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WOTAN Lives!

By Jeff Stone


London, England, July 1966

Major-General Gilbert Rutlidge, Commander of UNIT-Britain, blew a weary note through his walrus moustache as he watched his men scuttle about the control room of the Post Office Tower. If the truth be known, he was extremely annoyed - his men were soldiers, not glorified navvies! Yet, here they were, picking up the pieces after yet another scientific bungle.

The wreckage of the supercomputer WOTAN lay in smoking heaps around the chamber, its evil reduced to charred debris. The pieces that were cool enough to touch were being loaded into boxes by Rutlidge's troops; the ‘hot stuff’, as it were, remained where it was.

Rutlidge's second-in-command strode up and snapped a quick salute. His superior turned to hear his report.

‘That's about all we can handle safely, sir. There's quite a bit left, but the residual radiation from the computer's nuclear core hasn't died out yet.’

Rutlidge nodded. ‘Very good, Lethbridge-Stewart. We don't want anyone dropping dead from radiation poisoning, do we?’ he laughed.

Lethbridge-Stewart frowned inwardly - how Rutlidge could laugh after the events of the past few days escaped him. WOTAN and its War Machines had killed scores of his men, the world had come closer to subjugation than ever before in its history - and he was laughing. ‘No, sir.’

At this point, a tall thin, middle-aged man in a white coat approached them. His face was haggard and drawn, as if he'd been through hell and only just survived. In a sense he had - Professor Brett had been the first person to have been taken over by WOTAN during its rampage.

‘Have... have your men recovered any wreckage of the memory core, General?’ Brett asked, a note of desperation in his voice. ‘If so, it must be destroyed at once. At once! Do you understand?’ Rutlidge and Lethbridge-Stewart recoiled slightly at the maniacal look in the Professor's eyes.

‘The... ah... memory core of the computer was completely destroyed, Professor,’ Lethbridge-Stewart informed him calmly. ‘The War Machine scored a direct hit. Nothing's left of it, I assure you.’ Both UNIT men were relieved to see Brett relax at this news.

‘Excellent, excellent. Well, I must go. I have an appointment to keep.’ With that, Brett strode out. The soldiers watched him go.

‘Bally odd chap, that Brett,’ Rutlidge observed. The younger man nodded.

Outside, in the corridor, Brett smiled to himself. As he pressed the button for the lift, he touched the solid shape of the memory tape reel in his coat pocket for reassurance. The voice in his head had told him to take it from the wreckage. Brett didn't know why - but the voice did. The voice knew all. The voice would tell him what to do...

Part One

‘What in the name of Rassilon do you think you're wearing?’

DJ had been expecting a variety of responses from the Doctor on the subject of his outfit as he entered the Console Room, but this was not among them. With a mixture of embarrassment and annoyance, the boy looked down at his extremely loud beach shorts, thongs and tie-dyed tee-shirt.

‘Beach clothes,’ DJ replied, wondering if that answer was enough. Obviously it wasn't - the Time Lord was frowning at him.

‘You will look perfectly ridiculous in those, DJ.’

‘Oh!’ DJ exclaimed sarcastically. ‘I would, would I? And what would you prefer me to wear? I'm sure a greatcoat and busby would look wonderful on Waikiki Beach. The girls'll go wild!’

The Doctor sighed - it was obvious that he hadn't explained properly. ‘When I said we were going to visit Hawaii, I didn't mean we were going sunbathing!’ He pointed a dark-skinned finger at one of the console screens. ‘We're going to observe the Battle of Pearl Harbour in December 1941! You could go swimming, I suppose, if you don't mind bathing in flaming oil and wreckage.’

DJ was enraged. With an angry ‘Now you bloody tell me!’ he stomped off to get changed. The Doctor smiled in amusement at the brightly-coloured receding form of his human friend before activating the holographic display column. He examined the read-outs on the shimmering tube of light above the time rotor with concern. The impulses he had just picked up on the long-range sensors suggested that they were not bound for 1940's Earth - the impulses were coming from that planet, but they were far too sophisticated for that time period.

I wonder when we'll end up this time? he wondered.

With a grinding thump, the battered old Police Box appeared and solidified on the edge of a copse of trees. After a short while, the ship's doors opened and an inquisitive DJ poked his head out. Confirming that all was safe and quiet, he ducked back in and fully emerged a moment later, followed by the Doctor.

‘I'm glad I changed,’ the boy observed, clipping his fibreglass skateboard armour across his chest. ‘This sure ain't Hawaii.’

‘Isn't, DJ. The word is isn't. Honestly, your grammar is shocking. You're as bad as Dodo was.’ The Doctor, his back turned, didn't see DJ give him a rather unkind gesture in reply. ‘Mind you, you are right - we're certainly nowhere near Hawaii.’

The landscape around them consisted of a series of gently rolling hills and small copses of trees resembling a golf course. It was a clear, fine day, with only a few puffy clouds high in the sky. Deciding that a long stroll would do them both a ‘power of good’, as the Doctor put it, the duo set off across the hills in search of interesting landmarks. Predicting that they'd be away from the TARDIS for a long time, DJ took a selection of CD's to play in his Discman.

They hadn't gone far when they spotted a long, low building in the distance. Producing a brass telescope from his jacket pocket, the Doctor scrutinised the structure for signs of life.

‘What can you see, Doc?’ DJ asked impatiently.

‘There's actually two buildings... one behind the other,’ the Doctor reported, his eye fixed on the telescope. ‘There's quite a lot of activity going on... Jeeps and what have you all over the place; looks military...’

DJ was a little worried to hear this. ‘Oh heck,’ he said, ‘we haven't gone and landed on a military base? We'd better get outta here before we're caught and shot for trespassing.’

The Doctor folded his telescope away. ‘I doubt that, DJ. By the looks of the uniforms on the people down there, we're in America. They probably won't shoot us.’

‘That's right,’ said a voice behind them. The two travellers whirled around to face a line of determined-looking soldiers holding rifles. ‘We won't shoot you - the penalty for trespassing here is ten years jail.’

This was said by the leader of the group, a burly man of about thirty. His uniform flashes identified him as Sergeant Coffey, US Marine Corps. Not sure of what to do, DJ flashed a nervous glance at his Time Lord friend. Oddly enough, the Doctor didn't appear fazed, and was actually smiling.

‘You took your time!’ he barked. ‘We could have blown this base right off the map in the time we've been here!’ The Doctor noted that the old bluff routine had thrown them off their guard.

But not for long - Coffey stepped forward and put his hands on his hips. ‘Okay, wiseguy,’ he growled at the Doctor. ‘Let's see some ID.’

‘Certainly.’ So saying, the Doctor reached into his pockets and carefully withdrew two passcards. He handed these to Coffey, who peered at them suspiciously. The Sergeant glanced at DJ, uncertain of how to react. DJ grinned at him idiotically.

A moment later, Coffey handed the passcards back, no longer looking menacing but still frowning. ‘They look authentic, all right,’ he said carefully.

‘That's because they are,’ the Doctor replied.

‘Maybe so, but that doesn't explain what you're doing on this base without permission. I think we'd better go have a chat with General Vohrless. Move!’

With this, the duo were marched off at gunpoint towards the buildings. As they walked, DJ glanced at the Doctor, puzzled. ‘Where'd you get those passcards from?’ he whispered.

The Time Lord smiled. ‘I've had them for quite a while. You see, they contain a miniature microprocessor linked to an LCD screen. With a touch of a button - well, just a thumbprint on the card will do - the details and photo can be changed. Take a look.’ The Doctor handed the boy his card - the details on it, under the usual dour-looking photo, identified him as Darren Johnson, Assistant to Scientific Advisor, UNIT. DJ shook his head in bemused wonder.

Presently, Coffey and his team had marched them to the doors of the larger building. After showing their passcards to a variety of people, they were shown in to an enormous control room.

DJ had never seen so many controls and screens in his life. It was just like Mission Control at Cape Kennedy - rows of brightly lit control panels and monitors, each manned by an engrossed operator, beneath huge screens on the facing walls. These screens were covered in information; one displayed a map of Europe and the USSR.

‘Well, it must be the late 1980s sometime, DJ,’ the Doctor noted. ‘The Soviet Union's still alive - and is still the enemy.’ DJ nodded, then looked up as an important-looking middle-aged man approached. He was dressed in the uniform of a General - an array of bars adorned the left breast of his coat.

‘And what do we have here, Sergeant?’ the General enquired. Coffey filled him in on how he and his men had found them ‘skulking around the grounds’.

Intrigued, General Vohrless - DJ identified him by the name badge on the man's uniform - asked to see their passcards. His eyebrows went up as he read the details. ‘At last I get to meet the famous Doctor John Smith of UNIT!’ Vohrless exclaimed happily, and surprised the Doctor by shaking his hand vigorously. I've heard so much about you from my good friend Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. It's a pleasure to have you and your assistant here. That's all, Coffey.’

A look of fury on his face, Coffey stomped off, leaving the two travellers alone with the General.

The Time Lord waved a hand in a sweeping gesture, encompassing the vast room. ‘You have a most impressive set-up here, General. Most impressive indeed.’

Vohrless acknowledged the compliment with a modest smile. ‘I'm glad you approve, Doctor. We try our best.’

‘Oh, I don't approve of it,’ the Time Lord replied at once. ‘I'm merely amazed by the lengths that you humans will go to to make killing as sophisticated as possible.’ He indicated the control room. ‘I presume all of this has something to do with your nuclear weapons, hmm?’

Vohrless frowned slightly before replying. ‘That's right, Doctor. In just a matter of hours, this complex's main computer will go on-line. Using this computer, we'll be able to co-ordinate and control every single element of our nuclear deterrent capability; ground-based ICBMs, bombers and missile submarines.’ The General's face was aglow with pride. ‘Our new system will give us a five-minute advantage in reaction time in the event of a pre-emptive Soviet attack. In today's wars, seconds are vital.’

‘Lives, however, are not,’ the Doctor said softly. ‘Eh, General?’

Vohrless was about to reply when a commotion at the rear of the room drew the attention of all present. Escorted by a number of guards, a small group of white-coated men were approaching. DJ easily identified them as scientists.

The leader of the group approached, glancing intermittently at a clipboard he was holding. His expression on seeing the Doctor, unsurprisingly, was totally neutral, but the Time Lord's face lit up immediately. He strode forward and vigorously shook the startled man's hand.

‘Jeremiah Brett, you old genius, you!’ said the Doctor joyfully. ‘It's great to see you again. ‘How've you been?’ When the Doctor saw that his greeting was not making the slightest impact, he added, ‘It's me! The Doctor! You remember - the War Machines and WOTAN!’

At this, Brett's face lit up too, and he returned the handshake. ‘My goodness!’ he breathed. ‘I never thought I'd see you again, old chap!’ Brett readily accepted the Time Lord's radical change of appearance, and launched into a chat about old times. Feeling left out of this, DJ decided that he would die of boredom if he didn't find something to do. Without a word, he slipped away to go exploring.

‘You see, Doctor,’ Brett explained, gesturing at the massive readout screens, ‘the new computer cortex that I've developed will revolutionise every area of our society. I've succeeded in creating what I believe is the world's first intelligent machine.’

Brett was expecting an amazed reaction, and he was not disappointed. ‘Really?’

‘Indeed, Doctor.’ The old scientist indicated a sheath of papers in his hands - they were covered in elaborate diagrams and complex equations. ‘Unlike most super-computers, which merely mimic basic human thought processes, my new computer actually supercedes these very processes!’

Amazed, the Time Lord examined the schematic diagrams carefully - the layout of the computer's CPU and mainframe were arranged as in a human brain, but with one vital difference. ‘The data processing codes are in trinary notation!’ The Doctor's face was a picture of incredulous disbelief. ‘Your computer works on trinary numerals?’

Brett grinned. ‘Precisely! The binary system is so limiting - now, with my computer processing three values simultaneously, true sentience is achieved.’

‘Making warfare as we know it obsolete,’ added Vohrless. ‘When ol' WODEN here goes on-line-’

‘WODEN?’ asked the Doctor, puzzled.

‘Worldwide Omniscient Defence Electronic Network,’ the General informed him, somewhat annoyed at being interrupted. ‘When she goes on-line, WODEN will control and co-ordinate our entire armed forces - tanks, ships, aircraft, all remotely controlled. As well as that, the computer will handle the deployment of robot infantry. Not only will our nuclear deterrent be unbeatable, but we will be able to fight a war without losing a single human life.’

The Doctor raised a dubious eyebrow - all this sounded just a little too cosy and simple for his liking. ‘Indeed? No doubt the Soviets have their own WODEN?’

‘No, Doctor!’ replied Vohrless, a little too excitedly. ‘We'll have ‘em over a barrel. They'll be falling over themselves to sign disarmament treaties within days of WODEN going on-line. Peace in our time, Doctor.’

Crossing his arms and gazing at the readouts, the Time Lord nodded absently. Where had he heard that phrase before...?

DJ was surprised that he'd got so far without getting caught - he'd wandered for nearly half an hour through endless gray metal corridors and gone up and down in a score of lifts before reaching somewhere interesting.

And then, within seconds, he was nabbed.

The boy had only the briefest glance at a vast chamber below the balcony he was standing on when he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. He whirled round to face a gun-barrel and a grim female soldier.

DJ tried his winning smile on her, but to no avail. Tight-lipped, she barked, ‘This is a restricted area. How'd you get down here?’ The boy tried to answer, but was cut off by ‘Pass card!’

Struck dumb, DJ handed his LCD card over, and the soldier - a Corporal Nakamura, going by her uniform identification - scanned it closely. After a time, she handed it back. To DJ's relief, her expression lost its hostility.

‘Science Liaison, eh?’ she asked rhetorically, and her face softened into a smile. ‘They grow ‘em younger every year, I'll say! Come to see the future of warfare, have you, Mr Johnson?’

He returned the smile. ‘Yep, that's right. And the name's DJ - everyone calls me that.’

‘Right you are, DJ. By the way, please call me Nancy - no one can pronounce my real name! This way, please.’

Thankful that Nakamura had given him an excuse to be in the area, DJ followed her to a nearby lift. They travelled down two floors and emerged into the chamber the boy had glimpsed earlier.

The echoing metal cavern was easily five hundred metres across, and the roof was thirty metres over their heads. Arranged in perfectly serried ranks on the floor before them were literally hundreds of futuristic-looking tanks, APC's, self-propelled howitzers, hovercraft and countless other vehicles of war, quiescent and shrouded in darkness.

‘A-bloody-mazing,’ DJ breathed, running a flashlight Nakamura had given him over one of the tanks. The brutish vehicle was equipped with what looked like a laser cannon instead of the usual projectile weapon. There was no visible hatch for a person to get into the thing.

‘Remote control,’ Nakamura explained, patting the side of the tank. ‘When that ‘puter upstairs fires up, it'll control all of this and more - putting all of us soldiers out of a job.’ Rather than sounding bitter, she seemed resigned to her fate. DJ pondered on this before moving on to inspect a very different machine.

The device was a squat, almost square, low-slung tank. But instead of treads, the vehicle sported low-pressure tyres and what looked like legs. Six arms sprouted from the hull, each tipped with a weapon or manipulator. Two were three-fingered hands. The design reminded DJ vaguely of a Tekron, but there was nothing humanoid about this creation.

Even in this inactive state, an almost palpable aura of evil seemed to ooze from the machine...


The Doctor read the latest readout on the main screen before turning to Brett. ‘Jeremiah, old chap?’

The scientist looked up from checking a print-out. ‘Yes Doctor? Something wrong?’ he enquired, reading the Time Lord's slight look of anxiety.

‘Oh no, not at all. I'd just like to have a look at the com - I mean, WODEN's central subroutine program, if I may.’

‘Be my guest.’ Brett called up the required file on a terminal and waved the Doctor to sit before it, before returning to his own work.

The Doctor cracked his knuckles and began tapping commands into the keyboard in front of him. At once, the subroutine program came up and scrolled down the screen. The Time Lord speed-read it for a time before something made him freeze the scroll. He replayed the section he had noted.

His hearts nearly stopped as he realised what he was seeing. ‘Brett!’ This time, the Doctor looked very anxious, and got the scientist's attention at once. The old Professor came over, concerned.

‘Now what's the matter, old chap? I'm busy! Only a minute to g-’

The Doctor interrupted him brutally. ‘The central subroutine, Brett! What did you use as the root co-ordinating matrix?’

Brett frowned. ‘Eh? What are you on about?’

‘What did you use?!’ the Time Lord hissed.

Brett shrugged and harrumphed. ‘I, ah, well, I just used an old program from my early days as-’

Again, an interruption. ‘You used the original WOTAN code, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?!’ Brett's silence confirmed this, and the Doctor broke away. He ran, his hearts palpitating, over to where Vohrless and Coffey were standing. Crashing to a halt before them, he tried to speak.

‘Vohrless... you have to... have to halt the countdown...’

The General looked at him as if he were mad. ‘Eh? Stop it? Why?’

‘Don't argue! Explanations later! STOP THE COUNTDOWN!’

‘Too late, Doctor. The day of reckoning has arrived.’ Brett's voice, strong and calm, made the Time Lord turn. The old scientist was standing erect, his eyes blazing with a peculiar inner fire. Above him, the countdown clock reached zero. There was a whirr, and then a growing roar, as WODEN came on-line.

The large screens suddenly filled with numbers and letters, in a chaotic profusion. But within seconds, the scramble began to sort itself into groups, soon forming an endlessly repeating phrase.

Inside, the Doctor died a little. ‘Oh no,’ he whispered.


(concluded next issue) [Go to Part 2]

This item appeared in TSV 31 (November 1992).

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