A few months had passed since the events of ‘The Fall of Gallifrey’. A few trips to 40th century indicated that for a brief time the stars did go out but then they went back to normal and no one had a clear memory of why. Time seemed to have returned to normal, with occasional blemishes.
Travelling in the Forbidden TARDIS was not a pleasant experience for Phillipa. Consisting of a single chamber she had to sleep on the floor, among the flowers, and take care of her physical needs (eating, drinking, basic hygiene, etc) when the TARDIS landed.
While the Inspector’s TARDIS had displayed a benevolent intelligence the new time ship had no such aspect. It had deposited her in the middle of desert, on the edge of volcano and somewhere in a barren tundra. She had to simply wait inside the craft until it decided to move on again.
The holographic Inspector was little comfort. The Forbidden TARDIS was allowing him to remain fully charged but Phillipa had woken up on several occasions to find him in mid conversation with someone. When questioned he denied that he was speaking to anyone.
The TARDIS had landed in Portland, Oregon in 1981. The Inspector was relieved that they weren’t in Britain, apparently having had bad experiences of Thatcher’s UK. Phillipa kept the hologram deactivated while she wandered the city, looking for somewhere she could get some food.
Passing an arcade called ‘Electro-Paradise’ Phillipa was drawn inside, entranced by the futuristic games such as ‘Donkey Kong’ and ‘Ms Pac Man’. Her attention was drawn to a commotion by the ‘Vortex’ machine.
A small boy that bystanders identified as Jack, was on the floor. Phillipa quickly identified that he was having a fit and started to provide the appropriate first aid while yelling for someone to call an ambulance.
She’d just got his condition under control when four men in black suits and shades arrived. Flashing FBI badges they started to take away the Vortex machine, stepping over the unconscious boy.
At the Inspector’s urging (communicating silently to her through the bracelet) Phillipa demanded to see their badge clearly. To her untrained eyes they appeared legitimate but she continued to question them, earning her a hostile response from Agent Smith and his men.
Told to mind her own business or face being brought in for obstruction the agents left in a black van with the machine, just as an ambulance arrived to take Jack to the hospital. Phillipa stayed to question the owner of the arcade, Ray, who was currently worried about being sued.
From Ray Phillipa learnt that the Vortex machine had been left on his doorstep as a gift from the Gemini company. It proved extremely popular, the money it brought in more than making up for the occasional fit it induced in the player.
He confirmed that he knew of several other arcades that had received the same machine. Phillipa persuaded him to contact his friend Joe to set up a viewing of the Vortex game. She needed to know why the MiB had taken it. The Inspector also suggested using the paperwork with the machine to find out who was making it.
Searching his messy office the Inspector pointed out the invoice to Phillipa providing her with an address for the Gemini company. With a bit of persuading Ray agreed to drive Phillipa first to Joe’s arcade and then to the Gemini company after work.
With time to kill the Inspector instructed Phillipa to go to one of the arcade machines. He then used his electronic nature to ‘persuade’ the machine to spit out the quarters inside. Ray was horrified and Phillipa pretended to pick up the money, pocketing $10 for herself.
Neither players saw anything wrong in stealing from the nice NPC who had offered to help them. Instead Phillipa went to a local diner to have a real American hamburger. Her meal was disturbed by a radio newsflash that President Reagan had been shot and had been rushed to hospital.
Phillipa was concerned and asked the Inspector if this could have anything to do with the events they were looking into. The hologram reassured her that this was part of history and that Reagen would recover.
Returning to meet Ray he drove her across the city to Joe’s arcade, which had just closed to the public. The Inspector convinced Phillipa that she needed to play Vortex so he could see it in action.
Putting a quarter in she found it was very like piloting the TARDIS, which she had done several times with the Inspector (real or otherwise) directing her. The Inspector again communed with the machine, noting the subliminal programming within, messages flashing up for a split second linked to certain musical cues.
Although she did well, racking up an impressive score, Phillipa began to feel ill and she began to feel a small headache developing. None the less the Inspector had reached his conclusion. The machine was programmed by an advanced intelligence with some knowledge of time travel.
Phillipa pleaded with Joe not to allow anyone else to play the machine, despite the money it made him before leaving with Ray. It was night by the time they arrived at an empty business park.
The Gemini company building appeared to be locked up tight. Ray suggested that they come back in the morning but Phillipa was determined. She suggested that Ray go but he wasn’t prepared to leave her alone at night.
Using a crowbar from Ray’s car trunk they managed to break the lock on the loading bay doors, entering inside. Using Ray’s fire lighter as a light source they explored the warehouse area.
It was clear that the arcade machines had been stored here from the wooden palates on the ground. A clipboard indicated addresses of arcades across the country and at the rear of the area was a Vortex machine ready to be shipped.
From the loading bay door four figures entered, beams of torchlights sweeping across the interior. To their horror Ray and Phillipa saw that these intruders were armed with pistols. They had no choice but to hide as the figures searched the warehouse.
To be Continued…