But had it? He’d survived; perhaps there were others. One other in particular. One who had to survive this destruction. The hero, the renegade, the one the others considered a near outlaw, but who he’d always revered. If he could find the other...but first, he’d need a way off this dead world full of dark, dead memories.
He made his way to the Library, the center of all the technology and culture for his world. The place where the Tribunal had once held court and made decisions for all the people. He didn’t expect to find anything there, but it was a hope, at least.
He saw it there as soon as he walked in, small but monolithic, it stood in the middle of the wreckage like a monument to all that once was. It trembled as he drew near; it was terrified, as well it should be. He touched it, gently circling around to check for structural flaws. It shuddered beneath his touch, almost like a lover away from her beloved for too long.
“Oh,” he whispered. “You are beautiful.”
It groaned quietly in response.
“Well, how would you feel about the two of us getting away from all this death, and these bad memories? A pair, companions, partners. Survivors, that’s what we are. Let’s go see what’s out there, shall we?”
* * *
Punctuality was essential to a forensic scientist, and so Chuck McKinney was there for the meeting ten minutes early. He sat nervously at a table that had been reserved for them at the Union Grill, turning the object over and over in his hands and debating for the thousandth time what to do with it.
Where were they? He took a deep breath and reminded himself they weren’t due for another five minutes, yet. Punctuality was a curse, sometimes. It had been three years; had they changed? Had he changed, and not realized it?
He’d find out soon enough. The crowd of screaming teenagers down the street spoke of the arrival of one of their little group, now.
* * *
Emilie flew down the streets of Oakland with the top down, the wind in her hair, the CD player blaring her latest unreleased demo CD, "Queen of the Night". The record company wanted her to review the mix before they put it into press. So far, so good. She was looking forward to seeing her friends, again. After three years of touring, promotions, and fans, it would be good to get grounded again, remind her of where she came from. Not only would it be a welcome break, but if she expected to keep any kind of edge to her music, she couldn’t let herself become spoiled.
She jammed her 1967 Shelby Cobra into gear, and swung into a parking space, ignoring the blaring horns of someone just about to back into the same spot, then leapt out of the car without bothering to open the door. She did remember to put change in the meter, mostly because she had a premonition of a ticket if she didn’t. She also had the feeling she was going to have to run a gauntlet to make it to the restaurant, and she’d learned to trust those feelings.
So she wasn’t surprised when the throng of teenagers charged her, screaming her name. Gracious as she could be, she signed autographs while moving the herd towards her destination. Peeking over their heads, she saw Chuck sitting at a table, watching her struggle. She smiled, waved, and worked on finishing the impromptu meet-and-greet before heading over.
* * *
James Trappen pulled into a spot half a block away from the restaurant and made his way down the street. His stomach was in knots; after all, he was the only one of their little group who couldn’t consider himself to have made good. In fact, he’d made more than a few messes in his day. Would they know? Would they see right through him as the phony he kind of always felt like in their presence? He’d heard Emilie had made it pretty big; maybe she could hire him on as a roadie or something. It’d be a start.
He rounded the corner to Craig Street and there they were, sitting at the Union Grill, having coffee and working on getting over that awkward, “we-haven’t-seen-each-other-in-years” series of initial moments. Emilie had to stop every so often to sign the odd autograph; she didn’t show it, but it looked to James like the newfound fame was taking a bit of a toll. He took a deep breath, patted his leather jacket, and approached with a smile pasted on his face.
* * *
If anyone among their little group had a real devil-may-care attitude about this whole thing, it was Davan Reardon. Sure, he was looking forward to seeing them; they were, after all, some of the best friends he’d had from some of the best days of his life. But he was who he was, and if they’d changed, or they didn’t like who he was anymore, so be it. People changed and grew apart, and after some of the things he’d seen in his three years of military service, Davan knew that better than anyone.
Still, part of him hoped it’d be the same. He parked his bike, adjusted his aviator sunglasses and flight jacket, and headed casually towards the Grill, throwing an irresistable grin at a few college girls, who swooned and giggled as he walked past.
Yep, he thought. I’ve still got it.
He casually walked up to his old friends, sitting at a table and getting re-acquainted, spun a chair around, and straddled it.
* * *
The last to arrive (fifteen minutes late) was Don. A last-minute call at the funeral home had him working on his day off, and he’d just wrapped up in time to make the lunch date. He realized to his irritation that when he’d organized this little reunion via e-mail, he’d forgotten to get current cell phone information for any of them, so he just hoped they didn’t give up on him before he got there.
To his relief, they seemed to be still just getting re-acquainted as he arrived, apologizing for his lateness. Food had already been ordered, but they’d been good enough to hold a menu for him, and he scanned the choices available, picking something quickly so as not to divert too much attention from his old friends.
Something told them all that this was going to be a big day, and they didn’t want to miss a moment of it.
* * *
So it begins. Our Cast get together, old college buddies out for a luncheon reunion after having not seen one another in three years. After a few minutes' small talk, Emily picks up on the vibe that something is preoccupying Chuck. She badgers him a bit, and finally he pulls an object, pitted, burned, and non-functional, out of his pocket and lays it on the table:
Davan thinks it's just some kid's broken lightsaber toy. Chuck's response is, "please, I'm a scientist. Don't you think I'd know a toy if I saw one? We can't even identify the alloys in this!" He then reveals that he found it in a meteor crash site.
As they discuss the object, a voice rings out from behind: "Where did you get that?"
They turn to see a (rather rude) young man with a British accent, who simply takes the object to examine. Davan takes it back. When they ask the stranger who he is, he says, "Just an Artist, no one important. Now really, where did you get that?"
Just then, Emily and James notice a group of "extra-Goth" looking men moving around the crowd, and more friends seem to be joining them by the moment. Gradually, the rest of the Cast notices as well, and they pick up on the fact that these guys all look exactly alike. Don mentions that their features appear to be "off" somehow, as though they were constructed of derma-wax.
Emily gets a psychic flash of an ancient war between people with a kinship to the Artist and a race of alien monstrosities with hard, carapice-like shells and pincer-like claws. The aliens all wielded strange technologies, some of which were similar to the device Chuck had.
The goons start to get more urgent, as though they're looking for something, and they get rowdy, shoving people around. James stands to face down with them, and they turn and see the object in Davan's hand. As in one voice, they all say, "The OBJECT!" and make their way en masse towards the Cast. When someone gets in their way, one of the goons grabs the guy by the neck, and the poor man's head snaps right off!
Emily gets another psychic flash, seeing the goons as the horrific aliens she saw in her psychic vision earlier. She panics.
Chaos erupts, and the Cast begins to scatter. Emily, Chuck, and The Artist notice that all of the Goths are wearing strange silver boxes on their belts with flashing L.E.D.'s. The Artist pulls an object out of his coat that looks just like the one Chuck had (and Davan now holds), only broken, and points it at one of the goons. It emits a whining sound, and the silver boxes on all the antagonists explode, revealing their true visage to everyone. The single monster at which the Artist pointed his "wand," falls to the floor, screeching in agony.
Now the Cast agree to meet in Schenley Park, and scatter; Davan decides to lead the critters away from everyone else, confident that the combination of his military training and his history as a college track star will give him an edge. He runs off, holding the device high int he air for the creatures to see. Chuck and Don make for their cars. James decides to see Emily safely to hers. The Artist runs off in the same direction as James and Emily, only slightly ahead of them.
The two are shocked when the Artist stops at what appears to be a port-a-potty, fumbles with some kind of lock, and beckons them inside, "quickly, now!"
Half out of panic, and half out of curiousity, they follow, and are astonished to discover that inside this little portable john, the place is VAST. The Artist tells them there's no time to explain, when Emily says, "This is some kind of space ship, isn't it? And you're an alien!" (psychic hunch). The Artist says, "Very good; I'm impressed. Now, where is this park we need to meet your friends at?"
The Artist throws a few switches and dials, there's a loud noise like a dying car battery, the entire place shudders and shakes, and he says, "Well, here we are!"
Meanwhile, Davan manages to outrun the monsters, which fortunately are rather slow. He jumps on his racing bike and heads for the park, hooking up with Don and Chuck on the way. As they arrive, they hear a loud noise like a car with a dying battery. They arrive at the park, to see their two friends and the Artist climbing out of a dumpster sitting randomly in the middle of the hill. After a bit of cajoling, Emily and James manage to convince everyone inside, and the shock over the "it's bigger inside than out" effect plays itself out on all of them.
The creatures have now taken prisoners, and are demanding that the people of Earth "turn over the Gallifreyan super weapon and its owner so we can extract vengeance upon his people." The Artist laughs hysterically over the idea that the small device is a "super weapon," describing it as, "sort of like a multitool" when asked by Davan what it is. Also, when asked, "Where can we find one of these 'Gallifreyans,'" the Artist says, "Well you've already found one. Me. But if you think turning me over is going to stop them, look again."
Indeed, the monsters seem to be a bit fuzzy on hostage negotiation tactics; they're killing people at random.
Together the Cast reason that--based on the one the Artist disabled earlier--it's high-pitched sonic frequencies that seem to hurt the creatures (who the Artist identifies as "Drosmians"), and the Artist and Chuck reason that if they could broadcast a high-frequency sound wave with a psychic feedback carrier signal (say, from someone with psychic abilities), they might be able to kill or at least drive off these monsters.
The local campus radio station nearby may be just what they need. The Artist realizes he needs to gather supplies, so he announces, "Any pilots here?"
Davan gruffly replies, "I already told you I'm a navy pilot."
"Splendid. Think you can learn to fly a dimensional spacecraft in fifteen seconds?"
The Artist gives Davan a crash course in TARDIS piloting, showing him pretty much exactly what he needs to do to get the ship inside the radio station, and then goes to gather supplies. Davan responds capitally, guiding the ship to a smooth landing inside a broom closet (it now looks like a fire hydrant).
Alas, the radio station is crawling with drosmians. Davan leads them on a merry chase through the building while the Artist, Chuck and Emily work on wiring up the signal carrier (the Artist sticks a plunger to Emily's head and says, "now when I tell you, I want you to think really hard. About bugs. And pain. And bugs in pain.") For their part, Don and James hold off a few drosmians outside.
When things start to go bad, Chuck sets off the fire alarms, and sticks a microphone near a speaker to broadcast feedback throughout the building, thus causing the drosmians great pain and distraction.
The Artist finishes the device, throws the switch...and drosmians all over the borough fall to the ground, clutching their heads and spasming in agony. One by one, they begin to die, and the bodies (and the survivors) are transported off planet by means of an energy transmat device. The psychic feedback causes Emily to pass out, but the Artist directs James to take her to a room in his vessel called the "Zero Room" where she can recuperate.
The Artist congratulates the Cast on their efforts, and proceeds to explain that his people had a war with the drosmains long ago, and they were supposed to be extinct, the survivors banished to "the Void"; if they're back, that's very bad for the galaxy. He then invites them all to come along with him on his journeys, informing them that his ship can go anywhere in the universe, and can travel to any time in history or the future. The Cast all sign on, and opt to head for 16th-century Venice as their first adventure...