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Castle Attraction

By Jamas Enright

The man slowly reached down and picked up a piece of moon rock. He cradled it in the palm of his spacesuit for a moment, then threw it away over-arm, watching it fall lazily in the low gravity.

The man shook his head in admiration, and took a long step forwards. Never in his thirty-seven years had he ever thought that he, Jack Philipson, would be walking on the moon.

Unused to moon-walking, Jack came down clumsily, falling onto his side. He lay there for a moment, just smiling, still dazed by the entire experience.

A small hissing noise grabbed his attention, and he looked down in confusion and saw a small tear in the left leg of his suits. Small but significant. Confusion turned to panic as Jack felt the air swish down and escape through the tear.

Jack scrabbled at the suit, trying to cover it with his hands, trying to remember what he had been told to do in any crisis. That's right. The box.

With only a few moments left, Jack grabbed the small box attached to the belt of his suit and stabbed the button.

A nauseating sensation swept over him, making him shudder and reel, and then he felt full gravity once again. Jack opened his eyes, and saw the technician coming towards him.

The tech helped him pull the helmet off, and Jack gratefully breathed in lung fulls of air.

‘That's one damn real experience there,’ said Jack, getting his breath back. ‘It felt like I was really on the moon.’

The tech smiled. ‘That's what we aim for, sir. As real as we can get it.’

Jack was helped out of his suit, and he took the few steps to a chair and sat down. ‘Still would have been more fun without the suit,’ he said.

Putting the spacesuit out of sight, the tech replied, ‘But you would have known it wasn't real then. You saw what happened when you thought you got a rip. Your mind would have rejected the idea completely of walking on the moon unaided.’

‘So why didn't you simulate the suit?’

‘And miss the sense of really wearing one? There are some things that for which only the real thing will do.’

Jack nodded, accepting the sense of it.

‘And did we enjoy our little trip?’

Jack looked up in irritation at the smarmy front man. ‘It didn't last that long,’ Jack said, determined to only show annoyance.

‘You were there for an hour,’ the man pointed out. ‘But you were right; you did have to come back early. Unfortunately, we do have other people waiting, but if you'd like to schedule another time, we'd be happy to give you another half hour free.’

Jack was unable to keep the surprise from his face. ‘Another half hour?’

‘Certainly. We want nothing but satisfaction.’

‘In that case, this man is definitely satisfied. I never thought virtual reality could be so good.’

As Jack left, the technician took the suit away.

The tear would have to be repaired before reuse.

Gravel rattled underneath the tires as the car pulled to a stop. The door opened and a pair of feet touched down. Sarah Jane Smith shut the car door, and ran a hand through her hair, moving stray locks back into position. Patting down her jacket to make sure her pad and tape recorder were in place, she turned her attention to the castle she had come to.

While once it would have been impressive, now it was crumbling. There were obvious signs that patchwork had been done recently to hold it up, it still managed to be on the edge of crashing into nothingness. Sarah didn't know why anyone would want to set up business here.

Still, the atmosphere was very pleasant as Sarah walked to the lobby. Wooden doors opened for her, but she knew that steel interwove the wood to allow for automatic opening and for fortification.

Inside, the facade of the castle was kept up, with the stone wall still visible, but now nothing more than appearance. Subtly installed air vents kept the castle at a comfortable temperature.

‘Ms Smith?’ said a man, coming up to her, holding his hand out. ‘How do you do? I'm Roger Fullman.’

‘Mr Fullman,’ repeated Sarah, taking the proffered hand. ‘It's a pleasure to meet you.’

‘I must say that I'm disappointed that the magazines haven't come to us earlier. I would have thought that this was just the sort of thing they liked to promote.’

‘Better late than never,’ Sarah replied, then winced mentally at how dumb that sounded.

Holding a hand out, Roger indicated that they should proceed. ‘What do you already know about us, Ms Smith?’

‘That, through some means of new technology involving virtual reality, you can take people to visit any kind of alien world they desire.’ After a moment she added, ‘Sounds exotic.’

‘And unbelievable?’ supplied Roger. ‘Quite, but there's more than just our word for it, there's the praises of all our customers.’

‘Criticism has been lacking,’ Sarah admitted.

‘Well, why don't you try it yourself? A small demonstration before the interview and tour.’

‘Thank you. I must admit a certain curiosity. And trepidation.’

‘All understandable, but I can assure you that no harm will come to you.’ Roger led them through a corridor into a waiting room. Through another door, Sarah could see a console of some kind, and a large booth.

‘Did you have any ideas about what kind of planet you like to visit?’ Roger asked.

‘Oh, someplace simple. And peaceful would be wonderful.’

Roger smiled. ‘A very typical request. I think we can supply just what you want.’

He pushed the door open, and Sarah went into the main room. Indeed, there was a console and a large booth. A technician sat behind the controls, and there were a few chairs about, but that was it.

‘No suit to dress in?’ Sarah asked.

‘Not with our designs. Henry, Planet Six, please.’

The technician nodded, and set the system. He nodded toward the booth.

‘If you would like to take your place...?’

‘What? There?’

‘Just so.’

Sarah hesitantly stood in the booth, and looked around, not quite sure what to expect.

‘I must warn you that it will take a few moments for your senses to adjust to the information we give them, so there will be a short period of disorientation.’ Roger picked up a small box from the console, and gave it to Sarah. ‘When you are ready to return, just press that button. But I do ask that you not be too long. We have many people waiting to use this.’

Sarah didn't remember seeing anyone else, deciding that it was just a line to make them seem more impressive, but nodded anyway. ‘Right. Ready when you are.’

Roger nodded to Henry, who activated the controls.

A wave of blackness washed over Sarah.

The Doctor stretched and breathed in the calming air. Taking off his multi-coloured coat, he placed it gently on the rocks beside him, and sat down to enjoy the serenity around him. His mind wandered for a moment back to when he was last here, and he frowned.

Because he was distracted, it took him a few moments to realise that Sarah Jane Smith was standing beside him. He looked at her in surprise. ‘Sarah Jane?’

Sarah wobbled uncertainly, then lost her balance, trying to keep nausea down. Strong hands caught her, and helped her sit, and soon the dizziness passed. Which was when she noticed the Doctor. ‘Who?’

‘Precisely,’ replied the Doctor. ‘But, may I ask, what are you doing on the Eye of Orion?’

‘Pardon?’ said Sarah, somewhat absently, her mind still reeling. ‘Hey, how do you know my name?’

‘Sarah, it hasn't been that long has it?’ His hand went to his face. ‘Well, under the conditions, you probably don't recognise me...’

‘Doctor? What are you doing here?’

‘That was my question,’ said the Doctor. ‘I don't remember bringing you here ... I'm not here, am I?’

Sarah shook her head. ‘I haven't seen you since that business with your other selves, and Rassilon. And you didn't say two words to me. Your later self that is, even after you...’

‘I'm sorry, Sarah Jane,’ said the Doctor, his face contrite. ‘But there was a very important situation on Gallifrey I was called back for.’

‘So you just dumped me on Earth. And you didn't even get me to South Croydon.’

The Doctor said nothing for a moment. ‘Did you like my present?’

‘K9? Yes, very nice. But you could have come back.’

‘And done what? You had your own life to lead, Sarah. You didn't need me any more,’ he said sadly.

Now it was Sarah's turn to be silent. ‘You could still have dropped by for a cup of tea.’ The Doctor was going to reply, but Sarah interrupted. ‘Hang on, why are you here? This is supposed to be virtual reality.’

‘Well, I can assure you that I am not virtual. And this is the Eye of Orion. Where are you supposed to be?’

‘Earth. I was...’ Sarah hesitated, then told her story. ‘I was approached by UNIT to look into RealWorlds Inc., a new company that had started up. It offers a chance to visit any kind of alien world, all by virtual reality. UNIT was getting some very worrying answers when it looked into RealWorlds' history. It's using some very experimental technology. UNIT thinks that this operation may be a way for this group to experiment on people without anyone finding out about it. I went along see what I could find out.’

‘Yes,’ said the Doctor, musing. ‘And if you're here, then I don't think that their technology is quite virtual either. Matter transmission isn't developed until that latter part of the 21st century.’ The Doctor plucked the recall box from Sarah's fingers before she could say anything.

‘Interesting,’ he said, opening it up and peering inside. ‘It uses quantum particle resonances.’ He tapped the box thoughtfully. ‘I think I'd better look into this. To the TARDIS.’

Sarah held her hand out. ‘I do have my own way of getting back. And when I get back, I'll tell UNIT to shut them down.’

The Doctor frowned, and handed Sarah the quickly reassembled box. ‘All right. I can follow the signal. Be careful, Sarah Jane.’

Sarah nodded, and pushed the button.

‘Quite an achievement, isn't it?’ was the first thing Sarah heard when she returned.

Staggering a little as she descended, Sarah grinned. ‘Very much ahead of its time.’

‘Would you like to rest a little? The trip can be off-putting, or shall we proceed to the interview?’

‘Actually, I'd like to take the tour. I'm fascinated to see what exactly is behind all this.’

Roger bowed his head. ‘If you like. We can talk on the way.’

While Roger didn't avoid any area of the lower levels of the castle where the equipment was kept, it was beyond Sarah what any of it did. Probably why he didn't mind showing it to her, she thought to herself ruefully. As they returned to the lobby, the sounds of an argument carried to them.

‘Excuse me, won't you?’ Roger moved ahead to see what the problem was.

Sarah smiled privately as she heard the voice of the Doctor. ‘But I must see your equipment. You're tampering with forces you don't understand!’ Subtle as always.

‘Sir, if you do not leave now, I shall be forced to call the police.’

The Doctor saw Sarah arrive. ‘And is this another victim of your experiments?’ the Doctor asked, flinging an arm out to Sarah.

Roger stepped between them. ‘Sir, you really must leave now. I will not have you harassing my guests.’

‘I really have to be going now, Mr Fullman.’

‘I am sorry about this, Ms Smith. Some people will stand in the way of anything.’

‘If you think you can get rid of me that easily,’ the Doctor started.

‘Timothy, call the police now,’ said Roger to the receptionist. The receptionist dutifully lifted the receiver.

‘All right, all right,’ said the Doctor placatingly, holding his hands up in surrender. ‘I'm leaving.’

Roger put his hand on Timothy's shoulder to stop him dialling. The Doctor gave a last impertinent look then stormed out.

‘Once again, I'm sorry about that.’

‘Oh, I understand. The crackpots you get around here,’ said Sarah, grinning.

‘Quite. I do hope you won't let that ruin your article.’

‘Believe me, Mr Fullman, this place will attract a lot of attention.’

Outside, Sarah found the Doctor waiting by the car. ‘Come on, Sarah Jane,’ he said peremptorily. ‘We're going back inside. This time, through the back door.’

‘How do you know there is a back door?’ Sarah pointed out.

‘They've tried to keep the castle as it was. And I know what it was. I've been here before,’ he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

‘Meeting the King of England, I suppose.’

‘Actually, yes. I was even the King's Champion. More or less.’

‘More or less. I see. You always did like to drop names.’

‘I can't help it if I move in distinguished circles.’

‘It certainly hasn't improved your clothes sense.’

The Doctor gave a haughty look, then walked off, leaving Sarah to trail after him.

‘Where does this go?’ asked Sarah. They had come across a back entrance, now enforced with a door that hadn't stood up to the Doctor, and were now moving through the dingy passage.

‘To the dungeon, originally. It provided a way for guests to leave without being noticed. Let's hope they haven't kept that part up.’

There was no dungeon. But there was a group of people, headed by Roger Fullman, with guns, pointed at them when they emerged. ‘Ah, Ms Smith, what a shame.’

‘Anything for a story?’ Sarah tried.

‘Except that the Metropolitan knows nothing of your being here. But this is very fortunate. We've got a new experiment that we just aren't quite ready to try on the willing public yet. The unwilling public, however...’

‘I can't believe I'm hearing this!’ the Doctor burst out. ‘You have no idea about what you're doing, and now you are going to murder us.’

‘No one's mentioned murder,’ said Roger sharply. ‘Although in your case, I see no reason why not. But, if you're lucky, you might survive. You see, we've decided to expand our horizons. It was bound to happen eventually. Now, beside alien vistas, we're opening up the realm of Earth's history to explore.’

‘Time travel? You can't be serious,’ said the Doctor.

‘We're very serious. And with people willing to sign up for it, we can experiment, and fine tune. They think it's all virtual reality, completely unaware they are really going to very real places. Take them away.’

The guards flanked Sarah and the Doctor and they were led away.

All too soon, Sarah was once again standing in the booth, but this time the Doctor was standing beside her. She wasn't all that reassured by this, however.

‘Are you insane? Don't you see what the effects of travelling in time will have upon the Earth? If you make one wrong move, you'll eradicate everything that ever was!’

‘We've already successfully sent and retrieved inanimate objects, but we want to see what the effects are on biological entities.’

‘Then why don't you start with an orange?’ Sarah suggested.

‘Very amusing, Ms Smith. Ready?’ This last question was to Henry, the technician. He nodded.

‘Go.’ Nothing happened.

‘What's wrong?’ Roger barked.

‘Damn. Find the problem. We'll try again later.’

‘What do you hope to achieve from all this?’ asked the Doctor.

‘Achieve? Mastery over time and space is an achievement in itself, but from that glory and power beyond anyone's dreams.’ Roger frowned for a moment. ‘Who are you anyway? Doesn't matter,’ he dismissively. To the guards, Roger said ‘Take them away. We'll need them later, once we're set up.’

The guards took them away, lead them back down into the depths of the castle, and locked them in an empty room.

‘Charming,’ said Sarah. ‘So, how long until we escape?’

The Doctor inspected the door. ‘Could be a while.’

‘The sonic screwdriver should be able to take care of that.’

‘It was destroyed a while ago,’ said the Doctor quietly.

A jolt passed through Sarah. Although she had come to almost loathe the sonic screwdriver, it had been a part of their history. Yet something else that was gone.

‘Just have to do this the old-fashioned way,’ said the Doctor, pulling out a piece of wire, and attacking the lock.

Half an hour later, the door swung open, and the Doctor beamed at Sarah, and led the way out of the cell, but was soon looking puzzled.

‘You're lost, aren't you?’ asked Sarah.

‘I never get lost,’ the Doctor retorted.

‘You do so. On Peladon, for example. Right before we got chased and taken prisoner. You said you had met the King then, too.’

‘Well, I was right, wasn't I? It's just that corridors look all the same after a while.’

Sarah moved passed him, and opened a door, and walked through to the main centre. ‘I have been here before, too.’

The Doctor said nothing, but immediately moved to the equipment, peering at readings, and taking note of the systems used.

‘Oh dear. They're punching through the underlying fabric of space, using quantum tunnelling methods. I've seen it used, but on a far smaller scale. Usually emergency teleports... Oh dear,’ said the Doctor again. ‘They've already initiated a tunnel into the past.’

‘Can't you turn it off?’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘Without being shut down properly, the tunnel would roam uncontrolled, destroying whatever it touches.’

‘Then how do we stop it?’

The Doctor concentrated on the controls before him, and opened his mouth to say something.

‘Step away from that,’ a different voice said. Roger was back, as were the armed guards. ‘We're ready for you now.’

‘Where did you find a quantum tunnelling device? How did you find such a device?’ the Doctor asked.

‘We were scanning an unused quantum frequency, and found a signal that was located in these ground. Buried of course. We were lucky we stumbled across it. We found that the signal could activate and control it, and following its guide, we now have our own, more powerful version.’

‘The Master,’ groaned the Doctor.

Sarah looked at him quizzically, but it wasn't the time to demand answers.

‘But none of that is your concern,’ said Roger. ‘What is your concern is surviving our little trip into the future.’

The Doctor glared, then jumped at the controls.

‘Get away from there!’ Roger snapped, but the Doctor didn't move. ‘Shoot him.’

The Doctor then raised his hands. ‘No need. I'll go quietly.’

The guards took the Doctor and Sarah away. Roger looked over what the Doctor had done, but didn't see any changes. He shrugged mentally. Whatever changes had been made, the Doctor would suffer them first.

‘Any last requests?’ Roger asked.

‘Free us?’ suggested Sarah.

‘You won't get away with this,’ said the Doctor.

‘How tiresome. Go,’ he instructed Henry.

The two disappeared, and Henry looked up at Roger. ‘How long do we leave them for?’

‘Only a few moments. Wouldn't want to give them a chance to escape now, would we?’

Henry looked at his board. ‘Sir, I've lost them!’


‘They've gone. No trace whatsoever.’

‘Damn. Shut the machines down.’

Henry obeyed.

‘Thank you, gentlemen,’ came a voice from behind them.

Roger spun around to see the Doctor walking towards them.

‘What? How did you...?’

‘I reset the end point so that we only went a few minutes into the past. We waited out of sight, and now that your machine is off, you'll never get it running again. You're finished,’ said the Doctor smugly.

‘You mentioned the Master,’ Sarah prompted.

‘It was an escape route. A remote-controlled device to allow him a quick teleport if he needed it. Must have left it behind when I faced him before. Rather careless really. Its power and range was severally upgraded by those people, of course.’

The Doctor drained the last sip of wine. It was a beautiful day, and the Doctor and Sarah were sharing lunch in a restaurant.

There was a quiet, reflective moment.

‘It is good to see you again, Doctor,’ said Sarah. ‘But you were right; I do have my own life now.’

‘I understand. I'll be leaving soon.’

‘I don't mean that. Feel free to drop by for a chat, or something. Just two old friends.’

The Doctor smiled. ‘Yes, just two old friends.’

This item appeared in TSV 52 (November 1997).

Index nodes: Fiction
Related Links: Castle Attraction: Deleted Scenes