Sands of Time
Piper and the Doctor started at the Ancient Era, where all the 4-bit and 8-bit games awaited. The games were large boxes with small computer screens in the front, with dozens of electrical cords, both thick and thin, plugged into small generators. Piper began her journey by playing one of the more famous ancient era games: Pacman. She concentrated hard as she controlled the yellow-ball man with the triangular mouth. The yellow man darted through the maze, gobbling up tiny, white, single pixelated balls, while also avoiding the three, blue eyed ghosts chasing him. Piper’s first attempt failed after about five minutes.
“Aw man!” She cried, disappointed.
“You can do it, Piper. Try it again” the Doctor encouraged.
“But I’m not good at it!” Piper whined.
“Nah, your attempt was as good as mine when I tried! Go on, play it again!”
Piper took a deep breath, and put her bracelet under the scanner. The game booted up, and the maze was reset, and put into motion once again. All commotion around her drowned out as she focused as keen as she could on the Pacman, moving him through the maze. Five minutes later, Piper was racing away from the ghosts, trying to move towards the top left of the maze to obtain the last three white pixels.
“Ah, you’re so close, Piper! Almost there!” the Doctor exclaimed.
Piper bit her lip, squinting her eyes as the situation grew intense. Then, she was heading straight for the white balls, with all three ghosts chasing the yellow man.
Finally, she sharply rounded the corner and got the last bits. A fanfare suddenly played as text flashed across the scene, “You won!”
“Yes! I did it!” Piper cried.
“Ha!” The Doctor shouted, “Brilliant, Piper! Brilliant!”
Piper jumped into his arms, squealing excitedly, her uncle laughing along with her. It was such a wonderful feeling, not so much satisfied of her victory, but the fact that when she was in the Doctor’s arms, she felt so happy, and safe.
Piper played more games in the Common Era section than any other ones. There were so many to choose from: Mario 64, Solid Snake, Tomb Raider, Sonic the Hedgehog, Legend of Zelda, and more! There was even Mortal Kombat, but Piper was discreet enough to decline. They spent quite a long time in there, as Piper was hanging on every plot thread and dialogue the characters did and exchanged. But she managed to pull herself away, as the late afternoon came upon them, and they journeyed to the last section, the Virtual Reality Section.
The Virtual Reality Era Section was quite different from the other sections. This one was very widespread, with thick, clean walls of black and white, with glowing blue lines running down from the floor to ceiling. There were symmetrical rows of clean, round chairs, with a headset sitting next to them on pedestals.
Piper walked towards one, and placed the bracelet on her wrist underneath the scanner. There was a click, and the security measurements keeping the headset glued to the pedestal loosened. She felt a hand on her shoulder. Piper turned around to face the Doctor.
“Be careful with virtual reality” he warned.
She raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“You’ll get dizzy for the first few seconds on your first use.”
Piper let out a sigh of relief. She was expecting something life threatening. She looked back up and loosened her shoulders.
“I will. I promise. You’ll be alright on your own for a bit?” she asked.
“Oh yeah!” the Doctor replied, nonchalantly, “I will stay right here. Don’t worry.”
Slowly, she stepped up and sat in the chair. She reached over, took the headset off the pedestal, and placed it on her head (it was a bit difficult since she had high pigtails in her hair). She glanced at the Doctor again, who was now a few feet away in front of her. He smiled. Piper smiled back. Then, as the headset whirred to life, she leaned back, closed her eyes, and entered the virtual world.
The game was randomly selected, so it took a moment for it to set up.
“Welcome, to Sands of Time, an artistic adventure game like no other. Enjoy your experience and thank you for visiting Arcade Station.”
Piper sat in the black void. No sight, no sound. It was a weird feeling. She knew she was still sitting in the chair, and she knew the Doctor was right with her, but she felt uncertain in this environment where there was no one around. She continued floating in the dark and silence.
The game…Was it broken?
Suddenly, a bright light crashed towards her, practically blinding her. Her virtual hands suddenly assembled, giving her the ability to shield her eyes. The white turned into an orange light.
Then the orange light formed into a meadow. It went on for what seemed like miles, with red grass and golden yellow flowers, and mountains popped up over the horizon. Piper floated above the surface of this simulated world. Finally, she touched the ground with her toe, then both her entire feet.
“When you wish to continue, simply speak ‘continue’. At any time, say ‘exit’ when you are ready to depart the game.”
The grass was soft like silk as she stepped. The only sounds that could be heard was the gentle breeze. Piper’s senses was filled with crisp smells of clay, mixed with some kind of clear aloe smell, and a touch of cinnamon. She recognized these smells.
“Wow…” Piper breathed, “It smells just like…”
An odd sensation built inside her. She felt longing, some kind of nostalgia for these surroundings. Unbeknownst to why, Piper sat in the tender grass, then fully lied into it. The grass was high enough that it built up a wall around her. Piper closed her eyes.
“And then, they took off, and ran away!”
Piper giggled, in a small voice. She watched the long, rolling red hills, a gentle breeze blowing past them.
She looked at him.
“Uncle Doctor, will I ever be able to travel with you someday?”
He looked down at her. He smiled, but not an entirely happy smile. Partly serious.
“I don’t know. It will entirely depend on how brave you are. How strong you are. The universe is not for the faint of heart. There are many dangers, many frightful things to see.”
“I can be brave! Especially if you’re with me!”
He chuckled. With one hand he patted her head, and the other he took her hand. She leaned into his big coat and closed her eyes.
“I would love it if you came.”
She suddenly sat back up. She was ready to move forward.
“Continue” she announced.
After she spoke, the world rushing forward, faster than she could walk. A city appeared, one with high walls, and over them a domed fortress, with metal rims that gleamed in the sunlight.
The capital city.
“I lived here…”
The doors of the fortified city flew open, as if Piper’s arrival was a grand event. Then, the game suddenly halted, and tons of computer generated characters appeared. They here hustling and bustling, talking and shouting, passing around toys or produce. Piper was turned around, looking at all the people. Once again, she was experiencing intense, sentimental, wistful vibes. She closed her eyes again.
“Mummy, I found them!”
She ran over to a market stall, where an elderly woman in a faded red robe sat. Green fruit with purple spikes hung from the ceiling, and nets filled with hairy plums littered the desk. A woman with flowing red hair and clear blue eyes rushed to catch up. She laughed.
“Well, what do you know? You did find them!”
Piper giggled. “See? I’m very observant!”
The woman chuckled. “Yes you are!”
“Sweetie you can’t just run off like that! We could’ve lost you!”
A man with black hair also met up with them. He had a stern voice.
“Oh darling, she didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Hurry! Uncle Doctor is coming back to Gallifrey! I don’t want to miss him!”
Suddenly, the world went dark. Piper’s heart skipped a beat. It was like some kind of divine influence flipped the switch on the sun. She was still standing on a surface, so she knew something was here.
“I’m terribly sorry! Hold on just a moment, let me see here…”
Who was that!?
Then lights flashed on again, completely startling her. She found herself in the center of a disk-shaped platform, surrounded by rows of seats circling around it. Tall, thin, men and women loomed over her, wearing thick, red coats with gold trimming, and curved headdresses. They stared intensively down at her, as if she had committed a crime. Piper shifted uneasily. She knew where she was.
She never liked this place, and she never understood how her father could stand it. She could hear the loud, chilling booms of the council as they shouted down at the man standing atop the accused platform. Suddenly, a pair of arms scooped her up.
“Darling, what are you doing here!?” a woman’s voice hissed.
“Mummy, why are they upset at Uncle Doctor? He didn’t do anything wrong!”
“Sweetie you’re not supposed to be here. Come along!”
The woman grabbed her hand and promptly pulled her away and out of the cold, unfeeling place. Piper watched the Accused grow smaller and smaller as she progressed further and further away.
Suddenly flashes of fire and ash and screaming filled her sight and ears. Her eyes flew opened and she winced from the gripping pain in her head that immediately came and went. Emerging from the darkness was a man in a black coat. He had dark, bushy, sandy blonde hair, a wrinkled, square face, and dark blue eyes. A red flag went up in Piper’s mind.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“I am Kevin Monroe, the creator of this game.”
Golden stairs materialized from where the man stood and he descended. Piper took a step back.
“I apologize for the suddenness, Miss Piper. I wasn’t going to intervene, but all the readings you gave were extremely…intriguing” he said.
“How do you know my name?”
“Simple. I went into Arcade Station’s visitor log,” Mr. Monroe replied, “But… ‘Piper’…isn’t your true name is it, Timelord?”
“Exit!” Piper suddenly cried.
She didn’t want to be here any longer. She no longer felt safe. She wanted out, and fast! No one was supposed to know about Gallifrey. No one was supposed to know about Timelords.
“Error. Administration override: code 4117” said the drone voice, no longer the friendly, feminine voice that spoke before.
Piper’s eyes widened. Her heart raced.
“Error. Administration override: code 4117.”
“Error. Administration override: code 4117.”
“I don’t like this! I want out! I need Uncle Doctor!”
“Exit! Exit! Exit!”
“Error. Administration over-”
“-Error. Administration over-”
“-Error. Administration override: code 4117” The computer replied, its voice overlapping with itself.
“I’m sorry Miss Piper,” said Mr. Monroe, a sadistic grin forming across his face, “I cannot let you do that.”