Best Bananas in the Universe
It was, he would later reflect, not the best idea he’d ever had.
But he’d seen enough killing. Enough, in fact, for all thirteen of his lives: the eight he’d lived, the one he was working on, and the four he might someday make it through. And there it is. His first official thought of the future. Over the past three weeks, he’d not even considered living beyond this incarnation. Not at all. Even that shifty business on the Titanic hadn’t quite convinced him that he wanted to live, though why he’d clung to that iceberg instead of drowning (assuming he had a death wish, of course), the Doctor still didn’t know.
That, however, was for later. How he’d found himself wandering around a weapons factory on fifty-first century Earth was quite beyond the Doctor; he’d finally snapped at the TARDIS to take him someplace useful (after her gentle nagging to do something had nearly driven him mad), and she’d popped them out here. Right in sight of a place she knew he’d hate: full of weapons and people who sold them to those who killed others. Right away, he’d found himself absolutely itching to destroy the place, and that wasn’t the right answer.
Not at the moment, anyway. Seeing as how the TARDIS had plunked him down right outside the factory, he figured that something fishy had to be going on, but so far everything seemed open and above ground. He was on the “eyes-only” tour at the moment, and even the places not open to the public seemed to be in order.
Which usually means that something fishy is going on, he thought darkly. At least in my experience. But I may just be bitter. Hard to tell, these days.
He focused with an effort. The tour guide was talking. Imagine that.
“So, Doctor, as you can see, we only manufacture the highest grade sonic weaponry here at Villengard,” she informed him on their walk around the factory. “Although competing businesses claim to produce weapons of equal quality, our new line of ‘squareness guns’ are clearly superior.”
“Oh, clearly,” he replied, just to keep her talking. The short busybody of a woman seemed to have no idea that he’d even responded and carried on smartly, her voice growing more arrogant by the moment.
“Of course, the nickname ‘squareness gun’ has been applied by our consumers and the general public. The official designation for the newest model is MSD-7 (Golf), and as you’ll see in the upcoming demonstration, it is quite an improvement over the MSD-7 (Foxtrot) in both terms of range and lethality.”
“And when is this demonstration?” he asked, his eyes roaming over the assembly line. The officious woman (‘Blanchet, Stephanie, Chief Operating Manager’ her nametag said) thought he was a wealthy investor interested in sinking money into this abominable business that was already worth billions. Psychic paper was so useful.
“We’re on our way there now, of course.”
“Oh, of course.”
She led him through one more assembly line of disgruntled looking workers (the Doctor was willing to bet that they didn’t see one cent from the massive profit Châtellerault Incorporated scooped in day after day) and then into a hallway that looked sterile and impersonal enough to be located in a hospital. Normal, normal, and more normal. This is so boring.
A moment later, they approached a heavy steel door, probably reinforced. Definitely not an exhibit on the standard tour route.
Six-seven-six-two. He made careful note of the combination as she punched it into the door, memorizing it and filing the information away for future reference. A faculty like this had combination locks even a sonic screwdriver couldn’t crack, and one never knew when the ability to break into a top secret weapons factory might prove useful. Besides, it was something to do.
“Here we are, Doctor. If you’ll kindly don the hearing protection on the table to your left, and direct your attention through the windows straight ahead, the demonstration will begin shortly.”
“Thank you,” he replied cheerfully, doing as he’d been told. After all, he had no desire to damage the (unforgivably large) ears on this body of his, even if squareness guns were supposed to be quiet compared to other weapons. Companies like Châtellerault Incorporated didn’t make their money by endangering possible investors.
Suddenly, the lights came on beyond the windows, revealing the image of one weapons-testing expert (so he assumed, anyway), holding a MSD-7 (Golf)–again, an assumption, as no one had bothered to show him the weapon up close. To the Doctor, the gun looked almost exactly like every other squareness gun he’d ever seen, which admittedly wasn’t too many.
Blanchet seemed to read his mind. “If you’ll look at the table in front of the window, sir, you can see a field-stripped MSD-7 (Golf) and an assembled weapon as well. Both are of the final version of the MSD-7 (Golf). It is slightly more compact and lighter by six ounces than the MSD-7 (Foxtrot), in addition to having both greater range and longer battery life.”
Since he was playing the investor, the Doctor stepped forward to handle the assembled weapon, noticing that it was indeed light and very well balanced. Little though he liked most guns, he wasn’t exactly a stranger to using them, and this one was rather nicely put together. For a gun.
By the time he looked up, a line of holographic individuals had been placed facing the weapons-tester, and the gray-clad man was raising the MSD-7 (Golf).
Blanchet narrated again: “As you can see, the MSD-7 (Golf) has a far greater spread than the Foxtrot variation and is able to encompass fifteen square feet of targets with one shot.” The weapon fired, just once, and all six holograms disappeared. “The battery also allows for up to twenty-five shots in two minutes, or five hundred shots in one hour before recharging or a battery swap is required.
“This, of course, is a marked improvement over the Foxtrot, which fires a maximum of ten shots in two minutes or two hundred per hour. As you can see, the MSD-7 (Golf) is lethal over the entire range, as well. We do not use holograms here at Châtellerault Incorporated; you have just witnessed a full-up weapons demonstration on living targets.”
That took a moment to sink in.
“On what?” the Doctor demanded.
Blanchet looked at him imperiously. “On living targets. We have an agreement with the government allowing us to utilize inmates from the local penal colony–”
“Live people,” he cut her off flatly.
“Of course,” she replied in a tone that implied what else should we use?
“I see.” And he did. Of course he did.
The worst part was that he hadn’t done anything. Not a thing. He’d stood there and let those six people be murdered simply because he’d assumed they were holograms. It was a rookie mistake. A kid mistake. One that he shouldn’t have been making with nine hundred years of experience behind him, and one that had cost six people their lives.
Not to mention how many other people had died in this factory over the years, all in the name of weapons testing. And, his brain pointed out rather helpfully, the penal colony here doesn’t accept prisoners sentenced to death. They’re all petty criminals, probably ones no one will miss if they die in unspecified “accidents.”
He was almost shaking in rage, but felt more cold than anything else. Distant. Calculating.
One mistake was all he was going to make.
Blanchet cleared her throat. “Do you require a second demonstration, Doctor?”
“No, I think I’ve got the idea, thanks.” Perhaps he’d not laid the sarcasm on as thickly as he thought, because it seemed to go right over Blanchet’s head. He took a deep breath and stilled his rampaging hearts; a plan was beginning to come together in his mind, but it would take some careful work. “I would like another look at the assembly floor, though.”
“Of course, sir.”
He half-listened as Blanchet explained Villengard’s ultra-modern assembly process, keying in only on those words he really needed to hear, such as ‘high temperature,’ ‘volatile,’ and ‘chemicals.’ His mind was already rushing on a dozen steps ahead of his guide; if he really wanted to, he could analyze everything she’d said later. Time Lords had a perfect memory, and he supposed his was the last of its kind in the universe. Might as well get some use out of it.
Of course, he hadn’t intended to blow the factory up when he’d come visiting, not even once Blanchet told him about cooperation’s plans for future expansion. The Doctor’s original intention had been more along the lines of convincing the business’ owner (well, majority stockholder, anyway) that widespread sales of the squareness gun was a very bad idea. As weapons went, the squareness gun was absolutely fantastic, and the Doctor would have been lying if he wasn’t ready to admit that they’d been extremely useful in the Time War. However, the weapon that had once only been available to a limited market (such as Time Agents, legitimate governments, and the like) was about to go up for sale to anyone with the money to buy them, and that was bad.
The old saying was holding quite true: as profits go up, morals go down. The TARDIS knew him well; she had dumped him in a place where he could be useful. The Doctor had come to Villengard because the company needed stopping–but now that he’d been faced with the stark reality of the situation, he intended to go quite a bit further than a bit of arm-twisting and/or blackmail.
He keyed back in to Blanchet’s babble just in time:
“Monsieur de Winter will be so sorry he missed you, Doctor,” the ‘Chief Operating Manager’ told him sincerely. Apparently she’d either missed his disgust from earlier or it was a normal reaction. “Is there a time he can call on you…later this week, perhaps? We at Châtellerault Incorporated are always eager to welcome new investors, especially those of your caliber, and I know that Monsieur de Winter will be devastated to have missed your visit.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry to have missed him, too,” the Doctor assured her. After all, he would have loved to tell Armand de Winter what he thought of the factory and its…business practices.
“Perhaps you can leave a number at which he can reach you?”
“Certainly!” And he favored her with his widest smile as he wrote down the TARDIS’ number, the one he gave to absolutely no one. But he doubted that ‘Monsieur de Winter’ would use this one more than once, and there was absolutely no way he’d be missing that call. If it ever came.
And he whistled his way out of the factory, complete with a special-made folder chock full of useful information on the MSD-7 (Golf) squareness gun and its manufacture.
He came back, of course. After doing a bit of shopping–even his TARDIS didn’t have the right chemicals in her lab these days, though she had before he’d made such a habit out of blowing Daleks up during the Time War. Blowing–Don’t think of that, Doctor! he told himself sternly. The war is over, and it’s time to move on. You spent plenty of time curled up and crippled with grief already; there’s something to do right now, and you’d best get on with it.
Get on with it he did, buying liberal amounts of Xerograph-C from two different chemical stores. Not that Xerograph-C was a controlled substance or anything like that (it was usually used in office machines and printers, not in dangerous explosions); the first store simply hadn’t had enough in stock, and he’d had to come up with a hurried explanation of why anyone would want twenty-seven-point-nine-five liters of the stuff.
In the end, he’d wound up with thirty liters of it because the second store didn’t have any quantities smaller than a liter, which the Doctor found more than a tad annoying. What in the world was he going to do with the extra two-point-zero-five liters of Xeorgraph-C? He supposed that he could store it in the TARDIS, but the likelihood of him needing it again before another three to five centuries had passed was very low.
With much disappointment, he found out that the factory operated twenty-four hours a day. Rather, a security guard informed him of that when he was caught snooping about the exterior.
“Hey, you! What do you think you’re doing there by the door? This is a secure area!”
“Oh, hello!” He fished his psychic paper out and flashed it at the guard. “John Smith. Private security firm, assessing your…defensive measures. Looks like you’re doing fantastic!”
“Right then. Thank you, Mr. Smith. I’ll just be on my way...”
“Thank you, sir, for your cooperation. I may be by later to ask you some more specific questions.” And he grinned sweetly at the guard, who was undoubtedly hurrying away from the corporate-level lunatic.
“‘Bout time,” he muttered to himself, waiting for the guard to disappear before yanking out his sonic screwdriver to crack the door open. It was a good thing that the guard hadn’t noticed the rather large stack of bottles the Doctor had hastily covered with a tarp–after all, they weren’t supposed to be there, and the Doctor had spent the better part of an hour lugging all the bottles in through the fence without being noticed.
Time Lord pockets might have been bigger on the inside than on the outside, but he absolutely drew the line at putting twenty-eight bottles of Xeorgraph-C inside his jacket. The stuff was blue, sticky, and downright smelly, and if he spilled even a drop of it on the leather of his jacket, it would never come out.
Slipping inside, he left the bottles under the tarp. Doing so was taking a chance, but he could hardly bring them with him. Not without putting the whole lot in his pockets, and he’d already gone to great lengths to avoid that.
Workers hardly noticed him, too engrossed in their menial tasks to bother with the funny looking, big eared alien who’d just wandered into their midst. Humans. Never noticing the obvious.
But he found what he was looking for almost immediately. There. On the wall. Bright red and labeled PULL FOR FIRE.
Grinning, he yanked the handle down–it was amazing how alike fire alarms were, all the way across time and space. He added to the sudden chaos by shouting:
“Everyone out! Quickly, the main reactor is going critical!”
It wasn’t quite the truth; he honestly had no interest in the main reactor, or at least not right away. But the alarm he pulled was accurate enough: pretty soon, the entire factory (starting with the battery room) would be very much on fire. But just because he liked to blow things up (and he did have to admit that this personality seemed to have just a bit of a fetish for that) didn’t mean he liked to kill people. So, grinning just a bit too big, he added at the top of his lungs:
“Run for your lives!”
Perhaps that was a bit over the top.
But they ran, anyway, almost smashing one another into goo in the race to get out. Thankfully, there were plenty of exits, and after the factory was evacuated, he spent a good few moments baring all of them (except for the one by the twenty-eight bottles of Xeorgraph-C) to make sure no one else could get back inside. And to keep the police out. Definitely to keep the police out. He wouldn’t want them intruding on his little explosion, after all.
Over the following five minutes or so, he transported the twenty-eight bottles of Xeorgraph-C inside and spread it liberally about the factory–all over the floors, the equipment, everywhere he could think of…but especially in the battery room, after using his sonic screwdriver to weaken a dozen or so batteries’ casings. That should be more than enough. He spread extra cases of batteries all over the assembly line, too, just for good measure.
Now, for one final touch… Looking around for a moment, he finally settled on a spot on top of the weakened batteries for his second toy. The new toy was not from the TARDIS’ lab, but was definitely from a spare cabinet in the TARDIS, one of those he’d never let his companions (except for Ace) play with. It was a detonator, of course, and even one from Earth. He has no idea how long it has been in that cabinet, but decided earlier that it’d do well enough. The detonator was designed to work with Nitro, but people usually forgot that Nitro was the main element in those ultra-flammable batteries squarness guns needed.
That Nitro was inert, of course. Hence the Xeorgraph-C, which quite neatly included every single chemical required to make that Nitro…not so inert.
“Gotcha,” he muttered to himself, watching the detonator settle into place. It wasn’t on a timer–he’d not rely on something so boring as that–but that was never a problem.
He became aware of the high-pitched wailing of sirens outside just in time, realizing that he only had a few minutes to spare. So, the Doctor slipped back out through the door, his mind already a few steps ahead, sealing it with his sonic screwdriver as he went. He took the long route, heading far away from the factory before coming close again, and then joining the crowd that had already gathered behind the police safety lines.
“Ms. Blanchet!” He hurried up, seeming more out of breath than he really was. Playing to the crowd. “I heard on the ‘net that something has gone wrong with the factory–can you tell me what’s going on?”
“Oh, there’s really nothing to worry about, Doctor. I’m certain it’s just a false alarm and everything will be just fine.”
Just like he was quite certain that he was playing with her, just a little, but being naughty felt good.
“Of course it will!” he grinned at her. “I’m sure everything will be just fantastic.” Out of the corner of his eye, the Doctor noticed as nearby worker took the moment to crack his lunchbox (dinner box?) open and snag a banana.
Oooh. There’s an idea.
His wicked grin only grew as the fire trucks came closer; he’d delayed long enough to let the crowd build and get the message across. Too bad Monsieur de Winter isn’t here to watch…
Behind his back, the sonic screwdriver came out, and he thumbed the setting by memory. Setting number one thousand six hundred and seventy-two, sonic signal, just strong enough.
The explosion was absolutely fantastic.
He’d barely returned to the TARDIS when the phone started ringing.
“You did it, didn’t you?” the angry voice on the other end demanded. “There’s no Doctor on my list of possible investors, and I’ve heard of you. Always meddling and poking your head in where it doesn’t belong–I’ll sue you, mister! Just you wait! I’m going to have you in court!”
“Are you done?” the Doctor asked as innocently he could manage.
“Is this ‘Monsieur de Winter?’” he interrupted, letting his voice drop out of the playful range and into something much more dangerous.
“Yes! I’m the majority owner of Châtellerault Incorporated, and–”
“You were the owner,” the Doctor cut him off again. “Now, listen very carefully to me, Monsieur de Winter, because I’m only going to say this once. Your business has taken it upon itself to kill people in the name of making money. I don’t like that. And when I don’t like things, they explode. Understand?”
“You can’t threaten me, Doctor. I’ll have the police after you in no time!”
He burst out laughing hard enough to make his stomach hurt. “Oh, I’m sure you will! But it won’t do you any good. None at all. So, Monsieur de Winter, let me make myself clear: if you try to rebuild this factory, I’ll turn it into a banana grove. A very large banana grove, with the very best bananas in the universe.”
The Doctor didn’t bother to listen to the rest; he hung up the phone, grinning to himself. A banana grove! The idea was simply perfect. Inspired. Fitting.
Humans being humans, Monsieur de Winter did indeed try to rebuild the factory, claiming that the “main reactor had gone critical” due to some “defective parts”. No one really believed him, and whispers of rival companies and industrial espionage filled the public imagination for weeks on end. He had a hard time getting workers to rebuild the factory, what with all of the “terrorist threats” that kept coming in, and no company he hired was willing to work twenty-four hour shifts. So, worksite was empty every night, which made the Doctor’s task even more simple.
Linearly speaking, the first explosion had taken place three months ago, during which time Châtellerault Incorporated had paid for all of the rubble to be cleared away in preparation for the laying of a new foundation. For the Doctor, it had only been a few days–just long enough to visit a few very special places and gather up the necessary supplies.
He wouldn’t bother improvising this time; a little bit of Quick Grow (found only in the Messlinia-B Solar System) coupled with an awful lot of Ultra Soil (from thirty-six centuries forward in Earth’s future) made the factory’s former site into a field in no time. Sprinkling the seeds took almost an hour, but then the Doctor was able to sit back and relax, leaning against the TARDIS.
Watching the bananas grow.
By morning, there was an entire banana grove in place. They were a stubborn strain of banana trees, too, hard to cut down and even harder to uproot. Of course, they weren’t traditional Earth bananas at all, much though they looked the same–these were the careful cross between three different planets’ species in addition to the traditional kind. (He’d always wanted to be a scientist, after all, and he’d spent hours tinkering in the lab making these just right.) They looked like normal Earth bananas, of course. Almost identical, if just a little bit more yellow. Just right.
Upon sampling one (very close to dawn), the Doctor discovered that they were indeed delicious. The very best bananas in the universe.