On another dare and as a gift for someone else who asked me for art in 2017, here’s a story based on a vignette I wrote on Facebook, starring the Doctor…or someone like her.
An eruption of loud noises and surprising lights jolted the military company to attention. Scrambling to defensive positions and, in some cases, to quickly finish assembling their guns, the soldiers first looked on in fear and then confusion as the center of the commotion coalesced into a wooden box, painted blue, about a meter taller than the average person and large enough to comfortably contain one, maybe two. It bore an inscription, “Police Public Call Box.”
When the box quieted, a small door opened outward. A dark-haired woman stuck her head out, exhaled in annoyance, and shouted back into the box, “Another army base? Really?” Whatever she heard seemed to satisfy her, as she spun in a quick circle, locking the door behind her and exiting in a single motion. Her deep blue blouse, gray-blue pencil skirt, black sweater that covered little more than her shoulders and back, and black peep-toe heels were all the more incongruous amidst the military-issue green slacks and black hats, even without acknowledging her black bowtie and dense shoulder-length curls.
“Relax, Rambissimos,” she called out, relying on the TARDIS’s translation circuits to swap in the appropriate dismissal. “If I wanted to hurt you, I’d have landed on top of you. Over and over again to make sure I got the whole room. You’d maybe have dinged the paint in the meantime.”
The soldiers looked at each other. The Doctor looked at their weapons and raised an eyebrow.
“Why are you all here with your guns, anyway?” the Doctor asked.
“We’ve been under attack,” answered a soldier with bigger epaulettes and more medals than the others. “Something comes after us at night. We never see it. What it leaves behind comatose soldiers who don’t wake up. We were getting ready to sweep this place for whatever this…thing…is.”
The Doctor swept her eyes around the room. “Does this building have a sewer?”
The epauletted soldier’s eyes widened with shock. “N-not at all,” he stammered, “Why?”
“I was just wondering where this leads,” the Doctor answered as she pulled a shiny metal pen-shaped device from her skirt pocket and pointed it at a featureless wall. The end of the device glowed magenta and spun slowly, and the wall rippled, revealing an ornate metal door that was moments ago invisible. The soldiers all stepped back in shock.
“Sonic screwdriver. Never leave home without it.” She put the sonic screwdriver back in her pocket. “It’s better for all of us if you don’t keep things from me. I’ve been collecting knowledge since before your civilization had a name. I always find out eventually.”
The soldiers were silent.
“I’m here to help. I might even be able to wake the ones it already put to sleep.”
The commanding officer continued to hesitate. The Doctor approached him, getting close enough to whisper.
“I know those light guns anywhere,” she poured into his ear, standing on tiptoes to make sure no one else heard, “Saturnyn.” The commanding officer froze. His lips parted, revealing vampire-like fangs. The Doctor stepped back as he resumed a normal expression.
“We look forward to your investigation,” the commanding officer snarled, “…what was your name?”
“You can call me the Doctor,” she answered with a smirk as she began walking toward the newly revealed door. “And if you could put a tarp over my police box, that’d be swell.”
“Well, the Doctor, are you sure you’re up to solving this on your own? I can send one of my—”
“Look, NPC-Leader-of-the-Week,” the Doctor called, raising a foot onto one of the ammunition crates dotting the floor, “Look at these shoes. Do these look like shoes that don’t get results to you?”
The room was silent as she strutted to the door, raised her sonic screwdriver again, and caused the door to clank and swing open. A fetid odor washed across the room, dissipating once she closed the door behind her.
“I like her,” one of the soldiers chuckled.
“Shut up,” growled the commanding officer.
The Doctor slunk down the stairs and along the edges of the slimy corridor, keeping her footing despite the many slick surfaces. At each intersection, she raised her sonic screwdriver and used it as a flashlight, checking the turbid water. “I know you’re in here somewhere,” the Doctor muttered under her breath. “The Saturnyns didn’t install that perception filter on their own.”
At the next flash of light, a group of white-skinned fish scattered, then regrouped at the edge of the light range, watching her. She reached into her pockets and produced a transparent contraption with a narrow entrance, many times larger than the pocket that held it. She wedged this device into a gap in masonry just below the waterline.
“Rosanna Calvierri,” she muttered, “you owe me an apology.”
A squelching footstep behind the Doctor alerted her to danger, and she slid down the adjacent ramp at the edge of the water. A being with a dark purple lobster-like lower body, skeletally thin humanoid torso, and yellow-green, fishlike head scuttled after her on a dozen legs, hissing and shrieking. The Doctor turned several more corners, and swung through an open, heavy door. She sonically closed it, and a few seconds later, opened it. A sudden clang reverberated through the sewers, as did a few wet groans and gasps. She stepped back out through the door and leaned atop it by her arms, resting her head to one side. On the other side of the door, the fish-crustacean monster grasped its head as it warped and shifted, taking on a toothy, eel-like shape in wrinkly blue-purple skin, with a reptilian yellow eye. The creature flopped about in disorientation as the Doctor watched.
“What a strange misfortune, to hide here,” the Doctor intoned, “Multiform.”
The beast looked up blearily, its eyes still unfocused.
“You found a hole full of Saturnyns, you silly beast! You can’t run around 21st-century Earth looking like that!”
The Multiform hissed at the Doctor and slithered into the water, disappearing from sight. The Doctor twirled her sonic screwdriver between her fingers, humming “Hechizo de luna llena” as she spun on her toes and shone her light on the water. Two intersections later, she aimed the sonic screwdriver to the left and activated it, causing a large grate to fall into place and yielding an angry hiss. She waved, and then started running back the way she came. As the other fish-lobster shape made chase, she pointed the screwdriver in various directions, closing grates and valves as she went. When she arrived at the slick ramp she had descended, she turned and went through the same door, but this time left it closed and loudly climbed stairs inside the smaller room, continuing her humming. She listened for her pursuer, and crawled through a narrow passage that, she had calculated, led to a vent above where she had placed her trap.
Moving the small metal door aside, she learned her calculations were correct, and looked down at the crevice she had visited earlier. There were two Saturnyn forms here, looking around in puzzlement, and she startled them further by sonically dropping a solid metal door to their right, and then another two intersections to the left. The two beasts shrank, warping themselves into the shapes of small, white, two-tailed, piranha-like fish and swimming into the crevice in the wall…whereupon they hissed in anger.
The Doctor slipped out of her hole, landed on the edge of the water, reached in, and produced her dimensional minnow trap, which now contained the two disguised Multiforms.
“Like I said,” she spoke to the two creatures as they pounded their heads against the impervious surface, “you can’t run around 21st-century Earth looking like that. What are you two doing here, anyway? The Atraxi keep an eye on this place ever since Prisoner Zero escaped, and you know what happens when they find out that Multiforms are about. There are much better places to hide.”
“Not from them,” one of the Multiforms hissed.
The Doctor’s puzzled look soon turned to horror as the sounds of exploding stone and gunfire filtered down from the facility above…alongside words in a harsh mechanical staccato.
“All right you two, we’ll talk about how you tried to hide from my most determined enemies on my favorite planet another day. Right now, I need to get you out of here.”
Up above, flashes of light pulsed between the gaping hole in the wall and ceiling and the soldiers’ defensive positions. As the dust began to clear, the nature of the invaders became clear. From their wide, orb-studded bases to their rotating centers to their domed, stalk-eyed heads, they could be none other than Daleks, even if their rallying cry of “EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!” did not reveal them.
The Saturnyn soldiers returned fire, their weapons producing pulses of light instead of bullets. The Dalek shells withstood the first two or three hits but exploded afterward, which was not enough to stem their advance when their own weapons fried one soldier with almost every shot. Each fatality destroyed the Saturnyn’s perception-filter device, revealing their natural fish-lobster forms. The commanding officer shouted an order: “Go for the eyes!”
As the lead Dalek, in a slightly taller casing in red, shouted, “EXTERMINATE THEM AND LOCATE THE GENETIC UPGRADE,” a soldier struck it in the eye with a blast of vision-bleaching ultraviolet. It immediately spun in a panicked circle, shrieking “ILL-U-MIN-ATE! ILL-U-MIN-ATE!” as it fired indiscriminately. After third and fourth Daleks were similarly blinded, they did more damage to their own ranks than the Saturnyn soldiers were doing to them, and the lead Dalek was a smoking crater of friendly fire. One Dalek broke off from the group and traveled down a long corridor, past the sewer door.
For a long time, the mechanical sounds of its dome turning back and forth and its hover apparatus lightly humming were interrupted only by echoes of battle, coming from at least two directions. An additional sound began to filter in: a song, sung in a voice that was both different and intensely familiar:
“…Esta noche será especial / nos iremos para la playa / tambores, arena, y mar / canciones de mi guitarra…”
“THE DOC-TOR!” the Dalek shouted as it blasted the next door panel with its gun-stick, destroying its lock and permitting the Dalek to shove it open. Inside, the song was a bit louder, and the Dalek eagerly scanned the dark room. It bumped into a rounded object in the floor, which made an electric whine and then exploded in a flash of blinding light. The Dalek was flung across the room, a gaping hole in its casing, sparks twitching out of the devices inside. Above, the room’s lights activated, and the door at the other end of the room opened.
“Saturnyn light-mine. Nasty thing. I think you were looking for these,” the Doctor intoned as she produced her dimensional minnow trap from her dimensionally-oversized skirt pocket, with the two Multiforms still in larval-Saturnyn disguise. Despite her earlier sewer adventure, her skin and clothing were immaculately clean. The Dalek twitched its head around to look, and shouted again, “THE DOC-TOR!”
The Doctor strutted over to the damaged Dalek and sat next to it, legs extended and crossed at the ankle. She was close enough to touch it, but far enough that it would have to flop all the way over to try anything, which it clearly could not in its current condition. Its levitation devices were leaking sparks and fluid, and through the hole, the Doctor could see that the damage extended all the way to its cortex vault. She remembered something from a past life.
“You unfortunate creature,” she spoke, voice filled with kindness and just a hint of caution. “Your kind have vanished and reappeared from this cosmos more times than anyone but me, yet here, you are alone.”
The Dalek vibrated with antipathy, too angry to even stammer out its usual curses.
“I can tell you from here, your quest will never bring you peace. Mixing the Multiforms’ ability to disguise themselves into Dalekhood will not save your kind. No bloodline is pure enough that its offspring will not seem, to your eyes, hideous and doomed. Even now, slightly different Daleks are looking for you, because to them, you’re the one who needs to be exterminated.”
The Dalek’s mechanical convulsions slowed. Metallic pounding and electric crackling began to echo through the walls.
“Don’t you see? We are both…out of time.” The Doctor produced her sonic screwdriver and sealed a leaking tube in the Dalek’s casing. A minute later, the levitation device returned to function.
“WHY DO YOU HELP ME?” the Dalek demanded.
“Because I don’t think things have to be the way they are now,” she answered, adjusting the hem of her skirt. “Because I have seen, again and again, how the monsters of this world stay monstrous. They find the soft spots in their ranks, the kindness, the caring, and they crush them. They make sure that the only safe thing to be is a monster, so there keep being monsters.”
The Doctor and the Dalek were silent for a few minutes.
“I’m the Doctor because, where there is hurt like that, I try to help.”
“YOU WOULD HELP A DALEK?” The incredulity was almost pleading.
“COULD I BE…DIFFERENT?” the Dalek asked.
“They took a lot away from you, almost everything, to make you a monster.” The Doctor looked at the Dalek’s damaged cortex vault. “I think I can help get it back.”
“THEN I WILL BE…DALEK MAR.” Dalek Mar tried to push themself upward with their manipulator arm, and clattered down once more. The Doctor smiled, and reached her sonic screwdriver inside the Dalek’s casing. With a few whirs and pops, the damaged sections of cortex vault shut down, as did the Dalek casing’s trademark quirk of absorbing DNA from beings that touched it. The Doctor helped lift Dalek Mar, and once most of their weight was on their levitation pads, they stayed shakily upright.
“Fixing the rest is going to take a while,” the Doctor added, “and I don’t think it’s safe to try it here. We should get going.”
“FIRST THINGS FIRST,” Dalek Mar insisted, jerkily levitating back the way she came. The Doctor followed at a distance, far enough to not be immediately seen if Dalek Mar was spotted, close enough to help them stay upright if they faltered.
When they arrived at the beginning of the hallway, they looked out at the ongoing battle, strewn with Saturnyn corpses and exploded Dalek casings. The shrinking force of disguised fish-lobsters still fired on the increasingly scattered, self-destructive beings Mar once counted as their comrades, who still spun around and destroyed each other in confusion whenever one of the Saturnyns managed to strike their eyestalks. From their vantage, Dalek Mar began firing on the other Daleks. Though they did this silently at first, after the fifth attack they could no longer restrain the impulse, and began shouting:
“EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!”
After the dust cleared, no further Daleks advanced through the hole they had blasted in the wall, though sounds of battle still filtered in from elsewhere in the base. The remaining Saturnyns turned their guns toward Dalek Mar, but the Doctor quickly interposed herself.
“¡Cálmense, cálmense, this one’s with me!” she shouted. The Saturnyns looked at each other in baffled incredulity.
The commanding officer, improbably still among the living but now bereft of his human disguise, scuttled forward on a dozen legs and snarled, “…what?”
“I EXTERMINATE FOR KINDNESS NOW,” Dalek Mar insisted.
“Thanks for following through on the tarp. You lot can only imagine what we’d all have been in for if they’d all figured out I was here,” the Doctor breathlessly explained. “I caught the creatures causing the comas, so your people should be healthy again soon. You should probably attend to the other side of your base, though.” The Doctor and Dalek Mar threaded their way through the thunderstruck crowd. One soldier raised her light gun at Dalek Mar and promptly watched it fall apart in her hands as the Doctor pressed a button on her suddenly-present sonic screwdriver.
When the pair got to the TARDIS, the Doctor removed the tarp and opened the door. “What do you want to do next, Mar? Once I find a Dalek-free home for these two wrigglers, my schedule’s open for a good decade.”
Dalek Mar was silent for a minute. “I WANT TO SEE AN OCEAN.”
“We can do that!” the Doctor replied excitedly. She waved to the still-gawping Saturnyn soldiers as she stepped into the TARDIS. “¡Ahora sí se formó la cosa!”