I’ll never know whether or not the Mother’s Watch leaders officially allowed me entrance into the All Mother chamber. My trick with the sonic left most of them spluttering, reeling. One of them required a lie down – guess which.
During the indignant surprise and shock which rattled the crowd, I took my opportunity to enter, followed swiftly behind by Aloy. On the other side of the door, I used the sonic to close it again. It seemed best.
“Only a little bit of showing off, then,” she said when the top panels had slammed back together. Some familiarity and friendliness had crept back into Aloy’s voice. We started to stroll, side by side.
“I’ll make my apologies later. I shouldn’t be so disrespectful, I do try to adhere to cultural traditions, but I’ve never been good with being told what I can’t do.”
“I can relate. Maybe it’s a…Timelord, thing?”
“Timelord, yep. Well remembered!”
“I thought that was the name of your tribe. Back there, you called yourself a different species.”
“Correct.” We walked in silence for a few moments, save for our footsteps. Unfortunately for Aloy, I’m an expert at spotting when someone wants to ask a difficult question. “Well?” It’s easy when you yourself are notorious for asking difficult questions.
“Well. You look human.”
“So do you, but don’t let it get you down.”
We carried on walking, our way lit by interior lighting that was somehow still working. I commented on the power source to Aloy, but she admitted she didn’t know. The last (also first) time she’d been here, her priorities had been on a track heading closer to home. It helped my optimism. If the lights had power, then hopefully so did the computers.
It was like walking inside a giant wire. The walls, ceiling and floors were all metal; modern, slate-coloured, polished clean and entirely characterless, built in the name of simplicity, not aesthetic, and certainly a later period than 21st century.
In the rooms and passages we passed, there were birthing pods, stasis chambers, rehabilitation zones and residential living quarters. Food stores of reconstituted everything. Water recycling plants. Even a few books, which I was liable to steal. They were wasted down here.
It had a distinct sense of the word “stronghold” about it, on the other side of a dreadnought-class doorway which could have withstood – within reason – the end of the world.
When we sat on the Tallneck, I’d mentioned my idea of a ‘planet-wide reset’ to Aloy and had felt fairly sure. Now, I was downright certain.
Aloy spoke up again. “So, what does a Timelord do?”
“Let me see. Typically, put on ridiculous head-dress, spend too many weeks pontificating in the Capital, make up some lies, disguise xenophobia as passive observation, and generally doss about while the rest of us go out into the universe and actually make a difference.” I stopped at a junction. Looked left and right. Opted for left. “Sorry. Old grudges.” My words left behind an awkward silence. Fortunately, I’m immune to them.
“Bit of a sore topic, then,” Aloy said at last. I made a brief grunt in return. To say my feelings towards my own race is ‘a sore topic’ is like referring to a gunshot wound as ‘a bit sore.’
After trekking deeper and lower into the All Mother chambers, past so many underground homes that were far from ‘homely’, we eventually reached a wide, curved room containing what I’d wanted all along: computer terminals. I marched in, fitting the sonic’s sharp hacking attachment as I went. At the first worktop, I drove it deep into the nearest unit, like plunging a knife into a watermelon. Crude, but faster than regular sonic hacking, automatically initiating a remote link to the Q.U.A.R.K.
And through that……
“Hark! The third degenerate child of Gallifrey survives.”
Aloy checked around the room, observing each corner and workstation, finishing back at me.
I raised my right wrist and tapped the Q.U.A.R.K. “Aloy, meet Odyssey. Odyssey, Aloy. Odyssey is my ship.”
“The one you crashed.”
“Not for the first time.”
“Did you genuinely just say ‘hark’ by the way?”
“Need I remind you who regulates my vocabulary?”
“Alright, we can make jokes at my expense all we like-”
“But first, I need you to open a new archive item. Timestamp 31st century, planetary location Earth. A potential parallel universe, we are in the plural zones after all, this one’s an apparent victim to a worldwide reset. That’s why we’re here, anyway. To find out.”
“Files are already downloading. Did that crash knock out your ability to read?”
“How about I show you?” Aloy joined me by the computer. “Can you link…that to my Focus?”
“Probably. What’s a Focus?”
She ran a hand through her hair and over her right ear, uncovering the small triangle-shaped device clipped there. It was white, and sleek. A potential advancement, or parallel alternative, to iPhones.
Its effect was immediate. A 3D virtual world of information had blossomed into view around us, being projected from Aloy’s Focus. Now linked to the Q.U.A.R.K, I could see it too. It was a beautiful wireframe display, finished in cool colours of deep blues and purples, with screen-less windows of info.
“HH, I’ve hacked the network. You should now have full access.”
Our virtual world grew denser in information. Thousands of new files presented themselves. We were inundated with a choice of audio files. A few dozen screen-less windows opened around the existing ones.
My eyes darted between them all, unsure where to start.
The truth of this world was mine, at last.