NUMBERS GAME, PART FIVE: NO PLAN
“April 16th, 2005,” Mason noted. The lighting in his TARDIS switched from green back to standard yellow upon arrival. “Time, right after midnight. We can scan all day for temporal incursions… unless you have any other insights, Alison?”
The brunette sensed that his tone was a little testy, probably after her insistence on the date. But she was sure that this was right – it made sense somehow, this collision of reality and fantasy. “I was actually thinking of arriving during the actual airing of the “Doctor Who” episode when Big Ben gets destroyed,” Alison admitted. “But being early works too.” She smiled.
“I’m still hesitant,” Para reiterated, shaking her head slowly, her bunny ears quivering. “I mean, linking the roman numerals plot to a specific fantasy show? I don’t think any people would exist at the intersection of those two wildly different things. Who would even read a news story like that?”
“That’s why Four I’s or Lissa Jous or whoever has done it that way,” Alison argued back. “Because no one would be interested. No one would see it coming! Even I’m not interested, yet I’m here!”
“About that,” Mason said slowly. He waited until both of them turned to him. “I’ve been wondering. Is it possible you’re not supposed to be here, Alison?”
Alison leaned in, hands on her hips. “Excuse me??”
Mason sighed. “You might recall the original message Para found read ‘I cannot directly interfere. But the two of you can.’ Now, I’m apparently here because of the time element, and how my history has a connection to this… TV show. While Para is here owing to her connections with mathematics and our adversary. So, Alison – how did you become the third of our twosome?”
Alison stared. Her eyes narrowed. “Mason, for the second time today, I don’t know whether to hug you, or smack you. I mean, props for thinking like me, but how dare you imply that I’m somehow here of my own free will?? Or are you implying I’m somehow associated with this Epsilon Project?!”
Para blinked. “I think he was merely implying you’re superfluous.”
“Not… really…” Mason began uncertainly, but Alison had already rounded on the blonde.
“Hey, I’m the only one who knew this was the right destination time, Bunny girl!” she reminded. “For that matter, I’m also the only human in this group! Maybe someone at the top level thought that would be valuable, hm?” She blinked, then scowled. “What am I saying? Now you’ve got me DEFENDING our abductors! The heck is up with THAT?!”
“Okay, look, calm down,” Mason sighed as Para shrank back under Alison’s increasingly aggressive stance. In fact, it looked like the blonde wanted to crawl behind the TARDIS’ centre console to hide. “What I actually meant,” he continued, “is if there IS a fantasy plot around us, why is Alison here? She’s grounded in reality.”
Alison made a face. “I teleport. Yeah, that’s so reality.”
“My hypothesis,” Mason charged on regardless. “Would be that she’s actually here for me. Owing to our previous encounter, someone may have thought Alison could draw me in, make me more amenable to temporal alterations, despite my preference for non-interference.”
“N-Non interference? W-Wait, are you now saying you don’t want to save the roman numerals any more??” Para said, her ears quivering and her blue eyes misting over slightly.
“It’s not that I think this situation should be ignored,” Mason assured her. “But I wonder… perhaps it should not be dealt with by us?”
Alison slapped her hand down on the edge of the console. “That’s WHAT I WAS SAYING! Back at Big Ben!” she reminded him huffily.
“Yes, and I’m finally agreeing with you,” Mason pointed out. “In particular, I noticed that this time trip to 2005 was a lot smoother than the one we took out of the Hub. Maybe that’s because we’re finally doing something they want us to do? It gives me pause.”
“Then is it too late to fail, or leave?”
“Stop! No one’s leaving!” Para’s nose crinkled cutely. “Though Mason, do you mean ‘They’ as in Alice and the Project who got us involved? Or ‘They’ as in Lissa and the Denominator who are behind the evil plot?”
Mason shrugged back at her. “The former?”
“Perhaps those two groups are actually one and the same,” Alison added suspiciously. “Maybe this is all some big testing ground! To see what we’re capable of. You really want to stick around for that, Bunny girl?”
The three individuals shared a series of uneasy glances.
“I… I can’t do nothing though,” Para said. “I just CAN’T! It’s NUMBERS, I have to help!”
Mason sighed. “And now that Alison has had me bring you here, I’ll feel responsible should anything happen to you while you’re helping.”
“Oh good! My fault again?!” This time Alison did reach out to smack Mason’s arm.
“More like you’re a catalyst,” Mason decided. “Which is good though – you seem to be speeding things up so that we finish this affair sooner.”
Alison eyed him uncertainly, trying to figure out if that was a compliment or not.
“D-Do we have a plan then?” Para asked. “For searching through the Clock Tower for temporal anomalies?”
“I guess we should come up with one,” Mason yielded.
Mason had again parked his TARDIS over in Jubilee Gardens, since the exterior still resembled a British cab, which would stand out inside the Tower itself. He began repairs on the chameleon circuit, as Para did some research on how best to gain access to Big Ben. After all, even though they were now back in the past, before the tours were restricted to only British Citizens – not to mention, to before the tower itself had even been renamed the ‘Elizabeth Tower’ – security was still tight.
“So why can’t you simply teleport us in, Alison?” Para asked as she read the monitor.
“I need to see the destination to get there,” Alison retorted, leaning back against the console next to the bunny girl, arms crossed. Her attention was on the corner where Mason was working. “Otherwise I can end up inside a wall. Which is why hacking into surveillance cameras has become a useful skill. Though in a pinch…” She stopped.
Para looked up. “In a pinch?”
Alison continued to stare into space for a moment, before turning to look back. “I hesitate to say. I’m not comfortable talking about what I can do, frankly – the only reason you know about my ability to start with, is due to it being tied to my arrival on that Hub.”
“Oh.” Para looked back down at the monitor. “You don’t trust me then. Okay.”
Alison let out a noise of exasperation. “Can you NOT look so adorable with, like, every other action you take?! It’s making me feel bad, now that I know you’re in a similar situation to me.”
“Don’t apologize, that’s worse!” Alison rolled her eyes skyward. “Fine. In a pinch, I’ve found I can teleport into the area shown by a freshly taken photograph. If no live stream is available. But it’s chancy, since the area in question must remain clear. It also hurts my head.”
“Oh.” Para paused. “In that case, Mason has that device that can photograph. And I now think that my ability to fly means I’ll be able to get tower access, up here, near the clock itself,” she said, pointing to an image on the monitor. “As long as I don’t try to do it right when the clock strikes.” She smiled. “Once I’m inside, I’ll send a picture image back here to you and Mason, and you can both join me.”
“That’s… plausible,” Alison yielded. “Except a flying bunny girl will attract attention.”
“Maybe we could arrange a distraction.”
A loud persistent ‘pinging’ noise began to come from the console. Alison quickly stepped away from it, holding up her hands. “Wasn’t me!”
Mason stopped his repairs, coming over to have a look. “No, not you,” he agreed. “I set up an auto-scan. There’s now residual temporal readings from the Clock Tower. Ones that are increasing in concentration, implying an echo coming back in time. Someone’s about to arrive.”
Alison smiled smugly. “Knew it. When, tonight?”
Mason shook his head. “In less than an hour.” Alison’s eyebrow went up as Mason looked to her. “So you’re a bit off, but as far as the date goes, it seems you were right after all.”
“Oh, and it’s still practically the middle of the night – I can fly now and no one will notice!” Para noted, clasping her hands. “If I hurry, I’m sure we can implement the only plan we’ve come up with!”
Alison grimaced, but an exchange of glances confirmed that none of them had an immediately viable alternative. Mason did make a point of grabbing something that he felt they would all need though.
Less than five minutes later, Para exited the TARDIS with Mason’s “swiss army” Bardiche, preset to camera mode. Once outside, she reached up to tug down on the strands of blonde hair that fell past her ears, concentrating on the effect she wanted. Her rabbit ears compressed down, soon looking nearly perpendicular to her head, indicative of a parabola with a very low stretch factor. The ears then started to spin, sending the blonde up into the air like a helicopter, and she sped off towards the tower in the dark.
“Rgglfrgll,” Alison grunted, releasing Mason in order to drop to her knees and press both of her palms to the sides of her head. “I HATE using photos!” The purple smoke around her gradually began to dissipate.
“Interesting,” was Mason’s only remark following the teleport. He briefly looked around the Clock Room, before holding out his hand towards Para, who immediately returned his Bardiche. Mason swiftly switched settings, trying to track the temporal signal he’d picked up before. “Aha. The closer we are to the flashpoint, the easier it’s becoming to track,” he reflected. “Follow me.”
Para waited long enough to help Alison back to her feet, supporting her a little as the two of them moved off, trying to keep the Time Lord in view. As it turned out, they almost walked right into him, as he had stopped partway down the stairs. “It’s right in front of us,” he remarked. “In 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… … 0… negative 1…”
A being popped into view. They immediately recognized him: Four I’s. His eyebrows went up, upon seeing the three of them standing there. “What?!” he mumbled, looking down at a device in his hand. It resembled a television remote control. “This can’t be right. I left you people outside… in the future!”
“What a strange coincidence. Now, give me that temporal displacer,” Mason said, holding out his hand.
The resolve of their adversary seemed to grow at the request. “No!” he fired back, drawing the device to his chest before reaching up to adjust his glasses. “This thing is not only my ticket back to the present, it’s also what’s needed to retroactively change this stupid Great Clock back into the right format!” he asserted. “No matter what, you cannot stop – the Denominator!!”
“Okay, to be clear, are you saying that YOU are also the Denominator?” Alison said. “Because for me, it’s a little vague. Also, Four I’s has a nicer ring to it. Don’t you think?” As she spoke, Para attempted to edge closer to the crazy British man along the wall, but he saw the movement and threw a glare back at the bunny girl.
“You can scoff all you like,” he retorted. “You’ll never catch me! Besides, even if you destroy this temporal device, Lissa has more!” With that, he ran right for them, pushing through the group and heading the rest of the way up the stairs.
“Oh bother,” Mason sighed. He glanced over at the two women.
“Our plan really hadn’t gone much beyond this point, had it,” Alison reflected.
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