The Toyota Prius skidded around the corner and came to a stop in front of FrankenTech headquarters. Smoke came out of the driver’s side door as it popped open, a young dark-haired girl tumbling out onto the sidewalk waving her hand in front of her face while coughing.
“Doctor! I think we’re going to have to stay here for a while. I don’t think that the TA−”
“Yes, Susan, I think everyone in the general vicinity should know the name of our ship.”
The driver was a woman, blonde, probably in her fifties and a little bit taller than the girl. She was dressed in formal business attire, as if about to perform some serious corporate raid within the offices. Susan reached into the back seat of the car, pulled out a briefcase and a coat and handed it to the woman.
“That’s a good granddaughter now step back. I just hope that smoke doesn’t indicate any damage to the Chameleon Circuit. It’s been acting up lately.” The woman looked around, saw no one, then pressed a button on her wand-like device. The car shook, rattled, then shrank to the size of a toy. Susan put it in her pocket. “Now, we have a mutant to see!”
“Yes, I received a strong psychic message in a dream last night.” She raised her finger in the air dramatically, “there is a problem here that needs our attention!”
They walked through the revolving doors into the large glass-enclosed lobby of the FrankenTech World Headquarters. Susan read from a small device in her hand. “FrankenTech is a rather successful small corporation that has sprung up out of nowhere in just under a year. They have several major patents from their founder Dr. Peter Franken, hence the name FrankenTech. Not much more is known about the company except that they constructed this building very quickly and have been growing at an incredible rate ever since.”
“Hmmmm, sounds like an evil operation,” mused the Doctor. “Most corporations start slowly. When they grow quickly it is rarely a sign of connection to a higher power. This can’t be good.”
“Shouldn’t we do more research, Grandmama? This could be a trap!”
“We’ll let them think it is a trap, then turn it around on them!”
A tall blonde woman was standing off to the right looking straight ahead, moving her fingers in the air as if practicing a piano. Susan pointed her out. “Look Grandmama, a crazy woman, maybe we can talk to her.”
They walked over to her and the Doctor smiled, “May I help you young lady? I’m the doctor. Would you like to sit down?
“Oh no. I’m just typing a report on a virtual computer.” She tapped her head. “People think I’m nuts all the time. Give me just a second …” She returned to her typing. “There! All done!” She let her arms fall to her sides, then looked up in shock. “Oh my god … Susan … Susan Forman?”
“How do you know my name?”
The tall blonde looked at the other woman, “But … who are … you? NO! You can’t be! Not THE Doctor.”
The woman next to Susan looked at her and then at the tall blonde and then back at Susan. “Well, I AM a doctor, yes, yes, that is true.”
“Yes,” agreed Susan, “my grandmother IS a doctor. Correct me if I am wrong, but this is the end of the twentieth century? It is common for women to be doctors, isn’t it Grandmama?”
“Of course it is Susan. I think this young woman does need to sit down. Perhaps she does need a doctor? Perhaps a hospital? Perhaps a psychiatric hospital? I hear that the Boston area has many fine hospitals in the twenty−”
“It’s the twenty-first century for Christ sake! It’s two thousand and−”
The Doctor moved in closer and put her hand over the woman’s mouth, “No sense in causing a scene. Lets talk. There is more to you then you let on. Where we can talk in private?”
The tall blonde shook her head and the Doctor removed her hand. “My name is Christina Vortex, I work here. Let’s use my office. It’s not safe, but nowhere is and there isn’t much time so let’s go!”
Soon they were in her fourth floor office, a pleasant one with a nice view of the Charles River. Christina tapped a few keys in the air, “I was just ordering tea for us, though in a hurry we can always make time for tea.”
“Tea would be wonderful!” said the Doctor and Susan shook her head in agreement.
“How convenient!” said the Doctor, “I should install one of those. What do you think, Susan?”
“I don’t know Grandmama, we shouldn’t muck about with computers in our heads.”
Christina frowned, “I’d give anything to spend about a week chatting with you, but we have an emergency! Our computer system is under attack!”
“Oh really!” said the Doctor. “A virus?”
“Well … yes and no. Look at the screen here.” She turned and a very large image was projected on the wall next to them as the lights dimmed. A huge room with banks of computers that looked like…”
“Bee hives?” Said the Doctor.
“Yes!” answered Vortex. In the basement we have the most advanced computer server farm in the world. No one outside the company knows about it.” The projection showed small creatures swimming in the liquid around the boxes.
“Ahhh, I see your problem!” Exclaimed the Doctor. “Susan, remember the people on that world with the computer core? They had the same problem?”
“Ohh, I see your problem,” exclaimed the Doctor, moving closer to the screen. “Susan remember the people with the computer system that filled the core of their world?”
“Oh yes! They had that infestation! Ewwww, very nasty! But didn’t they end up−”
“Yes … yes, but I’ve had time to think it over and I am sure that we won’t have to destroy an entire planet to solve the problem this time!”
Vortex went white in the face. “She’s just trying to be funny, right?”
The Doctor stood up, waving her arms. “Oh, of course! Don’t worry, child! Get us some SCUBA gear and your Piranha problem will be gone in a jiffy!
“Data Piranhas! Nasty little creatures but not too difficult to get rid of if you know how. Right Susan?”
Susan looked worried for a moment and then smiled at Vortex, “Sure Grandmama, just like on Trilex Seven.”
She led the Doctor and Susan to the computer room door, standing near them as they put on their wet suits and checked the breathing gear.
“I have clearance from our CEO for you to fix this. He doesn’t know who you are, and would only interrupt you with a million questions if he did.”
“Why in Odin’s name would he have any interest in me?” asked the Doctor as she finished putting on her air tank. Susan also looked confused.
Vortex shook her head and waved her hands, “never mind, it’s too complicated! I won’t be able to tell him about any of this because he’ll kill me for not telling him WHO you are. Hee, hee, hee.” She started laughing and bent over. The Doctor and Susan put their hands on their hips and stared at her.
“Susan, I think we need to get you back to a more reasonable time period after this is over and get you into a proper school.”
Vortex straightened up with a look of wonder. “Oh! I have a suggestion! The spring of 1963, England! Susan will get a wonderful education there and it is a wonderful stable environment and you will fit in there, I promise! It is … just the place to start off a new adventure, a new life for yourselves!”
Standing in their wetsuits, the Doctor and Susan looked off into the distance. “Yes! That does sound like a very good idea Miss Vortex, food for thought! Thank you. Now, Susan, once again into battle we go!”
“Doctor, it was a pleasure meeting you,” said Christina as she shook Susan’s hand.
She did the same for the Doctor but, while holding her hand, pulled her close, bent her over and kissed her on the mouth with passion. When she pulled her back up the Doctor frowned. “Sorry Doctor but I had to. No self-respecting girl could pass up a chance to lock lips with you, even in your current incarnation.”
She turned and pointed at the viewing windows, “As you noted earlier, because of the appearance of the computers in the room we call it ‘The Hive’. The liquid isn’t water, but a type of mineral oil. It won’t hurt you, but swallowing it might give you a tummy ache.”
The Doctor shook her head while putting on the SCUBA mask, showing her displeasure. “Certainly Miss Vortex.” Grumbled the Doctor.
“Oh, don’t be mad at me, please Doctor! I’m sorry! Please forgive me!”
“Oh all right Miss Vortex, you are forgiven!
The Doctor and Susan entered the Hive. Once they were in, Vortex pressurized the door. A warning bell sounded. Over the intercom Vortex said, “The door is sealed. The chamber will fill with mineral oil. When it is ready, the other door will automatically open and you can enter. You might get swarmed by Data Piranhas.”
“You have the ship, right?”
She held up the tiny car and replied, “Right here.”
“Good. Now follow the plan to the letter. It will look bad, but there is no other way.”
The mineral oil rose over their heads, the alarm sounded and the door opened.
An eerie green light flooded the Hive. The rows of computer boxes seemed to trail off into infinity. The Doctor and Susan looked back at Miss Vortex, who pointed to their right.
What looked like a cloud formed in the distance, becoming larger as it moved toward them. Susan moved back to the corner with the window to her back, and allowed the small model car to fall to the floor of The Hive keeping her eyes on it. The Doctor swam toward the approaching swarm.
The Data Piranhas did not increase in size as they got closer. They were only tiny bits of matter and they attacked the Doctor who swam away from Susan to draw them away. On cue she focused on the tiny model car as it landed on the floor of The Hive.
Suddenly in place of the tiny car a tall, blue box appeared. It looked something like an old wooden telephone booth and was styled after a 1960s London police box. Susan had expected a car but the call box was likely since they were thinking of going to England in the 1960s, the TARDIS Chameleon Circuit had made it’s choice.
The cloud, sensing the vast computing power of the TARDIS swarmed it in seconds as the Doctor swam over next to Susan in front of the window. Both of them gave a ‘V’ symbol with finger to Vortex on the other side of the glass. She returned a thumbs up.
Then a low hum began to fill the air that Christina could feel in her chest. She bent over in pain. The Doctor waved frantically at her to get away from the glass as she grabbed Susan. Vortex ran down the hall and jumped through the doorway into the adjoining hallway and closed the water tight door behind her just as she heard a low thumping sound from the other side of the door.
The warning panel beside her informed her that The Hive had gone critical. The supposedly unbreakable transparent aluminum had broken allowing the mineral oil to flood the hallway. A protective metal wall came down within nanoseconds of the transparent aluminum’s rupture and The Hive was already almost entirely refilled with mineral oil to prevent the computers from overheating. The panel beside her also informed her that in just a few minutes the hallway would be drained of the oil and she would be able to re-enter.
She looked at the panel, “Security will be here in twenty-three minutes, wonderful.” A bell sounded and she opened the door and walked back into the hallway, stepping over squares of oily glass. Laying on the floor were the Doctor and Susan, their wetsuits cut and bloody but they were both moving and getting up.
The Doctor removed her mouth piece and mask to reveal that her hair had turned white. “Plan A failed, looks like Plan B is going to have to be put into play. At least we won’t have to deal with those silly little car doors.” She stood up and helped Susan up. “Ready?”
They both walked over to the entrance to The Hive and the Doctor turned back to Vortex a second time. “I’m afraid this will be the final goodbye Christina. If we fail this time I don’t see any escape for us. And if we do fail I don’t hold out much hope for the rest of you, only a rather large thermonuclear device would be able to stop these creatures and doubt that you have−”
Christina Vortex sadly nodded, “Yeah, we got one right underneath The Hive. My boss can be very paranoid. So if you fail there will be a final solution. Not to put any pressure on you.”
“All right then!” said the Doctor, slapping her oily hands together, “Then we have no other option Susan, we must succeed with plan B! Onward!” They went into the chamber and pulled it shut behind them.
Vortex went to a computer view screen to watch as the Doctor and Susan returned to The Hive. A few of the front servers were damaged but otherwise there was little destruction. The TARDIS was undamaged. As before, Susan swam toward the blue box and the Doctor swam away from it, drawing a dark swarm again.
The black cloud swarmed the Doctor until she could no longer be seen. Within the blackness, a bright explosion blew the Data Piranhas away from the unmoving, glowing shape of the Doctor. Then the agitated swarm turned to attack Susan but the doors of the TARDIS opened allowing the Data Piranhas inside.
Following the swarm, Susan took the Doctor’s glowing body inside. The blue box floated in the liquid for what seemed an eternity and then the doors opened again. Susan floated out with a clear cube in hand. Inside was a swarm of tiny black dots, the Data Piranhas imprisoned! She gave Christina the V sign and with a final wave returned to the TARDIS, closing the doors behind her. A creaking, wheezing mechanical sound filled the room, then faded away. Christina Vortex fell to her knees and cried.
“My god …” she whispered as she sat with her back to the wall. “… that sound … so beautiful.” She raised her hands and began to type. Through her tears, she wrote the fictitious report telling her boss how she single-handedly resolved the strange data problem in The Hive.