In the Main Lab of the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology, scientific progress was taking place. This could be considered odd, as for once there was no-one actually working on anything.
The date, according to the Official HQ Standard Time calendar, was March 12th, 2008. Not that anyone in the DoSAT could see that calendar, at the moment; it was above-ground in the City, and they were inside. Headquarters was on lockdown, purportedly for a drill, and no-one was exactly sure why.
Makes-Things, DoSAT's Senior Technician, would have been rather worried if he'd had the time to be. As it was, he was standing in the middle of the lab next to what could be easily mistaken for a simple cardboard box, reading off a list in one hand. It happened to be a list of currently occupied Response Centers, and beneath it was the DoSAT personnel file. "Harlan, general staff. You're going to be hunting down Agents from RCs 900 through 920. Additional TARDISes are anchored around the Daedalus crater, on the Moon."
In front of him, the entire remaining staff of the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology waited in a small crowd, milling about. Some had been working on repairs or projects, some had been off duty, some had been on lunch; it didn't matter. Once the lockdown had gone into effect, all of them had come straight here. At the call, one of them—Technician Harlan—nodded, before walking over to a door standing in the middle of the lab floor and heading inside. Moments later, the door faded out of view.
Makes-Things didn't even wait until the door had vanished completely before pressing a button drawn onto the supposed cardboard box next to him. There was an audible boink, and another door—in reality, all that could be seen of a camouflaged TARDIS—slid out of the slightly tilted-down box, eventually landing upright as the TARDIS settled onto its base. Makes-Things pulled the box away from the newly appeared TARDIS and checked the list in his hand. "Adam, A/V Division. You're going to be—"
"Um, Makes-Things sir," the agent in question cut in. "I'm really not qualified for this sort of thing, I just—"
The Senior Technician rubbed the bridge of his nose, attempting to stave off the migraine he was sure was coming. "Look, I really don't want to hear it, Adam. You went through the training course? You can pilot a TARDIS?"
"Yes, sir." And so could the rest of DoSAT, at that. The quarantine protocol required it.
"Then you knew this could happen." He lowered his hand; Adam was about the twelfth technician to complain about the situation since he'd started the dispersal. "I hate the additional headache probably more than you, but we have protocols and things to follow, and if this lockdown gets escalated we are not leaving Agents stuck out in the Word Worlds. A lot of them are probably in the HQ or the City or elsewhere in World One, but this place is big enough that there's gonna be a boatload of them out there anyhow. So work with me."
Adam nodded in reply. M-T returned to his list. "Right. You're hunting down Agents from RCs 920 to 960—there're fewer occupied centers in that lot, so it shouldn't take too long. Additional TARDISes are likewise anchored around the Daedalus crater." The A/V technician headed to the door in the air, passed through, and was gone. Makes-Things shuffled the box forward a bit and pressed the button. With a boink, the Duplicator worked its magic, and another TARDIS appeared. "Frenchie, A/V Division…"
= = = =
In RC 1319, Agent Cameron emerged from the glowing blue door of a portal with a massively irritated look on his face and a smoking plastic ruin in his hand. "That is the last time I let Upstairs give me a Star Trek Captain-Sue. Last time. I can't stand having these things burn out every single time I go onto a non-canon ship."
Hefting the broken CAD, he shook his head and tore the charge-sheet off his notepad, tossing it onto the seat of the console chair. He'd file it later; first he had to get this thing down to the Main Lab, get that out of the way. And with that, Cameron left his RC, holding nothing but the ruined CAD he'd held before, and forgetting the one cardinal rule of life in HQ-if you want to be somewhere, don't try to get there.
= = = =
Makes-Things watched the last door disappear, before upending the Duplicator box and dropping the original TARDIS, which the others had been copies of, to the floor. "Right, one left." He looked up and nodded at the last technician standing there. "Dann."
The man in question was pointedly staring at the one TARDIS door left in the middle of the floor. "And where's yours?"
Makes-Things shrugged. "I don't have one. You've got the last bunch on my list. I'm not sure I see the problem."
Dann shook his head. "So what do you do if it turns out this lockdown is more than a drill? Boss, you're not a fighter, and more than that you hold this department up almost all by yourself."
"Look," the Senior Technician replied. "One," he pointed at his workbelt, which was lying on one of the nearby tables. A boxy silver device was attached to it, its polished sheen hinting at how new it was. "Remote Activator. Two, since I am the Department, it won't do any good if I'm off on Mar Sara or somewhere. And three," he tapped his head, "I may not be a fighter, but I am a thinker. I can plan my way out of a corner faster than a lot of people could brawl their way out." He tossed the clipboard to Dann. "Now, shove. Anyone on that list who isn't crossed off, you find them. Everybody needs a TARDIS, and your extras are moored around the Saha crater."
Dann nodded. "Right. Good luck, Makes-Things." And at that, the Main Lab was empty.
The technician stood there for a moment, just relishing the silence. He got precious little of it nowadays, since the PPC had grown massively in size in recent years. There had been times when he could identify who was approaching his workspace just by the rhythm of their footsteps. Nowadays, with the organization encompassing so many more Agents and Staff, that was impossible.
Of course, with increased size came increased threats, he mused, spotting a dismantled DORKS on the workbench nearest the door. Makes-Things was eternally grateful he was where he was rather than being in the Action Departments; the turnover rate was hellish, and the work little better. Give me a DORKS to fix any day, he thought. It wasn't the best job in the world, and certainly a stressful one, but it WAS safe—
He froze. Years of working as the go-to man whenever Agents broke things—which was often—had given him a "danger sense;" the ability to tell when something was approaching that he'd really rather not run into. Aside from Mary Sues, who were universally bad news, nothing had ever set it off worse than an agent pair by the names of Jay Thorntree and Acacia Byrd, who he had seen far more of than he had ever wanted to and who seemed to have an affinity for breaking his stuff.
Right now, his danger sense was telling him that five Jays and Acacias were coming down the hall. And at that moment, the telepathic "voice" of Captain Dandy erupted at full force from every speaker in the room.
To any Agents or Staff of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum still remaining in Headquarters. The lockdown is no longer a drill. There is a macrovirus epidemic underway in Headquarters, which is therefore under total quarantine until further notice. All portals in and out of HQ are blocked. Again, this is no longer a drill. This is a very real threat.
A second passed. Maybe two. Then there was a crash as loud as the end of the world, and a huge section of wall around the front doors buckled inwards, Generic Surface and egg-white plaster cracking off the interior edge and falling in like rain. But it held—at least until it took a second blow.
= = = =
Somewhere in the corridors of HQ, Agent Cameron froze at the announcement. "Oh, shit." He reached for his belt and fumbled around for a good five seconds before he remembered he'd left his phaser back in his RC. Definitely not a good thing. For a moment, he thought about going back to get it, but he quickly decided not to. If he ever managed to get there, he probably would have run into one of the things on the way.
He shrugged. "I guess the best thing I can do now is get to DoSAT," he thought aloud. "Their labs are fairly important, so they should have some sort of weapons cache there." After a moment's thought, he hefted the CAD and set off again, studying the patterns in the melted plastic.
Cameron, having worked the continuum, was familiar with macroviruses; he had no way to fight the smaller specimens, which were usually about five millimeters across, so he didn't worry about those—he worried over the ones he could fight. Specimens born from most humans or similarly-sized species usually didn't surpass a foot, and never past forty inches—easily dispatched with a phaser, or even a decent club. The problem was that Cameron worked in the PPC, and the PPC deals with canon characters and Agents of sizes greatly different to normal humans. Say, for example, Paul Bunyan.
= = = =
The virus that now worked its way through the massive gap into the Main Lab was easily ten feet across, wide enough to barely be able to squeeze through the hallways of HQ. At that size, it could no longer hope to fly, having grown too large for the structures that performed that task to support it, and as a result was forced to drag itself around with its three "arms." But it was still a macrovirus, and thus its goal was simple: find a host to infect.
Had it had eyes, it would have seen nothing in the lab. But it didn't, and instead its heat-sensing organs pinpointed one potential target in the empty space. With terrifying silence, it brought one of its arms back, before whipping it down like a bolt of lightning. The arm smashed into one of the lab's workbenches, crumpling the heavy steel as though it were tinfoil, and just barely missing the terrified Korean who had shot from beneath it like a rocket in the instant before the hammer fell.
Makes-Things wasn't sure why he had hidden like that—instinct, probably—but it was costing him now, and he scrambled back in outright panic across the floor of the lab as the virus followed, arms whipping around, knocking tables aside as though they were toys, ripping the fluorescent lights from the ceiling, crumpling machinery under its weight that could withstand a blow from a Balrog's sword. Though it couldn't fly, it was trying its hardest, and the sound it made was like being inside of a sawmill drowned in glue. One arm slammed into a pipe running along the far side of the room, which turned out to be a plasma conduit when it ripped loose, spewing superheated plasma across the far end of the room and melting the Generic Surface on the floor. A speaker in the lab's ceiling was hit by another flailing blow, and rather than going out nice and quietly opted instead to hang on and convert most of what it was broadcasting into raw noise and squeals, sounding like Hell itself was on the intercom.
The one-sided battle moved on, towards the lab's center, and suddenly Makes-Things found himself holding his workbelt. There was enough equipment on that thing to build the entire lab up from scratch again, most of it pointy and all of it somehow dangerous. At that point, he was the most heavily armed man within a quarter mile.
The virus suddenly found itself confused as its target seemed to drop into the floor, before vanishing entirely.
= = = =
Three miles down the corridor, under the bedrock of an entirely different world, a closet sits carved out of the rock and built entirely out of Generic Surface. The small room stores gauze and C-cell batteries; the former for the Medical Department, the latter for any number of devices filched from the hundreds of worlds patrolled by the PPC. Today, for a short while, it held one more thing as well.
In the furthest-back corner of the closet, Makes-Things huddled behind a pallet of gauze, terrified out of his brilliant mind. He was hardly a stranger to combat, as much as he'd have wished it otherwise; he had spent over thirty years of his life working in the PPC, and though he may not have been the oldest he had been there the longest. Every crisis from the Cascade on had been met from behind the lines by his own ingenuity, and later that of a Department that seemed to grow up around him. He'd been out into the field as well, hunting down new technology to use as a base or simply as inspiration, on more trips than he could remember over the course of his tenure.
Still, he was far from being a warrior. While he, through his tech, had spent those thirty-odd years fighting the Mary Sues, he'd actually encountered them only a few times—and the one time he'd met one in HQ, it had landed him in Medical for nearly a month. And that had been in one of the hallways; never, ever, had he faced any enemy, let alone an enemy like that, in his sanctum sanctorum.
But at that thought, something clicked in his mind. He had never fought anything in his workshop; nothing had ever even tried to stop him. Only once, during the Mary Sue Invasion five years ago, had any kind of enemy even dared* to enter his shop, and then only after he'd been put into Medical with a Sue-blade in his lung. Returning to find his workshop wrecked had made him fumingly angry, but this thing, this monstrous bloated nightmare, was in his lab right now, had had the gall to break in and try to ruin his shop while he was there!
That train of thought took him from terrified, to annoyed, to outright furious. But Makes-Things was a man of science, and as such had only two ways to respond to furious anger. One was to unleash a volley of profanity that could make half of the Disc blush. The other was to get crafty.
Standing up, he brushed off his clothes, shook out his coat, and carefully readjusted his glasses. Picking up his workbelt, he examined the tools on it and weighed his options. The Remote Activator was the most useful, at the moment—with it, he had access to the entirety of HQ, and anything therein. But Makes-Things had never been a fighting man, and years of associating with Agents had done nothing good to his perception of how killing should be carried out. Thinking back to the contents of the Lab, he slowly formulated a plan of action. It was dangerous, quite potentially suicidal, and based more than slightly on luck; definitely not the sort of thing most of the PPC would have thought of when they thought of Makes-Things.
He thought it was perfect.
= = = =
Back in the Main Lab, the macrovirus was busily searching for signs of another potential host, and in the process wrecking the place even further than it already had. By chance, one of its flailing arms slammed a drill press hard enough to break the bolts holding it to the floor, sending it flying at high speed back towards the front of the Lab. It sailed out to the ruined hallway beyond, hitting the far wall with an abominable noise and missing Agent Cameron's lowered head by about eighteen inches.
It was startling, to say the least. Enough so that Cameron didn't pause to think about what exactly had the strength to do something like that, or punch a fifteen-foot-long gap in the Lab's front wall, but instead let out a violent curse in Klingon and rounded the corner through the hole, into the Main Lab.
He barely had time to register the devastation that had been wrought on the room before the macrovirus detected another heat signature. The sawmill-in-glue sound started up again as it began dragging itself towards the new arrival, which got Cameron's attention very quickly.
Even so, it took the Agent a moment to comprehend exactly what he was facing, and when comprehension came, it led straight to raw panic. With no way to fight a ten-foot macrovirus, his hind-brain opted for flight instead; he hurled the broken CAD in the virus' direction and spun, attempting to race back out the hole. In his haste, however, he slipped on the loose remains of the front wall, falling hard on sharp bits of Generic Surface and catching his foot in the ruins. The sudden fall dropped him down fast enough that a jet of slime from the virus missed him badly, splashing across the hallway to his left. But it took him eight seconds, in his haste, to get his foot free—and that was all the time the macrovirus needed to catch up.
Staring up at the mountain of flesh and bulges in front of him, Cameron found himself strangely calm as the thing raised one of its whiplike arms. He really couldn't tell why. But in the sudden relative quiet, the subdued snap of a portal opening made itself heard, and the traditional glowing doorway appeared above the macrovirus. Out of it came a cardboard box, open-end down, and clinging to the box for dear life was Makes-Things, immediately having second thoughts about his plan.
At that point, though, it was too late. The box landed exactly at the peak of the arched arm, kept on going until the whole thing had vanished inside of it—and kept going from there. The noise levels abruptly went back to unbearable, and Cameron found himself witnessing a sight unlike anything in the history of the PPC—the macrovirus disappearing into a cardboard box about one-sixteenth its size, physics bending the bulk of the virus around the edges of the container, and Makes-Things on the top looking like an accountant who'd suddenly and inexplicably found himself riding in a rodeo.
Despite the virus being basically bodyslammed by physics, it refused to give up the ghost so easily, using its two free arms to haul itself around what was left of the Main Lab and to cause as much property damage as possible in the process. The buzzing never abated, and the speaker to Hell had never given up, but Makes-Things wasn't about to, either. It was a battle of titanic wills, one basic in nature, the other quite desperate.
In the end, desperation won out. Cameron picked his way around the wreckage and ruined equipment to find Makes-Things kneeling on top of the box, watching as the last of the massive virus disappeared inside of it. Wordlessly, he reached down on the side that Cameron couldn't see, fiddled with something there, and slapped his hand down hard.
There was a very loud ZAP. The box stopped moving entirely, and the speaker system in the Lab chose that moment to find a short in the network and cut itself off completely. Everything went silent.
Cameron wanted to say something, preferably something strong and vulgar, but just wound up mouthing silently. Makes-Things climbed off the cardboard box, and whipped it away from the space where the virus had been to reveal... a cockroach. The roach dithered in circles frantically as if having trouble making sense of itself, but before it could run away one black work boot stamped it flat into the Generic Surface.
Cameron finally unstuck his jaw, searching for words. "What's... what's the trick?"
The senior technician set the box down and spun it in a circle. On the side Cameron hadn't seen, the word "Duplicator" had been written, and then crossed out in a different marker. Written in with that same marker was the word "Transmogrifier," and below it an arrow made of cardboard had been attached with a long brass fastener. There was a lot of empty space around it, but one setting had been written in near the arrow: "Cockroach."
Cameron just stared at that for a moment, before giving the senior technician another flabbergasted look. "You... just stopped that thing."
"Yeah... yeah, YEAH, YEAH!" Exactly what he had just done hit the technician as hard as the macrovirus had hit the Main Lab. He staggered, looking more than a little stunned, but grinning wide enough that he practically bisected his own head. "I just killed a macrovirus! That ten-foot abomination came in here, and it tried to kill me, and I killed it! That THING! Ha-ha!" He hopped up onto the initially felled section of wall, spinning on his heel. "It came in here, it tried to destroy my workshop, and I stopped it from destroying… the… place…" Atop the rubble, he finally got a good look at what was left of his Main Lab, and his voice trailed off.
"Further?" Cameron offered.
"Further!" The exuberance returned, somewhat less strong. "Right, awesome, fantastic! Now we clean up." He nodded. "You can grab some weapons, first—there's a closet on the far wall, back left corner, though the plasma might make getting to it tricky..."
Cameron cocked his head to one side. "I'm... not part of the DoSAT, Makes-Things... Agent Cameron, DoF, y'know..."
"Well, if you see any of my technicians on the way, let them know, then! In the meantime, please check the weapons cupboard." And that was that. Makes-Things turned around, hopped down, and headed over to the broken front wall, which he started inspecting. Cameron figured it was really best not to argue at this point, shrugged, and began picking his way over the ruins of the Lab.
Makes-Things wasn't really inspecting the wall—Building Maintenance would have to fix that, it wasn't his job to handle-but rather the wiring inside of it. It had held on for a moment, while the wall caved in, meaning that it had wound up much worse for wear when it finally broke. More work. Still, it couldn't be that much of a problem, if ten-foot-tall viruses weren't, right?
As he was examining the frayed bundle of wire, his phone rang—one of the few things that had stayed on his workbelt during the fight with the macrovirus. He snapped it open and answered it; with his mind fully occupied with the adrenaline from the macrovirus ride, and plans to repair the devastated Main Lab, adding in the phone call just made it all the more crowded. "Hello?"
The voice on the other end quickly identified itself. "This is Tawaki. Are you inside HQ or out?"
Probably another busted CAD; Makes-Things fought a constant battle with the things, in that the Agents kept finding ways to burn them out no matter how well he reinforced them. "In. If you want a CAD replaced, talk to whoever delivers you and Melpomene a TARDIS." Who had he assigned that to? It seemed like a year ago, now...
At that moment, his danger sense kicked it up another notch, to get itself heard through the storm of other thoughts in his mind. Brought to attention, he turned around.
A second macrovirus loomed in front of him, hauling itself over the rubble, raising its third arm to strike. A low, almost subsonic buzzing filled the air. Every other thought—the pride, the plans, the phone call—fled from Makes-Things' mind like patrons from a burning theater, leaving nothing behind but fear and cold logic. "Oh, NO!" He turned, moving to run, dropping the phone. "GET A PHASER, AGENT CAMERON!
The arm launched forwards. Makes-Things' vaunted danger sense took over completely, vocalizing itself to the world at last, in one long scream.
There was a crunch. Then, a thump.
The phone, dropped on the floor, might have kept broadcasting for days. But luck took over instead, and a limp hand, falling to the ground, slapped into the off button, terminating the connection.
= = = =
The Time and Relative Dimensions in Space device, brainchild of the Time Lords of Gallifrey and in this case child of the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology, whirled through the aether that lay between worlds. Inside, a man watched and controlled the motion of the living machine, guiding it through the chaos towards a planet far distant—and yet, not quite.
This was his fifth trip like this, and his fifth different TARDIS for doing so; he still had three more afterward, to boot, and the prospect of home was looking more and more appealing with every cycle.
Silently and unnoticed amid the hell-storm, a plothole opened in space and time, holding itself there just long enough for a message to cut through, and connect to the machine's wireless receiver.
Inside, a speaker let loose a ding, causing the man to perk up in surprise. A message while the TARDIS was in transit meant something important. Quickly, he opened it and read the contents—and instantly wished he hadn't. It was bad news, as he had guessed, considering the situation, but worse than he'd ever dared think.
Dann, the new Senior Technician of the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology, braced his elbows on the TARDIS console and buried his head in his hands. His boss was dead. And, evidently, that made him the man in charge.
"God damnit, Makes-Things," he swore. The TARDIS console gave a different ding than before, which accompanied with the winding down of the machinery meant that it had arrived where it needed to be.
More than anything he wanted to go back to New Caledonia and find a bed somewhere, get some sleep before he had to deal with his new job and title. But duty calls, he thought, and I must not shirk the Duty. Nodding inwardly, he stood up and adjusted the controls for a return trip to New Caledonia, even as the door opened.
"Tawaki? Melpomene? This is your TARDIS. Just before the quarantine went up, Makes-Things sent the rest of us in DoSAT to procure a TARDIS for each pair and trio of Agents in the field, to help you out."
Progress marched on, and the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology would have to keep up with the beat, no matter who the Senior Technician was.
= = = = =
*Technically, "dared" would probably be better replaced with "thought it worthwhile". The majority of Sues show an alarmingly low interest in anything of remote complexity, a term which can also describe ninety percent of the things Makes-Things had in his original workshop.