air in the corridor had stopped moving, like the whole world was suddenly still.
Even the throbbing of the Memory Weave within the sealed room seemed to drop, as if it too was somehow listening to the Doctor’s voice.
‘Listen to me. Both of you. I want you to remember everything. Every day with me. Every single second. Let those memories come, stop fighting the Weave. Because your memories are more powerful than anything else on this entire planet. Give the Memory Weave everything! Every planet. Every face. Every madman. Every loss. Every sunset, every scent, every terror, every joy. Every Doctor. Every me!’
Inside the Funeral Chamber, Karim was at the controls, but the Weave seemed to be operating by itself, the power getting stronger, feeding…feeding off the memories!
‘What’s he doing?’ she screamed at Azure, but the big vulture was as confused as her.
‘I remember,’ said Sarah Jane beside the Colonel.
‘I remember,’ echoed Jo, next to Aureolin.
And on their holograms faces, planets, creatures flashed by, like a speeded-up movie.
Daleks. Cybermen. Ice Warriors. Sontarans. Morbius. Azal. Krillitanes. Karfelons. Autons. Arcturans. Arcateenians. Bok. Wirrn. Eldrad. Omega. The Master. Davros. The Brigadier. K-9. Mike. Harry. Draconia. Kastria. So many faces, so many sounds, so many smells, so many temperatures, so many memories…
Karim pointed as the key, that had been so nearly solid, just melted into nothingness as these other memories poured out from the two women strapped into the Memory Weave.
A squawk from Azure made the Colonel stare at her console. Smoke was seeping out from under it. ‘What’s happening?’
Azure’s great wings began flapping. ‘The device is overloading. Too many memories. Too many –’
Another cry – this time from Amaranth, because the Cradle’s strings had snapped, rending the instrument useless, and he staggered back from it, his talons flailing around in fear and bewilderment.
Outside, the Doctor turned to the teenagers.
‘Come on, all of you! Help them!’
Clyde was first to the door, yelling at the top of his voice. ‘Think of us, Sarah Jane! Remember Maria. And her dad! And all the stuff we’ve done. Slitheen, the Gorgon…’
‘And the clowns,’ Rani was yelling. ‘And the Judoon. And the Berserker! And the Mona Lisa coming alive!’
‘Just think, Gran,’ Santiago was shouting. ‘All the places we’ve been to. All the countries, all the people…’
Inside, Jo was smiling as she thought about all the tribes she had visited, all the rivers, and mountains, and deserts and jungles she’d seen. With Cliff, her husband. And their children. And their children’s children…