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Esprit de Corps

Steed's Tale - "Esprit de Corps" - Chapter 09

Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Rain Donaldson
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1996.
Steed's history was written in 1994.

"Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state,
need to be avenged by agents extraordinary..."

Episode A3-9 - Mission in Cineverse

In which Steed is cast in a bad fight 
... and Mrs. Peel finds a change of station 

The three of us are quite definitely on our own.
The Doctor seems concerned about something. "Steed, old boy; time is shifting here."
Someone must be altering the time flow. Not having my Pattern awareness active, I didn't notice it. Time to remedy that. Supposedly, we are still in the Doctor's personal shadow, the Time Beach. We have been in his fast time Shadow for nearly a week. I notice the time flow shifting; slowing to nearly the same rate as Shadow Earth. "Wonderful." My attempt at sarcasm, someone with the ability to alter someone else's personal Shadow.
"It doesn't seem to be harmful yet."
He seems worried; if the time flow was altered, what other changes were made to this reality? "If we need to alter reality, let me know. I should be able to shift things with the Pattern."
"All right, let's save that for a last resort."
We move further down the corridor. The area is filled with machinery. Walls, floor, and ceiling are metal; including grillwork for ventilation. The Doctor inspects the ventilation shaft for hidden life forms. "Nasty things are always hiding in the ventilation shafts." He then inspects the machinery; probably to determine the purpose and function. "Oh dear. Heads up, old chap. We may run into Plutonium here."
"Very well, are we near the disruption field and can we do something about it?"
"It is still up ahead, and I hope so."
We proceed cautiously, with gauss guns at the ready, the Doctor is slightly ahead. This gives me the opportunity to focus my Pattern awareness on the area. I pick up something rather unexpected. The entire area seems to have been altered by Pattern energies. An Amberite is behind this. The why is partially obvious, to trap us: to capture, injure, or kill us. Who? Probably the same person(s) who acquired the TARDIS and is working with Plutonium.
Expanding my awareness further, it seems as though all of Time Beach was manipulated by Pattern energies. It is like an Amberite came here weeks or more setting Time Beach up to trap the Doctor. It would have to be someone who knew the Doctor well enough to expect him to show up on Time Beach or has retrieved information about it in the TARDIS files. I discuss my observations with the Doctor.
"Someone has been mucking about with my Beach."
"I wonder how they would have found out about that."
"I'm going to have to find a new hidey hole for my things now."
We move further down this Doctor trap. The wall sections change as we go further down, there are obvious seams in the metal that appear to lack sufficient support. Possibly, they are cave in traps or moving panels. The Doctor withdraws his sonic screwdriver to scan the area. He sees something that I missed. "We have an energy field projector set up as a trap in the next section." He detects a laser eye trigger near by; as well as pressure sensitive pads.
Although the Amberite who set up these traps was knowledgeable in strange technology, the Doctor seems to be able to evade problems. He commented that the designer was a 'weekender'. He then shows us where to step over or around to avoid the triggers. We make it through and move further down the hall.
In the distance, we see a figure; dressed in black, with his face covered under a black hood. He has a sword at one side. Rather large, he is nearly Eric's build.
"Hello." Says the Doctor. "So, you are the one who set this up? Well, I suppose you are going to try to kill us now. My goodness, are you going to tell us who you are?" Silence from the man in black. "Come on, villains always gloat. No? Well, I knew I should have brought along a sword."
I withdraw Shadowveil from the umbrella sheathe. "Let's see how I fare against him first." My dark opponent withdraws his blade, we move closer, and strike en garde. From the beginning, I can tell I am facing a skilled fencer; correction, highly skilled. He is faster and stronger than I am. I go through a wide repertoire of moves and he is fighting defensively. He is forcing me back, beating my blade back. I am unable to find a weakness and he is moving faster than I am. He is toying with me, occasionally using variations I have never seen before, but I will remember them for future reference. I really detest facing masked opponents. Expressions give away a lot; all I can do is observe his eye movements, barely from the mask. I keep an expressionless face, with a slight grin. It is difficult not to give away a startled expression as he keeps throwing these variations at me.
I have fenced with Benedict before, he is the best there will ever be, period. This fellow is not as good as Benedict; but he is probably in Corwin's, Creed's, or Eric's caliber of skill. The Doctor is using his gauss gun which seems non functional here. More Pattern manipulation. 
Where are curtains, when you need them? There is virtually nothing available for dirty tricks. I could go on for quite some time without tiring, but that is not the problem. He is just drawing this out, it will end when he decides it.
Emma is maneuvering around him to attack from behind. I press my attack so she can get to him. In a blur, he parries me very effectively and back hands Emma. She bounces off the wall and collapses onto the floor.
"Doctor, any help would be greatly appreciated."
The Doctor tries to distract him by striking with a tentacle from his biosuit. My opponent backs up a step and deftly slices off the tentacle.
"Doctor, do any of the Trumps work?"
He withdraws a Trump and activates it, aiming it at the man in black. Excellent, a bolt of lightning is fired. The stranger evades the lightning and it hits the wall down the hall. I can feel a nasty shock through the floor. I am temporarily stunned and my opponent presses the attack.
I reach under my jacket and withdraw my Walther P5, tossing it to the Doctor.
The Doctor catches it. No luck with the gauss gun, maybe gun powder works here. I hear a few clicks of the revolver, the Doctor throws it at my opponent. This is also deflected by the sword. Whoever is manipulating this Shadow with Pattern, is taking no chances.
"Doctor, we are running out of time and options. He is just toying with us."
He withdraws another Trump and concentrates on it.
He draws me in with a feint to the leg. I find I left that my head exposed for the merest fraction of a second. His speed is unbelievable. I have no time to react to the blade spinning around to my head. Damn! I see the blade turn ever so slightly and the flat of the blade hits my temple, below the rim of my bowler. The world explodes around me and the blinding flash of stars fill my vision.
My Carnation protected me from serious damage, but now my vision is blurred by the flashes of light. My ears are ringing horribly. Trying to maintain consciousness is difficult. I should be glad that he didn't take my head off, but I don't feel all that grateful. I may be suffering from a concussion and passing out is the last thing I should do. There are a lot of cobwebs to shake loose.
He could finish us off if he wanted to, but he doesn't.
In an act of desperation, the Doctor reaches up with his tentacles and pulls the ceiling down on him. The sheet metal falls on the man in black and bends around him.
The Doctor grabs me with a pair of tentacles and Emma with another pair. He carries us down the hall toward our destination into the unknown; trying to put some distance between us and our attacker.
We don't get far before I see our attacker pull a gun, some sort of energy weapon and levels it at the Doctor's heart. The Doctor withdraws the lightning Trump and aims it at the floor. Good man, we are off the floor and the Doctor's biosuit is insulated. Hopefully, the stranger is well grounded.
The Trump seems to be malfunctioning. Damn, this chap is manipulating Shadow again, making Trump inoperative. The Doctor is using the gauss gun again, hoping that it will work if the stranger's energy weapon works. No one can fault the Doctor's logic.
Before the Doctor gets off a shot, the stranger's energy weapon fires and hits the Doctor squarely in the chest. He drops us and falls to the floor.
Doing his worst, the stranger moves away. I am finally able to think clearly again and can stand without dizziness. But out attacker is well out of range now. I try to check the Doctor for damage, but the biosuit is preventing any scanning. I withdraw a Trump of the Doctor. I get no contact at all, Trumps are not functioning again. Nice touch. That eliminates any escape from here, via Trumps.
In the distance, I hear a crackling noise. Emma is stirring but is not conscious yet. The noise is not electrical in nature, but sounds like movement that is getting closer. I pick up the Trump the Doctor dropped of the lightning Shadow. No luck there either. I pick up Emma and drape her over my shoulder. I grab the Doctor by the tentacles to drag him. Speed is of the essence. I run down the hall with them, away from the crackling noise. Emma is waking and I stop to put her down, she is recovering quickly. I explain things quickly to her, pointing out various options not currently open to us.
She tells me that she may have a way out.
I suggest using Pattern to manipulate Shadow to get us out of here. Emma asks me about the crackling noise. As I tell her, we see thousands of worms heading our way. The crackling noise is the sound from their movement along the metal floor and themselves. They are moving incredibly fast.
I try manipulating Shadow with Pattern as we move away from the worms. My Pattern usage has activated a high voltage energy screen, blocking our exit. I'm impressed. This chap has thought of everything. Unfortunately, we have run out of options. I also noticed that the more Pattern energy I use, the more it is draining the Doctor; the biosuit is no longer blocking my scans. I don't understand how, but that is all I can determine about the Doctor's condition.
"Mrs. Peel, we're trapped." The worms will reach us in seconds. "Any suggestions?"
"We have one shot." She takes a ring out of her purse. It is a cheap plastic ring, like some toy from a cereal box. She twists the top, like she is dialing a combination. She grabs the Doctor and myself and says. "See you in the funny papers." The worms don't reach us.
We are completely enveloped in a cloud of blue smoke. No sign of the worms. The question is, where are we? Also, what just happened? Some form of magic, I am certain; but it is not based upon Trump, Pattern, or Logrus. Interesting. "Thank you, my dear. That was extremely close."
"Certainly, Steed."
As the blue smoke clears, we found ourselves in an emergency room. There are a number of people: doctors, nurses, aides, and patients. It is extraordinarily clean. The staff are all in white. The patients look remarkably healthy.
"Doctors, we have an injured person here. Can someone help?"
"Why certainly!" A handsome doctor approached. Tallish, with perfect hair.
The staff struggles to lift him on the gurney. The biosuit is rather heavy and awkward. I examine the biosuit to see if there is an easy way to get the Doctor out. There isn't, so I use a Trump again to see if there is any mental activity. The Trump becomes cool, but I do not reach him. I use Shadowveil and gingerly cut the biosuit, I soon cut him out of the it. We put him onto another gurney. The doctors begin examining him and taking him into surgery. "Who is the doctor in charge here?"
Someone says. "Doctor Harry Clark, the heart throb."
Mrs. Peel and I exchange glances, she rolls her eyes and says. "Soap opera."
Just what I thought. It is quite unfortunate that the Doctor is unconscious. No one here is familiar with the Doctor's physiology and I don't want 'anyone' operating on him. Especially some soap opera doctors. I use Pattern awareness to scan the Doctor, the way I used it before for self diagnostics. I touch him and spread my awareness through him.
The energy is still active where he was shot. It is spreading beyond his heart, like an energy cancer. He is running out of time and only I have a chance to stop the progress, before it reaches his other heart. His other heart? I notice other physiological differences as well, but there is no time to appreciate the differences from a human or Amberite body.
I quickly envelope the energy in a Pattern bubble. I contract the bubble and open a hole outside of his body, forcing the energy out of his body through the entry wound. The energy escapes through the hole and spreads over his chest. I redouble my efforts to contain it in a Pattern bubble. I am able to contain it, but where to put it? I drop it on the Doctor's biosuit to give it something to feed upon. It quickly spreads and dissolves the biosuit. I bring my attention to the Doctor. The staff is closing in, trying to take care of him. I motion everyone to stand back from the Doctor and the dissolving biosuit.
I examine the Doctor further. It doesn't look good. The damage is too extensive. I doubt if he will pull through, the life signs are fading.
{But can the doctors of Sacred Heart save him?} I hear a voice from somewhere.
"Hook the Doctor up to the equipment to monitor his vital signs." I hope the equipment is functional.
The doctor with perfect hair along with his immaculately dressed staff is eager to work on the Doctor. I have little faith in these people. I would rather have my favorite uncle working on him. I withdraw a Trump of Ge`rard and concentrate upon it. As I concentrate upon it, my concentration is broken when I hear doctor perfect hair talking about using a defibrillator and other extreme procedures. I have enough training to know that some of the procedures are utter nonsense. This is quite enough. I hear doctor perfect hair shout 'clear'. I take the paddles away from him. One heart is gone and the doctor has no idea about the other heart. A nurse is wheeling a huge device that looks like something from a high tech torture chamber, with screens, knobs, and buttons. It looks really impressive, but I doubt that it serves any helpful purpose; other than to look impressive.
"Doctor, what exactly is that device?"
"This is a refibrillation scanning transpositronic device."
I could swear that I saw a sparkle in his teeth. This must be Doctor Harry Clark, the heart throb. He is the only doctor that has been talking. "What does it do?" I ask knowingly.
"It looks impressive."
"Let's not use it, then."
"It's required in this case, because his medical scans don't match anything I've ever seen."
Before I was able to stop myself, I said. "That's because he is not human."
{Da! Da! Daah!} Where is that dramatic music coming from?
After the sound effects, the staff gives a collective gasp. Emma is glaring at me. I shrug. I have to remedy this quickly. "I'm with the government." 
{Da! Da! Daah!} Lords not again, I am not versed in soap operas.
"Listen carefully. He isn't here, I'm not here, and none of this is actually happening. Understand?"
Doctor perfect hair snaps to attention and flashes me a salute. "Got ya, sir." He strikes a dramatic pose. One of the nurses is swooning.
"We still need to take care of him, but his heart is in a different place. We need a monitor that works."
"This works!" He pushes buttons, turns dials, and pulls levers. The machine blips, pings, and makes other assorted impressive sounds.
"Someone just clean and dress the wounds. Can someone do simple first aid?"
Doctor heart throb speaks up defending their honorable profession. "This is a hospital, we don't do first aid."
"Well, there is a first time for everything." Like having to deal with a soap opera Cineverse.
"O.K., we will do our best."
I offer suggestions, having performed emergency first aid on the battlefield.
Doctor heart throb tells me that I need to get into appropriate attire, so I don't continue to spread germs on his patient. This is odd, since they are not wearing surgical gowns and masks. They somehow have the idea that wearing white clothing equates to being sanitary. "Look, if we don't treat him internally; he may die from internal bleeding."
{Da! Da! Daah!}
Please get us out of here, and I promise I will be a good boy. Flora always told me, never argue with an idiot; I know who she was talking about now. "Mrs. Peel, if you can offer a suggestion; it would be greatly appreciated."
"I don't know enough about the Doctor's physiology to offer any reasonable advise, Steed."
I find myself in a white gown, that wasn't there a moment ago. "If we can just keep him stable, maybe his system can repair itself." Doctor heart throb acquiesces. "Mrs. Peel, when we get the chance, you need to tell me about what is going on here."
"This is the Cineverse."
"I know that, but apparently I was only involved in a specific part of the Cineverse."
"This is a soap opera Cineverse, this means that the Doctor will probably hang on for a few weeks."
"Unfortunately, I don't think we have a few weeks." There must be something about this place, I couldn't stop myself.
Doctor heart throb speaks up. "Then we will have to perform emergency surgery."
{Da! Da! Daah!} He sound like he can't wait to cut something open.
"It is against my better judgment, but it seems as though this is the only medical facilities available to us."
"Steed, at least it is a facility unaffected by the Creed."
"Let's see what they can do for him then."
"There is not much we can do for him here."
"I don't feel comfortable leaving him here under their ministrations."
"You don't have to worry, this is a soap opera Cineverse. Very little happens for weeks and weeks."
"Can you suggest a place we can go to wait?"
"Actually Steed, our best place would be the hospital cafeteria."
"Mrs. Peel! Surely you must be joking! Why there? The food must be horrendous!"
"Because everyone knows that cafeterias in soap opera worlds serve the best food. It's the best I've ever tasted."
"Let's try it then." I tell Doctor perfect hair to send for us and let us know if there is 'any' change in his condition. I remove my white gown, and we head down the hall. We follow the signs to the cafeteria.
A waiter greets us at the door and takes us to a table with a beautiful view of a massive garden that has been tended to by experts. He hands us the menus and wine list. Another waiter takes our order. The wine and food is delivered shortly. Surprisingly, it is quite good. Not as good as the food in the Great Hall of Castle Amber, prepared by Michael; but quite good. I will have to bring Emma to Amber for a real treat.
There are many people who dine at the cafeteria. Jet setters and wealthy people come here for the cuisine. While we are eating, I ask Emma. "My dear Emma, could you explain about the ring that looks like it came from a cereal box. Also, what is this 'see you in the funny papers' business?"
She smiles and puts the ring away. "It is a Captain Crusader Decoder ring. It is one of the most powerful and valuable items in the Cineverse. Also, it is one of the most cheaply made items as well."
I receive a Trump contact. Probably Flora, she has a knack for interruptions. I push it back till it goes away. Within minutes of the Trump contact, someone walks through the door that I never expected. Flora and a male companion. I wonder who was trying to Trump me then? I stand and motion for her to join us. "Would you like to join us, mother?" They come over to our table. I remain standing, while her companion helps her to a chair. She has him well trained.
"Mother, how splendid to see you again. You remember my partner, Emma Peel."
"Why yes, it has been a long time. I've almost - forgotten."
"Funny that you mention that. I was wondering if you could find something for me."
"Do you need something, dear boy?" This is amusing, since I look old enough to be her father.
"If it's not too inconvenient, I thought you could find some of those dart guns."
"Steed, you know we shouldn't discuss weapons before dinner."
"Very well mother, after dinner then. The food is quite good, surprisingly enough." I motion for a waiter.
"Everyone knows that hospital cafeterias have the best food." She smiles warmly at Emma, like they are sharing some private joke.
We continue with small talk. I don't brief mother in the details of recent events. I receive another Trump contact. "Just a minute." I open myself to contact.
"Kesa, what's happening and where is everyone?"
:I was just calling to check up on you three and say that we had a little trouble with the TARDIS. We went back to the surface of Time Beach. It looks like you are faring pretty well.:
"We are in a four star cafeteria. We are not in Time Beach, we are in a soap opera Cineverse."
:Well enjoy!:
"The Doctor seems to be severely injured and he is under the ministrations of the surgeons here. We are waiting to hear about him. Flora, her companion, and Emma are with me. Is everyone all right in the TARDIS?"
:Yes, we are all right, the TARDIS could use a little help though.:
"Does anyone want to come through? We have to check on the Doctor before we leave."
She asks the others if they want to come through. They are discussing a cloud of dust that is heading for the TARDIS, about the size a car would make.
Kesa is staying in the TARDIS, but Suehprom and Morganth decide to come through. Before they do, an intern comes to out table.
"There seems to be some complications with your friend."
"Mother please excuse us, we have to check on a friend. Kesa, all ashore that's coming ashore." Suehprom and Morganth come through. Looking 'very' conspicuous in their hoods and cloaks. We break contact. "Gentlemen, I'm glad you are here. Could you keep Flora company while we check on the Doctor?" They also want to check on the Doctor.
"Steed, maybe you should give your friends some fashion advise." People are staring.
"Yes gentlemen, it may be best if you could find suitable clothing to be less conspicuous. Change clothing and the intern will take you to the operating room. Emma and I will leave now."
They leave for the bathroom to change.
We leave for the operating room, after exchanging pleasantries with Flora. Emma gives me one of her classic looks. I shrug and say. "You can't pick your parents."
When we get to the operating room, we see the Doctor. What we didn't expect, was to see his facial features change. His wound seems to be healing as well. "Doctor, move the equipment away. Give him some room. Are there any invasive apparatus hooked up to him?"
"We pulled all the tubes. His organs seem to be moving themselves."
"Good, everyone stand back and give him some room. Why don't all of you leave? We will watch him."
"But we can't abandon our patient!" Doctor perfect hair, the heart throb seems to be the only person who has any lines.
{Da! Da! Daah!}
"Very well, just stand there and observe." I pull out a Trump of the Doctor, to scan him for mental activity. It may be a bad idea, but I'm fascinated by this process. In earlier files, I read about the Doctor's regenerations. Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart of U.N.I.T., said he personally saw the Doctor regenerate. I didn't believe it possible and put it down to some shape shifting tricks he pulled on others.
I concentrate upon the Trump. I can't describe what I detect. There is mental activity but it is chaotic and shifting. Powerful mental activity is taking place, I withdraw before I become overwhelmed by the Doctor's psyche. Some shape shifting is taking place, but it is a survival form of shape shifting and healing.
More dramatic changes begin to occur. There is a glowing that spreads through his body. The body twitches and the glowing slows down to a pulsing; seemingly in tune with his heartbeats. Plates of the skull begin to shift and the facial features become more pronounced. Skin bulges in various parts of the body, like muscle tissue becoming more defined. Bone structure is rearranging. He is looking more muscular and more stern. Appearances often determine personality; he may not be the easy going Doctor we remember.
The sleeper awakens. This regenerated Doctor bolts upright and grabs the edges of the gurney and gouges holes in it. Examining himself, he says. "Much - better." With a voice that sounds like a Shakespearean actor who just landed the starring role in 'Hamlet'. He looks around. When he sees me. "You, yes." When he sees Emma. "You too, yes. Who is here."
"Morganth, Suehprom, Mrs. Peel, and myself: Steed."
He feels his face to determine his appearance. His face is lean and narrow, with a hawk like nose. He has rather short blackish hair and blue eyes. He looks rather severe and does remind me of a Shakespearean actor. "Where are my - possessions?" He is adding dramatic pauses to his speech pattern.
"The biosuit was dissolved by the energy that injured you. You had no other clothes." He seems uncomfortable in his hospital gown.
"Explain to me - how I got here."
"Hours ago, we came here; after you were shot by someone in your Time Beach. We brought you to a place of safety. I removed the biosuit and removed the energy force that was damaging your body."
"Where is it - now?"
I motion to what remains of the biosuit. "I used Pattern to extract it and gave it to your biosuit to feed on."
"Probably a viral plasma. Effective and deadly. Who - killed me?"
"I suppose I can take responsibility if it was a result of removing the viral plasma."
"Who put the plasma there - in the first place?" His eyes are narrowing. This is the first time I have seen the Doctor angry.
"It was a person dressed in black in the tunnels. It is possible that it was Eric, but we aren't certain. Definitely an Amberite, quite possibly the same person who took the TARDIS."
Suehprom speaks up. "Now that you mention it, the TARDIS is on Time Beach. We got it back to the surface, out of a very deep hole."
"Yes, now I remember. You shouldn't have moved it."
That surprises Suehprom. "Do you object to us trying to move it?"
"No problem." Trying to disregard him.
I get back into the conversation. "Kesa is staying at the TARDIS. So we have a way to get there."
"Yes, let's go there."
"Very well." I am eager to get out of here as well.
"Would you like a change of clothing?" Suehprom also senses his discomfort in his present attire.
"There will be some in the TARDIS. I will take this sheet." He wraps the sheet around himself and puts on hospital slippers.
I take out a Trump of Kesa. The Doctor lets me do the honors. I concentrate on it. I get through.
"Kesa, Steed here, the Doctor seems to be doing better. I suppose you can call it that. Can you pull us all through?"
I thank the staff of Sacred Heart for their help and a rainbow portal opens. A collective gasp from the staff.
{Da! Da! Daah!}
We step through. The TARDIS control room is a mess.
Suehprom briefs the Doctor on the situation. "K9 said the TARDIS diagnostic equipment is not working."
I offer. "It seems that whoever set this trap for us, was prepared against any use of Pattern, Trump, technology, or TARDIS. I'm not sure what else he was prepared for. We were unable to do anything to stop the gentleman." I am rather upset about that, but we will have another opportunity.
The Doctor looks around. "K9?" He comes into the control room.
"Oh, it's you." It is not the usual greeting that K9 has for the Doctor.
"Hello there." He picks up K9 and turns him off. He leaves the control room with K9 hanging by his side and holding onto the sheet with the other.
Suehprom is talking about a cloud of dust heading this way. It's a jalopy. We step out of the TARDIS to have a better look. We see six teenagers climb out of the jalopy; three boys and three girls. They are carrying surfboards.
We must somehow must be in one of those beach and surfing Cineverses.
Suehprom is panic stricken. "We have to get out of here now!"
We go back into the TARDIS.
"I suggest we close the door and shut off the exterior monitor." I don't want to deal with these people, if they will be like the soap opera Cineverse. They may break into a song.
The Doctor returns to the control room, appropriately dressed. A different attire than his previous style. He is wearing a nondescript gray business suit, very conservatively dressed. His accessories are striking. He is wearing a sword strapped at the belt, a matching fedora, and a tie tack of a gold omega symbol.
The Doctor has definitely changed. A more severe and determined appearance. He apparently has decided to be more active in combat. I hope he knows how to handle it. I have a suspicion that I am going to miss the old Doctor.
He looks around the control room. He sees us standing around and looks on the floor. "What - are these?"
Someone tells the Doctor that the floor is covered with worm carcasses.
"Who put them there? Somebody let worms - into my TARDIS?" The blame was put on K9. Sure, blame the poor gullible robot. "Ultrasonics will take care of it." He presses some buttons. We feel a slight tingle and the floor is clean, bereft of worm carcasses. "Well, my memory is still a fog. What should we do now?"
Emma tells him. "What about the Creed, they were taking over the Cineverse."
"Yes - the Creed invasion. They are carrying a nanite infestation that is spreading. Ah yes, the hunter seeker nanites should still be in place, I will scan myself. Regeneration can do some strange things. I - will be back." He heads back to the lab.
Suehprom looks concerned. "Steed, does the Doctor remind you of someone we saw in the Corridor of Mirrors?"
I think back to the flash of images that we experienced in the Corridor of Mirrors. There was one that spoke to the Doctor. What was his name?
- - -
His face appears. "Oh, you never were one for wisdom, Doctor."
Suehprom asks. "Who is he, Doctor?"
"I am called the Master."
Suehprom asks. "Master of what?"
"Time, space, and dimensions. I am enjoying your distress, Doctor."
"May it distress you as much as it distresses me."
The Master bows and disappears. "Adios."
- - -
Yes, the resemblance was remarkable. "Was it the Master?" After a stunned silence, the Doctor returns.
Suehprom has decided to take the initiate. "So Doctor, where are we off to?"
"That - is a good question." 
I offer more input. "Our current objectives were to stop the Creed that were created by Doctor Plutonium. There is also some other business you were going to attend to, regarding the others of your home world." 
"Oh yes - that." He leaves to find Kesa to get a Trump of Doctor Plutonium.
Suehprom and Morganth are discussing something through mental contact.
The Doctor returns and decides to use the chameleon effect to camouflage the TARDIS. Suehprom thought that it never worked. The Doctor said he just fixed it.
This is strange. When I first met the Doctor years ago, the TARDIS was in the form of a police call box. The Brigadier told me that it was stuck in that form. Now the Doctor claims he just fixed it, since his regeneration. I can see why Suehprom is concerned. The Doctor has the appearance of his long time enemy, the Master. He decides to take up wearing swords. He shuts off K9, just after assembling him. Now, he repairs things that were apparently not fixable, while gone just minutes. His personality has altered as well.
Can it be that the Doctor's regeneration went wrong? Either the Master took over the Doctor's mind and body; or the Doctor assumed the form of the Master to gain abilities needed for the task ahead and has 'become' the Master in personality.
Either situation makes the Doctor dangerous. I touch Emma and let her know mentally about my concerns and that we need to watch each other's backs. We agree to observe him until he does something to give himself away. I hope Suehprom and Morganth don't jeopardize our mission, by acting rashly and prematurely.
Morganth and Suehprom leave the control room.
The Doctor sets the controls to shift the TARDIS to the form of an iron maiden. He inserts the Trump of Doctor Plutonium into the Trump scanner. The engines whine; within seconds, we look through the monitor screen to see where we are. We seem to be inside a castle and there are a large number of Creed in the area. So far, they are not reacting as though they heard or saw our arrival. The Doctor presses a few buttons; Suehprom and Morganth returns to the control room.
The Doctor addresses the group. "I suggest we start planning." He asks if we need any weaponry. We describe out choices, mostly gauss guns and 20th century firearms. Emma still has her Walther Compact, my Walther P5 is gone. Our gauss guns were lost in the tunnels. "So, what is the plan?" The Doctor looks around.
Suehprom mutters. "We have some, but you probably don't want to hear them."
Of all the things Suehprom can be accused of: over complicating things, confusing issues, exaggerating, lying, and generally messing up simple plans. One 'cannot' accuse him of being subtle.
The Doctor does a double take. "Pardon me?"
Suehprom doesn't get it. "You don't want to hear them."
The Doctor raises an eyebrow and says. "All right."
Suehprom continues. "You have changed a lot."
"I can't deny that. Well, should we use the straight forward approach?"
Asking the Doctor about our exact location is not helpful, coordinates are meaningless. "I am mostly concerned about the laws of physics in this area. We need to know what works." 
The Doctor uses a scanning device on the console. "High tech weaponry should work. Do you still need gauss guns?"
Suehprom will not let up. "That is where we were going earlier, when we got lost."
The Doctor leaves for the armory to gather weaponry.
Suehprom and Morganth waste no time, they form a mental link to discuss plans. It is getting more and more complicated. Suehprom is getting more worked up. They want to do a mind link again so the Doctor can't eavesdrop. We join in the mental contact. :The Doctor is not the Doctor, he is the Master.:
The Doctor deserves the benefit of the doubt and I say so. :He hasn't done anything to put anyone at risk. It depends on what he plans to do. If he wants to stop Doctor Plutonium and the Amberite who stole the TARDIS, I am with him. If he joins forces with our opponents, then we can keep our eyes open and make sure nothing is done to betray us.:
He is convinced that the Master must be stopped now. He is worried about the Creed.
I suggest strongly that we wait until we deal with the Creed.
I break contact with them but keep contact with Emma. I look as Emma. :Can you get us out of here if we are betrayed? The Doctor doesn't know about your Captain Crusader Decoder ring.:
:I'll try.:
:Excellent. Let's try to calm down the others.:
I regain contact with them. :If he is the Master, where is the Doctor? We should find that out, otherwise how could we get him back?:
Suehprom doesn't have an answer for that.
I'm not done yet. :Has anyone tried to Trump the Doctor? I will try it. If we get the Doctor, than everything 'should' be normal. I still don't think we should do 'anything' until we are certain.: I don't think he is convinced.
:Do you want to know the plan?:
:No, I think that Emma and myself should be kept out of it. The less we know, we can't jeopardize anything. We should wait before doing 'anything'.: We break contact.
I withdraw a Trump of the Doctor. I concentrate on it, no response. We must be blocked by the TARDIS. No way to prove anything. I tell the others. They are convinced that this is another action that proves he is the Master.
I withdraw another Trump. This time I try Flora. She will be expecting a call from her favorite son. No luck. "It looks as though all Trumps are blocked. We should wait to hear the Doctor's explanation." I must admit that I am disappointed. The Trumps worked perfectly well, when we got here; the Doctor had to activate a device to block Trumps. This doesn't help his case.
"Just warn me before you do anything. The Doctor is our best shot to stop them, I would hate to lose him before he gives himself away."
Emma speaks up. "If it is just a personality change, I would hate to alienate him because of his personality."
The Chaosians decide to switch back to their normal attire, before the Doctor gets back. They are ready just before the Doctor returns.
"Weapons all around." He says cheerfully, passing out the gauss guns.
I decide to take the lead. "Doctor, while you were gone, I was trying to Trump you to check if there were extra clips of ammo for the Walther P5 Compact. They seem to be blocked by the TARDIS. Is there a problem?"
"There might be a bit of one. Something may be wrong with a circuit. I will hook it up after we are finished here."
Smooth, but that wasn't an answer. He should have been interested in fixing it 'now' in case we need outside support. The Doctor is not helping to convince anyone of his innocence. If he was trying to be suspicious, he couldn't do a better job.
Suehprom is moving closer to the Doctor. What does he have in mind? When he is close enough, he reaches out to touch him. Lords! He is trying to make mental contact with the Doctor. By the Unicorn! Why not tackle him and tie him up first? If he is not secured, he can get away.
The Doctor acts like Suehprom is trying to shake his hand and avoids the reach. "I wish you luck too."
Suehprom decides to tackle him.
"Oh dear." The Doctor jumps out of the way and puts his hand on his sword. "What are you doing?"
I call out. "Suehprom, this is not a good time. We need to eliminate Doctor Plutonium!"
Suehprom jockeys for position. "I just want to make mental contact."
The Doctor holds him at bay. "Maybe, the nanites are affecting him."
"Then I will force contact through eye contact. Now Morganth!" He stares at him.
The Doctor closes his eyes, opens his mouth wide, and sprays the room with a noxious green cloud. With everyone off guard and the Doctor obscured by the cloud, the Doctor sprints out the back door. 
Suehprom took the brunt, Morganth ducked behind him. Emma and I are out of range.
Suehprom is angry. "He was spitting at us! Our Doctor can't do that!"
Emma asks. "Are you sure? Who knows what the Doctor can do?"
None of us are certain. I'm not happy with this situation. The Doctor is the only one here who can operate the TARDIS. If he is the Master, we are stuck here with the Trumps blocked. He will try to kill us all. If he is the Doctor, he will think we have all gone insane and will try to contain us or escape from us.
Either way, trust was lost and that will be difficult to correct. One thing is for certain. The next time that Suehprom makes plans; I am putting as much distance as I can between myself and the situation. Suehprom should have left capturing the Doctor to trained professionals - and talented amateurs. He is neither. Timing is critical. I look at Emma, shrug, and quote the Doctor. "Weekenders."
She folds her arms and gives me her classic shrewd half smile. "Seriously Steed; what is Plan B?"
"My dear; to my embarrassment, I didn't have one." Not entirely true, but I prefer better odds. We can walk out of the TARDIS and take our chances with the Creed and hope our Trumps work there. We can wait here and try to reason with the Doctor, to continue our mission. Or, we can use Emma's ring and leave here in a puff of blue smoke.
I am almost ready to take my chances elsewhere. I am sure that something will become apparent soon.
Meanwhile, I break out my Trump deck and show Emma who and what they are. I feel that she needs to be acquainted with everyone, before we go any further. Besides, we have some time on out hands now.

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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Copyright 2001 [Westray.org].
All rights reserved.
Revised: October 23, 2007 .