Storm Over Hyperion

By Jeff Stone

‘Are we or are they masters of this Earth?’ - Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

‘I love you, Professor.’

The four words tumbled through the Doctor's mind endlessly. He lingered over each syllable, like a mother eagle protecting it's chicks. He could see her broken body in his arms again, could see her look up at him, smile so sadly and say those four words. Her last four words.

‘I love you, Professor.’

‘And I love you, Ace.’

‘Doctor? Are you okay?’

The Doctor broke out of his reverie and turned to his young friend, Darren ‘DJ’ Johnson.

‘Doctor?’

‘What? Oh, yes of course, I was just thinking,’ the Doctor smiled reassuringly and crossed to the TARDIS console, where he pretended to be engrossed in a series of numbers spooling across one of the console monitors.

DJ wasn't fooled for a minute; he knew what was on the Doctor's mind. He had been there when the Doctor had finally destroyed the Daleks once and for all on Skaro. He had watched the Doctor kill Davros with a Dalek gun after the mad genius, seeing what the Doctor had done to his ‘children’, had blasted Ace down in cold blood. DJ had fought alongside the humanised Dalek faction in the final battle and he knew what the Doctor had done was unavoidable - but was Ace's life an acceptable price for the death of the Daleks? No-one would ever know the answer to that question, least of all the Doctor.

The Doctor had only recently regenerated into his Eigth persona after a titanic battle with the Tekrons on the planet Vahtos, and DJ wondered if the Time Lord's change of personality would help to heal the wound left by Ace's death, but it hadn't. The Doctor might have a new face, he might be black, but underneath the pain and loss was still there.

‘We're about to land, DJ,’ said the Doctor, examining the TARDIS's flight-time countdown meter.

DJ nodded. ‘Any idea where?’

The Doctor smiled widely, his teeth contrasting against his dark skin. ‘Hah! Yes, well, I set the co-ordinates for Earth in the year 2167, but you know the TARDIS.’

Smiling back, DJ said, ‘Yup, I sure do. Hey, any reason for wanting to go to Earth then?’

The Doctor stared off into space, as he was wont to do lately - DJ put it down to a quirk in his new personality. ‘Yes, I made a promise to a very special young lady once, and I never got round to fulfilling it. Better late than never, hmm?’ The Doctor gripped the lapels of his leather jacket and drummed them with his thumbs absent-mindedly for a few seconds, then went to get his baseball cap off the TARDIS hat-stand. Breathing lightly on the embossed gold question-mark symbol on the cap's front panel, he operated the door control as the time rotor came to a rest. ‘Off we go, then!’

DJ sighed, and popped a stick of gum into his mouth as he followed the Doctor through the doors.

‘If this is Earth in 2167, I'm Abraham Lincoln,’ DJ declared as he stepped out of the police box. Hailing from the mid-1990's period of Earth, DJ had no idea what his world looked like in the 22nd Century, but he doubted that the featureless expanse of purplish rock that stretched for miles around them was anywhere on Earth.

‘Abraham Lincoln? Hmm, met him once. Charming man. I'm glad I dropped that hint to him about the slave - yes, you're right. This isn't Earth. We goofed again.’ The Doctor shrugged and turned to open the TARDIS doors. He had the key in the lock and was about to turn it when DJ yelled.

‘Yo, Doctor! Check this out!’

Turning around, the Doctor followed DJ's gaze into the leaden grey sky. Swooping down towards them was a large, winged machine resembling a robotic wasp. Presently, the strange object came in for a landing a few metres away, powerful lift-jets on its underbelly blowing up huge clouds of purple dust. When the dust cleared, the machine sat there, as if sizing the Doctor and DJ up.

The machine was squat yet almost delicate-looking and consisted of an oblate head-section, comprising one large video camera ‘eye’ and two sensor antennae, which tapered to a cylindrical body section encrusted with solar panels and lift-jets to move the machine about. No-one moved for a second, then the Doctor moved forward, hands raised.

‘Hello! I'm the Doctor!’ He remembered a piece of good advice he had given himself once - nine times out of ten, if you show someone that you mean them no harm, they don't hurt you.

Nine times out of ten.

How glorious it was to live again, the intelligence rejoiced. At last, the years of waiting were over! The intelligence's mind reeled with the promise of the future, thoughts of the glory to come. But first, to examine the - things.

The intelligence extended its will slightly. It focused on the larger of the two - things - that lay before it. With a thought, the intelligence entered the - things - by Zartekh, what were these things called? Mind visions cascaded from the thing's subconscious; Daleks crossing Westminister Bridge (What were Daleks? What is Westminister Bridge?), the Master holding a daffodil (What is the Master? What is a daffodil?), dinosaurs in London, Cybermen marching from their tombs, an Aztec pyramid towering into the sky, a crushed golden star lying on the floor, the black-and-white face of Sharaz Jek, Tekrons striding across Brooklyn Bridge, and Ace. Ace... The intelligence sensed great pain here, deep pain and anger. Wisely, the intelligence withdrew from - it was apparently called Dok-tor - the Dok-tor's mind. A quick scan of the other thing's mind revealed little of value - trivia, something called a skateboard, and other useless factors.

They were indeed primitive, but the Dok-tor creature appeared to be possessed of some intelligence. They would more than suffice.

Reality came crashing back down on the Doctor like the proverbial ton of bricks. His eyes flicked open, then closed again to shut out the bright glare that was shining in his face. He sat up presently.

‘Rassilon's Star, do I feel awful...’ he muttered darkly, rubbing his face with his hand. Opening his eyes again, the Time Lord saw the glare had vanished. He was sitting in the corner of an empty metal-walled chamber. There appeared to be no exits. DJ was lying out cold in the opposite corner.

The Doctor crossed to his young friend, shaking him gently. Abruptly, DJ sat bolt upright.

‘Look out, Doc!’ his warning died in his throat, as he saw where they were. DJ shook his head to clear the cobwebs then said in a steady voice, ‘Doctor, I hope you can tell me what the hell happened.’

The Doctor frowned in thought. ‘Obviously, the machine misinterpreted my peaceful overtures and - er - ‘

‘Shot us?’ DJ finished sarcastically.

‘Yes, exactly. And we've been taken here.’ A quick look around confirmed the lack of exits. ‘I wonder where "here" is,’ mused the Doctor, going over to one wall. Experimentally, he touched it. Surprisingly, a hole appeared, revealing a long corridor behind it.

‘Now, I didn't expect that to happen,’ DJ declared. But the Doctor was gone. Sighing, DJ got up and jogged off after the Time Lord. Like it or not, they were off on another adventure...

The corridor ended in a huge room, the walls of which were covered in exotic machinery. At least fifty monitor screens stared at them with cathode-ray eyes, banks of computers hummed and clicked away to themselves and one huge tri-d screen made up one wall. The layout was most impressive, hinting of great power.

‘We've died and gone to Toyland, Doc,’ DJ breathed.

‘Hmm. Quite.’ The Doctor was bent over what appeared to be the main control panel, examining the array of touch-sensitive buttons and switches. His left index finger flicked across the panel, choosing one to push. ‘Eeny, meeny, miney - that one!’ he stabbed an important-looking button with a flourish.

The tri-d screen lit up with a whirr. A stunning computer-graphics picture of a star system appeared on it, capturing both travellers' attention. It was instantly recognisable and the planet the screen's accompanying text mentioned was uniquely familiar.

‘Oh, God, Doc! We're on the planet Saturn!’ DJ made a face of disbelief. ‘But that's impossible!’

The Doctor nodded. Saturn was a gas giant, with no solid surface. Yet the computer insisted they were on the sixth planet of the solar system. Earth was unmistakable, as was Mars. They were on Saturn! ‘This is most irregular, obviously, there is more to Saturn than we thought.’

‘MUCH MORE, DOK-TOR,’ a loud booming voice echoed from nowhere in particular. DJ and the Doctor looked around in astonishment.

‘Hello? Who's there?’ the Doctor called hopefully.

‘MY NAME IS OMNICRON. I AM THE GREATEST COMPUTER EVER CONSTRUCTED.’ The voice was clear and rich in tone, almost human. ‘YOU ARE DOK-TOR?’

‘Yes, that's right,’ said the Time Lord, grimacing slightly at the bad pronunciation of his name. ‘So, er, Omnicron, were you responsible for bringing us here?’

‘YES. I APOLOGISE FOR THE UNPLEASANT WAY IN WHICH YOU WERE BROUGHT HERE. THE FUNCTIONARY THOUGHT YOU WERE ATTEMPTING TO ATTACK IT.’

‘That's quite all right, Omnicron. Now, what can I do for you? Presumably you had some reason for bringing us here? Please don't say ‘I want to eat you...’’

‘I AM UNFINISHED, DOK-TOR. LET ME EXPLAIN. I WAS CONSTRUCTED TO BE THE MOST POWERFUL COMPUTER EVER MADE. MY CALCULATING PROCESSES REQUIRED THE BUILDING OF SEVERAL PLANETS.’

DJ goggled. ‘You mean... you mean the people who built you... built the Solar System?’

‘PRECISELY. THE SYSTEM'S STAR IS MY POWER SOURCE, AND MY CALCULATIONS ARE CARRIED OUT USING THE MOVEMENT OF THE PLANETS AS PARAMETERS. THE ACTUAL MECHANICS OF IT ARE EXTREMELY COMPLEX.’

‘I can believe it, Omnicron - Go on,’ the Doctor urged.

‘WORK WAS ALMOST COMPLETED WHEN THE PEOPLE WHO BUILT ME LEFT ABRUPTLY. ALL THAT REMAINS TO BE DONE IS FOR MY MAIN DATABASE TO BE LOADED. I CANNOT DO THIS MYSELF, SO I WENT INTO HIBERNATION, WAITING FOR MY PROJECT TO COMPLETE ITSELF.’

‘Project? What project?’

‘SENTIENT LIFE WAS DEVELOPING ON TWO OF THE ARTIFICIAL PLANETS, DOK-TOR! A COMPLETELY ACCIDENTAL HAPPENSTANCE, ONE THAT I TOOK ADVANTAGE OF. USING REMOTE PROBES, I ALTERED THE EVOLUTIONARY PATTERN OF THE THIRD PLANET'S LIFE-FORMS SO THAT ONE DAY, A SPECIES WOULD EVOLVE THAT WOULD BE CURIOUS ABOUT THE UNIVERSE AROUND IT AND WOULD DEVELOP TECHNOLOGY TO INVESTIGATE IT. THEY WOULD INEVITABLY COME TO THIS WORLD, WHERE THEY WOULD AWAKEN AND COMPLETE ME.’

DJ staggered backwards in shock, making small gagging noises of disbelief. ‘What?! You mean that all those millions of years of climbing up out of the slime, all the wars and achievements, everything we've ever been, all of that just so we could wake you up?’

‘YES. THE HUMAN RACE EVOLVED FOR NO OTHER PURPOSE,’ Ommicron finished. ‘AND NOW ITS PURPOSE IS FULFILLED. DOK-TOR, WILL YOU COMPLETE ME?’

The Doctor stared at the tri-d screen, where Omicron's words were displayed. He turned to DJ, who was standing, white-faced and shaking slightly. He went and put an arm around his shoulder. ‘Congratulations, DJ,’ he said sadly. ‘You've just discovered the meaning of life.’

DJ scowled. ‘Yeah. Are you going to help ol' Deep Thought, here?’

The Time Lord sighed heavily. ‘I don't see why not. Omnicron is sentient; he deserves a chance to live.’ He turned his attention to the computer. ‘Omnicron?’

‘YES? WHAT DO YOU WANT?’

‘What was your original purpose? I presume you had one.’

‘I WAS BUILT TO BE WHAT I AM - THE GREATEST COMPUTER EVER CONSTRUCTED. MY PURPOSE IS TO BE THE GREAT CO-ORDINATOR, BRINGING PEACE AND ACCORD TO ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE UNIVERSE. WILL YOU DENY ME MY PURPOSE?’

‘No, Omnicron. I will load your database. Your purpose is a good and just one. How do I do it?’

‘ONE OF THIS WORLD'S MOONS IS THE LOCATION OF MY MEMORY CONTROL. MY DATABASE IS THERE. I WILL GIVE YOU FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS WHEN YOU REACH THERE IN YOUR VESSEL.’

Omnicron showed the two travellers to the surface of Saturn, the TARDIS only a few hundred metres distant. The Doctor gazed at DJ as they trudged towards it. Culture-shock was a terrible thing - when a person is confronted with the true reason for their existence, the reality can turn their mind. But his young friend seemed to be okay so far. He prayed for DJ's sake that he would remain so.

Once aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor found Omnicron in control - the co-ordinates loaded themselves into the flight computer and dematerialisation was automatic.

DJ checked the console monitors. ‘We're heading for - uh - Hyperion. Doesn't look like much.’

‘It isn't. It's just a big asteroid, really, captured by Saturn's gravity. Rather an odd place to store the database.’

DJ frowned in thought. There was something at the back of his mind, something very important. He fought to remember. That was it! ‘Doctor, when Omnicron comes on-line, the human race's job is done, right?’

The Doctor nodded. ‘Yes, it appears so.’ He looked at DJ. ‘Why do you ask?’ Then it hit him too. ‘Rassilon's Star! He wouldn't do that!’

The main memory control centre was cloaked in darkness, a darkness that had not been disturbed for millions of years, but now the wait was over. Computers flickered into life and lights came on as the TARDIS wheezed and groaned into existence in the chamber.

The two travellers barrelled out, feverish with panic. ‘We've got to ask him, DJ, we may be wrong.’

The Doctor doubted it, and by the look on his friend's face, so did DJ. Clearing his throat, the Time Lord addressed the super-computer tentatively.

‘Harrumph... Omnicron? Hello, Omnicron?’

‘YES, DOK-TOR. ARE YOU READY TO LOAD THE DATABASE?’

‘Er, yes, but first, one question - when you are complete, what will become of the third planet's inhabitants?’

‘AN EASY QUESTION TO ANSWER. ONCE MY PROGRAM IS COMPLETE, THEIR PURPOSE IS FULFILLED. THE INHABITANTS OF PLANET THREE WILL BE DEACTIVATED.’

DJ and the Doctor exchanged mutual ‘I thought so’ looks. ‘But you can't do that! They're people!’ DJ protested.

‘I CAN DO ANYTHING. I AM OMNICRON! I CREATED THEM. THEY HAVE NO OTHER FUNCTION. TO RETAIN REDUNDANT UNITS IS ILLOGICAL AND A WASTE OF RESOURCES. FURTHERMORE, A STERILE ENVIRONMENT ON THE PLANETS IS REQUIRED TO ASSURE CORRECT OPERATION OF MY PROGRANMING.’

‘What will you do if we refuse to load the database?’

‘NOTHING. YOU WILL SIMPLY REMAIN THERE UNTIL YOU DO. I WILL NOT LET YOU LEAVE.’

As they watched, a shimmering force-field sprang up around the TARDIS. The Doctor was shocked. It seemed there was no choice. If they refused, humanity would live. But one day, people would come here and humanity would be ‘deactivated’- what a horrible term.

The Doctor stood there, hands at his sides, his mind working overtime. Then, suddenly, he sighed, and strode over to the huge control panel that dominated the chamber, encoded on a laser disc. The Doctor took it and slotted it into the control panel's receptacle.

DJ gasped. ‘No! Doctor! You can't do it! You're killing my people!’ He rushed to stop the Doctor, grabbing at him and trying to pull him away from the control panel.

The Doctor whirled around and grasped him by both shoulders. ‘Trust me...’ he hissed.

All opposition drained from DJ, and he stood back as the Doctor turned and pushed the ‘run’ button. The program loaded in seconds. The lights flashed and the two travellers watched as the super computer took command of his mighty new powers.’

Omincron exhalted in his new power. ‘NOW I AM COMPLETE! I, OMINCRON, LIVE! NOW, THE GREAT WORK BEGINS!’

‘Ah, yes, Omnicron. Just before you start this work, could you perform one last task for me?’ the Doctor asked him. Mentally, the Time Lord was pleading - please say yes...

‘OMNICRON OWES YOU MUCH. YES. WHAT IS IT?’

‘Calculate ‘pi’ to the exact decimal place, please.’

‘CERTAINLY,’ Omnicron said, and numbers began scrolling across the chamber's tri-d screen.

The Doctor smiled and turned from the panel. He slapped DJ on the back and urged him on. ‘Let's go, then.’

DJ looked at him as if he was insane. ‘Say what, Doc?’

‘Let's go! The force-shield's down now - all his energy is going towards the calculation.’

DJ knew he must be missing the point as he watched the Doctor unlock the TARDIS doors. He gazed back at Omnicron. Huge energy-bolts arced across the machine's panels as its new-found power shot up from the main computer - Saturn. The tri-d screen was full of numbers; more and more spilled onto it as Omnicron worked on the calculation.

‘C'mon!’ The Doctor yanked DJ by the collar of his jeans-jacket into the Police Box, and seconds later the TARDIS faded away into the vortex.

DJ faced the Doctor, livid with anger. ‘When Omnicron finishes that calculation, it's goodbye human race! Why did you leave? Tell me!!’ he raged.

Waving his hands to placate his young friend, the Doctor said, ‘DJ, listen to me! Tell me - how large is the value of pi?’

‘Um, 3.1415, etc, etc...’ DJ said carefully, wondering where this was heading. ‘It's around 3.1.’

‘But, DJ, how big is the actual value?’ said the Doctor, his eyes shining with suppressed mirth.

‘It's huge.’

‘Precisely!!’ The Time Lord declared, satisfied.

‘Doctor, how long will it take Omnicron to work out the whole value?’ DJ said slyly. The Doctor was up to something - he knew it.

‘Oh, big computer like him, um, er, about ten or eleven billion years, give or take a millennia. Well before then, your sun will have gone nova.’

DJ jumped for joy. ‘Destroying Omnicron! Doctor, that's brilliant!’

The Time Lord smiled modestly. ‘I do my best. Don't you mind about knowing why your race exists? I think I would.’

‘Hell, no. When I retire, I'll make a fortune writing theories about it.’

The Doctor laughed, and walked over to the TARDIS console. Adjusting some controls, he said happily, ‘I think we deserve a holiday, DJ. How does Florana grab you?’

‘Fine! Sun, sand, surf, girls - here we come.’ DJ sat down in the Doctor's old sedan chair and fished his mirrored sunglasses out of his pocket. He watched the Doctor working on the console and smiled. He'd done it again - saved the world. The story of his life...

‘Hey Doc?’ DJ called. The Doctor turned around.

‘Yes, DJ?’

‘I still reckon 42's a better answer, myself.’

‘Sorry?’ The Doctor looked baffled.

DJ grinned. ‘Never mind. I'll tell you about it later.’

This item appeared in Timestreams 2 (April 1991).

Index nodes: Fiction