Forced Realities (or why you should always read the instructions first)

In one of the numerous junk filled rooms that the TARDIS possessed the Doctor sat on a chair trying to re-wire a complicated looking headset. It looked a bit like a silver motorbike helmet with diamonds stuck all over it, a green tinted visor and earphones attached. He had levered open a panel and was randomly attaching them to something he called a psi-projector-regulator.

"So what does the heap of junk do," asked Peri.

"It creates a realistic simulation of-, Ah!" he cried letting go of the regulator, and muttered a curse under his breath.

"Are you OK?"

"Yes," he snapped, "The stupid thing shocked me. No respect for genius." He went back to his tinkering.

"So…you were saying?"

"What?"

"About what that thing does," said Peri, with a sigh.

"Oh this? You know on earth you have your soap operas-,"

"Yeah?"

"This is like a virtual soap opera, but instead of watching it you take part."

"Really? Cool! Can I have a go," she asked reaching out for the headset.

"No," cried the Doctor, holding it away from her like a protective child with a favourite toy. "It's not safe."

"Then how come your gonna' use it?"

He didn't reply, just tried another circuit.

Peri folded her arms with a sigh, "If you're going to be difficult-,"

"They were all the rage on Bere Alston Major, until they were withdrawn because of several unproven side effects."

"What kind of…side effects?" she asked.

"People got stuck in the simulation, unable to return to reality."

"How come you've got one?"

"Some were not returned. I found this specimen for sale, online at an intergalactic auction site," he replied closing the panel. "I've always wanted to try one of these vertuosets for myself," he put the helmet on, the pulled down the visor.

"Are you sure you should be doing this," asked Peri, worried.

"Perfectly," he replied flicking the switch on the side on the headset to 'on'.

Peri observed that the Doctor seemed OK. His eyes were open, staring blankly ahead and he was sat relaxed on the chair.

"Doctor? Can you here me?" she asked there was no reply. She stood there for a while just to make sure he was all right. Then getting a bit bored she wandered off to the library.

When she went to the TARDIS library Peri was never sure what she was going to find but she always ended up picking just the right book. She suspected the ship had a way of telling what she wanted and making sure she found it. Today she picked out a book called 'Notes from a mostly harmless small planet by Ford prefect'. Peri giggled. Why would anyone name himself after a car? She skimmed through the forward written by Arthur Dent (Human). Apparently this was the original version of Earths entry into The Guide. Peri made a mental note to ask the Doctor about this Guide.

Peri woke with a start. The book she had been reading lay open on the back page. She realised she must have nodded off. All the changes in time-zones that travelling in the TARDIS entail gave her a kind of jetlag. She quickly glanced at the grandfather clock, which sat in one corner. It was time for lunch. Peri replaced the book in the shelf and went off in search of the kitchen where hopefully the shelves would be mysteriously fully stocked as usual.

She carried the plate of sandwiches, a selection of cakes and a pot of tea on a expensive looking silver tray into the junk room where she had left the Doctor. He was still engrossed in the vertuoset. Peri put the tray down on a nearby table and after removing a pile of old newspapers from 1908 off of a stool in the corner, dragged it over to opposite the Doctor.

"Tea's ready," she said, but there was no reaction. She shrugged her shoulders and poured herself a drink and took one of the sandwiches.

Peri finished of her cake. She felt the pot; the tea had gone cold now.

"Doctor. Come on stop playing. I cut the sandwiches into little triangles just like you like them." There was no response. She was staring to worry. What if he was stuck? "Doctor can you hear me?" She tapped on the visor.

Peri jumped back in fright almost tripping over as the Doctor suddenly gasped and grabbed the armrests. His eyes were still wide, but she could see the panic in them.

"Doctor? Doctor are you Ok?" No response, but Peri knew there was something wrong. She debated just removing the head set, but she didn't know what effect this might have. It might kill him.

There was a switch. She remembered now. All she had to do was turn it off. Peri flicked the switch, but nothing happened. She cried out in frustration. Why didn't it work? Suddenly she had an idea, she could try and land the TARDIS. She ran down the corridor to the console room. She could land it somewhere where they could help, maybe the people who made the vertuoset, but she didn't have a clue how to work the controls. Peri saw the TARDIS manual lying discarded in the corner where the Doctor had thrown it in a fit of inspiration. She picked it up and turned to the first page.

'Congratulations you are a proud owner of a new Type 40 TARDIS. Please take a few hours to familiarise yourself with the controls…'

She skipped ahead a couple of pages.

'So you want to dematerialise…'

"What?" she exclaimed. Half of the page was a load of techno gobbledygook; the rest had teas stains and a large smudge of what looked like jam obscuring the text. "Why me," she cried out loud in frustration.

Peri returned to the junk room, feeling dejected. The Doctor was in trouble and she was powerless to help. Unexpectedly an old black and white TV set that sat in the corner, precariously perched on a board held up by piles of Stargate videos, turned itself on. She let out a yelp of surprise. It seemed to be playing some ancient public information program with a posh voiced man doing the narration. The sound and picture seemed to jerk and skip a lot. Suddenly Peri realised what was happening the Doctor must be telling her what to do. The words audible through the editing told her what to do. She had seen machine on the screen in the workshop. It was like a heart monitor used in hospitals except instead of pads on the end of the wires there were crocodile clips. She ran down the corridor to the workshop, stuffed in one corner was the machine on a trolley. Peri cleared things out of its way and pushed the trolley out of the room and down the corridor to where the Doctor was. She plugged the machine in and took the clips attaching them to the headset. Then taking a deep breath she switched the machine on…nothing happened, no beep, or buzz there wasn't any response at all. She let out a cry of desperation and hit the machine in frustration. It came to life. It seemed like most things that belonged to the TARDIS if you gave it a good thump it would work. There was a faint hum that began to build in an ominous fashion. Worried Peri tried to turn the machine off but it just wouldn't switch off and she could see the energy surging back and forth between the vertuoset and the machine. She backed away in case the thing exploded. The hum reached its highest pitch and several of the diamonds on the helmet exploded in quite an anticlimactic way with a small puff of smoke.

The Doctor blinked and reached up and flicked open the visor.

"Do you want to fry me alive unplug that machine," he snapped, and then carefully removed the headset.

"Sorry Doctor," replied Peri a note of relief in her voice. "I was so worried about you. I thought-,"

"I'm fine," he replied with a concerned frown. "How did you know what to do?"

"You told me, with the TV," Peri pointed at the set, which set silently in the corner.

"But I did no such thing. There was no way I could."

"Then who?"

Suddenly the Doctor got up and gave the TARDIS a friendly pat, "You saved me old girl."

"Are you calling me a-," Peri stopped, she realised what had happened the TARDIS had told her what to do.

"Well then, shall we go and see whether we've reached our destination?" He picked up the vertuoset walked over to where the dumbwaiter was set into the wall and put it on the tray. "And this will be filed under WARNING do not use." He smiled as it disappeared to who knows where in the depths of the ship.

The End